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What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What Ballard Looks Like During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Ballard is the neighborhood where I live in Northwest Seattle, Washington that was a sleepy little Scandinavian neighborhood when I moved in. It’s gone through many changes over the past few decades that have made it a destination for Seattleites and for tourists from all over the country and the world. It’s where people go to drink, because there are many great bars and restaurants, plus the world famous Tractor Tavern music venue.

I took a walk through Ballard last weekend to see how the coronavirus shutdown has changed it.

Ballard was a bustling neighborhood with many thriving locally owned businesses, but now they are all hurting because of the severe economic slowdown brought on by the social distancing required to stop the spread of the highly contagious, deadly coronavirus. I can only hope the pandemic soon wanes and that Ballard, Seattle, Washington, and the rest of America and the world can get back to normal. I want all of these businesses to survive, but I don’t think all of them can without some huge help from the state and federal government, and from all the locals pitching in to buy what they can from them when they can.

The Great Recession was about “Too Big to Fail”. This recession is going to be all about “Too Small to Fail”.

Update: While drafting this post last night, I was listening to The Roadhouse with Greg Vandy, the best weekly radio show on KEXP. During his show Greg informed us listeners about You Don’t Bother Me: A Fundraiser For Ballard Ave Music Venues put together by Seattle band, The Cupholders.

This compilation is a fundraiser for the staff of the Ballard Avenue music venues that have been forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bartenders, sound technicians & door attendants at Conor Byrne Pub, Hotel Albatross, The Sunset Tavern & The Tractor Tavern are our family and make sure that we as musicians have a place to play as well as build and sustain our community.

To celebrate these noble warriors, all the artists on this compilation have recorded their own version of Casey Ruff’s song “You Don’t Bother Me” a song celebrating friendships, good times and hangovers made on Ballard Avenue

Facebook page here.

Also, there are links in the photo captions to most all of the businesses in the photo gallery, but you’ll need to scroll over the words to see them. Try it!

European Union has the Upper Hand on Animal Welfare Rules

European Union has the Upper Hand on Animal Welfare Rules

The New York Times reports that progress in negotiations on an historic trade agreement between the United States and European Union has slowed to a snail’s pace thanks, in part, to the EU balking at accepting our hormone-treated, antibiotic-injected and inhumanely raised beef, pork and chicken. More power to them and let’s hope it’s the US that buckles and not the EU.

It must be unusual and more than a little uncomfortable for US negotiators to be in the position of a relatively backward nation negotiating with a party whose environmental and overall regulatory regimen, at least when it comes to agriculture, is stricter and more progressive than our own. The EU has strict laws on labelling genetically modified foods, stricter rules on the humane treatment of farm animals and, unlike the US, prohibits the sale of hormone-treated beef.

Unfortunately, thanks to Big Ag and its stooges in Congress, the US is far less enlightened. California is a leader in the humane treatment of farm stock but there is no will to improve their lot at the national level. And while the GMO labelling fight is not over, voters in relatively progressive states such as California and Washington have opted for wilful ignorance over transparency.

Even the environmental damage caused by industrial farming – as this piece on the poisoning of Iowa’s water by factory hog farms highlights – has failed to prompt a serious rethinking of the way we raise animals for food. Do we have to wait until Iowa has its very first mountain range composed of pig shit before we take notice of the harm we’re doing?

We demand cheap meat no matter what the price paid by the animals we raise and refuse to confront Big Ag about its nefarious practices. Heck we don’t even want to know about it, hence the term “Ag-gag” which denotes laws passed in several states to effectively prevent revelations about abusive and cruel treatment of farm animals.

There are no easy answers to the question of how we can healthily and humanely raise our farm animals while still providing affordable beef, pork and chicken, as even a staunch animal welfare and sustainable food advocate such as Nicholas Kristof acknowledges.

Which doesn’t mean we can’t try, and kudos to the EU countries for leading the way while showing us up to be the backward and ignorant yahoos we’ve become on this issue. And who knows? Maybe one day their example will shame us into rejecting our present industrial model of food production for a better and more moral one.

Vote “Yes” on I-522: Washington consumers have a right to know if our food has been genetically altered.

Vote “Yes” on I-522: Washington consumers have a right to know if our food has been genetically altered.

GMO-MonsantoOn November 5 voters in Washington State have an opportunity to advance the cause of consumer protection and product transparency, not only for consumers in our own state but nationally, by passing I-522. If I-522 passes, foods will have to be labeled for genetically modified organisms (GMO) content.

Opponents of I-522, which include Big Chemical, Big Ag and Big Grocery, have funded an obfuscatory campaign that makes mostly bogus claims that it is confusing and misleading, and will be costly. But it is the opponents’ ads that are misleading

One in particular is that Washington will be alone in such labeling. In fact, both Connecticut and Maine have passed GMO labeling laws, contingent on nearby states doing the same. Alaska has a more limited GMO law dating from 2005. And several other states are considering GMO labeling.

It’s true that we should have a national GMO labeling law but Monsanto and others in Big Business have squashed that particular avenue, to date, thanks to our spineless politicians in the other Washington. What truly frightens I-522’s opponents is that passing the law in Washington will increase the momentum for such laws in other states and that their plan for GMO foods to be the new norm will be derailed.

Where I-522 treats the consumer as a grown-up, its opponents adopt a nauseatingly paternalistic attitude that says, in effect: “Don’t worry your little heads about GMO foods, just trust us”.

In contrast, European Union consumers are treated like adults since their foods are so labeled and they don’t seem confused, nor have they seen increased costs from it.

The bottom line here is that consumers always benefit from transparency and from the principle that more information is better than less. That way we are better informed on the choices before us – choices that we have a right to make as consumers.

We have a right to know when the foods on our grocery shelves have been scientifically altered. Monsanto, its shills and its allies seek to keep Washington State consumers in the dark. On November 5, let’s turn on the lights.

The E. Coli Outbreak in Germany and GOP Spending Cuts

The E. Coli Outbreak in Germany and GOP Spending Cuts

Polls tell us that a majority of Americans support the GOP in its dangerously misguided insistence on deep government spending cuts as a condition of raising the nation’s debt ceiling. It’s another example of the inability of many Americans to connect the dots between such abstract and broad-brushed government spending reductions and the reality of specific cuts to popular entitlements and programs such as Medicare.

Consider the following extract from a piece on the E.coli outbreak in Germany by Gardiner Harris that appeared in the New York Times on 02 June:

“One clear lesson from the German outbreak is that contaminated food can come from anywhere,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota. “We often want to think that the foods from the developing world are risky,” Dr. Osterholm said. “Produce safety is a problem everywhere.”

Indeed, the German outbreak is likely to increase concerns over the safety of fresh vegetables, Dr. Tarr said. The United States has suffered multiple contamination scares over the past decade in tomatoes, lettuce and spinach.

“I can tell you how to make a hamburger safe, but I can’t tell you how to do that with a head of lettuce,” Dr. Tarr said. “And that’s important.”

A law passed by Congress last year gave the Food and Drug Administration new powers to mandate that companies undertake preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of such outbreaks, and the law called for increased inspections to ensure compliance. The agency requested additional financing to implement the new law, including hiring more inspectors next year. Republicans in the House have instead proposed cutting the agency’s budget.

Hands up all those who’d like to increase the risk of an E. Coli outbreak in America so we can cut government spending to preserve and even extend tax cuts for the rich. Welcome to the GOP’s vision for America!

Most Americans have yet to come to grips with the reality that lawmakers in today’s GOP have been pushed further to the right by its extremist base than ever before. A Washington Post piece on 05 June by Lori Montgomery highlights the fact that all but 13 of 288 Republicans in the Congress have signed a formal pledge not to vote to raise taxes.  And if they break the pledge, right-wing organizations such as Americans for Tax Reform will see they are punished when they’re up for re-election.

So when we hear GOP congressional leaders urging President Obama to negotiate on raising the debt ceiling and on future budgets, it isn’t a true negotiation that is being demanded but a cave-in, an abject surrender, to what was an extreme position by a fringe right-wing faction but is now mainstream GOP anti-tax, anti-government orthodoxy.   

If raising taxes are off the table, we can only significantly reduce the deficit by massive spending cuts that will do devastating damage to our nation. That’s a fact on which most mainstream economists agree (and even many ex-GOP lawmakers who were in Congress during a different time agree).  

What’s more, GOP assertions that slashing government spending will help the economy are just so much hot air.  The only case for that would be if government borrowing was crowding out the private sector and serving to raise interest rates. Neither is the case. In fact, interest rates are at historical lows. However, as we have seen with the painful cuts made by state and local government, significant cuts to federal programs will only add to the nation’s economic distress and the unemployment rolls.  

Americans must soon make a clear choice to either embrace the GOP’s extremist vision for America or to reject it utterly. Splitting the difference through divided government as we have done so often in the past, will no longer do; it will simply delay the moment when Americans must decide what sort of society they want.

And make no mistake: the consequences of making the wrong choice promise to be devastating.

Good Salami

Good Salami

Salami Number 1:

That’s Salumi Mole Salami. It’s spiced with the same ingredients found in Mexican mole sauce:  chocolate, cinnamon, ancho and chipotle peppers. The hint of chocolate gives the sausage a lush mouth-feel and the mild peppers provide just the right amount of heat on the tongue. The taste experience is intoxicating.  I’m talking mouthgasms…

Salami Number 2:


That’s one of the scrolls of paper used for Jack Kerouac’s manuscript of On The Road. Kerouac didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought by having to slip a new sheet of paper in his typewriter every few minutes, so he inserted a roll of UPI teletype paper into the machine and started typing the tale of his wild road journey. His friend John Clellon Holmes called it “a roll like a big piece of salami.”

On the Road was first published on September 5, 1957. It was revolutionary. No had written like this before.

“They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”

“We fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess–across the night…”

“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child, believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome, grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life.”

More quotes here.

Better yet, read the book.

Shit Bean Coffee and Maggot Cheese

Shit Bean Coffee and Maggot Cheese

I drink a lot of coffee, so when I come across an article about it I usually read it.  Last week the Los Angeles Times ran a story about Indonesian coffee made from beans extracted from civet dung.

civet dung containing coffee beans
civet dung containing coffee beans

I’d heard about this supposedly delicious $600/pound kopi luwak coffee before with a flavor that “has a top note of rich, dark chocolate, with secondary notes that are musty and earthy” and a scent that has “the smell of moist earth after a rainfall, with hints of vanilla, that teases the palate for hours after the cup is empty.”

If I ever have the opportunity to try this rare coffee, I will.

I am also fond of imported cheeses, so this section of the same article really caught my attention.

[Canadian food scientist Massimo] Marcone is one of the world’s leading experts on foods that make most people go yuck! He recently wrote a book on the subject. One thing that really gets his glands salivating is casu frazigu cheese, which is packed with so many live maggots that it’s not only disgusting, the Italian government outlawed it.

“The rotten cheese has millions of live maggots in it, and it’s very highly prized all through Italy,” Marcone said. “It sells under the counter for about $100 a pound. As you’re carrying your bag with the cheese in it, you can actually hear the maggots hitting the side of the bag.

“People eat the cheese and maggots altogether. There’s nothing in there that can cause harm.”

From there I went to Wikipedia where I found the cheese is also known as casu marzu.

Casu Marzu maggott cheese

Derived from Pecorino Sardo, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down of the cheese’s fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from the Sardinian for “tears”) seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 8 mm (1/3 inch) long. When disturbed, the larvae can jump for distances up to 15 cm (6 inches), prompting recommendations of eye protection for those eating the cheese. Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.

I’ll be in Italy next month but, when I visit the cheese shops, I think I’ll pass if I’m offered some casu marzu.

How to explain Thanksgiving to kids, adults, and the rest

How to explain Thanksgiving to kids, adults, and the rest

How to explain Thanksgiving to Kids:

When we’ve, collectively, been asked to explain Thanksgiving to kids and wanted to approach it with a modern and honest, progressive, inclusive answer, some of us have been at a loss for words. The brutality, deception, racism, and genocide are honestly too much to include in the story of an American tradition that is based on the struggles, challenges, and determination of the first and earliest European Americans. Thanksgiving is, really, some Americans’ favorite holiday.

So Let’s take a stab at a script for progressive parents faced with the challenge of explaining Thanksgiving to kids without inducing nightmares.

A long time ago, when the first Americans came from Europe, they had a really hard time surviving their first winter. The next year, they worked really hard and made friends with some of the Native Americans that lived near them. That fall, in 1621, they celebrated their hard work with a harvest festival. The settlers invited their Native American friends to join in the feast. The first Thanksgiving lasted for 3 days and everybody had plenty to eat, including turkey, cranberries and pumpkins. Every year, we celebrate Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful of all the things that we have in our lives…

More information about how to explain Thanksgiving to kids can be found here.


For the Adults:

The settlers at Plymouth, Massachusetts had a very tough first winter, with nearly half of the settlers dying. The next year, the remaining settlers worked very diligently to establish food stores to get them through the next winter.
Over time the tradition of thanksgiving feasts ebbed and flowed, but the slaughter of the Native Americans grew until 95% of all Native Americans were murdered, nearly 12 million innocent Native Americans.

The tradition of murder continues, the United States kills 300 million turkeys each year, 45 million are murdered to celebrate Thanksgiving alone.

Explain Thanksgiving to kidsIn the fall of 1621, these settlers held a harvest feast which lasted 3 days. As they had recently signed a peace treaty with a nearby Indian tribe, the Indians were invited and brought a lot of venison to the feast.  The next several years found the Indians more likely to be murdered by the settlers than to be invited to the fall harvest feast.

What you can do:

It is no wonder that the United States and Americans in general are considered to be more agressive and violent by much of the world. The United States is built upon the killing of innocent people and animals.

Fortunately you can make a difference. Say no to the killing and choose a vegetarian option. Think different, think Tofurky.

A waiter’s post on

A waiter’s post on

The following is a portion of the waiter’s rant about his customers and their Puttanesca:

‘Do you make Linguini Puttanesca?’

‘No Madam,’ I reply, ‘We don’t have it on the menu.’

‘Well,’ the lady harrumphs, ‘The chef made it for me the last time I was here.’

God – I hate when customers use that line.

‘Really?’ I say, hiding my chagrin. ‘Then he’ll able to make it for you this time.’

‘He made it with eggplant last time,’ the lady says excitedly. ‘Can he use eggplant again?’

‘Of course madam.’

‘And make sure he puts capers in it,’ the woman says. ‘He didn’t put capers in the last time.’


[tag]daily life, culture, humor, food & drink[/tag]