Lunch lady

I was reading an interesting series of short articles on public school food in D.C. The switch from shipping in pre-packaged individual meals to be warmed before serving to the kids to ‘fresh cooked’ meals in a brand new school kitchen actually means shipping in pre-packaged larger quantities of frozen food that are then reheated in a steamer by people who have never cooked in an actual commercial kitchen before, and everything is served with disposable tableware. They don’t even have a stove or a dishwasher in the new kitchen. The worst is the junk the kids are actually served. It sounds awful in taste and is just marginal in nutrition.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own cafeteria experiences. First off: Safetypup was on the milk cartons! His cartoon taught us safety tips while using good grammar. Matches are tools, not toys with which to play. Unfortunately I can’t find any pictures of Safetypup in his cartoon form, just scary costumed people dressed as Safetypup.

I used to keep my lunch money coins in the zippers of my Kangaroo shoes. It was really hard to stand on one foot in the lunch line as it moved forward and unzip my shoes to get the money out. Seems bizarre that I swipe a credit card at the work cafeteria now.

Mom would post the weekly school lunch menu from the newspaper on the fridge, and each morning she’d ask if we wanted to buy the menu choice or take a packed lunch. One of the most humiliating experiences of my elementary school lunch career was when the sixth grade girls (the meanest one was Jamie McCarthy!) made fun of my fifth-grade lunch: a hotdog in a Thermos of hot water, which I assembled with the bun at the table. Mom was creative in keeping the food hot, but the teasing stuck with me for, oh, 24 years now.

Our Little Hoosier meetings were held in the cafeteria. We made Indiana-shaped cookies once a year. I also remember thinking how dumb some of my classmates were during these meetings.

In boarding school we shared a cafeteria with college students. The most famous dishes were Limelight chicken, or Chernobyl chicken as suggested by the strange glowing color, and Tater Tot Hot Dish, or TTHD. The lady who ran the checkout was kind of socially awkward (I guess she fit in with us) and had some classic lines which made it to the Masochistic Board, a piece of MDF we propped in the lounge on our dorm floor, which we decorated with things that drove us nuts and then beat on it with a cat o’ nine tails-like device my mom had at home for distressing wooden frames. It had chains attached to a wooden handle and made a hell of a racket! It was so bad that the girls on the floor downstairs started crying because they thought someone was being beaten and we had to stop attacking our Masochistic Board. I’m not quite sure how it got that name, except maybe because we were punishing ourselves by going to a really hard school, but I do remember the director of student life taking a couple swings at it before it was retired.

Pissed? Bitter? Test your beating skills on the f***ing Masochistic Board! (One of the girls on our floor had a bad emu experience)

Our work cafeterias are decent, but some days are better than others when it comes to veggie options. Still better than school food! I hated Hamette on Bun, which was a common Friday lunch.

There’s a program to fund veg options in school lunches!

I was going to end with a little rant about the pro-HFCS commercials, but instead I recommend a viewing of King Corn instead, which streams free from Netflix.

This post made me hungry.

Gifts to practical, frugal, ethical people who don’t want more crap

Oh Christmas, how you fill my memories and continue to taunt me… this was a draft post from the Thanksgiving era and I figure I ought to finish it! Merry Christmas to everyone. Isn’t it great to have a fun holiday with family and then sleep in REALLY late at home the next day with no commitments? Our part of the country was surrounded by terrible weather, but we escaped it and timed all traveling perfectly. There was quite a bit of beautiful snow today at home, but I stayed inside in my jammies the whole day.

This post at The Simple Dollar is very close to my own thoughts on how-to-buy-a-holiday-gift (for me, anyway). You may not even need to read it now, but for anyone who cares, there you go. Except if you care, you already know this about me, and if you don’t care, you were the person who bought me purple plaid pompom slippers and animal-tested soaps that give me hives. (Those gifts have been rehomed.)

I fight an ongoing battle against clutter. I think most Americans, as consumers (and relatives of consumers in the holiday season), have this battle, but many don’t acknowledge they should fight it! I guess it’s not for me to say you can’t have a house full of stuff. But I don’t even WANT a house full of stuff and I still have it.

In the past couple of years I’ve focused on getting rid of things I don’t use and simultaneously not buying things I don’t REALLY need or want. And honestly, there aren’t a lot of things I really want. I know I live a lavish lifestyle compared to most of the world population, but overall the economy would tank a lot faster if it depended on me as a consumer.

Anyway, I love lists at Christmas so I can give exactly what a person wants, and to avoid those awkward conversations about returns. It’s a shame people put up with clutter no matter how well-intentioned the gift. And thank you, almost everyone, for not getting me random things. I am in love with my slippers (the sustainably-made ones I requested) and my new camera, and I’m also in love with not having any returns nor in dusting knicknacks. Except maybe that candle. Somehow I get a candle every year.

I suppose I sound ungrateful to some. Truly, if someone could help me purge a bunch of my belongings and find homes for the stuff that persists as clutter, I would be ecstatic. I may never tame the clutter monster but I am eternally hopeful.

The things that made me teary this year? (Rare, I know.) My brother and his wife surprised me with a special dish at Christmas dinner, because they felt bad that I always ate only the side dishes. (We are eating the leftovers of the veggie pot pie today! And shame on the bulk of the family who didn’t even try it. There’s no excuse like it being ‘weird’ like some of the ethnic foods I bring to family parties.) And my 10 or 11-year-old cousin asked for donations to animal shelters instead of toys, which my mom and I provided along with gifts for her.

Donate with holiday shopping (no cost to you)

My name is Juju.  You can raise funds to pay my vet bills just by shopping!

My name is Juju. You can raise funds to pay my vet bills just by shopping!

Donate through online shopping at GoodShop

You may have heard of GoodSearch, where instead of using Google or other search pages you search from this one and a donation goes to the organization of your choice every time you click. They are also associated with GoodShop, which gives me more bang for the buck–a small percentage of my online purchases (and there are lots!) adds up quickly this time of year, plus I have to say I’m really a Google addict and contributing through GoodShop makes me feel less guilty about the penny-per-search I lose in the other area.

Anyway, GoodShop or a variation has been around for awhile. The difference here is that GoodShop actually has a ton of places you would actually shop, like AMAZON! It also includes Target, Walmart, Office Depot, Gap, eBay, iTunes, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, NewEgg, and lots of other places (EDIT: even Travelocity is on there!). Donations seem to be around the 1% area, which vary per retailer. That may not seem like much to you, but our tiny rescue has earned $80 this year alone just from one-penny-per-click searches, so 1% coming off big holiday purchases can help us a lot!

I was able to install a toolbar on my browser so before I shop, I click on the store through that, and then I shop normally. The toolbar also alerts you to special coupon codes at that retailer! Once you pick your charity it remembers it for you. You have to go through the site/toolbar before shopping on the retailer’s site or your shopping donation won’t register, though I’ve noted the Amazon visits I make sometimes remember how I got there earlier. Anyway, the toolbar handily lights up as bright yellow when the donation is in effect, reminding me what I’m doing and also letting me know if it’s not working! (Another tip: if you are shopping and have stuff in your cart and realize you forgot to go through GoodShop first, you can generally go to the GoodShop link/toolbar, click to your retailer, and it will still have your stuff in the cart for checkout!)

There are thousands of organizations on GoodShop (the same ones on GoodSearch), so help out your favorite charity when you do your online shopping!

Note: the links in this blog post are prepopulated with our nonprofit, Indiana House Rabbit Society. If you click from links here and then shop (or search), you’ll automatically help our bunnies. But you can also switch to a different charity once you’re at the page if there is someone else you prefer to support!

Donate through online searches at GoodSearch

Donate through online shopping at GoodShop

Consumer shitlist

Do not add me to your mailing list. Ever. Unless I ask to be on it. Just because I found your product online or bought something in your store doesn’t mean I want a relationship with you, future business with you, nor physical mail at my house. In fact, if I could order something to be shipped to my house without telling you where I live, I would.

OMG, great business opportunity: cloaking who orders stuff and where it goes! I can already get a single use instantly-generated number for my credit card to use online. What if they could cloak the rest of my identity during the purchase?

This problem afflicts my online donations to charity, too. Don’t make me a scrooge.

On the list so far recently:
Men’s Wearhouse (David had to rent a tux for a wedding. He doesn’t like you.)
DiscoveryStore (I bought someone a gift last year. I don’t like you either.)
Gardener’s Supply magazine (whattttt?? It’s defined by its online-only existence!)
Sephora (Funny how my online profile says I’m not on your catalog list but I still get one)
American Diabetes Association (hardest mailing list I ever tried to get off)
Gleaners Food Bank
Farm Sanctuary
Wheeler Mission
Bike Nashbar
Some home-grown mortgage company who just didn’t understand why we don’t want their personal newsletter after buying a house three years ago. I don’t care if you went to Florida for a week or if you have tips on how to make soup.

I call to opt out when I can, but someone keeps selling my name. There must be some law about easy opt-out from email lists, because every time I am added to one I can get off in one click. I can also control what I see through spam filters if necessary. But it is usually really hard to get off a catalog list, and when you do call, you still see them for months. Ask my permission to share my info, or offer me a discount on my purchase to sell my info to someone else.

It makes me want to opt out of consuming altogether. Not a terrible idea…

America Recycles Day is Nov 15

The sun is shining through my huge window in my energy-efficient office building, where lights go out when motion is not detected. From here I can see the giant smokestacks of Covanta, where the city’s curbside-collected trash is burned to make steam and then electricity. I think this is a pretty neat way to handle waste, and I learned that they recycle the metal that comes through the trash too. I’m sure it’s because they can sell it/can’t burn it so well, but the net effect is good for resource preservation.

Next Sunday is America Recycles Day.


The site has a recycling conversionator/calculator (which was niftier than I expected), a pledge, and a few links to recycling information. Now, I’ve been recycling as long as I can remember, and I think it’s pretty neat that my Dad has been into it longer than that. I pay extra for curbside recycling because it’s incredibly convenient and shows the neighbors I care. Curbside even takes #1-7 plastics now along with the cardboard, glass, and aluminum.

This one from the website was a shocker: Every three months, Americans landfill enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet! While I hear arguments sometimes how it’s not ‘cost effective’ to recycle glass and paper when the economy is down, aluminum is pretty universally agreed upon as probably worth recycling, even by folks who just don’t give a crap about any other recycling. Aluminum has value to anyone who takes it to the scrapyard. Of course I set it out with the curbside pickup (our biweekly recycling tote is usually full and also larger than our trash volume) because as long as it gets to a recycling facility, I’m happy. I also trash dig at work and pick up recyclables in parking lots and when I walk the dogs in the park. I know I’m the weird one, but Americans are so lazy that we landfill airplane loads of metal?

Anyway, thanks for taking a moment not to put a pop can in the trash. It’s really not that hard to put it in a recycling bin later.

Best recycling info in Indy is at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Their new website looks nice but I’m not sure the map of where to recycle stuff is as useful as the list they used to have.

National Coming Out Day

Last night the President addressed the Human Rights Campaign’s dinner. From the director of HRC:

“Tonight, President Obama told LGBT Americans that his commitment to ending discrimination in the military, in the workplace and for loving couples and their families is ‘unwavering.’ He made it crystal clear that he is our strongest ally in this fight, that he understands and, in fact, encourages our activism and our voice even when we’re impatient with the pace of change. But these remarks weren’t just for us, they were directed to all Americans who share his dream and ours of a country where “no one is denied their basic rights, in which all of us are free to live and love as we see fit.”

“And we heard unequivocally about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: ‘I am working with the Pentagon, its leadership and members of the House and Senate to end this policy. I will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That is my commitment to you.’

“Finally, we heard something quite remarkable from the President: ‘You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.’

“This was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It’s simply unprecedented.”

Today is National Coming Out Day. Tomorrow I’m even attending a speech at my workplace in honor of this day about bringing your whole self to work. Indeed, my employer has received national recognition for its commitment to equality, including supporting ENDA and opposing state initiatives to constitutionally define marriage as a heterosexual arrangement. It’s not just that they won’t fire you for being gay, something which is legal in much of this country, but that they don’t want you to have to censor yourself. Someone who doesn’t feel free to post pictures of his significant other in his cubicle or talk about his home life with coworkers just isn’t going to be as comfortable at work and therefore won’t be as productive.

That’s not to say everyone is ‘out’ at work. It’s not like my college experience, where students felt they really could be themselves. But at least it’s not Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!

A few shots from the college era.


What if you couldn’t be yourself?

Let’s not be progressive or anything

Ah, Indianapolis. Stuck in the Midwest, happy with its mediocrity. I was SHOCKED when the response to longstanding problems at the city pound last year not only ousted the politicians running the place, but HIRED A COMPETETENT, and – get this – PROGRESSIVE person with actual shelter experience! You mean we finally get to take the 64% kill rate in this city seriously? Yes, that was over 12,000 animals last year in Indianapolis. (And this number is actually down from previous years thanks to progressive ideas like FACE, while the shelters don’t seem to improve their come-in-but-never-leave rates.)

So Indy hired Doug Rae, a guy who turned around bigger shelters with higher kill rates: places like Philadelphia and Phoenix. Yes, he was a big change from what our city pound had been for many years. But that was the point.

Doug started in January. And then they fired him this week. Nuvo did a pretty good writeup of all that’s happened in these short months.

The upshot is that Indianapolis wanted everything fixed while still letting everything slide: some of the employees of the shelter and members of other animal welfare groups in the city liked the power/freedom/laziness of the status quo. The evidence of secret meetings about IACC but without their participation, canceling board meetings at the last minute, and firing board members who sided with Rae prove to me that politics won.

I have been to the pound several times recently. I went through volunteer orientation and had emails every week for all the events the shelter was doing in the community, and volunteer participation hours skyrocketed in the kennels. I went to fostering orientation. I met with the woman running that program a few times, the latest in a new bimonthly meeting with Rae himself inviting local animal rescue groups to come share their concerns. It was an open meeting to discuss whatever we wanted (I was there on behalf of IHRS). Radical changes were made: they actually wanted copies of the rescues’ nonprofit paperwork! You know why? Because no one had bothered to collect this information before. How does the shelter know who is a ‘real’ rescue? And this was good news to us, because I know of at least one active rescue in our community who takes an awful lot of animals and they never seem to get adopted anywhere. They do end up in veterinary clinics badly injured from poor sheltering at the rescue though. Are they hoarded? Are they sold to laboratories, fed to wildlife? Not as farfetched as you might think–that’s the path many free to good home pets take, as well as those in less-than-upfront rescues. There has to be some accountability if you are going to work with the city pound. Hell, even having some paperwork about who took what animal and when would be an improvement.

So I’m disappointed but not surprised that Indy put politics first. Not surprised at all. Here’s the thing: if you want change (and it surprised me they got that far), you have to be willing to change.

I’m sure the new politician in charge of the pound will be great. She has no shelter experience either, just like every other person who has ever been in charge of IACC before.

Some pro-animal blogs in Indy: Move To Act, Indy No-Kill Initiative. Note I’m not self-identifying as a member of the no kill movement, but what’s coming out of their mouths seems to be in the animals’ best interests compared to the political crap coming out of everyone else’s.

“Ah, he always smelled that way”

When I was young, we’d go visit my great great aunt and uncle’s farm on the west side of town. Uncle Walt and Aunt Dorothy had 80 acres, and at various times, cows, chickens, corn, a pond, an inground pool (this was the most exciting part for my brother and me at the time), dogs, woods, strawberries, you name it. They had a long dirt lane and when you drove on it, the resident dog (jobs included guard and groundhog killer) would come running to meet you.

My mom and her mom both spent lots of time at the farm when they were young. I am SO glad we got to go visit too, but I wonder what it would have been like to live there for whole summers. There are stories of using dynamite to blow up field rocks and my mom getting lost as a toddler and the dog finding her.

They lived in a creepy-cool 1850s(?) farmhouse and the upstairs, a place we rarely visited, wasn’t even vented for heat. The dirt cellar had amazing jarred veggies on old shelves. The big wraparound porch had rocking chairs and bees would visit the flowers while you sat around and talked.

The old barns were really amazing to me. I was not very adventurous and didn’t explore as much as I should have, but the falling-down old chicken coop and slatted corn sheds fascinated me. My memories don’t include the animals that lived there, since Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Walt were older by then and rented their cornfields to other farmers, but the old buildings were right there by the house as a reminder. There’s a picture somewhere, one I clearly remember, of kids bottle-feeding a calf. I remember the wooden ramp with rails where the grown cattle apparently climbed on the truck to go to slaughter. My mom said Uncle Walt would cry when they left.

Whatever happened to that world? It must have been amazing to be an American farmer through the bulk of the last century; the changes in fertilizers and yields, the move to families shopping in big grocery stores, the selling of this beautiful property in the country to be another fancy subdivision after the old farmers went off to assisted living facilities. Uncle Walt suffered from illnesses related to his life’s work, but I just remember him sitting in a recliner and telling deadpan jokes. (When asked why his dog was so spoiled, he responded with the title of this post.) Aunt Dorothy climbed on top of the shed in her 70s to paint; I remember her still liking to eat Long John Silver’s food, of all things, in her 90s, long after moving away from the farm and going deaf.

I was thinking of the farm after watching Food, Inc. last weekend with friends. Please go see it–it’s amazing what we don’t know about the food we eat and where it’s sourced. I visited a farmers’ market just before the movie, and went to another one this past weekend, but yet that’s not where the bulk of my food starts. I’m trying to take advantage of more markets this year while we are in growing season, plus we are growing more vegetables ourselves. When I stop to think about this basic thing, food, it amazes me what an industry it’s become. Now there are even concerns about ‘food security,’ whether from national perspectives or right here in my city.

Maybe it’s not helpful to idolize the old family farm in this day of WalMarts and a bigger population, but I know none of Uncle Walt’s cows stood knee deep in their own manure their whole lives, nor did his chickens live in cages the size of a sheet of paper. The unchecked growth of factory farming and seed law signals to me the dirty politics and the greedy side of capitalism that tosses aside any reasonable treatment of worker, animal, or planet.

The power of consumer dollars: a vote every time you eat.

I’m very excited about the upcoming opening of our first non-profit community grocery in a rehabbed building in an underserved part of the city: Pogue’s Run Grocer!

Multimedia (you were sick of reading, right?)

I have been giving to more charities lately and every freakin’ time they add me to the mailing list. This drives me nuts. I understand I look like a good prospect because I’ve donated once, but my environmental side detests physical mail, especially solicitations, and I only donate online anyway. Why can’t there be a radio button for me to decline future mailings when I give the first time? I’d be much more likely to give again without the aggravation. They waste my donation on paper, postage, staff… that’s not why I gave them money.

Seriously, people, contact me by EMAIL if I gave you money through your website. Then I can spam or unsubscribe (or even better, set my preferences to remind me again in six months when I’ll be ready to give to you again) and you don’t waste your time and money. Let’s put the Post Office out of business. Nonsense. Why do you need my address to give you $$?

Went to Indiana Black Expo corporate luncheon this week. My company bought a lot of tickets. After a silly string of forwarded emails that never did find out if I’d have something to eat at this function, and several comments that I could always eat the salad (argh), in an ironic twist, EVERYONE ate salad! That was the meal. Sure, everyone else had a chef salad but sure enough, there was a foliage-only version for the picky weirdos like me. Wow, I had a lot of fiber that day.

Jamie Foxx and a few other folks received awards after short comments by the governor, mayor, and former mayor (who oddly enough received an award at the other corporate fundraiser I attended and he now works for my company). I was looking forward to inspirational speeches and was a bit disappointed that it focused on entertainment and awards, but I projected my previous experience here, I guess. Or perhaps that’s a cultural bias. Anyway I really preferred the Lambda Legal dinner because the speakers were good.

Okay, now my debut music video. I’ve been playing with a little Flip video camera mounted on my bike. The lame Windows MovieMaker software won’t allow me to specify how much to speed up the clip (at least I can’t find a way to do it other than double or half speed), so I couldn’t match the length to the song I chose. But I do have a video now which is just part of a cloudy Friday’s ride home, sped up so it’s less boring. Of course you won’t get to hear the guys yelling at me out their car window (the only part I understood was the F-bomb), but you will get to hear Silversun Pickups’ Lazy Eye. Until the song ends and there’s a little silent cycling left over. Ideas for better (hopefully free) software? Also, what is the best (fast, universal, whatever) file format for sharing on blogs and such? I started a Vimeo account, which is the embedded video below, but it’s showing as slightly poorer quality than the original file I uploaded, which can be clicked on with the text right above the Vimeo stuff. The direct link file format seems slow and large.

Yes, I know I have lots of room for improvement in editing. Just a first attempt.


Indy Bike Commute from Amy D on Vimeo.

Cool food stuff coming soon

I’m glad this film is coming to Indy! I can’t figure out if it’s really playing on Friday or if that’s just the national release date; the local theater says it’s coming July 31.

Coming to Indianapolis
July 17
Keystone Arts Cinema

Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA.

Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

There are some free screenings too, but not in Indy.

This one is happening at our favorite restaurant and involves bikes and the urban eastside! I hope we can get a reservation.

August 4: Urban Farm Tour & Farm to Table Dinner

Where: R Bistro (888 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis)
When: August 4:
5:30pm Urban Farm Tour followed by dinner seating at 7:00pm
7:00pm Urban Farm Tour followed by dinner seating at 8:30pm
Cost: $25 for Slow Food members or $30 for non-members
(price includes taxes and gratuity – drinks are not included)
Dress: Casual with comfortable shoes, as guests will be walking or biking and exploring urban farms before dinner.
Reservations are required: Call R Bistro at 317.423.0312
*If you prefer the vegetarian option, please alert R Bistro when you make your reservation.

Join Slow Food Indy for a tour of urban farms and kitchen gardens and enjoy a local hog roast at R Bistro.
While guests have the option to skip the tour and simply make dinner reservations, we hope you’ll follow local farmer-tour guides on foot or bring your bike! We’ll tour the Big City Farms Urban CSA lots, the Cottage Home Community Garden, and several backyard kitchen gardens in the Cottage Home Neighborhood. The tours will depart promptly from R Bistro, and guests are requested to meet there at 5:30pm (in advance of a 7:00pm dinner seating at R Bistro) or at 7:00pm (in advance of a 8:30pm dinner seating at R Bistro).

Only a few seats are still available! Call R Bistro at 317.423.0312.
Reservations will be closed on July 31st (or when all places are filled).

Found both of these at Slow Food Indy. I’m not a member but they often have interesting stuff going on.