Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Michael Pollan's Fruity Pebbles

I love this --taken from a California blog:

" Bowl devotee Michael Pollan tells how a fellow shopper interrupted him to register disappointment that Pollan was buying Fruity Pebbles for his daughter. Damn skippy! If, after feeling guilty about my dietary transgressions due to reading the veritable avalanche of Pollan’s books and articles, I caught him slipping a box of Fruity Pebbles into his cart, I might be inspired to fling my own unripe avocado at his head."

Maybe Pollan should move to Youngstown. Here where the Fruity Pebbles are abundant, and cheap too, where the likes of a Michael Pollan would be happily anonymous. But then again, if he were buying some of that free-range arugula or some locally grown avocados--questions might be asked.

Yep, there are a few farmers around here who claim to already have some locally grown eggplants, avocados, pineapples, mangoes . . . maybe fruity pebbles too.

Isn't Frito-Lay now claiming to have some locally grown chips? I think so. I wonder if Pollan is adding chips to his cart now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Screening Books for a Contest

I just finished screening 100 books for the Kent contest. Five go on to the final round. It's heartbreakingly simple to do . . . Heartbreaking because so there are just so many poets, so many pages, so many hearts spilled out on the page. Simple in the way that cream rises to the top. A good book announces itself. It has something to say and to say beautifully.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reading for the contest . . .

About half way thru reading for the contest, and I have one book I am so in love with. I can't imagine I will find a better one. It's so exciting.

And I have a second place choice, too. I am so relieved to find these two books I love.

I am supposed to choose 4.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Contest Reading

Reading for a contest. 5 books down, 95 to go . . .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reading at the Literary Cafe


Well, I won't watch this video of me reading. I can't stand to watch myself. But here it is.

And it was such a fun event. Two of the best things about it: Amber came with her friend and husband from Dayton. (Thanks Amber!!) And Suzanne was home for it as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Being a writer in your later years

My father was a talented pianist. But as he aged, he lost his ability to play. Or so he said. His friends didn't believe him, and sometimes at parties they would ask him to perform. I remember the late time he obliged. I was in grade school, and on this particular night, he played one piece after another with such zeal. I liked to watch his hands race over the keys, so I went to stand by his side. It was then that I noticed a sprinkling of blood on the keys. A small sprinkling, to be sure. But I announced it to the room. My father stopped suddenly, wiped the keys with his handkerchief, and sat down.

He was on several kinds of medicine then. I don't know which or what diagnosis he had a that time, but I do know he always said his skin was thin. And he would often mix his meds and take more than was recommended.

After he sat down, the room felt so quiet. A bleak mood hung over the room. That was when Eleanor Ross Taylor, a poet and friend of my parents, turned and said to me in her quiet voice: being a writer is one of the kindest arts. You can do it well even as you age. In fact it can become your friend in your later years.

I've always taken comfort in her words.


Michael Mahon and Nin Andrews
Thursday May 14, 2009 at 9:30pm
Literary Cafe
1031 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113-4442
(216) 861-3922

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just say no to pork . . .

Friends keep telling me that pork is safe, that you can't get swine flu from eating pork. I don't know. I think you can get a lot of things from eating pork, and evidently, so does the WHO. And even if you don't get sick, you might just want to do a little reading on how pigs are raised and marketed these days.

And then there's this quote from Grist . . .

"Don’t associate U.S. pork with the swine flu outbreak—you can’t catch it through pork. Plus, no pigs on U.S. CAFOs are infected with it.

That’s message the industry and the USDA are straining to get across, anyway. Except ... you can catch swine flu from pork, according to the World Health Organization. "

Yep, you can catch it from pigs, and no one knows if US pigs are infected. They aren't exactly rushing to find out either.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday Week

It was my birthday week! It's exciting to be so old. I think so. How can it not be? I guess the philosopher in me is talking. But I do think about the miracle of being alive at all, much less in this way, in this peculiar body and mind and spirit and time and state and country and, and, and

with these great friends and folks . . .

I do feel dangerously lucky. Some part of me is afraid to celebrate for fear I will be punished for feeling this happy.

After so many catch-up phone calls and notes and so forth, I have a small tower of new books to read. Among them this funny book, Overqualified, by Joey Comeau, which is collection of hysterical letters addressed to different corporations, requesting a job.

And I should now be the envy of all the prose poets out there . . . because Jim found a hardback copy of The Prose Poem, an International Anthology, in great condition! Yep. The Michael Benedikt anthology from 1976! Amazing. (It's the best anthology of prose poems out there, but good luck finding a copy that is in readable shape. I searched everywhere for this book.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Touring the Coal Power Plant

I’d like to say I learned something on the tour of the coal power plant, but we had to wear goggles, hard hats, and insert these orange earplugs, so I could barely hear at all. (We also had to wear natural fibers. I guess they didn't want us wearing anything too flammable.)

Our tour leader was so enthusiastic. He kept pointing to things and opening and closing his mouth. We all nodded and stared at him vaguely. This must be what it's like to be deaf, I thought. The building was humming and giving off a smell like hard-boiled eggs.

When I leaned in close, I could hear an occasional sentence from the tour guide . . .

This is where the pulverized coal is blown into the furnace.
This is the fireball. It's 2000 degrees.
(It hurt my eyes to look at it. The sun's surface is 6000 degrees.)
This is where the steam is returned to water.
This is where the plant is monitored.
(It was this room with both modern computer equipment and the old technology: levers and dials and I'm not at all sure what else.)
This is the roof, and from here, you can see the coal heap. You can see the water we used for cooling. It’s clean enough to swim in.
Would you swim in it? I asked.
No, he laughed.
Do you worry about the ash? I asked. (On the rooftop, there was a dusting of ash blowing around.) But I don’t think he heard my question.

Inside the coal power plant

Inside the Crawford plant in Chicago, after we made it through security (which took ages), they gave us lunch ( pizza and soda), a lecture, and a tour. The plant-folks seemed a little anxious. UCS isn’t exactly Greenpeace, but it is an environmental organization. And the Crawford Plant, owned by Midwest Generation, has been in the news in the past few years for spewing deadly toxins into the Chicago air and increasing the risk and incidence rate of asthma. Because the Crawford plant is old (built in 1924), it has been exempt from the more rigorous clean air regulations. The EPA has cited the plant for violations in the recent past—for pumping out emissions with more soot and particulates than the law allows.

The Crawford speakers gave us a tidy power point presentation. (I think it was tidy, but I almost fell asleep when they got into the history and some of the more extensive scientific explanations of its operations.) They explained that they were working hard to clean up their operation. They talked about their control technologies for reducing toxic emissions such as mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, claiming that their emissions of the latter are below state and federal limits. They also made of point of saying they import their coal Wyoming because it’s lower sulfur coal. Only the cleanest coal, I guess. No Midwest coal there.

It sounded good, but I have trouble thinking of clean and coal in the same sentence. And I’m terrible at statistics. Statistics do something to my brain. I never know what they mean. And my brain just goes around and around the numbers. For example, one man there mentioned they had a 30% reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions. Compared to what? What is the starting point? What would a new coal plant emit? And how much nitrogen oxide do we really want to inhale? Or mercury? Or sulfur dioxide?

All the same, I was really impressed with how nice the men there were. I mean, they seemed to love their job at the plant. And they loved chatting it up.

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the toxins sound fine.

At the end of the presentation they had a display of their community projects and prizes. One was a green award. When someone asked why they got an environmental award, they said they thought it was for planting trees in a park.

98% of What Folks Think of You

Last weekend we visited Chicago.

Actually, we visited the Crawford coal-fired power plant with other members of the Union of Concerned Scientists. It was weird. I mean, it was like like taking a school field trip to the dark side.

We rode in on a black, unmarked bus, passing the nice urban sights and traveling into a less affluent neighborhood to the site of the power plant.

Stop 1: Security.
They photo-copied our driver’s licenses and waved their magic wands over each of us as we stood in front of a large poster of a security guard in uniform with these words written across the top:

98% of what people think of you is based on your appearance.


What accounts for the other 2%?

Your smell?
Your voice . . . or accent?
Your handshake?

(I was reminded of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Dorrier, who used to tell us she could tell everything about a child from her handshake. All these years, I’ve been misinformed. I’ve been worried about something that accounts for less that 2% of the impression I might make on a person.)

I kept thinking about that poster after we left. How the presentation was very nice. Everything "looked" okay. Well, maybe not exactly okay, if you take into account the ash floating around. The scent of sulfur. The pile of coal outside. But still, the folks there seemed so genuine and nice, even if coal is anything but nice, no matter how clean you try to make it sound/look/smell, etc..

Hot Sauce

Last weekend we visited Chicago. For every city I visit, I tell myself I have to discover a new love.

This trip it was hot sauce. Yep. Hot sauce on eggs.

Do you want some hot sauce with those eggs?

Now that you mention it, I think I do.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Senator Sherrod Brown

April 20, 2009
By Sen. Sherrod Brown
Special to Roll Call

Everyone knows that Ohio and the industrial Midwest have been hit especially hard by this recession. What many people don't understand is that climate change legislation can make our region and our country stronger.

Across my state, manufacturing towns such as Toledo, Cleveland, Dayton, Youngstown and Columbus are leading the way in advanced manufacturing for new clean energy technologies. Our state and our nation need this boost in manufacturing, because in important ways, manufacturing jobs anchor our nation's middle class.

Manufacturing jobs can provide wages and benefits that enable homeownership and economic security for working families. Manufacturing jobs tend to have a strong multiplier effect on economic activity that bolsters our nation's gross domestic product, and they are critical to supporting vital public services and schools in communities across the nation.

But clean energy policy is far more than a means of bolstering U.S. manufacturing. If we care about the world in which we live and the generations that will follow us, then we must no longer dismiss the lethal risks global warming poses to our planet. We must craft an aggressive strategy to combat global warming, and we must do it now.

And there's yet another reason for focusing on clean energy policy. The United States cannot safely remain dependent on foreign sources of energy. We cannot break free of this dependence without getting serious about producing our own energy sources and increasing the efficiency with which we use the energy available to us.

Whether it's reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming, increasing energy efficiency or securing U.S.-based energy sources, all of these goals underscore the importance of clean energy manufacturing. It's important to note that such manufacturing is not a narrow sector defined by finished products such as wind turbines and hybrid engines. Current industries - such as steel, glass, aluminum and cement - are necessary for the construction of our nation's renewable energy future. A modern wind turbine, for example, requires the same amount of steel as 250 midsize sedans.

We must not simply trade our dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign manufactured renewable energy sources. The right, clean-energy-oriented climate change policy will not only spur demand for new energy sources, but it will also put in place the foundation for these technologies to be developed and built here in America.

And what is true for manufacturing is true for all industries. Climate change legislation must ensure that the steps we take to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels does not simply shift the smoke from our stacks to those in the developing world.

Some people would say that our current economic crisis compels us to delay action on comprehensive climate change legislation. I disagree. Inaction is not an option. Capping carbon emissions can create new jobs in a clean energy economy. Without action, we face dangerous consequences. We risk the health of our citizens, the viability of our coastal areas, the productivity of our nation's farms, forests and fisheries, and the long-term economic and national security of our country.

We can enact climate change legislation that does not needlessly pick winners and losers among regions, workers or industries. Done right, climate change legislation will improve our nation's competitiveness by creating new jobs and developing new technologies. We must confront the twin challenges of our economy and environment with a robust and thoughtful response. And we must recognize that climate change legislation is an opportunity to rebuild our nation's manufacturing base.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees and chairs the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy. Brown is the author of the Green Energy Production Act and the Regional Economic Recovery Coordination Act.