Monday, 14 November 2011

Journey to British Columbia

Well, today (right now as of 11:00 pm EST) I am leaving from Winnipeg for my new job in BC. I'm really tired; my eyes are closing. There's a lady behind me crying. I guess it was really hard for her to leave.

It's dark, and although the city is still lot up, it is very much asleep. There are very few vehicles on the road, a vast contrast to what it will be like tomorrow morning starting at 7 am. But I will not be here, for I shall be in the rolling prairies of Saskatchewan.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

In Defense of Food: paraphrased

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Eat food:
Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
- Why great grandmother? Because to be safe, we need to go back at least a couple generations, to a time before the advent of most modern foods. (IE., would your great-grandmother be able to recognize yogurt-in-a-tube? Yogurt used to be milk inoculated with a bacterial culture)
- Sub-clause: Don't eat anything incapable of rotting.
Avoid foods products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.
- All of these characteristics are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed to the point where they may no longer be what they purport to be. the have crossed over from foods to food products. Bread used to be simply flour, yeast, water, and a pinch of salt. Go take a look at your bread's ingredient list.
Avoid food products that make health claims.
- For a food product to make health claims on it's package it first must have a package, ie. it's already likely to be a processed than a whole food. And the health claims don't mean much.
Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
- Most supermarkets are laid out in the same way: Processed food products dominate the middle, while the cases of ostensibly fresh food - dairy, produce, meat, and fish - line the walls.
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
- You won't find any processed foods at farmers' markets, and what you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of their taste and nutritional quality. Get to know your farmers; that's how trust is built.
- Sub-clause: Shake the hand that feeds you.

Mostly plants:
Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
- Scientists may disagree about what's so good about eating plants, but they do agree that plants are probably really good for you, and certainly can't hurt. There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. But remember, meat is nutritious food, supplying all the essential amino acids as well as many vitamins and minerals. Just don't eat too much.
You are what you eat eats too.
- That is, the diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and the healthfulness, of the food itself, whether it is meat or milk or eggs. All creatures that we eat are much healthier when they have access to green plants, and some are simply meant to only eat green plants, such as cows and sheep, who are meant to eat only grass. They have much higher nutritional levels too.
If you have the space, buy a freezer.
- When you find a good source of pastured meat, you'll want to buy in quantity. Also allows to buy in bulk from farmers market and freeze the food.
Eat like an omnivore.
- Eat more species of food. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional requirements. Also, eating in greater biodiversity means a greater biodiversity is grown, which is healthier for the soil, plants, animals, and environment, and thus you.
Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
- This can be organic or not. Also, highly processed "organic" foods are little better than conventional food (organic oreos anyone?)
Eat wild foods when you can.
- Many wild greens and meat are highly healthful for us. However, one must take care not to eat too much of wild foods, as many, especially fish and certain types of plants are seriously endangered.
Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
- People who take supplements are generally healthier, but most studies show that the supplements don't appear to work. Said supplement takers tend to be more health conscious, better educated, and more affluent. So be like them, but save your money.
Eat more like the French or the Italian. Or the Japanese. Or the Indian. Or the Greek.
- People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally much healthier than people eating a contemporary Western diet. There are two dimensions to a traditional diet - the foods a culture eats and how they eat them - and both may be equally important to our health.
Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
- In the same way that foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts, dietary patterns seems to be more than the sum of the foods that comprise them.
Have a glass of wine with dinner.
- Alcohol of any kind appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, but the polyphenols in res wine appear to have unique protective qualities. Experts recommend no more than two drinks a day for men, and one for women. Drinking a little every day is better than all at once on the weekend, and drinking with food is better than without it.

Not too much.
Pay more, eat less.
- Pay for quality, instead of quantity - you'll get more nutrients for your buck. Also, if you pay more for it, you're apt to eat less of it. Pay attention to your body, and stop when you're full. Maybe don't go back for seconds. Spend more time on making the food. If you can find the money for TV, internet, second phone line, second (third, fourth, fifth) vehicle, then you can find the money for higher quality food. You might have to cut out one of those things, but are they really needed? Also, if you eat better, higher quality food, you'll have less health problems.
Eat meals.
- Don't snack. Eating meals is a way of socializing and civilizing our children, teaching them manners and the art of conversation. At the dinner table parents can determine portion sizes, model eating and drinking behaviour, and enforce social norms about greed and gluttony and waste. Eating a meal fuels culture.
Do all your eating at a table.
- No, a desk is not a table.
Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.
- Except for the milk and water, food from gas stations are highly processed.
Try not to eat alone.
- Light eaters eat more, and heavy eaters eat less. (If only because we're less likely to stuff ourselves in front of others.) When we eat mindlessly [in front of the TV] and alone, we eat more. Eating together also elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to the ritual of family and community - culture.
Consult your gut.
- Pay attention to your body. Am I really still hungry? Eat slower - it takes about 20 minutes before the brain gets the word that the belly is full. If you take less than that to eat, how will you know? Until you're able to pay attention to your body, try other ways. Serve smaller portions on smaller plates; serve food and beverages from small containers; use glasses that are vertical than horizontal; leave healthy foods in view, unhealthy ones out of view; leave serving bowls in the kitchen rather than on the table to discourage second helpings.
Eat slowly.
- Not just so you'll be more likely to know when to stop. Slow in the sense of deliberate and knowledgeable eating. Eat with a fuller knowledge of all that is involved in bringing a food out of the earth and to the table. Eat from freedom, instead of compulsion. Offer some sort of blessing over the food or grace before the meal, or words that make one reflect on the food.
Cook if you can, and plant a garden.
- To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be fast, cheap, and easy; that food is a product of industry, not nature; that food is fuel, and not a form of communion, with other people as well as with other species - with nature.

All of this information come from the book In defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Most of this is strictly from the third part, chapters two to four (pages 147-201). Much of it is copied verbatim. None of it is my own work, and is provided here strictly for information's sake. I strongly encourage one to read the actual book, as it goes in to a great deal more depth, and is quite fascinating.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Intentional Ignorance and Inconvenient Truths

I have heard people say so many times "Don't tell me. I don't want to know!" Why don't you want to know? What don't you want to know?

If you're saying "No, I don't want to know what happens in that movie." or "Don't tell me the ending of that book." or "No, I don't want to know how to make a car." or "No, I don't want to know what it's like to see someone killed by a bomb.", well, I can fully understand and sympathize with those sentiments.

You don't like that movie, or want to see it yourself; you want to read the book, and have the outcome be a surprise; you're not interested in mechanics; you're not a soldier and/or are squeamish.

However...Someone brings up circumcision. You say "Don't tell me! I don't want to know! I'm just getting it done cause that's what the doctor recommends." Well, why? Why not become fully informed? What if that someone said to you "No health organization in the WORLD recommends the procedure, it is the amputation of a completely normal body part, the procedure is highly painful for infants, anesthesia is rarely used and when it is, is never enough to block the pain completely, and there are often complications such as hemorrhage, infection, damage to the glans, tightness of the skin on the shaft (painful erection), scarring, and death. Would you circumcise your daughter? No, because that's genital mutilation. But it's the same thing on a boy as on a girl - a major, unnecessary, mutilative surgery on a non-consenting minor."
(more info here:

And you go on to say "Don't tell me any more! I don't want to know!" Why? Is it because you don't want to have to face making a decision, one that family and friends may not be happy with? Or perhaps if you face that it may be wrong, you'll need to spend time an effort researching it to find out if these facts are true. Perhaps, once you realize just what it means to circumcise, with all the after-effects, you'll feel obligated to advocate against it. Perhaps you've already circumcised one or more sons, and don't want to face that you just might have been wrong, or you were circumcised yourself, and don't want to face that clearly. Whatever your reasons, why are you willfully choosing to be ignorant on a subject that has a very high impact on yours and others' physical and mental well-being? At least research on it.

There are quite a lot of other parenting topics that a lot of people "don't want to know about it". Why? Look in to it. A lot of people tend to be of the mantra "it didn't hurt me growing up" or "I turned out fine", so why not do the same with my kids. Did you really? Is it really not harming your children?

Another topic that people tend to not want to know about is food. I'm really researching organic farming, and the one book I'm reading, called The Organic Farming Manual (pub date: 2010), says in there that (in regards to what contaminants you should test your water for) "Arsenic, in areas where there are large poultry operations, as it is now routinely added to commercial poultry rations."

Say WHAT? They add arsenic to our chickens - and we eat them? "I don't want to know, don't tell me....I like eating chickens." do I, but I don't like eating chickens that eat arsenic. I could go for an organic chicken, but it would cost more. I could also just ignore/acknowledge that I'm eating chicken which ate arsenic, and eat it anyway.

Potatoes. I recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma. Here's a quote from there. He's talking about a potato farm that is typical of most potato farms that supply potatoes for french fries, and quite possibly general consumption. Page 8:

"It was fifteen thousand acres, divided into 135-acre crop circles. Each circle resembled the green face of tremendous clock with a slowly rotating second hand. That sweeping second hand was the irrigation machine, a pipe more than a thousand feet long that delivered a steady rain of water, fertilizer, and pesticide to the potato plants. The whole farm was managed from a bank of computer monitors in a control room. Sitting in that room, the farmer could, at the flick of a switch, douse his crops with water or whatever chemical he thought they needed.
One of these chemicals was a pesticide called Monitor, used to control bugs. The chemical is so toxic to the nervous system that no one is allowed in the field for five days after it is sprayed. Even if the irrigation machine breaks during that time, farmers won't send a worker out to fix it because the chemical is so dangerous. They'd rather let that whole 135-acres crop of potatoes dry up and die.
That wasn't all. During the growing season, some pesticides get inside the potato plant so that they will kill any bug that takes a bite. But these pesticides mean that people can't eat the potatoes while they're growing, either. After the harvest, the potatoes are stored for six months in a gigantic shed. Here, the chemicals gradually fade until the potatoes are safe to eat. Only then can they be turned into french fries.
That's how we grow potatoes?
I had no idea."

That's what we're eating? Have those chemical levels really faded to a safe level? Is there a safe level for such toxins? Just what are we putting into our bodies. The other major question is: "Where did all those chemicals go?" They leached out of the potatoes, therefore they must have leached into something else. Where? The most obvious answers would be our air, earth, and especially our water. That means contamination.

"But I like eating potatoes. If you keep telling me about all the foods that are bad for me, I won't be able to eat anything!"

I like eating potatoes too. Do I want to support agriculture businesses that promote dousing our foods in [toxic] chemicals though? No. If I know, I can do something about it. I can change my eating practices so that I'm eating organic. I can protest the big business. I can buy locally, organically grow food from my local farmer's market. I can buy organic in the grocery store. Ya, organic is more expensive, but it's far better for the environment. It's also higher in nutrients, and you're paying for the true cost. (If you don't know what I mean by that, research it!)

"I just want to continue doing what I've always done. Change is hard. Besides, it doesn't really affect me and my life."

Well, it's your body, your choice, so you can choose to poison yourself if you want. However, a lot of experts are predicting a food crisis by 2050, some say by 2025. I'm sure you've heard of the unrest in Egypt and other countries in that area. A lot of the unrest is due to them having a food crisis, or put more plainly they are starving, so they are warring, to get more food. So if growing practices and food consumption practices don't change drastically by 2025, or at the latest 2050, you're looking at starving and having to war for more food. Does that affect you now?

Let's say you're 20 years old. that's 14, almost 13 years from now. If your country goes to war for food, you're highly likely to be drafted (that means force-recruited) to fight for your country. Or looking at the later're 60 now. That means that you probably are too old to fight, past reproductive age, sick from many of the chemicals and bacteria that are now prevalent in our foods, air, water, and earth (e.coli outbreak in cabbage anyone?) That means you're useless, and worse than useless: a drain on limited food resources. You and anyone older than that will be the first to have your food supply cut off. Does that affect you now?

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you have the power to enact change, be it in your food choices, parenting styles, choices for your children, schooling, jobs, church, etc.. It might not be a lot of power, but is it power. Sometimes it's enough. Remember the movie Ants? The ants fought back and won against the grasshoppers, because although they each had very little power, together as a cohesive whole they were powerful. If you get enough people together, each of them with a little power, it adds up to a lot of power and sometimes it's enough to overpower and fight off the grasshoppers.

You also have power as an individual. Every time you buy a product, you are endorsing that product, and encouraging business to produce more of it, whatever it is.

Knowledge is power. Stop closing your eyes and ears to the truth simply because it's inconvenient and use that knowledge to enact change in your life, others, your community, county, and even the world.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chicken Manure and Organic Composting

[In regards to composting] 'NOP (National Organic Program) further cautions that "while composting can degrade many organic contaminants, it cannot eliminate heavy metals. In fact, composting concentrates metals, mating the contaminated compost, pound for pound, more potentially hazardous than the manure it was created from. Broiler litter and broiler litter composts have been restricted from the certified organic production in the mid-South largely for this reason. Arsenic-once used in chicken feed as an appetite stimulant and antibiotic-was a particular concern. Since the precise composition of commercial livestock feeds is proprietary information, arsenic may still be an additive in formulations in some regions."'1

Seriously? They're still adding arsenic to chicken feed? To knowingly poison what profits a person to gain more profits for said person, is in my opinion, insanity.

1 Peter V. Fossil (2007). Organic Farming: Everything you need to know. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Jobs, books and printing them, and organic farming.

Recently, I've become very interested in organic farming, and studying up on it. Right now I am reading a book on organic farming, called (surprise, surprise), "Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know" by Peter V. Fossil. It seems rather informative. Not as in-depth as I was hoping, but still has a great deal of information. It is one of four books I took out of the library today, all dealing with the subject of organic farming. However, by reading this book (and writing this blog) I am procrastinating from what I should be doing, which is applying for jobs.

Now speaking of books, I currently work for a printing company. We print books, calendars, maps, yearbooks and more. This is a rather large and well-known printing company (which happens to reside in a town of only 4500 people). They've printed quite a few very well known books, although I'm really not supposed to say what we print. But, to all those authors out there, who are all "Yay! I've written such an exciting book and it's been accepted at the publisher and now it's going to the really exciting part: printing!" it's not exciting. Making books is about the boring-est job ever. A total snooze-fest. Whether it's an exciting new novel that ends up on New York Time's best seller for weeks in a row, or a dry law's really really boring printing the books. Boring, and repetitive, and quite frankly, some [many] of the jobs, a trained monkey can do - literally. Many times, all you have to do, is show up for work, turn off your brain, and go through the motions.

I will say though, it's not a bad job. They don't gyp you of pay like some places try to do. It's relatively cool in summer, and it's kept warm in winter. You're treated pretty decently. It's just...not a stimulating job at all.

Hence why I'm looking for a different job - there are times it feels like my brain is rotting there. I'm really hoping to avoid another labourer job. There's quite a few that are available where I'm planning to move, (oh ya, I'm planning to move), but...really would rather not have that. I think I'd rather be a labourer than work in a fast-food restaurant though. A job at walmart...not sure if that'd rate higher or lower than labourer job. I think it'd rate just a wee bit higher, but not much. I'm going to apply for a bunch of different jobs. What is quite annoying though, is needing to write a different cover letter for each one. Yeesh! Anyway, I'm going to apply. See if I can't get a couple applications done before I go to sleep.

This Blog

My blog is going to be about my interests; whatever I'm focused on today, things I've come across throughout the day or online that have grabbed my attention. Sometimes I see something happening, and it's something I'm passionate about, and want to expound on it. I am interested in so many different things, that sometimes I'm off on a tangent exploring one subject, and get sidetracked and my brain runs off in the opposite direction, hehe.

Anyway, I hope whoever reads this enjoys it (even if no one does).