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.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Breitbart/Fox contributor found on Opinion page of The London Free Press

Before getting into this post, I'd like to say that I am a retired newspaper staff photographer. I've had connections to newspapers since I was boy. I love newspapers. And many of the seniors with whom I associate also are newspaper junkies. But, and this is the sad part, The London Free Press as operated by Sun Media, and now by Post Media, has broken some of these people's life-long attachments to a daily paper.

They say the paper is too thin. It doesn't have enough local news. These at-one-time-readers are not interested in what happened in Windsor or in other cities with a Post Media paper. And they feel The London Free Press has veered too far to the right. These seniors miss what isn't there and are offended by what is.

The opinion piece at the core of this post is an example of what is chasing the folk I know away from the paper. And the sad thing is the folk running the paper don't appear to care. The opinion piece contained phrases that to folks who follow this stuff, and my friends do, say beware of  the hidden right wing agenda.

It is one thing for the local paper to carry a cost-saving right-wing insert. But when the paper itself has its opinion page contaminated with cheap, head-office bumpf, then readers stop reading The London Free Press. All too sad.

Now, on to my post.

It's tough being a journalist at a small, daily newspaper today. The staff is thin and threatens to get even thinner. The worries concerning job security and even worries about the future of the paper itself are palpable. No one wants to join the ranks of the unemployed. Everyone does their job, no one criticizes and all keep quiet. If I still worked at The London Free Press, even mouthy me might find myself self-muzzling.

With that confession out of the way, I'd like to believe I'd be in Joe Ruscitti's office right now telling him that Peter Morici does not belong on the paper's Opinion page. Ruscitti is the editor in chief at the local paper. Peter Morici is the type of columnist who repels my senior friends.

Recently, the newspaper called for a boycott of L. L. Bean. Why? Because, according to the local journalist behind the call, Morris Dalla Costa, doesn't support anyone who supports the policies of Donald Trump. I thought a boycott was an action demanding a fair amount of thought and deliberation and not just a quick tweet. He assured me that it was "not a difficult concept." (I say the newspaper called for the boycott because the Twitter username attached to the tweet ended with ...atLFPress. If the paper is going to allow their name to be part of a username, the paper must take some responsibility for the tweet.)

Peter Morici is a vocal supporter of many of Donald Trump's positions. He was identified in the paper as "an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland." All true. But he is also a contributor to Breitbart News and Fox News. This important background  information was not forthcoming.

Should Morici's opinion be in my local paper? Certainly, but not on the local Opinion page. It should be in the Post Media section. And Morici should be clearly identified as also appearing in Breitbart News. Steve Bannon, said to be the strategist behind Trump's travel ban, was the former head of Breitbart News. It should also be mentioned that Morici is a frequent on-air contributor to Fox News. Need I say more?

Now, will Morris Dalla Costa be so bold as to tweet out a call to boycott The London Free Press? I doubt it. And yet, by Dalla Costa's logic, he should be calling out the paper, his employer. As he said, it's "not a difficult concept."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Edward R. Murrow was right. Journalists have thin skins.

I'm a happy guy. I'm retired. Nice home. Fine wife and partner. My health could be better but I am confident I'll celebrate my 70th birthday come summer. I'm doing better than my dad and two of his brothers when it comes to longevity and I figure I can't ask for much more. Plus, I've got three lovely granddaughters. For me, personally, life could not be much better.

Up until 2009, I worked at The London Free Press. At that time there was a layoff/buyout underway and a young photographer, with a stay-at-home wife caring for two little boys, faced the loss of his job.

I stepped up and took the buyout. It meant a 25% cut in my company pension along with a big cut to my Canadian Pension Payments. As my wife and I still needed more money to balance our books, my wife also began drawing her CPP and again at a huge discount. I also faced the loss of my drug plan and my dental coverage. But I took the buyout and I never looked back. I have no regrets. It was the right thing to do.

I assist two children in the third world by sending monthly payments plus birthday and Christmas gifts. Speaking of Christmas, this year my wife gave a third world family a selection of farm animals. Also, she paid for the education of a young girl for a year. She did both in my name. Why? She knows that I feel gifts are a waste, at least when given to me. At my age, I have everything I need. So she gives gifts to others in my name. I love that woman. She understands.

That said, I've been surprised at the total lack of understanding shown by many of the professional journalists with whom I once worked. I've learned they have exceedingly thin skins. Do not ask these folk a question. They get their noses painfully out-of-joint.

The other day Morris Dalla Costa posted a tweet on Twitter calling for a boycott of L. L. Bean. I was surprised to see The London Free Press supporting a boycott, especially a boycott that involves not just a distant company in the New England outback but a number of chain outlets right here in London, Ontario. I'm sure Mr. Dalla Costa was unaware of the London connection. I cannot see a reporter/columnist at the paper calling for a boycott of businesses that advertise in the Free Press.

And yes, I think The London Free Press and Post Media would attempt to distance themselves from this tweet. But, as long as the two allow reporters to include a reference to the newspaper in the username of the poster of questionable tweets, they must take some responsibility.

I asked  Mr. Dalla Costa: "Do you really want us to boycott L. L. Bean? Boycotting L. L. Bean will not punish Trump according to the Bangor Daily News." I included a link to the newspaper article.

But L. L. Bean is not the one supporting right-wing policies. The Trump supporter is a board member, a granddaughter of the founder.

The group Grab Your Wallet decided to boycott L.L. Bean because Linda Bean contributed money to a political action committee (PAC) that supported Trump. It seems odd that GYW, and Mr. Dalla Costa, did not target Linda Bean’s own company Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine. Talk about firing quickly and wildly. If you thought only the Donald abused Twitter in this fashion, you now stand corrected.

The direct goal of the L. L. Bean boycott is to force the company to remove Linda Bean from its board of directors. That's it. The boycott is not to financially damage Trump but to damage L. L. Bean, despite the fact that the company being attacked does not appear to support Donald Trump and his policies.

As Rebecca Fishbein argues in the gothamist: Linda Bean is very rich and she's not going to be affected by or learn a lesson from a boycott. On the other hand, LL Bean's employees are not rich and will suffer if enough people stop shopping there.

Let me finish this post with a couple of paragraphs from the Bangor Daily News:

Before you forgo ever buying another flannel shirt from the retailer, you might first consider that in 2015 L.L. Bean employed more than 5,000 year-round workers, many of them in Maine. During the winter holidays, the employment count reached nearly 10,000. L.L. Bean has manufacturing facilities in Brunswick and Lewiston, where more than 400 employees make their products. Undoubtedly those workers hold views that differ from one company leader and from one another.

More important, L.L. Bean has kept is strong presence in Maine — its distribution facility is also located here — though it would likely be more cost efficient to locate many operations elsewhere.

Contrast L. L. Bean with The London Free Press. Jobs that I would have thought impossible to cut have been eliminated. Why even the press has been silenced and the paper is now printed in Hamilton. I've heard rumours that there are now only eleven reporters at paper which was once one of Canada's finest.

Years ago I thought the paper was heading in the wrong direction. One can ask Paul Berton if I made my unhappiness known. Paul listened politely to my all-too-vocal complaints but he didn't threaten me or try to silence me. Paul was, above all, a gentleman.

I cannot say the same for Mr. Dalla Costa. He tweeted to me "get a life" and then blocked me on Twitter.

I stand by original position. I think joining a boycott is a serious matter. Such a move demands careful thought.  As I have suggested, this is the type of Twitter response I expect from someone like, uh like, Donald Trump.