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Demo Memo: Why do you think they call it a Great Recession? It's making us healthier!

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How do you handle those hungry hipsters? A Food Truck dispenses rations for starving Porchfest attendees in Tiny Town, Sept. 2013.


The Great Recession may have dinged our wallets, but it improved our diets. According to one study.Working-age Americans (those born from 1946 through 1985) cut their calories and ate fewer fast-food meals in 2009-10 than in 2007-08, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Total daily calorie consumption fell during those years, as did daily calories from fast food. Consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol was also down. The number of fast food meals declined, and the number of family meals prepared at home increased. These changes in eating habits were not solely due to the decline in household income during the Great Recession, says the USDA, but also due to the increased time available for shopping and preparing food at home.

Are these changes permanent, or will we revert to our bad habits as the economy improves? The USDA analysis suggests that some of the change may be permanent because a growing share of consumers are paying attention to nutrition. Between 2007-08 and 2009-10, the percentage of working-age adults who say they use the Nutrition Fact Panel always/most of the time when buying food climbed from 34 to 42 percent.

"Diet quality may not decline if consumers continue to pay closer attention to the nutritional quality of the food they consume," concludes the USDA. Even if we eat out more often—as seems likely— there's hope. According to the report, "the 2010 Affordable Care Act mandates that restaurant chains with more than 20 locations list the caloric content of each standard menu item, which would make it easier for consumers to identify lower calorie and otherwise healthier choices when eating away from home."

Source: USDA Economic Research Service "Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality among Working-Age Adults, 2005-2010"

From Demo Memo by Cheryl Russell  http://demomemo.blogspot.com/

Russell is a demographer and the editorial director of New Strategist Publications. She is the former editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine (then located in Ithaca) and The Boomer Report. She is the author of Bet You Didn't Know and other books on demographic trends. She holds a master's degree in sociology/demography from Cornell University.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 23:45

Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble's Season Opener Sunday, Sept 15

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Above: A different kind of Porchfest. Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble members, from the top: Shannon Nance, Roberta Crawford, Stephen Reuss and Michael Salmirs. Sunday's concert will include two guests: Wesley Nance, trumpet, and, Lara Spirols, violin. Photo: Franklin Crawford.

Tiny Town Satellite of Lodi, NY – Two, three, five, 15 and 23: Those are the lucky numbers for chamber music lovers who attend the FLCE Season Opener, Sunday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m. in the lovely Lodi Historical Society building.
Two is for the Mozart duo for violin and viola in G.
Three is for the Stephenson Trio for trumpet, violin and piano.
Five is for the Franck Quintet in Fm, for two violins, viola, cello and piano.

Fifteen is for the date! Sunday! Almost today. Today! Depending on when you read this.

Twenty-three will be explained momentoire.

Tickets can be purchased the door and are free to all students. For more information, visit the FLCE website at http://www.FingerLakesChamberEnsemble.org

A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Oh. Here are some reasons you might consider attending, brought to you from FLCE co-founder, Michael Salmirs:

"As we approach the beginning of our 23rd season, we are reflecting on our evolving audience. We began performing as a group in 1990, and now we’re playing for another generation of music enthusiasts. Many of today’s concert goers were children and young adults who started attending our concerts back then, many of them were our own students. Since all of us are actively involved in musical education, it is wonderful to see first hand how music is transforming people’s lives.

A recent study at Northwestern University showed that early musical training greatly improves auditory skills as well as attention and memory skills, thereby enhancing a person’s learning ability and success in life. However the benefits don’t stop there: Later in life, persons struggling with hearing loss will do better understanding language in a noisy environment if they have kept up their musical activities. Through music training their central auditory processing skills will have been preserved, so that they are better able to understand speech against a noisy background.So there you have it, music is just what the doctor ordered, which is something we knew all along.Science aside, our new season promises great pleasure and fulfilment as we welcome you all to a variety of wonderful music."


Last Updated on Sunday, 15 September 2013 23:47

Attending to Tiny Town, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013

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A late summer weather system of suspect origin made for a week that will not be remembered by many a year from now

1) Citizen complains that parts of tiny town smell like dog shit and dead fish.

2) Aquatic herbicide treatments of Six Mile Creek have eliminated target and non-target plants. Wise man once said: "Water that is too clean is not good for fish."

3) Wegmans Deposit Bottle Recycling Machine blows up ... Mgt recommends alternative entrance for shoppers while HAZMAT teams investigate a possible chemical explosion. Right on!

4) Thermal Inversion turns New York State Fair Senior event into Oxygen Deprived Tuesday ... With little air to breathe and lots of beer to drink, The People elected to stay and eat deep fried pickles in their wheechairs.

5) A sun shower drops 0.5 inches of rain on a single Town of Ithaca home.

6) Large orb-weaving spider relocated by wildlife expert after gardener frightened from pea patch.

7) Plans for the former Clinton West Laundromat remain undisclosed after late winter boarding of windows.

8) An enormous woodchuck nicknamed "Pounder" was found on a downtown resident's back deck helping itself to a bunch of rotten bananas in the compost and eating morning glory seeds. Pounder squeezed between railings and backflipped onto the lawn and shuttled off apparently uninjured.

9) A bat flew around the lobby of the DeWitt corridor until an alert citizen recommended opening an outside door. Said bat then exited.

10) A man who once fretted about the size of his penis and a woman who claimed she had small breasts quietly celebrated their 10th anniversary this week. No one noticed.

Complied by Anon

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 August 2013 17:13

A Tale of Two Gritty Ice Cream Socialists: Saving the Soul of Ben & Jerry's

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Whatever Happened to Ben & Jerry's?

All is revealed in “Ice Cream Social: The Struggle For the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s”

MADE IN THE SHADE: Local hero, Jeff Furman, right, and Brad Edmondson, local journalist. Furman sang, Edmondson recorded and reported.

Tiny Town, USA – Call them ice cream socialists.

When Jeff “The Ampersand” Furman, local businessman and chair of the board of Ben & Jerry’s, and Brad Edmondson, local writer, teamed up to document the history behind the Vermont-born ice cream business that sold itself to Unilever in 2000, they’d been yacking about it for a dozen years.

Furman was initially against a book. His coffee klatches with Edmondson were just a way to vent during his long, complicated struggle to save the company’s social mission. Furman just wanted to “talk about the story,” Edmondson says. Then Furman, the old hippie realist, with his graying beard and long silvery laurel wreath of hair, stepped back from his insider role and saw that the story had a message worth sharing.

Maybe in a magazine article?

Edmondson was firm: This was no one-off in a glossy. The Ben & Jerry’s story deserved full treatment in book form.

The result of their confabs is “Ice Cream Social: The Struggle For the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s” (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco), due out in January. Berrett Koehler’s catalog states “this is the first book to tell the full, inside story of the inspiring rise, tragic mistakes, devastating fall, determined recovery, and ongoing renewal of one of the most iconic mission-driven companies in the world.”

It’s a business saga with a local angle. Furman lives in Ithaca and is as much a piece of the company – he wrote their first business plan – as the two chubby guys who got it going. Hence the nickname “Ampersand.” He also helped to save the company from losing its three-part mission during the acquisition by Unilever.

That mission is Social (improve the quality of life wherever Ben & Jerry’s does business), Product (make the world’s best ice cream), and Economic (turn a reasonable profit). The three parts are equally important.  It’s the inverse of the usual business mission statement.

In 13 chapters, Edmondson describes the little company-that-could as it grows, stumbles, and is almost devoured by Unilever, social mission and all. But led by Furman and an intrepid board, the B&J brand learns to co-exist with the world’s second-largest food conglomerate. The struggle continues, but it’s a reasonably happy ending

The tale reads like a gritty 1940s-style novel about how the little guys win without compromising their “souls.” Oh, but they almost do. There is high drama, tension, sadness, buffoonery, stupidity, cupidity and heroism – and enough characters to give “It’s a Wonderful Life” a run for sentimental value.

With Furman as his Virgil, Edmondson traces Ben & Jerry’s path through a post-hippie-era Inferno. The  clash of a bottom-line corporate culture with a mission-driven independent vision is hair-raising, and Furman has little to spare.  The book’s goal is to stir the hearts of “entrepreneurs who aspire to combine profit with purpose,” Edmondson says. And maybe regular folks, too. Those who scream for ice cream and social justice in one fell scoop.

Let’s not forget: Even Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan awarded Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield the “Small Business of the Year” Award in 1988, a scene Edmondson describes as “a moment of sublime weirdness.”

It was anything but easy to get the story and the book's casual style hides this. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield declined to be interviewed, so Edmondson went into the hole like a rat terrier. “The deeper I dug, the more interesting it got,” he says. He interviewed about three dozen people and reviewed “several hundred pounds of internal documents,” he says, investing a solid year on the book. (Note: Despite the Vermont pedigree, Cohen and Greenfield are old Long Island boys).

Since the early 1980s, Ben & Jerry’s pursued their bottom line while advocating and applying its philosophy of “linked prosperity.” The idea is that everyone, including the cows, benefit from their product: Employees earn good wages, farmers are well paid, the product is packaged in biodegradable paper, and the company makes a strong commitment to the community.  That commitment included programs that teach kids how to become business people, such as the Ithaca Scoop Shop that was owned by The Learning Web, a local not-for-profit (it closed about a decade ago). Profits were fine, but ideals came first.

This vision survived, barely, during the long and complicated negotiation that lead to the company’s sale.  Under the sales agreement, Unilever is the sole shareholder of Ben & Jerry’s, and it controls the company’s economic and operational decisions. But Ben & Jerry’s also has a separate Board of Directors that is not controlled by Unilever. This board elects its own members, and exists in perpetuity. It acts as a watchdog and has the legal authority to block proposals that lessen product quality or impede the social mission. As sales increase, investment in the social mission must also increase.

Today there are Ben & Jerry’s stores in 35 countries and annual sales now are now around $500 million, up from about $200 million when the company was sold. You can find Ben & Jerry’s in Belfast, Istanbul, and Mexico City; Ben & Jerry’s is planning for the day when more of its ice cream will be sold in other countries than in America.

The early chapters of “Ice Cream Social” describe the creation of Ben & Jerry’s social mission, and the mistakes and mismanagement that ultimately cost the co-founders their company. The last three chapters detail what happened after the love boat tanked.

According to the book, “the three-part mission went on a long detour after Ben & Jerry’s was sold.” An aggressive cost-cutting manager was assigned to boost profits by cutting costs.  The social mission was left gasping for air.

In 2008, the independent board started holding Unilever’s feet to the fire, forcing them to take their social mission seriously as part of the sale agreements. The board parried and thrusted with Unilever’s samurai American executives, even preparing a lawsuit and public relations campaign deriding the parent company. They almost went through with it, too.

In 2010, there was a truce, and the three-part mission was salvaged. “A talented CEO and profits from international expansion made it easy to set audacious goals,” Edmondson writes. While not perfect, the company managed to re-commit to “their struggle to change the world while also making great ice cream” at a profit.

By the end of 2013, all of the ingredients used in Ben & Jerry’s will be fairly traded and free of GMOs.  With Furman at the helm, the board is ensuring that the company’s ingredients come from sustainable agriculture, that a transparent social audit is published every year, and that “linked prosperity” isn’t a household name for a failed social compact.

“I have spent half my life connected to Ben & Jerry’s,” writes Furman in the book’s epilogue. “The talks I had with Brad were not easy for me. They brought back a lot of the old, hard emotions of the personal collective loss and failure we all went through as we lost control of the company and struggled for years afterward.”

Yes. Jeff "The Ampersand" Furman sang. And it was pure music to Edmondson's ears. This is an intelligent read that also will touch the hearts of anyone who fell in love with Ben & Jerry's ice cream – and their ethos.

– Franklin Crawford, writer, administrator, tinytowntimes.com

Note: The above article originally appeared in the Tompkins Weekly. We re-print it here much amended and thank the newspaper for allowing us to do so.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 11:24

The planet Earth is under Attack ... The Planet Earth is Under attack

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Tiny Town, USA - Reports of a massive fireball breaking into three pieces and disintegrating in the skies over the Northeast are further indications that this is one of the worst allergy seasons on record.

Bewildering observations began flooding the Gateway of Truth called Facebook about 8 or 9 tonight, an evening I had hoped would be tranquilized by drunken graduates.

But, nope. Here it is (note, "status pending"):


Huntley and Brinkley would've handled this differently and let some spokesman from the Pentagon dismiss it as a hoax and blame it on the Rushkies. We modern gatekeepers must stay on top of breaking news, especially when it appears a lot like a triple-150-rum-flamed omelette just made its way into the Jello of our vulnerable mindscapes.

Fear not. This country is flooded with potent-heroes who need a moment to prove that their arsenals of anti-aircraft artillery are in working order and that nobody can take they guns from them.

We know this: these were no pressure cookers hurled at us by some Chechnyan rebel (check spelling). It could be an effort on the part of Democrats to seize momentum into the midterm elections. Or vice versa.

With a guy named Peacock running for judge, what do you expect around here?

Any more of this nonsense until NASA tells us it was just a sprinkling from the May Queen, and I will have to actually put my pants on and do something about it.

C. Penbroke Handy, accustomed to this sort of thing


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