Friday, September 16, 2011

The Five-Year Plan of My Glorious No. 6 Tractor Factory

The Soviet Politburo and I structure our futures in Five-Year Plans. It's worked out better for me, I'd say. Maybe it's as far as anybody can see without walls collapsing. But we were both right in choosing the scope: five years gives both a long and short view. It's plenty of time and no time at all. Hikers, packing for a long walk, fill fat plastic tubes - like toothpaste tubes - from the bottom with peanut butter and chocolate-hazelnut Nutella paste troweled and stabbed down the tube like feeding spackle to a baby bird, then pinched closed with a clip - the fatty fuel too dangerously power-packed to be licked off thumbs in the pleasant, sedentary kitchen, its stacks of homework and bills in the foyer where bottoms slowly spread like cookie dough on a warm cookie sheet. But stuff the tubes like sausages, like squishy cartridges, into a pack's outside pockets - one buried under rain ponchos for emergencies, the whole thing flung over a shoulder and you're out the back gate, crossing the pasture sending the cows trotting, and down to the treeline. Those five years are going to be salty and sweet, energy-crammed, and gone-too-soon, of course. And like Nutella and peanut butter, five years can be squeezed right into a mouth, head tipped back, sucking the nipple mid-stride stomping down woodsy paths. Hold them clamped between teeth with both hands full of crumbling Welsh slate in the wind. Spread them out with you in the grass and admire them, arriving finally on the whittled edge of a purple cliff and tarn below, moos rising up. No matter how you eat them, it's really the view you've come for.

Just back in the United States from a year writing about apple orchards in northern England, I've started counting from the beginning. Now writing about small-scale suburban food production in Northern Virginia - Fringe Food. I am allotting these five years to peer-review, and the next five to establishing a vanilla-marketing cooperative in the Uluguru Mountains.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spam in Autumn

Stewing in Doldrum Summer Spam of Senior Dating, Genie Bras, DailyCandy, and people who want to put $1500 in my bank account, I've just gotten "Stick for Ice Cream Wooden stick for ice cream, medical stick and stick for coffee (Birch, alder) Origin- Ukraine 94x10x2, 114x10x2, 150x16x2." Clicking, you can smell the Taiga. It's the Spam of Autumn. Like tendrils of airconditioning along your bare legs in summer. As I click "Delete," Siberian tigers are listening to the chainsaws, horse sleds are hauling bouncy birch and alder corpses waving their beautiful arms to the mill and on to the new global marketplace.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fairfax County Gov media folks

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Link Between Creativity and Eccentricity...I Told You.

Schumann, they say, believed Beethoven, long-dead, was channeling music to him. Ai Wei Wei insisted on stating the dangerous - long after it became obvious that things would get ugly.

Ah...creative minds - so rarely tidy...Psych Central talks here about research showing tangible, physiological links between "creativity" and a reduced ability to filter the noise and irrelevance around us - seeing relevance everywhere. Some one wrote a (long) comment to the article asking who's really crazy, the person who throws herself into her thankless art, or the person who hates his job. Hmmm.

The Link Between Creativity and Eccentricity

If Beethoven were sending you music, what would you do? Would you have the nerve to play it, write it, paint it, build it, expose it, suggest it, eat it, perform it, set fire to it, sing it? Maybe he is. Can you hear?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lomography: Shooting from the Really Hip

Confessions Of An Editor - Nights Out from Lomography on Vimeo.

Imagine the surprise of the LOMO Russian Arms and Optical Factory when it invented the LOMO Kompact camera with such superior optics that the heartbreakingly clear shots of dams, train stations, and missile silos caused agents to find each other in gloomy naves, sunny parks, and busy cafes, dropping small packets into baby carriages, sliding them under their Figaro's, and dropping them into raincoat pockets of the man facing west on the Dneiper Bridge murmuring code like, "Lo-fi grain," "Beautiful light leak," and "Contrast and saturation, comrade, contrast and saturation."

Some say it was the warmth of this little camera that melted the Cold War, that put shooting from the hip in a better light.

Use your power for good at Lomography

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fish and Spatial Scales

The American Institute of Biological Sciences' Public Policy Report today lists this whale of an achievement: the USGS has released at last its interactive choropleth map displaying "Risk of Current Habitat Degradation for stream and coastal fish
habitat." They provide links to USGS-NBII-hosted public WMS map services and downloadable data and metadata.

A mammoth undertaking and immensely powerful tool for natural resources and fisheries biologists, water conservation scientists and engineers, this map, using vast datasets covering spatial levels from Ecosystem Drainage level (think Chesapeake Bay watershed) to the Reston-sized water catchments, was compiled by the National Fish Habitat Board. Their report, called affably “Through a Fish’s Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010" brought news that more than a quarter of all streams in the U.S. are at high or very high risk of habitat degradation.

Poor land and water management practices
nation-wide include intensive row crops, fertilizer use, channelization,
water withdrawals, loss of perennial vegetation, and invasive species.

The map scores specialized-ecoregion and volunteer/community efforts called Fish Habitat Partnership Boundaries - like the intriguing Desert Fish Habitat represented by the Mexican Stone Roller in cold rivers like the Chiricahua and its high montane conifer forests increasing parched by years-long drought; and "Driftless Area" whose 24,000 square-miles covering parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois full of spring-fed coldwater streams and a resulting diversity of plants, animals, and habitats are being impacted by field agriculture and habitat fragmentation.

Eastern Brook Trout Habitat Partnership ( web-based interactive data management system with GIS capabilities has also been developed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jenny O: That's What Girls Are Made Of

Female artists who couldn't catch a break, catch fire at SXSW Austin this week,
and Jenny O is smolderin': ember-warm, cheeky, elemental. Likely to get loose. (some word-play about "fan" goes here)

"Well, OK Honey" and its 1966 girl-band groove - You'll like it. And what's not to like? in its pony bounce.

But its freshness is its "secret-life-of-girls" frankness that seems to divulge that that's how girls really dance, and they do it in the woods and in neighborhood streets: smelly kittens in mocassins, parkas, and uncombed hair with fat bottoms and red knee socks.

"Well, OK Honey"'s the track chosen for mass consumption - others songs are smokier, plain, about love, home, food, bravery, and confusion - that's also how we dance.

Brian McNight said of Jenny O: "A night of unadulterated, gluten-free sexual healing." Steve Martin (I don't know why) It's like we're listening to Willie Nelson making love to a Staples singer."...I don't know why...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Head in the Sink:We are What We Sweep


A kitchen midden that hasn't been flung out the door. Appalling and charming the detritus and sloughings of our lives we scuff through duning up. Ours is mostly hair, I'm afraid, most of it mine, I'm really afraid, and the cat's - all we have of her, but I'm sure I didn't get it all, if that's a comfort, Gravelly bits - although we take off our shoes on the porch - the nibs of tulip poplar seeds that ballast them to spear into loam, And color: pink confetti of onion skin, orange rind, sunny yellow Yogi De-tox tea bag labels, a Mediterranean theme on my floor: cilantro, parsley, pine needs, honey.

Seeds Feed Us: PakistanSeedDrive is Grassroots Aid

The best solutions are the simple solutions. In Pakistan, earthquakes, cross-border fighting, and then a flood, swelling the Indus river and its tributaries the length of the country 100 miles across 900 miles to the Arabian Sea. When the water receded in August last year, 2,000 lives had been lost, livestock drowned, farmhouses, storehouses and infrastructure wrecked. Nothing to eat. Not only that: saved seed was lost, and no money and no place to buy this year's seed. Although devastated soil structure - fields are actually buried under alluvial silt that hardens to goo then brick, can only be overcome with time and sweat - is an immense and limiting factor, PakistanSeedDrive went to the root of one of Pakistan's agricultural problems by collecting and sending seeds. Give a man a fist - full of bean seeds.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Food Environment Maps: The USDA says, "Let's Eat!"

Food and Mapping make a healthy diet and the USDA's Food Environment Atlas - the barely year-old online tool, which measures a community’s food-choice landscape has just been supersized. The update was launch in February and increases its food environment factors like availability and type of restaurants and food stores, food prices, socioeconomic characteristics, and health outcomes from 90 to 168. The data is downloadable as Excel files, and are arranged alphabetically, first by state and then by county. State and county FIPS codes are provided. The county list is from the 2000 census.

These data are a trove generating nearly limitless question-posing and question-answering possibilities about community and environmental health, economic development, land and city planning, business placement, and education outreach.

Components measure change over time, and several indicators that will make the Atlas more useful in gauging residents’ food accessibility in rural communities - regions more likely than urban to suffer from obesity - nicely complementing First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Choropleth-o-Rama! Wow What a Map!!

Those smarties at the Centers for Disease Control present (and really this is just one example of their knock-home-the-message communication skills) a jaw-dropping example of a choropleth map - this one shows the prevalence of obesity from 1985 through 2009. Half movie (it's a drama, not a comedy), half public service announcement - this technique presents what must be gobs of data in compelling, and (interestingly) palatable bites.
Man, what a map.

I would be interesting to compare access to healthy food in urban, periurban, and rural regions and obesity - a health issue associated with food deserts. In the US, rural counties have the highest level of diabetes/obesity. Why no gardens?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Base2Stay: A Little Swank in London

Base2Stay is a series of hotels: London, Liverpool. We stayed a Saturday night at one, I've forgotten why, on a sketchy edge of Kensington - the potted palms were chained to the pretty marble porch. Sketchy, maybe, but Base2Stay knows what swank is: gorgeous bedding, gleaming bath, equally gleaming European desk attendants, but it's neearly affordable (95 pounds a night - double it to translate to dollars; 65 pounds in Liverpool) because it knows exactly how much swank it is going to dollop on you. Exactly. How much.

As a result, the room was the size of the bed, and climbing over, the view was of the bins and the road, although the road was Kensington-quiet: a fruit shop and the chemist's on the corner, a Mini whizzing by or a Bentley prowling.

In the morning, galumphing in hiking boots and glasses past the impeccable, freshly spritzed, multi-lingual desk attendants. We went for good Italian coffee around the corner in Earl's Court. On the way, there was half a young man lying on the sidewalk, half through someone's garden gate, the bottom edge of his jacket, a plaid shirt, his legs, and pretty good shoes in the path. They were strange to approach. He was lying on his hip - the way you do - so his legs looked like they were walking toward us in a world on a perpendicular plane.

Brian hopped them, which was both delightful and appalling. Delightful, really.

It had been raining lightly, but the sidewalk under him was dry. He was gone when we walked back, but the legs walking were still there.