You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for August, 2004.


August 10th, 2004

Stevia deserves more attention in the U.S. It is an herb native to Paraguay and is the sweetest known natural substance. It is 100-200 times sweeter than refined cane sugar, so it is used in very small amounts. Because it is used in such small amounts, stevia is virtually non-caloric. It also has a glycemic index of 0.

It has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years by South Americans, and in 1941, it was used by the British when sugar supplies were scarce. It’s safe, and is approved for use as a sweetener by 14 countries worldwide. In Japan, stevia makes up 50% of the market for sugar alternatives. Furthermore, recent tests in Canada (I can’t find a link for this, but it was reported in Technology Review 1995, volume 98) suggest that stevia would thrive in North America, and that it is particularly well-suited to tobacco growing regions — this means that stevia could someday be an alternative crop to tobacco.

However, it’s not approved for use as a sweetener in the U.S. In the United States, stevia has alternately been treated as an innocuous herb, a health food supplement, and a controlled substance. Currently, the FDA allows it to be marketed as a nutritional supplement, but manufacturers cannot claim that it is a sweetener.

If you are looking for an alternative to sugar, consider stevia — I’m sold on it. I prefer it to the chemically derived or genetically altered alternatives, some of which have serious side-effects. I haven’t tried cooking with it yet, though I plan to. I’ve used it mainly to sweeten drinks like tea or coffee, and to take the bite out of plain yogurt.

We are all on Melange Now

August 9th, 2004

So many people are taking Prozac in the UK that unmetabolized Prozac has been found in the drinking water. I would be willing to bet that similar results would be found in certain areas of the U.S.

If I want to take antidepressants, I’ll got to the doctor and get a prescription. I don’t want to unsuspectingly take them — no matter how diluted they are — when I drink water from the tap.


August 3rd, 2004

A few months ago, I was visiting my parents. There was some discussion on the national news about a new terror alert, and one of the folks (I forget which) asked me how I felt about living in a terrorist target (the DC area) and how I responded to such alerts.

I answered the question by yelling. Not at my parents, but out of anger and frustration — I ignore the terror alerts as much as I possibly can because they never contain any useful information or suggestions for how I should change my behavior. Just “be on alert” and “report suspicious activity.” That’s not helpful! A large truck was parked in the parking lot outside my apartment this morning — is that suspicious? or is it just that one of my neighbors is moving? Who can tell? The whole thing pisses me right off.

So when I heard about the latest terror alert, I did my best to ignore it. But I was unnerved by how similar the alert sounded to the 9-11 attacks. A financial insituttion might be targeted? Gee, that sounds serious, and plausible to boot. I didn’t do anything about this alert, but I found it harder to ignore than the others.

And then I wake up this morning and learn that the information is 3-4 years old. Gee. No wonder it sounded plausible — it’s already happened.

Like Medley, I’m not foolish enough to believe that there will never be another terrorist attack. I feel pretty confident that there will be one. But I refuse to be afraid of the monster in the closet, and I refuse to let bullies scare me out of my lunch money (or my vote) with stories about the monsters.


August 3rd, 2004

13 cars of a train carrying sugar derailed in North Carolina on Saturday. No one was hurt, and the accident isn’t causing any traffic problems.

Cleanup is underway. I really want to know how they clean up 13 train cars worth of sugar — a giant vaccum? shovels? backhoes? an army of sweettooths (or should that be “sweetteeth”?)?