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    Published on: March 3, 2006

    Business Week reports this morning that Wal-Mart Stores is restructuring its executive suite to include a new office for a corporate Director of Global Ethics charged with “ensuring the retailer's code of conduct is applied across a growing global network of more than 6,200 stores and 1.6 million employees in 15 countries. This job would run the company’s existing Global ethics Office; while the job responsibilities have existed in the past, this is the first time Wal-Mart has separated out the post as a full-time gig.

    The move comes just months after the company suffered the embarrassment of seeing its longtime vice chairman, Tom Coughlin, a protégé of founder Swam Walton, plead guilty of tax evasion and fraud charges related to financial mismanagement. In addition, the company continues to come under attack for issues such as gender bias and anti-union initiatives, all of which add up to continued bad press at a time when it is trying to drive up its languishing stock price.

    One of the attributes listed for the ideal candidate, according to Business Week: being "able and willing to take a difficult or unpopular position if necessary," as well as having "impeccable reputation for integrity and judgment" and to be politically savvy.
    KC's View:
    Will these difficult positions be unpopular with the outside world, or with management?

    We assume the latter is what Wal-Mart means, and if true, this could be the most import attribute the person would have. We’ve long said that the Bentonville Behemoth needs more people who are not allowed to drink the corporate Kool-Aid and who report directly to CEO Lee Scott.

    Sounds like this may be what they have in mind. At least, we hope so.

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    The Dallas Morning News reports on the recent RFID World conference, at which the issue of consumer privacy concerns received considerable attention. In the keynote address, Texas Instruments vice president Julie England urged attendees not to ignore these worries.

    “The key to success is finding this right balance between privacy protection and the appropriate use of data," she said, noting that whatever the advantages of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to business, consumers “have the right to know whether a tag is embedded in the product, the right to have RFID tags removed or deactivated when the products are purchased, the right to opt out of RFID-enabled services, the right to access the RFID tag's data, and the right to know when, where, and why the tags are being read.”
    KC's View:
    While a number of speakers at the conference pressed home the points that 1) the technology isn’t as advanced or prevalent as privacy advocates worry it is, and 2) consumers react positively to the advantages offered by RFID, these defenses do not really address the issue wisely advanced by England in her speech.

    It actually doesn’t matter what the advantages are for consumers as long as there is major debate about privacy issues. It is up to industry to be a) completely transparent about how RFID is being used, and b) considerate to a fault of consumer misgivings.

    Any other approach is foolhardy, because it almost certainly will backfire when someone abuses the technology and creates a minor scandal that threatens to blow up into a major scandal. To assume that this won’t happen is to ignore history. To paraphrase General Carl Von Clausewitz, you need to prepare for what can happen, not what you think will happen.

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that a University of Texas biochemist has completed a study concluding that “the nutritional content of America's vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 50 years -- in some cases dramatically.” Of 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1950 to 1999, “six showed noticeable declines -- protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C. The declines ranged from 6 percent for protein, 15 percent for iron, 20 percent for vitamin C, and 38 percent for riboflavin.”

    According to the scientist, this may because major agricultural companies are pushing for crops that can be raised the fastest, which often doesn’t allow the crops to absorb basic nutrients from the soil during the growing period.

    The study doesn’t suggest that consumers eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Rather, it concludes that people need to continue eating the basic minimum daily requirement and then some in order to consume what their bodies need.
    KC's View:
    If we get to a point as a culture where fresh produce actually is diminishing in terms of nutritional value, doesn’t that sort of mean that we are killing the goose that lays the golden egg? (We’re mixing our metaphors here, but you get the point…)

    There’s something wrong with a system that even accidentally has an impact like this.

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    • The New York Times this morning reports that as “Wal-Mart hunts for ways to take costs out of its grocery business and offer popular items that can help bring customers into its stores, the company has become more involved in creating the products it sells, and how those products get onto Wal-Mart's shelves.”

    The best illustration of how Wal-Mart has done this is its urging of Coca-Cola to create a Diet Coke product made with Splenda rather than the Coke Zero product planned b y the company; while the latter item eventually came out, the Diet Coke line extension was a direct result of Wal-Mart’s persuasive powers.

    This approach, according to the Times, “mirrors Wal-Mart's general strategy of urging vendors to provide the products Wal-Mart wants, at the price it wants. In the laundry detergent business, for instance, Wal-Mart has been pushing manufacturers to make superconcentrate versions that require less packaging and shelf space. Wal-Mart would not comment for this article.

    “Other supermarkets typically collaborate with large food and beverage manufacturers to promote products and create special in-store displays, though they rarely play a role in new product offerings or in how those products are distributed.”

    The simple reality is that Wal-Mart accounts for so much business done by these companies that they cannot resist its entreaties. What Wal-Mart wants, it generally gets…and other retailers simply have to live with this state of affairs and its implications.

    • Retail Forward’s new ShopperScape survey revealed that 39 percent of all shoppers have visited a Wal-Mart during he past week.

    In addition, the survey showed that “Wal-Mart's share of common, frequently purchased consumable goods is greatest for personal hygiene products and weakest for fresh foods, whereas the retailer's penetration of dry grocery and snack items falls between those two poles.

    “Among the 69% of shoppers who purchased skin care, hair care and other personal care products in the past 4 weeks, more than half (54%) purchased the category at a Wal-Mart store in the past 4 weeks. This was the only frequently purchased category for which more than half of all purchasers bought the item at Wal-Mart.”

    In addition, “fast food counters are more popular than any other service Wal-Mart offers. Nearly half (47%) of all shoppers have purchased food from one of the fast food counters in Wal-Mart.”

    • Published reports say that Wal-Mart’s Asda Group in the UK is adding a “heart healthy aisle” on its Internet site, bringing together products appropriate for people concerned about heart disease.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    Christian Haub, executive chairman of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), told the CIBC World Markets Ninth Annual Retail Conference in Toronto that beyond ongoing cost reduction efforts, his company was focused on reorganizing itself around three formats – gourmet stores, the discount Food Basics format, and fresh food-driven Fresh Markets.

    In addition, published reports said that Haub noted that a merger with Pathmark might make sense strategically, and that the two companies might take a look at how such a consolidation would work.
    KC's View:
    We don’t mean to be cynical, especially because we like Haub, but how many times has he stood up and outlined a plan for A&P’s future without, in the long run, being able to achieve any kind of meaningful growth and/or compelling consumer shopping experience?

    Or are we being overly critical here?

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    • The Chicago city council reportedly will consider a bill that would ban the use of carbon monoxide as a “pigment fixative,” keeping mat looking fresh even as its quality has begun to decline and the meat has begun to spoil.

    Forbes reports that now that Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club have raised their membership fees by five dollars per year apiece, expectations are that Costco will follow suit in the next six to nine months.

    • For a fifth-consecutive year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized Food Lion with an ENERGY STAR partner award, giving it the ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence 2006 Award for outstanding and continued leadership in protecting the environment through energy efficiency and superior energy management. Food Lion will receive the award at a March 21 ceremony in Washington, D.C.

    • Published reports say that UK-based Tesco’s test of a standalone area for Apple Computer products such as iPods has proved so successful that it will open 300 such areas in various stores by the end of the year.

    Cooking Light magazine reportedly will open a new restaurant in the FoodLife section of Chicago’s Water Tower Place, partnering with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to offer food cooked from recipes published in the magazine. The restaurant also will offer a take-out line of products based on published recipes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    • After two years of legal wrangling, a New Jersey judge has ruled that violated its exclusive contract with Toys R Us when it allowed vendors to use its portal to sell toys and baby products. The judge severed the contract that was supposed to bind the companies together for a decade, allowing Toys R Us to begin operating its own e-commerce site. However, he did not assess Amazon with any fines or damages.

    While Toys R Us had filed suit against Amazon alleging breach of contract, Amazon had counter-sued charging the toy retailer with not living up to its fulfillment obligations.

    Amazon said it was disappointed with the decision and would consider an appeal.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    • Publix Super Markets Inc. reported that profits for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2005, were $989.2 million, up from $819.4 million the year prior. Annual sales rose from $18.6 billion to approximately $20.6 billion, and same-store sales were up 5.4 percent.

    • Costco Wholesale Corp. reported that its second quarter sales were up 11 percent to $13.78 billion, with same-store sales up seven percent. However, Q2 income was down to $296.2 million from $305.5 million a year earlier.

    • Target Corp. reported that its February sales totaled $3.73 billion, up 10.5 percent from $3.38 million in the same month last year. Same-store sales were up 3.6 percent.

    • CVS said that its February sales rose 8.5 percent for the month, to $3.1 billion from last year's $2.9 billion. Same-store sales for the month rose 5.9 percent.

    • Longs Drug Stores reported fourth quarter profit of $35.3 million, from $17.7 million during the same period last year. Revenue was up three percent to $1.24 billion, from $1.2 billion during the same period last year.

    For the fiscal year, profit doubled from $36.6 million to $73.9 million. Sales were up 1 percent to $4.67 billion from $4.61 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    We got a number of responses to the current MNB Radio commentary, which suggested that perhaps we misjudged Safeway in recent years – that maybe its Lifestyle stores and resurgent numbers suggest a company with more potential than we gave it credit for.

    Not everyone agreed with that conclusion.

    One MNB user wrote:

    Having just retired, and having worked with Safeway over the years as a vender, I can not agree with you that you were wrong. Yes, Lifestyle stores look like they are improving sales, but if you put that much money in re-vamping the same number of stores, (that is clean up the dirt, clean the shelving, paint the building and bring in the out of stock product, add the 'Grand-Re-Opening" ads and pricing), you would see the same increases on any number of stores.

    Years ago…I worked on the reset crew for a Safeway division. In one store, I pulled off 17 facings of the same sku of Pineapple slices. This store had huge Out-Of-Stocks and when I asked the clerks why 17 facings of one sku?, they replied that they were told to get it out of the back room.

    We reset this store (bring in the correct distribution and filling the out of stocks) and the sales increased by 50%. Then a month later, I dropped by and again found that there were now 15 facings of the same pineapple slices as the manager again wanted these "out of the back room". The manager wasn't after sales, they just wanted a clean inventory. The sales returned to there previous low level within two months. I can only say this was a poor management decision. I see the same decisions being made at Corporate.

    So I do not believe you were wrong on Safeway management, I think you just jumped too soon on short data. I really believe that Safeway will follow Albertson's and be sold (again) or merger with someone within two years.

    I don't see any difference between "The Bird" and “Larry". They both are bean counters and have no idea on how to actually run a store for a long period profit. They do like to make the next quarter numbers, but can't understand that good people are part of the equation.

    MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

    Venturing out on a tightrope into something new with the Lifestyles stores? It seems all the troubled supermarket companies venture out on some kind of tightrope. Usually right before they announce the big bad news. Is there any indication that Safeway will be successful with the Lifestyles stores? Honestly, will the Lifestyles stores be anything different that what Dominicks or Randalls was before Safeway bought them and turned them into generic vanilla stores? It just seems so comical that Safeway is taking credit for some new idea that was already in place the day they bought many of their stores.

    Yet another MNB user wrote:

    Gotta tell you that you are wrong again!! Safeway may be doing SOME things better as they move forward BUT they can never do enough to compensate for the unbelievable mismanagement in their recent past. Dominicks food stores purchased for about 1.6 billion dollars that could not be sold a few years later at a 75% discount…with a 40% market share loss at the same time!!! Tom Thumb with results just as bad. Come on, Kevin, have you figured out how many "Lifestyle" Safeway stores it will take to make-up for that loss?? The Dominicks and Tom Thumb mis-management by Safeway ranks up there with the Ford Edsel.

    Boy, we try to be a little charitable and look what happens.

    In our defense, by the way, we would point out that we concluded our radio commentary by saying:

    This isn’t to suggest that things are going to be easy for Safeway – this is a tough tightrope to walk, trying to be a mainstream supermarket company with mass appeal while simultaneously focusing on more targeted lifestyle niches to create a differential advantage. But it is a tightrope that Safeway must walk in order to remain relevant…and I have to give the company credit for venturing out onto it.

    Maybe Safeway will make this work and maybe it won’t. It may be that the cultural, infrastructure, and operational demands of its traditional model won’t be able to support the Lifestyle concept. In fact, if we had to lay down a bet, that’s probably the smart wager.

    But there’s nothing wrong, in our view, with offering some encouragement and positive reinforcement.

    We got some interesting email about our story concerning the “flexitarian” lifestyle, which was described as eating 80 percent of your daily calories from fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans and 20 percent from lean meat, fish and poultry – giving adherents the medical and psychological benefits of being a vegetarian without all that annoying self-discipline – you get to cheat.

    One MNB user wrote:

    My grandmother (who is still exercising daily at 98!) and my mother (who at 73 is probably eating her half-slice of grapefruit and reading the paper – sorry she is not hooked yet on MNB) figured this out decades ago and have always referred to it as moderation or maybe it was simply common sense.

    MNB user Al Kober, perhaps sensing that we were viewing being flexitarian as an easy cop out, wrote:

    It may be easy for some to adapt the life style of a flexitarian. But what if your life is built on unchanging principles that do not allow for the compromise that flexitarian decisions might require, then being a flexitarian might be more difficult. We all live by some standard of conduct and if unacceptable compromise is required to become a flexitarian, then becoming a flexitarian may not be for everyone. Success as a flexitarian will be limited by the size and scope of the individual's "gray area" of acceptability.

    Hey, we didn’t say it was everyone. And it probably isn’t as easy as we may have implied. We just like the sound of the word “flexitarian,” and think it pretty much the way we’d like to live in general.

    But here’s an embarrassing admission. While we reported on this demographic group this week, we did not remember that almost exactly a year ago, we wrote:

    The Associated Press reports that there is a growing group in this country - flexitarians, or "part-time vegetarians whose loose adherence to the meat-free diet is transforming a decades-old movement and the industry that feeds it."

    Flexitarians, it seems, are motivated less by animal rights than by the idea that a sometime-vegetarian approach is good for their health. There are estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of the population at least occasionally eats vegetarian meals – and suggestions that it is this semi-vegetarian segment of the population that really is driving vegetarian product development.

    So it wasn’t exactly new news…though it seemed so at the time because we had absolutely no memory of having written that piece in 2004.

    Maybe, on second thought, our brain cells need to be a little less flexible.

    Responding to yesterday’s criticism of what laughingly passes for loyalty marketing but instead is just another form of discounting, MNB user Duane Kolsrud wrote:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head again. These programs have nothing to do with loyalty and are only incentive programs at best.

    A very wise retailer who has run a loyalty program for more than 30 years once told me: “The loyalty or rewards program you start today will not fully begin to show results for at least 5 years.” In other words, loyalty marketing is a long-term investment and shouldn’t be seen as a short-term incentive.

    The bigger question for Coke (which is starting a loyalty program) is: will their My Coke Rewards program still be around in 5 years…?

    We had a piece yesterday about Wal-Mart being attacked by the state of Michigan for violations of its item pricing laws, to which one MNB user responded:

    (Attorney General) Michael Cox should spend time in all Michigan grocery stores as they all violate this law, in my opinion. This has been a pet peeve of mine for some time and it’s not getting better.

    We had a story yesterday about how the US House of Representatives is expected to vote today on a bill that would pre-empt all state food safety regulations that are more stringent than federal standards. In superseding state rules, and critics suggest that it would result in lowest common denominator regulations with fewer and duller teeth than existing state rules have.

    Interestingly – and not mentioned in our original piece – the New York Times had an editorial yesterday suggesting that this was a move engineered by lobbyists representing the food industry, and criticizing Congress for even voting on the law without holding a public hearing into its ramifications.

    In our commentary, we wrote:

    We’re not sure how we feel about this one. On the one hand, a uniform federal standard sounds like a good idea…but if that means state standards will in fact be lowered, our enthusiasm diminishes considerably. If there is one thing that we learned at the recent and excellent CIES Global Food Safety Conference, it is that governments and industry ought to be working together for the highest common denominator of food safety standards – and to do anything else is to betray the consumer upon which the food industry depends.

    May we also suggest a small irony here? The House of Representatives is dominated by the Republican Party, which traditionally has been a states’ rights party. But apparently not on this issue, nor on others where selective memories seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

    The Democratic Party seems no less opportunistic, by the way – it has always been more on the side of federal control, but on this one, according to the Times, Democrats are against uniform federal standards.

    This makes us think that maybe it is all about politics and power, and that debate has nothing to do with food safety.

    Go figure.

    This commentary prompted a number of responses.

    MNB user Wayne Barrett wrote:

    The Republican Party is for states rights when it's RIGHT for them. When they do not like the states laws, they try and overrule them. Recently it seems the Republican Party is power trip, my way or the highway. I think this train is going to crash in the near future.

    It certainly has been a tough month for the GOP.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    This food safety bill is a result of the food lobbyists. Food safety supercedes any argument about states rights vs. federal control. its an example of how our government continues to make decisions based on who gives them enough money to run expensive television ads to get re-elected. It’s that simple.

    The political parties have to create spin to justify bills like this because the citizenry knows instinctively that it is not in their best interests.

    You’d think after recent events people in both parties would be leery about voting for anything pushed by lobbyists of any stripe.

    But old habits die hard.

    One MNB user using the moniker “Disappointed Reader” sent the following email:

    What about the possibility that the Democrats are against uniform federal standards for the same reason you are?

    US public debate is paralyzed on so many levels, and the media contributes to it with a knee-jerk response to every controversy with, "Both sides are motivated by power and politics." Assuming that both sides are wrong may make for a snappy close, but it also contributes to Americans' sense of disenfranchisement.

    Fair point. A knee-jerk response when people of either political party go against the grain doesn’t speak well of them or us…and perhaps we were a littler glib in our analysis. Still, the irony of the GOP being selectively against states’ rights and Democrats being selectively in favor of them struck us as too ripe to ignore.

    As for contributing to Americans’ feeling of disenfranchisement….well, we’re not sure we have quite that much power.

    Though we’d like to.

    Finally, responding to our pieces this week about a study saying that chocolate milk may be as good for recovering athletes as sports drinks, and Gatorade’s subsequent rebuttal, one MNB user ventured onto what for us is familiar and hallowed ground:

    Our good friend Preacher Buffet knew the great benefits of Chocolate milk many years ago when he released the album “Havana Daydreamin'” in 1976. He recaps his need for chocolate milk in “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus”:

    Got to get a little orange juice, And a Darvon for my head.
    I can't spend all day, Baby, layin' in bed.
    I'm goin' down to Fausto's to get some chocolate milk.
    Can't spend my life in your sheets of silk
    I've got to find my way…

    As do we all.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 3, 2006

    Reporting in from Seattle, Washington…

    Five days after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, which seemed far more like a reality show without end than any kind of competition, I have just one question:

    Bode who?

    With the beginning of the baseball season, a time when hope springs eternal and even Mets and Cubs fans believe in the healing power of a decent pitching staff, there also inevitable comes the incessant whining of Barry Bonds, one of the biggest crybabies and worst role models in the sporting world. Bonds likes to pretend that the rules against steroids don’t exist or don’t apply to him or that the rest of the world is too dumb or blind to see what is obvious – that his body is juiced and that many of his home runs have been hit under fraudulent conditions.

    Not that I feel strongly about this.

    George Vecsey, writing in the New York Times last week, put it succinctly when addressing Bonds’ whining and complaining:

    “It isn't fun for Barry? It wasn't fun for Aaron, receiving hate mail for passing the Babe. It wasn't fun for Mickey Mantle, gasping every time his knee buckled. It wasn't fun for Roger Maris, knowing traditionalists were rooting against him. It wasn't fun for Jackie Robinson when fans and opponents shouted vile things at him. It wasn't fun for Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston and Buck O'Neil to watch mediocrities play in the all-white major leagues. It wasn't fun for the Babe, feeling his body falling apart, sensing the Yankees would never let him manage. It wasn't fun for Lou Gehrig, dying young.
    “It isn't fun for a lot of us, watching a miserable, bulked-up egomaniac whine. Barry Bonds wants fun? He could retire in spring training, leaving Aaron and Ruth at the top of the list.”

    It is probable that Bonds will pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, and very possible that he will pass Hank Aaron.

    But make no mistake. Barry Bonds may own a major league record, but he is about as minor league a baseball player as the game will ever put on a pedestal.

    Forget the Olympics and forget overpriced, over-juiced baseball players. My new sports hero is high school basketball coach Jim Johnson.

    And if you don’t know who he is, you should.

    By now, you’ve probably heard the story of Jason McElwain, the 17-year-old young man from upstate New York who has autism and loves basketball. He’s served as the team manager for his high school team, doing anything that was asked of him so he could be near the game he loves. Just the other day, for the last game of the season, the team’s coach, Jim Johnson, asked him to suit up so that he’d enjoy that experience. And then, Johnson put the 5’6” Jason into the game for the last few minutes – and Jason responded by scoring 20 points, including six three point shots.

    Jason McElwain and Coach Johnson are what sports is supposed to be all about. Johnson deserves special credit for looking beyond the obvious and nurturing this young man’s talent and spirit, for giving him the opportunity to succeed and feel special, and for creating what has turned into a national celebration of this special young man. But maybe even more importantly, he’s almost certainly giving the other players the same sort of respect, nurturing and opportunities. I’d be thrilled to have one of my kids playing for him.

    And by the way, this is what bosses are supposed to do in every one of life’s venues.

    It’s like an addiction, but I won’t be able to help myself – Sunday night I’ll be up until all hours watching the Oscars.

    Here are my predictions and preferences…

    Will Win: “Brokeback Mountain”
    I’d vote for: “Crash” or maybe “Good Night, And Good Luck”
    (Note: I’ve seen all five nominees)

    Will Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, for “Capote”
    I’d vote for: Heath Ledger, for “Brokeback Mountain”
    (Note: I’ve seen four of the five nominees…so I can’t fairly judge Terrence Howard’s performance in “Hustle & Flow”…though he was great in “Crash”)

    Will Win: Reese Witherspoon, for “Walk The Line”
    I’d vote for: Reese Witherspoon, for “Walk The Line”
    (Two admissions here. One is that I’ve had a mad crush on Reese Witherspoon ever since “Legally Blond,” and the second is that I haven’t seen any of the other nominees. But that doesn’t stop me from opining…)

    Will Win: George Clooney, for “Syriana”
    I’d vote for: Matt Dillon, for “Crash”
    (This is a tough category because all four nominated performances that I’ve seen were all amazing; I missed William Hurt in “A History Of Violence.” But I’m guessing Clooney will win not just because he is a liberal, which doesn’t hurt, but also because between “Syriana” and “Good Night, And Good Luck,” he had an amazingly creative year. But while I have no problem with him winning, I’d probably vote for Matt Dillon…because his was an anguished performance in a very, very good movie.)

    Will Win: Michelle Williams, for “Brokeback Mountain”
    I’d vote for: Rachel Weisz, for “The Constant Gardener”
    (The “will win” is a guess…these are the only two nominees I saw; but I thought Rachel Weisz was positively luminous in her movie, and her appeal made the whole film work.)

    Will Win: Ang Lee, for “Brokeback Mountain”
    I’d probably vote for: Ang Lee, for “Brokeback Mountain”
    (Hey, his last movie was “Hulk,” so Lee deserves an award just for surviving that. Besides, like it or not, “Brokeback Mountain” was a phenomenon this year. But if Lee doesn’t win, it’ll be George Clooney for “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which is a terrific piece of work about a genuine American hero, Edward R. Murrow, who spoke truth to power. And in this case, I saw all the nominated films.)

    What could be better than an hour of “24” on Monday night?

    Two hours of “24”…which is what Fox has scheduled.


    By the way, I don’t know if anyone out there actually understands what the hell is happening on “Lost” this season, but as confused as I am, I find it to be absolutely irresistible. It is like going deeper and deeper into a puzzle, knowing you may never find your way out…but not really caring because the trip is so intriguing.

    Wine of the week: the 2004 A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon, which I am told is actually a blend of 20 different wines. I had it the other evening at my favorite Seattle restaurant, Etta’s Seafood, along with my usual black bean and smoked ham soup with tomatillo salsa and an entrée that consisted of troffiete pasta, muscovy duck confit, cipollini onions, spinach and laura chenel goat cheese.


    Sometimes, it isn’t hard to look on the bright side of life.

    Have a good weekend. Sláinte!!

    KC's View: