Miscellany

The Perfect Double Bacon Cheeseburger

Hits The Spot
Hits The Spot

“Mostly-Vegan” Ingredients:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Morning Star Griller’s Original Veggie Burgers (2)
  • Morning Star Veggie Bacon Strips (2)
  • Go Veggie! Pepper Jack Rice Vegan Slices (2)
  • Pepperidge Farm Italian Bread with Sesame Seeds
  • KA·ME Hot Mustard
  • Grilled with: Smart Balance Omega-3 Buttery Spread
  • On the side: Heinz “No Salt” Ketchup

The price is right.  This costs less than a typical double bacon cheeseburger, and the labor is minimal.

The biggest offender here is the sodium.  It adds up to about 58% of the recommended daily sodium (which some say is too lenient as it is!).  Just for comparison, a Bacon & Cheese Whopper from Burger King will set you back about 59%.

The sodium here could be scaled back with craftier product selection, as well as by not making everything a double.  Here the veg*n beef and bacon accounted for the most sodium, although these Morning Star products did have the lowest sodium out of the veg*n product selection that was available to me, so there isn’t much room for improvement there.  The bread added 10% sodium, and so there is definitely potential there.  It’s good bread though.

Great Design

One Shot, One Kill, Plus Some Swagger

The Sniper movie franchise has been wrung out like a dirty rag containing just a few more drops of water.  After having seen the original Sniper film, I was somewhat disappointed when I heard all the sequels were bad.

Which is why, after seeing the box cover for Sniper: Legacy, I couldn’t stop laughing, and yet also half-wanted to see this film.

The main reason for these mixed emotions was Tom Berenger wearing a baseball cap half-sideways in the field.  This, coupled with the official tagline (“Like Father Like Son”), made it priceless.

Sniper Box Cover I

The unexpected swagger with the baseball cap implied Tom Berenger had finally ascended to the level of sniper deity.  He was so good at his job, he was now taking out his targets with style.  This was something new.  This was something fresh!  And not only that – we couldn’t tell for sure – but it looked like he wasn’t necessarily interested in passing the torch to any of his descendants!  Maybe not a figurative torch anyway.

But alas, a second box cover revealed the truth.  Tom Berenger was actually wearing some sort of fisherman’s hat.  And if you clip that image at just the right spot, it produced what looked to be a half-sideways baseball cap.

Sniper Box Cover II

Was this clever editing designed to produce different images that might appeal to different demographics?  Riding, perhaps, right on the edge of Gestalt Theory?  If I had to guess, probably not.  But at the same time I can’t rule it out.

Gestalt Theory. Composition by Impronta on September 29, 2011.
Gestalt Theory. Composition by Impronta on September 29, 2011.

 

Miscellany

Dougles And Gripples

Sometimes I like to optimize the smallest of things.  For instance, what do you do when you want to compare products at Lowe’s and Home Depot?  This is what I do.  I type lowes homedepot on Google.com (my browser’s homepage) and hit enter.

Successful dougle.
Successful dougle.

The top two results are what I’m looking for.  I middle click on each and proceed with my comparison.  It shouldn’t be lost on the reader how incredibly stupid this optimization is, but just the same, what would we even call this optimization?  Has this phenomenon even been discovered by anyone else?

If not, we can throw some ideas out there.  A successful two-hit search (as in the above example) could be a Dougle (portmanteau of double and Google).  A successful three-hit search (extremely difficult) could be a Gripple.

And I would be shocked if there existed four search terms where a home run were possible.  I refuse to believe it can be done.  Remember, they have to be the top results.  They can’t simply be on the first page of results.  They have to be the very top results.

Great Design

An Item That Really Sells Itself

Three rows of frozen fruit on the top shelf of my freezer.
Three rows of frozen fruit on the top shelf of my freezer.

I had just dropped off a bin or two of old household items for donation at the local Goodwill center.  Afterwards, I checked out their inventory inside the store, and by chance I stumbled upon an item for sale which I had never even heard of: Yonanas.

There are very few things, and even fewer products, that I am unabashedly enthusiastic about.  Yonanas is one of them!  I will unabashedly promote Yonanas to family and friends.  The name sounds a little goofy, but trust me, you need to get one of these machines.  The way it works is extremely simple.

  1. Freeze any type of fruit you like.
  2. When you so desire, take the frozen fruit out and let it thaw for about 15 minutes.
  3. Turn the Yonanas machine on and put the fruit or fruit combinations down the machine’s chute.
  4. Out comes something reminiscent of soft-serve ice cream, but with ingredients that consist purely of fruit and nothing else.  There are no other ingredients.
Yonanas product image on Amazon showing a strawberry and bananas combination.  I can tell you that the picture is accurate.  www.amazon.com/Yonanas-901-Deluxe-Cream-Silver/dp/B00532A6YK
Yonanas product image on Amazon showing a strawberry and bananas combination.  I can tell you that the picture is accurate.  www.amazon.com/Yonanas-901-Deluxe-Cream-Silver/dp/B00532A6YK

Simply put, this is fruit reimagined.  My fruit of choice is bananas, but eating them in frozen form, for some reason, is twice as good.  And when some bananas are losing their ripeness and I know I won’t get around to eating them, I just put them in the freezer.  No more waste.

If you had to sell one thing for a living, this would be the thing.  Every house should have one.  Restaurants should sell this as a desert.  I say these things in full sincerity.

Every single thing about this product is simple.  The ingredients are whatever fruit you feel like buying at the store and trying out.  The process of making it is simple.  The time involved is almost non-existent.  The final product itself is simple.  Anyone who can eat ice cream can eat Yonanas.  Children who are given Yonanas will probably like it as much if not more than ice cream, and will probably think it is ice cream.

Arguably, it’s also a healthier desert.  Eating fruit is said to provide many health benefits, plus this is arguably healthier than other deserts with extra added ingredients you can’t even pronounce.  At the very least, it’s as healthy as eating fruit.  If you eat fruit, this is exactly the same thing.  What you put into the Yonanas machine is what you get out.

And finally, as if that weren’t enough, your freezer actually runs more efficiently when it’s packed with more items. The more fruit you freeze, the more energy efficient your freezer becomes.

My Yonanas machine has positioned itself as a first-class, always-out kitchen appliance.
My Yonanas machine has positioned itself as a first-class, always-out kitchen appliance.

One word of warning.  Many fruits are rich in sugar.  If you do a search on Google for something like bananas sugar, you’ll get a customized search result that will tell you how much sugar is in a particular type of fruit.  All of that said, for various reasons, some believe that the sugar in fruit is less of a health concern than the sugar that’s added to most processed foods.

And here’s a final piece of advice that may be useful.  They say that people should not only watch the volume of sugar that they consume, but also the velocity in which they consume it.  In other words, when someone is savoring their Yonanas desert slowly, that’s probably optimal health-wise.

Give Yonanas a try!  People who have taken the plunge have come back to us and reported that it was a great decision.  And just as a basic disclaimer, I have no financial interest in this product, nor any connection to Dole, the company that makes it.

Great Design

Rhyming With The World

We’re going to take two trips at the same time.  One through time and one through an ecological life cycle.  Both will be through vignettes and neither will be linear.

– Gone To Texas –

Cow hoof prints in cement.  One of the last remaining artifacts from the old Van Berg dairy farm.
Cow hoof prints in cement.  One of the last remaining artifacts from the old Van Berg dairy farm.

Even though my great-grandfather hailed from Nebraska, his first name was extremely Scandinavian.  This may have been a contributing factor in his decision to only go by his initials.  He did this so much so, in fact, that even friends and family had no idea what his actual name was.

He came to Texas to work on the expansion of the existing irrigation system.  What they were working on would allow more water from the Rio Grande River to be channeled northwards.  More water would reach more farm fields, and I believed it helped the cities as well.

He eventually started a dairy farm as a side business. His son, my grandfather, disliked it so much that he dismantled it almost immediately after inheriting it.  And so, many old dairy farm structures were either torn down or left to eventually disintegrate on their own.  As a result, our property tends to have pieces of very old lumber laying around, and we haven’t ever had a good use for them.

– Brand Management –

I would call it “rhyming with the world”.  It’s a phrase I found in a book, but in the book they call it “rhyming with nature”.  Let’s be honest – doing something with “nature” sounds kind of passé doesn’t it?  It sounds like you have to find a tie-die shirt and a headband to get in.  But “rhyming with the world”?  That sounds like something exotic!  Maybe some sort of never-to-be-forgotten trip to the Caribbean.  Branding is always important, don’t you think?

http://www.aikidofaq.com/introduction.html
http://www.aikidofaq.com/introduction.html

Now, to illustrate a different point, what if instead of calling it “rhyming with the world”, we called it “organizational efficiency”?  That almost kind of sounds like something a Fortune 500 company might employ.  How about “operational effectiveness”?  That sounds like it might involve some kind of modern military strategy.  “Harmony of motion”?  Perhaps that’s distinctly Aikido.  It’s all the exact same thing, just in different contexts: maximizing efficiency.  (Sometimes, to reach this optimal efficiency, you must find a solution that may not be the first item on everyone’s brainstorming list!)

– Humans, Everything Else, And Life And Death –

A still from the film Aliens.
A still from the film Aliens.

In Aliens, Ripley brazenly and shamelessly betrays the queen alien in a classic deal gone bad.  After being given everything she had wanted, Ripley breaks her tacit agreement with the queen alien.  She blows away the queen, along with all of her eggs, pointlessly, for no reason other than malice.  This is the glorification of anthropocentrism.  (Nearly 20 years after James Cameron shot this scene, it still stands as one of the most unique and one of the best film sequences ever produced.)

Strange as it may sound, this film scene is something of a guilty pleasure.  I am anthropocentric, and this scene is a personal reminder of my own anthropocentricity.  Proof that my worldview holds humans to be preeminent.  In fact, my views on global ecology, and my general desire to not inflict harm on other life unnecessarily, is actually just an extension of this worldview.  It is the way that I, for various anthropocentric reasons, personally choose to exercise free will as an anthropocentric agent.

Global ecology and the role we play in it isn’t an abstract academic exercise.  For example, in Australia, finding out the daily UV index is a life and death matter.  The state of the ozone layer around Australia is so bad now that skin cancer there is described as an epidemic.  Some estimate that one in two, or an almost unbelievable two in three, Australians will contract skin cancer in their lifetime.  If humans truly are supreme, then they will surely keep this world, the collective human home, in order.

– Open Your Eyes –

There is a useful mental exercise where someone is shown something, and then that person is asked what they see.  They are supposed to guess what the object is for, or think up additional and perhaps non-intuitive uses for it.  (This is actually a regular segment on Ask This Old House, but in truth I believe I first saw something like it in an old Adrian Lyne production.)

So, what do you see?

Newspapers and Packing Materials

Looks like some discarded paper products – newspapers and packing materials.  In other words, trash, or perhaps paper recycling if we were being good global citizens.  There are surely many secondary uses for something like this.  I will give you my answer on it in just a second.

What do you see?

Texas Ebony Seed Pods 1

These are seed pods from the Texas Ebony tree.  It stands to reason that the Texas Ebony trees in my yard are the very distant descendants of ancient Texas Ebony trees.  Trees that probably stood here in this very same region, perhaps in a tranquil near silence, before humans were ever here.  Just as today, their seed pods would have fallen everywhere and would have almost been a nuisance had anyone been here to care.  My answer on this, too, in just a second.

Texas Weeds 1

The above picture is your only clue.  It may help you deduce where I’m going with part of this.  The clue is this: Near-useless weeds are endemic in South Texas just like they are endemic in many other places.  There are many ways you can try to manage or eliminate them…

Texas Ebony Seeds Pods 2

What if we harnessed the shape and size of Texas Ebony seed pods by placing them  newspaper we have put down over weed growth? Then you would have a semi-permanent weed barrier, and best of all, it would have style. To me, this is an instance of perfect South Texas Style.  Truly, this is something that cannot be bought. You can’t buy this weed barrier at Home Depot or Lowe’s.  If you’re in the U.S., you have to be in South Texas to get it, and when you go to get it, there’s usually an abundance waiting for you.

The newspapers will break down over time, but that’s OK.  Their purpose is actually two-fold.  First, depending on how much you put down, the newspapers all but guarantee the existing weeds will die.  Otherwise, it will be a huge struggle keeping them from pushing through the second weed barrier (in this case, seed pods).  Second, they buy you time.  We didn’t want to have to round up two or three layers of seed pods all at once for our various yard projects.  The newspapers allow you to incrementally add that second weed barrier without having to deal with new weed growth.

Putting Texas Ebony seed pods to work!  As you can see, we have one or two more layers to go.
Putting Texas Ebony seed pods to work!  As you can see, we have one or two more layers to go.

One reason, in particular, we want to place weed barriers around trees and small structures is that we want to be able to cut every blade of grass or every weed with a lawn mower, and not have to bring out another tool to deal with the remaining weeds that are right up against the tree or structure.

Getting closer to the beginning, we have several bamboo plants.  Bamboo can be used for a lot of things!  Some of its uses include food, structures, and weapons.

Bamboo Crater

We have dug out a small crater right next to one of our bamboo plants.  We route some of our graywater to this crater so it can be better utilized.  (The ideal design for such a crater would be a bowl-like, concave impression with the bamboo plant right in the middle.  However, for various reasons, we chose to do it this way.)

Chipped Wood and Bamboo

One other great bamboo use stems from the fact it is very easy to put through a chipper and turn into fine-grained bamboo pieces.  These chips are a great second-level weed barrier.  More bamboo growth will give us more ammunition to snuff out more weeds.  This is pretty good holistic efficiency.

But what about that huge crater?  It’s not very appealing to have a huge hold in the middle of your yard!

Bamboo Crater With Van Berg Dairy Farm Board Walkway

Now back at the very beginning, we take some of that old lumber, saw it down to size, and cover the crater so we can walk over it.

The old Van Berg dairy farm lives on.

 

South Texas 1

South Texas 2

South Texas 3

Vintage Quotes

Eight Elvises by Andy Warhol, 1963.  In 2008, it was sold for $100 million to a private collector, making it the 16th most expensive painting ever sold, adjusting for inflation. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_paintings
Eight Elvises by Andy Warhol, 1963.  In 2008, it was sold for $100 million to a private collector, making it the 16th most expensive painting ever sold, adjusting for inflation.  www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_paintings

Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.

Claude Debussy

 

Possibly my favorite painting, The Starry Night by the incomparable Vincent van Gogh, circa 1889.  Van Gogh would paint the masterpiece one year after cutting off his own ear.  Currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, USA, it is not for sale.  Estimates for the extremely iconic painting range from $100 million to priceless.
Possibly my favorite painting, The Starry Night by the incomparable Vincent van Gogh, circa 1889.  Van Gogh would paint the masterpiece one year after cutting off his own ear.  Currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, USA, it is not for sale.  Estimates for the extremely iconic painting range from $100 million to priceless.

 

The Card Players by  Paul Cézanne, circa 1894 - 1895.  In 2011, one of the five versions of the painting was sold to the royal family of Qatar for between $250 million and $320 million.  This makes it the most expensive work of art ever sold.
The Card Players by Paul Cézanne, circa 1894 – 1895.  In 2011, one of the five versions of the painting was sold to the royal family of Qatar for between $250 million and $320 million.  This makes it the most expensive work of art ever sold.