Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I recently sat down with Martin Diedrich, at his Kéan Coffee over on Westcliff Drive for a fresh cup of joe and an update from an authentic sustainable thinker.
Such good coffee and amazing thinking should come with a warning label like “Look out world, ain’t no stopping you now!”
In case you have been living under a rock the last couple decades, Martin Diedrich is the thought leader and titan of the coffeehouse industry. He is also a local.
For those of us trying to reinvent ourselves in a challenging economy, Martin provides hope and a bit of a road map.
Now, I say authentic sustainable thinker because Martin did not read this stuff in a book, nor glean it from a documentary. His original thinking came from experiences growing up on his family coffee farm in Guatemala, providing intimate knowledge that food does not come from the Ralphs bush, while forming an understanding of the natural system that sustains us.
Full disclosure on this green story: I will do my best to parrot the wisdom shared with me, to be a conduit for amazing thoughts. Rather than have one giant quotation, know that these are Martin’s words and thoughts. Words like “community” were used often and represent the linchpin of Martin’s sustainable thinking. I will leave you to visit www.Keancoffee.com to get the backstory of his history, family and entrepreneurial success. We will focus on the evolving story, on the future.
Kéan Coffee, named for Diedrich’s son, is established, voted best coffeehouse in OC and recognized by the community. The name represents the family thinking that they are looking forward, not back. Whenever you wonder how Martin came up with a decision for where to source coffee beans, what to pay for them, what he was going to allow in his coffeehouse experience and what would not be tolerated, the same simple mantra was the guide, “It was the right thing to do.”
Community is such a part of how Martin and his wife Karen lead their life. The coffeehouse is their way of life, it is who they are. This is not just a business, it is a chance to serve the community with their God-given talents. The community, in turn, supports them in a culture of reciprocity. They recreated themselves, not focusing on past accomplishment, with a desire to take coffee to the next level of culinary art. The couple apply themselves wholeheartedly, in a holistic way. Why would, why should a business be a separation of one’s personal values and business values?
Social justice goes hand-in-hand with environmental well-being, and is a direct focus of Kéan Coffee. Dealing with and being dependant on agricultural products necessitates this focus. Martin is well traveled, a geologist and early Indiana Jones, with a resultant empathy for the people who grow, harvest and produce the crops. He points out that we, as consumers, have a direct impact on agricultural workers’ lives. He and Karen apply their personal values and use their purchasing power to buy socially and environmentally sustainable products as much as possible.
In part, not entirely, Kéan Coffee uses fair trade, organic and in other ways sustainably grown coffee. The expanded discussion on sustainable coffee purchasing philosophy is a whole ’nuther cup of latte. In order to get quality, year after year, Martin will pay a fair price. If he were to “grind” a supplier, sacrifices in quality of coffee and in life would be the unacceptable consequences.
Martin’s “do the right thing” mentality yields decisions about packaging, a big deal, that push back against the unconscious tendency to over-package. Proper disposal of waste has landfill consequences. Kéan Coffee takes responsibility for its surroundings and existence by managing its waste stream. Coffee bags, as an example where almost no one else has ventured, are biodegradable. Used coffee grounds are offered to guests to amend soil in gardens. A coffeehouse actually consumes more milk than coffee, and all plastic milk jugs are recycled. There’s lots more, and you should know that Martin’s choices received a Zero Waste award by our good friends at Earth Resources Foundation.
“Shop local” is not theoretical rhetoric to Martin, as Kéan Coffee seeks to support and sustain the small local business person. Trying in every way to keep local bolsters the local economy, which is good for his business too. Besides, doing the right thing is to serve the best bagels - sourced just down the street at Shirley’s Bagels. If you’re at Shirley’s and want a cup of fresh coffee, you guessed it, they serve Kéan coffee.
Unlike the folks at BP, you will not find Martin nor Kéan Coffee boasting of environmental accolades. “Greenwashing” is an accusatory term, labeling the recipient as an entity that tries to take one green decision, and paint the whole company green. Martin slides in a reference to another coffee company with a green logo, the one that serves burnt coffee to the sheople. Martin is disappointed in companies that use hucksterisms to try to make you feel good about using their products.
Please, do not let all this wonderful sustainable thinking lead you into thinking Martin does not know how to run a business. This entrepreneurial coffeehouse purveyor of community knows exactly what he is doing in a low-ticket, low-margin, high-turn model where the experience is integrated with a quality product. With one eye on our conversation and one eye on the business, Martin took time for an employee discussion about why an operational process not followed results in a quantifiable operational expense that is money Kéan Coffee cannot share with employees.
There is no us and them with Martin, his family, nor Kéan Coffee - no putting up fences. Water does not know fences. Everyone can drink some water, drink some air and have some of the best fresh coffee or Latte Art, a signature of the craft at Kéan Coffee. You will go for the coffee, and return for the coffeehouse experience, powered by an authentic sustainable thinker.
By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
It was a perfect night for the Pacific Symphony’s annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, with clear skies and moderate temperatures at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
The full-house crowd was happily anticipating an evening of comfortable classical – the “Swan Lake” Suite – and, having filed past 19 cannons arrayed on the lawn on their way to their seats, the orgiastic bombast of the 1812 Overture.
But Maestro Carl St.Clair and guest pianist Benjamin Pasternak conspired to pull a bait-and-switch. For on this night, the real fireworks were provided by their stunning collaboration on the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 in D Minor that made up the bulk of the first half of the concert.
Challenging is hardly the word to describe Rachmaninoff’s epic concerto, which is so fiendishly complicated in some passages that the technical demands on the pianist can overwhelm any thought of interpretation or expression.
But not so with Pasternak. He was not only technically flawless, but he was soaring, intimate, lushly romantic or quietly contemplative in turns – the complete master of the music, bending it to his expressive will. It was a wonderful performance. Even, well, spectacular.
And the Pacific Symphony, perhaps sensing there was something special going on, seemed to rise to the occasion, providing spot-on support with energy and elan, especially among the winds, but extending across the whole ensemble – while St.Clair conducted as if transported.
The explosion of applause and cheering following the final note – coming from both the audience and on stage – was perhaps in its way more powerful than the much louder airbursts that closed the concert an hour or so later.
St.Clair, having served up a gourmet first course, then brought the orchestra back from the intermission to plunge into the meat and potatoes of the evening, delivering the Swan Lake suite with flair and good spirit, highlighted by the work of oboeist Jessica Pearlman and first violin and concertmaster Raymond Kobler.
Finally, then, came the 1812, to which St.Clair and the orchestra gave their all even as they appeared also to be having fun with it. The cannons boomed, the fireworks cascaded, everybody’s blood was up.
But it was a bit of an anti-climax, with the memory of the first half”s Rachmaninoff still in mind.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
By Jonah Raskin
This summer farms in northern California have been fined as much as $18,000 for violations of the law that says that sisters, brothers, cousins and aunts of farmers cannot work without pay. According to the law, anyone who does work on a farm must be paid at least the minimum wage. That might sound fair, and protection for workers, but it is outrageous and unjust. It is an example of the stupidity of the law. If family members cannot work on a family farm then both the family and the farm - two institutions that form the bedrock of traditional American values - are in grave danger from the forces of law and order. And if friends cannot volunteer to pick berries or plant tomatoes than the volunteer spirit which we need is greatly undermined.
I am a professor at Sonoma State University. I am also apparently a criminal, and perhaps involved in a conspiracy to violate the law. I work without pay on small, local organic farms in northern California - because I love to do it - and in the eyes of the law - specifically California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement - the farms that are benefiting from my unpaid labor are operating illegally.
For a year I worked on a farm to gather information for a book I wrote about small, organic farms. I was up at 5 AM, working by 6 AM, and dead tired by noon, but it was a tiredness I could live with and not the mental fatigue that I experience as a college professor. I learned about farming by farming. I believe that all Californians and indeed all Americans could learn about the value of small, organic farms by going to farms to plant, weed, cultivate and harvest. It's just what our society needs - ordinary citizens getting away from their computers and into the outdoors to work with their hands alongside farmer workers.
I will go on working on farms. I will work for free. I will enjoy the open air, speaking Spanish to the men from Mexico who are paid, and who are worth every cent they earn. I am not taking work away from them, nor am I giving the small, organic farms I work for an unfair advantage over those farms that do pay interns and family members and friends. I see what I am doing as a spiritual activity. It is good for the soul, my soul, and it is a way to build bridges between Anglos and Latinos that are far too few in our society. I have brought my students to the small, organic farms near the campus of Sonoma State University and they learned as much on the farms as they do in the classroom. The State of California should be helping to bring citizens to farms to work, not putting up roadblocks to prevent them from working in the fields.
Jonah Raskin is the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California
7 reader comments on I work on Farms; I am a Criminal.
Gigantic piles of shrink-wrapped garbage have been moldering in the heat of a Hawaii industrial park for more than five months, waiting for a place to be shipped.
That wait appeared to end Monday when city officials inked a deal to dispose of the 40 million-pound pile of odious rubbish over the next six months by mostly burning it in an existing waste-to-power plant.
But bigger problems remain for Honolulu as the state's largest city struggles to find a home for all its waste.as well as a
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With its lone dump filling up fast, officials had been counting on a plan to ship at least 100,000 tons of blue, plastic-wrapped garbage bales each year to a landfill near an Indian reservation in Washington state.
But the tribe vehemently objected and won a court ruling last week that put the plan on hold indefinitely. Acting Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell acknowledged as much Monday.
"The city bent over backwards to try to make this shipping effort work, but it is clear that shipping is not a viable option at this time," he said in a statement.
Honolulu makes up 80 percent of Hawaii's population and generates nearly 1.6 million tons of garbage a year. More than a third of the trash is incinerated to generate electricity. The remaining garbage is sent to the 21-year-old Waimanalo Gulch landfill on the island of Oahu's southwestern coast.
But the amount of available land on Oahu is limited, with Honolulu leaders reluctant to add landfills in their backyards and near sites known for their breathtaking, pristine beauty.
And the trash can't be taken elsewhere in the state; the Big Island has by far the most vacant land, and a dump with 71 years of capacity remaining. But a local ordinance bars importation of trash from outside that island.
"Honolulu has all the elements of a form of NIMBYism on steroids," said James Spencer, associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Hawaii. "In fact, the only place that is not in Honolulu's backyard seems to be off in Washington state."
And Washington state, at least the part overseen by the Yakama Indian Nation, isn't having it. The tribe, by treaty, has a degree of authority over nearly 11 million acres that it ceded to the U.S. government in 1855, including a regional dump in Klickitat County.
That's where a Seattle-based firm called Hawaiian Waste Systems wanted to ship some of Honolulu's trash.
Starting last September, the trash was to be shredded and compressed into bales, wrapped in at least eight layers of thick plastic sheets and transported to the landfill, where it was to be covered with 18 inches of soil.
Tribal members were outraged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates interstate waste transfers, granted preliminary approval to the shipments. They then went to court.
The federal government "totally ignored us, and we took issue with that," said Harry Smiskin, the tribe's chairman.
The landfill is "a rock's throw" from the Columbia River, where the tribe enjoys fishing rights, and the waterway could be affected by rodents, insects and other invasive species that hitch a ride on Honolulu's garbage, he said.
"We don't know what's in that trash," he added "We know it's not local to the environment that's there now."
The tribe and environmental groups sued the USDA in federal court and last month won a temporary restraining order, leading to the department last week revoking Hawaiian Waste System's permit before it could ship its first bale.
That frustrated company President Mike Chutz, who insisted the bales would have contained nothing ecologically dangerous because the plastic wrapping deprives oxygen to anything living inside.
"I know in my heart that this is absolutely not only acceptable but environmentally safe and will (do) no harm whatsoever to the environment," Chutz said last week.
Because of repeated delays in the shipping plan, hundreds of trash bales collected in the company's facility in a Kapolei industrial park -- far from the eyes of tourists and residents. A few of the 4- to 5-foot tall bales are in shipping containers, but far more sit stacked three and four high, some sprouting tears, holes and other signs of weathering.
Monday's agreement between the city and Chutz' firm requires the garbage that cannot be burned to be sent to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, which must close by July 2012.
Around that same time, the city hopes to start operating a third trash furnace at its electricity-generating plant in Kapolei, allowing the burning of about 902,000 tons a year.
Still, that leaves this island with a lot of garbage generated from some 907,000 residents, 51,000 military service members and families, and an average of 80,000 tourists a day. They produced almost 1.6 million tons in the fiscal year that ended June 30, a drop from the 1.8 million tons the previous year that is largely due to the recession and a decline in tourism.
The city is forming a panel to search for new landfill sites. But that process could take years, and is fraught with political and cultural implications, Spencer said.
"Honolulu has placed its sole landfill on the Leeward Coast of Oahu, a generally poor and disproportionately Native Hawaiian area," he said.
"It is ironic that the original destination (of the trash going to Washington state) was next to Indian tribal land, and the default destination is likely to be the Waimanalo Gulch, next to the largest concentration of Native Hawaiians on Oahu."
Monday, August 30, 2010
Q: I'm house-hunting, but with all the bad news coming out about the housing market, I wonder if I should wait a few months or even years. Do you think I should?
A: If you need a home, then keep looking. If you find a home that suits your needs and is reasonably priced compared to similar homes, make an offer. It doesn't make sense to try to time the market—because nobody can. Unless you plan to stay in your home for only a year or two, you eventually will accrue some equity, even if you buy before housing in your area hits bottom. In the meantime, you will enjoy federal tax breaks, and avoid the rent hikes that are inevitable as demand for rental housing grows, fed by millennials entering the workforce, former homeowners who have gone through foreclosure and would-be homeowners like yourself who are waiting for home prices to fall.
Moreover, there are hopeful signs in the San Diego housing market. If you consider the July data for existing homes released by the National Association of Realtors, San Diego is performing better than the country as a whole—partly because it was one of the first markets to fall when the bubble burst. In the U.S., sales were down 25.5% in July and prices up 0.7% from a year earlier, but in San Diego, sales were down 15.2% and prices up 4.6%. Similarly, according to RealtyTrac, San Diego County is doing much better than the rest of the country when it comes to foreclosure filings, a leading indicator of a market's health. In July, the county's foreclosure filings, which include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, reached 5,032, a 37% drop from a year earlier. By comparison, foreclosure activity nationwide fell only 10%.
Still, it's premature to declare that San Diego's market is definitely on the upswing, especially since consumer confidence remains shaky in the face of a weak job market. While the country's overall unemployment rate stayed flat at 9.7% in July from the previous year, San Diego's crept up to 10.8% from 10.3%. Other statistics are troubling, too: According to the San Diego Association of Realtors, the available inventory of unsold homes rose 23.3% in July from the year before, while the number of days homes remained on the market in July increased to 87 from 72 a year earlier for attached homes, and 71 from 69 for single-family homes for the same period. Meanwhile, affordability remains a problem. San Diego remains one of the most expensive markets in the country, with an average attached home price of $266,899 and single-family price of $506,540.
As you can see, the picture is too mixed for me—or anyone for that matter—to say with certainty where San Diego is in its housing cycle. But rest assured that it is a cycle, and that when it does become clear that the market is headed up, buyers will jump off the fence, prices will stabilize and interest rates may rise. So you may as well take the plunge now.
Q. I am in my early 20s and have been at my current job for 3 years now. I make $57,500 a year plus bonuses (usually around $2,500 per year) and have $15,000 in savings for a down payment. I have young but good credit, in the low to mid 700s with oldest line of credit opened 3 years ago. My questions are: can I get approved for a home mortgage loan, how much would I likely be approved for, and how much is reasonable to spend on a property at this point in time? I work near the Spectrum mall in Orange County and would want to be located somewhere within a 20-minute drive.
Thank you for your feedback.
A. This is not a substitute for selecting a lender and getting them to get you a pre-approval letter. I will take a rough cut at it, however, making assumptions about Homeowners Association dues, taxes, and PMI. You are borderline qualified for a loan of about $265,000, which would mean that you could buy a home of about $280,000 in value. Again, you need to sit down with a professional with your documentation and run it through Fannie Mae’s Automated Underwriting System.
Your limiting factor is going to be cash as you are just a bit short. It will be important that you save all that you can to make sure that you have enough. Here’s a hint. Have the seller pay your non-recurring closing costs. Say that’s $5,000. He will want you to pay $5,000 more for the home but that is all perfectly legal and above-board. That way you can devote all your cash to down payment and reserves.
Q. I just bought a house in April. I got 5% fixed for 30 years with a Fannie Mae loan. Am I eligible to refinance to a lower rate? How much will it cost to switch? Is it worth it?
A . The measure of whether a refinance is worth it or not is how quickly you get back the costs of the refinance. That depends largely on the size of the loan. The fixed costs of title and escrow, processing, appraisal are almost the same regardless of loan size. If you have a $400,000 loan, it would make sense. But if it’s only $200,000, it would take longer to recoup the costs.
You need to contact a lender to see what the actual numbers might be in your case. If you can recoup all costs in less than four years, then it makes sense.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
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