Brainstrummings from a Bug-Eyed Bookworm

Tiff is a PhD student in English literature at UC-Berkeley. She takes no prisoners, bars no holds, holds no bars.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Naming of "Grape-Nuts": Separating the Truths from the Sordid, Sordid Lies

My boyfriend really likes Grape-Nuts. His two favourite cereals (if I'm not mistaken) are Lucky Charms and Grape-Nuts. I myself think that they taste like little crunchy, indigestible bits of cardboard, but my dislike of them is nothing personal. Really. I mean, I've met some very nice grape-nuts who are fine, upstanding, decent people. Some of the most intelligent individals I've ever known are grape-nuts. But taken as a whole, the Grape-Nuts as a population, I find utterly distasteful.

Once we were wondering how Grape-Nuts got its name, and of course, we looked to the internet to sate our curiosity, and found our answer on the Kraft Foods website.

The Story According to Kraft
One of the first ready-to-eat cereal products ever made available to the public, Grape-Nuts was first introduced in 1897. Made of wheat and malted barley, Grape-Nuts was so named because its inventor, Charles William Post, said that grape sugar was formed during the baking process and described the cereal as having a nutty flavor. Post was a pioneer in introducing and making popular cereal, a food product that today has become a standard breakfast staple.

HOWEVER, I've just come across a different story in a cookbook.

The Story According to this Cookbook
Q. Why is a cereal that contains neither grapes nor nuts called Grape-Nuts?
A. Because during his stay at John Kellogg's popular Battle Creek Sanitorium (perhaps America's first health spa), Charles Post observed that people would pay for 'health foods.' He first tried to market his cereal as Elijah's Manna, with predictable results. Then Post renamed his product to exploit the fact that most people thinking "grapes" and "nuts" also think "wholesome, nutritious." It worked, and Mr. Post's motto became, "All I have I owe to advertising."

The Charles Post ("Charlie") of the first account: a down-home, guileless, disingenuous pioneering enterpreneur. And the Charles Post ("Evil Charles") of the second account? A conniving and manipulative twister of truths and deceiver of the good cereal-eating citizens of America.

We are left with one baffling and all-important question. Possibly the most important question in the universe. Who exactly WAS Charles Post?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Trap-Jaw Ants: They Float Through the Air With The Greatest of Ease

So, I've recently discovered the discovery of trap-jaw ants!!! This is going to sound really geeky, but check out the mandibles on that baby! (The insect it is crushing between its mandibles is a small cricket.) Their mandibles close at a rate of 35 to 64 metres per second, apparently breaking the record for "the fastest self-powered predatory strike in the animal kingdom." (Does anyone the predatory strike rate for venus fly-traps?)

But apart from their chiselled, muscular mandibles, and the speed with which they kill, there's SOMETHING ELSE WHICH MAKES THEM REALLY, REALLY COOL!

"Simply by snapping their jaws against the ground or the body of an intruder, the ants can catapult themselves out of harm’s way, achieving heights of up to 8.3 centimeters and horizontal distances of up to 39.6 centimeters." (from the Cal Academy of Science article about trap-jaw ants)

They're sort of like insect-ninjas! For video-footage of them catapulting themselves through the air, click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Quote of 2006

A friend's comment, upon my sharing of the latest crazy drama occurring in my family:

"Your family is like my family....We have Jerry Springer families."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sick of Thinking

Having read lots and lots of thick Victorian books in preparation for qualifying exams, and faced with the prospect of reading lots more thick Victorian books, medium-to-thick 20th century British works, and a bunch of scientific literature from the 19th to 20th century (British, of course), I'm frankly sick of it all. In my leisure time, I don't think I can take reading anything where I have to follow some sort of sustained plot or get invested in characters and their development, no matter how fascinating.

Needless to say, reading novels for "for fun" is right out. Boo to reading for fun, for the present.

Here is a list of some activities I have engaged in lately, to show how I am now striving to become a complete Philistine in my free time:

1. Watching "Montel" while ironing clothes. This particular episode featured mothers who have young, psychotic children with violent tendencies. "I know it seems hopeless," Montel told those mothers, "But I want you know that help is out there, that something can be done."

"Oh, hang in there you brave, brave mothers!" I cried in the depths of my heart as tears stained my freshly ironed shirts.

2. Browsing through food blogs and recipe databases online. I find this very soothing in plot, no tropes or metaphors (to be redundant), no underlying themes. Just straightforward recipes and descriptions of various attempts to do creative things with interesting ingredients. Although, can you imagine if recipes had symbolic content?

Recipe for Zucchini-Carrot Bread*

zucchini being a symbol for despair, and carrot being a metaphor for sexual desire.

3. Staring into space.
I really enjoy doing this nowadays. Sometimes I'll shut my eyes too so it feels kind of like sleep.

4. Reading TIME magazine. Okay, I suppose this requires some cerebral activity...but it doesn't require sustained attention to plot and themes and character development for 400 pages. And TIME really isn't that brain-twisting.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Shake 'N Bake Roaches

These are my roaches after their bathtime.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, like your typical loveable and cuddly pet (cats, dogs, boa constrictors) will sometimes become infested with mites. The mites do not feast on human flesh, but nonetheless, it is always somewhat disturbing when one lovingly strokes one's roach and disturbs dozens of small, white mites which come crawling out of the chinks in the armour of said roach.

It got OUT OF CONTROL...I picked up Honey Bunch, and he had white mites crawling ALL OVER HIM, especially his head. So it was time for a bath.

I had read on a website, in the days preparing for the purchase of my roaches, that to get rid of these pestiferous mites, one should put the roach in a little baggie of flour and shake the baggie lightly. I think the mites lose their grip because the flour makes the surface of their host a bit more slippery, and they fall off into the flour. In any case, it worked. Not a mite did they withhold.

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch, and Baby Love were all pretty dazed after their baths. They just sat their on their bark benches very still and trying to get the flour off their extremities with their mouthparts.

They looked so sad, I gave them another bath by spritzing them with water to rinse off the flour.

What IS This Monstrosity? What Terrible Thing Has General Mills Wrought???!?

What do you call a cheerio with no hole?

I meant to leave that as an enigmatic and uanswerable zen-type question...but then a thought came to mind:

an unholey cheerio.