Saturday, October 27, 2007

Healthy Halloween treats

UPDATE - Oct. 28/07: Ha! So much for that noble idea. I went to Costco and bought 48 full-size boxes of Smarties. *sigh* There were some organic items, but I would have had to take out a second mortgage on my house. Wow. Maybe next year...

I've decided that I'm giving out pseudo-healthy Halloween treats this year. Although it's virtually impossible to find anything without gobs of sugar in it, I'm going to try and at least find the "best of the worst" stuff to hand out. I could put a reasonably healthy mixture of dried fruit and nuts together (too high in carbs for me, but most of the rugrats can likely handle it), but parents usually chuck the treats that haven't been professionally packaged - and I don't blame them.

So I'm going to have to find the "best of the worst" stuff to hand out. I don't even mind buying full-sized items. I just need to figure out what to get. I only get 30-40 kids at my door on Halloween night, so I don't mind handing out something full-sized and pseudo-good for you - even health bars or something.

Any suggestions? Preferably on the low end of the sugar scale, natural and packaged so I don't waste my money and have everything thrown out by parents when the kids get home?

FEMA holds fake news conference and thought they could get away with it. What a bunch of idiots - seriously! Scary, actually.

US agency apologizes for news conference on fires

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. government's main disaster-response agency apologized on Friday for having its employees pose as reporters in a hastily called news conference on California's wildfires that no news organizations attended.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, still struggling to restore its image after the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, issued the apology after The Washington Post published details of the Tuesday briefing.

"We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment," FEMA deputy administrator Harvey Johnson, who conducted the briefing, said in a statement. "Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received."

No actual reporter attended the news conference in person, agency spokesman Aaron Walker said.

A spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has authority over FEMA, called the incident "inexcusable and offensive to the secretary."

"We have made it clear that stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated," spokeswoman Laura Keehner said. She said the department was looking at the possibility of reprimanding those responsible.

The agency had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for southern California to oversee and assist in firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a telephone number to listen in on but could not ask questions.

But with no reporters on hand and an agency video camera providing a feed carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed the questions for Johnson that included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

According to Friday's Post account, which Walker confirmed, Johnson replied that he was "very happy with FEMA's response so far."

He also said the agency had the benefit of "good leadership" and other factors, "none of which were present at Katrina." Chertoff was head of the Homeland Security Department during Katrina.

FEMA's administrator during Katrina, Michael Brown, resigned amid widespread criticism over his handling of the disaster, despite U.S. President George W. Bush's initial declaration that he was doing a "heck of a job."

E-mails between Brown and his colleagues over the course of the storm revealed a preoccupation with his media image, including his declaration, "I am a fashion god."

FEMA is reviewing its press procedures and will make changes to ensure they are "straightforward and transparent," Johnson said on Friday.

Beware of flammable Halloween costumes!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

One of 15 most-wanted criminals in the U.S. caught in Campbellton, N.B.!!

"RCMP in Campbellton, N.B., have arrested a convicted killer featured on the television show America's Most Wanted. Richard Lee McNair, 48, had been serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Pollock, La., for the 1987 murder of Jerome Theis during a botched robbery at a grain elevator in North Dakota. RCMP stopped McNair in a stolen van near Campbellton, in the northern part of the province, just before noon on Thursday, said Vern Erck, sheriff for Ward County in North Dakota. McNair jumped out of the vehicle when confronted by the police and ran about 400 metres down the road before being caught, Erck said. "It's been a great day for both Canada and the U.S. to get him off the street," he told the Associated Press. "I've been waiting for this for a long time." McNair had been listed by federal marshals as one of the 15 most-wanted criminals in the United States and a $25,000 reward had been offered for his capture. He escaped from prison in April 2006 after he literally mailed himself to freedom. McNair had been repairing torn mail bags in the federal prison when he hid in a shrink-wrapped pile, said the U.S. marshals. From his hiding place he was then shipped to a nearby warehouse where he worked himself free. Later that same day a police officer spotted McNair running along nearby railway tracks. Even though McNair had no identification and matched the physical description of an escaped convict, he managed to convince the officer that he was someone called Robert Jones, just out for a jog. The dashboard cam on the police cruiser caught the encounter and the video is now posted on YouTube."

Click here for the rest of the item from CBC.

For the YouTube video mentioned in the news item, see below:

Two months to go 'til Ho Ho Ho!

Wow! It's only two months until Christmas, folks! Better get your shopping shoes on! I'm starting any day now.

Sewer rats lead to a discourse on cursing

Hump Day
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Appeared on page D8, Moncton Times & Transcript

On Saturday morning, my neighbourhood woke up to despicable vandalism that some idiot with a can of spray paint had decided to impose upon homes, cars and a playground.

I've never understood vandalism, but with Halloween upon us, it seems that this time of the year is ripe with such shenanigans. We've become accustomed to incidents ranging from police warnings of roads blocked with burning debris, right down to the relatively minor inconvenience of having to swerve around some poor innocent pumpkin that's ended up being thrown to its death in the middle of the street by 10-cent hoodlums.

To put it mildly, vandals are cowards. They're one level below rabid, flea-infested sewer rats. And they have something in common with the aforementioned vermin: they scatter when the lights come on.

A well-lit area tends to scare off the buggers. They prefer to prey on personal and public property that's camouflaged in darkness, leaving their vile spray-painted messages, broken windows and other similar damage in their wake.

That's the one thing I hate about Halloween. It's almost as if vandalism has come to be expected. These losers with nothing else better to do somehow feel like they have society's permission to head out and deface and wreck other people's property.

Afterwards, we're left with the cleanup. The proud homeowner trying to wash off the large picture of male genitalia painted on their house. The child in the playground asking their parent what the "F" word means after seeing it written all over the place. A mortified driver navigating their way through city streets with profanity written all over their car -- hoping that a garage or detailing shop can remove the graffiti immediately.

Although I'm railing against vandalism right now, I'm not so sure I haven't been doing it myself. I don't use spray paint or violence. I don't break windows. I don't tear out gardens or steal holiday decorations off front lawns.

But I do swear. I swear a lot. And as the years go on, it seems to be getting worse.
I never used to cuss. I mean, the odd mild expletive here and there would slip out, but those long-ago days don't hold a candle to the potty mouth I've developed in recent years. It's got to the point where I don't even notice that I'm doing it anymore. The swearing flows out of my mouth as naturally as can be.

Sometimes I wonder if my constant swearing is any better than spray painting the "F" word on a playground slide? It's still out there in the open . . . just not "on paper," so to speak. Is there such a thing as verbal vandalism?

I've been caught many times cussing among inappropriate company. Not having young children at home, I usually don't have to watch what I say. I swear with family, friends and co-workers. It's just a bad habit. I mean, I know how to speak properly. I know every nicety in the book. I can speak so sweetly that I'd give you diabetes within five minutes, but sometimes a good old cuss word just seems appropriate, you know?

Of course, when I do drop a word "bomb" among company who shouldn't hear it (i.e. young children), I feel guilty about not having set a better example. But don't worry, whenever I do it, the parents of the aforementioned children always give me a look that would kill a grizzly bear dead in its tracks, so I get lots of reminders.

I can take the parental dirty looks. It's the elbows in the rib cage that hurt. I've certainly received a few of those from moms and dads sitting next to me after I've been a bit too liberal with the nasty language. I freely admit that I deserve them, too.

I don't know why I swear so much. Am I lazy? Is my vocabulary so lacking that I have to resort to bad words in order to get my point across? At least people know where I stand in issues, though, because my language pretty much makes my point crystal clear, albeit far from pure as the driven snow. There's not much questioning what I'm thinking after I've turned the air blue with words that would send Satan into the fetal position and crying for his mommy to make the bad man shut up.

I guess I could take this grand public stance right now and promise all of you that I'm going to clean my mouth out with soap and turn over a new leaf. But I won't do that. I'm just not ready yet to give up my beloved swear words. From the mild expletive to the jaw-droppingly awful mini rant, that's one vice I'm going to hold onto for the moment.

I have to be so careful in all my writing -- at work, on my blog and in this column (of course) -- that I'll be a monkey's uncle if I have to now start watching every little thing I say amongst family and friends.

I need at least this small outlet to vent some frustration, whether it's from a tight deadline, an unexpected bill in the mail, or the fact that I've woken up to find that a guy's you-know-what has been drawn on my neighbour's house during the night.

Maybe I should care more about my language, though. Is swearing a sign of weakness or a lack of moral fibre? Should I clean up my act and adopt the careful language of a United Nations diplomat? No. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a . . . hoot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Anonymous comments no longer accepted

Please be advised that, effective immediately, anonymous comments are no longer accepted for this blog.

Today's Hump Day column: Sewer rats lead to a discourse on cursing

Today's Hump Day column is all about a terrible bad habit of mine: swearing. Do it all the time. Do it too much. Need to curb it a bit, dammit! :) Check it out on the editorial page of today's Moncton Times & Transcript (pg. D8) or look for it online here tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Baritone singer Robert Merrill died three years ago today

Robert Merrill, one of the world's great voices, died three years ago today. Here he is singing Largo al factotum from the opera The Barber of Seville.



Yes, this song does indeed exist outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon! :) Speaking of... here it is:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Low-carb recipe: Phoebe's pumpkin and sausage soup

I made this tonight and it was awesome! The photo is from the actual soup that I made. Click on the photo for a larger version.

PHOEBE'S PUMPKIN AND SAUSAGE SOUP

- 1 pound pork sausage (I used hot Italian sausage.)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped, about 5 medium (I'll definitely increase this next time - even double or triple it - sliced very thinly. The soup needed more "stuff" in it, I found.)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 15-oz. can pumpkin (I used a 14-oz. can of organic pumpkin and threw in a couple of tablespoons of other pumpkin I had in the fridge. Even without that extra pumpkin, I'm sure the 14-oz. can would have been fine.)
- 4 cups chicken broth (I used organic.)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (i.e. whipping cream)
- 1/2 cup water
- Salt and pepper, to taste (I used two big pinches of kosher salt and a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper.)

In a large pot, brown the sausage along with the onion, mushrooms and garlic; drain fat. (There was no fat to drain in mine. I actually added a bit of water to avoid burning.) Add the pumpkin and broth. Add Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. (I simmered on "low" on a small burner and stirred reasonably often.) Add the cream and water; simmer 10-15 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning.

Makes 8 cups or 8 servings. Can be frozen. Per serving: 277 Calories; 21g Fat; 15g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 4g Net Carbs.

This soup was delicious! I will definitely be making it again. By using hot Italian sausage, I definitely gave it a major kick. If you don't like spicy food, you should use a mild sausage, but I really liked the bite mine has.

This recipe is courtesy of the excellent Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes website.

Saddest song ever!

"Me and Little Andy" by Dolly Parton.

Boston Red Sox make it to World Series

If you live in this part of the world (eastern Canada / New England states) and aren't a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, then you're likely a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Well, Red Sox fans... they made it to the World Series! Check out the front page of this morning's The Boston Globe to see how it was covered locally. (Click on the photo at left for a larger version.) The Red Sox will meet the Colorado Rockies in the final.

This week's Hump Day column...

... is all about my horrible swearing habit. Yup, over the years, I've somehow managed to think it's necessary to drop the "F" word in the middle of every conversation. And you know what? I don't give a flying... ooops... uhm... squirrel? Read Hump Day on the editorial page of every Wednesday's Moncton Times & Transcript.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Toronto officials asking people to enter emergency contact information in cell phones

This makes complete sense, I think! From CTV News:

Toronto's Emergency Medical Services has come up with a new way for paramedics to access a victim's next of kin.

Many times, paramedics deal with people who are unable to communicate because of their medical condition. That's why EMS officials are urging people to put in an ICE -- In Case of Emergency -- contact into their cell phones to guide paramedics in those instances.

"File it in your address book, have perhaps a family member's name next to the word 'ICE' and if necessary hospital staff, police officers, paramedics might be able to access your phone and contact your next-of-kin," explained David Ralph with EMS.

Once the person's name has been added under ICE in a cell phone directory, the emergency contact should be notified of any special medical conditions, such as an allergy or regularly prescribed medication that could affect emergency treatment.

However, while it might help, nothing replaces proper identification, warns OPP Sgt. Cam Wooley.

"Cell phones are often damaged or destroyed or even lost especially in rollover or fire, and really nothing replaces having proper identification on your person," he told CTV News.

Police also warn about adding too much information under the ICE contact. For example, if your cell phone is stolen, adding your mother's maiden name could make it easy for criminals trying to get access to credit information.

Click here for the original news story.

Read this excellent interview with Gary Taubes re: his new book: Good Calories, Bad Calories

Gary Taubes' new book - Good Calories, Bad Calories - is shaking up the medical community with its well thought-out arguments for the benefits of a low-carb diet. I've lost 60 lb on low-carb since June 17 and swear by it! It's a fast, healthy and effective way to lose weight. I no longer eat sugar, junk food, potatoes, pasta, etc. And yes - there is life after potatoes, pasta and junk.

I'm not diabetic, but it pains me to see diabetics continue to eat potatoes, pasta and bread with the blessing of their doctors. Moderation, shmoderation! People don't need to eat this garbage. There are indeed alternatives for these foods - alternatives that will keep your blood sugar stable. And it's not just diabetics who should seek to avoid spikes in their blood sugar levels. Everyone should do it!

Click here to read an interview with the author that will appear in tomorrow's edition of the Los Angeles Times.

(Taubes mentions at the end of the interview that he'll likely avoid pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. He doesn't have to, though. There are many excellent low-carb pumpkin pie recipes out there. I guess even he needs some good low-carb recipe books, eh?)

I think the announcers nearly soiled their pants

Ya gotta love the sports announcers' excitement after this amazing goal by Chicago Blackhawks' player Jonathan Toews on Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche. Click here for the related news story. Click here for his official profile on the team's website.