Monday, March 24, 2008

30 Days to a Greener, Healthy Diet

I like this presentation on The Daily Green: a 30-day calendar of suggestions that will help move your diet in a greener direction:
The "greenest" foods are healthy foods. Whether you eat meat or are strictly vegetarian or vegan, these are the foods that are good for you and good for the planet.
The suggestions include:
  • Eat Like Grandmother
    People always ask: How can I tell if a food is green? There’s a quick trick lots of folks are talking about today. Ask yourself, “Would my grandmother (or for some of us, great-grandmother) recognize this thing as actual food?"

  • Eat a 100% Local Meal Each Week
    Eating food grown or crafted for you within a 100 to a few hundred miles of your home reduces your food miles (the miles and energy it takes to ship it to your plate), which is very earth friendly. But by eating locally you’re also helping to support the kinds of family farms that grow the delicious, sustainable, compassionately raised foods you’re looking for when embracing a greener diet. It’s a healthy way to eat, and it helps support local economies as your food dollars stay in your community.

  • [If You Eat Meat,] Become a Compassionate Carnivore
    We think we'll make a good start by suggesting that people reduce the amount of meat they eat, and by asking them to think about ways to fight back against the inhumane treatment of animals raised on factory "farms." Instead, when you do indulge, select high-quality meats that are grass-fed, family-farm raised, as local as possible, hormone-free and raised with fewer meds. And eat less of it.

  • Eat Slow Food, Not Fast Food
    So many of us rely on cheap fast food, which is inevitably laden with preservatives, additives, fat, salt and high-fructose corn syrup. Food that tastes the same whether you’re in New York City, Berlin, or Tokyo. And we eat it at our desks and in our cars. Slow food advocates say the fast way of life chips away at a community’s cultural identity and food heritage. We no longer care about who is growing our food, how bland it is or how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Support the movement by planning one slow food meal for a friend or your family this week.
There's much more. It might give you an idea or two.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Risk Management View of Global Warming

This 10-minute video and the sequence of follow-up videos available on YouTube present a sensible line of reasoning, and questioning, on the issue of human-instigated global warming -- or, as the author suggests is a more accurate term, global climate destabilization.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Snow

I took some photos of the snow this morning. The Canada geese and mallards were having a lively time on the river, sniping at each other a bit.

Click on any of the photos above to see it larger and access the whole album. A small version of the slideshow appears below.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Anthony Minghella

I did not realize until yesterday, hearing the sad news of Anthony Minghella's untimely and unexpected death, that he was the director and writer of two of my favorite films: The English Patient (for which he wrote the screenplay of the Michael Ondaatje novel, and won the Best Director Oscar; and, yes, I did know he had directed that one) and the funny, intelligent and deeply moving Truly, Madly, Deeply. I'd never made a connection between the two before. Minghella has been quoted as saying he found that was not a film director, but a writer who could direct films that he had written.

I hope that, somewhere, Mr. Minghella is reading great books, writing phenomenal screenplays, and watching classic movies on video.

Nina: "I can't believe I have a bunch of dead people watching videos in my living room." [Truly, Madly, Deeply]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Open Water

Yesterday I noticed the ice was breaking up on the Cannon River above the dam, and this morning we had open water for the first time in many weeks. The slushy snowfall won't stay with us long, but it was pretty on the trees this morning. Above, a lone mallard surveys the scene.

I never tire of this scene, looking north to Ames Mill and the Fourth Street Bridge from the Water Street parking lot. I rotate out a seasonal photo of this view at the top of my sidebar, as I feel it is an iconic view of Northfield. I'll have to add this one to the mix.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Memory of Finbarr Dinneen, on St. Patrick's Day

My father's given name was Finbarr, though he didn't much appreciate it. If you have any connection to County Cork, his name may be enough to tell you that he was as Irish as they get, though as it happens he was born and raised in England, his parents having left Cork not long before, during a difficult time. Wikipedia recounts the history as follows:
In 1920, during a guerrilla war in Ireland which pitted the Volunteers or Irish Republican Army (IRA) against British state forces, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate jurisdictions, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. This partition of Ireland was confirmed in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which ended the guerrilla war in the south and created the Irish Free State, an all-but-independent Irish state or Dominion within the Commonwealth...
Saint Finbarr (c.550–c.620) was Bishop of Cork in the 6th century and patron saint for the city and diocese of Cork. Again quoting from Wikipedia:
Possibly born near Bandon [birthplace, as it happens, of my paternal great-grandmother, Margaret Kelly], and originally named Lochan, he is said to have studied in County Kilkenny where he was renamed Fionnbharr (Fairhead in Irish) for the colour of his hair. Finbarr is widely believed to have lived at an island hermitage at Gougane Barra, before founding a monastic settlement and centre of learning at an Corcach Mór. This settlement was to eventually grow to become the city of Cork.

Varying accounts of Finbarr's life suggest he travelled to Rome, and preached at Barra in Scotland. Finbarr died at Cloyne in Cork and was buried in Gill Abbey -- a site occupied by the present day Church of Ireland Saint Finbarre's Cathedral.

There are several variations on the spelling of Finbarr's name. It will often be spelt as "Finbarre", or as a modern derivation "Finbar" (popular as a masculine name in Cork). Finbar is an Irish name. Catholics and Protestants both recognise St. Finbarr. His feast day is 25 September.
My dad, known always as Barry, passed away at the age of 78 on this date, March 17, in 2001, following a long decline due to Alzheimer's disease. Having trained as a printer's apprentice in England after a harsh childhood appropriately described as Dickensian, and having flown Martinets, Hurricanes and (at least once) Spitfires as an RAF pilot in the final years of the war, he was eventually moved to take up employment abroad. He worked as a government printer in Tanganyika (where he met and married my mother; they were later divorced) and then Kenya (where my brother and I were born) in the 1950s and early '60s. The family moved to San Francisco in 1964. He was a journeyman printer-proofreader at the Oakland Tribune for many years, and a member of the Typographical Union. He became an avid sailor as an adult, fulfilling a boyhood longing; he sailed his first sailboat, a Laser, on Lake Merced in southern San Francisco for several years, and then graduated to his beloved Santana 22, which was berthed at Berkeley Harbor and which he sailed all over San Francisco Bay.

He moved to Northfield after his diagnosis, in about 1995. He lived for about six months upstairs from what was then Crystals & Wolf, in the apartment where Maggie Lee now lives, enjoying a view of the river but tormented by hallucinations caused by the Alzheimer's. As he declined further, he lived at Lindenwood for a number of months and then spent five long years at Three Links, moving further through the stages of his disease.

How he would have loved knowing his seven wonderful grandchildren, the oldest of whom barely remember him and certainly not as he would have wanted to be remembered: a charming, gentle, kind, unfailingly polite, youthful-looking man, an avid reader, a lover of classical music and the San Francisco Giants, with an appreciation for good coffee or a cold beer, and a persistent twinkle in his Irish eyes -- brown-and-green hazel, the same as mine.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Sign of Spring

The first sign of spring has been spotted at the corner of Woodley and Elm. Bouquets of snowdrops to the creative soul(s) responsible!

Shameless Plug for my Mother's Blog

To anyone who is interested in Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Brontes, well-written sequels and fan fiction relating to the foregoing, quirky poems, accessible literary essays, the roles of class and gender in literature and society, or the musings of a book- and film-loving woman with original, distinctive (and occasionally rather racy) perspectives and insights --

You are cordially invited to check out Elizabeth Newark, my mother, posts short works from her extensive archive of writings several times a week, along with occasional new pieces and comments. She is new to blogging, so please be kind as you welcome her to the blogosphere.

Her playful short novel The Darcys Give a Ball, previously self-published under the title Consequence: Or Whatever Happened to Charlotte Lucas?, has just been released by SourceBooks. The novel, which has been praised by earlier readers as among the best-written of the Austen sequels, follows the adventures of the offspring of several of the characters of Pride and Prejudice, with a particular focus on how the marriage of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins turned out. (See also her persuasive essay In Praise of Charlotte Lucas, written for the Jane Austen Society of North America.)

Within the next year or so, SourceBooks will also be publishing her excellent longer novel Jane Eyre's Daughter (also previously self-published), which builds on a premise that some will find rather disturbing but follows it most beautifully to a satisfying conclusion.

I am extremely proud of her!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Local Tortilla Chips - Really!

Today I stopped in at Just Food for several items -- among them, the tortilla chips I'd seen listed on the local-food shopping list the co-op has put together in connection with the Winter Eat Local Challenge.

I rather suspected that though produced by a local company, they would prove to be made with corn from an unspecified, probably distant, location. Not so! These are organic blue corn tortilla chips from Whole Grain Milling Company, made from non-GMO blue corn grown and milled on their family farm in Welcome, Minnesota. Here's a page from the Linden Hills co-op about the growers. Their business is also featured in an article from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service about farmers adding value to the grains they grow so that they can capture more of their eventual retail value -- an important advantage in an age when the price of the grain itself has at times been below the cost of production.

But back to the chips. Not only are these genuinely local, they are really good! Tortilla chips are one of my downfalls -- I've got a much bigger salt tooth than sweet tooth -- and for the past couple of years I've sworn by Bearitos yellow corn tortilla chips (not the unsalted variety -- good lord, talk about defeating the purpose!) but these are just about as good, I'd say, and that's no small praise.

Whole Grain Milling also makes a hot cereal, two pancake mixes and a bread mix, which could be valuable additions to anyone hoping to expand the variety of local foods in their pantry.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pale Sun

I was taken with this pale sun glowing through the thin cloud layer, as seen from the Water Street parking lot this morning.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 3, 2008

Update to E-filing Rant

I made an early morning addendum to my previous rant on e-filing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

E-filing... Bah!

I spent quite a long time trying to complete and e-file my fairly simple federal tax return today. First I worked with fillable PDFs from the IRS, checking the instructions online, to be sure I understood my return. This generates a nice clean copy that I can send to my eldest daughter's college to accompany our annual financial aid application.

Then I tried two different free e-filing vendors, hoping to get my refund quickly, as I did last year. The first program, the one I used with no obvious problems last year, contained an incorrect multiplier (zero, in fact, instead of 20%) for the child care tax credit, reducing my sizable credit to nothing. I was glad I understood what I was really entitled to; I hope there aren't a lot of people out there being shortchanged on their daycare credits.

I then started over with a better-known provider name that had a lovely interface but insisted on depriving me, with no adequate explanation, of one of the child tax credits (not to be confused with the child care tax credit) that I am clearly entitled to. It attributed the single available credit to "son's first name/daughter's first name" -- JohnMary, shall we say. Huh?

I could try yet another service, but I'm sick of filling out endless screens. I think I'll just stick the damn thing in the mail tomorrow and be done with it.

Addendum, 6:25 AM the next day: I woke up early and decided to give it one more try with a third e-file provider. Success! No faulty multipliers, no mysteriously denied child tax credits. The name of this one: EFile Tax Returns. (To qualify for free filing, if you meet the requirements, I believe you need to get to the site via the IRS referral link.)

An Evening by Candlelight

I see that Christopher Tassava has already registered his disapproval of 90-minute evening blackouts that occur when important tasks need to be done. I fully acknowledge the aggravation or full-blown emergencies that such a situation is likely to create.

At our house, though, I must say I rather enjoyed at least the first half of the blackout. My son's home activities tend to revolve rather too much around the computer and the DVD player (my fault, I know), and I found it quite refreshing to find myself reading to him by the fading daylight, supplemented with a few candles. Soon we moved to the dining room table and filled a baking sheet with about a dozen votives and tealights so we could strain our eyes over some word-search puzzles in his latest Puzzlemania. I didn't think to capture the occasion on camera, and that feels somehow right; it was not a time for modern technology.

Despite the charm of candlelight, we were getting rather tired of the eyestrain and were starting to wonder if we should just pack it in and go to bed early when the lights and the TV flooded back on, and life returned to normal. I appreciated our chance of a small taste of the not-so-normal, though... and my son appreciated the chance to blow out all those candles.