Cub Scout popcorn

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2401 days ago

Picture this…

It’s 6am on a Saturday in September, somewhere in Kansas. The sun is coming up, and it promises to be a 90-degree day. Thousands of boys (6-12 years old) from across the country are arriving – by truck, by bicycle, by parachute, by hitchhiking – and gathering together in a warehouse on a giant corn farm. They’re all in Cub Scout uniforms – perfectly pressed and starched – and carrying water bottles and giant backpacks.

A thousand or so of the boys – the ones who are tall enough – go out into the corn fields, and start picking corn. They carry baskets of it back to the warehouse, and shuck it. They cut off the kernels, and put them in giant ovens to dry.

A few hundred or so boys start boiling giant kettles of sugar, reducing it down to caramel. They stir and stir and test and taste, until it is just right.

The smaller boys, the ones with artistic talent, get out sheets of cardboard and start cutting it and coloring it, to make boxes.

A dozen older boys – trusted, reliable, experienced – take a bunch of cash from last year’s sale into town. There they invite the local OSHA inspectors and politicians out to a lavish lunch… so they don’t notice the child labor right down the road.

They spend their day this way, toiling in the hot sun, and over hot ovens, until finally the sun goes down. Then they all come back to the warehouse, and start putting it all together.

They bag the kernels, for microwaves. They pop literal tons of corn, and dip it in caramel, and bag it up. They pour butter, and cheddar, and nuts, and make some of the tastiest popcorn anyone has ever known.

The spend the rest of the night packaging it up.

In the morning, they all walk away, carrying giant backpacks full of fresh popcorn, in all sorts of flavors and styles. They make their way home, across the United States, and begin the process of selling the popcorn to raise money for their Packs.

And now that popcorn is available to you… and when you see the prices on the popcorn, and you question whether any sane person would really spend that much – just remember that it’s American made, with American values, with American labor – and it’s worth it!*

*This popcorn was not actually made this way

Oh hi! Thanks for reading this far! By the way, my 7-year-old is selling popcorn for Cub Scouts this year. If you’d like some, you can order popcorn from his web store and it will ship straight to you, via Amazon.

(And thank you!)

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This year for Lent...

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4470 days ago

…I’ll be giving up girl scout cookies – for the entire year. (This is no small thing! I ordered 13 boxes, last year!)

Why this choice? Because I don’t have time for anything else, and this one still requires self-discipline.

Confused about why I’m posting this? See here.

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Lent, 2009

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5565 days ago

Happy Lent! (It started today.)

As I mentioned last year, I give up something for Lent each year. It’s not for religious reasons; the purpose is really just to strengthen my self-discipline, and Lent happens to be a convenient reminder to do it each year.

Two years ago I gave up beef. Last year I became vegetarian, and somehow I’ve managed to stick with it. (Almost a whole year, now!) So this year I’m giving up food entirely.

Er, no. Not really.

But it has been a little tough to figure out what to give up – there isn’t really anything in my life that I feel is excessive right now (except maybe work). But my goal isn’t really “give something up” – it is “improve self discipline,” so that leaves other options. The two that seem most needed, in fact, are “take vitamins” and “exercise.” Both are things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the discipline to actually carry out.

But I’m not going to do both, and “exercise” scares me, without at least a little forethought. (I only realized yesterday that Lent starts today.) So, vitamins for me! Thankfully, I had a bottle of good vitamins already sitting around, so Day 1 was easy. I’ll need a little more planning ahead as I travel for work, but this one should be relatively easy. Hopefully, though, by the end of it vitamins will just be a valuable habit, and I’ll keep it up.

And next year’s Lent starts on February 17th, so I’ve marked that day on my calendar, and my plan is to use exercise as my discipline-improving technique next year :)

So, wish me luck. Hopefully, I’ll be a healthier, more energetic person come Easter. And if not, well, maybe my pharmacist friend is right that vitamins as just a good way to pee money down the drain ;)

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Vegetarian: Decision

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5903 days ago

(Continued from Vegetarian updates)

Well, yesterday was decision time. It came on me somewhat suddenly, when I heard on Saturday that Lent actually ended Friday. After some careful reading I decided that it really ended at sundown on Saturday, or maybe sunup on Sunday, so I just waited until Sunday as I had originally planned. Even then, I wasn’t really ready to decide – I had become comfortable as a vegetarian.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a bunch of downsides to vegetarianism! It’s just that there are also some upsides, so it becomes more of a balanced choice, rather than a restriction. I had acclimated to the vegetarian lifestyle, and I just didn’t feel like I really needed to change.

Without discussing the final decision, the preceding paragraph helps explain why I give up something for Lent each year – it’s an opportunity for me to jump a hurdle and see what is on the other side. Often it isn’t what I expect.


Vegetarian updates

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5908 days ago

(This article continues the earlier thread.)

A few updates, with only 4 days left until Lent is over and I have to choose whether to remain vegetarian.

First, I went to London and Lisbon last week for work, and had a few new vegetarian experiences, none of them particularly exciting:

  • In the airport I realized that I hadn’t set my food preferences to vegetarian when I made the reservation. I asked at the counter about it, and the ever-so-kind woman told me that it was too late to change it. Crap. It turned out, though, that I was flying business class, so I was able to choose the vegetarian option off the menu. (It was acceptable, but that’s the best I can say about it.) Close call!
  • In London, I was surprised at how many vegetarian options there were. We were only there for two days, but it was fairly easy to eat both days. I did miss a few great options at dinner, though.
  • In Lisbon, I lived on a diet of eggs (breakfast), salad (lunch), and steamed vegetables (dinner). Portugal just isn’t designed to make life easy on vegetarians. The food for non-vegetarians is fantastic (as I know from earlier experience), which made it all the harder to watch my coworkers eat.
    • When Kristina joined me on a trip back in December, we were able to find places for her to eat, but we had to plan ahead to make it work. On this trip, I just ate with the rest of the team, and had to make do with whatever was available, which was often “please have the chef make something for me.” None of it was inspiring.

Second, I weighed myself again yesterday and discovered that my earlier weight loss has reversed by a few pounds. I’m still down a few pounds from my starting weight, but it doesn’t look like the weight loss will be a continuing trend. Crap.

Finally, I gave blood earlier today, and the little test they do to see if I have enough iron in my blood came up positive (I had enough iron). That’s a good sign that I’m eating right, which is reassuring. I’ve been going to bed early the last few nights and that had me worried, but I think it’s just because I overtaxed myself on the trip to Europe, and haven’t really given my body time to recover.

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Vegetarian: Days 12-ongoing

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5925 days ago

(continued from Days 8-11)

Ok, I slacked off and haven’t kept up with the daily food log. Somewhat that’s because I’m lazy, somewhat because I’ve been too busy, and somewhat because I’ve been on-and-off sick for the last week. (I don’t think it’s related to the vegetarianism – a lot of people at work have been sick.)

But I do have some highlights for you:

  • We’ve started making home-made pancakes occasionally, using this recipe. They are fantastic.
  • I ate lunch at McCormick & Schmick’s twice in a row; once by surprise when my boss’s boss called a last-minute lunch meeting. They don’t have a single item on the menu that’s vegetarian. The first time I went, I just asked them to take the meat off the caesar salad, forgetting that caesar dressing has anchovies. Oops. The next time, I just asked the waiter to have the chef make up a vegetable pasta for me, and it turned out fantastic.
  • Speaking of lunch, buying lunch from the in-house food vendors continues to be a pain, but I continue to do it.
  • We ordered Chinese food the other day, and I ordered a dish that sounded interesting (“bean curd in spicy sauce”)… but turned out to be soft cubes of tofu in a mild brown sauce, with rice. About as bland as food gets, although it wasn’t actually bad. Hm.
  • Our general restaurant habits have changed a bit. We don’t really go to the places that Kristina doesn’t like (and that I used to like) anymore… because I don’t like them either. That’s going to be a tough one to figure out if/when I go back to eating meat.
  • I’ve been pondering whether I want to go back to eating meat. On one hand, it’s much, much easier, and I’m essentially lazy, so that’s very motivational. On the other hand… my lactose intolerance seems to have gone away. The issue isn’t conclusively decided yet, but I’m experimenting to see if it’s really gone, and so far it looks to be safe for me to eat all sorts of dairy.

Man, what a choice: meat or dairy! Or, in other words: steak or ice cream! More on this to come, I’m sure.

I’ll post again as I have more news. Now that we’re in March, I’m over the halfway point, but only by a bit. There’s still quite a ways to go.

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Vegetarian: Days 8-11

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5940 days ago

(continued from Days 4-7)

For those of you following along, this covers the 13th through the 16th.

Day 8 (Wednesday)

Breakfast: Egg soufflé, half a bagel (from Panera)
Lunch: Cheese pizza
Dinner: Pad Thai with tofu, tomato bisque (from Noodles)

A relatively tasty food day. I’ve started noticing that my body seems to have less resilience to abuse. For example, if I stay up late, my brain becomes abnormally dysfunctional the next day. (Emphasis on the abnormal.) I’m not certain it’s caused by my diet, but I’ve started taking (vegetarian) vitamins, just in case.

Day 9 (Thursday)

I took this Thursday (Valentine’s Day!) and Friday off work, so my normal food schedule was a little disrupted.

Breakfast: Bagel
Lunch: Veggie sandwich, cream of mushroom soup (Le Châtelaine)
Dinner: Veggie sandwich, asparagus, blackberries & blueberries

Dinner at home (with champagne) was super-tasty.

Day 10 (Friday)

Breakfast: Raisin bran with soy milk
Lunch: Smoothie (from a place in the mall)
Dinner: Spinach-artichoke dip, chipotle black-bean burger, fries (from Chili’s)

Chili’s only really has that one vegetarian option, but it was (again) quite tasty.

Day 11 (Saturday)

Brunch: Mushroom frittata
Dinner: Home-made nut burgers with cambozola cheese, fries, an apple. Later on, Jeni’s ice cream.

We made the frittata from a recipe found online, and it wasn’t particularly tasty. The nut burgers are from a recipe that my sister got from an old job, but we haven’t quite perfected it. The cheese made all the difference, though, so they were actually quite delicious.

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Vegetarian: Days 4-7

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5944 days ago

(continued from Days 1-3)

Day 4

Breakfast: Slept in :)
Lunch: Mozzarella sticks, half a black-bean chipotle burger
Dinner: Spicy lentils, rice (thanks Rowan & Erica!)

That burger (from Chili’s) was actually quite tasty. It’s nice being able to split meals with Kristina.

I watched Erica and Rowan eat a gorgeous flank steak for dinner… it wasn’t too hard.

Day 5

Breakfast: Cereal with soy milk
Lunch: Munched on stuff, but I can’t really remember what
Dinner: 3-pepper 3-cheese enchilada, black beans, rice

Dinner was quite tasty – Mad Mex is moving up on my list of good places to eat.

Day 6

Breakfast: Bagel and cream cheese
Lunch: A “TBM” (Tomato-Basil-Mozzarella) from Cosi, fruit salad, chips
Dinner: Half an iceberg wedge (salad) and gnocchi with marinara. Ate an orange later.

That TBM was downright awful. I don’t think anything was wrong with the food, but the tomato was lifeless, and the mozzarella was a little gritty. But there were no other options.

Day 7

Breakfast: Running late, skipped
Lunch: Creamy potato salad, mac and cheese, cookie
Dinner: Saganaki and a tasty feta pasta with olives and tomatoes. Ate some peanuts and a granola bar later.

For lunch, there were no other options than to eat side dishes, so I did. They were tasty, but high in dairy content :-(

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Vegetarian: Days 1-3

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5948 days ago

For the last five years or so, I’ve given up something for Lent. One year it was caffeine, one year it was TV, etc. I’m not Catholic (or even Christian, for that matter), but I believe that giving up something for a period of time is beneficial, so I use Lent as an easy marker for when I should do that. This year, I’m giving up meat. Specifically, I’m following my wife’s rules: no meat, no food that contains meat products (like gelatin), but eggs and dairy are OK. I’m told that makes her an “ovo-lacto vegetarian,” so that’s what I’ll be during the 40 days of Lent. (I will remain vegetarian on Sundays.)

That “no meat products” rule eliminates a number of seemingly safe foods: most soups, most candy bars, some nuts, and many cheeses.

I plan to periodically blog my menus and my observations about the experience here. My hope is that there will be something interesting to be gleaned by the end :)

Day 1 – Wednesday, February 6th

Breakfast: A granola bar
Lunch: Cheese pizza and chips
Dinner: Assorted cheeses, crackers, and carrots

Kristina and I occasionally go to McDonald’s for breakfast. She’s never been very excited about it, and now I understand why – having to take the meat off everything makes it just not taste good.

Day 2

Breakfast: A granola bar
Lunch: A salad (with artichoke hearts, which I don’t like)
Dinner: Went to Brio, split an iceberg wedge (no bacon!) with Kristina, had a pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, other stuff

My company has arranged to have a different restaurant vendor (Cosi, Potbelly, etc.) come to the office every day, selling lunch to whomever wants it. I almost always just grab whatever is available for lunch, and eat at my desk, because it’s generally tasty, convenient, and inexpensive. Today, I only had one choice: that salad with artichoke hearts. Crap.

Day 3

Breakfast: A goats-milk blueberry yogurt (I’m semi-lactose-intolerant)
Lunch: Macaroni-and-cheese and coleslaw
Dinner: Pizza with mushrooms, onions, olives, and jalapeños

My department had ordered a pizza lunch for everyone, but I got there late. I was glad to see that there was still pizza left, and forgot that I needed vegetarian pizza. So I loaded up my plate, and then realized what I was doing, and then realized that the vegetarian pizza was already all gone. Crap.

So I went to the restaurant vendor, who was selling… barbecue. I had two sides: macaroni-and-cheese and coleslaw. Yummy.

We talked about going to a couple of restaurants for dinner, but none of them seemed appealing now that most of the menu was off-limits. So we ordered pizza, which was actually a tasty choice.

Also, I noticed yesterday that my sense of smell seemed better than usual. Kristina has always had a very strong sense of smell. Related? I’m not sure yet.

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There's not much that perplexes me...

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6683 days ago

…but Americans do.

What is it that’s so perplexing? First, they don’t seem to understand that they should hire the President. But that’s an old issue and one I don’t have the energy to write about now. The second perplexing thing is that they continue to support the Cheesecake Factory. I’ll explain myself, but first I need to explain a few other things.