What the meaning of “is” is
We have, sadly reached the point where you must conduct some level of due diligence on everything. This is because people tell you things, and you make assumptions about what they mean, without verifying your assumptions. Let us give you some examples.
Investment Grade Securities
Part of our current financial problems (which largely can be attributed to greed and stupidity) were caused by giving investment grade (AAA) ratings to securities which, at best, were crap. While we have discussed the problems with rating agencies in these pages, the fact is that if you are investing, you had best know what you are investing in, and make an informed decision as to whether the investment makes sense. If mortgage backed securities are paying some given percentage, and an AAA rated CSO or CDO is paying significantly more, you should both understand what a CSO and CDO are, and why it could be paying more (higher risk), and whether or not you really believe it is investment grade. If you don’t understand swaps and derivatives – and most investors don’t – then they are probably not a good investment choice for you.
A study by Newcastle University and the Danish Institute of Agricultural Research, published in the British Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, which analyzed produce from 25 farms, found that organic milk contained 67 per cent more antioxidants and vitamins than ordinary milk. Scientists at Newcastle University also found organic milk contained 60 per cent more of a healthy fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA9, which tests have shown can shrink tumors.
Similar levels of vaccenic acid, which has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, were also found. Organic milk contained 39 per cent more of the fatty acid Omega-3, which has been shown to cut the risk of heart disease, and 32 per cent the levels of the less healthy Omega-6. Oddly, the benefit of this study was not that it confirmed the benefits of organic milk, but that it gives hints as to what to study about feed during non-grazing season.
So does this mean that you should buy organic milk? Well, it depends what you mean by organic. When most of us think of organic we think no antibiotics or hormones and no pesticides, and cattle allowed to graze naturally, as intended by Muktar, the cow God, but according to a sign we saw in a farmer’s market, the USDA has changed the rules and calls a diet half of silage grass fed. And Wal-Mart is selling organic milk. Their milk is made from largely non-grazing corn fed cattle, barn raised. While organic by their definition, the resulting milk was deemed by Whole Foods to be “unacceptable” and “not up to our standards.”
So if you want organic food, you have to dig a bit deeper to find out what the producer means when they say “organic.”
Can you hear me now?
A year ago we had the misfortune to end up inNew YorkPresbyterianHospital, where we spent, off an on, about twenty weeks, with more to come. Putting aside the whole annoying life-threatening disease thing, it immediately became clear that there was no usable T-Mobile reception. This is not to say that there was no signal: Indeed, the signal would bounce back and forth from full to none, so that you could not reliable make or receive a call, nor even send a text message on the first try.
Now, we don’t claim to know a lot about GSM technology. On the other hand, for quite a number of years we did the daily intel report first for OmniPoint, then for VoiceStream, then for T-Mobile, and have learned at least something about the technology. So we called tech support and told them they seemed to have an antenna balancing issue. They said the problem was that the electrical discharges of the hospital interrupted the signal. This might have seemed reasonable if we knew a little less, or if we ignored all the ATT, Sprint, and Verizon users chatting away,
Were-the T-Mobile support people deliberately lying? No. They were simply reading a script, and there was too much inertia to bounce it up the tech-support food chain. Had that happened, a technician would have eventually been dispatched and the problem resolved. As it was, the situation balanced itself by hospital employees using other service providers, and at least one long-term patient switching providers.
When you have reception problems in a place that is important to you, you may well get an unsatisfactory technical explanation, and have to switch service provider until you find one that gives you coverage in the places where you need it.
Read the Label
We have a confession to make: We love sweets. On the one hand, this is not really a problem because we largely prepare our own meals, and rarely have fast or convenience food. On the other hand, we know that sugar is bad for us. A compelling case can be made that heart disease in theUnited States was an outcome of the introduction of massive amounts of sugar into our diet with the introduction of Coca Cola. When you add in the cost of obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases, the health care costs associated with sugar consumption are enormous, second only to those associated with smoking.
But what if you don’t cook for yourself, and instead, as with smoking, choose to self-select consuming fast foods and convenience foods? The U. S. Department of Agriculture recommends that a person who consumes a 2,000 calorie diet should not consume more than about 40 grams of refined sugar per day, while others recommend consuming no more than 20 grams of refined sugar daily. The following shows the sugar content for a twelve ounce can of various sodas:
- · 7Up = 39 grams
- · Coca-Cola Classic = 39 grams
- · Dr Pepper = 40 grams
- · Minute Maid Orange Soda = 48 grams
- · Mountain Dew = 46 grams
- · Pepsi = 41 grams
- · Sprite = 38 grams
While a simple solution is to stop drinking soda and stop eating food with added sugar, eliminating sugar requires careful scrutiny of labels. As an example, someone recently brought us what they thought was Ruby Red grapefruit juice. The label announced that the first ingredient was filtered water and the second was high fructose corn syrup.
While we expect sugar in sodas and deserts, the same holds true for virtually every food, because so many foods contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Buying peanut butter? You can get Smuckers peanut butter (peanuts, salt, 210 calories, 1 gram sugar) or Jif, which is also made by Smuckers, (peanuts and sugar. contains 2 percent or less of: molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono- and diglycerides and salt, 190 calories, 3 grams sugar). It is a safe guess that your pre-diabetic tyke will prefer the sweeter Jif. Making your kid a bologna sandwich? 4 grams sugar. Quarter Pounder with cheese? 9 grams sugar.
The bottom line is that in every aspect of our lives we make assumptions, some of which are correct, and some of which are not. We need to more actively verify these assumptions.