Where the soldiers are

EJ Dionne’s Memorial Day column today was about the need to actually remember what the holiday is for.  I’m sympathetic, but it does seem like every year we’re barraged with columns, editorials, etc., telling us to remember what the holiday is for.  Of course, if they really wanted to not have Memorial Day be the unofficial start of summer and all that entails, they could just move it.  In fact, I think most all our holidays are taken over by consumerism, etc., rather than remember what the holiday is for.

Okay, that out of the way, I found this particularly bit pretty interesting:

And, according to a2007 Defense Department report, more than half of our home-based military personnel — 54.5 percent of them — are stationed in only six states: California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Twelve states account for three-quarters of our service members. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a terrible principle when it comes to honoring those who protect us. But is there any doubt that it applies?

If you did this on a per capita basis, surely NC and Virginia would come out on top.  Notable to me, as these are the two states where I have spent the vast majority of my life (32 years in these two, 6 combined in Ohio and Texas).  I’ve never thought too much about it because I’ve pretty much always been around military personnel.  Growing up in Northern VA, I knew lots of people who worked at the Pentagon or similar NoVa environs.  In NC, we’ve got Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune both within a couple of hours, and I’ve seen a fair amount of personnel from there, not to mention a hefty load of future officers in my classes via ROTC.  It’s a common complaint among conservatives that liberals do not respect our military, and although we may complain about particular military missions (e.g., Iraq), I’ve never heard anything but respect for the rank-and-file personnel from my decidedly military colleagues.   On this day, and every day, liberals and conservatives alike, appreciate their service.

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In praise of salt

NYT had a really interesting story yesterday about the role of salt in processed foods (cool slide show, too).  With the FDA looking to place limits on this, the industry has responded with a counter-offensive.  Essentially, if you want your foods without salt, here try this:

As a demonstration, Kellogg prepared some of its biggest sellers with most of the salt removed. The Cheez-It fell apart in surprising ways. The golden yellow hue faded. The crackers became sticky when chewed, and the mash packed onto the teeth. The taste was not merely bland but medicinal.

“I really get the bitter on that,” the company’s spokeswoman, J. Adaire Putnam, said with a wince as she watched Mr. Kepplinger struggle to swallow.

They moved on to Corn Flakes. Without salt the cereal tasted metallic. The Eggo waffles evoked stale straw. The butter flavor in the Keebler Light Buttery Crackers, which have no actual butter, simply disappeared.

There is, of course, no doubt, that salt is a contributing factor to high blood pressure, but it is clearly a complicated relationship as plenty of people with high sodium intake (e.g., me) have perfectly healthy blood pressure and low-sodium diets only have a modest impact on blood pressure.  About.com actually has a nice summary of the warring science on the issue.   The simple truth is salt makes food taste way better.  Maybe some day if I have blood pressure problems, I might worry about it (though, I’m planning on exercise to carry me through), but for now, I’ll stick with my salt.

In a quasi-related note, it reminded me of one of my favorite Malcolm Gladwell column’s ever, about ketchup and the power of Umami (I’m all about MSG ever since).

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