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Thursday, April 30, 2009

From Evernote: Good-By and Keep Cold


Good-By and Keep Cold

by rweinert


Good-By and Keep Cold

by Robert Frost

THIS saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
'How often already you've had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.'
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an axe
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.


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From Evernote: Why we homeschool!


Why we homeschool!

by rweinert



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the current state of our school systems

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From Evernote: Ethical eating is a good idea, it may simply be impractical. Is this laziness?


Ethical eating is a good idea, it may simply be impractical. Is this laziness?

by rweinert

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this morning by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

This is going to be a short one this morning. As I record this, I’m getting ready to go in for an emergency root canal … and between the Vicodin for pain and the Xanax for my dentist phobia, I may not be real cogent.

I would refer you to a column by Siobhan Phillips that ran on Salon.com this week all about so-called “ethical eating.” She started from the premise that while ethical eating is a good idea, it may simply be impractical for a lot of people.

An excerpt:

“I had wondered about the elitism of ethical eating ever since I started reading about the movement in books like ‘The Omnivores Dilemma,’ ‘Fast Food Nation,’ and ‘Food Politics.’ When Alice Waters told Americans that they could dine better by forgoing ‘the cellphone or the third pair of Nike shoes,’ my monthly cellphone bill totaled zero and I owned just one pair of sneakers. When Michael Pollan urged citizens to plant a garden, I was living on the 10th floor of an urban apartment building. When Barbara Kingsolver wrote in ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ that sustainable cooking could be thrifty, her recommendations included a plot of land and a second freezer that I didn't own. My kitchen had the dimensions of a medium-size walk-in closet. And I was better off than many in my neighborhood.”

In other words, living up to the expectations of people like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan isn’t always a matter of choice. It often is a matter of circumstance.

I happen to have enormous respect and admiration for people like Alice Waters, but emulating her lifestyle and approach to food just would take too much energy. Is this laziness? Maybe, to a degree. But it also is a function of having a life to lead, of having a business to run, of having children to raise, of having a marriage to tend to…not necessarily in this order, by the way. (I need to say that because tomorrow is my 26th wedding anniversary…assuming I survive the root canal, which at the moment seems dubious…and putting Mrs. Content Guy last probably isn’t the best idea.)

The best approach that retailers can take, I think, is to present options. Actually, you have to do more than present them. You can explain them, you can educate people about various levels of ethical and sustainable behavior … but you shouldn't take a holier-than-thou approach to these communications. Most people, I firmly believe, want to do the best they can…though sometimes those decisions are compromised by the realities in which they find themselves. But if we help people understand why certain decisions make sense, how to integrate them into their lives, and what the repercussions will be…I think we can get a point where more people eat sensibly, cook intelligently, and behave sustainably.

In the end, as in most things, it is all about common sense and transparency. Speak with the shopper instead of at the shopper, and you go a long way to creating a sense of community. Which is a great first step, I think, toward better living in a better world.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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From Evernote: A bit over the top?


A bit over the top?

by rweinert


Swine Flu Concerns Continue To Grow

The Washington Post this morning reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) is saying that the world probably is on the verge of a swine flu pandemic, raising the alert level for the second time in three days. A number of developments have occurred in Texas, where the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Connect and MarkeTechnics conferences are scheduled to take place next week

The first swine flu death in the US has been reported – a 22 month old boy from Mexico City who died in a Houston hospital.

In addition, the Post reports, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a “disaster declaration” and a statement saying that :”Texans need to know there is no cause for panic, and Texans can be assured that the state will take every necessary precaution to protect the lives of our citizens.” The Post reports that “officials suspended high school sports events statewide until May 11 and shut more schools, sending more than 53,000 students home for at least two weeks.”

The Fort Worth public schools have been closed for 10 days because of swine flu concerns.

Vice President Joseph Biden told the “Today Show” this morning that people should avoid getting into enclosed spaces such as airplanes and subways, suggesting that these are perfect places for the flu to be spread. (The general consensus seemed to be that Biden went off the reservation in making that comment, and that most public officials wouldn’t go that far.

The Post reports that “the number of known cases in the United States hit at least 91, with infections confirmed in at least six new states -- Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Arizona, Indiana and Nevada -- more than doubling the number of states with confirmed cases.”

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From Evernote: Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild - Los Angeles Times


Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild - Los Angeles Times

by rweinert


Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild

Genetic data indicate this outbreak won't be as deadly as that of 1918, or even the average winter.
By Karen Kaplan and Alan Zarembo
April 30, 2009
As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus, which emerged in San Diego and southern Mexico late last month, may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare.

"Let's not lose track of the fact that the normal seasonal influenza is a huge public health problem that kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. alone and hundreds of thousands around the world," said Dr. Christopher Olsen, a molecular virologist who studies swine flu at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison.

His remarks Wednesday came the same day Texas authorities announced that a nearly 2-year-old boy with the virus had died in a Houston hospital Monday.

"Any time someone dies, it's heartbreaking for their families and friends," Olsen said. "But we do need to keep this in perspective."
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From Evernote: The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R.Crumb


The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R.Crumb

by rweinert

The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick by R. Crumb
Page 1

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[Page 1] [Page 2] [Page 3] [Page 4] [Page 5] [Page 6] [Page 7] [Page 8]

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Fresh halibut on the pier

From Evernote: Organic apples beat conventionals on antioxidants


Organic apples beat conventionals on antioxidants

by rweinert


Organic apples beat conventionals on antioxidants

By Stephen Daniells, 24-Apr-2009

Related topics: Science & Nutrition

Organically produced apples have a 15 per cent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples, says a new study from Germany.

Findings published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry add to the on-going debate over whether organically grown produce is more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. A report published in March 2008 by the Organic Center at America’s Organic Trade Association argued that organic produce is 25 per cent more nutritious than conventional foodstuffs.

However, these claims were countered by Joseph Rosen, emeritus professor at Rutgers University and scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) who said the data was selective, and that, when recalculated, the data used in the original report showed that conventional products are actually 2 per cent more nutritious than organic varieties.

“In the present study the organically produced apples displayed a higher phytochemical concentration and a higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples,” wrote the researchers, led by Bernhard Watzl from the Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food in Karlsruhe.

“However, it remains unclear whether these minor differences caused by the production method are of nutritional relevance.”

Study details

Watzl and his co-workers compared the polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity of Golden Delicious apples grown under organic and conventional conditions over a three year period (2004-2006).

According to their findings, in 2005 and 2006 the antioxidant capacity was 15 per cent higher in the organic fruit than the conventionally produced fruits. Organic apples grown in 2005 also had a higher polyphenol concentration, said the researchers.

On the other hand, no differences between the organic and conventional fruit were observed when the researchers compared fruit from 2004 and 2006.

“The organically grown apples showed a tendency of higher phytochemical concentrations compared to the conventionally produced apples (10 per cent), resulting in a 12 per cent higher antioxidant capacity in the course of three years,” wrote the researchers.

No end in sight?

A recent review, published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin (June 2007, Vol. 32, pp. 104-110) and authored by Claire Williamson from the British Nutrition Foundation, stated that the overall body of science does not support the view that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.

"Organic farming represents a sustainable method of agriculture that avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and makes use of crop rotation and good animal husbandry to control pests and diseases," wrote Williamson. "From a nutritional perspective, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend organic foods over conventionally produced foods."

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Published online ahead of print, 23 April 2009, doi: 10.1021/jf803961f
“Three-Year Comparison of the Polyphenol Contents and Antioxidant Capacities in Organically and Conventionally Produced Apples (Malus domestica Bork. Cultivar `Golden Delicious')”
Authors: B.A. Stracke, C.E. Rfer, F.P. Weibel, A. Bub, B. Watzl

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From Evernote: In vedas, mango is praised as a heavenly fruit.


In vedas, mango is praised as a heavenly fruit.

by rweinert

Bhopal Today Team
Bhopal, April 23:
The mango is the most popular fruit of the tropics and is called `The King of Asiatic fruits'. It is regarded as a valuable item of diet and a household remedy. The mango is fleshy drupe, variable in size and shape, with varying mixtures of green, yellow and red color. In Bhopal, large number of sesonal mango varieties are now available in the market.
The mango is indigenous to India. It has been cultivated here for over 4000 years. In vedas, mango is praised as a heavenly fruit.
Ayurveda considers ripe mango sweet and heating. It balances all the three doshas and acts as an energizer.
Green, unripe mango is also used in Indian cooking. Several varieties are especially cultivated for using raw. Green mango could be picked long before ripening while it is still hard. The fruit is grated and added to dhals and vegetables, or made into chutneys and pickles. The ayurvedic qualities of green mango are sour, astringent and cooling. They should not be eaten alone or in large quantities because they can aggravate the doshas, especially Pitta dosha. However, prepared ayurvedically, in combination with spices, for example in a chutney, they help digestion and improve the flavor of food.
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From Evernote: Kansas Governor Vetoes Milk Labeling Bill


Kansas Governor Vetoes Milk Labeling Bill

by rweinert


Kansas Governor Vetoes Milk Labeling Bill

Kansas Gov. Katherine Sebelius, in what is likely to be one of the last actions of her tenure, has vetoed legislation passed by the State Legislature that would require that dairy products from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST) carry a disclaimer that says, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined there are no significant differences between milk from cows that receive injections of the artificial hormone and milk from those that do not.”

The goal of the disclaimer is to lessen the impression that cows not treated with the artificial hormone that induces them to produce more milk are any safer than cows that are.

In her veto message, Sebelius said that the bill “provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information. The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer’s ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST).”

The veto is considered a victory for the coalition of 29 groups including farmers and consumer advocates who opposed the legislation.

Sebelius is President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); the nomination has been approved by a Senate committee and now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

KC's View: As said previously here, the proposed label was actually designed to obfuscate the issue, not clarify it…which is not what labeling is supposed to do.

This is, I think, the right decision.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

From Evernote: Yogurt Begins With an Outbreak of Good Bacteria in Your Kitchen - NYTimes.com


Yogurt Begins With an Outbreak of Good Bacteria in Your Kitchen - NYTimes.com

by rweinert


They Do the Work, You Reap the Yogurt

Published: April 14, 2009

RIGHT now my kitchen is teeming with bacteria, and I’m doing everything I can to make them feel at home. They’re lactic acid bacteria, the ones that ferment milk into yogurt and buttermilk, cream into crème fraîche. I’ve been making all of these, as well as milk thickened with reputedly beneficial “probiotic” lactic acid bacteria. And getting to know viili, a Finnish fermented milk that reminds me of the Japanese soy product natto. It’s slithery.

Skip to next paragraph

Evan Sung for The New York Times

WHAT FAT GLOBULES CAN DO Make your own yogurt, then experiment with it.


Recipe: Caramel Yogurt (April 15, 2009)

Times Topics: Yogurt Recipes | Harold McGee

I’ve made my own yogurt nearly every week for more than 10 years, beginning with a starter given to me by a friend from yogurt-loving India, and using the last spoonfuls of one batch to make the next. It’s a satisfying ritual of continuity and caretaking. And the yogurt is less expensive and better than anything I can buy. It’s free of stabilizers, sweeteners and waterlogged fruit, and it’s fresh tasting and tart, not sour. I start every day with a bowl of it.

Even if cultured dairy products aren’t part of your daily regimen, they’re worth making once in a while just to know how good they can be, and to experience the everyday miracle of fermentation. You stir a little starter into warm milk or cream, let it sit, and in a few hours the bacteria have multiplied a hundredfold and created a tart, aromatic, thickened mass, with many billions of bacteria in every spoonful.

A growing number of studies have found that some lactic acid bacteria do seem to offer health benefits, supporting the lore of traditional dairying cultures. The lactic acid bacteria are a group of microbes that share the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid, which suppresses the growth of their competitors. The lactic acid also causes the proteins and fat globules in milk to cluster into a continuous solid network, with the milk’s water trapped in its pores.

The protein-fat network is fragile — it’s holding 25 times its weight in liquid — so the watery whey gradually leaks from it. This is why whey pools up in the yogurt container after you scoop out the first spoonful, and why manufacturers add stabilizers.

Much less whey drains out of yogurt made from certain strains of lactic acid bacteria that can convert sugars into long starch-like molecules. These exopolysaccharides, or EPS, bind to the water and one another and make the whey less runny, thicker and more clingy.

EPS producers are the bacteria that dominate in Finnish viili, which is so clingy that you can stretch it a foot or more between bowl and lifted spoon. You eat viili by cutting it into pieces.

To make yogurt, first choose your starter yogurt. If no one offers you an heirloom, I recommend one of the ubiquitous global brands, sweeteners and stabilizers included. They tend to have very active bacterial cultures, including EPS producers, and the additives end up diluted to insignificant levels. Delicious specialty yogurts make less predictable starters.

Then choose your milk. I prefer the flavor and consistency of yogurt made from whole milk. Many types of reduced-fat milk replace the fat with milk solids, including acid-producing lactose, and make a harsher tasting yogurt. Soy milk sets into a custardy curd that becomes very thin when stirred.

Heat the fresh milk at 180 to 190 degrees, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles. The heat alters the milk’s whey proteins and helps create a finer, denser consistency.

Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk.

Then put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I simply swaddle my quart jar in several kitchen towels. You can also put the container in an oven with the light bulb on.

Once the yogurt sets, refrigerate it to firm its structure and slow the continuing acid production. To make a thick Greek-style yogurt, spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, and let the whey and its lactic acid drain into a bowl for several hours. (Don’t discard the whey, whose yellow-green tint comes from riboflavin. It makes a refreshing cool drink, touched up with a little sugar or salt.)

What can you do with yogurt beyond enjoying it as is? I use it to make especially tender pancakes and waffles, and in desserts, including a soft-frozen yogurt, barely sweetened. It’s also fun to explore the unusual soups and salads and sauces and drinks and sweets made in the yogurt belt from the Balkans through Central Asia to India.

You can use the basic yogurt method to make versions of any cultured dairy product, provided your starter carries live bacteria. You can ferment cream with yogurt, or make a yogurt variant by adding buttermilk or a probiotic-drink to milk. You can combine starters and blend the apple-freshness of yogurt with the butteriness of buttermilk.

Crème fraîche is trickier to make than yogurt. Commercial versions vary a lot, with flavors from creamy to buttery to cheesy, colors from pure white to golden, some of them stable enough to boil and others oily from the beginning. None that I’ve found makes a good starter. Use buttermilk instead, stirring it into heavy cream. The cream will set faster and firmer if you preheat it and keep it warm as you do the milk for yogurt.

Heavy whipping cream comes in two main forms: one cream-colored, pasteurized and unhomogenized, the other white, ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, and stabilized with gums. The first has better flavor but tends to separate into thick and thin layers during the hours it takes to ferment, and is more likely to leak butterfat when heated.

If you’re going to cook with the crème fraîche or blend it with other flavors, then stable homogenized cream will do. If you’re making crème fraîche simply to top fruits or pastries, then seek unhomogenized cream.

And if you haven’t tasted it, try the combination that Eric Ziebold, the chef of CityZen in Washington, introduced me to: crème fraîche and french fries. Like sour cream on a baked potato, but even better.

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From Evernote: Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China


Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China

by rweinert


Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China

By Shi Shan
Radio Free China Apr 16, 2009

A vegetable vendor counts money as people shop at a market in Beijing. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Greenpeace China recently conducted a survey on vegetables sold in China's large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The organization found many pesticide-ridden vegetables; some of them even carry cocktails of many highly poisonous pesticides.

In the Greenpeace China report titled, “Pesticide Cocktails: Have You Drunk Some Today?” the organization said that residents in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou almost drink a cup of pesticide cocktail from their fruits and veggies every day. Among the pesticides found, five of them cause cancer. The report also shows that 89 percent of the samples found in these three major cities have pesticide residues; 20 percent contain illegal and highly poisonous pesticides; 60 percent have residues of at least five kinds of pesticides.

A commodity inspection official in Guangdong province said that the abuse of pesticides increased in recent years. “Farmers did not know much about pesticides eight or ten years ago. In recent years, the farmers started to focus more on economic returns and the appearance of the produce and apply pesticides heavily. Now the farmers don’t eat what they grow, they eat vegetables that require very little pesticide.”

Gao Dawei, a former professor of South China University of Technology who specializes in food additive chemicals, said that residues of multiple pesticides are more harmful to the human body than a single pesticide. “It’s a ‘synergetic effect’ as we call it in chemistry. A single chemical may not have much effect but several of them mixed together, cause the chemical reactions to amplify the effect. Most ingested poisons in the human body have such a kind of synergetic effect and hence a cocktail of poisons may cause more serious damage than a single one.”

However, Beijing published an official survey recently that states that 96 percent of vegetables in the city conform to national standards. According to a report in Beijing Daily on April 3, the Produce Safety Inspection Division of the Standing Committee of the Beijing People’s Congress announced that 96.75 percent of vegetables in Beijing passed safety inspections in 2008.

Gao, a commodity inspection official in Guangdong said that official inspections most of the time are not reliable because of the complex interests between the producers and inspectors. Gao said that China has very detailed regulations on produce pesticide residue but in reality they are not enforced.

“The (Chinese) standards were developed from international standards and are even stricter. However, when pests became (pesticide) resistant, the farmers must apply higher dosages. Natural disasters from pests have been getting worse these years and farmers will not have crops if they don’t use a lot of pesticides,” said Gao.

To deal with the residues, Chinese people often choose to prolong the time of soaking and washing their produce. However, some pesticides cannot be cleaned this way according to Gao. “Water can only remove general water-soluble pesticides on the surface. I know at least two kinds of pesticides that can not be washed away. One of them is the acidic pesticides. They react with the produce and bind tightly to it. That is why approved detergents for vegetable cleaning often contain a little alkali. The other kind can permeate into the cells of the produce and nothing can wash it away.”

Read this article in Chinese
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