Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'news-chum'

A Sweet Circular News Chum, with Raisins

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 03, 2016 @ 5:22 pm PDT

round challah userpicIt’s Rosh Hashanah afternoon (L’Shana Tovah to all), and I’m exhausted from the morning. Yet I have a bunch of news chum to post. Let’s see if we can braid it into something sweet and circular, coming back by the end to where I started. This time, we’ll just give headlines and a few comments.

  • The O shaped iPod? On Rosh Hashanah, you dip Apples in Honey, so where else to start but with a circular Apple product. This article describes a new circular design for the iPod Shuffle that is quite cool, if a Shuffle has enough storage for your needs.
  • The Taxonomy of Tech Holdouts. As we’re talking about iPods, here are the nine archetypes of planned non-obsolecence, from the Anachronist to the Careful Curator. I think I’m the latter.
  • Navy scuttles sailors’ enlisted rating titles in huge career shake-up. Moving from holdouts to non-holdouts. The Navy is holding on to specialist ratings no more. Effective immediately, sailors will no longer be identified by their job title, say, Fire Controlman 1st Class Joe Sailor. Instead, that would be Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Sailor.
  • New college at Onizuka Station pays homage to the ‘Blue Cube’. Moving from the Navy to their sister service, the Air Force. Those in the Bay Area might remember the blue cube, the former Onizuka AFS. It has been converted into a local college, but still plays homage to its history. The walkways leading from the parking lot to the campus are speckled with flecks of blue paint harvested from the cube. Once inside, there is the Onizuka Cafe for hungry students and the Satellite Lounge next door for relaxation and study. Two murals that previously had been inside the cube are now hung in campus hallways. One features the Challenger shuttle with a memorial poem. The other is signed by many former employees of the Onizuka Air Force Station and coincidentally features a large owl—Foothill’s mascot—with a lightning bolt in its talons.
  • An Abandoned Hospital in West Adams Has Been Filled With Fine Art. Moving from an Abandoned Air Station to an Abandoned Hospital, although this one is still abandoned. The LA Metropolitan Hospital was one of the first black hospitals, but it close a few years ago and is pending redevelopment. However, for the next month, there is an interesting art exhibit in the abandoned hospital.
  • Texas prisons ban books by Langston Hughes and Bob Dole – but ‘Mein Kampf’ is OK. A hospital is a pubic service building, and so is a prison. So here’s an interesting prison story: prisons in Texas have banned books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth. But inmates are more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or David Duke’s “My Awakening.” The rationale: they ban offensive language or violence or sex, but not offensive ideas.
  • Palestinians’ Abbas seeks British apology for 1917 Jewish homeland declaration. Moving from Hitler to another group that doesn’t like the Jews: the Palestinians. According to the Palestinian President, Britain should apologize for its 1917 declaration endorsing the founding of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and should recognize Palestine as a state.
  • Your Samsung washing machine might be about to explode. Moving from explosive ideas to explosive washers. The problem it appears, is a defective support rod that is causing washer tubs to separate, potentially launching wires, nuts and other parts.  Boom!
  • The one step you shouldn’t skip when cooking with your cast iron pan. Moving from the Laundry Room to the kitchen, here are some tips regarding use of cast iron pans.
  • Fat Flora? Gut Bacteria Differ in Obese Kids. What do you cook in a cast iron pan? Food. And what happens if you eat too much food? You get fat. Researchers have found that obese children have a different population of microorganisms living in their intestinal tracts, compared with lean children. These microorganisms appear to accelerate the conversion of carbohydrates into fat, which then accumulates throughout the body, the researchers said.
  • Attack of the plastic eaters: Can mushrooms, bacteria and mealworms save the planet from pollution? Speaking of bacteria, it runs out they may be the solution to accumulating plastic. As it turns out, nature might offer us the solution to our man-made problems. Scientists around the world are harnessing — in test tubes, under glass domes, and within large bioreactors — the power of living things that can digest plastic without suffering harm.
  • Inside Arizona’s Pump Skimmer Scourge. Of course, if you’re in Arizona, you should keep a close eye on your plastic — not due to bacteria, but criminals that are doing a lot of skimming of gas and other credit cards.
  • Why the Hallmark Card Company Owns Thousands of Priceless Artworks. Plastic, of course, refers to a credit card, and who is one of the largest purveyors of greeting cards? Hallmark. Here’s the history of Hallmark, and why the company owns lot of priceless art.
  • UC Berkeley mascot Oski celebrates 75th birthday. Of course, you send greeting cards on an anniversary, and it just so happens that Oski, the mascot of UC Berkeley, is celebrating an anniversary — his birthday.
  • Horses can communicate with people using symbols. Oski is a bear, and another type of animal is a horse. It turns out that twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say “I want a blanket”, a blank square for “No change”, and a vertical bar for “I don’t need a blanket”. They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness.

Of course, a square is a simple polygon, and if you keep adding sides to a polygon infinitely, you end up with a circle. An a circle, of course, is the shape of the new iPod Shuffle, which permit us to spiral back to where this post began. Of course, circles and spirals are the shape of a round Challah, which we dip in honey as we wish EVERYONE a happy and healthy new year. May you all be written and inscribed for the happiest of years.

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Understanding The News

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 21, 2016 @ 11:44 am PDT

userpic=oh-shitAs I sit here eating lunch and reading the headlines on Google News, I see the following:

newsimageCharlotte police shooting victim was armed with a gun, chief says after night of violent protests
Washington Post – ‎6 minutes ago‎
CHARLOTTE – The morning after violent protests erupted over the fatal police shooting of a black man, officials here called for peace while stressing that the man was armed and posing an “imminent deadly threat” when officers shot and killed him …

I’m reading the headline, and I’m thinking, “You know, most people will read this headline, think the killing was justified based on it, and not see what the protests are about.” Similarly, they’ll read about the shooting in Tulsa of the unarmed black man, learn that PCP was found in his trunk, and go “it was justified.”

Here’s why both of these are problems, and why they are illustrative of the divide in society that is captured in #BlackLivesMatter.

In the Charlotte incident, ask yourself: If the man who was shot was Hispanic, would the behavior of the officer have been the same? If he had been a white woman? If he had been a white man in a hoodie? If he had been a white man in a suit and tie? Quite likely — as is in the case of most police departments — the reaction of the officers would have been different. Therein is the problem. Police officers (and society at large) are bringing visible and invisible prejudices into situations, and those are coloring their reactions. As a result, the reaction is no longer based solely on the crime, on innocence or guilt, on clear danger, but on perceived danger, on fear not facts, on clothing and skin color and bias. The upshot of this is that being a person of color or being of lower socioeconomic status can cost you your life in a police situation even before real guilt or innocence is determined. That is something that is no longer acceptable today.

Similarly, whether or not there was PCP in the trunk is immaterial. Officers cannot see in the trunk. If the fellow who was shot was dressed like an investment banker or a lawyer, would the reaction have been the same, or would there have been hesitation. The difference in reaction is the problem; the reaction often comes from the internalized fear of “the other”, those beneath us in society, those for whom we have stereotypical tropes in our head.

Does the reaction happen the other way as well? What about those white officers who have been shot? I opine that in the opposite case, the only color that matters is the color of the uniform, not the skin. Those whom have been downtrodden by the police are having instinctive reactions to the uniform, and fighting back. Many analogies come to me.

So when you read about #BlackLivesMatter — and the opposite side of the issue, be it called #AllLivesMatter or White Racism or something else — think about the issue of hidden bias, and police who fear and overreact based on stereotypes, skin color, and status.

Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t mean that all police officers feel this way. Many — I’d go so far as to venture out on a limb and say a majority — go out of their way to avoid bias, and want to serve and protect everyone in their community. The problem is that a few bad apples have spoiled the entire bunch, and many people are scared to interact with a bushel of apples that may have one bad one in it (and so their reaction is to stomp them all).

When you see headlines such as this, ask yourself if hidden bias could have come into play. If it could, that may explain the reaction you see. Further, if you say that in this case, there may really have been a reason for the response, remember that the reaction of the community has been tainted by years and years and years of misbehavior. Until those policing us have a history of demonstrating color-and-bias blind policing, every action is suspect.

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News Chum Stew: Sex, Lubricants, and Tenuous Connections

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 17, 2016 @ 4:07 pm PDT

userpic=tortuga-heuvosIt’s the weekend. Time to clean out the list of links that never quite jelled into a theme. Let’s see what we’ve got here:

  • Ah, So That’s What It Looks Like. As they say, start with the sex and draw them in. Driving home from a recent vacation, we were listening to the excellent new Gimlet podcast, Science Vs — and this time, it was Science Vs. “The G Spot”. You know you want to listen to it, so I’ll wait. (taps foot) One of the things discussed in the episode is that, unlike the male organ which is (ahem) out in front, the bulk for the female equivalent is hidden, and we only see the tip. Well wonder no more: Here’s a three-dimensional model of the clitoris. (yes, it is SFW) It shows the organ is much more you see, and it explains why this notion of special spots is bunk — there’s all over sensitivity.
  • Lubricants. As we’re talking sex, we should be talking lubricants. Here’s an interesting article that explores the four basic types of lubricants, and what each is good for: oil, grease, penetrating lubricants, and dry lubricants. Hint: Don’t use penetrating lubricants with your partner, no matter what the name implies. On that part of the body, WD-40 is not your friend.
  • Unwrapping Your Present. What do you think the most popular Christmas or Chanukkah present is? I don’t know for sure, but the most popular birthday is September 16. Now, count back 9 months.
  • Knitting and Math. Perhaps you’re not into either sex or lubricants. You would rather knit. Cool. Here are six math concepts explained via knitting and crocheting. You too can knit a hyperbolic plane, a Lorenz manifold, cyclic groups, or a numerical progression.
  • When to get a Flu Shot. Perhaps all this talk of sex and knitting is making you sick. Could be the flu? Did you get your flu shot? They are out now. Here’s the best time to get one. Timing is everything. Some research shows that vaccines grow less effective over the course of one flu season. With the flu sometimes sticking around until spring, it’s then possible that those who get their shots early in the year will be left vulnerable at the end of a late season.
  • Ship Names. Continuing this tenuous theme, we all know what a submarine signifies. Now, what do Harvey Milk, Gabby Giffords, Sojourner Truth, Medgar Evers, Cesar Chavez, and John Lewis have in common. They are all names assigned to Navy ships of late. The choice of names, predictibly, has gotten some small-minded members of congress up in arms. I happen to like them.
  • No Dues. Another tenous link: what’s almost as risky as unprotected sex. How about deciding to go away from a tried and true funding model — such as synagogue dues — and asking people to pay what they want for the community. Yes, this happens; in fact,  a synagogue in Westlake Village has taken the leap to a no-dues model. Will it be successful. I hope so — I think it is the model of the future.
  • Hot Under the Collar. All this talk of sex has probably gotten you hot. You’re not the only one. The earth is heating up as well. Here’s a timeline of how the earth has been heating up.


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Los Angeles: Going, Going, Gone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 17, 2016 @ 8:07 am PDT

userpic=van-nuysThis collection of news chum has coalesced around the theme of Los Angeles — in particular, some well-known (or somewhat well-known) Los Angeles landmarks that are either gone or seemingly threatened… or coming back in different incarnations.


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Some Tasty Afternoon Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 10, 2016 @ 4:20 pm PDT

Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…



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Vote Early, Vote Often – Election News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 09, 2016 @ 11:48 am PDT

userpic=voteIn this collection of news chum, I’m clearing out some accumulated articles regarding the upcoming election. I’ll note upfront that some of these items relate to elections other than the Presidential one — yes, there will be other things on the ballot:

  • Changing Voting Systems. I’ve always liked LA County’s voting system: You mark a paper ballot with an ink-stamp, which is then optically read for counting (and checked, when you deposit it, for over/under voting). But LA County wants to change the system. An article from back in June notes how LA County envisions the future: instead of being directed to designated polling stations on a single Tuesday, voters will be able to choose from hundreds of voting centers around the county during a 10-day window leading up to election day. Further, instead of marking their selections with pen and paper, they will enter their selections on touch-screen ballot-marking devices, print out a paper ballot to review their selections, and feed the ballot back into the machine to be stored and counted. They have developed prototypes of the new machines. Further, LA officials believe that with voters no longer confined to a single polling place, many of the issues with voter rosters that led to provisional ballots will not occur.  Voters wanting to cast a cross-over ballot could have selected the correct ballot through the system’s user interface. This approach dovetails quite nicely with a measure reported on in August. The measure, SB450, which has been sent to the Governor for signature, would give local officials the power to close thousands of neighborhood polling places. In their place, counties would open temporary elections offices known as “vote centers” sprinkled throughout communities, locations offering a wide variety of elections services including early voting and same-day voter registration as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths. SB 450 would offer each of California’s 58 counties the chance to embrace an alternative to traditional elections. In most of those counties, every registered voter would receive a ballot in the mail and polling places would be scrapped. Voters would be able to turn in ballots either at secure drop boxes placed around the county or at the new “vote center” locations. Some of those vote centers would be open at least 10 days before election day, and would allow last-minute registration, a check of existing registration status and the ability to cast a vote in person even if the voter lives in a different city inside county lines.  Unlike traditional polling places, the vote centers are envisioned as staffed by paid workers with more than the few hours of training normally given to temporary poll workers. My thoughts on the matter: I can see what they are trying to do and the advantages, but there is also something to be said for local voting and knowing the people in the neighborhood.
  • A Gigantic Ballot. The hot air in California in election season will not come from the Presidential candidates (who just visit California for our money), but our propositions.  California’s November ballot is going to be very long. In additional to the Presidential campaign, a Senate race (between two Democrats), House, State Senate, and Assembly races, 17 measures have earned a spot on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot, a bumper crop of voter choices ranging from marijuana legalization to repeal of the death penalty and even new workplace rules for actors in adult movies. Four of the propositions earned a spot on the fall ballot with only hours to spare on Thursday, including two tax proposals and a sweeping prison proposal championed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Six of the 17 propositions seek to amend the state constitution. They include Brown’s effort to revamp the rules on parole from state prison, and a requirement that neither house of the Legislature pass any bill that hasn’t been available for public review for at least three days. Nine measures will ask voters to enact new state laws, with proposals on everything from new background checks for buying ammunition to a $9-billion bond for school construction and modernization projects. Voters will consider, too, the merits of an effort to impose a cap on prescription drug prices paid by state healthcare officials that will be fought with an expensive opposition campaign by the pharmaceutical industry. The ballot also includes a referendum —  voters will choose to accept or reject a law that bans single-use plastic bags statewide. They have just started printing the ballot guide for all those propositions. It is going to be 224 pages, and cost $15 million to print. It describes some of the most complex laws ever proposed, initiatives with details so granular that they could easily confound all but the most expert legal minds. Leading the pack is Proposition 64, the much-talked-about effort to fully legalize marijuana use for California adults. The broad question may be straightforward, but the initiative is not. Even the guide’s overview analysis of Prop 64 is 10 pages long. The actual proposed state law to make pot legal takes another 33 pages of the document, more than 17,000 words in all. My thoughts on the matter: I’m going to have to wade through all of this to come up with my ballot recommendation. How many other people are going to bother?
  • An Expert Negotiator. Donald Trump has emphasized his business skill at negotiating. It appears that skill may create a war — yes, expect a real war — with Mexico when they attempt to take back California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. You see, when the Donald was in Mexico recently, he intimated that he might suspend NAFTA, the free-trade treaty. Mexico’s response? A Mexican senator has filed a bill in their legislature that makes “full use of the foreign policy mandate given to the Mexican Senate by the Constitution,” and if Trump did break NAFTA and start a trade war, it would by law cause our neighbors to reconsider every treaty signed between our two nations. Every treaty. Think about that. Now research the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and gave the U.S. ownership of California and land that would eventually become New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. If that treaty is reconsidered, Mexico could claim ownership of those lands. This is the impact of diplomacy by someone who isn’t a diplomat, or educated on the nuances of the impact of what they say or do.
  • Candidates and Teflon, Bullies and Good Kids. Have you ever wondered why anything outrageous is reported about Clinton and becomes a major scandal, whereas all of the outrageous things about Trump get seemingly swept under the rug. It turns out, there is a reason. The media has been trained to not trust Clinton, and to call to investigate her at the drop of a hat. Why? The reporter’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” — a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints. After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there’s no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest. Of course, never mind that all these scandals are not true, and have been proven to be not true. As for Trump, no one cares about his well-known acts of naked corruption. Why? It comes down to this: The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Clinton bleeds when they hit her. Writing about Trump’s corruption long ago hit the law of diminishing returns, because everyone knows he’s corrupt and his supporters like it. It is news to no-one. Clinton, however, is clean—but her supporters waver at the thought of dirt. In other words: The media beats up on Clinton for the same reason bullies beat up on kids: because they get joy when the kid reacts to their torture. Clinton reacts to the charges (I know, just like a girl 🙂 ). Trump bullies back and ignores the charages. The net result: Yet again, we give our attention to the bully, and not the good kid. Of course, in the end, it is meaningless, because facts don’t matter to Trump supporters. Again, this is like the real world, where the parents always stand by their child who is bullying (sometimes even after they drive someone — or a country — to suicide).
  • The Ultimate Question: Who Is Qualified?. Vox had some interesting analysis of why Trump will never be elected. It isn’t the stupid things he says or does; it isn’t his embrace of Putin; it isn’t his disclosing what happens at intelligence briefings. It will ultimately be because voters don’t believe him to be qualified. Here are the telling paragraphs:

    The problem Trump faces is more fundamental than mere candidate preference. He currently fails to clear the most basic bar of the presidency. A majority of voters simply don’t think he’s qualified to serve as president. And it’s not just qualifications — they don’t think he has the personality or temperament to serve as president (67 to 31 percent), they don’t think he has a solid understanding of world affairs (64 to 33 percent), and they don’t think he’s honest and trustworthy (62 to 34 percent).

    This is how Trump’s candidacy differs from Clinton’s. Observers often note that Clinton, like Trump, is viewed unfavorably by most Americans, and that’s true (though the 50 percent unfavorable rating Clinton posts in this poll is quite a bit better than Trump’s 63 percent unfavorable rating). But while many Americans don’t like Clinton, they do believe in her ability to do the job. Majorities think her qualified to serve as president (60 to 38 percent), that she has the personality and temperament to serve as president (61 to 38 percent), and say she has a solid knowledge of world affairs (72 to 25 percent).

    So this, then, is the election as it stands today: Most Americans don’t like Donald Trump and they don’t think he’s qualified, temperamentally fit, or sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president. Most Americans don’t like Hillary Clinton, but they do believe she’s qualified, temperamentally fit, and sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president.

    As PJ O’Rourke put it, when he endorsed Clinton: “I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises. It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

    Or, as the Dallas Morning News put it in their endorsement of Clinton: “There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. […] We’ve been critical of Clinton’s handling of certain issues in the past. But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy. [… Clinton’s shortcomings …] Those are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups. We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s. […] After nearly four decades in the public spotlight, 25 of them on the national stage, Clinton is a known quantity. For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.

November is going to be interesting folks, and it is rapidly approaching. Stay educated, stay informed, and learn the truth about your candidates. Don’t just live in the bubble chamber, but explore all sides, and recognize their bias. Remember that it is vital that you vote, and that you vote for the right person, not the bum. Now, I shall finish my lunch…..

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Gluten-Free: Growing Faster than Bread Rises. But is it (insert word)?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 07, 2016 @ 11:50 am PDT

userpic=gluten-freeThis week, a large number of articles related to food and gluten-free diets have come across my RSS and news feeds. These articles are of interest because my wife is celiac and gluten-free, and we know a number of friends and relatives that need to be gluten-free for similar reasons. We’ve often discussed the growing “gluten-free fad” (which has now become the butt of comics), and whether it is good for Celiacs — on the one hand, there may be more places where it is safe to eat; but on the other hand, if they view it as a fad and not a medical necessity, they may not be as clean in their handling and true Celiacs will get poisoned.

Let’s start with the grown of gluten-free. An article came out this week on Vox looking at the growth of the number of Americans who say they are gluten-free vs. the number that are actually Celiac. The article noted:

The number of Americans who say they are gluten-free has more than tripled from 2009 to 2014.

But the number of Americans who have celiac disease, or the inability to digest gluten, has stayed pretty much same.

This means more people are simply choosing not to eat gluten, even when there is no good scientific evidence to support cutting grains from their diets.

New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the percentage of Americans practicing a gluten-free diet rose from 0.52 percent in 2009 to 1.69 percent in 2014. But the percentage of Americans with celiac disease actually declined slightly from 0.70 percent in 2009 to 0.58 percent in 2014 (although the study said this decline wasn’t statistically significant).

USA Today had a similar report, derived from the same research:

About 2.7 million Americans avoid gluten in their diet, but 1.76 million have celiac disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys showed from 2009 to 2014, participants who reported having celiac didn’t exceed 0.77%. During the same period, participants who didn’t have the disease, but avoided gluten more than tripled.

A study released in July, said those without celiac who experience abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue after eating wheat and related products could have a weakened intestinal barrier, another reason they might go gluten-free.

Why could this be? Why are people who don’t have Celiac seemingly feeling better off gluten? Here are two more articles that might bring the pieces together. First, there is a report that birth by Ceasarian section appears to increase obesity risks, seemingly because such newborns are not exposed to bacteria in the vaginal tract. Next, there is a report that a common bacteria is showing promise for treating Celiac disease. Now, add into that mix the info in my previous post about soap — namely, that the FDA is requiring manufactures to pull common anti-bacterial agents out of soap — and you might have the answer.

Our Microbiome, and more specifically, how we are screwing it up.

Consider this: There has already been research showing how the intestinal microbiome can influence our mood and our tendancy to obesity (or our ability to lose weight). We’ve also seen the growing use of antibiotics everywhere — not just as prescribed medicine, but in soaps and animal feed. We’ve seen more and more people trying to correct things with pro-biotics. I think it is conceivable that we’ve mucked up our guts, and created — through damage of the microbiome — guts that do better on a no gluten or low gluten diet.  This would explain why more and more Americans are going gluten-free and feeling better while doing so, while those diagnosed with an actual disease haven’t increased.

How is society reacting to the increased desire for gluten free? Not always in the right way — no big surprise there.

As I said: a collection of GF related articles. Something to certainly chew on (unless you’re sensitive to the subject).

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The Simple Things: Soap. Ice. Orange Juice.

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 05, 2016 @ 7:10 am PDT

userpic=foxy🎶 Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. 🎶

Sorry. Just trying to sing about 8 bars.

Shall I go out on that joke? No, I’ll do a blog post first. That’ll help. But not much.

Seriously (and with apologies to the Smothers Brothers and Stan Freberg, whose material I just stole), I’d like to share some articles and commentary on some simple things in the news: Soap, Ice, and Orange Juice.

  • Bar Soap. You probably don’t think much about soap. I guarantee you use it every day, but have you pondered about the form it comes in, or what is in it? Probably not, but others do. For example, have you ever wondered which is healthier to use: bar soap or liquid soap? Bar soap is more convenient, but sales are going down, and the soap leaves that wet surface. Bar soap does indeed tend to let bacteria idle on its surface, but that’s not necessarily going to be a problem. In 1988, the Dial corporation subsidized a study [PDF] in which they purposely drowned bar soap in illness-generating ick like E. coli at levels 70 times higher than what would be found with typical household use. After washing with the infected bars, a test group of 16 hand-washers had no detectable levels of the germs on their hands. No one has gotten sick from bar soap, and commercial bar soap is required to have antimicrobal ingredients (even if not explicitly antibacterial).  I’ll also note that most artisan soaps (think Lush and such) are bars, not liquids.
  • Antibacterial Soaps. Most of the soap we use on our hands these days is antibacterial soap (think Dial). Many have railed against this, arguing that use of such soaps creates more resistant bacteria (and here’s an interesting digressive thought that went through my head: do anti-vaxxers use antibacterial soap, which can also harm children? If so, why do they like viruses over microbes?). However, that’s going to change. Within a year, antibacterial soaps as you know them are disappearing from the market. The US Food and Drug Administration just released a new, exhaustive report and ruling that there’s actually no good evidence they perform any better than plain old soap and water when it comes to preventing illness or the spread of bacteria and viruses. Further, the agency is banning companies from using 19 common “antibacterial” chemicals — such as triclosan and triclocarban — in products going forward. (You can see the full list of ingredients here.) Manufacturers have a year to reformulate products or remove ones with these chemicals from the market.
  • Ice. You (at least for most of my readership) probably think little of ice. You use it every day: In iced tea, in iced coffee, in your soda, in your drinks, in your cooler. You exist in air conditioned comfort, in your car, in your room. You want things cold, not lukewarm.  An interesting article opines that the desire for ice is uniquely American. Only in America are you served cold water with ice, do you find iced drinks everywhere, find ice buckets in your hotel room and machines with free ice down the hall. In Europe and other countries, ice is less ubiquitous. Things are served at room temperature — tap water, etc. It’s something I just never thought about it — but I’m American. [And here’s another digressive question: Is the desire for ice not only an American thing, but a white privilege thing? Do cultures of people of color have the same desire for ice, or is the desire for “ice cold stuff” a manifestation of privilege?]
  • Orange Juice. If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s (and weren’t stoned at the time), you likely remember Anita Bryant selling Florida Orange Juice. You probably haven’t thought a lot about orange juice since then, and you’re not alone. Sales of orange juice is dropping — and sales of frozen orange juice concentrate from Florida (think those cylinders of Minute Maid in the freezer section) are dropping significantly. They are dropping so much so that the frozen concentrated orange juice market has seemingly disappeared. Certainly the futures contracts are worthless; people have moved over to futures in those other breakfast staples: pork bellies (bacon) and coffee. Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast. The number of futures contracts held by traders has dropped by more than two-thirds from a 1997 high of 48,921, to 15,410 contracts last week. There were 71 players in the futures market as of last week, compared with 168 in 2004. As for Florida, it is already on track for the smallest harvest in 52 years. So what do you have with breakfast?


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