.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

My Photo
Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Organic Food

With a week in an Extended Stay, I had a kitchen and the ability to prepare food for myself. In an effort to "be more healthy" I tried an experiment: I shopped primarily for organic foods.

Somewhere along the way in life, I read that high fructose corn syrup is evil with the substance being linked to obesity and other health problems due to the way the body absorbs the substance.

Initially, I had no intention of going the organic route. I just wanted to avoid the HFCS. The problem is that it's everywhere. You can hardly make a meal buying regular store bought groceries.

In fact, because it is in most kinds of bread (even the ones with "all natural" labels), it's nearly impossible to avoid.

I defy you to try to shop for two weeks in a regular supermarket without buying something with HFCS in it.

I couldn't even make a PB&J sandwich without some of it in there.

Soda? Forget it.

So in failing to find another way to avoid the substance, I decided to try organic foods.

That led me to trying out things like Annie's Organic Creamy Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese. The Annie's brand promotes "all natural" pasta lines, some which are good and some that are not. They also come with stories on how buying the stuff helps the Earth. That wasn't my main concern though, my taste buds were, and the Creamy Deluxe was a big hit with my stomach.

In my mind though, pasta is no big deal and seemingly not a big organic food risk.

To make this work, I had to plunge in.

I had to try an organic version of a staple of my diet.

I had to try organic peanut butter.

This is a big risk. If chemicals have done any good thing, it's make a nice tasting peanut butter (keep in mind here, I do not believe that brands such as Jif or others have HFCS in it, but they do put a lot of stuff in there that sounds strange and I was locked into organic foods for the sake of this experiment).

I am also a big Jif fan. Anything significantly moving away from that made me worried. There was no going back. I was going to do this for a week...or starve.

So I bought a jar of Maranatha peanut butter for the experiment. Be warned though, Maranatha has a almond butter product at about $17 a jar...that gave me sticker shock and almost killed the experiment. The peanut butter was more reasonably priced. If it wasn't, I was going to have to give up this stupid granola eating world-saving crusade and eat chemicals again. I'd like to save the world, but not for a $20 PB&J sandwich.

The first thing I noticed upon opening the jar was that organic peanut butter looks like diarrhea.

The peanut butter and the oil it is encased in separate during the shipping process, and you have to mix them back together before using it. This gives the product its nasty look and feel, and within seconds of opening it I had regrets.

Would you want to put that in your body? Would it come out looking the same?

It also requests that you refrigerate the jar after opening, something the chemical compound Jif jars do not require you to do. I suppose that is a good sign of organic/natural food at work. I noticed that after some time being cooled off, the peanut butter looks like the regular (aka chemically created) kind.

The "all natural" jelly was just jelly, with no HFCS in it. I had no worries about it because it pretty much looked like any normal brand.

So, I applied it. I found a rare kind of wheat bread that did not have high fructose corn syrup in it, but had to trade it off with some glutens, which is another problem. It was impossible to find a kind of bread without glutens or HFCS, at least in the supermarket I was shopping in.

I tried it.


It was good. The Maranatha peanut butter was tasty, and the texture did not bother me so much (after all, I could not see it any more).

Initially, all was well. But what would be organic food's more medium-term effects?

Things took a turn for the worse after a day or so or organic sandwiches and pasta.

Then, my stomach and bowels became confused. Such severe noxious gasses were coming out of my body that had I been in Iraq, the search for WMDs would have ended when the troops found me.

I found myself breaking wind constantly.

It was the really nasty kind too.

There are only two possible reasons for the putrid smell that was expelled from my lower half: 1) my body did not take to the food too well, or 2) my body, finally eating chemical-free food, had a chance to remove bad stuff stored in my body over time.

I'm not sure which was true.

After a couple of days of being alone (who wants to be around that?), my body stopped excreting nasty odors and I went on with my life.

Once my body made the adjustment, all was well and I could have a social life again.

To sum up the experiment: Like any kinds of food, some organic products were good and some were bad.

The regular Annie's creamy pasta tasted good; another brand's whole wheat organic spaghetti blended well with Paul Newman's organic tomato sauce; and I did like the PB&J sandwich that I have described above.

Other Annie's products, such as their whole wheat pasta, was pretty bad.

The verdict: I liked most of the organic food I bought and like the idea of it. It's nice to buy food products with labels you can understand, and chances are you're helping a family farm while doing it.

It's not for everyone though. We have been conditioned to eat chemicals all of our lives. It's hard to teach our taste buds to act otherwise.

If you'd like to try my experiment on your own, here's my advice: do it when you can be alone for a while.

You never know what it will do to you or the ones you love.

If it doesn't work out you can always try this: organic stimulant laxatives.

Just so you know, I did not try this one.

This person says high fructose corn syrup is not that bad. He is clearly a slave to corporate America or something.

Is Arthur Daniels Midland (a big maker of high fructose corn syrup) the "Exxon of corn"?

Food is Evil!

New Coke, Classic Coke, and high fructose corn syrup. What the "New Coke" thing was all about.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Inland Southern Florida

Ever wonder what's in between Miami and Tampa?

That. Swampland. Few people. Some oranges. Some gators.

The area's road signs, especially close to the Miami border, are still torn apart from previous hurricanes.

The few people in the area need to be reminded via billboards that 9/11 happened.

The closer you get to the island's coasts though, the more people you see. Within 20 miles of the water you see the evidence of mankind. Most notably, you see many freeways and tons of cars.

This is what you get when you're driving into Miami.

Visiting an Old Best Friend

One of the joys of being on the road is seeing old friends. When in Naples, I got a chance to visit with Chris, my best friend from high school. We've only seen each other sporadically since graduating Forest Hills High School, so it was nice to catch up with him.

The last time I saw him was on his wedding day (here he is with his lovely wife Patti). She's a great girl, with the exception of being a Miami Dolphins fan. I'll try to overlook that.

They have a young boy named Gavin, and he's an attention hog.

Gavin is a sponge for information. He's a really sharp kid.

He's quite the artist. Notice the "two crayon" technique.

Like his Dad, he's management material. When I came into his room, he told me to sit down and play with him.

Chris, Patti, and I went to the hockey game I talked about in my previous post.

I also got to have dinner at Chris' parent's house. I had not seen them since Chris and Patti's wedding either.

Chris is a manager of a successful drug store in Florida and is doing quite well for himself.

In fact, he seems like he's doing great.

OK, sorry guys. I'm sure only about five people who read my blog care about this.

But I do.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Nothing Says Florida Like Hockey

While in Naples, FL, I went to a hockey game.

Let me repeat...I was in Florida and went to a hockey game.

Yes, this is ridiculous.

The Germain Arena, which is surrounded by Palm Trees, was the location of the game.

It's hot out there.

People who live in Florida are the types who ran away scared from cold weather from places like New York to be in nice, warm places.

So why watch hockey?

Well, Naples, FL just doesn't have a hockey team, they have the 2005 ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) American Conference Champion Florida Everblades.


The Blades have jerseys you can wear.

They have a scoreboard.

They have a mascot, "Swampie" (you know, a Florida gator).

Here is Swampie with an American Flag (here is he skating to the tune "Born In The USA"...I was unsure if he was trying to get a cheap pop or making a political point about the Vietnam War).

They have a bar at the top of the arena.

With a bar comes the obligatory "Mike with a beer" photo.

Most importantly, they have a gazebo.

Well, if that's not enough for you, they also had the CVS All Stars (yes, the drug store chain had a pickup hockey team) play the Boston Bruins All Stars (a bunch of retired players on both teams).

Former New York Rangers and Boston Bruins great Phil Esposito was also there, and he was in good form for an old guy. At least he looked good, I know little of hockey.

It was a high scoring affair.

But the real main event was the Everblades playing the Gwinnett Gladiators, with the away team taking the game 4-2. Not that I knew that though, because we left during the third period.

In the first minute of the game, the fans got what they wanted: a fight. Just like old time hockey. It was standing-room only during the brawl.

The place was packed, and save for the fact that the home team was losing most of the time, it had a great vibe to it.

It was a good time.

The truth about Slap Shot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

G-Day: March 15th

I just scheduled my GRE date for March 15.

I wouldn't expect to hear from me until then.

Oh, by the way, I still don't know what this is.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ybor, FL

Either as part of Tampa, FL, or an immediate suburb is Ybor City, an old school college town with bars, shops, and other stores with a "main street" kind of feel. There are no stores like the Gap, Best Buy, or Starbucks. Here, it all seems to be home grown.

Tattoo parlors and piercing places are big here. There seemed to be one on every block. I was tempted...but the skull kind of scared me away.

If you're dating a nice young lady, you can buy her a black leather mini-skirt. Man, I'd like to have a girl I can buy a black leather mini-skirt. I'm so alone in this world...

Tampa's oldest restaurant is here. It's right next to...

...a bunch of Soviet Union flags. Yes, this is a college town, and wearing black leather mini-skirts, getting tattoos, and thinking Communism was a good idea are all acceptable notions here. Socialism didn't do much for the area though, there were homeless people everywhere.

That's not to say there aren't rules though.

I have a rule...no "New York style" anything outside of New York City. New York pizza in Ybor? Thank you very much you socialist bastards.

There's a movie theater turned into a concert hall. I was disappointed to learn that I was not going to be in town for a band called Nashville Pussy.

It's probably for the best though, because I would have gotten a piercing, a tattoo, and a black leather mini-skirt for myself before the show and that's all just too expensive.

I will say this though, it was nice to be able to walk around. This was a place not soiled by car culture. If you're in town and you need something "different," check it out.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ink & Blood in St. Petersburg, FL (Part III)

In my previous posts on Ink & Blood at the Florida International Museum, I showed the exhibits wonderful examples of early Jewish texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the early formation of the New Testament and Christian Bibles. These works were all done by hand.


The Gutenberg Bible, dated 1433-5, was the first Bible to be "mass produced" using moveable type. There was no major advancement in translation or text, just in production, as it is a print of the Latin Vulgate. However, the existence of printed Bibles forever changed the economics of Bible reading and made the Protestant reformation possible.

At the museum, a replica of the Gutenberg press is on display with demonstrations given on how it worked. On the top right, you can see how the books were shipped on Amazon.com.

Just kidding about that.

In the West, there was a great amount of tension between the Catholic church, who demanded that Bibles remain written only in Latin, and those who wanted more accessible languages used. Eventually, Martin Luther helped start a protestant reformation and translated the New Testament into German, his home language. This version comes from a 1551 copy.

The water was spilling out of the dam. Once people began reading the Bible for themselves, the next step was to be able to interpret it.

A foundation of textual criticism came from Novum Instrumentum ("New Instrument"), the work of Desiderius Erasmus (above), who created a Greek-Latin version of the New Testament (a 1522 copy is above). His work brought Greek, the original language of the New Testament, back to the West. It also encouraged Christians to seek earlier drafts of Biblical text than the Latin Vulgate for translation purposes.

This implied that it was possible for the Latin Vulgate to be wrong on some parts of its translation, and therefore an imperfect document to base religious teachings from. Needless to say, the Catholic church was not happy again.

Adding to the vernacular translation trend was Tyndale's New Testament (the version above coming from 1536, the year William Tyndale was burned at the stake).

Tyndale saw the Roman church as oppressive, and beloved the common person needed a Bible in a language they could understand. He translated Erasmus' 3rd edition (1522) Greek-Latin New Testament into English, but could not get away with printing it in England. The books, printed elsewhere, were smuggled into England in bales of cloth and sacks of flour.

His 1534 translation was so accurate that 90 years later the King James translators would use more than 75% of its exact wording, and it was used as a standard for translations for at least three centuries.

Yet until the publication of the Coverdale Bible (this copy from 1535), created by Miles Coverdale, no complete Bible had ever been printed in English. This was another major step in allowing the church to evolve into a structure that would allow people like me to read it and completely take it out of context in my own way.

The Geneva Bible (1557) was another advancement in Biblical scholarship and the first to be printed in Roman type, which is often still used today. It also added verse divisions (the "16" in John 3:16), and it was the first Bible to be completely translated from its original languages. It was the favorite Bible of Shakespeare (his plays often quote this version) and with the Puritans it was the first Bible to settle in America.

The invention of verses made it possible for people to ignore the whole of the Bible in favor of it's parts, allowing people like me to overlook 90% of it in favor of my theology.

It also enabled guys to show up at sporting events with John 3:16 signs.

The most well-known Bible in the world, the King James Bible (1611) was on display. Even though it's named after King James, he never authorized the project. Today, this "Holy Bible" is the most printed book in history. Thy must read it, if though hath not thou shall.

In 1631, a "Wicked Bible" was created. The word "not" was omitted (some feel deliberately) from the one of the ten Commandments, creating God's instruction that stated "Thou shalt commit adultery." Hundreds of years later, this would be Bill Clinton's favorite family Bible.

The Aitken Bible(1782), printed in Philadelphia, PA, was the last Bible on display. On September 10th, 1782, the new United States Congress made a proclamation praising it. So much for the wall between church and state. By then, most of the major controversies about Biblical texts had abated, leaving only minor debates about translation details (is the NRSV better than the NIV?).

Lately though, no one has been burned at the stake. So read what you would like.

Or as many of you will, not read at all (like a good 5th Century Catholic).

This Lamp's review of Ink & Blood

Ferrell Jenkins' review of Ink & Blood

Bible translations in English.