Stephen Kahn

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Whom do you love?

In Hard to tell on March 30, 2011 at 3:47 am

The catch phrase “Save the Earth” is quite popular these days, and particularly inapt as well.

If we human creatures have any talent above all our others, it is our ability to destroy things. Nevertheless, despite our striving and accomplishments in this area, and despite the current scheme to drill into the earth’s mantle–we are still unlikely to succeed in destroying the entire sphere on which we live.

What is more likely is that we will

A) Destroy most forms of “higher” life besides ourselves, except what we are still busy eating.

B) Destroy ourselves, either by achieving A) or by taking ourselves out more directly through war or disease or global warming or epidemic or whatever.

“Worst” case or “best” case depending on how you look at it, the humans will be gone but the algae and the lichen and the bacteria and the viruses and perhaps a few “higher” life forms at least such as starlings and rats and coyotes and cockroaches and mosquitoes and ants and so on will be around, as well as the huge lump of spinning dirt and water we call “earth” will still be around.

So when humans speak of “Saving the earth” it is a typical example of human narcissism and self-absorption. We mean “Saving the human race.” Being a human, and being fond of a few people, especially my non-genetic granddaughter, I tend to go along with this sentiment. However…

In his great novel Bleak House Charles Dickens immortalized the fictional character of Mrs. Jellyby, a woman filled with love and philanthropy for natives in Africa but indifferent to and neglecting her real family and the people around her. I have met and known real people who resemble her.

I will not claim to be a more admirable person than that fictional character, but my nature leans the other way. I care for people I know but find it hard to love and care for the people I read about in the news of people killing and torturing and abusing and enslaving each other all around the world, most noisily of late in Libya and Ivory Coast.


Not good enough for the food bank…

In Hard to tell, Humor on March 29, 2011 at 4:11 am

I remember old stories (urban legends or not I can’t figure out even with the help of about elderly people eating cat food or dog food because they could not afford human food.

Whidbey Island has a mailing list of free stuff people are giving away or requests people are making for  freebies. Usually the offers or asks are not edible, though occasionally they are. Recently I saw:

Going through the canned food in the disaster kit…

Have several bags (lots and lots) of very expired canned food


Anyone want it for your pigs?

Which made me wonder. Is it safe for the  pigs? What are you keeping the pigs for? Pets? Or food? They don’t lay eggs. In any case, our chickens eat very well and very safely and seem to be very healthy.


In Hard to tell on March 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm

“Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” Various people have made this observation in various ways.

The problem is: this comment doesn’t just relate to academic politics. It applies to all politics, does it not?

Japan and Korea

In Hard to tell on March 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I am not very expert about either Japan or Korea, but I have read that there is hostility between these two countries, in part because at one time Korea was a colony of Japan, and because of accusations of war crimes committed against Koreans.

Wikipedia writes:

“Korean–Japanese relations are the relations between Korea and Japan. In a modern context, these relations pertain to three states: Japan, North Korea, and South Korea. Japan and Korea have had cultural interactions for over a thousand years and direct political contact almost as long. In modern times Japan’s relations with North Korea and South Korea have had a legacy of bitterness stemming from unresolved disputes which occurred during the Japanese Occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.”

I explored a little further…

Wondering if the current crisis in Japan involving the recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor problems had any impact on these historical tensions, I checked Google news and found an interesting article in Asia Times.

(Caution: I had considerable difficulty scrolling through the article on the Asian Times website. Also, the footnotes seemed interesting to me, but several (though not all) are in Korean, a language I do not read or understand. Google wanted to add its toolbar, perhaps to help. I did not accept the offer.)


In Good news on March 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I am going to a Red Cross meeting this evening. I tried to take a CPR class last week but there was a mix-up on the schedule, so no one was there to teach the class. A friend of mine pointed out to me to a video from the American Heart Association.

I hope that no one at the meeting tonight needs cpr while I am there. If someone does, I  hope at least one of the people attending jumps in and applies it, while I am scrabbling out my cell phone and dialing 911. However, if all else fails, I now have an idea what to do and if I break the victim’s ribs, they will forgive me if they are revived.

Put agave syrup on your salad while ducking bullets south of the border

In Good news, Humor on March 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

The sun is shining. The chickens are pecking. No doubt the slugs are slithering. Spring is here.

When it was still winter, there was nothing better for breakfast than my wife’s buckwheat pancakes covered with organic maple syrup. Can we make maple sugar on Whidbey Island? Not that I know of.

Can we grow and harvest our own buckwheat?

Does my brother in Maine or my sister in Vermont make Maple sugar? Not that I know of.

 Do the people who do make maple syrup extend the season as described here? Is it still considered organic if they do?

Can people in Arizona make maple syrup? No, probably not. Perhaps they can make agave syrup.

 As one web site reports:

Agave syrup is approximately 25 to 30 percent sweeter than table sugar and has trace amounts of minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Agave ranks low on the Glycemic Index, meaning it does not affect blood sugar and insulin levels as much as regular sugar.

Agave is also used to make tequila, so I suppose one can serve oneself tequila pancakes. You may have to use a different name, though, unless you are in Mexico. It’s sort of like the difference between Roquefort cheese and blue cheese.

Eating our seed corn?

In Hard to tell on March 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm


Year Round Gardening

In Good news, Uncategorized on March 20, 2011 at 3:41 am

Good carrots

When we first moved to Washington state and first started gardening I read books that talked about how it was possible to have “year-round gardening” in the temperate Pacific Northwest climate. It never seemed that we quite got there.


This month, March 2011, we went to our garden and collected the last carrots and potatoes out of our garden. They had been carefully protected with straw and row covers. We are not farmers. These are “boutique vegetables” from hobby gardeners. They are good for us. They will not get us through the collapse of civilization, but they are perhaps helping us be healthier in our “senior” years.

Carrots that did not make it through the winter

The first batch of pictures indicates the ratio of good carrots to bad carrots. The second batch of pictures shows the good potatoes. (I threw the bad potatoes away without photographing them. However, most of the potatoes were still good. They are now stored in bags on the landing leading to our basement.


White potatoes









Red potatoes



Under a row cover we are growing a European specialty green called mâche or “corn salad.” If I get to it, I will put a picture of the corn salad in my next post.

It feels like Spring. I saw a chipmunk. The chickens took a sun/dirt/straw bath and pecked up worms and weeds.

In the world, the United Nations talked about protecting the rebels of Libya against Khadafi and there is confused talk about Saudi Arabia using its vast oil money to fund a “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East. Are things looking up for civilization?

If nothing else, we have some carrots and potatoes and mâche.

Where I least expect it.

In Bad news, Humor on March 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I am going to dig up worms for the chickens and tell them the bad news about wordpress.


In Hard to tell on March 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm