Five-link Wednesday

It's true!

It’s true! Don’t laugh, read on!

Today seemed like a good day to share a few links with you all—just a quick spin of interesting things around the web.

First of all, you know how much I enjoy embroidery, and I’ve more patterns than I’ll probably ever be able to stitch. Even so, Mollie Johansen’s newest (free!) release, Fiesta Gato, has gone right to the top of my to-stitch list! That maraca-waving kitty is just too cute—and those tiny fish on his instruments really make the pattern, if you ask me. I’ve been working on a pre-stamped vintage dresser scarf in between all of the bibs I’ve been sewing for new babies (quite a few, of late!), but once that’s done, think I’ll have to add this festive feline to an apron or tea towel, or if I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps a bunch of them on bunting (why not?). Oh—Mollie also just released this cheery “Quite Contrary” pattern—sure to win over the hearts of gardeners like myself and anyone susceptible to charm.

No bib photos, unfortunately. I never remember to photograph them until they’re wrapped, but the nice thing about making things for a baby to wear is the new parents usually send a picture or forty of the little one in them!

A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA's Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms," seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision. Photo courtesy NASA/CXC/SAO

A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA’s Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like “arms,” seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.
Photo courtesy NASA/CXC/SAO

Astronomy is a sort of low-grade pet hobby of mine; years spent camping with my family in the Michigan woods got me looking to the night sky early, and I sort of sealed the deal by taking a few astronomy courses in college. The subject continues to fascinate me—all of that beauty and wonder, the exploration of which we’ll never exhaust.

That it’s all so sublime and spectacular to look upon is just as incredible as what we’re actually looking at, of course, and this photo of colliding galaxies from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is no exception, not by a long shot. Thanks to NASA for allowing people to share these photos (if you, too, are fascinated by the outer reaches of space, be wary, because it’s easy to lose an age or two looking at all of the photographs!)—which you can download for your desktop.

Lascaus, Megaloceros

By HTO (Own work (own photo)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nautilus is a web magazine that never fails to have a few things of interest, and this older article (Nautilus being another website it’s easy to get lost in) about animated art created by early man in the caves of France was quite intriguing. As it turns out, we’ve probably been looking at them the wrong way all along:

Lascaux 03

I, Peter80 [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reconstructions of the original grease lamps produce a circle of light about 10 feet in diameter, which is not much larger than many images in the cave. (Jean-Michael) Geneste (curator of the caves of Lascaux) believes that early artists used this small area of light as a story-telling device. “It is very important: the presence of the darkness, the spot of yellow light, and inside it one, two, three animals, no more,” Geneste says. “That’s a tool in a narrative structure,” he explains. Just as a sentence generally describes a single idea, the light from a grease lamp would illuminate a single part of a story. Whatever tales may have been told inside Lascaux have been lost to history, but it is easy to imagine a person moving their fire-lit lamp along the walls as they unraveled a story step-by-step, using the darkness as a frame for the images inside a small circle of firelight. in low light, colors fade, shadows become harder to distinguish from actual objects, and the soft boundaries between things disappear. Images straight ahead of us look out of focus, as if they were seen in our peripheral vision. The end result for early humans who viewed cave paintings by firelight might have been that a deer with multiple heads, for example, resembled a single, animated beast. 

If you’re at all a fan of early art or history, I encourage you to read the whole article. It’s also interesting to consider in light of contemporary storytelling as done in film and television—our own version of flickering light and images.

Down Home Delicious

Mmmm, real milk. I miss it so. 😦

There’s also more serious reading, but it’s serious reading that has an effect on your health. Dr. Michael Eades has just posted his review of Nina Teicholz’s new book, The Big Fat SurpriseTeicholz’s brief overview of her book created quite a stir when it was published in the Wall Street Journal early this month, but I’m not at all surprised by what she’s learned or written, and Dr. Eades is certainly far from surprised—though even he learned a few things, as he notes in his must-read review of the book. In short, we’ve been lied to all along, from what is actually good for us to what a real Mediterranean diet looks like to how our ancestors near (great-grandparents and the like) and far ate—and thrived.

I also knew that prior to the early years of the 20th century, heart attacks were rare. So rare, in fact, that they were almost nonexistent. Doctors could go through their entire careers without seeing one.

What I didn’t know was that during this heart-disease-free period, folks in the United States were up to their elbows in animal foods and saturated fat. Same in Great Britain. In fact, people ate more meat then than they do now. But today cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. (Take a look at these two old papers (click here and here) Nina referenced to see the change.)

I had fallen victim to the myth that the agrarian pre 1900s America meant everyone ate grains and vegetables and a smattering of meat when they could get it. As Nina goes to great lengths to point out in The Big Fat Surprise, that ain’t how it was.

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

Not only did the Americans of European origin eat mainly meat, so did the Native Americans.

Meanwhile the Native Americans of the Southwest were observed between 1898 and 1905 by the physician-turned-anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, who wrote up his observations in a 460-page report for the Smithsonian Institute. The Native Americans he visited were eating a diet predominantly of meat, mainly from buffalo, yet, as Hrdlička observed, they seemed to be spectacularly healthy and live to a ripe old age. The incidence of centenarians among these Native Americans was, according to the 1900 US Census, 224 per million men and 254 per million women, compared to only 3 and 6 per million among men and women in the white population. Although Hrdlička noted that these numbers were probably not wholly accurate, he wrote that “no error could account for the extreme disproportion of centenarians observed.” Among the elderly he met of age ninety and up, “not one of those was either much demented or helpless.”

Hrdlička was further struck by the complete absence of chronic disease among the entire Indian population he saw. “Malignant disease,” he wrote, “if they exist at all — that they do would be difficult to doubt — must be extremely rare.” He was told of ‘tumors’ and saw several cases of the fibroid variety, but never came across a clear case of any one kind of tumor, nor any cancer. Hrdlička wrote that he saw only three cases of heart disease among more than two thousand Native Americans examined, and “not one pronounced instance” of atherosclerosis. Varicose veins were rare. Nor did he observe cases of appendicitis, peritonitis, ulcer of the stomach, nor any “grave disease” of the liver. Although we cannot assume that eating meat was responsible for their good health and long life, it would be logical to conclude that a dependence on meat in no way impaired good health. [Dr. Eades’ underline]

Fat Elvis Diner

It’s the fries, shakes, and burger buns that made Elvis fat, not the burger! (And I say that as a gal who loves milkshakes.)

To put these census numbers in a little perspective, I took a look at the most recent statistics for centenarians. In 2012, in the United States, the rate of centenarians per million people was 173. So even if Hrdlička was correct about the 1900 census being somewhat off, it is still amazing that a group of buffalo-eating, primitive people sported as many centenarians as we do today with our antibiotics, parasite-free clean water and our state-of-the-art medical care.

How did we go from a meat-eating, butter-slathering, lard-cooking society to the fat-fearful, heart attack prone, constantly dieting people of today?

It’s an infuriating story, or will be if you’ve not read or heard of it before (Tom Naughton’s FAT HEAD documentary is another good place to start—one with humour, too). Most of us, being winsome, trusting creatures eager to do what’s best for ourselves and especially our families, have believed what we’ve been told, but I’m here to tell you it’s been wrong all along, with horrific results for our health.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

Satisfying and healthy (maybe not the rice, but sometimes we just have to give in to our inner demons).

I speak from experience—told years ago by my then-doctor to go very low-fat, I became sicker and sicker (and fatter and fatter, despite exercise and a very restricted amount of calories, sometimes as low as 800 a day for months at a time—my past as an anorexic probably made this self-denial easier). Finally, I reached the point of a complete health collapse, where my husband and I were planning my funeral.

Happily, our nearly-simultaneous discovery of my celiac disease and the wonders of raw milk right around that time led to my learning about things like the “paleo” diet while learning to live with celiac. Figuring I was going to die soon anyhow, it seemed worth a try—eggs, butter, and meat being far tastier and more satisfying than the stuff I had been eating. I was all too happy to forego garbage like this for full-fat everything. Again: Might as well, right?

Those extra pounds melted off and my health recovered so ridiculously it was like a resurrection.

Yes, I’m still sick due to chronic health annoyances, but we are not exactly planning my funeral anymore.

So consider it. Yes, it flies in the face of what we’ve had force-fed to us for years, but don’t we all like being rebels just a little bit? Just a little bit? Oh, yes, we do. Besides, Julia Child was right—everything tastes better with butter. Lard is delicious, too (no, really—I see you freaking out, and I was unconvinced at first, but it’s true). Moreover, squash “noodles” are yummier than regular ones, and prettier at that! Be a rebel.

Finally, just for fun—we began the post with fun, why not end with it—this “remix” from the classic TV network MeTV involving what remains my favourite sci-fi show. It left me laughing, and it seems that leaving you laughing is the way to go!

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4 thoughts on “Five-link Wednesday

  1. I want to get more into stars and planets and everything like that, I know nothing, but I am hoping as I do more I will learn more, they are so fascinating. Great post Jen.

    • Thanks Leanne! The various NASA websites are full of information—there are a lot of good documentaries available on Netflix, too. Watching them certainly makes the ironing go by much more quickly!

  2. For several years now, I too have followed a keto-paleo-esque diet (at least 95% of the time and gluten-free all the time of course because if my celiac disease) and feel that it helps the overall picture of my health, even some conditions that aren’t in the mainstream view often linked to diet, tremendously (especially since I had my gallbladder removed a few summers back). I still have to eat very low calorie to avoid putting on weight like there’s no tomorrow (part horrendous metabolism, part side effects from some of my meds at work there), but I love noshing on healthy meats, fats, and plant based foods as the staples of my diet and believe that my health benefits beyond measure from it, just as yours does from tossing out so much of the conventional dietary wisdom of today’s world as well, dear Jen. As time goes on, slowly perhaps, I suspect we’ll see a much larger shift toward this kind of far more traditional diet and that at least a percentage of population will also benefit, as we both have, from it – big time!

    ♥ Jessica

    • It makes me happy to know it’s working for someone else, too! No doubt our diets are much alike. I also can’t help thinking that because paleo-style diets are so much more satisfying, both physically and mentally, that helps peoples’ moods as well. My hope, like yours, is that more people learn about this diet and enjoy greater health!

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