Our Greatest American Meal…

… and it’s not the BigMac.

Thanksgiving is celebrated by almost all Americans, but all it really breaks down to is a meal. Most holidays are centered on some activity – Christmas (presents/the tree), Easter (church/egg-hunts), July 4th (fireworks) – but Thanksgiving is the only one that’s all about the meal. Of course, family is a huge part of the holiday too.

This year will be my first Thanksgiving away from my parents’ home. I have celebrated the holiday in the same way, in the very same house all my life. I probably cleaned a few windows or vacuumed some rugs in preparation all those years, but never did I have to handle the food.

Since I am buying all these ingredients myself to make this great meal, I thought it would be interesting to find out where each item comes from. With the option of the Athens Farmers Market, it’s hard not to wonder why so many people around Athens still decide to buy all their groceries at Walmart. So for my experiment, I bought all MY food at Walmart, just for this one meal.

What I found out was startling, but I knew in the back of my mind what the reality surely was. My Thanksgiving meal came from all over the US, requiring hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel to transport the food to my local Walmart.

Here is an interactive graphic I created to show the results of my little experiment. Hope you enjoy!

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The most stressful time of year… time to procrastinate

If you’re a student, you are plenty familiar with the amount of stress finals week, and the weeks leading up to it, can put on any student.

My undergraduate university’s student paper always put out an edition during finals week that contained nothing but “stress-busters” – about a dozen crossword and sodoku puzzles. This always helped me out, and seems like the ‘smartest’ way to procrastinate.

So, in honor of procrastination, here are some great links to sites that can help you pass the time in between assignments:

USA Today’s crossword and other good word puzzles

Addictinggames.com – Be careful, the name is accurate

Top 10 best sites to procrastinate (Cornell Daily Sun)

 

Good Luck!

 

 

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What does WWII mean to me? Everything.

We have so much to learn from our WWII veterans. Besides saving the world from pure evil, the men – and women – of the greatest generation taught us about duty, bravery and honor. At no other time in our nation’s history did so many stand up for what was right and sacrifice their lives and livelihoods to ensure freedom for generations to come.

This Veterans’ Day, we should remember this great generation and how what they did for us then has created the world we know now. From the men on the beaches of Normandy, to their wives in the factories back home, every American was fighting – fighting for my parents’ generation and my generation and my children’s generation. They fought simply so that we could live and live free.

I am regularly reminded of the scope of WWII, and it never ceases to amaze me. Not only were the shear numbers of enlisted men massive, but with every action a serviceman took, came an infinite number of consequences.

Let me illustrate:

My grandfather, who served on the USS Columbia in the South Pacific, worked in the radio shack (yes, that’s where the company’s name came from) of the ship. This room was one of the highest points on the boat, atop a tall tower. The Columbia was attacked by kamikazes three times throughout the war. On one attack, the plane struck just below the radio shack, severing the compartment completely. The structure exploded in a burst of flames and all the men working there were thrown into the water. Most, if not all, of them died. This just happened to occur while my grandfather was on his fifteen minute break below deck, eating a sandwich.

Fifteen minutes. If that plane had hit at any time that day outside of those fifteen minutes, my grandfather would have likely died. He would not have came home after the war and had his ten children, one of them being my father. My father would never have had me and my four brothers. My brother would never have had his two kids. An entire family rested on fifteen minutes.

This is what I think of when I consider the consequences of WWII. There must be thousands of stories just like my grandfather’s. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity to hear and record these stories is quickly closing. Every day, around 800 WWII veterans die.

I hope to soon begin a research project to find veterans and record their stories, thoughts and lasting impressions of the war. I think this is something that must be done before too long, but it must be done by hundreds of us all around the country – our government has already started. Very soon the oral history of WWII will be gone. It would be a shame if all we were left with were the facts and dates of battles and had little history of the men and women who made our world possible.

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My home town…a long, long time ago.

I came across this NPR blog that featured a write up on a set of pictures taken of the Cincinnati skyline in 1848.

I just happen to be from Cincinnati, and I just happen to have a print of the exact same photographs, all pieced together to form a panorama shot, hanging above my desk at home. Needless to say, the article sparked my interest.

The blog post is cool. You can smoothly adjust each plate, zooming in extremely tight to pick up the tiniest detail. And those silver daguerreotype photographs of the era are miraculously sharp. Modern digital photography might be able to capture images this crisply now with HD cameras, but keep in mind these were taken from the northern Kentucky side of the Ohio River in 1848 and had to be exposed for probably ten minutes or so.

What’s awesome is that becuase of the sharpness of these extremely old photos, we can even pick up figures of humans near the bank of the river. The author throws out the idea that these may be the first candid pictures of a human being – all others before being staged portraits.

But, of course, not soon after this post, someone out there found an earlier picture, this one of Paris in 1838, where a figure can bee seen near the sidewalk.

No matter what, these photos are fantastic. They are great testaments to the merits of silver-based photography (all back and white film uses silver). It can produce incredibly sharp images that have the possibility of holding up over hundreds of years! Awesome.

 

 

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Locavorism…it’s not as dirty as it sounds

A “locavore” is someone who chooses to only eat foods produced locally – usually within a 100-mile radius, if you like round numbers. If fact, Athens residents can easily subscribe to a 30-mile meal plan. I haven’t been to any city where actually living by this is rule is easier than Athens. Maybe San Francisco, but the percentage of stores and restaurants – not to mention the world-class farmers market – that offer local products is much higher here than in the Golden City.

Here is a nice map detailing a handful of these spots. I know there are more, so please add your favorite locavore-friendly establishments to the map and keep the movement going!

 

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An Interview with a Brewmaster

As I said earlier this week, I had the chance to tour Athens’ own Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. It was a very interesting experience – ducking under the low ceilings, tip-toeing around kegs and barrels, and shouting over the hum of the refrigeration system – in the bowels of Jackie O’s.

Check out the video from the tour and my interview with Brad Clark, the brewmaster at the only place to find craft beers brewed on-site in Athens.

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Best Beer in Town

One of the first bars I was told when I moved here that I had to check out in Athens was Jackie O’s. I’ve been going there pretty regularly and haven’t been disappointed yet.

The place is a nice bar with good food (try the fish and chips) and great beer, most of which is brewed on-location.

Recently, I had the good fortune to take a tour of the facility and interview the joint’s brewmaster, Brad. I found that Brad, or B.C. as he’s more familiarly called, has got a pretty sweet job. The OU alumnus (he majored in creative writing, for all you aspiring brewmasters out there) gets to make delicious and intriguing recipes all day.

The bar has been a fixture of Athens’ annual ‘Ohio Brew Week,’ during which home-brewers from all over the state converge on the city to show off their best craft beers. Jackie O’s and its brewmaster have been featured on ratebeer.com, a site that, well, rates beers (as well as reports on all things beer).

Needless to say, Jackie O’s is a gem. Athens is lucky to have it around and so am I. So get out, get down, drink some good beer and support some great people making even better beer.

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The ‘Free Pete’s Pig’ campaign and how you can help

I am currently in a bit of a dispute with my landlord. No, it’s not about back rent or a security deposit or whether I am keeping the yard in decent shape. No, this dispute is about a little pot-bellied pig named Hamlet.

 

How could anyone resist this little guy?

 

My girlfriend and I wanted to get him instead of a dog. They make very good pets and are a lot of the time smarter than dogs. We were all set to go buy him from Cincinnati, but before leaving we wanted to talk to our landlord about it.

Now, a little background is necessary. We live off County Road 25, on 23 acres of land. We moved there with two cockatiels as pets. In addition, the house “came with” two cats, who roam the land back and forth between our house and our landlord’s (Oh yea, she lives on the property with us). It is written into the lease that we have co-ownership of these cats, meaning we have to pay for half of their food.

The lease also says that IF we had a dog or cat of our own, we would be required to pay a $150 security deposit. It does not mention pigs. Hence, we wanted to talk to our landlord before just buying Mr. Hamlet here.

Our landlord’s reaction blew me away. She hated the idea. She said that pigs serve no purpose except companionship – they don’t scare raccoons away or protect the house. Yea, I know. Ridiculous. She also was worried that the pig would do some kind of major damage to the house. So we didn’t get Hamlet.

Now, I saw several issues in her argument. One, what purpose is a pet supposed to serve first and foremost if not companionship? And what utility do these two cats have that makes their existence “worth it?” Two, if our lease allows a dog with a $150 security deposit, that means she is willing to bet that a dog would not cause more than $150 in damage. So is a pig really more of a risk to the property than, say a Great Dane? I wonder if she’d let us get Marmaduke.

This is not over. We have not conceded defeat.

If you’d like to help, please post your thoughts, feelings or questions about the Free Pete’s Pig campaign. If you have a good pig story or picture, I’d love to see it too. Follow the campaign on Twitter for the latest news and updates.

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I’m all a-Twitter

I recently had the chance to cover my first public event live on Twitter. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, came to Ohio University to speak about his research and to promote his views on the fast food industry.

I was eager to hear what he had to say, as recently I have been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book by Michael Pollan that deals with a lot of the same issues presented in Schlosser’s book. I was joined by many of my classmates under the hash tag #OHJ314 – check it out for some great quotes, observations and other miscellaneous chatter.

I was happy with my experience. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was that while furiously trying to tweet a quote, I would miss what Schlosser was saying – I’m not the best multi-tasker.

Live twitter coverage is great, but I think it is more appropriate for say, a multi-day convention where many events are taking place in the same area. That way, not only would the coverage benefit those not present at the convention, but would also be able to alert other convention goers of interesting booths or events they might otherwise miss. Let’s leave nice live streaming video and running transcripts for the speeches and presentations.

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Finding a hole in the wall that doesn’t put a hole in your wallet

I have recently discovered two delicious little restaurants in Athens. They aren’t on Court Street, and they aren’t very conspicuous – aren’t the best always like that?

First: Miller’s Chicken. Awesome. I think I had a few flashbacks to my days spent in South Carolina as I shared a 5-piece basket and a large (very large) order of fries with my girlfriend. Down W. State Street past Shafer, it’s cheap, and they have two kinds of hot sauces (Texas Pete and Frank’s – the best kinds) available in big bottles on nearly every table. I recommend this place to anyone looking for a good meal and an even better nap afterward.

Second: Mistretta’s Italian Market. “A little bit of imported heaven,” according to Cutler’s Corner (and their menu) and now me. This place has a great selection, with cheap daily specials, and Sioux City Root Beet (personal favorite) for only a dollar! If you like delicious paninis and good ciabatta sandwiches, this is the place to check out. Oh, and it is just around the corner from Miller’s, on Shafer.

Here’s one of my favorites: Turkey, smoked gouda, red peppers.

Photo courtesy of Mistretta's Italian Market

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