Archive for July, 2007

unexpected things

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

… the moon last night. It was full, red, huge, and I chased coming back from the lake as it rose and got smaller and paler. What fun.
… kick ball at the park! Last night 50 people (20 somethings) playing and watching serious kickball with lots of noise and fun and dust and drinking and hot. I’ve never seen that there before (in more than two decades) bu they’ve been around a few weeks making lots of noise down there. I assumed it was baseball! They were back tonight in the heat – about 30 people.
…bees bursting out of the hive! They are well into the next super and packing away the honey. Happy productive masses of busy bees.
…it is Michigan corn season already. Oh, yum. With homemade butter and french sea salt. Bliss. IT is that time of the summer already?
…my toe is feeling nearly OK and most days I forget it was so recenty broken.
…I went for a walk downtown tonight and came upon a musical performance in the parking lot of the library of all places. Lots of teenyboppers screaming and singing along. Draw closer, wizard robes and wands and witch hats. Ah – Harry and the Potters in a special performance in honor of Harry Potter’s Birthday. Of course. There may have been 400 people there. Or more. Lots of young girls and polite screaming.
…another cycle of pre-menopausal hormonal crazyness. 38 years I never knew such hormonal emotional affectedness. Every time it comes and then suddenly goes I’m in awe of the hormones power and persuasiveness, and put it with the full moon and I’m just a very odd person for a while. I guess I’m still in denial because it is indeed unexpected and just so peculiar to observe and live with each 25-30 days.

nature – and the book “The Last Season”

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

There was lots of nature at the lake this weekend. When I arrived the smaller of the two great blue herons was on my swim dock. She stayed as I swam out and I got to within about 6-8 feet of the platform before she took off. But she first made a great show of stretching her one leg out in front and then the side, opening up a wing to take in the breeze, then the other, then both. It was like I was watching a great big blue lovely bird doing yoga poses.

When I came back form the long swim a painted turtle had somehow crawled up on the platform, and slipped into the water as I came near. Later I saw two more turtles in the smae place – but one was the flatter darker kind, certainly not the same one that had taken up the position earlier.

I had wondered where the turtles were – I haven’t seen but one or two in the last month, suddenly they are all over again poking up their heads while I swim close and quickly darting for water cover when I’m too close.

There is a golden type of dragon fly that has made a strong appearance. As I swam last night I came upon an odd architecture of golden dragonflys sort of in and out of the water. They let me get close and I think what I sorted out was four dragon flys all coupling together. Really. Two pairs mated, with a second connetion somehow that was submerged. As I began to sort it out and say wait a minute that can’t be they flew off as two pairs. So I’m still not exactly sure how that worked but it was a lovely strange thing to encounter in the middle of the lake.

I did a workshop on Energy First Aid for the Zen Buddhist Peace Camp and it really went well. Less than 1 1/2 hours, but a god group of people and they were very willing to feel energy, find auras, balance chakras, and more. Zomba had a good time and tried to lick people who were on the floor practicing the balancing. Then she slept.

I finished a book called Thr Last Season by Eric Blehm. It is a nonfiction mystery book about a lost National Park Service Ranger, his life, the search for him, his writing, and the area he loved – the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

There is one message from the book – move slowly, look around more often. Enjoy nature.
I’ve spent very little time in wilderness, it was a lovely snapshot of what that can be about. Very well written, the narrator really disapears to that the story gets the full focus. Well done. The flashbacks, backstory, and evolving search are moslty seemlessly presented.

I’ve appreciated nature today. I had some moments I could move slowly – especially in my swims last night and this morning. Very nice. Very powerful.

Monsanto loses for once!! Yeah!!

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

There are a few stories on Monsanto losing a patent battle the first I saw was on that gives a good back story about the harm Monsanto has done in criminalizing traditional seed saving.

Daily Kos has the story in a larger context of other dangerous copyright cases that have also been favorably resolved.

I just feel I can breath a little deeper and be a bit happier knowing that this invasive giant has been slapped down. This is realy important, really good news to begin to reverse a deeply disturbing trend.

Quoting from a news article there is this:


24/7/2007 11:42 GMT
Monsanto Patents Asserted Against American Farmers Rejected

Special to ag-IP-news Agency

NEW YORK – The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) announced on Tuesday that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected four key Monsanto patents related to genetically modified crops that PUBPAT challenged last year because the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue – and in some cases literally bankrupt – American farmers.

In its Office Actions rejecting each of the patents, the USPTO held that evidence submitted by PUBPAT, in addition to other prior art located by the Patent Office’s Examiners, showed that Monsanto was not entitled to any of the patents.

Monsanto has filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits asserting the four challenged patents against American farmers, many of whom are unable to hire adequate representation to defend themselves in court.

One study of the matter found that, “Monsanto has used heavy-handed investigations and ruthless prosecutions that have fundamentally changed the way many American farmers farm. The result has been nothing less than an assault on the foundations of farming practices and traditions that have endured for centuries in this country and millennia around the world, including one of the oldest, the right to save and replant crop seed.”

Organic Tomatoes contain greater amounts of flavinoids

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

J. Agric. Food Chem., 55 (15), 6154 -6159, 2007. 10.1021/jf070344+ S0021-8561(07)00344-5
Web Release Date: June 23, 2007
Copyright © 2007 American Chemical Society

Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes

Alyson E. Mitchell,* Yun-Jeong Hong, Eunmi Koh, Diane M. Barrett, D. E. Bryant, R. Ford Denison,# and Stephen Kaffka

Department of Food Science and Technology and Department of Plant Sciences, One Shields Avenue, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, and Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108

Received for review February 6, 2007. Revised manuscript received May 4, 2007. Accepted May 8, 2007.


Understanding how environment, crop management, and other factors, particularly soil fertility, influence the composition and quality of food crops is necessary for the production of high-quality nutritious foods. The flavonoid aglycones quercetin and kaempferol were measured in dried tomato samples (Lycopersicon esculentum L. cv. Halley 3155) that had been archived over the period from 1994 to 2004 from the Long-Term Research on Agricultural Systems project (LTRAS) at the University of California-Davis, which began in 1993. Conventional and organic processing tomato production systems are part of the set of systems compared at LTRAS. Comparisons of analyses of archived samples from conventional and organic production systems demonstrated statistically higher levels (P < 0.05) of quercetin and kaempferol aglycones in organic tomatoes. Ten-year mean levels of quercetin and kaempferol in organic tomatoes [115.5 and 63.3 mg g-1 of dry matter (DM)] were 79 and 97% higher than those in conventional tomatoes (64.6 and 32.06 mg g-1 of DM), respectively. The levels of flavonoids increased over time in samples from organic treatments, whereas the levels of flavonoids did not vary significantly in conventional treatments. This increase corresponds not only with increasing amounts of soil organic matter accumulating in organic plots but also with reduced manure application rates once soils in the organic systems had reached equilibrium levels of organic matter. Well-quantified changes in tomato nutrients over years in organic farming systems have not been reported previously. Keywords: Tomato; organic agriculture; conventional agriculture; long-term research; flavonoid; flavonol; quercetin; kaempferol

The Animal Copyright

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Here is an idea new to me, and intriquing in its potential. I’d prefer to let this 18 minute movie speak for the concept.
The movie itself is compelling, strangely disturbing, and somehow also inspiring. Very different, as is the message at the end.

I’m curious about how this will unfold, but as a conept to support climate crisis efforts and safeguard the animals we share the planet with it seems pretty brilliant at first glance.

Broken Toe

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

I walked into my bathroom and kicked the glass block that creates the shower stall. That was stupid. I think this is the second time for this little toe. And the previous time was stepping out of the bathtub and kicking the side of the tub.

So – to turn that into an educational opportunity, what is the holistic thing to do for a broken toe?

Arnica, lots of homeopathic arnica.

All I could find was 1 M so I took one dose of that, my preference would have been for 30c.

I picked some up from the co-op within the hour, and took it everytime I felt any pain or throbbing. Also put arnica gel on it every couple of hours.

I’ll do that as long as it keeps decreasing the pain, up to a couple of days.

Tomorrow I’ll probably tape it so I can swim – just adhesive tape to the toe next door. That stabilizes it. I will also switch to Yellow Dock Oil (rumex crispus) which helps with bone healing and blood flow. A soak in fresh comfrey leaves sort of as a poultice/soak (crushed leaves steeped with hot water for a few hours) – soak lasting 20 minutes at least. I can also use homeopathic symphytum – comfrey – internally for a few weeks to help the “bones knit” (the common name for comfrey is boneknit)

So there are herbal and homeopathic things to do, and also unwinding. Used in cranialsacral therapy, it is gentle, with small tiny movements to help align the bones and resolve tissue trauma. In 1989 I broke my big toe by dropping a rail road tie on it. It was months before I found someone to unwind it – and when I did it was bliss. I can do my little tow myself, but I might also look up some former students to also help.

Conventional treatment, or the need to confirm with x-rays? Not worth the bother and especially not worth the money. There is no treatment, pain relievers and more expensive tape. This seems best as a do it yourself project as long as things keep getting better. And that is the caveat – if you pay attention and are aware of red flags, you can treat yourself. And with no other health issues like diabetes that can interfere with healing. Common sense. Always apply that first. For example if a bone is sticking out of your body — always go for conventional medical care ASAP. Take arnica on the way. Any broken bone can trigger shock. You may have to treat that as well.

Broken finger? Judgement call. Future manipulation is more important, I wouldn’t make a blanket statement but even with conventional treatment the alternative offered here can be used at the same time.

i will report back. So far, very little pain and minimal swelling. But it sure feels broken – I find broken bones have a distinct feel. I’ve had a few chances to test the observation with x-ray confirmation. Unfortunately.

Living in basements

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Twenty seven years ago I came up out of the basement lifestyle, and moved into a house with other people. I’m thinking about that due to the ongoing conversation on Ann Arbor is Overrated (an enjoyable but also annoying blog that often rightly exposes some negative aspects of Ann Arbor but also has many commentators who seem to enjoy being negative and quick to judge). The price of housing, the plight of renters. August third is also my 24th anniversary of buying and moving into my house. Thinking about life before being a home owner.

Back at the end of the seventies and beginning of the eighties I was the director of Ozone House. At that time we considered staff positions at Ozone to essentially be paid volunteers. I still remember what the twice monthly pay check was – $232.38. So less than $500 per month. That was also partly why staff terms were limited to two years. So I had no car, very little money, and after two bad experiences with housemates I wanted to be alone.

I sublet a wonderful apartment at 605 Catherine for $180 a month. That was a great, long summer. I was outraged when the landlord said if I wanted to stay the new rent was $250 a month. I couldn’t do it.

But next door, the guy who owned the house offered me the basement for $140 a month. It was a huge space, I got a queen sized water bed and it hardly filled the bedroom. But the toilet was a bizarre suction thing, the shower was improvised, the only sink was a laundry tub, and it wasn’t until much later that I got a stove – which blew up the first time I used it. I mastered hot plate cooking.

It was a nutty crazy place – but cheap. The city found it (the tenants upstairs complained about something and they were investigating) and suddenly I had three days to move. I had to move back home with my parents until I found something else.

Another basement apartment became available – I don’t recall how I heard about it probably someone at Ozone house knew I was looking for a cheap place. It would be ready in three months. So I waited, and moved into a wonderful owner occupied (no city inspections) newly created basement space. $180 per month.

The kitchen was brand new, and I went nuts cooking every day and loving it. The bathroom was real – with lovely tiles and a shower that was also real.

I had the whole basement, so the big old furnace was between my kitchen and living/bedroom area but I just hung a tapestry and ignored it. The living room/bedroom area was all cedar paneled about 25 feet in length, I put a tapestry up to create a divider for the bedroom area. I actually started my practice seeing clients in that living room area with a crude handmade massage table.

But the woodwork was cool, the area had previously been a bar, so there were built in shallow cabinets and a shelf that ran along one or two of the walls above the lower cabinets. Other than the lack of light and feeling vulnerable to people peaking in I loved it. That was on Fifth Street.

I sublet it while I traveled West for training and adventure, and when I came back moved to a shared housing situation that I loved on Eighth Street. I think we each paid about $160 for a room in a nice house with three bedroms – one person lived in the basement room. There were five of us. The last two years it was just three, but the whole cost was still under $200 each.

I still work in my basement, and enjoy it, but partly because I can come upstairs.

I’m back to living cheaply, since I was adamant that I would buy a house and succeeded so long ago. It has been 24 years next week. I was 24 when I did it – so now I’ve lived 1/2 my life in this home. Good choice.

The illegal basement apartments were a wonderful thing – needed because I chose to work for little money. They have their place, but I think I wasn’t fully aware of the risk I was taking. That whole second egress issue is real – especially when the furnace is so near the only exit.

But I think we need some creative solutions for housing in Ann Arbor – basement dwellings, garage setups, guest bedrooms being used, shared housing and other solutions. It helped me through a hard time. I didn’t like living illegally. Is there a safe but more open alternative?

Mozzarella Cheese (and Ricotta)

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

There was raw milk left and not picked up so I took 2 gallons to make cheese. I’ve made hard cheese and panir cheese but never Mozzarella. And as a result I also made Ricotta.

I put together some recipes by looking at a bunch of on line recipes. Here is what I came up with:

heat 2 gallons milk to 90 degres, add 1/4 tsp powderd Thermophilic culture (or 4 oz. prepared), mix 1/4 – 1/2 tsp renet in cool water and stir in for about 20 seconds.

Let set undisturbed for 45 minutes. Cut the curds. Let the curds sit for 10 minutes, stir gently with slotted spoon, repeat twice every 10 minutes and for final 30 minutes just let sit.

Drain curds into cheese cloth lined colander, reserving whey.

Hang curds for at least 2 1/2 hours.

Bring a salt brine to 170 degrees, cut curded mass into about 1 inch chunks. Cook in brine for about 30-60 seconds, until it just begins to melt. Transfer with slotted spoon to bowl. Pick up pieces and sort of knead and stretch them until they can’t be kneaded and they are shiny and smooth.

Store in brine, good for about 3 days. We shaped them into balls. Fabulous!!!

Now that reserved whey, it turns out, can be used to make ricotta! I never knew. Easiest cheese yet. Heat the whey to 200 degrees, strain into butter muslin (very fine cheesecloth – not the regular stuff) and let hang for about an hour or two. Very little ricotta, but lovely taste.

So that was the highlight of my day – making and then devouring lots of fresh mozzarella. I did the final stage at Joanne’s and she had tomato, basil, whole wheat toast and olive oil to fully embrace the experience.

When I dropped off a round to my neighbors they commented it was chewier than most fresh mozzarella. I’m not sure why, but I certainly liked it that way!

Harry Potter

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Well, I finished the book.
I promise not to reveal the plot.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed.
And so weird to be part of an international event where the values of love, community, family, diversity, intuition and magic are the champions of the tale.

It means a lot that this is the tale that has so captured the imaginations of people around the world.

As the actual plot comes out over the next few days, as people slowly emerge form the story, it will be curious to observe the effect. I do feel that Rowling took her responsibility to tell a good tale seriously, included the important lessons and new perspective on old conflicts, and also did a great job in the writing. Mirrors and allegory – that is what makes a story legendary.

And yes, she did leave serious opening for further books!

thinking holistically

Friday, July 20th, 2007

This week I’ve had a couple of conversations with people about thinking holistically. A couple of them had recently been subjected to “specialists” who were unable to think globally and understand health problems that affected more than one part of the body, or how disease can be interconnected. The other person teaches at the medical school, and we were talking about the types of students the med school tends to recruite.

The primary question was why don’t more people think holistically? Why are narrow perspectives and specializations considered to be better? Especially with complex systems (politics, the human body, systemic problems) doesn’t a narrow specialized perspective do more harm than good?

If we would like more holistic thinking, how can that be taught and encouraged? Most schooling is compartmentalized, which creates and rewards narrow thinking as well as discussions out of context. I’ve supported educational reform since 1972 when I first realized how damaging the current mechanized learning is to creative and holistic thought. I skipped 8th grade mostly so that I could be part of the brand new experiment of Community High School, where contextual learning was one of the primary values.

One of my favorite stories on this subject is from my dad. He taught Urban and Regional Planning at the UM for many years, both at the School of Natural Resources and later the Art and Architecture School. He relates that at one point the professors were told they had to declare an area of specialization. He objected, pointing out that in planning it is important to be able to have a more global perspective and understanding of the interrelatedness of systems and design. But declaring a specialty was now required, and he was supposed to comply.

So he went along with the new policy, and announced that he would specialize as a generalist. Now you know were I get it from. I would also call this sort of approach “sideways thinking”. How I love to have conversations with people who come at issues and ideas from a very different perspective. New and innovative thinking lifts me out of a rut, sheds new light on a topic, releases me from conventional ritual thought and forms new connections and ideas. It is exciting in every respect, even if I’m in disagreement with the person who is inspiring.

I don’t have that opportunity to be inspired to that sort of thinking nearly enough. But in my work, I’m often seeing clients who have run the gamut of conventional medicine and even sometimes alternative practitioners. A lot of my work is that sort of puzzle solving – how can these symptoms be linked, what results are happening from this injury? How can the body be convinced to change or let go? Sometimes the combinations of intuition, knowledge and experience brings me to some rather odd places, but we can try the experiment to see if it works. Which is fabulous.

I like design for similar reasons, If I have a carpentry or building problem I love the sensation of opening to all the possible ideas and solutions and the actual physical sensation of solving design problems by thought and being open to new possibilities. Which has led me to some pretty odd quirky design solutions in my home, but ones I find delightful to then put into practice. Like using a planter for a sink in my basement bathroom, knitting an almost 30 foot long wrap for my basement pipes in my office, my new garage door, the photo wall on my stairs, the hanger for my cast iron pans, and more.

The end point is that thinking holistically feels right to me – a physical sensation, a way that my brain seems to both open and reach, and it also helps me to be present and active in life. Holistic perspective seems vital to problem solving, and exploration of alternatives. The narrow thinking allows us to ignore the consequences of our actions, to discard valid arguments and perspectives and literally to shut down as human beings of great potential.

The next time someone insists an issue is black and white, disagree. From the holistic perspective we can reframe the question, expand the context, consider the connections and find a rainbow of options and ideas that lead to further questions. With that creativity in action, we’re bound to find better solutions than a simple yes or no.