duh, Serious Shit

A dead squirrel

Feet>Bike>Car

Occasionally I’m reminded of it in subtle ways.

On the rare day when I drive my daughter to daycare, it’s a minute long ride. We go there. I drop her off. Collect my kiss. It’s done.

When we bike, we feel the wind and see the sun rearing up over the houses. I shout at her to push me up the hill. We coast down the other side and I drag my hand out signaling a left turn. I drop her off. Collect my kiss. It’s done.

But if we walk – if we walk – we pick some flowers for mom, we look at a bird, we shout at the bus. We contemplate a dead squirrel in the road. We feel the air. We take off our jackets.  We take everything in.

Here is an illustration of what I’m talking about: Continue reading

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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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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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Serious Shit

GMOs, BGH and Reasonable Objections

bullshit

See this image here? This is what bothers me about the whole  GMO debate. A libelous statement presented as truth labeled as ‘Opinion’.

There are sneaky things going on. A PR masterpiece of epic proportions is underway to sway public opinion by any means necessary.

There was the Vandana Shiva hit piece in the New Yorker last winter, then the Smithsonian talking about GMO-hating hipsters, followed by some crazy article in National Geographic comparing anti-GMO folks to anti-vaccine folks. Slate recently piled on with a person spouting off research purporting that GMOs are safe and healthy.

In this massive PR push, the hacks are relying on a time-tested, mother approved format to divide and conquer, obscure and refute, and force through an agenda.

I don’t oppose GMOs on health claims. Or because I hate science. I oppose them on grounds of sovereignty and choice. It’s the continuing capital creep that has driven people out of work for generations and consolidated more and more power in the hands of few.

But back to the whole PR thing – and this is what interests me while watching this whole debate. Back when Monsanto introduced BGH/rBST, they touted it as a safe alternative for farmers to effortlessly produce more milk from the same cows. An FDA – stacked with folks who worked at some of these companies – approved it for use. Studies paid for and bought by the company put out similar ‘BGH is safe’ mantras, but ultimately consumer choice won out.

At that time, the price of milk was already low, but the same arguments emerged then as we see now: ‘We have to trust science! We have a world that’s growing to 9 billion! There’s only one way to feed them all! Get more from less!’ And small farmers, like my Dad were told that ‘the only way to survive was to get bigger and produce more. Your margins are too high!’

But it was never truly conclusive that it didn’t harm human health or the health of the animals (or maybe it was according to this 2009 FDA Review, except read the intro and the fact that long-term studies were never conducted, whoops!).

Monsanto fought tooth and nail against any regulation. Their PR machine attempted to eliminate any efforts on labeling.  But slowly they lost the battle. Milk started showing up on shelves labeled BGH/rBST free. It was a value add, but as the effects proved evident, it became obvious, consumers weren’t buying it. Monsanto tried to rebrand. After a while they sold it and now you’d have to search to find milk without a BGH/BST-free label.

Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure.

Now we’re at the same debate whether the consumer is truly right or not. Can we trust the consumer to make wise choices?

I’d hope that GMOs would get a fair shake in the media and in the public and be judged based on the science, but there is just too much monkey business – on both sides. Anti-GMO folks are using scare-monger tactics and presenting shaky evidence. Pro-GMO folks are bulldozing and buying out any and all critics, working every media angle to force people to accept their products, whether they want to or not.

This is really not about health. The key is the ability of people to choose. The independence of farmers to not have their fields invaded. The choices people want to make.

But I fear the PR teams behind the pro-GMO are have learned their lesson from BGH and we’re in trouble.

What do you think, folks?

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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

02_krf_otherstuff_longbeach

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?”

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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).

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