Friday, May 18, 2007

Junk Food Enabling

Grrrr... I am in such a mood. I just got back from Walmart, which is probably part of the problem. We needed to get groceries for the week and at this point, Walmart is the cheapest grocery store in town (except for communist Aldy's which doesn't have a very good selection). Well, at least until Walmart eliminates all of the competition, and then jacks up its prices. Every trip to Walmart is like a lesson in health and nutrition. I see more morbidly obese people riding around on motorized scooters than any other grocery store that I have ever been to. Inevitably, I see these people in the junk aisles, not the fruit and vegetable aisles, and stereotypically they are filling up the baskets on their motorized carts with things like Cocoa puffs, Doritos, Pepsi, snack foods of all varieties, and tons of processed foods. Also, let me clarify, when I say morbidly obese, I don't mean, "I'm middle aged, have three kids and/or a busy career and life, and I don't have time to properly take care of myself." I am just as guilty of letting myself go and gaining weight since I've had Noah. In this society, I think it would be more surprising if people didn't gain weight. I'm talking about obesity to the point that stomach-stapling surgery would be less risky than to stay that obese (and approximately 1 in 10 people die from complications of gastric bypass surgery). There are more and more of these people and they are becoming younger. It used to be old ladies in mumus. Now, I have seen children as young as two or three with beer bellies. Of course, their parents are seriously overweight too.

As we shopped, I observed several things. When we are in the fruit and vegetable aisle, there are probably 5 "foreign-looking" people to 1 "American-looking" person. It is almost as if Americans avoid the fruit and vegetable aisles like the plague. The cookie and pop aisles rarely had any foreign-looking people in them, yet they are congested with people who appear to be Americans. Is this a coincidence? Even if the foreign-looking people were born in America, what is it about their cultural background that causes such a difference in grocery shopping preferences?

My next observation was that junk food in all forms is significantly cheaper than healthful food. As far as I know, this is common knowledge. However, why is this usually the case? If it is organic, I understand the logistics as to why it is expensive. Yet, take for example, all-natural non-organic peanut butter. All they do is grind it into peanut butter and place it in a jar. No preservatives or chemicals, just peanuts. Shouldn't the chemicals add costs to production? Apparently not, because regular peanut butter costs $1.99 whereas the "natural" peanut butter with less work and no additives was almost $5.00 per jar. What's up with that? It doesn't make any sense. What is the motivation for buying non-processed or less processed food if you can buy a more familiar, chemically-enhanced brand for $3.00 less. If you are on a tight budget, there is really no room for comparison.

In addition to the fact that junk food is so much cheaper than healthy food, I notice that Walmart almost always has more sales on rubbish food than health food. I wonder if, in general, Walmart prices their junk food artificially low to attract consumers who make bad food choices, knowing that they will keep coming back to Walmart to get their junk food fix. After all, junk food is not as filling and you need more of it to feel full. Therefore, even though it is cheaper than healthy food, people would be more inclined to buy more of it, and in turn, keep coming back for more, thus spending more money than if the food they ate was healthy.

Despite all of the dangers of obesity, I don't think it is in the interest of businesses such as Walmart to encourage people to eat healthy. As long as people are enticed to eat junk, and healthy food remains more expensive, we are bound to remain an overweight society. I guess the most that we can hope for is that we aren't all wearing mumus and riding around Walmart on motorized carts.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Darin's tornado footage and interview with CNN

My brother Darin's footage of the Greensburg tornado can be found at It has video of the Greensburg tornado forming and when they first arrived in Greensburg after the tornado went through. This is his storm-chasing website. It has received an incredible 1,055,509 hits. His videos can also be found on YouTube. Just for your interest here is the transcript of his interview with CNN on Saturday morning.


Tornado Devastates Kansas Town; Severe Weather in the Midwest; Kenya Airways Plane Crashes

Aired May 5, 2007 - 09:00 ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Well, good morning everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I am Betty Nguyen. This is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May. It's been a stormy day for a lot of folks.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: It has, a rough day, a rough start to this morning for some folks after a rough night. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes. So glad you could be here with us to start your day.


NGUYEN: All right, thank you for that Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

NGUYEN: Want to toss now, or at least take you to Darin Brunin. I understand he's in Wichita, Kansas. Darin you were there as a storm blew through. What did you see?

VOICE OF DARIN BRUNIN, STORM CHASER: We were actually following the large tornado up Highway 183 south of Greensburg. And it appeared to be a very large tornado when we saw it.

NGUYEN: We've been looking at pictures of it. It looks like a wedge-shaped tornado. When you say "very large," the word that we're getting is somewhere from a half mile to a mile wide. Is that what you saw?

BRUNIN: We're definitely thinking a mile wide. When it hit Greensburg, we were probably three to four miles south of it, and it was just, it was huge. And you could tell it really meant business.

NGUYEN: Yeah, it did, especially looking at the damage that it caused. As you were heading into the path of this storm, a lot of people were obviously getting word that it was coming into their neighborhoods. What was the warning like? Did you hear lots of warnings on the radio as you were headed toward the storm?

BRUNIN: Well, being a storm chaser, we did have live radar with us. Chasing at night it really helps. We knew there were warnings, and we actually talked to some residents in the community, and they said that they had plenty of warning, from what we could tell, at least 20 minutes.

NGUYEN: Was this a slow-moving storm? It caused so much damage. We're just trying to understand how big, how massive and how quickly it moved through the area.

BRUNIN: Yeah, it was definitely a slow-moving storm. I mean, you have a big tornado like that that moves slower, it can tend to do a lot more damage because it's over an area for a longer amount of time.

NGUYEN: But how long was it over the town of Greensburg?

BRUNIN: I couldn't answer that. I mean, I would say, you know, a minute or two. You know, it was moving slow, but, you know, it was still moving along at a decent pace. You can get storms that move a lot slower than that.

NGUYEN: So as you watch this and you're headed to where this tornado is moving into, that being the town of Greensburg, when you got there, what did you see?

BRUNIN: Well, actually, before we got to Greensburg, probably five miles south where the tornado had crossed, right on Highway 183, we actually ran into a resident who was waving his arms at us. We actually picked him up and took him to some of his family so he could get in contact with them. But as we approached Greensburg, we arrived before most of the emergency responders. And it was really a scene of shock, you know, disbelief. You know, there were people walking on the highway just in shock, you know, not even knowing really what had happened, you know. It was injuries and dogs limping around. Before we got to Greensburg there were a herd of cows on the highway that was severely injured. So it wasn't a pleasant sight to see at all. It was very horrible.

NGUYEN: I can only imagine. We spoke with a storm chaser a little bit earlier, and he was saying that, essentially what you're saying, people were just walking down the street like something out of a horror flick. He kind of related it to like a zombie movie. People really didn't know what had happened. All they knew was that parts of their home and their town was just picked up and destroyed, leaving them injured.

So you talked about the people. Well, what about the buildings? What about the downtown area and the communities? What did you see in the wake of any kind of damage there?

BRUNIN: It seemed like the western part of town was hit a little bit harder than the eastern part. Still some houses standing, or more houses standing, I should say, in the eastern part of town, but in the western part of town, it was just, I don't even know how to describe it. It was just --

NGUYEN: Was it leveled? Did you see anything standing?

There was still structures standing, but we did run across homes that were completely leveled and some clean foundations, which would hint at a very violent tornado.

NGUYEN: Mm-hmm, yeah, especially with such a large wedge tornado that blew through there, and you saying fairly slowly, as in the case that some tornadoes will move by, and it caused so much destruction and the fact that they've just been on the ground for so long, even though a minute or so doesn't seem like a lot, when you're talk being really forceful winds that can do the damage that we're seeing right there. Darin Brunin, a storm chaser joining us live by phone from Wichita, Kansas, thanks so much for your information.

T.J., as we are looking at this video here of some new daylight video coming into CNN, you can see just the bricks on the ground, you can see parts of buildings that have just simply collapsed. Don't know exactly which building this is in particular, but we do know that 80 percent of the hospital there in town was damaged. One portion of it, in fact, collapsed, and there were patients inside at the time.

HOLMES: And the crazy number we just heard a minute ago, we've been talking, 75 percent of the town is what emergency officials are saying. But someone from the Red Cross we just talked to a short time ago said they're hearing maybe 90 percent of this town may have been touched in some way, damaged or destroyed by this tornado. So either way, 75, 80, 90, heck --

NGUYEN: It's a high number.

HOLMES: Fifty percent, whatever it is, it's unbelievable for this small town. We are keeping an eye on this story with those folks in Kansas, who went through a nightmare last night and waking up on that nightmare today.

NGUYEN: Still this morning.

HOLMES: Just devastated by that tornado. That story continues to develop at this hour and we will continue to bring you the latest. .


HOLMES: We're continuing to keep an eye on the situation in Greensburg, Kansas, where the word is that at least one person has been killed and dozens more, up to 60, at least, have been injured after a massive tornado tore through the town of Greensburg, a town of about 1400 to 1600 people. We're continuing to get some of the first daylight pictures, pictures continuing to come into us of the devastation there. Estimates from the Emergency Management and American Red Cross is that 75 to 90 percent of the town has been touched.

This is the high school, we're being told, that we were just looking at there, a high school that has been heavily damaged, at least. But some of the daylight pictures giving us a whole new perspective of what they went through last night. Again, several injured, several possibly still trapped under buildings that have collapsed, and including the hospital that is there that we were told earlier is pretty much destroyed.

We do want to hear now -- we just showed you a picture of that high school. We do have sound now from a student that we want to take a listen to that we just got into the CNN newsroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no basement, so my mom stayed with our next-door neighbors in their basement, and we had no idea until like 3:00 in the morning last night when she finally called, so we were worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came to help clean up, but we don't even know where to start, so.


HOLMES: And that is pretty telling. That last word we heard from that student came to clean up, and look around, and it just seems hopeless in some of those situations, impossible to really clean up when there's such devastation and such damage. We are keeping an eye on this story all morning. Make sure you stay here with us for it.

More flood pictures

Monday, May 07, 2007

People never fail to amaze me...

People are crazy, there's no doubt about that. However, when people become parents, particularly mothers, usually even seemingly the dumbest person usually develops an animal instinct for protecting their children. Case in point today. Over the weekend and last night, we have had massive amounts of rainfall and the Kansas River here in L-town is raging. I am terrified of flood waters, in fact, I even have dreams that I am caught in the middle of a patch of land surrounded by the type of flood waters that were flowing over the dam today. So when Erik thought it would be fun to go and look at the river water flowing over the dam in north Lawrence today, I thought it would be neat to see, and reluctantly agreed to go along. Obviously, we had Noah with us and so we strapped him very tightly into his stroller. We walked along the levee trail and ventured down a little closer to the water. We were still at a very safe distance. I noticed a sheriff's deputy walking about the levee trail. I remarked, "Surely, no one would be stupid enough to get close to the water." It was so absurd that we put it out of our minds. In the spirit of Frank and Erica (hi Erica!) I took quite a few pictures. Noah was getting restless and trying to get out of his stroller so we decided to leave. It was just too scary to think about. As we began to walk up the hill, we saw a young mother walking with her daughter who was maybe three, and holding a baby who couldn't have been more than five months old. The mother said, "C'mon, honey, let's go stand in the water." We turned around and stared. "No, she wouldn't," I told Erik. Lo and behold, the mom, the baby, and the little girl went and stood in the water and nearly got knocked over by a surge in the water. I was so awestruck and angry, I just stood there. I couldn't even say anything. This woman was risking not only her life, but the lives of her children. Two feet out, there is a steep drop-off. If they would have slipped, the current would have dragged them to the bottom of the river.

I don't pretend to be the perfect mother and I've done my share of stupid things, but for God's sake, why in the hell would you stand in a flooded river with two young children??? If she has a death wish, go ahead, but at least leave the kids on the shore so they don't have to suffer for her stupidity. Once again, my faith in humanity has flown completely out of the window, or at least down the river.

More pictures later. They don't want to upload right now...

The rest of the rat pup photos

It has taken me way too long to post the rest of these pictures, but alas I am doing it. Between law school application stuff, rat pups, having a two-year old, a husband in school, online volunteer work, and my full-time job, it seems like I have had no time to sit down and update this blog. Oh well, I'm doing it now. Here are the photos of my rat pups that are almost fully grown at this point. They are so cute, but the girls are quite the escape artists. Only one has found a home so for now I'm the crazy rat lady. Oh well, being called a crazy rat lady is better than feeding the poor things to snakes.