Bat’s Can Fly Like No Other Animal

This is a Common Pipistrelle Bat. Click it to make it bigger.

It’s a flying mammal. I would like to be a flying mammal.

See that tiny appendage jutting off the leading edge of its wing? It’s a thumb, and it’s functional.

[A bat’s wing] is very much like a human arm and hand, except it has a thin membrane of skin (called the patagium) extending between the “hand” and the body, and between each finger bone. Bats can move the wing like a hand, essentially “swimming” through the air. The “thumb” extends out of the wing as a small claw, which bats use to climb up trees and other structures.

The rigid bird wing is more efficient at providing lift, but the flexible bat wing allows for greater maneuverability. Bats can position their wings into different shapes, changing the degree and direction of lift very quickly. This lets them weave and dive in the air like no other animal, giving them a distinct advantage in hunting prey.

I do not appreciate the bat as much as I should.

We’re Losing Our Tactile Knowledge

Surgery Students ‘Losing Dexterity To Stitch Patients’, BBC News, 30 October 2018

“A lot of things are reduced to swiping on a two-dimensional flat screen,” he says, which he argues takes away the experience of handling materials and developing physical skills.

Such skills might once have been gained at school or at home, whether in cutting textiles, measuring ingredients, repairing something that’s broken, learning woodwork or holding an instrument.

Students have become “less competent and less confident” in using their hands, he says.

“We have students who have very high exam grades but lack tactile general knowledge,” says the professor.

Melinda likened this dexterity to our kinesthetic sense:

“… an ability to be aware of muscular movement and position. By providing information through receptors about muscles, tendons, joints, and other body parts, the kinesthetic sense helps control and coordinate activities such as walking and talking.”

We’re losing our tactile knowledge. I see this with cooking. Practice gives us an expertise that doesn’t come when cooking is sporadic.

Here’s Nadia exhibiting her technique on the Great British Bake Off:

How To Cook Hard Winter Squashes (Or Pumpkins)

This is my favorite time of year. I like everything about it, especially these hard squashes. A few years ago I bought several different varieties and baked, baked, baked. Kabocha, sweet dumpling, and this one, a buttercup, are my favorites. Come Thanksgiving you can’t find them, or they’re a bit dry and moldy.

I bake them at 320 degrees. This one took about 2.5 hours and then a few hours to cool. The flesh is good in pumpkin pies and breads. I eat it plain as I’m scooping it out, it’s that good. I’m telling you, you’ll never go back to pumpkin.

Does Eating Organic Food Lower Cancer Risk? A Study Tried To Answer That.

The new study published in the prestigious Journal Of the American Medical Association (JAMA):

Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk, JAMA Internal Medicine, 22 October 2018

It found:

A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Although the study findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.

My first reaction:

I expected the researchers to adjust for some variables that would account for class-related differences. They did:

Participants in the French study also provided information about their general health status, their occupation, education, income and other details, like whether they smoked. Since people who eat organic food tend to be health-conscious and may benefit from other healthful behaviors, and also tend to have higher incomes and more years of education than those who don’t eat organic, the researchers made adjustments to account for differences in these characteristics, as well as such factors as physical activity, smoking, use of alcohol, a family history of cancer and weight.
Can Eating Organic Food Lower Your Cancer Risk?, Roni Caryn Rabin at the New York Times, 23 October 2018

Here’s what Patrick Clinton at New Food Economy said:

One of the good things about the study is that it tried to correct for alternative possibilities — the idea that something else, like income or education or exercise habits, might be causing the reduction in cancer.
A New Study Says Organic Food Cuts Cancer Risk By 25 Percent. Take That With A Massive Grain Of Salt

But it’s impossible to account for everything class-related that could impact such a slow-growing disease like cancer (they only assessed after 5 years which is pretty short in a cancer epidemiological study, but it’s still telling). Some variables they didn’t account for: sleep, stress, crime, air pollution, water contamination.

People at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder get more cancers than those at the upper end. Eating organic food may not in itself be reducing cancer risk. It may just be a marker, a class marker, a proxy measure.

Something else Clinton said:

Here’s part of the authors’ analysis: “When considering different subgroups, the results herein were no longer statistically significant in younger adults, men [who made up less than a quarter of the study], participants with only a high school diploma and with no family history of cancer, never smokers and current smokers, and participants with a high overall dietary quality.” Participants with a high overall dietary quality? That sure sounds like a concession that if you eat a good diet, organic food doesn’t provide additional protection against cancer. And arguably that’s a direct contradiction of the point the article is trying to make.

All those groups lost their statistical significance. So … more study is needed. One thing that would help is backing up the food records with blood work. But even then you can’t tell where, say, the pesticides in their blood are coming from. Might not be the food.

Study limitations aside, it’s worrisome that their strongest association was between organic food and lymphomas, which are cancers known to be linked to pesticides. From the New York Times:

Even after these adjustments, the most frequent consumers of organic food had 76 percent fewer lymphomas, with 86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

The reductions in lymphomas may not be all that surprising. Epidemiological studies have consistently found a higher incidence of some lymphomas among people like farmers and farm workers who are exposed to certain pesticides through their work.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified three pesticides commonly used in farming — glyphosate, malathion and diazinon — as probable human carcinogens, and linked all three to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I believe organic food – any food grown with fewer chemicals – is healthier, for both people and the planet. But telling people to eat organic, to do something without making sure they have the ability to do it is mean. As one commenter, RC, in the New York Times article put it:

“The goal should be to reduce or eliminate as many potential toxins from our food supply as possible, not just provide safer food for the well-to-do and more toxic food for everyone else.”

A New Study Found That Standing Every 20 Minutes Can Burn More Than 770 Calories In A Day

A study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress this week found:

“Our study shows that heart patients should interrupt sedentary time every 20 minutes with a 7 minute bout of light physical activity,” said study author Dr. Ailar Ramadi.

“Simple activities such as standing up and walking at a casual pace will expend more than 770 kcal in a day if done with this frequency and duration.”

These were older patients, average age 63, and they had coronary artery disease. A younger, healthier person might expend more than 770 calories in a day … just by getting up and walking around every 20 minutes. Right? No gym membership, no universals, no jogging for miles (of course you can still do all those things).

Ready, set, get up!

What can you do for 7 minutes? Maybe some of these:

Applesauce Spice Loaf, Low-Fat Vegan


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (substitute 1/2 cup of whole grain spelt or wheat flour to give more structure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons warm water

1 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup

(Optional: About 1/2 cup of anything you want to add such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or raw apple pieces.)


Preheat oven to 360 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9×5 inch Pyrex loaf pan. Place the parchment-lined pan into the oven to preheat.

Mix almond milk and vinegar. Set aside.

Mix flax seed and water. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In another large bowl combine applesauce, vanilla extract, maple syrup, milk mixture, and flax mixture. Stir until blended.

Add flour mixture to apple mixture. Stir just until you see no dry flour. Don’t over-blend.

Blend in apple pieces, dried fruit, raisins, nuts, seeds, or other addition. (In this loaf I diced a small apple into 1/4-inch chunks, skin on, tossed them with a spoonful of lemon juice, sugar, and flour.)

Remove loaf pan from oven. Pour batter into pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove loaf from pan after 15 minutes, gently peeling away parchment. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing.

This is a very moist loaf. It’s better if left to age for a day which will even out the moisture. I slice it, freeze it, then defrost a few pieces the next day.

Do Local Foods Actually Feed Us?

I often say that local and organic foods are more marketing ploys than foods which actually feed us. Most food that is grown, sold, and consumed in this country is neither locally-sourced nor organically-grown. I hope one day most food we eat will benefit from their standards, standards that promote health of people and the environment, standards with an eye towards humaneness, energy conservation, and sustainability. But it doesn’t look like that’s the current direction, at least regarding local:

Many things that are big consumer trends — such as local — don’t actually play out that way in the sales numbers.

For all the attention to local, more fruit is imported every year from far away. In other words, many of these movements are marketing initiatives more than practical supply chain changes.

What is also interesting is that in many cases, local farmer’s market, pick-your-own, home gardening etc., seem able to flourish without any impact on the sales through stores.

It is almost as if they are different industries. One is a type of food tourism, where you can enjoy the walk through the farmer’s market, and the other is the actual food provisions of the household.
Perishible Pundit, 14 October 2018

We are not feeding ourselves with local and organic food. On the contrary, most of our plant food is conventionally grown, either here or abroad. Most of our animal food comes from factory farms. (“Factory farms raise 99.9% of chickens for meat, 97% of laying hens, 99% of turkeys, 95% of pigs, and 78% of cattle currently sold in the United States.“)

“Local” and “organic” are emblems of the overclass.