The honeymoon is over…


…but the marriage is still a fine and wonderful thing!
Well, I’m back, rested, and ready (“tanned” would be inaccurate… ever see a tan polar bear?) from a lovely diversion with Mrs. Bear to Maui and Kauai for our honeymoon. A sampling of the lovely scenery we enjoyed is above; if I get real ambitious-like I might even put up one of them there photo-blog thingies.
In celebration of my return, I’ve started re-activating TTLB functionality. Search is now re-enabled, as is registration for new weblogs. No promises that everything is back to perfect yet; that will be the task for the next few days and weeks.
Thanks to everyone who offered their congratulations and best wishes, and to all for your continued patience. TTLB is back in business: stay tuned as I continue to bring us back up to speed, and beyond…
Update: As threatened, I’ve added a photoblog of our trip. Select ‘More’ to enjoy…

Continue reading “The honeymoon is over…”

Buy South Asian!

Glenn heaps scorn on Tim Cavanaugh at Reason for scoffing at tourists returning to South Asia, and Roger Simon chimes his agreement with a personal beach recommendation for Thailand. Both point out that charity is good, but commerce is better.
These exchanges reminded me of an idea I had an idea earlier today, and was considering trying to put some effort into it, but I think in these times its best not to wait; and so I’ll ‘donate’ it (half-baked) to the blogosphere.
My question is this: alongside efforts to solicit direct aid for victims, what about collecting a list of products and services that come from the affected areas?
As a Starbucks-aholic, I must admit that when I think “Sumatra” I think coffee. But I honestly have no idea if Starbucks’ Sumatra blend actually does come from Sumatra, and if much (or any) of the money I give them each morning ends up there.
Anybody have any ideas/suggestions on things we can buy that flow money back into that region of South Asia? Send ’em here and I’ll post them — or if you’ve got more ambition/time, build your own list, and I’ll link to it!
Update: This concept appears to be gaining some momentum (Thanks, Glenn!), so I’m reformatting this post into a directory of products/services that have been suggested thus far. Please keep them coming!
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Coffee
There are a ton of places to get coffee which originates in Sumatra. It is my assumption that “fair trade” coffee is the best choice if the goal is to ensure that as much of your money as possible ends up with the local growers in the region.
To that end, there seems to be two major groups that confer “fair trade” status on coffee: TransFair USA and the Fair Trade Federation.
Here are some coffees that I’ve found available online that are declared to be “fair trade” by one or the other of these groups:
Baronet Coffee Fair Trade Sumatra
Buck’s County Coffee Fair Trade Sumatra
Cafe Ibis Organic Gayo Mountain Sumatra
Cafe Ibis Organic Highland Sumatra Dark
Cafe Moto Organic Fair Trade Sumatra
Capricorn Coffees Sumatra Organic Fair Trade
Coffee and Tea Ltd Sumatra Takengon
Mailordercoffee.com Sumatra Gayo Mountain Organic Fair Trade
Coffee-Tea-Etc Sumatra Dark Roast Organic Fair Trade
Daybreak Coffee Roasters Sumatra Organic Fair Trade
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Bush Pledges Relief for South Asia: But Not Through the U.N.

I didn’t catch Bush’s remarks yesterday on relief efforts to aid victims of the horrific earthquakes and tsunamis in South Asia. But Papa Bear drew my attention to a phrase that was conspicuously absent from Bush’s speech: “United Nations”.
Bush spoke of “building an international coalition”, and having “established a regional core group with India, Japan and Australia to help coordinate relief efforts.”
No mention of working through — or with — the U.N. at all. Not even a little bit.
The President of the United States doesn’t make such an omission by accident, especially in a prepared speech like this one. And while we’ve certainly seen some obvious disdain for the U.N. from Bush and his administration before, this is about as blatant a snub as I can think of short of actually telling Mr. Annan to pound sand.
Good. I’ve expressed my problems with the U.N. before, and since then, the Oil-for-Food scandal has been exposed to such a ghastly degree that it should make any thinking person pause before deciding that the U.N. is an effective or honest organization through which humanitarian aid should flow.
The United States is generous both as a government and as a people, and we will most certainly help where it is needed in South Asia. But there’s no reason why we have to provide false legitimacy to a failing, corrupt bureaucracy by allowing the U.N. to act as a intermediary between American generosity and those in need — particularly given that the U.N. has proven time and again that doing so would endanger, rather than improve, the chances that aid would truly reach and help those who need it most.
Update: Captain Ed points out that British minister Clare Short noticed the omission as well, and isn’t happy about it. Damned shame about that…

TCS Column: We Have Met The Enemy, and They Will Be Us

I’m pleased to report that my first Tech Central Station column is now up over at TCS. I discuss the increasingly blurred border between blogs and traditional media:
These days, enjoyable sport can be had observing the ongoing battle royale between the staid defenders of traditional journalism on the one side, and the young punks known as bloggers on the other..
Look closer at the two sides, however, and you’ll find that there’s far more crossbreeding going on between these particular Capulets and Montagues than you might expect from all the hue and cry. The reality is that the line between “blogger” and “journalist” — and between “amateur” and “pro” — is already extremely fuzzy. And if you think things are blurred now: well, just wait a little while longer, because soon enough, things are going to start to really get interesting.