Mercury is not harmless in moderation

January 30, 2009

What’s wrong with high fructose corn syrup?  Well, apparently a lot of it is made using a process that involves the use of mercury, and we’re now learning that the mercury can make its way into the product.  When that happens, it’s a similar situation to contaminated peanut butter.  The product can be used in so many other food products that it can become a difficult and complicated task to find out for sure if a given food item is contaminated or not.

You can believe what you want about the nutritional value of corn syrup or peanut butter.  Keep in mind that neither salmonella nor mercury is “healthy in moderation.”

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Just another town along the road

January 30, 2009

One of the things I got with my holiday gift cards is a copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  I’m halfway through it, and it really is excellent — descriptions of horrifying events in beautiful, poetic language.  It reminds me of Deliverance by James Dickey in that respect.

I don’t know if I can or should finish this book.  I don’t know where the story is going, but it’s so bleak that I can’t imagine it will end well.  If the ending is only bleak I can handle that, but if it turns into a wallow in heart-wrenching despair, it’ll be a devastatingly effective wallow, and I really don’t need that right now.  I don’t need to have the author rip my guts out and leave them on the floor while he walks away.

Listen up, Pulitzer Prize committee: If this book pushes me over the edge, I’m coming after you.


If you can’t torture the poor and powerless, then who?

January 30, 2009

NPR says that some people in India are upset about Slumdog Millionaire because it portrays the extreme poverty in the slums of Mumbai. So the movie gives an unfair negative picture of the current state of that country. None of those compliants deny that there is poverty there, or that it really is just that bad.

Now, I haven’t seen the movie, but the reviews agree on one plot point, that the main character is beaten and tortured by police because they suspect him of cheating on a game show. And I haven’t heard one complaint about that. Isn’t that more unflattering to India? Every country has appalling poverty. Not every country (I hope) accepts torture as a routine law enforcement tool.


Like Magic

January 29, 2009

Brian Dunning wants to know What’s Your Sacred Cow?

What I want to hear from you is your sacred cow. Only ten percent of people claim no superstitious beliefs, and those ten percent are liars.

One point I’m drawing from the comments there is that magical thinking comes in a lot of forms, not all of them easy to wrap up in a nice tidy package of folklore that we call superstition. Magic can sneak into your thinking.

I once heard the phrase “the perversity of inanimate objects” and I’ve never been able to shake it out of my thoughts entirely. The idea is that objects will behave in exactly the way you don’t want them to. The most common example is the claim that bread falls buttered side down.

My favorite magical thought comes from comic Maria Bamford: “If I keep my kitchen floor clean, no one will die.”


Quote of the Day

January 8, 2009

From this comment thread:

I’m highly suspicious of all highly successful people. There is one good way to get there and a million awful, cheap, dirty, lazy, and evil ways of doing it. It actually surprising to see how many go the good route.


My stuff rules, your stuff sucks

January 8, 2009

Somebody on MetaFilter has summed up most of the conversations on the net:

See, your preferences and interests are different from mine, which means that you are a crazy person whose wants are bad and that you should feel bad.

I’ve often felt that people should be briefed before they ever go online and told, “WARNING: There are people in the world who like things you don’t like.  Accept it now.”  The rest of the briefing would just be simple instructions for finding the porn.