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October 30, 2007

and you thought halloween was scary before

Halloween doesn’t have to be about sickly sweet treats and high-fat snacks. It can be both fun and nutritious. Make that, funalicious!

We know what you’re thinking, “I don’t think ‘funalicious’ is an actual word.” Also, “You’re not talking about eating carrot sticks again, are you?”

Of course not! The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has thoughtfully put together an extensive selection of “ghoulishly great” alternatives to candy bars and other sugary snacks that are not only good for you, but just plain good!

Such as, okay, carrot sticks. But there’s much more!

For your Halloween party, how about you serve your guests water, dried apricots and whole wheat fig newtons instead!  Just think of the hours of fun you and the two guests who didn’t have a chance to sneak out the back will have discussing how fat-free dip has gotten so good lately that you hardly ever have to choke it down anymore.

And don’t forget about those trick or treaters, they need healthy alternatives too! The CSPI suggests that instead of candy bars or gum you hand out raisins, pretzels, and pencil erasers. And if you absolutely feel you must hand out candy, find the absolutely smallest size you can. (And to ensure the safety of the trick or treaters who come to your house, you might want to save them an extra trip to the store and hand out toilet paper, eggs and soap ahead of time.)

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the CSPI would come up with creative substitutes for food you actually want to eat as they have for years dispelled the myth that eating healthy is just about eating a pile of vegetables. For instance, their New Recipes section offers readers such innovative alternatives as boiled kale and simmered romaine lettuce. No, no, those are the main courses. Yes, that’s it. That’s dinner.

Mmmm good.

But those are not the only recipes they offer, there is also a pile of fruit.  And a different pile of fruit.

The combinations are endless!

If you carefully follow the CSPI’s advice and give up your favorite treats and small pleasures, is there any guarantee that you will live longer?

Not necessarily but there’s one thing you can be certain of.

It sure will seem that way. 

Happy_halloween

Happy Halloween!

Hey, no pushing and shoving, there’s enough for everyone.

J.

October 30, 2007 at 10:18 AM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2007

the un probably isn’t the greatest place to try to sell retirement plans

Unlike the previous 436 United Nations reports on the environment which concluded that we are all doomed, the latest Global Environment Outlook (large file) published by the United Nations Environment Programme marks a major departure from the others in its novel incorporation of a graphic of a spinning earth.

Oh, and we're still all doomed.

And before you start criticizing the fact that at 572 pages, the document is wasteful of the very natural resources the authors urge the rest of us to conserve, please note that it clearly states, “this publication is printed on chlorine free, acid free paper made out of wood pulp from sustainably managed forests.”

In other words, “paper.”

Call this the middle-class-mom approach to environmental responsibility. Sure, she may drive a two-and-a-half-ton SUV to yoga lessons three times a week but dammit, she recycles soda cans and always buys organic, well, unless there’s a really good sale on the regular stuff at Shoppers Food Warehouse.

As for the content of the report, it identifies the two major sources of our impending environmental catastrophe:

  1. Prosperity
  2. You

For example, the report tragically points out that, “a hectare of cropland, which [in 1987] yielded on average 1.8 tonnes, now produces 2.5 tonnes.” That makes cropland 40% more efficient at producing food.

When will the madness end?

And according to Achim “Malthus” Steiner, the executive director of the Environment Program, “The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns.”

Anyone want to volunteer to “help out” with that problem?

The report further notes that North America, “With only 5.1% of the world population,… consumes just over 24% of global primary energy. The consumption of energy is responsible for much of the region’s high and increasing GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions that contribute to climate change.”

But it gets even worse, as it appears that both people and their growing prosperity are in fact worldwide phenomena:

“Europe’s rising incomes and growing numbers of households are leading to unsustainable production and consumption.”

“West Asia is one of the most water-stressed regions in the world. Reflecting rapid population growth and socio-economic development.”

“In Asia and the Pacific, rapid population growth, higher incomes, and burgeoning industrial and urban development are causing a number of environment problems.”

You might find it somewhat alarming that both you and your material well being are “problems” the UN believes we need to “solve.” One possible approach the report identifies is to “challenge existing societal structures, consumption and production patterns, economies, power relationships, and the distribution of wealth.” This very well may be one of those “win-win” scenarios the UN likes to highlight since challenging power relations and the distribution of wealth often involves not only reductions in prosperity but also lots of formerly living people (see “world history - 5000 BC to present”).

But before you become too concerned, here is the UN’s approach to addressing the issue:

Unep_chart

That’s right. Someone, probably Dick Cheney, gave them Powerpoint.  There is nothing more lethal to productivity than mixing a college education with a Power Point presentation.

You’ll be on your second Hummer by the time they decide whether it should be "dynamically strategic" or "strategically dynamic" and which animated 3-D bullet point graphic to use.

J.

October 26, 2007 at 06:24 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 23, 2007

we’re considering fleeing for our lives. well, maybe after dinner if nothing’s on tv.

We could only keep this hidden from our readers for so long. We didn’t want to have to worry you but there’s little chance of avoiding it now that you have undoubtedly seen the harrowing footage broadcast repeatedly over the airwaves: 

We are living, no, make that surviving, in the midst of an officially declared “federal disaster area.”

We speak of course of Virginia, which is being hit by a ferocious lack of rainfall. This relentless absence of storms has been so great that the governor had no choice but to petition the federal government to declare nearly the entire commonwealth a federal disaster area. Despite the obvious personal peril, we felt obligated to venture out this morning to record the devastation.  Here is but a glimpse of all that is left of the once great state of Virginia:
 

1023071046

It’s almost as if the very gates of hell have opened up beneath us. How do we find the strength to go on, you ask?

Knowing that people like you keep us in your prayers.

To better help those who never had to live through a natural disaster of this magnitude understand what we are going through we have put together this helpful FAQ:

What’s it like living in an officially declared federal disaster area?
It’s hard to describe the feeling really. Have you ever found yourself living in an area that hasn’t been declared a federal disaster area? It’s a lot like that.

It doesn’t even look real.
No, it doesn’t. It’s like something out of a science fiction movie. A boring science fiction movie set in present-day Virginia, but still.

What are you doing to deal with the problem?
Like generations of Americans before us, we’re going to pick ourselves up, stare adversity right in the face, and get some of that free money the government is giving out. 

Free money?
Yes, the government always gives out free money in the midst of disasters. This being a drought emergency, the federal government is providing low-interest loans to farmers. We have our eye on a BMW. 

Planet Moron is involved in farming?
We “grow ideas.” 

That sounds like something you ripped off of a lame marketing program developed in the late ‘90s by a Mid-Western agricultural college or something.
Wow, you’re good.

Does this mean when times are good, the government declares “federal affluence areas” and collects the excess profits?
No, you’re thinking of oil companies now. 

So, when oil companies make windfall profits based on externalities beyond their control, the government takes their money and when farmers suffer losses based on externalities beyond their control the government gives them money but the reverse isn’t true?
Of course not, we’re talking family farms here, mom and pop and little Billy sitting around the dinner table eating biscuits and discussing how grandma got into the chickens again, old Missy needs milkin’ and how best to allocate a million dollars in revenue in order to maximize fixed capital utilization and return on equity.

Don’t oil company executives have families too?
No, it is believed they are born of jackals.

Now that we know you can have a natural disaster declared when there has not been a disaster in the traditional sense, are there perhaps other areas such declarations could be applied to?
Absolutely. Mother Nature’s mercurial behavior affects people far beyond the routine hurricane or ho-hum earthquake. What of the current warm spell hammering the apparel departments at Target and J.C. Penney? Are we just supposed to turn our backs and say, "tough luck?" And have you ever got caught in an unexpected rain shower that pretty much ruined a new pair of shoes? You don't see any Ferragamo relief drives for that, do you? 

Back to the issue at hand, Is there anything we can do to help the residents of Virginia work through this disaster?
Yes, please open your hearts as well as your wallets and send what you can spare, especially if what you can spare has a picture of Benjamin Franklin on it. Remember, the life you save could be your own.

That doesn't even make sense.
Shh, we're working here.

J.

October 23, 2007 at 01:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 21, 2007

definitely not another pleasant valley sunday

Houses_009 Like many people, we here at Planet Moron are not particularly fond of homeowner’s associations instead preferring the more eclectic atmosphere found in older neighborhoods such as our own, where, unburdened by any “taste police” and their restrictions on color palettes, materials, and vegetation, our community is alive with the creative imaginings of our residents.

Of course, the downside of allowing people to let their imaginations take them where they will undeterred by legal restrictions or contractual obligations is that they will let their imaginations take them where they will undeterred by legal restrictions or contractual obligations.

Houses_003a

For example, not far from Planet Moron headquarters is this example of what can only be described as a kind of Bauhaus meets Maginot Line. Clearly meant for those who long for the vibrant Cold War period when the school of East German Architectural Design ruled behind the Iron Curtain, when no hue of gray was too lifeless and no surface too flat.
 

Houses_007

Not far away is this classically inspired interpretation of the Parthenon, had the Parthenon been built as an addition to a modest Athenian two-story Cape Cod. One can only imagine the conversation the owner had with the architect: “I want columns. No, more columns.New_york_public_library_5 Can’t you put some more over there? Now double them up! Ah, yeah now THAT’S classy. By the way, where’s a good place to get stone lions?” 

Houses_001

This nearby house was designed and built by the architect/owners and was clearly meant to evoke the sense that you are standing at the back of your local home improvement store examining samples of exterior wall surfacings. (“We were thinking of using brick there. And then some stone there. And more stone up there. No, no, a different stone. Now where are your glass blocks?...”)
 

Houses_005

And here we have the ever-popular late-period “We Ran Out of Money Partly Through Construction” three-story single family home. With its piles of refuse, unfinished steps, and dilapidated chain-link fence, it is meant to incorporate both a post-modern sense of irony and pre-modern sense of the importance of routine rodent control.

Houses_006

And no neighborhood would be complete without the “Mysterious Empty Lot.” At hundreds of thousands of dollars an acre, how could it be allowed to lie fallow all these years? Is it tied up in a divorce settlement? Indian burial ground perhaps? Maybe the home address of Chinese contributors to the Hillary Clinton campaign? It’s anyone’s guess. 

In fairness, we do not doubt for a moment that plenty of local residents would look upon our own humble abode as a ghastly affront to the senses and so, in the end, we enthusiastically endorse the individualism and free expression of our neighbors no matter what the consequences.

Because we all know the alternative would be worse. 

Houses

J.

October 21, 2007 at 09:06 AM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2007

The Al Gore Guide To Winning Every Argument (And Maybe an Academy Award or Two)

Are you tired of losing arguments just because of your slavish devotion to facts and logic? Are you finding that every time you are caught telling a falsehood you just stammer and stutter and meekly accept that you were wrong?

Well, worry no more, because now you can apply the very same Nobel-Peace-Prize-Winning methods that Al Gore uses to ensure you’ll never again have to utter the words, “I’m sorry, I was wrong!”

How can this be possible, you ask? Well, did Al Gore crumple in the face of accusations that his Academy Award Winning documentary was riddled with errors and exaggerations? Of course not! He simply used the same tactics you are about to learn to win the argument and put his critics on the run!

Just carefully study the examples below and start applying these principles to your own life and soon you will find yourself saying:

“Thank you, Nobel Laureate Al Gore, thank you for making me a winner just like you!”

 

At Play:

Accusation: You said Tommy broke the window yesterday and it turns out it was you.

Response: I had not meant to imply that Tommy had actually broken that particular window on that specific day, but rather I wanted to use the incident to illustrate the broader implications of what might happen to other windows in the future were Tommy to play T-ball in the front yard.

 

In The Neighborhood:

Accusation: Tiffany next door says she’s having your baby.

Response: In my experience this is a diversionary tactic used to turn attention away from the larger problem that Tiffany’s dog has been digging up our garden. Tiffany has also never specifically revealed the sources of her income. I suspect that she is, in fact, paid by RE/MAX and has a vested interest in our getting a divorce so that she can get our listing.

 

At The Office:

Accusation: You said you couldn’t get the report to me on time because the Internet was running slowly and now I find out that you were hung over, late to work, and are in fact a functional illiterate.

Response: I hadn’t meant to suggest that the Internet being down was the only contributing factor but rather that the lack of Internet connectivity added to the overall stresses that already existed making the problem worse than it had to be. In this way I highlighted the importance of having the company take corrective measures immediately to directly address the broadband problem that is effecting each and every member of this company.

 

In Your Apartment Building:

Accusation: You yelled “Fire, run for your lives!” and said we had to evacuate the building immediately or we were “all going to die.”

Response: I acknowledge that my wording here was unfortunate; however, the potential effects of a fire and the broader topic of evacuation procedures is a matter of critical importance and warrants the attention of building management.  It is troubling that my pulling the fire alarm has been so sensationalized and has directed the conversation away from the broader and much-needed discussion and debate about fire safety.


At Home:

Accusation: You said you were volunteering at the Red Cross and here I find out you’ve been playing poker with your friends.

Response: It isn't really important what I do, but rather the message I was trying to convey and the fact that I have managed to educate the children regarding the tragic shortage of blood donations in our country and raised the level of awareness of a growing crisis that is not receiving nearly the amount of attention it deserves.

J.

October 19, 2007 at 12:17 PM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 17, 2007

a gulden's future

Of all the tragic stories born of America'€™s real estate crisis, the mortgage foreclosures, the personal bankruptcies, families turned out on the street, none are more heart rending than the plight of those facing the grim prospects of less-than-expected investment returns.

Such is the predicament of Roger Elliott, as tenderly portrayed by Newsweek national correspondent Daniel McGinn, one of the few journalists in America today with the courage to pull back the covers on this dark side of the American dream.

Mr. Elliott'€s story, no less tragic for it being common, is one of postponed profits and deferred dividends. He is merely a regular guy, who, like a million regular guys before him, built a three-quarter-million-dollar house on 2.3 acres in a gated equestrian community. But now, with declining house prices and a weak real estate market, any expectations of immediately making double-digit returns on his investment are in dire jeopardy. Sure, his wife'™s inheritance leaves plenty of equity in the house and he can afford the mortgage and all but the idea of not making an easy windfall profit kind of takes the joy out of having a $40,000 epoxy-metal roof, super-efficient insulation and emergency generator.

But then Newsweek has been diligent in covering the often under-reported stories of the well-off finding that they must defer their dreams of an opulent lifestyle and instead accept that in a world of diminished expectations, they must settle for the bleak reality of a merely lavish one. Take Brian LaCroix, reduced to making his own espressos at home in order to stretch his $200,000-a-year household income, even if only a little bit.

This growing crisis raises a larger public policy question: What is the government going to do to address the dilemma of upper middle class couples who find themselves burdened with living in nice homes in beautiful neighborhoods with mortgages they can afford? This is in no way intended to diminish the hardships the working poor are facing, many of whom no doubt are also finding it difficult to properly manage their family inheritances and are quite possibly struggling with complicated home espresso machines and conical burr grinders, but that does not give us license to dismiss the very real pain high-income individuals must endure every time they Zillow their house

For if we, as a nation, do not address this situation now, there will come a day when the next generation will ask us a question we may find ourselves too ashamed to answer.

"Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

Will we?

J.

October 17, 2007 at 02:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack