Friday, May 13, 2011


I am moving this blog to a new home, Please come visit!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Meaning of 'Cure': An Open Letter to Health Marketers

Sometimes, people and organizations use the word "cure" to describe what products or approaches they are promoting to people with diabetes will do. I'm not even talking snake oil salesman, but people who genuinely believe they're offering something of value.

On one such occasion I know of, the person promoting their approach as being a "cure" for Type 2 was challenged as to what, exactly, they meant by that. This person argued, in essence, that the medical community used the word "cure" as being synonymous with "effectively control".

I don't know whether that is true. However, scientific terms are very often more precisely defined versions of words that have been in widespread use for hundreds, even thousands of years. The word "energy", for example, has a substantially different meaning for a physicist than it does for a sleep-deprived student. However, the adaptation of such a word for technical use does not supersede the previous meaning: the student's understanding of the term is fully as correct as the physicist's. Those who fall back on technical meanings when defending the content of messages prepared for the public are muddying the waters, and are likely to be doing so intentionally. I'm remembering a certain former public official who attempted to defend a apparent mistruth by invoking an alternate definition of the word "is".

Therefore, if you're talking to the public, you need to use the word "cure" in a manner consistent with the public's understanding of the term. And so, though I am no more in charge of defining words than the former public official, I thought I would lay out what a "cure" for type 2 diabetes would be for me.

* I don't believe I ever gave any thought to my pancreas before I was diagnosed. If I were to be "cured", I would never give any thought to it again.

* If I were to be "cured" of diabetes, there would be absolutely no need for me to ever check my blood sugar again. If the condition could return, you could say it's "in remission", or use some other term, but I reject the use of "cure".

* If I am "cured," there are no limits to such a cure. There's no "sure you're cured, but you still need to be careful". Once cured, I could make a meal of a plate of lo mein noodles, a large piece of pecan pie with two scoops of butterscotch ice cream, and a liter of sugary soda -- and bear no short-term risk beyond indigestion.

* I don't expect that a cure for my diabetes would magically undo any damage that chronically high blood sugar may have done. However, any further damage would stop. Immediately. We're not talking lowered risk, we're talking no risk.

Know this: if you are promoting a product, service or philosophy for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, and you choose to use the word "cure" in describing the benefit, you'd best be using the word as -I- understand it, and not as some lawyer told you that you could get away with. Otherwise, you will immediately forfeit every drop of credibility that you may have had with me.

Come on, folks. Don't overpromise. If what you've got is of genuine value and has some innovation to it, you don't need the "c" word to develop a market. I've bought a number of products that promise to assist with effective control, and I will never, ever, buy a "cure".

Until, of course, there is a cure. A real cure.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grains Three Ways: Bulgur

According to Wikipedia, bulgur is a cereal made from wheat. The grains of wheat have there bran partially removed and are parboiled (that is, partially cooked).

I have to say, bulgur was a surprise. I took it on for this project mostly because I happened to have some. I don't know where I got the idea, but I thought of bulgur as being rough and unpleasant, like some sort of allegedly-edible cleaning product. I don't happen to care for tabbouleh, the Middle-Eastern salad in which Americans are most likely to encounter bulgur, but my distaste has nothing to do with the texture of the grain itself.

However, when I cooked some bulgur up in my rice cooker with a little bit of oil, the result was light and fluffy. I've enjoyed putting some of the result in the bottom of a bowl with some meat and veggies on top of it. (Attention KFC: that's what a bowl should be.)

(I don't believe I've mentioned that I'm taking the directions for cooking my grains in my rice cooker from "The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, written by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. The rice cooker can be an amazingly versatile tool, and this is an excellent guide to it's capabilities.)

My second dish was "Bulgur Pudding with Candied Ginger and Figs". Forget any idea you may have had this "pudding" means it will be smooth and silky: if you're like me, you can forget any idea that it's like anything else you've ever eaten. It's sweet, and fruity, and crunchy, and thick, and substantial, and savory. Amazing stuff. The recipe says it's 32g carbs per serving: if the serving size is more than a couple of tablespoons, I wonder a bit about that. If I make it again, I'll use a little bit less dried fruit and cut the figs into somewhat smaller pieces.

My third bulgur recipe was "". Gazpacho is a tomato soup of Spanish origin and is served cold. I've wanted to try it both because it's really tasty and also to have something else I can eat during the hot and humid summers where I live. (For about four months, all I usually want to eat is bologna sandwiches and cold pizza. This year HAS to be different.)

Unfortunately, something went seriously wrong with my gazpacho: it's delicious -- fresh and tomato-ey and fully flavored -- but it's not soup. Essentially all the liquid in the recipe was absorbed by the bulgur as it cooked. I can think of a couple of things I might have done wrong, but doing those things differently would not have added enough moisture to call it a soup. But the comments on the recipe don't mention this issue at all. As the King of Siam might have said, it's a puzzlement. But it's a very tasty puzzlement.

Next grain in the project: brown rice. After that, I'll probably have several posts in a row about grains many people have never heard of.

(This is the third grain covered in my "Grains Three Ways" project, described here. I have previously written about and quinoa.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's just my job.

I am a lancing device. My job is to wound.

You probably shouldn't know my name, but I'll tell you anyway: it's Vlad. They tell me I was named after Vlad the Impaler, thought to be the historical inspiration behind the Dracula legend. They tell me that's supposed to be funny -- I wouldn't know. I don't have a sense of humor. In my job, I don't need a sense of humor.

My job, as I said, is to wound. The purpose of the wound is to produce a drop of blood for a glucose test. They tell me I help this guy stay healthy, but I don't care whether he's healthy or not. Either way, the pay's the same.

Most of the time, they tell me, I don't hurt this guy much. Other times, he hurts like blue blazes. Whatever it is, it doesn't hurt me. I don't have a conscience. In my job, I don't need a conscience.

It's a living.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Non-recipe: Tomatillo Salsa

One of my goals in my efforts to teach myself to cook is to have a bunch of "recipes" that aren't recipes at all, but just things I know how to do.

I have made "green salsa" from tomatillos using recipes two or three times. Yesterday, I just threw one together. It was really good. Here's what I did.

1. I cut three or four Anaheim peppers in half, lengthwise, and removed the seeds and white "ribs" - the seeds and ribs have most of the heat. Chiles seem to be named inconsistently: the chiles that supermarkets here call "Anaheim" are 4-6 inches long, pretty narrow in shape, and light green in color. Except for bell peppers, they're the mildest variety I know.

2. I peeled the papery husks off of five or six tomatillos and washed off the sticky gunk that holds the husk on. I cut each one in either two or four chunks to make them approximately the same size.

3. I cut a big tomato into quarters and lackadaisically removed most of the seeds.

4. I tossed the veggies in a bowl with some olive oil and salt to coat, then put them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and then put the sheet in the oven. I was cooking something else at 350 degrees: had I been roasting the veggies by themselves, I would have gone to maybe 400. I roasted them for maybe 20 minutes, then threw some thinly sliced onion on top, then gave it maybe 10 minutes more. The tomatillos need to be soft. Had I been roasting at a higher temperature, I would have wanted some color as well.

5. After letting things cool a bit, I put everything in my food processor and pulverized it, then added a slosh of corn syrup. (Tomatillos are quite acidic. I would have used honey, but couldn't quickly find it.) I think I added some more salt as well, then chilled it.

The result was a lovely light green, and quite flavorful but not at all chile-hot. Next time, I'd leave some of the seeds in. Nonetheless, it was really really good.

Give it a go. Not counting cooking time, I suppose I spent about 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grains Three Ways: Quinoa

Quinoa is a grain (actually, according to Wikipedia, it is "grain-like") with an interesting history. It is very high in protein, and is apparently very close to a complete protein for humans, and appears to be low on the Glycemic Index for those who pay attention to that.

Uncooked quinoa is very small-grained, looking a bit like couscous (which is a pasta rather than a grain.) Cooked, it has a mild, nutty taste, and I read that it can be substituted for rice in many recipes.

As it comes off the plant, quinoa in covered with a bitter-tasting substance which must be washed off. When I first experimented with quinoa, I found that washing it is a total pain, so I'm glad that most quinoa is now sold pre-washed. (But, if you choose to try quinoa, which I encourage, check the package to make sure it's pre-washed.)

The first way I cooked quinoa was to do it in my rice cooker, using chicken stock as a cooking liquid. It was okay, but a little uninspiring. A few tablespoons on a plate as a side dish would be fine.

The second quinoa recipe I made was Quinoa with Tofu and Asparagus. (I used chicken stock rather than vegetable stock.) I liked the basic method of throwing some quick-cook veg on top of a cooking grain shortly before it's done, but this particular dish was too lemony for my taste. You may also note that the recipe doesn't call for any salt to be added: for me, the end product was almost inedible before salting.

My third dish was Fiesta Quinoa Salad. This was quite good. The friend I shared it with thought that a little more olive oil might be good, and I'd be tempted to add some tomato.

Next grain in the project: bulgur.

(This is the second grain covered in my "Grains Three Ways" project, described here. You can see my post on pearled barley here.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Confessions of a Lapsed Techie

Once upon a time, I was a pretty techie guy. I taught computer classes for a living, and in my own use moved seamlessly between MS-DOS, Windows, Macs, Vax/VMS, and Unix. (Except I could never keep straight which way the slashes in directory paths went in MS-DOS and Unix.) I'd been an Internet user for several years before most people had ever heard of it. (And we had to walk to the Internet in the snow! Uphill! Both ways!) I was never a hardware guy or a programmer - I just had a very strong set of user skills. Not an expert, but the most expert person a lot of people knew.

But that was a long time ago. My fringe IT job gradually morphed into an HR job. (Long story.) Technology moved forward, and I wasn't able to keep up. The scope of topics about which I was genuinely knowledgeable got smaller and smaller, and is now almost gone. (I can still say that my knowledge of the 2003 versions of Outlook, Word, and Excel is pretty strong - but that was two versions ago.)

All this makes me a little sad. Having that set of skills made me a little bit special, at a time when those skills were pretty rare. Those skills got me a graduate assistanceship and the respect of my grad school classmates and even the faculty. But time moves on, and I'm just as befuddled by a lot of the new technology as folks who have little of the background I do. I have other strengths, of course - having fallen off the leading edge hardly renders me worthless.

Still, though, I do miss it.
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T Minus Two by Bob Pedersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.