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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fruit friends

  The economy has inspired a lot of neighbor-to-neighbor activity, and (more visibly) media awareness of community activities that already exist, and the way those communities are innovating solutions for their needs themselves.

Foraging for Fruit Gains Popularity (nytimes.com, 6/10/09, shared by a Facebook friend) is an article about looking around you, seeing what you have to offer, and giving or trading it with others. As one participant remarks, A fruit tree is really made for sharing with your neighborhood.

It's a sweet article about all sorts of little personal projects that have blossomed into larger organizations of people picking fruit for food banks, harvesting and pruning orchards for elderly neighbors, and working out elaborate social networks of ripe fruit reporting so people can trade when the fruit on their trees is at its best. The idea expands beyond the community/victory garden in which apartment dwellers may garden for their own table, to discuss how neighbors with private gardens can better share their surplus.

These sorts of exchanges have always occurred: I think very fondly of the coworkers who have brought in baskets of ripe lemons, apricots, plums, and avocados to the office. There are also jokes about how, in certain neighborhoods, you have to lock your car doors and roll up the windows, or in the morning you'll find your car filled with baskets of zucchini and string beans dumped by rogue urban farmers.

The novelty, I suppose, is that technology is playing a slightly increased organizing role in these exchanges, allowing more people to participate than the ordinary do-gooder neighbor could otherwise handle. Another novelty angle may be that the major media, ever seeking stories about impending doom, remained stunned that people are capable of self-organizing for positive reasons. (I half-expected to read articles about 'unregulated and dangerous fruit anarchy.')

If you have more bounty from your yard than you can handle, this article is a reminder to share it, regardless of whether you do that through a Facebook group or by ringing your neighbor's doorbell and offering a sack of lemons.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:50 PM


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In chains

  sign in American Apparel window, Valencia Street, San FranciscoThere had been some fascinating signage on Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District in recent months, once it was revealed that chain store American Apparel planned to move in.

When I think of American Apparel, I think of their heinous, unflattering, vaguely pedophile-focused ads, but then I also think of The Onion: 14 American Apparel Models Freed in Daring Midnight Raid (theonion.com), which made me laugh so hard I cried, and was especially enjoyable since AA advertises on their back cover.

But when the community near the proposed store location found out about it, they were not laughing.

The poster suggests that the hearing was LIVELY.

Yaaay for community involvement!

(As for the vacant space, I could really go for a shop that sells boxed specialty tea...)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Natural history and cocktails (night at the aquarium)

  outside of dark rainforest dome at California Academy of Science during NightlifeEver since the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park was rebuilt, it's been a madhouse on weekends. Just biking or walking past, you can usually see the lines snaking out toward the Sunset District, and sometimes even hear the staff making announcements through bullhorns on how they have already sold out of tickets for the day.

Not being into waiting in line or mob scenes, I avoided the place.

At least, I avoided it until my Cousin took me to NightLife: California Academy of Sciences, the nightclub version of the museum. For a mere $10 for non-members, you can go into the museum for a few hours at night, spend money on strong drinks made at any of the dozen plus bars scattered throughout the building, and see those same exhibits you wanted to see during the day. NightLife is an 21 and over event ONLY, so not only will unfamiliar children NOT mistake you for their mommy and cry when you try to point out their error, but... it feels like a nightclub scene, complete with people all dolled up, pretending to look at piranhas while checking you out. hall at California Academy of Science during Nightlife

It's a younger, less dressy crowd than the members only parties at SFMoMA, and men are better represented. I theorize that this is because it's easier not to embarrass yourself at a natural history museum - it's much easier to tell animals apart than modern painters - and there is a much broader time span available to discuss through interpretive signs - say, the big bang to now, versus the late 1800s to now.

I had been a big fan of the old Academy (though the organization's apparent joint position with the museum across the way - that more of the park should be privatized and turned into parking lots for the convenience of its patrons - was loathsome, and has resulted in some very unfortunate side effects), and find that the new building... is a completely different place. The African Hall, full of its stuffed samples of flora and fauna from that large and still-exotic continent, was rebuilt to match the feel of the original, while the rest of the museum feels not just like a new place, but like a new concept of what the museum is for.

rainforest exhibit at California Academy of Science during NightlifeThe old building felt like a Victorian collection of artifacts that had been collected during some imperial expansionist period, with hidden halls and closets that seemed to go on forever, chock full of every possible aspect of conquered lands, and was fun to explore in the way you would expect. The new building, which is admirable in many, many ways, but will take some getting used to, feels like a modern place, engaged with current environmental issues and primarily focused upon non-human life on earth. I imagine that the mission of the Academy has been tidied up, or the new building wouldn't FEEL quite so different.

I'm not saying I don't miss the room full of natural crystals - I do! - but the point of being there is much more clear. I mean this as a compliment.

A few notes: yes, the albino alligator is still in the animal hospital.

Yes, the rain forest will be closed this week. If you're making a special trip for that, wait a week or two. When it is open, be sure to hit it early - they do close that earlier than some other sections.

Yes, the drinks are respectably strong.

Yes, you can actually go just to enjoy the exhibits, and do so without feeling like you are missing the point. That's part of the beauty of it, really. And, unlike me, some stranger probably won't approach you with a camera containing his amateur lion porn to start up a conversation. Unless you are also a freak magnet, in which case, this won't be any different from anywhere else you go.

Yes, I took a few phone photos (other than those posted here), which may be viewed at my phone photo blog or in my Academy By Night album on Facebook (no login required for either, of course.)

entrance to California Academy of Science during NightlifeI enthusiastically recommend Nightlife as a way to see the museum without being hit by strollers; with friends; with a cocktail in one hand; to see the museum brightly lit; to hear a DJ while staring at sea bass; with a date of uncertain conversational skills (if they can't find something to engage you in conversation about here, you likely should not be dating them); or on any Thursday night between now and the end of October when they stop doing this.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:29 PM


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

Love your LOCAL tomatoes.

While I am wallowing in the many joys of fresh heirloom tomatoes grown here in California, my friends are living in fear of all things red and round. Why? Why, it's the national raw tomato scare, of course.

The Centers For Disease Control: Investigation of Outbreak of Infections Caused by Salmonella Saintpaul (cdc.gov/salmonella/saintpaul, updated 6/24/08) notes that now, 652 people in 34 states (plus DC) have been affected by this previously rare strain of salmonella that only affected THREE people last year. According to the current version of the CDC's hot topics page on this outbreak,
The agency has been able to trace the pathway of some tomatoes from the point of purchase (e.g. supermarket) or consumption (e.g. restaurant) to each point on the distribution chain down to certain farms in Mexico and Florida.
I live in a major tomato exporting state, so this only confused me: how the heck could other states be importing tomatoes in such volume that this obscure contamination incident could be so widespread? I mean, it's June! It's tomato time! Local tomatoes are available! Right?

Well, yes and no. I have mentioned that my local green grocer, just four blocks from my house, routinely stocks foods that are major exports of my home state, which they happened to have purchased from Chile. Nectarines are grown a few hours from my home, but this stand will carry nectarines from several thousand miles away much of the year. Why? Well, they are cheap due to the oddities of the world market and subsidized fuel. Economically, it makes no sense to me to fly a nectarine halfway around the world to me when they grow so close to home, but I am not a cheerleader of capitalism who finds ways to make all sorts of inefficient arrangements profitable. There are really lame, pale roma tomatoes available at this stand much of the year: they do not change from month to month, likely because they have been harvested weeks earlier and have spent ages on a truck on their way up from Mexico. As an alternative, the shop also offers hydroponic tomatoes from CANADA on the vine, which are lovely to look at and relatively flavorless.

So nothing about the worldwide travels of contaminated tomatoes should surprise me at this point.

I go to the farmers' markets or to Rainbow Grocery for REAL tomatoes.

*

As an aside, the CDC's Saint Paul Salmonella FAQ notes that salmonella is a form of animal (poo) contamination; the CDC goes on to note that their experiments point to the tomatoes being infected through exposure to contaminated water. They observe that this sort of contamination mostly comes from "food animals," which means that if we were all vegans, this probably wouldn't have happened. That's just an aside.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:56 AM


Sunday, June 15, 2008

 

Lazy Saturday.

I'm Le Tired, so it is good that I have had a lazy weekend. I am supposed to be preparing several contest entries and a book mock-up over the next several weeks: it is exhausting just thinking about those projects. It is almost enough to inspire me to procrastinate by working on my Facebook page instead. But I've already got enough crap up there. Except for my biographical photo essay project, in which I will post a photo from each year of my life. I'm missing most of my teens right now, but I could still start scanning, I suppose.

*

Ingleside trivia: The Coffee Lab (yelp.com), our newest local cafe, not only serves fabulous Ritual Coffee (ritualroasters.com), but also has very, very tasty sandwiches.

I had lunch there Saturday. I had a heavenly soy cappuccino, plus a "regular" (enormous) pepper jack cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mustard, and olives on rosemary bread. The sandwich was toasted so that the cheese was pleasantly soft and the bread had a light crunch to it. It was great. I will go again.

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Weekend trivia from a Saturday morning spent on Valencia:

-Little Otsu (shop.littleotsu.com) not only has charming stationery and notebooks (which I knew), but also has a good selection of vegan cookbooks.

-Beadissimo (beadissimo.com), the wonderful bead shop that is the source of nearly all jewelry I have worn over the last several years, is closing. :-( They are having a 40% off closing sale until the stock is exhauster or Wednesday, whichever comes first. I'd bet the stock will be exhausted sooner. I bought several strands there, since there is no use in resisting until later. The sale brought out terrible "bead greed" in me: I confessed this, to the amusement of the woman beside me.

-Needles & Pens (www.needles-pens.com) has a much larger selection of zines than I had previously realized. And books by David Shrigley (davidshrigley.com).

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM


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