Soluble Fiber

I was just stuffing my face with a crunchy granola bar for a mid-morning blood sugar bump. I noticed that the Nutrition Facts label has an entry for Soluble Fiber. It’s half the total for the Fiber category. That got me thinking. What difference does that make? Are the soluble fibers going to be digested and absorbed as carbs while the others will pass undigested as roughage?

Next I wondered whether chewing had any effect on solubility. I don’t guess so. Chewing won’t cause many changes at the molecular level. Compared to what goes on in the gut, that is.

Finally I wondered at the crunchiness of the granola bar. They also make a chewy variety. It’s amazing to me that these textures can be so important to the experience of eating. I could have pulverized the granola bar and then combined it with my drink to make a paste before eating it. Digestion would have proceeded regardless.

Or would it? Doesn’t the appetizing crunch assist digestion more than merely slurping down a less palatable paste?

Eating is wonderful when you take the time to experience it. Here’s to more of that.

Neoteny is a scam; resist animalistic marketing!

The standard meanings of “neoteny” are

  • the retention of juvenile characteristics in an adult of the species
  • premature reproductive maturity.

I adopt the word because I know no other term for this concept: the appearance of youth, sexuality or novelty applied to a person or thing that lacks those characteristics. A few common examples are

  • face makeup
  • rapidly changing fashion trends
  • logo, label, and web site redesigns
  • irrelevant images of attractive people, children, animals or things.
Lovely but irrelevant photo of young girl smiling
Lovely but irrelevant

Due to the work of Sigmund Freud and his nephew, Edward Bernays, the field of marketing has specialized in controlling your attention by one simple and devious trick: manipulate the subconscious. This is as easy as placing an attractive object next to the product. You buy without knowing how far your decisions are influenced by the fallacies of association by proximity and animal attraction.

Be on the lookout and do not fall for deceptive neoteny in any form. It is a way of taking advantage of your animalism (instinctive behaviors and tendencies you have in common with animals). Do not consider yourself too advanced or enlightened to be so easily manipulated. Vestigial it may be, but you can’t unwire it. Anyone who says you’re above this instinct is getting ready to take advantage of you.

When you notice deceptive, artificial neoteny–you must train yourself and try hard to notice it–count it as a strike. It does not mean they have acted immorally. Still, you must even the score before you can make a fair evaluation. The only way to balance the indelible marks they have made on your subconscious scoreboard is to penalize them consciously.

Gratuitous imagery may be its most obvious incarnation but deceptive neoteny isn’t only about sex. Its other face is novelty. Just as thoughts of sex stimulate changes in your brain chemistry, any unfamiliar visual element can awaken and arouse you. Any novel color, shape, or arrangement has a chance to draw your attention. From neon-colored “Sale!” stickers to actual flashing neon signs to drastic web site redesigns, everything that was once new and exciting becomes old and boring after a while and must be refreshed.

When you see a box on the shelf touting its new label design, or a web site that brags about its new style, or a clever new commercial, first acknowledge their success in grabbing your attention and tally the penalty. Then ask whether the actual product has been improved, or has the quality or economy of the product actually suffered to accomodate the new design? Are you the type of consumer who would opt to pay extra for your usual brand of soap so the producer could redesign the logo every year?

Invariably, all novel designs in any profit-driven enterprise are aimed at benefiting the producer or publisher. Whether its function is to attract new customers or to affect the behavior of loyal users, its purpose is to increase profit. The question that should be foremost in your mind is whether it benefits you, the customer.

So beware of allegations of freshness. Learn to discriminate between the sexy and the allegedly sexy, the new and the allegedly new, the improved and the allegedly improved. Cultivate suspicion against those who pull the lever of neoteny for they have shown their willingness to lie to you.

None of this is meant to call you a fool, nor to say you should always be jaded. However, if you wish to wear wool over your eyes from time to time, at least you can know about it.

Disclosure: It should be plain that the message above in no way works to my personal advantage. However, you can choose to advantage me financially by shopping at Amazon after following this link to my favorite detergent. [sexy photo goes here]

The Case of the Surfacing Effluent

We bought an old house in the country in 2009. The septic system was so old that no documents could be found describing the locations of its underground components. A professional inspector found one small tank and assumed that the drain field must be close by in the general direction of the outlet pipe. The system passed a flow test which the bank found reassuring enough that they issued us a mortgage to buy the house.

Recently we noticed a small puddle near the septic tank. This was surfacing effluent. Effluent–the watery discharge that normally flows from the tank into the drain field for natural purification by the soil–had stopped flowing through the underground pipes and found its way to the surface.

Yesterday we had the septic company come out to pump the tank so we could begin working on the problem. The technician found a surprise. The inspector had gotten it wrong. The tank he found was only the first of two. The effluent had been coming up through a gap in the lid of the second tank which was set slightly lower than the first.

We still don’t know what is causing the stoppage. It could be a collapsed line, some other kind of blockage in the pipes such as tree roots, or the soil may be suffering from reduced hydraulic capacity for any number of reasons. Not only is the cause a mystery but we don’t even know where the drain field is. I suspected there might be one about 60 feet away where two or three strips of grass thrived even during last year’s drought. However, that area was not in the direction that the outlet pointed. I decided to dig in and see what I could find before asking for professional help. Here is the hole I dug:

pipes
Septic pipes

Of interest are the terra cotta fitting, the gaps and loose joints, and the 90ยบ elbow. (Incidentally, near the surface in the corner of the hole I found a dented wheel hub. I have no intention of moving it. Knowing this property, it would not surprise me to find it attached to a complete automobile buried upside-down.) The elbow turns the flow in the direction of the grassy patch, suggesting that our drain field actually is all the way out there.

After all of that digging by hand, I threw up my hands and called the professionals back. Tomorrow we should have a digging crew to unearth and inspect enough of the line to confirm the cause of the problem. If we get our wish, they’ll be able to fix it on sight and leave us with a reasonable bill. We really don’t want to pay for a new drain field or anything more major than a bit of digging and 4″ PVC.

Wish us luck.

How to Read Tech News

News should be read with global context and broad perspective. When you blend Techmeme headlines with Voice Of America it’s hard to get so excited about rounded corners and iPads. Try it:

Techmeme & Voice Of America

Too often we configure our news experience to focus on the safe and the comfortable. Blinders are fine until you forget that you put them on yourself. Remember to take them off sometimes and look around.