A Woman Walks Into A Room-Health Information Part I

There are those time-tested and quite hilarious jokes about a man or a dog walking into a bar.  It’s a pretty bad segue but this blog thought started by a woman walking into a room.  It was a waiting room in a doctor’s office and there was a cartoon poking fun at fishing through the world-wide web for health advice.

Looking for good health information???

Looking for good health information???

For those of us privileged to have ready access to the internet, we go there for all sorts of information and advice.  When it comes to our health though it is a quagmire of information and websites.  You can find someone who states they cured themselves by using a coffee enema or swears by a drug or swears the drug doesn’t work but chiropractic treatments are the answer.  And it goes on and on.  

Healthy Aging

Throughout our lives it’s important to stay active, engaged and to take care of ourselves.  As we age, the odds are our health will change and there will be limitations and medical conditions that come with the territory.  Yes there are credible websites and organizations you would tend to trust.   But perhaps not as many as you might think.   I have worked in health my entire career and for the better part of 20 years I worked in areas related to drug reviews and health technology assessment.  While not a content expert I’ve worked with many who are and I have an understanding of the how/what/who of evidence based health information.  I was very happy to see that McMaster University in London, Ontario launched an Optimal Aging portal recently.  This short video tell you what you can expect if you access the portal.

Experts have reviewed information on a multitude of topics and they give you the straight goods on what the best available evidence spells out.  

You can sign up for weekly email alerts or simply visit the portal and type in a topic.  There are Recent Evidence Summaries that provide “Key messages from scientific research that’s ready to be acted on” and Recent Web Resource Ratings that are  “Evaluations that tell you whether free health resources on the internet are based on scientific research”.

There is transparency on how they rate the web resources used. A five-star rating system gives you a perspective of how much evidence exists to support advice or recommendations. You’ll see if there is only one star beside the article, it means it is not an evidence based recommendation.  They have listed a number of websites they have excluded (and why) in the their review of what’s available.  

The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal focuses on the “older adult” and that may or may not be you….yet.  If it isn’t you at this point, I’d suggest you tuck away the website information for the day it might come in handy. As my dear Aunt Edy said once “We all age at the same rate.  One day at a time.”  



Posted in Healthy Aging | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Ups and Downs of Travel

It is a privilege, to travel for pleasure.  It’s not for everyone and not everyone can consider packing up and getting away for a while.  We travel from time to time and these are some observations about before, during and after being away:

  • Before we go away I do all manner of things unrelated to preparing to go away.  It seems I want to run myself short of packing time…and I usually do.   I do it every time we go away and cannot seem to help myself.  Any suggestions to break this very inefficient behaviour?
  • While getting ready to go I think of all the things I’d do if I stayed home.  I would clean and purge those basement shelves that have set there un-purged for a long time.    I would organize that stationery drawer and the linen closet if I stayed home.
  • If you order a salad in a restaurant and two bites in you discover a long hair is part of the repast, two things happen.  First your appetite diminishes substantially and second your meal becomes more economical as the manager “comps” it.  I’d prefer really to just pay for it and not find the hair.  
  • Audiobooks are a very good way to pass time in the car.  Providing the subject is of interest to everyone in the car.
  • When arriving in new city on a happening Friday, don’t wait till 7pm to try to find a place to eat.  It is the time when everyone else is looking to do the same thing.  Driving around from place to place doesn’t work.  

Do you have gems of travel wisdom to share with someone (me) who obviously could use them?


Posted in Travel | Tagged | 2 Comments

Poor Economics-Would Someone Please Read This Book

I read but don’t buy books generally speaking.  The Ottawa Public Library is my main go to place for books.  Thankfully there is no limit to the number of times you can borrow a book but after a while guilt has kicked in with this book and I will not borrow it again. 

Would someone please read “Poor Economics”and give me a report.

This all started when we were given a gift certificate to KIVA a micro-loan organization. From their website “Kiva Microfunds is a 501 non-profit organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income / underserved entrepreneurs and students in 82 countries. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.””.   You are able to read the profiles those who are requesting loans and you pledge your donation to that loan.  Once repaid you receive an email and are able to re-loan to another entrepreneur/student.  This sounds very good, the concept of micro-loans and it led to me to read reviews about KIVA, where most but not all are positive. 

My Mom used to say “Stop pulling on that thread or the whole thing will unravel.”  

 I started pulling on the thread.  The question for me was if you have the means and the will to donate to help those in need, what’s the best use of your donation?  Do you rely on the Moneysense review of charities?  Their report ends by saying the information they have gathered shouldn’t be the only thing you use in deciding where to donate.  Do you poor through publicly available information on each charity?  Mind boggling.

What about the book “Poor Economics”

Somewhere in my research the book Poor Economics was recommended.  I have tried to read it.  Many times I have tried to read it but I find it a tough slog and the library loan period runs out and I take it back only to re-borrow it later.   One of the comments on the book cover is “A marvellously insightful book by two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty”.  And well it may be but for me the insights are buried within the text.  Highlights of key points in chapters would help me.  Formatting that makes the book look more approachable would help me. 

What does the book say?

I made it halfway through the book finally.  There are some very interesting findings.  Now that I’m returning to the library AGAIN I flipped to the back of the book to see if there’s a summary.  They say there are five key lessons,  First “The poor lack critical pieces of information and believe things that are not true.”  Second “The poor bear responsibility for too many aspects of their lives.  The richer you are, the move the “right decisions are made for you”.

There are three more lessons but if I quoted them here then why would you read the book?

When it comes to donating I think I’ll go with an excerpt of Abraham Lincoln’s quote “When I do good, I feel good.”  I’ll do some research into organizations but not get into a knot about the whole thing.  How do you go about deciding where to donate?

Posted in Charitable donations, Economic | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Short History of Progress

A Short History of Progress wass written by Ronald Wright in 2004.  The book comprises the 2004 Massey Lectures.  You can listen to the series on-line as well.    While the the book was published over a decade ago, the messages within could have published this morning for they apply, perhaps even more so, today.   The lessons Wright draws from history are very relevant as the Paris climate summit begins this week.  

The book isn’t about climate change per se.  The author is a “historical philosopher” shows how our modern predicaments are as old as civilizations.  He traces our species from our beginnings to the present.   We read about the successes and failures of civilizations throughout our history.  He asks and analyzes why many (most?) civilizations in the past became extinct and he draws a picture of where we are today and the need to pay heed to the past in our actions today and in the future.

One phrase he uses more than once is “every time history repeats itself, the price goes up”.   As you read you wonder why mankind continues to act in certain ways, much of which would make you want to belong to kinder species.  In asking why we continue to do some things, Wright uses computers as an analogy.  He says if man were a computer then we would be hardware running on software that hasn’t had an upgrade in 25,000 years.  Wright notes if you don’t believe that, just listen to the news.  

It’s not possible to make light of Wright’s take on things.  For the ordinary citizen we can urge leaders  to make a difference (as we hope the world leaders in Paris will do this week) and we can take action in ways to make the world a better place.  

To use the analogy that mankind is akin to computer technology.  I would hope that despite mankind’s ancient hardware we can find a workaround that keeps us from repeating history and helps sustain our future.  What are your thoughts?  

Yesterday there were marches all over the globe in support of the Paris climate summit.  Here are some pictures of the 100% Possible march in Ottawa.  And a few more:


Protest sign using recycled Green Party sign. Fitting.

Protest sign using recycled Green Party sign. Seems apt.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream getting involved

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream getting involved






Posted in Climate, Environmental | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Dirt On Growing Sweet Potatoes

Community/allotment gardening year five:

I have certainly thought about blogging about gardening during the past season but that’s as far as it got.  Thinking about it.  Don Marquis, an American poet and journalist said “procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday” .   And while it didn’t happen yesterday, here’s the story of our experience with a brand new crop this year.   Sweet potatoes.

Our growing/hardiness zone is 4B in Ottawa, ON.  We had talked about growing sweet potatoes in previous years before but had concluded we weren’t in the right zone.  That changed when we learned that a local organic seed distributor sold sweet potato slips.  They aren’t available until June here. You plant them only after the risk of frost had passed.  

We had intended on buying enough slips to fill an entire 20 foot row but when I learned about the steps you have to take after harvest, I bought enough for a half row as a first try.   Here’s the dirt on growing sweet potatoes this past season: 

  • Tilled and mounded a 10 foot row.  Laid a wide strip of black plastic over the row (sweet potatoes like warm soil) and secured it at the edges .  
  • Make a slit in the plastic every 2 feet and plant a slip.
  • Freshly planted sweet potato slips

    Freshly planted sweet potato slips

  • That’s it till harvest.  How easy is that!  Water and sunshine throughout the growing season and the vines grew and spread until you could no longer see the plastic.  We were all very interested to see what, if any harvest would await us when the time came.
  • The vines begin to spread

    The vines begin to spread

  • Harvesting must occur after the first frost when the vines turn black.  Here’s where we started to wonder if sweet potatoes were all that darling or if they were just plain finicky.
  • Digging sweet potatoes is not that easy.  We learned they grow vertically and try to find their way to the other side of the world.   Down into the clay they went (some of them were 18-20 inches long).  They bruise and break easily when bringing them out of the ground. There was a bit of exasperation when we started and found we had to scratch around a great deal with hand trowels to see if the potatoes had traveled hither and yon. We got better at digging with the garden fork after a hill or two.  If the soil isn’t nice and loose the potatoes break.  There were cheers when we removed potatoes in tact.  
  • Success!


    Look at the size of 'em

      The potato on the right was on its way to China

    We harvested 30-35 pounds of sweet potatoes from 5 slips.  Not bad.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Sweet potatoes need to be cured.    I looked for advice on how to cure then and found there were as many ‘recipes’ as there were advisors.  Basically the potatoes must be kept in a place that is very warm (25-29C) and humid (85-90%) for 3 days or 7 days or maybe 21 days.  What??  One consistent message was curing must occur-conversion of sugars and making it so they will keep longer.  Avoid scaring or bruising the potatoes lest they start to spoil.  I layered the potatoes between sheets of newspaper and put them in 3 containers in our downstairs bathroom. I covered each container with a garbage bag (thinking it would help with humidity) and then a blanket/quilt.  A little heater helped keep the temperature up, as did having the lights on day and night.  Once in a while I would turn on the shower to up the humidity.  Such finicky darlings, sweet potatoes.  I checked them regularly.  The humidity never got as high as recommended (had a little temp/humidity gauge in the room).  After 3 weeks we reclaimed the bathroom, wrapped the tubers individually in newspaper, storing them in a cool dark place and now hoping to have sweet potatoes for the next several months.  

  • We haven’t decided if we will grow them again next year.  By spring the effort of harvest and curing this fall will be mostly forgotten and we will be enthusiastically entertaining thoughts of garden bounty.
Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

I’m Back!!! With A Halloween True Story

Back here at the family dog sitters, that is, me, Squidge the dog.  I have been asking if there’s been any blogging since I last visited and understand there’s been none, really.  It’s obvious that not only I am on this earth to receive belly rubs but I am also an inspiration in writing circles.  If I were a girl I’d be a muse.

I’m just here for a few days but have things pretty much as I like ’em.  All centred around me.  At least there’s no snow and big rigamarole around putting on boots and doggie jackets.   It is Halloween though and I have a costume but my owners forgot to bring it over so I’m not dressed.  I was going to be a lobster.  

I’m on high alert for the doorbell to ring.  There have been about 20 trick or treaters here-a good number for this area they say.  I bark when the bell rings but really am happy to see the people on the other side of the door.  They have treats and I bark because I want them to give me a treat, I like treats but they just take treats and don’t give any.  Sigh.

In the last group of 5 or 6 little people I was there to greet them, as usual.  One little girl said “I like your dog!” (I get that all the time) and another smaller girl said ” I have a dog!!” and her brother said “You don’t have a dog, you have a cat.”.  

I'd like a Halloween treat

I’d like a Halloween treat

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

My Exit Blog (Author, Squidge the Dog)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my owners.  They say it was 17 days and I have no idea how long that is but while these temporary minders are kind enough, they aren’t my regular peeps.   I have been patient and mostly well behaved and it’s been a learning experience for all parties in this house (you know I am a party too).  I will keep my exit blog brief for I am a dog of few words.  I have three recommendations as a result of this visit (I believe in following project management principles, including looking back when the project is over and making recommendations for the future)


  1. Boots
    1. I recommend some clever thinker should invent affordable, warm, easy to put on, non slip winter boots for dogs.  Believe me, there is a market.   Dogs and owners would thank you.
  2. Evidence based veterinary medicine
    1. If there is a raft of evidence based veterinary medicine available, it’s hidden.  Pet owners who are interested should be able to find that information on-line.  I recommend a grad student or an information specialist put together a list of good places to look for trials and studies on animal care and treatment.  I am sure some owners would pay a fee to access such information.
  3. Pet minder course
    1. It clear to me now that being well intentioned and being good at something are two different things.  There are babysitting courses.  Why aren’t there pet sitting courses?  I recommend (it’s a business opportunity) someone offer a course that would help familiarize people with animal behaviour.  These people here would have benefited from such a course.  I would have given some of my treat allowance to pay for their enrolment.  

It’s good-bye to you all from me now.  I have really enjoyed meeting so many of you on-line.  It’s a whole other world I did not know existed.  You’ve been very kind and supportive during my hour of need when I asked you some difficult questions.  

I was thinking of asking my owners if I could have my own blog site but I hear it can take a lot of time so it’s probably best to let sleeping dogs lie.






Posted in A Dog's Life | Tagged , | 10 Comments