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Monday, September 29, 2014

Most appear to support Justin Trudeau not Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant made a very nasty personal attack on Justin Trudeau. My local paper, The London Free Press, carried a Sun Media piece on the attack in which it admitted Levant may have hit below the belt. May have?

To the paper's credit, it published my Letter to the Editor under the headline "Levant the one who's out of line." The paper also published a letter with an opposing view, as if this added balance to the discussion.

I contend that with a story like this real balance is only achieved by running one comment supporting Levant and an almost limitless number of comments taking Levant to task. For instance, the following is a condensed listing of the comments in the Huffington Post.

Pro Levant:
  • It would be appropriate to ignore that particular reporter, and if any actual rules were broken that avenue should be pursued, but to punish hundreds of reporters who had no control over what was said does not bode well for someone with aspirations for the PMship.

Critical of Levant:

  • It's one of the few things that Trudeau's done that I respect; you don't go after someone's family. You don't call their parents "sluts" and expect them not to react. Frankly, I'm surprised Trudeau didn't hunt down Ezra Levant and beat the living hell out of him. God knows that's what I'd have done if some journalistic hack did that to me.
  • Levant needs to be censured or fired.
  • Trudeau is deserving of an apology . . . 
  • Sun Media is getting to be an embarrassment.
  • I applaud Trudeau for taking this action.
  • I would not give them the time of day either . . . call(ed) parents "sluts" . . .
  • It's about time . . . the media has gone so far off the rails . . .
  • The groom's father and the bride were totally offended by this little weasel..
  • I would be interested to see a poll on what Canadian's think about Justin's personal ban of Quebecor. My guess would be that the majority of Canadians side with Justin on this one. One reason -- because what Levant did was so distasteful and gross it is completely acceptable to expect an apology from the parent company for allowing it to be released to the public. Second reason - very few people really listen to what the Sun has to say about anything nor do they use it as a primary news source so we aren't missing anything with or without them. The media has a right to care about this issue however - there are lots of Sun "journalists" being punished for one mans actions. They want access to Justin and they want to be able to ask the hard hitting questions on the right side of the debate and I think that is great - however, they should think about how important that right is before they allow their "journalists" to abuse it. 
  • I absolutely agree with Trudeau. By boycotting Sun News, all he risks is not being exposed to the twenty or thirty people who watch Levant on a regular basis. I understand he - Levant - has a big family Neither Levant nor Sun News is a credible information source. They're junk. Refusing to talk with Levant or Sun News is akin to turning down an interview with the National Enquirer,
  • "Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's decision to boycott Sun Media over an "offensive" rant by one of its TV personalities is short-sighted, experts say, and may have Canadians questioning his open government stance." Oh shut up already. Anyone who can't empathize with Trudeau stance on this clearly hasn't had a national news organization call their dead or elderly parents "sluts". Honestly, if I were JT, Levant would get a slap in the face!

And my two personal favourites:

  • I think it would be nice if Trudeau's boycott stirred up a little rebellion among the editors and journalists in the dozens of smaller dailies that Sun owns.
  • If Fox News North doesn't fire Levant over this then everyone should boycott them.

The Globe and Mail carried an article looking at Levant's comments. The headline says it all: Justin Trudeau was right to block Sun for Ezra Levant’s attack.

The comments following the Globe article were as one sided in support of Trudeau as the comments following the Huffington Post article.

  • 207 Globe readers agreed with the person who commented, "Levant's remarks are a disgrace to journalism."
  • 143 readers agreed, "No fan of Trudeau... but insulting his mother and father is the stuff of teenagers and lunatics."
  • Another wrote, "Ezra Levant is a raging lunatic who is not a journalist . . . ." 

Lunatic seems to be a popular word when folk are describing the Sun Media personality.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A great game to play with your baby

Isla showed this piece to everyone she could find.

It's not art but it is fun. I have now played this game with two toddlers. Both were about 14 or 15 months old when introduced to this scribble-based fun. Anything involving scribbling is appealing to babies.

Isla, cap in hand, does her part and draws another scribble.
Put a newspaper or large magazine on the floor to protect it from the markers. Don't open the paper out to its full size. Folded is fine. If it is too large, it becomes something to slide on and to cause baby to fall.

Place a white sheet of computer paper on the newspaper and get out some coloured markers and brightly coloured crayons. Crayola washable markers are great. They wash out of clothing and wipe off wood floors without leaving a  mark or even a hint of a stain.

The game: Encourage your baby to take a coloured, washable marker and scribble on the computer paper. This will take very little encouragement. When baby is done, you fill one closed loop in the scribble using a brightly coloured crayon. Colour quickly. You do not want baby to lose interest but this may not be a problem. Isla can stick at this game for up to half an hour.

One of Isla's simpler scribble art pieces.
Now, encourage baby to scribble on the paper again. You and baby are going to take turns: baby scribbles and then you colour. Repeat until you have created what you or baby feels is a work of art or until baby loses interest.

This morning Isla, the baby in my life, came into my room, took a newspaper from a pile and grabbed a couple of sheets of white computer paper from below my printer. She dropped the newspaper to the floor, set the white paper on top and headed off for the bag of crayons and markers I keep on an antique wash stand. The stand is low and the stuff on top easily reached even by a baby.

With everything laid out, Isla headed off to get me. She took me by the hand and led me to where we were going to make art together. She pointed at the paper, stretched out on the floor and set to work.

Isla and Fiona, her sister, 5, worked on this together.
She scribbled, I coloured and we both laughed. It really was great fun. At a certain point, Isla felt the picture was done. She stood up, work of art in hand and ran off at the fastest gait a little toddler can muster. She found her grandmother and proudly showed grandma Judy what she and Gugga had created together.

As I said at the beginning, I've played this game with two babies: sisters Fiona and Isla. Both loved it. It doesn't overtax the toddler's motor skills but it does challenge them -- for instance, Isla loves to take the tops off the markers and then listen for the clicks when she slides the tops back on.

And babies enjoy the opportunity to make choices which this game offers. For instance, Isla likes to vary the colour of the Crayola felt tip marker she uses for the scribbles. She will rummage through the bag of markers and crayons in search of the perfect colour for her scribble. She can be very particular. Her sister, Fiona, when she was a toddler, liked to pick out the crayons I used to colour the loops and she could be very demanding.

Isla ran about the house showing this art to everyone.
Sometimes she likes to fill the page, activating all the space an artist might say, while at other times she prefers a more minimalist approach. Between choosing markers, scribbling and putting the tops back on the markers, this is a game for the baby flirting with independence.

I also believe children enjoy the sharing aspect of this activity. They are sharing an activity with an adult but in an unique manner. Here they are an equal partner. They know this and clearly appreciate it.

A piece by Fiona, Isla's sister. Fiona picked the crayon colours I used.

Since writing this I've been made aware of a number of Internet sites dedicated to children's art. Here are a couple of links:
Scribble Blog: Inspiring Creativity in Parents, Teachers and Kids! (Scribble Town! is interactive.)
Relative Marmalade: A design blog featuring the art of children
Scribble Art: check out the picture gallery

For me life is composed of two elements: art and craft. Art represents the creative side and craft is the skill used to translate creative ideas into concrete objects. Kids have lots of creativity but minimal skill. They are big on art but severely challenged when it comes to craft.

What happens when one combines art (creativity) with craft (skill) in adult amounts? Think Wassily Kandinsky and Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Obesity Paradox

Fat's bad and thinner is better, right? Maybe not. For instance, overweight men with certain diseases of the heart live longer than men of normal weight with the same diseases. For many of us, the idea that fat can be good and thin may be bad is counter-intuitive. Hence the term: obesity paradox.

I have never looked terribly overweight. I'm six feet and at my heaviest I weighed about 215 pounds straight from the shower. These numbers gave me a BMI of 29.2. A BMI from 25 to 30 is said to be overweight, while anything above 30 is, let's be blunt, fat. A BMI greater than 35 is obese. Hit 40 or more and one is morbidly obese. Link: Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Recently, at the urging of my doctors, I've been trying to lose weight. I had my weight down to about 185 pounds before a bowel obstruction forced me to undergo emergency surgery. After being discharged from the hospital, I discovered I had lost ten full pounds. Luckily, I didn't lose any bowel, the surgeon simply removed a tight band of connective tissue. Today, I'm in amazingly good heath. My BMI is 23.7.

I feel good. I'm happy with my new weight and my tummy is almost flat. My friends are not so keen on my new look. "You're too thin," they tell me. "You've got to put some fat on those bones. It's important to have some fat in reserve if and when another health issue surfaces," they say. I used to shake my head "no" when I heard this advice. I have since discovered there is some support for their ideas. In certain cases being somewhat overweight decreases mortality.

In my personal experience, the strongest advocates for keeping some fat on the bones are themselves high on the BMI scale. No paradox here. These people like their weight and want to keep their rotund figures.

But fat people are not the promoters of the obesity paradox. Medical researchers, some of whom were truly puzzled by their findings, are behind this story. T. Jared Bunch, MD, wrote:

I observed the obesity paradox in a published study I conducted while studying at the Mayo Clinic. We looked at 226 people who experienced a heart arrest in the community and were resuscitated. What we found was that people that were slightly overweight (BMI from 25-30) had the highest 5-year survival at 78 percent. People who were underweight had a significantly lower survival at 67 percent, similar to people considered morbidly obese.

In other words, extremes are not good. Being too thin may be bad for you and being way too fat is definitely bad. According to this theory, at six feet I don't want my weight to drop below 140 pounds or climb above 257 pounds. Calculate your BMI and if your number is 40 or more, the obesity paradox is of no concern to you. You are morbidly obese. Lose some weight.

If you are curious as to what weight puts a man of six feet in the BMI sweet-spot, the answer is a weight in pounds from 184 to 221. So, should I put some of the fat back on my bones as recommended by my friends? I think not.

I believe what we are seeing is a failure of the BMI numbers to accurately define healthy weights. Some experts go so far as to claim that the obesity paradox doesn't exist. It is an illusion, a misunderstanding resulting from an overly simplistic way of calculating healthy body weight.

Doctors Vojtech Hainer and Irena Aldhoon-Hainerov wrote in their essay Obesity Paradox Does Exist:

The obesity paradox may be partly explained by the lack of the discriminatory power of BMI to differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass. Higher mortality in the low BMI categories may be due to . . . low muscle mass . . . Many obese patients demonstrate not only increased fat mass but also increased muscle mass. Elderly patients with heart failure who exhibited high BMIs and had improved survival rates also had a better nutrition than many of those patients with lower BMIs.
BMI and triceps skinfold thickness did not predict mortality, while a larger mid-arm muscle area, as a protective factor, did. A composite measure of mid-arm muscle mass and waist circumference was proposed as the most effective predictor of mortality in older men. Men aged 60 to 79 years with low waist circumference and above-median muscle mass demonstrated the lowest mortality rate.

Google "obesity paradox" and you'll find yourself in the middle of controversy. Here's a link to get you started: There's No 'Obesity Paradox' for Stroke, Study Finds. 

If you are still into books. I still am. Visit your local library and borrow The Obesity Paradox by Dr. Carl Lavie. Lavie writes that fat is like real estate: it's location, location, location. Not all fat cells are the same. Abdominal fat is bad, while bottom, hips, upper arms, and thighs is not so bad. For really bad fat, think visceral fat -- the fat surrounding abdominal organs. That stuff can increase fatty acids, the production of inflammatory compounds and create hormones resulting in higher rates of bad cholesterol, blood fat (triglyerides), blood sugar (glucose) and higher blood pressure.

Thin folk with belly fat are often at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease that those considered fat based on their BMI number alone. The truth is, that unlike abdominal fat, saddlebags and thunder thighs may actually be good for you. If you are thinking of liposuction to shrink those difficult to lighten body areas, don't!

Dr. Lavie would like to move the focus from fat to health -- to fitness. As he reports, and I think we all can agree, a person can be exceedingly healthy at many different BMI values. Before putting too much emphasis on a little fat by the BMI standard, improving fitness may deliver far more health benefits for the effort.

Clearly, it's not just total weight that matters; it's where one carries that weight. It's better to be a pear than an apple. Carrying excess weight around the abdomen is bad. Carrying the excess around the hips while keeping the waist narrow is far better. And always try to be fit with good muscle mass. An extremely thin person, with poor muscle mass and no reason to claim they are fit, has more health issues than a mildly overweight person whose fat hides a fit, muscular body.

It may be that as long as you are a small, fit pear, you may well call out triumphantly, "BMI be damned."