This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jefferson's Prescience

Jefferson's Prescience

Jefferson had some amazing thoughts that saw the potential of some of the problems circling our government right now. As our country recklessly careens towards a possible earthquake-type change in its reach into our lives, I will ponder these thoughts. I hope you might also.


The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.


It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.


I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.


My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.


To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Question: Wasn't Jesus' Death a Form of Murder?

People know my interest in Christian Apologetics and occasionally ask me questions. Here's a good one:

Why, if God is all powerful, and I think we both accept that premise, would God need humans to offer a blood sacrifice for their sin, ie the martyring of Christ? Can't God just see who is good and who chooses to be other than? Why would we have to shed blood when the commandments say thou shall not kill/murder? I honestly don't get the concept.

Here's my answer:

Great question! I'm noticing that within this question you're assuming that some humans are good enough to be with God, whereas other humans "choose to be other than." This idea is overwhelmingly common -- in fact, all religions aside from Christianity have a "works theology" in which if the person does certain things, and/or avoids certain things, he will (or could be) "good enough" to earn his way into heaven. By contrast, Christianity asserts in no uncertain terms that humans are "desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9) and will never be good enough to be with God, no matter how many prayers they say or how many good deeds they perform. Most of Jesus' confrontations with the Pharisees were about them thinking they were righteous by being born Jews and by following Moses' law (all 613 commandments in the Torah), while Jesus raised the stakes by saying you commit adultery if you just look at a woman lustfully, and you murder if you are just angry. Jesus' point was that no one could ever follow God's laws well enough to be as righteous as God. Jesus told the Pharisees they would never enter God's Kingdom until and unless they stopped relying on their own deeds and accepted God's assessment of sinfulness and his forgiveness. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23). I can expand upon this point of man's depravity if needed.

Because humans are all sinful, there is a requirement of the shedding of blood to cover sin so that humans may be declared righteous, despite the fact that they will never be good enough by their own deeds to be able to be with God. You might look at it this way: suppose I break a lamp in your house. You can know that I didn't mean to do it, and that I'm basically careful with objects. You might further decide to forgive me and tell me not to worry about it. However, this doesn't change the fact that the lamp is broken. If you forgive me from having to replace it, then you yourself will have to pay the price of buying a new lamp, fixing the broken one, or living without light at night. Similarly, even though God loves us desperately, and even if he forgives us, there is a rift in the universe when we go against his will (sin) that must be paid for somehow. Either we pay for it, or God through the sacrifice of Jesus pays for it.

God set up the blood sacrificial system (both animals and Jesus) as a tangible system that works on a tangible earth for us to understand what goes on in a spiritual dimension. A great price of some sort is required to repair the rift between God and us because of our sin; sacrificing a life is a good tangible representation of the egregious size of this rift.

I'd also like to note the following: From how this question is worded, it sounds like this person is truly keeping an open mind and is willing to consider different viewpoints. This is important. For what it's worth, in my experience with skeptics there are almost always deep emotional difficulties that prevent the person's considering God. Often intellectual difficulties are thrown up as a smoke screen. When talking with the person, it's important to humbly listen and to understand their emotional catches. The goal is to bring the person to fairly consider God and Christianity, rather than to "win" the argument through strong intellectual arguments without care for the person.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

This is one of my favorite carols. I first heard it as an adult, during a difficult period of my life, and it stuck with me. Hope.

The poem was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1864, a few months before General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote many lyric poems including Paul Revere's Ride, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was born in Maine, attended Bowdoin College (that of a favorite Civil War hero of mine, Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain), and in 1854 moved to Cambridge Massachusetts.

Longfellow and his wife, Fanny, had six children. In 1861 while Fanny was preserving locks of her children's hair, her dress caught fire and she died of burns the next day. Longfellow, while trying to save her, was also burned. He mourned her death until the day he died.

I liked this video of the carol, featuring the music of MercyMe. It juxtaposes despair and hope, our only hope, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.

Christmas Bells
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The fourth and fifth stanzas, referring specifically to the Civil War, are usually omitted.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

(stanza usually omitted)

Then from each black accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

(stanza usually omitted)

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Solitary Life

One Solitary Life
By James Allan Francis (1864-1928)

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three.
His friends ran away, and
One of them denied him.
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on earth.

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that have ever marched,
All the navies that have ever sailed,
All the parliaments that have ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned, put together,
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, for Moms

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the abode
Only one creature was stirring; she was cleaning the commode.
The children were finally sleeping snug in their beds,
while visions of Nintendo flipped through their heads.

The dad was snoring in front of TV,
With a half-constructed bicycle propped on his knee.
So only Mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
Which made her sigh, "Now what is the matter?"

With the toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs and saw the old man.
He was covered with ashes, spilling them with a shrug,
"Oh, great," muttered Mom, "Now I must clean the rug."

"Ho Ho Ho!" cried Santa, "I'm glad you're awake,
your gift was especially difficult to make."
"Thanks, Santa, but I want the time alone."
"Exactly!" he chuckled, "So, I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" she muttered, "Now what good is that?
Run along, Santa, I've no time to chat."
Then out walked the clone - it was the mom's twin;
Same hair, same eyes, and same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy, watch The Young and Restless."
"Fantastic!" the Mom cheered. "My dream has come true!"
"I'll shop, I'll read, I'll sleep a night through!"

From the room above, the youngest did fret.
"Mommy? Come quickly, I'm scared and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."
"Hey," the Mom smiled, "she sure knows her part."

The clone changed the small one and hummed her a tune,
as she bundled the child in a blanket cocoon.
"You're the best mommy ever. I really love you."
The clone smiled and sighed, "And I love you, too."

The Mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.
That's my child's love that she's trying to steal."
Smiling wisely, Santa said, "To me it is clear,
Only one loving Mother is thus needed here."

The Mom kissed her child and tucked her in bed.
"Thank you, Santa, so much, for clearing my head.
I sometimes forget, it won't be too long,
when they'll be too old for my cradle and song."

The clock on the mantle began to chime nine.
Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."
With the clone by his side, Santa said, "Good night.
Merry Christmas, dear Mom, you will now be all right."

~ Author Unknown ~

Monday, December 12, 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas

I find this song irritating, but this acapella group does an amazing rendition! Even if you also find this song tedious, you won't for this performance.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Book Tour: Night of the Cossack

For those of you who don't know, the blog book tour is the 21st century version of the old-fashioned book tour. I'm pleased to feature Tom's book today, December 8, the official launch day for THE NIGHT OF THE COSSACK.

If you buy this book today, you will be eligible to receive free e-gifts. Visit Tom Blubaugh's author page on Facebook to learn more.

Today, December 8th ONLY!
Amazon book launch of Night of the Cossack
by Tom Blubaugh
Many FREE gifts and chances for giveaways
*You must purchase from Amazon either the Kindle version or a
'new' paperback from Bound by Faith Publishers to qualify.
The new paperback version will be a signed copy by the author and shipped FREE to an address in the USA.
TODAY, Dec. 8th, 2011 ONLY.

OK, here's some book info:

BOOK SUMMARY: NIGHT OF THE COSSACK is a compelling adventure about a teenager who is forced to grow up quickly. The main character, Nathan Hertzfield, faces many life or death situations during his saga. Join Nathan on his suspenseful journey through parts of Russia and Europe during the early 1900's. Don't miss this entertaining and intriguing story, Night of the Cossack.

AUTHOR BIO: Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife. They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom has written non-fiction most of his adult life, but has recently written a historical fiction titled Night of the Cossack, published by Bound by Faith Publishers. This is Tom’s first novel. He co-wrote a devotional journal in 2009 for Barbour Publishing titled The Great Adventure. His other writings include articles for a denominational magazine and an insurance publication. He also self-published a book, Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry in 1974.

Tom started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. His vision of turning them into lyrics for rock and roll songs for popular artists didn’t develop. He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.

Tom spent twelve years as an insurance agent and eleven years as a financial planner. He is the past president of Jericho Commission, Inc., and still serves on the board of directors.


5.0 out of 5 stars night of the cossack, November 28, 2011
By jeaniet - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night of the Cossack (Paperback)
Loved this book I want another one from this author it has a little of everything, romance, mystery, wondering what is going to happen next. Enjoyed it very much!

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Story!, November 22, 2011
By Lisa Tortorello "Author" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Night of the Cossack (Paperback)
Follow Nathan Hertzfield as he journeys physically, emotionally, and spiritually along the road of life. While historical fiction is not my first choice when reading a book, I found myself captivated by Nathan's struggles and the decisions he was forced to make. From the moment he was kidnapped, Nathan's life changed forever. You will find yourself cheering for him until the very last page. In Night of the Cossack Tom Blubaugh does a fine job weaving history and fiction into a gripping story. I was so intrigued I even looked on a map to follow Nathan on his journey!

5.0 out of 5 stars a must read!!, November 17, 2011
mustlovetoread - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night of the Cossack (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Night of the Cossack by Tom Blubaugh is a must read. This is a story about a Jewish boy whose father dies, then he is kidnapped by the Cossacks, and subsequently drafted into the Russian Army. You get drawn into the story from the start.

Do you regret not knowing an ancestor who is gone now, and there is no one left to answer questions? Do you wish you knew their story? This is a historical fictional account of what might have happened to Blubaugh's grandfather. He knew his grandfather had been a Russian Cossack soldier and had immigrated to America in 1910. Blubaugh puts those pieces together--with the historical facts of the Cossacks--and weaves a believable fictional account of his grandfather's life.

Night of the Cossack starts with Nathan waking up to the Cossacks attacking his village. He is kidnapped by Nikolai, a Cossack soldier. He takes him in as his son and teaches him the way of the Cossack. I enjoyed learning about the Cossack way of life. The story follows the adventures, betrayals, and challenges of Nathan and how he adapts to his surroundings to survive and make it to America. You will be amazed at Nathan's story--from changing his name a few times to escape capture to traveling the secret route set up to convey Jews to Bucharest. Nathan eventually gets a job on a ship and sails for America.

If you love adventure, historical fiction, and suspense, I highly recommend this book, Night of the Cossack.

5.0 out of 5 stars Grabs your attention, November 10, 2011
New Tribes Mission - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night of the Cossack (Paperback)
I had a hard time putting down this book by Tom Blubaugh. This is a book about a young Jewish boy (Nathan) whose village was raided by Russian Cossacks. After being kiddnapped by this Cossak group, Nathan goes through much adventure, trial, sacrifice, and even love for his "Father-figure", a Cossak that taught and cared for him.
This story caused me to do research on the Cossaks, as this is a part of history that I didn't know much about.
This book was very enjoyable to read and I would recommend it to anyone pre-teen to adult. It would also be a good book to read together as a family.

5.0 out of 5 stars A good fall evening read., November 4, 2011
prleg8s - See all my reviews
This review is from: Night of the Cossack (Paperback)
Night of the Cossack. What a joy to see someone put into words the family history that so many of us have, but really never completely understand.

Using imagination, history and personal information an interesting and vivid description of what life was like for Tom's grandfather, he entertains and educates us on what that life must have been like as a Cossack.

Night of the Cossack is an easy read, with clear concise descriptions and an interesting story line. I was captivated by the feelings of a young man suddenly forced into a different life than he ever imagined. His strength and determination to hold true to his roots made this story believeable and loveable.

The ending of this book was particularly appealing and surprising. A wonderful story of the seed of a new life in America with the prospects of a new faith. Many of our ancestors began a new life in a new country in varied ways. This is a unique perspective of one of those stories.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor Lost Photos

These photos are from Will. Incredible.



These Pearl Harbor photos were found in an old Brownie stored in a foot locker, and were just recently developed. They were taken by a sailor who was on the USS Quapaw ATF-110.

Seventy years ago, on Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander, Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port, but as luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not there. The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island, where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States.

In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft.. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.

At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 'Val' dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor. Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.

When it was over, the U.S. Losses were:

US Army: 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
US Navy: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
US MarineCorp: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.

TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.

USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-4 4) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage..
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD -3 7 2) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired..
Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)


December 7th, 1941

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yogi Berra's Commencement Speech

"Thank you all for being here tonight. I know this is a busy time of year, and if you weren't here, you could probably be somewhere else. I especially want to thank the administration at St. Louis University for making this day necessary. It is an honor to receive this honorary degree.

It is wonderful to be here in St. Louis and to visit the old neighborhood. I haven't been back since the last time I was here. Everything looks the same, only different. Of course, things in the past are never as they used to be.

Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. As you may know, I never went to college, or high school for that matter. To be honest, I'm not much of a public speaker, so I will try to keep this short as long as I can.

As I look out upon all of the young people here tonight, there are a number of words of wisdom I might depart. But I think the most irrelevant piece of advice I can pass along is this: "The most important things in life are the things that are least important.

I could have gone a number of directions in my life. Growing up on the Hill, I could have opened a restaurant or a bakery. But the more time I spent in places like that, the less time I wanted to spend there. I knew that if I wanted to play baseball, I was going to have to play baseball. My childhood friend, Joe Garagiola, also became a big-league ballpayer, as did my son, Dale. I think you'll find the similarities in our careers are quite different.

You're probably wondering, how does a kid from the Hill become a New York Yankee and get in the Hall of Fame? Well, let me tell you something, if it was easy nobody would do it. Nothing is impossible until you make it possible.

Of course, times were different. To be honest, I was born at an early age. Things are much more confiscated now. It seems like a nickel ain't worth a dime anymore. But let me tell you, if the world was perfect, it wouldn't be. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.

You'll make some wrong mistakes along the way, but only the wrong survive. Never put off until tomorrow what you can't do today. Denial isn't just a river in Europe.

Strive for success and remember you won't get what you want unless you want what you get. Some will choose a different path. If they don't want to come along, you can't stop them. Remember, none are so kind as those who will not see.

Keep the faith and follow the Commandments: Do not covet thy neighbor's wife, unless she has nothing else to wear. Treat others before you treat yourself. As Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 'The onl y thing you have to fear is beer itself.'

Hold on to your integrity, ladies and gentlemen. It's the one thing you really need to have; if you don't have it, that's why you need it. Work hard to reach your goals, and if you can't reach them, use a ladder. There may come a day when you get hurt and have to miss work. Don't worry, it won't hurt to miss work.

Over the years, I have realized that baseball is really just a menopause for life. We all have limitations, but we also know limitation is the greatest form of flattery. Beauty is in the eyes of Jim Holder.

Half the lies you hear won't be true, and half the things you say, you won't ever say.

As parents you'll want to give your children all the things you didn't have. But don't buy them an encyclopedia, make them walk to school like you did. Teach them to have respect for others, especially the police. They are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve it.

Throughout my career, I found good things always came in pairs of three. There will be times when you are an overwhelming underdog. Give 100 percent to everything you do, and when that's not enough, give everything you have left. 'Winning isn't everything, but it's better than rheumatism.' I think Guy Lombardo said that.

Finally, dear graduates and friends, cherish this moment; it is a memory you will never forget. You have your entire future ahead of you.

"Good luck and Bob's speed."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The High School Dance

Our 15 year old boy attended a dance a few weekends ago. Growing up is so tough!

He's been dating a girl for the past 6 months or so, although doesn't want to acknowledge anything. They go ice skating and visit each others' houses, but he insists (at least to me, his mom) that they're "just friends." The girl's mom and I get together sometimes for coffee, not because of our kids but simply because we like to chat together.

A few weeks ago the mom mentioned (not hinting, just telling me) that her daughter was "really hoping" that our boy would ask her girl to the dance. Next I heard that our boy was taking a different girl. My husband told me that apparently the first girl had gotten tired of waiting for our boy to ask her and accepted another invitation. I emailed the girl's mom to say hi, and between her and my husband, the "real" story came out.

The first girl, a week before, went with another boy from her church to the boy's dance at a nearby school. The boy, the mom assured me, was just a friend.

I strongly suspect our son interpreted the girl's going to the other dance to mean that she likes this other boy.

The second girl, whom our boy took to the dance, apparently asked him if he'd take her. Knowing his psychology, he probably said yes because he didn't know how to get out of it. He mentioned later that he didn't really want to go, although he did seem to have had a good time when I picked them up.

The first girl stayed at home that evening, studying chemistry. (I think the mom is right that the second boy didn't mean anything to her, since if he did she would have asked him to her dance). Does this sound like a soap opera?

The girl's mom was very nice about everything -- she said these things happen, and would I like to get together with her next week?

I have no idea how things will work out for our kids, or if they will, but really it's just a small incident in the process of growing up. My husband and I will continue to gently advise and guide our young man, interpreting for him why events may mean different things than what he thinks. I wish someone had noticed and cared a little to help me at this age -- it would have saved a lot of heartbreak. But be that as it may, these are typical hurts for this age. We can't be unequivocal in telling our son what to do like we did in the past, only suggest ideas and love him.

I had terrible dreams that night. That dance brought back again the bad memories for me of this part of my life and a little later. I did significantly hurtful things to several boys, and was significantly hurt as well. At the time I didn't realize how odd my actions might have seemed, even though I realize now that some were unconsciously self-protective. Others were naive, and a few just selfish.

One boy who I dumped I loved, and I believe he loved me, although at the time I didn't appreciate how rare and fragile a thing love is. It took a very long time for me to find someone else: my husband, with whom we have two children. He is very different from the first boy, but we are happy.

Some might think it strange that I still occasionally remember to regret what I did so many years ago to that boy. I wouldn't change my life, because I love my husband and children and would never trade the present for the past. It's just that, even now, I wish I could directly apologize to the boy simply because I treated him cruelly at the end (although I didn’t appreciate this). I'm sure he hated me. But then I think, he probably doesn't hold onto these things now. Water under the bridge, and all that. My nightmares after the dance are about ancient history.

But that history still lives within me. My dreams occasionally remind me. Years ago, when I became a Christian, I wrestled to really, truly, forgive those who had hurt me, but I wonder if I ever forgave myself. I reflect on this in the middle of the night. Over the years I've thought of that other boy every now and then. Maybe we'll see each other again in another life.

Would directly apologizing to him help? I don't know. Is it worth it to even try?

Gee, I just wish I could say I'm sorry, without its being a big deal. I send him (and his family and dear ones) the best wishes I have.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: The Fight of Our Lives

Politically Correct

I have a Muslim acquaintance who attends my gym. She is like the other ladies, and we chat about life and whatever topics are tossed around. She and her husband own a gas station, and they have a three-year-old boy she takes care of at home. She doesn't come in during the month of Ramadan, since (as she says when she returns) she's fasting all day and the exercise might be too much.

There are Muslims all around my neighborhood. A nearby mosque causes traffic jams along a one-lane artery every Friday, and police come out to direct traffic. Every day on the streets I see the ladies with hijabs (headscarves) going about their business. The men are not always as identifiable as Muslims, although a full beard can be a hint, and wearing the taqiyah (rounded hat) or long robes is a giveaway. The clothing for both men and women is always conservative and often full. They are America, what I like to think of as one part of the melting pot of nationalities living their lives in peace in the USA.

I have no quarrel with Muslims. Live and let live, I like to think. I wish no one ill.

And yet...

I also remember playing flute for a soldier's memorial after he had been killed in the Pentagon on 9/11. The church was packed so that overflow seating had to be set up in the narthex. Watching from my corner of the stage the grieving family and friends was heartbreaking, and the eulogies went on for 2 hours. In 2002 Daniel Pearl was beheaded on film by Muslims. Pearl's statement before the event made very clear that he was Jewish. Later, Sheikh Ahmed Omar Saeed was convicted for Pearl's murder. Since then, there have been many Muslim attacks and near-attacks on civilians and soldiers in Israel, the USA, and other areas.

So, it was with interest and a little trepidation that I read Bennett's and Leibsohn's book, THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES.

This book documents in a calm and extensive manner the goals and achievements of Radical Islam to destroy the Jews and Western civilization while broadly imposing Sharia law in many nations. Those who are not Muslim, according to the radicals, are infidels and worthy of death. The authors of this book make it clear that their quarrel is with "Radical Islam" and not Muslims in general.

"Radical" simply refers to a hard-line adherence to original teachings of Islamic dominance without respecting other circumstances. "Moderates" consider the social milieu. For example, most Muslims in USA respect the USA's religious tolerance, and live happily and productively without insisting that everyone become a Muslim or die. The authors express the wish that moderate Muslims would more loudly denounce the destructive actions of the small, Radical, arm.

Most interestingly documented is the pacific and conciliatory response that America and the West has chronically taken in modern times in response to attacks by Radical Islam. This has been especially obvious after 9/11 when Radical Muslims came clearly into the focus of the American eye. The Islamic threat, the authors say, is the "Fight of our Lives," and we are not identifying and dealing with the problem. For example, the authors open with the story of Major Nidal Hasan, responsible for killing 13 and wounding 29 in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009. While at Walter Reed in 2007 Hasan gave a presentation that publicly suggested Radical Islamic tendencies. These tendencies continued when he was transferred to Fort Hood; for example, he emailed back and forth with Anwar Al-Alwaki, an American Muslim cleric implicated in several terrorist attacks (and recently killed in Yemen by a Predator drone). Yet despite numerous red flags Hasan was allowed to continue his military career unabated, until he took a gun to the Soldier Readiness Center.

The book continues with many examples of American propitiation to Radical demands and attacks, then discusses the roots of Radical Islam contrasted with the roots of Christianity. The authors finally call for a strong defense of Western culture. If the West is not strong, they say, the Radical Islamists will sense weakness and will continue to actively strive to defeat the West. Americans do not understand the roots and ideas of their own history and the unique idea of founding a country based on the natural rights of the person. By not valuing our hard-won freedoms we may not be able to adequately defend against a harsh theocracy.

I found the book well-documented, without hysterical tendencies or hate-filled rhetoric. The authors make it clear that we (non-Muslims and moderate Muslims) have to be honest in acknowledging the threat of Radical Islam to our culture of tolerance and rights for all, and we need to maintain an imposing presence so that the Radicals hesitate to fight. If they do fight us, we must win. I found this book provocative and frankly disturbing. Yes, it convinced me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review (BookSneeze) bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4, NASB)

During the early 1600s the Puritans (so named because they wanted to restore Christianity to its "ancient purity") relocated from England to Holland, before deciding they would sail to the New World to establish their own colony where they could worship in peace and without secular pressures and temptations.

They sailed from Holland back to England, and were joined by farmers and tradesmen. On September 16th, 1620, the small Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers seeking a new life in America. (The Mayflower originally had 90 passengers, but when a second ship the Speedwell couldn't sail, 12 of those passengers were added).

On November 19, 1620, the land of the new world was first sighted. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown Bay, Massachusetts, far north of the Virginia colonies for which they had been aiming.

Although the passengers debated going south, they finally decided to stay where they were for the winter. Before setting foot on the shore, on November 21st, 1620 (November 11th according to the Julian Calendar, 10 days behind the Gregorian Calendar), 41 of the Pilgrims and other colonists signed the Mayflower Compact that read:

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread* Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

*Note: The "dread sovereign" referred to in the document uses the archaic definition of "dread," meaning awe and reverence (for the King), not fear.

Scouting parties identified Plymouth as a place to settle, and on December 30th 1620 the pilgrims disembarked here. Governor William Bradford, describing the first landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth that December, writes:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.... What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. The season it was winter, sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?

The settlers built log huts. Weakened by the long journey, cold, lack of food, and disease, nearly half of the settlers died that first winter. They buried their dead at night so the Indians wouldn't observe their weakness.

In March of 1621, an Indian named Samoset who knew a few English words visited and then introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, an Indian who had lived in England. Squanto brought corn, and taught the pilgrims how to adapt to the new environment.

In the autumn of 1621 Governor William Bradford set aside a day for public Thanksgiving to God in gratitude for the blessings already received. Chief Massosoit was invited, and brought 60 braves, 5 dressed deer, a dozen wild turkeys and popcorn.

On this day, we are hopefully fortunate enough to sit in our warm homes surrounded by dear ones and enjoying a groaning table full of food. Let us not forget the great blessings and privileges we have and perhaps take as a matter of course. Make a list. Here are a few things I'm grateful for:

God, life, family and dear friends (both here and gone), and the opportunities to pursue dreams

As I read this over, I'm suddenly realizing the things I'm grateful for are the values set forth in the Constitution -- wow, what inspired geniuses they were who set up this country, starting from the Mayflower Compact on up.

I'd love comments to hear what you are grateful for, and how you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Divorce

A little irreverent, but pretty funny :-) If you're traveling, have a safe trip!


A man in Jacksonville calls his son in San Diego the day before Thanksgiving and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Denver and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"

She calls Jacksonville immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're both coming for Thanksgiving, and they're paying their own way."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Low-Carb Brownies

This recipe was adapted pretty closely from my regular brownie recipe. I haven’t figured out how to frost them yet because the artificial sweeteners taste bitter and would be powerful in the frosting, but it’s possible that xylitol might work. Haven't been brave enough to try it yet.

This recipe makes 16 brownies. Don’t bake these too long, or they will become hard.

1/3 cup oil or butter
1/3 cup cottage cheese
Sweetener to make the equivalent of one cup sugar. Splenda and xylitol both work in a rough 1:1 ratio
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) cocoa
½ cup almond flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 9x9 inch pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix wet ingredients well.
3. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.
4. Pour batter into pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until done.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Non-Sugar Sweeteners

Since I've started eating lower-carb I've been on a search for edible substitutes for carb-based foods. For example, I've found that flax flour, and especially almond flour, with some recipe modification do an adequate job for baking jobs such as muffins. (These flours tend to be heavy, so I need to lighten the batter with whipped egg white, cottage cheese, or similar ingredients). My family is OK if not thrilled with these, which means I don't have to make two batches of things.

Sweeteners are another story. I do not subject my family to artificial sweeteners, by the way; I tend to remain skeptical and a bit wary, especially for growing kids (although small doses are probably OK). Also, these sweeteners generally have a bitter aftertaste; another reason not to inflict them on the kiddos. However I have found one that is amazing that I discuss at the bottom of this blog.

There are a few non-sugar sweeteners that are commonly used in our society. While this list isn't necessarily exhaustive (since I'm not an expert), here is an overview of the most common FDA-approved GRAS (generally recognized as safe) sugar substitutes:


Sucrose is regular table sugar, disaccharide (fructose and glucose) with a glycemic index of about 64 (roughly the same as honey). This is the regular granulated table sugar that can be replaced with the non-sugar sweeteners.


Aspartame (trademark name Nutrasweet, and others): discovered in 1965, it is derived from two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid. It is intensely sweet so only smaller amounts are needed to sweeten the substance. Aspartame is commonly used in diet sodas.


Saccharine (trademark name Sweet-and-Low, and others): this was the first discovered artificial sweetener, in 1879. In 1977 the FDA slapped a warning label on this substance because it had been shown to cause bladder cancer in rats. Further studies discovered that the mechanism of bladder cancer in rats is not relevant to humans. The FDA subsequently removed the warning.


Stevia (trademark name Truvia, and others): this is an herbal extract from a naturally-occurring plant, and is widely used in Japan and South America. Its glycemic index is zero, which is impressive. In 2008 FDA gave the GRAS label to Truvia, a stevia-based sweetener.


Sucralose (trademark name Splenda, and others): sucralose replaces three of the hydroxyl (OH) groups from sucrose with chlorine atoms. Although sucralose is extremely insoluble (doesn't dissolve) in fat and therefore doesn't accumulate in the body, it can be classified as an organochloride, some of which chemicals in this class are toxic or carcinogenic. Again, though, sucralose is on the FDA GRAS list, so don't worry if you consume this. The organochloride classification is only an interesting factoid.


OK, and here is the amazing sweetener. Drumroll, please...


Xylitol (trademark name Xyla, and others): this is a sugar alcohol and a natural sugar that tastes GREAT! No aftertaste, and honestly it looks, measures, tastes, and acts very similarly to regular granulated sugar. A friend of mine, Kathy, on hearing about my low-carb foray (see some of my previous blog entries) brought my attention to xylitol. It is derived from birch and/or corn and/or other plants, and has a glycemic index of about 15. It is a natural substance that has been used widely in Europe and without known long-term toxic effects. It has also been shown to decrease caries (dental cavities) when used in chewing gum.

Xylitol has been shown to be dangerous and possibly fatal to dogs who eat this: they become hypoglycemic, and exhibit changes in liver enzymes that suggest that there may be some damage going on. These effects don't occur in humans. However, please don't feed any xylitol to Fido. (Chocolate is another dangerous substance to feed to canines).

The downside to xylitol ... AND PLEASE TAKE THIS WARNING SERIOUSLY! Kathy spent a very bad 12 hours in the bathroom because she didn't heed the warnings.

Xylitol is not broken down completely in the GI system; hence the low glycemic index and the generally beneficial properties for calorie reduction. Until you are adapted to ingesting and handling this, though, it will act as an osmotic and also as a substrate for those happy GI bacteria to produce gas and so forth. This translates into GI discomfort, flatulence, gas, and bad diarrhea.

To adjust to xylitol, you need to regularly eat small quantities -- starting with maybe half a teaspoon -- and gradually work your way up. Until you're adapted to this, don't bake with it or use it for anything more than sweetening your coffee. Kathy gave me her bag of it because she was so sick she didn't want to use it again. I've started taking a little at a time, so far with no bad effects, but then again I'm being cautious. We'll see.

You can buy the xylitol at a health food store or on amazon or other online sellers.

To summarize, I'm optimistic that xylitol may solve my sweet tooth problem. I don't eat a lot of sweets, but every now and then just have to have a cookie or a piece of chocolate. With xylitol I may be able to perpetually continue with a lower-carb food profile from now on, even if I eat something sweet. Hallelujah.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Pumpkins at Pumpkin Time

To Pumpkins at Pumpkin Time
by G.C. Tall

Back into your garden-beds!
Here come the holidays!
And woe to the golden pumpkin-heads
Attracting too much praise.

Hide behind the hoe, the plow,
Cling fast to the vine!
Those who come to praise you now
Will soon sit down to dine.

Keep your lovely heads, my dears,
If you know what I mean...
Unless you want to be in pie,
Stay hidden or stay green!

Monday, November 7, 2011

John Oxenham

"To every man there openeth a way and ways and a way
and the high souls tread the highway and the low souls grope the low.
And in between on the misty flats the rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth a highway and a low,
and every man decideth the way his soul should go."

(from Wikipedia)
William Arthur Dunkerley (November 12, 1852 - January 23, 1941) was a prolific English journalist, novelist and poet. He was born in Manchester, spent a short time after his marriage in America before moving to Ealing, west London, where he served as deacon and teacher at the Ealing Congregational Church from the 1880s, and he then moved to Worthing in Sussex in 1922, where he became the town's mayor.

He wrote under his own name, and also as John Oxenham for his poetry, hymn-writing, and novels. His poetry includes Bees in Amber: a little book of thoughtful verse (1913) which became a bestseller. He also wrote the poem Greatheart. He used another pseudonym, Julian Ross, for journalism. Dunkerley was a major contributor to Jerome K. Jerome's The Idler magazine.

He had two sons and four daughters, of whom the eldest, and eldest child, Elsie Jeanette, became well known as a children's writer, particularly through her Abbey Series of girls' school stories. Another daughter, Erica, also used the Oxenham pen-name. The elder son, Roderic Dunkerley, had several titles published under his own name.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Hallowe'en is thought to have originated 2000 years ago as the Celtic "end of summer" festival called Samhain. Prominent in the celebration were autumn crops such as pumpkins, apples, and various gourds. The Celtic new year began on November 1st.

The Romans were great adopters of the cultures they conquered. When they took over the Celtish peoples in about 43 C.E., they integrated Samhain within a pagan festival they celebrated, Feralia, that was celebrated in late October. Feralia was a day to commemorate the dead.

Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, and remained in the Roman lands once the empire fell. In the eighth century Pope Gregory III established a syncretic holiday between the pagan and Roman Catholic belief systems, that November 1st would become All Hallows' Day. All Saints' Eve, the day before All Hallows' Day, was the time when the wicked spirits roamed free. It was celebrated with bonfires, parades, and people wearing costumes of saints, angels, and devils. Turnips were carved in Ireland and Scotland and made into lanterns to remember the souls in purgatory; this custom came to America although the immigrants used pumpkins because they were easier to carve.

For myself, ever since my kids were scared in a "haunted" house when they were little, I've hated Hallowe'en. People laugh at the common themes of death, evil, occult, monsters, demons, zombies, witches, and so forth but really, these things are not funny. The idea of Hell (and yes, I believe there is such a place) should terrify anyone. Even though the children trick-or-treating door to door in ballerina and Superman costumes are cute, these dark themes remain with worries of candy poisoning and worse.

Yes, I may be an uptight mom, but our family no longer celebrates Hallowe'en. Throughout the year we always have various candy around if anyone wants it, although frankly the peanut butter cups or M&Ms sometimes aren't eaten for months. So the trick-or-treating loot isn't a big deal for the kiddos. We get a pizza and watch a fun movie together in the family room. Our house is in an area that doesn't receive trick-or-treaters, so this makes it easier. (I would answer the door if we did have them, though. In our previous house one year while studying for a test I put out a bowl of candy instead of answering the door. I heard some pig kids mount the steps, and when I checked the bowl after the hooting and chortling saw they'd taken everything. I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess).

This year kiddos are big enough that they're both going to dance parties with costumes, rather than our traditional pizza. This sounds like more fun than the spooky, evil stuff.

I don't really have a point here, except that I don't like Hallowe'en. Can you tell?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Snow for Halloween

Unbelievable. These pictures were taken near our home. Fortunately no power outages.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lowering Insulin Levels to Lose Weight

OK, back to calories not all being created equal.

The Eades are a married physician couple who have written extensively on diet and weight. They advocate a low-carbohydrate, high protein/fat diet to lose fat and stay healthy, and note that our great- great- cestors hunted and didn't have much to eat except meat and fat. They also noted that humans crave sweet, salt, and fat, and these things may not be as bad as we've always heard. I don't have personal experience with their work but they probably wouldn't keep putting out the diet books if they didn't have a following, so will assume they're effective. Gary Taubes is another low-carb author about whom my mom raves, and apparently there are others as well.

My sister had a baby two years ago, and was discouraged about her weight gain until she tried the high-protein/low-carb regime. Now every time I talk to her on the phone she tells me about how wonderful she feels and how the diet has really worked for her. My Mom has also taken up the cause, although she's not losing weight as she wishes. (Too many carbs? Too much wine? Or it doesn't always work?) Who knows.

I've never been fat, but I've noticed these past few years that I'm no longer "slender" i.e. I moved to 10-12 size range two years ago. This trend is NOT good, so I've been doing some research on my own about losing weight.

Unlike my family, the first thing I decided was that I did not want to eat only meat and butter for the rest of my life. An interesting book I found that was related to low-carb was Diane Kress' The Metabolism Miracle, which offered an alternative and more detailed explanation for what may be going on to cause people to gain weight. Basically, if your fat cells have a too-vigorous response to insulin, they will snarf up the available blood sugar and grow, ignoring the needs of the other cells. She postulates that this is a genetic type of metabolism (Metabolism Type B). It could be. It also could be simply that as the person ages and/or undergoes life stress, this response becomes more likely. It's not essential for understanding her diet though.

Kress postulates that one simply has to retrain the body's response to insulin. Instead of the fat cells dominating, slower responses by all the cells can be trained.

Her diet has 3 stages:

Stage One: virtually no carbs. This in essence pushes the "reset" button on insulin metabolism in the body. No carbs equals no insulin equals a resting of the pancreas (that produces insulin) and the liver (that coordinates metabolism).

Stage Two: gradual, regular ingestion of relatively low levels of carbs to help the body adjust to modest insulin responses.

Stage Three: maintenance: higher, regular carb ingestion that will keep the body's metabolic functions working well without causing fat gain.

Stage One is for 8 weeks, Stage Two for 8 or more weeks until you're happy with where you are, and Stage Three for "the rest of your life." (It's not difficult, by the way). I've now been on Stage One for three weeks and have lost 8 pounds. I haven't been hungry or felt bad, although have to admit that I'm eager to move back to some carbs. Kress has excellent recipes in her two books, but really, I'm a bit tired of cottage cheese, eggs, broccoli, cheese and peanut butter. The artificial sweeteners have a nasty aftertaste (although Dickinson's sugar-free Cherry Preserves are AMAZING!).

I prefer the idea of "Metabolism Miracle" diet better than the simple low-carb-forever plans. If it works, this method allows you to eat anything, even frosted brownies, as long as you space carbs and don't overload your system.

Although after reading William Davis' Wheat Belly, I'm not as eager to use flour as I used to be. I've been baking with almond and flax flours with pretty good results. We'll see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Whole Grains are NOT Healthy!

Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist, also postulates that insulin is a problem. He believes that America's growing obesity problem can be explained largely through the large consumption of "Whole Grains." In the American diet wheat is a component of most foods, and there is evidence that we Americans eat more of it than we have in the past. The problem with this is that the wheat we eat now may not be the same plant we ate even 50 years ago. Davis references aggressive cross-breeding of different strains of wheat to produce desired characteristics such as shorter growing season and resistance to different conditions (drought, parasites etc.). He notes that gluten composition (gluten is a major protein in wheat) is also altered, and new gluten types are appearing. He postulates that these changes may alter how wheat is metabolically handled in the body.

Dr. Davis uses the glycemic index to show how "Whole Grains" may be contributing to America's obesity problem.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a standardize measurement that quantifies how quickly a particular food converts to blood sugar in the human body. The standard is glucose, with a GI of 100. Other foods are compared to the glucose GI to receive their own GI. A high GI food means that blood sugar rises quickly, and causes an intense insulin release. The insulin causes fat cells (and other cells) to absorb the sugar for proper functioning. When fat cells are stimulated by insulin, they manufacture more fat and eventually cause unsightly bulges. Many experts believe that keeping insulin levels as low as possibly will decrease fat formation.

Whole Grains are viewed as being "healthy" in our society, but in reality they have high GIs. For example, Shredded Wheat cereal has a GI of about 69, whereas a Snickers candy bar has a GI of 40. This high GI in grain is in large part due to high quantities of amylopectin A, a form of branched sugar molecules (complex carbohydrates) that are quickly broken down in the body.

Davis gives a chain of reaction: whole grains --> amylopectin A broken down --> sugar absorbed into the blood --> quick and high release of insulin --> fat cells take up the blood sugar --> fat cells produce more fat --> blood sugar levels drop --> brain senses low blood glucose levels --> brain stimulates the appetite --> whole grains often preferred because they produce a fast sugar rise

Davis' prescription to his patients is simple: DON'T EAT WHEAT PRODUCTS! Other grain products, such as corn and rice, are also not encouraged. He suggests using flax flour, almond flour, and coconut flour for baking. He also recommends avoiding simple sugar ingestion, since the sugar also gives fast insulin responses.

It's interesting to contemplate that a Snickers candy bar might be a better breakfast than breakfast cereal and milk.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Types of Food

Insulin is the hormone released in response to blood sugar rise, and works to allow cells to uptake the sugar for energy. Dietician Diane Kress postulates that insulin response in some people is skewed so that the fat cells take up all the sugar, leading to growing fat cells and no sugar for the other cells.

There are four general substances that can generate blood sugar to power cells. These substances come from foods that we digest. They are: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol.

Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars: breakfast cereal, potatoes, breads, and so forth. They yield 4 kcal per gram.

Proteins are things like meats, egg whites, and tofu. They also yield 4 kcal per gram.

Fats are, well we know what they are: butter and oil. They yield 9 kcal per gram. Molecularly fats are long carbon chains with hydrogen atoms. "Saturated" fats are the ones that are filled with hydrogen atoms so they lie flat and on a larger scale are solid at room temperature: butter, fat in steak, and so forth. "Unsaturated" fats means that they don't have as much hydrogen and are bent. These are the oils such as safflower and corn oil that are liquid at room temperature. "Monounsaturated" oils have just one hydrogen missing; olive oil is a good example. Hydrogenated fats are unsaturated oils exposed to hydrogen to saturate them. The trans fatty acids refers to a specific type of bond that develops in the fat when an unsaturated oil is hydrogenated: I don't want to go into too much detail with the biochemistry, but feel free to write to me if you wish for further explanation. The trans fatty acids are considered unhealthy.

Alcohol is ethanol; if you're drinking another sort of chemical alcohol you'll get in trouble. It yields 7 kcal per gram.

These substances are broken down in the digestive process through different metabolic pathways. Carbohydrates are the substance that cause insulin to be released: proteins, fats, and alcohol don't. Carbohydrates are also most quickly broken down to yield glucose in the body.

To be continued...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are All Calories Equal?

Obesity rates are rapidly rising in the USA. Why?

Many overweight people I know are distressed by their inability to lose weight. "I keep a food diary to count my calories, and I still can't lose weight!" my friend wailed not too long ago. Well, she might be mismeasuring food quantities or not being honest, but is it possible that she's right? Or should she just do a few more sit-ups before leaving in the morning?

The equation of weight loss seems so simple:

Weight Loss occurs when Calories in < Calories out.

Calories out equals basal metabolic rate + thermogenic factors with metabolism + daily activities + exercise

But is this simple formula always correct? Some experts think that all calories are NOT created equal. I'm beginning to wonder if they're right.

Beyond the calorie counting for food and exercising, the problems of "being fat" seem to revolve in large part around the hormone insulin. Insulin is the substance that diabetics inject to manage their disease since they are unable to manufacture it (Type I) or need extra since their cells don't respond strongly enough to the endogenous supply (Type II). Insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to blood sugar. The hormone opens gateways in the cells, allowing the sugar to be taken up by the cells so that they can continue to function.

According to dietician Diane Kress (more about her soon), people may have one of two general responses to insulin. In "textbook" people insulin works efficiently, and calories in causes blood sugar rise causes insulin release causes appropriate cellular function. However, there may be a second sort of person in whom insulin doesn't work as well. Calories in causes blood sugar rise causes insulin release causes an overstimulation of fat cells to take up all of the blood sugar in the blood. Blood sugar drops, and yet the other cells haven't received sugar/energy from the meal. Because the brain depends upon blood glucose to function, it sends out signals that it is STARVING and the person becomes more hungry than he was before.

This second group of people may remember that dieting, eating fewer calories and engaging in more exercise, never seemed to result in reliable weight loss. They weren't cheating. They also tend to put on weight, especially around the middle, as their fat cells grow.

Hmm, interesting concept. I'll pick up more of this next blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why is America so Fat?

It's interesting to note that the obesity rate is skyrocketing in the USA. See this CDC site with an animated map showing the rates of obesity from 1985 to 2010 HERE. The site shows that in 1985 the incidence of obesity by state was, at most, 10-14%. (Some data is missing). However, by 2010 every state has an obesity incidence of at least 20-24%, and most states have a rate between 25-29% or even > 30%. This means that throughout the country, at least one out of five people is considered obese.

Holy Smokes. What happened?

My first thought is that it may not be as bad as it looks. Here are some facts:

1. These are cross-sectional data not longitudinal. As a scientist I would like to see the relative racial mixes of 1985 and 2010. Different ethnic groups may very well have different incidences of obesity. Pima Indians, anyone?

2. I would next like to see the relative ages of these populations. Again, I suspect that getting older may be associated with getting fatter.

However, all this being said, I find it interesting that we have so many overweight people now. I suspect that our diets now may not be the same as they were even 25 years ago, and this may lead to an increase in obesity. For example, in the supermarket I notice many labeled "low-fat" foods in the aisles, and I've heard that sugar consumption is very high now. No hard facts here, but some observations.

More next time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!*

*my favorite quote from GalaxyQuest

If you have a good idea that no one else seems to be enthusiastic for, be very careful before you decide it's really NOT something worthwhile. Here are some fun quotes...

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 15 tons." – Popular Mechanics," forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." - The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

"But what...is it good for?" - Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM commenting on the microchip, 1968.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." - Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

Who the heck wants to hear actors talk?" - Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." - Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone with the Wind."

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." - Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting her company, Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." – Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives or 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you; you haven't got through college yet.'" - Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." - New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work, 1921.

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training." - Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." - Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." - Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." – Mrechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction". – Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

"The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." - Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon- Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

"640k ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, 1981

Never fear following your passion... Where there is a will, there is a way.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Four Personality Categories

If you want to test your personality, a free and fast site is HERE


Most of the information for this post is from David Keirsey's book Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Reading the title, I question if intelligence and character go along with personality type, but that's just me. It's an interesting book albeit a little dense.

Keirsey (and others as well) propose four basic personality types based on the MBTI:

Artisan (_S_P)

Guardian (_S_J)

Idealist (_NF_)

Rational (_NT_)

The Artisans (SPs) assess the immediate environment for options and advantages, and tend to act on them quickly. They are extremely practical and like to live in the moment. They are often thought of as easy-going, impetuous, tolerant, adaptable, and artistic.

The Guardians (SJs) are serious, believing that everyone and all things should behave in a well-ordered manner. They are careful, thorough planners, very practical, and insist that things are done the *right* way.

The Idealists (NFs) are empathetic and caring, focusing on how to complete and nurture the dear ones in their circle. Conflict is deeply personal and upsetting.

The Rationals (NTs) need to find a reason for everything. They think abstractly, and are the ones who come up with stunning breakthroughs of inventions or systems as they are able to find patterns in seemingly unrelated data and ideas.


It's interesting to calculate the relative incidence of these four personality types within the population. Assume that the following proportions exist:

E:I is approximately 75% to 25%
S:N is approximately 85% to 15%
T:F for males is approximately 67% to 33%
for females is approximately 33% to 67%
J:P is approximately 50% to 50%

Then the SPs are (0.85)(0.50) = 42.5% of the general population
The SJs are (0.85)(0.50) = 42.5% of the general population
The NFs are (0.15)(0.50*) = 7.5% of the general population (approximately 2/3 of these will be women)
The NTs are (0.15)(0.50*) = 7.5% of the general population (approximately 2/3 of these will be men)

* since we're not calculating for male versus female, I'm using an even proportion of T to F that is true over the whole population

So, as you look around your roomful of friends, you've got a much better chance of bumping into an SP artisan (about 2 in 5) or SJ guardian (about 2 in 5) than an NF idealist (less than one in ten) or NT rational (less than one in ten). As someone who measures extremely intuitive, I can emphatically say that it's hard for me to understand how other people think -- I'm able to observe and predict what they will do, but it seems like I'm constantly missing things. My thoughts fly onto tangents all the time, and I often find a solution to a problem by observing something completely different that has an interesting mechanism I can apply. I think in images and ideas, and need to translate to words. However, I don't see things right in front of me; I constantly miss the obvious real-world stuff.

Personality tests try to pigeonhole unique individuals into categories, and there are always inaccuracies and approximations. Still, after some study I've decided (for whatever my opinion is worth) that the MBTI works pretty well. So, what is it like to live in your head?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Myers Briggs, an Overview

There are many personality analyzing tools in the world. One of the bigger ones is the MBTI that was developed during World War II by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. While no test can completely pigeonhole a unique personality into a cubbyhole, the MBTI is a respected test used to describe individual preferences and tendencies. I've had a lot of fun playing with it as I analyze self, friends, family, and characters for my stories, and find it reasonably accurate (as far as I can tell). If anyone's interested, I'm strongly I, strongly N, and straddle the T-F and the J-P axes (I test INTJ).

MBTI describes four preference-type dichotomies that each person uses. These preferences are similar to left- or right-handedness; the person uses both aspects of each preference, but one is preferred. These preference dichotomies are:

Extroverted (E) versus Introverted (I)

Sensory (S) versus Intuitive (N)

Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)

Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P)


The terms are technical, and therefore not quite the same as the colloquial meanings.

Extroverted (E) / Introverted (I)

This axis describes the attitudes to outer world (people, objects) or inner world (ideas, reflection). The extroverted prefer to act, whereas the introverted prefer to reflect and withdraw. This axis doesn't reflect how social someone is, or how well they interact with people; more it's whether they'd prefer to be around action, or prefer a quiet place.

Sensory (S) / Intuitive (N)

This axis describes how information is gathered. Sensory people prefer concrete, tangible facts or data that is accessible through the five senses. In contrast, Intuitives prefer abstract or theoretical information, and easily relate it to other information, patterns, or future pathways.

Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)

This axis describes how a decision is made. The thinkers detach and use rational, reasonable, consistent rules to make a decision, whereas the feelers consider the needs of the people involved, attempt to empathize and balance to achive the best harmonic solution. A question that exemplifies this axis is: Do you prefer justice or mercy?

Judging (J) / Perceiving (P)

This axis describes, roughly, how a person relates to the outer world. Judgers tend to use their judging function (T or F), whereas perceivers tend to use their sensing function (S or N). Judgers tend to want to make a decision and move on, whereas perceivers want to keep options open.


Dominance of these four preferences is not evenly distributed, just as right- or left-handedness is not. Approximate incidence of the characteristics in USA is:

E/I -- approximately three quarters of the population are extroverts

S/N -- approximately 85% of the population are sensors

T/F -- about two-thirds of males are Ts, and about two-thirds of females are Fs

J/P -- about evenly distributed

If you'd like to analyze your own personality, a free and fast site is HERE

In the next few entries I'll go over four basic personality types that can be further subdivided. Have a great day everyone!