Monthly Archive for August, 2005

Today's Sandwich

Zucchini sauteed with mint and kalamata olives on challah. With a side of heirloom tomatoes.

My Experience with the Southwest Florida Real Estate Bubble

Lehigh Acres In 1975 my grandmother paid $1,500 for a quarter-acre lot in Lehigh Acres, a former cattle ranch sold off in little pieces to people all over the country starting in the 1950s. Think Glengarry Glen Ross.

A 1998 paper, Planning in the Wake of Florida Land Scams, described the development this way:

The original developer, the Lehigh Acres Development Corporation, was skilled at marketing but had never before developed land (Faulkner 1994). They emphasized the volume sales of unimproved homesites to out-of-town buyers, virtually ignoring community planning and even the basics of drainage. The demand for installment purchases of the early Lehigh Acres lots was phenomenal. Even though typically 40% of the purchasers defaulted on their payments, the lots were simply sold again, since no complicated foreclosure proceedings were required (Gould 1995). The development expanded in every direction. The result today is an unending landscape of quarter-acre and half-acre residential lots with a confusing grid system of over a thousand miles of discontinuous local roads.

This development approach created numerous problems including a rigid pattern of nearly identical lots and streets superimposed over the entire site (see configuration in Figure 6); a failure to provide even the most basic services such as water and sewer to most lots; an inadequately designed road network with few continuous arterial streets (despite the apparent grid); no reservation of land for schools, fire stations, and parks; an absence of employment opportunities, since sales techniques emphasized retirement living; little vacant commercial land remaining to serve future residents; and the destruction of most of the original wetlands by an elaborate network of canals. As Lehigh Acres has grown, the population mix has become younger, and more residents must traverse narrow and poorly constructed roads in their daily commute to jobs in the Fort Myers area. The number of commuters from Lehigh Acres is particularly high since there are so few jobs nearby.

As recently as 2003, the lot was assessed at $1,300. Then in 2004 it jumped to $3,400. And this year it rocketed to $19,500.

In 2004 I started getting weekly solicitations from brokers to list the property, from developers to buy it, and from “average people” with long stories about how they “longed to live in the country” or “struggled with the decision and have decided to relocate to Florida.” Those last were always offering about half of what the realtors were saying they could sell it for. The prices went from $7,000 in May 2004 to $22,000 in September to $35,000 in February 2005 to $40,000 in June.

When the lot across from mine sold for $55,000 in June, I called the buyer and asked him if he wanted to buy mine as well. He did and I sold it this week.

Lehigh lots burning up auction block
Jorma Duran
Posted on: Friday, August 19, 2005

ESTERO
— Investors claim empty lots in Lehigh Acres are the hottest pieces of property in Florida right now. More than 100 lots were auctioned off
today at Germain Arena in Estero. Some bidders say the prices they paid are outrageous, while others believe their investment will pay off in
the end.

No matter how fast the Lehigh property prices jumped, the numbers made sense for some. “The worst that can happen is that I sell them for a profit,” said investor Jay Suarez. Suarez, from Miami-Dade County, buys, sells and develops land all across Florida. He says two years ago the same lots sold for only a few thousand dollars each. “When you take a look at the growth between two years ago when you were buying something for $1,000, and now being able to sell it for $75,000– it’s amazing,” Suarez said.

In all, 128 pieces of Lehigh Acres land went up for auction, and all of them sold in mere minutes to the highest bidder. But the prices scared many locals away. Real estate agent Perta Niedermair says the lots were selling for outrageous prices – and she was quickly priced out.

With figures soaring to 10 times the price five years ago, Niedermair says people living in Southwest Florida wouldn’t think these lots are worth it. But those who normally buy and sell property on the east coast of Florida say it would be outrageous to not buy the plots of land. “Prices over there for something you pick up for maybe $40,000 here, over there go for $200,000,” Suarez said.

The land sold today ranged in size from a quarter to one-half acre. The auction company reports the lots sold 10 to 15 percent above market price, on average going for about $50,000 each.

Clogged drains in the Passat

VWvortex Forums: Squishy/Liquid sound when I put on the brakes, white smoke, CEL – Hurray!

Just
returned from Brookline VW. Sure enough, they neglected to check the
squishy brake sound so I had to wait while they did. Turns out the
plenum drains are clogged and the brake booster is under water and will
need to be replaced at $900 plus the master cyclinder may also need to
be replaced which would add $300. And because clogged drains are
considered normal wear and tear, none of this is covered under the
warranty.

The service rep said he recommends clearing the drains twice a year. And our conversation went something like this:
Me: I never had a car that I had to do that for. Is this a common problem, the clogged drains?
VW: Yes
Me: How would I know to clear the drains twice a year? I didn't see anything in the manual about that.
VW: No, it's not in the manual. It's just something we recommend.
Me:
Well I've been bringing the car in to you regularly for various things
(some of which is detailed here:
http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=1753640 ) plus for the regular
periodic maintenance, like the 30,000 a couple weeks ago. Have the
drains ever been checked or cleared?
VW: No, we don't do that unless you ask us to.

Squishy sound from brakes in Passat

VWvortex Forums: Squishy/Liquid sound when I put on the brakes, white smoke, CEL – Hurray!

Wow, I could have written the same exact post myself.

I
have a 2002 GLS Wagon. A few weeks ago on a trip to New Hampshire) just
after getting the car back from the body shop (for some golf ball dents
- guess where I live in Watertown) after driving about a mile the CEL
came on and the car started shuddering. I pulled over, debated whether
to go home and switch cars – a major hassle since we were packed up for
a long weekend with two small children – and then started heading back.
On the way back home no CEL, no shuddering. So we turned around again
and drove to NH and back with no problems.

Just after that I
took the car in to Brookline VW for the 30,000 mile check up which I
know is basically just an oil change but I wanted them to check out why
the CEL had come on. They said they found evidence of some misfiring
and thought it might be a “problem with the lifters” but it was running
now so they just reset it.

Since then no CEL no problems until
this week. Drove home from New Hampshire in last Sunday's big rainstorm
with no problems but the next morning the brakes made the squishy sound
and the CEL came on and the car shuddered. Drove about four blocks and
the CEL turned off but then tons of white smoke started pouring out the
exhaust. Turned around and came home (had to switch two kids in car
seats).

Called Brookline VW and they said it sounded like it had
clogged filters (as you described) and the vacuum system had sucked up
water and that I should not drive it but should bring it in “as an
emergency” since the next available appointment was in two weeks.
Before having it towed I started it up for the hell of it. No CEL, no
shuddering, no squishy brakes. Called them again and they said if there
was no CEL I could drive it over. So I did.

They called today
and said the problem was the spark plugs and they had replaced them all
and it's covered under the warranty. No word about water in the vacuum
system but I will assk when I pick it up tomorrow morning.

One
annoyance is that they won't cover the rental since they diagnosed it
and fixed the problem the same day, even though they told me to bring
it in the day before and leave it.

Good Reading on Nutrition

The Whole Food Farmacy

This page has some excellent reading on nutrition. I’ve excerpted some of the most interesting parts below. In a nutshell:

  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup and minimize kids’ fruit juice consumption
  • Eat a plant-based diet with at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, at least three to four servings of whole grains and regularly eat legumes as a side dish or occasionally as your protein source.
  • Don’t eat things that contain Gelatin or Hydrolyzed Collagen (Agar-agar, carageenan, guar gum, and xantham gum are all plant-based alternatives)
  • Eat lots of unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats

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By Linda Joyce Forristal, CCP, MTA

…Today high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used to sweeten jams, condiments like ketchup, and soft drinks. It is also a favorite ingredient in many so-called health foods. …According to a food technology expert, two of the enzymes used, alpha-amylase and glucose-isomerase, are genetically modified to make them more stable. …Consumers trying to avoid genetically modified foods should avoid HFCS. It is almost certainly made from genetically modified corn and then it is processed with genetically modified enzymes. I've seen some estimates claiming that virtually everything—almost 80 percent—of what we eat today has been genetically modified at some point. Since the use of HFCS is so prevalent in processed foods, those figures may be right.

But there's another reason to avoid HFCS. Consumers may think that because it contains fructose—which they associate with fruit, which is a natural food—that it is healthier than sugar. A team of investigators at the USDA, led by Dr. Meira Field, has discovered that this just ain't so.

Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose. When sugar is given to rats in high amounts, the rats develop multiple health problems, especially when the rats were deficient in certain nutrients, such as copper. The researchers wanted to know whether it was the fructose or the glucose moiety that was causing the problems. So they repeated their studies with two groups of rats, one given high amounts of glucose and one given high amounts of fructose. The glucose group was unaffected but the fructose group had disastrous results. The male rats did not reach adulthood. They had anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy—that means that their hearts enlarged until they exploded. They also had delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production. (Copper deficiency, by the way, is widespread in America.) In a nutshell, the little bodies of the rats just fell apart. The females were not so affected, but they were unable to produce live young.

“The medical profession thinks fructose is better for diabetics than sugar,” says Dr. Field, “but every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic.”

HFCS contains more fructose than sugar and this fructose is more immediately available because it is not bound up in sucrose. Since the effects of fructose are most severe in the growing organism, we need to think carefully about what kind of sweeteners we give to our children. Fruit juices should be strictly avoided—they are very high in fructose—but so should anything with HFCS.

About the author
Weston A. Price Foundation Board Member Linda Forristal is the author of Ode to Sucanat (1993) and Bulgarian Rhapsody (1998).

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts,
the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2001

————————————————————————

Accept No Substitutes

By Katherine Tallmadge

Wednesday, August 25, 2004; Page F01

…”The thousands of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals [beneficial plant compounds] in whole foods act synergistically together to create a more powerful effect than the sum of their parts, producing a result which cannot be recreated by supplements,” says Jeff Prince, vice president for education at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

…says David Klurfeld, national program leader for human nutrition at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. “People think that we can pull out the fiber, pull out the antioxidants. But research does not back that up. Study after study says you gain the most benefit from whole foods.”

That is not to say that supplements are of no use. They can be of great benefit, when taken based on individualized needs. Most nutrition experts recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral tablet for everyone. But supplements simply can't compete with better food choices. Consider recent findings:

* When the ATBC Cancer Prevention study data was re-analyzed years later for consumption of fruits and vegetables, researchers found that while supplements did not prevent lung cancer, eating fruits and vegetables high in beta carotene
(e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes), lycopene (e.g.,tomatoes) and lutein/zeaxanthin (deep-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale) reduced lung cancer risk.

* A diet high in cereal and vegetable fiber (35 grams versus 15 grams) reduces the risk of colon cancer by 40 percent, according to recent findings in the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study. But studies of fiber supplements have failed to find any benefits and some have found an adverse effect.

* A diet high in fruit reduces lung cancer risk by 40 percent, also according to new EPIC study findings. Another study found subjects with a high fruit intake had a 44 percent lower risk of lung cancer compared with subjects eating the least amount of fruit. But when subjects added beta-carotene supplements, there was no benefit from the fruit.

* Men who ate 10 servings of tomato products weekly reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent compared with men who ate fewer than 1.5 servings, according to a Harvard Health Professional study. While the benefit is largely attributed to the phytochemical lycopene, trials of lycopene so far have found it is less potent than the tomato.

* A diet high in fruits and vegetables reduced stroke risk by 28 percent, and fruit alone reduced the risk by 40 percent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2003. No dietary supplements have been found that significantly reduce stroke risk.

* People who ate collard greens or spinach two to four times per week had a 46 percent decrease in risk for age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness) compared with those who ate these vegetables less than once per
month, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this year. No studies have found supplements prevent or improve macular degeneration.

* People who eat more soy have a decreased risk for coronary heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer. But when various components of soy foods have been isolated and studied, these finding have not been replicated, and some have found adverse effects.

* A diet high in antioxidant-rich
foods helps prevent cardiovascular disease, but the studies of individual antioxidant supplements have been so inconclusive that the American Heart Association recently issued an advisory against taking them to reduce cardiovascular disease “Researchers are working as fast as we can to find the most effective components in foods,” says Janet Novotny, research physiologist at USDA's Human Nutrition Research Center in
Beltsville. “But so far, studies have shown that while fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased risk of chronic disease, studies of the isolated compounds in fruits and vegetables haven't shown an effect.”

Food and dietary patterns are complicated and expensive to study, and can defy the brightest minds and best intentions. In the meantime, the best advice is to eat a plant-based diet with at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables (you'll get the most benefit with the higher amount), at least three to four servings of whole grains and regularly eat legumes as a side dish or occasionally as your protein source.

Katherine Tallmadge is a Washington nutritionist and author of “Diet Simple” (Lifeline Press, 2004). Send e-mails to her at food@washpost.com.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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After those bones and skins get soaked in lime to remove all hair and grease, seared with acid until they disintegrate and then molded into edible gelatin or collagen, they become part of countless protein bars, even the best-sellers. Also, shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, lotions, gelatins, pills, capsules etc.

Mind you, you won't find pig's feet, cattle hide, etc. when you check the ingredients. That's because they're hidden behind names like Gelatin, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Hydrolyzed Gelatin and 16 other industry names.

Manufacturers see them as a significant protein source as well as a way to “thicken” and bind your foodless foods so they don't fall apart in your hands. What does fall apart is its nutritional value. Both gelatin and collagen lack an essential amino acid required to make them a complete usable protein. So on their own they're worthless sources of protein besides being disgusting.

They won't build or fuel your muscles. They weren't meant to. And they can't. If the bar says 30 grams of protein and it's made from hydrolyzed collagen or hydrolyzed gelatin, you're not getting 30 grams of real, usable protein- Period.

Then what are you getting? Who knows? They're not telling.

Even worse: some manufactures list hydrolyzed proteins as an ingredient, but don't indicate the source of the protein. So you have to ask yourself: if it's supposed to be food for you, why wouldn't they tell you where the protein came from? Hmmm.

The food and supplement industry should plead guilty to this deception.

Whole food protein is really real protein. Through and through. No collagen. No gelatin. No hidden hydrolyzed hype. No hooves. No hides. No bones. No skins. No weasels. No bull. Our whole food plant protein is exactly what it says it is. 100% Real.

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Vegetables ward off Alzheimer's

A healthy diet may help reduce Alzheimer's risk
Eating a diet rich in vegetables may be one way to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, research suggests. US scientists found that a diet high in unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats – found in vegetables and some oils – may help lower risk. However, a separate study found antioxidant vitamins – widely touted as good for general health – offer no such protective effect against Alzheimer's.

People who consumed a lot of saturated fat were 2.3 times more likely to develop symptoms than those whose diet was low in these fats. Conversely, people whose diet contained high levels of unsaturated fat were up to 80% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who consumed low levels of unsaturated fats.




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