Saturday, May 23, 2009


this weekend i'm doing something i've been wanting to do for a while: starting a compost bin so i can make really good "black gold" for my new garden. several weeks ago i took an industrial-sized rectangular, lidded plastic laundry detergent container with a handle and placed it under the sink next to the regular garbage. i began throwing in scraps of vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds and other non-animal-based items. at first i was a little scared of it, nervous to open it. what nether-worldly sights or smells might i encounter? fortunately my fears were unfounded; the coffee grounds dominate the senses so when you lift the lid you get an in-the-coffee-shop sensation rather than an in-the-black-lagoon one.

yesterday i was faced with the definitive, looming question about the bin: now that it is really full (and we don't want that lid popping off!), what am i going to do with it? in anticipation of this question, i've had my eye on a compost bin from it's low-maintenance (open the door and deposit; no churning necessary), durable (made from a composite material), affordable (about $70 as opposed to hundreds) and unobtrusive (that "garden green plastic pot" color that is so common.) so while there is much to recommend the costco composter, and i've been intending for weeks to purchase it, two thoughts struck me: 1. is there a home-made, low-tech, super-affordable way to get similar results and, 2. if i do something at home and on the cheap i can afford a much better new table top grill!

so, i decided to crawl the web in search of info. with two clicks i came to a wiki page that resolved my dilemma. i learned that with just a few bucks, a drill and a little patience, i can build my own composter. i purchased a heavy duty plastic storage container with a lid for $4, charged up the drill and made several holes on the lid and sides. i was thrilled to find out that once the material goes into the bin all i'll have to do is stir it around every few days with a rake and watch the magic happen.

with that solved, yet another question arose: do i need to put the bin in the direct sun? if so, i don't know that there's a sunny side of the house where i'd like to display a black rubber container bedecked with "polka dot" holes (the shady side of the house being the non-street side). fortunately i found out that although "hot composting"--locating the composter where there is direct heat several hours of the day--is a lot faster, i could locate my bin in the shade and accomplish my goal. in fact, from a site aptly named i found out there are several ways to make compost, with methods employing heat, worms, trenches and more!

i decided to put my bin on the shady side of the house right underneath the dryer vent (why not mix coffee dregs with downy?). i transferred the compost matter that i've collected so far into the bin and, to my delight and slight dismay, discovered that it is already gurgling with microbial activity (i was reminded of the irony that is the human fear of small things: micro-bugs cannot harm me, so why is my heart racing a little?).

during this composting 101 tutorial, i learned that the kind i'm doing--"cold composting"--is also known as "slow composting." as i mentioned above, applying heat to the matter speeds up the process exponentially, as does using warms in the bin. since i've already ruled out the hot option, i'm now faced with the question of worms. i think i'll wait and see just how "slow" it goes before i go worm shopping!

p.s saturday afternoon, after a day in the yard. i just found the best spot for the bin. it's a sunny, not-so-visible spot that backs up to the house. it's right next to the natural gas hookup, so no beauty contest going on there. also, when i lifted the lid today i noticed there are WORMS snaking through the orange peels and egg shells. i think they sneaked in when i deposited the dead stems and roots of some of last years annuals. that was a surprise! so now i'm not only doing hot composting but hot composting with worms!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

pro-gram the dvr because meghan mccain is on t.v. again

two nights ago meghan mccain made an appearance on the colbert report. if you happened to miss it, you can see the embedded vid here. and for a hilarious, spot-on (not to mention highly irreverent) piece on it, go here.

in case you don't watch colbert, don't care to click on the video link, but somehow are still interested in reading this post, let me give a little context. meghan mccain is ALL the rage. it started during her dad's unsuccessful bid for president, when she began her "mccainetteblog" and had a lot of photo ops standing behind speakers on campaign platforms. and after the inauguration it just kept going and going and going...

...largely because meghan kept it going. when she's not broadcasting f-bomb laced tweets, and writing "articles" on her blog and, she's generating faux fights with members of her new party (she only became an R days before the election), which land her on the view as well as real news programs.

the fact that a twenty-something has a dirty mouth, a penchant for mugging for the camera, and a healthy dose of naivete is not news. i know more people than i can count who fit that description. the thing is, meghan mccain really does have a huge platform at her disposal, one she did not earn, but could use. the shame is that she wastes the opportunity. on colbert her one talking point, repeated a dozen or so times was: "i'm pro-sex, pro-life and pro-gay," by which (i think) she meant that the republican party should moderate on social issues in order to appeal to young voters like her.

when mccain talks--last night, being just one example-- i swear i hear the sucking of a vacuum and not a real human voice. maybe it's her school girl tweets (getting ready to go on colbert: "i'm so f--king nervous!") or maybe her juvenile attempts at political critique ("i'm sorry we're not hip" and "karl rove is creepy."). or maybe it's because when ms. mccain talks cringe-y moments inevitably follow. is she going to talk about licking colbert's face or what a bitch ann coulter is? what's truly odd is that the girl is at once self-aggrandizing and self-conscious. she tries hard, real hard. but does she know she's not rushing a sorority? she knows she's on t.v, right? like t.v. that's recorded.

right. for a while i felt sorry for her, but the truth is meghan knows exactly what she's doing. she's silly, rude, naive, and a tool of the media--and she's loving it. her daddy is yesterday's political news so she's running down the last seconds of her 15 minutes of fame. she's the paris hilton of the right, yet fancies herself A1 pundit. i hope she's having the time of her life. it'll soon be over and then she and paris can start their own reality show.

turning. channel. now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

food and fascism

i found an article today that combines--albeit bizarrely--two of my favorite topics: food and culture. it's archived from the UK paper times online. the surprising, almost humorous, phrase "italy bans kebabs" in the article's title caught my eye, as did the accompanying photo of a fork of enticing pasta. but reading the article neither left me all that humored nor enticed.

the article informs the reader that, in seemingly musollini-esque fashion, there is now a push by the berlosconi government to ban all foreign foods in italian cities. specifically, the "kebab" and its purveyors have been targeted in the town of lucca. officials say the move is meant to protect italian culture through promoting italian food, but critics say: not so fast food fascistas. the motivation, detractors insist, goes beyond the love of italian gastronomy into the territory of "food racism" and even amounts to "culinary ethnic cleansing."

that seems way over the top, but at the very least the controversy shows how seriously italians take their food and that's something to admire. as an american raised in the era of the golden arches, i appreciate the italian food sensibility; for example the slow food movement, which began in rome about 10 years ago when locals successfully blocked the coming of mac donald's to st. peter's square and thereby sent a powerful signal to the world about their disdain for fast food culture. but, i must say i smell an overcooked paella here.

the banning of kebabs and other "foreign foods" in lucca seems to have as much to do with socialist laziness (the kebab vendors will work longer hours and it will be "unfair" to other food outlets), selective xenophobia (notice they're not protesting schnitzel), and food snobbery (do they think they invented gastronomy?), as it does about concern for preserving food culture. besides, do backers really think italians will completely abandon bisteca alle florentina for a kebab?

tweet tweet

    follow me on Twitter What's News US