Food activists vs. farmed fish: who’s right? Reply

My go-to meal when dining out is broiled salmon with a side of rice and some veggies.  Add a glass of pinot noir, and I’ve got a healthful and tasty meal.

The food activists, however, are eager to tell me that I am overloading on PCB’s, mercury, and antibiotics, particularly if – as is usually the case – the fish was raised in a tank or a pen rather than caught in the open ocean.  Farmed salmon is one of those food commodities that the food busybodies love to hate.

“Wild-caught” is as important to fish, in their view, as “organic” is to any terrestrial food.

Farmed or wild-caught?

Farmed or wild-caught?

Farm-raised fish is evil as far as Mike Adams, a.k.a. “The Health Ranger,” and numerous bloggers are concerned.

“Fish farming (is) killing off native species; boycott farmed salmon before it’s too late!” screams a post on Adams’ website.

Too late.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, about two-thirds of the salmon eaten by Americans every year is farm-raised.  Most of it is imported from Norway, Chile, or Canada.

Science, fortunately, has debunked the scare stories about farmed salmon.  Harvard professors have estimated that that the health benefits of eating salmon far outweigh any risk from PCB contamination, for example.  EPA, FDA and the Institute of Medicine have all found the risk from mercury in fish is so hard to pin down that they can’t recommend any limits on seafood consumption by adults.

But there is always the hipster appeal of paying more for wild-caught.  It makes the buyer feel good and it tastes better, right?

“Mud” – Huck Finn meets modern Southern gothic Reply

When a couple of 14-year-old Arkansas boys find a cabin cruiser fifteen feet up in a tree on an island in the Mississippi River, you can tell we’ve entered Huckleberry Finn territory, where freedom and truth are on the river, while violence and betrayal are on the land.  Just to make it clear, the title character – “Mud,” played by Matthew McConaughey —  is a superstitious man with a cross pattern in a boot heel – just like Huck Finn’s father.

Matthew McConaughey with young helpers

Matthew McConaughey with young helpers

McConaughey is on the run after having gunned down the man who beat up his sometime girlfriend, Juniper,  played by Reese Witherspoon, who is much better as a tramp than she is in her usual ingénue roles.  The police are looking for Mud, but he has little to fear from them.  His problem is with his victim’s father and brother and hirelings, who are out to kill him.

The boys who encounter him on the island are played quite brilliantly by Tye Sheridan as Ellis and Jacob Lofland as Neckbone, or Nick.  Tye is the more romantic and Nick the more level-headed, and both are utterly believable as boys who have already seen too much of life and are struggling to make sense of it.

They do their best to help Mud escape the island and reconcile with Juniper, but reality intrudes and their lives are in jeopardy until a mysterious neighbor sets things right with a sniper rifle.  There is no Southern Gothic without sudden and explosive violence.

The cast is wonderful, with Joe Don Baker as the revenge-seeking patriarch and Sam Shepard as the neighborhood sharpshooter. The film belongs to McConaughey, who demonstrates that he can thoroughly inhabit a character.  But it wouldn’t be a coming-of-age film without Sheridan and Lofland, who see more of life in a few weeks than most people see in their whole lives.

The film would have benefited from some editing – Ellis’s infatuation with older girl takes up too much time – and the ending is pat, but the story is well-told and the acting is well worth watching. McConaughey has been on a tear lately to prove that he is more than a hunk and an action hero, and “Mud” serves that purpose admirably.


Surprises in the Washington Post Reply

Everything is seemingly spinning out of control at The Washington Post.  I am dizzy from reading Wednesday’s paper (4/17/2013).  Can’t believe it. In foreign news, and on the front page no less, is an article stating that national regulation of the economy in France is out of control.  Why, the article even cites criticism of the Precautionary Principle, the rule which basically states that you can’t do anything for the first time.  It is used to stifle innovation in Europe and is a cardinal principle of the reactionary left.  To see it cavalierly dismissed in the Washington Post is quite a shock.

Even more astounding is a column by Courtland Milloy, who is sort of a race columnist — he nearly always writes about racial issues.  Guess what — he is against what the Obama Administration is trying to do with gun control.  Go after the criminals with guns and leave the rest of us alone, he says.  Not what you expect to hear from an urban liberal, but there it it.  I don’t even care that much about guns (never had one), but I am amazed. (There is also a rather distinct note of disdain for Barack Obama. Milloy definitely thinks for himself.)

Here are the links if you are interested:

“France drowning in rules and regulations, critics say,” by Edward Cody,

“False hope and folly in gun control,” by Courtland Milloy,

Fellow citizens but not neighbors Reply

washington_post_logoThe Washington Post has a way of printing absolutely preposterous statements as if they were unquestionably true. A good example was in the paper March 27, 2013. The article contrasted attitudes towards the federal budget sequester in two Virginia jurisdictions — Hanover County and the City of Portsmouth. The article noted that these units are 90 miles apart but nonetheless treated them as if they were close neighbors, heightening the supposed contrasts in public opinion. But why “neighbors?” Because, by a miracle of gerrymandering, they are in adjacent Congressional districts. The paper printed my letter of protest on April 6 (online April 5):

Letter to the Editor

Fellow-citizens of Virginia, yes; neighbors, no

Published: April 5, 2013 (in the Washington Post dated April 6, 2013, page A11)

Regarding The Post’s attempt to contrast two Virginia communities in the March 27 front-page headline, “2 Va. districts miles apart on budget fight; Sequester shakes a military town, while rural neighbors believe it’s just lies and hype”:


The conversation on Arlington Boulevard Reply

odometer 99000No, officer, of course I wasn’t texting.  I would never do such a dangerous and trivial thing while driving.  Actually, I was taking a picture of my odometer when it hit 99,000.  Yes, that’s why I needed the map light.  Had to throw some light on the subject.  Well, thank you, the car has held up very well — a 2004 Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7.  Very reliable.  Well, really, I was stopped at a traffic light.  Didn’t hit anybody. Not like those crazy texters.  All I had to do was hold the iPhone very steady on the steering column.  No, I won’t do it again.  Thank you kindly. (Fortunately an imaginary conversation.  But I had to capture the moment. Just in case I miss 99,999.)

“Greedy Lying Bastards:” global warming agitprop Reply

“Greedy Lying Bastards” is an indignant protest against the fact that the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, has funded organizations and campaigns that have denied the existence of global warming or minimized its impact. The producer/narrator/star, Craig Scott Rosebraugh, was known in the 1990s as a spokesperson for the eco-terrorist Earth Liberation Front, and brings his unhinged sense of environmental righteousness to this piece of agitprop.

According to Rosebraugh and some of the experts he presents, global warming is affecting our daily weather right now, leading to wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding. Judging from the film, the only dissenters from this view are various charlatans and villains in the pay of the oil companies.  Naturally, George W. Bush and Justice Clarence Thomas are also key members of the cabal.

Rosebraugh spends most of his time and effort chasing every public relations ploy ever launched by the energy sector.  What he doesn’t do is attempt to provide any answer to the industry’s basic argument: that a serious attempt to reduce carbon emissions, by the degree needed actually to slow, halt or reverse the warming trend, would cripple our energy-dependent economy and slash the standard of living that modern society has come to expect.  Greenpeace might not give a hoot if this happens, but millions of other people would surely object.  To this rather obvious concern, Rosebraugh has no answer and seems oblivious to the question.

The film runs about an hour and a half but seems longer because it keeps pounding away at the same simplistic theme, making for a repititious and tedious experience.  It also asks the audience to be concerned about remote threats such as erosion in Alaska and flooding in Tuvalu. The latter consists of low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean which may be getting flooded by melting polar ice caps, or may be just sinking into the ocean, as islands are wont to do.

Alternative explanations are not allowed in Rosebraugh’s world, however. He is sort of a Michael Moore without the roguish charm, just an ideologue with a camera.  I was one of seven persons in the theater on a Sunday night, and one guy left early.  Rosebraugh’s partner is the onetime actress Daryl Hannah, who knows something about the oceans, having played a mermaid. Unlike Hannah’s movie, Rosebraugh’s is unlikely to make much of a splash.


This is an article I wrote in August 2007 about the baseball steroids scandal. It seems relevant again in light of the refusal of the Base Ball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to vote any of the sluggers of the Steroid Era into the Hall of Fame:

Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post seems to be deeply conflicted about Barry Bonds and his steroid-tainted home run record. In a column yesterday, he suggested that no one can guess how much the drugs affected his performance. In fact, an educated guess can be made. Here is my letter to Mr. Wilbon:

Dear Mr. Wilbon: I think I can provide an answer, or at least a logical guess, to your questions about the impact of steroids on Barry Bonds’ home run performance. I am not an expert, and the “sabremetrics” people who study these things closely would no doubt have more precise estimates, but mine are based on the very interesting chart published Thursday on page E12 of the Post, so they must be right.

Look at it this way: Hank Aaron was a very consistent performer, hitting between 24 and 47 home runs in nearly every year of his career. If you average his entire career, you get 33 home runs per year (755 divided by 23 years). If you drop his rookie year and the last three years of his career, when he was obviously declining, you get a very impressive average of 37 home runs per year.

Bonds was also very consistent in his peak years. If you drop his rookie year and average the years from 1987 through 1999, you get 33 home runs per year. Why stop at 1999? Because most people think he started with the drugs in 2000, when his home run production suddenly surged to 49, as a prelude to the incredible total of 73 in 2001.

In other words, in “normal” years, Bonds was about four runs per year behind Aaron. If you assume that his drug years were 2000-2004, when he hit more home runs than all but one of his non-drug years, he hit 258 home runs in those years, an average of 52 per year, 19 more than his average for his peak period. Therefore, the drugs were worth at least 95 home runs (19 times five). More…

“Les Miserables” the movie – the power of love Reply

Les Miz poster
“Les Miserables” – the book, the show, the movie – is about the redemptive power of forgiveness, love, and commitment. If you think all that stuff is just bunk, then see something else this holiday season. But if you are ready for an operatic epic with an emotional punch, then the movie “Miz” should be on your must-see list.

Well-acted and well-sung, with camera work ranging from wide-screen spectacle to close-up moments of poignancy, “Les Miz” is a tour de force in the fine art of bringing theatrical spectaculars to the screen.  Musicals are hard to film, modern operas almost impossible, but director Tom Hooper pulls it off with style.

The cast is anchored by Hugh Jackman, every inch the leading man as Jean Valjean; Russell Crowe as the relentless Inspector Javert; and Anne Hathaway as the victimized factory worker Fantine, whose slide into desperate poverty provides the story’s emotional core.


“Skyfall:” The Bond brand continues Reply

“Skyfall,” the latest entry in the long-running James Bond franchise, is less about action and suspense than about the Bond brand itself. The film serves to assure an anxious world that our hero, played by Daniel Craig, will continue to battle evildoers.

From the lengthy opening credits, enlivened by an original song by Adele, to the aging Bond’s flinty promise to return to duty, the film is mostly a series of gunfights in exotic locales punctuated by nerdy excursions into cyber security. It seems that someone has stolen a list of NATO intelligence operatives, a list the British were not supposed to have. “M,” the security chief played by Judi Dench, will go to any lengths to get it back.

Bond takes a bullet intended for his adversary in a lengthy fistfight, but movies being what they are, makes a miraculous recovery and returns to work. Dench uses him to track down the bad guy who has the list, who is clearly a turncoat with inside knowledge of MI6 and its cyber-security. A harsh judgment M made many years before comes back to haunt her.

Unable to rely on high tech, Bond reverts to the old ways, using shotguns and booby traps to battle the villains armed with automatic weapons. Fortunately he has his machine-gun-equipped Aston-Martin from the old days to even the odds somewhat.

A chief interest in a Bond film is watching the exotic locales, in this one Shanghai and Macau. (It’s amazing what a Komodo dragon can do to a bad guy without a gun.) From those high-rise, ultra-modern cities, the action shifts to London’s underground, where the subway system and Winston Churchill’s wartime bunker provide a cramped, subterranean setting for further shootouts, until the scene shifts to a bleak landscape in Scotland. It seems that Bond grew up in the boondocks.

The film is one or two shootouts too long and lacks any real tension among the main characters. Dench is getting too old for her role, and Bond’s implied romantic attraction to the agent named Eve is unconvincing.

But the franchise rolls on. The closing credits explicitly mention the 50th anniversary of the franchise, launched in 1962 with Sean Connery in the lead. Words on the screen assure us there will be another Bond film. As if there was any doubt.

Lobb Family Christmas Letter 2012 Reply

Christmas tree 2012 for FB

Dear friend:

Happy holidays! Just thought we’d bring you up to date on the Lobbs of Virginia.

Richard (Dick) started a new job in February as managing director of the Council for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C., helping spread the word about genetically engineered crops. Still in the food and agriculture world and still dealing with things that are a wee bit controversial!

Susan left Sunrise and is fulltime at home, keeping up with her friends here and around the world.

Bud is still with Legal and General of America and was featured in a recent company video for his knack with bowties (inside joke). Bud moved back to the family home recently while he looks for a new living situation. We’re delighted to have him back for awhile.

Matthew is in the city of Ha’il, Saudi Arabia, teaching English to students at the university there. This follows up his previous stint in Spain. He says that so far everything is going well. We Skype with him periodically and it sounds like he is enjoying this line of work.

Conor is 18 and is in his senior year at W.T. Woodson High School. He’s busy filing college applications. He’s also working at Lifetime Fitness in Fairfax in the daycare center for children of members and also supervises birthday parties. Conor received his Eagle Scout award from Troop 681 in Falls Church, which means that all three Lobb boys are Eagle Scouts. Conor and Richard took part in the last activity of the Hawks Patrol, a backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park, as all the boys are aging out of Scouting. (And the dads aren’t getting any younger either!)

We’d love to hear from folks! Friend us on Facebook at


The Lobbs

The Electrical College Reply

As everyone knows, we do not elect the president by a vote of the people but by a unique American institution called the Electrical College. It gets its name from the fact that it decides who gets power. Every now and then, however, it gives the country a big shock. This results from short circuits in the political wiring. All attempts to reform the Electrical College have failed because of disagreements over whether we should have AC or DC. The result is inertia, eventually leading to entropy and decay. No one seems too concerned about this.

Eagle Scout Conor Lobb Reply

Conor with finished shed

Conor, who stands 6’4″, with the finished wood drying shed at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Va. The roof is clear plastic.

The Lobb boys are a grand slam for Eagle Scout with confirmation that Conor, age 17, made it. His older brothers Bud and Matthew are also Eagles. Conor has enjoyed Scouting with Troop 681, Falls Church, Va., including a trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and a 50-miler on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. His Eagle project was the demolition of a wood drying shed at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Va., and construction of a bigger shed. This allows the park to harvest downed wood, dry it, and use it for furniture and other useful projects rather than chipping it or letting it rot.
Conor will age out of Boy Scouts in October but hopes to continue in Scouting in a Venture group.