Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Family

I've been back to blogging for about a month now, covering events and causes of importance, and it has been a lot of fun. Along with these things I care about, there is a wonderful family that I want to recognize. They are my rock and always keep life interesting and fun.

I've been married for almost twenty-five years to my lovely wife Maria. Born on a farm outside of Rome, Italy, and living only a five-minute walk away for the twenty-something years before we met, Maria is one of the reasons I'm who I am today. That's a long story for another time. Today, she is a metaphysical counselor and sole proprietor of the Inner Peace Connection.

We have two children who, and yes this is a cliche but it is so true, we are so proud of! Ken is our oldest and is a personal banker at Wells Fargo while continuing his college studies in the evening. We sometimes wonder how he went from the rebellious teenager to the professional, courteous and kind adult we know today, but then we never shy away from taking credit for him. Here's Ken during one of his Patriot moments as we sat waiting for the Pats to take on Indy last November in Gillette Stadium (yes that's in Massachusetts for my Oregonian friends).

Last but not least is my daughter, Laura, who is just a little over a year younger than her brother. She is in Quebec this fall as an exchange student at an all-French-speaking university. That sort of tells you what Laura's all about -- learn something then dive right in and immerse yourself. She's blogging about it too. When she comes back to Portland, Laura will be graduating from PSU after the spring 2008 term. I'm glad she's frugal and sensible; doesn't want a Lamborgini for a graduation present :)

So that's my immediate family. Pretty cool people, huh? Well, I certainly think so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Portland Century

This past weekend I rode the Quarter Century (25 miles) in a relatively new Portland bike event called the Portland Century. On Saturday, the day before the event, I helped out by posting course markers throughout North Portland along the tail end of the 50 and 100 mile routes. It was a learning experience -- finding bike trails I didn't know about. An exhausting day but I'm glad I did it since I saw how much goes into such an event. The day of the ride was a breeze. I could have easily done the 50 miles but when I came to the crossroads where the 25-mile turned off, I decided to err on the side of caution given that I haven't biked a whole lot this summer.

Along the route, the organizers had set up rest stops (just one for the Quarter Century, which was just enough) and to my surprise there was a delicious strawberry shortcake and other treats waiting. I also met up with a few other riders, Bob and Farrah and Beth. Everyone was just so friendly! At the finish line back at the North Park Blocks, we were treated to a fresh wild salmon dinner with organic produce provided, I think, by Pioneer Organics (the competitor to the service we use, Organics To You) and a raspberry cobbler. Oh, I can't forget the free beer provided by Widmer Brewing. I spent about three hours on the ride, including the break, and another three hours after the event, talking with fellow riders as we drank and ate to our hearts' content. The picture of yours truly accompanying this post was taken by fellow rider Bob.

The remaining proceeds of the event fees goes to Hands On Portland which is where I first heard of the volunteer call for the course markers. Thanks y'all!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Take Back the Tap

Anna Lappe, here, wrote about a really important water resources issue that has a steep slope to climb: that slope I see as the "convenience" of bottled water. It's so easy to go from "I want to take care of my body, so I don't drink soda." to "Going for a hike, it would be nice to tote some water. Oh, darn I don't have a reusable drink container so I'll just buy a case of that bottled water from the supermarket." When you examine this, you realize that there are great opportunities for saving money as well as improving the environment while continuing to drink water instead of soda pop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eat Local Challenge

One of the blogs I subscribe to is the Eat Local Challenge, and they are urging folks to participate in a month-long challenge for September. I'm in! Maria and I subscribe to Organics To You, a delivery service from which we receive delicious, fresh produce (vegetables & fruit) from an array of local farms. This covers a lot of the food we eat but not all of it by any means. I want to find some good sources of grass-fed, locally-grown chickens, lamb and beef. We eat a fair amount of chicken and much less lamb and beef. So part of my challenge to myself is to find these sources before September 1st.

I've cut down to almost nothing my intake of dairy milk, replacing it with rice milk for my morning cereal (which has been Puffins of late). For the Challenge, I'll have to find a local source of this milk if it exists, and of cereal. These are not going to be as easy to find, I'm afraid, and may have to be my exceptions.

If I continue to bring lunch to work, I can avoid the local restaurant fare and stay true to the Challenge. This has worked well for me for the past few weeks. Cutting out the free chocolate from the company reception area will be tough, even though I justified it because of the benefits of dark chocolate!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Buy a brick to build the theater

Last Thursday night, I attended a fund-raising event at The Monkey and The Rat store in Old Town. The event was to raise funds to build a permanent theater in rural Cambodia for The Reasmey Angkor Bassac Theatre Troupe, which is the last remaining traveling theater in Cambodia. The atrocities brought on the people of Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 - 1979 also nearly obliterated the cultural life of these wonderful Southeast Asian people.

Initiated by the Portland-based actress and philanthropist, Helena de Crespo, the fund-raising event was both fun and instructive. My good friend Kilong Ung was the master of ceremonies and his personal involvement with Cambodian causes (he is the president of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon) shined through in his inspiring introductions and encouraging words. The highlight of the night was the dancing of Cambodian teenagers who performed the Coconut Dance, a traditional Khmer dance.

After their show, the dancers were individually introduced to the audience and it was then that I learned how much the Cambodian community is thriving in Oregon. One student is headed to Stanford University in the fall to begin college and another to Columbia University. They are all involved in either sports or music programs as well. When I talked to one of the students, Sidney, who had been selected as a member of the Caddy program through his involvement in The First Tee golf program for youth, I met a confident young man who is thinking positively about his future.

Helene de Crespo needs to raise $10,000. to build the theater. At the event, each person that contributed at least $10. will have their name displayed in both English and Khmer on the legacy wall within the theater. Donations are being handled through Village Focus International, a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Here are some pictures from the evening:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Healthier Food in Schools

How to educate our children is a question answered in a multitude of ways, and there is enough controversy over it that it is often difficult to get clear information on the results of applying different educational techniques or systems. But one thing that I firmly believe is not controversial is that our children should learn good habits while they are in a formal school system. The diet of school-age (K-12) children is something that schools can teach through the practice of providing healthy meals and snacks. Soda machines and highly-processed foods have no place in a school.

To this end, US citizens have an opportunity to promote healthier food delivery in schools through a couple of measures currently going through the US House and Senate. Please follow these links to learn about these measures, sign the petition and send a note to your senators and congressmen. Thanks.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cambodia Backstage

Through a good friend, Kilong Ung, I have come to learn and care about the work being done to rebuild the country of Cambodia that went through years of horror at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Next Thursday, August 16th from 7pm to 10pm, a free event called Cambodia Backstage will highlight the live arts of that beautiful country. It will be held at The Monkey and The Rat at 131 NW 2nd Ave and Davis. Here is a map.

Actress and philanthropist Helena de Crespo is trying to raise $10,000 to build a theater that will be the only indoor theatrical performance center in rural Cambodia. Attendees to this event can help by sponsoring bricks. For $10 per brick, a sponsor would get his/her name imprinted on the brick in both the Cambodian and English alphabets.

Please consider attending this event if you're in Portland next Thursday evening.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kudos to Allan Classen of The NW Examiner

I look forward to getting The NW Examiner, a free monthly newspaper covering northwest Portland. Reading about new businesses in the area, local events and politics gives me a feeling of community in the rapidly privatized world we live in. Allan Classen, Editor and Publisher of the paper, pleasantly surprised me with his view on the blogosphere. At first I thought he was going to rant about how non-professionals are taking away the attention of readers who should be reading what the professional journalists write in brick and mortar (and paper) publications. Instead, he praised blogs because they are so up front with their opinions and do not attempt to walk an objective point of view to satisfy a theoretical standard. Classen states that

"While most of the conventional news stories I see serve only to spark speculation about what's happening between the lines, some local bloggers are steps ahead: pursuing angles I haven't even thought about."

And the different points of view that he gets in the blog replies adds to the enjoyment and the variety of points of view.

Kudos to Mr. Classen for his article (which appears in the Editor's Turn column on page 3 of the August issue)!

This evening while in my car on the way to a walk in northwest Portland, I heard Bill Moyers on the radio railing about the establishment media and their control over Americans' minds. It made me realize how lucky we are to have the Internet and the blogosphere. Blog proliferation has given us many places from which to gather news, hear opinions and learn. Maybe too many places but better than too few.

I believe everyone needs to learn how to analyze competing points of view and how to effectively absorb knowledge. When I was growing up, it meant paying attention in school, reading, having discussions. Formal education is still a valuable vehicle for training young minds. But the Internet, composed of the blogosphere, academic, non-profit and commercial sites and both known and anonymous interactions, provides a goldmine of information and opportunity to become educated, effective stewards of our planet and of our communities, local, regional and global.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I just finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last night. This is an important book. The 'omnivore's dilemma' is that there are so many choices of what to eat for an omnivore and he has to determine what to eat based on...what? what is safe to eat? what is nutritious? what tastes good? It is a dilemma but what Pollan is really talking about in this book is where our, meaning our species, food comes from. He examines food coming from the industrial food system, where the corn crop is king, fertilization is primarily from fossil fuels, meat is fattened in unnatural ways and the conglomerate food companies process the overabundance of corn and soy into food items that are intended to satisfy our variety of tastes and assumptions about what we should eat. Pollan contrasts this system with what he calls the pastoral food system, focusing his attention on a single farm in the state of Virginia where very little external input (i.e., feed) enters into the complex equations of the farm which produces high quality chicken, ham, eggs and beef. The contrast with the industrial food system is so drastic that this section of the book reads like a breath of fresh air after the suffocation of our sense of morality that rises from the pages of the industrial food section. A third section of the book contrasts these two food systems with the hunter-gatherer system which Pollan points out is not a realistic alternative for Americans (or nearly anyone else on the planet) but which he wishes to explore because it is a stage in which we as a species experienced.

About halfway through this book, which is extremely well-written, I decided to change the way I eat. Maria and I subscribed to an organic produce delivery service which delivers a box of vegetables and fruits from mostly local farms once a week. Although I have not sworn off meat, I am striving to eat organic meat. To date, we have been successful in finding organic chicken. Pollan reveals that just the 'organic' label is not enough to satisfy the truly moral chicken-eater (my words). An organic chicken is fed with pesticide and chemical-free feed but the feed is grain nevertheless. Chickens don't take to grain naturally -- they like grass. I want to find a local farm which has grass-fed chickens which also freely roam as opposed to living in their filth in a barn which they never leave for the grass lawn outside (this describes the large organic farming of chickens). Truly grass-fed chickens will also produce much nicer eggs, with yokes high in carotene which makes them a richer orange color and easier to separate from the white of the egg.

Read this book. It will change the way you eat if you typically eat from the large supermarket foodstuffs. Another book I want to read, maybe next, is also about eating , and it is by Barbara Kingsolver. It is called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Her family spent a year growing their own food or buying locally. No industrial food system allowed! Barbara is a talented novelist. This book promises to be another breath of fresh air I think.