Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been a trash picker for most of my life.   The need to litter the environment one is making use of is something I simply cannot comprehend.

One of my favorite Facebook pals is a gentleman who refers to himself as All Washed Up (it is well worth visiting his page) who creates some fabulous sculptural art using trash he collects while beach combing.  I am not nearly so inspired with my collection, generally I just bring it home and recycle it.

A few days ago while Ruby and I were making our customary rounds at the Conservation Area where we get our daily exercise, I came across yet one more piece of trash to haul home.  It really spiked on the Irony-meter.

It was a plastic bottle that used to contain Sunkist® Lemonade.DSCF2911

The first irony that strikes me whenever I come across an empty bottle alongside a walking path is this.  You, the consumer of said drink, have NO problem carrying the bottle while it is full of liquid.   However, the instant you have drained it of its contents, when it is at its lightest, it becomes an impossible task to carry it one step further.  So you drop it.   I simply cannot  wrap my head around this.

The second irony is that the consumer has paid money for what amounts to water mixed with high fructose corn syrup and “natural” flavoring.  I’m pretty sure that it would be considerably less expensive to mix up sugar and water than what the drink cost at the store where it was procured.  Judging by what I have read about high fructose corn syrup, it would probably be better for you too.

The third irony is something that comes out when you read the fine print of the list of  ingredients and nutrition facts.


Note that this Lemonade CONTAINS NO JUICE.   This fact is so important that it is stated on the label TWICE.  Is it not ironic that something sold as lemonade has no actual lemon juice in it?  And is it not even more ironic that a beverage that specifically states it contains no juice has pictures of actual fruit on the label?

Note that this beverage is bottled under the joint authority of Dr.Pepper/SevenUp Inc and Sunkist Growers Inc.   Why are the Sunkist Growers putting their name on something that contains no juice?   Is this not ironic?  I suppose that it is a heck of a lot easier to mix up the chemical soup listed above than it is to actually grow lemons for lemon juice and then make it into lemonade, but it seems very odd to me.

It also seems ironic that this is described as a “natural lemon flavored drink with other natural flavors” and yet when you read the ingredients there are actually no truly natural flavors listed.   It does say natural flavors, but these are actually simply mixtures of alcohols, esters, and other chemicals that the FDA have decided (in their infinite wisdom) to allow manufacturers to refer to as “natural.”   And I’m not sure why one needs to add preservatives to a mixture of water and sugar, but I suppose that one needs to preserve the integrity of the yellow dye #5 and acacia gum and prevent the mixture from accidentally turning into artificially flavored wine.

I don’t know.   I never buy the stuff.   Isn’t it ironic that the containers for these kinds of products wind up in my recycling bin on a daily basis?


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This image was copied from the Astonomy Picture of the Day on NASA’s site, published October 1, 2006.  Click on the image for the full impact.See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/NGDCDMSP Digital Archive

With all the talk about global climate change, I wonder why no one has suggested that possibly it might be a good idea to cut back on some of the night lighting that we throw around all over the place.   I realize that illuminating landmarks and architecture such as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, various and sundry cathedrals all over Europe creates wonderful night time vistas of great beauty.

But I wonder if we really can afford to burn so much fossil fuel?   Especially since the vast majority of people are actually sleeping at night.   Perhaps if we wanted to see the illumination, we should have to put our credit cards through the slot to pay for it.   Then we might have some sort of concept about how much it costs.

Anyway, Our Fair City here in Lebanon has a giant flag pole with a giant flag that was recently installed out by the interstate, and I’m darn sure that illuminating it all night is not adding to the beauty of the night.  Yes, yes, flag display protocol dictates that it be illuminated, but when the winds have torn the flag apart and the pole stands empty, the searchlights shine on regardless.  And what about  all those ridiculous rotating search lights that the McDonald’s corporation has mandated be installed on the top of their stupid fast food joint franchises (I REFUSE to call them restaurants). They shine all night to give the lost and lonely travelers upon the Interstate Highway system hope that their desperate quest for french fries and fried pies can be satisfied at the next available exit.

Our species is so stupid sometimes.

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A word….

We interrupt this broadcast for a few words. . .

So, I have been wondering why it is that our city has spent umpteen millions of dollars to provide a left turn lane in the middle of the main drag through town.  This item is supposed to expedite traffic by allowing people a place to turn into, crossing one pair of lanes of traffic. Once ensconced there, they can then wait safely for a break in the traffic coming the other way and merge with it.   This allows them to get out of the way of people behind them.

But no, the idiots driving in this town still persist in believing that they must wait for a break in both directions so they can pull across TWO lanes of traffic coming from their left AND the left turn lane INTO the traffic coming from their right.   Needless to say, having to wait for a break in at least three lanes of traffic really slows them down.   I barely managed to keep my temper and not ram the person in front of me that was wasting time in such a dithery manner yesterday.

I’m pretty sure my blood pressure went up, though, and I did find myself shouting epithets in their direction, which of course they were as oblivious to as they were the traffic laws.

I’m pretty sure most of the drivers in this area have actually passed the drivers test, and I am also pretty sure that the information on how to deal with a center turn lane is on the test.   Similarly, the way to negotiate a roundabout is also on that exam, and yet I still see people approaching our sole roundabout with trepidation and uncertainty.  I have even seen them going the wrong way on it because they just can’t comprehend the concept of circular vehicular circulation.

It makes me froth at the mouth.

So did this:

These are the tags that were stapled to the end of every single piece of lumber my dear husband purchased the other day for the refurbishment of the arbor in the vegetable garden.

I remember a time when you would go into your lumber/hardware store and approach the counter where a nice clerk would take your order for building materials, they would write your order up, and you would pay for it.  Then you would take your receipt out to the yard where another very nice person would help you load your lumber into your vehicle.  Two people with jobs, and a customer with an assistant to get the heavy stuff loaded — this is all good.

Nowadays you go to a store and pick out your own lumber, conveniently located in an air conditioned environment.   You load this stuff onto a giant cart and push the whole mess through the store to a clerk, who then uses a scanner to enter the price code in the computer.   You pay the clerk, and then you schlep your stuff out to your vehicle and load it yourself.

One person is now out of a job — the yard man.   Additionally, the store has to provide the giant carts, lots of space for the air conditioned storage of large piles of lumber, and an expensive scanner.  The lumber producer has to buy thousands of those little plastic tags (not recyclable, by the way) which are then stapled to the end of each and every one of the pieces of lumber they produce.

I find it fascinating that every piece of lumber my husband buys now has a tag that includes a limitation of liability statement in fine print on the back.  All hail the attorneys of the world and the litigious society they represent!!!

The little plastic tags that are affixed to every piece of fruit and every vegetable also bug me.   The process of affixing these tags bruises the apples and tomatoes.  Apparently it is necessary to slap a tag that says “RIPE” on certain avocadoes, the mystical process of determining ripeness of an avocado is apparently beyond the comprehension of the modern shopper.  Additionally, the little piece of plastic is apparently impervious to every degradation process short of burnning, for if they are not removed from the peel before it goes into the compost pile, they emerge from the composting process completely unchanged.  I fine these little items in my garden mulch all the time — as bright and snappy as the day they were manufactured.

What was wrong with the clerk at the store knowing what kind of apple that was and the code for it?   They still have to enter the code, they just don’t have to remember it any more.  Does this actually save any time or money?

Okay, so to change from frothing at the mouth to drooling, I will submit the following image.

That, my dears, is a Tarte tatin, which involved apples caramelized in a skillet with a shortbread crust on top, which is then baked and inverted after baking.   This one was made with Pink Lady apples.  Jim tested this recipe while I was in Costa Rica, and when I arrived at the airport hotel after being in transit all day, it was waiting my attention.  It is probably one of the better things I have had in my mouth lately, and is what we are going to be taking to the sauna this evening.

Jim’s reputation as a fine chef is bound to be enhanced by this offering.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming. . .

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Life is always an adventure.  I went on an entire odyssey just to mail a few packages, and came back moved to rant just a small rant.

It isn’t very far across our little town, a matter of 3 or 4  miles.  If I lived in Amsterdam I would take my stuff to the post office on my bike, but if I lived there my bike would probably be equipped with a basket and there would probably be bike lanes.   So I took the truck, which is what I get to use for errands while Jim uses the Prius to commute the 35 miles to his job.

I was nearly rear-ended at a stop light by a little blonde in an SUV who was involved in looking at her email on her phone.   In the next half kilometer I was also almost sideswiped by a gentleman in a very old boat car who was sailing it out of a parking lot while engaged in a lively discussion with his BluTooth.   At the stop light I watched the lady next to me unconsciously creep forward as her foot left the brake pedal while she was laughing and gesturing with her cigarette while talking on her cell phone, which she had cradled in her ear.   She regained consciousness of her surroundings about a second before her bumper kissed the rear end of the truck in front of her at the red light, and was able to arrest her progress.   Good thing the light changed before her foot lifted again.

This cell phone stuff is getting ridiculous.

I know it is terribly convenient to be able to do absolutely everything on one small piece of electronics.   And I have to admit that I am enjoying the photos my niece is posting of Europe while she is still there via the beauty of the internet.   But what I am witnessing as a cell phone non-user is that suddenly I have become an inhabitant of a world where people voluntarily isolate themselves.   They may be sitting at the same table with the ostensible purpose of eating breakfast together, but they might as well be in separate houses for the amount of communicating they are doing with each other and any other person in the room.

I see people who have absolutely no qualms about driving around while they are talking on their telephones.   Some people have learned that holding a phone to your ear is dangerous, in fact even illegal in many places.  “I have a hands free device,” they cheerfully inform me, as if this makes up for the inherent snag in telephonic communication.   It doesn’t matter whether your phone is wired to the wall or imbedded in your cerebral cortex (which seems to be the next logical step in the miniaturization of telephones), if you are talking on the phone to another person, you project your “self” to where they are.   That self is no longer present in the place where your body is, your mind is taking you to the other person’s room and presence.   It is probably even envisioning them, the room they are in.   It takes a huge act of will to take your consciousness from that conversation and focus it on the traffic around you if you happen to be driving.   I’m sorry to tell you that the hands free device does not cure this ill.  Your mind still wanders.

Lets not even talk about how rude it is to be having a lunch date with someone and have them answer their phone.   I almost walked out of lunch with my girlfriend when she did that to me.   I could not believe it, I thought we were trying to get caught up with our lives.   And what was I supposed to do while she chatted with the other party?   Oh, I suppose I could have posted a status on Facebook or tweeted —  if I had had my cell phone with me, which I did not.  Besides, adding my own rudeness to the situation was going to make it any less rude, was it?

Your mind wanders if you are talking to a person in the car with you too.  That is the genesis of the laws forbidding young teenage drivers to have more than one passenger in the car with them.   I’ll just add that if you are looking at the radio trying to pick a station, you are not looking at the road, nor are you if you are applying makeup or reading the newspaper.   Sorry, peripheral vision doesn’t cut it.

The post office was an adventure too.   I was mailing a foreign package and I didn’t know which customs declarations form I was going to need for the item I was sending, so I filled them both out.   The Post Office employee found that amusing.   I had lots of time in line to fill them both out.   I am not the only person who missed the Christmas rush to mail packages by waiting until after the New Year.   Apparently there are quite a number of us.

While I was doing that I started thinking about how amazing it is that I can go to one building and give the guy my package with an address from the other side of an ocean on it and some money, and it will be there sometime next week.   Probably it will reach its destination before the other packages that I sent parcel post because they were so darned heavy, which are not leaving the continental United States.

I mean, just a few generations ago you would have had to contract with a private party travelling across the country to get your package to the coast, and then trust that person to make arrangements with a ship that was travelling across the ocean where perhaps another person might deign to take your package to the person you addressed it to.   I mean, Post Office, UPS, FedEX — all those guys.   It is totally amazing.

And cell phones are amazing too.   I just think maybe people should hang them up once in a while and look around at the world and see what has happened while you were gazing into your little box, flicking icons by, reading emails and newsfeeds, typg cht msgs tu ur bffs, and talking to them too, of course.

It might surprise you.


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While this photo was taken three years ago, the collection of shoes it represents (shoes I regularly garden in) has not changed appreciably.  The pair of boots in the background have been replaced by a prized pair of Redwing work shoes.   The cross trainers in the foreground have gone to the great landfill in the sky and another pair of the same brand and similar color sit in that place.   I try not to use them as gardening shoes any more, so they really shouldn’t be in the shot.

Cross trainers are not gardening shoes, not really.   They aren’t really engineered for mud.  Also, for some reason, the engineers at New Balance have not addressed the stresses placed on a shoe when the wearer thereof decides on a whim to dig out that mulberry tree that she has been weeding around for a couple of years and starts hacking away at its rootball with her favorite shovel.

I have been moved to make this post, which promises to be particularly wordy, by a poignant comment the other day on Facebook.   It was posted by a sweet young “thang” who was explaining why she chose to wear flip flops even though she didn’t find them particularly elegant or comfortable.   It had to do with her odiferous pedal appendages.

As I mused on the various and sundry causes of that particularly effulgent and offensive effusion that arises from smelly feet when they have been confined in an anaerobic environment for a while, I was taken back — Waaaaaay back — to the first big bacteriology lab course I took in college.

Let us set the stage, oh My Best Beloved (and I steal this phrase with utmost love and respect from Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories,” which if you haven’t ever read or had read to you, then the paltry and sad childhood that you must have experienced elicits the utmost pity from me).

The year is before 1975.   All phones had cords.   They had recently figured out how to beam radio waves to telecommunications satellites and thereby made it possible to converse with people on the other side of the continent or ocean from you.  The slight fly in that ointment was the time delay caused by the slower than lightspeed transmission.   It made for stilted and interruption filled conversations.   Computers were not in common use, although the engineers had a computer lab and the first integrating recorders were appearing from Hewlett Packard.

My bacteriology professor was an amazing woman called Carol Feist.   She was engaged in research on cell wall structure.   The results of that research led to some very interesting conclusions regarding food ingredients that I will elaborate on tomorrow.

Dr. Feist felt that the best way to learn proper lab technique was to send her students on a collecting expedition and then have them culture, separate out and identify the bugs captured.  This first lab actually took up the first six weeks of lab, and involved learning aseptic techniques, staining, and making up specific agar cultures to provide nutrients to the bacteria we were trying to grow.

Our assignment was to take damp cotton swabs and rub them on selected places on our bodies and then plate them onto petri dishes that were provided at the first class meeting, where we also received a short demonstration on how to plate our samples.   In addition to petri dishes, there were test tubes with agar in the bottom that we could just plunge the sample swab into.   We were instructed to pick at least three spots on our body to swab, with particular attention to be paid to spots where we might expect to be smelly.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we grew out our samples, made pure cultures of selected colonies from our collection of bacteria, and identified the bugs as best we could using all sorts of staining tests and other techniques I honestly don’t remember.   It was fascinating, and I loved it.   I remember that much.

We learned all about gram negative bacteria, and the nasty sorts of things they tended to do to us.  We learned that our skins are a complete ecosystem, populated by microscopic beasties that live on our bodies’ output of sweat and dead skin cells.   These bacterial diets are augmented by the dirt and stuff that we encounter falling from the air, by the lotions and other cleanliness-related residues we purposely put on ourselves, and by their habits of eating each other.   Some of the predatory bacteria — like acidophilus — are particularly benign to us.   Some of their prey — the staphylococci and the streptococci — are very detrimental to us, causing infections and diseases when our immune systems are weak or the skin is broken.

Another thing we learned during the course of preparing our pure cultures, was that certain of these bacteria had the most disgusting odors we had ever encountered.   In actuality, Dr. Feiest informed us, those characteristic foul odors were how a bacteriologist could identify certain very nasty  bugs of the staphylococcus variety.   She also taught us about the sort of sticky mass that surrounded these bacteria’s cell wall, that “glued” them to the surface they were occupying.    This makes them very difficult to wash off and also provides a substrate for the chemicals that are their waste products to cling to.   It is those waste products from the staph bug that smell so very evil and nasty.  When you were growing them out on agar, if you opened the petri dish to collect a few cells from the colony growing within, the smell that came from the petri dish could literally knock you over, it was so thick and strong — reminiscent of locker rooms furnished with aging socks and jockstraps.

After all the growing and plating and identification was complete, there was one final question we were asked to answer.   “What kind of soap do you use and how often do you use it?”

A table was compiled on the black board in front of the class.    Each set of samples from each student was enumerated and listed.   We had found several varieties of acidophilus bacteria in addition to lots of strept0cocci and staphylococci.  Interestingly enough, it seemed like the guys were more likely to carry around lots of the latter, whereas the gals tended towards acidophilus and other benigns.  One lucky person had scored an acetobacter, and one person earned Dr. Feist’s disdain because he had E. coli on his hands.  “You need to start washing your hands after you go to the toilet,” she told him acidly.

The real kicker was the correlation between what sort of bacteria you had on your body and what kind of soap you used, and how often you used it.   People who washed with soap only once in a while tended to have more benign bacteria on them.   The people who used an antibacterial soap and washed frequently with it were populated with just as many bacteria per square inch of their skin, but the preponderance of their skin ecosystem consisted of the staph and strep bacteria.

Dr. Feist summed up these results in a fiery lecture that brought all these facts together into a damnation of corporations and advertising.  The point was that all the people of soap want to do is sell you soap.   They don’t care whether they lie or not, and they are particularly willing to use half-truths if it will sell more of their product.

We have been taught to hate and fear the way we smell as humans.   This fear that we might have a bit of disagreeable odor about us at the end of a hard day makes us susceptible to all sorts of blandishments.   We can buy perfumes to cover it up, chew gum and pop breath mints.   And we can buy soap that will disinfect us so that possibly we won’t smell.   “Buy antibacterial soap” we are urged.   “Germs cause body odor and our soap kills germs,” we are told, with graphs accompanying the claim of antibacterial activity.    Look, after using the soap product, there are less bacteria per square inch!

None of these claims are untrue.   The soap does kill germs, but it doesn’t say which kind.    The bacteria the soap is most effective at killing are the predatory, benign ones; the ones that eat the strep and staph bacteria (and also candida, by the way); the ones we use to make yogurt.   The ones it does NOT kill are the ones that cause strep throat and staph infections and incidentally produce waste products that smell disgusting and horrible.    By using the antibacterial soap, you are skewing the ecosystem on your skin towards these nasty bugs.

The more you use the antibacterial soap, the worse you smell, and the more you think you need it.  “It sells a lot of soap,” was the lecture’s conclusion.

So, if you feel like you are particularly afflicted with foot odor, or body odor, then ask yourself what kind of soap are you using?  And what have you done to the ecosystem on your body?

By the way, at the time of this class I used Ivory soap, and I used it sparingly.   I went down to the pool every morning and swam a mile (no wonder I was so slim), and I reasoned that what I really needed was to get the chlorine off my skin and not dry it out more with liberal soap usage.   In my swabs I did not find a single staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria.  I was populated almost exclusively by acidophilus, which made the whole lab very simple for me as I had very few specimins to identify.   I spent the majority of the class helping other people plate and identify the numerous inhabitants they had on their bodies.

And yes, those were the ones who had really smelly feet.

(For those of you who are curious, at the present time I use hand made soap made from organic ingredients by a soap maker and herbalist couple in the area.   My very favorite is Cleopatra, but the Oatmeal/Almond and the Eucalyptus/Peppermint are very nice too.  Their company is called Ozark Herbals and I can testify that their products are quite wonderful and their ethics are of the highest.)

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