Category: Reviews

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Blackstone’s Steakhouse, Norwalk

Sunday night we decided we had to try the well-known Blackstone’s Steakhouse in Norwalk. They also have restaurants in Greenwich, Stamford and Southport, each with similar but slightly different menus.

Despite it’s unprepossessing exterior at 181 Main in Norwalk, we are delighted to tell you that this is an excellent restaurant a a terrific atmosphere, excellent service and outstanding food. Of course, being a steakhouse, it is not inexpensive, but there are some non-beef items on the extensive menu that are more budget-minded.

tables

The decor is warm and elegant with white tablecloth settings and wine and water glass already in place. You know when you enter that this is sure to be an excellent meal. And it was.

When you sit down, you are served a dish of colorful olives and a basket of warm bread, with a dish of real butter, not that drippy olive oil.

crab cake

We each started with their Maryland Crab Cake ($14.95). It was pretty much all crab with very little filler and a mild, spicy flavor you could enhance with their cucumber/wasabi sauce. This was a great idea and added a lot to the crab cake.

The wine list is extensive and they do offer w number of wines by the glass.

For steaks, one of ordered the Steak au Blue, prime New York strip steak topped with Blue Cheese Gratinee’ ($41.95) The meat was juicy, tender and flavorful and cooked exactly medium rare. We loved it and brought home leftovers for a sandwich.

steak au blue cut

Our other entrée was essentially a bone-in Ribeye, although on sale that night for $43.95. We were impressed at how it was carved and served in little medallions, as well. Also, tender and flavorful.

Finally, we shared an amazing dish called “1/2 Cottage Fries and 1/2 Fried Onions.” The cottage fries were essentially potato chips, but the fried onions were spectacularly tasty and we alternated onion bites with bites of our steaks.

onion rings

We didn’t have room for desserts, but they are fairly conventional: apple pie, chocolate mousse, carrot cake, lemon/orange sorbet, tartuffo, tiramisu, cheesecake, creme brulee and lava cake. Maybe we’ll get to try some next time!

We were incredibly impressed with the staff’s charm and professionalism and are sure to return to Blackstone’s whenever we feel like a great steak dinner.

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New restaurant moves into Greydon House

New restaurant moves into Greydon House

When the Greydon House hotel opened in Nantucket in 2016, it was lacking a restaurant, but one opened in the late fall, headed by Chef Marcus Ware. And as people began to visit it, they were extremely impressed.

We first visited in August of 2017 and praised it highly. In fact, we called the food and service “extraordinary,”

However, this didn’t last, and by 2017, it was apparent that Ware wasn’t paying much attention to this island outpost among his many restaurants. We felt it had “slipped of its pedestal.” Similar dishes were prepared in much more slapdash fashion, and service was not what it had been.

Apparently, the management of Greydon House agreed, and replaced Ware and his restaurant with Via Mare, a new Italian small plates restaurant run by Chef Dre’ Solimeo and Sarah Todd from Ventuno, whom we have always praised highly.

Via Mare’s menu Is creative (and somewhat folksy in its descriptions: “taters” for example)  but the overall we have of the menu is “we can’t wait to eat there.”

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Here is their description of their farfalle:

Butterfly pasta, spring vegetables, parmigiano crema, prosciutto, black truffles.

Or how about their small plate black bass:

Black bass crudo white asparagus, pickled ramps & sorrel

They also have a couple of large options such as this delicious-sound steak:

Bistecca: Porcini & parmigiano crusted steak, black garlic aoli — black summer truffle

Welcome, Via Mare! We can hardly wait!

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Via Mare is open Tuesday through Sunday 5:30pm until 10pm. The bar is open until 1am. Photos provided by Via Mare.

Red Rooster Pub opens in Wilton

Red Rooster Pub opens in Wilton

After a couple of months of downtime, the former Portofino restaurant has been transformed into a Red Rooster Pub. While the owner, Tony Ramadani, remains the same and the kitchen staff much the same, this is a new restaurant with a new, somewhat more informal menu.

Ramadani owns two other Red Rooster Pubs, one in Ridgefield and one in Newtown. While the menus are much the same among the 3 restaurants, the Wilton pub adds an extra page of Portofino Classics, including Chicken Parmesan, Rigatoni Con, Capellini Piedmontese, Mushroom Ravioli, Jalapeno Chicken, Shrimp Papardelle and Seared Salmon, priced from $20 to $24, and a kid’s menu.

Their main menu is simpler than in the Portofino days, with appetizers including wings, tacos, chili, 8 salads (plus make your own from a checklist). The Mains section is just Fish and Chips, Mac and Cheese, Baby Back Ribs, New York Strip Steak and Fried Clam (strips) Platter with only the steak over $20.

Completely new is the In Hand menu of grilled chicken, veggies, steak, pulled pork, Reuben, DLT (duck bacon, lettuce and tomato), turkey wrap, French Dip, two Chicken Wraps all reasonably priced and mostly under $15.  They also have 16 different “burgers” on the menu, several of which we have to try soon. All come with fries or onion rings.

The popular Portofino pizzas haven’t gone away either: there are still a whole page of pizza choices available.

beveragesTheir beer list includes 8 on draft an about that many more bottled craft beers, and their wine lists includes about 10 red and white choices by the glass.  Their dessert menu is simple but just what you want to go with this menu.

room shot

The Wilton pub opened last Thursday, and we understand it was packed all weekend, so we went Monday evening. At 5:45 there were plenty of tables, but by the time we left, almost all of them were full, which would seem to indicate that they have a success on their hands.

salad

For our first meal there (but not the last) we ordered an excellent Mediterranean Salad ($12.95), which would seem to be more or less a Greek Salad with Baby Mixed Greens, Pickled Red Onion, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Feta Cheese, Olives, and Balsamic dressing. It was sizable and there was plenty for us to share. If you just want a little salad, you can get a “Sub Side Salad” for $2 with any of the In Hand menu items.

shrimp

Then, one of us ordered the Shrimp Papardelle ($23.95) which was almost enough for two in itself. That night it was served with linguini, as they ran out of the wider papardelle noodles. Its served with shrimp, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and pesto sauce. The shrimp were tender and flavorful and the pesto plentiful.

french burger

 

friesBut we had to try out one of their new burgers, so we ordered the French Burger ($15.95) with mushrooms, caramelized onion, Brie, lettuce and tomato, and served with piping hot French Fries. Onion Rings and Sweet Potato Fries were also available, but these French fries were outstanding. And the Brie and caramelized onion worked very well on this enormous burger. We finally had to resort to a knife and fork to finish it, but every bite was worth it.

We didn’t have room for desserts, but we will sometime in the future.

This restaurant looks like a winner for Wilton and for Ramadani and we wish them well.  Oh, and they take credit cards!

bar area

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Stunning ‘In the Heights’ at Westport Playhouse

Stunning ‘In the Heights’ at Westport Playhouse

It may be jumping the gun to praise a show still in previews, but In the Heights at the Westport Country Playhouse is one of the best musicals the Playhouse has done in years, and in fact one of the best musicals I have seen in any venue. Let me suggest you book tickets while you can before even reading the rest of the review, because it is sure to sell out.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award winning musical (with book by Quiara Alegria Hudes) about life in Washington Heights grabs you from the very first number, the 12-minute “In the Heights” and never lets you go. His lively, Hispanic-inflected jazz score along with the stunning choreography by director Marcos Santana is outstanding from beginning to end, with Daniel Green’s 10-piece brassy orchestra keeping the music moving.

In his program notes, Miranda explains that after having played Bernardo in school and seen other contemporary shows that depicted Hispanics as violent, he was determined to write a piece that shows people growing up and living in an Hispanic neighborhood, in this case Washington Heights, which lies between 155th and 190th Streets in New York. The street sign on the set says W 181st St.

The story revolves around Usnavi (a superb Rodolfo Soto), a young bodega proprietor who runs the shop along with his young cousin Sonny (Ezequiel Pujols). Both live with Abuela Claudia (the powerful Blanca Camacho) who raised Usnavi after his parents died. In case you might not think that “Usnavi” is a Spanish name, you are right. We learn in the second act that he was named for the phrase on a boat his parents passed before they landed in the U.S.  (US Navy).

The set looks much like that area in New York, with some graffiti and several shops, a beauty shop run by Daniela (Sandra Marante), with Carla (Amanda Robles) and pretty, young Vanessa (Nina Victoria Negron, who is Usnavi’s love interest), and  Rosario’s Car Service, where Kevin (Rony Chiroldes) and his strong-willed wife Camilla (Doreen Montalvo) dispatch drivers, assisted by Benny (Gerald Cesar), and ambitious black man who does not yet speak much Spanish. He is trying to learn it from the drivers so he can take over the dispatching duties. He later remarks that he has learned that Puerto Rican Spanish and Dominican Spanish have completely different swear words.

The story begins moving when Kevin and Carla’s daughter Nina (the outstanding Didi Romero) returns from her first year at Stanford, only to eventually reveal that she has lost her scholarship. Benny and Nina reconnect and are soon in love, and sing beautifully together, especially in “Sunrise.” And meanwhile, Usnavi gets Sonny to ask Vanessa out for him, and they soon connect as well.

While there is some dialog throughout, much of the show is really the songs, dancing, costumes and lighting that keep the show moving and thrilling from beginning to end. And I must especially praise the Piragua Guy (Paul Aguirre), who pushes a Piragua cart  (flavored shaved ice) and sings in a fabulous tenor voice throughout.

This nearly all Equity 18-member cast, several of whom were in the original Broadway production, produce one of the most professional, high energy shows the Playhouse has ever presented and to see how these amazing singers and dancers tell the story of The Heights, you simply must see this excellent production. Some neighbors in the audience noted that this production was actually better than the Broadway production. Don’t miss it!

In the Heights plays at the Westport Country Playhouse April 23 through May 11, now extended through May 19th.!ITH_FullCast_1200x750

Above, front row (L–R): Randy Castillo, Nina Victoria Negron, Amanda Robles, Tony Chiroldes, Edward Cuellar, Alison Solomon. Second row: Jonté Jaurel Culpepper, Marco Antonio Santiago, Melissa Denise Lopez, Sarita Colon, Blanca Camacho, Rodolfo Soto, Sandra Marante, Doreen Montalvo, Gerald Caesar, and Didi Romero. Back row: Ezequiel Pujols, Paul Aguirre, director/choreographer Marcos Santana, and music director Daniel Green. Photo by S. Emerick

‘GMOs Decoded’ –Krimsky’s latest screed

‘GMOs Decoded’ –Krimsky’s latest screed

GMOs Decoded is Tufts Professor Sheldon Krimsky’s latest skeptical discussion on the virtues of plant biotechnology. Unlike his previous book, The GMO Deception, Krimsky here appears at first to take a more nuanced approach, by taking about eight of his fourteen chapters to explain the details of various biotechnology issues.

The book opens with a Foreword by nutritionist Marion Nestle, which you can read here in her column. Nestle has never been a fan of biotechnology so her comments are fairly anodyne.

Then, in the Introduction, gives away the game by noting that “there is a strong scientific consensus among elites over GMOs.” He goes on to say that “Although some scientists have declared the debate…over,” referencing Jon Entine’s Forbes article which references von Eenennaam and Young’s trillion animal feed study, This major study in the Journal of Animal Science studies feed records for over 100 billion animals fed either GE or non-GE foods, and found no unfavorable effects on the animals.

Then Krimsky notes that “other scientists declare with equal confidence that there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety.” His reference is to a paper in the trivial non-journal Environmental Sciences Europe, by prominent GMO disinformationists: Nicholas DeFarge, Michael Antoniou from Seralini’s group, and Indian pseudo-science mystic Vandana Shiva, among others. The paper presents no research but merely a report on a petition signed by “300 scientists worldwide.” (I have that list and most of the signatories are not scientists.)

The Seralini problem

Critiques of biotechnology, or colloquially “GMOs,” really was heightened by Giles-Eric Seralini’s 2012 paper in Food and Chemical Toxicology featuring tumor-laden Sprague-Dawley rats: Long-term toxicity of Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically-modified maize.” Even the title made the objective confusing.  Wayne Parrott’s criticism describes the paper’s problems clearly.

The paper had so many problems from animal husbandry to poor experimental design that protests and a re-review caused the journal to withdraw the paper. It was eventually reprinted (without review) in Environmental Sciences Europe where you can find it now.

Seralini’s group has continued to publish papers critical of biotechnology, all of questionable validity, and many very difficult to follow. His co-workers and colleagues have been publishing these papers ever since, and Brazeau has dubbed them the “Seralini pseudo-science syndicate.” And none of his lab’s papers have been replicated be others.

The footnotes

You can learn a great deal about a book’s approach by scanning the footnotes, which occupy pages 156-181 in Krimsky’s book. It doesn’t take long to discover that the footnotes are larded with 15 references to Seralini’s disinformation machine.

Charles Benbrook who was for a few years at Washington State University, but whose salary was paid by the Organic Center and has close ties anti-GMO activists, appears in 5 footnotes, and his paper (published in a predatory pay-to-play journal) claiming negative impacts of GM crops has been roundly debunked by Brookes, Carpenter and McHughen.

Jonathan Latham, publisher and author of the anti-biotech Independent Science News appears twice arguing that transgenic plants can sometimes mutate dangerously. He has been severely criticized by Katiree.

There are, however, many footnotes to well-regarded sources such as Brown and Federoff’s Mendel in the Kitchen and papers by legitimate scientists like Wayne Parrott and Alessandro Nicolia, for example.

The chapters

The book starts out soberly as an outline of various genetic breeding techniques: traditional, molecular and their differences. Chapter 4 details difficulty in producing the Flavr-Savr tomato and FrostBan  bacteria. Chapter 5 covers herbicide resistant  crops and brings up no-till farming, which can improve soil health. However, it suggests that herbicide resistant weeds may require tilling. However, this has obvious solutions in crop rotation. The chapter also brings up Benbrook’s discredited paper claiming increases in herbicide use that are significantly overstated. This chapter also brings up the IARCs discredited claim that glyphosate can cause cancer.

Chapter 6 fairly and accurately covers disease resistant crops, but in Chapter 7 covering insect resistant crops, Krimsky goes afield in his summary of Starlink Corn, spending  several pages scaring us, only to finally report that there was no evidence that Starlink corn caused any illnesses. Krimsky then cites Antoniou and Robinson from Seralini’s stable to claim GM-fed rats suffered liver and kidney damage in a 3-generation study that you can safely ignore.

Chapter 8 on GMO Risk Assessment makes claims that “scientists differ,” but suffers from a dearth of supporting footnotes on who and what these differences are. There is a lot of “some groups” but “other groups” but little supporting explanation.

Chapter 9 on Contested Viewpoints argues that trans-genes may be placed differently and could result in plants having different properties, including varying toxicity, but cites Latham twice and actual scientists in Kuiper et. al. You have to actually check the papers to see that there is little to be concerned about here. He also raises the question of whether pre-market testing is actually done, as if this is not a requirement for approval. Krimsky also gets “substantial equivalence” wrong, but Kuiper explains it clearly.

  • Substantial Equivalence is a starting point for a safety assessment
  • Make a comparison between the GM organism and its closes traditional counterpart.
  • Identify intended or unintended difference on which further safety assessment should be focused.

By contrast, Krimsky says that a transgenic crop and its conventional counterpart about which toxicology information is known are compared. “When extensively analyzed, if the transgenic crop exhibits no changes …compared to its parent strain it can be treated as substantially equivalent to that strain. After that determination is made, further safety or nutritional concerns are expected to be insignificant.”

This is just not the same idea at all!

The chapter also mentions a 13-week pilot study on the effect of Roundup on the gut microbiome of rats in a study performed by the Ramazzini institute in Italy. While they did claim to find some changes in the microbiome, the Ramazzini institute seems to have a spotty reputation, having been criticized for poor reliability in another recent study on aspartame, and in the glyphosate case, Brazeau criticizes them for finding “results that match their priors but not anyone else’s research.” (They also did a questionable report on cell phone radiation.)

Much of the rest of the chapter deals with worries that have never been found to be an actual problem.

Chapter 10 rehashes all the arguments for labeling GMOs and some of the issues various states have encountered, closing with the fact that Congress passed a “labeling law” that amounts to a QR code you can scan with your phone, and is thus pretty harmless.

Chapter 11 deals with the 2016 National Academies Study on Genetically Engineered Crops. Krimsky admits that the evidence of the report reinforces the fact that GM crops are safe to eat and do not pose any risks. However he carefully picks advantageous quotes to suggest that biotechnology does not improve yields. One would wonder why famers are then willing to pay more for them. If you read through the report or its summary you will find a number of carefully written conclusions suggesting that it is mostly difficult to measure the effects of yield because it is difficult to find identical cropland to compare GM and non-GM crops, and whether the GM and non-GM varieties were true isolines to be comparable. The report also discusses the strategy for preventing evolution of herbicide reisistant weeds and Bt resistant insects.

In fact, the report suggests that in the U.S. and in China, insect-pest populations “are reduced regionally and that this benefits both adopters and nonadopters of Bt crops.” And it is important to note that Bt brinjal (eggplant, or aubergine) has significantly improved farmers’ lives in both Bangladesh and India.

Krimsky also spends 3 pages defending Seralini’s disgraced paper, claiming that was “not a carcinogenicity study” to defend the small number of rats used. In fact, critics have said that Seralini’s paper had no particular objective in advance and he let the S-D rats grow until they naturally developed tumors and published their pictures.

Finally, Krimsky attacks the integrity of the NASEM panel itself, pointing to a reference that claims 6 out of 20 members had conflicting financial interests. Of course that paper is by Krimksy himself.

Chapter 12 discusses the development of Golden Rice, which the author calls a “promise unfulfilled.” It has now been approved by the US FDA, however.

Chapter 13 discusses conflict among scientists regarding GMOs as if it actually existed. The overwhelming worldwide consensus, including every major national scientific association, is that GM crops pose no harm. He mentions “uncertain risks,” and the “GMO divide” which he himself has tried to manufacture. He recycles the canard that “farmers do no own their own seeds” as if hybrid seeds had never before existed, and of course mentions international crackpot Vandana Shiva who questions  patenting living organisms. Oh, and don’t forget “corporate hegemonic control.”

Chapter 14 presents Krimsky’s completely expected, but erroneous summation. He attacks the values of science and “trans-scientific concepts,” (whatever they are!). He suggests that “it’s an evolving story in India,” despite the overwhelming success of Bt brinjal, and questions whether yields actually improve. Of course he trots out Robin Mesnage, one of Seralini’s henchmen to argue that corn (maize) sprayed with Roundup produces different metabolites, and claims farmers have untold economic losses because of unexpected GM contamination.

Conclusion

Krimsky starts out soberly enough trying to explain the various techniques that have been developed and some of their successes. But he can’t help himself, and by Chapter 5 he is back beating the same poor old horse, and gradually slipping more misinformation into each succeeding chapter. Nothing really new here, unfortunately.

 

Sheldon Krimsky publishes more anti-GMO malarkey

Sheldon Krimsky publishes more anti-GMO malarkey

This 2015 review is being republished in advance of my forthcoming review of Krimsky’s latest book.

Sheldon Krimsky, Professor of Humanities & Social Sciences at Tufts University has published another in a series of articles and books attacking the safety of genetically modified plants (GMOs). Professor Krimsky’s appointment is in the Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, but he holds and adjunct appointment in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. Krimsky holds a masters in physics, but his PhD is in philosophy. Thus, many of his arguments have already been rejected by biologists.

Last year Krimsky published The GMO Deception at Skyhorse publishing (who also published RFK jr’s anti-vax book). While the book’s anti-science point of view is obvious from the title, it received a devastating review at Biofortified , who pointed that the book is nothing but a repackaging of old, discredited articles from GeneWatch archives. That site is hosted by the Council of Responsible Genetics, where Krimsky is the chairman.

Getting to Krimsky’s latest publication “An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment,” it too brings up a number of discredited articles and workers.

The thesis of Krimsky’s article is that there is not a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs, because he has uncovered about 26 articles attacking them. Krimsky’s paper is published in the journal Science, Technology and Human Values, where Krimsky is on the editorial board.

In discussing articles on biotechnology, it is useful to remember  The Seralini Rule, published in the Skeptico blog, which states that

If you favorably cite the 2012 Séralini rats fed on Roundup ready maize study, you just lost the argument.

That Skeptico article summarizes all the problems with that discredited and withdrawn paper, noting that if you cite this paper as serious science you haven’t taken the trouble to consider all of its scientific weaknesses.

Unfortunately, Professor Krimsky’s paper fails this test, citing 5 papers by this discredited scientist.

Krimsky’s  article is divided into three parts. In the first part, he summarizes eight recent review articles on GMOs finding some very critical and some much less critical. We read several of the more critical ones to see if we could understand his point.

He first cites “Genetically Modified Foods and Social Concerns,” by Maghari and Ardekani, published in the Iranian journal Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology. This paper is basically a summary of potential concerns, none of which are supported by actual science. Suggesting that transgenic DNA might break up and reintegrate into the genome (which has never been observed), he cites two non-peer-reviewed reports by Mae Wan Ho, who has been criticized for embracing pseudoscience. Even more risible is Maghari’s assertion that GMOs may be responsible for “food-borne diseases” such as the “epidemic of Morgellon’s disease in the U.S.” In fact, Morgellon’s disease is a delusion that one’s skin is crawling when no cause can be found, and is considered a psychiatric ailment, not one caused by diet.

The second paper we read from his list was a literature review by Domingo and Bordonaba, which also violates the Seralini rule, and asserts without proof that studies showing the safety of GMOs have been performed by biotechnology companies. This is in fact contrary to the findings of Biofortified’s GENERA database of papers, which found that more than half of the studies were performed by independent researchers.

The third paper he cites, by Dona and Arvanitouannis also violates the Seralini rule, and completely misstates the doctrine of “substantial equivalence.” The correct statement of this principle is that if a GM and a conventional crop have similar origins, then their “substantial equivalence” can be the starting point for testing of the GM version to see if it has different properties that might make it dangerous to the consumer. It does not mean that no further testing is required. It also erroneously suggests that the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, which is found on all cauliflower, is dangerous if used in biotechnology. This is, of course, rubbish, since we eat it every day on most brassicae.

In checking these papers, we quickly wander down a “rabbit hole” of papers referring to other papers and to each other, but all seeming to cite the same erroneous information. After citing some inconclusive studies, Krimsky quotes the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which is listed on QuackWatch, and is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. It has been criticized by Science Based Medicine, and is considered a dubious certifying board.

Arpad Pusztai and Giles-Eric Seralini

In the second part of his paper Krimsky focuses on the poorly regarded work of Pusztai and of Seralini, carefully omitting some of the more damning details about their work.

Pusztai was asked to evaluate some experimental genetically modified potatoes, and reported that they damaged the stomach lining of rats. After an investigation by his employer, the Rowett Institute, found that his data did not support his conclusions, he was fired. However, Krimsky does not note what Chassy and Tribe have pointed out: the potatoes Pusztai used were an experimental and unapproved variety, and that the rats were fed uncooked potatoes, which are always harmful to rats. Moreover, two expert panels concluded that no scientific conclusions could be drawn from his work. Pusztai has become an anti-GMO activist, travelling the world giving scary talks, but has not carried out any further science.

Professor Giles-Eric Seralini has published a number of papers critical of GMOs, and their confusing style and lack of rigor have been criticized long before his rat tumor paper. However, when Seralini published his 2012 paper, scientists immediately began criticizing its small sample size, lack of double blinding, animal mistreatment, and unsupported conclusions: Sprague-Dawley rats develop tumors anyway, which is why they are suitable for 90 day experiments but not 2-year experiments.

Krimsky notes that Seralini revealed his association with CRIIGEN, a French anti-GMO organization he headed, but did not mention that Seralini’s work was sponsored by Carrefour grocery chain and the Auchan retail group who wanted to promote their new line of organic (non-GMO) products.

When many, many scientists protested to Food and Chemical Toxicology that this paper did not represent good science, the journal editor, A. Wallace Hayes, convened a new group of referees to review the paper. After nearly a year, the review panel concluded that the paper should be withdrawn because of its scientific flaws, and it was. Krimsky fails to mention the panel, but suggests the editor did this unilaterally.

Krimsky also cites an article which suggests that a “new assistant editor” joined the board of Food and Chemical Toxicology who had previously worked for Monsanto. This old conspiracy theory is easily laid to rest: biologist Richard Goodman worked for Monsanto from 1997-2004 and then joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska, long before Seralini’s paper came to light. He was an assistant editor during the Seralini controversy, but Hayes specifically excluded him from the review panel at Seralini’s request.

Author’s Conclusions

Professor Krimsky’s conclusions rely on the fact that he claims to have found 26 animal studies that found “adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals.” We didn’t read all of them, but we have already read some which are discredited and/or published in very low-level journals.

  1. Ewen and Pusztai, “Effects of Diets Containing Genetically Modified Potatoes,’ Discussed above.
  2. Ermakova, “Genetically Modified Soy Leads to the Decrease of Weight and High Mortality of Rat Pups.” Not published in any journal.
  3. Seralini, Cellier and Vendomois, “New Analysis of Rate Feeding Study with GM Maize Reveals Signs of Hyporenal Toxicity.’ The EFSA has debunked this paper.
  4. Aris and LeBlanc, “Maternal and Fetal Exposure to Pesticdes Associated tp GM Foods in Eastern Township of Quebec, CA.” Critiqued by Anastasia Bodnar.
  5. Carman, Vlieger,Ver Steeg, Sneller, Robinson al., A Long-Term Toxicology Study on Pigs Fed a Combined GMO Soy and Maize Diet.” Published on a non-peer-reviewed journal. Bozianu’s work rebutted this paper. Rebutted by Mark Lynas  and  by David Gorski.
  6. Seralini al. “Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup herbicide…” Discussed above, and debunked by Skeptico and by Wayne Parrott.
  7. De Vendomois, Spiroux and Seralini, “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health” Reviewed and debunked here.

 

Conclusions

Professor Krimsky has recycled old, discredited papers and arguments as if they were new to try to imply that there is a serious doubt about the safety of GM crops. He neglects the thousands of papers that make up the scientific consensus over the few weak ones he has dredged up to make his point. And Professor van Eenennaam’s billion animal study simply closes the door on this discussion.

Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

Rizzuto’s in Westport is still excellent

We haven’t visited Rizzuto’s excellent restaurant (and oyster bar) in too long, and we are delighted to report that it is better than ever. It’s a risk to visit any restaurant in a Saturday night when they are busiest, but the staff was right on top of everything even though every table was full. They were, thoughtful, fast, efficient and never missed a thing. And the food was outstanding.

crab

One of our appetizers was a Pan Seared Jumbo Crab Cake, Maryland style ($14) which may be the closest we’ve ever had to a Maryland crab cake outside that state. I was meaty, with a spicy, mustardy tang, and was served with an excellent remoulade along with tomatoes, salad green and lemon. Really worth the trip for this one alone.

chowderOur other appetizer was their New England Clam Chowder ($9) served with plenteous clams, potatoes and a bit of bacon. Another ideal starter for your dinner.

On their specials menu that night, they served pan seared Chilean Sea Bass ($36) on a delicious Wild Mushroom Risotto, with asparagus and lobster cream. And yes, there were a few pieces of lobster in it as well. Sea bass has proliferated just about everywhere you go these days, but this sea bass was perfectly cooked: tender, juicy and flavorful. And the lobster sauce topped it to perfection.

sea bass

Our other entrée was also from their nightly specials:  Rigatoni al Forno ($24), baked with  Italian sausage, eggplant, mozzarella, parmigiano Reggiano, plum tomato sauce and fresh basil. This, too, was simply outstanding and so filling we brought some home for lunch.

rigatoni

We had to split a dessert to see what they were like. The one we chose was called Chocolate Truffle Ring Ding ($8) which was chocolate cake with a chocolate cream filling,  chocolate ganache and freshly whipped cream. A nice finish to the meal.

ringding

We definitely have to go back there more often, as this was one of our best experiences in some time.

bread

Outstanding ‘West Side Story’ by Norwalk Symphony

Outstanding ‘West Side Story’ by Norwalk Symphony

The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jonathan Yates and in conjunction with Stamford’s New Paradigm Theater produced an outstanding Symphonic Concert version of West Side Story last Saturday. This was just the music, without the choreography, costumes, props or much of the dialog, which gave you a chance to fully appreciate Bernstein’s complex and beautiful score.

percussionBernstein wrote the orchestra score for 31 players, including 4 percussion players: making it a score you are unlikely to ever hear in local, or even professional productions. And the Norwalk Symphony did better, with the rich sound of 48 professional musicians, including those 4 percussion players.

The New Paradigm Theater recruited and rehearsed the singers and worked out their minimal blocking, staged by Claire Kelly and with music direction by Steve Musitano, and overall artistic direction by Kristin Huffman.

The performance started with the prolog, which is normally a dance number and the first Jets-Sharks conflict, but in this staging, we just heard the music itself. This continued throughout with all of the dance music played in full for us to appreciate.

Some thirty-four singers made up the collection of leads and chorus, giving a full sound to all of Bernstein’s writing. Outstanding in this performance was Evy Ortiz as Maria, who even without much dialog managed to portray the new immigrant who falls in love with Tony. Her voice was clear and always easily heard and understood, with a lovely, soprano sound. Bronson Norris Murphy played Tony with aplomb and his clear tenor voice nailed the (optional) high C in Maria, something few Tonys manage to do as well. Naysh Fox as Riff delivered a compelling version of “Cool,” and Paola Hernandez was a comically entertaining Anita.

The entire ensemble carried off the complex Tonight Quintet with ease, providing a great musical (almost) climax to Act I just before the Rumble dance number that finishes the act. Act I ends with Tony accidentally killing Bernardo, but in this staging you never see that, and it would have been nice if he had collapsed on stage to make that point. And, at the end Chino shoots Tony, but we don’t see that either, Tony just stops singing and leaves the stage.

Normally the solo “There’s a Place for Us” is given to a solo soprano in the orchestra or upstage outside the action, but in this production two very talented children, Nathan Horne and Scarlet Tanzer sung it as a charming duet.

The orchestra had its own fun, providing the finger snapping in the Prolog and in the Dance at the Gym, and all rising and shouting “Mambo” when that section began.

Overall this was a thoroughly professional production of very high quality that brought the audience to its feet at the end, and presumably recruiting more audience for future concerts, which include the family concert of Peter and the Wolf on March 17, and Beethoven’s 9th (with the Mendelssohn Choir) on May 18.

bow2

bows

This performance was miked, with Tony, Maria and Riff using body mikes, and the remainder of the singers gathered around four floor mikes. It might have been better balanced without them, and these singers had the chops for it.

All in all, a delightful evening.

The new Nikon Z6 versus the D7200

The new Nikon Z6 versus the D7200

Nikon’s new Z6 camera is the first of their mirror less full-frame cameras. It’s nominally a 24 megapixel camera much like my recent D7200. But while the D7200 is a DX format with a sensor that is 24  x 16 mm. The new Nikon Z6 has a full frame sensor of 24 x 36 mm, but with the same megapixel resolution. Is it better or just more expensive? All reports seem to indicate that the larger, sharper pixels.

z6 and adapter

The Z6 is a camera you can enjoy handling. It is about 3 oz lighter than the D7200 (both with their default kit zoom lens) and much thinner. It is very easy to hold. Unlike the D7200, the Z6 has no built-in flash, but that is no great loss because the built in flash on all these cameras isn’t that great. But the flash connector works fine with my SB-800 flash.

Because the camera is mirrorless, the display and viewfinder are electronic and sharp as a tack. In addition, vibration reduction is built in, so you get a sharper picture by default than you could ever get in camera with a flip up mirror.

With the Z series (there is also a 45.7 megapixel Z7), Nikon has introduced a new Z lens mount that supplants the F mount of the past 40 years or so. The opening is a bit bigger, and the new technology it includes will allow lenses as sensitive as F/0.95.

The standard kit lens for the Z6 is a 24mm-70mm f/4 zoom lens, which seems very sharp indeed. By contrast, the D7200 comes with an 18mm-140mm f 3.5-5.6 zoom. Of course making these lenses is much cheaper for the DX area than for the full FX area.

Nikon also has introduced a $250 adapter for F-mount lenses (shown above), but only some of the most recent lenses seem to work with it. Neither of my fairly recent full frame lenses allowed autofocus to work, so look at the table of supported lenses before ordering it. Nikon has also released a roadmap of new lenses they will be introducing in the next 3 years.

The buttons and controls are very much like all my previous digital Nikons, so for the most part you will find it pretty easy to use. However, there are some exceptions.

Formatting the memory card is no longer something you can do by pressing two buttons at once: there just aren’t as many buttons on this camera body. But rather than hunting for the Format menu item, you can easily add it to your private menu favorites (My Menu) so you can find it more quickly. I usually copy photos to my PC about once a day and then format the memory card, so this is much handier.

I was surprised to discover that out of the box, there is no display of the photo you just took: the display goes live right away. If you want to look at your latest shot, you have to press the right-arrow button at the top left corner of the camera. There is a way to change this, however, using the Image Review menu item in the Playback menu. This took me quite a while to find, but after trying the setting both ways, I can see some advantages to each. For very rapid action shooting, that review is in the way, but if you are taking candids or covering an event where you need to make sure of your last shot, turning on Image Review will help.

The Z6 is also provides WiFi connection, which should allow you to transfer photos wirelessly. But like a number of other people who have tried this feature, I simply could not make it work. Fortunately, photos transfer very quickly using the provided USB cable. I now have 3 such USB cables: one for my D80, one for my D7200 and one for my Z6. So, when travelling be sure to pack all the cables you might need.

The display is bright, sharp and crisp, as is the viewfinder display, making you appreciate the quality of this camera’s features. However, this does have battery implications: you will probably have to change the battery every few days, while for the D7200, I could sometimes go a week or two between battery changes.  Fortunately, both cameras use the same charger and can use the same EN-EL15 batteries.

How sharp is it?

Below is a lovely shot I took in Martinique using our workhorse Nikon D7200. Can the Z6 do any better?

hillside mart.jpg

Well, not having another trip planned, I decided to do a couple of local tests. Below is a forest scene near our house.

z6trees full

I took the same shot at about a 50mm focal length with both cameras, with aperture priority set to f/11, using the same autofocus settings. At full frame the two pictures look pretty identical. You can see them at full resolution here for the D7200 and here for the Z6. Below, are details from both shots. It is pretty clear that the Z6 is much more detailed.

Nikon D7200        ——-    Nikon Z6

And what about our dog Edward?

bigz6dog

Here he is full frame, and here he is in details from both cameras. No question that the Z6 is much sharper. Of course he dozed during  D7200 shot and that could be why he looks “less sharp.”

Nikon D7200  —–     Nikon Z6

Having used the camera for about a week now, I am really impressed with the incredibly sharp pictures in the viewfinder, on the display and expanded on my laptop. It is the sharpest digital camera I have ever had and I plan to keep it.

Photo notes: Pictures of the two cameras (Z6 and D7200) were taken with my 10 megapixel D80. Pictures of the Z6 were taken with the D7200.

Oh, and incidentally, the Z6 uses only relatively expensive XQD memory cards, and the package (camera plus lens) does NOT include a memory card. Make sure your order includes one!

On being a paper boy in the 50s

On being a paper boy in the 50s

skyscraper

In Columbus, at the corner of North High and W.N. Broadway there was an Isaly’s store in the 1950s. This popular dairy store served their famous Skyscraper cones, sundaes, sodas, shakes and sold cheeses and cold cuts, included their famous Chipped Chopped Ham. Since Isaly’s was right next to the Clinton Theater, they did a good business after every show. I gave them my business for another reason.

If you walked west on W.N. Broadway about half a block, you would come to an alley, and just up the alley on the left was a small frame building painted dark green. It was maybe 10’ x 16’ in size and locked with a padlock much of the day. But around 3pm, the Station Manager opened the building so you could see shelves running down each side and a counter in the rear. This is where I and other paper boys (there were soon some paper girls, too although not at that particular substation) picked up our papers every afternoon.

Columbus, in the mid-1950s was a city of about 380,000 (Greater Columbus was probably half a million) and had three newspapers: the Columbus Dispatch, the Columbus Citizen and the Ohio State Journal. The Dispatch and Citizen were evening papers and the Journal a morning paper. Each of these were at that time independently owned, with the Columbus Dispatch, the largest in circulation and advertising being held by the powerful (and somewhat secretive) Wolfe family.

The Columbus Citizen was part of the Scripps-Howard media empire, and the Journal was held over the years by a number of owners.

Politically, Ohio was definitively a Republican state and the Dispatch was clearly a rock-ribbed Republican newspaper. Ohio went for Eisenhower in the 50s and for Nixon over Kennedy in 1960. Only a few counties around Cleveland went for Kennedy. However, by 1964 most of Ohio went for Johnson over Goldwater. But after that, Ohio has remained Republican most of the time until Obama, although considered a “swing state” by some currently.

347walhallacolorI lived at the end of East Longview in Columbus, but our modest 3 bedroom 1-bath house faced the Walhalla ravine and had a Walhalla address. From there I could easily bike to Clinton Elementary School, just a few blocks away, and later to Crestview Junior High when I entered seventh grade. It was about that time that I became a paper carrier. I think that the paper sent notices to the classes of rising seventh graders inviting them to apply for paper carrier jobs, and I applied.

In any case, soon after I started Junior High in the fall of 1954, I began my paper route. I would bike home, leave my schoolbooks and grab my paper bags and bike down to the substation behind Isaly’s. Many days I beat the truck that left the papers off at the substation. We’d all be sitting around on the shelves waiting until some sharp eyed boy spotted the truck and called out “Papers!” We’d all grab the bundles out of the truck and bring them into the station, where the young station manager, Jim Lawson, would count them into groups and hand them out to each of us, more or less in the order we had arrived.

rolledpapers

While we could go off right away to deliver the papers, many of us stayed to fold the papers to make them easier to throw onto a customer’s porches. We could use rubber bands, but most of us learned how to fold newspapers quickly   by tucking the folded section into the opening on the spine side of the paper. A quick twist and these papers were very stable for throwing without messing with rubber bands. It became a point of pride among the carriers to be able to fold your entire route’s papers in a couple of minutes before setting out. I only used rubber bands to secure the Sunday papers, which were a bit larger.

I did stop off at Isaly’s from time to time, and in June they had a  Dairy Month special: half price ice cream sodas! They cost 12 cents! I usually had more than one that month.

My paper route

elakeview2

My first paper route on East Lakeview Ave was a relatively small one with only 34 subscribers. The street looks much the same today. The Citizen (and the Dispatch for that matter) cost 5¢ a copy daily and 15 cents on Sunday. Of that, we got, I think a little over 2 cents a paper, and probably a bit more for the Sunday paper. (I later learned that Dispatch carriers were paid a bit more, closer to 3 cents a paper.)

I folded all the papers, put them in my saddle bags and set off about 4 blocks south to Lakeview. Usually, I put some folded papers in my shoulder bag and walked up one side of the street and back down the other delivering papers.  Most houses in this era had covered wooden porches, and if I could toss the paper on the porch, it was pretty safe from the elements. Some customers had specified “In the door,” ot “In box” and we had to walk up and deliver these in person.

Then I rode my bike up to the next block and repeated the process. The last part of Lakeview made a left turn and ran along the Walhalla ravine. These houses were below street level and a bit harder to get to. Sometimes this engendered small tips, but that was pretty rare.

Sometimes there were mishaps: you got a paper wet or accidentally tossed it into the bushes. But since I added my parents’ house to my route, I always had an extra. In one particularly wild mishap, a wild throw left a paper on the customer’s porch roof. Fortunately, that was Jim Lawson’s parents’ house, and  we had a good laugh over it.

Delivering papers was pretty quick once you got the hang of it, but Sunday papers were a bit more of an effort. The papers were heavier and hard to manage, and most carriers, including me, talked their parents into driving them on Sundays. You picked up the papers, I think, between 6 and 7am and were expected to have them all delivered before 8am. And yes, on Sunday, I used rubber bands.

Collecting

Collecting from customers was one of the bigger pieces of drudgery in what at first seemed like a halcyon experience. Carriers were given half-size 3 ring notebooks with a page for each subscriber, and it was up to you to collect weekly and keep records of whether they had. Generally, we collected Thursday evening after dinner, when people would be home. Daily subscribers paid 30 cents a week, daily and Sunday paid 45 cents, and those who ordered magazine subscriptions through the Citizen paid an additional 15 cent a week. So, you collected 30, 45 or 60 cents per subscriber per week.

changerThis took some time but wasn’t too hard. There were almost always a few you had to go back to because they didn’t seem to be home or didn’t want to answer the door, or didn’t have change.  I  had one of those belt change dispensers loaded with nickels, dimes and quarters. This is the same sort of changer that came up in the testimony of Anthony Ulasiewicz, one of Nixon’s White House Plumbers, who testified that he carried a changer to make all those phone calls from pay phones.

The second year, the Citizen came up with subscriber pages with little postage stamp sized tear-off tabs to give the subscribers as receipts. While this might have seemed like a good idea to someone, that meant there was little space to write notes about subscriber requests, and they weren’t all that sturdy.

Paying your bill

Every Saturday morning, a bunch of bleary eyed paper boys, carrying little canvas bags of money showed up at the substation to pay their paper bills. They didn’t want change or checks, so you had to have your parents launder the checks and If you had a bunch of coins, you eventually had to take them to the bank.

My bills that first year were around $11.50, meaning that I got to keep around $3 a week. Not really a big haul, but this was worth a bit more in the 1950s than it is now.

After about a year I got the chance to switch to a larger route on Clinton Heights, with about 56 subscribers. This took longer to deliver, but I made almost twice as much money, about $6 as week. And the route ended up only a block from our house. Clinton Heights had some larger houses, especially at the top of the street, but most wealthier people preferred the Dispatch.

Snow

Looking back at my childhood in Columbus, I tend to think of the smell of new-mown grass, fresh morning dew and hot summer days. But Columbus did have winters, and sometimes significant snowfalls. I don’t recall exactly all we did, but  I do remember pushing my balloon tire bike through the snow as it carried the papers for me. I also remember that that little green carrier’s substation had a stove in it, and on cold afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings, Lawson would build a fire in that metal stove, vented through the roof. And that heat was really welcome.

Canvassing

One truly unwelcome feature of being paper carrier was the Citizen’s insistence on our canvassing for new subscribers. One night every month or so, we’d meet at the station about 6pm and jump into cars provided by Lawson and our district manager. They’d take us to unfamiliar neighborhoods and give us a pep talk about the wonderful trips we could win if we sold enough subscriptions (and magazines). The Dispatch did not require its carriers to canvas. But according to my friend Jeff Luce, who carried the Dispatch at the same time, they were required to sell accident insurance policies to their subscribers.

Some of the boys on these canvases came up with amusing, fictional trips instead such as rides on the Goodyear Blimp and alligator rides. Sometimes we went in pairs, egging each other on to enhance the fictions we were spinning. Sometimes, the customers found it entertaining enough to order a subscription.

Other times we were turned away because the Citizen was a “damned Democrat” newspaper. It certainly wasn’t as Republican as the Dispatch (in local argot pronounced DIS-patch) and it seemed more centrist to me. However, since Scripps Howard’s syndicate was wide ranging, some of the stories were probably less parochial. Later when I was back in Columbus for graduate school, I did compare the papers with a better eye to their politics, and as this was during the Vietnam war era, the differences were fairly plain. The Dispatch was far less forgiving in any stories about war protests and the Citizen much more neutral. Few of the nationally known liberal columnists appeared in either paper.

Selling Extras

In those simpler days, newspapers still sold extras on the street when a major story broke mid-day. I was called out of classes at Crestview to sell extras twice. The major one was the conviction on December 21, 1954 of neurosurgeon Dr Sam Sheppard in the murder of his wife Marilyn. I was given a bag of papers and a spot on North High street where I was to hawk the extras. I think I may have sold 6 or 7.

Sheppard was exonerated in a second trial and released from prison in 1966. The judge blamed the media circus atmosphere for influencing the jurors in the first trial. Columbus papers had stories nearly every day about “Dr Sam” and his sensational trial,  but the Cleveland papers practically tried and convicted Sheppard in their articles. The television series The Fugitive seemed to be loosely based on Sheppard’s case, but this was always denied by its creators.

Carrier Awards

I did win one trip to Washington, DC with the newsboys when I was about 12, selling subscriptions. It was a really successful trip and we had a great time. We saw the usual sights: the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and yes, I and most us did climb all 800-some steps to the top of the monument. We also saw Monticello, Arlington Cemetery, and I think, part of the Smithsonian.

I was selected a Carrier of the Year my last year in the job and took a bus down to the Citizen office and have my picture taken along with a handful of other lucky carriers. We got our pictures in the paper and a snow globe with a gold paper carrier in it, that sadly I seem to have lost some time since. In my 2-1/2 years as a paper boy, I had only one “missed” delivery, so I had a pretty good record, but it probably didn’t help me much with my college applications.

Time to Go

Partway through 9th grade at Crestview Jr High, I realized that it was time to leave the paper business as North High School was approaching, and it would make more demands on my time. So, I submitted my resignation. And, in the place for a reason, my wise-guy parents suggested I put down a biblical reference: I Corinthians 13:11.  The quote is:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Sex

Like Peyton Place, no story would be complete without some sex. You would probably like to read about some flamboyant affair with a customer or wife or something, But I was 14 then and that never happened. The best story I can tell you is the Susie Scott lived on Clinton Heights and I saw her once or twice and took her out at least once. That was to go to a Teen Dance Party TV broadcast one Saturday afternoon. And yes, we did dance, so I can say this was my (our) TV debut as dancers: an event never repeated.

Epilog

isalys-logoThe Isaly family retired in the 1960s and many of the beloved stores closed with them. The delicious Klondike Bars remain, now made by Unilever. Most of the Ohio Stores closed by the 1990s, and one or two remained longer in the Pittsburgh area.

The little green substation is gone now, and that space looks to be a parking lot. Isaly’s seems to have been replaced by a Kroger and, sadly, the elegant Clinton Theater, where I saw lots of kid’s matinees has been torn down. Right now, there is just a patch of grass there.

clintontheater

In 1959, Scripps Howard merged the Ohio State Journal with the Columbus Citizen and the Citizen-Journal was published as a morning paper under a Joint Operating Agreement with the Columbus Dispatch, using the same press facilities, and some of the same back office staff. This was possible because of a recent law that was intended to save struggling papers, and did for a while. But in 1985, recognizing that evening papers were passé, the Dispatch terminated the operating agreement and the Citizen-Journal, lacking a buyer, closed. The Dispatch became the morning paper the next day.

journalimage

By the third generation, the children of the powerful Wolfe family were less interested in running the family businesses. In addition, the newspaper publishing business was no longer all that profitable and in 2015, the family sold the Columbus Dispatch to Gatehouse Media.  In 2016, the new Dispatch owners endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, although Ohio went for Trump. This was only the second time the Dispatch had endorsed a Democrat. Their other endorsement was of Woodrow Wilson.

The family patriarch John F Wolfe died in June, 2016, and The Wigwam, the Wolfe family’s hunting lodge and retreat was sold to Violet Township in 2018 by the Wolfe family at a substantial discount from its valuation, bringing to an end some of the power of the Wolfe clan. They still owned broadcast media, substantial real estate holdings and investment banking businesses, but Wolfe’s philanthropic leadership and strong opinions were no more.