Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Memories

I've never gone shopping on Black Friday, the traditional day of crass commercialism and consumer spending right after Thanksgiving.  You could say this is another one of my quirks.  But eventually I think I might like to go to a store just to experience parking difficulties, the competitive nature of grabbing items that are both extremely popular and deeply-discounted, and long lines at the cash register to pay.  On the other hand, I've seen this experience depicted often enough in movies ("Christmas With the Cranks" is a holiday favorite, based on the book "Skipping Christmas").  So experiencing Black Friday is only an idea, one that won't come to fruition this year.

For the past ten years or so, I've been buying gifts at small, local shops, and buying works of art hand-crafted directly from local artists.  I've bought some items sold at fundraisers to help out veterans or homeless pets.  I like the dual benefit of fulfilling the gift-giving obligation while boosting the esteem of crafters by honoring their work with a purchase.

However, when I was a young adult, I was brainwashed into department store shopping.  I preferred to shop just a few days before Christmas, at stores that would stay open later at night.  Most folks didn't realize the stores would be open late -- most of my competing shoppers were of the "early bird gets the worm mentality."  My mentality was simply "Shop whenever most people didn't shop."

One Memorable Day, one day before Christmas, I asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas.  I had gotten home from work a bit early, so I thought I'd start my Christmas shopping.  She laughed.  But I insisted that I was serious.  So she told me, "You're never going to find it.  But I've been trying to find those Isotoner gloves in Cobalt Blue."  (They were plentiful in black, but I've never seen them in her preferred color.  Even today I don't see them online in this color.)

"Okay," I said with confidence, and I drove off to our nearest shopping mall, with its Macys, JC Penney, Lord and Taylor, and one other major cookie-cutter department store which probably is no longer in business.  It was less than a 15 minute drive.  I didn't bother to find a parking spot near the entrance -- I parked in the first spot I saw and walked briskly for another minute to reach the entrance.

I continued my brisk pace through the first department store, where I found the women's accessories (I knew where things were located in these stores, and, besides, the displays for women are usually placed near the entrances to entice women to enter.)

It was obvious they had nothing more than black, brown and red, so I dashed off to the next department store's women's section.  And there it was, a single pair of Isotoner Cobalt Blue gloves in, what I assumed, would be her size (because I forgot to ask).

Now the trick in paying for something at a department store is to know that there are cashiers located in all of the major departments.  And that the cashiers with the longest lines are in the women's, petite's, children's and to a lesser degree, men's clothing departments.  So to beat the long lines, I simply ferreted through the crowd over to the furniture department, paid quickly, and left.

I was home within three-quarters of an hour, presenting a look of utter despair in the hopes of surprising mom tomorrow.  But of course, since I came home after only 45 minutes, she knew I bought something, so she was already incredulous.  It was, in a way, a Christmas miracle.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quirky is RIght Up My Alley!

Yesterday's NaBloPoMo writing prompt was "Tell us about a quirk or odd habit that you have."  I have so many quirks and odd habits, this prompt could provide a month of posts on its own.

Let me share just one of my many quirks, which demonstrates my germophobic tendencies.

Whenever I need to pull a door open, I do not grab the handle with my entire hand.  I'm so reluctant to touch door handles that I use my pinky, or my sleeve, or (if I've just washed and dried my hands after using the bathroom) a paper towel.

I do this only in public.  At home, I don't bother, partly because most of the germs are mine or my family's, but also because my hands are usually already dirty from dog slobber, cat litter or cleaning household messes.

Would you like to know about my other quirks?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Things I Say

A standard phrase I'd use at work was "It's not inadequate," which was my wise-ass way of endorsing results that I wasn't thrilled with.  A student's paper with a grade of "C" would be "not inadequate."  If I was even less thrilled, I might say, "It's not terribly inadequate."  This latter phrase was my euphemism for "good enough yet pretty lousy all the same."

But some people took it the wrong way.  They actually were pleased to receive this response.  They'd show me their design or report, and I'd say "that's not inadequate," and they'd smile proudly, as if I'd just affixed a gold star to it.

Well I don't use it any more, perhaps because it has lost it's intended impact.  Or perhaps because sarcasm is being discouraged in much the same way as discrimination -- it's just not professional.  The utterly flavorless "good" has supplanted my "it's not inadequate" nowadays.

My new phrase is now "Crapizoids," which I exclaim out loud to myself instead of, um, well, a four letter word that begins and ends exactly like "firetruck."  I say "Crapizoids" a lot, like when the e-mail client freezes just before I click "Send" on a message that took 30 minutes to compose and included several links to various documents scattered in remote and obscure parts of the network.  "Crapizoids" is for when I hurriedly press Ctrl-A (which selects all content), instead of the neighboring Ctrl-S (save), followed by the Enter key and the witty content of a new paragraph, which replaces all the selected content.  (The Undo feature is my best friend for a good reason, but sometimes it reverts away from good stuff, too.)  "Crapizoids" can be heard right after every power failure.

Right at the moment I'm writing this in a public library as I wait for my daughter's karate lesson to end.  And it has ended, so I have to leave this post without a snazzy ending.  Crapizoids!  I hope it's not too inadequate.



Snoskred's response to the NaBloPoMo writing prompt, "Tell us about a quirk or odd habit that you have," inspired today's post.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Buy One, Get Six For Free

Temperatures here in the Northeast are at the freezing mark or below, so the heated indoor air is very dry.  This is a good time to use a saline spray to keep nasal passages moist.

I use a lot of saline spray every winter.  My preferred brand comes in little bottles of 50ml (1.69 ounces) and costs about $3.50.  That's $2/oz.  It doesn't last long.

The first bottle of the season already ran out.  So rather than buy another, I bought the saline solution that's marketed to users of contact lenses.  For the same price, $3.50, I got 12 ounces, a whopping seven times more, which should last all winter.

Of course, I don't squirt the stuff into my nose from that larger bottle.  Instead, I refill the little spray bottle.  I just remove the tip from the spray bottle and pour the saline solution in and then press the tip back on.

It turns out that the cheaper, contact lens saline solution is more soothing than the nasal saline.  Perhaps the nasal solution contains more anti-microbial chemicals to keep it from harboring germs.  After all, the bottle is inserted into one's nose.  With each squeeze, the user could aspirate germ-infested nasal mucous into the bottle.  So the producers of the nasal spray would want to ensure that their product won't result in re-infection with some pathogen.

If you decide to try this cost-saving idea, do your best to avoid contaminating the bottles and solutions.  Your workspace and hands should be as clean as possible.  You can place the spray bottle tip on a clean paper towel or tissue while filling the bottle.  Also, don't fill the bottle more than halfway, otherwise you won't get a fine spray when you squeeze but rather a surprisingly strong stream.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The High Cost of Vegan Cheese

My daughter has been vegan for about four years.  Vegans follow an even more limited diet than vegetarians.  The most devout ones don't eat anything produced by an animal or from an animal.  That includes eggs, all dairy, and even honey.

My daughter is devout.  But rather than give up mayonnaise, butter and cheese, she eats vegan-friendly versions instead.

My wife complains about the high cost of these vegan-friendly substitutes almost every week.  And she goes over-budget buying them.  But I tell my wife that if our daughter craves cheese and butter so much, it means her body is crying out for real, honest-to-goodness dairy.  As I wrote earlier, I don't fully endorse our daughter being vegan.

I say that we should buy absolutely no substitutes.  Instead we can buy eggs and dairy from producers that treat their livestock with care and respect, a major concern of vegans.  And I suspect that dairy produced the old-fashioned way is friendlier for the environment than the spreads made from vegetable oils or the cheeses made from cashews.  I believe that such substitutes require much more energy to produce because their raw ingredients are so thoroughly processed as to make them unrecognizable.

Some vegans will argue that there's a health issue with dairy.  They complain that it's loaded with saturated fat, which is bad.  I reject that entirely.  Saturated fat has been unfairly demonized.  The fat from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle has a ratio of Omega3 to Omega6 that's comparable salmon, plus CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) and butyrates, both of which are important for good gut health.  The heart and brain both use saturated fat as fuel.

It's true that some people just can't tolerate dairy.  It can promote inflammation and mucus production.  Some people are lactose intolerant.  Others must avoid casein.  It's the casein in dairy that can mimic opioids in the brain in individuals with leaky gut syndrome.  So these intolerances are really the only good reasons to avoid dairy.

Well, even if our daughter agreed to eat real butter and cheese, our cost would still be fairly high.  Organic dairy from humanely-treated, grass-fed cows is not inexpensive.  But at least it's real and wholesome.

What do you think?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Weigh-In 20141119

Temperatures are at the freezing point today, with a brisk wind. I wore my fleece jacket and scarf.

Waist = 41"
Height = 5' 9"

References:
  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dream: The Bull and the Subaru

I'm leaving a large department store.  My father and brother have left about a minute earlier.  As I approach the car, a two-tone green Subaru Outback wagon, I notice a large bull and at least one white sheep about 15 yards away on the other side of the car.  The bull has noticed me, too.  It's staring directly at me.  Its horns snake out from its head about 18 inches and taper down to two very sharp and deadly points.  I wonder where my brother and father went.  I quickly get in the car for protection, just in case it charges.

I'm in the back seat, semi-reclined so as to hide.  But I peer out the rear window.  The bull approaches the car from behind.  It knows I'm inside.  It pushes the car with its huge head planted on the left rear directional light.  The car gains momentum and heads for a stand of medium-sized birch trees and shrubs.  I list in my head the damage that's being done: the signal light lens cover; scratches and dents to the rear car body; maybe a broken pawl in the transmission.  If the car smashes into the trees there will also be front end damage.  Plus a tow truck may be needed to remove the car.