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I just read Time’s article on the history of Daylight Saving Time and, turns out, what everyone has told me is wrong.

I’d always heard Daylight Savings Time was for the farmers, but they have always been against it! It gave them less time in the morning to harvest crops and get them to market.

It was ‘officially’ done to conserve fuel, but was, in truth, done for baseball, barbecues, shopping, and kids crossing the street. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was a major backer because it would give people more time to shop in the evening. It also provided more time for evening activities, such as baseball which, in 1918, did not have ballpark lights as we have today.

The farmers got it repealed after World War I. However, because New York City, our financial capital, kept it, so did a lot of other cities despite nearby farming towns that didn’t. This meant you didn’t know what time it was since it was a patchwork of time zones.

So President Nixon standardized it in 1966, saying that states, on the whole, had to either opt in or opt out. Arizona said, “It’s hot enough here as it is, we don’t need more time in the sun,” and they opted out.

I just stumbled upon a device that converts tobacco leaves and stems into a juice that saturates paper and is then dried, shredded, and rolled into cigarettes.

I have never smoked, but bias aside, this is more of a how-it’s-made sort of post.

I’m reading, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. The protagonist mentions a poison made from soaking fresh tobacco leaves in water, leaving it in the sun, then evaporating the water, resulting in a poison. Nicotine is toxic in high amounts so I was curious whether this poison is simply condensed nicotine or some other compound in the result.

In researching this process, I stumbled upon a sales sheet for a machine designed to do exactly this. The flyer explains that premium cigarette makers choose the best parts of the tobacco leaves for their cigarettes, resulting in a bunch of left-over scraps like leaves, powder, and stems. These parts still have value because, with this machine, you can mix them with water, basically making tobacco tea, then remove the water until you’ve reached your desired concentration, then spray the solution onto paper where it dries. The paper is then shredded and mixed into cigarettes (the cheap ones, I suppose). The result is a consistent flavor.

A quick jump to Wikipedia shows that this is a common practice with several variations. The reference links on the Wikipedia page are mostly broken, but I don’t doubt the content. It even mentions that, because of these techniques, the amount of tobacco per 1000 cigarettes fell from 2.28 pounds in 1960 to 0.91 pounds in 1999.

I suppose, quality aside, it doesn’t make much difference. Smoking a cigarette includes inhaling burning paper anyway, this just adds a touch more. There a numerous carcinogens in burning wood, so this may add a little to the total carcinogen count since, perhaps, the leaves of a plant don’t contain the same harmful compounds as the wood pulp. But I think we are splitting hairs at this point since it’s not just tobacco juice in the mix here, there are plenty of other harmful chemicals present with effects that are far more severe.

McDonald’s just caught me again, as these fast-food restaurants do on occasion. I was running around between locations for work, needed a quick drive-thru lunch, McDonald’s was on my path and the drive-thru was available.

I intended on grabbing an Egg McMuffin (seemingly healthier) but made the terrible decision to go for the McPick 2 because I realized I could get two McChicken sandwiches for $2. Great! It’d be a cheap lunch, should fill me enough, and I’ll make it healthier by tossing the bun from one and making a double-lettuce-chicken sandwich (hold the mayo).

Within 20 minutes my tongue was burning – yes, that familiar sodium burn I’m feeling more often from these fast-food places. I don’t eat much junk food anymore so I must have an increased sodium sensitivity.

About an hour later, my throat is getting warm, like when a cold is setting in, but I think this was also the sodium and the who-knows-what-else in that sandwich. I also had this weird taste in my mouth which my then-hyperbolic-mind likened the taste to that of sucking on industrial waste.

But, I don’t get any of these effects from my go-to fast-food lunch: Starbucks’ Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap. Why not, how do they compare?

$3.75 Starbucks Spinach & Feta Wrap $2 McDonald’s McChicken (No mayo, 2x lettuce & chicken because I trashed 1 bun)
Sodium: 830mg Sodium: 900mg
Cholesterol: 20mg Cholesterol: 70mg
Calories: 290 Calories: 490
Fat: 10g Fat: 20g
Saturated Fat: 3.5g Saturated Fat: 4.5g
Sugar: 4g Sugar: 5g
Carbs: 33g Carbs: 51g
Protein: 19g Protein: 23g
Iron: 2.5mg Iron: 2.5mg

Clearly, the Starbucks wrap is healthier – but the sodium is about the same! So why is it that I can eat two Spinach & Feta wraps (2x sodium over the McChicken) and not feel the same horrible effects I get from the McChicken?

Let’s look at only the ingredients that you can’t buy in a supermarket…

Ingredients – Starbucks Spinach & Feta Wrap:
Monoglycerides, dextroxse (I assume a typo on their site, should be dextrose), calcium sulfate, calcium propionate, fumaric acid, l-cysteine, fungal amylase, medium chain triglycerides, sulfur dioxide (preservative), potassium sorbate (preservative), sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, enzymes.

Ingredients – McDonald’s McChicken (excluding mayo):
Sodium Phosphates, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Ammonium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, THBQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone), Dimethylpolysiloxane, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), May Contain One or More Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Mono and Diglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzymes, Calcium Peroxide).

McDonald’s certainly wins the creative chemistry contest. Since they both have a bunch of chemicals (I thought Starbucks would be much cleaner than it is), the next step in isolating the mouth burn culprit is to work my way through the chemicals that McChicken uses but Spinach & Feta Wrap doesn’t.

  • Sodium Phosphates: No – lots of side effects, but not tongue-burning.
  • Potassium Chloride: No – But in high quantities can be used to: de-ice your sidewalk, induce heart attack, or extinguish fires and is part of the “three drug cocktail” for executions by lethal injection.
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate: Probably not – Can’t find a good list of side-effects, but Livestrong says it can help you develop osteoporosis and Wikipedia says it helps remove hair, feathers, and skin cells left over from slaughtering pigs and chickens.
  • Ammonium Bicarbonate: Probably not – Seems safe to eat (but not inhale), no mention of mouth burning, but interesting that it used to be made from reindeer antlers.
  • Monocalcium Phosphate: No – Common baking ingredient.
  • THBQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone): No, but this is not healthy and it’s hard to find a website that doesn’t tell you to avoid it.
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane: No – But with a couple other additives, it can bounce and lift the comics out of newspaper.
  • Ammonium Sulfate: I don’t know, hard to find info on this one.
  • And then “Dough Conditioners” that McChicken may contain one or more of – No.

So I really don’t know why the McChicken made me feel like chemical garbage. Maybe it was a combination of the ingredients or the way they are applied to the food. It may still be sodium, but it’s better mixed into the wrap’s ingredients so less comes in direct contact with my tongue. Either way, I’ve learned that the Starbucks wrap is not nearly as healthy as I had assumed while McDonald’s uses a bunch of chemicals that experts recommend you don’t eat.

Bottom line: Put in the effort to grocery shop and pack a lunch.

Update: January 29, 2016

I think I see what’s happening. On the McChicken, the chicken patty has salt mixed with the reformed meat and is coated in that salted breading. On the Starbucks wrap, most of the salt is contained in the spinach/feta mixture, which is wrapped by the egg white wrapped by the bread. I normally eat it pretty quickly so the salt pocked remains contained.

To test this theory, I ordered 2 wraps (doubling the sodium of the McChicken) and thoroughly chewed each. I noticed how much saltier it tasted, validating the salt in the center theory. Sure enough, I had that same mouth burn from the sodium as I received from the McChicken (and Jack in the Box tacos, Taco Bell Crunch Wraps, etc).

I have my answer. By improving the quality of my diet, I’ve become more sensitive to the effects of junk food. Even though a Starbucks Spinach & Feta Wrap appears to be a smart choice for a fast-food lunch, it isn’t.

I’m watching Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episode with Steve Martin. They’re talking about their early days of stand-up…

Jerry: I think the most amazing thing about you is the bits that you did are sitting on this mountain of confidence. There’s nothing harder than performing with that level of confidence.
Steve: Well, when I first started, I decided to fake confidence. Because I thought it was important that they sensed that I believed. If I was the slightest bit nervous about something, they could smell it. Then they would become judges. But if I was confident, it’s like, “I don’t care what you think.” That worked. “I don’t care what you think.”
Jerry: But, even to fake it, it’s no different from having real confidence.
Both: Hahaha

So, why not get into the “I don’t care what you think” mindset?

It seems like that will, 1) Silence the clutter of the opinions that don’t matter anyway and 2) Turn criticism into data you can use for improvement. Since you don’t care what they think, you’re emotionally disconnected from their opinions which allows you to only pull the useful data from their opinions to use in your own improvement.

You can simultaneously respect others and ignore their opinions. If you are controlled by the opinions of others, you’ll be paralyzed since rather than a unified opinion, there is often a conglomeration of conflicting opinions. Try to please everyone, no one will be happy – including you.

In the end, Steve and Jerry make perfect sense. A confident person won’t be held back by what other think and neither will someone faking it with Steve’s technique, they are one and the same.

I just completed my first 24-hour fast. Hold the applause, that’s basically just skipping 2 meals. You eat dinner, skip breakfast and lunch, then eat a slightly later dinner. But I’m planning on doing this once a week.

Yesterday, I listened to the recent Tim Ferriss Show episode on New Year’s Resolutions where fasting became a topic. That episode echoed back to his interview with Dom D’Agostino on ketosis.

The health benefits seem to be there, so I’ll start doing it. What are those health benefits? Eh, I’m actually too fuzzy on the details to comfortably write about it, that’ll be for another time. But it was no big deal and it went like this…

I ate dinner yesterday, went to bed, had black coffee for breakfast, water, water, water throughout the day, coffee for lunch, water, water, water, got home late from work and ate dinner.

I was hungry throughout the day, but it’s oddly not too unpleasant when you have decided not to eat until you get home. That normal feeling I get around 11AM when hunger hits me and I can barely make it to 11:30 for lunch – that didn’t happen today. Knowing I had to wait 9 more hours was far less unpleasant than the normal feeling of waiting 30 minutes.

The only downside was the slight lightheadedness and headache I got in the final 2 hours. But I’m curious, will my body adapt? Will next week’s fast have less or no headache?

The only mistake I made was not logging my weight, body fat %, and belly circumference before I began. I doubt a single day is enough to change much in the numerical data, but I am a man of science and I missed the true baseline measurement. So for science, I’ll be eating pizza this weekend to attain a more accurate ‘starting’ baseline next week.