Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bead-Making Helps Ugandan Women Shed Poverty

The women of Kampala make the beads out of magazine paper. BeadforLife, the Colorado nonprofit behind the movement, imports and sells the beads at bead parties and online, and the money goes back to Kampala to buy land and build homes, send children to school, and help the women start businesses and improve their health through malaria treatments and mosquito nets.

"The draw is the beads, but really, it's an opportunity to get a discussion going about extreme poverty and how if we work collectively, we can change people's lives."

Gorgeous beads and a fantastic cooperative. This is why women are often the ones to get it done.

For more information see Bead For Life.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Super Saudade (after 6 months nonstop at the gym and a trip to Stormy Leather):

Create Your Own Superhero

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Thumbs up!

Spent the afternoon working on the thumb's garden for her birthday, and the evening drinking tequila and beer. I love summer.

Speaking of gardens, this was a fascinating read and an inspiration for my own dog and chicken yard someday, though it's still hard for me to get over the oog factor:

Maggot Composting

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This woman is so inspiring, and a reminder for all of us who sometimes despair at the hopelessness of it all that one person really can make a huge difference.

Woman Helps Eradicate Child Slavery in Nepalese Village.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Checked out the Download Festival yesterday at the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Yes, that Shoreline Amphitheatre, home of the $11 peepee beer, expensive parking, bad sound, and nasty food. The one that I repeatedly say I will never attend a show at again -- every time I go to a show there. But free tickets, so c'mon!

Anyway, we showed up late, trading M83 for some fro-yo loving at Fraiche in Palo Alto. Organic, with only three ingredients, and oh my, was it good! We then hit the Whole Foods there to use the facilities, and got a taste of what it's like to live in tony Palo Alto. So fancy! Full trays of berries, mozzarella and tomato salad, cut fruit, and sausages were set out for shoppers to graze as they shopped. Nothing like the apparently ghetto Whole Foods in Oakland and Berkeley, except for the high prices!

Since we really wanted to see Gang of Four and Jesus and Mary Chain, we really could have spent more time chilling in yuppie heaven, because otherwise the festival was just alright -- though Trevor did win a 250 GB hard drive in a promotion there. Super sweet!

We spent most of the time before the aforementioned shows hanging out by the side stage, eating our own packed lunch and bemoaning the state of all the youngsters -- just as it should be.

Though it was quite cool to see the families who came to the show. Mom and Dad for Gang of Four, kids for whatever they were there to see.

This was my first time seeing Gang of Four, and they were over the top fantastic. Incredible energy from the entire band. 53 year-old Jon King both prowled and sprung around the stage, and his movements were so smooth that Trevor remarked that he thinks he must do martial arts. Andy Gill's perfect guitar work (while also working a natty suit) was awesome to see live. And they completely owned their old material, blowing away the teens that stuck around to see them. Damaged Goods had everyone up and dancing.

But you know me: I kept thinking sadly of another influential reunited band, the once-mighty Bauhaus, and in direct contrast to Gang of Four what I see as Bauhaus' purposeful inability to own their greatest work anymore, as evidenced by commentary by band members and the dismal Summer 2006 shows in Europe. This contributed to my feeling that they thought they needed to make new work to feel relevant -- which is fine if you're owning that too and not just recycling rejects from various side projects to make an abomination like Go Away White.

Anyway, that kind of negativity really affects the audience, and there was none of that at Gang of Four. Pure, masterful fun. I was very impressed.

So, after Gang of Four vaporized off the stage...

 was time for Jesus and Mary Chain.

I hadn't seen Jesus and Mary Chain since 1992, so it was nice to check out the reunited band and hear some old favorites. Famous in the past for being temperamental, drugged out, and indifferent to their audience, the brothers Reid kept the indifference but rolled out a very placid show. Comatose, almost. In fact, it seems the only way they could find to stoke the audience's ire was by downtuning William Reid's guitar to the point of nonexistence, so that the signature brassy guitar bits evident in songs like Head On and Happy When It Rains were rendered null. We left before the set was over.

I can't blame them though. I wouldn't want to follow Gang of Four.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

You know how some second films in a trilogy end up being fun and pretty -- but empty -- filler *cough*Hellboy 2*cough* while others are complex and gorgeous creations that not only add depth to the overall story but exist as classics in their own right?

Oh yes.

yes yes yes yes yes.


And the Watchmen trailer will blow your mind.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm usually not a fan of record companies, ASCAP, and the RIAA because of just this type of ridiculous behavior, but it's going to be very entertaining to see how this plays out:

Music as Torture May Incur Royalty Fees

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This pic of the phenomenal Helen Mirren has been flying all over the internets, and I am going to be the 5 millionth woman to say that I hope I look half as good as she does when I'm 50, much less when I'm 63.

She's without makeup, vibrant, voluptuous -- she's gorgeous! And I love that it looks like she hasn't had any work done. But it's also important to note, for fairness' sake, that she's had no children. In fact, she's said she "[has] no maternal instinct whatsoever." You go girl! Women like this can start a revolution.

Helen Mirren is the embodiment of what I hope for in my golden years.

Can't wait for The Last Station, where she plays Leo Tolstoy's wife, Sofya, alongside Paul Giamatti, Christopher Plummer, Anne-Marie Duff, and James McAvoy.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I haven't been cooking much lately since I've been on this detox diet. What's the fun with vegetables, vegetables, more vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and a little grain?

Okay, if you know me, I suppose there's plenty of fun to be had with those ingredients, but I guess I've just been cranky without my beloved hot chiles.

Tonight, however, I felt like cooking something fabulous for myself. Inspired by recent trips to Chez Simone and La Note, I decided to have a ratatouille omelette.

Looks good, non? Though a little ratty around the edges, courtesy of my small spatula (and a little blurry overall, courtesy of my one handed camerawork).

It was so delicious, I decided to commit the recipe to le blog. I constructed it with what I had in my fridge and pantry, so obviously it requires no special ingredients, but it was still quite an impressive finished dish.

Ratatouille Omelette

You can be a rebel and use other vegetables (for example, I omitted the more traditional zucchini in favor of meaty mushrooms), but for me, ratatouille definitely requires five things -- garlic, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, and eggplant.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium globe eggplant, sliced into rounds 1/2 inch thick
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
5 or 6 basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/3 cup grated parmesan, divided into 4 portions

chopped parsley for garnish

Note: I spray my eggplant slices with an oil sprayer before baking, but feel free to brush the slices with oil if you prefer. I also prep my vegetables while the eggplant is baking and cooling.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush or spray eggplant slices with oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender but still firm. Remove from oven and cool.

Heat olive oil in a one quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion begins to turn translucent. Add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 or 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Meanwhile chop eggplant into rough 1/2 inch cubes.

Add eggplant and canned tomatoes with juice, incorporating it into the other vegetables. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chopped basil leaves, then remove from heat and set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Mix rosemary into the beaten eggs. Pour half of the eggs into the skillet and sprinkle with 1/4 of the parmesan. Cook eggs until firm but still moist. Add 2-3 tablespoons of ratatouille to the eggs and fold the eggs over the ratatouille.

Plate the omelette and spoon 1 or 2 tablespoons of ratatouille over the top. Sprinkle with another 1/4 of the parmesan, and parsley. Repeat to make a second omelette.

Serves two, with plenty of ratatouille left over to eat on crostini, or with a little rice for lunch! :)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mormon Missionary Calendar-Maker Excommunicated

The creator of a calendar that featured shirtless Mormon missionaries was excommunicated Sunday after a disciplinary meeting with local church leaders in Las Vegas.

A calendar of shirtless, corn-fed Mormon boys? Genius.

I want to think this is a ploy by the Mormon Church to get more publicity for this calendar -- and thus more female converts -- but if I know stodgy old religious men, it is probably just more 18th century behavior and an unwillingness to understand good marketing.

And this is good marketing, for this calendar aims to show that being sexy and religious are not necessarily mutually exclusive, by chronicling not only the beefy results of biking and hiking door-to-door for the lord, but the backgrounds and missions of each calendar boy. For women fed up with men who don't think about anyone but themselves, having a guy who is purportedly intent on supporting his family AND worked with the Special Olympics or built wells in Africa can sound mighty enticing. Check out these Utah boys for yourself.

But goo, then there's reality: the LDS doctrines of women submitting to male authority -- of which the worst thing for me is only looking forward to churning out spirit baby after spirit baby in immortal death (which happens only if your husband can remember your name so you can actually enter heaven -- WTF?), after a mortal lifetime of churning out real babies and waiting on men. Takes the shine off moving to Utah real quick!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Some things I am loving right now:

1) Vegan eats at The Golden Buddha:

Actually, I'm also loving the entire stretch of Clement Street in the Inner Richmond where this restaurant is located. Here exists the most extensive and lovingly displayed anime toy store around, as well as the smallest but most fashion-forward Goodwill. Wondrous Asian shops selling everything from Chinese herbs and dried fish to firecrackers and probably Mogwai are also quite abundant. But it is truly the restaurants that rule!

2) This picture of James McAvoy from the August 2008 issue of Details magazine:

Holy hot hell. You really must embiggen and get a look at those eyes. Sweet mother of god.

Such a perfect 21st century, iconic photograph -- the type that will get referenced in his future retrospective -- but still not unlike one of my favorites of Paul Newman from the 1960s that was featured on the cover of GQ last year. Yum.

Not only is Mr. McAvoy also yum, but seems smart and grounded, and BTW did you see Atonement? The man can act. On his way to legendary.

Details, however -- eh, not so much. More like creepy and trying too hard. But this is pretty funny.

3) The wallpaper in the ladies' room at The Avenue (may be NSF your W).

4) yoCup in San Francisco, and live culture, probiotic frozen yogurt in general. Now that this phenomenon is exploding in Northern California, I am crossing my fingers for one to open up in Oakland so I no longer have to dream constantly of 150 calorie tart goodness topped with enormous succulent blackberries. Damn, I would BART across the Bay right now if they were open.

5) Cocktails at Flora, especially with my sweetie, and my good friends Chris and Jumoke. Never was much of a gal for gin, but you learn something new everyday!

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Death of 17-year-old pregnant farm worker incites campaign against Trader Joe's.

Merced Farm Labor was subcontracted by West Coast Grape Farming, whose president, Fred Franzia, also owns Bronco Winery, makers of Charles Shaw wine — also known as Trader Joe's cheap and wildly popular "Two-Buck Chuck." Approximately 72 million bottles of the $2 wine are sold each year, exclusively at Trader Joe's.

United Farm Workers, responding to [Maria Isabel Vasquez] Jimenez's death, have asked supporters to fire off letters to Trader Joe's requesting the company "implement a corporate policy to ensure that [its] suppliers are not violating the law by failing to provide basic protections such as cold water, shade, and clean bathrooms."

More at The Daily Kos.

The inhumane treatment of farm workers in California (and elsewhere in the US) is a pervasive human rights issue that many seem to turn a blind eye to in favor of low produce prices. It's all about the money, baby. But it is exactly large, successful, purportedly more "progressive" groceries -- with a high percentage of well-to-do and socially-conscious clientele -- like Trader Joe's who can make a difference by demanding suppliers treat their employees humanely.

I really like Trader Joe's. An early purveyor of natural, organic, and vegetarian foods, touted as a chain of groceries privately-owned by one family, and a company that pays a competetive wage to their employees, I rejoiced when one opened in my neighborhood. I also love myself some Two-Buck Chuck. But I won't be buying it until they take some responsibility for the actions of their suppliers. And while they're at it, why not be a little more forthcoming about their "organic" dairy products? I've stopped buying those products too.

While I understand it's impossible to monitor as socially conscious every little morsel of food one gets from a grocer, it's important to bring this kind of gross negligence and disregard for human life to light. Please send a fax to Trader Joe's, demanding that they use their buying clout to help improve their suppliers' treatment of farm workers, here.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Haha! So true. From Freakonomics:

Handbag collector that I am, I do recall that there may have been barely contained inward shrieking the first time I visited Canal Street.

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In Japan, foreigners used as guinea pigs for police training.

No larger risk imaginable was recently forced upon a gaijin gimp by Narita Customs.

On May 26, a customs official planted 124 grams of cannabis in a [non-Japanese] tourist's bag. Why again? It was to train the sniffer dog.

Unbelievably, the bag got lost. Customs later tracked down the tourist and his bag at a Tokyo hotel. They publicly blamed one bad egg — and one bad dog.

However the Kyodo news agency now reports Narita has laced bags 160 times since last September. The Mainichi in English called it "common practice."

Never mind that anyone else doing this would be committing a crime. If the bag had got on a connecting flight to a place such as Singapore, the unwitting possessor could have been executed!

I'm used to hearing about Japanese police officers stopping foreigners, repeatedly and for no reason. But for this I'm speechless.


Have U.S. Drivers Reached The Filling Point of No Return?

It took some time, but Americans are responding to rising energy costs by driving smaller cars and cutting back on miles they log on the road.

The persistence of high energy prices plays a role. It takes time for consumers to make changes that lower energy use. That isn't so much because people first shrug off high energy costs. They can and do react quickly. But the most important factors in energy-consumption changes come only with time -- buying a new refrigerator or a smaller house or trading in a sport-utility vehicle for a smaller car.

"What we're seeing now is prices have been high for a while and consumers have become convinced high prices are here to stay. That's given them time to make changes, such as the car they buy," said economist Christopher Knittel of the University of California, Davis. "That has larger effects than, 'Well, I'm just not going to drive to the mall this week.'"

This is big. We are going into a massive cultural shift that will see Americans not only changing the way they drive, but how they interact with their local community. I daresay this may even convince folks of how spoilt and entitled we've been, as we have clearcut our way through fossil fuels with our massive SUVs and McMansions and the like with nary a glance at what the consequences are for the rest of the human populace. May we finally experience even a small bit of what our ignorance has wrought on the rest of the world, and may we begin to learn from it (and turn it around before Wall-E comes to pass!)

And if you still feel like complaining after that spiel, chin up! Get a grip on yourself about our paltry almost $5 per gallon, and fall on your knees to praise jeebus -- you could be living in Britain!

At $9 Per Gallon, British Driving Habits Change

Many environmentalists have quietly rejoiced that the high cost of fuel is apparently achieving what governments have largely failed to: a reduction in carbon emissions.

But not all subscribe to this logic. Tom Burke, an environmental scientist and former government adviser, says high pump prices "inevitably fall hardest on people who can least bear them, instead of on governments who took wrong decisions."

"You can't just say it's a good thing that prices go up and people will do more sensible things," he says. "Older people, people already at the bottom of the pile, will find it harder ... to live and anyone who welcomes that has lost their humanity."

BTW, I am one of those folks who has "lost their humanity." I do hate high gas prices for the same fundamental reason everyone else does -- it makes my life less convenient -- but I do secretly rejoice at the same time. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, it is easy for me to rejoice. I live in an area with ample public transit, I am healthy enough to ride a bike and walk, and I have plenty of shops carrying the necessities within walking distance of my apartment.

But no matter: I still think gas prices being so high is a good thing. And more to the point, I don't think we can be so simplistic as to say welcoming high gas prices equals not caring about the suffering of the people on the bottom of the pile. What a ridiculous idea. To focus on environmentalist glee over something that will actually change the bad behavior of millions of people, rather than focusing on the failures of public policy to address the inevitable shitpickle that was looming and now exists because our insatiable hunger for non-renewable resources is simply rhetoric, and lack of foresight.

This is also what capitalism wrought, baby. Nothing is perfect in our capitalist society. But even so, many folks are anti social programs and anti spending for community benefit until it hits them straight in the gut. I have no patience for people who are Capitalist when they get the long straw and Socialist when they don't get their way. Anyway, you work for policy with what you have been dealt; environmentalists have been doing that very thing in an unresponsive populace for years. And with what we have been dealt, change seems to only come from discomfort.

Any uncomfortable change (read: one that makes us evaluate need vs. want) that is good for the whole of our society and our world will inevitably hit some of the most economically fragile first -- whether it's paying a living wage for goods and services (buh-bye Wal-Mart), or getting in line with Europe and reining in our entitlement around fossil fuels. The key to leaving the least amount of people behind is demanding and working for social programs, and being community-minded.

There are poor, sick, and old people everywhere, and I don't see the preponderance of said populations elsewhere being used as an excuse to not do the right thing for the environment and our future as humans. In addition to the obvious -- exploring and implementing alternative fuels -- demand better public transit, build communities that incorporate necessary businesses within them, and get to know grandma or your neighbor and take them to the store or to work with you.

It takes time to change, but we're on our way.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Oh my, look what I just won tickets to from KALX 90.7!

Gang of Four, Jesus and Mary Chain, M83, and The Duke Spirit. This will be awesome, even at the Shoreline. Yeeeeeeeee!

I love my life.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Birthday weekend wrap-up...

Birthday weekend started Thursday and ended today. I was spoiled rotten! Hikes to scary woods, eating (and shhhh, smoking) all the things I'm not supposed to have, shopping like you wouldn't believe (thanks baby -- remember, it's only once a year!), hanging out with friends, watching fireworks, and capping it all off with Wall-E. Righteous.

I am blessed with good friends. Still life with birthday brunch at La Note:

Another highlight was ferrying to San Francisco for a day of Ferry Building goodness, thrifting (lucked out with a beautiful Jil Sander top for $4) and fro-yo.

You can't tell from this photo, but San Francisco looks like a toy city from the ferry...

Okay, and now shhhhh -- time for a secret...

Today I dropped into one of the better high-end second-hand clothing stores and treated myself to a really cool and fairly expensive ginormous leather handbag. Checking out all of the pockets afterward, what did I find but a little suede bag from Pave. Inside were large Tahitian black pearl earrings! Oh my god, they are gorgessity.

Part of me feels bad, even though, 1) I will never know who they belonged to, 2) I love black pearls, 3) I will never be able to afford earrings like these, and 4) it's my birthday. Okay, those last three things don't really factor in to whether or not I should feel bad, but I need something to assuage my unjustified guilt. I think I just feel bad because someone lost some really badass and expensive earrings, and now I have them. So, anyway, I am but a twig floating in the stream of fate. Or something.

It's been 5 days of loveliness -- back to the real world tomorrow.

Oi, tomorrow! Tomorrow I have acupuncture. My acupuncturist is going to feel my pulse, sense the bacon and ice cream coursing through my veins, and then promptly kill me with his disapproving gaze.

But I think it will be worth it. :)

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Or as Jason the Manc says, Happy Kick the Limeys out of America Day!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A delicate ribbon of gas -- a remnant of a supernova that occurred more than 1,000 years ago -- floats eerily in our Milky Way galaxy in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. The supernova was probably the brightest star ever seen by humans and surpassed Venus as the brightest object in the nighttime sky, with the exception of the moon.

We live in a mysterious and beautiful world.

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Utah Ushers in Four Day Workweek to Save Energy.

Utah? Utah as the harbinger of progressive and outside-the-box thinking? Utah?!?

California might have to hand over its cool credentials.

This is a really intriguing and simple idea that more state governments should look into. An added bonus might be economic stimulation, what with the extra day off and the costs saved on commuting. Happy people spend more money too.

Additionally, I've maintained for a very long time that the 40 hour workweek is inhumane. I see this Utah business is really just four, 10-hour days, but three days off is a step in the right direction. I've been working this way for two years now, and I don't think I can ever go back.

Woo-hoo Utah!