Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Just Do It Right the First Time Around!

I'm participating in meat shares from the Culinarium this year; we're getting chicken and pork. But, I'm still looking to get naturally raised eggs and perhaps rethinking beef. *sigh* beef... the thought is kind of a sore spot for me. Why? Because a few weeks ago, I got a telephone call at work from the Culinarium and they told me "we're really sorry to have to inform you that your cow died... prematurely". At first, I thought, ok so I get this thing earlier than expected. WRONG. The cow died having fallen over and being unable to pick itself back up!! No.joke. Something about a cows' body being so large that it basically crushed itself (why would nature make such a faulty animal?!)

You have no idea HOW upset 2 of the share participants were, when I broke the news to them. They even asked me if it would be ok to ask if we'd be able to get the carcass anyways.

I've gotten a chicken share last year and it was absolutely delish. You have not had real chicken until you've eaten this stuff. These chickens are raised the old way: they peck in the dirt, they eat bugs, they roost and nest and do the normal stuff that chickens do. No cages and no immature chickens sent to slaughter. Their bones were strong and well developed. The meat was flavourful and juicy.

Anyways! I'm probably making you readers very hungry! Getting back to the objective here. I'm going to have a brief overview of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and our diets.

Both fatty acids are considered essential to human diets because we're unable to produce these on our own. We must obtain these sources externally and lucky us, they're found primarily in marine and plant oils. The omega-6s are easily found in much of our food so we rarely have trouble getting enough in our diets--it's the omega-3s which many of us lack. In the 1970s, a study about the Greenland Inuit Tribe who consumed copious amounts of fish showed very low cardiovascular disease in the people. It's funny how while the omega-3 has a bunch of health benefits connected with it, the omega-6 has many less. It actually competes with the omega-3 and since it's so easy for Western diets to have omega-6s, there's a tendency to have issues related to an excess of omega-6s.

I'm not certain if the negative light about omega-6s is because it's so readily available in our diets and thus, for our bodies, but I do know that we should be more conscious about getting more omega-3s where we can. Omega-6s are also connected with inflammatory conditions, cancer and other diseases; the opposite of those which omega-3s are protecting against!

It's just unfortunate that the way the Western diet is structured, it's very high in omega-6s and our current agricultural practices impart a higher omega-6 concentration. Instead, we take all these supplements to compensate for what we lack. But, nobody thinks about just paying for better meat/food and dropping the supplements all together. Why? Grass-fed animals have much higher omega-3 concentrations in their bodies, than grain fed ones! Seems like nature got it right the first time and while we've been able to manipulate nature for the biggest bang for our buck, it is eventually all even: we use supplements but could just have it all in our food if it were done right the first time around!

(Next topic/theme: Loblaw and their changes to become more socially responsible)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's All About ME!

My blog, my posts, my photos... me me ME!

I've been nominated for the Living Passionately Award, by my good friend and fellow blogger, Amber! I'm feeling particularly sparkly from this nomination considering I don't have a wide readership as it is and so I never thought I'd be nominated for anything! Regardless, I'm flattered to have been thought of, for this award since I've been recently struggling with difficulties with a waning creativity in this blog.

So, here's the way the award works...
  1. Post the rules: http://notlostjustweird.com/2012/05/14/living-passionately-award/
  2. Do something out of the ordinary (for me, I presume)
  3. Nominate other bloggers whose passion and awesomeness I admire
  1. Done, see above.
  2. I haven't turned the boob tube on for several weeks now. In fact, it's been so long that I'm behind on Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries, Nikita, Big Bang Theory... all shows I was keeping up on, very regularly at one point. I think that I'm more than half a dozen or so weeks behind. Usually a difficult task for me!
  3. Who to nominate... I have to admit, I don't follow too many other blog because I barely have the time to keep up on my own. But, I love artsy crafts (if I ever find the time) and I think this blog is freakin' awesome: Crayons & Milk

(p.s. this is a temporary pause until my next post)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unknown, Known, Forgotten and Wall.e

During my fourth year at UW, I participated in a senior honours project that focused on aspects of the Alberta Oil Sands. I wrote a paper and did my research project about microbial degradation of the reclamation ponds. With 2 semesters of work, little was actually accomplished. But, I'll never forget about the process of oil sands extraction and the implications about the process.

Several years later, I saw a coffee table book at Indigo of a massive oil field and was drawn to the sheer scale of the photograph. I flipped through the pages and saw things that most people probably don't even think about: the actual "mining" of our intermediate goods. The book was the work of Edward Burtynsky on Oil.

(at the time, he also had the same exhibit on, at the Royal Ontario Museum)

Mr. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who's chosen (or maybe drawn to) waste and contemporary landscape as his primary subjects. In an interview (which actually inspired me to look further into this photographer), he talks about a "critical balance" between humans and our planet Earth. He is not by any means an environmentalist, but through his art, he strives to bring the audience closer with the history and travels of our goods; from beginning to end.

He talks about a three-stage history that all things endure, in a human's grasp... the first being the unknown origin, the second where the item is useful/known to the human and finally, the stage where the item is deemed useless/disposable. His photography brings you into the first and third stages of this history and it is here, that one realizes the magnitude of our footprint on the Earth. I don't mean to tote the whole "environmental" record here but I think most people have no real concept of where our things come from. We know the items as it is now--how we see, want and use it. But, do we know how it was made? Where the parts came from?

I'm typing away on this laptop and I wonder, where did all the parts come from? and what happens when its reached the end of its useful days?

These are some of the questions that his artwork brings to the surface. It may not get everyone to immediately realize that their consumption has a consequence somewhere but it does get you to realize the reality of it all. We live in a society far removed from traditional manufacturing or intermediate good mining... Our technology advances have moved many of us to a place where most are far removed from the base source of where our consumable products come from; and where they go.

Do you personally know a miner? a farmer? a waste procurement specialist? I don't and I think most of us are really caught up in our fast paced North American lifestyles of the shiny lights. We seemingly live in a cycle of excess whereby we use something only to soon dispose of it.

Running enthusiasts are told in articles again and again, that running shoes have a life span of approximately 200-500mi and even when they don't look used, they're likely at the end of their "cushy" lifespan. But, what are you supposed to do with those gently used runners? Do you just chuck em into the garbage? I"ve looked. There are plenty of donation programs that ship the shoes to those "less fortunate" people in developing countries but at some point, even they'll use up the shoes. And I wonder, do these countries even have a program to recycle something like running shoes? We don't even have a particularly good program in North America. How could we assume that these non-developed nations to have something like that??? Sounds like we're just shifting our problem somewhere else. Anyone else see a problem here?

One of these days, we're going to have to leave our planet to live in a giant spaceship because we've turned our wonderful little planet into an exhausted wasteland.

(Next theme/topic: omega 3s and omega 6s in our diet)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Information Highway is Watching

You open up your gmail account or even your Facebook account... and you see a listing of suggestions: advertisements to something you were looking for, or maybe sent an email to your friend about this product/service and now you see a brief ad. Or better yet, you get a listing of people to add as friends on your Facebook account. But by golly, this seemingly inert website is... reading my mind??

Today, Facebook had their largely anticipated IPO. But, what exactly is Facebook selling? Like many people, I have an account and I sign-in regularly and check status updates about people I know, see what's new and then log out. Not once have I paid a penny, to use their services. So, what exactly is the big hype about Facebook?

Welcome to "big data". Big data is essentially gargantuan data sets that are difficult to work with by traditional database standards. We're talking in the order of magnitude of zettabytes. I can't even begin to fathom how big that is.

Going back to our topic of the Facebook IPO: how does this relate? Well, Facebook recently launched their "timeline" theme and I am pretty certain (I refuse to change over voluntarily--I'd rather go kicking and screaming) that the information goes as far back as the day you signed up your account. I was one of the early users back in 2005 or 2006; it's been 6 years and there are currently, over 901 million users. That's 13% of the world's entire population. To further put this into perspective, Canada's population is around 34 million, the US is around 312 million, China is at 1.33 billion and India is 1.17 billion. That is a lot of users on one website, who are probably checking in on a daily basis.

As it stands, Facebook's main source of revenue is through marketing. Why would that be surprising? It's not. Afterall, the amount of information they have on each member is vast and likely quite detailed. They'll know your sign-in habits, your social circles, your vacations, your feelings and moods, your likes, hobbies... they're even able to customize a lot of their marketing bits and suggest to you, new friends whom you're likely to accept because they probably got it right!

There is so much data that they have access to, that it's kind of scary how much they actually know about you, without you actively permitting this information to be shared. You think it's private and safe but Facebook does technically own anything that you put up there. And since they're out there looking at how to make more money (now that they have their IPO out), it's going to be time to hire some more data miners/architects who know how to manipulate this massive "big data" that Facebook is sitting on and in short, start taking over the world!

Well, maybe not taking over the world per se but imagine the amount of information they have access to. Many companies are currently already digging into their mines of data and getting involved with their customers on a more personal level without actually needing a person to actively review each account. There are probably a bunch of algorithms that are created and inserted into their program and ta-da: instant personalized advertisement.

Check out this article about big data and how Amazon is using it in their marketing: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669551/how-companies-like-amazon-use-big-data-to-make-you-love-them

I don't know if this is all bad, or if it's all good. Some conspiracy theorists might consider this a wolf in sheep's clothing while others may consider this a godsend tool to best exploit efficiencies. While most groups/companies are likely just trying to make money, who's to say that they won't start manipulating you needlessly to make a buck? Afterall, the road to hell is paved in good intentions. Do have the enough self control and common sense to know better and then make a conscious effort/decision? The argument's still out but I know I still like to have most of my personal life and habits to stay strictly mine...

(Next theme/topic: photographer Ed Burtunsky)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Creating Purpose

I was reviewing my posts with Amber and I realized that I've been either slacking off because I have nothing relevant to write about, or I write something that is a less than stellar performance. Usually it's one of those entries that make you cringe a little when you read them sometime in the (sometimes, distant) future. That can't be good. It's worse than junk food... it's filler! And nobody likes filler. If McDonald's can use real chicken and cut the filler in the chicken mcnuggets, then so can I! I mean the filler crap on this blog...

I thought of unifying the whole blog to something that inspires me and something that can create some form of direction or purpose. I started thinking about something that could fit this role... I like to learn about different aspects of our world. I want to "know it all". Of course, certain topics whet my appetite more but this is certainly a good start in the right direction.

I'm committing myself to the next post topic: big data. What is it? What does it do? Exploiting it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Evening with Two Great Minds


I almost met David Suzuki in person, last week. I was practically in his breathing space. And then I panicked and turned around to go to work instead.

Apparently Mr. Suzuki was in fact in Toronto and was filming something at the CBC. Just my luck to be too yellow to approach the man for a once in a lifetime opportunity. I did though, get the advantage to be informed about the upcoming event with Mr. Suzuki and award winning author and journalist, Richard Louv.

With being Canadian, we've probably got the household name of Suzuki down pat. We know who he is, what he has done and what he stands for. But, do you know about Richard Louv? I don't.

My brother sent me a link to an article about the "nature deficit disorder" and how it has some substantial scientific research associated with it. Enter, Mr Louv! Who knew that the book my brother was talking about, "Last Child in the Woods" is written by the same man that the DSF was pairing together with Mr Suzuki that evening! I don't know about you but I would be happy to pay the fee to go... it sounds like it could be an exciting evening!

Monday, May 14, 2012

We're seeing the "Fiscal Cliff"

So it seems that we're standing at a sort of cliff of the fiscal kind.

I was chatting with one of the directors for the investment group within our larger group and were chatting up on my persistent investment account alerts and how I am watching things too closely--particularly the stocks that I recently acquired. I tell him his Bloomberg terminal looks very retro and the lines and colours on his dual monitors look really pretty.

During our conversation, the topic about macroeconomics and the very immediacy of it all is what makes it so exciting, came up. He said he loves watching the "soap opera of the world" unfold everyday... following the stupid and smart choices that governments, people and companies make. Me? I just panic about the drop in ~5% that my stock picks make. *sigh*

Today, I learned about the "fiscal cliff". This new term focuses around the $500 billion worth of tax cuts and spending boosts that are expected to expire at the end of 2012. According to my textbook, this was stuff that the Bush administration put together. And according to the same chapter (chapter 1), this whole thing was a total debacale. I can't believe how someone could suggest that you continue to spend money and permit tax cuts/credits yet take nothing in (i.e. taxes). There is no business I have ever heard of (even not for profits of charities) that run their organization as such!

It's not just the deficit that is the problem... but that they're not in a pickle and if they do increase taxes, they'll make consumers/people upset. If you don't, they'll go further into debt (we're talking in the trillions here).

Looks like the US government has a big dilemma ahead of them... but to say that we're not affected would be foolish. Afterall, the US happens to be one of our biggest consumers....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why fix it if it ain't broke?

Today I wore my watch. Do any of you even still own watches? It's becoming more and more something of the past. I got my first watch (it was white, I remember) when I was 7 or 8. I insisted wearing it on my right wrist by my dad told me that it wasn't normal and wasn't going to work for a rightie (though he's not right, I do understand now, why that is the case). People bought good watches with the intent to keep them for a long time. Jon Osterman's father was a watchmaker who originally expected his son to follow his footsteps. When Jon was 16, the US drops the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. With his father being confronted with the undeniable facts of nuclear physics, he told Jon to stop studying watchmaking and turn to nuclear physics.

I bet a lot of people thought this way. It's understandable, I think, for people to desire to move away from a seemingly archaic profession. Look at farmers: there are less and less family run farms. In fact, I believe that it is ~1% of our food that comes from the "family farm". That says a lot.

Our society looks at technological advances and believed "this is the next big thing". And who would not want to know what the next "big thing" is. We all want to get in on it so that we can be the first to take advantage of it. It's usually going to make our lives easier.

But, despite all this potential for greatness, I wonder if there is something to be said for something that took many years to develop and exists for many years as status quo.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stewards of the Earth

Several weeks ago, I had more time and I attended the Green Living show. I heard about it through my monthly ROM newsletter and it included a free admission for 2, to go. My first draw was, unabashedly, the fact that it was free. I wasn't certain what I was in for and was concerned that it might be a hippie-dippie event with some lame stuff all collected together with no real common element to link them together.

Boy was I wrong.

The event was extremely well attended and there were many people in attendance. The first stuff I saw was some home improvement vendors that didn't interest me much because.. well, I don't have a home to do things to. Although, I think the idea of completely living off the grid to be really enticing it isn't something viable right now. Maybe one day.

I saw many intriguing things that day: reclaimed wood used for furniture or accent pieces, a soapless laundry ball, artisan food vendors, rain barrels, organic clothing, the ROM exhibit about oceans, Loblaw's sustainable cooking show, the Yike Bike, buckwheat pillows, glass straws... so many interesting alternatives!

There was an argument that one of my more "activist" type friends had with me last year, about "being responsible". The idea is something I've been trying to incorporate into my life for a long time since I do understand that while we live on Earth, we are only temporarily borrowing it from our future generations. If we ruin things now, there won't be anything left for anyone else. At the same time, our society progresses and continues to thrive because of the very fact that we are able to exploit something to our benefit so that we can (for example) go to a store to buy our food and expect it to be in exactly the order we always know it as... not have to go foraging or hunting for god knows what.

For example, about our food: science has come a long way and we know how to tinker with animals, plants and their genes so that we can get what we want. While some natural breeding selection is necessary for our food (this is only one aspect of this whole thing) to be accommodated for our changing lifestyle as a society, I think there is always a minimum standard that should be maintained in terms of a natural method to raise animals where humane practices are executed.

The show was a great opportunity for me to find more alternatives to activities and items that I do enjoy and want to continue to enjoy, but making a more responsible choice that won't impact the Earth and others negatively; afterall, what's good for mankind is good for each one of us.

Time Capsule: 1996

I was thinking about my dad's ask to get the Walkman I used to have. I went to the basement to check out the boxes I put into storage.

I ended up sifting through the box and discovering things long forgotten...
1. a bright pink, green, yellow fanny pack
2. pen pal letters
3. a childhood kitty book
4. the cultural dolls that I got over a Christmas when my mom told me (years later) that she and my dad had to get up in the middle of the night, go to the car to bring the "Santa" presents in
5. embarrassing childhood photos
6. the Moist fanclub package
7. pocket dictionary and thesaurus
8. giant 3 wick candle (unused)

Among some other paper documentation. The nostalgia swept over me... what was I doing in 1996? I was 14 and in grade 9. Wow... so many awkward and uncomfortable memories. I don't think many people could say that their grade 9 year was necessarily stellar. It just... was.

I wonder where my next "time capsule" will take me!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Earth Continues to Amaze Me

My trip to the western region of Canada was more than just a trek to revitalize a part of me that was long thought to have been gone... but to experience the vastness of our country and the sheer awe inspiring landscape of our earth. Never have I felt more miniscule, than when standing at the foothills of Calgary while facing the Canadian Rockies. Toronto is a busy city with much buzzing about and there's always something to do or somewhere to go but there's people around and not a very diverse landscape. Even when driving to Waterloo or north of the city, the landscape is this calm and comfortable farmland and mixed forest. It's almost safe and... tame.

But, when you're staring at the Canadian Rockies, you're instantly reminded about how little you are and how insignificant the space you take up, is. These mountains are enormous, solid, impending and immovable; we're reminded about nature and the actual sheer blind strength that it has over us puny humans. Just amazing and humbling.

Keep in mind, these photos are in Banff and no longer at the foothills of the mountains.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Prodigal Geek

I never got into science fiction, horror and fantasy... I was just always drawn to those genres--be it television, cinema or literature. It's part of who I am. So, it was no surprise that I got really excited when a marketing piece came on The New VR. Anyone remember? It's a Barrie television station that has affiliation with CityTV. The commercial featured a series of sci-fi and action stars that I followed on my weekends. One of them, was the amazing Hudson Leick of Xena: Warrior Princess. I am pretty sure that I wet myself from excitement like a miniature Chihuahua. In addition to advertising for the expo, they were seeking volunteers... volunteers LIKE ME!

I contacted them and said I was EXTREMELY interested and that I could be a critical asset to the team of volunteers they were assembling for the weekend. I got a call to attend their orientation meeting. There I met Philip, Matt, Little Joel, Big Joel, Asian Joel, Toni and Aman; partners in crime for the years that I continued to help out.

At one point, I sort of went on a hiatus to pursue other personal interests... much like a young senior would consider doing before going off to university; I thought I had to find myself so I stopped going. I say 'sort of' because I continued to watch many of these shows--new and old. Behind closed doors, I was watching Star Trek Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek The Next Generation... Regardless, I thought I was growing out of this phase of my life.

Years later, while watching tv with AW, an evolved version of the same ad about the expo played. This time, it wasn't me who got excited... it was AW, "wowow! Edward James Olmos! Damn that's expensive...". I looked up and replied, "We can go if you want. I've friends I can visit". I think AW crapped himself when I said that. We didn't get the date right and missed Edward James Olmos that year.

This year, we flew out to Calgary for the ST: TNG 25th anniversary fanexpo. This is the first time in over 2 decades that a cast who played together for nearly a decade, came together. I stood in line again. I waited for ~2 hours. I saw patrons in cosplay. I smelled the UW math nerds. I blow dried AW's hair to look like Lore and painted GM's ears for his Data costume. And you know what? I missed it. It felt really good to be back--so to speak. To make things come full circle, I bumped into Aman in Calgary of all places.

A lot of things have changed since I first went into this bright eyed and bushy tailed. But, when I reflect upon this weekend's events I realize that I can't wait until I can return to the Toronto fanexpo.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm baaack!

I know... I have been neglecting you and I'm very sorry but, I intend to start blogging again very soon because... lots has happened in the last few weeks! I've learned to live greener, gotten my econ text book, started reading the Walking Dead comic, learned to blow dry hair, met Denise Crosby, stay in the Canadian Rockies.... a lot has happened in the last few weeks.

Stay tuned because I"ll be blogging about my experiences in the coming days!