January 6th, 2008

_Paths Not Taken_, Simon Green, _Courageous_, John Hemry

I stopped reading this Nightside novel, _Paths Not Taken_, about 20 pages or so from the end because the violence had reached a uniquely repetitive-in-a-boring way I am unaccustomed to outside of a certain class of action movie I (a) no longer have time for and (b) don't hang out with the people who want to see them anymore.

Earlier in the story (the part I read months ago, and the previous books in the series), Our Hero learns that his mother, Lilith (yes, basically that Lilith), is going to destroy the Nightside, do untold and unspeakable damage to various compatriots of his, etc. etc. So he goes and finds Father Time and gets sent back in time with a couple compatriots. I forget the name of the other one who gets sent home early, but Suzy Shooter sticks it out all the way through, werewolf blood and all which comes in handy. They meet some people, like Merlin, and inadvertantly help kill them (like Merlin). Etc.

Anyway. I came in after Our Hero makes a deal with Herne (who died in an earlier book, IIRC) to Save Suzy. He nearly dies, but escapes on Herne's moon stallion and is revivified by the Lord of Thorns and tossed further back in time in time (meant to do that) to see the creation of the Nightside by Lilith. Predictably, a couple of angels (anyone remember the war of angels from the earlier book? No? Never mind.) show up to get involved and make random, pointless trouble and are then evicted. There is much bloodiness. Lilith takes a hard hit. Our Hero and Suzy Shooter go home, but we just _know_ that everything that happened has just moved the Nightside and etc. closer to what Our Hero is trying to prevent. After all, there is a Formula.

I have no idea if this is the kind of thing you would like. I don't much like it, altho I do find it weirdly addictive at least part of the time.

_Courageous_, by John Hemry, is #3 in the Lost Fleet series (faster than light travel, jump points, hypernet, aliens, trapped in enemy space, cold sleep for a hundred years, Barbarossa/Messiah stuff, whatever). Highlights: the auxiliaries have software that predicts what supplies (minerals and ore and such) they need to resupply the ship with fuel, munitions, etc. Because Our Hero is doing such a bang-up job of winning battles with minimal loss of ships/life on his side by dint of good tactics and massive expenditure of munitions, they run short immediately after a successful supply run. Ooops. So they need more. That turns out to be very tricky. Some jumps and small battles later, they run into some spectacularly bad "luck" when a big Syndic fleet shows up in a system they were about to win or at least get out of successfully.

Or was it "luck"? What Our Hero does in response is a helluva cliffhanger in the literally hanging off of a cliff, about to die no matter what sense. Tune in next time to find out what happens to Cliff Hanger. *sigh* And this one _just came out_.

bread! and chicken. and beef stew. and stuff.

I tossed the last couple inches of the second loaf from batch #2 from the Laurel's Bread book because it was molding and I wanted to make bread today. So, I made bread today.

Changes: swapped brown rice syrup for honey

Now, you might think, geez, you with the hard core vegan. No. That would be, me with the almost out of honey. After all, between the chicken soup, the asian chicken salad at Applebee's and the chicken salad on crackers I've had over the last few days, I am _not_ the hard core vegan. Just so we're clear on that. Yesterday, I remembered there was some beef stew meat left in the fridge from last week's supermarket trip and R. turned it into beef burgoyne (yum). This is fortunate, because he invited our neighbor over for dinner tonight and I don't want to think too hard about what would have happened if we'd tried to serve her leftover bean dishes. I mean, they're tasty and all (I should know; I've been eating them for days), but still.

Changes: one rise, one proof, instead of 2 rises and a proof

I also kept all the liquids around 110 degrees Fahrenheit and ground the flour pretty fine. Who knows what did it, but that sucker really expanded -- pushed the cutting board I put on top of the bowl up by an inch, so it at least tripled in size, maybe more. This is the first time that the loaves upon entering the oven really filled the pans. Woohoo!

Changes: skipped the rolling pin

The effect here is already clear: there were some bubbles. Ah, well.

The flavor is a little different: the olive oil comes through more clearly, and the rice syrup is notable primarily in that it is not honey. It doesn't have a recognizable flavor in the finished loaf, at least not that I can tell.

Good stuff. Should go well with the beef stew.

_Becoming Vegan_ Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina

I'm actually reading it cover to cover and am halfway through.

First things first: pub date is 2000 so there are going to be some problems as a result. A lot of the understanding about B12/folate and homocysteine didn't exist yet. The book emphasizes (as it should) the importance of supplementing B12 on a vegan diet, but does not do so from a homocysteine perspective.

The authors are both "R.D.", which I believe means registered dietitian. They are hewing the party line pretty closely, including the then recently increased calcium recommendations. They acknowledge the controversy associated with those increases, but still build their "pyramid" (remember, this predates the disaster that was the 2005 modification to the food recommendations from the USDA) and sample menus to satisfy those requirements. Also, when this book was written, less research was available at the time was about vitamin E and what there was was quite favorable towards heart health. We know better now. Over the last couple years, a much better understanding of role played by vitamin D has started to emerge. At the time of publication, it was All About Bones, nothing about cancer and heart health. Then, as now, the dietitian establishment is focused on food sources for vitamin D, because they are way too weirded out about the idea of telling people to leave the sunblock off, at least for 20 minutes. This is a Double Bad in a vegan book that is advocating activism to replace the animal (fish) sources of vitamin D in enriched foods with vegetable sources of vitamin D; it's well understood now that getting enough dietary sources of D2 is hard to impossible; ya gotta go out in the sun, kiddies.

Freaking buy a sun lamp! Frisians do. I would sort of think that would be pretty vegan, wouldn't it?

Anyway. I'm working my way through the pregnancy/lactation chapter, and, as always, I'm pretty disappointed at the failure to answer a pretty obvious question: what if you are pregnant AND lactating? What are the implications for nutrient requirements then? Can't hold it against Davis and Melina; no one answers that question.

As with almost everything I've read about nutrition, the advice given is often at odds with itself. We are told to keep the sodium under 2400 mg (IIRC), but elsewhere soyfoods and other processed (and high in sodium) foods are put into sample menus without any apparent effort to calculate the sodium along with the fat, protein, calcium, etc. I'm sure they'd say, hey, just find a low-sodium alternative. All in the name of saving people the trouble of buying no-sodium canned beans and making something (anything!) instead of having a vegan burger. Yeah, yeah -- I know they're trying to keep the learning curve and adjustment from getting totally out of control. But there's something fundamentally _wrong_ with this approach. If only because I can't do it because I swell up like a balloon. ;-)

The explanation of fats and oils is pretty good. By 2000, there was not only awareness of trans fats and essential fatty acids, the authors include some handy little tables for absorption and conversion rates of omega-3s and what was then known to affect those conversion rates, and a little bit about the testing on vegans done to check the impact of serum lipids. Nice, and a really good jumping off point for me to learn what has been discovered since then; I was having a lot of trouble really assembling a coherent structure to fit new information in. Davis and Melina came through for me.

I may or may not finish the rest of the book. There are sections on raising a vegan kid, vegan seniors, vegan athletes, losing weight, gaining weight, activism/diplomacy and eating disorders.

Why did I buy this? A couple reasons. There's a related book (Becoming Vegetarian) that I ran across through google books that had a really nice description of something I was puzzled about. When I realized this pair of books were essentially "standard" nutritional guidelines for these eating patterns, I was interested because it's very useful to know what the official line is -- I can then recognize when something I'm reading is out-of-date/at the vanguard/batshit crazy/etc. Nutritionism (is that a _word_? I doubt it. But I don't mean nutrition.) is compromise activity, influenced by producers with vested interests, consumers with set-in-stone ideas and habits, and a shocking lack of good data. I've struggled with it for at least 20 years by refusing to consume the dairy products that make me so ill. It's been nice to see that standard start to slowly approach what I was sure must be the case years and years ago. It's depressing to see that a book like this is so determined to meet the calcium guidelines that it will seriously propose a relatively high intake of highly processed foods to do so. Yeah, sure, they said kale and almonds would work, too, but take one look at their standard menu and you can see what's going on. So I expected to have issues with this book, and the issues I have are largely the expected ones.

In the course of researching "move towards, in general, a plant-based diet", I recognized that there were a wide variety of mistakes I could make that would negatively effect my health and potentially the health of a future child (presumably T. will survive, even if he is still breastfeeding, any major nutritional screw-up I might make). This book supplies a useful structure for understanding a whole series of possible errors, and a framework for avoiding them. If you are thinking of reducing your consumption of animal products significantly, this (or _Becoming Vegetarian_) might prove very useful to you, as well.

Return of the Farm and Prostaglandins!

I know, I know. Anyone who remembers the prostaglandin obsession from late in my pregnancy is going, WTF? There was a reference to a study of a bunch of vegans in Tennessee in _Becoming Vegan_ and I knew _exactly_ who that had to be. I found the citation (Southern Medical Journal etc.) and then went to find a copy of the article. Google failed me initially, so off I went to SMA's website where they did not require any money from me to let me register and have access to all their archives. Cool! I got to read the original article which immediately dropped me into a technical discussion of arachidonic acid, prostacyclins, PGE1, thromboxanes, D6D and all our friends from the Days of Yore. Boo yah!

Or something.

One of the conclusions reached by the authors is that it might be worth supplementing GLA in vegetable oil to try to prevent preeclampsia (that's evening primrose oil, for those who recall the discussion of EPO, back when we were trying to convince T. to Exit the Womb). I feel a bizarre sense of closure.

And finally, some discussion of the poor quality of the B12 test administered at the farm (and boy, they really overshot on supplementing B12 in the wake of those results) and what tests should be used instead. It's a 3 step set of tests, ending in MMA, which appears to be the current gold standard.

Also, the summary of the eating pattern at the farm pointed out that they produced most of their food locally (except oils, sugars, oats, wheat berries, corn), did their own canning, etc.