Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Get Smart With Phone, Rockfish Rebound, Fight IS By Shooting Back

When we get smart, smart phones can change the world; rockfish rebound so now let’s eat; why don’t gun-rights activists go to Syria and Iraq instead of wasting their time trying to get arrested in Olympia?

If you have a smart phone and are a ding-dong who talks or texts while driving, consider the recent development of being able to do a test in 15 minutes on an iPhone for HIV and syphilis. Yes, it does require a pin-prick worth of blood and an low-power attachment called a “dongle,” but this follows equally remarkable advances in being able to do remote testing for other blood-borne diseases like malaria. In any case, it helps to get smart with these smart phones because the state legislature might make cell phone use when behind the wheel a violation that would go on a driver’s record. Want to see what State Patrol would say when you say you were only fooling around with your dongle?

The news about rockfish along the west coast is good: conservation and fisheries management brought stocks back far enough for us to eat them again. Well, I’m not sure anybody noticed that rockfish were not available in local markets but the problem, according to the story, was that, unlike the iconic salmon, Sebastes goes by so many different names that confusion reigns over what’s been really saved. In Puget Sound, yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish and bocaccio came under federal protection and recovery last year in 590 square miles of near-shore habitat for young rockfish and 414 square miles of deepwater habitat for adults. Of course, since you don’t know the name of the rockfish you may have hooked and rockfish don’t do well after you land them, we might just as well keep our line out of the water, wait until Puget Sound Sebates recover, then get the dinner plate ready.

Now, in the spirit of public health and safety, a modest suggestion for gun-rights activists who went to Olympia last week with their armaments to get arrested for carrying firearms into the legislature’s viewing gallery. The State Patrol locked the gallery and no one got arrested. "What's the world coming to when there are people who want to break the law and they won't let you do it?" one activist complained. Now, now: instead of pledging, “I will not comply” and wearing identify apparel emblazoned with “Fight Tyranny – Shoot Back,” these patriots should go to Syria and iraq where, according to the Associated Press, 20,000 foreigners are headed to join up with the Islamic State. Take your guns, fight IS, shoot back!

--Mike Sato

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Walk To Work, Eat The Fish, and Wash Your Hands

This week on changing the world, eating and health: Potential world changer James Robertson walks 21 miles round trip to work, food for thought about halibut and how it’s caught, and whose health is this anyway?

James Robertson (AP)
James Robertson's car broke down 10 years ago and, given the deplorable state of bus service in Detroit, he's been walking to work and back-- and having perfect attendance. Since the Detroit Free Press publicized his story, he's been the recipient of a massive crowd-sourced fundraising campaign, offers to buy him a car and bicycle, door-to-work-and-back shuttle bus service, and help to manage his new found fortune. I hope he'll be a world changer and continue walking or maybe spur Detroit into reviving its bus system. After all, if you think the traffic's bad now, the US Department of Transportation says it's not going to get any better over the next 30 years with an additional 700 million people joining us-- unless we make some major changes. Walk on by, Mr. Robertson.

If you like food like halibut, you liked the news in the Seattle Times that the International Halibut Commission recommended increasing catch limits to 29.2 million pounds in 2015. Catch limits are set for separate areas off the shores of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. One problem in establishing catch limits has been the state of the halibut stock in the Bering Sea where trawlers harvest halibut that have to be thrown back. The commission estimated that more than 8 million pounds of halibut were netted as bycatch last year, discarded and died. But the commission went ahead and allowed halibut catch in the Bering Sea area anyway. Fish to feed over 16 million people wasted in bycatch, sad.

Public health, I always thought, was dealing with the health of the public but some of the recent pronouncements about vaccination have focused on private health, as if it's an individual's right to reject immunization against communicable disease and, if you exercise that right, it's OK to put others, the public, at risk. OK, maybe that wasn't what Sen. Rand Paul meant earlier this week, then recanted as the week went by. [Rand Paul Now Says He Shares Obama's Position On Vaccinations ] Maybe there’s something in the water these guys drink. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis thinks restaurants should not have to make their employees wash their hands after toilet visits. [US senator questions forcing food workers to wash hands ] According to Sen. Tillis, it's a burden when government regulates businesses and restaurants that did not require hand washing would have to alert customers by displaying signs. Uh, oh-- signs which government would have to regulate and enforce. Take another drink, senators.

--Mike Sato

Friday, January 30, 2015

Failing Science, Eating Salamanders, and Seahawk Fever vs. Avian Flu

We’re not going to change the world, for the better we hope, if we don’t use best available science. And let’s not consider endangered species as delicacies for fat cat palates. And, oh, go ‘Hawks but wash your hands.

Nope, nobody’s going to change the world for the better as long as there’s this big difference between how scientists and citizens see science and society. A Pew Research Center poll finds scientists highly esteemed by citizens but that scientists and citizens hold differing views on genetically modified foods, pesticide use, nuclear power, evolution, overpopulation, childhood vaccinations, and human-causes of global warming. According to almost all scientist polled, there’s a problem: people don’t know what they’re talking about.

On the food front, add to the plight of the white rhino, the wolf and the elephant, the rare Chinese giant salamander. The BBC reports that that senior security officials ate a critically endangered giant salamander, also considered a

delicacy, at a lavish banquet. The salamander, which can grow to nearly six feet, was allegedly feasted on in the southern city of Shenzhen. Photographers taking pictures of the attendees were reportedly beaten by police.

Seahawk fever reaches its peak on Super Bowl Sunday and backyard poultry growers around Agnew on the Olympic Peninsula can rest easy that their flocks tested negative for the spreading avian flu virus. There are several subtypes infecting commercial and wild bird populations, including the subtype A(H7N9) which

has infected two people in British Columbia. The virus passes from bird-to-bird much easier than to humans and human-to-human transmittal doesn’t happen easily. Call the health department if you find dead birds. Meanwhile, go ‘Hawks.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Braille Lego Printer, United Nations Food, and “A Few Stupid Extremists”

Yes, let’s change the world: Last week it was Bill Gates drinking water purified from sewage, this week it’s a 13-year old’s prototype of a simple Braille printer built from Legos.  California teenager Shubham Banerjee, with encouragement and investment from his parents, developed a low-cost machine to print the tactile writing system used by the visually impaired. Intel Corp. is interested enough to invest in his startup, Braigo Lab . Brialle printers currently cost about $2,000. Says Shubham, “I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this." (Boy, 13, builds Braille printer with Legos, starts company) Write on!

I’ve always believed if we’d share and eat each other’s food, we’d fight less. To that end, I’ve been savoring the pages of Lonely Planet’s Food Lover’s Guide to the World. This week, public radio reported on Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden’s New York City project to have dinner parties featuring the foods of each of the 193 United Nations member states. “As they cooked food from Algeria to Djibouti to Guyana, United Noshes hosted dinners that ranged from just a few friends gathered around a living room table, to dozens of guests assembled in a banquet hall. And the ingredients have ranged as well — from cashew juice to French charcuterie to fermented corn flour.” (United Noshes: Dinner Party Aims To Eat Its Way Through Global Cuisine). Eat on!

And, thus far in 2015 public health, there were “a few stupid extremists” who “handled their firearms unsafely.” French murderers at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli? Nope, Second Amendment gun rights advocates in the state legislature’s public gallery. The quote is from Alan Gottlieb of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms who was working hard to distance the “stupid” from other gun rights protesters. (House bans openly carried weapons in public gallery)

At the same time, sounding not much different than extremist Islamists, legislator Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) was proclaiming: “This is a culture war, folks. They don't like what we do, and they want to control what we do." (Hundreds of gun-rights activists rally at Washington Capitol)

Brian, Alan! Eat first, talk later!

--Mike Sato

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The 12th Man On MLK Day

Hard to sit down and compose a Martin Luther King Day blog after watching the end of Sunday’s Seattle Seahawk game. The 12th Man/Woman in houses up and down the neighborhood street yelled himself/herself hoarse. I hope they yell as hard for justice on Monday but race, civil rights, equal opportunity, domestic abuse, gender equality aren’t as simple as a football game, regardless of how much some people might think of sports as a metaphor for life.

The football league is sponsoring 30-second public service announcements featuring football players who are shown having a hard time talking about domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m not sure who those messages are addressed to. I don’t have any difficulty talking about domestic violence and sexual abuse: I can look directly into a camera and say unequivocally that domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong and that anyone who behaves that way or condones that behavior is a creep, period.

Can we do the same for race and gender? Look directly into the camera and say, unequivocally, that discrimination in employment, housing, policing, health care, education is wrong? That it doesn’t matter what you might think or feel, but anyone who behaves that way or condone that kind of behavior is a creep, period?

Is “creep” too mild? What would you call them?

Yes, I know: behavior like that is against the law. But laws are sand, custom is rock. Unless custom changes, the creeps continue to behave, well, like creeps. As long as someone feels like they have power over another, they will not stand as equals and the opportunity to be a creep continues.

If all you want to do is educate, make more 30-second public service annoucements? I think it’s better to start right now by calling out the creeps, as hard and dangerous as it is, and to talk and keep talking about equal justice for all. Louder. We might even change some behavior and that would make Dr. King happy.

Ready to yell for justice, 12th Man, 12th Woman?

--Mike Sato

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Having A Drink With Bill Gates

Bill Gates
Starting out a new year writing with a blank sheet of paper requires examining the kinds of things I’d enjoy writing about. Oh, there’s the obligatory flogging of elected officials and regulators, black-hatted oil and coal and railroad guys, obscene profit-taking developers and bankers. But we’ll save that for another time because today, at the end of the first week of our national Congressional session and our state legislative session, here are three stories I’d rather tell you about:

What a great photo op: Bill Gates drinking a glass of water which five minutes earlier contained raw sewage which had been converted to clean water, electricity and ash. Thanks to the Gates Foundation and to the engineering prowess of Janicki Bioenergy  (in Sedro Wooley!), here’s technology that can literally change the world. Hello, Victoria! Peter Janicki explains all.

Leila and Miles Landis

This past month I spent time with my cousin who has been hospitalized because of complications arising from renal failure and dialysis. I came to appreciate how difficult life is with failing kidneys and on Wednesday happened upon a rebroadcast of KPLU reporter Gabriel Spitzer’s  Sound Effect interview, What It’s Like To Spend Your Late 20s On Dialysis, Then Be Saved By A Gift . I swear, after you listen to Leila Mirhaydari tell her story, you will feel so full of her energy, happiness, her joie de vivre that you will want to hug someone. I did.

And on Thursday morning I got an email asking whether I’d heard the “Chinese food” story about General Tso chicken. I had not but found a TED Radio interview from this past November with Jennifer 8.
Lee, Where Does General Tso Chicken Actually Come From?  Then by Thursday afternoon, Florangela Davila’s story, How The Non-Chinese History Of General Tso's Chicken Helps Explain Life As A Second-Gen American, had been posted, featuring a preview of Jennifer’s upcoming documentary, The Search for General Tso .

Now, that’s the kind of stuff I want to be writing about: food, healing, changing the world...

Great way to start out the news year. Much more interesting than Congress and the Legislature, don’t you think?

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last Minute Shopping Thoughts

If the 25th is your big day, then you really ought to be done with the shopping. Here’s to hoping you stayed within a reasonable budget in giving gifts that, well, mean something. I think affordable and meaningful over the years has become more and more difficult to achieve.

The little ones are the easiest, despite what expectations might be drilled into their heads by television advertising or other kids at school. The older they get, the harder it gets to match taste, budget and expectation. As for adults, the style nowadays is to eschew ‘things’ in favor of ‘experiences’ but one needs to be pretty brave to gift an evening of candles and amateur massage in lieu of a spa afternoon at the Chrysalis.

The gifts I am giving this year fall within my comfort level of used and new books I know well enough to give and items like guides and language aids that might enable an experience to be had. I’ve always admired people who are able to pick out the perfect piece of clothing, jewelry or pottery as gifts. Maybe the affordable part of gift giving is sacrificed for the meaningful; in any case I can’t be critical of something I can’t do.

By the end of Christmas day we will each have opened our gifts and I hope most are meaningful either because of what the giver meant or what the gift means in itself. I hope we will not be surrounded by different but simply more things. Too many things— stuff-- crowd our lives. I don’t mean gifts have to be jaw-dropping experiences or hand crafted; they can be things off the shelf but let them be imbued with a story that give them meaning: “I got that blue casserole dish for you only after knocking down two old ladies and snatching the last one off the shelf!”

Thinking about the equation of things-- where they are made, who makes them, who sells them, who buys them— I know that my part is in the buying end. When I buy, someone gets a wage, fair or unfair; someone gets a return on investment, fair or obscene.  If I think about it too much, I start drawing all kinds of un-Christmas-like conclusions and family members remind me to get with the spirit of the season.

OK. That spirit for me isn’t with Charles Dickens and the old chestnut, A Christmas Carol, but with Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and one of the parts I like best is about presents, things, gifts, stuff:

"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles's pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why." 
"Go on to the Useless Presents." 
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by a mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any color I please, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknel, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons."

It’s a great piece of writing that is my touchstone for Christmas. Read the whole piece here, A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Or, listen to the poet himself. Dylan Thomas, 1952: A Child's Christmas in Wales, A Story - Recorded at Steinway Hall, NY 

Merry Christmas.

--Mike Sato