CK Links--Friday August 29, 2014

Links from around the internet. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

*************************
The "no nitrates added" hoax. (Michael Ruhlman, via Addicted to Canning)

Wait... what about all the bison? A logic hole for those concerned about greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle. (Jayson Lusk)

Intriguing post on New York City food vendors, a surprising number of which are women. (Feet in 2 Worlds)

Breakfast is overrated. (New York Times)

Interesting read on the Food Network's decline into irrelevancy. (Salon)

The Food Babe "quackmails" the preferred seasonal beverage of hipsters everywhere. Ed: Read for critical thinking practice. (Food Babe)

Yes, salt is okay. So are eggs. (The Upshot)

"Travel may seem impossible to you right now, but it's not. You just have to want it badly enough to make it a priority in your life." (Art of Non-Conformity)

What it's like to be in a plane crash. (The Neurocritic)

What percent of daytraders make money? Cue laughter. (TraderFeed)

A renaissance in personal blogging. (A VC)

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. (Zen Habits)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Fair Trade: Using Poverty To Sell... More

I've written before here at CK about the highly questionable value of "Fair Trade" products. Apparently the subject hasn't just been on my mind: The Economist tackled the subject recently too.

And their conclusions are damning. Some choice quotes:

"Sales of produce carrying a fair-trade label have soared in recent years, from an estimated $1.1 billion in 2004 to $6.5 billion seven years later. Yet this is largely a marketing success..."

"...there is little evidence that fair trade has lifted many producers out of poverty, not least because most of the organisations that are certified tend to come from richer, more diversified developing countries, such as Mexico and South Africa, rather than the poorer ones that are mostly dependent on exporting one crop."

"And why the focus on agricultural produce, when a booming fair trade manufacturing sector potentially would help far more countries?"

"...so far, the fair-trade labelling movement has been more about easing consciences in rich countries than making serious inroads in to poverty in the developing world."

"...for each dollar paid by an American consumer for a fair-trade product, only three cents more are transferred to the country it came from than for the unlabeled alternative."

Three cents. Think about that for a moment. Three cents is all that finds its way to a poorer country, despite you, the consumer, paying price premiums as much as 100% for Fair Trade labeled products. So wait: Who do you think really captures the profits here?

There's one effect, of course, that Fair Trade products are guaranteed to have: they make us feel better about ourselves. And, needless to say, the companies selling to us want us to have these warm and fuzzy feelings because of an important knock-on effect: they encourage us to buy.

This is why fair trade revenues have gone up nearly sixfold in seven years. This is what they call "a marketing success." This, I would argue, is the central reason consumer products companies embraced this idea in the first place.

Rather interesting, isn't it? So who is it, then, who really benefits from Fair Trade products? Hint: it's not those who should.

Readers, what do you think?

Related Posts:
Who Gains From Fair Trade Certified Products?
More Questions On Fair Trade

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday August 22, 2014

Links from around the internet. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

*************************
30 healthy and delicious low-carb zucchini recipes. (A Sweet Life)

An excellent (and free!) e-course on making homemade sausage. (BBQ Dry Rubs)

Why in our culture do we go to excess in our pursuit of wellness? (A Country Doctor Writes)

I'll never use a hotel room iron again after seeing this post. (Best Reviews)

Maybe "slacktivisim" isn't as pointless as it seems. (Seth Godin)

The Stoics would say "Forget lifehacks. Instead, develop a coherent philosophy of life." Insights from the author of the exceptional book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. (21st Century Stoic)

I helped bankroll my brother... and came to regret it. (The Week)

A little known, very cool thing about Robin Williams. (Brian Lord)

Many, many reasons to be cheerful. (Matt Ridley)

"The more eager we are to show others that we care, the less eager we are to do things that both help us and help others." (Overcoming Bias)

How to get luckier. (99U, via 50by25)




Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

"Welcome the Disagreement"

Readers, a bonus post this week: I stumbled onto the following striking excerpt in Dale Carnegie's seminal self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People. The ideas here are simple, yet relevant to the sometimes controversial issues we discuss here at Casual Kitchen. There's help here for any instance where we're in disagreement with others. Read on and please share your thoughts.
**********************************

How to Keep a Disagreement from Becoming an Argument

Welcome the disagreement. Remember the slogan, "When two partners always agree, one of them is not necessary." If there is some point you haven't thought about, be thankful if it is brought to your attention. Perhaps this disagreement is your opportunity to be corrected before you make a serious mistake.

Distrust your first instinctive impression. Our first natural reaction in a disagreeable situation is to be defensive. Be careful. Keep calm and watch out for your first reaction. It may be you at your worst, not your best.

Control your temper. Remember, you can measure the size of a person by what makes him or her angry.

Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding. Don't build higher barriers of misunderstanding.

Look for areas of agreement. When you have heard your opponents out, dwell first on the points and areas on which you agree.

Be honest. Look for areas where you can admit error and say so. Apologize for your mistakes. It will help disarm your opponents and reduce defensiveness.

Promise to think over your opponents' ideas and study them carefully. And mean it. Your opponents may be right. It is a lot easier at this stage to agree to think about their points than to move rapidly ahead and find yourself in a position where your opponents can say: "We tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen."

Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest. Anyone who takes the time to disagree with you is interested in the same things you are. Think of them as people who really want to help you, and you may turn your opponents into friends.

**************************************
The advice above seems incredibly simple, doesn't it? Almost too simple, like much of what you typically find in run-of-the-mill self-help literature. In reality, however, this passage asks you to do something fairly sophisticated: it asks you to reframe disagreement into something more powerful and useful.

Most of us instantly put up barriers when we bump up against disagreement. Imagine if we repatterned that instinctive reaction and instead viewed disagreement as an opportunity to learn and collaborate.

A final thought: I'm always surprised by how much value I get each time I return to Dale Carnegie's book. How to Win Friends and Influence People is an innocent book from another era, not really the kind of book that would much get traction in today's era of rampant irony, snark and hipsterism. And yet the ideas in this book--listening first, seeking areas of agreement and common ground, giving honest praise and approbation and so on--are more true today than ever. Highly recommended.



How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

The Modern, Oblivious, Restaurant Diner

Readers, take thirty seconds to read this Craigslist posting, published by an apparently frustrated New York City restaurant owner. (Also here.)

There's so much to say about this posting, starting with the fact that it's possibly not entirely true. Sometimes, though, things that aren't entirely true tend to resemble the truth far more than things that actually happen. (Which is why newsroom editors tell idealistic young reporters to "save the truth for your novel!")

Thus there's a reason why this Craigslist posting resonated with people as much as it did: it shows something true, deeply true, about us as modern customers: We've become needier, more distracted, more annoying, more oblivious, and less and less present than ever. Here's what I mean:

1) We pay little to no attention to reality. Look across any random sample of people today--at restaurants, while shopping, walking down the street, wherever--and you'll see a staggering percentage of them staring or texting into their phones.

2) We're never happy enough with what comes our way. Examples: customers nitpicking about where they sit, getting up and changing tables, micro-managing their food orders, sending their food back.

3) We need to be led, behaviorally speaking, to perform basic tasks, like putting down our phone and opening a menu. And then, later, we apparently need to be led once again to choose something from that menu.

4) We need to make everything we do into some form of conspicuous display.* This helps explain peoples' neurotic need to post photos of their food, or their need to share photographic proof of conspicuous leisure activities over social media. More on this in just a minute.

5) We no longer seem to be "here" anymore. Instead of being present in the here and now, our attention is elsewhere. We're anywhere but where we are.

Another word or two about conspicuous display. It's not just that people seem less and less "here" in the psychological sense. It's that they also need all the cool things they're doing to be seen by people who aren't even physically here with them either. Social media was created to fulfill this need to be seen, and it does it so well that it's almost as if an experience doesn't count--or perhaps never even happened--unless there's some meta-representation of it online.

Look, it's a free country, and the last thing I want is for this post to sound like some "kids these days!" rant. Come to think of it, it can't be a kids these days rant when people of my own demographic are among the worst offenders. But is that little glowing rectangle really that interesting? Is blarfing out our lives online really so important that it's worth interfering with reality to do so?

Readers, what do you think?


* See Thorstein Veblen's difficult but mind-bending book The Theory of the Leisure Class, particularly Chapter 3, "Conspicuous Leisure" and Chapter 4, "Conspicuous Consumption" for more here. For a book written in 1899, it's astonishing how predictive it is of modern consumerism and modern identity construction.





How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.