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March 27, 2008

Orange juice

Jugo de naranja
I love orange juice. And, what red-blooded, healthy American doesn't?

There's a problem with loving orange juice in America, though: we have awful oranges!

I just came across a BBC article (warning: it's from 2006) about Brazil's orange trade, and it rekindled my desire for really good orange juice. The people in Florida and other southern states may think they know how to grow oranges and make amazing juice, but when compared with Brazilian orange growers, those southerners certainly have a lot to learn.

About this time last year, I spent two weeks in Buenos Aires and drank, quite literally, gallons of orange juice and grapefruit juice that had been produced in Brazil and other places in South America. Normally, I wouldn't quite drink gallons of the stuff in two weeks, but it was just incredible! The flavors were so strong and sweet that, when I returned to Pittsburgh, fruit juice tasted like little more than water.

The difference wasn't just in the strength of the juice. It was an all-around different taste, and if the boxes of orange juice hadn't been labeled jugo de naranja and stamped with pictures of oranges, I may have never realized I was drinking something that came from what we Americans naively call an orange.

I have searched for juice from Brazilian fruits in grocery stores across the northeastern United States since my orange juice revelation, but I have come up dry, empty-handed, and decidedly unjuiced. Where do I find this life-giving nectar?

March 17, 2008

S&P 500 Racing Away

The S&P 500 Index follows 500 well-capitalized stocks around the world, and the chart above shows its performance over the last three years. I added the white lines and the blue line.

We are in a recession. This isn't a correction anymore, and I decided so around the time represented by the blue line. If it were a correction, the S&P would have bounced off that lower white line and continued along its merry way, between the white lines. It tried, but it failed.

The white lines represent the borders of a "channel" the S&P index has been following for several years, and just as the index was above the channel for a while, I believe it will now be below the channel for a while.

I've been suggesting to friends and family over the past six months that they should sell their broader-based investments (like S&P 500 mutual funds, blue chip portfolios, and so forth), and I hope they've listened.

Some economic pundits were caught saying just last week that the sub-prime crisis is over. However, just this past weekend, J. P. Morgan bailed Bear Stearns out of an almost-inevitable bankruptcy, following the collapse of even more of its sub-prime investments. Ah, Bear Stearns, that well-respected Wall Street powerhouse, profitable every year since its inception in 1923 and with a stock price of $160 a year ago, finally bought by a rival at a scant $2 per share.

It's not over! I wonder who's next?

March 12, 2008

Figs and Bananas

Helen and I were wondering about the comprehensive nutritional value of figs last night, so I decided to do a little research. I used the USDA's nifty nutrient database, which includes everything from fruit and vegetables to Burger King hamburgers (but not Twinkies, apparently).

While looking at information on the fig, I noticed it was remarkably similar to the banana. Which is neat, since I'm allergic to the pesticides used on bananas and can therefore only eat organic bananas, and organic bananas are difficult to find in New Jersey. Super Stop & Shop in Clifton, however, carries organic figs. But not organic bananas.

So, here's my basic analysis of the nutritional content of figs and bananas, normalized by making the mass of the two imaginary samples equal at 100 g. This seems to be about two-and-a-half small figs or a small-to-medium banana.

Energy (kcal)7489
Protein (g)0.751.09
Fat (g)0.300.33
Carbohydrates (g)19.1822.84
Fiber (g)2.92.6
Calcium (mg)355
Iron (mg)0.370.26
Magnesium (mg)1727
Potassium (mg)232358
Vitamin C (mg)2.08.7
Beta Carotene (μg)8526
Alpha Carotene (μg)025

OK, so they're not that similar, now that I'm looking at them side-by-side, but the potassium amounts compare pretty well in terms of the number of figs (seven or eight) versus the number of bananas (maybe two?) I'm willing to eat in a single sitting.

March 10, 2008

Road Safety Checkpoint

Today, Newark's finest have implemented a road safety checkpoint on the street below my apartment. Ostensibly, it's there to check for seat-belts and inspection stickers, but I wonder what else they do?

The officer apparently asks some percentage of drivers to pull over to the side of the road and submit to a quick "safety" inspection of their vehicle. However, I've seen a few cars and a utility van towed already.

I found a Road Block Registry for New Jersey on the web, but it mainly seems like a bunch of complainers. I'd probably complain, too, if I were delayed by a checkpoint on my way to work or I thought I were being racially profiled by the police. Unfortunately, I was unable to briefly locate any other substantial web-based documentation of these checkpoints.

At any rate, I took some pictures. Enjoy.

Road Safety Checkpoint, Newark, NJ. Click to enlarge