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Flash: Jack's jumpin'

BY SOME TWIST of fate, I have ended up with a copy of Jack in the Box Inc.'s annual report. It is truly a document of contemporary America – on the one hand a leaden mass of crunched numbers, on the other a glib and boastful spiel about "five consecutive years of record earnings before taxes" and the "relish" with which the company plans to move on "untapped virgin markets, including 34 states with landscapes barren of Jack in the Box restaurants."

Well, I know we'll all sleep better at night knowing that this "leading American brand" is seriously going about the business of spreading like kudzu from coast to coast. But don't get any funny ideas about stock dividends, please. Prospective buyers of Jack's stock should take notice of the fact that, despite the company's apparently spectacular growth, Jack's "has not paid any cash or other dividends during its last three fiscal years and does not anticipate paying dividends in the foreseeable future." Take that, small investor. And have some more curly fries.

Words we hate, continued: If I were language czar, my first order of business would be to ban the use, by journalists and press-release writers alike, of certain words and phrases that are grotesque, bear no relation to the language actual people actually use, and cater to professional laziness. Near the top of the list I would put "brainchild," as in "Margarita's is the brainchild of owner Max Soto." If you have any appetite left at all after being upended by that unusually ugly word, you might be interested to know that Margarita's is a Mexican restaurant in Danville's "upscale" Blackhawk neighborhood. Caution: brainchildren at play.

Bass ails: Earlier this month more than 60 Bay Area restaurants, including such big names as Chez Panisse, Farallon, Boulevard, the French Laundry, and Jardinière, agreed to remove Chilean sea bass from their menus until the species' population recovers from overfishing. The hope is that if demand can be quelled in the United States, the illegal taking of the fish will become unprofitable. Nearly 80 percent of Chilean sea bass sold on world markets has been illegally fished, according to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Since we must deny ourselves that treat for the time being, it's good to know that another bundle of goodies, Niman Ranch meats, is now available through Planet Organics. Webvan had been, until its collapse last year, the principal distributor of Niman Ranch products in the Bay Area; now Planet Organics (www.planetorganics.com) seems slowly but steadily to be filling the gaps Webvan left behind.

Paul Reidinger paulr@sfbg.com