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25 February, 2014

27 Degrees

These shots are from January 20th, and it may or may not have been 27 degrees Fahrenhite, but it was one of those crisp high pressure days. Apparently, I only take pictures at Mission Creek. I do like the arcs and watery sinuousities in this shot.

Turn clockwise 27* degrees, and you sees this. The beach's shelly curves are still there, but so too are a straight stream, logs, the distant horizon, and even a sign, it's verticality standing alone. Land looming large, shadows anchoring the right side. Good in it's way, but I think the top shot's better.

* Maybe not exactly 27. Maybe a boringly even 30 degrees. I just said 27 because it is 3 cubed.

24 February, 2014

Straight Outta Compton, MG!

"Bang, broken like glass and plastic"  -Kurupt 2006
(or for old schoolers, "Broken glass everywhere" -Grandmaster Flash 1982)

No, the title is not a MF-in' typo, OK?!

Just a reference to the Maywood Glass Company, of Compton, California, whose mark is the MG at the left. I heard that Dr. Dre's uncle worked there, maybe. Made a bottle that got drunk sometime during or after 1951 (so sayeth the "51" in the right-hand square), and ended up broken on a beach in Olympia. The stipply texture was known as Duraglas when it came out about a decade earlier.

Nothing but a coastal thing brought this gLAss up north, so I guess I cannot resort to my usual "globalization is older than you thought it was, you punk-ass kid" rant (as if punk-ass kids even gave a shit). Nor do I have any clue whether any of NWA's aggregate ancestry worked at Maywood Glass, so I cannot in all honesty conjure some Afro-Scandanavian tale of unity or anything else.

Um, yeah. That's it. I guess this post really should be filed under ArchaeOlygy.

19 February, 2014

The Real Paleo Diet

Keep walking, paleo dudes; it's bound to warm up someday.

Because I procrastinate, other people have beat me to the punch, but rest assured that this archaeologist has had it in for The Paleo Diet (TPD) since first learning that it was not a joke. The book, the fad, and the spin-offs have as much to do with the actual diet of Paleolithic peoples as Indiana Jones has to do with the Nazi-free tedium of actual archaeology.

The ideal is that if we ate like our early human (or pre-human for that matter) ancestors, we'd avoid being diabetic lardasses. TPD's inventor, Loren Cordain, has a PhD in health, and I suppose I could snipe at his utter lack of awareness of what Paleolithic people actually ate (and more importantly, I hope you will see, what they did to procure those calories), or lower myself to the credentials attack so favored by archaeological and other academics.

But instead, let's just take a look at where The Paleo Diet fails to be the paleo diet. Let's see what it really took to feed ourselves in the pre-agricultural world.

First off, nearly all of the fruits and veggies that you can gorge on in The Paleo Diet, well, they didn't exist in the Paleolithic. As a phase of human development, despite its many accomplishements, the Paleolithic is adamantly non-agricultural, so much so that archaeologists inserted the Mesolithic as a buffer, just to make sure that any latent or proto-agricultural pursuits (selecting, seeding, and weeding of wild food patches, for example) were excluded from the early times. You want to go Paleo? Then forget the "fruits and veggies" allowed by Dr. Cordain, because nearly all of them are from species domesticated over generations by post-Paleo peoples. Eggs? Not unless you grab 'em from under a wild bird or reptile (or monotreme, I guess, if you live down under). Macadamia nut oil? You've gotta be kidding.

Hooray! A wild berry; just don't eat it all at once.
Modern Americans tend to think of unfamiliar and ethnic-sounding foods as more primitive/pristine, but many of them still fall far short of being Paleo. Acting like your quinoa concoction is "wild" is an insult to the Inca (and before them, Wari and Tiahuanacu) farmers who domesticated it, and to the hippies who continue to grow it up north. Go gather goosefoot yourself, if you want something less sullied by the selective hand of man.

But the list of what you can eat and be Paleo is only part of the argument for TPD's bullshititude. A roster of  What Thou Shall Not Eat to remain truly Paleo makes the strictures of Leviticus look easy. No crops, no domesticated animals, and sure as hell no mammal-milk from the wild creatures (defined as: everyone but mom).

Paradoxically, the Paleo person may also have had more choices than the Kosher observant, if only because we have no clue about religious strictures in the way distant past. You are hungry, and you spy some crayfish or lizards, eat them. If you die soon after, your smarter relatives avoid those species. If your life consists of wandering the earth in search of food to simply remain standing, your religion may have more to do with Thanks than with Rules.

Speaking of wandering, get used to it. A key component of Paleolithic nutrition is walking. Needless to say, no catching a bus to the store or even driving to your favorite foraging spot. Sadly, being in modern America, it must be pointed out that there would be no horses, dinosaurs, or other mounts to relieve your feet. Trekking across the land, searching for food, hauling it back home, and doing all the prep with tools you have to make  yourself,...takes a lot of energy. Be careful not to burn more calories than you can hunt or gather (but Rejoice! for all this walking keeps you trim and slim). Oh, and be ready to pull up stakes and move camp a few times a year, because hunting depletes game, and plants grow where they want, not where you would consider it convenient, oh ye pre-agricultural Paleo person.

And speaking of housing, your only heat is a fire, the fuel for which must also be gathered, which may involve a lot more walking, returning with heavy loads. Then you stoke the fire in your cave or saplings-and-bark or whalebones-and-sod dwelling. Hope your Paleo food is healthy, because you will be in close quarters with other humans and their ailments, not to mention the constant smoke from the fire.

So, are we clear? The real Paleolithic diet is probably pretty damned healthy, assuming you don't eat a toxic plant or mollusc, and that your hovel-mates are healthy, and that you are killed suddenly in a hunting accident before lung disease kicks in. But anything touched by the hand of man, not just processed, but domesticated, is a sham. Anything bought rather than hunted or pulled off the landscape? Nope. A life of constant walking, clothing yourself in what you can tan or weave, eating what you can find,...that life is probably going to give you a healthy body until a mastodon rips you a new one, or years of breathing sand and smoke chokes you, or whatever.

Or, you can feast on spelt and walnut oil, broccolini and mangoes. There are plenty of healthy ways to subsist. Just don't call it Paleo until you've doing it with your own stone and bone tools, and eating only the wildest of foods in your humblest of abodes.

01 February, 2014


The Mountain in February, as seen through a donut o' snow.

People love to hate February. Once the Superbowl is over, so is the American patience with Winter, no more holidays, just dreary months ahead before things warm up. I had a friend who whined through the whole month last year, and the sentiment is widespread. A Winter's worth of griping gets packed into 28 days.

Oh well.

I like February. Around here, it's one of our many Springs. Bulbs are popping up, alliums putting on growth in the lengthening days. Even on the colder Plateau, this month is when the first of the First Foods emerge. The days have been getting longer since December, but the light of January is still just a slanting sliver. In February, we're halfway to Equinox, and they days are finally brighter enough to notice, especially is we're graced with the Week of Gleaming Sun that pries open most Salish Winters.

Snow donuts, pretty even on a cloudy day.
Not that the only things February has to offer are meteorological. There's 42 Day, when you can celebrate anything or nothing, or maybe throw a Burt Reynolds themed party in honor of the mustache legend's birthday. The usual February also lays claim to being the only month that presents a nice neat four-week package. No other month is so in synch with the lunar cycle.

Then there's February 29th, a day so precious it comes but once a quadrenniad. An extra day, and a reminder of February's trickster nature. Not pinned down to a particular duration, an extra "r" whose pronunciation confuses many (it's mastery requires subtle refinement, and is an aural secret handshake to the non-deaf cogniscenti). February can lull you with a beautiful day or grind you down with a rough one.

What? Am I admitting that February days can be cold, that the weight of prior months of Winter does not press down on this diminutive month? Yeah, I guess I am.

But then I'm a stoic, to a degree. If all you can do in the face of sub-ideal conditions is whine about them, then by all means, enjoy your misery. If the only way you can deal with the tail end of Winter is by looking ahead toward some imaginary Utopian Spring, then fine, but you're missing Now. I get some grim satisfaction from staring down the cold rain and knowing I'll outlast it. There is joy in crouching down on creaky joints and reaching fingers into the earth again, dead frigid as it may feel now, clearing the first weeds and planting the first seeds (without some toil, that Spring won't be so idyllic).

I know the temptation is there to scapegoat February for all your long-Winter, post-Holiday blues, but try to enjoy it. Small beauties emerge this month, the Trickster is planting surprises. You'll get through it just fine.