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BYOContainer

23 Jun

I’m at my parents’ house today, and one of the best things ever (besides delicious food that I don’t have to cook) is blogging with a friend:

Sushi the tabby cat

Sushicat!

In other news, over at Re-Nest.com today is a post about In.gredients, an Austin, TX based micro-grocery store that privileges sustainability and follows in the footsteps of UK’s Unpackaged by encouraging customers to bring in their own containers to hold groceries such as grain, beans, flour and eggs.

 

In.gredient’s system (which they refer to as ‘precycling’) has the customer bring in their own containers, weigh it for tare, fill it with their food of choice, weigh again and pay for the difference in weight of their filled container. Although the bulk bin section at conventional supermarkets (candy, usually, unless it’s Whole Foods or nutritional stores) is nothing new, customers at these ‘normal’ stores are discouraged from bringing in their own containers and must use disposable plastic bags and twist ties. Even though it may seem novel to a generation raised to abhor non-boxed food (did anyone ever eat bagged Malt-O-Meal cereal?), In.gredients points out that bringing one’s own containers to the store is nothing new. In the past, food bought in markets was commonly taken home in burlap sacks and baskets, a tradition that continues in some mostly third world and developing countries where waste is sacrilegious. It’s something that I can definitely get behind, as I really like the idea of bulk bins, but I’ll admit that there’s something disconcerting about the system as is. Perhaps it’s the idea that the food is sitting out in bins that aren’t air-tight or that people’s hands could possibly have wandered through my rice that gets to me. I also hate getting home and have to dump the contents of my saggy, unstructured plastic baggie into yet another container, only to trash the now dirty plastic bag. It’s great, though, to have the option of buying as much or as little as you want, which allows me to try small quantities of dry goods such as nutritional yeast or steel cut oats (which I still haven’t finished). And if I’m to be completely honest, buying from the bulk bins also includes the added benefit of allowing me to share self-important, do-gooder smiles with my fellow bin-ers.

The BYOContainer system is appealing for these reasons (although perhaps not the open air, handled part), and it’s a wonder that it hasn’t caught on as quickly as one would imagine, given Unpackaged’s success with the 20-30 yuppie green crowd in London and the lowered cost of not providing plastic bags. It does, however, seem more labor intensive as I’d imagine that all that weighing and bin filling must require more attention than individually packaged and barcoded items. Sanitary issues that arise from customers who bring in improperly cleaned containers may also factor in, and it would certainly turn me off my egg-buying if I glanced over and saw caked on cheese stains in my neighbor’s Weck jar.

But let’s address the issue that In.gredients is not completely packaging free. Even though the brand’s mission is to support local business and agriculture, these grains and eggs and beers do have to arrive to the store in some kind of packaging and it’s doubtful that their register paper or disinfectant will arrive unpackaged. I may be nitpicking, but to make a claim that one is zero-packaging is pretty loaded. Sure enough, the company acknowledges that, at the core, grocery stores are all about convenience, and it’s not always convenient to haul 30 jars to the store. To this end, they plan on providing compostable containers and point out that there are certain foods, such as meat, which must be packaged for food safety.

This topic is especially timely for me as I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s impressive book An Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and finding myself questioning the way I’ve been eating. I’ve been thinking about the implications of what we eat and how we eat it, and packaging is an important part of the equation. While it’s hard to imagine that In.gredients will completely live up to its lofty goals of being a completely sustainable marketplace, it’s heartening to see that there are alternatives to the processed food-laden big boxes and corporate supermarkets and I believe that fundamentally, this shift in approach (embracing and accommodating customer-provided packaging vs. forbidding it) is a step forward, rather than sideways.

P.S. I can’t say enough good things about An Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. It’s imaginative and tackles many contemporary issues about food culture, from sustainable farming to foraging and the eternal vegetarian/carnivore debate. He makes intelligent points for both sides of each issue and I can’t help but admire someone willing to take on the ethical challenge of slaughtering one’s food and the awareness of species that it implies. It’s really a love-letter to the food chain that brings everything I learned in last year’s ecology  class to bear. Please, read it.

P.P.S. Here’s author Michael Pollan, talking about food chains:

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On Steve Jobs’s presentation to the Cupertino City Council

8 Jun

Steve Jobs’s recent presentation to the Cupertino City Council on the unveiling of a new, complementary Apple campus was really heartening to see. Not only because of Apple’s reputed choice of architect in Sir Norman Foster, but because it showed that with a lot of practice and memorization, anyone can be a great speaker.

In comparison with his widely broadcast, super slick keynote speeches touting the latest and greatest from Apple, Jobs’s presentation to the city was noticeably less polished and rehearsed. He glanced at his notes, he stammered. He paused to search for words. It was, in every sense, a very real and human presentation. Perhaps the WWDC keynote he delivered on Monday unveiling iCloud, etc. had taken all his energy and left him very little time to prepare for the council address and he was somewhat unfamiliar with the subject matter at hand (architecture and landscape). The slideshow that he presented didn’t seem to be done in-house and contained very little information beyond what the building looked like (a ring), how many trees there were (‘indigenous’) and how many people would be accommodated. While he artfully dodged silly questions and evaded harder ones like a champion, Jobs’s true standout moment was when he related the cutesy tale of his summer job at the Hewlett Packard campus. In that moment, it is clear that he is in his element. The most effective presentations are those that tell a story, and here, Jobs knows everything there is to know about his longstanding relationship with the site and it comes through. He becomes more articulate and more confident. His voice takes on a soothing quality and he doesn’t need to look at his notes. He’s a great communicator and is able to project so much likeability and humility that he can make you believe in him, his silly little ring, and that one day, Apple’s new infinite loop is going to be the Salk Institute of the Silicon Valley.

(I don’t really know if I believe that, but with Foster at helm, it’s certainly possible.)

Carmine Gallo’s slideshow on Jobs’s presentation secrets contends that Jobs is not a natural born speaker, which I agree with. What he is, however, is a manic pursuer of excellence. Gallo notes that the two days prior to each keynote are spent going over his presentation, practicing and practicing, committing every word to memory and finding exactly the right tone and balance. Inasmuch as Apple’s tech gadgets go through refinement and testing, so do his presentations.

It’s not a gift, and it’s not even a secret. I’ve been told that I’m a confident presenter and the last firm I worked with pursued me ferociously and gave me great opportunities because I was able to convince them of that during the interview process. But I’m actually not, never knowing what to say to people. I’m a nervous wreck before and during each presentation, and most of it is an act, for in my heart, I’m a shy little crab who would rather stay home and knit something. But I do think that what I do well is that I am able to convince myself that I DO like the attention and I DO know everything there is to know about ___, and perhaps that comes through to the audience. I try to explain my work in the same way that one would tell a story–with logic, clarity, and cohesiveness that flows easily from one thought to another. I try to lay out my presentation materials in the same manner, so that if I forget, they prompt me to remember the script. I don’t think I’m a great actor, but I suppose that great presenters are by necessity actors, especially if they weren’t fortunate enough to be born with the innate talent of speech. The keys to being a great presenter are then conviction, writing it down (verbatim), memorization, practice, and a little bit of friendly swagger.

Here’s Mr. Jobs’s council presentation and a clip from the WWDC keynote for comparison:

 

Credit where it’s due

3 Jun

One of my oldest friends, Li-Ann of Ham & Pea Design Paperie posted a link to Pia Jane Bijkerk’s Giving Credit poster on Facebook recently, and it got me searching Google Images for images of our apple rings. I found the image (mostly of the Red Delicious ring) on a couple of blogs and instead of being affronted, I got really really giddy and happy. I mean, it’s amazing that the images are popping up here and there and that people actually like it enough to blog about it. A handful linked to our Etsy store, but some linked to a random Kaboodle-esque site or made zero mention of the image even being on the page.

Apple ring image used without permission or credit

Non-crediting use of apple ring image...er...wrongful crediting

For those, I wrote a simple comment asking them to link to our store and hopefully, they do. Any exposure, after all, is good exposure and if nothing else, at least my comment will provide sourcing information.

Permission and crediting is a hot topic these days, and my view is that you should always give credit where credit is due, and if it’s an image that will be reproduced later on or used in a non-personal setting (i.e. commercial page, magazine, etc.), do ask for permission. If it’s more of a “This is amazing, check this out!” then simply crediting will suffice.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

Eye teeth.

17 Sep
An eye tooth for an eye

An eye tooth for an eye

There is this story circulating recently about a blind lady whose sight was restored by the implantation of a prosthetic lens held by one of her eye teeth in her eye. It’s all at once amazing, bizarre, hilarious, and awesomely symmetrical.

They pulled out her tooth (and a section of her jaw), shaped and sculpted both, implanted both along with the lens into her chest, and then finally implanted it in to her eye.

Creepy.

Speaking of, I’m completely head over heels with the miniature worlds of Thomas Doyle.

There is this immeasurable sense of ironic loneliness within the fantastic in his work that is just astounding.

And his craft is just amazing.

Who doesn’t love a good scale model?

I’ll take them all.

Thanks.

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