big-picture sustainable food

As you know, we're big hippies around here; and as such, we are concerned with local and sustainable food production. There are those, however, who do not share our concern—who, in fact, argue that sustainable food is bad because it will contribute to the mass starvation of the world's population. Really! This seems to be quite a popular view among troglodytic reactionaries and Monsanto sales-reps alike. Robert Paarlberg, the author of a recent Foreign Policy article on the topic, is maybe a little of each.

His argument is as follows:

Wherever the rural poor have gained access to improved roads, modern seeds, less expensive fertilizer, electrical power, and better schools and clinics, their productivity and their income have increased. But recent efforts to deliver such essentials have been undercut by deeply misguided (if sometimes well-meaning) advocacy against agricultural modernization and foreign aid.

Leaving aside the snarky parenthetical (what, advocates of sustainable agriculture sometimes want to help local farmers, but other times are just screwing with them for kicks?!), Paarlberg is himself deeply misguided for several reasons. One of them is something he himself brings up in the article, only to fail to grasp its relevance: the rising cost of worldwide food prices. Those rising prices aren't due to the growth of sustainable or organic farming practices (as much as those may affect prices at Whole Foods), but to the very industrialization of farming that Paarlberg advocates. Yes, fertilizer and improved (and patented, naturally) seed will improve yields for a single year, but then you have to buy them again next year. And at the same time, in order to make your operation efficient and corporate-buyer-friendly, you need to dedicate your entire growing area to your cash crop. Congratulations, you are now linked to the world economy! But don't worry, if food prices rise faster than what you take in for your crop, you can always eat your Roundup-Ready soybeans.

Seriously, most farmers in the United States, one of the most industrialized farming countries in the world, are barely scraping by. Every year the US loses about 10,000 farms, as farmers realize that even with government subsidies they just can't make a go of it. Paarlberg would probably claim that the shrinkage is due to the effects of increased efficiency, which may be—but the last thing countries in the developing world need is tens of thousands of out-of-work farmers flooding into cities... where they will be dependent on the ever-increasing production of industrial food to keep them alive.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with aid to Africa. But in the litany of "improved roads, modern seeds, less expensive fertilizer, electrical power, and better schools and clinics", some of these things are not like the other (bonus points if you guess which are most exciting to a former adviser to Monsanto!). Wouldn't Africans better off if, rather than being tied to the world agricultural economy, they were given tools to improve their ability to grow their own food? The system of factory farming in the United States emerged gradually—organically, if you will—once conditions made it possible and apparently desirable; if such a system is going to take over in the developing world then perhaps we can let it happen the same way (only, you know, without the multiple ecological catastrophes that marked—and continue to mark—American factory farming).

I will now pause to allow those more knowledgeable than me about the state of African agriculture to comment, should they choose to do so; I will follow this post with another refuting the suggestion—made frequently—that abandoning industrial farming methods, including petroleum-based fertilizers and monoculture plantations, will lead to worldwide starvation.

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You may ask us why we call ourselves anarchists

I have a lot to write about today, but alas also a lot of meetings. So instead I'll post a quote from today's entry on Jesus Radicals. Apparently as I slept someone over there captured my stream of consciousness and transcribed it more eloquently.

No anarchist of sound mind holds either that government does not exist or ought not to exist, etymology notwithstanding...

Anarchists would want more government if that means the Department of Agriculture helping to initiate independent producer and consumer cooperatives instead of supporting vertical integration of farms into ever bigger and more powerful conglomerates. Government could favor open-pollinated seed sharing instead of forcing farmers around the world to buy new patented hybrid seed for each planting to enrich Monsanto. Government could facilitate worker buy-outs of small industries with no-interest loans...

But conversely, anarchists want much less if that means racist prisons and war.

big-picture sustainable food, part 2

In a comment to the other post, Tom says:

Paarlberg espouses a technical-rationalistic and teleological belief in Eurocentric modernization built on a foundation of pure, objective positivism.

Which, for those of you who've been outside of academia for as long as I have, means that Paarlberg thinks the way Whitey does things is always the right way. I think.

I was contemplating something similar today as I walked the dog. The problem is as follows: many people in the developing world endure poor living conditions, by their own standards as well as ours. It is a problem that needs to be addressed, and because it cannot ethically be addressed by shrinking populations (or allowing them to shrink: Barbara Kingsolver in Poisonwood Bible) we need another solution. Paarlberg, technical-rationalistic and teleological (if the teleos is global capitalism) would fix things by increasing incomes: "improve" agricultural methods, link farmers to markets, get them paid for their produce so they can buy nice things. As he writes:

Poverty — caused by the low income productivity of farmers' labor — is the primary source of hunger in Africa, and the problem is only getting worse.

I would suggest that a better solution would be to redefine the terms of the "poverty" in question. If we can look past the equation that tells us that "money = security", surely "food insecurity" would be more productively addressed by increasing farmers' ability to produce actual food. Can't eat cash! This is where Paarlberg and others who share his point of view go wrong, because they don't actually care about food.

As a point of comparison let us consider the other side of the world, where increasing numbers of people are choosing to pay more for their food in order to see higher quality and a lighter impact on the world's environment and resources. The most forward-thinking among them—like me, naturally!—are working to grow some of their own food, or at least to understand intimately the conditions under which it's grown. That is to say, we are moving in exactly the opposite direction than Paarlberg suggests for Africa. Are we misguided? Stupid? Spoiled first-world brats who are just playing at sustainability while cursing Africa to poverty? All three have been suggested.

Leaving aside the question of whether sustainable, organic farming itself will lead to a collapse in the world food supply—a ridiculous but oft-mooted suggestion that deserves its own post—I think that Paarlberg's dismissal of sustainable-food enthusiasts in the United States as dilettantes who are somehow not connected with the real world is at the heart of his misunderstanding of the situation. Produce from a small organic farm in New England is not a luxury, but an investment in the idea that food itself is important, and in fact is more important than the money involved in buying it. Paarlberg wants to solve hunger by making food cheaper and giving people the opportunity to make more money; I would rather make food better and give people the opportunity to be more involved in its production rather than wasting their time in useless jobs. Would my ideas lead to the collapse of the economy? Maybe, but I'm not concerned with the economy, I'm concerned with food. Unlike Paarlberg.

He wrote his article to condemn those who argue against his kind of aid to Africa. We will curse them with starvation, he says, if we do not encourage development in a specific direction, one which will not only align third-world farming with the Western economy but which will tie third-world farmers inexorably to the Western farm-industrial complex. American farmers have already found out how tough it can be to escape that machine. No one today—well, not many people—would suggest that, since the burning of coal in tremendous quantities powered development in the Western world, the same model should apply in Africa: most sane individuals would agree that we now have better solutions, and that developing nations can learn from our mistakes rather than repeating them.

We are now learning in the United States that our prevailing system of agriculture is in large part a mistake. We need to avoid exporting it. Instead, we should be encouraging sustainability both in the Third World and at home, and we should be listening to African farmers as well as preaching to them: maybe they have as much to teach us as we have to sell to them.

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on style and substance

When I was much younger—a freshman in high school, in fact—I briefly adopted what might be described as a pop-right-wing political philosophy. Think 1995-era Rush Limbaugh, kind of, not that I really remember what he was talking about back then. The same nonsense as now, probably. In any case, it was all a pose, all for literary effect: as much a product of my sense of contrariness than any considered political opinion (or any actual thought at all). Basically, I wrote some things about how stupid I thought political correctness. Whatever. The writing itself is long-gone, the ideas long-repudiated (remind me to write a post about how I feel about political correctness now!), but a sour taste still lingers; and I am reminded of this painful episode whenever I try and write a serious opinion piece. Like this post, here.

The problem I think—aside from the fact that that is just how I write, so much the worse—is that I craft my arguments without any research whatsoever, which can't help but result in an end-product that is somewhat juvenile. I stand behind the opinions, of course! It's just that I wish my tone were perhaps more measured and scholarly.

Happily, people who are more measured and scholarly than me occasionally agree with what I have to say, which makes me feel a little better. Like Jo, for example. Or Anna Lappé, who wrote a response to Paarlberg's piece that also appeared on Foreign Policy's website (thanks Tom for the link!). Paarlberg responds in the comments, and he sounds just like anyone else arguing on the internet:

I welcome Anna Lappe’s response to my FP article.... Her argument illustrates nicely the weak foundation of evidence used by those who promote organic farming.

Pwned!!!1

Anyways, our engagements this evening prevent me from writing the polemic about the potential for local sustainable food production that I am very eager to share, so it will have to wait until a later date.

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continuity

Just now as I struggled to put the comforter cover on the comforter without waking Harvey I had a flashback to six years ago, back when the bed was new. I was super-proud of myself back then, I suddenly recalled very clearly, the first time I wrestled the thing together without disturbing the sleeping Leah. Isn't that a touching family connection?

(It's not that we do our laundry late at night, it's just that we usually have better things to do than put the bed together until the point at which we want to go to bed. Somethings, clearly, we wait a little bit too long.)

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Sunhat ready for the beach or playground!

I mentioned previously that I was sewing up another sun hat for Harvey. I actually finished this project several weeks ago, but in the busy insanity that is our home this month it took a long while to get ahold of any photographic evidence. Then this weekend we took an excursion to the playground, and Danny loaned his photographic expertise. So drumroll please... I give you blue nautical sunhat:

harvey plays on the playground with his new hat

momma's love keeps the sun out of my eyes

I made this one from the same pattern as the green hat, with the alterations of a shorter brim and added straps. I also added the braided detailing, which took me longer in net time than all the sewing. But hey, my mother was out on a date with Harvey and I was feeling creative.

I'm not completely happy with the way the sewn button came out. I may re-sew it someday, but for the moment all machine time is devoted to a certain upcoming birthday...

Harvey climbs on the playground

must... get.... to.... slide...

Look at that little guy go! Can you believe he's almost 1 already? You can see he's almost grown out of these pants I made him for Easter. Time to make some more pants!!!

on the swing

push me momma!

I may be a biased momma, but it's not hard to make Harvey look beautiful, is it?

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watch out, Carl!

As Leah wrote last year, we now have an answering message disavowing any knowledge of Carl Bumbaca, scourge of creditors everywhere. Well, even that frank disavowal wasn't enough for one persistent skip tracer who left a message this afternoon.

"OK I understand you say you're not Carl Bumbaca," begins "Michael" in disturbingly mob-inflected tones, "but I'm not looking for Carl, I'm looking for Carolyn Bumbaca."

Clearly Michael suspects we're trying to put one over on him; or else he's just out of ideas after "one failed attempt" at a summons.

"Carl and Carolyn are both spouses," his message helpfully informs us. "I recommend they call this number... It's not a fine, it's a *garbled* for their arrest."

So if you're out there, Carl (and Carolyn), you should know that this is serious business—if you somehow had not come to that awareness over the last, oh, five years since you changed your phone number. If you want to come clean and end the running and the lies, all you have to do is call Michael at 888-393-6050; reference case number 16200MA10. This can still all be settled peacefully!

[All quotes rendered as accurately as I could manage.]

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the ghost of cool is haunting my dreams

Last night I dreamed about Neil - that his death didn't "stick" and he came back to life through some metaphysical technicality. In my dream everyone threw him a party at an industrial warehouse and we were all doing shots and they didn't even taste that bad. I guess that's my hope for the afterlife, really. That binge drinking will be more palitable.

Neil's funeral service was two weeks ago, but whenever I think of it I still don't believe it really, because it's so unfair, it's like trying to convince your brain that chocolate is bad for you or that the Hills is fake. I went to the service at the Douglas funeral home in Lexington, and the place wasn't big enough to fit all the mourners. 50 or so chairs filled up. They brought in more chairs. Those all filled up. People lined the hallway outside, filled the adjoining rooms.

I couldn't see into the service, so I spent the time staring in turns at the wallpaper and the back of a young lady's very mod patterned dress. My mind wandered to thoughts that were stunningly narcissistic. Who do I recognize? Is everyone dressed cuter than me? Good thing I weigh the same I did in high school. That way when surprise things like funerals come up, I don't have to starve myself for two weeks in advance.

In my dream I was going to this resurrection party, and I was all psyched that Neil was back, but also I was concerned about who I would sit with. Would I know anyone? Would anyone talk to me?

I've thought about a lot of things in the wake of Neil's death. One is that maybe I should outgrow some of my fitting-in anxiety. After all, if there was anything that Neil's life exemplified it wasn't giving a fuck. I could stand to inherit a little bitty bit of that.

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down at the farm

Harvey in the garden

a real son of the soil

A mixed couple of weeks at the squibix farm: peas and beats are coming up beautifully and the tomatoes are almost ready to go into the ground, but I also forgot about a tray of basil and lost thirty-two baby basil plants (and two-odd weeks of basil-planting time). Also, as predicted, the spinach almost entirely failed to come up.

One of these years I'm going to really get organized so everything gets in the ground when it should. I'm also someday going to have screened compost so I can prepare proper seedbeds, because that's sure not something we have going on now. Today I sowed some more carrots, collards, and chard, and though this time I did take care with the job the fact is that my soil—made mostly of a little proper compost and alot of composted sod—is kind of lumpy. I read somewhere that carrots are hard to grow, so all of a sudden my success of last year is looking like a fluke; I don't want to take carrots for granted!

In other words, we're still working on things in what time we have available. Harvey had fun this afternoon playing with a couple of new trucks (new to him, straight out of a neighbor's trash yesterday!) and eating more dirt than I might have liked, but less than I might have expected. He sure looks cute out there. Even if we don't manage and vegetables we can take credit for growing a good baby.

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The Circle of Life

On June 20th last year a little baby was born in the upstairs room of our house. We had only gotten one ultrasound during the pregnancy, and this at the very end, so the baby's gender remained a mystery to us until he popped out to greet us that Saturday evening. Around us, everyone was chomping at the bit to find out. Girl or Boy? Boy or Girl? For heaven sakes, I don't know which Precious Moments figurine to buy!!!!!

So that evening, after Harvey was fed and cleaned and dinner was served to the midwives, someone ran to our local party store and picked up a visual aid that would telegraph the news to all the neighborhood.

For the record, mylar balloons don't pop. They slowly deflate, floating lower and lower towards the ground into which they'll never biodegrade. Tied to a chair on our porch, our little balloon tugged at its string at first, jollily bouncing back and forth like the baby boy it represented. After a week or so it drooped a little. Another week and the knot tethering it in place was higher than the balloon itself. A few weeks later it had sunk to ground level. It stayed there several more months until we needed to move the chair. After that the balloon still stayed on the porch, dangerously approaching the category of trash. Out of sentimentality or laziness I couldn't find the strength to throw it away. Then I lost track. It blew away from view in the windy storms, and I thought I was spared a tough moment in mothering. Then Wednesday evening I heard Dan exclaim from the kitchen window:

"Look! That bird is dragging Harvey's balloon across the yard!"

It's true. A robin had taken hold of the bright blue string, and she wanted it for her nest. Unfortunately it was tied to an unwieldy piece of trash.

a deflated mylar balloon

It's a..... blech.

I ran out back with a pair of scissors in hand and separated the precious ribbon from mylar. I left both outside because I didn't want to scare the bird anymore, and really, the act with the scissors was as much as I could handle for the day. Then on Thursday morning as I walked down the front steps with Harvey and Rascal, I was almost decapitated by a low-flying bird. She bobbed from one bush to another with a brightly colored object in her mouth.

You can guess what it was.

a ribbon-bedecked birds' nest

My heart sings for spring! (Please ignore the Christmas lights)

Isn't this crazy world amazing? In our little bush there will soon be eggs, and then little baby birds. Spring follows spring. Life begets death (of balloons at least) and then begets life again.

My baby will soon be 1 year old, and not so much of a baby any more. Some day there will be another baby. I've just started ovulating again, you see, and I'm rather emotional about nests and ribbons and bitty baby birds.

Happy Spring Everyone!

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Clothing and Crafting: Wedding Edition

On Saturday our friends Becca and Andrew tied the knot in Scottish style.

the bride and groom

taking the high road

I asked Dan if he wanted I should make him a kilt for the occasion, but he hemmed and hawed and decided to opt for a plaid tie instead. Still, we matched the theme as best we could, given the small 40-minute Burlington-mall window that we had to compile our outfits.

Leah and Dan looking sharp upon a rock

rockin the wedding finery

Can you believe we were only married 4 or 5 years ago? It feels like seven thousand million hundred.

Becca and Andrew are big stuffed animal fans, so I wanted to come up with something cute and stuffed and personalized to accompany our Crate & Barrel gift card. (Hey - buying presents off the registry is for people who have longer than ten minutes to go shopping.) So last weekend when thanks to Mother's day I got two-and-a-half blessed hours to myself, I stitched some very special felt friends for the happy couple.

bunny closeup

is there room for one more in the wedding bed?

One says B+A, while the other says their wedding date, 5-15-10.

closeup of bunnies in box

a pair of hares

I packaged them up in a little bunny house, and went way overboard with drawing all the little circles for air-holes. I drew the first row the way I wanted them, and then said, "Oh crap. That's a lot of circles I have to draw now. Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound."

the bunny box

caution: over-designed wedding present inside

I'm a big fan of marriage. Ours has worked out pretty spectacular so far. So I wish Becca and Andrew all the happiness that Dan and I have have in our marriage, and for good measure I'll throw in a prayer for a bit more sex. For them I mean. I'm too old and tired and my back hurts.

Yeah for young love!

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Our shared genetic material predisposes me to love you

A very cute tribute, in song, to the biological provisions a mother makes for her children:



Having a child is a lovely little experiment in genetics. As Harvey develops, I delight or wince at aspects of his personality, while I try not to pass judgement on myself or Dan. Like a little mirror, Harvey can be demanding and dramatic. He stares intensely at what he wants, and if he doesn't get it he throws his head back in full tantrum abandon. At these moments I roll my eyes and wonder how it is that my long-suffering husband ever put up with me.

On the other hand, I see the traits that plainly come from Dan, and it's like I'm falling in love with my husband all over again. The excitement that spreads across Harvey's face when he gets a new object into his hands, or how he calmly dusts himself off when he falls, it's like I can see a little mini danny crawling around in baby gap overalls.

But Harvey isn't just half of me and half of Dan like some disgustingly sweet New York cookie. He's his own thing, a whole new person, unique and perfect and wholer than the two halves that made him. And whether or not I had anything to do with it, he's turning out to be a pretty cool guy.


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Harvey's first swim

Harvey in the waters of Walden Pond

ooh, that's chilly!

It's hard to believe that the school year is almost over... especially since that means that Harvey, born on the last weekend of last year's school year, is almost one year old! Leah is already hard at work planning his party and making presents; me, I'm just thinking about vacation, and swimming!

You can see Harvey didn't wait for the official start of summer to take his first dip. Or rather, given his limited degree of agency at this stage, we didn't wait to dip him for the first time. Even though the water was too cold for us. But don't worry, he loved it; and mama was there to wrap him up in a towel as soon as he started getting chilly. He had a great time, and it could have been improved only by having a little bit more beach to play on—Walden Pond is rather higher than usual thanks to the little bit of rain we got this past spring.

I have to say, it's pretty exciting watching Harvey gain skills almost every day—exciting and a little bit nerve-racking when one of the skills is climbing the stairs, something he has almost managed. He loves playing in water (when we visited some goats the other day he spent most of the time splashing in their water bucket), and he likes picking up tiny objects from the ground, and he seems to enjoy playing with trucks. It's almost like he's a real person! He'll be talking and walking around on his own before we know it. I can't wait to see what he has to say.

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on yer bike, Tebbit!

May is apparently "Bike Month" and this week is (or was) "Bike Week". To cap all the cycling-related celebrations (what, you didn't notice?!), tomorrow—that's Friday, May 21st—is Bike-to-Work Day! Not that you would have noticed unless you were already reading cycling-themed publications or websites, which is why I wanted to make sure and let you, the general public, know, just in time to come up with a plausible excuse as to why you didn't ride your bike to work. "It's too far" is a good one.

While I did manage to bike to work for a while this year, and still do whenever it fits around the child-care schedule—that is, Thursday and Friday—I do know that it is in fact very difficult for most folks to do. Heck, the only times I could make it last year were when my car was in the shop, and I have a much shorter commute than most. Still, there are people who manage it, like a coworker of mine who enjoys a blissful car-less existence in Somerville. When I told him about bike-to-work day, he replied that he'd be sure to ride tomorrow. He does sometimes take the bus, it must be said.

If you can manage it, though, it can be very rewarding. There's something about it that makes you feel apart from the workaday rush—certainly, you're probably going slower than everyone else (though not always). It can make even the morning commute enjoyable! I can't wait for the day when increased cargo capacity lets me do even the grocery shopping via cycle; at that point my smugness will be unstoppable. For tomorrow though, it's just to work.

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Bike-to-Work Day a qualified success

the bike-to-work bikes at my workplace

about three percent of the workforce

Bike-to-Work Day was something of a success along the Bedford-Lexington corridor today; if nothing else, a bunch of recreational cyclists who usually keep the bikes in the garage all week were out this morning, some of them even daring to ride in their street clothes rather than the spandex we tend to see even on regular commuters out here in the suburbs. I'd say the traffic was more than double what it usually is, helped no doubt by the absolutely beautiful cycling weather.

The best part of the deal for me was that, on the way home, I was able to draft off of a gentleman who was late for a meeting. Now there's motivation for a quick ride! Unfortunately, I didn't hear about his predicament until the stoplight where he was turning off my route, or I would have handled more of the pace-setting (more than zero, that is—hey, he passed me at an intersection but couldn't drop me, so I think hanging on his wheel was entirely within my rights).

What do you think, should we do it again on Monday?

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they're angry and they don't care who knows it

anti-Obama grafitti on a stop sign

is that "Obama" in the accusative or the vocative?

Sometime in the past month some graffiti appeared on the bike path in Lexington that's a little more political than the random obscenities and drug references that our local teens usually produce. Naturally, I wondered. Were the Young Republicans at the high school getting riled up? Were rich white professionals so driven by hate for the Democratic administration that they've taken to carrying spray-paint in the glove boxes of their Mercedes? Or was it just anarchists, as determined to resist this administration as they were the last one?

Certainly, the "Stop Obama" messages pictured above (and that's only one of many: almost every stop sign along the path in Lexington has been so tagged) mirror similar anti-Bush graffiti from a few years ago. More pointed, and thus more difficult to explain, was the accusation spray-painted on the guard-rail on the side of the trail at one point: "Ted Kennedy was a hypocritical fat-cat," it read. Right on! Way to stick it to the man! I would have loved to get a picture of that one as well, but before I remembered to bring my camera it was gone, painted over in white paint. I guess it hit a little too close to home for some folks.

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Why you haven't seen more Harvey video lately

So taking good video of Harvey is a little challenging these days. I assure you that he's very cute most of the time. Unfortunately, as soon as he sees the camera he either wants to grab it, or throw a fit that he's unable to grab it. All this makes for rather unprofessional quality video.

Nevertheless, I wanted a documentation of what this little boy looked like before he turns the big oh-one, so here it is. A video about how hard it is to take video. You may not enjoy it per say, but I hope you get a chuckle.

A pointed critique of Mr. Ashbrook and his radio program

I sometimes contribute to my local NPR radio station. In return, they send me frequent emails to try to entice me to contribute more. Today's email provides what the marketer hopes will be a compelling subject line: Ask Tom Ashbrook your question.

To which my first thought is: "Tom... Ashbrook... why... are you.... an enormous.... tool?"

For those of you who don't live in a broadcasting area which features a full four hours daily of Tom Ashbrook, consider yourself blessed. His stilted pacing and penchant for cutting off his guests with flippant cliches makes for an eye-gougingly annoying 10am-12pm time-slot. Here's an example I just made up (with first line courtesy of today's Economist blog post.)

Expert: ...This approach may mitigate the suffering inflicted by looksism, but it doesn't address the other part of the problem: the degree of discrimination and its cultural roots -

Tom Ashbrook: Six... of one.... half dozen.... of.... the... other..... Tina is calling from Greenville South Carolina... Tina... what's on your mind?

Tina: Hi Tom. I'm a mother of fower boys, and the government jes seems to make such a mess of everything, I cayn't imagine em tellin us where to work er how tall we have to be!

Expert: Tina, I don't think that's at all the intent of this litigation -

Tom Ashbrook: We've got to go to a break. We're talking today about appearance discrimination: have you... broken through... the looking... glass... ceiling? Give us a call at On Point, with Tom Ashbrook.

etc. etc. Then the entire program is repeated from 7 to 9 in the evening. I'll forget this schedule, and mistakenly turn on the radio to accompany a sink full of dishes. Only to my horror, I hear something like:

Early.... to.... bed.... early... to..... rise.... Jenny is calling us from Acton, Massachusetts....

Noooooooooo!

WBUR would do a better job fundraising if they COMPELLED me to go to a dinner with Tom Ashbrook, and then allowed me to make a contribution in order to NOT go. In fact, I'll re-write the email line for them:

Subject line: Forced dinner with Tom Ashbrook or we TP your house.

Body text: Click here to get out of it, AND help pay for news!

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tomato talk

This evening we loaded up, oh, 35 or so baby tomato plants into the trunk of the car and drove off to try and find a place to dump them. Oh wait, not really: we actually had a couple of folks willing to take some of them off our hands. The dumping isn't for a few more weeks. Anyways, it's pretty cool to have moved to the distribution phase in my farming career, even if I haven't yet managed to grow a surplus of actual plants. It turns out there's also a demand for organic and probably blight-free tomato seedlings! Act now if you still want some: there are only three or four dozen remaining!

In other tomato-related news, the upside-down planter fad has made the New York Times. The article is mostly enthusiastic, and it does point out the effect that upside-down growing would have on reducing the ravages of cutworms, that most annoying of early-season garden scourges. But when you get right down to it, there's only one thing you need to know about trying to fight gravity:

Regardless, Mr. Nolan said, "The upside-down planters tend to dry out really fast, so I have to water a lot — probably once a day in the heat of the summer."... Many gardeners reported that the thinner, breathable plastic Topsy Turvy planters ($9.99) dried out so quickly that watering even once a day was not enough to prevent desiccated plants.

The result of that thirstiness, around here at least, is that I have never seen an upside-down planter containing a live tomato plant by August. Late summer, when you should be harvesting, it's pretty much all dead sticks all the time. Admittedly, the problem isn't unique to upside-down planters: any container-grown plants will need a whole lot more water than those planted in the ground. But at least when your pots are on the ground you can just spray the lot of them with a hose and feel like you're doing something, and you aren't distracted by believing you've bought an "ingenious tomato planter" that gives you a crop that's "bigger, better tasting, healthier, and easier to grow than ever before."

In short, don't do it. At least, not with my seedlings. If you want any, you're going to have to put them in the good old-fashioned ground.

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it's coooooming........

birthday bunting on the table

unsuspecting Harvey, there is something looming over your future

Harvey's first birthday is less than a month away. For someone with untreated OCD and a bunch of working mommy guilt, his party is becoming rather a big deal. Since the beginning of May I've been racking up many hours on the sewing machine (not to mention two practice cakes so far). That bunting you see there on the table is all ready to be sewn together and hung, just as soon as I stop my baby from licking the carbon monoxide detector.

Anyway, on Sunday I took a break from my H1 mania to make something for a very special little girl who's turning 3. Since I don't get to make girly stuff very often, I though I'd use up my purple and pink felt on a flowered headband.

a headband in pink and purple flowers

so boisterously spring only a 3-year-old could pull it off

I tried it on Harvey, with the intention of making some joke about how the child is secure in his masculinity. But he's apparently not. He is either offended by girliness or by having something strapped to his head.

Harvey modeling Lily's birthday headband

get it off get it off get it off!!!

Maybe he'd like it better if he knew it came with cake and presents. Just you wait little boy... just you wait.

UPDATE: In the end, Lily looked cuter in the headband than Harvey.

Lily wearing her headband

lookin cute!

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hell is high water

a tree on the beach with pond water washing its base

the tide is high on the pond

As I mentioned, because of this year's floods the water at Walden Pond—our local swimming hole—is higher than usual. This picture was taken between big flooding storms; I think there's now eight inches or a foot more water in the pond than there was on that day. Apparently it isn't going away anytime soon, which means that pond use will be restricted this summer. Oh Noes! It's already too hot to live, and we were looking forward to some hardcore ponding; without the oasis of coolness so beloved of Thoreau we just might not survive the summer. Of course, it isn't closed altogether, so I'm sure we'll still manage many visits; but perhaps this year we'll have to actually call ahead rather than just piling in the car and hoping.

independent locomotion

Harvey can really get around now, including being able to make it up the whole flight of stairs on his own. On a completely unrelated note, Leah and I are both completely exhausted and are hoping to get to bed before 9:00 this fine Friday evening. Isn't parenting fun!

I wish I could quit you!

I totally don't even know what that title refers to specifically; I've never even seen the movie. Is it something about gay sex? In this case, however, I wish it to refer to Facebook and intend the sentiments to be taken not as my own, but as those of a bunch of whiners who came up with something called Quit Facebook Day. I know, right? Pretty lame. If somebody can't stay off Facebook for just one day—Memorial Day, no less!—they've got problems. What's that? The site is actually about deleting your account over privacy concerns? Well, that's lame too.

Obviously, it's a little disconcerting that your Facebook login info—and all your friends' info, too—now follows you all around the internet, thanks to Facebook Connect or whatever it is that puts those little "Like this" buttons on the bottom of thousands of stupid articles and web pages. But privacy? I hate to tell you folks, but when you make an update on Facebook the little button you push to send it in is labeled "Share". And as anyone with any sense knows, when you share anything on the internet you need to consider it public property, because one way or another it will be. If it's any interesting, of course. If it's not, nobody will care. And as far as data security goes, you get what you pay for when you're relying on a free third-party site to manage your internet presence. You want to control your own settings? Get your own hosting!

Perhaps my lack of concern means that I don't fully understand what Facebook—or indeed "social networking" in general—is really about. I don't, contra the assumptions of the quitfacebookday.com folks, find it at all "engaging, enjoyable and quite frankly, addictive". Oh-for-three! It is a way to connect with friends and coworkers with whom I would otherwise not communicate, but since I'm not going to share anything with those folks that I wouldn't want getting out to a wider audience, I'm not bothered about privacy. Or maybe I don't care because I don't see the wider plot afoot, as spotted by a commenter a Wired article about the whole to-do:

Mark Zuckerberg is a Jew and so is [Wired writer] Fred Vogelstein. Convenient isn’t it, how a group comprising 1% of American society seems to always coincidentally prop up its weak and stupid members? The Jews are always looking out for each other, and ONLY each other. Fellow Americans, you have to watch the Jews very, very closely, and question them at every turn, or else they will take everything from you.

Ohh-kay.... I'm going to read that as trolling satire and walk away.

Anyways, reading all the articles published this weekend about the affair, one thing (from a PCWorld article) made me laugh:

The organizers of "Quit Facebook Day," Joseph Dee and Matthew Milan, both of Toronto, couldn't be reached for comment.

Well sure, no one could get in touch with them: they're not on Facebook!

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