Stick to baseball, 8/6/16.

Seems like it’s been a lot more than a week since my last links post, since I’ve traveled twice in the interim. Here are all of the Insider pieces I wrote in that span, all of which relate to the trade deadline:

How the Yankees’ rebuild gives them a top 3 farm system
The Liriano/Hutchison trade
The Matt Moore trade
The Jay Bruce trade
The Lucroy trade
The Will Smith and Zach Duke trades
The Carlos Beltran trade
The Reddick/Hill trade
The Andrew Miller trade
The Melancon trade

My review of Quadropolis, the fun new city-building game from Days of Wonder, is also up over at Paste. It’s a little more complex than Ticket to Ride (DoW’s biggest title), but my daughter, who’s now 10, loved it. There are many ways to score, so it’s a game of choosing two or three of those paths to focus on rather than trying to do a little of everything.

There was no chat this week due to travel, and I’ll be taking the beginning of this week off to work on my book, returning to ESPN duties on Thursday (and chatting as well).

And now, the links:

  • HTTPS is now now vulnerable to a new exploit. This is kind of a big deal because the “s” is supposed to mean that the connection is secure.
  • The Rio Olympics are probably going to be a disaster, and the IOC is a corrupt mess, but the inclusion of a separate team of athletes who are refugees was one of the IOC’s most noble decisions in ages. One of those ten athletes is a Syrian swimmer who swam for three hours to push her refugee boat to safety, saving the lives of 20 other refugees in the process.
  • This week, vaccines and the Presidential race collided in a big way, as delusional Green Party candidate Jill Stein continued to pander to the anti-vaxer movement with equivocations so broad the Porter in Macbeth thought she was overdoing it. She’s wrong, and so is snopes’ defense of her statements, according to the important pro-science (and anti-pseudoscience) blog Skeptical Raptor.
  • Stein’s moment of science denial means Hillary Clinton is the only one of the four candidates who hasn’t pandered to anti-vaxers. This is important, because if you think people who believe something so monumentally stupid as this anti-vaxer bullshit are a constituency you can and should capture, I’m not voting for you.
  • The Sacramento Bee, a paper in a state where I’d guess Stein has some support, also ran an op ed calling her view disingenuous.
  • On to the election … Meg Whitman, a politically active Republican who ran for governor of California on the GOP ticket, has chosen to support Hillary Clinton with her money and her time, because she views Trump as a dangerous demagogue, comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini and – the part I both liked and agree with – “warned that those who say that ‘it can’t happen here’ are being naïve. I connected the Sinclair Lewis book of that name to Trump back in March.
  • The former head of the CIA quit his job at CBS and endorsed Clinton, explaining why he believes she’s the right choice for our national security in this first-person op ed.
  • In the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, columnist Nick Cohen writes that the cowardice of other Republicans has allowed Trump to get this far. This isn’t the GOP of Ronald Reagan, nor is it the GOP for whose candidates I have voted dozens of times in federal, state, and local elections since I first gained the vote in 1991.
  • I thought this was the best political-comedy tweet of the week:

  • Let’s move on to food, including this piece from 2015 on how resting the meat improves barbecue, even when the resting time is a few hours.
  • I missed this outstanding piece from the New York Times when it first ran in October, on genetics Ph.D. and wheat breeder Stephen Jones, called Bread is Broken, which explains how our wheat and thus our bread has become so much less nutritious over the last two centuries, and how we might fix it.
  • I’ve saved this recipe for watermelon rind preserves with ginger and lemon to make the next time we buy a whole melon.
  • The nation’s third-largest poultry producer is defying rising concerns and even a CDC warning about prophylactic use of antibiotics in our food chain, even running ads bragging that they still use these drugs. Antibiotic resistance is as real as evolution – the latter causes the former, inevitably – and this is flat-out irresponsible. But I’m glad they’re outing themselves so I can try to avoid their products.
  • Remember when I was horribly sick in January with a fever of 101+ for six straight days? The drug that finally defeated the infection was Levoquin, part of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, but those drugs have some nasty side effects, including tendon damage. WHO considers these antibiotics an essential medicine, one of the most effective drugs against gram-negative bacteria, but more doctors need to reserve them, as my doctor did, until other safer antibiotics have failed.
  • Germany’s Condor Airlines has started a “book on board” program that grants travelers an extra kilogram of weight allowance if they show a sticker from their local bookseller.
  • Jess Luther has done great work on the systemic problem of coddling college athletes who rape women, especially the rampant corruption in Baylor’s football program. Her book on the topic is coming out this fall and here’s her first interview about it.
  • In a related story, the University of Florida appointed a booster of the football program to adjudicate a Title IX hearing on a rape case involving Gator football players.
  • Deadspin reports on the opening hostilies in the battle over the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark boondoggle. The City Council of Arlington approved the stadium proposal 7-0 despite no evidence whatsoever of economic benefit and some early signs of public dissent.
  • ISIS has become a hot-button term in our Presidential election, but that doesn’t change what they are, the evil the Daesh do in Syria and Lebanon, or their attempts to sow terror in Europe. This piece on how they’re kidnapping and training child soldiers will chill your soul.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing an opponent in the Republican primary for his seat. This wouldn’t be notable except that his opponent wondered aloud why we allow any Muslims to be in our country.

Saturday five, 10/31/15.

No Insider content this week, as I’ve been on vacation, but I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday. My AFL scouting notes from last week are here and here.

The app version of the cooperative boardgame Elder Sign is on sale right now for $0.99 for both Android (via amazon) and iOS. It’s absolutely worth it.

And now, the links…

  • No, bacon doesn’t really cause cancer, not in the way the media’s coverage of the WHO designation would lead you to believe. This was a case of mass science ignorance at work.
  • Chimeras are real! Well, again, not really, but there is a phenomenon in humans known as chimerism, where one of two twins in the womb doesn’t make it, and the surviving twin absorbs some of the lost sibling’s DNA. This led to failed paternity test last year which led to this significant scientific discovery.
  • The NY Times covers the fraying narrative around the medical startup Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. My favorite quote in the piece, from another reporter, is, “People in medicine couldn’t understand why the media and technology worlds were so in thrall to her.” Uh, maybe because she’s 31 and blonde and pretty?
  • David Mitchell has a new book out, Slade House, and Wired has a piece praising it for being so beginner-friendly. I read Cloud Atlas this spring (that links to my review) and enjoyed it quite a bit. Still waiting for that second Luisa Rey mystery, though.
  • Tokyo will have a bookstore-themed hostel starting next week. I’m a bit old for hostel travel now but there’s something decidedly romantic about this whole concept.
  • SXSW is trying to undo the damage done by its earlier decision to cave to online harassers, now restoring panels on the problem of online harassment of women, although one of the panelists is himself accused of just such a crime.
  • All the news on China this week focused on the end of the one-child policy, but the NY Times has a long read on the country’s construction of seven new islets in the Spratly Islands chain, ownership of which has long been disputed among multiple countries. This is a highly aggressive move that seems like a play toward gaining more control over undersea resources in the region.
  • A small study in North Carolina found that parents’ vaccine-denial beliefs often preceded pregnancy, coming from cultural factors, often correlated with other anti-science beliefs.
  • Subway earned plaudits for its decision to switch to antibiotic-free meats, but they gave themselves ten years to do it, and the linked piece details some of the challenges for ‘suppliers’ (that is, the people who raise the animals). Humans started using antibiotics prophylactically on animals because it allowed them to crowd more and more of the creatures into smaller spaces without incurring the wrath of bacteria that spread quickly when conditions are tight. Such practices are, in my view, inhumane to begin with, but antibiotic resistance is the very real cost on which there should be no disagreement. Evolution’s real, and it has little regard for our species’ whims.

Saturday five, 9/5/15.

I had two Insider pieces this week, one on hypothetical postseason award ballots and one on notable September callups, and then someone else I didn’t expect to see came up after the latter was posted so why do I even do anything.

Klawchats at are indeed dead, as are all chats there, but I think I’ve found a solution that will let me resume the chats here after Labor Day. I’m looking for a little help with a script to clean up the transcripts so I can post them after the fact for everyone to read, so if you’re handy with perl, Python, or the like, please let me know. I’ll keep doing Periscopes, but they don’t work for everyone, including my deaf readers, so I want to make sure I use both media going forward.

My review of the second edition of the boardgame Evolution plus its Flight expansion is up at Paste. You can buy the game for $48 on amazon.

And now, the links…

  • How “Big Egg” has used underhanded and possibly illegal tactics, with the help of the USDA, to try to sabotage Hampton Creek’s vegan mayonnaise. It’s incredibly sleazy.
  • Andrew Zimmern talks about the future of food, from synthetic food replacements to insects as a sustainable protein source.
  • Scientists have discovered a naturally-occurring protein that would help slow the melting of ice cream. I see a problem with this, though: Ice cream tastes better when it’s at the brink of melting, because our taste buds don’t detect flavors in cold or frozen foods that well. That’s why ice cream has to be high in sugar – otherwise it wouldn’t taste sweet.
  • A Chinese writer talks about how the “gross” immigrant food of her upbringing has been culturally appropriated as “trendy.”
  • The programmer adapting the board game Brass into app form has started a blog about the process.
  • Chef Rick Bayless – yep, that’s Skip’s brother – writes about his dismay over the unbanning of GMO corn in Mexico, using culinary and cultural arguments rather than (un)scientific ones.
  • An experiment among Israeli schoolteachers found unconscious gender bias in math grading, bias that affected those kids’ choices as they advanced to higher grades. I know some of you get on me for discussing bias (racism, sexism, etc.) where it isn’t immediately evident, but these issues still exist, especially racism within the white-dominated baseball industry, even though it’s rarely explicit any more.
  • Alton Brown talks to the New York Times about his attitudes about our attitudes about food.
  • A paid anti-GMO shill for the organic agriculture industry was “severed” from Washington State University. Particularly notable are the undisclosed conflicts of interest, the same violation of which the anti-GMO side is accusing Kevin Folta.
  • Why is Missouri executing one death-row prisoner a month?
  • Vaccine denier Dr. Bob Sears – whose license to practice medicine still hasn’t been stripped, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom – is continuing to push his looney-toon, law-breaking agenda on gullible parents.

Saturday five, 8/21/15.

My short series on the best tools in baseball continued with my ranking of the players with the best hitting tools and the best fielding tools in the majors. I also had two draft blog posts, one on the Perfect Game All-American Classic and one on the Under Armour game.

I was the guest host of the Baseball Tonight podcast on Wednesday, with guests Tim Kurkjian and Alex Speier.

Chat is still down, so I did another Periscope video chat instead.

And now, this week’s links… saturdayfive

Saturday five, 7/18/15.

I posted an updated ranking of the minors’ top 50 prospects this week, and held a Klawchat that afternoon to talk about it. On Sunday night, I posted a briefer-than-normal Futures Game recap, since the talent in the game was somewhat light relative to past years.

Over at Paste, I have a review of the family-friendly boardgame Flea Market up. I’ve been playing the new Splendor iOS app for the last two weeks, and my review of it will be up on Paste within the next few days. It’s excellent.

And now, the links…saturdayfive

  • A terrifying, critical longread about the inevitable earthquake and tsunami coming to the Pacific Northwest. It’s not just temporal parochialism at work here, but a general distrust of science and a mistaken, possibly hard-wired belief in our invincibility as a species.
  • Another longread worth your time: A child refugee from the Rwandan genocide talks about her time in exile, both on the run in Africa and here in the United States.
  • Germany is trying out a new prevention-oriented approach to child molestation by working with confessed pedophiles, even those who have offended already. It’s a complex subject, especially if this means past victims aren’t getting help, but early results have some promise and it beats simply declaring these people “evil” (when they may be trauma victims themselves) and locking them up forever.
  • North Carolina wants to stop black people from voting, using modern-day versions of the literacy test and the poll tax. This shouldn’t happen in our day and age, but it does in white-run states with large African-American minorities.
  • The Large Hadron Collider hasn’t collapsed the universe into a singularity – yet – but it has verified the existence of sub-subatomic particles called pentaquarks.
  • The Atlantic discusses the world’s smallest language, Toki Pona, a constructed language with just 123 words. This just reminded me that I need to read Babel-17, a short novel that incorporates the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis’ linguistic determinism.
  • GMO foods are safe. I still think they should be labeled, because consumers do have the right to know and may wish to avoid supporting monoculture farming, but the science on their safety is quite solid.
  • A small Brooklyn yogurt maker has started bottling the whey that’s typically discarded after yogurt is strained to make Greek yogurt. Disposing of that whey has become a major business problem for the big Greek yogurt companies because it can’t just be dumped like water, but it turns out that it’s high in beneficial bacteria and is already consumed as a drink in other countries.
  • Scientists working in China, led by friend of the dish Dr. Steve Brusatte, believe they’ve discovered the remains of the largest winged dinosaur found to date, posing new questions for evolutionary biologists on how and why wings caught on as an adaptation.
  • This post on “Hospital Glam,” photos of people with invisible disabilities in health-care environments, seems like both a way to increase awareness and perhaps help the self-esteem of the subjects.
  • Gawker had a bad week – the piece outing a closeted CFO was salacious and incredibly distasteful – but this piece on growing up in fundamentalist households is well-written and surprisingly balanced.
  • Sticklers, unite: A grammar nut used her knowledge to beat a parking ticket.
  • Top Chef judge and friend of the dish Hugh Acheson demoed several recipes from his latest cookbook for Talks at Google. “If you buy pre-minced garlic, you are dead to me.” This is why we love Hugh. If you haven’t picked up the book, The Broad Fork, you should do so. It’s fantastic, and entirely built around produce; the charred-onion vinaigrette, which he makes in this video, is also a fantastic steak sauce.
  • Alton Brown set the world straight by saying that a hot dog is indeed a sandwich, but more importantly, he showed everyone how to store all of those pesky mustard containers in your fridge:

Saturday five, 6/20/15.

I wrote three new Insider pieces this week: an updated top ten pro prospects ranking, a look at where thirteen 2015 first-rounders rank in their new orgs, and a scouting piece on Jesse Biddle, JP Crawford, and Aaron Judge.

I’ll be back at Lakewood tonight to see Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers again, with a post going up tomorrow or Monday on those guys.

I haven’t had a chance to review it yet, but I’m enjoying the new Of Monsters & Men album Beneath The Skin; it’s a big change from their poppier debut, shifting to better showcase Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice.

And now, this week’s links…saturdayfive

  • A great longread on Azerbaijan hosting the “European Games,”, focusing on the authoritarian regime’s corrupt history and misguided attempts to ingratiate itself to Europe. I do wish the piece had discussed the ongoing conflict with Armenia (also guilty of its share of crimes) over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a massive failure for those who position themselves as international peacemakers. Something like 200,000 people have lived in a rogue state or under the “wrong” national authorities for over a decade.
  • How vaccine deniers are using social media to fight pro-vaccine legislation. The solution is simple: Make your pro-vaccine voice heard. Tell your state and federal legislators that you support mandatory vaccination for all schoolchildren who don’t have medical exemptions. End all philosophical and religious exemptions and you’ll see measles re-eradicated in the U.S. in no time.
  • There’s a raw fish eaten in rural Thailand that gives people liver cancer. The cause is a parasite called a liver fluke that lays eggs in the human liver, yet educating residents has been a big challenge for health officials.
  • Does killing jihadist leaders work? That’s the linchpin of our country’s current strategy against terrorism, and there’s a legitimate debate (with, I think, no clear answer) whether it’s effective enough.
  • I didn’t agree with the majority of you in the recent case of the Maryland “free range” parents scolded for letting their kids walk home a moderate distance from a playground, but I am guessing we can all agree that the Florida case of parents losing their kids for a month for letting their 11-year-old son play in his own yard is a terrifying governmental overreach. The busybody who called the authorities here should face charges, not the parents.
  • An op ed in the Guardian from a former prisoner discussing US prisons withholding menstrual supplies, often by pricing them above what indigent prisoners can afford. Sanitary supplies are a basic human right, not a luxury to be purchased by the well-to-do.
  • The Guardian was one of several publications to profile the victims of the Charleston massacre, an important step given how much ink is dedicated to the perpetrators in these attacks. Jamil Smith’s essay in the New Republic on the particular violation of these murders happening in a church was the best piece I read all week on the subject. Meanwhile, it’s high time that South Carolina remove the Confederate flag from all government buildings.

Saturday five, 6/13/15.

For Insiders, my recaps of the drafts for all 15 NL teams and all 15 AL teams are up, as well as my round one reactions and a post-draft Klawchat.

I don’t have another place for this, but I read Michael Ruhlman’s short autobiographical Kindle Single The Main Dish ($1.99) this week, right after the draft ended, and enjoyed it tremendously. I love Ruhlman’s writing in general, but the insight into how he became a writer – he even uses “accidental” the way I often call myself an accidental sportswriter – seems like it would be very valuable for anyone considering a career in prose.

And now, this week’s links…saturdayfive

  • Bill and Melinda Gates have given away over $29 billion, and Warren Buffett is dedicating another $70 billion of his fortune to their Foundation. Buried within this piece: There hasn’t been a new case of polio in Africa in nine months, a remarkable change given the continued violence perpetrated by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. Polio is now only endemic in the undergoverned region that joins Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • The House of Representatives voted to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling Act that required packaged meat indicate where the animals came from, because it conflicts with WTO rules. I’m of two minds on this: I favor more labeling that tells consumers about what they’re buying, but I also believe in free trade and don’t like the idea of us flouting our trade agreements when we rely on them for fair access to other markets. That said, there’s nothing that says meat vendors can’t tell you where the meat is from … and if you buy local meat, you’re covered.
  • In some local schools in England, teachers are confiscating Scotch eggs from lunchboxes as well as other foods deemed unhealthful. This strikes me as an outrageous overreach, and one likely based on very bad science that holds that dietary fat is bad for us.
  • Comedy writer Ben Schwartz wrote a fantastic essay on comedy and the “PC” response, although much of what he says applies to our culture as a whole.
  • Two great examples of people being misled by statistics, both stories from NPR: One on bluefin tuna selling cheaply in San Diego, because fishermen say it’s plentiful when in reality it’s not; and a possible link between some heartburn medications and heart disease, but from a study that doesn’t explain causation while ignoring potential confounding variables.
  • OK, one more great NPR link: How fad diets are merely pseudoscience wrapped in a veneer of ancient religious memes. I love the fake fad diet piece at the end.
  • Downton Abbey is filming its final season and Maggie Smith is glad it’s coming to an end.
  • I believe I linked to the New Yorker story from last year about Kalief Browder, a man held in Rikers for three years without ever being convicted of a crime. He was eventually freed, but took his own life last week. Browder was 22 years old.
  • I don’t remember the original Chip’s Challenge game, but this story on the arduous process of getting a sequel released was still fascinating.
  • This excellent New York Times profile of Gawker and its founder Nick Denton also discusses the important First Amendment ramifications of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the company for posting a clip of him having sex with his friend’s wife.

Saturday five, 5/16/15.

My Insider content this week includes my redraft of the 2005 class as well as a recap of the first round picks who didn’t pan out. I also held my weekly Klawchat on Wednesday. My first mock draft will go up on Tuesday.

And now, this week’s links…saturdayfive

Saturday links, 10/13/12.

Fall League coverage has tied me up all week, but I’m stuck around the house today waiting for a mechanic to finish $1500 in repairs to my car’s A/C, radiator, and catalytic converter assembly (the latter rather important with an emissions test looming), so here’s a mess of links I’ve collected over the last three weeks. Enjoy.

  • Monsanto and other major manufacturers of synthetic pesticides are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat California’s Prop 37, which would require that genetically modified foods be labeled as such. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Nestle are also listed on the Yes on Prop 37 site among companies that have spent at least $1 million to defeat this basic pro-consumer law, which doesn’t ban genetically modified foods, but merely enables consumers to make informed choices.
  • With the Orioles’ unlikely season ending yesterday, it’s a good time to revisit Wire creator David Simon’s podcast with Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch. Speaking of Simon, he also did an interview with Salon a few days before that podcast in which he revealed that HBO turned down a Wire spinoff that would have followed Tommy Carcetti’s career in a new series.
  • Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan wrote a great piece on former A’s prospect Grant Desme, who retired from baseball to join a seminary after a breakout Arizona Fall League performance in 2009. I didn’t see Desme as a potential star or even a solid regular, but that doesn’t make his story any less interesting.
  • What your beer says about your politics. More fun than meaningful, although I think in my specific case it’s pretty spot on.
  • Via mental_floss: Why does sex make men sleepy? Amazing how you can explain things with science.
  • Bill Shaikin of the LA Times did a wide-ranging Q&A with Bud Selig. I’m having a hard time seeing the distinction between the Dodgers’ and Padres’ situations that Selig tries to make.
  • I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I did bookmark it because it sounds and looks so good: crackly banana bread, using whole wheat flour and whole-grain millet to add a crunchy texture.
  • Michael Ruhlman on the fallacy of “follow your passion” advice. He meanders a bit before getting to the crux of the post, but I enjoyed following his train of thought, and I certainly agree that passion and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.
  • I usually avoid straight politics here, but I’m linking to this David Leonhardt piece on ”Obamanomics” because I like the underlying story of how a poor evaluation at the start of a rebuild can negatively affect policies for several years afterwards and lead to further incorrect evaluations that support the first erroneous conclusion. It could just as easily apply to teams like Houston and Colorado at the beginning of long rebuilding processes, to teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore that had unexpected successes this year based partly on individual performances that aren’t likely to recur.
  • Maybe self-esteem is the wrong buzzword for improving happiness – experimental social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson argues that self-compassion is the real key. I first came across her writing in this July piece on success that argues (I admit without much evidence in the article) that believing in your own ability to learn and improve is a key to increasing job performance and finding happiness in your work.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

I’m not a big fan of polemics in general, since, regardless of subject matter, they all tend to share two traits: They are poorly written and lightly evidenced. Joel Salatin’s Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World fits that description perfectly, with a complete lack of footnotes and scant detail even in anecdotes that should, in theory, help prove his points, and while Salatin is clearly a bright guy, he’s no writer, and whoever edited his book didn’t do him many favors. Yet despite those glaring flaws, and the clear bias with which he writes (one to which I’m sympathetic), there’s still a fair amount of value to be had from reading Folks… because of the questions his arguments on agriculture and our modern, unsustainable food supply will raise in your mind.

Joel Salatin is a self-described “environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer,” as well as a libertarian, a Christian, and to some degree a bit of a chauvinist, so 350 pages of his thoughts will inevitably contain something to aggravate any reader – a tactic, however, that can have the positive effect of causing readers to investigate Salatin’s claims further to try to debunk them. He runs an extensive, traditional farm in rural Virginia called Polyface, pasture-raising livestock; eschewing the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and genetically modified crops; and employing a holistic approach to land management that relies on natural processes and diets to maintain soil quality, limit water usage, and minimize his carbon footprint.

Salatin follows three main tracks, ignoring some of the extraneous rants in the book such as his thoughts on child-rearing, that are relevant to the consumer:

  1. He explains why industrially-produced food is inferior in quality, safety, and environmental impact to food from individual farmers practicing his style of agriculture.
  2. He blames government regulators, generally in cahoots with large-scale industrial food producers, for masking the true costs of industrially-produced food, making it less cost-effective for small-scale farmers to start and grow their businesses, and limiting those local farmers’ access to markets through suffocating regulations. He even saves some ire for the government’s relationship with Big Oil, since cheap fuel distorts the market for local food, to say nothing of cheap fertilizers.
  3. And he ends every chapter with advice to the consumer on how to improve his/her impact on the food supply, including many admonitions to grow as much of your own produce as you can, as well as to raise chickens in your backyard for their eggs*, feeding them kitchen scraps and using their manure for compost.

* One of our daughter’s best friends in kindergarten has chickens in her backyard, and her mom gave us a half-dozen of the eggs last week. I have never come across any egg with shells that strong, and it was the first time I’d ever seen a greenish egg, which apparently means the hen was an Araucana. The yolks were also very well-defined. If my daughter and I weren’t both so allergic to feathers, I’d set up a coop right away.

As I mentioned earlier, however, Folks, This Ain’t Normal ain’t a great read. He backs up virtually none of what he says unless he can discuss a specific experience at Polyface; at one point, he mentions a centrally-planned city in China that grew up practically overnight, with 250,000 people and gardens on nearly every rooftop, but never mentions one minor detail – the city’s name – without which the story is much tougher to verify. You may nod your head at first to his arguments about corrupt regulators, market externalities, nanny-state policies, or the hijacking of the term “organic,” but his arguments consistently lack evidence. I think most of what he says is right – our government is way too involved in the food supply, and our policies on food and oil have led to poor land usage, soil mismanagement, the inevitability of water crises, and substandard products at the grocery store* – but it would be tough for me to carry out any of these arguments myself based solely on his book.

*Another rant: Have you ever had a truly pasture-raised chicken? The chicken breasts are small, while the legs are larger, because the chickens are more active, building muscle in the thighs and drumsticks (well, what eventually become the drumsticks), while burning off the calories that, in a caged bird, would otherwise lead to larger breasts. (Stop snickering.) I happen to prefer dark poultry meat anyway, since it has more fat, leading to better texture and less dryness, but it’s also a lot more natural; industrally-raised birds’ organs can’t keep up with the muscle growth in the breasts, so they must be slaughtered earlier so they don’t die of organ failure. And, as it turns out, pasture-raised cows and chickens produce more healthful milk and eggs than feedlot or caged livestock does, just as compost-raised produce contains more nutrients than fertilizer-raised produce.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal at least encouraged me to continue what I’ve started in our yard, composting and growing regionally and seasonally appropriate crops, and to be smarter about what I buy and where I buy it. Salatin mentioned The Cornucopia Institute, which ranks organic dairies and organic egg producers on how true their claims of organic practices are. (In Arizona, the executive summary is: Organic Valley and Clover = good, Horizon and Shamrock = bad.) They’ve also led the fight on behalf of almond farmers who want to sell raw almonds to the public, winning a lawsuit allowing California almond farmers to challenge a USDA regulation that forbids the sale of almonds that haven’t been treated with a toxic fumigant or at very high heat, a regulation in response to a salmonella outbreak at one of the nation’s largest industrial nut producers. This kind of policy – where the sins of a large corporation lead to regulations with fixed costs that crush smaller producers – is exactly what Salatin targets when he rants about intrusive, anti-farmer regulations. I had never heard of the Cornucopia Institute before picking up his book, or many of the other books he mentions (such as Gene Logsdon’s memorably titled Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind), so Salatin’s book did at least achieve one goal – forcing me to reexamine the food my family eats, from how it’s grown to where we get it. But had he researched and supported his book with more hard data or secondary sources, Folks, This Ain’t Normal might have become a classic in its narrow field.

Next up: As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m working my way through Raymond Carver’s short story collection Where I’m Calling From – and yes, I’m aware of the controversy over his editor’s role in changing some of the text.