Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008


A colleague asked me if I had recorded a tv program about food (dispatches: the truth about food).  I hadn’t, or didn’t even know I had missed it.  She wanted to use it to show her Home Economics class.  This led me to investigate 4 on demand. How did I miss this?  It’s brilliant.  It turns out there are a load of programs, many of which are perfect for teaching.  It takes time for the programs to download, but it’s worth it as they are quite good quality.

I was intrigued to note that the whole process uses bittorrent technology.  This enables a very eficient and speedy way to download very large files.  This is the same system that hollywood hates and I thought that the tv companies hated it too.  One annoying feature is that the software runs in the background evey time the computer is switched on.  It is constantly letting other 40D users download programs that you have downloaded from 4od yourself.  I am not against this peer to peer system.  However, it is annoying that it assumes that I want it switched on all the time.  I will have to fix that.

As for the program…  The HE teacher wanted to show the class how misleading food labels can be as that is what the program is all about.  However, once the lovely sharon and I watched it we were shocked at how misleading the program was with it’s science.  The lovely sharon happens to be doing a food analysis project with some of her students.  They make fresh food and get cheap ready meals, then they do s thorough an analysis as they can.  They ended up getting similar results as the program.  I.E. the cheaper ready meals had LESS fat.  Does this mean they are more healthy like the program suggests?  NO!  Sharon’s students put it down to the qaulity and quantity of the meat ingredients.   There was also some other dodgy science I wont go into.

Sometimes I get problems with my stomach, most people do.  Yesterday I started to get a very strange taste in my mouth after eating.  Today it was worse, a lot worse.  It tastes DISGUSTING.  The taste lasts for about 15 minutes or so.  At first I thought…stomach acid.  This makes sense; I eat, this makes my stomach secrete more acid.  Maybe I am very stressed, or am fighting a bug.  Well I don’t feel particularly stressed but I do feel quite under the weather.  There is one major problem with this theory;  I know what stomach acid “feels” like and this is not stomach acid.  The truth is rather stranger.  Pine nuts.

A few days ago I started eating a packet of seeds (which included pine nuts)  and  finished the packet over two days.  It turns out that eating certain varieties of uncooked pine nuts gives rise to a sort of mild poisoning or allergic effect.  A very bitter and metallic taste is produced immediatly after eating.  This usually lasts between a few days and as much as a couple of weeks.

How random!

 

Those strange little moments occur when we make small discoveries.

 

One discovery was a little book I stumbled upon one day in the bookshop. The book was “cat getting out of bag”, it made me laugh and smile. When I went back to buy it I could not find it or remember the title. It was months later when I was lucky enough to find it again. It was a gentle humoured book based on the observation of cats. If you have never kept cats and got to know their little personalities then you would never understand the book. It’s for cat lovers.

 

Surfing the reading habits of another continent (amazon.com) I stumbled upon some amazing books.

 

Books truly for nerds. Chemical nerds. Napoleon’s buttons was a fantastic book. A book I could read again and again and again. It is a tour of 17 groups of chemicals that have had a major impact on history. I liked it so much that I ordered another copy in hardback. Now both copies are in the hands of my colleagues. It is a must read for science teachers. And.. People who read Napoleon’s buttons also read: Dr. Joseph A. Schwarcz. I ordered 4 of his books which took a while to cross the pond.

# Let Them Eat Flax: 70 All-New Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Food & Life

# The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life

# That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life

# The Genie in the Bottle: 68 All New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life

I am currently half way through one of them. It was worth the wait. These are the type of books that fill you with wonder. And witty chemical anecdotes.