Oct 112019

Numerous circumstances conspired against us having a traditional fall break this year, so we kept it a pretty normal week. We did go to the new Cook Museum of Natural Science today. (It’s so misleading to call it “remodeled.” It’s much larger and much nicer than the museum it replaced.)

(Photo by Cook Museum.)

We had a marvelous time with all of the beautiful exhibits, and everyone was helpful and friendly.

Italian honeybee colony. The combs to the right were built and used by a colony that has now departed. The museum guide told us that they were going to tear it out, but now it’s looking like the current colony is planning to join the structures, so they have left it for now. (Click for larger.)

I didn’t get any good photos of how airy a lot of the new museum is, but this gives you some idea.

A magnificent golden eagle that was my favorite at the old museum, and may still be. This bird has a 7′ wingspan. (Click for larger.)

There is a large marine fish-only aquarium with numerous tangs, fingerfish, angels, and a few others. (There is also a smaller reef tank, but I didn’t think to take photos of that one.) (Click for larger.)


There are several live reptile exhibits. (Click for larger.)

This is one of several interactive exhibits. This is a sand table onto which a computer projects a biome. As you move the sand around, making high and low points, it simulates what would happen in that biome. Here we see primarily ocean, with a few mountains and a volcano or two. (All of this sand is the same color. The color you see is projected from above, and updates dynamically as you move it around. Really cool.) (Click for larger.)

The old Cook Museum was a favorite stop of ours when the boys were younger, and this new one is an impressive facility indeed. Alas, it’s not a pittance to make this trip anymore. Admission for the four of us was $87. Is this too much for the engaging and enjoyable two to three hours you’ll get out of the trip? No, it’s really not. It’s just maybe not quite as “whimmable” as it once was. But it definitely deserves to be on your family’s list!

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Aug 202019

After successful regional testing, Burger King’s vegetarian Impossible Whopper, made with Impossible Foods‘ proprietary soy-based “meat,” is available nationwide.

Apart from a perhaps-bimonthly Chick-fil-A, I don’t eat fast food anymore. I will still have a very occasional premium fast casual burger—your Five Guys, your Wayback, your Smashburger—but I haven’t eaten mass-market fast food burgers for years. The Whopper was one of the last ones I ate regularly, so I still have a solid context from which to judge this product. I had my first Impossible Whopper this afternoon on Jordan Lane.

The initial presentation is that of a regular Whopper.

Hello, Impossible Whopper. (Click for larger.)

The Impossible patty’s uniform roundness and grill marks only on one side are perhaps slightly unsettling (but how often are you going to take your burger apart?).

A good look at the Impossible patty. (Click for larger.)

Have a bite.

You taste good, Impossible Whopper. (Click for larger.)

Guess what? It tastes like a Whopper. Apart from the slight visual differences noted above, I found the experience indistinguishable from eating a regular Whopper made with beef. I even pinched a bit of the patty off and tried it solo. The gustatory simulation is pretty remarkable, really.

So that’s the cool part.

(Updated with one more cool part, for those to whom this applies: I note no gastrointestinal anomalies 20 hours later. Some soy “meat” preparations have been less than predictable in this regard for me.)

Now, the questionable part:  for a great many of us, I’m not sure there’s much point to this product.

To be sure, there is appeal for a certain sort of vegetarian. If you’re a vegetarian for moral or ethical reasons and you’ve also somehow kept a fast food burger craving alive—and I’m not sure that’s much of a Venn diagram—then this is for you.

(And let me add a particular word of caution to people who keep vegetarian for religious reasons or because of allergies: Burger King will prepare an Impossible Whopper without using the common grill, but you must ask them to do so. If you just order one without special instructions, then the patty may contact beef on the grill.)

Beyond those folks, however, it’s hard for me to see the value here. The Impossible Whopper is $1 more than the regular Whopper. It has 630 calories—a whopping (sorry) 30 fewer than the beef counterpart. (To be fair, there are 0 trans fats here and 1.5g in the regular Whopper, 10g cholesterol vs. 90g in the regular, and 4g fiber here vs. 2g in the regular.)

Still, we’re talking about slight needle movement on what absolutely remains a fast food burger. So how is anyone but a die-hard vegetarian who still craves beef a regular consumer of this product?

And how many of those people are there?

Now I didn’t look extensively into exactly how this patty is produced, but there may be a little save-the-earth benefit here. Raising livestock is resource-intensive, and though there are various views, just about everyone agrees that we can’t sustain our current practices indefinitely. Generally speaking, plants are easier.

(I think the ultimate answer there will be cultured meat, actually. Can a cultured meat Whopper be reasonably expected in the near future? I think it can.)

For now, I’ll give the Impossible Whopper:

5/10 as a fast food item
9/10 as a simulacrum

 Posted by at 6:04 pm
Jul 312019

A Limestone County family has filed suit against e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL (and 35% owner Altria, parent of Philip Morris) and a local merchant, wishing to hold them responsible for their 17-year-old son’s nicotine addiction. The WAFF story, which embeds the legal complaint, is here. I started smoking cigarettes regularly in March 1987, just short of […]

 Posted by at 10:41 am
May 142019

Bill Nye made headlines this week dropping F-bombs about global warming. (This post is a good entry into what I’ve had to say about climate change on BoWilliams.com.) Here are three things that concern me more: Factory farming. I have written before of the extensive animal welfare concerns embodied in the way we raise most […]

 Posted by at 9:35 am
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