Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Food Democracy Now

Stolen from my brother's blog, which found it on BoingBoing:

If the quoted text (below) sounds like something you might agree with, we recommend going to http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/ and signing the petition. There are some significant figures whose names appear on it already. Join the movement.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.
The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grizzly Adams...?

...did have a beard.

I decided almost two weeks ago to grow a finals beard. I've never had a beard before. And at the ripe old age of 25, I still can't grow a full beard (the force is strong, but it's a little sparse and patchy in random spots). But it's...growing on me. Get it?

It goes through phases. The first couple days were fine. That slightly overgrown stubble works for most people. But the severely awkward in between stages that come after stubble, but before it's clear that you are trying to grow a beard...that's when it's embarrassing to leave the house.

I made sure my intentions were clear to everyone that saw me. Before they could think to themselves, "Yikes, he should shave until he can actually grow a full man's beard," I pointed out my superstitious ploy not to shave until after finals. Now that it's become a part of me, I'm wondering if I'm going to be okay with shaving it on Tuesday. It was a rough week of itchy awkwardness that I don't expect to want to repeat.

Then again, my sister is getting married in less than a week, and she would probably appreciate me looking a little cleaner since I'm standing up in the wedding. And no one in my family likes facial hair (my paternal grandmother particularly hated it). My brother has experimented with it, but is, as far as I know, clean-shaven these days.

Melissa was against it at first, but has begun to come around.

I even recruited the other two guys I've been studying with to grow beards with me. Fun times. I may even post a picture Tuesday before shaving it off so that everyone can see what I look like with the best beard I have to offer. Who knows, if I do well on my finals, I may make this a semesterly tradition.

Retro-active happy birthday wishes to my mom, who celebrated her day on Saturday (theoretically for me, it's still Saturday since I haven't yet gone to bed, so I'm not late in publicly wishing you well).

Friday, December 12, 2008


It took me about 30 seconds to realize I was in over my head, so to speak, during my civil procedure midterm. Before you jump to conclusions, I'll explain.

I spent the week leading up to the exam learning everything I could learn about civil procedure. All the things I didn't understand or learn or apply during the semester (which, as a result of my stubbornness and the style of teaching my professor employed, was just about everything) I taught myself. Actually, the more I think about it, the more impressive it is that I even went into the test with any confidence at all. How many people could learn civil procedure in a week?

So why was the test so far outside my scope of understanding? Glad you asked. The simple answer is, we weren't tested on civil procedure. No, the 24 page outline I created as a study guide with every single piece of relevant information, the separate outline indexing each of the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and each of the relevant statutes in Title 28 of the U.S.C., was not even the slightest bit helpful on this exam.

You would think the professor who said class attendance was voluntary (I only missed one class all semester not counting the one I missed while I was in Annapolis) would test in a way that didn't involve classroom discussion heavily. Or, maybe he would make the first three questions, comprising one hour of the two and half allotted, on legal philosophies and our views on the effects of legal decisions on their respective fields, on the confusion of statutory language, and on the idiomatic references to federal common law, requiring that our views on these topics reflect only classroom examples. That would probably do a much better job of testing us on our knowledge of civil procedure. I hope that's what he did. Oh wait, that is what he did.

Nothing kills studying confidence and momentum like walking in the door knowing you're going to do well and walking out feeling like it's time to let go of your ankles (sorry parents for the graphic reference, I can't think of a more colorful way to explain it) and in the meantime finding out within 30 seconds of receiving your first final as a law student that even your best attempts at BS-ing won't do.

The only positive is that everyone says my professor doesn't ever fail anyone on anything. And my midterm grade in there (worth 30%) is very solid, top 10 in the class.

Regardless, I have Torts tomorrow. This is the test everyone warned us would be the doozy. So, if Civ. Pro. was the easy one (it was open note, while Torts is closed note), I'm really excited to find out what a difficult exam is like. At least this test is mostly multiple choice. Even if I'm clueless, I'm statistically required to get some points.

I'm still feeling good about Contracts on Tuesday, despite not having looked at my notes once for that test since classes ended. I did extremely well on the last midterm, which is being weighted pretty significantly (63/67.5), which was actually a 14/15 on multiple choice. Makes it so I have a little more wiggle room on the final.

Back to the frigid east coast in six days.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sports, Briefly

I know most of you hate when I blog about sports, but I have to throw a couple comments in about the things that happened this weekend.

First of all, huge amount of pride in VT for winning the ACC Championship. We're heading to the Orange Bowl for the second consecutive year (very big deal, to those of you who aren't familiar with the process). With the way this team played for most of the season, it's a miracle we made a bowl game. But we won when it counted most, which is more than you can say about every other team in the ACC. We survived one of the most bizarre conference seasons in history, but it turned out to be somewhat historic. A conference record 10 teams are going to bowl games. We have a league-best .771 win percentage over out of conference teams. The only problem with the league is that it doesn't have any stars.

As for the Redskins, I can't begin to describe my disappointment. I wish the Redskins brass would realize Jason Campbell is not the answer. He's awful. He doesn't belong in the NFL. I was against the team drafting him in the first round. I've been against him starting ever since he took over for Mark Brunell. While they're getting rid of him, they could ship Carlos Rogers off, too. The two of them were first round picks out of Auburn. Their senior year, the Tigers went undefeated in the SEC and didn't get an opportunity to play in the National Championship. I think they've had a loser's mentality ever since.

Virginia Tech basketball is showing signs of life. Sure, we trailed Navy at the half, but we scored 51 points in the second half to pull out a big W on the road. Yay, Hokies.

T-minus 2 days until Civil Procedure exam.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The apartment. It's not really new anymore...but it's new in terms of your perceptions. None of you have seen pictures, beyond what I showed in the Thanksgiving chronicles.

So, here are some shots of the new place. It has really come together nicely. We need more on the walls to get rid of all the negative space. It will feel much more homey and cozy with some calming artwork on the walls. Too much white space is a little...discomforting I guess.

The bed and night stands. Hard to get a good shot of the whole room. If you're standing behind the camera looking at the bed, the window is to your left. There is a set of drawers and a hutch to the right, the door to the room is over your left shoulder, and the hallway/closets to the bathroom are over your right shoulder. another pine cabinet is to your left, between the door and the window.

The first southwest style purchase that we made: a shower curtain. The hand towel is southwest themed as well, but you can't really see it. The black towel has a kokopelli towel draped over it.

The kokopelli towel, in a close-up.

A better view of the bathroom. I'm standing in the door on the kitchen side, just in front of the laundry closet.

A shot of the kitchen, through to the bathroom, standing in the dining room. Between the kitchen and the bathroom, there is a laundry closet to the right. To the left is a sort of foyer with coat closets on each side of the hallway.

Here, I am standing just inside the front door, looking to the right at the living room, our Craigslist TV that was unspeakably difficult to get into the house (it took three different vehicles before we found one that could fit the TV for the 15 minute drive from Gilbert. The Taliesin photos are on the wall there. The sliding door leads to the patio (below). The dining room is pictured as well. The third window that would be pictured all the way on the right is the one I almost fell out of.

The living room set. The couch and the table are from the Gulleys. The table, which matches the night stands in the bedroom, is from Ikea.

The patio furniture that Melissa bought and I put together. We haven't gotten a ton of use out of it yet. Just too busy. We'll get there I'm sure. The plant is a majesty palm. It is our first attempt at "landscaping," and is clearly a feeble effort at that. Once we have a yard, the "garden" will expand.

So...welcome to our home. Come visit if you want a better view.

Friday, December 5, 2008


If I had only known I was a handy man all along. Living on my own, I've forced myself to take on projects that only a certified jack-of-all-trades could complete. What's that you say? What did I do? Well, let me tell you.

First, I installed my first shower head. I know what you're thinking. That sounds easy, right? But there is so much involved. First, you have to pick the shower head that's going to make you happier than the shower head you are replacing. It has to be sleek, attention-grabbing, effective, eco-friendly, and more. It's the first thing you experience on the average day.

So you've picked the perfect shower head. We opted for the hand-shower with a long hose on it so that you can take if off the wall mount and move it around. If there's a more official term for that, feel free to let me know.

Then, you have to figure out how to get the original shower head off. Maybe that's easy when it's a good quality shower head and mount to begin with. But when you're in an apartment that has had who-knows-how-many previous tenants who probably didn't care too much about it, you have to assume the shower head is old and cheap and is the victim of prior abuse. So I took a slow approach. I tried loosening it up here and there, not trying to bring an all out attack from the beginning. Eventually, after several failed attempts with my bare hands to unscrew the original shower head, Melissa discovered that the nozzle detached without removing the screw-on mount. That gave me an easier grip, so I returned with a renewed aggression.


Eventually, against the instructions on the side of the new shower head, I used a wrench. I got it off with no problem. Thanks to my brother's advice, I knew what the spool of not-quite-tape, not-quite-paper, but not-quite-plastic was, and what its purpose was. Plumber's tape, apparently, goes around the threads of the wall mount before you screw on the new shower head. (Interjection: I'm making up terms for all of these apparatus-es...apparati?).

So I wrapped the threading with plumber's tape and attached the new shower head. It is phenomenal. I should have used more tape, 'cause we have a very, very minor leak at the attachment. We may or may not detach and remedy it.

Shortly after my sense of accomplishment began to fade, we came across another problem. The can opener was on the fritz. In order to open a simple can of tuna for a late-night study break snack of tuna melts on crackers with Muenster cheese, we couldn't get the two rotors on the can opener to turn in 'sync. We had to spread the device and squeeze it closed over and over again to cut the can open one bit at a time. Very tedious. So after I opened the tuna the hard way, I went to work on fixing the opener.

I dismantled it and sought out a lubricant. The only thing available was olive oil (cringe!). WD40 would have been ideal, but we have none. In fact, many other types of oils would have been more ideal than olive oil. But you have to work with what you have. So, I lubed the faulty portion of the device with olive oil and re-assembled. Success! Another handy job.

I've also hung some pictures around the house. But I didn't just hang them. I measured out distances, leveled them, made sure they matched their counterparts across the room. I made an art out of hanging art.

This independence thing is starting to be quite the learning experience. It appears that my biggest motivator to get things done in life and around the house is wanting to procrastinate on studying and learning the law.

First final in t-minus 5 days. Tuesday morning, Civil Procedure. Yikes.