Sunday, November 27, 2016

Do you feel a little tricked?


I recall being surprised, shocked even, when I read that MacDonald's French fries were dusted/coated with beef powder.   This was at least a decade ago and perhaps their preparation ingredients have changed.  It must be almost that long since I  visited this establishment.   (I'm not making a value judgement; as you may know 'to each his/her own' is my motto.)   There was an item in the local newspaper about a man who, as a practising Hindu, didn't eat meat.   He was distressed to discover that without meaning to he had been consuming it.   Something so unusual should have been posted on the menu board for the elucidation of vegetarians and vegans as well as those with religious requirements.

I've recently read similar information about pork.   For some reason known only to them, food processors/manufacturers include pork flavouring, tinctures, bits in it in many unexpected food items like cookies, cereal and sour cream.   This article might be an eye-opener to you. 

Manufacturers know that many consumers don't like to buy products where the main ingredient is sugar.   The way around  this is to use  use a combination of sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, brown sugar, dextrose and other sugar ingredients to make sure none of them are present in large enough quantities to attain a top position on the ingredients list.

Remember that ingredients are listed on products in order of their proportion in the product. This means the first 3 ingredients matter far more than anything else. The top 3 ingredients are what you're primarily eating.  Don't be fooled by fancy-sounding herbs or other ingredients that appear very far down the list. Some food manufacturer that includes pomegranates towards the end of the list is probably just using  it as a marketing gimmick on the label. The actual amount of pomegranates  in the product is likely miniscule.

 If the ingredients list contains long, chemical-sounding words that you can't pronounce, maybe google the word(s) so you'll know what you're eating.  

Think about your pets, too.  I was taken aback to discover that In 2004 the American Veterinary Medical Association undertook a  20 year study involving thousands of cats, including 3,470 hyperthyroid cats.  While the study found that feline hyperthyroidism was definitely more often found in older cats, there also was evidence that BPA was a factor.  BPA, Bisphenol A, is used to line the inside of many cat food cans.

Knowledge is power.   Don't feel helpless!  I tend to try to make most of the food I eat from whole ingredients.  Works for me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How Price is Determined


I came across an interesting comment here, a blog I check in on from time to time, which postulated that:

   "the price of housing . . .  given an endless supply of credit, will tend to find a level where the cost of servicing a loan can be managed by two people working full-time, because that’s what most people in that market are doing." 

Is that another way of saying that the cost of something is the maximum that people are willing to pay with no relation to the cost of the raw materials and labour to produce the product?   I guess so.  If women decided en masse to leave the labour force as in pre-1960's would the price of houses go down?

Who are these 'people'?   Does that include me?  Why does this situation make me feel like the donkey's hind quarter?

I suspect the quote refers to the majority of people or at least a lot of people.   As an individual I carry little consumer heft.    Often there's a cry for government to do something about a situation, such as rapidly escalating real estate prices in some markets.    Government actions are all too often a blunt tool that misses the mark.

Some people resort to renting out a room or two in their home to visitors/travellers/tourists to offset high housing costs.   Does it help?

Sunday, November 13, 2016



I recently came across  this post on The Joys of Solitude by Philip Daoust in The Guardian.   People who enjoy being alone or even prefer it to company may be thought of as odd and eccentric by those who are sympathetic.   Others, more judgemental and fearful, view them as anti-social and potentially dangerous. 

But surely people are not measured by the number of words that spill out of their mouths in their lifetime.   Do we consider those who prattle on without end about the doings of the latest television reality show stars to be more socially acceptable?   Or merely boring?   Do you suspect those who tend to prefer silence of silently critiquing or cursing the rest of the social gathering?   Plotting the downfall of the government?

Do you recall the poem by Max Ehrmann entitled Desiderata, or at least the first lines:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. 

Some of Daoust's article seem to me to belabour the potential for living like a slob, eating out of cans and wearing pyjamas all day.  He appears to commend the benefits of this way of life.   Two of the individuals described as examples of solitude seekers had gone to great lengths to avoid any interaction with others.   One lived on the Scottish moors with no means of communication and another on a deserted island off Chile.      There is a middle ground.

Did humans become social to avoid becoming prey as anthropologists claim?  We stuck together, not because we preferred constant company, but to avoid being eaten.

How did Henry David Thoreau spend two years alone in the Massachusetts woods?   Was he a cranky misanthrope?   It is possible to be alone in a crowd.   Why do our screen savers show scenic vistas bereft of humans?

People seem to converse less as they age.   Compare, for example, a classroom of twenty-five twelve year olds with lunch time at an extended care home.    Are there a finite number of words we can express before we run out of things to say?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Clean Plate Syndrome

They're starving . . . somewhere.   Many of us, of a certain age, heard our mothers remind us at the dinner table that 'we should eat up, they're starving in China.    That was in the old days when it was Red China, a scary Communist country where everyone dressed in identical Mao suits.  Today, China is a travel destination.   I believe there are still parts of China, tucked away from the tourists, where people still struggle to feed themselves.   Or another country could easily be substituted, but somehow it is not.

Cleaning your plate has gone out of fashion.    Mothers were accused of contributing to obesity or
eating disorders by their nagging.    People should stop eating when they are full became the accepted approach.  The challenge then became to cook the exact amount that the family would consume while at the same time encouraging family members to only load their plate with what their appetite would value.   Complicated if not impossible.

Recent reports have found a new target to blame (yes, let's lay off mothers for awhile).   Supermarkets apparently discard perfectly good food for reasons only they know.   A reporter took the job of rummaging through the waste bins behind the stores, under the tutelage of an experienced dumpster diver, and discovered vast amounts of food that was discarded well in advance of their Best Before  date.   Or perhaps a bag of potatoes or apples with one daring to be blemished causing all to be dumped.   Why was this perfectly good food discarded when some people do not have enough to eat was the the question.

The contents of the bins were  mostly what we would call perishable goods that made their way to the trash.   There were no cans, for example.   Perhaps stores fear litigation if someone becomes ill.

Some stores in the U.K. tried a novel approach to dealing with wonky produce.  (Must be a British expression).   It seems that sadly up to 40% of farmers' produce ends up discarded for aesthetics only.   They lack the proper shape and form.    Maybe the vegetables were threatening to sue for discrimination based on appearance.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Despite considerable international travelling I still feel a sense of wonder when a mere eight or ten hours transports me to the other side of the world . . . and then back home again.   It can even be done on short notice.   Just head out to the airport  (don't forget your passport) and merely by producing a piece of plastic you can be on your way.   Movies like The Martian take this to the next step even though that didn't turn out to be trouble-free.   But we fully expect that before too long even that journey will be in the realm of possibility.

Travel to Mars in the movie took about six months, about the same amount of time as a sea voyage to the New World in a sailing ship like the one pictured above.   No pleasure cruise,  your very life might be at risk from disease and bad weather.   When friends and family left, they were gone for good.  Few would venture, or could afford a return journey.

Would you embark on that for pleasure or only in desperation?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Good Story . . . but Gory


This was the summary provided by a family member half way through a novel.   The story was engrossing and exciting but the gore was overdone.   The author description including the information that he was also the creator of video games which may be a factor.  Video games can be notoriously violent.    I suppose it is something like the over the top realism in popular television shows like  Game of Thrones  and The Vikings.    I suspect there are various approaches to viewing program of this nature, perhaps similar to how graphic books are dealt with.

Some people revel in the gore and violence.   They are no doubt mild-mannered people who wouldn't hurt the proverbial fly but somehow violence viewed is a vicarious pleasure.   Perhaps it is cathartic in some way.   Then there are those viewers or readers who avert their eyes, fast forward the remote, take a bathroom break or flip pages when some hapless victim is being tortured, beheaded or similar.   Other parts of the movie/book feature terrific dialogue, suspense and character development.   The gore is the wasabi on the sushi tray that their palate seeks to avoid.   The rest is delicious.

Movies have ratings, sometimes focussed more on the sexual content than the violence level.  At the theatres the ratings served to keep minors from entering.   Television often/sometimes would only screen an adult movie after 9 or 10 p.m.  With Netflix you are on your own.   Perhaps there are parental controls that can be instituted.

Research has been done as to the effect of viewing violence on children and young people.   Is there a desensitization that occurs?   An article in the Psychiatric Times concludes : 

Despite the links between media violence and aggression, Anderson stressed, “media violence is only one of many risk factors for later aggressive and violent behavior. Furthermore, extremely violent behavior never occurs when there is only one risk factor present. Thus, a healthy, well-adjusted person with few risk factors is not going to become a school-shooter just because they start playing a lot of violent video games or watching a lot of violent movies.” 

That's good to know.   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blogs, blogs, blogs

I like blogs.   They are the new version of full-of-ads magazines which I used to buy in my younger days.   After awhile I realized there were more ads than copy and that the copy was sometimes suspiciously like the ads.   Even the articles in women's fashion and beauty type of magazines on how to achieve a natural look didn't involve not wearing make-up but rather buying a new supply of supposedly more natural looking make-up.   And look!   There's a handy ad facing the article for just such a product.   To think I paid to be an advertising victim.

Lest you think me narcissistic, let me haste to say that especially as I grew older I read other magazines besides Glamour and Cosmopolitan.   (Especially as I came to feel less attractive, less desirable, less sexy . . . after spending a couple of hours with one of these magazines.  A problem that could be solved  by following their advice slavishly!)  I read New Yorker,  The Economist, MacLeans, Time Magazines . . . you get the idea.   These days these former print magazines all have on-line versions.   Some try to encourage you to subscribe for a 99 cent trial run with the hope you will pay for a few extra lines or articles.   I guess some people do.

These on-line versions have on-line ads but they don't seem as focussed.   On different pages of the on-line version of  The New York Times I observed ads for casinos, encouraging me to use a realtor as opposed to D.I.Y., information about development plans at the local airport.   

Blogs are better I find.  There are ads as well;  usually useless ads for how to lose belly fat, trivia about a move star  or encouraging me to click through to Amazon.   There are blogs for everything and anyone.   If you have a lot of time at your disposal you can go down the rabbit hole for a long time as many blogs contain links to other blogs or interesting related articles.    I feel I meet interesting individuals on blogs but if I don't care so much for them personally it can be sufficient if their information has some value to me.   I don't have endure time in their company and I don't have to feel I am using them for their knowledge.   

It's a win-win!

(To let you know, If Llamas could Talk . . . is available free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers for the next few months.)