Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Semantics & Health: What Is "Energy"?

Everywhere I look nowadays, I am bombarded with messages about foods and beverages providing "energy". What does this really mean anymore?

Some examples, specific marketing messages or general schools of thought:
-"Red Bull gives you wings."
-"For an afternoon boost, eat carrots."
-"Pasta is high in carbs which gives you energy."
-"Popeye gets his energy from spinach."
-"Powerbar Performance: The Original Energy Bar" is packed with "complex carbs" and "delivers sustained energy for a performance edge"
-Maine Munchies cites a Business 2.0 article that states: To get a fast-acting boost without a harsh sugar crash, try pairing sugar with protein. A prepackaged trail mix with both nuts and dried fruits is a perfect (and portable) high-energy combo

You get the idea. I think we're so obsessed with doing more and more every day on less and less sleep that we'll buy anything that claims to gives us more energy. While I realize that foods and drinks give me energy (anything with calories, technically, gives people energy), and that healthy foods are better for you since they keep you going and don't bog you down like fried foods, for example, but when I think of energy, I think of ADRENALINE. To me, Red Bull is not an energy drink... it's a caffeine drink.

I could eat the healthiest food around and drink a gallon of coffee before I go out to run, but I'm still bored and tired after a few blocks. That's why I don't run. I just don't get adrenaline-- "the runner's high" like some do.

However, put me on a basketball court in a fun competitive game, and my adrenaline will keep me going for hours. I'm into the game, I'm getting the juices flowing, I'm feeling the energy, the adrenaline.

And that's something that can't be wrapped up or bottled in a factory.

Well, not yet.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Rabbis, Shivas, and Popes, OH MY!

In case you were looking for that action-packed religious toy...

I guess this is a sign the Apocalypse is coming?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Global Warming: A Hot Issue that's Burning Me Up

Talk of global warming has escalated in the past couple of years, as we all know. From scientists proclaiming that this biproduct effect of burning fossil fuels will doom the Earth, to other scientists who say this issue is complete rubbish, everybody's got an opinion. It's for this reason that I firmly believe we need to change the subject.

To me, the concept of global warming has become a political issue that has lost all of its meaning. I say this because, if, indeed, we humans are destroying the Earth by burning fossil fuels and creating global warming, then quite frankly there's not a whole lot we can do about it now. If scientists who predict a rapid increase in worldwide temperatures, resulting in harsher storms, higher water levels, and a general imbalance in all that is good in nature, then it's too late for us to change anything in the foreseeable future because we're in way too deep.

Instead of arguing about global warming, let's focus on the other major issues that are directly related to burning fossil fuels:
  • Health: Can anybody in their right mind honestly say that pumping smoke, exhaust, and other fumes into the air is good for us? Sure, some yokels out there couldn't give a plugged nickel about this issue, but on the whole we're threatening our lungs with carcinogens and other garbage. Asthma, cancer, emphysema, etc. are all exacerbated by having polluted air. Just look at this tiny little gem from the Philadelphia Inquirer today, and see if you feel a bit less content with the pollution we're creating....
Group blames Sunoco for carcinogenic pollution An environmental group said nine oil refineries - including Sunoco Inc.'s operation in South Philadelphia - that have 15 percent of the nation's refining capacity accounted for one-third of total carcinogenic pollution emissions reported by the oil industry. The Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group in Washington, said Sunoco's Philadelphia refinery released 87,009 pounds of carcinogens into the air in 2004, ranking the plant eighth on the list. A company spokesman said Sunoco was proud of its record on health, environment and safety issues.- Harold Brubaker
  • Economics: Imagine you could drive a car that would cost you nothing, nil, nada to drive as a result of not having to fill up on gas, ever. I personally, and unfortunately, spend about 50 bucks per week filling up my car, and that's using a fairly efficient car (Ford Focus) by today's standards. If everybody could pocket that money instead of literally burning it into thin air, imagine how much better off people would be the world over. Obviously this is an extreme example, but the big shots at big oil don't seem to be in any rush to change this setup because they're rolling deep in dough due to our thirst for gasoline. I'm not even going to get started on the notion of funding the terrorists and Middle Eastern nations....
  • Aesthetics: Close your eyes for a moment and think back to the last time you heard somebody say, "Boy, I wish there were more smog in our sky." Or, "This city would look so much better with more black grime from smoke on the buildings." Sadly, people from old cities are pretty much accustomed to buildings looking grimy, but go to a cleaner environment and the difference is immediately noticeable. The polluted air affects the way things look, and subsequently gives people a less favorable outlook on the world.
Undoubtedly, the ability to burn fossil fuels has made our lives better in many ways, such as giving us hot and cold air to make weather extremes more tolerable; enabling us to cook foods more easily; providing a way for us to get place to place; etc. But now's the time to break out of the fossil-fuel-burning mode that we're stuck in. And if we are able to cut back on fossil fuel burning because of the aforementioned reasons, perhaps we'll lessen the global warming effect to boot. Then maybe we'll all breathe a bit easier.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

TV Commercials for TVs

So the Super Bowl commercials made quite a buzz this year, once again, and once again the Super Bowl commercials where rather underwhelming in my book. But that's not what I'm here to ramble about. I'm here to talk about TV commercials. As in commercials for new TVs.

Every time I see a commercial for new TVs, I have to laugh.

If I'm sitting at home watching a TV commercial on my 26", fuzzy but functional TV, and I see a commercial for the latest in a long line of plasma, HD, LCD, DLP, ABC, whatever TVs, and the narrator in the commercial is crowing about the crystal clear clarity of the picture, but all I see is a fuzzy but functional version of it on my set... why would I want to buy a new TV?

Worse yet, what if I'm watching that same commercial on a black and white 13" screen TV?

In other words, the TV in the commercial can present the new-fangled product as having the sharpest picture imaginable, but it will only be as sharp as I can see it on my current TV. Thus, the whole persuasive argument is lost in translation.

Now pardon me while I go adjust the bunny ears...

Thursday, February 1, 2007

How Not to Run a Department Store

During the holiday season, I received a shirt and some gloves that didn't fit me, so I took them back to the store where they were bought, Boscov's. I hadn't been there in years and now I know why.

Here's my basic review of this shopping adventure:
  • Atmosphere: Generally drab and messy. I understand the holidays are over and stores are recovering, but at least attempt to look neat. Grade: C-
  • Selection: Again, the holiday season probably ravaged stock, but they had a narrow selection of a wide range of stuff. My advice... Stick to what you sell well and don't try to be everything to everybody. Grade: C-
  • Salespeople: The two that I spoke to were pleasant, but overall nobody gave a hello unless I approached them. But I'll give them the benefit of doubt that they're probably tired of working in such a tired store and at least weren't rude. Grade: B
  • Prices: Generally things seemed pretty reasonable, but this is also a result of clearing out from the holidays. Boscov's always runs bizarre discounts like cashier roulette or something or other that I don't really get. But for $40 I got a nice scarf and my wife-to-be got some shoes and a photo album. (I actually had a $50 voucher but couldn't even find a way to spend all of it.) Grade: A-
  • Registers: The cash registers looked like they were from a 1980's cyber thriller where the Russians are attacking the U.S. and we get a glimpse of the futuristic gadgets that will help save the country from missile assaults. In other words, they were 50 pound calculators. Not to mention the fact that we had to pay for shoes in the shoe department and not at another register with everything else. Annoying. Grade: F
  • Odds and Ends: The "electronics" section was an insult to all things electronic. For example, they had a "2 band radio" that looked like it had been in the store since 1972. The thing was the size of a brick and the packaging exclaimed: "Pocket sized". Meanwhile the sporting goods section was rather deflated with the bare bones of athletic items. Oh, and the men's clothing department had a video running on a small monitor. It was playing on a VCR and was set on loop so at the end of the tape you see it rewinding. I mean really. Grade: D
I really have a hard time complaining about stores I go to because I know from experience that there's a lot involved in keeping it in good shape and there's a lot of competition out there that's always looking to one-up you. But this particular Boscov's was hurtin' big time. If I ever make it back there to redeem the rest of my 10 bucks on my gift card, I'll give you an update. Hopefully the next report will be a little more upbeat.

But I will say that I have gotten two compliments on my scarf. Sadly, that's more than I can say about the store, however.