reading. riting. 'rithmetic.

Apr 21, 2008

good night and good luck

Join us in bidding farewell to this faithful blog. Rolling Stones got us through some crucial months of life, from our wedding, to our honeymoon, to a new start in the Faroe Islands, but it is time for something fresh. Don't think of this as losing a blog, think of it as gaining a cooler looking blog! A few weeks ago I promised a big change to our concept, and here it is. Switch your bookmark link, wipe your tears, and check it out.

Apr 16, 2008

why i now eat mary's little lamb

Last year I did not eat meat. I cannot say for sure that the greasy cartilage of a dead creature never passed my lips during that time, but without notable exceptions I lived the vegetarian life. My reasons for abstaining from meat are both ethical and environmental. While I do not think it is wrong to kills animals for food--they are able to turn plant material that we cannot eat into a substance that we can--I think that humans do have a moral obligation to treat life with care. In the case of animals, that means raising, slaughtering and consuming some of them in a wholesome, moderate and thankful manner. In the environmental camp, I object to the ground water and runoff pollution that results from confined feeding operations where thousands of animals are kept in close quarters to await mass slaughter. I also question the amount of energy, particularlly fossil fuels, that go into raising, slaughtering, packing, and shipping an animal in its short life span within the corporate livestock cycle. There is also the rub that so little of the profit from this three-ring circus go to the primary producers and laborers. Someone is getting rich off of corporate livestock, but it is not the Wyoming family ranchers or the immigrant laborers working in the packing houses of Greeley, Colorado. There are almost as many issues with the corporate fruit and vegetable industry, but in this case I am choosing what I perceive to be the lesser of the two evils, and besides, local organic tomatoes are a lot more affordable than local organic steak. These being my basic beliefs on the topic, I was pretty much set to go as a lifelong meat mostly-abstainer/local eater/free range junkie. Imagine my surprise at moving to a tiny island in the North Atlantic where the most environmentally responsible thing I can eat is meat. The only food stuffs that grow in any volume on the islands are rhubarb and sheep. Potatoes will grow, but they are labor intensive and you have to be pretty buddy-buddy with someone before you can get your hands on them. Fish also comes in by the boatload, and whale can be had if you are willing to brave the mercury. It has been humbling and curious to find that my formerly modest meal preferences like beans and salad involve a worldwide network of growing and shipping before my tomatoes from Sicily, lettuce from Argentina and carrots from Denmark arrive. So I adapt. My fish is undercooked, my whale overcooked, and the lamb leg is still sitting in the freezer because I have no clue what to do with it, but I am embracing the carnivorous life. Of course I have not given up all of my pleasures--on a rare night you will still find me enjoying a luxurious meal of lentil beans and rice. -a p.s. For those of you who feel like I am being ungrateful to the the five generations of ranchers who have labored faithfully on the land to provide a privileged life for me, touché. While our place in the corporate structure is perhaps not what I would have it, I believe passionately that my family's animals are raised in a wholesome, moderate and thankful manner, and whatever I know about respect for life I learned from them.

Apr 14, 2008

"links of the week" or "it is a slow week for cultural insight"

1. I read the Real Estate section of The New York Times religiously, and my favorite feature is the "What You Get..." series, which documents properties at a specific price all over the country. The latest installment, What You Get for $600,000 has an especially swanky find in Miami. 2. Ben and I have recently been discussing the concept of "Christian Humanism", and he found this powerful article articulating the concept that, "Those who are pro-life and pro-family should have no problem being pro-human." The author, works for Focus on the Family, which is not an organization you will usually find us referring to, but this piece is worth reading twice. 3. If I were going to have a baby, and then spend $236 on 50 designer announcements, these would be the ones.
a. I love photographers' blogs, but few have as good of insights into the life of a photojournalist as Justin Mott's. Justin is a photographer based in Hanoi, Vietnam and his recent post about whether or not humanitarian photojournalism can actually make a difference is a great read accompanied by gorgeous images. b. Such a large portion of modern photography is sharp, polished and predictable, which is why this collections of images from photographer Christopher Anderson are some of my recent favorites. He took a plastic "toy camera" with him on assignments around the world and these images are the result. c. Banksy is an English graffiti artist whose humorous, striking and typically anti-establishment work covers the streets of London. My favorite installment, however, is from an exhibition in a Los Angeles warehouse. The "elephant in the room" represents society's intentional ignorance of poverty.

Apr 10, 2008

the ballad of bill and al

It has been interesting to observe two political figures that are as well known to me as Bill Clinton and Al Gore in a new arena. During their respective visits to the Faroe Islands, each man had the opportunity to represent himself in a fresh way, a chance that he will never get in front American audiences whose minds are inescapably flooded by complex preconceptions ranging from talking-heads commentary to moral indignation to environmental apathy. When Clinton visited last October, there is no question that he conquered the Faroe Islands. During his days here he offered interviews, walked the streets of the capital visiting shops and posing with fans, and even bought wool sweaters that he said were for Hillary and Chelsea. He opened his official speech with an anecdote about how he would export the idea of grass-roofed houses back to the United States, and then proceeded to talk fluidly without notes in his warm, folksy way. The Faroese loved him. He was personable, interested, and brought a touch of world glamor to these modest green slopes. Although I could not read the coverage of Al Gore's visit earlier this week, I have heard several renditions of his brusqueness. He arrived in the Faroes late on Sunday night and went immediately by car to his hotel. The next morning he met briefly with the Prime Minister, and then delivered his talk at the TransAtlantic Climate Conference, which is rumored to have been built mostly around slide from his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth". Per orders from his foundation, no digital recordings of the presentation were allowed. He then left by car to go back to the airport to catch his outbound flight. He allowed no interviews, and when a Faroese journalist caught him in a parking lot, Gore told him he got to ask one question. The reporter asked him how he liked the Faroes so far. Gore replied, "It's pretty nice." His only lasting impression in this country is that of a moneygrubbing, personality-less block of a man. So all my sympathies to both the Clinton-haters and the global warming combatants, but the Faroese score currently stands at Clinton: ten gold stars, Gore: zilch. -a

Apr 8, 2008

a life less involved

At this moment, an hour's drive from my home, the TransAtlantic Climate Conference is being held. Its goals are to, "come up with a 'road map' for how to establish TACIT – a TransAtlantic Climate Institute for the coordination and facilitation of applied research and innovative projects regarding marine science and technology. Another outcome of the conference will be a compendium describing the climate challenges in the Atlantic Ocean." As a self-proclaimed greenie you might think I would be involved with this significant show of environmental concern and creativity. However, having failed to either ingratiate myself as a journalist for the event, or come up with the 910 conference fee, I sit here on my tush. Al Gore, the keynote conference speaker, will just have to go on without me. Having also missed the conference on sustainable tourism in November that would have been free to attend, I think I have safely established myself as not a leader in environmental thought for the Faroe Islands. -a

Apr 6, 2008

the rule

This afternoon as I shellacked my eyelashes with a new brand of mascara, I kicked myself for breaking the most fundamental Law of Transitory Faroese Living: Don't buy anything. The well-designed, high quality Scandinavian products that fill Faroese store shelves often tempt me away from this mantra, but my after-purchase rush is always followed by a guilty crash when I remember that the same product bought almost anywhere else in the world would cost anywhere from 30% to 70% less. Case in point: Yesterday I purchased mascara and concealer from The Body Shop. These cosmetic basics are listed for $12 and $15.50 respectively on the Web site, while I paid almost $60 for the exact same items. For that price I could have bought products from virtually any high-end line in the United States. Better yet, I could have just saved $30. This reality makes it hard for Ben and I to fully engage in life here. Even as we work to be present spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, we continually draw away because we know that whatever "it" is can wait to be bought "when we leave," giving our time in the Faroes a temporary feel. Even easier is to order everything but our food through the Internet. With taxes (at least 25%) and shipping included, still offers significant savings. This temptation directly pits our values of supporting the local economy and saving the carbon cost of shipping against our economic reality. -a

Apr 4, 2008


One Italian Thursday Ben and I visited this family-owned vineyard in the Campobasso region. Located within sight of the Adriatic Sea, our first two questions were, "Is it for sale?" and "Do you take IOU's?" Locals can bring their own plastic bottles and get white, rose, rosso or merlot wines pumped gas station-style at about 7 euro/5 liters. The bulk of grapes are harvested by machine and aged in the enormous metal tanks. The select grapes, however, are harvested by hand and the wine is aged in these French oak barrels. Our guide told us that it was very important that the barrels have both dark and quiet for the wine to develop properly. -a&b