Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And they actually use it? Amazing

Submitted for your approval. I've already approved.

Really, the questions on the importance on not being a handout, on dealing with feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, on the importance of fresh air and exercise, they all coalesce into the answer of this program. People get healthier food for lower cost while working for themselves and others. What's not to love?

Recently, a member of my Sunday School class gave us a plea: the church food bank was getting bare and needed to be filled with basics. She provided a list of the top 10 items needed, all non-perishable; peanut butter and jelly, tuna, canned fruit, dry cereal, shelf-stable juice, boxed meals, all of the items were processed, involved a fair amount of packaging (in a town with minimal recycling), and did not involve much by way of cooking or flavor. I brought in a bag from my weekly shopping, although many things I couldn't get because I shop at the local co-op.

[Expensive, yes; I could have brought more if I spent the same amount of money at Wal-Mart. I have one issue there, though: is it right to supply people with food that was low cost when the cost was kept low by denying those people the wages and benefits necessary to afford their own food? I think not, so I bought at my locally-run store that stresses sustainable production practices.]

Look at that list. High fructose corn syrup is a major ingredient. So are preservatives and oils. The keys to good nutrition are not so much. Cheap and shelf-stable is the object. Obesity and diabetes in the poor, meet your maker.

I know that there are sources of fresh things for these programs. I heard somewhere that excess produce from the community garden (where I have a plot) is donated to the FlintHills Breadbasket, the master organization that in turn supplies the pantries in all the churches around town. I also know that the community garden provides free plots, seeds, and help to people with incomes below a certain level depending on their family size; as a graduate student alone, by the way, I was in the highest income bracket! Still, with the pantries empty, there were unused plots in our garden this year. The space is available, so where are the people? They probably didn't know about it, with the low-key advertising they do (I found it by searching for it online, hoping it existed). It needs a program, like the one above, to reach out specifically to those lacking food security.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get a program like this set up in communities around the US? The implications for public health are astounding.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A thousand monkeys . . .

I had a thought today, after watching the trailer for Eragon. I enjoyed the first book, but I have a feeling that anything on paper with a decent storyline and acceptable grammar would be enjoyable to me. Part of being a bibliophile and voracious reader.

Anyways, although I am enjoying the series and will most likely buy the third in hardcover, there's something . . . lacking. It's not as satisfying as a new Jordan or Martin or even Eddings. Roxann and I discussed it and decided that it seemed almost to be like fan-fic, Mary-Sue's and all.

And today, the epiphany: this is a case of the elephant painting phenomenon. Someone decided to teach elephants to paint. The elephants turn out decent, but not spectacular, modern-style paintings that sell for large amounts of money because, of course, they were painted by elephants, which is cool, right?

I'm not saying Paolini is an elephant or anything of the kind, just that he's become very popular, with a book and movie deal, in large part because, wow, a teenager writing fantasy novels! Novelty, if you'll excuse the pun. There's better writing, better stories being passed over because they don't have a hook like the 16-year-old author.

I'll still read the series. I'll watch the movie. But now, when I do, elephants are going to be dancing in my head.

From today's news trawl

Two items from the news today:

First, Walmart's decision to offer low-cost generic drugs in its pharmacy. I still don't like Walmart. I think it has damaged the American economy. What I find here is that 1) people are having to choose between food and drugs (which don't really work well in the undernourished) and 2) if drugs can be sold at $4/30-day supply for a profit, the fact that they are currently selling for $10-30/30-day supply is a travesty. The lesson in my opinions on this case: rational thinking by corporations is not always good thinking for the public.

Second, a commentary on the spinach contamination raised some interesting issues. Yes, cattle on feed are likely our biggest source of 0157:H7. Yes, hay feeding before slaughter is a good idea (currently in use, if I'm not mistaken). No, no, no we can't blame cattle farms for the entire problem! If these produce farms are using untreated manure for fertilizer, they are the problem. Even if the source of the manure was living as if in the wild (making, of course, collection a problem), there would be pathogens in the manure. I think this is similar to the solution to global warming of removing those horrible methane-producing cows; we want to blame the other, and, with the consolidation of the American livestock industry, cattle farmers make a pretty small other most people don't know personally. Frankly, people, you want safe food, stop eating anything that hasn't been boiled. You want fresh produce, there will be some risk involved.

Friday, September 15, 2006

In news today

A sampling:
1) Listened to the Bush press conference. When he was asked about his relationship with the UN, he brought up Darfur as an example of problems with the UN. You see, the UN refuses to send troops in without Sudan's approval. Bush actually said "You know, there's another way (heh heh heh)". My blood chilled.

2) The E. coli outbreak in bagged spinach. Any food safety expert could tell you that bagged, pre-washed greens are probably not the safest way of getting your greens. Finding out that companies providing this spinach (enough that they haven't traced it back yet) are using untreated manure as fertilizer just reinforces this. Buy local, people. Know your farmers.

3) DDT use in malaria control in Africa. Will the bio-accumulation not happen because we're only suggesting spraying inside the house? You've got to be kidding me; bugs are not limited to in-house and outdoors. There are other issues here, though: who's paying for it? Who's controlling it? I'm not convinced.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Are pheremones transferred that easily?

I was reading through the archives of Rob and Elliot today and ran across this. It got me thinking: why are female vets considered (in the comics world) to be desirable, usually along the lines of booth babes et. al. Is it a holdover from the Garfield days? Is it a combination of animal taming and nurse fantasies? Do the nerdboys sense that we are all nerd girls at heart? Why?

And why is it only in comics?

Friday, September 08, 2006

The current earworm

This Is My Song
words by Lloyd Stone
to the tune of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A sore subject

NPR talking about a subject that few will care about or even know about. I'm proud. Yes, horses are regularly harmed by their owners, out of "love" (at least of winning). Saddlebred riders break some horses' tails to set them into what they think is a pleasing shape. Many people in Saddlebred, Arab, and Morgan circles stick a paste of ginger up the horse's anus to force a similar look. I've heard of Quarter Horse owners tying their horses' heads to cement blocks to force their heads down (I can't confirm this; Morgan and Quarter Horse people didn't really work together where I come from). For somebody to actually do something about the most obvious of the illegal practices (the tail set is actually legal) is impressive. For national news to report on it is even better. Bravo!

Viral annoyance

I have a cold.

2 days ago, it was a basic runny nose, slightly sore throat sort of thing. In fact, contra dancing made it feel better. No big deal.

Yesterday, I woke up unable to sing any interval above a mid G without cracking. My choir was singing the 8:30 service at my church, so I joined the baritones. I didn't have to reach for a low C. In case you're wondering why this is shocking, my normal comfort range is low F to high B. I sing tenor on occasion, but I can never use full voice on the low parts the way I was yesterday. By the end of the day yesterday, I couldn't sing at all. I was a little stuffy, but mostly it was a slightly sore/mucousy throat.

This morning, I woke up to the full-blown cold. I'm going through about 6-10 tissues an hour. I would say that sneezing hurts my throat, but really, doing nothing hurts my throat. Sneezing just makes the pain briefly agonizing. No fever, no chills, nothing serious -- just highly annoying coldish existence.

This is highly annoying to me. Yes, this would be annoying to anyone. The thing bothering me is that I'm pretty sure how I got it (spending the weekend before last with my sister (who works in a hospital as a juvenile psychologist), her husband (a high school teacher), and their son (in the hospital daycare). I spent 4 days with the ultimate virus-sharing family. I got a cold virus.

The other thing bothering me is that I'm doing everything right (well, not everything -- staying out until 1:30 for dancing wasn't smart) and it's not going away. I've doubled my vitamin B/C intake. I've been drinking cold care tea. I slept in this morning (Labor Day closing the gym helps in forcing this). I've eaten well and drunk lots of water. I'm in good shape and generally healthy. And it's not going away! It's getting worse!

Yes, I understand how this happens. I know that my immune system is picking up and will clear it out in its own time. I even know that yesterday afternoon was the beginning of the secondary bacterial infection in the nasal mucosa. Yet, knowing all this, there's nothing I can do.

It's highly annoying to know that nothing you know is going to help.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A depressing exercise

1. Read the chapter on the Mayans in Collapse
2. 3 hours later, read this article on sustainable agriculture (or the lack thereof) in the contemporary US system
3. Draw parallels
4. Weep for the inability of our species to actually learn anything