Thursday, July 29, 2010

Boston Public Market Promised $10M And Building

The Boston Public Market Association, on whose board I serve, has been promised $10M and a home in an existing building. BPMA will use that money to plan and build a public food market selling local food.

The building will provide more than twenty thousand square feet of space for vendors, and is located in a neighborhood with heavy foot traffic near subway lines, bus lines, and commuter rail lines.

This is a major step forward for the BPMA. Thank you to everyone who emailed the governor on our behalf!

Some details in this Boston Globe story.

Watch this space for more information, coming soon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

LAPD Raids Raw Buying Club With Guns Drawn

Click here to see the story in the LA Times.

Not only are there no victims here—it's clear to me that no laws are being broken. [UPDATE: I mean to say that Rawesome is breaking no laws. LAPD is another matter.]

There's good government and there's bad government, just like there's good touching and bad touching.

I'll let you decide which one this is.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No-Buy July: I Will Buy Nothing Unnecessary For A Month

I have decided not to buy anything unnecessary for a month, starting July 15. (Not precisely No-Buy July, but I thought the name was catchy.)

I will opt out of being a "consumer", and attempt simply to be a human being for a while.

I will still buy animal and vegetable products as I see fit, but I will avoid buying prepared foods, and I will avoid going to restaurants when I have a choice (travel may make it difficult).

I will buy things that are truly necessary for health, transportation, business continuity, and the fulfillment of outstanding obligations.

I may attend events.

Beyond that, I'm going to try not to buy things or spend money on anything.

Love to hear any thoughts anyone has about this.

I will give updates if there's interest.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Critique Of The China Study; The Nature Of Scientific Innovation

The China Study, sponsored by Cornell and Oxford Universities and conducted by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, concludes that consuming animal products causes chronic disease, and advocates a plant-based diet. It is often cited by people who favor plant-based diets.

Establishing causal relationships between diet and disease via statistics-based population studies can be difficult. Correlations in data are often mistaken for causation, especially when someone is trying to prove a point. Beyond that, there are always many variables to consider, and it's nearly impossible to control for them all.

Still, scientists and epidemiologists are experts at this sort of thing: it's what they're trained to do. Right?

I just read this excellent critique of The China Study, on Denise Minger's blog. Take a look and see what you think. I find no fault with it.

It is fascinating to me that an amateur (albeit a very smart one) can find fundamental problems with research sponsored and carried out by professionals with years of training and huge budgets.

Is T. Colin Campbell a careless scientist? Unlikely.

Do Cornell, Oxford, and T. Colin Campbell have an agenda that they are advancing, besides improving public health? Campbell may be motivated by financial considerations, but what about the others who reviewed his work?

Is it that the "plant-based diet" has become the flavor-of-the-day, and that scientists who want funding must cleave to this dogma?

The physicist Max Planck once said, "An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning."

What Planck does not mention is that the validity or utility of a new scientific paradigm is not the only deciding factor in its acceptance. A powerful, multi-decade marketing campaign can affect the thinking of an entire generation of up-and-coming scientists and lay-people.

In physics, we have string theory, which is not verifiable and predicts nothing measurable, yet has dominated theoretical physics for decades. Many young physicists are "string theorists", having spent their professional lives working in string theory. They are invested, literally, in its continued popularity.

In nutrition theory, we have low-fat, which was promoted masterfully by Ancel Keys from the 1950s through the 1970s. Health in the US has gone sharply downhill in the forty years since low-fat hit the mainstream. Of course this is merely correlation, not necessarily causality, and of course there are many other variables involved. But modern nutritionists and dietitians are invested in the low-fat paradigm, and are reluctant to consider that it might be wrong.

Could it be that low-fat is grounded in marketing rather than good science?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Make Your Own Deodorant (It's A Deodorant And A Dessert Topping!)

I stopped using mainstream antiperspirant a long time ago, both because it irritated my skin and because I was concerned about the health implications of the aluminum it contained. I tried a variety of "natural" deodorants, like Tom's of Maine, but wasn't able to find one that was completely satisfactory. Some of them irritated my skin, perhaps because of the base—propylene glycol, alcohol, etc. Some didn't work very well. Some of them ("rock" deodorants) left me with further questions about safety. I was never quite satisfied. I was not willing to sacrifice health, so I sacrificed some functionality. I found a great aloe-based deodorant by Alvera that was not quite heavy-duty enough for me. But I didn't mind if I smelled a little sweaty sometimes, so I used it for a while.

Things must be worse for the ladies. Many women shave their armpits, making them more vulnerable to irritation. Also, many women would rather not smell sweaty, or have big sweat stains under their armpits. Not as big a deal for many guys I think.

I'd been thinking about making my own deodorant for a while. A few weeks ago, inspired by some blog posts (here and here) I took the plunge. I haven't looked back.

Here's the recipe I used:
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 4 tbs baking soda
  • 2 tbs cornstarch (or 3 tbs arrowroot—see Addendum 2, below)
  • 8 drops assorted essential oils (including tea tree)
Melt the coconut oil (a hot water bath should do it). Put it all together in a half-pint mason jar. Shake, shake, shake, stir, stir. Put it in the freezer for a while so that it solidifies.

I had a bottle of mixed tea tree-lavender oil sitting around, so that's what I used. Tea tree is a good place to start, because of its natural antimicrobial properties. I may try adding some ginger. Garlic has some great qualities, too…tempting!

If your house is warm and your deodorant is liquid when you want to use it, give it a shake.

To use it, dip your finger in and spread it around in your armpit. You may want to wash your hands afterwards, but you don't have to.

And if you add some lemon oil and a pinch of stevia, you may be able to say, "It's a deodorant…and a dessert topping!"

ADDENDUM (1/2/2011):

I have recently been using a modified version of the recipe. It is basically the same, but uses only 3 tbs baking soda and 1.5 tbs corn starch. It works just as well, and is slightly milder.

ADDENDUM 2 (6/21/2012):

Folks have raised concern over using corn starch, since non-organic corn starch is almost certainly going to be GMO. One way to address this is to use organic corn starch (which cannot be GMO). Another is to substitute arrowroot. Opinions vary about whether or not arrowroot is a one-to-one substitute for cornstarch. In my experience, you may want to use half again as much arrowroot as cornstarch. I have annotated the above recipe to reflect this.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Edible Personal Care Products, Part 1

I believe that anything I routinely put on my skin should be edible. It makes sense. If I'm not willing to eat it, why should I be smearing it all over my body? It all gets absorbed and goes to the same place, right? The skin is the biggest organ, and all of that?

Are your personal care products edible?

Mine are getting there.

In order, roughly, from most delicious to least:
  • Coconut Oil. There was a parody commercial on Saturday Night Live many years ago for a product that was both a floor wax AND a dessert topping. It was very funny. Well, folks, sometimes life imitates art. Coconut oil actually IS both a floor wax (throw in a little lemon oil) and a dessert topping (especially when mixed with, say, honey), not to mention skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, aftershave lotion, massage oil, etc. And it's a wonderful cooking oil, it's great for baking, and it's perfect for seasoning your cast iron cookware, cutting boards, and wood-handled kitchen tools. It also makes a great base for home-made deodorant…
  • Coconut-based deodorant. My home-made deodorant uses a coconut oil base, is completely edible, and works better than anything I've tried recently. My female focus group even liked it. Stay tuned for more details in an upcoming blog post.
  • Jojoba Oil. Another great moisturizing oil. A little thicker than coconut oil. Being a nut oil, jojoba oil is somewhat delicate, so if you don't go use it up pretty quickly, you might want to keep it in the fridge.
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. I use it for washing vegetables and for washing dishes. Beyond that, it's a great hand and body wash, and while I wouldn't enjoy eating a large quantity of it, there is absolutely nothing alarming in the list of ingredients. Add some coconut oil to make a good, but not great, shampoo. (My hair can put up with it for a month or so before my scalp gets flaky and I resort to a store-bought shampoo. I've tried a few Internet formulas, like baking soda and apple cider vinegar, but I've not found one that works perfectly for me. If anyone has an idea, I'd love to hear it!)
  • Tooth Powder. The one I use isn't perfect. It contains a (plant-based) detergent which is probably not great to eat. But here's what it DOESN'T contain: fluoride or saccharine. One of my next projects will probably be to make my own tooth powder. Baking soda, salt, mint oil…not sure what else.
  • Tea Tree Oil.  I really wouldn't enjoy eating a whole lot of this, but if I had intestinal parasites, it might be just the thing. It works great for topical treatment of minor cuts, bites, irritations, pimples, fungal infections, and so on.
Bon appetit! Comments and suggestions are welcome as always.