Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local eatery moves towards local/sustainable food

The Arbor Brewing Company restaurant announced today in their blog that they are going to try to develop a menu based around local or sustainable foods. I applaud this effort, and they will be getting more of my business in response.

In brief, they will look at "... all of our options for getting things that are locally sourced, sustainably and humanely farmed in ways that support the environment, support the animals, support the workers, and support our local economy."

Props to them!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving locally

piesIn the continuing "local food" project, I wanted to see how much of Thanksgiving dinner could be done with locally grown and produced food. It started with buying a heritage turkey from a local farmer, and escalated from there. Overall, we ended up with an almost completely local dinner, except for the pecan pie, cranberry relish, and a couple of ingredients.

Here's the menu we ended up with:

  • Narragansett Bronze turkey from John Harnois (Whitmore Lake, MI)
  • Roasted root vegetables: celeriac, turnips, potatoes, garlic with fresh thyme and butter
  • Stuffing from locally baked bread, onions, apples, celeriac tops, butter, fresh thyme, and dried sage.
  • Gravy from turkey stock, butter, flour.
  • Greens: spinach, turnip greens, and kale, with butter and garlic.
  • Cranberry-orange relish from Fresh Seasons market (too yummy to leave out!)
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie
Other than the pecan pie, the only non-local ingredients were the flour in the stuffing bread, brown sugar, salt, pepper, dried sage, and bay leaves. I found a source for locally milled (and, presumably, grown) flour. Morgan & York sells a "boutique" flour from a mill in Argentine, Michigan (less than 50 miles from home). I used this flour to make the pie crusts and thicken the gravy.

Everything was delicious, especially the turkey. Honestly, it was the best turkey we've ever had. It was just over 7 lbs, which was pretty much perfect for our family of 4, and it cooked in less than 2 hours. I brined it the day before, and it was perfectly seasoned and nicely moist. The pie crust was also especially good.

Amy has found out that salt is produced in Windsor, Ontario, which is within 100 miles of here, so is local. We've just got to figure out how to get some (preferably without driving to Windsor.) And we could have done cranberry sauce, but we didn't know it -- Amy discovered tonight that Trader Joes had Michigan-grown cranberries -- Naturipe Farms grows cranberries in south east Michigan, although it appears they may distribute them via the west side of the state.

So, how about you? Maybe it's time to start thinking about your upcoming holiday meals. What local ingredients can you incorporate? What exotic ingredients shipped from far away can you do without? And which ones can't you leave out?


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On electronic publishing, copyright, and digital rights management

The introduction of the Amazon book reader, the Kindle, has spawned a flurry of blog posts. One that piqued my interest is The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts), which examines the implications of digital rights management in the ebook realm by contrasting quotes from Jeff Bezos, Richard Stallman, the Kindle terms of service, and others. The comments echo the usual arguments about how DRM is necessary, else the entire publishing infrastructure will collapse economically, and so on. Interestingly, as some readers point out, there is at least one publisher who is successfully publishing e-books with no DRM and apparently making a profit at it.

That publisher is Baen Books. The editor of the e-magazine Jim Baen's Universe, Eric Flint, is writing a column, "Salvos against Big Brother", on copyright, DRM, and why he believes that current trends in both are hurting readers, (most) authors and publishers. You can find the entire list on his "author page" at the magazine, but they're mixed in with a bunch of other stuff. In order, here are his articles:

A Matter of Principle, introducing the series.

Copyright: What Are the Proper Terms for the Debate?, discussing the history of copyright, its original intentions, and how many of the current issues were debated over 150 years ago.

McCauley on Copyright, the text of two speeches given in Parliament in 1841. In Eric Flint's words, "They are, no other word for it, brilliant—and cover everything fundamental which is involved in the issue."

Copyright: How Long Should It Be?

What is Fair Use

Lies, and More Lies, wherein he debunks the claims

The advent of digital media makes it so effortless to copy an intellectual creator's work that traditional notions of "fair use" have to be abandoned. In today's world, any sort of "fair use" will inexorably and inevitably lead to wholesale violation of copyright.

Therefore, fair use must be banned entirely—or, at a bare minimum, have tremendous restrictions placed on it.

There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, addressing the question "Is it true that modern electronic devices have made copyright infringement "so effortless" that it has become—or threatens to become—a serious menace to legitimate copyright owners?" His answer is, "No."

In Books: The Opaque Market, Eric turns the issue around, "examining the many ways in which a non-DRM approach to electronic publishing can help the situation of authors and publishers."

Spillage: or, The Way Fair Use Works in Favor of Authors and Publishers, continues examining the issues raised in the previous essay.

The Economics of Writing addresses some objections to the theses posed in the previous two essays.

The most recent essay, The Pig-in-a-Poke Factor, continues the argument from The Economics of Writing.

I'm sure that Eric is not done with this topic, so you might want to bookmark Baen's Universe and check back every couple of months for the next installment.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Acceptance versus change?

At Zen Habits today, the question was asked "How do you reconcile acceptance with striving to improve?" My take on this again comes from the serenity prayer, May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. When I truly understand this mantra/prayer, I also truly understand that acceptance is not "giving up." I do not believe that acceptance contradicts moving towards change.

Acceptance of the world and myself as it and I are, now, means, for me, that I do not have a false view of reality; that I am not looking at the world with rose-colored (or any other color) glasses; that I am not denying reality. Because only when I truly see who I am, what I am, where I am, how I am, in all humility*, can I begin to make real change.

Acceptance thus becomes the basis, the starting point, of true change. And if I live in acceptance, I do not have to strive for improvement. Instead, I can set realistic goals, and a realistic path that I can move along to achieve those goals. Improvement becomes a journey rather than a struggle. It is a journey that I can make in peace, accepting the change as it happens, and accepting, nay embracing, the turns, twists, dips, and climbs of the journey as an adventure.

If I live in the moment, in the now of the journey, I may notice side paths that lead me to a new journey, to a destination I did not envisage at the start, but which is better than the place I was aiming for. If, instead, I strive, heading always forward straight towards my destination, pushing through the underbrush, not accepting the path as it is, my journey will be harder, less enjoyable, possibly unfinishable if I encounter an obstacle that I can't push through.

Acceptance does not negate change. Acceptance enables change.

* Humility, to me, is the state of seeing myself clearly, warts all and accepting who I am. Dictionary definitions that come close are, "The quality or state of being humble in spirit. Free­dom from pride or arrogance. Absence of vanity."


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Knowing the difference

May I have
The Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

This little prayer has been a key element in bringing about some changes in attitudes and actions. I have a tendency to want to take on other people's stuff. Stuff such as their problems, their activities, their needs, and their words. All of these as perceived by me, of course. The prayer reminds me that I can only really take on my stuff, and that I need to work to know the difference between my stuff and every one else's stuff. My stuff is things that legitimately belong to me, and are the only things that I can have any hope of changing directly. Your stuff and their stuff is the rest of everything. I can never change any of that by direct action.

This may be easiest to explain with some examples.

I'm in a theater, and someone is coughing or rattling their program. It's mildly annoying, but I can ignore it and pay attention to the performance. But, instead, I could very easily start worrying that the noise is spoiling the experience of others around me. (Yes, really.) Can I do anything about others' experiences? Absolutely not! Can I do something about my thought pattern? Absolutely yes! Now that I know the difference, I can change my attitude, stop worrying, and go back to enjoying the performance.

I am working with others on a project. I definitely have opinions about what needs to be done, and how it should be done, whether it's my part of the project or not. I might think that the way another person proposes to do their part is not the best way, and that I know a better way. But I have to remember that if the result of their work meets the requirements, then it oughtn't matter (to me) how they do it. If I try to jump in and tell them their way is wrong, I'll likely engender resentment rather than gratitude. If I know where the boundary is between my stuff and their stuff, and if I respect that boundary, then we'll work together more harmoniously.

When I was in college, a friend was date-raped. (We didn't call it that, then, but that's what happened.) I immediately started plotting how I could help her if she had gotten pregnant. To this day, I don't know whether she would have wanted or welcomed any such help. But my sense of her stuff versus my stuff was so weak, that I took it on, anyway. Luckily for our friendship, I never said anything about my "plans." It probably would have ended that friendship pretty quickly.

A friend annotates the prayer thusly:
May I have
The serenity to accept the things I can't change
(Everyone else)
The courage to change the things I can (ME!)
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I can hardly think of better words to live by.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Selfish or Selfless?

On the Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin writes about "Why it can be selfless to be selfish, or, how you can be generous by TAKING." She points out that "The pleasure of giving ... [requires that] someone must accept your gift. ... sometimes, you must be the selfish one, asking and accepting."

Yes! That is the essence of true community. Sometimes, we are the givers, and sometimes the receivers. It works best when we don't keep a tally, either. We give when giving is required; and we receive when we are in need, or when the other needs to give. It can be hard. We are taught from a young age that it is rude to take, and blessed to give.

Does it help to know that the giver is receiving pleasure in the giving? Can we receive it graciously without demurral? Why is it so hard to say "thank you", to accept the gift, to not say "oh, you shouldn't have!", to not be already plotting our return gift?


Salvation is not a solo act

Change is easier with a support group. Maybe it's a cheering section. Maybe it's someone to whom you are accountable. Or maybe it's a community that loves you and wants you to live to your fullest potential. In fact, I might ask, is it possible to truly change on your own?

I know that I can't. I need accountability. I need love and support. I wouldn't mind a few cheers, now and then — a few "atta boys". Because salvation is not a solo act.*

So who are my supports? They are many, and varied.

My family grounds me. They are always there. Families are complex, and we each have needs from each other and we each give to each other. I know that I cannot live alone, as much as I might wish it at times.

My church community is increasingly important. It is amazing to me now that I lived for so long without such a spiritual connection. Sunday services provide a community of fellow seekers. My mens' circle has reached an amazing level of intimacy, where I can expose my fears and hopes and find unconditional support in return.

In other mutual support groups, I find that I get so much back when I share of my own fear and experience, strength and hope, ups and downs. By exposing ourselves, we create a circle of trust wherein others can give equally of themselves. In giving, we receive so much more.

I have always found that accountability to another person is a huge part of successful change. When I was in grad school, a group of us signed up for an aerobics class. Because we were all going, we all went. When I tried to do the same on my own, after moving to Michigan, I failed. I needed the accountability to the group. That is why I am now recording my steps on walkertracker.com. There, I have a community who (might) notice if I slack. Even if nobody calls me on it, I feel the accountability, and I keep up my effort.

My thanks to PattiMST3K, whose post on community inspired me to finish this essay.

* Recently, the Rev. Dr. Tandeka preached a sermon titled "Celebrating our Connections: The Only Way the World Can Be Saved". A catch phrase from the sermon was "Salvation is not a solo act." It hit me in the heart.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Local meal #2

On Thursday, I decided to make dinner a local food meal. I had already purchased local (Michigan) gold nugget squash and apples (yes, there's a theme here -- those are items that are in season locally), and I still had some lettuce from the church garden. I cut the squash and some apples in half, put butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in the cavities of the squash halves, and put them into the oven to bake. But, I still needed something else to make it a satisfying meal.

Aha! Cheese! The Zingerman's Creamery makes cheese from local goat and cow milk. I braved the traffic (heavier than I expected) to the Creamery and got a nice aged round of goat cheese. They also had Pawpaw gelato, made with Michigan grown Pawpaws. The milk in the gelato is also local, although the sugar, vanilla, etc. are not. I deemed it "mostly local" and bought a small container for dessert.

Once back home, I cut the cheese round in half crosswise and put a disk of cheese into each squash to bake and soften. A few minutes longer, and dinner was ready. Yum.

I'm still trying to decide what to do about including bread products. There is wheat grown in Michigan (30,780,000 bushels in 2002) but I don't know where to find any. Adding bread to the menu certainly simplifies the planning process, but is it sufficient for it to be baked locally? Or does it need to be made from locally grown wheat, too? What do you think?


There are good people in this world

Yesterday, I accidentally left my ATM/debit card in the machine. I discovered it later in the evening, when I wanted to use it to buy ingredients for dinner. At first, I thought about the hassle of getting a new one, waiting a week or two for it to come, etc. Then I started worrying that someone had found it, sticking out of the beeping machine, and was even at that moment using it to buy hundreds or thousands of dollars of stuff on the internet.

When I got home, the message light on my phone was blinking. It was from the bank. Someone had found my card and brought it into the bank. I could come down and pick it up. I was at the bank when it opened this morning, and retrieved my card.

Thank you, whoever you are.