One Almond equals 1.1 Gallons of Water

Almonds, almonds, the non-musical fruit.

Almonds, almonds, the non-musical fruit.

Almonds are yummy. Almonds have vitamins and stuff. Almonds are (horribly abused to be) made into almond milk.

But.

Almonds are actually kind of shitty for anything resembling sustainable agriculture. Not just kind of shitty. I mean really totally crappy shitty disgusting ick how-did-that-happen.

San Joaquin - soon to be NOT known for agriculture

San Joaquin – soon to be NOT known for agriculture

A recent batch of blog posts by Tom Philpott, Alex Jones and Julia Lurie in Mother Jones highlights this issue as well as other water-sucking crops like grapes, pistachios, and more.

Tom’s almond article delves into some disturbing statistics:

Why? Why the f why??? Because we (the US and Asia) love almonds. And when we love almonds, it keeps their prices high. It’s a 4.8 BILLION dollar crop. Almond milk consumption is going freaking insane.

California is potentially in a drought bigger than any in 500 years, and any rains that fall are too little, too late.

I like this Tom Philpott guy. Basically, he read about this stuff, he wrote about this stuff, and then he got pissed off enough that he started really DOING things with his knowledge, like start Maverick Farms and become a living advocate for sustainability.

Yeah, this is a little bit of a chicken little kind of post. BUT. There are things we can do. There are things we SHOULD do. Treat almonds like a treat. Stop fucking drinking almond milk. Drink pasteured kefir – it’s (so far) more sustainable and has no lactose.

And tell people. Passion is what reaches those that are interested.

Advertisements

“Health” Prescribed Here: Women’s Magazines

random magazines

random magazines

Just a few numbers to liven up your Tuesday, shall we? The world of women’s lifestyle magazines is crammed full of contradictory messages, and that’s not a shocker to most folks. I even remember when I was a teenager noticing that “mature” magazines like Redbook would cram a brownie advertisement directly across from that “low fat casserole” recipe feature. It made me a little sad and angry then, but in the intervening years it’s all but tuned out as the normal way of things. Today I’m un-tuning it out by doing some page counts on just one issue of just one popular women’s healthy lifestyle magazine. Ready? Let’s go.

Prescription drugs:

  • Number of different prescription medications advertised in a 136-page women’s health magazine issue: 11.
  • Number of pages occupied by those 11 out of the total 136: 30.
  • Percentage of pages occupied by prescription medications in a health magazine: 22%

Non-prescription “cures” or interventions/detoxes:

  • Number of pages occupied by OTC medications like detox kits or supplements (not including “standard” beauty products like makeup or sunscreen): 3

Sugary crap and artificially sweetened stuff:

  • Number of pages occupied by food products with added sugar or artificial sweeteners: 8
  • Number of those pages that were placed directly opposite content with a recipe including vegetables or a model in a bikini: 4

TOTAL number of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

41 pages

PERCENTAGE of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

30%

It’s in front of us every day. Once you start really noticing, it’s a little disturbing, no?

Please Gawk And Stare at North Korea

As a modern internet-addicted lazy person, I pondered two wormholes of internet interest recently. They made me think about celebrity culture and our human desire to LOOK. The first was new to me – a family that has spent the last 5+ years documenting every single day of their lives. They seem very nice, and normal. I have no problem with what they do or how they broadcast it. Neither does their 2 million subscribers.

As humans and social creatures, we are all compelled to LOOK.

If you visit countries that have different social and cultural expectations, such as China, you’ll find something stands out – people STARE. If something is interesting, they’ll form a crowd and just look. Americans seem to constantly be fighting with themselves over whether to look at something interesting or do the “polite” thing and walk on by. The idea of “rubber-necking” is frowned upon as something crass and unseemly – wholly apart from any actual risks from the act of looking itself (such as causing another car accident while you drive by staring at one already happened, et cetera).

From Chinese News Daily

From Chinese News Daily

In China, if you see something, you look. Because, why not? Interesting things are fun to look at, so what is wrong with looking? That seems to be their attitude.

Source: Off Exploring's blog

Source: Off Exploring’s blog

Here in the States we reserve much of our staring and looking for the safety of the internet and tabloids. We don’t want the objects of the staring to experience it firsthand, so we do it by proxy. This includes using paparazzi to get our celebrity cellulite photos for us, and YouTube to chronicle an entire family’s life, day by day. We feel strange or awkward if we were to see one of those interesting people on the street and were caught just looking at them for no good reason.

Where is all of this leading and how can it possibly involve North Korea? It is because in the case of North Korea, we cannot look directly. And yet we must, by any means available.

Rather than spend another minute on the Shaytards, I went back to the haunting photos of North Korea of the daily lives of their people. More and more I searched for photos and articles on what’s happening because it is so . . . interesting.

Source: The Guardian UK. North Korean workers at the Chinese border

Here’s one description of what eating looks like for citizens there: “Food shopping is equally problematic. Staples such as soy sauce, soybean paste, salt and oil, as well as toothpaste, soap, underwear and shoes, sell out fast. The range of food items available is highly restricted. White cabbage, cucumber and tomato are the most common; meat is rare, and eggs increasingly so. Fruit is largely confined to apples and pears. The main staple of the North Korean diet is rice, though bread is sometimes available, accompanied by a form of butter that is often rancid. Corn, maize and mushrooms also appear sometimes.”

Women in North Korea have recently started wearing some amounts of makeup, and it is noted that the reasoning is partially to hide blotchy and unhealthy skin – one side effect of underlying malnutrition. So a country where some people have enough spending money to buy cosmetics in order to cover up the health effects of not being able to purchase real food – that is North Korea.

Source: Guardian UK. Public transit in Pyongyang.

In the last few years, things appear to be getting way worse for an average person. For instance, this spring, outside of the capital city of Pyongyang, food is basically becoming a luxury. Food is actually starting to disappear as a thing you can “get”. Read that again, from a local, “In January, housewives were given two kilos of mixed rice and corn and households received 10 days of rations on top of that. But there has been nothing since then . . .”

There might be little as a single person I can do about the conditions in that country, but perhaps much we can do as knowledgeable humans, collectively. But to be blunt, just start with gawking and sharing what you see with friends and family. Spread the images and the situation far and wide.

Rubber-neck all you want. And then consider what you might be able to do, as wished for by North Korean people.

 

A Letter to Restaurants About Voicemail

Welcome to the second episode of “a letter to restaurants”, a series in which I try to help and admonish and poke and scold eating establishments who are missing easy opportunities to deliver good experiences to their customers.

telephone-maitred

Dear Restaurant:

I call restaurants like you now and then. Many of your customers do. We often need to check the business hours (because who knows if whatever is listed on Yelp is accurate or current), verifying that you still serve a particular dish, or finding out if there’s a crowd and a wait time to get in. These are all valid reasons to dial the digits.

Once your phone number is actually located (hopefully it is prominently displayed on the website or directory page) and the ringy-dingy is heard on the other end, it is a most frustrating experience to hear one of these two scenarios as a result:

“I’m sorry. The mailbox belonging to 505-123-3456, is full. Please hang up.” <click>

(OR)

“I’m sorry. The number you have dialed, 505-123-2345, has a mailbox that has not yet been set up. Good bye.”

W.

T.

F.

You see, by cutting off this avenue of communication, YOU as the restaurant are effectively saying, “hey, we might exist. Come by and see for realz! Seriously!” It’s sending the same mixed message as if you had turned on the Open sign and unlocked the doors but barricaded them, or handed over a menu to diners while saying that most of the items are not available today. It makes zero sense AND everyone loses.

Restaurants, learn how to clear your mailboxes and set them up in the first place. Seriously. For realz.

Watch a Man At His First Yoga Class to Understand Success

They are a most curious specimen, those first-time dudes at yoga class. They often come at the behest of a friend or perhaps out of curiosity.

yoga-mat-man

They seem willing to give it a go and be amused by the whole thing if that’s what is needed for them to participate. Maybe they pretend they are a super hero to get them in the mood.

yoga spidey

Poses are undertaken with an element of skepticism and, if they don’t work well, an uninstructed tweak might be tried. This results in poses that, to the trained yogi’s eye, are somewhat . . . interesting. This ain’t no Warrior I:

a-lunge-not-warrior

Then, if asked to get into a pose that is actually a bit painful – or just uncomfortable – and they’re asked to hold it, hold it, hold it – they might not. If they’re really really tired and need a break, they will take one. They are willing to abandon what is not working.

They are willing to abandon what is not working.

Persistence. Tenacity. Follow-through. All perfectly valid practices in many parts of our lives and projects we undertake. However, that doggedness can also be a huge roadblock or time-waster if we don’t recognize the other side and know when to move on. If you find yourself in one of those ruts, unable to let go of a seriously draining project or something as simple as that bag of clothes that no longer fit, think of the guy in yoga class, and ask yourself, “how is that working out for me?”

Why My Health Plan Was Killed by Obamacare

When I got the envelope in the mail from my private health insurance company, I didn’t think much of it. They send me various stuffed envelopes all the time, usually containing something I just need to file or toss out.

This one, however, was different, beginning with the ominous statement, “your policy will end on December 31, 2013.”

Celtic cancels me

Whoa.

So, I became one of those folks in the group represented by outraged reporters talking about how Obama said, “you can keep your policy if you like it.” and then went back on his exact words. I “liked” my policy, in that it was relatively cheap and gave me catastrophic coverage in the event that I have something happen that could otherwise bankrupt me. I’d be out my huge deductible ($6K) and then not a penny more.

But that sounds like it might never have actually happened: people with plans like mine have had a long history of getting dropped by their company the second it appeared your account might start requiring lots of payouts. Generally the (legal) reason cited is that you withheld information on your original insurance application. Say, your claim involves checking out and biopsy of moles on your skin – the company could say that you didn’t note that you have lots of moles. Or, you are getting treatment for back pain issues but never mentioned in your application that you’ve ever felt a bit of back pain in your life. That’s an undeclared pre-existing condition, and therefore eligible for policy exclusion.

And it gets worse – the internetz are full of these kinds of reports from consumers:

There was no law against this. So if that catastrophe happened, the insurance company could have (and might very likely have) paid out some hospital days or one inital ambulance ride, then called the whole rest of it a separate case (due to that pesky pre-existing or bad application stuff above) and dropped me like a hot potato. No recourse, only bankruptcy. Or a legal battle that you as the patient MIGHT win, but might not.

Then, there is my friend on the East Coast, paying for private insurance that costs far too much and hoping against hope that this whole Obamacare thing that is coming might actually benefit her and her partner. But she is very wary:

I’m afraid to be excited about this

– my friend (self-employed), regarding Obamacare’s having a) much lower costs & b) better coverage than their current plan.
She was rightfully paranoid for a long time, unable to process the very real possibility that her health care situation could, all of a sudden, get WAY better. She and her partner were paying nearly $750 a month for truly shitty coverage while needing periodic care and prescriptions.

A summary of our befores and afters:

  • ME, Before: $120 per month with almost certain droppage after a major event. ME, After: $190 per month with far better basic coverage and no chance to be dropped.
  • Her, before: $729 per month for “insurance” that did almost nothing she needed. Prescriptions were mostly out of pocket because the deductible was too high. Her, after: $341/mo with much lower deductible on prescription coverage. Her out of pocket per year goes from ~$8700 to ~$4100, and that’s just premiums. Nice deal.

And that’s how it works. It has to work that way. I am one of those gravy insureds: I am healthy. I’ll withdraw a few hundred bucks per year or less of my annual premiums in benefits. I am the person who helps to subsidize my friend on the East Coast. I am critical in the system as is everyone like me.

A special thank you to Julie today!

Get What You Pay For: Reality Bites vs Awesome

This has to be the most perfectly concise summary of why it is sometimes/often/always a really freakin’ good idea to pay someone else to do something that you need done that THEY are good at doing:

“Wait, can’t I just <do that thing> myself, for free?”

Yes, you can. But you haven’t, and you never will. 

That thing can be anything. Building an exercise plan. Painting the house. Picking stocks. Researching a major purchase. Finding a great partner. Putting up your website. Negotiating business terms. Changing your car’s oil. Cooking healthy food. Going to the dentist. OK, OK, I guess you can’t literally outsource going to the dentist, but at least getting the appointment scheduled could be handled by someone else if you are prone to not doing it at all otherwise. The last part is key. It’s one thing to farm out tasks that you do get done, albeit slowly, to a faster operator. It’s another thing to hire out the tasks you will eventually get done but HATE doing (taxes!) just to take some stress off, if you can afford it.

But it is a whole new ballgame to recognize the things that need getting done if you are to get where you want to go that you simply will not do, based on your own history and knowledge of  yourself and your prioritization tendencies.

And that’s all for me for today, folks. I can’t put it any better than that. And yes, I might just pay the guy who wrote that to do what he does best so that I stop NOT doing that thing on my own time.