My New Thang—Avocados

Early in my dad’s business career he sold appliances for General Electric. Every year we got one new one, including allegedly, the first trash compactor in the country. And for some reason only my mom could probably explain, every last appliance was avocado green. Turns out those early avocado green kitchens did a number on my subconscious because recently I’ve turned into an avocado eating machine, putting them on damn near everything, as if I’m making up for lost time.

So I got a kick out of this, “Your New Avocado: An FAQ“.

Below is a picture of today’s breakfast bowl of oatmeal which lies buried underneath the red and late 1960’s kitchen appliance green fruit goodness. Some mornings I borrow from professional cycling chefs and sub in two fried eggs. And always, I top everything off with a little butter and a lot of Kirkland Saigon Cinnamon (Costco doesn’t pay me for these egregious product placements, but they should).

Today’s philosophical question. At what point does the balance tip towards the add-ins and I can no longer accurately describe my breakfast as a bowl of oatmeal? That’s what philosophers refer to as a “Seinfeld episode worthy” question.

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That’s right, even our kitchen bowls are avocado green.

Staying With The Questions

“It’s not that I’m so smart,” Albert Einstein wrote, “but I stay with the questions longer.” Here are some questions I’ve been staying with lately.

Why is banana bread a perpetual underachiever? Among all breads, it’s the most underrated. Always delicious, yet difficult to find. On the other end of the continuum, cornbread; wide availability, but almost always a dry, crumbly disappointment. Had some zucchini bread this week that was very good too. If and when banana bread gains popularity, zucchini will slide into its underachiever slot.

Why is Costco’s Kirkland ice-cream a perpetual underachiever? I’m the King of the Kirkland label, but have never switched over from Breyers or Dreyers or Whatever label to Kirkland ice-cream. Does anyone buy Kirkland ice-cream?

Why does my wife like Masterpiece Theatre’s Poldark so much? Hmm, could this have anything to do with it?

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Why is my oldest daughter prone to meanness? Check out this advice she recently offered her younger, nicer sissy. “If you have a prof you love ask if they want to get coffee (and bring a friend in your class if you want another buffer because professors can be intimidating and frankly, weird) – it will be invaluable when it comes to references and advice for the post-college world.” Good heavens, what did I do to deserve that?

See These Films

1) Mud. 2) Take Shelter. 3) A Place at the Table.

Like most everyone, when I plop down big bucks to see a film, I want to be be transported far from my familiar surroundings. But I most enjoy believable stories, so films set in outer-space, or featuring cataclysmic events, or starring super-heroes don’t really do it for me. Which means I usually seek out independent films that play at our one screen, decrepit, “hippy” theatre.

Friday night, Costco coupons in hand, Ms. PressingPause and I were standing in a longish line at the local cineplex. Knowing Ironman 3, Oblivion, Star Trek into Darkness, and Hip Hop Hemingway were about to start, I said, “None of these people are seeing Mud.” What a shame that I was right.

Worth every bit of our $15. The Jeff Nichols film transports you to rural Arkansas a decade or so ago. Think river life, snakes, boat engines, beans and franks, motorcycles, pick up trucks, Piggly Wigglies, and snakes. So damn authentic it reminded me of Winter’s Bone. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to Hollywood’s steady diet of intelligence insulting romantic comedies. See it for the cross cultural experience and for a greater appreciation for just how hard it is to find and nurture love.

Afterwards, for an incredibly poignant window into mental illness, find and watch another phenomenal Jeff Nichols film. Take Shelter (2007).

A Place at the Table is a powerful documentary that explores hunger in America. It will be available via instant streaming on Netflix sometime in June. See it to meet some hungry families, to better understand hunger’s underlying causes, and to learn about solutions. Given our economically segregated neighborhoods, it’s easy to lose touch with hungry people. I see that disconnect in some of my friends and in myself. The lack of understanding largely explains the associated lack of empathy. The further removed from experiencing hunger you are, the more important it is you see the film.

Lots of new readers last week. Welcome and thanks for the continuing support.

The Best Get Rich Scheme You’ll Read About All Day

Huffington Post-like tabloid headline alert. By “best” I mean “only”, by “get rich” I mean have a little more money leftover at the end of the month, and by “scheme” I mean partner with your neighbor-friends to buy in bulk.

The Byrnes family likes them some guacamole. Avocados are usually $1.50 at the local grocery store, but are sometimes on sale for 99 cents. At Costco, six are $4.99. I believe in slow-mo, one 83 cent avocado at a time, financial improvement.

The problem of course is eating them before they go bad. One Costco shopper offered this tip in an on-line forum, “My technique is to put the newly purchased bag in the fridge for a week, and then take out one avocado and put it on the counter and keep a close eye on it. As soon as it feels a bit soft I use it up and take out another avocado. I’m surprised at how well this works for me.”

Overtime, buying avocados and many other consumer goods in bulk can lead to serious savings, but if you’re one or two people, or even a smallish family, avoiding waste is always a challenge. Which makes me wonder, why don’t individuals, couples, and/or families form informal neighborhood-based cooperatives to buy things much more cheaply in bulk? For example, someone buys two gallons of milk, six avocados, and a case of beer at Costco and walks over to their neighbors and gives them one gallon of milk, three avocados, and twelve bottles of beer for a few dollars savings.

Not a life-changing transaction, but it illustrates the concept. The key of course, is scaling the bulk buying up, and thereby, extending the savings.

There are a few imminently surmountable reasons for why this networking isn’t more common. People may not have close friends near by. Or people may have nearby friends, but be hesitant to buck the deep-seated individualism that’s ingrained in American life. Can we come together on which beer? Or maybe people don’t feel it’s worth taking non-working time to coordinate group Costco runs. Or like a solo car commuter whose resistant to join a carpool, maybe people don’t want to give up the freedom to shop on their own schedules.

It’s ironic that people’s wages aren’t keeping up with inflation and we’re living in the midst of a social media revolution and we don’t partner up more often to buy in bulk. Maybe necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe as young, tech savvy people struggle to achieve economic independence, informal bulk-buying neighborhood cooperatives will naturally bubble up.

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Green goodness

Costco’s Math Smoke and Mirrors

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Time to come clean. I’m addicted to these.

It started innocently enough in Chengdu, China in 2003. Each week while grocery shopping I was intrigued with all the Chinese women who would gather around the giant pistachio bin and fill their plastic bags with the very best one or two hundred. After spectating for a few weeks, I joined in. This brought furtive glances and embarrassed smiles.

How was I supposed to know real men don’t pistachio shop? Upon returning Stateside (love using that term, makes me feel cosmopolitan), imagine my delight when I learned Costco had picked them out and packaged them for me.

I can be too frugal for my own good. Given that, it’s nice there are at least two products for which I’d spend almost anything—iPads and iPistachios.

This theory has been tested lately as Costco’s California pistachios have skyrocketed in price. $14.99 for 4lbs, who cares, toss em’ in. $15.99, $16.99, $19.99. Yikes, now they’re just taking advantage of a helpless addict. The price increases have probably had little to do with supply and demand. More likely, they’re a Schwarzenegger state budget screw up surtax.

When I glanced and grabbed last week, I did a double-take. What?! $14.99?! Sweet! The last time they were $14.99 the President had stolen the election. Then, a second later, “What the hell, that’s a 3 pounder!”

Here’s how I imagine it going down at Costco headquarters in Issaquah, WA. Executive Meeting. Agenda item: Pricing limits of California pistachios. A suit does a quick PowerPoint presentation showing a precipitous decline in sales of California pistachios at the $19.99 pricepoint. What to do? Discussion ensues. The consensus, instead of selling 4 pounds for $19.99, let’s sell 3 pounds for $14.99, and hope people don’t really notice the math smoke and mirrors. Brilliant. A collective sense of accomplishment descends and the meeting is adjourned.”

It might just work. No, it will work on whomever lacks numeracy. And on addicts like me.

Bonus picture. What a minimalist, who asked for nothing, received for Christmas.

Perfect Christmas

Name Your Price

I’m way too frugal for my own good, but there are a few products I’m willing to pay whatever the seller asks. Take Costco’s California Pistachios for instance. They continue to climb in price but I don’t care because I’m addicted. Just take my wallet and give me back whatever you think is fair. The second is the much rumored Apple Tablet. Hurry up and bring it to market Steve. Here’s my credit card, ring it up for whatever you think is fair.

From MacRumors.com

Foxconn to Manufacture Tablet for Q1 2010 Launch?

Wednesday October 07, 2009 09:18 AM EST
Written by Eric Slivka

Mac Rumors

DigiTimes reports that Foxconn Electronics has been named as Apple’s manufacturing partner for its much-anticipated tablet and that the device is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2010.The device is expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2010, with initial shipments from Foxconn being in the 300,000-400,000 range, the sources said.

The device will have a 10.6-inch display, and the sources speculated that perhaps Foxconn could secure panels from its subsidiary Innolux Display.

While a number of rumors have previously pegged the display on Apple’s device in the 7-to-10 inch range, this report of a possibly slightly larger display than previously thought nearly matches recent claims of a 10.7″ screen. Speculation that Innolux may provide screens for the new device conflicts, however, with earlier reports that Wintek had already been tabbed as the display provider.

Finally, the report notes that the device will place an emphasis on e-Book functionality, echoing claims that Apple is aiming to redefine print media with the device. Apple’s extended-life battery technology such as that found in recent MacBook Pro revisions, Internet connectivity, and Apple’s typical attention to user interface detail are all expected to be featured in the new device.