Arizona Birkenstock Birko-Flor Review

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New Pair of Arizona Birko-Flor narrow width sandals

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about a shoe before and probably never will again.  I almost posted a user comment on Zappos where I bought the pair but decided not to give away my content to the website.  I was pleased with their service, Zappos that is. Buying the shoe, sandal, in this case, was easy.  Zappos has a wide selection of shoes in all sizes and widths, provides a UPS tracking link, and delivers on time for free.

But this review is not about Zappos, it’s about the Arizona Birkenstock Birko-Flor sandal, which I am now wearing or breaking-in I should say.  Where to start?  First, this is my third pair.  The first pair lasted about 10 years and the 2nd pair, darn near 15.  Both pairs were leather with the classic footbed.

 

DSC_0687 Time to Retire the 15-year-old pair of Birkenstock Arizona leather sandal
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Mainstream Moisturizers and Tumors

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Breaking news which I saw on my Facebook feed, which actually broke back in 2008: Moisturizers cause cancer in mice.  Yes, the moisturizers we all know and presumably trust, the mainstream brands that keep us from shriveling up like raisins and moulting, do not appear to offer mice any health benefits. Scientists slathered the rodents with copious amounts of Eucerin and Vanicream daily for 17 weeks with disastrous results.  These poor mice developed 69% more tumors than mice not “hydrated” with the moisturizers.  There are three aspects to the study, that were glossed over by the outraged anti-moisturizer activists who published a Portlandia type article in some off the grid journal devoted to convincing readers that we modern day humans are doomed.  One, unlike humans, mice don’t need moisturizers.  Though I am not a scientist and do not claim to have any knowledge of science except that climate change and evolution are real, common sense would dictate that rodents produce natural skin oils that render creams redundant.  Two, Eucerin and the like are not made for mice.  Three, the mice that developed tumors were already at risk for cancers because the researchers had been subjecting them to high amounts of ultraviolet rays, if I understood the study correctly – the mice subjects were known as UVB-pretreated high-risk mice.

I am not defending the petroleum industry, but I am suggesting that extrapolating results of tests on mice to humans is dubious. The amount of lotion those suffering rodents must have received each day would probably have been the human equivalent to 32 ounces rubbed all over our bodies daily, head to toe, over a lifetime. You’d likely drown in the stuff before you developed a tumor, and even if you were a good swimmer, you’d probably end up dying of cancer eventually anyway, as many of us unfortunately will.  The fact remains, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and no doubt the leading cause of death among laboratory rats. A little dab of Eucerin or Neutrogena is not likely to do us in. And because I secretly read this off the grid journal and have drawn my own conclusions,  I believe that what we should be more worried about are pesticides, GMOs, bourbon because its made with GMO corn, breakfast cereal, homogenized milk, preservatives, meat of any kind, soda, flouride in toothpaste and drinking water, energy drinks, mercury from light bulbs (and all that mercury us older folks played with when the family thermometer broke), white bread, the sun, sunscreen, air pollution, climate change, bedding material, rugs, mosquitoes, ticks, rabid raccoons, asbestos, lead paint, air freshner, laminate floors, bug spray, bug propellant, pesticides, nuclear waste, bottled water and so on.  As they say in New Hampshire, “Live Free and Die anyway or something like that.

Living Free of Global Warming and Climate Change

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Climate change and global warming have become political buzz words.  The right denies the science, the center accepts it and the left pleads for action.  Libertarians don’t give a crap, I think.  I guess their thinking is a little like Bill Belichick’s mantra, “it is what it is”, meaning, leave me the hell alone to live free or die, which is the saying on the back of New Hampshire license plates, a place where people don’t pay state income or sales tax, and I don’t think they pay their legislators very much either.  I once saw a tampered license plate that read: live free and die, which is more in tune with the natural cycle of life. We’re so dang polarized that it seems everything is either or.

The thing with climate change, and I’ve probably written this before, is that people really don’t care and are just used to taking sides.  If you are a conservative and never paid much attention in science class but have gone on and done well for yourself financially, why not side with the right? It’s your right. And if you don’t, a dang liberal might get elected and take away your tax advantage or worse, your gun!  I think that’s what people in the U.S. fear the most – that they’d be disarmed and then defenseless.  But against what? Global warming?  Hey, when that once in a lifetime hurricane comes around twice a year, an AK-47 won’t do much good. You’d literally be shooting in the wind.  That openly carried revolver won’t intimidate those raging wildfires and I’ve never seen a shotgun bring on the rains in dry California.  Now, I know that no one wants their gas guzzling carbon dioxide spewing SUV outlawed.  This is another big concern.  I mean, gas is cheap once again thanks to our fracking ways. Who cares if some guy in Pennsylvania has flammable tap water.  He could move to New Hampshire where the water is clean and unflouridated.

I also have a suspicion that many people just don’t want to think too deeply about something difficult to understand.  But if you pose the question the right way, I do believe that many folks would come around and admit that human activity has contributed to the warming of the planet.  It doesn’t take a scientist to see the effects of climate change. Take Boston. In 2015, it had the warmest January on record and also the most snow ever recorded for a season.  Down South, Texas and Arkansas had snow, ice and cold temperatures like never before.  People know something is going on.  It’s not just the natural ebb and tide of mother nature.  But the sad thing is that people know and do nothing.  They let politicians say and do the stupidest things like that one who help up a snowball as proof that the planet is not warming. What an idiot. The problem is we live this present tense existence.  No one seems to care too much about 50 years down the road.  Folks don’t seem too concerned about a livable planet for their children and grandchildren.  And very few are saving sufficiently for retirement either.  Live free for today; we’ll save and die later…but let’s not think about that now. But let’s do go out and buy an Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy 6. Instant gratification.

One might argue that the handwriting is beginning to form on the wall as you may recall from the book of Daniel where the tale originates.  The handwriting turned out to be a warning, actually, as is often the case in the Old Testament, a punishment from God, who found that party King Belshazzar had been insufficiently humble, wanting and unworthy of his reign.  He was shortly thereafter slain.  I think there is a lesson here, particularly as regards the question of humility. If we don’t show more respect for our planet, it may be handed over to a more intelligent life form from another planet to straighten things out. It’d kind of be like planet earth looses its certification and has to be temporarily held in receivership by some alien grownup with brains.

This all reminds me of a Star Trek episode called “Arena” from Season 1 where Kirk fights some Godzilla-like creature called a Gorn. The lizard monster has the upper hand with brute strength, so Kirk has to make gunpowder somehow and knocks the monster unconscious with a powerful projectile to the body.  Kirk stands over “Godzilla” with a knife, but decides not to kill him.  Then some childish god, who was like 1,500 earth years old, said that he would spare Captain Kirk and his people because he had shown the advanced property of mercy, to which Kirk replied that he hoped he could work out some diplomatic peace with the Gorn’s people.  The Captain was not found wanting and given another chance.  Let’s hope politicians learn to read before the writing appears on the wall, because when it does, it will be too late.

A gallon of anything probably not too healthy

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A man from Arkansas ruined his kidneys by drinking a gallon of iced-tea a day.  That’s a lot of iced-tea.  I think I’d drown if I drank a gallon of anything, even water.  I probably don’t go through a gallon of gas in a day. Now, the critics say the guy, who was also said to be diabetic, was nuts for consuming so much tea, no doubt sweetened.  But I say don’t be so quick to judge.  In the Arkansas heat, and it’s hot there let me tell you, one could easily throw back a gallon of just about anything – beer, bourbon, iced tea, white lightening or anything in between.  That the man drank a gallon of tea is not surprising, especially if he spent a lot of time outdoors, as many Arkansans do.  And iced-tea, as strange as it may sound, is a staple for many southerners, and it’s not necessarily sweetened.  Growing up in Arkansas, we always had a pitcher of unsweetened Lipton iced-tea with lemon wedges at the dinner table, especially during the sweltering summers.  We never had sugar at the table, ever.  But no one I knew drank a gallon of the stuff in a day, and good thing because black tea contains a chemical that is apparently toxic in high concentrations.  And though rare, the chemical can clog up kidneys and cause them to shut down.  The poor man will have to be on dialysis for the rest of his life.  But again, I’m not calling him crazy for drinking so much.  The article called his consumption a habit, although it may have been more of an addiction.  But who doesn’t have a bad habit, or addiction?

Now I don’t drink a gallon of anything but I do watch a gallon’s worth of M*A*S*H reruns and frequently binge watch stuff on Netflix.  I watched three gallons worth of House of Cards in 3 days.  I downed all the available episodes of VEEP and The 100 in little under a week, feeling quite hung over afterwards.  As a result, my eyesight has suffered and I believe I have a real case of text neck from bending so much, as much as 60 degrees, to view my devices.  Some would say I’ve broken bad flattening the natural curve in my neck by binge watching Breaking Bad on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, unless all those rare earth metals in my devices have done a number on me, I believe my kidneys are still intact.

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!

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!

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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Keurig Goggles

IMAG0458You’ve probably heard of the angry and vengeful Keurig coffee machine that sprays scalding water at it’s owners or unsuspecting users at car dealerships.  I’m not sure why all this pent up rage in these precision machines, but it may have to do with the dirty “rumor” that the Keurig harbors a slimy, moldy, substance in its internal resevoir that is not easy to clean.  For more on this controversy, see the the popular article circulating all over the web – Why I Kicked My Keurig to the Curb. While it may be true that the Keurig harbors bacteria, so too do most all coffee machines as this article points out. Let’s face it, we live among germs.  Germs are on practically everything we touch.  But most folks who are reasonably healthy can co-exist with them which probably includes you. I would say we’d all be better off not using germicides and other toxic chemicals to rid our daily environments of germs and such.  Why not just spray a little vinegar here and there when the spirit moves and use the surplus vinegar for a bean salad.

We have a well-behaved and relatively new and clean Keurig in our household.  I have no beef with it yet.  It gurgles and grumbles a bit but makes a good cup of coffee.  Actually, I think I am becoming addicted to k-cups and am salivating at the thought of a Columbian Peeks 8 o’clock pod.  Now the rogue machines in question that misfire are a real hazard and should be taken seriously. To Keurig’s credit, they have voluntarily recalled over 6 million of them with details here on which machines are affected and what to do if you have one. If you chose to ignore the warning, please wear goggles, press the brew button and then run like hell out of the kitchen for 45 seconds.

To be honest, after reviewing the literature, I am more concerned with the plastic k-cups from which the coffee originates.  As you know, the Keurig pierces the plastic K-cup, or pod as it’s called, and as I referenced above, that contains the ground coffee and then shoots steaming hot water through the holes it made. Within 30 seconds, out comes the coffee and with it God only knows what but indubitably some chemical compound used in the manufacturing of the pods – see the article from Mother Jones for details on what it could be and what dangers it may pose. But let’s keep a little perspective here: the residue is likely less dangerous than non-dairy creamer and a piping hot cup of Joe in a styrofoam cup.