Irene vs. Katia?

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 31, 2011, 10:03 pm

Hurricane Katia

Don’t tell me we’re getting ANOTHER hurricane?

This is getting silly! Worse than Mothra vs. Godzilla. How many more monstrous storms are heading down the pike? Well, down the Eastern Seaboard, anyhow. I don’t think I really want to know.


[ Photo: Courtesy ]

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Insulting Comment vs. Reasonable Comment

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 29, 2011, 8:02 pm

 Bill Keller - NY Times

New York Times Chief Editor, Bill Keller.

In a recent New York Times article, Mr. Keller says, “Every faith has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ.”

Is his statement insulting or reasonable?

Click below for complete article.


[ Photo: Courtesy ]

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Saltwater Flooded Basement: Good or Bad?

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 28, 2011, 8:47 pm

Saltwater Surged Basement

Just got back from the evacuation to find this in my basement. First thing that comes to mind is depth level.

How many feet of saltwater are in this basement? Four feet. That was easy. Just look carefully at the picture.

Here’s a more difficult question. If this basement is pumped out and dried, will the remaining salt coating (saltwater minus the water) prevent mold from developing in whatever got wet in this basement?

Why do I ask this question, you ask? Well, there’s four feet of corrosive saltwater in my basement, that’s why!

Other assorted questions come to mind as well. For instance, will the washing machine that is floating somewhat at a tilted angle in the background, work after it’s been dried out? Or will the saltwater rust out its innards instead? Or will the gas-powered hotwater heater that’s sitting on the floor under four feet of saltwater to the right of the wire mesh screen need replacing or will it dry out after the water is gone and work normally? Hmmm, there’s a puzzler.

How about, why didn’t the sump pump work? Actually, that’s another easy one. When there’s nowhere for the pumped out water to go except back into the same storm surge that brought it in, the sump pump is not going to work at its optimum level of efficiency!

[ Photo: Courtesy of Hurricane Irene, an ocean water storm surge, and my pocket camera. ]

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Evacuating vs. Not Evacuating

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 27, 2011, 11:10 am

 Storm Surge

Wow, guys! Hurricane Irene is getting ugly!

Between the tumultuous downpours (over 12 inches in less than 36 hours) and the high winds increasing the storm surge (that mound of water that smashes into things – see below for differences between low lying and high lying areas), it looks like evacuation might be the better choice after all.

Surge - Shallow


Surge - Deep

 If stuff starts ramming into other stuff (even though this is not the same as a twister), some kind of stuff is going to get smashed to bits. Still, what are the odds? Well, do we really want to be calculating odds at this point? Just how daring do we want to be? That is the question (hey, if it was good enough for Will . . .).

Decisions. Decisions, Decisions.

What will you do?


[ Photos: Courtesy of and ]

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Getting Prepared vs. Not Getting Prepared

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 26, 2011, 7:04 pm

Hurricane Irene

I guess Hurricane Irene is turning out to be nothing to sneeze at. (Interesting expression and a nifty tie in to my recent post on ragweed.)

I remember when a Category 5 hurricane was nothing to sneeze at. Or even a Category 4 type, but these days I guess even a Category 1 hurricane, or even a tropical storm (even less than Category 1 intensity) may be nothing to sneeze at. After all, the mayor of the City of New York is shutting down the entire NYC Transit System starting tomorrow at 12 Noon. He HAS to know what he’s doing, right? He must be privy to information that the rest of us are not privy to (how’s that for an expression), isn’t he?

I mean, I’m no youngster, and I can’t remember any mayor of New York City ever shutting down the entire New York City Metropolitan Transit System as a response to an impending storm or hurricane or weather disturbance or whatever you decide to call it if you don’t want to call it just a lot of wind and rain and water. He must know something the rest of us don’t, right?

Still, it’s always better to be cautious and not get caught with your pants down. (There’s another one of those interesting expressions we hear from time to time. Imagine trying to explain these expressions to somebody trying to learn the English language – sneezing at something serious or not pulling up your pants when something serious is about to happen. I mean what if they’re not even wearing any pants or what if they don’t do much sneezing?)

But getting back to being prepared for dangerous situations. Of course, it’s always better to be prepared. That’s even part of the code of the Boy Scouts of America and the code of the Girl Scouts of America, isn’t it? Always be prepared.

So batten down those hatches! Nail up those boards! Seal up those shutters! Head for higher ground! Evacuate your homes before it’s too late!

Unless, of course, you’re just not that close to the ocean or a river or a bay or some other large body of water. I mean if you live in the mountains and you’re not near a river, I guess then you’re safe. Maybe. If you’re not trounced by all those evacuees heading for the hills from all those low lying areas they’re evacuating from.

What do you suppose New York City would do if a tsunami was headed its way? I shudder to think.


[ Photo: Courtesy AP Wire Services ]

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Sunscreen vs. No Sunscreen

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 25, 2011, 3:33 pm


This post is an extension of, or a sequel to, or an elaboration on, or an addition to, or . . . oh forget this. Just take a look at what I posted back three years ago (talk about time to think about it), Tan vs. No Tan. Then come back here and read this addendum. Wow! There’s a word worth using more often. Addendum. Addendum. Addendum. Ok. That’s often enough.

Apparently, scientists are now saying that sunscreens cause skin cancer. What?!! And other scientists are saying that caffeine prevents skin cancer. So, I guess, then, not using sunscreens and drinking coffee is all one needs to run off to sun soaked beaches and never again have to worry about skin cancer.

Well, it’s not as easy as all that. But nearly so. Skin color and eye color still tie in. Let’s leave the coffee part for another post. Instead, let’s look at who can tan and who cannot tan. Why? Because scientists actually agree that the more pigment in your skin the more you are protected from the harmful, as well as the beneficial, effects of ultraviolet radiation.

With that controversy out of the way, who gets to play the tanning game?

Albinos (no skin pigment whatsoever) are going to have big, big trouble getting a tan  (more than big trouble really – they just can’t do it – not happening – forget even trying). Certain Africans, certain Indians (from India) and certain aboriginal Australians, all with extremely pigmented skin have already reached the ultimate in dark skin and just cannot get any darker. Anywhere in between and the tanning game is still afoot, Watson.

Albino Girl Papua New Guinea
People with blue, green, hazel, or any other light-colored eye irises will also have trouble tanning, but some degree of tanning is still possible. Those with black-colored eye irises have probably also reached the limit of how much further they can darken. As for the rest, those with light brown, brown or dark brown-colored eye irises, again the tanning game is still afoot.

Time of day and year, as well as where, latitudinally, on the planet you live, and what the weather is doing in your part of the world also tie in, but we will not concern ourselves with those criteria at this time.

Instead, let’s find out if tanning is as harmful as some scientists would have us believe.

When someone tells you that sunlight causes DNA damage to the skin and that the resulting tan is a sign of that damage, they are correct. What they do not tell you (either through ignorance or intentional deception) is that the tan protects your skin from 99.9% of the harmful effects of the sun. And that the actual damage is less than 0.1% and produces only a certain degree of sunburn (the intensity of the sunburn depending on the above-mentioned criteria – e.g., skin color, etc.). And the darker you get, the more protection you have.

So let’s take a closer look at the relationship between sunscreens, tanning, and skin cancer. And this can get tricky. So make sure you put on your science caps.

The main characters are (in order of importance):

UVB – Ultraviolet rays that do not age skin, do not tan skin, and float around only during the middle of the day (about 4 to 6 hours), depending on the angle of the sun in your area and at your time of the year. These rays also create Vitamin D and, in excess, cause sunburn.

UVA – Ultraviolet rays that age skin, tan skin, and float around all day long. These rays do not create Vitamin D and do not cause sunburn, but they can cause indirect DNA damage which, unlike a sunburn’s redness and pain, has no warning signs.

Melanin – a photo-protective pigment that absorbs harmful UV-radiation and transforms the energy into harmless heat through a process called “ultra-fast internal conversion.” This enables melanin to dissipate more than 99.9% of the absorbed UF radiation as heat. This prevents the indirect DNA damage that is responsible for the formation of malignant melanoma and other skin cancers.

Melanocytes – melanin-producing cells located in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis. There are typically between 1000 and 2000 melanocytes per square millimeter of skin. Melanocytes comprise from 5% to 10% of the cells in the basal layer of epidermis. The difference in skin color between lightly and darkly pigmented individuals is due not to the number (quantity) of melanocytes in their skin but to the melanocytes’ level of activity (quantity and relative amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin.)

Melanogenesis – a biological process that allows melanocytes to produce melanin. This process leads to a long-lasting tan, in contrast to the tan that originates from oxidation of already-existing melanin.

Direct DNA Damage

Direct DNA Damage

Direct DNA damage: The UV-photon is directly absorbed by the DNA (left). One of the possible reactions from the excited state is the formation of a thymine-thymine cyclobutane dimer (right). The direct DNA damage leads to sunburn, causing an increase in melanin production, thereby leading to a long-lasting tan. However, it is responsible for only 8% of all melanoma.

Due to the excellent photochemical properties of DNA, this nature-made molecule is damaged only by a tiny fraction of the absorbed photons. DNA transforms more than 99.9% of the photons into harmless heat. (But the damage from the remaining < 0.1% of the photons is still enough to cause sunburn).

Photoprotection – a group of mechanisms that nature has developed to minimize the damage that the human body suffers when exposed to UV radiation.

Photoprotection of the human skin is achieved by extremely efficient internal conversion of DNA, proteins and melanin. Internal conversion is a photochemical process that converts the energy of the UV photon into small amounts of heat. This small amount of heat is harmless. If the energy of the UV photon were not transformed into heat, then it would lead to the generation of free radicals or other harmful reactive chemical species (e.g. singlet oxygen, or hydroxyl radical).

In DNA this photoprotective mechanism evolved four billion years ago at the dawn of life. The purpose of this extremely efficient photoprotective mechanism is to prevent direct DNA damage and indirect DNA damage. The ultrafast internal conversion of DNA reduces the excited state lifetime of DNA to only a few femtoseconds (10-15s)—this way the excited DNA has not enough time to react with other molecules.

So why do so many scientists now believe sunscreens actually cause cancer? The answer is in the chemicals present in all sunscreens. Apparenlty, these chemicals stimulate free radical formation that actually causes the most severe forms of skin cancers, the malignant melanomas. And that’s not a good thing.

So, what does all this information tell us? Basically, that skin darkening (if done carefully so as to avoid sunburns and free radical formation) is an effective and healthy way to prolong our time in the sun. And that’s probably why mankind has survived the perils of sunlight without the use of sunscreens for so many millennia. Goodbye sunscreens!



[ Above photos: Courtesy of Wikipedia and ]

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Ragweed vs. Hurricanes

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 24, 2011, 1:03 pm

Hurricane Irene Predicted Path

Now, in addition to ragweed allergies (for those of us who suffer from that particular malady), we have to start worrying about hurricanes.

I know in my last post I said that a hurricane was one solution to my ragweed problem as it would wash away a good portion of the pollen. But I didn’t expect such a quick response from whoever controls the weather (there IS somebody out there controlling the weather, isn’t there?) and who also, and at the same time mind you, happens to be actually listening to anything I say on this blog.

Controlling the weather? Who’s kidding who? Nobody can control the weather. Right?

Maybe it’s just somebody controlling good luck and bad luck. Let’s see, my basement got flooded out just over a week ago, my wife’s 1982 Light Blue Volvo got stolen two days later, my ragweed allergies started kicking in a few days after that, and now I have to contend with a hurricane?

Oh! And let’s not forget about the earthquake that hit this region of the country yesterday. At least, somehow, that one slipped by me. I didn’t feel anything yesterday except that pothole that nearly bounced me out of my other car. Hey! Wait a minute! Could that have been the . . .?

All I can say is “there’s something fishy going on here.” I better watch what I say. I could get clobbered by a boatload of mackerel tomorrow.


[ Photo: Courtesy of ]

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Ragweed Remedy: Natural or Pharmaceutical?

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 23, 2011, 6:36 pm


 Ragweed season is upon us.

 How do I know? Did I read something about it? (Like what you’re doing now?)


 Did someone tell me about it?


 Did I just feel it in the wind?

 Well maybe. What it is is, I found out the hard way!

 I opened a window to get some fresh air and wound up sneezing my life away. One. Two. Three. Four. Five sneezes in a row. Wow! I needed this like I needed a hole in my head. Which is what I thought I now had because a super headache was starting to build over my right eye socket. Part of the ole sinus-passageways-getting-irritated thing.

 What did I do? Shut the window tight! Turned on the air filters! And then?

 Took some form of pharmaceutical antihistamine concoction? No way! Poisonous stuff!

 Instead, I reached for a peppermint tea bag. Pressed it up against my nostrils and breathed in deeply. Once. Twice. Three times. And again. Once. Twice. Three times. It actually worked. Within a few minutes, I could breathe normally again. No more sneezing. No more stuffiness. Headache easing off. Amazing stuff! Peppermint, that is.

 So now I carry a peppermint tea bag in my shirt pocket and repeat the procedure as needed throughout the day.

 Meanwhile, I wait for a nice rainshower or a thunderstorm or a hurricane with gail force winds to blow away the noxious pollen. At least, until ragweed season ends.


[ Photo: Courtesy of ]

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Can a $500 Rust Bucket of a Car Really Get Ransomed for $5000?

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 22, 2011, 4:04 pm


[These old photos don't show all the current rust on my wife's little old car. The front hood is covered with rust and so is the moon roof. I just don't have any other photos more recent than these.]

Why would I pay a $5,000 ransom for a rusty little old car worth no more than $500, you ask?

Because it’s my wife’s “rusty little old car.” And it’s been carnapped! Well, actually it’s been stolen! Without a ransom note, I guess it can’t really be called napping. Can it? But who would choose to steal an old stick-shift car like this one over newer cars in the same unprotected lot?

 I’m still trying to figure it out. Why would my wife’s rust bucket of a car, her 1982 Volvo – yeah, that’s not a typo – why would her 1982 Light Blue Volvo Turbo (techinically a 244 DL with included turbo unit and five-on-the-floor stick shift – the fifth gear stopped working nearly 17 years ago, along with the odometer – it still reads 159,000 miles when it’s got at least 340,000 miles on it) get carnapped/stolen (sometime between 9:00 PM and 8:30 AM this last Tues/Wed , 8/16/11 – 8/17/11) from the Under the Hood Auto Repair Shop parking lot (on the corner of Verity Lane and Atlantic Avenue, Baldwin, NY 11510 – Nassau County, Long Island – in case anyone wants to Google Earth the location) which parking lot, by the way, was filled with way more valuable Hondas?

 I could understand if the Volvo was some sort of showpiece, or had some valuable parts to sell, but her car really IS a rust bucket. Nothing on it is worth a dime. A while back, a mechanic told me I’d be punching my foot through the floor one day because of all the rust. True, it still carried me and my wife around our neighborhood, for food shopping and such, but just barely. And true, with only four cylinders it hardly uses any gas. And true, it DOES have sentimental value for ransoming. So why no ransom note? I really would pay $5,000 to get her car back. And true, I know it’s worth only about $500 (if you count the four two-year old tires).

 So, can a $500 rust bucket of a car really get ransomed for $5000? I guess so!


 That’s the problem with sentimental stuff. If I were a multi-millionaire, I’d pay even more to get it back. But $5,000 would be the absolute limit of what I could afford right now. Even if my wife and I DO have alot of “tender memories” attached to that car. We bought it brand new way back in 1983 from Volvoville of Amityville, NY for $16,000. We had money back then. Both working and all. We’re retired now. Living on pensions and social security. We probably should just buy something newer with $5,000 but we really can’t bring ourselves to pay $5,000 for somebody else’s used car. Not with our current income, at any rate. Not when we could just as well buy somebody else’s used car for $500 or even $1500. Only our little old rust bucket of a car is worth $5,000 to us. Shows you what foolish things people will do for the sake of sentimentality.

 So why don’t car thieves think of this when they steal really old, rust bucket cars? You’d think they’d say to themselves, “The owner of this car is spending thousands of dollars to get this car repaired when it’s not worth even $500 – it must have a whole lot of sentimental value for him or her or them – let’s take it and ransom it.” But no, they don’t think of that. So they don’t ask for any ransom. They probably just sell it as a junk car. Car thieves have no imagination.

 [P.S. - If they're reading this, all they have to do is leave a ransom note at the car repair shop where they took the car from or even mail the repair shop a note. The address is Under the Hood, 869 Atlantic Avenue, Baldwin, NY 11510.]

 [P.S. - If anybody else sees this rusted, light blue 1982 Volvo, please call 911 and let them know where you saw it. Thanks.]


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Flour vs. Flour

Posted by Roger Baronat, August 21, 2011, 4:43 pm


Do you ever eat anything made with flour? Do you know anyone who does? Do you think it’s safe to eat stuff made with flour? These seem like silly questions, don’t they?

Well, here’s the nub of it. Flour is no longer the simple thing it once was. Just like buttermilk is not what buttermilk used to be and just like what we know as currants are no longer really currants but rather plain old Nantes grapes. But we can look at those last two items in another article, or another two articles, or another . . . you get the idea. So let’s concentrate on the first item: flour.

Turns out what we call flour can be all sorts of stuff. To make it more identifiable, we have to place some sort of descriptive identifier in front of it. Such as the following: rye flour, barley flour, buckwheat flour, acorn flour, rice flour . . . all right, enough of this. All these flours are just ground up other stuff added to something else. In some of those cases, if the stuff we’re adding has any nutrition whatsoever, it should be a good thing and, therefore, safe.

But when most of us think of flour, we don’t think of those flours, do we? No. Because those flours will not puff up into what we call bread. They’ll just lie there like lumps that we would call rocks because we’d break all our teeth on them if we tried to eat them.

So what DO we think of when we think of flour? We think of wheat flour, of course. The powder that comes from grinding up those little beige-colored grains attached to three-foot high stalks of grass that wave around in the wind until somebody comes along with a sickle (these days, a threshing machine) and chops them down to collect the little . . . ok, so now we know what the topic is. Or do we?

Wheat flour can be a confusing thing. And for a small portion of the world population, the gluten in wheat flour can be very, very unsafe. But for the rest of us the confusing part is problem enough. Wheat flour can be all-purpose wheat flour, bleached wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, bread wheat flour, bromated wheat flour, cake wheat flour, instant wheat flour, pastry wheat flour . . . it never ends does it? Well, actually it does, but not all that soon. So let’s stop here and save ourselves the aggravation.

Besides, it’s more important to consider the fact that all these wheat flours have been stripped of their germ and bran! And for good reason, too. (Didn’t expect that, did you ?) How can germ and bran be bad, you ask? Well, here’s the answer.

Wheat germ goes rancid really fast, especially if you leave it at room temperature for any reasonable length of time and the wheat bran is nearly impossible to chew (depending on the percentage of dentures in your mouth). Of course, this means that all that’s left of the little beige grain we started out with is the starchy stuff scientists call the endosperm. If we could just chop up the bran a little finer, it would be easier to chew and we’d get a lot of good fiber out of it. And if we could just stick flour in our freezers, we could eliminate the germ going rancid. Then we could use up the whole little beige grain and that would probably be a whole lot better. But what if it’s not? Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s think positively.

Keeping all the parts of the little beige grain together after it’s all ground up would give us “whole wheat flour.” Wow! That’s got to be good, right? Well, maybe. Let’s not forget the little beige grain has many types. Nothing is simple, is it? According to the wikipedia definition of the word, “wheat,” there’s . . .

Durum – Very hard, translucent, light-colored grain used to make semolina flour for pasta.

Hard Red Spring – Hard, brownish, high-protein wheat used for bread and hard baked goods. Bread Flour and high-gluten flours are commonly made from hard red spring wheat.

Hard Red Winter – Hard, brownish, mellow high-protein wheat used for bread, hard baked goods and as an adjunct in other flours to increase protein in pastry flour for pie crusts. Some brands of unbleached all-purpose flours are commonly made from hard red winter wheat alone One variety is known as “turkey red wheat”, and was brought to Kansas by Mennonite immigrants from Russia.

Soft Red Winter – Soft, low-protein wheat used for cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, and muffins. Cake flour, pastry flour, and some self-rising flours with baking powder and salt added, for example, are made from soft red winter wheat. It is primarily traded by the Chicago Board of Trade.

Hard White – Hard, light-colored, opaque, chalky, medium-protein wheat planted in dry, temperate areas. Used for bread and brewing.

Soft White – Soft, light-colored, very low protein wheat grown in temperate moist areas. Used for pie crusts and pastry. Pastry flour, for example, is sometimes made from soft white winter wheat.

Great information if you plan on baking your own bread. But try finding out which of the above wheat grains is in your local supermarket bread and you will not succeed. Try calling up the company that makes the bread and you still will not succeed. I guess the only answer is to bake your own breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, popovers, pies, pastas, and anything else made with flour.




[ Photos: Courtesy of, ]

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Unhomogenized Milk vs. Homogenized Milk

Posted by Roger Baronat, July 08, 2009, 9:43 am

Unhomogenized Milk  Milk Container

Which is the more dangerous? This solid glass milk bottle from Ronnybrook Farms in Ancramdale, NY or this waxed cardboard milk box from somewhere between the star-filled dimensions of The Twilight Zone and the subterranean recesses of Warehouse 13?

Aside from the obviously non-dangerous photographic differences between the smooth bottle with the crinkled cap reminiscent of milk delivery systems of the first half of the twentieth century and its now ubiquitous cardboard replacement, there is a significant difference in the contents of these two vessels. The one on the left contains unhomogenized milk and the one on the right contains – yep – homogenized milk! More of a danger than most people would suspect.

Unlike pasteurization – which kills 99.999% of dangerous bacteria, or ultra-pasteurization - which also kills “vital vitamins and enzymes such as galactase (aids in the absorption of calcium) and lipase (causes milk fat to self destruct after the body absorbs its fat-soluble nutrients),” homogenization does not kill anything. Except us. Though it is a slow kill.

Homogenization breaks up the creamy fat that floats to the top of glass bottles of unhomogenized milk. Then it disperses it into teeny-weeny little pinpoints of creamy fat that are so small they no longer float but remain in suspension with the rest of the milk.

 Homogenization  Villi

 [Right click and select
View Image to enlarge.]

The trouble is that those little pinpoints of creamy fat are now tiny enough to get absorbed by the villi in our small intestines. And once absorbed into the villi, they make their way into our arteries leading to all sorts of cardiovascular difficulties. A real bummer!

So why did the milk people commit this abominable crime so detrimental to our health and theirs as well? Increased $ale$. They conducted a few consumer surveys asking the test subjects what they thought of milk with cream floating at the top and got all sorts of negative answers.

“Oooh! What gooey crud is this?” “Looks terrible! Get rid of it or I won’t buy any more milk.” “I can’t shake it enough to mix it real good. Tastes creepy this way.” “Wish something could be done about this yucky, floating cream.” “I’m tired of shaking the bottle to mix the cream with the rest of the milk.”

And the milk people listened to the voice of the people. People who are now dead, as the surveys were done back in the 1950′s.  And even though statistics show fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases prior to the 1950′s, modern day researchers still scratch their heads while drinking homogenized milk and ask, “Why can’t we figure out what’s causing all this cardiovascular ill health?”

SPECIAL NOTE:  The container in the second photo is intentionally blank because the brand name of the milk does not matter. Nor does it matter whether the milk is whole milk or 2% milk or any other percentage milk. Nearly 100% of all the milk most of us find in our local supermarkets is homogenized. A full 100% in many supermarkets! Except for skim milk, which tastes terrible because there is nothing left in it to get homogenized. It’s nearly pure water.

So where has all the unhomogenized milk gone?

Good question. Worthy of Captain Jack Sparrow.  Er . . . when he was a toddler, perhaps.

Where indeed has it gone? And more to the point, can you get some that’s still fresh? If you really want to know the answers to these questions, the links below will help you. If you take the time, use the energy, and spend the money for phone calls, you will probably find a supplier in your area with access to a dairy farm that still produces unhomogenized milk.

But remember to read labels carefully. Unhomogenized milk can still be pasteurized. If it is not pasteurized, it is called “raw milk.” And that will be another choice you will have to make. Is your health and the health of your family worth the time, the trouble, and the expense? I believe it is.



[ Photos: Courtesy of,,, and ]

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Azodicarbonamide Breads vs. Good Breads

Posted by Roger Baronat, July 01, 2009, 11:05 am



What the heck is  AAAH  ZOH  DIE  CAR  BON  AAAH  MIDE?  And why is it in my bread? That’s like Jack Sparrow asking, “Why is the rum gone?” With about the same chance of getting a decent answer for it.

Actually, it may not be in your bread. Some breads have it and some breads don’t. Can you tell the difference in the photos above? Unlikely. The photos are just mirror images of each other. It doesn’t matter what the breads look like. Azodicarbonamide is not visible to the naked eye. Or any other kind of eye.

Unless you read the ingredients on the wrapper surrounding the bread, you will have no way of knowing.  Apparently however, anyone who processes foods with azodicarbonamide must list it in their ingredients label. With three exceptions.

If they happen to live in Australia or Europe, the chemical is banned, so they better not be listing it. If they happen to live in the Republic of Singapore, the penalty for using this poison is up to 15 years imprisonment and a $450,000 fine, in which case they also better not be listing it.

But anywhere else in the world, including right here in the good old USA, it’s perfectly legal for bakers to list and use the stuff. Our own FDA has no problems with it. They claim it makes the bread doughier. “But why is the rum gone?”

So the next time you shop for bread, check the label for anything that starts with AZOD, and if there IS no label  . . .  well, I know what I would do.

Photo: Courtesy of




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Shoes vs. Bare Feet

Posted by Roger Baronat, June 24, 2009, 9:56 am

Barefoot Running - Woman  Barefoot Running - Man

Everyone knows what shoes look like, so no need for pictures of ‘em here.

Bare feet are another story. Actually, it’s this story, or this post, or . . .  the point is we don’t see much of bare feet, except for our own or those of our significant other. Some may ask, “What is a significant other?” And others may ask,  “Why is it we see their bare feet so often?” I say, “Neither of those questions have much to do with our topic and most people know the answers anyway.” We need a question for which most people do not have the answer. I have it!

What is an “insignificant other?” There’s a question that begs an answer, but we can discuss that in another post. It’s totally off-topic. How about, “Why do we see so few bare feet during the course of our daily living?” And now we do a little Family Feud dialog with “Survey says!” And the answer just pops out at us with no delay whatsoever. Shoes!

Yes, shoes! That’s why we don’t need any pictures of ‘em cluttering up the bare feet above. We don’t see much of bare feet, but we do see a whole lot of shoes. And rightly so. Shoes provide us with a very important service.

They protect us from the dangers to be found on the ground. Some may ask, “What dangers?” I say, “Glass shards for one.” Others may ask,  “What are shards?” I say, “Don’t ask.” Just know they are very sharp and very tiny and very nasty. And none of us want them embedded into the bottom of our feet. Another clear and present danger of bouncing around barefoot is the increased odds of our stepping onto sharp rocks, or sharp pieces of metal, or sharp pieces of wood, or sharp . . . the key word here is “sharp” and basically that’s why we wear shoes. To protect us from turning the skin on the bottom of our feet into a tangled mess of blood, dirt, and raw flesh that would not only give us great pain but would also expose our bodies to infectious diseases and other unpleasant things that would lead to our untimely demise. In a word, survival.

On the other hand, if we could find a place devoid of dangerously sharp objects, then running around barefoot could be beneficial for us. Stepping onto, or into, unsharp objects cannot really harm us. What can a little twig, or branch, or leaf, or smooth pavement, or dirt, or mud, or grease, or rainwater, or sand, or rotted food, or animal dung do to us? A little push into our skin? We can bounce back from that with no trouble. A little grime? We just wash it off with a little soap and water. No problem.

And the benefits are tremendous. Blister reduction. Fungus reduction. Increased muscle flexibility, better posture, increased stamina, and a difficult-to-define, overall happier feeling when we can wiggle our toes in total freedom from oppressive confinement.

Humankind has walked on the various surfaces of this planet for a very long time, and wearing shoes, when the weather does not require it, remains a relatively new idea. Perhaps going barefoot is better.



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Healthy Organic Foods vs. Poisonous Chemical Foods

Posted by Roger Baronat, June 17, 2009, 12:36 pm

Organic Tomato  Chemicals

Seems like an easy choice. But is it?

Organic foods are healthier but more expensive. Chemical foods are poisonous, cheaper, and not labeled organic. Yet some of the foods labeled organic can still have harmful chemicals in them. Arsenic, after all, is organic. Always read the fine print. If you can find it. 95% (and that’s a conservative estimate) of anything in a supermarket is filled with dangerous, life-threatening chemicals. That’s what keeps prices from skyrocketing. Chemicals are cheap. If it costs them less to manufacture it, it costs us less to buy it. With more of us feeling the pinch lately, we would all like to save a little more on food.

But the questions are, “Can we live with it?” or “Will it kill us tomorrow or down the road?” Filling our bodies with pesticide-packed, hormone-injected, preservative-laced, artificially-fertilized, chemical food is not a good thing. It will age us prematurely, shorten our lifespans, and generally make us feel more uncomfortable. But if the poisons act slowly and take more than forty years to do all that, do we really care? Besides, maybe we can reduce the odds of bodily damage if we can pick and choose as to the number of chemicals and which ones might be more harmful than others. That might work.

Unfortunately, many of the nastier chemicals are not so easy to spot. Oh, it’s easy enough to read a label and look for stuff impossible to pronounce, but that’s only if the label is correctly printed and is actually on the package. There are many chemical foods filled with preservatives for extended shelf life and at least 13 to 39 artificial this-and-that chemicals designed to keep bugs and fungi from destroying them before they get to us. Chemicals also make chemical foods look nice and pretty and, sometimes, taste even better. But the labels don’t always show it. Often they are misprinted or missing completely.


About two years ago, my wife and I went to the meat section of our local grocery store and bought a loin of pork. There was no label on it other than the one with the price, what it was, and a sell-by date. After we cooked it, served it, and tried to eat it, we found it incredibly salty and at the same time mushy. We had to throw it out.

The next day, we asked the butcher at the store about it and he said, “it comes that way now.” We asked him, “What way?” He said, “injected with a meat tenderizer to make it easier to eat.” We asked him why it needed to be easier to eat than before. He said, “Now that they’re producing pigs with less fat so people don’t get heart problems, the cooked meat is way too tough and dry and people, especially people with dentures, can’t eat it like that. So they add chemicals to it to  keep the moisture in and break down the meat fibers.” My wife and I just looked at each other in disbelief.

We then asked him why there was no label on the package to indicate that it had chemicals in it and what those chemicals are. He said, “the label is on the shrink-wrap part of the whole section of meat when it comes into the store. We take that off before cutting it into smaller sections. We have other labels that we then stick on to the smaller packages. Somebody must have forgotten to put ‘em on, heh, heh!”


Then there are the labels that intentionally disguise the chemical information with a phrase like “natural flavor.” We all know “artificial flavor” is made from chemicals, but who would have thought that “natural flavor” could be just as detrimental to our health? Adding to the problem, some “natural flavors” are, in fact, safe. But when we think about it, why would any food have to have “natural flavor” added to it. It should already have all the flavor it needs. If it doesn’t, then why doesn’t it? What has been done to it to make it lose the flavor it was supposed to have? Like blueberry jam with natural flavors added. Blueberries have flavor. Blueberries have a lot of flavor. They taste great, right off the bush. So why add natural flavor to them?

And what about blueberry muffins? Why do they always have aluminum in their ingredients? For years now, aluminum has been associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Why would a manufacturer put aluminum in their blueberry muffin mix? Because it makes it look nice and pretty. Then they add the chemicals that make it smell like blueberries, and the flavors that make it taste like blueberries, and it’s all cheaper than real blueberries are. In fact, some blueberry muffins have no blueberries in them at all. But that doesn’t stop the label from calling them blueberry muffins. I guess it’s because they have that blueberry color in them.

Still, everybody wants to save money, so we pass by the organic section of the food markets, saying to ourselves that it is just way too expensive, and besides, the organic foods do not look nice and pretty. Instead, we buy the foods with the chemicals in them and save tons of money. Money that we honestly need to meet the costs of the constantly increasing number of visits we make to our doctors offices.

Silly, isn’t it? One way or another, the money disappears.

It seems to me, we’re better off broke and healthy than broke and sickly.



[Tomato, courtesy of]
[Lips, courtesy of]

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Wine vs. Beer

Posted by Roger Baronat, June 09, 2009, 1:45 pm

Wineglasses  Beer glasses

Wow! Wine vs. Beer? Talk about opening up a can of worms! But let’s not get into a “knock down, drag out” just yet. Lots of people like both, though not at the same time! And certainly not mixed up in the same flagon. Yuk!

So what happens when we sit down at some sort of dining arena ready for a hearty lunch or dinner?  We’ll assume here that neither the wine nor the beer will do with a ham ‘n’ egg breakfast special, right? So lunch or dinner it is, then. But how do we make the decision? Do we reach in our pocket for a large coin and try the George Raft flip? Or is it a mood thing?

Maybe we could slug down a beer before the meal and try the wine during the meal. A good idea, if we’re looking to regurgitate the more solid portions of the meal. So where does that leave us?  [scratch head here]  Hmmm.

How about another approach, then? Beer is served in a large flagon or stein. Ok, we know what a stein is but what the devil is a flagon? Let’s just call it a really large stein. Actually, in medieval times, a flagon was used almost exclusively with wine. But that was then and this is now and a flagon is still larger than a stein. Anyway, these days wine is served in this tiny little tulip-shaped thingy atop an even tinier little glass stem. So what’s the point?

The point is beer is voluminous. Big. Large. Filling. In other words, a whole lot of liquid. A glass of wine doesn’t even get filled up all the way. It just barely makes four or five ounces. Not big. Not large. Not filling. In fewer words, very little liquid. So what does the amount of liquid have to do with the price of beans when we’ve just ordered a nice juicy steak? Well, look at it this way. Do we want numerous, masticated chunks of steer sinew sloshing around in a sea of our stomach juices during our lunch or dinner? Or would we prefer a few sips of a nice acidic juice to help our stomach do its job? (i.e., digestion)

Beer or ale at the local pub with a bowl of pretzels or beer nuts nearby is a horse of a different color. The pretzels and the nut-mash absorb liquid better than a deep-sea sponge. And if we feel, or hear, too much sloshing, we just chomp down on a few more . . . You get the idea.

So the next time a waiter asks you what sort of alcoholic beverage you’d like with your lunch or dinner, no worries! You’ll know what to do. Or will you?



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