I like popcorn…


New research suggests portion size and distraction, not enjoyment, control how much we eat.

The credits roll—and you reach into your extra-large popcorn to find nothing but a slick of grease and half-burnt unexploded kernels. How did you eat the whole thing by yourself, almost without noticing? A new study from Profs. Brian Wansink of Cornell University and Junyong Kim of the University of Florida may hold the answer.

Wansink and Kim enlisted random moviegoers at evening showings of “Stargate” to assist in their research. 158 people between eighteen and sixty-six years of age were given free popcorn in exchange for filling out a survey after the movie. The popcorns were randomly either medium or large—and half of them had been ripening for two weeks before being given to the study’s unsuspecting participants. After the movie, the subjects turned in their remaining popcorn and filled out their survey.

Everyone in the study saw the same movie, but not everyone ate the same popcorn. However, both those given fresh and those given stale popcorn ate more, on average, when the popcorn was presented in a larger container. The final results of the study found that those with large containers ate 45.3% more fresh and 33.6% more stale popcorn than those given medium-sized containers.

Those who had been given fresh popcorn liked it better than those with the two-week-old kernels, but though they described it as “Stale!” “Soggy!” and “Terrible!” they still ate it. When Wansink and Kim tallied up their data, it showed that “perceived taste and quality had little to do with how much popcorn one ate compared to the size of the container and its freshness.”

“We’re a nation of mindless eaters,” Prof. Wansink told Matt Lauer of the Today Show. In his study, he concludes that when people are presented with food, they assume that the amount they are given is the amount they are meant to eat—especially when they are in a distracting environment such as a movie theater showing the re-release of Stargate. Whether or not the food tastes good has little or nothing to do with it.

According to Wansink and Kim, though, the findings of their study do not doom humanity to a lifetime of mindless compulsion to consume whatever unhealthy and disgusting slop sloshes into their trough. If how much someone eats has little to do with how the food actually tastes, unappetizing but healthy food consumption can be increased. Rather than ordering or begging a child to eat just one piece of broccoli at the dinner table, turn on the cartoons as a distraction and hand them a big bowl of grapes or carrot sticks.

And when you’re out at the movies, get yourself a small popcorn to share.


HW 31 Oct 2016

  1. Reporters must consider their audience. This is something we learned in 101, and Baker restates it here. Never assume that an average reader knows background information or definitions of terms. Putting things in plain language helps a story flow better.
  2. Handling information in connected stories. When multiple stories are written on the same topic over time, the same information may need to be restated so that each story can stand on its own. Baker suggests using inverted pyramid format, and moving information already stated in previous stories on a topic down the pyramid while putting new information in the first few paragraphs.
  3. Perspective. Linking to #1, readers may not know about the background of a story, not because of ignorance but because there is no reason for them to immediately assume a connection. Reporters must provide background to prevent their getting the wrong idea.
  4. Explain not just an event, but its significance. If something is the first of its kind or otherwise unusual, mention it. D*n*ld Tr*mp’s misogynist remarks are more significant given he is running against the first female major party nominee for president. She hasn’t been afraid to bring it up, and nor should reporters be.
  5. 1000 dead editors. Nice metaphor for the season, but it would be nice if Baker had spent more time on citing other experts and less on convoluted metaphors about bees and zombies.

HW 20 OCT 2016

What makes his writing so effective?

-Grann uses characterization effectively, giving physical descriptions of his subjects and their history when he first introduces them to make the reader feel like they know the person. He also uses powerful and descriptive vocabulary.

How does he meld narrative with his research?

-Grann sticks mostly to chronological order and narrative for the main body of the story, interspersed with well-researched flashbacks.

When does Grann state that Willingham is innocent?

-Grann never states that Willingham is innocent, but he provides Willingham’s own statement of innocence and the views of Gilbert, Webb, and Hurst.

Write a new lede for this story:

“I’m going home to see my kids,” Cameron Todd Willingham told his mother minutes before he was executed for the murder by arson of his three children. Willingham insisted until his death that he was innocent of all charges…


As far as the court case, I’m stuck. All the cases I observed on the 12th had their next court appearances before this assignment was given. Should I go back to the court and try to find another case? How do I do that when I work morning shifts at least three days out of five that the courts are open?

Accourting To Plan

I went to the Albany City court on Morton Street on October 12- Yom Kippur, the only day I could get off of both work and classes. I got in at nine in the morning and stayed until they finished up at noon. I’d tried going directly after work the day before, but I got out of work at 2 and was told to come back the next day.

I got to sit inside the barrier. The police officer who let me in told me I’d be able to hear better from there, but I was stuck behind a gigantic printer and could barely see any of what was going on. I could only hear what the judge was saying, and occasionally one or two words from a defendant or a lawyer. Do courtroom reporters develop superhuman senses? I was next to two other studenty types, both of whom were on their phones. Mine was off. They took notes on printouts they’d brought of the names of people scheduled to appear, I took notes in half a composition book.

Nothing particularly unusual happened while I was in the courtroom. Most of the defendants were black, most of them were charged with minor offenses. One woman was charged with second-degree assault- she’d scratched a man on the face. There were no further details given, so I have no idea if it was a fight with her boyfriend or a random guy on the street. Another man had pulled up in his car beside a woman (again, no idea what their relationship might be) and told her that “nobody in your family is safe, your mother is dead.” The judge entered a plea of not guilty for him and told him to appear again in court on the 19th.

Three of those being arraigned came in in handcuffs. Two of those were wearing bright orange INMATE T-shirts and had their hands cuffed in front of them to a leather belt around their waist; the third was in street clothes and had his hands cuffed behind his back. He was the only one charged with a violent crime- third degree assault; he was sentenced to three years probation.

Some of the people whose names were called did not appear.

Nothing too out of the ordinary happened, or if it did, I didn’t notice.

Signs of the Times

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My mama doesn’t even want me walking alone after dark- she’d have a conniption if I walked into a Trump rally. So I stayed outside and interviewed protestors and a few supporters who came out after the rally had finished.

Interestingly enough, the majority of the protestors were carrying handmade signs, on posterboard or pieces of cardboard. Some had brought extra, and left them in a pile for anybody who wanted to take one. Most Trump signs I saw were professionally printed, bought from one of the vendors who lined the approach to the rally, calling “Get your Trump!” One of them told me after the event he’d sold about 300 buttons and 50 shirts.

When I asked to interview a protestor, they invariably asked what agency I was working for, and relaxed noticeably when I told them I was a student. One told me he was talking to every student he could. Some didn’t give their names, or didn’t want video or photos taken, and I respected their privacy.

On the way out, my phone nearly dead, I captured this video. It had sixty views within an hour, while the raw footage of brief interviews I uploaded got views in the single digits and comments calling the protestors lying bitches. C’est la vie.

#11 Will Surprise You!

I used to read a lot of Stephen King in high school, because his books appealed to the strange and unusual sort of person I was and because they were conveniently grouped next to the nicest chair in the school library. I thought I’d learned all I could from reading Stephen King a few pages into that one novel he wrote where cell phones turn everyone into evil mindless zombie killing machines (subtle), put it down, and found some Isak Dinesen instead. Turns out I was wrong. Under the cut are the top ten things I learned from reading Stephen King’s On Writing, organized in the style of a Cracked.com article because he’d hate that. Continue reading