Monthly Archives: January 2014

Five years on

Or: What Obama’s presidency has meant to me:

  • Higher taxes: Nuff Said.
  • Lower tax refunds: My latest tax refund is half of what it was under Bush. Gee, thanks.
  • Higher healthcare costs: Obamacare – the biggest lie of our time.
  • No change in Iraq: We’re still “leaving”. Real Soon Now.
  • No change in Afghanistan: We’re still there too.
  • No change in Gitmo: Still open after all of your pre-election promises to close it? Hmmm…
  • No Transparency: Obama campaigned on a platform of transparency, but if the latest NSA announcement is anything to go by, the only thing that is “transparent” is duplicity.

Call this hope and change? I call it “Business as Usual”

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Ten simple steps to healthier living

  1. Cut out sugar – Nothing has had more impact on my health over the past year than the decision to cut out sodas, sweets, cakes, donuts etc. Watch for “sneaky sugars – even bread has sugar in it. The ugly fact is that sugar is a poison, and it is as addictive as cocaine (which is why so many children won’t eat their vegetables but will happily inhale all the candy that they can lay their grubby little fingers on). This is why I predict that ten years from now we will think of sugar the way we now think of nicotine.
  2. Cut back on starches – God may have created the potato, but the devil boiled, mashed, and added a pint of cream and a pound of butter to it. Pasta, rice, breads, all OK in moderation, but the less the better. Remember that your digestive system breaks down starches into sugar molecules.
  3. Smaller portions, more of them – Human beings were designed to graze on natural, high fibre foods on a continuous basis. Three high-fat-high-sugar binges a way play merry hell with your blood sugar levels and “stretch” your stomach into expecting bigger meals.
  4. Fruits not fruit juices – for me the most stunning revelation was the realization that fruit juices contain more sugar than sodas! Terminate with extreme prejudice. Fruits have the same amount of sugar, but the fiber prevents the digestion of some of the sugar, and slows down absorption of the rest, so you don’t get it all in one hit.
  5. Eat Breakfast – A blend of good fats and protein is best. stay away from cereals (mostly starch) and fruit juices (mostly sugar) as they are not “part of this nutritious breakfast”. This is the most-skipped meal in western culture… and the one meal that should not be skipped.
  6. Eat out less often – There are three things we should minimize consuming: sugar, fat and salt. Paradoxically, there are three things that taste nice: sugar, fat and salt. Restaurants want you to enjoy their foods, so they will improve the taste any way they can, usually by adding… sugar, fat and salt. Once or twice a month is plenty.
  7. Cut back on junk foods – I have not had a hamburger in nearly two years. Wherever possible, I have a grilled chicken sandwich. My heart will thank me later. I would like to thank my doctor for making this possible.
  8. Cook real food with real ingredients – Read the labels: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, or they read like a chemistry lesson, look elsewhere. Oh, and remember that 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. So the 39g of sugar in that can of soda comes to almost ten teaspoons of sugar! Ewwwwww….
  9. Drink a lot more water – many ailments can be avoided or minimized by drinking plenty of water.
  10. Stand up and walk! The human body was designed for walking, running and lying down. Sitting was not in the design spec. Sadly, most of us have sedentary jobs that keep us sitting for long periods of time. And we wonder why we have lower-back problems. Walking is the third-best exercise there is (swimming is the second). While in London recently I typically walked four or five miles a day, with peaks of up to nine. No back pain or knee problems. Back at work, I am lucky to get three. Predictably, aching knees and back pain have returned. Make of that what you will.

Some preach “All things in moderation”, but the fact is that you can survive without “empty calorie” sugars and starches that we were not designed to consume in large quantities. As for me, my weight is down, my belly fat is GONE and my waistline is back to where it was a quarter of a century ago.

Google Minus

Or: How I finally dumped Google+

I never really cared much for Google+. When it first appeared, I thought to myself “What’s this? Could be useful, I suppose”, and signed up.

Since then I cannot think of a single instance where Google+ has made a positive difference in my life. Yes, the “Circles” idea is a good way to compartmentalize the sharing of information into groups instead of the all-or-nothing approach taken by FakesBook Stalkbook FaceBook, but it never really proved useful to me. For those of us who don’t actually need a Social Network, Google+ served no real purpose, met no quantifiable need. Personally I suspect that Google created it simply so that they could say that they had some alternative to “FakesBook”.

I was dismayed when Google made a Google+ account a requirement in order to comment on any video in YouTube. YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim, famously responded with the comment “Why the **** i need a google+ account to comment on a video?“. In response Google trotted out the usual drivel about improving the service, but most people believe that they did this as an easy way to artificially bump up the number of Google+ users.

But wait! There’s more!

Recently Google rolled out an upgrade to Google+ that allowed anyone to e-mail you through your Google+ profile without knowing your e-mail address. For some of you that might be a boon, but for me it was a bloody liability. It was also the proverbial last straw.

So I started looking around for information about how to dissociate myself from Google+, but keeping my Gmail. It is actually quite easy, as long as you follow the instructions. The only thing to watch for is that you don’t accidentally delete your entire Google account – e-mails, address books, calendar and all. To quote Dr. Egon Spengler: “That would be bad”.

The only downside is that when you delete your Google+ profile you lose all of the comments you ever made on YouTube, including those made before Google+ existed. That is completely ridiculous, and a direct violation of Google’s “do no evil” philosophy. However, since I had not made more than a couple of dozen comments, it was a price I could afford to pay.

delete_your_profile-100056410-origGoogle+, you’re done. Facebook, you’re next.

Other resources:

Rumbled!

A few days ago I received an email from eBay.

password1Apparently someone had clicked the “forgot my password” link, which triggered an email. Since I knew that I had not clicked on that link, I was somewhat concerned. What was noteworthy, however, was the ip address from which the request originated.

password2That’s right, this was being done by someone in China.  Suddenly my antennae were up and quivering.

Most websites’ “forgot my password” links work by sending an e-mail to your account’s “registered e-mail address”. If the hacker can break into your e-mail address and access that e-mail message, all is lost. They can change your e-mail password (locking you out of your account) change the website’s password, log into the site (in this case eBay) and hijack your account. Mat Honan found this out the hard way last year. Takeaway quote: “Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened”

Fortunately, my e-mail login is protected by two-factor authentication, so I have little to worry about on that front. eBay, however, is another matter. What if they are able to successfully guess the password? The solution was easy enough; I simply logged onto eBay, and turned on two-factor authentication there.

So, my little yellow friend, you are out of luck. Please go away and bother somebody else. Thanks!

Which One’s Worship?

We show up in droves, early, so as to get a good seat. We hand over the proscribed portion of our income without thinking; that’s just the way it is. The buzz, the anticipation builds as the band starts up. We stand and sing along. We raise our voices and sing loud. We roar our hearts out. Some of us raise our hands. Most of us yell ourselves hoarse. It is exciting, passionate and joyous. Enraptured, we lose ourselves in the experience. We go home satisfied and fulfilled, and celebrate until the wee small hours of the morning. Some of us will remember this day for years to come.

Sunday morning sidles up like an unwanted bailiff, and we drag our sorry carcases to church. We dribble in late; sometimes because of last night’s celebration, but mostly because we can – this is church, and it’s not like they are going to lock the doors on us. Only about 15% of us tithe; the rest of us can’t afford to. Some of us sing along to the songs, the rest of us just mouth the words. A few of us raise our hands. Many of us are annoyed about some aspect of the music – too loud/too soft/not my style – and we just fold our arms and wonder how soon it will be before we can sit down again. During the sermon we think about what we will have for lunch and jot down our shopping list for this afternoon. The preacher sums up the four key points of his sermon. By the time we leave, we will have forgotten three of them; by tomorrow we will have forgotten the fourth. But that’s ok, as none of them applies to us. After church we meet up with friends, and talk about what a great time we had at last night’s game.

Which one is true worship? You decide.

Resolute

It is the time of the year when most of us make New Year’s Resolutions, promises to improve ourselves in some way, way, whether it is to lose weight, eat right, work out, and generally do what we know to be right.

It doesn’t work. By the end of January, most resolutions will have been broken or quietly forgotten. By the end of February, almost all of them will have been consigned to the ash-heap of history.

So I am not doing any of this that this year. Instead, I am keeping it simple and implementing a two-word creed for this year.

Embrace Kindness

There is too much cynicism and not enough kindness in the world.