Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Why Calories Count

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (California Studies in Food and Culture, 33)Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics by Marion Nestle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here's the basic premise of this book: eating too many calories makes us fat; because of the "eat more" environment we can't keep ourselves from eating too many calories, thus we get fat; therefore, the government must step in to save us from ourselves.

If you don't mind big government or a nanny state, then this approach may work for you. I'm personally not a fan of it.

Reader beware. If you enjoy beautiful writing, this is not the book for you. The authors' tortuously plodding prose nearly drove me to the brink, and I have Master's degrees in both exercise physiology and nutritional sciences, giving me an inherent interest in the subject matter, perhaps the only reasons why I made it through.

Why Calories Count did have at least one redeeming feature: it's a short introduction to a ton of ideas that are rarely considered together, but should be, and, despite its failings, for this reason this book could be required reading at a very early point in all health-related majors. (I hesitate to say should because of the book's uninspired writing, which may inspire not a few students to change majors.)

Ok, maybe two redeeming features: another of its strengths is its inclusion of some of the historical developments in calorie science and, more broadly, nutritional science--heaven knows we need to know the history of any given field of study in order to progress. I've found that in the exercise and nutritional sciences (at least where I studied), the history has been largely left out, so it's been nice to read this and have small ah-ha! moments here and there as well-known concepts, till now largely adrift, suddenly found their historical moorings.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jury Duty

Fireworks display in Australia, not Honolulu, Hawaii.

I just missed getting selected for jury duty at the United States District Court here in Honolulu yesterday.

I made it to the last round where the attorneys eliminated all but the 12 jury members and two alternates on the basis of unstated, subjective criteria apparently vouchsafed in the law. Of all the parts of the selection process I witnessed, this was, by far, the most interesting--probably because it was the most mysterious.

So, sad to say, I won't get to be there for the rest of the trial, a quickie, by the sounds of it, involving a man accused of illegally importing illegal fireworks.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

That's FAIR

Every year the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research hosts a conference discussing some of the most controversial topics of Mormonism--the kind that reporters like to write about, yet rarely get very right--in a manner that confronts the issues head on but from faithful perspectives; that is, faithful both to scholarship and to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which does not sponsor the event).

I don't live in Utah, where the conferences take place, so I eagerly await reading what I can as soon as it's published on the FAIR website. This year's postings have not disappointed.

For August 2nd, three papers are posted. The first, by Joshua Johansen, an active Mormon man with same-sex attraction who is happily married to a woman, discusses the idea that not all men with SSA want to be in a same-sex relationship precisely because they believe in the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Second is a paper by Neylan McBain on the issue of gender-based roles within the Church, especially within its so-called hierarchy, wherein she very expertly advises Mormons to stop trying to play the men and women's authority and callings within the Church are equal card, as it destroys our credibility with any who actually know something about the way things work in the Church. She suggests that we refrain from describing men and women's roles within the Church according to a secular paradigm of power and instead describe these roles according to a cooperative paradigm. She also gives a number of excellent suggestions on how women and girls can be better involved in all levels of service in the wards and stakes.

Third comes John Sorenson's fascinating account of the numerous connections between Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerican geography, culture, religion, and more. Professor Sorenson is the leading Mormon scholar in this field, so far as I am aware (read some of his publications here), who also recently rebutted a fellow (but non-Mormon) Mesoamericanist's attempted refutation of the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon.

And for August 3rd, we have a very interesting piece by a non-Mormon on the similarities in the way believing Mormons, heterodox Mormons, and former Mormons discuss their conversion and de-conversion stories. That a non-Mormon would want to participate at the annual conference of Mormon apologetics is an indication of the ever-increasing importance of Mormon apologetics and scholarship in the minds of serious academics. Hugh Nibley, the god-father of modern Mormon scholarship (and Mormonism's preeminent apologist) would no doubt be happy at such a turn of events.

These, of course, aren't the only presentations that were made at the recent FAIR conference. Many others were made, but the text of the presentations haven't yet been posted. There are many wonderful papers from previous conferences, though, to tide you over in the meantime.

(Additional reports on the FAIR conference can be found here and here.)