personal blog

(When you have a little baby who likes to be sung to, you make up some silly songs.)

I have a little baby
He's made from sperm and eggs
He has cute little fingers
And chubby little legs

I have a little baby
I made him in my womb
And when my baby smiles
He's the cutest in the room

I have a little baby
He's very very cute
The first time that I met him
He was in his birthday suit

I have a little baby
His name is Ajax Ray
And when my baby's happy
With baby I shall play

I have a little baby
The cutest of them all
He is very big now
But once he was so small.
To ajax by Beth on 2010-05-13.
ducky = hat!

6 months old today!

To ajax by Beth on 2010-03-30.
sugar pic

In this study [paywall], rats with free access to high fructose corn syrup gained more weight, more fat, and had higher blood triglycerides than rats that had access to sugar instead.

That was true even when the hfcs + rat chow diet and the sugar + rat chow diet had the same number of calories. (The rats were allowed to eat as much as they want, and the researchers measured.) Here is a press release (via @tekniklr) explaining what they did.

It seems this definitively answers the question: HFCS is worse for you than sugar. (Wait, didn't we definitively answer that question last year?)

What I like even better: it shows that how much weight you gain (assuming you, of course, are a Sprague-Dawley rat) isn't a simple "calories in, calories out" equation - no matter how often people say it is.

Just so we're all on the same page about "high fructose" - sucrose (table sugar) is 50% fructose, 50% glucose, bound together in pairs. HFCS comes in 55% fructose and 42% fructose versions. This study used the 55% version.

Similarly interesting, to me: "We have previously shown that rats are able to adjust for the excess calories obtained when consuming 10% sucrose by taking in fewer calories of chow and thereby maintaining a normal body weight" - remember that when you hear "don't drink your calories" type advice. Your body adjusts. (at least, if you are a rat.)

So, why does HFCS make rats fat when sucrose doesn't? The researchers' guess is that fructose raises triglyceride levels in the blood, which in turn signals the body to store more fat. The elevated TG has also been associated with higher fat intake - so that eating fructose may make you want more fatty food.

Here's what they say about fructose, more generally:

HFCS is different than sucrose in many ways. First, HFCS-55 has proportionately slightly more fructose than sucrose (White, 2008). Second, fructose is absorbed further down the intestine than glucose, with much of the metabolism occurring in the liver, where it is converted to fructose-1-phsophate, a precursor to the backbone of the triglyceride molecule (Havel, 2005). Third, fructose is metabolically broken down before it reaches the rate-limiting enzyme (phosphofructokinase), thereby supplying the body with an unregulated source of three-carbon molecules. These molecules are transformed into glycerol and fatty acids, which are eventually taken up by adipose tissue, leading to additional adiposity (Hallfrisch, 1990). And fourth, HFCS causes aberrant insulin functioning, in that it bypasses the insulin-driven satiety system (Curry, 1989). Whereas circulating glucose increases insulin release from the pancreas (Vilsboll et al., 2003), fructose does this less efficiently, because cells in the pancreas lack the fructose transporter (Curry, 1989; Sato et al., 1996). Typically, insulin released by dietary sucrose inhibits eating and increases leptin gain, and the insulin release (Saad et al., 1998), which in turn further inhibits food intake. As previously discussed, meals of HFCS have been shown to reduce circulating insulin and leptin levels (Teff et al., 2004). Thus, fructose intake might not result in the degree of satiety that would normally ensue with a meal of glucose or sucrose, and this could contribute to increased body weight.

The Princeton press release says the researchers next want to study the effects of high fructose corn syrup alongside a fatty diet - "the equivalent of a typical fast-food meal containing a hamburger, fries and soda" ... I can't help thinking, didn't a guy already do that?

Anyhow, check out the press release. It's a good explanation of the study.

Ha! Wrong! (Sort of.)

To science by Beth on 2010-03-22.
Amazingly, it's possible to eat decent home cooked meals while you have a demanding little child in the house. I've just had to get good at thinking up dishes I can make in a few minutes, with little advance prep (read: using whatever we already have) while dirtying as few dishes as possible. These all fit the bill.

Poached Pears
My go-to fancy dessert. This is the least fancy it gets: peel a pear, cut in half and remove core. Put the halves in a skillet, in a little puddle of water, and add some mulling spices. Cook, covered, until pears are tender. Serve with ice cream, chocolate sauce, or whatever you've got.

Roast Chicken
Buy a rotisserie chicken for $5. Done. OR: Buy a raw chicken for $4. Remove giblets, rinse, season if desired, put in covered baking pan with a little water for an hour or more at 350.

Wilted Spinach
(My vegephobic husband likes this. I can't explain that.) Mince a clove of garlic and put it in a skillet with a glug of olive oil. Then add a whole bag of baby spinach and cook over low heat, turning often, for a few minutes or until the leaves are mostly wilted. Stop before they turn into mush. If desired, add a little balsamic vinegar or Herbes de Provence.

Goes great with that pulled beef/pork from Costco. Buy a 39-cent box of cornbread mix. Mix it with milk as directed, and pour into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake as directed. The paper means there's nothing to wash afterward.

Carrots with orange butter
Going to try this one tonight. The night before, let half a stick of butter soften while you're making dinner. Zest an orange, and mix the zest with the softened butter and a tablespoon of orange juice. (Eat the orange at dessert.) Put it back in the fridge for tomorrow. Then, steam some carrots and serve them with orange butter on top.

Buy frozen ravioli. Cook as directed. Toss in a skillet with olive oil and some dried sage or whatever you've got. Serve with a vegetable.

Steam some asparagus. While it's cooking, melt a little butter in a pan you're going to use for something else. Add a little balsamic vinegar, then pour the butter/vinegar over the asparagus in its serving dish.

Ice cream soda
For this you need a fruity italian soda like what Target is selling now. Or sparkling juice of any kind, or do it the old fashioned way and use root beer. Pour the soda over a scoop of ice cream.

Cauliflower & dill
Steam some cauliflower. Toss in a skillet with melted butter and dill.

Green beans & basil
Steam some green beans. Toss with olive oil & dried basil.
To food by Beth on 2010-03-10.
Today's read: An interview with the author of Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) which, Babble says, "encourages letting your kids build bombs, play with fire, and drive a car."

Juicy quotes:
...if I tell a twelve-year-old, “Hey! I’m going to teach you how to pay attention better in school and how to focus,” that child is going to run away as fast as they can. But if I say, “Hey! I’m going teach you how to whittle,” I’m going to have the undivided attention of that child for hours.

...what we consider to be dangerous changes over time and from culture to culture. In India, it’s common to find people who consider it very dangerous to ride a bicycle and yet the children are allowed to run around barefoot.

As I meet more families from around the world, I find nobody can agree on what’s a dangerous topic in this book.

Not the approach I thought it would be ("duh, danger is fun") but an interesting look at what we think is dangerous, and what benefits a dangerous activity might have. So often we look only at the risks or only at the benefits of things (boy would I have a lot more to say on that, if I ever had free time to write anymore)

The book looks (from the amazon preview) like a fun set of science experiments - and it's explicit about the danger, or lack of danger, for each. One project has warnings for "go blind" and "fire" (it's about making a sunspot viewer, but is tantalizingly called "look at the sun"). Another is a not-dangerous project involving a hair dryer, and includes a brief discussion of why hair dryers are, statistically, dangerous (because people electrocute themselves in bathrooms with them - not because they are trying to make a blimp)

Looks like fun!

Other things worth reading today:
Should we parent boys and girls differently?
Why does the gunslinger who draws first always get shot?
Math lessons from Steven Strogatz (The most recent post includes a great story about a "double positive" and explains pre-WWI alliances with graph theory. And the series started with muppets! That's an automatic win in my book.)

Beth has a 4 month old baby and barely any time to write. Following this blog is like playing Scotland Yard. Hello from Mr. X!
To links by Beth on 2010-02-17.
There are 10 meals (5 dinners, 5 lunches made from their leftovers). I'm posting pictures with recipe reviews on flickr. Check back throughout the week! (Want to play along?)

experiment: meal #1 Meal #1: (dinner) Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

meal #2 (lunch): chicken portobello wrap Meal #2 (lunch) Chicken Portobello Wrap

meal #3 (dinner): shrimp fajita Meal #3 (dinner) Shrimp Fajitas

Meal #4 (lunch): fajita bowl Meal #4 (lunch) Fiesta Rice Bowl

meal #5 (dinner): pasta bowl Meal #5 (dinner) Pasta bowl

meal #6 (lunch) italian quesadilla Meal #6 (lunch) Italian Quesadilla

meal #7 (dinner) spicy shrimp & asparagus stir fry Meal #7 (dinner) spicy shrimp & asparagus stir fry

meal #8 (lunch) peanut noodles with shrimp Meal #8 (lunch) Peanut noodles with shrimp

meal #9 (dinner) roast pork with vegetables Meal #9 (dinner) Roast pork with vegetables

meal #10 (lunch) pork wrap Meal #10 (lunch) Pork wrap

Hey folks - when I'm done with this week, what next? Are there other grocery-list-based meal plans I should try? I liked that this one uses quick & easy recipes, uses its own leftovers, and is healthy and high in protein. Where can I find more like this? (Don't tell me to make my own! I have a sick baby to nurse and a bathroom to remodel!)
To food by Beth on 2009-12-31.
Hello blog! Remember me? I'm Beth, your author.

The baby is doing great! Thanks for asking. There are lots of photos of him on flickr.

I had a good Christmas, including a looong train trip adventure with the baby, and my new year's resolution is to remember everybody's birthday. Not everybody, exactly, just people I know. I hope I can remember all of them.

I'm also going to come up with one novel idea (that is, an idea for a novel) each month. This way, when NaNoWriMo comes around again, I'll have 10 ideas to choose from.

I've also signed up with an online personal trainer to provide ass-kickings via email. She's already sent me my workout plan for January and it's a doozy. I hope I can keep up!

Oh, and I almost forgot. My latest project is cooking along with this meal plan - it's nothing fancy, just five dinners and then five lunches made with their leftovers. I actually did the grocery shopping and am planning on making all the meals, even the ones with shrimp in them. There's 40 grams of protein in most of the meals, so even though they'll only make up half my calories for the day (really, Men's Health, what is this, a crash diet?) I'll be in good shape, nutritionally, to withstand that crazy workout plan.

It's been good talking to you, blog. I'll let you know how the food thing works out. Maybe I'll show you pictures too! I just saw "Julie & Julia" and you know how suggestible I am.

To food, my boring life by Beth on 2009-12-30.
1. Ajax Ray Skwarecki Lansdown was born 9/30/2009 at 1:30 am.

2. He was 6 pounds 15 ounces, and 21 inches long.
6 pounds 15 ounces

3. Labor lasted 22 hours. I planned on delivering at The Midwife Center but minor complications sent us to the hospital.
in the labor & delivery room

4. He is tiny and cute and has lots of hair.

5. He will only sleep if someone is holding him.
emailing baby pictures
To ajax by Beth on 2009-10-03.
Smilodon bringing down MegatheriumSabre-toothed cats had weak bites - a new comparison of Smilodon's skull with a modern lion's shows that the cat probably didn't run up and bite its prey with those teeth. Probably it brought prey down with a full-body tackle (it had extra strong claws) and then used the famous teeth to make the kill once it had the animal pinned. At least, that's the latest theory.

Velociraptor's 'killing' claws were for climbing - I'm just ruining all the prehistoric artists' conceptions today, aren't I? Analyses of velociraptor claws shows they weren't sharp enough to disembowel prey, but were strong enough to hold the dinosaur's weight as it climbed trees.

Kids, even babies, judge others based on skin color - and we exacerbate the problem by keeping the subject taboo. The author writes of his own son: "Katz's work helped me to realize that Luke was never actually colorblind. He didn't talk about race in his first five years because our silence had unwittingly communicated that race was something he could not ask about. ... we started to overhear one of his white friends talking about the color of their skin. They still didn't know what to call their skin, so they used the phrase 'skin like ours.' And this notion of ours versus theirs started to take on a meaning of its own."

Swine flu vaccine: Too little, too late (SciAm article, first half available online) - When you're trying to make enough flu vaccine, boosting production with new methods and adjuvants is at odds with safety and testing (and the potential for lawsuits). The author seems to think litigation is the problem; but if people are suing because they've been harmed by the vaccine, wouldn't it be more correct to say safety is the problem? Deciding how much risk is appropriate is a tough question.

Jell-O shots in adolescence lead to gambling later in life - When you want to study alcohol and risky behavior in rats, do it right! Yes, they really fed the rats jell-o shots, and taught them to gamble.
To links, science by Beth on 2009-09-25.
Thanks to everybody who complained. No thanks to my system administrator who ignored my bug reports (who thinks that just because I'm married to him and have root access on his server that I should go fix bugs HE created) ... yeah. Fixed now. Comment and enjoy!
To geekery by Beth on 2009-09-25.