Light Crap

Maybe it all stays the same

There was a woman in my old neighborhood. And you know how people start to look like their pets?

Actually, scratch that. There were a whole bunch of people in my old neighborhood.

And it’s cliché, but it’s true.

You bike to work every day for like four years. And it’s just a 10 minute bike ride, but everyone has a routine. They walk the dog every morning and stop at the bakery for a croissant. They get on their bike after a night at the bar and wobbly ride home. They have their living room on the street side and you can look in on their daily life as you bike past. They stand at the bus stop with their kids and wave as you go by.

In fact, you join them, become part of the local fauna – the creepy guy on the trashy bike with the big yellow saddle bags who’s always staring at everyone.

And it’s all like Sesame Street in your mind and it never changes.

When I got here I wanted to make up stories about all of these people I saw. And then I wanted to go and introduce myself to each one and find out the real deal and then write about that.

I never did that.

But there’s one person I still think about. The little old lady with the brittle dog on plinky glass legs.

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Germany, Light Crap

Throwing it all away…

When I arrived in Germany, Spermüll was God’s gift. As a newly arrived ex-pat working for an NGO, I had little cash to spare furnishing a home. And so I looked forward to every third month, when people dip down into their basements to find that old Ikea cupboard missing a handle. Or that bookshelf that your second child colored on in a fit of jealous rage.

You take and drag all that bulky waste (translation of Spermüll) to the curb and the next morning trash trucks come and whisk it all away. For those of us living on a non-profit wage, it was an opportunity to clash with Eastern European van drivers to scavenge choice articles.

But at some point (namely when I found a 3-foot tall garden gnome), it got old. By that time I had furnished my home with about 40% trash – mostly Ikea detritus still in good condition, but for a few dents, scratches or smells. But each successive Spermüll seemed like a bigger and bigger waste.

There seems to be no middle ground here. There are no garage sales really – I’m uncertain if it is illegal or what the deal is. There are flea markets and people will try to unload old things there, but then they’ll look at that Ikea shelf missing a handle and charge roughly 90% of what they originally paid for it. So the motivation is not necessarily on cleaning out the basement, but rather making some cash. Then if it doesn’t sell, well, then just drag it out to the curb and it disappears in the morning.

This is a problem (as you can see from the short film above). Every week, nearly every day, some neighborhood in Germany is having Spermüll.  It bothers me to think that every day, somewhere there are orange trucks loading up all of that perfectly good furniture to be taken to the dump… Continue reading

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Serious Shit

Christmas Giving with 100% Impact that You’ll Never See

Yes, you could put these kids through school. And never even hear about it. You just have to trust me.

Yes, you could put these kids through school. And never even hear about it. You just have to trust me. Granted, this was taken in 2003, so these kids are probably done with school now… but you could fund their kids.. possibly.

(edited 1 January 2015)

Now that I have your attention. Say it’s the end of the year, as it is, and say you have a little bit leftover this year, as you might. You’re looking for a good place to make a kind donation. May I suggest that you consider a donation to Friends of Guatemala.

Your contribution will provide scholarships for students in Guatemala. 100% of it will go directly to funding students. You give $127, kids get $127.

The only catch is you’ll get no letter in the mail asking you to send more. You’ll never know who the kid is that got the cash. They don’t have a website with cute pictures of the kids going to school with little uniforms and backpacks (see image at right). They’ll never send you a newsletter that you’ll never look at. They don’t spend money to do any impact reports highlighting all of the good things they’ve done. The only thing you’ll get is an acknowledgement of your donation for your taxes.

It’s like the Fight Club of charities.

In fact, you may feel like you’re throwing your money in a hole. But speaking from experience, you’re not. I can attest, I have been throwing money in this hole for years and now my friend’s kid is studying in Florida on a scholarship.

Does this sound appealing to you yet?

If it does, please consider a contribution to the Friends of Guatemala (Link to their Guidestar profile – but you won’t see much. No overhead, hence no money for reporting too much.). It’s run by returned Peace Corps volunteers who just shuffle the money back and forth and send out the letters, but everything you give, all of it, every bit goes to fund promising students in Guatemala.

If this sounds appealing, you can send checks to:

Friends of Guatemala
PO Box 33018
Washington DC 20033

You can also find them on Facebook page if you want to like them.

If you’d rather have the normal giving experience where people send a letter, tell you that you’ve done great and show you pictures of the good things you’ve helped them do, then I suggest you look here: Food4Farmers, Coffee Trust, Pueblo a Pueblo.  These folks are also doing great things and are totally worth your while.

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Serious Shit

RIP Coffee Kids or not the holiday greeting I hope for

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Long Beach Parking Lot, 2007

I was standing in a hotel lobby gift shop surrounded by California trinkets. Printed towels, souvenir spoons with lighthouses, stuffed toy dolphins and other crap. I saw a middle-aged guy, soft around the middle with an SCAA* bag slung on his shoulder,  looking at a snow globe.

“Have a good show?” I asked.

It was the last day of the world’s largest specialty coffee conference in 2007. I was working with Coffee Kids, an NGO dedicated to helping coffee-farming families improve their quality of life.

“Yup, it went well, yours?” he asked.

We talked a bit about our work, the average trade show ‘what do you have that I might need’ banter.

We work in coffee communities, I said, supporting projects in education, food sovereignty, health care, economic diversification – whatever was the priority for the community. Our funding comes from coffee companies or others in the industry and supported a wide variety of projects.

“Hmmm… well that doesn’t sound like a good idea, sounds like you’re training farmers to get out of coffee,” he challenged. “Now why would I ever want to support something like that, something that could drive my prices up?”

Continue reading

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Germany, Light Crap

It’s still funny, Freund.

I’m not sure who did it first. Our name anyway. It’s German. It’s spelled ‘Freund’, properly pronounced ‘froind’, but our family pronounces it ‘frend’. Throughout my youth we were confronted with frequent misspellings and a barrage of jokes. Actually, it was only one. Exactly one. The same one, every time.

This is the image you find when you search 'fat guy cigar office chair'

This is the image you find when you search ‘fat guy cigar office chair’. Found here.

One day I drove to the dump in our old rusty Chevy with the old bumper sticker ‘I got the crabs at Durty Nelly’s’ (which I never understood until much older)  to drop off the trash. You had to stop in at the office and let them know you were bringing trash. On this particularly brisk, fall day a cute girl I knew from school who never looked my way was working.”Freund (friend),” I said sheepishly.

Behind her was a large man in striped overalls leaning hard into a creaky office chair. He had a couple chins that folded into his chest as he leaned back. His lips hung loose like those people who smoke too many cigars and once they get to the nub, it just sort of hangs there from their calloused lower lip. If I remember right, he even had some burn marks on his shirt from when he probably fell asleep smoking.

Anyway, at that instant this comic genius decided to take a moment from ogling the girl at the desk and rasped out, “Huh, hey friend, are you my friend? Wa huh, huh, huh, *hack*cough* heh, heh.”

The joke went the same way, every time, without fail. And the witty reply was always the same, “yes.”

Beyond that we would have to spell out our name for every phone call or any time we went to the bank. F-R-E-U-N-D, but pronounced ‘frend’. I thought that things would change upon moving to Germany.

Obviously I’d have to get used to pronouncing my name correctly, but there would be no more spelling it over the phone. No more confusion with the mail. No more explaining, “Nope, I don’t know when they changed the pronunciation.” Just smooth sailing.

Granted I like the fact that we pronounce our name this way against all logic of spelling, but I did think it would make things much simpler. But I’d never expected the hospitality I’d encounter here. While most people would read it properly as the German word that it is, any time I went to a bank or had any other verbal interaction and said, “Mein Name ist Freund, wie Freund,” they would write down F-R-I-E-N-D.

It seems the obvious – and very considerate – conclusion was always something around, ‘Oh, he’s American, so he must be just trying to fit in. Even though he says his name is Freund, it must be spelled the English way.’

And so now, four and a half years after moving to Germany, I still find myself having to spell out my last name. Although fortunately, I do not have to deal with the jokers anymore. No one here bats an eye.

 

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Pure Bullshit

My favorite spam

It’s tempting, I know. Reading through this one took every last drop of my willpower to resist clicking. Who is ‘This guy’ they link to? Will it take me to a picture of him? What about the shocking story? Live action of ‘This guy’ almost getting himself killed lulled into a delusion of safety by his closet full of guns?

And really, what if you were wearing a suit made of guns so that anyone who tried to come near you would be filled with holes? Would that trump this new method of protection? I’m not sure and I may never know. I didn’t have the guts to click any of the links.

What about you, do you value the safety of your family enough to click!?!?

My New Favorite Spam

This shows up when you search 'alternatives protection guns'

This shows up when you search ‘alternatives protection guns’.

This guy almost got himself
killed…because he thought he was
protected by his guns…

Here’s the shocking story that will make
you think twice if you are confident
that your guns will save you:

>> Click Here To View The Short Story

Even though guns can protect you…in
reality, when a crisis happens so
quickly…guns actually give you a false
sense of protection.

Instead, there are simple tricks that
ANYONE can use…even seniors, or people
with disabilities…to disarm any
attacker and take down anyone (no matter
how big they are) with only 1 hit.

>>>You’ll discover the method here.

Stay Safe!
Frank Bell

P.S. Self defence experts have already
sent me numerous hate mails, claiming
that I’m destroying their businesses by
exposing the truth.

But I believe you and your family
deserve to know the real facts about
self protection

>>>Click here to watch the video

P.P.S: This Is The Secret Move I’m Talking About::

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beefjerky, Serious Shit

Sticks and Stones (and Marketing Hyperbole and Such)

Did you know your coffee may have twigs, stones or even ground up ducklings? It’s true and it’s horrifying. This means that those dodgy, crafty coffee farmers are up to their old tricks again! Trying to cheat you, the hard-working consumer, out of your hard earned cash and get  you to drink extra filler swill at the same time – just like the kid wiping boogers on your burger at Hardees.

You may have seen some of the headlines over the weekend:

Besides the fact that this is probably one of the first times you’ll see Fox News and Grist.org running the same angle on a story – the stories are depressingly misleading. What sounds like a major problem is just a sales pitch for the American Chemical Society who figured out a tricky way to determine what’s in your coffee besides coffee (other than milk, hazelnut flavors, bucket of sugar, etc.).

But rather than just pitch it to the coffee industry that would be interested in using this new tool, they decided to go full guns blazing and sound the alarm! Greedy coffee farmers are dumping whatever they can get their hands on into your morning cup so they can rake in the big bucks. Dear God in heaven, help us if we can’t get one by those conniving small-scale farmers! They even came up with a crappy info graphic (which shows absolutely no scope of the alleged problem).

Continue reading

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