Friday, February 14, 2014

Is Not Having Kids Right For You?

I couldn't resist not posting this… sent to me by a dear friend of mine who shares my desire to NOT procreate. Thanks LP.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Save energy in your Search!

How did I just find out about Blackle? Sometimes Google's marketing methods dumbfound me... if they even exist at all.

In any case, Blackle is a search engine I recommend using full-time. Fear not- this is not spam or a radical idea and I'm certainly not getting paid for promoting it to all three of you.

Blackle is simply a black screen version of Google. You may know that a black screen uses less energy than a white one... which is why Blackle is simply brilliant. Mind you, the energy savings is not huge for just your screen, but if we all used Blackle instead of Google- imagine the energy we could save!

I'm also rallying to replace "Google" with "Blackle" as a verb to to increase awareness... happy Blackling!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Santa Rosa de Cabal, Colombia

Greetings from Colombia. I´m so sorry I haven´t blogged yet from Colombia. Internet and computers have been unreliable and I have been going, going, going since I got here. I was planning on going to a coffee plantation or horseback riding to waterfalls today, but when I woke up it was pouring rain. Now it is clear and warm... that´s how it goes.

I´m in santa Rosa de Cabal now. It´s a smaller town north of Pereira. Since I my plans were cancelled today, I slept in and then went out in seach of food. I ended up eating at the same place I ate dinner last night, Restaurante y Cevecheria el Calamar (Calle 12 No. 12 53).... soooo good! If you ever end up in Santa Rosa, go there. It´s amazing!

Before and after lunch, I walked through the main plaza which is just 2 blocks from this stinky hostel. Every time I´ve been by that plaza, it´s been bustling and today was no exception. I also walked through and around the mercado (market) just south of the plaza. It´s the Super WalMart of the town. They have fruits, vegetables, clothing, shoes, restaurants, pretty much anything you need. The best part though was the Willys Jeeps outside the mercado. I´m in love. I SO badly want to bring of these home! (I´ll add photos later.)

The history of these Jeeps is really great. In the early 1950s, the US shipped a bunch of Army surplus models here. To market them to farmers in Zona Cafetera, expert drivers loaded them up with cargo and manuevered them over obstacle courses in the plazas and up and down church steps in towns like Santa Rosa de Cabal. The farmers were instantly sold and continue to drive these Jeeps (mostly older ones, about half I saw were Willys) today. Yesterday´s trip to San Vicente proved that you aren´t going anywhere in the mountains in a normal car. There were many Willys taking 10 or more people and a roofload full of produce  up the mountain. Mind you, I took a shuttle bus which rarely went over 5 mph... these roads are serious. I´d love to be in Armenia (Colombia, that is) for the Yipao parade, ´´where pimped out Jeeps are loaded up with agricultural products and furniture and driven around town on two wheels´´ (

I´m off to San Andres island to meet Kristy tomorrow, so I´m not sure I´ll be able to blog until Tuesday. I just found out last night that San Andres is east of Nicaragua!

PS. I´ll try to backdate posts from earlier in my trip if I can. ¡Adios para hora!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Finally! Guidelines for Email Sanity!

First, let me say that I have thought for years now that the word "email" was hyphenated. Apparently I was wrong. It's not the first time.

Now that I've go that off my chest, I was completely thrilled to hear a segment on "Q" featuring the co-author of The Email Charter: 10 Ways to Reverse the Email Spiral. Hallelujah! This exists! 

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

1. Respect Recipients' Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

2. Short or Slow is not Rude
Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!

3. Celebrate Clarity
Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.

4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by "Thoughts?". Even well-intended-but-open questions like "How can I help?" may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. "Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!"

5. Slash Surplus cc's
cc's are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don't default to 'Reply All'. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

6. Tighten the Thread
Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what's not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

7. Attack Attachments
Don't use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there's something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.

8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR
If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with "No need to respond" or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.

9. Cut Contentless Responses
You don't need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying "Thanks for your note. I'm in." does not need you to reply "Great." That just cost someone another 30 seconds.

10. Disconnect!
If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can't go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an 'auto-response' that references this charter. And don't forget to smell the roses.

For some of you, this may not seem like anything close to an amazing epiphany. Perhaps you aren't on a Board and you don't receive up to 60 emails a day. But surely your mom or some other family member or friend sends you rambling, unorganized crap emails with all kinds of useless photos or "cute" attachments? What about those forwarded chain emails that claim 7 years bad luck if you don't forward it to 10 people within 15 minutes? (FYI, I have never once forwarded one of these and I have not had 7 years of bad luck. I did, however, promptly respond to the senders to these kinds of emails when I first started receiving them and I have not received one since. Victory!)

For me, this charter is somewhat life-changing. I just made the link my email signature (at least for now) and I especially hope that my fellow Board members click on it and it changes their habits as well. I admit, I need some practice with some of these and some of them are occasionally unavoidable (open ended questions), but I am making this the goal of my email writing.

No longer are we just dealing with junk mail via USPS, we are now dealing with excessive and unnecessary words and unwarranted responses which sucks the precious time out of our days and sucks the precious energy from our bodies and minds.

Read on, fair readers. Let's save ourselves from the Email Spiral!

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Monday, April 09, 2012

How Whole Foods is ruining the "Whole Food" Movement

A grocery store called “Whole Foods”... sounds healthy, ay? It sells organic produce, has special sections for allergy-prone customers, and offers some hard-to-find products. It also has its own hot bar, salad bar and deli. Some stores even have a pizza oven or a wrap/bowl counter.

The hot bar items include soups, home-style sides and main dishes (macaroni and cheese, roasted chicken, mashed or scalloped potatoes are regular items at the one near my workplace) and diverse ethnic dishes that you can scoop into a container and eat at home or in their dining area. Some of the soups are made in-house- there are at least 5 soups daily. The salad bar has 3 different types of greens to which you can add all kinds of fruit, veggies, proteins and condiments. For all of these except the soups you are charged by the ounce. The deli offers pre-made pasta salads and the like, proteins, meats, made-fresh sandwiches, pizza and bowls or wraps depending on your preference. A pretty good variety of meal items, as you can see. They even list all the allergens (except for yeast which I am allergic to) on the tags for the food. Everyone who works there is usually fairly nice, which makes me think they must be treated well as employees. They probably take pride in their edible creations.

But have you ever eaten at the hot bar, the salad bar or the deli?  It's mediocre on a good day. The ethnic dishes have mostly healthy ingredients and good spices in the ingredient lists, the other hot bar items appear to be something I could make in my own kitchen that I would enjoy eating leftovers of... So how the hell are all the dishes lacking any flavor and character? The pizza dough is a weird texture, is undercooked and the cheese on it is gross. The bowls/wraps are... frankly, disgusting. The grilled tofu in the salad bar tastes like tofu. (If you don't eat tofu, this is a tragedy- tofu is supposed to absorb the flavors of the spices and food it's cooked with.) The only thing that's worth the calories is the salad bar (minus the grilled tofu) because how can you screw up fresh veggies and fruit, right? Oh, but Whole Foods can- I once scooped up half-cooked beets! Perplexing! How do you take perfectly normal foods and literally take all the flavor out of them?

I don’t claim to be a domestic goddess (quite the opposite, actually) but I can do better than this.

I once took a class with a woman who worked at the pizza bar at a Whole Foods. She hated the pizza there and would casually talk to her customers like all good employees do. She found out that people where buying pizza there solely because it was convenient. They specifically said that they didn't actually think it tasted good, that they didn’t really like it at all.

The worst part of this all: the cost. At $7.99 per pound, the hot and salad bars are a real rip off. For a normal restaurant-sized meal, I would pay about $13 by weight. This size of this $13 mound of food would be two, maybe three meals portion-wise for me, but for $13 I'd rather go to a restaurant and get delicious food with appetizing leftovers as opposed to bland, over-priced crap. A friend of mine's brother once went to a Whole Foods for the first time and loaded up a to-go box with a scoop of everything that looked delicious. $25 later, he sincerely regretted his decision.

Whole Foods’ bowls/wraps (same ingredients, just in a bowl or in a tortilla) are $6-8 and the cost of pre-made salads vary by weight, but I assure you that they are considerably more expensive than elsewhere. Yes, they are fresh. Yes they are made locally and employing the people who make them. But why would I pay for food that doesn't taste good?

I am not trying to steer you toward other grocery stores that mass-produce salads, soups, sandwiches or ship them from Texas, but I think convenience has blinded us. I think Whole Foods is trying to get people to be healthy by selling local foods that are in-season, fresh, and organic and by offering ethnic and diverse foods. I appreciate that (even though I can rarely afford it these days) and they have it mostly correct, just not the part about their prepared foods.

They are making healthy produce available to us, but they are ruining the idea of healthy eating by taking all those healthy foods and preparing foods with them in a way that lacks real character. Who is tasting these foods before they are offered to their customers? Clearly nobody with alive taste buds. When people pay $13 for a forgettable & flavorless meal, what is that telling them about "healthy" food? Expensive and healthy food should be delicious, not dead and unremarkable! It should hook you, it should make you crave it like I crave a nachos from Blossoming Lotus.... or a Bryan's Bowl.

You can open an urban grocery store almost anywhere and it will thrive. In Portland, as long as it's got the "health food" label- it will almost always be busy. It’s too bad, because we all vote with our dollars. And by buying these prepared foods from a place that doesn’t care how they taste, we are enabling them to keep up the crappy work. Just say no to bad food and save yourself some money in the process!

The one exception to Whole Foods’ terrible prepared foods is the bakery. One of the best cakes I think I’ve ever tasted was from Whole Foods. I recommend you try it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood… while you’re there, pick up some fresh produce and make something delicious.

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Best. Chocolate. Pudding. Ever.

Since the blog post coming up is rather serious and has been in the works for about 13 months, I thought I'd post something a bit more fun... and delicious. This is possibly the best pudding ever and has waaaaaaaay more nutrition than regular chocolate pudding. It's gluten-free, vegan and raw (assuming the maple syrup and cocoa powder are raw). It even looks just like regular pudding- try waiting until your guests are done eating and raving about it to tell them what's in it. Enjoy!

Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Serves 6

1/2 cup pitted mejdool dates, soaked
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup water (+/- depending on the texture desired- start with 1/4 cup and add as needed)

Place the dates, maple syrup, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocados and cocoa powder and process until creamy. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the water and process briefly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

The pudding will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.

Thanks and credit to

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Parque Nacional Cahuita and the Jaguar Rescue Center

I'm super tired today and this is probably a really boring post, but I have to get it in words before I forget details...

Parque Nacional Cahuita- Wednesday

Oh how I wish America had a national park as amazing as Parque Nacional Cahuita. Postcard-perfect beaches, coral reefs, jungle, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, frogs, snakes, ant civilizations- and it's all perfectly preserved. The park itself is relatively tiny and young- only 10 square kilometers and has only been a national park since 1978.

We (the local guide and a newlywed couple from the Basque region in Spain) took a small rickety boat to Punta Cahuita, the "point" that juts out into the water and snorkeled for nearly two hours. I've not seen such perfect coral ever... but I guess I've only been snorkeling a handful of times. I'm always amazed at how the tropical fish mostly ignore snorkelers. This time though, I felt like I was a part of the school of fish many times. The water was very shallow too, so it was easier to see the camouflaged fishes lurking in the lettuce coral, brain coral and fan coral.

After a fresh pineapple snack on the beach, we hiked the less than 2 miles along the beach to the ranger station at the edge of the quaint town of Cahuita, population 600 (where some still speak the native language, Mekatelyu). Our guide stopped regularly along the way to point out a particular species of mammal, reptile, insect or plant. We even had to ford the river at one point.

(Can you spot the iguana?)

At one point, there was a concrete natural spring "hot tub". It is there because Pemex, the Mexican oil company, drilled for oil there before it was a national park. Luckily they didn't find oil, but they did find a hot spring.

Jaguar Rescue Center- Thursday

The name is a misnomer. There are no jaguars at the Jaguar Centro de Recate (Jaguar Rescue Center). It was named for a sick baby jaguar that died there after they were unable to nurse her back to health after her mother was killed.

The best part about this place is the howler monkeys that you can play with. They have about 10 of  them who are orphaned and/or were injured. They are such loving, playful and active animals- you can't help but want to take one home with you... if only customs would allow it!

And, for the first time in my life, I've seen a live red-eyed tree frog! There were a few years in high school that I was fairly obsessed with them (and frogs in general)... they are much smaller than photos would suggest, but so amazing.

¡Adios Puerto Viejo!

I leave for San Jose in the morning, but it's been a great week here is Rasta Rica! ¡Te amo, Costa Rica!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Laziest. Vacation. Ever.

I haven't done much since my last post. Hopefully this doesn't surprise you. I snoozed & read by the pool, swam in the pool, went to the beach that was so hot I couldn't stay for more than 10 minutes (the sand was so hot, it felt like I was walking on hot coals- and I'm not exaggerating), watched a couple of movies on my 900-channel flat screen tv. I am sad when I realize how much time I have spent watching movies in my cabana, but I tell myself it's educational- I watch American movies subtitled in Spanish. This makes me feel better about it.

Sunday night was the first time it's rained since I've been here. And it rained again last night. Before I left to come to Costa Rica, I was watching the weather closely because May is the beginning of Central America's rainy season... all I saw was clouds, thunderstorms and rain in the daily forecasts. I was sure it was going to rain the entire time I was here. I don't know if I've been lucky or what (knock on wood), but it has been sunny and beautiful everyday. The rain doesn't start until after dark, maybe 8 or 9 pm (by then, I'm already in for the evening since I'm out of town and not really here to party) and it clears up by the time I wake up. I really have no idea if it's raining in other parts of Costa Rica...

Yesterday was one of my big excursions- I went on a canopy tour. This is where you wear a harness attached to a pulley and fly through the jungle trees from platform to platform by a cable. It was totally awesome. Chickening out at bungee jumping on my 30th birthday made me think I might chicken out at this too, but luckily they strap you in and kinda give you a push, so I didn't have any time to think about it. There were 23 platforms and 2560 meters of cable. Plus one Tarzan rope swing. They pushed me off that one too- thank goodness.

Anyone who comes to Costa Rica, you cannot miss this!

After the canopy tour, two girls from Ohio and I went to lunch at Cafe Ivon... Sea Bass in coconut pineapple sauce with coconut rice (for US$10 including tip)... soooo delicious... as long as you are willing to wait to get your food. I think we waited an hour after ordering before we got our food. I swear they went out on a boat to get my fish after I ordered!

Mañana: Cahuita National Park- snorkeling and hiking. Stay Tuned.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rich Coast


After a 2-hour delay at PDX and a red eye flight that resulted in me attempting to sprint through the Denver airport, then a 4 1/2 hour shuttle ride over not-so-great roads, I have made it to the beautiful Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. If you thought Portland was green in the springtime, prepare to be shocked. This is a green jungle, literally… costa rica.

I have already seen fields and fields of bananas, tons of coconut trees, lots of crazy birds and lizards, a couple of monkeys, butterflies and there are 15 sloths that live on the grounds of my hotel, Cariblue. In addition, I have seen more bugs than most vacation spots, Tikal excluded. (I will never forget Tikal.) This was expected of course, so my clothes are permethrin-treated and I’ve brought along the 97% DEET insect repellent.

Cariblue is an Italian-owned complex of duplex and 4-plex cabañas and outdoor spaces nestled in a jungle, across the street from Playa Cocles (Cocles beach). While the rest of my experience here at the cabañas so far hasn’t reflected the Italian influence, the menu has. This is unfortunate for obvious reasons, but also because who the hell wants pasta when it’s 85 degrees with 80% humidity? I want fish tacos with Caribbean flare! And fresh guacamole with freshly-made chips! The traditional Costa Rican breakfast almost made up for it- beans & rice, veggies, eggs, soya, a huge assortment of pastries (kiwi bread, jalapeno buns, sweet bread- very dense with a glaze on top), lots of fresh fruit (watermelon, pineapple, papaya, canteloupe), Guanabanana (wan-ah-BAN-an-AH) juice, orange juice and, of course, coffee. I didn't eat again until nearly 5:00!

El Super Mercado

I don’t really have an itinerary yet, which is how the Caribbean cultures like it. I did make a trip to the super Mercado (supermarket) today. I bought a small styrofoam cooler and some cervesa (bevs here don't seem to be any cheaper than America, at least at the bars).

The local supermarket is better than any travel guide about a culture. It tells you how a culture eats, what a culture believes in and about their habits, values, ways, traditions. Do they use local products or import foods? Imports would suggest that they are a relatively prosperous country (or have a lot of ex-pats living there) and local products usually means they highly value their local culture or can’t import because of economics or politics. You can almost bet that the more processed foods a culture eats, the more prevalent obesity is... and it's true for Costa Rica- many, many processed foods. Do they have an obscene number of tourist souvenirs? You’re probably not at the supermarket.

I went to two different supermarkets- one recommended by the super nice worker here at the cabañas... I resisted buying anything until I had checked out the other one and I'm glad I did. The other one was much, much better... waaaay more beer and food selections. I was surprised by the tiny little Asian foods section.

I discovered that nearly everything here comes in bags- salsa, milk, sauces, jam, etc. I find salsa in a bag to be bizarre. I'm not sure if that's because it didn't look or feel chunky or because I couldn't see the salsa itself or if it was simply the bag idea. I did not buy any salsa. I'm always amazed at how many different types of fried foods in bags Latin America has... I guess it's better temperature-wise than getting french fries or fried... pig skins.

Mi Bicicleta

I rode a bike into town. I nearly ran over two crabs and one lizard. Road kill here is crabs instead of deer or squirrels... and I don't need to tell you that smashed crabs on asphalt in 85 degrees smells horrible.

Juego de Fútbol

I also went to a fútbol game this evening- a national team (players who play in the World Cup) played the local team, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It must have been the national team's reserve squad, because Puerto Viejo was playing better than the Limon national team. It was relatively exciting nonetheless- it seemed like the entire town was there to see the match. I miss my Timbers though... beat Columbus tomorrow, ok?

¡Hasta Luego!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sympathy Tips

I just read this article in the Wall Street Journal regarding what to do when someone you know loses a loved one. I highly recommend reading the entire article. It explains different reactions to grieving as well as some solutions.

I identify so much with this article because of the radically different reactions I received when my dad died and also when my uncle died. A lot of people just don't know what to do or say or how to act. Before my father's death, I admit- I didn't know what to do or say either which is why I think this article is so important. Many people don't know how to react because they have never been through the grieving process.

The most important thing to remember is that the person who has lost someone needs support. They may not have the energy or capacity for it now (or ever) but it is important for them to know that you are there for them. Probably the best tip in the entire article: "Promise to be there in the coming weeks and months. And keep your promise." I reached out to only a handful of the people who offered me support, but it was most comforting to know that people were simply there for me.

After my dad passed away, a family member promised to call me every week. I was so elated to know that someone that I loved cared enough to do this, to keep tabs on me and offer such constant support. I was looking forward to those calls so much. After a couple of weeks though, this family member stopped calling. In the back of my mind, I knew that her promise was unrealistic. She had big ideas and was also overwhelmed with emotion, so I guess I wasn't surprised when she stopped calling, but it really would have been great if we talked every week, at least for a while. As my healing went on, I imagine I would have started calling her instead of her calling me. I imagined a small support system and that system disappeared. Lesson: do not make promises you can't keep.

From the article:
  • REACH OUT. But don't let email or texting take the place of an in-person visit or phone call. Remember, much of what we find comforting—tone of voice, eye contact, touch—is nonverbal.
  • LISTEN. Follow the mourner's lead. Let the person talk about what is important to him.
  • SHARE A MEMORY. For someone who is grieving, hearing about things the loved one said and did, and what they meant to others, is comforting.
  • OFFER PRACTICAL HELP. Can you assist with funeral planning? Babysitting? Mowing the lawn? Most people don't ask for help because they don't want to seem needy.
  • ASK BEFORE BRINGING A LOT OF FOOD.* What do the mourners want or need? It doesn't have to be fancy—perhaps milk, eggs or orange juice?
  • GIVE SOMETHING THAT WILL LIVE ON. Consider skipping the flowers. Perhaps share a memento, or make a charitable donation to honor the deceased.

And a few additional tips of my own:
  • Don't ignore them. Confrontation is uncomfortable (in nearly all cases) but this is an uncomfortable situation for everyone and ignoring them is not the way to show that you care.
  • Don't pressure him/her to respond to your condolences (and offers*).
  • If you don't know what to say, a simple "I'm thinking of you" or "I'm sorry for your loss" will suffice.  Avoid "preachy, presumptuous and impersonal" comments at all costs.
  • Don't use religious phrases or ideas unless you know for sure that the person who is grieving shares those ideas.
  • Keep in mind that men grieve differently than women. Men like to "do" things (my grandfather spent a lot of time filling bullet shells when my dad died) and women like to cry and/or talk.
*A friend of mine swears that just doing things without asking is the way to go as mourners rarely admit that need or want help or they may not realize it. Asking first what someone needs requires a response though, so use your best judgment. Is this the type of person who would appreciate a casserole, their lawn mowed or a walk? If so, just do it.

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