World Charity

on Saturday, April 30, 2011

The USA gives the most money to charity, but Holland and Sweden give the most time and money.

What's in Ballpoint Pen Ink?


We were speculating about the content of pen ink tonight at dinner. It was surprisingly difficult to find this information and I finally found it in a patent application. Anyway, ball-point pen ink contains:


wetting agent (surfactant like sodium laureth sulfate in shampoo, binds water and oil, lowers surface tension of water)

coloring agent (likely synthetic indigo, derived from coal tar, developed 1897 and destroyed India's slave based indigo farming)

xanthan gum (sticky glue like fermented sugar)

organic solvent (turpentine, acetone)

Blue Eyes Map

on Friday, April 29, 2011

If you ever wondered “where are people in Europe with blue eyes most concentrated?” this map is for you.

Between 1900 and 1950, only about 10% of Americans were nonwhite. Today 33% are nonwhite, and the United States is about 15% blue-eyed.

In the '70s and '80s the fashion models who exemplified the All-American look were typically Scandinavian. The look advertisers want today favors honey-colored skin, brown hair, and green or brown eyes. The most successful models are coming from Brazil.

But even as blue eyes give way to brown, lighter eyes will maintain a certain allure. When people see something pleasurable, their eyes dilate, which is considered attractive. Since dilated pupils are easier to see on lighter eyes, they have a natural appeal.

Top 1% pay 40% of Total Taxes

on Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interesting to note that one could completely eliminate income taxes for the bottom half of the population, and the gov't would hardly notice. They pay only 3%.

Top 1% ---- $388,806 ---- 39.89 %
Top 5% ---- $153,542 ---- 60.14
Top 10% ---- $108,904 ---- 70.79

Top 50% ---- $31,987 ---- 97.01
Bottom 50% ---- 2.99

In 2005 the bottom 40% of Americans by income had an effective negative tax rate: their households received more money through the income tax system than they paid.

Inflation Adjusted Home Prices by State




on Wednesday, April 27, 2011

tipple 1  (ˈtɪp ə l) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
— vb make a habit of taking an alcoholic drink, especially in small quantities.

How Corrupt is Your Mind?

on Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Young children cannot identify the intimate couple in this image because they do not have prior memory associated with such a scenario. They will see nine dolphins in the picture. It took me about 30 seconds to find the dolphins. I must be horrifically corrupted.

The Island

on Monday, April 25, 2011

In response to Steven Landsburg's article, Here is a simple island situation that will make this problem clear. Imagine everyone fishes to eat each day, and that Mr. Kendrick invents a net and a boat and begins accumulating fish in his hut. He saves a lot of fish; everyone else saves a few fish each year. (They salt and smoke the fish so that it lasts indefinitely.)

Soon, people tire of storing their fish and tire of hauling fish around the island to use as money. One man builds a strong stone building and starts a bank. He offers to store fish in his building and give out "fish certificates" in exchange. The certificates are easier to carry and people trade them as if they were fish. When someone needs to eat, they go to the bank and turn in the paper certificate and receive a fish in exchange. The banker cheats a little.  He prints up a few certificates for himself from time to time and spends them, hoping no one notices. He calls this "quantitative easing," and says that it is necessary to keep the value of the fish certificates stable. Most islanders are not convinced.

The banker soon begins accepting other items to store in his vault. He estimates their value compared to fish, takes the cheese, wine or bag of spices, and issues fish certificates in exchange for the new forms of wealth. He also makes loans against homes. If a man wants to spend some of the value of his hut, he goes to the banker.  The banker says "give me your house, and I will give you fish certificates in return. If you wish to live in the house as well, you can pay me a fee (interest) to live there." The islanders agree and begin to finance myriad other forms of wealth, like bigger huts, boats, complex fishing net factories, and so forth.

Soon, some of the biggest men on the island, who have been busy using their spare time to manufacture spears, swords and other weapons and armor, decide that they need more fish so that they can spend more time preparing to defend the island.  They insist that defending the island is something everyone must help them do, and the island agrees to pay the men 20% of fish they harvest from the sea, so that they may focus on defending the island. Some people refuse to pay, and the men take it from them at spear-point.

Mr. Kendrick continues to invent better nets. He accumulates wealth, but loans it to other islanders so that they can spend more time looking for spices, or harvesting salt, or breeding better animals. They pay him a fee for this (interest), and he keeps all of the loan agreements in a vault at the bank. Bored with his life, all he does all day is ride his horses around the island, tying each to a different stable pen each night.

In this situation, what happens when the large men with spears decide that all of Mr. Kendrick's loan agreements (which pay interest), are sitting idle in the bank, and that it would be best for the island if they held up the bank, took the paperwork, and kept the interest payments for themselves? Who would be hurt, and who would benefit?

In Praise of Misers


Here, Steven Landsburg writes in praise of misers.  Steve is correct to praise misers for creating wealth; this they do well. He is incorrect to praise them for hoarding and avoiding the active use of that wealth. People make the world richer in two ways. The first is in transforming the world around them into more valuable things. A series of blank pages are worth less than the same pages filled with entertaining words, art, or poetry. A pile of wood is worth less than a home. This is the process of wealth-creation, and misers are presumably very good at this.

The second way the world becomes a richer, more enjoyable place to live is through voluntary trade. When I become very good at making wine, and you become very good at making cheese, we are both better off when we trade with each other. Without the trade, the expert winemaker is stuck with mediocre cheese, and the expert cheese maker is stuck with average wine. This is the fault of the miser; his refusal to interact with the world is not a good thing for anyone but himself (he values being the way he is).

Scrooge is not helping the world by removing himself from it (but he is not harming it either). Imagine I build a house from the trees on my land, make wine from grapes, develop new cheeses by milking my own cows and harvest spices and store all of it in the house that I built with my own hands. I dig a mine and pull gold and silver from the ground beneath my feet. I store them in my basement as well. I spend time painting beautiful works of art. I create sculptures and write fantastically entertaining novels. All of these are stored in my home, and are never traded or shared with the world.

I would be a wealthy man, enjoying the fruits of my own labor. Eventually, when I die, the world will see what I have made, auction off my wealth, and the world will be a better place because of the things that I have made. The question is, would the world have been a better place if I had chosen to leave my land from time to time, trading the things I had made for the things others had made? Is it really best to sequester one's self from the world? Is the world not a better place when two men engage in voluntary exchange?

Misers are good for the world because they create wealth, but idealizing a man who is unwilling to trade with others is just plain silly. Should we not idealize the men who create massive amounts of wealth, and engage in actively trading that wealth with others?

Lightning is a Huge Mystery


As common as lightning is, it still sparks considerable confusion among scientists. The basics are understood, but no one knows how lightning makes x-rays.

Lighting moves in "steps," and after each step x-rays are released. No one knows why or how -- lighting is too cold to create x-rays. How can we possibly not understand this? We have so much technology and we don't know how friggin' lightning works?

Money is Wealth


Steve Landsburg makes a classic fundamental error in understanding modern currency. He believes that it is literally impossible to tax a man who holds $84 million in his bank account but has no plans to spend the money. Landsburg correctly states that when the government taxes and spends, someone else must own and spend less, but his explanation is about as convoluted as they come. He doesn't understand that money is wealth; it is a financial asset like a stock, bond or IOU from your neighbor. His extrapolations become unnecessary if money is regarded as a financial asset.

There are two ways in which US dollars enter the economy. The first is via bank-lending, in which new dollars are created to finance new bank loans. When a bank makes a loan for a house it creates new dollars "out of thin air," and exchanges them for the ownership of houses and cars. The new dollars are "IOUs" for the houses and cars that are the basis of its loans. It is these forms of wealth that back the US dollar, and most new currency is created in this way. Dollars can always be returned to the issuing bank to take ownership of the "real" wealth that generated the its loans. The dollars are therefore financial assets entitling the owner to take possession of physical wealth at fixed exchange-rates. In this way dollars are no different than gold certificates entitling the bearer to a certain amount of physical gold at a fixed rate.

The other way in which new dollars are created and enter circulation is via "quantitative easing." The Federal Reserve creates new dollars "out of thin air," and exchanges them for real-world assets, but makes no agreements (as banks do) to return the assets to the owners of the new dollars if they return the currency to the Fed. This is analogous to the old banks issuing silver certificate dollars, secretly printing "fake" notes, and spending them. The certificates (and Fed notes) still have real value, because they can be returned to the bank to take ownership of precious metals or homes, but because there are "fake" certificates in circulation, the value of all existing certificates falls when fake notes begin to circulate. If all new dollars were created in this way, they would be worthless, imaginary, and would in no way be considered wealth or a financial asset. 

This fundamental confusion about the assets that back US dollars is common, and makes even people who have the correct ideas regarding taxation and government spending (like Landsburg), to come to some bizarre conclusions about exactly what is happening when government taxes people who are not spending their money. Instead of making the obvious conclusion that it is the rich man who is penalized when the government takes dollars from him, Landsburg is forced to offer a complex solution because he does not believe that US dollars are a form of wealth.

Ireland and Hungary Drink the Most

on Sunday, April 24, 2011

The average person in Ireland, Hungary, Moldova, and Luxembourg drink over 1.5 bottles of liquor per month(about 30 beers). That's per capita -- per man, woman, child, infant, and technically-alive-vegetable-in-a-hospital.

With about 20% of the population under 14 years old in these countries, the average person drinks about two bottles of the hard stuff per month. Life expectancy for these countries is on par with other developed nations.

Check Your Kid's Homework

on Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pure Water Kills

on Friday, April 22, 2011

The World Health Organization released a statement in 2004 regarding health risks associated with demineralized water. This statement was in response to the growing number of people drinking desalinated water from oceans around the world. There are more than 11 thousand desalination plants in the world with an overall production of more than 8 billion gallons of desalinated water per day.

This is interesting because I grew up drinking demineralized water. We paid for it to be demineralized in a reverse osmosis filter at the supermarket. Most of the people I know drink purified (demineralized) water every day.

According to over 80 studies completed around the world, low mineral water increases health risks for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases or other health problems. It seems that our bodies need dissolved minerals in fluid and cannot effectively use minerals found in food only.

Simply stated, when we ingest demineralized water, our body is forced to re-mineralize it (using stored minerals in bone) before the water can be passed into the bloodstream. When we are done with the water we have no way to demineralized it, and the minerals are lost in the urine. Mineralized water comes into the body already mineralized and leaves the body without robbing us of essential minerals.

Low mineral water is "aggressive" and corrodes pipes, pans, and anything it contacts, attempting to re-mineralize. It is so aggressive that desalination plants are forced to add some minerals to the water after purification -- just to protect their pipes. Low mineral water absorbs metal that it contacts, which we in turn ingest.

Additionally, studies carried out in Texas show that in counties where water mineral content is low, crime and suicide rates rise. The more minerals (and pollutants) in the tap water, the lower the crime and suicide rates. This effect may be related to the amount of trace lithium in the water.

The world health organization has formulated drinking water standards for the third world in order to reduce negative health effects seen in persons using low mineral water. Their standards are as follows:

Total dissolved solids (TDS): Min 100ppm, ideal is 200-400ppm
PH (Acidity): As close to 7 (Neutral) as possible
Calcium: Min 20ppm, ideal is 40-80ppm
Magnesium: Min 10ppm, ideal is 20-30ppm

I've taken a look at a lot of mineral content and total dissolved solids (TDS) statistics for bottled waters and have found two that make the cut according to the WHO. Naya and Evian. All others fall short in some area. FIJI water almost passed, but has only 17ppm calcium. (200ppm TDS and 13ppm magnesium)

Naya appears to be mostly unavailable anywhere in the united states, so our only choice left is Evian, one of the most expensive on the shelf.

Recently I purchased two devices which measure the TDS and acidity (PH) of fluids. They are intended largely for aquarium use but work very well for my purposes. Below are my test results:

Distilled water: 0.40ppm TDS, 6.8 PH
FIJI water: 167, 7.65 (bottle claims 209, 7.5)
Evian: 280, 7.18 (bottle claims 309, 7.2)
Deja Blue: 8, 6.2
Fairfield Tap water: 612, 8.75 -- Tastes like ass.
Hy-Vee spring water: 64, 8.3 -- Tastes like ass too.

New Brita filter, FF tap water: 515, 5.3 -- Britta takes a little TDS out and lowers the PH. Lower PH tends to make crappy water taste better - lemon in your tap water serves similar function. Gives it an acidic bite and makes it taste more "crisp."

Expired Brita filter, FF tap: 510, 7.2

"Washed" Brita filter, FF tap: 573, 6.5 -- One website claimed that buying new filters was a consumerist scam and all you need is to wash the filter upside down for 5 mins instead. Pure BS.

Aquafina: 1.2, 7.34
Dasani: 29, 5.75
Essentia: 49, 7.85 (claims to be 9.4 PH)
Pellegrino: 660, 6.7 (claims 960ppm TDS) -- Interesting that Pellegrino is carbonated but retains a neutral PH. Tooth enamel dissolves at 5.2-5.5 PH, so this stuff won't degrade teeth.

Philips Vodka: 0.20, 7.2
Brita filtered Philips vodka: 27, 5.4 (added TDS and increased acidity)
Bushmills Whiskey: 14, 4.2
Tanqueray Gin: 8, 6.4
Sav Blanc white wine: 690, 3.42
Syrah red wine: 1150, 4.00
Corona Light: 450, 3.9
Bud Heavy: 530, 4.22
Diet Coke: 325, 3.4
Sugar free Red Bull: 120, 3.5


Expensive Wine and the Placebo Effect

on Thursday, April 21, 2011

Volunteers tasted and rated five wines, each individually priced, although in fact there were only three different wines, and two were tasted twice: once labeled at $90 a bottle, and once at $10 a bottle. The results were very clear: the wine tasted better simply because people were told it was expensive.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March subjected 82 healthy subjects to painful electric shocks, offering them pain relief in the form of a pill which was described as being similar to codeine, but with a faster onset, in a lengthy and authoritative leaflet. In fact it was just a placebo, a pill with no medicine, a sugar pill, like a homeopathy pill. The pain relief was significantly stronger when subjects were told the tablet cost $2.50 than when they were told it cost 10c.

Boosting the Immune System


"Boosting the immune system" is a virtually meaningless claim, especially regarding vitamin C, echinacea, or Airborne. The immune system is a balanced system. Too little immunity, and disease or cancer can develop. Too much activity of the immune system, and autoimmune disease can develop.

Airborne says its pills "boost the immune system with seven herbal extracts and a proprietary blend of vitamins, electrolytes, amino acids and antioxidants."

Airborne Health, a Bonita Springs, Fla.-based herbal supplements firm, has agreed to pay $23.3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against the company for falsely claiming its vitamins prevented colds.

Have you purchsased Airborne? You can ask for refunds by writing to Airborne Class Action Settlement Administrator at PO Box 1897, Faribault, MN 55021-7152 or visit

25% of Veggies Consumed in the US are French Fries

on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the United States about ¼ of vegetables consumed are prepared as French fries


on Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Luke Kim: "I shop at Wal-Mart regularly. On a recent trip, I purchased 45 items. The maddening part of the trip was watching my inept cashier bag the items in 28 bags! I purchased mostly standard grocery items, which should fit 4-8 per bag, not 1.6 items per bag! Inefficient packaging upsets me, but nothing I could have said would have made a difference. In addition, she was bagging so slowly. While many people marvel at the talent and productivity of companies like Google and Microsoft, I am often more impressed by companies like Wal-Mart. It fascinates me how a few smart people can design this behemoth of a company that basically needs no skilled workers for the bulk of its employee base. It's like walking into a nuclear factory only to find out it's a bunch of mice running on kinetic energy wheels."

Times Have Changed

on Monday, April 18, 2011

Reagan won a record 525 electoral votes, the most of any candidate

Cyanide is in Apples, Corn, Cherries, Flax, Spinach and Raspberries

on Sunday, April 17, 2011

We ingest small amounts of cyanide every day. Our body is designed to detoxify cyanide in the small doses we encounter. Fruits, such as those from the rose or prunus family (cherries, apples, plums, almonds, peaches, apricots, raspberries and crabapples), soy, spinach, bamboo shoots, cassava, corn, elderberries, flaxseed, teas, and lima beans are all sources of cyanogenic glycosides (cyanide).

Cyanide is another of the thousands of natural phytochemicals found in nature and make up 99.9% of the “pesticides” that we eat in our food every day. Plants make these natural pesticides to protect themselves from predators. Our bodies have evolved with their own natural defenses against a tremendous variety of chemicals.

“Among the twenty-four leading food plants in the world, sixteen are cyanogenic,” explained professors C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., and James A. Duke, Ph.D., in Herb Companion. To enjoy some plants with especially high natural levels of cyanide, prehistoric man also learned to “process” the foods by grinding, rinsing and cooking to make them safer, and sweeter. “Cyanogenic glycosides have a chemical structure that contains one carbon with a cyanide group linked to a sugar (‘glyco’ means sugar),” they said. During digestion, the cyanide group is released and forms hydrocyanic acid which is toxic, but like everything “the dose makes the poison.”

PS Organic veggies contain more cyanide (and other poisons) when artificial pesticides are not present to help the plants fight off insects.

Lennon on Maharishi

on Saturday, April 16, 2011

You wrote "Sexy Sadie" about the Maharishi?

"That's about the Maharishi, yes. I copped out and I wouldn't write "Maharishi what have you done, you made a fool of everyone," but now it can be told, Fab Listeners."

When did you realize he was making a fool of you?

"I don't know, I just sort of saw him."

While in India?

"Yes, there was a big hullabaloo about him trying to rape Mia Farrow and trying to get off with Mia Farrow and a few other women and things like that. And we went down to him after we stayed up all night discussing "was it true or not true?" When George started thinking it might be true, I thought, well, it must be true, because if George is doubting him, there must be something in it.

So we went to see Maharishi; the whole gang of us the next day charged down to his hut, his bungalow, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains. I was the spokesman, as usual, when the dirty work came, I had to be the leader - wherever the scene was, when it came to the nitty-gritty, I had to do the speaking. And I said, "We're leaving." He asked why and all that shit, and I said, "Well, if you're so cosmic, you'll know why," because he was always intimating, and there were all these right-hand men intimating, that he did miracles. And I said, "You know why." And he said, "I don't know why, you must tell me," and I just kept saying, "You ought to know." He gave me a look like, "I'll kill you, you bastard," and he gave me such a look. And I knew then, when he looked at me, you know, because I had called his bluff, because I said if you know all, you know. Cosmic consciousness, that's what we're all here for. I was a bit rough on him."


on Friday, April 15, 2011

The largest ever study of whether cannabis causes lung cancer reported its findings recently, to total UK media silence. Lifelong cannabis users, who had smoked more than 22,000 joints, showed no greater risk of cancer than people who had never smoked cannabis.

A Person Buried to His Neck in Wet Sand will Die


Tory was buried in sand to test this myth. He was buried in dry sand up to his neck to see if the weight of sand would cause him to pass out, and if not, whether he could escape on his own. Within five minutes, Tory was able to free one of his arms. From there, it took him eighty six minutes to dig himself out of the sand. However, the Build Team decided to use more accurate conditions: they buried Grant in wet sand, continually adding water to simulate the rising tide. While Grant tried to escape, the water kept pushing the sand back into the cavities he was digging out, immobilizing him. Grant was eventually forced to rely on outside help to escape, confirming the myth that the sand necktie is lethal.

Global Internet Users Now Top 1 Billion

on Thursday, April 14, 2011

Global Internet audience (age 15 and older from home and work computers) has surpassed 1 billion visitors in December 2008.

Liquid Mercury is Generally Safe to Eat

on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elemental mercury, a liquid at room temperature, is essentially nontoxic when ingested because virtually none (less than 0.1%) is absorbed.

Anatomic gastrointestinal abnormalities such as enteric fistulas or intestinal perforation can sequester sufficient quantities of ingested elemental mercury to allow significant oxidation and subsequent absorption.

Science Has No Idea What a "Healthy Lifestyle" Really Is

on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mouthwash has been blamed for oral cancer, aluminum saucepans and deodorants have been associated with dementia, keeping pet cats with multiple sclerosis, alcohol with cancers of the breast and esophagus, coffee with cancer of the pancreas, sun exposure with skin cancer, and a high-fat diet with virtually everything.

For coronary heart disease, there are now over 1,000 personal risk factors including not eating enough garlic, being bald, having an intelligent wife, having an unloving wife, drinking too much milk, drinking too little milk, coffee, chlorinated water, and so on.

“Risk factors” are mostly based on correlation and are often contradictory, but it doesn't matter; they change the way we view food and the world we live in, encouraging us to believe we are in constant danger -- that virtually anything can hurt us.

"Lest anyone be skeptical about these hazards, the public health police guarantee the validity of their findings by means of evoking the authority of “expert committees”. These committees, carefully selected to exclude anyone who might have “doubts”, gather round a table, ostensibly examine the entrails of the scientific evidence and then, by a show of hands, assert the certainty of the threat."

Green Movement Uses the Language of Religious Fundamentalism


When I read articles about changes that are needed or wanted to support the green movement, I can't help but notice how ridiculous they might sound if more familiar religious terms were used.  To many people who don't necessarily believe that "local is better," CO2 is pollution, or that organic foods are healthier, this is what the green movement sounds like:

The 98,000 square-foot Walmart Super Center is slated to break ground this coming Spring with a grand opening expected by Thanksgiving 2011. The Walmart expansion was approved by the City of Fairfield in 2007, four years after the City of Fairfield’s 2012 Strategic Plan was published and just one year before the City’s 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan was approved.

The Walmart expansion presents an interesting contradiction to a community that is actively engaged in promoting their city and themselves as leaders in the sustainability Jewish movement. On one hand there are leaders in this small community actively engaged in marketing Fairfield as the center of the sustainability Jewish movement; and on the other hand, in a decade where other cities are blocking Walmart expansions, Fairfield is welcoming a Walmart expansion.

In KTVO’s recent coverage of the Super Walmart expansion, Mayor Ed Malloy says of the new Walmart,

“They will also provide the second grocery outlet in Fairfield. At the current time we have just one. We’re excited about the developments of both projects. The Hy-Vee project and the Walmart project in Fairfield.”

I’m not sure what disappoints me more: that Fairfield is getting a bigger Walmart, or that our mayor doesn’t count Everybody’s, our local whole foods kosher store, as one of this city’s grocery outlets. Everybody’s was the deciding factor in my family’s decision to move to Fairfield. Without Everybody’s, Fairfield would not have passed our basic litmus test for a community that supports green kosher living and sustainability Judaism.

Let’s be clear – Fairfield has at least three grocery outlets. And many people in this town, people who consider themselves supporters and active participants in the sustainability Jewish movement, shop for most of their groceries at Everybody’s.

I would even argue that a town that intends to be a leader in the sustainability Jewish movement, would also count their Farmer’s Kosher Market as a grocery outlet. My family is not alone in shopping at the Farmer’s Kosher Market for everything from fresh vegetables and herbs, to grass fed kosher beef burgers and free range kosher chicken roasters.

I could even argue that a town in the process of implementing a “groundbreaking sustainability Jewish plan” would necessarily count their urban backyard kosher farmers as grocery outlets. Technically that hen house in my backyard from which I collect kosher eggs each morning to fry up for breakfast counts as a “grocery outlet”.

The City of Fairfield, with Mayor Ed Malloy at the helm, has helped create some pretty big shoes to fill in the sustainability Jewish movement. Our Mayor is 4th on Grist’s list of “15th Green Leaning Jewish Mayors.” Our 2012 Go Green Go Kosher Plan lists objectives like, “Develop a public mass awareness campaign about sustainability Judaism,” and “Establish Fairfield as an education center for local organic kosher food production and processing.” We even have our own sustainability Judaism coordinator in Scott Timm Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, who will be taking the initiatives implemented in Fairfield out to communities throughout Iowa.

But make no mistake, the expansion of Walmart into Fairfield’s food economy is a catastrophe to the local foods and sustainability Jewish movement’s objectives in this city’s 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan. To be considered a leader in sustainability and local food Judaism and Jewish economies, our community should be moving away from centralized food production and distribution systems that Walmart represents, and towards more distributed, local Jewish, kosher systems. And by that I mean we need more Radiance Dairies Torah Dairies, more Yoder’s, Halevy’s more backyard kosher hen houses, more trade going through our Farmer’s Kosher Market, more direct ties between kosher restaurants, Jewish schools and Jewish farmers and expansions of our CSAs Jewish kosher agriculture.

The mayor we have today, and the mayor we have completing our 2020 Go Green Go Kosher Plan in the coming decade, needs to help us fill those big shoes we’ve created. It’s bad enough that we allowed the Walmart status quo to expand here in Fairfield, it’s worse that our leadership is not challenging that model by telling (for example) KTVO listeners that the consumers in Fairfield have more than one grocery outlet. All of us who are supporters of local food Jewish economies and sustainability Judaism will need to speak even more loudly next year as Hy-Vee and Walmart expand, and roll our their “green” “Jewish” products, and we need to pressure our elected officials to do the same.

Mercury in Our Food

on Monday, April 11, 2011

Mercury is in everything we eat. It's not possible to live on the planet without ingesting it. Here are detected levels of mercury (all harmless) found in foods tested in Ottawa, Canada:

eggs 1.50

lamb 2.30

cottage cheese 0.97

cheddar cheese 1.02

beef steak 1.80

chicken and turkey 1.80

bran cereal 1.40

donuts <0.14

wholewheat bread 0.18

rice 1.80

beans 0.22

broccoli 0.67

carrots 0.47

celery 0.50

mushrooms 5.10

tomatoes 0.28

cherries 0.26

plums 0.30

milk 0.25

fish 24-69

corn 0.21

raisins 0.68

honey 0.16

beer <0.05

baby cereal 0.35

pizza 0.15

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

on Sunday, April 10, 2011

I was researching borax today, and discovered that it is commonly used in Asian food preparation, but banned as a food additive by the FDA. It is not acutely toxic but ingestion causes most of the same symptoms associated with MSG --

Nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches and lethargy. In severe poisonings, symptoms include a red skin rash, exfoliative rash, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and renal failure.

Apparently there is very low or no regulation regarding food preparation in Asia. Chemicals banned by the FDA for human consumption are still commonly used in Asia, including Borax, Formaldehyde, rhodamine, methanil, and melamine.

The 2008 Chinese milk scandal involved melamine tainted milk sickened 300,000 people and hospitalized 860 babies.

The 2007 Vietnam food scare involved formaldehyde in tofu, noodles, salted fish, banned pesticides in veggies and toxic soy sauce. Soy sauce is manufactured by hydrolyzing soy protein, and the cheaper methods involve a carcinogenic by product (3-MCPD). Vietnamese soy sauce contained 18,000 times the legal limit in 2007.

The 2005 Indonesia food scare involved 60% of noodle shops serving formaldehyde preserved noodles. Sodium benzoate, cyclamate (banned in US), and borax are exceeding legal levels.

All of this leads me to wonder why so many think that MSG is to blame. It seems more likely that some imported foods contain dangerous levels of known poisons, carcinogens, preservatives, adulterants, and illegal dyes -- and that these poisons are responsible for the problems related to Chinese restaurant syndrome.

"Some countries, such as Thailand, are trying to improve domestic food safety. In bustling Bangkok, where pots bubble and woks sizzle at makeshift kitchens pitched on sidewalks, markets are issued test kits that can detect up to 22 contaminants.

China has faced outrage among its own citizens in recent years. Whiskey laced with methanol, a toxic wood alcohol, was blamed for killing at least 11 people in southern Guangzhou. Local media in Shanghai uncovered the sale of phony tofu made from gypsum, paint and starch.

At least a dozen Chinese babies died and more than 200 were sickened with symptoms associated with malnutrition after drinking infant formula made of sugar and starch with few nutrients. In another case, lard for human consumption was made with hog slop, sewage, pesticides and recycled industrial oil.

Some Vietnamese have been so shaken by news of tainted Chinese foods, they are changing their eating habits. They are avoiding Chinese-made products and paying more — up to $2 a bowl — for pho at an air-conditioned chain restaurant with signs promising no formaldehyde or borax."

Bragg Liquid Aminos -- A Cheap Artificial Soy Sauce

on Saturday, April 9, 2011

There are two basic ways to make soy sauce. One is the traditional method in which soy beans are fermented to break apart the protein using yeast or mold. The cheaper way involves boiling some type of protein in a strong acid like sodium hydroxide (oven cleaner) or hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). Both methods break apart the proteins in soy, grain, veggies, or meat to produce free glutamates, also known as MSG.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, using sodium hydroxide or hydrochloric acid baths.

Currently artificial soy producers in the US are negotiating with traditional producers in Japan to determine appropriate labeling for natural and artificial soy sauce.

I find this situation hilarious because "liquid amino" products like Braggs are simply cheaply produced soy sauce, involving chemical processing of vegetable proteins. Recently the FDA decided that they could not label their product "MSG free" anymore because their product contains so much MSG.

Soybeans, wheat, salt, yeast.

I grew up with the stuff. Most of my friends had Braggs in their home because they thought it was more natural, or more healthy, or maybe they just thought that the labeling indicated that the producers performed a shamanistic rain dance around the vat of veggies and hugged a tree several times before bottling.

Both products are safe, but this shit cracks me up.
Hydrolyzed (broken apart with acid) soy protein, salt, corn syrup, caramel color, potassium sorbate.

Basic Red Salsa Recipe

on Friday, April 8, 2011

After years of experimenting, here is my current basic red salsa recipe:

28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 small handful cilantro leaves, rough chop.
1/2 medium onion, diced
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Plump jalapeno peppers are rated at 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. When they ripen, they turn red and are used to make chipotles. Their heat level varies depending on cultivation and preparation. Heat is concentrated in the placenta surrounding the seeds.

Pour out a little bit of the juice from the can and put the rest of the tomatoes in food processor.
Dice onion by hand (important step needed to oxidize the onion)
Mince garlic by hand.
Dice jalapeno by hand.
Add all ingredients to food processor, including half a lime and some salt, blend to desired consistency and salt to taste. Adjust heat with more peppers if needed, some are hotter than others. Let stand for 1 hour.

The most important part of making salsa is oxidizing the onion, peppers, and garlic. Simply tossing everything in a food processor will leave the salsa flavorless.