Monday, June 19, 2017

One Last Tribute To My Trailblazing Mother Helen Freedhoff

The last week was an incredibly difficult one with our family reeling from the sudden and unexpected death of my mother.

During the course of the week I reached out to Hilda Bastian as I felt that as a fellow trailblazer for women in STEM, she might be interested in my mother's career.

After reading about her, Hilda offered a nearly unbelievable kindness - over the course of her own weekend, Hilda put together a Wikipedia entry for my mother (click here to read it) which I was able to share with my father before having to leave Toronto.

Through his many tears also came, "how lovely, how lovely", and "what a tribute!"

Were my mother still alive, an incredibly modest and private person, she'd have been embarrassed (maybe even mad at me for indirectly facilitating) and might have asked that the entry be removed, but since she's unable to complain, and as I and her family is intensely proud of her accomplishments, consider my sharing them my last opportunity as her son to shake her tree a bit (please also find our eulogies below).

With the shiva over I will slowly be returning to social media and blogging. Will be returning to Twitter and Facebook first, and blogging a touch later. With Jewish mourning, the first 30 days have a special significance and so I'm thinking I'll start blogging again (aside from this post of course) once they're complete part way through July.

[My deep and heartfelt thanks to Hilda for her compassionate kindness and generosity in putting my mother's Wikipedia page together.]

Monday, June 12, 2017

Remembering My Mother (And Why I Won't Be Around As Much For a While)

Dr. Helen Freedhoff January 9th, 1940 - June 10th, 2017
My mother was her own force of nature, and tragically, wholly unexpectedly, and thankfully without suffering, she died on Saturday. To say our family is in shock is an understatement. My mother lived life on her own terms, both for the better, and at times for the worse, but there was never an instant in my life where I didn't know how fiercely she loved me, nor where I didn't love her back.

A theoretical physicist who received her PhD from the University of Toronto she was a trailblazer for women in science. Her work in science is baffling to me. I read the titles of her papers, and while I understand some words here or there, they might as well be written in a foreign language - one of her students told me that this paper is one of which she was especially proud. She once explained to me how it was she went about choosing what to study. The gist was that she would look at experimental results that people could not explain, and then if she thought that the solution would be mathematically elegant, she'd get to work. And while I may not be telling that story perfectly accurately, that's how I remember it anyhow. We've no doubt, that had it not been for mandatory retirement (she missed its abolition by 2 years), she'd have still been teaching.

It was my mother who taught me, again for better or for worse, to always speak my mind and not to be shy, even with criticism. Below is the obituary we're placing in the papers - and I thought I'd share it here as well and let it fly out into the ether. Love you Ma, can't believe you're gone, and will always be proud to be your son.

Helen (Henchy) Sarah Freedhoff (nee Goodman)

Passed away suddenly on Saturday June 10, at the cottage she loved in Muskoka at the age of 77.

She was predeceased by her parents Sholom and Ethel Goodman (Kohl)

She will be dearly missed by her husband Stephen of 57 years, her daughter Michal (Michael Van Leeuwen), her son Yoni (Stacey Segal), her brother David Goodman, her grandchildren, Rena, Zahava, Talia, Sammy, Leah, Vivienne, and Yael who adored their Omi, and many nieces and nephews. Sister-in-law of Judith and Aubrey Golden,Sylvia Goodman (late brother Irving), and Doba Goodman.

Helen was born in Toronto and excelled in the sciences, having graduated from the University of Toronto with the highest marks and was awarded the Governor General’s Gold medal. She went on to obtain a PH.D in physics and was appointed an assistant professor at York University in 1967. At the time of her appointment, she believed she may have been the only woman in Canada teaching at the university level in her field.

She took a keen interest in her students and was responsible for many of them under her guidance continuing their careers in science. She was soft spoken, a voracious reader, had taken up piano again upon retirement, was an expert ken-ken solver, a weekly yoga practitioner, and maintained a meticulous household

Funeral service at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel 1:30 Monday June 12.

Shiva at 38 Alexandra Wood. Morning services daily at 7:45 a.m. Evening services at 8:45 p.m. Shiva will conclude Sunday morning, June 18.

Donations in memory can be made to Associated Hebrew Schools, Ethel and Sholom Goodman Fund, (416) 494-7666

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Stories: War Photography, White Washing, and Cancer

Photo by Nancy Borowick from her piece in NPR
Marie Brenner, in Vanity Fair back in 2014, with an amazing piece on World War II photographer Robert Capa.

Julie Lenarz in The Tower on the whitewashing of Linda Sarsour.

Nancy Borowick in NPR with her poignant and beautiful piece on her parents as they were both dying of cancer.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox Is All Kinds of Hilarious

Honestly, today's Funny Friday bit, with Fox lecturing Trump about the wall, is just genius.

Don't miss it.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Canadian Nutrition Society Calls 13 Daily Teaspoons of Added Sugar "Moderate"

To be fair, it wasn't the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS) directly who told attendees of their recent annual scientific conference that consuming 13 daily teaspoons of added sugar represented a "moderate" amount, it was the handout they stuffed into all their conference swag bags that did.

That handout, available here, had this to say,
"In 2004 Canadian consumption of added sugars was about 11% of daily energy intake (53g or 13 tsp per day), according to an analysis of dietary intake data from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Average intake ranged from 9.9% of energy in adults aged 19 and above to 14.1% of energy in adolescents aged 9-18 years. This is generally considered to be a moderate amount"
Given it was authored by The Canadian Sugar Institute, it's wholly understandable that they're not lining up with the World Health Organization or Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation in considering 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day a daily maximum, and 6 teaspoons of sugar per day a better goal. Less understandable though for the CNS.

According to the CNS, their aim is to,
"foster the next generation of skilled nutritionists, thereby building a better and healthier future for all Canadians"
I struggle to see how providing the food industry with the ability to influence and directly access the next generation of nutritionists would fit within that mandate.

(Thanks to the dietetic student attendee who sent me the handout, and for the record, I feel the same way about medical organizations providing pharma with the opportunity to stuff medical conferences' swag bags with their marketing materials)

Monday, June 05, 2017

Definitely Don't Take Your Kids To See Red Shoes And The Seven Dwarfs

Via Tess Holiday on Twitter
Want to know how socially acceptable weight bias is?

There's a movie coming out, for children, about, what if Snow White were fat?

The trailer highlights the apparently hilarious horror.

The pervasiveness of weight bias in children's movies, TV shows, and books is a near constant.

Can you imagine how you'd feel if you were a little girl with obesity and you saw this poster (let alone the movie)? Or if you were a schoolyard bully that hadn't yet started targeting kids for their weights (weight by the way is the number one target of bullies by a long shot).

It's horrifying that weight bias is so normalized that a movie studio signed off on this. Hopefully, with awareness, ticket sales will be sufficiently bad and the outcry sufficiently loud, so as to dissuade future such projects.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Saturday Stories: Opioid Origins, Trump Loneliness, and the Confederacy.

By Infrogmation of New Orleans - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Pamela Leung, Erin Macdonald, Irfan Dhalla and David Juurlink in New England Journal of Medicine expose the 1980 letter to the editor that may be responsible for today's epidemic of opioid addiction.

Rebecca Solnit in Literary Hub with an amazing piece of writing on the loneliness of Donald Trump.

New Orleans' Mayor Mitch Landrieu in The Atlantic with the speech he gave to explain why his city's confederate monuments had to come down.

Friday, June 02, 2017

This Commercial Almost Makes Me Want To Watch Shark Week

But not quite.

That said, today's Funny Friday video is a gem for those of us old enough to be Seal fans.

Have a great weekend!