Thursday, April 30, 2009

Morel Mushroom Season

It's Morel season. Here in Ohio Morel mushrooms pop up in the woods during the months of April and May. Old Shroomers look forward to it every year. They all have their "secret spots" where they know Morels are likely to grow, and most would endure waterboarding before revealing their location.

Morels are a very tasty spring time treat. One of the few things left in this world that are still seasonal, rare, and special. Some great recipes can be found here.

Hunting for Morels is an art. It's like searching for treasure. They grow in the woods and only in very moist soil. Look for May Apples in bloom growing near rotted wood on the forest floor. Apple, Elm and Poplar trees are favorite clues for trained shroom hunters.

Julie Zickefoose hunts morels on her 80-acre nature preserve near Whipple Ohio. She writes about her priate like passion on NPR's website:

The morel organism is a huge underground system called a mycelium, which is made up of connected fungal strands and clods that can cover acres. It can live for decades, but it doesn't put forth fruit every year. What we see aboveground — those hollow, rubbery, wrinkled manifestations — are just the fruiting bodies of the ancient, secret creature living deep beneath the ground.

We pick ours into a mesh onion bag, and we swing it like a censer as we walk, hoping that we're spreading precious spores as we go. Back home, we rinse them briefly, then sprinkle the holy wash water back where we found them, completing a ritual of thanks to the fungus that feeds us.

Picking morels feels like stealing treasure from the rich soil; cutting their firm, shapely forms into little wheels is a sensual pleasure. A rich, peaty smell rises up from them. When butter begins to bubble in the pan, you drop the mushrooms in, and the liquid pours out of them. They're tender in moments, and you must remove them while you reduce the sauce. A dash of white wine, a tiny dollop of mustard, green onions and a whomp of sour cream; salt to taste, and you return the little wheels to their sauce, drizzling them over rice, pasta or meat.

Morels fairly explode with complex flavor, with woodsy, earthy, mysterious notes.

They taste like nothing else on Earth; they're in a class with truffles and caviar. And best of all, they're free.

If you decide to give Morel hunting a try, do a little research first, or go with an experienced shroomer, because the "false morel" is a similar looking mushroom that grows in the same conditions and while some people tolerate it well, it ha been known to make others very sick.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Strolling Alone in a Thunderstorm

On a recent trip to New York I had some time to kill before my meeting, so I took in a lunch seminar at the Tribecca YMCA in Manhattan. A fella named Mark Stevens was doing a little promo for his book Your Marketing Sucks. Mark was entertaining and informative, and the salad buffet was pretty good too.

Below is Marks latest blog post. The writing is surprisingly good. I love the construction of the opening line, and the way it all ties back into a reinforcement of the theme at the end.

By Mark Stevens

When I was a teenager, the rolling, rumbling drumbeat of an oncoming thunderstorm was a clarion call for me to run outside into the slashing water and the electric bolts and take in the random beauty of nature gone wild.
I did not believe lighting could strike me. I had not an iota of concern about a tree crashing down on my body. I felt exhilerated to be alone in God’s fireworks and to learn from them.
What did I learn? Well, before I get directly to that, many years later I was walking by the ocean on a December day in the salty freeze of a Maine beach. All around me, the remains of a thouands storms were strewn by the waterfront, tree trunks laced with weeds and fishermens’ boots, all topped by sand and sea foam.
The storms and the sea shared a common element: both were shaped by the unpredictable. The random they were driven by a dynamic I could never understand or comprehend.
But that I could learn so much from. So what did the teen storms and the Maine beach and similar bouts with the wild teach me?
*That there is little value in the linear. It is the way traditional teaching is conducted and it is why the traditional rarely leads to breakthroughs.
*Putting yourself in the danger zone, out of your comfort zone, forces you to think in ways that are catalysts for change.
In business, every time I have had to deal with a threat, I have grown. Not immediately or directly. There were moments of fear and indecision and concern. And then, in the midst of the dilemma, I would see through the lightning and the foam and the pieces would assemble into an arrow that would lead me to a new direction. Often to personal growth. Always to passion and exhileration.
Just this week, I spoke to a friend who is frozen in the locks of a life that is not working. No joy at work. No discovery at rest. Just the perpetual motion machine of going through the motions of an existence that can be changed if the fear of the unknown is challenged and overcome. It is not easy but nor is anything worthwhile.
The only way to move through the ziggeraut of a life of achievement is to roll the dice now and then, risk the unknown, stroll in an electric storm. In business, it means expanding into unknown markets, investing in untested advertising, funneling dollars into R&D when the only certain outcome is an expense, trusting managers who have never yet to prove themselves.
There are a zillion reasons to do none of this. Played against the grand scheme of things, of the drive for success, none of these reasons are valid. They are why civil servants delight in safety. They are why risk takers roll the dice, absorb the speed bumps, detest safety nets, and invest in their companies, their team members, and in themselves, time and again.
The next time I want to make a step or a leap forward, I will not attend a Harvard seminar.
That will be me you see strolling in a hurricane.

Mark Stevens
and Author of The Unconventional Thinking Blog

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twitter, Blogging, Linked-in: A Soical Networking Review

O.K., I am going to admit it: Twitter bores me. When I started writing and blogging back in the Bronze Age, I was excited about social media. I wanted to get my fingers on the pulse of the collective. I wanted to be informed, involved and Connected with a capital C.

Blogging was great for a while. I worked hard to seek out interesting voices and dynamic communities. I built my link list, I read other peoples work, commented on their sites, and followed best practice protocols. (Which basically means find a niche topic, blog every day, link to related sites, join communities, comment often, don't spam, and never feed the trolls.)

It was exciting, (especially during the elections) and in retrospect, I did learn a lot from the experience. But after a while, it all started to sound like white noise.

Then twitter came along. (That's twitter with a lower case t, as I'm told the creators prefer.) The buzz proclaimed it's wonderment. So I hooked in. I followed and was followed back. I tweeted and re-tweeted, and downloaded twirl and tweetdeck. I checked it often and clicked the little linkies. I tried hard to be a good little bird in the big bad flock. But it bored me.

Sure, I read stories from others who explained the practical value of twitter, and how it can be used as an effective tool for the on-the-go networker. I get it, it's has its uses. But in my personal experience, I have yet to tell one story of how twitter has provided me with a single snippet of information that has improved my life in any way shape or form.

I also got going of Facebook, because all the buzzers proclaimed it was the platform place to be. That experience has actually offered some mild amusement, as I have hooked in and chatted with some old school chums from long...(LOOONNNGGG) ago. But from a productivity standpoint, I put in in the category of my crossword puzzle: an amusing time waster that takes up about six minutes of my day.

After that, I built a self hosted blog on, because all the social networking gurus swear it's the only way to blog. The jury is still out on that one, as I need to give it a full six months to analyze the results; but for now, I am skeptical. The blogger platform has great community connectivity, and, uh, it's FREE. But we shall see, what we shall see as the experiment continues. I'll let you know.

Over all, the one platform other than blogger that I have found useful is Linked -In. Linked-In is referred to as an On-Line Resume tool, but it is so much more than that. People on Linked-In upload their professional resume, then join community user groups related to their fields of expertise, then write articles and join discussions. Everyone is careful to present a professional image, because its a job networking site. So, there is little troll behavior, no goofy gossip, no sexually explicit behavior, and almost all of the articles are well polished. Linked-In has led me to many real life networking events, seminars, classes, and work opportunities.

So all in all, I will continue to check facebook to connect with old friends, I will keep blogging when the muse strikes, and I will absolutely spend more time writing articles for Linked-In, but twitter bores me. I won't give up on it yet, as I want to carry the experiment through a full cycle, but for now, it earns a three yawn review.