Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Out of 11 Countries Surveyed, U.S. Seniors the Most Likely to be Both Sick and Unable to Afford Care

Despite Medicare coverage, older adults in the United States are sicker than those in other countries and face more financial barriers to health care. Note: When it comes to the problem of high cost preventing access to treatment, Canada rates 6th out of 11 countries surveyed. The U.S. is last by a good margin.

Read more: Commonwealth Fund 2017 International Health Policy Seniors Survey

Monday, November 27, 2017

VW Jetta TDI buyback completed and VW made an I'm-sorry-payment, as well.

It's gone. VW has repurchased my 2011 VW Jetta TDI. Plus, the German automobile maker paid me a cash penalty to make amends for their TDI sins. All in all, I got $16,700. I put it all into the purchase of a 2017 VW Jetta Wolfsburg Edition.

My new car comes complete with a TSI badge on the back of the rear deck lid. This announces to the world that this black car, with it's oh-so-conservatively designed exterior, is powered by an engine featuring turbocharged stratified injection. A state-of-the-art, as they say, 1.4-liter four-cylinder combining turbocharging and direct injection. It is VW's latest attempt at a technology with bragging rights attached. I can only hope.

So, let's cut to the chase. What did it cost me out-of-pocket to put a Wolfsburg VW in my garage. The short answer: $2500. That's it. And what will it cost to keep this VW occupying my garage? Well, that is a good question. For a start, as a gasoline burner rather than a diesel, I expect my fuel costs to increase. As well, I now have a monthly $139.44 car payment - a payment that will continue for 84 months.

Originally, I had agreed to an interest rate of .99% and a shorter payback period but when it came time to finalize the deal the interest rate rate had fallen to zero. I decided to leave my money earning 1.9% in my ScotiaBank Momentum account for as long as possible rather than using it to payoff a no-interest loan.

What are my first impressions of my new Jetta? Good but . . . I liked my old Jetta. And as my new Jetta shares many of the same positive features of my old car, to that extent, I like my new Jetta just as well. That said, I can see no great advantage to the keyless door lock system. My old key fob transmitter worked well, in my opinion. 

And my new radio, especially when set to receive Sirius transmissions, seems to me to have safety issues. It encourages a driver to play with the touch-control screen rather than paying complete attention to the road. To change the sound system volume, a set of controls can be found on the steering wheel. If the government thinks cell phones are bad, they should take a look at radios like this one in my new Jetta.

After I get my first fill-up, I'll have more to say.
First Add:

Today I got the auto insurance bill for my new car purchase. My annual insurance bill has gone down by $86.00. A nice surprise. This leaves a December bill of $272.50 to pay.

I am now out a total of $2772.50.
Second Add:

Stopped at Costco for a fill-up:$45.01 (litres) (700+ kms)
To be updated when my wife gets home with car and with info noted at fill-up.

I am now out a total of $2817.51.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

CBC Marketplace and Busting Superfoods

Superfood: a term too good to be true? I thought so. I never bought into the hype. But I guess some folks do and CBC Marketplace set out to burst their bubble: Busting Superfoods.

For the most part, it seemed to be a good show but there were statements that I questioned and not because I am a believer in superfoods. For instance, the program presented a Canadian alternative to some superfood. And what was the alternative: the potato.

I was once a big booster of the potato. Hey, the Irish apparently got by quite nicely on potatoes until the potato famine struck. The lesson seemed to be: oodles of potatoes good, no potatoes, or anything else for that matter, bad.

Well, I was wrong. Oodles of potatoes are not good. One should have a balanced diet. No surprise here. But, and here comes the surprise, potatoes do not necessarily make up a large portion of a correctly balanced diet.

Read this article from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: The problem with potatoes.

The article, to which I linked, warns "a cup of potatoes has a similar effect on blood sugar as a can of cola or a handful of jelly beans." This is something that I've been told during my visits to various doctors related to my fight against heart disease. Go easy on the potatoes, I'm told.

I'm 70. My body does not need more stress and potatoes, especially a good helping of potatoes without the skins, could put my body under stress as it struggles to cope with the resulting surge in blood sugar level.

So, do I avoid potatoes? No. Potatoes, especially with the skins, are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, fibre and magnesium, plus potatoes are low in fat and inexpensive. Just go lightly on the full fat sour cream and pats of butter. Berkeley Wellness, University of California, has a good article looking at the positive side of the potato debate: Don't Drop the Potato.

CBC Marketplace, like potatoes, not bad, but not super either.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bowring goblets may be flawed

This is an add-on. I heard from Bowring and so far my wife and I are the only folk to have encountered problems with these glasses. The local store may have been sent a bad batch. At least, that is the working premise at the moment.

Recently, my wife and I bought some glass goblets from the Bowring store in Northwest London, Ontario. Before we had even paid for the ones we had removed from the shelves and carried to the checkout, we discovered three of the glasses had serious and potentially dangerous flaws. The rims were unfinished, jagged, rough and slightly sharp.

Tonight one of the glasses we did buy broke while my wife was drinking from it. She noticed a line near the top of the bowl. When she inspected it, the top lifted free. The wine glass had broken. The break was so sharp, one might have thought it had been done with a glass cutter.

I've written Bowring warning them that one of the wine glass lines they are carrying may be seriously flawed. If I hear back from the Bowring customer service, I will add their response to this post.

Note the shape of the glass, it is made in China and sold at Bowring. Don't buy any. You have been warned.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A murder, followed by an indignity to the body, featured in the Centennial film Helicopter Canada

Misrepresentation at core of opinion piece.
It’s five a.m. and I can’t sleep. Again. It's been a full week and I’m still upset, haunted by the horrifying story brought into my home and into my consciousness by my local paper, The London Free Press

An Indian was murdered, the body desecrated and the local journalist slipped over the nation-shaming incident with a simple mention of crude talk.

Why do I call the incident nation-shaming? Because the incident is a featured vignette in Helicopter Canada, a film made to celebrate Canada's Centennial.

I watched Helicopter Canada and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. If you’d like to stop here, please do. The following is difficult to write and it will be difficult to read. I am finding it difficult to find a comfortable narrative within which to fit this film into my naive, Canadian psyche. 

At the 40 minute 50 second mark, while a honky-tonk piano plays in the background, the narrator of the film tells us:

The Canadian West is still pretty well strung out but it's held together by legends. (Here a new voice is heard, that of an aged, Western man, possibly a cowboy or an oil man, relating one of the so-called region-binding tales.)

And they started to shoot up ‘round the fort, that is, they were shooting all around the fort and raisin cane there. And at that time they killed an Indian an’ scalped him. They took seven scalps off the one Indian. Now many people think when you talk about a scalp, it’s the whole thing but it’s not. It’s only about the size of a 25-cent piece with a strand of hair. That’s just about the size of it.”

I’m numb. Absolutely numb. And my local newspaper headlines a story on this film with “Lights, camera - misrepresentation!” Misrepresentation? We all wish. And the newspaper story talks about the roundabout, crude terms used in the film. Roundabout? A man was killed. Murdered. The body mutilated, desecrated, scalped. And the entire squalid episode was driven by racial bigotry, racial hatred.

I'd like to say the journalist simply didn't view the film But he clearly did. He tells his readers “an old-timer explains that a ‘scalp’ taken from a skull was only about the size of a quarter.” It is the local paper that is unable to address the horror in anything but the most roundabout way.

The writer found the film, Helicopter Canada, now badly dated. When the Globe and Mail revisited the 50-year-old National Film Board production, that newspaper called the film “cringe worthy.” That's it?

Eugene Boyko, the film's editor/cinematographer, delivered a film that on the surface is pretty light fare: a tongue-in-cheek narrative accompanies consistently spectacular film footage shot entirely from a helicopter. But this film is clearly not just high-end visual fluff, it is not, and never was, just a light-hearted look at Canada. 

At its core, this film is subversive. One of the hidden messages slipped past the sponsoring Centennial Commission in 1967 is things are not always what they seem. Here, I could list example after example supporting this contention but please allow me to move on to another clear message: “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

I am absolutely stunned that so many saw this film on its release and so many more have viewed it over the years but no one, as far as I can tell, has ever gotten passed the honky tonk piano to see, to question, to discuss the horrific way Canada and Canadians treated people of the First Nations.

I'm going to continue digging. Eugene Boyko is simply too good a filmmaker to have included this incident to entertain us. There must be something out there that reveals why this incident is in a film made for Canada's Centennial.

I believe Eugene Boyko is holding a mirror up to Canadians and what that mirror reflects is not always what Canadians want to see. Boyko's film is not ignoble as the opinion writer believes. It is us, us Canadians, who are shown to have an ignoble side.


This post could end here but, if it did, it would not be a complete look at the little, aging, documentary film: Helicopter Canada.

Shooting a film entirely from a helicopter is an awesome undertaking, which director-cinematographer Eugene Boyko pulls it off with great skill and style. 

It must be remembered that Boyko worked before most of the technical advances that make shooting something like now easy. 

He pulled it off using big, heavy, Panavision equipment. Many of his images are simply inspiring.


Next, the choice of the little vignettes could be seen as simply veering toward the quirky but I see more. Sadly, what writer Larry Cornies calls “whimsical” is the tone that causes most folk to miss the underlying problems being addressed.

And there are some fine cinematic moments in Helicopter Canada. Moments that slip by journalist-reviewers unnoticed. The little segment featuring the Bluenose is wonderful. The filming and editing is first rate and the music accompanying the episode is provided by The Mountain City Four featuring Kate and Anna McGarrigle. To have included the McGarrigle sisters in a 1967 film was a stroke of genius.

I talked to film buffs about the movie and the criticism of its being dated. Of course, it’s dated, I was told. It’s a visual time capsule. It is meant to grow old. It was a look at Canada “warts and all.” It carried the message “we have problems but we can solve them.”

God, I hope so.

Lastly, I could not believe what I was hearing when the honky tonk piano started and the talk of the casual murder and mutilation of a First Nations man began. I contacted the National Film Board and they sent me their transcript of the soundtrack. I believe the transcript has errors but nevertheless it does contain the murder-mutilation story.

I don't hear the name Grayson. I hear "and raisin' cane there."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When will London act on the ReThink promise?

London, Ontario, went through quite a time consuming process called ReThink London. It was an urban planning exercise that invited community participation. ReThink was going to put the large southwest Ontario city on the path to denser future development.

It was, in my opinion, a lot of smoke with very little fire. Despite the claims of massive community involvement, I find the participation numbers questionable. All that aside, what I find most interesting is that the future as envisioned by ReThink is not the future in many places but is simply reality today.

This is a great improvement on the big-box shopping mall.
The posted images are screen grabs from Google Streetviews. The two images from Georgia are not artist's conceptions. These are images of a mixed use development in existence today.

The development, a traditional retail and residential blend, even has a movie theatre as part of the mix.
In compact developments, stores front onto streets rather than parking lots.
Mixed use developments, such as this one in Georgia, are springing up throughout the world. London talks the talk but that's where it all stops.

ReThink London promised an end to urban sprawl but unfortunately the ReThink ideas are little more than a gleam in our city planners' eyes.

Lots of parking with a wall separating much of the residential from the commercial.

More than a decade ago, journalist Christine Dirks told readers of The London Free Press about a new urbanist dream development planned for the southwest of London. It would be a first for the city. Talbot Village was the name of the new suburban community. Today the development is nearing completion and the only part of the dream that survived is the name: Talbot Village.

ReThink London. Humbug.

Addendum: And yes, I know the new city plan was not in place when much of Talbot Village was being built. But, mixed use communities are being built not because developers are being forced to build them but because mix use creates sensible developments and profitable ones as well.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Should you eat eggs? Do you feel lucky?

How do I stand on eggs? Are they safe to eat or not? The answer is "yes and no." It really is. And that is the difficulty. There is no one size fits all answer to the egg question.

The right answer depends on you, and your actions depend on how you answer the famous question asked by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry: "Do I feel lucky?"

You see, eggs are safe to eat if you do not suffer from cardiovascular disease, from a build up of plaque in the arteries delivering blood to your heart or brain and elsewhere. But how does one know if their arteries are clear? Well, until tests show they are plugging up, most of us like to believe our arteries are clear. Often we are wrong.

Even though cardiovascular disease afflicts or kills as many as one in two adults in developed countries, we feel lucky. Until, that is, one suffers a heart attack or a stroke. Dying from this is not a long shot. This is not a lottery with long odds. It is not even a dice throw. It is more a coin flip.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports:

A healthy lifestyle pattern may prevent more than 50% of deaths due to ischemic strokes, 80% of sudden cardiac deaths, and 75% of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease. And what exactly is a "healthy lifestyle pattern?"
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Staying active
  • Choosing a healthy diet

And where do eggs fit in a healthy diet? That depends. Again, from the T.H. Chan school:

People who have difficulty controlling their total and LDL cholesterol may want to be cautious about eating egg yolks and instead choose foods made with egg whites. The same is true for people with diabetes. 

Unfortunately, one year you may test well for cholesterol but move into the danger in the future. For many of us, as our age increases so does our cholesterol. I had good readings until I didn't. And I found out I didn't a little late in the game. I thought I was lucky. I wasn't. I no longer eat eggs, or at least not egg yolks. This is at the urging of my heart and stroke specialist.

If you are young and healthy and at little risk of  cardiovascular disease, you can take solace in the fact that  research has shown eating one egg a day is not associated with increased heart disease risk in healthy individuals. But note those last words: "healthy individuals." Read the fine print.

I believe my heart and stroke doctor would tell you not to flip a coin when it comes to your health. You can never be totally confident that you are "healthy." Don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, exercise and eat a healthy diet by keeping saturated fat consumption low. And, to further increase your odds of avoiding what is commonly called heart disease, minimize your consumption of eggs.