December 18th, 2007

dinner at Gibbet Hill Grill, _Plows, Plagues and Petroleum_ by Ruddiman

Last Friday, we (R., T. and me) joined A. and M. at Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton, MA. This is a steak house, thus, white tablecloths and paper napkins but it is child-friendly. We were seated upstairs, near the stairs, so T. got to run up and down to the mild annoyance of some, and the amusement of at least as many. People were still smiling at us when we left, so I choose to believe it turned out okay.

The steaks were good. The salad was good. The steamed broccoli was steamed broccoli. And the bottle of Domaine Drouhin _actually did exist_ and was, as always, extremely tasty. The company was excellent. Other people at the table enjoyed their sides, which included dairy products. If you eat beef (they do serve some other things) and have the opportunity to eat at Gibbet Hill Grill, or attend a function at The Barn at Gibbet Hill, I predict an enjoyable meal.

My regular readers perhaps are aware that I like to read about how the world as we know it is going to end. This is an artifact from my childhood (I was a JW until I was 25 and they have the whole apocalyptic thing _down_) and early adulthood. (Y2K was a whole lot of fun.) Currently, I am interested in (a) climate change and (b) depletion of perhaps not replaceable natural resources (groundwater, topsoil, Peak Oil, etc.). I don't want everyone to die (that's a big chunk of why I am no longer a JW), so I am also interested in things like conservation (a word no one uses anymore), alternative energy, organic foods, urban gardening, permaculture, etc.

_Plows, Plagues and Petroleum_ has a simple thesis. We should have been heading into a glaciation period. We are not. We are not because there's a lot more CO2 and methane (based on Antartic ice cores) than there should be. Why?

Ruddiman entertains a few other possibilities, but settles on forest clearing/agriculture. After working his way through the details of how that matches the record, he then focuses in on some anomalies when the CO2 and methane inputs dropped for centuries at a time. He then matches these up to pandemics, showing that diseases which killed significant fractions of the global population (the biggest being the arrival of Europeans in the Americas) also returned us to the underlying global cooling trend.

At the end of the book, in a multi-chapter epilogue, he describes for the reader his opinion on climate change as a political issue, and its importance compared to other environmental issues. His perspective on environmentalists vs. industry is at first somewhat idealistic and out-of-date. However, if you read the entire epilogue, he makes it clear that he _knows_ his perspective was out-of-date, and has modified it. In the last couple pages, he ranks climate change alongside topsoil, aquifer/groundwater and fossil fuel depletion. Let's just say he thinks those are probably a lot more serious than the climate change issue.

Comparative doom is sort of an interesting game to play.

This book took me a long time to read. Ruddiman is a pretty typical scientist so I find him, typically, pretty irritating. That said, this is a good book, worth the time and effort to get through it. Like Fagan's _The Long Summer_, I came away from [got interrupted will finish later -- continuing now] Ruddiman with a very short list of very useful concepts about how we interact with climate. I assume at some point, all of these ideas will be presented in a textbook somewhere; until that day, add Ruddiman to your list of what you need to digest to understand, well, just about anything.

Toddler Fun: vomit is yucky

T. is not one to throw up, which is to say, today was the first time. Sure, there were some urps in the early days, but exclusively breastfed baby urpage (with the occasional exception for anyone who met T.'s son N. when he was in the vomiting-up-bilious-breastmilk phase) is pretty innocuous: doesn't smell bad, doesn't stain particularly, etc. (Again, excepting N. That stuff left serious stains. Scary. Fortunately he grew out of whatever the hell was wrong with him.)

Today, however, T. came over and started to climb up on me, looked slightly confused, and then threw up. Fortunately missing me and even more fortunately, almost entirely hitting a very easily cleaned toddler chair. The rest landed on him, particularly his socks. I picked him up and took him to the bathroom intending to clean him up. This was _really really really really brilliant_. Quite possibly the second or third smartest decision I have made as a parent (breastfeeding and cosleeping were still smarter. I recognize the long-term wins when I have them). Because as we entered the bathroom, he threw up a second time. Much, much, much more copiously. Onto the floor and the stepstool, both of which are pretty easy to clean, which is good, because that stuff stank. It was still recognizably apple juice and egg and a little breastmilk and not much of anything else. Dunno what happened. He wasn't able to nap today, which may or may not have been related. The blowout poop somewhat earlier might or might not have been related, too.


After stripping him down, I cleaned up the mess and then threw all affected clothing into the diaper pail which I'd emptied recently. (Note to self: consider keeping diaper pails around post-toilet training for similar purposes.) I then tracked down _every_ recently used sippy cup, boiled the silicone valves and put the cups and tops in the dishwasher.

I'm at a loss for what else to do. Hopefully this is a one shot deal, whatever it is. Sure made me queasy having to clean it up. Dunno if that was sympathetic, or me having a less bad version of same. R. also had a lot of reflux today.

Crunchy Woman Uses Nutrimill

I read through the blessedly short owner's manual and, as instructed, ran a couple cups of wheat berries through to clean it out.

Okay, right there, that would be a big lie. First, I cleared off the top of the kitchen shelving and matched all the plastic containers up with lids and removed stuff that had deteriorated too far and/or didn't have a match. I made sure everything stacked appropriately, and tracked down some appropriate containers for things like wheat berries. Then I went down to the basement, opened up the organic soft white wheat bag after carefully putting it in a plastic bin, and scooped out a whole bunch of berries into a metal canister that some shuffling of canister contents had made available.

_Then_ the Mill Fun began. It's loud. It has a speed adjustment and a fineness/coarseness adjustment.

I thought I knew rancid. I had _no freaking clue_. If you've bought whole wheat flour that was sitting on a shelf at the store, you bought rancid whole wheat flour. Maybe not unbearably rancid, but that bitterness is _not_ native to whole wheat. You mill whole wheat yourself and it tastes unbelievably good. I'd read that, but I was unprepared for the smell and taste.

I tried to make rolls, but got a little distracted and wound up doing a free form loaf instead. Again, as expected, the freshly milled stuff behaves differently from stuff that you buy in terms of moisture -- how much it has, how it absorbs moisture, how much moisture it will absorb. Hard to describe, but blatantly obvious while mixing and kneading. Also as expected, soft white does not make a high rising loaf (at least, not for me -- YMMV). But it was tasty, even without any salt at all.

Also, if you think that coffee grinders tend to distribute coffee dust about the kitchen, no matter how careful you are, think long and hard before buying a grain mill. OMG. I'm going to be the woman covered in white dust.

(Anyone who is speculating about how this experiment fits into the ill toddler: the kid didn't have any of the bread so it hardly seems like that could be related.)