Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sugar Laden and Highly Processed Foods to be Sold as "Smart Choices.
Under this program, created by a PR firm associated with food giants like General Mills and Kellogg, junk food a sugary cereals were labeled as "smart choices" and made to seem like healthy foods to choose. My wandering through the grocery store demonstrated the insanity and hypocrisy of this program, crap like Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes were given this alleged seal of approval.
Another abomination of processed food crap, Bagelfulls, which judging by what I saw in the freezer container was nothing more than some type of doughy stuff filled with cream cheese and corn syrupy jam. If crap like this qualifies as a "smart choice" than it's plainly obvious that such a program is useless.
Thankfully the public outcry over this program in the last few weeks has lead to the recent cessation (see LA Times article) of this program. We'll have to see if they try to roll the program back out, with changes? or with less publicity? or perhaps they'll put the program where it belongs, in the trash can.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Here's information from our local newspaper - the Grand Forks Herald:
"The National Weather Service says a storm is expected late today through early Friday across central and southern North Dakota, and in the northeastern part of the state late Thursday through Friday. The winter storm watch for Thursday night and Friday afternoon is primarily for counties outside the Red River Valley, including the Devils Lake basin.Rain in northeast North Dakota is expected to turn into snow by Thursday night over a large portion of northeast North Dakota. More than six inches of snow accumulation is possible by Friday afternoon, with winds expected to increase late Thursday night and Friday morning, possibly reducing visibilities."
We'll see if and how much snow we actually receive, but we'll let you know, and if there is a blanket of snow on the ground, I promise to take plenty of pictures.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It may not be a sunset at the beach (I grew tired of those anyways), but it's still fairly pretty.
I'm trying to get better at taking pictures, and haven't forgotten my camera as often as I did before. Previously it seemed that everywhere I went there would be some picture worthy event that I would curse myself for not having my camera. My commitment to show all the picture worthy events that occur back here and bring it to all of you out there, well that commitment remains strong.
It's another windy day today, gusts up to 30mph, leaves are blowing around like, well like leaves on a fall day. At least it's not too cold, mid-40's, otherwise it would be pretty unpleasant outside.
Monday, October 26, 2009
There's also some interesting dicsussion of the perceived differences between leisure and idleness. Leisure being activity which is directed in pursuit of a goal - fishing, golfing, sailing, and idleness is directed in pursuit of doing nothing - resting, reading, thinking, or just sitting there doing nothing. Naturally you can guess which of these society deems morally good, and which is morally bad. "Idles hands are ___ (fill in the blank on this one, but it won't be a positive reference)".
Here's a quick passage from the piece that I'll leave you with:
Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, requisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idleness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had “too much time on our hands.” They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, “Quick, look busy."
Friday, October 23, 2009
We're up early these days, and not because of cold puppy noses poking over the edge of the bed. Nope, we're actually slaves to the alarm, set for 6:00 am. We've got many tasks to accomplish- dog walk, dog breakfast, people breakfast, coffee brewing (this step is VERY, VERY important), and getting Alycia ready for her school day. The dogs would actually allow us to sleep in later if we didn't need to get up. It's a small measure or revenge to have to rouse Shaak Ti out of bed instead of the other way around, which happens 97% of the time. That small measure of revenge though does nothing to mitigate the unparalleled horror of having to be up that early.
So needless to say our morning dog walks are done while it is very much dark, and this morning was dark and cold and clear. Without the fluffy layer of cloud insulation to ward it off, the cold really sets in. Even in my sleepy state I appreciate the fact that we're the only ones out and about, parading our furry companions through the dark, and crunching the frost covered fallen leaves with slippered feet.
As I stumbled around in my multiple layers of clothing and fuzzy slippers, I looked up at the night, soon to be dawn sky, and marveled at all the stars. These stargazing moments were brief, as my shuffling demanded as much attention I could generate so early in the morning, lest it lead to me performing the popular "shuffle-shuffle-stumble-faceplant" maneuver.
There were more stars than I ever remember seeing in the light polluted lands of Southern California. And most folk around here will tell you that you can't see stars at all in "the city" (that would be Grand Forks that they're referring to) and that you need to get out into the country to really see some stars. I look forward to it.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This morning as we put Shaak Ti in her harness, the buckle snapped completely. Upon closer inspection I also realized that a few of the seams were also almost completely torn off as well. It was a good thing because soon enough the whole thing probably would have failed, and Shaak Ti would have torn through it like Bruce Banner changing into the Hulk, shed her restraints, and raced freely after some poor squirrel or chipmunk.
The harness lasted for quite a while, more than two years, through hundreds of miles of walks and another few hundred miles of runs, through rain and snow and sand from so many beach trips. We humbly salute you, oh noble harness, you have served your purpose well.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
You may be surprised to know that I wasn't confident of victory and had set my expectation level at "I just want to make sure no one gets hurt this evening". Lo and behold what a pleasant surprise it was when not only were there no injuries, collisions, or mishaps, but everyone played well, had a pleasant time. AND we won. Expectations were exceeded at every level.
Though there were no injuries, there was some aftermath. Alycia, still sore from our wallyball outing on Sunday, reported post-game soreness in her quads, hamstrings, and every other leg muscle she owns (and even a few I think she made up). She's on heavy doses of Ibuprofen right now, and we're hopeful that her condition will slowly improve. Don't tell her (it's a surprise), but we're going to try to use homemade chili and gluten free cornbread to nurse her back to health this evening. She's due lots of slack though since this is her first real exercise in 7 months since her broken ankle diagnosis, so it may take some time to get her back up to speed.
I do have a few photographs of the event, but they are currently unavailable as they were requested for display from the Grand Forks Athletic Hall of Fame. The organization promised they would provide duplicate pictures, as the originals will be proudly displayed in a traveling exhibition throughout North Dakota over the next several months. If you're in the area, I would highly recommend a visit.
All joking aside, they do publish the local league results in the Grand Forks Herald on Mondays, though I'm not sure if that section is also available online. If it is, I'll include so you can also savor our standing in the league.
Monday, October 19, 2009
For those unfamiliar with wallyball, it's essentially volleyball played on an racquetball court with a more rubberized version of a volleyball. The net bisects the court in half and you can bounce the ball off all the walls except for your opponents back wall. It's fast, dizzying at times, and bears some resemblance to actual volleyball. More than anything it's an opportunity for me to play. Which is all I really want to do, run around and have adult recess. Plus this way, Alycia gets to play too, which is a super bonus.
I played wallyball a few times before when I lived in Connecticut, but Alycia had never played before. Our purpose Sunday night was thus two-fold, make sure Alycia enjoyed the game enough to commit to a two month league, and also to test out her ankle to make sure it has healed adequately, or at least sufficiently well to scamper around on a racquetball court hitting a rubbery volleyball.
We played for a couple of hours, had a good time hitting the bouncing ball, and avoided any injuries and wall collisions. We also met Chris and Kaitlan who will join us for the next couple of months on our wallyball squad. The standings for the sports leagues at the gym are listed in the Monday morning Grand Forks Herald. This could perhaps be my first opportunity to have my victorious sports achievements listed in the local paper, something that was previously impossible, considering my lack of involvement with organized sports in high school and college. More stories as the season develops.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Another caveat. Even though I'm pretty sure I'll get pilloried on this one, I just have to say something. But please, before you throw out expletives or call me names, read the whole thing, and some of the attached links as well, then make up your own mind.
This idea has been percolating in my mind for months now, but finally came to a head when I went to the grocery store this morning. I was picking up a few things and wanted to get some mushrooms for pizza we're going to have for dinner tonight, but I couldn't find the mushrooms in their normal blue container. It took me a minute to see that they were specially packaged in a pink container as part of raising money for Breast Cancer Month. That put me over the edge. What do mushrooms have to do with breast cancer?
My main issues towards this Breast Cancerization of America movement are that 1) the money raised for breast cancer would save more lives if it was directed toward the main killer of women in the US (heart disease) and 2) the Breast Cancer phenomenon has become a vehicle for corporate exploitation, greed, hypocrisy, and shameless advertisement.
Let me first say unequivocally that breast cancer is a terrible disease. Any cancer is terrible, and a cancer that results in having part of your body amputated (especially a part of your body that defines your self image and femininity) is unspeakably horrible. The people who have gone through this and had family members or loved ones die have suffered loss and pain from breast cancer, and my heart goes out to you. This is not to be minimized.
CDC statistics show that breast cancer killed 41,000 American women in 2005 (the most recent year statistics were available). Again this is 41,000 too many, but is slightly less than die by "accidents" and 10,000 fewer than die annually from Alzheimer's. Breast cancer is only the seventh leading killer of women in the United States, and isn't even the most deadly cancer, that dubious honor goes to lung cancer.
What if we reduced the number of breast cancer deaths by half, 50%? That would be a laudable, honorable goal, and would prevent the death of 20,000 American women. Anyone would be overjoyed with such an unbridled success. But what if we decided to reduce by half, 50%, the number of heart disease deaths of American women? We could prevent the death of 165,000 American women per year.
So what if we took some of the estimated tens of millions of dollars (no one knows how much is actually raised every year) raised for breast cancer and use it to reduce the number of American women who die from heart disease every year? Wouldn't that be a more effective use of money to save the lives of women in the US? Such a program would involve nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle change programs, especially for urban and poor women, who are disproportionately affected by heart disease. The problem with such a program? It's not so easy to raise money, and it's not so easy to make additional profits from such a program. It's just not as glamorous.
As far as my second criticism, that corporate America is using breast cancer as a vehicle for corporate exploitation, greed, hypocrisy, and advertisement - please check out this article - Pink Ribbon Overkill: Are companies exploiting breast cancer campaigns? This goes a long way in describing the current state of various corporate manipulation surrounding the pink ribbon campaign and the current practice of "pinkwashing" by nefarious companies.
The mushrooms that I purchased are a great example of these corporate shenanigans. The company that is selling me the mushrooms didn't even give any money to any charity related to breast cancer. In a tiny stamp on the label there's a statement that says "The Mushroom Council donated $50,000 to the City of Hope to fight breast cancer". The Mushroom Councils own figures state that mushroom producers (farmers?) sold 14 million pounds of mushrooms over the last MONTH and 188 million pounds over the last year, (and you know how much mushrooms cost per pound), and yet the mushroom producing contingent in the US could only come up with $50,000 to donate to such an allegedly important cause? I call BS on that.
The truth is the folks I bought these mushrooms from know that they don't have to contribute a penny of their own money to charity (though surely they pay dues of some kind to the mighty Mushroom Council), but all they have to do is slap their product in a pink box for a few months, add some vague promises about "fighting for the cure" and know that people will buy it. Again, I vehemently call BS on that.
Could future breast cancer cases be reduced or eliminated if instead of donating a pittance of a few dollars, companies stopped using known carcinogens in producing their products? Studies have shown a link between breast cancer and environmental pollution, and more research is needed on this topic, but couldn't companies be proactive and eliminate the KNOWN carcinogens from common use. Wouldn't that be a heck of a gift?
Did you know that AstraZeneca, the producer of breast cancer fighting drugs Arimidex and Faslodex, is also related to a giant international manufacturer of industrial chemicals and carcinogenic pesticides? Their former parent company (they spun off Astra in 1993) Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) manufactures the plastic ingredient polyvinyl chloride, that has been linked to breast cancer, as well as the pesticide acetochlor, classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a “probably human carcinogen.”
ICI also makes pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. ICI releases potential cancer-causing pollution into the environment on a daily basis from its global manufacturing facilities. Does that make sense to you? Wouldn't a better contribution from AstraZeneca towards eliminating breast cancer be to lobby their former parent company, ICI, to stop releasing all these toxins and selling all these toxic products into the world?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
But we had plenty of other activities to keep us busy - UND Fighting Sioux hockey and football games (The Potato Bowl) to attend, the French Fry Feed, and numerous local establishments to peruse. There was also a Potato Pancake breakfast at the Sons of Norway Lodge. No I am not making this up.
One of the finest festivities of the week was the french fry feed, part of the Potato Bowl celebration. The french fry feed was in University Park, a lovely area a few blocks away from UND. In the picture above, Dad and Alycia pose in front of the festivities. If it looks like they're huddled together for warmth, it's because they are, it was cold.
We also took a picture with the official Simplot French Fry mascot guy above. Simplot is a huge potato processing plant here in town. We stopped the guy and asked if we could take a picture with him, and he seemed genuinely surprised that someone would want a picture with him. Seriously, how often do you get the chance to take a picture with a giant human french fry? Hell yes we were gonna seize this opportunity.
While I attempted to eat our weight in french fries, my Dad had a mild case of french fry related hiccups, that somehow scarred him for the rest of trip where he avoided potato related products like the plague, which I must tell you isn't easy in North Dakota. And as you can see from the pictures, it was pretty darn chilly, low 30's and windy. It's not so much the temperature here, it's the wind.
We also went to a Fighting Sioux hockey game at the Ralph Englestad Arena. The Ralph is a fantastic place to watch a hockey game, and frequently gets named as one of the best places in the world to watch a hockey game. But before we saw the game, we decided to have ourselves a little full access tour, which is where we got the great picture of my Dad with the ice behind him. And yeah, my Dad is a proud San Diego Padres fan, and proudly wears his Padres gear even in the frozen lands of North Dakota where people say "what the heck is a Padres?"
Sadly we don't have any pictures from the Sons of Norway potato pancake breakfast. All we have is the memory of delicious potato pancakes and charming conversation with a gentleman named Harold Vjold (lot of j's in surnames around here).
We think that Dad a decent enough time, we plied him with homemade delicacies like corn chowder and Parmesan biscuits, blueberry coffee cake, and pho soup (tasty on a cold night), and traveled to the finest dining establishments in town. Hopefully we impressed him with the level of actual civilization here and he'll schedule a return trip. Once winter has passed that is...
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Tito and Shaak Ti have a little chompin' time.
Tito sees his opening and moves in for the kill. Actually rolling over on her back is really Shaak Ti's only offensive move, aside from using her butt to shove Tito into a corner.
After a run through the snow flurries there's nothing better than curling up into the green ball for a cozy nap.
Friday, October 9, 2009
The precipitation is the big item of the day. Yesterday it was chilly and a few rogue snowflakes fell from the sky. I immediately alerted my Dad who was dutifully impressed, apparently snow is a rare sight in San Diego, especially this time of year. But today was a different story, flakes have been falling aplenty, and there is talk of actual accumulation overnight. Accumulation? But it's only October.
It is a bit tiring playing tour guide, so I'm gonna keep this entry short and sweet and go take myself a nap. More information and funny stories of my Dad's visit down the road a bit, right now I'm gonna drift off to sleep as I watch the flakes drift down from the heavens.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
This past weekend we attended the largest craft show in the region. It was massive, immense, two giant buildings worth of arts and crafts in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Building one was the local hockey rink (appropriate) and building two was the local VFW, all in all approximately seven hundred thousand square hectares of locally made stuff. OK I made up that figure completely, and I'm not actually sure how big a hectare is, but there was a lot of stuff.
I really wanted to tag along with Alycia and her Mom to see what the craft show was all about. The largest craft show only comes around once a year, so you gotta get while the gettin' is good.
According to Wikipedia's North Dakota Info, the largest industry in North Dakota is agriculture, followed by petroleum and food processing. But I argue that baby making should also be on the list, possibly as number two, right behind agriculture. The number of baby related items (fleece Minnesota Viking onesie anyone?) and people with babies at the fair was crazy. And in my half hour or so at the craft fair, my impressions of the area were confirmed, there are more young people here with kids than just about any place I've been. Being over 30 and childless definitely puts you in the minority.
I left after a half hour, while Alycia and her Mom forged bravely onward. Alycia did find a new fuzzy hat to keep her very valuable noggin warm in the winter and some cool new mittens.
Alycia and Mama Bear survey the crafts. The two of them are quite the team, and they focus on inspecting just about every booth with a high degree of scrutiny. When it came to this particular craft show/shopping event, they were no match for me.....
Monday, October 5, 2009
The number is 1,137. That is the number of consecutive games of Freecell I have won. It hasn't been easy, but then again, nothing worth achieving that's difficult is ever easy. And it's not over. We'll continue to build on these 1,137 consecutive victories and establish a new personal best. And don't worry, we'll keep you up to date on new Freecell developments.
I've researched online and there doesn't appear to be any National or World Championship of Freecell, and that's too bad. I feel like I could represent the great state of North Dakota pretty well.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
My plan was to cook up a big ole batch of pasta sauce, and instead of canning it, I'd honor the sauce by making it the first item inside our newest basement inhabitant - the chest freezer.
It took me a couple of hours to process all the tomatoes, and another hour or so to pick some fresh basil, oregano, and chives from our backyard herb garden to add to the sauce. I also purchased five pounds of onions for $3, so I chopped those up as well and threw them in the pot. The sauce took a while to cook down (the tomatoes were quite juicy), and I actually left them on low to cook down overnight.
I ended up with 11 jars (quart size) of pasta sauce, which are all happily hibernating in the basement freezer. From a cost benefit analysis, I only spent $18 on 11 jars of pasta sauce, which is still a savings over what I would have paid at the grocery store, but the joy is not in saving money, but having tasty homemade sauce waiting for me in the freezer.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
For the most part, there's no malice or judgment in my observations, nor do I think there is much City Mouse vs. Country Mouse attitude. My earlier post today about the neighborhood smelling like potatoes was the truth, the place smells like potatoes. Plus it gave me the opportunity to investigate and discover some information about my new hometown, mainly that there's a large potato processing plant a few miles down the street.
If I'm reading my audience correctly (and I know I am), I think what you truly want to see are unique perspectives on an otherwise unknown land. And I think the majority of you want to hear humorous tales of me getting into awkward or emabrassing situations due to my presuppositions, Southern California mindset, or lack of knowledge about local customs.
Please note that I will endeavor to place myself in as many situations that can produce these humorous results. This hopefully may include some or all of the following activities: snowmobiling, snow blowing, any other activity that deals with snow, eating lutefisk, clog dancing, pheasant/deer/elk hunting, decking myself out in Chargers gear to visit the local saloon for Sunday football viewing, attending the annual craft show (IT'S THIS WEEKEND!!!!), and ice fishing. I will try as to my best abilities to take pictures and share them, even if they're embarrassing.
Thanks for participating in the poll, it was fun. I think I'll try and come up with new polls every week or so. I'm also pleased to offer a full guarantee for anyone taking the poll. If you're not fully satisfied with your experience, your money will be refunded to you in full. That's right, a 100% money back guarantee if you're not happy. Beat that....
The plant is the JR Simplot Potato Processing Plant, one of the largest producers of frozen french fries in the country (they supply McDonald's with french fries). And now that it's prime potato harvesting time the plant is running at full tilt turning delicious Red River Valley potatoes into golden delicious, ready-to-be-fried-for-you-yummy-goodness french fries. The facility is huge and now that the weather has turned cooler, the steam plume is visible for some distance, and the breeze carries the potato smells further.
The rush to process all these taters is also to ensure that the town is ready, ramped, and geared up for POTATO BOWL USA 2009!!! You can see all the Potato Bowl USA 2009 information on their aforementioned website. Every year as part of the festivities they try to set the record for the worlds largest french fry feed, free french fries to anyone and everyone. You gotta be ready for an event like this.
It's actually sort of a pleasant smell, comforting, but at 6:00 in the morning, I don't know if it was the proper time to arouse a hankering for baked potatoes. I'll keep you up to date with how much longer the potato aroma continues. Maybe in another few days/weeks I'll be sick of it, we'll see.
In weather news, today is chilly and rainy. A big front is quickly moving through and was preceded by strong winds yesterday that made for a beautiful blustery fall day. I'm comning to realize what a big factor the wind is here. 50 degrees is quite pleasant. 50 degrees and 40 mph wind gusts can be chilly.