Curdling The Cheese

Last night I had a plate of cheese and some summer sausage for dinner.  A little Jarlsberg, some Amish Swiss, some Parmesan curls carefully knifed off of the big, hard Parmesan lump, and I was a happy camper.

cheese-1-1123-dcgjpg-086066ee270c3c55I’d say I have cheese for dinner approximately once a week.  I try different kinds of cheeses, filling the spectrum from hard to soft and from mild to the smelliest cheese you can imagine.  I like it all.  About the only cheese I won’t try is “flavored” cheese.  I prefer mine au naturel.  Sometimes I’ll combine it with nuts, or different kinds of olives, or pieces of fruit.  Grandma Webner would look at this kind of meal disdainfully and call it “piecing,” but it’s a nice, light repast when I’m just not in the mood for something heavier.

Now I learn that researchers from the University of Michigan, of all places, have concluded that cheese has casein, a chemical that can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors and produce the same kind of feeling of euphoria that users of hard drugs experience.   Their research is focused on trying to identify foods that may have addictive qualities and then use that information to combat obesity, issue new nutrition guidelines, restrict the marketing of such foods to children, and do all of the other things that “researchers” propose to do in the modern nanny state.

Leave it to the killjoys from That State Up North to raise concerns about the simple enjoyment of a few pieces of cheese!  And whatever the “research” might find, are we really going to conclude, after centuries of careful creation and cheerful consumption, from medieval monks on down to the modern day, that a few pieces of cheese are a bad thing?

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What To Do With E-Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are becoming more popular. The battery-powered tubes that produce flavored, nicotine-laced vapor have millions of users world-wide and are generating billions of dollars in sales — so much that tobacco companies are getting into the business. One of the users is Russell, who has turned to e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco.

What’s up with these devices? I’m surprised to find that, in the United States, there’s little regulation of the marketing or sale of e-cigarettes at the federal level, and there’s not much in the way of data about their health effects. In some states, for example, e-cigarettes can be sold to minors and some of the candy-oriented flavors and marketing techniques seem geared toward luring young people into a nicotine habit. No one seems quite sure, either, about the health effects of inhaling the mixture of nicotine, flavoring, and propylene glycol — a common additive that is used products like salad dressing and soft drinks. Eating propylene glycol has been studied, but inhaling its heated vapor in combination with nicotine apparently is a wild card.

For me, the big question is whether e-cigarettes are a gateway or an exit. Restrictions on sales to minors and marketing and product schemes designed to entice them seem like sensible steps, and of course we need to determine whether e-cigarettes can cause significant health problems. I’d also be interested in studying exactly who uses the devices, and for what purpose. If e-cigarettes are being used by tobacco smokers as a means of ratcheting down their addictive habit on the way to quitting entirely — as I’m hoping is the case with Russell — I’m all in favor of making them available for that purpose.

Blaming It All On “Addiction”

Yesterday Ariel Castro was sentenced to more than 1000 years in prison for the kidnapping, rape, and years of torture of three women in Cleveland.

Michelle Knight, who was held captive by Castro for 11 years, read an emotional statement at the hearing.  She said she had spent 11 years in hell, and now Castro’s hell would be just beginning.  She also vowed not to let her terrible experience define her, or affect who she is, and instead to live on despite the ordeal.  Those are noble, life-affirming sentiments from someone who has had to endure the unendurable.

Castro also spoke.  He blamed his behavior on an “addiction” to sex and porn that made him “impulsive.”  He said he was not a “monster” or a “violent predator,” but just a “normal person” whose addiction made him not understand that what he was doing is wrong.  “I’m a happy person inside,” he said.

Castro later said he was “truly sorry” for his acts, but of course that “apology” rings awfully hollow.  It’s obvious that Castro has rationalized away taking responsibility for his heinous acts, blaming a phony “addiction” rather than accepting blame himself.

One thousand years is a long time, but mere physical incarceration is not the same as experiencing true moral guilt for your criminal conduct.  Castro obviously doesn’t, and that makes even a 1,000-year sentence seem inadequate.  It’s a sad day for our society when a man who kidnapped and enslaved three women, raped them repeatedly, beat them until they miscarried, and kept them in chains, can deny his obvious status as a “violent predator” and publicly claim to be a “normal person” who is “happy inside.”

A Terrible Waste

The death of Whitney Houston is horrible news for her family, her friends, and her fans.  At this point, it’s not clear exactly what caused Houston’s death, although there seems to be rampant speculation about the surrounding circumstances.

What seems to be clear is that for years Houston battled substance abuse issues.  As a result, she never reached the heights that were anticipated for someone with her stunning voice, her exquisite phrasing and timing, and her transfixing stage presence.

The social costs of substance abuse are staggering.  Those costs are borne, most directly and most brutally, by the families of those who are in the grips of addiction.  Those families must deal with the lying, the heartbreak, the anger, and the pain that the addiction of a family member inevitably brings.

At times, when a well-known figure falls prey to addiction, the pool of people affected becomes broader, and society as a whole is deprived of the music, or artwork, or performances that the addict might have delivered.  The failure of gifted individuals to realize the full potential of their enormous talents is a tragic loss for the world — but we should never forget that the most profound loss will be felt by the families.

Addictive – Hmmm – Maybe

I had to laugh the other day when I saw the article where Alec Baldwin got kicked off an American Airlines flight because he was supposedly playing the Zynga game Words with Friends.

The game Words with Friends is very similar to the scrabble board game that most families had in the good old days. It’s a world of parallel words, bingo stems, hookers (not the street variety), mystery letters and small words like QI, ZA and JO.

During the game a player needs to decide whether to play long words, short words or play an offensive or defensive game. One famous celebrity called the game the crystal meth of online games. You can play up to twenty games simultaneously and I am currently playing ten games with friends right now.

Words with Friends is available for free from Facebook and I think there is an app you can get if you have an I-phone or an Android (not sure about this). To be honest I have gone a couple of days without playing the game so I am not sure whether or not I would call it addictive. Perhaps I will ask my friends who play Farmville, Mafia Wars and Gardens of time if it is.