Monday, April 27, 2009

The Sweet Wars

It's amazing how much science and marketing energy goes into creating a substance that tastes like sugar with no calories. The Showdown at the Coffee Shop is now a Sergio Leone-quality stare down.

Stevia has long been popular as a sweetener in Japan and other countries, but for years the United States Food and Drug Administration has blocked it. In 1995, after pressure from the American Herbal Products Association, a trade group, the government allowed its sale as a dietary supplement, not something that could be used as an ingredient in food. But some large food and drink manufacturers, sensing an eager audience for a sugar substitute perceived as healthier than the rest, began investing in research and lobbying the government.
Never forget what is driving the American food industry. It's not health and it's not safety. They have little interest in long-term studies of how something like Splenda or stevia might impact health over the course of many years. No, it's more about customer loyalty to pink, blue, yellow, or now green packets (brilliant!) of formulated pseudo-sugar.

Because, really, simply eating less sugar is apparently not an option! When has the food industry or government encouraged you to eat LESS of anything? That's a preposterous notion! No, eat MORE fiber. MORE fruits and vegetables. Even "eat less red meat" gets translated into "choose meats low in saturated fats." Never will the industry or government suggest that we eat LESS. Again, because HEALTH is not the driver of these decisions...the bottom line is. Eating less would hurt the bottom line even if it might help our collective waistlines.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Much Would Legalizing Pot Help Economy?

Not much. So says Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron in this NPR article.

Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist who has modeled and written on the economics of the marijuana market, figures state and federal taxes on cannabis sales add up to $6.7 billion annually.

And he calculates the savings from not having to enforce state and federal marijuana laws — in arrests, prosecution and incarceration — at $12.9 billion a year. Excluding additional expenses, such as the public health cost of marijuana, or the cost of administering the new law, Miron figures that legal pot creates almost a $20 billion bonus. Miron adds, however, that the people who thought the taxation of marijuana would create a windfall for government coffers will be disappointed.

"Compared to the size of most federal government agencies, compared to the tax revenue from things like alcohol and tobacco, and certainly compared to the size of deficits that we have, this is just not a major issue, it is not a panacea, it is not curing any of our significant ills," he says. "There may be good reasons to do it, but the budgetary part is not a crucial reason to do it."

NPR has been all over the marijuana question lately with commentators of all stripes as the "legalize it" crowd has gotten louder during the economic downturn. But, the argument for MJ as an economic panacea is not convincing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Bessie By Any Other Name

The BBC reports that dairy cows with names produce more milk than unnamed cows. They also have less cortisol (a stress hormone) in their system.

BBC Video Story (<2 min long)

Is it the act of naming the cows, or is the name an indicator of farmers who care about their animals and treat them better than mass dairy farms? My Freakonomic sensors say it's the latter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blog Resurrection and Fries

OK, I've taken long hiatuses (hiati?) before and came back. It's been awhile. I will try to be more frequent here during the semester.

I shared this video with my students on the first day of class today. It was a jaw-dropper. Most of them were stunned. I realize that this may not be an experiment conducted in a lab with perfect controls, but I think the general purpose is served.

Food breaks down by natural processes. Outside the body, it molds and decomposes over time. Well, most food does. This 5-minute video pretty much explains why I don't eat at McDonald's.

McDonald's Fries Defy Nature

Sure, our stomachs have strong acids that can break down most anything. That's not the point. The point is: why don't these fries decompose on their own by natural processes outside the body?

Don't mess with nature and creation. It usually has dire consequences.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Memphis Marathon: Sub-3:00 Achieved

It happened: 2:58.49 (or within a second or two of that). Most all of the tumblers aligned for me to have a good race.

1. Trained well.
2. Avoided injury/illness.
3. Relatively flat course.
4. Decent weather (a little cool, a little breezy, but OK).
5. Run a smart race.

I went out a little fast (~6.40 pace) in the first few miles, and had to pull back a bit in Miles 7-9 (6.55 pace), but got into the groove I needed from Mile 9 through Mile 23 (6.45 pace). This allowed me to build a cushion for those last few miles. And, I did slow down a bit the last three miles (closer to 7 min pace), but to feel that good so late in the race was a new experience. There was fatigue and some pain, but I actually enjoyed this race from start to finish. By the time I started feeling rough, I knew I was going to break 3.00.

I am quite sore today, but no damage done. And, my switch to Adidas prevented the dreaded and ghastly black toenails I normally get from racing 26.2. They are not discolored at all or even sore.

Thank you for your support and prayers!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Memphis Marathon: T-Minus 2 Days

Alas, no online tracking for the Memphis race. Bummer. But, I will do a write-up after it's over.

Please say a prayer for safety, swiftness, and endurance, and that God would teach me about my limits and His Creation through this race.

Feeling good. Feeling strong. Weather will be chilly (30s), but that is not bad for racing as long as the winds stay down.

Please comment if you know of any "must" restaurants in Memphis.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Memphis Marathon: T-Minus 5 Days

The St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, TN, is five days away and this will be my first realistic shot at breaking 3 hours. I think it will be extremely close, as my training and recent shorter distance race times project me right at 3:00 to 3:02. It is a fairly flat course, the weather looks great, and I am in the best shape I've ever been for a marathon. If I avoid illness, I'll have a legit shot.

That said, it is unwise to underestimate or disrespect the distance that 26.2 miles commands. The teeth of this course comes in miles 15-19 during a slow ascent, but it's nothing drastic--it's more the timing. I'll be tired by that point and keeping pace will be tough. But, from 19 until the end, it's a slow descent, so that will be a nice mental boost if I can run at pace through mile 19.

If this race provides online tracking, I will post a link later this week.