Going Rogue

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and former Republican vice presidential candidate, has completed her book. It’s entitled “Going Rogue: An American Life.” (According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, rogue means 1) vagrant, tramp; 2) a dishonest or worthless person; 3) a mischievous person; 4) a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave; or 5) an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation.) Could they possibly have come up with a more perfect title?

The printed version of the book, actually written by an unknown ghost author named Lynn Vincent, is scheduled for release on November 17, but most of Sarah’s fans will have to wait a while since the recorded version will not be out until the end of December.

If you’re in the mood for some off-beat comedy, and lowbrow reading, you may want to pick up Mrs. Palin’s book. However, I’d suggest you wait a week or two after its release so you’ll be able to pick it up from the dollar a book bargain bin. At 400 pages of “wink” and “you betcha”, it’ll make a nice doorstop.

McDonalds Lattes and Iced Coffees

I love coffee in all of its forms. Straight up, hot and black. I love it iced. I love lattes, and mochas, and macchiatos, espressos, and cappucinos.

For the past five or so years I’ve been roasting my own beans, fresh daily, and have developed particular passions for Sumatran Mandeeling, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Tanzanian peaberry, and a few other varieties of coffees.

Besides the coffee I roast, grind, and brew at home, there are very few places where I truly enjoy the coffee, due to rampant, crass commercialism that makes it difficult to find good varietal coffees in which to imbibe. There is a coffee shop near my home that does a phenomenal job, and whose varieties, ingredients, and techniques are top notch. But no matter where I’ve traveled and where I’ve tried the coffee, I have found none to hold a candle to the local shop and what I brew at home.

I am not a fan of Starbucks and laugh at what McDonald’s calls “premium” coffee. McDonalds especially is turning out coffee that is simply undrinkable, not only due to the poor quality, but because of the troubling list of ingredients they put into the specialty drinks. Just a simple cup of coffee at McDonalds, not so bad all things considered, but if you get a latte or an iced coffee or some other premium choice, look out.

If having the latte, watch out for the caramel syrup, containing, sugar, water, fructose, salt, caramel color (with sulfites), potassium sorbate, citric acid, and malic acid. Even the chocolate drizzle should be skipped since it contains corn syrup, hydrogenated coconut oil, high fructose corn syrup, glycerin, nonfat milk, cocoa (processed with alkali), food starch-modified, disodium phosphate, potassium sorbate (preservative), xanthan gum, artificial flavor (vanillin), salt, and soy lecithin.

People, McDonald’s is not your friend. When they created an iced coffee drink and marketed it to you, they were not doing you any favors. Do not try to convince yourself that they are selling you a quality product for a low price.

These are the ingredients for McDonald’s Vanilla Iced Coffee:

Premium Roast Coffee. Light Cream: Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, sodium polyphosphate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium citrate, sodium alumionosilicate, and carrageenan. CONTAINS: MILK. Vanilla Syrup: Sugar, water, fructose, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, caramel color (with sulfites), potassium sorbate (preservative), citric acid, malic acid. Ice.

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients for a Vanilla Iced Coffee, shall we?

What is sodium phosphate? Well, for one thing, it is “used to treat constipation and to clean the bowel before surgery, x-rays, endoscopy, or other intestinal procedures. Sodium biphosphate and sodium phosphate enemas are also used for general care after surgery and to help relieve impacted bowels.”

Sodium polyphosphate – adds texture and is used as an emulsifier to prevent ingredients from clumping together. The Material Safety Data Sheet for this compound warns, “do not ingest”.

DATEM is an acronym for Diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglyceride, and it is used for emulsification and foaming. It contains a series of esters which react across the chemical chain of water and fatty acids in various ways, some reactions of which are not fully understood.

Sodium stearoyl lactylate is a solid powder which is irritating to eyes and skin, and can be hazardous in case of inhalation.

Tetra sodium pyrophosphate, when ingested can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is toxic and mildly irritating. Toxicity is approximately twice that of table salt when ingested orally. It is sometimes used in household detergents to prevent clumps from being deposited on clothing. If the crystals of this compound become deposited in joints, they can cause the painful and inflammatory medical condition known as pseudogout.

Sodium citrate includes diarrhea as an adverse reaction. It should also be “used with caution in patients with cardiac failure, hypertension, impaired renal function, peripheral and pulmonary edema, and toxemia of pregnancy.”

Sodium alumionosilicate is known to potters as albite feldspar, and is used as a ceramic glaze and strengthening agent. Sodium alumionosilicate is used in foods as an anticaking agent.

Carrageenan – There is evidence from studies performed on rats, guinea pigs and monkeys which indicates that degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) may cause ulcerations in the gastro-intestinal tract and gastro-intestinal cancer. Poligeenan is produced from carrageenan subjected to high temperatures and acidity. A recent publication indicates that carrageenan induces inflammation in human intestinal epithelial cells in tissue culture. Consumption of carrageenan thus may play a role in intestinal inflammation and possibly inflammatory bowel disease, mutations of which are associated with genetic proclivity to Crohn’s Disease.

Sulfites are counted among the top nine food allergens, but a reaction to sulfite is not a true allergy. It may cause breathing difficulty within minutes after eating a food containing it, but more commonly causes headaches and skin irritation within a few hours after consumption. Asthmatics and possibly people with salicylate sensitivity (or aspirin sensitivity) are at an elevated risk for reaction to sulfites. The reaction can be, but is not often fatal. Other symptoms include sneezing, swelling of the throat, and hives. Sulfites are also known to destroy vitamin B1 (thiamin), a vitamin essential for metabolism of carbohydrates

The truth is, as should be seen from this information, McDonald’s Iced Coffee is not a drink with simply coffee, milk, and sugar. This is another reason to be selective about your food and beverage intake. The coffee based drinks I consume, for instance, are made with all natural ingredients, one drink at a time, and contain none of the list of chemicals cited above.

Let’s all do ourselves a favor and stay out of the drive through.

Another Heroine in the Healthcare Wars

Monique Zimmerman-Stein has been nearly blind for the last two years from Stickler syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. She recently decided to forego her own treatment to save funds to treat her two daughters, who also suffer from the condition, reports Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times.

The family is covered under husband Gary’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, but that coverage only pays for 80 percent of medical expenses.

She will no longer get treatment to preserve that last slice of light. The injections that might help cost $380 after insurance, and she needs one every six weeks. She could be spending that money on her daughters’ care.

If forgoing treatment might help them see, she said, “That’s a choice any mom would make.”
No one should have to make such sacrifices, said her husband. He hopes the new health plan will include a public option and won’t exclude people with pre-existing conditions — like his wife and daughters.

The expensive care has already forced the family out of their home, which was foreclosed, and forced them to sell their furniture and to cash in their life insurance.

Camels passing through the eye of a needle

One of the most puzzling and bizarre quotes in the New Testament has Jesus saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

What a strange hyperbole. Why would anyone equate a camel with the eye of a needle? Well, probably that isn’t what was said, or intended in the original Koine Greek in which Matthew was written.

A more likely explanation is that the Greek word, kamilos, meaning camel, should be read as kamelos, meaning a cable or rope. Some later New Testament manuscripts actually have the latter word in this quote. Thus, Jesus, if he spoke to this issue at all, more likely said, “It is easier to thread a needle with a rope than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” It actually makes some sense if this is the case.

But now we have photographic proof that does indicate that several camels can actually pass through a needle’s eye at the same time, so maybe he was speaking of camels after all. Like many other issues raised in the Bible, we simply don’t know, and it probably doesn’t really matter.


The wind outside rages,
laying low all the birds,
keeping them at bay
as they whisper magic words.
Rain pours down, ceaseless,
soaking cold autumn ground,
dripping from the eaves,
it whispers out its sound.
Winter peeks at us
from behind fall’s disguise,
letting us know it’s there,
as it whispers how time flies.
On such a day as this one,
cold, and raw, and wet,
one sure laments the summer
that whispers its regret.
And above the rising din
of another approaching year,
we sit inside our silence,
whispers are all we hear.

Okay, a guy with no arms who can play guitar better with his feet than I can with my hands. Now an 11 year old South Korean boy who can play even better. I give up. I’ll never be able to master the guitar, let alone be proficient. Certainly not anywhere near the level of these two.

Monday Morning Ramblings

It’s a rainy, windy, cool Monday morning. It’s still dark outside and little traffic has moved on the streets since I arose at 3:15.

I’m thinking about how different the world is, the one in which I’m growing old, compared to the one in which I spent my youth. Of course the technology has exploded. I was born into a world of radio, grew up in a world of television, and live in a world of cellphones and computers. There seems to be little that man can dream of that can’t be made to exist.

Good? Bad? Indifferent? The answers are as manifold as those who ponder such things. Personally, I love the technology, even though I’ve had to learn and relearn how to use it at every juncture of something new and something with which I was already comfortable. Technology has made my life easier, more enriching, more rewarding, and I’m mindful and vocal about that.

Still, there’s a part of me that feels most at home in 1953 or 1959 or 1965. Times of radio dramas instead of television, black and white television rather than color, 24 hour, seven day a week broadcasts, and vinyl records that changed my world and my view of it instead of downloadable MP3 music immediately available to meet every whim. There’s still some of that Hoosier farm boy in Keds and Levis inside of the man in Abercrombie and imported shoes from Zappos. Maybe some of the naivete inside of the cosmopolitan, or the rube inside of the urbane.

At these quiet times in the mornings I often think about what was and try to think about what might yet be in the offing. All the while I’m trying to be comfortable in the here and now. And the more of these days I have, the more I find that my comfort zone is in what has transpired and my least comfortable moments are in cogitating those in the future. That’s probably because I know what the past was and I also know what the future ultimately holds. It’s also because I don’t know the specifics of the future, even though the final results of it are too well known, while on the other hand, I know all I need to know about the past. And yet the present seems to be a gossamer thing, light and fragile, yet knowable and solid. It’s a dichotomy and an absolute existing in the same space and time. A mystical, mysterious conundrum one can hold up and examine and know.

I guess what I’m trying to say and doing such a poor job of, is that we exist in different planes of time and within different perspectives relating to our positions within those times. Life isn’t just what is now. It isn’t just what was in the past. It certainly isn’t just about the future. It’s about all three, past, present, and future existing together. Even coinciding and contradicting at the same time. Agreeing with each other while denying any correlation. Making us laugh and cry., often simultaneously. Causing us to reflect on things, yearn to know more, and exist in a state of cessation and entropy all at the same time.

Today will be whatever it is to be. Tomorrow will exist even if I don’t live to see it. Yesterday will never change. Maybe that’s why we grow more nostalgic as we grow older. But we need not fear tomorrow so much, or long for yesterday to such a degree that we fail to live today. That’s often one of the most difficult realities to grasp, but one of the most important.