I don't profess to know much about or understand American politics. Nonetheless, I tuned into the State of the Union Address last night. I misread the tv guide so I only caught the last thirty minutes of an hour and twenty minutes speech.
The talking points were much as I expected, tax reform, immigration, the wall, the economy. I was more interested and fascinated by the reactions of the audience and Trump's own body language.
He continually paused and looked to his left. He clapped for himself and his facial expressions? Statesmanlike? Over-wrought and bizarre. Behind him Mike Pence and Paul Ryan were like puppets, popped up on their controlling strings at short intervals. They provided the stimulus for the many standing ovations- for the most part by the Republicans. There were heart-rending stories of a soldier, a police officer, a North Korean defector, the parents of a young man who died from his detention in North Korea. Recognizing these people? Fine. But I didn't understand how that had anything to do with the State of the Union.
Most chilling, were the chants of "USA, USA, USA." Again patriotism is good but it was a little "rock star-like" for a political event. It reminded me too much of Hitler and his indoctrinated crowds. Synchronized shouts, "Seig Heil!" and the straight-armed Nazi salute. Trump has fooled/manipulated the Republicans and it's frightening.
Fat shaming has become a thing. The prevailing belief is that calories in = calories out and that if someone is overweight, it is a character flaw of self-indulgence. Fat is much maligned. Who wants it? Instead, we crave the stream-lined, toned look of muscle.
Recent research tells a different story. Fat is an organ with complex, multiple functions. There are three types of fat. Brown fat (used by animals for energy during hibernation) burns energy to produce heat. Beige fat is an intermediate between white and brown fat. White fat stores extra calories and makes you unattractive?? Untrue. Having too much fat (obesity) is a health issue but fat makes hormones and other chemical messengers. Linoleic acid from fat suppresses inflammation and therefore is important as part of the immune system. Eicosanoids arise from linoleic acid and become a category of messengers known as prostaglandins. Protaglandins provide local control of tissues and are important in the body's sensitivity to pain, pregnancy and the induction of labour to initiate the birth process.
Fat helps jump start puberty and is necessary for reproduction. Women whose percentage of body fat falls below 22, lose their menstrual cycle and will not become pregnant. Ballerinas, female body builders and marathon runners may experience this.
Fat and bone are related. Healthy bone needs healthy fat. Both are derived from osteocytes and their fate depends on chemical messengers. Fat develops a messenger to initiate angiogenesis or building of blood vessels. The fat builds itself a circulation, necessary to maintain its ability to store and produce a variety of molecules.
Stem cells, those generalists that can be induced to specialize into other cells, are found in fat. Medicine is finding more and more ways to use stem cells as treatment of serious conditions. These stem cells can be harvested from your own fat and will not cause rejection or other problems.
Some distressing discoveries about fat. Obese or overweight people may actually have better triglyceride and cholesterol counts than their leaner counterparts. Storing extra calories in fat makes you, well, fat but when the molecules are removed from the circulatory system, they can't build up plaques.
Can't lose weight? Even though you maintain a strict diet, an exercise routine and eat less than thinner friends? There is a whole complex system that may be working against your best efforts. Genetics may undermine your weight loss attempts. Some people have inherited a set of genes for "energy efficiency" and they get way more from their food than slimmer people. Some of us are actually losing more in solid waste than others. This was a good thing when populations regularly faced famine; it's not so hot in these times of abundance.
Bacteria and even viruses may change your metabolism and skew it toward storing fat. It seems that some of these microorganisms can interfere with normal chemical messengers and make them ineffective. Fat is stored.
It turns out fat is quite devious once it is developed. It works to maintain itself and dieting and exercise aren't as efficient at burning fat as they should be. Once it's there fat works to maintain its level. That's why yo-yo dieting makes losing the next time so difficult. The best weight control turns out to be not gaining any.
Another annoyance about fat is that women are more susceptible to storing fat than men. When they do diet, one slip (like that slice of pie) dooms their efforts because they're likely to give up. Men might have a few forbidden beers but not view the weakness as failure and return to the diet. Sigh.
So in all of this complexity, are we doomed to obesity? For most of us, no. Diet and exercise will work. The bad news is that losing weight is a total lifestyle change. Once you lose the weight, you can never go back to your former ways of eating. Everything changes. What makes it really tough, is the fat heavy, calorie rich, fiber deficient North American diet.
Fat is necessary and a complex organ. It's like everything else. Moderation is the key.
If you are interested in an in-depth explanation of fat and the research I talked about, try the book,
The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara, PhD.
There were the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Gen Y, and the maligned Millennials. Meet the Coddleds. That's my term but it fits. Today's kids are coddled and overprotected. They seldom do anything that isn't under adult supervision so they have no experience of making their own decisions or dealing with problems on their own.
Schools offer hot breakfasts and hot lunches to students that are not, for the most part, wanting for anything. By the time a kid is in grade 7, he can make his own lunch (earlier, really.) Breakfast can be hot at home, too. Fry an egg, make toast, cook some oatmeal in the microwave. The breakfast sandwich that arrives for those who ordered and paid for it, is cold, gelatinous, and not appetizing. It is fast food at its worst. More time is spent filling forms, collecting money, and distributing hot food than it would take to make or bring your own.
Kids have pre-tests. Not to evaluate what they know before taking a unit but so that they can practise for the real thing. They don't try too hard. Why bother? They'll get another chance and they won't get a zero.
Some kids are bullied. Now everyone is hyper-aware, it seems that the reporting (tattling) of bullying is its newest form.
No sport, activity, or play can be initiated and managed without adults. The tiniest injury is life- threatening and enormously painful. An elementary kid came to me with the tiniest mark on his chin. He had "stabbed" himself with his pencil earlier, (I didn't ask more), and he wanted to go to the office for an ice pack. I told him, no. The "injury" wouldn't warrant a scab. Perhaps he should have gotten the ice for his overheated brain.
Does this over-protectiveness benefit the kids in the long run? NO. They don't know how to make their own decisions, lack basic life skills, and when things go wrong, look for mom, dad or someone else to "fix" everything. They are left without resources they should have developed along the way. Generation Coddled faces a tough road.
I know how blessed and lucky I am to live in the abundance and safety of Canada. I have to worry more about wasting food, than finding it. I have more clothing than I can wear out in the years I have left. I have luxuries people in other countries cannot imagine. I owe this to the men and women who served in WWI, WWII, the Korean Conflict and other peace-keeping missions around the world. Most recently Canadian lives have been lost in Afghanistan. This is so I can enjoy a privileged lifestyle. I'm am not rich by North American standards but if you consider the world, I am materially among the most fortunate.
November 11, at 11th hour, Canadians will gather at cenotaphs and halls to remember. The Canadian Government designated this date for "remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace." November 11th observances will begin with the bugling of the Last Post, followed by two minutes of silence.
I plan to attend our local ceremony which has been moved from the cenotaph to our Communiplex. I hope it is for reasons of space or so that the aging veterans (those left) can be more comfortable. There is something more solemn and authentic about remembering at the Cenotaph.
I wish, as I have said before, I had spoken more with my Dad about his service in WWII. He did not want to talk about it but if I had shown more interest, with time, he might have. Time was something we didn't have; he died when he was 56.
He was a raw prairie farm boy, overseas for six years, fighting in the most terrible battles. Against Rommel in North Africa, up through Sicily and Italy, with time in Holland and Belgium. Nothing would have prepared him for what he saw, what he had to do, and how he would feel when he came back to Canada. He was a quiet man, thoughtful, and I think made more so by his war experiences. He was no general, captain or lieutenant. He was in the artillery and faced action all the time. I was too young and dumb to realize what I owed him.
Overweight and Inactive
If sale of Fitbits and other fitness trackers was an indicator, Canadians should rank among the most fit, slim people on the planet. Instead, we rate as one of the most overweight populations among OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which includes 18 European nations and Canada and the US.) when BMI (body mass indexes) are considered.
How does this make sense? Do we, as Canadians, have worse diets, poor nutrition, no opportunities for exercise or some combination of these things. According to the Stanford University Study, the answer is that we are lazy, couch potatoes.
Ten thousand steps is touted as a goal for walking fitness. The Study found that Hong Kong’s citizens were most active walking an average of 6,880 steps a day. Down the list of countries, Canadians take 4,819 on average, just beating out the Americans with 4,774.
On a local level, we have great opportunities to up our “steps.” Our small town has a network of walking paths that it has been adding to. If you walked them all, you’d be likely to double the 10,000 steps. If you want to go a bit afield, then at Mistahiya, there is a beautiful walking path along the Battle River. Alberta is a winter province but if the weather gets nasty, you can still walk. The Communiplex offers a free walking track that is open to the public most days. There is no charge.
My small town is not unique in offering walking trails. Other communities have the same amenity so people just aren’t taking advantage of these opportunities. It is hard for someone working to find time to “just go for a walk,” but the rewards are many. When you go outside, there is the fresh air, right now the geese fill the sky with their honking, and you always run into someone to say hello to. Nature, human contact, and wildlife. What more could you ask for? Give that Fitbit something to count.
Scruff on the walking path at Mistahiya.
Supervolcano in Yellowstone - Perfect. I often feel like I’m living my own terrifying speculative fiction reality. Watching the news isn’t helpful. When the lead story isn’t celebrity death, divorce, or scandal, it is doom, gloom, and global death. I must be living in the end times.
The president of the United States is no more statesmen than Bart Simpson but he is real. At first I thought that no such bozo could be a candidate for the leadership of the (hopefully) largest democracy and world power. Then the Donald was elected. So far it seems that his accomplishments and goals are to tear down and rescind legislation, trade deals, and American diplomacy. He fires White House Staff (and not the servants) or they quit. The atmosphere is one of fear when it isn’t astonishment at how circus-like the White House has become.
In a year when there have been a record 10 hurricanes, some of them exceedingly strong, climate change deniers exist and want to destroy attempts to undo the travesty wrought upon the planet. Floods have devastated areas of the world and right now California is threatened by wildfires that move so quickly, people haven’t had time to evacuate. The fire moves on leaving ash, and tombstone-like chimneys of homes that were in its path. In BC, fire consumed huge areas during the summer.
Kim Jong Un is frighteningly unstable and North Korea is developing missiles capable of reaching North America. The nuclear warheads to arm them are a reality. Two insane individuals playing with nuclear weapons.
Today scientists report that a Supervolcano under Yellowstone Park could be developing much more quickly than previously predicted. It could throw tons of ash and debris into the air, plunging the planet into a volcanic winter . We are threatened by wild weather, nuclear war and global political instability. Are we all doomed?
I sincerely hope not…not so much for myself, but for my grandchildren, my children and all those young people who must have the opportunity to live to their potential. Hoping for a happy, I want to say ending, but realize I want a happy future for all.
Fidget spinners are little hand-held gadgets, actually invented in the 1990's, that have suddenly caught on with kids. The little toys' blades spin around a central bearing and they come in variety of styles and colours. They can be used to perform tricks and there is an initial knack to learning the basic spin.
Some psychologists tout them as a way for youngsters dealing with ADHD, autism or anxiety to relieve nervous energy and psychological stress. As this kind of tool, the fidget spinner joins a plethora of handheld devices such as fidget cubes and stress balls. These things have been allowed into classrooms as aids to concentration but some teachers are banning the fidget spinner. Why?
If you were ever a ballpoint pen "clicker"at school, this is the type of thing that the stress relieving gadgets are meant to do. The advantage of stress balls and other forms of fiddling with your hands, is that they don't require skill or your attention. The fidget spinner is a visual distraction; as you can see from the illustration, there are "tips and tricks" for its use. This implies conscious thought and once a child is distracted, it's hard to get his attention again. Stress relievers of various kinds are aids for some children (and adults) who find concentration difficult. The problem with the fidget spinner is that it's a toy. Every kid wants one at the moment. Every kid does not suffer from autism, ADHD or anxiety, hence the spinners use should be limited to outside of class. There are plenty of devices already which students employ when feeling anxious. They don't need another distraction and neither do their classmates.
Pingos or hydrolaccoliths are mounds found in Siberia (and our Arctic) formed in permafrost when ice is forced upward and trapped. The base is usually round and the top may be fissured or cratered. Permafrost decay due to global warming has contributed to the development of pingos and when they break through the soil and the ice core melts, craters may form.
Russian scientists have found 7,000 similar alternative pingos in Siberia. The core of these alternates is methyl hydrate, a milky solid made when methane gas and water are mixed and then freeze. As the permafrost warms, methane gas, aka natural gas, is released, swelling upward. It is as though the tundra is developing an acne of methane-filled knobs. Geologists drill into pingos safely when their interior is water but if it is methane, it is dangerous.
The release of methane increases the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and contributes to global climate change. The Arctic is warming faster than other parts of the world and the alternative pingos could be a result. The alternative pingos may have always been a feature of the landscape; they may be one more change caused by increasing world temperatures. Exploding pingos aren't something we want near Oil and Gas exploration and their development is random. At present, we can't predict where they will form.
This pingo-formed crater filled with water to become a lake. Some craters like this have been found with smooth sides, leading scientists to speculate that they were formed by explosions- possibly an alternative pingo blew up?
Methane gas is bubbling out of lakes all over Alaska, our Arctic and Siberia. It is adding to the greenhouse gas load of the atmosphere. Rising temperatures free the methane from the bottom of the lakes and then it contributes to global warming so that the millions of lakes in these region will release more and more methane.
It depresses me. I didn't start out to talk about climate change but I've come around to it. The Trump administration has gutted the EPA and yesterday started to roll back environmental protections the Obama administration introduced. Coal is back in production and oil exploration is freed from environmental constraints if the rollbacks actually go through. Pingos- one more indication of environmental degradation.
Night Will Fall is a 2014 documentary that originated in 1945 as German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. Political concerns and the length of time that filmmaker Sidney Berstein took to get the original to completion, meant it languished incomplete until The Imperial War Museum resurrected the project in 2008; the footage and script had been with them since 1952.
The film begins with the liberation of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp. Josef Kramer, the camp commander and camp guards are taken prisoner. The footage is by military cameramen who had just been assigned to record the Allies as they began the final march into Germany. The film shows original clips of horrors that cannot be unseen. This is not a film for the squeamish or sensitive but it serves as undeniable evidence of the Holocaust and a warning to the world.
There is the film shot by the Russian Military, originally rejected as propaganda, as their forces find Auchwitz and Majdanek camps in Poland. The same atrocities are revealed. Piles of bodies, walking skeletons and smoking crematoria.
Interviews with Russian and Allied Liberators and survivors of the camps all reveal the inhumanity and the reality of hell. Many years later, they struggle to speak about what they saw.
The concern is that we will forget. Bigotry and smug complacency haven't disappeared. Atrocities happen today and we seem not to have learned.
“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall.”
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.