Monday, February 1, 2010

Book Review - The Omnivore's Dilemma

First off - this is a great book. It's one of those non-fiction reads that is so compelling you feel like you're in the midst of a novel. With some of the food facts contained in between the covers, you'd wish it was a novel!

I've been working towards a mostly local/organic diet for the last couple of years, so it was great to hear some stories about just why the current processed food phenomenon is so sucky. Michael Pollan frames the omnivore's dilemma as the question, "Is this safe to eat?" This is a question that human's have been asking for thousands of years. The author breaks down the analysis of this question into four sections.

First off is a discussion about where we get our regular everyday cheap food from. He tracks corn from the fields of Iowa all the way to our fast food cheeseburgers with a very interesting tale about the politics of the corn industry and how we've really been subsidizing junk food more than anything else with our nation's farm policy.

Next up Pollan takes a look at the industrial organic farms that churn out large monocultures of your favorite organic greens or soybeans or [insert ecologically damaging but concious clearing food here]. I try not to get onto my soapbox too much about food. I firmly believe you should eat what you want to eat. I do wish that it was easier for us to determine exactly what it is we are eating though. The organic culture leads us to believe we're putting healthier foods into our body and that that it is being grown in a way that will keep the planet spinning a little longer. After reading this portion of the book, I'm not sure we're quite there yet.

The third section of the book discusses what may be described as a biodynamic farm. This is a farm that uses very few inputs to generate all of their outputs. The story of Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms is nothing short of astonishing. This is farming and business done the way it should be. The mind blowing processes that Salatin uses to create this well-oiled farm machine make this book well worth the price of admission!

The last section of the book goes through Pollan's process of growing, hunting and forraging for an entire dinner party meal. It's a tall order, but a fascinating tale of how things used to be.

I highly recommend giving this a read. If it's a toss up between reading this, or In Defense of Food (Pollan's second book in the 'change the way you eat' series), I would go with Omnivore's Dilemna. You may need to be ready to change the way you eat though!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Born to Run! A book review...and other stuff

I read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, about a month ago and I'm still thinking a lot about it. The book begins with a description of the author's inability to run without getting injured and his doctor's advice that if he wanted to avoid running injuries he should probably stop running.

What an appalling thought? Is it true that we weren't built in a way that allows us to run? As a chubby guy who loves to run, I can't believe it (although at the the time of writing of this blog, I've been having some foot pains since an-ill advised 10 miler I ran a couple weeks ago:)!

The book travels all over the globe, and essentially back in time, to spend time with the Taruhumara, a native tribe in Mexico, who are widely considered the greatest running people of all time. Their obscene running journeys make us weekend warriors look like, well, fat, lazy americans!

One of the cases McDougall makes in the book is that our running shoes make us MORE prone to injury, not less. All that padding on our heels allows us to run with an unnatural gait that causes a lot of pain and disruption in our lower limbs. Damn You Nike!!! One of the characters in the book (and they are characters!) is "Barefoot Ted", a no-shoe-enthusiast who accompanies the author and others on a trek to take the world's greatest race to the Tarahumara homeland. He swears by the Vibram Five Fingers as the only protection you need for your feet on a long trail run. They look more like a glove for your foot than anything else. When the whether warms up a bit, I'm thinking about checking them out!

I'm not sure if as a species we were meant to run or not, but I do know I'm a heck of a lot happier and healthier when I am. When I'm running I pay more attention to what I put into my body - that whole garbage in, garbage out thing is pretty accurate when it comes to running. It really helps me clear my head and when you're out in the woods by yourself, all that other stuff that's bogging your down really doesn't seem that important.

Anyway, it's a great read and even if you don't really like running, the characters in the book and the insights into how you may have gotten to the place where you don't ever want to run again make it very interesting

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 9 - It's Not Who You Know, It's Who Knows You

Wednesday January 12, 2010

Everybody who writes sales books talks about the importance of networking. This is one of my big goals from 2010 and one of the most daunting. When I was in college, I was an amazing "networker." I'd go to leadership conferences and introduce myself to all 500 attenders before the weekend was out.

I think the real world knocked some wind out of my sales though, and I don't seem to have the same gumption that I used to, or maybe I don't see what the point is anymore. I was at a forum today from small businesses in Oregon and Washington and it was hyped as a great networking event. I'm not sure what a great networking event looks like, but I know this wasn't it! We were in rows of chairs looking at the backs of most of the panel. The panel discussed ways to secure government contracts through various bid and non-bid processes.

Now that I've typed that though - I realized I really didn't take enough initiative to actually get some networking done. I guess anything can be a good networking event if you bring enough business cards. Next time, I'm showing up early and shaking hands with everyone who comes in the door!