Dolphin-Safe Tuna – Anything But Safe

"You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t."

There never ceases to be good examples of just how true Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote is.

Via Jason Kottke’s blog, I discovered marine biology grad student Dave Shiffman’s interesting debate The Ecological Disaster That Is Dolphin-Safe Tuna that sheds some unique perspectives on the concept of "dolphin-safe" tuna, its effects on sustainable commercial tuna fishing, and the impacts of bycatch.

Dolphin-Safe logoThe gist of the article is that we’ve blindly allowed activists to recklessly prioritize the well-being of one group of aquatic animals at the expense of many others.   This is largely because it’s easier for our collective conscience to identify with smart, friendly dolphins than other species that aren’t as easily empathized with because they seem less cute or intelligent.   As a result, government-mandated dolphin-safe fishing practices have unintentionally had devastating effects for a much broader range of oceanic creatures.

For every 1 dolphin saved, 382 Mahi-Mahi, 188 Wahoo, 82 Yellowtail & other large fish, 27 sharks, nearly 1,200 smaller fish, and a number of sea turtles and various other sea-life.

(To make matters worse, dolphin-safe fishing methods result in far more young tuna being caught rather than the more mature tuna who have already been reproducing, thereby making food supplies even more scarce for the very dolphins we’re striving to save.)

So the thorny ethical dilemma is whether it’s worth saving dolphins at the expense of sea turtles, sharks, and many other endangered fish species.   Should we protect dolphins — who we have reason to believe are sentient mammals with intelligence that rivals our own — even if it means fishing some other sea-life right into extinction?


We often fondly think back to our time in Moscow in Dec. ’07 when we first met Liam.   Our driver / translator / guide for that first trip to Russia was a great fellow named Pashe (pronounced Pasha).   Among other things, I got a big kick out of his ghetto cell phone ("Bluetooth?!   No, my phone doesn’t have Bluetooth; it has duct tape.") that he used almost continuously. When we met up with him on our 2nd trip to Moscow in Feb. ’08, he was quite proud of his new cell phone and the funny ringtone he had at the time. In fact, Pashe and Liam danced to the ringtone.

I asked Pashe to write down the artist & name of the song and a few months later finally remembered to look it up.   "Gitar" is a homemade handicam video by 26 year old former architecture student Peter Nalitch.   We haul this out to show people from time to time, so I finally decided to just post it here.   Rob calls it an "earworm," because it’s so cheesy-fun & infectious that you’ll have it stuck in your head for days.   So, in honor of Pashe, enjoy:

9/11 Memorial Gardens Park

Each year, three thousand American flags line the sidewalk — one for each victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack — around our local Memorial Gardens Park and it’s quite a moving sight to see!   This year there were six additional flags placed for each of the local police officers that’ve been killed in the line of duty.

We took the opportunity to stop by and take some photographs this cool cloudy morning.
Click here to view some of the photos.

statue at Memorial Gardens Park in Odessa, Texas

Lost Library

stack of old booksA recent blog about beautiful libraries triggered some old memories.   As a kid, I loved going to the public library — and still do.   Our library wasn’t elaborate or grandiose, yet it seemed immense.   People spoke in hushed church-like tones.   There was that nameless scent.   The obscure Dewey Decimal System held untold secrets just waiting to be decoded.   The shelves just dripped with potential.   Yes, going to the library was a rich & wondrous experience!

But it’s an experience I fear that my son may never know…

Booked-filled libraries are becoming a thing of the past. But while virtual libraries of e-books are certainly more accessible, I don’t think they’re as appreciable.   There’s not the same sense of vastness nor do they inspire the same reverence or wonderment.   Digital books seem less tangible and substantial.   You can electronically duplicate the content, but not the context or sensual aspect, the smell, feel, heft & texture, of actual books.

I’ll admit that even in spite of my love for real, physical books, I’m not immune to the hype & allure of e-book readers.   The idea that in a matter of seconds, you can download a new book rather than ordering it and waiting days or weeks for it to arrive make devices like’s Kindle really attractive.   But several factors — not the least of which is the price — have held me back.   I’ve seen a Sony e-book reader and the screen was surprisingly easy on the eyes, but deep down I’m still suspicious that the e-book reader experience just wouldn’t be as satisfying or comfortable as reading a book.

But sadly, the trend of replacing actual books with digital versions is only accelerating.   In fact, Cushing Academy near Boston is one of the first schools in the U.S. to abandon traditional books in favor of virtual ones.   In lieu of a library, the academy is instead creating a media center, spending nearly $500,000 equip it with with flat-screen TVs, e-book readers, and a coffee shop.

Is it just me and this is just nostalgia rearing its head once again?   Do you think there’s anything lost in the transition from physical to digital books?   Have you considered making the move to e-books?   Are libraries all but lost as we plunge ever deeper into the cyberworld?

Labor Day Weekend 2009

We went to Brady, Texas this weekend to visit friends and go to the 36th Annual World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-Off.   A big thunderstorm moved through Friday night, which left Richards Park really muddy for the big event, but that didn’t seem to slow down the crowd.   I had to figure out how to get a shoe on to wear since my new tattoo is still healing.   So I ended up wearing a sock and a loose sandal, which as you can imagine, was quite the fashion statement.   Of course, my friends didn’t let me live it down but it worked out pretty well.   By some miracle, I managed to still have a white sock after I left (I can’t say that much for Rob’s mud-caked shoes).

Liam was immediately drawn to the air jumpers when we first got there.   He of course picked the tallest one to play on.   From there, we got him interested in the petting zoo although he didn’t much care for the animals eating out of his hand.   After much hand sanitizer, we moved on to check out some of the local arts & craft booths.   After we made our way to the back of the park, Liam spotted the bungee trampolines.   I really didn’t think he was big enough to get on them so I was going to let the workers break the bad news to him but they unexpectedly agreed to let him jump.   So, Liam got strapped into the harness and headed for the skies!   Most 3 year olds would have probably been terrified at the prospect of bouncing 15 feet in the air, but not "Mr. Fearless."   I can only imagine what’s in store for us in the future!

We had some fair food for lunch — but no, we didn’t eat any goat — before we left the event.   What is it about food on a stick that you wouldn’t ordinarily cross the street for, but is the most wonderful stuff ever invented when you’re wandering around at a fair?   The weather was perfect, it was overcast the whole day and never did get too hot.   Liam insisted on a second round at the bungee trampolines on our way out of the park.

Back at the house that evening, Sladyn & his friend Nick "Nickaroo" were riding their dirt bikes and I got several great shots of them doing jumps as the sun was setting.

Click here to view some of the pictures from our Labor Day adventures in Brady.

Food For Thought: Wrapup

I hope the food-related topics information & ideas covered during this series have been revealing, thought-provoking, or maybe at least sparked some discussion. Some of these topics have certainly dominated our dinner table conversations this week!

As promised, I’ve had an impartial participant draw the names of two people who’ve posted comments this past week to award the free books. And here are the results:

book drawing winners

     Brian T. — by Eric Schlosser.

     Mark & Sinziana — by Michael Pollan.

So please send me your mailing addresses and I’ll USPS ship ’em right out to you! A big “Thank you!” goes out to all of you who left comments and helped make this blog series more interesting!Food For Thought

Articles in this Food For Thought series:

Of course, I’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes to peruse through some of our previous food-related blog posts too!

Food For Thought: Loco For Locavore

One of the focal points in The Omnivore’s Dilemma is the value of eating locally-grown food and although I don’t believe the term is specifically used in the book, author Michael Pollan clearly supports the principles of the "locavore" movement.

What is a locavore?   Well, much like a carnivore is someone who eats meat and a herbivore is someone who eats plants, a locavore is a person who eats locally-sourced food.   The locavore movement has sprouted in the past few years to encourage people to consume more food from regional farms, area farmers’ markets, at stores which carry local products, or even to produce some of their own food.

farmers market graphic

There are several reasons in makes sense to favor locally-grown food:

  • Regarding food quality, even if local products aren’t formally certified as "organic," chances are still very good that they’ve been grown or raised using much healthier methods.   The result is better quality, fresher flavor, and more nutritious food.
  • Locally-sourced food is "greener" or more environmentally-friendly.   It has a smaller carbon footprint due to the lower "food miles" — or how far food has to travel from the farm to the fork.   Importing non-regional and international foods can sometimes require vast amounts of fossil fuels & non-renewable resources.
  • Locally-grown and/or produced food is often likely to be the result of more Earth-friendly & sustainable practices.   This translates to fewer unwanted chemicals making their way into your family’s plates.
  • There’s also the satisfaction of knowing that you’re supporting your local economy when you purchase from regional farmers & growers.

Green Blog Diaries offers a bushel-load of great locavore-themed blogs to chew on.   The blogs featured in that roundup are an excellent starting point to discover lots more about the local food movement.   There’s also a great new group blog called Civil Eats that strives to promote critical thought about sustainable agriculture & food systems.

Of course, there has to be a balance struck between lofty ideals versus what’s practical — buying local is far easier in fertile regions than in other, more agriculturally-barren areas.   Some people will be discouraged by the radical narrow-focus surrounding the locavore "movement" and its 100-mile limit.   And there’ll even be the wacky few who drive gas-guzzling SUVs all the way across town to buy locally-grown tomatoes because they’re more environmentally-friendly.

So, what do you think?   Have you already been focusing more on local food?   Do you believe efforts to be more local-minded can make a difference or do you dismiss this as just another pointless yuppie fad?

Remember to post a comment by midnight (P.S.T.) so your name will be entered for a chance at one of the two food-related books I’m giving away to commemorate this Food For Thought series.

Food For Thought: Kids Cuisine

Inspiring & passionate, Chef Ann Cooper (a.k.a. the Renegade Lunch Lady) has spearheaded a dramatic overhaul in the school lunch programs in Berkley, CA. She’s on a mission to change the way children eat and transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms. Don’t be put off by her intensity—she’s just very outraged and committed to getting the word out about how our children’s’ nutritional needs are being so poorly addressed in school.


Check out Ann Cooper’s blog and also follow Ann Cooper on Twitter to keep up with all of her latest happenings.

Of course, some of Ann’s ideas may not work universally. Sure, fresh regional veggies & fruits are abundant in California, but locally-grown, organic produce isn’t necessarily so readily available in other parts of the country. Still, consider the benefits for children of applying even a few of Ann’s progressive changes.

What are your thoughts on school lunches and kids’ nutritional needs? Do you believe schools are doing enough already? To be entered in the book drawing at the end of this Food For Thought week, just leave a comment!

Food For Thought: Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation book cover by Eric Schlosser is an in-depth look at how the fast food industry has revolutionized the landscape, culture, & health of America—and ultimately the entire world.

Not quite what you’d expect, Schlosser’s book doesn’t demonize fast food as it pertains to health—in fact, the author plainly states that his family still does eat some fast food —but rather, it’s more of an indictment of the corporate entities behind the drive-thrus.

This is a revealing look at sanitation & food safety that’s very often far from the primary concern of the big fast food chains. It’s also a disturbing investigation into some of the deplorable ways in which these companies commonly, almost criminally, (mis)treat their employees.

But as much as he slams many of the major fast food companies for their unethical practices, but I’ve got to commend Schlosser for also making a point to highlight the few that do it right, like In-N-Out Burger, for example.

This book is also packed with details and loads of interesting backstory, so it’s not an quick & easy weekend read. As broad a topic as fast food cultural is, Schlosser’s points wander appropriately across a very wide range. But “Fast Food Nation” is definitely well worth the time! Just a few of the persuasive nuggets:

  • The fast food industry has aggressively lobbied against improved health and safety practices in the meat-packing industry, while pushing for lower product costs, faster production and more uniform product.   One result of this is that any single hamburger patty may be comprised of ground bits from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cattle rather than a single cow.
  • The meatpacking industry has become totally industrialized. Cattle are fed a continuous diet of corn—something which cows would not naturally eat in volume—laced with massive amounts of antibiotics to counteract the devastating effects that solely eating grain has upon the bovine digestive system (resulting in ever more resistant pathogens). In addition to being unhealthy for the cows, corn-fed beef is comparably higher in unhealthy saturated fats than that of grass-fed.
  • To comply with international standards, the quality of meat being processed for shipment to non-American locations of the big fast food chains is several times higher than that of the meat used domestically. That means that a Big Mac in Dubai has better, safer meat than the same burger at a McDonald’s in Dallas.
  • Fast food has infiltrated every corner of American society and is now served at restaurants & drive-throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, public schools & universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at retail stores, gas stations, and even in some hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion.
  • To make a strawberry milkshake at home, you’d probably use ice cream, strawberries, milk, and maybe a touch of vanilla. But the ingredients in a typical fast-food version include milkfat & nonfat milk, sweet whey, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, guar gum, monoglycerides & diglycerides, cellulose gum, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, citric acid, E129, and artificial strawberry flavor.   That elusive “strawberry flavor” isn’t even derived from actual fruit, but rather an elaborate laboratory where “flavorists” perform wizardry with chemicals such as amyl acetate, butyric acid, dipropyl ketone, methyl heptine carbonate, and undecalactone.

This book has certainly changed the way I look at the food I’m putting on my family’s table. And it’s the second of the two books I’ll be drawing a name for at the end of this Food For Thought week, so be sure to leave a comment so that you’re entered to win!

Has there been anything that’s changed your opinions about fast food? Do you still eat fast food as often? Do you ever veer away from the big chain restaurants and instead get burgers & such from “Mom & Pop” fast food places?

Food For Thought: Smorgasbord

smorgasbord banner

Today’s entry in the week-long Food For Thought series is a veritable smorgasbord of assorted food-related topics:

  • Finding locally-produced foods can sometimes be a bit difficult, especially if you don’t live in an agriculturally-diverse area.   Two websites that can make locating local farmers & growers much easier are Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.   Both are online directories of sustainable food suppliers, searchable by location, where you can just enter your Zip Code and get a list for your area.
  • Did you know that the crust is the best part of bread?   It not only contains 8 times more antixodants, but is also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent colon cancer.   So, don’t trim the crusts off of your kids’ sandwiches!
  • The typical American breakfast of cereal, lowfat milk, & orange juice — often recommended by dietitians & doctors alike — is a nightmare!   According to some, the processing involved with the manufacture of much of our food riddles it with oxidants known to cause degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction, and cataracts.

    For example, naturally-occurring cholesterol in fresh dairy products is used by your body to build & strengthen cell membranes, muscles, brain & nerve tissue.   But the drying process in making powdered milk — which is commonly used as a thickener in skim & lowfat milk — oxidizes the cholesterol which, once oxidized, can longer be used but instead collects along the walls of arteries.

  • If you cook, you’ll want to bookmark the Cook’s Thesaurus right now!   It’s a kitchen encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients & tools with pictures, descriptions, synonyms, and pronunciations of each.   But what’ll bring you back — and just may save a holiday meal — are the suggested substitutions.

    (Who knew you could substitute 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, ¼ cup of applesauce, or half a mashed ripe banana plus ¼ tsp. baking powder for each egg in a recipe?)

  • Honey can be a surprisingly effective, easy, & inexpensive solution for some allergy sufferers.   Ingesting small amounts of the airborne pollens that are also contained in the honey helps your body to build up a natural resistance to the allergens.   So adding a couple of teaspoons of local, pure, wildflower honey into your daily diet can decrease (and possibly even prevent) seasonal allergies.

    However, this is typically not what’s found in the cute little bear-shaped jars in the supermarket because mass-produced honey is stripped of its medicinal value via processing & heat sterilization.   And commercial bees are often fed corn syrup rather than their own honey, which diminishes the health of the hive as in addition to decreasing the nutritive benefits of the honey.   So look for locally-harvested (try within a 50 mile radius of your house), unpasteurized, unfiltered, 100% pure wildflower honey — the kind that you commonly find at farmers’ markets or produce stands.

  • For complete nutritional data on honey and a whole host of other health-promoting foods, visit the World’s Healthiest Foods.   This website, run by The George Mateljan Foundation (a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests) aims to discover, develop, and share scientifically-proven information about the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Foster Farms, a California poultry company, created the Say No To Plumping campaign.   Plumping is the practice of needlessly injecting chickens with saltwater, stock, seaweed extract, or other fluids to radically increase sodium content, weight, and price—which the USDA estimates costs Americans up to $2 billion annually!
  • High fructose corn syrup has become so abundant & incredibly cheap that manufacturers sneak it into practically everything.   HFCS is used liberally even in foods that have no need for any sweetener in them.

    But if it isn’t bad enough that so much of our foods are secretly loaded with the stuff, we now we find out that HFCS is contaminated with mercury.   Two studies recently found significant traces of the toxic metal in 30-50% of sampled foods containing HFCS.   So if you weren’t sufficiently convinced of the evils of HFCS before, it’s high time to reconsider!

Do you have some interesting morsel of food-related goodness to share?   Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway at the end of this Food For Thought week!