Video on“PROTECT IP Act”

Great video on the Internet Blacklist Bill: “PROTECT IP Act” or S. 968 in the Senate (& the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or H.R. 3261 in the House.) http://vimeo.com/31100268

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In case you missed it: I’m published (again.)

Just an update on the career front, team:

In case you missed it, I contributed a story last month to the technology section of The Atlantic. Click here to read my story, “Confessions of a Professional Ghost Tweeter” which reflects on my experiences in social media.

Atlantic logo

Stay tuned for more tech stories to come!

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New York, a Twin City

Disclaimer: Sorry for a lack of updates! I’ve only written a couple pieces for my final journalism course and one of the them will be pitched to publications over the next month or two. Thus, I can’t give you sneak peak. But here’s a piece I wrote recently. Enjoy! Welcome back to the Balcony!

“Some children don’t even know where a tomato comes from. And no, from a grocery store is not an answer,” said Alicia Kim, a student at New York University.

New York City policymakers say that “food deserts” plague our city. Organizations like City Harvest, Just Food and Slow Food International are shouting from the rooftops hoping to inspire change.

But we are a chic cosmopolitan “foodie” city too; a Mecca for innovation in couture food where chefs come to flex their muscles and push the boundaries of fine dining.

We have two different New Yorks emerging. Sometimes it feels like the two versions of New York have grown up in parallel trajectories.

We forget that they both exist in the same city.

“Some of the smartest people in the world are attracted to NYC for all that it has to offer, which conflates the growth of fine dining. On the other hand, the NYC Department of Education is responsible for the largest district in America- over 1 million children,” said Mitch Bloom, a Masters candidate studying food related social change at NYU.

In our city, children are the largest group affected by this food dilemma with one in five New York City children using emergency food services. Among NYC households with school-age children accessing emergency food, an estimated 79% participate in the National School Lunch Program, according to the New York City Food Bank.

The classroom is one place policymakers are looking to make change.

Last year, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer released “FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System,” a report stressing an overhaul of the city’s food system and institutional reform of how New York City approaches food policy.

“By devoting serious attention to our food system, city government can in one stroke improve public health, sustainability, and job creation,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer in a 2010 press release.

Stringer emphasized implementing changes such as prioritizing products from New York State, increasing access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods, and investing in ways to expand the New York City food economy.

On the other side of the food paradigm, you have the chic snobbery of the New York restaurant scene where unapologetic chefs reign supreme.

One chef that comes to mind is David Chang who owns five restaurants in New York City. One of his restaurants features a $100 Korean and South fried chicken pairing that you have to order a day in advance.

“We do not serve vegetarian-friendly items,” the notably mouthy Chang told BigThink.com. “Vegetarians are a pain in the ass as customers.”

But vegetarians and picky eaters are the only ones on Change’s chopping block. Both Chang and his on-again-off-again friend (read: sometimes foe) Anthony Bourdain both have a quite vocal disdain for chefs like Alice Waters, an advocate for sustainable and locally grown food.

Waters is now the Vice President of Slow Food International, a nonprofit organization that funds projects that hope to counter the fast food phenomenon.

“While both men applauded ‘her message’ and Chez Panisse’s game-changing cuisine, Bourdain likened her to a hippie who doesn’t grasp that the poor can’t afford organic milk,” wrote a Grub Street recap of a panel the brash chef pair sat on at the 2009 Food & Wine festival in New York.

Along the same lines, Chang recently said in a recent interview with BigThink.com,  “Sustainability gets overrated. I think it is an overrated term. That’s how you should eat anyways.”

Poking fun aside, Chang shares many core values as Waters when it comes to supporting locally grown foods and most importantly, the farmers who produce them.

In the same interview, Chang talked about trying to start a nonprofit under the Momofuku banner, working with local pig farmers to find ways to use parts of the pigs that they would normally discard. Chang hopes that it would help support local farmers.

“We want to find a way to make that work. So they can just work the land,” said Chang.

He also mentioned how much he would love for an “edible school yard” somewhere in New York City, an idea that came out of Berkeley, California where an organic garden and a kitchen classroom was created for an urban public school. Chang believes that if we can show people where their food comes from, they can have a better understand of what they eat.

“It is impossible to change the habits of adults but if you can get a start early with the kids, you can make a big impact,” said Chang.

However, not everyone believes in the locally grown movement that has been so hyped up in the New York “foodie” scene.

In a recent Foreign Policy magazine survey, Sallie James, a policy analyst, named the “localvore” and “slow food” movement as the “stupidest present food fad” calling it “snobbish, condescending, indulgent, misguided and thoroughly unrealistic.”

But the believers have put a lot of stock in it.

The Green Cart Initiative, which was signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008, is supported by a $1.5 Million grant to fund micro-grants to get fresh produce out to these “food deserts,” which are areas of the city lacking access grocery stores and fresh food.

The Museum of the City of New York currently has an exhibit celebrating the history of the green cart and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene program.

However, the celebratory spirit of the exhibition seems a bit premature in a time where the impact of the policy has yet to be measured.

This summer, a study at NYU will be conducted to see if the initiative has made an impact on communities deemed as “food deserts.”

What New York City needs is for our celebrity chefs, politicians and policymakers to start pooling resources and putting words into actions.

“Policymakers can bring change to NY by supporting a better school lunch system and sourcing it from local NY/NJ farmers. They need to have better partnerships with not-for-profits and corporations,” said Kim, who studies social entrepreneurship at NYU.

“I think we need to rethink our food culture.”

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Veterans Day: Good Eats?

Restaurants, including Applebees, will be doing discounts for Veterans Day tomorrow, according to Restaurant News & Eater.com. At first, I was a bit hesitant when I read this story, partly because it was in a trade mag and also because I tend to question Corporate America’s actual motivations for doing discounts like this.

Once I skimmed the story though, I changed my mind.

Applebees is expecting to serve more than 1 million free meals to veterans and active duty military tomorrow. Locations will feature a special menu (read: serve lots of big cheeseburgers) and some locations will be extending their hours. They also created a Veterans Day website that incorporates some social media elements as well as a discussion board where you can post thank you notes honoring our veterans.

Outback Steakhouse will be serving a free Bloomin’ Onion (Aussie for Onion Rings?) and a non-alcoholic beverages which is cool but not as generous as Applebees. For the promotion, they’ve partnered with Operation Homefront which “provides assistance for our troops, their families, and wounded warriors when they return home.”

After some basic googling I found a few more restaurants and venues doing special events, such as Busch Gardens & Sea World are doing free admissions for veterans and actively enlisted personnel.

I must admit, I was bit disappointed by what I found. Why aren’t there more events? I think this week will be a time were a lot of Americans will ask that magic “why” question and reflect on the current war. It comes at an interesting time especially with Obama’s kind-of under-publicized address to the Muslim World later today in Indonesia.

For more discounts, check out Military.com and for ways you can get involved and learn more about issues facing veterans, check out the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

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Pie is the New Pink. I mean Black…wait what?

Okay. Not really. But some news blogs think it will be.

This Month, Eater’s Trendwatch blog reported (errr, read: re-posted) a story from Restaurant News via Andrew Freeman & Co., a swanky hospitality consultancy firm out of San Fran/NY (warning: don’t click this forthcoming link to their website unless you really, really like Elevator Music) that listed some upcoming restaurants trends for 2011.

Apparently, pies are the new cupcakes.

Boy, did I get excited when I saw this story! My excitement can be justified by a of handful of quasi-valuable reasons:

  1. I really love trends. Mainly, because I find them fascinating. And I know from working in PR that the word “trend” is relative since it is actually something that was usually planned months in advance. Yes, even in food trends. The same way that somebody in The Fashion World decided cheetah prints are in this fall season, somebody else decided we were all going to love antioxidant carrying acai berries and the like.
  2. I’m over cupcakes. I really am. And the reason is that you can only eat so many cupcakes because at the end of the day, it is really just a sugary, tiny cake. Let’s get real people. Cupcake Wars on Food Network, for example, is possibly the most boring show ever. Let’s watch some mom and pop bakers panic over baking cupcakes. Then let’s watch the judges eat cupcakes and disagree on everything. Not to mention, the scoring in the competition and the choice of the winner is completely arbitrary. Who cares who has the best red velvet? I don’t. But I will eat them anyway. Let’s pick a food that a 8-year-old doesn’t bake when he’s faking sick and hanging out with his Stay-At-Home Mom all day.
  3. I just realized I love pie. I know. How crazy is that? I had no idea! After reading the Eater post, I pondered a bit over pie. Waxed and waned some Philosophies of Pie: it comes in all shapes and sizes, almost every ethnic group makes their own and it is a pretty groovy food because many pies can be eaten by hand somewhat neatly, while on the go. I started thinking about different types of pie and all his cousins: pumpkin pie, apple turnover, Chicken pot pie, Cornish pasty, empanadas, samosas. Then I realized…oh man, I do eat a lot of pie.

So I say, in the [slightly amended] words of [a British version of] Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake (read: pie)!

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In case you missed it: I’m published.

Hello lovely people,

Just in case you missed it, I was published this month on the Atlantic Wire website in their Media Diet series. I submitted a short Op-Ed about “What I read.” Check it out here.

Enjoy!

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Things that blow my mind: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm

This week my Advance Reporting class, headed out to Greenpoint, Brooklyn to visit the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a 6000-square-foot on top of an old bagel factory. The farm features 30 varieties of produce and herbs as well as rabbits (read: bunny rabbits!), chickens and bees. There is no irrigation system so everything is watered by hand. Annie Novak, a co-founder, said that it is because “we are trying to stay off the tap” in order to conserve water.

 

Eagle Street Rooftop Farm overlooks the East River. Helicopters on the way to the United Nations fly right over it.

The farm runs sort of like a co-op. There are 15 people (at 13 shares) in the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) who pay up front for their produce. As the season goes on, the farmers deliver the peppers, eggplant etc. to the CSA. In addition, a handful of local restrauants buy from the farm too.

 

Right now, it's harvest season.

According to Novak, their farm is more of a didactic tool that teaches people about water shed runoff rather than trying to find another way to feed New York. The reason is that Novak wants New Yorkers to continue to support upstate farms.

 

The farm will continue to harvest and be open to the public until Halloween.

Need a job? Eagle Street Rooftop Farm has an apprenticeship program. Or if you want to volunteer, get your hands dirty and check out the farm, they are open every Sunday to the public.

 

The farm is now experimenting with growing products like hops

This week, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm was featured in New York Magazine‘s “Guide to the City’s Urban Farmers” which includes a map of locations, check it out here.

 

Since the farm overlooks the East River, helicopters pass over on the way to the United Nations

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