Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can you have your tech gifts and buy local too?

According to our fave BaltTech expert and writer, Gus G. Sentementes, quite a few hardware, software, accessories and games that may be on your list originate in Maryland so you can shop tech with a slightly smaller footprint after all. The money spent with the companies on this list will also help to support Maryland's technology entrepreneurs and businesses. Find links to Gus's finds below and read more about the items and "Cyber Monday" on baltimoresun.com.

  • Polk Audio is a Baltimore-based company that produces speaker systems for cars, boats and the home.

  • M-Edge, of Odenton, Md., and ZeroChroma of Baltimore, Md., make cases for the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPads, and electronic readers by Sony, Borders and Barnes & Noble including: the Latitude Jacket for Kindle and the iPad case/stand.Bethesda Softworks, based in Rockville, makes a lot of video games for PC, Xbox and Playstation, and even the iPhone. Extra fun fact: "Fallout 3" was designed by a Loyola University graduate. Firaxis Games, makers of the popular "Civilization" video games is based in Sparks, Md.

  • Hunt Valley-based Oculis Labs makes some very cool "Private Eye" software that uses a computer's webcam to detect when someone other than the computer owner is looking at the monitor and blurs the screen when it detects an eavesdropper or if the user turns his head away. (This one gets Just Saying's nod for being the coolest in the bunch)

  • Baltimore Audio Tours sells a CD or digital download for an MP3 player that delivers an auditory tour of the city.

  • Baltimore-based, interactive design agency Fastspot created Jumbalaya: a $1.99 word game for sale in the Apple App Store.

  • Ellicott City-based company, GiftCardRescue.com sells rescued, discounted gift cards to Cheesecake Factory, Bed Bath & Beyond, Radio Shack and more.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Big News for Food Safety

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser weighed in on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Bill, calling it the "best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply," in a New York Times Op-Ed published yesterday. "This legislation is by no means perfect. But it promises to achieve several important food safety objectives, greatly benefiting consumers without harming small farmers or local food producers."

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill tonight. Here are some basic objectives of the bill:
  • The bill would, for the first time, give the F.D.A. (who oversee 80% of American food) the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food.
  • The FDA would gain resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond to them after people have become ill.
  • The bill would also require large-scale, high-risk food-production plants get more frequent inspections.
  • For the first time, imported foods would be subject to the same standards as those made in the United States.
  • Small farms are exempt from the bill and may continue to be regulated under state and local laws. 
  • Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma is annoying.

Gotta Get to Gilroy Gardens

There are a few places I'd like to see with my own eyes in this lifetime. One is this fantastic Circus Tree exhibit at the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme park in Gilroy, CA that I just learned about. Seriously? How remarkable are these? Here's what the park's website has to say about them:
An amazing example of man's patience and imagination once known as the Tree Circus has been rescued from a forgotten plot in the Santa Cruz mountains and transported to a new home in Gilroy, California where they are now the centerpiece for our horticulturally based theme park. The collection of unusual trees appeared often during the 1940's and 50's in Ripley's "Believe-It-or-Not," "Life" magazine as well as other publications in the United States and other parts of the world. These trees represent one of the most visible demonstrations of the love of nature by man - first to create and nourish, then to maintain, and finally to preserve and cherish these stunning creatures.
The process that allows for such enchanting trees is called grafting. Commonly used by nurseries to give plants stronger root systems and faster growth, grafting is a precise and delicate art form originally used to propagate fruit trees that otherwise cannot be reproduced "true" to the original cultivar from seed. Learn more here

Readers may also be interested in the other exhibits at Girlroy Gardens including but not limited to their: Majestic Gardens, Learning Sheds (modeled after old-fashioned apple sorting and packing sheds), and the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Exhibit.

And if you happen to be out on the left coast this holiday season, click here for more information about the Holiday Lights and other seasonal attractions.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Apples to Apples

Ever wonder why some apple varieties are quicker to go brown once sliced than others? It's got to do with varying PPO (polyphenoloxidase) levels. Horticulture professor at Cornell University, Susan K. Brown and NY Times Science writier C. Claiborne Ray explained the brown apple phenomenom in this week's Q&A:
Cutting an apple releases compounds from within cells that interact with oxygen in the air in a process called oxidation, said Susan K. Brown, professor in the department of horticulture at Cornell University.
“The browning is primarily because of a chemical reaction catalyzed by an enzyme called polyphenoloxidase, or PPO,” she said. Phenolic (nutritional) compounds in the fruit are oxidized into slightly colored compounds, called quinones, which then change to form darkly colored pigments, she said.
“Different apple cultivars vary widely in their PPO levels, total phenolic content and rates of browning,” Dr. Brown said. A variety may have less browning because of low PPO, low phenolics or some combination of the two.
Many popular cultivars, like McIntosh and Fuji, are fairly prone to browning, she said, but Cornell has developed some varieties that brown much less than most on the market. Other factors affecting the rate of browning include the ripening stage of the fruit, the length of time in storage and any topical treatments that have been applied.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Michael Pollan to Compile Another 'Food Rules' Book

This time, with more rules and illustrations! Yay! Check out the open call (full text below) for new rules for the 2nd Edition of 'Food Rules' that Michael Pollan wrote for Grist.org (and possibly other publications/sites):

Last year I published Food Rules, a short book offering 64 rules for eating well. Food Rules struck a chord with many people, who found that it helped them navigate what has become a treacherous food environment, whether in the supermarket or restaurant. Many of the rules were submitted by readers, and since publication I have received a number of excellent new ones. So I've decided to publish an expanded edition, with additional rules and also illustrations, which the painter Maira Kalman has agreed to create. The premise of Food Rules is that culture has much to teach us about how to choose, prepare, and eat food and that this wisdom is worth collecting and preserving before it disappears.

In recent years, we've deferred to the voices of science and industry when it comes to eating, yet often their advice has served us poorly, or has merely confirmed the wisdom of our grandmothers after the fact. "Eat your colors," an Australian reader's grandmother used to tell her; now we hear the same advice from nutritionists, citing the value of including in the diet as many different phytochemicals as possible.I've also found that many ethnic traditions have their own memorable expressions for what amounts to the same recommendation.

Many cultures, for examples, have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of proposing we stop eating before we're completely full: the Japanese say "hara hachi bu" ("Eat until you are 4/5 full"); Germans advise eaters to "tie off the sack before it's full." And the prophet Mohammed recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink, and one-third air. My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, "I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry." Many rules reach across cultures and also time, but some of the ones readers have submitted are specifically about navigating the modern food landscape: "It's not food if it comes to you through the window of a car." "Don't eat at any restaurant of which there is more than just one." "A snack is not the same thing as treat." "If a bug won't eat it, why would you?" and so on.

Will you send me a food rule you have found memorable and useful? Perhaps one passed down by your parents or grandparents? Or something you've come up with to tell your children -- or your self.

Please send your suggestions to pollan.foodrules@gmail.com. Thanks in advance for your attention and help.

As you all know, 'Food Rules' is very close to this blogger's heart because she contributed rule number 21 to the first edition. I hope that you all will join me in contributing ideas for the next edition. I will include the best ones in the next edition of Food Rules, which will be published next fall and will be pleased to acknowledge your contribution if you so wish.

Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay

Just found this great segment on Terpvision:

TERPVISION FALL 2010: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE CHESAPEAKE BAY (Segment 2) from University of Maryland on Vimeo.

Learn more from CIRUN.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey, Tofu or Pheasant?

Okay, folks. We better get down to the meat of this holiday before everyone runs out to purchase (or hunt) their turkey or turkey alternative. Let me start by reminding you guys that turkeys themselves are a fairly new addition to the Thanksgiving holiday. The birds on the first Thanksgiving tables were pheasants and ducks, a far cry from the six-eight legged super NFL turkey.

Heritage Turkeys: For Food Activists and Slow Food Friends

These gobblers are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey you will find in most grocery bins and their breeds (including the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, White Holland, Royal Palm, White Midget and Beltsville Small White) have been preserved alongside their quality of life. Raising heritage breeds is more costly and time consuming for the farmer but better for biodiversity, the turkey and the consumer. Supermarket turkeys grow to an average of 32 pounds over 18 weeks. Often times they can't even walk and their narrow genetic base leaves them highly susceptible to disease. Heritage birds, on the other hand, take 24-30 weeks to reach their market weight and live their lives with far more dignity. Read more about Heritage turkeys here. And click here to browse the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Turkey Farm listings.

Pheasant and Small Game Fowl: For the Hunters

Those of you who stay basic and dine on self-caught meat like the Pilgrims get the award for being the most sustainable. John Manikowski, the creator of the Wild Fish & Game Cookbook, wrote a wonderful essay for the Global Gourmet back in 1996 that is a great how-to as well as why-to for those of you plan to dine on pheasant or another kind of small game fowl.

Tofurky: For the Vegetarians

Having spent quite a few Thanksgiving holidays as a vegetarian, I think it is safe to say that even a conventional store-bought feast offers more than enough for a great "side item sampler." But of course I realize that our vegetarian hosts out there may want to have that main dish in the center of the table so in comes the notorious Tofurky. Kudos for the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of your meat-substitute, but please remember that the Tofurky, like the common Broad-breasted white turkey found on the shelf nearby, is probably not the most sustainable choice.

Turducken: For Heaven's Sake, How Are You On This Blog?!

Visited Wikipedia for this one. Their definition is as follows: "A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken or hen. The thoracic cavity of the chicken/game hen and the rest of the gaps are stuffed, sometimes with a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird. The result is a fairly solid layered poultry dish, suitable for cooking by braising, roasting, grilling, or barbecuing."

Our definition: A gluttonous dish consisting of several factory-farmed meats shoved into one another (likely by machine) that may have some historical and traditional relevance to the very wealthiest of 18th century diners but now caters mainly to the growing obesity epidemic in America (not to mention heart disease and many other health problems associated with a western diet).

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Before we dive into our suggestions for your holiday menu, we thought we'd post a few factoids about the belly-swelling feast we Americans will be celebrating this Thursday. Special thanks to Discovery (for the video above) and the U.S. Census Bureau for their "Facts for Features" Thanksgiving data.
  •  242 million turkeys were expected to be raised in the United States in 2010. This number is actually down two percent from the number raised during 2009 (which together weighed 7.1 billion pounds and were valued at $3.6 billion).
  • Where do all these turkeys come from? 47 million from Minnesota, 31 million from North Carolina, 28 million from Arkansas, 17.5 million from Missouri, 16 million from Indiana, and 15.5 million from Virginia. And that only accounts for about two-thirds of this years U.S. turkey production.
  • Last year (2009). 1.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced in the U.S.
  • 2.2 billion bushels of wheat were produced in the U.S. in 2010, mostly from North Dakota and Kansas.
  • We trade turkeys. $7.3 million big ones worth of U.S. imports of live turkeys from January through July of 2010 — 99.1 percent from Canada.
  • In 2007, the average American consumed 13.8 pounds of turkey.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Welcome, New Readers

Just Saying is proud to announce that, with the help of our loyal and loving readers, friends, family and fans, we won the Health & Wellness category of the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Outstanding Blog Award for 2010. The prize is an ad campaign with baltimoresun.com, aimed to draw new readers to the blog. In anticipation of all the upcoming visitors, we've compiled the following smattering of posts to help everyone learn what Just Saying is all about. Happy reading!

Our roots:
Orchard History: Part I
Orchard History: Part II

Going beyond recycling:
Following Waste
To Recycle Bin or To Trash Can

Watching what we eat, especially meat:
The Great HFCS Debate
Don't Have a Cow
Eating Animals
Chicken Tracker

Keeping it local:
Thin Line Between Commercial and Local
Farmers Markets

University of Maryland
Farmville = Ugh

Watching the food movement in America:
NY Times Food Issue Coverage
Paul Roberts on the Future of Food
Food Movement Rising

Michael Pollen
MP on Diet Reform
MP Encounters

Creature Appreciation
Squirrels, Anything Squirrels, Squirrels = Awesome

Again, these are just a few of the many topics we explore on this blog. We hope you will also browse by typing key search words in the Just Searching Google tab or by going month to month looking for things (or pictures of squirrels) that interest you.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homestead Gardens Pics

"Pavlov's Chickens"
"With Cold Weather Comes Sweaters"

Garlic Planting at Shaw Farm

'Tis the season to get that garlic in the ground. I had the pleasure of helping Farmer Brian Hughes level beds, pin plastic insulates, and plant stiff-neck and soft-neck garlic for the Shaw Farm CSA members come spring. The soft-neck is in the bed on the left, being planted by a CSA member, Tim. The bed on the right is the stiff-neck. If you're interested in planting some garlic in your own garden, The Daily Green put up a nice How-To earlier this fall. It's getting late in the season though so... hurry!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 CalorieLab, Inc Obesity Stats

For the fifth year in a row, Mississippi has been ranked above all others in terms of obesity rates. What's more alarming, at least to me, is to see a graphic representation of the "one in four American adults are obese" statistic. Read a thorough analysis of CalorieLab's findings here. Also, kudos to Colorado, where only one in five people are obese therefore making them the "thinnest state."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Meaty Munchkins

The "food" you love in a bite size ball! Dunkin' Donuts is now offering Sausage Pancake Bites. You can get three for $1.59, or six for $3. Here is the nutrition information based on three of them:

Busted at the Bird Feeder...

... despite the walnuts on the squirrel bench specifically for him and his squirrel friends. Maybe he couldn't find a nutcracker?

Commercial Wind Turbine Developments on the Maryland Coast

Timothy B. Wheeler for The Baltimore Sun reports:

"The federal government on Monday invited bids from wind power developers to place turbines off Maryland's coast, taking the first step toward what could be the nation's largest offshore commercial wind project to date.

The Department of Interior identified a 277 nautical-square-mile area off the state's 31-mile coast for possible leasing, largely accepting the recommendations of a state task force that has been studying offshore wind prospects since early this year. The turbines nearest to shore could be placed 10 nautical miles off Ocean City and 20 nautical miles off Assateague National Seashore."

And while we're on the subject of wind, I'd like to remind everyone to check out the incredible ideas born from the GE Ecomagination Challenge. Winners and new partners will be announced on the official site on Tuesday November 16th, 2010.

Another Heart-Breaking E-Waste Site

Photo: Untitled, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana 2010 © Pieter Hugo
South African Photo Journalist Pieter Hugo has been documenting Ghana's Agbogbloshie Market, a notorious dump site for Europe's outdated computers that I've only just found out about via Treehugger. Just like so many other impoverished towns in third-world countries, people in Accra, Ghana scavenge the toxic, poisonous, and polluted wasteland for digital technology fit to sell at the near-by market and suffer the externalized costs of our consumerism.

Makes you think twice about upgrading your computer and cell phone, huh?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great News on the Healthy Happy Meal Crusade

I know, I know.... having "healthy" and "Happy Meal" in the same title is oxymoronic. Just keep reading...

San Francisco lawmakers approved legislation yesterday limiting fast food chains' abilities to include toys in kids meals with excessive calories, sodium and fat. The law also requires that a serving of fruit or vegetables be included with each meal. So if all goes according to plan, these corporations will no longer be able to reward children for eating convenient, unhealthy junk.

Despite McDonald's Corporate representatives' claims that such a law would "take the joy out of the Happy Meal," the measure drew enough support to overcome an expected veto and I'm sure lots of us hope to see similar laws popping up (faster than McDonald's) nationwide.

Frog Found in Frozen Veggies

A few weeks ago, Marty and Tim Hoffman of Grand Lodge, Michigan found a surprise in a bag of frozen veggies: a little frog (who unfortunately did not hop happily away upon thawing).

The couple immediately alerted the FDA as well as the grocer where they purchased the veggies. The grocer pulled the veggie bags from freezer shelves and checked for frogs but no more were found. The FDA is currently investigating. Read more here.

As upsetting as this untimely frog death is, I'm not terribly bothered by the so-called incident and do not intend to take this opportunity to criticize food safety regulations in America. In fact, I find the frog's presence refreshing. If these vegetables are being grown and harvested in a frog-friendly environment, that's lovely news (especially considering more than 120 frog species have gone extinct since the 1980s). So hooray for biodiversity. I'm just sorry they didn't find the little fella before the freezing process.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Should have seen this coming...

...someone dressed up as KFC's Double Down. I guess it was for Halloween?? Read more here.