Some time ago (maybe 2004-2006), I decided to stop eating beef and pork. There were several reasons; the treatment of animals, the effect of red meat on my health, and the effect of meat production on the environment. For beef, I was also concerned about mad cow disease. And for pork, I was concerned about intelligent pigs.
I’ve made some exceptions over the years (mostly at nice restaurants), but for the most part I have stuck with my ban. In fact, I’ve ended up being a little more strict than I’d originally intended – mostly because it is easier to have a hard-and-fast rule than to always have to make a decision.
I’m still not going to eat pork, but, in my opinion, the health effects of eating beef have become less clear. Mad cow disease hasn’t been a problem in the US, and the negative effects of saturated fat may have been overstated.
Even with that new information, my other reasons for excluding beef are still enough for me to avoid eating beef at home (a hamburger creates the same amount of greenhouse gas as a chicken sandwich plus burning a quarter gallon of gas).
Beef production releases 27 lb CO2 equivalent per lb of meat (includes CO2 from fertilizer and transport of grain to feed the cow plus the methane the cow produces). Chicken produces 7 lb CO2 equivalent per lb of meat. So a quarter-pounder generates 5 lb more CO2 than a 4 oz chicken sandwich. Burning a gallon of gas produces 20 lb of CO2.
Along with the greenhouse gas difference, a pound of beef requires an extra 1500 gallons of water and 28 times as much land as chicken.
Switching to a vegi-burger probably doesn’t save much. Beans and grains are only 2-3 lb of CO2 per pound of food, but the extra effort to make and package the vegi-burger reduces that savings.
But while I wont be eating much beef, I no longer feel like it is worth avoiding altogether. I will order beef at restaurants where there aren’t other good options. And I will eat beef at friend’s houses. I never wanted my beef/pork ban to be an inconvenience for friends, and hopefully this change will make it a bit easier.
We made two trips this summer. One to Montreal with my family and one to Wyoming to see the eclipse. Photo galleries: MontrealEclipse
We went to Montreal in mid-August and stayed near Mont Royal in an apartment through airBnB. Montreal is a nice city, but the main point of the trip was to spend time with my family and see my niece and nephew. The apartment worked well for having time with the kids and for take-out meals and breakfasts. One morning my sister-in-law brought back pasteries (Kouing Aman I think?) that were incredible. My favorite site was the cathedral. It was built in the 1820s in the Gothic style. It has a blue color scheme and some nice wooden sculptures.
A few days after getting back from Montreal, we went to Wyoming to see the total eclipse. We didn’t plan far enough ahead to have a hotel room so we left at 3am from Denver and arrived at Glendo state park (without too much traffic) at 7am. The park was nice and we spent quite a bit of time walking around. The eclipse itself was spectacular and something that I still think about two months later. I’m definitely planning to see the next one in America in 2024. Unfortunately, the drive back from the eclipse was awful. Traffic in the park didn’t move at all for a couple hours. We actually waited till 6pm to leave and the 3 hour drive took 6 hours. Next time I am going to plan much further ahead and get a hotel.
Overall 2016 was a good year for us. We remain healthy and are enjoying making touch table games. We did less traveling than we did in 2015, but we made more games. We went to New York to visit my brother and his two kids. We also took a trip to San Carlos with our friend Doug. Between the two of us, we made 13 games for the touch table bringing our total to 62. I am still playing violin and got a new five string electric violin this year.
We took a trip to San Carlos 10/26 – 11/2 with a friend of ours. To get there we flew into Phoenix and rented a car. It takes about 10 hours to drive from Phoenix. In town we did our standard neighborhood walks, beach time, and restaurants. We also did several geocaches. All of the caches were a bit of hike to get to and one was on an island that only has land access at low tide. On one of the cooler days we hiked the Nacapule canyon trail. The Nacapule canyon is a few miles north of town and part of a national park. We also went into Guyamas to check out a pearl factory and the Three Presidents square. It was a fun trip and I’ve put up a gallery of photos here.
This is my second annual “year in review” post. It’s like a lazy Christmas card to the internet.
Overall we had a good year. We are healthy, enjoying our free time, and keeping busy making software and games for the touch table. We did a lot of traveling this year with trips to Boston, San Carlos Mexico, Essen Germany, a Mediterranean cruise and a couple trips to see family.
Mesa Mundi invited us to PAX East again this year. We stayed with the Mesa Mundi team in Sharon, so we got to spend more time hanging out with Toby, Rebecca, Laura and Matt.
In April we drove down to San Carlos Mexico to relax, enjoy the warm weather and spend some time on the beach. On the way back, we checked out the Very Large Array Radio telescope and stopped in Santa Fe and Taos. The VLA was a bit of a detour, but it was well worth the time.
To celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, we joined them on a Mediterranean cruise with my brother and his family. It lasted two weeks and we got to see a lot of interesting sites. It was also nice to spend time with brother’s family again, and the food on the cruise ship was excellent.
In October we celebrated our 42nd birthdays by doing something geeky and going to the biggest board game convention in Essen Germany. We had a lot of fun at the convention and also saw the Zollverein coal mine complex. We played and saw lots of new games and have ended up adding quite a few of them to our board game collection.
We went to Kansas for Thanksgiving and to Idalia CO for a mini family reunion in June. It had been quite a while since I had seen some of my aunts and uncles and we got to spend time with a couple cousins that I haven’t seen in years.
Along with travel and travel planning, I spent a lot of time this year writing games for the touch table. I wrote five games this year: Puerto Rico, Vegas Showdown, 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck. Vegas Showdown was the last game that I wrote in the Torque game engine and 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck are written in Unity. I’m enjoying working in Unity. The Unity editor is really good and makes laying out the graphics for a game much easier. It is also nice to write code in C# instead of Torquescript. Another big advantage is that the Unity community is a lot more active and there are assets and plugins that are available for Unity that can save a lot of time.
I also wrote a new version of my Timeline program for tracking major life events. I added the ability to track health metrics collected by a fitness tracker to the application.
I am still practicing the violin. I had a recital in May and stopped taking lessons in August. I may start lessons again someday, but for now I am learning on my own. We are also still hosting bi-weekly game nights with friends and have started attending a local gaming group meetup on the off week.
Next year will probably be a little less busy than 2015. We don’t have nearly as much travel planned. We hope to continue making touch table games. If we continue at our current pace, we will reach fifty games sometime next year.
For our 42nd birthday, we made a pilgrimage to the biggest board game convention in the world: Essen Spiel, in Essen Germany. The convention is setup for board game vendors to promote their latest games to the gaming public and press. There is a gallery of all the photos here.
We took a cruise of the Black sea and Mediterranean with my parents and my brother’s family to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was a 14 day cruise with stops in Greece, Istanbul, Bulgaria, Romania, Valletta, Sicily and Italy. The ship docked at a new port most days, and we would either tour on our own or take a tour organized by the ship. We got back on board for dinner as a group each night and the ship moved on to the next port while we slept.
It was a great trip and it was very nice to have time with my family. I’ve posted a bunch of pictures here.
I am preparing for my fourth violin recital. I am going to be playing the second and third movement of “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. The “Four Seasons” is a very popular song, but people are most familiar with the first part of Spring. The part that I am playing is less famous, but still fairly popular. The “Four Seasons” is intended to evoke the seasons of the year in the listener, and the music even has little descriptive notes describing what is happening. In the second movement of summer, is is a hot afternoon and a shepherd is trying to sleep through the approaching thunderstorm. In the third movement, the storm has arrived and there is thunder, wind, and hail.
Here is a recording of me practicing for the recital. I have another week to practice, but I’ve already been working on this movement for five weeks, so this is about as good as it is going to get. I am playing at 92 beats per minute while professionals would play at 120 beats per minute. Some parts of this piece sound significantly better at full speed, and while I can play at nearly full speed, I make more mistakes. At the recital, there will be piano accompaniment which should help.
Edit (post recital): The recital went fairly well. We didn’t do a warm-up period; so the recital was shorter, but it was a bit harder to play without the warm-up session. I was a bit less nervous than at the prior recitals and played a bit better. This was the first year where I made it through the piece without having to stop to recover from a mistake.
I brought my camera along and got some video of some of the students to provide a feeling for what the experience is like. The final performance is by the teacher.
Edit 2: I was wrong about not improving much more in the final week. With another week (probably 15 hours) of practice I did get a bit faster and more consistent. I think that some of the tricky parts are a bit cleaner too. I’ve replaced the original practice video with on that I recorded the day after the recital. Sorry about the bad focus on the new video.