Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review

This is an early book review as I'm still reading the book.

Autism's False Prophets, by Paul A Offitt.

I've never bought the vaccine hype. In fact, I rather enjoy not dying of childhood diseases that used to plague humans. Nonetheless, I'm fairly impressed with everything that went into the anti-vaccine farce.

Everyone should read this book. It's a good reminder that anecdotes and coincidence are not science and, more importantly, believing media hype is plain dangerous.

Anyone with autistic kids should read it just to be informed. People know that desperate parents will pay a lot of money for hope and this book let's you know some of the worse ones. Better to be aware.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nut Cream Ganaches

I know... I know...

You would rather listen to my biased and ill-informed opinions about mental health and humanity in general. But today you are going to learn about desserts. Ganaches, in specific.

And if you don't like chocolates or are allergic, you should think very carefully about the sins you committed the last life to incur such punishment.


Chop up chocolate. The finer you chop it, the faster the melt. This is a good thing. The better quality the better the ganache. I go for the darker the better and usually use 100% cacao unsweetened, and 77-88% dark, about half and half.

Put it into a glass measuring cup and see how much you have. I tend to end up around 1.5 cups.

Measure out that amount of heavy cream into a double boiler (ie, a saucepan filled with water, with a glass or metal bowl sitting in it. When you boil the water, the bowl heats gently, insuring you do not scorch the cream).

Once the cream is damn near boiling (that is the technical term. For me, it's when I can't touch past my first knuckle without burning), pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit half a minute or so to melt and then stir gently until it is mostly mixed. Then beat it until it has a nice sheen.

Let it cool a few minutes. Put liners in muffin tins and dallop about a tablespoon or so into each one. For 1.5 cups of chocolate, this comes to about 36 muffins.

The Nut Cream:

1.5 cups of any nut butter you like. Unsalted, unsweetened. Preferably grind it yourself at a health food store.

Add 1 stick of softened butter (salted or not, up to you. I like salted).

Mix thoroughly. Add a tablespoon of molasses, honey, or maple syrup if you like. Or a few drops stevia or other sweetener.

Once the ganaches are cool enough to hold shape when you tip the muffin tin, dallop the nut cream on top. Again, about a tablespoon each. I smooth it out with my finger because I run a very clean & careful kitchen.

Refrigerate. Let sit about 24 hours before you bag them, or else they sweat.

That's it!! Yummy, low sugar, more nutritious than a candy bar candy!!

edit from auntie: for people who weigh things, 1/4 cup cream to each 3-4oz chocolate bar

Friday, May 7, 2010

anecdotes aren't evidence?

Humans go for fast thinking, not good thinking. If someone does something stupid in a crisis, people seem more likely to say "at least he did something" than, he should have stopped and thought that through.

This is shown by news stories complaining that the President chose to confer with his staff for very long periods of time before making a decision. Gathering of facts before stating something as true seems, perhaps, rather a waste of time.

But there is a huge difference between fact and opinion, between evidence and anecdote, between cause and effect and correlation... Most people don't even understand the terms, let alone how to distinguish them. Learning to think is not taught in schools. Regurgitating information in the same form it was given to you is what gets you good scores.

It's not just the way we are raised that determines this ability to think, either. The body, itself, is trained to respond to clues and come up with cause and effect. This is how one stays alive. If you eat a strawberry the same day you get the flu, your body is just as likely to grow allergic to the strawberry as any other reaction because it found a correlation.

But when this is the basis that we also approach science, we run in to problems.

We end up with a large group of parents saying that immunizations cause autism. We also end up with people finding correlations in nutrition that may not exist. We have doctors saying that fat causes heart attacks even though no study has fully proven this. All the studies have shown is that clots have fat in them. Never mind that clots aren't the biggest reason for heart attacks, nor type of fat (vegetable more often than meat), nor what causes clotting!

So most facts are, at best, incomplete. At worse, politically skewed.

Take the studies on whether or not carbs are harmful. The same studies are cited by quite a few different groups, all showing different results. And you can say that the corn industry backed a study that showed corn is healthy, and that the meat industry backed a study that said red meat is healing, and the PETA folk proved red meat causes cancer...

But when it comes down to it, what evidence of anything do we actually have? A handful of inconclusive studies (because they were not done well. Because nutrition studies are very difficult to do well), a lot of anecdotal evidence, and everyone calling "proof" wherever it fits their needs.

Now, I personally am a big fan of low carb. The studies I choose to buy into show that grains raise insulin and insulin is the basis of most modern epidemics (obesity, diabetes, auto immune disorders...). It is almost all based on anecdotal evidence (my friend went low carb and all her health issues cleared) and studies interpreted by low carb advocates. Do I have proof? No.

I'd love proof. I'd love to see some serious long term studies done. On most aspects of health and nutrition. Then again, I'd love for them to decide on what autism is, so it can be studied.

If you want to study a disease, you isolate the virus and you test it. You can immunize 5000 folk and not immunize another 5000 folk and study their blood to see who got which antibodies. You can discover patterns because there is a damned virus to look at.

No one knows what autism is. There are a handful of symptoms that people don't really agree on. There are behaviors that show in so many ways there's no real agreement there. They keep spreading the spectrum further and further out, making any real studies even more difficult. It isn't a disease. It's a behavioral pattern that annoys the piss out of most people. It is all the annoying traits most people have to a small degree... done huge and exaggerated.

Yet, people claim "proofs" and "evidence" and make diagnoses and cite studies and anecdotes and think they have some damned clue what is going on. The truth is, you don't have a definition to parse. Without a definition, there is nothing else. Form is beauty. Without form, there is nothing. Which is probably why people are so ugly about the disorder.

And that goes for all these things people claim "to know" without any real evidence.

Anecdotes are only that. Someone did something that seemed to have an effect. That's all. And that's perfectly fine to go by. There's nothing wrong with saying "my sister did this and it worked so I'm trying it". The problem is saying "and therefore this is true" or "therefore this is right". You don't have any kind of proof. You have a story of assumed correlation.

Bad science is very aggravating. Logical fallacies make me want to kick people in the head. What ever happened to "I statements"? They have a huge place in science. "I suspect" "I believe" "I have noticed"... What are people so scared of?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

fat, weight, & body size

I just finished reading Barry Groves' Natural Health & Weight Loss. My favorite part about reading books about low carb dieting is their view on a healthy weight. Women are supposed to have curves. A healthy weight is one that supports life, and that means enough fat to support breast feeding. That weight isn't unhealthy.

I have finally put on enough weight that you can't count my ribs, and then hit puberty and have tits and hips and a belly. And mixed in with the joy of finally not looking 12 is the urge to poke at the belly and wonder if it's too fat. *Rolls eyes*

Considering that underweight is far more dangerous than overweight, and that my health is better now and I have more energy and look better... I have to be impressed that even through my autistic tendency to not notice social programs... And my autistic tendency towards logic... I still poke at my little belly.

Everyone needs things so categorized today, and need approval from someone of authority, that we have invented numbers that mean nothing and all risk our health to meet those numbers.

My other favorite thing about low carb dieting is that there are no special things to buy, no special numbers to count, no weights to reach. All you do is cut out grains and sugars and most fruits and increase fats and call it good. You don't need anything you can't buy at a farmer's market or grocery. While everyone tells me how strict my diet is, I actually put very little effort into maintaining it. I would cook all my meals anyway, because I simply love to cook. Since I cook, I don't buy prepackaged foods so I don't have any labels to read. While my diet might be "restrictive" I think it's a lot simpler than most peoples'!

Most people I know have to read labels and count calories and grams of this and that and measure how much they eat and when they eat and how much exercise and of what types... That's way too much effort when they aren't getting any healthier from it all.

It seems to me that people were capable of maintaining health without the help from research groups for a pretty long time and maybe the body has a good idea of what it needs. Not a revolutionary idea, it's an evolutionary idea.