Archive for December, 2007

whose mountain is it?

in norway, there is a rock drawing of a man on skis that is believed to be over 4500 years old. the word “ski” has its roots in old norse, and if you have a penchant for linguistics, you’ll be interested in knowing that ancient scandinavian historical records speak of a people called the skrithifinns, or “skiing wanderer.”

all this bookish history is jolly interesting, but as soon as you mention skiing in any conversation nowadays, the discussion inevitably will lead to topic of snowboarders and skiers.

let me make it clear right now that i don’t really care for snowboarding. i’ve been skiing since i was in elementary school and i can’t think of a quicker or a classier way to get down a snowy mountain. i don’t understand why i receive looks of contempt and incredulity when i’m asked whether i “ski or board” and i answer “ski.” it is unfathomable to me why snowboarding is considered cooler than skiing when james bond, the epitome of cool, killed baddies in “her majesty’s secret service” and “the world is not enough” on a pair of skis. in addition, snowboarders are reckless, block the bottom of lifts while they strap on their boards, have ridiculous looking goatees, and put their wallets on chains.

in contrast to the storied history of skiing, the origin of snowboarding cam be traced back to muskegon, michigan in 1965 when a frugal man named sherman poppen lopped the wheels off a skateboard to make a toy for his children.

some people say that snowboarders are dangerous but i’m not really bothered because a poor skier is just as bad, if not worse, than a poor snowboarder. an unskilled skier falls to the ground and in an instant, sharp poles fly through the air and impale your skull while two runaway skis sail down the slope like a pair of laser guided torpedoes. a crashed snowboarder lies in a puddle of blood and vomit but as long as you keep your distance, you can avoid contracting the blood borne diseases he might have.

taos ski valley in new mexico is one of the four remaining ski resorts that have banned snowboarders from its mountains. i am glad to hear that this season, the resort has caved in to the demands of the snowboarding scalawags and is opening its trails to both skiers and snowboarders alike.

banning snowboarding is one step forward on the path that leads to communism. we practically live in a police state already; trans fats have been banned in several large cities, if you touch your cell phone will driving a car, you will be sent to a turkish prison, and if you even attempt to bring a bottle of poland spring on an airplane flight, a sniper will shoot you in the face.

this feud then, between snowboarders and skiers over ownership of the mountain is a healthy one. as long as both parties continue their passionate bickering, we will continue to see both skis and snowboards offered at the rental shops and that freedom of choice is beautiful. the day that either skis or snowboards disappear from the mountain will mark the day that liberty dies.

December 29, 2007 at 5:45 pm 3 comments

buying happiness

ever since my freshman year of college, i have used the same bath towels. throughout the course of two weeks, three identical blue towels were used to dry myself off after a shower. given that these towels were shabbily made to begin with, i recently decided they were unfit to use even for sudanese refugees. it seemed a good time to go buy new bath towels, especially since half of the amazon rainforest has been turned into bed bath & beyond 20% off coupons. and they have all been mailed to me.

i left the store with two large bath towels. both were a mossy shade of green and very soft. i checked to see if any cuddly creatures were skinned to make them but unfortunately, the towels are 100% cotton. i am going to perform a long term test to see if the towel that cost $18 is actually better than the $12 towel. as of tonight, both towels are plush, warm, and make drying off complete bliss. i used to fear the end of my shower because it meant chafing my entire body with blue sandpaper. give the choice between that and the pit and the pendulum, i would find the rope myself to bind my body.

the $30 i spent on towels has brought happiness into my life and this brings me to my next point, which is that money can most definitely buy happiness, despite all the adages you may have heard. now, let me first make it clear that i am not speaking towards those whose goal in life is to accumulate mansions, sports cars, and yachts. i suspect that their problem is something else altogether. i am writing about the sort of person who buys ketchup wholesale because it will save them $0.13 per ounce. yes, i am talking to the sort of person who will wait to see a friend in person to deliver mail by hand to save $0.41 of postage.

i am convinced that every time you experience displeasure in your life, the root cause is some sort of unhappiness, felt either by yourself or by the person perpetrating the upsetting act, that could be allayed by a monetary purchase of some sort. for instance, just the other day, while stuck in a typical philadelphia traffic jam, i didn’t have multiple strokes because i was listening to a great kenny g christmas album i had bought last year. and my hands were warm because i had on a warm pair of gloves. because of these small, but significantly life improving purchases, i had only one stroke.

what is the point of toiling away at your job if you are unwilling to spend your money to better your life? after a hard day’s work, you go to shoprite to buy food, but what you leave with instead is shoprite branded orange juice from concentrate and a tin of tuna fish. not even the chunky white albacore tuna, but the cheaper minced version. “they were on sale!” you’ll cry. you’ll miserably eat your supper of tuna fish and orange juice in your home, heated to a frigid 60F to save money, and go to sleep unhappy and jaundiced. this is only after taking a shower, which was cut short to save hot water, and drying off with a ratty towel that has the texture of pumice.

people who go through life this way often will defend their actions by saying something along the lines of “if i save $20 a week, over the course of ten years, the interest will have made me $10,000 richer.” well, maybe, but how much will that money be worth in a decade if you count inflation? also, what would you be doing with the $10,000 a decade from now? buying things with it to make your life less miserable? i highly doubt it because you were unwilling to spend $20 a week to go out for dinner with your friends when you were younger. you havent a hope in hell of spending a much greater amount (so you misers currently hope) later on in your life.

my glib financial advice might just sound like the rantings of an consumer, but it isnt. i understand the value of investing in a future, increasing stability for your family, and planned purchases. i am not suggesting that we all start to impulsively buy the magazines and sweets placed at the checkout aisles of grocery stores. what i am pushing for is a more realistic view of what the point of life is and how we can all happily live together. when you are happy yourself, you tend to be a better and more pleasant person, making all those around you laugh and smile.

so go ahead and turn the heat up in your apartment and splurge on that tropicana orange juice. you can consider it as a charitable and selfless act – a christmas gift to the rest of the world.

December 14, 2007 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

MSG is great

today i will dispell a myth about msg.

myth: msg is unhealthy.

first, what is msg? msg, or monosodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid, the stuff that proteins are made out of. msg is used as a flavor enhancer in many asian foods and it harmonizes well with salty and sour tastes. the msg used in foods is isolated from starch or molasses from sugar cane or sugar beets.

although glutamic acid had been isolated in 1866 by the german chemist karl ritthausen, it was not until 1908 that its flavor-enhancing potential was noticed by kikunae ikeda of japan. before this, japanese chefs used seaweed broth as a flavor enhancer, now knowing that glutamic acid was its flavor-enhancing component. after its isolation, ikeda noted that it had a distinctive taste, different from sweet, sour, bitter and salty (the flavors in classical flavor theory) and he gave this taste the name “umami.”

enough of history. all of you just want to know if msg is bad for you. the answer is no. msg is not bad for you.

msg is found naturally in many foods, including cow milk, beef, chicken, seaweed, mushroom, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. actually, parmesan cheese contains 1200 mg of msg per 100 g of cheese, making it the food with the most msg in it. our livers naturally produce a lot of msg – about 50x more in one day than the amount that is ingested during a typical chinese takeout meal.

what about those people who claim to be allergic to msg, a condition also called chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS)?

looking at the foods above, these same people should also be extremely allergic to mushroom pizza, which contains tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms, all good sources of msg. ive never heard of anyone being allergic to pizza though.

a study conducted in the 70’s further showed that msg allergies were largely psychosomatic. a large sample of people were taken who claimed to be allergic to msg. symptoms were burning sensation on the neck, forearms, and chest, numbess of neck and back, and chest pains and comiting. various ethnic foods were presented to them over the course of a week. a random portion of these dishes contained msg but people only reported adverse reactions to the dishes from asian cuisine, regardless of whether msg was present in those foods. other dishes containing msg did not cause any reactions in the subjects.
anyways, msg is safe to use a food additive. just dont use too much. if you put too much msg in a food, it becomes slightly bitter.

references:
Food Chemistry, 2nd ed., Belitz and Grosch 1996.

Principles of Food Chemistry, 3rd ed., deMann 1999.

Lecture by Dr. Rui Hai Liu, Cornell University Department of Food Science, Spring 2005.

December 9, 2007 at 10:45 pm 2 comments


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