Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Dieting is a preoccupation of most adult Canadians and Americans.  By dieting I mean going off your eating routine and eating by a number of rules.  The problem for most of us is that the regimentation eventually becomes too difficult to continue.  And before you know it we are back to our unhealthy habits.

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times is well aware of this cycle and is on a job where it is very easy to eat an unhealthy diet. His job also gives him time to think about what would be a healthier diet.

Motivation is crucial and Mark deals with it from different angles. The biggest obstacle is the big change and the tight restrictions required by a defined diet.  There is no getting around it most weight reducing diets are a form of torture for many of us.  The idea of having one meal free of most restrictions makes it more bearable.  Mark is also understanding that we all have cravings for things that are not healthy.  He gives you permission to indulge once in awhile.

A vegan diet is healthier than the typical North American diet, but is unappealing to most.  Being healthy is only one of its merits, though and Mark appeals to environmental concerns.  Livestock is a major contributor to greenhouse gases.  Most people don't stop to realize that livestock converts a lot of plants to meat, but the plants could more efficiently feed a larger number of people.  Plus methane from manure is a very significant greenhouse gas.

Mark is advocating a life style change recognizing that it is a more difficult sale than giving desperate people a short term restrictive diet to achieve a goal (however temporary).  The core of the book is to switch from processed foods and meat to more fruits and vegetables and the greater the shift the better.  He also feels that the effort will get easier as time flows.  Ultimately the more effort you put into anything the more you are likely to benefit.

My own experience has been somewhat like a yo-yo diet.  I have in fact on two occasions lost over 30 pounds in a period of a few months, maintained weight for a few years, but found myself gradually reverting to old habits.  The least painful diet was a high fibre diet and later followed by the Fit for Life diet.  Both have had a long lasting effect on me in the fact that I do eat more fruits, vegetables and more fibre and less meat.  Unfortunately I have not lost my interest in meat or sugar and deal with stress by compulsively eating comfort foods.

Mark is aware of this tendency and tries to provide healthy alternatives by way of attractive recipes and dealing with guilt feelings when we let down.  The world has opened up and we are now aware of a much greater variety of food options.  It is true that food corporations have made a science of enticing us to eat very tasty food and delivering greater profit for the shareholders.

Mark wants you to enjoy tasting your food and encourages spices to improve the flavor.  Chewing slowly can be part of the strategy as it helps give a feeling of satisfaction before you have over eaten.

Synopsis:  VB6 requires commitment to eat more plant food, including whole grains; eat less animal products and processed foods and eat much less junk food.

I am glad I read Mark's book and listened to him on the radio.  A life style change has appeal and I have been made a few minor painless changes already and am seriously considering making bigger moves.  If you are conscious of your own bad habits you would do well to read his book and help you move in a better direction.  It is workable if you are willing to give it some effort.

You can see that Mark enjoys food and you can too.  Check out his website

Some thoughts on what happens to farm animals when we convert to veganism:

Friday, November 15, 2013


Most of my adult working life has been in sales of one form or another.  But there was a time I was officially a buyer.  Due to downsizing I was unemployed for awhile when Len, my brother in law had a maternity leave for an advertising media buyer.  I was grateful for the opportunity, but it required a bit of an adjustment--after all I would now be on the other side of the counter!

At first I was probably more sympathetic of sales people and listened to more of them for longer than my predecessor.  After awhile though I began to be annoyed.  There are only so many minutes in a work day and there are other chores for a buyer such as processing orders, reporting on them and listening to the requests of my superiors with lots of details to worry about.  Also I couldn't help but notice that they all claimed to be the best and implied that if I was really doing my job I would buy from them.  There is only so much money and always the buyer has a different perspective than the seller.

I did appreciate sales reps who actually pointed out things I didn't know or that expanded my awareness. Some were understanding of my situation, but most were a steady stream of why I should buy from them.

Needing help I enrolled in a night course for Purchasing at Mohawk College.  There I met the instructor Laura and anticipated a lot of how to beat the sales person rhetoric.  Wrong!  Sales people can provide useful information.  Sales people can troubleshoot.  You can negotiate with most good sales reps. Some of them are nice.

A more specific fear was that the goal of a buyer is to force down the prices.  Naturally sales people are hired to maximize profit and on the other hand buyers are hired to minimize expenses to maximize profits.  Laura pointed out a fair price is one that allows the seller to make enough profit that they can stay in business and provide support service.  If the seller feels they are not making enough profit they will stop negotiating.

The goal of purchasing is similar to that of selling.  To be more efficient and effective at doing a function that is important to a business.  Lots of details to do the job.  Purchasing is concerned about timeliness, value, storage, transportation, billing, credit.  Getting the right product and/or service to get the job done with the optimal profit.

As I have been told by some sales books the ideal is a win-win situation where both sides feel they got what they wanted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Tomorrow is Remembrance Day when we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made on our behalf.  Few of my known relatives fought in World War II, but like most Canadians I am aware that great sacrifices were made by our soldiers overseas.  Lately I have become conscious of another horrible loss from the wars.  The women who were left behind and never reunited with their loved one.

There was an opera, "Mary's Wedding" written in Canada that commemorates these women.  It was a Canadian opera commissioned by Andrew Paul MacDonald and Stephen Massicotte and first performed at the Pacific Opera company in Victoria, British Columbia on November of 2011 and has gone on to be well accepted across Canada.

I had one great aunt who when I knew her was sort of in the way and not just my way.  She was my Grandmother's sister, Florence Gibson.  She always seemed morose and standoffish.  My Grandmother Coakwell was widowed when she was in her forties and took on her sister as a live in companion. My Grandmother was very fond of her grandchildren and many of us spent time at her place.  For me I slept over from a young child to an unemployed university graduate looking for a job.  I had the occasional conversation with Aunt Flo, but never really warmed up to her.

It wasn't until after she died that someone mentioned that my Aunt Flo had had a boyfriend who went off to war.  I don't know if he was killed or like other soldiers came back too damaged.  The war destroyed a lot of potential relationships and deferred others.  We know a bit about the widows, but not so much about the girlfriends.  Many women never even met potential suitors lost in war.

A lot of good men lost their lives in wars and we rightly celebrate their sacrifices that were critical for us to enjoy our life.  They left a lot of women behind who adjusted in a variety of ways, some happy and many not so.

If you would like to learn more about "Mary's Wedding"  check out which includes information a short video clip.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


This post amounts to a bit of a confession, but I bet many of you can identify with some of my activities.

Are you a victim of multi tasking? Multi tasking is a modern pandemic. Too many options and an inability to be satisfied as long as you think something else might be more satisfying.

Do you love reading books? watching movies?  surfing the net? eating? music? sports?  Do you have obligations such as chores?  How about all the hassles of making a living?  So many things you want to do and so many others expected of you.  How can you squeeze it all in?

In a previous blog I noted that it really is impossible to do two things at the same time to a high quality. I used the example of eating and playing music.  I stick to the basic idea that you cannot appreciate eating and listening to music to the ideal maximum at the same time.  But they go well together.  Anyway heard someone suggest the multi tasking helps you get through a lot of boring tasks easier so I am using that as a rationale.

The addiction is hard to give up even when you realize for each task you attempt you are missing something.  I love watching movies and sometimes do so when I am doing household chores or writing blogs, or surfing the net or even working and to be honest I know I am missing something.

Can movies be confusing?--sometimes deliberately and sometimes not.  Have you ever had trouble sorting out the characters?  Or figuring out the plot?  Are we watching a flashback or a flashback of a flashback? Or an imaginary projection?  Or how come so many people think this is an exceptional movie?  If so, we are on the same page which may not be  the page we are supposed to be on.

As a parent of young children I remember having to wait with my young son before going to school.  I got into the habit of watching a movie with him on tape, stopping it as we had to leave for school and continuing the next day.  It is true you get more out of something if you finish it before taking on another task, but it is better to make use of little bits of time the world provides.  In order to watch as many movies as I do, I watch many of them in snatches and often while doing something else.  Along the way I developed the habits I live with today.

I had heard about special features, but for awhile thought of them as merely gimmicks to increase sales.  At a family function talking with my cousin Linda and her husband Derek I explored the idea of special features.  I got inspired to check them out and came to appreciate some of the benefits.

Director commentaries can clear up a lot of confusion.  Also help you to appreciate some details that otherwise would get overlooked.  Featuring details helps you understand.  Some details I never appreciated were with costumes and makeup, but nevertheless felt the effects of efforts made.  A friend of mine, Shawn Hagerman took a film course in university and loved to tell about mistakes his university prof  pointed out in class. One I remember was from "The Graduate" where the characters drive over a bridge in actuality the opposite direction to the supposed--it wasn't the truth, but it wasn't a mistake either.  Lots of movies change details and make all sorts of alterations so that the story will be more understandable or more enjoyable.

Casting is often discussed.  The world is becoming more intertwined with actors crossing national and even linguistic boundaries every day.  Mads Mikkleson, Marion Cotillard, Anupam Kher, Kristen Scott Thomas, Bruno Ganz have been spotted speaking several languages.  I watched Jodie Foster in a French movie.

Music is a feature that adds to my movie enjoyment.  Composers have the problem of having to follow the visual presentation and help set the mood.  One feature on the Three Colors series really demonstrated how music can be very integral to a film.  Another feature showed a composer who collected a variety of sounds to use in movies as a sort of special effect. I watch a lot of Bollywood movies on DVD and have found many have a feature just devoted to song, sometimes following them in sequence reminds me of the movie.  More interesting are features devoted to the making of a song or a general discussion by the composers--I watched my favorites, Shankar Ehsaan Loy on a number of their movie projects.

I should add that I don't like a movie to be overwhelming with special effects, but obviously they can enhance your enjoyment.  I realize that most of what you watch is not what it seems, but the illusion makes the movie better.  Its the overwhelming exaggerations that can get tiring.

Watching the special features is not a short cut, but they can help deepen your understanding.  Hopefully you don't get too distracted.