October 24, 2008

"You call that reading?"

I went through a serious drought, a reading drought over the last 5 or so years. I used to read a couple of newspapers each day and always had some book going. Sometimes, when I had finished something good, it might take a while to decide on something new but I always seemed to find something. I went through a Stephen King phase, a Grisham phase, Irving phase, Baldacci phase, Cornwell phase, even a Clancy phase. There was always something to read.

But then it happened. Old age began to creep up on me. I started to really need the reading glasses I had and never could seem to find them. My arms were way too short to hold the book out there plus there was that conspiracy where book publishers started to use smaller fonts so they could use fewer pages and save money on the publishing costs. Anyway, I found myself not reading much.

So, I really went about 2 years without reading a book. Sure, I was still looking at the newspapers each day on the intertubes but no mind expanding book reading. A few weeks ago we did a podcast on “Does the Intertubes Make Us Stoopid” (Episode 46 here) which proposed the theory that internet skimming was leading to attention span issues and that this was affecting how we learned and what we retained. I’m not sure if this is what was at work here but it seems plausible.

Plus there were several great new television shows to watch.

Soon my reading for pleasure ground to a halt and I did not like that at all.

Last April Ms. Fabulous and I went on a cruise and I was determined to use the time to re-stimulate reading in my soul. It worked. I read 5-6 books on the trip and rediscovered the joy of reading.

At this same time my daughter MillieJupiter, who is a librarian, began to encourage me to try books on tape and I did. Now I find myself hooked. I use my ipod, CDs, tapes, it doesn’t matter. Every day on my commute, 30 minutes each way.

And here is where my questions lie. What do we call what I am doing here. Is this reading? Am I just listening? Somehow calling it "listening" seems a downgrade from reading. After I finish a book this way, I can talk about it just like any other traditional reader.

I had this discussion with Booth Boy and he was insisting that I can’t call it reading. That was until I asked him if he called his national pastime, texting, talking to someone. Does he say I texted my friend last week or I talked to them yesterday? If we text don’t we say we talked with individual? Finally a battle won with him!

I think we need to develop a new term to give this style of reading some credence and I think I have one. I call it BOTTING – get it, “Books on Tape”, BOT. I have submitted it to the urban dictionary for their consideration and it has been accepted for review. Hey, I think I’m a scholar!

October 17, 2008

"Some foods just make you wonder who ate them first"

Did you ever look at a food and wonder how someone may have decided that it would be good to eat. I’m not talking here about foods that you personally might find disgusting or unappetizing; I’m talking about things so vile looking that you would wonder who would stick that in their mouth the first time. Just how hungry did they have to be?

I’m not talking about something like snails or insects here. Lots of peoples eat insects as a viable source of protein and when you really think about it how different is an insect than a small bird or the like. If you consider it carefully, how different is a snail than a crab or clam or mussel or other sea creature.

No I’m talking about weird looking things that stretch the imagination of eating. Like artichoke for example. I know millions of people love this vegetable. They roast it, they stuff it, they braise it, they dip it, they mix it in spreads. It tastes good too. I've eaten it myself. But have you ever looked closely at one? The food network has all sorts of shows that explain how you prepare it. But the fact remains that it seems like an awful lot of work to get to the heart and who was the first person to pick one, strip all the leaves, avoid the choke and start to eat this vegetable. It would not have been me, that’s for sure.

Who looked at animal intestines and said oh, that would make a good covering for sausage?

Who looked at fish eggs and said, what a great snack, I think I’ll l call it caviar.

Who looked at bull testicles and said I think I’ll call them Rocky Mountain oysters? Nope, not making it into my mouth.

Eskimos make a wine out of seagulls fermented in the sun; in the Philippines, they eat half hatched chicken eggs, and the Chinese eat duck and chicken feet. No, no and a big no on those delicacies.

Sorry, just give me some fries or onion rings, maybe a burger with some good old cheese on it and let me wash it down with a beer.

October 16, 2008

"Apple Juice Lite my ass!"

I was reading a blog on the intertubes the other day and was surprised that I had never come across or thought about this issue before.

A man was complaining about the fact that he found apple juice too sweet although he liked to drink it. He had developed the habit of cutting his juice with water to reduce this problem and was happy with the results. Then when shopping one day, right next to his favorite brand, he saw “Favorite brand apple juice lite” He thought it was a great idea and bought some.

When he tried it at home, he was surprised when he tasted it. It tasted EXACTLY like his concoction – half apple juice, half water. Then he read the nutritional label and was shocked again. EXACTLY half the calories per serving, half the nutritional content and yet the COST WAS THE SAME. That’s right, the company added water to their product, called it “lite” and sold it for the same price.

This really is two problems. One is the ignorant American consumer, of which I am proudly one, who makes this type of purchase blindly and is then surprised the big bad corporation is taking advantage of them. The second problem is that big bad corporations are allowed to get away with stuff like that.

My guess is that the FDA’s guidelines or rules or whatever they have regarding food stuffs does not adequately define “lite” and as such, the consumer pays again. It makes me wonder about lots of products and their “lite” variations. Other drinks – watered down. “Lite” bread – cellulose (twigs, sticks and wood pulp) added.

OH MY GOD, what have they done to my “lite” beer!

Not only adding water is a problem. What about concentrated things, like laundry detergent. Do they take out some water, make the packaging smaller and then CHARGE MORE FOR THE DAMN STUFF? I cannot believe that we pay a premium for these things. Half the product for more than twice the money. No wonder we are in an economic crisis in this country.

What about the labeling. Fine print, misleading claims, weight changes in the packaging. Is there a way for us as consumers to be less gullible? Surely we can read every single label but who has the time or energy. Usually we are cramming grocery shopping in between taxi runs to dance class or soccer games (god bless Sarah Palin – NOT) or on the way to somewhere else. So what is the solution?

Well we see where less regulation gets us. Check out the stock market or your 401 K or the planned government buyout. No, less regulation and the market policing itself is not the solution. I think we need to hit these companies hard in their pocketbook like they hit us with this garbage.

If a company tries something like this they should be fined. Send the money to food banks or homeless shelters. Whip more air into ice cream. Lets not debate what to call it (strawberry flavored ice cream style dessert substance), just fine um! Give the money to charities or hurricane victims or other relief efforts. They make a can that used to hold a pound of product, looks the same and now holds only 14 ounces, fine um! Bag of cookies, same bag but now a couple of chips short of a pound, fine um! Stop trying to fool the public. Put the weight and content ingredients in large easy to read letters. Make a product with reduced fat but extra sugar so the calories are the same or even more – don’t put LOW FAT on the label, put SAME CALORIE CONTENT AS REGULAR PRODUCT. Fine um, fine um, fine um!

Well, all this talk has me hungry. I think I’ll go have some Snackwell cookies and some no sugar added ice cream.


October 7, 2008

"History’s Greatest Journeys"

My podcast partner Maqz and I talked recently about this article that appeared in “Good Magazine” an internet site. This is what Good Magazine says about themselves:

“GOOD is the integrated media platform for people who want to live well and do good. We are a company and community for the people, businesses, and NGOs moving the world forward. GOOD's mission is to provide content, experiences, and utilities to serve this community. GOOD currently produces a website, videos, live events, and a print magazine. Launched in September 2006, the company has garnered praise for its unique editorial perspective and fresh visual aesthetic and is quickly positioning itself as a significant new voice in our culture.”

They do many interesting articles about the world, complete with eye popping, cutting edge graphics. Recently they listed these 20 journeys as some of the greatest ever undertaken. There are actual journeys, paths as journeys that anyone can travel, and fictional mythic journeys found in literature. It was a great list and generated some interesting discussion about the relative values of some. I have included the list with a summary of each for readers to look at.

from Good Magazine
Lewis and Clark - to find an overland water route to the Pacific coast
Amelia Earhart -twice attempted (unsuccessfully) to circumnavigate the globe.
Lindberg -first person to complete a nonstop flight between New York and Paris
Desoto - Spanish conquistador, landed on the coast of Florida to discover and secure American Indian gold
Captain James Cook and the crew of his ship, the Endeavour - undertook the first complete mapping of the coast of New Zealand, Tasmania and the eastern coast of Australia.
Columbus - the most famous exploration in Western history.
Livingstone -Scottish-born missionary and explorer who spent the majority of his adult life making inroads into unexplored regions of central and southern Africa
Marco Polo -The Venetian explorer Marco Polo is most famous for his travels in the 13th century as one of the first Westerners along the Silk Road to China.
Henry Hudson - The English explorer Henry Hudson hoped to find the mythologized Northwest Passage from England to China.
Magellan’s circumnavigation - Ferdinand Magellan in 1519 made an attempt to reach Asia by sailing west. His expedition discovered the straits below South America that now bear his name, and crossed the Pacific
Pizzaro - Spanish conquistador who spent much of his life trying to find El Dorado in South America. He did topple the Inca Empire, loot its substantial coffers, and establish the city now known as Lima.

Pan-Am Highway - The “World’s longest motorable road” according to Guinness World Records. it stretches from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to several claimed endpoints in South America.
Trans Siberian Railroad - The Trans-Siberian Railroad is a legendary rail route that connects Moscow to the Pacific Ocean
Northwest Passage - explorers like John Cabot, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier tried in vain to find a westward trading route to Asia
Union Pacific Transcontinental Railroad - a line of track that connected Sacramento, California, to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Orient Express - The most famous route ran between Paris and Istanbul from 1889 to 1977 the line remains a symbol of rail travel at its most romantic.

Around the word in 80 days - Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days Written at a time when new rail lines and canals made such a journey realistic, the story captured the popular imagination
Journey to the center of the earth - At a time when cartographers had mapped most of the globe, Verne looked into an Icelandic volcano and saw a secret world of alchemy, prehistoric monsters, and adventure.
Pequod and Moby Dick - Herman Melville’s using the whaling ship as a microcosm for an expanding world are an indelible part of America’s literary tradition.
Jack Kerouac - On the Road speaks to all that is contemplative and nomadic in us. His characters hitched, train-hopped, and drove their way across the United States and into the uncharted regions of their own interiors.

Interesting list don’t you think?

Well part of our discussion in Countless Screaming Argonauts, the podcast (Episode 60), was about the journeys that were missing and we began to compile a list of journeys that were at least as historic as those already mentioned. This is the list of additional journeys we came up with:

Man’s landing on the moon
Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion
Hilary climbing Mt. Everest
Perry’s journey to the North Pole
The Boston Marathon
Star Trek’s journey into space, the final frontier
The Lord of the Rings journey to middle earth

And finally a few more of my own that were not included in the podcast:
The Oregon Trail
Hannibal crossing the Alps
Breaking the Land Speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier
Swimming the English Channel
The Wright brothers flight at Kitty Hawk
The California Gold rush
The first SST flight across the Atlantic Ocean
Skylab and the current International Space Station

I’m sure that readers can come up with others that could merit placement on the list. If you have one (or several!) feel free to add them as a comment and I will update this posting sometime in the near future.