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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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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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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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Location, location, location

The first week of classes ended a few days ago, and I only got myself lost twice. I find it amazing and slightly amusing how easy it is to get lost on a university campus.

After studying the OU campus map, which really is quite helpful – it even includes pictures of the front of each building to help wandering newbies recognize where they need to be – I set off to the RTEC building to fill out employment paperwork¬† for the university, so much paperwork, in fact, that the graduate college set up special paper-working sessions so staff could walk each of student through the forms. What I guess they don’t realize is that no one can get through a four-year undergraduate program and then apply and begin a graduate program without becoming sufficiently skilled at filling out paperwork on their own.

So somewhere between where I parked my car on Congress and the RTEC building (which is only a fifth of a mile walk) I got lost. I went into what I thought was the RTEC building and up to the room where I expected to see several sets of helpful eyes just waiting for me to arrive so we could tackle some paperwork. Instead, at the end of a dark hallway, I found a small locked office and no sign I was in the right place. Turns out it was the wrong building.

I found the RIGHT building and the right room, but I was too late (seven minutes, actually), and the door was locked and the great paperwork machine shut down for the day.

Angry and a little sweaty (it was hot), I schlepped up to Court St. Cafe – they have tasty frozen concoctions and free wi-fi, essential for someone like me who lives out in the broadband wasteland south of Athens. I hear Donkey is good too. I’ll have to try that next.

The moral of the story is that even graduate students, being the such educated folk we are, can easily get lost in a new environment. I was lucky enough to move to Athens a month before classes started, which gave me lots of time to explore and get my bearings. My advice is to go out and get yourself lost. It’s the best way to learn your way around a new area. I know I’ll never forget where that dang RTEC building is, that much is for sure.

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I believe introductions are in order…

I am a brand-spankin’ new graduate student at Ohio University studying journalism at the E.W. Scripps College of Communication. As such, I have discovered how little I know about the city of Athens, Ohio, the university, the college and my program – and how much less time and energy the university spends orienting us graduate students to all of these new environments. I hope to share any questions, answers and nuggets of wisdom I come across in my settling process and the very intense coming year.

Pete Shooner

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