Month: July 2013

Unintended Consequences – What Michael Crichton taught me about GMOs…

I recently read a blog post titled A hippie’s defense of GMOs, in which the author went through and attempted to defend the use of GMOs, noting that while she considers Monsanto evil, “…I’m also not going to let my anti-corporate sentiments get in the way of a diverse and promising field of research.”

In 1990, Michael Crichton wrote a little book. Some of you may have heard of it. It was called Jurassic Park. Well written novel, turned into a blockbuster film by Stephen Spielberg in 1993 that was really on the cutting edge of special effects at the time. It’s really a cautionary tale on the idea of tinkering with things that man was ultimately never intended to tinker with, and a demonstration of the worst case scenario with unintended consequences. With the sequels, you find out how the unintended consequences spill over, culminating in a T-Rex on a rampage in downtown San Diego.

What does this have to do with anything?

Well – similar to the idea of GMOs, John Hammond set out to do something good by creating Jurassic Park. He wanted people to have the opportunity to see creatures that had never existed in the time of man. With GMOs, I think the intention to an extent is honorable – Monsanto’s non-reproductive, Roundup-ready crops aside, I think a lot of the intention behind it is to help feed the world.

But there’s the problem of unintended consequences. Let us be realistic, the science behind it is still new. We don’t know the effects that playing with the genetics will ultimately have. It’s nice to think that genetics is just plug & play, that plugging part of the code into a plant that doesn’t normally have that code won’t have any unintended consequence, but how do we know that it doesn’t?

Maybe it is unavoidable. Maybe as humans, we can’t stop tinkering, and eventually we’re screw things up to where we can’t go back. Or maybe we won’t. I’m not a fortune teller, seeing into the future and able to predict the outcomes.

I just hope I’m not around if the T-Rex eventually breaks loose on the streets.

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Companies I like – New Seasons Market

I’d like to take a little time to recognize a company that I’ve grown to appreciate in the last year, New Seasons Market. This all started with me reading the side of a grocery bag…

Let me back up a second. Allow me to provide the following disclaimers. I am not being paid, in any way, shape, or form, to promote the company. The opinions here are my own, I’m not some PR monkey churning out reviews of places to make them look good. If you have any doubts about my ability to rip a company that I don’t like, see if you can locate an archive for my rather terse encounters with Verizon, Hewlett Packard, or Samsung. I have no problem blasting things I don’t like, but I’d honestly rather spend time talking about things that I enjoy.

Okay, back to business. As I was saying, the other day, I happened to look at the side of my grocery bag, and I read the New Seasons mission statement, right there on the side of it:

We want to be the ultimate neighborhood grocery store. That means creating the best shopping experience possible. One that is easy, fun to shop, and genuinely friendly. It means providing you with the best mix of products, from Frosted Flakes to free-range chicken. It means building a market for local and regional products and supporting family farms. It means giving back to our community, and creating a progressive workplace where our staff can thrive.

The number of companies that live up to their mission statements, unfortunately, is becoming extremely sparse. I’m increasingly convinced that a mission statement is something most companies have for filler on the corporate web page, not something that they really let impact their business. New Seasons, however, nails it.

Admittedly, the staff caught me off guard the first time I walked in – the butcher block alone had a tattoo collection that would rival Chris “The Birdman” Anderson. I spent most of my formative years shopping in Albertson’s, where the staff all has uniforms  and looked like someone you would expect to see working at a grocery store. The group here, at times, looks like they should be sitting around in a coffee shop, maybe reciting beat poetry in a drum circle; it’s like a group of the hipsters often found roaming Portland in their 1980s Volvo station wagons with the “Keep Portland Weird” stickers they picked up at Powell’s Books– the City of Books location downtown, not that minuscule one that Cedar Hills Crossing has– got lost driving to an indie film festival one day and decided to set up shop in a grocery store.

Not that this is a bad thing – Their company culture is self-proclaimed “progressive,” so it’s natural that the group is probably a little more on the creative side. The shopping experience is well laid out, so “Easy” is checked off the list. “Fun to Shop”? I think this interaction I had with them on Twitter sums it up.

These people clearly like to have fun at work. (On a side note, is there anyone left on the planet who doesn’t instinctively slap an idiotic grin on their face and start bobbing their head when the song “What is Love?” comes on in public? Be honest.)

The product selection? It’s not as wide as you’ll find at larger places like Fred Meyer or Albertson’s, but they stock a decent cross section of products, doing a nice job of balancing the basics (though I will admit, I’m slightly puzzled as to why they don’t stock any Starbucks coffee beans, but they stock Seattle’s Best. I don’t mind necessarily, I just wish they stocked whole bean Level 4 instead of the pre-ground stuff) with the higher quality organic/free range fare. I did make the discovery that their bakery stocks some fantastically high-quality deserts, stumbling across selections from Papa Haydn’s (And let’s face it – As charming as the atmosphere is on 23rd, I don’t like waiting 2 hours for desert, especially good desert – I get impatient and a little whiny.)

What ultimately keeps us coming back, though, is the friendliness. By being the neighborhood market, they get to know their neighbors, and when the founders wrote into the mission statement that they intended to be genuinely friendly, they’ve done a phenomenal job of finding staff who are just that – friendly. Whether it’s the guy grilling burgers for the summer barbecue with his special spice blend (which, if you have the chance to swing by Progress Ridge New Seasons and try it, it phe-NOM-en-al!), the guys back at the butcher block, or the cashiers in the front end, every person I’ve met in their store is fantastically friendly. New Seasons in Progress Ridge has done an excellent job in selecting employees who line up with their vision of what makes their market great.

So kudos to you, New Seasons Market. Thank you for being excellent at what you do. Keep it up!

Almost there…

Hello, dear readers!

I’m just over halfway through my brief academic sabbatical from blogging – Things are going well at this point, though with three classes on my plate it’s felt a little overbearing at times. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1) It takes me 45 minutes to write 1500 words when writing about myself.

2) It takes me 2 1/2 hours to write 500 words when writing about a country in the Middle East.

3) It takes me 10 minutes to finish Personal Finance homework.

4) I do a lot of bad things when I write. A LOT of bad things. I apologize to you for that, dear reader, and on William Zinsser’s grave, I swear to you, I will do better.

5) William Zinsser’s actually not dead, so I can’t really swear on his grave. How about on a copy of “On Writing Well”?

6) I may or may not have just accidentally started an internet rumor that William Zinsser died. Whoops.

I should be returning once my Geography of the Middle East course is completed, which should be in a couple of weeks here. That’s really what’s bogging me down most right now.

In the mean time, enjoy this snippet from “Jeeves and Wooster”.