Lucy Neely: The European Grapevine Moth in Mendocino County


The story of the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) in Mendocino County demonstrates the risks inherent in globalized agriculture and in monocropping Mendocino County in grapes. Conversely, it shows the advantages of a local, diversified food system’s greater resistance to pests, disease, and market fluctuation. It provides a challenging exercise in reconciling the reality of grapes with the idealism of a local food system.

When I first heard about the EGVM in April, my gut reaction was, “That’s what we get for monocropping the county,” and I didn’t think much more about it. But I became interested in the EGVM when I heard that work at the County Department of Agriculture had been consumed by the moth, while I heard nothing of grapes being consumed by the moth.

To understand this phenomenon, I talked to Tony Linegar, Agriculture Commissioner of Mendocino County.

“I’ve been eating, breathing, sleeping the EGVM,” Tony declares. “We’re all working extra hours.” So this moth must be bad! Really harming the crops? Well, not exactly. 1,400 traps were set in Mendocino County to survey the moth’s presence. The traps yielded 35 moths, all of them in the Ukiah Valley. By comparison, Napa County’s traps turned up 100,000 moths.

Why does this moth merit so much attention if it isn’t destroying crops? “If you don’t treat for it, it could take your whole crop,” Linegar says. And since grapes are the biggest (legal) economy in Mendocino County, if that whole crop was taken, we could be belly up. So the Department of Agriculture has taken the necessary steps to control the moth and save Mendocino’s economy. These steps include spraying grapes with pesticides, mating disruption, and quarantine. All this is “extra work and extra costs” for everyone.

EGVM has the potential to wreak havoc on grape crops in Mendocino County, but it’s easy to kill with the proper attention. For now, the moth is a big hassle and a little ominous, and it doesn’t look like the hassle or the threat are going away, since nearby Napa will be infected for the foreseeable future.

So what lessons can be gleaned from the EGVM in Mendocino County? First, there’s monocropping. When I asked Tony if the monocropping of Mendocino County in grapes makes him nervous, referring to the vulnerability it creates to pests and disease, he paused and replied “a little bit,”

A BBQ Master Delivers: Tips for Preparing Chicken

From the Award-Winning DVD, BBQ Secrets: The Master Guide to Extraordinary Barbecue Cookin’, world champion cook Mike Davis demonstrates some tips for preparing chicken for the cooker. For many of us, the notion that cooking barbecue requires much experience and know-how to do a good job—it doesn’t!

But, for those who want to cook barbecue that is consistently extraordinary, there is an art, a science, and an incredible body of knowledge to acquire in order to become a true master. Mike “Sarge” Davis, head cook of the Whole Hog Café, in Little Rock, Arkansas is one of those true masters of barbecue.

Ukiah Transition: The Hard Realities of Community Building


[…] If you want to trade and learn from the self-reliant, resilient community of people around you then I suggest that you:

1. Be open and listen with humility. Do not come with your own ideas of how things should be. If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.

2. Avoid condescending someone’s way of life either indirectly, subtly or directly. Live and Let Live. If it is necessary to dress down like the locals or drive a crappier car, so be it. Today’s symbols of success will not insure tomorrow’s success. That greasy redneck next door neighbor may be your lifeline in the future – think about that.

3. Bring some useful skills or resources to earn your seat at the table. I’m sorry I don’t need the services of a retired pilates instructor, an interior decorator or a golf event organizer. A pilates instructor needs to learn how to build a fence. An interior decorator needs to learn how to refinish hardwood floors. A golf event organizer needs to learn how to get stuff that busy people don’t have time to find.

4. Avoid calling attention to people who don’t want it or threatening their way of life in ANY way. More often than not self reliant people are that way because they just want to live without any attention. Bear in mind…. The last holdouts of the oil rich paradigm will be the government. I’m not advocating lawlessness here. I am saying that the laws which restrain people from being self-reliant are threats. The government will continue to legislate and enforce regulations that are impossible to follow in post-peak oil world. They will do their jobs with gusto because jobs in the private sector are becoming ever increasingly scarce. And the most dangerous aspect of all, these folks will do their job for your own good.

5. Be willing to work hard and get dirty. Nothing makes a better impression on these people than being willing to work and sweat. Even if you don’t know which end of the shovel to use, there is still plenty of little tasks that can be made lighter. And, I guarantee you that EVERYONE you meet will show you how to use a shovel!

My martial arts instructor reminds us frequently that our character is our first line of defense and greatest source of strength. Courtesy, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit – these character traits are embodied in all of these suggestions.

To conclude, here are the hard realities of community building:

The Bullshit Lies of Alan Simpson about Social Security


[…] Let me elucidate some of the ways that Simpson is wrong about Social Security:

SIMPSON: It’ll go broke in the year 2037.

FACT: The Social Security program faces a modest long-term financing shortfall of tax revenue and interest on Trust Fund assets. The Social Security Trustees estimated in 2009 that the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program will continue to add tax revenue to their Trust Funds up to 2016. The Trust Funds will continue to grow because of interest earned through 2023, at which time total assets will be $4.3 trillion. Subsequently, Social Security will gradually draw down all reserves before the end of 2037, if Congress takes no action whatsoever, it will have sufficient resources to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits. Hardly “going broke.”

SIMPSON: All of them have to do with stabilizing the system, which we are told is insolvent, it’s paying out more then it’s taking in.

FACT: Social Security is currently running a surplus. In 2009, an estimated 94 percent of Social Security tax revenues were spent to meet current expenditures (benefits and administrative costs). The surplus tax revenues, along with interest credited to the Trust Fund, contribute to a growing Trust Fund balance.

SIMPSON: It’s 2.5 trillion bucks in IOUs which have been used to build the interstate highway system and all of the things people have enjoyed since it has been setup.

FACT: The interstate highway system was built in the 1950’s when Social Security’s income and outgo were equal. The build up of the trust fund began after 1983 when Congress consciously chose that route as part of the 1983 amendments.

SIMPSON: When I was your age there were 16 people paying into the system and 1 taking out and today there are 3 people paying into the system and 1 taking out.

FACT: This is the same misleading information that Bush used to sell his privatization plan. The 16 to 1 ratio is a figure plucked from 1950, the year that social security expanded to cover millions of farm and other workers. All pension programs that require a period of employment for eligibility show similar ratios at the start or when expanded because all newly covered workers are paying in, but none of them have yet qualified for benefits. By 1955, the ratio was 8 to 1 and by 1973 the ratio was where it is today…

More here.

Doc Searls: The Bottom Line Isn’t Everything

Linux Journal

Is there something new that [computer] open source development methods and values can bring to the economy? How about something old?

I think the answer may come from the developing world, where pre-industrial methods and values persist and offer some helpful models and lessons for a networked world that’s less post-industrial than industrial in a new and less impersonal way.

This began to become apparent to me a few years ago I had a Socratic exchange with a Nigerian pastor named Sayo, whom I was lucky to find sitting next to me on a long airplane trip. We were both on speaking junkets. He was coming from an event related to his latest work: translating the Bible to Yoruba, one of the eight languages he spoke. I was on my way to give a talk about The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book I co-authored.

My main contribution to Cluetrain was a chapter called “Markets are conversations. Sayo asked me what we meant by that. After hearing my answer, he acknowledged that our observations were astute, but also incomplete. Something more was going on in markets than just transactions and conversations, he said. What was it?

I said I didn’t know. Here is the dialogue that followed, as close to verbatim as I can recall it…

“Pretend this is a garment”, Sayo said, picking up one of those blue airplane pillows. “Let’s say you see it for sale in a public market in my country, and you are interested in buying it. What is your first question to the seller?”

“What does it cost?” I said.

“Yes”, he answered. “You would ask that. Let’s say he says, ‘Fifty dollars’. What happens next?”

“If I want the garment, I bargain with him until we reach an agreeable price.”

“Good. Now let’s say you know something about textiles. And the two of you get into a long conversation where both of you learn much from each other. You learn about the origin of the garment, the yarn used, the dyes, the name of the artist, and so on. He learns about how fabric is made in your country, how distribution works, and so on. In the course of this you get to know each other. What happens to the price?”

Book Review: ‘Medium Raw,’ Anthony Bourdain


[…] His new book, “Medium Raw,” is subtitled “A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook,” and much of it reads more like a poison-pen letter than a love note. Sandra Lee is the “hellspawn of Betty Crocker and Charles Manson.” The movie “No Reservations” makes him want to “vomit blood.” Rocco DiSpirito’s TV series is a “reality-show-driven abomination.” Even the saintly Alice Waters is dissed for her “crude and obvious blend of self-aggrandizement and genuine good intentions.”

Elsewhere, Gael Greene, Alain Ducasse, Wolfgang Puck and many more come in for varying degrees of evisceration. This, of course, is all great fun, even if some of it’s the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel variety. But just in case you’re wondering whether Bourdain can take it as well as he can dish it out, he turns his verbal knife skills on himself. “A loud, egotistical, one-note -hole who’s been cruising on the reputation of one obnoxious, over-testosteroned book for way too long,” “the angry, cynical, snarky guy who says mean things on ‘Top Chef,’ ” “the very picture of the jaded, overprivileged ‘foodie.’ ” Well, he makes some good points….

But for my money the standout chapter in the book is “My Aim Is True,” which describes the work and life of Justo Thomas, who cuts and portions at least 700 pounds of fish every day at Le Bernardin, the New York seafood restaurant. The man is a brilliant craftsman and a force of nature, and when he goes on vacation, three people have to be employed to do his work.

Bourdain observes and describes Thomas in wonderfully fine detail. We “see” the way he employs different methods for different fish, how he uses his knives, the way he removes skin and bones, how he’s able to cut absolutely identically sized pieces. Then we learn about his background in the Dominican Republic, and the role he still plays in his family there. And finally, in a masterful flourish, Bourdain takes Thomas to eat at Le Bernardin.

It’s generally unthinkable for kitchen staff to eat in their own restaurant, but for Thomas, people make exceptions. By the end of the piece I felt I knew Thomas better than I know most of my own friends. You have to hand it to Bourdain; this is really good writing, not just really good food writing.

Bourdain says he spent 28 years as a professional cook and chef. By my reckoning he’s spent 15 years as a professional writer. Will it surprise you that he doesn’t think much of writers? He says, “hanging out with more than one of them at a time is about as much fun as being thrown in a cage full of hungry but toothless civet cats.” Just once in a while, even Mr. B. overcooks his similes.

Full review here.

Guess what? Frozen Yogurt is not a Health Food.


[…] Here’s what’s in it:

Pure Crystalline Fructose, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Non-fat Milk, Yogurt Powder, Micro-encapsulated Probiotic (Lactobacillus Sporogenes)

Did you catch all that? The first three ingredients are all sugars, followed by processed cow’s milk. Maltodextrin, in particular, has a glycemic index so high that it’s practically poison to diabetics. It’s often derived from genetically-modified corn, by the way.

As you can see from the ingredients list, frozen yogurt is basically just ice cream with some yogurt powder thrown in. It’s ice cream with probiotics.

That doesn’t make it healthy food. It’s still junk food, but with probiotic powder…

… [P]eople almost never examine what they eat. They chew and swallow blindly, giving less thought to what they put inside their bodies than the clothes they wear outside their bodies.

Actually, they choose their foods from the perspective of entertainment. What taste and texture will be entertaining right now? What will give my taste buds pleasure in this instant, regardless of the lifelong effects of this substance on my body?

What sugars, fats or chemical taste enhancers can I place on my tongue in this instant that will provide some level of sensory experience to my brain and remind me that I’m still alive?

That’s the real essence of it, you see. People are sleepwalking through our world half dead, and what they really seek is just stimulation to remind them that they aren’t dead yet. Almost any stimulation will do: The loud blaring of speakers at a rock concert, the sexual foreplay with a new partner, the rush of an abused prescription drug, the thrill of a horror movie, the sensory engrossment of a violent video game, the stimulant kick of a Coca-Cola… it hardly matters as long as something is being felt through the numbness of emotional trauma that typifies human experience in our modern world.

The numbed-up, dumbed-down metrosexual seeker of experience is actually a biological stimulation machine with a tiny unit of consciousness tacked on top that’s seeking a heavy hit of just about anything to remind himself that he still exists. “I feel, therefore I am,” to bastardize Descartes’ famous utterance.

America: Speak Back and Derail the Drive to Cut Social Security and Medicare


Next weekend will feature another milestone in the drive to cut Social Security and Medicare. The organization America Speaks will be hosting a series of 20 meetings in cities across the country. They will ask the people at these meetings, a cross section of the nation, to come up with proposals for dealing with the country’s projected long-term budget deficit.

The way the problem is outlined for these meetings virtually guarantees that most of the participants will opt for big cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The results of this song and dance exercise will then be presented to President Obama’s fiscal responsibility commission on June 30th, which will use it as further ammunition for plans by its co-chairs to gut these programs.

The rigged deck approach should come as no surprise. America Speaks is largely funded by Peter G. Peterson, the investment banker billionaire who has been on a decades long crusade to gut these programs. In recent years Peterson has redoubled his efforts, committing more than a billion dollars to a wide variety of groups in addition to America Speaks. To advance his agenda Peterson has even set up a fake news service, the “Fiscal Times.” To fill the staff, Peterson’s son hired a number of reputable reporters who were displaced by the collapse of the newspaper industry.

The “Federal Budget 101,” the guidebook for the discussion, follows a predictably shoddy path. The book discusses the budget in almost complete isolation from any larger discussion of the economy. There is virtually no discussion of the ways in which the budget fosters growth, for example by funding education, research and infrastructure; nor the way in which the pattern of growth affects the budget.

For example, the booklet never discusses the extent to which the economic mismanagement that allowed the unchecked growth of an $8 trillion housing bubble contributed to the debt that is its central concern. The downturn caused by the resulting economic collapse will eventually add more than $3 trillion to the country’s debt according to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections.

The booklet also neglects to point out the extent to which the long-term budget disaster story is driven by our broken health care system. If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any other wealthy country, we would be looking at enormous budget surpluses in the long-term, not deficits

More here.

Manifesto: I am not a brand


[Enough with the brand bullshit already. -DS]

[…] Just to be clear on this thing I am not, maybe I should define my understanding of personal branding. A personal brand is a little package you make of yourself so you can put yourself on the shelf in the marketplace and people will know what to expect or look for when they come to buy you. For example, Coke is a brand. When you see Coke, you expect a dark brown effervescent sweet drink that is always going to taste like . . . Coke. McDonalds is going to sell you inexpensive, fast food. The Ritz or the Four Seasons is going to sell you a luxury experience. BP will now be known as the brand that destroys the costal ecosystem of the southeastern United States.

And yes, authors sometimes have these “brands.” Nicholas Sparks is going to sell you a Roman . . . love story, excuse me . . . where someone dies of cancer/similar disease at the end. V.C. Andrews will sell you something awesomely insane and creepy. Dan Brown will sell you a series of puzzles, facts, and clues leading to the unveiling of a huge secret. Tom Clancy will sell you something with a submarine or some kind of large weapon in it. You get the idea. I don’t know if any of the above actively works on his or her “brand” . . . (well, V.C. Andrews won’t, since she died in 1986 having written only eight books -— her official ghostwriter has written over sixty more in her name since that time, which is pretty impressive work).

I am not saying that it is a bad or dishonest thing to try to sell your work. It is not. What I am saying is that I am tired of the rush to commodify everything, to turn everything into products, including people. I don’t want a brand, because a brand limits me. A brand says I will churn out the same thing over and over. Which I won’t, because I am weird…

I think the divide is pretty basic. I think there are people out there who see the Internet as a way of employing the same old techniques of SHILL, SHILL, SHILL. A hundred years ago, they would have rolled up to you in a wagon, shouting about their tonic. Fifty years ago, they would have rolled their vacuum cleaners up to your door.

The other side, the side I am on, is the one that sees an organic Internet full of people. Sure, when I have a book come out, I will often say, “Please, could you buy a copy? I need to buy food and Post-it notes and hamsters.” But in reality, I wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t think you would like it. I have a lot of fun writing my books, and hey, if you can buy one, great! I think it’s just as great if you take it out of the library. I write because I actually like doing it, and through some miracle of science, I get paid, so wayhay!…

MY POINT IS . . . it’s early days yet on the Internet, and lines are being drawn. We can, if we group together, fight off the weenuses and hosebags who want to turn the Internet into a giant commercial. Hence, the manifesto. It goes something like this: