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).