Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Friday, October 31, 2008
"Sideways" meets "Thelma and Louise"
The last load of laundry is in the dryer, dry cleaning picked up, most of the clothes have been assembled, pet sitters are all lined up, dishes are done, plants are watered, litter boxes cleaned, trash taken out, bills paid....
All I have to do is pack the suitcase and get on a plane.
Ahead is a week in San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Sacramento (for the American Wine Society Annual Conference). Napa is a pre-game for the conference. It'll be interesting to see how many wine professionals attend this year since the conference is in the heart of Northern CA wine country. Displays and vendors should be better than when the conference was held in Baltimore two years ago, although I was very impressed with the number of quality winemakers from Spain, Portugal and South America represented. This year's location may prove to be pretty well represented. We're taking over the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento.
The absolute highlight of the trip? We scored reservations to one of the best restaurants in America, if not the world. Thomas Keller's The French Laundry. For a foodie like me - this is a bucket list / Nirvana event. The French Laundry has won just about every award there is, including THREE Michelin stars. I've never eaten at anything more than a one star, and maybe only one restaurant at that. The French Laundry inspired a gorgeous coffee table book of recipes so intimidating, that only this woman was crazy enough to take it on.
At $240 a person for dinner, (it's a pix frixe tasting menu) it is a major splurge, but you only live once. Besides, I'm doing this trip on free miles, staying at a resort with friends that have free nights, etc.
They post a different tasting menu every day on the website. Tune in Wednesday and see what we're having for dinner.
Every weekend from now until the New Year, I will be spending the significant portion of one day a week sorting the contents of one or more rooms in my house into three bins: Trash, Charity, and Treasure. Every drawer, every shelf, every closet, every cabinet and cupboard.
At the ripe old age of 40 something, I find horrific clutter in my life. Not emotional clutter, but clutter in the fact that I have an untold number of plastic beer cups (from concert events, Mardi Gras, and sporting events), really fugly old ceramic coffee mugs from my first boss's Xmas gift, an Espresso machine I've used maybe twice a year - even less now that there is a Starbuck's on every corner. And let's not even talk about old sheets, towels, pillow cases, shower curtains, etc...
Oh, and the PAPER...so much paper. Letters, magazines, old bills, brochures, long expired coupons, you name it. I could fill a shredder truck.
I'm very good about recycling. Heck, I even dragged back all the recycling from our family weekend trip to Deep Creek, and dragged home all the beer and soda cans from our company picnic last weekend just to make sure they are recycled.
I'm also pretty good with clothes and shoes - making at least an annual cleansing of my closets.
Still - there seems to be so much STUFF. Old Rugs. Crockery. Flower vases. Pots and pans.... I'm afraid to look under the sink in the bathrooms and kitchen.
It has to go. All of it. I am on a mission. Some of it might be worth something. If I think it is - I'll let you know and perhaps you can make me an offer.
For instance - I have at least two perfectly good TVs that you can have. Come February, they'll be useless unless you connect them to cable, but I'll leave that up to you. One is a large, 20" Toshiba, the other is a small, 13" RCA model. Both are cable ready. Make an offer.
Yesterday was dark, grey, wet, and miserable. The perfect day to roast a whole chicken for the week ahead.
Today is a glorious fall day and I've been extremely productive:
1. Trip to the Goodwill drop off dumpster with FOUR bags of old clothes and shoes. 2. Trip to the hazardous waste recycling center with old paint cans, thermostats, etc.. 3. Washed the comforter cover, hallway and bathroom rugs, not to mention 6 loads of other laundry. 4. Cleaned the fireplace out so I can fill it up again with fall ashes. 5. Grocery shopping 6. Bill paying and desk organizing.
And for lunch? If there is a better lunch than a piece of skin on cold roasted chicken with an ice cold glass of milk, I don't know about it. I really wanted a chocolate chip cookie for dessert...
Tired of watching your 401(k) wither on the vine? Sick of the Wall Street roller coaster? Looking for an opportunity that helps others?
A lot of people are reducing their charitable giving in light of the current economic crisis, and this just makes the global poverty crisis worse.
What if you could donate to charity and get that donation back so you can give it over and over again to someone else?
Consider investing your loose change in Kiva.org. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. It also provides a level of transparency and fiduciary oversight I have not seen in many other charitable organizations.
Less than 1.3% of the nearly $16.5 million dollars in loans in Kiva have defaulted, and if they do, you are out $100 or less since most of the loans are very small. The reasons for default can often be contributed to on the ground issues such as drought, war, HIV/AIDS, or other uncontrollable circumstances. Issues that farmers have faced around the world since time began and since they started bartering or borrowing to get their their crops started every year with a promise to pay their benefactor back with the proceeds from the crop, or the crop itself.
The beauty of Kiva is that they screen the entrepreneurs and rate all the risk. You can also partner with teams giving on behalf of a certain cause. I like it because I can research my own investment opportunities and pick projects that mean something.
And yes, as you might expect, the major beneficiary of global micro financing is women.
This is by no means a new concept. Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank and took home the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Low risk, feel good charity. Try it - you'll feel part of something instead of being an anonymous shareholder of an increasingly worthless piece of stock paper.
Thanks to my laptop issues, this post is a little dated because the article ran two weekends ago, but it is so important, I want to post it now.
Revered food writer, Michael Pollen, wrote an article in the Sunday NYT Magazine's Food Issue two weekends ago, aimed at the next President, and what their food and farming policies should look like.
In short, if you think food policy is not important in this year's election, then you might as well give up on energy independence, climate changes, and healthcare, because it all starts with the food we grow and eat. Here's just some of what he says:
1. Climate Change: After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent...the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food.Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third.
2. Healthcare: Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. It is no coincidence that in the years national spending on health care went from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, spending on food has fallen by a comparable amount — from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent. While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health. You cannot expect to reform the health care system, much less expand coverage, without confronting the public-health catastrophe that is the modern American diet.
3. Foreign Policy: Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third.
4. National Security One word - China?? Seriously, our nation's food system is perhaps the most vulnerable to potential acts of terrorism of anything we have.
His overall message:
we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine.
I urge you to read the entire article. Everyone needs to know this.
Three weeks and a lot of drama, and the only thing wrong with my laptop ended up being a $25 replacement AC adapter and power cord.... oh, and the $60 I had to spend on a computer geek to tell me that.
Only now I have to push the lust for the new Macbook they released last week out of my mind for the time being. Not that I had any business spending two grand on a computer the week before I head out to CA for a wine and spa extravaganza in Napa Valley for a week.
1. My computer guy thinks my laptop might need a new power board. That would be good news. A $150 fix and I'm back in business. Otherwise, I may be using a weekend loaner from our IT group for a while, and will be limited to weekend blogging. Advice regarding new laptops is welcome, but I think I'm going to wait for the new MacBook release on 10/14 and take advantage of some expected price drops if I have to replace the old HP.
2. Someone hacked my PayPal account and managed to get away with nearly $1,000. PayPal assures me that they are working on it, and so far they have retrieved $200 and stopped another $850 from being taken, but my checking account is lighter by $900 and that hurts. It also means I won't be buying a new computer anytime soon.
3. Coming home from a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday night, I saw a large shadow on my garden wall which I assumed was the neighbor's cat. Until I saw the long, hairless, tail.... It was an opossum. In Bolton Hill. On my garden wall. I had heard other neighbors tell of seeing it, but the sucker is BIG. What's next - a black bear in the city?
4. I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Tom Fenton the other night at an intimate gathering in the neighborhood. As you might recall, Tom was the CBS News Bureau Chief in London for many years, and still lives there. What you may not know, is that he is a Baltimore native who attended Gillman and worked for the Baltimore Sun before his career with CBS. Terrific discussion about his travels and his views on the media, the election, and the Middle East.
5. Today is our very own Festival on the Hill. It's a beautiful fall day. Come out and meet your neighbors, have some great food, enjoy some great music, and have a generally great time. I know I will.
So....last weekend we had our annual family palooza out in Deep Creek, MD for the tenth year in a row. Gorgeous weather, kayaking, great food, and a chance to see the American Open Whitewater Kayak races at the newly opened man made course at Wisp Resorts.
On the way home from the weekend on Monday, I decided to drive up through the Savage River gorge area forming the boundary between Maryland and West Virginia. My first clue that something was wrong, was seeing a lot of McCain/Palin posters in the yards of farms and trailers (OK, maybe I wasn't surprised by the trailer signs), but when I stopped to get gas in an out of the way hamlet, and encountered a biker with "White Power" tatooed across the back of both arms, I wondered if I was even in the US anymore.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
I'm back for the weekend on a borrowed laptop from work. Lots of stuff to update, including a dinner with the CBS London News Bureau Chief, but in the meantime, this PSA cannot be copied or borrowed or distributed enough. I know there are more than five of you out there reading this - so get busy!!!
I'll be at the Bolton Hill Festival registering voters tomorrow. If you live in Maryland - TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14 is the LAST DAY TO REGISTER. If you don't - and don't vote, I don't want to hear any complaints if it doesn't go your way.