Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Payne Hollow - Harlan Hubbard

I finished reading Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society a few days ago. It's a Thoreau-esque autobiographical book about Harlan and Anna Hubbard's life on the shores of the Ohio river. The most interesting part of the book for me was Harlan's idealism, which I think I share with him in some small degree. Here is an example:
Our objections to an outboard motor are more subtle, and not generally understood by the practical minded. It makes a different craft out of the johnboat, a driven thing, quivering as if in pain. A motor is odorous and noisy. Even a small one spoils to some extent communion with the river. It interferes with your contemplation of sky and water and the distant view. It's noise discourages conversation, but this in some cases may be a desirable feature.
It's not evident in the passage quoted, but he is comparing the outboard to the use of oars as a means of crossing the river. I enjoyed hearing why they did this and that, both the philosophical reasons for their retreat to the land, and the practical means of day to day survival. I would recommend it as excellent reading to any who consider themselves idealists or naturalists. Unfortunately, it seems to be available only regionally. I happened to encounter it through a friend who has lived in Kentucky. I couldn't find it in any local libraries. Of course, the internet will bring it to your doorstep, though I'm not sure Harlan would approve.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NW Washington Fair!

It's Fair week, and Michelle and I went out on Thursday afternoon. I was most excited about the food, and it didn't disappoint. I had, in chronological order, a Hawaiian Shaved Ice (to cool off from the trip out - no A/C), a half a basket of fresh cut curly fries, a delicious strawberry lemonade with real lemon, a chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar from the Boy Scout booth (Haggen-Daas has nothing on those boy scouts), corn-on-the-cob, buttered and salted, also from the Boy Scouts, and poffertjes, which are little dutch pastries served with butter and powdered sugar. At first I thought they would be better with syrup, but then I realized I just wasn't using enough butter. The best food booth was, by far, the Lynden PTA stand. They're prices are the cheapest at the Fair, and when we got to the front of the line we asked about water (usually $2.50 for Dasani) and explained that we wanted a HUGE drink, but didn't really want that much sugary pop. They gave us a "Tanker" size cup filled with ice and water - FREE! Nothing is free at the fair - heck, we were willing to pay for it if we had too. Anyway, they earned my wholehearted endorsement. Here is Michelle with the Tanker:

We also saw a horse show, with teams of Clydesdale horses navigating a course and backing up to the stage. It was interesting how they backed the wagons in. The whole thing kind of reminded me of trying to get my drivers license as a kid. Here's what I think was the winning team:

We spent a good amount of time walking through the livestock barns. The poultry barn contained all manner of chickens and roosters and ducks and game hens, and this little critter. Michelle thought it was cute, so we watched it for awhile. It didn't move. It took us way too long to figure out that it was stuffed. Yes, fake. We're those city people who take pictures of the only fake bird in a barn of 300+ birds. You gotta admit, he's cute. A baby emu I'm told.

My favorite was the goat barn. It brings back memories of being a kid, since we had goats on the farm. Floppy-eared goats, cute (and mischievous), like this one:

So that's it for the fair. Make sure you hit the Lynden PTA booth. Best food at the fair. Here's a picture of our garden, as it was in late July. The cucumbers, of which there are three little hills in the picture, have since taken over. And I'm hoping to have bell peppers soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kikkerland Design - 2

Today I got another response from Kikkerland, this time from a VP. It said:
Dear Jared,

Thank you for your purchase of a Kikkerland Kitchen timer. We share your concerns and are taking steps to improve the accountability of our suppliers and are committed to reducing waste and improve the quality of our products and the environment.

We ask our suppliers to sign a commitment to not use forced or child labor and to use labor practices that conform to local laws.

At some of our larger suppliers we do factory inspections. Kikkerland will not knowingly buy from any suppliers, which violate this agreement.

We do not actively participate in local issues of the place of manufacture but try limit the harmful effects of our activities. We try to reduce waste by reducing packaging and using recyclable packaging such as paper and PET plastics wherever possible. We try to reduce pollution and save money by increasing the load factor of the containers we bring into the country.

We are also active in a reforestation project in Brazil Mil Fohas and just introduced a new line of notebooks, Writersblok, of which 2% of the proceeds will support NYC826 an organization that promotes literacy and creative writing skills in children in New York City.

We realize that this reply does not address all of your concerns. There remains a lot to be done. As we grow and our ability to address these issues grows we are committed to further reduce the harmful impact of our activities and motivate and encourage our suppliers to do their part as well.

Jeroen Kuiper

Kikkerland Design Inc.

Kikkerland is a smaller company, I think, and more agile in responding to customer inquiries. For that I'll give them credit. It's nice to know that they are active and conscientious about their business practices, thinking about the packaging they use, supporting reforestation and literacy projects. I'd like to see standards above and beyond "local laws", but then again I'm not familiar with Chinese labor law; it could be quite progressive. Overall I'm pretty pleased with their response. Given the choice between Kikkerland or other similar products, I'm going buy and be willing to pay more for Kikkerland stuff.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kikkerland Design

Recently I bought a double kitchen timer from Kikkerland Design, in mint green. For some reason our microwave doesn't have a timer feature, and I was getting tired of needlessly heating up Pyrex dishes of water. So we got the timer. Alas, even designer items such as this one are made in China these days. So I sent the following email Sunday August 3rd:

Subject: Double Timer, Mint

As a conscientious consumer I am attempting to make more of my purchasing decisions based on the ethical and environmental practices of the companies who produce the products I buy. To that end, I have a few questions related to the Double Kitchen Timer, Mint color, that I recently purchased. I understand that I am asking a lot - the more information you can provide for me, the more comfortable I will be purchasing Kikkerland products in the future.

1) How much do you know about the working conditions under which your products are made? How do they compare to North American standards?

2) Are you certain no children were employed in the manufacturing or distribution of the double timer I bought?

4) How familiar are you with the environmental impacts of your manufacturing processes? Are you sure the raw materials used in your products are produced or harvested ethically?

5) What are you doing to improve the living conditions in the areas where your products are produced?

Thank you in advance for your time,


Yesterday, August 11th, I got the following reply:

*** UPDATE 8/15/08 *** Laura asked me to take down her initial email, as she only meant it to be an acknowledgment that a response was forthcoming. The official reply is above.
I was impressed, especially since it's been like a month and several reminder emails and I still haven't heard anything from Memorex. Maybe they'll surprise me. Although the email doesn't contain any specific details, it's satisfying to know that my concerns were heard and appreciated.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Raspberry Ridge 3, Jared 0

Reading Michael Bamberger's "The Green Road Home" has renewed my interest in golf. Last Tuesday Pat and I played 9 holes at Raspberry Ridge, then today Dave and I played 18 holes. I kept the scorecards and ran the numbers with Excel. There's only 9 holes at Raspberry Ridge, so with three rounds I was able to get some good numbers. The course is a par 34, fairly short, with no par-5 holes. I shot 51, 50, and 53 for the three rounds, which amounts to just under double-bogey golf, or about an 18 handicap. On the Par 4 holes (there are 7) I averaged 5.9 strokes per hole, and on the par 3 holes I averaged 5 strokes. My best hole was number 9, where I averaged 4 strokes, one over par, followed closely by 4 and 5, where I averaged 5.33 strokes, or 1.33 over par - close to bogey golf. My worst holes were 3 and 7, on which I averaged 6 and 7 strokes, triple-bogey in both cases.

You might think all this data crunching is useless, but it gives me a good framework to work from, mentally. Now I know that bogey or better is an improvement on my game. And I know I need to bare (bear?) down on 3 and 7.

In other news which I have not had a chance to blog about, I crashed my bike on the way in to work on Monday. I crushed the helmet I was wearing, and I'm pretty sure it would have been a hospital trip if not for the helmet. I am a big believer in bike helmets now. I also bought my first new product not made in China, a little package of tissue paper for putting in gift bags, made in the good ol' USA. Memorex still hasn't gotten back to me, and neither has Kikkerland, who make a kitchen timer I bought recently. As for used purchases, I picked up a nice bike pump, and some pedaling shoes, both from craigslist. The search for a bike continues...