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Interesting Information and Books, Documentaries, Reviews: Education Uprising — YES! Magazine

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Interesting Information AND

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  March 31, 2014

Education Uprising

YES! Magazine


The spring 2014 issue of YES! Magazine is all about the current state of education in the United States:  EDUCATION UPRISING.

I hope that all parents and grandparents will go online and read the education articles because our public education system is being systematically destroyed.

The good news is that people all over the country “get” what is happening–and why–and are leading successful protests for change.

I will be highlighting some of the stories in this blog post, but here is the url to this free magazine:

Education Uprising — YES! Magazine.


* * *

There are TWO pieces of information that you might want to know that happened in my life:

I wrote my PhD (Cultural Studies) dissertation on the school choice movement–FOR SALE:  SCHOOLS/STUDENTS:  THE SCHOOL-CHOICE MOVEMENT:  AN EFFECT OF NEOLIBERALISM’S PASSIVE REVOLUTION (2002).  I researched this topic deeply for five years and it was crystal clear that “school choice” (vouchers/charters) was not about what’s best for children or offered a way to improve education, but was about the market wanting to colonize schools so they could get at the money pot that funds it.  At the time of my dissertation–ten years or more ago now, this pot of money was bigger than the military budget.  Today this pot is about $600 billion from the federal government alone–as Dean Paton notes in “The Myth Behind Public School Failure,” discussed below.

My sister taught first and second grades in an inner-city Norfolk, Virginia, school that had been deemed a “failing” school until about eighteen months ago.  In the several years before she retired, she was tasked with testing 6 and 7-year olds over FIFTY PERCENT of the entire teaching time of the school year–which she felt was cruel and ineffective.  She was tasked in her final years to teach with a programmed plan that she felt had little success with her children. When experts came to view her classroom, she was touted as a “master teacher” numerous times.

So, it was with real joy that I read the first story in the YES! issue on taking back education:  Dean Paton’s “The Myth Behind Public School Failure.”  BECAUSE Paton “got it.”  Here’s the url:

The Myth Behind Public School Failure by Dean Paton — YES! Magazine.

Paton traces the origins of the myth that American schools have ever been failing–as I did in my dissertation.  Sure, there are schools or districts (usually very poor) that could be said to be “failing,” but IN GENERAL, American schools before NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND were doing a quantifiably (yep, that means via data and math) good job.  The document making claims of failure, “A Nation At Risk,” famously, was, as Paton notes, “remarkably free of facts and solid data.”

The strategy to PRIVATIZE public schools has always already been to pick them off one by one by deeming them FAILING–and along the way a HUGE testing market emerged that created the tests that said a school was failing.  (In 2012, Pearson PLC, “the curriculum and testing juggernaut,” made more than $1 billion, writes Paton.)   Then the teachers got targeted as being responsible for the “failure.”  What got produced was a “manufactured catastrophe,” or what Paton notes Naomi Klein calls “`disaster capitalism.’ ”   

Teachers used to be valued community members, and in order for the market to colonize the schools and get to the pot of money, they had to demonize the teachers.  So, those trying to privatize the schools (or the misguided people who got caught up in this whole business) started proposing that teachers be rated according to their test scores–regardless of the reality of the students in their classrooms.  But, Badass Teachers Association (BAT) co-founder Priscilla Sanstead’s Twitter banner says the following in the article listed below about the Seattle teachers who boycotted the MAP test:

Rating a teacher in a school with high poverty based on their student test data is like rating a dentist who works in Candyland based on their patient tooth decay data.

The turning point for change may have come in 2012 when “then-Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott” said publicly “that high-stakes exams are a `perversion.’ ”  Following Scott, in January 2013, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School “announced they would refuse to give their students the Measures of Academic Progress Test–the MAP test.”  The administration threatened them, but, ultimately, backed down.  And this boycott triggered a nation-wide backlash against high-stakes testing and the current NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND policies that have reduced education to educational bulimia ingested and disgorged on tests.

In “Pencils Down:  How One School Sparked a Nationwide Rebellion Against a Test-Obsessed Education System, Diane Brooks tells the story of how Seattle’s Garfield High School teachers decided to and did boycott the MAP tests.  Here’s the url to this fascinating story:  

These Seattle Teachers Boycotted Standardized Testing—and Sparked a Nationwide Movement by Diane Brooks — YES! Magazine.

So, how are students now being assessed?  

Brooks notes that schools opting out of high-stakes testing are looking to “the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a coalition of 28 high schools across the state…[that] track student progress with performance-based assessments. Rather than take standardized tests, students do in-depth research and papers; learn to think, problem-solve, and critique; and orally present their projects.”  This approach “not only provides more effective student assessment, but also emphasizes critical-thinking skills over rote learning.”  

And, here’s a link to the article about how Diane Ravitch, an architect of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, is saying she was wrong, she made a mistake, it does not work:

Architect of Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Law: “I Was Wrong” by Scott Nine — YES! Magazine.

 In “The Best Way to Learn About a Tree,” David Sobel notes that KINDERGARTEN used to mean “children in the garden.”  Now, though, high-stakes testing has reached all the way down to Kindergarten, which is now “the new first grade.”  As a result, these children are spending more and more time indoors as kindergarten teachers “are required to focus on a narrowing range of literacy and math skills”  Sobel quotes David McKay Wilson, a journalist who writes in the Harvard Education Letter that studies show that `some kindergarteners spend up to six times as much time on those topics and on testing and test prep than they do in free play or `choice time.’ ”  Additionally, “teachers are required to use scripted curricula that give them little opportunity to create lessons in response to students’ interests.”

So, what’s at stake here?  “The efforts to force reading lessons and high-stakes testing on ever younger children could actually hamper them later in life by depriving them of a chance to learn through play.”

The article goes on to list some really exciting kindergarten programs where children actually learn in gardens/forest/nature.

You Can’t Bounce Off the Walls If There Are No Walls: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Happier—and Smarter by David Sobel — YES! Magazine.

There are MANY other wonderful, thought-provoking articles in this issue.  Some deal with the harm done by current zero tolerance policies in schools today–which are often exercised without any real understanding of what a student is juggling.  The Restorative Justice program is described in detail, for instance.  Start with this article:

Discipline With Dignity: Oakland Classrooms Try Healing Instead of Punishment by Fania Davis — YES! Magazine.

There are more stories in this issue.  Of course there are.

But these can get you started.








Interesting Information: Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling

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Interesting Information:  March 30, 2014

Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling

The following states have joined together to form the above coalition:

Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Why isn’t Maine part of this Coalition?  

Probably because we have a very strange governor in Paul LePage–who stated publicly that the worst BPA could do was to make women have mustaches…

Why isn’t YOUR state–especially since

90 percent of the American people want a national GMO labeling law.  

We have a right to know what’s in our food!

Why don’t we have a national GMO labeling law?

Why did the FDA just rule that they thought it would be ok for industry to CHOOSE to label GMOs?

Follow the money…

* * *


MoveOn.org has a petition you can sign…



State list taken from the Well Being Journal, January/February 2013, 10.


Written by louisaenright

March 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Interesting Information: Scientific Studies Validate Sustainable Organic Agriculture

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Interesting Information:  March 28, 2014

“Scientific Studies Validate Sustainable Organic Agriculture”

Andre Leu


One of the big news stories of 2013 was the appearance in the media of the results of the 12-year study out of Iowa State University (ISU) showing that “organic systems can have equal to higher yields than conventional systems” (30).   This article , by Andre Leu, in Wellbeing Journal, January/February 2013, 27-34, lists and discusses many of the studies, including the 12-year ISU study, that show that organic systems are superior to commercial systems that deploy chemicals for both plant growth and weed control.  The studies Leu lists are both national and international–which forestalls the argument that commercial agriculture might be ok in the developing world.

Leu begins with studies from the mid-90s, and the reader begins to realize that the science for organic systems has been there for years, but that we aren’t reading about that science in our media in any sustained way.  For instance, the Iowa study ended in, I believe, 2011, but the story didn’t break in any major way until 2013.

Here’s Leu’s synopsis of the ISU study:

The results from the Long Term Agroecological Research (LTAR), a 12-year collaborative effort between producers and researchers led by Kathleen Delate of Iowa State University, shows that organic systems can have equal to higher yields than conventional systems

Consistent with several other studies, the data showed that while the organic systems had lower yields in the beginning, by the fourth year they started to exceed the conventional crops.

Across all rotations, organic corn harvests averaged 130 bu/ac while conventional corn yield was 112 bu/ac.  Similarly, organic soybean yield was 45 bu/ac compared to the conventional yield of 40 bu/ac in the fourth year.

On average, the organic crop revenue was twice that of conventional crops due to the savings from non-utilization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (30).

Here’s another assessment of the Iowa Trials from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture:

LTAR’s findings concur with recently published results from the Rodale Institute’s 30-year Farming Systems Trial in Pennsylvania. The Rodale Institute also concluded that organic systems can provide similar yields and greater profits. In addition, they calculated that organic crops required 45 percent less energy, and contributed significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic corn proved especially profitable during drought years, when its yields jumped up to 31 percent higher than conventional.


So, the next time you read that, or someone says that, organic agriculture cannot “feed the world,” challenge that statement.  Here’s a quote from Leu:

Reputable studies by major universities are finding organic agriculture can feed the world.  A recent study by Badgley et al from the University of Michigan showed that organic farming can yield up to three times more food on individual farms in developing countries, as compared to conventional farms.  These findings refute the long-standing claim that organic farming methods cannot produce enough food to feed the global population (27).  (This study was done in 1995.)

Here’s another Leu quote:

Rick Welsh, PhD, of the Henry A. Wallace Institute reviewed numerous academic publications comparing organic production with conventional production systems in the U.S.  The data showed that the organic systems were more profitable.  This profit was not always due to premium prices but also due to lower production and input costs as well as more consistent yields.  Welsh’s study also showed that organic agriculture produced better yields than conventional agriculture in adverse weather events, such as droughts or higher than average rainfall.  (This assessment was done in 1996.)

Nicolas Parrott of Cardiff University, U.K., authored a report titled “The Real Green Revolution.”  He gives case studies that confirm the success of organic and agroecological farming techniques in the developing world.  (This report was done in 2002).

Leu’s article contains a valuable list of studies and an additional reading list.


Why is our food still swamped with deadly chemicals that are not needed and that are making way too many of us sick?

Follow the money…

Industry has a choke hold on our farmers.  Industry is selling them expensive patented seeds every year, selling them the tons of chemicals needed to grow these expensive seeds in the conventional system–more chemicals each year as the efficacy of these chemicals grows less effective–and selling the giant machinery needed in the conventional system.  Industry also funds most of the agricultural programs at the universities, and those folks, in turn, tell farmers how to farm with conventional methods. Farmers are caught in what I’m now calling a “kool aid loop” as the only information they are getting is from the agricultural university system (now also an industry) and from the chemical salesmen.  Plus, the government is incentivizing them to grow crops (soy and corn) for a food industry that is selling us tasty fake food that is also killing us.  THIS IS HOW UNFETTERED CAPITALISM COLONIZES A SECTOR OF THE ECONOMY and how all these colonized sectors become webbed together so that we are all caught in a giant spider web of trouble.

Nor are our small farmers who are trying to change getting government support to help back out of this industrial seed/chemical/big equipment/low prices madness.  No, in the recent Farm Bill, BIG, conventional farmers are getting almost all of the helpful money because the SYSTEM IS RIGGED in their favor.  Money begats money.

It’s a broken system…

And only we can change it…

Start by eating local, clean, nutrient-dense whole foods grown by farmers you know.

You aren’t going to find this food in your local grocery store chains.


Turkey Tracks: Household Dramas

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Turkey Tracks:  March 30, 2014

Household Dramas



The smoke alarm outside my bedroom went off last night about 3:30 a.m.  LOW BATTERY.  That alarm talks to you in a voice that can raise even a deaf person like me from a dead sleep.  Rey Rey jumped off the very high bed (I hope she used the nearby chair) and followed me through the house-check I made to make sure there wasn’t smoke anywhere, etc.  And to get the ladder downstairs so I could reach the alarm upstairs on the third floor. Rey Rey ducked into her bed downstairs–a laundry basket with soft old blankets under the table in my office–and had to be retrieved when the drama was all solved and the offending alarm removed from the ceiling for the night–which meant another trip up and down three flights of stairs.

It took me forever this morning to figure out how to open the battery door… Went online for the manual to figure it out, but couldn’t find a clue–which means most anyone with any brains should know how to open the darn thing.  Only, I didn’t want to break anything by forcing plastic parts.   The little door pulls and kind of swings out.  The online ad said one could change the batteries without removing the device from the ceiling.  Ha!  I’d like to see someone do that.  And it’s easy enough to unscrew it anyway.


Now I suppose I should check the other alarms as I suppose they might all have low batteries.   But, that will be a task for another day…

Meanwhile, Rey Rey is still a total wreck–made more so when the new batteries went in and the device “talked” again in the piercing, scary voice.

She retreated to the rug in front of the sink–the next best thing to my lap as it is “my” spot in the kitchen–where she sat shaking with terror and refusing to look at the camera.




See those beautiful daffodils on the kitchen counter?

A wonderful friend brought them to me this week–along with a big bunch on the dining room table.

And I have had swollen lymph nodes under one arm, other swellings, an allergy runny nose in spurts off and on ever since.  It took me a few days to figure it out–but it’s those flowers.

I started washing my hands really good to get rid of whatever pesticides I had gotten on my hands from the flowers–and gathered up those beautiful, gorgeous, sunny flowers and threw them on a snow bank.

And my nose has stopped and the swellings are going away…

But I will miss the daffodils and will be so happy to see my own bloom in the meadow this year.

Again, maybe this is a lesson in “slow” flowers/food and staying in the seasons…



So, today is the day that the documentary TOXIC HOT SEAT is being shown at THE STRAND in Rockland, Maine.  I had a leisurely breakfast, dressed with care (the pretty blue sweater I save for “good”), and went to the garage to leave.  At the last moment, as it was pouring rain, I changed my pretty shoes for sturdy rain shoes.

There was at least four inches of water in the garage.

The drains were plugged.

Water, water everywhere and threatening the bottoms of the refrigerator and the freezer.

I went back to the house, changed into LL Bean tall boots, took off my pretty green scarf (a present from DIL Corinne during her pre-wedding parties) that matched my pretty green raincoat that I treasure but that is at least 15 years old, got a toilet plunger and tried to open the drains.

No luck.

I called my wonderful neighbor Chris Richmond, who came down with adorable and growing-fast son Carleton in about 30 seconds.   What a great feeling that was.

Chris had no luck with the plunger either.

Chris determined that the drains were iced up and tried to find their outside outlet–and set about redirecting water flowing down the hillsides into the drainage ditches along the driveway–which had become plugged with too many leaves.  (Next year I’ll do a better job of blowing leaves out of those drains–and maybe get Tom Jackson to deepen them again.  After ten years, they’ve silted up quite a bit.

Meanwhile, Carleton and I “broomed” water out of the garage doors so that it flowed down the hill.  As I only had one big broom, Carleton worked with a snow shovel while I followed him him with the big broom.  (I will be buying another broom forthwith.)

Chris had brought some de-icer pellets and put those down the drains, but it may take some time for them to “work.”

And I went to Renys and bought one of their last de-icer bags and put more down the drains.  And I will go back in a bit to see if I need to put in more.

Now my mind is busily turning over what kind of treats I might be able to proffer to thank Chris and Carleton!

I am a lucky woman to have such nice neighbors.

Turkey Tracks: Winter Deer Eating Evergreens

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Turkey Tracks:  March 28, 2014

Winter Deer Eating Evergreens


Here’s a familiar sight from my kitchen windows any time in the late afternoon these days:


Sorry about the blurry picture, but you can see how bold these deer are these days.

They are eating all the junipers along the wall–which had just started growing and drooping artistically over the wall after being planted TEN YEARS ago.

There are eight deer in this group:  two mothers and five young ones.  Did one mother have triplets???

I went outside and talked to the ones who did not immediately flee up the hill.  You can see how healthy they look.  Their winter coats are plush, and their eyes are bright and alert.



The junipers have been reduced to nothing but bare sticks.  They look like an infestation of gypsy moths had flown through.

And all the small white pines sprouting alongside the creek bed have been munched up to their tops.  They look like lollipops.

Critters have to eat…


Written by louisaenright

March 28, 2014 at 11:42 am

Interesting Information: Here’s A Treat For You

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Interesting Information:  March 28, 2014

Here’s A Treat For You


My apologies to those of you who are connected to me via Facebook, as I did “share” this beautiful post there.  But I did want to share it more widely, so am putting it up as a blog entry.

ENJOY this beautiful art form…

Andres Amador is no ordinary artist. He neither draws or paints. He doesn’t sculpt. Instead of a white canvas, he uses nature, namely the beach. Instead of a brush, he uses a rake. Andres creates artworks that are larger than 100,000 square feet. He spends countless hours on his pieces even though he knows that the tide will soon wash it away…

The San Francisco Globe.

Written by louisaenright

March 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: Denise Minger’s DEATH BY FOOD PYRAMID

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Books, Documentaries, Reviews AND Interesting Information:  March 26, 2014

Death By Food Pyramid:

How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Ruined Your Health…

…and How to Reclaim It

Denise Minger


Denise Minger’s book is a very useful book in so many ways and is, in my not-always-so-humble opinion, a really good addition to the ongoing discussion about food knowledge, food history, and food safety.


Minger, as you may recall from earlier posts on this blog, is the young woman who took on T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study by digging deep into his research data and showing that, likely, because his belief system about veganism was so strong that he missed what the data was telling him.  Indeed, in the middle of the movie lauding vegetarianism and veganism, Forks Over Knives, the Chinese doctors Campbell worked with in China announced that health seemed to be determined by “meat and vegetables.”

In addition, Minger has an absolutely wicked sense of humor.  But, more importantly, she has a kind of research worldview that looks objectively at what happened and what is, not what gets driven by belief system so that it becomes “truth” when it isn’t.  Despite the grim title, Minger ends her book with a powerful plan of attack on how to win back, as Chris Masterjohn notes in his forward to the book, “the right to a healthy future.”

Minger begins the book with the tale of her 16 to 17th year of living after falling prey to a raw food diet comprised mostly of fruit.  A trip to the dentist revealed SIXTEEN cavities and the dentist’s observation that he had never seen ” `teeth like this on someone so young’ ” (5)  Later she realized that her “teeth had likely fallen victim to a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins” (5).  Those are the crucial vitamins that live, you know, IN MEAT FAT.  And here’s an example of a typical Minger bit of humor:  “Although the doctor insisted I’d had low levels of iron and vitamin B12, my most deadly deficiency, I would later learn, was in critical thinking” (5).

Here’s another:

Contrary to popular belief, America’s dietary guidelines aren’t the magnum opuses of high-ranking scientists, cerebral cortexes pulsating in the moonlight as they solve the mysteries of human nutrition.  What reaches our ears has been squeezed, tortured, reshaped, paid off, and defiled by a phenomenal number of sources.  And as my own story proves, the USDA’s wisdom, pyramid and beyond, isn’t the only source of misguided health information out there.  But it is some the most pervasive, the most coddled by the food industry, the most sheltered from criticism, and–as a consequence–the most hazardous to public health (7).

Like I have done in the Mainely Tipping Points Essays, Minger goes back to the history of the USDA Food Pyramid and surfaces the swarmy political history of the early 1980s where Luise Light, hired by the USDA to come up with a good food guide, puts together a team of eminent scientists and nutritionists–only to find their recommendations (especially about grain consumption) undercut and overturned by industry shills in the upper regions of the USDA.  (Science-based food policy needs to be removed from the USDA–their interests are in conflict.)  She goes on to identify other players in how our farm policy got so far off track–if one is trying to grow healthy food.  And, how political theater instituted policies out of belief system (with help from the industries who would profit), so that we wound up with the deadly one-size-fits-all low-saturated fat, high-carb diet that is advocated today.  Look around you to see how well that’s all working for a lot of us.  In any case, Minger does a good job of pulling together the important highlights of this history in a readable, interesting form.

One of the arguments Minger makes is that the current “one-size-fits-all” USDA dietary information is “rubbish.”  (The same should be said for one-size-fits-all medicine, school curriculums, and on and on.)  Minger goes to some length to show that we do not all relate to foods in the same way.  We have genetic differences that control how our bodies take up, or don’t, the nutrients in foods–which explains why some folks can tolerate a vegetarian or vegan diet better than others.  Like me, a vegetarian diet made Chris Masterjohn profoundly ill.  (I am still trying to recover from my vegetarian years.)  But all of us likely know people who don’t eat meat or, even, nutrient dense foods, and they are not visibly sick, have reasonable amounts of energy, and so forth.

But, who should one trust?  To answer that question, Minger notes that “our understanding of diet and health is still too young for anyone to have all the answers.”  So, she writes, “Anyone who’s certain they’re right about everything in nutrition is almost definitely wrong.”  And we should not confuse “certainty” with “an evidence-backed opinion that seem reasonably correct.”  Look for people who keep an open mind and who are willing to “consider and integrate new information.”  None of us should be so certain that we lock all the doors.  Rather “a well-reasoned argument with a dash of humility is an open” door (53).

Minger also cautions that despite their white coats, “doctors tend to be some of the least educated health professionals on matters of nutrition.” Doctors don’t, too often, get their ideas on nutrition from “nutrition journals or other scientific literature, but from profit-driven industries with products to push” (57).

To buttress how to find the “well-reasoned argument,” Minger explains at some length how to vet the myriad number of studies out there claiming to hold truth.  She walks readers through what to look for in a study and what to throw into the nearest trash can.  I personally think that we all need to understand what comprises a genuine, useful study and what is fake science.  Of course she takes on the issue of causation versus the simple correlation that pervades much of today’s government, media, and industry hype about “food science.”  I can’t reproduce this whole section of the book for you, but I can urge you to read it so you can begin to understand how to vet information for yourself.  Just because something comes from a place like Harvard does not mean it has any value whatsoever.  One has to look at the nature of the study and WHO HAS FUNDED IT.  Minger also looks at what’s wrong (or what has been misreported) with the key BIG studies, like the longitudinal Framingham Heart Study–which was never able to prove the high cholesterol, dietary saturated fat, and heart disease theory.  Moreover, “multiple papers spawned by Framingham also link low cholesterol levels with greater risk of cancer….” (146).  And it is fascinating to me that in the news recently is the revelation that a blood test that measures lipids (fats) in the blood is 90% accurate as a prediction for Alzeimers:  LOW lipid levels point toward getting or having Alzeimers.

One really important section of the book walks through the history of Ancel Keyes and the lipid (fat) hypothesis.  Unknown to me was the fact that a competing theory was circulating at the same time arguing that sugar was the leading cause of heart disease.  Since sugar lost this battle in the political arena, the name of the scientist, John Yudkin, also got lost.  Other scientists adopted one or the other theory, but the real problem (and what turns out to be a problem with many of the studies) is that trying to blame illness on one single macronutrient does not consider the bigger, more complicated picture.  (Trying to understand the complicated “whole” of things by viewing one of its parts is the curse of modernity AND the producer of bad science.)  I think it was useful to see Keyes and Yudkin within the CONTEXT of their times–an analysis which makes Keyes less of a “demon” who left out information that didn’t fit his hypothesis and more of a scientist who just tried to simplify a cause (fat) too much.

Of course Minger addresses the rise of the use of trans fats and the PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) with high Omega 6 levels and chronic illness.  And she notes how major organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) produce studies recommending the PUFAs that are written by people from industry.  For instance, William Harris the author of such a paper for the AHA “received significant funding from the bioengineering giant Monsanto, in addition to serving as a consultant for them.”  Monsanta is pioneering currently a GMO soybean supposedly enhanced with Omega 3’s while also providing Omega 6 (177-178).

Minger discusses the “modern Trinity” of diets (Paleo, Mediterranean, and Whole Foods/Plant-Based)–showing in the process where these diets deviate from their origins.  Modern Paleo, for instance, calls for the use of lean meats and low fat intakes, though ancient peoples ate a lot of animal fat and gave lean muscle meat to their dogs.  Paleo peoples also likely included some legumes and grains in their diets.  And some ate a lot of dairy.   The original Mediterranean diet was adopted from the island of Crete.  Yet those folks fasted almost 180 days a year for religious reasons and foraged for a lot of wild greens seasonally.  The success of the plant-based diet is unclear as it is always compared to SAD, the Standard American Diet, and not to either Paleo or the Mediterranean diet.  This diet needs longitudinal study as to the impact of the lack of fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients on fertility and bone development, among other things.  It would be wise to note as well that there is no known primitive culture that has lived for some generations entirely on a plant-based diet.

Where do these diets intersect?  They ALL EXCLUDE  industrially processed vegetable oils; refined grains and sugar; “chemical preservatives and lab-produced anythings”; and “nearly any creation coming in a crinkly tinfoil package, a microwavable tray, or a McDonald’s takeout bag.”  They ALL INCLUDE tubers, low-glycemic fruit, and all non-starchy vegetables (225).

There is a lovely discussion of the work of Weston A. Price, who searched the world for healthy groups of people, to see what kinds of food they ate to produce optimal human health.  Minger highlights many of Price’s groups and concludes that while eating patterns could vary enormously, what they all had in common was the presence of nutrient dense foods.

Minger’s takaway:

Eliminate or drastically reduce intake of refined grains, refined sugars, and high-omega-6 vegetable oils.

Secure a source of the precious fat-soluble vitamins.

Stock your diet with nutrient-dense foods.

When choosing animal foods, limit muscle meat and favor “nose to tail” eating.  (Yes, that means the organs, like the liver and bone marrow which is full of gelatin.)

Respect your genetics.(Some of us thrive on high-fat, low-carb diets and others of us do better on a high-starch diet and it all has to do with genetics that dictate how we process fats and starches.)

Acknowledge that health is about a lot more than what you put in your mouth.

Above all else, stay anchored in your own truth–as long as you have not become ensnared in a “psychological trap that prevents you from following your body’s instincts.”  Remember, “you are not low-carb, or lowfat, or plant-based…” (242-243).

Again, Minger’s book is very useful.  I highly recommend it for a no-nonsense detangling of what we do and don’t know about food.






Blog Readers’ Quilts and Quilting Information: The Missouri Star Quilt Company

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Blog Readers’ Quilts and Quilting Information:  March 26, 2014

The Missouri Star Quilt Company


Here’s a treat for quilters:  The Missouri Star Quilt Company web site url:  Missouri Star Quilt Co. – Best Selection of Pre-Cut Quilting Fabrics on the Web!.

There are MANY great “how-to” videos on this cheerful and fun web site.

I just finished watching the ones on the Lil Twister ruler/template and found them really helpful.

Here’s what some  “twister” blocks/quilts  look like:     Twister quilt images – Google Search.

One fun thing I learned with these videos is that you lay out squares–say the 5-inch squares I’ve been throwing into a box–sew them together in rows, put on a border, and use the Lil Twister template to start cutting out the twister blocks that you sew together (right away) to keep them in order.  There is a lot of waste, but apparently you can use this waste by taking the next smaller twister template and cutting out more blocks.

I’ll let you know how this process works…

Since you KNOW I have those 5-inch blocks lined up in rows on a bed–since the design wall is full of the red and green quilt.  I’ve got about ten more blocks to make for it.  No pressure.  Nope…

I do love a new project when it’s running around in my head and imagination.





Written by louisaenright

March 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: A. S. Byatt’s THE GAME

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Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  March 25, 2014

A. S. Byatt’s The Game

I just finished A. S. Byatt’s The Game on audio download from the Maine library system and thought some of it delicious.  Some of it, though, was tedious.

The delicious part is that it is the story of two estranged sisters who started off life playing an imaginary “game” with each other–and here are obvious references to the Brontës.  BUT, Byatt’s sister in real life is the also-famous British writer Margaret Drabble–and they are completely estranged.  So, there is some effort going on here to think about that failed relationship.  Perhaps the “why” of it.


I will say that this is a “literary” novel, but if you know and love Byatt’s other works, like Possession, or the more recent The Children’s Book, or Angels and Insects, you know there is always a lively interest in science, Darwin, the natural world, and philosophies involving how one might live a meaningful life–driven by adoption/rejection of parts of her family’s Quakerism at least in part.  And I can only explain what has been called “drama” by understanding that Byatt is trying to explain one sister’s actions through the notion that she has a mental disturbance that causes her to reject relationships of all sorts.

Here’s an url with a nice synopsis of The Game:


And a history of Byatt’s work, prizes, history, etc.

A. S. Byatt – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Written by louisaenright

March 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Turkey Tracks: The Red and Green Quilt Is Taking Shape

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Turkey Tracks:  March 25, 2014

The Red and Green Quilt Is Taking Shape


Looky, looky:



I’m loving the interesting secondary patterns that are forming.

This quilt started as a “leader/ender” project–an idea pioneered by Bonnie Hunter as a method to work on two quilts at once.  Basically, when you get to a point while sewing where you might cut your thread, you feed a “leader/ender” block through the machine instead.  So, for some time I sewed together dark and light green half-square triangles cut from my 3 1/2-inch strips–until I had sooooo many of them.  Then I fed through four-patches of light and dark reds and greens from the two-inch strips. This quilt is being made entirely from my stash that I cut up this summer.

The block is a “Contrary Wife” block–and was inspired by Bonnie Hunter’s “Blue Ridge Beauty” quilt, which I made in green shades last year.  (It remains one of my very favorite quilts in the whole world.)  I think I had a lot of light/dark green half-square triangles started so just continued to make this quilt.  I’ve wanted to make a red/green quilt for some time.



You MUST have the light square in the upper left corner when you put this block together for the light and dark rows to line up within the lattice pattern.

I’ll do some borders, of course.  Probably a dark red thin border at first–and maybe a wider bright red border next.  Who knows?  The fabrics will come out of my stash.