Friday, February 22, 2008

Losing a great man

Jim Koch sings to his daughter, Anita, the night before her marriage to me.

From left to right are Jim Koch, Anita, me and Sylvia Koch.

It has been a rough two weeks. I lost my father-in-law, Jim Koch, to heart disease on Feb. 13. He was just 68. I enjoyed his passion for left-wing politics and for life. One of the most touching experiences in my life was during the rehearsal dinner on June 22, 2001, for Anita and me. During the dinner, a mariachi band performed, and to the surprise of everyone, my future father-in-law got up and sang several songs in Spanish to his daughter. And you know what, he sang beautifully and powerfully. He cared deeply about his family and was always there when we needed him. He enjoyed being the caretaker for family history. He spoke three languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese. He was a retired public school teacher, an election judge and a political activist. During the last few years, he translated Brazilian poetry. Unfortunately, he had diabetes and was overweight. He liked his fast food. As vegans, Anita and I tried to encourage him to eat less meat. When he came over to our place, he enjoyed the vegan food we prepared. We also made food during the holidays and brought it to his house, such as tamales. At his home, he ate lots of hummus and some tofu. He switched from chorizo to soyrizo. Despite his positive changes, it wasn't enough. He needed to do so much more, namely avoiding fast food. His last heart exam had been 10 years ago. If he had gotten the exam every year, I believe they probably would have caught the build up in his arteries and could have provided him with some treatment. It simply was too late when he was taken to the emergency room. Heart disease, especially build up in the arteries, can easily be remedied with a good diet and exercise (read "The China Study"). I hope anyone who reads this will take better care of their heart and encourage their family members to do the same. We will miss you so much, Jim.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The not-so-smart car: Where veganism and environmentalism clash

I was so excited that the Smart ForTwo car was coming to the United States this year after being available for years in Europe. It is the most fuel-efficient nonhybrid on the market. Only the Toyota Prius gets better highway mileage (45 mpg to 41 mpg, according to the EPA's 2008 standard). Unfortunately, the ForTwo comes standard with a leather steering wheel and leather gear-shift knob. I e-mailed the company about it, and here was their response: "Dear smart Enthusiast, Thank you for your interest in smart USA. Unfortunately at this time leather is the only option available for the steering wheel." It makes me so disgusted. I am trying to be a good environmentalist and want to do the right thing, but I will not buy a car that's dressed up with the skin of another animal. The idea that you can't even special order a non-leather steering wheel and gear-shift knob is just amazing. I'm so glad a company is making a small, reasonably priced and fuel-efficient car. Unfortunately, there's too much cruelty in its make-up for my green.