Hidden Valley Farmigo 2015: Garbage In, Garbage Out

farmigo-logo-orangeIn my line of work — software development — we have an old saying: “Garbage In, Garbage Out” (or GIGO for short). In other words, I could write the most elegant software program ever, but if I feed in bad data, I’m going to get bad results.

The same is true for cooking. I spent more than a decade following my mother and my grandparents around the kitchen, absorbing centuries-old traditions and methods to create some of the finest Southern Italian delicacies you can find outside of the motherland. But I can’t do these dishes justice if I buy industrial, travel-worn, GMO and chemically-treated food from your average grocery store.

Two generations ago, before WWII-era plants manufacturing poison gas were converted to pesticide factories and before bomb-making facilities were re-purposed to make nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, nearly everything in the food chain was, in today’s terms, “organic.” Many of our grandparents either grew up on farmsteads or maintained a small family or community garden. Growing up in the East Bay, we had a half-dozen tomato plants we would rotate each year with legumes (green beans, favas, limas, etc.) in the age-old tradition of naturally reintroducing nitrogen to the topsoil. As a result, we would enjoy fresh, organic caprese salad with nearly every meal all summer long and still manage to give away bags and bags of tomatoes to our neighbors, fresh off the vine.

By all means, I encourage you to grow your own food, a practice that pays back tenfold the work you put into it. But for many of us, this is too impractical or time consuming.

The very next best thing to having your own garden is using our local farm-to-table service: Farmigo. We started using it at Hidden Valley last year under the stewardship of Erin Bergman, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. This year, she’s passed the reigns to me. Farmigo provides organic, local, sustainable, GMO-free produce and an assortment of dry goods, baked goods, fermented foods, dairy products and pre-made items from local providers. It’s easy to use and not any more expensive than high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods or Fairfax’s marvelous Good Earth.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up for the Hidden Valley community on the Farmigo web site
  2. Place your order by 11:59pm each Sunday night
  3. Pick up your order from the foyer of the multipurpose room Wednesday between 1 and 2pm*

As much as I love Farmigo’s food, customer service, web site and overall vibe, the best part about this great service is that Farmigo gives back to Hidden Valley.

Last year, we raised $1,443.30 for the school garden, an investment made toward raising a future generation of home-gardeners and conscious eaters.

Please join me and the 54 other Hidden Valley Farmigo Families in the local food movement by signing up today. You can place your first order by Sunday 8/30 and pick up your groceries on Wednesday 9/2. If you use the code LOCAL20 at checkout on your first order, you’ll get 20% off.

Watch this space for cooking tips, recipes and other musings on how to eat well while avoiding the industrial food chain. And remember GIGO and its all-important inverse:

Start with fresh, local, GMO-free, organic raw materials, apply a solid recipe, and you’ll likely get great results.

*As your Farmigo coordinator, I’ll hang around the multipurpose room from 1-2pm each Wednesday to oversee pickups. Before leaving campus, I’ll move any food not picked up by then to the fridge in the multipurpose room foyer (outside the bathrooms). You have until 6:30pm before the YMCA closes and locks up, but you can always pick up your food the next day.

Lessig 2016: The Internet’s President

On the heels of Larry Lessig’s historic announcement of his Referendum Candidacy came another newsworthy item: Jimmy Wales announced that he is chairing LECEC, the Lessig Equal Citizens Exploratory Committee, which consists of me and scores of other volunteers and staffers working at a breakneck pace to make Lessig’s nascent campaign a reality.

At first blush, the Wales announcement might seem like a footnote on an afterthought, but I read something very different into it. Something that reminds me of Paul Revere. But no British are coming this time. Instead, Wales penned these nine simple words and so began the largest, most peaceful, and most desperately-needed democratic revolution in human history:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

–Jimmy Wales, Chairman emeritus, Wikimedia Foundation

That’s right, Internet: He may have understated it a bit, but Jimmy Wales just asked us to mobilize and elect Lessig in 2016.

Let’s face it: No one has been kinder to the Internet than Larry Lessig. In the twenty-plus years I’ve followed his work, he’s rallied against outrageous software patents, fought copyright takedowns, drafted the contracts that legally protect and enable “open source” software (which powers most of the Internet), started the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford, fended off aggressive corporate and government entities in his quest for net neutrality and, naturally, he’s spoken at TED. Four times.

Larry is and has been the Internet’s dedicated steward for the better part of his career. His body of work enabled the Internet to become what it is today: a loosely-coupled network wherein heterogeneous data, applications, and systems play in an ecosystem with minimalist governance atop a tiny handful of protocols and specifications.

No one’s been a bigger advocate for the open internet than Larry Lessig.

–Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks

If Vint Cerf, Donald Davies and Bob Kahn are the “fathers of the internet” and if Aaron Swartz was “the internet’s own boy,” then Lessig is the Internet’s uncle.

What better way for the Internet to say thanks to Uncle Larry than to use its enormous catalytic power to hack him into the White House?

And who better to do the hacking than the hackers of our own generation? We were born into a world with basically no connectivity to information, services or people. Today, we have access to pretty much every other connected person and all of the world’s public digital information (so long as we can keep our phone batteries alive).

As software developers in the mid-90s, we didn’t just witness the explosive, hockey-stick growth of the commercial internet; we actually built huge swaths of that reality ourselves. My peers and their peers built out the data centers and server racks, the gateways and firewalls, the routers and switches, the firmware and software platforms, the web servers and middleware, the web services and mobile applications — that drew billions of people into a web of inter-connectivity, knit together so tightly that a single thread can be spun half way around the world and back again in just seconds.

As my peers and I built PayPal and Yahoo! and Oracle and Amazon and Google — and the millions of companies that weren’t as fortunate — we didn’t realize this tremendous side benefit:

We created the most powerful agent of social change in the history of humankind.

In 2012, when Lessig and Swartz “lit up” the internet to defeat the SOPA and PIPA bills, scores of sites — including Wales’ Wikipedia — “went dark” in protest of these hair-brained bits of legislation.

That was the battle. This is the war.

Today we are at war with a much darker evil, far more insidious than the foiled attempts to reign in and regulate the internet. Our government has become the handmaiden of the “funders” — billionaires, PACs, multinational corporations, labor unions and other special interests — and we are fighting to restore a representative democracy back to the citizens to whom it was promised.

We are fighting “the root of all evil,” the darkest evil with the deepest pockets. And we’re already in way over our heads.

But now, Jimmy, we’re gonna light up the Internet.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

If there exists one light great enough to drive the corrupting influence of money out of DC, it’s not burning torches and gleaming pitchforks. Rather, it’s the glow of a hundred million mobile phones, tablets and laptops, mobilized under a single, peaceful mandate. With every Facebook like, every share, every re-tweet, every blog post, every comment, every volunteer effort and every donation, the light spreads and burns ever more strongly, driving out the darkness.

Wales said:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

I say:

Lessig for President in 2016.

Wales said anything. And it’s our job — as denizens of the Internet — not to prove him wrong.

Lessig 2016: Defining a Generation

In the Federalist Papers, published in 1778, James Madison called for a Congress “dependent on the people alone.” His generation sung a song of revolution whose refrain of Taxation Without Representation came to symbolize egregious overreaches by a corrupt monarch: currency, stamps, quartering soldiers, sugar, and of course: tea. Theirs was a government under siege.

Our Founding Fathers imagined, fought for and won a new legislature, a congress governed by the people, for the people.

Today the representative democracy our forefathers left us also lies under siege.

Not by an offshore monarchy, but by a pathological dependency upon money from special interests, corporations and the mega-mega-wealthy, who — through a system of legalized bribery (which Senator Elizabeth Warren calls “rigged”) — have created a dysfunctional, gridlocked government dependent not on the people alone, as Madison intended, but on the money alone.

So many issues about which we care so deeply — be they climate change, gun control, Wall Street, food safety, racial equality, a living wage, the tax code — end up in stalemates because of the towering influence wielded by massive campaign contributions from magnates and special interest groups. That systematic corruption, combined with the virtually limitless corporate spending enabled by Citizens United, has created a deeply unbalanced and divided country at odds with her own legislature. The 2% popularized by the Occupy Movement is not the problem; it’s the .0001%.

Money, functioning as quite literally the root of all evil, fundamentally stops any populist movement at odds with corporate interests in this country, ultimately benefiting the few hundred billionaires who run our plutocracy and kicking the other three-hundred million of us to the curb.

Ryan Borek, the Executive Director of Take A Stand PAC, estimates that congresspeople spend, on average, 31 hours a week fundraising, during which time “they must raise around $650 an hour to meet their goals for the next election.”

In the underrated and shockingly prescient movie Idiocracy, the Secretary of State says “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” after nearly every sentence. Why? Because they pay him every time he says it. “It’s a good way to make money,” he claims, derisively, as if to ask, “Doesn’t everyone know that already?”

To address the corrupting influence of money in Washington, we don’t need another Carl’s Jr.-sponsored politician. We need nothing short of a trans-partisan — if not apolitical — revolution. We need the un-president, the Frodo Baggins president: a selfless reformer who takes power from the reigning authorities only to destroy it, for everyone’s benefit.

That is why I can say, with confidence, that:

Today’s Lawrence Lessig announcement is the defining moment of our generation.

I joined this movement’s tech team as a volunteer in January of this year, but I’ve been following Lessig’s work for the better part of twenty. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he makes a compelling case for the Regent (or Trustee) President, now being called the “Referendum President.” The concept is simple: once significant campaign finance and voter equality reform has passed, the Referendum President promises to resign, leaving the vice president at the helm.

The historical mandate of the nation’s first “Referendum Candidate” has the power to end the endemic corrupting influence of money and return the government to its rightful purpose: to serve the people it governs.

Obviously, this won’t be easy. Many smart people have told me this idea is completely insane. I kindly invite naysayers to show me a better one.

In the meantime, I am humbly asking you to support this movement.

One of the great ironies of fighting against the corrupting influence of money is that it’s going to take money to win.

We’ve built a crowdsourcing platform upon which we intend to raise $1M by Labor Day, or else we will return all the contributions. We’re accepting small donations only (adhering to the federal per-person limits of $5,400). No corporate or PAC donations are allowed.

If you too feel that this idea’s time has come, please consider kickstarting the revolution by making a contribution. If that doesn’t feel possible, try to make it so. Every little bit counts. (Skip Starbucks and give Lessig five bucks?) This morning, after watching her dad work literally around the clock from Friday afternoon until this morning, my nine-year-old donated $5. That’s half her weekly income. While I am touched by her support, this remains our problem to solve. If not for us, then for her generation and the generations to come.

Yes, we need money. But whether you are able to give or not, please help us get the word out by sharing this message.

I hope you’ll join me and the rest of Team Lessig in making ours the generation that fixes our broken government, leaving behind what Madison imagined and implored: a congress dependent not on big money, but on the people and the people alone.