oil spill…but not in the gulf of mexico

Look familiar?

While this looks like it might be a bird that got it easy in the gulf oil spill, or maybe just got lucky (at least compared to these poor animals), this duck, in fact, lives no where near Louisiana.  Instead, it was living right where I live.

You know things are bad when you can look at this photo and think, wow, that bird is lucky.  I know we can’t all stop driving cars tomorrow.  I know we can’t just shut down the oil rigs, cap all the wells and go home to work on our electric cars, but seriously, it needs to happen. I’m sick of this.  I’m sick of the arguing about drilling versus getting all our oil from overseas while day after day we’re pumping tons of chemicals into the air and destroying our own ecosystem.  I can’t help but feel like we deserve this for being so dependent on a substance that was never really all that necessary to begin with (can you imagine where we would have gone if we started mass producing steam-powered cars rather than gas-powered ones?).

Dear Santa: Here’s my wishlist for 2010

Dear Santa —

WTF, dude?  I mean, I know we haven’t talked in like 25 years or something, but really?  Cancelling the best show on TV (Dollhouse, duh), and what do we get instead in 2010?  Freaking Caprica?  Are you on drugs?  And don’t even get me started on Stargate: Universe…or, rather Stargate: Who’s Driving this Bus? No one, the same person writing the fecking script.

Just so there’s no misunderstandings next year, here’s my wishlist for next winter holiday.  You have plenty of time, Santa.  Don’t.  Screw.  It.  Up.

  1. A standalone Google Wave client.  Google Wave is cool, right, and with Chrome I can make an application shortcut and have it behave like its own app.  So this should be pretty easy, since the platform has its’ own set of built-in gadgets.  All I want is the freaking menu bar to blink when I have a new message/wave.  Seriously, is that so hard?
  2. Joss Whedon show that doesn’t get cancelled after 2 seasons.
  3. For that matter, a Dollhouse movie would be nice.
  4. HBO and Showtime to join Starz in signing lasting contracts with Netflix to stream movies and TV shows, thereby adding, like, every movie ever into Netflix’s Instant Viewing database.
  5. Netflix, Hulu, or someone to make some sort of deal to offer pay-per-view, online screenings of movies that are in theaters right now.
  6. Universally accepted CSS/HTML standards that eliminate browser compatibility issues.  Dammit.
  7. Heroes to either be put to death, or else to not suck, whichever is less impossible.
  8. SteamnVidia, or OnLive to launch a cloud computing video game streaming service so I don’t need to upgrade my graphics card every time I want to play a new game.
    8-a.  Steam, nVidia, and/or OnLive to not be competitors in the cloug computing video game streaming industry.  It would be ridiculous to have to have 3 different monthly subscriptions or some such bullshit.
  9. Frickin’ Flying Cars.  Seriously, it’s 2010, and the best we can do is a single company running space tourism jaunts into low orbit for rich folk?! If you can’t give me flying cars, the least you could do is those hoverboards from Back to the Future II so I can fall on my face and break my nose.
  10. A fat wad of cash that falls from the sky and is completely tax-free so we can finish fixing up the house and spend all day making WordPress themes.

also, a lifetime supply of chocolate from any of these companies would also be appreciated:

Oh, and Santa, if you could arrange to not have the Christmas season (by which I mean when Christmas music and decorations start appearing in malls and stores) start the day after Halloween and put it back to the day after Thanksgiving the way it used to be, that would be great.

thanks.  your pal,
~c

p.s. all the usual items on my wishlist (world peace, an end to global hunger and poverty, universal health care, an environmentally stable future, a MacBook Pro) are still implied.  thx.

blog action day: climate change — taking action against climate change and getting a buzz doing it

so i love it when i sign up for these “everyone blog about such-and-such topic” deals and i have no idea what to write about.  ha.  this post is for blog action day, a thing i didn’t know anything about until i saw someone’s badge.  i’m all for these “get together and blog on a particular subject” things, and this project seems pretty cool, so check them out.  this year’s topic is: climate change.

actually, the problem with talking about climate change isn’t that i don’t know what to talk about, it’s how to choose my topic.  cuz this is a topic that i already think about.  for one, it’s my goal (our goal, really), to eventually be using 100% clean energy for our business operations at arcane palette (see: our commitment to being green).  i’m constantly on the lookout for good web hosts that use clean alternatives to power their data centers — real alternatives, not just carbon offsets.

but that’s not what i’m going to write about.  no, i’m going to write about something much less geeky (but nonetheless nerdy).  i want to write about coffee.

how can you change the world by drinking coffee?  i’ll tell you.

here’s the deal with coffee: your typical, mass-produced coffee manufacturers go to some south american country, level a whole crop of land, and plant coffee beans.  this creates consistency on a large scale by using huge equipment to harvest the crops.  companies hire laborers on the cheap, who aren’t trained to pick out quality beans for the coffee, just quantity, and as quickly as possible.  this is where you get, say, Folgers.

there are better alternatives.  no, i’m not going to say go organic, because you can have an organic coffee plantation and still be leveling the land required to farm it.  and as we all know, when you level a bunch of land — often tearing down native trees and rainforest, it affects the ecosystem.  animals are evicted from their homes, and the less trees we have, the less they are able to produce oxygen which we all need to, you know, breathe.  organic just refers to how the plants are grown and maintained, it says nothing about the environment in which they are planted, and in this case, it matters.

shade-grown coffee is a better alternative.

most of what i know about coffee growing and shade-grown coffee, i learned from my friends at caffe ibis, a small, local coffee roaster in logan, utah.  i visited them about a year ago with a couple of my friends from the Park City WF specialty department, and they told us about the coffee plantations they get their beans from.  Shade-grown is sort of a misnomer.  when you hear “shade-grown” you think of artificially planted trees or maybe some kind of big structure creating shade.  or maybe you don’t think that, but that’s what i think.  in reality, shade-grown means that they don’t do anything to the land.  no leveling.  no huge crops of identical plants.  no large equipment.  no destroying the rainforest for our morning beverage.  instead, the coffee is grown in its’ natural habitat, in lush rainforest.  the moist soil and shade from the trees, and the ecosystem of plants and animals going through their normal cycles, all create an ideal environment to grow coffee.  those huge plantations in full sun are ideal environments to grow bad coffee.  coffee naturally grows in shade, not sun, and the only reason companies like Folgers, and even Starbucks, use the huge plantations is because it’s cheaper and you can use the huge mechanical equipment to harvest the crops.  shade-grown coffee requires more manual labor.  each bean is hand-picked, which means there is more quality assurance that each bean is actually ready for picking.  caffe ibis takes pride in their beans, in the fact that a bag of their coffee has no fragments or beans unfit for roasting.

and since you don’t need to tear down the natural rainforest to grow shade-grown coffee — in fact, it’s the best location to grow coffee –shade-grown coffee is actually good for the environment.  and the birds, too.  something i haven’t mentioned yet is that many of ibis’ shade-grown coffee beans are smithsonian certified.  that means the smithsonian institute (you know, the one that studies birds) comes out and inspects the plantation, and certifies it as being bird-friendly.  not only are we not harming the environment by growing beans in shade, but we’re actually putting a value on leaving the rainforest intact, because it’s the ideal environment to grow coffee (and probably other stuff, too, for that matter).  see how i brought it all back to the environment?

caffe ibis is just one of a whole host of coffee roasters that feature shade-grown coffee, but they have been a leader in the industry for a long time, and are one of the few roasters that “triple certify” their beans (bird friendly, organic, fair trade).  that’s no small feat considering certifications are long, arduous processes that require, as much as anything else, the availability of trained certification experts in the area to conduct the evaluation.  ibis is awesome, and i don’t think so just because i have a thing for egyptian mythology (although, there’s that, too).  they’re great people with a passion for great coffee, and are real leaders in the industry.  and once you try their coffee, i promise you, you’ll never, ever go back to Peets, and may swear off Starbucks as well.

buy some ibis coffee now.  i like highland sumatra.

learn more about shade-grown coffee:

caffe ibis: smithsonian certified shade grown coffee
what is shade grown coffee?
eartheasy: shade grown coffee
shade-grown coffee plantations

this blog post was written as part of blog action day.

mandarin america

i get a lot of crap email.  i spend a portion of my day hitting the delete key and filtering through to the stuff that is even remotely relevant to me.  occasionally i get a few forwards from family, and occasionally it saddens me to see how ignorant and racist they are.  rather than think too long about how these ignorant and racist emails reflect on the family that sent them, i choose to ignore them and move on.

today, however, i got something that seriously blew my mind.

one of the general themes of the racist brand of forwards i get is that outsourcing or getting any kind of products from abroad hurts our country.  (we’ll set aside, for a moment, the socio-economic implications in how our economy would really be crippled if we stopped importing products altogether, suffice it to say that we’ve been importing ever since the first pilgrims jumped on the boat from England.)  therefore, it’s no surprise that the title of this email is “DO IT YOURSELF, AMERICA.”

So here is an actual excerpt of the email, first paragraph:

I WAS BUYING FOOD THE OTHER DAY AT THE COUNTRY MARKET. ON THE LABEL OF SOME PRODUCTS IT SAID FROM CHINA. FOR EXAMPLE THE” OUR FAMILY” BRAND OF THE MANDARIN ORANGES SAYS RIGHT ON THE CAN FROM CHINA I WAS SHOCKED!!…

it then proceeds into a rant about how we should be producing our own food rather than importing “inferior” products from abroad.  really?  mandarin oranges?  from china?  you don’t say.

a quick glance at etymonline — the online etymology dictionary — will reveal that the origin of the word mandarin  refers to a Chinese official.  the usage of the word Mandarin, as in Mandarin Chinese, came about by referring to the specific dialect used by officials and educated people, i.e. the Mandarins.  the mandarin oranges were so named because their color resembled the color of the robes worn by…Mandarins.

wiki’ing “manarin orange” casts an even harsher light on the ridiculousness of the above statement.  in the middle of the article is a chart showing the top 10 countries producing mandarin oranges.  not only does the united states not even rank on this chart, but the number one producer of mandarin oranges?  china.  really?  really.

so, let’s summarize: mandarin oranges are named after mandarins, which was a type of chinese official, because the color of their robes resembled the color of the fruit.  the world’s largest producer of mandarin oranges is, no surprise here, china — by a significant margin.  to beat a dead horse, and because the united states wasn’t even listed in the top 10 countries producing mandarin oranges, i tried to find out where dole — one of the u.s. alternatives the email suggests — gets their mandarins.  dole’s own website says that their mandarin oranges are actually japanese satsuma oranges.  i wonder where those come from.

the thing that gets me isn’t the us-vs.-them mentality, or the racism inherent in the belief that products from China are, by their nature, inferior.  it’s the fact that this argument was started over mandarin oranges.  not just any oranges, mandarin.  which are, by default, chinese.  i mean, it’s in the name — not of the brand, but of the fruit.

i’m glad we have a president who is an intelligent black man, and i’m glad he’s selected a woman from a poor puerto rican family — whose father didn’t speak english — to be a supreme court justice,  if, for no other reason, than because it forces people to confront others with a different heritage — one that’s obvious by their physical characteristics.  but we, as a wired culture, need to be responsible about the information we digest.  not only is it easy to perpetuate blatant lies and twist information, but in our digital culture it is just as easy to publish those falsehoods to a wide audience.   if one didn’t already know, it would take maybe five minutes to learn that mandarin oranges come from china, and maybe then the moral outrage about chinese mandarin oranges would be diffused somewhat.  i’m not against favoring local producers — in fact, i buy local foods if and whenever possible.  but just because it comes from another country doesn’t mean it’s tainted.  however, i encourage people to read labels, buy fair trade products, buy local, buy organic — these things are good not only for you as a conscientious consumer but for the environment, for the workers plowing the fields, and for your body.

meanwhile, i’m less interested in the fact that mandarin oranges were imported from china and more interested in why dole chose not to publish the fact that their “mandarin oranges” were actually satsuma oranges, and where they got their oranges from.  

in doing research for this post, i stumbled across GoodGuide, a searchable index that publishes information about how producers rank in terms of health, environmental impact, and the working conditions for their employees, which looks pretty freaking awesome, and makes deciding what to do with the information printed on labels much easier and gives it a context in comparison with other manufacturers.  i think the next wave would be an iphone app or a handheld device that you could take into the store with you, scan a barcode, and then pull up all the relevant information about that product laid out like what this site does.