Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CBC, Vitamin D, and overlooking the real problem

Sometimes journalists and news organisations are guilty of bandwagon jumping.

You've seen it. I've seen it. Media outlets pounce on an event or a report and exhaust us with articles about it. It happened with swine flu, it happens with climate change, it happens with celebrity sex scandals.

Today, at the CBC, it is happening with Vitamin D.

Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," has been in the news quite a bit over the last few years. Health professionals and supplement pushing quacks have been praising its virtues for everything from rickets to cancer. Many of the claims, however, have yet to be substantiated by research.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is why it is added to milk (to avoid rickets in children.) The CBC article exclaims that the bone health of 1.1 million Canadians is at risk.

What irked me most about this article wasn't the glamorous tossing about of the latest health buzz product but the glaring statistic thrown in at the end of the article as an afterthought.

"Researchers also found 41 per cent of Canadian adults had a high total cholesterol level."

I don't know about you, but I would be much more concerned, both as a citizen and a taxpayer, with almost half of the country's adult population at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Currently in Canada the three leading causes of death are cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. In the next 25 years, the percentage of people over the age of 65 is expected to reach or surpass 25% of the total population of the country (courtesy of Statistics Canada.)

What does that mean? More people at risk for heart disease and stroke (which may explain two of the three leading causes of death.) More strain on an already overloaded health care and social support system. More people requiring treatment for cardiovascular disease or suffering the debilitating effects of stroke.

We don't look after our cardiovascular system these days. High cholesterol is one of the most manageable and easily controlled risk factors for heart disease and stroke; this sort of statistic shows that Canadians lack the education or initiative they need to keep themselves heart healthy.

Cardiovascular health isn't "sexy" right now, because you can't take a pill and make it all better. You have to change your bad eating habits and get regular exercise. So, CBC, go ahead and write your national headlines about vitamins and send Canadians flocking to buy supplements. It would be nice, however, to report the real story the statistics tell.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Struggling with labels again

Wow. It's been awhile. I've been AWOL, MIA, all of those things. I have a stack of excuses, most of which are boring and not particularly truthful explanations of what I've been doing since May. Let's leave them be, shall we?

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about being labelled. Why? Well, read the post if you really want to know. Suffice to say, I don't want to be stuck in a box and left there.

Which is why I find myself struggling with the movers once again these days. I'm seven months pregnant and striving mightily to avoid the deaded "mother" label. Not that I mind being a mother–quite the opposite. I'm looking forward to it with equal parts fear and fascination.

No, my problem arises with the comments, the assumptions, the expectations that accompany that particular life change. "Oh, it's the most wonderful/important/fufilling/insert your term here thing you'll ever do with your life."

Really? Truly? My entire life will now be defined by the biological process of passing my genes on to the next generation? If it was so miraculous, it would be a whole lot harder to get pregnant in the first place.

I'm not saying I won't love the kid, or that being a parent isn't something damn important. It just isn't the be all and end all of my life. It's a part of it, a section of the box. I don't think it's selfish or horrible for saying that, either, or that anyone has the right to look down their nose at me for saying so.

I plan on going back to work, maybe even back to school after I have my child. Call me crazy, but I imagine my child will grow into a much more well adjusted individual in a household where his or her parents are personally and professionally fufilled.

To be honest, I haven't received nearly as much flak over the "mother" label as I have the "bride" label. Oh yes, first comes love, then comes...oops. I screwed up the order. After baby comes the wedding, later this summer. And boy have I discovered that I HATE the bridal industry.

I hate the expectations. I hate white dresses. I hate high heels. I hate overpriced goods. I hate assumptions, like that I'll get married in a church, or have speeches, or throw a bouquet. Grumble grumble grumble.

Again, what I hate most is the comment, "Oh, it's the most important/happiest day of your life." Once again, I really hope not. Every day after is going to be one big letdown? No thanks, I'd rather not get married then.

"Every little girl dreams of this day." No, this one didn't. Seriously. It wasn't a dream of mine to walk down the aisle in a frou frou white dress and a veil, or choke down horrible fruitcake and fondant. I was too busy doing little kid things like making mud pies and riding bicycles.

It is an important day, but why is it any more important than the day I started my own business, or graduated from university, or scaled a mountain summit?

I'm not a rabid feminist. I just hate labels.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Diner, Shoreditch, London–a prime example of UK customer service

What kind of service do you expect in a restaurant?

Located in a trendy and busy part of town, this restaurant is called The Diner. It strives to recreate an American burger joint feel in London. The menu? Burgers, all day breakfast, fries and pie, tacked on the wall. Vinyl booths and a visible kitchen. Three wait staff for less than twenty tables.

I know what kind of service I expect in a joint like this. I expect that, for six pounds a burger (fries not included), my basket of food should arrive promptly and taste good. Neither happened.

I've just come back from lunch at this Diner. After waiting 35 minutes for my fish burger to arrive (and watching people who arrived after me get served their food first) I bit into a well-undercooked burger. Fantastic.

Complain? That would require the waitress's attention. My lunch date had finished his lunch before she arrived back at the table (50 minutes after we were first seated) and I had to be back at work. Once she cleared the table, it took another seven minutes and two reminders before she brought the bill, which we then had to go up to the counter and get another waitress to ring through.

I'd excuse her if she was busy, but she was standing fifteen feet from us, polishing silverware. Were the cooks so busy that they could serve an undercooked burger? There were five men cooking, and half the tables were empty.

Customer service in most UK restaurants and pubs is a bit of a joke for the most part. The wait staff generally ignore you, it takes a long time to get food, orders are messed up, and most don't even attempt to be friendly or polite. I've grown used to it, but that doesn't mean I like it.

Today, I've had quite enough. I was hungry, I was spending money in their restaurant, and I wanted my damn food on time and cooked. Is that too much to ask? To get what I paid for? No.

As a comparison, we had a full dinner on Sunday evening at a new Indian restaurant near our house. There were only three wait staff, but we had our entire dinner ordered, served, and eaten (delicious dinner, I might add) in less time than it took to serve me a half-cooked piece of blackened fish in a plastic basket.

So if you are ever in Shoreditch and looking for a burger for lunch, don't go to The Diner on Curtain Road. Come to think of it, don't go to any of their other branches either. Their speciality is disappointment.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Missing in action

Once again, I have be neglecting my posts. This time, it's not a happy reason, like simple laziness.

Please bear with me as I spend some time grieving and recouping from the death of my father. I'll get back as soon as I'm ready.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Knitting is the new drinking

Casting about for a blog topic today, I was constantly distracted by my latest obsession. So now I'm killing the proverbial two birds and writing about said obsession here. What is that, exactly?


Stop laughing now. Really. Knitting.

It's regained popularity as a hobby for men and women in the last decade, but that's not how I got roped (yarned?) into it. I was sucked in by my own frugality.

I started a new job just before Christmas, having been purposely unemployed since the previous April. Needless to say, cash was tight, and I wouldn't receive a paycheque in time to buy baubles for my nieces and nephews.

Foreseeing this in November, I decided that I would re-teach myself the craft my grandmothers had taught me as a child. I knit myself a scarf and then proceeded to knit like fiend and produce seven handmade presents for said siblings' offspring. It also helped to pass the time whilst broke, living in London, and searching for work.

I took a knitting break after that, as knitting related shoulder injuries had taken their toll. Last month, however, I jumped back in and started off knitting something for myself. Yay self!

No simple scarves or hats for me, oh no. Straight to the land of sweaters I went, and knit myself a serviceable vest. How quaint.

I found out something else as well. Yarn is not the yarn of my childhood. Yarn has gone upscale. Mohair, angora, alpaca, merino, cashmere, silk…the first time I walked into the local yarn store, I was sunk.

Now the shelves in my living room are starting to resemble a haberdashery, I spend more time on Ravelry than on Facebook, and I'm developing eye strain problems from knitting in pubs.

The real reason knitting has become an obsession is quite simple, really. It's a time and thought consuming exercise that blocks out every other swirling thought in my busy brain. Stressed as I am over my dad's illness, it isn't any wonder that I've sought some form of escape.

Bring on the DNA tank top, my friend.