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Mindconnection eNL, 2006-05-21

Past issues

In this issue:

  1. Product highlight
  2. Brainpower tip
  3. Time tip
  4. Finance tip
  1. Security tip
  2. Health tip/Fitness tip
  3. Miscellany
  4. Thought for the day

1. Product Highlights

Anyone who doesn't know that Sylvester Stallone has an outstanding physique is probably dumb enough to run a federal agency (e.g., FEMA).

Those of us who have functioning brain cells can think back to 1976 and remember a buff 26 year old Stallone in Rocky. Jump ahead to 1993,  when he starred in CliffHanger. At the age of 43, Stallone was in better shape than nearly anyone half his age.

Today, at the age of 56, Stallone has a better physique than he did 30 years ago. How the heck does he do it? His secret is intensity. See our related article here:

To help him achieve this, he uses the supplement pictured at right (removed in 2009; product discontinued). Notice the name on it? Stallone! He has his own line of sports supplements.


2. Brainpower tip

Most companies that are good at executing tactics have no guiding strategy to tie tactics together. This is the old, "Win the battles, lose the war" strategy the USA followed in Vietnam.

A case can be made that President Clinton typified this strategy, throwing in the "lose the battles also" paradigm for good measure. I'd touch off a firestorm among our diversified readers by commenting, as certified war experts (e.g., retired Generals) have, that this approach is what this administration is following in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, I won't make that comment.

We see this same strategy-free approach used on a personal scale, as well. People will focus on the moment, rather than considering long-term implications or on the affect something will have on their overall goals.

For example, two friends argue over something that really has no bearing on their friendship. Maybe the subject is baseball, immigration policy, or which new car is the best one. Each insists on being right, and the argument degenerates into an exchange of insults. The friendship, long beneficial to both parties, ends. Both people have invested time, thought, and effort in this friendship. Now that investment is gone.

The same thing happens on many other fronts. Coworkers focus on the small battles with each other, rather than nurturing those relationships for the "war" that is their careers. A merchant nags a regular customer about a small payment discrepancy, rather than considering that payment an advertising expense and winning the "war" of keeping that customer.

It takes brainpower to wage these battles. Unless you tie the battles together with an overall strategy, you waste brainpower by losing the war--even if you win the battles.

In a related fashion, we have the situation of "island strategies." In large corporations, what happens is the celebrity CEO spews the "vision du juor" at the annual board meeting in an effort to boost his pay package from a measly $98 million a year to something he can live on. That task accomplished, the CEO goes off to give interviews and play golf while the senior managers issue orders to "share the vision" with the troops who are helping their laid-off former coworkers pack up the tacky knick-knacks that adorn their prison cell sized cubicles.

The CEO's "vision," which in all likelihood is a "me too" version of something an entertaining but clueless speaker said during a $12,000 CEO conference held in a swank location, doesn't get translated into the real world. The troops continue to execute tactics, with no leadership tying them together.

A similar thing happens personally. People make lofty goals for themselves, and these sound very pretty. But these people haven't addressed how they will carry them out.

For example, Jim says, "I'm going to lose weight so I look good for summer." This oft-spoken statement is meaningless. An improvement would be, "I'm going to reduce my body fat level by identifying specific actions I can take to reduce how much I eat." Those actions, then, become tactics. Unless a strategy has "hooks" for the tactics that will give it life, a strategy is simply an island. And it is rather pointless.

Don't waste your brainpower thinking through plans, unless:

  1. You first develop a meaningful strategy that ties tactics together.
  2. You think of your strategy as a framework for tactics.
  3. You develop tactics to support the strategy, and you abandon tactics that don't support it.

3. Time Tip

In another eNL (long, long ago, in a land far, far away...), we gave you a glimpse into "staging." This is another look at the topic.

The standard approach to a task is to jump right into it. A much better approach is to break the task down into its component steps and then determine what you need so you can accomplish each step. In fact, this approach is at the core of the formal project management system espoused by the Project Management Institute.

Here's an example. We sell language translation devices. There are two types of customers who buy these:

  1. Impatient time wasters.
  2. Methodical people.

The impatient time wasters are the folks who jump right in, and then spend hours playing with the devices. They send e-mails or make phone calls claiming the devices are defective, this button doesn't work, that feature is disabled, and so on. Their questions and concerns are pre-answered in the manual, which they either read very poorly or don't read at all. After spending several  hours a day for several days, they still can't use the device.

The methodical people are the folks who understand how to use a Table of Contents. They quickly see there are discrete steps--select the interface language (e.g., English), select the dictionary (e.g., English ->Thai), enter the text, translate the text, push the talk button. They use the manual to see how to do these steps, noticing that the manual has an example for each step. They have no questions or concerns, because they understand the component steps and used the manual to see how to do each one. After spending only half an hour, they are comfortably using the device.

The difference in cost vs. results ratios is astounding. You would think that everyone would know, by the age of 8, which approach works. But that isn't so. Many people will point to others and say, "Well, they just have a knack for that sort of thing." This is miscasting the situation. The reason for the difference is the successful person broke the job down into steps and determined what it took to accomplish each step. Having a knack or not having a knack had nothing to do with it.

Perhaps the classic example of all time is the computer. Today's desktop computer is extremely easy to use. Yet, many people remain mystified even after years of using one. They fail to see it's pretty much a glorified electronic filing cabinet.

They fail to break things down and identify what's needed. Consequently, they waste enormous amounts of time doing tasks inefficiently and they waste even more time pestering their methodical friends for "computer help."

But "computer help" is not what they need. In my own case, I have found that 99.999% of people asking me "how to" with a computer already have the answer. They are wasting their time and mine by asking for the wrong kind of help.

Stage every job you tackle, and you'll find yourself with far more time for accomplishing things.


4. Finance tip

The tax code does provide some ways to get tax-free income, without the risk of tax shelters or the complexity of "creative" investments. If you live in a country that is so barbaric it has an income tax (e.g., the USA), these tips apply to you. Based on the current insanity that is our 13,000 page federal income tax code....

You do not need a tax shelter to reduce your taxes, Part Seven.

For many of our readers, these tips on college tuition bills won't apply. But you probably have a friend or relative for whom they do. Please pass this eNL along.

  • If you have money in a Coverdell education savings account, you can use the earnings tax-free to pay  college costs. You probably already knew that. But you may not know you can use that money to pay the costs of K-12 tuition. And, it applies to pretty much anything used for education--books,  supplies, tutoring, computers, and even after-school programs.
  • You can use investment earnings in Section 529 college savings plans, tax-free, to pay education costs. The upside here is you can contribute far more to a 529 plan than to a Coverdell account. The downside is you can use 529 money for college costs only.
  • You can use scholarship and fellowship grants to pay for tuition and course-related fees, books, equipment, and supplies.
  • Using an educational assistance program, an employer can provide tuition reimbursement of up to $5,250 per year tax-free.

As with all financial transactions, don't do things for the tax motivation. Do them for the business motivation, and then avail yourself of the tax breaks. That is your first line of defense in staying out of tax trouble.

Remember, the AT can void the statute of limitations on the flimsiest of grounds, and assess you whatever interest and penalties they feel will most painfully destroy you. Following statute or Congressional intent is not in their game plan. In their sick, twisted minds, they get a thrill out of inflicting massive damage on other people. Don't give them an excuse to do it to you. Once the "Borg" locks onto you, getting rid of them is almost impossible.

* American Taliban.

5. Security tip

I keep hearing from people who "don't want to put my credit card on the Internet." By this, they mean they'd rather give out their credit card number over an insecure phone line than use a 128-bit encrypted browser. Many of these people prefer the even less secure environment of the cell phone.

What they apparently don't know is that if you use a credit card at all--at your local hardware store, the grocery store, a mail order catalogue, a restaurant, wherever--your card number goes over the Internet. The card gets processed at a data center. It has to get there somehow, and that's going to be over the Internet. Even if you don't use your card, your card data routinely travels over the Internet.

So the answer isn't to add an insecure layer or two on top of a secure system. How do you protect your credit card information? Here are some tips:

  1. Use a secure browser, whenever possible. That is, if you have a choice between phoning in your order or entering it on a Web form, use the Web form. Just look for "https" in the address bar, and/or the little lock symbol somewhere in the browser border (usually lower right or lower left).
  2. Don't let people stand next to you when you use your card in public. There is a federal privacy law, and it protects you from this. If someone is crowding you when you are using your card, that person is breaking a federal law. Don't feel you have to be "polite" by exposing your card information, genitalia, or anything else personal to this person. Stop. Face the person. Say something like, "Excuse me, but I need to conduct this transaction with a bit more privacy. Would you mind stepping back about three paces?" If the person refuses, then just stand there holding up the line until that person backs down. You aren't the one being the a--hole. The other person--the lawbreaker--is. You might make somebody mad, but it's your privacy that's being invaded and you are the offended party.
  3. Look out for cell phones. One way people steal credit card information is they use their cellphone cameras to get an image of the front and back of your card. So, learn to palm your card rather than holding it out for the world to see. Because if you do, they will.
  4. Beware dumpster divers. Shred all of your cast-out old credit card statements, those scammy credit card checks you didn't ask to be sent to you, and any other correspondence that may contain sensitive information. I keep a bin of shredded material, which I mix. I dispense a little of this at a time into my garbage. Someone wanting my information would need to collect and sift through my garbage for several weeks or months to get something useful.
  5. Don't use return envelopes. Ever get those magazine renewal forms with a return envelope? Ever notice you can read right through those envelopes? I place mine inside a security envelope, along with a note that their mailing method violates the Federal Privacy Act. I doubt anyone reads my note, but perhaps someone does.

6. Health tip/Fitness tips

We all know the FDA is hopelessly mired in denial, incompetence, politically-motivated policies, and bureaucratic stupidity. But even these people finally "got it" about a year and a half ago. That's when they said it was OK for olive oil producers to include an understated health claim on their label.

I'm sure much of this breakthrough had to do with the fact that olive oil is a big industry with lobbyists and lots of campaign dollars. This would explain why they got special treatment, though producers of other oils did not. Olive oil isn't the only oil that's good for you. Mankind isn't genetically wired to need olive oil to the exclusion of all other oils, FDA regulations not withstanding.

Many other oils are available on supermarket shelves. Most of these cost more than olive oil, but the diversity in your diet is good for you. Here, we'll address a few of these oils--there are many more. Let's start with the salad oils.

Salad oils

Flaxseed. You've probably read that a deficiency of Omega-3 fatty acids contributes to such health problems as allergies, arthritis, depression, eczema, and poor memory. Of course, if you have such a deficiency, you may not recall reading that.

Much of the hoopla about Omega-3 concludes that you need to take fish oil, but that's a false conclusion. You don't need mercury-laden fish supplements to get your Omega 3. If you eat enough of the right vegetables (mostly the brassicas), you'll have enough Omega 3. Adding flaxseed oil can help ensure you do.

Among plant sources, flax has the most omega-3 essential fatty acids per unit of volume. As a bonus, flax is high in alpha-linolenic acid. Your body uses this to  make  docasahexaenoic acid. Your body then uses this acid to build brain, heart, and retinal tissue. If you're using flax, you can honestly tell your friends you're doing acid!

Taking Omega-3 supplements can provide unintended negative consequences. You need the right ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 to Omega-12. Generally, a cold-processed oil helps promote this, while a straight-out supplement tends to promote an imbalance. You may need to supplement, if a blood test shows an imbalance. Otherwise, you may be doing more harm than good. But, here's a hint:

  • The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is about 4:1.
  • The typical American diet has a nearly 25:1 ratio.
  • A person following the dietary advice in this eNL and at will have a 4:1 ratio or close to it.

Flaxseed has a taste that, like the US Congress, is nutty. This makes it great to use in place of butter on steamed vegetables. Just don't cook with it. This oil is very delicate and cooking destroys it. Many people add a tablespoon of flax oil to their protein shakes.

Sesame. This oil has undergone extensive study by the American Heart Association, and they have a pretty high opinion of it. One reason why might be that the phytoestrogens (also called lignans) in sesame oil help  protect the heart. They also retard the growth of cancer cells. They don't retard the growth of government, because government is already retarded. But the heart and cancer benefits are reward enough.

You need magnesium for your body to utilize calcium. Magnesium has other important functions in the body, too. In addition, it has proven to ease the symptoms of diabetes and Crohn's disease. Why do we suddenly talk about magnesium? Because sesame oil is a good source of magnesium.

You can also use sesame oil for low-temperature cooking. This reduces its aroma and taste, but it's often worthwhile. I have a great recipe for sugar-free amaranth cookies, using sesame oil in place of butter. You can also use it in my sugar-free, highly satisfying amaranth pancakes.

Walnut. Yep, it's pricey. But it tastes great and is good for you. So, buy a small container and enjoy one of life's small pleasures. Walnut oil helps fight cancer, because it's high in ellagic acid. It helps boost the immune system, because it contains phytochemicals called saponins. Even the FDA is pro-walnut oil. This oil is high in vitamin E and in Omega-3 fatty acids.

You can bake with walnut oil, adding a great deal of flavor, but only as a partial substitution. So, for example, replace half the butter with sesame oil and half with walnut oil. For best baking results, leave half the butter in and replace a fourth with each of those oils. If you're not overindulging in saturated fats, your body can handle that much butter. Don't use it for frying or stir-frying--it goes up in smoke pretty fast.


Cooking Oils

Grapeseed. Just as olive oil contains phytosterols, so does grapeseed oil. This oil isn't widely considered one of the "miracle oils," but it does have health benefits similar to those of the other oils--just to a lesser degree.

One reason to cook with grapeseed oil is it has a mild taste that doesn't overwhelm the taste of what you're cooking. Health aficionados tend to consider it a good alternative to lard.

Deep-frying in lard is pretty much a suicide mission. But grapeseed oil, which you can heat to 485 DegrF (very high, as far as cooking temperatures go), can substitute for lard. Yes, you do get a better fat profile. But don't get overconfident in deep-fried foods. Drenching your food in that much oil ratchets up the calorie density something fierce. Don't deep-fry very often, and be sure to reduce your calories in other ways when you do. And, yes, use the higher temperature. This reduces fat absorption and results in more crispiness.

Peanut. This is the first "alternative oil" I was ever exposed to. I first learned of it at Cedric's Fish And Chips in 1977. It has a fairly neutral flavor. It doesn't start smoking until 450 DegrF, which means you can cook and fry just about anything with it.

The downside it it's an expensive oil, compared to what most fry joints use. Where it's used in commercial fry vats, there's normally considerable effort put into maintaining those vats and not wasting this oil.

An interesting component of peanut oil is resveratrol (not "reservatrol"). Resveratrol reduces cardiovascular disease and is a potent cancer fighter.

There's an entire industry devoted to selling a toxic high calorie, bacteria urine contaminated liquid as a beverage for humans. This industry has promoted its brew as healthy, by noting that it contains resveratrol. To that, I say, add resveratrol to gasoline and drink all you want. The presence of something healthy in something toxic really isn't relevant to the toxicity. The wine industry may hate the unblemished truth, but there it is. Get your resveratrol from peanut oil, instead.

This oil also contains folic acid, which we now know is a potent colon cancer fighter. Folic acid deficiencies are also strongly linked to various types of birth defects.


Controversial or underappreciated oils

There's quite a bit of misinformation about certain oils. These are commonly blended or sold outright as "vegetable oil." They are:

Corn. Why this is a "vegetable" oil escapes me, because corn is a grain. I have no idea if this oil is good or bad, but it is cheap. Also, corn has been bred for over 5,000 years to be high in sugar. It's a reasonable guess that the lipid profile of corn oil isn't exactly healthy.

Sunflower. This is a flower, not a vegetable. So again, a mislabeled oil. It has a mild taste and is more heart-healthy than olive oil. It's very pricey, but it's a great addition to your oil repertoire. You can cook with it.

Soy. As a member of the pea family, soy is a legume. So, unlike corn or sunflower oil, soy oil is a vegetable oil. The quality of soy oil depends on its processing. Cheap soy oil that's been hot processed lacks the nutrients you find in cold-processed, higher-priced soy oil. The commercial grade soy oil you see on food product labels has no health benefits. Think of what happens to vegetables when you overcook them, and you start to understand what happens to soy oil when it's hot-processed.

Safflower. This is one of the healthiest oils there is. You can cook with it, too. It's expensive, but it's high in linoleic acid and oleic acid, as well and many other nutrients.

Almond. This is another pricey oil. However, it imparts a wonderful flavor to foods. It's high in B vitamins and in vitamin E, while being almost devoid of carbohydrates. You can bake with it, but frying isn't recommended.

Canola. This oil has been hyped by a vast PR machine espousing non-existent health benefits. This has caused a counter PR machine denigrating this oil.

One reason to use canola oil is it's cheap. Another is it, unlike butter, doesn't contain saturated animal fat So, you could substitute it for butter in baking. But you will not have the butter flavor or the other benefits of cooking with butter. You'll simply have traded one type of fat for another, with reduced quality of the baked good. Butter hydrolyzes when you bake with it, which is why cakes and cookies become firm. Canola oil stays liquid, so goods baked with it stay soft and doughy.

Is it good for you or not? If you do your research on canola oil, you'll find that the anti-canola crowd uses the data on rapeseed oil rather than on canola oil. These are not the same oil, though they have similar derivation. Canola comes from a specialized variety of rapeseed that has dramatically different characteristics from regular rapeseed.

Standard rapeseed is very high in erucic acid, while canola oil has hardly any of it. This erucic acid is what causes all the problems the anti-canola crowd rants about. You don't get any of these problems from canola oil. Because the anti-canola people are looking at apples and talking about oranges (figuratively speaking), you have to suspect anything they say as being just so much uninformed "chicken little" ranting.

While none of the dangers typically ascribed to canola oil actually apply to it, none of the health benefits ascribed to canola oil exist, either.

There is one rumor I haven't been able to substantiate or disprove. Allegedly, if you exceed the cooking temperature of canola, it will break down into unhealthy components. I suspect that this, like the other "problems" with it is just another unfounded accusation. Which could explain why it's not addressed in the literature on canola oil. I use "the literature" in an academic sense--that's a standard phrase meaning "researched papers that are peer-reviewed and published, and generally acknowledged to be authoritative." Experts don't waste their time trying to disprove every crackpot theory that comes along.

My layman's opinion is this. The whole issue on "cook or don't cook with canola oil" is moot. Because canola oil has no health benefits, I see no reason to use it when oils that do have health benefits are readily available. So in the final analysis, the anti-canola crowd is right when they say not to use canola oil--just for the wrong reasons.


Final note

With all oils, buy the cold-processed (pressed) version, only. Hot processing is cheaper, but it diminishes the oil and destroys those healthy phytochemicals. So, you actually get more value from the higher-priced cold-processed oil.

When you read virgin, extra virgin, or extra extra virgin on the oil label, this refers to the cold-processing method. It does not refer to the hired help at the company that bottled the oil.


7. Miscellany

  1. The average computer user blinks 7 times a minute. The average Congressman votes for bills vaporizing billions of dollars of wealth, without batting an eye.
  2. See: It has some great offers that are worth following up on--such as gasoline offers. I especially like this one: Free special offer for people who are tired of not sleeping. Visit QualityHealth to get your free special offer and get the sleep you need.

  3. We don't run ads in our newsletter. We do get inquiries from advertisers, all the time. To keep this eNL coming, go to and do your shopping from there (as appropriate).

  4. Please forward this eNL to others.

8. Thought for the Day

The average human heart beats 100,000 times a day. What are you doing to make those beats count?


Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola


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