Editor Dan Malovany gives you his own version of a stimulus package: three columns for the price of one. Find out what he considers good, bad and ugly.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Since I can’t provide each one of you with a $50 gas card to ease the pain during these dog days of summer, I’m going to do the next best thing and give you three columns for the price of one.

    Hootie Hoo! Consider it my economic stimulus package.

    Here’s the good. Our esteemed columnist, Jeff Dearduff, received a silver award for best regular contributed column in the Midwest-South region from the American Society of Business Publications Editors (ASBPE).

    We nominated Jeff because his monthly “Engineering Management” articles take everyday situations and provide practical solutions in a creative way that only he can do.

    Specifically, Jeff received the award for his columns on “Gotcha! Catch the Elusive Breakdown Bandit” in March last year and “Audit Is as Audit Does,” which ran last August. “Gotcha!” talked about how to track intermittent breakdowns that never seem to happen when the maintenance guy is around. “Audit” discussed how life in the bakery is like a box of chocolates and how you never know what you’re going to get.

    Imagine that. Comparing the auditing process to Forrest Gump.

    Jeff began writing for us about two years ago because he felt no one was addressing the daily issues and problems that engineers face. Trust me. It’s not easy writing a column month after month, but Jeff has been up to the task. Now he joins the exclusive club where he can add “award-winning columnist” to his resume.

    Congratulations, Jeff!

    Okay, here’s the bad, and it’s the economy, stupid, as Uncle Bill liked to say. Maybe it’s just me, but when Ben Bernanke and the feds finally acknowledged that they were worried about inflation risks, I thought, “What took these idiots so long?”

    Most companies in the snack and baking industries have been dealing with rising costs for at least five years. It’s only been during the past 18 months that it has accelerated so much that they have had to aggressively pass on these costs to consumers in the form of price increases.

    Actually, it’s likely worse than the feds think. We have to worry about not only inflation, which was recently the highest in more than a quarter of a century, but also stagflation or the double-whammy of a slowing economy and rising prices. The housing crisis isn’t going away. Companies aren’t giving raises, or they’re giving less than in the past. As a result, consumer confidence is in the dumps. America’s favorite pastime has become whining about how gas prices are putting a pinch on discretionary income.

    And, yes, they’re complaining about food prices going through the roof. Look for consumers to begin trading down, if they haven’t already. At best, look for people to become much more selective on where they splurge.

    Starbucks, anyone?

    Finally, here’s the ugly and it doesn’t come any uglier than the return of the Atkins diet by the Harvard School of Public Health in the New England Journal of Medicine. Briefly, the study indicated that subjects on a low-carb diet enjoyed greater weight-loss success than those on a Mediterranean or low-fat one.

    A spokesperson for the Atkins Foundation called it a “vindication.” Others may call it “suspect” since the study was paid for by, you guessed it, the Atkins Foundation.

    Actually, what the researchers don’t note is that reports on the Atkins diet tend to raise the blood pressure of the head of another foundation, namely Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation.

    In an e-mail to members of the baking industry (that surprisingly contained no ALL-CAPS), Adams noted that numerous medical experts quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets expressed opposing points of view and addressed flaws in the actual research.

    “In particular,” she wrote, “the subjects who followed the low-fat diet actually decreased their carbohydrate consumption more than their consumption of fat – not a true low-fat diet.”

    To me, the Atkins diet is a lot like the movie, “Friday the 13th.” Every time you think you’ve seen the last one, there’s Jason on the screen showing his ugly mask again.

    The good thing is that the sequels are never as scary as the first one.


By Dan Malovany, editor