May 24, 2014

It's Spring And Mayhem Is In The Air

In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of mayhem.

In Georgia a prison inmate thought it was all for a Milky Way:
A Clayton County jail inmate received a life sentence Friday in the 2012 murder of his cellmate during a fight over a Reese’s peanut butter candy.

This afternoon, William Alexander Brooks pleaded guilty to murdering, Kenneth Robert Grochowski over the candy, according to Channel 2 Action News. He was given life with the possibility of parole.

Brooks, who drowned Grochowski in the cell’s toilet, was originally arrested in August 2012, on theft charges. The incident between cellmates happened August 14 or 15, according to police. Grochowski, 57, was found unresponsive around midnight following roll call.
In California another knucklehead makes a statement in blood:
A young Californian gunman identified locally as the son of the assistant director of The Hunger Games film franchise is suspected of killing six people and wounding seven more in a murderous rampage from his black BMW.

The killer, who also died, conducted a series of drive-by shootings in a college town on a busy Friday evening, just hours after apparently posting a chilling video outlining his murderous plans for “retribution” because of rebuffs by women.
In Brussels a lone gunman rips the scabs off old wounds:
Three people were killed and one badly injured in a shoot-out on Saturday in Belgium.

A Jewish community figure, Joel Rubinfeld, told AFP it clearly "is a terrorist act" as a man had been seen driving up and entering the museum before opening fire inside and running off.

Mr Rubinfeld, who heads the country's anti-Semitic League, said the act was the result of "a climate of hate." Didier Reynders, Belgian foreign minister, said on Twitter: "I am shocked by the murders committed at the Jewish museum, I am thinking of the victims I saw there and their families."
A Frenchman gets overzealous at a hellish bris milah:
A tiny French village has been rocked by the news that its recently elected mayor has been castrated and killed by a jealous love rival who accused him of having an affair with his wife.

The barbaric killing of Dominque Leboucher, 55, has been greeted with horror in the small Normandy village of Bretteville-le-Rabet, 10 miles south of Caen.

Mr Leboucher's mutilated body was found lying in a pool of blood at his home close to the town hall, where he had been based since being elected mayor in March this year.

Demote General Motors

I was a Chevy guy for about thirty years. My first car was a 1959 Impala (a salt-infested, rotted out mess, pretty much like the one above) - I bought it for $25 and it lasted exactly two weeks. Most of my cars have been Chevrolets. So far it's been three Impala's, a 1962 Nova, a 1983 Cavalier, two Celebrity station wagons (1984 and 1987 - my wife drove the '87 for ten years), a 1973 Suburban and a 1991 Lumina. The only other car I really liked was my 1965 Tempest that I bought off a farmer for $600 in 1970.

But the best car I ever owned was the 2001 Chevy Impala. I picked it up used in December 2001 with only 17,000 miles on it and traded it in at 75,000 in September 2008. I liked it so much that we bought a used 2006 Impala for my wife in 2007 with only 4,000 miles - and I was very disappointed in it. It was like a different company had made it.

General Motors has seen better days; they have had 30 automobile recalls this year alone. And it's all their fault.
DETROIT -- General Motors is recalling about 500 pickup trucks and SUVs to fix faulty air bag controls, its 30th recall so far this year.

The company is in the midst of a company-wide safety review after it mishandled the recall of more than 2.6 million older small cars with faulty ignition switches. GM has acknowledged knowing about the switch problem for more than a decade before it began recalling the cars in February.

Meanwhile, federal safety regulators said that it was "likely" that more than 13 people died in the cars recalled for the defective ignition switches.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA said in a statement, "The final death toll associated with this safety defect is not known to NHTSA, but we believe it's likely that more than 13 lives were lost."
By refusing to address the ignition switch problem for ten years, General Motors probably saved a lot more than the $35 million in fines imposed so far by the government. That's the nature of the game they play - dollars versus your lives and fortune.

I remember our 1987 Celebrity had the power steering go after only 40,000 miles. I complained about it to a friend (our police department's garage manager who used to work for GM car dealerships) who just grinned and said that they saved $0.55 on every Celebrity manufactured just by using cheaper bushings in the steering assembly.

The Celebrity was manufactured from 1982 to 1990 when it was replaced by the Chevy Lumina. Sales of the Celebrity averaged 350,000 annually from 1984 to 1987. In 1986 Chevrolet sold almost 405,000 Celebrities, making it one of the most popular cars in the U.S. For argument's sake, let's say that General Motors sold a total of 3 million Celebrities in its eight year production cycle. That's over $1.5 million GM saved by sliding cheap bushings into the power steering assembly alone. That savings cost me over $600 when the unit went south. Who knows what other "savings" cost consumers a bundle?

Not that General Motors is the only corporation screwing the consumer - no - not by a long shot. But I now avoid their products like the plague. Our two current vehicles are a Ford Explorer and a Toyota RAV4.

Goom bye GM.

May 22, 2014

Battle At The K-Cup Korral

I never squeal.
I may yell or grunt or grimace, but I never squeal.

Until this morning. It was close, very close, but nothing squealish escaped my lips. Barely.

It all started when I finished breakfast and was rinsing out my cereal bowl and juice glass. I was then going to make myself a fresh cup of coffee in my Keurig machine. Nothing unseemly came to my attention in the short distance between the sink and the Keurig sitting next to the stove. It's strategic location near the refrigerator bespoke of the pleasures of Half and Half that would soon grace the sleek interior of my stainless steel Keurig travel mug.

Yes, an authentic, genuine Keurig coffee travel mug; desired by many but acquired by few. Perhaps God, in His Infinite Wisdom, decided that my overweening, hypercaffeinated pride needed to be addressed. If so, the events unfolding would challenge my faith and courage as never before.

Perhaps it was this appearance of domestic tranquility and the anticipatory weight of the empty coffee mug in my hand that beguiled me into believing that all was well, that all was as it should be. That horror would dare steal into this peaceful scene, my domicile, my domain.

I approached the Keurig not realizing that my heart meds would shortly undergo a trial that would indeed test their mettle to the utmost. I stood in front of the machine and moved the mug closer to place it under the spout to await Heaven's Brown Nectar. I reached towards the storage drawer to withdraw a K-cup. That's when the multi-legged fiend struck.

The Centipede From Hell scurried out from under the coffee stand and lunged at me. I think he had a knife. I heard his thin, rasping breath as he scampered around the sugar bowl and the muted "schwep schwep schwep" of his hooves gaining traction on the slippery resin countertop. Venomous drool flew off his poisoned fangs as he whipped his head around seeking a fatal opening through which to strike at me.

My law enforcement training saved me. As this was definitely a close quarters combat situation I had to keep my head. Dropping into a modified Weaver Stance, I unholstered my JC Penny Mod. 30 dish towel (300 thread count, double stitched edging, 100% non-waxed cotton, tumble dry) and aimed a devastating blow at the suspect. Merciful Heavens! He was so fast! Luckily my Mod. 30 incorporates the latest hypervelocity technology (I only carry the best) and the resulting shock wave blew the suspect to the kitchen floor.

Recovering from the recoil, I quickly delivered a series of strikes at the suspect. He desperately attempted to evade a veritable blizzard of high-speed cotton. Over and over again he scrambled for cover ... but this wasn't my first rodeo.  It had been quite a few years since I last bested the same sort of creature in a contest of wits and strength in an epic battle fought in the kitchen sink. Since then my time on the range and an upgrade in weaponry had transformed me into an even more fearsome opponent. My skills were simply too advanced for him. A crippling blow knocked off six or seven of his legs (arms?) and he was mine.

I paused for a second to admire his fortitude and spirit. He was a worthy adversary.  In his final moments he gazed up at me, his gaze steady and unyielding but yet, acknowledging my mastery over him. Or maybe it was his ass I was looking at. I simply can't tell one end from the other on these things. Another quick blow and it was over. Done.

It was a bittersweet victory. My relaxing, happy times with the Keurig will never be the same. From now on my survival instincts will always be on alert while contemplating that stretch of countertop.

For who knows what evil lurks in the shadowy confines of the K-cup drawer?

May 20, 2014

Up And Coming Killer

Smart money is on pancreatic cancer to become the second highest cause of cancer deaths in the US within the next six years.

Pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States in 2020, overtaking deaths from breast and colon cancers, according to new research.

The disease, which claimed the lives of both Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze, is set for a 'startling' rise.
Currently, the top three causes of cancer-related death in the United States are lung, colorectal and breast cancers.

[...]By combining predicted demographic changes and changes to the incidence and death rates of specific cancers, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was able to project numbers of diagnoses and deaths for major cancers in the US in the coming years.

My internist pokes me in my fat gut and says this is a "Diabetes Factory." He warns that starch/sugar is the culprit here and that the pancreas is forced to make more insulin than it should because of sugar and the starches that are so readily converted to sugar. He thinks there is a direct causation with cancer and a high starch, high sugar diet.

I am beginning to think he is right. As I see the number of fat kids in school today (I think there were maybe a dozen or so fat kids in my whole high school of nearly 1,000 kids back in the 60's) I can see where to lay my money in the cancer sweepstakes. Throw lung cancer and diabetes into the race and it's a Trifecta O'Death.American Society for Clinical Nutrition

From the American Society for Clinical Nutrition:
Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study

Emerging evidence indicates that hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia may be implicated in the development of pancreatic cancer. Frequent consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by inducing frequent postprandial hyperglycemia, increasing insulin demand, and decreasing insulin sensitivity.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly cancers: the overall 5-y survival rate is only ≈5% (1). Because of this poor prognosis, identification of modifiable risk factors for pancreatic cancer is important. Evidence is mounting that abnormal glucose metabolism and hyperinsulinemia may be involved in the development of pancreatic cancer. Conditions such as diabetes mellitus, a high body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2), and physical inactivity, all hallmarks of insulin resistance, have been directly related to the risk of this malignancy (2-5). Moreover, prospective studies have reported approximately twice the risk of pancreatic cancer in persons in the highest category of postload plasma glucose (6), fasting serum glucose (7, 8), or fasting insulin (7) concentrations compared with persons in the lowest category.

More here, here, and here.

Catching Flak

Flak comes from the German word for anti-aircraft fire - Flugabwehrkanone.

As a young man I worked with a WWII vet, a tail gunner in a B-17, who was shot down on his second mission over Nazi Germany and spent 18 months in a POW camp. He didn't like catching flak.

May 19, 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

While the tension between Russia and Ukraine may be easing a little bit, elbows are being thrown between China and Vietnam.

According to the Epoch Times, "troops, tanks, trucks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers of China’s military were seen heading to the Vietnamese border on May 16 and 17, according to photographs taken by by residents near the border."

[...]The troop movement comes amid growing anti-China protests in Vietnam. They began last week after Chinese state-run oil company CNOOC began setting up an oil rig 120 nautical miles from Vietnam in waters near the disputed Paracel islands.

The protests began with close to 100 people in Ho Chi Minh City last Saturday, grew to more than 1,000 people in Hanoi on Sunday, and later grew into riots. The protesters have since burned foreign-owned factories. An estimated 21 people have been killed, including at least one Chinese worker in a Taiwanese steel mill.

Jane Fonda, where are you when the commies need you?

More here and here.

May 18, 2014

It Is, Then It Ain't

A key researcher in the free-gluten movement now admits that it's wrong. Actually it's gluten-free. Free-gluten sounds like a demand for somebody's release from prison. Or this...

What do we want?
Free Gluten!
When do we want it?
From the Business Insider:
In one of the best examples of science working, a researcher who provided key evidence of (non-celiac disease) gluten sensitivity recently published follow-up papers that show the opposite. 
The first follow-up paper came out last year in the journal Gastroenterology. Here's the backstory that makes us cheer:

The study was a follow up on a 2011 experiment in the lab of Peter Gibson at Monash University. The scientifically sound — but small — study found that gluten-containing diets can cause gastrointestinal distress in people without celiac disease, a well-known autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten.

They called this non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, and other grains. It gives bread its chewiness and is often used as a meat substitute. If you've ever had "wheat meat," seitan, or mock duck at a Thai restaurant, that's gluten.
More about the study here.

I just went through a whole series of gastrointestinal work ups (I have GERD and a hiatal hernia) and my internist talked about a new book that is out called "Wheat Belly." He said it rocked it his world and wanted me to read it.

So I looked it up and it was written by a cardiologist, Dr. Davis, who says that man was never meant to eat grass - that's what wheat is, and that the genetically modified grass that we eat today is nothing more than fast growing stalks of sugar. Dwarf wheat, as it is called, was engineered to address world hunger but created a whole series of other health problems instead. That sounds about right.

I ordered the book, should get it mid-week.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I am far from being sold on this and I plan to explore it carefully (there are criticisms and counter-claims). Plus I love bread, waffles, bagels, muffins, pancakes, pastries, sandwiches - the whole incredible spectrum of yummy wheaty things.

The science that discovered the benefits of a gluten free diet has now been dealt a severe blow; the same could apply to a grain free diet in a few years.

But let's face it, much most of the research today is supported by government grants and if the mega-agribusiness lobby wants to keep growing wheat, what is your guess will happen?

In any event I'll keep you posted.