Flying a "Tornado"

During a career of 30+ years in International Development and Disaster Relief in 50+ countries on 5 continents, working for Red Cross, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, I survived civil wars, cyclones, droughts, floods, a tsunami and bureaucracies in nations as diverse as Bangladesh, Mozambique, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, Malawi, Maldives, Uruguay, Togo and Uganda.

Despite the difficult and dangerous conditions I was very lucky never to get malaria or catch any other tropical disease. Even if I did not escape hepatitis and pneumonia I never broke a bone or suffered of anything more serious than a seriously bad cold.

All it took to bring this life-long, relative freedom from real illness to an abrupt end was the short, skittish and bored stunt horse I was riding as an extra on our 6th take of a scene on a movie set in South Africa. For fun and the love of horses.

With a life-time of undying love for horses (my wife Debbie and I got married on horseback!) and experience of horse trails (Poland, Limpopo, Botswana, Wyoming) I even crossed an entire country on horseback in 4 weeks, leading UNICEF’s “1,000 km for Uruguay’s Children” event. Riding from rural school to rural school to donate mini libraries we raised funds for the reintegration of street children
Fast forward 10 years to South Africa:  managing to control a spooked horse called, go ahead and laugh, “Tornado” without being thrown off I avoid being impaled on sharp branches sticking out of trees like spikes on a porcupine.

Un/fortunately gravity terminated my attempt at flying a “Tornado” when my body hit the Western saddle pommel with such force that it broke my pelvis and split it open so wide that I seemed to “have given birth to a Rhino” (Debbie). Don’t worry. The horse is fine.

I will spare you the painful details between the moments of encounter with the saddle 10 days ago and now typing this story. There is a reason, so bear with me.

Suffice it to say that the newly minted “Bionic Man” (Debbie-speak) has hip bones literally screwed together in the back and double plated in the front. My brilliant surgeon did an unbelievably good job and marvels at the speed of my recovery at the young age of 64. Debbie, however, attributes this rapid healing to a life-time of correct, sensible and non-extremist nutrition, my university degree in human nutrition and the consumption of balanced diets whenever possible; which admittedly did not always happen given the difficult conditions I lived under often and for so many years.

Now I am the beneficiary of my wife’s Asian and International cooking skills many of you had a chance to taste the results of at LOCO Lounge. With time on my hands while recovering from the adventure of fly-riding a tornado, we will be doing what Debbie and I have wanted to do for so long. Write a funny cookbook? Yes, that, too, eventually.

But many of LOCO’s customers, fans and loyalty passport holders have been asking us to reopen the restaurant in Harfield Village, Claremont, Jo’burg or anywhere else for that matter. Sorry, folks, that’s not going to happen. We will not reopen the restaurant we closed half a year ago in protest of red tape and the Mother City allowing the ridiculous behaviour of a single fire-inspector. A fire inspector of such remarkable skills that he first approved our plans waiting for us to invest and transform a boring, non-descript structure into what Heritage became excited about and both locals and non-locals called one of the prettiest buildings in the village. We trained and hired staff and opened LOCO in 2013. Then, and only then, Mr. Fire Official suddenly moves the goal posts denying us a fire clearance. After a battle of four years we said: congratulations, bureaucrats, you win. Or have you? Ask LOCO’s ex-staff; ask our customers...

What Debbie and I will be doing next is to try out/invent new recipes and post results, comments and photos on LOCO’s Facebook page

each with a few interesting scientific facts and human interest stories about the ingredients, food, health, cooking, non-extremist dietary habits and nutrition.

At least until my doc is sure Bionic Man can safely get back in the saddle.

But then we might be posting recipes, nutrition titbits and photos from our future culinary travels on horseback in far-away lands. Stay tuned.

Intelligent Batteries

You know the feeling of frustration when an appliance suddenly stops working because of empty batteries.  Of course, it always happens when a) you really need to use it, and b) another battery of the correct type is not at hand.  Frantically hunting for (usually) two you rummage through uncounted drawers, inspect the tool box and search any other place where a battery could be hiding in a dark corner. With desperation you realize there is no alternative to jumping into your car and driving to a store that sells “juice” packed in torpedo-formed metal mini tubes.  Grabbing your keys you realize with dismay that no shop within reasonable distance is open.

Don’t you wish you could buy batteries that…? Okay, I’ll come to that in a moment. Facts first. We can fly to the moon, but we can’t standardize wall sockets and electrical plugs on planet earth. No, hang on. The mess with a plethora of different plugs and systems will be the topic of another blog. Today’s is with portable electrical juice.  We humans use billions of “disposable” batteries every year, 600 million in the UK alone. Don’t worry, I won’t speak of the terrible impact gazillions of batteries have on our environment in South Africa when we ditch them indiscriminately.  I won’t mention issues so “sensitive” to pro- and anti-consumption extremists that they make the opposing camps of the 1966 Soccer World Cup match (England vs. Germany) look like close friends hugging each other after a near-death experience. Not yet, but watch this space for (more) controversial topics.

I ask today why man can fly to the moon in steel tubes and manipulate flat screen TVs in his living-room with (admittedly unwieldy) remote controls, but why on earth can’t he make batteries showing their charge level? Better yet, batteries indicating diminishing “juice power” by changing colour? Green is good, yellow means put batteries on your shopping list. And red signals your having to grab those car keys. Now. Or start feverishly checking every remote control in an unsuccessful search for a battery that works.

Forget (for a moment) the worries about the Euro, criminal governments killing their own people, global warming and other priorities on the endless list of our problems. Instead, can we pleeeease put the invention of an “intelligent” battery with a simple colour indicator on the “To-Do list” of our best and brightest for the coming year? It could help avoid many a mad dash to the next battery supply facility (like a petrol station still open after midnight). It would also help saving the environment. Man would not have to get into a hissing fit when the remote refuses all his attempts at killing channels. And she wouldn’t suddenly run out of batteries in her bedside drawer. Now, there’s a challenge!

Tired of the stalkers?

And there he is again. Lurking in the shadows, hidden in the foliage of the technology jungle, anonymously watching me, following me. His intentions are selfish, interested only in a game dictated by his rules. I’ve tried reporting his harassing behaviour but nobody cares. How long is the terror going to continue? What can I do to get rid of this uninvited, unwanted and obnoxious element in my life impossible to avoid?

Creepy, isn’t it?  Many of us are lucky enough never having had such an experience in real life. But more and more of us are beginning to understand what the victim of a stalker is going through.

As I did this morning: yet another sms to sell me car insurance, a personal loan or voucher specials, telling me of an exciting draw I have been included in by Coca Cola or Nokia or xyz. Companies using your cell phone number without your consent are nothing but electronic stalkers, obnoxious, unwanted. They use technology to harass you, take away your time you, bother you with things you don’t want and don’t need.  You cannot even block them. When you try you only get “this cell phone number does not exist”. Demanding from your service provider to be taken off all mailing lists does not work. Every time I tried it I am assured I would not be getting any more unwanted sms messages. Fat chance! It’s like being stalked, identifying your stalker, pointing him out to the relevant authorities and nobody cares or bothers to make him stop his harassing behaviour. You are on your own.

As citizens and customers we have rights. We should start boycotting companies that engage in stalking their customers online and by phone. Stand up for your rights. Tell them what you think of stalkers. Stop buying their products, stop using their services. Denounce them in public. Nothing else will work because the powers to be don’t care or, worse, benefit. Together we can help prevent the stalker from hiding behind the “free market” market.

Food Fundamentalists Want Your Body and Soul (and Your Money?!)

No matter whether it is political, religious, cultural or specifically food related extremism, fundamentalist rigidity and ideological stubbornness are bad news for all rational, thinking and intelligent people, never mind the planet.

Perhaps with the exception of refined sugar (originally used as a spice due to its cost and now equivalent to poison because of the vast quantities with which it is consumed in every comer of the globe),  no food group should be dismissed per se. And yes, this does include carbohydrates containing foods as long as they are natural and have not been tampered with by an increasingly irresponsible food industry.  

Believe it or not, carbohydrates are not made by the devil. They are normal nutrients found in the huge variety of natural foods humans have been eating for thousands of years. Foods containing carbohydrates formed the basis of our diets since we were living in caves. Humans are, should and will always be omnivores.

As with their political, religious and other extremist cadres beware of the food extremist telling you otherwise. Beware the food terrorist trying to vilify a particular food group promising you all your food related problems will go away if you just exclude that specific food, nutrient or group from your diet.  

Why should you beware of false food prophets? Because extremism is stupid and unhealthy. Because fundamentalists abhor your forming and having your own opinion based on scientifically proven facts not fiction, wishful thinking, superstition, unfounded assumptions or a lopsided but ever so convenient interpretation of scientific data, never mind religious books. They cannot stand the thought of your thinking independently. They hate the idea you would be using your brain to reflect and decide using logic. Extremists and fundamentalists want nothing more than dictate what you should believe in, who to vote for and, oh horror, what to eat (and what not).  

The likes of Noakes, Banting promoters and other food extremists come and go, at the latest when they have made enough money off a gullible public that prefers to believe extremist views rather than change their eating habits in a healthy way. There is no secret to good, healthy nutrition. You should and you can eat well.

Eating well and losing weight is not rocket science, but takes common sense and adequate information on facts not fiction: eat less, exercise more. There are no short-cuts. Sorry, I know, it’s a no-brainer, but let’s repeat it none-the-less: to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more. But it is indeed also very important what you put in your mouth. Just as you would not dream of filling the tank of your expensive sports car with dirty petrol (or worse) you need to feed your body quality food, not junk.

Eat healthily, don’t die(t). How? By eating a large variety of foods that are as fresh and unprocessed as possible. Eat food that has not been adulterated by a food industry mostly lacking a conscience but rather hell-bound on making a profit while recklessly compromising your health.

Sounds familiar? Yep, just read up on the tobacco companies’ decade-long denials and the history of their criminal behaviour. Eat less. East fresh. Cut out the sugar and reduce those items in your diet that are made with white flour.

To declare that carbohydrates found in unrefined flour and whole grain have the same effect on your health as white sugar is unproven, unscientific, illogical, irresponsible and plain dumb.  But it does nicely match extremists’ views of what and how you should eat. Who’s the devil here? Use your brain and don’t fall into the trap set by food fundamentalists. Think first, then eat. Bon appétit.