Apply here to become a Viking.

If anybody knows anybody who's interested in a room in Jorvik, point 'em my way. Looks like we'll be looking to take on another housemate (or couple) in the vicinity of September/October. Potential housemates will have meet current housemates and be judged not a freak. (Or, at least, judged our type of freak. Or geek.) An extensive blog/livejournal archive may qualify as "meeting". Our current lease is through April.

Jorvik is 8BR/4Bath/1.5Kitchen loose-coop house of grad students and "young professionals". Laundry, driveway parking, enclosed porch, covered bike parking. Meals (mostly vegetarian) cooked for whole house 4-5 nights/week; housemates expected to take share of cooking/cleaning chores. Most food purchased in bulk or received through a subscription to a local organic farm (that part will only last until Octoberish). Half-block from AATA #5 (Downtown Ann Arbor -> Ypsi/Meijer), 2.5 blocks from AATA #6 (Downtown Ann Arbor -> Briarwood) and #36 (Central Campus to South State Commuter lots). Four blocks from Yost. Ten minute walk from Big Ten Burrito. Fifteen minute walk to central campus / downtown. 1.2 miles to Leopold Bros.

Share of rent: about $450 for individual, $600 for couple, plus share of utilities (elec, water, gas, DSL, optional phone, currently no cable tv) and share of group-purchased food. Cats okay if on anti-allergy drugs. Dogs probably not okay, tragically. Jorvik includes one bunny housemate and a weekend cat.

Hobbies housemate will be exposed to including breadmaking, homebrewing, gardening, video games, general crafting, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nerdy board games, screwy academic discussions, marriage planning (for another month and a half (housemate is invited)), bad puns by people who are completely aware that nobody else has the domain-specific knowledge to think them clever, blogging, and taking over of world.

Apply by e-mail to murph@commonmonkeyflower.net.

The strange things I do at work...

Today's task:

Step 1. Come up with a comprehensive list of all vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats, fish, dairy products, &c., that can be produced in northern Michigan and used by some restaurant or retailer in that area.

Step 2. Categorize list and break down each product into forms that someone might purchase - do you want to buy your broccoli whole? Washed, chopped, and bagged? Washed, chopped, and frozen? How much of each? Which of free-range, hormone-free, grass-fed, vegetarian-fed are important qualities in the beef you buy? Do you want your whitefish whole? Fileted? Fileted and IQFd? (Individually quick frozen...)

Step 3. Take this list and put it in a form that I can hand to a restaurateur (or 1000 of them) and reasonably expect them to fill out and return to me, and that can be easily coded for analysis.

Whee!

Viking Invasion: Sleeping Bear Dunes

This weekend was spent in / en route to Sleeping Bear, with Elise and a trio of Jorvikers. We were camped in White Pine, a "backcountry" campground in the southern park of the park. (Those are derision quotes - we could see people on the drive-to public beach from the beach at the backcountry campground.) Bolly got there at 10am or so, having left Ann Arbor at 4 (in order to secure a spot), and backcountry was the only thing available; they called back and said so before Michael/Elise/I left, enabling me to pick up a frame pack in Chelsea on the way in order to haul gear. When we arrived, around 7:30pm, and checked the visitor center to make sure we knew where to find Bolly, I asked about bears and food storage. "Oh, we've never had a problem with bears," I was told. "Just raccoons sometimes." Prophetic. That first evening was spent cooking over a fire on the beach, then watching shooting stars for a while and swapping vegetarian origin stories. I noted that the campground had no facilities for animal-resistant food storage, like the big metal lockers or hanging poles found in Glacier campgrounds.

Best quote of the first day came as we were trudging over the forested dunes from campground to beach:

Ben, "So, Michael, what do you think of your first Great Lake?"
Michael, "Well, I haven't actually seen the water yet."
Native Michiganders pause, indicate horizon.
Michael, ". . . Oh!"

Fresh, out-of-state awe is so much cuter than jaded native awe.

Saturday we did the touristy thing - did the Dune Climb (and the Dune Run-down), the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and bought cherry wine and fudge in Glen Arbor, along with lunch at the Good Harbor Grill, notable for a tasty vegetarian selection. I was mildly freaked out when Ann Arbor City Councilmember Greden pulled up alongside us and waved - no matter how far I run, the civics follow. Dinner that evening was at the campground fire circle, at which we scared away the family group from the other campsites with heated discussion of Michael Moore, Super-size Me, and assorted meta-liberalism.

Best quote of the second day came as the five of us were charging down the face of the Dune Climb in great, bounding strides, bare feet pounding the sand and long hair flowing in the breeze. A group of youngsters (5-10 years old) were starting the run up the dune, and, as I passed and Michael was barreling down behind me, one yelled, "Look out! Hippies!" (Tragically, I only heard this secondhand, upon reaching the bottom first, turning, and seeing everyone else stumbling to the bottom, dying of laughter.)

That night, the raccoons struck. Uneasy keeping much food in my tent (grizzly-taught camping reflexes and all), I had "secured" it in my pack, which was leaned against a tree. Waking in the night to relieve bladder pressure, I found my pack lying face down on the ground, my peaches scattered, half-eaten, around it, my soy milk undrunk, but opened and poured out of the carton. (Fortunately, the pockets are individually waterproof, so soy milk did not penetrate through to the body of the pack, but the outside was pretty messy.) The National Park Service will be getting a nice letter about the importance of enabling proper food securing behavior at backcountry campgrounds, even where no bear problems have occurred in the past. (After all, bear problems start somewhere, right?) I should probably have been a responsible camper and hung my food despite assurances that no precautions were needed, but, oh well.

Fortunately, while raccoons can open zippers, they can't seem to get buckles, so the main body of the pack was safe, including the all-important coffee, (side benefit: I wouldn't have wanted to see raccoons on coffee...) so I was able to spend Sunday morning as I had Saturday: waking up first, making crunchy coffee on the Whisperlite, and re-reading The Monkey Wrench Gang (the copy my parents gave me for my 14th birthday with the note to not get any ideas until I was finished with school...), and jumping in the lake.

Now all that remains is to disassemble and launder my pack and and a few more baking soda / vacuum rounds in the back of the parents' car, where some spilled soy milk secreted in some recess of the pack found its way into the carpet of the trunk.

Compostable plastic at Cafe Verde?

Finishing up my almond-sesame noodles from Cafe Verde, I was about to wash my fork and pitch the plastic deli container (and lamenting the fact that to-go stuff from CV was in plastic containers that aren't really sturdy enough to even reuse well), I suddenly noticed the imprint in the lid: "Natural PLAstic(tm) Compostable" with a plastic recycling symbol "7 - PLA". Wha? (7 is usually no further differentiated than "other".)

Natural PLAstic is made by Nature Works LLC, a subsidiary of Cargill (formerly a joint venture between Cargill and Dow). From Nature Works' poorly interfaced website, the following can be pieced together:

PLA stands for Polylactide, and is a versatile polymer produced by Cargill Dow LLC. PLA is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid is made from dextrose by fermentation. Dextrose is made from cornstarch and cornstarch is made from carbon dioxide and water. . .On average one could say that approximately 2.5 kg of corn (15% moisture) are required per kg PLA (or 2.5 lbs./lb. PLA). This does not mean that the difference (1.5 kg corn) is all waste. A part of this difference is simply water, a part of it ends up in other Corn Wet Mill products such as germ oil, corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed, and a part compensates for the yield losses in the different processes. . .utilizing 25-55 percent less fossil fuel than other polymers derived directly from hydrocarbons. This percentage is valid for the "cradle to the factory gate" part of the polymers life cycle. . .Compostable Plastics undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield carbon dioxide (CO2), water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with other compostable materials and leaves no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue.

Freaky. At another point they reference "municipal composting systems", and it sounds like "dumped on the side of the road" is not a condition in which PLA will decompose. Unclear about home composting.

Now, if only PFC were a little more proactive about communicating this so that I would have already known...

Plazes: wishes coming true...

A few months back I was saying, "Gee, there ought to exist a service that would allow me to broadcast my location based on the access point I'm attached to so that people can see who's at the same place or at nearby places, and so on." Now, I'm kind of wishing I had said "Gee, there ought to be a service that would mail me a $100 bill every day," because if the Internet fairies were going to grant my wishes, that might have been slightly more useful.

At any rate, a coupla Germans came through (well before I made that wistful post) with Plazes, following in the vein of services that do amazing stuff with stupid names. It can load your current location into your iChat profile. It allows your blog to automatically update where you've last been (adding to the list of reasons I need to resurrect my sidebar). It allows you to display everyone currently online and running a Plazes widget here, w/in 2km, or w/in 5km.

The only thing is that, in order for it to work well, lots of people need to use it. So, go use it.

(Ah - I can finally envision a day when I don't have to call each of my housemates in turn to ask if any of them are at home; I can just check a service and see who's attached to the Jorvik access point.)

Goodbye to Scott and Lizz

Sigh. Aren't they just the cutest couple of bloggers? And yet, they're leaving for NYC. Boo.

I hereby rescind my offer to help Scott move the next time he needs it, since it darn well didn't include moving to New York! (Well, okay, maybe I don't. But help moving = floor space to crash on next time I'm there, dammit.)

"I knew the gals at Craftster wouldn't lead me astray!"

Tonight's wedding activity has been screenprinting RSVP postcards and maps to the site (Ann Arbor's Island Park) with Cara's new Print Gocco B6 Hi Mesh Stamp Kit. (Invitations will be tomorrow; the Gocco can only handle about 3"x5" areas, so that's going to be two tiles.) Each housemember has, in turn, marvelled at the Gocco; queried Cara on the price of master screens, (retina-destroying) flashbulbs, and ink; dreamed little dreams of producing limited run postcards for sale at Henrietta Fahrenheit, as if any of us are that cool; and had those dreams destroyed by Cara's mother bear instinct kicking in at any hint of any of us touching her new cub. All doubts about the wisdom (or at least entertainment) of home-screenprinting the invitations have been laid to rest.

In other wedding progress, the Island Park picnic shelters have been reserved for October 1; Cara's dress has been purchased; Andra and Elise have bridesmaid's dresses in hand; Cara picked out American Apparel bridal party hoodies at Sam's in case of early frost; arrangements have been made for procuring approximately 100 Big Ten Burritos for the reception (their first wedding); and we've lined up the photographer that Ben and Molly used last month.

Read: "Bobos in Paradise", David Brooks

Another Maine read - Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, by David Brooks. Skimmable, especially alongside Richard Florida or Robert Putnam, who are simultaneously trying to describe similar changes. Brooks describes his method as "comic sociology", which is an apt description - he doesn't worry about statistics, instead presenting basically a string of newspaper column vignettes on the way the modern upper class lives which reads like a more self-important (if somewhat kinder) version of AAIO. The trends he presents are obvious to anybody who, for example, lives in Ann Arbor, the upper class co-opting elements of the counter-culture, taking connoisseurship to new heights, and retaining all the snobbishness of old money. From the "Consumption" chapter,

Rule 4. You can never have too much texture.
...
The texture principle applies to comestibles too. Everything the educated person drinks will leave sediment in the bottom of the glass: yeasty microbrews, unfiltered fruit juices, organic coffees. Bobo breads are thick and grainy, the way wholesome peasants like it, not thin and airy, as the old shallow suburbanites prefer. Even our condiments will be admirably coarse: rough, unrefined sugar is considered by many to be the height of refinement.

(SUV strollers and the like are also covered in the chapter, under the section on "never spend lavish amounts on luxuries - but it's okay to spend lavish amounts on necessities!")

Really, the book is just kind of cute; nothing important, especially as compared to other Maine reading like Collapse. Kind of sociological bathroom reading - you can pick up at any point, read a few pages, and find something about the middle upper class to mock.

Read: "Days of War, Nights of Love" - CrimethInc.

I took Days of War, Nights of Love: CrimethInc for Beginners to Maine for a little light reading. Turned out to be total dreck. I read for about fifteen minutes, flipped through to see if it got better, and decided it didn't. It doesn't seem to be any sort of meaningful introduction to anything, unless you're an angry high schooler who wants to pump your fist in the air, yell "right on!" a lot, and then go back to sulking about how much you hate the world and it hates you.

My contribution is a new page, inserted before the preface, pointing the reader to better reading. Yes, I'm admitting to defacing a library book (not by much: a sheet of paper and a small piece of tape), but since this is a book that exorts theft and plagiarism of itself (including, "turn in the articles as papers for your Sociology class--if you must turn those papers in, that is!"), I consider it a relatively low harm action.

Ring things

Cara's engagement ring arrived via FedEx today (took a while to be made), so now I can talk about rings. Not that she didn't know what it was, just that it didn't exist for real yet.

My ring (yes, I have an engagement ring too) is the Rift model from TitaniumEra.com. On vacation with Cara's fam, we noticed that her dad's ring is Titanium Era's Halo. Striking similarity, no? The inside is engraved, "Come what may, always and forever." Ah, double-reference nerdiness.

Cara's ring is the Blue Norther from greenKarat.com, though it's really more of a "Red Norther", since we replaced the created sapphire with a created ruby. greenKarat is a good place, and I recommend them with all of my co-opy, anti-consumerist heart. They use only recycled metals (Cara's is palladium-alloy white gold, to avoid nickel allergies), to avoid the environmental impact of mining; only created gems, to avoid enslaving children in various African nations; they get all preachy about spending too much on jewelry ("We do not facilitate financing, as we dislike the industry practice of prescribing how much you should spend, and then providing the special financing to make it possible"); and they give you the option of a voluntary carbon offset tax, where you can charge yourself $1.50 or so, based on some calculation of how much carbon was released geenrating the energy used in making the ring, which they then donate to sustainable energy projects. They're also quite communicative and happy to customize your ring.

She's _very_ happy with it, and keeps getting distracted with "oooh, shiny!"