Stop the Madness!

Did you see what I saw? Did you hear what I heard this week?

I saw it on social media for several weeks; I heard it on the radio yesterday, and saw CNN and Huffington Post run stories on it; I saw it on the news last night and again this morning. Terrible, shocking news. Are you ready? You may want to sit down. Some major retailers opened their doors Thanksgiving afternoon/evening so that shoppers could start buying stuff earlier than at midnight!

Whoa. Seriously?

Seriously.

People have been complaining endlessly, it seems, about how wrong it is that stores are making people work on Thanksgiving to make some extra money. I get that. What I don’t get is why no one seems to care about all the other people who have to work on Thanksgiving.

Like the gas station attendants.

Or the tollbooth workers on the highways.

Or the truck drivers hauling the merchandise that people will buy in bulk on Friday.

Or the newscasters telling us how terrible it is people are working on Thanksgiving.

Or the DJs updating us on that story while playing music we listen to on our holiday.

Or the football players, in at least 3 cities who played games yesterday.

And of course, that means the ticket vendors, food vendors, security guards, janitors, television crews, announcers, etc who were working behind the scenes at the stadiums and studios to make sure you could watch that football game.

The list goes on.

Lots of people work on Thanksgiving.

For years I worked 7-11pm every Thanksgiving and then horror of horrors I’d come back in on Black Friday and work 9am-noon.

Stop the madness people. Be consistent in your complaining. Please.

Leftover Chicken Soup (for when you are sick)

Yes, I know today I said I wasn’t going to post for a while and here is my 2nd post since then but…I’m having trouble writing my sermon. So… Last night I made chicken soup. It was unbelievably good and hit the spot on a cold day for a family suffering with sinus/cold/ear infections. I don’t measure much so I can’t give you too many precise figures but I would recommend you try it out. It was fantastic. I made it with what we had on hand, so it was kind of leftover chicken soup.

Ingredients:

  • Cooked chicken (white and dark meat). Maybe 2 cups? The chicken was from Lamppost Farm. I can’t promote them enough!
  • Chopped Carrots (maybe 3 carrots?)
  • Chopped Celery (maybe 2 stalks?)
  • Chopped 1/2 of an onion (all we had on hand)
  • Chopped 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • Chopped half a head of cauliflower
  • 2 cherry tomatoes (because we had 2 cherry tomatoes…)
  • 1 can of great northern beans
  • green chilies (maybe half a can? They were in a bag in the freezer)
  • Some basil
  • Some oregano
  • Some thyme
  • Some dehydrated onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • Some salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of chicken stock (homemade)
  • 2 1/2 cups of water

I chopped up the veggies and sauteed them in butter and salt. Once they were pretty soft, I added the chicken broth, 2 cups of water and the cooked chicken. Then I eyeballed the seasoning. I simmered this for probably 2 hours. Quite a lot of liquid cooked off and it tasted just a bit too salty so I added a half cup of water to it.

This was really good. It kind of reminded me of white bean chili meets chicken vegetable soup. It had some heat but not too much. And it definitely hit the spot. Tasted just as good today.

Oh yeah, and it is gluten free.

The Yearly Pardon

The President partook in the annual pardoning of the turkey today. And he said the tradition was puzzling. I happen to agree with him. They might as well eat the turkey since the turkey that is prepared for the Presidential pardon will not live for much longer. It can’t live long because it isn’t bred to live long. It is bred to be slaughtered, butchered, cooked, and eaten in as little time as possible while producing as much white meat as possible. Pardoning it is a farce.

Last year, CNN did a great piece on where the pardoned turkey goes to die. I’ve copied and pasted it here for your reading pleasure. 

Mt. Vernon, Virginia (CNN) — Along a pastoral lane at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate sits a sizable wooden pen built specifically to house the two turkeys that will be “pardoned” at the White House on Wednesday.

The well-appointed pen includes a small coop to protect them from weather and foxes, and an area for them to strut their stuff for camera-toting tourists.

But there is one thing that is missing: other turkeys. That’s because all the turkeys ever pardoned at the White House are dead, including the six already given a pass from the roasting pan by President Barack Obama in previous years.

“The bird is bred for the table, not for longevity,” said Dean Norton, the director at Mount Vernon in charge of livestock. “Some of [the pardoned turkeys] have been pretty short lived.”

Compared to domesticated animals, turkeys bred for consumption are usually plump and slaughtered after a period of months, and wouldn’t be expected to live much longer on their own. So, a pardon really can extend their lives a lot, relatively speaking.

The two turkeys pardoned in 2012 – Cobbler and Gobbler – died within a year of their White House appearance, despite what a spokeswoman at Mount Vernon said was diligent veterinary care.

Gobbler died on February 5, 2013, of natural causes. Cobbler lived a bit longer, dying on August 22, 2013, after he fell ill and had to be euthanized. Both are buried at Mount Vernon.

In the two years prior, three of the four pardoned turkeys died less than five months after their pardon.

The other turkey – Peace, who was pardoned in 2011 – lived 16 months after arriving at Mount Vernon.

So why do those birds — and others bred to be eaten — die faster than their wild brethren?

“The birds are fed in such a way to increase their weight,” Norton, who has worked at Mount Vernon since 1969, said. “[Americans] want a nice big breasted turkey and so they are fed high protein diet and they get quite large. The organs, though, that are in this bird are meant for a smaller bird. They just can’t handle the extra weight, so they end up living not as long [as wild turkeys].”

The differences extend beyond life expectancy, too.

“Your native bird can fly beautifully and roost in trees,” Norton said, while the type that receive pardons “does not fly, has very short stubbly legs and typically last right up to Thanksgiving.”

Final years? Figuratively

In 2012, when Obama announced the pardons for Cobbler and Gobbler, he hinted the birds were in their final years, telling the audience that they were headed to Mount Vernon “where they will spend their twilight years in the storied home of George Washington.”

The word “years,” however, seems to be an exaggeration.

The National Turkey Federation, a group that lobbies for the turkey industry and selects those to be honored each year at the White House, disagrees with any notion that the lives of these birds are cut short.

They are bred for consumption have a “life expectancy of about 18 weeks,” said Keith Williams, spokesman for the turkey federation. “They are not raised as pets and animals are not pets.”

Their short lives, Williams points out, says more about Americans taste for turkey and breeding practices than mistreatment or short lives.

Bred to be stuffed

Starting in 1960, farmers specifically started breeding plump turkeys that had large amounts of white breast meat — a response to American demand. The differences between wild and bred turkeys, Williams said, stems mostly from diet.

“A turkey that is bred exclusively for eating, eats corn and soybean that have minerals in them,” Williams said.

According to the federation, a whopping 219 million turkeys were consumed in the United States in 2011. On Thanksgiving that year, the group estimates 46 million were gobbled up.

Since 1970, around the time breeding practices changed, turkey consumption has increased 104 percent, according to the federation.

The practice of pardoning a turkey at the White House dates to Abraham Lincoln.

The story goes that around Thanksgiving, turkeys were brought to the White House and Lincoln’s son, Tad, grew attached to one particular bird and begged his chief executive father to spare the fowl from the table. Lincoln agreed and the turkey lived.

It is unclear if the practice continued for the next 100 years. But in 1963, President John F. Kennedy decided to send his turkey back to the farm it came from, telling the National Turkey Federation they should “just let this one grow” instead.

Bush “41” sent them to Frying Pan Park

The tradition became official in 1989, under President George H.W. Bush. On November 14, weeks before Thanksgiving, Bush pardoned a turkey and the White House shipped him off to live his twilight year at — Frying Pan Park — in Herndon, Virginia.

Since then, a President has pardoned a turkey each year.

All of Obama’s turkeys were sent to Mount Vernon. The birds spent the holidays in the public pen and then were moved to a livestock area out of view because they were not “historically accurate” to Washington’s time period.

According to Norton, the turkey federation wanted the birds to be more prominently displayed. So this year, they will head to Morven Park, a historic estate in Leesburg, Virginia, on January 7.

The estate was home to Former Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis, who ran it from 1918 to 1922. Davis was a prodigious turkey farmer, according to Teresa Davenport, a spokeswoman for Morven Park.

As for the near certainty that the turkeys will soon die, Davenport said they “are going to do everything [they] can to make that not happen.”

“These turkeys were raised in Minnesota, so they are used to cold winters,” Davenport said. “A lot of the employees here are already on turkey duty.”

Updates

Things have been crazy at the Brewery lately. I have much in my head I’d like to share but there was illness, then a car accident and then more illness and now Thanksgiving week.

I promise that as soon as I’m healthy again and things have settled down at the Brewery I will begin posting daily, as was my habit. In the mean time, enjoy your Turkey and gluten free Thanksgiving!

My guy!

Anthony Bourdain is, without exception, my favorite living go-to guy for travels. I was a big fan of No Reservations and his new show on CNN is just as good. Now, if you’ve ever watched Bourdain you know that not only does he have an iron stomach but he has the capacity to consume and hold alcohol unlike anyone I have ever seen. In an episode of No Reservations, he goes to the Ukraine and drinks several bottles of vodka with his friend Sameer and then goes sightseeing like nothing happened. Because, why not?

So last night I happened to catch an episode of No Reservations where Bourdain went to Croatia. Having been to Croatia and loved it, I thought I’d share the episode with Mrs. Wine so she could see some of what I saw. Unfortunately, but really I shouldn’t have been surprised, Bourdain avoided all of the usual spots. But something remarkable did happen: he drank so much he hit the floor. Literally. I never thought that was possible for him.  I’d advise you start watching around the 37 minute mark. In the words of Dean Martin, “you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” Here’s to you Anthony Bourdain.

 

Reading Plan for 2015

Do you have a reading plan? That is, do you put some thought into what you read and when you read it or do you read like you eat at a buffet: because it is there and it looks good?

I try to have a reading plan. The one I currently follow I find hasn’t turned out to be as effective for me as I thought it would be. Right now, my reading plan is:

Devotional Reading

  1. This includes first and foremost reading the Bible. I read the Bible every day, following the ESV reading plan, whereby the end of the year I’ll have read the Old Testament once, the Psalms and New Testament twice.  I’ve been following that plan for a number of years. This will not be changing.
  2. I’ve started also reading D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God which is available on the Gospel Coalition. I just read Carson’s commentary on the Scripture that day. Probably only about 33% of the time do I even read the chapter he is referencing. I’m more interested in his thoughts on the Scripture. This will change.
  3. Finally, every day I try to read a short passage from some devotional work. For example, currently that is John Owen’s the Mortification of Sin. This is going to change.

Improvement Reading

  1. Every day I try to read a chapter from some book that encourages improvement in some area: fatherhood, being a husband, pastor, better listener, whatever. While this has led to me reading some very helpful books, and I hope some positive change in my life, this is going to change too!

Pleasure Reading

  1. What’s life without a little fun? Finally, I try to allow myself to read a “pleasure” book on a regular basis. This may be fiction or non-fiction–just so long as it is something that I want to read for the sake of reading it.

Last week, a friend shared this article by Eugene Peterson on his relationship with John Calvin’s theology. He shared the article with it because in an off-hand way, Peterson mentions that he reads Calvin’s Institutes every year. Now, this kind of fed my overactive guilt complex. For years I have been trying to read Calvin’s Institutes in a year. Shamefully, I have never actually read the entire Institutes. I’ve read Volume I or most of Volume I several times but I’ve never gone the distance and finished both volumes (the Ford Lewis Battles translation).  It is actually fairly manageable if you plan to read it over the course of an entire year. If you read approximately 5 pages a day, in a year you will have read both volumes. I’ve tried to do this for many years. I start well, but something always comes up and then suddenly I’m behind and before you know it a month has passed and the amount of reading I need to do to catch up is too daunting.

Just as Calvinism is more than the doctrines of grace, it is also more than Calvin’s Institutes. Nevertheless, it feels wrong to name myself Reformed and to not have read the second most important work of the Reformed faith (the first, of course, being the Bible). But, my goal for 2015 is to read the entire Institutes of the Christian Religion. To do so, I think I’m going to have to revamp my reading plan.

Here is my new plan:

Devotional

  1. I will continue to follow the ESV reading plan I currently use.

General Reading

  1. Rather than also trying to read a devotional work, improvement and pleasure reading I’m going to scrap that plan, at least for this coming year. Instead, I’m just going to focus my attention on one book, whatever it might be. I’ll try to put variety in it, a book of the Bible in-depth, some work of improvement, and also works of pleasure.
  2. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I’m going to embark on this quest yet again. 5 pages a day. If something happens, which it inevitably does, and I fall behind, my hope is to put then put aside whatever I’m currently reading at the moment until I’m caught up with the Institutes.

So, we’ll see what happens. Wish me luck. Keep me accountable.

Feed: A Review

I’ve been reading a number of books lately. Some had great potential and then fell apart so completely I could barely finish them. Of particular note in that category was Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro. Fortunately, I just finished a book that surpassed my expectations and proved to be not only very engaging and entertaining but thought provoking, and paradoxically, depressing. That book is Feed by M.T. Anderson. Feed First, a note on the genre. Feed is a science fiction novel classified as young adult literature. As a father of 3 girls, with one being a teenager, I wouldn’t want them reading this book. In the church, a young adult is someone who is post-high school, usually post-college age. But in literature, young adults start at Middle School. Were this book to be turned into a movie, it would be rated R for language, drug use, underage drinking (?) and sexual innuendos. So let me be clear: I do not think this is a book for young adults.

All of that to say, it is a very well written book. Feed takes place far in the future. The Moon, Venus and I think Jupiter are all colonized. The earth is falling apart. People live inside domes with each dome having its own climate system, including the sun, rain and Clouds(TM). Earth is dying: there are no forests, the oceans are filled with glowing advertisements you can see from the air; animals are nearly extinct and seemingly everyone is sick and dying. People have lesions (but it is fashionable so that is okay); as the story progresses most people go bald because their hair falls out. The health of everyone is so bad that by the time the characters are introduced, no one has been able to conceive a child naturally for generations. Everyone is grown in a conceptionarium.

Earth is divided between America and the Global Alliance who are in a perpetual state of near war. The background for the book seems to be some sort of conflict between America and the Global Alliance over South America and America’s annexing the moon to be the 51st state. However, the details of that conflict are never flushed out since the main characters don’t really care about much of anything. They are too busy being distracted by the Feed.

In M.T. Anderson’s world, everyone has a chip implanted into their body that interacts with their entire nervous system. This chip connects them to the Feed. The Feed is basically a future form of the internet. But it bombards your brain and senses. There are audio implants for music, advertisements, books, information, movies, television shows, shopping, all of this stuff projected directly into your brain. The companies that use the feed create a data-based consumer profile of each person based on their shopping preferences, conversations, mood swings, etc. So everyone, all the time, is constantly bombarded with suggested products to buy.

The main character, Titus, comes from a well-to-do family and is friends with a number of wealthy teenagers including one named Link. Link’s family have old money and Link is actually a clone of Abraham Lincoln! They head to the moon and there Titus meets Violet. Most of the story follows Titus and Violet’s romantic relationship. Violet’s father is a college professor of “dead languages” (which turns out to be computer code) and Violet is homeschooled because her father realizes that nearly everyone has become a braindead consumer. People cannot even write.It turns out that Violet’s feed chip is going bad and it is slowly killing her. Titus only learns of this after he falls in love with her. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot so I’ll stop there.

The book is written in the first person and Anderson did a great job of creating dialogue that is foreign enough to feel removed from my world, but easy enough to understand. The decadence of Titus’ social circle is conveyed extremely well. Consider the first few paragraphs of the book:

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

We went on a Friday, because there was shit-all to do at home. It was the beginning of spring break. Everything at home was boring. Link Arwaker was like, “I’m so null,” and Marty was all, “I’m null too, unit,” but I mean we were all pretty null, because for the last like hour we’d been playing with three uninsulated wires that were coming out of the wall. We were trying to ride shocks off them. So Marty told us that there was this fun place for lo-grav on the moon. Lo-grav can be kind of stupid, but this was supposed to be good. It was called the Ricochet Lounge. We thought we’d go for a few days with some of the girls and stay at a hotel there and go dancing.

We flew up and our feeds were burbling all sorts of things about where to stay and what to eat. It sounded pretty fun, and at first there were lots of pictures of dancing and people with romper-gills and metal wings, and I was like, This will be big, really big, but then I guess I wasn’t so skip when we were flying over the surface of the moon itself, because the moon was just like it always is, after your first few times there, when you get over being like, Whoa, unit! The moon! The goddamn moon! and instead there’s just the rockiness, and the suckiness, and the craters all being full of old broken shit, like domes nobody’s using anymore and wrappers and claws.

The thing I hate about space is that you can feel how old and empty it is. I don’t know if the others felt like I felt, about space? But I think they did, because they all got louder. They all pointed more, and squeezed close to Link’s window.”

You only get glimpses of the world and thoughtlessness that is prevalent. But it is presented in chilling and clever ways. Perhaps, my favorite demonstration of this is when Titus and Violet go “out in the country.” They find a filet mignon farm and visit it for their date:

It smelled like the country. It was a filet mignon farm, all of it, and the tissue spread for miles around the paths where we were walking. It was like these huge hedges of red all around us, with these beautiful marble patterns running through them. They had these tubes, they were bringing the tissue blood, and we could see the blood running around, up and down. It was really interesting. I like to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from.”

This passage pretty much shows you both the world the characters inhabit and their way of thinking. Filet Mignon comes from a filet mignon farm and seeing it makes Titus feel good because he likes “to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from.” This passage reminded me of the documentary Food Inc. People don’t like to think about the fact that their steak comes from a part of an animal and that animal has other parts. The industrial food system we now exist in has sanitized eating. Meat comes from the supermarket where we can find it neatly packaged and sterilized. In my opinion, our factory farms are not that different from the filet mignon farm Violet and Titus visit.

And that is the depressing part of the novel. Written in 2001, Anderson frighteningly predicted a world where people would be constantly bombarded by advertisements; a world where corporations create profiles of individuals and then tailor their advertisements to fit the interests of the individual people. On the flip side, toward the end of the book, Titus seems to have a moment of clarity regarding the meaninglessness of consumerism:

It turned out that my upcar was not the kind of upcar my friends rode in. I don’t know why. It had enough room, but for some reason people didn’t think of it that way. Sometimes that made me feel kind of tired. It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me, and I could never exactly catch up to it.

I felt like I’d been running toward it for a long time.

Ultimately, Feed is a commentary on society and our interaction with our environment. Our environment is increasingly digitally based and exploitative of the world around us. While we keep creating technology that is incredibly brilliant, we seem to becoming more thoughtless. I often say that if we are going to say that evolution is true, we need to then start considering a theory of de-volution. When you consider how ignorant people seem to be and when you consider how few people seem capable of rational thought–Feed is, in some ways, happening now. Which is what Anderson says in a blogpost he wrote about Feed years later. I really encourage you to go over to his website and read it. ‘

And then read the book.

Food for Thought

Saturday night I watched the Florida St.–Miami game. Here is what I saw:

I saw a quarterback who is currently under investigation for sexual assault.

I saw a running back score a touch down who allegedly committed domestic violence.

I saw a cornerback save a touchdown who was involved in a hit and run but not charged.

And I came to the conclusion….

That if Ray Rice and Josh Gordon played for Florida State they would never have been suspended.