hell, Pure Bullshit

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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hell, Holy crap, protest, Serious Shit

Can I just get a crappy coffee, please?

It’s been two weeks without coffee. And it’s not been too bad. Then I read this “The 10 Most Annoying Coffee Trends.” So if you skip ahead to #8, you get to the heading of ‘Sky-High Coffee Prices.’

There’s a strange selfish pride in the statement, “Sorry I am not paying more for a cup of coffee than I do for a gallon of gas.” And it usually comes from folks who grew up on Folgers (not that they’re necessarily bad people). Working in coffee and around coffee and drinking coffee, it’s difficult to hear these things and not get annoyed.

There are commodities. Things like wheat, soy beans, corn. Hundreds of acres handled by a single farmer, a hired hand and some farm equipment. And then there’s coffee, right up there among the others with people unwilling to pay more than a few cents per cup, because, well only numbskulls would pay more for coffee than gas! Flour is cheap. Corn is cheaper.

But coffee isn’t like these other things. Continue reading

beefjerky, cockfights, hell, petpeeve


The guys in the center are the guys

“Stupid Mother F%#k! Denk an die Kinder! Stupid! Die F#$ker!”

It was a sunny, hot day in Vienna. After three coffee conference days filled with cappuccino quaffing followed with beer drinking, we headed across the Danube to the Old Danube, an oxbow of the river where Viennese gather to swim, row and sun bathe.

“So you think I can change here?” I asked as people milled around on the crowded beach, no changing rooms in sight.

My friend Anna (a Finn living in Vienna) replied in the affirmative. “Yeah, I don’t see why not. We do it all the time.”

And so I quickly yanked off my pants and in the blink of an eye pulled up my swimming trunks – literally, blink -of-an-eye, no extra jiggles, nothing – and sat back down in the grass between my friends. We began talking about the hotel where my friend stayed on the weekend and the prostitutes that gathered down the road.

All the while, in the background I could hear someone muttering.

“Mother F*#ker! F&#*ing sh*t!”

I thought they were referring to me, but it was hard to tell. Anna assured me that it was fine what I had done. There were women wandering around topless. Naked kids all over the place, and men in Speedos that left less to the imagination than if they wore nothing at all.

But the cursing got clearer and closer. Continue reading

beefjerky, hell, Holy crap

Lot of departures going round

I wrote about him before, but Andy Rooney has played a fairly important role in my life. I can remember back in high school when Brock Gourlie and I would compete to see who could check out “And more by Andy Rooney” the most. It was a good time and I fondly remember his sage response to the check out woman at the grocery store.

“Is that all you need?”

“Of course it’s all I need. If’ I’d wanted more, I would have put it there, bitch!”

I added the ‘bitch’ part because I thought it would make this post more entertaining. But that was the gist of a three-page story in this book and helps explain how I learned impatience and crotchetiness and how to be ornery.

It saddened me to see he will be retiring at 92 years of age. If you ever read this Andy, stop being such a lazy ass. Just kidding, I salute you and I’ll miss you dearly.

Here is a video you might enjoy.

cockfights, hell

Turkish Bazaar and Tourism

In the Grand Bazaar

Today while walking through my 8th bazaar in Turkey I got quite sad at what was on sale and what was on display. Same, same, same. Supposedly hand-woven rugs probably made by children in China. Small painted bowls that were the same ones we saw everywhere else. Though some bore the words ‘hand-painted’ on the bottom, a small touch conferring elevated status on that particular batch.

Same, same, same.

This issue plagues every tourist haunt I’ve ever visited. A plethora of once unique items, expressions of identity and culture, are whittled down to what sells and then repeated ad nauseum throughout every shop on every street. Variations are slight to reduce loss and ensure turnover. Prices are driven down by imported copycats of ancient art forms piled haphazardly and sold as ‘handmade in Turkey by skilled artisans’.

I eventually found one antique store in Urgüp that sold something different, things he had collected and things farmers found in fields and brought in. Hanging items forced visitors to duck as they wandered. He had ancient worn books, silver pieces from the time of Caesar and old seals for waxing envelopes.  Giant key chains filled with rusted keys for doors that don’t exist anymore. Wool combs for carding and unique serving platters hand painted by people in the surrounding villages. Every nook and shelf was jammed.

I found a small silver frame that I coveted and carried it with me as he showed me everything he had available. We looked through boxes, and cigar boxes under boxes stuffed with dusty, dirty coins and Byzantine treasures.

Tea feet

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cockfights, duh, hell, petpeeve

Something Annoying

It’s been a while since I posted a good old Andy Rooney-style (“Shining your own shoes is very satisfying”) diatribe, but I just have to ask what’s with banks not wanting to take my money?

I’ve lamented this fact to friends only to be met with a shrug of indifference. But seriously friends, when I take my bucket of coins to the bank they should accept these coins joyously. It’s because these coins are money!

But in these modern times it doesn’t make sense for the bank to have a change sorting machine that they use to count my monies. No, that will cost 3 Euros. Or maybe you will have to pay 10% to have that ‘Coinstar‘ Machine. That is because your hard collected coins are not money.

This is dumb.

So this means I would have to find 300 pennies on the street and give them to you, Bank-friend, when you have a machine that can do it. But you, Bank-friend, see this revenue stream where you can not only earn interest by holding onto my monies, but you can also charge me 300 pennies to count my money that you are earning money on (Is this even what really happens? In my seething frustration, I never bothered to check and see how banks really work.).

If I was a congressman, I would probably be one of those yokels who pushes for relatively meaningless legislation like the Freund-Johnson Count My Money, Suckas Act or something and then the banks would be held accountable.

This is another reason I am not a Congressman. The other one is probably this.

*One last Andy Rooney diatribe in honor of the COP16. Hopefully the nations get together and come up with something great. In the meantime, watch Andy. Glaciers the size of Connecticut?!?!