Thursday, May 6, 2010

Speck - June 3, 1998 to May 6, 2010

Thank you, Speck, for almost 12 years of being the best, the brightest, the cutest, and the sweetest dog ever born. Thank you for being there through thick and thin. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for keeping the kitchen floor free of debris. Thank you for always being happy to see me, even when I was grumpy. Thank you for forcing me to take walks and enjoy the outside world. You cannot be replaced and I will miss you forever.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stouffer's Thinks You're Stupid!

Well, I can't find a video of the recent Stouffer's Lasagna ad, in which a family which has made changes in its lifestyle is forced to have Stouffer's frozen lasagna for supper instead of eating out all the time (apparently). In this ad, the voice-over claims with great enthusiasm that Stouffer's Lasagna is made of, get this, "REAL INGREDIENTS!"

Is this their selling point? Wait, what? My kids made a mud-pie recently, and it, too, was made of REAL INGREDIENTS! Did that make it edible? I think not. I cooked up a copper sulfate crystal in my high school chemistry class many years ago and it was also made of REAL INGREDIENTS! I still didn't eat it, and would not recommend that anyone do so.*

Can someone at Stouffer's please define UNREAL ingredients for me? I really would like to know what that means. My mind conjures up visions of me trying to serve up to my family the tea and crumpets The Princess served at her most recent tea party. These treats actually were made of unreal ingredients and because of that, they DIDN'T ACTUALLY EXIST, except in our imaginations. Surely Stouffer's is not insinuating that parents are serving imaginary foods to their families? Or maybe they just think we're stupid.

Perhaps some ad exec working for Stouffer's is a closet solipsist - unless the ingredients are right there in front of him or her, they don't exist! But that won't work, either, since the ad exec cannot possibly be present each time a parent serves Stouffer's frozen lasagna, so all lasagnas, excluding the one on the exec's plate, would be made of UNREAL INGREDIENTS, and would not exist.

It appears Stouffer's thinks we're stupid.

I seem to be writing lots of posts about crap I see in ads lately. Sorry. Apparently my sensitivity level to ridiculous and stupid garbage is set pretty low right now.

* - in that same chemistry class, we followed a set of directions for an experiment that led to delicious, delicious peanut brittle (such and such grams of sucrose, such and such grams of "protein pellets", such and such level of heat for such and such amount of time, etc.), which we DID eat, and were graded on its consistency and flavor. Also, summer school for chemistry, until the board of directors put the kibosh on it, included an experiment that led to BEER (yes, it was a LONG time ago). Cooking IS chemistry! And everything is made of REAL INGREDIENTS!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

HFCS Skepticism - New Data!

I've been a skeptic of the idea that high-fructose corn syrup was any worse than regular sugar (sucrose) in regard to weight gain and metabolism. The recent ads from the Corn Refiners Assn were okay by me. Here's one example:
HFCS Ad #1

New data, however, has come out from Princeton University. In this article, researchers find that HFCS does indeed affect metabolism in such a way as to increase weight gain and blood-borne triglycerides more than the exact same caloric amounts of sucrose.

Interesting! And a great example of why a skeptic must always be ready to change his/her mind in the face of evidence. I bow to the Princeton scientists who performed this research, and will change my view appropriately. At least until additional evidence of HFCS's safety or evidence of bad data or methods in Princeton's study are presented.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Domino's Thinks You're Stupid

Domino's Pizza's latest commercial shows us just how stupid advertising grunts think we all are.

Puffery, the spokesactorpizzaman says, is exaggeration of opinion, not fact. Papa John's claim of pizza flavor superiority, he says, is just puffery. Domino's pizza flavor superiority, on the other hand, he says, is based on FACT.

His data for this FACT? A graph showing the results of a taste test showing that people prefer Domino's Pizza, overwhelmingly, he says, over Papa John's and Pizza Hut's!

What is the best cheese? Cheddar? Provolone? A nice ripe Brie? You say Cheddar is the best cheese? Okay, what data did you use to determine that? What? It's your OPINION? What? Your sister thinks Brie is best? Your dad likes a stinky Camembert? So, then, what's the best cheese? Come on! Come on! Just the facts, ma'am!

No puffery over at Domino's, though! Really? Since when is taste-testing anything other than recording the OPINIONS of various individuals in a group of individuals who tried the product?

In regard to the test: Restaurant News reports that an independent company tested Domino's new recipe pizza with 1800 people in 8 nationwide markets. The numbers do show that at least 58% and as much as 67.5% of people asked said that they preferred Domino's pizza over Papa John's or Pizza Hut's in each case.* Pretty good, but hardly overwhelming. Variation among restaurants could raise those numbers through the roof or drop them to zero from one day to the next. Nonetheless, all of these pretty numbers are still based on OPINION, not fact. A bit of puffery on Domino's part, perhaps?

A very unscientific taste test reports that the overall opinion (and it's still just an opinion, people, not a FACT) of tasters was, "Meh, cheap pizza is cheap pizza."

Domino's thinks you're too stupid to see through their puffery.

*58% of those asked said they preferred Domino's sausage pizza over Pizza Hut's. Domino's pepperoni took the highest prize, with 67.5% of tasters preferring it to Pizza Hut's. For other numbers, see the article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holiday Re-gifting Hint

I am all about re-gifting! If I receive something nice, but have no use for it, I will pass it along to someone who will love it more than I do. However, this past holiday season, re-gifting went wrong!

My mom always writes something in the front of books she gives as gifts. This year, her habit was my father-in-law's downfall!

In 2008, my mom and step-dad gave my FIL a hardcover book in which he had expressed interest. This past Christmas, my MIL's partner received a book from my FIL and his wife. Interestingly, the book had an inscription which read "Merry Christmas 2008 to [FIL's name] from [mom and step-dad's name] - ENJOY." Most of us have had a good laugh about it, but my mom is a bit miffed.

The lesson here is to be careful about re-gifting. If you are re-gifting secretly, be sure to remove inscriptions or messages from the previous gifter.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Avatar (spoilers!)

So far, we have seen this one twice, once in 3-D, but never on an IMAX screen (some provincial states have NO IMAX theatres), although me mum recommends the IMAX experience highly. She lives in another bass-ackward state, but her city has five theatres with IMAX screens! Not fair!

The story is sort of an American Indian vs Colonists allegory with some Mother Gaia and Noble Savage stuff mixed in. I told Nigel it reminded me of a futuristic sf/fantasyish Dances With Wolves with a happy ending, except that the main protagonist isn't abandoned with the Native Americans by accident, but is deliberately placed within the native culture in order to infiltrate and provide information to those who want to exploit the planet's mineral resources. The science is questionable, but because it is more fantasy than sf, that doesn't ruin anything.

While the story seemed a bit shallow, it still kept me enthralled and I still loved this movie. The effects are fantastic and beautiful. The characters are easy to love or hate. The almost three hours went by very quickly. Nigel and I have been hissing at each other (oooo, I want some fangs!) when we're annoyed and saying, "I see you," when we're feeling lovey ever since our first viewing of the movie. It was moving and fun and I would see it again (and again).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pet Advice for 2010

I have pets. I adore my pets. In the past, I have been a poor pet parent, but now I like to think that I am an excellent pet parent. Having recently read the annual complaints from vets about people getting pets for their children for xmas, most of which end up surrendered or abandoned or even abused, neglected, or killed, I want to list a few pointers for potential pet owners.

1) If you are getting a pet for your children, don't. Just don't. Feel free to get yourself a pet, but don't count on your kids, no matter how old they are, to take proper care of a pet.

2) If you are not home during the day and can't come home a couple of times during work hours, adopt an older, already house-trained dog, or make sure you have at least a few days home to crate-train your new puppy. Your new puppy WILL poop and pee in the house. Your new puppy WILL destroy shoes, clothes, and furniture. Cats and kittens sometimes do NOT automatically know how to use a litter-box. Keep these things in mind. This is NOT a flaw in your pet, but is perfectly normal. Be prepared!

3) SPAY or NEUTER! Intact dogs and cats not only become pregnant at inconvenient times and fight over females in heat, but they also have high chances to develop cancers later in life. Your male pet doesn't care if he has no testicles. This does not make him less of a MAN. If your manhood is tied to your male pet's testicles, you probably shouldn't have a pet, but should invest in some therapy for yourself. Your female pet does NOT need to go through her first heat before being spayed. Check with your vet about when you can have your pet neutered. You do NOT have to wait until they are six months old in most cases.

4) VACCINATE! Rabies, fortunately, is pretty much under control here in the US, mostly due to laws requiring vaccination. But don't stop there. I have seen puppies with Parvo. It is a sad and ugly sight. These puppies die from dehydration and organ failure after bleeding from every orifice, sometimes for days. Parvo is very highly contagious and if you have a pet with Parvo, you will have to decontaminate your entire home and yard if you want to try again after your pet dies. When you get your annual exam and rabies vax, be sure to get the DHPPC vax, which covers distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and corona virus. If you plan to board your pet or it is exposed to strays or other pets with unknown health histories, think about also getting the Bordatella (aka Kennel Cough)and Giardia vax. Sometimes this is included in the DHPPC - ask your vet. For cats, vax to consider include those against Feline Leukemia, Feline Distemper, Calicivirus, and Rhinotracheitis. If your cat goes outside (DON'T! See below!) vax against Giardia is a must unless you enjoy diarrhea-filled litter-boxes and watching your cat suffer. You and your family will also enjoy diarrhea and suffering when your cat shares this disease with you.

5) If you do not have a few hundred bucks to set aside annually for health issues involving your pets, DON'T GET A PET. My kids are cheaper than my pets at the doctor's office. This is serious! You will need at least $50 per year per pet, just for vaccines and annual exams. For dogs who need heartworm/flea medications, you will need at least $150 per year. As your pet ages, health care becomes even more frequent and expensive. If something terrible happens, and your pet develops a serious health condition or a life-threatening injury occurs, you will need a minimum of $100.00, just to have your pet euthanized. This does not include disposal or cremation.

6) Keep your pet clean and well-groomed. If you don't have time or the inclination to groom your medium or long-haired pet or to pay a groomer to do it, don't get a hairy pet! Short-haired pets are much easier and cheaper to bathe and groom. My 20 lb. long-haired dog costs us $65 every other month for grooming and I have to brush her every other day to prevent matting. Keeping your pet's teeth clean is very important as well. Imagine not brushing your teeth EVER. Nasty teeth lead to pain, and eventually, organ damage and death. Your vet can clean your pet's teeth professionally, like your dental hygienist does for you. This is very expensive, since your pet will have to be anesthetized for the procedure.

7) Shelter, feed and water your pet appropriately. Fresh water must be available all day, every day. If your pet stays outside, you MUST provide proper shelter, from wind and cold in winter and from heat and rain in summer. Just because your pet has fur does NOT mean it can keep itself warm in winter. In summer, pets get heatstroke just like people do. When feeding dogs, I recommend twice or thrice a day feedings based on your dog's size/weight. There are charts on all bags of dog food that tell you how much to feed daily. Do NOT feed your pets leftover human food. This is just asking for weight problems and expensive health issues. I feed Science Diet, but I am confident that even the cheapest dry food will be fine for your pet as long as you don't over or under feed. Be wary of paying extra for "anti-oxidants" or "probiotics" as these have not even been clinically proven to benefit humans in any measurable way, much less pets, and they tend to make foods very expensive.

8) Don't let your cats outside! Your cat does NOT NEED to be outside. Your cat is a domesticated animal, not a lion living in the Serengeti. It will be perfectly content in the house. Like with feeding human food, letting your cat roam outside is asking for expensive health issues, including fatal diseases such as feline leukemia or FIV (the cat equivalent of HIV), not to mention parasites it can pass along to you and your household.

9) Be sure you will have time to spend with your pet. Daily walks, playing with toys, just petting and talking - all of these are requirements for a happy pet. If you don't want to spend time with your pet, why get one?

10) Train your dog! This is especially important when there are other pets or children in the home. Untrained and/or unsocialized pets cause many injuries every year. There are many, many resources for training and socializing your dog, including on the internet. Proper training and socialization can be the difference between life and death if something happens to you and your dog has to find a new home. Rover doesn't need to know how to roll over and play dead, but he does need to know how to walk on a leash, how to let someone grab his food bowl while he's eating, how to come back to you when you call, how to drop your dirty underwear when you want it back, how to play with other dogs, cats, and children, and how to stay off your family members and guests.

11) When it is time, let your pet go with dignity. Don't let your cat or dog suffer needlessly when we have ways to make their passings easy and painless. This is something we cannot do for our human loved ones. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it hurts. But be there for your friend at the end. Imagine the difference between dying in pain, alone, and dying by falling asleep in the arms of the person you love the most, with his or her voice in your ears as you go, telling you how good you have been. Which would you choose?

Many more things will probably come to mind after this post. But that's all for now.