Monday, December 31, 2007

Dietary Supplements

For those who think that FDA regulation of dietary supplements would be a bad idea, and that the current system works:

FDA: Chinese Dietary Supplements Contain Viagra []

The agency advised consumers to stay away from Shangai Chaojimengnan supplements sold under the names Super Shangai, Strong Testis, Shangai Ultra, Shangai Ultra X, Lady Shangai and Shangai Regular. The Chinese-made supplements are packaged and distributed by Shangai Distributor Inc. of Puerto Rico.

Note the "advised consumers to stay away..." Even though it contains a prescription medication, because it's sold as a "dietary supplement" the most the FDA can do (unless people start dying) is to advise people to avoid the product. Something capable of producing serious drug interactions, and that itself contains a controlled substance, cannot be removed from the market. The FDA also had no authority to test this "supplement" before it was imported and sold.

The simple fact is that we don't know what's in these quasi-regulated pills and potions. There are labelling laws, but they rely on the manufacturer, testing by the FDA is minimal and infrequent, and it's difficult to get even a proven violator taken off the market. There's a reason we have a federal agency whose purpose is to guarantee the safety of our food and drug supply.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Not Stupid, It's Art!

I've decided that anyone who espouses a view that I consider patently absurd is, in fact, a performance artist. Ann Coulter? Performance artist. (This has been suggested before.) That woman who wants to ban cupcakes and force Santa to lose weight? Performance artist. Creationists? The largest performance art troupe in human history.

It's a lot less disconcerting, isn't it? It can even be impressive, like Stephen Colbert writ large (OK, larger).

Oh, and I totally call dibs on credit for coining the insult, "Stop being such a performance artist," or, "What are you? A performance artist?" I mean, I do have to think of my legacy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advice for People Who Are Painting a Room

If you're thinking of painting over the vents, please don't. It becomes a pain for whoever is going to paint the room the next time. It's not difficult to remove the vents before painting; it's certainly easier than removing them after they've been painted over. It's even easier to put masking tape around the edges, though you can't then be as cavalier with the roller. Actually, it's easier to remove the vents — two screws, pull, and you're done.

If you really want the vent covers to be the same color as the wall, remove them first, paint them separately, let them (and the walls) dry, and then replace them. It's more work, sure, but you won't then have painted the damned things to the wall. The better option is still not to paint them, so the next person doesn't have to buy replacements.

This has been your grumpy homeowner's rant for the day.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Culinary Meme

JACE tagged me to keep this going.

What were you cooking/baking ten years ago?

I've been cooking to some extent for a long time, though for awhile my cooking was confined to breakfast-type items, mostly eggs. I took "Creative Foods" and "Baking" in 12th grade, to round out my schedule, but that was 17 years ago. Ten years ago I was in the midst of grad school, and I tended to keep things fairly quick and simple. I'd make stir-frys (often vegetarian, because tofu is easier to work with than meat), curries (with whole spices, of course), and the occasional macaroni with cheese sauce (not from a mix!). I'd also made a decent vegetarian chili.

What were you cooking/baking one year ago?

My cooking habits have, if anything, gotten worse. I still make the occasional curry, and I've learned how to make soups. Crock-Pot roast, in the colder months. Too often I throw something packaged into the microwave. And I make beer, which is like making stock, baking, and preserving all rolled into one. I'm generally cooking for one, which makes me less ambitious and adventurous.

Five snacks you enjoy:

I'm not much of a snacker, but...

  1. popcorn, especially while watching 24
  2. nuts, which I've started keeping on the kitchen counter in a pop-top plastic container
  3. chips, with or without dip, if I've been stressed and have made the mistake of having some in the house
  4. tortillas with melted cheese
  5. does coffee count?

Five recipes you know by heart:

I rarely use recipes, preferring to wing it and go by smell. So, given that caveat..

  1. cheese sauce
  2. the way I make Crock-Pot roast
  3. the way I make curry
  4. real Belgian waffles (Brussels variety)
  5. nachos (which is why the Super Bowl was invented, right?)

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:

This is a tough one, because my tastes generally run to the simple.

  1. a home renovation to double the size of my kitchen, including putting in a pantry
  2. a ten gallon conical fermenter
  3. a meat grinder for making sausage, and someone to clean it
  4. a wood-burning oven
  5. a greenhouse with hydroponics so that I could have fresh produce, especially tomatoes and herbs, year-round

Five foods you love to cook/bake:

  1. beer
  2. nachos
  3. macaroni and cheese, usually with sausage on the side
  4. just about anything in the Crock Pot, if I can motivate myself to cook after eating dinner
  5. pasta with ragout

Five things you cannot/will not eat:

As Cervantes wrote, "hunger is the best sauce." That being said, there are some things that I find unappetizing:

  1. shrimp with the face still attached
  2. anything with a mucous-like texture
  3. pineapple on pizza
  4. mayo on pastrami or corned beef (a reuben gets a pass, since russian dressing ends up not being particularly mayonnaise-like)
  5. offal

Five favorite culinary toys:

  1. five gallon ball-lock keg
  2. Crock Pot
  3. probe thermometer (useful for roasts and beer!)
  4. rice cooker/vegetable steamer
  5. deep fryer (though I haven't made wings in years)

Five dishes on your "last meal" menu:

If it's my last meal, it's still a meal, right? It should be coherent. So, we'll lead with the star:

  1. lasagna
  2. garlic bread
  3. broccoli or brussels sprouts — I'd have to see which I'm in the mood for that day
  4. Snapping Ginger Ale
  5. a powerful anesthetic

Five happy food memories:

  1. pretty much every Thanksgiving, including the ones I hosted in Ithaca
  2. pretty much every Channukah, with my Mom's latkes and brisket
  3. making filo triangles at home for cooking class, and having them come out perfect
  4. making huge batches of Belgian waffles, just for the heck of it
  5. the pot-lucks (both of them) that we had in Ithaca

Passing the Buck

I don't have many friends who blog (it must be an age thing). So, Stavros, you up for it?