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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Let the babies eat in peace

I’ll get right to the point.
It really bugs me that we still need to discuss breast-feeding at all.
But here we are – about 10,000 years or so away from our more primitive selves – and acting like breast-feeding a baby is something new.
While outsourcing it to another woman might have been in gross vogue for a time in history, it seems to me that there would be no human history without those amazing body parts known as mammary glands.
Yet everyone seems to act like it’s something new, every time a new baby comes along.
Take baby Emmy. A lovely baby – and I am not biased despite being her aunt by marriage. I just can’t get over how lovely she is, in fact.
And Emmy needs to eat. To me, seeing her mama breast-feed her is a beautiful thing: It’s nature at its best, a mother using her own body to nourish her young.
But whip out that breast – even demurely covered with a blanket as Emmy’s mom does – and the conversation begins.
Stories about seeing other moms breast-feed, fleetingly covered eyes as if some of the intelligent and educated men in the room had never seen a breast, all are part of the experience. Ridiculous.
According to the CDC’s “Breastfeeding Report Card 2010,” The most recent CDC data show that 3 out of every 4 new mothers in the United States now starts out breastfeeding. The United States has now met the Healthy People 2010 national objective for breastfeeding initiation.”
That’s the good news.
There’s bad news too.
The report goes on to say: “However, rates of breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low.”
In a rather big ‘duh’ it also says: “…even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need. Low breastfeeding rates at 3, 6, and 12 months illustrate that mothers continue to face multiple barriers to breastfeeding.”
Seems to me that one of these barriers is our own attitudes.
Recently, some moms even felt they needed to band together for a "nurse-in" to show the world babies get hungry everywhere, and that Connecticut law recognizes that fact.
As long as breast-feeding continues to be something we need to deal with by telling uncomfortable stories and to give awkward glances, things are not going to change.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Feed the birds what they crave!

An ick-free solution to serve backyard birds the 'candy' they're craving  – dried mealworms
By Joan Casanova

Think about your favorite restaurant. Sure, you probably enjoy the ambiance and service, but it's really the delicious food that keeps you going back, right? When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard this season, keep in mind the same principle applies for them. They'll appreciate the water and shelter you provide, but what will really bring them back year after year will be the quality and variety of the food they find in your backyard.
Seed and suet are staples, and birds will reward you for serving them by flocking to your outdoor oasis. Keep in mind, suet is not just for winter anymore, no-melt formulas make it the perfect protein for warm weather feeding too. But if you really want to wow them, serve mealworms. What you may consider utterly icky – mealworms – is like candy to the birds. And not only are mealworms delectable to your feathered friends, they're an important source of much needed nutrition during a season that is vital to birds' survival.
Warm months are crucial for backyard birds. Their long migration north can leave them fatigued, stressed and depleted. Then as soon as they arrive in their spring and summer habitat, they must begin the arduous process of finding a mate, staking out their territory, building a nest and raising their young – all while hunting for food. And they have just a few short months to raise their young before it's time to migrate again in anticipation of cold weather. Before your feathered friends show up, make sure all feeders, baths and houses are in good repair and clean. A quick rinsing with bleach, warm water and detergent gets rid of dirt, grime and mold. Then, think about the menu.
If you already serve a seed brand that's natural, not washed or coated with chemicals or mineral oil, and doesn't include cheap filler seeds, you're on the right track. Add in some succulent suet and you have the makings of a dining dream for backyard birds. Now push it over the top by adding dried mealworms to the birdie buffet.
High in protein, fat and potassium, mealworms help birds maintain energy. They're favorites for species like bluebirds, flickers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, siskins and chickadees, and are a perfect food source for new born nestlings. However, it can be much harder for humans to see the appeal; after all, we don't usually seek out the company of grubs and larvae. And handling live mealworms is probably not a welcomed bird feeding experience even for the most committed bird enthusiasts.
In the past, it was difficult for bird fans to provide a supply of mealworms for their feathered friends. But freeze-dried varieties, like Cole's Dried Mealworms have made it easy to serve this nutritious, much-loved treat year round. Freeze-dried mealworms provide all the nutritional benefits of fresh ones and are easy to store and serve. It's also a great way to serve birds something they love without having to endure the "ick factor" of live mealworms. There are a variety of feeders specifically made for serving mealworms, or you can blend with your seed mixes and add to any feeder. Either way, the birds will benefit from the nutritional value of these high protein-packed treats and you'll satisfy their craving, keeping them coming back for more!
With a little preparation and the right blend of food, water and shelter, you can fill your backyard with the bright colors and welcome song of birds all season – and give your feathered friends the help they need to thrive throughout the year. If birds arrive at a well-stocked and well-prepared backyard, they will not only stay for the summer, but probably return the following spring. For more information on top quality seed, suet and mealworms visit

Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weizmann Institute Observatory Captures Images of a New Supernova

 Well heck this is interesting.....


REHOVOT, ISRAEL—Exploding stars are the "factories" that produce all the heavy elements found, among other places, in our bodies. In this sense, we are all stardust. These exploding stars – supernovae – are highly energetic events that can occasionally light up the night sky. Such an explosion generally involves disruption in the balance between gravity – which pulls the star's material inward – and the thermonuclear reaction at the star's core – which heats it and pushes it outward.

Certain types of stars that go in this way have a much bigger mass (10-100 times) and are much younger than our sun. In them, the nuclear reaction begins like that of our sun – fusing hydrogen into helium – but the fusion then continues, producing heavier and heavier elements. The nuclear reaction eventually stops with iron, as there is no energy benefit to the star to fuse the heavier atoms, and the balance between gravity and thermonuclear activity comes to a halt. Gravity then takes over, and the mass of the star collapses quickly, releasing so much energy in the process that the explosion ensues. The star hurls its outer layers into space, and a new "bright star" appears in the night sky where none was seen before. Just such a new star was observed in the night sky between May 31 and June 1 in a spiral arm of our galaxy's close neighbor, M51.

            The first to identify the supernova were amateur astronomers in France, and soon after it was detected by the PTF Sky Survey, in which Weizmann Institute scientists participate. The phenomenon was also photographed in the new Martin Kraar Observatory at the Weizmann Institute, as well as in Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory in Mitzpe Ramon. Israel's place on the globe enables its scientists to follow supernova events when it is daytime for many other observers, and thus to add significantly to the data collection.

The new supernova is being studied by an international team of researchers, including Dr. Avishay Gal-Yam and his research team including Drs. Ofer Yaron, David Polishook and Dong Xu, research students Iair Arcavi and Sagi Ben Ami and Director of the Kraar Observatory, Ilan Manulis, all of the Weizmann Institute's Particle Physics and Astrophysics Department, as well as scientists from the US, England, Canada and other countries. They have already noted that the material thrown into space in the explosion contains a wide variety of elements. The mix they observed is atypical of supernova events at such an early stage of the explosion, and they plan to investigate this phenomenon.  

The last supernova observed in M51 (which is a mere 26 million light years away) occurred in 2005. Supernovae are thought to appear about once in 100 years in any given galaxy. The high occurrence in M51 can be explained by its interaction with a nearby galaxy, which causes the process of massive star formation to accelerate, thus increasing the rate of collapse and explosion, as well.

Gal-Yam: "We invite any amateur astronomers who may have viewed the event to send us their time-dated photos. Collaboration with amateurs is very important to us and, in this case, it might help us pinpoint the exact time of the explosion."


Any photos of the M51 galaxy taken between May 30 and June 2 can be sent to If the image is used in scientific publications, contributors will receive credit. 


Dr. Avishay Gal-Yam's research is supported by the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Astrophysics; the Yeda-Sela Center for Basic Research; the Legacy Heritage Fund Program of the Israel Science Foundation; the Peter and Patricia Gruber Awards; and The Lord Sieff of Brimpton Memorial Fund.



Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. It is unedited here.