Archive for July, 2008

Bye bye Kelloggs

Yum, Roundup-Ready beets for sugar. Because you always want to eat something with an adjective that refers to pesticide. I guess this means no more Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies or Coco Puffs for me.

The Organic Consumers Association has called for a boycott of Kellogg’s products because the company indicated it won’t have a problem using sugar from genetically modified sugar beets.

The issue grew out of a November New York Times article noting that farmers will, for the first time, be planting “Roundup-ready” beets engineered to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. No one is using the sugar yet, including Kellogg’s, but the opportunity is on the way.

The interesting point to me is that Kellogg’s told the consumers group it would not use GMO sugar for products sold in Europe. All of its European products are “free of any ingredients derived from biotech sources.” But they don’t think U.S. customers care, and “consumer preference is the critical factor Kellogg uses in determining the products being provided in every market.” In short, if we objected to genetically modified food the way Europeans do, they wouldn’t put it on our food either.

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Today, I heard this great story on NPR about the origin of Rice-A-Roni. I haven’t made Rice-A-Roni in years, but I remember liking it. Of the woman who created the inspirational recipe, the story goes:

“Mrs. Captanian, I had a liking for her right away. So we moved in. Tommy would work until about 7 o’clock at the pasta factory and I was alone a lot,” Lois said. “I was only 18 and I was pregnant. And I had kitchen privileges. Well, I really wasn’t much of a cook. And here was this Armenian lady, probably about 70 years [old], making yogurt on the back of the stove, all day, every day. I didn’t even know what the word ‘yogurt’ meant.”

Mrs. Captanian taught Lois how to make paklava (baklava), soups and her specialty, Armenian pilaf.

“We would bring her Golden Grain vermicelli from the factory,” Lois said. “She wanted us to break it as small as rice if we could.”

During those long kitchen afternoons, Lois listened as Mrs. Captanian told her life story — about the Armenian genocide, her husband’s death, the separation from her two young boys and her trek from Turkey to Syria in 1915, along with thousands of other women and children who had been deported. Mrs. Captanian chronicled these events in her 1919 book, Memoires D’une Deportee.

There’s much more to the story if you click on the link.

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There are certain things in this world that give me the heebie-jeebies and I cannot explain why. Can I just say I’m so glad there is such a word as heebie-jeebie so that I can relate to you what gives me them.

Often it’s a word that give me them, examples being “squat” and “slacks.” I shudder just writing that. Another thing is the El Camino car model. God, those are so ugly and creepy and half car and half truck and…I’ve got to stop.

As for John McCain’s shoes, let me just say that loafers give me the heebie-jeebies. They are so gross. I especially can’t stand it when I can see the guys skin in the shoe although now that I’m imagining socks in the shoes I’m feeling a bit grossed out by that too.

I’ll add to the list as I think of them and by all means add your own heebie-jeebie items in the comments.

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The BBC has an audio slide show of the past 50 years of NASA. Check it out.

Photo via HowStuffWorks.

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I’m not sure why I thought of this memory. Something triggered it from the news.

I remember when I visited my relatives in Thailand a comment that my cousin made that made me uneasy. My relatives wanted so much from me. They wanted me to find a husband for my cousin, a good one they specified; they wanted me to help them out financially, etc. It was extremely overwhelming and I wanted to help them too.

I just agreed to whatever they said as is the American tradition of not being able to say no and just hoping everyone will forget. At one point, my cousin looked at me and said “Daranee is Santa Claus.” Ouch, I’ll never forget it. What a burden and a farce. If I was supposed to be their last hope, I knew I was incapable of doing that.

You want to help so much in this world, but sometimes you can’t.

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I found this article fascinating.

Advocacy groups and shelters across the country have stepped up efforts to register the 3.5 million people who drift in and out of homelessness in the United States.

“Just because we’re homeless or low income doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion,” said Estelle Bearcub, who plans to vote for Barack Obama. “It’s our right to vote. And it’s our right to have our opinion count, too.”

The homeless have sometimes struggled to participate in the political process, in large part because of requirements in Washington and 39 other states that voters list a mailing address.

Volunteers encourage transient voters to use the address of the shelter or soup kitchen they frequent in order to receive an absentee ballot. In states that require a physical address, voters can list a park or intersection where they sleep.

Bearcub has an absentee ballot delivered to the soup kitchen where she eats lunch most every day.

“It works pretty well,” she said, standing outside Bremerton’s Salvation Army post, where a banner announcing a voter registration drive flapped in the breeze. “They keep it real safe. We’ve never had any problems.”

Inside the Salvation Army, volunteer Walter Washington acknowledged that some homeless people don’t care about politics.

“But others, they know what’s going on, and they have their views,” he said.

And not so far away.

Portland’s homeless pay especially close attention to laws prohibiting sitting or lying on sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Anti-camping laws prevent them from storing bedding on public property.

Maybe Seattle’s Greg Nickels should be worried.

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Smart Girls

I love this scene from The Big Sleep. It’s playful, risque and the woman is well read. What more could you want?

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So I’m reading the Seattle Post Intelligencer (not sic) blog on the reality series “The Next Food Network Star” when all of a sudden this sentence pops out at me. Do I question it? Do I make any sense of it? No, I just assume it’s some weird Food Network language.

Luckily an astute commenter revealed the truth.

Susie Fogelson did not say that Lisa lost her virginity. She said she never lost her RIGIDITY.

I’m really glad you don’t have to be a virgin to be a Food Network star.

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That’s Larry Craig pictured on the button. Not Larry LaRocco.

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My Weekend

Since I haven’t noticed anything hugely newsworthy to write about, I thought I’d change things up a bit and talk about my weekend. It was one of those weekends where I didn’t have a moment to relax. I went to three parties, and just barely got a moment to myself late Sunday evening.

Saturday afternoon was a birthday party for a cute one-year-old, ah to be young. Saturday evening was a barbecue and Sunday afternoon was a wedding shower for my good friend Susan. I was the youngest person at Susan’s wedding shower, where the average age was mid-fifties.

It’s funny how wedding and baby showers have changed with  the generations. Among my thirty-something friends wedding showers tend to be co-ed. When we arrived, it suddenly dawned on me that my husband may be unwelcome. He was only too happy to get away leaving me with a bunch of women ready to party at 2:00 in the afternoon. And party we did. I had 4 very very strong lemon drops and was soon feeling a bit dizzy.

I seemed to be a very popular guest. Everyone was so interested in me and what I did and whether or not I was married and what my husband was like, etc. etc. When my husband came to pick me up they nearly attacked him asking him all sorts of questions. Does he wear a kilt, blah blah blah.

Then finally I went to see the Dark Knight for the second time. Escapism at its finest. I was finally able to relax.

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Bicycle organizations around the world schedule “Critical Mass” rides around major cities in order to take back the city from cars. During a Critical Mass ride, cyclists keep together to control the flow of traffic preventing cars from passing them. If you ever ridden a bicycle on city streets it can be a daily guantlet of danger. I’m not sure what to think about this case.

Questions I want to have answers for. How did this start? Were the cyclists provoked into surrounding the car? How fast did the driver go when he hit the bikes? Etc. And of course I hope everyone is okay.

“I was going to rev my engine, but it’s a stick and I was panicking,” the driver told the television station. “I had it in first and I went forward and I knocked the first few bikes down.”

The driver was identified only by his first name, Mark.

The incident began about 7:15 p.m. when cyclists participating in the pro-bicyclist Critical Mass protest surrounded the man’s car near the intersection of 14th Avenue East and East Aloha Street. Behind the wheel of a Subaru station wagon, the driver struck several bicyclists as he attempted to flee from protesters.

“I overreacted and freaked out and got upset, but I was surrounded by a mob of people and I felt really threatened and I apologize if I hurt anyone,” the driver told KOMO/4.

Cyclists gave chase, stopping the man’s car within a block, police spokesman Mark Jamieson said.

Protesters slashed the car’s tires, broke its windshield and punched the driver through an open window, police said. The driver was also struck in the head with an object after stepping out of the car.

Violence against drivers hurts all riders. I’m not as fast on my bike as most Critical Mass riders. I don’t want anyone retaliating against me.

Update: A great quote from the victim:

“I sympathize with [cyclists’] cause. I ride bikes too. I’m a liberal hippie democrat,” he says, adding “I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened.

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Two pieces of news interested me today. First that Barack Obama was asked by the Pentagon to not visit wounded American troops in Germany because it would be seen as politically partisan. Second that State Department had instructed its employees to not attend Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin to “maintain a pretense of neutrality.”

We’ve never heard about this sort of micromanagement before. What makes any of us think these fascists will give up their power so easily?

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I thought I might talk a bit about why there exist fake German villages in America for McCain to do photo ops at.

The fake German village in Washington state where I live is called Leavenworth. And it’s history is as follows:

A sawmill and a healthy logging industry eventually fell apart, however, when the Great Northern Railway Company pulled out of Leavenworth. The re-routing of the railroad and the subsequent closure of the sawmill sadly converted the town from a bustling, thriving hub of commerce into a hollow, empty community. For more than thirty years, Leavenworth lived on the brink of extinction.

But in the early 1960’s, everything changed. In a last-chance effort to turn their precarious situation around, the leaders of the community decided to change Leavenworth’s appearance, hoping to bring tourism into the area. Using the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine hills to their advantage, the town agreed to remodel their hamlet in the form of a Bavarian village.

A lot of my friends refuse to go to Leavenworth because they say it’s too kitschy. So is Bavaria I say. Talk about garden gnomes.

One thing that strikes you when you go to Leavenworth is that everyone who’s in on the ruse is in their 60’s. It’ll be interesting to see if the next generation will carry on the tradition. Currently, it looks like the younger members of the town have an adverse reaction to wearing lederhosen. And who can blame them?

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Crawford, Texas

Warning, the following audio is extremely disturbing.

By now, the blogosphere is abuzz with the astonishing fact that President Bush only bought a ranch in Crawford, Texas because it fit into the narrative that George Bush is a cowboy who loves to clear brush just like good small town southern folk. Here you can see Bush admit that he and his wife can’t wait to escape to Dallas.

I remembered from early in the Bush years listening to a simple commentary on NPR from a Crawford resident about how great it was that George Bush had a ranch in Crawford. The guy had the voice of a sweet endearing man. I looked it up and have transcripted some of the more tragic quotes, but really you should listen to it all.

I found myself nearly crying while listening to it. This man just hasn’t a clue how awful our current president is. Guys like Marshall Whitman really have been taken advantage of.

What links me with the president is that we both summer near Crawford Texas. President Bush does it voluntarily; I do it because that is where my parents raised me.

The president evidently can’t get enough of Crawford. He hops on Air Force every chance he gets to escape Washington and go to small town Texas. It is his fortress of solitude.

It’s his escape from the dreaded chattering class. It’s the buckle in the Bible belt.

It may not be the Hamptons, the Vinyard or the Cape where the liberal elite summer, but Crawford located deep in the heart of Texas is the perfect place for our compassionate conservative president.

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What is it about Asian Americans that makes some of them be ashamed of being Asian? I’ve noticed this phenomenon in the past on a NPR cartoon where Adrian Tomine talks about how the character Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles ruined his life. Now I read a very interestingly titled article “Dear Michael Chang. You ruined my tennis career. Thanks for nothing.”

Even if you allow that Chang influenced Chinese-Americans to participate in sports beyond the Academic Decathlon, he still shackled us with another stereotype. Thanks to him, we were all seen as determined counterpunchers, tireless tongue-lolling retrievers who compensated for our lack of physical gifts by outlasting our opponents because we couldn’t outplay them.

Before Chang, we were free to dream about becoming Boris Becker, that Teutonic badass who strutted around the baseline, blasting aces, or Edberg, the square-jawed Swede with a stylish attacking game and a hot blond girlfriend. Now we were stuck with the introverted, 5-foot-9 (on his best day) Chang, a devout Christian with a cream-puff serve who scrapped his way to the French Open title with borderline bush-league tricks (moonballing, crowding the service line on returns, the instantly legendary underhand serve). Worst of all, his dragon-lady mother once stuck her hand down his shorts after a practice to check if they were wet. At the Junior Davis Cup! In front of his friends! After Becker retired, he impregnated a woman in a restaurant’s cleaning closet; when Chang hung up his sticks, he studied theology at Biola University.

I’m not sure I understand the author Huan Hsu’s point. I mean Michael Chang is a Chinese-American and he is a real person subject to all those real person qualities that are appealing to some and unappealing to others. Hsu’s basically saying he wants Michael Chang to be white, you know like Agassi, or Boris Becker, or one of those guys. Why should he be? He was a fabulous tennis player any way you slice it. An athlete. A French Open champion. What I really loved about Michael Chang was how short he was compared to his competitors. He may not have been born with a tennis body, but he sure made good use of what he had.

I get it, Hsu doesn’t like the fact that Chang is a Christian. Okay, but Chang is a tennis player so who cares? You don’t hear a lot of African Americans ashamed of Venus and Serena Williams because they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses. You don’t hear Russians bemoaning Davydenko as a stereotype because he could be involved in game fixing? No. It’s just some Asian Americans who seem to have a problem with being Asian. Now you do sometimes hear about some straight-acting gays putting down gay gays. I’m not sure if there is a tennis connection, but I’ll be all over it if there is.

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For all that’s been written about the ”disastrous” Clinton campaign it certainly was miles ahead of the McCain one. The strategy appears to be same – that is the kitchen sink strategy, but McCain’s execution is terrible. If John McCain is trying to dispel the idea that he is a crotchety old man he’s not doing a very good job. Obama’s message doesn’t require the existence of McCain; he rarely brings him up, but McCain’s message is “don’t choose Obama.” I can’t help but think of Statler and Waldorf, the old muppets in the theatre boxes.

Look at this last week:

Michael Goldfarb: Today he says ‘never again.’ A year ago stopping genocide wasn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Doesn’t that strike you as inconsistent?”

McCain: “I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Sen. Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

“If he had his way … we would have had defeat. And my friends that would have been a catastrophe for the United States of America. He was wrong then, he’s wrong now and he still failed to acknowledge … that the surge succeeded.”

I also note the ever-changing message as to why we can’t leave Iraq. No matter the success of Obama, and I would say having the Iraqi Prime Minister agree with your withdrawal plan is a success, McCain wants to somehow twist it into a failure. But again, the lack of consistency makes me think of those dang Muppets.

Al-Maliki appeared to back the idea of a timetable in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend, but an Iraqi government spokesman said later the prime minister’s comments were “misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.” (The magazine has said it “stands by its version of this interview.”)

The Bush administration has opposed timetables for troop withdrawals, but al-Maliki and President Bush last week agreed to a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” on troop cuts.

McCain shrugged off the suggestion that Obama’s talks with al-Maliki undercut his message.

“It doesn’t in the slightest undercut the fact that it’s based on the conditions on the ground,” he said.

McCain pointed to comments made by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Sunday that the consequences of Obama’s withdrawal plan could be “dangerous.”

“I hope [Obama] will pay attention to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, particularly someone who has no military experience whatsoever,” McCain said.

It just gets worse.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it really hard to follow or get enthused with anything McCain says. He’s the guy who’s resentful when he doesn’t think of an idea first and so he needs to trash anyone and everyone else’s opinions in order to feel important. How do you get inspired by that?

What’s more interesting is that that is the exact obstinacy that has led to George W. Bush’s abysmal approval ratings. The people don’t want a person that has no ideas of their own, but only seeks to trash everything else. People want leadership. The people want a person who is open to new ideas and resilient. Obstinacy is a fatal flaw of the current administration and I don’t think voters want to return there.

I thought the Republican primary voters had done a good job in choosing McCain. He was the one person I thought that could seem like he wasn’t a Republican while still being one. Sadly (or happily since I support Obama) he’s been an utter disappointment.

Image via http://www.blazesoftball.com.

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I thought this was a really interesting article on how McDonald’s has reinvented itself in Europe. I’m always a little bit surprised when I see Americans traveling abroad go into Starbucks or McDonald’s and such. Where’s the experience?

To make the Golden Arches a place where Europeans want to hang out necessitated a major design overhaul. Hennequin, as French country head, refurbished the chain’s outlets there, and he was tapped to do the same across the 40-country-strong European operation. He created a McDonald’s design studio outside Paris to come up with a range of eight design packages from which franchisees, who account for 68 percent of European outlets, can choose.

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Cute guinea pigs.

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No I haven’t yet gone to Glacier National Park on Amtrak, but I did just notice some interesting details on Amtrak’s site.

First of all my accommodation is much better than I had originally thought. Apparently getting a roomette means I’m traveling first class. Having never traveled first class on a plane, this is very exciting.

On this page you can take a virtual tour of the roomette. Weary plane travelers, get a load of this:

Two-Piece Limit: Each passenger may bring aboard no more than two pieces of carry-on baggage. Not included in this limit are personal items such as briefcases, purses, laptops, and infant paraphernalia such as strollers, diaper bags and car seats.

50-Pound Limit: Each carry-on bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs.

Three-Piece Limit: Each ticketed passenger may check up to three pieces of luggage at no charge. Up to three additional pieces may be checked upon payment of $10.00 per piece.

50-Pound Limit: Each checked bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs. We will not accept heavier pieces.

Ski equipment, snowboards, golf clubs and bicycles may generally only be handled as checked baggage on Amtrak trains, and not as carry-ons. Items are permitted onboard when they can be safely stowed in the exterior lockers of Superliner equipment, or onboard equipment that is specifically designed to safely and securely accommodate the storage of the items.

Just at time where the airlines are starting to charge for each checked bag, Amtrak lets you have three checked bags and you can even bring your bicycle and put it on their bicycle rack. Perhaps I currently have a rosy outlook. Part III in late August will tell all.

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More appropriately, could CNN have any less regard for the intelligence of African Americans?

Because we all know how bad it is to actually have role models.

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In response to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s endorsement of Barack Obama’s withdrawl plan, Dana Perino makes what certainly sounds like a threat to me.

“We don’t think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” Perino said after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was quoted in a magazine article supporting the 16-month troop withdrawal timeline proposed by Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Frankly I don’t think openly threatening the Prime Minister of a country you claimed to have liberated is such a good idea either. Let’s face it the White House pushed al-Maliki into this position. Had they not tried to firm up a permanent presence in Iraq in the last few months of Bush’s presidency maybe Maliki wouldn’t have had to have pushed back.

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Or not.

In late June, travel agent Matthew DeGuire got a call from a customer about an ad in London’s subway.

“South Carolina is so gay” read the ad, alongside others touting Las Vegas, New Orleans, Boston and Atlanta as also being “so gay.” The ads were timed with London’s annual gay pride festival.

“He was pleasantly surprised about it,” DeGuire said of his client.

But several state officials, including Gov. Mark Sanford, think the ad went too far. While the state’s tourism agency initially agreed to pay $5,000 for the ad, the governor and other officials are now refusing to pickup that tab, saying taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to promote any group with a particular social or political agenda.

I guess that South Carolina isn’t really all that gay after all. Let that be a lesson to gay travelers: skip South Carolina; they suck.

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Clearly, my mom’s understanding of FDIC wasn’t that far off. David Horsey gets it right.

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A good short article by Arianna Huffington.

Republicans love to portray Obama as naïve when it comes to foreign policy. Let’s go to the scorecard. Iraq: Prime Minister Maliki just announced he supports Obama’s troop withdrawal plan. Afghanistan: Obama has long argued that Iraq has been a dangerous distraction from what should be the real focus of the war on terror, Afghanistan, and has recommended sending additional troops there. McCain, who has opposed sending additional troops, did an about-face on Tuesday, all but yelling “Me too!” Iran: Obama has taken a lot of GOP fire for his willingness to negotiate with Tehran. This week, we learned the Bush administration has decided to send a top diplomat to a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, and is planning to open an “interests section” in Tehran. Score three for naiveté.

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In an unusual undercover operation, Delgado posed as a pedestrian on a busy street while fellow officers waited for drivers to barrel past her in violation of a law that requires them yield at crosswalks, even if there is no stop sign.

In Chicago, most drivers were puzzled to find themselves pulled over.

Roland Sapitula said that stopping was simply not an option. “It was too late for me to get on the brakes,” he said.

Louis Ramirez, 84, said he didn’t see Delgado — and he wouldn’t have stopped for her if he had. “There’s no sign out there,” he said. “I (do) not have to stop.”

Officers gave motorists a brief lecture about the law, then sent relieved drivers on their way. But police understand that the only thing more effective than a lecture from a police officer is a lecture and a ticket.

“If there’s really no threat of getting a ticket for it, you’re not going to really pay attention,” said officer Chuck Trendle, who was working with Delgado.

I think crosswalks are the one place where cars should absolutely stop. And it’s true, if it’s not enforced no one cares. If you’re jaywalking then I can understand why a car would not stop for you, but crosswalks should be sacred.

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