Some Things on My Radar in 2014

I like this time of year.  It' s great time to look at the year gone by and look forward to the new.  Here's a quick list of things I think will be interesting to follow in 2014.

1. TV Content Delivery Will Rapidly Start to Change


Netflix officially became bigger than HBO (in terms of subscribers) this year. That's pretty crazy when you think about it.  Streaming is the new big thing.  Sites that illegally stream live sports and brand new movies are rampant and near impossible to stop, while services that provide a la carte movies and TV are are thriving.  People are deciding to work a little harder to get their content as long as they save some money and at the same happen to be avoiding things that suck about the way most people currently watch TV.  I think we'll see bigger changes in this space in 2014, and it will be great for consumers.

2. Marijuana Reform Is Coming Fast

I'll come right out and say it: It is unbelievable to me that marijuana; a *plant* that comes from the *earth*, that is far less dangerous a drug than alcohol or tobacco and in many cases provides physical aide to people, AND would be a good source of economic stimulation, is still illegal in most states.   Washington and Colorado made it legal for recreational use in 2013 and its likely we'll see more in 2014.  Did you see how much money Colardo made in the first day recreational use was allowed?  This could change our economy. 

3. Wearable Tech


Google Glass and Apple's yet-to-even-be-announced-but-already-talked-about-too-much-already's iWatch are getting a lot of attention but I think it's devices like the Fitbit and Jawbone Up which track your motion are going to be bigger.  Some of these devices are able to track your heartrate and how deep you sleep.  I think the wearable that helps you with these things and not the one that helps listen to music or make a phone call will be the one(s) that make it big.

4. Tech In Tha House


It's called "home automation" and it's the next frontier of tech after wearables.  I think home automation could even be a bigger industry than wearable computing, and sooner too.  Have you heard of Philips Hue?  It's a cool way to control lights in your house.  Trust me it is __awesome__.  The Nest is doing well and now we have things like the Belkin smart slow cooker and "Mother" which is looking to help you with many more aspects of your life.  Some of this stuff is laughable, but there is huge potential for some really cool stuff to happen here.  I imagine a home where your mobile devices and more-so your *wearable* devices interact in concert with your home devices.  So much to think about!  

Here's a couple other things on my radar in 2014 that I don't think I'm all that qualified to talk about at length:

* U.S. combat troops (are supposed to) pull out of Afganistan by Dec 31 2014 
* Climate change - Have you noticed the weather is getting weirder?
* Renewable energy
* The bee death problem
* Orion spacecraft
* Personal drone technology 
* Google's self driving car and its purchase of a robotics company 

What the Hell is Xanthan Gum?

Xantan gum is commonly used in cooking

Xantan gum is commonly used in cooking

If you look at food labels of the things you eat, you've seen it.  It is in most of the foods we eat, and it has a funny name.  I've asked myself the question a thousand times: what the hell is xanthan gum?  Well I decided to do a little research for myself and anyone else out there who might be interested.  

So what is it really?  I felt WebMD had the most concise explanation:

Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria.

It is found in tons of things, not just food products.  Wikipedia has a good breakdown of it's uses:

It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion, although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend solid particles, such as spices. Also used in frozen foods and beverages, xanthan gum helps create the pleasant texture in many ice creams, along with guar gum and locust bean gum. Toothpaste often contains xanthan gum, where it serves as a binder to keep the product uniform. Xanthan gum (when sometimes not made from wheat—see Allergies for gluten-free allergy information) is also used in gluten-free baking. Since the gluten found in wheat must be omitted, xanthan gum is used to give the dough or batter a "stickiness" that would otherwise be achieved with the gluten. Xanthan gum also helps thicken commercial egg substitutes made from egg whites, to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks. It is also a preferred method of thickening liquids for those with swallowing disorders, since it does not change the color or flavor of foods or beverages at typical use levels.

Yikes sounds like it is in fact in everything we consume. 

So is xanthan gum bad for you?  In terms of my own research, the jury is still out.  While your health nut types will say "it isn't natural, therefore it is bad", there really isn't anything proven in terms of bad side effects.  Wikipedia mentions a case of an product with the main ingredient of xanthan gum being banned for possibly causing a certain disorder in infants, but a true link was never proven.  

I guess for me it seems like for now, xanthan gum isn't all that bad.  Also it seems like you would pretty much have to stop eating most foods to completely avoid it.  I guess for now I'll continue on eating things containing it as well as reading my labels and shaking my fist in the air yelling "XANTHAN GUMMMMMMMMM!" like I did on occasion before I did my research on it.