Sunday, November 11, 2007

Death and pizza

I love those moments to dip a toe into the colorful, quirky cultures that surround us. I'm crazy about bars & diners in bowling alleys, ethnic markets, and bingo parlors. National observances are the informational subset of these side trips, deliberately highlighting what we're inclined to overlook in our environmental scans. This month's observances include International Drum Month (I hope that doesn't include air drumming), National Roasting Month, and National Peanut Butter Lovers Month (even though they're just fronts for retail promotion).

But it is utterly without mockery and kookiness that I stop to recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. OK, before you click away thinking "ugh, death, depressing", hear me out. Death holds special interest for me, but not in a morbid train-wreck-voyeur kind of way, but instead, as a place where we're called to rethink life and what it means to be human, compassionate, and present. I was raised by an oncology social worker, who for years supported people who faced death, many of whom lived to tell about it. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a household name. I daily heard stories of how instructive patients and their families were to my mother. I also heard of medical professionals' wildly varying capacities for caring for dying patients with compassion and justice. Mom's retired now and channeling her considerable energies into art, but she continues to embody the values of her profession.

There are some wonderful documentaries and resources that take on the task of demystifying this universal experience of all living things:
OK, now, on to National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day (if you're not going to eat those anchovies, give them to me!)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Technology time capsule

In the spirit of What's in Your Bag?, I offer this snapshot of the physical technologies that I use regularly. What will we be using 10 years from now? What were we using 10 years ago?

When my father-in-law equivalent gave me this Canon PowerShot S30 in 2002, it was pretty high-end for the amateur digital camera enthusiast. It still serves me very well, although it weighs in at 11 oz. with a 1 1/2 in. display. The model I've been eyeing lately weights 4.41 oz with a 2 1/2 in. display. But it aint broke, so I'm holding on to it, even though my friends make fun of me.

I had a sweet, slick little cell phone until a schmuck stole it from me at a craft fair, so I bought this refurbished phone that was a hot item way back in 2004. But considering that I couldn't be dragged into cell phone culture until this year, I suppose it's still progress.

One of my favorite gadgets is my Creative Zen Micro MP3 player, a gift from Greg (a chronic early adopter) in 2003. We bucked the iPod trend, in part, because I wanted a radio tuner. I love this thing, in spite of the nightmarish workarounds for those of us locked out of iTunes. But it satisfies my need for constant news, podcasts, and lots of Bach, Bjork, Beck, and Bartok.

Cue the 2001 theme song: my tower. Also a gift from the father-in-law, this screamer boasts 768mb RAM, 40 gig hard drive, and is close to the size of a 20-gallon aquarium. The white noise of the fan shunning cat hair soothes me as I work.

Other technologies of which I'm fond: pencils, Flickr, cash, manual transmission, toilets, library cards, turntables, Firefox, and our water filtration system.

What's in your bag?

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vegetable of the Month:

A few fun facts about greens, some of which are sure to be asked during the Jeopardy episode in which you are a contestant:

  • Greens, such as collards and kale, are spookily cabbage-like, yet they are distinct members of the Brassica Oleracea family in that they do not form a compact head, as do cabbages and people.
  • If you'd prefer not to get cancer, eat a lot collard greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and broccoli rabe. They're loaded with antioxidants, which, according to the National Cancer Institutue, "may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals", and such damage may lead to cancer.
  • Eating Black-eyed Peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring good luck. Eating collard greens are believed to bring wealth.

I have an unnatural fondness for "X of the Month"-type observances, the sillier or more obscure the better. PR professionals across the for- and non-profit spectrum don't hesitate to abscond with some week or month to remind us that their disease, foodstuff, or potential hazard should be foremost in our minds, at least for that prescribed period of time. I like to do my part to support their efforts. Watch this space for updates on other important agricultural products, maladies, and hobbies of which you should be aware.

For more fun, compelling information about leafy greens, check out these resources: