Oil Spills are bad enough – but how do you pray about a Tsunami?
It hasn’t been a year since the Gulf oil spill, which we rightly saw as the worst environmental disaster in memory. At that time I wrote a piece trying to come to terms with that situation: “How Do You Pray about an Oil Spill?” And now I sit pondering a disaster that could turn out to be exponentially greater than the BP/Halliburton fiasco. I am doing so at my dining room table, in a part of the world that is seismically if not politically stable, many miles from the nearest nuclear facility. I am looking out at a landscape where the first birds of spring have arrived and are singing up a storm: Robins, redwing blackbirds, a cedar waxwing and (I think) a pine warbler (see pic below and tell me if I’m right, birders!) just this morning. The contrast between my window and the stories on my computer screen could not be more different, and I am forced to ask the same question I asked last summer: How do I pray about what is now happening in Japan? Continue reading
This won’t be a surprise to those who paid attention to some of the serious weather events of 2010: When Russia’s wildfires exploded, we heard that Russia would be banning wheat exports for the immediate future. Then Pakistan lost an entire rice harvest and a good deal of wheat due to the worst flooding in that nation’s history – requiring Pakistan to import more than it normally would have done. And now Australia’s floods are affecting not only coal but wheat and other commodities. Continue reading
Cheez-its that taste medicinal. Metallic cornflakes. Eggo waffles that remind you of “stale straw”. Meat that calls to mind cardboard or damp dog hair.
If the recent government effort to reduce salt in processed foods is successful, this is what we will have to eat. Or so says the food industry according to an astonishing front page article in yesterday’s New York Times (free subscr reqd).
Compared to reducing fat and sugar, for which substitute ingredients have been found, eliminating salt and sodium is turning out to be a major challenge for these companies. Why is that? It turns out that without salt – lots and lots of salt – we eaters might discover that the stuff that is being sold to us as delicious, tantalizing and even healthy “food” is really nothing of the sort.
It’s a marketing problem. Without salt to hide the true nature of these products, we might not buy them. Why not? It turns out they don’t taste very good: Continue reading
Maybe not the best way to start off a conversation with your seat partner on a plane. But I could hardly help myself. (If you have been following my musings for a while you will know that I tend to get into some interesting conversational situations on planes!)
I was on my way back from a week of meetings in Plainview, Texas. Now, I realize that bringing an environmental seminar to the high plains of east Texas is not the normal thing to do. People there are warm, friendly – but pretty convinced that “environment” means “liberal” and “government” and that sort of thing, and they’re not interested. But things are changing. For one thing, these folks are running out of water, and they know it. Continue reading
In my hometown lives a baker. The very ordinary name of his business (“Madison Sourdough”) hides the fact that he’s a European trained master pastry chef. Croissants, danish, brioche – the stuff is, if not worth dying for, certainly worth driving several extra miles across town early in the day to grab the last items before someone else gets them.
Still-life with Brioche by Chardin (Wikipedia Commons)
Now, I’ve been a fan of most of what he makes for quite a while, but his brioche are some of the best pastry I’ve ever eaten. Which has led to a couple of very interesting conversations:
About a month ago my faithful readers may recall I was in Washington DC during the time of the Inauguration. One of the mornings there I found myself, with Daughter #1, in a very authentic french patisserie in Bethesda Maryland. Guess what was in the pastry case? Brioche! But these looked a bit different from those I’ve become accustomed to in Madison. A long conversation with the woman who ran the shop followed. She had baked everything in the shop herself. She had serious doubts as to whether the so-called brioche from Madison was the real thing, and in what would have to be described as a passionate defense of her craft, grabbed a brioche, sliced it in half, and stood there while we sampled it, with the following (please imagine a strong French accent): “If this is not the best brioche you’ve ever had, I want to know it…”
[Almost anyone who has spent time in Pakistan or parts of India recognizes the term 'neem hakeem' - means a doctor who isn't quite up to par. Thus one of the most popular folk proverbs in the area: A 'neem hakeem' is a danger to your life...]
Today’s ‘Neem Hakeem’ lesson is via a story on NPR over the weekend. People are dying – literally – because of their headphones.
Strangled by the cords as they doze in class, maybe? Victims of brain cancer because of electromagnetic radiation? No – run over by buses, trains and other large and noisy vehicles:
Lisa Carolyn Moran, 20, a University of North Carolina exchange student from Scotland, was listening to an iPod while jogging when she stepped into the path of a bus in Chapel Hill last May. Joshua Phillips White, 16, was wearing earphones and walking on a train track in Cramerton, N.C., last November when a freight train hit him from behind, killing him; police said he apparently didn’t hear the locomotive approaching. Alan Eaton-Chandler, 17, was killed under the same circumstances just last Tuesday when he was hit by an Amtrak train in Comstock Township, Mich. And Vicky Baker, 39, was talking on her cell phone when she was struck and killed by a train in Albertville, Ala., in December.
There’s more than one lesson here: