Picture Sundays: Homebrew Birthday Cards


Caroline Clerc, the talented artist who drew the little figures that dance across the top of this blog, gave me a personalized birthday greeting (I’m getting near the half century mark). The card depicts the inside of my brain which has been contaminated by toxoplasmosis and is thus full of cats.

Lora Hall, a.k.a. Homegrown Neighbor took a craft class recently and made a bunch of cards including this Star Wars mashup that she gave me:

birthdaycard 2

It depictis what happens when you hit 50 with toxoplasmosis.

Saturday Linkages: Bike Racks, Sugary Drinks and . . . CATS!!!!


Krokig £3 bike rack – IKEA Hackers

One-Day Protected Bike Lane Demos Have Swept America this Summer

Sugary drinks are hiding under a ‘health halo’

Architecture meets horses–ACE Center builds an environment for learning at Taking the Reins

Setting the Record Straight on the Legality of Seed Libraries (via )

DIY Hidden Cat Ladder:

Vintage viral cat photo: via

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Koreatown Market Tour with Hae Jung Cho


Chef and Master Food Preserver Hae Jung Cho, who was a guest on episode 6 of the Root Simple Podcast, is leading a Koreatown Market Tour on Saturday August 23, from 10 to 1:

Ever wonder which products at the Korean market are organic or what kind of pepper flakes to buy for making kimchi? Join me for a guided tour of supermarkets and specialty food shops in Koreatown. The tour is geared toward people who want to cook and eat Korean food at home, especially those who want to make kimchi. Cost: $25. (Bring extra cash for snacks etc.)

Head over here to sign up.

This class would have prevented the head scratching trip Kelly and I took down the Korean chili powder section of our local Asian market recently!

2,000 Year Old Bread

A Root Simple reader sent me a link to this video from the British Museum showing a chef recreating a 2,000 thousand year old loaf of bread found in one of the ovens of Pompeii.


Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Bread A Global History by William Rubel. Rubel puts forth a couple of theories about the history of bread. One, that there’s nothing new about white bread. The elites have been eating white bread for a long time. Ironically, healthier whole wheat breads tended to go to poor folks. Also he says that the Pompeian bread would most likely, as this chef proves, look and taste a lot like contemporary “artisinal” sourdoughs. In other words, the bread you buy at a fancy bakery like Tartine in San Francisco hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years.

The British Museum has helpfully provided a recipe should you want to make your own version of this bread.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, GMOs and Risk Management

I can understand why Neil deGrasse Tyson made these off the cuff remarks about genetically modified organisms. There’s a lot of tin foil hat thinking on the anti-GMO side. But his comments also reveal that Tyson does not understand the difference between conventional plant breeding (something human beings have been up to for thousands of years) and GMOs.

For me, the best argument against GMOs come from a risk-management perspective. Statistician, author and former Wall Street trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb, along with four co-authors, published an article, “The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions” that describes, from a risk management perspective, why GMOs are not a good idea,

Monoculture in combination with genetic engineering dramatically increases the risks being taken. Instead of a long history of evolutionary selection, these modifications rely not just on naive engineering strategies that do not appropriately consider risk in complex environments, but also explicitly reductionist approaches that ignore unintended consequences and employ very limited empirical testing . . . There is no comparison between tinkering with the selective breeding of genetic components of organisms that have previously undergone extensive histories of selection and the top-down engineering of taking a gene from a fish and putting it into a tomato. Saying that such a product is natural misses the process of natural selection by which things become “natural.” While there are claims that all organisms include transgenic materials, those genetic transfers that are currently present were subject to selection over long times and survived. The success rate is tiny. Unlike GMOs, in nature there is no immediate replication of mutated organisms to become a large fraction of the organisms of a species. Indeed, any one genetic variation is unlikely to become part of the long term genetic pool of the population. Instead, just like any other genetic variation or mutation, transgenic transfers are subject to competition and selection over many generations before becoming a significant part of the population. A new genetic transfer engineered today is not the same as one that has survived this process of selection.

With GMOs there is the chance, albeit small, of total systemic failure of the system. The “bottom up” nature of conventional breeding–a much longer time frame and localized effects–prevents this kind of systemic failure.

Hopefully Tyson will read this article himself. It’s evident from his non-apologetic backpedaling on Facebook, that he still doesn’t understand the risks of GMOs.

Taleb’s article is worth reading. In addition to his argument on GMOs, the papers serves as a convenient summary of his “black swan” theory.