Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Start the Year Learning Something

It took quite a long time before 1 January again became the universal or standard start of the civil year. The years of adoption of 1 January as the new year are as follows -

Country Start year
Venice 1522
Sweden 1529
Holy Roman Empire (Germany) 1544
Spain, Portugal 1556
Prussia, Denmark and Norway 1559
France 1564
Southern Netherlands 1576
Lorraine 1579
Dutch Republic 1583
Scotland 1600
Russia 1700
Tuscany 1721
Britain and
British Empire
except Scotland 1752
Thailand 1941

March was the first day of the numbered year in the Republic of Venice until its destruction in 1797, and in Russia from 988 until 1492 (AM 7000). 1 September was used in Russia from 1492 until the adoption of the Christian era in 1700 via a December 1699 decree of Tsar Peter I (previously, Russia had counted years since the creation of the world—Anno Mundi).

Autumnal equinox day (usually 22 September) was "New Year's Day" in the French Republican Calendar, which was in use from 1793 to 1805. This was primidi Vendémiaire, the first day of the first month.
-From Wikipedia

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers (you know who you are)!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Escape From the Holiday Hullabaloo

Here is a nice site full of fun distractions:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Greeting for Those Who Can't Open the Email

A Southwestern Holiday greeting from the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Best wishes for a Great Christmas and a Grand New Year.
Doug, Kim and Melanie MacEachern

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Attributes of Netflix

One really cool aspect of this movie service is you can create your own film festivals. We have been on a Mira Nair jag. Her movies are each wonderful little works of amazement. We just finished the Perez family and it was delightful. We have also seen Monsoon Wedding, Full Frame Documentary Shorts, Hysterical Blindness, Kama Sutra, A Tale of Love, Mississippi Masala and we have been pleasantly surprised by how each one is its own little jewel. She uses some recurring actors but there are some really famous people in these too that obviously enjoyed making these gems. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008


The past few weeks have done nothing if not put on display the culture of greed that has been simmering in our nation for some time now. It has spread like a nefarious disease throughout our society, leaving no person untouched. Some would blame the free markets but I blame Wal Mart.

This sad state of our materialistic madness is epitomized by the trampling death of the temporary employee who drew the ill-fated lot to pull guard duty at gates of hell in the early morning of the aptly named black Friday 2008. But this just scratches the surface. People everywhere are debasing themselves in the oddest of ways, all in the name of money and stuff. Rather than save those pennies to fund education we are falling all over ourselves to grab the latest big screen and a fistful of DVD’s to put under our laser lit plastic Christmas tree. To what end?

Yet we decry the fact that major corporate CEO’s flew private jets to a meeting in Washington DC to beg for more money from the people who apparently have a limitless cache for acquiring landfill fodder at Walgreen’s and Big Lots (thus making the Chinese rich) but never have enough money for their medical bills or to pay the guy who maintains the streets they drive on to get to the store. And now the State of Arizona is getting on the greed bandwagon, erecting photo cash registers to rake in dough from folks who dare to drive faster than 11 miles an hour faster than the ADOT recommendation for speed on our highways, which is a number that has been tinkered with by politicians for years completely detaching it from any scientific method for determining what is truly a safe speed when everyone knows that traffic pretty much regulates itself. Nothing is what is seems and there are deep, less than obvious explanations for everything anyone ever says, does or knows. In short there are no clear standards for anything anymore.

Capitalism is the best system man has yet to come up with for managing our existence in the most efficient and fair way possible. So what has gone so wrong that we are all nestled in our reclining couch munching fast food staring blankly at the bailout news on our 52 inch screens in between episodes of CSI and glimpses of Brittany’s personal roller coaster ride (man, that is living!). I think it comes down to morality and personal responsibility.

In my view (and I think Adam Smith would agree) capitalism only works if the participants are morally upstanding individuals who impart their ethos to the issuing generations. The Founding Fathers understood this well. That is why they built in all those checks and balances. The most recent case in point seems almost trivial against the backdrop of the current economic chaos: Hillary cannot accept the job of Secretary of State at the current salary because she was in Congress when they voted to give that job a raise. In today’s world the symbolism of that provision has far greater power than its practical application, just as the symbolism of the flying Big Three brothers completely obliterated the practical and common sense implications of their decision to get in and get out as fast as possible. We all need reminding what is right thing to do from time to time. Indicting politicians is a pretty pathetic way to teach that lesson.

We need to pay attention to the right symbols and embrace them. That is what true leadership is about. Our capitalistic society is suffering from a lack of true guidance from the top. Everyone can justify their greed and rationalize it away. Bill Clinton blamed the dictionary; George Bush simply ignored the critics of his and Cheney’s double dipping, even John McCain had to go back to Vietnam to find something he was really proud of. Politics has wrung every last drop of virtuous sweat from the brows of the people and that mien is percolating through our culture more thoroughly than water through an espresso machine. We are doomed to failure at our own hand because it truly is “all about me” and because everyone is doing it that is the model our children learn.

It may be too late but there is a simple way to address this. Whenever I get depressed I climb my way out by doing something for someone else. If we could all spend a bit more time thinking about making things better for our fellow man instead of how we are going to get on Judge Judy and get paid for airing our dirty laundry in front of the nation rather than really solving our simple problems by working together we would not need to be doing these fake bailouts with the fake money that we are all faking is there in order to stave off the inevitable.

This holiday season be an example of goodness and light and give the greatest gift of all. If we all do it maybe it will trickle up to our leaders and then we will change the world.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Getting in the holiday mood

Here in the desert, it is sometimes a challenge to get in the spirit. This will chill you out, doggone it:

Friday, November 21, 2008


Coming from a family full of plumbers I could not resist posting this information on this, World Toilet Day. Al Gore is also celebrating by suggesting we all read Jared Diamond's book Collapse because of his amazing fear that civilization is going down the road of the Mayans (they apparantly suffered a sudden die out). The funny part of that is that his blog is accompanied by a picture of him in his office at his 10,000 square foot Nashville home surrounded by huge messy piles of paper. I am really confused about what he would have us do, exactly.

Anyway, back to the toilets:

Toilet facts:

The average person spends three years of their life on the “john”.
The average person flushes a toilet about 2500 times a year, while using about eight sheets of toilet paper per day.
An estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to proper toilet facilities, particularly in rural areas of China and India.
Lack of suitable toilets and sanitation kills approximately 1.8 million people a year, many of them children.
According to Jack Sims, a further 500 million toilets are needed to bridge the gap in sanitation.
The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a British noble and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. He only invented one, as he was ridiculed by his peers, but he still used it for himself.
Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.
On average, a person will use 22 litres of drinkable water every day flushing a toilet.
From an article By Ian Rakowski
November 19, 2008 12:01am

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Potential Gift Card Debacle


Caution: This is somewhat of a moving target; for the latest go to

This came from a kind person:

It seems there are lots of stores that are closing due to the "recession" and the fact that people are not shopping. If you have any "gift cards" from these stores, make sure you use them, or you will lose them !

Watch those store money cards and gift cards.. and credit slips! Stores that informed the Security Exchange of closing plans between October 2008 and January 2009. PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

Circuit City stores... most recent (? how many)

Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide are to be shuttered

Lane Bryant,, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine's to close 150 store nationwide

Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January

Cache will close all stores

Talbots closing down all stores

J. Jill closing all stores

GAP closing 85 stores

Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January
Wickes Furniture closing down

Levitz closing down remaining stores

Bombay closing remaining stores

Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January.

Whitehall Jewelers closing all stores

Piercing Pagoda closing all stores

Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.

Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ (New Brunswick)

Macys to close 9 stores after January

Linens and Things closing all stores

Movie Galley Closing all stores

Pacific Sunware closing stores

Pep Boys Closing 33 stores

Sprint/ Nextel closing 133 stores

JC Penney closing a number of stores after January

Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.

Wilson Leather closing down all stores

Sharper Image closing down all stores

K B Toys closing 356 stores

Lowes to close down some stores

Dillard's to close some stores.

Monday, November 17, 2008

High School Rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic

This is a beautiful thing apparently from a high school:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reality Check

Like so many others I was lamenting the unbelievable expense associated with these political campaigns, the seeming bottomless barrel from which these funds flow and the sad waste of resources it represents. And then I came across this statistic in the November 14, 2008 issue of THE WEEK:

The 2008 presidential campaign and congressional races cost an estimated $5.3 billion, shattering all previous records, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. While that's a lot of money, it's less than the $6 billion Americans spent this year on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations. USA Today

Sometimes it really helps to put things in perspective.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Thoughts for Halloween

You may want to stop reading when it starts getting familiar. Leave it to a Scot to come up with it:

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:

'A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.'

'A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.'

'From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.'

'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years'

'During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. >From bondage to spiritual faith;

2. >From spiritual faith to great courage;

3. >From courage to liberty;

4. >From liberty to abundance;

5. >From abundance to complacency;

6. >From complacency to apathy;

7. >From apathy to dependence;

8. >From dependence back into bondage'

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sobering Thoughts for the Last Week Before the Election

In the Federalist No. 51 James Madison wrote:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

As we know all too well there are no angels.

And this quote from James Monroe seems all the more pertinent in this angel-less time:

"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Modern Science

Most of my encounters with the medical field have been less than productive. Luckily I am in fairly good health. But as we age (a poignant topic at this point in time) our encounters with doctors will necessarily increase. Having read alot about medicine and tracked the trends and treatments and thought about it a great deal (not to mention having watched ER for an entire decade) my conclusion is that doctors today really don't know that much more than they did 50 years ago.

Then I heard about this new study regarding dopamine and obesity. I also got to take a tour of the TGen facility in Phoenix where they are doing all kinds of research at the molecular level about a year ago. I think the findings of the dopamine research and the groundbreaking work taking place at TGen are about to really change medicine and it can only be for the better. We really can't fix much until we understand how it works at the molecular level.

The ridiculous system we have for health care in this country is the result of economics as much as anything. The zillions of dollars that are spent on needless activities are at once feeding and feeding on the system itself.

So this got me thinking about education. Everybody knows that public education is in a free fall as well, and there are dozens of reasons for that. Our daughter Melanie was involved with Science Olympiad in junior high and FIRST robotics through high school but the programs were essentially solely supported by the parents. It is amazing how little main stream attention these remarkable programs garner; especially when in order to take full advantage of the coming technological changes, we really need to be churning out a bunch of scientists. Alas, we are not. Most kids can barely pass the basic of all basic tests, the AIMs test.

As all of this is swirling around in my mind, here comes the editorial page in today's Arizona Republic with Jeffery Trent the top TGen dude articulating my concerns. Rather than throwing billions of paper dollars at failing mortgages, we should be financing the future through scholarships for scientists.

Here is the Trent article:

Science programs worth cost

by Jeffery Trent - Oct. 18, 2008 12:00 AM
My Turn

The Translational Genomics Research Institute helps Arizona students pursue a lifetime of science learning

Recently published results from this spring's first science test administered by Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) showed only 38 percent of Arizona high-school students passed.

Without judging the validity or necessity of AIMS or its pilot science program, there is substantial evidence that Arizona's and America's schoolchildren are lagging behind much of the developed world in science instruction.

The most recent international comparisons published by the U.S. Department of Education show that American 15-year-olds ranked 29th of 57 nations surveyed in science literacy.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Science doesn't have to be a chore. As science advocates from Carl Sagan, Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert) and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, have shown, science can be fun - even hip.

Organizations such as Yale's Women in Science and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have mentoring programs that show early exposure to the process of discovery can pay lifetime dividends in commitment and knowledge.

To sustain Arizona's growing biotechnology industry, it is important to understand the impact of science in our lives; on decisions with profound implications for issues as varied as climate change, health care and the economy.

Scientific literacy is key to understanding today's technologically advanced world. And providing for the needs of scientifically empowered citizens begins with education.

One way to foster learning and develop a love of science is internship programs, in which experts mentor students who are immersed in scientific inquiry and the creation of new insights.

TGen hosts the Helios Scholars Program, which recently received $6.5 million to fully fund the program for 25 years from the Phoenix-based Helios Education Foundation.

Each summer, 45 Helios Scholars participate in eight-week internships. TGen scientist-mentors actively engage high school, undergraduate and graduate students in research projects, including new ways to treat cancer, diabetes, autism and Alzheimer's disease.

These programs work. Some of TGen's interns include:

• Anne Lee and Albert Shieh, the first Arizona high-school students to win the team competition for the internationally recognized Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. They developed new software that more accurately analyzes genetic data, resulting in a shared prize of $100,000.

• Shannon Fortin, an Arizona State University graduate in biochemistry, who received a $7,500 Goldwater Scholarship, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship to spend nine months in Belgium researching brain cancer.

• Graduates of TGen's Helios program have gone on to attend some of the most prestigious schools in the nation, including Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown and Stanford, as well as ASU, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

TGen is not alone in this movement. Other Arizona science education efforts:

• Gov. Janet Napolitano in September announced the establishment of the Arizona STEM Education Center, housed within Science Foundation Arizona in downtown Phoenix. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) goals follow the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, which urges "a more informed citizenry in the biosciences and encourage(s) young people to explore and pursue scientific and technical careers."

• Phoenix Union Bioscience High School began in 2007, providing a unique, four-year science education with opportunities for as many as 400 students a year to collaborate with downtown Phoenix's academic and scientific communities.

• The Biotechnology Laboratory for Arizona Students and Teachers (BLAST), established in 2006 at the Tucson Magnet High School, provides instruction at a state-of-the-art-equipped molecular-biology laboratory.

• ASU's School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program since 2004 has provided opportunities Valley-wide for students to participate in exciting biological research.

Internships and other educational programs are both time-consuming and costly. But the investment is critical to our recognizing a brighter future for all Arizonans.

Dr. Jeffery Trent is president and scientific director of the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The World of Finance Made Simple

This is going around but is very apt:

After the recent tethering-on-the-edge-of-total-economic-and-financial-meltdown couple of weeks it seems economic systems and their workings have pushed there way into the need-to-know-category.
Well thanks to a friend from rural Ireland we can now simplify this all down to what makes sense and explain 21 economic models with cows. It is
> remarkable how much sense it all makes from this real world perspective
> You have 2 cows.
> You give one to your neighbour.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and gives you some milk.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and sells you some milk.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both and shoots you.
> You have 2 cows.
> The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...
> You have two cows.
> You sell one and buy a bull.
> Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
> You sell them and retire on the income.
> You have two giraffes.
> The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
> You have two cows.
> You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
> Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.
> You have two cows.
> You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.
> You have two cows.
> You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.
> You have two cows.
> You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.
> You have two cows.
> You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
> You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
> You decide to have lunch.
> You have two cows.
> You count them and learn you have five cows.
> You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
> You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
> You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.
> You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
> You charge the owners for storing them.
> You have two cows.
> You have 300 people milking them.
> You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
> You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
> You have two cows.
> You worship them.
> You have two cows.
> Both are mad.
> Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
> You tell them that you have none.
> No-one believes you, so they bomb the sh#t out of you and invade your country.
> You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy...
> You have two cows.
> Business seems pretty good.
> You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.
> You have two cows.
> The one on the left looks very attractive..

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Just when you think Congress is about to come around to reality they go and pull another boner.

If you are still outraged about the bailout please do not go to this link, you are likely to have an utter stroke:
On second thought, go for it. This bailout contains a measure requiring insurance companies to cover mental health to the same extent that they cover physical health, so at least you will be able to get some treatment.

I predict passage with flying colors. These people have no sense, much less any spine. This continual mixing in of all kinds unrelated stuff to bills is what perfect politics is made of; you can never really tell what anyone is for or against so those attack ads about voting records become impossible to make or if they are made impossible to defend against because NO ONE can decipher what went on.

I am going to take fiddle lessons. Apochrypal as the story may be I think Nero had the right idea.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You Will Put This In Your Favorites, I Just Know It

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

I Am Seeing Red; Gravy That Is

This recipe comes from Judy Walker's Times Picayune Blog:

I added grilled eggplant to the sauce and served it over polenta with mascarpone cheese and topped with a chunk of codfish:

PIP26's Italian tomato gravy

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

3 or 4 large cloves garlic, chopped

¼ to ½ green pepper, chopped

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (preferably Progresso)

Oregano and basil to taste

1 or 2 tablespoons sugar

1 (16-ounce) can Progresso whole Italian Plum tomatoes with puree and basil* slightly chopped

Wine (optional)

Salt, pepper and parsley

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Fry onions, garlic and green pepper until soft; do not let garlic burn or it will taste bitter. Add tomato paste, oregano, basil and sugar; fry until slightly brown, being sure not to burn the paste, or the gravy will taste bitter.

Add plum tomatoes to the skillet. Mix together and let simmer a couple of minutes to evaporate some of the water in the tomatoes. Transfer this mixture to a large saucepan. Fill the empty tomato and tomato paste cans each twice with water, and add to the sauce. Add a splash of wine if you want. Add salt, pepper and parsley to taste.

Cover the saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until thick or the consistency that you prefer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Brush With Fame

My former next door neighbor, Matt Weissinger, is now a star. A video game creator/promoter, he was on the CBS Morning Show this week with his new game, DeBlob. (Don't worry, the commercial will only last about 15 seconds.)

Here he is in NYC:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hilarious History

This from Ben Smith's blog today on


Joe Biden's denunciation of his own campaign's ad to Katie Couric got so much attention last night that another odd note in the interview slipped by.

He was speaking about the role of the White House in a financial crisis.

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

As Reason's Jesse Walker footnotes it: "And if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, 'Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?'"

This from Biden's Wikipedia entry:
Biden attended the Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware where he was athletically, not academically, oriented...

Apparently he did not pay attention in history class but I can't believe the nuns would have let him get away with that in those days. But that Jesse Walker come back is hysterically funny!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's Another Trillion Among Friends?

Now this headline:

Paulson plan could cost $1 trillion

Trust me, this is a conservative estimate.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Big Reason to Vote for McCain/Palin

There is one major reason that you want a Republican in the White House. It has nothing to do with experience, gender, race, values, age, or any of the hotly debated catch all topics we so constantly are focused on. It really doesn't matter much who that person is even. It has to do with balance.

The greatest stroke of genius our founding fathers came up with was this concept of the checks and balances. The whole system of a bicameral legislature along side two other branches of government, the executive and the judiciary, were designed to encourage exhaustive debate to result in a compromise that should net a sound, long lasting decision. This keeps small factions from taking too much power and running the show. And, more brilliantly, it reins in the so called tyranny of the majority, a concept that recognized, long before the advent of TV, how herd-like people are in their willingness to follow a pretty face, even when it is not such a good idea for their own long-term interest.

This balancing act resulted in the structure of the house and the senate and even the electoral college and defined the role of the judiciary and the executive.

Evolution has no doubt had an impact and the two party system probably holds much greater sway than any of the founder's may have anticipated. But lucky for us it provides an easy way to ensure our own check as voters is preserved.

I have heard many people say that this Presidential election is a contest between the lesser of two evils. We should think about what that means when the Congress is run by the Dems. Even with that scenario Bush played them like a pro and got his way, but not until after the Dems dissected each and every thing he was about. Imagine a DC with no biology lovers. It won't be long before they are eating their young without ever looking inside.

I for one think we need to put as many obstacles in the way of these people as we can. If that means making them fight one another harder to get stuff done that is a good thing. The founders never intended for the federal government to be a bunch of baby sitters. Instead they need to be baby sat. As individuals we need to retain our power. So split the parties-they need a mom and a dad. It is our only chance at getting this baby to walk upright.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I have written under this headline before but in the interim I have been gathering more data to pass along to you. This is scary stuff so I suggest you have a strong cocktail nearby.

These bailouts you keep hearing about? Who is doing the bailing? We are--the taxpayers of the United States. But what are we doing the bailing with? Hot air, that's what.

Here is how it goes:

As of January (let me stress that this is 9 months ago and a lot has happened since then) our national debt was $59 trillion. Do you know how many zeros are in that?


After the nine.

How do I know this big number? Because David Walker said so (and no, I am not talking about Cap'n Dave). David Walker just came off of 15 years as the chief accountant of the Government Accounting Office-he was the comptroller general. He worked during Clinton and Bush at trying to inject some sanity into the whole accounting thing; he is now on the outside and still trying to get some attention.

I'll bet you thought you heard on the news that the deficit is a mere $468 billion? What gives? That number does not include the Social Security/Medicare obligations currently on the books along with some other big stuff. That is just the current cash deficit.

It seems like every time we get into a position where the numbers start saying bad things, the government reworks how the numbers are calculated. Keven Phillips wrote a terse little ditty on just this subject in the May issue of Harper's Magazine entitled "Numbers Racket-Why the Economy is Worse than We Know."

Well let's consider these basic numbers to see just how many strings there are on our racket. There are roughly 300 million people in the US give or take 10 million or so illegal immigrants. Each household would have to come up with $400,000 to pay off just the Social Security/Medicare debt, Walker says. How much did you pay for your house? Does that put it in perspective?

Walker has done is a nice little video that helps you understand just how big these numbers are.
Check it out at

Some of the facts included there are:

A billion seconds ago it was 1959. A billion minutes ago Rome had not yet fallen. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

But we are talking trillion, remember-a couple more zeros that mean a lot:

1. (US; modern British & Australian, short scale) A million million: 1 followed by twelve zeros. See Wiktionary.

Meanwhile, we are being ravaged by natural disasters and our infrastructure is crumbling. Oh, and we are in a couple of wars also, lest one forget. Lord knows where they count that stuff.

So you see, we were broke before this bail out nonsense even started. Now we have piled on another couple hundred billion; I guess when you are this far gone what's the big deal?

Something needs to happen fast but this problem is so vast and so complex no one really has a grip on it-aside from David Walker and few guys at the University of Maryland, who seemed to be all over the air today. Oddly, I think they all agree on the issues; as has been pointed out that is a rarity-agreement.

When we were the greatest power on earth we had no debt. Now our debt is being relished by countries with money, like China. They buy up our assets and we end up owing them the farm.

Something basic is going to have to change in our economy. As Wilbur Scott, the very wealthy bankrupt-company-turn-around artist said this week on NPR, an economy is not built on "flipping burgers, trading stocks and suing each other."

Will taxing do it? Just to pay what we already owe on Medicare/Social Security would require cutting the benefits in half and jacking up the payroll taxes and income taxes to twice what they are now and cut purchasing by the federal government altogether and then some.

Which is not even doable.

At all.

For one thing in addition to the income tax and payroll taxes we each pay to the federal government with every paycheck we also pay all of these other taxes at various levels of government, most of which have been invented since the 1930's:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges& nbsp;Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
The contents may vary, check your local listings.

On top of that, here in Arizona where they can't balance budgets from year to year either, the legislature is raiding funds that are not even derived from taxes in order to meet their expenses.

This from the an article in the Western Farm Press in June:
"The Arizona legislature this spring took more than $550,000 in agricultural funds to help offset a $1.2 billion budget shortfall. Included in that total was $161,400 debited from three agricultural councils funded by grower assessments for commodity research and other programs." These are not even taxes! I heard today that the farmers have filed suit to try and get it back. Sorry, Wilbur, but sometimes suing each other is the only option left.

So as you can see, the pork barrel is not bottomless as our Congress would have us think. And those projects are not just in this country. One of Joe Biden's recent proposals is to expand the Violence Against Women Act to make the International VAWA so we can send money to other countries to teach the men not to punch the women! Quite frankly, I'd like to punch Joe Biden, and all the rest of the greedy people on Wall Street, in Washington, the State capitols and the City councils and everywhere else that got us into this just so they could get elected or rake in cash from not creating anything and trading in commodities lighter than air. It is all about greed and all about me and all about mine and all about now.

Alot has been bandied about lately as to the need for experience to do these government jobs. Well if this is what experience gets you, no thanks. Which brings up another monetary thing that really bothers me; there is never enough money for the goverment programs invented by these politicians in order to get reelected but there is always plenty of money to campaign on. Where does it come from?

The most horrifying part:

If it weren't for these "bail outs" no one would even be mentioning this issue. This is one crisis we can't watch happen and think we are going to clean up afterward. There will be no afterward. Where do you think the United States goes for its bailout?

As I said, the revolution will not be televised.


Just in case you think I am overstating things, right after I wrote this I saw on the news that the Fed (Ben Bernanke and the people who run the US Bank known as the Federal Reserve, an independent body that oversees the money flow in the US and sets the interest rates that banks pay to borrow)is INVITING China to come on over and make some big investments. I am not kidding.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Couple of Interesting Takes on the Palin Phenomenon

I must say, if I were a lesbian I would be in love with Camille Paglia.

Here is here latest installment which is a must read for a dead on analysis of the Palin attraction:

And here is another interest angle from one of Melanie's current college professors:

More Reasons Why We Should Not Read Anonymous Blogs

My husband was blogging from the Republican National Convention. One of the desired features that favors blogging over strictly writing news stories is the ability to immediately receive comments. I am all in favor of dialogue, for hashing things out from more than one side is what brings about reasoned decision making-hence the basis for the adversarial legal system. But to make that truly work the comments must be credible. That cannot be the case if the commenter is not willing to disclose his/her identity.

As a result you get posts like this one which appeared on the bottom of one of Doug's blogs entitled "The media moment: Palin's speech unleashed delegate fury at the press":

"You republicans are total @$$holes, and I'd love to see every last one of you hideous wastes of flesh wiped out in a nuclear disaster. That'd truly do my heart good."

There are so many levels of commentary one could make back but this person is clearly in need of some medical help. But we don't know who it is so we are at a loss to come to his rescue. I ask you, what is the point?

Apparently someone saw fit to remove this comment so don't go to the blog to look for it. But here is the link anyway:

Ironically, though, they left all the comments about this comment so you can check those out if you are so inclined. Some of those commenters actually included a picture. Now that is gutsy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Good One

Michael Phelps baby picture


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympic Slaves

Well, it seems I am not the only one who had Olympic misgivings. It all started with the baby Chinese gymnasts-they snag these kids when they are 3 years old. It became clear very quickly that the Chinese athletes were enslaved people working for the state. I did not watch much as I felt it was so wrong to "celebrate" what clearly could only be accomplished with total and complete dedication to the exclusion of all other things and when we are talking about children that is abuse in my book as they have no choice.

Here is a link to cut and paste that speaks to just what my concerns were:,0,2347697.story

Friday, August 22, 2008

Open Letter to the Grandchildren of Duncan and Betty MacEachern:

You, the next MacEachern generation, like the average American kid of your generation, are blessed in unprecedented ways. You are living in a time during which economic prosperity has reached more people than any point in history. To be sure, there are many people suffering in poverty today, but the point is that never before have so many people lived so well.

You are certainly materially better off than your parents and your parents were better off than your grandparents. It was not easy to raise 8 boys, especially for two people who came to this country looking for opportunity that did not exist in the home of their parents. Your grandparents often worked two and three jobs each. Your fathers did not have the luxury of college funds awaiting them after high school.

These are all people who worked hard and played hard. But at bottom, these are people who live and love from a foundation of high moral standards tempered by an accepting compassion for others. Having come from fiercely religious peoples who lived a relatively isolated existence as the result of historic oppression, they naturally harbor tribal tendencies and an innate sense of culture. These are basic, good people. And you should know how this foundation sets your family apart from the average Americans of your generation.

Although your grandparents divorced after decades of marriage, they still respect one another and are forever connected by their children. Your grandfather takes every opportunity to express the love and pride he has for his children. Your grandmother’s umbilical cord to each one of her sons was never spiritually severed even as the physical distance from most of her boys has increased. Unfortunately, as we all know, as individuals the two of them grew to have less and less in common with each other in terms of daily living and activity. The split has been as amicable as anyone could ever expect over the years. Your fathers have never failed to support each of their parents in their decisions.

I have often said how amazing it is that in a family of 8 boys, all of them could turn out to be such wonderful human beings. They never fail to uphold this standard. And recent events have not proven otherwise, even as the tough decisions were being pondered about your grandmother’s living situation. Throughout the process there was nary a hint of resentment on the issue.

As our parents age new challenges present. The way we choose to deal with our parents, each other and the situation speaks volumes about who we are. In many families divorces and parent-care challenges would generate animosity, ill will, resentment and drive unbearable wedges between family members. How many times have we heard stories of fighting and bickering over dividing up the silverware and the care and financial burdens amongst family units resulting in brothers and sisters never speaking to one another again? We were warned of this nasty complication during a recent tour of an assisted living facility. The facility manager was offering this caveat from her own experience and from what she has witnessed in other families. But, that was not so for us.

Your fathers are providing you children with the greatest gift they could ever bestow on you in the way they willingly respond each step of the way down this path called life. Each one accepts without question his role in caring for their mother. Although they may be slow to pull the trigger sometimes and some have borne more of the burden than others, they have not failed to timely, and amicably resolve the challenges both in terms of money and time, notwithstanding their own personal concerns. This is because they are who they are because of who their parents are.

I wanted you to know that your Dads and uncles are not regular guys.[1] They are principled, devoted, loving men who implicitly trust one another to always do the right thing when it comes to their mother. You will never be more blessed than you are to have them as your role models. I wanted you to know this because when you are on the inside looking out it is easy to overlook the reality.

Don’t take this gift for granted. Repay it in spades by emulating it in everything you do.

[1] The unparalled, exceptional character qualities exhibited by your fathers are, of course, exemplified by their uncanny selection of mates. Behind every great man there is an even greater woman and your aunts/mothers are not to be discounted in this. In fact, your uncles/dads will no doubt attribute as much of their success to their spouses as they do to their parents. On this point I would agree, but I would not be objective and therefore this essay is confined to my observations of only your dads..

Monday, August 11, 2008

CSA: Community Supported Agriculture is Back

What is a CSA?
It’s a community of health and environmentally conscious people coming together to share the bounties and risks of their local, independent farmer. Each CSA member purchases a share in Maya’s Farm’s future harvests. As crops mature, you receive a weekly allotment of naturally grown produce. Changing growing conditions throughout the year determine which varieties will be in your share each week. Integrated cropping benefits the soil . . . and eating locally reduces high transportation and storage costs. Part of what the farmer saves goes back into quality production; the rest
is passed on to you.

Memberships for the Fall Season, beginning Sept. 20, are going fast. Don’t miss a single basketful of farm-fresh produce! E-mail Maya to request a membership application and detailed information.


Fall Season 2008: Sept. 29 – Dec. 16

Note: This Agreement must be received one week before a member’s first pick-up date.





What is the best way to contact you? o E-mail o Phone o Other

please choose a share option

o Full Share:
$315 for the season. You will receive a weekly basket of food for three months from the date of your first pick-up. Shares include a selection of vegetables, herbs, flowers and eggs.

o Economy Share:
$265 for the season. Your weekly basket will include the same selection as a Full Share, only less of
each item.

Food baskets vary according to which crops are ready for harvest during a given week.

when and where
All members have a choice of two pick-up times and locations:

Saturdays from 8:00 am – 10:00 am Wednesdays from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Maya’s Farm/The Farm at South Mountain Downtown Phoenix Public Market
6106 S. 32nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85042 Third Street & McKinley
(32nd Street and Southern)
Date of first pick-up: Sat., Sept. 20 Date of first pick-up: Wed., Sept. 24
Date of last pick-up: Sat., Dec. 13 Date of last pick-up: Wed., Dec. 17

CSA Agreement

I agree to pay the amount of (check one) $315 for a Full Share; $265 for an Economy Share to Maya’s Farm, one (1) week prior to my first pick-up date. Maya’s Farm retains the right to withhold my food basket if payment is not received. I will be responsible for picking up my weekly food allot-ment at the locations specified above. If for any reason a pick-up is missed, that allotment will be donated to charity. I further understand that refunds are not available, although I may cancel my membership at any time.


Printed Name: Date:

Please fill out this form and return by postal mail along with a check or money order payable to Maya’s Farm.

Mailing address: Maya’s Farm CSA 2713 North 8th StreetPhoenix, AZ 85006

Delicious State Fair Ad Preview

Notes from the Sidelines

It is now clear that John Edwards is a liar. That, on top of committing the sin of penile dysfunction. Most men, when caught simply come clean. After all this is a symptom of ego maniacal -ism gone wild that is not uncommon in such circles. I do believe if it is not currently in the DSM it should be categorized as a mental illness described by the symptom of believing you are so special that the rules don't apply to you. Apparently for Edwards, unlike most men who get caught, he didn't blame it on an overdose of watermelon and move on. He is continuing to lie. This boys and girls, is proof that being rich is not a happy place to be.

Which brings me to the topic of how the general public views the media bias as more of a concern than the large sums of money that pass through politician's hands. The media was accused of passing on the Edwards story, proving once again that there is a place for the National Enquirer in our society. The real story is exposing just how big a liar he is. Maybe this was subconsciously known to the voters who rejected him. So now Edwards has another kid to be crappy role model for. Here is the link to the polling story:

Speaking of kids, It pains me to watch the Olympics segments on gymnastics, particularly the Chinese, but all are guilty of the same problem, including the US. These are little girls and they have been completely deprived of a normal life and a normal body. What is being done to get these children to these games is tantamount to child abuse. What is the difference between being held in a concentration camp and subject to hard labor and being held in a gymnastics camp and being worked 12 hours a day? I seen none except one would assume that the hard labor results in something of value being the result of the labor. Is this what we really evolved from the apes to reach? International exploitation of our children in the name of patriotism? Or is this part of intelligent design?

Which brings me to my latest pondering. Just what is intelligent or designed about this: If a calorie is a measure of heat and you have to burn calories to lose weight, how is it that during the period of your life when you have hot flashes you end up gaining weight?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Soaring Entitlement Mentality

The entitlement mentality plagues our nation as we slowly bury ourselves in budget deficits that thrive on pork. This attitude has soared to new heights. On the NPR show Morning Edition news piece on the impact of fuel costs on flights to miniscule markets, the esteemed head of the House Transportation Committee had this to say:

'"The airspace is the common heritage of all Americans," says Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "It doesn't belong to the CEOs of the airlines. It doesn't belong to the shareholders of the airlines. It belongs to all Americans."
Unless something's done, Oberstar says, more and more Americans are going to be left out. But he doesn't want to re-regulate the airlines, exactly. Instead, he's pushing to expand the Essential Air Service program. The House has already approved legislation that would boost the subsidies. Lawmakers are also considering changing the rules so that more airports qualify.
Some question whether it makes sense to keep planes flying where the market says they shouldn't. Thomas Firey of the Cato Institute says that in most places, Essential Air Service isn't essential and is a waste of money.
Oberstar calls that attitude "elitist" and says it shows contempt for small-town America.'

What? I can tell you as someone who has read the Constitution that nowhere does it mention airspace. Furthermore, while we are gifted with certain inalienable rights, I really don't think Thomas Jefferson had his head in clouds when he wrote that line. Where do these people get these ideas? Apparently from the 12 voters in their districts who have made a lifestyle choice to live in a small town. Most people that I know who live in small towns do so to escape big town things like airports. Like the Cato guy said, they simply drive (or take the shuttle) to the big city aeroplex.
But is it really that nasty tension between rural living and making a living that is at the bottom of this? Maybe, for so the argument goes that companies will not locate in such places without air access. So that means the government is really subsizing these companies and not the little old voter who, if asked, would probably say that s/he would pass on the airline.

I don't think people want to pay for other people to be able fly to little airports with their taxes any more than they want to pay to bail out bozo's who failed to read their mortgage contracts and are now surprised to learn that they never really could afford that McMansion in the first place-something I suspect they knew all along.

My question is this: how did a guy with such a poor grasp of logic get to be the head of anything, much less a congressional committee? And when will the voters realize that it is these obscure congress people who are doing us in and quit the celebritization of the presidency? This expenditure stuff will go a much farther distance to hurting this country than the war in Iraq. Just wait and see. In the meanwhile, I am booking my flight to Bozeman.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just A Movie? Fans Paying $100 For 'Dark Knight'

With all the grousing on TV and the newspaper about the state of the economy and how to budget, find good deals and change your lifestyle, you would think we are on the verge of slipping into third world status overnight. However, the anecdotal evidence was just not tracking--the roads are just as packed as they ever were and my neighborhood restaurants have not become ghostly. The I-17 north, which I have been frequenting as of late, still looks like a parking lot., 24-7.

And now this headline! Apparently the gas and food price escalation has not really dented the disposal income of a whole lot of people coast to coast. Hopefully they will all carpool to the theater. That would make Al Gore proud.

Now here is a guy who is hellbent on sending the economy into a spin; he is out there setting amorphous deadlines for retooling the entire energy strategy. What gives Al? Did you find yourself rambling about in your 10,000 square foot house with nothing to do so that you had to come out with a new proclamation to get some attention? Maybe you should go to the movie, I hear it is about a Joker.

Now this headline: Myth of Consensus Explodes: APS Opens Global Warming Debate which basically says that there are many among the 50,000 physicists in this organization who doubt the anthropogenic genesis of global warming. Here is a link to that article:

Does anybody REALLY understand what is going on, much less how to "fix" it? I don't think so; but that doesn't stop EVERYONE from pontificating. Meantime, let's all just get back to work or school and go on vacation and be kind to one another and not be unnecessarily wasteful. If everyone did this life would be good. I think Heath Ledger would agree.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Just Knew There Was Something Fishy Going On

All of a sudden it was practically raining tilapia. This fish was rarely heard of and even more rarely eaten just a few short years ago. It was the fish of choice for keeping the canals clean that out here in the west are our lifeblood for water. I knew that fact and so when this fish became ubiquitous in the food world, showing up in practically ever freezer case and on every restaurtant menu I grew suspicious. And to be honest grossed out. I can say with some authority that I have never eaten the stuff and I am generally a fish and seafood lover (no surprise there for those of you who know how much I love most food-except in the interest of disclosure I am not a big lobster fan, mostly because it is just too much work and not enough pay off but also because it,is the ocean's vacuum cleaner)!

Then I discovered that industry had learned how to farm these charming creatures. They became easy to grow, easy to sell and easily slipped into just about every fish eaters carte in America. Now the farming didn't bother me; most of the shrimp around here comes from the briny ponds near Gila Bend and I have no problem with that. It was the idea of the tilapia

It turns out my instincts were correct. Now they are discovering that Tilapia contains really bad fats. Check it out here:

So stick with the known commodities like trout, cod, snapper, orange roughy and halibut, OK? Cheap is not always better.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Free Your Mind

To celebrate Independence Day here are some links that will free you from the group think that is the greatest threat to our freedom:

Take a few minutes to liberate your mind and educate yourself. After all, an informed citizenry is the foundation of democracy.

Have a great Fourth of July weekend! Stay cool and don't shoot your gun in the city limits.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

To Prove I Am No Weenie

I was able to make it through the entire length of this incredible video. I dare you to try:

The Lost Art of Visiting

We went to see Sweeney Todd on Christmas Day. For me it could not have been worse. Sure, the effects and lyrics and all were very clever and masterful. But can't we find a way to express our creativity without slashing people's throats? Just exactly what about this is entertaining? How far has our society stooped that we find such gratuitous violence cute and clever?

Most mass marketed movies contain such drivel; mindless, pointless violence done in an artful way is no redemption for the subject matter in my view. Now, I am not a weenie (although I do not like horror films), I get the whole adrenaline thing. But I just can't see how this junk is so main stream but movies like The Visitor barely get screened.

This wonderful movie reminded me of the Lives of Others, another pointed look at the ways people can come up with to torture one another without ever having to sharpen a razor. There are much more insidious ways that people can get to one another than slash and burn. The Visitor is the story of a vacuous college professor who unwittingly becomes entwined in an illegal immigration miasma that must be repeated on a daily basis in this country. It is very real, most engaging and so poignant. But at bottom it is about how we interact as human beings with accessible material. It is thought provoking and entertaining and quite cleverly constructed. No blood though.

The Lives of Others the1996 Oscar for best foreign film is another example of this type of movie. This one involves a vacuous Stassi agent becoming caught up in the goings on with the people he is surveil-ing. Add these to your Netflix list for some movie watching that won't be merely a mental diversion but entertainment that gently provokes the use of your brain cells.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The End of War As We Know It?

While watching TV during the nine o'clock hour a couple of nights last week my husband was flipping between channels during commercials to AMC. (Cox ripped TCM from our line up without even telling us and then jacked up the bill $5! There is never anything on so I am not sure why we pay this except we love BRAVO channel, but I digress). AMC was showing Troy one night and The Last Samurai the next. It was clear just how formulaic these films are as both nights when flipping at about the same time of night each movie was in the throes of the huge battle scene.

The striking thing about these battles, aside from the fact that women are never directly involved, is just how ridiculous it all is. How does taking out the young and the strong really accomplish anything in the long run? Not very practical if you ask me. (And I am always amazed at how effervescent and energetically violent these people and their animals are despite the fact that there are thousands of them amassed in one place with no apparent access to food or water or waste facilities. But that is the movies for you. And how coordinated they all are when there were no cell phones!)

Then, on Saturday we went to the local art movie house to watch the Visitor (see next entry for a review). The preview trailer featured a film about treating and rehabbing the wounded soldiers in the middle east. A documentary, the themes were so powerful that people were tearing up just during the short excerpts. Check it out at

I realized that in our progress with technology, it is no longer the case that the people fighting these wars are sequestered from the rest of us. They are surviving at higher and higher rates but often with major physical repercussions. They are subsequently returning to society in large numbers. We will be dealing with the effects of this new warfare in ways that never so apparent in the past. It used to be that the soldiers died and the one's who didn't either compartmentalized the emotional toll and suppressed it or turned to drugs and either ended up homeless or in a half way house. These are all subsections of society that most people don't see on a daily basis.

But now, we have people who are coming back without limbs and with PTSD. They are returning to mainstream society and we are going to be grappling with these issues face to face, in our homes, schools and workplaces. We are more likely to see it in everyday life than in any war ever before. It seems to me that this interaction will bring home with the concept of the actual cost of war and how losing an arm or a life has no relationship whatsoever to the global economy. When we can no longer sequester the effects of this oddly illogical problem solving technique maybe then as a people human kind will truly begin to progress. Just a thought.

Aid for the Spiraling Grocery Bill

I was only somewhat joking the other day when I suggested to my fellow Community Food Connections board members that we adopt the slogan "Eat Local; Don't Die." The salmonella scare which follows the various E.Coli scares have not done enough to get people to notice that having a nationally based food distribution system not only makes food taste bad, it also increases the risk that it is bad. The FDA just cannot handle the massive job and the regulatory practices, like all huge legal schemes, contain a pile of unintended consequences that can actually squeeze producers of healthy and delicious food out of the market.
The other really bad aspect of the system is that we end up treating our food supply like a commodity which has become the victim of our creative financial times and is the subject of the latest economic bubble. All of this is driving up the cost of food.
But it doesn't bother me so much because the bulk of my food comes from the Farmer's Market. The price has remained steady as the shipping distance is small. The risk of bacteria is minimal as the stuff is not sitting around where it can be exposed and it is so fresh that it lasts much longer than store bought so there is less waste.
My food professional pal Judy Walker actually studies this sort of thing and writes about it so here is a link to her suggestions, which no so coincidentally include a number of things that I do:
Let me know what you get out of it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Sequel

Sometimes you read about seemingly disparate events and the dots start connecting. I thought it most intersting in the news of late that:
1) a Brazilian firm is seeking to buy Freeport McMoran, the largest US mining company headquartered in Phoenix;
2) Abu Dhabi interests are about to purchase the Chrysler Building in Manhattan (an art piece aside from being a functioning building);
3) the Belgian brewers who make Stella Artois and other great beers are making a pitch for Anheuser Busch (lord knows why they would be interested in crappy American beer-it must be the money- and don't they know there is a hops shortage?).
Taking all these together, you know there have to be many more foreign investors making their strike in this country during these interesting economic times. This legal immigration is much more troubling than the illegal immigration everyone is freaking out about because these folks have money and money really does rule the world. This gives a whole new twist to the classic idea of the US being a melting pot: Just think of eating fondu from a pot made of Brazilian metal while sitting in a Middle Eastern building and drinking Belgian beer. Sounds exotic. And you don't even need a passport.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Green Beans are in Season (and this recipe will make you wish they were year round)

From Taunton's Fine Cooking magazine:

Chinese Restaurant Style Green Beans

Trim a pound of fresh green beans and saute them in the straight-sided skillet (or wok) in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter for 12 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until beans are crisp tender and slight browned.
Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and toss. Add a mixture of 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir and cook for another minute or so.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Eco Bags up for Consideration

I have met Tracy Penwell through my friend Karen Longo∙ They are buddies from their days at Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management. Tracey is with Rima Fine Art, a gallery in Scottsdale. She is also a designer in her own right. This is her latest email:

I (Tracy Penwell) am a finalist in the 2008 IHDA Best Handbags Competition . My "green" (eco-conscious) handbag, "Summertime", is one of five bags chosen from over 600 entries submitted from all over the world! "Summertime" is on display right now in NYC in a Harve Bendel display window!

But I really need your help: I am also a candidate for the "Audience Favorite Handbag" at the Awards. The winner will be decided by online voting, and YOU could help me put Scottsdale on the handbag eco-fashion map once and for all with TWO wins! Both awards will be announced at
the Awards Ceremony at the New York Historical Society on June 18th.

Would you please go online and vote for my bag, "Summertime"? Here's how: visit . My bag is second from the top--just click on the "VOTE" button! And do you know any other handbag fans? Please ask them to vote too!

I've also relaunched my website for the handbags: Take a look and see which of my newest bags is YOUR favorite. (If you can't live without it, whip out your card--you can now buy it online!) And if you can't get to the voting site through the link above, there is one in the lower left corner of my site.
Many thanks, everybody, and stay tuned for the results!

Stoned on Karma

About a month ago my daughter went to see the Dalai Lama speak at the University of Michigan campus. She said it was an amazing experience but the mantra she took away from it (and keeps repeating almost daily) is a simple one: "Eat outside more often, have more picnics".
A short couple of weeks later what do you know but about 450,000 Chinese families are having to do just that! Coincidence or karma?
Then comes along Sharon Stone, unaware of the Dalai's admonition, naively chalking it up to karma.
What horror! The world recoils in disgust. Her contracts are cancelled and her movies will never be seen in China!
Are you kidding me? Who CARES what Sharon Stone has to say? Why give it any print? And more importantly, why pay any attention to it?
For a full picture of the absolute absurdity of it all here is the link to the news story:
One thing is for sure; Sharon Stone is no Dalai Lama.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Masticating on Going Green

The following is from an email exchange with a colleague that was spawned when discussing the merits of writing a column for publication on tips on how to “go green.”


Being a realist of the highest order, I am not so sure all this going green stuff is anything but a marketing scheme that is rooted in philosophy rather than reality and once it becomes clear that it really does not make any actual difference on the macro scale people may begin to see that the retailers were just using it to sell more stuff which is really not very environmentally sound. In other words, it would depend upon how you are thinking of addressing it whether it would be a good long term marketing tool. I noticed today that Jupiter is acquiring big red spots that they are attributing to global warming. What do you suppose the Jupitereans are doing to cut down on their contribution?

I heard a report on NPR yesterday about the legal roadblocks to harnessing one of the most prolific energy sources currently available: reusing the waste energy at industrial operations and nuclear plants. Harnessing all the “waste energy” that is a byproduct of these operations could generate 200,000 megawatts of electricity per year (think capturing all the steam coming off the cooling towers at Palo Verde to power turbines). There are all sorts of legal roadblocks including the Clean Air Act. This would be considered a modification and would trigger highly expensive pollution controls be added as well so people can’t afford to do it. If we could find things like that to write about every month it would make a lot of sense coming from a law firm.


Haha, you're right that I don't agree. Caution: speech ahead, proceed with plenty of time ;o)

I don't think there is anyone (including those selling the greenwashed products) that thinks the rampant greenwashing of every product is a impactful or meaningful...except me...

I see it very much the same way as the health revolution of sorts that happened a few decades ago. One minute it was good enough to eat Mom's down home cooking as long as you ate the Lima beans too, then everything on the shelf said it was light or was in some way healthier for you. It wasn't of course, and eventually (after people went from skeptically discounting the claims and warnings of death by any one of thousands of potential ailments to frantically gobbling down everything that said heart healthy and light) got regulated so that unless it was actually "Light" you had to call it "Lite" so the consumer could retreat comfortably back into a foggy cushion of belief that "they" were again safely in the hands of governmental controls on what was put in front of them.

In fact, I think the mass marketing overload is a key component in slipping the importance of environmental responsibility into the recesses of the American psyche. Right now, everything and it's emission is getting a green lens on it, and everyone with half a brain can see right through most of it chortling at the ridiculousness of a hybrid SUV that still only gets 20 miles to the gallon. We call it stupid and scoff at the lack of impact something like that will have on how soon we create a dearth on earth of people. This is the equivalent of those who, rightly, laughed at the first "health" foods that were hardly so. Slowly, people went from not thinking they even needed to change their diet to demanding that the "healthy" food actually be that and the FDA stepped in. Next thing you know, healthy living/diet is one of the most lucrative industries. I think the whole "green" thing will eventually work itself out the same way...

Oh yea, I would also just add that the other school of thought on Industrial waste energy is to come up with ways to not waste the energy in the first place...but I am deeply in the school of thought that things like that should be voluntary not mandatory and make your existing system more efficient and cost effective; people choosing to do things on their own, whether it be to triple profits or save endangered anemic orphaned baby skittering plankton found only in the crevices of sub oceanic pre-historic craters, makes it far more inclusive, less adversarial, and just happier. I don't see why you can't have this cake and eat it too...


Ok, sorry, but you kind of stepped in it when you decided to use food as analogy. Your argument using food as an example of how marketing can change lives (with a little help from the government) for the better by convincing people to change their behaviors would be pertinent to the green thing if derived from a sound premise.

I completely disagree that by naming products lite the marketers got people to change their health habits for the better and that in their zeal to sell things were adequately "checked" by the FDA. Just putting the issue into play did not make any long term difference to Joe Blow. He doesn't really think about this stuff.

In actuality, the people who are eating right and exercising would have done so on their own. This country has the worst record for obesity. This is a human nature life style choice that is abetted by the way food is produced and distributed. Those who watch their diet and work out also read labels and were savvy enough to have interpreted the farce of lite without the government's help and did so. Sure, lots of people started thinking about their unhealthy lifestyles but were soon distracted with thoughts of their inadequate erections and forgot to get on the tread mill.

I have been working out three times a week at the same facility for over 15 years. The population of my classes rarely varies. The same people who were there before the marketing are still there. Everybody else comes once or twice and never returns.

The FDA did nothing to improve matters. In fact they have made them infinitely worse. They insist on inspections but do not have the staff to adequately do so, thus putting us all at risk of E coli and meat recalls. Meanwhile, the pure meat farmer is unable to sell his wares to the public as it would be illegal without inspections. This forces mass production with its inherent risks. The small operations, however, are unable to get the attention of the inspectors because they are overwhelmed by the big guys. So we have few alternatives. Not that most people care.

Most people buy food at the grocery without giving any thought to what it is made of. If it says light they buy it under the false pretenses that they are somehow being healthy. Most processed foods (and these are the most consumed items in the average American diet) are made up of corn which has been broken down into its components and rearranged into all manner of chemically designed foodstuffs. It is easy to determine where this crap is in the food chain: read the label. Most people only glance at the large type on the package front.

As for the FDA making verbage more accessible, what a nightmare. Light no longer means light and organic has no meaning whatsoever. Unless you are a huge enough operation to be able to afford to jump through the hoops required to be able to use the word on your products, even if you are in reality the most organic farmer in the world, you are forbidden from saying that. The government now OWNS that word which renders it just an arrangement of seven letters. Small local farmers cannot sell their harvest for what it is without breaking the law.

And this is supposed to help the consumer?
For more reading on this and many other food issues I recommend Michael Pollen, "The Omnivores Dilemma."

I submit to you that most people are too busy to spend time thinking about this. They want taste and convenience so they can get back to their video games and DVDs. The people who changed their lives after the "healthy" marketing schemes are thinking people who would have done so just because they didn't feel good.

The upshot is that after the marketing we are now left with total confusion. Organic may or may not be organic. Green may or may not be green. What does it all mean?

One of the greatest writers of our time, David Foster Wallace, refers to all this miasma of information as Total Noise. It now takes professional sorters to comb through this noise and shake it down into little segments that are digestible by the common person. There is just too much information out there to process for decision making purposes. But having other people do it for you risks distortion and bias. (See David Foster Wallace, introduction to Best American Essays 2007).

This column idea is our attempt to provide that service to the public and in the process get some name recognition and hopefully more business for ourselves. I applaud that concept of course (after all I think I do a pretty good job of seeing reality as evidenced above) so why not do it? All I am saying is that we should do it with integrity and about things we know to be real and meaningful to avoid the risk of being exposed in the end as greedy hypocrites who ignored the truth.
That is all I am saying.

Oh, and eat local and seasonal. Come to the Downtown Public Market.


Well said Kim. You're right, I did step into it when I used food, clearly an area you are familiar with, as an analogy and then didn't qualify with anything.

I apologize in advance for my wordiness.

I agree with you, unfortunately, that the food/diet/agriculture situation in our country is in an abysmal state and that to argue that we are better off now than we were a few decades ago b/c of a crescendo of a health food revolution is not an easy pitch. I have alos heard some very accurate and hilarious alternative definitions of the acronym FDA that I would share with you another time that I think you would appreciate. However, I do think that it is possible that mass marketing and the rise of the media colossus has had a very significant influence on the direction society has taken with respect to eating and diet, not just in a bad way.

Raised as a kid to admire foods like fluffy flakes of questionable derivation that could miraculously become mashed potatoes, to appreciate the time saving of McDonald's "happy" meals (though I had no where to be), to see the good in the coffee and dining room tables being one and the same, and to savor the potato flavoring unwittingly consumed on the king of burgers' french fried potatoes, I left the nest to became a one time vegetarian (short stint that will not be revisited), long time member of many CSAs in most places I've lived, eschewer of soft drinks, caffeine, fast food, and many other low hanging fruits for health, and someone who currently thinks when he shops, reads labels, tries to keep up as best he can on the status of many of the good fights being fought.

With several close friends farming organically in various parts of the country whether they can advertise it or not, several other friends who will make a run to the border for a double dipped thrice fried mexi-melt chalupa with an extra helping of guacamolito sauce from that infamous eatery who thankfully got rid of the Chihuahua, and most somewhere in between, I feel like I have seen at least a bit of more than one side and have come to the same conclusion as you, that there is a significant group out there who live as consciously as they can and would inform themselves as best they can for their purchases and lifestyle choices independent of the marketing that they are exposed to (at different levels depending on if they have a tv or listen to the radio or otherwise engage mainstream society).

However, I also think there is a much larger portion of the population that is so exquisitely and precisely depicted by the cunning wits who write for the Simpsons (America's longest running prime time television show animated or not). That depiction is of a group who can only think as one mob and whose opinion can be swayed readily by a person with charisma or just a threat to be feared. It is this group who, as you seem to agree, still buys anything that has a label on it saying that someone else is making sure it is good for them without wondering what standards are used or what the enforcement is. This is the group who today's advertising works best on and who it is primarily directed at, in my opinion. This is the group that I think would not have even looked for the label saying healthy years ago. This is the group that I think hasn't really even started looking for the green label yet. Has the food/diet/agriculture situation reached an idyllic point of perfect balance? Ha! I think we all know that isn't the case. Has it come a little further along from where we were when people thought it was good to cook with lard, good to eat a large helping of meat with every meal, safe to chase the DDT truck, and set up lawn chairs to watch the nuclear tests? I think we have, though I understand that you may not. Obviously it is not just b/c of marketing. There have been countless good people trying to do right and educate others; without them, we wouldn't have even taken these few steps.

I did not mean to imply that the FDA or the government regulation on food has saved the national health and waistline. I did mean to imply that the beginning of the movement as a whole, along with the health-washing equivalent of today's green-washing, played a part in raising awareness (I guess this is where we disagree). I think there are some big lessons to be learned from what has happened with our food industry (that it is currently primarily one is part of it) but that we should indeed learn something from that and apply it now to what I, in one humble opinion, think is another case of history repeating itself with global instead of individual health. If nothing is done differently, we will be planting corn on farms tens of thousands of acres large run by machines and filling our buildings with thousands of CFLs instead of using day-lighting all the while wondering why the planet is still going into the crapper, much like so many order a salad from McDonald's with extra dressing, then get in the car to drive across the parking lot to the Jamba Juice wondering how they and their kids are still getting so fat and having so many health problems. There may also be some things we should do the same so as to not "throw the baby out with the bath water" as they say.

As Michael Pollan's books Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food sit yet unread (though this may be the impetus needed) on my shelf next to several other lately popular ones by his colleagues that I have read about the state of our food industry and national habits, I am glad that we are having this conversation and believe you are right that the upshot is total confusion where once there was total ignorance and denial. Sounds like a step forward to me.

As a perpetual devil's advocate even with myself the thought also occurs to me that perhaps we are trying to solve the current problem with an old solution. Maybe, as hard as it is for me to believe, the solution is something more radical that we can't even entertain yet b/c it seems impossible or at first contradictory to the goal. Many things throughout history must have seemed like that without the hindsight we now have through history's lens, as inescapably skewed as it is.

I agree that we should pursue a column that provides the service you mention with integrity and about things we know to be real and meaningful. Extremely long story short, I would like to clarify that I think the greenwashing is "impactful and meaningful" only in so far as it is a necessary part of the process of getting to a point of raising awareness in a way that I don't think most people think of, but integral nonetheless.


My final thought. All this green stuff is great, if it works because it is nice and good for us and makes us happier people. That is why I am into it; I am greedy, I want to live in a nice world. The planet will cope.

Having studied this subject and taught enviro science I am convinced that our arrogance will always be held in check by mother nature, who is a cruel taskmaster in her own right. I think we both reached the same conclusions; just by different routes. You are a very wise man!
This was so much fun I just thought it would make a good post for others to read. Crazy way to spend a virtual weekend. You are a thoughtful guy and a worthy sparring partner.
Somewhere in all of this I never read the column. Can you send it to me again?