Thankful for the (Possibility of) Good Anthropocenes

Water catchment systemTraditionally, anything published on U.S. Thanksgiving Day must be about being thankful. In the current political environment, it can be difficult to feel that way.

Fortunately, there are people doing outstanding work on sustainability and resilience – the keys to making the coming anthropocene epoch a good one instead of the dystopia we all fear. I’m thankful for all the people – artists, scientists, activists, and so on – doing that work.

I’ve had two recent experiences that highlight the work that’s going on and the possibilities that flow from it. One was a lecture by Prof. Elena Bennett from McGill University, who works on ecosystem processes and interaction and is behind the ambitious project, Seeds of a Good Anthropocene.

Bennett’s project is seeking the pockets of a better future that already exist. She is also working on ways of doing scientific storytelling about good anthropocenes by using various positive projects and having groups develop scenarios starting from that point. “Stories are powerful things,” she said.

She also said “Hope engenders agency. Agency engenders hope.” I really like that thought.

The other positive experience was a tour of the Sacramento offices of the architectural firm Arch/Nexus, which has renovated an old building with the goal of meeting the Living Building Challenge. If they succeed – and they’re close – they will be the fifteenth such building in the world and the first in California. Continue reading

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Ten Things

For a while some twenty years ago, there was this meme going around that maintained you might not be as boring as you think you are.

I’d like to believe that, but I don’t.

About as far as I can go is to acknowledge that I probably have some experiences that aren’t common to everybody.  (And many of these no one would want to share!)

Anyway, the idea was to list ten things that you’ve done that you think others might not have.

In my well-over-half-a-century, I’ve made tons of mistakes that others are smart enough to avoid, and otherwise bumbled my way through life, but here and there were moments that seem unique, if not to me, so much, as to the time, the place, and maybe the people.

Here are the first ten I could think of:

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BVC Eats: Smashed Yams

With the big US feast day coming up in a few days, a friend asked for a yams with broiled marshmallows on top.

Here’s my version, which started in the Fanny Farmer Boston School of Cooking Cookbook circa 1971. It has undergone a few adjustments since then.


1 small sweet potato or yam per person.

OJ to mix

Small can each crushed pineapple in pineapple juice and 1 small can mandarin oranges canned in its own juice. You can use fresh oranges but pineapple needs to be canned to keep the proper texture.

Handful of chopped pecans

a dash of pumpkin pie spice (or just nutmeg)

mini marshmallows, a little or a lot Continue reading

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BVC Eats: COMFORT FOOD Pound Cake French Toast

This is the first in a series of BVC Eats posts about comfort foods from around the world, many of them from the dark ages when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Klingons were the enemy. If you realize that a recipe is just wrong, wrong, wrong, because you grew up with it different, please leave your corrections in the comments!

Pound cake french toast is the ultimate in you-don’t-need-any-of-this breakfast food. It was once a favorite at our house until we swore off all pancakes, waffles, and similar treats because we outgrew our eatin’ pants. Continue reading

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BVC Eats: Chinese Sticky Rice Stuffing

by Brenda W. Clough

As other bloggers here have noted, food is key. Hobbits love lembas; wizards and Rangers smoke pipeweed. Long before you understand another culture, another race, you are happily eating their food. Thanksgiving is the quintessentially American holiday, because it’s full of other people’s food. So when the Washington Post put out a call for melting-pot Thanksgiving recipes, I obliged with my family’s recipe for sticky rice stuffing.

As I noted in the paper, turkey is not a Chinese favorite. Too big, too flavorless — you don’t see turkey often on restaurant menus in Chinatown, not compared to duck or chicken. However, fifty years ago some smart Chinese cook decided to help the bird along, and invented sticky rice stuffing. It was an instant hit, and a little googling around will find you many many variants — I saw a Laotian one the other day. The recipe below is fairly basic, and also fairly small. I routinely quadruple it, to prevent muttering from the children. It is unquestionably the most popular part of the meal.

You don’t want to stuff the stuffing into the bird, because of the other popular Chinese thing to do with the turkey — make jook with the carcass. All the bones, skin, etc. go into the stockpot, and the stock is used to make rice congee. Turkey jook is the the classic dish to serve on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. However, I’m American born, and what I make with my turkey stock is turkey gumbo: file powder, andouille sausage, and the holy Cajun trinity of green pepper, onion, and celery. And in return I’m certain that somewhere down in New Orleans there’s a nice Louisiana woman making jook this coming weekend.

To save you a click, here’s the recipe:

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The Inspiration Fairy

This last weekend I attended Orycon 39 with a bunch of very fine people. I had a great time, and I got to meet a lot of terrific people and visit with friends I hadn’t seen in forever. There’s never enough time, but I was glad to grab what I could. While there were a few problems (first time in this venue), overall it was really fun and I enjoyed myself. I will say I’ve never been in such a terrific green room, with a lot of healthy foods available throughout the day and into the evening. The art show was terrific, and the dealer room had a lot of variety, although it was sort of in a corner, which was unfortunate. I was delighted because I did a lot of walking and stairs and so got some exercise.

But my favorite thing was the little statue I got at the art show. There’s this little play written by Kelly McCullough that I love. It makes me laugh and I promise you will too.  Here’s the link. You need to go read it. Seriously. Go. I’ll wait.

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The Reluctant Traveler’s Thanksgiving Rant

Could a computer run the United States?

Let’s suppose we’re not that far off from this. I probably won’t be alive and neither will Donald Trump (fortunately) but it could happen. (Consider WestWorld—or is it Disney World?) Today’s political arena is a lot like a Disney ride.

I ask you, would we feel any more insecure that we do now if a computer were president?

I imagine she would be a bit of a mix between the Wizard of Oz with an intimidating and emphatic speaking interface and a hologram. Depending on the political or diplomatic tangle at hand, she would assume any number of personae—mainly the hologram so she could shake hands with world leaders.

That would be pretty cool. Life is messy. No one has a cure for that. Imagining one is the road to insanity. But anything is better than what we have now.

Except there are people who think what we have now is better already. Let’s not go down that road. Maybe I should just write about the Thanksgiving holiday. Are you all doing a turkey?

I get this question a lot in the days before this holiday, a day that I always thought ended uncomfortably. Turkey is ok. Pumpkin pie is meh, cranberries not my favorite berry, and stuffing tastes like thick, mucky, well, let’s just say I don’t care for it much.

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Theatre review: Escape to Margaritaville



Wednesday night I was privileged to attend the press opening for the new Jimmy Buffett musical, “Escape to Margaritaville” at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. It was a total hoot.

I’d been wondering how they were going to use Buffett’s existing songs in the story, and even more curious about new songs he’s written for the show.

I got totally sucked in. Of course, it’s mid-November in Chicago, when every day that it doesn’t snow we dance naked in the streets. A play set on an island where there’s one boat a week and you’re stuck with frosty rum drinks, sand, sun, and a lot of lovely scenery? Sign me up. I was a huge fan of Charlie’s Angels back in the day, because Hawaii. Continue reading

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NOT NOW NOT EVER by Lily Anderson


Lily Anderson first came to my attention with her debut book, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, a hilariously witty young adult novel about smart kids at a smart school that used as its substrate Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

So when the chance came along to read a preview copy of her second book, Not Now Not Ever, I grabbed it. What Shakespearean play would she riff off of this time?

Not Shakespeare, but one of my favorite plays of all time, The Importance Of Being Earnest–combined with summer camp for smart kids.

I loved Not Now Not Ever even more.

This romantic young adult novel features high school age kids the summer before senior year of high school. Elliott has sneakily signed up for a summer camp for smart nerds, given at a college that has a famous science fiction section.

Continue reading

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Greece, Part 8: Rhodes Palace of the Grand Masters

Explore with me the fortress-within-a-fortress built by the Medieval Knights of St. John, and restored by the Italian Fascists in gaudy splendor.

NOTE: Since my 4-month backpacking trip around Greece too many years ago, I had been longing to return to this magical land of myth, history, and dramatic landscapes. I recently made a fabulous 3-week return trip there, to research additional settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. My first post in the new series, on September 30, gave an overview of my rambles with my husband Thor from Athens to the islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Naxos, and finally a pilgrimage to the ancient center of the world at Delphi.

As promised last time, we’ll take a closer look at the grand edifice of the Palace of the Grand Master, built by  Foulkes de Villaret, who was the first Grand Master when the Knights were expelled from Jerusalem along with the other Crusaders in the 14th century AD. The Knights of St. John, who had been tasked with guarding the Holy Sepulchre, were elite fighters who adhered to strict vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience (at least in their early years). After the failure of the Crusades, they negotiated with the Genoese pirate Vignolo de’ Vignoli to relocate to the island of Rhodos, where they built fortresses and established protection for the lucrative maritime trading ports. The island then experienced many years of prosperity before surrendering to a final Turkish siege. The Palace was intended as a final refuge for the Knights in case attackers breached the thick defensive walls of the port city. Continue reading

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