Mental Potpourri

June 17, 2009

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I have a bunch of topics that I want to discuss today, but none of them really warrants an entire article, so I’ll bounce around a bit.  The segues are going to be rough, so hang on for the ride.

First of all, Kosmo is growing a goatee!  Why?  Not because I think it looks cool.  Not because I need facial hair for an upcoming 80’s party (like a certain Casual Observer reader).  Nah, I’m just a bit lazy and really hate to shave, especially the goatee zone.  We’ll see how long this lasts.

Baker at ManVsDebt (a personal finance blog) talks about his ongoing trip to Australia.  The plan is for the Baker family to set down some Australian roots for a while.  His article talks about the flight to Australia and the first few days in the country.  It’s a good read.

Two time NFL MVP and genuinely good guy Kurt Warner is back in his home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this week, working with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those who were displaced by last year’s flooding.  Cedar Rapids (where I work) and Iowa City (where I live) were devastated by flooding last June, and much work still needs to be done in the recovery effort.  Warner and fellow local god Zach Johnson (2007 Masters  champion) routinely make trips back home to do good things, as do many other athletes and entertainers (ok, we basically just have Ashton Kutcher) from the state.

My beloved Colorado Rockies have climbed into wild card contention with an 11 game winning streak (which, alas, ended on Tuesday).  The firing of former manager Clint Hurdle and the promotion of Jim Tracy to interim manager seems to have marked a turning point in the season.  Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki seems to have shaken off the cobwebs with a strong June.  His 2009 OPS is in line with his career mark – he is hitting for a lower average this year, but is compensating with more walks.

Many Rockies draft picks have signed contracts and will be reporting to the minor league affiliate in Casper, Wyoming before long.  The Casper team was formerly known as a the Casper Rockies.  On October 31, 2007, they changed their team name.  They are now known as … the Casper Ghosts.  The equipment manager was quite happy with the change.  Whenever the team gets a new player, the equipment manager just grabs a new sheets, cuts a couple of eye holes, and the uniform is finished!  (Yes, I’m joking about that part – but the Casper team REALLY is called the ghosts!)

Bryce Harper is in line to become the youngest draft pick in baseball history.  The 16 year old catcher (who also pitches and plays a few other positions) will take his GED and enroll in a junior college for the 2009-2010 academic year.  Harper has been a man among boys when playing high school competition, and will most likely be the #1 overall pick in 2010.  The Washington Nationals are by far the worst team in baseball and are in line to hold the #1 pick.  They could conceivably get Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in consecutive drafts.

On Mother’s Day 2004, the Oakland A’s had a 5K run to fight breast cancer, free mammograms for women, and a free hat to the first 7500 female customers.  A male lawyer from San Diego decided that this was discrimination and decided to sue.  Incredibly, a $500,000 settlement has been reached – half going to the lawyers and half going to the victims of the travesty.  For decades, baseball teams have tailored certain giveaways to males, females, adults, or kids.  The giveaways are not part of the price of the ticket (and in fact often feature advertising from a sponsor).  If these sorts of lawsuits become commonplace, expect teams to take the easy route and simply halt the giveaways entirely.  (Thanks to Rick Reilly of ESPN for the heads-up on this)

Cheese is the latest victim of shrinking portion sizes.  I noticed that Kraft has been changing the design on their packaging.  On Saturday, I noticed that their 8 ounce blocks of cheese were fatter and shorter than the previous iteration.  And the “8 ounce” block now contains just 7 ounces.  Be wary, beer drinkers – the “5 pack” is just around the corner.

I’ve never been a huge fan of red “licorice”, preferring instead to indulge in true (black) licorice.  However, my interest has been piqued by Fire Twizzlers.  Red, yes, but with the extra zing that comes with the flavor of fire.  I’m a fan of fire – I gulp atomic fireballs and love fire Jolly Ranchers.  By the way, if you’re ever looking for cheap thrills, toss a few fire ranchers into a bowl of cherry or strawberry ones and watch for the reactions of your victims.  Ah, good clean fun.

Here’s a tip to squeeze a bit more light out of a light fixture.  Replace the bulbs with a compact flourescent bulb.  For example, a 13 watt compact flourescent bulb has the same amount of lumens (i.e. light) as a 60 watt incandescent (it will probably say “use in place of 60 watt bulb” – but if you look closely, the package will show the true wattage).  If you pop in a 20 watt CF bulb, you’ll see a nice improvement in the amount of light you get – while still using less energy and producing less heat than the 60w incandescent.  Do you have a fixture that indicates that you can only use a bulb of X wattage?  Well, according to knowledgeable people I have spoekn with, this refers to the true wattage.  If it has a 60 watt limit, you could use a 60 watt CF bulb (which could put out a ton of light) – you wouldn’t be limited to the 13 watt.  Note that you might want to double check this before going hog wild – I’m definitely not a certified lighting expert!

Give me back my food

April 2, 2009

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This is a 2-fer Thursday – 2 posts for the price of one. We won’t have these every week, but every now and then, I’ll do one. After you read this article, scroll down to read the Sporting News post.

I was startled the other night when I realized that my box of corn dogs contained only five dogs. In the past, it had always contained six. Since I am in the habit of eating three corn dogs at once, this was a traumatic turn of events.

All across the consumer landscape, changes are afoot. The manufacturers are in a difficult position. On one hand, many of them are seeing steep increases in costs. On the other hand, they are hesitant to raise prices in this economy and lose customers to competitors who don’t change prices.

Caught in this bind, the companies have gotten creative. Many companies are retaining the same physical dimensions of the package, but reducing the quantity of the product. It’s not just corn dogs, either. Grab your jar of peanut better and flip it upside down. See that – the bottom is concave! Fun size candy bars? They have gotten even smaller – many of them are narrower than they have been in the past.

Even the Girl Scouts have are going this – you’re getting one less ounce in your box of cookies. Pay attention to the food you’re buying and you’ll see other examples of content downsizing.

Some people might shrug this off and see it as an effective involuntary weight loss program. Not me – I’m a thin person and I need my food to make sure I don’t blow away in the wind.

Companies – if you need to raise the price, raise the price. An extra fifty cents in the grocery store will be a lot less annoying to me that noticing one fewer corn dog when I open the box.