11 December 2010

Black-Eyed Peas, Prosperity, and Taking Aim at Women

I didn't realize that consuming black-eyed peas is generally considered Southern. Interestingly, the articles I referenced while researching New Year's Day traditions for my cookbook update say so. Thought to attract good luck in general and financial good fortune, eating black-eyed peas, with pork (hogs symbolize prosperity), and cabbage (leaves represent paper currency) on New Year's day are thought to set the tone for the coming year. presented the most comprehensive list of traditions, from why we kiss at Midnight to why our cupboards should be filled to why we shouldn't throw anything out of the house on the day. The oddest of these superstitions was that the first person to cross your threshold should be a tall, handsome, dark-haired man bearing small gifts – "a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen and some salt." Apparently we should not allow blondes or redheads to be the first persons in the door, and God help us if the "first footer" is a female. The article says "aim a gun at them if you have to, but don't let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold," as they'll bring "disaster down on the household."

I don't know about all that, but I know we'll eat our peas, pork and cabbage.

06 November 2010

Thanks, but I'm Staying Home

Once a week our mailbox is crammed full of ads that usually make a bee-line to our recycling bin. These include one-sheet flyers from Pizza Hut, Captain D's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the weekly flyers from area grocery stores and the occasional card announcing special pricing on replacement windows. The cover of last week's mailing was a coupon ad for Steak 'n Shake, and to my amazement I saw this:

Why on Earth does Steak 'n Shake feel it necessary to be open on Thanksgiving? Do they think that we might want to stop in to ruin our appetites while we make our way over the river and through the woods? Shouldn't the day be set aside for togetherness with family and friends sharing traditions or creating new ones?

It's clear to me that there are a lot of folks who don't share my reverence for the day. Hell, grocers started staying open on Thanksgiving years ago. I guess it was to "save the day" for the panicked cook who forgot something on their list. At least they close early.

Searching "open on Thanksgiving," resulted in a link to a CNBC article announcing that Sears would be open from 7 AM until Noon on Thanksgiving day for the first time in its 85-year history. It goes on to say that Sears-held K-mart has been open on the holiday for close to twenty years.

One comment on the article, attributed to "Spin1," caught my eye. It included the sentence: "Give these poor, under paid employees the day off with their families." I pretty much concur. And not just because it's hard to believe there would be an exodus of people wanting to satisfy their Steakburger cravings that day but also because it's the right thing to do.

05 November 2010

$200 Million a Day for Obama's Trip to India? It's a Lie.

"To say this figure — $200 million a day — has made the rounds in the blogosphere would be a huge understatement. It has been repeated by nearly every conservative pundit in the land: Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Drudge. Always with a healthy dose of indignation."
Read the full story here.

23 August 2010

An Open Letter to Gregg Steinhafel

I just printed this letter on a pristine sheet of New Leaf paper and am sending it to Minneapolis today:

23 August 10

Mr. Gregg Steinhafel
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403

Dear Mr. Steinhafel,

As I look through many of the articles on the pressroom pages of your website, I see how giving and supportive Target is to many segments of society around the world. I’ve always admired the brand for its good citizenship and what appears to be a genuine concern for the communities that support it. I realize, too, that Target deserves the high marks it receives from the Human Rights Campaign for it’s practices in workplace inclusivity.

Yet, I am writing today to tell you why I haven’t made my weekly trip to Target since the media circus surrounding Target’s donation to MN Forward ensued, and why I’ve crossed Target off of my shopping list altogether.

I have been following this story closely and have been hoping for some sort of correction on Target’s part. Today, I read an August 16 article in The Minnesota Independent where Target informed HRC that it “will take no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.”

Mr. Steinhafel, in spite of the perceived benefit to business Tom Emmer’s policies might bring to your state, religious dogma — or worse yet hate in the name of religion — has no place in politics. The blood of the first person queer-bashed or killed when some fanatic decides to act on Bradlee Dean’s lunatic statements won’t be on my hands because I’m taking the more than $5,000 I spent at Target last year to other retailers in the future.



17 August 2010

Why I Think Commercial Aircraft Should Have an "EJECT" Button on Every Seat

As the handful of my loyal readers know, my beloved is a veteran flight attendant. And, with Steven Slater being all over the news lately it seems that some are coming up with cutesy names and phrases to describe flight attendants as unstable or crazy. Frankly, I read a piece the other day where the uncooperative bitch that Slater encountered on the plane faces a $25,000 fine for her offense. I say "nail her to the wall."

Of course within days, on yet another JetBlue flight, we learn of another deranged female passenger who had to be restrained to a seat after a screaming rant -- but not before spitting on and physically assalting the flight crew. Care to guess who had to restore the cabin to order? Yep. The very same flight attendants who were assaulted.

It infuriates me to no end when I hear about the latest instance where my partner has been treated with disrespect or lack of basic human decency.

He, too, has been struck in the face with a piece of luggage upon telling a passenger that he couldn't stow his bag in the way he was attempting. Cameron didn't say "F-you," blow a slide, grab some beer and bail. He took it in stride. While I wish, at the very least, he'd have grabbed the bag in question and thrown it on the tarmac or called ahead for the authorities to escort the offending asshole to interrogation -- or both -- he moved on. In some cases, though, he has had extreme offenders hauled off to jail. I like that and wish it happened more often.

While you read this, realize that the flight crew is not only dealing with self-absorbed idiots that have likely "cut in line at the water fountain" all their lives since grade school. They're also dealing with greedy corporate thieves who try squeezing every bit of life from every employee while reducing pay and benefits, increasing flying time while reducing rest, and in at least one case, suggested that they dumpster dive to make up for their 40% pay cuts. Yes, that was the former Northwest management who are now running Delta. Think they don't need a union, now? I digress. That's another can of worms altogether.

I made some minor edits to the following letter I found by following a link on Facebook. The story is still the same.

To the Flying Public: We're Sorry

We're sorry we have no pillows.

We're sorry we're out of blankets.

We're sorry the airplane is too cold.

We're sorry the airplane is too hot.

We're sorry the overhead bins are full.

We're sorry we have no closet space for your oversized bag.

We're sorry that's not the seat you wanted.

We're sorry there's a restless toddler/overweight/offensive smelling passenger seated next to you.

We're sorry the plane is full and there are no other seats available.

We're sorry you didn't get your upgrade.

We're sorry that guy makes you uncomfortable because he "looks like a terrorist."

We're sorry there's a thunderstorm and we can't take off. We're sorry we don't know when it will stop.

We're sorry you're crammed into a space so small that if you were an animal PETA would protest.

We're sorry our plane has no music or video entertainment for your 3 hour flight.

We're sorry we ran out of your favorite soda. We're sorry there are no more sandwiches. We're sorry that Budweiser costs $6.

We're sorry we don't have diapers for your baby. We're sorry we don't have milk for same baby.

We're sorry you can't hang out by the cockpit door waiting to use the bathroom.

We're sorry you can't hang out at the back of the airplane. We're sorry you have to sit down and fasten your seatbelt. We're sorry you have to put your seat up for landing.

We're sorry we don't know when we're going to land. We're sorry we don't know whether your plane to (substitute any city in the world) will be waiting for you when we land. We're sorry we've been diverted because we ran out of gas waiting to land.
We're sorry for these and so many other things that we have absolutely no control over but which we are held accountable for EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Please understand. Flight attendants are not the enemy. We share your space. More than anyone -- we want to have a nice, pleasant travel experience. There is a reason behind everything we ask you to do. It may be a FAA directive. It may be security related. It may be a company procedure.

We don't just make stuff up. We don't spend 8 weeks at training (with two refresher courses and tests every year) learning how to pour a Coke. There are many things that flight attendants are watching for constantly on every flight FOR YOUR SAFETY. It's not because we're bored or so controlling that we just enjoy telling people what to do. I, for one, would like to have one flight where I didn't have to repeatedly tell people to put their seats up for landing. Seriously. Can't you just do what we ask sometimes, without the glares, eye rolling and disdain?

For the record -- putting your seat up for landing may not seem that important to your personal safety. However, it is very important for the person sitting BEHIND YOU. If you have ever tried to get out of a row where someone has their seat reclined you know it can be a challenge. Try grabbing your ankles (emergency brace position) or getting out of that row quickly with smoke in the cabin. Understand a little better now?

Many of the things we ask passengers to comply with are FAA directives, like carry-on bag stowage, exit row requirements, when we can serve drinks (in the air) and when we can't (after the aircraft door is closed or on an active taxi-way). We are only allowed to move about the cabin during taxi out for safety related duties. We can't get you blankets, or hang coats, or get you drinks. It's not because we don't want to. It's because we are held personally responsible if we fail to comply with FAA directives. Meaning that the FAA can fine us personally up to $10,000 if we fail to comply or enforce an FAA Directive. Like no bags at the bulkhead. No children in the exit row. No one moving around the cabin during taxi. Perhaps now you know why flight attendants get a little testy when people move about the cabin when they're not supposed to. It's not the company that gets in trouble for that. It's us.

Personally, I wish the airlines would show worst case scenario safety videos. Like what happens if you walk through the cabin during turbulence. There could be a guy who has just fallen and smacked his face on the metal armrest and now has a bloody, gushing broken nose. Or an elderly lady who now has a broken arm because someone walking to the bathroom fell on her. Maybe a passenger with a broken neck because somebody opened an overhead bin during turbulence and a suitcase fell out and onto the person sitting beneath it. These things can easily happen in a fast moving, unstable air environment.

Please just trust that we are looking out for your best interest and stop fighting with us about everything we ask you to do. It's exhausting.

Finally, please direct your hostility and frustrations in the direction where they will be most effective: The customer service department. They are the ones equipped to handle your complaint and implement procedures for CHANGE.
Think about it.

Complaining to the flight crew about all your negative travel experiences is about the same as complaining to the office janitor because your computer isn't working. It may make you feel better to vent about it -- but it really won't fix anything. More than anybody we are already aware of the lack of amenities, food, service and comfort on the aircraft. Please share your concerns with the people in the cubicles at corporate who need that information to make better decisions for the flying public.

It's frustrating that so many people are in denial about what the travel industry is about now. The glory days of pillows, blankets, magazines and a hot meal for everyone are long gone. Our job is to get you from point A to point B safely and at the cheapest possible cost to you and the company. So be prepared. If you are hungry -- get a sandwich before you get on the plane. If it's a 3 hour flight, anticipate that you may get hungry and bring some snacks. If you are cold natured -- bring a wrap. Think for yourself and think ahead. Otherwise, don't complain when you have to pay $3 for a cookie and are left with a crusty blanket to keep you warm.

We hear often that the service just isn't what is used to be. Well, the service we provide now isn't what it used to be. When I was hired, my job was to serve drinks/meals, ensure that safety requirements were met and tend to in-flight medical issues. Since September 11, 2001 my primary job is to ensure that my airplane will not be compromised by a terrorist. That tragedy may now be a distant memory to many, but be assured that EVERY DAY a flight attendant reports to work he or she is constantly thinking about 9/11. We feel a personal responsibility to ensure that something like that never happens again.

We can never relax. We can never not be suspicious about someone's intentions. It is difficult to be vigilant and gregarious at the same time, especially when most of us are working 12 hour days after layovers that only allow 5-6 hours of sleep. This isn't because we were out partying and having a grand time on the layover -- but because the delays that you experience as a passenger also affect us as a crew. What was a 10 hour layover is now 8 hours which doesn't leave a lot of time to recover from what has become an increasingly stressful occupation.

Despite everything, I still enjoy being a flight attendant. I am writing this letter because I do still care about my profession and about the public perception of flight attendants. In the increasingly challenging travel world it is becoming more imperative than ever that people just treat each other decently.

I can go through an entire day without one person saying anything remotely civil. I will stand at the aircraft door and say hello to everyone who enters. Maybe half will even look at me. Even less will say hello back. I will try to serve someone a meal who can't be bothered to take their headsets off long enough for me to ask them what they want. Most of the time the only conversation a passenger has with me is one in which they are complaining.

Is it any wonder that flight attendants have shut down a bit? After suffering the disdain of hundreds of passengers a day it's difficult sometimes to even smile, much less interact. We are human. We appreciate the same respect and courtesy that passengers do.

The next time you fly, try treating the flight attendants the way you would like to be treated. You may be surprised how friendly your flight crew is when they are treated like people.

-Author Unknown

03 August 2010

An Open Letter to Memphis City Council

Dear Council Members,

I am writing today to express my concern with yet another out-of-town company attempting to come to Memphis and destroy a piece of our history and part of Midtown's beauty. Too many of our historic places have been torn down over the years to provide space for the likes of Arby's, Walgreen's and Starbucks.

When I first moved to Memphis in 1986 I met two sisters who'd lived on Carr Avenue for most of their lives. Norma and Audrey used to tell me stories of a beautiful Union Avenue lined with grand southern mansions, churches and the occasional block of retail space like the one that houses Wiles-Smith Drugstore. More than twenty years later, I still hear laments from native Memphians about wonderful places that used to be as I've watched Midtown's charm eroded bit by bit.

On August 24th, representatives of CVS Pharmacy are expected to stand before you in an attempt to appeal the Land Use Control Board's ruling denying them permission to raze Union Avenue Methodist Church. I am asking that you uphold the board's ruling.

Midtown has more than enough drug stores within reach of that site, particularly with an Ike's/Walgreen's across the street. If CVS is determined to come into the Midtown Memphis market, let's encourage them to choose another location where their architecturally uninteresting, cookie-cutter, big-box eyesore might be a vast improvement.

In the Crosstown area, for instance, North of Poplar on the west side of Cleveland, there are many defunct, vacant, weed-infested spaces that provide no particular interest to the landscape of the city. I believe a CVS could do wonders there. Many other places in Midtown could benefit from the commerce their store might bring. Union at Cooper isn't one of them, especially at the cost of another Memphis landmark.



25 July 2010

Demand Target Stop Donating to Anti-Gay Politicians

Targeting: Mark Schindele (Senior Vice President), Denise May (CEO Assistant) and Gregg Steinhafel (Chairman, President and CEO)

Retail giant Target has given $150,000 to a political candidate in Minnesota, Tom Emmer, who has ties to a radical Christian rock band, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, that has called for gays and lesbians to be murdered. The money, given by Target to a political action committee known as Minnesota Forward, has made its way to the Emmer campaign, despite Emmer's closeness with the anti-gay group.

What makes this move all the more troubling is that Target openly markets to the LGBT community, and has previously incorporated a number of LGBT-specific corporate policies. For them to filter money, let alone such a high amount, to an organization funding a candidate with ties to an anti-gay hate group flies in the face of their corporate practice, and sends a message that a politics based on fear and hatred toward LGBT people is acceptable.

Please email Target today to demand that they stop funding political candidates with a track record that runs counter to LGBT equality. In this particular case, the Minnesota politician in question, Tom Emmer, has clear ties to a group advocating violence toward LGBT people. Emmer hasn't denounced the group, and instead has welcomed them at events and praised their work. That's not the type of politics Target should be in the business of supporting.

05 July 2010

Love Letters to Karen Solomon

I bought a book at Williams Sonoma last Friday entitled "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects," by Karen Solomon. Taking advantage of this holiday weekend, I've now read it cover to cover. Although I've attempted to do this with other cookbooks, such as with Julia Child's "The Art of French Cooking," and M.F.K. Fisher's "With Bold Knife and Fork", I've never succeeded. And, trust me, it's not because these weren't educational, entertaining or interesting. I figure it's simply because I became distracted or perhaps overwhelmed.

Image borrowed from

Not so with "Jam It...." This book was a joy to read. I was instantly drawn in because she denounced high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed fat or any other manner of chemically altered, shelf stable groceries within the first few sentences of the book. The way Ms. Solomon writes is right up my alley. There's no pretense here, it's all matter-of-fact and honest. She makes many references to having a modest kitchen, and it's clear that she has no intent to develop a line of specialty cookware or utensils that could be considered "must haves" in order to create good things. She gives options for using food processors, for instance, but also tells us what to do if we're not blessed to have such kitchen implements.

The way she "speaks" made me feel as if I was sharing culinary war stories with one of my friends around the kitchen table. If you're interested in eating more wholesome food and can commit what seems to me to be a small amount of time to learning the skills she shares in "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects," this is a must read.

17 June 2010

Thanks, But No Thanks

Often, I've used this space as a forum for venting about what I find wrong with our food supply. I have railed on high-fructose corn syrup like there's no tomorrow. Hydrolyzed anything was never intended for my ingestion. Tuna canners quietly reducing what's on our store shelves from six to five ounces (while keeping the price the same) was another gripe. Questionable marketing has been a rant as well, even when it comes to pet food and supplies.

While in a Biloxi Petsmart over Memorial Day weekend with my sister and her friends, I took the opportunity to grab some snapshots of the labels from Nestlé Purina's latest, Chef Michael's Canine Creations, not only because I find the commercials offensive, (the whole scenario is annoying), but also because of the company's attempt to make us (the gullible general public) believe that these overly branded offerings are any better than standard fare in the canned dog food segment. The labels contain the word "flavor." This to me is a harbinger of disappointment. Are we expected to believe there's any authenticity to products that use this tactic?

The ingredients list "water sufficient for processing, beef, chicken, liver" and "meat by-products." OK, fine. It continues: "wheat gluten, carrots, peas, added color, artificial and natural flavors, filet mignon flavor...."

What exactly is filet mignon flavor, and from where does it come? Should one expect a label calling the product inside the container "Filet Mignon Flavor" to contain any actual filet mignon? I suppose not. And, if not that, then what of the remaining ingredients?

Salt was next on the list, then carrageenan. According to Wikipedia, this is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin that comes from red seaweed and has been used as a food additive as early as 600 B.C. in China. Eighty percent of the world's supply comes from the Phillippines. The additive seems harmless enough, but statements near the bottom of the page suggest that one type of degraded carrageenan may be linked to gastro-intestinal cancer, carrageenan "induces inflammation in human intestinal epithelial cells," and is reported to interfere with macrophage activity which is key in human immune response.

Following that is potassium chloride, also known as KCI. Loosely translated, KCI is a salt. But in excess this chemical, which is used in fertilizers, can cause weakening of cardiac muscles or cardiac arrest. KCI is the last of three drugs administered for executions via lethal injections.

After that delightful component the list includes calcium phosphate, a bone mineral found in cow's milk and which also largely comprises tooth enamel. Locust bean gum is next, which is extracted from Carob tree seeds as a thickening agent, followed by sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA. It's used in meats, seafood, poultry and pet foods in addition to being a "builder" for cleaning products. Who would have thought that a component of dishwasher detergent would be edible?

Guar gum follows which seems benign enough. It is used in the manufacture of textiles, paper, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and in oil and gas drilling, mining, and hydroseeding. Because it possesses eight times the ability to thicken when compared to corn starch, it's economical in the production of baked goods, meats, dairy, and prepared foods. This sort of reminds me of the economic impact of a certain corn-based syrup but without the negative effects.

As the list continues the phrase, "better living through chemistry" comes to mind in spite of the fact that I believe this philosophy is stretched -- sometimes to our detriment. Behind guar gum is zinc sulfate, which delivers the mineral in animal feeds, but is also used in fertilizers, the manufacture of rayon, zinc plating processes, leather and skin preservation and acne medicines.

The label continues, providing a list of vitamins and minerals: vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, sodium nitrate (to promotoe color retention), copper sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, potassium iodide, Vitamin D-3 supplement, folic acid, sodium selenite, biotin.

Finally, I have come to the same conclusion that I've drawn about most things in the grocery: my household benefits from my avoidance of prepared foods. I know I will have to dedicate more time to shopping because I'll continue to read every label of every product I pick up. I will shop at Whole Foods and better still, the Cooper Young Community Farmer's Market. It's in these places I can trust that my bananas aren't gassed to make them ripen more quickly, my beef and pork come from sustainable sources, my fruit and vegetables won't be coated with high-fructose corn syrup-based wax, and I won't be feeding my dog dishwasher detergent.

18 May 2010

How the Oil Spill Might Benefit Gulf Marine Animals

posted by: Jasmine Greene 11 hours ago on

How the Oil Spill Might Benefit Gulf Marine Animals

Almost two weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed a ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf region for 10 days due to the BP Oil Spill. Since then, the NOAA has increased the time of the ban until May 17 and has expanded the boundary of the closed fishing. Currently, the area represents around 7% of the waters in the Gulf. While the oil spill is an environmental tragedy, it may help to repopulate the Gulf and put more pressure on oil companies.

While commercial fishing has always been an environmental issue, it remained in the backburner until now. One of the major issues of commercial fishing is the actual method to catch fish via bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is used for deeper parts of oceans to catch very specific types of marine life. A large weighted net is dragged across the ocean floor in order to catch everything in the net's path. Dragging these nets across the floor stirs up sediment and destroys many reef habitats. These nets are about the size of a soccer field and while they are used to catch specific types of fish, around 50% of what is caught in the net is thrown back into the ocean, many injured or dead [Source: Gulf Coast Preserve]. While the NOAA has banned bottom trawling in certain places (mainly the Pacific), locations like the Gulf of Mexico are still open to tens of thousands of commercial fishers, with Louisiana supplying about one third of the US seafood supply, second largest next to Alaska. According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), there are about 50% more boats than needed to supply seafood to the US, leading to bleak results in the US. A 2007 NOAA report stated that 24 percent of 190 monitored fish stocks were still categorized as overfished, and another 17 percent were deemed subject to overfishing. With help from the government, the Magnuson-Stevens Act was drafted and the NOAA stated that they will halt overfishing in 2010 by enforcing annual catch limits and making sure fishers follow scientific advice in fishery management decisions [Source: NOAA]. The organization has received support from the Obama administration to draft plans for a new ocean policy and marine planning system.

Despite the work from the NOAA and from the government, the Gulf of Mexico contains at least 20,000 licensed bottom trawlers and a multibillion dollar industry [Source: Reuters]. The recent oil spill and banned areas have affected business as many fisherman in the Gulf have no option except to wait for the ban to be lifted and/or help with the oil spill cleanup if possible, though only about 23% of the shrimping areas have been closed off to fishing. Still, many people are taking a "Better safe than sorry" stance when buying seafood since chemicals ingested by marine animals affect those ingesting the fish. But it isn't just the spill that is harming these fish, it's also the cleanup. The use of dispersing agents contains numerous harmful chemicals including 2-butoxyethanol, which causes headaches, vomiting reproductive problems in humans when exposed to high doses. While dispersal is the most effective way to clean an oil spill, BP has already used up a third of the world's supply, with the leak growing increasingly larger [Source: Pro Publica]. threatened wildlife populations, like the Blue Fin Tuna, also use the gulf as spawning grounds. While the oil affects adult fish, the larvae of the fish are especially sensitive to toxins and chemicals. Cleaning up the oil spill might not take a long time, however the effects of the spill and cleanup are far-reaching.

While the environmental consequences are staggering, there could also be some benefits to the gulf. Should the ban on commercial fishing in the Gulf continue for the duration of the cleanup and/or longer, the fish and shrimp population may increase. Thomas Shirley, of Texas A&M, along with other professors and scientists have begun viewing the spill as an opportunity for conservation and replenishing the fish supply. With all the bottom trawling and ever sky-rocketing demand for fresh fish, the fish population and diversity have drastically reduced. While the oil is another stressor on the marine habitat and animals, Daniel Pauly, a professor athe the Fisheries Institute are the University of British Columbia states, " It is possible that a massive rebound of the fish population will occur because we are not fishing them. If the fishing is discontinued for a month or two, or a season, we may see massive changes in the Gulf" [Source: On Earth].

While the environmental effects of the oil spill are devastating, it has forced changes in the government as well. Chris Oynes, head of the oil and drilling program, announced that he would retire by June 2010 [Source: Huffington Post]. Drilling in the gulf has also been indefinitely banned, and many future drilling ventures, such as the one Shell planned in the Arctic, are beginning to see much stronger opposition [Source: Associated Press]. In the wake of such disaster, the horror and public outcry might force oil companies and governments to restrategize for a greener future.

12 April 2010

In Dreams

That Roy Orbison song is one of my favorites, and I decided to use it for this post because it's the first thing that came to mind.

So, this morning around 6AM, I was awakened by a dream I'd been having:

Two former colleagues, (bosses, actually) and I walked into the lobby of a grand, historic building that was being demolished. I began picking up and handing them pieces of ornate, decorative, deep red tile and cornices that had already fallen amongst the concrete and rubble.

At some point, we became separated, I suspect that this is because as I began to delve deeper and deeper into the debris I lost all sense of place and time. As I continued further into the darkened space, I drew closer to what resembled an expansive hotel bar where the mirrors on the wall were still intact. There, hanging in the corner was an illuminated Coca-Cola point-of-purchase display. I recognized it as one of the most rare collectibles in the collectors' guides I have referred to over the years.

I took it down and hurried out of that area to find them standing in the shadows just outside rays of light that poured in through old wood and glass doors in a dusty entryway, holding treasures they'd found while we were separated. One had found some old first-aid supplies, including an odd plastic bag with "Curad" on it filled with cotton swabs, and the other had found two yellow and black "circus" posters.

I remember asking the one with the swabs, "I wonder if you could reseal this?" Because I was certain that her kids would be playing in the relics. As we looked at the posters the other had found, we thought she could name her two cats after two of the names that appeared on each poster. And, for the life of me I can't recall what those names were, but at the time we thought it was a brilliant suggestion.

As I lay in bed, I began to think, "is any of this significant in any way?"

While I recognized references to some recent events, like my friend Becky finding a Curad bandage tin during her last antique-shopping trip, any other similarities are simply coincidence or must have a deeper symbolic meaning:

Is it that in the destruction of something long considered meaningful to me I've found something rare that I'd sought for years through the guidance of two women who have, at one time, been a significant part of my life? Perhaps.

The dream gave me pause. But, now I'm mostly awake and need to get on with my day. I'm sure Edith would appreciate having her litter box changed this morning. And I have layouts due at 2:00 PM. After that, it's back out to continue repair and upgrades to the pond.

Have a wonderful day.

11 April 2010

Dear Whining Crybaby Mitch McConnell:

I knew that getting Health Care reform underway was going to be a monumental task. I knew there would be partisan bickering but had hoped that both sides of the isle would look at the rest of the world and see where we rank among industrialized nations. Being first in cost and 37th in quality/accessibility isn't leading the world.

I had hoped that the people we elected would spend their time working out the details of the legislation rather than practicing politics. Most Democrats and some Republicans tried this. Others fulfilled their roles in this historic process by parroting Fat Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. I recently saw Repugnantcan Senator "Bitch" McConnell (R-KY) pontificating about how the Democrats didn't do what "most" Americans want and that they will be sorry come election time.

For nearly 100 years, this country has tried to get some sort of health care reform in place. And, in fact, Senator Mitch, more, or "most," Americans elected this President because his platform included the pursuit of solutions to our health care crisis. In spite of the fact that most of the progress he plans to make will be difficult and controversial, President Obama perseveres. You would do well to quit your whining, posturing and bitching and look for ways to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

Being a native of Kentucky who spent half of his live in metro Louisville, I am not unfamiliar with your self-serving ascent in politics. I think you've always been a divisive "us against them" public figure. I am ashamed of you.

06 March 2010


I can't decide whether to call what's happened during the last several hours today or yesterday because I've just woken up after four hours and can't seem to get back to sleep. So, I've decided to get some things "on paper". It's 2:55 AM.

So, Friday morning began just about like any other day for me. Coffee, e-mail, Facebook. Then I finished up some layouts for a client and made plans to meet click-boom for lunch. This was a meeting that our mutual friend option-d had suggested to both J.D. and myself a while ago. When I realized that his office was on the south side of Poplar off Germantown Road, I began to sweat because every time I drive to Germantown I get lost. This has been going on for years. Every Super Bowl party at my friend and former colleague's house? Lost. Trying to find the Apple store after it moved? Lost. You name it. If it's in Germantown, I'm adding a half-hour to my trip so I can drive in circles, look at a map on my iPhone and eventually end up where I'm supposed to be, often not without the aid of a telephone call.

The consternation starts long before I ever leave "the parkways," with me fretting over which route I should take to arrive at what part of Germantown Road, which stretches for some 25 or 30 miles from Brunswick (north) to Olive Branch, Mississippi (south). Oh, there's North Germantown Road, North Germantown Parkway, South Germantown Parkway and South Germantown Road, but it's all the same to me. Mind you, as I write this I'm beginning to understand where the "breaks" are, which might help me navigate this wilderness a bit better in the future.

The questions are: do I need to end up in Bartlett/Wolfchase/BFE? Am I trying to get to Cordova? Do I need to be near the Agricenter? Am I trying to get to old Germantown? Or, do I need to be in Olive Branch? For once in the more than 24 years I've lived in Memphis I made all the right turns and ended up in old Germantown but not without a call to J.D. to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

After I arrived at his office, we spent a little time getting to know each other and becoming more familiar with each other's work. We then climbed into his truck headed for lunch.
We stopped into the new Breakaway store to see some of Harvest's retail design, which was quite impressive, before walking over a couple doors to the Mexican deli. Before yesterday I'd never been to Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, but I'd heard about it several times in conversation. In the past whenever somebody mentions Mexican, or even Tex-Mex for that matter, I feel less than enthused. Molly's LaCasita, a Midtown institution, and Café Ole are two Tex-Mex options that I can embrace, but they're not Chuy's. I've been to El Mare on Jackson which has decent Mexican food but is in a questionable area in a dilapidated space leaving me wondering what other creatures are dining there. Taqueria Guadalupana can be good, too, but there's still something lacking to me.

Inside Las Tortugas, where the smell of fresh, good food was almost as overwhelming as how crowded it was, J.D. offered some background about the place. We discussed the numerous photos, newspaper articles and letters from patrons framed and up on the wall. I saw Neola Farms, (local, organic, grass-fed beef found at Memphis Farmers Market, Saturday mornings) listed among the day's specials. I was really feeling good about this place. Then, I met Jonathan.

At J.D.'s suggestion, I told him I was a newbie. Jonathan explained that his father, a native of Mexico City, opened the restaurant, that they serve real Mexican food and that nothing is brought in on a food service truck. When he asked me what I'd like to have, I told him to surprise me, and that I'd like a freshly-squeezed Limeade. After our orders were placed and in between looking through the many signs and anecdotes posted on the glass around the kitchen, J.D. teased me, telling me that Jonathan told him what he was making for me and it was going to be very special.

Surprised doesn't begin to express how I felt when after having his name called, rather than the numbers on our receipts, J.D. returned from the counter with two baskets saying, "this is yours." He went back and picked up his brisket sandwich and we sat down to eat. During conversation I was embarrassed that until he mentioned it, I'd forgotten to congratulate him on his "Best of Show Award" at this years Addy awards. I can be such a dunce sometimes. I thought about congratulating him before I left the house, checking my copy of the winner's book to make sure I was going to call his award by the right name, but then I guess "shiny-object-syndrome" reared it's ugly head and I forgot. Dang it!

Anyway, Las Tortugas was out of take-out menus and their website says they're in the process of updating it, so I'm sure I won't be calling all of this correctly, but I'll try. In one basket there was an ear of corn, coated with what appeared to be grated cheese and spices, flanked by two lime wedges on a paper liner dotted with a deep-red pepper sauce. In the other basket was a shredded lettuce salad with marinated cucumbers, next to two soft white corn brisket tacos with avocado, a small container of what looked like guacamole but tasted of pepper and lime, a flat yellow corn tortilla covered with spicy, shredded chicken and avocado slices, some homemade tortilla chips and a small dish of white sauce that resembled sour cream but also tasted of cheese. Everything was incredible. And, I promise, this is not me overusing a superlative like I often do. "Incredible" doesn't do the meal justice. In fact, the whole afternoon was amazing. Thank you, J.D.

This reminds me that aside from picking up a birthday card for my sister this morning, I need to refresh my thank you card stash since I still haven't sent my custom cards to press. I see a huge flaw in thought here, but I'm going to have to let it go lest this post become so long that I lose you, if I haven't already. Because I'm not done talking about this amazing day by any stretch of the imagination.

After I came home I took my usual casual approach to Friday afternoon, workload permitting, and took advantage of the sunny, over 60°F day. I took the dogs outside, pruned some roses, sketched some ideas in my journal, pruned the rosemary, read e-mail, tweeted, roughed out an idea for another client, cleaned the brake dust off of my wheels, and ironed a shirt.

At six o'clock I went next door to visit with Gene and Cindie, our long-time friends (and neighbors of 14 years), before we headed to Interim for dinner. Cindie invited me join them, Thursday, when she brought me a cookbook pulled out of other books she planned to donate to the Library. I didn't realize until we sat down at the table last night that they had intended to take me to dinner to celebrate some of the amazing things that have been happening with my work. This meant so much to me. Not only were they taking me to a very special place for dinner, but they wanted to celebrate the success with which I've been blessed in the last five months and they wouldn't let me pay.

With the help of Interim's menu, I'll share. For starters, Gene and I both had Oysters on the Half Shell with preserved lime mignonette and house made saltines, and Cindie had Sweet Potato Soup with crème fraiche, and toasted hazelnuts. For salads, Gene ordered Baked Goat Cheese Salad with arugula, red wine poached pears, sweetened pecans, and raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. I don't recall Cindie ordering this, but since I don't remember poached pears on her plate she must've had the House Green Salad with orange and hazelnut dressing since the only alternative was what I had. The menu says that it was a Tuscan Kale Salad, but if that was kale it was a kale I've never seen. I wonder if the menu has changed in the restaurant but not online? Anyway, with Grana Padano, garlic-herb croutons, creamy Caesar dressing and white anchovies, the salad was delightful. Unlike that of a typical anchovy, the flavor of the white anchovy was somewhat reminiscent to lighter pickled herring. It wasn't salty at all. Noting that, is when I realized that there were no salt or pepper shakers on the table. And, honestly, I didn't miss them.

For dinner, Cindie ordered Fish of the Day, red snapper, with parsnip puree, braised fennel, roasted brussels sprouts & citrus brown butter. Gene ordered the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, haricot verts, crispy onions & red wine demi glace, and I ordered the Steak of the Day, a medium-rare rib eye, with parmesan truffle fries, sautéed garlic spinach, & wild huckleberry sauce. Absolutely delicious.

Finally, once we decided to have dessert we each chose something different so we could share. Gene had Warm Chocolate Cake with chocolate ganache & vanilla gelato, Cindie ordered a Chai Green Tea Crème Brulee with what they called Snickerdoodles. But these were amber colored confections that looked nothing like the cookie with which we're all familiar. It was a beautiful dessert. I asked for the Croissant Bread Pudding with blackberry sauce & dulce de leche gelato. I have never really understood the phrase I've heard and perhaps even used, "taste so good it makes you want to slap yo mama," but this bread pudding was unlike any I've ever had.

Once we returned home from this fabulous evening, I took care of the puppies and thought I might like to watch "Big Fish" on the bedroom TV, but I barely made it through the first few minutes. I fell asleep filled with gratitude for all the wonderful things that have happened recently, and the awesome, fantastic, spectacular (superlative) day I experienced today, and the incredible people that make my life what it is. At the risk of sounding greedy, there is only one thing I would have changed: that Cameron was home to share it with me.

It's now 5:53 AM. Time to make some coffee, tidy up the house and anticipate his return from Tokyo. Have a lovely day, everybody.

23 February 2010

It's Craptastic!

Borrowing the above phrase, one which I usually save for reference to Comcast during all too frequent rebooting exercises, I am repurposing the phrase and am relieved to report that the LitterMaid debacle is finally over. I carried the piece of junk to the dumpster no more than thirty minutes ago. It's Craptastic!

Now we're back to using a Booda Clean Dome, the self-proclaimed "best litter box in the World." In this case, I'd have to agree. With it's grand, sweeping, circular steps into the "business" area, which are designed to prevent litter tracking, it reminds me of a theatre. Maybe it needs a marquee: "The Poop Theatre." Anyway, it's probably the least offensive color I've seen in a cat box. The last Booda, which we ditched when the LitterMaid was new and full of promise, was a hideous metallic turquoise color. I liken it's aesthetic to the nasty packaging design of Kleenex® and Puffs® boxes. Thank God for Target and it's monochromatic scheme.

Pardon me, I digress. Not that I would ever consider a litter box an integral part of decorating our home, The new Booda is the color of burnished gold, and it at least will sit quietly in the corner instead of screaming "look at my ugly, metallic [insert a color never intended for home interiors here] self!"

Sorry to cut this short, but I see a white tornado running crazily around the yard. Time to go wipe off "hands and feet," or I'll have to break out the sponge mop. Yes, I said sponge mop. I'd rather dip, squeeze, mop and rinse than swirl the dirt and leave a haze like I would with a Swiffer Wet Mop. We've been there, and done that. Procter & Gamble should have left well enough alone with their wildly successful replacement for the dust mop.

19 January 2010

I Found This Lurking in Draft Mode

Much of what I wrote on 2 January 09 still applies, including the turmoil if we change some of the locations. Last year it was China, this year Haiti. The remainder is applicable, too, in spite of the media's non-stop attempt to tell us otherwise. In the end how we respond -- as individuals, as a nation and as a world -- is what counts.


We could approach 2009 with a somber tone if we chose. There are so many lives all over this third rock from the sun in turmoil, and for them the stroke of midnight on December 31 didn't bring magical transformation. In the so-called "news" I hear plenty of 2008-bashing with good reason I suppose. At first considering the quagmire in Iraq, the earthquakes in China, foreclosures everywhere, job loss and the failing world economy the past year looks pretty bad.

Sitting here in the comfort of my home it's easy to say WE make the years good or bad. It's easy to say it's all about attitude or outlook on life. But, it is. When we eliminate from the equation the part of life over which we have no control -- the things with which we simply have to cope -- the year wasn't so bad.

But the economy? The war? Poverty? Ours. It's up to us to be the harbingers of change. And, as for 2008 We had the courage to change the things we could. At least the election resulted in something hopeful.

And, for me, 2008 wasn't so bad after all is said and done. It wasn't without its hardships. That's life. Saying this doesn't mean I'm not ready for the symbolic "mulligan." I pray for serenity, acceptance for the things I can't change, courage to change the things I can, and finally the wisdom to know the difference.

Today is going to be a great day.

How to Write Your Mission Statement

While consulting with a client today I suggested that they might want to include a mission statement as part of their home page especially since they're a newly established firm. I found three articles that approach creating one and they're all worth reading:

From Entrepreneur, lengthy but informational

From wikiHow, a more succinct, step-by-step approach

and finally, from FastCompany, a more candid commentary but one definitely worth reading:

18 January 2010

A Christmas Eve Post in the Middle of January

I nearly forgot that this draft was sitting on my desktop. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to chronicling the holidays and I might still get to it. But, hell, our tree and the few other decorations we set out this year came down just yesterday and found their way back up to the attic. While today is a day for reflecting on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., one during which I'd like to pay a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, my goal for today is to get the C-7 lights off of the eaves and back upstairs where they belong. One final leaf blowing extravaganza before Spring, which can't come soon enough to suit me, will follow.

Whatever you do today,
embrace it and do your best.

'Tis the Night before Christmas...

...and all through the house it's pretty quiet. The television is broadcasting the weather forecast. Billie, snoring, is sharing her bed with Georgia, and I am contemplating not only what to write here, but tomorrow's plans as well. I suppose I could recount the day I spent shopping with Becky, but then I'd be giving away some Christmas surprises if I went into too much detail. I guess I can be mindful of that and recount the day.

We started out meeting her daughter, Carly, for breakfast at Lynn's Paradise Cafe followed by visiting Regalo, a shop two doors down that sells unusual gift items, extraordinary jewelry and handbags, some well-designed household items and some irreverent novelties. One of the latter I picked up for Thom was a yellow-plaid dish towel with the recipe for "Sh*t on a Shingle". The way this is spelled is not me being polite, it's the way it was spelled on the towel. I bursted with laughter when I saw it and immediately thought of Thom because he seems to replace his kitchen towels with an almost obsessive regularity. While there, I considered purchasing a charging station that looked like grass in a black planter. It was extremely clever, especially when compared to the myriad wooden box options sold at the likes of Target and Pottery Barn, but in the end I couldn't justify the expense. If I decide later that I want it, I'll look for it and buy it online.

From Regalo, we drove to Market Street to visit Red Tree, then Scout. Red Tree was an eclectic mix of furniture, fixtures, gifts and art, both original one-of-a-kind pieces and others of the mass-produced variety. There were some really nice things there, and a couple that I thought I could use, but in the end I exercised better judgement, saved my money and avoided having to ship things home or risk looking like the Clampetts driving back to Memphis.

Carly had to leave for a matinee performance of "A Wonderful Life," the musical adaptation of Frank Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life." She's playing, Sam Wainwright's wife. "Yee-hawww." So when she left, Becky and I walked a few blocks to Scout. There, all bets were off. I found Christmas gifts among the unusual things (at least for me) stocked in the store. They sold fantastic smelling candles, one of which greeted us upon opening the door. It smelled of fresh pine but with a hint of a warm fire. I immediately noticed that the music playing was that which I'd heard all during the previous week on Christmas Lounge on SOMA FM. With that, I knew I was going to love this place. Scout offered handmade jewelry, including work from a friend of my brother's, Sarah Balmer, Jonathan Adler pottery, hats, gifts and unusual objets d'art. The store was a visual and sensual overload. They had great stuff in every corner and there were a couple of things that I simply couldn't resist. I truly hope Cameron believes my "find" for him as much a treasure as I do.

After Scout, we drove to St. Matthews by way of the wrong exit from I-64 onto the Watterson Expressway, another exit to Breckinridge Lane, through Dupont Circle -- the back way into Mall St. Matthews. Through the parking lot, out again and another wild turn onto Shelbyville Road landed us half-in and half-out of the left turn lane into the plaza where World Market is located after I realized the line to get into the parking lot ended just one car length from the intersection. I squeezed in as far as I could. I held back my nervous laughter upon seeing the expression on a passing man's face who hadn't been paying attention. His unpleasant surprise at seeing my right taillamp not quite in my lane seemed to pass as quickly as his Bentley.

We had to visit World Market because all three stores in Memphis closed last year. And, I need Key Lime Seasoning for our proscuitto-wrapped grilled scallops. I included the recipe, aptly named Key Lime Grilled Scallops, in this year's update of "Betwixt the Both of Us," the TasteBook cookbook I published last year as gifts to family and friends. They only had three jars of the spice left but I figure that's enough to hold us over until I can visit another World Market sometime in the future. A couple of Nesbitt's orange sodas (without high-fructose corn syrup), a stocking stuffer and two bars of soap finished my excursion "around the world."

After her show, Carly met us at "eyedea" in Butchertown. It's a consignment/antique store loaded with some fantastic furniture, lamps and art. There I found a miniature New Albany Train Station for Thom, who collects miniature architectural gems. The train station was a beautiful, triangular shaped structure that stood for decades on Vincennes Street begging to be restored and put to another use. But fire would destroy it before it's renaissance could happen and I knew that Thom was heartbroken as he listened to the news of it's demise on the radio one morning on his way to work. I also picked up two vintage bottlebrush trees with foil stars. The whole lot was just over $10!

The New Albany Train Station

From eyedea we went to Butchertown Market to visit Canoe and Work the Metal. Canoe featured Turkish clothing, rugs, huge urns and lighting among some gift items. What they sold there was beautiful, but nothing for which I'm in the market. Work the Metal sold gifts, furniture, lighting with more of an irreverent, modern approach. It occurred to me that the shops to which Becky and Carly took me were ones I don't remember seeing the likes of when I moved to Memphis from Louisville in 1986. It was great seeing such forward thinking and progress in what I once considered my sleepy hometown with tons of unrealized potential.

We finished the day at an at least new-to-me location of Bristol Bar and Grille, located at the Sheraton in Jeffersonville. As the sun set the lights of Louisville's skyline began to twinkle. Becky's husband, David, met us there and it was great sharing dinner and the evening with my former classmates and their beautiful daughter.

14 January 2010

Must-See Cars at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show

Must-See Cars at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show

For many years I've wanted to go to the Detroit Auto Show. And every year when the reviews start rolling in, I think, "crap!" I've missed it again. The editors at MyRide have done a nice recap of what they consider highlights of the show. My favorite quote is about the new Lincoln MKX: "The MKX gets the awkward Lincoln face." I saw what I consider a few awkward faces in this year's offerings, but I'm happy to see that automakers are getting away from the "me-too" smiley faces of the 1990s.