Friday, May 17, 2013

US travels: Memorable Rochester, Raleigh and Indiana shops and shopkeepers

In Rochester (NY) we made a beeline for the Lands End in Sears at the Eastview Mall, where I had bought pants on a Saturday in 2012. We had the most helpful saleswoman, Monica. I was especially impressed because she doesn't work on Saturdays and had just dropped by the store. This year we went on a Friday and found Monica who proved herself to be an awesome salesperson. I bought three pairs of pants, two more than I intended to. I also left with a bathing suit. What a benefit for Lands End. She is perfectly at ease with her merchandise and made me forget that my body after 69 years didn't relish trying on a swimsuit. She also helped Doug buy shorts. If you don't like to shop, need clothes, and know that you can do better than shutting your eyes and hoping for the best with an on-line order seek out Monica (she works weekdays).

Monica - A reason to go to Lands End
In Raleigh we almost drove by the unimposing signs at 3434 Edwards Mill Road (in West Raleigh)  that pointed the way to coffee. In need of our morning coffee we stopped and discovered Groovy Duck Bakery. I groaned when Doug ordered a muffin. I don't particularly like muffins and avoid the calories. When it come to Groovy Duck muffins I was wrong about the taste and every calorie was worthwhile. They were delicious and Doug didn't sneeze - a sign that they were freshly made without preservatives. We perused the displayed cake and ordered the seven layer Boston cream cake for the next night. It was yummy and not overly sweet. Baked goods and pastries so often disappoint, but not here. And what makes any place extra special is the staff. Obviously many shared our opinion. While we sipped our coffee customers kept coming in to buy a muffin or two or pick up a larger order. They make you want to come back and hope that their new business takes off.

Staff at Groovy Duck - Beth owner & baker is in the center

Groovy Duck display case

At the Indy Winter Farmers market in 2012 we stopped at Litterally Divine and bought out their supply of toffee crumbles - broken piece of toffee. We took a bottle along when visited our friends, Arvind and Sandhya, in Wisconsin. I can't remember if the crumbles lasted through the weekend, so we knew what to send Arvind and Sandhya for Christmas.
Suzanne with the crumbles - only a tiny part of what she produce
Alas, in December when I inquired about buying crumbles there were none available,but there might be some in January. So I pre-ordered 2-4 bottles. In late January I received an email announcing that crumbles were available. Litterally Divine mailed four bottles to Wisconsin. Arvind and Sandhya each took two bottles - no sharing. After such a lovely on-line experience we had to go to Greenfield, Indiana to introduce ourselves to Suzanne, again buy out her supply of crumbles, and purchase few packets of toffee and a selection of truffles. Meeting Suzanne and viewing the variety of truffles was awesome; plus Greenfield was a pleasant walkable town.

Greenfield was so inviting we decided to try a local restaurant. Suzanne recommended SoupHerb across the street, owned by another Suzanne. Litterally Divine was quiet, perfect for a chat; SuperHerb was super busy. It was hard to choose from among the soups, quiches, wraps and sandwiches. A nice surprise was when my request to skip the chips was countered by an offer to substitute fruit (grapes, orange, and watermelon).
Suzanne of Soup Herb
My lunch - a turkey wrap

The restaurant space was airy. In a previous life it was a department store. Up on the 3rd floor was a former Masonic Temple. The owner told it was worth a visit. I was torn between which picture to post: the lovely stained glass window or the one depicting a 19th century banker, Nelson Bradley. So I included both.

As we left we saw this sign reminding us of the importance of small businesses ( It certainly captured what made Greenfield and the Groovy Duck Bakery so appealing. Lands End is not a small business, but Monica reminded me that even large stores can have employees that draw you in.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Indianapolis Original Farmers' Market

We love markets we regularly shop at Bangsar's night market and have visited central markets, wet markets, fresh markets, and farmers markets in Vietnam, India, Malaysia, and the US. A piece of unintended good fortune was to buy a condo near Indiana's farmer markets. The Original Farmers' Market, open on Wednesdays May through October is two blocks away. We wandered over a 9 a.m. - a half hour before its 9:30 opening - which gave us a chance to peruse what was available.

We couldn't resist the "Pat's Philly Pretzels." Doug engaged Patrick in a conversation comparing Philadelphia pretzels to New York City pretzels. (Fortunately, neither is butter dipped a la Baltimore.) Doug planned to buy just one. Within seconds he decided on the row of three connected pretzels. Patrick is gregarious, a natural salesman. Good that he is selling pretzels and not shady financial instruments

Patrick with his tasty Philly pretzels
We had previously bought salad ingredients, but this lettuce display called out to us. The hard part was to decide which of the two varieties to buy. The lettuce was fresh and organic. The farmer reminded us that farm fresh products may require washing to assure that we don't get any overlooked grit. A small price for tasty lettuce.

Lettuce from Van Antwerp's Farm

The market has several vendors selling breads and pastries. We usually pass on the pastries, but this display of "right sized" pies was awesome. The size was right, the prices were reasonable, and there was a pie was for every taste. We settled on a black raspberry pie, but next week I'll buy a rhubarb pie and Doug can buy something else. You probably will find your favorite pie below - well, I didn't find a raisin pie, a Pennsylvania Dutch pie.

And here are the pie makers from Kun's Kountry Kitchen.

We were tempted by the flats, pots, and baskets of flowers. With only two weeks and only a balcony none seemed to practice. Instead we bought a herb garden. It has basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, and purple sage. We will dine on the leaves over the next two weeks and then turn the pot over to Brendan and Frank.

The row of herbs, plants, and flowers marks the entrance of the farmers' market. An easy, pleasant way to buy meat, produce, flora, pottery and other crafts.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Women and Political Participation in Malaysia

Our major retirement activity is volunteering with Empower, a NGO. I proof-read Equality Under Construction: Malaysian Human Rights Report 2010/11 - a mind numbing task, but a great introduction to Malaysia and issues, which are not confined to Malaysia - the labor force participation of women especially after marriage (low in Malaysia); the informal labor force, which includes workers who do piece work; the lack of legal protection for the LBGT community; the dominance of religious communities in family law (India for example has separate marriage laws for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and so on); and the plight of refugees who have no legal status and are defined as illegal immigrants. The book is an excellent resource, especially its inclusion of applicable the statutes and opinions.

I helped design  questionnaires to assess training for women aspiring to political office. The training covered CEDAW (UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), the relevance of politics/policy to women, and campaign strategies. The questionnaires worked well and confirmed that trainees felt they could use what they learned, explain the issues, and show others why and how to use various campaign strategies.

Doug and I created a database on women members of parliament. In conjunction with the 5 May General Election we helped create a map that shows the gender of the candidates in each constituency; it is posted at (euc = equality under construction). Relatively few women are running: 56 running for Parliament and 113 for state assemblies. Despite the pre-nomination rhetoric only 10 percent of the MP candidates were women - the percent of women nominated ranged between 8 and 14 percent for the various political parties. The percents for the state were relatively similar. Of the 18 current women MPs who are contesting, 12 entered parliament in 2008. Perhaps if most of them are reelected the more experienced women will promote a women's agenda (anti-sexual harrasment, consistent Shariah laws among states, marital rape, equal citizen rights for children born abroad with a Malaysian mothers and non-Malaysian father).

One of the first articles I read about the women candidates was on grooming - pretty amazing. We are taken aback by referring to women candidates as "roses" or "flowers." Taking women seriously doesn't seem to be part of the political culture, even though Bersih 2.0 has amazing women leaders. Since we are now in the US we haven't been able to follow coverage closely, but I suspect the women's issues and the policy views of women candidates aren't receiving much, if any, coverage in Malaysia. So no matter what the outcome Malaysians have work to do to assure that women's voices are heard and aren't marginalize

9 May 2013 - the election is over. 23 women were elected to parliament; 24 were elected in 2008. 56 women contested for parliament, including 7 independents. 16 of the 18 incumbents who contested were reelected. 56 of the 113 women who ran for state assembly won. 100% of the women who ran for parliament for DAP (an opposition party) won as did 96% of their state assembly nominees. DAP does a good job of selecting winnable candidates, but is it too risk adverse?