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Friday, February 26, 2010


Hi! This blog is officially on hiatus until sometime in July. But Saturday The London Free Press published my letter (Restoration story was a facade) on the 'stunning' restoration of the Capitol Theatre and neighbouring Bowles Building. With that publicity I thought I better put out the welcome mat.

As you may know, my name is Ken Wightman and I worked for the past thirty some years as a photographer for The London Free Press. A little more than a year ago I took a buyout and I am now retired.

After decades of running about London taking pictures, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing in retirement. The big difference is there is very little money in blogging. I wouldn't recommend blogging for retirement income.

When I left the paper, they took most of my camera gear. This was fair as they owned it. I now shoot everything with a seven-year-old Canon SD10 digital ELPH. I am rather proud of the quality that I have been able to achieve with such a basic, single lens, no telephoto, slide-in-you-pocket camera. Please check out the images that I have uploaded to artwanted. To get back here:

  1. Please click the Alternate Website Link at the bottom left.
  2. You'll be at Rockin' On: London Daily Photo. Click Rockin' On: the blog at the top right.
  3. You're back.

Now as I was saying, I was a photographer. I was not a reporter. I wrote a photo column some years ago. I also did Celebrate the Thames a few years later. But that does not make me a writer. I used to have some excellent backup in the form of some fine editors: Susan Greer, Gary May, Al Chater and others. At times, if I had a question I had folk like Bill Eluchok, now also retired, to run to.

I'm somewhat on my own now --- a one man band. If you find a grammatical error, no surprise. The same goes for spelling. I can be quite creative or careless depending how you want to look at it. I take criticism well, but don't use naughty words. I'll just delete you, well at least your words. (Oh, I use my commas poorly but there is a bug in this software that makes it a lot of trouble to clean up the comma errors. If I get enough complaints, I'll try and do something.)

Now, if you want to read more of my thoughts on the Capitol Theatre and Bowles Building facade rehabilitation, please check out the following links:

London lost its theatre district to the 'burbs

Irreplaceable Buildings: can't be made today

There are more, but really haven't you read enough on this. At least we have two handsome facades. It is time to move on.

I'm the photographer who had the open heart surgery done robotically by da Vinci. Dr. Alan Menkis was at the controls as he performed the first mitral valve repair done robotically in Canada. Because of this, I think about death now and then and smile. If I had not had the surgery, I do not think I'd be here. I'm on overtime and it feels good. Read my post, Something to look forward to..., on facing death with humour and strong wine. The winery in Australia that I featured liked the piece enough to place it on their Facebook page.

Or do a search for Fizzies, or spurtle (there's a search field at the top left of the blog) or check out the cute baby and listen to the taste-corrupting music to which I have been subjecting this child.

If you are still with me, I'm not with you. I'm sorry but it's late and I do have a life --- honest. If you like, you can check out my YouTube video, Giggle Me Baby (Very poor quality but a lovely moment. Listen for the little girl's squeal of delight as the video fades out.)

Or check out some of the food stuff that I've begun uploading to Group Recipes.

Or check out my post on Paris Hilton, or don't, but do watch the YouTube video. Just love the arrangement of Big Spender that they use. (This video is becoming difficult to find. Many copies have been taken down from the Net.)

Ken Wightman
(Rockin' On)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Other blogs to tend


A little more than a year ago I took a buyout after working for more than three decades as a news photographer. It was a shock to the system. No job. No daily demands. I had to hang up my cameras as I walked out the door.

A year ago, the economy was in tatters along with my retirement portfolio. Both were bleeding oodles of green; This was serious financial hemorrhaging. I kept enough money to weather the financial disaster and then I dumped all my spare retirement change into the market. If the financial world was coming to an end, I wasn't going to miss it. We were going down together.

Never spend more than four percent of your retirement portfolio in any given year --- this is an oft repeated rule of thumb which has some validity. Note the word some. This is a very conservative approach and as one gets older, one can comfortably get bolder.

I'm up almost 30 percent since retiring --- the world didn't come to an end --- and I'm well prepared mentally and financially for the next correction. I'm not that old but I am that bold. I'm grabbing a babe, my wife, strapping a suitcase to the back of my Morgan and heading west come the end of May. I'm sure our daughters, son-in-law and granddaughter will keep the home fires burning for us --- then maybe not; It'll be summer.

Come July, maybe earlier, this blog will be revived. It has just been too much fun. But long before that, the end of May, Rockinon: Travel will carry a day by day account of my adventure crossing the States and Canada by English roadster.

This blog was an experiment and in some ways it has failed. It gets thousands of hits and has been linked to by a small but eclectic mix of websites. I'm still getting referrals for my post on preparing for the inevitable after my post made it onto the Anvers Wines Facebook page.

I now have a bottle of Anvers fortified shiraz gathering dust in my 'wine cellar' waiting for the moment. I figured a very good, and also very strong, drink might be in order. (FYI, a friend read my piece and insisted on sampling a bottle. I went back to the wine store and bought a second bottle. It is a very nice wine. I served it before dinner with some cheese.)

But blog visits do not translate into money if the folk doing the visiting are not also hitting the ads --- and you are not. I don't blame you; I rarely hit ads on blogs. But there have been some good ads and those have attracted attention. My best day times 365 would be a very nice sum for a retired blogger but it is not happening. It is much closer to my worst day times 365.

And so I am turning my attention to my photography blog, my financial blog and my travel blog. All will be fun to tackle and all may attract a better, more focused class of ad. The blogging experiment moves into its second year. My goal is to pay the insurance on my two cars with the return from my online stuff. We'll see.

My 'London Daily Photo' has been picked up by two sites tracking the daily photos posted by bloggers all around the world. This has made LDP worth continuing. It gets enough hits to make it worthwhile and it gets me out walking, running, exercising. LDP is good for my health.

One thing I must say before ending this is thank you to all those who have made this year a gas. I do hope we can connect, at least world wide web-wise in the future.

I cannot get over the immense number of comments that I received, and am still receiving, for the stuff I posted to Art Wanted. This is a site for selling art but I just display my stuff. Everything I shot in the past year was done with a little point and shoot; The file sizes are too small to make large, good quality prints.

And I have also enjoyed posting to Group Recipes, the food social network. After one posts enough recipes, the site starts suggesting visits to
other foodie bloggers with whom you appear to share food interests. The algorithm seems to work well as I have found some good recipes in this manner.

I have also learned why journalists like Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of The London Free Press are pulling out their hair. I file stories occasionally to the Digital Journal. I posted a silly little story about a fellow being ejected from a Jazz flight because he had such awful body odour. This little, silly piece of fluff is outdrawing every other news item I have posted. We're talking more than a thousand hits in 24 hours! Aaauuugghh!

As Digital Journal pays better than any of my other online endeavours, I'm going to be devoting a bit more of my time to citizen reporting. I'm slowly building up contacts and getting on various local mailing lists. It's fun.

In closing, if you are new to this blog, please check out some of my favourite posts.


Where were you when . . .

I'd love to get this post out to journalism schools everywhere. It is a good story.

To big to succeed. This one has been hit regularly by newspapers. I wonder how they find it.

Your meet the nicest people on a Honda.

That's me on my Honda. It was a killer machine with a 305cc twin cylinder engine pumping out 33 hp. I rode this bike down to Daytona Beach one Easter break. I have pictures from that week in a box in my basement.

My blog on I.F.Stone was a pleasure to write. Don't know I.F.Stone? Read my post.

More red is redder than less red. I believe this post was hit by governments around the world. Their computers thought it was a post on communism; It isn't.

My post on the factory farming of pigs is still getting a steady stream of hits. Although it got the most hits when the H1N1 flu was on the front pages of the world's papers every day.

Newspapers get so many stories wrong. This should not come as a surprise; Newspapers are simply the daily reports of a staff of fellow human beings. But it does come as a surprise doesn't it. And it will get worse before it gets better as the media giants show more and more staff the door. I like this post on a story that got so mangled and so consistently that the story will never be straightened out.

Lastly, the video, Giggle Me Baby, is terrible. It just screams out for decent lighting. But the moment is beautiful. Don't view this critically. Just view it for the pleasure of watching a baby laughing with pure, innocent pleasure. I love the little squeal of glee as the video fades at the end.


Why no post?

I got a call from a follower who thought I might have posted to London Daily Photo in error. I'll confess I was reaching with my telephone stories in sneaking a picture of my granddaughter onto the London Daily Photo site but the stuff I found was interesting. Yes?

I thought the picture of the little girl ripping off a snack, dining on the yellow pages, was kind of silly. The child is quick but I'm quick too. I got the picture and then both mom and I got the paper from the little grasping fingers. The kid's too young for solid food.

Sorry about the blur but the picture was shot available light at night.


p.s. I posted a couple of stories to Digital Journal if you're interested.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Bread owes flavour pluses to addition of olives

Using the simple bread machine recipe I posted to Group Recipes, the above bread machine loaf is easy to make and delicious to eat.

This bread is very moist, with a lovely mild flavour. It does not taste strongly of olives, despite the addition of three dozen pimento stuffed green olives. It goes very nicely with a light lunch of salad and roast chicken.

This is just one more example of how today's modern kitchen appliances encourage the home preparation of healthy foods.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Microwave and Food Processor Make Soup Simple

There are some advantages to well-equipped modern kitchens. A hundred years ago kitchens were large rooms designed to handle lots of activity. When I was a boy, kitchens in many homes had shrunk to vestiges of their former selves. Today, kitchens are on the rebound. People, both men and women, are cooking again.

This potato and cheddar cheese soup was made using our microwave and food processor. And my wife advises using baking potatoes; She says they make a creamier texture.

In a three litre microwave safe casserole dish, she cooks two tbsp of butter with a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves, and one chopped yellow onion, from two to three minutes on high. Then, she adds five medium potatoes, peeled and diced, along with two cups of low-fat, low-sodium chicken stock. She seasons the mixture with a quarter teaspoon of dried thyme and some freshly ground pepper to taste. This is cooked uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes on high or until potatoes are tender.

She adds no salt as, between the chicken broth and the cheese, there is enough salt in this soup. If folks insist, they can always add some salt at the table.

She purees half the mixture in her food processor and then returns it to the casserole dish, adding two cups of milk. She microwaves this uncovered on high for up to four minutes. This should be well heated but not boiling.

She removes the casserole from the microwave and stirs in one cup of grated, medium-aged, Canadian cheddar cheese. Before serving, she garnishes each bowl with chopped chives, green onions will do in a pinch, and a little grated cheddar to kick up the look.

For the lunch shown, she also served fresh avocado spread on low-sodium crackers. A dribble of fresh lemon juice adds to the flavour.

If you're serving this as a light lunch to company, I always serve a simple white wine. (I don't need much of an excuse to open a bottle of wine --- or crack open a box. Just don't let your guests see the box.)

If you'd like to serve some fresh baked bread with this, try the simple machine bread recipe I posted to Group Recipes. I have also posted this potato and cheese recipe to Group Recipes.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Battle heart failure, win the battle of the bulge

Today's post is another that can be found on the Digital Journal. Years of working in the media are hard to quit cold turkey.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Battle heart failure, cut salt consumption

Today's post appears on the Digital Journal as I get better exposure by filing my real stories to the online newspaper.

Please see:
Battle heart failure, cut salt consumption

The amount of salt in some baby foods is absolutely shocking.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blogger Arrested

In the top right corner of this blog you will see some other blogs that I am doing. Some need a lot of work but one into which I put some effort is London Daily Photo. When I began setting up LDP on Blogger I quickly realized that this was not a unique idea --- a picture a day posted from one's hometown. There are bloggers all over the world doing the same thing.

There are a number of sites dedicated to following and publicizing these daily photo blogs and I am a member of some of them. One my favorites is City Daily Photo. I had problems getting my RSS feed to work properly but with the assistance and encouragement of the folks behind the site I got correctly connected.

Today I read an upsetting announcement on City Daily Photo: Amir Sadeghi, who blogs on Word Press, was arrested in Tehran by Iranian Security Forces who took the daily-photo blogger from the office of the Farhang-e-Ashti newspaper. I gather he may have been a journalist at the Iranian paper.

According to City Daily Photo, this brings the number of journalists arrested in Iran to 55.

Other CDP blogs are also publicizing this man's arrest.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Giggle Me Baby

Unless you have the proverbial heart of stone, you'll find delight in the embedded video shot on the spur of the moment Monday evening.

Fiona, my little granddaughter, hates baths. Baths frighten her. She's a little skittish and the sudden feel of  water sets her off.

Monday evening my wife, Judy, and Fiona's mom tried a new approach. With Judy holding Fiona seated at the edge of the bathroom sink, mom splashed warm water on the little girl's feet. At one point, mom took a colourful bath toy, a little duck, and used it like a squirt gun shooting water on Fiona's feet. The baby was absolutely delighted.

I heard the giggles and grabbed my little camera. Enjoy.

I never had children of my own, at least not as babies. My wife came into our marriage fully equipped. I missed the entire baby experience. (Oh, I did have experience with my sister's children but that was so very long ago; I'd totally forgotten the details surrounding the joys of caring for a baby.)

I watch Fiona and wonder, "What is she thinking? She has no language; She cannot put together a thought using words."

I imagine she thinks in simple bursts that, if we could translate them, would sound like a comic caveman. "Hungry." "Funny." "Interesting." "Friend."

She has a good attitude towards life. She's a very positive little person. If something is awful, the moment it is past she move on. If something grabs her interest, she shares her enjoyment with everyone present. And she takes such great enjoyment from the simplest things. She truly loves life.

I know that we adults are teaching little Fiona, she watches us constantly. She is learning. But, and I find this surprising, I'm watching Fiona and I'm learning. This grandfather thing is not a one-way street.


Talking and wishing not enough

According to the BIZ monday (sic) headline, when it comes to saving heritage properties "Talking and wishing not enough." BIZ monday is a weekly insert produced by The London Free Press in London, Ontario.

No one would argue with that sentiment. A lot of talk surrounded Alma College in St. Thomas and scores of people wished to see the elegant, heritage building saved. Today nothing remains of the century plus college. It was destroyed by fire, in a senseless act of vandalism.

Contrasted with the sad loss of Alma College is the ". . . painstaking restoration of London's old Capitol Theatre and the neighbouring Bowles Building on downtown Dundas St. . . "

The picture at the left shows the "painstaking restoration" of the theatre. If you think this compares rather than contrasts with the Alma College destruction, it is understandable. This parking lot is where the actual auditorium of the Capitol Theatre stood before its sale to the gentleman who saved part of the front facade.

When discussing the fate of the Capitol Theatre, article after article in The London Free Press glosses over the fact that the theatre is gone, demolished, destroyed, flattened and trucked away. My guess is that it was a wise business decision to demolish the old movie hall. I know for a fact that at least one reporter who has covered this story believes the destruction of the theatre was for the best.

There was a London group that wanted to save the theatre, making it into a performing arts centre. The reporter assured me that they were only good for talking and wishing. "They would never have gotten the funding." The reporter argued that Farhi was the theatre's best hope.

Now, you might think that Farhi is a rather rich but naive fellow from some of the stuff written in The Free Press. The paper quotes the influential developer as saying: "You never know what's behind the wall." There could be unexpected problems uncovered that will increase costs. All very true but . . .

As an example of the unexpected encountered while working at the Capitol Theatre and Bowles heritage sites, the paper tells us, "His crews had to deal with brick walls three courses thick." So? This is not unexpected.

Old brick walls are thick, as opposed to modern brick veneer walls. The brick is structurally significant in this older type of construction. The single course of brick used today is just a veneer; It is not load bearing. According to Farhi Holdings Corp. (FHC), "Every . . . renovation or space expansion project is managed by a strong team of professionals who are thoroughly knowledgeable in all aspects of construction . . . " The people working at FHC are not surprised when they encounter a variation of traditional brick wall construction.

The paper also tells us, "That handsome facade visible from Dundas St. had to be bolted to the main structure," as if this was a surprise and an added expense encountered by FHC. I find that very doubtful. Shmuel Farhi is said to be a lover of heritage. He and his team would know that terra cotta is attached to the building with anchors, hangers, bolts, clips, rods, and pins. Anchor failure is very common.

The way the paper tells the story, a reader would think that terra cotta is gone: A building material from the last century, no longer in use. Not true. Architects around the world are re-discovering the advantages of terra cotta for a building finish.

"Nobody's making heritage buildings these days. And every year, the number of survivors is whittled down . . . " Farhi says, "Once they're gone (heritage buildings), they're gone forever."

One could argue with this statement and with a little blogging discover a heritage building or two being rebuilt but I think all would agree that the Capitol Theatre auditorium is gone for good, demolished to make way for a parking lot; That theatre auditorium will never rise from the ashes, or asphalt. It was the Capitol, not the Phoenix, Theatre.

Yet the facade of the Bowles Building did comeback from the dead and it was Farhi himself who performed the magic. According to an earlier story in The Free Press, "The Bowles used to have a terra cotta front, but 80 percent of the 400 tiles were damaged. The decision was made to change all of it to stone that was meticulously carved."

Think carefully about this. If a heritage building is nothing more than a facade, and a new one at that, then a heritage streetscape can be reclaimed. Let's be honest: Nothing apparently remains of the Bowles Building. It's gone --- replaced by new stone mimicking old terra cotta.

Approached this way, one realizes there really is hope for the old downtown --- even the old downtown that is gone, dead and buried. Hmmm. Maybe there is even hope for the Capitol Theatre.

With the right attitude, maybe there is even hope for Alma College.

A few years ago my wife and I visited an ancient Eastern European castle, badly damaged by time, neglect, and the Second World War. The castle was being "restored" but I think "resurrected" would be a more accurate word. Where the walls were originally several feet thick, they were being rebuilt as hollow but but with the original look and proportions. These walls would gain their strength from modern steel beams and modern engineering and not brute size.

When the castle restoration is complete the beams will be hidden and no one will be the wiser unless there is an earthquake; Unlike other old buildings in the area, this castle will remain standing as it is now earthquake resistant thanks to a strong, modern, well-engineered heart.


Monday, February 8, 2010

The London Free Press votes for Steam Whistle

I don't follow beer. I used to like my beer but as the price for a brewski went up and up my consumption went down and down. Today beer is a treat. No brewery will stay in business because of me.

That said, I used to buy Labatt whenever I did buy beer. It was brewed locally and it made me feel that I was supporting local workers. I still have a Blue, if it is available on tap, when I am out at a pub as I was Sunday.

But the Labatt brewery is now owned by AmBev, the fourth-largest brewing operation in the world. Buying Labatt does not come with the same feel-good-buying-Canadian aura it once did. Still, I was surprised to read this recommendation in a recipe in The London Free Press, the Labatt hometown paper: "1 bottle (355ml) Pilsner beer ( Steam Whistle's a good choice)"

Mixing a Pilsner into a recipe is a great leveler. No need to waste one's favourite beer when it is about to be altered with addition of "BBQ seasoning". I was surprised to see the hometown paper wasn't supporting the hometown beer.

And then I realized that The London Free Press is owned by Sun Media and Sun Media is a Toronto-based outfit. The article, written by the Sun's Rita DeMontis, was simply supporting an award-winning, local Toronto brewery.

It's nice to see a paper supporting local business when possible. Nice work Toronto Sun.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Città Slow

In the next day or two the food topic will be a wrap - for now.

A new topic worth some attention has appeared on my radar: Città Slow.

I'm a fellow who is put off by buzzwords. I stiffen when someone talks about placemaking or walkable cities. But Città Slow has grabbed my attention. Maybe it's the Italian.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The New York Times - Serving Size Snafu

The New York Times took a look at serving sizes. For me the most interesting examples were the blueberry muffin and the Healthy Choice soup. The soup carries the seal of the Heart Association.

A half muffin is the usual serving size according to the label. The soup comes in what clearly appears to be a single serving sized bowl ready to be micro-waved. In reality it contains two servings of soup. This is a bowl of soup meant to be shared with a friend. Get out two spoons.

Business Playlist - Video Library - The New York Times

After viewing the NYT video, Rockinon has a four-part series looking at food. If you only have time for one, I suggest reading Part IV.

We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle. Part I
We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle. Part II
We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle. Part III
We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle. Part IV

This topic, the dishonest marketing of our food, is hot right now. The Huffington Post carried a link this weekend to a story looking at dishonest food claims.


Friday, February 5, 2010

We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestye_Part IV

Putting the brakes on the obesity epidemic should be easy. If you consume more calories than you burn, and do this everyday, you will gain weight. It's that simple. On the other hand, if you cut back on calories, and add a little exercise to the mix, you'll lose weight. Again, it's that simple.

Processed foods are notoriously calorie dense and often nutritionally thin. Why are so many people turning to processed foods when the results are as obvious as the thickening waist lines expanding around the world? Paul Berton, the editor-in-chief of The London Free Press has an answer, "We'd rather buy our food prepared (and salty) than make it ourselves."

He's right but I also think a little mean spirited and preachy. (If there is one tone that I can recognize it's preachy.) I think Berton needs a little history lesson.

When I was young most families were supported by only one working parent, usually the father. My father never made a lot of money. My mother told me my father never earned much more than $5000 in any year. Yet, my mother was never forced to work outside the home.

Speaking of home, our home didn't cost a lot; I don't think it was more than $7000 in 1960 when my parents bought the pleasant, two-story, five-bedroom home, built in the 1920s. Our home didn't cost even two times my father's annual wage. (Well, maybe it did on a bad year.)

Today the average wage in Canada is about $42,305 and the average home costs about $332,00 according to The Canadian Real Estate Association. It should come as no surprise that more than three-quarters of mothers with school-aged children are employed, most full-time, or are actively looking for work.

Today parents struggle to juggle multiple responsibilities. Fifty percent of working mothers, and 36 percent of working fathers report having difficulty managing their work and family responsibilities. Stress is on the rise.

Many parents simply do not feel they have the time to cook. Processed foods are time savers and many of them are healthy — at least that's what it says on the label.

And if the processed food product doesn't have the word healthy in the name, often it carries the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check program logo. Many believe the Health Check logo means 'healthy,' 'good for you' and 'approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.'

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

According to The Uniter, Winnipeg's Weekly Urban Journal:
"Although high amounts of sodium are associated with increased health risks leading to strokes and high blood pressure, the Health Check can be found on food products with extremely high levels of sodium. Canned soups with 650mg of sodium per serving still bear the Health Check symbol . . . Dinner entrées are allowed to bear the Health Check symbol with 960mg of sodium per serving."
1500mg of sodium (salt) is all an adult needs in a whole day!
The Health Check program is updating their nutrition criteria as of November 2010. Soups will soon have to contain less than 480mg of sodium; and dinner entrees, less than 720mg.

It's tough out there. Putting good food on the table is even hard for those of us who shun processed foods and have the time to play in the kitchen cooking healthy meals.

Check out the peaches at the top of this post. They are from Chile, imported by Del Monte, and tossed out by my wife. They were hard; They never ripened — not even when left for days to ripen in a bag — they were stringy, dry and tasteless. The food value was nil as they were inedible. 

O.K. I know I shouldn't buy peaches out of season but I did. Forgive me. It won't happen again. Trust me.

Oh well, when it comes to the Chileans it all comes out even. We sent them Coke. And the stuff, unlike the peaches, tastes good. Now they, like the rest of world, are hooked on sugar water.

When I was in the little Saharan town of dusty Douz in Tunisia, I discovered Tunisians quench their thirst with Coke. When I bought a carpet from a desert shop I was offered the choice of traditional mint tea with an almond cookie or I could sip a Coke while we haggled. (I went with the mint tea.)

What do Canadians look for when buying healthy foods. The Heart Check icon is not perfect. How about the Kraft Sensible Solutions flag? It's not perfect either. According to Kraft the Sensible Solutions products cannot have more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat plus trans fat . . . Trans fat? I think not.

Trans fat is related to elevated risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes but even if you read labels you may still be eating trans fat. You see, Health Canada says if a food contains less than 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving it can claim to be "trans fat free."

But stated serving sizes are often rather small. In some cases a consumer can eat three "trans fat free" cookies a day and in a week consume approximately 4 grams of trans fat. And that is just from three cookies over a week. How much trans fat sneaks in the back door and into our diets in year of eating "trans fat free?"

Berton tells us that we eat too much fat. I don't know. Maybe we do. But according to Harvard School of Public Health the low-fat approach hasn't helped Americans control weight or become healthier.

In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied about 45 percent of the calories in the U.S. diet. At that time 13 percent of Americans were obese and under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes. Today Americans take in far less fat, they get only about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils. Yet, 35 percent of Americans are now obese
and 8 percent have diabetes, most with type 2 diabetes.

Why hasn't Paul Berton's suggestion paid off? I admit, I thought he was right. Let's have Harvard's answer:
"Detailed research — much of it done at Harvard — shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn't really linked with weight or disease. What really matters is the type of fat in the diet. Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, do just the opposite. They are good for the heart and most other parts of the body.

What about cholesterol in food? For most people, the mix of fats in the diet influences cholesterol in the bloodstream far more than cholesterol in food does."
According to Harvard, "Eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent between 6 and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths . . . "

Here we really get the last laugh on Chile, they'll be sorry for those peaches; we may be cutting our trans fat use but inexpensive partially hydrogenated oil has become a staple in homes in the developing world. There is a growing epidemic of cardiovascular disease in developing nations around the world.

Slowly, I'm beginning to think there my be something to be said for the eat-organic-movement. And I no longer think vegetarians are giving up an important source of protein. We will be taking another look at food in the coming weeks and maybe giving out some recipes that my wife uses and which help us avoid the worst of the processed food traps.

It's the weekend,
I'm off,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle_Part Three

According to Paul Berton, the editor-in-chief of The London Free Press, "We're killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle."

Paul sees the problem as stuff like snow blowers, food processors, prepared foods and professional sports (we watch 'em, we don't play 'em.) Sounds good except that the obesity epidemic is often growing faster in developing countries. There are not a lot of snow blowers and food processors in those countries. But they do have prepared foods and each year they have more and more of them.

Maybe we should be putting more attention on prepared foods. If we consume more calories than burn, we gain weight. It is that simple. Today's prepared foods make it far easier to consume more calories than are needed. Packed with fats and sugars, many prepared foods propel your calorie consumption into the stratosphere long before you feel full.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Paul Berton asks: "What can be done? . . . We need to do something about this ourselves. And we need to do it soon. We can't afford --- physically, economically or socially --- to ignore it any longer," he says.

And what does Paul suggest? One of the answers he apparently likes is: ". . . make cities more walkable . . . " (This is actually weirder than it sounds on first reading. If we make our cities more walkable, we put the stores, etc., closer to the homes. Walking to the store becomes attractive because it doesn't entail much of a walk. I live in the suburb of Byron in London Ontario and I have no problem walking. Remarkably, my legs work just as well here as they did when I lived downtown.)

Let me suggest another approach: I believe many Canadians, if given clear, healthy choices, will choose health. But the marketplace, when it come to food, is anything but clear. Often food labels are downright misleading.

For instance, Campbell's Healthy Request Chicken Noodle Soup contains 480mg of sodium which they list as 20% of your daily allowance. But Health Canada says 1500mg is about right for an adult. My math says a cup of this soup contains 32 percent of your daily salt allowance. This is not healthy.

I could go on and on about this. I could list lots of food products with healthy sounding names but containing massive amounts of fat. Or others with healthy sounding names but packed with a variety of sugars.

I try and stay away from those prepared foods. Do you know what helps me accomplish this? Let me surprise you: food processors, bread machines and massive stand mixers. For me, these are all part of the answer and not, as Paul argues, part of the problem. It is the year 2010 and we live busy lives. It is not 1910 anymore.

But, thanks to my bread machine, I still have the time to bake my own bread. I control the fat --- French bread has none --- and I control the sugar, too. The flour for this loaf came from the Arva Flour Mills and the flavour of my bread, forgive me, but it came from heaven.

My next and last installment will look at the excellent recommendations of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and how these dovetail nicely with solutions being suggested right around the world.

I'm going for a walk,

Great New York Times link

If you are interested in math but always found it daunting, follow the new series starting today in the New York Times. It sounds like a great introduction to math. Check it out. If it delivers on its promise, it will be well worth your time. It might even be a good read for young students in grade seven or eight. Click the link.

From Fish to Infinity --- NYT

I've always had a certain love for numbers. I can still vividly recall getting scolded in grade one for not memorizing all my multiplication tables. I was asked, "What is five times ten?" I thought for a moment and said, "50." I took a bit too long to answer and so was asked another question from the five times table. This time I took even longer as I answered the question, "What is five times nine?" "45."

The teacher quizzed me, a little boy in grade one, and discovered that I knew how to multiply by ten, just add a zero to the number. I also understood division by two. And I could subtract ones.

To multiply an even number by five I was dividing by two and adding a zero. To multiply an odd number by five I was subtracting one, dividing by two, and finally adding a five as one added a zero when working with ten. Why I thought this was a better approach than simply memorizing the five times multiplication table I'm not sure.

Maybe I thought I had enough math tools. I didn't need anymore. I was just showing an early conservationist bent.
Tomorrow, I am running Part Three: Killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Killing ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle_Part Two

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of The London Free Press, wrote in the pointofview (sic) column: "Many of us smoke too much, eat too much, eat too many of the wrong things, and not nearly enough of us get adequate exercise, whether we're teenagers or aging baby boomers."

He's right, of course. There are folk to be found doing all the above. But in some areas things are looking up. Take smoking. The number of young people smoking regularly or occasionally has dropped over the past decade. (At least by figures going up to 2008.)

As people typically start smoking in their teens, this drop indicates future smoking rates will be lower than today's. At 19.8 percent, you may be interested to know, the smoking rate in Ontario is below the national average.

As good as things look on the smoking front, they look quite the opposite when it comes to the battle of the bulge. And the problem is not confined to Canada. Obesity is a global epidemic affecting about a billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization: "Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies . . ."

"Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity . . . ," these are fueling the global obesity epidemic. (More on this in the next post.)

In Canada 37% of adults are overweight and 24% are obese. Do the math --- 61% of adult Canadians are fat. The situation with children and teens is even more alarming. Among teen boys age 15 to 19, the proportion classified as overweight or obese rose from 14% to 31% between 1981 and 2009. Among teen girls, it increased from 14% to 25%.

I think it is rather simplistic to just damn the lazy Canadians who would "rather buy food prepared (and salty) than make it . . . " In many ways Canadians are trying to eat well. The question is: Why are they so often failing?

Take tea: Per capita consumption of tea has increased to 79.4 litres. Wow! This increase may be partially explained by the widely reported antioxidant properties of some teas. This looks like evidence that Canadians are trying; They do care.

According to Statistics Canada we have more fruit in our diets, more yogurts but less milk, we've increased our chicken while cutting back on our red meat. Oils and fats are on a downward trend, but vegetable consumption is also down and refined sugar use is up.

And where do all these food trends lead? Well, the total daily intake of calories per person has fallen to 2,382 calories, a decline of 131 calories since peaking in 2001. It does appear that if we give Canadian healthy choices, they will take them.

But making healthy choices is not always easy. Tomorrow we'll take a look at how food producers make it difficult to make healthy food choices.

And we'll be taking a look at the key priorities of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I must tell you that as much as I disliked The London Free Press editorial, the news report on the Heart and Stroke Report Card was excellent, even going so far as to touch on the foundation's recommendations.

Are you a fatty? Try the BMI (body mass index) calculator.

I like the following site as it discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the BMI calculations. Nothing is black and white in my world; This is the BMI site for those who live in Rockinon's world.

BMI calculator background information.Lastly, be aware that some people believe BMI can potentially missclassify people as fat, even though their percentage of body fat is not excessive.