Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #65 January 14, 2004
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I'm Not Fat

I'm not fat. I might be a little plump, but I'm certainly not fat. Recently, I've become upset about food labeling. Yes, it's true, I should get a life, but until then, I'm going to rant about things the need to be ranted about, and food labeling is one of them. And wondrously I'm going to try to somehow tie this all in with the Internet and computers.

I sit here tonight with a box of Kellogg's Raisin Bran and several cans of Campbell's Soup, neatly arranged in front of me while writing this Rant. Don't get jealous; not every night of my life is this exciting :-).

This morning, I was minding my own business, not bothering a soul when the ghost of Fineas T. Kellogg or whatever his name was, haunted me. I felt a sudden urge for cereal. I am not a big fan of cereal but sometimes I just crave it. I waddled to the pantry and found it replete with a variety of Kellogg's cereals: Raisin Bran, Frosted Flakes, Shredded Wheat, and Rice Chex (apologies to Kellogg's - I think Rice Chex belongs to the pet food company Ralston-Purina which probably explains why Rice Chex look like they do.) Anyway, let me digress.

I selected Kellogg's Raisin Bran. I poured it in a bowl (I'm sure at least some of you can relate to that) and covered it with milk. And, then I did a very politically incorrect thing: I put sugar on it. I admit it. Anyway, while masticating the cereal, I started reading the box (yes, folks I really did) and my eyes beheld what is known as the "Nutritional Information Panel". If you've never seen one, it's on the side of every cereal box (at least it is here in the good ol' U.S.A.). Imagine my dismay when I saw "Serving Size: 3/4 Cup". I must have poured AT LEAST 2 cups in this little cereal bowl. And it gets worse. It seems Kellogg's, in their infinite nutritional wisdom, has determined that 1/2 cup of milk (4 oz.) is enough for 3/4 cup of cereal. I had at least 10 oz. on my cereal. Now, I'm really feeling like a pig. Kellogg's is showing me what a pig I am and I'm sitting here wondering if I really am. It says one serving (one of their servings - not one of mine) with 1/2 cup of SKIM milk contains 220 calories. At first glance you'd be tempted to include Kellogg's Raisin Bran in your New Year's Diet. 

But, Cloudeight cannot let any sham go un-exposed. Kellogg's how could you? You're the home of Tony the Tiger, the corn flakes' Rooster, and Snap, Crackle and Pop! You're an American icon. Unless I'm the only person that fills a cereal bowl up and pours milk on it until it at least almost covers the cereal, then we have a serious crisis here in America. If everyone else gets measuring cups out and measures precisely 3/4 cup of raisin bran and 1/2 cup of milk (and I do know one person that really does this but he shall remain nameless, David) then I have a serious personal crisis. But, I'd rather think it's Kellogg's fault, not mine. The sugar was my fault, and I readily admit it; but I doubt I'm the only person who puts sugar on his / her cereal am I? And I didn't use skim milk on my cereal; that would be like putting white water on it. I did bow to the low fat advocates and used 1% milk, which is water-like enough for me. I got out a calculator and figured that instead of the waist-slimming breakfast of 220 calories that Kellogg's promised me, my breakfast of raisin bran totaled a whopping 610 blubber-making calories (64 of those calories from 4 teaspoons of sugar were my fault). My dreams of a 1200 calorie day were looking glum; and it wasn't even 7:00 O'clock yet. Hmmmm

Nutritional labeling takes creative genius and creative writing to a new height. For lunch I thought I'd have a bowl of Campbell's Tomato Soup. It's high in lycopene www.lycopene.org  and I'm a big fan of lycopene. Plus, it brings back memories of my grade school days and good-old tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (Ah, the wonders of being a child). Plus, it tastes good, which is the main reason I eat something. I suppose most people eat things that taste good. Not many go out of their way masochistically eating things that taste terrible; do they?

Let's look at the nutritional labeling on the tomato soup can. According to Campbell's a regular 10.75 ounce can of Campbell's tomato soup contains "about" 2.5 servings. Oh really? Not in my house! First of all if you really want good tomato soup out of a can you never put as much water (or milk) in it as they say. But, even if you mixed one can water with one can soup you'd have 21.5 ounces of soup. But, I put about, let's say, 3/4 of a can of water (no milk) in the soup. That's about 8 ounce of water and 10.75 ounces of soup. That makes about 18 ounces of soup. Now, I have normal sized bowls here. I just filled one about 3/4 of the way to the top with water. I measured the water. A full bowl of soup is about 16 ounces (and "full" means 3/4 of the bowl). Now this means that since I put less water than Campbell's says, and my bowls need 16 ounces of something to look somewhat full, I basically get one bowl of soup from one can of Campbell's tomato soup.

A "Campbell's" size serving in the bowl (about 8.5 ounces) barely filled it half-way. Now if you went to a restaurant and they put a bowl of soup in front of you which was half-full you'd think you were being cheated. But, let me digress again:

My bowl of Campbell's tomato soup (extrapolating from their nutritional labeling) has about 220 calories (not bad), no fat (good!), 36 grams of sugar(s), 3 grams of fiber, and 2100 milligrams of sodium (read "salt"). Yikes, I can feel my blood pressure rising! 2100 milligrams of salt is 90% (approx.) of my U.S. Government "daily value". With that much salt in one can of tomato soup, the Egyptians could have used it to make red mummies.

But, the creative geniuses who devised the "serving size" for the nutritional labeling on Campbell's soups, based the exact serving size not on how much of the soup a normal person would actually eat at one time, but on the amount of sodium (salt) a serving contained. So, a serving according to Campbell's, contains (conveniently) about 30% of your daily value. Get it? You could have Campbell's soup three times a day (their serving sizes not mine) and not have "too much" sodium.

The point is this: Not many of us make a habit of reading nutritional labels. If we did we'd all be eating three tablespoons of cereal for breakfast and half-bowls of soup. I guess Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said "everything in moderation". So, hopefully, we all use common sense when we eat, because it does affect our weight and our health. Food labeling needs to more accurately reflect what most people consider an average serving. But, the Internet is different. Software labeling comes in the form of EULAs (End User License Agreements). And, if you're a wise surfer you'll read the license agreement of any software you intend to install.

The trend seems to be for software companies who have something to hide to write extremely long, meandering, EULAs filled with legalese and run-on sentences. These EULAs are written with what seems to be the sole intent of discouraging you from reading the entire thing and more accurately, from comprehending exactly what it says and how it may affect you.

The spyware/adware/malware companies are in a deep stew of trouble this year. Public awareness of spyware et.al. has reached an all-time high. So, you will see EULAs re-written frequently as these nefarious companies wiggle around trying to evade the death-knell of being labeled "spyware". One of the most serious aspects that spyware/adware companies try to gloss over is "personally identifiable information". And, common sense tells me that anything that can be used to identify you is "personally identifiable information". These companies try to define personally identifiable information to your name, address, email address, etc. . However they don't consider your I.P. address as personally identifiable. Trust me, it is. Every ISP keeps logs of the I.P. addresses of all its customer. They are required to. If, for some reason, they need to check who was logged in under an I.P. address at a certain time, they can, in seconds, put a name, an address, and a telephone number with that I.P. address. Now, to me that is certainly personally identifiable information.

Here are some EULAs and their attendant Terms Of Use (which you also agree to when you install these software programs) that will help you hone your reading comprehension skills:

EULA #1 and its Terms of Use

EULA #2 and one of its affiliates' Privacy Policy which you explicitly agree to when you install the "software" described in EULA #2 :-).

EULA #3 (Terms of Use)

Now, while youíre reading those EULAs, Iím going to go have breakfast (and maybe before you're done, I'll squeeze in lunch too!). I think Iíll have raisin bran again. Iíll ponder the nutrition label while I eat 3 full servings (according to Kellogg's) slathered in milk with sugar on top. And, today, I'm going to add a banana or two. Itís OK Iím not fat. Yet.

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