Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007


This is really great info about how the Iowa caucus works!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The World

See more here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Carver's Peanut Butter

A friend last night was excited that he had won a free cookie for knowing the answer to who invented Peanut Butter.
"It's George Washington Carver," he said. "I learned that in 5th grade!"

I'm glad he got a cookie, but frankly, I think it's silly for us to assume that an American in the late 19th, early 20th century invented something that I'm sure has been around since people started planting peanuts! Let's tell the Asians, South Americans and Africans that an American invented Peanut Butter and see what they have to say...

It is interesting, however, that George Washington Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. Among the listed items that he suggested to southern farmers to help them economically were adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder and wood stain. (from wikipedia.) He's a pretty interesting guy.

West African Peanut Soup

Peanut soup appears on the menu in many African countries. This smooth, creamy version thickened with both peanuts and peanut butter gets its sweetness from yam. A warm reddish brown, the soup is fragrant with sweet spices, intensely flavored, earthy and piquant. Europeans brought peanuts from South America to Africa in the early 1500’s where they caught on quickly because of their similarity to the native African bambarra groundnut. In the U.S. it has become traditional to serve this soup when celebrating the seven days of Kwanzaa. Substitute vegetable stock for a deliciously rich vegetarian soup.
To serve 8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon each: chopped garlic and
ginger root
2 teaspoons each: ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch each: ground cloves and cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chopped plum tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
2 large yams, peeled and cut-up
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock), simmering
½ cup peanut butter
½ bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes: diced fresh tomato, cilantro sprigs, and chopped roasted peanuts

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onion until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon,
cloves, and cayenne. Sauté together 2 to 3 minutes to release their fragrance. Stir in the tomatoes and yam, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes to meld the flavors.

Add the hot stock and peanuts, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Using a food processor or blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan. Whisk in the peanut butter and chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper and heat through. Top each serving with the (optional) garnishes. Serve piping hot.

The Latest Cake

I had fun making this one, orders please! My mom says it appears to be crumbling under the weight of the current administration...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Many European cultural traditions, in particular Celtic cultures, hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent (according to, for example, Catalan mythology about witches and Scottish and Irish tales of the Sídhe).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Great Debate

Should Humans survive the next extinction?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rock On John

How to name a band...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stray Birds

STRAY birds of summer come to my window

to sing and fly away.

And yellow leaves of autumn,

which have no songs,

flutter and fall there with a sigh.

From Stray Birds, by Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Giant Pumpkin Regatta

What do you do with a giant pumpkin after you've won the contest? Attach an outboard motor and make a boat out of it, of course!

Check out the video.
Crazy Mainer

Monday, October 08, 2007

His Dark Materials

Thanks to my great friend Ethel for sending an engrossing trilogy, just when I needed one. I'm on the third book...wonderful reading for all ages and anyone who needs to sit still, relax and get away for awhile.
The funny thing is that my first impression of this story is that the author, Philip Pullman, made it up as he went along, which he seems to deny in the first question under FAQ on his website. But many of the characters, threads and details do not carry through the story and it really seems that he is more faithful to his imagination than to plot or character consistency...but you be the judge.

Q: Did you have the whole story in your head when you began writing His Dark Materials?

A: Yes, in outline, though not in detail. I haven't got enough RAM in my head to deal with 1300 pages of yet-unwritten material. But any writer of stories has to have a certain architectural sense, I mean a feeling for large shapes, and an instinct for whether they'll stand up safely, or need lots of propping up to make them steady, or whether they'll just fall down whatever you do, and so on. And of course when you begin a large project like His Dark Materials, you make sure beforehand that the large shape is secure.

It's the details you can take chances with, and afford to be surprised by. I don't like planning things too tightly, because then you're not surprised by anything. I was very surprised by the armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison, for example; I hadn't expected him to be a bit like that. And the Gallivespians in The Amber Spyglass surprised me enormously.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Apology to Iranian President

Photo: John Smock/AP
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in New York to a very un-welcoming reception.

He plans to appear at several events at the U.N. and at Columbia University to set the record straight with the American people who, he says, have been denied "correct information," about going to war with Iran and about Iran's intentions with its nuclear development.

As an American, I am appalled and embarrassed that we would treat a foreign head of state in the manner depicted in this photo. This protest, according to the Associated Press, was organized by a New York City Council member--David Weprin--no less!

We seem to have forgotten that other sovereign nations are SOVEREIGN NATIONS and that we are obligated to deal diplomatically with their their presidents and senior representatives. Growing up in the cold war, I do not recall us ever treating Gorbachev or even Castro this way.

Secondly, New York has denied Ahmadinejad's request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, claiming that he would "violate sacred ground." What does that mean? Have we labeled the man a "terrorist" because he refuses to be bullied by the United States? Did the Iranian government have anything to do with 9-11? Are we really all so ready and eager to label this man our enemy, as our government would have us do? We are treating the man like a first-rate criminal. Is this right? We need to be very careful!

All along, I have been wondering about what right America has to insist that another SOVEREIGN NATION not develop nuclear technology. It is nothing short of bullying. Are we supposed to believe that in our hands, the technology is safe, but not in anyone else's? And why wouldn't Iran want to keep some kind of ace in the hole when it has seen what we have done to its neighbor, Iraq, without any justification?

I think the American people should use their manners, and hear what this man has to say! At the very least, he needs to be treated with the dignity and respect that any foreign leader and, for that matter, human being, deserves.

I hope Ahmadinejad will know that not all Americans are this rude, obnoxious and yes, stupid.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ham It Up

Valentines Performing Pigs may be available for your event this year.

Slam-dunking, skateboarding, hoop jumping live mini-pigs, as seen on Letterman, Leno, Oprah, Animal Planet and Good Morning America.
A high energy, top draw stage act is guaranteed to bring throngs of curious people!

Please visit our web site:

Steve and Priscilla Valentine
(253) 853-HAMS

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Eagles

Today out my window I saw two bald eagles circling in the sky. It's not something I see every day, and I thought it was a fitting image to mark September 11th. I was awed by the coincidence of nature's activity and my need for commemoration--I don't think anyone could have planned or orchestrated a more appropriate moment of silence.

September 11

Many people have questioned, since the very beginning, America's involvement in the events of September 11, 2001. Many are calling for an independent, international investigation. For more information see and

Union Square vigil, NYC

I was in NYC on that day and in the weeks after. The following are some excerpts from my 9-11-01 journal:

September 15, 2001

Last night at about 11:30pm I went to Union Square to take part in the vigil going on there. Part of me just wanted to go to bed, but I had not yet participated in any way in this "Day of Remembrance"--and since I have a suspicion that prayer does make a difference, I felt a sense of duty to go and add to the numbers.

The first thing that struck me as I walked from my neighborhood towards the square was the number of people in bars and night clubs--just like any other Friday night--dressed to the nines, talking fluff on their cell phones, resuming what now seems like such an inappropriate, if not meaningless, social activity. I was carrying a candle and was dressed in jeans and a sweater. Who can think about makeup and tight clothing at a time like this?

The scene in Union Square was 180 degrees from that. I was very touched by the number of people who had gathered. There were candles EVERYWHERE. Impromptu shrines were set up on the walls, the drinking fountains, in the grass. People had drawn "love" and "peace" in chalk on the base of a statue of some general on a horse, and put an American flag in his upraised hand.

There were millions of flowers, poems, photographs, drawings, murals, collages and candles upon candles. There were even people who seemed to have taken on the job of relighting the candles that had gone out. People were passing out food. I felt as if I had been transported back to the 60s and was encouraged to see so many people standing for Peace amidst a horrible attack.

In one part of the park there was a drum circle with people chanting, in another corner, a heated argument, in another, a guy with a guitar leading songs. Around the main shrine where a piece of metal from the WTC stands, people were sitting and standing in prayer and reflection. The variety of faces was fascinating. I would glance around the circle from time to time and see many new people filtering in and out. At one point, as I scanned the crowd, I saw face, face, face, dog, face. Someone from behind had held up their Greyhound so the dog could see into the circle. It made me smile. This disgrace is not only an affront to humanity...but to LIFE.

At one point a man began to shout hysterically. "Who has an ANSWER?! There are 2000 of us here. Someone MUST have the ANSWER! SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO!!!"

After sitting there for about an hour, I decided to walk through the park to experience the other groups that had gathered. There were so many forms of expression happening simultaneously, with quiet beauty and grace. I hadn't realized it right away, but there were many discussion "huddles" of people straining to hear what the speaker was saying. I joined one of these groups, and ended up standing there for the next 4 hours.

They had a "talking stick" and the rule was that only one person was permitted to speak at a time, without interruption or response. When they yielded the stick, another person could express themselves. This was the most powerful thing I've yet seen. Utter strangers discussing their feelings, their fears and anger, their criticisms of themselves and of America, pleas for peace, pleas for retaliation.

And then someone mentioned passive resistance.

I have often wondered if a time would come when I would be able to actually practice the passive resistance that I so admire in figures such as Gandhi, MLK Jr., Jesus... The question is, would passive resistance work against a terrorist mentality? It has been proven to work against oppression. Would it work against aggression?

It's absolutely fascinating to watch a Peace Movement forming right before my eyes, and so quickly on the heels of so much immediate loss of life here. There are those who demand retaliation, but often decisions made in haste and rage are the wrong ones. I think the most important need here at the moment is the dissemination of ACCURATE, OBJECTIVE historical information about America's relations with the rest of the world, particularly the middle east. We need to be educated--and fast!

September 16, 2001

It seems like a YEAR since Tuesday. And yet the individual days seem to go by very fast.

I spent last night and again today in Union Square where thousands of people still congregate to hold vigil and pay respects. I spent some time walking around to all the missing persons posters trying to feel some sense of the reality of this thing. But it's too overwhelming. There are posters plastered everywhere. On phone booths, walls, fire hydrants, trees, even cars with desperate determination. But Giuliani announced today that there are no more "john doe's" in the hospitals. Everybody has been identified. We can infer that the 5000+ that are still missing are now presumed dead.

In the park today, a group of about 100 Tibetans were gathered with prayer beads, incense and flags, chanting. In another area, a large crowd of Mexican people with their red, white and green flag, and portraits of the Virgin were calling out the names of the missing, and their countries of origin, in spanish. There are candles and wax everywhere, and the grass is trompled to mud. The chicken-wire fences that were meant to keep people off the lawns have long since been tossed aside.

The breadth of creative expression in the park is remarkable. Someone has created a giant likeness of the twin towers entirely out of flowers on the lawn. Around it, other people have added poems and quotations and candles. There are children's drawings of the world trade center being attacked by planes taped to fences. There are piles of paper cranes being strung and hung from telephone poles. There are hand made posters, paintings, sculptures--one is a giant american flag welded out of metal that people are scratching thoughts into with a metal object.

There are hippie Christians singing songs with a guitar and distributing leaflets and street preachers shouting through microphones. Other religious groups are handing out free sandwiches. The Tibetan ladies in traditional dress are handing out coca-cola in little plastic cups.

I spent most of the day with a group of jazz musicians who were playing for Peace.

There's lots of wierdness too. There's a lady dressed up like the Statue of Liberty who will let you take your picture with her if you donate to the Red Cross. She was standing up on a box with a huge crowd around explaining how she was a school teacher from Indiana...blah...blah..blah. Last night I heard someone playing "Yankee Doodle" on a piccolo. What the hell? Then there was a Broadway chorus singing "It's up to you, New York, New York." Then of course there are many small groups of musicians singing the peace ballads of the 60's. And it struck me that we have not yet had time to write our own songs about this tragedy or this upcoming war, so we're having to appropriate music from other eras and circumstances. None of it quite fits the occasion, but in one form or another, it does seem to soothe.

Probably the most disturbing sight is all the "memorabilia" that has sprung up overnight. T-shirts, hats, posters, American flags--even candles--being peddled in every shape and size. So just as we've all been reminded this week that there are ill-willed maniacs living among us, we are also confronted with the fact that many among us are quick to profit from the loss and tragedy of others.

Tomorrow the Mayor wants us all to go back to work. For most of us, work seems pretty meaningless at this point...but what else can we do?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Everything is Illuminated

My mother recommended this film to me after taking a trip to the Ukraine this summer to explore our ancestral homelands in the villages near Odessa. Our relatives were Germans from Alsace who had fled as refugees to the "bread basket" of Russia, having been invited to settle and develop that area by Catherine the Great. (See here) As mom continues to explore this side of our history, more and more fascinating details have come to light.

In this film, a young Jewish man named Jonathan, played by Elijah Wood, is a collector of his family's artifacts--strange things, like his brothers underwear or his grandmother's false teeth. His grandmother, as she lays dying, gives him a photograph of his grandfather as a young man standing next to a pregnant woman, who is not his grandmother.

Jonathan travels to the Ukraine to solve the mystery of who the woman is and encounters an old man and his hipster grandson who is also his hilarious translator. The three of them, with the old man's dog, named Sammy Davis Junior, Jr., travel throughout the countryside searching for a very small village. It is apparent that the old man has a secret that is somehow related to this place they are searching for.

The film is very funny, and also very poignant as both young men discover many new things about their grandfathers and their families' histories. The film is structured in chapters of a book that one learns, at the end, is being written by the translator for Jonathan to describe how profoundly moving their trip was for him and "to leave a record for those who may come looking."

As mom said, the film is a wonderful representation of the landscape and general feeling of the rural areas around Odessa, and it is really a great and very entertaining story. Two thumbs up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Goodbye Pavarotti

"I think a life in music is a life beautifully spent and this is what I have devoted my life to."

-Luciano Pavarotti

I remember the first time I saw him in concert. My mother made special velvet dresses for me and my sister. I think we were the only little ones there at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. Those were the days when people really dressed up to go to the symphony, and it was truly magical to glide down the red velvet staircases of Heinz Hall and count the crystals in the chandeliers. It was such a special occasion--Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland singing together.

We stood in line for over an hour after the concert waiting at the stage door where the stars were going to sign autographs. I remember dad holding my sister--I was too big to be held, and too excited to be tired. It was cold. Dad was wearing a woolen Italian cape over his tuxedo. I can picture vividly how handsome he looked and how warm the cape was as I stood under it to stay warm.

Finally the line began to move. I remember Pavarotti being very kind, and Kristen and I received special attention from him and Joan Sutherland for being so well-behaved (and awake) at such a late hour. I still have that autograph.

I saw him again--standing room only--in NYC several years ago. I went by myself, again in velvet, and was enthralled by his voice. I always have been. I hoped to meet him again, but there was no opportunity.

It is hard for me to lose him right now, not only for the great talent that the world loses in his passing, but also because he represents a significant part of my childhood. He is a significant factor in my fond memories of my father, whose health is ailing at the moment, and who may never return to his most vital self. Pavarotti's death is deeply saddening in its own right, and as an untimely marker of the transition in my father's life.

It is so hard to lose the people we love.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Johns

They're all coming to Missoula in the month of September!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bill Moyers on Media Reform

For more info, see here:


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Check it Out!

Sustainable Table is taking the scenic (and delicious) route to this year's Farm Aid Concert at Randall's Island in New York City on September 9. Travel with us as we cross the country in search of the best pie ever, stopping along the way to check out some of the nation's most sustainable farms and restaurants.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pay Attention

The 2008 Presidential election is going to be one heck of a show. As I'm sure you're aware, it has already begun. I humbly admit that this is the first time I've paid very close attention to politics, but I feel that this time, especially, it's very important to do so. This little blurb is just to encourage you to do the same.

There seems to be a feeling of futility circulating among the Americans I know regarding politics and the democratic process. We see big problems and are at a loss to know how to address them. They seem too big for one person to impact. We bitch a lot, but don't make significant changes in our own behavior or take social actions that might actually change something.

I was struck recently by the lyrics of John Mayer's song "Waiting for the World to Change":

Now we see everything is going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

We seem to collectively feel that we are powerless to make changes in the status quo. What kind of 'democracy' is that?!
I don't like the message in Mayer's song. I think he captures the futility people feel, but I wonder if the 60s generation would have waited for "the world" to change the situation in Viet Nam? They took to the streets. They organized. They protested. We don't have to "wait." We just have to act. Mayer seems to want to let our generation off the hook.

I think we need to take a significant look at the forces which keep us from organizing and acting. One is that our system of credit in this country keeps most of us complacent and satiated. We don't have to struggle too much or suffer too long before satisfying our needs. Most of us are in debt up to our ears, but we can still have the latest gadget or outfit when we want it.

The individual has also been, for the most part, excused from our so-called democratic process. There is no requirement for citizenship--only that you pay taxes. Voting is optional, participation in other democratic processes in one's community is left to the discretion of the busy individual. Being accurately informed about issues of importance to the average American is left to a media that is funded by advertising (thus influencing our choices) and driven by the need for ratings to use other tactics such as fear and sensationalism to secure their audience.

I would like to see the average American re-empowered and encouraged to participate in the democratic process. We hear the word "democracy" thrown around these days as if we actually have one. We praise the democratic system as the best in the world and insist that it must be spread to all those with other forms of government. But when even the most privileged, best educated Americans are feeling that they have to just "wait for the world to change," and when the average American spends almost 1.78 hours/day shopping (see here) [that's 12.46 hours/week] or 3.24 hours/day watching TV, it seems that something is wrong with our democracy.

Maybe if we all just take a little more responsibility for it -- i.e. pay attention and get involved-- we might not have so much waiting around to do.

Suggestion: form a block association and find out the needs/concerns of your neighbors. Establish regular meetings and communicate with your district representatives. No need to wait around for the world to change. Do something.

At least, follow this Presidential election, inform yourself from reputable sources and vote responsibly!

Just The Two of Us

Bravo Will Smith for a great song about fatherhood!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eye Contact

Is it just me?
Why is it so hard to sustain eye contact with other people?
One of the most uncomfortable experiences is entering a long hallway or walking on a side walk with a person coming towards me in the other direction. At what point do you acknowledge the other person?

What I've noticed is that both people spend a lot of energy looking at the ground, from side to side, or otherwise distracting ourselves until we get close. Then there's the decision: to greet or not to greet. It may depend on the other. Are they going to acknowledge me?

Entering a building this morning, I said 'good morning' to a man who was locking up his bike. He just looked at me.

How did we get to a point where greeting others is such a psychological drama?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Just heard from my friend Mary W, who was at Gray's Papaya in New York trying to scrounge enough change for a hot dog. She only had $0.75 and the hot dogs were $1.25.

Suddenly a homeless man came and asked her for some change. She replied that she was looking for some herself. "What do you need?" he asked. "Well, I'm 50 cents short of a hot dog," she replied. "Here," he said, and gave her two quarters.

Mary offered to split the hot dog with him, but he refused, saying, "you should eat it." "No, you should eat it," she said. "You look like you need it," he responded. And she gave in and ate the hot dog.


Sort of a Manu Chao meets Manu Dibango...

Chao and Dibango

For those of you who didn't get the previous reference:
Manu Chao

Manu Dibango

Friday, July 27, 2007

Response to RPCV Gabon Letter

July 9, 2007

Dear Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Gabon:

I appreciate your concern and support for the Peace Corps and for former Peace Corps Tanzania Country Director Christine Djondo, who departed Tanzania after U.S. Ambassador Michael Retzer exercised his authority as chief of mission and withdrew her country clearance, effective June 8, 2007.

Ms Djondo is a highly respected Peace Corps staff member who did an outstanding job of leading the Peace Corps program in Tanzania. Prior to her tenure in Tanzania, she exhibited similarly fine leadership qualities while serving as country director in Lesotho and Gabon.

Although we remain disappointed with the Ambassador's decision, we are delighted to have Ms. Djondo on our headquarters staff serving as the Special Assistant to the Regional Director for Africa. In that capacity, she is the focal point for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the Africa Region. The PEPFAR program model that was unveiled under Ms. Djondo's leadership and guidance in Tanzania is being replicated in other Peace Corps countries in Africa, and she is uniquely qualified for coordinating that effort.

Ms. Djondo has always been held in high regard by the Peace Corps for her leadership and management skills, and we are extremely confident that she will continue to provide outstanding service to the agency in her new capacity.

In your letter, you request an investigation into Ambassador Retzer's decision regarding Ms. Djondo. I can assure you that all necessary actions with the appropriate parties have been taken with respect to this case, and the Peace Corps in confident that the full integrity and independence of the agency has been reaffirmed. By way of example, I would cite the recent cable by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to chiefs of mission reaffirming the basic principles that govern the relationship between Peace Corps posts and U.S. missions abroad.

It may also interest you to know that former Congressman Mark Green has been nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. The Peace Corps fully supports his expeditious confirmation, and we are looking forward to working with him.

Again, thank you for your support of Ms. Djondo and the Peace Corps, and for your service to the people of Gabon.


Ron Tschetter
Director, Peace Corps

Plumeria Update



Thursday, July 26, 2007

Raiatea and IZ

Amazing Fruit

I've got the exotic fruit poster hanging over my kitchen sink...the diversity of life on this planet is simply marvelous... Click on the image above and zoom in. You'll learn a lot! order, see here or

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Africa Time

This is a great website for current news broadcasts from the African continent.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bag, Borrow or Steal

I don't mean for this to be an ad, but I can't believe this is for real.
It's like the Netflix for handbags!
What will they think of next?
(I like how "steal" is part of their name...I wonder if they'd really go for that option?)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Reverend Billy Update

On my summer reading list...

Fabulous Prayers in the Face of the Shopocalypse


Now children, we are all Shopping Sinners. Each of us is walking around in a swirl of gas and oil, plastics and foil. We should all hit our knees and weep and confess together. We are not evil people, but somehow we have allowed the Lords of Consumption to organize us into these mobs that buy and dispose, cry and reload. Yes, the Rapture of the Final Consumption, the Shopture, is underway.

Learn more at and read my article about the amazing preacher/performer/activist here.


The Bruyas are really a creative bunch. My cousin Rachel has developed a non-profit that provides free mustaches to those who are less fortunate than those who have mustaches. For more information, or to get a mustache for yourself, see here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Special K

Isn't she gorgeous?
Kristen Bruya has been a member of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra since the fall of 2006. A native of Missoula, MT, Bruya attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Michigan (BM), University of Cincinnati, and most recently Rice University (MM). From 2000-2004 Bruya was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Fl under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. She has performed with the Houston, San Antonio, and Columbus Symphonies. Kristen has participated in the summer music festivals of Verbier Switzerland, Tanglewood, Aspen, Spoleto USA, and Music Academy of the West.

Congo Forest Jam


Global gasoline prices vary so widely that it costs just $1.45 to fill a 2007 Honda Civic in Venezuela, $31.42 in the U.S., $81.44 in Britain, and $93.98 in Turkey.

Source: The Week, July 13, 2007


"The urge to save humanity
is almost always
a false front for those
who want to rule it."
-H.L. Mencken, quoted in the Toronto National Post

More of The Other Africa

A little long, a little redundant, but some great images of the Africa we don't see on TV.

A Dream Job

JERUSALEM—Overwhelmed by a constant deluge of prayers and appeals for salvation, Jesus Christ announced Monday the hiring of Tacoma, WA, customer-service supervisor Dean Smoler as Associate Christ. Read the full report here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just Another Day... Montana!
(Mountain Goat Welcoming Committee, Rock Creek Road)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Draft for Comments

This letter was submitted with 20 signatures on July 2, 2007 to Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter, Senator Chris Dodd and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer at the African Affiars Bureau, US Dept. of State.

We, the undersigned returned Peace Corps volunteers of Gabon, request an investigation into the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania’s revocation of the country clearance of Peace Corps Country Director Christine Djondo. Ambassador Michael Retzer sought to merge Peace Corps and Embassy programs in an attempt to save money. He pressured Ms. Djondo to co-locate the office that distributed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding at the embassy. Additionally, he wanted to combine the Embassy and Peace Corps Motor Pools and Health Units in order to reduce the budget of the United States Mission. Ms. Djondo did not support these proposals and the ambassador offered her no opportunity to compromise.

Only the Director of the US Peace Corps in Washington is entitled to appoint or dismiss a Country Director. Therefore, Ambassador Retzer's only means to remove Ms. Djondo was to take the drastic step of revoking her country clearance. Peace Corps has remained independent since its inception in 1961. However, the Ambassador's demands infringed upon its position as an autonomous organization. Furthermore, by disrespecting Peace Corps' independence in relation to the hiring and firing of staff members, some of Ambassador Retzer's actions may contravene the Peace Corps Act (Section 2509A).

While the United States government supervises the Peace Corps, the program was specifically designed to keep volunteers separate from U.S. embassies and their political affiliations. This is necessary to protect the safety and security of volunteers. In a country in which the U.S. embassy was one of the first targets of Al-Qaeda violence, it is crucial to separate Peace Corps from the United States Mission. Ambassador Retzer's agenda for PC/Tanzania could have a devastating effect on the safety and morale of volunteers and their relationships in their communities. We firmly believe Ms. Djondo made the right decision in resisting his intimidation.

Ms. Djondo was a superb Country Director in Lesotho from 2001-2003, Gabon from 2003-2005, and Tanzania from 2005 until her untimely exit on June 8, 2007. Throughout her tenure in the Peace Corps, she has demonstrated excellent leadership abilities, defended Peace Corps' independence, upheld the ideals stated in the Peace Corps Act, and tirelessly supported the needs of her volunteers despite the political pressures that ultimately forced her to leave Tanzania this month.

We believe Ms. Djondo has been punished by Ambassador Retzer for defending the security of Peace Corps Volunteers. We are writing today to express our strong concern at Mr. Retzer's audacious behavior as a public official. As former Peace Corps Volunteers and United States citizens, we kindly request investigation into his potential violation of Peace Corps policy and misuse of power.


Gabon RPCVs:

Katherine Andrade, 2002 - 2004
Jan Boulingui, 2002-2004
Lori Brown, 2002-2004
Sara Bruya, 2002-2004
Jason Coleman, 2001-2003
Cassandra Filer, 2003 - 2005
Julia Fleuret, 2002-2004
Kelly Folliard, 2002-2004
John B. Griffin, 2003-2005
Erick Guerra, 2002-2004
Emily Hibbets, 2002-2005

Penelope Hucker, 2002-2004
Karen Martin, 2002-2004
Toni Moen, 2003-2005
Lauren Murphy, 2002-2004
Erin Parish, 2002-2004
Lindsay Partusch, 2003-2005
Rebecca Ricketts, 2002-2005
Shanna Rounds, 2003-2005
Jennifer Walker, 2002-2004

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Je Ne Sais Quoi

The job hunt is really driving me a bit over the edge, I think. Last night, I dreamt I met Bill Gates at a party. He had an African wife with an elaborately dressed entourage. He saw great potential in me and was certain I had a very promising future in business...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

PCVs Defend Country Director, Christine Djondo

Christine Djondo was the Peace Corps Country Director in Gabon before transferring to Tanzania.

Cutting the cake at the ceremony for the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps are from left: PC Tanzania Country Director Christine Djondo, Minister for Regional Administration & Local Government Mizengo Pinda, Returned PC Volunteer who served in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, 1962-64 Susan Proctor and Current PC volunteer, Morogoro 2004-2006 Photo: Dianna English

We are US Peace Corps volunteers serving in the United Republic of Tanzania. We are writing this letter because the US Ambassador's recent involvement in Peace Corps Tanzania has outraged us and inspired us to seek answers from our elected officials back home. Tanzania's United States Ambassador, Michael Retzer, recently chose to curtail the country clearance of our Peace Corps Country Director, Christine Djondo, after she refused to resign her position and leave voluntarily. The Ambassador illegitimately removed Ms. Djondo from her position for defending the rights of Peace Corps. We as Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanzania are appalled that a public official used his office to coerce a federal employee into advancing his political agenda. This is a formal expression of our opposition to Ambassador Retzer's decision, and we request an investigation of this matter.

While the United States government supervises the Peace Corps, the program was specifically designed to keep us volunteers separate from US Embassies and their political affiliations. Disregarding this precaution, Ambassador Michael Retzer pressured our Country Director to merge the operations of Peace Corps/ Tanzania and the US Embassy by co-locating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) office at the Embassy. Furthermore, he wanted to combine the Embassy's and the Peace Corps' Motor Pools and Health units in order to reduce the budget of the United States Mission. In these situations, Ambassador Retzer allowed Ms. Djondo no opportunity for compromise.

Peace Corps has remained independent since its inception in 1961 and it is indisputable that the Ambassador's demands infringed upon its sovereignty as a unique and autonomous organization. Furthermore, by disrespecting Peace Corps' independence in relation to the hiring and firing of staff members, some of Ambassador Retzer's plans may be considered in contempt of the Peace Corps Act (Section 2509A).

A United States Ambassador does not have the power to fire a Peace Corps Country Director: only the Director of the US Peace Corps in Washington has the entitlement to appoint or dismiss a Country Director. Consequently, Ambassador Retzer's only means to remove Ms. Djondo was to take the drastic step of revoking her country clearance. The Ambassador claimed to have little confidence in Director Djondo's leadership ability and therefore made this decision in order to "save" our program.

Ambassador Retzer's agenda for PC/Tanzania could have had a devastating effect on our safety, our relationships in our communities, and on our morale as independent volunteers. We firmly believe Ms. Djondo made the right decision in resisting his intimidation. Ms. Djondo worked diligently to effectively and safely direct our program and continually demonstrated excellent leadership. We thank her for adamantly defending Peace Corps' independence, for consistently upholding the ideals stated in the Peace Corps Act, and for tirelessly supporting the needs of her volunteers despite political pressures that ultimately forced her to leave the country.

On June 8, 2007, the date designated by Ambassador Retzer, Ms. Djondo and her family left Tanzania for Washington DC where she will retain a position at Peace Corps Headquarters. We believe Ms. Djondo has been punished by Ambassador Retzer for defending the security of Peace Corps Volunteers. We are writing today to express our disbelief and indignation at Mr. Retzer's audacious behavior as a public official.

As current and former Peace Corps Volunteers and citizens of the United States of America, we kindly request investigation into his potential misuse of power.

Sincerely, Peace Corps Volunteers – Tanzania

If questions or comments, feel free to contact:
This is an address created by the many PCVs in country in support of Christine! We will respond at our earliest convenience. Asante sana.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back to Hawai'i?

Puu O Hoku
Who would have thought, after that bizarre stint in Hawai'i last winter, that I'd be going back so soon? I thought I might never see Hawai'i again!
But I've been invited to cater a birthday party on Moloka'i in mid-July. That should be a lot more fun than harvesting galangal and peeing on trees!
Meanwhile, the dreadful "real" job search continues...