the Beyond brand fast food products

I wrote a while back about trying the Beyond veggie burger from the grocery store. I was really impressed with the texture and taste and was anxious to try the Beyond Famous Star burger from the Carl’s Jr. fast food chain.

I finally got the chance to give it a try, and I was very impressed. Quite tasty, just like the beef Famous Star, hardly indistinguishable. A second try confirmed my feelings.

Beyond TacoMore recently Del Taco came out with their Beyond Taco. Now I am not a big Del Taco fan. (What’s a Mexican fast food chain doing selling french fries, and who wants french fries with a taco?) Nonetheless, in my quest to learn about the new generation of plant-based meat substitutes, I felt that I owed the product a try.

My perception: not bad. The consistency was the consistency of taco meat and the taste matched that of a Del Taco taco. I won’t go back, but I’m glad I tried it.

I also have to give Del Taco credit for being fully committed to the Beyond Taco. They have dedicated printed Beyond Taco wrappers complete with logo. Carl’s identifies their Beyond Famous Star by wrapping the burger a certain way or affixing a sticker that says “Promo.”

Now I’m waiting for the Burger King Impossible Whopper to arrive in Southern California. I’m looking forward to that.


This is Audible

If you have ever purchased an audiobook from Audible you know that every book starts with a familiar voice saying, “This is audible.” (Rather like the “You’ve got mail” from the heyday of AOL. Someone whose voice became familiar to millions and who probably got paid very little for recording the phrase.) That Audible voice was present in the early days of the company and it is still very much present today in the Amazon-owned era.

AudibleI wrote a couple of weeks ago about my audiobook dilemma. I liked the fact that I could download audiobooks from the library at no cost, but I disliked the fact that most new titles were unavailable, being already checked out by others, and that I was under time pressure to finish the book. I said that I didn’t have a problem in principle with the Audible monthly fee, but I didn’t want to put yet another monthly subscription on my credit card.

Here’s was I did. I was already aware that I was in overwhelm mode with my streaming video options, so I decided that was a good place to cut back, allowing me in good conscience to take on the Audible subscription.

My first impression: I am delighted. When I was an Audible subscriber many years ago the selection was somewhat limited. I had a credit that I had to use each month or lose (they later began to allow credit rollovers), but there wasn’t necessarily a book available that month which I wanted. These days almost every new book that comes out has an audio version, as well as print and ebook editions. Amazon makes it easy because when you search for a book the entry displays all the various formats that are available. I am not by any means going to give up reading print books in Kindle format, but many books do lend themselves to the audio format. While I will continue to read my Kindle books in the evening, I have audiobooks which I can listen to while walking, driving, doing yard work, or simply doing daily mundane tasks. It’s nice to be able to listen to an audiobook while emptying the dishwasher.

There’s another benefit that having an Audible subscription provides. I get my one credit each month, but if I come to the end of a book before I come to the end of the month the cost of that second audiobook is considerably less for Audible members than it is for non-members.

I think the value of the subscription is going to be well worth the cost.


The Origins of Creativity

Origins of Creativity coverThe Origins of Creativity
Edward O. Wilson
narrated by Jonathan Hogan
Recorded Books, 2017
Audiobook $17.95, Kindle edition $8.98
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

This was enjoyable listening. Edward O. Wilson is a distinguished Harvard scientist who first made his name in the field of entomology (the study of insects – as opposed to etymology, the study of word origins). In particular, he is one of the foremost experts in the world on ants.

This book goes far beyond the ant world, however. His thesis is that we can do a lot to salvage culture and society by the coming together of science and the humanities. In this discussion, he describes storytelling in hunter-gatherer societies, the social conventions of insects, the evolution of the genus homo, and archetypes in movies. Wilson also discusses religion, though not always in a favorable light. At the same time, he has some positive things to say about religion and even admits to a couple of moving religious experiences in his own life.

The narration by Jonathan Hogan is excellent. His inflection, cadence, and pace make this a very enjoyable book to listen to. I did at times think that maybe I should be reading the print version; there were times when I wanted to flip back a few pages, something that is easier to do in print than with audio.

Overall, however, this was a delightful and educational listening experience.


keeping calm and carrying on

Those of you who have been on Facebook for a while will remember a time when the meme, “Keep Calm and Carry On” or some variation thereof appeared with annoying regularity. It was supposedly originally a message to the British people from their government in the run-up to World War II.

I have never been big on sharing memes on Facebook, but recently one caught my attention in such a way that I had to share. It read:

quoteThe less you give a damn the happier you will be.

 

It seems to have struck a chord, as it received multiple likes. That is worth noting in that many of my Facebook posts receive no likes at all.

Interestingly, that same evening there was a quote from venerable Ram Dass on Instagram which said the same thing in a different way:

quoteThe resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.

 

My cousin Keith posted a saying from the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who reigned from the years 161 to 180 in the Common Era. Despite its antiquity it struck me as being particularly appropriate for those of us who are nauseated by the words and actions of the current administration in Washington. It reads:

quoteYou always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.

All different ways of saying the same thing. The final word goes to Dame Julian Of Norwich, who was born in 1342 and whom the Episcopal Church honors on May 8. A vision told her that whatever God does is done in love, and therefore:

quoteAll shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

 

In other words, keep calm and carry on.


where are the sunflowers?

There is something missing in the San Jacinto Valley this spring.

The sunflowers are missing.

Where I would normally see sunflowers I am seeing small yellow flowers. This time last year sunflowers were all over the place. This year we had an unusually wet winter and (with the exception of a few hot days) an unusually mild spring with a lot of clouds and a robust marine layer. Maybe sunflowers don’t like that.

sunflowersSunflowers represent hope and new beginnings for me. In the spring of 1971 I was a senior at Hemet High School. There were sunflowers all around that year. I was enjoying the final semester of my coursework (all electives I wanted to take!) and looking forward to attending Pitzer College in the fall. I also spent some time with a marvelous young woman named Peggy. We went out a couple of times. Hemet’s lone single-screen theater was showing a Sophia Loren movie called Sunflower. It was an awful movie, but I got to spend some time with Peggy. I regret that my social ineptitude meant that the relationship didn’t really go anywhere.

So sunflowers have always been a symbol of expectation, moving forward, and happiness to me. I miss them this year.


the wait is finally over

I have written about my church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, and our ongoing quest to find a new rector since Pastor Kathleen announced her retirement nearly three years ago. Kathleen departed in early September 2016 and our interim rector, Fr. Rob, arrived at the beginning of November. After a year we had not found a permanent rector but Fr. Rob was unable to stay on any longer.

Good Shepherd's new logoSince then we have made do with supply priests, who showed up only on Sunday and a few other key dates on the liturgical calendar. We’ve been fortunate in that on most Sundays we have had one of two very capable retired priests to celebrate the Eucharist, Fr. Carr and Fr. Orozco. The two are very different in their styles but each quite good in his own way.

Happily, that time of uncertainty has come to an end. On Sunday Linda, our Senior Warden (the Episcopal equivalent of the president of board of directors), announced that the vestry (church board) had called the next rector to Good Shepherd. She has been on the East Coast for many years with solid experience serving a variety of Episcopal parishes. She also has family in northern San Diego County, just to the south of us.

It looks to me like this is going to be a really good fit and I look forward to her arrival on July 1. You can read her letter to the congregation to learn more.


Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate coverLove, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
Padma Lakshmi
narrated by the author
HarperAudio, 2016
Audiobook $28.95, Kindle edition $9.99
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

I have been getting my audiobooks from the Santa Clara County Library System. As a result I find myself borrowing books that I might otherwise not listen to as the newer, popular books are usually checked out. That was definitely the case with Love, Loss, and What We Ate.

I wasn’t familiar with Padma Lakshmi before listening to her memoir. I am a foodie, as you well know, but if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I also hate competition cooking shows. Lakshmi is best known as a judge on Top Chef, which airs on the Bravo network. It turns out, however, that she has done a lot more than that.

Lakshmi’s mother is an immigrant from India who put herself through nursing school and then devoted herself to the profession. Padma found herself somewhat at loose ends after college and more or less stumbled into a career in modeling. That led to some acting gigs which led to an anchor role on the Italian equivalent of the Today show. Lakshmi writes with honesty about many aspects of her life, including her short-lived and tempestuous marriage to author Salmon Rushdie and a long-term relationship with one of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, many decades her senior.

She also writes about her own personal health. She describes her battle with endometriosis in excruciating detail which made me, as a male, uncomfortable. But I am sure that part of her motivation in writing the book was to make her own struggles public as a means of raising awareness and helping other women with the same disease, which seems to be frequently misdiagnosed. In fact, she helped found the Endometriosis Foundation of America. And in the larger picture, that was a small, even if somewhat lengthy, part of the book.

I listened to an NPR piece on audiobook production a number of years ago. The segment included David Sedaris, who records the audio versions of his own books, explaining how one should not try to take on the voices of others when reading dialog, but rather continue on in one’s own voice. As much as it was a delight to hear Lakshmi tell her own story, I wish she had followed David’s advice. The Indian accent she used for her female relatives sounded affected at best. Her attempt at taking on the accent of her Turkish gynecologist sounded, well, just strange.

Nonetheless, the book was for the most part enjoyable. While I grew weary hearing at times of Lakshmi’s jet setting ways, she still has led an interesting life that lends itself to pleasant listening.