Thursday, March 30, 2006

whoa, chicken feathers and soybeans!?

What can you make with chicken feathers and soybeans? How about a circuit board. Seriously. This just blows my mind. Supposedly the circuit board is faster than conventional ones also.

And where should all those soybeans and chicken feathers come from? Hopefully, evenutally sustainable ag of course. Currently Tyson was helping with the project... which brings me to a final note, be sure to check out the The Meatrix II: Revolting which was just released.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Local vs. Organic III

Whoa, this topic is (as Andy would say) hot. Here is another article, My Saudi Arabian Breakfast by Chad Heeter, posted late last week discussing the same idea. It describes the "caloric input" that goes into making the "caloric output" you get from your food with our current basic food system - and the subsequent idea that you are in a lot of ways consuming oil (or fossile fuels). So, how much oil do you want to eat? Includes some good shopping tips:
So how do you gauge how much oil went into your food?

First check out how far it traveled. The further it traveled, the more oil it required. Next, gauge how much processing went into the food. A fresh apple is not processed, but Kellogg's Apple Jacks cereal requires enormous amounts of energy to process. The more processed the food, the more oil it required. Then consider how much packaging is wrapped around your food. Buy fresh vegetables instead of canned, and buy bulk beans, grains, and flour if you want to reduce that packaging.

Which gave me a good marketing idea... "Try Brines Farm produce - it's fossil fuel lite.".

Friday, March 24, 2006

Local vs. Organic II

Not to belabor the point but just to be clear the previous post was primarily about forcing people to think a little deeper about where their food comes from. Certainly, you may eat strictly veggies for multiple reasons, e.g. you simply don't want to eat animals as well as you would like to be good to Mother Earth. Just keep in mind whatever you do the best thing you can do bar none is to try and go local when possible. Also, it's admittingly tough to always be on top of where your food comes (although what might help a little is getting politicians to go along with the COOL - country of origin labeling - law that apparently passed and yet now has mostly been delayed til 2008 so they undoubtedly have time to figure out how to kill something people overwhelmingly favor). Anyway, so everything is still largely up to the consumer.

Fortunately it can be fun, as Slow Food conveys as well as the Earth Dinner I plan on hosting in the near future (stay tuned!). Plus, it's fun to search for local producers and users of local produce at things like Local Harvest (interested in meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs? Check out Eat Well Guide).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Local vs. Organic

Finally. A nice insightful, must-read article in discusses local versus big Organic labeled food sold at a certain posh supermarket chain: their example touching on the embodied energy in local tomatoes compared to certified Organic tomatoes shipped from Chile. This is something I've been grumbling about for a while (the misleading marketing that insinuates they're selling local small farmer products is the double-whammy). In fact, I'd like to take this energy thought a little further... is one more virtuous to eat apples grown and shipped from New Zealand and veggie frozen dinners from China compared to a happily raised turkey (or maybe even cow) from nearby in Pinckney, Michigan at Garden Patch Farm. In terms of embodied energy (arguably a proxy for the resulting global climate change impact) the first two exceed the last, in fact its probably not even close according to my calculations. Thus, an extreme example to think about, one should not make the blanket generalization that it takes less energy to make a veggie meal (or the standard raising grain takes less energy versus beef meme). In a pure local economy this can be true but today it depends on where everything has come from on the globe - the whole system in fact. Transporting alone has huge often hidden energy costs. It's not just what and how it was produced, it's where it's from. As per Eliot Coleman, Authentic food is what should be the ideal. (Hey, I'm currently looking for funding to use GIS to map local foodsheds. Anyone have any funding ideas?) And actually these thoughts can be applied to everything, not just food.

Happy bird named Ralph from

Biased and shameless self-promoting plug: the author would like to note that it is always more virtuous to eat produce from Brines Farm. Always.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Shannon's Ceilidh O'Fun II

Come celebrate the greenest day of the year with the only person we know that grows greens this time of year. No alternative but to come or suffer being green with envy.

Ok, 'nuff green talk for now. Here's the details: This Friday is not only Shannon's birthday, but apparently it's St. Patrick's Day. So come drink beer or other stuff and celebrate. Woo hoo! "Shannon's Ceilidh O'Fun II" will begin at Leopold Bros around 9pm.


Q: What the heck is "Ceilidh"?
A: A Ceilidh (usually pronounced "Kay-lee" with emphasis on the first syllable) can be many things. Derived from the Gaelic word meaning a visit, it can also mean a house party, a concert or the dictionary definition: an informal social gathering at which there is Irish or Scottish folk music, singing, dancing and, story telling. While there will likely be limited traditional Irish stuff at my Ceilidh (you never know) anyone wishing to contest my use of the word should consider that my name is Shannon, I was born on St. Patrick's Day, and I am part Irish.

Q: Will there be some good Craic at your Ceilidh?
A: Ah, I'm glad you brought this up. I'll put it this way, I would have used Craic in the name but I didn't want to have to explain two words to people and I didn't want the police to hear about it and come looking for the Craic house. But, yes, you will not want to miss it.

Q: Can one really have 'nuff green talk?
A: No, not really, but this post has to end at some point.

Q: So you grow greens? How greens? Why greens? Where greens? When greens? What greens?
A: The Brines Farm site should answer some of that anyway.

Q: I won't be able to make it, any other opportunities to wish you a happy birthday?
A: Well, you just missed one in this question. You could probably come over the following day, Saturday 3/18, when we plan on part II of Ceilidh II, playing some board and card games and such after 8ish.

Q: Is Brines an Irish name?
A: Yes. While I personally might be considered a mutt (although don't even think of questioning my Irish authenticity, please refer to first FAQ above) the Brines name in my family descends from a couple of Brines brothers who came to the new world in the late 1700s from Ireland. Brines is believed to be a variation of the old Gaelic surname O Briain ("descendent of Brian") with other variations including Brine, McBrine, McBrien, O'Brien, OBrine, O'Brion, O'Bryan, O'Bryen, Brian, Briand, Briant, Briens, etc... My uncle could provide much more detail. For now, go to and search For Surname "Brines" to see our kicking Coat of Arms. You can do your name after that.

Q: What's the longest amount of time Andy has gone without drinking any alcohol since he started drinking alcohol?
A: I can't say exactly but it is less than 2.1158 x 10^6 seconds.

Q: What gives? There must be a story behind that number?
A: Yes. You got me. Upon first reading the previous question I was a bit offended, should I really devote valuable FAQ space to a question which did not appear to have any particular relevance to my Ceilidh. Or anything for that matter. Perhaps you thought this too dear reader. Of course, it didn't take long before I realized I should at least contact the daughter of a pro baseball pitcher to ensure that Leopolds would have enough volume of liquids for friday night. Then as I continued to think more about this, an eerie feeling came over me: there is something distinctly omnipresent about his drinking and something distinctly infinitesimally small about his, er, time gap between drinking. (Note: I also noted the correlation between time gaps to his public mentions of times he got or desired to get naked.) On a whim, I contacted some of my physics friends from a previous life. It didn't take long to get a little scared for they confessed to me that this indeed is a topic of the utmost importance that has been under secret research. Eventually I was put into contact with Dr. Claudia Sintermann of a secret wing of the extragalactic research group, a joint effort between the Max Planck Institut fur extraterrestriche Physik and the Universitaets-Sternwarte Muenchen (Europeans are always ahead on these matters). She quickly conveyed to me the unbelievably amazing situation beginning with the fact that since Andy started drinking it is theoretically impossible that he has gone more than 2.1158 x 10^6 seconds without drinking. You might ask how she could be so sure, which is indeed what I asked. "We're still here," was Dr. Sintermann's astonishing reply. As it turns out, Andy has been her soul body of research and remote observation since that fateful day he started drinking - a day that is tremendously more historic than any of us would have ever guessed. That day coincides with the first ever detection of weakly interacting massive particles by the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search detector at the Soudan Mine in Minnesota. These weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, were previously theoretical so their detection really caught a lot of attention, but there has been much more to come. Since that time more WIMPs have been detected and tracked to their source of accretion or emission: Andy's gut. Way more surprising than that according to Dr. Sintermann has been the detection and observation of one or more massive compact halo object, or MACHO, also seemingly in Andy's gut. While many are shocked and awed and at a loss to explain this woven coexistance of particles and astronomical bodies at such a minute scale, let alone here on earth (to say nothing of in a human body), Dr. Sintermann appears to be the purveyor of the leading theory. She believes that somehow that first ingestion of alcohol caused the proverbial rupture or tear in the fabric of space-time (an oft overused and cliche plotline in horrible hollywood creations and cheap sci-fi novels (although occasionally used with stellar style on exquisite blogs)). She cannot say with any certainty what caused the tear and what happened immediately following but she adamantly theorized that a black hole formed in Andy's gut, or in other words, a door to another universe was opened. What she can say with certainty about Andy's gut is that there are observable WIMPs surrounding an observable inner MACHO, which again she theorizes is likely shrouding a unique singularity or black hole. The formation of all of this was not an inherently stable situation by any stretch of the imagination she mused, noting that she was part of a camp that believed a perfect balance has been or is close to being achieved. It all comes back to the aforementioned 2.1158 x 10^6 seconds. According to Dr. Sintermann's calculations, for the forseeable future, the continued ingestion of alcohol, or dark matter (albeit generally a fairly light matter typically originating in Canada) within that timeframe supplies enough for lack of a better word to "feed" the black hole. Otherwise, it would collapse upon itself leading to a supernova or modern day big bang, in other words, irrevocably altering the universe as we know it. So, we should all be simply grateful beyond limits that Andy does indeed ingest alcohol, and do not need to meddle in the exact longest amount of time or shortest amount of time for that matter between consumption, as long as it's less than 2.1158 x 10^6 seconds of course, that we know is imperative. So cheers to Andy and cheers to you dear reader. Oh, by the way, leave a seat open next to Andy at the Ceilidh - gonna try to hook him up with Dr. Claudia Sintermann.

Q: My question is not listed here, can I ask it?
A: Yes. FAQ sections are always under construction. Ask away to sjbrines at umich dot edu.