One Mom in the Middle…
of parenting… of her career… of life…

Review: The Big Short

Published 1.20.2017
The Big Short is a 2015 film that I watched on Netflix over the holiday break. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to understand a bit more about the financial crisis that began at the end of the Bush years and continued through the first couple years of the Obama administration. Partisan politics is not a focus of the film in anyway.

I knew the general outline of the movie, both because I lived through the 2008-2009 housing crisis, and in the belly of it for the beginning because we owned a house in South Florida. I’d also seen numerous interviews with the author of the book of the same name, though I have not read the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday MachineRead the rest.



Eating to live, Vegas style

Published 1.17.2017
Penn Jillette lost a ton of weight last year, and because he's a performer his weight loss tale has received significant amount of coverage. Jillette has been a bit inconsistent stating how he lost the weight (or maybe the reporting about it has been), but usually the story involves Joel Fuhrman, MD's Eat to Live plan. I've written about Fuhrman and his Eat to Live plan previously, it's actually one of the few diet books that I've read all the through. Not only did I read it, I took copious notes while doing so, which I published here.

Fuhrman remains, for me, the one doctor whose positions haven't been overturned by my subsequent learning, which is why I keep following news of him. His plan is not vegan or vegetarian, though it's extremely low fat. Also Fuhrman allowed from the beginning the idea that someone might not follow the plan 100%. It's a difficult plan, which he admits. He claims if you stick to it you get used to it, but that's better than most diet touts do. If I had a nickel for every law carb diet shill who asserted that it's a "simple plan to follow" I'd be wealthy.

The main issue in any diet is adherence, so kudos for Fuhrman for acknowledging adherence to his diet isn't easy. He'd still note that adherence to his diet would greatly improve your odds of longevity, but that's not the same as shaming you because you don't want to give up bread and pasta for the rest of your life. At least, I don't think it is.
Read the rest.



Yoga helps back pain, and the energy balance still rules

Published 1.16.2017
It's Monday, so it's time to consider some recent inks and items that were interesting enough to note but not enough to inspire longer commentary.



Read the rest.



Plato's Meno

Published 1.13.2017
Fridays in the Arenas are set aside for a review of a book I've read or a movie I've seen. I don't really watch much television, but if I find a show worth writing about, I will. Today's review is of Plato's Meno.
Plato is one the authors generally included in lists defining the "Western Canon," who people point to as essential reading. I'm sure I was exposed to excerpts of Plato's writings in high school, but as an engineering student in college, most of my time was spent learning chemistry and physics rather than reading the "classics." Classics is in quotes there because not everyone uses the same definition.

In any event, I had a version of Meno in Kindle (on my phone) because it was going to be something my daughter had to read in high school before she chose to drop that particular class. I’d never read it, so I figured what the heck, I'll read along with her. Once she dropped the class, though, I put it aside— until now. Of course I read this without an English teacher guiding and manipulating my reactions to the prose. I’m sure I’m missing all sorts of minutia and defined nuance, but that's okay be me. No one, as I'm fond of saying, can destroy a love of reading like an English teacher.
Read the rest.

Better Junk Food?

Published 1.12.2017
There is a theory that the best way to address the "obesity crisis" is to create better junk food. Back 2013, when I first wrote the topic, I wasn't much a fan of the idea. I still maintain that the best way to control what goes into your gob is to avoid ultra-processed foods (a term I cam across in 2016, which is why is doesn't appear in my 2013 writing). It's not always possible to do that of course, and I'm no extremist nor am I a preacher to others (in real life, that is, as I note on the About page of this site) as to how they eat. I eat ultra-processed food occasionally without guilt.

Always on the prowl for new market niches to exploit (as all good capitalists are), some snack manufacturers have attempted to meet the "better junk" standard. However, success has been elusive because people only say they want to eat healthy, their actual buying habits tell a different story.This fact explains why food companies make the ultra-processed food that they do. Because that’s what we buy. It is also why people like Marion Nestle, frustrated by the reality of people's habits, want to force the issue with taxes. If the better junk hypothesis is to work though, then what really needs to happen is that food scientists need to find a way to make healthier foods more palatable.
Read the rest.

When restriction is unhealthy

Published 1.11.2017
This piece was inspired by this rant, which is considers the stupidity of following a ketogenic (keto) diet if there's no need to do so and it affects your health negatively. I don’t always agree with this woman, but in this case she says what needs to be said, and as a member of the low carb club maybe more people will listen.

There can be severe side effects to a keto diet, every bit as bad or worse as other restrictive eating regimes. This remains the most mystifying thing to me, why people severely restrict anything when they don’t need to. And as I have discussed how I chose to severely restrict my own intake of lactose and gluten in response to gut issues, I suppose this is as apt a time as any to acknowledge that I have relaxed some of those restrictions now that my bowel has settled down. I still can’t do milk, but I do eat more cheeses. I still don’t eat a lot of gluten and remain gluten free in my own home, but when I’m out now, I don’t stress about it, and will even eat a small amount from a communal bread basket— or the homemade bread my mother in-law puts on my plate at breakfast— if that is the more polite thing to do.
Read the rest.

Recent reviews of new diet books

Published 1.10.2017
January is the season for savvy diet book hawkers to jump into the market— or at least provide copies to news outlets to read and review. I devoted an entire piece to my reaction of The Atlantic's review of Gary Taubes new book, The Case Against Sugar.
The Atlantic's review is the best I've come across to date, but of course, there have been others. In this piece, I'm going to list my reaction to other reviews of Taubes's book, but I will also note the reactions to several other new diet books on the market or soon to hit the market. Please note: I have not read any of these books, and am unlikely to do so. I'm not really a fan of diet books, most have the same tired formula, which is boring. Beyond that, since I, myself, don't follow any particular diet and don't want to do so ever again, there has to be a truly compelling reason for me to pick up the book.
Read the rest.

Sugar is not a drug and other tidbits of note

Published 1.9.2017
Interesting items of recent vintage. Though I took a break from publishing at the end of the year, I still read and made notes during that time, some of which appear below.


  • Half servings or more of red meat does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

    Results: Red meat intake did not affect lipid-lipoprotein profiles or blood pressure values postintervention (P > 0.05) or changes over time [weighted mean difference (95% CI): −0.01 mmol/L (−0.08, 0.06 mmol/L), 0.02 mmol/L (−0.05, 0.08 mmol/L), 0.03 mmol/L (−0.01, 0.07 mmol/L), and 0.04 mmol/L (−0.02, 0.10 mmol/L) mmol/L; −0.08 mm Hg (−0.26, 0.11 mm Hg); and −1.0 mm Hg (−2.4, 0.78 mm Hg) and 0.1 mm Hg (−1.2, 1.5 mm Hg) for TC, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, TC:HDL cholesterol, SBP, and DBP, respectively]. Among all subjects, TC, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, TC:HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and DBP, but not SBP, decreased over time (P < 0.05). Conclusions: The results from this systematically searched meta-analysis of RCTs support the idea that the consumption of ≥0.5 servings of total red meat/d does not influence blood lipids and lipoproteins or blood pressures.

    It’s a meta-analysis, so they reviewed a bunch of studies with different methods and markers measured. It smells like a meat industry funded study, but I haven't done the research. For the record, I eat red meat.
Read the rest.

Review: Rogue One

Published 1.6.2017
I'm toying with the idea of turning Fridays into "Review Day," with the intent to try and publish a review of a book I've read or movie I've seen every week. Of course, my goal to get a since book review published last year didn't work out too well, but if I quit then failure is assured. So this is the first review of 2017.

Just before the end of the year, my family went to the theater to see Rogue One, the new Star Wars movie. Please don’t read further if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know what happened.
Read the rest.

Weight loss is a valid choice

Published 1.5.2017
This wound up being a bit of a rant— one that wandered a bit all into the political realm. If that offends you, stop here and read no further. As I noted earlier this week, I do resolutions because I like them. For me, they are tool for self-reflection and assessment. One of resolutions for 2017 is to lose a bit of weight. It’s the same resolution from 2016, because I wasn’t willing to do what’s needed to lose the weight. I know what’s needed, I simply didn’t do it.

Somehow this makes me culpable for the narcissist about to assume the role of leader of the free world? I don’t think so. Why do I want to lose the pounds? Because I was a bit healthier at the lower weight. Am I unhealthy now? No, this is a matter of preference, and I do not accept in anyway that choosing to try and lose a few pounds will “eradicate” me or “monopolize my time” or affect my self-esteem. What it will do is cause me to adopt a few new habits, something I routinely attempt to do. Sometimes with success, sometimes not.
Read the rest.

"Teh Ebil" Sugar

Published 1.4.2017
Gary Taubes has a new book to flog, The Case Against Sugar,and his new villain is sugar, because his previous villain carbohydrates (carbs) proved to be too broad. Too many populations thrive on diets high in unrefined carbs for low carb diets to be required for health or leanness. Much like Ray Cronise, Taubes treatise hinges on excess caloric intake. If you don’t eat more than you expend, sugar is not killing you even if you eat a lot of it. Taubes doesn’t accept that. He seems to believe that sugar in any amount is harmful.

Sugar is sweet and people enjoy it. Mix it was fat, and you’ve got most Christmas treats that Gary the Grinch is telling you to avoid. Taubes is now a Yudkin fan, but so much of that is already known and has been flogged by others, he seems behind the curve. Yudkin wrote the book Pure, White and Deadly Pure, White, and Deadly, and can be considered the father of anti-sugar brigade.
Daniel Engber of The Atlantic reviewed the book. People have been arguing about sugar and whether it’s healthy for a long time. As in back in the 1600s a doctor was warning against too high of a sugar intake.
Read the rest.

Ruminations and resolutions

Published 1.3.2017
As I've noted previously, I am a fan of making resolutions for the new year. It's a personal process of taking stock of where I am in life and what I'd like to change. I emphasize personal in the previous sentence because I focus on aspects of life that I control or can influence on my own. Towards the end of each year, I assess how well I kept or achieved each resolution. Unlike many, I don't view resolutions as binary. If I've made progress towards a goal, I consider that resolution kept, if not finished.

At this time of year, there will be plenty of pieces written about resolutions, either announcing new ones, or slamming the entire process. To be clear, I don't care whether anyone else makes resolutions or thinks they are useless. They are valuable to me and so I do it annually. I also do not announce what my resolutions are, not even to those closest to me, so I'm certainly not going to do so here in detail. Occasionally, people in my life recognize the results or effects of a resolution, which then may require my explaining that I resolved to effect a change. In general though, my annual process of change and assessment passes unnoticed except my me. The drive (as I see it) to eliminate resolutions irks me, which is why I've made it a tradition here to address the subject each year.
Read the rest.

Search this site: