MORE SHORT RANTS ON ALL SUBJECTS

part twenty-two

REVELATION

Revelation is the most read book in the Bible because people think it contains mystical secrets.

Of course, if somebody wanted to conceal mystical secrets, why would they put them in a book and call it Revelation? That would be like a pirate burying his treasure on an island and then naming the place Buried Treasure Chest Island. Personally I'd name some other island Buried Treasure Chest Island and bury my treasure on Boring and Uncomfortable Island.

Therefore I think it's likely that the Book of Revelation is all hooey, and the great mystical secrets of the Bible are in Leviticus, the most boring, repetitive and hard-to-read book of the Bible.

REMOVING THE TOASTED PLASTIC PET-HAIR SMELL

If you're the kind of person who buys your clothes at thrift shops, you might be familiar with the smell of toasted plastic pet hair. "This is a great shirt, but people think I've been playing with a wet dog."

I don't know what process they use to infuse all their furniture, bedding and clothing with this plasticky funk that signals your poverty, but try removing it this way: Put a cup of epsom salts in a tub of water and soak the offending garment overnight.

For non-clothing items, grate an onion into a bowl of water and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Then use the water to wipe down items of metal, glass, tile or plastic. This works faster, and unlike epsom salts it works well on plastic; but then you just replaced the blue funk smell with the smell of onions.

RTJ -- 9/5/07

STATE LOTTERY

I saw Lt. Governor Bill Halter on the TV pushing his plan for a state lottery. He says 50% of the income will go to fund scholarships for Arkansas students to attend Arkansas colleges. 45% will go to payouts, leaving 5% for administration fees.

Anybody who is dumb enough to bet on a game with a 45% payout isn't going to be gettng one of those scholarships.

Also, the state shouldn't be encouraging people to gamble. If the state wants to make money from gambling it should do so through licensing and regulation.

Mr. Halter notes that Arkansas is 49th in college degrees per capita. To remedy that, he's going to take the revenues from the stupidest gamblers and educate one of our smartest kids in, for instance, aeronautical engineering. When that kid graduates, he's going to take his education and get a high-paying job in Arizona and spend the rest of his life paying taxes in that state, leaving us with less money and the same problem.

If you want to spend that money on a way that will improve our tax base, work from the bottom up. Round up some of these unemployables and teach them rudimentary job skills. Teach them how to show up on time and sober. Teach them how to fill out a time card. Teach them how an assembly line works. Teach them how to run a forklift. Teach them how to alphabetize a parts list. Teach them how to add a column of numbers. When a company considers locating a factory in Arkansas, they're not hoping to find a bunch of aeronautical engineers ready to work. They're hoping to find people that they don't have to train in all these simple job skills.

RTJ -- 9/30/07

LOOKEE HERE AT MY FINGERNAILS

For as long as I can remember I've had little white flecks within my fingernails. Over the years I've heard from time to time that they are due to a shortage of calcium in the diet. Fine, says I, I'll just eat a lot of foods high in calcium and get rid of those white fingernail specks.

I tried every kind of dairy that I could find, from the hardest parmesan cheese to raw goat's milk. I tried dissolving egg shells in vinegar and then drinking the vinegar. Also tried a daily dose of Tums. Then I went to the vitamin store for calcium pills. Nothing worked. The little white flecks endured.

I'm sure the folks at my local market wondered where I put all the dairy and why I didn't weigh 300 pounds and had I ever eaten a salad. I was in there twice a week picking up a pound of butter, a pound of cheese, two half-pints of half-and-half and a half gallon or more of unhomogenized creamline milk. I guess it's my Visigoth/Saxon metabolism that allowed me do put up with a diet like that. Over the course of a year I ate enough butter to saute a mammoth, and somehow the fat burned off or slipped on through.

But the little white fingernail flecks were not affected.

I googled the subject and after reading the top ten articles found that real doctors with actual medical degrees attribute those marks to all kinds of things, physical trauma, mental stress, shortages of calcium, iron, zinc and exposure to pickles, of all things.

So I go back to the store to pick up some iron and zinc and give them a try. No good. I'm pounding down so much iron and zinc that when I sit on the toilet it sounds like a hardware clerk counting bolts in a washtub. I try other things in their turn. I first went through the list of supplements mentioned in the articles. Then I started just randomly picking things off the shelf, things associated with skin, for example. Vitamin E. Lecithin. So on. Then I went back to get a refill of potassium and accidentally picked up magensium. A lot of these mineral supplements get combined into one pill for no better reason than it's easy to do, and they're right there next to each other on the shelf. Through inattention I had grabbed the one that had magensium alone.

I got them home, realized my mistake and figured what the heck, it's only three bucks for three hundred tabs, I'll go ahead and eat them.

So I did. Not all at once. One or two a day.

And it worked.

Those white specks were gone as soon as the current crop grew out, and they haven't come back, not on my fngernails and not neither on my toenails, too. There's no doubt that the magnesium did the trick. It was the only thing I was trying at the time, and the specks stopped appearing the day I took the first tablet.

So here's the big question. In all the web articles I read, why was a magnesium deficiency not mentioned as a possible cause of these white specks? They shot all around it, didn't they? They proposed calcium, zinc, iron supplements and others, but no mention of the one that worked. If there's anybody doing research in this area, and they're trying all these other dietary minerals, wouldn't you think they'd try something as cheap and readily available as magnesium?

RTJ -- 10/05/2007

OOPS

I just checked the bottle, and it turns out there is zinc in the tablets. The zinc just wasn't as prominent as the word magnesium on the label. Sorry. My bad. Sooooo I can't say for sure it was the magnesium and not the zinc that fixed my fingernail flecks, even though I had taken zinc without magnesium earlier and nothing had happened. Maybe these two have to be taken together to be effective. It's also possible that the zinc in these tablets just completed the job I had begun when I took zinc alone. I have a really strong inclination to believe it was the magnesium that did the trick, but I can't rule out the zinc.

In any case, those white flecks disappeared suddenly and completely after being with me for as long as I can remember.

RTJ -- 10/05/2007

BILL CLINTON: GIVING

Bill Clinton has written a new book about how great it is for people to give money to charities.

He notes that there are twice as many charitable foundations in America today as there were ten years ago. He cites this as evidence of the benevolent nature of the American people and our desire to make things better.

Mr. Clinton is a glass-half-full kind of guy, and I don't think it's surprising that his point of view is that charitable foundations are an unequivocal good. After all, he's at the center of a charitable foundation and he spends his life going from one fundraiser to the next. A guy who spends his life soliciting and accepting cash gifts is unlikely to say there's anything wrong with giving money away.

On the other hand, many charities exists because a problem exists. If there were no AIDS, there would be no AIDS Foundation. If there was no illiteracy, there would be no charities trying to remedy illiteracy. If there are twice as many charities, that just signals to me that our society is failing to address twice as many problems through normal means like commerce, churches, government or schools.

Another question: When was the last time you heard of a charity closing down because it accomplished its stated goals?

When I was in college, 30 years ago, my fraternity used to raise money for some Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. The story was that a cure was just a few years away if only there was enough money to research exciting new developments in the field. That was the story every year on St. Patrick's Day when we went out soliciting spare change. We are thiiiiiiiis close to a cure.

Here we are thirty years later and we're hearing the same story. Embryonic stem cell research is the miracle that's going to do the trick this time. I believe you. Rilly Ah duz. The great thing about middle age is you don't get excited about the fake promises any more.

Speaking of embryonic stem cell research, here's a prediction. If Hillary becomes president and the floodgates are opened for research on new embryonic stem cell lines, those stem cells will be weaponized before they lead to any cures.

RTJ-10/08/2007

THE HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE SMELL

One day I decided to live a year without phosphates. I don't want to distract the reader with a long description of how I came to this decision. I just want to report the results. Assume I had a good reason.

It's just about impossible to do, by the way. There's phosphate in nearly everything you touch. The clothes on your back and the sheets on your bed are encrusted with phosphate residue from laundry detergents. You sleep with your face right in a pillowcase loaded with these chemicals. It's in your carpet. It's clinging to your plates and flatware from your dishwashing detergent. It's in your pancake mix and it's in the syrup you pour on your pancakes. Just about anything in the store that's in a bottle or box will contain phosphates.

I ended up compromising just so I could live in the modern world. I replaced all the laundry detergent, carpet cleaner and dishwashing compounds with soap. Real soap. Good enough for grandma is good enough for me. Detergent is made from phosphate salts. Soap is made from fats and oils. They're not the same thing at all. Second, I cut out soda pop altogether. Third, whatever processed foods I bought I tried to find options which contained no phosphates. I eventually went back to drinking soda after the initial cold turkey phase.

The first change I noticed was that after a couple of weeks I didn't care for the smell of detergent. When I took some winter clothes out of storage, the smell of the detergent hit me full in the face and I wondered how I could have walked around smelling like that.

And in fact my sense of smell did change in other ways, too. Not that I became a bloodhound X-man or anything. Certain smells that used to seem pleasant now seem kind of unpleasant or are not really prominent. Other smells I've never noticed have come to the fore.

My sense of taste has changed as well. Before the experiment I used to be able to drink tabasco from a shot glass. I had a superhuman tolerance for hot peppers.

Not any more. I still enjoy some hot peppers on a sandwich; but if I try to show off the way I used to, my eyes will water and my scalp will sweat.

LEVITICUS

I wrote earlier that I expected to find some outrageous secret thing in the book of Leviticus. Well, guess what! Here's something I'll bet you didn't learn in Sunday school. Leviticus 27:29 mentions human sacrifice practiced routinely by the ancient Jews. If I have misread this passage, somebody send me an email and set me straight.

RTJ -- 10/20/07

MORE ON LEVITICUS

Leviticus is a manual of operations for the Levites, a tribe of Jews whose job it was to do the grunt work in the temple, ushering people from point to point, cleaning up, that kind of stuff. It's just an instruction book for the daily procedures in the temple. The Levites aren't with us any more. They got lost in the diaspora. Local newspaper editor Paul Greenberg once claimed in his column to be from the tribe of Levi, but he is mistaken. His claims to be a Levite are no more credible than mine to be a Visigoth.

Aaaaaaanyway.... In this set of instructions there's a set of do's and don'ts, and one of the don'ts seems pretty trivial, yet it's repeated more than any other prohibition.

Leviticus prohibits the following burnt offerings: 1)Yeast. 2)Leavened bread. 3) Honey. 4)Anything made with yeast.

From my experience as a home brewer I know that you'll always find yeast in raw honey, so these four burnt offering prohibitions are actually one in the same, namely, yeast.

You can offer leavened bread or honey or wine as a first fruits offering or any other kind of offering so long as it isn't burned on the altar; so the problem is not the yeast, it's the burning yeast or the smell of burning yeast or the ashes of burnt yeast that somehow unravelled the knitting of the priests and pharisees.

Leviticus really bears down on the point. Over and over and over again. Grain burnt offerings must be made without yeast. Without yeast. And did I mention by the way nothing with yeast may be burnt on the altar? The instructions for passover sacrifices appear exactly once in Leviticus. The prohibition on toasted yeast is all over the book.

If I'm reading an instruction manual and something gets repeated like this, I have to assume it's more important than it might appear at first flush. Then I think of any of Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners episode... "Whatever you do, Norton, don't pull the red lever. You can pull the green lever or the blue lever, but under no circumstances do you pull the red lever. Got that? You don't pull the red lever."

So I put a skillet on medium heat and tossed in a packet of yeast. I wanted to see what it was that the priests and pharisees found so offensive or distracting or troublesome. After all, you get burnt yeast every time you burn a piece of toast in your kitchen. How bad could it be?

I didn't find it unpleasant at all. In a few minutes wisps of smoke appeared and the yeast started to darken. Keep the yeast moving or it'll stick to the pan. The whole house was filled with the smell of toast, like a giant communal breakfast. The breakfasty aroma put me in a pleasant nostalgia and I felt kind of light and bouncy and generally relaxed and happy. It didn't get me high or anything, it's just that the experience was pleasant.

Waste not want not. When the yeast got to the color of milk chocolate I sprinkled it on a scoop of ice cream, and that was good, too.

I thought the experiment was over, but as I went through my daily routine I thought I noticed people trying to brush past me, getting in my way, invading my space, getting a little too close. Then I realized all that roasted yeast smell had infused into my clothes. Whenever anybody got a whiff of that communal breakfast smell, they had the same light, bouncy reaction I had earlier experienced. Unknowingly I was walking around spreading that feeling because the aroma was in my clothes.

I've tried the experiment a couple of times since then, and I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining that people stand closer to me when I have that toasted yeast smell in my clothes. It's such a subtle smell that I doubt if anybody is really aware of it, but there seems to be some recognition that they feel instantly better. Subconsciously they pick up on the smell of toast and think of hearth and home.

Still, that doesn't explain why it bugs the priests and pharisees so much. Maybe roasted yeast is the formula for kryptonite.

P.S. -- If you try the same experiment with honey, make cleanup easy by putting some aluminum foil in the bottom of the skillet to burn the honey on. I didn't get much out of burning the honey, and I'm guessing that to roast five grams of yeast you'd have to burn twenty pounds of honey. But the prohibition on burning honey on the altar would just emphasize how little yeast would have to be burned to interrupt the functions of the Temple.

RTJ-11/09/2007

HOME REMEDY FOR BUG BITE

I don't know what this thing is. When I looked in the mirror I caught one sucking blood out of my neck.

It's shaped something like a boll weevil and it's about the size of a pea. It's legs are thread thin. It's hard to believe they'll even support the body. The feet are comically large for the legs, like a skinny guy wearing sneakers. The antennae extend directly forward and are bent upward at right angles so it looks like it's wearing spectacles.

When you slap it, and you will, you'll first be surprised at how much of your blood is in it. You'll also note that it disentigrates almost completely, which is why I had to be bitten so many times before I could ID the thing. It's very fragile. The bite raises a knot the size of a piece of buckshot under the skin, and it will persist, growing gradually smaller, for several weeks. While the swelling persists you'll be uncomfortable and edgy.

I was bit by dozens of these things over the years before I caught one in the act and got a good look at it. Here's what I learned, through trial and error and much personal discomfort, to do about it.

Moisten the pad of a band-aid and sprinkle it with saltpetre. Put that over the bite and the knot will go away in a few days instead of a few weeks.

RTJ-11/09/2007

ALA

Do not confuse alpha linoleic acid with alpha lipoic acid.

Lately I've been seeing ads on TV, usually for margarine or some other processed oil derivitave, in which a selling point is that the goo has been fortified with "ALA -- alpha linoleic acid." I looked up some internet articles on this, and while it is an essential fatty acid, you can do yourself some harm with it if you load up on it. If you eat anything at all made with vegetable oil you probably get as much as you need.

The advertisers might be trying to take advantage of the similarity of this name with alpha lipoic acid, which is much more expensive has a reputation as a teriffic antioxidant, and you're much less likely to hurt yourself with. They could fortify their product with alpha lipoic acid, but alpha linoleic acid (basically linseed oil) is way cheaper.

If you want to get alpha lipoic acid in your diet, eat red meat. I like the cheap cuts in the front half of the cow. For what you pay for a bottle of ALA (alpha lipoic acid) you can get a ton of stew meat, and probably about as much active ingredient. From what I've read it's possible to do yourself some harm by self-medicating with big doses of alpha linoleic acid from linseed oil.

Don't take my word for it. I'm not a doctor or dietician. Check it out for yourself. Don't let those swifty advertisers confuse you, though. There are two things abbreviated ALA and they are not the same.

RTJ-11/09/2007

IMPROVE YOUR COFFEE

When you get your paper coffee filters home from the store, throw them in the clothes dryer and tumble them on the high setting. Sometimes a batch will pick up oils and solvents either from the packaging or manufacturing process. If you've got a bad batch the smell will be pretty obvious in the exhaust of your dryer. You can discard the bad filters or just keep tumbling them until the smell goes away. With coffee as expensive as it is, there's no sense in drinking a bad pot if you don't have to.

If you do find a batch of coffee filters contaminated with volatile oils, you'll have to assume that similar volitile stuff might be riding into your house on any package you bring home from the store, since all packaging machinery and shipping and sorting equipment and procedures are basically the same.

Also, don't stand in the dryer exhaust if you're cleaning a contaminated batch. The smell will stick for hours and for some reason dogs will bark at you, causing people to think you're up to no good.

And while you're playing Junior Scientist with the clothes dryer, take the cash from your wallet and give it a tumble on high heat. Does it give off any smell? It's a product that's manufactured, transported and distributed like anything else in the store, so there's every opportunity to pick up contaminants. Do you realize you're carrying that around with you all day every day? You can get rid of that smell by stuffing the bills in a funnel and pouring boiling water over them. The smell can be overwhelming, so do this over the sink with the water running, the windows open and the attic fan on. Dry the bills in the clothes dryer.

RTJ-11/27/2007

MORE BIBLE FUN

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Even so, sometimes you need a polite way to shut down a passive-aggressive loudmouth before he starts a fight.

The next time some yankee makes the wrong number of jokes about inbred southerners, you might casually mention Exodus 6:20 in which a man named Amram marries his own aunt and has two inbred sons, Moses and Aaron. That's not to be an endorsement of inbreeding, but some people might find in the reference enough reason to change the subject. Some people who eagerly insult hillbillies will balk if it looks like their next joke on the subject might apply to Moses.

RTJ-12/2/2007

Want to argue about it? Send me mail.


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