Less Waste in the Cafeteria
Published on April 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how some schools are taking steps to cut down on food waste.

Here's an excerpt:

Shortly after my son gets on the bus in the morning, we find his empty breakfast dishes on the table.

For a while, we thought the boy was doing an excellent job of eating every last morsel. Then we thought the big dog was casually stretching her neck up to table level to lick off the plate as she walked by. Then we found the true culprit: the little dog, who first climbs on the chair to wash the plate for us, then climbs right onto the table to drink whatever milk the boy neglected.

My son says it’s fine, because he likes to share.

We try to share all our food waste. What we don’t eat, and the dogs don’t finish, goes to the chickens. They might get old rice, the leftover seafood chowder, bread crusts, sour milk. The chickens get the pre-meal waste too — the carrot scrapings and lettuce ends, the seedy middle of the peppers, the apple cores.

What no one can eat — orange peels, coffee grounds and egg shells, for example — goes into the compost. The kids have been trained to bring their lunch scraps home for the chickens or the compost, rather than dropping them in the trash can at school where they would invariably end up in a landfill.

It’s easy to eliminate food waste on a micro-level. The problem is the bigger places — those school cafeterias, for instance.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Avoiding the Sweep
Published on April 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how the Celtics narrowly avoided being swept by the Knicks, and why it doesn't really matter.

Click here to read it.

Watching "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Published on April 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "The Place Beyond the Pines." Or, as I like to call it, "The Film Set in Schenectady."

Here's an excerpt:

"When I was on vacation in Alabama, I kept seeing TV advertisements for 'The Place Beyond the Pines.'

'If you want to know what Schenectady looks like, that’s the movie to see,' I told my friends. I hadn’t seen 'Pines' yet, but everything I’d seen and read indicated that it captured the look and feel of the city, that it was set in a real place that would be immediately recognizable to the people who live here.

I made a special trip to the Bow Tie on Sunday to watch 'Pines' with Schenectady friends, because watching the film in the city where it was filmed seemed like the right thing to do. And I’m glad I did it. It was a kick to see local landmarks such as the Altamont Fairgrounds, Union College (the alma mater of one of my viewing companions) and the Route 7 Diner on the big screen. If you’ve ever wanted to see a motorcyle/police car chase through Vale Cemetery, well, this is your film. For me, a longtime dream of seeing the newspaper I work for represented in a Hollywood movie has now been fulfilled.

Let’s be honest: I would have enjoyed 'The Place Beyond the Pines' even if it was a terrible film. But it’s not a terrible film at all. In fact, 'Pines' is quite good — a stirring, epic tale of fathers and sons, familial responsibility and the inescapability of the past.

The film is ambitious, and there were a number of developments I found fairly implausible. But “'Pines’' scope is wide, and the film ultimately taps into greater truths, despite periodically threatening to drown in a sea of heavy-handed cliches about masculinity and fate. What distinguishes the film are its fine performances and director Derek Cianfrance’s knack for finding the raw emotion at the heart of every scene, as well as his knack for stunning visuals — he is a master of color and motion, imbuing each frame with a sort of gritty impressionism. The film is quite beautiful, in a downtrodden, working class kind of way."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Just Like Old Times
Published on April 29, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my vacation to the Deep South.

Here's an excerpt:

"For my spring vacation, I decided to take a road trip.

It had been about five years since I’d seen my Southern friends, and so I mapped out a route that would take me to Birmingham, Ala., where I lived and worked for several years after graduating from college.

But my first stop was in Virginia, at my friend Heather’s. I met Heather in Albany, when we lived on the same street, and I was excited to see her new house, where she’s putting into practice many of the things she’s long talked of doing: gardening and raising chickens, and building sculptures in a large backyard shed. Before I arrived, she asked whether I’d be willing to attend a mushroom party hosted by a member of her sustainable living group.

'What do you do at a mushroom party?' I asked.

'Cultivate mushrooms,' Heather replied.

She explained that she and her friends were hoping to grow their own shiitake mushrooms, and that this entailed drilling numerous holes in logs, nailing small wooden plugs colonized with mushroom spawn into the holes, and sealing the holes with wax.

I agreed to go, mainly because when I hear the word party, I imagine something fun, with music, drinks, snacks and interesting conversation. Instead, I found myself performing physical labor for about two hours, my ability to converse with people limited by the loud buzzing of drills and pounding of hammers. Once the logs were inoculated, Heather and I began carrying them over to a pickup truck and tossing them onto the flatbed.

'Just like old times, huh?' she said.

'Yup,' I said.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on April 29, 2013 by Sara Foss

The Central Park Five (2012) ***1/2

Ju Dou (1990) ***1/2

Leviathan (2012) ***1/2

Platform (2000) ***

No (2012) ***

Skin (2008) ***1/2

Why We Should Temper Our Enthusiasm About Paywalls
Published on April 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Paywalls are a good idea, but they are not a panacea for troubled newspapers.

The Awl demonstrates why in a nifty chart, which you can find here.

E.L. Konigsburg, R.I.P.
Published on April 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" was one of my favorite books growing up. 

The New Yorker has a nice tribute to the book's author, E.L. Konigsburg, who died earlier this week.

Don't Feed Me Onions
Published on April 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my hatred of onions.

Here's an excerpt:

In general, I like a lot of different kinds of food. But there is one vegetable I can’t stand: The onion. Whenever I order a sandwich, or a pizza, or an omelet, or any meal where the cook might try to sneak some onions into the mix, I make it clear that I don’t want onions anywhere me. My parents always thought I would grow out of my onion hatred, and for a long time persisted in ordering pizzas topped with onions, forcing me to surgically extract the offending vegetable with a fork and knife. In more recent times, I’ve managed to develop a liking for carmelized onions, because they’re a little bit like candy, but my general approach to onions remains avoidance and, if necessary, removal.

Because I hate onions, I assume that other people hate them, too. But some people assume the opposite. They assume that everybody loves onions, and wants to eat them. So consider this blog a public service campaign called “Not Everybody Likes Onions.” I decided this campaign was necessary on my vacation, when the only lunch option happened to be an onion sandwich. This is not something I want to eat.

Click here to read more.

Watching "No" and "Leviathan"
Published on April 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movies "No" and "Leviathan."

Here's an excerpt:

“'No' is a pretty engrossing political thriller that often feels like a cross between 'Mad Men' and 'Argo.'

But its surfaces are grimy and grungy, rather than slick and sophisticated, an aesthetic choice that reflects the wearying, day-to-day ugliness of living under the brutal rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film concerns a chapter of history I was completely unaware of: the national plebiscite of 1988, in which Chileans were asked to vote on whether Pinochet should rule another eight years, or whether there should be a democratic presidential election. The vote was held under pressure from the international community, and was initially viewed by Pinochet as an easy way to legitimize his reign in the eyes of the world. Each night the Yes campaign, which urged citizens to vote for Pinochet, and the No campaign, which urged voters to reject Pinochet, aired campaign advertisements that were viewed throughout the country. 'No' takes viewers inside the competing ad campaigns, focusing on a young advertising executive named Rene (Gael Garcia Bernal), who is hired to produce the No campaign; his co-worker at his advertising agency, Lucho (Alfredo Castro), is a Pinochet loyalist tapped to run the Yes campaign."

Click here to read the whole thing.


R.I.P., Christina Amphlett
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett died Sunday.

It's Still Earth Day
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about Earth Day.

Here's an excerpt:

Coming into April, my inbox was inundated with messages about Earth Day events and ideas. Some were hikes and planting days, seed-sharing ideas and energy-savings tips.

Far more were what I would classify as lightly greenwashed advertising campaigns. For Earth Day, I was told, I should use wheat-based natural kitty litter, wear appliquéed recycled T-shirts and eco-friendly bracelets, purchase sustainable wooden toys and become gorgeous with Earth Day-inspired beauty products.

Or I could just drink. “In celebration of Earth Day, raise a glass to the environment and enjoy these eco-friendly cocktails,” one email said, offering some recipes. I think it was from the same company that pushes cocktails for other big drinking holidays, like Father’s Day and Arbor Day.

I’m all for using Earth Day as a reminder about how to take care of the only home we have, just as fire departments use daylight saving time to remind us to check our smoke detectors. But just as we need smoke detectors every day, we need to care for our world every day.

Click here to read the whole thing.

My Favorite Albums
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list my favorite albums.

Here's an excerpt:

"Courtesy of the website The Awl, I learned that the Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled debut album came out 30 years ago this month. The Awl correctly identifies this album as 'one of the greatest albums ever recorded by anybody.' I discovered the Violent Femmes in middle school, as many kids do, and for years they were my favorite band. And though they’ve produced a number of fine albums and fine songs — I’m very partial to their 1991 album 'Why Do Birds Sing?', which contains the great song 'Out the Window' — their debut remains their best work: a sarcastic, aggressive, occasionally wistful blast of angst, sexual frustration and sneering punk-folk attitude. (Bandleader Gordon Gano wrote the songs on the debut when he was in high school, which might explain why generations of teenagers continue to discover this album and play it over and over and over again.)

Anyway, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with The Awl’s Violent Femmes piece, because the band’s 1983 album is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time. This made me wonder what my other favorite albums are, and I decided to put together a list. But when I sat down to type up a list, I quickly became stumped. For some reason, it seemed impossible to narrow my CD collection down to a list of five favorites."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Terror in Boston
Published on April 21, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the terror attacks in Boston, and how they made me angry.

Here's an excerpt:

"Normally, this column would be about my vacation.

That’s what I usually do after my vacations — write a column in which I describe my fun adventures, share humorous anecdotes and reflect upon what a good time I’ve had.

But I can’t write a vacation column this week.

As soon as I heard the terrible Boston Marathon news, from a passenger on my flight, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

I like information, and I called a colleague while walking down to baggage claim to get some. But she couldn’t answer my main question: whether a friend who was working at the medical tent was OK. I wasn’t the only one worrying, of course. People across the globe were asking similar questions, reaching out to friends and loved ones to make sure that they were OK.

And many people were not OK, which is why Monday was such a horrible day.

My fears were put to rest almost immediately, as my friend’s boyfriend was waiting for me at baggage claim, as planned. He didn’t have to say anything — his presence alone told me what I needed to know. Because if my friend wasn’t OK, my guess is he would have been doing something other than picking me up from the airport. My friend called while we were driving, and the details were grim: blood and dismembered limbs everywhere, tourniquets, injured runners being wheeled to the medical tent. I was sad, but I was also angry.

And as the week has progressed, I’ve become angrier.

Which is fine, I think."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Eating Down South
Published on April 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the great food I ate on my vacation.

Here's an excerpt:

"I recently returned from vacation, which entailed driving south, with stops in Leesburg, Va., Durham, N.C., and Birmingham, Ala., where I spent the bulk of my trip.

I used to live in Birmingham, and shortly before the trip I began making a mental list of restaurants and bars I wanted to visit. The list wasn’t actually all that long: I ate at a lot of good restaurants when I lived in Birmingham, but many of them served the sort of quality ethnic food I can get up here without too much trouble: Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican. The shortness of my list, however, didn’t diminish my eagerness to eat at the few restaurants on it. In fact, as I approached the city, I could feel my appetite growing stronger and stronger, which might have had less to do with desire than with the fact that I subsisted on peanuts, french fries, coffee, ginger ale and water on the nine-hour drive from Durham to Birmingham. Although the ginger ale was pretty fantastic — a hot and spicy Atlanta-based brand called Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale. I regret not buying a case of it, because it’s not available up here.

Anyway, I arrived at my friend Leigh Anne’s house in Birmingham around 6 p.m. feeling somewhat malnourished, and demanded to eat at The Fish Market in downtown Birmingham. The Fish Market was one of my first discoveries when I moved to Birmingham, and I could not believe my luck: Here was a reasonably priced, high quality restaurant featuring a mix of seafood and Greek food. And it wasn’t a fancy restaurant. You ordered at a window, took a number and retrieved your food when your number was called. Service was quick, and I often took my dinner breaks there while working the night shift. Anyway, I ordered the barbecue shrimp and grits, and six oysters on the half shell, which I devoured. The Fish Market’s menu has actually expanded since the late 1990s, and has gotten a little fancier, but the basic set-up remains the same, and meals typically still come with hushpuppies — deep fried balls of cornmeal batter.

The Fish Market was so good I was tempted to make a second visit. However, there simply wasn’t time, as I spent the rest of the trip eating barbecue. The Capital Region has a very good barbecue place — Dinosaur Barbecue, in Troy — so it’s not like I’ve been deprived of good barbecue. But it was still fun to take advantage of some of the best barbecue restaurants Birmingham has to offer."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Cameras, Cameras, Everywhere
Published on April 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

As a staunch advocate for privacy, I've been somewhat leery of putting surveillance cameras all over our public and private spaces. However, my opinion began to evolve about three years ago, when my sister fell down some stairs in London. Her life was arguably saved by a surveillance camera - someone saw her fall and immediately contacted the British equivalent of 911. And the presence of cameras all over Boston seems very likely to produce solid leads and possibly lead to an arrest in the marathon bombing case.

So my opinion might be changing.

In any case, Farhad Manjoo makes the case for putting cameras everywhere over at Slate.

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