Why do food products like “Pancakes & Sausage Bites” exist?

Recently I started shopping at Grocery Outlet. I love popping in and finding that they have acquired a batch of goat or other interesting cheese and are offering it for less than half the price at the other grocery stores in the area. So when I saw them selling Jimmy Dean “Pancakes & Sausage Bites” for $2.99, compared to the $9.98 it purportedly sells for at typical stores, I decided to buy a box. Even at that deeply discounted price they aren’t worth it.

Start with the box which makes it look like they’re an inch in diameter. In reality they’re about half the size of a McDonalds Chicken McNugget. The box says a serving is six pieces which is 230 calories of which 100 is from fat. As usual the suggested serving size is far less than a typical person will eat (which is probably closer to ten pieces). There’s a reason you see the phrase “shown actual size” on so many packages. It’s because of deceptive shit like this.

But what about the taste? What taste? The “sausage” is so finely ground it has no texture and apparently they don’t add any seasoning. The box says “maple sausage links made with chicken and pork added”. Notice the odd phrasing. The ingredients also include oat bran and oat fibre. If there is any pork present it’s apparently in microscopic amounts. The “pancake” around the sausage is only marginally more interesting. Its main ingredients are at least what you’d expect: whole grain wheat flour and water.

And unless you microwave them, not recommended, this product doesn’t save any time. Cooking in an oven takes fifteen minutes. In that time I can cook a couple of good sausage links or patties, real pancakes, and an egg over easy. Sure, I’ll have a mixing bowl, frying pan, and spatula to wash. But at least I’ll have eaten something that was tasty enough to make that cleanup worthwhile. Unlike Jimmy Dean “pancakes and sausage bites” which are thoroughly unmemorable.

What does “dog is my copilot” mean?

Today I noticed the search phrase “what does dog is my copilot mean” was used to reach my site. Since I titled my site “Dog Is My Copilot” I’m not surprised the person searching for an answer to that question clicked through to my site. But they were probably unsatisfied since I don’t explain what the term means (even to me). So I’m going to do so in this article.

I’m an atheist. So on one level it is an obvious satirical poke at the “God is my copilot” phrase used by so many Christians. If God is your copilot I don’t want to be anywhere near you when you’re driving. God has terrible aim and judgement for any supposedly omniscient omnipotent being. Please, do not let God tell you when to make a left turn.

On a more serious note the phrase means that canines are my non-human companions. The dogs in my life give me a reason to go for a walk around my neighborhood. I can count on my dogs to accept and reciprocate affection. They help me notice things that are important. Like that squirrel which is only two meters away and is probably very tasty. Cats (felids) are okay but I’ll always be a dog person.

Independent news sources you should pay attention to

For a very long time I viewed NPR as my primary source of news and highly recommended it. Sadly I haven’t felt that way for over a year. They still refuse to use the word “torture” when discussing our actions towards suspected terrorists or merely people who might have had contact with a terrorist. The continuously osculate the rump of religion — to the point where I’m surprised when I hear them say anything critical regarding religion. Nor have I ever heard them accurately characterize right-wing sources like the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute when using them as a source. Furthermore, I find NPR’s coverage of events outside the USA to be woefully inadequate. Which is why I now listen to several other sources for news.

I highly recommend:

My first double-edge safety razor shave

A few days ago I wrote about my displeasure over the cost of razor blades for systems like the Gillette Mach 3 (which I’ve been using for a very long time). I placed my order with West Coast Shaving last Sunday evening. They emailed me Monday morning to say the items had been shipped. On Wednesday the USPS delivered a

  • Baxter of California Safety Razor
  • Baxter of California Best Badger Shave Brush
  • D.R. Harris Windsor Shaving Soap in Mahogany Stained Wood Bowl
  • Astra Superior Platinum Double Edge Razor Blades (100 Blades)

I was a bit nervous doing the first shave of my face and head. When I was done I found I had two barely perceptible nicks and the result was noticeably better than my Mach 3 produces. I hadn’t shaved for three days. My Mach 3 easily clogs under those conditions and requires careful rinsing. The new safety razor dealt easily with the heavy growth. I’m a convert.

Changing the title of this blog

I originally chose “Life Itself” because I started this blog shortly after seeing the movie about Roger Ebert’s life. That movie is a must see for anyone who still watches movies (excluding crap like “Transformers”) in a theatre. And, frankly, I was at something of a loss for a pithy title. But after some reflection I’ve decided to change the name to something that better reflects what I find important:

  • my love of dogs, and
  • my atheism.

Hence the new name “Dog Is My Copilot”.

Death of a dog

There is a wonderful and sad story in pictures about the final day of a canine companions life. That prompted me to write about one of my extra special companions: Einstein the German Shepherd.

Einstein was born sometime around 1997-07-01. I say “around” because I found him as a stray when he was approximately six months old. The pictures below are from when he was roughly five years old. In his senior years he loved to lay in the front yard or on the sidewalk in the evening and observe the neighborhood. When people and other dogs walked by he just watched them. Even two years after his death neighbors still ask me about him. He was the only dog I’ve lived with that I would trust unattended with children of any age.

Einstein and I made that final trip to the vet on 2012-03-26. As with the dog in the aforementioned story Einstein suffered from cancer (an abdominal tumor). It didn’t seem to bother him until the last two weeks of his life when he started showing a lack of enthusiasm for going on a walk. When he stopped eating I knew it was time to grant him the final kindness of a gentle death. Too bad we can’t do the same thing for the humans we love. Yet another reason to despise religious dogma.

Einstein jumping

Einstein in bed

Podcasts I think are wortwhile

So I’ve already mentioned some of the blogs I read regularly. This is a list of the podcasts I listen to that I think deserve a wider audience. The ones I’ve tagged with a ★ I think are especially worthwhile; as in you should consider not just subscribing but also listening to old episodes.



Science, Medicine, Politics


Blogs I read (and you should too)

This is not about my favorite books (although if you haven’t read Andy Weir’s “The Martian”  stop right now and get a copy). This is about the blogs I make time to read even when my time is overcommitted. These must read blogs cover politics, science, atheism and often a combination of the three. In no particular order:

  • The Politics Blog by Charles P. Pierce. His incisive, biting, observations of the American political landscape are in a class of their own. I often wonder if he’s channeling Molly Ivans.

  • The Rude Pundit by Lee Papa is even more acerbic than “The Politics Blog” by CPP.

  • Freethought Blogs is a home for many talented freethinkers and atheists. Including

  • XKCD is “A web comic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”. If you like the TV show “The Big Bang Theory” you should be reading XKCD.

  • Science-Based Medicine focuses questionable medical practices; especially, but not limited to, quackery like homeopathy.

Why “Life Itself”?

The blog title “Life Itself” is shamelessly stolen from the movie and book of the same name celebrating the life of movie critic Roger Ebert. It was coincidence that I had recently seen the movie when I decided to start this blog. Yet as a long time admirer of Mr. Ebert, especially for his support for humanistic principles, as well as a cinephile (I typically see two movies each week) it seemed fitting. I hope I exhibit half his courage and positive attitude if I ever have to deal with a major illness.

Time to begin blogging

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a few years but couldn’t find the time to setup a site. This has bothered me each time I’ve wanted to publish something potentially useful to others. For example, how to setup an application or workaround a bug or quirk of some piece of software. After one too many lost opportunities I’ve finally setup WordPress on my home server. Today begins what I hope will be at least weekly posts. The posts will typically cover something interesting I’ve learned related to computer technology, social issues (especially related to atheism and religion), or things happening in my life such as my first participation in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade (more on that later).