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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Aim for Information NOT Confirmation Bias

Seven years ago, about a year before we planned to move from West Virginia to Oregon,  I got deeply involved in helping establish The Wild Ramp, an indoor year-round local food market. Among other things, I visited the farms and other food producers basically to get their stories to tell consumers, but also to verify that they were raising or producing the yummies they brought to sell at the store.

For a person who grew up in the paved part of the Garden State and one who earned a degree in urban planning, finding myself knee deep in mud was one of my earliest experiences and I immediately bought muck boots for later farm visits. I am a quick learner…at least in some issues. 2014-10-07 10.48.42

I believe the first farmer’s patience with me and my questions helped establish my process: I spent an hour asking questions sitting usually at the kitchen table, and only then did we walk the farm and I got to see and take photos.

Because I knew next to NOTHING about farming (other than going with my grandpa into his chicken coop when I was 3-years-old was a terrifying experience which he sure could have made easier!) I asked tons of questions. I may not know a lot but I am curious.

“What’s the issue about corn fed versus grass fed” was a question. “What kind of cows are these?” was another. (The answer to that was also enlightening: “Well, ” the farmer slowly answered, “they’re black.  Angus are black, so I guess we can say they are Angus.” And my response: “So ARE they Angus, or are you riding a marketing message?” was answered with a smile.

So I learned something there and I later learned that perhaps it is not always just the breed but also the diet that helps make some meat tastier than others.

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The point is, I was not afraid to appear that I did not “KNOW”. In other words, it was okay for them to figure I was ignorant and it was their job to teach me. And almost all of the 70 farmers and food producers I visited were happy to give me the two precious hours of their work day. The later sales jump after the blog was written and read by the consumers was worth the work interruption.

So last night I again watched the debates. And I will watch the 2nd debate with the rest of the Democratic candidates tonight. WHY?

Because I am not going to rely on what news organizations chose to tell me. I am not going to read my Facebook friends’ comments as a basis for my own decision-making. I do find comments by people I know and even people I have no idea what their background basis is for their comment. This is our reality: people have various levels of evaluation tools and their decision making may or may not be similar to mine.

When I read restaurant reviews when I am searching for a place to eat in a location I have not fully explored, I have no idea if those reviewers’ taste buds are similar to mine. I have no idea if they value food without additives, as I do.  Same kind of issue when I hear how people love or pan a movie. How can I know if any person making a comment is aligned with my values on what entertains me?

Even more important is the much more rigorous and important evaluation for the next President of the United States.  A crummy meal or movie may, at worse, provide a wasted couple of hours or a tummy ache, but typically not more than that. Playing passive on the evaluation of candidates can provide for poor leadership that will affect me…and you…and the world.

So, it’s all theater. I made a comment on Facebook as the debate started that the narrator sounded like he was introducing a sport event. But this is NOT the time we chose one winner and all the rest are losers.

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Source: Apple Podcasts

Each person standing on that podium last night had something that was important to be heard. Each one.  How would you know if you don’t put your own mind to work?

Do I think they are all equivalently experienced for the job of President. Hell no! But they have their viewpoint and it may overlap someone else’s, including your own.

Let’s be careful not to throw support to one candidate so early that we don’t listen. Let’s be careful to listen and evaluate how we feel about the various solutions to issues posed.

And let’s remember that the way the government is working now will not change much without some huge changes that are, unfortunately, needed to be made by the people who currently would not want them changed.  For example, we have clearly seen the damage to the election process that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United caused.  By permitting money to be equivalent to free speech, and corporations defined as “people”, we have seen that our government is now being controlled by megawealthy corporations and people. Very few people. And the rest of us, working (or not) to make the changes have a tough uphill battle. How can that be changed to give the governing of this nation back to the people? Listen to how the candidates suggest changes and see if they align with you.

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Source: UMass Dartmouth

Above all, quit sitting back and only using your voice to armchair quarterback. Get out there. Locally, you can have some huge influence in the way your city or county runs.  On the national level, if you like a candidate, get involved. Give an hour a week…..that certainly is not too much of a drain when you think of what gets decided that will affect you.

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Source: Waupaca Rotary Club

 

 

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Each One Counts

I grew up and voted for the first time in New Jersey. My parents had taken me into the voting booth with them every year while I was young. It was the kind with a curtain. You would move the handle, the curtain would close (did anyone else besides me think of the Wizard of Oz?) and the levers would be there for the pushing. It was possible to push down a party lever and all the votes would be moved, but my parents said it was important to always check out each candidate, no matter the party, and vote for the best person to represent you.  They voted line by line. All levers moved, the handle would be moved back and the votes counted as the curtain opened.1960s-voting_booth

I moved to Tennessee and then on to Connecticut and then back to Tennessee and then to West Virginia before moving to Oregon.  I voted on similar machines and then, as computerization was implemented, a variety of electronic machines.  When we moved to Oregon we didn’t have enough friends to explain the fine points of the vote by mail system. We ended up not getting our ballots mailed on time.  Since then I try to help newbies.or-vote-envelope

The vote by mail system is really very easy for people to use. There is no issue about taking time off from work or waiting on lines at the polls. We get our ballots about 3 weeks before election day and can mail them in up to 5 days before. At any time during those 3 weeks, we can drop the ballot into a ballot box, similar to a mail box but painted white and sporting a lot of signs that say BALLOTS ONLY!!!!  At least one ballor box is located in each town and many more in cities. (Here in McMinnville we have three. ) The box is open until 8pm on election day when a team (at least one each from the major parties-volunteers needed) pick up all deposited ballots and lock the box slots.or-vote-drop-box

The ballots are taken to the County Clerk’s office.  Still sealed, they are set facing the same way and then a team of people scans each exterior envelope’s bar code. Yes, the envelope has a bar code, right near the signature line, that identifies the voter. The scan enters the name into the database for the next step, verification of the signature.  A photo of the signature at time of registration is on screen and the worker verifies the signature on the envelope with the signature at registration. If the signature matches, the data base is updated with the information that that person has voted.  Any envelope that has no signature (a requirement) or a signature that is different from the original are put aside for further work.oregon-sign-here

(The people whose  signatures were missing or that didn’t match receive a letter asking them to come into their county clerk’s office for further verification. Sometimes the person is elderly or ill and the signature is a bit spidery or illegible in comparison to the original. Typically, people respond and go verify if the election is close or they want to make sure their vote, if different than the election results, is counted.)

Once an envelope is confirmed to be from a legitimate voter it moves to a different work station where all envelopes are opened but contents are kept intact. The next station is where contents and envelope are separated. The contents are still folded and most often in the privacy slip provided.  This station works as a team, 100 ballots at a time. One worker is a registered Democrat, the other a Republican. A lot of repetitive work…envelope to one side, folded ballot to the other. Then a count is made to confirm they have the 100 they started with, and then move to another work station.or-vote-workers

This station is where the ballots are unfolded and visually scanned by another Republican-Democratic team to verify any write-ins or markings that cover any area of the ballot.  Again a count is made to confirm, 100 in to that station, 100 out to the next.

Folded once more, the ballots are sorted by precinct….that number is printed on the ballot that was originally mailed to the voter.  The precinct information is obtained to provide basic voter turnout data.

From there, boxes of 100 ballots are then sent to the next area where the next check is to see if there is only one selection marked for each race. If a ballot marks two candidates in the same race that required selection of one, the ballot is set aside for voter confirmation.

Only then, at the next step, are the actual votes tabulated.

There is no way to match any given ballot at the last step to any specific voter.  Privacy is ensured.

This vote-by-mail system is, as you read, pretty labor intensive. A computerized machine can give results almost instantaneously.  So yes, it takes longer. So there has to be a benefit, right?

Actually several, but there are two main ones:

With the system in place in Oregon, there is no concern for manipulation of computerized hardware or software. With most areas having pairs of workers, each with a different party affiliation, with all the counting before and after to verify no ballot was moved away, there is a security in knowing how you vote is how it is counted.

The largest benefit is voter participation. Election after election Oregon has one of the highest voting percentages in the nation.  This time, it was interesting to note that we had a higher turnout than ever. Last year we the people approved a referendum to start motor-voter. That means that for any DMV transaction the person will be registered if not already on the rolls. (Lots of verification for citizenship and other aspects that restrict voting done before a new person is considered legal to vote.) So Oregon’s turnout for this election was 2 million voters.

But the percentage of participating voters was down a bit.  It was 78.9 %.  However, nationally it was 56.9%, significantly lower.

Why do people chose not to exercise their right to vote?  They could be unable to actually get to the pools, either because of transportation issues or a work schedule that won’t permit it. They could be sick, unable to go to the polls.  All these people forgot they could vote with an absentee ballot. Others, could think it is not important. They could believe that their one individual vote won’t make a difference. They could be so disgusted at the whole thing..the selection process…the advertising…..the rudeness….that they just step back. And more.

At least here in Oregon it is easier for us people. And the protections leave me confident that the results are an accurate portrayal of each participants vote.

every_vote_countsInformation is from experience. Not only am I a voter but I am also a volunteer. For the past three elections, Graham and I have been ballot box closets. This past Tuesday we also observed the process for a couple of hours.  Anyone can sign up to do that.


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And A Child Will Lead Us

Think about that image: Usually an innocent child is depicted voicing something profound that provides a new perspective on an issue. Something that has been troubling us adults. Makes things clearer and the pathway we need to take obvious.

Well, it’s pretty rare.

kidtv1Today children spend, on the average, 6 hours a day in front of the television. One in five children are overweight. One-third of all children live in single-parent households. Few understand where food grows and how to prepare it.

There are many reasons why children in school today face challenges we adults never experienced. And therefore, teachers and school administrators have to deal with issues that continually strain the system.

In McMinnville four positions for the School Board will be filled following the May 19 election. Voters have received the information packet from the County Clerk and ballots have dropped. Several of the candidates have been serving on the School Board and hope to be re-elected.

McMinnville is proud to be recognized as one of the excellent school systems in the state of Oregon and yet only 84% of students graduate high school. There is something missing here that is not obvious.

Wednesday evening the Yamhill County Democratic Party will host a School Board Candidate Forum at the Carnegie Room of the Public Library. Starting at 7:00p.m., the candidates will present their responses to questions posed by the attendees. Please come and listen to the candidates to better understand them and then make an informed decision when you vote.

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It is our responsibility as adults to provide the kind of schools that will teach the children skills they need to strive for excellence. Otherwise, the leadership they will provide in time will be mediocre. Time now to act.


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Do You Vote?

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”  Plato

I remember when the law was changed and the minimum age to vote became 18. It was the year I turned 18 so I was excited. Do you know why the law was changed?

If you’re of a certain age, you will remember that we were in a war in Vietnam. The powers that be told us we MUST fight there to keep communism from taking over. Over 58,000 Americans died fighting there and you know what?  Our side did not win. (This may sounds familiar regarding some other recent wars.)

So, the argument was if an 18-year-old was mature enough to die for our country, an 18-year-old is old enough to vote. And yet, most don’t vote now.

Do you know that only 36.4% of  registered voters actually participated in the elections in November 2014?  In India, who proudly declares itself the largest democracy in the world, the last election had a voter turnout of 54.43%. In fact, year after year, country compared to country, the United States ranks the lowest of any major developed country in registered voter turnout.

Using voter turnout is an indication of how people participate in their government. So why do you and your neighbors skip acting on your opportunity to vote?

Many people think their vote does not count. And yet, here in Oregon, where voter turnout was better than the national average, about 30% of registered voters did not act.  In several districts the difference between the winner and the loser was under 1000 votes. The difference between the yes and the no vote for GMO labeling was 837 votes.  If you now have a result you don’t like and you didn’t vote, you are responsible. Understand that.everyt vote counts

Many people say they are too busy to vote.  Here in Oregon we vote by mail. In the upcoming election, the ballots will be sent to us April 29. Election Day is May 19 and ballot drop boxes are open until 8p.m. for those people who did not mail them back. If you read the voter packet with information about each race and each candidate, market your ballot, put a stamp on it and walk it to the mailbox, it might take you 15 minutes.  You can vote any time. You can even vote in your pajamas.

Voting registration is a process that can be intimidating.  There have been times when people were made to answer difficult questions before they were given a ballot. Many were turned away. Women fought for the right to vote. African Americans have the legal right to vote but there are still some places where obstacles are difficult. Here in Oregon you can register to vote at the DMV. When you go to renew your license or your car registration, you can register by filling out a form that takes about 2 minutes. Recently the state passed the Motor Voter law, making voting registration very easy. In fact, to refuse to register takes more time. You can, of course, register at the County Clerk’s office. The last day for registering for the May election is April 28.

Apathy is probably the most common reason for not voting. People often do not vote because they do not like the bickering and infighting or mud slinging between candidates. People believe with a lot of justification that politics is a dirty business, and they want nothing to do with it. As a result of the mud slinging, many choose to not pay attention to politics, or ignore it completely. However, those same people often complain the loudest about how bad things are, while not doing anything to make it better. Voting is the LEAST you can do. Getting involved helping a candidate you admire is much better.vote-hands

Some people say they do not vote because they do not like the two candidates that are on the news every night. What most people do NOT realize is there are many political candidates and choices beyond the first two that are on the nightly news ‘programming’. Find out more about third party candidates. If you have a smart phone, you have access to lots of information that your regular tv news probably won’t bother to tell you.

Some people believe all political candidates are bought off by corporations, so why bother voting, because the votes have already been bought and sold. People who hold that belief are actually correct in a way.  CORPORATIONS DO NOT CONTROL VOTING!

Many voters turn out for Presidential elections but don’t bother with local issues.  On the local level your voice is so important!  We are voting for the local Board of Education  on May 19th. There will be a McMinnville candidates forum held in the Carnegie Room of the Public Library Wednesday, April 29 at 7p.m. Come listen to the candidates speak. Then you can make up your own mind who sounds like they can represent your interests on the school board.I-VOTE

More about Yamhill County election dates and other information can be found here.

WHEN ORDINARY PEOPLE DON’T VOTE, THAT LEAVES THE WEALTHY MINORITY WITH THAT MUCH MORE CONTROL AND POWER


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What You Said

This election season was the first where I actually volunteered to support a candidate I liked. Ken Moore approached Graham and me while we were enjoying some locally prepared food for lunch at our Farmers’ Market a few months ago. Told us his name and suggested we vote for him. I challenged him to tell me something about his concepts and conversation started that encouraged me we might be able to have a person in the state legislature who had ideas similar to mine.

At that point I was doing the farm work and told them no, I was not walking around, knocking on doors. I wanted a sit-down job, so was assigned to the phone bank. With the sales training I received in past jobs, I can do that without getting perturbed…or so I thought.vote dont complain

The things people said are an indication of how they think….or don’t think in many cases.  We NEVER asked for money. What we asked for was the person’s opinion what the most pressing problem was facing Oregon. What would they want Ken to know so he could be their representative fully.  Simple enough, right? Here are some answers:

“I don’t know. I never thought about that.” What? You don’t have a gut reaction to ANYTHING?

Why are you bothering me!?” CLICK   Hmmm, I was hoping you were an adult who recognized your role in this mess we’re in. You don’t get active, you are part of the problem.

“I don’t get involved in politics.” Excuse me? This is your responsibility as a citizen, to learn and be involved in the running of your city/county/state/nation.  Your abdication of that responsibility means other people make decisions. You may think by ignoring it all you won’t be affected, but guess again.

“All the dead babies”  Yes, abortion is a serious issue, but the MOST important one facing the state? I understand we all have our passions, but there is more to life than any one issue.

“I’m tired of all the political ads on TV.” Well, that’s not exactly an issue a state legislature can address but YOU can turn off your TV.

“All politicians are the same. They promise stuff before election day and then do their own thing.”  It seemed that way to me too before I started making an effort to read and learn. It does take more effort than listening to ads on TV. It means going to meet and greets and actually asking questions and getting answers.  Sitting at home and depending on material in the mail box or ads is not really full information. And then, when they get voted in, sending them emails or letters or phone calls to let them know your position.

“What party is he? I only vote the xxx Party line.”  That is the easy way. It means you can feel you are doing your civic duty but is your brain attached? Do you know anything about each person on that ticket? Do you honestly think each person running has the same exact concepts as you do?

So, as we now know, only about 30% of the registered voters actually bothered to vote. And yet, the bitching and moaning will increase I bet. I will be tempted to ask each complainant if they voted and if so, how they made their decision. And how they are talking to their representative now.

If you can be part of the solution, we can begin to talk to each other and heal this nation. If you hold your beliefs firmly and refuse to discuss and learn anything about any other viewpoints, we will continue to make these same stupid decisions.

What do you say?vote you decidedYou decided. Is this your legacy to our kids and grandkids? A nation that can’t even talk to each other?