Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sorry about the silence

Hi folks, sorry about the relative quiet around here lately.  It's only going to get worse though.  I'm down to the wire on my dissertation and finals are looming at work.  The silence here will be deafening.  I'll be back in a bit.

Friday, April 20, 2007

If you grow it, they will eat

I've been wanting to start a vegetable garden for some time now, and have put it off only because of time.  The environmental and economic arguments for growing your own food are very strong, but now it seems that there is a reason even closer to home.

A recent study has shown that kids (in rural areas at least) eat more produce if it is homegrown.

It was a simple, clear finding," said Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., director of Saint Louis University's Obesity Prevention Center and a study author. "Whether a food is homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a 'positive food environment.'"

When children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet," Haire-Joshu said. "Students at schools with gardens learn about math and science and they also eat more fruits and vegetables. Kids eat healthier and they know more about eating healthy. It's a winning and low-cost strategy to improve the nutrition of our children at a time when the pediatric obesity is an epidemic problem.

Read More

Even if you live in an urban area, you can find coop gardens, although the waiting list might be long.  If you've got a lawn (even a little one) here are some sites that will help you get started.

Urban Gardening Ideas

Urban Vegetable Gardening

Children and Urban AgricultureHow to grow Vegetables, Vegetable Gardening

Fruit and Vegetable Gardening - UBC Botanical Garden Forums

Go ahead, get dirty!

Children Eat More Fruits And Vegetables If They Are Homegrown

via ::ScienceDaily

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Week in Review

It's been slow here, in know. In real life, the submission deadline for my thesis is rapidly approaching, and exams are coming too.

In lieu of a real post or six, here are some headlines that caught my eye this week:

"What Is Climate Change, Daddy?" via :: TreeHugger

Kids Allergies On The Rise Around the Globe also via:: TreeHugger

Cup Feeding Not Recommended As A Method Of Supplementation In Breast-feeding Infants
via:: ScienceDaily

This one deserves a little more reading, and probably one (or more) posts of its own.  Cup feeding is often suggested as an alternative to bottles for newborns in order to avoid nipple confusion.  The study found that cup feeding is not necessarily a bad  idea in and of itself, but because it can often be slow and frustrating for parents and infants, there is a very high rate of non-compliance.  This means that by 3-6 months, kids who are cup fed are not more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding when compared to those who were given a bottle. 

I'll look in to this more later.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was my introduction to satire.  His works were startling, funny and sad all at the same time.  A lot like real life.  Vonnegut had a huge impact on me in my teens and after, a constant reminder to question everything and take nothing for granted. 

On a family note:

Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister's three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Jill Krementz.

Kurt Vonnegut 1923-2007 via ::Time

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Divorce Rates and Religion posted stats recently about divorce rates amongst different religious denominations. The article is well researched and well cited, and reveals some interesting stuff:

Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significently higher than for other faith groups, and for Atheists and Agnostics.

Jews 30%
Born-again Christians 27%
Other Christians 24%
Atheists, Agnostics 21%

No data was posted for Muslim or interfaith families, and Jews (of course) are the worst.

The report comes down hard on born again Christians, saying that they are ignoring a difficult reality in their midst.

Personally, I'm not particularly surprised by the data. In a marriage, people need to effectively assert themselves and communicate their needs and desires. Simply being religious does not make this any easier. In addition, I wonder if belonging to certain denominations may actually impede partners from viewing each other as real equals.

What do you think?

U.S. divorce rates for various faith groups, ages groups & geographic areas :: via :: Digg

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

UK Schools fingerprinting kids.

Traditionally, fingerprinting kids has been something that most parents do with an eye to keeping them safe. In the UK though, there is a a twist on this, with schools using biometric information (ie fingerprints) to let kids use the library or even the cafeteria.

While the idea itself is not so bizarre, some of the methods involved are. In many cases the prints were taken without parental consent, and even using underhanded methods such as incorporating the collection in games, so that not even the kids know that their info is being collected.

Up to 5.9million children face having their fingerprints taken by schools in another move towards a 'Big Brother' society.

Pupils will have to hand over their biometric details simply to borrow library books or gain access to school dinners.

A million children's fingerprints are believed to have been taken
already, some without parental approval and even by 'con tricks' such
as pretend spy games.

Freedom of Information data obtained by the Tories reveals a
further 4.9 million sets of prints could now be added to school
computers after the vast majority of local education authorities
sanctioned the practice.

::The Daily Mail via ::Digg

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Cycling or sex?

WHEN urologist Dr. Irwin Goldstein declared in 1997: "There are only

two kinds of male cyclists — those who are impotent and those who will

be impotent," many bike riders scoffed. Saying the equipment housed in

their spandex shorts worked just fine, they optimistically kept riding.

Several prominent urologists dismissed Goldstein's claims, saying that

they were based on a small sample of riders and that the cardiovascular

benefits of cycling outweighed any risk of impotence.


years later, more than two dozen published studies, including several

by Goldstein, have confirmed the connection between cycling and sexual

dysfunction. Problems can range from impotence — the complete inability

to penetrate — to an erection that doesn't last as long as desired.

If you manage to get past the hype, it becomes clear that this is not really a huge issue [sic].  It turns out that 4.2 % of cyclist experience some ED compared to 1.1% of runners.  Is that because there are more older cyclists?  Hard to say. Oops.

Ultimately the article suggests that the fancy-schmancy new ergonomic bike seats that claim to help reduce cycling related ED are snake oil.

The Cyclist's Tight Spot via :: LA Times

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Should Incest Be Legal? The Limits of Privacy. is running a piece talking about the application of the Lawrence v. Texas court case that struck down the state's sodomy laws as grounds for legalizing incest between adults.

First and foremost, this is not about legalizing pedophilia.  That being said, I think that this idea is profoundly disturbing.  The biological reasons to argue against this idea are of no consequence, since sex does not need to be procreative.  However, the reason that incest differs from other types of consenting sex, is the underlying power dynamic that exists in families.

Parents exert strong influence on their children, even once those children become adults.  This is akin to, but more powerful than, teacher-student relationships.  The child may not even be aware that they are being coerced into sex.

The privacy arguments that have been used to strike down laws against sodomy, simply do not apply because the issue of consent is completely different.

Reade the article.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Trying to mold your kids... good luck!

This just in:  Your kids will be themselves, in spite of your best efforts!

A new study of adult twins shows that nature might beat nurture when it comes to selfless and social behaviour. 

The study at more than 300 sets of twins, both identical and fraternal. 

According to study author Laura Koenig, the popular idea that religious individuals are more social and giving because of the behavioral mandates set for them is incorrect. “This study shows that religiousness occurs with these behaviors also because there are genes that predispose them to it.

This research is another example of the way that genes have an impact
on behavior. “Society as a whole assumes that home environments have
large impacts on behavior, but studies in behavior genetics are
repeatedly showing that our behavior is also influenced by our genes,”
says Koenig.

There are a couple of important things to think about here.  Ultimately the fact that religious upbringing and "good" social behaviour are not linked (at least in this study) does not surprise me. If you've read my posts (here and here) on articles by Sam Harris, you'll know where I stand on that subject.

Don't get me wrong.  Parenting and family life are essential in order to provide kids with the opportunity to develop into mature adults.  I just don't buy the idea that religion in and of itself does the job.  Children need support, community, love, structure and limits.  Religion can provide these things.  It can also add in an unhealthy dose of misogyny, homophobia and shame. 

Good Behavior, Religiousness May be Genetic ::ScienceDaily

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Pet (Felt) Rocks from Molo

Vancouver designers Molo (Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen) have come up with a great new kid/adult toy: felt rocks.

They are made from left over felt reclaimed from the process of making felt polishing wheels.

I think that these are an awesome living room addition. Cool/safe (for the 'rentals) silly/fun/indestructible (for the kids).

They're made from pure wool felt and are hand dyed. They are certainly nicer than just about anything else in this category (ie blocks or Lego).

::molo design via padstyle via TreeHugger

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Weight Gain In Pregnancy Linked To Overweight In Kids

Expectant moms pay a lot of attention to how much weight they gain. Most often the concern is that inadequate weight gain will increase the chances of the baby being underweight at birth.

It now seems that women who gain excessive, or even adequate, weight during pregnancy are up to four times more likely to have children who are obese at age 3. The data are in a study published in the April edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The study looked at 1044 infant-mother pairs, which is decent study size. Obesity is defined as have a BMI greater than 95th percentile, which is also reasonable.

That being said, I still have trouble with this kind of study. While it is possible that the guidlines for weight gain are too permissive, it is hard to weed out other factors. Overweight families have overweight kids. The study does not seem to talk about wether or not the moms were overweight to begin with. My personal experience is that a family may have a tendency to be overweight, but family eating habits contribute heavily.

I worry that too much emphasis on the pathology of obesity as a disease takes away the element of personal responsibility in maintaining our own health. The current focus on obesity seems to be leading us toward pharmaceutical solutions that are often wholly inappropriate.

Weight Gain In Pregnancy Linked To Overweight In Kids (ScienceDaily)

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