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Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Just" don't do it justice.
Beef; it's what's for dinner!They'll get liberal salt and pepper, along with a screaming hot skillet and a little olive oil.

Ever wonder what those USDA grades of beef mean? There's a great post here:

I buy almost all of my meat at Sam's Club or Moser's market (Columbia). Their meet is NOT PUMPED full of crap!

Now that buying a steak has become a matter of consulting with your bank's loan department, I have become a little more attuned to what goes in the cart at the store. About 90% of the overpriced schlok you find in the local store is "select" grade beef (or lower) - closer to dog food than "prime." The steaks pictured below are "choice" ribeyes (on sale for $5.99 a lb.).

Since I smoke meat and use rubs with salt, I am careful to buy only all-natural (unadulterated) beef and pork. Almost all pork and chicken in stores is pumped full of a liquid containing salt and other tenderizers to make up for the poor quality of the meat. These offerings have labels like "Moist n' tender" or "Always tender (Hormel" - be careful! The salt content is elevated to increase shelf-life, and when you add salt to cook it can be overwhelmingly salty at the table. ALWAYS ask the butcher (if they actually have one).

These lovely "choice" ribeyes  from Moser's were shot with the Fujifilm X-E2 and the "Kit" Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom  lens. The pepper is sharp as a tack at 200% view and the bokeh is great.

strobist: Fuji X-E2  (1/180, ISO 400), Fujinon XF18-55 (f/8, 24 or 40mm), sunpak 611 in softbox overhead (1/64 power), pocket wizards

Piece o' meat 2

Piece o' meat 1

Piece o' meat 4

Monday, April 28, 2014

Down-sizing; Not just for jobs anymore!

Bought a pound of coffee lately - I doubt it. Historically, coffee was sold in 1- & 3-lb. cans. Now they sell a little more than 1/2 that and often disguise it by using the same-size cans as of old. Sugar has always been sold in 5- & 10 -lb. bags; now it's a 4-lb. bag. A pound pack of smoked sausage now weighs 13 oz.. What else has been downsized? Leave a comment!

Best of all - they charge more for the goods!
You get a third less and pay double from just a few years ago.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hardee's 4 GRAMS IS NOT A SLICE OF BACON! Is it sprayed on, or what?

The bacon at Hardee's is a joke. A slice is 4 grams (cooked), and thin enough that it might have been sprayed on. One slice - cut in half - per breakfast biscuit. I could literally shoot my flashes through a slice while doing these photos.

That's about 1/6th of a regular slice of bacon. Maybe they're watching our health at Hardee's. Tell them it's a rip-off!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's fashionable for SCHOOLS to DOUBLE-CHARGE for stuff, but...........

Sherry and I went to see her granddaughter play 7th grade basketball at my local middle school. I was a bit taken aback when we were charged $4 apiece to get in. They used to charge a buck or two (bad enough), but it has doubled in the past year or so. Sherry says her school charges her grandsons $85 to start wrestling and another $15 per-match to participate in the events. We all know that school supplies, like a half-dozen boxes of kleenex or enough pencils for 5 other kids, etc. are already required for each kid at the start of the year.

It may seem heresy to some folks (or a bit libertarian), but I figure I get a season pass when I pay the lion's share of my property taxes to support the school district (see the green part on my current tax bill for 2013). So what can the schools' rationale be? Let's see..........

1) Sports are a good thing for kids. Kids who participate in sports do better in school and sports helps them learn values, like sportsmanship and fair play. Sports participation also contributes to better health for kids. Answer 1: This is all great, but isn't that what schools are supposed to do anyway with the money they already get from taxpayers?

2) The extra money is needed for senior trips and other things. Answer 2: I am sure that if they had a voluntary donation box at the door that district patrons would contribute without the coercion.

3) We just don't have enough money to do these good things for kids, so we feel you should pay a little more to see your kids play sports. We daren't ask for a levy increase in a bad economy because we know our patrons can't afford it right now. Answer 3: If there's not enough money in the current levy to do what schools should be doing, put a levy increase on the ballot and let the voters decide the matter. Also, see answer 1.

We all need good schools, fire protection, roads and the other things property taxes go for. Inter- & intra-mural sports are good for children and are an integral part of good schooling since the one-room schoolhouse became passe. Attending their kids' sports events is not something schools should dun their patrons for on a per-head/per-event calculus.

Taxes 3

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just a quick peek (search) so you can see the game.

At the University of Missouri, you will have any bag or purse searched and your camera inspected to see if the lens is too big ("bigger than the camera," according to one searcher) before being admitted to a sporting event. You will be refused admission if you have even a candy bar.


So, if you want to see this:
After a quick search of your possessions, you can watch the annual Black & Gold game at Mizzou.

You must:

Submit to a search
It is WRONG to search purses & bags at Mizzou sports events. Write or email MU if you think it is wrong for fans and patrons to submit to a search before being allowed into sports events.

Not let your child bring even a bag of chips
Taking candy from a baby - It's just wrong

I encourage everyone to let the University administration know what you think about this.

Athletic director:
Asst, Director:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BEHOLD! the humble apple

(Imagine the intro music from 2001 A Space Odyssey here)

The origins of the apple are much disputed, but many historians tell us that the ancient Romans began the breeding and cultivation of what we now know as the apple as early as 3300 years ago in 1300 BC. Historically, the apple has been touted as everything from the fall of man from God's grace (Adam & Eve) to the denture wearer's greatest nemesis in the old Dentu-cream commercials. Today we know it to contain flavonoids, antioxidants that improve immune function and prevent heart disease and some cancers. It is also high in fiber and other things that promote health. Apples were one of Hippocrates' favorite remedies.

In the US, the northwestern region produces as many as 35 million bushels a year of this tasty fruit*. Recently, President Obama grabbed four apples at a Philadelphia market and gave the salesman a dollar. Recognizing the error, Obama personal aide Reggie Love quickly stepped in with some more money for the fruit seller, who had just been ripped off by the leader of the free world**. I don't think this was a major faux pas; after all, why would anyone assume a much higher price, when apples are in-season and usually go for 69 cents a pound and up?

Yesterday, I was in HY-V market and when I passed a bin of apples, the one in the picture above called to me in that siren voice I hear sometimes, "Buy me. I am delicious and photogenic." So, I bagged it and thought about how I'd do the shot. F-values and shutter speeds, lighting values and placement running through my head, I wandered up to the register, where I found that this apple was about $2 ($3.79 a lb.), the same per-lb. price as the nectarine that cried out to me with a similar plea. These are not organic or any other unreal modernistic marketing claptrap - they're just plain ol' fruit! Really Hy-V? At minimum wage, someone has to work an hour to buy 3 regular apples in your market?

Here's a shot of the $3.79 per-lb. nectarine. Like the apple above, it has no magical properties, it didn't improve my love life and certainly didn't improve my financial outlook. They were yummy as all git out, but would surely have tasted better at 1/4th the price, I am sure. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man." I have never found him to be much wrong before, and his record holds true here too.


*Thanks to: for reference material.
**Quoted from:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Marketing: The (d)evolution of the "Smart Potato" and the duped consumer

One of my greatest professors was Dr. Daryl Hobbs, a brilliant rural sociologist and a good 'ol boy to the core. As a graduate student in his class, one was forced to actually think; there were no fill-in-the-blanks questions, and being a sociology class - few absolutely right or wrong answers..

At the start of a class with maybe 17 students, he asked: "What's the hottest toy going to be for Christmas." Being September and us being mostly half awake (as grad students are wont to be at that time of day), everybody guessed at various popular toys and baubles. When we were out of things seen on TV commercials, he said: "It's whatever the marketing people want it to be."

To start, let me present the "Smart" potato, which can be had for $1.00 to $1.50 in 1/2 lb, 1-potato units.
Smart potatoe - you've got to be kidding!

Of course, it is just a tater and it sells for about 1/4 the price of the above, by weight. The yummy staple of the American diet. Asians have rice, mid-Easterners have cous-cous and in Europe they have pasta and other grain starches. In the Americas we have potatoes.

These starchy tubers come raw, and in various cans, boxes and jars. Sliced, slivered, diced, grated, julienned, whipped, chipped, chopped, extruded, and mashed, from soup and hash to McDonald's fries - they are as nutritious as any other starch and probably contribute to the increase of diabetes in America as much as refined sugar products and twinkies ever did. How, you may ask, can you hype a blob of starch covered in a brown skin to the point where consumers would make dumb decisions and pay through the nose (or taste buds) for these?

Enter the marketing crowd. They sat around and said: "We can't add much value to this. After all, it's a tater!" This is where marketing types earn their pay. They figured that if they extole every minor virtue the spud has, under-play any negatives and package it in a different way that they could get people to buy them for about 500% of their value.

Apparently that works.The item above is just a spud, hopefully washed well and covered in plastic wrap. The insidious part is in the labeling. At the bottom, not shown here, it says "Microwaveable potato." So what? They're all microwaveable; I've been doing it for years. The label says "Hand Selected," "Simply Smarter," and "Pro-Health" too. All meaningless labeling ploys. The brand name "Smart Potato" implies that you, by the very virtue of falling for this marketing ploy, are somehow smarter as a result of wasting your money on them.

Come on guys - it's a damned tater!

The "Smart" consumer would buy the same thing for 1/4 the price and not add to our landfill problem by adding the plastic wrapper to his purchase. Other ridiculous marketing creations are: pre-sliced carrots, pre-chopped onions and bagged chopped lettuce. Most of these are sold with the idea that the purchaser is "Smart" for being a time saver, and as such they are designed for the "busy" homemaker.

Have we really come to the point in human evolution where we can't chop an onion or slice a carrot? Does it save time when it takes almost as long to open and discard the unnecessary packaging as it does to rinse and prepare our food? Seems like homemade is becoming a thing of the past where our food is prepared elsewhere and assembled at home. Kind of like our cars. Do the marketing types really believe people will fall for this? Apparently so.  How lame is that, when one can't even chop an onion?

Here's my version of the smart carrot. 
If anyone needs instructions, take it out of the fridge, wash it and use a sharp knife. It takes maybe 30 seconds and you can even take a photo when you're done ;-)
Smart carrot

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Downtown food - Uptown prices: Eating out in the 'breadbasket' of America

Columbia Missouri is a town of about 100,000 people and many college students. The downtown area, adjacent to THE University of Missouri main campus of 30k students, has historically been where all these students work, live and shop. There have always been several eateries and shops there, along with theaters and other entertainment opportunities.

Although there are a few student-oriented restaurants and music venues, nowadays downtown's nature is rapidly changing. For the most part, it is becoming an upscale dining room and haberdashery for the gentry living in the outskirts of town, while students who are more mobile often go to stores, malls and restaurants farther away or run up the Visa card downtown.

This post is about the food and drink. The whole area next to THE U is increasingly populated by 'emporiums' full of 'artisan' 'fare'. Beer has a 'finish' and a 'bouquet,' as well it should when a glass of stout ran me $7 last week while I was shooting a local musician (with a camera). Salads are now called mixed greens and are full of endive covered with vinaigrette; baguettes, pates, remoulades, lattes, chais, frappuccinos, 'legacy' ham, 'artisan' cheese, gnashes and gnocchis abound. After all, if you give it a foreign name - it must be worth more. The blue-collar hash joint is almost extinct here.

There are a couple of reasonably-priced places to get a tasty breakfast for maybe five bucks; but if you want your eggs over-easy with hash browns and sausage without a 2nd mortgage you'll have to search 'em out. Lucy's Cafe, The 9th St. Deli and D&D Cafe are three reasonably-priced places to eat; lunch about $8 and breakfast maybe $5-6. After that, it's a landscape of fast food and/or high-prices where you can break your fast (and your wallet) for maybe $10-$15 - if you're lucky.

There are a couple of cafes left in town.
Best breakfast in town
Best breakfast in town
The menu below has an egg (read 1), piece of 'legacy' ham and bread for $8.50 (with a spot of pate and a pickled onion, of course). Probably diet food - add a 3-dollar coffee and a tip and you'll be about $14 lighter when you stagger out the door.  A friend, who just took the train to Dallas, TX, said these prices are "Amtrak prices'" and that prices in Columbia are about the same as Dallas and other major metro areas.
An egg-salad sandwich is $7.50 (sides $3 extra, see menu)
The Upscale Menu - Slice o' bacon $3

On New Years eve, Sherry and I went to see the shows and have dinner. We stopped at a small Italian place on 9th Street (nice to have an Italian restaurant here for a change). The server handed us a card with the "special" - $33 for a large steak (pretty high, but survivable), so we decided to split the dinner and have a snack later. At the bottom, in really small print, it stated

"$5 for an extra plate." 

I think it's OK to jack the prices a little for the holidays; but "customary" isn't always "right"; I don't mind $50 with Cokes and a tip for a holiday dinner with my gal, but $5 to share it is just over-the-top. We didn't bite ;-)
Steak - right & wrong

So, we went down the block and had a couple of burgers for $28 (no Cokes) and stopped for two pieces of candy for dessert ($5).  
By God, we showed 'em.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Popcorn and a drink - $12.50? [OUTRAGEOUS concession prices at theaters and elsewhere!]

I estimate a family of four will spend $60 to take their kids to see a matinee. Call your local theater and tell them that you are tired of their gouging for refreshments. Enough is enough!
Really hollywood 4 text

Sherry and I went to a matinee last Friday, and on top of the $6.75 matinee ticket price,  Hollywood Theaters in Columbia Missouri charged me $12.50 for a large popcorn and drink. I figure their cost at about 50 cents for both - MAX!

Theaters have extremely low staffing costs because most of the employees are part-time school kids and get no insurance or benefits. So why have theaters and sports venues historically been able to gouge 10 X the usual price for food, candy and refreshments?

At my university, when they host the state high-school basketball (and all other events), they have people at the entries that search every camera bag, purse and container that paying patrons bring in. When I asked what they were looking for, they said "contraband, it's for security reasons."

Just a peek ma'am, for security reasons - It's just wrong.

As I stood to the side and watched, I saw them make a woman throw a small bag of peanuts and a candy bar from her purse into a waiting trash container before they would let her in. How embarrassing - for them, not her. I feel much more secure knowing someone won't blow me up with an explosive candy bar. In fact, it is blatant protection of the vendors' ability to overcharge for their wares.

A good solution would be to charge a reasonable price for refreshments so everyone can enjoy them, and sell a few more to make up for it. Tell your local theaters and venues that enough is enough. I sent Hollywood theaters an email telling them that I will skip the next 3 good movies there, make my own popcorn and drinks and rent the DVD in a few weeks. It'll cost me $5 instead of $30 for us to see the movie in the comfort of our home. Maybe we should all do the same for awhile and let the theaters stew a little.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yes, I admit it - I have a clogged drain.

So, being a fan of craigslist, I put an ad in for someone to run a snake down there and root it out. I have had 3 responses. The first one wanted to do the work, but flaked out on 2 appointments, not even calling for one of them. I kind of expect that from craigslist postings; about 1 in 4 are unreliable.

The second two were more interesting. They both said that they wanted $125 or $150 to show up at the door and that maybe they could do the job for $150. My response was that I would pay $150 cash when the sink worked, Both had some lame lament about them coming all that way (20 miles) and not getting anything for it. I said that life's a gamble and since I was paying $150 for maybe an hour's work that I should expect a firm commitment to a positive outcome for my money. They then became uninterested in the job. In other words, they were looking for a sure-thing payday whether or not they got the drain cleared!

I spent 20 years working as an electrician.  I never charged a client anything if I could not perform the work they required - ever. I think it is an unethical act to show up, get money, drag out your tools and fritter around a bit and then say "jeez, I'm sorry but it'll cost twice what you payed to actually fix the problem," or give some other lame excuse for not doing what you were paid for. Charging for a service call without satisfactorily completing the service is just plain wrong. Anyone got a plumbing snake and want to make $150?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Will somebody please, please burn some leaves?

When I was a kid, I remember the smell of leaves burning as vividly as any photograph of fall scenery. You could walk along and kick piles of them and watch as they floated back to ground. I could even rake them up for the neighbors and make enough to get something at the Five & Dime.

Nowadays, the Five & Dime's history and there are books of ordinances requiring homeowners to ensconce their leaves in sanitary plastic for pickup at the curb. There are laws against burning leaves, and future generations won't have that olfactory memory around Halloween time.

I wonder when some enterprising new-ager will come up with a way to compress a dry leaf into a little pellet and market it as incense or potpourri for yoga moms to meditate over while they enjoy a soothing latte in the sauna. Maybe burning-leaf car fresheners will be the vogue in a few years, or eau de Leaf cologne (his and her flavors, of course).

I have surely lived in a golden age, and am thankful when my neighbors out in the country burn leaves in the fall. They don't have to, mind you, but I have a hunch they do it just because they can.
I'll post a photo here when I get one.

Monday, November 8, 2010

'nuf said

We voted. What now?

Why is it that stores and businesses regularly raise prices on everything - all the while crying about their costs - and the consumer just has to suck it up and knuckle under to get by on less and less?

I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone when I say that real wages are falling in America. More and more stores are raising prices regularly on everyday things like food, while many employers have forestalled giving their employees cost-of-living wage adjustments for a long time. The result is that many food items now cost twice what they did a couple of years ago and the purchaser is making the same wage as before.

It's still easy to buy cheap food, like cereals, cookies and other sugar-laden crap, but nutritious food, like vegetables and meat have commonly doubled in price over just a couple of years. No wonder diabetes and other health problems are on the rise. There there, Johnny; eat your Frosty-Os and shut up.

Really HyVee!

Really HyVee!

More later..................

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health care - It's the little things that count

Remember: it's not about you!

It's the little things that count. Each small bottle of Lantus 24-hr. insulin retails for well over $100; there's about 1-2 week's supply in each bottle. Regular insulin is over $35 per bottle nowadays.
It's the little things that count (by Silver Image)

Each of these once-a-day pills for diabetics costs around $5.00 - EACH PILL! Ninety days worth is about $450 retail. Thrifty ol' Ben is not smiling.
More macro play - ol' Ben's not smiling

Keep in mind that the healthcare issue really isn't about you or me. It's about who gets how much money. It's about the insurance companies making record profits while raising rates. It's about how much money your government representatives pocket from lobbyists. It's about doctors that charge outrageous amounts so they can pay for their own insurance. It's about drug companies that charge 1000's of times their cost of development and production for drugs that the majority of people can't afford; it's all about the G$R$E$E$N$.

Some questions about the current healthcare debate come to mind:
  1. Why are healthcare costs rising at many times the rate of inflation?
  2. Why are insurance costs rising at many times the rate of inflation?
  3. Why am I called a communist liberal for thinking that every person should have affordable and available healthcare in a country where we spend hundreds of billions of dollars to send our kids to be killed in countries that most of us have probably never heard of?
  4. Why does a single pill for diabetics cost $5, a bottle of insulin cost over $100 or a simple doctor's visit cost over $100?
  5. Why is everyone talking about the prohibitive cost of providing healthcare, rather than the shame of admitting that the US has one of the lowest rates of healthcare availability in the 10 richest nations?
  6. Why are all republicans voting against universal healthcare, while almost all democrats are voting for it?
  7. Why is repealing the new healthcare system, the only major healthcare reform in decades, the primary goal of the new republican-led house?
  8. Why is the "right-to-life" issue more important than a right to a quality life? Wasn't this settled in the Roe vs. Wade decision 40 years ago?
  9. Where's the money going?

More later........