Saturday Tweets: Our Insect Friends, Miso Soup and What Your Library Should Look Like

Pet Peeve: Texting at the Gym


The older I get the more time I seem to have to spend at the gym fixing dumb sports injuries. With that age also comes a crankiness about rude smartphone habits. Lately I’ve found my exercise routine lengthened by having to wait for people just sitting on equipment and texting. I know that this is a “first world problem” and I’ll acknowledge that I’ve probably been guilty of searching for just the right podcast episode between sets. But the gym should be for exercise not sending out texts.

Smartphone use on the gym floor has become an epidemic at my local YMCA. Once the New Years resolution crowd thins out in a month or so it won’t be so bad, but right now you have to wait a long time for some benches and machines due to texting millennials. The solution is simple. If you’ve just got to send that text, please step off the equipment momentarily! And maybe, just maybe, all that texting is distracting you from what you’re supposed to be doing at the gym?

I like my new smartphone and find it useful. But perhaps we all need to agree that in certain spaces and settings we all need to go into airplane mode. My short list of those settings includes sacred spaces, gyms, classrooms, lectures and at meals. And let’s not even get into driving–that should be obvious.

So how do we come to a consensus on phone etiquette? Since blocking or jamming cellphones is pretty much off the table, the only solution may be to “gamify” good behavior. Imagine an app that rewards you for not checking your phone while you’re at the gym. At the end of the month you get a small discount or prize. But that might not be enough. Here’s how the Russian military “gamifies” smartphone etiquette:


Image via BoingBoing.

Check your phone while on duty and you have to lug around a giant wooden phone.

Convention Report: Natural Products Expo West 2016


Every spring I provide a service to you, our dear readers. With my friend Dale, I go to the massive Natural Products Expo West and sample hundreds of new “healthy” snacks so you don’t have to. When the day draws to a close I, inevitably, regret downing all those bizarre gluten-free power bars, matcha-soy lattes, puffed tortilla chips and stevia sodas. Each year I come to the same general conclusion: it’s all just a load of highly processed stuff loaded with sugar. The products in a “health” food store can be just as unhealthy as the aisle of a conventional supermarket.


The so called “natural” food business is cut-throat. At the convention thousands of vendors are competing for extremely limited shelf space while operating on razor-thin margins. Trends come and go just as rapidly as hemlines rise and fall in the fashion world. So what products will you find in your local Whole Foods in the coming year? Here’s what I observed:

  • We’ve passed peak kale. In fact I’d say there’s a full-on kale backlash. The smart folks have moved on to moringa and seaweed.
  • We may also have passed peak kombucha. Matcha is the new kombucha.
  • Gluten is still in jail but is eligible for parole. I think America’s current favorite food villain is going to switch soon to . . .
  • Sugar. Sugar is the new gluten. Since sugar is such a phenomenal preservative it will be interesting to see how these manufacturers can come up with shelf stable sugar free products. Those products, I predict, will be just as unhealthy as the many gluten free snacks out there.
  • The ascendancy of Korean food. There was an entire aisle devoted to Korean products, something I was very pleased to see.

A final note. Let me say how much I appreciate companies that staff their convention booths with knowledgeable employees (such as King Arthur Flour and Gustos Specialty Foods). Lesser companies hire attractive people who don’t know anything about the products they are representing.

078 Mark Lakeman on City Repair


Is your neighborhood not all it could be? Do people drive too fast? Does it feel lonely and anonymous? Is there no safe place for your kids to play? Mark Lakeman has some ideas for how all of us can transform the communities we live in. Hint: it starts with a potluck! Mark is the co-founder of the non-profit placemaking organization The City Repair Project, and principal of the community architecture and planning firm Communitecture. He is also an urban place-maker, permaculture designer and community design facilitator.

And if you’re on the West Coast of the US, you have a chance to participate in a series of workshops this month. For more information visit To find out about events in Los Angeles visit

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.