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Monday, May 12, 2003

Now that I know how very dangerous Oreos are, I won't be tempted the next time they're on sale. In fact, I might never set foot in the grocery store again, except to buy fruits and vegetables and shampoo and shoelaces. Once I've left those sections, there's nothing for me there. Everything else is deadly.

I know it sounds like a joke. It sounds like a publicity stunt, a call for even more regulation, and the further droning of another lawsuit-happy consumer advocate. It gets pretty frightening, though, once you start reading what the scientists are saying. No wonder we're dying of heart disease. The foods Americans love best — cookies, crackers and chips — are among the worst. Baked goods, especially donuts, are pure evil.

The worst of all seems to be margarine. Remember when margarine was the healthy alternative to butter? Well, we got that all wrong. Margarine, it turns out, is nearly pure trans fat, a substance so dangerous the National Academies of Sciences says the only safe level in a person's diet is none at all. They do say that the softer the margarine, the less trans fat it's likely to contain. Stay away from those sticks, though.

Since trans fat isn't required to be listed on package labels, you have to know the code. They say if you see the words "partially hydrogenated," steer clear. And the higher on the list of ingredients, the more dangerous the product is. My Raisin Bran Crunch lists "partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil," but it's the fourteenth item on the list, below whole wheat, rice, sugar (okay, sugar) and raisins, among other less horrible things.

At the risk of never eating anything again for the rest of my life, and wasting away to nothing (which considering the starting point would take several more years than I probably have left anyway), I plan to be careful but not go crazy. Okay, I'll forgo the Oreos. The cream filling is pure trans fat, so I'll forever after associate it with eating a stick of margarine or a cup of lard. That ought to cure me of that craving.

I've always read labels in the supermarket, and now I have one more thing to look for. I eat fast food very rarely, and now that I know what they cook those french fries in, I'll do it even less. The best solution would probably be to stop eating processed foods altogether, but that's not going to happen. I'll probably be reading more of those labels in the health food aisle than the snack food aisle from now on, though.

9 May 03

The "garden" that isn't really a garden since being mowed flat.

Whether this crusade has staying power, as far as my shopping routine goes, remains to be seen. I always seem to slide back to the worst of my weaknesses whenever I try to improve myself. Maybe this time will be different, since I'm getting older and less comfortable with the way my bad habits make my body feel. Anything that can make me walk past the bakery department without reaching into the case for a couple of glazed donuts has to be a good thing.

It can actually be a kind of adventure, finding a whole new set of foods I can eat.

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Many years ago, I nearly became a teacher. I'm sure if it was I who narrowly escaped, or my potential students. I wasn't very good at it, so it worked out for everyone. I was a good student and a lousy teacher, and I now relive those times vicariously through films such as The Emperor's Club.

It's a movie about a teacher, and it's also about honor and the consequences of one's actions. If it sounds like a serious film, well, it is. You get to see a serious moral dilemma through the eyes of a man who takes such things seriously, and who believes his students should learn to do the same.

Kevin Kline, as always, is totally invested in the role of the conflicted teacher, and the picture is worth seeing for his performance, as well as for the weight it gives to matters that don't get discussed much in a society ruled more by pop culture than by real thought. Serious thought. Thought about what it means to live in a civilized society.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: My Mother's Day
"Whenever the family gets together, I kind of feel that it's My Day, even if it's really Mother's Day."

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