Food 2: Artificialness

The mark of the 20th century was A.I. – no, not Artificial Intelligence, but Artificial Ingredients. These ingredients tend to be colors and flavors that enhance either real food or other artificial substances that resemble food. The purpose of artificial ingredients is to mimic something that is natural but at the fraction of the cost – or just to do it for kicks. What is so interesting about these ingredients is that we have used them for so long that life today would be so different without them. Without them, all soda would be clear. Ever think about that? Crystal Pepsi was just Caffeine Free Pepsi without the Caramel Coloring. It’s true! People kept saying that it had a hint of something like 7up in it, but that was all in their minds because there artificially laden diet could not discern taste from sight. “It’s clear! So it MUST have a lemon-limy flavor somewhere!” (That is one of the commandments in soda making today - since Pepsi violated it, it was taken off the market n' stuff). Many snacks would be a dull white color too – namely candy. Things would taste very odd too without artificial flavors, but artificial flavors must have tasted odd at one time. Artificial grape and watermelon come to my mind as flavors that are well accepted today in society, but they have NO relation to their natural counterparts. Think about it, Grape Kool-Aid is as artificial as you can get. First, just what exactly is “Kool” and how is this product-of-powder aiding it? It also has a hue of purple not normal in this universe - at least to the grape family. Of course, the taste does not resemble grape juice nor would one be able to ferment Grape Kool-Aid in order to make a Grape Kool-Aid Wine due to the hefty portion of preservatives desperately trying to keep its molecules together. For 99 cents a packet, mothers willingly give their own children this seemingly unstable concoction.

But that’s okay.

I’m sure their was tons of credible research done on the long term effects of these ingredients. Right? So, with all this in mind, is it my desire to eat natural and only purely organic material? Heavens no! Keep the colors coming! Keep the polymer-cupcakes flowing! Any culture that has learned to create the entity known as “The Twinkie” can eat whatever they dang well please … as long as you have your estate in order.


Retro vs. Cutting Edge vs. Me

I must confess that I am a retro-geek. I have to call myself that because I’m not a current-geek. The laser pointers that can melt duct tape and AJAX programmed web-doohikies are not in my possession and I don’t have enough cash or time to support a multi-console habit of video gaming. Based on that, I cannot consider myself a current-geek … and I’m OK with that. Older technology interests me for two reasons:

1. It’s cheap or free
2. I have a higher probability to understand it and not mash buttons in frustration

It’s true that if I was presented with an amber screen mainframe computer with tape reels along side an ultra thin laptop computer with a huge-faced screen, I’d poke around Mr. UNIVAC over there first before seeing how many Terabytes of RAM the iSnazzy-Mac had. This could be considered a weakness, but it’s just an overgrown curiosity.

Even my music is antiquated. Not many can stand it or will stand for it. Currently in my CD-Player I have “Electric Avenue” playing which always makes me want to program Atari games or write in BASIC. 1982 through 1984 seemed like a magical time though my parents would wonder just what the heck I thought was so thrilling about a time that looked like this:

“If you need help with your wardrobe, please press 0 now.”

“There are two kinds of fools: One says, ‘This is old therefore it is good.’ The other one says, ‘This is new therefore it is better.’”

I thought this was a quote from the Bible, but it turns out it’s just from some guy who was broke, like me, and couldn’t invest in either timeframe. Still, it says a lot. It’s much better to live in the NOW and be ever-present. (By living in the NOW, I don’t mean living in the storage basement of the National Organization of Women – that would be a little creepy and darn near an episode of CSI).

For the most part, I like the Future. It’s a bit expensive and aloof, but it looks nice. The Past, though friendly and warm, can get on your nerves if entertained too long. The Answer? Buy the Present a soda and get to know it real well, make it a grilled cheese sandwich and surf the Information Superhighway together. You’ll be glad you did.


The Truth about the Peanut

A peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. The peanut is actually from the dairy group, a cousin of eggnog and highly poisonous. It is so named because it looks like a nut found in a pod that resembles a peapod – if you squint and tilt your head a little. The peanut was discovered in 1972 by a French Monk now known as Saint Johnay (pronounced Ko-ko-san-chez). He was a portly chap who liked to poke at mud with a stick. One day, while poking around in a cow pasture, a tiny peanut flew from the end of his stick. He picked it up and decided to study it. After weeks of examination, he threw it away. His fellow monk, Callumnoki (pronounced “Pay-ter”) recovered it, cracked it open, ate the contents and died 10 minutes later. Callumnoki owed Johnay 15 Francs. This is why deadbeats use to throw peanuts at collection agencies on All Saints Day in Quebec, Milan and Dunlap, Iowa – it was a threat as if to say “We can kill ourselves at anytime and leave your money uncollected.” This tradition ceased in 1985 when laws were passed that could enable collection agencies to claim estate amounts for owed debt. The lesser known tradition of hiding peanuts in the ground and giving children poking sticks is still practiced every Tuesday in Bakersfield, North Dakota for 10 minutes right before Jeopardy.


Your clock is wrong I tell you!

I have a rare sleeping disorder. This disorder, though mild to me, is very serious to my spouse. If it was as simple as snoring, it could be dealt with by surgical operations or Darth Vader-like contraptions strapped to my face with nostril tubes that would reach into my liver – but it is not. The problem I have happens about once a year and, by my reasoning, is not treatable.
The best way to visualize my disorder is to think of us all as having internal clocks that govern our bodies. These clocks can naturally tell us when to get up and when to go to bed. The problem is that my internal clock can sometimes react as if a gigantic electromagnet the size of Houston is right beside my head. All normality is gone and pandemonium is put there instead.
Let me give you specific encounters to further illustrate this problem. The first time this happened to me and my wife was one sleepy night where my wife was sleeping peacefully like an angel and I was wadded up in some sort of cannonball posture involving a pillow, pillow sham and at least one corner of a blanket that is trying desperately to leave my straining clutches. It was during this night that I jolted awake, my internal clock askew.
You see, my internal clock told me – in harsh tones – that it was 6:30. The usual time I get up, but for unexplainable reasons to me at the time, the alarm clock said 1:03am.
Because my internal clock insisted in being right, the external clock that only had unreliable electricity powering it had to be wrong. Fearing some sort of freakish power outage happened; I decided to wake my wife to chime in on the issue. She wasn’t very forthcoming with useful theories. Mostly she was mad. The conversation went something like this:

Me: wife’s name!
Wife: zzzz
Wife: zzzhu… what?
Me: Why does the clock say 1am??

At this point there was a moment of stunned silence which I didn’t understand. Her unwillingness to jump in and solve this caper proved that I was on top of things more than anyone else. This was an error in judgment, however because she quickly diffused the situation by saying:

Wife: Maybe … because it IS?
(another pause of stunned silence)
Me: Oh….

The rest of the night was spent with me making sounds like a cappuccino machine and my wife wondering what just happened and why she was punished by a man who insisted on imitating industrial-grade appliances. We eventually laughed it off just in time (well, only me) for this next incident happened the following year:
While nestled and all snug in our bed, a familiar panic ensued. Around 2am my internal clock sounded an alarm akin to the terror alert being raised from green to deep deep maroon. There was no time to wake the wife this time, haste was immediate! I threw off the blanket, comforter, pillows and (I think) a largish stuffed animal and dashed to the bathroom in a tizzy. Somewhere along the way, for reasons unexplained, this woke my wife up. Just as I reached the door she called out “What’s wrong?” In a panic-induced voice tempered by annoyance at such a nonsensical question I answered back “It’s 2 instead of 1!”
Again the silent pause. My wife used her groundbreaking analytical testing question of “what??” for which I didn’t have an answer for. “oh…” I said with a laugh that wasn’t shared, “I did it again.” Trying to let this one slide by proved harder as my wife started wondering just exactly what was wrong with me and why she has to be brought into this debacle of “me.” Marriage joins a lot of things together. Let this be a warning to others considering such a move too lightly.
Now that I had opened the almost healed wounds from the first experience and inflicted even more pain with a ridiculous statement, I thought I had reached the bottom and put this all behind me.
One year later I had a dream. I dreamt that my wife and her mother were helping me debug a complex computer program. It was a humdinger of a problem too. As we three studied and sweated over the code, I decided to go use the restroom and come back to tackle it anew. While I was in the bathroom, I noticed that the wall clock said it was 3am. I was only able to process this by staring at the clock for a good 5 minutes. Why I was working on a computer problem with my wife and mother-in-law at 3am was a puzzler. And then it dawned on me. “Hmmm, I bet I was dreaming! Aha!” Then it dawned on me another time “I just woke my wife up again.” I then tried to reason that maybe I didn’t. No such luck.
I returned to a very awake wife wondering if I was sick or hurt. I wished it was true. The answer of “nothing” did not appease her. Sadly, the full explanation of my behavior didn’t work either. It was a lose-lose situation, mainly me losing some brownie points and her losing sleep. Since that time, my inner alarm clock has been restrained to me staying in bed and staring intently at my little clock for several minutes, convincing myself that I’m not late for work, church or to cook and eat breakfast sausage. If I was to retain any peace, if I do turn out to be late for something, I can still calmly remove myself from bed and carefully walk to the shower to proceed to get ready without knocking everything gravity prone to the ground. I’ve come a long way. Now to handle this cappuccino machine snore …