Friday, October 31, 2008

Introducing: Darling Octopus Designs

If I haven't already whined about this enough already, Karen's salaried job as a graphic designer (and marketing coordinator) was recently reduced to part time. So, when life gives you lemons, you make... a lemon drop shooter to drown your sorrows. But seriously, Karen is pulling out all the stops to supplement our household's missing green stuff by breaking into the world of freelance graphic design. It's not new for her, but until now, freelance side jobs have been a choice, not a matter of necessity.

Introducing: Darling Octopus Designs

I'm sure we'll adjust and everything will work out fine. But, in the meantime, Karen needs help spreading the word about her new venture. Go ahead a take a peek at her portfolio. It's an interesting tour through Richmond's business, political, and non-profit sectors. The examples there include logos, brochures, web sites, Flash designed ads, and some political mailers you might recognize from past local elections.

Yeah, the stuff on Karen's portfolio site is pretty good, but it's nothing compared to the work she's gonna churn out, once she gets this freelancing gig off the ground. I think Barack Obama put it best in the big finish in his latest stump speech. To paraphrase:

In this coming week, if you will...
Knock on some doors for Karen.
Make some calls for Karen.
Forward this message via email for Karen.
And go to Darling Octopus for Karen...

...then, I won't have to give up graduate school and get a second job washing dishes. Thanks for your consideration. Seriously.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Spent a Whopping $8.53

When I walk into the Vitamin Shoppe, they don't even bother with their sales shpeel. I'm sure they know why I'm there: to pilfer the two clearance tables. For me, vitamins are a luxury item. If they're not in my food, I'm sure as hell not going to pay $23.50 at Ellwoods or $17.40 at Vitamin Shoppe for a bottle of 60 pills that I'm supposed to take three times daily. Hence my hobby of popping discount supplements.

The system at Vitamin Shoppe is pretty clear. As the expiration date on an item is approaching, the discount goes up from 25% to 50% to 75%. But there is a last stop for products that aren't likely to generate enough profit to help pay the rent: the $0.50 tag. I have a really tough time passing up anything at that price.

Today, the clearance bins were mostly filled with organic teas, all marked 25%. There were also big jugs of whey protein, a product that I have endorsed for it's weight-loss potential. But the discount didn't grab me. Usually, I only buy 75% off stuff. Today, there wasn't much along those lines. But there were a whole buncha fifty cent products.

Here's the highlights:

  • Organic Flax Sprouts (ground) - over 2300mg of Omega-3's per serving.
  • TwinLab Amino Fuel 1000 - this looks like some kind of technically legal steroid stuff for muscle heads at the gym. Better eat salads if I take this stuff (BEEFCAKE!!)
  • Beta-Carotene (Solgar brand) - cuz I'm not eating enough carrots?
  • Calcium-Magnesium 1:1 (Solgar brand) - since I don't drink milk and magnesium is supposed to prevent migraines.
  • Orchard Fruits Super Antioxidant - each capsule contains 3000 phytonutrients taken from 12 whole fruits (are those nutrients with a warrior spirit?).
  • Omega-3 Basic Superfood Supplement powder - every tablespoon is like the entire produce section of Whole Foods ground up really fine.
Each of these was only fifty cents. I felt so predictable going up to the register with my rock bottom price booty. "Not everything I got was 50 cents," I said as I placed another bottle of pills on the counter. "I don't want yall to think I'm cheap." This last one was 75% off, but still cost more than the others combined.

By the way, if any of my friends out there would like to take Jasper for a walk in his stroller (with musical accompaniment), I will make you a healthy smoothy to take with you. Karen and I are often pining for breaks in the parenthood routine, and we'll take them whenever we can get them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SAVEUR: The Breakfast Issue

After several boring issues of Saveur magazine, I didn't even bother looking at the October issue until Karen pointed out the recipe for chilaquiles. Huh? Is it a Mexican feature story? "No. It's all about breakfast food." Does it have ful medames? "What's that?" Um, I... wanna see that magazine. "Hey, look," says Karen as she points out the back page picture of Obama serving coffee and donuts (and hope?) at a Metro station in DC... and then she shows me a profile of seven different brands of canned chipotle peppers. Okay. Gimme that.

I first picked up Saveur, because Anthony Bourdain mentioned that he preferred it over watching anything on the Food Network. However, it slowly got stodgy and full of dense stories about esoteric topics. And the pictures weren't even exciting anymore. I hope that this new one is a sign of things to come. When I finally got my hands on the latest issue, I leafed through it eagerly and missed half an episode of True Blood. Karen and I love that show, but this time Saveur was more enticing. Of course, Karen and Jasper were at the other end of the couch, doing their best impression of Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton (True Milk, anyone?). That last bit isn't relevant to this story, but I just had to share the joke about the vampire baby.

Back to the magazine. I also found a list of Saveur's favorite coffees (yes, Peets is in there) to go along with the breakfast theme. You'll also find features on everyone's favorite AM alcohol drinks (mimosas, bloody maries, and more), egg cooking techniques, a 1968 pic of Bobby Seale with a word about the Black Panthers' free breakfast program, too much info on darjeeling tea, and a page about McDonald's only item worthy of a foodie: the Egg McMuffin.

Mmmmm... breakfast. This morning, I made a version of eggs chesapeake (crab cake and poached egg). Only, I didn't poach them (sunny side up instead) and I didn't make holandaise sauce (left yolk runny instead). The crabcake was a frozen variety from Trader Joe's (and they're pretty darned good at 2 fer $3.29). As satisfying as today's breakfast was, this magazine made me crave worldly authenticity. Every page of Saveur had great pictures of breakfast foods from around the world. I think they covered 40 countries and shared 30 recipes, so you can do it yourself. They weren't all meaty. And yes, they did have a recipe for ful medames, Egypt's national dish. (see here for links to just about the whole awesome issue, sans pretty pictures)

A bowl of mashed fava beans could be one of the most delicious breakfasts I've ever had. I'm still scratching my head over it and wishing I could replicate it. I first discovered the dish in Philadelphia, back in 2000 when I was busy doing civil disobedience at the RNC in an attempt to derail the impending catasrophe of a George W. Bush presidency. After 8 days alongside over 400 other arrested protesters, refusing to cooperate with authorites through the "justice system," I found myself returning to Philly a few times for my court appearances during the appeals process.

During each visit, the protestor support group took me to a West Philly Ethiopian enclave called Abyssinia (not Egyptian, mind you). They only served the ful until 2pm. Now, I hear that the place has been over run by hipsters. I haven't been back in years, but I think of the ful beans often. If anyone knows where I can get a good batch of the ful, please let me know. The recipe here probably isn't going to do it for me like Abyssinia. If you attempt to make them, be sure to top them with EVOO or melted butter, chopped fresh jalepenos, and scoop it up with tasty bread (not injera, but more like fresh baked French bread).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Richmond's Enormous Socialist Rally

When I heard that people were sleeping outside the coliseum to see Barack Obama, it occurred to me that I might not be able to stroll into the rally on my leisurely day off (much needed mental health day). There was an alleged bike ride to the Obama rally leaving from VCU at 11am, but my calls to friends already in line at 10am told me that I better get down there early and check things out for myself.

As I rode up to Marshall Street from 5th, I saw the line of people waiting. Looking left, away from the coliseum, the line stretched as far as I could see. So, I followed it to its source. The line of patient people continued down Marshall, left on 7th Street, past the coliseum (bypassing the entrance that I'm familiar with), all the way down to Jackson St, back up to 5th Street, and up to the back door of the coliseum. Wow. That's over a mile. If this wasn't impressive enough, another line started from those doors and went the other direction toward Marshall and ultimately to a spot I never saw. Two enormous lines at 10:30am. My plan B was to go to the MCV gym and work out. Doh! I forgot my gym shorts and shirt.

I'm not going to tell you what happened next. But I will say that I locked up my bike and was inside the coliseum scoping out seats in under ten minutes. If this makes you seethe, I'm sorry. Your anger is justified. The good news is that Obama may very well be deserving of the presidency, whereas, I'm hardly deserving of having him as my president. That's how I'm feeling after taking in what was probably a run of the mill stump speech in the last leg of Barack Obama's pursuit of the high office. The guy is damned good! A potentially historic figure in more ways than his demographics. Non-believers, take another look.

Going into the Obama event, I had to turn off a number of the averse reactions that I've developed regarding the major political parties. Although I was jazzed for Clinton in 1992 and kinda in 1996 too, as my critical analysis developed, the Democratic party started making my skin crawl almost as much as the Republicans. It was as if they sold out common people for a ticket to the ball with corporate interests (see Clinton's Welfare reform, free trade agreements, and backing away from universal healthcare for starters, but I know that the crappy-ness predates my ability to vote). Since Clinton sold his soul for blow-jobs, we've had Democratic candidates going hat-in-hand to their corporate paymasters and all that they presented to voters was an unconvincing case for the lesser of two evils, spineless defense of their nonexistent integrity, and ultimately flaccid campaigns that commanded minimal respect (stolen elections or otherwise).

It should be clear that I have been burned by believing in the Democratic party and I am still very hesitant. I didn't go to the Obama rally to chant and shout, or clap and do the wave. I went because Obama has slowly made me a believer in his leadership abilities and I wanted to witness history in the making. Let me repeat that: Obama made history by campaigning seriously in Virginia, and WE VIRGINIANS are going to make history by delivering our electoral votes for a Democratic ticket for the first time in over four decades. People, I'm not editorializing here. The positive energy was in the air inside and outside that coliseum and it conveyed very clearly: "YES WE CAN."

This is how happy/naive I felt during Obama's speech.

If those last few sentences sound like fanaticism, don't worry. I'm surprised at myself too. But, I know what defeatism smells like, and right now the movement to elect Barack Obama is bold and surging, not tentative and jaded. I'm impressed with the campaign, the voters, and the candidate. For once, I don't feel like I could do a better job. The admiration that came across from the crowd seemed really genuine to me - not blind party allegiance, but devotion on a more personal level; loyalty that only competence can inspired (obviously, something we've been lacking in the White House for a while). Obama is striking a chord with voters that transcends a set of single issues that generally make one throw the switch one way or the other. It's refreshing.

It's not the pursuit of power and validation that drives so many Republicans and evangelical Christians. I think Obama is winning because his supporters feel he is truly deserving; that he has earned the presidency through concerted effort regardless of the debacle of the past eight years, and that his brand of leadership couldn't come from anyone else in the Democratic party. This is Barack Obama's time, whether he has the experience, or not. And, my projection is that Obama has more potential to lead all of America and both sides of the isle in Congress than any presidential candidate from either party in my lifetime. And I think that's what voters want: results.

A couple observations

I brought loads of contraband into the coliseum. Being on bike, I was loaded down with a water bottle, hot coffee in a thermal mug, and a laptop, as well as books for my graduate course, bike tools, cell phone, and a blinky light. This only slowed me down briefly at the security checkpoint. Inside, I discovered that I couldn't get online during the 2.5 hour wait for Obama to speak. And taking in the spectacle of 13,000 plus people really distracted me from my homework. Oh, and I was sitting next to the author of this awesome article on voter fraud.

One thing I recall from surveying the line of people headed into the coliseum: this gathering was gonna be 70-80% black. Inside, a white couple told me that they were offered tickets to sit straight back from the podium (presumably to provide a diverse backdrop for the TV cameras). Looking around the coliseum, the group seated behind Obama did seem to be closer to 50/50 than the rest of the place. I point this out, not to indict the campaign. Perception is part of any presentation and putting forward a particular image is just part of the political game (obviously, the Republicans have to struggle harder to achieve an equitable facade).

My point here is that the Obama troops on the ground in Richmond are not predominately white bloggers, or West End Whole Foods shoppers, or the liberal elite. I think most main stream media as well as our popular online forums tend to have enormous blindspots where it really matters (this blog included). Hopefully, the four year celebration of Obama's probable victory will give us ample opportunities to borrow and share power across racial and cultural lines, and indeed spread the wealth and privilege, access, and opportunities. The spirit of this campaign has tremendous potential on the local level and I hope that this healer of a national politician will have an effect on us right here in Richmond.

Rather than provide highlights of the speech (cuz I didn't take notes), I'll provide a link to the transcript of his speech.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beware of This Richmond SUV Driver

Jasper has acquired another Sport Utility Vehicle from the secondary market (ebay, Craigslist, etc). This time, rather than a three wheeler with a block-rockin soundsystem, Baby-Jay is gonna be driving his own Jeep all over the house.

"You got a problem with my driving?"

These first few pics are his first time behind the wheel, before he understood the Flintstonian principle of propelling a car with one's feet. We got this Jeep brand walker because Jasper loves to be upright. His exersaucer already gives him stand-up time with plenty of activities, but the scenery never changes.

"Push me around Byrd Park in this thing, and then I'll smile."

Now that Jasper has started kicking the ground while in his walker, this is the face he makes when he's lunging after our pug, or the dish-towels, or the buttons on the TV set. It's like he's leading with his open mouth (where everything goes, once it's in his hands).

Today, I was cooking and Jasper was bumping into the kitchen cabinets. I took my eyes off of him for two minutes and when I looked back, he had pulled a paper grocery bag from the space between the fridge and the wall. The bag was flopped over Jasper's head and he was busy gnawing on the thin paper handle. I think we're gonna have to get used to this new trouble-making trend that goes with mobility.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

eBikes: How We (should) Roll

Pushing bike riding on people is a tough task, even with expensive gas prices. But what about bikes you don't have to push? Have you heard of an electric bicycle? AKA an eBike? Are you not ready for a scooter and don't wanna get all sweaty riding a bike to work? Here's an option for under $400.
They call the motors on these eBikes "pedal assist," like on an old school moped , because you can't get by on the motor alone. The motor won't help going downhill and your feet will have to pitch in up a really steep hill. But it can go 18 miles an hour for 20 miles on a single charge. And it's really fun to ride.

Karen and I got to ride one of these on a recent trip. Turn the throttle and the thing will almost leave you behind if you don't have a good grip. Another drawback is the battery. It makes the bike heavy. Solution: roll it, don't lift it. Also, you have to replace the battery every year or so and that's not gonna be cheap (same deal at Walmart). But, overall, the bike is cheap. Sure, you could spend more on an electric bike, but this one will get anyone onto one who is serious about driving less.

Watch it GO:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stop McCain's Angry Mob*

Dear ______,

John McCain and Sarah Palin have stopped talking about the issues, and have instead launched a strategy relying on fear-mongering, racial divisions, and hate. The result is McCain/Palin supporters at rallies saying "kill him!"[1] "terrorist!"[2] "traitor,"[3] and more, with the McCain campaign playing dumb in response.[4] It's outrageous and it must stop.

Together, we can show that Americans of all races won't stand for this.

Sign our open-letter calling out McCain and Palin. We'll publish it this week, and as we've shown in the past, when enough of us stand together, we can force the mainstream media to amplify our message. Click below to watch a video from Brave New Films showing the atmosphere at McCain rallies, sign on to our open letter, and ask your friends and family to do the same:

McCain-Palin rallies have started to look more like mob scenes than political events. The candidates keep asking "who is the real Barack Obama?" (a question that also kicks off almost every McCain television ad).[5] In response, supporters have yelled "terrorist!" and "traitor!" And the venom goes beyond Obama--one McCain/Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at a Black member of a news crew, saying "sit down, boy."[6]

The outbursts at McCain/Palin events have crossed the line into direct threats and suggestions of violence. Last week, at the mention of Obama's name, a McCain supporter yelled "kill him!"[7]--prompting a secret service investigation.[8] A few days later, someone shouted
"off with his head!"[9] In the face of all of this, McCain and Palin haven't stopped for five seconds to denounce these violent outbursts. In fact they've tried to defend them [10,11]--and their fear-mongering smear tactics continue.

McCain and Palin are going down a dangerous path. Watching some of their supporters being interviewed shows the kind of fear their campaign is stoking and exploiting.[12,13] McCain and Palin are clearly in the driver's seat. They've personally made it a point to use "terrorist" and "Obama" in the same sentence; their surrogates have repeatedly referred to Obama by his middle-name;[14,15] and they keep pushing the discredited guilt-by-association smears that have long been debunked.

All of it plays on the much more sinister rumors in anonymous smear emails that claim Obama is Muslim, anti-American, and is somehow connected with terrorists.[16] The strategy works and is powerful because it plays into the suspicions some White Americans have about Blacks: about our true allegiances and our trustworthiness. In the end, it makes Obama's race a disadvantage without appearing overtly racist.

A unified response

As Americans of all stripes, we've seen how Barack Obama's historic candidacy has moved our friends and family to have a more honest conversation about race in this country. It's inspired a lot of people to step out of their comfort zone and confront racism in their own communities, with their friends, neighbors, and families.

Now we have McCain, at a time of crisis in this country, pandering to one of the worst instincts in America. His campaign is playing to the kind of suspicion, hatred and fear that brings out the worst in us all, which history shows can lead to horrible consequences.

We can fight back

In the final days of this campaign, we can't let a desperate John McCain and Sarah Palin drag us down. If enough of us act, we can create a powerful story in the media about Black people and our allies of all races standing together against race-baiting and fear-mongering coming from the McCain/Palin campaign. But it will take a lot of us speaking in unison.

Will you sign an open letter to McCain and Palin, telling them who you are and why you won't let them move our country backward? We'll publish the letter and make sure John McCain is forced to respond.

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, Andre, Kai, and the rest of the PAC team
October 14th, 2008


1. "Unleashed, Palin Makes a Pit Bull Look Tame," Washington Post,

2. "Obama called a terrorist" (video)

3. "McCain Supporter Yells Out 'Traitor!'" (video)

4. "McCain camp defends the behavior?," First Read, 10/10/08

5. "TV Ad: Dangerous", John McCain campaign, 10/06/08

6. See reference 1.

7. See reference 1.

8. "'Kill Him' Yell At Clearwater Palin Rally Being Probed," Tampa Bay
Online, 10/10/08

9. "McCain's 'Fellow Prisoners'," First Read, 10/08/08

10. See reference 4.

11. "John Lewis vs. John McCain," First Read, 10/11/08

12. "The Sidewalk to Nowhere, McCain Supporters in Bethlehem, PA"

13. "The McCain-Palin Mob" (video)

14. "Florida Sheriff Intros Palin, Says 'Barack Hussein Obama',"

15. "McCain and Palin in Bethlehem: A live report!",

16. "Who is Barack Obama?", January 2008

*"mob" may be generous, because the bankrupt ideology of the Republican party is thinning out its own herd. Hopefully, we're gaining independent thinkers while we endure the remaining screams of bigotted zealots.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rare Pictures of Foodie Spawn Feeding

Rather than bore you with the Guard family's economic desperation and dispair, maybe I should give you some highlights from the ever changing world of Jasper Diego. That's right, babies don't give a shit about Wall Street or Main street. They just know they gots ta eat. Whereas previously, a picture of Jasper getting his grub on would have required a legal disclaimer and possibly a monthly subscription fee, the new additions to his diet are totally G-rated.

This isn't chrono- logical order. Here, Jasper is about a week into his occasional solid food treat. How about that helpful open-mouth reflex? Where did he learn it? The final scene from A Clockwork Orange?

The little guy's mouth also has a reflex that pushes food out to prevent choking, but he has really taken to this pureed butternut squash (bought at the Forrest Hill farmers' market and baked and blended at home).

Yeah, that bib says "Give peas a chance." But we're not quite there yet. Gotta take it slow and test each ingredient long enough to figure out if he's allergic or if there's any kind of intestinal reaction. So far, it's just blended butternut and frozen bananas in a little mesh baggy (perfect for teething) that allows only a puree to leech out into the gnawing and nursing mouth.

It wasn't always peaches 'n'cream feeding Jasper Dee his poridge. This is the first time around. Rice cereal from Earth's Best Organic. He was fussy to begin with and he didn't know what to make of the stuff we put in his mouth. The initial reaction passed eventually and he allowed the experiment to continue.

Even though he demanded to have a hand in the process to ensure competent imple- mentation, Jasper wasn't keen on this new food at first. What's that expression saying? "Are you sure this is what humans are supposed to eat?" I make the same face when I change his diapers and ask myself the same question, "Am I sure we're feeding him right?"

The moral of this story is right here on the tea leaves of this baby's face. Businesses may not see their graphic designer and marketing coordinator as a dependent, but Jasper is sure as heck dependent on us; no layoffs can change that. If you know anyone who needs graphic design work, send them to Karen's new freelance site.

Richmond's Got a Big Ol' Butt!

Karen was determined to make sure Jasper got to see the guys swinging by their feet from a pole up in the sky. So, we headed over the Folk Festival. The little guy hadn't been able to nap all day, which worried us a bit. Fortunately for us, Jasper tends to rise to the occasion and soak up whatever the adventure might be (except for dinner out, which he ruins like clock work).

Sitting in the grass in one of the only shady spots near the pole, we waited for these colorfully adorned folks at the top of the to start dangling and spinning. And we waited... and Jasper couldn't seem to tell that there was anything to see up in the sky. We passed the restless bundle back and forth. One guy up there started playing a flute and a tiny drum. This got Jasper's legs going and he jumped in place along to the beat (held upright by his parents, of course). Eventually, after a couple more flute songs, they started their twirling decent.

I waved my arms and baby toys in the direction of the spectacle and Jasper's eyes followed. Taking the toys away, he was still gazing up at the performers. Then away, then back, then away. And it was over. The spinning decent took under five minutes. And there was nothing left to see.

Call and Response Time

Next up, E.U. I could hardly believe that I would have a chance to hear "Da butt" live. Karen couldn't see why a DC go-go band would be included in the Folk Festival. But it was clear enough to me. Go-go music is a regional thing. Despite brief bouts with mainstream success like Lean On Me and Da Butt, (both 80's fluff by most go-go fans' standards) the bouncy percussion-heavy party music is barely heard outside of DC and the surrounding states of Maryland and Virginia. The shit is folksier than Sarah Palin, but just as raunchy as her teenage baby-mamas, and it's no flash in the pan. Check out that Wiki link for a great history lesson on go-go (Rare Essense has always been a favorite group of mine).

After surveying the food vendors, we splurged on some hush puppies, ice cream, and beer. But not until we both recoiled at the ridiculous prices placed on most of the festival food. Yeah, I know. The event was free, so what do you expect? Um, I expect to pay $3 or two samosas, not one tiny one (India K'Raja) or $5-6 for red curry over rice instead of $10 (Ginger Thai Taste). I also expect to see the price for that advertised falafel on at least one of the vendor's signs. Whatever. We came for the upsidedown spinning guys and we stayed for "Da Butt."

You could hear the funky beat from across the transformed James River Parks. E.U. was tearing into the crowd with propulsive thumping and provocations to party. By the time we made our way over there, a woman was singing a slow jam and the drums had been been turned down from eleven to negative two. Nonetheless, I tried to make Karen and Jasper get their groove on to what was left of the music.

Just then, one of the male singers started yelling into the mic and the guy behind the tom toms had returned to his station. The entire crowd nodded along to the syncopated beat, slowly getting back into it. I couldn't stop smiling. Who cares about their big hit? Any go-go is better than no go-go. Soon, I was getting social - chatting up an old acquaintance, Trey, a super nice guy who arm-barred and triangle choked me regularly but mercifully during my brief stint training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He still trains, and even coaches, but mostly redoes people's kitchens and bathrooms (hit me up if you want his number).

Just before we decided to leave on this high-note. The band started up their anthem.

When you get that notion,
put your backfield in motion, hey
Doin' the butt. Hey sexy, sexy
Ain't nothing wrong,
if you wanna do the butt
all night long!*

Later that night, Jasper decided to make us pay for his delayed nap. The racket drove me outta the house and into the arms of my Obama door-knocking neighbors. I joined their effort for an hour or so, talking to several fence-sitting voters. One swore she'd never vote for "that muslim." Others had already voted absentee. In every case, even with the misinformed lady, we were warmly received. A good way to cap off the day. Well, actually, the sleeping baby, a cold Yeungling, and an episode of Dexter were the real rewards. Time to start another week.

*If you don't understand the title to this post, then you've never enjoyed Da Butt straight thru to the end. Fix that.

Fickle Freakout at Farouks

On Friday, I took my bike to Carytown on lunch break. I walked the whole length of the shopping district and couldn't decide on a bite to eat. Each place I considered offered too much uncertainty. I wanted something familiar, predictable, and fuss-free. That's right, Indian buffet at Farouks.

Wait, what?! Haven't I talked endless smack about that place being one of Richmond's worst restaurants? Well, I just wanted to calibrate my suck-o-meter. And what better than guaranteed suckiness, for such a task? Also, I was kinda punishing myself for being so fickle.

The lunch buffet at Farouks is $7.99. They always have a saag, tandoori chicken wings, a bean dish (like daal or chole), a chicken and a veggie currie, rice, raita, iceburg lettuce salad, and a few watered down chutneys. Is this making you hungery? Along with these dishes, you get the worst naan bread ever created. In fact, most of the dishes are in league with the bread. This was true eight years ago, when I ate this stuff without employing any criticism. And it's still true today. Blechhh.

But somehow, a buffet is generally cut some slack in the quality department, because... oh, that shame inducing quantitiy factor makes it hard to criticize after eating so damned much of it. Which leads me to my point. I wanna speak my piece, even after I've been served and asked for seconds and maybe with my mouff full.

I go up to pay the man who's running the register.

So, I've noticed that a lot of businesses are closing on Cary Street.

"Yes. It's true."

Are you worried?


I never see anyone eating in here whenever I come in. Are you doing enough business?

"We will be alright. There is nothing to worry about."

They say the rents are too high in Carytown.

"Yes, that's right."

You must own your building.

"Yes. So we are safe."

(c'mon Jason. Tell him he'd be better than safe if he'd serve better food.)

See ya.

"Have a nice day."

Okay, so I didn't exactly stand and deliver my true feelings. That was gutless. Now I've just got a belly full of regrets to show for that little experiment. In case I didn't clarify it well enough. Nothing's new under the sun at Farouks. It's still amazingly bland and boring. Someone out there will probably correct me and point out that Northwestern Indian cuisine tends to use fewer spices or some such enlightenment. But I don't care. I just want to see the natural selection that's thinning out Carytown zero in on those places that are truly deserving of extinction.

To clense my palate, I'm headed to the Festival of India next weekend. You should too.

Friday, October 03, 2008

My Tirade on Ch. 6 News Tonight w/Rob Cardwell

Karen came home from work today upset that her boss wants to cut her hours from full time to only two days a week. How does an employee respond to that? We just had a baby. Our expenses are increasing, not decreasing. She's a damned good graphic designer (and marketing coordinator) and she gets asked to go to part time overnight? I'm sure everything will be alright, but for the time being, this is really bad news for us.

Neither of us could raise our spirits enough to cook dinner, so we walked to Main and Meadow to get some carry out. While we waited for our food at European Market, Rob Cardwell* from Channel 6 was filming a news piece comparing the uncertainty on Wall Street to "Main Street" (literally, West Main Street in Richmond - probably a knock-off of this morning's NPR story with the same concept). So, wouldn't you know that I had to vent about Karen's potential layoff? On camera... wearing a mic. Please don't call me a media whore, since I'm in print this month too. But that was food stuff. This is serious.

So, I get in front of the camera and start going off about the economy. Tell me if I went too far. Here's my loose paraphrase:
It's not the businesses we need to be worried about. It's the people who work for them. My wife has a full time job, five days a week - she works as a professional and her boss just asked her to go to two days a week. I mean, is that ridiculous or what? Can anyone watching this imagine paying your bills on only two days pay? I don't know if there is a financial crisis, but all of the media hysteria is making small businesses freak out and downsize, making shortsighted decisions that don't take into consideration the real consequences for their employees and their families.
After that, Karen and I went home to commiserate. At the time of this writing, I haven't seen the 11 o'clock news yet. My bit didn't make for good soundbites. I hope I didn't get Karen fired. Not that it would be significantly worse news. But seriously, if there's a news crew looking for the truth on how economic issues affect regular people, wouldn't you stop and tell them if you were me? Or maybe my outburst was likewise shortsighted? Well, I was defending my wife, anyhow. Regardless, now we've got to figure out how to piece together enough income to keep our family afloat. Any suggestions? Anyone need a graphic designer?

*Rob Cardwell was appropriately compassionate and I think his piece turned out to be fairly informative, in an ADHD sorta way. Nice guy.


Well, I saw it and they cut it down to a snippet. Just the part that goes "my wife works full time and her boss pulled her aside to ask her if she would reduce her time to two days per week. That's a ridiculous question." I guess that reinforces their point that the sky is falling. Thanks, media. Actually, my larger point was mostly reflected in Rob Cardwell's epilogue that people are also affected by economic matters. Wonder who else saw it. Maybe my bit will prevent further layoffs by employers. Better check Buttermilk and Molasses to see if John is liveblogging the tirade. Then, to the classifieds I guess.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Trade Talk in Richmond: Oct. 7th

Since THE ECONOMY is the hot political topic as of late, maybe it's worth a closer look as to how we got into this mess. The ideology that corporate powers should operate free from any government regulation is highly suspect (and so is the idea of handing over $700billion). Remember all those free trade agreements that Clinton and Bush trumpeted with the widespread support of Congress? (NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA...) Well, all of a sudden, it seems that every elected official has changed their tune; almost a complete 180. And what about the latino boogie man that every politician used to scare potential voters?

The throngs of anti-globalization protesters were right. Too bad we jailed them, gassed and sprayed them, suppressed them with riot cops, and called them terrorists. It turns out that labor and environmental standards actually are important safeguards. And loan sharks aren't very good stewards of our personal or national finances. People do have as much right to cross boarders as multi-national corporations. And wouldn't you know it, pre-fab commercially sponsored monocultures are not a suitable replacement for authentic regional cultural expression. Have I belabored the point? Maybe you'd rather hear it from someone who can speak with more authority on the subject (see below).

Remember when I went to Mexico? The place is amazing (especially the food) and beautiful. But we're screwing up their country by aggressively trying to expand our brand of fake plastic strip-mall corporate wonderland (yes, their country - like all coutries - already had its own problems and now they're going to have ours too). The most delicious tacos are made by hand with the freshest ingredients and sold on every street corner in Mexico City for a quarter a piece. But Mexicans are increasingly lined up, sometimes 15 people deep to buy Subway and Burger King sandwiches for $4.50 and up. It's really sad. And it's probably because America has been really effective at making citizens in other countries think they need to adopt the American image of "success." What better way to embrace freedom than the conformity of spending your money on overpriced crap?

Sociologist from Mexico to Speak on Immigration and Trade
On Tuesday, October 7, at 7:30pm, Witness for Peace SE and the Richmond Peace Education Center will bring Marco Antonio Velasquez Navarrete to Richmond. A sociologist from the Mexican Network for Action on Free Trade (REMALC), Marco Antonio Valesquez Navarrete works with the anti-globalization people's movement in Mexico. He is affiliated with the
Network for Popular Education as well as the Urban Popular Movement in Mexico City.

His talk in Richmond will focus on the impact of corporate-dominated trade policies such as NAFTA on the Mexican people, especially small farmers. It will raise awareness about the connection between trade and immigration, and explain how the economic policies that the U.S. supports in Latin America create economic insecurity and drive people to immigrate north.

The Richmond Peace Education Center is supporting Witness for Peace in bringing this speaker to Richmond, and invites the community to attend. The event is free, and no registration is required.

The talk will be held at St. Augustine Catholic Church, 4400 Beulah Road, Richmond, VA 23237, on October 7, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. It will be in the Fellowship Hall. Enter through the side door. Please arrive a few minutes early. The talk will start promptly at 7:30.