Probably the biggest thing that’s been talked about for the past few weeks is A-Rod’s admission of Steroids Use back in 2003. Never mind whether it was legal for the list to exist (I believe it wasn’t and was being used to blackmail some of the other stars into sticking by the Baseball Union), the question some places are asking is: Why Care About Steroid Use In The First Place?

How about this for an answer:

America likes to think of itself as an meritocratic nation. Never mind its hatred of working-class types who earn more than the minimum wage and/or believe that they actually deserve more than the minimum wage, Americans (at least those in a nation called the USofA) like to believe that they rose or dropped to where they belonged, and could have done much better if they wanted to.

Sports is probably the most meritocratic institution in our society, and we like to think it so. Unlike anything involving the mind (remember, this is the nation that believes that 99.9% of the scientists are wrong and that there’s no global warming), it’s pretty obvious that the people we see on the playing field (court, diamond, ice rink, track, marathon route, ski slope, pole vault, etc) were in some way superior to us and therefore deserved the stardom placed on them.

Steroids mess with that.

A normal Joe willing to work hard, practice and shoot up Anabolic Steroids can make it over someone who works hard, has talent and tries to make it without Steroids. In other words, it messes up the way we perceive things should be, and throws things out of focus.

A good example is Tony Mandarich. A spectacular player during his years at Michigan State, he proved an absolute bust in Green Bay. One wonders how Green Bay would have done had they chosen Barry Sanders instead (of course, Detroit would have chosen Mandarich and maybe Tony wouldn’t have been known as such a Big Bust. After all, we’re talking about the Football Puddy-Tats, and he would have been yet another high draft that didn’t work out.).

Another example is Barry Bonds. Not because he wouldn’t have made the Hall Of Fame without the stuff (Indeed, quite the opposite); but because his numbers ended up acting abnormally. Instead of dropping slowly, they suddenly bloated up to such a degree that they looked cartoonish. Not only that, but so did HE.

The fact is this: While football may be an exception (in part because of its violence), we expect our athletes to be more fit, smarter on the field, and just plain physically better than us. And we expect them to be young because sports is generally a youngster’s game (golf and bowling are exceptions here). And when something looks very off, it sets up alarms.

And that’s why we care if someone did steroids. Even a few years ago. (heck try twenty-plus years ago, and quitting just as he went pro to disasterous effect).

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar: Not The Same Stuff

I just ran across the The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup website and had a few laughs.

They’re trying to tell us that Honey, Sucrose and HFCS are pretty much the same thing, only that HFCS happens to be in more and more stuff.

While part of the message is that HFCS isn’t fully to blame for the issues in America Health (which is true, if you ask me…), their statement that Sugar, Honey and HFCS are the same thing is wrong for the following reasons:

  • Sucrose and Honey are generally disaccharides, which means the fructose and glucose come together and have to be worked on by the digestion system to be absorbed into the body; which burns energy in its own right. HFCS has its fructose and glucose separate (they can actually mix them in different ratios; the normally digested HFCS is actually 55% fructose) and directly digested. In short, it adds a few more calories per meal/Big Gulp than Sucrose and/or Honey would add.
  • HFCS comes from corn, sucrose comes from sugar beets/cane, and honey comes from bees and flowers. As such, any “contaminants” (side ingredients) added to the sweeteners would be different. In the case of corn, we’re talking about carbon rings (and carbon atoms), proteins and genetic compounds that can be traced back to corn.
  • HFCS is made via a complicated process that changes a large portion of the sugars in Corn to a form not made by Corn. Only after that (and a couple other processes) is that changed product added back to corn syrup to make HFCS. Sugar, on the other hand, is cut up and boiled — hardly something that seems complicated; indeed this simple technology is the basis of what we call civilization today (cotton? give me a break). And honey…do it right and the bees will make it for you. All you have to do is harvest it (and leave enough for the bees to feed on during the winter).
  • Taste is different. Honey has its own taste (and you can affect it with the flowers you send the bees after), but so does Sucrose and HFCS. Give a taste test of two Pops and that person will be able to tell the difference. Chances are the older person will prefer the Sucrose formulation, while the younger person will prefer the HFCS formulation (unless they come from Mexico or are of the “sodapop connoisseur” variety and have developed a taste for the Sucrose form of their favorite pop).

Fact is, I think that the HFCS is less nutritious than even Sucrose, seeing as the stuff is put through a greater number of changes than Sucrose. Not only that, but it’s a bit more fattening than Sucrose or Honey by virtue of its being easier to digest as it is (can be digested directly, whereas even Sucrose must be worked on).

Furthermore, I think that HFCS has dropped off in part because the corn lobby’s been able to foist Ethanol upon the Gasoline markets. If it weren’t for THAT fix, we’d probably be getting force-fed HFCS raw by the spoonful.

And finally, I think the HFCS lobby put the mercury item out so that they would have something to easily refute, confuse and discredit the HFCS critics with. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out there’s ways of filtering Mercury out of food ingredients (but not foodstuffs); and that soon we’re going to hear about how HFCS has lower levels of Mercury than Honey (you know…real food?).

Just putting out the info (and opinions). So you know what to look at and for.

Inflation? Deflation? Hyperinflation? My Concern Is With Wages.

I’ve read quite a few out-of-the-way economics websites (and stuff that deals with economics) and everyone seems to think that the economy will enter into an inflationary period that will somehow magically destroy all debts along with the savings. They seem to think that, even if the prices shoot up, wages will also shoot up and make all loans worthless.

Here’s the issue: it ain’t necessarily so.

Consider this: If prices double and your wages stand still, what happens to your purchasing power? It drops by half; and whatever debts you have become more onerous even if they don’t increase.

Here’s the thing about I’m going to call wageless inflation: It happens. Suddenly prices for food and fuel and clothes and heat and water shoot up and you’re left with nothing to pay all the bills, never mind have fun and stuff.

And it’s not sure that prices won’t go up while wages stagnate or drop. Anyone Remember Thailand? A dynamic economy in the early nineties, but now known as a haven for men going around with a taste for girls young enough to get them in trouble at home.

Remember Iceland? Now most of the people there are bankrupt (although they’re busy getting food and stuff, they owe enough that they couldn’t pay the interest off on their loans). While I haven’t read up on Nordic Sex Tours yet (outside of a fictional book), I wouldn’t be surprised if there were suddenly a few more whore houses hidden around Reykjavik for “tourists” who know what they’re looking for and how to find it.

And considering that the unemployment rate has shot up by 3.6 million people. And that’s people who had jobs who can’t find them anymore; what about college students forced into the job market because they can’t continue their education (or find they’ve been stuck with “work-study” when they didn’t have it before) or people going from 2 jobs to 1 (or 3 jobs to 2) or people who suddenly can’t freelance as much as they used to? That, my friends, consists of downward pressure on wages.

And guess what: Prices have risen and stayed risen. I’ve seen milk double in price. Eggs which used to sell normally at 99 cents now are good sales at that price.various prices have risen and stayed risen, usually for good and decent foods (crap still sells cheaply and is on plenty of sales). And the prices have stayed up.

And people are buying less stuff even now, causing states and cities to lose services. States no longer pay their bills on time (not just Illinois with their psycho (now former) governor gumming up the works), and cities are cutting back on services. Sure there’s some downward  pressure on prices, but the downward pressure on wages is greater at this moment.

And in case you think what I’m talking about isn’t possible…it may be already happening.

Pleasant dreams….

Again, a Very Good Super Bowl

First, some of the side-issues:

Jennifer Hudson’s National Anthem was WONDERFUL!  The last time I had such a positive view of it was Jewel’s version at San Diego (Jewel’s was serviceable, but it was good and I happened to like how she hit that high note a bit softer than the rest. It gave me the impression that she had figured out what it would cost to hit the note and hit it anyway).

The commercials were okay, with the Doritos commercials being the better ones. Budweiser did their usual strong slate, and Coke actually did a version that did wonderful visually.

Bruce Springsteen did good. Interesting that he ended up cutting out the middle verses of songs, doing a Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse-Chorus format for the songs.

And the game…strong enough overall. Threatened to become a runaway in the second half, but Arizona did everything to recover, even come back. Pittsburgh, however, had enough in the tank to go to victory, and can even make a claim to have done so DESPITE the referees.

Number 92 for the Steelers better get the MVP award. Without that run/jog/stagger to the end zone, Pittsburgh would likely have lost the game.