Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Follow-Up on How Zeller’s Sucks

customer service, shopping, consumer affairs, Zellers, department stores

Zellers wins in the worst customer service category. From magnaeframe.com

I received a comment from Chris, who had a lot to say about Zellers. In fact, so much so that the comment was really too long. So I asked Chris if I could use the comment for a guest post. I’ve edited it a bit and toned down the language but here’s my first guest blogger.

I worked in two different Zellers stores from 1991 to 1997 and have always had fairly strong opinions on why the chain would fail. In the early days of my employment I was working in a very recently converted former Towers store. Immediately I was thrust into an environment full of grumpy employees who were taken over as well, who had their wages frozen indefinitely as the pay scales of Zellers were less generous of those at Towers. It is quite possible that some of these folks were just plain overpaid to begin with, and maybe that’s what killed the Towers chain amongst many other things. Anyways, Zellers did not seem to bring any sense of excitement to anyone. Many felt they were a small fish being gobbled up by a whale. I once overheard a former Towers assistant store manager say that the takeover was handled badly, with no regard for the employees. Surprise surprise.

I was hired as a cashier. Before long a full-time position opened up in the Housewares department of the store. I  found myself inheriting a complete disaster. Boxes had been opened, were torn and tattered, merchandise was strewn across the floors, display models were incomplete, missing, or existed for items no longer sold, and items were not where they should have been on the shelves. At first I was shocked, but as time wore on, I realized that I was only expected to have things picked up off the floor and thrown back on the shelf each night, so that the cleaners could mop the floors. This was a far cry from my previous job in a grocery store where we could not leave the store until everything looked good. This included “facing” items on the shelves- retail lingo for bringing things to the front so that merchandise was accessible and made the shelf look full even if it wasn’t. At Zellers the only time this practice was followed was prior to what we called “Royal Visits,” when managers above the district manager level would visit. Why didn’t these people leave the visits unannounced, show up dressed like regular joes, and see what the front lines actually looked like on a normal basis? These guys, and yes, they were ALL mostly grey haired tall men in impeccable suits, wanted everyone to make a huge fuss over them.

The sad part was the way the store and department managers were treated. They were essentially given no budget, yet were expected to have things looking spic and span at all times. Sometimes the upper management guys would force a store manager to clean up a department himself while his shocked employees looked on. It was a real power trip for these bullies.

Oddly enough, I was encouraged to apply for the store management program, and being a high-school educated kid with nothing to lose, I took them up on the offer. In late 1993 I started my first assignment in another store, and for some time was pleased to be amongst employees that seemed more positive. I was told almost immediately that the store I was now working in had not seen the salary cuts of the previous store, but that they were coming. Almost overnight the location went from being a decent place, to the same as the first store. Somehow they thought that less employees would save them enough money to make the store more profitable. I learned many things about how the company operated:

  • Aisles cluttered with junky unappealing items that were old, tattered or had been returned. We were told NOT to reduce these items. The end result is that they never sold and wasted space. The stationery department was one of the worst.

    Zellers, customer service, marketing, sales managers, management, bad employees, bad zellers

    At least you know what you're getting with this sign. Creative Commons: amycgx

  • Sale items were never in stock. In fact, the store had stock, but the merchandise was on a pallet deep in the stockroom where no one could get it. The stockroom was tiny, so tiny, in fact, that in stuffing it with more pallets, the aisles between the rows of pallets were eliminated. Essentially we had a block of pallets about 8 across and 10 deep, the only way anyone would find the merchandise would be if they hauled each pallet out and stuck it in the aisles of the store. This, of course, was forbidden.
  • Outdated computerized inventory system. I’m not sure if it was replaced, but up to 1997 the PIMS system was in place. This system, developed in the 70’s, was supposed to automatically re-order items as they got low. Someone had the great idea of building a little caveat into the system. If the number of items went into a negative, the item would not be re-ordered and a problem would be flagged.This kept happening on stuff like sewing items, and since the store didn’t have anyone investigating the problem, entire aisles were full of empty shelves and pegs. Customers came back time and time again asking for items. We essentially looked like idiots when we told them we didn’t know.
  • Poor quality merchandise. The worst by far was the crappy Permatech/Eurotech line of small appliances. Sure they were cheaply priced, but even for $10 I would expect a toaster to work when I plugged it in. We saw the same garbage returned over and over for years, but they kept selling the junk.
  • Credit. These jerks made 30% of their profit on credit. You know, the kind of profit that requires people to be slow on their payments so they can reap huge interest charges. Cashiers were hounded to push this on everyone, to the point that they were giving long spiels to customers, like a Jehovah Witness at your door. Even worse, Zellers willfully declined to use debit machines in their stores for fear that people would stop using their credit cards. They finally made the switch sometime after 1997, likely due to customers leaving merchandise at the register and leaving in a huff.
  • Lack of staff. Did you know that in the 1960’s, American railroad companies tried to save money by deferring maintenance projects? The result was bad track with slow trains, and a mess that ended up costing a fortune to fix, unless of course, they went bankrupt first as customers turned to trucks. Zellers somehow thought they could run stores without those pesky employees gobbling up their profits. A prime example was how they let one employee be in charge of helping customers in a 30,000 square foot area on a Sunday afternoon. Most times there was no one to cover lunches. Other staff had to abandon ship at a second’s notice to open another cash registers to reduce exorbitantly long lineups. Cashiers were getting lunch breaks at 2 and 3 in the afternoon “because it was just too busy”. They were made to feel that they were part of some sort of important struggle to help their comrades survive or something. Customers in the meanwhile were looking for help in the aisles, and nobody was there to give it.
  • Cheesy gimmicks. Zellers was a firm believer in this 1950’s corny style of advertising and promotions. Instead of trying to sell cool stuff, they resorted to silly balloon drops, flashy flyers, Zeddy, and good old “Zellers Radio”. What was Zellers Radio, you ask? A stupid tape message that would play every 10 minutes that usually began with “Shhhhhaaaappers!!” The elevator music was no better. It seemed they did not want to deviate from the practice of appealing to the senior citizen crowd. The TV ads weren’t any better. For the longest time they were a televised version of the weekly flyer. Later on they got some Hillary Duff clothes in their stores and managed to get some decent ads going. This did not last, and an ad campaign was launched with purported Zellers employees saying “we’re getting better and better”. Wow. Talk about admitting you suck.
  • Ridiculous policies for shoppers. Come on, if someone isn’t satisfied, give them their money back. People usually got store credits after getting the runaround and waiting in long lineups. Supervisors would tell their employees to enforce these policies until someone really lost it. What then? Give the customer what they wanted and make the employee look like a complete asshole in front of them. Seems these little Hitlers didn’t have the balls to enforce these policies themselves.
  • Clueless upper management. The only way these morons knew how to react was to fire people. It seemed like management shuffles were happening constantly as someone got the boot for underperforming. And do you know who didn’t get fired? Guys like the Regional Director of Stores who showed up on the front lines during a “Royal Visit” and yelled at people.
  • Panic at the sight of Walmart, but reacting like a deer in the headlights. Instead of trying to figure out what makes Walmart a generally better place to shop, Zellers instead tried to undercut them on many items, and lost an arm and a leg in doing so. Walmart isn’t just about price. It was also about the “shopping experience” that Zellers never seemed to be able to figure out.
  • Morning meetings. The dreaded daily “pep talk” was nothing more than an attempt into performing better OR ELSE. What was discussed? The weeks sales, which didn’t really register in most people’s minds, and a couple of minutes of badgering employees to get more credit card customers, and just generally work harder if sales were supposed to get better. One time our store manager decided to go off on a rant about employee morale and how the employees had only themselves to blame for it. In his mind the skeleton crew often appointed to run the place should work twice as hard to achieve the results of double the people. He couldn’t  understand why people were not motivated to shed blood, sweat and tears at minimum wage.

I left the company fifteen years ago. I had always wondered if things had improved after I left, and after reading other people’s blogs posted since the announcement that Target was acquiring Zellers leases, it was obvious they barely changed at all. It was eerie to read what employees were saying about the company as it was so familiar.

Shame on you, Zellers, and good riddance. It’s sad that the employees of the companies are the ones to suffer, while the upper management folks will all leave with a huge chunk of change. Pathetic.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 82-87

Apocalypse Diet, zombies, cooking, recipes, end of the world, food, eating, curry

Coconut solidifies at room temperature but I keep mine in the fridge. Usually available at any store that sells Asian foods. Panang curry paste, spicy and yummy.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 82 (Mar. 22):

The end is very near. I’m going to try to make it to April 1 when I will officially stop the diet, but I might not make it through next week. I was taken out for lunch today to a Vietnamese restaurant and had spring rolls and a vermicelli with chicken with all the fixings. I ate it all but was so full that I actually didn’t even bother with dinner.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 83 (Mar. 23):

I thought I was out of the veggie nut chile but I found another container in the freezer. So I had half of that with some Bulgar wheat hiding in the cupboard for half of forever. There are all sorts of bags and jars with this and that, that I probably bought once for some recipe but forgot about. I have two different sized jars of cornmeal and I don’t know what I’ll do with them. Nothing while I’m on the Apocalypse Diet, though if it truly was the end of the world, a month or two down the road I’d probably be boiling it and mixing it with jam.

Okay, it’s time for another food experiment. I have a can of crab! Yay! Though in fact I don’t really like the taste of canned crab and that’s why it’s been there so long. I have that package of panang curry paste, and half of this block of coconut cream, and some penne pasta, so here we go. This turned out really well and very yummy. I wanted to eat all of it but it’s a pretty high fat content and I’ve saved at least half of the sauce for  another night.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 84 (Mar. 24):

Today was a busy day of running around, meeting up with a friend for brunch and out in the evening so I didn’t actually eat anything at home. What I did have was a chicken burger with fries I couldn’t finish and then some garlic butter prawns with a piece of garlic toast for dinner and that was it. I did drink half of a can of grapefruit pop/soda at home but that was it.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 85 (Mar. 25):

I was actually feeling a bit in a slump today so I didn’t eat all day until I went to a friend’s for a potluck where I had some chicken, bread and a piece of coffee cake. That filled me up. Yes, my stomach has shrunk a bit.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 86 (Mar. 26):

Lunch was truly the last of the veggie chili with the last of the Bulgar wheat. I was given half a huge muffin so that was an afternoon snack. It was a bit too dry to ever appeal to a zombie. For supper I had some of that panang curry with glass noodles. I think I prefer the pasta noodles to the rice noodles, maybe because they’re firmer.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 87 (Mar. 27):

cooking, concoctions, zombies, apocalypse diet, eating, recipes

Zombie pasta made pink by the beets, with olives, tuna, red cabbage and capers. Actually pretty tasty.

Today’s lunch was the last of the chicken barley bean, a soup I made out of bits and pieces but will make again because it turned out so good. This is in fact the last of the soups, even though I still have turkey stock, and frozen veggies to make vegetable stock, but I have nothing to put in them. Were this truly the apocalypse I’d be sipping these broths and pulling anything edible out of the ground to add in. Someone brought me a wee sample of chicken with potato, carrot and peppers in tomato sauce. I scooped that up and a baby cupcake.

Tonight I cooked the last of the pasta with the last slices of beets, which made my pasta pink. I used a can of tuna, with garlic, capers, dill, Worcestershire sauce, chile peppers, the last of the kalamata olives, some Parmesan and…some red cabbage. I worried that I’d ruined this concoction, but the zombie pasta, with hints of red and pink like flesh, tasted pretty good. Kalamatas are fairly strong tasting but they worked.

I also had a chocolate pudding cake mix. I used the last egg, the last coconut (dry) and baked that, and then threw Frangelico on top. Not bad for three months in. Good thing I worked out tonight.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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Writing Update: A New Frontier

This is the last week to get in nominations for the Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative fiction awards (also fan works and art). If you’re Canadian and want to nominate and vote you can go here to do so.

writing, publishing, self-publishing, anthologies, collection, Aurora Awards, poetry, fiction, speculative fiction

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

I was also shortlisted for the Friends of Merril contest. The results will be posted in the next day or two and while I don’t know who won, alas, it was not me. Writing is always an evolution and I’m always writing better than I did before but I still have work to do. Sometimes my pacing is off. It’s the elusive golden ring for me and I’m trying new ways to master this. My story was off on pacing and thus is did not win. But it was one of 9 shortlisted out of over 100. That’s not so bad.

I actually have a few stories right now in what I call the bridesmaid stage. They’ve made it out of the slush pile and the editor has contacted me to say they’re holding them for further consideration…but they have not yet been picked. I also looked at the edits for “Gingerbread People” due out in Chilling Tales 2 from Edge Publications in 2013 now. They edits were light and mostly punctuation/spelling related. This story was a look at the nature of evil; is the person who does the crime more evil than the

person who masterminds and gets the other person to do it. The idea came out of the true tale of Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, convicted serial killers who did horrible things to several teenage girls.

Self-publishing requires using all the marketing tools. Creative Commons: Kristina B, flickr

I’m also considering a new venture. I wanted to have a collection of my stories published. This would be mostly a reprintcollection, with one or two new tales tossed in. With stories, they sometimes appear in a magazine or anthology somewhere, for a brief time and are never seen again. It would collect those works and make them available to a wider readership. I thought of sending these to several publishers, but truth be told I’m not enough of a name for most publishers to consider my collection. There are many indie publishers who would but I think for a reprint collection I’m going to go the route of self-publishing.

Many people take this route but don’t do well. There are several things to consider; writing skill, editing, proofreading, distribution and marketing. Since I’m an accomplished (as in published more than once) writer as well as a freelance copyeditor, my work is going to be cleaner than a lot of self-published works. Plus these stories have been published at least once before. If I go with Smashwords and CreateSpace it covers the ereaders and print publication as well as distribution. Marketing is something that people have to do themselves these days. This  means posting to Facebook, doing Twitter, using Goodreads and this blog.  And, when I go to conventions I’ll need to promote there as well.

I have the collection mostly together already though I’m going to review the titles in there. I was going to call it Transformations and Temptations of the Wayward Soul but I might just call it Transformations and Temptations. This will be an interesting process and my first venture into self-publishing so I’ll post how it goes.  Stay tuned.

March has been a productive month writing wise. I’ve done two rewrites, finished and written three stories, started a fourth and worked a bit on the novel. I’ve also tentatively started a series of poems that will go under the title of A Compendium of Witches. Of course I hope to have 13 poems in that series.  And that’s the writing world to date for me.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 77-81

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 77 (Mar. 17):

zombie, apocalypse diet, cooking, food, end of the world, eating

This is starting to look more appealing. You can buy this delectable food here.

Ach, laddy, there will be a few green zombies today, I fear. St. Paddy will have to lead them away. I actually need to recap yesterday’s dinner. I boiled up some rice noodles, which turned out to be the really thin glass noodles. I made a sauce of garlic, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, with a chunk of coconut cream I found in the fridge. Into that I dropped the mussels and clams and made a great sauce. Not only was it tasty but it was filling. Yes, the last week has seen the portions become a little more meager and because of that I’m often feeling a bit hungry. But hey, I can stand to lose a few pounds and become less appealing to zombies.

And speaking of the fiends, it definitely felt like they were gnawing on my brain today as I fought a cold that gave me a very bad sinus headache. I didn’t eat much because of it and just ate more glass noodles with olive oil, garlic, onion and Parmesan cheese. I felt better enough to drop by my friend’s in the evening and ate a few pieces of crackers and cheese but with my taste buds under siege there was a loss of appetite.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 78 (Mar. 18):

Sunday; a bit more appetite. I braved a half bowl of the roasted garlic and potato soup in the fridge. This time it sat okay in my belly but just. For supper I had a bowl of my veggie nut chile, with some of the last quinoa, Parmesan and flake yeast.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 79 (Mar. 19):

Lunch was the chicken bean barley soup. You’d think with this light a diet I’d be shedding pounds, but long ago I learned my body is great at preservation. I wouldn’t have to eat anyone for a very long time if we crashed at the top of a snow-covered mountain. I’ll probably start losing more weight once I’m eating bigger portions again. Supper was the last of the quinoa with the last of the veggie chile.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 80 (Mar. 20):

food, apocalypse diet, recipes, food, concoctions, beets, end of the world

Zombie age concoction. Not bad tasting but maybe it looks a bit like moldering zombie.

Day 80 but I’m not sure I’ll make it to 90 or even the end of this month. Lunch was the last of the spicy veggie peanut soup.

Supper’s new zombie age concoction was half of the last beet, a tin of tuna, capers, dill, the last of the onion, sundried tomatoes, a dried ancho chile, and some bad red wine that even zombies wouldn’t touch. All that on the last of the rice. I have to say the aroma was actually quite appealing.  And how did this concoction taste? The capers were tangy and salty against the sweetness of the beets. I tossed in two sprinkles of hot sauce as well, and mixed with the smokiness of the ancho chile this was another dish that was not bad. The tomatoes disappeared mostly into the background but added a bit of tangy and sweet. How long does it take to fry a diced beet? Half of forever, so either boil them first or be prepared to let them saute a good half hour at least.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 81 (Mar. 21):

Spring is officially here and I’m still cleaning out those cupboards. Lunch was the chicken barley bean soup, which at least is filling.

apocalypse diet, baking, muffins, rice flour, potato flour, food disaster, recipes

Food fail. I concede defeat. These "muffins" are good for mortar and lobbing at zombies.

Supper; well there was some leftover zombie age concoction, so I had that. This large jar of honest-to-god Polish sauerkraut has been lurking in the fridge for years. That stuff could outlast cockroaches. It had caraway and that’s about it, so I scooped out about a half a cup and heated it. Salted cabbage. Do people really live on this stuff? The good thing is that it has 30% of my daily vitamin C and a healthy dose of iron, but seriously, I think it will outlive the diet.

And then I thought, what can I make with these jars of flour? There was a ship’s biscuits recipe that literally called for hammering the dough with a mallet and I was about to try it when a muffin book flipped open to rice flour blueberry muffins. I could make this work!

I needed 2 cups of rice flour but what I thought was rice flour was cornmeal. I had 1.5 c. potato flour and .5 c. of white flour. Tossed that in with the 4 tsp. baking powder. I mixed the 2 eggs, vanilla and 3 tbsp. olive oil (it called for vegetable oil) in a separate bowl. I didn’t have honey but used  1/2 c. of maple syrup. It’s about the same consistency, right? So I mix this all together and…get a lumpy dry mortar.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve made muffins but I know the batter should be a little moister than this. So I add water, and add water, annnnd add water, probably 2-3 cups! It’s gorpy, it’s gloppy and it’s lumpy. I folded in the berries, slightly moister than just blueberries, and then tried to drop the tenacious dough into the muffin tin. I baked it at 350 degrees, turned the heat up and baked some more. I added more water and tried a second batch baking for 60 instead of 20 minutes. Yes, forever! These things are bricks and probably only good for lobbing at zombies. Obviously, potato flour is very different from rice flour. They kind of became bread like but tasted awful.  It’s the eggs and syrup that seem the biggest waste here. Score one for the zombies.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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Writing: Aurora Award Nominations

writing, Aurora Awards, poetry, fiction, speculative fiction

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

Again this year, I’m eligible for the Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative writing awards. My stories or poems have to first be nominated, and the top nominations in each category are put onto the voting ballot. That’s usually 3-5 nominees per category. To nominate and vote, one must be Canadian or ex-pat Canadian and must pay a $10 registration.

Nominations close on March 31st, and voting begins on April 16th. If you’re interested in registering, you can go to the Aurora site. To view a list of eligible Canadian works, go to on of these two sites:

http://www.canadiansf.com/node/161 or http://friendsmerrilcontest.com/2011-can-SF/

My works are listed here. Reprints are not allowed but fiction or poetry published in other countries is and two of my stories and two of my poems were published in the UK and US respectively.

*Anderson, Colleen. “A Book By Its Cover.” Mirror Shards. Thomas Carpenter, ed. Bad Moon Books, Aug. 2011.

Anderson, ColleenIt’s Only Words.” The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies (England). D.F. Lewis, ed. Nemonymous Press, June 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Tasty Morsels.” Polluto #8 Magazine (England). Victoria Hooper, ed. Aug., 2011.

*Anderson, Colleen. “A Good Catch.” Polu Texni. Dawn Albright, ed. April, 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Darkside.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. May, 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Shadow Relams.” Witches & Pagans #23. Anne Newkirk Niven, ed. BBI Media. Aug. 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Sundance.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. June, 2011.

And you can read my poem, “Queen of Heaven and Earth” now up on the Eternal Haunted Summer site.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 73-76

 

food, eating, diet, zombies, apocalypse diet, brains

If only I could make these for my Zombie Salon. Creative Commons: xsomnis, flickr BrettMorrison gallery

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 73 (Mar. 13):

Originally I predicted I could make it till March on the food in my place without buying any, and I have. I’ll make it to the ides of March but will I make it beyond? Anyone want to place a bet on which day I’ll capsize? I said I’d stop when there was nothing but condiments and alcohol, but I am becoming heartily sick of this diet. I miss my veggies. While there are a few veggies and frozen fruits left, I can continue but I won’t last long when they’re gone, not too mention the nutritive balance will be out the window. Right now I’ve at least been getting proteins, carbs and veggies though the portions have changed.

Breakfast was! Yes, molasses banana bread. That sucker keeps going but there is only one more slice left. And lunch was Apocalypse Pottage. Dinner was a simple fair of the last of my hearty pea soup.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 74 (Mar. 14):

I missed breakfast this morning and I’m thinking about zombies, not for food yet. Seriously, if I don’t like red meat and am averse to eating humans, zombies will be very far down on the list. I’d be chomping on every bush in the vicinity first. But how else could I deter the rage infested, virus-filled hyper-diseased zombie? Well obviously, do a better job of boarding up the place. If I’m going to hammer up boards I’m not nailing those boards on straight but driving the nails in at an angle so they can’t be pushed out. Better yet, use screws. If it’s the press of numbers there’s not a lot I can do. I’d also head for the country, where there are fewer zombies. I’d get the biggest mofo truck I could manage with a winch and a huge grill so I could ram anything out of the way. A flamethrower would certainly be helpful for fricassee zombie, and of course the spiky, all encompassing clothing. No going out without a crash helmet and hazmat suit. Let’s see a movie that actually has people acting intelligently in it.

And speaking of zombies, the creeping crud is attacking me. A cold sore has started and anyone who has ever had one knows you start to look like a zombie when your skin bubbles and blisters. So I had my pseudo clam chowder for lunch. Someone gave me a big bran muffin and I was only going to eat half but it was so tasty I ate it all. But not feeling very hungry, for dinner I had a bowl of good ole Lipton’s chicken noodle soup, which I found in the cupboard. There’s enough salt in that thing to keep a pasture of cows happy but the noodly goodness is an old comfort food.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 75 (Mar. 15):

Today, the ides of March, it felt like zombies had been clawing their way out of my throat. I had a doctor’s appointment in the

zombie, apocalypse diet, food, hazmat suits, protection, end of the world

Supposedly flaming zombies isn't a good thing but I'd like to believe they wouldn't see through the flames, nor smell anything but flaming zombie. From: jadedviewer.blogspot.com

morning so I got up for that but then came straight home. My mother used to give us hot water with brandy, lemon and honey when we had colds. Of course there was little brandy but my scratchy throat determined that I would have a giant mug with hot water, a liberal dollop of brandy, a squeeze of slightly dessicated lemon, and maple syrup,  since I have no lemon. I drank that and then went back to sleep.

While I was hungry when I awoke I was also feeling slightly queasy. I ate half a bowl of the roasted garlic and potato soup, which severely upset my stomach. The weird thing is that I can do raw or fried garlic but if it’s roasted it gives me terrible gas. I have two more containers in the freezer but the reaction was severe enough I’m seeing if my neighbors would like it. Which means, the larder will empty even sooner. I’ve been looking forward to using the panang curry with some canned crab but that’s a bit too spicy for a sore throat. I ate the last piece of molasses banana bread, and had another cup of the hot brandy toddy but a skin had formed in the maple syrup and fell into my cup. That slimy thick, snotty texture was truly disgusting and I had to fish it out. Blargh!

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 76 (Mar. 16):

The creeping crud and I are in a headlock. I’m not sure who’s winning. I’m feeling rather hungry having had nothing but soup for the last couple of days. I have some Ryvita crackers, rather tasteless, but I munched one down for breakfast. Lunch was the last of the Apocalypse Pottage made with beets, tomatoes, barley and tuna. Tonight I’ll probably do up some rice noodles and a bit of fish sauce, tuna and garlic, and maybe red cabbage.

Keeping with the zombie theme, I’m having a Zombie Salon, because I want peoples’ brains. Which means, I’ll have a few people over to actually discuss topics other than sports and the weather. Since I have lots of vodka I’ve offered up martinis. Not sure if I can do a zombie themed martini though. I’ll report on that in the next update.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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Evolution of the Platform Shoe

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We used to call these FM pumps (f**k me) because they weren’t meant to be walked in. Creative Commons: by extraitaly flickr phil sidek gallery.

I’ve been noticing the ultra high heels that are in fashion now; stiletto heels, with a platform front. Because I spent far too many years in four-inch heels or higher I now have to watch what I wear, though with smart shopping and choosing the time to wear my shoe I can get away with a heel if not quite that high. So, obviously the current fashion has decided women need to be uber tall or that they need to be uber sexy on super spiky heels but because many women would feel a little unbalanced, the platform has been added which takes down the overall height from your heel to your toe.

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The medieval shoe never had much of a heel, except for doubled layers of leather. From: feastgarb.tumblr.com

While the hyper sexualization of our society is partly to blame for everyone having to wear FM pumps now, these are not in fact the tallest shoes in history. The history of the platform shoe begins centuries ago. Japan of course had the geta or wooden sandals but if we look at Europe, there is a wealth of information there.

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This is a reproduction of the medieval shoe, with pattens. From: The Art Room Plant

To understand how a wood-based or platformed shoe came about one must  understand that early shoes throughout Europe were only made of leather. As the technology and understanding of patternmaking progressed shoes had firmer and thicker soles, usually made up of several pieces of thick leather and might also have been boiled leather, a process of penetrating the leather with liquid beeswax, which not only hardens the leather but also makes it waterproof. Remember that lanes and paths would only be of mother earth and slowly developed into wood planks and cobblestones. Even walking in Europe last year with rubber-soled shoes, I found some of those cobblestones rather hard to walk upon.

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The chopine, still made for a shoe or slipper to fit into it. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No matter how well you waterproof something, if you’re walking through sucking mud and rain a lot your shoes are going to get ruined, and unlike people today, buying a new pair from a cobbler might be a year’s worth of spare change. People preserved their clothing and wore them out, often reusing parts in a new piece. One of the answers to uncomfortable cobblestones and mud was to use the patten. This was a wooden base that you slipped the leather shoe into. Shoes would eventually develop a heel made of wood.

Fashion always played  a part and as you can see by the red shoes, color and shape were important. The points of shoes got to ridiculous lengths and had to be gartered to the calf. And of course they rose to a silly height.

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Chopines of the Venetian bent. From the Bata shoe museum.

Enter the Renaissance, those crazy kids who loved color and men in tights and other fun stuff like Machiavelli. The Italians invented the chopines. They didn’t just look at the utilitarian aspects of keeping out of the mud; they looked at the prestige of being able to tower over your neighbor. Consider platforms that are 30 inches tall! Yes, one could show off their wealth by walking around on these mini stilts, with the help of two assistants.

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1940 platform shoes were modest. From: the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

Sanity and shoe heights leveled out after that but the first 20th century platform was the peekaboo toe shoe of the 1940s (my favorite). This was a shoe with a heel and a modest platform of an inch at most. Of course the Renaissance was revisited in the 1970s with the blocky platform sandal and pretty much from there we have seen every evolution of the platform (platform sports shoes) since then. Except…no one has gone back to the towering heights of the chopine, probably because in this litigious society shoe companies would be sued out of existence.

Except maybe Alexander McQueen’s frightening horse hoof shoes. They’re insanely tall (though not quite 30 inches) and are the equivalent of monster trucks for people. I can’t say I’ve seen these catch on with anyone yet, and probably with good reason. Maybe next we’ll have pogo platforms. What fun those will be.

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The snake had indigestion. Possibly the ugliest platform in creation, Alexander McQueen’s creation.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 67-72

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Not hearts but canned tomatoes, one of my lifesaver vegetables so far into the Apocalypse Diet. Creative Commons: wwwbittersweetcook.com

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 67 (Mar. 07):

People have been asking how much money I’ve saved, how much weight I’ve lost. First, this isn’t a real diet since I was allowed to eat whatever is in my place. But I have had smaller portions. I’m the type of person who could crash at the top of a snowy mountain and it would be months before I would have to eat my fellow humans, because my body can hang on really really well to its weight. I don’t change weight a lot. Throughout this, I’ve continued to work out but the carbs have gone ups while the vegetables have gone down…slightly. I don’t weigh myself (see previous posts on eating disorders) so I think I might have lost five pounds, but that’s about it.

As for saving money, I think I spend around $40/week on food. That doesn’t include dining out. So if we look at that amount I’ve saved probably around $200. Not phenomenal but then I had bills to pay so “saving” isn’t quite right. The  money just paid some of those bills.

I’m in rinse and repeat cycle. Breakfast, the molasses banana bread with margarine. Lunch, previously frozen pseudo (no milk) clam chowder. Yes, by the time I get home after working out at 6 pm I’m usually starving.

I had one precious tin of tomatoes left. I took half the tin, mixed it with onions, garlic, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper and added in some shrimp and mussels to make a sort of pilaf. I added the rest of the rice from last night, and some engevita yeast for a slightly cheesy taste.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 68 (Mar. 08):

Rinse and repeat, molasses banana bread for breakfast. Lunch was the rest of the rice pilaf with shrimp and mussels from last night.

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Can you say grainzzz? Brains made from edible foods by Sara Asnaghi. Now that's zombie food I could eat.

That’s quite filling. I’m beginning to think I might not make it past March. 16th as I’ll be out of most foods, but we’ll see. There are still soups in the freezer and still tins of tuna.

Dinner was the last of the gyozas in the freezer, fried up with some soy and hot sauce. I also found a prehistoric package of  “dessert topping mix” by Weight Watchers. It’s a pseudo whipping cream so I whipped it with water and vanilla and it was ready. Then I took some of the frozen berries and a bit of coconut and mixed it together for dessert.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 69 (Mar. 09):

In my cupboard are jars of flour; chickpea, rice, potato, which I have had for half of forever. While I could take one of those package mixes and still bake a cake I think I’ll try a concoction at some point that will use up these dinosaurs.  In the meantime, breakfast has been the same as all week, banana bread.

Lunch was the chicken barley bean soup, and dinner was going over to a friend’s.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 70 (Mar. 10):

I was running around all day and didn’t really eat, besides two pieces of artichokes in oil, until 5:00. I was so hungry when I was out on the Drive, buying cat food that every food place I went by was a challenge. “Oh maybe I’ll just buy two slices of pizza; that sushi roll looks really good; falafel!; maybe some smoked salmon; I could just buy a cookie… And on it went, but somehow I made it home and cooked up pasta, with some of the canned tomatoes, garlic, curry spice, some tamarind, fenugreek, fennel, salt, pepper, chili peppers and the last carrot and prawns. Oh and I added some engevita or flake yeast, which is high in vitamins and adds a bit of a creamy cheesy texture.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 71 (Mar. 11):

Leftovers of the curry pasta from yesterday. Supper was a small bowl of homemade pea soup, and then popcorn with engevita yeast later on.

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Apocalypse Pottage; my desperate yet hearty concoction of the last of many things (with a sprinkle of flake yeast).

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 72 (Mar. 12):

Breakfast was another piece of banana bread with margarine though it was um…garlic banana bread because I forgot to clean the cutting board which was last used to chop garlic. Not too terrible though. Lunch was a bowl of my vegetarian nut chili.

Okay, what do you get when you mix the following ingredients: canned tomatoes, barley, quinoa, sesame seeds, garlic, a soft beet, olive oil, turmeric, dill, cayenne, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and a can of tuna? Gruel, pottage, goulash? That is in fact what I made tonight and I’m beginning to think I have a sense of what gruel was in the Dark Ages. The turmeric offset the barley from the red of the beets and tomatoes. The hot sauce offset the sweetness of the beets. It wasn’t bad at all, which is good because I have another two days’ worth of it.  Maybe I should open up the Apocalypse Restaurant and serve Apocalypse Pottage.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

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Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

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These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

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This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

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Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 61-66

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Zombie food pyramid for a well-balanced diet. Creative Commons: http://www.geekstir.com

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 61 (Mar. 01):

I’m entering month three of the Apocalypse Diet. The fridge drawers are nearly empty, the freezer is mostly stocked; carbs, proteins and veggies are all running low. I think I’ve now entered the creative stage. Be prepared for bizarre pairings (mussels and beets, anyone?).

Breakfast was a brownie and lunch was my spicy vegetable peanut soup, one of my freezer stores.

I wasn’t that hungry for dinner, weirdly, so it was a small handful of almost nonexistent crackers and a bowl of quinoa with the thawed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) that I found in the freezer, and a drop of almond extract. Oh and yes, the last brownie.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 62 (Mar. 02):

Well, I have found out I’m anemic, which has nothing to do with the diet. I’ve tended toward anemia all my life but it’s actually been a few years since the last bout. I’m on supplements now to bring up my iron intake since drinking the blood of my victims is just too gross, and zombie blood is putrid. Some of the things that have iron are molasses, broccoli, sesame seeds, certain seeds…and I’m going to have to look it up but as we know, my cupboard is getting rather bare. I have lots of sesame seeds and molasses though.

Breakfast was the last of the almond butter, nearly the last rice cake, and a sprinkle of the last chocolate chips. Lunch was avgolemono soup. I had the last handful of fresh hazelnuts in the shell, plus a few crackers and calamata olives. A friend came over later with a pizza so that was the real dinner, along with the last of the lemonade and vodka added, though it was a rather meh drink.

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Molasses Banana Bread, dark and tasty

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 63 (Mar. 03):

Lunch, the leftover pizza of course. And now for the great banana bread with molasses experiment. I didn’t have any sugar except for cubes and while I could have tried maple syrup I have a lot of molasses sitting in my fridge, which has been there since dinosaurs roamed. I managed to use up one container but still have a second. I like my banana breads as bread, not cake, so I looked for the lowest sugar recipe (2/3 cups) and substituted the same amount in molasses. They say to add 1 cup of molasses for every 3/4 cups of sugar but I left it the same. Recipes also state not to substitute more than half of the sugar, but I did it all, under duress from the zombies banging against the walls. I thought this was due to how the bread would rise. I also like my banana bread nutty but the only nuts I have left are hazelnuts so I chopped up about 3/4 cup of those.

I added extra baking soda as required. I now have little shortening or flour left but there are all those wee jars with different types so the next baking experiment will involve them. I waited for the bread to bake and it rose perfectly, When I pulled it out of the oven I cut off the heel while warm and put margarine on. It was good! The substitute of half the sugar is about the taste but if you like molasses cookies you’ll like this bread. It’s strongly flavored but still light and very tasty. I actually had two pieces and I’m now full. Molasses is also high in iron so this will help with my anemia.

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Shrimp, carrots, onions, garlic and some dried basil on quinoa. Holy hot and tasty.

I found a packet of holy basil seasoning paste, and one of panang curry mix. The second calls for coconut milk so I put it back, but I mixed the seasoning with the last of the prawns, onion, carrot and garlic, chopped up the parsley, and ate it on quinoa. How’s that for a mashup?

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 64 (Mar. 04):

Roasted garlic and potato soup, plus two slices of molasses banana bread. Supper was the leftover shrimp and basil seasoning dish with quinoa. And then popcorn with margarine and engevita yeast, popped in a pot on the stove.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 65 (Mar. 05):

Breakfast was a good sized slice of molasses banana bread with margarine. Lunch was chicken barley bean soup, and a slice of chocolate cake for someone’s birthday. After working out I was really hungry so I had penne pasta with sundried tomatoes, garlic and a mix of mussels and clams. There were a few squid bits in there but because they were frozen I didn’t fry them properly and they were like an old boot. I chopped up the rest of the parsley and added that with some parmesan cheese, and ate the whole thing.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 66 (Mar. 06):

It seems that Noah could easily have kept enough food for 40 days and nights if I’m still going on Day 66. Breakfast was the banana bread again and almost clam chowder but after last night, I had to vary it. I had the spicy vegetable peanut soup. Tonight, well I think it’s time to have the last of the Brussels sprouts, with garlic and oil and parmesan, and a side of rice.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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