Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The New Healthy Eating Pyramid

I'm sure you'll agree...this time they've really nailed it.

Thirty five years this has been "evolving", but I'll be buggered if I can tell the difference over that time. 

It is too depressing to look at closely, but apparently tofu, quinoa and soy milk have been added, so the rate of obesity is due for decline any day now.

Monday, 18 May 2015

What price do you put on your privacy?

My optimism runs just deep enough that, while I realise security agencies can probably get my private information no matter what I do, I think it’s worth the hassle making it as difficult for them as possible.

While drafting this post, I forgot that I had my internet running through a VPN, effectively communicating to outsiders that I was sitting in Tokyo. Not surprisingly, when Google thinks you’re in Japan, it gives you Japanese writing to read, so I had to guess which button was “save”. Unfortunately I hit “publish” and discovered later that the handful of people who may drop in here probably thought I was on drugs or drunk.

No matter.

In the past 12-18 months I have learned to use a VPN, encrypt and store my important files, use a password manager instead of letting Google save my passwords, send encrypted messages from my phone and generally be aware of what I’m leaving out for prying eyes. That’s my choice and I think the effort is worth it. I’m not deluded into thinking that makes me untouchable, but I like to believe it’s something.

It absolutely shits me to tears that a human being can claim that Government’s intrusion into their privacy is OK, because they “don’t have anything to hide”. I don’t have the time or energy to debate Edward Snowden’s actions, but his view on this topic is worth quoting:

“You’re inverting the model of responsibility for how rights work. When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

Here in Australia, not a month or two goes by without some hysterical news article being published about a terrorist plot being foiled.  The cops and the politicians are quick to condemn the people arrested, clearly forgetting that being charged with something doesn't actually mean you are guilty. 

So how big is the threat of being killed by a terrorist in Australia?
Holy shit
Some stats that I picked out of “underlying causes of death” for 2013:

24 people died because their appendix
156 died because of a hernia
856 from alcoholic liver disease
70 people died from “unspecified severe protein-energy malnutrition”
18 from “malaise and fatigue”
222 motor cyclists were killed on the roads
334 died from slipping, tripping and stumbling
17 died falling from ladder
14 drowned in the bath
56 choked to death on food
67 died from accidental alcohol poisoning
4,328 diabetes sufferers died
2,520 committed suicide.

It struck me as very sad that suicide is our leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds (348) and 25-34 yr olds (407) and 35-44 yr olds (508). Suicide was the 4th leading cause of death for 45-54 yr olds, at which point heart disease and cancer started to take over.

Just as sad is the data on domestic violence in this country. According to some reports, it is “the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45, with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week.

Amongst all this sadness, one thing I could not put a number to was:

Hopefully you can see what I’m alluding to; that you don’t have to be a statistician to see what is clearly obvious – we have thousands of people killing themselves intentionally, many more dying from shitty nutrition and alcohol related deaths, but in our very recently published national budget, the herd of Arseclowns that is Australia’s Government chose to spend a shitload of tax payers dollars on:

If you’re reading this post and thinking “yeah, but it’s only a matter of time before someone does set off a bomb here”, you may very well be correct. But with all the text I’ve just made you read, none of these arguments are relevant. What it all boils down to, and the only question you have to ask yourself is, “what price am I willing to put on my privacy?”

What threat to your way of life would be so significant and imminent that you are OK with all your private data, correspondence, movements, contacts and financial transactions being recorded by your Government and then potentially passed on to other Governments?

Granted it is not at that point just yet, but storing your metadata is clearly a sign of things to come. The laws that allowed such bullshit were introduced quickly and with little opposition.

Personally, I’m not sure there is a price. If civil war broke out tomorrow and a considerable proportion of our citizens were devoted to murdering the rest of us, I’m pretty sure “the rest of us” would be more concerned with defending ourselves and our families than giving up and handing our most precious possessions to people who cannot be trusted. Maybe that’s na├»ve and ignorant, but we’re talking about extremely unlikely scenarios here.

The chances of me being blown up today or any day in the future in this country are slim to none. Letting the authorities spy on me in return for some vague promise that they’ll protect me from such an event is like paying half my fortnightly wage for smallpox insurance. The cost is ridiculously out of proportion to the return. 

My privacy is worth a great deal to me. What's it worth to you?

Friday, 15 May 2015

Rhetorical questions and Healthy Kids

In everyday life there are many questions that appear rhetorical, because the answer should be so obvious to not require a response. But it seems some people ask them expecting a response. 

A response that is different from “sorry, I don’t know you well enough to answer that truthfully”. Unfortunately you never can tell for sure if someone will respond to a serve of truth with extreme violence.

Some examples of what I consider a rhetorical question include:

What is the best cure for a hangover?
Who will you vote for next election?
Did you watch (insert reality show here) last night?
What is your go-to selfie pose?
Where do you buy your dog’s Halloween costumes?
How long do you think it’ll take for Governments to win the wars on drugs and terror?
Facebook or Twitter?*
Jazz or country music?
Can you recommend a good stockbroker?
Have you read today’s newspaper?
What do you think of my new tattoo?
Would you like to come to my Tupperware party?
Have you heard the word of god?
Would you like to try some of this delicious vegan bacon?

Wikipedia saysAlthough sometimes amusing and even humorous, rhetorical questions are rarely meant for pure, comedic effect.”

Recently I stumbled on to the following web page and just assumed it was one of those rare occasions:

But apparently not, because they went on to answer the question with “there’s no one-size fits all answer” and that’s just not funny at all.

Humour aside, I s’pose the answer is true if you hate your kids and wish them ill health, but I don’t think there are too many sane people with those intentions. Maybe I need to get out more. 
Butter is hard to spread thinly. No contest.
“If you’re a canteen, you should be sticking to the Fresh Tastes @ School Guidelines, which recommend a thin spread of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated margarine over butter.

I’m not a canteen (school tuck shop), but I’m well aware of my own kids’ bipolar canteen list that is full of inconsistencies and nonsense. Anyway, I love a good set of guidelines, so I took a squiz.

Of course it’s exactly the same gibberish you will see in any other nutritional guidelines, but something that did surprise me a little, because I've obviously not been paying attention:

To put that in to perspective, my first-born is ten years old so she should be eating 6-9 serves of cereals each and every day. Given that a ‘serve’ equals:

She will meet the guidelines for good health if she eats: 
  • 12-18 slices of bread; or
  • 6-9 bread rolls; or
  • 6-9 cups of rice, pasta or noodles; or
  • 6-9 bowls of cornflakes.

I almost missed the “extra foods” allowance, of which she’s allowed 1-2 serves a day. Extra foods are: 

So, on top of the 9 salad sandwiches, she can have 8 sweet biscuits or 2 cans of soft drink. Awesome. I bet she can’t wait until she turns 12 when her daily Fanta allowance increases to 3.

Unfortunately, I am quite fond of my beautiful daughter and her ratbag siblings. The Healthy Kids mob might think a kid’s pancreas and brain are there to be tortured, but I don’t.  

Have a lovely day.

*Don’t be offended by the fbook/twitter question. I willingly admit that, perhaps like wheelchairs, social media is very useful for many people – just not me. My non-participation in these forums is probably a reflection of my social-retardation and online paranoia more than anything else.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Recycling outdated advice

I can’t remember why I bought this particular book, but it was probably around the time I decided to take an interest in nutrition and health. 

It’s not a bad book, but after skimming through the few hundred pages of information, I can’t say there was anything mind-blowing or worth taking notes on. Maybe I'm just hard to please.

As far as I could tell, because it was about as vague as a politician’s stance on promises, the author thought that eating like a Japanese person was the way to go. I believe they thought a “Japanese person” ate lots of fish and veggies. Brilliant.

Anyway, suffice to say that is the sort of advice worth recycling, because recycling is something I’m getting pretty good at. Mother’s Day and my wife’s birthday are fairly close to one another, so this year she got something extravagant. I’d like to think I’m super exciting to live with, but in reality there aren't too many surprises when living with Captain Quiet.

Enter a sharp (not really) knife and some scissors: 
This is a lot harder than it looks
Throw in an insanely expensive new phone from South Korea: 
who said phone books were redundant?
And I got to watch my Angel’s facial expression turn from “someone is seriously under-appreciating my value to this family” to “ooh, pretty” in a matter of seconds.

Have a good one.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Grains Council thinks you're stupid and is worried your'e not farting enough

I try to make it a habit to forget about useless bullshit so that my brain can make room for useful stuff. It's a habit that has developed into quite a talent and why I'd forgotten that Australia has a Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). 

The brilliant journos we have here reminded me that they exist because it turns out that the GLNC is worried and that is worth writing articles about. They're worried because Ostrayans are not meeting their daily target of substances that the GLNC have an enormous vested interest in promoting. 

Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me that the GLNC have their own nutrionists, but it did a little bit. This is what one of them looks like:
Mmm, beans in a tin. Let me at 'em.
Besides being worried, they've also been busy interviewing a bunch of locals to determine what they think about farting. The 2014 Australian Grains & Legumes Consumption & Attitudinal Study is breathtaking in its thoroughness. 

"Consumption data from 3,031 Australians aged 2-70 years was collected from a two day food diary and an online survey." 

Ignoring for a minute that this represents roughly 0.013% of the population, that their "study" looks more like a propaganda pamphlet is totally appropriate, because something that struck me fairly quickly was that the people they surveyed maybe weren't so bright.
Aussies are clearly too stupid to appreciate the science of whole grains
Apart from inferring that we are all pretty thick, the GLNC also appear to be suggesting that we are a bunch of child abusers.

"The study found that almost half (48%) of parents limit their child’s intake of grains, putting them at risk of missing out on essential nutrients."

Of course it is not just the very fine GLNC nutritionists that are worried - mainstream nutritionists, that have no history of bias whatsoever, are also alarmed. 

"More than two thirds (70%) of adults are not meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendation of consuming mostly whole grain and 55% are not meeting the whole grain Daily Target Intake of 48 grams."

Shit, even the Yoda of Australian nutritional Jedi knights, Rosemary Stanton, is shitting herself at the thought:  

"She laments Australians are "throwing out the baby and keeping the bathwater” because they are shunning whole grains but eating “the white stuff” like cake and biscuits, as well as Cheezels and Coco Pops."
This would be Rosemary if she wasn't absolutely awful to look at
So there you have it. We're dumb, we're depriving our kids of vital nutrients and we really should be farting a lot more.

How depressing.  

Despite what you think of Anthony Colpo, his book "Wholegrains, Empty Promises" is quite good and is all the reference I need to back up my argument that the GLNC are a bunch of shameless parasitic fuckwits.

Have a good one.