David Kirkpatrick

April 15, 2008

The Straight Dope on the federal income tax

Filed under: Business, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:08 pm

For the edification of US readers facing the tax man today, here’s Cecil Adams on income tax and the Thirteenth Amendment.

The shortest verdict from the link:

Despite judicial rejection of every imaginable antitax argument, the protesters keep trying them anyway.

February 15, 2008

There’s no sugar high?

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:51 pm

This is skeptical kind of Friday, I guess. Here’s a great Straight Dope answer from Cecil Adams on whether a “sugar high” really exists or not.

The heart of the answer:

Given that so far it hasn’t , why would a sizable chunk of the child-rearing population continue to swear it exists? For a crucial piece of the puzzle we turn to the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology and a 1994 study by Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich, in which they looked at 31 boys ages five to seven and their mothers, all of whom had described their offspring as being “behaviorally affected by sugar.”

The mom-son teams were split into the customary two groups: the moms in one were told their sons would be given extra-sugary Kool-Aid, while the others were told their kids were in the control group and would get a drink sweetened with aspartame. In reality, though, the same artificially sweetened stuff was administered to both sets of kids while the women got a sheaf of surveys to fill out. Mothers and children were then videotaped playing together, after which the moms were asked how they thought things went.

What did Hoover and Milich find? You guessed it: the moms who thought they were in the sugar group said their sons acted more hyper. In addition, they tended to hover over their children more during play, offer more criticism of their behavior, etc. The mother-son pairs in the other group were judged by observers to be getting along better. What’s more, those moms who, going into the experiment, most strongly believed their kids were sugar-sensitive also scored highest on a test designed to gauge cognitive rigidity.

From there, of course, it’s not too hard to whip up a hypothesis explaining why the sugar-high myth persists. Having always heard that sugar makes kids act crazy, some parents, particularly those hailing from the control-freak end of the spectrum, may go a little crazy themselves when the sugary stuff enters the picture. In situations where sweets are freely available to their children — like birthday parties or other high-stimulation events — they watch worriedly for any sign of obstreperousness, see it even if it’s not there, call it hyperactivity, and attribute it to the cookies and cake. Kids, meanwhile, typically aren’t oblivious to this sort of anxiety; consciously or not, they may well figure out that after taking on a load of candy they’re expected to run amok and happily oblige.