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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for May, 2007

People You Should Know About, #333: Reware

Posted by admin | May 30th, 2007 | Filed under Compassionate Capitalism, Environmental Change, Who We Are

jbpage_nepal.jpgDo you know these guys? Not the guys in the picture, but the solar powered bag company Reware? We stumbled on them recently and not only is their product incredibly cool, they are smart as hell. And funny. I hope we sound like they do when people read our stuff. As a company trying to do things differently, they struggle with some of the same things we do, from sourcing greener materials to the issue of where to manufacture their goods to how to market their products. Their blog, The Distance Project, attempts to give more insight into these challenges, while touching on some of the less than obvious hurdles behind creating a more sustainable, more environmentally and socially conscious business. So to Zach and crew, we send the love. Keep up the good work.

Way of the Bird

Posted by Rick | May 28th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

kidmanwayofthebird.jpgIt seems like every other weekend I’m invited to a child’s birthday. It’s a very springy thing to do actually, sipping bubbly in a back yard with a bunch of two-year-olds running around. But every time I prepare for one of these parties, I face the same challenge: finding a present that isn’t lame, hokey, violent, or big and plastic. Recently, one of my surf buddies actually set up a Mercy Corps child support donation kit and also asked for used toys only, which I thought was cool. But I just so happened to come across this book, Way of the Bird, that I couldn’t resist giving to his son. Co-written by illustrator Andy Davis and surf filmmaker Andrew Kidman, the book is filled with inspiring drawings and photographs. It’s a simple story about a boy who discovers an old man surfing at the beach and is captivated by wave riding. The old man teaches him how to surf, shapes him a board, and passes on to him a respect of a surfer’s life in harmony with the ocean.

After reading a few pages to his son at the party last week, my friend looked up and thanked me for the gift, acknowledging that it was as much for him as for the little guy, who had already run off to chase a dog.

A Vanilla Buttered Muffin

Posted by admin | May 25th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport

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Just came across this lovely little short, via bikeportland.org, which takes a look at local frame builder Sacha White, whose talent is getting more and more attention these days. It’s a fun piece, and may make you decide that your ride is woefully inadequate. I did.

Can We Retain the “Wild” in Wilderness?

Posted by admin | May 23rd, 2007 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection

Hood_Thorne.gifWhenever the sun shines in Portland we’re treated to a fantastic view of Mt. Hood. Its close proximity and relatively unchallenging standard route lead to over 10,000 people climbing it every year. Earlier this winter, as most of the media-watching public now know, it wasn’t so sunny on Mt. Hood. One classic Pacific Northwest storm led to the rescue of three trapped climbers while another led to the death of three others. The former party carried a signaling device while the latter chose not to.

This is anguishing stuff for sure, but now the state legislature, in their wisdom, has introduced a bill that would require climbers to carry an electronic signaling device when they’re on Hood between November and March. Drastic circumstances generally call for drastic action and in this case the logic seems straightforward. Protect the growing numbers of people who are heading into the backcountry from themselves by ensuring they can be rescued when things go wrong. I’m dubious about this, for practical as well as philosophical reasons.

Climb-Hood.gifThe best thing to carry with you into the backcountry is experience, judgment, humility, personal responsibility, trusted climbing partners and the appropriate equipment to ensure you can be self-reliant in any circumstance. Reliance on technology can actually dull your judgment and cause you to take risks you may not otherwise take. The over-reliance on technology can also lead to rescue teams being put at unnecessary risk given the possibility of calling for help when you might be able to extricate yourself without assistance.

Then there’s a bigger question: Why go into the wilderness in the first place? I’ve always been drawn to the wilderness because of its wildness, its sublime nature and the sense of communion one experiences when attempting to ascend a peak or paddle a river. Technology has enabled many things but there’s something about the inherent risk and grandiosity of scale associated with stepping into wilderness that reminds me, in a fundamental way, of what it means to be human. In a world where alienation is all too common, we should leave the technology at home in order to leave the wild in wilderness.

Warmer Than Hell

Posted by Pierce | May 21st, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

Nigel rocking.jpgOur friends at Treehugger posted a link highlighting a Spinal Tap reunion for The Goracle’s Live Earth concert in London on July 7th. One of the best aspects of the post is the new 15-minute “where are they now?” mockumentary sequel of This Is Spinal Tap. For a good laugh check out the video (click the link in the 5th paragraph), which updates the lives of legendary rockers Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls.

Ever Thought About Large Scale Systems Change?

Posted by admin | May 18th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

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Last week when I was visiting my hometown of Toronto I had the opportunity to have lunch with Ron Dembo who is the founder of Zerofootprint. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a stereotypical environmental visionary, but if there is Ron doesn’t fit the bill. Prior to founding Zerofootprint, Ron was the founder, President and CEO of Algorithmics, a risk management software company. Before that he had a distinguished career as a professor at Yale in the Department of Computer Science and the School of Management. I also understand that he’s a bit of a math whiz.

After selling Algorithmics Ron founded Zerofootprint, which is a “not-for-profit that combines the best financial engineering, environmental engineering, social networking tools and business intelligence to create products and services that help large corporations, organizations and individuals significantly reduce their environmental footprint.”

Over lunch we talked about Zerofootprint’s new partnership with Business Objects, whose state of the art business intelligence software will enable them to aggregate a massive database of green initiatives and combine it with the latest in web-based social networking features. To that end, they just announced a pretty remarkable and precedent setting partnership with the City of Toronto aimed at engaging all Torontonians in an effort to positively effect climate change on a massive scale. But it doesn’t stop there. This week David Miller, the mayor of Toronto, will challenge his mayoral counterparts at the Large Cities Climate Initiative (taking place in New York) to do the same thing. Could it be that combining robust software with social networking methodologies could lead to large-scale systems change? Ron, who is pretty persuasive, certainly thinks so.

This Is My Bike, #1 in a Series

Posted by admin | May 17th, 2007 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Who We Are


My bike doesn’t have a name. In fact, none of my bikes ever have. Despite liking the idea, there’s never been the right feel”I’ve loved all my rides, but somehow naming them has never quite happened. If I were picking names though, I’d do what B.B. King does and have one name that passes to all my bikes, the way all his guitars are named Lucille, new or old. I do, though, come up with nicknames now and then. I call this one “the sled,” since its stealth-bomber style and abundance of carbon fiber make it look a little like a carbon bullet. It’s sexy, but in that production roadster way: It’s the Z3 of road bikes, if the Z3 were made in America.

It’s far from unique”at least my cross bike is a mishmash of components and is geared for Forest Park. Despite its generic nature, though, I’m quite fond of it, as it came to me by way of good fortune and hard riding. And it fits me like a glove. No other bike I’ve owned has been so dialed-in for overall fit and feel. So, when I finally go ask Sacha or Ira to hold a slot in the queue for me, I’ll be ready for something truly my own, but I’ll be bringing all the sled’s measurements with me.

Slow Food Nation

Posted by admin | May 15th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability

Picture 2.pngAlthough it was billed as the 17th Saward Lecture it was really one part poetry, one part theater and one part lecture. Carlo Petrini, the Founder and President of the Slow Food International began his US tour the other night, coinciding with the publication of his newest book Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean and Fair.

After seeing his enthusiasm, I can understand how he’s managed to change the way many of us think about food. His work is essentially social reform, driven by a desire to transform our relationship to food. Slow Food’s origins can be traced to a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. Now, twenty years later, it has over 80,000 members in 100 countries. One of Petrini’s greatest strengths is that he’s a systems thinker. That is, he readily makes connections between agriculture, politics, ecology, economy and culture. He says, “gastronomy is political economy” and points out that the first act of life, a baby feeding from its mother’s breast, involves food, pleasure and giving. Petrini has inspired a movement calling for the safeguarding of local economies, the preservation of indigenous gastronomic traditions, and the creation of a new kind of ecologically aware consumerism that Alex Steffen refers to as “strategic consumption.”

More than just a reaction to fast food, Petrini has catalyzed a reexamination of our relationship to what we eat, what it costs us (economically and socially) and how it makes us feel. And that is something to celebrate.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Statistics

Posted by admin | May 11th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability


Chris Jordan recently released a series of prints that describe parts of American culture through the lens of statistics. I find it amazing how the presentation of these numbers affects how we perceive them. Although I’ve been very conscious of our outrageous rates of consumption, gun-related deaths, and incarceration for some time now, no statistic I’ve ever read has evoked the raw emotional impact these prints did.

(S)EED Change

Posted by admin | May 9th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Positive Change, Sustainability, Who We Are

It’s energizing to be in the presence of thoughtful people. That’s been the case over the past several weeks as we’ve hosted a series of public conversations in our stores under the banner of (S)EED Change. We’ve had the pleasure of engaging in dialogue with the likes of Chicago’s Charles Shaw, the Editor-In-Chief of Conscious Choice Magazine, Boulder’s Topher Donahue, an accomplished alpinist and photographer, Portland’s Randy Gragg, the Architecture and Urban Design critic for the Oregonian newspaper, and Seattle’s Alex Steffen, the Founder and Executive Editor of Worldchanging.com.

Bellevue Alex Steffen Event April 29th 009.jpgA few nights ago Alex, who I wrote about previously, talked about the fact that we’re at a collective crossroads. He’s incredibly attuned to the most promising indicators of positive change and recognizes that there is now widespread consensus that we need to do things differently, in part because the stark realities of not doing so are readily apparent. Given the magnitude of the problems, we’re not talking about incremental change but a massive restructuring that will enable us to dramatically reduce our ecological footprint. According to Alex, the optimists think we have four decades to do so or else we’ll face a “a catastrophic collision with reality.â€?

I was particularly struck when Alex said, “In this day and age optimism is a political act.â€? Perhaps it’s his nature, but he sees our current circumstances as a “provocation for substantive innovationâ€? and goes on to cite specific examples, which is what he and the crew at Worldchanging do so well.

I feel an affinity with Alex’s optimism but, then again, maybe I’m just denying the mounting data that suggests we’re heading straight towards a terminal crisis. So, which way do you lean when you wake up in the morning and what is it that tilts you in that particular direction?