Monday, September 24, 2007

I love science

Yom Kippur is supposed to be a complete fast, meaning no food or water. Health concerns always override, though, so a person who needs to take daily medication should do so, and if those need to be taken with food, should also eat something. Also, if you feel sick, you should take care of that rather than continuing the fast. Our synagogue, as I am sure most others, has a stash of orange juice for people who neglect that rule and then collapse during services. You are also pretty much standing throughout the last hour or more of the concluding service, but at least at our synagogue the rabbis always say up front that you should only stand if you are able.

When I am not taking a break from working, one of the things I do is teach biology. So all of the stuff above was a prelude to the story of how I came to empirically confirm the reaction mechanisms I teach my students. Our bodies run on glucose. Which is why doctors check your blood glucose level-- that's the delivery system to most cells in the body. But glucose, or any carbohydrate, is not essential for life. This is because we can make it. Not from sunlight and water, like the plants, but from other things we consume, like fat and protein. Water. Water is the stuff of carbon-based life. And not just because it's an excellent place for all sorts of molecules to hang out, mix, get to know their neighbors, and see if there isn't some chemistry between them. Ahem. Right. Anyway, our cells are about 90% water, and water molecules do many important things, such as hold on to protons or electrones for a little while, so a molecule can change shape, or a reaction can occur. But water molecules are also reactants. In order to break down larger molecules (such as fat and protein) we need water-- a molecule of water is added for every link between units that is broken (just like one is released for every unit connection when these molecules are synthesized).

Before I started the shock diet, my friend Aite loaned me her blood glucose meter. I played with it for a little while, but it only had about a dozen strips left, so I let it be eventually. When I started feeling funny the evening Yom Kippur started, I thought it would be good to take a measurement. Now that was entirely my fault. I took a nap Friday afternoon, and when I woke up there was really no time to eat before services. Which was just fine by me, but I kept thinking that I should have some water before we go. And then I forgot. So in reality I didn't have any food or drink from about 2pm on rather than the required 5:30 or so. So I was feeling funny in the evening. The blood glucose reading was 94, though, which meant I was going to make it till the morning. In the morning, though, it was 78. Leaving for services like that was not a good idea, seeing as 70 is considered critical. So I drank a glass of water. When I got back from the morning services, it was 72. JD got freaked out and wanted me to eat something. But basic biochemistry to the rescue I told him that was not necessary and drank three or four glasses of water instead. I only had one meter strip left by then, so I saved it until right before leaving for the concluding services. At which point, five hours later, the reading was 77. Ta-da! My body apparently sucks at many important functions, but at least it can still hydrolyze large molecules and use individual subparts to make glucose with the best of them. I drank another glass of water and went to services. I love science.

We went apple picking yesterday, and I now have the apple I will eat tomorrow evening (and three each that I am allowed for three days after that) to start the exit phase of the diet OF DOOM (oh, no, not that again!). But despite my carefully planned schedule with Yom Kippur taking out a day of eating this crap, and then only three days remaining, yesterday was absolutely the hardest of it. If you watched me eat breakfast yesterday, you would've had to conclude that I was consuming sustenance OF APOCALYPSE, cooked as it was by the minions OF THE UNDERWORLD. Today should be better, since the apple, that round, blessed goodness of Honey Crispness that it is, is tomorrow. Hear that? Tomorrow. Less than 36 hours from now. Yes! I was a little disappointed that Jonah Golds were not ripe for picking yet, but Honey Crisps will have to do.

Today I am going to spend the day doing a bit of shopping, a bit of cleaning, and a lot of cooking. My family needs to eat, and I am hoping that the smells will be enough to hold me over until I can rejoin the world of culinary appreciation. I get to try my new slow cooker today. I am hoping to become good friends with it. Also, and this one goes out to Lori, who loves a good organization project, and to Niobe, who is threatening to make me alphabetize my spices, I mostly cleaned out the den of inequity that was my office last week, and just the other day I cleaned and reorganized my two problem cabinets in the kitchen, in the process collecting a whole bag of food for Monkey's school food drive (which was the motivation for tacking the cabinets in the first place). I am afraid I am rapidly running out of excuses for not dealing with my lazy Susans. See what you people are making me do?


slouching mom said...

But the Lazy Susan has "lazy" in it, so you really shouldn't have to organize it, right?

Goodness, I'm glad you didn't faint. Water to the rescue! Water is really an amazing substance.

Phantom Scribbler said...

(Shamefacedly) I did actually faint a week ago, and I wasn't even fasting. My blood pressure is really low, if I'm on my feet too long things get dicey. Well. Now I know the biology behind why my husband keeps yelling at me to drink! more! water! Thanks.

Thinking about you and those blessed apples that will counteract the diet OF DOOM!

niobe said...

Minion is one of my favorite words. Also handmaiden. And lackey.

Lori said...

Oh you... are you just trying to make my day by throwing in tantalizing organizational comments at the end?? It sounds wonderful!!

I have actually never fasted. Not officially, with intention, nor for an entire day. I really wonder if I could do it. Your resolve, and scientific knowledge, impress me tremendously.

Maybe I could do it if I could spend that entire day organizing a closet, or sorting toys and clothes to be given away? I might be able to do it if I had that kind of delicious distraction!

Beruriah said...

Wow. I've never traced numbers while fasting. I find the lack of water the hardest part. Generally I'm pretty hungry when I wake up in the morning but it fades and by the end of the day I feel like I could go another 24 hours. Josh has some explanation for that.

I didn't realize you were going to the apple orchard only two wait two more days. Torture.

susan said...

I am delurking to mention that around my house, we have Industrious Susans instead of Lazy Susans, just so I can stick up for my name.

Not that our industrious susans are particularly organized, of course.

Aurelia said...

Take care, fasting or not.