Secret combination

rexona soap from kenyaAlmost twenty years ago, Heather and I lived with a very gracious family in rural Kenya, for two weeks. Learning how real people lived was part of a training program to orient us to life there. (We went on to live in East Africa for five years.)

Peter, our main host, was on break from college. He served as our translator and cultural broker, fluently speaking English, Kikamba and Swahili. He loved to listen to Kenyan radio, powered by a large car battery. I will never forget the Rexona commercials. We heard them every morning, whether we wanted to or not — the walls weren’t very thick.

The commercial was totally in Swahili — except for the slogan, “Rexona — Secret Combination!” Rexona was a brand of soap, with touted qualities to make your skin amazing. The “R” at the front of the phrase was always trilled.

Why do I bring this up? Food Babe got Budweiser to list their popular beer’s ingredients for the first time. Rice might not be on the top of everyone’s list for what makes a quality beer, but then again, Budweiser is probably not on the top of everyone’s list as being a quality beer.

Mystery in ingredients can be a good thing or a bad thing. For Rexona, it was good. For Budweiser, maybe not so good.

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Intentionally blank

This page intentionally left blankWe’ve all received documents in the mail that have “This page intentionally left blank” printed on one side.

That’s a beautiful reflection of some of the things that are wrong with American culture. My guess is that some team of lawyers made a bunch of money through a successful lawsuit against a company that caused deep emotional harm to an individual because they didn’t know that one blank page in their mortgage documents was supposed to be blank.

All that toner.  All that time going through laser printers.  And all those happy lawyers.

(Don’t get me wrong — I’m not against lawyers. But sometimes it’s just too much.)

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$550 or $15?

My oldest son is spending his summer working with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. He’s working on hiking trails in national parks in Colorado. A typical day involves using a large cross-cut saw to remove giant trees from many paths. (You can check out his adventures at their WordPress site.)

gore-tex jacket (detail)I’m not telling you this to brag about Jay, but rather to talk about breathable rain jackets. In the June 7, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal, an article about outdoor adventure gear features a jacket — the Arc’teryx Beta AR. I am sure that it is a totally amazing garment. However, H&M had a similar breathable waterproof jacket for $70. I went to my local H&M and bought it on an end-of-season closeout for $15.

I ask you — which is the better deal?

Jay will be using that $15 jacket all summer — far more than the average Arc’teryx Beta AR buyer will wear their finery during their whole lifetime.

There is an American tendency to buy far more than you need. I also fall prey to this thinking. Let’s fight it.

Footnote: I understand that it is more righteous to buy used clothing than to sponsor companies like H&M that use far-too-underpaid labor. Alas, I couldn’t find a good waterproof breathable jacket at any of our local used clothing outlets.

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You gotta live

I put up a question on Facebook recently about soy. I wondered why it was considered bad. That post received 28 comments! A lot of people care about soy.*

cup I love coffee. How does that relate to soy? Well, I know that coffee has caffeine, which is known to cause problems for people with heart problems. My mother and several uncles died of heart-related problems. So if I were purely logical, I would quit drinking coffee. But I love the taste of a fresh hot cup of fine coffee each morning. I’m willing to lose a few months of my life for the minor thrill of coffee.

Soy is not a great source of pleasure to me, so it’s not hard for me to skip buying soy snacks. But I’m not going to carefully read each label before I buy a product to see if it has soy. I’m willing to take the minor risks associated with eating more liberally to avoid the hassle of reading every label when I go shopping — or insisting that other members of my family who do grocery shopping for my family do the same.

Having said that, I do not condemn those who are careful label readers or non-allergy soy avoiders. I understand that you have to live your life too. and I greatly appreciate that many people care about such things, or we would all be consuming food that is a lot less healthy than what we are.

*If you don’t know about why some people consider soy to be bad, you’ll have to visit my Facebook page. And you’ll have to be a Facebook user to see that post.

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