Your Turn

Nomi Dayan gives a lecture at the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor

By Nomi Dayan

While most people today visit The Whaling Museum while on vacation or during the weekend, there was no vacation or days off for a whaler. Work was paramount for whaling crews. However, a whaler might look forward to the three holidays for which there was a chance of observance while at sea: the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (with Thanksgiving bring considered the most important holiday at the time).

Captains dictated if and how a holiday was observed. If there were instruments on board, nationalistic music was played and sung. Some crews engaged in whaleboat races for sport. If the captain was feeling generous, a special meal might be extended to even the lowest-ranking crew members. Culinary celebrations gave welcome respite from a monotonous and dreary diet of food that was often infested or spoiled. On a holiday, whalers might enjoy sea pies, a kind of pot pie that sometimes contained dolphin meat, or lobscouse, a stew of salted meat, onions and sea biscuits. Dessert might be mincemeat pie — which consisted of chopped meat, suet, raisins, apples and spices; dandyfunk, a baked mass of hard tack crackers and molasses; or duff, a boiled pudding.

 

Robert Weir aboard the Clara Bell journaled about a distinct feast on July 4th. He wrote how the crew fired salutes and enjoyed “coconuts, roast pig, minced pie, soft tack, ginger cake, pepper sauce, molasses, pepper, rice and pickles — quite extensive for a sailor.”

Aside from the chance of a special treat, July 4th — as with other holidays at sea — was likely to be a disappointment for those hoping for a break from work. Whaler William B. Whitecar Jr. recalled that when a crew member protested spinning yarn on the Fourth of July, the commanding mate’s answer was “Yes — it is fourth of July at home, but not here.”

Many logbooks, official records of daily activity on whaleships, do not document any festivities on this date, instead solely focusing on catching whales. The logbook of the Lafayette off the coast of Peru recorded July 4, 1843, only as an unfruitful day: “So ended this Fourth of July pursuing whales.”

Women who joined their captain-husbands at sea often noted the marked lack of observance of July 4th. Eliza Williams, who sailed with Captain Thomas Williams on the Florida from Massachusetts to the North Pacific and birthed two children during the voyage, wrote in her journal in 1859 in the Shantar Sea: “July 4th … some of the boats, it seems see aplenty of Whales, and once in a while are lucky enough to take one, but not often. Our boats lost two of their Men and that was not all … It doesn’t seem much like the Fourth of July, up here.”

Above, patriotic-themed scrimshaw from the collection of The Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor. Photo from Cindy Grimm

A few years later in 1861, she recorded: “July 4th. Today is Independence. Oh how I would like to be at home and enjoy this day with family and friends. We cannot celebrate it here with any degree of pleasure. Just after dinner, we spoke the bark Monmouth [Cold Spring Harbor ship], Capt. Ormsby … He reported the loss of the clipper ship Polar Star, Capt. Wood, Master. Capt. Ormsby also told us that the Alice Frazier is lost …”

Mary C. Lawrence also described July 4th as being subdued while aboard the Addison with her husband Captain Samuel Lawrence, having sailed from Massachusetts to the Pacific and Arctic during 1856-1860: “The Fourth of July today and the Sabbath. How different our situation from our friends at home! A gale of wind with ice and land to avoid. The ice probably would be a refreshing sight to them. Probably the celebration, if there is any to come off, will take place tomorrow. We had a turkey stuffed and roasted with wild ducks, which are very plenty here. Perhaps tomorrow we may get a whale …”

In 1861, her journal followed the same theme: “July 4th. Minnie [daughter] arose early this morning and hoisted our flag, which was all the celebration we could boast of, as we did not get that whale that we hoped to. A beautiful day, which I improved by washing, after waiting ten days for a clear day.”

Martha Brown of Orient, Long Island, who had been dropped in Hawaii to give birth while her husband and crew continued onward to hunt whales, described her feelings of isolation. She addressed her husband in her journal on July 4th: “Yes the 4 of July has agane passed, and how think you, love, I have spent the day? Not as I did the last in your society, with our Dear little Ella [daughter left at home], but alone. Yes, truly alone. … My thoughts have been far from here today.”

There is great irony in considering how the very workers who powered America’s signature industry could not in reality celebrate its iconic national holiday. On the day when citizens on land joined feasts illuminated by whale candles and enjoyed parades wearing clothing stiffened by whalebone and fabric produced on machinery lubricated by whale oil, the very workers who produced these products were kept working, their eyes focused on catching the next whale.

Nomi Dayan is the executive director at The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor.

Staff members of WUSB-FM Radio gather in the Media Suite in the Student Activity Center at Stony Brook University for a photo. Image courtesy of WUSB

By Norman Prusslin

Long Island radio listeners scanning the FM dial 40 years ago this coming Tuesday were surprised to hear musical stirrings on the 90.1 frequency that had previously offered static or sounds of distant stations. It was on Monday, June 27, 1977, at 5:30 p.m. that the Stony Brook University radio station joined the community of Long Island radio stations. I had the honor of coordinating the team that brought the station to the air that day and then went on to serve as the station’s general manager for 28 years.

Norman Prusslin

Looking back on that first day of broadcasting, it is fascinating to think about how much the media landscape has changed over the past 40 years.  In 1977, FM radio audience listening was just about ready to overtake the decades-old primacy of AM radio. Cable television on Long Island was in its formative years … CNN and MTV were still three and four years away, respectively. Music-oriented radio stations played vinyl on turntables while public service announcements aired on tape cartridges, and long-form public affairs programming was recorded on cassette and reel-to-reel audiotape.

How times have changed!

Through the compact disc and personal computer revolutions of the early 1980s to the web, streaming and digital download innovations of the 1990s to today’s multiple music distribution systems, WUSB has been at the forefront of marrying new technology with public service mission and responsibility.

The station was put to the test and earned its community service stripes eight months after sign on. Longtime North Shore residents will remember the crippling ice and snowstorms of February 1978. The Stony Brook campus was closed for a week. This was a time before wide cellphone use and way before the internet brought information to us, at a moment’s notice, anytime and anywhere.

WUSB was the main outlet in our area for getting critical safety information out to the community. Students and community volunteers slept in the studio to make sure the station provided a 24-hour service.

It was a crash course in local, person-to-person community radio programming. A lesson plan that has been used by the hundreds of student, staff, faculty, alumni and community volunteers who have sat in the on-air chair for 40 years.

Students covered the Shoreham nuclear power plant protests of the late 1970s live from the site. A radio play, “Shadow Over Long Island,” followed the template of “War of the Worlds” in focusing attention on the issue of nuclear power on Long Island while at the same time giving students a history lesson in producing “old time radio drama.”

WUSB received national attention (Time magazine and NBC News) when student staff produced and hosted the 1984 Alternative Presidential Convention on campus. While the two major party candidates, incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale did not attend, over 30 “legally qualified candidates” did providing the campus and local community with a day-long “teach in” of debate, conversation and organizing.

In the music industry, the late 1970s have been recognized as the time when the influence of college radio stations to introduce new and developing genres to radio listeners took hold. In the years before music video, satellite radio, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and Spotify, college radio was THE broadcast outpost for new music.

WUSB was the Long Island radio home for artists of all musical stripes. The music of major label and independent artists from the worlds of rock, folk, blues, classical, hip-hop, dance, traditional and more was being heard, often for the first time, by Long Islanders over 90.1 FM.

I am perhaps most proud of the role WUSB has had in developing an active local music scene and community. From hosting the first Long Island Contemporary Music Conference in the early 1980s to developing collaborative partnerships with area nonprofit music and arts organizations and concert clubs and venues of all sizes, WUSB’s status as a key player in the Long Island music community has brought recognition and honors to the university. It is therefore no surprise that the first meetings that led to the creation of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2003 were held on campus.

This coming week, we celebrate 40 years of 24 hours/day noncommercial radio programming created by a volunteer staff of students, faculty, alumni and community members varied in background and political persuasion and perspective. It’s a time to recognize volunteers coming together for the common mission and purpose of presenting intelligent and thought-provoking dialogue, music from all corners of the globe and campus-focused programming via live sports coverage, academic colloquia and event announcements and coverage.

Now is no time to rest on past laurels. Earlier this year, the station moved into new studios in the West Side Dining Complex and added a second broadcast signal at 107.3 FM to better increase service coverage to North Shore communities.  On June 27, 1977, at 5:30 p.m., founding members of the WUSB station staff coined the expression “….the experiment continues.”

40 years on, it still does!

Norman Prusslin is director of the media arts minor at Stony Brook University. He is WUSB-FM’s founding general manager serving in that position until 2006 and continues his association with the station as its faculty adviser.

Stock photo.

By Chris Zenyuh

Throughout our evolution, fruit stood as the primary source of sugars in our diet. That we evolved to desire sweetness, I contend, was not for energy but for the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that come with the fruit. The fiber helps slow sugar absorption and reduce its negative metabolic potential, and the vitamins compensate.

The limitations of seasonal fruit accessibility made getting too much of these sugars infrequent, at most. Access to purified cane sugar was limited as well, due its tropical origins. The cost of growing and shipping cane sugar slowed its consumption, certainly for those of lesser means. Still, the demand for sugar steadily increased, a fact that the English monarchy used to fund its war chest.

William Duffy (in his book “Sugar Blues”) has suggested that the sugar machine was largely behind English colonization and enslavement through the 1800s. Duffy suggests that denying sugar’s responsibility for metabolic dysfunction dates back to Dr. Thomas Willis, private physician to King Charles II. Willis both discovered and named diabetes mellitus. Smart enough to recognize the illness and its sugar-related cause, Willis was also smart enough to name it after “honey” instead of sugar, perhaps to keep his job and his head!

Enjoying rations of sugar and rum, tens of thousands of the British sailors who guarded the sugar routes fell ill and died from scurvy. School children are taught that scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency, as it was discovered that the symptoms could be reversed with the addition of citrus to the rations. Sadly, this well-known story promotes the denial of the cause: too much sugar (and rum). Our food, medical and supplement industries continue to promote the use of fortification and vitamin supplements to “protect” against illnesses like scurvy, rather than incur financial loses that would result from curtailed consumption of sugars.

The spiraling decline of our general health gained momentum in 1973, when then Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz instituted a 180 degree change in the farm subsidy program. Prior to 1973, farmers were directed by the government to curtail production to keep the supply and demand for corn in check. Sometimes, the farmers were instructed not to grow corn but were compensated for lost income. The restricted supplies kept corn prices high, making it too expensive to use high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. Sugar cane, expensive due to its tropical origins, found itself in a limited range of food products.

The new program launched in 1973 rewarded corn farmers for producing as much corn as possible. Soon, the science to produce more corn, then the science to engineer additional uses for the extra corn became big businesses. High fructose corn syrup and cattle feed businesses were early beneficiaries of the new system. The ranchers and corn refiners lobbied to pay below cost for corn. Corn farmers would lose money, but, the new farm bills enabled the farmers to make up their losses (and more) by receiving the subsidies, funded by tax dollars. That made it cheaper to feed cattle corn than to feed them grass and cheaper to sweeten food with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) than with sugar.

Americans were now able to purchase foods sweetened with HFCS and corn-fed meat at much cheaper prices than ever before. The cost, of course, does not include the medical expenses that may be incurred from chronic exposure to glucose and fructose, though.

The Sugar Association, still burdened with the expense of sugar cane’s tropical origins, has expanded its use of sugar beets to become price competitive in the caloric sweetener market. Farmed and processed in the continental United States, sugar beets are used to sweeten processed foods almost as cheaply as HFCS. If the ingredient label doesn’t specify cane sugar, it may very well be beet sugar. Of course, it is still sucrose.

Now you know why caloric sweeteners are omnipresent in our food system and how “food” can be available so cheap. You might want to reconsider the amount that you consume of what nature so frugally offers. Regardless of its source or history, it is metabolically the same!

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for
30 years.

Flavorings in drinks can make the refreshment less healthy than it appears. Stock photo

By Chris Zenyuh

“Natural” is one of the most abused terms in food marketing.

Most “natural flavors,” for example, are simply chemical compounds synthesized in the same laboratories as artificial flavors using slightly different techniques and sources.  Similarly, “fruit sugar” or fructose has an enticing natural sounding name, but very little of our fructose consumption actually comes from fruit.  Instead, we typically accumulate fructose via table sugar — half of every teaspoon turns to fructose in our digestive system — and/or high fructose corn syrup found in almost all processed foods and beverages, even fruit juice. Though coffee and tea are, by themselves, free of fructose, the commonly consumed versions with syrups and flavoring from familiar national chains are more akin to soda, nutritionally.

When it comes to fructose, you should keep a few things in mind to keep a more healthful perspective. As a sweetener, fructose hits 170 on a scale that ranks table sugar at 100 and glucose at 70.  It also tastes sweet faster, browns faster, and holds more moisture than other sugars.  These characteristics have made fructose an industry favorite, especially once the chemistry behind high fructose corn syrup became cost efficient.

The only organ in your body that can process fructose is your liver.  Metabolically, your body makes very little distinction between alcohol and fructose.  Both are seen as poisons and both are detoxified by your liver accordingly.  The primary distinction is that your brain can metabolize about 10 percent of the alcohol consumed, thus inebriation. Chronic exposure to fructose generates much of the same metabolic dysfunction as alcohol, including liver disease. Unfortunately, there is no “drinking age” for fructose, so even the youngest of children are regularly exposed to fructose.

Glucose and fructose molecules can stick to proteins in your body.  This is known as glycation.  The more your cells are exposed to these sugars, the more frequently this occurs.  Your body does have the ability to disconnect these molecules, but too much glycation can overwhelm that system. Eventually, the attachments become permanent, known as ‘advanced glycation end-products’ or A.G.E.s (a telling acronym, for sure).

These compromised proteins cross-link with each other in a manner that disrupts their function. Collagen fibers that should slide past each other become rigid and tear under stress. Skin wrinkles, ligaments tear, and the lens of your eye can start to block light (glaucoma). Consistently high levels of exposure are recorded by your blood cells as the hemoglobin becomes glycated. Blood tests can thereby show your general glucose and fructose levels over the three months preceding the test and indicate a pre-diabetic condition.

Notably, fructose attaches to proteins seven to ten times faster than glucose, and it is harder for your body to undo these attachments.  Following simple logic, that makes you age up to ten times faster, or faster than your dog.

Eating a reasonable amount of fruit is not a problem.  Beware of how easy it is to consume too much dried fruit, though. And remember that the true nutritional value of fruit resides in its vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.  When consumed whole, the potential negative metabolic impact of the sugars within is greatly lessened by the presence of the other nutrients, especially the fiber. Consuming ‘fruit sugar’ isolated from these beneficial components of fruit, including fruit juice, is a far more dangerous game to play with your metabolism.

Knowing how your body responds to fructose enables you to make more healthful choices regarding food and beverages. Choose well, live well.

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for
30 years.

Maria Hoffman, Jane Fasullo, chair of the Long Island chapter of the Sierra Club, and George Hoffman attended the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. Photo from Maria Hoffman

By George and Maria Hoffman

Two years ago the United States was the leading voice on global climate action at the Paris conference. Then came the November election and this week the new president will be deciding whether or not the U.S. will even remain in the Paris climate agreement.

Facing such a policy sea change, we decided to travel to Washington D.C. April 29 and join with more than 200,000 people from across the U.S. to show our support for continued government action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are dangerously warming
our planet.

At 2 a.m. our journey began, meeting a bus at Stony Brook University that was chartered by the local chapter of the Sierra Club. There we were joined by dozens of Long Islanders who like us were compelled to travel to Washington and take part in the People’s Climate March.

The bus was filled with college students, retirees and people of all ages in between, who joined together because of their concern about our planet.

We arrived at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in the early hours of the morning, converging on Washington with hundreds of other buses filled with people from other states across the U.S. There was a friendly, small-town camaraderie as we were given instructions by march organizers about the day’s events and where we were to meet up by the Capitol building.

It was heartening to see so many people who were willing to wake up in the middle of the night to travel hundreds of miles to the Capitol for the purpose of using the power of our numbers to show our leaders that the issue of climate change needs action now.

As the sun climbed the morning sky, the April temperatures started to feel like summer, eventually reaching a record 91 degrees Fahrenheit degrees. But the marchers were not discouraged by the heat and marched from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House with signs and banners supporting clean energy, staying in the Paris agreement and warnings that our seas were rising and the planet was in jeopardy.

As we walked to the White House, we noticed there were a lot of people carrying signs about the effect of climate change on honey bees. As beekeepers ourselves, we know that the effects of climate change—from extreme weather fluctuations to earlier flowering times—can have a devastating impact on both pollination and the survival of local bee colonies and wild pollinators.

One of the most powerful moments of the march happened as we passed the Newseum, the museum dedicated to the five freedoms of the First Amendment, and we saw etched on its facade the solid and simple words of the First Amendment that gave “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” To read this amendment carved in stone before us as we exercised the very freedoms made real by those words was profound and moving.

After the march was over and we returned to our buses for the long drive back to Long Island, many of us shared stories about the day’s events and how energized we were by taking part in a show of strength in our nation’s capital in support of continued action on climate change. 

After almost 24 hours from the start of our journey, we pulled back into the university. We were tired from our long march down Pennsylvania Avenue. But a spark returned as we spoke of that moment as we passed the Newseum and saw the words of the First Amendment. That moment seemed to be fundamental both to the day and to what it meant be an American citizen. We had peaceably assembled, and petitioned our leaders to accept the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and to take action to prevent further harm.

Eric Stewart

Eric Stewart will raise the baton on Saturday, May 13 when the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association (LISCA) presents its annual spring concert, Masterworks by French Composers of the 19th and 20th Century at 8 p.m. at St. James Roman Catholic Church, located at 429 Route 25A in Setauket.

Stewart took over the role of conductor in January after Thomas Schmidt, the previous conductor of the venerable, nearly 50-year old community chorus retired after serving for 11 years.

Eric Stewart

Expressing his whole-hearted enthusiasm for the selected works of the upcoming program, Stewart said, “This wonderful, all-French program features delightful variety, despite the fact that all three pieces were written within one hundred years of one another (1865-1959). Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine is a beloved staple of the choral repertoire. It is short, sweet and features melodies and harmonies prototypical of French Romanticism.”

He continues, “Poulenc’s Gloria mixes light and playful moments with some deep and brooding passages. It is full of wit and beautiful contrast. The highlight of the program, Durufle’s Requiem, re-imagines Gregorian Chant, combining it with 20th century impressionistic sensibilities. Chant-like melodies and Renaissance inspired counterpoint are imbued with lush harmonies and sweeping orchestral gestures. I could not think of a more exciting program with which to make my debut with LISCA.”

Classical music was not Stewart’s first love. Dabbling with a variety of instruments as a child led to an intense focus in his teenage years on the guitar with a plan to pursue a music degree in performance of rock/jazz fusion style. An “aha moment” came at age 17 with the purchase of a CD of Mozart Piano Concerti.

“Struck so deeply by the music,” his focus changed completely. Piano studies followed, but a sense that it was too late to be pursuing a classical instrument for performance, his focus shifted to composition and conducting. A summer spent at Interlochen Arts Camp cemented his decision to pursue a career in classical music. Stewart studied composition and conducting at the Peabody Conservatory (B.M. and M.M.), going on to earn a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto. His compositions have been performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

We look forward to introducing Stewart to our faithful audience of the past 49 years and extend a special invitation to those who haven’t experienced our concerts in the past as we anticipate our 50th anniversary next season. A reception with light refreshments will be held following the concert.

Tickets may be purchased through our website at www.lisca.org, from singers and at the door. General admission is $25, seniors, $20 and students are free. For further information, call 631-751-2743.

Submitted by LISCA member, Martina Matkovic

Fotis Sotiropoulos and Chrisa Arcan with local children in the village of Ileret.

By Chrisa Arcan

Led by Dr. Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS), a group of Stony Brook University faculty and administrative personnel visited the Turkana Basin in Kenya in March with the goal of setting the stage for the 2017 CEAS Global Engineering Field School (http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/ceas/news/2017/march/global_innovation.php).

The trip was organized by Dr. Lawrence Martin, Professor at Stony Brook University Department of Anthropology and Director of the , (TBI) (http://www.turkanabasin.org), a Stony Brook University affiliated institute established in 2005 in Turkana, Kenya, by world renowned anthropologist and Stony Brook University Professor Richard Leakey.

Fotis Sotiropoulos and Chrisa Arcan with local children in the village of Ileret.

Under this newly established CEAS summer program, a group of undergraduate engineering students will visit TBI for an immersion education on global issues and needs that are different from what they are familiar with, in order to develop engineering solutions to address the survival challenges of people in rural Kenya and other places facing similar issues.

TBI facilities were developed with the purpose of offering a permanent infrastructure to enable year-round paleoanthropology and related scientific research in this remote area of sub-Saharan Africa. The Turkana Basin is a region where abundant evidence documenting the history of human evolution has been uncovered.

Recent research on DNA shows that every human being alive today can be traced to a common ancestral population that lived around that area 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. It is literally the birthplace of humankind. Today TBI, with its two field centers, one on either side of Lake Turkana, is a global center of excellence in paleoanthropological research.

Women and children dig deep into the dry river beds to find their daily water supply.

Our first stop was a two-day stay at Mpala Research Centre. The center is affiliated with Princeton University and conducts research in conservation and wildlife with a focus on benefiting the surrounding communities. Thanks to the director of the center, Dr. Dino Martins a former TBI postdoc at Stony Brook, our stay at Mpala was absolutely memorable: We toured the research facilities, the surrounding areas and dry river beds and brainstormed on opportunities to harness the local resources and develop programs that would benefit the local communities, and we marveled at the amazing landscape and its rich wildlife.

From Mpala we boarded a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan airplane and flew to TBI to start our next journey in the northern-most region of Kenya to Ileret, a small remote village in northern Kenya, in the east side of Lake Turkana, close to the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

As we took a tour of the local clinic, Beatrice, the nurse of the clinic described the multiple health conditions of the locals, especially the children, and the limitations under which she works. The majority of children suffer from at least one type of malnutrition with a large percentage of them being stunted; the latest prolonged drought has exacerbated their condition and increased their deficiency of multiple essential nutrients.

The clinic we visited, a stand-alone small structure, consisted of only a few rooms and of bare medical essentials; everything was in dire need of repair: broken windows, cracked walls, limited medical supplies and a nonfunctioning fridge meant to store drugs, to name a few.

Yet, despite all this, Beatrice and her assistants work tirelessly to perform medical miracles (and always with a smile), from prenatal care, to deliveries, albeit their complications in need of serious surgical procedures, to child nutrition supplementation, to treating any communicable disease, to community education for family planning, vaccinations and many more. My discussions with the nurse brought to life my education on global health and nutrition.

We had the opportunity to see firsthand the local needs and current community projects supported by TBI, like the clinic, school and teachers, and appreciated the opportunities in alternative energy solutions, food systems and health.

We visited the local villages and witnessed the devastating effects of the worst drought in 60 years on peoples’ survival. We saw women and girls digging by hand deep into the ground to find a little bit of precious water, which they also had to carry back to their homes.

Needless to say the water was contaminated with organic and inorganic material, and the apparently clean water from boreholes had fluoride at dangerously high levels. The drought and scarcity and poor quality of water took a devastating toll on food production and livestock for people in that region. Thus food quantity and variety are extremely limited and the signs of food insecurity are apparent in every child and adult.

Village houses

We visited the village homes, single-room domelike structures, built by women from tree branches and corrugated metal sheets that serve as both a cooking and sleeping space for the entire family. Cooking inside the structures creates dangerous air pollution, and as the nurse in the clinic pointed out, respiratory problems are the most prevalent health conditions, especially among children.

We had the chance to interact with the locals and best of all to play with the children; their excitement and fascination when we took selfies and saw themselves on the screen was contagious. What a joy to interact with the happiest children that I have ever seen, despite their daily hardship for survival!

Located in a remote area with scarce resources, TBI is the ideal place to serve as an incubator for inspiration and pilot testing of future engineering, agriculture and public health ideas that can be transferred to benefit the local communities.

All the facilities at TBI have been built by locals using construction materials that, for the most part, were manufactured on-site. The facilities are powered using wind and solar energy and the water is purified using reverse osmosis. It is even equipped with a small greenhouse farm, testing vertical hydroponic and organic farming techniques that can support the growth of a variety of vegetables under harsh local conditions. All these initiatives and more serve as inspirations for future sustainable programs that can benefit the local communities.

Our trip to Kenya lasted only a week but it was filled with fascinating and enriching experiences. We left with many images, impressions and feelings, but most of all with a hope and a motivation that each one of us has found a compelling reason to return and contribute. However, our trip would not have been as rewarding and fulfilling without the organization and hospitality of everyone whom we met and who contributed to our memorable experience.

Chrisa Arcan, PhD, MHS, MBA, RD is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University.

Stock photo.

It’s time to connect sugars to metabolic dysfunction. As a quick reminder, sugar is a paired unit made up of glucose and fructose.  These are the same two sugars (a term that can be used generically for the various related calorie-bearing sweeteners) that comprise high fructose corn syrup. Also notable is that starch is composed of long chains of glucose. Consuming too much of any or all of these substances puts stress on your body in numerous ways. Our individual metabolic vulnerabilities fall prey to this stress, as some individuals may develop diabetes and others cardiovascular disease, etc. This lesson will focus on the stress that too much glucose can place on your metabolism.

Since your body can use glucose for energy, we are quick to accept this “blood sugar” as a good thing. We are equally inclined to believe the marketing that encourages us to buy more (sport drinks, pasta, etc.) especially if we also believe the claims that dietary fat is unhealthy. It turns out, however, high blood levels of glucose (more than two teaspoons) can be lethal. Consuming a typical sugary beverage (or a bagel) threatens to introduce five to 10 times that amount.   

Chris Zenyuh.

Luckily, your body is equipped to protect itself from such assaults and in the case of a glucose “rush,” it calls upon cells buried within your pancreas to produce insulin.  Insulin works like a verbal command to your fat cells, directing them to remove glucose from your blood before it can reach dangerous levels.  The more glucose consumed, the more insulin produced and the more your fat cells are called into action. (Notably and ironically, high insulin levels actually reduce the ability of your muscle cells to absorb this energy, leaving them, and you, still hungry.)

These verbal directions, when repeated frequently throughout the day, become tiresome to your fat cells, which develop a sort of hearing loss described by the medical community as “insulin insensitivity.” Progressively more insulin than before will be required to get the job done, crossing the line to a pre-diabetic state. Eventually, the cells become unable to “hear” the insulin commands (insulin resistance), a condition known as diabetes.

If that is not concerning enough, insulin also functions as an inflammatory signal to your body. Inflammation, a topic of its own, is a critical component of our health maintenance. It should work in concert with our natural repair mechanisms. But when out of balance, it inhibits our recovery from even normal wear and tear. One may develop arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and/or require extended recovery times for illness and injury.

Recent research places the blame for heart attacks on the inflammation that can develop along the walls of your arteries. Ironically, the cholesterol that was once thought to be the culprit is now seen as evidence of your body’s attempts to repair this inflammation.

Similarly, obesity, once viewed as a pre-cursor to diabetes, is now known to be just one symptom of glucose management malfunction that may occur as diabetes progresses. The acronym TOFI (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside) has been coined to describe individuals who appear healthy, but have metabolic dysfunction that is dangerously real.

Our society has yet to learn the difference between looks and health. Many thin individuals are unknowingly pre-diabetic or at risk for heart disease. Even the acronym TOFI continues to promote the stereotype that fat is unhealthy. And yet, there are plenty of active, overweight individuals who are metabolically healthier than many of the thin people who judge them.

Whether absorbed from starchy foods or literally half of table sugar, glucose represents both an energy source and a cause of disease, depending on the amount and frequency of its consumption. Knowing how your body metabolizes glucose is an important step in being able to make better food and beverage choices for a healthier life.  Choose well, live well. “Chow for now!”

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for
30 years.

Chris Zenyuh.
Chris Zenyuh.

I have had the privilege of teaching high school science (biology, chemistry and physics) for the last thirty years. For the last ten years, I’ve had the additional privilege and responsibility of developing and teaching an elective we simply call “Food Science.” It’s not your usual health class dietary guidelines, nor does it rehash the familiar mantras of counting calories and exercising to balance intake. Instead, we study the cultural, historical, scientific, political and economic contexts of our food system and how that system impacts our environments, both external and internal. This in turn enables students to make much more informed decisions about what they want to put in their bodies.

When it comes to sugars, confusion is the name of the game. There are dozens of ingredients that mark the presence of sugars in our food: maltodextrin, dextrose, invert sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starch, to name a few. Regardless of what the food industry calls them, your body sees basically three end products of their digestion: glucose, fructose and galactose. Which ones you eat, and how much, will dictate both their value and their danger to you.

You may have heard of three additional sugars — lactose, sucrose and maltose. Lactose is a combination of one glucose and one galactose. Also known as “milk sugar,” lactose is the nemesis of lactose-intolerant individuals who lack sufficient quantities of the enzyme that can digest it. Instead, bacteria that reside in their intestines get to process it, making painful amounts of gas as a by-product. Galactose can be converted to glucose in your body, but most individuals do not consume enough dairy to make this a source of concern.

Maltose is another type of sugar. It is a pairing of two glucose units and is the namesake for maltodextrin, etc. Consuming foods with maltose adds glucose to your diet — worth keeping track of as part of your total glucose consumption.

However, the most likely source of sugars in your diet is either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Sucrose, known also as table sugar, can be derived from sugar cane (cane sugar) or sugar beets (sugar.) Like lactose and maltose, sucrose is a paired structure, made of one glucose subunit and one fructose subunit. That is what your body absorbs regardless of the source (even organic.)

Sparing you the science behind its production, high fructose corn syrup is approximately half glucose, and half fructose too. Regardless of the marketing efforts by the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association to make you believe one is better for you than the other, they end up, metabolically, in a virtual tie. Debating which to consume is a distraction from the consequences of consuming too much of either, or both.

Stock photo.

The consumption of sugar (the term is legally owned by the Sugar Association as the sole name for sucrose) used to be limited by the relative expense and difficulty in obtaining it from its tropical source. Now the record levels of corn production in America have made it relatively cheap to produce and distribute sugar’s nearly identical-tasting competitor, high fructose corn syrup. You can find it in soda for sure, but also in pickles, peanut butter, ketchup and pretty much anywhere sugar might be used for additional appeal to consumers.

This has paved the way for the combined consumption of these sweeteners to reach more than 150 pounds per year per person in America. This far surpasses the 60 pounds per year considered by some experts to be the maximum amount that can be metabolized without ill consequences including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, cataracts, personality and cognitive dysfunction, some cancers and (by the way) obesity.

Tying glucose and fructose consumption to the metabolic consequences noted above requires further discussion. And now, you are properly prepared for those lessons. As we say in Food Science class, “Chow!”

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher  at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for 30 years.

A view of the Stony Brook house, a half a mile from the water. Photo from Donna Newman

Erratic weather patterns have become more prevalent, causing climate change believers to cite them as evidence of the declining health of the Earth. Still, for many people the changes have had no tangible effect on their daily lives. I experienced my first, rather distressing significant outcome of the climate crisis seven years ago. It had to do with my homeowners insurance.

Donna Newman. File photo.

We purchased our first — and only— home in northern Stony Brook in 1973. Major selling points for our little white cape cod house were: it was located in the renowned Three Village school district; it was on a large, beautifully landscaped piece of property in charming Old Field South; and it was not far from West Meadow Beach on the Long Island Sound.

When choosing homeowner’s insurance we selected a major company with a solid reputation. It was already providing our automobile coverage and even offered a discount if you took out multiple policies.

Over the years I only remember submitting one insurance claim, when a burst pipe damaged the wall-to-wall carpeting in our living room and dining room. Even through major hurricanes like Gloria and Sandy we never experienced any flooding in our basement.

Then in 2010 — quite out of the blue — a letter arrived from the company informing us it would no longer be able to provide us with the homeowner’s insurance we had counted on for 27 years.

What? Why?

We always paid our premiums on time. We had only one claim in all those years. I was completely bewildered.

I placed a call to the office of the president of the company and was told that, due to recent statistical data evaluations, the company had determined it was necessary not to renew coverage for anyone living within a mile of the water.

“But,” I argued, “you have insured us for 27 years. Our house is in the exact same location as it always has been. I just don’t understand.”

She explained that things had changed; that there would be no exceptions; and that I needed to look for a new insurance carrier.

“What about longevity,” I countered. “What about loyalty?”

She said it wasn’t personal and that she was sorry.

I threatened to drop the auto coverage on our two cars and to tell everyone I knew about this upsetting turn of events.

“Whatever you need to do,” she replied, and she apologized again.

So it was that, already in the year 2010, climate change was being taken very seriously by big insurance companies seeking to minimize their liability.

I began to wonder if we’d even be able to get insurance, considering that “things had changed.”

It took us some time to locate a company that would provide the same level of insurance coverage we’d previously obtained. Thankfully, with the help of a local broker, we were able to get a policy with a much smaller company that we had never heard of before.

And here we are in 2017, hoping that our policy with our current insurer will be renewed come the fall. We’re also hoping we’ll never again have the need to file a claim.

Donna Newman is a former editor of The Village Times Herald.

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