GMO Apple To Debut in the U.S. By 2017

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The U.S. Agriculture department just approved the first genetically altered apple for the U.S. market.  A Canadian outfit has designed, yes, DESIGNED, an apple that neither bruises nor browns when sliced open or bitten into.  I suppose it stays red and fresh for hundreds of years and has a half life of several billion, longer even than a discarded k-cup.  They reengineered the thing minus an aging protein or something of the like so that it appears fresher than it really is.  While it may not brown or bruise, it might taste just as soggy and mushy as a bruised apple would, unless they’ve managed to artificially preserve the crispness, which I admit would have a certain appeal, that is if they’ve not used something like formaldehyde.  I really don’t like soggy apples but I like the smell of formaldehyde even less.  And in my view, there is a place for soggy and brown apples and that would be in a jug of cider.

The Okanagan Specialty Fruit company that designed the GMO apple is planning to add a logo to the apple sticker in the form of a snowflake which would distinguish it from a real apple.  It’s interesting that the natural and pristine snowflake is their choice of logo for the born in the lab apple.  Maybe they are also planning to produce these apples to make Ice-Wine, which I rather like.  But is an apple even an apple, if it’s DNA has been altered? Isn’t it kind of like Froot Loops cereal?  The loops are not fruit, which is why the cereal is spelled Froot.  And like Cheez Whiz, which is the not the reel deel, the Canadian apple should be spelled to reflect its synthetic properties – say Apel or Aple or maybe Apul.  Since they designed out a protein, I think it only fitting the thing lose an l.

Are You at Risk for Text Neck?

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Funny phrase this text neck, a malady Millennials and Gen X’ers are more likely to suffer than Baby Boomers.  If you don’t already know what it is, what the thing is may be a mystery.  I can say this, it’s not the craning of the neck to catch a glimpse of what others are texting, which came to my mind first when I saw the article headline – Text Neck is becoming an epidemic…I was also thinking about necking, the thing that went out of vogue in the early 80’s and that  only Baby Boomers, and the GI Generation would remember.  And of course I was wrong.  Text Neck is what you get when you bend your neck to text or read on your smartphone, tablet or smart watch.

Did you know that the brain weighs about 12 pounds but when you bend your neck just 30 degrees, the pressure on your spine is as much as if your brain weighed 40 pounds.  That would be a pretty big brain.  Imagine how much smarter we’d be if we had bigger brains.  But the trade off apparently is that all this bending destroys the spine and the natural curvature of the neck, causing all manner of aches, pains, joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and tissue tears, that, as one doctor claims, could lead one to have corrective spinal surgery.  The only corrective thing I ever had was shoes.  As a Baby Boomer, I have some natural protection against text neck.  I never learned how to text quickly having grown up using a typewriter.  I am just now getting comfortable with a computer keyboard.  No, I’m not 94 and not still using a flip phone with a phone card.  But this Qwerty keyboard is still foreign to me.  I can type fast, but can only peck a smartphone with the index finger of my left hand.  And by the way, there’s no such thing as peck neck.  The only thing I can do with my thumbs is give the thumbs up and hitchhike.  Yes, it’s a generational thing I think.  I’ll never get a smart watch which may ultimately cause teens extreme spinal degeneration.  I’d hate to see the younger generation walking around with bent backs and huge bowling ball heads that weigh 60 pounds.

I do feel bad for the next generation who are growing up in the era of global warming, climate change, famine, drought, GMO’s, new rounds of nuclear madness, text neck, and the new threat of being buried alive by unrecyclable k-cups.  What a way to die! The Baby boomers and those still alive who came before, will most certainly fall to cancer or heart disease, but won’t live a painful life of text neck.  And for the rest of you, Gen X and young Millennials, it’s not too late.  You still have time to save yourselves.  Put away your devices and live just a little.  In the badly paraphrased words of Mark Watt’s paraphrase of his father Alan Watts, with a modern twist:  stop thinking (and texting) and start experiencing life.  And I would add, look up, look around, not down!

How Smart are Smartwatches?

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Photo by Luekk who has no idea I am using it and therefore cannot be said to endorse my blog post.

Pebble and Apple are coming out with new smartwatches in March and April of 2015 respectively.  I’m not rushing out to buy one.  The Pebble will run you about $200 U.S. and the Apple around $350.  Being more expensive is part of the Apple business model.  The idea is to trick people into thinking the shiny new gadget is of the highest quality.  But what’s up with a smartwatch anyway, and who needs one? I probably would need one if I were 20, just like I needed the swatchwatch when I was 21 or so back in the summer of 1984.  I bought one in Switzerland, of all places, a plastic Suisse Swatch, back before they were a big deal in the States.  Mine was black if I recall and I paid around $26 bucks for it (I think) which would have been something in the order of 65 Swiss Francs in 1984.  The thing didn’t last long.  It took a beating and did not keep ticking.

Today, I don’t really need a smartwatch, I already have one – it’s called a Timex and for $29.99 U.S., it keeps pretty accurate time and has a battery life of about 2 years as opposed to the Pebble Smartwatch with a battery life of about 7 hours.  How smart is that?  The thing can’t even tell time for half a day.  Now my Timex doesn’t have very many apps, but it does have a second hand and gives me the date too.  Impressive, I know.  And it’s reasonably stylish. What more can you ask of a watch?

Apparently, though, some are not satisfied with an ordinary wrist watch, and instead want to wear a mini smartphone or tablet.  But for what?  You’d have to squint to watch a video and you’d need a magnifying glass to play Candy Crush.  I guess you could get the thing to read you your news feed and announce what notifications have come through.  If these smartwatches have GPS, I suppose you would have to drive with one hand on the wheel and your opposite wrist in front of you to see where you’re going.  You could have it talk to you, but with such a tiny speaker, as it surely must have, you’d have to put your wrist up to your ear.  The Pebble alternative to the Apple might have the voice of the Trivago guy giving you directions.  Talk about a distraction.  If the things have cameras, you’d look like you were trying to defend yourself from a punch to the face or shield your eyes from solar glare when taking a picture.

I really don’t know what all the functionalities are or will be on these so called smartwatches, but I would imagine they’d also double as USB drives;  flashwatches, so to speak. Sure don’t want to plug it into one of the computers at work or school or wherever you might be and absentmindedly walk away.  Later you’d be like, “crap I left my watch in the computer…I have everything on it…” That wouldn’t be very smart.  You’d be better off with a Timex.  Your welcome.

3-5 Cups a Day Just May Prolong Your Life

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You should be drinking more coffee than you do unless you are one of the few who drink 3-5+ cups a day.  In fact, the most recent findings suggest that drinking 5 plus may confer health benefits including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to a top nutrition panel.  They also found no health hazards to drinking 3-5 cups a day. The interesting thing, despite the presence of coffee chains the world over like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and the lesser known Canadian outfit, Tim Hortons that never made much of a splash in the States, no country averages more than 3 cups a day.  In the U.S., known as a coffee drinking nation, folks average 1 cup a day – just one.  Dating back to the early 20’s when records where first available, 1946 was the year of greatest coffee consumption in the U.S. at 2 cups per day per capita.  But why 1946?  I have some theories that account for the uptick:

  • In 1946, you could buy two cups for the shiny newly minted FDR dime.
  • Professional baseball teams started playing night games, and to stay awake, fans needed coffee, especially on the cold spring nights and even colder October nights during the World Series played in Boston and St. Louis in 1946.
  • 1946 was the year of U.S. rockets, atomic bomb tests and the H Bomb patent.  It was a year of space, technology and the beginning of the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviets.  A Cold War requires hot coffee and the newly invented electric blanket.
  • And finally, there must have been quite a bit of celebrating and then coffee drinking as President Truman declared the end of World War II.

You boomers out there – 1946 – 1964, drink up, it can’t hurt and might do us some good. Gen. X and Millennials, it’s ok to have your lattes and cappuccinos, but cut down on the whipped cream, caramel and sugar.  And anything with a frap in the title is probably ill-advised. K-Cup drinkers, the jury is still out.  Not sure how healthy it is to shoot hot water through a plastic cup, but it’s probably no worse for you than a Styrofoam cup of coffee.  In any case, whatever your thing – Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, K-cups or just your ordinary 8 O’clock drip brew – 3-5 cups a day may just prolong your life!

Say Goodbye to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and yes Crunch too

229 to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch because Nestle, the Swiss chocolatier has decided to mess with the ingredients of the classics. I say mess with because according to an article in the Washington Post,  Nestle plans to use natural ingredients in its candy bars as opposed to the chemically laden synthetic dyes and flavors that so many of us have come to love and crave over the years.  Gone will be such iconic ingredients as Yellow 4 and Red Dye #40, that make the bars so attractive to the eye.  Never mind that Red #40 is actually named 6-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid and was born in a laboratory and not in nature.  And let’s not harp on the evidence that in some studies, Red 40, as it is affectionately known, altered the DNA of mice, and is thought to have the potential to produce serious allergic reactions and even cancer in some humans.  After all, most of us will die of cancer anyway, so what’s the big deal?  

The big deal is that our candy bars are going to look natural and taste like some hipster snack food with achiote tree seeds (fairly traded from the Guatemalan rain forest no doubt) and actual vanilla. Yes, actual vanilla!  If they start using real sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, which I am addicted to frankly, I may just launch a Nestle boycott.  How dare they even consider going GMO free!  This may just be a sinister ploy to regain the German market that banned the GMO laden Butterfinger.

Plot or no plot, Nestle is going after more than the big three, although I really don’t care what they do with the inedible Crunch, maybe one of the worst chocolate bars on the planet, in the same company as the foul tasting Tootsie Roll.  But get this – soon the “neutral” Swiss company will be attacking SweeTARTS.  Without all the dyes, they may soon look like communion wafers or peppermint TUMS and taste like raw agave sap.  If they go designer on us, I’m out.  I don’t want a tart made from real cherries, limes or oranges.  Kids don’t want that either, I assure you.  Real fruit is not candy.  If Nestle keeps mucking with the ingredients, they might get the Germans back, but stand to lose the entire American market.

Love in the Time of Consumerism

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The thing with Valentine’s Day is that it’s just a day, like any other, or at least it should be.  Must we be told or reminded to love our loved one/s? Ideally, one should try to love special people each and every day.  Are chocolates, flowers, and dinners out, the ultimate expression of love, or consumerism? If you want to support your local businesses or something, do it all the time, not just on holidays. Hey, wine and chocolate are complimentary goods and healthy in moderate doses.  I say if you want to prop up the chocolate industry, Hallmark or some winery, buy their stock directly or invest in mutual funds that hold the companies you hold dear. Buy the way, Evan Williams 1783 small batch bourbon pairs nicely with lemon merengue pie for whatever it’s worth, which incidentally would be about 50 bucks, the two.

Below are some of my favorite love quotes, that resonate today and any day.

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” – Paulo Coelho

“It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.” – Agatha Christie

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent van Gogh

“Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.” – David Byrne

“About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.”   – Rita Mae Brown

“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients – care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”  – Bell Hooks

Love,

Ribbie

Mowing Lawns for a David Lee Roth IRA

One heck of a lawn

One heck of a lawn

When I was a kid, I got my first job as a paperboy.  I must have been 14 or 15.  I started out on a bicycle, pitching the paper with pretty good accuracy.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d fling the paper with mixed results from my dad’s MG midget convertible.  It was an evening paper during the week and morning paper on the weekends.  During the summers, I’d also mow lawns in my neighborhood for like 15 bucks a pop.  I don’t even remember what I did with all the money I made, but I’m certain I didn’t save much.  I had a little savings account and think at one point had about 40 dollars in there which earned a few pennies in interest a year.  I set up a savings account just to get one of those passbooks which I thought was pretty cool.  The thought never occurred to me to set up a retirement account with my lawn mowing money as Cliff Goldstein suggests in the article, Put your teen’s lawn-mowing money into a Roth IRA. And if either of my parents had suggested it, I would have thought they were crazy and made some snide remark about David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

Retirement? Why my life had just begun.  I wasn’t working to set aside money for the day I could no longer work. I worked because I needed spending money, not saving money.  Money for baseball cards, chips, candy bars, sodas, movies, records and of course gas for the mower.  I could sure blow through money, but I always worked hard for it and believed in the spirit of making cold hard cash. I was even a member of the FBLA in high school, although ironically I never became a businessman or a business leader of any kind. I was an English major and later became a teacher and administrator.

As a young teen, I doubt I earned enough to even meet the Roth IRA minimum initial investment requirement, which is  something like $1,000.  I don’t know how much kids can get for a lawn these days, but I suppose if it is the right lawn in the right neighborhood, they could earn a couple hundred a day.  And if they are lucky enough to have parents who would match their contributions, and kick in some bonus spending money, a Roth IRA wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.  And in June of 2015 when the feds raise interest rates, I recommend channeling money into a cheap bond fund.  Always buy low and hope by retirement age share prices will be much higher. This earned income is essentially sheltered so that it cannot be considered as an asset for financial aid when the kid is ready to go to college.  But who knows, your teen may not need college if he/she makes it big in the lawn mowing business.  It could happen you know:  imagine your teen as a contractor with a novel logistics app to help coordinate an army of fellow teens mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow.  Your kid might be able to contribute to YOUR retirement plan!

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Radio Shack Nearly Gone and Forgotten

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RadioShack filed for bankruptcy and will shutter more than half of its 4,100 stores, which comes as a surprise, because I thought the Shack had collapsed years ago, which is how long it’s been since I’ve been to one.  With the name Radio, this place really hasn’t been relevant since the mid 70’s, when transistor radios, and tape recorders were still popular.  By the time the 80’s rolled around, and brand name stereo components took off in popularity, people started buying electronics at the big chain stores like Best Buy, Micro Center, Lechmere, Sears, Circuit City, Bradlees, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and smaller stereo shops like Custom Audio and Cambridge SoundWorks. No serious customer with any pride would have purchased a stereo from RadioShack or anything with the name Tandy on it.

It really is shocking to me that Radio Shack has survived for so long.  Even back in the day, I’d go in to buy speaker wire, or a TV antenna and there would be no one but me and the sales clerk in the store.  The place to me was more like a hardware store where I’d go to buy wire, batteries, electrical tape, tiny screwdrivers and needle noise pliers.  Honestly, the last time I went to a RadioShack was about 3 years ago when I bought a $2.00 cable that allowed me to plug my smartphone into the headphone jack on my car stereo to listen to stored music.  The place really was like a shack, housed in the back of a mall next to a Sears loading ramp.  Business looked slow, and I might have been the only customer that day.

Of course they could reinvent themselves and sell say, bait to fishermen – minnows, worms and stuff and call it the BaitShack. Or they could specialize in pork and launch the PigShack selling sausage, pork rinds, bacon scented scratch tickets, piggy banks, chitlins, ham hocks, hams of all kinds, barbeque ribs, barbeque sauce, liquid smoke, jerky, pork chops, Spam, canned pork and beans, and serve a Southern style breakfast of cheese grits, bacon, biscuits  and white gravy with sausage.  But there probably already is such a place somewhere I reckon.

Rice and Bean Supplements

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From time to time over the past few years, I’ve bought vitamin and herbal supplements, stuff like ginseng for energy, ginko biloba for memory loss and echinacea to ward off colds – I’m not getting any younger and I figured my body needs all the help it can get.  Ever the cautious consumer, I read reviews to find reliable brands and felt confident that I was buying the purest, most potent supplements available.  Of course, I could not know for sure, since herbal and vitamin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, but the labels gave assurances of quality control “independently” verified.

As you must no doubt be aware, supplements are not cheap and are quite popular these days.  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. People believe the products work, and maybe they do…but CAVEAT EMPTOR:  your favorite supplement may not contain the plant you thought you were taking. In an article posted on MarketWatch,  DNA testing prompted by the New York Attorney General’s office determined that many of the supplements examined did not contain any botanical material, and almost 4 in 5 did not contain the ingredients listed on the label.  Some of the contaminants and fillers found included rice, beans, wild carrots and houseplant.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather buy than swallow a houseplant, although my cat might think differently.  And I’d rather eat a burrito wrapped in a flour tortilla than swallow a bite sized rice and bean burrito capsule. But that’s just me.

100% GMO Corn Found in Froot Loops

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Back in the day (which would have been the early 70’s) I ate cereal for breakfast, that and cinnamon toast.  I tried the cinnamon toast cereal but never much liked it as I recall, not nearly as good as the real thing.  Back in the 70’s, cereal actually may have been more of the real thing; today, not so much, with all the genetically modified organism (GMO) grains that go into the stuff, particularly corn, whose seeds have been altered in such a way that they produce toxins to ward off insects and weeds.  As products like cereal made from GMO grains are consumed, we humans are putting ourselves at risk, but just what the risks are, we don’t yet really know because, incredibly, there haven’t been any GMO human trials.  We do know that traces of one of the toxins, Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, produced by the altered plants, has been found in humans.  And now we know that cereals like Froot Loops are made with 100% GMO corn grains that contain small amounts of the herbicide, glyphosate.  These “new and improved” colored loops no longer conjure up images of grapes, oranges, and limes as they once did and now seem much brighter, with an unnatural radiant glow.

DSC_0306If the U.S. moves to follow the 60+ countries that require manufacturers to label their GMO food products, it may make parents steer clear of Froot Loops, which really have nothing to do with fruit, hence the misleading spelling of “Froot”. A froot is as artificial as the grain from which the cereal is made, but it sure sounds healthy.  Wouldn’t it be a little more accurate to call them Glypho Loops? It does have a certain truthful ring to it.

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