The rehabilitation of butter and why I’ll think twice about sunflower oil

A few years back I was told my cholesterol was a little high and that I ought to try to reduce it to protect myself from heart disease. The two specific diet changes I made were switching from full-fat milk to semi-skimmed and from butter to margarine (usually Flora Buttery).

Funny how things change.

Last year I discovered that the fat in full-fat milk may not be as harmful as we've been told.

Now, it seems, vegetable oils aren't as great as we've been led to believe. And butter isn't necessarily the health villain we thought, either.

How do I know? From my not-at-all-exhaustive research, which produced three articles saying very similar things. That either means they're all right or that they've all copied each other and got it wrong, but I'm inclined to think it's the former. If you know differently, feel free to do that commenty thing at the end of the post.

The articles all say:

  • We didn't start eating vegetable oils in any quantity until the the early 20th century, when heart disease and cancer were less prevalent.
  • The “evil” oils are manufactured in a multi-step process involving lots of heat, noxious chemicals and magical incantations. OK I added the last bit, but they're far from “natural” and much more towards “processed”.
  • Said evil oils can do various nasty things to our insides.
  • The stats on butter consumption, oil consumption and the prevalence of heart disease and cancer show that our tactic of switching away from butter has failed.
  • There are a few “good” oils to use in cooking, and the baddies get used in all kinds of products we buy so we have to read food labels to try to reduce or avoid them.

Here are the pages for your own perusal:

http://www.thankyourbody.com/vegetable-oils/#post/0

http://www.thealternativedaily.com/truth-about-sunflower-oil/

https://wellnessmama.com/2193/never-eat-vegetable-oil/

So there you go. I'm kinda getting convinced by this stuff. Should I ditch the Flora? By the way, last time I was checked my cholesterol was OK. Hmmmm.

 

Passwords: Three ways to let the baddies win

To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the Internet is new. Really new. I mean, you might think space travel, computers and fridges are new, but compared to the Internet they’re positively ancient.

I know, I know. The technology historians will tell you the Internet had its roots waaaay back in the seventies, but really, for 99.9% of us, “The Web” was just a 1947 crime movie until the mid-nineties. Strictly, the “WWW” appeared in 1991, but come on – how many of you had even heard of it (let alone used it) until well into the era of Cool Britannia, New Labour and England’s agonising penalty shootout defeat at Euro 96? Exactly.

So, by my reckoning the Internet is barely 20 years old. Not much more than a teenager, in fact. Like many teenagers, it’s grown really fast. Some of the things it gets up to aren’t very savoury. And it’s always demanding attention. (Excuse me while I go check my emails, tweets and status updates…) Despite its youth, immaturity and anarchic setup, however, we all know it’s been the most runaway of runaway successes.

“Fascinating,” I hear you say, as you simultaneously stifle a yawn and check your watch / phone / tablet / blood pressure. “But I thought this was about passwords.” And so it is. The point about the Internet being new is that, by and large, it still has a culture of trust. Oh, we hear the stories of scammers, viruses and hackers but tend to assume it won’t happen to us. Regretfully, that’s a naïve assumption.

They really are out to get you

Cyberthief

Back in the “olden days” (or perhaps still, in a few remote locations), we’re told that nobody locked their front doors. Crime happened back then, of course, but generally speaking, it tended not to happen and there was that culture of trust. As time went on and burglary increased, we started locking our doors. If we didn’t, and then expected sympathy after being robbed, we’d be laughed at. Not only that, but as time went by we added more sophisticated locks, shoot bolts, window locks and burglar alarms. Multiple defences to make it harder for the baddies. We moved from a culture of trust to a culture of protection and prevention.

In that regard, the online world is like rural England several decades ago. Many of us are touchingly innocent about the malevolent, sophisticated and heartless elements out there in cyberspace. (Does anyone say “cyberspace” any more? Or has it gone the same way as “the information superhighway”?) Not to put the frighteners on you, but I can say with some confidence that there are digital baddies out to get you. They are modern-day highwaymen out to relieve you of your cash. And, yes, although there are multiple routes they take, it all boils down to cold, hard money.

OK, I believe you. But why are they interested in me?

  • They want your identity so they can steal your money.
  • They want your confidential information so they can steal your identity so they can steal your money.
  • They want to blackmail you so they can steal your money.
  • They want to hijack your computer, your phone, your tablet and anything else connected to the Internet so they can disguise their criminal activities, attack other computers, and probably ruin your files while they’re at it.

My conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Interweb Age, is that it’s time to move from a culture of trust to a culture of protection and prevention.

Ah, so that’s where passwords come in

Precisely. Although, to be honest, passwords are only a small part of the picture. There are other technical tactics, attitudes and habits we need in order reduce the chances of being taken for a cyber-ride. But passwords are fundamental, much as we may loathe them. They’re like fitting that first lock to your front door. Even a cheap rim lock is better than no lock. And if the next door is unlocked, guess which one the villain will choose?

If you upgrade to a stronger Yale lock or a 5-lever mortice lock, your chances of resisting attack increase. And so with passwords.

OK, so get to that “Three ways…” stuff

Quite so. Here, then, are my top Three Ways To Let The Baddies Win when it comes to your passwords. If you’ve heard them all before, I trust you’re not doing them. And if you’ve never heard them before, please stop doing them. Now.

Way #1: Use Simple Passwords

There are a bazillion articles on the web about how you shouldn’t use simple passwords such as:

  • 123456
  • Fred
  • Christmas
  • ManchesterUnited

Yes, even that last one is lousy and could be cracked in a little over 2 minutes:

 

weak_password

Oh. Dear. Password assessment courtesy of My1Login.com.

 

Cyber Villains United would thank you for using any of the above or similar.

Way #2: Use the Same Password for Multiple Sites

Why does this matter? ‘Cos if Joe Evilhacker gets hold of one of your passwords he’s going to try it on loads of popular sites and, in your case, he’ll strike gold because you use the same one on Amazon, eBay and Facebook.

Do not do this. If you’re doing this, don’t do it any more. With immediate effect.

Way #3: Make Your Passwords Conveniently Available

<preacher_mode>

If you’re going to physically write them down, treat that document like your front door key. Don’t write your passwords on sticky notes on the PC. Don’t leave them lying about on the desk. Don’t put them in a notebook entitled Computer Passwords. Make it difficult for anyone who shouldn’t have access to even recognise what the document is, let alone get hold of it.

If you keep passwords on your computer, at least make sure there’s a password on that document. (And, yes, you must also protect the password to that document…) A “password manager” is better than a simple document for various reasons – but whatever approach you take assume that the worst could happen. (And, of course, if the information is in a computer file of some sort, it must be backed up somewhere – otherwise, it might be you that’s locked out of your accounts, not just the criminals.)

</preacher_mode>

A note of clarification

At the (severe) risk of insulting your intelligence, I should emphasise that the above are what not to do. Was that blindingly obvious anyway? It was? Sorry.

Enjoy the Internet, that stroppy teenager, and may your digital defences never be breached.

 

A brief history of my thoughts about history

Recently I saw a video about how they do education in Finland. It’s impressive. So much so that, at the time, I promised myself I’d read more about it (or watch more videos). To date I’ve failed to keep that promise, but that’s not the point.

The point is that the Finns put a lot of emphasis on kids discovering: how to learn; what they want to learn; what makes them happy; what they might be good at. They still cover the full spectrum of arts and sciences (in fact, they seem to manage to cover subjects we’ve dropped from our own schools because there’s not enough time or it’s not deemed “relevant” enough). Anyhow, it made me think back to my own schooldays. (And, yes, this is where the history bit comes in, and not just because my schooldays are now quite a long way back in history…)

I was what would typically be called “academic” or “bright”. I did well in tests and exams. I worked hard. I handed my homework in on time. I got my O levels, my A levels and then a degree and later on another degree. And all that education opened doors of employment for me, as it’s supposed to do. I’m grateful for that. My employment, and my home life, have been “strong and stable”, to coin a current phrase.

But.

My schooldays were good but not your classic “happiest days of your life”.

I worked hard. Once I got to 14 or so I would get home from school and work till 9 p.m. most nights. I did the homework because that’s what needed to be done. I did have friends but, as I watched that Finland video, I began to wonder if I’d missed out on friendship or doing other activities because of the time I spent studying.

And two other things struck me as I looked back. First, I never had a clue what I liked or wanted to do. I knew I could understand maths and physics and was good at homework or passing exams – but that’s not what I’m talking about. Through several decades in work, I’ve never really been sure what I wanted to do.

Second, I asked myself what my gut reaction was to the question, “What subject did you most enjoy at school?”. Answer: History. (Told you we’d get to it.)

history-funI did history to O level. My teacher (Chris Rowe) was disappointed because I only scored a grade B, and I didn’t want to do it at A level. And yet it’s what came to mind 39 years later when I asked myself what I’d enjoyed most. Why? Well, words like “interesting” and “fascinating” spring to mind, but if I dig a little deeper, it has something to do with a concept of my connection to those historical events – “a sense of history”, if you will.

Our curriculum covered “modern” British and European history, starting with the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and ending with World War Two. (Nowadays, my schooldays period – the seventies – would have to be in that curriculum too!) I liked finding out what happened and why, and seeing how one thing led to another. I didn’t like writing essays about it – but I did it, naturally. Today I still like that finding out (or, more accurately, being told – normally by a presenter on a TV documentary). But I find it especially fascinating (there I go again) when I can make a link to my own history or my life today.

Take World War One, for instance. Although further in the past than WW2, I feel a stronger link to it because both my grandfather and my Great Uncle Ernest fought in it. Although Uncle Ernest was killed, my grandfather survived and went on to have my dad. (Of course, if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be reading this and we’d all end up in a space-time paradox.) That knowledge does something to me. And I still remember Chris Rowe teaching us how the Versailles Treaty at the end of WW1 sowed the seeds for WW2, a conflict that ended a mere 17 years before yours truly appeared on the scene.

Back to Finland, then. Does any of this mean I should have been a historian? I doubt it – but, then again, I’m approaching the time of life where I may have the chance to do different things, so who knows? I do know that I’m a habitual diary writer and like to look back, muse on what’s gone before in The Life Of Me, and even (sometimes) learn stuff from doing so. Chris Rowe started our 4th form history lessons by defining history as something like:

The art of looking at the past in the light of the present to learn lessons for the future.

So maybe I am a historian after all! I’m going to try to contact Chris Rowe to let him know.

 

Photo Post: Vivid colours in Queen’s Park, Loughborough

Image

A while back I replaced my 2006 Canon Ixus 800 with…a newer model Canon Ixus. This time it's the 265 HS. It's still a compact, but with higher resolution, more optical zoom and a bunch of novelty effects. One of them is called Vivid Colour, and like the colour picker, it's become a favourite gimmick of mine 🙂

This shot was taken at a low angle looking over the top of a flowerbed and the colours were genuinely fairly bright – although admittedly not as bright as Vivid Colour makes them look. The end result is quite exotic-looking. I don't care that it's not “accurate”; it makes me smile.

Opinion tends to be divided over applying “effects”, whether in the camera or in post-processing. In the end it's a matter of taste; do you like my exotic flowers?

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 4: In which shirts are ironed but neither passion nor purpose are discovered

Thursday, 27th January, 2005

The news said it’s 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. One of those sobering “Lest we forget” moments.

It would seem disrespectful to write anything else today.

Friday, 28th January, 2005

I did the ironing. Not quite as momentous as yesterday’s anniversary, I grant you, but still, in its own way, remarkable. Why? Because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not only Wise Middle-Aged Man but also distinctly New Man. He loves his kids (and frequently tells them so, especially in public – which they particularly appreciate although claiming to find it “embarrassing”); he’s as ready to push the vacuum cleaner as the lawnmower; and now, he can de-crease even “proper” shirts with a vengeance.

 

Monday, 31st January, 2005

Joe came round to give Sarah more maths tutoring. Allegedly. Spent 34 minutes figuring out how to casually walk through the dining room giving Joe a hard stare without Sarah spotting it.

Jack, on the other hand, asked me what I thought the purpose of life was and what the church was for. Such a joy to be able to teach one’s child the ways of the Lord. Or, at least, it would have been if I’d said anything that made the slightest bit of sense. After a couple of minutes Jack remembered he had to load some music onto his newly-arrived MP3 player.

Wednesday, 2nd February, 2005

New month! New ideas! Time to leave the January Blues behind! Rejoice! Enjoy life!

We’re thinking about going to see Les Miserables.

Friday, 4th February, 2005

It was the first session of the Finding Your Place in the Kingdom of Our Righteous God and Playing Your Part in the Spreading of His Glorious Gospel course at church. The topic was discovering your passion. Didn’t discover my passion, although the Garibaldi biscuits were a pleasant surprise.

What am I passionate about? What drives me? What gets me out of bed in the morning? Not sure that being quite keen on holidays in Cornwall is what they’re getting at.

Tuesday, 8th February, 2005

Sarah took part in Police cadet training in a local shopping centre, acting the part of a disrespectful rowdy youth. I know she’s keen on drama but she seemed to enjoy the chance to steal a police officer’s helmet whilst swearing just a little bit too much. I’ve just paid her bail. (Note to diary: that was a joke.)

Shrove Tuesday. Naturally we all had shroves. (Note to diary: another joke. I should do this for a living.)

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

 

 

 

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 3: In which an MP3 player fails to arrive and the gospel is preached

Monday, 17th January, 2005

Jack said he had a boring day at school. I said I’d had a boring day at work. Other family members didn’t comment on how boring (or otherwise) their day had been.

On the other hand, F. did report that a colleague at work had had their house vandalised. We were suitably appalled and prayed for fire to rain down from heaven and consume the culprits. (Although we also requested that the fire would be at a safe distance from the house, in order to prevent further damage.)

Tuesday, 18th January, 2005

Jack was crestfallen when the postman again failed to deliver his eagerly-awaited MP3 player from eBay. F. is also waiting for an MP3 player from eBay, but being an adult her degree of crestfallen-ness was naturally much lower.

We attended a church house group where the “ice-breaker” consisted of sharing your opinions of President George W. Bush. The main opinion we came away with was that as an exercise in sharing something about yourself and learning something about others it was an unmitigated failure.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2005

I announced to the family that since it’s now post-Christmas we are officially allowed to discuss where we want to go on holiday this year. We need to get our skates on, given that we only have 7 months to decide.

Saturday, 22nd January, 2005

It’s cold. I have a headache. And I worked until lunchtime. On. A. Saturday.

On the other hand, we had F.’s parents round for chippy takeaway and games of Uno and Pass The Pigs. Both exceedingly fine games of skill, judgement and strategy. (When I win. If I lose, it’s just down to luck.)

opplanet-encross-wave-x-wv-430c-512mb-digital-audio-mp3-player-wv430cF.’s MP3 player arrived, much to the dismay of a by now extra-crestfallen Jack, who remains MP3 player-less and must console himself with old-fashioned CDs or humming to himself.

Monday, 24th January, 2005

Sarah had her TB jab. It hurt. She was consoled by our visit to the Town Hall to see Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring, it seems, one of her teachers.

For some sound educational reason Jack has to find pictures of a rhino’s back on the Internet. He’s drawn a picture of a boy crying uncontrollably. I think it’s the MP3 player thing.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2005

Met Dave Morrison near Morrison’s (co-incidence or what?). He didn’t remember me so I had to remind him we met at the German evening class two years ago. He then told me about various health and financial troubles he had. Moved by the Spirit, I told him Jesus cared about all that stuff and wants him to get right with God. Dave said he really needed to pop in for some salt and a tin of peaches.

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

Maybe it’s time to switch back to full-fat milk

Not the most thrilling of subjects at a time of national political uncertainty, I’ll grant you. But it happened to come to my attention as I pondered the dwindling milk supply in the fridge and I wondered, not for the first time, if I was really benefiting by sticking to our green-topped friend semi-skimmed.

I changed several years ago when a routine health check indicated slightly raised cholesterol. At the time (and probably still), one of the standard changes advised was to stop drinking full-fat milk. Since then our fridge has had both The Green and The Blue, since my better half has always stuck to the original. Then a few weeks ago a TV documentary on food and health suggested that this accepted wisdom was being questioned by recent study results. They said the implication was that consuming full-fat milk was in fact no worse than lower-fat versions in terms of the risk of heart disease.

“Can this be true?” said I. So I did a li’l’ Internet search and concluded that, yes, it’s true that studies are indeed suggesting that. In fact, they’re also suggesting that fully-loaded milk is also no worse (and possibly better) in terms of the risk of obesity and diabetes as well. Cool.

Whether the conclusions are correct is another matter, of course, but since we generally follow accepted wisdom in these matters, and said wisdom appears to be changing, then perhaps I can change my habit too and get back to the proper Blue Stuff, sorry, White Stuff.

Hoorah.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/09/low-fat-whole-milk-usda-dietary-guidelines

http://time.com/4279538/low-fat-milk-vs-whole-milk/

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/which-milk-right-you

http://www.medicaldaily.com/whole-milk-weight-management-diabetes-risk-381052

 

UPDATE 20/8/16 — Oh, the irony. I did indeed revert back to fully-loaded milk, and quite enjoyed doing so. It made life that tiny bit simpler, having to buy just one variety of milk. But…although I do like the extra creaminess now and again, I found it too much to have all the time. So, it’s back to the Green Top for me, purely on taste grounds.

Life’s full of surprises 🙂

It is wrong and unfair to denigrate older people because of the EU Referendum result

Bringing some balance to this aspect of the referendum…

Age UK Blog

The conclusion of the EU referendum, with its relatively slender majority for Leave, has been warmly welcomed by those who campaigned for a ‘Brexit’ but generated shock and dismay on the part of many fervent Remainers and in some instances real anger too. Such emotions are  understandable, given the huge potential ramifications of the decision to leave the EU, about which we will no doubt be hearing a lot more in the days and weeks to come.

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Growing Pains

“What we often don’t realize is that the thing we are trying to get away from is the thing that God is trying to use to grow us.”

Talk about the uncomfortable truth. Like this blogger, I have a strong aversion to discomfort, pain or even mild inconvenience. You’d think I’d have learnt after 30+ years that God’s agenda isn’t the same as mine; but no. I still like to entertain the delusion that belonging to a loving Heavenly Father means He’ll always see it my way.

Good reminder.

rethink

I detest discomfort. From as far back as I can remember I have been this way. As a kid if my socks bunched up under my toes I would flip out. My socks had to fit perfectly, otherwise I just could not get past the discomfort.

I suspect this feeling characterizes most of us in western culture. We have such a disdain for discomfort that we avoid it at all costs. That’s why Americans spend over $2 billion a year on non-prescription pain killers. We can’t even stand a small headache. Now, while I think this presents a problem, I think this mindset of avoiding discomfort brings has another unintended consequence.

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