Friday, December 31, 2010

Blessings For The New Year

The check out line at the Whole Foods Market was long and slow moving.  Everyone seemed out of sorts as we grabbed last minute items for the end of the year holiday meal.  It didn't matter if we liked what we tossed into our shopping carts as long as it was something looking festive and appearing edible.
I stood in back of a mother and her two young children.  At their loudest possible volume the children sung a song in Hebrew.  It's a song of peace.
I've down loaded the Keroke version in case you are inspired to end the New Year with a sing along or in case you become so frustrated that you find yourselves needing to duplicate their behavior.  You see, while they sang this song of peace they pushed each other into shopping carts, tried to each choke the other with plastic bags, hit each other and at one point discovered an expandable shelf on the check out module and tried to convince the other to insert fingers in the opening so they could be removed.  One child wound up under the wheels of the cart while the other tried to push the cart over his or her sibling.  And their singing never stopped.  Meanwhile the mother applied lip gloss and seemed not the least bit concerned about which of her two children might survive the shopping trip.  I'm surprised more people didn't join in singing while trying to kill other shoppers.  Perhaps they just didn't know the song well enough.

Here's the song.

During the next year may we all enjoy peace at the top of our voices without trying to kill each other in the process.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Please Don't Buy Me A Star

I beg of you.  Okay.  We've just limped through the major gift giving holidays and my birthday is months away so the likelihood of anyone giving me anything exists only in my imagination but just in case you do decide to surprise me with some sort of gift please don't make it my very own star.
Driving home this evening I heard advertised on the radio the invitation to give the perfect gift -- a star named after and belonging to the person of your choice.  No price was mentioned but I'm thinking that if you have to ask the price you already can't afford the star.
Here are my concerns and why I truly don't want anyone to give me a star.
First, is it really possible to sell something that you don't own?  Isn't that sort of behavior the stuff of which prison sentences are made?  Okay.  Perhaps it might be argued that no one owns the stars but does that uncertain area really make it all right to sell and give?
In the second place, if we can see a star isn't it already dead?  I don't know much about astronomy and perhaps some of our learned NASA/JPL readers can provide more information on this dead star visibility stuff but really, if I'm right, would it seriously be okay to give as a gift a dead star?  That would be kind of like giving someone the gift of your dead cat.  I mean, come on.  We've had two dead cats during the past several months and we didn't try to give either of them away as a gift.
Thirdly, is there anyone actually buying stars to either give as gifts or, against the wisdom of the radio ad, keep as personal possessions?  If there are then I fear the end of all rational though is upon us.
Oh, wait.  Rational thought already ended.
Whatever your opinion of this star buying thing, you won't catch me buying one.  I don't have any money left.  Several years ago I bought the  Brooklyn Bridge.  It was really expensive and I couldn't afford it but I've never regretted the purchase because as proof of ownership I got, in addition to the actual bridge, a t-shirt with a bridge photograph.
But stars?  Come on.  Really.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Not Too Healthy

The other day, I drove past Yum Yum Donuts on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, and saw a poster in their window advertising, "New! Whole Wheat Donuts!"

Now don't get me wrong. I am relatively careful about what I eat, and my Weight Watcher days taught me that every little bit helps, but this just makes no sense. When I want a doughnut, I want it to taste like a doughnut. And if I wanted to eat something healthy, a doughnut would not spring to mind. I'm all for innovation, but whole wheat doughnuts just seem plain wrong.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Glendale's One True Diner

The Toasted Bun has been around since 1963.  A few years ago it was nearly closed down because the kitchen didn't meet health standards.  Instead of hiding from the awful news, the owners invited the press in, invited television cameras in, and showed off the mistakes promising to fix everything and pass the next inspection with an A rating.  The place did just that.
Yesterday the Toasted Bun was featured in the Glendale News Press.

Coming back from near shut down, the little diner has expanded its hours.  We can eat dinner there now.  Dinner at Glendale's one true diner.

And who knows.  Maybe if we eat there often enough we, too, can have our picture on that wall.  Something to dream about, at least.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How NOT To Make A Protein Drink

In theory it was a good idea to put all of my vitamins in the blender along with the protein powder, milk, frozen berries and flax seed.  The result might be a little crunchy but a whole lot easier to swallow than the individual pills.  In reality it would have been a great drink if only I hadn't dropped in the large Omega 3 fish oil capsule.
It all blended quite nicely and looked great.  The taste, however, was overpoweringly fishy.  It was kind of like drinking, well, a large glass of sardines.
This was definitely a breakfast that stayed with me all day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Things That Make Me Wonder, Part B

On Friday night it started raining in Southern California. Today is Tuesday and it hasn't stopped yet. The rain is breaking all records for rainfall in December for this part of the world. On the news this morning, I heard that four hikers were stranded in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County. The Orange County Fire Department and other government agencies were trying to get them out. They had cell phone reception, but there was no visibility for the helicopters to drop down and find them. The reporter on the radio was questioning an Orange County Fire Department spokesperson. God bless him, he asked the question that was today's top item making me wonder: "The weather has been awful for three or four days now. Who goes hiking in a canyon in this kind of rain?" The reporter did not use the term "what kind of morons..." as I would have done, but I suppose that's why he's on the radio and I'm not. The Fire Department spokesperson was diplomatic. "Our job is just to get them out safely, " he said, "I'm not going to speculate on that". Well, I am. I am guessing that the Orange County Fire Department has more important things to do than drag out dimwits who think it's a good idea to go hiking in a once-every-ten-years deluge. I suppose my tax money and yours is paying for the helicopters to yank them out, and that they will be interviewed by newspapers when they are finally removed. And I don't doubt that, the next time there is a serious rain in Southern California, someone else will do something just as stupid.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things That Make Me Wonder

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The Other Family Human bought a Hanukkah present for our household. It is an egg-poacher made to be used in the microwave. The other morning, she used it to fix us egg sandwiches on English muffins. Delicious.

After breakfast, I looked at the egg poacher to see if it was dishwasher safe. Obligingly, there were words printed on it which read, "freezer/dishwasher safe".

Well, I put it in the dishwasher, but since that moment, I have been occupied by wondering under what circumstances one would ever need to put an egg poacher in the freezer. Any ideas out there?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'll Send My Big Brother To Beat You Up

Honestly, I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of President Barack Obama. First the Republicans spend two years acting like toddlers in the "no" stage, and now the Democrats are whining that he's selling out. But yesterday, he held a press conference. Unannounced, he brought former President Bill Clinton with him to back him up on his tax-cut agreement with Republican legislators. After a few minutes, he said that he was keeping the First Lady waiting to attend a holiday party, and departed, leaving Clinton to talk to reporters from the podium designated for the President of the United States. Clinton stayed for half an hour. He probably loved being back there.

When I was seventeen years old I had my first job, as a summer camp counselor. My head counselor, Lois Alpert, told us that if we were having discipline problems with our campers, she would always back us up if we called her in. However, she warned us, every time we called her, we were undermining our own authority. I wish Lois were here to talk to President Obama. I think he needs to hear what she had to say.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No More Dances For The Old Dame

Scraps (the cat) died this evening.  Her spirit still soared even though her body was ravaged by the hungry tumor.  We're comforted that she died on the anniversary of John Lennon's death.  Imagine!
It's a terrible responsibility to have to decide when to 'put down' a beloved pet.  The vet oncologist predicted that Scraps would be dead the first week of August.  Scraps had other plans.  We discussed markers with the vet:  if she no longer enjoyed being petted, if she could not longer eat, if she could no longer walk.  She achieved the third marker this morning.  And still she thought she could dance.  Again the vet was amazed and comforted Scraps by reminding her that cats don't like to be carried to their boxes.  Cats yearn for freedom and independence.  Scraps now has both.
I have nothing but amazement and admiration for Scraps who refused to acknowledge that lethal tumors were nothing more than petty inconveniences.
And now she can dance on all four legs with an eternity of endless opportunities.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

He Has A Plan To Feed The World

In his book 'The Vertical Farm:  Feeding the World in the 21st Century' Dr. Dickson Despommier presents the quite logical and simple solution:  We should turn sky scrapers into hydroponic gardens.
"Imagine," the inside jacket reads, "a world where every town has its own local food source grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature's grocery store -- imagine the world of the vertical farm.' 
It's an amazing approach to solving so many problems and it's hard to imagine why we can't do it.  I really suggest you read the book.  Maybe we can apply some of the ideas to our own lives.  Dr. Despommier isn't some whacked out nut case spouting off save the world nonsense.  He was a professor of microbiology and public health in environmental health sciences at Columbia University for thirty-eight years and has been asked by the governments of China, India, Mexico, Jordan, Brazil, Canada and Korea to work on their environmental problems.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm Poor So I Get To Be Obese

That's what she said as she explained that she had to buy the donuts because she lives on a fixed income.  I suggested that her statement lacked logic.  She then said that it was hard to be poor and thin because good food costs more than junk food.  Aside from the donuts factor she did, though, have a point.  Poverty and obesity seem strangely connected.  A dollar can buy a meal at a McDonald's or at a Jack In The Box.  A dollar could also buy dried beans but somehow a fat laden fast food burger seems more appealing than a bag of legumes.
Early in our conversation I felt a little irritated -- like she was giving herself permission to be over weight and to endanger her health.  Maybe it was the donuts thing.  Then I found myself agreeing with her.  It is hard to eat health inducing foods when the other choices seem so much more attractive and so much more possible.
For her, food might just mean all the good stuff she can't afford.
It's the meaning of the food we eat that has the power.  Our task is to dis-empower the fattening, health depriving foods and empower those that we can afford and that will help sustain us.  That's not an easy task.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Surely They Mean Well

The displays fascinate me.  Regardless of the Jewish holiday, the major supermarkets at least in my neck of the woods always put out the same stuff:  Shabbat candles.  Gefilte fish.  Matzo meal and crackers.  Chanukkah gelt.  Yahrzeit candles.  The assumption is, apparently, that all Jewish holidays involve the same acivities and foods.  This, however, is definitely a new take on the theme of acknowledging that Jewish holidays require special stuff.

Just for the sake of peace in the consumer world, I'm choosing to assume that the folks advertising ham for Chanukah meant well.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Does Food Mean To You?

He struggles with his weight.  Once he weighed over four hundred pounds.  Eventually he got down to two hundred.  Now he's inching up to around two hundred fifty pounds.  He feels like his life is out of control.  He feels depressed and then eats to help him feel less depressed but, because of what he chooses to eat, he winds up feeling more depressed.
I asked him what food means to him.  He was stumped.
So he's going to think about what meaning food has for him.  Maybe once he knows why he's eating he won't need to eat so much.
If we only ate for the sake of getting enough protein and fat and vegetables and fruits and all of that stuff no one would be overweight.  Instead, we eat for comfort or reward.  We eat because we're bored or because we're angry.  The reasons we eat give meaning to the foods we choose.
It's something to think about as we muddle through this eat until you're too full to move holiday season.  Sure, food should be enjoyed.  You get no argument from me on that one.  Come the first day of the new year and its multiple resolutions, though, we might consider resolving to figure out our very complicated relationship with food.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Comtemplating Miracles

It's only eight nights out of the year.  Doesn't seem like many nights in which to praise miracles but that's what Chanukkah is all about.  Okay.  So maybe the oil didn't burn for eight days.  Maybe that isn't the miracle.  It doesn't really matter.  Maybe the miracle was that religious freedom won.  That does matter.  And here's something else that matters.  For eight nights a year, when the nights are darkest, we have an obligation to consider - to contemplate - miracles and not just the miracles of long ago but our own daily miracles.  Try it.  Spend a little time each evening considering the miracles in your own life.  You've got them.  Now find them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Keep The Light Burning

Happy Chanukkah.