Archive for the ‘consumerism’ Category

Hillary, give it up

March 31, 2008

Now, I’m neither the youngest nor the brightest lightbulb in the fixture, but I do want to make it clear that I know my subject line isn’t the same as “Give it up for Hillary.” Nor do I mean it to be.

There’s a terrific Jimmy Margulies cartoon in today’s “Week In Review,” the op-ed section of the Sunday NY Times. The interviewer/commentator says: “The math is against you in delegates needed for the nomination. . .” and Hillary responds: “I didn’t give up at Valley Forge. . .I didn’t give up at Gettysburg. . .I didn’t give up at D-Day. . .and I’m not giving up now.”

Hillary, you have proven yourself a prevaricator without even the sense to understand when your untruths have been detected. I know you haven’t claimed to have invented the Internet or saved the free world single-handedly. But you have demonstrated the one characteristic that sends me running to the bathroom in case of projectile vomiting. You are the ultimate politician.

Sweetie, I’m your target demographic, an over-50 woman with a couple of college degrees, a lifetime in business, and a strong belief that a woman in the Presidency would bring something that’s badly needed.

But not you. Not now, not ever.

I’m old enough to have voted for both John Anderson and Ross Perot, knowing in each case that I was probably wasting my vote but hoping for something other than business-as-usual. I can honestly say I never even contemplated voting for Ralph Nader, however.

I’m of that rare breed called the “truly independent.” I was a registered Democrat for an extended period of time until I decided that the Democratic Party had lost its marbles. So then I became a registered Republican. Ditto with that party. For some time now, I’ve been registered without party affiliation.

I pay a price for that. I can’t vote (in Oregon, anyway) in any of the party primaries. I contemplated registering again as a Democrat just so I could vote against you in May, but then I realized how many fund-raising and ideological mailings I’d get and decided against it. I think my fellow Oregonians will take care of you here. Many of them actually have some sense.

But if you are banking on calling in chits with the “superdelegates” (and what a crock that is–a group of party “elite” in place to override the will of the voters in case they aren’t smart enough to choose the right candidate–this is democracy?), I hope you will think again. A candidate who gets there by such means will have no more credibility than a President elected by the Supreme Court, to quote someone else’s recent example.

So give it up. Now. Let’s get on with a race between two people who arguably are outsiders from the political establishment, let them present their views, and let the people choose. At this point you are merely a spoiler.

And while I’m busy ranting on this topic I almost never comment on, I have a few words for the other major candidates in this race:

Barack: The Jeremiah Wright thing told me a great deal more about your character than almost anything else you’ve done. I congratulate you for being forthright. I have lots of “sparring partners” with whom I don’t agree (otherwise, we wouldn’t be sparring now, would we?). In fact, if people evaluated my character by the folks that I tolerate and even like to argue with, they’d be way off the mark. Your response to these attacks told me you are really a grownup with a well-developed sense of a diverse world.

I don’t have the background to know the things that you “know” about racism. But I congratulate you on your ability to articulate your position without blowing in the wind.

John: I’m a long-time admirer of yours, but I frankly liked you a great deal better before the GOP apparently started coaching you on what was required to get elected. You’re sounding like a politician, and that isn’t one of your strengths.

I have a certain amount of faith in your common sense and straight talk. Don’t waffle now. Stay who you are, and I might even vote for you. Unlike many of my acquaintance, I don’t think foreign policy is going to be made in the campaign speeches. I just want to elect someone I feel comfortable can make it. No matter who is President, we don’t be out of Iraq tomorrow. But you buy yourself nothing by being so belligerent about it.

Now a few words for “my fellow Americans”: Hey, guys, if you haven’t noticed, the world is changing. It’s not just global warming, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the devalued dollar, and the globalized economy. It’s a comeuppance to the sort of economic colonialization that the U.S.A., as an economically powerful superpower, has been able to indulge in for decades.

If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and hoping for different results, then go toe your favorite party line and vote accordingly.

But if you are concerned about a viable (not necessarily wealthy or over-consuming, just viable) future for yourself and your childen, then take some time to look beyond the heirs apparent for a leader who can actually think. And vote accordingly.

Whoever is elected this fall steps into a mess. He/she will need all of our good wishes and help, so vote for someone you want to help advance “in the direction of your dreams” (to paraphrase Thoreau), not someone you think can fix all your problems.

That person doesn’t exist.

Thoughts on Christmas Eve, and a poem for you

December 24, 2007

Dear Santa,

It’s difficult to ask for something when you already have so much. So I guess the truth of it is, there’s nothing on my Christmas list this year for me.

But for the last four or five weeks, I’ve recycled about 50 pounds of advertisements a week. Despite the fact that I read them thoroughly, I was unable to find the things I’d like to give my friends. So let me instead make a list of things I hope you bring the people I care about. (If you want to broaden the task and give them to other people, too, that’s OK by me.)

I’d like my friends to have the following:

  • A measure of the peace and joy I find in this wonderful place I live. Today is calm and bright, a welcome break from the wind and 15 inches or so of rain we’ve had this month.
  • The luxurious pleasure of living in the moment. There’s something about having the time to listen to birdsong and the rush of water in the river and assorted culverts that’s priceless. Maybe that’s why I can’t find it for sale anywhere.
  • The warmth of a woodstove with lots of dry wood. If it’s a cookstove, so much the better for baking and roasting.
  • Freedom from war. I hope some day someone solves this issue. I seriously doubt it will be in my lifetime, but I can always hope.

I know you’ll come through for me Santa, but in the meantime, I’ll just leave my friends with a gentle reminder that there’s a lot more to Christmas than decorations and presents.

There Are Many Ways to Have a Happy Christmas

For thirty-three winters, the end of December
I’ve placed and trimmed a corner Christmas tree,
A noble fir.  These ornaments remember
Other people, other times, great glee,
Glad tidings of grandchild to come, the warmth
Of laughter, music in the fragrant air,
A yule log blazing brightly at the hearth,
Cedar scented boughs, the candles’ flare.

This December, my corner has only debris
From building a house, not finished, not by far.
The ornaments remain in boxes, and the tree
Has not been cut, stands with others regular
Along the road.  The skies clear, and I see
Above each treetop, God has placed a star.

Merry Christmas to all of you reading this, whether you celebrate it or not.

Hugs, Marianne

(Updated 12/25 with format corrections)

Listen up, magazine publishers

December 22, 2007

OK, this is a rant. I admit it. I’m getting older, crankier, and less tolerant of 1) stupidity, 2) consumerism, and 3) other things that annoy me greatly.

But I have no intention of going gently into the night, so I will rage as it pleases me, and it does occasionally please me very much.

The topic on my mind today is publishing and reading. I’m disturbed by the continuing news that fewer and fewer people actually sit down and read things like books. This has nothing to do with the fact that I write and everything to do with the fact that I think. I want other people to think, too, not just swallow whatever sound bite is being handed out at the moment. And I believe I owe a great deal of my ability to think to the fact that I have been a voracious reader all of my life.

But what’s really bringing on this rant is what I see as a disturbing trend in periodical (magazine AND newspaper) publishing. It seems to me that this trend actually discourages readers at a time when most publications are wracking their brains to figure out how to keep/increase subscribers.

I first noted it with Vanity Fair.  When my subscription was running out, I almost didn’t renew it. The reason was their continuing burying of the table of contents in a rash of photo ads. In one notable issue, the first page of the TOC was on something like page 46!

The really stupid thing about this is that VF’s photo ads are so beautiful that I would probably look at them anyway if they were scattered appropriately throughout the magazine. But having to search for the TOC is so annoying that I almost gave the magazine up.

Then I realized that every issue had at least one article that I was really glad I read, an article that in all likelihood I wouldn’t have seen published elsewhere. So I renewed. But interestingly enough, now I skip those beautiful photo ads and flip through until I find the various TOC pages (they are never adjacent). I dog-ear them, and that’s the end of my attention to the ads.

But now the practice is spreading. Even my beloved New Yorker recently has run several pages of ads before the TOC. At least they keep the multi-page TOC all together. The corker for me was this week’s Sunday NY Times.  In section A (the news section, remember), more than half the pages were devoted to full page advertising. That’s not while I buy the NY Times.

I understand that advertising keeps my prices lower (although $5.00 for a Sunday paper hardly qualifies in my mind as a “bargain”). But I’m also one of those “real readers,” people who actually pay extra money to subscribe to publications that don’t wallow in advertising, publications like The American Scholar, The Hedgehog Review, and Poetry Magazine.

I’m also one of those people who is likely to continue reading and subscribing, at least to publications that don’t annoy me beyond my tolerance level. And it seems to me that publishers are running a real risk of alienating readers who are really the bread-and-butter of their subscription revenues.

Of course this is all driven by the god of Consumerism, the great American religion. But that topic annoys me so much I couldn’t possibly do justice to it here. If you’re still with me this far, I applaud you. I’ll rant separately about consumerism. . .

End of rant. I do feel better now.

Chilly, and chili (no Chile, or maybe just a little)

December 2, 2007

The subject line I just typed in reminds me of my current recent episode of insanity. Ben and I between us are trying to shore up the U.S. economy with a spate of consumer buying. Here is my most recent excursion, but probably not the last tonight. Later on we’ll be logging into Cabela’s Web site, which is probably going to be very expensive.

A couple of days ago, I ordered the full 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. I’ve coveted this for years. I have a real fetish for dictionaries, I think, that matches my fetish and focus on words. It’s not a minor purchase. Each time I’ve been on the verge of buying it, I thought, “Well, perhaps next week.”

But right now it’s on sale. I’ve never seen it on sale before. The price is 15% below what I’ve ever seen, and the sale price includes the CD version with full search capacity. I don’t want to be limited to that. I want the print version. But I’m curious to see if they have actually used hyperlinking and other modern innovations to provide more robust capabilities.

I’ll soon know, I guess.

It’s coming by UPS. We have an agreement with UPS to leave packages on the neighbor’s porch, since our gate is always locked. I can’t wait to hear Kenny’s call when he discovers boxes weighing 150 lbs. on his doorstep.

The post office has called nearly every day this week to let me know they have a box “too big for the mailbox.” I really appreciate the heads-up. It lets one of us be down to greet Betty when she arrives instead of having the package sit beside the county road until someone thinks to check the mail.

We awoke this morning to a skiff of snow on the ground. It was lovely. Most of it melted by noon, which is a perfect snow day. What I’d really like is to awake to six inches of snow, go out and play in it, and have it all gone by the end of the day. But that isn’t how things work.

The wind is picking up, as is the rain. So perhaps the promised hurricane is going to materialize too. I took down the doorbell tonight (a hanging clanger powered by a scultured maple leaf) so we wouldn’t have to listen to the wind knocking at the door all night. It will stay down until the storm passes.

So, it was chilly all day. Now I have a big pot of chili on the stove, with cornbread soon to follow in the oven. I’m slowly assembling the topping mix for a batch of olive crostini for tomorrow’s hors d’ouevre potluck at Donna’s house.

The only thing I can tell you about Chile at this moment is how much I love most of the works of Isabel Allende. What a fine writer.

But the chili is a bribe. Ralph’s hooking up the Wii tonight.

The Cluetrain Manifesto

November 13, 2007

My friend Josh will be ecstatic to learn that The Cluetrain Manifesto is featured prominently in the current issue of The Economist.

The occasion is an article on how marketers are tapping social networks in the cause of promoting their clients’ products. The Economist points to “Cluetrain” as the first broad statement of what they are trying to do.

You might want to read the article and then consider what you are revealing on your Facebook or My Space Page. 

If you aren’t familiar with the 95 theses (not a coincidence: the authors are hoping to revolutionize marketing the way that Luther tried to revlotionize the Church) of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the entire text is online. Go to the home page for a quick recap, then click on “Read. . .” in the left navigation bar.

I feel a small rant coming on, and a household tip for you

November 7, 2007

I absolutely loathe, detest, and despise modern packaging.

I’m old enough to remember when there were real hardware stores with big bins of nuts and bolts. You went in to the store, selected what you needed, and paid for it. Now you have a choice of packages of pre-counted amounts of things, all carefully sealed in unbreakable plastic wrap with a handsome cardboard outer with description, price, and so on.

These packages are the reason I find it necessary to have heavy duty kitchen shears in at least three rooms of my house.

But I also resent having to buy five screws when I need three. What do I do with the other two? They go in my tool box in the mixed screw section. But I’ll never remember they are there.

I’m a great believer in “reduce, reuse, recycle.” I can’t often do much about the “reduce” part. You buy the things you need, and you’re more or less at the mercy of the manufacturer. Although I will say this: For many years we ate only Jif peanut butter. We all liked it. Then Jif switched from glass jars, which I reused like crazy, to plastic. I refused to buy it. I wrote them a letter explaining why. I got no answer.

But the good news is that I then discovered Adams peanut butter, which is a far superior product that’s actually virtually all peanuts and always comes in glass jars. Ben rebelled at having to stir his peanut butter, but I kept buying it. Then Adams came out with a “no-stir” variety that had only minor amounts of adulteration. We’ve all been happy since. I buy no other brand, even though the crunchy style that we prefer is sometimes hard to find.

The “recycle” part is easy. We do huge amounts of that.

But then we get to “reuse.” This is the other part of modern packaging that makes me nuts.

This time of year, lots of things–nuts, chocolates–come in rather large plastic containers. I’m pretty much opposed to plastic on principle, but if I can reuse the container for an extended period of time, my anxiety level goes down. I much prefer glass, but the larger plastic containers can be used to keep tea bags fresh, store bread crumbs, and otherwise make a repository for things that do better if they’re in an air-tight environment. But–

The people who market these things seem to feel obliged to put on their labels with an adhesive with some of the qualities of that ghastly black mastic adhesive that was used for so many years to secure phony paneling or tile to plaster board. It’s almost impossible to remove, rendering the container somewhat less than useful. At least it was. Tonight I made a great discovery.

I had one of these containers that I was trying to remove the glue from. I first of all tried some hand lotion that I won’t use because it’s too greasy. Hopeless. After that, I added some detergent to a scrubber sponge and tried that. No dice.

Then I remembered a tip that I read somewhere about how to get pitch or bubblegum out of your hair. My hair is about 30 inches long, so it’s important to know these things. But the tip was this: Rub peanut butter on it, and it will dissolve.

So I rubbed a little (and it really was only a VERY little) Adams on my recalcitrant jar and–voila! The glue washed right off.

But what a waste of good peanut butter.

Buying spree

August 3, 2007

Recently I wrote about my new little cast-iron skillet, a Griswold #5. I am pleased to report that after significant testing, it is a truly superior omelette pan, holding enough heat to cook the eggs without scorching them. Woo-hoo!

But that wasn’t the end of my shopping this week.

I hate to shop. I mean, I REALLY hate to shop. I think I’m just so old that there really isn’t anything I want to put in that much effort to buy, except for, well, a few things. . .

I bought my first item on eBay this week, a terrific and very large Pyrex percolator. We’ve used these the entire time we’ve lived together, but they’re very fragile, and for the last couple of years we’ve been reduced to a couple of 6-cup pots. Works great for the two of us, but when we have company, I feel like I’m making a pot of coffee every 5 minutes.

So a few days ago, I successfully bid for a “rare 12-cup model.” It arrived yesterday. It’s really a 10-cupper, but it was in perfect condition, packed in a manner to survive shipping, and so much better than anything I had previously that I’m thrilled.

Then I went to town after a canning marathon. It is grossly unfair that canning has to be done during the hottest time of the year. If the vegetables got ripe in December and January, having the kitchen woodstove going all day would be a real treat. Having it going all day in August and September is a debilitating experience, even with all of the windows open.

Now I could can on my propane stove. But the idea of burning 1-2 gallons of propane to heat all of that water and do all of that cooking and end up with $2 worth of vegetables is not acceptable. So we fire up the wood stove. The heat there isn’t free, but the cost is mostly labor (not mine, the guys’) and a little chain saw gas.

I had to go to town a couple of days ago, and all the way in I was mulling over the problem of summertime cooking. As you may recall, I love to bake. The heat from the canning just about did me in, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not baking all summer. And I was thinking about my neighbor’s convection oven, which sits on a counter top and does amazing things by virtue of its 110 connection.

I have 110 power, it just takes a generator to get there. Over the past few days, I’d been thinking about this. I meant to go online and look for these ovens, fully expecting to pay $200-300 for one. But O never did. When I got to Bi-Mart, I got the things I went for (I don’t even remember what they were) and then went over to appliances to look for a counter top oven.

I made it past the 25 models of microwave (not interested, I have one I got for free that gets used occasionally to pop corn on movie nights) and found one countertop oven. It was under $90, and it had settings for bake, broil, convection, and rotisserie. And it only required a 1500-watt 100 power supply. Who could resist?

So I brought it home. Much to my surprise, Ben didn’t have a nervous breakdown at me bringing home an electric oven to our basically non-electric household. He’s pretty cool about new toys, probably because I’m generally pretty cool about his new toys, from the miniature chain saw to the Cobra mustang.

I did the burn-in tonight, and it seems to work just great on the generator. Apple pie is coming this weekend, and possibly biscuits. I also have more canning to do, but I’ll keep doing that on the wood stove as the most cost-effective option.

A few more words about Beer Chips. . .

June 22, 2007

Updated with access to the Beer Chips Web site

I don’t buy things because of their packaging, but I have to admit that when I see what I consider elegant and well thought out packaging, it catches my attention and admiration.

One of the reasons I bought the first bag of Beer Chips was the packaging. It caught my eye. It has the visual quality of a mylar balloon, suggesting lightness AND festivity, celebration. It’s bright gold, suggesting richness and elegance. The lettering is black, nice for contrast, but also pretty assertive. Altogether, it was enough to make me pick up the package and look at it, even thought I had already gone through checkout.

On the back was some information about the product, which was nice, and the suggestion that although Beer Chips wouldn’t make me drunk, they might make me more interesting. Nice point. There was also an e-mail address in case I had “something important to tell them.” Very nice!

Then there was the upside down entry that I mentioned to Lisa in my earlier post: “If you can read this, you’re spilling your Beer Chips.”

They had me then, and I had to try them. I have a huge aversion to the warning labels that seem to be mandated on everything from toilet paper to tractors. When I read most of them, my immediate reaction is, “Duh! People who need this warning should be subject to Darwin’s hypothesis about the survival of the fittest.”

But I admit that I found it rather charming that the Beer Chips folks would consider warning people who might be using their product in conjunction with somewhat less than responsible activity not to waste the product. Then I discovered they were manufactured and sold from Portland.

I picked up a bag and got back in the checkout line.

My overall reaction as a consumer: They’re very tasty. They are a tiny bit sweet, somewhat like the sweet potato chips that are appearing now, but they are also very, very crisp, like another Portland product, Kettle Chips, that I also find a favorite.

The bag is nearly empty, and truth be told, I’ll probably buy more, even though I don’t eat potato chips all that often. But these were yummy and a good value for the money. Besides, these seem to be quirky people that I would be happy to support.

If you’d like more information about Beer Chips, including the ability to order them even if you don’t live in Oregon, go to the Beer Chips Web site.

PS: It appears that this post is going to come from Moonjelly. I’m still learning some of the ins and outs of WordPress, but I’m participating in another blog where I’d rather be a little more anonymous, so I’ve changed my public name and picture. If it bothers you, let me know.

Birds of the Big Elk; DIY adventures

May 11, 2007

I am taking an enforced break from my assorted projects today because all of the batteries I need at the moment are dead. So I’ve started the generator and will give them at least a partial charge. I’ll tell you about the project, then about some rather amazing birds from the last few days.

I’m trying to hang some closet-pole-type hangers from the back porch supports for my hanging baskets. I’ve got the holes drilled, but the only suitable screws I could find are square drive. I have a square driver, even one of the right size, but it has to go into a screwdriver body. I don’t have a square driver that has its own handle.

I have a very good Ryobi drill/driver and I stole a battery from one of the Ryobi flashlights. But the body is too fat to fit in where it needs to go. So I got out my little Makita with the tilt head. It fits just fine, but I haven’t used it in over a year, so of course the battery is deader than a doornail (what does that mean, anyhow?). So, when the Makita battery is ready, I’ll go finish the job that’s 80% complete. Technology has stopped me once again.

We’ve got a ton of birds this year, and I’m really enjoying most of them, the exception being the wild pigeons that are trying to steal our small cherries and plums. We’ve discovered that pigeons apparently have an attention span of 28 minutes. That’s how long after you scare them away that it takes them to return. And they are very smart, but that’s really long story I’ll have to save for another time.

Yesterday in the garden I saw a young bald eagle. He was so new his feathers hadn’t changed color yet. He was trying to fly with the turkey vultures, but they flew so much more gracefully and effortlessly than he did that I think he became embarassed. At any rate, he soon flew away.

Ben and I saw a pair of golden eagles up above the ridge. I think they were getting ready to mate, but they flew off up the valley so we didn’t get to watch. I’m not a voyeur, but I’ve wanted to see that ever since discovering Walt Whitman’s fabulous poem “The Dalliance of Eagles.”

The hummers are at war around the feeder. There are two ruby-throated females. They are the most territorial and aggressive of the lot, and I think they spend more energy duking it out than they get from the feeder. They’ve been beak to beak several times just today.

There are also two of the little green ones. They are much smarter. They fly into the nearby trees and just wait quietly until the two red ones get so mad at each other they fly away with one chasing the other. Then the little green one hops on the feeder and eats her fill.

Today Ben and I were sitting on the deck watching the hummer wars when a male Western tanager flew up and lit on a branch about 6 feet from our heads. He just sat and watched us for awhile. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one, but they have bright yellow bellies and neon red heads. They are very lovely. He also did us the favor of calling, so now we know for sure what at least one of their calls is like. Finally he ambled off.

Of course there are also robins and juncos everywhere. There’s also a bird that I haven’t identified yet, but I will. I need a better bird book. The Audobon guide has too many with too little detail and variation in the pictures, and my Pacific NW Audobon field guide doesn’t have enough.

I’ll bet you’re tired of my complaining, so I’m going to go check the barbeque. The bird stuff got interrupted by Ben, who came up to the house to see why I was running the generator during the day. When I gave him my long song and dance story, he said, “Oh for Pete’s sake! Where do you want them?” “Where the holes are drilled, I’ll show you.” In five minutes he had them both up and I had my baskets hung. I was actually sort of hoping for that. He’s a foot taller than I am and had a much easier time of it.

I’ll take a picture in the next couple of days, but right now I’ve got so many half-finished projects going on in the back that it looks like Ma Kettle lived here, and I’d be embarassed to show you that.