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Niche Blogs: What Kids Eat

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Chicken nuggets and pizza, right? That's what kids would eat if we let them decide for themselves, but we're concerned about raising the quality, and sometimes regulating the quantity, of children's nutrition. And of course, that leads to blogs that impress us one way or another.

Nine-year-old Martha Payne posts pictures of her meals at NeverSeconds, a school lunch blog that's caused a stir in England. The blog was only started last month, so it doesn't have a lot of posts yet. What the Sun doesn't know (they discovered LOLcats just this month) is that there are quite a few blogs dedicated to school lunches.

Sarah Wu started an interesting project in January of 2010. The public school teacher decided to eat a cafeteria lunch at school every day for a year and document her thoughts and post photographs, to raise awareness about the poor quality of school lunches in the U.S. It's all in the blog Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project and the book she wrote about it. After 2010, she continued blogging about various subjects related to school lunches and nutrition, with an occasional lunch post.

In contrast to the dissatisfaction of school lunch, Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, has a blog that posts school menus from France. At French schools, there is no "kids' food," but school menus that adults would appreciate. Could they be as good as they sound?

If this picture is any indication, the answer is yes! It's from the blog What's For School Lunch? which brings us photographs of school lunches from around the world. The first page is heavy on Japanese lunches right now, but if you look through the archives, you'll find examples, both found and submitted, from nations all over the world. From what I gather, school lunches look delicious but skimpy in Africa and India, an adventure in Asia, sad in the former Soviet bloc countries, and vary widely in the U.S. and U.K. ...and a French school lunch is to die for.

Japanese School Lunches is by a student who has documented lunches for a couple of years now, with pictures and menu, but no commentary. Most look yummy if you like Japanese food, and the dishes are quite nice, too!

The Lunch Tray by Bettina Elias Siegel is about kids' food in general, but you know that includes a lot about school lunches -not necessarily documenting them, but information and advocacy about the school lunch program in the U.S. Siegel also has recipes, stories, and information about getting kids to eat right.

Blog for Family Dinner is a collaborative blog that invites your input. Recent posts cover recipes, policy, and meal planning, but what interested me was the personal stories of what a family dinner means, and how different they can be around the world and in other times. Dietician Natalia Stasenko wrote about the difficulties her family had eating in Russia 30 years ago, and how different her family life is now. It is only one of many thoughtful posts on family dining.

So maybe you want to pack your child's lunch? You can make it not only nutritious and delicious, but fun to look at! Anna the Red runs one of the premier bento blogs, as she is an artist with a lunchbox. A recent entry shows lunch in tribute to author Maurice Sendak. But there are plenty of bento box blogs, like Just Bento, What's for Lunch at Our House, Happy Little Bento, Lunch in a Box, My Meal Box, Leggo My Obento, and you'll find more at the Bento Blog Network.

One thing kids will eat is pancakes. But if you have a stubborn child, pancakes are easily made into artworks that will entice them! There are several pancake art blogs. The taco meal shown above is completely made of pancakes. It's from Michael Goudeau’s Pancake Project, which seems to have been discontinued since he published a book, but there are plenty of artful pancakes in the archives.

Jim's Pancakes appears to have gone the same way, ceasing publication when his book came out. Jim creates wonderful pancake sculptures inspired by his children, Allison and Ryan. One of the last posted was this all-pancake Star Wars At-At.

The latest pancake blog sensation is Saipancakes, by Nathan Shields, a stay-at-home-dad on leave from teaching math. His pancake creations show his interest in science (as well as everything else) as he pours pancakes in theme groups. A recent post has a video tutorial on how he does it.

Once again, I confronted a long list of interesting blogs to tell you about and got distracted when I explored more from the same genre. There will be a list of niche blogs on a variety of subjects to check out soon. See previous posts in this series also.

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Food
In 1938, The New York Times Thought Cheeseburgers Were a Weird New Fad
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People love to make fun of The New York Times's trend section: Their umpteen pieces on the Millennial craze have been called "hate-reads," and their dissection of cultural norms such as oversharing, defriending people in real life, and chopped salad at lunch as "trends" can be hilarious and infuriatingly obvious.

But while their pieces aren't always exactly timely, they will certainly make for interesting reads in a few decades—just like this throwback piece on a California fad called "cheeseburgers" from 1938.

When "cheeseburger" was first mentioned in the October 1938 article, it was in a long list about the "whimsy" of California eateries. Then, nine years later in May 1947, the Times revisited the fad, writing, "At first, the combination of beef with cheese and tomatoes, which sometimes are used, may seem bizarre." Fortunately, their intrepid reporter could see the bigger picture. "If you reflect a bit, you’ll understand the combination is sound gastronomically."

Now, 70 years later, you can not only ask for gourmet cheeses like brie, goat, or gorgonzola on your burger—or spend upwards of $300 on one—there are multiple burger chains where you can order stacks on stacks on stacks of cheeseburger patties. That weird little West Coast fad has become a multibillion dollar industry, and cheeseburgers are practically our national food (arguably in hot contention with apple pie). Congratulations, America! We did it!

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science
2017 Ig Nobel Prizes Celebrate Research on How Crocodiles Affect Gambling and Other Odd Studies
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The Ig Nobel Prizes are back, and this year's winning selection of odd scientific research topics is as weird as ever. As The Guardian reports, the 27th annual awards of highly improbable studies "that first make people laugh, then make them think" were handed out on September 14 at a theater at Harvard University. The awards, sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research, honor research you never would have thought someone would take the time (or the funding) to study, much less would be published.

The 2017 highlights include a study on whether cats can be both a liquid and a solid at the same time and one on whether the presence of a live crocodile can impact the behavior of gamblers. Below, we present the winners from each of the 10 categories, each weirder and more delightful than the last.

PHYSICS

"For using fluid dynamics to probe the question 'Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?'"

Winner: Marc-Antoine Fardin

Study: "On the Rheology of Cats," published in Rheology Bulletin [PDF]

ECONOMICS

"For their experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble."

Winners: Matthew J. Rockloff and Nancy Greer

Study: "Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal," published in the Journal of Gambling Studies

ANATOMY

"For his medical research study 'Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?'"

Winner: James A. Heathcote

Study: "Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?" published in the BMJ

BIOLOGY

"For their discovery of a female penis, and a male vagina, in a cave insect."

Winners: Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, Yoshitaka Kamimura, and Charles Lienhard (who delivered their acceptance speech via video from inside a cave)

Study: "Female Penis, Male Vagina and Their Correlated Evolution in a Cave Insect," published in Current Biology

FLUID DYNAMICS

"For studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks backwards while carrying a cup of coffee."

Winner: Jiwon Han

Study: "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," published in Achievements in the Life Sciences

NUTRITION

"For the first scientific report of human blood in the diet of the hairy-legged vampire bat."

Winners: Fernanda Ito, Enrico Bernard, and Rodrigo A. Torres

Study: "What is for Dinner? First Report of Human Blood in the Diet of the Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat Diphylla ecaudata," published in Acta Chiropterologica

MEDICINE

"For using advanced brain-scanning technology to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese."

Winners: Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly, and Tao Jiang

Study: "The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study," published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

COGNITION

"For demonstrating that many identical twins cannot tell themselves apart visually."

Winners: Matteo Martini, Ilaria Bufalari, Maria Antonietta Stazi, and Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Study: "Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins," published in PLOS One

OBSTETRICS

"For showing that a developing human fetus responds more strongly to music that is played electromechanically inside the mother's vagina than to music that is played electromechanically on the mother's belly."

Winners: Marisa López-Teijón, Álex García-Faura, Alberto Prats-Galino, and Luis Pallarés Aniorte

Study: "Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginal Music Emission,” published in Ultrasound

PEACE PRIZE

"For demonstrating that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring."

Winners: Milo A. Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli

Study: "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial," published by the BMJ

Congratulations, all.

[h/t The Guardian]

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