Some talk, some do: Kansas just sucks

Three movies encapsulate and reverberate throughout my life: The World According to Garp, Wonder Boys, and American Beauty.

I’ve reached my American Beauty moment, and may I go on and have such a fruitful career as Kevin Spacey has since 1999.

I’m an unemployed former food safety professor of almost 20 years, who coaches little and big kids in hockey and goofs around.

I’ve enjoyed the last few months – despite the angst of moving into a house that may slide down the hill at any moment given the Brisbane rains – but with 80,000 direct subscribers and students and media still contacting me daily, I feel a connection.

I just gotta figure out how to get paid.

(If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, like Amy did this morning, it is not authorized. Chapman and I are quite happy to say what the fuck we want and call people on their food safety fairytales).

And I would like to publicly apologize to Amy for dragging me to Australia, and all the bitching I did about shitty Internet, and how I lost my career (at the mall).

It’s looking much better now.

Kansas State University took whatever opportunity they could to get rid of me, for the salary, for the controversy, for whatever. Wasn’t too long after that Kirk-2025-Schultz bailed for Washington state. The provost queen is still stuck there.

As full professor, Kansas had become boring and I hated doing admin shit.

And there was no ice.

When people in Australia ask me about President Trump (two words that never sound right together, like Dr. Oz – thanks, John Oliver) I say, look at Kansas, that is what will happen to America.

The N.Y. Times seems to agree.

In an editorial today, the Times wrote:

Kansas can only hope that reports are true that the Trump administration will let its governor, Sam Brownback, escape the disaster he created in Topeka for a quieter United Nations agricultural post in Rome. And global humanity can only hope for the best.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.

The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.

Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”

If that’s the governor’s parting contribution to the school crisis before his flight to a Trump diplomatic appointment, Kansas parents and school administrators cannot be too surprised. They have been experiencing the deepening budget crisis firsthand in shortened school hours and resources as the state suffered two credit downgrades. Public protest led to a number of Brownback loyalists voted out last year, with legislative newcomers igniting a budget revolt against the governor. He barely survived a showdown last month, by vetoing a $1 billion tax increase.

The tax push seems likely to be renewed, since the state faces a two-year $1.2-billion deficit plus the school funding mandate. For that obligation, state education officials have estimated it might require $841 million over the next two years. The court fight was prompted by a slide in school aid that began in the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. But it spiraled once the Brownback tax cuts drained state coffers.

It seems unfair that Mr. Brownback might abandon the mess he created, especially since Mr. Trump never ceases to renounce life’s “losers.” But Kansans have learned the hard way that they need to be free from the benighted Brownback era, and maybe Mr. Brownback has, too.

I wish nothing but the best for my Kansas colleagues, and a slow, endless angst for administration assholes who put money above values.

There was a time I thought being a prof meant something.

But we don’t need no institution.

More to come.

Soul-sucking: Town house living ain’t for me

We’ve moved into my grandparents’ home circa 1967 (the last time the Leafs won the cup).

The walls are cigarette yellow, the plants are overgrown, but I got Internet.

We love this neighbourhood, and will do our fiscally-able best to improve the place.

Living in a townhouse is convenient, but soul-sucking.

Where I live and write, the place has to have soul.

Jim, maple syrup and anxiety

My friend Jim calms me down almost as much as my puppy, Ted.

I’ve known Jim since about 1996. We collaborated to shut down emotion-not-evidence-based rules on genetically engineered foods in Canada, and he has always brought a practical sense of what a farmer goes through to make a buck.

He also used to terrorize my then young girls by telling them how he shot stray cats left at his dairy farm, because cats carry toxoplasmosis, and it impacted his money-making side.

We were grateful for the three cats from Walkerton.

Jim and Donna’s Walkerton farm is across the road from the source of the E. coli O157 outbreak in 2000 that killed seven and sickened thousands, and I still get chills when Jim recalls another chopper going over the farm, probably another dead person.

Media outlets were broadcasting live from Walkerton, like it was a dam about to collapse.

Or as I said at the time (Jim had to remind me), media wanted cows, manure, river, and townhouses all in one photo.

I spoke with Jim the other day, primarily to balance myself against the most moderate person I know.

Jim has gotten into the maple syrup biz in Ontario (that’s in Canada), he’s got grandkids, like I do, and a seemingly stable situation, running his B&B with Donna, substitute teaching, and new farming ventures.

I admire that.

 

it’s the poop

I was wearing one of our 2006 don’t eat poop T-shirts today as I walked Sorenne to school with Ted the wonderdog.

Most families noticed Ted, but one parent said, “sage advice.”

Clearly someone I could chat with.

He knew all the Australian outbreaks, and said he was in California when spinach happened in 2006, so was a good chat.

But maybe we talk about poop too much. From our artistic (and spelling-challenged) daughter:

Strunk and White never goes out of style

For the thousands of students I have had the privilege of teaching over the past three decades, a reminder: read Strunk and White, and know it inside out.

For assignments, I always gave 60% for content, 40% for style.

So learn to fucking spell and write in coherent sentences, or stop wasting my — or anyone else’s — time.

I miss you: But barfblog needs to stop living in my basement

Hated the song, Miss You, when it came out on Some Girls, the go-to Stones album of my high-school yout in 1978, but saw them live in Buffalo in 1981 and they rocked it up and I sorta got it.

Respcectable is much better from Some Girls.

Journey still sucks.

barfblog.com will be back, but a little different.

No longer tied to any sponsorship, academic or anyone.

(Chapman is, but he needs his job; I don’t).

I’m Canadian. Get used to the fucking swearing or get the fuck off.

A few years ago at the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting, I told the audience, after revealing my wife’s breast size because she asked me to shop for bras – which I did — that the audience of food safety geeks now knew more about my wife’s breast size than they knew about the food they were about to eat for dinner, where it came from, and how it was prepared.

A government-type said she couldn’t read me anymore.

Then don’t.


Or the way 1.5 million attended my farewell blog.

But a few thousand have written in so:

After 25 years of food safety risk communication, nothing has changed.

A self-congratulating-largely-taxpayer-funded crowd to tell people food safety is their fault is not a movement.

Cut-and-paste press releases do not make a publication, regardless of medium – and I’ll take on anyone who wants to talk the medium is the message by University of Toronto prof Marshall McLuhan.

I miss you probably not in the same way Jamie Oliver misses his parents, who own The Cricketers Pub in Essex, England, and was downgraded from the highest rating of 5 to 2 for poor hygiene after inspectors found dead uncooked pheasants next to pre-cooked potato chips, frozen chicken that expired three months ago, and dirt and grease through tout the kitchen.

Then there’s the academics, going on about food safety culture, about eight-years after it jumped the shark.

I’ll let the abstract speak for itself:

In an intensifying climate of scrutiny over food safety, the food industry is turning to “food safety culture” as a one-size-fits-all solution to protect both consumers and companies. This strategy focuses on changing employee behavior from farm to fork to fit a universal model of bureaucratic control; the goal is system-wide cultural transformation in the name of combatting foodborne illness. Through grounded fieldwork centered on the case of a regional wholesale produce market in California, we examine the consequences of this bureaucratization of food safety power on the everyday routines and lived experiences of people working to grow, pack, and deliver fresh produce. We find that despite rhetoric promising a rational and universal answer to food safety, fear and frustration over pervasive uncertainty and legal threats can produce cynicism, distrust, and fragmentation among agrifood actors. Furthermore, under the cover of its public health mission to prevent foodborne illness, food safety culture exerts a new moral economy that sorts companies and employees into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ according to an abstracted calculation of ‘riskiness’ along a scale from safe to dangerous. We raise the concern that ‘safety’ is usurping other deeply held values and excluding cultural forms and experiential knowledges associated with long-standing food-ways. The long-term danger, we conclude, is that this uniform and myopic response to real risks of foodborne illness will not lead to a holistically healthy or sustainable agrifood system, but rather perpetuate a spiralling cycle of crisis and reform that carries a very real human toll.

Oh Fonz.