Picture this! Three men appear before a judge accused of inciting terrorism using the Internet. Words like "website", "web forum", "networking", "internet" are flying around in the court. The judge looks abscent minded. He is. He's struggling with these technical terms. He can't bare it any longer. He interrupts the prosecuter and blurts out...
The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a Web site is.
Prosecutor stops prosecuting to give the judge a crash course on Basic Internet 101. At the end, the judge admits (I can just picture his irritated look) "I haven't quite grasp the concept". To make things more complicated, a computer expert was called upon as a witness. The judge told the prosecutor "Will you ask him to keep it simple, we've got to start from basics." I like the "we" part here. Who else doesn't know what a web site is? Imagine the drama and bickering if a female judge said this? I wonder why another judge who's less technologically-challenged was not assigned to this case.
This has been brewing inside me since Saturday. Last Saturday was one of those annoying Saturdays because it was community garage sale day in my neighbourhood. Seven years ago, when I was new to the US, it was fascinating. But now garage sales are just darn annoying. For those who don't know what a garage/yard sale is, it's when you sale what you consider as junk by the drive way/at the front yard of your house. Anything goes - old & dirty sneakers with missing laces, puzzles with missing pieces in a beat up box, what was once a cute summer dress with obvious stains under the arms (eew), a painting of a landscape in pastel colours mounted on molding frame... You get the picture?
Garage sales are annoying on several grounds. On a personal level, I can't open the garage door for any reason because that's the generally accepted code that I'm participating in the sale. You blink and there are 5 people going through your stuff in your garage. People give you attitudes if you leave your garage open and send them away with "I'm not selling." We get a notice from the Home Owner's Association to close our garage doors if we don't want to participate. It's Saturday, there are a thousand and one reasons why I should open my garage door and it's a free country, darn it!
More annoying is that the kids get the urge to either ride their bikes or roller-blade when it's garage-sale day. Never fails. It's even life threatening for sober grown ups to walk on the side-walks let alone for uncoordinated children on wheels. Buyers are temporarily crazed by the idea of beating others to the next junk-selling spot that they temporarily forget the rules of driving in residential areas. But it is "unfair" to deny kids the occasional exercise especially when they volunteer to switch off the telie on Saturday morning.
The cars. I can never get over the cars that people decide to drive to garage sales. They are big, shiny and obviously expensive. I often ask myself, "Why do I want to buy somebody else's trash if I can afford a Lincon Navigator with leather interior and drop-down DVD player...?" Imagine driving a huge truck from your house to somebody else's house to buy their trash. You stop at every house in the neighbourhood preferably with your significant other or girlfriend keeping the engine running while you sift through junk.... Isn't it a disturbing picture?
Garage sale vs. "foodometer"
Last Friday, while listening to the public radio about "food mile" consciousness in the UK, I was admiring the genius who came up with the whole idea of "carbon footprints". Food mile is "the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed by the end user." The more distance food travels, the more CO2 in the environment, which is a sure way of contributing to further environmental deterioration. Brits, and also other Europeans-I learnt at a wedding from a German woman- are consciously picking food items that have traveled less. And, here we are in the US obliviously rummaging through junk chasing 50 cents bargains through neighbourhoods. I can't reconcile the two!
Well, junk-rummaging is portrayed as cutsie when a US legislator promotes herself, amongst other things, as a "...yard-sale rummager." I don't have anything against people making an honest earning from sells of their junk. It can even be argued that garage sale is a form of recycling therefore good for the environment... What I have an issue with is the gigantic cars used for it, the little summery skorts (short+skirt)the hands with impeccably manicured nails and dazzling bling bling.... Obviously, I haven't nailed the idea of "image" in the US (you won't be seen dead in a van looking like a "soccer mom", but you look like a million dollar and sift through somebody else's junk?) To make things worse, buyers sell their newly acquired junk during their own garage sale event (making a profit of 50 cents - $1, yeepee!) It's is just ridiculous. Besides, these cars park half on my grass. So I have earned the right to be mad.
The issue: Starbucks refused to give Ethiopia the intellictual property names - Harar, Sidamo and Yirgachefe (all names of places in Ethiopia)
The real issue: if Ethiopia has control over the trade mark, it can control distribution of the coffee in question. Control over distribution = greater economic benefit. So it really boils down to money.
The cool aspect: Technology is allowing us to be right in the middle of the debate. We can even see the Ethiopian government's attorney explaining certain issues and terminologies. Viva technology, even lawyers have disembarked their high horses, which is hugely out of character in most cases.
This is an indication of the importance of people's voices. If that didn't matter, a senior attorney and a senior VP of a company wouldn't have bothered to post their arguments on Youtube. OXFAM also used Youtube to galvanize some 90,000 people to push Starbucks in becoming socially responsible. That takes me to my other point...
If you've been boycotting Starbucks coffee since this whole fiasco started and you're about ready to kill for some Ethiopian coffee, hang in there. I found Ethiopian coffee distributed by Liquid Planet in a whole food type of store. Their motto, at least on the packet, is "farmers first". Well, I am going to use their coffee until the Starbucks-Ethiopia issue is resolved. I must admit that it has been tough to deal with the Starbucks withdrawal. I'm exctatic that I found an alternative.
Current status of the matter: Vague from both Starbucks' and Ethiopian sides. Starbucks says "Ethiopia is recognized as the historic birthplace of coffee and the source of some of the finest coffee in the world. We’re extremely excited to continue to deepen our relationship with the Government of Ethiopia," Vague! And tell us something we don't know. Ethiopia on the other hand says it is "committed to work in partnership with all international specialty coffee companies and distributors of its fine coffees." Vague! I have a question... What?
If this goes in Ethiopias favour, it means $100,000 a year. I hope the poor Ethiopian coffee farmers get what they deserve!!!