Monday, May 17, 2010

The so-called sugar high that isn't

The "Chemicals in Your Food" class had a debate: Sugar rich foods make kids off-the-wall. Or not. Students randomly drew sides to argue or respond to, and they had a week and a half to research and prepare their arguments. Students were warned not to base their arguments on the "everybody knows" type of argument, but to search for, evaluate, and base their arguments on scientific and behavioral studies. When I described this plan to a friend, she said - "What's to debate? Of course it does."
But guess what? Even though "everybody knows" that foods high in sugar drive kids right up the wall and back again, controlled, well designed scientific studies show that what "everybody knows" seems to be wrong. People may talk about kids being on a "sugar high", but the behavior might better be called a "party high", or a "recess high", or a "I love to play with my friends high," or an "I really love this stuff" high.

I have known this contradiction for quite a while, but I no longer raise my eyebrows or open my mouth when people rant about the kids being on a sugar high, because people don't want to hear it and don't want to believe it - that maybe the "sugar high" is more what people want to believe than what can be supported by research. Students were very surprised by what they found, even though some still chose to believe - well - what they wanted to.

So the question is - why and how do we believe what we believe? From the little things to the big cosmic issues - what data do we trust? And why? And what do we do when we discover that what we want to believe may not turn out to be be believable?
Awaiting the lighting and the blowing out of the 100 candles, 
and especially the eating of the100th birthday cakes.
(Count the candles!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1814 - 1906

I stumbled on an interesting bio this morning of a really really rich woman who lived a graceful, idiosyncratic, world-changing life. Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts was 23 when she came into her fortune, and for the next 70 or so years, she funded organizations that assisted people and animals and in general made the world a better place and life a better opportunity for many individuals. She opened schools for those whose station in life did not entitle them to schooling - night schools, sewing schools, and "ragged" schools. Her donations built and supported churches and church schools, lifeboats and fishing boats, covered market spaces, and provided dogs with public drinking fountains.  It was her idea and funding that built the famous fountain and statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who would not leave the site of his master's grave in Edinburg for the 14 years between his master's death and his own.  She supported the SPCA and established the SPCC (Children), provided help for refugees, funded soup kitchens, and donated the bells for St. Paul's Cathedral. She designed a "linen drier" and sent it to Florence Nightingale to help her in her nursing work.

Angela was devastated when her long-time companion Hannah died. After three years she married her secretary, who was 37 years younger than she was. He carried on her work after her death.

There is much more that would go on Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts' list of accomplishments during her long philanthropic lifetime, but one position she must have treasured because she held it so long, and it must be mentioned in conclusion - she was president of the British Beekeepers Association for 28 years, right up to the year of her death.

A young Dover takes a dip in his public drinking fountain,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Engaging in joyful creation

I no longer remember where I read this, but there is a Chassidic belief that "one can thank the Lord for the gift of life and its bounties by singing, dancing and engaging in joyful creation." I can no longer sing, although choral singing is one of my favorite types of music to listen to, and the only dancing I have ever liked to do is the polka. But engaging in joyful creation - now there is something Dover does with wild abandon. The question is - is he singing? Dancing? Engaging in joyful creation? Whatever, I guess the moral of this story is: Go forth and do likewise, each after one's own kind (Dover's added caveat: I rejoice greatly at all times and in all places as long as there is a tennis ball in my mouth.)