Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh, No!

So I have my slush fund started to keep me stocked in SUV's for the rest of my life and another fund started to fund my trips to Costa Rica in twenty years to get the health care procedures I won't be allowed to buy in the United States.

Now I have to start stockpiling............Chocolate!

Will there be a chocolate drought? World’s supply of sustainable cocoa could run out by 2014

Last updated at 9:04 AM on 28th January 2011
 Fairtrade chocolate
No-go: Fairtrade training schemes for farmers have ground to a halt because of political unrest in Africa
The world faces a chocolate ‘drought’ over the next few years, an expert warned yesterday. 
Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown, has ‘significantly’ depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.
Many have fled the West African country, while fair trade training programmes have also come to a halt.
Fairtrade training programmes have ground to a halt because of the danger farmers face in rural areas.
The situation is already affecting chocolate manufacturers, who are facing the highest cocoa prices for over 30 years.
Prices jumped by 10 per cent this month alone. Analysts are predicting they could soon hit $3,720 per metric tonne - a level last seen in January 1979.
It follows a curb on international cocoa exports initiated earlier this week by the country's new president,  Alassane Ouattara. 
Angus Kennedy, the editor of Kennedy's Confection and a leading British chocolatier, said chocolate producers are facing 'one of the biggest challenges to hit the industry in recent history'.
'Supplies of sustainable cocoa are set to run out, it's that simple,' he said.
Drying up: Ivory Coast cocoa supplies are under threat after many farmers have fled the country
Drying up: Ivory Coast cocoa supplies are under threat after many farmers have fled the country
'The Ivory Coast is a complete no-go area for cocoa traders as it's too dangerous, so training new farmers and trying to cut problems in the region is now, mostly impossible.
'So in effect, its sustainability is not sustainable. Prices can't go up as it's reported because there basically isn't enough certified cocoa left to sell.' 
Of the world's 5.5 million cocoa farmers, only 10 per cent have been trained and certified as sustainable fair-trade producers.
The certification is granted by specially-trained teachers, and the course runs for up to three years.
But the political turmoil in Ivory Coast means both the farmers and trainers are fleeing the country, leaving a severe shortage of certified cocoa beans.
Even if the political situation improves, it could take three years or more for the number of certified fair-trade farmers to reach its former level.
According to Mr Kennedy, manufacturers are now fighting for the rest of the world's sustainable cocoa bean stock.
'Things could get nasty now as producers start to fight over the last stocks,' he added.

Twenty five years ago

I spent the day in Shreveport, part of an audit team doing a final review of our utility client's  financial statement workpapers.

During the morning a rumor buzzed through the office - something had happened to the space shuttle. The rumor ebbed and flowed throughout the day.

There was no You-tube, no cell phones, no internet. Someone in the building had access to a television, but  essentially there was an information blackout, with newscasters as puzzled as we were.

Was it the shuttle or the booster rocket that had problems? Did the mission continue? Was there a splashdown? Were there survivors? School rooms across the country had been tuned in to watch the "first teacher" blast off to space. Space flights were still a big deal.

It is hard to describe the void of information. The shock was similar to the events of September 11, 2001, of course on a smaller scale. But in 2001 we all knew, instantly, what had happened, just not why. In 1986 it was hours before we even knew the "what."

Our group finished up and in the evening flew from Shreveport to Corpus Christi, the location of the next day's assignment. For some reason I thought people at the airports would know something more about the shuttle. Nope.

Watching the evening news in my Corpus Christi hotel room, it was finally confirmed that the shuttle had exploded and all had perished.

What a day. What pioneers our astronauts are.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

About to eat the frog

Believe it or not I am updating my blog.

It's not like there haven't been a dozen things to celebrate or commiserate over.

But there was a series of unfortunate events right at the end of the year, none of them unbearable, but lumped together, quite wearing.

I kept meaning to write, but always had an excuse........needed to upload pictures, needed more time, didn't want to spill any beans, too tired, out of town, or just general obstinance.

It was always tomorrow.

And the longer it has gone, the bigger the (writer's) block. I could have written whole chapters by now. Each day I said I would reward myself by putting up a new post and each evening I've gone to bed making the same empty vow for the next day.

Dug in to a hole of my own making, I am now climbing out.

One of the things I got to participate in a couple of weeks ago was the aptitude testing my son did. It was a two day process of testing for him and then I sat with him as he received the results - an assessment of his abilities, interests and work/learning habits.

The counselor recommended a particular book designed to help people like him (and me) stop procrastinating.

I'm going to get it, soon, really.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


A week ago I was getting ready for our trip to see my friend inaugurated as governor. As usual, I was compelled to get caught up on laundry. I can let laundry pile up for weeks, but a looming trip sets a hard deadline. I can't overcome this odd compulsion, so just go with the flow.

Part of the clean laundry included a pair of boxer shorts, a style and color worn by the men in my family. Which pile? The tag shows "XL." No one in the family is an XL. No one can explain.

Of course I had to do some shopping for the trip, just some hose and makeup. Buying makeup required me to actually look at my face, though, and see the freckles that are now spots, the new and deeper lines and the wild hairs.  I would smooth the eyebrow hair sticking up and then smooth the one sticking down. I finally figured out it was the same hair, most of the time sticking straight out. How long has that been going on? I've trimmed it (the shampoo lady at the salon says don't pull it as the hair won't grow back when you're this age) and will be vigilant against future outbursts.

On a positive note, six months after surgery, I finally feel back to normal. A couple of weeks ago, the low level pain and exhaustion were gone. One day I was still recovering and the next recovered. Just like that. Just before Christmas, too.

Eventually, I will tell the stories of the "Great Christmas Surprise" and the "Family Drama" of the week after Christmas. It's nice to have 2010 in the rear view mirror.

2011 is starting with a bang. Happy New Year!