Tag Archives: natural

The Perfect Swarm

IMG_0473It was raining in the canoe on the bay lake. A hard rain. The kind of rain that encouraged my wife try like hell to bail water with her coffee cup.

Two days earlier…

It was a Friday. The crew and I assembled in the aft quarters to review the weather reports. They said there was a 10% chance of rain on Saturday and a 30% chance on Sunday. We decided to depart on Sunday.

One day earlier…

On one hand it was a good decision to delay because it gave us an extra day to perform dry runs. We ran equipment checks and drills. Our first trip had caught us unprepared. I’d be damned if that was going to happen on my watch.

We took some time on Saturday and got the rigging down to a science. That last portage had almost killed us.

While the canoe was out of the garage, we decided to go home improvement on this old house. For some strange reason we were tired of dry dock consisting of the canoe precariously balanced on the refrigerator and an old bookcase.

canoe_iconHow To Have Fun In A Canoe
Lean in the same direction as your companion. This is also known as “swimming.”

A one-hour construction project was about to go 500 percent past deadline.
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Crapples To Crapples

Untreated European apples with "browning."

Untreated European apples with natural “browning.” See what a difference a little diphenylamine can make?

Ah, Europe. A place where they eat cigarettes like Halloween candy going out of style yet worry about every little nit when it comes to their food.

Viva dichotomy!

“Oui! Next week I may hack up a cancerous thing that used to be a lung but today I will live, dammit, live! The juices of life must be savored to the fullest! The one thing we must absolutely never allow is diphenylamine in our food, you damn foolishly greedy capitalistic yanks.”

I, for one, say thanks. Because, without the European Food Safety Authority banning this, that and the other thing, I wouldn’t be able to say things like: “Oh yeah? Well Kraft Macaroni & Cheese still contains two artificial dyes banned in Europe.” Chef Booyah la de Fuckin’ Dah!

Kraft Foods is an American food company that was owned by a tobacco company until recently when they jury rigged the corporate legalese by rebranding Philip Morris as Altria Inc. and allegedly, in 2007, successfully underwent a Siamese twins separation operation, at least theoretically on paper. That’s because Kraft wants you to know they care about what you put in your body. Kraft Kares ™.
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Foods With Benefits

processed-foodFood has been sleeping around with your stomach and no condoms have ever been involved. It’s like a 60’s love fest in your belly. Groovy, baby.

It turns out that the human stomach isn’t that discriminating. It’s a go-with-the-flow kind of hipster dufus (probably wearing a fedora) who blindly trusts decisions made by the brain and mouth. Ha ha ha! Like they give a shit about downstream organs!

Tom’s Law #42

As one becomes less involved in the production and preparing of one’s own food, the odds of unwanted contaminants, unknown ingredients, lessened nutrition, deception and malice are exponentially increased.

Chew on that!

For example, the average fast food patron eats an average of 12 public hairs per year. And probably in a public place! Some things are meant to be handled in pubic.
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Hyppo and Critter: Natural Flavors

Hyppo and Critter

Ingredient Throwbown with Abyss Flayed: Triscuit vs Wheat Thins

Celebrity endorsement is not implied or flavorful.

I’ve become interested in ingredients of late. It all goes back to my Christmas wish list (in progress). One of the items on my list is a book about the tobacco industry entitled Golden Holocaust. I’m sure it’ll bring kris kringles of fun to make my season bright.

I read an excerpt from the book that got me thinking about ingredients. And thanks to the internet, I’ve gained more knowledge than I ever dreamed possible. And more than I ever wanted.

But more about all that later when I bring you the grisly details right before supper time.

For now, a brief and simple new feature here on the blog called The Ingredient Throwdown with Abyss Flayed. I’m your host, Mr. Abyss, and as part of this process I’ll be flayed. Hence the title. I’ll also be flambéed, sautéed, and filleted. That part I’m doing just to be thorough.

In this feature I pick two food items that strike my fancy and put them up against each other in a head-to-head winner-take-all-challenge. Using my secret formula, I then list the ingredients in each food item in an unbiased manner and declare a winner based on which ingredients I think are better.

Sounds like fun? Let’s eat!
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Energetic energy extrapolations

Energy is that which makes us go. It’s fuel that makes our vehicles move, and electrical power that heats and cools our homes. And it’s electricity that powers industry and business.

By now, most Americans have heard statistics like the United States is 5 percent of the world’s population but responsible for 25% of global energy consumption. So I was little surprised to learn that the U.S. is 7th in “energy consumption per capita” behind Canada and a number of small countries. Even so, the U.S. is still the world’s largest consumer of energy.

Where does our energy come from? Approx. 40% from petroleum, 23% from coal, 23% from natural gas, 8.4% from nuclear power, and 7.3% from renewable, which includes mainly hydroelectric dams but also wind power, geothermal and solar.

US Energy Consumption Graph. Fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) represent about 86 percent of the total.

Energy always seems to come with a price. It’s like a wish that comes true but carries a curse. Petroleum pollutes our atmosphere and cities. Coal mining is dangerous and also causes pollution. Natural gas is advertised as “cleaner” but it still adds to global carbon emissions. Nuclear power is high risk and produces toxic waste products. Even hydroelectric power has its problems like ecosystem damage, other environmental effects and risk. (They can fail.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy recently due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the hubris of us humans.

Japan is a country located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which is an area where large numbers of volcanic activity and earthquakes occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. Japan, in particular, is situated on the meeting point of two major tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate is moving westward against the younger and less dense Philippines Plate. Over time the Pacific Plate is pushing under the Philippines Plate. As we all know, the activity between tectonic plates is occasionally experienced by humans in the form of earthquakes.

U.S. Energy Consumption By Energy Resource 1635-2000 (in Quadrillion Btu)

Einstein said famously that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In our history we have accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Yet we still tell ourselves, “Yes, we can do this. We know what we’re doing.” We’re really good at failing to learn the lessons of history.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we think of those incidents as “accidents.” Perhaps our mindsets would be slightly different if we thought of them as “inevitables.”

I like to think of it like this. Imagine that the nuclear power industry is a home you want to build. But the only land you can afford is in a 100-year flood plain. Wikipedia says, “a 100-year flood has approximately a 63.4% chance of occurring in any 100-year period.” It could happen the year after you build your dream home. Or in a hundred years. Or in two hundred years or longer. The point being, it’s a random probability.

You took that land, of course, because, all other factors being equal, it was cheaper than land that wasn’t in a flood plain. In other words, you accepted the risk. We humans seem to lack the ability to effectively gauge or even imagine what isn’t right in front of our faces. If the dream home is built and then gets washed away next year, guess who will be crying crocodile tears about it? Too bad, so sad. Talk to the hand!

The nuclear power industry is a home built on a 100-year flood plain.

Worse, the nuclear reactors built in Japan were supposed to be the best of the best. They were supposedly engineered and constructed to the highest earthquake and disaster standards in the world. It turns out, though, that they didn’t even represent the best we humans could do. Reports are now saying that the reactors needed “upgrades” and stuff.

In other words, they were only built to withstand, perhaps, 80 percent of what might conceivably happen. And that’s perfectly analogous to a 100-year flood plain. So it’s no big surprise what happened. Most likely, it was inevitable.

And, I have a question. It might be a stupid one and expose that I know diddly squat about this entire topic. I’m willing to risk that ridicule because I want to know. Nuclear reactors contain fuel and water is used to control the heat, etc. So my question is this: After the earthquake, were the reactors still in operation? Was the fuel still in there doing its fuel type of stuff? So water and power were still needed to manage coolant to control the process?

Were the reactors shut down and the nuclear fuel completely removed as a safety precaution right after the earthquake so there would be absolutely no possibility of the reactors going out of control and overheating?

Were these types of tough decisions authorized to be made by personnel actually on site at the reactors? Or did “shut down” decisions have to come from elsewhere, which might have been a bit difficult and complicated right after a big earthquake? Were there procedures for shutdown and proactively be safe? You know, just in case something like a tsunami might follow? (It’s been known to happen.)

I have absolutely no idea. But I can imagine it would have been a big decision. Should we turn off the grid and affect millions of people? What if we’re wrong? How do we balance that against an unknown “if” that may or may not happen?

I’d be very curious to know.

This post is too long. I’ll probably have to continue it in a part 2. “To be continued.” Heh. Here are some final quickie thoughts.

Coal? I once saw a movie that claimed every time you flip on a light switch you blow up a mountain. I actually think about that when I turn on the lights.

Then I heard about the mayor of small town (pop. 200) in Texas that was surrounded by 18 natural gas wells. The company that profited from the wells assured the mayor that everything was safe. But the mayor’s kids had constant nose bleeds, and not just little dribbles. They were gushers. I heard him on The Story, a radio program on NPR. The mayor loved his town and fought the good fight, but eventually choose to move out of town to protect the health of his family. That was the right decision. The safety of his family had to come first. Along the way he fought the company and got little help from the state of Texas.

When it comes to energy, all I hear about is how we need, more, more, and more. Projections for energy use in the U.S. in the future show that demand will be going up. But what if less was more? What if the most powerful weapon we ever had (conservation) was already within our grasp? What if we figured out new ways to get by with less? Of course, we live in a culture where fuel economy in vehicles has barely moved a blip since the time the combustion engine was invented. This sort of approach seems to be of little interest to us.

We need energy. We crave energy. We demand energy. Our very lives and almost everything single thing we do depends on energy. But at the same time, energy production is one of the most destructive things that we humans can ever do.

How will we ever reconcile this? Is it even possible?

In part two I’ll try to answer the big question, “What if we found a limitless and perfectly safe form of energy?”

This is my “E” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

I have a low brow question

Psst! Hey you! Over here. I have a question.

Where did all the female eyebrows go?

I was looking at this interesting and highly entertaining blog today (specifically this post) that had some photographs of women. I think it was about dying your hair blonde. I mean no disrespect to the women featured on that blog, they are very beautiful, but as I looked at the photos something leaped out at me. Something that has been troubling me for a long, long time.

Where did all the female eyebrows go?

Maybe I’m the world’s biggest dumb ass (no doubt) but I’m confused. I’ve heard about “plucking” your eyebrows. And I know you can “trim” them, something I do often to avoid looking too much like Andy Rooney.

But it seems to me that some women are completely removing their eyebrows? And then what happens? They paint or use makeup to create new fake ones? Is that how it works?

I’m seriously confused here. Is that what is actually taking place?

To research this further I went to look up one of the hottest looking women I’ve ever seen: Mona Lisa. (Almost as beautiful as my wife.) I loaded her picture and studied it closely. “Does she even have eyebrows at all,” I asked myself. I zoomed in for a closer look. “Wow. It sure doesn’t look like it.”

As a matter of fact, it turns out she doesn’t.

Mona Lisa has no visible facial hair—including eyebrows and eyelashes. Some researchers claim that it was common at this time for genteel women to pluck them out, since they were considered to be unsightly. In 2007, French engineer Pascal Cotte announced that his ultra high resolution scans of the painting provide evidence that Mona Lisa was originally painted with eyelashes and eyebrows, but that these had gradually disappeared over time, perhaps as a result of overcleaning. For modern viewers the missing eyebrows add to the slightly semi-abstract quality of the face. (Source.)

Interesting. I like learning something new every day. 🙂

I just want to go on record in favor of something I like to call “natural beauty.” I don’t think it looks good or fashionable to remove your eyebrows completely then paint them back on, often in a different location or in a different way. “Say what? Your eyebrows moved???”

I guess the larger question is: Why does fashion seem to be so counterintuitive to common sense? Why can’t we just have natural looking eyebrows and so forth?

I’m sorry to be low brow but I don’t care for no brow. Not at all, no how.