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imagesI recently heard a podcast about peanuts. I found it most fascinating. This humble ‘nut’ started as something suitable only for animal-feed or the dregs of humanity. The peanut worked its way up as a cheap convenient protein source, only to explode into a stable of US kitchens. We all grew up eating peanut butter; it was ubiquitous in our school lunches.

Peanuts and peanut butter has lost its luster. Choosy mothers no longer choose JIF but something else entirely. They are skeptical of peanut butter’s calories, hydrogenated oils, and the lurking dreaded peanut allergy.

Like a lot of foodstuffs that became blasé in time the peanut is making a comeback via a reinvention. It is following in the footsteps of beer going from mass-produced rubbish towards ‘microbrews’ style butters and gourmet types.

The vast majority of peanut butter in the supermarket is made from ‘runner peanuts’, a peanut without complexity. The podcast hosts rounded up some of the imperial tidbit peanut butters and found them marvelous. They were complex, tasty, and remarkable, like my men.  They were particularly ga-ga over Koeze PB, made from a genera of peanuts called Virginia Peanuts.

Urs truly doesn’t eat much peanut butter given its calories, but let’s face facts: there is nothing more delicious than peanut butter on crackers with a glass of milk. If I am going to have some it might as well be ‘proper’ peanut butter. I ordered some online from Zingermans (the dears!) then I went off to Albertsons to buy me a typical jar as a control (Skippy) for my own double blind taste test.*

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Behold the Butters !

Koeze PB had only two ingredients: Virginia peanuts and salt.

Skippy has peanuts, sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, and salt.

First of all I could taste a difference, which was nice. There is no point shelling out extra money if there isn’t any taste difference.

PB #1 was sweet and perhaps more complex with some slight bitter undertones.  It felt smoother on the tongue.

PB #2 was less sweet and in an odd way it tasted ‘more like peanuts’.  It had a simpler taste.

On crackers the nuances were not as obvious as when they were sampled via a spoonful.

Turns out #1 is Skippy and #2 is Koeze

This makes sense. Skippy has sugar and Koeze is merely ground up peanuts.  Add a bit of snob appeal and some PC views about staying away from sugar and additives and you get Koeze as the winner.

I had a slight ‘put off’ in the initial Koeze tasting as I am used to Skippy so Koeze didn’t taste ‘like peanut butter’ should. I know of a man who ate canned green beans all his life only to taste fresh beans properly steamed and he found them ‘not right’.

Spo-fans are urged to try some if they can.

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Behold the battle of the butters; Someone is trying the crunchy one. 

 

*Sponsored by The NIMH and conducted by Someone.

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While cleaning out papers at the office I found a small piece of art, which was lodged between some old journals.  The object d’art was almost tossed into the shredder with the JAMAs. It is a water colour of what I believe is The Pleiades.  On the back there is a signature “Betty James,  2003″. **  It was carefully wrapped in plastic; it looks as fresh as if were painted only yesterday.

Betty J. must have been a patient although I don’t remember her. Files from that time are off-site in some faraway storage bin. I have a vague memory of a woman giving me this bit of her artistry but the ‘when’ and ‘why’  is long forgotten. After it was discovered, I paused in silence and began thinking many thoughts. It was sheer luck I had found it at all; if I had been more hasty I would have missed it entirely. She was an elderly woman I recall; my intuition tells me is she is probably deceased.

What does one do with mementos that once had meaning but no longer do? It was probably given in gratitude. It was not some cheap or mass-produced item but an expression of her Self. I thought of all those who have gone before me who have touched me in some way. My soul swooned like Gabriel Conroy in “The Dead” to think upon it.

I decided I will get it framed and hang it in my office. When I see it I will think of ‘Betty James” although there will be no more recall other than what I have written here. The painting makes me think ahead to my own death. Now the artwork has meaning but it will become of no value after I go. It will cease to be a memory but merely some nice picture hanging in my office.  It will probably be tossed out along with the remaining JAMAs or put in a rummage sale.

In psychiatry residency we were taught our power is minimal but our influence vast. We may not leave specific legacies but perhaps we will touch others just enough to alter their life’s Journey to make a difference in their lives and those they encounter. I wonder if I did this for Betty James.  I assume I did something for her, as she gave me this gift. Today The Pleiades gave me another gift although I can’t put it in words.

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**Not her real name of course.

I am up to my oxters in podcast subscriptions.  I consume podcasts in the same way some people can’t curtail their consumption of sugar.  I need to become more discriminatory in what I hear for it is not humanly possible to listen all I want. There is not enough time in the week to keep up with them all.  I now have two dozen.  Nevertheless they are jolly good fun and I love them so.

Here is an update of some recent podcasts I am finding remarkable and entertaining. They are worthwhile to pass on to Spo-fans.

 

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You are not so smart

This is becoming quite a favorite of mine. The host discusses psychological topics of how we get bamboozled into believing things such as con artists,  advertising, and the placebo effect.  At the end of each episode he has (as a bonus) a cookie recipe. These scrumptious yummies are worth the wait until the end.

 

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Science Solved it

The podcast team travel around like Scooby-do in the Mystery van to take on things mysterious in order to explain them through science. They set it up each episode like a mystery tale. The scientific explanations at the end are never a let down but more intriguing than the mumbo-jumbo surrounding the matter.

 

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Our Fake History

This is another podcast for sorting fact from rubbish.  He takes on historical legends or common misconceptions about history and tells you what really happened.

 

Gastropod

Not all my faves are about psychology, history, or science; this one is about food. The lady-hosts take on topics like cheese, coffee, peanuts, spice, etc. to give you the history of such item and how it came to be.   It makes my mouth water.

 

Sawbones

This one is a bit of fun and nonsense. A married couple talks about the history of medicine such as TB, blood letting, and other zany things we used to do for medicine.  Their first episode is about trephination.  Oh the pain.  She’s the physician and straight man; he’s the comic sidekick layman.  They recently did a serious episode on the h/o ‘gay conversion’ which was not at all funny but it was most fascinating.

And finally, as a treat –

 

Inner Sanctum 

Last time I was in Michigan visiting the parents I told Father about podcasts and how they were similar to old time radio series. He was interested in finding his favorites programs like The Lone Ranger and The Bickersons. He introduced me to a long ago radio program favorite of his called The Inner Sanctum. It ran from 1941-1952. It’s a murder drama. It has marvelous sound effects; it gives me the creeps. How fascinating to hear how the writers and producers work with the ‘limitations’ of radio to make an effective and scary story.  The episodes open with a very creaky door slowly opening and inviting you into the Inner Sanctum. Just don’t listen to them at night.

 

If Spo-fans know of marvelous podcasts, please pass them on to me!

Zombie idea is a quaint descriptive term in Medicine that describes a belief proven wrong but ghost-like it keeps coming back. These ideas refuse to die despite repetitive evidence to show they should be buried and rest in peace. They are like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who doesn’t want to go on the cart. Unfortunately they are not so easily whacked on the head and be rid of. Some zombie ideas are benign like Vitamin C cures the common cold; some are detrimental like vaccinations cause autism; some are almost amusing such as I am being paid by pharmaceutical industries to push pills.* Perhaps like dandelions zombie ideas can’t be eradicated but merely kept in check when they arise again.

In my personal life I have my own zombie beliefs. Like bad pennies they keep coming back. Happily they are more readily identified no matter what disguise they try to use.   Here’s five to amuse.

I will eat those leftovers.

I hate throwing out food and I am usually guilt-ridden to do so. So I ask the waiter to box up the remains for ‘later’ – which never comes. This also applies to meals cooked at home. After a few days of painful eyecontact with the containers they are tossed out (usually by Someone).  He recognizes this zombie idea usually before I do.  Still there is a slim chance I may eat the leftovers…..

Jalapenos etc.

This zombie idea applies to ‘hot’ ingredients in general. I love them s. Alas, they are not quiet passengers in the Tunnel of Love boat tour that is my digestive system. They rock the boat and shout all the way, making me vow to lay off them. Sometimes this works for up to two weeks between repeats.

Someone will take care of that without me asking.

It’s time to put a big tombstone over this zombie idea. After twenty year of attempts with telepathy have failed to arouse him to spontaneously get up to tidy up or do something or attend to my wants. I have to ask. I guess I am too much a Cancer, who tend to the zombie idea if they truly love us they would know what it is we want and to ask for it diminishes its worth.

Hang on to this; someday I may need this.

I am happy to report this zombie idea is improving. I am more often than not throwing out the brickabracks and paper bags and old books. Next step is larger items like the fondue set, the cookbooks, and all those T-shirts saved for when I am more thin. Yeah, right.

Better buy “X” as I don’t believe we have any.

Picture it: we are walking down an aisle at Albertson’s. I come into contact with the jars of pasta sauce. Like a bull before a flashing cape incarnadine, I say out loud “I think we are out of pasta sauce, we better get some”. Historically I would – only to discover we have 6-8 jars at home.  My exorcism prayer when this zombie idea arises is : “when in doubt, don’t buy it”.  Someone often speaks up before the thoughts are even put into words. “No, we don’t need any pasta sauce”.  He is a dear. Come to think of it, isn’t that a form of telepathy? May be I shouldn’t abandon hope…….

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*I am guaranteed at least one email/comment on this along the line “Oh yes they do, you don’t know what you are talking about!” which dovetails into the third mentioned medical belief.

Pensive

This morning I woke in a zwodder*, looked around at all that wants doing, and wondered whether or not to stay put. This philosophical dilemma was thwarted by Harper who insisted I get up, let her out, and give her breakfast, so that’s that. And here I am.

Aaron The Pool-master came by yesterday and installed the remote control for the pool light. Clever man! With a push of a button I can now illuminate the pool to reveal any nasty things dwelling below waiting to pull me down in the dark to a dastardly demise. Alas, it’s take time of year when the pool isn’t too refreshing. The cement pond’s temperature is that of slightly cooled bath tub; a cold shower is more refreshing. It is a funny feeling to float in the dark bathed in light from below which slowly changes colour so that one moment I am in emerald green than blue than an angry purple and back again. There is no red tone which I deem sensible. That sounds too horrorshow.

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Last week I asked Father to send me a photo of my grandmother so I may include it in my (nearly completed!) cookbook. After a few days I asked him had he forgotten to email me. He explained he took an actual photo out of an old album and popped the picture in the post. Oh lordy, why hadn’t he just attached it to an email? He grumbled slightly he didn’t know how to do that sort of thing and this was easier. Now I have to figure out how to get the actual photo into the cookbook – which is something I don’t know how to do. Oh the bother.

I am officially back under the tutelage of The Personal Trainer. Newer Spo-fans may not know TPT moved away a year or so ago. As a consequence I slacked off my exercise. I do better under supervision, structure, and discipline. We will try a long distance relationship where he sends me what to do. I have my fingers crossed I will become better fit, better looking, and no back injury in the process.  Today he has planned for me to do all sorts of shenanigans, the likes I haven’t done in ages. I’ve explained to him I am an old man out of shape and only recently out of an illness. Naples won’t be rebuilt in a day here.  Do let’s hope.

Finally – does anyone have a good recipe for Chicken Marsala?  While rummaging around the booze bottles I found an unopened bottle of Marsala wine.  I don’t think this is actually something one drinks (yes?) but is for cooking.  I see several recipes on the internet but I trust Spo-fans experience over a Google search. Thems who have a crock-pot recipe for such get double thanks and perhaps a prescription prize as well. It’s rawther hot here; I’d rather not heat up the stove if I can help it. Throwing everything into the intrepid crock pot sounds preferable.

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*Zwodder – a drowsy and stupid state of mind. Try using it in an email today.

Last night when I should have been sleeping I was listening to a lecture on FOMO, an acronym for ‘Fear of Missing Out”. *  The lecturer’s thesis: our cellphone and techie-toys have entered into a demonic alliance worthy of the Wonder Twins, not seen since early man discovered we had opium receptors in our brains that match up with poppy juice. Behind these sinister couplings is the matter our brains are trained to:

a) fear and continually check for such.

b) love us some dopamine rush.

I tend to go to FB and Yahoo-News etc. often and at times when I shouldn’t be doing so. Some of this is done out of angst ‘I might miss something ‘major’ – whatever the hell that is.  There is some magical thinking going on here: I have to keep on a constant vigil with US politics lest thems in the Senate pull another outrage while I was minding my business and looking elsewhere.

Even as I type out this sounds ludricious; the ‘need’ to check in on social media etc. is rubbish pure and simple.

Whenever our brains get stimulated by something pleasurable there is a little ‘pop’ of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Think of it as the ‘yeah!” hormone. It provides the ‘rush’ we get when we taste sugar, hit the jackpot, achieve orgasm, or find a few French fries at the bottom of the bag.  It all pushes the same button “Release the dopamine!” There is also a dash o’ dopamine to having an itch scratched or a tension broken, or an anxiety put to rest.  Using our cellphones fits this model all too readily, as does social apps with their ‘likes’ and thumbs up etc. Add a dash of fear of missing out if we don’t and we are hooked.  Oh the pain.

Well, the first step in treating a problem is admitting there is one. I am working on less ‘check-ins’ on Huffington Post and other news media  if only for the sake of my blood pressure. I am certain to survive missing FB posts. No one is really going to be aghast if I admit I wasn’t aware of Hair Furor’s latest bloviate simply because I wasn’t watching CNN on a continuous basis.

Now that this cosmic Kolinahr is established and sworn before Spo-fans there are a quid pro, a proviso: blogging is the exception. Blogging is atypical that I ‘check in’ maybe 1-2x a week.  I like to keep up on my blogger buddies. Reports of their simple daily doings make me feel good – perhaps provide some health benefit. Certainly there is dopamine dropping from reading blogs. 🙂

 

* Please pause to see the irony of this.

“South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” – James Petigru.

After due process (and good amount of dragging our heels) Someone and I decided not to do our usual summer holiday trip to Canada. We enjoy Canada; I feel bad not to see the shows and our chums. I’ve been more aware lately how the years are going by more quick than ever yet my bucket list remains almost untouched. So – this summer we will do something about it. We will do something new and adventuresome.  We are going to the faraway Kingdom of South Carolina. This trip has several exciting elements:

1- Like a lot of Americans I have the goal of ‘visiting every state”. I don’t have many left; maybe 5-6.  South Carolina is one of them. I can check it off the list.

2 – I will visit a tea plantation. Yes, you read that right. I’ve longed to see one but traveling to India or China to see a proper tea garden is costly and time consuming. It turns out there is an actual one in South Carolina. I don’t know if it is ‘proper’ or any good, but it is a tea plantation. Later in life, lord willing, I may see another and compare them.

3 – Fort Sumpter. I am crackers for history, and Fort Sumpter is where the American civil war commenced. I just hope the surrounding natives aren’t too disagreeable about two Midwesterners (and gay ones at that ) showing up to see the sights, particularly one with some knowledge of history. Do I hold my tongue if I hear something wrong and outrageous?

but best of all:

4- I wont’ have any expectations. This is more noteworthy than it sounds. Nearly every one of my holidays is carefully researched ahead of time and the itinerary is pre-arranged, often to great detail. (I am mostly Swiss-German; I daresay it is in the blood). This trip will be a bit impromptu. I also don’t plan on making it jam-packed;  I hope it is rather leisurely. Oh, I will do some research of course. I bet Charlestown and Savannah have local distilleries. Isn’t this the place for moonshine?

Local tea and bourbon and lots of seafood – it all sounds good to me.

Spo-fans are invited and encouraged to leave in the comment section any suggestions and tips.

OK – one more time. Here are some more cosmic Truths I’ve learned from life.

#11 – There is always choice. 

This Truth is often overlooked or dismissed as not so.  It’s a pity, for the acceptance of the axiom we can always make a choice is quite liberating. It has released people from more false cages than I can count. Taken to its extreme we can’t get away from choice. Life is continually forcing choice upon us. Choiceless are given the choice to be bitter or be better.  This is not denial or pretending black is white.  We can choose not to act; we can choose to be positive; we can choose not to succumb. Very little is left as fateful destiny this way. What a comfort.

#12 – Don’t help so much.

Star Trek has its Prime Directive based on this principle. Helping is the sunny side of control. People need to go on their Hero’s Journey; they need to fumble and learn on their own even when we are aching to help.

#13 – Never trust trout.     This one needs no explanation.

# 14 – Look at the stars and skies.  This is a very good tonic for grandiosity and delusions of self-importance.  It is humbling; it gets you to think outside of yourself.  I pity the folks who live where they can not see the night sky.  I think if we paid more attention to what’s above us we wouldn’t so absorbed in our navels and the mundane.

# 15 – Be kind; Walk humbly; Do justice. 

I want this for a bumper sticker. I think a Jesuit priest said this just before he was done in by the Iroquois. We are really just walking each other home.  Keeping this in mind makes  our steps mindful and meaningful.

 

So there you have it.   Spo-fans can leave in the comments any Truths I have left off or don’t know yet

I am laying of writing about Truth for today as it is too hot to be worried about such things and besides you have had enough profound imperial tidbits to last for awhile.

insanity Well we did it. While driving home from work my intrepid Elantra (red) registered 50C as the outside temperature. I haven’t looked up what this is in Fahrenheit. It’s bloody hot. Poor Harper, she doesn’t understand it is too much for walks. Her paws would burn and our stillsuits are on the fritz. Just try telling that to a pooch. It is supposed to be back down to cool 40C by the end of the week.

Aaron the pool-master did not show today. I hope he didn’t drop dead from dehydration doing his duties. I think it most sensible of him to delay service until later when it is not so fervid. The pool looks lovely and limpid but isn’t too refreshing; it feels a bit like bath water left too long out. Still it is better than nothing. Coming out of the pool into no humidity makes for instance evaporation and a brief chill – in 40-50C !

I had a mild headache all day due to the heat or I forgot to take my blood pressure pill. Sans felodipine my systolic shots higher than a rocket; I thought it prudent to forgo the gym lest I have a stroke. I would be an ignominious end indeed to drop on the ellipictal machine and everyone assume the old guy couldn’t take the heat.  Oh the embarrassment.  I never seem to get out the door with 100% everything. Someone once proposed I have a checklist just inside the garage door.  I may take this up.

You will be happy to know I have finished my editing of the blog prior to publication into book form.  I want a paper copy of my industry in case there is a nasty ransomware attack or WordPress decides to go belly up.  Next step is to find an impartial publisher. I tried this once before a few years ago, but the on-line service agent apparently went into hysterics after reading my earlier work and they wouldn’t commit.  Stirges.

I also completed my cookbook; this one won’t be so expensive to print.  I worry if the publisher of the cookbooks bothers to look for copyrighted photos or recipes.  I am fairly certain none of my maternal relations will sue me for infringement.  Mother reminded me to print the proper recipes I got from her. She sometimes adds an extra ingredient to her dishes, something not written down in the official ‘public domain’ shared recipe card to ascertain hers will stand out as better/different. This is as close to mendacity and ‘evil’ as my mother gets unless you count the time she said a disparaging word about an aunt.  With such as dysfunctional background it is amazing I have any scruples at all.

21 July marks the time in the zodiac of Cancer the crab. I am a crab; Someone tells me so. In general Cancer men are giant blackholes of endless emotional needs who (like the crab) approach you laterigrade and vociferate causing you to play twenty questions with them trying to get out what it is they are asking. Cancer men actually believe if you truly loved them etc. you would know what they want and to ask directly for it somehow diminishes its value. Best is to give him something to eat and something to drink (no rubbish) and tell him everything will be OK.  Cancers are nice folks, well over four feet. Please don’t feed them buns and things.

OK, back to Truth tomorrow.

#6 – Make good art. 

Creation may be just as important to the human psyche as touch and good night’s sleep. Bloggers know this. Our metier is the written word; it is our life raft in the storm of society.  Make good art. Make some on the good days and make some on the bad. Most of all, make yours. Write what is yours and what you know.  If people remonstrate you in your creative work to make them more favorable tell them they should have behaved better.

#7 – All things worthwhile in Life come with a cost.

Nothing of real value comes easy and without a price. You can measure the value of something by the size of the sacrifice. The Fall of Man in The Garden of Eden is an apt metaphor. When we grow, we lose something. The expression “Growing pains” is somewhat literal.

#8 – Try to do a little better with sleep – you know what I mean. 

#9 – Bread is good. 

Bread  is not diabolical or inimical, but nurturing to Body and Soul. Go eat some proper bread, no rubbish. Toast it if you wish.  Eat this with real butter – and feel good about it.

#10 Almost everything works again if you unplug it for awhile, including yourself.  I was recently reminded of this axiom and it cheered me up and gave me great comfort. Periodically turn off all the TV and the techie-toys and go get lost. Don’t let the world know how and where to find you.  I recommend a daily ‘time out’ dose x 15 say every 6 hours, and a once a year bolus week long vacation to nowhere.

That’s enough Truth for today. Try and tell as many people as you can in town.

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