Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We were walkin' in high cotton

So I read my wife’s latest blog, and it turns out she has plans to blog about the pros and cons of cloth diapers. Well, little does she know that I’m going to beat her to it.
The idea of using cloth diapers first came to me during my Green Engineering Design class one day when a “Life Cycle Assessment” on cloth diapers was discussed. It turns out that although it takes water, energy, and detergent to use cloth diapers, it is still much better, environmentally, to go cloth. This is especially true if you use them for more than one child.
Dan and Natalie brought it to our attention that if a newborn uses 10 diapers a day (I will confirm/correct this number sometime in the next 4 months), you would go through 100 diapers in ten days, or 300 in a month. Even if you had a farm, and you used compostable diapers, you could not find a place to compost that many diapers!!! Another thing about the new compostable diapers is that, like many other compostable things that go into a landfill, they don’t decompose! This is mainly because land fills are almost completely devoid of oxygen which, beside bacteria, is all that is needed for decomposition.
Anyway, getting back to cloth diapers… I have realized that even if Valerie does just half the laundry, it will be a lot of work to do with a little boy who can’t be left alone upstairs in our apartment, so I gave her the choice on what we will do for diapers.
It looks like she is going to give the cloth a try. Kudos for your enthusiasm Val!
My personal opinion on the issue, is that we need to choose our battles. We would die of eco-legalism if we analyzed every choice to such a degree as it pertains to the environment. However, I think this is a good battle to fight. I have done an internal “sensitivity analysis” (if you aren’t a modeling nerd, I mean I have decided which battles will have the most impact) and I think this is a really big impact. Imagine any part of the created world, piled with 1000 dirty diapers, uncompostable for like a thousand years. I don’t want it in my back yard, and it’s really just wild that our solution is land filling. Land, and specifically soil, is the source of our fertility and, when done in scale, is the proper destination of our waste. Do we really have the hubris or ignorant arrogance, as a culture, to both sentence and punish a certain place and its soil to uselessness until the Kingdom actually comes?
Now, I need to say that I have no disrespect for ANYONE using disposable diapers. I have only changed one diaper in my life, and I have never washed a whole load of dirty ones. In addition, we all live in a culture that deems our waste disposal system completely normal. I have never, ever, looked at a child in disposable diapers and had a negative thought, except that poop is gross. Plus, I was ecstatic to see that Henry Kee was a garbage man for Halloween…prolly my favorite Halloween costume ever, except when Jim was a three-hole punch.

I do happen to have a solution to the diaper issue. If one of you gives me, say, one hundred g’s, I’ll start a company making anaerobic digesters that turn all the carbon in disposable diapers to natural gas. Then the rest can be sold as a soil amendment. We will make a billion, or maybe even a million dollars. Seriously.
I’ve got to go. Val is meeting me downstairs to talk to a lady who sells cloth diapers at the farmer’s market. Ha! Farmer’s market. What a couple of bleeding heart hippies.
And just to give myself an out, Val recommends that I tell you we are willing to change our plan on diapers. If we decide to go disposable, well, I guess there’s no hiding it at that point, so you’ll know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mutant sunflower seeds

In the light of this past weekend's events, it is meet and right to start off by mentioning that we Gators will officially play for the SEC title this year. Now on to other thoughts...

Valerie and I, along with Natalie, Dan, and Tug (sister, brother, and dog-in-law of mine) made our way down to historic Tampa, Florida this weekend for Valerie's first baby shower! Well, like always it is a great time going to Tampa. The highlight of the trip for me was a fishing trip Dan and I went on during the shower. We didn't catch any fish...and no buzz, but after two handfuls of salty sunflower seeds, I had a random sore throat. I figured it was from the salt, what it actually was, it seems, is that someone inoculated these sunflower seeds with this year's version of the common cold, because that's what I have now.

In other news, we had a newborn baby care class tonight at North Florida, where Carver will be born. I will admit, I have changed only one diaper in my whole life, and that was just a couple months ago. (It was Jack James'). Nevertheless, I am ready to tackle caring for a newborn head on! On a similar note, we were driving back to Gainesville and I started thinking about how the next time Valerie and I will be free to pack up and go for the weekend will be when our youngest child is 18 (yeah yeah, I know we'll be able to get away, but from now on we will ALWAYS have a child somewhere). FYI, I'll be 44 when Carver graduates high school. Granted, that is still young, but what it really made me realize is that life is so fast. I'm so thankful that God's plans for us extend past 80 years or so. Here is a news-flash for you'ins who don't have a pregnant wife, kids, or both, you will realize some s%*t when your wife gets pregnant. I don't mean that this is bad in any way, it is just amazing how much your perspective changes with your circumstances.

I have the day off work tomorrow, because I work at the V.A., and it is Veteran's Day. There are three things I would like to do for my day off...
1) I'd like to finish a Sturgeon hatchery I started this summer at my lab.
B) I'd like to somehow honor some vets.
- Steve and Jon and I are going to brew some spiced holiday ale with our wives.

Now its time to pack up some books, so we can give Dan and Natalie our book shelf. If you are interested, right now I am reading To Kill a Mockingbird and The Way of Ignorance, by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

...for which it stands...

If you read my last post, you will notice that I've deleted it. You deserve more of an explanation for who I voted for. Until I write that down, the rest of you don't get to know who got my vote, which is better anyway.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink...

I am going to start practicing in case I get the spot blogging about living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle. This may be boring. I would REALLY appreciate your feedback. Here goes…

I’d like to examine how much water a normal American might use in a day for the incredible thing that is their body. This will include water that is used directly for consumption, as well as the amount of water required in producing the food you eat. Let’s start with breakfast…
The typical American breakfast will include cereal and coffee. The Saturday morning breakfast will include an egg, two pieces of toast, two strips of bacon, eight ounces of orange juice, and coffee.
The amount of water required to produce 1 cup of Honey bunches of oats includes the water for crop production (corn, wheat, sugar, almonds, oats, vegetable oil, etc.) and the water required to process this into cereal. I will not include the water required to wash the dish, maintain agricultural equipment, hydrate the farmer that happens to cultivate some thousand acres, or the water required to transport all of this (which would probably increase the final number by about 10-20%.
For a cup of milk on your cereal, water is required to wash milk cows, hydrate milk cows, and grow feed for milk cows, among other things. From my thesis research I know that these three capture some 97% of the whole, so I will leave it at that.
For a cup of coffee (if you don’t like coffee, you aren’t American, so this whole post doesn’t apply to you anyway. I’d recommend checking out, there is water required to produce coffee, ship it to the Northwestern quardasphere, and brewing it. Most of the water required comes from the agricultural production. It would be appropriate to mention here that there is a LARGE amount of water required in the drilling and refinement of petroleum into diesel fuel.

Assuming your cereal’s ingredients were produced in the US of A…
your cup of Honey Bunches of Oats is virtually imbedded with five gallons of high quality H2O.

Holsteins produce Ninety percent of American cow’s milk, the rest comes from Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernseys, Jerseys, and American Shorthorns. My point is, ninety percent come from the same type of cow, which is important only because it shows that the dairy system in the U.S. is about as efficient as it is going to get. Anyway, to make a long story a Shorthorn, you cup of milk on your cup, which you will pour over your cereal, will cost the current available freshwater supply a ridiculous 45 gallons of freshwater.

The coffee you will drink tomorrow morning could come from MANY places on our globe. Most likely, though, it comes from Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, India, Guatemala, or the Ivory Coast. The water required to produce a cup of coffee from any of these places ranges from 11 to literally 111 gallons. This stat is without any outliers. You could go to Starbucks any day of the week and buy coffee from each of these countries.

For you to eat a bowl of cereal and drink a cup of coffee tomorrow morning, you will indirectly consume somewhere between 61 and 161 gallons of freshwater. This does not include the six ounces you used to brew the coffee, however.

I have done the same analysis for your Saturday morning breakfast, but to avoid boring you, I have just listed it below!

Breakfast Item Indirect Freshwater Consumption
One chicken egg 35 gallons
Two pieces of toast 20 gallons
Two strips of bacon 46 gallons
8 oz. orange juice 49 gallons
1 cup coffee Between 11 and 111 gallons
Total 161-261 gallons

Probably the best take home message would be that grains use much less water than animal products. I will delve into this more later!

One of my hats

I am applying for a job blogging about living a sustainable lifestyle. I really hope I get it. It would be much different than this blog, but it is something I am very passionate about. My friend Erik was talking this weekend about how much of the media just gives us all this doom and gloom news, and I have to agree with him. The only thing is, I have to say there are some big obstacles we as a people need to get over, and they stem from a lot of "systems" that are in place. My favorite kind of thing to do is learn about culture and see connections with what I think the truth is and what ecology tells us, and look for solutions. This is what I would like to do in this blog.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Hey, you may know this, but I post poems and short stories I like at the link to the right, titled, "poems I like."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Identity theft is a real crime, Jim!

I am reading a book called The Shack, by WM. Paul Young. It is very good. Eugene Peterson says it could be like Pilgrim's Progress for its generation.
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because when I was reading today, I came across a paragraph that somewhat directly challenged what I said in my last post. I happen to agree with the paragraph, and whatever extent it applies to my ideas that i wrote down yesterday remains to be judged. Anyway, here is what Jesus tells this guy...

"The world is broken because in Eden you abandoned relationship with us to assert your own independence. Most men have expressed it by turning to the work of their hands and the sweat of their brow to find their identity, value, and security. By choosing to declare what's good and evil you seek to determine your own destiny. It is this turning that has caused so much pain."

I'm not going to expound on this, because that would be even more bloggy of me.

Go Gators.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bloggy McBloggerton

Well, maybe none of you read my blog anymore because the last time I wrote on here was during the Olympics. I am going to start writing on here again, though. I am starting out by changing the look of it. I think the blue is too dark.
Let me update you on what I do every day. I work for veteran's affairs, at their fee basis office. It exists for when veterans go to non-va facilities for their healthcare. This happens because they may live in Timbuktu, or the VA may not have what they need, or it may just not have room. Anyway, our office handles all of these cases that are "fee'd out". My job has to do with helping out the folks that determine inpatient eligibility for VA coverage. In case you accidentally skipped over the last paragraph, no need to worry, I can sum it up...
I work in an office building.

This has very very very little to do with Environmental Science, Ecology, Agriculture, Aquaculture, or much else that I spent my last 7 years studying, but for now that is ok. In those ways it is much farther than I anticipated being from my idea of making a living, but in other ways it is closer. By this I mean, it requires a certain amount of faithfulness to my family to work at a job that is not extremely spiritually or mentally fulfilling.
Here is a theory I have thought about a whole lot but have not been able to articulate well in my brain...
Food would be so much more of a reward if we were hungry for it because of our labor in producing it. According to Meyers and Briggs, you are allowed to disagree with me or not even understand me, which is fine. But what I am trying to get at in a round about way (although I have already arrived in my own brain), is that work is a good thing. It gives us an outlet to be faithful to our family, to community, to God...with our hands.
I can't wait for the day that I have earned my lunch by its making me hungry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Catching Up

So I know I haven't written on here in a very long time. There is no particular reason for this, other than the fact that a whole lot of stuff is up in the air right now, so trying to sort that out has occupied a larger portion of my attention than normal.
Valerie's job with AmeriCorps was officially over on July 31st, and my assistantship with the University of Florida is officially over on Friday. While Val received a certificate of completion, I am not quite at that point with graduate school. In other words, for whatever thousand reasons, I am not done! AHHH!!!!! Boy what a trial graduate school has been huh? I have completed all my requirements except for finishing my thesis. My new plan is to find a job that I can support my family with, and I will work on writing my thesis when I am not at work. The good news is that my dad has given me a great example of working on graduate school while also working even more than full time. This behavior, however, will end as soon as I get my degree.

So I have applied and interviewed for quite a few jobs, and the good news is that I have gotten a decent amount of practice with interviewing. The bad news is that there is a lot of competition for jobs right know..."the economy." So, I am still looking for openings, and have a job that will buy us some time until a better one comes along.

In other news, Valerie is 19 weeks tomorrow!!!, which means we find out Friday if we are having a little Ethan or a little Valerie!!! I am about as excited as I have ever been.
With Valerie being half way through her pregnancy, we have spent the last week or so nesting (with me being the assistant nester). This has been really exciting, and it is such a neat thing to watch a mom-to-be during this time. I will admit, though, that sometimes it seems like a looming train on its way to town, and its half way here, and there is no stopping it!!! I can't imagine how our lives will change, especially my still-pretty-self-centered lifestyle. Recently my friend Devon got married, and his comment about how things change when you get married was, "I never imagined how much I was going to have to suck it up." Which is to say, grin and bear it. I imagine this is something that being a father will entail, but I am also extremely excited to love our children.

I will hopefully start writing much more often again. Keep checking back, and feel free to leave comments!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Interesting Article

Below is a link to a very interesting, and as I see it, fare article on George W's and McCain's calls to open up the US to offshore drilling and, in Bush's case, ANWR. It is worth reading.,8599,1815884,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-biztech

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Who we are

This guy wrote in a poem that God is eager to disclose all the secrets of His heart to us. Wow. What kind of secrets do you suppose are in God’s heart? Do you ever have moments where you get a glimpse of how neat you are. Sometimes I lay in bed with my wife and after she’s fallen asleep I think about things I want to do. Like one night I pictured making this big tree out of clay. It could sit in a big room or a bedroom or something, and it would be really neat, and it would be kind of like two different images of who God says we are, that we are clay in His hands, and we should let Him mold us, but also that we are trees, Big oak trees planted by good clean waters. I think one of the reasons God made trees were for people to sit under. My aunt and uncle sent me a birthday card and on the back of the card, its maker had written a poem about these oak trees that are dying in California, and that the one in her yard had a big secret space for her to hide in when she needed to, since the time she was a girl…the tree had been there for 400 years. So I sit at night and think of things like this clay tree, and sometimes God lets me see that I’m actually pretty neat. And then I think about how God has all these secrets in His heart…really good secrets, creative secrets. At one time God had a secret in His heart about the world. One day He would create time, and in that time He would place a beautiful earth with incredible colors and creatures and plants. And He would make the earth work so well. It would be dependent on the sun, and the plants that the sun would help make would be food for the animals, especially His greatest secret, people made in His image. By His image I think He means that we have secrets, like my clay tree, in our hearts because He has secrets in His heart. And we are in His image because we can fall in love with each other the way God falls in love. And we can get really excited about things because God is really excited about things. So He made us. Before that we were just secrets in God’s heart, and He probably thought about us a lot, and He can see the things that are secrets to us, and He really likes them, because they are proof that we are His children, that he made us in His image. I wonder why God is so eager to disclose the secrets of His heart to us. I also have an idea why. I think if we could see how good His heart is we would much better understand how much forgiveness he actually has, and how wonderful His plans for us are. And we could see that, if He made such a sacrifice as He did when He gave us Jesus, we would understand that Jesus’ sacrifice would be infinitely able to free us of sin, and let us live only with good secrets in our hearts…and we really are the image of Him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


This is my sister (in law) Natalie, and my new brother (in law) Dan, getting married about three weeks ago. They are two of my biggest heroes, both of them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dyalike dags?

"Oh DOGS...sure...I like dags,"
So a few weeks ago I wrote about cycles. The title of the post was Are we what we eat?
You can read it if you want to catch yourself up. I am, for the remainder of this post, developing similar ideas.
In the bible it says that followers of Christ are to be "in the world but not of the world" which is to say, we are here, and a part of every thing around us, and should be, but we should not be identifiable to ourselves, God, or the world around us as being the same as things which are primarily of this world, such as materialism, pessimism, hopelessness, strife, wrath,unforgiveness, unhealthy conflict, any kind of abuse...the list is as long as our experiences, in a sense.
Well, I was thinking about the difference between being "of the world" in the sense just mentioned, and "of the world" in the sense that Adam and Eve were originally of the world. In this case I am referring largely to the aforementioned post Are we what we eat? Let me better explain...
We are made from the dust of the earth. Whether you are a creationist, evolutionist, grocery bagger, or whatever, this point is more or less indisputable, and in many cases should settle some disputes between the creationist and evolutionist, in fact. But I digress.
So, we are made from the dust of the earth, which is to say, matter, such as oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, etc. This was a fact before the "fall of man" had ever occurred; which is to say, God thought this fact about us was/is "very good". From here on I will refer to this sense of "of the world" as "of the earth" because "earth" is perhaps more physical than "world".
Also before the fall of man, God intended for us to do two things (among many others not mentioned here). The two I am thinking of are work (we were intended to not strife, but work work for our food), and we were intended to be a sort of leader of the rest of creation. I have not done a word study on this, but I believe it infers a stewardship of the rest of creation. It is often said that we were given "dominion over the animals".
Without explaining a whole lot of what I mean, I will just say that I think we have really failed at this, all of us. It is important to remember that the original plan was for all of us, which is the reason that almost all of culture misinterprets "dominion over nature" or "stewardship". When Adam and Eve were cast from the garden because of sin, two curses came, hard toil with the land, and pain in childbirth. Since that day people in general have been fighting against these two things. What we have ended up doing is trying harder and harder to escape from hard labor. Labor saving is the largest theme of not onlycorporations, but all of industry and domesticity.
What we have done is try to isolate ourselves more and more from nature. We have tried our very hardest to set ourselves apart from creation, and to act not only apart from it, but in spite of it. Retirement was never the plan. The original plan for us was to be "of the earth". Being "of the world" today includes attempting toseparate ourselves from "nature". In our attempts at labor saving, and division of people and the earth, we have, in the words of Wendell Berry "ended up occupying more and more land to the East of Eden". The results areridiculous uses of fossil fuel energy, rampant discontentedness, and the invention of the idea of "waste" or "away". As in, we throw our "waste" "away".
I think the best place to start, in trying to fulfill the original plan of our being stewards of the rest of creation, is to realize that, as much as we fight it, we will always be made from the dust of the earth, and to the dust of the earth we will return. We have to realize that if we are not to be of the world, we must consider ourselves a part of the earth, that it was God's original plan that we would be
intimately acquainted with his creation. We need to get our hands dirty.
What originally started me developing these ideas, which I'm sure are not very clear here because they are not completely clear in my head yet, was Jon and Amanda's dog. Ally, the dog, will sit in the backyard for hours, and wait for squirrels. When a breeze comes, you can tell she enjoys it. She looks around. She is not preoccupied. I
know this may sound naive, but we can't be stewards of creation if we are not intimate with it, if we do not consider ourselves literally a part of it. We cannot just visit nature, or enjoy nature, we must always be in it.
Another quote from Wendell Berry:
"Let's say you were from somewhere else, seeing this Earth from space for the first time. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be satisfied with that view; I'd want to get closer, walk around on it, even get down on my hands and knees. That's how I prefer to see the Earth."

It is important for me to mention that I don't think this is possible without having a restored relationship to the one that created all of this. My previous words assume that there is such thing as truth, and I believe that this is absolute. This implies that there is someone, somewhere, that can perfectly perceive reality, the way it actually is. Since I believe this to be the case, and that this person is God, I believe the only way to pursue fixing the problem I've described is to first fix our misperceptions of God, and not only that, but let His be our perception of reality, which is only possible by knowing Him as He is.

Lung Transplant

Here's a neat story.
About a year ago my mom was visiting a friend in the hospital. As she was waling on one of the floors, she felt like God wanted her to go in a certain room and pray with a woman that was inside. She went in, and ended up praying with a lady and then leaving shortly afterward.
About a month ago my mom was invited by a friend to go to a fund raiser for a woman who needs two new lungs. My mom went, even though she did not know the woman that the fund raiser was for. Well, the woman is the same one that my mom prayed for a year ago in the hospital. They have become friends! Her name is Rachel.
Well, she is finally on the list to get new lungs, but needs a lot of financial help, as it is a very expensive process. Her website is She is selling t-shirts, bags, and stamps that she designed, and if you use the google search bar on her website, she gets money every time you search with it.
She has a very moving story. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A sestina for the family

He wears blue jeans to work
He wears blue jeans to work.
They become black with grease, like the lines on in his hands.
He comes home in the afternoon
we hear his car in the drive
and when he hugs our heads we smell his arms
sweat, tools, the inside of a crane, here at home.

She is always at home
broken laundry baskets, loud ironing board, they are her work
and so are we, our place on her hip and arms.
The oven and two burners are on; and there are cramps in her hands.
She hears his car in the drive
and her day is almost over, in the afternoon.

We are playing in the afternoon
pretending to run away from home.
We’ll go to Iowa, the oldest will drive.
We’ll find jobs, and work.
Red Bandanas on sticks, with apples in our little hands,
We march through the house, arm in arm.

He’s at the hose with the gritty soap, washing his arms
the day is over and there is a breeze on him in the afternoon.
She uses a piece of metal to get the smell of onions off of her hands,
she takes a break, since everyone is home.
She thinks about what’s left of work.
He thinks of how the slave drivers drive.

We tell him what we did today, and where we drove.
And she waits patiently for his arms,
relief from a morning of work
being in the kitchen all afternoon.
When she hugs him, he smells the smell of home,
and he presses her in with his hands.

We carry forks, knives and spoons to the table in our hands,
while he tells her about the traffic on his drive,
or how he stopped by the bank, or the pharmacy on his way home.
And we carry plates to the table in our arms
and tell him about our trip to Iowa this afternoon,
and everything else we did while he was at work.

We hold hands, a family by our arms
his car in the drive brings evening from afternoon.
He and she are our home, they are faithful to their work.

The Perfect Swing

Just in case Ken Griffey Jr. ever happens upon this...
Mr. Griffey jr., I am so proud of you. You are my favorite hitter. You would have the all time record if it weren't for those injuries. The story they ran on ESPN on your 600th home run made me get all choked up. Thanks for entertaining us, and staying clean.

Friday, May 2, 2008

So, I realized after reading my last post that it was a little intense, and ranting doesn't usually accomplish much. So, sorry for ranting and/or raving.
Well, Wednesday night Valerie and I accompanied some friends down to Jai Alai for the last night of the new shortened season. On Game 3 Danny and I both won a quinella, and on Game 7 Valerie and I both one a quinella! It was surely our night at Jai Alai. After that I went up to Flaco's, a cuban bakery, to see Devon play some music. I think I've written about his band in here before, but this was both solo and also with one or two other guys who are not in his band. It was very fun...and Devon busted his G-string...seriously.
So, after writing that last entry about gas prices and such, and after hearing all over the place about Obama and Hillary campaigning in the "Rust Belt," I came to the conclusion that there should be someone who just comes up with good ideas for work for people who are laid off. What spurned this was the thought of all those automotive jobs that have been, are being, and will be lost.
You know, I think one day there will be enough incentive for people to move from the city to the country, and farm. Or, better yet, stay in the city and farm. Because I have spent the last six or seven years thinking about this almost every day, I have a lot of ideas about it, and how it would affect people everywhere. I cannot write it all right now. Maybe someday I will be able to.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free Gas?

Ok, so everyone is talking about the price of gas right now...and I'm affraid we, as a nation, like to pull the wool over our eyes on the fact that it is not going to get better if things continue the way they are going. There is only less and less gas available to us. The world's economy is growing at a very fast rate of 5% per year. Did you know what the first thing to change is in developing countries as people begin to earn more money? The very first change in their purchasing is meat. They eat more meat, because they need protein, and because they see Americans eating more meat.
The result of this and of the increased pressure to produce ethanol from food crops like corn (which is ridiculously inefficient), is that there is an incredible demand for nitrogen fertilizer. Did you know that nitrogen fertilizer is made directly from Natural Gas?
So why am I ranting about this? Well, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to support any politician with this blog. My problem is with the ridiculously poor amount of thought that is going into our governmental decision making. The column below is about the new McCain-Hillary proposal to suspend the gov't tax on gasoline for the summer. If this happens we are all just going to consume a whole crap ton of gasoline, and the cost of this is not just inefficient use of a very finite resource, but there is an opportunity cost that we will pay as well. It will only suspend any urge to develop GOOD ideas for energy supply.
Again, I don't want to get political with this. I just wanted to rant, really.
But, if you are upset at the price of gas, soy milk, beef, or t-shirts, it is all connected. And it is going to require some real thinking on our parts to make any of it change. And let's contact our representatives!

Here's the column...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

minimizing distractions!

Hey everybody,
I'm taking a hiatus from the blog for a little while...maybe until I finish my thesis. Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are we what we eat?

Being an ecologist in training, I have learned a lot about cycles. I think i wrote about this earlier in the month. The most basic, or maybe the most complex, of these cycles is the physical cycling of matter on earth. I think many people don't think about this, but let me try to explain.
Take an infant. Let's imagine that this infant is breast-fed, and receives all of its nutrition through his mother. All of this nutrition consists of fats, proteins (which are broken down to amino acids), and carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugars for energy. Well, the fats are normally stored, and in infants I am sure they are a very important part of physical development. The proteins, which are broken down into amino acids, are re-organized again as proteins and become part of the child's frame, whether hair, muscles, skin, organs, etc. This process is fueled by the use of sugars. Along in this process is metabolism. This is how the child uses the energy in his food. The products of metabolism are, well, everything in his diaper, along with carbon dioxide and water. These leave through his lungs, and become part of the atmosphere. Now let's take a look at where these products go.
The stuff that goes into his diaper inevitably goes into a landfill, unless, of course, his parents use cloth diapers. In this case it will find its way to a treatment facility. The majority of this material is some form of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, although there are also many many more things present. these three are the main ones. Whether they end up in a treatment facility or a landfill, their fate is the same. The carbon that is present is metabolized by microbes and turned into carbon dioxide or methane (natural gas). The phosphorus becomes, in most cases, phosphate, and the nitrogen becomes ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, or nitrogen gas. Let's recap what we have so far...
Carbon dioxide and water leave the baby's lungs and become part of our atmosphere (in the air). Carbon dioxide also comes from the baby's diaper and is part of our atmosphere, as well as nitrogen gas. ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate, for the most part, stay on the land or find their way into surface waters.
Now, let's think about a thai chicken salad. The peanuts in the thai sauce, like all legumes, fix nitrogen gas from the atmosphere. Not all plants can do this, but some very important ones do, like peanuts. They also fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and water from the soil. When I say "fix", I mean that the molecules become the actual plant or peanut. Carbon dioxide, through the energy of the sun, is turned into simple sugar, and that is turned into many many things inside the plant. Phosphate is also fixed in the peanut from the soil. We could say that, in a very simplified cycle, the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the baby's diaper, and the carbon dioxide and water from the baby's lungs, can become a peanut. The case is very similar for the rest of the thai chicken salad. The chicken more than likely is fed grain that is grown from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as water, nitrogen, and phosphorus that has gone through a cycle like this since the beginning of the world.
Now let's imagine that the mother eats this thai chicken salad. Part of the molecules become her, literally. She may turn them into muscle, bone, and other tissue. The rest has three places it can go...either out through her lungs (carbon dioxide and water), to the same place the baby's diaper stuff went to, or can be turned into breast-milk. In this case, quite a bit of it is turned into breast milk. Because baby's grow so quickly, they must turn a lot of this breast-milk into very important tissue (brain cells, muscles, his heart, bones, reproductive parts, etc.)
Why do I explain all of this? Well, whenever I think about cycles of material on earth, I can't help but be reminded of Ash Wednesday.
"Remember O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shall return."
The Ash Wednesday service is very penitent at our church, and I really appreciate being reminded that we are God's creation, and that we are made of the same matter as the rest of the earth. This is very humbling. It is also important to understand, though, that this makes our existence so much more incredible. Though we are made of the same material that cycles through the rest of the earth's atmosphere and organisms, God sets us apart. Although God formed man of the dust of the ground, he then "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
This is a miracle. Absolutely. We are of the same material as the things we are surrounded by, and eat, and breath, but we are also set apart. Although we are made of dust, and shall return to dust, there is another half of the story, which is very good and important.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Borrowing eggs

Wendell Berry, my favorite author, says that "land cannot be properly cared for by people who do not know it." He is speaking about actual land, in this case, because he is a farmer and is interested in the longevity of farms and farming communities, and therefore communities in general. I think his comment reaches further than just farming communities. How can anything be properly cared for if it is not known by the ones caring for it.
One place I think this applies to is the church, or more importantly, those who the church is supposed to be caring for. How can we care for orphans and widows, captives, the blind, the burdened world if we do not know it? Far too often the church seems like it is trying hard to redeem itself to the rest of the world. But if the church is supposed to be caring for the world, who would trust it if it sold itself out to popular culture? Why would they trust it?
Going back to Wendell Berry's quote, we have to keep in mind that Christ was acquainted with grief, despised and rejected of men, they hid their faces from him, as it were. In other words, he was acquainted extremely well with the human condition. This is what the church should be, well acquainted with the world. How can the church love our neighbors if we do not know them? If we can do anything good for other people, it is to know them, and in turn, have something to offer them that might be relevant to their lives.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Takers

If you click on the title of this post, you'll get to The Takers' myspace page. This is Devon's band. I'm not sure if they have music up on it yet or not. They just recorded an EP in the studio but it still needs a couple tracks, so I'm not sure if they've put it up on their myspace yet. I have always thought Devon was the best song writer I had heard. I think with this band his lyrics are matched up perfectly with the music. Watch out for these guys.

New title

I recently realized that blogs are supposed to have some kind of creative name. I've decided on this one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Setting the captives free...

Happy birthday dad!!!!!
I just wanted to let you all know how beautiful Valerie looks with her new haircut!!! Also, this is our sweet sweet turtle Howard. Over the past couple months he has eaten every single one of our fish except for the one with armor plating, so we decided to let him go in Lake Alice. Don't worry, he is a native turtle, Natalie found him on the sidewalk. I literally think a bird may have dropped him off at our door. Speaking of him, we realized yesterday that he is a her!

The release!

Oh, and by the way, my friend Zack saw this picture on a power point during his oceanography class. What a resemblance!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Meat, Grain, and Soil

There is an article in the NY Times today , about a program that the USDA started years ago in order to keep farmers from cultivating all of there farm land. The purpose of the program was to conserve top-soil for future generations as well as protect critical habitat for a lot of wildlife. The land in the program was selected specifically because it is the most vulnerable to environmental degradation by farming.
Well, the article tells the story of how this land is rather quickly being taken out of the program and put back into agricultural production, specifically for the production of soybeans, corn, and wheat.
Why do we need more soybeans, corn, and wheat? Is it because we are feeding the hungry with it? Well, we aren't feeding hungry people with it, anyway. In fact, with the amount of grain that we grow and feed just to livestock in the United States, you could instead feed it to 800 million people. That is, we consume so much meat in this country, and export quite a surplus, that we have to use MOST of our agricultural land to grow feed for animals.
The reason farmers want to break their contracts with the conservation program is because the demand for grain has increased incredibly. This is not only due to an increase in meat consumption in the U.S., but also because of a greater population of middle class people worldwide, and they all want the diet of an American. Not only that, but because ethanol production has skyrocketed (off the very false assumption that it is good), the demand for grain is even greater.
One question I think people need to ask themselves is, are we happier? We are all somewhat stuck in the lifestyle we have grown up in to. Did you know that if you eat chicken instead of beef, you are indirectly consuming 4 times LESS grain and 10 times less water! If you choose to eat aquacultured fish instead of the chicken, you are consuming HALF the resources!

I suggest reading the article I posted a link to. Whether you are on side A or side B of a political world, environmental problems seriously interact with economic, social, and public health issues. Eventually we are all going to have to change our lifestyles somewhat. I think it is a good idea to start changing it now, to ease the burden later.

You got no future, kid...

Last night I had a dream that me and my friends were all surrounded by a bunch of Auburn fans at a football game. It was horrible and they were beating us. I guess I had the dream because of the up and coming Orange and Blue game this Saturday. I wonder if I am absurd. Did you know that last year after we lost to Auburn, there was a little kid, maybe 7 years old standing next to me with Auburn clothes on, clapping to their fight song, and I told him he had no future. That is quite possibly the saddest thing you could do, tell a little kid he's got no future. My only comfort, retrospectively, is that he was 7 and probably didn't have a clue what I was talking about.
I think that my goal for this next football season should be to control myself, tongue and all.
Last week at Jai Alai I stood up and yelled at a player that Jai Alai was his occupation, and that he should get a clue. Although Jai Alai is more than likely rigged, and I did lose one whole dollar because of his mistake, I was acting quite absurd. I always think it is such a good idea right before I open my mouth, or I at least think I have the right to say whatever it is that just popped into my mind. But man, the feeling afterward is just terrible.
So, if any of you are with me at a sporting event, and I start to get mouthy, please nudge me in the kidney. I am giving you permission.
Oh, and if anyone wants to go to Jai Alai tonight, it starts at 7:00.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I have decided over the past few years that life really goes in cycles, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. I think over the course of many many cycles we grow, or I guess we can un-grow for that matter, but generally I think we grow. Let me try to explain what I mean by cycles...
There will be a time that I am so pumped about whatever it is that I'm doing, and those times are always really great, and sometimes blissful. Then, usually because of circumstances, I let myself become discontented with some part of my lot. If I have learned something in the past few years it is that I should try my hardest not to let myself get discontented with a circumstance, they are passing things, or cycles, really.
Anyway, the point of the idea is that on Sunday I continued realizing something that some of my current discontent has blinded me from. That is, the value of knowing Christ, about Christ. Father Ron, our faithful priest, reminded me that certain translations of the word "good" used to describe Christ, mean winsome and beautiful. That is a pretty major thing to forget, I thought to myself.
Then Ron told us that in Psalm 23, the better translation of one verse is "Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life." It will pursue me? Like, something is causing goodness and mercy to pursue me?
Here is the thought that I had. Sometimes I run really hard from God, even if I tell myself that it is not what I'm doing. The reason I do it is because I, at the time, do not know enough about him, and therefore do not trust him like I should. The image I had was me running from a huge lion, in fear. But eventually, if I let the lion catch me, he doesn't eat me, but we roll around, and he tosses us around with huge velvety paws, and it is such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia, because Christ is, in fact, pursuing us, and He is goodness and mercy. And when we let him catch us, we aren't sure if it is more like playing with a kitten or with a giant thunderstorm; but it is always good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Red Dawn

Patrick Swayze has always been one of my heroes. If you have an extra couple of hours sometime soon, watch Red Dawn...but keep in mind that the cold war is over, and Cubans are good people, and make delicious coffee.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Posting comments

Oh, and by the way, if anyone actually reads this blog, I changed the settings so anyone can post free...!


A while ago, like 10 years, all I wanted to be was one of two things; either a professional baseball player or a professional fisherman. Believe it or not, both of these were very possible, of my friends from ten years ago, some are professional baseball players and some are professional fisherman, and none of them, ten years ago, were any better at those things than I was.
When neither of those dreams came to fruition I changed my mind, I would just get really rich, retire by the age of twenty-five, and fun-fish everyday. This is about the time I moved to Gainesville and college. Sometime between those two things I decided that retiring at twenty-five and fun-fishing every day would be selfish, so I decided on the opposite; I would become a missionary. I got really excited about this. I spent two summers in Ecuador and absolutely loved it. I got to spend a lot of time getting to know local people there and learning practical ways to help them (this is what led me to pursue aquaculture). Also during this time something else was going on, I was falling and being in love with Valerie. I think sometime in the course of my undergraduate education I realized that maybe I didn't exactly know what I was going to end up being.
Although people close to me may have thought I had my life plan figured out, that was just because I talked about it a lot. In reality I was certain that I would just pursue whatever ended up landing in my lap. Really i think this is what leads most people to what they do next. I was offered the chance to go to Ecuador those two summers, so I went. Through circumstances with figuring out my thesis project, I began a project that was abstractly related to the missionary field, but not very closely related. From there I decided I would become a fish farmer. Valerie and I would make enough money to support YoungLife in Gainesville. This was the new plan, and throughout the first year to year and a half of my master's program, I obsessed about a couple of things, finding a farm, and farming fish there. Shortly after that it changed to less adventurous ventures, like finding a house in Gainesville we like and my being some sort of high school teacher/inspired writer and citizen. Recently it has all changed again...I want to start a microbrewery with my friends Jon and Steve.

Why mention all of this? Well, mainly to make the following point: This whole time I have been worried about the future, and it has stemmed from a discontentedness with the present. This hasn't been an utter discontentedness, but one that allowed me to be just a little unhappy with the present.
I think a lot of people are probably very similar to this. I know for me it is probably what leads to complaining, stress, impatience with day to day things, etc. There are a few people who seem to me like they are content with their lot in the healthiest way, and this is either because of, or it leads to, an utter appreciation for what they have and what they already do. The first few people that come to mind are my Brother-in-law Dan, and my Grandpa and Grandma. Dan really knows how to appreciate what he has to do today, and in turn he probably ends up enjoying today a whole lot more than if he was unhappy with his lot. At least this is how he seems to me.

Last night all of this finally hit me like a ton of bricks. By all this, I mean everything that I have. I won't list it all because I already have and it really isn't that important for you to read. I guess my encouragement to anyone reading this is that it is really important to assess the lot you've got; your job, your wife if you have one, your home, clothes, food, comfort, town, the weather, people who care about you and so on. Man I can get so distracted from the present because of discontentedness. I think if we could realize what security and blessings we have, we would be able to pay so much more attention to where we are today and what we're doing; and I think that would change the way we deal with other people, the way we take care of the environment, how faithful we are to our jobs and families. I think it would effect every aspect of our life.

Remember when Wayne was so stuck on making their show a really big hit and winning over Cassandra? Well, I think Garth summed up the problem pretty well when he said, "live in the now!"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wendell Berry

If anyone ever starts reading this blog, I have an author to recommend...Wendell Berry. He writes essays, poems, and novels. He is also a farmer and writes about communities, ecology, economy, livelihoods, etc. He is my favorite author right now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Slashing Tires

Probably the thing that makes me the most angry, and the closest to some sort of retaliation against people, is when someone does something to hurt my wife. I really can't describe how delightful she is. When I hear that someone has said something to hurt her feelings, deliberately, it first makes me really hurt for her, and then I think about how clueless someone would have to be to lash out at someone as innocent as Valerie.
Just a few minutes ago I imagined, and actually considered, driving to someone's car and slashing their tires. I don't think I'm the kind of person people think of when they imagine a tire slasher, but nonetheless, I have given it thought.
Valerie is phenomenal at dealing with such situations. She usually has to walk away for a minute and recoup. But after a few minutes she will go back to the person and tell them, in a very calm voice, that she feels disrespected and that they should both talk about the conflict in a mature way.
Meanwhile I am on my way over to wherever Valerie is, getting ready to punch some senior citizen in the gut!
This morning after I stewed for a minute about someone verbally attacking my favorite person in the world, I started thinking about what me slashing their tires would do to the situation.
All it would do is make them even harder to deal with, more bitter, and really probably hurt their feelings. That is not to say that they didn't do something really wrong, but its things like the slashing of tires and mishandling anger that makes mean people mean. It usually leads me to a choice that makes very little sense to my emotions.
The only thing I can really do is forgive the person. In the book of James in the bible it says, 'For judgement is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.'
This idea is to me is very much like swimming up current. What an incredible irony God has decided to employ on earth. It is judgement (like me slashing some woman's tires) that gets everybody selfish and angry and bitter to begin with, and the only way around or out of the system is to choose to show someone mercy. In fact, it says in that verse that its the only way we will be shown mercy. In the midst of a conflict like the one that Valerie was faced with today, our first reaction, or at least mine, was utter judgement. God is not saying that I am wrong to be angry. What He is saying is that i have a choice to buck the system and stop the tide of bitterness. If I don't, I'm going to be the one that ends up getting his tires slashed!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cafe con Leche

Whenever we wake up early enough, or I can convince Valerie to go to work late, we go by the Latin Cafe to get Cafe con Leche in the morning. It gets me pumped. I'm pretty sure its the caffeine that gets me so pumped about the day...but either way it makes me feel like I'm about to be elected president or something.

This morning the Cafe con Leche has led me to an idea.
People want proof. I'm not sure why we want proof the way we do, but I think it has something to do with conflict and trust. Our need for proof develops because from a young age we run into conflict with people that are not always good. Our brothers and sisters may lie, our parents are not always consistent with their commitments, attitudes, or morals. So as children we realize we are by ourselves. We are on our own for survival, so before we can accept something, we need proof.

In a less social way, we want proof because the world is complex. Our "experiments" do not always yield the same results. This is why scientists use statistics...they help "corroborate" our conclusions.

So, my big idea this morning after having my Cafe con Leche, was that our need for proof has led us very well in most cases. It has not only helped the individual survive and develop, but it has helped shape our societies. Social structures have developed because of a balance between trust and scrutiny...that is why we have contracts. I would venture to say that every agreement or compromise comes with some sort of contract, whether it is legal, understood, or even developed and held in our own mind. This phenomenon is reenforced every time these "contracts" are broken and every time they are upheld.

I think this idea, that every transaction we have in our professional or personal life is bounded by legal, social, or personal contracts, means that our lives are shaped by subtle conflict. We are always wondering whether we can trust our colleagues, friends, family, spouses, or even our own ideas and theories.

While I believe that this system has helped us to not only survive, but develop as a culture, it has the possibility to fail us.

I think God is outside this system of conflict. If what the bible says is true, then he knows us better than we know ourselves. I don't think he is eager to offer us the type of proof we require from the rest of the world. What I mean is, I don't think he is going to climb inside our box, because the boundaries of it are our conflict and our contracts. I don't think God makes contracts. I think he wants us to trust him without making a contract. If he knows us each as well as the bible says he does, he shouldn't require a contract. He knows what he's getting into with us. This is why Christians are so focused on the Crucifixion of Jesus. God knew from the beginning we would break any contract he made with us, so rather than jumping into that system, he destroyed it with Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross.

If he is really always trustworthy, we don't need to make contracts with him. I think I like Cafe con Leche so much because it gets me pumped up to take a risk with God, and trust that he's good.