Thursday, December 24, 2009

One of the things I like to bring out most this time of year is my balls.

No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.

Happy Holidays!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just saw Avatar tonight, and it was pretty terrific -- highly enjoyable and awesome in 3D.

But the real excitement is coming in March 2010...

And forget the Kraken -- do you see what's at 1:37 and 1:44? Damn.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Heads up holiday travelers...

...or anyone who is frustrated with what seems like ineffectual airport security screenings, or concerned with intrusions on their privacy.

Do I Have The Right To Refuse This Search?

I believe what we have here is the beginning of the end of complacency. It is now apparent to me that in the haste to ensure compliance with procedures that are inconsistent if not inarticulable, TSA has hastened the likelihood of failure. If we do not insist that TSA work to create articulable policies that make sense, procedures that are explicit and consistent and training that supports both, then we are complicit in what will inevitably be an ultimate compromise of TSA.

By virtue of even minimal experience with TSA screenings, that's something that I think most every traveler suspects, but this former Assistant Police Chief's personal experience with the clear lack of training -- as well as incompetence and lassitude around supervisory chain of responsibility -- when it comes to the actual screening of potential terrorist threats is absolutely, well, terrifying.

That compromise may come in the form of terrorist attack, or it may come in the form of a collapse of public support. Either or both are inevitable. Either or both are preventable.

Safe travels, keep your eyes open, and remember that the airport is not a Constitution-free zone!

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Monday, December 07, 2009

It's that time of year again -- the holiday gift-giving season is upon us!

This year, as I do every year, I encourage folks to support their local economies and buy their gifts from local, independent retailers as often as they can. Even better -- buy items from your local retailers that are made in the USA and/or are compliant with fair trade guidelines (North Americans can look up companies and suppliers at the Fair Trade Federation).

Okay, I know, I know: this type of shopping isn't always realistic -- even for folks who trumpet it all the time -- especially with time constraints and while still in the midst of a bummer recession. But I think attempting to adhere to these guidelines is really important.

So with the realities of the holidays in mind, I always like to list a few great (and inexpensive) places online where your hard-earned dollars can get you a beautiful, quality gift, a clean conscience, and the knowledge that you are actively participating in philanthropy that is helping to build a better world.

My picks this year:

1) Rwanda Baskets

The vision of the Rwanda Basket Company is to empower the impoverished women of Rwanda to rise above their subsistence level existence by providing them with the training, tools and support needed to sell their baskets in the West.

The United Nations estimates that women make up 70 percent of those living in absolute poverty. Many of these women are cut off -- geographically, financially, or sociopolitically -- from fair and sustainable ways of making a living. Business ventures like Rwanda Baskets help bridge that gap.

Also, these baskets are stunning!

2) TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about.

I've admired this company for a long time. Their original slip-on shoe is IMO really cute, but admittedly isn't everyone's cup of tea; recently, they've expanded their shoe line to include sporty looking lace-up models and the like, as well as a full vegan line for the hippies. :)

Watch this video and see if you can keep from buying at least a couple of pairs.

3) Peacekeeper Cause-metics

Peacekeeper Cause-Metics is the first cosmetics line to give all of its after-tax, distributable profits to women’s health advocacy and urgent human rights issues. PeaceKeeper builds a bridge between extraordinary women in the land-of-plenty with extraordinary women who, by chance of birth, don’t have our resources or opportunities.

'nuff said? Well, not really.

Y'all know that women's issues are of particular importance to me. Y'all also know that makeup is a huge expenditure -- both financially and toxicity-wise -- for most women of means. Peacekeeper is dedicated to helping poverty-stricken women all over the globe, and they are funding it with the sales of non-toxic makeup. Righteous! They are part of a business model called "all benefit" (a term, for lack of sufficient linkalicious-ness, that is better explained by the "Paul Newman business model") that gives all of their profits after company costs to charity. Go get some!

4) Better World Books

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.

Before I get reamed by my independent bookstore friends for recommending an online retailer, let me just say that I am a big supporter of local independent bookstores, full stop. But if you've got to buy online (especially true for folks where the big bookstore bads have run every independent out of business) independently owned Better World Books saves books from landfills, supports literacy programs in the States and around the world, and gives you an option to ship your books not only for free, but also carbon-neutral. Excellent.


If anyone has some resources for other eco-friendly, fair trade, and/or cause-driven gift-giving, please feel free to post in the comments. Happy holiday shopping!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

I can't get enough of this:

Just ordered A. A. Bondy's second album on Fat Possum, When The Devil's Loose, from my local joint, Amoeba Records.

BTW, it's the holidays -- a good time to remind folks to give their local record stores some love.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Oi, it's definitely persimmon season.

With persimmons peaking this month, there isn't a better time to explore the fruit, and, if all goes well, add it to your holiday repertoire. Two main types are available commercially - firm, flat Fuyus and soft, acorn-shaped Hachiyas...

My dad put a Hachiya tree in for my mom when they moved back to the States from Japan, and so I grew up watching my mom place firm, bright orange, pointed globes in the kitchen window, carefully turning them each day until they were so soft they were almost collapsing on themselves. Those ripe Hachiyas were always too sweet for me, but my mom loved eating the jelly-like insides, and she regularly baked persimmon cake for me and my sister from my dad's recipe.

I'm still not a fan of plain old sticky sweet Hachiya pulp, but there's nothing I like better than a crisp Fuyu cubed into a salad, or sliced and served with a strong cheese.

I'm still surprised when I meet people who don't know about this beautiful and versatile fruit, especially since it has such a long history among so many different cultures. When I finally buy a place of my own, a persimmon tree is definitely taking up some space on the property.

Dad's Persimmon Cake

1 cup shortening (trans-fat free versions available -- I like Spectrum)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, room temperature
2 cups Hachiya persimmon pulp
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13X9 glass pan.

Blend first 3 ingredients together until smooth. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Add persimmon pulp, flour, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and nuts (if desired) and mix for 2 minutes. Thin with warm water if the mix is too dry.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes.

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