Monthly Archives: February 2012

In Praise of Praise


Sally Field’s “You like me!” Academy Award Acceptance Speech for “Places in the Heart.”


Tonight is the 84th annual Academy Award  (Oscar) show. I’ve only seen one of the main movies up for an award, so I don’t know how interested I’ll be in watching, but the Oscar show brought to mind Sally Field’s acceptance speech when she said, “You like me.”  I watched the broadcast when Sally Field made this acceptance speech, and I did see the movie, “Places in the Heart,” which brings me to the point of this post, which is not about the movies but about being acknowledged.  Most of us want to be liked or approved of in some way.   Strangely, many people also seem to be very stingy with praise, even when it’s warranted.  Millions of words have been written about how easily we toss around compliments so much that the praise is almost worthless.    I don’t agree.  The more praise the better, I say!

Anyway, I like WordPress’ “like” function, because it’s an easy way (Okay, I’m lazy) to give a little deserved praise even if I’m at a loss for words in a comment.  Sometimes random strangers click “like” on a post, and I discover someone new to read.  And I’m always happy to hear from friends.  We bloggers love our friends (and the stats that show “You like me!”)

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Don’t Call Me Sugar

Desert Rose at Sugar Mill, St. John, U.S.V.I. postcard

Desert Rose shrubs adorn the ruins of a sugar factory at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was eating left-over wedding cupcakes every morning. We ordered too many mini cupcakes for my daughter’s wedding, and there were at least ten dozen left.  I forced a lot of them on people as they left the reception. (I’m sorry!) But I took home at least three dozen.   The cupcakes were so rich — and so good.  I couldn’t let them go to waste. (So I let them go to my waist.)  I knew they weren’t a healthy choice, but hey, a calorie is a calorie, I thought. I could exchange a bowl of cereal for a cupcake. No harm, no foul.

Laura and Ryan's Wedding Cupcakes.

But then I had an epiphany when I saw the video at the bottom of this post. Sugar is bad for you. Really bad for you. I’ve been hearing this for decades, but shrugged it off even though diabetes runs in my family.  Now Valentine’s Day approaches, another sugar-soaked holiday. I’ve cut back on sugar so much in the past year that I don’t even like it.  (And almost no alcohol, either.) I’m not even tempted — well, okay, occasionally I succumb. And I do eat a lot of fruit. I wish I could say I feel so much better, but I don’t. I do feel smug, though! At least I haven’t gained any weight, always a problem as you grow older.

Does spurning sugar make me a sourpuss? I hope I’m still as sweet as always.  (Some who know me will say, What?) I’m bucking against the trend toward eating sugar. Sugar cane is the world’s largest crop. High fructose corn sugar from corn is ubiquitous. You can’t escape sugar in almost any processed food.  Recent statistics showed that U.S. adults consume 22.2 teaspoons of sugar daily — or 355 calories. That greatly exceeds the daily recommended amount. Dietitians have said that the average-sized women should be consuming no more than 6.25 teaspoons; men 9.4. Read the link below on Sucrose to see just what this chemical does to you!

Only two plants produce the sucrose that humans crave so much: sugar cane and sugar beets. I started thinking about sugar again when my family and I recently went to the small beautiful island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for my son’s wedding. (There seems to be a wedding theme here.) The island is now mostly a U.S. national park, but you can see the ruins of some of the sugar cane plantations that covered the island after Europeans first settled the island in 1718 and started farming. The Europeans used African and Indian slaves to work the plantations. Raising sugar cane and processing the cane into refined sugar was and still is hard work.

Here are the ruins of part of the Cinnamon Bay Estate sugar factory. Established in the early 1700s, Cinnamon Bay Estate became one of the most prosperous sugar cane operations on the island of St. John. The ruins are now in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.

Sugar, as molasses, was traded from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe. The cycle would continue over and over. To read more, click on the link Triangular Trade at the bottom of the post.

The Europeans chopped down the native plants to plant their sugar cane plantations and introduced a lot of foreign animals. The descendants of some of these animals run wild on the island today, such as mongoose, goats, donkeys and deer. Many of the trees and vegetation did return when sugar cane plantations were abandoned. St. John was the site of one of the first significant slave rebellions in the New World in 1733, but the rebellion was put down. Slavery wasn’t abolished in St. John until 1848, and after that the sugar plantations shut down.  Now St. John’s main industry is tourism.

No sign remains of the sugar cane crop fields that once flourished here on the Cinnamon Bay Estate in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The sugar factory and estate house, built of blocks of coral, lie in ruins.

In case you’re wondering where the Virgin Islands group got its name, you can thank Christopher Columbus and his crew.  They were the first Europeans to see these islands and named the island group “Once Mil Virgenes”, or Eleven Thousand Virgins, in honor of the feast day of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.

I wrote about the mongoose, which were also introduced to St. John and other tropical islands to control rats (which they didn’t), such as the Big Island of Hawaii. Why Did the Mongoose Cross the Road?

About Sugar Cane.

About Sucrose.
About St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

About the Triangular Trade of Sugar, Slaves and Other Goods.

CBS News: Is Sugar Toxic?

Here’s a long video that explains why sugar is bad for you. In it, Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that too much fructose too much and not enough fiber appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.

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Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

This is not how the University of Kansas’ final trip to Columbia, Missouri, was supposed to end, with the No. 4 University of Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team beating the No. 8 KU Jayhawks 74-71 down to the end buzzer game. Mizzou, as the MU Tigers call themselves, is leaving the Big Twelve. The whole league is busting up. Colorado and Nebraska have left, too. Traitors!

To console myself, I listen to the Rock Chalk chant, which Teddy Roosevelt called the greatest college chant he ever heard. Bully for you, Teddy!

The KU-MU rivalry is a special one. It dates back to the violent Border Wars of the Civil War between anti-slavery and pro-slavery groups that shook towns in the Kansas Territory and the western frontier towns of Missouri during the 1850s. Some in Missouri, then a slave state, wanted to influence whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state in an era called “Bleeding Kansas.” In 1861, the opening year of the war, Kansas forces plundered and burned six Missouri towns and large areas of the western Missouri country side. Missourians (known as bushwackers) under William Quantrill then led a retaliatory raid on Lawrence, Kansas two years later in which Lawrence was burned and 200 people murdered. Lawrence is the home of the University of Kansas.

KU leads the match-up at 171-95. The teams meet again in Lawrence on Feb. 25, 2012. KU is The Basketball School, so they must prevail. The Jayhawks men’s basketball program is one of the most successful and prestigious programs in the history of college basketball. The Jayhawks’ first coach was the inventor of the game, James Naismith. About the KU Jayhawk's Men's Basketball team.
To read more about this college rivaltry as well as the violence between the states during the Civil War, click on the link.
Border War (Kansas–Missouri rivalry)

And then there were nine: NCAA Big Twelve Conference.

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