Cheap Thoughts: Food Labeling

I was packing the kids’ lunches today, putting in a pack of granola bars as I normally do, when I became curious. These Nature Valley “Oats ‘n Honey” granola bars from General Mills are tasty and have an appealing photo of the bars next to a fat spatula dripping with honey goodness.

Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey granola bar box

Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey granola bar box

Putting aside the fact that the dry, brittle granola bars in the packaging look absolutely nothing like the moist granola bars in the package photo, I had to wonder how much “oats ‘n honey” were actually in these bars. A look at the ingredient list told me all I needed to know:
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Cheap Thoughts: Barks and hearing

I came back from dropping a kid off at school today to hear our dog barking his head off from his crate. It made me wonder: how do dogs bark so loud for so long and not have it affect their hearing? I mean, they have huge ears, right? How do they keep from making themselves deaf?

Cheap Thoughts: Parking meter app



Paying for parking? There’s an app for that. Or at least there should be.

Walking down a downtown sidewalk this week, I pondered a sawed-off pipe near the curb where an old-fashioned parking meter once stood. A few years ago, the City of Raleigh got rid of all the traditional coin-based parking meters and put up new electronic parking kiosks instead. Drivers simply note the painted number for their parking space and enter that into the kiosk along with their payment.

Simple, right? Instead of collecting coins from hundreds of meters, parking staff simply empty the money from kiosks, which take credit cards and paper bills in addition to coins. Drivers can also refresh their parking time from nearby kiosks, avoiding a trip back to the kiosk nearest the car.
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Cheap Thoughts: Leaves and lives

On my bike ride yesterday, I pondered what the trees might teach us. As I rode through piles of freshly-fallen leaves, it occurred to me that we are closer to trees than we think. Our human souls shed bodies the way trees shed leaves. Pretty powerful stuff.

So there’s your Sunday sermon!

Cheap Thoughts: laundry list

Where did we get the phrase “laundry list,” and how did this phrase gain the meaning of “a long and often tedious list of items?” I mean, I know what a laundry list literally is, but there were other lists long before before laundry lists. How did a list of laundry become the go-to list when trying to describe a long list? Is it the alliteration?

Doesn’t it seem weird to be at the office and referring to laundry when describing a list of items, especially when most people wash their own laundry?

Cheap Thoughts: Smartphone keys

I hate keys, as I’ve written about many times before. I also hate keycards, and thought it was ridiculous that my office suite requires two separate keycards: one for the building and one for the suite.

Yet in my pocket is a miracle of computing and communications power: a smartphone. My smartphone knows my identity when I swipe the security code to unlock it. It’s capable of very strong encryption and decryption. Why can’t I use my smartphone as a key to unlock my office doors? It sure would be more secure than relying on ancient technology like tumbler locks and keys.

Update 9 April: My friend Steve sends me links to the UniKey and the Lockitron, both of which are very, very interesting!