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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stupidly Good Prices

I just got back from a shopping trip, and I need to vent this little gripe of mine.

Before I get started, I need to explain that I am a fat man. Obviously, I enjoy food and drink in mass quantities, so I'm prone to buying in bulk. I'm also a firm believer in the free market and that businesses should be able to run themselves however they see fit. For example, I am completely against the smoking ban in restaurants. If a restaurant owner wants to serve clientele that smoke, that owner should have every right to be a smoking establishment or have a smoking section and a non-smoking section. Certain people would refuse to remain customers, but certain people would become regular customers. The idea is that it's up to the business owner of who should feel ostracized.

But I digress, this is not a smoking rant. This rant is about stupid food prices.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that I'm not complaining, really. I just find it to be stupid and I need to vent about things that I find to be stupid - whether that stupidity creates benefits or burdens for me.

Now I am a math person, and I rather enjoy working my brain when I'm in a supermarket, comparing prices per unit and figuring out where the best deal would be between brands or between package sizes. I understand the marketing behind the bulk savings, where the more you buy of a product, the lower the price per unit. Get a single unit of yogurt for a dollar, or get a six-pack of that yogurt for four dollars. It's cheaper than buying six individual units, so you have to decide how much yogurt you want and how much you're willing to pay for it without getting screwed over.

And then there are times when I come across some pricing that just makes me want to go crazy.

I will take one example that I find most often: milk. Milk almost always comes in two container sizes: a half-gallon and a full gallon. One is obviously twice the size of the other, so I could understand if the smaller size were $2.69 and the larger size were $2.99 - you only pay 30 cents more and you get double the amount of milk. That's a good deal. That's a sane and rational pricing model to convince people to buy the larger size and sell more product.

But unfortunately, that is NOT the pricing model I often find. I often find them selling the half-gallon size for $2.99 and the full-gallon size for $2.69. And I want to punch someone. After I've grabbed the large container and put it in my cart, of course.

What is the logic? Where is the sane and rational thought in this pricing model?

I stare at the numbers and the following scene plays out in my head.

The customer picks up a half-gallon of milk and says, "I think I'll buy this much milk today."
Then the supermarket attendant rushes up and says, "But why buy only a half-gallon? It's even cheaper to get a full gallon of milk for 30 cents less!"
The customer replies, "But I only want a half-gallon of milk - I don't think I'd be able to drink that much milk before it goes bad."
That's when the supermarket attendant grabs the full gallon of milk and shouts, "Let's make everyone happy then! You want to pay $2.99 for a half-gallon of milk, so I'll pay you 30 cents back and I'll just pour half of this gallon of milk onto my head! Then you get your half-gallon of milk at a lower price and I get a lovely milk shower!"

And then the milk starts getting poured everywhere and eventually I realize I've been staring at the milk case for 10 minutes and I really wish some old lady would pick up one of those half-gallon bottles just so I could see if it would really happen.

But that's basically what the supermarket is doing. They'd rather you pay less money to waste half a gallon of milk. And it's not just milk. My other favorite instance of this faulty logic is at McDonald's. The McDouble sandwich is a burger with two meat patties and one slice of cheese, and it costs one dollar. Guess what costs MORE than a dollar? A cheeseburger! One meat patty and one slice of cheese and it costs on average ten cents MORE than a McDouble. If you want to buy a cheeseburger, McDonald's will pay you back 10 cents to eat an extra burger patty.

This one I HAVE actually acted on. I saw this little old lady ahead of me in line order one cheeseburger. I had to stop her. I leaned in and said, "you know, it's actually cheaper to get the McDouble and it comes with an extra burger patty." She gave me the classic "well I don't know if I'm hungry enough to eat that much" excuse and I flat-out responded that she could throw away that extra patty and she'd still be saving herself money in the end. The cashier looked at me and made this half-shrug, half-smirk as if to say "he's not wrong."

AND SHE DID. She bought a cheaper burger that offered more food and she threw away the extra food. McDonald's paid her 10 cents to throw away a meat patty. Of course, one can also debate that McDonald's standard burger patties aren't even worth 10 cents each, but that's not what I'm getting at.

What I'm getting at is that it's an incredibly stupid thing for a business to do. But that business has every right to do it. And we as customers have every right to take advantage of it.

And now I'm off to enjoy half a gallon of milk that the supermarket paid me 30 cents to purchase.

Because I'm fat and I know a stupidly-good deal when I see one.

Please Digg this article if you also find it weird that it's always little old ladies in these scenarios.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Random Nostalgia - Writings

I used to be a rather proficient writer. At least in high-school terms, compared to the average high-school student, at my high school. Okay, so maybe I wasn't the best or really anything blose to great in the grand scheme of things, but I felt I was creative and I enjoyed writing, and it continued into college and eventually weblogs.

In fact, I used to write for a website called WritingUp.com before it eventually collapsed and I tried to salvage as much of my writing and readership base that I could. To rather no avail, judging by the number of readers I get over here on my personal weblog. But the fact remains, I was intrigued by writing and I think I was pretty decent at it.

So in going through really old files, I've stumbled across a folder I used to have on my old computer back in high school and reading through some of my old stuff really creeps me out.

I'll let you be the judge of whether it's good or bad. I just want to share some of it with the universe instead of letting it gather virtual dust in a file folder that's survived four separate computer transfers.

First, some poetry. Keep in mind all of this was written many many years before I even lost my virginity, let alone had a real girlfriend (since I don't think "online girlfriend" counts):


You are my friend,
Strong and beautiful.
Gentle and loving.
Full of life; not afraid of anything
that may stand in your way.
I have found in you
what I thought I had lost in others.
You have helped me to know that I have a chance to make it.
You not only listen, but hear what I say.
You not only look, but you see me.
I trust you more than I trust myself.
I am thankful I have found you.
I hope you know how much I love you and I hope
you understand how much you truly mean to me.
You are my friend and I care...

I miss...
the late night chats
the questions you ask
the laughter we share
the songs on the radio.

I even miss...
the temper tantrums
the tiny fits of jealousy
the cold shoulders
the uneasy silences.

I miss...
the heartfelt hugs
the warm embraces
the tiny stolen kisses
the long passionate ones.

I truly miss...
you in my arms
holding you at night
watching you sleep
waking up next to you.

Wherever I go and whatever I do
my every thought, my every moment
Is filled with you.
I miss you...

Even though you Don't Know It

How I love you so
I think it all the time
Then I think some more
To tell you in a rhyme

When we lock our eyes
I hope you feel it too
That we are so close
With a love that’s true

Though it seems I’m sad
When I walk away
To you I make this promise
From you I’ll never stray

I swear I’d even wait forever
If that’s how long it took
For both us to be together
Like lovers in a book

And so that you will know
Just exactly how I feel
I’ll swear to you my life
Then secure it with my seal

Often I’ll recall
The day I first met you
I picture you so perfect
And I knew my love was true

But now you’re in my mind
Every day I live
And it is to you
That this poem I give


From the first time I laid eyes on you,
I felt something inside, and hoped that you did too.
That night I dreamed about me and you,
Wishing that when I wake, it would all come true.

You have been on my mind,
Ever since I talked to you that first time.
I tried to get you out of my head,
But my heart told me to love you instead.

Being next to you, I feel like I'm in heaven,
Give me a chance and I'll adore you 24-7...
I hope you'll see that we were meant to be.
Please... will you go out with me?

A Wake-Up Call to "The Lovers"

Hark, ye angels! In that
World, some say, above.
Prepare to meet thy rival
In the art of knowing love!
For she alone is strong enough
And alone she understands
The meanings of my diction
And these movements of my hands.
Yet still, I write! To teach
You, that poor multitude,
What you've been missing
By obsessing with pulchritude,
for she alone, with her charm
And wit, and wondrous social graces
In one hour could give a thousand times more joy
Than a hundred pretty faces...
You blasphemers claiming love is found,
Will ne'er comprehend, nor care,
What she and I go through each day
And the torches that we bear!
We alone! The proud, the few!
Unappreciated every day!
We'd rather have a hand-picked tulip
Than a heartless rose bouquet!
And your chocolate boxes, neatly wrapped!
The warmth gives us such a chill...
We'd rather have a scoop of some warm chicken soup
From a friend who sees when we're ill.
You superficial cretins! Materialistic monsters!
Why say "cute" or "pretty" when
We don't care! We'd rather hear a
Well-placed compliment like "witty".
She is the one who truly deserves the best
For being so kind. Her soul and her mind
Like mine! We have so much in common...
Two bodies; One soul, intertwined!

Sharing Days with You

I get to see you every day,
But I know I'm never seen
And every time we chance to talk,
No one knows just what I mean.
Well today's my chance to prove to you
That I don't like being ignored,
Or pushed around, or only used,
Whenever you are bored.
If you could have looked deeper,
You'd see my love is true,
And I could have been so happy,
Sharing days with you...

We'd be walking together, holding hands,
Lying together in the park...
Talking, relating, conversing, and waiting,
Watching the sky grow dark.
And after all was said and done,
We'd end our cozy date,
But that will never happen, girl,
Because you wouldn't cooperate...
Whenever you would talk, I'd listen,
Whenever you want, with me you'd be kissin',
We'd just hold hands while the dewdrops glisten,
Now think of all that you are missin'...
You brush me off, you just don't care,
Because if you really do,
Then I'd be there instead of here,
Sharing days with you...

But I could give you one more chance,
now that you know how I feel...
And maybe we could try again,
And see if love is real...
But you'd have to promise to cherish me,
For I am one of the precious few,
Who love you, girl, and who'd rather be
Sharing days with you...

Oh I know my looks aren't perfect,
And at times, my mind's askew,
But I wish you'd just look past it and let me
Share these days with You...

Untitled Sonnet

I dreamed a dream, of love, of life, of you,
Though you were there, you played a minor role.
I want you in my life if love is true,
Yet just to see if we might share a soul.
I hoped a hope, that firmaments above
Would break apart, and let the angels fly.
So you could 'scape and share with me your love,
For if you don't, I fear that I will die.
I planned a plan, to flee and search you out,
To calm and comfort you; hold you so tight
We'd fuse, form one, and I would never doubt
That anyone for me could be so right.
With dreams, and hopes, and plans, I lived my life,
No motion, action, or you as my wife...

My Friend (Dedicated to Kellen "Flip" Cassidy)

Oh friend, think of me. I know you will surely go far.
Keep dreaming your thoughtful dreams. Keep wishing on that falling star.
Oh friend, wait for me. I'm coming just around the bend.
Together we'll travel, side-by-side, laughing and singing 'til the end.
Oh friend, believe in me, when all of my hope is gone.
You're the only one who keeps me smiling. You keep me going strong.
Oh friend, laugh with me. We'll be joyous all the day.
One smile from you eases my pain and washes my worries away.
Oh friend, talk to me. Tell me what you want to know.
I'll reply to you, and you to me, and together, our minds will grow.
Oh friend, sing with me, with your voice so cheery and bright.
A duet to last the ages, with our songs for day and night.
Oh friend, pray for me, in times when I am ill.
I'll do the same, and we'll remain friends together still.
Oh friend, discuss with me, so I can understand your views.
I'm sure they will inspire me when I'm down with the blues.
Oh friend, stay with me, through good times and through bad.
Together we'll we exuberant, and together we'll be sad.
Oh friend, look at me. Tell me, what do you see?
For maybe, some of the things I see in you, you just might see in me...

Okay, I'm getting a little emotional, so I'll finish this up quickly with something that's not poetry. It's a book I started trying to write. I know, a book? Me? Anyway, my crazy idea for the book was that it would be called "HAVE YOU EVER" and it would be a collection of short writings written by a crazy person with each section starting with the phrase "Have you ever" and going into insanity from there. What follows are the first (and only) two pieces of writing for this book.


Have you ever seen yourself?

I don't mean in a mirror, or the metaphorical sense, or your conscience. I'm talking about seeing yourself, standing in front of you. Of course, sometimes you're not standing, you're sitting, or walking, or laying down, or punching the real you in the nose.

I see myself a few times a week...

But it's never a happy time. I don't really like myself now, because the me who I see and talk to isn't very nice. It seems that every single day, the actions I make apparently ruin my life in the future. And the me I see gets to tell me what I've done wrong and how it's going to kill me in the future since the last time he visited. And after every single visit he makes, and tells me what I've done wrong, even when it seemed so far from wrong when I did it, I try my damnedest to fix the problems I caused the days before, and in the process, I screw up even further in the future. So I've come to a conclusion: I'm doomed. Every time I do something good, the effects are somehow devastating in the future, according to the other me. Every time I do something wrong, the effects are worsened tenfold. And if I sit and do nothing and contact no one and go nowhere and say nothing and ignore all stimuli and shut myself off from the world, I've missed a list of possibilities and opportunities that all ruin my life in the future for missing... I'm doomed.

You know, I tried to tell my problems to friends, and I was shrugged off. They told me, "It's called a CONSCIENCE, so deal with it." Now, from all of my previous understanding, as well as the movie "Pinocchio", I understood that a conscience was merely a voice. Also, this voice is supposed to help you, to inform you when you make mistakes, and to help remind you not to make them in the future. He is NOT a voice. He is NOT helpful. And he is NOT my conscience. He exists merely to make my life miserable. And he's not a figment of my imagination, because he knows things. Things that only someone from the future could know... Like who is going to fall down right next to me, or when I'm going to get slapped in the face, or what the essay question is on a pop quiz I haven't taken yet. So this doppleganger me can't be imaginary...

And then people tell me I've got schitzophrenia. I tell them I don't hear voices. I see me. So they say it's a prophecy. I tell them that prophecies are sent from God. This me is not all that holistic, in my opinion. So they tell me to shut up. And I get yelled at by me for not speaking my mind or talking too much. It varies, depending on how the future me wants to torture the real me that day...

And week after week, the cycle continues. Me acting, the other me twisting reality. And then one day, I couldn't take any more of it. I got angry. I don't usually get angry. But I got angry. And the next time I saw me, I walked right up to him, punched him in the cheek, as hard as I could, and told him to just shut up because he says too much and I don't want him saying any more about anything. And then I reached up and felt my cheek... There was a bruise there... And I remember the fake me telling me the exact same thing four days before.....


Have you ever seen a cloud?

From the inside? I have. I was there last month, and I don't think I ever really returned. It started innocently enough, and yet not so innocently at all...

It was a rough week. People hated me, I was insulted, I didn't want to carry on... So I went to the top of the grassy hill I visit every now and then, and I just wept. I just shouted, "Isn't there supposed to be a better place than this world?" and I slipped. But I slipped up. I felt my feet fly out from under me, and I awaited the seemingly inevitable "thump" of my back hitting the ground. Instead, I felt the "thump" of my head hitting a tree branch as I was propelled upwards.

And right now, you don't believe me. You shake your head and remind yourself that this book is fictional. But you've never been there, and you wouldn't understand.

I just kept rising, and I saw the cloud. The one cloud in the sky that day. As I approached, it started to grow. Not grow in sight from getting nearer. Growing immensely, and opening up. Now I've been on many an airflight, and I recall flying through clouds. I must not have flown through THIS cloud... As my ascension slowed to a halt, I realized I wasn't standing. I was hovering, floating, wafting, and just simply there. But I can't fly. I couldn't fly... I waved and flapped and huffed and puffed, but I couldn't move. And I so wished I could explore the bright area in front of me. And I moved. Effortlessly, swiftly, and haphazardly. It's hard to move yourself with your mind when you're still wondering why and how you're in a cloud. And then I saw it.

The obelisk.

The glassy figure, shining in what appeared to be the center of this meteorological phenomenon, shone with a brightness that hurt my eyes to look. But I kept staring, absorbing the rays of light it brought forth from its unknown power supply. And I reached for it. Cloud. And I kicked it. Cloud. And I wished with all the strength I could muster up. And the obelisk said, "Cloud." And I believed it. After all, how could a glimmering geometrical figure in the sky ever be wrong? So I asked the obelisk, with as much force I had left after my revelation that a shape just spoke, "Why am I here?"


"Is this the happier place I wanted?"


"Can I ever come back here again?"

And the cloud parted down the middle, and vanished. the obelisk moved closer to me, and touched my forehead, and it felt warm. And when it moved back, I felt my forehead, touching the warmth, feeling it on my fingers. Blood. And I saw the grass. No clouds...

I'll post more later, as I unearth them and decide they're worth sharing with the universe. Back to the pile...

Oh yes, please Digg this article - and spread the word that I used to be a crazy little writer!

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Random Nostalgia - "The Otaku Hour"

This picture is being posted here as a result of a self-inflicted nostalgia spiral.

I am currently in the process of looking for a piece of fiction co-authored by me and a high school friend, dated 2002. In the process, despite the fact that this is a computer I purchased in 2009, I have somehow managed to transfer very old documents between my computer systems as I have gone through them, dating back to my family computer from my own high school days.

While navigating the labyrinth of old files, I came across old pictures (that I must remember to post to Facebook or Flickr or something) and deep in the recesses of a random folder, I came across this atrocity.

So here's the story.

Back in college, I used to host a radio program. My DJ nickname was "Chibby" as a play on words referring to the "chibi" style of Japanese animation found in many animé series. This is related to the graphic that appears three times in this poster, which was hand-drawn in Santa Monica by a Japanese-style artist that I paid $10 to have done. Ever since, it's been one of my most-commonly-used avatars for myself.

The radio program was called "The Otaku Hour" ('otaku', for those of you not familiar with the term, is a derogatory word for super-nerdy-loser-fanatics in Japan - I know, they see it as an insult and nerdy white Americans are proud to be considered one) and it centered entirely around Japanese music and culture.

I ran the show for 2 years (the 2nd year is when I expanded my timeslot to the 2-hour block shown in the poster) and many episodes were co-hosted by my buddy Erick, who played straightman to my wacky foolishness on the air.

Anyway, the DJs were putting up fliers and posters to promote their show in the new studio, which featured soundproof glass walls so the IIT students could see in (but not hear us, the radio DJs, unless they were at home with their radios and in a 2-mile radius from the campus).

This was my entry.

I think that's all the information you really need. The rest is just trying to understand what the hell I was thinking (and I frankly don't recall most of the logic) and then trying to fight these images out of your head before the nightmares come.

Well, back to the nostalgia...

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snacks and Sweets Expo 2010 - It's No Skittlebrau

102_1253, originally uploaded by AaronBSam.

While the prospects of a real Duff beer may seem like an awesome idea - there is a company that went pretty much the exact opposite route and made a Duff-brand energy drink.

I think that energy drinks would be pretty much the exact opposite of a beer. Beer tends to make you sleepy, mentally-impaired and is technically/chemically a depressant. Energy drinks wake you up, energize your brain and are pretty much a form of stimulant.

So what can be said about the energy drink itself? Well, we were lucky enough to meet a promoter who was kind enough to let us have a nice chilled sample can of Duff (picture proof to come later) and it was quite awesome.

It's actually citrus-flavored, mostly orange but I tasted a little grapefruit in there as well. It was rather sweet, and had no real bitter aftertaste that accompanies most energy drinks.

All in all, a neat little beverage, though its usage of the "Duff" name and Simpsons imagery is more of a marketing gimmick than anything having to do with the product that would sell well on its own merits.

I'd love to see Duffman and the other Duff mascots (Sleazy, Queasy, Surly, Edgy, Tipsy, Dizzy, and Remorseful) trying to promote this product...

"Can't get enough of that wonderful Duff!"

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Snacks and Sweets Expo 2010 - A Picture of the End

102_1259, originally uploaded by AaronBSam.

It feels like I'm slowly making my way backwards with pictures and stories from the Expo instead of simply starting at the beginning. So the best I can do right now is pick a picture from the Expo that sums up my feelings right now and just run with it.

What you are seeing here is simply a beautiful representation the end of the Expo: a crumpled mass of empty cardboard.

You see, the exhibitors take a lot of time setting up their displays, showcasing their new products and best products - and then GUARDING THE HELL OUT OF THEM. Tape, signage, stern lectures - anything that keeps the display looking nice so that it will attract business and intrigue about the products. An empty display sells no product.

Then 1pm hits on Thursday afternoon. The exhibitors are tired and there's only an hour left of the convention. Some of them decide to go the whole nine yards and say "these are my products, my supply is limited, I'm packing it up and taking it back with me".

The other 95% say "why waste that time and energy? I don't need this stuff, as it has now completed its purpose - take it off my hands."

Well, of those 95% of vendors, I'd say half of them willingly say it, and the other half are just victims of it. The greed takes over, and the masses want their freebies and souvenirs and bragging rights.

Ferrero Rocher is my prime example - their displays are exquisite pillars of shiny wrapped candies in shiny translucent boxes. And every year, one of the attendants at their large booth finally waves the white flag and says, "You see all those 'DO NOT EAT' stickers and the tape we use to keep our candies safe from you masses? IGNORE THEM."

Bedlam ensues. Within a span of 15 minutes, the displays go from shining examples of a company's pride to . . . well, you can see the picked-clean skeletons of cardboard discarded in the center of the carpeted area, devoid of any signs of life or sugary goodness. Around the hall, you can see the boxes in threes and fours tucked under the arms and poking from the tops of the bags of the victors.

Because to the victors go the spoils of war.

And all that remains on the battlefield are the tiny stains of ground-up chocolate mashed into the carpet as casualties of war and the cardboard graves in memorium to those candies who perished on this glorious day that shall live in infamy.

Until next year, Ferrero Rocher... Until next year...

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Snacks and Sweets Expo 2010 - The Initial Post

This is a post to remind myself to upload some pictures, post them to the Expo's Flickr page (and do a check to see if others posted pics with me in them), maybe give some shout-outs to the social networking and candy people I met at the Expo - and then start up with the reviews!

So much candy, so many snacks and sweets, so many random tales to tell and attempt to recall.

I need to post about the new products coming out from these awesome candy companies, and the giant creepy mascots we encountered (including Garfield, who happened to be hocking coffee products), and some of my highlights of the Expo (oh, Jack Links crane machine, I will miss you). There were wheels to spin, prizes to win, and win we did!

*glances at a 3-foot-long tube of gumballs*

Don't worry, there's pictures.

Speaking of which, one story that I must tell right now because it's freshest in my mind (it happened as we were leaving the Expo center):

I was doing lots of Twitter posting during the Expo. It seemed to be their new thing this year, and the organizers at the NCA sent notifications to everyone attending about Twitter. They had an @SWEETSandSNACKS profile to follow with interesting updates (especially during the showcases and panels), and a hashtag #SSE10 for people to use that would not only show up on a huge TV screen in the Connection Café section of the Expo, but also make you eligible for prizes during the Wednesday Tweetup. Oh yes, there was a Tweetup, and more about that awesomeness (and prizes) later.

Anyway, thanks to Twitter, I was making new network connections, chatting about booths and awesome stuff going on, and taking pictures of interesting people I was meeting.

Fast-forward to the end of the Expo, 2pm Thursday and the mad mob heading out. I make it through security with my giant bag of candy being taken home for Day 3 and I hear people waving towards me and calling for me. I'm taken aback as I recognize the two girls from the Rips booth (where I played Plinko every day trying to win another tin truck like I did last year), and they're calling for me.

They've been following my tweets all week, and told me that they would score some major cool points with the rest of their crew if they could get a photo WITH ME.

That's right - somehow at a convention center full of people who are taking pictures of the exhibitors and their products and mascots, this company's reps wanted to get a photo WITH ME.

I was overjoyed - and as one of them got the shot with the other next to me and my girlfriend, I simply had to thank them and get their Twitter account names (since they'd apparently been using it to follow my tweets). So as soon as I got home, I connected myself to @RipsLicorice and @EiffelBonBons - knowing that they are the company accounts, but if they're really that interested, they'll know where to find me.

And maybe I'll find that picture they took with me - somewhere on the 'net and sometime in the future. So I can have proof that in 3 days at the Sweets and Snacks Expo 2010, I somehow became so awesome that people wanted to get pictures with me.

Come to think of it, there was someone ELSE at a booth who asked to take a photo of me as well - but those were different reasons and another story to tell after some rest and recombobulation after such an exciting time.

Back to the candy sorting and maybe eating some healthier food for dinner! Read more!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fact of the Day - May 5, 2010

100505, originally uploaded by AaronBSam.

Been a while, but I needed a pick-me-up and felt like making fun of jellyfish and doing a crappy drawing after-hours would suffice.

Jellyfish are the worst combination of attributes: deadly, immortal, and not at all tasty.

So be careful in the water - and avoid any smacks of jellyfish you encounter. Stay safe!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Call Your Alderman re: Massage Parlors

I'm not sure how many of you have heard, but on Monday's committees meeting for City Council, the Zoning Committee has approved an ordinance that would ban massage businesses from opening in residential areas (and neighborhood business strips) and only allow them to open in commercial zone areas.

Why would the Aldermen want to pass such an ordinance/ban on massage parlors?

Because they think it's going to help fight prostitution.

And we need some help calling up the Aldermen to remind them this this is a ridiculous idea and to vote NO in tomorrow's meeting when it's scheduled to be brought up for a vote!

"Okay, Aaron. So what's really going on here? Isn't it possible that they've got a good reason to do this and you just want to rile us up?"

No, loyal reader. This is your standard City Council bullshit looking to do something ridiculous that will not fight the problem that they're looking to solve.

The beginning: Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) went to court to revoke the license of an illegal sex parlor in the 2200 block of North Cicero that he said was masquerading as a massage parlor.

So the underlying problem is that a massage parlor was also selling sexual acts.

Ald. Suarez: "The community is upset, and I don't blame them. There was prostitution going on. More of these places are popping up, and it's hard to get rid of [them]. It's becoming too easy. They're pretending to be something they're not."

Here's where I'm running into my first problems with this scenario: How did the community become upset? What happened that made them upset?

Obviously if there's a massage parlor that is selling sexual acts - it's happening IN the parlor. It's not streetwalkers selling themselves for sex in public view. Which means that unless you were BUYING a sexual act or TOLD that you could buy a sexual act - how did the community find out?

Or did they find out when, during the course of standard policework, it was revealed that there was prostitution going on in the parlor?

In which case this whole hubbub is ridiculous, since the community did NOT have a problem until they FOUND OUT there was prostitution going on!

In the meantime, what would have upsetted them about a massage parlor in their neighborhood that happened to be selling sexual acts without them knowing?

A boom in clientele as a result of the sex-selling that caused parking problems? In that case, one can argue that no popular business should operate in a residential area. And then no business would be able to survive without getting kicked out.

Was there an influx of "people who would be likely to purchase sex acts" and the socioeconomic differences of people in their residential area were upsetting the people? That's rather rude/racist/elitist of them, wouldn't you think? I'm pretty sure you can't ban "creepy-looking people" from a residential zone unless they're doing something creepy in public or where the public can see it.

But I digress. Let's assume that there's a validity to the neighborhood being upset by having a secret sex-selling massage parlor in their neighborhood.

What about the massage parlors NOT selling sex? Why should they have to suffer and be forced to only open in "areas with commercial zoning designations, like car dealers, gas stations and other heavy business uses"?

In a quick side note, I believe prostitution should be legalized. If that were the case, it wouldn't have to be done in secrecy. Sex workers could get health benefits, the industry could be regulated, and having a sex worker licensing program would help to curb underage prostitution.

Anyway, Suarez has support from 26 other aldermen who have co-signed the ordinance that passed, but there are luckily some members of City Council who can see the light.

Unfortunately, they're too afraid to speak out unless it's anonymously...

"He's probably got one place that's a front for a sex operation, and instead of going after it with law enforcement, he's trying to kill a whole industry," said one alderman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of embarrassing Suarez.

"Just clean up the ones that need to be cleaned up and let the legitimate places operate. I have a large hairdresser that's trying to come to my area. Something like this would kill it."

Yes, and I'd believe more that your anonymity was to protect Suarez's embarrassment - if it weren't for the fact that you then follow it up with a mention of personal gain for your ward if it doesn't pass.

How about gain for society in general and for businesses in general? Isn't THAT enough to be able to speak freely and openly about how stupid of an idea it is to ban an entire industry from being located in certain zones just because random ones happen to be doing something illegal that has nothing to do with their location?

Seriously, do these 26 other aldermen think that if a massage parlor is forced to open someone more commercial where there's better parking and more businesses that are open and catering to additional potential clients that the changes of them selling sexual acts is going to be reduced?

That's like saying that because most shootings at convenience stores happen at night, all convenience stores are banned from being open after sunset and cannot open a new convenience store in a location where other businesses are open at night in order to fight illegal gun violence.

If I were Alderman (and hopefully I will be in 2011), I would be speaking out just like I am now about a dumb ban that should not be passed and I would vote NO.

But since I'm not Alderman, I need your help to make sure the current aldermen in City Council vote NO on this ordinance. Please look up the office information for your City Council representative and tell them to vote no on this ordinance that hurts small business owners who want to sell massages and don't plan on selling the "happy endings".

Maybe with some help, we'll see a real happy ending to this story tomorrow when the City Council does not pass this ordinance.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The BBQ Pork Bun Off

Every time I make my way through Chinatown here in Chicago, I try and grab a BBQ pork bun. There are so many places where they can be found at any number of bakeries, both along Chinatown Square and Chinatown on Wentworth. The last few times I've been given a BBQ pork bun by my girlfriend after she's visited, I've instictively asked, "Which bakery did you buy this at?"

Funny thing is, she doesn't always remember. And even when she does, I don't really remember if that place is specifically good or not.

So I've decided to start a comprehensive list and rating system.

And so, let the "BBQ Pork Bun Off" . . . BEGIN!

The rest of this post has been moved to its new official home on the RedEye Royalty page!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Okay, this is just a wacky post. Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) posted a link on Twitter to this "Bad Translator" website. And it is a bad translator indeed.

It basically takes your English text and can go through either 10, 25, or all 54 different languages listed in Google Translate - translating to that language and back to English, so you can see your text morph, lanugage by language, into the unrecognizable result at the end.

It's like playing a game of Telephone at the United Nations.

So I've set the translations to the MAX, and here is a sampling of hilarity for you to enjoy this April Fool's Day.

(Yes, I initially started this post on April Fool's Day and finally got around to posting it.)

Movie/Music Quotes:
Original text:
Obi-Wan Kenobi: "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
...54 translations later we get:
"Class on Tuesday a mistake."

Original text:
Jon Bon Jovi: "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame. You give love a bad name."
...54 translations later we get:
"My responsibility as heart disease. Is not known"

Famous Quotes:
Original text:
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
...54 translations later we get:
"Do not worry, I am afraid."

Original text:
Amendment 2 of the Constitution: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
...54 translations later we get:
"You can also find a group of military security and freedom."

Original text:
Jean-Paul Sartre: "Hell is other people."
...54 translations later we get:

Original text:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
...54 translations later we get:
"Violence is good."

Original Text:
"A stitch in time saves nine."
...54 translations later we get:

Original Text:
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
...54 translations later we get:
"Start tour in 1000 in San Francisco."

(There were about 50 more of these, but not at maximum translations and the funniest ones came from a friend as we were exploring this site. I'll post some of those in the comments later.)

Hope you enjoy!

(If you want to follow Mythbuster Adam Savage, his Twitter account is @donttrythis)

Also, leave a comment with some of your own hilarious translation results!

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Reason to Quit Smoking: Pig Blood!

Before you start freaking out on me:

Yes - this is regarding pig blood in cigarettes.
No - it's not like a bunch of blood was spilled in some factory and now packs may be tainted.

But the truth is somewhere in-between and it's rather disconcerting (and makes me glad I've only had one cigarette in my life).

University of Sydney Professor in Public Health Simon Chapman points to recent Dutch research which identified 185 different industrial uses of a pig - including the use of its haemoglobin in cigarette filters.

So it's not just pig blood - it's a specific part of the blood, and it's serving an industrial purpose. It turns out that pig haemoglobin can make cigarette filters more effective at trapping harmful chemicals before they can enter a smoker's lungs.

And it's not in ALL cigarettes - maybe. The fact is that we don't know and have no way of knowing. Some tobacco companies have voluntarily moved a list of product contents to public websites, but these lists can include undisclosed "processing aids ... that are not significantly present in, and do not functionally affect, the finished product." That means that cigarettes could contain "insignificant" amounts of pig haemoglobins.

Of course, that all depends on your definition of "insignificant" - devout Jews and Muslims, whose core beliefs specifically ban the consumption of pork in all its forms, will undoubtedly find any amount of pig in their cigarettes to be "significant". Likewise with vegetarians, who never would have suspected that behind the leafy safe tobacco filling could be lurking a meaty filter.

According to the article I read this news from, at least one cigarette brand sold in Greece was confirmed as using pig haemoglobin in its processes.

The fact remains - unless your cigarette company is willing to divulge this information, you will have no idea how much your smokes have in common with a smoky side of bacon.

What do you think? Are you a smoker and this knowledge may affect your smoking habits? Are you Jewish/Muslim/vegetarian and a smoker? Leave a comment!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In the RedEye: 5 on 5 - March 23, 2010

I finally made it back into the RedEye, folks! And this time with a picture and everything!

It all started last Wednesday when I e-mailed my answers to the Sports section's "5 on 5" request. I thought my answers were rather amusing, so I sent it in.

Well, I didn't get in, but the guy said he'd be connecting me to someone who will get back to me and will put me in the Tuesday "5 on 5" instead because he already booked the Thursday one! So I waited patiently and on Sunday night, I got this e-mail:

"Hey Aaron, [Columnist] gave me your contact info so we could get you into 5 on 5s this week. I'm filling in for him while he's on vacation. Thanks for getting in touch with us. The questions are below, and I need your answers by 2 p.m. Monday. Let me know if there are any questions, and definitely send us a picture (a head/shoulders shot will do) if you have not done so already.

1. What else can be solved with a bracket-type tournament?
2. Create a rallying cry for a team in the Sweet 16.
3. With their 10-game skid snapped, what do the Bulls do for an encore?
4. Whom would you like to see announcing March Madness games?
5. What will Ozzie Guillen do when he bores of Twitter?"

So I sent in my responses.

As is customary, I wrote too much and they had to cut it down to make it fit. So here are my responses in full and I'll bold the parts that got kept in.

1. What else can be solved with a bracket-type tournament?

Government bailouts. I don't want my money going to bail out a company that hasn't
fought from a Sweet 16 to the Championships. [won a tourney.]

2. Create a rallying cry for a team in the Sweet 16.

"Northern Iowa Panthers: Your Office Probably Hates Us Now!"

3. With their 10-game skid snapped, what do the Bulls do for an encore?

The obvious answer is "an 11-game skid", but I think they could hit 12 or 13 easily. Can't underestimate the Bulls!

4. Whom would you like to see announcing March Madness games?

We need a new insulting, snarky Brit to handle sports like Simon Cowell does for singing and Gordon Ramsay for cooking. And put him courtside with a bullhorn for maximum chance of crying.

5. What will Ozzie Guillen do when he bores of Twitter?

He'll spend his days updating his status message on Facebook and throwing sheep at the managers of other teams.

I also sent in two headshots for them to pick from. One was my famous "sombrero" picture, which I realize didn't have the standard headshot look with shoulders that they tend to use, so I included a backup picture of me in my suit and power tie. And sadly, that's the one they used. Though it's a hilarious contrast from the other pictures in the column.

You can see for yourself in the ONLINE edition if you're not a Chicagoan and have access to the actual paper today.

Well, that's all for now! Maybe someday I'll finally get a gig as a guest columnist for the RedEye!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Aaron Samuels for Alderman (Chapter 1: The Tentative Calendar)

I guess this really begins the story of my 2011 run for Alderman (even though I plan to make a video in the coming months with my official announcement to run as it gets closer to the date).

If you've been following along (seriously not hard since there's only one other post so far) with the story, I was making some estimates based on the e-mail I received yesterday regarding the 2007 Election Calendar and what it might mean for me running in 2011.

Well, I guess my inquiry lit a fire under their butts, because today they e-mailed me the first version of the 2011 Election Calendar and updated their website with it as well!

Dear Voter,

We are sending the attached preliminary 2011 Election Calendar as follow-up to an earlier response we issued to an inquiry related to the upcoming elections. This calendar is available at our Web site at www.chicagoelections.com and will be updated, as needed, if and when new statutes or case laws impact the election schedule or requirements that are listed in the attached Election Calendar. We hope this information is helpful. We thank you for your interest and for the opportunity to be of assistance.

Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago
69 West Washington Street, Suites 600/800
Chicago, Illinois 60602

So I opened it up and here's a rundown of the actual dates.

For the 2011 Elections:

September 14, 2010: First day to circulate for signature candidate nominating petitions for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman.

December 6, 2010: First day to file candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman with the Board of Election Commissioners.

December 13, 2010: Last day to file candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman with the Board of Election Commissioners.

December 20, 2010: Last day to file objections to candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman for the February 27, 2007 Municipal General Election. File in the office of the Board of Election Commissioners.

February 2, 2011: Last day for candidates for the office of Alderman to withdraw as a candidate. File in the office of the Board of Election Commissioners.

February 22, 2011: MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer for the City of Chicago and for the office of Alderman in all wards of the City of Chicago. Polling places are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

My estimate for the number of signatures I'd need to petition for was only off by 5 - I'm only going to need 193 signatures!

Unfortunately, there's a litany of rules for these petitions and how they have to be signed and handled and presented when filing the official paperwork with the City. Like a very scary amount of rules. And while most of them are "how the heck would they know if this is true or not" kinds of rules, I want to be VERY careful. You have to be when going up against the incumbent, you know?

This also seems like a warning that I really should work on retaining a lawyer, if for nothing else then to help make sure I've dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's when it comes to the official paperwork that includes the "Statement of Economic Interest" and any "forms prescribed by the Board of Ethics". At least the "Loyalty Oath has been declared unconstitutional; hence its filing is optional."

Well, that's all the excitement for now. I'll likely continue with my Alderman Saga in future chapters as the date approaches, or if I get some comments or questions regarding me, my campaign, or anything else related that needs to go beyond the Comments and into a new separate post.

So ask me some questions! Show me support! Just leave a comment!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aaron Samuels for Alderman (Prologue)

I may have mentioned it before, but ever since 2006, it's been a dream of mine to run for City Council here in Chicago and be an Alderman. It all started on that fateful day when the Chicago City Council unanimously voted to ban the sale of foie gras after they were shown a shock video by PETA and asked to vote on this law.

The aftermath: Chicago was mocked by other cities, the ban was proved to be useless by restauranteurs, and even the Mayor said it was the "silliest law" until it was finally repealed two years later.

I made up my mind. I would run for Alderman just to make sure that SOMEONE on the Chicago City Council would be the voice of reason whenever PETA rolled around. I expanded my idea by wanting to be a city representative who could see both sides on an issue and be able to play Devil's Advocate - as well as to speak up when any alderman is (in my opinion) completely wrong.

This spread out into even more ideas about being a young member of City Council who could spruce up the webpage for our ward and respond to questions using YouTube and maybe do Ward Podcasts.

And then I found out in 2007 that I missed my chance to run. But I vowed that I would do everything in my power to run in 2011 and get my name on that ballot and - who knows - maybe even win a seat on the City Council of Chicago.

Every now and then since that day in 2007, I've tried to find out how the heck one even runs for public office - let alone run for City Council specifically. I've checked message boards, Googled the question, surfed and rummaged through the Chicago City website - and no definite results.

About a month ago, I started e-mailing. I sent e-mails out to any info e-mail address I could come across, asking the same questions, hoping that someone earning a government paycheck could point me in the right direction so that someday I might earn one as well.

Yesterday, I actually got a response.


You will need to direct your email/inquiry to the Chicago Board of Elections. You can visit them on the web and obtain pertinent contact information at the url: http://www.chicagoelections.com

Thank you.
Office of the Chicago City Clerk

So I was getting closer. Somehow my searching hadn't pointed me to this site, probably due to the keywords I was using. So I searched and found nothing to answer my question. But there was yet another e-mail address to query, and query I did.

And that same day, I got a response from someone at the Chicago Elections website.

Dear Voter,
Please note that we will be posting information on the 2011 election cycle on at chicagoelections.com under the "for candidates" section in coming weeks. However, the information that we post and the information below is all subject to change with any new legislation in Springfield or rulings in court cases.
Any potential candidate is advised to consult with the Illinois Compiled Statutes, the Election Code, the Municipal Code as well as an attorney who is well versed in election law and related case law. This is intended to be general information and not a legal opinion, as the Board cannot provide legal advice to candidates or potential candidates for two reasons: (1) the Board determines the legality of candidates' nominating petitions; and (2) state laws are subject to change. With those caveats, the basic qualifications for appearing on the ballot to run for alderman in the City of Chicago are that the candidate: (1) be an elector (registered voter, 18 years or older and a U.S. citizen) who has resided in the ward for at least one year prior to election; (2) be in compliance with all other restrictions/requirements under Illinois law, which include, but are not limited to: having submitted a petition with sufficient valid signatures of qualified electors from that ward; not having been convicted of a felony; ot having any outstanding fines, penalties or debts to the municipality; and having completed other necessary paperwork, such as the petition, statement of candidacy, ethics filings, etc. For more information, prospective campaigns are strongly advised to review all relevant statutes ( http://www.ilga.gov/ ) and strongly advised to consult with an attorney who is versed in the Election Code.
State laws may change between now and the filing, and the numbers of signatures needed will be determined, under current law, based on the results in the 2010 election cycle. With those caveats, we have attached the 2007 Election Calendar, which lists documentation rules that were in effect for that 2007 election -- solely for reference purposes. Please note that the Election Board will be updating its web site to include information on the 2011 Municipal Elections in the months after the Primary Election. We hope this information is helpful and thank you for the opportunity to be of assistance.

Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago
69 West Washington Street, Suites 600/800
Chicago, Illinois 60602

So now I have more of an answer and I can begin preparations. The document had a lot of random information, but there are pieces I can ascertain based on what lies within.

For the 2007 Elections:

September 19, 2006: First day to circulate for signature candidate nominating petitions for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman.

December 11, 2006: First day to file candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman with the Board of Election Commissioners.

December 18, 2006: Last day to file candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman with the Board of Election Commissioners.

December 26, 2006: Last day to file objections to candidate nomination papers for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer and Alderman for the February 27, 2007 Municipal General Election. File in the office of the Board of Election Commissioners.

February 7, 2007: Last day for candidates for the office of Alderman to withdraw as a candidate. File in the office of the Board of Election Commissioners.

February 27, 2007: MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION for the offices of Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer for the City of Chicago and for the office of Alderman in all wards of the City of Chicago. Polling places are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

So there you have it. Sometime in June of 2010 they will be posting this document regarding the February 2011 elections. I'll be able to officially start my campaign to collect signatures in September, and if I hit the right number by December, I'm in (unless the encumbent goes all lawyer on me and objects to me being on the ballot). If I make it on and it causes me such grief that I want to get the hell out of there, I've got over a month afterwards to figure it out. (Unlikely!) And then in February it all goes down!

So how many signatures do I need?

See "Table A: Minimum Signature Required on Aldermanic Nominating Petitions - City of Chicago"

Basically by ward, they tally up the total votes from the previous municipal election (in this case, 2007) and they take 2% of that number (and round up) and that's the number of signatures I'll need to get.

So if in February 2003, my ward had a total of 12,518 votes placed, in order to get on the ballot for February 2007 I would need (2% of 12,518 = 250.36) signatures from 251 registered voters.

I do believe the numbers for the February 2007 elections show my ward having cast 9,861 votes - ergo I should only need to get 198 petition signatures!

This is it, folks. I'm excited!

More to come as I wait for the process to finally begin - or if I get some cool comments/questions to answer that would warrant more Prologue to the story before my campaign even becomes official.

So ask me some questions! Show me support! Just leave a comment!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

The Consensus on Cons in the Census

The 2010 Census is now in progress, with cities trying to tally up every single person at every single address possible in order to maximize the rewards in the end. After all, the states with the most population get the most representation in Washington D.C. and the cities with the most people get the most funding for public services.

So Mayor Rudy Clay of Gary, Indiana brings up an interesting point (by way of proposed legislation, of course) in that he wants the residents of Gary who are incarcerated outside of the city to count on the census for Gary instead of the location of their enprisonment.

Who should get to claim a prisoner on the census - the prison city or the prisoner's non-prison address city?

According to the news story that brought this to my attention, "Some civil rights advocates and municipal leaders argue that the current way inmates are counted gives prison towns an unfair advantage in census counts."

So let's look at it this way - who should be benefitting with the bonus public funds and votes in the Capitol?

The benefactor city would receive funding for:

I'm pretty sure that prisons have their own hospitals on-suite. I would admit that there are likely situations that require a convict to go to a REAL hospital, but I think they are too few and far-between to say that every inmate should count towards funds for a hospital of which they are not likely going to be a patient.

•Job training centers
Again, prisons do this on-site. For jobs like license-plate-making (although it's not really training if the industry diesn't exist OUTSIDE prison) or maybe librarian? I'm guessing a lot of lawyer training for all those convicts reading law books and making appeals themselves?

I don't really see the population of convicted felons having a single thing to do with schools. Maybe their children. Who are not in prison (hopefully), and therefore still residing for the census in their hometown.

•Senior centers
While I'm sure there are prisoners above the age of 65, I doubt they get free reign to visit the senior centers outside of the prison walls.

•Bridges, tunnels and other-public works projects
Let's avoid using prisoners for any kind of "tunnel budget", okay?

•Emergency services
I'm guessing these services include the police and fire departments, who likely are the ones catching the guys who wind up in prison. Having them already in prison doesn't seem like much of a reason to get extra police officers, except for the offchance of an escape. In which case you'd want some extra police officers. And firefighters, if the escapee is an arsonist. And medical personnel in ambulances if the escapee is a violent criminal.

Census information affects the numbers of seats your state occupies in the U.S. House of Representatives
Well, if the argument is "we have more voters, we need their weight to be adequately represented as such in Washington D.C., then it's almost a moot point. Convicted felons don't get to vote at all in like 12 states. True, some states are more lenient (and 2 let convicted felons vote, even while in prison), but again this seems like a strange line to cross.

Census data is also used to advocate for causes, rescue disaster victims, prevent diseases, research markets, locate pools of skilled workers and more
I'm not really sure how the "in jail" population fits into market research or the job market or disaster/disease networks. I'm inclined to lean more towards the prison for the health reasons and the hometown city for the market reasons.

All in all, it seems that for most of the funding benefits, the city of the prison would be getting the lion's share even though a small minority of the census population would be reaping those benefits. On the other hand, there's not much you can say about those services being used "more" by the prisoners in their hometown, either.

I think my solution is that since the census is done every 10 years, every felon with less than 10 years left on their sentence should be counted at home and more than 10 years left should be counted in prison.

That way, prisoners who are released and most likely to wind up back in their hometown before the next census would be counted towards the funds for their hometown during these next 10 years. Those who will be stuck in jail for the next 10 years, they can be counted for the prison's city that will be housing and providing services for them for certain for those 10 years.

That's my idea, anyway. What do you think? Should prisoners be counted towards Hometown or The Big House? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

The FDA and Misleading Labels

I eventually plan on writing a long series of FDA-related posts, but for now I will settle with this news article about how the FDA has sent official warnings to 17 different food companies about misleading claims on the labels of their products, including threats to take further action (including product seizure) if they don't correct the labels.

While it's a nice idea to try and "protect the public" from misleading labels, in most cases the public should be able to defend themselves and the corrections can be just as misleading thanks to the FDA's twisted logic.

Of course, this is the governmental organization that thinks the serving size of Fig Newtons is "2 cookies", ice cream is eaten by the "1/2 cup" and a normal person will eat HALF of a ramen packet for a meal and save the other half for later.

I'm partially torn on the issue. On the one hand, people are generally idiots and usually (1) don't care about the nutrition info and just want to buy tasty food, (2) are easily swayed by the label when choosing a product and don't bother with real nutritional info or (3) bother to check the nutritional info but "abuse" the servings and overeat.

Those in Group 2 are the people who the FDA is trying to "protect" with this crackdown on misleading labels by citing their guidelines and the company's failure to adhere to them by improperly using certain words on the label.

Now while I both loathe the coddling of those who deserve what their idiocy brings them as well as the government forcing their rules on the free market and making it less free - I do agree that false advertising is just plain wrong and I applaud the FDA for cracking down on falseties in the advertising on the labels of these food products.

On that other hand, though - the FDA has some pretty frickin' insane rules. Insane that they made the rule in the first place, insane that the rules have so many stipulations, and insane that the stipulations in and of themselves sometimes make the rule pointless.

Just to give you an idea, one of the companies that was targeted for mislabeling was Ken's Foods, Inc. for their salad dressing line called "Ken's Healthy Options™". The crime? The content claim of "healthy". Here's what the FDA requires in order for a company to put the word "healthy" on their product label:

To bear the nutrient content claim "healthy," a food such as a salad dressing: (1) must be "low fat" as defined in 21 CFR 101.62(b)(2) (total fat content of 3 g or less per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) and per 50 g of food); (2) must be "low saturated fat" is defined in 21 CFR 101.62(c)(2) (saturated fat content of 1 g or less per RACC and no more than 15 percent of calories from saturated fat); (3) must not exceed the disclosure level for cholesterol set forth in 21 CFR 101.13(h) (60 mg cholesterol per 50 g of food); (4) must contain no more than 480 mg sodium per 50 g of food (21 CFR 101.65(d)(2)(ii)(B)); and (5) must contain at least 10 % of the Daily Value per RACC of one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, and fiber (21 CFR 101.65(d)(2)(i)).

Ken's "healthy" salad dressing options apparently exceed the 3 g of fat per 50 g of food maximum in the "low fat" definition and do not not contain 10% of the Daily Value of at least one of thosee nutrients. And that's the definition of "healthy"!

Another letter recipient was Spectrum Organic Products, Inc. for their product called "Organic All Vegetable Shortening". Sadly, the violation was not regarding the "organic" label (which is a hilarious can of worms to open) but the fact that the label says it is "cholesterol free".

The term "cholesterol free" may be used on the label or in the labeling of a food with a Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) of two (2) tablespoons or less that contains more than 13 g of total fat per 50 g only if the following criteria, set forth in 21 CFR 101.62(d)(1)(ii), are met: (1) the food contains less than 2 mg of cholesterol per RACC and per labeled serving; (2) the food contains no ingredient that is generally understood by consumers to contain cholesterol; (3) the food contains 2 g or less of saturated fatty acids per RACC; and (4) the label or labeling discloses the level of total fat in a serving (as declared on the label) of the food.

The shortening exceeds the maximum 13g of fat per 50g of product and also exceeds the maximum 2g of saturated fatty acids per RACC. But did you notice that a product is cool with the FDA to say they are "cholesterol free" even if it contains 1.9mg of cholesterol per RACC? That's the FDA for you!

In the "totally deserves it" category for the FDA calling out a company's falsehoods - POM Wonderful got a very long letter basically chastizing them for claims made on their website (included on the label).

"The therapeutic claims on your website establish that the product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. The marketing of this product with these claims violates [the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act]."

Even worse is the fact that in additional to blurring the line between food and drug, the product fails to meet EITHER label, as the letter itemizes how POM Wonderful is misbranded as a food (claiming a high level of a nutrient that doesn't even have a Recommended Daily Intake) AND misbranded as a drug (saying they treat diseases means they are a drug but they don't provide adequate directions for use).

I could go on. These are just 3 of the 17 company letters that were sent out, including one to Gorton's, Inc. for their Gorton's Fish Fillets and to Dreyer's Ice Cream Inc. for some products of theirs for advertising "0 grams trans fat" but not also notifying the consumer to "See nutrition information for fat and saturated fat content". Which apparently is part of the FDA's rule about saying your product contains no trans fat...?

So back to my original point - I'm not sure whether to applaud or boo at the FDA for these letters. Sure, according to the Federal Law, their products were in violation due to improper labels. But what does any of it mean? The Pompeian, Inc. company got hit because of the usage of the word "light" on their bottles of "Pompeian Imported Extra Light Olive Oil" - but Frank Patton, the company's president, said the label should have said "Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil" and that it was a printing error, which he intends to correct when the next labels are printed.

So the FDA only cares about a product using the term "light" as long as it's not followed by the word "tasting"? How does that protect consumer Debbie Dumbass who sees the word "light" and couldn't give a damn what the rest of the label says? Am I allowed to market a line of ice creams that say "Fat-Free Tasting Ice Cream" and rake in the money from people who see the words "fat free" and couldn't be bothered to do the legwork and investigate the nutritional info to see that I use extra lard for that "perfect fat free taste"?

What the hell does "Extra Light" taste like, anyway? It's OLIVE OIL! Are there seriously taste testers guzzling shots of olive oil and checking off the "tastes like 'extra light'" box instead of the "tastes like 'light'" or "tastes like my arteries are clogging" boxes?

(Note to self: "Uncle Aaron's Artery-Cloggin' Tasting Olive Oil" will likely not sell well in today's marketplace.)

In the end, I think I'm still on the fence. I like to think that the free market should decide what is or isn't appropriate marketing for products and that the government should butt out. But I'm also sick and tired of Debbie Dumbass suing large corporations because a nightly cup of their "Extra Light" olive oil still made her fat despite claims of being "Extra Light". In these cases, I'm glad that the FDA can nip these in the bud by having companies adhere to these nonsense laws.

So if I had to choose, I'd be forced to tip my hat to the FDA. Their laws may be nonsensical and outdated, but at least they're helping to curb the frivolous dumbass lawsuit population.

What do you think? Do you approve or disapprove of the FDA and these letters? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fact of the Day - March 3, 2010

100303, originally uploaded by AaronBSam.

Been a while, dear readers!

The fact is back (for today at least) - and sadly I wish more time and effort had gone into picking this one. I literally took 25 seconds to Google "random fact" and chose something multiple pages of results down to ensure I wasn't getting the most over-used facts, and then scribbled the fact down and drew this out during 10 minutes of free time today.

So I apologize if the awesomeness of the fact itself isn't all that much - at least it's a halfway-decent drawing. (Compared to my others, that is.)

Well, the scale is horrible. I don't know exactly how many laws of physics would be broken by this particular scale, but upon reexamination it seems as though it would be very few. The floating 15-inch ruler, on the other hand...

I also don't know why all "weights" tend to look like that in my mind. I blame cartoons. Damn you, Wile E. Coyote!

Anyway, I hope to have more of these for you in the coming days. We'll see how things go between work, packing and moving later this month.

(Backup fact of the day: Snails move an average of 0.03 mph. Perhaps that may be featured another day, with a poorly-drawn cop and/or speedgun.)

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Energy Drink Review - Spike Shooter

So on Sunday, I was roaming the streets of the Loop after working extra hours and was feeling thirsty for an energy drink, so I wound up at some 7-11 to check out their selection and something new caught my eye. Mostly because it had a large warning label.

Spike Shooter
Warning - Do Not Exceed One Can Per Day

So of course I had to buy it.

Well, I'll let ME tell you all about it:

So that was Sunday. Then on Monday, I wound up working more overtime, into the wee hours of the morning. Tuesday 7am found me back at my desk on 3 hours of sleep total and I knew these were the perfect conditions where I'd need a real energy drink (not that my standard daily consumption of Amp, Monster or other energy drinks isn't real or anything - just seemed like "warning label"-level energy drink conditions). At 8:30am I was resolved (and wanted witnesses, as most of the office is in by that point) to try this sucker out.

And no, I wouldn't be starting with a half-can to test my tolerance!

HAAAAAAAAA!!! <-- Manly laugh

I think my face on the video and statement sums it all up:

"This tastes like a bad idea."

Here's what I can recall of my day past that point...

Okay, this is no problem. Aside from a bitter taste in my mouth, I'm starting to feel some energy kick in. I think my thoughts are becoming clearer and less-dulled than before the can.

Whoa, this is officially too much energy for my brain to handle. If only they made a beverage to give you lucidity instead of just energy. I can feel my muscles twitching already as the initial caffeine surge moves through my bloodstream.

Leg-shaking has begun. My heartbeat has definitely increased, though I have no way of verifying this statement. If only I could remember how to properly take my radial pulse! The energy is useless if your brain can't harness the power in a positive manner!

Okay, now I don't need to recall how to properly take a radial pulse because putting a hand on my chest yields a perfect monitor for my heartbeat. It is going STRONG - and now I'm worried that this is due to some increase in blood pressure from consuming this thing. I already have a bit of a high blood pressure issue (more stress-related than anything else, but I won't ignore my horrible diet contributing) and I've determined that if my nose (or anything else) starts spontaneously bleeding, I'm going home for the day.

It is at this point that I realize that any further thirst on my end has mindlessly resulted in sips from my standard-issue energy drink. It gets put in the fridge so it's out of my hand's unconscious reach. The warning label only said I couldn't have more that one can of Spike Shooter in a day, it didn't specifically say I couldn't have any other energy drinks! Still, I need to take a break from energy drinks. I grab a less-caffeinated can of Diet Coke and press onward.

Heartbeat still running fast and strong, and now my stomach is really growling. Perhaps I've burned up some energy and need to refill. Perhaps I've just been awake for 21 of the past 24 hours and in that time only had some spaghetti around 9pm the previous night, meaning I should probably take a lunch today.

Stupidly chose McDonald's. Because Shamrock Shakes are back in effect! Upon consuming the french fries, I recall my previous worries about blood pressure. This is not enough to stop me from eating, but at least I gave it a thought.

The headache is now subsiding a little, and I'm feeling a bit more normalized. My leg still has bouts of twitching and I am in no need of any further energy-laden drink.

Headache gone. Can no longer feel heartbeat as easily through chest. Using sentence fragments.

At the time, I was way too into my usual routine to notice much difference going on. This either means that at the 7-hour mark, the caffeine and whatnot has withdrawn to my usual levels - or I'm just way too busy to notice my own physiology. Zen and the Art of Energy Drinks? I dunno.

Finally able to leave the office. All tremors are gone, but I feel the fatigue settling back in as I hit a cab to take me home. I'm still feeling ALERT, but my response time has only deteriorated since about noon and it's very evident during the cab ride.

Had some dinner. Sleepiness is now teaming up with muscle fatigue and it's bedtime. I highly doubt that had I taken this energy drink 6 hours before bedtime that I would be able to sleep at all (the warning label includes the statement to not consume less than 6 hours before bedtime). Altogether, it's been a wild ride - but it provided me and my co-workers with some entertainment in-between the rants about how crazy/dumb I am for doing such a thing.

But hey - if they make the product, I'm going to want to review it!

What do you think? Am I a fool for doing this? Have you encountered/consumed this product? Leave a comment and let me know!

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