Friday, June 30, 2017

Hodgepodge 244/365 - Shrimp

The other day I wrote about salmon (for eating). Today we bought some shrimp to cook up in a stir-fry, and as I shelled them, I wondered if we'd bought a "best choice," or even an "alternative choice," as deemed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. Here are my findings:

The splash page for shrimp at Seafood Watch has this summary: "Most 'Best Choice' shrimp ('ebi' in sushi) is caught in Alaska, but there are other great farmed and wild options. . . . Only buy imported shrimp if you’re sure it’s from a 'Best Choice' or 'Good Alternative' source. Over 90% of shrimp on the U.S. market is imported."

My shrimp are not from Alaska. They are previously frozen farmed critters from India. I will be very surprised if they pass muster.

But first: do you know the difference between a shrimp and a prawn? It's not a matter of size (large = prawn, small = shrimp), or of national preference (Brits tend to call prawns what we Americans refer to as shrimp). They are actually different species, in different suborders of the order Decapoda (phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Crustacea). The basic differences are as shown here:

So in fact, what we here in Monterey Bay call spot prawns are actually
. . . shrimp. (Getting a grilled "spot prawn" with its brood of eggs is always a treat. Yes, really.)

But never mind all that. Basically, what we eat here in the U.S. is "shrimp." No need to complicate things with taxonomy.

Back to what's on our table. There are 15 "Best Choices," including trapped, trawled and pond-raised shrimp/prawns of various sorts: whiteleg, spot, sidestriped, northern, coonstriped; giant tiger and giant freshwater prawn. Most are caught or grown in Canada (western and eastern), Alaska, the U.S., and South and Central America, but some types are grown "worldwide."

There are 29 "Good Alternatives," including Atlantic seabob shrimp; brown rock and Pacific rock shrimp; and pink, royal red, and white shrimp. Methods include otter trawls, bottom trawls, skimmer trawls, plain ol' trawls, and also ponds of various sorts.

And, let's just cut to the chase: there are 39 shrimp types to be "Avoided." I'm betting our Indian shrimp are on this list. Of course, I have no idea just what kind of shrimp we bought: the sign just said, shrimp, with a count per pound. But let's say it's whiteleg shrimp: the Indian variety is definitely under the NO category. The reasons? In short, "The industry is made up of thousands of farms, so there's low confidence that the available data is accurate and up-to-date. Data on environmental impacts is especially limited. There's also a lack of data on antibiotic use, and it's likely that antibiotics listed as critically important to human health are used. Published information on the frequency, magnitude, or impacts of escapes is also unavailable." Basically, we don't know if the Indian aquaculturists are doing an environmentally responsible job, or whether they use antibiotics (which is one of the chief harms of poorly managed aquaculture ventures—trying to keep crowded populations healthy, or at least alive). So if we don't know? Best to avoid. Sigh.

Well, I just heard "Dinner's ready." I guess this will be my last shrimp feast until I can find a more sustainable source. Or maybe I should just switch to vegetarianism. That would be a whole lot easier than being a responsible omnivore . . .

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hodgepodge 243/365 - Jim Brandenburg

I don't remember how I first stumbled on the work of National Geographic nature photographer Jim Brandenburg. It wasn't through the magazine; it may have been through the 1998 book Chased by the Light: A 90-Day Journey, on the recommendation of a friend. The project was to create one—only one (but one exquisite)—photograph every day between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Brandenburg lives in the northern woods of Minnesota, and his subject matter coursed through big changes during that ninety-day span. Several years later, he repeated the project in Looking for the Summer (summer solstice to autumnal equinox). He has also published several books on wolves, as well as a couple about southern Africa and the North American prairie.

Lately, when I remember, I follow him on Facebook: for ten years now he's been working with film, documenting his wild place up north, and he shares the moving pictures with his followers. His current project, in collaboration with French director Laurent Joffrion, is called Nature 365: a daily short video put together from those ten years' worth of films (for 365 days, 1/1 to 12/31—no wonder he's near and dear to my heart!). You can see a short introduction to the project here—and then click on the "Daily videos" tab and explore. It's worth the trip.

But go find Chased by the Light and Looking for the Summer: they are full of beauty and solace. And just for fun, here's Jim's blog. And finally, here's a recent (2016) story about him on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.

But really, don't you want to see a few of his photos? Sure you do. Here. (As always, click on the images to view them large on black.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hodgepodge 242/365 - Web Humor

The Web is a cornucopia of . . . well, pretty much everything. Occasionally I stumble on an absurdist website that absolutely delights me. Here's two of them:

The Nietzsche Family Circus, wherein images from the really stupid comic "Family Circus" are randomly paired with quotes from Nietzsche. The results make me almost glad that "Family Circus" exists. Here are a few (random, of course) examples:

And then there's xkcd: Existence Proof—A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Another random sample:

From xkcd, I have just now discovered A Softer World, which has now ended, but: archives! It looks like fun. I'll be exploring it further. Here's a sample:

And finally, one that I discovered the day after I posted this, via Facebook (of course): Math with Bad Drawings. For example, from "Commencement Speeches for Mathematicians":

P.S. 8/14/17: Found this one today, and am adding: drawninpowerpoint. Here's today's. It's not funny. It's deadly serious. But "humor" isn't always funny. Sometimes it drives a point home in a profoundly graspable way.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Holdgepodge 241/365 - Poetry (Mary Oliver)

Peonies are a favorite flower of mine, although we're not in the right climate to grow them, so I get to enjoy them but rarely. I just learned that a single peony plant can live a hundred years! And yet the blossoms are so delicately beautiful. Here's a very Zen poem by Mary Oliver about peonies.


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open—
pools of lace,
white and pink—
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities—
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again—
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hodgepodge 240/365 - The Maple Kind?

We were off gallivanting all day today—seeing old friends we haven't seen in way too long, while walking on a lovely path near Avila Beach down by San Luis Obispo; doing some geocaching (of course); and then having dinner with some friends we've not really socialized with before, in Paso Robles—three hours of great food and conversation in a warm outdoor dining area. So pleasant!

But it is now three minutes before midnight and I haven't done my blog post. So . . . something really quick and dirty: one of my favorite talking-animal videos. I never get tired of this one.

I'll try to be more serious tomorrow.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hodgepodge 239/365 - Afternoon Outing

Thanks to
(Nature Photography by Pam & Richard)
for the cute shot of the cute chicks
We took the afternoon off to do a little geocaching, heading north to Moss Landing and beyond. This took us to strawberry and artichoke fields; the tidal estuary that is Elkhorn Slough, where we saw lounging harbor seals and cavorting sea otters, dabbling long-billed curlews and marbled godwits, and divebombing Caspian terns; and the ocean, where we saw whale spouts (humpbacks, I'm guessing). It was a glorious afternoon! (We did not find all the caches we were looking for, but that's par for the course. What counts is, we got out and looked—and we found some of them, and that's always good. And at one of the DNF locales, we saw the darlingest little baby Western gulls, looking like clowns with their downy spots—so, definitely a win on the cute front!)

Here's some photos I took today.

Pajaro River: the northern border of Monterey County
Strawberry fields (taken at same spot as above photo,
but looking in the opposite direction)
Moss Landing sand spit with lounging harbor seals (and gulls)
Moss Landing power plant and Eklhorn Slough outlet
You probably can't see the whale spout, but it's there
The stacks reminded me that I should work on my project
Elkhorn Slough looking inland
Salt flat
Fierce mama (the chicks are on the right)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hodgepodge 238/365 - Numbers II

Two years ago, in the first iteration of this (wretched) blog (I should not call it wretched, but sometimes it sure feels that way), I did a post about my "numbers project." I described the undertaking there, so here I will just add a few more numbers. Let's focus on 1 through 10. I need to keep filling in the blanks to 100, of which there are maybe a dozen (blanks, that is). And I'd like to just keep collecting more: it's fun to spot numbers in the landscape. (Click on the images to see large on black.)

San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz Island
Fort Ord Dunes State Park, Monterey
Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach

And just because: