Friday, December 18, 2009

Where to Buy Evaporated Cane Juice

Many visitors arrive to this blog asking "Where can I buy Evaporated Cane Juice?". One easy answer: Amazon. While Amazon has always been known for new books, many people are unaware of the extensive selection of other goods. From electronics to food, cosmetics to toys, one can find just about anything. Along the left margin of my blog, one can find my list of recommended products. I also recommend checking out their selection of used books for out of print volumes and a more economical way to build a library.

Buy Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals

Other Sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
Alternative Sugar Names


Monday, December 14, 2009

Joe Says No?

It is being extensively reported that Joe Lieberman and other centrist Senators are pulling support for a deal that would expand Medicare, creating a de facto "public option".

Both Snowe and Lieberman have said they opposed the proposal to allow some Americans ages 55 to 64 to buy into the federal Medicare program.

Nelson, who tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill with tougher restrictions on federal funding for elective abortions, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he considered the Medicare proposal to be "the forerunner of single-payer, the ultimate single-payer plan."
Let's hope the moderates continue to oppose these measures that would only exacerbate the health care industry's current ills.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Whole Foods Health Care

Here is a more in-depth look at the health reform ideas of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. It highlights the disconnect and distortions of some people who equate reform only with a very narrow set of policies, normally based on a single-payer, government run public option. There are other, free-market, options to the current system that will make things better for the majority, most of which are discarded in the current legislation under debate. Instead, anyone not blindly signing up for even more socialist-style medicine is labeled against "reform" and thus, by default; unsympathetic to the poor, evil, racist, out-of-touch with reality, stupid, bought off by big business, and/or just plain insane.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

U.S. Unemployment: 2007-2009


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

De Facto Public Plan

There has been talk about scrapping the "public option" in the current Senate bill with the "compromise" of extending Medicare/Medicaid coverage. Let's try to suspend disbelief for a moment and forget the fact that these programs are already speeding towards bankruptcy, inefficient, and one of the main causes of increasing health care costs. One suggestion was to increase Medicaid coverage to 300% of the poverty level. What is 300% of poverty level, you ask?

From the HHS:

The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia

Persons in family Poverty guideline 300% of Poverty
1 $10,830 $32,490
2 $14,570 $43,710
3 $18,310 $54,930
4 $22,050 $66,150
5 $25,790 $77,370
6 $29,530 $88,590
7 $33,270 $99,810
8 $37,010 $111,030

A 2007 study from the Tax Foundation reveals that nearly 50% of all Americans fall within 300% of the poverty level. Add a reduction of eligibility age for Medicare, and you see that a compromise of this sort removes the "public option" in name only.

“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.” - Frederic Bastiat


Happiness in Hyperbole

From Las Vegas Sun:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired off the first flinty round when he compared opponents of health care reform to those who fought the end of slavery.

“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans can come up with is this: Slow down. Stop everything. Let's start over,” Reid said.

“If you think you have heard these same excuses before, you are right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said: Slow down. It is too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough.”

The "slavery" argument is certainly an interesting one...but I find it surprising that it is being leveled by the side that claims some men have the right to others' lives..."from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".


Saturday, December 5, 2009

North Korean Currency Grab

To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.
- F.A. von Hayek

North Korea's shock currency revaluation has sparked anger and frustration in the isolated communist state as citizens see much of their savings wiped out, reports and observers said Wednesday.

The sudden revaluation angered market vendors and others.

"I worked like a dog for two months for the winter, but the money became useless paper overnight," Good Friends quoted a Sinuiju resident as saying.

DailyNK said security forces mounted extra street patrols and imposed a curfew in North Hamkyung province in the northeast.

"After 10:00 pm all movement is prohibited. Offenders must be strictly regulated," it quoted the curfew notice as saying.

All shops, markets and stores remained closed due to a temporary ban on trading during the week-long exchange of bills, it added.

Any activities requiring monetary payments were being suspended until new currency is legally circulated, Good Friends reported.

"The purpose of the currency revaluation is to crush private commercial activities, considered to promote anti-socialism," said Good Friends.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fourth-Party Payer?

A look at one of the problems at the heart of rising medical costs that is often neglected - employer-provided coverage.

Three-fifths of Americans, the share with employer-provided health insurance, are in the same situation. Since someone else buys insurance for them, using money they would otherwise receive as wages, they are in no position to shop around and typically do not know the true cost of their coverage. This disconnect between payment and consumption is one of the central problems with the health care system, contributing to insecurity, rapidly escalating costs, and the general lack of choice and competition. Yet both Democrats and Republicans insist on preserving it.

Yet it’s the tax-free status of those benefits that favors them over cash compensation, maintaining a bizarre system in which most Americans get their health insurance—unlike their car, life, or homeowner’s insurance—through their employers. As a result, they are insulated from the actual price of their insurance and are more likely to have plans with low deductibles that cover routine medical expenses as well as large, unpredictable costs. In choosing among providers, drugs, and treatments, they have little incentive to economize and usually do not even know the relative costs of their options.
So we have the first party (individual), second-party (doctor), third-party (insurer) and a fourth-party (employer) all paying portions of the bill. No wonder it is so difficult to determine the costs, let alone rein them in.

Don't forget, the plan currently being debated by the Senate will increase the linkage of employers and health insurance by requiring them to provide it or pay a fine.

Laissez faire, morbleu! Laissez faire!!


Friday, November 20, 2009


A legal question:

Is this statutory rape???

Or is it just a moosedemeanor?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letter to My Senators

Dear Senator,

I am concerned about The Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R.3962). I do not support the following key components, among others:

1. Public Option
2. Employers are required to provide coverage or an 8% payroll fee
3. Mandatory coverage or 2.5% income penalty fee

I strongly believe in the free market, and the large increases in health care costs can be primarily attributed to government interference. To reduce costs, the following measures should be taken:

1. Medicare/medicaid reform/reduction
2. Individual health insurance premiums for all Americans should be tax deductible just like employer-provided plans
3. Open up competition between insurance companies by enabling “regulatory federalism” that would allow individuals and employers to purchase health insurance from other states
4. Decrease barriers of entry to health care providers (facilities and professionals)
5. Tort reform
6. Availability of tax advantaged Health Care Savings Accounts for all Americans

Please consider increasing real market competition to lower health care costs and improve quality, not more government controls and mandates.

Thank you.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quotes for the Day

  • Used to the conditions of a capitalistic environment, the average American takes it for granted that every year business makes something new and better accessible to him. Looking backward upon the years of his own life, he realizes that many implements that were totally unknown in the days of his youth and many others which at that time could be enjoyed only by a small minority are now standard equipment of almost every household. He is fully confident that this trend will prevail also in the future. He simply calls it the American way of life and does not give serious thought to the question of what made this continuous improvement in the supply of material goods possible.
  • The most serious dangers for American freedom and the American way of life do not come from without.
  • Full government control of all activities of the individual is virtually the goal of both national parties.

Ludwig von Mises - Economic Freedom and Interventionism


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Trees

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

There was trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

Rush - Hemispheres


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big Baby

He’s a bouncing baby boy who could break a knee — a mother in Jakarta, Indonesia, delivered a 19.2-pound, 2-foot-long child on Monday via Caesarean section.

The big baby, a weight record for a newborn in Indonesia, although a bit short of the world record of 23 pounds set in 1879, was likely caused by his mother having gestational diabetes. And even though mom Ani was saved the grueling task of pushing the child out herself, the surgery to bring him into the world was still touch and go.
Link, via my wife.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New CBO Budget Projections

The Congressional Budget Office released its projections over the next decade for the federal budget deficit and the overall outlook of the economy in general. The data and summary can all be found at Remember that sustained budget deficits lead to larger and larger national debt.

Budget outlook for 2009-19:

The dramatic expansion of the deficit in 2009 (up from 3.2 percent of GDP in 2008) results from a projected rise in outlays of 24 percent (the largest percentage increase since 1952) and a drop in revenues of 17 percent from last year’s levels (the largest percentage drop since 1932). Those changes have largely been the result of the severe economic downturn and the fiscal impact of federal policies enacted in response.
On the long term outlook:
Over the long term (beyond the 10-year baseline projection period), the budget remains on an unsustainable path. Unless changes are made to current policies, the nation will face a growing demand for budgetary resources caused by rising health care costs and the aging of the population. Continued large deficits and the resulting increases in federal debt over time would reduce long-term economic growth by lowering national saving and investment relative to what would otherwise occur, causing productivity and wage growth to gradually slow.
I recommend again for everyone to watch I.O.U.S.A. which can be found here in Part I and Part II. Also check out this "Fiscal Wake-up Tour" slide presentation.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Reform Ideas

Here are some common sense ideas for the health care reform debate, from the CEO of Whole Foods. Let's hope some of them make it in any bill that's finally cobbled together and attempted to be rammed through Congress.

Some highlights:
- Medicare/Medicaid reform
- Make individual health insurance tax deductible just like employer-provided insurance
- Tort reform
- Cost transparency so consumers can make informed decision about their own health

Health care reform is important - the costs really are skyrocketing. However, the government should take a real long hard look in the mirror and actually address the sources of the increases. Shifting the costs around only makes the problem worse.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Green Shoots?

"The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression... For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before."

- Business Week, November 2, 1929

#7 of 20 preemptive prognostications highlighted here.


Friday, August 7, 2009

A Look at Agave Nectar

This article, from Radish Magazine, takes a critical look at a natural sweetener that has recently gained popularity - agave nectar.

For those who are not familiar with agave nectar, it is a syrupy sweetener produced from the juices of a succulent plant resembling a cactus. Numerous species of agave plants are native to Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.--one of which is used to make tequila. A mature agave plant may be up to 8 feet tall with leaves spreading out to a diameter of 12 feet!

The agave nectar is sold in many health food stores (in light, amber, dark and raw varieties) for general sweetening purposes and also incorporated as a sweetening agent in many so-called organic, raw and/or diabetic-friendly health foods. It is portrayed as an unrefined and healthful sweetener, but the truth is a much more complex story.

The chemical and genetically-modified enzymatic processes used to manufacture the juices into agave nectar end up giving it a profile of 70 percent or more as fructose, compared to only 55 percent fructose found in HFCS. (Raw honey contains only about 38 percent fructose.) Concentrated levels of fructose in the diet may lead to mineral depletion, inflammation of the liver, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

While it is true that high levels of dietary fructose will not necessarily cause spikes in blood glucose, agave nectar certainly still falls short of being a healthful alternative. It is for this reason that noted low-carb advocate, Dr. Michael Eades, M.D., has said of agave nectar: "Avoid it like death."

A less-than-ideal sugar profile may be offset somewhat by the presence of abundant minerals, which agave nectar reportedly has, including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. However, it is more correct to say that the juices of the agave plant contain an abundance of such minerals (as well as valuable amino acids) rather than the resultant agave nectar. While "miel de agave" retains these factors, modern processing removes many of them in order to make the taste of the agave nectar lighter and more palatable.

Other Sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
Alternative Sugar Names


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Peter Schiff for Senate


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ten Questions on the Health-Care Overhaul

Here's an interesting article from the WSJ on health care reform. Examination of the graphic below highlights one of the key problems with the current system.

The center graph plots the share of costs paid by three parties; the taxpayer, private insurance, and individuals. From 1970 to now, the individual's out of pocket costs have declined from over 30% to around 10%. Now if costs of a good or service are paid by "somebody else", how does that effect your use of said product? The price signal is severely altered, and thus the system does not have efficient feedback for optimal allocation of resources.

Never mind that the "somebody else" may ultimately end up being you again with higher taxes and/or deficits and/or inflation and/or insurance premiums. Bottom line, someone is picking up the tab. I certainly am no expert on health care, but it seems to me if much of this disconnect was removed the system would function better. Shifting around who pays for care will not fix anything. The underlying reasons for escalating costs must be addressed.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tech Watch

Joule Biotechnologies
has announced what could be quite a revolution in 3rd generation biofuels. They claim to have created a process using engineered microorganisms that can convert CO2 and sunlight directly into fuel.

This eco-friendly, direct-to-fuel conversion requires no agricultural land or fresh water, and leverages a highly scalable system capable of producing more than 20,000 gallons of renewable ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre annually—far eclipsing productivity levels of current alternatives while rivaling the costs of fossil fuels.
They claim to be able to one day compete with $50 per barrel oil and are forecasting commercial scale ethanol production in 2010.

Liquid fuel technology will continue to play a pivotal role in transportation until battery technology is radically improved. If able to scale, this seems to be a great way to keep downward pressure on fuel costs, recycle CO2, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and perhaps export technology and clean fuel around the globe.


Monday, July 27, 2009


Here's an addicting little time-waster of a game. In "Cutthroat Capitalism", you play the role of a up-and-coming Somali pirate. Hunt down unsuspecting ships and negotiate the release of hostages. Apply just the right tactics and keep your crew happy as you bring home the booty.

Disclaimer: I dispute any definition of capitalism that would equate it with piracy, larceny, or robbery. This would be a contradiction in terms. The game is still fun, though.

Anne-Marie Sakowitz: Do you know that you just charted us on a course through unprotected waters?
Steve Zissou: Yeah, we're taking the shortcut.
Anne-Marie Sakowitz: But it's outside I.M.U. jurisdiction. There isn't any protection.
Steve Zissou: I know, honey. Look at the map. We go your way, that's about four inches. We go my way, it's an inch and a half. You wanna pay for the extra gas?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shaq and Panda - Part Deux

I'm not sure how the photo shoot strayed so far from the original concept:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


that's all I've got for now.

perhaps the erin andrews PEEPHOLE video is next.



Ed. See original concept for the Shaq and Panda pic.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Health Care is Not a Right

Congressman Ron Paul on Yahoo! tech|ticker:

"I have a right to my life, and my liberty, and to keep the fruits of my labor."


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Solar Grid Parity by 2015?

From EE Times:

By 2015, two-thirds of the U.S. will have achieved grid parity, the point at which electricity generated from photovoltaics is equal in cost or less expensive than grid power, an analyst said Monday (July 13). At that point, solar power will be no more than 5 cents per kilowatt hour more expensive than grid power for 99 percent of the country, according to Travis Bradford, founder and president of the non-profit research group The Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development.
One small caveat, however:
Speaking to a packed ballroom at the Intersolar North America event here, Bradford said the combination of falling photovoltaic system costs and larger government subsidies juxtaposed against the rising cost of grid electricity means that the U.S. is "rapidly approaching grid parity."
Bradford said solar in the U.S. will get a big boost from economic subsidies as part of the financial rescue package enacted by the U.S. last November and from the huge fiscal stimulus pushed through earlier this year.
I certainly hope one would not include subsidies in a calculation to show how economically competitive a technology is. Not to mention that 5 cents above grid power is around 50% more in most locations. Hardly what I would call "parity".

I did some rough calculations last year for PV solar on my home and it was approximately three times as expensive as grid power. I certainly hope new technologies and manufacturing processes can bring grid parity as soon as 2015; just color me skeptical until then.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tech Watch

Cool Energy
, a small company from Boulder, is developing a very flexible solar energy collection system. It consists of solar thermal collectors, hot water and space heater, a Stirling engine for electricity generation and a control system to optimize usage. It seems like it could allow solar power to become economical in more regions across the globe, providing heating in the winter and electricity for cooling in the summer. Here is a flow chart schematic:

Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies are not new, but Cool Energy claims to have provided some innovation to increase efficiency.

The main innovation to the SolarFlow System is Cool Energy’s proprietary SolarHeart™ Engine, a low temperature Stirling engine which incorporates advanced materials to most cost effectively convert alternate heat sources to electricity. The SolarHeart Engine also has applications with geothermal and waste heat sources of low to mid temperature heat.

The SolarSmart Controller™ uses intelligent control algorithms to maximize owner savings based on the temperature, time of day, weather, season, etc. It also factors in the prices of electricity and heat to determine which energy source will provide the most value to your home or business at any given time of the day or year.

Cool Energy is currently building its third-generation engine prototype for a pilot SolarFlow installation planned for the summer of 2009 at a public facility in Boulder, Colorado. More details on this installation will be made public soon.
This will be an interesting development to watch. Any technology that can compete head to head with conventional fossil fuels will have the ability to make a large impact in the future.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Robert Shiller on Yahoo! tech|ticker

That neutral valuation suggests the stock market is likely to resort to its long-term average of 7% annual gains, Shiller says. That sounds great, but the famed professor isn't forecasting that outcome due to one major caveat: The economy is in a "precarious state" and, should it stumble anew, the stock market "could go down a lot," he says.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Case for Doing Nothing

Another look at the "crash of 08" by Jeffrey Miron.

Because housing prices have declined, some people and institutions are worse off. Maybe it’s the first bank in the chain that takes most of the hit. Or maybe the first bank passes some of the hit along because of its counter-party claims to some other bank. But that hit has to be taken. And in the U.S., it was a big hit indeed—plausibly several trillion dollars in housing wealth. The size of that loss doesn’t demonstrate a spillover effect; it just shows that somebody has to experience the loss that the economy has already taken.
The fundamental problem underlying the financial crisis was government policy. Instead of undertaking enormous new policies, we should try to fix or eliminate bad policies and focus on efficiency rather than redistribution. Doing nothing new and simply working with pre-existing procedures would have been much better than anything we’ve done so far.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Word of the Day


1. an ancient form of divination, using a rooster to select grains of food placed on letters of the alphabet.

1675–85; from Gk. alektryon "cock" + manteia "oracle." (source)


Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Cap and Trade

With the passing of H.R.2454 (a.k.a. Waxman-Markley or the American Clean Energy And Security - ACES - Act of 2009) and the subsequent ongoing debate in the Senate, I thought I'd jot a few thoughts.

On Climate Change:
- As I stated here, my view on anthropogenic climate change boils down to: if it is real, it is inevitable
- "My fear is that a solution that is effective, equitable, and enforceable is simply beyond the global community's technical and political ability."
- All economically viable fossil fuels will be used by someone, and the carbon will most likely end up in the atmosphere
- It may already be too late to reverse what has occurred
- This is not to say nothing should be done, but should shade our response to becoming adaptable to the uncertain effects that it could cause
- Crippling our economy does not seem prudent

On Cap and Trade:
- Cap and Trade, as a theory, is my preferred method of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
- Preferable to a straight CO2 tax
- Creating a market for negative externalities is a great way to account for their effects
- Should drive innovation
- However, there is something subliminally disconcerting about agreeing to limit the emission of a main component of my very breath

On H.R.2454:
- Seems to do little to actually lower GHG
- Environmentalists don't even seem to like it
- Reducing American GHG does not necessarily equal a reduction of Global GHG
- A non-Global agreement will only shift CO2 production to other locations
- Moves a lot of money around
- Different industries have different allowances
- Heavily influenced by political shenanigans
- Job creation does not necessarily equal economic growth
- Increased energy costs will be crippling to our economy
- Proponents should be upfront about costs
- To reduce atmospheric CO2 levels to "acceptable levels" will require an unprecedented reduction in standard of living
- How will compliance be verified?
- What type of costs and economic inefficiencies will verification schemes add?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Too Soon?


Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Invisible Hand of Population Control

A look at economic freedom, population growth, and the Tragedy of the Commons by Ronald Bailey at reasononline.

Hardin believed that Smith's metaphor of an invisible hand was contributing to "the dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society. If this assumption is correct it justifies the continuance of our present policy of laissez faire in reproduction." As the essay makes abundantly clear, Hardin is convinced that "rational analysis" will prove that Smith's invisible hand leads to inevitable population ruin.

In fact, several recent studies suggest that Hardin might have it backward. Under certain circumstances, there may actually be an invisible hand that leads to an optimum population.

Norton persuasively argues that Hardin's fears of a population tragedy of the commons are actually realized when the invisible hand of economic freedom is shackled. Many poor countries have poorly specified and enforced property rights. Poor property rights means that many resources are effectively left in open access commons where the incentive is to grab what one can before the other guy gets it. Norton points out that in such situations, more children mean more hands for grabbing unowned and unprotected resources such as water, fodder, timber, fish, pastures, and for land clearing. Lacking the institutional incentives to invest in and preserve resources, this drive to take as much as possible as quickly as possible leads to perpetual poverty.
The inverse relationship between wealth and fertility is quite evident, however, it will be interesting to see how prosperous countries fare as time progresses. Can a society maintain its economic strength while declining in population? More specifically, can the immense welfare commitments of Western nations be upheld by fewer and fewer young workers? An equilibrium will be reached - either by increased fertility, immigration from lands with excess youth, or a decline in benefits and entitlements.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Alternative Sugar Names

Here's a list of various sweeteners that you may not recognize as sugar on an ingredient list. Some were quite surprising. (link)

Barley malt. A sweetener produced from sprouted barley that is mostly maltose. It is used in combination with other sweeteners and for cooking and baking.

Brown rice. A sweetener produced commercially by cooking brown rice flour or syrup brown rice starch with enzymes. It can be used for cooking and baking and is sometimes combined with fruit concentrates to be used in food products.

Brown sugar. A refined sugar coated with molasses.

Cane syrup. A very sweet syrup made from sugarcane.

Corn syrup. A manufactured syrup of cornstarch that contains varying proportions of glucose, maltose, and dextrose. It is used in salad dressings, tomato sauces, powdered drink mixes, fruit drinks and juices, and desserts like pudding and ice milk.

Crystalline. A sweetener that is made from cornstarch and comes in granules fructose like table sugar. It is used in dry mix beverages, low-calorie products, enhanced or flavored water, still and carbonated beverages, sports and energy drinks, chocolate milk, breakfast cereals, baked goods, yogurt, fruit packs, and confections.

Dextrose. Another name for glucose. A simple sugar that is less sweet than fructose or sucrose. It is used in many baking products like cake mixes and frostings, snack foods like cookies, crackers, and pretzels, and desserts like custards and sherbets.

Fructose. A sugar found naturally in fruit; also a simple sugar refined from fruit.

High fructose. A highly concentrated syrup of mostly fructose and some corn syrup glucose that is prevalent in soft drinks and other processed foods.

Honey. A concentrated solution of fructose and glucose, plus some sucrose. It is produced by bees from the nectar of flowers.

Invert sugar. A sugar created by heating sugar syrup with a small amount of acid such as cream of tartar or lemon juice in order to reduce the size of the sugar crystals. The resulting product is smoother and suitable for use in candies and some syrups.

Lactose. A simple sugar in milk.

Maltodextrin. A sugar made from maltose and dextrose in corn. It is used in a wide array of foods, from canned fruits to snacks.

Maltose. A simple sugar made from starch.

Mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol. Sugar alcohols derived from fruit or produced from dextrose. These sweeteners are used in many dietetic products. Sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay, unlike sugar.

Maple syrup. A concentrated sap from maple trees, predominantly fructose. Molasses The thick syrup by-product from the processing of sugarcane or sugar beet into sugar. Blackstrap molasses, a popular health food, is a good source of calcium, iron, and potassium.

Muscovado or Barbados sugar. A British specialty brown sugar that is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than “regular” brown sugar.

Sucanat. Nonrefined cane sugar that retains all of its molasses content.

Sucrose. Refined, crystallized sap of the sugarcane or sugar beet; a combination of glucose and fructose.

Turbinado. A less refined sugar that still has some natural molasses coating.

White grape juice. A highly purified fructose solution. Virtually no other nutrients are present. It is often used in juice concentrate blends.

Other Sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
A Look at Agave


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Francisco's Money Speech

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

(Link to complete passage from

Excerpt from Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Friday, June 5, 2009

Mortgage Meltdown Overview

Here's a powerpoint presentation showing some interesting data on the housing market. It is produced by Whitney Tilson and Glenn Tongue, managing partners of T2 Partners and the authors of More Mortgage Meltdown. I haven't had a chance to check out the book, but the charts are quite foreboding. As I've examined before, the subprime mess is not the end of the mortgage/bank problems. There are many Alt-A and Option ARM mortgages still poised to deliver massive defaults, as well as commercial real estate and consumer debt.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Ethanol - Not Electric Cars and Hybrids - Is the Answer

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures explains why biofuels are the answer for fossil fuel replacement for personal transportation in the near term. As I have said before, liquid fuels are key to providing economical transportation. He also brings up the point that first generation biofuels (corn ethanol) are only stepping stones to more viable and efficient future fuels.

Also important to remember is the busted link between corn ethanol and American food prices. This "fact" was thrown around in the media last year as food and fuel prices soared. In hindsight, the sharp increase in corn prices had a much stronger correlation to the commodities bubble than an increase in ethanol production, which is conveniently overlooked.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Case-Shiller Index Monitors Continued Fall

The first quarter of 2009 saw a continued, dramatic slide in home prices. From

The S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price index, a bellwether of real-estate market direction, plunged a record 19.1% during the quarter compared with the first three months of 2008. That followed an 18.2% drop last quarter.

The Case-Shiller 20-city index dropped 18.7% year-over-year, also a record. It fell 18.5% during the last three months of 2008. This index has plummeted 32.2% from its July 2006 peak and has fallen 32 straight months.

Phoenix and Las Vegas continue to be hammered.

Two cities have now have fallen more than 50% from their peak prices: Phoenix is down 53% since June 2006 and Las Vegas is off 50.4% from its August 2006 high. Dallas prices suffered the smallest loss from peak, just 11.1% since June 2007.
Official press release from S&P/Case-Shiller with in depth charts and graphs can be found here.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Housing Boom and Bust

Interview by Tomas Sowell on reasononline
. Sowell's latest book is The Housing Boom and Bust,
"a plain-English explanation of how we got into the current economic disaster that developed out of the economics and politics of the housing boom and bust".

reason: What sort of reactions should the federal government have to the current situation?

Sowell: First, the government should not try to artificially keep up housing prices. The tremendous irony is that the very politicians who for years talked of affordable housing are fighting to keep housing prices from falling. How does housing become more affordable except by keeping prices down? They really have no interest in having housing become affordable by means other than their largesse.

reason: Do you think they need to be doing anything to ease the woes of people in foreclosure?

Sowell: Not at all. Foreclosure is not something that happens to you like being struck by lightning. Foreclosure is the end result of things people have done that they need to stop doing in the future. And the market can take care of that. California is one of those states where we’ve seen a drastic reduction in fancy no-money-down mortgages and all kinds of creative financing; we’ve seen those things drop sharply within just a couple of years as housing prices fell and foreclosures rose, as long as the government isn’t there to prop them up.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Is California Too Big To Fail?

Who is up next for bailouts? How about California?

Preliminary returns on Tuesday night show that voters soundly rejected ballot measures calling for higher taxes, meaning that the not-so-Golden State's politicians are likely to take hat in hand and head to Washington begging for a bailout.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger floated that idea months ago, as did Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, a Democrat. Schwarzenegger's visit to the White House on Tuesday surely didn't harm its prospects.

California does have enough cash to survive through June 30, but the state controller estimated in March that another $10.6 billion would be necessary to last the summer.
Where does this stop? How many other states have budget troubles? If you want to have government spending, you must have sufficient tax receipts to pay for it. The moral hazard of a federal bailout of individual states is staggering. Why would any state balance its budget?

An article in Tuesday's Bond Buyer newspaper reported, citing congressional sources, that the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve are considering loan guarantees and "other assistance" to state governments. A House of Representatives committee is holding a hearing Thursday on a bill to provide federal guarantees; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, is in a position to make that happen.

Now, it's true that California's fiscal woes are serious, but they're the result of politicians' poor decisions over many years. No matter how it's concealed, a bailout could jeopardize the nation's AAA credit rating - and invite 49 other governors to queue up outside the Treasury building. (The incentive is perverse: The worse shape your state is in, the more cash you get from the Feds.)
This is just a symptom of our greater national problems. We are spending more money than we make on nearly every personal and governmental level. This cannot continue.


Saturday, May 16, 2009



Friday, May 8, 2009

U.S. Electrical Grid

Here's detailed interactive graphical representation of the U.S. electrical power grid from NPR. It shows the grid and power generation facilities, as well as wind and solar potential.

The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation's electrical systems.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tragedy of the Commons and the Road to Serfdom

In this passage, Hayek touches upon the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons and negative externalities. He acknowledges a limitation of a pure capitalist system, yet posits that this fact is not reason enough to discard of the system outright. He then later describes that these responsibilites would fall to the state: "In no system that could be rationally defended would the state just do nothing. An effective competitive system needs an intellegently designed and continuously adusted legal framework as much as any other."

There are, undoubted fields where no legal arrangements can create the main condition on which the usefulness of the system of competition and private property depends: namely, that the owner benefits from all the useful services rendered by his property and suffers for all the damages caused to others by its use. Where, for example, it is impractical to make the enjoyment of certain services dependent on the payment of a price, competition will not produce the services; and the price system becomes similarly ineffective when the damage caused to others by certain uses of property cannot be effectively charged to the owner of that property. In all these instances there is a divergence between the items which enter into private calculation and those which affect social welfare; and, whenever this divergence becomes important some other method other than competition may have to be found to supply the services in question. Thus neither the provision of signposts on the roads nor, in most circumstances, that of the roads themselves can be paid for by every individual user. Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, of some methods of farming, or of smoke and noise of factories be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances, we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism. But the fact that we have to resort to the substitution of direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function.

Excerpt from The Road to Serfdom - Friedrich von Hayek, 1944


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Defense of Hank Rearden

No, I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record. I am in full agreement with the facts of everything said about me in the newspapers - with the facts, but not with the evaluation. I work for nothing but my own profit - which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage - and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with - voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product.

I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people - the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbours and that more men are willing to pay me. I refuse to apologise for my ability - I refuse to apologise for my success - I refuse to apologise for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests, let the public destroy me.

This is my code - and I will accept no other. I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow men than you can ever hope to accomplish - but I will not say it, because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I recognise the good of others as a justification for their seizure of my property or their destruction of my life. I will not say that the good of others was the purpose of my work - my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his. I could say to you that you do not serve the public good - that nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices - that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the right of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation - as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won't. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own - I would refuse. I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being's right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!
Excerpt from Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand


Friday, May 1, 2009

Pirate Party Vies for EU Seat

Sweden's Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) - whose platform consists mainly of abolishing copyright and patent law - appears to be gaining enough support to claim a seat on the European Parliament.

Hey, I'm all for burning a few mp3s here and there, but this really is amazing to me. Perhaps it is their candor that is surprising...most politicians wish to legalize stealing without your knowledge. These guys put it right out there for everyone to see. I wonder if their followers have thought through the consequences of the proposals, after all the free movies and music have lost their allure. Perhaps they simply do not care.

I believe in property and I believe in intellectual property. A world without property laws would have dangerous seas to navigate, indeed.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Write Your Own Punchline


Room 101

A BEDRIDDEN war veteran was found on Anzac Day with bloody ears, hands, face and neck after being "severely chewed" by swarming mice at a southwest Queensland nursing home.
Complete article here.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

T. Boone Pickens and Ted Turner


Monday, April 27, 2009

Ethanol Petition

If you'd like the option to buy E15 rather than just E10, please sign the petition at

I believe we should be allowed to choose more clean, American-made renewable fuel for our cars. The federal government arbitrarily limits the use of ethanol in a gallon of gasoline to just 10 percent, a regulation that is standing in the way of new green jobs, jeopardizing progress toward advanced biofuels, and putting energy security at risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering whether to allow the use of up to 15 percent ethanol, which would enable consumers to choose between fuels that contain no ethanol and any blend up to 15%.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Abandoned Road

When the course of civilization takes an unexpected turn — when, instead of the continuous progress which we have come to expect, we find ourselves threatened by evils associated by us with past ages of barbarism — we naturally blame anything but ourselves. Have we not all striven according to our best lights, and have not many of our finest minds incessantly worked to make this a better world? Have not all our efforts and hopes been directed toward greater freedom, justice, and prosperity?

If the outcome is so different from our aims — if, instead of freedom and prosperity, bondage and misery stare us in the face — is it not clear that sinister forces must have foiled our intentions, that we are the victims of some evil power which must be conquered before we can resume the road to better things?

However much we may differ when we name the culprit — whether it is the wicked capitalist or the vicious spirit of a particular nation, the stupidity of our elders, or a social system not yet, although we have struggled against it for a half a century, fully overthrown — we all are, or at least were until recently, certain of one thing: that the leading ideas which during the last generation have become common to most people of good will and have determined the major changes in our social life cannot have been wrong.

We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.

Excerpt from The Road to Serfdom - Friedrich von Hayek, 1944


Monday, April 13, 2009


As we all tighten our belts - some more than others, of course - in today's uncertain economy, it is always good to gain a bit of perspective. Check out and see how you fare against the world. You might not be in as bad shape as you thought.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cheaper Shale Oil

According to this article, new ceramic technology may provide a breakthrough with in situ shale oil development.

The process involves no mining, uses less water than other approaches, and doesn't leave behind man-made mountains of kerogen-sapped shale. And according to a Rand Corporation study, it can also be done at a third of the cost of mining and surface processing. One technical hitch, however, lies with the heater cable employed. The most common cables used today are insulated with a layer of magnesium oxide, which can deform, degrade, and ultimately short out over time under intense heat, constant exposure to moisture, and the occasional shifting of rock at great depths. Replacement and maintenance can be costly.

Handling such extremes requires "a combination of properties not currently available on the market," says Joe Culver, an official with the Department of Energy (DOE), which considers oil shale vital to America's energy security. In Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah alone, deposits equate to more than 800 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Composite Technology Development of Lafayette, CO, set out to tackle the cable insulation challenge using a woven ceramic-fiber tape that gets wrapped around copper wiring. The ceramic insulation is a composite material that consists of ceramic fibers and an inorganic ceramic matrix that binds the fibers together. "It's our secret sauce," says executive vice president Mike Tupper, explaining that the fibers can also come braided or in the form of cloth, depending on the application.
Of course, this would not be a good development with respect to carbon emissions. However, from a EROEI, as well as certain environmental concerns (water, subsidence, mining residues), it seems to be quite promising. And domestic energy production is quite good for many geopolitical concerns, the US current account deficit, and the economy as a whole.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

King of the Bulls

It seems that uber-ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff had something of a bull fetish. Authorities have been seizing his ill-gotten assets from around the globe, and most of the boats are named "Bull", or a derivative thereof.

"I've never seen so much bull in my life," Deputy U.S. Marshal Barry Golden said shortly after entering the house. "Pictures of bulls, bull statues, even bulls on clothing. There's a lot of bull in the house."

The bull theme even extended to the boats seized earlier Wednesday. A 55-foot yacht moored at a Fort Lauderdale marina is named Bull. A 24-foot speedboat taken from a warehouse in Palm City is named Little Bull.

Yeah, that's me taking the bull by the horns, it's how I like to run my business. It's a metaphor.
But that actually happened though.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

News Flash!

Hey folks, a new study shows cutting down on sugary drinks is a way to lose weight!

Consumption of liquid calories from beverages has increased in parallel with the obesity epidemic. Earlier studies by Bloomberg School researchers project that 75 percent of U.S. adults could be overweight or obese by 2015 and have linked the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to the obesity epidemic, which affects two-thirds of adults and increases the risk for adverse health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Researchers recommend limited liquid calorie intake among adults and to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption as a means to accomplish weight loss or avoid excess weight gain.
I've also heard that expending more calories than you consume will do the same thing.

Other sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Manning the Barricades

A special report (pdf) from the Economist Intelligence Unit examines the increased possibility for unrest due to the global economic crisis. Manning the Barricades lists three main risk scenarios, with rough probabilities of occurrence:

1. Central Forecast - 60%

Government stimulus stabilises the global financial system and restores economic growth in leading developed markets during 2010, albeit at lower levels than in recent years. This scenario underpins our regular analysis and is
not the subject of this report.
2. Main Risk - 30%
Stimulus fails, leading to continued asset price deflation and sustained contraction in the leading economies-a depression persisting for some years. The stubborn decline in global economic activity is punctuated by occasional rallies that are taken as signs of recovery, but these quickly fade as the underlying downward trend reasserts itself. The prominent role of governments in propping up banks and reviving domestic demand leads to strong political pressure for protectionism, effectively putting the process of globalisation into reverse.
3. Alternative Risk - 10%
Failing confidence in the dollar leads to its collapse, and the search for alternative safe-havens proves fruitless. Economic upheaval sharply raises the risk of social unrest and violent protest.
Luckily, the most probable outcome is the one where everything turns out for the best, but the two negative outcomes still make up a 40% share. In Hold'em parlance, that's like A10 vs. KQ - not exactly a match up on which you'd like to stake your tournament life.

Social unrest has already begun to increase in some parts of the world and the economic conditions that are driving it seem to show little sign of relenting. This unrest can lead to calls for protectionist economic moves, civil disobedience, or outright regime change.

While one might think of such problems being relegated to the third world, there certainly exists the possibility for upheaval in our neighborhood. Certainly the potential for Mexico to collapse under the weight of narco-violence is a sobering prospect, especially for border states. We don't even have to look beyond our borders, however, to be faced with the possibility for trouble.

According to their rankings, the US falls in the "moderate" category, placing 110th out of 165. Very concerning to me is the fact that we are tied with Iceland. While social discontent may not have reached a fever pitch yet, it does not take too much imagination to envision a scenario that would result in violent mass protests if the economy worsens. Any more miscues with executive bonuses and financial bailouts while millions are out of work and hungry could quickly spread into dangerous populist anger. And beyond social discontent, the report lists three other forms of political risks:
  • threats to democracy over and above outbreaks of political unrest;
  • a negative impact on economic policies and longer-term potential growth rates—in particular, there is a risk of a descent into protectionism;
  • a host of geopolitical risks, including ultimately the outbreak of large-scale international conflicts
It can be argued that several of these risks have already started to be realized. While the final wording was softened, "Buy American" provisions in the stimulus package brought calls of protectionism from around the world. A spat over Mexican truck driver privileges brought retaliation tariffs on American goods.

As for threats to democracy, dire financial situations have the possibility to allow government to take unprecedented steps many times at odds with the Constitution. The ramifications of historic levels of government control into private businesses have yet to be fully understood. In the name of expediency, due process can become a casualty.

And perhaps most frightening of all, geopolitical conflict is always a possibility when you owe certain (sometimes unfriendly) nations trillions of dollars and - for one reason or another - decide you cannot or will not pay up. Or perhaps you decide to repay them in currency that has been purposefully devalued after being asked several times nicely to not do such a thing. War can also be a handy way for politicians to divert the attention of an angry populace looking for a scapegoat and an outlet for aggression. They have certainly been started for less.