Saturday, March 01, 2008

Highlights from My In Box

*Hey waiter, my coffee tastes like mud!
Yes sir, It's fresh ground.
(from the Prairie Home Companion e-news)

Jim Shepard Wins 4th Story Prize

Jim Shepard, the winner of the fourth annual Story Prize, chats with fellow nominee Vincent Lam after the ceremony, held last night at the New School. Accepting the $20,000 prize for Like You'd Understand, Anyway, a clearly moved Shepard had nothing but praise for Lam's Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures and Tessa Hadley's Sunstroke and Other Stories. "They focus with economy and grace our empathetic attention," he said of the two collections. "They compel our interest in lives other than our own."

During the presentation, each of the three authors read from their work and then sat down for a brief interview with prize director Larry Dark; Shepard discussed how he came to write "The Zero Meter Diving Team," an emotionally wrenching story that interweaves family dynamics and Chernobyl, comparing the Soviet Union's chronic denials that there were any flaws in their nuclear energy program with the way families might say "Uncle Billy doesn't have a drinking problem, when I'm pretty sure he does—his liver just exploded." How'd he latch onto Chernobyl as a short story subject? "I'm enough of a nerd that I'll take a big pile of oral histories of Chernobyl out of the library just because I want to read it," he admitted; that led to him recognizing an emotional theme that could work as a story, after which the deeper research began.


*San Francisco Bans Trans Fats
(from the daily green)

San Francisco is the latest city trying to run trans fats out of town. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to begin a City Hall push to get artery-clogging trans fats out of the food served in San Francisco restaurants. The board approved the measure unanimously, and had the approval of the city's leading restaurateurs' association.

This is a voluntary program, and, according to the report, restaurants that pledge to cook without trans fats will receive a decal that can be displayed to let customers know their food is being prepared without partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The legislation's author, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, said the next step is to make the ban mandatory. New York City approved a mandatory ban in late 2006. Restaurants have to comply by July 2008. Philadelphia and Tiburon also have trans-fat bans.


*Preserving a Forest and a Philosophy

(from The New York

John Loomis for The New York Times

Crossing a shaky bridge. More Photos >


John Loomis for The New York Times

Putting up a mosquito net, above, was part of a business hiking trip in the Costa Rican rain forest. More Photos »

“Dare I ask why this hill is called Fer-de-lance Hill?” one hiker, Tom Newmark, had asked another, Frank Joyce, a University of California biologist and expert on the rain forest. “And Frank says, ‘Well, this is where they hang out.’ ”

“They” were aggressive and deadly snakes. “Sure enough, we round this bend and this fer-de-lance is rattling away at us,” recalled Mr. Newmark, the chief organizer of the hike and co-chief executive of the organic vitamin and supplement maker New Chapter. “It was about as thick as Albert Pujols’s baseball bat.”

One hiker, Stephen Brooks of Kopali Organics, was attacked, but his boot kept the snake’s fangs from digging into skin.

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