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Fair Trade for Whom?

It started creeping up a few months ago. In some context in the political arena, it was mentioned, “We need fair trade, not free trade!”

And I appreciated that. I got excited. I mean, I work for Fairtrade America. This is the kind of stuff that could drive interest through the roof.

Boy howdy, I thought, well here we go. Someone really gets it. Someone who understands that many of our current problems result from exploitation of those less fortunate. The fact that costs on store shelves hardly ever consider externalities – the true costs. The horrible way power is consolidated in trade houses and risk is heaped on farmers, the ones with the most to lose. Someone who realizes that bigger isn’t always better.

Then I realized who said it.

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beefjerky, Germany, Light Crap

A Difference of Taste

I still like to write people letters occasionally. And generally, if you receive a letter from me, it will include a clipping from a magazine or the weekly grocery store circular. When I lived in Germany, my favorite clippings were in the weekly Angebote at Rewe or Edeka. Most of the stuff was standard and of little interest, but the pictures of meat were exactly that: meat in the raw.

Big slabs of Kalbsbraten bleeding Schweinenackenbraten, pasty Hähnchenbrustfilets, or flaccid Puteschnitzel. They had it all – and all was presented rather matter of fact. Sure, there’d be the occasional decoration propped nearby, like the slices of pepper next to that floppy chicken breast below, but most of it was blissfully unadorned.

schinkensteaks_1_pl_61240roastbeef_1_plkopiekalbsbraten_aus_keule_1_pkopiehaehnchenbrust_3_plschweinenackenbraten_m_knkopieschinkensteaks_1_pl_61240roastbeef_1_plkopiekalbsbraten_aus_keule_1_pkopiehaehnchenbrust_3_plschweinenackenbraten_m_knkopieschinkensteaks_1_pl_61240roastbeef_1_plkopiekalbsbraten_aus_keule_1_pkopiehaehnchenbrust_3_plschweinenackenbraten_m_knkopie

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Serious Shit

Where I’m at now…

I always thought it was an exaggeration – the way people talked about the way your life changes when you have a child. One second, you’re fine; next second, an emotional mess.

I remember the first time it happened while on parental leave. In that first month, everyone is tired, but the kid sleeps so much that you actually find yourself with a decent amount of free time – provided you occasionally get bored of staring at your child while they sleep.

I took those spare moments to pull up classic films I’d never seen – among them ‘Paris, Texas’ from Wim Wenders. I won’t bore you with a synopsis, but at one point a long-absent father tries to meet his estranged son after school.

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Light Crap

Like Chips Passing in the Night

mug-beer-potato-chips-bottle-65477367

Yes, this image is copyrighted. But it depicts the problem at hand.

“Have a happy fourth of July,” the checkout lady said as I packed up my chips and beers and other fixings for the fourth.

But I just wonder how that could happen the way things are.

I was going to write a clever blog about one of the key differences between life in the US and Germany. But I’ll just get straight to the point and then to bed.

In Germany most bottled beers come in half liters.
Which is good.
Most chips and pretzels come in small bags.
Which is not good.

In the US, most bottled beers come in tiny bottles.
Which is not good.
Most chips and pretzels come in bags you could use to suffocate an elephant seal.
Which is good.

I just thought that this was interesting.

 

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duh, Germany, petpeeve

My Four Most Productive Months

Callous

About halfway through the summer of 2015 I discovered it – a large, scaly callous. And once discovered, I was bewildered. How do you even achieve a callous on your ankle bone? It wasn’t until two weeks later that I realized what had happened.

I woke up with our baby one morning and we began our normal routine – the same routine we’d had for the past few months. We sat cross-legged on the rug and played before I did my morning exercises. As I went to rise, I leaned in and felt my ankle scrape the rug.

At the time I was coming to the end of three months of paid parental leave. Being your typical desk jockey, I wasn’t accustomed to this much sandal-wearing, floor-sitting or child-lifting, and all of the cross-legged sitting had taken its toll on the old ankle bone.

In total I had taken four months of paid (60% or so) leave. My wife had taken 10 months. This is parental leave in Germany. Fourteen paid months in total between us. Along with state mandated protection for the mother’s job (or an equivalent post) for up to two more years of leave unpaid. Not to mention the special eight weeks of ‘Mutterschutz’ for the mother before and after birth.

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing this post in a constructive way.

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cockfights, Serious Shit

Dear Jerk,

Image ganked from this blog, which is actually a really nice post.

Image banked from this blog, which is actually a really nice post.

You probably saw me stammer through my phone number as I talked with the clerk at the T-Mobile counter. I was wearing a pair of jeans with an untucked button-up shirt. My wife had a maroon skirt and a simple top and our baby was wearing a blue striped zip-up and smiling her face off.

You, I remember it clearly, you had on a pair of black cargo pants and a white t-shirt, which you had tucked in. It strained to contain your tummy. Your hair was swept back, a month or two past the due date for a trim.

You stood at the counter talking politely, but firmly with the staff. At your hip a holstered pistol.

And I did it, I foisted a stereotype upon you.

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Holy crap

Be Here Now

vintage-bell-telephone-naked-baby-ad5Since the spaceship landed, parenthood has rendered me little more than a twitching fatherly fiber. I currently have 10 drafts – one for each month since our time traveler joined us – just a few words when my mind has a chance to clear before something new knocks my head off.

And then it’s all out of date.

In becoming a father, I was certain that I would churn out chronicles of experience as steady as a stream of conscious. Hilarious observations, delightful learnings, dangerous debacles, and a fountain of love.

But up until now I’ve uttered nary a peep.

Every single day there are roughly 353,000 children born. Parenthood is as common as you can get, it’s as natural as going to the bathroom in the morning after that first cup of coffee.  Continue reading

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