retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The BBC reports that new studies suggest that milk produced by cows within 48 hours of having given birth could help athletes improve their performance, and also could help them avoid heat stroke and what is called “gut leakiness,” which is a kind of gastrointestinal distress sometimes induced by running.

The reason? Milk produced by cows immediately after birth - also known as bovine colostrum - apparently is rich in “bioactive components” that are performance-enhancing.

Now, I know this sounds like yet another April Fool’s story, but this is an actual BBC story. But all I can think if the poor cow ... she’s just given birth, she’s dealing with a new calf, and she’s got some guy pulling on her udders saying, “Come on girl, we’ve got the Olympics in two years...”

I love this story.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Kroger is investing $3.8 million in local schools and education programs there, saying that the three-year “K-12 Education” strategy will work through 10 different organizations. The Star notes that the new commitment follows a similar, two-year, $2.1 million commitment to local education programs.

One of the program’s central components is “a plan to collect book donations at every store and to redistribute them to children across the city,” the story says, with other efforts designed to help mentor children, teach them to read, bolster what is available in area libraries, and invest in teacher development.

In addition, there is some $30,000 earmarked to teach kids about classical music and opera.

I think that’s great. It is critically important for companies to be invested in their local communities, and I think it is especially noteworthy that some of the money is being devoted to arts education. That component of a child’s education often is lost when communities face budget cuts (certainly before school boards decide to trim football or basketball programs), and Kroger is to be applauded for supporting this educational area.

I know I’ve gone on the record about my burning desire to leave Connecticut and move to the Pacific Northwest. (So much so that Mrs. Content Guy’s almost reflexive response is to roll her eyes...)

But as long as I’m living where I am living, it is good to see that the food choices are growing.

For example, Mario Batali has announced that he will open a new Tarry Lodge restaurant in the Saugatuck section of Westport, and Danny Meyer plans to open a new Shake Shack, also in Westport.

This is wonderful news. Shake Shack makes one of the best burgers in the country, and I can never get enough of Batali’s black squid ink pasta.

Speaking of pasta, check this out...a video about the great 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest:

Click here.

Finally, on a somewhat more serious note...

This week was both interesting and instructive for me, filled with emails reacting to a few comments I made about religion and hypocrisy on Monday. I certainly wasn’t equating the two, but was rather making a comment praising people who live out their beliefs through action. But I think, on reflection, that the comments were phrased inelegantly, as a result were misconstrued, and were tied to a suspect study on obesity.

The whole thing was not exactly me at my best.

The thing is, in a lot of ways, the voluminous reaction - both positive and negative - was, I think, MNB at its best. I love that so many of you are willing to tell me what you think and feel, are happy to express your thoughts eloquently and sometimes at great length, and are confident that the people who disagree with me are going to get their views aired here.

And I think that most of you - though certainly not all, as some of the emails made clear - sort of like the notion that MNB is occasionally going to go off in all sort of strange directions, take some offbeat tangents, and even risk going off the rails from time to time. I think that’s what makes us all different ... we’re not locked into a plain vanilla, lowest-common-denominator form of discourse.

Having spent a fair amount of time thinking about this during the week, I think that what this kind of discourse does is awaken the latent college student in me. More than three decades ago, I took a course at Loyola Marymount University called “Belief & Unbelief,” and I remain fascinated by levels of belief and how they are expressed and deeply felt.

For example, I’ve noticed in a number of places recently people carrying signs proclaiming May 21, 2011 to be the date of the Second Coming, the date on which, the Bible Guarantees, jesus Christ will be returning to Earth. (An 88-year-old civil engineer named Harold Camping, CNN reports, has done the calculations based on his reading of the Bible, and his prediction has caught on.)

I’m fascinated by this. While I have my doubts about this date, I’m willing to concede that I could have an entirely different feeling on May 22. But I also wonder how these people are going to feel - and believe on May 22 if nothing happens. (If I’m a newspaper editor, I’m putting a call into Camping, looking for a comment, on May 22 at 12:01 am.) What will they do? What will they think? What will they believe?

And this intrigues me because I’m not big on intractable belief systems. That’s not to say I don;t believe in certain things strongly, but I try to remind myself with some level of regularity that I could be wrong - about religion, about politics, about economic theory, real estate values, etc...

Few things are absolute, in my view. The goodness of my wife’s heart. The essential steadfastness of my children’s love. (The inevitability and intensity of the coming war between Amazon and Walmart?) And while MNB isn’t designed to be an online philosophy forum, I enjoy the idea that from time to time we get into these discussions and test and challenge each other. It makes life more interesting. It makes me think.

I hope you feel the same way.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.


KC's View: