Supermarket finds: Beyond The Orchard apple slices

Beyond the orchard apples

Compliments Beyond The Orchard Apple Slices (pictured above right with an unprocessed Pink Lady for comparison) are the most wastefully-packaged food product I’ve ever seen. It’s part of the Compliments Junior Disney line of prepared foods from Sobeys, which is supposed to feature “healthier, tasty, and fun foods that are designed specifically for kids.” You know it’s good if it’s in a package and Disney says it’s tasty! Although the CJD (hmm, where have I seen that acronym before?) line-up includes some prepackaged fruit and vegetables, it’s quite heavy on processed convenience foods like frozen pancakes, “Mickey Burgers,” pizza, and so on. The idea is to appeal to picky eaters. Hey, here’s an idea: why not serve real food instead of frozen pizza? Most kids of my generation think that frozen pizza sucks, and for good reason: it does suck. No amount of branding will ever change that. But frozen pizza is a whole other post.

I first saw Beyond the Orchard apple slices in the local Sobeys in early January, but didn’t see it again until mid-March. They’ve been in stock steadily since then, so presumably people are buying them. This package­­­­—a plastic box containing five individual sealed wrappers—contains just 285 grams of sliced apples, equivalent to about one and a half regular-sized apples. Each package contains seven very small apple wedges that together represent about one quarter of an apple. While I understand that this product may appeal to parents with young children who only eat half an apple or less at a sitting, it simply doesn’t excuse the overpackaging. If your children can’t (or won’t) eat a whole apple, then buy smaller apples or slice up an apple and eat half yourself. If the kids don’t like apples, try something else. Why does every problem have to be solved by plastic these days?

Ready-to-eat applesThe apple variety isn’t identified on the packaging, but they look like Fuji or Royal Gala. It’s hard to tell because they taste a little off, with a distinct non-apple chemical aftertaste. The odd taste must come from the processing or packaging, although the ingredients list  shows only apples and calcium ascorbate as a preservative. I actually feel sorry for kids who grow up thinking that apples come in little plastic packages and taste like this. Would I buy it again? Never. I didn’t even really want to buy it this time, but scientific curiosity carried the day.

Amusingly, each of the little packages carries a “ready to eat” label. Yeah, unlike regular apples that require hours of preparation.

(Quick note to the eagle-eyed: Yes, the best-before date on the package is March 24, and no, that doesn’t account for the odd taste of the apples. I conducted my taste test around March 20, and have only just gotten around to writing it up and assembling the pictures.)

Wasteful packaging

That’s a lot of boxes for a little bit of computer

One of the things I love about my day job is getting to play with a lot of technology. One of the things I dislike is that a lot of the technology is packaged very wastefully. The picture above provides a good illustration. Yesterday’s shipment included a very large box that opened to reveal the 10 boxes shown here.

Power cord in a boxEach of those boxes then opened to reveal a very loosely packed component: five power cords (three of them individually boxed!), a keyboard & mouse, two sticks of RAM, two small internal expansion cards, and three slimline DVD-ROM drives. Everything removed from these boxes is in the little pile on the left in the top picture.

Now I understand why you’d want to put delicate optical drives in a nice sturdy box with foam padding, and why a company with a lot of inventory would value having a few standard-sized boxes instead of a bunch of loose components. I also understand why a company selling servers would want to ship each server and non-standard component separately and have me assemble them.

Man vs. BoxBut I’m at a loss to understand why each power cord required its own crush-proof box rated to hold 65 lb and with a burst strength of 200 PSI. When I repacked all this stuff after checking it against the packing slips, it all fit into just one of the pictured boxes with the exception of the keyboard. The rest of the boxes went straight out into the blue bin, having served basically no purpose but to consume space.

Why ship in ten sturdy boxes (plus yet another box to hold all of the boxes) when just two will do? Why does each individual power cord need to be shipped in a separate box that a fully-ballasted man can stand on without crushing it? I’m sure the answer is “efficiency,” but I’m not seeing it.

Chester Hill bike lane inches forward

Temporary stop sign on the Chester Hill Road bike lane

Almost five months after work started, the 70m contra-flow bike lane on Chester Hill Road may be nearing completion. The first sign of progess since the end of November came on Friday, with the erection of a temporary stop sign at the intersection with Cambridge Ave. (above) and the uncovering of the sign at the beginning of the lane.

Bike lane signs unwrapped after almost 5 months in darknessThe road still needs to be stencilled, one more sign allowing southbound cyclists on Broadview to turn right onto Chester Hill needs to be installed, and a permanent stop sign needs to be mounted, but any movement is welcome after a long winter of inaction.

As I said in my earlier post, I can’t fault Transportation Services for the weather we had this winter, but I still think it’s inexcusable that virtually all the bike lane work across the city last year was left until October.

If Adrian Heaps is serious about his pledge of 50 km of bike lanes this year­—reiterated at yesterday’s Bike Union meeting—the work is going to have to start a lot sooner and be ongoing throughout the year. That this leftover stub of a lane is seeing attention so soon after the snow disappeared is promising; I really thought that it would languish well into the summer while Transportation Services focussed on fixing potholes after the harsh winter.

Random quotes from the front

Some random quotes from Sunday’s Toronto Cyclists Union cycling advocacy workshop:

Cycling in the city today is about where running or jogging was 20 years ago.

Councillor Adrian Heaps on the perception of cycling on city streets as a fringe activity.

Nothing happens without a social movement behind it.

Councillor Joe Mihevc on what will drive a cycling agenda at City Hall.

Good leadership is invisible.

Facilitator Shannon Thompson, saying that good leadership is marked by the absence of problems.

The 51k is going to go in.

Adrian Heaps, on the prospects of the city actually meeting its bike lane installation target this year.

You had me until the last one. Once bitten

What's a tuba for?

Two contractor/handyman-types heading into Home Depot yesterday:

Guy 1 (reading shopping list): “Two-by-four-by-eight? What the hell is that?”

Guy 2 (checks shopping list): “Uh…it’s a two-by-four that’s eight feet long.”

Guy 1: “Oh.”

With spring renovation season getting underway, just remember that these are the experts who will be building your deck or fixing your kitchen. Be sure to check those references.

I see faces #6

Athropomorphized fruit

I almost felt guilty eating this watermelon last fall after noticing him staring up at me from the cutting board. Let this be a warning to vegetarians who say that they won’t eat food that had a face: by that measure, fruit isn’t necessarily safe.

I’ll add that this was by far the best watermelon I’d had in years: fresh, sweet, and dripping with juice the way I remember them being when I was a kid. It also had a zillion seeds and was grown right here in Ontario. After eating this beauty, I vowed never to buy another non-local, out-of-season watermelon again. I’ll even put up with all of the seeds if that’s what it takes to get a good, traditional melon instead of those bland, mealy-fleshed things that pass for melons in the supermarket.

I gave up on non-local strawberries years ago for the same reason: those enormous California berries look gorgeous and smell amazing, but taste like cardboard. What’s the point of having them year-round if they suck?

The Amazing Technicolour Dreamdoor

Colourful garage door in East York

If you’re thinking about Space Invaders right now, you probably spent a lot of time exchanging $5 bills for 20 quarters in the arcades of the early 1980s. But according to homeowner Eugene Popov, the inspiration for this colourful garage door wasn’t a youth spent feeding coins into game consoles; it was a few years living in South Africa.

He took the motif from the Ndebele people of northern South Africa, who are renowned for their distinctive traditional house painting with repeating geometric patterns and bright colours. After coming to Toronto, Popov wanted a little something to remind him of his former home. So why did he choose the garage door as the canvas for his remembrance? “I had a rusty garage door,” he explained, “and wanted to do something different.”

I’m still trying to figure out how I cycled and walked past this for two years before noticing it last weekend.

A version of this article originally appeared on Torontoist.

Do not taunt happy fun bin

Informative instructions on the new blue bin

We got our new supersized blue bin today. I’ve always been amused by the instructions and warnings on everyday objects, but this one takes the cake. Apparently, someone thought it necessary to explain to the unwashed masses the physics of moving the bin from place to place.

To move bin

  1. Grasp handle
  2. Tilt
  3. Push or pull

Gee, thanks Mr. Science. I never would have figured that out on my own. Now if only they had room enough on the lid to explain the difference between pulling, which is encouraged, and dragging, which is explicitly forbidden. Oh, City of Toronto, I’m so confused. Do I put my recycling in the bin, or on the bin? Your instructions are woefully incomplete.