Tooth Pulled

I had the tooth pulled that I mentioned in this post a while back. Just had my first solid food (over-cooked pasta) in over 24 hours tonight. Now for some Vicodin and an early night.

Here’s a video for your enjoyment since I’ve been fairly quiet the past few days:

The first in a series of four commercials filmed by David Lynch for Georgia Coffee and starring the Twin Peaks gang:

via Boing Boing

Soy Burger with a Side of Hexane

I am not a vegetarian, though I eat significantly less meat than most Americans. For a long time, however, I had a tendency to buy meat substitutes like Boca Burgers or Chix Patties, as well as soymilk. Several years ago, I cut way back on my processed soy intake, and use rice milk and Quorn products instead of soy. I am reconsidering that as well and may attempt to pay more attention to supporting local sources of meat and dairy instead – though I really do like the Quorn products.

Boing Boing recently linked to a Mother Jones article which links to a report on soy products by The Cornucopia Institute that suggests another reason to stay away from processed soy products: hexane.

Hexane is used to process nearly all conventional soy protein ingredients and edible oils and is prohibited when processing organic foods. It is used in the food processing industry as a solvent to separate the oil from the protein and fiber of grains, including soybeans.

It is a cost-effective solvent and highly efficient at creating high-protein isolates, but it is also a neurotoxic chemical that poses a serious occupational hazard to workers and is an environmental air pollutant . . . Residue tests show that small amounts of hexane can and do appear in ingredients processed with this petrochemical. The government does not require that companies test for hexane residues before selling foods to consumers, including soy-based infant formula.

Rather than simply linking to the link that points to the link that links to the report, I figured I would actually take the time to read the full report and give you a bit more insight into what the actual report says. Especially in light of the bruhaha, misinformation and retractions that accompanied Boing Boing’s post.

However, before we begin, it’s important to remember that The Cornfield Institute is not an independent science organization but an advocacy group with the following mission statement:

Seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy, and economic development our goal is to empower farmers – partnered with consumers – in support of ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.

Now, I’m not saying that their findings are necessarily wrong or that anyone should even be suspicious of their motives, simply stating that they have a specific mission and context which has a direct relationship to the findings in their report. Additionally, I support and sympathize with their goals so may add some of my own bias to this essay. Too often I will simply link to information about how those nasty, bad, and evil corporations are trying to kill us or poison us or simply reap a windfall of profit despite causing harm, so I wanted to take the time here to read more about the issue and educate myself instead of simply yelling headlines.

The Report

The report, officially and titled “Behind the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry” is divided into two main parts. The first examines and scores various companies with soy-based products on a rubric that includes the following considerations:

  • Ownership structure
  • Soybean purchases
  • Disclosure
  • Certifier
  • Organic product line
  • Manufacturing
  • Sourcing & Farmer Relationships
  • Prevention of GMO Contamination
  • Flavoring
  • Soy lecithin

Basically, the report is looking at the ecology that surrounds the soybean and not simply the claims that such-and-such a company uses organic soybeans. There is a lot of useful information in this section about how companies can manipulate the systems in place for labeling food as organic, as well as the how weak some of the oversights are on overseas “organic” standards. In some cases, the certifiers and farmers of Chinese “organic” soy growers were never even given the standards that they were supposed to meet. Overall, I highly recommend reading this part of the report in order to get a much better sense of the differences between companies and their relationship to farmers, the environment, as well as how open and honest they are about their practices. If you drink soy milk, for instance, you might want to consider switching brands after learning the differences between EdenSoy products (which have the highest scores) and Silk products (which have some of the lowest scores).

The second half of the report looks primarily at the issue of processing soy lecithin with hexane.

To make conventional soy protein ingredients, food manufacturers start the process by literally immersing soybeans in a hexane “bath.” A common additional technique to further separate out the protein is bathing soy flakes in aqueous alcohols such as methanol, ethanol, or isopropyl alcohol. Processors also commonly use acid and alkaline solutions to adjust the pH, and use high heat and high pressure to texturize the soy protein.

There is, according to the Cornucopia Institute, very little study done on residual hexane in foods, and the majority of the hexane does evaporate quite quickly. I am not even a little qualified to get into a discussion on the merits of this argument and you will need to do your own research on both hexane and its use in food processing. I would argue that most people aren’t, yet this is the main flash point that most people on Boing Boing seemed to rant and rave about. Of course most people’s gut instinct is going to be “neurotoxin near my food, oh my, that must be a bad thing.” And well it may be. However, I don’t think that this report is particularly fear-based in the way it approaches the subject and the authors do admit that little is known about any possible affects from potential residues left behind by the processing instead of, as some might, screaming loudly that hexane in our food is killing us. In some cases, the certifiers and farmers of Chinese “organic” soy growers were never even given the standards that they were supposed to meet. Overall, I highly recommend reading this part of the report in order to get a much better sense of the differences between companies and their relationship to farmers, the environment, as well as how open and honest they are about their practices. If you drink soy milk, for instance, you might want to consider switching brands after learning the differences between EdenSoy products (which have the highest scores) and Silk products (which have some of the lowest scores).

In the end, if you consume a lot of soy-based products, you should at least skim this report to get a sense of the corporate practices of the companies you are supporting and the questions raised by certain practices in the industry.

Eat That Cheese

A very interesting article about lactose intolerance today on Salon.com. Of particular note:

Milk itself has a lot of lactose, but aged cheeses have very little (most of the lactose is drawn away in the whey, and what’s left in the curd is fermented by bacteria and mold). Yogurt with live cultures contains bacteria that break down lactose, and therefore causes fewer symptoms. Butter and full-fat cream cheese contain almost no lactose. Lactose intolerance do’s and don’ts – Nutrition – Salon.com>

Considering how many people I know who complain that they are lactose intolerant and seem to make a big deal about eating cheese, I wonder if they are perhaps doing a self-diagnosis that might, in the end, be false? And the next time someone tells you that human beings shouldn’t drink/eat dairy because we can’t process the sugars properly, ask them about their beans.

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Food Policies Designed to Make Us Unhealthy

This is not rocket science, people:

The government also purchases surplus foods like cheese, milk, pork, and beef for distribution to food assistance programs—including school lunches. The government is not required to purchase nutritious foods. (Link)

If anyone thinks that the Government isn’t already deeply entrenched in what you eat and what foods are available at low costs, they are either deeply misinformed or deliberately blind to the facts. We need smart policies that are designed for a healthy population instead of policies that line the pockets of the few at the expense of the rest of us. The surest way to keep the status quo is to fool people into thinking that diet and nutrition are entirely personal choices and not part of an economic and political system that effects each and every one of us.

Update: Stubborn Mule has an excellent article about the problems inherent with pyramid charts and how they distort numbers.

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Big Supplement

Why is it that the people who are concerned about “Big Pharma” seem to to accept that all those aisles and aisles of supplements that are marketed as panaceas for nearly every physical ailment (including age and death), and that cost significant amounts of money are put out there for the good of the consumer instead of to line somebody’s pocket with cold, hard, cash?

a recent GAO report estimated that the supplement industry has grown to a $23.7 billion industry in 2007. Moreover, so lax is the regulation of supplements that it took a very extreme and egregious act, namely the marketing of an industrial chelator as an “antioxidant” supplement for the treatment of autism, before the FDA finally acted. Link

While I’m not prepared to get into any kind of discussion about the utility or efficacy of any one particular supplement, the fact is that supplements are a huge business . . . and wherever there is a market there are people eager to make a buck without caring one iota if they are helping or hurting people. That goes for your big pharmaceutical companies as well as your suppliers of melatonin, st. johns wort, ginkgo biloba, etc.

Skepticism should always be used when examining the claims and the money trail of corporations, whether they are wrapped up in the logos of Big Pharma or Big Supplement. And since the supplement industry gets to operate with little to no regulation, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there needs to be some extra skepticism sauce poured on their claims of ever-lasting youth and vitality.

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Future Transcendental or Future Fabulous?

I watched this while eating breakfast this morning:

Go watch it, it’s short.

You’re back? Ok. Two main thoughts.

  1. While Philip Zimbardo claims that a Future Transcendentalist is focused on life after death, I think there is a sub-category of this type that doesn’t think about life after death, but about achieving some kind of stardom, some level of fame. This is the frame of reference that makes you fantasize about all the trappings of success without actually making real goals or attempting actual work. This is thinking about what it will be like at your book signing when you don’t put in the work as a writer, or your movie opening when you don’t put in the work as an actor. There is a kind of death involved, but it is not a physical death, rather a death of the normal, a slaying of the mundane that then sets a person free to be loved and adored by millions and able to live a life free of encumbrances and worry.1 Instead of Future Transcendentalist, this might be called “Future Fabulous.”

  2. This year, I’ve been trying to shift my time perspective (without framing it this way until this morning) to a better balance between Present Hedonism (getting away from my tendency toward Present Fatalism) and Future Life-Goal Oriented (getting away from my tendency toward Future Fabulous). My successes have been varied. However, I think the writing goals that I am setting, my dedication to a regular and sustained workout of push-ups and sit-ups, putting more effort into controlling my food portions and eating a more balance, healthy diet, and my reflections on long term goals and the decision to return to school and get my Ph.D. indicate a growing ability to shift my perspective toward Future Life-Goal setting.

    I’ve had less success, I think, in getting away from my mental habit of seeing things through a Present Fatalism perspective. But I am conscious of this and will continue to try to think differently about how much agency I have over my life at any given moment.

What do you think? Does Zimbardo’s talk strike a chord with you? Are you able to shift perspectives with alacrity or are you normally stuck in one way of seeing time?

  1. Granted, this is not in any way an actual representation of celebrity life, but I think most of us can’t quite rid ourselves of the idea that to be a Johnny Depp or an Angelina Jolie bestows a higher level of existence. []

Get Thee To a Dentistry!

happyunhappytooth

Photo by mucus*plug

Here’s the thing folks, if you don’t have dental insurance, save up for a yearly cleaning and checkup. Seriously. Because if you don’t, like I didn’t, you will go to the dentist (in the case DentPlus Dental Center because they are open on Saturday’s and I wouldn’t have to take time out of work) one day and discover that you need a super-duper cleaning that costs 3 times the regular cleaning ($300), that you need a filling ($190) and that you probably need a root canal ($2000).

Considering that the root canal could have been avoided if I’d caught the cavity in time, that alone is reason for you to find the money and go to the dentist on a yearly basis.

And if anyone knows a dentist in the RI area who could help a non-insured person out with some less costly cleaning and procedures, drop me a line.

Now, get thee to a Dentistry!

TensionTensionTENSION!!!!!!!!!

Lately I’ve noticed I’m tense. Not occasionally, not sporadically. All the frakin’ time. Like I spend my life in a state of flight or fight response.

I have no idea how long I’ve been like this, but this explains a lot about why I never seem to have much energy, why I don’t sleep well, why I seem sunk in a hole and find it difficult to feel committed and connected to my life and my creativity. Gaining this awareness has meant that I have started to consciously focus on my body (when driving, when sitting at work, when walking, when doing the dishes, when watching a movie, heck, when doing just about anything) and attempting to release the tension and relax my muscles. Usually I find that within minutes or even less, I become tight and tense once more and have to, again, consciously relax. Somehow, my natural state has become one of tension. Somehow, I have become, quite literally, a tightass. Somehow, I don’t think such a state is healthy.

What I have noticed over the past several days as I’ve been struggling to relax my body is that my mood does seem somewhat better. I can’t prove a connection, and my mood could be due to a number of other factors, but the coincidence is enough to notice and remark upon. So, hopefully, my attempts to rid myself of this overwhelming and constant tension will have fairly direct and immediate benefits to my mind and my emotions.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hey Mr. Politician With Your Government Backed Health Care

I hear lots of GOP politicians being against government health care systems, but I don’t hear about them giving up their own government controlled and government backed and government run health insurance. I’ll switch my crappy health care for theirs if they really want to see what great and fabulous health care choices most of us have.

Bill in Portland Maine has some further thoughts and a handy list of rebuttals against the lies and misinformation regarding Obama’s Public Health Insurance option.

Push Ups

I am about to start my 3rd week in a training program called “One Hundred Push Ups.” I started off doing 15 push ups in a row and yesterday I did my first exhaustion test and reached 30. Looking at the next week’s goals is a little intimidating. Tomorrow I need to do the following sets:

14 / 18 / 14 / 14 / Max (at least 20)

What works about this program is the gradual increase of reps within the sets and, more importantly, getting someone not used to doing a lot of weight training to think in reps and sets. Moreover, I can definitely feel these workouts after each one. These won’t do much to help me lose weight, but I like the feeling of getting stronger and hope to take the commitment and discipline I’m practicing and add it to some other workouts in the near future. In addition to the push ups, I’m planning on doing the “200 Sit Ups” program” that is offered through the same site, and possible the “200 Squats” program” as well. As those continue, I will try to add some more aerobic exercise to my regimen, and will probably start off with “Couch to 5k” program.” Will let you know how that goes.

Anyone else starting some new workouts now that the weather is warmer and spring is upon us?