Friday, July 18, 2014

Vegetarian Propaganda Backfires


Our local library offered a free vegetarian cooking demonstration – which means watch us cook and get a free meal.

My husband, the alien, and I went.  It was a sales pitch and we came home with the “wrong message.” 

The cooking lesson was a chance to show a captive audience photos of captive animals.  Our saleswoman kept asking – if you had a choice, would you rather be kind to animals or cruel to them?  She said that this is one thing most Americans can agree on – they’d rather be kind to animals.

Her answer was to become not just vegetarian, but vegan.  She won’t even eat honey.

The dish of the evening was gumbo made with vegan imitation sausage and vegan imitation fish. It was okay.  I was surprised that these vegan purists cooked with white flour.  Why not whole wheat? The main thing I learned was that gumbo file is really ground sassafras.

I also learned that Whole Foods has a meatless Monday program.  For $8 you can put as much food as you can fit on a plate and take it home.  This Monday they had a delicious chili made with ground mushrooms instead of meat.  They had dolmathes and several delicious salads and a fake chicken that wasn’t half bad.  I managed to put enough food on that plate for the two of us and have leftovers for a 2nd meal.

By the time we ate, we’d seen so many photos of cooped up animals, I knew I never wanted to eat such miserable creatures. They must be full of adrenaline.  But I was not convinced to become a vegan or a vegetarian.  Instead, I decided it was worth the extra money to get free range eggs and free range meat and chicken.

Yes, this will mean eating meat less often, but we eat beans and grains anyway. And meat can be spread out with more veggies to make more meals.

Those imitation meat products don’t taste as good as the real thing and they cost more.  So, compared to that kind of a vegan diet, I’m saving money.

I’ll be putting ground walnuts in my next lasagne.  Nobody will know the difference.

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Computer


Several times a week, I hang up on folks who call claiming to be Dell Technical support. They claim to know some nonsense about my having an infection in my computer that isn’t a virus and can’t be caught by my antivirus program, but that this mysterious person has managed to detect without even knowing what kind of computer I have.

But this time, the caller didn’t feel dishonest. And I had written to Dell about when to expect delivery on my new computer.  FedEx hadn’t logged it in for 5 days, and it had missed its expected delivery date.  So, I asked the caller, “Are you really from Dell or are you trying to sell me something?” 

I know. Dumb questions.  So, of course he said, “I’m really from Dell.”  

I asked, “Why are you calling?”  He said he was calling in response to my email.  Dell Technical Support really does make phone calls. 

He didn’t know about all the fake Dell phone calls.

He didn’t know any more than FedEx did about where my new computer was hiding.  But if FedEx didn’t find it in the next day or two, he’d authorize a trace.

Within minutes of delivery the next day,  Dell Technical Support called to ask if it worked.  I hadn’t even opened the box yet. I promised to email them when I had it up and running.  

I used to think happily about how nice a new fast computer with new capabilities would be.  But that maxed out about a decade ago.  Now, a new computer means I have to find all my backups and program disks and restore them to the new drive.

And before I can do that, I have to uninstall the programs on the old drive so the license will be free for reinstallation.

My hard drive is dying.  The registry is corrupt.  Uninstall doesn’t work.  I found a Mr. Fixit program on the Microsoft website that did manage to uninstall most of my programs.  BUT, it didn’t send word to the companies, so when I reinstalled, the programs said I had already used my license.  Now, I have to phone the companies, and talk with bored humans who must spend all day listening to 36 digit registration codes.  This is not going to be an easy or short process.  

I’m hoping my dying hard drive lives long enough to finish this process.  I am buying my old computer a new hard drive to give it years of more use.  But this computer eats hard drives at least once a year, and it is now out of warranty.

At least Chrome browser remembers my passwords and my bookmarks.  And I no longer have email on my hard drive. Some of the drudgery of moving to a new computer is gone.  But I have files going back to 1983.

In fact, I have things on my hard drive that I don’t care about any more. Funny and beautiful videos friends sent me in emails.  Audios of webtalks that I never want to hear again.  
Picking which files go into my new computer is like cleaning out my file cabinet.   Will I regret throwing that out?  Will I regret keeping it around?  Looking at my hard drive is both a record of my creativity and my time wasting. 

Everybody acts like having things neat is supposed to be easy. I’ll probably wind up keeping things I’ll never look at again.     

Friday, July 4, 2014

Separate and Equal

Last week I went to the Constitution Center to hear Dr. Danielle Allen of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies discuss her latest book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality. She says, “In just 1,337 words, the Declaration changed the course of the modern world, but it is now rarely read from start to finish.”

The Declaration begins:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Her most fascinating point is that the Declaration uses the phrase “separate and equal.”  She considers the racist phrase that was popular for so many years “separate BUT equal” to be a corruption of the Declaration’s meaning and intent.

Dr. Allen came to her passion for the Declaration at her childhood dinner table where her parents read it sentence by sentence and discussed each phrase.

When she found herself teaching reading at a community center, she chose the Declaration not only because she loves it, but also because it is short.  She thought her students would not object to the time it takes to read.

But, when she came to class, almost nobody had read it.  Her students didn’t see why it was relevant to them and to their lives.  She found that these adult students responded when she read it to them sentence by sentence and discussed it phrase by phrase, as she had originally learned it.  No one is too old to learn from this document, but slow reading is the key.

Dr. Allen went through parts of it during her one-hour talk.

For example, why did the writers say, “when in the course of human events” instead of “here’s what we are doing”?  Dr. Allen explained that preambles were important in the early days of our country. They were intended to show the philosophy of the document.  The Declaration was to take its place in the flow of time, not just pop out of nowhere.

Now, on July 4, I’m looking for a place to attend an oral reading.  I want to keep this document alive, in all its separate and equal phrases.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Scarlet Letter

I’m not a fan of The Scarlet Letter. It’s just one of those books that I thought everybody reads – like the Bible. It’s one of our common stories, with one of our common and therefore short-hand images.  Kind of like Juliet talking to Romeo from her balcony.

Recently, I watched the movie Burning Bridges with a group who were for the most part younger than I am.  This movie features a community discussion with  6 young men in their twenties who burned a historic covered bridge in Bucks County about ten years ago. These young men were middle class educated youths from respected families. They said they didn’t know what that bridge meant to people. And they didn’t know why they decided to destroy it. But they were sorry to have upset and disappointed so many people. They were especially upset to see their parents cry.

These young men were sentenced to 18 days in jail, 1000 hours of community service and each was fined $66,000, their share of the $400,000 it cost to replace the bridge.  One woman in the group watching this movie said she didn’t think the punishment was appropriate.  (I did think it was appropriate.) 

Partly in jest, I asked her, “Do you think they should be made to wear Scarlet A’s for Arsonist?”

Nobody laughed.  People in the room looked at me as if I was making an absurd suggestion with no basis.  Have people stopped reading The Scarlet Letter?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Memorial for a Stranger

I’m a chronic volunteer.  Last week, I volunteered to clean up the food service at a memorial for a woman I’d never met.

I decided to go to the memorial and listen to the stories.

A woman who was in the church choir with her spoke fondly of how the dearly departed sang off key and was tone deaf, but probably didn’t know it.

A man talked about how he worked the night shift and liked to sleep late, but when the dearly departed was visiting at his home, she walked into his bedroom and woke him up early in the morning, saying “You’ve had enough sleep. It’s time to get up and fix me breakfast.”

Others talked about how she could eat 4th servings of food she enjoyed.

From the photo of her on the table, she was a woman of normal proportions. The extra food didn’t make her gain weight.

But most of all, they talked about her Faith.  She never doubted that people would be there for her.  At the end of her life, she was in a wheelchair.  But when she wanted to go to the beach, people were there to lift her and her chair into a van, drive her out onto the beach and stay there with her until she was ready to go home.

People were there to wait on her and bring her those extra servings she craved.  People seemed to enjoy helping her with whatever she desired.

She’d already recovered from brain cancer once, so her friends thought she’d survive this final illness, too.

I found it endearing that people loved telling and hearing these stories about their friend, whose company they had clearly enjoyed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Charlatan or Fool

How do you tell the difference between a charlatan and a fool?

A charlatan knows s/he is selling nonsense.  A fool thinks the stuff might actually work.

My mother is seeing a chiropractor who does not limit himself to adjusting her spine.  He has her on a diet that by all accounts is either worthless or harmful.

My mother is 91 years old and when she started going to this man, she weighed 100 lbs.  She now weighs 91 lbs.  The food she is allowed seems to be a variation of the Paleo Diet. But then there are the supplements.  She had me look up two of them.  Solutions4 and ClubReduce are weight loss products. He also has her drinking Kangen water which Dr. Weil (who loves all things alternative) says is worthless.

My mother has neuropathy as a result of lumbar laminectomy surgery 10 years ago. She has tried many treatments without success.  She says this treatment makes her feet hurt worse, but that the chiropractor tells her this means her nerves are growing back.

Obviously, the man is selling hope.  Hope is a good product.  I want her to know that the food supplements she is taking are junk.  But I don’t want to take away her hope.  I have jumped all over her about the weight loss. She can see that she doesn’t need to lose weight. She knows she wants to attend the family get-together next September, a month before her 92nd birthday. She says she’ll gain the weight back, but if she keeps taking these supplement and eating this diet, I don’t know how that will happen.

My grand daughters made her some dairy-free cookies.  She does have a sweet tooth, so maybe that will help.  My husband called her chiropractor, and told him that he’s concerned about her weight loss.  The chiropractor says she can have organic ice cream twice a week now.  He’s afraid of toxins.

From what I’ve read, the toxin level is the same in organic and commercial foods. The main difference is that the organic farms aren’t adding to our planetary burden of insecticides and herbicides.

But right now, my concern is my mother’s health.  Both emotional and physical.  I could try to get this chiropractor’s license pulled, but he’s giving my mom hope.  So, how do I convince him to stop selling her weight loss products? And get him to encourage her to eat a higher calorie diet.? My mom is an authority follower.  I am not an authority.  Her chiropractor is.  So, I suppose charlatan or fool, I’m stuck with him, and the difference doesn’t really matter.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Value of Bag Refunds

The cashier at Trader Joe’s asked if I wanted a ticket to enter the drawing for people who bring their own bags.  I said, “I’d rather have a nickel.”

The cashier looked confused.  “But you might win $25.”

I thought I might have been exaggerating, but I said, “I’ve been shopping here for 12 years and I’ve never won. If I got a nickel for each bag, I’d have over $100 by now.”

The cashier clearly didn’t believe me.

So, I went home and did the math.  12 years times 52 weeks is 624 weeks.
I shop on my bike, which limits my carrying capacity, so I go to the store 3 times a week.  That’s 1872 trips to the store. I often use two bags, but if I only used one bag per visit,  at 5 cents each, that’s $93.60. I was not exaggerating. As the inventor of the bag refund, I have a stake in this.

Obviously, I don’t choose my grocery store based on bag refunds.  And I don’t bring my own bags to get a rebate. My bags hook onto my bike rack, and enable me to get my groceries home without wearing them on my back.

I took the little rebate ticket. I filled it out, and put it into the raffle box. And then I thought, as a true eco-freak, maybe I should stop taking the tickets. Saving that little bit of paper might eventually save a tree.  That’s what the bag recycling is all about anyway.