The wrong dessert to get me for my birthday: Bacon Burger Pie

The wrong dessert to get me for my birthday: Bacon Burger Pie

Yep, it’s my birthday tomorrow (thanks for the early wishes, everyone!). My honey ain’t feeling too hot so I probably won’t have a cake, so if you want to stop at Sweet Life and grab a Vegan Tiramisu or something, that would be cool. While you’re at it, a Vegan Chef’s Choice from Pizza Research Institute and some Oakshire beer, maybe the Vit or Duck Billed Platypus or the Ill Tempered Gnome, would go down quite well, too.

If you really want to splurge, get me a gift certificate at Best Buy (I probably would have said Frys but they’re not local and I’ve already got some old gift certificates at Best Buy). I can use it to get another external hard drive for the music, pictures and video. A print server would be nice, too. We could also use a couple extra Wii MotionPlus remotes for when the visitors come and want to gang up on New Super Mario Bros. Wii! 😀

<geek>Not to mention the fact that it would be nice to get another Linksys WRT160Nv3 router in case I happen to render mine useless trying to flash an Open Source firmware called Tomato USB onto it. After SimplifyMedia made me mad and gave up the ghost, I’ve been trying to find a good solution to accessing my files from abroad. crashes and has literally no support. Remobo— is just plain weird and looks like it will have issues with firewalls. This lead me to virtual private network solutions. Hamachi would be GREAT but there’s no support for anything but Windows (ew!) anymore. There was Viscosity but I didn’t feel like spending money for it.

So that lead me to OpenVPN solutions. Tunnelblick held some promise but it was going to take me forever to figure out how to configure the thing (I have a couple BOOKS now on the subject) and then I wasn’t sure it would work with a Bonjour-based service like iTunes Home Sharing. Looking for other options, I stumbled across a few different Open Source firmwares like dd-wrt and the original Tomato, complete with built in OpenVPN server. Now it’s just a matter of implementation but I’ve been a bit nervous without a backup option. So, yeah, that would be cool. I can always return it if all goes well.</geek>

But in all honesty, I don’t need any presents or surprises. I can’t complain. Even if I got nothing, I got a great wife who I am so proud of for going back to school to persue her dream (art) and constantly and delightfully surprised by for gaining new interests (biology) and who is just the best friend I could ever have (tandem kayaking and whale watching last weekend was fabulous!). I also got a remarkable little daughter who could out-swim me any day, who’s excelling reading standards and who continues to challenge and astound me every day.

Besides, I’m a geek. I don’t ever get bored, so it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself if you don’t get any presents or no one remembers your birthday. 😀 Not like I have that to worry about… to Wikipedia, the average North American car gets 20.4 miles per gallon. Even though there are ways to get better mileage, not to mention the fact that Japanese and European cars, diesel, and alternately-fueled cars get better mileage still, nothing beats the bike.

We all know that bikes require fuel, too. It’s called food. So your fuel efficiency is going to depend on what you’re eating. According to one estimation, you can increase your fuel efficiency 529.4% relative to the average North American car by riding your bike assuming you eat SAD-ly (that’s Standard American Diet, which is aptly named given the acronym).

Here’s the cool part. You can further increase your fuel efficiency 188.5% by eating a vegetarian diet, too. And as was pointed out in the comments in the aforementioned estimate, if you eat local, you’ll increase it further. Eat right, consider appropriate transportation, save money. Everyone wins!, we all know about the value of eating the right balance of things, getting all your vitamins and minerals and all that. It’s also important to exercise, as I’m sure we all know.

What you might be wondering is why we (meaning our local Lapchynski family) strive so hard to eat local, organic and vegan. Well, there are certainly ethical and health reasons behind them, but the main reason (at least for me) is for the environment at large. If you’re so inclined to believe that biodiversity and a healthy physical environment is not of value to ourselves and our children, realize then that I am also referring to the social environment. We could seriously reduce the effect of world hunger and the world energy crisis simply by making intelligent choices about what we eat.

The reasons for “sustainable” food are well-defended against the The Economist in a recent article in the Grist. Here we find that though organic yields are less than intensive agriculture, over the long term, they are actually better. We also find that given accessible avenues to local food, it does reduce the amount of energy wasted to get food. Here in Eugene, local food is everywhere and so this is pretty easy. You don’t have to live near the farmer’s market, although it’s certainly nice, too. So though these practices, which involve less technology compared to their alternatives, we could have more food using less energy in a way that is more accessible and approachable to the world at large.

As for the latter bit, Treehugger reviews a calculation of the carbon footprint of a hamburger. Basically, this is an estimation of how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels. Remember, hamburgers don’t grow on trees. There are fossil fuels used to ship cattle back and forth, to ship supplies (antibiotics, feed, etc.), to power the slaughter houses and supermarkets and fast food joints, etc. etc. etc. Even if they did grow on trees, fossil fuels would still be burnt in transport. This not only has an effect on the greenhouse effect, but it also indicates excessive energy use. Until we’re using sustainable sources of energy (and current solar technologies are not necessarily sustainable given how much energy it takes to produce the cells and given their efficiencies), we need to reduce, not increase how much energy we use. Though I don’t necessarily recommend fake meat as the most sustainable alternative (that would be organic veggies from your own garden), it’s certainly better given the amount of land, water, and energy wasted by animals raised for food. Didn’t we all learn in high school (or earlier) than on average, only 10% of the energy is passed on to the next link in the food chain? Isn’t it obvious then, that we can feed more people with a vegetable diet?

So there you go. You don’t have to be one of those left-wing weirdos (hey, I resemble that remark) to care about the world around you. This is not about saving the whales, or saving old growth forests, this is about saving human lives. Do you think it’s really that hard to have to look for something good to eat in a world full of animal-by-product-filled, pesticide-ridden, cloned and genetically altered food? Not really when you consider what’s at steak. Stake, I mean.

So I made it up to Portland without a hitch. When we got there, we went for food at Laughing Planet which is a nice very vegan-friendly healthy multicultural salad, burrito, bowl & juice place that we go to a lot in Eugene. The one in PDX is the mother store and though it was a little bigger and had a slightly different atmosphere we were pleased to find the same old thing we’re used to. I had two pleasant surprises there. First, they had Tao of Tea (my favourite tea shop) tea available. I had a pear something or other that was really delicate and good. Looking deeper, I realized that they’re selling their tea all over the world now and so I was delighted to find that they have this at the Eugene one, too. Can’t wait to go there again. The other surprise was the special burrito which was basically Christmas dinner. I had it with tempeh instead of turkey but it included mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and veggies. That was AWESOME. Just like their Southern burrito that’s often on special (with black eyed peas, cooked greens and BBQ sauce) I’m going to be sad that it’s not always available. What’s really cool about this place that I just learned is that it was originally developed with bikers in mind!

Anyways, we came back and lounged around and got ready for our company. We all worked on some last-minute Christmas responsibilities. Then Ilene (Christina’s aunt), Vic (Christina’s cousin), Naomi (Vic’s girlfriend), and Karrah (Naomi’s daughter) came over. We had snacks and opened some presents and then we had dinner (pasta– very Christmasy, no?). Karrah and Sierra alternately got along and fought and the latter was a little crabby but mostly they had a very good time together.

Many cool presents were given between us and the visitors but Christina and I were to open one gift from Christina’s mom. There was some particular reason why we needed to open it before Christmas. Neither of us were sure why. She brought out two boxes and said we needed to open them at the same time. I opened mine and found and camera bag and instantly knew. I started helping Christina tear through her package and found our new Sony DCR-SR40 Handycam 30GB hard disk drive-equipped digital camcorder. Almost immediately, I delved into the instructions and started playing around with it. I edited some of the footage (in iMovie of course.. by the way for the Mac geek, the included software doesn’t work and they record in MPEG2 format which is a real pain in the butt.. I used DiVA to convert to MPEG4 and then imported like normal) and provide the results to you here:

Christmas Eve 2006
Kitty Girls, Christmas Eve 2006

Just wait until I finish editing Christmas Day!

Christmas TurkeySince science has proven that vegetarians are smarter (wasn’t Einstein proof enough?) and since we’re a family of vegans, I thought this might be a perfect opportunity to ask others to consider the value of having a vegan feast for this consumerist holiday. Outside of the nice way that it offsets the environmental impact of actually having such the elaborate, ornate and outlandish celebratration that Christmas is (hey, you do re-use your wrapping paper, right?!), it’s consistent with the tone of the holiday, not to mention the “reason for the season.”

So if you’re serving dinner, please consider the possibility that you may have vegan/vegetarian guests too afraid to ask for an animal friendly dinner. Don’t fret, though, as there exists help for people that would like to accomodate but don’t know where to start. Not to mention the fact that you could just throw “vegan christmas dinner recipe” into Google and you’ll get assaulted with ideas. For people that have to have the more traditional dinner, you might consider a Tofurky (or an Unturkey if you can find one– they just went out of business).

To wrap this all up, I leave you with the words of Christian vegan philosopher techno artist Moby who not only puts it all into perspective: “Ultimately Christmas is about celebrating the birthday of a man who wanted us to love one another and to look after one another — regardless of our religious or political or ethnic or gender differences.” Put down the presents and let’s get our love on!

So my wife and I went on a little mini vacation this weekend to Portland. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown, aka the historic Multnomah Hotel. We saw Marie Antoinette (which was beautifully filmed and a bit slow, but well done, especially the non-period but perfectly acceptable 80s soundtrack; Sheldon Brown found this horribly inappropriate, but I must agree with him, that I, too, saw a pair of sneakers in that shoe scene!) at Pioneer Place after shopping around, among other places, the Apple Store.

But mostly we relaxed and ate good. Portland’s a good place to be a vegan. We indulged in some authentic Chinatown food at the Vegetarian House, doughnuts at Voodoo Donut, and the breakfast buffet at Veganopolis. There are plenty more options in Portland, but all of these were within walking distance. Oh! I did forget the most memorable place, though– and the most relevant to Bike Friday. This again proves the idea that it’s a small world on small wheels.

Here’s the story: for Christmas a few years back, I bought my wife this cookbook of vegan world cuisines prepared by a resturaunt called Blossoming Lotus in Kauai, Hawai’i. It’s got a little bent towards raw food, too, which is really nice. Christina discovered shortly before we left that they had opened a branch in Portland. That was definately first on our Friday itinerary.

We ate mostly raw there. To drink we had Kauai Chai which was more like a chai-flavored soy latte than anything, but very good. Our appetizers consisted of exquisitely delicious raw pizza (which was to DIE FOR!), a raw spinach tomato soup which was sort of a creamy gazpacho that came with these wonderful flax crackers that they sell there in the bag, and a small salad with crumbled almonds on it. Our entrees were raw veggie pasta and a raw version of the plum sauced-Chinese version of the wrap, mushu. Both were incredible and the latter was so good it was almost too rich, but I’m not complaining. Desert consisted of a breakfast parfait which was fruit, nut cream and sprouted granola, a piece of raw fudge and a bit of carrot cake. Probably one of the most satisfactory meals ever. Highly recommended. Can’t wait to go there again.

The Bike Friday content? Well, there’s a growing raw food contigent among Bike Friday owners. For example, there is Chef Ito (search for his name here for a great review of the resturaunt.. and him) who now owns my old messenger bike along with a superlight Pocket Crusoe. Ito also coerced one of his staff to get a Bike Friday, too! Then there’s lecturer and author Paul Nison who is actually in between Bike Fridays.. but only because he got married and decided to sell his single and get a tandem. And though Nic Mamula, whose fixed Friday will be next month’s BFFFFFG, isn’t raw as far as I know, he’s at least got leanings in that direction to work at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco.

Now here’s the punchline: our waitress recently went to Cafe Gratitude and was served by Nic. Furthermore, she used to religiously visit Ito’s resturaunt when she lived in the LA area. Oddly, she never heard of a Bike Friday. But now she has. 🙂

So I have to wonder: any other raw foodists out there?