Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 22nd, 2011

Mickey D’s gets a well-deserved blast with both barrels

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Mark Bittman writes in the NY Times:

There’s a feeling of inevitability in writing about McDonald’s latest offering, their “bowl full of wholesome” — also known as oatmeal. The leading fast-food multinational, with sales over $16.5 billion a year (just under the GDP of Afghanistan), represents a great deal of what is wrong with American food today. From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong; from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right, as the oatmeal fiasco demonstrates.

One “positive” often raised about McDonald’s is that it sells calories cheap. But since many of these calories are in forms detrimental rather than beneficial to our health and to the environment, they’re actually quite expensive — the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation.

Oatmeal is on the other end of the food spectrum. Real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient. As such, it’s a promising lifesaver: oats are easy to grow in almost any non-extreme climate and, minimally processed, they’re profoundly nourishing, inexpensive and ridiculously easy to cook. They can even be eaten raw, but more on that in a moment.

Like so many other venerable foods, oatmeal has been roundly abused by food marketers for more than 40 years. Take, for example, Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal, which contains no strawberries, no cream, 12 times the sugars of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and only half of the fiber. At least it’s inexpensive, less than 50 cents a packet on average. (A serving of cooked rolled oats will set you back half that at most, plus the cost of condiments; of course, it’ll be much better in every respect.)

The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Since we know there are barely any rules governing promotion of foods, one might wonder how this compares to real oatmeal, besides being 10 times as expensive. Some will say that it tastes better, but that’s because they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods, which is what this bowlful of wholesome is.

Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work.)

If you don’t want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you’re walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.

The aspect one cannot argue is . . .

Continue reading, please: it’s really worth it.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Health

Tired of being whupped

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My Mac came with a chess game—very nice touch, and Microsoft offers only mindless games—and I’ve been playing from time to time, generally going down in flames in fewer than a dozen moves. Very annoying. Then I decided to start playing the same opening every time, figuring that I’d gradually work my way past the various ways of losing—but, of course, the program does not unfailingly answer e4 with e5, leading into the Ruy Lopez. It also plays the French Defence (… e6), the Caro-Kann (… c6), the Sicilian (… c5), and so on.

I kept thinking I needed to dig out my book of openings, when—hello? I am playing on a computer connected to the Internet—I thought of looking for a database of openings available on-line. Man! do they have some great ones: showing, move by move (sorted from most to least used), percentage who played it and percentage of wins for white, wins for black, and draws. All derived from tournament play. I suppose you can even find databases restricted to games played by Master and above, but this one will do for now. Pretty damn nifty.

With the database, I can in effect follow my plan, but instantly and drawing from thousands of games.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Games, Software, Technology

Note from Honeybee Soaps

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I really like the shaving soaps I’ve purchased from Honeybee Soaps (formerly Honeybee Spa). I recently got the note below, and I’m assuming that you might like them as well. This is a purely voluntary gesture on my part, simply because I like the products. Here’s the note:

We’re very excited to offer several new items and new fragrances.

Check out our new Gentlemen’s Colognes, available in a convenient 2 oz. size, approved for air travel. If your favorite fragrance is not yet available in cologne, please drop us an email and let us know what other scents you’d like to see.

We’ve added 2 new fragrances to our All Natural Essential Oil shaving soaps….Blood Orange and Pink Grapefruit. They smell absolutely phenomenal, so if you like citrus, these are a must try!

Fireside and Honey Ale are the newest additions to the fragrance oil shaving soap line. These are available individually, in the 3 and 6 pc variety sets, and also in jars, sticks, and jumbo shea butter bath soaps.

It’s been a busy winter and we’re gearing up for spring. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Honeybee Soaps

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Shaving

10 languages easy for English-speakers to learn

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The article explains the reasons why each of the languages shown is in the list, but the article unfortunately omits the obvious: Esperanto. Perhaps that is because Esperanto turns out to be easy for speakers of any language to learn (it has been quite popular in Japan, for exmaple), not just speakers of English.

Their list:

1. Afrikaans
2. Danish
3. French
4. Italian
5. Norwegian
6. Portuguese
7. Romanian
8. Spanish
9. Swedish
Honorable Mention: Frisian

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Some facts about the Wisconsin problems

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UPDATE: Zach points out these additional articles:

From The Center for American Progress in an email:

Two months after taking office, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has launched  one of the most aggressive attacks on union rights since the 1960s. Purporting to rein in the state’s budget deficit, Walker is pushing legislation that marks “a lethal threat to public-sector labor” by threatening “to strip state employees of the right to bargain collectively for anything besides their pay.” Walker’s radical policy has sparked eight days of protests in Wisconsin from a range of parties, including firefighters, teachers, the Green Bay Packers, and even Egyptian unions. President Obama recently called Walker’s policy “an assault” on workers’ rights. Despite the unpopularity of his position, Walker has refused any compromises offered by the unions and members of his own party unless collective bargaining rights are eliminated. To prevent such a calamity, 14 state Democratic lawmakers took a page out of President Abraham Lincoln’s playbook and fled the state last week to prevent the bill from moving forward. Rather than following any fiscal principle, Walker’s crusade against workers betrays a political calculation to gut the rights and organizing capabilities of his political opposition. Rather than shy away from such blatant anti-democratic policies, Republican governors are following suit and threatening to derail and destroy the few remaining political voices for the middle and working class.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Happy birthday, Miss Megs!

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Nine years ago today, a tiny little kitten, eyes shut and still looking sort of like a caterpillar, came into the world. Today she is known far and wide as Miss Megs, and she enjoys her life fully.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 8:59 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Full James Bond shave

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Not only the shaving soap and after shave, but the very razor (according to a commenter, used in the film Goldfinger): the Gillette slim-handle adjustable, here a rhodium-plated version holding a Schick Platinum Plus blade. Again a fine lather, this time worked up with a new brush I already like a lot: a compact Gerson, which The Wife picked up in Paris. It has a very nice thick and dense knot, and works a treat.

Three smooth passes, a splash of Floris 89 Aftershave, and I’m off to campus. And I can see why Bond liked this one—well, why Ian Fleming liked it.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2011 at 8:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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