CategoriesTastes

We All Need to Stop Being Wusses and Eat Crickets

Americans need to stop being wusses and eat crickets. This hit me as I finished off an Impossible Burger. Or rather, an Impossible Slider.

I was at a burger place in Scottsdale for lunch, and the Impossible meat was on the menu. And holy cow! The Impossible items were actually less expensive than their cownterparts! (I promise there won’t be many more puns.)

eat crickets
The Impossible Burger is pretty good! But it’s not the food of the future.

The Impossible slider was damn tasty. The patty was a bit thin and came with plenty of condiments. Many a carnivore would’ve wolfed it down without noticing anything amiss.

And that’s good. A meat substitute that actually tastes good. But here’s the problem.

The Jury is Out on the Impossible Burger’s Health Benefits and Sustainability

The Impossible Burger’s list of ingredients won’t impress anyone. It’s highly processed, as well. So there’s some disagreement about the health benefits.

And I see conflicting reports on whether manufacturing it is any more environmentally friendly than beef. I could see farmers who raise free-range, grass-fed cattle making a good accounting of themselves versus the Impossible Burger. The Guardian has a pretty solid article covering this and many other aspects of the Impossible Burger.

What About Animal Cruelty?

There are plenty of vegans out there who are vegan because of their concern about animals. And I get it. The big factory farms sound awful, and that’s why some people are trying hard to go for free-range or cage-free options. That’s also commendable.

eat crickets
GIF by Spoon University

And that’s why I think we should eat crickets. Frankly, nobody gives a shit about crickets. People pay other people to spray their houses to kill them. It’s hard to muster concern about cruelty over what’s usually regarded as a pest and barely even lives three months total.

You Want ME to Eat Crickets?

Yes, I do. I’ve done it myself (I’m sure you’re not surprised, considering what else I’ve eaten!), mostly in the form of protein bars. Right now, the EXO brand is my favorite even though they’re overpriced.

There’s a place near me that serves cricket tacos now and then. And I really want to get a hold of some. My schedule rarely ever lets me get to that neighborhood at the right time, though. It would be a nice addition to my long list of fun and unusual foods I’ve eaten.

Look, crickets are nutritious. They’re easy to grow sustainably. And plenty of people worldwide eat insects. But no, Americans are too good for that, right?

eat crickets
Weird Al needs no captions.

I hear a lot of you people squawking about all the ecological ills the planet faces right now. What are you going to do about it? What are you willing to do?

If you eat crickets, you will overcome the initial revulsion. And you’ll become an important data point to the bean counters who measure what you buy: You’ll say "doing something for the planet matters to me. And I’ll eat crickets if it can help." (This is important for all eco-friendly products and actions: You might not save the world individually, but collectively your purchasing choices are a powerful way to move corporations to take action by offering eco-friendly products and packaging.)

Go buy a cricket protein bar someplace. I don’t care which one you pick. Eat it. Maybe try a few different ones. If even just 1 percent of the people who read this tries a few cricket bars, you’re gonna make a big statement.

Quit being a wuss and eat crickets.

CategoriesGear

One Year With an Electric Car

I’ve now driven more than one year with an electric car. I want to share a few thoughts about what I’ve learned for people who are thinking about giving up their gas cars. I think you’ll be in for some surprises.

I live in the U.S., so some of this will vary according to where you live.

Using The Carpool Lane is Awesome, But …

One of the perks of driving an EV in Arizona is that you can use the carpool lane if you have the right license plate (you have to ask for it). The speeds in the carpool — or HOV Lane, if you like the bureaucratic version — stay a lot more consistent. When everyone slows down for whatever reason, the carpool lane mostly keeps humming.

There’s just one problem: Many people think the carpool lane is really the Drive as Fast as You Want Lane. This creates some dangerous situations. And many of these people don’t have the plates and are alone in their car and thus shouldn’t even be in the carpool lane anyway. I’m usually driving 70 in a 65, which is speeding. But these people don’t think I’m speeding enough. Things being what they are, they get away with driving 85mph+. Which is ridiculously stupid: It’s dangerous, obviously, and it turns their gas mileage to shit. And does it save much time? No, because they’ll still get stuck at traffic lights on surface streets.

You Don’t Need Charging Stations

For the first six months or so, I relied on charging at charging stations like ChargePoint, Blink, Volta and others. I favored the free ones, which are fairly plentiful (Blink is a huge rip off). I covered this adequately in an earlier post, so I recommend reading that post for more information, including my recent project to install a 240-volt line at my house.

Driving a Gas-Powered Car Will Suck

Sometimes, I have to drive my wife’s 2017 Subaru Forester. And boy, does it suck. Before getting my EV, I actually liked it.

But when I get into my EV and push the button, there’s no noise or vibration. There’s also no heat pouring off of it after I drive 20 miles. That noise, vibration and heat is inefficiency.

After a few months driving an EV, you’ll be disgusted by the lurching transmission shifts, the noise, the vibration and the slow acceleration.

I know car enthusiasts will argue this point with me. But here’s the thing: I’ve driven gasmobiles far more than they’ve driven electric cars. They have no frame of reference. They have never driven an electric car for months and gone back to their clunky gas jalopies.

Your Electric Car Will Save You Time

Think of all the time you’ve spent at gas stations and getting oil changes. Those days are over. It’s awesome to wake up or leave your desk in the evening to a "full tank."

Getting your juice will be as quick as plugging a cell phone into a wall. It’s weirdly liberating.

After one year of driving an electric car, all this time adds up.

You Can Do Anything You Want in an Electric Car

The top-of-the-line electric cars are getting around 300 miles per charge. The lesser ones get 150, but can re-charge to 80 percent pretty quickly. In the middle, you have some that are getting about 230 miles. That compares to my dear departed Subaru Forester, which got about 350 miles per tank.

one year with an electric vehicle
Great. She likes the Tesla Model X. Expensive taste …

But here’s the thing: How often do you drive that far? And how far do you ever drive without stopping to eat, drink or use a toilet?

My bet is about 100 miles or so. So the difference in miles traveled per tank or per charge is insignificant. The arguments against electric car range are for trips that constitute the tiniest portion of trips taken. Electric cars can more than handle your average daily commute, and many of the newer ones are great for road trips.

Still Good Reasons Not to Get an Electric Car

There are two things preventing most people from getting an electric car:

First is form factor. Americans love SUVs. And the only readily available electric SUV right now is the Tesla Model X. The Model Y will mark the beginning of the end of the gas engine, but it’s still a few years away. Toyota had a huge head start with its RAV4 EV collaboration with Tesla, and they squandered it in favor of hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Pair that with their deceptively advertised "self-charging hybrids," and you have a brand in decline. The other electric cars are sedans and smallish wagons. Nissan is clearly milking gas engines for all their worth while paying lip service to electric vehicles with the compromised LEAF. If they were serious, they’d already offer an electric version of the Murano (with active thermal management to preserve the batteries).

Second is cost. Brand-new EVs are still a bit more expensive. The brands that still qualify for the federal tax credit definitely lessen that burden. But in most cases, car buyers have to front the cost and get their money back in April when tax return season rolls around (I wonder how that skews the electric car sales data -- if I were buying a new qualifying vehicle, I’d wait until December for sure). Still, cost will decline as battery cost dives. Which it’s done consistently in recent years.

Even One EV in Your Household Helps

Since getting my EV, my wife drives a lot less. Her work commute is pretty short, and I handle all the weekend driving. We’ll use her Subaru for long trips; my early-generation EV isn’t suited for the long distances and off-roading.

But one year with an electric car has cut down on our collective gas use. And I don’t see any way that there will be another gas-powered vehicle in our house in the future. They’re just inferior. Even ignoring any concern for pollution, they’re more fun to drive and way less maintenance-intensive.

People Have No Idea About Electric Vehicles

After one year with an electric car, I constantly field the same questions. Let me recap them with some quick answers.

I hear Teslas don’t really work.

In what way? I don’t drive a Tesla, but it is the gold standard in EVs. The software is ridiculously advanced. They are also extremely efficient if you measure them by kilowatt-hours to the mile. Used correctly, the Autopilot feature is mind-blowing.

And no, they don’t catch on fire more than gas vehicles. But a Tesla on fire is considered newsworthy. A gas-powered car? It doesn’t get any press. Ask yourself why.

Electric vehicles use "rare earth" minerals/pollute more because of how they’re built/are powered by coal.

There’s a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists that debunks this all. It’s long, but well worth reading.

Global warming is a hoax.

OK. Let’s say it is. Forget global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it. Think locally. What will happen if you have fewer tailpipes spewing emissions? How will that affect your local air quality? What if your streets become quieter because you don’t have a bunch of diesel trucks roaring? Does that sound bad in any way? What if you have fewer people going into a gas station and loading up on sugary snacks while paying for their gas? What if there are fewer tanker trucks on the roads bringing gas into your neighborhoods? What exactly sounds bad it this scenario?

Guayaki yerba mate chevy bolt
The Guayaki brand of yerba mate has its branding people cruising the streets in this Chevy Bolt. The driver loves it.

I just like the sound of an engine.

Surely there has to be better ways to get attention. I really don’t understand the fixation on noise. My EV makes enough noise to warn a pedestrian -- the sound is like listening to a taxiing jet fighter (but from a long distance).

Now, I know a lot of Americans don’t like to walk. But if you’re one of those people who walk, what would you think of a lot less engine noise? It sounds pretty nice.

Money is Behind the Anti-EV Rhetoric

The electric vehicle is upsetting a lot of corporate gravy trains. Dealerships won’t make as much money on maintenance. Oil companies will face falling demand for gasoline and diesel. And even convenience stores, like I mentioned: They’ll have fewer people making impulse buys while they put gas in their cars.

This is a huge shift. There’s still money to be made and jobs to be had with electric cars. They’re just going to be different. This happened before when we shifted from horses to electric cars. Not as many people need someone to shoe their horses? Hello, auto mechanic. This shift isn’t a problem: It’s an opportunity.

I can’t wait for a new generation of EV modders and mechanics to rise. It will be pretty cool to see how they innovate with a new platform!

Of course, the status quo doesn’t see it that way. They’d rather use their money to squash innovation. Just look at Chevrolet’s EV-1 debacle, and how they deliberately compromised the Bolt EV.

Wrapping Up One Year With an Electric Car

There’s just no going back for me. The smooth acceleration, low maintenance and cheap energy make me pity the poor gas engine. Its days are nearly over.

CategoriesUncategorized

Dead Malls – How to Revive Them

dead malls
Sky Song at sunset looks awfully cool on the former Los Arcos Mall property. Until you see the buildings behind it. (Photo by mike3.14159)

I got wrapped up in a story about dead malls via LinkedIn.com. Why are Malls Getting Mauled? says  mega-shopping centers are endangered.

My city of Scottsdale, Ariz., is a shopping destination for travelers, especially for snowbirds. Within its borders are the remains of dead shopping malls like the Scottsdale Galleria  (which is now full of tech businesses). There was also a years-long tussle about how to deal with the Los Arcos Mall; investors bought it in hopes of bulldozing it and building a hockey arena for the Phoenix Coyotes. And now, it’s Sky Song, a mix of cool and stodgy owned by Arizona State University.

Continue reading

CategoriesFitnessGear

Merino Wool/Bamboo from tasc Performance: Review

Me and my Merino wool/bamboo shirt at the Tromsø Midnight Sun 10k.

Winter is coming.

That’s not my favorite quote from A Game of Thrones. It’s just a fact, and it makes me happy after another Arizona summer and quasi-autumn that lasted about 4.7 days.

Truth: I haven’t been cold since I was in Norway. And even then, I wasn’t all that cold. Sure, Norway is chilly for an Arizona dude even in the summertime. But I also had a few items from tasc Performance to keep me warm. The folks at tasc Performance sent some of their new long-sleeve merino wool/bamboo fiber shirts for testing.

I started the Midnight Sun 10K (which really start at about 8 p.m.) in one of them. I used another as a base layer for hiking the Bessegen Trail in Jotunheimen National Park. I’d reach for one of them anytime the rain started to fall or the wind started to blow.

There’s a base layer of Merino wool and bamboo from tasc Performance under all the other puffery.

This is the first time I’ve used a technical shirt with any wool in it. Here’s what I thought of the new tasc Performance gear.

  • They take up no room in a pack, yet are still warm.
  • They look damn good.
  • I’d prefer to wear them as a second layer. I didn’t wash them beforehand, and they were a bit itchy to my skin. Soon, it will be cool enough for me to try them now that I’ve washed them.
  • I love the wrist gaiters. Slipping my thumb into one pulls just enough of the sleeve down to cover my hands a bit. Great for wearing gloves.
  • Be careful with those cool gaiters. I shoved my hand in with a little too much authority and yanked a bunch of stitching out.
  • The Merino wool doesn’t get soaked very easily. It seems to repel light drizzles. Is it just me?

Over the last year, tasc Performance has become my go-to brand for exercise apparel. If you want to something more comfortable than tasc, you’ll have to do as the ancient Greeks did and hit the gym in nothing but olive oil. The Merino wool adds a new element to the bamboo lineup. It’s not as soft yet. But warm? You betcha. It’ll get loads of action this winter, no matter where I go. And we’ll see if the itchiness abates.

CategoriesUncategorized

Phoenix Foodie Teaches the Art of Urban Foraging

Where you see a barren field punctuated by a few dried-out weeds, Ian Fecke-Stoudt sees dinner.

urban foraging
Ian Fecke-Stoudt examines a sprig of sorrel.

Fecke-Stoudt leads a weekly urban foraging session in downtown Phoenix, starting at coffeehouse/boutique Conspire. The mission: to teach people about edibles growing right under their noses. Since he’s a vegan, Feck-Stoudt keeps it strictly to plants – no feral cats or pigeons, fortunately.

I joined a recent group in April, hoping to catch a few urban foraging pointers. In one of my earlier conversations with Feck-Stoudt, he mentioned -in a very nonchalant fashion- living off the land in the Superstition Wilderness east of Phoenix for nearly three months. I expected a survivalist outlook, but he takes more of a food lover’s approach. Feck-Stoudt works for Sapna Cafe, and seems very interested in incorporating as much locally grown produce as possible – even if he didn’t find it growing wild on the corner of 5th Street and Roosevelt.

 

urban foraging
Inspecting a bit of mustard greens.

Staying Safe While Foraging

  • Make sure the plant isn’t poisonous and that it won’t cause an allergic reaction. Rub it on a sensitive part of your skin (inner elbow, neck) and wait 15 minutes for a reaction.
  • Be careful about where the plants are growing. Animals tend to pee on plants nears curbs, while humans will relieve themselves on plants near walls. “It’s harder to see the urine than the feces,” Fecke-Stoudt says.
  • Be aware of herbicides and pesticides. Look for spots that give the plants a “burned appearance.” You can generally wash either off the plants, though.

Some of What You Can Pick and Eat Downtown

There are lots more edibles in the desert and suburban areas, but these will get you started.

  • palm trees: The type of leaves will determine whether you have a date palm or not. The date palms have “feather” leaves, rather than fans. The fan palms feature black edible berries that are juicy in season. Fecke-Stoudt says the berry is caffeinated.
  • sorrel: A lemony tasting grass. Look for a yellow flower to mark its position.
  • oranges: Ornamental oranges have thicker, rougher skins. Despite the name and reputation, they’re still edible.

    urban foraging
    A close look at some nopales. 
  • palo verde: This ubiquitous green tree produces protein-rich seeds.
  • aloe vera: A desert succulent best known as a home remedy for sunburn is also edible, but … “I personally find it disgusting,” Fecke-Stoudt says.
  • nopales, AKA fan cactus: The smaller ones, also called nopalitos, are sweeter. Fecke-Stoudt says they contain 90 percent of the United States Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A, potassium and many other nutrients.
  • cholla : Apparently, you can eat the notorious jumping cactus. Fecke-Stoudt recommends driving a stick through one of the balls and cooking it over an open fire to remove the needles.
  • mustard greens
urban foraging
The bounty of urban forage.

After foraging, Feck-Stoudt led us to a friend’s kitchen, where we mixed our urban foraging bounty with some items from local gardeners to whip up a vegan meal. If you’re up for a foraging session, drop into Conspire on a Sunday around 4:45 and be on the lookout for Ian Fecke-Stoudt!

Eva digs into a freshly gathered vegan meal.
Eva digs into a freshly gathered vegan meal.