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Jul 10, 2007

Thoughts that come when immediate gratification has gone

From my journal during the time when we were first avoiding making any sort of trash:

In my imagination, people used to live like this: you had most of the bare necessities but then every so often a relative managed to get hold of, say, some coffee or some salt and pepper or a guava fruit. That day that it came would be special. These things were called "luxuries" or "delicacies." If guests came over you'd say, "Hey, you know, cousin John sent us some coffee beans. Shall we have some for a treat?"

Or you'd dazzle your guests by putting salt and pepper on the table. Didn't salt and pepper used to be a special thing? Today, is anything special? Is there anything so inaccessible that you get a buzz when you acquire it?

Think of cake. Cake used to be this special thing that you got from the bakery to have after dinner in small portions. It was, you know, dessert. It wasn't in every single deli and available 24 hours a day. It was special because it was, well, special.

In fact, a British word for dessert is "treat." "What's for treat, mum?" the kids might say. Treat. That implies that the cake or whatever it is what it says: a treat. Something to be thankful for. Something not to be had regularly. But now we have to have these things on every street corner. In fact, what's confounding me at the moment is trying to figure out how to have everything I want at a moment's notice without making any packaging trash. My mind is conditioned to believe that if I can't have it right now—RIGHT NOW!—then I'm deprived.

Or is being able to have something at a moment's notice real progress? Is it one of those great leaps forward—one of those leaps for mankind that so intrigued our granparents. You know, like, "And to think we used to think radio was a wonderful thing and now we have 500 stations of television." But that makes me wonder too. Five hundred stations of television?

It used to be that we would have occasional entertainment. You know, back when we were Greeks or Romans or whatever we were. We'd go to the amphitheater or something. It would be a social thing, a social gathering, a get together, a community activity. Now we have this 24 hour a day TV thing. Even in the elevators and in the airport lounges and in our airplane seats and in our cars. Everywhere. Everything is "on demand." Video on demand. Content on demand. It isn't even on request.

Is this progress or not? Can anything be progress if it means we play charades less often?

But then, I was standing on the roof of a building on First Avenue the other evening and the sun was setting and there were pink clouds and the top of the Empire State Building was drifting in and out of the mist and a plane was flying over Manhattan and I thought how lovely. We build the tall buildings because they are, after all, cool. There is something awe inspiring and creative about them.

And when you think of the Wright brothers on the dunes in the Carolinas trying to fly: why not? What human hasn't looked at birds and wished they could fly? How fun is it? And how amazing to go to the moon? Is that incredible or what? And isn't cool to live in a world where these things happen? There is something magical and God imbued about these things. The same as transmitting moving pictures through the air. How amazing too.

I suppose the thing is that when they are created and done for the first time they are magical but when we become addicted to it, when we have to have it in order to feel satisfied, that may not be so magical. Maybe it's a matter of balance. Can we take the flying to the moon but leave behind the driving everywhere?

On the other hand, do we require some sort of overheated economy full of consumerism to get to the point where we can have the technology to go to the moon? Does the space shuttle somehow spin off the technology of being able to provide a hamburger in two minutes and video camera where you don't have to leave home to "see" your children?

These are the musings of a man walking the streets not getting any immediate gratification because it's all wrapped in paper.

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Posted: Jul 10, 2007 2:26am
Nov 5, 2006
Does plate size really matter when it comes to watching your weight? Or is it a silly trick your stomach probably won't fall for? As it turns out, in this case, size does matter. Researchers found that when you dish up your meal, you're likely to clean your plate, regardless of serving size. And when you use a large serving spoon and a large plate or bowl, you're more likely to help yourself to over 50% more food than if you use smaller utensils and dishes. To avoid doubling the self-sabotage, think petite. Petite plates and petite spoons mean petite you:
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Posted: Nov 5, 2006 7:13am
Jan 13, 2006
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When pet[sic] and human lifestyles collide

Our four-footed friends can thrive on a meatless diet

by Meghan McAndrews

As I watched my dog Finn sprint away with glee, his meaty rawhide prize clenched tightly in his jaws, my stomach turned, and I knew things had to change—fast. In the year that I had become vegan, I had carved out a healthy, happy, veg-friendly niche for myself, as free of animal products as it could be. When I adopted Finn Biscuit, a rescued Blue Heeler, in July, I never considered how bringing pounds of meat-based products into my home would feel.

Although it seemed silly to quibble over kibble, I felt more like a hypocrite with each passing dinner. Glancing over the labels on his food, there it was: meat byproducts. His favorite chews were rolled rawhides and greasy pigs’ ears and his treats were packed with animal parts not fit for human consumption. (The animals deemed OK for pet food by the U.S. Department of Agriculture usually fall into the categories of diseased, disabled, dying or dead. Most have been fed a diet packed with pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.) Eliminating meat from Finn’s diet matched my ideal, but I couldn’t rightfully sacrifice his health to do so. What could I do?

I started to search for an answer, anticipating hours of in-depth research ahead. Hunkering down at the computer, I was amazed at how simple the answer was. Dogs, like people, are omnivorous. I could meet Finn’s nutritional needs without meat. A proper combination of plant proteins could provide the calories, vitamins, minerals and nutrients he needs. In fact, there are companies that make vegetarian food for dogs and cats.

Although they’re carnivores, cats don’t need meat to survive; they too can thrive on a balanced, fortified vegan diet, although getting them to eat it can be trickier because cats are picky eaters. It’s also important to select a vegetarian cat food that contains taurine, an essential nutrient cats need to survive.

How to fill Fido’s dish

St. Paul-based Evolution is one of the largest purveyors of vegan dog and cat food in the United States. “Our food is a mix of protein like corn gluten and soy meal, mixed with whole grains like oats and oat groats, making it a complete protein,” explained CEO Eric Weisman. “We add digestive enzymes after it’s been cooked as well as nutrients like carnitine and taurine.”

When it comes to comparing the nutrition of Evolution’s product to that of commercial dog foods, Weisman says there’s no contest. “The worst parts of the animals go into regular dog food,” he said. “Byproducts like spines, entrails, hooves and then it’s cooked in rancid grease. Our food uses pure vegetable oil, which is much healthier.”

Evolution’s products use vitamins C, E and beta carotene as preservatives, instead of chemicals, but perhaps its greatest selling point is that it’s not made at the expense of any other creatures.

Evolution’s products sounded good, but I still wasn’t convinced that Finn would thrive on a vegetarian diet. Dallas Rising, a long-time animal advocate, relieved my concerns. A vegan for 10 years and the proud guardian of Warren, an Affenpinscher, and Max, a five-year-old beagle, Rising assured me, “The boys don’t suffer from [being vegetarian] at all. I thought going into it that I would have to do a lot of research and end up making dog food from scratch, but that isn’t the case. It’s actually been so convenient.”

While cooking dinner, Rising drops in the ends of carrots, bits of celery and tofu in the dog dish and tops it with Natural Life vegetarian kibble. “They get a lot of healthy, low-fat, low-calorie food, which makes them happy,” she said. “They love to eat and by eating vegan food, they get to eat more. They love it.”

She loves it, too. “You want what’s best for your creatures, but why would you want any other animal to suffer for that? Especially when [pets] can be healthy and happy without it.”

However, some food that’s healthy for humans is deadly for dogs. Don’t feed your dog chocolate, onion in any form, raisins or grapes, pits of peaches or plums, potato peels, macadamia nuts or spinach.

Now that I had the scoop, I was eager for Finn to make the switch. I brought home a bag of Evolution’s Gourmet Fondue flavored dry kibble. I doused the cheddar cheese-smelling square bits with cool water and waited 15 minutes as per the bag’s instructions. Finn devoured it, licking and lapping until all that was left was gleaming steel. I’ve begun to incorporate more raw fruits and vegetables into his diet, too, and he now gladly sits and shakes for pieces of raw apples or pears, chunks of frozen bananas and baked tofu bites. Romaine lettuce, avocados and baked squash are also favorites. He’s as energetic and happy-go-lucky as ever, and my twice-daily feeding guilt trips are a thing of the past.

Meghan McAndrews is a freelance writer based in south Minneapolis. She and Finn can frequently be found at local dog parks.
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Posted: Jan 13, 2006 11:23am


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