Pet Neglect


  • Locking your pet up for hours when you go out. Pet neglect.
  • Putting your pet in a cage. A cage. I mean, a cage. Other than when transporting. Pet neglect.
  • Feeding your pet crap from a bag that says “pet food.” Pet neglect.
  • Surgically removing bones (e.g. declawing*) or beaks or tails or other parts of your pet as a convenience to you or your furniture. Pet neglect. No, this is outright animal abuse. Actually a lot of this is animal abuse.
  • Not taking your pet to the vet who can take care of worms, fleas, and other serious diseases. Pet neglect.
  • Not bathing and grooming your pet. Regularly. Pet neglect.
  • Not giving your pet a chance to engage in its natural behaviors, like mating. Like running (or flying) as fast as it can through an open field with no tether**, as it was designed to do, if it was, say, a dog (or a bird). Pet neglect.
  • If there’s any chance your pet could harm a person (e.g. barking at 1:00 a.m. with neighbors in hearing distance), a person’s property, or another pet, you should train it. If it does cause harm, you should take responsibility for it. If not, pet neglect.
  • Should I even say this one? Having your pet put down if you cannot, or don’t want to care for it. Animal abuse.

* Onychectomy, popularly known as declawing, is an operation to remove an animal’s claws surgically by means of the amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges, or end bones, of the animal’s toes. Although common in North America, declawing is considered an act of animal cruelty in many countries.


Sourdough Bread Starter

Years ago I tried making my own starter by setting out a bowl of flour and water and hoping some wild yeast would alight. I never had much luck, so this time I bought a little ball of live starter. Mail order! From Breadtopia. So far so good.

This comment on Amazon sold me on Breadtopia:

The wet dough sourdough product is excellent. Upon feeding and expanding it woke up very quickly and leavened loafs extremely well. Lots of classic sourdough taste and lots of gas production. But as a university microbiologist, I can’t just try out a sourdough starter. I had to take it to the lab and find out what’s in it. I am happy to report that the starter contains precisely what it should: one species of yeast and one species of lactic acid bacteria. It is a complex task to definitively identify them as the authentic Saccharomyces exiguus and Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, but everything is consistent so far with them being derived from authentic San Francisco sourdough. In particular, as one subcultures them repeatedly, the levels of each stay pretty consistent. This is a hallmark of an authentic sourdough starter pair of microbes. I highly recommend this product.

Personal Choice Is A Myth When The Food Environment Is Toxic

In my mind, “convenient” here refers to access. And access is a whole lot more than, “Do they sell it at my store?” Access refers to being able to afford a food, and being able to prepare it: having the kitchen, appliances and utensils, knowledge, time, ability, transportation, storage. “Access” is a big word. The barriers to access make consumption of a nutritious diet more costly as you move down the socioeconomic ladder.

Alcohol: No More Than 5 Drinks A Week Says New Lancet Study

Here’s the big, new Lancet study on alcohol that is now over a week old so the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can go on promoting drinking too much alcohol which makes the alcohol industry happy.

Risk Thresholds For Alcohol Consumption: Combined Analysis Of Individual-Participant Data For 599,912 Current Drinkers In 83 Prospective Studies, The Lancet, 14 April 2018

They were looking for a threshold, an amount you could drink that wouldn’t cause harm:

Background: Low-risk limits recommended for alcohol consumption vary substantially across different national guidelines. To define thresholds associated with lowest risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, we studied individual-participant data from 599 912 current drinkers without previous cardiovascular disease.

They found that there was no threshold. Alcohol, at any and all intakes, increased risk for disease:

Interpretation: In current drinkers of alcohol in high-income countries, the threshold for lowest risk of all-cause mortality was about 100 g/week. For cardiovascular disease subtypes other than myocardial infarction, there were no clear risk thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with lower disease risk. These data support limits for alcohol consumption that are lower than those recommended in most current guidelines.

They said if you wanted to drink alcohol, the lowest risk (not non-risk) was had from about 100 grams a week or less.

What is 100 grams of alcohol?

  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol is 0.6 ounces or about 17 grams ethanol.
  • 12 ounces of beer at 6% alcohol is 0.72 ounces or about 20 grams ethanol.

100 grams of alcohol works out to about 6, 5-ounce servings of wine a week (about a half cup each, see photo), or 5 glasses of beer a week (12 ounces each).

From the Washington Post:

A sweeping international study of alcohol consumption has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and calls into question the U.S. guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women.

Alcohol consumption, even at that allegedly moderate level, is also associated with a suite of cardiovascular problems, including stroke, aortic aneurysm, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure.

Alcohol consumption is also associated with higher risks of several types of cancer, including breast cancer. The new study confirmed an association between drinking and cancers of the digestive system.

From The Guardian:

Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield said, “This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true.”

Prof Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, called it “a serious wakeup call for many countries.”

In a commentary in the Lancet, Profs Jason Connor and Wayne Hall from the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia, anticipated that the suggestion of lowering recommended drinking limits will come up against opposition.

“The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol. Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate.”

Given the significant association of alcohol to breast cancer (“There is no level of alcohol use that is completely safe in terms of breast cancer.”) and dementia, I’m beginning to see the alcohol industry’s advice to consume their product “in moderation” as misogynistic and ageist. Actually, it’s misandristic too since current US guidelines state that men can drink twice the amount as women. This study found that was not the case. The UK has already changed their guidelines.

If you drink, it’s a good idea to take a “liver holiday” 2 or 3 times a week. Those are days you don’t consume any alcohol at all. That gives your liver and the cells that line your throat, esophagus, and stomach time to heal. It’s also fewer days they are exposed to acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism that’s thought to promote cancer. (See also: “Liver Holiday” May Do Drinkers Some Good“)

No doctor worth their certification should be failing to assess their patient’s alcohol intake.

Study: Drinking Alcohol Every Day Can Shorten Life (Repost)

I’m reposting this from 2014 because I’m reading that new Lancet study which has the new recommendations down to 5 drinks a week, with several days of abstinence between.



The source for this photo,, says that in Japan, drinking can be a social obligation.

Here’s another study that addresses, not just amount of alcohol consumed, but frequency … how many days a week one drinks at all. It’s much bigger than the one I just posted. It analyzed data from 88,746 men and women from Japan and found the same thing, that drinking alcohol every day can shorten life:

Patterns Of Alcohol Drinking And All-Cause Mortality: Results From A Large-Scale Population-Based Cohort Study In Japan, American Journal of Epidemiology, May 2007

The deleterious effects of alcohol seem to be mitigated by abstaining for a few days a week. The Japanese call this a “liver holiday,” which “is considered important for general health and for maintaining the metabolic function of the liver.”

This study defined a heavy drinker as someone who consumed more than 300 grams of ethanol a week. I had to run the numbers to understand that:

  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol is 0.6 ounces or about 17 grams ethanol.
  • 12 ounces of beer at 6% alcohol is 0.72 ounces or about 20 grams ethanol.

300 grams works out to 2.5 glasses of wine a day (a small glass: 5 ounces) or 2 glasses of beer a day (12 ounces). If you drank this amount or more, you were considered a heavy drinker.

However, in the US, a heavy drinker (from the US Cancer Prevention Study) was someone who consumed more than 30 g of alcohol per day, so more than 9 ounces of wine (a little less than 2 glasses) or 1.5 beers.

“The highest hazard ratios [were] observed among those consuming ≥450 g of alcohol 5–7 days per week.”

That about 3.5 small (5oz) glasses of wine or 3 (12oz) beers a day. That was the riskiest.

“The increased risk of all-cause mortality associated with frequency of alcohol intake was seen among heavy drinkers only (≥300 g alcohol/week).”

That’s telling. It says that if you drank less than 2 drinks a day, you didn’t experience increased risk, in this study at least.

This following bit is interesting … The researchers found that most of these alcohol-related deaths were from cancer. What’s the mechanism? The NIH says that the body first…

“… metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. Then, in a second step, acetaldehyde is further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate, which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination.”

So, the more you drink, and the more often you drink, the more you expose your tissues (especially liver, pancreas, and brain) to acetaldehyde, “a known carcinogen.”

I imagine that future guidelines for alcohol consumption in the US will address frequency as well as amount, incorporating “three alcohol-free days a week” into the “1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men” advice. … As long as the wine, beer, and spirits lobbies don’t nip it.

The Pleasure Rationale

Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. I haven’t read it. I think I would like it. While scanning through it on Amazon I saw this.

On page 207 Ehrenreich writes:

I pretty much eat what I want and indulge my vices, from butter to wine. Life is too short to forgo these pleasures, and would be far too long without them.

I hear this a lot. The pleasure rationale. Is life too short to forgo the pleasure of cigarettes with coffee? Of driving a motorcycle or car without a helmet or seat belt? Unprotected sex? A rave without pot and pills? Sugar Pops and whole milk for breakfast? Or maybe an Egg McMuffin? Bacon? Life’s too short!

Maybe this has an age component to it. Ehrenreich is 76. Should we be encouraging young people to indulge their vices?

I agree with her that life is too short not to experience pleasure. But as long as we are able to chose our pleasures, why not chose those that heal instead of those that harm?

Heritage Loaf

This is a 100% whole grain, no-knead bread that I adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe. The consistency is more crumbly, like a quick bread (which uses baking soda instead of yeast to rise). It doesn’t rise much because the lower-gluten rye and corn flours, and all the bran and germ, get in the way of gluten formation. Not much oven spring. But a great-tasting, whole-grain loaf with a bit more character than whole wheat bread. No white flour, no oil. Great toasted.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons maple syrup


Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir maple syrup into water, add to flour mixture, stir until blended. Dough should be sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest about 4 hours at room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Nudge dough onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands and a pastry scraper, knead gently until it forms a ball. This will happen very quickly, 5 or 6 kneads. Don’t overdo it. Place ball onto a piece of parchment, drape with plastic wrap, let rest about 1 hour.

Before the hour is up, place a large, heavy, covered pot (dutch oven) into oven. Preheat oven and pot to 360 degrees. Score the bread. Gently lower bread into hot pot, holding it by the parchment (parchment cooks with bread in pot), and cover. Bake 45 minutes, remove lid, bake another 15 minutes. Remove bread from pot. After a few minutes gently peel away parchment. Cool on a rack.