Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kids' Birthday Party Guidelines

I've been to a few in my day. Some are great, some suck. Here are some tips to make sure yours is good for young and old:

1. Offer Food right away
I didn't have time to eat lunch to make it to your party called for noon. Feed me, damn it. Then, maybe I'll be able to calm my kid (and myself) down.

2. Booze.. now.
This may be a personal preference, but I think it is appropriate for kids' parties. It's still a party with adults present. I will be much happier to make small talk with the other guys who are just as unhappy to be there as me if I have a beer in hand.

3. Communal activity first, then groups, then free play.
Kids don't always mingle easy first. Make them sit next to each other at least. Coloring, art & crafts, something where they do it independently but at the same time. Then, they'll be warmed up to play as a group. Musical chairs, freeze dancing, that sort of thing. After that, let them go crazy and form their own groups. They'll be able to meet kids thee genuinely like and start friendships.

4. Paper plate and plastic cups
Don't give me a slice of pizza on a ceramic plate. You won't get it back.

5. Balloons for all
They love these things. I don't know why. Same goes for stickers. Have enough for every kids x2. In every color.

6. Music in background
At the least, it will not make a silent room feel so awkward. At best, it will drown out the inevitable tantrum that some kid will have when there aren't enough balloons.

7. Leave an area for adults to sit and talk.
If the Moms & Dads have fun, the party will be more fun for everyone.

8. Let there be light, not dark
Kids don't like the dark, so make sure it's in a room with a lot of like. The back room of a local bar that resembles a cave will not work.

9. Know your audience.
Do not have a party on a Sunday during football season. Don't have it on Halloween night. Don't make me miss something I would rather be doing.

Those are my tips. I hope the party I go to tomorrow follows these guidelines. But of course, it's on a Sunday. See rule 9.

Ancient Technology & Legos

This... is... awesome.

The Antikythera Mechanism in Lego from Small Mammal on Vimeo.

Full article here.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Technology Hits the Family

We got a new stroller and new iPhones. Here is my trying both out for the first time. I had a little more trouble with the iPhone's video than the stroller. This ineptitude stuck me as being a quintessential "Dad" moment.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Shouldn't Post This, But Brian Said To

Harley was complaining that her new iPhone isn't working.

"I can't hear anything. I've raised the volume, but i can't hear you. Everything sounds muffled. It must be broken."

"Have you taken off the plastic film off the face panel?"

"No. **pause** Oh wow, it works! Great, talk to you later! Can we keep this just between us?"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cool Space Movies

What better way to burn off a massive pastrami lunch than unproductive searches on YouTube?

Size Comparisons

The Universe is a Big Place

An Asteroid Hitting the Earth
(Harley should not watch this before going to bed)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Strange Brands

These are awesome.

Here's a taste of what you'll see...

Hi Again

It's been a while. It may be a while longer. I'm trying to pare back on my responsibilities, to focus more intently on fewer things. My new job is a big one, my kids, my marriage, Deadliest Catch... all of these things need to be the priority.

I may take off the summer. Probably. If you want to sign the petition to keep this blog active, please visit

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Kids 10.15.10


World, plase meet Grad. Grad the dancing penguin was a gift from Ma, best MIL ever, as a congratulations gift for finishing my NYU master's program. Ma knew purchased me this as a token, which is grealty appreciated. Surprisingly, this little penguin kind of sums up how I am feeling about the whole thing.

Seriously, I am happy, and I know it! I feel like clapping my hands and shouting hooray. I can take my time at night. I don't have an albatross around my neck. I don't have to save my energy with the the kids to keep writing. No editing, sourcings, bibliographies, referencing checking, none of it.

I went for sushi and got the most expensive roll AND hot sake.

I had a beer when I got home after work. So what if I get tired? I don't have to work!

I watched Lost the same night it aired.

I didn't have Jack crying at the door because I won't play with him.

I didn't bring my computer home from work.

I felt like I had just returned from the war and was given a second chance. I can't believe it's over!

I sort of miss it. At graduation I noticed that Steinhardt had a nutrition/food science program. I looked into, one of the core courses is on Agriculture. It sounded awesome. And oh look, it's only 32 credits. So that would take me 2 classes, no 3 classes a year and...

NOOOOO!!! No no no no. Oh no you don't! No more. I can read any book I want, watch any movie. There is no subject off limits. I just cannot/will not put myself under the emotional and financial pressures of an organized academic institution. (Maybe I'll go for a PhD when I retired. Seriously.) For now and a long time after, it's the college of life (the cheesiest line of my blogging career to date, yet oddly true).

This little penguin really sums it up. I got my whole life ahead of me. I'll likely never lose the drive to read and learn new things. But now my time is my own. I just taped 3 hour long shows about space, so that may keep me busy. I'm dying to get back into the guitar, which will happen. And I may think about reading some fiction (probably not).

What this video most represents is that I now have the time to watch the little moments like this with the kids. Before, I'd be in the bedroom working while these gems take place. Now, I can be there without the worry of my school work (on top of my job). That's the biggest relief.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Why Diet is Dangerous

Today at Francesca's (and Ian's) birthday party at the Palace skating rink, Mom told me I should be drinking diet soda. I said diet and all its chemicals are bad for you. Mom patted my stomach. Thanks, Mom.

Shockingly, had a posting about the problems with diet soda:

1. Our body gets confused by artificial sweeteners
The dissociation between sweet taste and calorie intake may put the regulatory system that controls hunger and body weight out of sync, thus sabotaging weight loss plans. A study on rodents showed that those fed saccharin actually gained weight compared to rodents fed sucrose.

2. We’re “Infantilizing” our taste sense
Artificial sweeteners are a hundredfold sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). By getting ourselves used to so much sweet, normal sweet flavors, of fruit for example, become bland and so do other healthful foods such as grains and vegetables, thus reducing our willingness to consume them and ultimately the quality of our diet.

3. Long term effects unclear
While there have been many studies on artificial sweeteners and disease such cancer, very few focused on long term weight gain. A seven year study, (San Antonio Heart Study), showed a relationship between diet drink consumption and obesity, but the causation is not clear. Consumption of artificial sweeteners is growing yearly.

The article that the posting references is not available to everyone, but it's written by this guy.

It comes down to this:
1. regular soda tastes better.
2. because it tastes better, I enjoy it more.
3. because i know it's bad for me, i drink less.
4. overall, i drink less soda but enjoy it more when I do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Movie Reviews

Here are two videos that are perfect for lunch or procrastinating at work. Each are the first segment of a YouTube movie critique by RedLetterMedia. They are hilarious and surprisingly insightful.

The Phantom Menace: I never realized just how much this movie sucks.

There are 7 videos to this one. I was sad to finish the last one.

Avatar: when plot the isn't the focus, something is missing

Friday, April 16, 2010

Redesign Redesign

Here's the new Del Monte. Started at Sterling as I was just leaving, I think the final product looks great.



This image is from a blog post I did back in Sep. '08. Horizon had redesigned. This post is related to another one with a blurb about the food industry giving me the heebie jeebies. This feeling grew since then, which is why I wrote my thesis on the food industry.

Here is the re-redesign, a change in the central banner and the addition of the pasture image. I loved the original design and hate the pasture. It adds clutter and takes away from the clean, premium look of the original redesign.

There's a good reason for this change. Horizon the biggest organic dairy brand in the country, has come under a lot of fire for not being organic enough. Blogs are blasting them for not being truthful in their claims and acting like a regular industrial dairy. This image is an attempt to tie them back to the farm and the roots of the organic movement. Not sure it works, but hopefully my company can help them do something about it.

WARNING - here's a thesis out-take that ended up on the cutting room floor:

In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Food and Production Act which established the national standards for organic food and farming. Organic farmers, unlike most traditional farmers, held on to a stringent set of values that guided the movement long before major food corporation wanted a piece of it. They were pushing for stricter standards, while food companies pushing for leniency so they could capitalize on the marketing potential of the new and fast growing category.

This turned into a 10-year battle "within the USDA between Big and Little Organic, or put another way, "the organic industry and the organic movement" (Pollan 2006, 155). Through industry insiders arguing on behalf of Big Organic, industry beat out the movement. In the final legislation that passed, "many of the philosophical values embodied in the word organic did not survive the federal rule making process" (Pollan 2006, 155).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thesis Update

It's awful. Got feedback from my professor:
- My writing is not scholarly enough. Basically, I'm writing so that anyone can read it, whereas I should be writing in a style that is more dense yet fits within the academic tone that references the scholarly materials that my arguments are based on.
- From what I could find, nobody in academia writes about food. When they do write about food, they write about things so specific (the development of the olive oil trade in Italy, flavors of soda in India) that I can't use them.
- I reference some major thinkers (Saussure, Bourdieu, Marx) but do not go into detail on their arguments. This is giving them "short shrift" and is not sufficient for a scholarly paper.
- I would need another 3 months to do a paper that takes a Marxist view of branding. It sounds awesome, actually. Brands hide the production value of commodity items and create an artificial trade value. But I'm traveling all this week, half of next week, and I can't get my head wrapped around Marx and neo-Marxists philosophy by May 2nd. It would be giving them 'short shrift.'
- She didn't read the last 17 pages of my thesis. Or my appendix, which is 12 pages.
- I'm getting feedback now but can't help feel like I've been given no help. I feel like I've written this paper on the fringe of academia, a place where I am not comfortable nor familiar. No wonder my sources have gone mainstream (Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle).
- Almost every book on branding is some asshole trying to sell his/her ideas. Its not scholarly.
- My paper is repetitive and the order needs to be rethought. There was a very good reason for this repetition: I needed to remember what the f*&k I was talking about in each section.

I have lost all heart for this paper and academia. I just don't care anymore. I will do whatever it takes to pass, and no more than that. It's sad, but I need to move on in my life. I am fearful that my next draft will not be passable and graduation will be delayed. God forbid, cause I will make such a stink at NYU they'll graduate me just to et rid of me. This is not a threat but a warning.

In the words of Trey Anastasio, from the song Carini, here is what I hope to say by mid-May: "The thesis that you're writing is a piece of shit, but I'm glad you finally finished it."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Organic Industry

This image, taken from a professor at Michigan State, shows that the Organic industry is for the most part an extension of the mainstream food industry. They bring the same government influence and profit drive to bear. Stlll, it's better than nothing!

Philadelphia, My Home Town

Philadelphia to ease marijuana penalty

The city's new district attorney and the state Supreme Court are moving to all but decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in an effort to unclog Philadelphia's crowded court dockets.

Offenders will be charged summary offenses rather than as misdemeanors.

"We have to be smart on crime," said District Attorney Seth Williams, who took office in January. "We can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers."

The goal is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system, freeing prosecutors and judges to devote time to more serious crimes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Memory Lane

This is Lilah's first time holding Jack. She was a little rough. Not much has changed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jack-ee-boy Getting So Big

Here's a video Poppy took of Jack this past Sunday, 3/14.

He's such a good looking kid! Yes, I'll need to post one of Lilah soon.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Frozen Shore of a Great Lake

Somewhere between Minneapolis and New York.

I'm guessing it's near Erie, PA, based on this awesome web site about flight paths I found on line. Check this one out.

A Big Ad

Commercials are better when they are blatant.

In my readings, I've found that consumers see a big difference between brands and advertising. Since Vince Packard published The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, most Americans are comfortable with the idea that advertising manipulates them. There is a trade off, with ads funding much of the entertainment that people rely on while imposing an element of forced consumer into our everyday lives. With packaging, consumers expect a higher level of accuracy about product quality and content (CSPI Study, 2009). Because of the inherent trust that consumers put into their brands, they see packaging as a much more authoritative source of information.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Bust

Holy shnikies!!

NBCU Expects to Lose $250M on Olympics

NBCU is expecting to lose at least $250 million on its coverage of the Vancouver Games due to slow ad sales and other factors.

NBCU paid big for rights fees for the Winter Olympics, in part because of the locale of the Games, which meant more than half of the U.S. will be able to watch the events live.

The company bid $2 billion in 2003 for the TV rights for the Vancouver Games and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, $900 million more than the next closest bidder. NBC will pay $820 million for the TV rights to this winter’s Games, and is only expecting to bring in about $670 million in ad revenue.

The estimates for ad revenue from the Games were faulty, the company admitted, because executives expected advertising growth to continue. What they got was a recession that depressed ad sales and prices.

While some sponsors have paid between $500,000 and $600,000 for prime time ads, ad sales were slower than expected, especially early on.


I stopped watching religiously once Ice Dancing started. Just can't take anymore.

On a separate note, thank God this is the last season of Lost. I'm sick of the confusion! Final season or not, I am done with that f*cking island.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thesis Update

I'm moving now! Ripping through all my books and assembling my literature review. The lit review is just what it sounds like, a summary of everything I can find out there that is relevant to my topic.

I'm basically doing a book report for each book I have, organizing the information into key themes. Thankfully, the themes are consistent across authors, so I know it's real. I feel like i have a nice range of materials to get a good flow of content. Hoping this is fun for people to read.

Want to get this done by mid March. Meanwhile, I have to get the research survey started so I have time to do the thing, do the analysis, and write conclusions. All this needs to be done by April 1st. Holy f*(k.

Luckily, Harley has "volunteered" to be my research assistant. She'll be entering the nutritional content from all the cereal boxes into a spreadsheet so I can make my charts. I'll be breaking the front panels down into key branding elements and nutritional information so we can compare what;'s inside versus outside.

The question is how many cereals. I'm thinking 50 is a good though amount. I counted 125 cereals at our small NYC supermarket. Not sure 50 is enough, but I have till April 1. Should I do all mainstream brands? The narrow range of brands may be good to focus the study as a critique of national brands. Should I include some smaller brands that seem healthier? Should I do store brands? Each variable adds complexity. Oh, and did I mention I have till April 1?!?

And the later it gets i the semester, the more and more Harley works nights and weekends That makes it harder for me to work. It'll be a miracle if I graduate in May, but I'm still pushing for it. It'll be a big deal for, more so than I thought before this whole process started. After that, I'm taking the summer off.

Next Fall, I join or start a band.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sidewalk Update

Amazing what a difference a day makes!

Don't want to brag, but this is clearly the cause and effect that only the Most Influential Blog in the Universe can have. (Suck it, B-dog.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Anyone For Ice Skating?

The southeast corner of 79th & 2nd is currently a vacant lot. Actually, it’s a whole in the ground (a la Parks & Recreation).

Since the space has no tenant, the entire area is ignored. Since the snow, the sidewalk in front is has turned into a sheet of compacted ice on both the street and avenue.

79th Street

2nd Avenue

It’s bad that the city has ignored this. It’s ridiculous that none of the near by buildings have been willing to throw some ice onto it. I expect a broken hip and a lawsuit if this doesn’t melt in the next day or so.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Does Anybody Need a Date?

Don't try to fight it.

He's in the Minneapolis area. Mary, please try to control yourself. I know it's hard, when faced with this level of temptation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My New Thesis Topic

(Let me better explain that last post.)

I've come to a new understanding about my paper topic. The more I thought about doing a global case study of Cheerios, the less I liked it. After some research, I saw that most of the nutritional labels are all the same. There are some minor differences, but nothing that I felt would lead me to conclusions to make the 60 pages worthwhile. So I've moved on.

Here's the gist of my new approach:

There is a conundrum going on in America today. Obesity rates are rising, while awareness about the right nutrition. At the same time, supermarket shelves are being filled with more and more food products that call themselves healthy or have a health claim regarding their nutritional benefits. (I need facts for this, hence my previous post with statistics galore.)

What accounts for this contradiction? Would more health foods and greater health consciousness mean a thinner America? The answer is in the presentation, how food options are being presented to American consumers and how they are marketed. Positives are highlighted, while negatives are downplayed or even ignored. These claims aim to have consumers "buy more," which turns into "eat more." And eating too much is a sure way to being overweight, no matter how much healthy food you eat.

The nutritional information pane, typically on the side or back panel, is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the true contents of a food product must be openly and accurately reported and its nutritional value exposed. This panel is regulated by the government, attempting to give consumers an unadulterated and official look into what they are eating.

But in truth, the accuracy of the nutritional panel is subject to FDA and USDA oversight, governmental agencies which themselves are influenced by the lobbying efforts of the food industry. Political pressures seep into the decisions made regarding food policy and help direct regulations in favor of the major food companies. Basically, the FDA's teeth have lost their edge. (I'll be quoting Marion Nestle's Food Politics extensively.)

Food companies have taken advantage of this less-than-strict oversight and began marketing their products with health claims that are supported by less-than-substantial scientific findings. The academic and research community, themselves hungry for funding and exposure, can be influenced by the deep pockets of the food conglomerates and develop studies designed to back health claims driven by financial objectives. Think about ll the studies that said cigarettes have not been linked to cancer. Yeah f&*king right.

What this weak science does is create confusion in consumer's minds about what constitutes healthy food. A notorious example is Frosted Flakes, which qualified as a Smart Choice product (before that program was nixed under influence by the FDA). According to the program criteria, Frosted Flaked qualified because it is low in fat and cholesterol, even though it is mostly sugar. Of course it's low in cholesterol, as that only comes from animal products, including milk.

Consumers are left to evaluate the information and decipher the front panel claims versus the back panel information for themselves. Confusion between the two benefit's the food industry, allowing them to issue weak science as proof. More than that, nutrition is broken down into single nutrient benefits. Eat more fiber and you won't get colon cancer. Eat less cholesterol and you won't have a heart attack. More vitamin A for a healthy immune system, and so on.

This study seeks to understand the difference between the front and the back info, to breakdown the divide between how these products are represented on the front versus the back. I'm not sure how to go about this, but I am thinking of taking 1 category (breakfast cereals) and breaking down the products by nutrition and seeing where they net out on the health scale. I could also take a few products from multiple categories, but I'm not sure yet.

From the reading I've done, the key is not eating more healthy food, but eating less overall. The pattern of your diet is what matters, less than the nutritional content of each item.

One thing to note: the food industry is not evil. It is filled with people who are just trying to make a living and wish no harm on Anyone else. These claims do not have sinister intentions. I have been a part of many of these campaigns, including the Post Diet which Marion Nestle did not appreciate. But everyone in the industry is under pressure to perform, including me. The problem lies with the system, allowing business and financial pressures to dictate nutritional goals. I'd say the same is true with medical insurance. Capitalism has run amok.

That's where I am! thoughts are welcome.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Awesome Sites I Suddenly Need
- Need statistics about how fat Americans are? Me too!!
- The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics
-The World Health Organization's page on obesity
- The American Obesity Association's fact page

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Current Videos

We're doing a structural audit for work on small milk bottles. We did a little interview with Lilah to see what she likes. Shockingly, she prefers chocolate milk over everything else. A very opinionated little girl.

This is Jack in his highchair, one of his favorite places. He refuses to be fed with a spoon now. He only wants finger food that he can put in his mouth. Here is his first shot at sweet potatoes, which was a hit. He seems mesmerized by the camera. Here's a good shot of his head, which is getting rounder by the minute thanks to the helmet. (Only 3 more weeks to go before he no longer needs it during the day!)

Monday, February 01, 2010

It's the Portions

Another key issue that we haven't yet discussed is serving size, which is going to be a huge issue for my thesis. It gets to the heart of not just where our food comes from, but how we define nutrition in general.

Lisa R. Young, one of Marion Nestle's PhD students, wrote a book about it called The Portion Teller, which I now have to buy. She was featured in the movie Supersize Me, which I'm sure everybody reading this has seen.

I'm not even sure who determines what the actual serving size is for food products. I'm guessing the company does it based on guidelines released by the FDA. Those FDA guidelines are based on criteria established from... I have no idea)! That's my next stop on this journey.

I'm going to have to learn exactly where our nutritional standards come from. Where, when, and who discovered carbohydrates? Pollan mentioned "vitamins" in Omnivore's Dilemma, but I need to understand where every item in the NLEA table comes from (sodium, carbs, saturated fat vs. regular fat).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Truth Inside the Box

Has anyone else ever heard of the Center for Science in the Public Interest? I haven't but they are kind of awesome.

They are fighting the battle against misleading or untruthful nutritional labeling. My kind of people. Here's a list from their website with some of the biggest name brand offenders:

Kellogg: On labels for Smart Start Strawberry Oat Bites cereal, the company deliberately misreads a report from the Institute of Medicine to claim, falsely, that consumers can eat 125 grams—more than half a cup—of added sugars per day.

NestlĂ©: Labels for the company's Carnation Instant Breakfast misleadingly claim that its antioxidants "help support the immune system." While it is true that serious deficiencies in vitamins A, C, and E and other antioxidants can lead to serious health problems, consuming this or other products that make this common claim won’t help ward off colds, the flu, or other maladies.

Glacéau: The Coca-Cola-owned product bears a confusing double-column Nutrition Facts label that gives the impression that a 20-ounce bottle of VitaminWater contains multiple servings. Yet the company knows full well that the product is typically consumed by one person on a single occasion, delivering 125 calories, not the 50 in a "serving." CSPI says the dual-column format should be barred.

Edy's: Labels for Dibs Bite Sized Snacks boast "0g trans fat!"—giving the impression that the product is heart-healthy. Yet a serving of this ice cream snack has 16 grams of saturated fat—80 percent of the daily value. CSPI says the FDA should prohibit companies from boasting of "0 grams trans" on foods with more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. FDA already has similar limits on "cholesterol free" and "healthy" claims.

Gerber: Labels for Gerber Graduates Juice Treats—a product intended for pre-schoolers—picture an abundance of fruit: oranges, grapes, peaches, cherries, pineapple, and raspberries. Yet there is no cherry, orange, or pineapple in the product, and less than 2 percent is raspberry and apple juice concentrate. The main ingredients are corn syrup and sugar, providing 17 grams—or about four teaspoons—of refined sugars per serving.

It's okay to highlight the positives, but not if it misrepresents the reality of the product.

Things Are Looking Up

Been doing real good on the thesis. Nilda sent me this law article written in December about the legal battle surround the food labeling bonanza currently going on. You know, the Pepsi Smart Spot, Kraft Sensible Solution, Kellog's Nutrition Highlights, stuff like that. Thank you, Nilda!

It laid out some of the legal cases going on in this world and the major players. That article, and the reference listed within, have opened up a lot of doors for me. Lots of recent studies and articles and legal papers and juicy stuff that makes my bibiliographi feel nice and fat.

One woman that keweps coming up again and again is Marion Nestle, who wrote a big and keeps a connected blog called Food Politics. It lists the major things and places I need to go. Awesome.It's like mana from heaven! I've been looking in empty caves and digging pointless holes, but I finally found a nugget of info to get me started.

AND - she's an NYU professor. I'm going to (try to) set up a meeting with her, pick her brain and try to make something important of this. At least as important as I can do. Thank god football is over because it's hard to find the time.

Without getting too deep into this


Friday, January 29, 2010

Why Did I Ever Go to Grad School?

Hey guys,

I'm still having trouble with this thesis. I know the issue I want to focus on: nutrition, the industrial food chain, and how the food supply is hidden from the average consumer. I just can't get my head wrapped around what I want to focus on.

My professor liked the idea of the global comparison. She felt I should focus not just on the nutritional information but also the front panel. We discussed a case study on breakfast cereals. Take one or two brands that exist around the world and do a comparative study of the information there.
- Break down the information on the front panel.
- Look at what nutritional messages are there, and how they differ by region.
- Are there changes in content (e.g. do different countries call out different grams of whole grain?)
- How do the nutritional labeling rules for each country play a role?

Could be really cool. She knows a lot about the category, even though I know squat. It started with health gurus, like Kellogg's and Post, that ran health spas where they focused on eating grains. Apparently, people ate lots of meat for breakfast before the 19th century, and adding grains to your diet helped people's digestions and improved health. This was a revelation for the world.

Breakfast cereals were marketed as health tonics, even though they often contained many bad ingredients (like saw dust). In 1904, the FDA was established and started demanding that these products be safe. So the manufacturers had to take out the bad stuff and the "tonic" stuff (like when Coca-Cola removed the cocaine) and had to go for a more straight forward marketing plan.

This was a turning point in American advertising. The government was monitoring the companies, so people could now trust the ads. Side note: some of the biggest cereal manufacturers were the big mill companies (i.e. General Mills). They had a grain surplus and needed to find other ways to sell the same products.

These companies changed our culture. We suddenly had "breakfast foods" that aren't appropriate for dinner. Why not? Because, that's why. (I guess that's why Mom and Dad always give me shit for having eggs for dinner when I visit.)

Cool stuff, right?!? Cool enough to spend the next 4 months of my slaving away? I don't know. Thoughts? Anyone know of cereals that exist around the world? Cheerios, Wheaties, Captain Crunch?

I have another, more disturbing idea. I just finished The Omnivore's Dilemma, where Michael Polan (my newest hero) goes behind the veil of the food industry to show where the food really comes from. Free-range chickens don't always range free. Chickens just need to have access to the outdoors to get that claim. And they don't get that access until they are 3 months old. They are so used to be indoors, that they never venture outside once they have that option. They are killed after 4 months, so most never see the sun. Free-range my ass.

Anyway, I'm sort of obsessed with slaughterhouses. Hundreds of thousands of animals are systematically killed everyday and no one knows anything about it, besides what we read in Fast Food Nation or on YouTube. The more I think about this, the less into it I am. Forget I mentioned it.

From my experience, the hardest part about these big academic exercises is designing the study. Once, I get that done, I'll be cool. Gathering the data is the next hardest (how do I find a Cheerios box from Germany?!?). The analysis is the easy part. Cannot wait till this is over.

God Damn, I'm Thirsty

Jesus Christ, this water is delicious!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some Cool Links

Just to share a few interesting sites:

Jwoww from the Jersey Shore is a Graphic Designer
- I should just give up now. She'll own the market in 6 months.

Best and Worst Logo Redesigns of 2009
- Not sure I agree with everything, but it's cool to see all the changes.
- I especially love that Kraft is on the Worst list twice.
- Great, great site. Check out the blog. I'll be using this a lot for the thesis.
- Check out their suggestions for nutritional label changes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Have Kids

Another great site with pictures of parents who should not be parents:

A few examples:

The Beatles Visual Overview

Here's a cool site that lays out every Beatles song chronologically by release displaying who wrote it and how much they contributed.

A few things to note:
- Paul had more hits, but I didn't realize how prolific John was!
- The only person missing is George Martin, their producer. No of the Beatles could read or write music, and those strings in Yesterday didn’t write themselves.
- These don't have every Beatles song ever (Hello, Little Girl), but who's counting?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

My Thesis Topic

I’ve found my thesis topic – nutritional labeling on food packaging. It’s everywhere and is an increasingly critical part of how people evaluate the foods they eat. How it's presented is critical in the perception of foods and nutrition in general. For such an important part of packaging, it is usually taken for granted.

I would like to do a comparative study of nutritional labeling design systems in 3-4 regions. I am hoping to have Prof. Benson help me set up the study; I took a class with him and got a good understanding of how I can make this work. I am thinking of selecting a country to represent the standards of the major global regions (these may change):
- North America: US
- Europe: Germany
- Asia: China
- Russia?, Australia? (not sure I need a fourth)

For each region, I will need to summarize the history of nutritional labeling to understand how the current systems came into being. From there, we can see where the differences are and what the implications may be. From there, I may need to do a review of some consumer campaigns that use this information to market foods.

I’m really excited about it! It channels my passion for the subject (i care about what I feed my kids, not myself) into something that can work in an academic setting. It is also relevant to my professional life in food packaging.

The best part about it is that I came up with it while sitting in a coffee shop in Amsterdam, staring at a bottle of soda, realizing that everything was just a little different. It was one of those rare ideas that is still good when sober.

I'm going to try to use the blog to capture ideas and information on the topic because, in reality, I've lost my passion for the blog. Brian is doing a good job keeping up, better than me. I'll keep trying, loyal readers.

Wish me luck.