Eight Reasons to Stop Eating Fast Food Right Now

It’s become fashionable to hate on fast food, and for the most part we’ve moved well beyond thinking it’s anything but a junk-laden comfort drug. But just in case, here are eight reasons to stop eating fast food that you may not already know – just in time for your New Year’s resolutions to kick in. You are making New Year’s resolutions, aren’t you?

Click here to read the rest of the story at Matador Life.

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Seattle sidetrip: Hiking in North Cascades National Park

I HEAR THEM as soon as I get out of the car. Waterfalls. Across the valley are 7000ft saw-toothed mountains, flecked with melting glaciers. The roar of those long streams of meltwater carries for miles.

After an hour of dodging potholes on a partially unimproved Forest Service road, I’m damn happy to be standing up straight, about to get my pack on my back and get up into the mountains.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Trips.

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After the spill

National Geographic has dedicated most of their October issue to a special report on the Gulf oil disaster.

It’s become apparent to me, after reading these articles, that the spill is about so much more than just oiled pelicans and ruined marshes. It’s about the massive amounts of chemical dispersants used that, despite EPA approval, are turning out to have disastrous effects on the Gulf–worse than the oil itself.  It’s about the complete unpreparedness of BP, whose spill response plan was outdated and irrelevant. (Entire pages had been copied and pasted from plans for the Arctic, which did not apply to the Gulf.)

It’s about an entire nation beating up on Louisiana. A nation whose thirst for oil means tearing up the wetlands to make room for ships and drilling platforms and pipeline.  A nation whose hunger for cheap food means chemical fertilizers washing off Midwestern farms end up floating down the Mississippi River and causing an enormous oxygen-depleted dead zone where no fish survive. A nation whose inexplicable desire to continue eating fish caught from the Gulf threatens these species very existence.

A nation that seems unwilling to connect these actions with south Louisiana’s increasing vulnerability to hurricanes.

It is all connected. We are all connected.

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Tourist Season

Naples (Florida, not Italy) is ground-zero for the recession. I spent last week there, and driving past foreclosed homes, abandoned construction projects and half-empty strip malls. It’s clear this is one hard-hit city in a hard-hit state.

The other curious thing about Naples is that there’s something known as “season,” which is when the snow-birds come down from the Northern states in winter and Naples becomes overrun with old people. Entire traffic patterns change. Restaurants and beaches are more crowded. It’s apparently such a noticeable difference that several times people remarked, “Wow, this street is so empty when it’s not season” or “Man, it’s going to be busy here come season.”

So early September is apparently a  great time to hit up south Florida. My hotel at Cocoa Beach was mostly empty. The beaches on both coasts were also sparsely populated. It seems like just about everywhere has a down time, a period every year when only the locals are out and about and you don’t have to fight for a parking space. Now that’s my kind of trip.

Mostly-empty Cocoa Beach

Other than that, there’s really no reason to go Naples, Florida. Sure, the white sand beaches are nice, but there’s nothing at all unique there–just box stores and chain restaurants and subdivisions. For me, though, my best buddy showing me around was reason enough. Oh, and her stepdad cooks one helluva medium-rare steak.

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Best parks in Seattle

Seattle has some incredible parks, which is why I find it so hard to get any work when I’m visiting the Emerald City. If you have similar problems when you travel, consider meeting rooms for hire, to get your clients (and you!) away from distractions and to a quiet, conducive work space. In fact, the Warwick Hotel, just downtown, has meeting rooms available, putting you in easy reach of these parks by bus or car–or even on foot. This way, you can get your work done in a professional setting before venturing out to explore.

1. Washington Park and Arboretum

This park is expansive, covering 230 acres northeast of Downtown, so my favorite way to take it in is to combine cycling and walking. I love speeding down the Arboretum’s green hills and hiking the trails at the park’s northern end, which snake through forests and marshy islands.

There are a few hidden swimming and picnicking spots, but I also like having a snack while watching the kayakers on Lake Washington paddling through the lilypads around the I-5 overpasses.

Getting there: Rent a bike at Recycled Cycles, head across the Montlake Bridge and through the parking lot of the Museum of History and Industry. A trailhead starts here, but you’ll have to walk your bike through the marsh trails.

Avoid biking on Arboretum Drive, as you’ll snarl traffic and piss off a lot of drivers. Instead, there are paved roads throughout the park that are closed to vehicles.

Read the rest online at Matador Trips.

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A treeless future

Last night I attended an event to mark the bicentennial celebration of St. Tammany Parish. I contributed to a book on the parish’s history, which was unveiled last night. The huge piles of books made me think that maybe the event could have profited from using an outside document storage company!

The book and its photos are beautiful, and I noticed the predominant color is green. The front cover is a photo of the leafy St. Tammany Trace, my favorite spot to cycle in this part of Louisiana. There are incredible aerial shots of rivers and bayous lined with thick vegetation and of wetlands.

Trees are what I love most about visiting St. Tammany. The concrete of New Orleans wears on me, and when I visit my parents across the lake, I’m struck by how saturated the landscape is with green. It’s almost blinding. I’m always spotting turtles, hummingbirds, deer, rabbits, and possums when I drive around. I think the “natural”/country setting of the parish is what draws so many people to it.

On the way to the event, I passed a new shopping mall. A vast, clear-cut eyesore of parking lots and chain restaurants and offensively large box stores. I noticed numerous wooded lots for sale. Inevitably, when those are sold, all the trees will be cut down, because apparently you can’t build a damn house unless you clear-cut the entire property.

It depressed me that as we honored the history of this beautiful area, we ignored the rampant expansion that’s taking place, that’s degrading much more than just the atmosphere of these small towns. It seems like an incredible oversight on the part of the parish. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s hypocritical to honor the past while failing to protect the green spaces that make the parish special.

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Up to my elbows

Here are some photos I took while working out in the marshes around Barataria Bay, Louisiana. I had no idea we were actually going to get IN the water, as one of the volunteer coordinators demonstrates below. Read more about this experience on the Matador Change blog here.

An old fishing boat at the dock we left from.

These “terraces” were dredged to make levees on which to plant tufts of marsh grass.

The small clumps of grass will grow quickly into large bunches and replace the marsh that has eroded and died off.

Shrimp boats siting idle–not sure if that’s due to the spill or not.

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