Friday, April 29, 2011


It's not where you think.

Safeway, Target, Harris Teeter and Aldi have all committed to providing sustainable seafood options.

According to an article on AlterNet, Safeway, unbelievably, outperforms Whole Foods. Who knew?

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blackstrapping my Creative Juices

Sure. Why not blog about blackstrap molasses?

Today I learned how molasses is made, and it's food value. Turns out that molasses is the result of using centrifugal force to remove the pulp and sugars (mostly sucrose) from the sugarcane juice. Leaving it with all sorts of necessary minerals and vitamins, including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium.

Caveat: Although the sugar is stripped out, molasses is not calorie-free. Blackstrap, the version with the least remaining sugar, has 32 calories for a two-teaspoon serving. Compare that to light molasses, with the most remaining sugar content, at about 120 calories for the same portion.

Although the rich, deep coffee color of blackstrap molasses reminds me of fall and not the pleasant spring breeze now blowing in through the open patio door, I am moved to find recipes.  I am disappointed to turn up page after page of nothing but baked goods and baked beans.  That and an occasional meat marinade recipe.  Why such limited creativity?

Despite having an old bottle of Brer Rabbit blackstrap in my cabinet - love the bunny pic - I decide to use my memory as the taste tester.  If I get up, Lord knows I'll forget what I am doing, get started on something else, and entirely blow off the blog. 

I want to think about what molasses might complement.  Those who cook know you can think of a flavor in your head, and retrieve a taste memory.  Then you can remember your way through a mental catalog of ingredients, each with its own taste memory, mentally imagining the effect of the mingling of flavors. 

A random thought strikes.  Is this similar to famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven mentally imagining his musical scores, even though he became almost completely deaf?

I do have one clue:  several of the baked good recipes combined the flavors of ginger and molasses.  I will keep this in mind, but refuse to be pigeon-holed by it.  Both molasses and ginger are heavy, earthy flavors.  It takes a certain kind of ethnic food lover to enjoy this, and even my daughters aren't always on board with this. 

A food that molasses reminds me of is candied pecan.  Dense, not too sweet, nutty.  Those work well with fruit, on salads, maybe with cheeses.

I run through my mental repertoire.


Lentils with tomatoes sauteed with onions, add a teaspoon or two of molasses.  Hmmm...


Baby lettuce, with mozzarrella and strawberriesDrizzled with a vinegrette of molasses, balsalmic vinegar and blood orange flavored olive oil from O. 

Mmmm.... I actually got up to go test that one out.  Well, I didn't make the entire salad, but I dipped a strawberry into the dressing.  Definitely one of my better ideas.


Combine molasses, miso and a good dose of sherry; marinate - for just an hour or two - a thick white fillet of fish.  Broil.   I make and taste this marinade too - and approve.  Yes, I will use this soon. 

Dip tart apple slices into a mix of raw crunchy almond butter and molasses.   OMG.  This is really yummy.  Really.  Yummy.   Put.   It.   Away.

Slices of orange, arranged on top of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with molasses, with gingerbread cookies.   A final nod of my hat to the tradition of molasses married to ginger.  I don't have the oranges or the ice cream or the cookies, but I can taste this in my minds' eye and trust me, it's delicious.


You get the idea!

Soon as I use up this Brer Rabbit, I think I'll go out and buy myself a bottle of organic blackstrap.  How about you?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


How would you otherwise spend the next ten minutes?   I highly recommend you spend them here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where Have All the Cell Phones Gone, Long Time Passing?

We are gadget-crazy - replacing our old ones with the latest and greatest as soon as we can find the dough to do so.  What happens to all the old gadgets?  Thought you'd never ask!

Below is an important excerpt from Scientific American's article, "Gadgets are Garbage."  Read the rest of the article by clicking this sentence.

"Every now and then the public rises up to make an industry clean up its environmental act. As a result, car companies now offer hybrids, electrics and alternative-fuel cars. Beverage companies are making their bottles with a lot less plastic. New laws have reduced the chemicals that cause acid rain by 76 percent since 1980. And so on.

One industry in particular, however, continues to leave a disastrous eco-wake, because no such public pressure exists: consumer electronics.

You know those one billion cell phones we buy every year? Those 100 million cameras? That infinitude of laptops, Game Boys, TV sets and music players? Most of the ones we replace go to the dump. The Environmental Protection Agency calculated that in 2007, we threw away 2.25 million tons of electronics—82 percent of it into the landfill. That’s a lot of toxic chemicals and nasty metals that you really, really don’t want leaching into the water supply."

Friday, April 15, 2011

I've Been To Hell With Dell

I don't usually do this, but I'm posting the same blog in two places.  The other blog doesn't have readers yet, and I want this one read.  Sorry for the duplication if you've seen the other.

This is the post I just left on Dell's facebook wall.  Let's see if Dell will be honest enough to leave this post up.

"I have been on the phone now for over 70 minutes trying to get help. I paid for a 3-year, in-home warranty - the most expensive warranty offered me at sale.  I am on my second Dell computer. The first one was finally replaced when Dell acknowledged they couldn't fix it.  The second one was refurbished and apparently had one operating system installed over another, because half of its hard drive was unavailable. They made me send it in to the tech people, and it came back today.  They had not replaced the hard drive as promised - they say they didn't have parts, and it has more problems than it left with, including no sound or wireless capacity.  Now they are telling me that if I want to talk to anyone - tech or customer service IN AMERICA I have to buy ANOTHER warranty program. The one I have does not entitle me to talk to an American. I think I've wasted a full month of my life on the phone with Dell over the last three years."

It's been approximately three years since I bought my first Dell.  I wanted a Fujitsu - I've had three of those little computers that just keep giving - but the unit with comparable features to the Dell wasn't scheduled to be to market for several months.  The first Dell had one problem after another.  It was loaded with Vista - although the sales people assured me it would be fully upgradable when the new Windows product finally came out - and I spent probably 40 hours worth of time, no exaggeration, with Dell techs trying to get that computer to work.  Later, when I loaded it with Windows 7 under the careful tutelage of an online technician, the install failed.  The failure was not only no surprise, but Windows 7 was actually designed to be "rolled back" to Vista in case of an install failure.  Unfortunately, the roll back did not work on the Dell, and Dell had to wipe out my hard drive, and I had to cope with everything that implies, so that Windows 7 could be installed. 

After that, the computer never really worked again.  Couple that with the stuff that happens - it fell off the sofa once.  I spilled liquid on it once.  But that's what that expensive three year warranty is for, right? 

One thing to like about Dell's warranty is that they send someone right to your house to fix the computer.  However, one guy once broke my computer while fixing it, and they had to send out someone else to undo his work.  Another time, the guy was extremely annoyed when I told him my schedule wouldn't permit an appointment for a couple of days.  He gruffly told me to call when I was ready, but when I did, I discovered that he'd cancelled the work order with Dell.  Meaning, I had to start from scratch on the phone again.  No one was simply willing to look me up, push a button reinstating an old order.  No, we had to go through the entire rigamarole again.

Finally, Dell decided to simply replace my computer, although with a different model than the first.  Because, the in-home tech told me, the model I'd purchased was pretty much a lemon and Dell had stopped manufacturing it. 

To make a long story short, the replacement (Dell 1645 STUDIOxps if you want to know) is a lemon too.  The computer constantly announced that it would not proceed because the hard drive was full.  Delete something! it ordered me, over and over.

My initial calls to Dell yielded a pie chart showing about half the hard drive as grey matter - something was using it, but they couldn't tell what.  They blamed me.  They said obviously I had too much stuff on my computer.  If it didn't look like it, it must be because I had duplicates of everything.  Seriously?

Now understand.  I intentionally bought a huge hard drive.  Even though I mostly surf the web and create documents.  I do keep a few photos on the computer, but I zip them to save space, and move them onto disks when they get too plentiful.  I don't have games or computer aided design programs that eat space.  I don't keep music or movies on my machine.

I am whisked onto the set of Fringe.  My computer is mysteriously connected through a vortex to an identical computer across the void, an identical computer that sucks half the life from my hard drive. Yes, that's it. Halfsies with a computer on the other side.

Eventually, making my way through several techs over many hours of time, someone suggests that possibly a new operating system had been installed over an old one.  Who knows? 

Regardless, they finally offered to replace the hard drive with another.  Yes, that means I must yet again reinstall all my software.  Not their problem, of course.

Today I received Dell number two back from the shop.  I opened it and immediately noticed that the original hard drive remains.  All my programs and documents are still installed.  For a brief moment of hope, I believe Dell's technicians have made a back-up of my entire system somehow, and then reinstalled it.  But no.

I launch Internet Explorer and head to Facebook.  It opens to a video of the Marx Brothers singing "Lydia the Tatoo'd Lady."  Half way through the video, the faces distort suddenly.  Within moments, the sound coughs and disappears.  Then, the wireless goes down.  Now, I know it's not the router, because my little Toshiba is up and running next to the Dell.  I run a troubleshooter, and it tells me that my wireless switch is off. 

Did I accidentally knock it?  And what does that have to do with the picture or the sound?

I try the switch.  Nothing. 

I shut down the computer and reboot it.   I'm so not surprised when nothing happens. 

I reboot it again, this time on safe mode/networking.  Fine, it comes up.  Still no sound or internet though.  I restart it again, because not all troubleshooting works in safe mode.  This story is getting very boring, isn't it?  The computer comes back up, but a grey picture of a speaker is now on the screen, and an x is flashing off and on in the middle of it, making a little tick tick noise that it's still making, two and a half hours later, as I sit here and type.  A noise which the Dell tech later claims not to hear even when I hold the phone right up to the source of the noise.  Of course, why should he hear it?  He's OCEANS away.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Here we go again.  The only feeling worse than picking up the phone to call Dell is the feeling I used to get the first day of Legislative Session, when my stomach knotted up the minute I stepped on the capitol campus. 

Fortunately, I get a pleasant enough woman, although she has a heavy accent difficult to follow.  She begins asking me the routine questions.  She pulls up the file, finds the order number, and begins to read outloud every word on the screen.  It says exactly the same thing as the service slip inside the box.  Tedious.

I ask to talk to a supervisor when the woman wants to start from scratch trying to diagnose my computer, rather than simply figuring out how to get the previously documented problem dealt with.  The supervisor is a guy.  Although he starts out pleasantly enough, it deteriorates when he "diagnoses" my computer's problem without any information to be something completely different than the first techs originally concluded after our hours and hours of testing and talking.  He asks no questions.  He does not try to look at my computer remotely.  He wasn't the least bit interested in hearing what the techs had discovered during our long learning experience, and he prescribed something entirely different.   I wonder if I am being dismissed because I am female.  While it's not consistently my experience, it's happened more than once with a male foreign tech.

Unfortunately, the discussion is further complicated by the language barrier.  I barely understand the supervisor through his heavy accent,and I need to ask him repeatedly to slow down or to repeat.  On top of that, when I ask how I will be able to reinstall my Office 2010 upgrade, since the original 2007 is no longer on my equipment, he tries to convince me that Office will happily mistake a downloadable trial version of 2007 for a purchased version. 


Microsoft is way too smart for that.  If that worked, nobody would purchase a new version of any software.  In the end the guy simply said it wasn't his problem.  He just didn't care. 

It was at that moment, when I realized how little he cared, that I asked to speak to an American.

He tells me that no American will speak to me.  As I am not inclined to believe him, I asked to speak to his supervisor,  He has the audacity to claim that he is his own supervisor.  I insist he must have a boss, and he claims he IS his boss.  I ask to be transferred to an American tech, and he tries to dissuade me.  He tells me that I will have to pay for American help.  Despite my warranty.

I ask why.  Because, he tells me, American help is only for people who buy yet another warranty.   I decide to take my chances, hoping that an American will at least understand my plight and find someone to help me.  He grudgingly accommodates my request, but when I finally get transferred to America, they, too, are on the same page.  They don't even want to help me.  They talk down to me, like, I am not one of their paying customers.  Seriously.  The guy's name is David, the only identification he will give me is that he is on their YourTechTeam, he's clearly American, and he says, "You are not even entitled to speak with me."  Fancy that.

I ask for his supervisor.  He, too, tries to dissuade me, but I persist.  Eventually I am transferred to Devin YourTechTeam Badge ID 199592, who is infinitely more patient, claims to have "full authority to resolve my problems," but who also claims there is nothing he can do for me except document my concerns and send me back into the hell hole I just emerged from.  Devin confirms that there is nobody in America who will help me - unless, that is, I pay for the additional warranty service.   I ask him what "full authority to resolve problems" means to him.  I ask whether there is anyone with fuller authority.  He says No.  Over and over.  And tries to sell me the other Warranty product.

I get a sense of what it must have felt like to be a boat refugee, turned away at the American shore.  Except, I am an American.  How ridiculous is this?

Ok, I say, don't help me with technical service.  Just help me find someone to talk to in the United States - maybe someone who will sit on the phone with me while I deal with the people from the other out-of-country department.  Devin says the only other office in the U.S. is their legal department, and when I say, "fine, transfer me," he says I can contact Dell's legal department only by fax or U.S. mail.

Ever thinking, I get the bright idea to be transferred to Sales, where I know they have English speakers.  They are no fools.  Save those English speakers for the sale.

Devin says, "I will transfer you to sales if that's what you're asking me to do, but they cannot resolve your problem."   I know, I tell him, but I am counting on finding someone, somewhere, with more heart, or more authority, or more creativity than you.  Someone who feels sorry for me as a fellow human being, and will somehow, some way, find a way to help. 

This is America, where hope springs eternal.  

So Devin transfers me back to Dave, with instructions to transfer me to Sales.  He instead transfers me back to the pit of doom.  That shmuck.

With as much patience as I can muster, I tell the man who answers the phone, the man whose connection is cutting in and out because it has to travel to a satellite somewhere over another hemisphere back down to him, then up again and back to me, that I have been erroneously been transferred to him when I wish to speak to sales.  American sales. 

I am put on hold and after 2 hours exactly of phone time, the line disconnects.

It seems I have three choices.  I can hold my breath and dive back into the pit.  I can choose vendetta.  I can get on with my life without getting the Dell fixed.   I'm thinking that third option might be easier and in some ways - like for my blood pressure - cheaper.

Of course Dell won't help me.  Strictly as a business decision, why should they?  By now my file is dotted with comments.  I'm a lost cause.  They've no doubt paid out more sending people to my home and covering the cost of tech time than they earned from the original sale.  I'm just one unhappy customer they'd rather forget all together.

Although apparently I'm not alone.  I googled "Dell sucks" just to make myself feel better, and you would not believe what comes up.  There is even a website called  Or read this poor guy's story, "Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Dell Computers." It sounds a lot like mine. 

There's even a facebook page called Dell Sucks!  I joined.

Perhaps I will oblige them and go away quietly.  Perhaps I will dive back in.  For now, I am documenting this awful experience and putting it out there on the internet to make myself feel better, if nothing else.  Hours and hours of trying to talk my way through Dell's official channels haven't netted me a working computer.  I am trying the in-your-face angle.  I hope everyone who reads this will SHARE it, on facebook, on twitter, by email.  Use the little share tool to the right of this post.  This blog post isn't funny or clever enough to go viral, but if enough people share it, somewhere - hopefully in America - perhaps some Dell exec will take pity on me and make this right. 

Maybe.  Probably not.   But maybe.  It is, after all, America.  Anything can happen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Millions in Farm Subsidies To Manhattan Residents?

Dear Tea Party Friends,

I have a tiny little request.  Would you mind calling your favorite elected Tea Party official and ask them wazzup with these agricultural subsidies?  Seriously, they can save a bundle if they'd just take a hard look at agribusiness welfare. 

They're way more likely to listen to you than to me.

Every day on facebook you agree with me that government needs to get out of big business. You say you believe, like I do, that taxpayers should not be subsidizing profitable industries like forestry, ranching, agribusiness, and mining.

We've agreed that it might have been appropriate to subsidize those industries when the country was young - to incentive pioneers out to take business risks in the wilder, less comfortable parts of the landscape.

But not now.

So guess what? In their enthusiasm to reduce the deficit, Congress nevertheless apparently feels it is important to maintain the agribusiness subsidies at full levels. While I might support subsidies to small and medium-sized farmers working on tight margins, why do our taxpayer dollars need to support mega-corporations like ADM and other huge agribusiness interests?

Annie Shattuck, an analyst for the Oakland, California-based Institute for Food & Development Policy, told the International Business Times that, in 2009, Congress subsidized agriculture to the tune of $15 billion, with 90 percent of that sum underwriting the production of just five crops - corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton - mainly through large farming operations. And guess what?  Most of those crops weren't even used for food!  They became animal feed and raw materials for industry. 

I can see an argument around the idea that subsidized agriculture reduces the cost of food, but... if much of the crop isn't even used for food, how does that idea hold water?  If we are subsidizing the industrial use of crops, e.g. corn for ethanol or cotton for cloth, shouldn't we let the industries internalize those costs and then let individuals decide whether they want to pay the price? 

I mean, libertarian friends, isn't this what you're always arguing?

So, I am still looking for national distribution figures, but I did find a study showing 91 percent of federal subsidies paid to North Carolina farmers went to just 10 percent of North Carolina farms - and not the tiniest 10 percent either.  And if you click here, it will take you to a lot of information about national farm subsidy distribution.

And then there's Manhattan.   Guess what?  A huge share of farm subsidies don't go to farmers.  Farmers are often tenants, but subsidies go to wealthy land owners.  According to a study of farm aid distribution by Barry K. Goodwin, Ashok K. Mishra, and Francois Ortalo-Magn, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) argued for reducing farm subsidies by noting:

"$3.1 million in farm payments went to the District of Columbia, $4.2 million has gone to people living in Manhattan, and $1 billion of taxpayer money for farm payments has gone to Beverly Hills 90210."

Can I get in on that?

# # #

Unbelievably, none of this was my original reason for blogging today. 

My original reason was to lament the passing of $247 million worth of WIC, the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children, that provides a minimal amount of food and nutrition assistance to "at risk" poor families.  These dollars are some of the best-spent federal aid ever.  Increases in prenatal care, newborn birth weight, live infant births, and more can be correlated to this aid. 

As opposed to agri-subsidies, which apparently can be correlated to Beverly Hills poolside parties.

Yes, Tea Party pals, on February 19th, your favorite newly-elected budget slashers did a middle of the night wipe out of 10 percent of "WIC," the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children. This amounts to taking food out of the mouths of about a million kids.

Given that the unemployment and underemployment figures are skyrocketing - according to Gallup poles, the unemployment plus under-employment combined has hit about 20 percent - one wonders what those D.C. folks were thinking. 

Maybe they were thinking about how to pay for the farm subsidies.  Makes sense to me.  Not.

# # #

You might want to link to the latest blog post by Environmental Working Group's Ken Cook.  This is what got me going. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fix it!

I just read a cool story by Ted Cox (AlterNet) about a new kind of product, one designed to be easily taken apart and put back together by the consumer. If it breaks, fix it. How novel is that?

Seriously, we knock off two problems with one idea.  Reduce our expenditures, which, given the nature of the economy and the propensity of our politicians to make sure that doesn't get any better for those of us making under $106,000 a year, this is going to become increasingly important.  Second, the less of a throw-away society we are, the better for the environment.

"RepairWare" is the brainchild of industrial designer Samuel Davies, and his first imagined product, pictured here, is a repairable iron.  I have to say, considering how many of us go to great lengths to avoid ironing - I put my clothes in the shower and they get steamed while I bathe - I'm not sure it's the best pick for the new product launch.  But I really like the concept.

While we wait for the big manufacturers to pick up this idea - might be a long time because it works against their profit factor - I suggest that the next time something busts, we take it down to Ace Hardware and see whether the nice old guy who works the hardware section can help us take it apart and figure out what's wrong.  

In fact, that's a great idea, if I do say so myself.  How about Ace Hardware instituting an appliance repair clinic.  We could retrain in self-reliance, create a market for parts, and employ some old guys as instructors!  Ok, or young ones.  Either way.  I like it.