Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why microwave popcorn is bad for you... or processed foods in general

See below an article on what microwave popcorn is made of. The usual reaction would be for consumers to protest, and when the protests become loud enough, the companies announce that they have removed ingredient XYZ from the popcorn. Of course, there are other ingredients that are probably even more harmful in there, and others will be added. A lot of these ingredients don't even have to be reported since they are "under" some prescribed limit.

Ever wondered how the processed food that you buy from supermarket shelves is so convenient? It does not spoil. It has a delightful shape and color. It has wonderful aroma. It is addictive - you can say that from experience, and you will be right; since food "scientists" are constantly tweaking the ingredients to make it more addictive.

All processed foods have a high amount of salt in them, and it is not even the right kind of salt. They have enormous amounts of sugar (yes, even those foods that sometimes may not taste sweet), and then again the wrong kinds of sugar like 'high fructose corn syrup'. The oil they use is in several cases not what you would want to use at home. If someone objects to "trans fats" in the food, be sure they will substitute it with something equally horrible.  

And let us not even get started on the kind of 'additives' and 'preservatives' that go into the making of any processed food. That is the subject of one whole book by itself.

The processed foods are made by large corporations. For those of you who have worked for large corporations, the routine would be familiar. There will be metrics on "cost"; and there will be innovation awards for those who give suggestions to reduce the cost of the product. Result? Inferior ingredients, substitution of ingredients, etc. Also, you need all the food to be consistent - so the raw materials themselves are highly processed in the first place.

And then the marketing department takes over. They will come up with slogans like "Eat healthy, think healthier", "Tanduristi ka raksha karta hai Hamara corn", "For healthy, bonny babies, use xxx breakfast cereals" and so on; all the while with pictures of beaming, healthy families dancing to a catchy jingle. Of course, if there is one thing I learnt in my MBA it was that there need not be any connection between product attributes and 'positioning'. Be sure that if anyone has to advertise a food as healthy, it is likely to be unhealthy.

Given below is an article on microwave popcorn, but the conclusion should hardly be 'not to eat microwave popcorn'. Not to eat processed foods is a better conclusion, and one that will save you enormous amount of damage to your health. And that includes all food that comes from 'food factories', including breakfast cereals, white bread, biscuits, ready to eat foods, cool drinks, two-minute cookery miracles, in short, most things that are likely to be forming a part of your shopping cart today.

I am not talking about the attributes of good food out here. There is a lot of traditional wisdom on what foods are good, what are to be restricted, etc. but the one thing traditional wisdom assumes is that the food is natural to start with. So if traditional wisdom says that 'fruit juice' is good, it does not mean the fruit juice that you get in a tetrapack, with all the goodness taken out of it. It means freshly squeezed juice to be had within minutes of extraction.

I can hear you mutter "not practical - which world is this fellow coming from?". That is actually a commentary on the general state of life today, which is pretty sad, if you come to think about it.

article on microwave popcorn (it is a forward )

Microwave Popcorn

It's probably not something you think about every day, whether or not the foods you are eating could contain carcinogens, but with almost 1.5 million people diagnosed with some type of cancer just last year, perhaps it's time to look at what is in our foods that could be causing such a huge number of new cancer patients. Here is a list of the top 10 foods that you most likely consume every day that may contain carcinogens or be suspected of causing cancer.
Those little bags of popcorn are so convenient to just stick in the microwave, you wouldn't think for a minute that they could be dangerous to your health, but they are. First, let's talk about the bag itself. Proved by Wikipedia, conventional microwave popcorn bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid ( PFOA). This is a toxin you can find in Teflon also. According to a recent study at the University of California, PFOA is linked to infertility in women. Numerous studies in lab animals and humans show that exposure to PFOA significantly increases the risk of kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas and testicular cancers. You can read more about this substance and the above mentioned studies at
Now, let's talk about the contents. Although every manufacturer uses slightly different ingredients, most of them use soybean oil (a GMO product) as well as various preservatives such as propyl gallate, a chemical that is causes stomach problems and skin rashes. Now they don't actually say they are using GMO corn kernels, but that's because the government says they don't have to. Even if they don't use GMO corn, you can bet they aren't using organic corn!
Also, applied to the popcorn itself, is a chemical called diacetyl. Use of this chemical caused Conagra Foods to remove it from their brand of popcorn, ACT, because it was causing lung diseases in the workers at their factory.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AAP: The conqueror rides in!

A new force has risen in the Land,
Riding on the wave of Victory!
Crushing the Lotus, sweeping the Hand,
Waving their brooms in ecstasy!

The citizens opened the gates
To let in the winds of change.
Come, see the riders marching in,
and cheer for them, while you may!

For soon, they will settle to rule;
All thrones are a seat of thorns!
It's easier to take, than to hold;
The joy of victory doesn't last!

The Emperor fumes in his palace,
For he has been called to account.
How long will the people revolt?
And rulers: They have to govern!

He will plot to strike from within;
Sow dissent in the upstart's camp!
He will lay a siege from without,
Starve the people who threw him out!

The upstart meanwhile has his plans,
Readying to sweep across the land;
Carrying his broom as his banner,
He will seek to conquer, and expand!

His forces will be stretched too thin,
His courtiers will soon become fat.
It will start eating from within:
The same enemies he fought to win!

He wants to grow, but he has to hold.
Can he be careful, as well as bold?
The Emperor will try to buy him out,
and corrupt him, within and without!

And then a kind of peace will settle,
As they negotiate and come to terms;
Carve the kingdom amongst themselves,
And both, eat merrily off the Land!


Meanwhile, a Prince sulks in his tent,
Cradled in widowed queen's arms,
While Emperor fights the upstart,
Sucking his thumb, ruing lost chance!

Dinesh Gopalan
11 February, 2015

What passes for news analysis!

Yesterday's News Item in TOI headlined "Fear of AAP win drags sensex down by 491 points": 

An extract from that artilcle:

Market players are not very comfortable with AAP's socialist bent of mind and their opposition to some of the large business houses. They feel if AAP comes to power, that may be detrimental to growth of some of the businesses and hence the jittery reaction of market players to exit poll results predicting a win for the party led by Arvind Kejriwal

Today's news item in TOI headlined "Sensex swings [up] 600 points on AAP wave:

An extract from that article:

Market players said since the traders had already discounted an AAP win after exit poll results, the actual event did not push them into any panic mode. On the positive side, most brokers and analysts said that such a thumping win for a new party fighting against corruption and for development at the grassroots will keep the BJP-led government on its toes. The main challenge for the Modi government now, market players said, is the revival of the investment cycle while for Arvind Kejriwal, it is delivery on his promises. 

What passes for "analysis" in the news is mostly rubbish. Lazy journalist has fact (e.g. Dhoni hits a century). Lazy journalist can't just report that, so he looks for reason.  His investigations show that Dhoni had Paratha for dinner yesterday, and that  WAGs were allowed on this tour. So the headline says "Dhoni returns to form..." and it is attributed to Parathas and the wife. If he had got out for a duck, the report says "Dhoni's form has deteriorated..." due to Parathas and wife... Experts in nutrition point out that Parathas being a high carb, low protein diet, are detrimental to sports performance... sports psychologists we spoke to are of the view that taking wives along on the tour is very bad for the player's morale and ego, since during a game he needs to think he is a world beater and can take on anything, whereas, as all men know, no one is a worse critic of the man than the wife; this results in low self-esteem among the players.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Corporate Speak!

This mail is a good example of how empty jargon has entered the corporate vocabulary. This is especially true of corporates. 

We have taken every single activity of our work life and reduced it to meaningless bombastic phrases. Finally, whether we actually do the work or not, we keep throwing these phrases to each other at meetings, presentations, communications, and look at each other pompously. Obviously, since what we are doing sounds so important, we must be doing something important.

The bold/underline emphasis has been added by me. In brackets is what I think it actually means.

btw - there are several phrases here which you can borrow for putting into your next presentation.

Dinesh Gopalan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Brijesh Kumar <>
Date: Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 6:40 PM
Subject: Executive level hiring : Business Intelligence COE Leader - Bangalore



Kindly allow me to introduce myself as part of an executive search organization which caters to ample of the Global Trust players spanning the business across geographies and based at Gurgaon. (We are a placement agency based in Gurgaon and recruiting for whoever approaches us)

I would like to share a leadership level opportunity with you for one of our global clients for Bangalore location. Find below the details for the same and let us know your interest exploring the opportunity. (It is a managerial role; let us know if you are interested)


Position Title: Executive - Business Intelligence COE Leader (That is five jargon words in one - must be an important role)


The Executive Business Intelligence (BI) COE Leader will lead strategy, architectural management, technology roadmaps and solution delivery (he will do some work) for Analytics, Big Data, and Business Intelligence (the latest buzzwords; actually he will be collecting some data from various sources and trying to make sense of them) environments for both structured and unstructured data. (don't blame us if the data is not formatted properly; just do something with it)


Essential Functions/Responsibilities:


This role will partner closely (work with) with product and regional CIOs for effective execution (doing some stuff) of their BI programs. In addition, this role will be responsible for setting vision and the use of all Business Intelligence platforms, determining enterprise information and technology needs and defining strategy and implementation needed to achieve those needs. (you have to figure out what needs to be done, and do it) Partnering with the Global Application Management and Support COE (GAMS) (a bunch of people with different agendas will try to stop you but you have to maneuver your way through) this role will improve operational excellence as well as provide architectural support to product and regional CIO teams. (many people will scream at you for everything that goes wrong) The Executive – Business Intelligence COE Leader will report to the Chief Technology Officer.


He / She will also be responsible for:

·         Champion Advanced Analytics, Big Data and BI across the entire ecosystem driving contemporary technology adoption throughout the organization by leveraging excellent communication and change management skills  (you have to bring in change where it is not welcome, across the whole organization, and you will be frustrated in the process)

·         Partner with key stakeholders (no one is a colleague anymore, they are all stakeholders) to align ( a very useful word; everything needs to align) large scale (big mess) project timing, communications strategy, and employee feedback processes with the overall strategy for IT (nothing is actually aligned in our organization; you have to figure it out)

·         Design and implement procedures and controls necessary to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of Advanced Analytics & Business Intelligence programs and reporting to business functions (you have to start from scratch)

·         Provide guidance and direction both within IT and multi-discipline and multi-organizational teams for their Business Intelligence and reporting needs (everyone will be after your life)

·         Drive strategic partnerships with the BI Architects, GAMS, Technology Services organization & Global Operations IT teams to ensure a chain of reliable operational excellence through all phases of a system lifecycle (at every stage and from everyone there will be opposition)

·         Apply advanced technical and program management knowledge and skills in developing solutions or problem solving where complexity, innovation and technical expertise are required (it is going to be very confusing; don't blame us if you don't understand anything

·         Own and drive the roadmaps for Big Data, Analytics, & BI technology via senior leadership reviews (we the bosses will screw your happiness) Blueprint reviews) (we don't want to get into details) as well as evaluate and recommend new or enhanced technologies that could improve our Analytics & Business Intelligence environments

·         Lead and drive(the leader is also the driver - may be instead of drive, we should start saying 'chauffeur', sounds better)  the IT vision and be a key contributor in delivering upon the IT strategic imperatives and priorities  (do what the boss says)

·         Act as a change agent for the organization by leveraging FastWorks practices to maximize results measured by performance and availability, business agility, technology freshness, and cost optimization (brilliant re-usable sentence - can use it in any context)

·         Maximize the effective operation of the Business Intelligence function with respect to work flow, scheduling, staffing, budget, communications, and events (a definite anti-climax; this sentence does not sound so impressive



·         Bachelor's Degree (wow. I thought that description required a BTech; PhD; MBA)

·         Minimum of 8 years IT experience (I really want to read the CEO's job description)

·         An understanding of Business Intelligence fundamentals for structured and unstructured data

·         Proven leadership experience with senior management interaction

·         Excellent communication and change management (CAP) skills, especially with senior executive audiences





Best Regards,


Brijesh Kumar

Sr.Consultant | GreenTree Advisory Services Pvt Ltd | | Handphone: +91 9716933509

    | P Please consider the environment before printing this message . |




Sunday, February 1, 2015

In case any more proof is required...

Just read something in Outlook that I thought I should share (extract attached at the end). 

"Processed foods—fatty, sugary and salty—" are most responsible for plummeting health across the world. And it is not just Obesity - there's a litany of other ailments that processed food causes, and they are all of the long-lasting damage to body variety, not just had-virus-here-today-gone-tomorrow type.

And no, don't delude yourself by thinking that only  "fatty, sugary and salty" processed foods are the culprits. All processed foods are unhealthy and there is  enough real evidence that says so. The reason processed foods are unhealthy is because they are processed in the 'food factories' which take away all the "life force" in any food and replace it with empty calories which actually leach nutrients from the body rather than supply it with nutrients.

The "scientific" types are fond of looking at lists of vitamins and minerals and other constituents - breaking down the food into some known list of ingredients; their solution to the problem will be to replace the "fat, sugar and salt" with substitutes that are zero cholesterol, or zero something else. That's the kind of reasoning that will enable them to come up with gems like 'diet coke' must be healthy because it has zero calories. When it comes to food, "science" is the road to perdition, since it does not even know what to look at.

If this sounds like a diatribe, it is!


(extract from Mexico City Diary by Deepak Sapra in the Outlook issue dated 19 January, 2015)

Thorn in the fat side

Mexico is one of the fattest nations in the world, with a third of its population obese. Many Mexicans love American fast food, and wash it down with drums of Coca-Cola. This led a TV channel to say that Mexicans have speedily transformed their diet from one which has maize and beans to one which bursts at the seams. This impending health disaster has forced the government to introduce a tax on sugary drinks like Coca-Cola in order to cut consumption. The paradox is that these changes in eating habits are driven by low incomes. With high prices of fruits and vegetables, obesity is fast becoming a disease of the poor. Processed foods—fatty, sugary and salty—dominate the platter. Quite a shame, for there's an incredible variety of local food on offer. Traditional Mexican food is healthy, aromatic and enticing. I feasted at a 'Vegetarian Only' Mexican food at a joint in the upscale Palmas area. For dessert, I was given cactus fruit, a Mexican speciality.