Saturday, October 29, 2011

Consumer Society Sadness

OK, maybe I'm pretty dang far from the mainstream, but really?

(actual Spokane headline)
Crowds Camp Overnight For Trader Joe's Opening

Camping out overnight for a new store? Really? A chainstore?
I don't get it. Did you have nowhere else to spend your money? Did the lure of cheap wine overwhelm you?

I like Trader Joe's. Nothing against them. I am also mystified by folks who camp out for the store openings the day after Thanksgiving. "Thanks for this bounty, Lord. Gluttony finished. Now, I must sit in my overpriced SUV in a parking lot waiting to participate in greed." Perhaps you could stop at a strip joint on the way home and participate in lust. I wonder how many people will be killed this holiday shopping season in Walmart stampedes. Perhaps Apple will announce a postumous i-something release and humpback nerds across the developed world will crawl over each other for the first overpriced prize.

Meanwhile, I'll be home self-righteously weaving a tube-top out of plastic grocery sacs I find stuck in the shrubbery by the public library.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


OK, not much is going on and yet I'm super busy. What the Heck?
Well, maybe alot is going on.

Bookclub read Zeitoun which was wonderful and horrible. It's about a family after Katrina, non-fiction. Makes me very glad to live in a non-hurricane prone area (at least until global warming brings the ocean up 2500 feet). It does bring up an issue or two though. One person in this non-fiction book was arrested for having a large amount of cash on hand. But having a large amount of cash on hand is EXACTLY what we are told to do in an emergency. Instead of congratulating him on his preparedness, the "homeland security" worker arrested him and jailed him and his money was never seen again. Hmmm....I guess I'll have cash on hand and take my lumps. Other people were arrested for having nothing. Both were seen as suspicious. Perhaps we need to look harder at our "homeland security" and perhaps we need FEMA and security agencies separated again.

Anyway, next we're reading, at my suggestion, To Kill A Mockingbird. Aside from the main point of the book, there is quite a bit about frugality and simplicity in there. The people Scout, and apparently Atticus, respect most are those who've made conscious decisions about how to live their lives. That's pretty central to simplicity and frugality.

As for's that time of year when I take an inventory of my panty (meaning the front bedroom, cupboards and shelves in the kitchen, and the space under the bed where I store my home-canned goods), then fill in for the winter. I'm doing OK and hopefully by the end of October will be all set for winter. Last winter I was so set, I put on like 20lbs. Good work! (maybe too good...). I ordered another 4gallon bucket (48 lbs) of honey. It went up 20$ this year which still isn't bad for a year and a half of sweetening. I also bought a pint of their buckwheat honey. It's as dark as black strap molasses but delicious (molasses is a tad bitter even for me). It's also super thick but that may be the temperature in the house rather than the natural consistency of the honey.

I, on the recommendation of a young friend, bought a 20$ space heater so I can keep the furnace off longer into fall/winter this year. So far it's working. It will add 5 degrees to the living room in about an hour. The difference between 50degrees and 55 is pretty significant. The tough part is getting up in the morning. It was 49 in the bedroom this morning which makes it hard to get up. The good part is I can heat the bathroom in about 20 minutes and be able to take a shower without fear of pneumonia. I need to re-borrow the volt-meter from the library and see what this little bugger is pulling. It HAS to be cheaper than turning on the electric furnace.

On that topic, I cleaned the furnace out, put in a new filter and got it ready for the new season.

I've got one last batch of onions to dehydrate, then I might be done for the time being. I also have onions and potatoes from the CSA which should store pretty well into winter and about 5 garlic bulbs from my garden (woohoo!). I need more garlic. I've been buying winter squash for storage as well. Have 5 right now. Maybe 10 more to get me through winter. Tons of dried tomatoes, with some left from last winter. I dried a few more (meaning 3 pints dried) sweet peppers. I have plenty of medium and hot left from last year.

The next task is to harvest the remaining marble like potatoes from my garden, throw on the horse poo and chicken poo on the half that will be fallow for the winter and some worm poo on the half where I'll put in walking onions and garlic.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Great Flick!

So I just watched Forks Over Knives

A researcher who has nothing to gain from this outcome, estimates that we could cut 70% of our healthcare costs by eating healthy as a nation. It makes me wonder what it would take to convince people to do that. I'm not eating healthy right now (by my own standards and admission). I'm eating too much prepared food, too much restaurant food, too much candy. Time to go back to mostly whole veggies that I prepare at home. Not as much fun at the food someone else cooks without messing up my kitchen, but I think I'd better.

I know this stuff. But the movie is a good refresher. The filmmakers took a few "normal" know: overweight, on diabetes meds, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc...and put them on Dr. Esselstyn's diet. One of the filmmakers decided to go on the diet too. In 12-22 weeks, people reverse most or all of their issues. I need to look up the two main Doctors but they seem pretty honest about presenting their conclusions. One lost money and prestige at his research university by changing his position on the consumption of animal products. I don't think he'd have done that if he didn't think he'd done good research.

Perhaps the bit that will be most controversial is that we're eating too much protein and that leads to cancer, especially liver cancers. And even more especially, liver cancers in kids. Yikes! I've been eating more meat products and eggs. Apparently it doesn't help if the meat/eggs/dairy/fish/etc is organic (though the toxins in industrial versions also cause other problems). Too much animal protein is just a problem no matter what.

Or perhaps the most controversial bit will be that there is no one issue or nutrient or magic bullet. It's a whole system. If you want to lower your cancer risk, then eat a whole food plant based diet. Don't expect tomatoes to be "the answer." Or spinach to be "the answer." The answer is to eat a variety of whole foods...plants. Sort of a no brainer but not a "standard American diet."

I'm better off than many Americans because I don't do dairy. Small favors.

An interesting point was made about the marketing of dairy as a source of calcium. If that worked, there would be no osteoporosis in the U.S. As a nation, we consume enormous amounts of dairy as milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. And yet, osteoporosis is on the rise. My gyno is always telling me to eat dairy. I've given up explaining why I don't and just say "uh huh." It looks like we can get plenty from a veggie based diet and if we get a bit of sun and the vitamins that help us absorb and use the calcium, we don't need the massive doses of dairy or supplements. So there.

As usual, some of the best info is in the extras. The US has (or has had) contracts with fast food establishments like Wendy's and Subway to market cheese! Jesus...or "Cheezuz"! My tax dollars went to subsidize the marketing of the double cheddar bacon burger. I'm not making that up. It also went to put cheese on the two Subway sandwiches that used to come without cheese as a standard ingredient. My taxes also went to making sure that "cheeseburger" is the default burger! I suspect this happened about 2-3 years ago. That was when I started having more trouble with the accidental cheese when I'd ordered a burger. I wonder if this is why there is default cheese on salads now. It used to be that only speciality salads like caesar and chef's that had cheese. Now even when I order a salad with no cheese listed on the menu, it shows up with feta or parmesan on it. I've been thinking the lesson was to specify "no cheese" but perhaps the better lesson is to prepare my own food.

The movie is a tad preachy. That isn't a surprise, but it isn't as entertaining as Supersize Me. It is however more encouraging than that movie. Eating a healthy diet, even after years of a bad diet, can cure diseases and the something-thelial cells in our blood vessels can actually recover pretty quickly IF we stick to a whole foods plant based diet.

Again, this isn't new. As Michael Pollan said, "Eat food, mostly plants." This movie just clarifies that it should be whole foods, not processed foods like veggie burgers or almond-cheese or soy-milk. Eat the veggies, the almonds and the soybeans.

It's thrifty too. It can be flat out cheaper at the grocery store partly because 500 calories of plants will make you feel so full you feel bloated, while 500 calories of fatty food will leave you hungry and you'll eat more. You have to buy that "more" that you are eating. Also because you aren't paying for the processing and often aren't paying for the packaging. That's good.

One participant in the film who was on 9 meds a day, pointed out that he saved 150-200$/month by going off his meds. That's pure profit. You can buy a lot of veggies for that much money.

It was pointed out that poor folks often don't have access to whole foods so the movie is also encouraging for those of us trying to get fresh, whole, fruit and veg into food deserts.

Here's a scary bit from the flick. In WWII Germans occupied Norway and confiscated all livestock and farm animals to feed German troops. From 1939 (when the Germans got there) to 1945, the Norwegian cardiovascular death rate drops 20%. As soon as the war is over, it's right back up again to pre-war rates. Bizarre.

I was ready to revamp my diet anyway. I found that when I eat 2lbs of greens a day, 1lb raw and 1lb cooked, I feel better. Not the first few days because there is quite a colon cleanse at the start, but after that, I feel much better. So I bought lots of greens and veggies at the co-op today. I had bruschetta for supper...a bit heavy on the bread but at least it was fresh baked rustic bread with local wheat flour, salt, yeast and water as the only ingredients. I'm expecting a final CSA delivery this week too. That will be more veg to eat. Now if my officemate would just stop with the chocolate in the office! It is so delicious....and as they explained in the movie, many of us have a low-grade addiction to foods especially sugary-fatty-foods. It's the same brain receptors as opiates. Damn it. Oh well. Avoiding eating too much chocolate is a pretty bourgeois problem.

I'm not sure whether a whole foods plant based diet would cure the world's problems, but I'm positive that if everyone had the option of a healthy diet that was built on whole foods grown in sustainable ways, we'd be way better off than we are now. And I wouldn't have to buy bigger pants.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cheap Entertainment!

So now I'm in Missoula at another cheap conference. Sadly, the keynote speaker for this conference could not make it due to a health issue, and I'm not interested in the pinch-speakers so I probably DID pay 25$ for a banquet I won't attend. That's a bummer, but wasting 3 or 4 hours of my life on something that I would find mindbendingly dull just to "use" the 25$ ticket would be worse.

Anyway, the cheap entertainment is not at the conference. I left after my paper and hanging around just enough to be seen and kiss some professional-butt...I mean networking. My friend Jeanne's (Hi Jeanne!) daughter goes to school here and is a very nice young woman. She treated me to lunch in the cafeteria. Then I treated her to a dinner downtown. Then she treated me to roller derby! The roller derby was a double header so for the price of the ticket (which she paid...she's quick) we got over 4 hours of entertainment! The roller girls were great. There were some excellent athletes, and some who were on the team just to use their giant butts to block the skinny jammer girls. The jammers are sort of the quarterbacks or forwards. Then there is a pivot, who is sort of the main guard. Then there are the slammers. Some of these were BIG gals. Big butts. And yet, never once did the DJ play this:

I think that showed great restraint on his part. The jammers tend to be pretty skinny, even wiry. They slip through the bigger gals to get points. I totally want to do roller derby now.

We spent part of the evening discussing great names for roller derby teams.
For the older set: The Menopause Mob (the name my siblings and I use for Mom and her friends...Hi Mom). On that team, my derby name would be Polly Estrogen

Or: The Betty Crackers (we'd wear our tights very low). On that team my name would be The Plumber

Or: The Golden Ragers. My name: Mick Jugger

Or: The Mother Loads. My name: Saggy Maggy

Or...well, you get the drift. I think it was 10$ a ticket (I'll find some way to slip the girl some $$). 4 hours of entertainment for 10$ is a pretty good price. Some of the profits went to boob cancer research too so we not only had a good time, we helped save the world.

In reality...I'm a big chicken, a bad roller skater, and I don't like getting hurt so I probably won't pursue the whole roller derby thing.

Tomorrow morning we plan on going to the conference again....HA! Kidding. I sat through my session, since I was pressed into being the session host, and 1.5 other papers. I just cannot listen to people talk about fragments of fragments of fragments of information in 20 minute chunks. Especially when it comes to the joy of pointy rocks. I just can't do it. Ultimately, the minutea (spelling?) do not help me in my job. Big picture stuff is really where it's at. Big new areas of significance? OK, I can use that. Slight variation in sourcing methodology for chert? Don't care and can't use it. Does it make me self centered that I can no longer sit through those papers? I used to GIVE those papers back when I was in the tenure game. No more.

Anyway, enough bitching about conference papers. It could be worse. It's in a nice building and if I'm ambitious I could put on my name tag and get some breakfast rolls and a coffee. But I'd have to walk quite a ways to get it so probably won't.

Rather than going to the conference, we're heading over to some outdoor markets. It might be a tad chilly, but there will be goodies and interesting people. And we'll be in a good area for some cheap lunch.

OK, it's LATE! Like MIDNIGHT! I'm rarely up this late. Off to bed to rest up for more vacation fun tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

CHEAP working vacation

I'm writing to this in Denver CO. I'm here for a conference which will increase my skillz at work. Nice. The registration fee is 0$, so that is pretty thrifty. Flying to Denver from Spokane is pretty cheap as well. And, I can stay with Jonny (Hi Jonny) for free...also pretty thrifty. I thought I would be taking the bus to the conference (which starts tomorrow), but as luck would have it, Jonny's new job is in the same area as the conference so I just ride along and get dropped off in the neighborhood. Such a deal.
To make the most of the trip, I arrived a couple of days early. Jonny had called and asked if I wanted to see a theater production, a "play" I believe they are called. Sure. Then he says to me he says, "Grapes of Wrath or Night of the Iguana?" How could I choose??? The Grapes of Wrath is playing at a local community playhouse that is tragically underfunded. Night of the Iguana is playing at a better funded playhouse in Golden, Colorado. I've been to both theaters before and loved both productions for very different reasons. So, we went to both. The Grapes of Wrath needed to be better funded...and better staged, cast, scripted, scored, and etc. It was a valiant attempt and several of the actors were very good in most of the parts they played (all but the 2 or 3 leads played multiple characters which got pretty confusing given the fairly subtle costume changes available to them). I must say, these were the best fed Okies I've ever seen. Of course, casting this must have been a real challenge since it required not only folks willing to work for free, they also needed to be able to sing, act, do make-up, costuming, set design and construction, and hopefully play an instrument! I was actually impressed with how well it came off, especially that it had been scored by a local bluegrass group who appeared in costume on and near the stage to provide the music. The music was very good. Still, it was too much for the resources the theater had at its disposal, as evidenced by the silent auction going on in the lobby...Star Wars memorabilia anyone? ANYONE?
Then there was the LENGTH of the play. Over THREE HOURS! Our butts were barking by the end of it. There was a "talk back" scheduled after the performance where the audience could talk with the director and actors...but we bolted. As did much of the audience. We had come for some entertainment, not an overnight stay. We got there at 7ish and left at 10:30. Wow.
Last night was "Night of the Iguana" which I HONESTLY believed would be a cheesy horror show done on stage. I didn't know that it was Tenessee Williams. OOPS. Jonny let me know before I got there that it was an real play by a real and respected playwrite. I was a bit scared that it wouldn't be crappy. I do love crappy community theater. It wasn't crappy. But it was SO GOOD that I was not at all disappointed. Unfortunately, we showed up 15 minutes late. Just scheduling problems with trying to do too much on vacation. We thought maybe we'd have to wait for intermission or at least a scene change to be seated and were OK with that. The manager, however, is a pretty intense guy and rather than offering options or sending us away in shame, he chose to focus a great deal of anger and some prize winning stink-eye looks on us. We wandered up to the boarded "box office" in the lovely theater facility above some store fronts in Golden. Then meandered into the lobby/beverage-service area. In there we were "greeted" by a tall, bald, finickily bearded man with actual FLAMES shooting out of his eyes "WHAT DO YOU WANT!?" Jonny cringed and stammered and I just stared, enjoying the show. The flame-eyed man continued to berate Jonny while a meek woman behind him said "Hostager?" (Jonny's last name) and handed ME (the one out of the direct line of fire) 2 tickets and a receipt. The anger-management-manager said that we would be seated off to the side (he had frog marched us out on to the landing to give us more daggery-glares). Fine. He ran to the first side door and opened it, then said, "NOT HERE" and frog marched us all the way through the lobby again to the other side door and stomped in and pointed us toward the ENTIRELY VACANT (other than one old woman) side section. There were a total of 40 audience members so being crappy to 2 of them, 5%, was perhaps not his best plan. We sat down and enjoyed the show. The old lady asked if we wanted to move past her but I said we'd settle in during intermission.
At intermission I tried to go for a pee, dodging the glares of the manager, but there was a massive line at the ladies room so I went back in and chose better seats. The old lady returned from what was apparently a vigorous smoke break, her breath was pretty intense. She was very nice and said that if you come late you can sit anywhere on the side section that you like, then talked about other plays she'd been to. In my head, I'm naming her "Maude" and taking notes for a character in my next film (see below). She had glittery costume jewelry, shiny but dignified polyester shirt and sensible old-lady pants. She was at least in her 70s and reminded me of my Gramma and GreatGramma on my mom's side. Tiny body, big personality. Jonny came back in and sat in front of her. I asked if his big head was in her way and she said, "No, because I'll just move over here" and changed her seat.
The play was wonderful, moreso in contrast to the struggling production of the night before. One actor has TV as well as stage experience. All the actors did excellent jobs and of course Tennessee did a better job with dialogue than the local folks could manage with the Grapes of Wrath. The first play was awesome in its craptacularity. The second was just really good theater.
At the end of Night of the Iguana, the cast bowed to the 37 audience members seated in front of the stage, then the whole cast came to our side and bowed to the three of us. Perhaps they thought we were some sort of rag-tag family troupe with Gramma treated the grandkids to a night out.
Afterwards, we had to walk out through the whole lobby. In hindsight, we should have crossed in front of the stage inside the theater and gone out the far door, dodging the manager's domain, the lobby. But, we didn't. He was stationed at that end of the lobby shaking hands with everyone who went by. The woman infront of me got a full body hug and a thank you. While he was doing that, he was GLARING at me. I waited a moment to see if he'd release his captive and shake my hand, allowing me a moment to apologize for my tardiness and compliment him on the production...but he continued to hug and glare for an inordinate amount of time. So I said "Thanks" with probably quite a dose of sarcasm in my voice, and headed through the lobby and out onto the landing. Jonny waited a bit longer to shake the guy's hand so I check the restroom line again. It was long so I gave up. When I turned around Jonny had joined me, looking stunned. The guy had never released the captive hug-ee and Jonny had had to just continue on. I looked over Jonny's shoulder into the lobby and there was the manager STILL glaring at us! He had crossed the entire lobby, passing people with the manners to show up on time and who were chatting happily about the production, just to GLARE at us with his arms folded. This made me laugh so I headed down the stairs and outside. I didn't bother to look up at the windows but assumed he was shooting eye daggers out the window at us. Jesus. I'm pretty sure he spent more energy hating us for being late than he spent enjoying his successful production! Crazy. I had been thinking of getting Jonny a membership to that theater for christmas because it comes with 2 free tickets and some recognition as a patron of the arts...but now I'm afraid Jonny will be on the black list and get refused or glared at. By the time we hit the street I was laughing so hard I had to stop for a minute and get ahold of myself. Really. All that energy spent being angry and hateful to 2 people who were 15 minutes late for a community theater production? Really? Jonny took it more personally than I did. I figure we can put this guy in the next movie as well (see below).
Our other thrifty (ish) fun has been making our first, well second, film. The true first film was lost to history. Maybe when we're famous it will resurface. Personally, this is my third film since I did make the epic "Killer Beagle" in high school. That has also been lost to history.
Jonny, Gino and I shot a very very short film (it's currently in post production) called "Late September Supper" inspired in part by "Mid August Lunch." It has more in common with the first play described above than the second. Our costumes were what I brought plus Jonny's supply of wigs and glasses and crocs, as well as a few items found at thrift stores on the way to Jonny's house from the airport. I'm afraid that there will be more "outtakes" than actual content. Oh well. We had fun and WE think it is HILARIOUS. It's one major flaw, well, the majorist of all the flaws, is that Angela was not available to join us. As a result, the character she would have played is referred to but never apears on screen. Maybe someday we could have someone shoot her infront of a blue screen and we can cut her in that way.
Other major flaws:
-We had no camera cinematographer if you will.... so each of us filled in. Also, I got the camera Monday and we shot the film Saturday. I had not practiced at all really and didn't know that each time the camera went to sleep between takes/scenes, it moved to a neutral level of zoom. This meant that I am only partly in the frame sometimes. Oh well. Not missing much there!
-Jonny and Gino had not read the script I sent them. None of us was particularly interested in sticking to the script...but still, it's polite to read the script.
-and much much more.
I'll post the flick if it ever makes it out of post.