Lament for Pets Etc.

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As I mentioned yesterday, independent pet supply stores are getting really hard to find. PetSmart and Petco are never far away, though, and as we’ve seen with independent book stores, small coffee shops, and mom-and-pop hardware stores, it’s hard for the independently-owned store to survive with a superstore nearby.

It’s gotten almost passe to complain about the Wal-Martization of America or the increased building of McMansions. But just because everyone whines about it, doesn’t mean that it’s any closer to going away. This became quite clear recently when local pet shop Pets Etc. closed down. That’s where we bought our betta fish Moe (RIP) last year and where we went often to stock up on supplies for him. They’d been around since 1989 and were considered to be progressive with regards to animal welfare. Unfortunately, last month, they closed.

The owners of the Plaza Center in Leesburg (according to the sign, Federal Realty Investment Trust, perhaps the most generically named company ever) reportedly would not renew Pets Etc.’s lease this year because of the giantbigandnew PetSmart being built next door, where a K-Mart used to stand. I can tell you: this town needs another pet superstore like we need another grocery store: we’ve already got a Petco a mile away from where the Petsmart is being built (and there are five supermarkets in a two mile radius from my house).

Needless to say, I won’t be spending my money at the PetSmart, and I’ve written to FRIT to let them know this. Will it make a difference? Probably not. But I think that the former proprietors of Pets Etc. would appreciate it.

PETA and Petco reach a deal

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You’ve probably seen a lot of anti-Petco material courtesy of PETA, who was pushing Petco to make some signficant changes in how they do business. Thankfully, the two have reached an agreement and the winners are the animals. (In case you wonder about the good, positive work that PETA does that doesn’t usually get recognition in the press, this is a great example.)

The major change is that Petco will no longer sell large birds, a smart move because people buying their large birds from Petco probably don’t really know what they’re getting themselves into. Besides, should large birds really be family pets?

Smaller, but still significant, changes include separating rats and mice by gender, to avoid breeding.

My wife and I are looking to adopt a dog in the coming months and because of that, I’ve been thinking more and more about companion animals and how we look at them. A lot of my views have changed… for instance, several years ago I would have thought it was just fine to buy a purebred dog from a breeder. Today, though, I look at all the animals that wind up in shelters or rescues and can’t think of any reason that I’d go to a breeder (or, *shudder*, a mall pet store) when looking to adopt. I think there are just too many great animals that need homes for breeders or puppy mills to be adding to the pet population.

Something else I’ve noticed: small, independent pet stores are getting as hard to find as independent book stores. There just aren’t many around and I fear that I won’t have any choice but to visit the local Petco when we adopt our dog. But, that’s another post I’ve been saving up…

Observation: it ain’t all that hard.

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When I first started doing the vegan thing late last year, it was kind of tough for me to walk into the kitchen at work on Friday morning and not participate in “Donut Day” since most (actually, I think it’s all) donuts from Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme aren’t vegan. As time went on, it got easier, where I felt less and less of an urge to grab a ring of unhealthiness. Now, I feel no urge whatsoever, especially when I think back to how it always felt like I had a rock in my stomach after eating a donut. I’m not an all-out health freak (have you seen how many cookies I eat?), but I have found that I rarely feel like crap after eating a vegan meal, no matter how heavy it is.

I used to think, “being vegetarian is easy and being vegan is hard.” Turns out the former is true, but the latter is false. Being vegan ain’t hard… it just takes a little getting used to. The most common thing I hear is, “I could never be vegan.” I think those people don’t give themselves enough credit.

Review of Chocosoy

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Chocosoy Sure “milk chocolate” is generally snubbed by those uppity chocolate aficionados, but most of us occasionally get a hankering for the taste we grew up with in unhealthy candy bars. Unfortunately, for those of us that don’t consume dairy, there aren’t many options. You’ll never find a Snickers or Hershey’s bar without milk and as much as it pains me, they don’t yet make a non-dairy Krackel bar. But if you’re looking for a straightforward, simple alternative, Chocosoy is worth checking out. Essentially, it’s milk chocolate but the milk is… wait for it… wait… wait… soy milk! Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Chocosoy has a nice flavor. At first taste it’s a bit dry, but once you let it melt in your mouth a bit, the creaminess comes through and has a nice sweetness to it. It’s texture is pleasant and there’s no lingering aftertaste, which you might expect with soy. My chocolate dope dealer Viren said that “the soy flavor was very evident throughout the whole experience,” which I didn’t notice. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to soy in different forms, that I don’t even notice the “beaniness” that I used to in certain products. Whatever the case, there is a slightly unique taste element in the Chocosoy, but I enjoyed the difference.

My wife tried it and really enjoyed it, right from the first bite. Interestingly, she said it was almost “too chocolatey,” which is exactly the opposite of what Viren said. It’s strange how you can get two very different opinions about the same product.

Chocosoy only comes in one variety right now, a solid chocolate ball (or a solid chocolate Reese’s cup-looking shape), but I suspect more products are on the way. I look forward to seeing what else they come up with. Perhaps they’ll offer the world’s first malted soy milk ball.

What’s interesting is that much of their site dedicates time to talking about the sustainable paper used for the packaging, and very little about the source of the chocolate. Word is that it is produced in Brazil under fair trade guidelines but has not yet been officially certified as such. Meanwhile, the sugar used for sweetening is organic and non-refined.

Back briefly to the packaging: each set of five pieces comes in a cute little paper box fastened with a tie from the Brazillian buriti palm tree. The buriti palm “is an elegant tree whose trunk can reach up to 35 meters (110 feet) in height! The buriti grows in areas where water is abundant, and its natural habitat is along the water margins and marshes, where the soil is soft.” A nice touch.

I’m glad to see a product like Chocosoy on the market. They’re tasty and the perfect size for simple snacking while not terribly heavy (50 calories per). I’ve worked my way through a number of packages already and passed a few onto friends and family to solicit their opinions.

An 8-pack (40 pieces total) costs $20 and a 16-pack (80 pieces total) costs $38, both with free shipping. You can order and find out more at Chocosoy.com.

Man Frees Fish

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I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing: Dude buys giant fish in a Chinese grocery store and sets it free in the Hudson River.

Yes, I could say something about how the fish has probably grown a third leg because it’s in the Hudson River, but in all seriousness, I wonder what happened to the fish. In the comments of that blog entry, people were quick to call this guy an idiot screaming that he probably ruined the entire ecosystem and man-eating fish will now probably come and eat all of New York. Somehow, I doubt it’s that dire, but one obvious question: was this fish a freshwater or saltwater fish? According to this and this, it looks like the Buffalo Fish, a carp-like fish in the sucker family, is a freshwater fish. According to this article, the Hudson River contains only fresh water north of the George Washington Bridge.” So, it looks like it’s both.

Anyone more knowledgeable about fish that could analyze this a little more closely?