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Friday, July 15, 2011


Had this one running for a few weeks and decided to check out the results.

Very astonishing - you can get a true pulse over what is leading to those charges you see on the PG&E bill. A single unit, can be rotated around the house and identify 'culprits'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wood pulp in your diet?

Did you know that you have been eating a lot of wood pulp lately?
Read on...

15 Food Companies That Serve You 'Wood'

Stock quotes in this article:PEP, K, WTW, GIS, MCD, SLE, YUM, JACK, KFT, WEN, SONC, DOLE, NSRGY.PK  
( Wood pulp, or cellulose, in processed food report updated with the addition of Pepsi, Kellogg and Weight Watchers International.)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Are you getting what you pay for on your plate?

The recent class-action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell raised questions about the quality of food many Americans eat each day.
Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you're actually paying for -- and consuming -- may be surprising.

Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA, which regulates most food industry products. The government agency sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption. The USDA, which regulates meats, has set a limit of 3.5% on the use of cellulose, since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally.

"As commodity prices continue to rally and the cost of imported materials impacts earnings, we expect to see increasing use of surrogate products within food items. Cellulose is certainly in higher demand and we expect this to continue," Michael A. Yoshikami, chief investment strategist at YCMNet Advisors, told TheStreet.
Manufacturers use cellulose in food as an extender, providing structure and reducing breakage, said Dan Inman, director of research and development at J. Rettenmaier USA, a company that supplies "organic" cellulose fibers for use in a variety of processed foods and meats meant for human and pet consumption, as well as for plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products.
Cellulose adds fiber to the food, which is good for people who do not get the recommended daily intake of fiber in their diets, Inman said. It also extends the shelf life of processed foods. Plus, cellulose's water-absorbing properties can mimic fat, he said, allowing consumers to reduce their fat intake.
Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper, he added, because "the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients in the [food] product."
Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry who spoke with TheStreet on the condition of anonymity. 

Inman said that in his 30 years in the food science business, he's seen "an amazing leap in terms of the applications of cellulose fiber and what you can do with it." He said powdered cellulose has a bad reputation but that more of his customers are converting from things like oat or sugar cane fibers to cellulose because it is "snow white in color, bland and easy to work with."

Most surprising, said Inman, is that he's been able to remove as much as 50% of the fat from some cookies, biscuits, cakes and brownies by replacing it with powdered cellulose -- but still end up with a very similar product in terms of taste and appearance.
"We're only limited by our own imagination," Inman told TheStreet. "I would never have dreamed I could successfully put 18% fiber in a loaf of bread two years ago."
He said cellulose is common in processed foods, often labeled as reduced-fat or high-fiber -- products like breads, pancakes, crackers, pizza crusts, muffins, scrambled eggs, mashed potato mixes, and even cheesecake. Inman himself keeps a box of Wheat Thins Fiber Selects crackers, manufactured by Kraft Foods(KFT_)' Nabisco brand, at his desk, and snacks on them daily, clearly unmoved by the use of wood pulp in its ingredients.
"Most consumers would be shocked to find these types of filler products are used as substitutes for items that they believe are more pure," Yoshikami said. "We would expect increased disclosure to follow increased use of cellulose and other filler products as the practice increases in frequency."
To that end, TheStreet rounded up a list of popular foods that use cellulose. It's by no means an exhaustive list, and we suggest consumers read food labels carefully. Still, click through the slideshow to find out if your favorite foods contain the "all-natural" wood pulp...
(Please note the following lists are not exhaustive. Some companies list all ingredients on their Web sites. Other items were found in a local grocery store near TheStreet's headquarters on Wall Street in New York City.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

California FasTrak - from Costco

Ever been stuck in the toll lane with no cash?
Well, it is time you got yourself FasTrak.
Costco has an excellent deal - where you are paid $15 (effectively) to get one.
Absolute no brainer.
The reason I got this?
I was actually stuck in a toll lane with no cash. The toll both agent took my information down and I got a notice a month later for a $25 fine + the $5 toll. But guess what, getting a FasTrak would nullify the fine, as long as I used it to pay for the $5 deficit.
I got one quickly at Costco. Spent $30 and got a $45 FasTrak.
Have you seen a Win-Win situation as good as this? 

With all good things in life though, there is a price to pay (see below)

FasTrak toll system exposed, could use a serious dose of security

Ah, Black Hat. How we adore you. Each year there's always one speaker who shows up and completely undermines something that most people assume is rock solid. This year, our pals at Hack-A-Day were in attendance to hear Nate Lawson expose California's FasTrak toll system for the security hole that it is. Essentially, toll transponders that are purchased and slapped onto vehicles offer up exactly no authentication, meaning that anyone with an ill will and an RFID reader could wander through a parking lot and lift all sorts of useful information. Think it can't get worse? The transponders reportedly support "unauthenticated over the air upgrading," which means that each tag could be forced to take on a new ID if the right equipment was present. We don't have to spell out "potential disaster" for you, now do we?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Google +Project - A project indeed!

Google comes back with ver2 or ver3 of their experiment in social media.
Orkut and Buzz, being the flops they were, Google of course does not want to give up.
This one is turning out to be a project indeed, but you need an invite into this project.
The differentiation seems like a sweet spot they have hit upon.
Facebook treats all your friends in one big bucket, not much transparency.
Google is seeking to provide you the ability to create smaller groups, and this new foray is designed around that.
Want to get in early? Have someone on the inside send you an invite....(hint hint)