Friday, October 13, 2006

Slow checkins

This year we have not just olives, but yoga and olives. Accordingly my da kine airwagon, normally used for moving kites, kiteboards and wet suits was stuffed with sleeping bags and yoga gear. The airwagon is a formidable sight. Its big. Way big. Not big enough to throw baggage handlers in the DR, but big enough to throw the nice folks at Lufthansa, who held me at the checkin counter for 45 minutes while they wondered if they could take the bag. Eventually, they decided to charge me for a surfboard explaining, with some embarrassment, "Its a 50% surcharge." Because they made such a big deal of it, I thought "50% of my ticket == $500!".
Fortunately the amount was $65. I have no idea what that was 50% of, but I was happy to pay it, until they added: "Of course, we don't know if it can leave Munich. Air Dolomiti may not take it."
Arriving in Pisa, I was a bit apprehensive, but the bag arrived and in Pisa they handled it as ordinary luggage. Go figure.
Happy as I was to see my bag, I was much happier when I saw Sabi waiting. Getting the airwagon into her car was impossible, but by unpacking it we were able to make things work.
Great chat on the way home, as always.
Arriving home, a thinner version of Gimmi emerged from the observatory. Our stars must be in alignment as we are losing weight at about the same rate. Cool.
Pat and Paul had arrived some days before. Good to see everyone.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pandora Internet Radio - Find New Music, Listen to Free Web Radio

"Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?

"Those questions often evolved into great conversations. Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs." -- Pandora

I quickly created a 'station' based upon Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Loryetta Lynn, Carla Thomas and covers of Give It Up Or Let Me Go by Raitt, the Dixie Chicks, and Karrin Allyson & got a great station -- material from the Etta James, the Pretenders and Muddy Waters showed up & it was on the mark.
Of course, there were many misses, but its still pretty cool.

Plus: I made a few small discoveries: Liz Phair & I'd forgotten how much I liked the Pretenders (Brass In Pocket).

But I quickly lost control and created a Link Wray station with X-Ray Spex (Warrier in Woolworths I had not heard in 10 years!), Joan Jett and some Clash & Sex Pistols. What a great station -- P J Harvey came to visit!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Crescent Moon and Three Planets

On the 20th, Mercury will be positioned just over 1-degree directly above Saturn, both planets positioned below and to Venus’ left. A narrowing crescent Moon will slide past Venus on the mornings of the 21st and 22nd. That same sliver of Moon—less than 36 hours from new phase—will be passing well above and to the left of Saturn on the morning of the 22nd. By then, Mercury will have brightened to magnitude –1.4, matching Sirius (the brightest star in the sky).
Thanks to Joe Rao

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Astronomy in Tuscany

A new observatory is being constructed near Pisa. The site has been carefully selected to optimize proximity to the stars on one hand and proximity to olives and coconut curry on the other.

Headed to Calci

I bought tickets for Pisa today; Pisa is 10 k from Calci, where my friends Sabina and Gimmi have olives and host olive pickers from all over. Watch this space for more on this year's crowd.

  • Check out Gimmi's coverage of ice climbing in the western alps. Fantastic photos and interesting commentary.
  • The Calci Observatory is under construction and worth checking out. Olive pickers can get fresh photos of the amazing formations each day. A priceless introduction to the heavens and digital photograpy/processing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stories in search of an author...

Extra Virgin Olive Oil :: the truth & the fiction
Extra virgin oil comes from the first pressing. OK, but at the coop Gimmi and Sabina use, there is no second pressing -- 90% of the oil is extracted on the first pass. However, the oil is kept cool and isolated from air & light. The process is better than traditional pressing with a stone which exposes the oil to air, light as well as heating it. A visit to Frantoio allows one to see the traditional technique and have a decent dinner as well. They would probably allow photos. A second visit and photo shoot at the coop near Calci would allow an interesting contrast. Interviews with the wide assortment of people who show up to Shepperd their olives through the coop would expose some interesting, and passionate, characters.
Tuscans View the Visitors
In terms of sheer numbers, most people at the harvest are from Tuscany. What do they think of all the outsiders who step on olives, can't prune properly, and (probably) can't talk for all practical purposes? Sabina, with her insight into multiple cultures and deep language ability would probably make a fine translator.
Slow Food in and Near Pisa/Calci
Slow Food publishes a series of regional guidebooks. A survey, based on sample meals, of course, of what is available in the area would provide nice context.
Agriturismo in and Near Pisa/Calci
Agriturismo both a survey and critique would be interesting. Many so-called agriturismo operations are pretty thinly disguised tax shelters, etc. Are any of the farms nearby the real deal?
Organic, Local, Sustainable
How are Italians viewing those issues? Mariella would be a gold mine. She and Marco introduced me to slow food 7 years ago. [I'm forever in their debt.] She also has a family farm in Mezzano where we had a household reunion 7 years ago. This stuff is in her blood.
Italy and California
California Mission Olives vs. Tuscan?
Taste tests would be interesting. Might be fun to bring some oil to Calci. Comparison of techniques for growing, harvesting, and pressing might be more interesting. The economics would also be interesting. Are prices for quality California olives so high because the have to be? because upscale Marinites have lots of disposable income after they buy their yoga mats? Are California prices really higher than comparable quality from Italy?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Shark Fin Soup :: How I Became a Basketball Fan

A Yao Ming fan to be more precise.

Northwest Florida Daily News: NBA star Yao Ming swears off shark's fin soup in wildlife protection campaign: "BEIJING (AP) - NBA star Yao Ming pledged Wednesday to give up eating shark's fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, as he joined a campaign to promote wildlife protection.

'Endangered species are our friends,' Yao said at a news conference organized by the London-based conservation group WildAid.

The group said China is the world's biggest importer of shark's fins, which conservationists say are cut from sharks that are thrown back into the ocean to die.

'As the human population increases, many wildlife species are decreasing, and the primary reason is that humans fail to treat animals as friends,' said Yao, who played for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team before moving to the Houston Rockets."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Farmer's Market San Rafael Civic Center

to start...
Sourdough breads from Pt. Reyes & some goat cheese from Bodega Bay.
Duck w/lots of fat.
Olives from somewhere in California, but I forgot where.
bbq appitizer...
wild boar sausage
moraccan lamb & beef sausage
main course...
tomatoes with tomatoes
wild arugula with tomatoes
cucumbers with tomatoes
garlic with tomatoes
basil with tomatoes
water cress and butter lettuce with tomatoes
tomatoes and olive oil + balsamic vinigar
extra bbq for the hungry...
grilled corn, picked this morning
grilled egplant
extra fruit for the hungry...
green figs w/walnuts
desert is on its way...