Wednesday, November 12

Free Laughs

Oh Virgina Tech, you're so funny. Do you miss having your soul? Or are you happier having traded the pesky thing for money?

Researchers at Virginia Tech gave me my free laughs of the week when they announced that they've done a study and concluded that "lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches."

Don't get me wrong, people can and do pack all kinds of crappy things in lunches for their kids (have you seen the latest configurations of Lunchables?).

But every a cursory reading of the parameters of the study, as mentioned in the article, makes the design look flawed at best. For example:
  • "Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days."
Pre-K and kindergarten students are exceptionally limited in what they can do themselves. Seriously, we're talking needing help opening milk cartons and applesauce cups here. Obviously, parents are going to prioritize packing things that hold well and are easy to get into and eat. Redoing this study with older students - or even with a broader range of ages - would almost certainly change the game.
  •  As a whole, the packed lunches overall had more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C and iron than school lunches. In addition, meals brought from home generally had less protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calcium than school lunches, according to the study.
Shockingly, growing children require fat - lots of it! Vitamin C and iron are pretty important too. As for Vitamin A and calcium, which are supposedly higher in school-produced meals, they don't actually count if they're synthetic, which they are almost guaranteed to be in school food.
  • To analyze the nutritional content of the lunches, the researchers used the 2012-2013 National School Lunch Program Standards as a guide.
Really people? Why did you even waste your time? These standards are universally acknowledged to be terribly skewed and completely twisted. Celebrity Chef Jaime Oliver tried to make exactly the kind of whole foods, healthy, balanced meal you'd make for your own family and couldn't serve it as planned in an American school because it didn't fit the National School Lunch Program Standards. (If I can find the link, I'll come back and add it here, because it's totally worth watching his utter frustration and disgust.)

And, finally the piece de resistance: 
  • "...actual consumption wasn't measured, only observations about the contents of the lunches. "
Pretty sure that one speaks for itself.

So thank you, Virginia Tech, for my laughs my week - this study was a really good joke!

Monday, November 10

Nature, Nurture, and Freedom of Choice

Common sense is rare in politics and governance these days, that I was really encouraged to see someone, somewhere taking such a reasonable approach!! Decisions like that should be made by an area's residents - not by a small handful of people who think they know what's best for everyone. 

More importantly, though, it provides a widespread opportunity for the real issues involved and productive discussion on what can be done to actually improve the situation. Dog attacks can be devastating and life altering - but they're almost always caused by stupid, vicious people (owners) rather than by an inherent flaw in a dog - much less an entire breed! Unfortunately for them, pit bulls - and many other breeds - are being used as tools by unscrupulous people. Tools to make money, to intimidate others, to suffer as the target of their abusive natures.

As in so many other situations in life, it is not the tool that is at fault for how it used. It is the user. I hope that Colorado sets a powerful and wonderful precedent, and that we, as Americans, start reclaiming our common sense and rejecting (and punishing) nasty people rather than the tools they use to inflict harm - whether those tools are guns, dogs, or anything else.

Saturday, November 8

Dear BBC, Thank You.

This is not up-to-the-minute news, given that my schedule has been to crazy to blog as of late, but I still thought it was worth sharing.

In response to the uproar in Europe about the new "right to be forgotten" hoopla, BBC News announced that it would "publish a continually updated list of its articles removed from Google under the controversial "right to be forgotten" rule."

The ISTJ part of my brain finds this an incredibly simple and elegant solution to a loud and messy public debate. In a world where quiet efficiency is all too often eschewed, polite, practical, and pro-active responses to conflict like this are all the more appreciated.

So dear BBC, thank you for demonstrating how simple it can be to work around crappy laws.
May we all be inspired by your example.

Thursday, November 6

The Power of What You Wear

I recently (and completely accidentally) ran across a great blog post titled Why I Am Wearing My Favorite Clothes Everyday.

(Take a minute to go read it. It's short and worthwhile!)

It's certainly not a new idea that what you wear impacts how you feel. From corporate dress codes to Raising Homemakers ebooks and challenges, it's pretty widely accepted that one of the fastest and simplest ways to change how you feel and how you approach a situation is to go change your clothes!

What I thought really set this article apart, though, was the way the author tied that idea together two other really valuable concepts: practical (and frugal) minimalism, and personal confidence/lack of unreasonable self-consciousness. In an era where we are constantly bombarded with messages about staying on-style/on-trend, but paradoxically finding ourselves facing tightening wallets, it was really refreshing to see someone come out and blatantly remind everyone that there's nothing wrong with investing in - and sticking to -a handful of high quality favorites that make you look and feel amazing. 

I tend to be pretty attentive to keeping my wardrobe small already, but that post has re-inspired me to take a fresh look at what I have, what I actually wear, and what I need to maybe let go of. So as we hurtle towards the holiday season - so often full of stress, consumption, and unhealthy comparison with others - consider taking a minute to read the article above and orient your brain to a way, less cluttered way of thinking!

Friday, September 26


One more TED talk that has been on my list to share. By Elizabeth Gilbert, titled "Your Elusive Creative Genius."

Reason(s) I liked this: I thought she had some really insightful remarks on how our culture's prevailing view of creativity (a) is far from the only one, (b) is not necessarily a good one, and (c) may be linked to (and potentially a cause of) trends towards depression and suicide by "creative types."

Creativity and "out of the box" thinking are big topics among business, industry, and educators these days. Whatever your opinion of Ms. Gilbert's ideas, I think it is nice to see a variety of alternative ideas being spread to enhance and deepen the discussion.

Wednesday, September 24

Just For Fun

Just for fun... short video creatively looking at whether or not humans should be eating more bugs.
Believe it or not, there's a lot of scientists and foods who think that we should! (Not me though... I'm all for all kinds of creative things in the food world, but just not feeling the cricket casserole thing!)

For extra amusement, share with the kids and Paleo nuts in your life. Enjoy!   :)

Monday, September 22

"Sleepy Dust" and Other Miracle Cures

I love Pinterest. It was practically made for visual learners like me, and has been a God-send in terms of reducing clutter and organizing ideas, materials, recipes, and inspirations.

Still, I sometimes find myself wishing that there was a way to stamp warnings on other people's pins. I'd slap "Caution: Does Not Work" signs on that stupid pin that suggests you can use Parmesan cheese container caps on canning jars (I have yet to find a brand for which this is actually true). "Requires Artistic Talent" should go on about half of the DIY wreaths, furniture painting tutorials, and party food posts. Most importantly, however, the nutritionist in me is convinced that there needs to be a "Not Necessarily/Highly Conditional" warning tag on so many of the DIY "miracle cure" style posts that circulate among the nutrition, holistic health, and herbalism themed boards. (Actually, it might be really fun to have a "Danger, Will Robinson!" sign to stick onto things that are really, truly ludicrous, too...)

My sister is a nurse, and recently sent me a pin for something called "Sleepy Dust." She wanted to know if it jived with what my (holistic/whole foods) nutrition books say, since it definitely didn't match up with what her medical books and experience tell her.

According to the pin (and blog post it's linked to), "Sleepy Dust" is a combination of sugar and salt that you can keep beside your bed and stick on your tongue before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night to help you get to sleep (or back to sleep). The author of the post explains why she thinks this works, and raves about how awesomely it has worked for her.

Unfortunately, if you actually read the post, red flags start popping up almost immediately. The post blames stress hormones for creating insomnia, despite the fact that there are dozens of potential causes. Too much sugar before bed (causing blood sugar issues), eating too heavy a meal too late (causing your body to be funneling energy into digestion instead of the restorative processes it is supposed to be focused on during sleep), disturbed sleep cycles (a huge issue in the modern era), and conflicting signals (such as light, particularly from electronics) are all documented to disrupt sleep. Obviously, you can't implement an effective solution unless you look at and address the source(s) of individual insomnia cases!

Then there's the reality that historically, people didn't necessarily sleep through the night. In pre- industrial eras, it was common for people to wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or two. Records demonstrate that people were accustomed to using the time to meditate, pray, or snuggle with their spouse, and then consistently fell asleep again until morning. So what looks like insomnia to modern eyes, so indoctrinated by corporate schedules, is not necessarily an unnatural or inappropriate sleep cycle.

Finally, the human body technically never needs straight sugar (beyond what you would get in a primal-style high fat, lean protein, and fibrous veggie diet). You also can't just "get rid of" or "turn off" stress hormones - they have to be physically processed and released/removed from your system. 

Although I am eternally grateful to live in an era in which so much wisdom and so many creative solutions are available to us with only the clicking of computer keys and the magic of Google, it is critical to remember that humans are biochemically and environmentally unique. Your body and your environment are not necessarily the same as the those of the person/expert/resource first to pop up on your screen. This is particularly true when pursuing secondary sites like Pinterest, where you can't really gauge the quality of information until you've gone to the source and done some digging. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and just because it worked for someone else doesn't mean it's right for you. Look, experiment, and enjoy, but remember that on the interwebs, as in ancient Rome, Caveat Emptor applies -  it's your responsibility to be aware and do the fact checking necessary to make sure the solutions, tips, and tricks you find are actually safe and scientifically sound!!