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Archive for the ‘American life’ Category

Chicago Eyebrows

Here’s an informative article in the New York Times about the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.

Of particular interest within the Smithsonian’s project is the series of articles called Click! Photography Changes Everything written by “one hundred experts in their fields to explore the ways photography has changed a broad spectrum of disciplines—from anthropology to astrophysics, from media to medicine, from philosophy to sports.”

Check it out! 

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Fruits of Our Labor

Spring is nearly here and I’m encouraging you to think about where you’ll buy fresh fruits and vegetables this year.  With help from the Santa Fe Farmers Market, here are ten reasons to consider your local farmers market or food co-op:

♦ 1 – Local food tastes better.
Most likely it was picked in the last couple of days, which makes it crisp and flavorful. Produce that travels long distances (California, Florida, Chile or Holland) is days older.  Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality and flavor.

♦ 2 – Local food is more nutritious.
Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients.  Produce that’s flash-frozen just after harvest is often more nutritious than “fresh” produce that’s on the supermarket shelf for a week.  Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.

3 – Local food preserves genetic diversity.
Large commercial farms grow a relatively small number of hybrid fruits and vegetables that are able to withstand the rigors of harvesting, packing, shipping and storage. This leaves little genetic diversity in the food supply.  By contrast, family farms grow a huge number of varieties to extend their growing season, provide eye-catching colors and great flavor. Many varieties are “heirlooms” passed down through the generations because of their excellent flavor.  Older varieties contain the genetic structure of hundreds or thousands of years of human selection and may provide the diversity needed to thrive in a changing climate.

4 – Local food promotes energy conservation.
The average distance our food travels is 1500 miles, mostly by air and truck, increasing our dependence on petroleum. By buying locally, you conserve the energy that’s used for transport.

5 – Local food supports local farmers.
The American family farmer is a vanishing breed – there are less than 1,000,000 people who claim farming as a primary occupation.  Why?  Maybe because it’s hard to make a living:  family farmers get less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar. By buying locally, the middleman disappears and the farmer gets full retail price, helping farmers continue to farm.

♦ 6 – Local food builds community.
By getting to know the farmers who grow your food, you build understanding, trust and a connection to your neighbors & your environment. The weather, the seasons and the science of growing food offer great lessons in nature and agriculture.  Visiting local farms with children and grandchildren brings that education and appreciation to the next generation.

7 – Local food preserves open space.
As you enjoy visits to the country to see lush fields of crops, meadows of wildflowers, picturesque barns and rolling pastures, remember that our treasured agricultural landscape survives only when farms are financially viable. By spending your money on locally grown food, you’re increasing the value of the land to the farmer and making development less likely.

8 – Local food keeps taxes in check.
For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments spend $1.17 on services, which increases taxes. For every $1 in revenue raised by a farm, a forest or open space, governments spend $0.34 cents on services.

9 – Local food supports the environment and benefits wildlife.
Family farmers are good stewards of the land — they respect and value fertile soil and clean water.  And their farms provide the fields, meadows, forests, ponds and buildings that are the habitat for many beloved and important species of wildlife.

10 – Local food is about the future.
Supporting local farms today helps keep those farms in your community, ensuring your children and grandchildren have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food.  When you choose to buy locally, and make your choices known, you raise the consciousness of your family, friends and neighbors.

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Beetle Parts

Did you ever cut your fingers or hands opening the hard plastic shell that surrounds newly purchased kids’ toys or electronic devices or… mixed salad greens?

I cut myself twice last week – once on a party tray and once on a package of cookies!  Cookies!  And I’m not the only one – a quick Google search on “dangerous plastic packaging” (!) turned up innumerable blog entries from others who’ve experienced the same indignation, plus a selection of “tools” for $10 – $15 that safely cut through the stuff (some ironically packaged in rigid plastic).

“Clamshell” or “blister” packaging is used by manufacturers as a theft deterrant,  a protective device and a means of making products look attractive to consumers.   On the flip side it’s a growing environmental disaster:  first, it’s made from petroleum and we all know the problems with that; second, the manufacturing process requires great quantities of water (it takes four bottles of water to create one bottle of water); and third, you may see the “chasing arrow” symbol on the packaging but much of it is unrecyclable, or is recycled into forms of plastic that aren’t recyclable and end up in landfills.

How do we deal with all of this frustration?  Here are a six ideas I found at lighterfootsteps.com:

♦  After you’ve stopped cursing and found a Band-Aid, look for customer contact info on the packaging and write or call the manufacturer.  Be polite and specific.  Explain why you won’t buy their product again, and if possible, the name of a competing product you will buy.  

♦ When you have a choice, buy the product with the least (or most environmentally-friendly) packaging.  Manufacturers pay close attention to packaging changes and resulting sales. 

♦ Recycle or creatively repurpose the plastics you buy.  (I reuse plastic trays to organize small tools in the garage.)

♦ Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores manage costs by shrink-wrapping things together instead of selling separately packaged items.

♦ Buy unpackaged goods from food co-ops or local farmer’s markets.

♦ Blog about your experiences. If you don’t have a blog, send your story to OverPackaging.com.  

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Moon Over Lake Nockamixon

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Palisades Gallery for my show opening last night – what a great time!  I didn’t get a chance to talk with everyone because it was so well-attended, so if I missed you, please forgive me.   Send me a note and let’s catch up!

Special thanks to those who came from quite a distance – especially the Hofmann boys! – and to my good friend, Moe Telsichs, for the flowers.  

Hope you caught the full lunar eclipse on the way home – it was gorgeous.

Here’s the statement that accompanies the 24 images in my show:

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Between 1982 and 1997, America converted over 25 million acres of rural land — primarily farmland, pastures and ranches — into subdivisions, malls, workplaces, roads, parking lots, et al. That’s about equal to the combined land mass of Maine and New Hampshire.

We’ve been developing 2 million acres of rural land per year for the last 20 years.

If the trend continues, America will develop an additional 85 million acres of countryside by 2050. That’s about equal to the combined land mass of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

WHAT DO WE GAIN AND WHAT DO WE LOSE?

We gain infrastructure, homes, roads, shops, schools, parking spaces, hotels, resorts and jobs.

We lose wetlands, woodlands, hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, clean water, the ability to grow our own food, and as recent studies have shown, our mental & physical health, and our sense of well-being.

I want my photographs to help Americans question the worth of our land above & beyond its monetary value.

How much is an open horizon worth to us?

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Lady Walking a Mule

Decades-Old Photograph Helps Solve Mystery of New York Man’s Drowning 15 Years Later

Saturday , February 02, 2008

by STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. —

A treasured old photograph, a police investigator’s long-shot appeal to the public and a retiree’s sharp memory have combined to solve a 15-year-old drowning mystery.

State police in Somers, N.Y., tried for years to identify a body found in the Titicus Reservoir on June 13, 1993, carrying 38 pounds of rocks in a backpack. The man left no clues to his name and matched no local missing-persons reports.

The only lead was a black-and-white snapshot found on the body that showed a grandfatherly man holding a small boy in the crook of his arm, both wearing attire from the 1950s or early 1960s.

Police assumed the toddler was the drowning victim, but years of investigation produced only dead ends. Then, with a few remarkable coincidences last month, Andrew Bookless got back his name.

Bookless was eventually identified through dental records — though only after police seeking to identify the little boy wrongly guessed a vintage light fixture in the picture may have been in western Massachusetts.

When they circulated the photo in the Berkshires, retired teacher Terry Yacubich, who had moved to Pittsfield from Bellport, N.Y., recognized a building behind the man and little boy as one she had known from her days on Long Island.

Bookless’ family, it turned out, once lived in the very spot the picture was taken.

“I’m not psychic or anything like that, but I think maybe Andrew worked through me to finally get some closure,” Yacubich said.

Bookless disappeared from his family’s lives years before that June day when police found him dead at 31. The snapshot was intact in a glass frame and close to his heart under layers of winter clothing.

Troopers searched for years to find someone who recognized the older man or features in the photo’s background.

Investigator Joe Fiebich sent the picture to The Berkshire Eagle newspaper in January after learning the vintage street light in the background was similar to those installed throughout western Massachusetts decades ago.

It turned out they were common on Long Island’s south shore, too.

But it wasn’t the light fixture that grabbed Yacubich’s attention when she saw the newspaper last weekend. She spotted the church auditorium in the village where she’d lived for 47 years.

“The moment I saw that picture, I knew exactly where it was,” said Yacubich, 59, who had attended decades’ worth of first Communion parties, church socials and funerals there.

Yacubich contacted friend Donald Mullins, a retired Suffolk County, N.Y., police detective and code enforcement officer in Bellport, a village in the town of Brookhaven. He trekked to the church’s neighborhood and quickly found the spot: the front corner of a now-empty residential lot.

“I stood on that very spot and said, `This is it. This is exactly it,”‘ Mullins said.

He tracked the land’s ownership history in town deeds until he found that the Bookless family had a house there before it was destroyed in a fire.

The Westchester County, N.Y., medical examiner’s office confirmed Bookless’ identity Jan. 25, and it was released this week after his four older siblings were notified.

They told police the man in the picture was Bookless’ grandfather and that his parents, John and Marianna Bookless, had died in 1994 and 2004. Police said Bookless’ family had him declared dead after his mother’s death.

Fiebich traveled Thursday to Long Island to speak to Bookless’ family in hopes of determining whether the death was accidental or suicide. Investigators believe Bookless fell through the ice in the winter of 1992-93, months before his body was found with the rock-laden pack strapped on his back.

New York State Police Senior Investigator Patrick Bosley, one of several troopers who reviewed the case over the years, tried unsuccessfully in the mid-1990s to have it featured on television’s “Unsolved Mysteries.”

“It was obvious to us all along that the picture was the best piece of information we had,” Bosley said. “It was clear that evidently the older gentleman was someone very close to him — his father or grandfather, a favorite uncle, someone he cared a lot about.”

Bookless’ family said he often would disappear for months, part of the reason his mother did not report him missing until 1999 even though she had not heard from him in several years, police said.

They said Bookless’ body was buried in New York as an unidentified person, but that his siblings would be able to move it if they wish.

“For me, the best end of the story would be to see that Andrew rests in peace,” Yacubich said.

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Boy, Dog, Sky

I heard an AP newswire report yesterday that stated, “A winter storm is setting its sights on the northeast, where ice and rain have caused numerous accidents in parts of New Jersey.”

Note to AP newswire writers:  winter storms do not cause traffic accidents.  People who drive on icy roads cause traffic accidents.  Please stop blaming the weather for human ignorance — you’re giving Mother Nature a bad name.

(This bit of weather logic in no way relates to that tired old discussion of whether guns kill people or people with guns kill people.)

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Nockamixon Cliffs

I’m on a waterfall kick.  Since doing some research on the health benefits of negative ions, and visiting the falls at nearby Ringing Rocks Park last week, I’m off to find more.

This weekend I’m heading to Taughannock Falls State Park in Ulysses, New York.  It boasts a waterfall with a 215 foot drop, slightly higher than Niagara on the American side but with much smaller volume. It’s the highest drop east of the Rockies. The park’s Gorge Trail, open all year, puts you next to the spray of the falls. According to the Park Ranger I spoke with today, the falls are only partially frozen and water’s still coming over the top.

The falls and gorge create a natural amphitheater and the dense spray rising from the bottom of the falls creates a heavy mist — full of negative ions!

Negative ions are air molecules that have lost an electrical charge because they’ve been broken apart by things such as sunlight, moving air or moving water. They’re in abundance in places like waterfalls, the mountains and the beach. When we breath in large quantities of negative ions, it increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and reduces the amount of the mood chemical serotonin in the bloodstream, creating a feeling of mild euphoria.

At the base of Yosemite Falls in California, there are about 100,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter. (A cubic centimeter is the size of a sugar cube.)  In fresh country air, there are about 4,000 and on an L.A. freeway at rush hour, there are 100 negative ions per cubic centimeter.

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