Black Hole Sat

I’m not a planner by nature. How about you?

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Being prepared, planning, listing out steps, having an idea of what I want to do before I start doing something – it’s all very learned behavior for me, and I’m still not great at it. I was never taught, exactly, how to make plans, how to plan ahead, when I was a kid. I was told to do it by teachers and family, and I often experienced the fallout for not planning when I was a young student (I remember, very well, the day my mother told me what “procrastination” meant and I sat there thinking, there’s a word for this thing I do?), but there’s a big difference between knowing you’re supposed to be doing something and knowing how to do that thing. It smarts, especially when it seems to come so easily to everyone else, including your annoying little brother.

Things I’m somewhat hapless at planning in my personal life:

1. Anything with money (I’d just rather not spend it, or spend it on the same things)

2. The future (long-term)

3. What I’m going to wear (or even knowing what I have to wear) (related: #1)

4.What I’m going to blog about (I do have lists of topics now)

5. Leisure time (I just clean instead)

You can imagine how I’m feeling as Jim and I work with Lilly on Planning Her Future, which is a LOT of 1 & 2. None of us are really good at it and it’s terribly intimidating, but we’re trying to relish the challenge. Gulp.

There are certain types of planning I’m pretty good at. I know my way around conceiving, planning, and executing campaigns at my job. I LOVE the strategic planning process for organizations. I’m an excellent (though rather barky, if I’m not getting help) meal planner. And today I realized, after Jim and I did the grocery shopping and I was getting everything ready for the beef stew that’s on the stove right now, I really enjoy prep work in the kitchen. I like the peeling, the chopping, the dicing, the measuring, the mise en place. I enjoy cooking, but prep work makes me happy. When Jim cooks, I often help with the prepping of the vegetables. Our kitchen is small and we are not small people, but I enjoy being side-by-side, working together and bumping into each other.


We’re getting a little more snow tonight. I was just outside to take out some recycling and it was so still and so quiet as the snow fell, the only sound my neighbor practicing his French horn. The stew is done. The biscuits are done (I highly recommend them). Before I go, here’s tonight’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t

Interview with Jeff Wise, who has an interesting MH370 theory

His theory

More spec from Jeff Wise

She Does podcast

The most amazing cattle you will ever see

Reddit AMA with animator Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) – she lives in Urbana!

I hate the “picked for you” pins on Pinterest and use it less because of them

How to thicken stews


This week I started my part of finishing the Backyard Industry video series.

The biggest/hardest parts of this process, for me, are the writing of the episode and the logging of the footage. We shot a bunch of footage of people’s chicken coops last summer – here’s my friend/neighbor/now-mother-of-Cliff, Colleen, talking about their setup:


I think Tim and I would agree that the way we’ve ended up working together on these things has been less than optimum for a lot of reasons; the overall lack of time sucks, but also the way we’ve divided up the workload (based mainly on skillsets, but also priorities/time) means that we each have our specific, siloed area of work. We rarely work together outside of the shoot itself. If we had it to do all over again, I think both of us would prefer to work more collaboratively from start to finish, but it’s also been a good experience with so many lessons learned. SO MANY LESSONS, Y’ALL. Anyway, we’re looking forward to finishing the series and moving into spring at about the same time. I’m pretty excited about spring, although… I still haven’t ordered my seeds. Am I OK?


My brain is wired in such a way that I have to write stuff down or I’ll forget it.


Occasionally I look at my notes and am perplexed. What the hell does that even mean? Was I asleep when I wrote this or what? I’m always writing little blurbs to myself about possible topics to cover here and eventually on the podcast, which I’m still planning to get to when the weather turns. Here are some of them:

The demise/”resurrection” of Modern Farmer magazine

At some point I’ll write a long piece about farmers markets and why I think they’re so important and it’s not just about food for me

The difference between being enveloped in a culture like a blanket and being part of the actual fabric of the culture itself – being the blanket, I guess – in the contexts of isolation and inclusiveness

How neighborhoods, and conversations among neighbors and small business owners are rarely part of the “brand” of most places that we see. Individuals, households, towns/areas are more connected with other individuals, households, and towns/areas than ever before, but getting out and conversing IRL is crucial; otherwise the “brands” dominate the conversation and places/people are not being represented truthfully. This happens all the time and everywhere and I’m not thinking up some new thought or anything, but I was struck by a conversation I had with two friends the other night, quite by chance, where this was apparent – the difference between what the 3 of us know to be true, what we see happening, vs various “talking points” we all hear – was amazing. The dominant narrative is so rarely what’s actually happening, and people do know this, and it erodes trust. Get out there and talk about it!

UGH, I’m all over the place. I should finish that shopping list and procure supplies before our (seriously downgraded) “weather event” makes its way here. But first… a little bit of LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

I found myself checking out the Lexington Market in Baltimore

I like analytics

And digital marketing stats, I like those too

Something great Jeff Johnson wrote at Medium about Marshawn Lynch

How the BBC is thinking about its future

Simpler Times

East central Illinois is firmly into 2014’s version of spring; some days it seems like summer (it was over 90 degrees just over a week ago) and others it seems like late winter (it was 38 degrees a few nights ago, making for a chilly morning). Saturday before last, the full B-K clan (Cody was even home) were at the Illiac Music Festival in downtown Urbana, sweating it out with the hula-hoopers and everyone else. By Wednesday, we were suffering through Lilly’s soccer team’s loss to a much-loathed rival in unfortunate 45 degree/windy/rainy weather. Even Saturday was kind of crummy – chilly and clouds threatening to take over, though the farmers market was bright with spring food, including strawberries from a couple hours south of here.

But by 5 PM it had cleared off and the sun had warmed things a little and suddenly it seemed a fine night for a crawfish boil.


Cooked bugs



It was a lovely evening at Douglas’ sweet abode, but having partied ourselves out at Prairie Fruits Farm, followed by some hilarity at our friends the Hxes the night before, Jim and I were in bed by 10, dreaming of a Sunday above 60 degrees. Such is middle age. If this is how it is, I don’t mind it a bit.

But. I find myself yearning for more. And less. Not necessarily the way it was for us a decade ago, when we had an 11 year-old and a 5 year-old and we were still living at 1005 and my main (and formidable) task was guiding their education – and, as it happened, my own. I’m talking about more (and less) within the framework we have now. Work (ours) and school (hers) plus soccer (theirs) and outside activities (ours) means, lately, coming home each night to a house that looks like a cat fur bomb has gone off, non-existent dinner plans for hungry people, and a garden full of plants I don’t want (AKA “weeds”). While soccer is mostly over and school is nearly out, a summer including family travel, at least one wedding to attend, team tryouts, driver’s ed, and a list of home projects as long as my arm is a bit intimidating. The house stuff really needs to happen, as we’ve lived here at 909 for nearly 10 years and a few things are finally starting to show their age. I’ve gotten right with one thing: The things keeping us occupied are things we love, so we just have to make room in all the budgets to make life work. I’ll confess: While there’s a part of me that relishes the challenge, there’s also a part of me that just wants to sleep. I need to know, guys. How do people far busier than us keep up?

Coming soon to screens and airwaves: Tim, the other half of the BYI enterprise, is finally back from a work trip to SF and we’re about to start intensive video editing work on two video episodes. Upcoming radio episodes will include musings on co-existing with urban wildlife (I’m headed out today with this guy), making food with edible flowers, and what local food means in a country-to-be-named-later. It’s the time of year I dreamed about during the polar vortices. It’s a time of… more. And for that? I’m grateful.

Shorn Off, Pt. 1


The weather here in the Midwest, which I’m certain most people are sick of talking/hearing/reading about, has finally taken a turn for the better. (Midwest is best!) Those chickens up there were complretely stoked to be outside in 40-degree (or so) sunshine. The BYI crew was out at my friend Cathe Capel’s place –  Seven Sisters Farm, in Sidney, Illinois – to watch (and film) the annual shearing of her small flock of very woolly (and in some cases, very pregnant) sheep.

First we had a freaking awesome meal around the dining room table in Cathe’s gorgeous 19th century abode. She dished up chili, cornbread, pie, strong coffee, and a most convivial table. I wish I could adequately explain how I feel about settings like this. I wanted to hug everyone while we were eating.


We also ate some tea eggs that Emma from Lucky Duck Farm brought to share. They were exquisitely dessert-like. I love eggs anyway, but these were… sublime.


After we ate, we went into the barn, where Tigger lives. She has three legs, amazing green eyes, and is a total badass.

IMG_6980We got a look at some vintage shearing equipment – this clipper hand crank (not sure what the actual nomenclature is) dates to 1910.


The sheep were like, we know something is going on but cannot quite remember what it is. Hmm.


Harold Davis, a sheep-shearing legend in Illinois, showed the group how to get to it, New Zealand style. Harold has shorn 900,000 sheep in his day and knows what he’s doing. Needless to say, the rest of us were not interested in giving this particular method a go.


Part Two: I meet a ewe named Dawn, I come to grips with the clippers, and I feel sad when leaving Sidney. I’ll post that this week.

In the meantime, enjoy this radio piece I did two years ago (you can tell it was two years ago because I talk about how winter never came) about the same class, led that time by another Illinois shearing rockstar, Dick Cobb. He’ll also feature in Part Two.

OK. Time to jet. Cosmos is on.


Bowl Season


I think it must have been when my brother was a young teenager – so sometime back in the late 1980s – that I first heard the phrase “Jethro Bowl”. FROM MY MOTHER, YOU GUYS. Marc (my brother), like boys that age since the beginning of time, was given to eating large amounts of cereal. His preferred bowl-fare was very sugary and extremely tasty and my mother refused to buy it, so what did he do? He went right out and got himself a job hauling newspapers and heaving the golf bags of rich dudes all over a golf course so he could buy his own damn cereal and nobody could say a damn word about it. Anyway, I’m not saying she made the term up, but she definitely was saying it back in the day.

I’m bringing it back tomorrow in 2014’s first edition of BYI. What would you fill a Jethro Bowl with this time of year? FOBYI Douglas is threatening to bring over chicken and dumplings this weekend, which it appears we’re going to need, so… how ’bout you?