Monday, June 26, 2006

*** Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

*** Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Few plants can manufacture quite as much organic matter and calories from the same quantities of sunlight and water and basic elements as corn. 97% of what a corn plan is comes from the air, 3% from the ground. P22

Originally corn was generic English word for any kind of grain, even a grain of salt – hence ‘corned beef’. P24

During the 18th & 19th century, no part of the big grass went to waste: The husks could be woven into rugs and twine; the leaves and stalks into good silage for livestock; the shelled cobs were burned for heat or used as toilet paper (hence the American slang term ‘corn hole’). P26

Maize is self-fertilized and wind-pollinated… Each of the 400 to 800 flowers on a cob has the potential to develop into a kernel – but only if a grain of pollen can find its way to its ovary… Each flower sends out through the tip of the husk a single sticky strand of silk to snag its own grain of pollen (that why corn has all of those 100s of threads)… After a grain of pollen has fallen on the moistened tip of the silk, its nucleus divides in two, creating a pair of twins genetically. The first twin’s job is to tunnel a microscopic tube down through the center of the silk thread. Then its clone slides down the tunnel into the flower, a journey of 6 to 8 inches that takes several hours. There the second twin fuses with the egg to form the embryo – the germ for the future kernel. The first twin then follows where its about forming the endosperm – the big starchy part of the kernel. 50 days later the kernel is mature. P29

Corn breeder’s discovered that when they crossed two corn plants that had come from inbred lines (generations that were self-pollinated), the hybrid offspring displayed some unusual characteristics. First, all of the seeds in the 1st generation produced genetically identical plants. Second, they exhibited better yields than their parents (hybrid vigor). And most important, the second generation produced by these seeds bore little resemblance because their yields plummeted by as much as a third, making their seeds worthless. Hybrid corn offered its breeders what no other plant at that time could: the biological equivalent of a patent. Farmers now had to buy seeds every spring; instead of depending on their plants to reproduce themselves, they depended on a corporation. P31

With hybrid corn, farmers are able to coax 180 bushels of corn from an acre (each bushel holds 56 lbs of kernels), that’s slightly more than 10,000 lbs of food per acre. P36

It takes more than a calorie of fossil fuel to provide a calorie of food; before the advent of chemical fertilizer it was 2 calories of food for every calorie of energy invested. P46

More than ½ of the world’s supply of usable nitrogen is man made. We have perturbed the global nitrogen cycle more than any other, even carbon… The flood of synthetic nitrogen has fertilized not just the farm but the forests and oceans too. The nitrogen tide in the ocean stimulates wild growth of algae, which smother fish, creating a hypoxic dead zone, shirking biodiversity. P47

For as long as people have been farming, fat years have posed as stiff a challenge as lean, since surpluses collapse prices and bankrupt farmers who will be needed again when the lean years return… The Bible’s recommended policy was to establish a grain reserve… Before 1970’s the gov’t established a target price based on the cost of production, and whenever market prices dropped below the targets, the farmer was given a choice. Instead of dumping grain onto a weak market (further lowering prices), the farmer could take out a loan from the gov’t – using his crop as collateral – that allowed him to store his grain until prices recovered. At that point, he sold his grain, and paid pack the loan… This plan which had in essence worked for nearly 2000 years, was put to an end in 1973 by Earl ‘Rusty’ Butz under the Nixon administration. He exhorted farmers to plan their fields ‘fencerow to fencerow’ to ‘get big or get out’ or ‘adapt or die’ via consolidation. He removed the price supports, and abolished the idea of loaning money for holding grain back and idling land. Now the gov’t would pay directly for the grain – it would subsidize the farmer directly. In fact, paying farmers directly for the shortfall in the price of corn was revolutionary, but it had removed the floor under the price of grain. The new subsidies encourage farmers to sell corn at any price, and to produce as much of it as possible, because they had a guaranteed buyer – the gov’t. But the farmers failed to realize, that if you’re the biggest buyer, you can dictate the price you’re willing to pay. As it turned out, just about every farm bill since 1973 has lowered the target price, in order to make US grain more competitive on the global market. P53

In Oct of 2005, it cost about $2.50 to grow a bushel of corn, but the target price was only $1.45, so the typical farmer is selling corn for a dollar less than it costs him. How can this possibly be? Farmers facing lower prices have only one option if they want to maintain their standard of living and that is to produce more. Yet the more bushels each farmer produces, the lower the prices go… Even so, corn farmers persist in measuring their success in bushels per acre (yield), a measurement that improves even as they go broke. P54

Before 1856, corn was shipped in sacks packed on the farm. Farmer’s had to worry about making sure their corn found its way to market before it got spoiled or prices collapsed, about the quality, since customers wouldn’t pay until sampling what was in the sack. A farmer owned his sacks up to the moment when a buyer took delivery, and bore the risk for anything that went wrong between farm and table/trough. This presented a problem to the new distribution system of the age – the railroads. It made sense to fill railroad cars and elevators by conveyor, to treat corn less like a discrete package, and more like an unbounded liquid that could be pumped… But before buyers would accept this new nonspecific, trackless corn they would have to some assurance of its quality. The breakthrough came in 1856 when the Chicago Board of Trade instituted a grading system. Now any number 2 corn was guaranteed to be as good as any other number 2 corn. Since this standard was fairly minimal in specifying acceptable levels of insect damage, dirt, moisture, etc. growers were free to train their energies one thing – bigger and bigger harvests. Before the commodity system farmers prided themselves on a panoply of qualities in their crop: big ears, plump kernels, color, sweetness, etc… But from that moment the trajectory of the species descent was guided by a single quality: yield. P60

It has been estimated that Cargill and ADM together buy near a third of all corn grown in America. These 2 companies now guide corn’s path at every step of the way. They provide pesticide and fertilizer; sell the hybrid corn seed; operate most of the grain elevators; broker most of the exports; perform the milling; feed and slaughter corn-fed livestock; ferment the ethanol; manufacture high fructose corn syrup – and oh yes, help write many of the rules that govern this whole system (like the target price revolution of 1973). Cargill by the way is the biggest privately held corporation – in the world. And since neither of these 2 companies sell directly to you nor I, they have little to gain by working with the media, and in essence what they do with our food is invisible. P63

60% of American commodity corn goes to the feeding of livestock, and much of that is for the feeding of America’s 100M beef cattle. P66

75 years ago, cows were 4 to 5 years at slaughter, 50 years ago it was 2 to 3 years old, now it is only 14 to 16 months. It takes a tremendous amount of corn, protein and fat along with drugs to get steer from 80lbs to over 1100lbs in only 14 months. P71

Rules permit feedlots to feed nonruminant animal protein to ruminants. Feather meal and chicken litter (bedding, feces, discarded feed) are accepted cattle feeds, along with chicken, fish, and pig meal. Bovine meat and bonemeal is now fed to chickens, pigs and fish. Some experts worry that infectious prions (think Mad Cow) could find their way back into cattle when they’re fed the proteins of the animals that have been eating them. P76

Bloat is perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a cow on corn. The fermentation in the rumen produces a lot of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime forms in the rumen, trapping the gas. The rumen can then inflate like a balloon until it presses against the lungs. Unless immediate action is take in the form of forcing a hose down the esophagus, the animal suffocates. P78

A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. The normal pH of the rumen is neutral. Corn renders it acidic… Over time the acid eat away at the rumen, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The microbes end up in the liver, where they impair the liver function. Between 15 to 30% of feedlot cows have diseased livers. Some pens have rates as high as 70%. Feedlots use anti-biotics and antacids to counter this, but this is leading to the evolution of superbugs. The animals probably wouldn’t be sick if not for the diet of corn we feed them. P79

Most the microbes that reside in the gut of the cow and find their way into our food get killed off by the strong acids in our stomach, since those microbes evolved to live in the neutral pH of the rumen. But the rumen of a feed-lot cow is nearly as acidic as our own, and in this environment new acid-resistant strains of E. Coli have evolved – such as 0157:H7 (which caused the Jack In Box hamburger deaths)… Switching a cow’s diet from corn to grass for a few days prior to slaughter reduces the population of 0157:H7 by as much as 80%. But such a solution is considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry and the USDA. Their preferred solution is irradiation. P82

The ratio of feed to flesh is 2lbs of corn to 1lb of flesh for chickens. For cattle it is 8lbs of corn to 1lb of flesh, which is why chicken costs less than beef. P81

Each of us is personally responsible for consuming a ton of corn every year as it appears in its various forms (soda, meat, starch, etc.) p85

It takes 5 gallons of fresh water to process (not grow) a bushel of corn… and for every calorie of processed food, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce it. P88

Each us can only eat about 1500lbs of food a year (about 4lbs per day) – because there’s a natural limit – our stomachs. The natural rate of growth for food consumption in the US is only 1% per year because that is the rate of population growth. This will never satisfy Wall Street, which leaves companies like General Mills and McDonalds with 2 options: figure out how to get people to spend more for the same amount of food, or entice them to actually eat more than1500lbs/year. Of course, the food industry energetically pursues both at the same time. P95

During the early 19th century in the US, employers were expected to supply spirits (whiskey) over the course of the workday; in fact modern coffee breaks began as a late morning whiskey break called the ‘elevenses’ – think 11:11AM. P100

A JAMA study predicts that a child born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes (an African American has a 2 in 5 chance). Because of the problems associated with obesity, today’s children may turn out to be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents. P102

Since 1977, the avg daily caloric intake has jumped by more than 10% (200 calories)… Since 1972, US farmers have managed to produce an additional 500 calories per person per day, raising the total to 3800 calories per person per day. P103

Since 1985, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per capita annual consumption has gone from 45lbs to 66lbs… During that same period our consumption of refined sugar actually went up an additional 5lbs as well. What this means is that we’re eating all that HFCS on top of the sugars we were already consuming. Our consumption of all sugars – cane, beet, HFCS, honey, maple, etc. has climbed from 128lbs to 158lbs (.43lbs/day). p104

People presented with large portions will eat up to 30% more than they would otherwise… which makes excellent evolutionary sense: it behooved our hunter-gatherer ancestors to feast whenever the opportunity presented itself, allowing them to build up reserves against future famine. P106

Rats presented with solutions of pure sucrose and tubs of lard, will gorge themselves sick. P107 Sounds like teenagers who drink soda and eat chips all afternoon.

One in three American children eat fast food every single day. P109

19% of American meals are eaten in the car. P110

Anti-foaming agents added to frying oil keep starches (think French fries) from binding to air molecules, preventing foam, are carcinogenic. Most alarming, to preserve the freshness of McNuggets, a form of butane is sprayed on the nugget and inside its box. A single gram of this chemical can cause nausea, vomiting, and collapse. 5 grams can kill. P114

The source of most fast food beef is from old burned out dairy cows. P114

Fast food is really fast corn food. Using a mass spectrometer to measure the source of carbon from each fast food item, you can determine the % of the carbon in the item originating from corn. Soda – 100%, Milk Shake – 78%, Salad Dressing – 65%, McNugget – 56%, Cheeseburger – 52%, Fries – 23%. We’re no longer omnivores, but specialized corn eaters. P117

What qualifies as a ‘free-range’ chicken? There must a little door on the chicken coop leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the door must remain shut for the first 5-6 weeks of the chicken’s life – for fear that the chickens would get sick from outdoor pathogens – and then the chickens are slaughtered 2 weeks later. P140 Most chickens never even know about the door or the yard, and live their entire lives in the coop. Free range is a gimmick.

A 1lb package of pre-washed organic lettuce contains 80 calories… The growing, chilling, washing, packaging, transporting of that salad takes more than 4600 calories, or 57 calories of fossil energy for every calorie of food. The figures would be a mere 4% higher for conventional lettuce. P166 So does industrial organic really help the environment?

Cornish Cross chicken (a new breed designed to have large breasts) grow so rapidly in only 7 weeks that their poor legs cannot keep pace, and frequently fail. P171 But of course they can qualify as free range, even if they can’t ‘range’ on their failed legs. The beauty of regulation.

Organic tomatoes earn consistently higher Brix scores (a measure of sugars) than conventionally grown ones. More sugar means less water and more flavor. It stands to reason that the same would hold true for other organic vegetables: slower growth, thicker cell walls, and less water should produce more concentrated flavors. P176
Researchers have found that organic fruits and vegetables contained significantly higher levels of both Vitamin C and a wide range of polyphenols. p179

Researches have hypothesized that plants being defended by man made pesticides don't need to work as hard to make their own polyphenol pesticides… Additionally, the radically simplified soils in which chemically fertilized plants grow don't supply all the raw ingredients needed to synthesize these compounds, leaving these plants more vulnerable to attack… by not giving the plant everything it needs to manufacture vitamin C or lycopene or resveratol in quantity. p180

The food industry burns nearly 20% of all the petroleum consumed in the US (as much as automobiles). It takes between 7 to 10 calories of fossil fuel to deliver 1 calorie of food. p183

The shorn grass plant, endeavoring to restore the balance between roots and leaves, will proceed to shed as much root mass as it's just lost in leaf mass. When discarded roots die, the soil's resident bacteria and fungi will get to work on breaking it down into rich brown humus… It is in this manner that grazing ruminants, when managed properly (to avoid overgrazing), actually build new soil from the bottom up. p196

The shearing of the grass will stimulate new growth, as reserves of carbohydrate are redirected from the roots upwards to form new shoots. This is the critical moment when a second bite (overgrazing) would derail the grass's recovery, since the plant has to live on these reserves until it has grown new leaves and resumed photosynthesis. As the plants adds leaves, it adds new roots too, making good use of the humus the first bit helped sponsor. Over the course of the season, the grass plant will convert more sunlight into biomass than it ever would have had it never encountered a cow. p196

When early season grasses slow down in June, the late season grasses step in, and when drought hits, the deep-rooted species take over. A diverse poly-culture of grasses can withstand virtually any shock and in some places will produce in a year nearly as much total biomass as a forest receiving the same amount rainfall. p197

If the16M acres now being used to grow corn became well managed pasture, that would remove 14 billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 4M cars off the road. p198

Generally, every time an animal is consumed by another, prodigious amounts of energy are wasted - about 9 calories for every one consumed. But if all that energy has been drawn from the sun, instead of fossil energy, that meal comes as close to a free lunch as we can hope. p199

A polyculture of grass with its wide variety of photosynthesizers exploiting every inch of land as well as every moment of the growing season, captures more solar energy and therefore produces more biomass than a cornfield; also, only the kernels are harvested from a cornfield (not true! the stalks can be used as well), whereas virtually all the grass grown in a pasture find its way into the rumen. p199

The 99 cent price of fast food doesn't take into account the meal's true cost - to soil, oil, public health, subsidies, etc. costs which are never charged directly to the consumer, but indirectly to the taxpayer… If not for this blind-man's accounting, grass would make a lot more sense. p199

Grain is a commodity, and as such it can be a form of wealth, and it can be used as a weapon. The nations with the biggest surpluses have always exerted power over the ones in short supply… You cannot say the same thing about grass. The gov't writes no subsidy checks to grass farmers. Grass farmers buy little in the way of pesticide or fertilizer, so they do little to support the agribusiness, pharmaceutical and big oil industries. p200

Piglets, bound for slaughter one day, are weaned after only 10 days, compared with 13 weeks in nature… This premature weaning leaves the pigs with a lifelong craving to suck and chew, a need they gratify in containment by biting the tail of the animal in front of them. A normal pig would fight off such a molester, but a demoralized pig has stopped caring, which is not surprising in an animal as intelligent as a pig. A depressed pig will allow its tail to be chewed on to the point of infection. Since treating sick pigs is not economically efficient, these underperforming production units are clubbed to death on the spot. The USDA's solution to this is the recommendation of snipping the tail off, usually with a pair of pliers under no anesthetic. p218

Under current regulations is nearly impossible for a small farmer to profit from selling his own meat as he has for 1000s of years. The current rules are designed to regulate giant slaughterhouses, and are mindlessly applied to small farmers… For example, federal rules stipulate that every processing facility (even a tiny farm that butchers chickens, pigs or beef), must have separate bathroom for the exclusive use of the USDA inspector… The USDA regulations spell out precisely what sort of facility and system is permissible, but they don't set thresholds for food-borne pathogens, because that would require the USDA to recall meat from packers who failed, something that the USDA, incredibly, lacks the authority to do. p229

In the Bible, priests drew lots to determine who would conduct the ritual slaughter, and they rotated the job monthly, because slaughter is dehumanizing…It is not uncommon for full time slaughterhouse workers to become sadistic. p233

For farmers, the ability to process and sell his meat on the farm allow him to recapture 92 cents of the consumers food dollar that now typically winds up in the pockets of processors, middlemen, and retailers. p242 And in doing so, local farm products can be priced competitively against conventional, industrial products. Support your local farmer by buying direct is the lesson here.

If not for the gov't regulations, such local farm meat would be a dollar cheaper per pound. If the regulations were applied sanely, and the subsidies were removed, the small farmer could compete on price with anyone. p243

Americans spend about 10% of our disposable income on food, down from 20% in 1950. We spend less on food, as a percentage, than any other industrialized nation - probably less than any people in the history of the world. This suggests that many of us could afford to spend more on food if we chose to. p243 Why do you think places like Whole Foods and other upmarket retailers that sell organic are thriving?

"We pile it high, and sell it cheap!" - Supermarket ad slogan. What other business would ever sell its products that way? Isn't it odd that something as important to our health and well-being is so often sold strictly on the basis of price alone? p244

"Instead of mad cow disease, we've got glad cows at ease."- Farmer's market slogan. p246

Dr.Weston Price, a dentist who in the 1930s began to wonder why isolated, primitive tribes had so much better teeth and general good health than people living in industrial countries. The diets of the longest lived had certain common denominators: lots of meat from wild or pastured animals; unpasteurized dairy products, unprocessed whole grains; and fermented foods. p248 Think Paleolithic Diet.

The iron law of competitive advantage dictates that if another country can grow something more efficiently - whether because its land or labor is cheaper or its environmental laws more lax - we will no longer grow it here. What's more, under the globalization, this is the outcome to be wished for, since it will free our land for more productive uses - more houses, say. p254

Animals raised outdoors on grass have a diet much more like that of the wild animals humans have been eating at least since the Paleolithic era than that of the grain-fed animals we only recently began to eat. So it makes evolutionary sense that pastured meats would be better for us… But perhaps, most important, meat, eggs, and milk from pastured animals also contain higher levels of Omega 3s… Research in this area promises to turn a lot of conventional wisdom on its head. It suggests that the problem with eating red meat may owe less to the animal in question than to that animal's diet… These days salmon are being fed like feedlot cattle, on grain, with the predictable result that their Omega3 levels fall well below those of wild fish… If units of Omega3 and vitamin E are what an egg shopper is really after, as opposed to just calories and protein, then $2.20 for a dozen pastured eggs represents a much better deal than $.79 a dozen for industrial, grain produced eggs. But as long as one egg looks the same, all chickens like chickens, and beef like beef, the substitution of quality will go unnoticed by most consumers, but it is becoming increasingly apparent to scientists that this truly is not the same food. p269

The rat minimizes the risk of the new by nibbling a very little bit of the new food, and waits to see what happens. The animal evidently has a good enough grasp of causality to link stomach ache in the present to something it ingested 30 minutes earlier, and a good enough memory to store that finding as a lifelong aversion to that particular substance. That is what makes poisoning rats so difficult. p288

Scientists theorize that the Koala once ate a more varied and mentally taxing diet than it does now, and that as it evolved, the bear's underemployed brain shrank (brains are metabolically expensive luxuries after all). p290

Taste has two important biases; sweet and bitter… A sweet tooth represents an excellent adaptation for an omnivore whose big brain demands glucose… Our second taste bias for bitterness predisposes us against defensive plant toxins. Pregnant women are particularly sensitive to bitter tastes, probably an adaptation to protect the developing fetus against even mild plant toxins found in foods like broccoli. (All of you expectant mothers please see Margie Profit's landmark theory on morning sickness and plant ingestion for which she won the MacArthur genius award.)… Yet helpful as it is, it turns out that some of the bitterest plants contain valuable nutrients… That's precisely why people overrule their taste sense in the case of the sap in the opium poppy or the bark of the willow, both of which taste extremely bitter, but both contain powerful medicines. p292

Cooking is one of the omnivore's greatest tools. By making foods more digestible, cooking plants and animals vastly increased the amount of energy available to early humans, and some anthropologists believe this boon accounts for the dramatic increase in the hominid brain about 1.9M years ago, around the same time ancestor's jaws, teeth, and gut slimmed down since they no longer needed to process raw foods. By improving digestibility, cooking also cut down the time we had to spend foraging and processing foods, freeing that time and energy for other pursuits (like watching TV). p293

The dangers of eating raw fish are minimized by consuming it with wasabi, a potent anti-microbial. Similarly, the strong spices characteristic of many cuisines of the tropics, where food is quick to spoil, have anti-bacterial properties. The meso-American practice of eating corn with lime, helps to make the niacin in corn available when in the presence of the alkali. The Asian practice of fermenting soy and serving it with rice removes an antitrypsin factor that blocks absorption of protein… Cuisines embody a culture's accumulated food wisdom. Often when importing another's food species out of such context, people have made themselves sick. p296

What's to stop the human omnivore from eating anything - including, most alarmingly, other humans? If nature won't draw a line around the human appetite, then culture must step in, as indeed it has done, bringing the omnivore's eating habits under all sorts of taboos, customs, rituals, and manners. p298

Food is more important than sex. We can live without sex (as individuals, not a species), and it occurs with far less frequency than eating (and famine damps the sex drive, so you can see how evolution has voted on this front as well). Since we also do rather more of our eating in public there has been a more elaborate transformation of our relationship to food than there is to sex. p298

Mom, feeling sentimental about the dinners of her childhood, prepares a dish, and ends up eating it by herself. The 8 year old son, who only eats pizza at this stage in his life, reheats left overs. Dad is on a low carb diet. The teen ager is a vegetarian. After the sound of the beep, each diner brings his selection to the table, where he or she may or may not cross paths with another family member for a few minutes. Families who eat this way are among the 47% of American who report that they still sit down to a family meal every night. p302

The great advantage of being a reasonable creature is that you can find a reason for whatever you want to do. - Ben Franklin

Peter Singer's Animal Liberation Synopsis:
All men are created equal.
Take the premise of equality among people, which most of us readily accept. Yet, after all, people are not, as a matter of fact, equal at all - some are smarter, handsomer, stronger, etc. Equality is a moral idea not an assertion of fact. Everyone's interests ought to receive equal consideration, regardless of what abilities they have…
So if possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-human animals for the same purpose?
Because humans differ from animals in morally significant ways!
Yes, they do, which is why we shouldn't treat pigs and children alike: children have interest in being educated, and will become adult humans. But there is one all important interest humans share with the pig, as well as all sentient creatures, the avoidance of pain and death. The question is not - Can they reason? but Can they suffer? There are humans - the severely retarded, demented, Alzheimer sufferers, comatose, brain damaged, etc. - whose mental function is far below that of a chimp. Even though these people can't reciprocate our moral attentions, we nevertheless include them in our circle of our moral consideration.
So on what basis then do we exclude the chimp, or any other animal that can rise above these examples?
To exclude the chimp simply because he's not human is no different than excluding the black slave simply because he's not white. Since skin color, as it turned out, is a trivial difference, unlike say, intelligence, imagine a hypothetical society that discriminates on the basis of intelligence seems to offend our sense of quality. But either we don't owe any justice to the retarded, or we owe it equally to the animals as well.
But we treat animals more ethically than they treat one another!
Do you really want to base your moral code on the natural order? Murder, rape, abuse are then 'natural' too. Besides, as humans, we can choose not to kill in order to survive unlike other carnivores.
Wouldn't life in the wild be worse for these creatures?
This is also argument that slave owners have made as well. Freedom is preferred universally over captivity for all wild creatures.
Gotcha, because then domesticated animals wouldn't exist at all without us breeding them for our consumption!
If all the world were Jewish, there would be no need for domesticated pigs, which is fine for the animal rightist, since they can no longer be wronged. Eating animals is very different than other animal rights issues like the testing of animals. You can choose not to eat, and no other humans will suffer in the process, but the animals will not suffer. Testing may prevent human suffering save lives.
So species extinction is better than suffering of individuals? This is definitely not in the interest of the domesticated pig genes.
Animal rights are human rights, they are designed to protect the individual from suffering, not the species. A species that goes extinct because of benign neglect is preferred to keeping it going while many of its individuals suffer.
By that logic we should all kill ourselves since we will all suffer and create some level of suffering to ourselves, other humans and other creatures on the earth. Living entails dying, and feeling pain. That's the deal we all accepted when we were born. To be alive means at some level you're suffering and feeling pain. The human condition is one where we can overcome this from time to time - in an undefinable state called happiness. That's why we rationally continue to live. Evolution has also steeled against such follies as suicide with instincts that avert us to pain and death, not because it gives a damn about our happiness or suffering as individuals, but because we are the vessels of the genes for the next generation. So if I eat meat, it keeps me alive and makes me happy- which is what my genes designed me to do. Now I can overrule these behaviors, just as I don't procreate with every sexual act (to my gene's dismay!), but I would deny myself this pleasure. So it all comes to down to how much guilt can I handle in association with this gratification. The more you anthropromorphize your food, the less you feel good about consuming it. Cannibalism is the extreme of this fact. So are we the same as the animals we eat? Yes, and no. Yes, we feel pain, but no, in the same way.
Human pain can be amplified by emotions such as regret, pity, shame, humiliation, dread, fear. Pain can also be made more bearable by communication. A trip to the dentist would be an agony for an ape that couldn't be made to understand the purpose and duration of the procedure.
I'll become a vegetarian as soon as I can talk to my chicken breast, pork tenderloin, and prime rib. Until then bon appetite!

Broiler chickens get their beaks snipped off with a hot knife to keep them from cannibalizing one another under the stress of confinement. Egg hens spend their brief span grouped as a 1/2 dozen in cage less than 2 sqft. Many rub their breasts against the wire mesh until it bleeds. This is chief reason broiler chickens can't be caged; to scar the valuable breast meat would be bad business…10% of the hens can't endure it and simply die… And when the egg output begins to ebb, hens are force molted - starved of food, water, light for several days in order to stimulated a final bout of egg laying before they are killed. p318

Human hunting helped formed the present American bison. Before the Native Americans arrived, bison didn't live in big herds and had much larger, more outstretched horns. But for an animal facing a new sophisticated predator armed with spears, mobbing in big groups is the best defense, since it affords the vigilance of many eyes; yet big outstretched horns pose a problem for creatures living such proximity. It was human hunting that selected for herd behavior and the new upright bison horns, which appeared in the fossil record not long after the arrival of humans in N.America. p322

Vegans can't really eat with a clear conscience either. The harvesting of the grain the vegan eats shreds mice, while tractor wheels crush woodchucks in their burrows, and pesticides kill birds. And what about the habitat that has been altered to make way for arable land, displacing and killing many native creatures? Killing animals is unavoidable no matter what we choose to eat… The world is also full of places where the only sustainable way to obtain food from the land is by grazing and hunting animals on it. To give up eating animals is to give up on these places, and then we will have no choice but to depend on the highly industrialized food chain for our survival. Is that really what the 'vegan' wants?

McDonalds tolerates a 5% error rate in the euthanizing of beef cattle. p330 That means 5% of the beef can still be alive while it is being skinned and sectioned. One of out of 20 Big Macs was made from meat taken from a living cow at the time. Are you loving it now?

Just why mushrooms produce such potent toxins isn't well understood. If they are defenses, then why aren't all mushrooms poisonous? Could the toxins just be chemicals necessary for breaking down organic compounds? The deadly amanita mushroom doesn't really poison liver, it digests it from within. p376

Cherry trees originated from the trans-Caucus mountains between the Black and Caspian seas. The Bing cherry is a chance mutation that occurred in the Williamette Valley of Oregon in 1875, and was named after the Chinese farm hand Ah Bing. p399

Ragout comes from the French verb 'ragouter' - to restore the appetite. p401

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

** Secrets of Happily Married Men by Scott Haltzmann MD

** Secrets of Happily Married Men by Scott Haltzmann MD

A down to earth book about relationships, following the John Gottman method to a certain extent. Haltzmann also tries to explain things based upon the physiological differences between the sexes. We are clearly not equal, and this inequality should be understood and accepted. We must find ways to deal with it appropriately, and hopefully to exploit it for our mutual benefit. Generally trite advice on what to do, but given the information presented, it can give you an awareness of what you are doing, and some of the motivations as to why. I believe that there are no easy answers to such conundrums, and simply following a few steps or a particular method will not solve your problems. But also, it can’t hurt I guess.

‘I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.’ From Thorton Wilder’s play The Skin of Our Teeth.

Men are wired differently
The male brain processes fewer neural pathways to and from the emotion centers in the limbic system. Reason number 1 that females may indeed be more in touch with their feelings than males. P37

When an emotional event passes, females tend to hold on to the memory, whereas males tend to let it go. This difference can be traced to the hippocampus (the memory center). It is larger in women and has more neural pathways from it to the emotive centers. That’s why women remember emotional events more than men. P38

Talking about feelings may be overrated… Studies involving traumatic events, show that people who process problems by not thinking or talking about them did better in many cases, with less emotional distress, than those who felt the need to replay the negative or traumatic event. For example, researchers studied people who had had heart attacks… Those who tended to think about, worry about and talk about their heart attacks had a poorer outcome than those who chose to ignore or deny. Only 7% of the more stoic group developed post-traumatic stress disorder 7 months after surgery, compared with 19% of the more reactive group… Other studies suggest that repression and avoidance are healthy coping tactics – and that overly processing negative events can increase emotional stress. P40

Female babies look longer at a human face than do males – males prefer to look longer at a suspended mechanical mobile. By 12 months, girls make more eye contact than boys – giving them more opportunity to read the feelings of others… The more pre-natal testosterone measured in the amniotic fluid, the less eye contact a boy will have with his mother at 1 year of age. P41

Men are more adept at using their left brain to collect logical and linear information. With less peripheral vision than women, less color discrimination, and fewer multi-tasking abilities to distract them, men are keen focused observers. P87

When mothers placed their 13 month old babies in an unfamiliar room filled with toys, the girls spent most of their time near their mother, and came back to her frequently, and maintained continuous contact through touching, glancing and talking. Boys were quite different: they were more likely to go to the far side of the room, to spend less time close to the women, and to check in less frequently. P98

Datapoints to ponder
80% of household and relationship problems are brought up by wives.

Read this three times and understand the ramifications.
69% of all major conflicts in the household are never resolved even after working on them for 5 years. P48 Essentially, you must learn to live with constant conflict. That is the secret behind this statistic.

Within marriages, studies show that more than 46% of spouses will lie about how much they paid for an item. P69

Up to 80% of marriages have had one member consider divorce at some time. P129

Women handle 75% of family finances, and control roughly 80% of the family purchasing decision. P136

66% of newlyweds who become parents cite marital dissatisfaction within 3 years of their baby’s birth. P148

Big boys don’t cry…
Studies show that parents are much more likely to admonish a boy to stop crying than they are his sister. ‘Why don’t men talk about their feelings? Because somewhere back in their childhood, someone told them it wasn’t masculine enough. They got picked on when they cried, and laughed at when they tried to show their feminine side.’ P58

Or listen
When your wife tells you something important that’s going on with her, don’t jump in right away and tell her what’s wrong, what she doesn’t realize, or what she should do. Just listen. P68

But that’s because women talk too much!
The average woman uses 7000 words in day, using many gestures and up to 5 tones. Compare this to a man’s paltry 2000 words and only 3 tones. P172

Joke #1
There are 2 times when a man doesn’t understand a woman, before marriage, and after marriage. P82

Studies show that women do more housework than men – about 11 hours more per week… When researchers factor housework and work outside the home, men and women make nearly equal contributions to the household; the difference shrinks to only 20 minutes a day (2.33 hours/week). P145

Being home with your kids is just plain good… Kids who eat sit-down meals with their families do better in school and score higher on standardized tests… Research shows that regardless of a teen’s sex, family structure, or socioeconomic level those who eat frequent family dinners are less likely than other teens to have sex at a young age, use drugs or alcohol, get into fights, or be suspended, and are at lower risks for suicide. P117

Enjoy it while it lasts
Wedding day euphoria (a 10% jump in your happiness quotient) is all gone 2 years later, when you are no more or less happy than before being married. P129 Read my blog entry on Happiness to understand why this happens.

Joke #2
“Before marriage a man yearns for his wife; after marriage the ‘Y’ is silent.”

5 issues are the hot buttons in most marriages (in no particular order)
1. Money, 2. Sex, 3. Inlaws, 4. Housework, 5. New baby p135

Techniques for avoiding conflicts
Keep the small stuff from getting out of hand by trying the following techniques:
  • Soften your tone: A show of anger stimulates fear and she will respond with an attempt to annihilate the source of her fear – you!

  • Look for areas of agreement: Make an effort to hear something in the dialogue that can agree with and focus on that.

  • Stay positive: For example, your wife’s tardiness in getting ready causes you miss an important meeting that now has to be rescheduled. If you choose to get PO’d because she made you arrive late, you have nothing to gain except an angry, awful ride home. So turn it around. How often do we have one hour together with nothing scheduled to do? Let’s go get some ice cream!

  • Hold that emotion: As Thomas Jefferson once said, "When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred." P153

Instead of criticizing, by saying ‘You never put the toilet seat down!’, try using ‘I’ statements that express how you feel when the other person does something that you don’t appreciate. ‘I feel that you do not care about whether I fall in the toilet or not when you leave the toilet seat up.’ Hey, that’s how you feel. How can they argue about your feeling being valid. They can only say that they don’t care, or that you should not care – but at least you’re not talking about the toilet seat, and you are talking about each other – which is probably what this argument is really about. P156

Wives initiate 80% of all household complaints. Men more likely than women to withdraw from any discussion of the subject. Their biology tells them to fight back, but society, conscience and common sense tell them they must not. So a man feels cornered when his wife gets angry, yet he must attempt to keep sheathed his most natural fighting tools. P134

I believe men withdraw and avoid for 2 basic reasons:
1. It’s a way to suppress that strong, but socially unacceptable, urge to fight to the death. Men, more so than women, have a harder time calming their bodies down once their fight or flight system kicks into gear. So they try to prevent those emotions from starting up.
2. They don’t realize that they have other tools for dealing with conflict. P135

Techniques for dealing with effects of conflict
Patching up is the single best tool for happy marriages. Couples that could not patch things up after a fight had a rate of divorce in excess of 90%. But when couples were successful at making up, the odds of staying happily married soared to 84% p159 Read that again. There’s probably no one single indicator that tells you more about your marriage than this fact. Couple that with the fact that 69% of all of conflicts are never resolved, even over 5 years. You must become good at patching things up, or you’ll make your divorce attorney quite rich. These are based upon John Gottman’s research.

Here are the 3 key elements for patching things up:
  1. You must want to help your partner not feel pain. Ask yourself ‘Is my objective to hurt my spouse?’ If yes, stop and leave the room.

  2. You must be calm. For repair work to take place, you cannot be flooded with emotion. If angry, afraid, sad, etc. – go cool off – and try again later.

  3. You must have your patch up attempt accepted. If you’re mate isn’t receptive or is too emotional, then wait for the right moment because it is not now. P158

Women's testesterone level is only 10% of men's... Testesterone levels drop as women get older, particularly after they have children. During their menstrual cycles, women do have a brief period of time when their level of testesterone surges a bit and increases their desire for sex. That happens once a month when they ovulate over a period of 40 hours. In fact, the rate of intercourse in women increases 24% the 6 days around ovulation. p209

Women in the 1950s had sex an avg of twice a week. 66% of today's wives said they were too tired to match that level. p210

A survey of 5000 couples found that 55% of wives said they desired their husbands sexually as much at that moment as when they first met. An amazing 24% said they desired their husbands more! Yet polls show that well over 60% of men say they would like more sex with their wives. p211

Infidelity Prevention Rule #1
If you can't share something with your wife, you shouldn't be sharing it with anyone else, especially when there is even the remotest possibility that you could have an attraction to that person. Every person you spend time with, every phone call you make, every email you send should be open and available for your wife to see. Every person you connect with should be a friend of the marriage, not just a friend of yours. p238