June 30, 2008

Reader Recipe: Sweet Potato Chili

[Posted by Crabby]

This recipe features the humble Sweet Potato.

You would think sweet potatoes were the junk food of the vegetable world, wouldn't you? "Sweet" plus "potato" sure sounds like something that should be naughty. An uninformed person might think: Why eat a naughty vegetable when you could use those calories for other important nutritional needs?

(Cartoon courtesy of nataliedee.com)

But guess what: that's all wrong. Sweet potatoes are really nutritious! They're so good for you, in fact, that the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) named the sweet potato the most nutritious vegetable of all the vegetables in the world!

Note: if this claim seems a bit over-the-top, it may be 'cause this Healthy Vegetable Pageant was held back in 1991. We've been introduced to about a billion "superfoods" since then, and I was too lazy to discover the current rankings. Perhaps the Sweet Potato has been demoted to Miss Congeniality by now (since she seems so sweet and all).

Screw you brussel sprouts, I'm still WAY more popular.
(Photo by Angie Doyle)

But even without the crown: sweet potatoes are full of really great healthy stuff.

So here is an awesome recipe sent in by Megan R, who blogs at Praying Horse. (She blogs about weight loss and emotional eating and has lost 135 lbs!) The chili sounds delicious to me, since I love sweet and spicy things together. As soon as I get my lazy ass in the kitchen and get around to cutting up some veggies I'm definitely gonna give this a try!

Sweet Potato Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 tsp chili powder
2 cups vegetable broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 zucchinis, diced
3 tomatoes, diced or 1 can tomato bits
2 cups cooked pinto beans or 1 can
6 cloves garlic, minced (I like garlic)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in heavy pan over medium high heat. Add red onion and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and stir for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the broth and the sweet potato. Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer until sweet potato is almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes with the juice and the pinto beans along with the garlic and spices. Add the zucchinis and the rest of the broth. Add pepper.

Simmer uncovered until the chili thickens and the sweet potato is very tender. Add cilantro to the bowl when serving.

Thanks Megan!

IMPORTANT NOTE: We're starting to run low on Reader Recipes... Got a tasty easy healthy one? Please email to Crabby McSlacker @ gmail . com (all one word).

Give-Away Winners, and More Coming Up

So sorry we couldn't give razors to everyone, especially after those awesome comments. But keep trying! There will be another give-away contest this next coming Friday July 4th (which we'll run a little longer because of the holiday), and you will NOT need to be a U.S. resident to win.

So the random number generator hath spoken, and the winners of the Schick Quattro Razor Are:

Sassy Stephanie
Laura Brandon, and


Please email us at: Crabby McSlacker @ gmail.com (no spaces) by midnight EST on Wednesday July 2 with your mailing address, and we'll forward the list to the Schick folks. (You may want to include a real name for mailing purposes, although we're sure Sassy Stephanie's postal carrier would appreciate her blog alias). Also you may want to make sure your email address is reply-able in case of any questions/confusion).

Note: If there are unclaimed razors we'll go back and choose additional names, so please keep obsessively checking Cranky Fitness to pump up our page views find out what's happening with the give-aways and health and fitness news.

June 27, 2008

Give-Aways and Gorilla Legs

[By Crabby]

Cranky Fitness is always looking for new ideas to steal from other blogs mix things up a little. And we can't help noticing that there are some other bloggers that are far ahead of us in the give-away department.

As we understand it, our pal MizFit actually goes out and finds cool things that readers might like, things that bear some relation to the subject of her blog, (fitness), and then she obtains these items and gives them away to readers!

Isn't that cool?

But that sounds like way too much work. We usually wait until someone offers us something to give away, which doesn't happen all that often. If we were motivated and proactive enough to contact folks who had cool heath-related products, we'd be begging them for advertising revenue, not free samples.

On the other hand, sometimes people contact us and offer up stuff to review. Most times we say no, because the blog might get even more boring if we took up every single review opportunity that came along. (And honestly, we were getting a lot of laxative offers for a while. Perhaps they think the reason we're so Cranky here at Cranky Fitness is because we're constipated? We're not, I swear.)

But anyway, the last two email offers we got I thought I'd experiment with a new approach. I said: well, we might not review it, but can we give the stuff away to our readers?

And they said yes!

So if this approach continues to work, we might start giving stuff away on Fridays if there's anything on hand. Unless otherwise noted, a Random Number Generator will be used to choose among people who enter by commenting.

Next week, I believe we may have one or more exercise dvd's (still working on the details) but this week... we got razors!

Five of these!

Another blog-pal Stephanie, who also frequently gives things away, says these razors are great.

Do razors have anything to do with health and fitness? Well, gosh, no they don't. But they're free so let's talk about them, shall we?

Each razor has FOUR RAZOR BLADES on it! Because God knows you can't get a close enough shave with just three. (I'm wondering, however, how long this razor-blade escalation will continue. It used to be one, then two, then three, now four... what do you think: Five? Seven? Will there one day be a new Schick Century Razor with 100 razor blades?)

And why do so many of us women even remove our leg hair in the first place? It seems silly and sexist that only one gender is allowed to have leg hair. Alas, I tried go "natural" back in college, being a feminist and all. This approach works great if you are blond or have nice soft sparse downy hair.

I don't.

Seriously. I couldn't pretend I didn't care that I grow long dense thick fur rather than leg hair so I ended that experiment. (But now I tend to get waxed, so don't need to hog the razors for myself).

Unfortunately, though, they only want U.S. winners, which on this blog is inconvenient. We love our Canadians and other international readers! (A Canadian ended up winning the Lipton Bike, by the way, which made us quite happy).

However, for U.S. residents, this means you have a really good chance of winning one of these babies. Will we even get 5 non-Canadian comments?

So if you have any observations about hair removal, or you would like to win a nifty razor, please leave a comment and check back Monday.

Note: Another good place to check for health related give-aways is Healthbolt, which is a fun place to hang out anyway. They've been doing round-ups of free stuff, often on Sundays.

June 26, 2008

Does Food = Mood?

[By Merry]

They say that you are what you eat. My shape could be described as resembling a big mac (hold the pickles and lettuce).

Food can make you happy. Can food also make you cranky?
A lot of people who are overweight can attest that food can make you (in the short-term) happy. They have developed their full figures because of relying on comfort food (i.e. food that is high in fat) to make them feel better when times are hard.

Just out of curiosity -- why does no one ever try comfort carrots? High on the glycemic index (but not on the glycemic load), carrots are also full of fiber. Plus if you're stressed you can crunch on them and get some of your aggression out. How often have you seen a cranky rabbit?

And obviously eating a lot of sugary foods can make you hyper, just as -- so some people say -- eating all the Thanksgiving turkey can make you sleepy. (According to some experts, all that tryptophan in the turkey can make you sleepy. And all this time you thought it was Aunt Marge's habit of pulling out the grandchild photographs that was making you nod off after the T-day dinner.)

Can it work the other way? Can food actually promote anger?
Some of Britain's most challenging young prisoners are to be given food supplements in a study aimed at curbing violent behavior.

Just think! We could promote world peace (or at least whirled peas) by making sure everyone gets decent meals.

Somehow that sounds waaaay too simple. Yes, if no one ever had to worry about putting food on the table, or making sure their table isn't foreclosed on, then I suppose there would be less anger in the world.

Does food = mood?

In some circumstances this makes sense, but all the time? I'm not sure. I can see food being used for all kinds of cranky and indeed lethal behavior. (The Twinkie Defense springs to mind.) What do you think?

June 25, 2008

Easily Embarrassed

[By Crabby]

So, would you like to see the hilarious photo of the guy running in some big race who crapped his running shorts in front of thousands of horrified/amused spectators?

Click here!

Oh sorry, did that link not work?

Must be technical difficulties. Or, more accurately, psychological ones.

I feel profoundly uncomfortable about the growing internet trend of posting and publicizing pictures and videos of ordinary people who did something accidental and humiliating.

Wrong place, wrong time, caught on camera--and now some poor soul has to cope with the fact that their image is all over the world wide web. Someone leaked bodily fluids or fell in an embarrassing way or fell victim to a prank or an accident and perhaps did not conduct himself or herself with grace.

What if that person were me? How would I feel?

Probably pretty close to suicidal. (I am, however, neurotic).

Are these photos and videos obtained and distributed with the permission of the person being made fun of? Well, I don't know. What's your guess? And if I don't know, should I just assume "they must be ok with it because everyone else is posting it too?"

Of course there are plenty of times when I don't mind laughing right along with everyone else:

Stuck-up celebrities who carefully manipulate their image and do everything they can to be photographed constantly so they can sell that image? Well, when they get caught doing something stupid, I don't feel so bad.

Or idiots who film themselves doing reckless stunts and then wipe out in spectacular or humorous ways? I have no problem with those sorts of videos either.

But an ordinary person minding his or her own business who is not asking for trouble? I think we should leave 'em alone. I don't care how "funny" it was; I care that this was an actual person and I don't want to play a part in hurting them.

I'll admit, I'm someone who is easily embarrassed. I get vicariously embarrassed for others and I cringe right along with them. In fact, I don't even like fictional characters to humiliate themselves. I'll fast-forward through a movie when the drunk person starts to get up to make the speech at the black-tie dinner or whatever. I'm weird, I know.

Does anyone else have any thoughts about this? Am I just being too sensitive?

June 24, 2008

Mosquitoes? Yikes! DEET vs Alternatives

[By Crabby]

Photo by trebol-a

I Have Nothing Against Most Bugs

I generally have a "no-kill" policy when it comes to insects. When I'm outside and they annoy me, I shoo them away or go inside. When they manage to get inside, I try to relocate them to the great outdoors. (Or sometimes I'm too lazy and I just leave them, knowing that Someone Else will probably come by and kill them later--but at least I'm not the personal agent of their destruction).

But mosquitoes? Whole different story! I hate mosquitoes. No gentle shooing, no Insect Relocation program. It's all kill, kill, kill, buh-bye.

Yet for someone who hates mosquitoes, I do practically nothing to keep them away from me. I spent most of my life in areas where they're not a huge problem, only an occasional nuisance, so it's taken me a while to "get it."

But now I live somewhere they like to hang out, and I finally understand: Sometimes one really, truly needs to spray on some sort of foul substance to keep from being eaten alive.

But it's so icky! It's worse than even than evil sunscreen.

Is DEET the answer? Wait, what was the question?

I've always heard DEET was the only thing that really worked. And despite years of experts reassuring me that there was nothing to worry about unless one was particularly chemically sensitive (nope--just emotionally) I've never really trusted the stuff.

It burns through synthetic fabrics and plastics, right? How scary is that?

Well, Scientific American recently ran an article on DEET that mentioned annoying side effects like skin irritation, numb or burning lips, nausea, headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentrating, blah blah blah... but then went on to say something about "diffuse brain cell death," and that managed to get my attention.

Brain cell death? Um, no thanks. I'd like to hang on to the precious few brain cells I have. Or if I'm gonna kill them, I'd at least like to use something more fun, like tequila. I'm not wasting brain cells on DEET.

But thankfully, the article also challenged the "DEET is the only effective insect-killer" notion I'd heard so often. They said that in recent years, the alternatives have gotten much better. They recommended two in particular: picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. To quote:

"Picaridin, long used to repel mosquitoes in other parts of the world, is now available in the U.S. under the Cutter Advanced brand name. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is derived from eucalyptus leaves and is the only plant-based active ingredient for insect repellents approved by the CDC, is available in several different forms, including Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, OFF! Botanicals, and Fight Bite Plant-Based Insect Repellent."

Cool! Oil of lemon eucalyptus sounds kinda pleasant, doesn't it? Almost like something you'd pay to be dunked in at the spa. Or the manicurist...

"But Madge, Mosquito Repellent???"
"Relax, You're Soaking In It."

Other Botanical Alternatives

The Scientific American article mentions a couple other places to get safer mosquito repellent recommendations, (here too), but Google had different ideas.

Google thought we should all be using Catnip to repel mosquitoes.

Turns out, previous research suggested catnip oil might have promise, but alas, even people who sell catnip for a living said: Nope; it doesn't work very well.

Plus, it can actually attract pests.

Photo by donnjmck

Yeah, those too, but they specifically mention bees and fire ants.

Anyway, does anyone else dislike both mosquitoes and the methods used to repel them? Any thoughts or suggestions? Anyone tried the Picaridin or the Oil of lemon eucalyptus?

June 23, 2008

Fat is Not Fair

[by Crabby]

It is not a scientific secret that genetics play a role in weight gain and obesity.

People have different metabolisms. There are people who eat tons of food and never exercise, yet they are skinny. There are other people who eat healthy foods in reasonable portions, exercise for hours, and will still probably always be "overweight."

Yet because so much hard work and sacrifice is involved in weight loss, there is a tendency among people who are successful to act as though everyone gets the exact same deal. "I gave up my hot fudge sundaes and started running, and look at me! If you're still overweight, it's because you must be eating crap and sitting on your ass all day."

Well, some of you know from experience that it's just not true.

And sure, plenty of people are overweight because they eat way too much and exercise too little. But there are also plenty of others who get a raw deal in the genetic lottery--maybe growing up, you did the same stuff everyone around you was doing, but instead of getting heavy, you got obese. Or maybe you've struggled your whole life to keep from being obese, going to great lengths to be merely overweight. Or perhaps you've swung back and forth, losing and gaining, messing with your already unfriendly metabolism and through the best of intentions making things worse.

It's not fair.

What's It Like To Have the Deck Stacked Against You?

Are you one of those unlucky people? I'm not myself, but I believe that among readers of health and weight loss blogs, there are quite a few. People who are motivated enough to visit blogs and even start their own, and research all the right things to do and try and try and try... but still find the pounds fall off very, very slowly. And sometimes not at all.

I read what some of you folks are eating and what you're doing for exercise, and Holey Moley! It's a lot more demanding than what I have to do to maintain my weight. I would get so exhausted by the daily battle of "bad cookie/good carrot/how many steps on the pedometer today" that I think I'd want to pull my hair out.

I have a pretty "normal" metabolism. If I start eating like an average American and exercising like an average American, even for a few months, I gain weight. I would be overweight now if I hadn't woken up (twice) and reformed my ways when I started to get too self-indulgent. But, unlike some of you, if I eat 90% healthy, count calories for a while, and get a bunch of exercise, I can lose the weight again fairly easily and keep it off.

It makes me wonder what my attitudes would be like if I weren't so lucky. What if I were suddenly "blessed" with a hundred or so extra pounds and a stubborn metabolism? How would I handle it?

The Optimistic Scenario

Here's what I hope I would do:

1. Learn how to reject all the appearance-related garbage we're exposed to daily. I hope I'd learn to love my large thighs and unshedable belly fat even while being constantly told my every magazine, billboard, tv show and casual conversation that I should hate everything about myself.

2. Concentrate more on health goals--getting stronger, fueling my body with nutritious healthy food, building endurance, doing enough cardio to reduce my risk for heart disease and cancer and diabetes, etc. Define progress according to these goals, not a number on the scale.

3. Try to be grateful for all the other ways in which I was still lucky, by looking beyond my immediate situation. I hope I'd remind myself that I could be living in a poverty-stricken nation; I could be in the midst of a war; I could be maimed or disfigured or dying of a painful disease or the victim of any number of unjust fates.

4. Surround myself with supportive, non-judgmental, healthy friends who would understand me and encourage my efforts to be strong and healthy and happy.

5. Seek balance in life and see myself as a whole person with many talents and goals, and not just as number on a scale or a clothing size.

But honestly? I am not a particularly evolved, mature, self-confident person.

The Darker Scenario:

Here is how I fear I might deal with the situation instead:

1. Learn to hate my body, and by extension, myself.

2. Get so focused on calories and portion sizes and "good" and "bad" foods that I'd no longer be able to enjoy eating as a simple pleasurable activity. And with food and exercise so emotionally charged, I fear I'd veer between frantic determination to lose weight versus giving up entirely and bingeing.

3. Become more self-absorbed (if possible) and depressed.

4. Withdraw from social situations out of fear of rejection.

5. Start judging my sense of self worth by how my clothes fit rather than who I was as a person.

Yikes, what a downer, I should have gone in the other order!

So does anyone with a "good" metabolism wonder how they'd fare if they weren't so lucky? Or does anyone who's unlucky have any stories from the trenches or advice for those struggling against unfair odds?

June 20, 2008

Random Friday: Beverages, Blow-ups and Bar Graphs

[Posted by Crabby]

Hmm, Which One is Crabby?

Yes, it's been a while since a Random Friday, but don't worry--it's still just as dopey as ever. Merry is taking some well-deserved time off, thereby lowering the standards of the blog. Pray for her speedy return!

Let's start with a little bit of science, shall we?

Gay Brains:
A brain scan study of gay and hetero brains found surprising differences--with gay men and straight women sharing some characteristics that differed from straight men and lesbians. These were "in the area of the brain responsible for emotion, mood and anxiety." The brains of straight guys and lesbians "were slightly asymmetric with the right hemisphere slightly larger than the left," while gay male and straight female brains were not. And the amygdala (the "fight-or-flight" area) was wired in a similar fashion in gay men/heterosexual women vs gay gals/straight men.

(Note to self: learn better bar-fighting skills and how best to avoid crying at sad movies. Or at least find out why I was apparently issued the wrong model of brain at birth. Consider visiting Healthbolt to take the "what sex is your brain" test).

More Good News on the Beverage Front:
At least if you enjoy coffee and/or red wine.

For java junkies, especially the gals: A new coffee study found that women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had an 18% reduction in death from all causes compared to non-coffee-drinkers. But what about 4-5 cups a day, that can't be good, right? Well ha ha ha! The women who drank that much had a 26% reduction in risk. (However, the risk reduction in men was small enough it could have been due to chance).

And as for the health benefits of red wine? Well, as you may recall, previous research had shown that an ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, extended longevity in mice. But these studies were done with high doses, which is a problematic if you're trying to generalize to humans, given the obvious inadvisability of guzzling several cases of merlot every night. However, this new research was done with much lower doses, implying that even modest amounts of resveratrol can "can elicit many of the same benefits as a reduced-calorie diet," including "a robust intervention in the retardation of cardiac aging."


Losing Your Cool:
Do you have kids on sports teams? Does it ever drive you crazy to go to their games and watch obnoxious parents behave like complete assh*les and spoil everything? Well, you may want to visit Juicebox Mom at Just Here for the Snacks and print off some copies of her handy and humorous guide: Parents--How to Behave on the Sidelines.

And speaking of Complete Obnoxiousness, this awesome video has been around the net for a while (and there is now a musical version). But for those who haven't seen the vintage Bill O'Reilly meltdown, it is worth watching a World-Class Prick Professional performing at the peak of his powers.

(And O'Reilly has plenty of company, if you want to see a compilation of similar on-camera temper tantrums).

How Much is Too Much?
Here at Cranky Fitness we can't really be accused of "overdoing it" when it comes to rigorous exercise. Nor are we overzealous when it comes to nutrition or personal development or anything else that requires sustained effort. However, some of you out there are quite dedicated and motivated! You may sometimes run into the problem of Doing Too Much.

Are you overdoing it on your exercise routine? Charlotte over at The Great Fitness Experiment has an insightful post on over-training, (and a great follow-up too) that could be a valuable intervention for anyone easily seduced by a "More is Better" approach to fitness. Sometimes more is NOT better.

And similarly, Semi-Charmed Wife asks a lot of good questions about the constant quest for self-improvement and whether it's always healthy. (She doesn't presume to have the answers, either, which is refreshing).

Random Internet Wanderings:

Did you know that the Lolcat people have spawned yet another user-generated humor site that can assist you in avoiding work for hours? Well, it's true, damn it. It's especially suited for people obsessed with popular song lyrics and charts and graphs and such.

song chart memes
plenty more at the graphjam site.

And another cool thing? There are cartoons on the web! Who knew?

Comic courtesy of xkcd

Have a great Friday, folks!

June 19, 2008

Silly device du jour: shiftless bicycles

[By Merry]

Silly exercise device du jour: One of those automatic bicycles that shifts gears for you.

Depending on the gear ratios on a bicycle, you can shift into an often bewildering variety of gears. These bicycles are designed to simplify the process by determining when to shift without consulting you on the matter. (You can override the automatic function, but in that case why buy the bicycle?)

I can't speak for the Crab, but my feeling is that you really need to learn to shift for yourself. This device earns short shrift here in my corner of Cranky Fitness land. (Not that I ever give anything long shrift, in fact I've certainly never even seen a long shrift, but that's the way the expression goes.)

I'm trying to think of a situation where this would be a good idea.

I can see it can help people who're completely unused to bicycling get used to bicycling, and that's a good thing. My sister, for example, got one of these after not having been on a bike for 20 years. It's a start, like training wheels before you learn to balance. If you feel overwhelmed with trying to keep upright, not wobble to far into the road, and keep pedaling at the same time, it might help to have one less factor to try to deal with. This bicycle might work for taking short trips on fairly level and isolated bike paths , but I wouldn't want to ride it on the road. It's like learning to balance . You need to learn to shift for yourself.

Some examples of when this bicycle would be a bad idea:

* Sometimes you need to be in a gear for a certain reason. If you're trying to warm up, you want to spin in low gears, whereas if you need to get the hell through an intersection before the moron in the red sedan mows you down, you'll want to be practiced enough to shift into a high gear so you can fly.
* I wouldn't use one if your objective is to get into shape. When you're trying to get fit, it's helpful to do a lot of warming up in very low gears. Spinning, they used to call it, in the days before stationary bicycle classes were the rage. If you pedal in a gear that's lower than necessary, you end up doing a lot more pedaling and covering a lot less distance, but you get your blood pumping and muscles warmed up without putting any strain on your knees. (If you start out cycling in a high gear, you can put more strain on your knees.)
* Sometimes you'll round a corner and see a steep hill up ahead . Not to lose momentum, you'll shift down into a better gear a little before you need to. This self-shifting bicycle doesn't come equipped with eyes; it can't see ahead. You'll find yourself losing momentum while the bicycle takes the time to think "hmmmn... getting steeper here, maybe I should shift."
* Also sometimes the terrain is rollers, a situation where you are going up and down over very small hills (like stretched out bumps, really) . If you've got a rhythm going, your body is in a routine, a comfortable cycle of motion that by repetition becomes something you don't have to think about. If your bicycle detects a change in the level of the terrain and decides to shift for you, you're thrown off your rhythm and have to re-condition yourself, get back into the groove. That's a pain.

Okay, yes, I can see a few reasons why you'd want this bicycle. But I can see a whole lot more reasons why you'd be better off with a bicycle that lets you do the thinking/planning/shifting.

Obligatory note: I have read a few positive reviews of auto-shift bicycles. Seems to me that the reviews were written from the perspective of someone who wanted to get around town occasionally and wasn't interested in using bicycling as a way of getting into shape or of seeing the countryside. I'm including the links to these reviews below.

Popular Mechanics thought this bike was the bee's knees.
Crave wrote it was for the "easily daunted" cyclist.

I'd be interested in some more reviews from people who've tried these bicycles. Am I being too critical? Too dismissive? Cranky minds want to know!

p.s. Ending on a positive note, I have to say these Monkey Lights are really cool. You can generate all kinds of neat patterns on your bicycle wheels while you ride.

It's fun. Kind of like putting a baseball card in your spokes when you were a kid, only you can justify the expense of these because it's a safety issue. Yeah, that's it.

(Why do adults have to rationalize the urge to have something just because it's fun? Or at least, why do I?)

June 18, 2008

Whole Wheat Whining; Plus... Plug for Panko?

You Know You Should

Nutritionists out there are always nagging us all to eat more whole grains because they're so good for you. But if you don't spend hours making things from scratch, you may have tried to buy packaged whole grain products at your local grocery store.

Seems easy enough, right? Because the grocery store shelves are bursting with products screaming "Now in Whole Wheat!" or "Made With 100% Whole Grain!"

So you grab a loaf of bread or a box of cereal or a frozen pizza and you take it home. Sometimes it tastes wonderful. Other times, it tastes...

Well, maybe a little too grainy.

But at least you tried. You either make yourself learn to like it, or you abandon the experiment and go back to the refined grain version.

Faked Out

Has this ever happened to you? You're at the grocery store and you discover that some refined flour product you used to buy is now available in 100% whole grain. Hooray! So you take it home and try it and it's not too bad!

But then one day you happen to look more closely at the package...
and discover something suspicious on the ingredients label.

Hmm. How come the first or second ingredient is "wheat flour?"

"Wheat flour" may sound "wheaty" and everything, but didn't you read somewhere that it's just a euphemism for good old refined white flour?

White flour?? You told me it was Whole Wheat!!!

So how could those lying scumbag scheming evil corporate toads product marketing specialists get away with calling a product "100% Whole Grain" when it's not?

Because... they just said it was "made with 100% whole grain."


There could be just a little bit of whole grain and a lot of other things in there too, like the refined white flour you're trying to avoid. Or...

... insect parts! And hey, by the same reasoning, shouldn't these "made with 100% whole wheat" products also have to say: "Made with 100% Insect Parts?" I'd be willing to bet that the insect parts you're eating in processed foods are generally 100% insect. But oddly enough, I've never seen that particular product label.

That Same Old Song

If you are long-time reader this rant may sound strangely familiar. Yep, I wrote the exact same thing (back when no one reading the blog yet) and I was recommending "white whole wheat," which sounds fake but is really actually a whole grain (winter wheat).

And yet again, the reason for all this whining about fake whole grain products is that it explains my excitement when I find one that appears to be (a) real and (b) very tasty.

So those of you who like Crispy Crunchy things, check out Ian's Whole Wheat Panko Crumbs!

Note: of course as soon as I discovered these, they became temporarily unavailable on Ian's site through Amazon. (They currently only seem to ship their non-whole wheat ones, so this picture is of the Canadian version). However, the Ian's people have assured me you can find their whole wheat panko crumbs at a Whole Foods near you.

All in Search of Crispy Chicken

The reason I found out about these in the first place was because the awesome Elastic Waist blogger Anne had a great post on her fond recollection of Shake 'n Bake chicken.

She was all excited because she found a healthier, tastier recipe for crunchy not-fried chicken at Family, Friends, and Food. But... their recipe called for panko bread crumbs, which I've never tried cooking with before. And I thought--do I really want to find yet one more yummy refined grain product to wish I could eat more of when there are already so many, like cupcakes?

But then I googled "whole wheat panko crumbs" to see if there was such a thing, and there was, at Ian's. So I begged a sample off them, made the Chicken Recipe and...

It was really good! Crunchy and only slightly more grainy than it probably would be using regular panko crumbs. (Note: I did tweak the recipe a bit to make it better match the spices I had available, so I can't vouch for the exact combination. And if you want to try it too, don't be scared of the exotic ingredient "EVOO." For those in the know, which I wasn't, it's just extra virgin olive oil).

Summary: Great bread crumbs, great chicken recipe. Want more!

Does anyone else struggle with the Whole Grain Thing?

And the Gym Membership Goes To...

Congratulations Zoe, it's yours!

Please email Crabby at crabby mcslacker @ gmail .com (all one word) with your mailing address and we'll have the 24 hour fitness people send you your 90 day gift certificate.

And if it turns out there's anything funky about it, please let us know. We will use our considerable imaginary power and influence to publicize this fact to the entire blogosphere our 12 readers. (We don't want to be giving out prizes that are a pain in the ass). But assuming it's good for what they told us it was and they don't harass you excessively to continue after it expires... have fun at the gym this summer!

June 17, 2008

Vacation, Who Needs It?

[Posted by Crabby]

Photo: art.com

Having just gotten back from a brief New England excursion (which was quite fun but left me feeling very guilty for abandoning the internet for a few days) I got to thinking about vacations generally. I'm a McSlacker so I take way more than my fair share--but I can see I'm going to have to step it up even more to bring up the national average.

Because a vacation poll from a couple of months ago said that fewer Americans than ever are planning to take summer vacations in 2008--only a third!

The New York Times was talking about the depressing phenomenon of "shrinking vacation syndrome" a couple of years ago. A typical quote, by a AAA spokesman: "The idea of somebody going away for two weeks is really becoming a thing of the past. It’s kind of sad, really, that people can’t seem to leave their jobs anymore."

Another vacation survey from a year ago found that a more than half of the employees polled did not use all of their vacation.

There seem to be two issues here: the inability to take much time off work, and the expense and difficulty of traveling anywhere when such precious time is actually secured. We'll just mix these two entirely different problems together because it's easier to pretend it's all one issue. But anyway, the net result is:

Hardly anyone seems to be able to "get away from it all" anymore.

It is the official position of Cranky Fitness that This Is Just Wrong! (And not only because we were just pimping reviewing a book about vacation destinations in order to get a free copy introduce you to a valuable resource).

This "shrinking vacation" thing sucks for many reasons, but one of them is actually related to the supposed topic of this blog:

It is apparently unhealthy not to take vacations!

For example, researchers looking at the Framingham heart study data found that women who took a vacation every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop heart problems than those who took at least two vacations a year. (And they controlled for other factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and income). And another study of men at high risk for heart disease also found that those who failed to take annual vacations were more likely to die of a heart attack.

So quick, go to your boss and demand that you be released immediately! If your boss says no, simply lie down on the floor and have a heart attack. That'll show 'em.

Or maybe not. Time spent away from work but hooked up to machines in the Intensive Care Unit might not be quite as relaxing as a week at the beach.

But even if you can manage to take a vacation without threatening cardiac arrest, it may not even help you recuperate if you don't take the right kind.

A survey of managers found that a quarter of them returned from vacation more stressed than when they left, with a third having spent at least part of their break checking in with the office, often every day. And according to Dov Eden, an organizational psychologist who has studied the issue, "those who are electronically hooked up to their office, even if they are lying on the Riviera, are less likely to receive the real benefits of a vacation and more likely to burn out."

Another earlier study looked at "health-related vacation outcome." Despite the dry language, the conclusions were kinda interesting:

"Recuperation" was facilitated by:
  • Free time for one's self;
  • Warmer (and sunnier) vacation locations;
  • Exercise during vacation;
  • Good sleep; and
  • Making new acquaintances
Exhaustion was increased by:
  • Vacation-related health problems, and
  • A greater time-zone difference to home.
The only tips I have for less stressful vacations are either pretty obvious or possibly not too practical. But what the hell:

  1. Don't go somewhere to impress others; go somewhere you're excited about. It could be camping in your local park or something more exotic. But the further away it is, the more time you need to allow to enjoy it without stress. Those "if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium" vacations are seldom relaxing.
  2. And along those lines, don't schedule every single minute with activities. Chill, dude.
  3. Don't have kids. Or if it's too late for that, figure out how to get at least some time away from them.
  4. Do lots of fun vacation-related exercise--hiking, swimming, biking etc, but leave your ambitious workout plans at home.
  5. Ditch your loved ones. Don't feel like you and your spouse/friend/family have to do the same thing all the time--constant compromise can be frustrating. If Beloved Husband wants to tour the dusty old Train Museum or spend all day on a boat drinking beer "fishing," and you'd rather shop the boutiques, split up for God's sake. You can catch up at dinner.
  6. Find a tour group. On the other hand, are you single and can't round up a friend with the same schedule or interests? Don't let that keep you at home. Tours have gotten a lot less "touristy" these days and are no longer just for the blue-hair set. The internet is your friend--here's one random company, but a few minutes with google will turn up lots of options.
  7. If you can't stay off your office email, stay somewhere without internet access. Even if it means (sniff) no Cranky Fitness for the duration.
  8. Get some sleep. Arrange to have any noisy or obnoxious hotel neighbors arrested or intimidated by local thugs. Failing that, at least complain to hotel management with the hopes that they may do something about it or get you another room.
  9. Come back home a day or two early. Don't wait until the last minute before you have to go back to work. Nothing will erase a relaxing vacation faster than stack of unopened mail, a mountain of chores, a pile of stinky laundry two stories high and no time to deal with any of it.
  10. You tell me! (You guys are much better at this stuff).
(And by the way, thanks to all those who stopped by while I was out of town, and my apologies for not logging on to the internet almost the entire time! But I read some list that said I shouldn't).

So are any of you going to be able to escape for a vacation this summer? Or do you have any thoughts about vacationing generally?

June 16, 2008

Celebrate Pet Your Peeve day!

[By Merry]


There's a reason Crabby doesn't usually let me post on Mondays.
I loathe Mondays. If I'd been involved in the design of the weekdays, Monday would have been left off the list altogether.

Then I thought, well maybe a lot of people have things that annoy them, and maybe it would be a liberating feeling to create a day specifically for people to voice their own pet peeves.

Celebrate Pet Your Peeve Day!

What annoys you? Today I'm especially irked at people who make left turns. For some reason they feel impelled to initiate the left turn by veering to the right and then yanking the steering wheel until they're practically diagonal across the lane. No way annnnybody's going anywhere until they can make their turn.

I was going to put together a list of things that annoy me, but then I did a little research. Frankly, I've been outclassed: this site lists hundreds of annoyances: http://www.getannoyed.com/ (This is one seriously annoyed person, let me tell you.)

Excuse me? Merry, what does this have to do with fitness?

Hey, it's important to be aware of how peeved people can get. Remember the man who had a 'gym rage' incident in a Spin class? His neighbor would not stop being loud and obnoxious, so the man picked him up off of the bike and threw him against the wall. Kinda cranky. The surprising part is this: Man involved in Gym rage acquitted. (Apparently the jury didn't believe the victim's injuries were caused by being slammed against a wall. Maybe they were, maybe not, but at the least I would have thought some anger management classes would have been indicated at this point.)

There are a lot of people concerned with gym annoyances. You need to be prepared, or else you might have a close encounter with a wall yourself.

What's the most annoying gym habit?

How can I be sure that I'm not part of the problem?

My Summary
Personally, I think all you need to do is to be aware, don't stare, try not to scare, and learn to share. Simple, eh?

One more annoyance -- I know how peeved Crabby feels about performance art, so I thought I'd include an example.

I have to confess that I kinda liked this one. Public Displays of Musical Affection put on a 'spontaneous' performance in Union Square in San Francisco.

What peeve do you need to pet today?

June 13, 2008

Reader Recipe--Commodity Cookies

[Posted by Crabby]

This recipe was sent in by one of our favorite Cranky Fitness commenters, Mary Anne in Kentucky. It's perfect for those of us who love cookies, but don't like to go to a lot of fuss to make them. And the main ingredient is oats! Oats are good enough for you that in my Unwritten Rule book, they cancel out the little bit of sugar involved. And who can argue with peanut butter and cocoa? Certainly not the Crab. Yum!
Thanks Mary Anne!

Commodity Cookies
by Mary Anne in Kentucky

I call these Commodity Cookies because when I was eating them in the high school lunchroom decades ago all the ingredients were available from the Commodities to the Schools program.

Commodity cookies
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. milk (I substitute water due to years of milk allergy; my high school's recipe used dried milk plus water)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
Boil for 1 minute; Yes really--one minute only. No candy thermometers, no Soft Ball Stage nonsense, just 60 seconds.

1/3 c. peanut butter (preferably without sugar, unless you figure out how to reduce the 1/3 c. sugar; commodity peanut butter had nothing in it but ground peanuts.)
3 c. oats
Roll into balls.
Eat. No, not all at once.

See how disgustingly healthy it is? Do the math: all the other ingredients together are less than the amount of oatmeal. Yet it's sweet and chocolaty and has a little protein. It keeps for a week at room temperature (perhaps more--that's as long as I ever managed to keep any around); it freezes without any loss of flavor or texture.

24 Hour Fitness Membership Giveaway

This one is pretty cool, because it appears to be a no-strings-attached gift certificate for 90 days at a 24-Hour Fitness gym.

If there turn out to be Secret Strings? Let us know! We don't want to be giving away Stringy Things. But the offer looks very legitimate.

As Far as We Know, This String is NOT Attached.

But what if there's no 24-Hour Fitness near you? Well, this baby is transferable. If you have a needy friend or relative who lives near a 24-Hour fitness, you could look like a Hero.

And suppose you're already a 24-Hour Fitness member? You can still enter. They'd prefer a newbie won, but I asked and technically you can be an existing member and extend your membership 90 days. So let your conscience be your guide--we won't ask if you're already a member.

One caveat: United States only, sorry.

OK, actually there's another caveat: Please don't claim the prize if you don't want the certificate yourself and can't think of anyone you know to give it to. This could be a very nice thing for someone so we don't want it to go to waste. It's summer; it's hot; a nice cool gym to work out in could mean the difference between keeping good habits going and sliding into sloth. If you win and decide you don't want it, let us know and we'll find someone else to use it.

So what do you need to do to win? Well, it's pretty easy.


1. Just leave a comment explaining why a 90 day free gym membership might be helpful to you. You can be sincere and convincing, or smart-assed and amusing, either is good. (Note: this is a not a huge blog, and we're doing this mostly over a sleepy summer weekend, so you're chances are pretty darn good.)


3. We will pick a winner, probably at random. On the other hand, if you write a comment that totally cracks us up or that makes it obvious that you would really really appreciate the 3 month membership, we may try to figure out some way of giving you extra credit in the form of additional entries.

4. If you are the winner, email us at Crabby McSlacker @ gmail . com (all one word) within a day or so (lets say by midnight, Friday the 20th, East Coast time) to get further instructions. After that, we may assume you didn't want it that bad and give it to another finalist.

5. You can also go to www.12millionlives.com where 24 Fitness is looking for inspirational stories. If you don't win the 3 month membership, you can console yourself with a 7-day free pass (with inevitable "restrictions," so read the fine print).

5. And don't forget to check over at MizFit's site too, 'cause she's always giving cool stuff away.

Good luck!

June 12, 2008

Swamped? Try the Okefenokee Diet

[By Merry]

I originally wanted to title this post The Okefenokee Approach to Life, or, What To Do When Feeling Swamped, but Blogger gets cranky about long titles like that one. Besides, putting the word 'diet' in a title is like calorie porn; people tend to take a second look. In all honesty, this post is mostly about lifestyle choices rather than food choices.

The Okefenokee was the biggest swamp I could think of. In addition to feeling swamped and stuck in the mud and unable to see the forest for the trees, the image also conjures up pictures of alligators waiting for the opportunity to bite my leg off. All in all, a useful metaphor for a stressed-out life.

Oil & water? Angelina & Jennifer? Stress & advice?

When I'm stressed, the last thing I want to deal with is good advice. I'm too cranky to concentrate on improving things, even the situation. I cannot process the information. It's gotten to the point when I've feeling swamped just from reading lists that give advice on how to not be swamped.

Shape Up America devoted an entire post to long detailed lists of advice on how to improve every aspect of your life. I'm sure that took quite a lot of time and research to collect all those links, but I found simply reading the list of links to be exhausting. I couldn't face actually clicking on the links and trying them out.

When I'm stressed, any solutions need to be very, very simple.

Work less, stress less, end up homeless?

A new favorite blog I've found is Unclutterer. It's big on simplicity, which is great. I can't always apply the advice to my life, but I love the ideas.

I enjoyed their review of Timothy Feriss' book "The 4-Hour Workweek." Now, clearly this is something any stressed person could benefit from. My life would be So Much Simpler if I didn't have to go to work each day. (Also I'd be back living in my mother's house and scrounging for pennies , but that's another story.) Great concept . I don't see it translating into reality any time soon, but there's no law that says I can't dream about doing this... later.

The point is to be selective about the things you do have in order to live a quality life.

Well, sheesh! That's obvious.
I mean, everybody knows that.
Even I know that.

Except for times when I'm stuck in the mud and can't see the forest for the alligators, then I tend to forget the obvious and concentrate on the stressors.

Putting the Me into happy medium

It's not always the amount of stuff that I have to do that stresses me out, it's the ratio of Hafta to Wanna. Taking a few minutes for myself, like the Happiness Project's eight tips for making yourself happier in the next hour, restores the sense of proportion to the workload. Doesn't reduce the amount of work I have to do, but makes it easier to deal with, delegate, or rationalize it away.

The Okefenokee Diet: A Minimalist Approach
    My prescription for living a less-stressed-but-still-employed life is as follows: when swamped, either push back, cut back, or have a Me attack.

  • Go for minimalist veggies, i.e. I eat food that I can grab on my way out the door: bananas, pre-washed carrots, even dried fruit or a can of V-8.
  • Instead of a glass of wine at the end of the day to relax, use the time to start planning what I want out of my life. Figure out a way to have a four-hour work week...
  • Instead of comfort food, I want to do something for myself once a day. Something either fun or self-fulfilling.
  • Set limits on how much crap I will take in one day. Most stressful is having several people pile things on my back. One manager I can train deal with, three or four bossy bosses... no. This is the tricky part. If you bitch too loud, you'll end up on the street. If you bitch too little, you can get overloaded, stress out, and end up in a room with padded walls.
Quote du jour
"I have learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back." -Maya Angelou

How do you juggle stress and a healthy diet without dropping one or the other?
Or perhaps I should ask instead, do you juggle stress and a healthy diet?

June 11, 2008

A Special Book Review

[Posted by Crabby]For those of you who are not regulars here, "The Lobster" is my long-suffering life partner. (And soon-to-be spouse, once we figure out which state we reside in). So why is The Lobster reviewing a book, especially one that has pretty much nothing to do with health and fitness?

Well, recently Cranky Fitness was offered a review copy of something called "Dream Destinations." Intrigued by the prospect of a book of pretty pictures, but feeling lazy about actually writing a review, I was just about to delete the email when... a Sneaky Thought occurred to me. Was there a way to get all the pretty pictures and plant Future Vacation Ideas without having to do any actual work? "Hey honey," I said, in an innocent tone of voice...
And Voila, a free book arrived!

So now here is a review of...

Dream Destinations

By The Lobster

Occasionally, Crabby gets new products to review. In the past, she’s received stuff like flavored teas and energy bars. Given my love of "free stuff," I find this grass roots marketing kind of cool.

When the folks at LIFE books contacted her asking if she’d like to review their new book "LIFE’s Dream Destinations: 100 of the World’s Best Vacations" she immediately turned to me. You see, anything to do with geography is, well, not exactly her core competency. We’ve done a great deal of traveling in our almost 18 years together, lately concentrating on driving destinations in our trusty camper van. Crabby’s interest in maps is generally focused on font size, ie, is the font size big enough to indicate a town that has a) a gym and b) an Asian-fusion restaurant? I cannot tell you how many times she has been disappointed on both fronts, especially in the vast middle section of the country.

So with my new assignment, I settled into a comfy chair to read "Dream Destinations." The pictures are predictably fabulous, given that’s what the good folks at LIFE do best. I was completely prepared to make fun of their list, ready for $5000 a night lodges in the Masai Mara or destinations that require some combination of plane and yak to reach them. And, there were a few examples of that, including listing London as a family destination ("honey would you like dessert or to go to college?") and touting a romantic getaway at the Kennedy Cottages, where Jack and Jackie honeymooned near Santa Barbara, for a mere $2995 per night. However, much of their list was affordable and accessible. Or at least it was before gas was over $4 a gallon and airlines started charging by the pound.

Here are my observations:

Some of our very favorite places on earth made the list, which added immense credibility to the book. (Yes, we are extraordinarily fortunate). They are totally right about:
  • Cinque Terre, a series of 5 gorgeous towns on the northern coast of Italy;
  • Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia (in fact that whole dang province);
  • Banff and Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies;
  • Napa Valley (of course, we’re from Northern California);
  • The Yucatan Peninsula;
  • The Snowdonia area of Wales, including the town of Betws-y-Coed (which, of course, to us became Betsy the Coed.)

I have a new list of places on my MUST SEE list including:
  • The Glastonbury Festival, held in a small town in Somerset, England rumored to be the burial site of the Holy Grail that also hosts a Woodstock-like festival. I love the combo.
  • The Tongariro Northern Circuit in New Zealand, home to a world class trek that ends at the Grand Chateau, a hotel that pampers the tired and weary.
  • Wildflower Hall, a luxury hotel and spa in the Kunlun Mountains of east-central Asia, a stunning place at 8,350 feet which is neither affordable nor accessible but will stay on the lottery list.
  • Lake Wanaka, back in New Zealand, surrounded by snow covered mountains, vineyards and, yes, sheep.
There are, unfortunately, some "oh puleeaase" moments. Are these really "Dream Destinations?"
  • Wisconsin Dells: The canyon and rivers were nice but Wisconsin Dells is right up there with Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as the pinnacle of tackiness. In the Dells, you can’t find the river for the putt-putt golf and other money sucking adventures. (However, if you are looking for pancakes in either place, you have hit the motherlode).
  • Montana Dude Ranch... in winter: Illustrated by a picture of unhappy campers huddled around a campfire, obviously freezing their butts off. I love the outdoors but Dude, those people looked miserable.
  • Mount Vernon: Just a question... why does George and Martha’s bed looked slept in?
  • Lost Atlantis: There are enough nut-balls wandering around looking for it, do we need to encourage more of them?

The final verdict on the book? I enjoyed re-living some of our great vacations and seeing amazing shots of places I’m pretty sure I’ll never see. And, given the price of travel these days, the $29.95 price is a pretty good short term escape seeing how you’d only get about 7 gallons of gas and are probably unlikely to see anything as cool within 140 miles of your house.

Now the Crab will pop back in to ask: Does anyone have "dream destinations" that you'd love to visit some day? What would be on your short list?

Coming Attractions

[By Crabby]

As you can tell by the reappearance of the suitcase picture, The Crab is once again heading off for a few days. But don't worry--through the miracle of Future Post Publishing and the even greater miracle of Merry, the intrepid Cranky Fitness Co-blogger, there will be plenty of stuff coming up!

A Special Guest post in a few minutes;
An awesome post by Merry tomorrow;
And on Friday, both a Tasty Reader Recipe and a Cranky Fitness Give-away contest with a Cool Prize!

Stay tuned! Am heading off this morning (with the Lobster and Lobster's Mom) for a quick New England tour and some Hanging Out in Boston. I'll see you all Monday or Tuesday.

(And in the meantime I'll try to get internet while I'm gone, because I have no life outside the blog I love to find out what you're all up to!)

June 10, 2008

Screaming lobsters living the car-free life

[By Merry]
Portland Bridge Pedal 2007
What would you do if you woke up one day and there weren't any cars?

Oregon is in general quite bicycle friendly, and Portland even more so. To prove it, the city is putting on a street party, taking back the street from cars. It's a Car-Free day, shutting down part of North Portland for a day.

On June 22nd, a circular route of traffic-free streets in North Portland will link four parks: Arbor Lodge, Peninsula, Unthank, and Overlook. The resulting 6-mile loop will be available for pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, skaters, etc. (While streets will be closed to automotive through traffic, a soft-closure will assure that neighboring residents have access to and from their homes.)

If you wanted to ride your bicycle (or walk, skate, skip or jump) outside but were afraid to do so, something like this sounds perfect. Utopian, maybe, but fun -- and practical too. Walkable neighborhoods help you keep fit and also help you keep in touch with people around you. If we all got out of our cars and walked or biked or hung out out on the front porch, it would create a community. Especially in newer areas of town, people don't use the front door. You get in and out of the house via the car via the garage. Neighbors? Don't meet 'em. Rarely even see 'em.

It's a crazy idea, but it just might work... or not ...
Two things come to mind:
  1. If you want to get people to adopt a car-free existence, even part time, you have to provide a safe environment for them to experience it in. This event seems designed to create just such an environment.
  2. No matter how this shindig is arranged, it is going to seriously piss off some people.

Am I pissing people off by writing another 'walk in your neighborhood' post? I'll have to check the temperature as the post goes on.

Some possible reasons why you would need a car
I mean, I'm not a totally unreasonable woman. I can see that some people absolutely need cars, especially if:
  • you have a long commute and don't have public transport
  • you have to drive kids, maybe even your own, to soccer practice here and dance recitals there
  • you live in Wyoming, or the Northwest Territories, or the Australian Outback, anywhere that involves long stretches of nothing very much interspersed with the occasional mammal.

How am I doing so far? Are you miffed yet? Okay, then I'll go on ...

Some possible solutions
  • Can't help people who have to travel long distances because they live in Wyoming or the Northwest Territories or the Australian Outback. However, these areas are sparsely populated, at least compared to the concentrations of humanity found in the cities and suburbs. Concentrating on the highly populated areas would make a huge difference to the high demand for gasoline.
  • People who have to haul children from point A to point B? Seems to me the best way to solve this would be to restructure the community so that A and B are within walking distance of each other . Planned communities, like Orenco Station, are designed so that you can get to most of the places you need to go without using a car. Likewise the older communities have parks, schools, and local shopping areas within walking distance. It's the neighborhoods in-between that are the worst designed and sadly also the most numerous.
  • People who drive long hours to commute to their jobs? If a convenient commuter train or lightrail were available, a lot of people would use it. Especially with the cost of gas increasing so radically. Solutions like these are expensive in the short term -- but so is the cost of gas. (Public transport costs also go up when fuel prices increase but -- this is the catch -- not as much.)

Getting a bit warm in here, is it? Well, maybe I'll just go a little bit further...

Screaming lobsters
Stephanie from Back in Skinny Jeans wrote a post about the high cost of gas. One commenter pointed out that a lot of people in Europe have always had high gas prices. I think that's the point. It's not the fact that gas prices are high, it's the fact that they've suddenly increased a whole hell of a lot that's upsetting people.

(Crabby? Don't read these next two paragraphs, okay?)

Supposedly, the best way to cook a lobster is to place it in tepid water and slowly increase the temperature so gradually that the lobster doesn't realize how hot the temperature is getting. (I say supposedly because all the sources I could find that did any research into invertebrate physiology said that lobsters do not register pain. Just to be on the safe side, I've vowed to strike lobsters from my diet. If you're interested, here's the R.S.P.C.A.'s view on how to cook lobsters.)

The other generally used method of cooking a lobster is to plunge it into boiling water. It's quick and it's supposed to be painful. The lobsters are reputed to 'scream.' Some people say that since lobsters don't have vocal cords, they're not actually screaming; still, it's a useful metaphor for what's happening with gas prices in this neck of the woods. We're screaming lobsters around here.

Hmmmn... nobody's throwing stones at the blog yet. Maybe it's safe to go a little bit further...

The first thing to change
Eventually we'll learn to ease up on our car-dependency. Maybe. Or else the thought of tearing up whole neighborhoods will scare people into buying hybrids and electric bicycles.

Suburbs and cities can be changed. But the first thing to change is the mindset that everyone needs a car all the time. Try one day without a car, to see how it feels. Test out bicycling, jogging, yada, in an environment where it feels safe and you're more likely to survive enjoy the experience and maybe repeat it.

That's why I like the idea of this car-free day. It will be kind of cool to see how this works out.

Cyclists take over I-5!

On the other hand, if you hear of riots breaking out in North Portland later this month, you'll know why.

Don't blame Crabby; this is all my fault
If you are sitting there steaming, glaring at the computer screen, and snarling "Merry, you fool!" please bear in mind:

1 - These are my thoughts, don't snarl at Crabby

2 - I was wrong once. I could be wrong twice. Something's got to change, that's all. Anything that nudges us towards self-propelled transportation sounds pretty good right about now.

I'm going to go hide behind Crabby now.

Portland Bridge Pedal 2007Portland's version of a traffic jam... fender to fender traffic.