Jun 30

Dear Readers,

As you know, a morning without coffee is really no morning at all. There is no way to get to lunch, and the subsequent afternoon, and finally that favorite time of day I like to call time to get off work, without having begun the day with a small* mug of delicious local brew with my good buddies Batdorf & Bronson (also known as Dancing Goats), the coffee roasters.

*Small like a 7-11 Big Gulp is small.

Sometimes Batdorf and Bronson’s prices are through the roof —- which means that I have to climb onto my roof and sell each individual shingle in order to afford a 12 ounce bag—-but spending the extra roof shingle for a company like this is well worth the price. Batdorf & Bronson’s coffee is fair-trade certified, which means that in exchange for a super-size morning cup of coffee, my colleagues and clients are presented with a tolerable Troi who is both awake and amiable in general demeaner, which is a pretty fair trade if you ask me. Fair-trade coffee also supports a better life for farmers by adhering to strict criteria regarding price, environmental sustainability, fair labor conditions, and trade, among others. A fair price, particularly, ensures small coffee farmers are earning wages that exceed the cost of production, eliminating the cycle of poverty and debt.

Batdorf & Bronson’s coffee beans are also shade grown, meaning that their beans have been protected from sunlight, reducing their risk of melanoma. Maverick beans that sneak out of their shade grown home in their quest for a good suntan are required to wear a good-quality UVA/UVB sunscreen of at least SPF 30. In addition to having good skin, shade grown beans are grown, as their name suggests, in the shade of trees. These nitrogen-fixing trees enhance the soil and the growth of plant life as well as provide a natural habitat for birds that is not readily available in more recent hybrid coffee bean varieties that grow in direct sunlight. Birds in shade-grown coffee environments offer natural insect control by way of frequent foraging, reducing or entirely eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

In contrast to shade-grown beans, the newer, sun-friendly hybrids require chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in soil erosion, water runoff, and soil depletion and necessitating the need to clear rainforest for new planting soil. Not only is this an unsustainable practice, but many bird populations have been declining as a consequence of the shedding of shade-growing practices.

My good friends Batdorf & Bronson have also been purchasing 100% of their electricity from renewable resources since 2000. I much prefer my energy unrenewable (I hoard coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power whenever I can get my hands on them, for no reason in particular), however, Batdorf & Bronson seem to think they’re doing the environment a favor, and any company that produces such tasty coffee can’t be completely wrong about its energy practices.

If you’re likeminded in your search for coffee that you can feel good about drinking, click here to see some fair-trade certified coffee options. If you’re a fan of Peet’s Coffee, try their fair trade blend.

Happy Coffee Drinking!

–Troi out

Jun 22

Dear Readers,

tacky, but free

So as my nearby beloved Hollywood Video recently became another casualty to the new generation of netflixers, it held a final closing sale to part with its cinematic stock. “Everything Must Go!” reported the banner strewn across the front of the store. “Prices marked down 30-50%!”

Now, I’ve never taken a business class, and I presume the definition of a liquid asset to be a really tasty microbrew, but I know the urgency connotated by “must” (Troi on a road trip of more than 10 minutes in duration: “We must stop now and find a rest area!”) and if everything really must go, wouldn’t marking it down by 100% speed up the exit of products from a store?

And it’s not just Hollywood Video’s oversight. In this economy businesses are closing their doors with lightning speed, each closure allegedly necessitating the elimination of all unsold stock, and yet not a single business uses my suggested catch phrase: “Everything must go. So come in and take it. For free.”

You may have heard that everyone’s favorite word is their own name. This is a misnomer. Everyone’s favorite word is actually “free.” Everyone’s favorite short phrase incorporates both their first name and the word “free,” as in, “Hey [insert your name here], did you hear about the free [insert object here]?”

A price reduction of 100%, rendering an item entirely without cost, is irresistible to the average American. Consider this: Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shoppe. People stand in line for hours salivating at the anticipation of a miniature confection that will take 1/100th the time to consume. And in Portland, our Ben & Jerry’s is downtown. The only way to get there is to take public transportation, which costs $4.75 for an all-day pass (which, face it, you’ll need if you’re waiting in line for that free cone), or to drive, which requires the price of public parking at $1.60/hour. It would be cheaper to walk to the nearest Fred Meyer and buy a half-gallon of Tillamook ice cream, which, if you were wondering, is bigger than a free cone at Ben & Jerry’s. But you don’t hear anybody saying, “Hey, it’s free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s! Let’s go to Fred Meyer and buy a half-gallon of Tillamook ice cream!” Instead, you hear them saying, “Hey, it’s free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s! Let’s drive down there, pay our life savings in parking fees to the city of Portland, spend three hours waiting in line in the Portland rain, and receive a single spoonful of ice cream in return for our troubles, because it’s free.”

And it’s not just Free Cone Day that sucks us in. Upon moving out, my roommate recently attempted to unload his surplus of worthless belongings onto my already sizable collection of worthless belongings.

“Look what a great pencil-holder this tacky ceramic teacup makes!” he suggested hopefully after carefully arranging my stray pencils in an awkward arrangement in the teacup.

“No way,” I answered firmly. “I don’t want your stuff. Get rid of it.”

“But…..it’s free,” he continued. “You don’t have to pay a thing for it!”

FREE??” I exclaimed excitedly. “I’ll take two tacky ceramic teacups, then!”

Dangle the word “free” in front of us, and suddenly our whole outlook on consumerism changes. The words “Buy one get one free” add a whole new lure to the purchase of previously undesirable products. I recently bought mascara on a “buy one get one free” sale at Fred Meyer. I don’t even wear mascara. Certainly, it would have made more financial sense to buy no mascara for free than to buy two tubes of mascara at some cost to me. But the only word I saw was “free,” and now I’m trying to sell mascara on eBay.

“Free” is indeed a magical word. So Hollywood Video would do well to take my financial advice and mark down their movies by 100%. Because if “everything must go,” that should do it.

–Troi out

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Jun 2

So as I drove home from work today, I listened to OPB to catch up on the latest news from around the world; the BP oil spill, Sarah Palin’s newest book (I’m Roguer Than You Are, or something), and the most recent threat to mankind: Grasshoppers.


Yes, Readers, grasshoppers are the latest terrorists in a slew of enemies threatening to bring down the northwestern region of this great nation. According to OPB, a severe grasshopper invasion has been headed straight for the Northwest, predicted to be the most formidable grasshopper infestation since the Great Grasshopper Hostilities of 1933 when grasshoppers became privy to the fact that humans were covering them in chocolate and eating them. Legend has it that during the GGH, Grasshoppers became so tyrannical that they stopped hopping and began jumping from place to place, and some even went so far as to begin hopping in non-grassy terrain, like on soil and sidewalks. (They also apparently munched on a few crops, obliterating farmers’ harvests, or something, whatever.)

As frightening as our green adversaries sound, there is hope on the horizon. OPB reports that the northwest’s rainy late-May weather, which differs from previous years’ rainy late-May weather in no way whatsoever but apparently bears mention anyway, is well-timed as it provides a cold and damp climate that is ideal for breeding diseases and fungi that could knock baby grasshoppers right out of the grassy field. If these late-May weather patterns remain consistent, grasshoppers’ numbers should be dropping over the next few years, which is OPB’s nice way of saying frogs won’t be the only things croaking in the near future.

Now that’s just mean. Grasshoppers aren’t my favorite insect, either, and certainly, I wouldn’t keep one as a pet, anymore, but to report on their demise as a celebratory story (“But enough about the unstoppable oil gushing through the Gulf for the next five years, here’s Bob with a heartwearming tale of death to grasshoppers”) simply doesn’t seem fair to the little green guys. I mean, it’s not like the grasshoppers are hurting anybody (except organic and sustainable farmers’ crops, farmers’ livelihoods, and the food supply).

I think there’s an easy alternative to all of this grasshopposition that simply hasn’t been considered due to the strained relations that have endured since the Great Grasshopper Hostilities of 1933. Why not offer grasshoppers an incentive not to chew on crops meant for human consumption? (Hear me out on this one. My ideas are highly underrated—-to date, nobody has actually used one of them. I’m flummoxed.) We all know that grasshoppers are vegetarian. And we all know that nobody actually eats brussels sprouts. Yet brussels sprouts continue to be grown, to sit on grocery store shelves under the pretenses that somebody, somewhere, will actually buy them, and they continue to rot, unbought. Why not just place brussels sprouts in areas of high grasshopper traffic, with a sign that says, “Grasshopper Food.” Grasshoppers will surely see the sign and forgo their usual diet of farmers’ crops in favor of a nutritious brussels sprout. Crops will flourish, humans and grasshoppers will co-exist peacefully, and my family will stop trying to serve brussels sprouts during Christmas dinner.

–Troi out