Revisiting superstition from the perspective of economics

What do imaginary goods, virtual cats and superstition have to do with each other? – Economics. ‘Imaginary goods’ is a term used by an Austrian economic theorist from the 1800’s, Carl Menger, to describe goods that might be sold but which did not meet all the criteria of a ‘goods‘ – a thing of value which could be sold or purchased. Imaginary goods could also be sold but they did not meet all of his criteria for ‘goods‘ because their value was more transient – in the imagination of the buyer and/or seller rather than clearly apparent to any normal consumer of goods.  (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

As I’ve been working on devising ways to make pomegranate peel edible I’ve been thinking about the idea of a market or demand for a good versus the actual value of the good. You can’t sell something of value if no one considers it valuable even if it fits the criteria of being ‘goods‘ – fulfilling human needs; while it recently was brought to my attention, a refresher course having grown up in era of ‘Pet Rocks,” that some people will pay for anything if it is popular – if other people are bidding on the item too. I was astonished as a child that anyone would pay real money for a rock in a box just because it was called a ‘Pet Rock‘ – just go outside, find a rock, stick it in a box – there you go, your very own ‘pet rock’ captured from its wilderness and tamed for your own enjoyment. The current trend that was brought to my attention is less solid but requires an imagination – virtual cats, bred to have unique characteristics, the bidding is based on the uniqueness of the characteristics ( – my thought, too much time or too much money, and too little space for a real pet cat.

People need love and affection as it promotes oxytocin and dopamine which are hormones that promote positive feelings.

For those with limited room in their lives for an expensive virtual cat, consider going outside and looking for a wild rock to tame instead.

Bringing this back around to the New Year’s Day topic of good luck black-eyed peas and the following day’s topic of superstition – Carl Menger includes in his examples of imaginary goods items that might be considered good luck charms and also medications that aren’t effective.

Pomegranate peel might be effective but until there is proof that it is effective there might not be a market of consumers willing to pay for it let alone even try it. So Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel -> make it appetizing and if people also feel good after eating it then they will return for seconds -> thus creating a market that hadn’t previously been known.

Carl Menger’s four criteria for what makes something a consumer ‘good’:

“If a thing is to become a good, or in other words, if it is to
acquire goods-character, all four of the following prerequisites
must be simultaneously present:

  1. A human need.
  2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought
    into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
  3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
  4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction
    of the need.” page 52 (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

According to his theory something can lose its value as a consumer good if it stops fulfilling any one of those four criteria, to paraphrase – if we 1: stop needing it because the problem it solved no longer exists, 2: the thing no longer works to solve the original problem  3: we forget that the thing is useful for fulfilling the need, 4: the thing is no longer something humans have access to (the WiFi goes out and the virtual cat breeding stops functioning) :

“Hence a thing loses its goods-character: (1) if, owing to a
change in human needs, the particular needs disappear that the thing is capable of satisfying, (2) whenever the capacity of the
thing to be placed in a causal connection with the satisfaction of
human needs is lost as the result of a change in its own properties,
(3) if knowledge of the causal connection between the thing and
the satisfaction of human needs disappears, or (4) if men lose
command of it so completely that they can no longer apply it
directly to the satisfaction of their needs and have no means of
reestablishing their power to do so.” -pages 52-53 (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

So for those who may have forgotten (reason #3), – caring for living people or pets can help one’s own health through increased oxytocin, dopamine and reduced oxidative stress. If owning a real pet is not possible due to housing issues visiting a local Humane Society type agency and volunteering to help care for the shelter animals is generally possible and appreciated. If money isn’t a problem hiring a human for a service that involves touch such as a manicure is helping others by providing money for jobs and providing oxidative stress reducing touch from the hands-on service. If owning a real pet or hiring human hands-on service isn’t possible than oxytocin, dopamine and possibly even reduction in oxidative stress may be provided by a caring relationship with a houseplant that cleans the air of toxins (ferns and other types), or by enjoying looking at art objects that have to do with nature or possible the touch of a smooth natural object such as a rock or crystal or wooden object.

While my search of oxidative stress and art didn’t turn up the link I was looking for it did find a review of research on male infertility, oxidative stress, antioxidants (vitamin E, C and CoQ10) and ART, assisted reproductive techniques, while it doesn’t mention iodine it’s worth saving for reference and smoking is mentioned as risk:

Smoking increases intake of formaldehyde as well as other toxins. There are also other common sources of formaldehyde in modern living environments. Tips for reducing risk of formaldehyde exposure and links for the houseplants that help detoxify indoor air from formaldehyde and other common volatile chemicals are included in an older post, Formaldehyde (volatile – chemicals that might be easily released from plastics or carpets into the air – ie “new car smell”).

The topic on nature and art and oxidative stress is discussed with links in the section Art – Food for the Eyes on another website,, 10. food Helps Too.

Returning to the Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel,  – it is helping my mood and health more consistently than the 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds did but it is quite acidic. I’ve taken to using a couple spoonfuls in my bean soup instead of the lime juice or apple cider vinegar that I had been adding as a digestive aid. I’ve also tried it on salads in place of lime juice.

As a beverage I occasionally have the original blend of approximately 3 ounces of the pomegranate extract/soup stock with about 3 ounces of water and 1 ounce of cherry juice with four pinches of Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) to make it less acidic. Sugar is inflammatory in itself so I’v stopped using much of it. After the review of the blueberry/rhubarb jam recipe I bought some blueberries and will try a combination of the pomegranate extract with the less acidic fruit. Cherry juice is also acidic. Blueberry juice concentrate is available in specialty stores but I wasn’t at one.  The Baking Soda may be too much sodium or something in the pomegranate extract or the level of acidity it adds to the diet may have a diuretic effect like coffee – so like many things in life – it’s not perfect. But being sick isn’t either.

When you start thinking about food as fuel and as your body’s natural medicine cabinet then taste is something that can be acquired and adapted to suit the needs of health – but first the mind has to overpower the habit of “I always eat what my family ate, or what I got used to at college, or whatever my friends are eating.” Social settings and food are very strongly linked and it can be viewed as rude to refuse an offer of food that is being offered – sometimes life isn’t perfect either.

Good luck and best wishes all you Master Chefs out in virtual reader land – I know you can take on whatever culinary challenges you choose.

If at the beginning of 2017 someone predicted that I would successfully be using pomegranate peel, baker’s cocoa, cardamom, and leafy green herbs and vegetables instead of medical marijuana for my autoimmune health condition I might have thought they were imagining things – but Carl Menger was right we have to know the causal connection between a good and a problem it might solve before we go to the effort to purchase, prepare, and use the good for solving that problem/need (health care improvement in my case). pages 51-58, (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English).

A tastes better than it looks salad – Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad.

Bring two and a half cups of water to a boil and add one cup quinoa (or amaranth or cracked wheat for a more traditional tabouli like salad). Cook for twenty minutes at a simmer. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the saucepan. Once the water is fully absorbed remove the pan from the heat and add about (all of the following ingredients are estimates except for the avocado- this is a first try) one tablespoon coconut oil and stir into the hot cooked cereal. Add about one cup of frozen or fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pomegranate seeds, 1/4 cup pomegranate peel extract, one chopped ripe avocado, one tablespoon dried tarragon and one tablespoon dried basil (or more if fresh is available), and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Stir the mixture thoroughly. The cereal will turn purplish color from the blueberries. Serve a cup or so of the mixture over a plate of chopped salad greens and top with a pretty 1/8th cup of fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds.

I always add salt to taste at the table. We taste only the salt on the surface of food, not what has been cooked into a food or stirred into a mixture as much.

The flavors and textures work well together, sweet and tanginess from the fruit, creaminess from the avocado, quinoa and coconut oil. Tarragon adds flavor, the basil is milder and wasn’t noticeable in the amount I added here. Tarragon has a slightly minty flavor. The walnut is a stronger flavor and the crunch and flavor balance with the flavor of the blueberries and crunch of the pomegranate seeds. This was a success flavor and texture-wise no matter what it looks like and it would be nutritionally balanced with protein, essential fats and carbohydrates and plenty of fiber and trace nutrients and antioxidants. Walnuts and blueberries have both been found effective for cardiovascular health and male health issues.

Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad
Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Me Too and Safety is a Two Way Street

We are becoming a more connected world and cultural and gender clashes may be more of a risk with the increased connection made possible by the internet and Social Media sites. Our news can arrive in a social media post faster than our newspapers used to be written, printed and hand delivered  by a neighborhood schoolchild. With more connection may come a greater need for responsibility and respect for our cultural and gender differences.

The phrase gender differences is even different and that has increased some cultural difficulties as more traditional religions and cultures have not fully accepted that sexual and gender differences are based on biology rather than moral choices. Gender differences are increasing in animal species not just in humans – it is biology not a moral choice when observed across many species and until we can openly discuss that and many other topics we may not be able to accept a need to change our industrial choices rather than worrying about personal differences or whether individual differences are a moral choice.

Endocrine disruptors are a group of chemicals that are being produced in plastics and elsewhere in industry and once in our environment and water they are difficult for humans and other animal species to avoid – and will be difficult for humans to try to remove from the environment when we recognize that something needs to be done and that we are the species that needs to do it. An introduction to the topic is available here: Endocrine Disruptors.

The Me Too movement has grown on social media outlets from an earlier time and it involves more openness surrounding sexual harassment or assault rather than silence and shame. Women and men have been kept in silence regarding stories of sexual matters as a business or social reputation can be ruined by being a victim or someone accused of sexual assault or impropriety.  Change is needed as even at the highest levels of elected officials it is the elected official that has been protected at taxpayer expense rather than the employee or volunteer who experienced sexual harassment or assault. A bill has been introduced to make the process more fair and a counter bill may be passed that makes the process even less transparent and more protective of the elected officials – our public servants, hired to protect and serve the nation; it is a significant problem as it has recently been disclosed that $15 million has been aid of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims filed against elected officials who then continued to serve in their positions without disclosure to the public. Read more: Plot to Change Law Protecting Politicians Accused of Sexual Harassment,

The risk of accusations that can not be proven or may have been misunderstandings however does need adequate representation for both parties as it is not just to the individual but can also extend to family and wider circles and yet we are all just people. An excellent article discusses the topic and history in more detail and includes a TED talk video with a personal account of date rape and the shame that negatively effected both the girl and boy later into their adult lives. They eventually met and share their story together in the video. They include the warning that their story is not a recommendation or encouragement for everyone who has experienced a bad sexual experience to share the story or seek out the other person as in some cultures death and imprisonment of the victim can be a risk and approaching or accusing someone of assault can be met negatively instead of with remorse and reconciliation. Growth is also possible though and can help both individuals as well as help educate our society as a whole. See Are We Ready for Truth and Reconciliation Around Sexual Violence? #MeToo, link.

The warning to be cautious about sharing details of identity in cases of bad sexual experiences is something I’ve also been encouraging because unless proof is available legal charges of defamation/slander/libel could potentially be charged against the accuser or simply danger due to the reputation risk may result in mental harm to the accused. In one recent case an accused person who claimed to be innocent of the accusation of impropriety has taken his life in a suicide; may he find some peace, and condolences to his family. Warning, article contains a possible suicide note and inflammatory social media post by the former elected official:

It is an uncomfortable story that may have involved drunkenness on the man’s part which can cause memory gaps. Having a designated driver and designated remember-er may be a good idea when drinking too much – or not drinking too much is a better idea. The girl did share the story with her therapist in 2013 and the incident was reported to the local police at the time so one is left wondering why it wasn’t acted on then, except that without proof of physical assault or video or DNA evidence a she said/he didn’t remember story can just lead to problems for the girl.

Wrong is wrong but accidental slips of the hand in a public setting that was apologized for shouldn’t be something that ends a career either. Balance and compassion when listening to a she-felt-uncomfortable and he-doesn’t-even-remember story may be necessary. It may also help to realize or admit that humans aren’t a fully monogamous species, we are only about 50% on average monogamous in our pair bonds compared to some other more lifelong pair bonding species. So it may help reduce emotional pain to remember or admit that love for one person is not necessarily betrayed by a temporary wondering glance or thought of another person. Hormones are powerful but someone familiar with the long-term emotional and intellectual connections of a committed relationship should be able to understand and have compassion for the other person as a whole rather than viewing physical temporary feelings as a lack of love or betrayal for the long-term connection.

We learn from each other lessons that may be painful at the time but necessary for growth. Denying or blocking out memories doesn’t allow for the growth that may have been needed for long term health of the body and spirit/mind. Drunken actions do count and someone who can’t remember their actions may not be reliable as an elected official but suicide isn’t growth either.

If no proof is available then sharing an uncomfortable story without names or identifying details can help relieve one’s own emotional pain and burden without risking legal harm to oneself or reputation or psychological harm to another. Trying to heal oneself is a positive thing but causing harm to another person and their family seems like a larger negative especially if there was simply a misunderstanding of intent and result. An improper touch can be an accident of timing that truly is innocent but which might be taken more seriously by a person who is fearful. Expectation or over-heightened sense of fear can lead to misinterpreting a situation that is innocent. Talking privately with a therapist might help to review a situation from different viewpoints.

Another article on the same site encourages and challenges us to meet the challenge of our new inter-connected world in a positive way – the internet can help us learn and grow and we don’t know what our collective minds can do together but studies suggest that it can be incredible. Collective consciousness research (a collection of videos & research on the topic- I haven’t reviewed all of it but have seen one or two of the speakers material, there is coincidental/odd overlap in near death experiences across cultures/different languages) and the overlap of the Golden Rule across many cultures suggests that our cultures are more similar than different. See Experiencing a Collective Shift Through Personal Transformation, link.

The article is by an author of a book on the subject which I have not read but the topic sounds interesting and other research on prayer and healing, has been mixed and will likely be difficult to prove one way or the other conclusively as the benefits of meditation may also be involved and prayer is somewhat similar to (a review of the research), and work on prayer/meditative chanting or positive thought and formation of snowflakes has also indicated there may be power in groups working together with focused mental thoughts. The later work on the healing power of water by the snowflake researcher was not able to be replicated but his early work suggests possibilities that are interesting. I mention it in an early article I had published elsewhere which also includes a brief discussion of the medical power of positive suggestion observed in the placebo effect and the reverse the nocebo effect, the medical power of negative suggestion: Quarks, bosons, and Abbess Zenkai Blanche Hartman, link.

This was also posted earlier but was closed and is somewhat pertinent to the Quarks, bosons… article and to the idea of a collective consciousness or universal connectedness of positive or negative thoughts/placebo and nocebo effects. With our increased interconnectedness via the internet and social media we may all need to be more aware of the value in our collective differences and similarities. Social connection can be healing but it can also cause hurt feelings which can lead to physical trauma in the brain, discussed in more detail on another of my websites, G3.4: Social contact would protect against oxidative stress,

*regarding quarks and my interest in them – purely amateur. What I’ve read though is fascinating and quantum entanglement seems like it could explain quite a few ‘unknowns.’ Pairs of quarks can become free of the rest of an atom or molecule and may retain all of the information of the whole in an energy form. Holograms are made of light and show a whole image but without the whole item having to be present. Loose quarks may (possibly) explain some of the unexplained phenomenon of psychic ‘seeing the future’ or ‘channeling ghosts’ or ‘seeing the past.’ People who have had near death experiences share remarkably similar stories about their experiences. I have come to believe that there is some sort of collective unconscious or cosmos energy, or God energy, that all things are a part of to some extent.

Energy equals mass according to Albert Einstein and according to reports he was made uncomfortable by the ‘spookier’ aspects of the theory. I find them fascinating. Our planet orbits the sun and overlaps its own path over the course of time. Loose quarks may still exist here and there and everywhere along that orbiting path, carrying bits of energy left over from the time of dinosaurs or from any point in history and maybe even the future. A person who dissociates may be able to visit the cosmos/collective unconscious/God energy as dissociation may be a doorway into the energy side of the universe. The history of dissociation might be due to a history of childhood trauma, or a near death experience, or due to years of practice meditating, or due to use of a hallucinogenic substance.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we open our minds to accept that we need to learn more and seek a variety of answers until some seem to consistently be a fairly good fit for the evidence in front of us. ‘Facts’ can fit most situations but rarely can any one scientific answer or theory be 100% correct in every single situation. Ideas that are mostly right, most of the time, are more typical of science findings. Science is a journey with many travelers who pass along ideas from one generation to the next on into the future (hopefully).

Are ghosts fake or psychic knowledge? or Teleportation? Fake news and quarks have nothing to do with each other, but quarks and quantum entanglement have been in the real news in a story that sounds like it has to be fake – or spooky. A new era of computing technology, involving the ‘teleportation’ of information via quantum entangled quarks, was discovered at the same time, on opposite sides of the planet, by two different teams, independently of each other. The article makes light of the coincidence with the statement that it often happens in science that discoveries are reached simultaneously — I wouldn’t have bet money on it happening.

Back to reality – in a nutshell, teleportation of the information is referring to the fact that the packet of computer code disappears as it is sent from one computer and it appears/reappears simultaneously at another computer in another location. The process involves quantum entanglement of quarks and is worth reading about firsthand, click on the link in the Tweet, or here:

Not included in the article but back to reality for the idea of human teleportation – in a nutshell, I’ve read elsewhere that the quantum entanglement and energy = mass conversions are only possible at the atomic/subatomic level as larger groups of molecules stabilized each other too much to allow teleportation of the individual particles — or something like that. The second response on this question forum mentions that only single photons of light have been transferred by this quantum entanglement computing method and that larger masses would be too complex.!n=24

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.  

Climate change seems to be increasing lake effect snow

In future decades the winter season is expected to start later and be shorter with more lake effect snow later in the season. In the meantime we seem to be having more lake effect snow earlier in the season. Lake effect snow occurs when cold air passes over a warmer body of water such as the Great Lakes of the midwest region. Read more:

Tis the season for snow tires and driving more slowly. Slick roads makes it take longer for your own and other cars to stop and trying to stop to abruptly can increase the risk of skidding or swerving into other lanes of traffic or off the road. Staying home can be a good idea even if you are familiar with driving safely in snow conditions – others on the road may not be used to the difference. If weather conditions are severe in larger urban areas where roads tend to be congested and travel fast then it would be helpful for businesses to close early or start late and allow workers to avoid more dangerous driving. Fewer drivers on the road is safer when roads are slick and/or visibility is poor.

Having windshield wiper fluid and an interior defroster that functions well is important for visibility when snow is icy or sleet like. Turning on your headlights even during the daytime is helpful during snow or foggy or other poor visibility weather conditions in order to help other drivers see your vehicle. If you are traveling significantly slower than typically posted speed limits it may also be helpful to turn on your Hazard light which makes both turn signals flash on and off and increases visibility of your vehicle.

Driving slower is the easiest way to help maintain control of your vehicle during slick conditions which can include heavy rainfall. Driving 55 instead of 70 is sensible with any snow conditions, add ice or heavy rainfall and driving 35 may be safer. If that is still feeling like the car is ice skating then pulling over and waiting out the weather may be safest. Hydroplaning of the tires can occur when there is a lot of water on the road and it makes the tires lose contact with the road and the road surface will act like a slick ice surface. Pulling over and stopping is safest during very heavy rainfall or when the roads are too icy. Snow itself can give some traction to the tires but if there is blowing snow or heavy snowfall then pulling over is also wisest as it can be difficult to see where the lanes are or even where the side of the road is located. Pulling over is more fun then spending time in a ditch or in a hospital. /Disclosure – I have driven in a lot of bad weather and slid off the road a couple times, pulling over and waiting is more fun./

Some simple driving tips for snow and ice conditions are available here:

Some other tips in case you have to pull over in bad weather are included in a recent post:

Additional emergency equipment that can be helpful where snowfall is frequent is to keep a small garden shovel and bag of cat litter in the trunk of your car. They can be very helpful for getting the vehicle unstuck from minor snow bank or snowy parking lot type issues, the shovel helps you dig out around the tires and the cat litter adds traction to the slick areas under the tires. Over spinning your tires tends to create icy areas under them and make it more difficult to gain traction. A driving companion or passerby can be helpful to be able to push the car out of the snowbank.

The supermoon was a bright companion on a recent journey, helpful for lighting the road:


The Supermoon, 12/1/2017.
The Supermoon, 12/2/2017.

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./