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Whew, there’s a lot of hoopla about the H1N1 vaccination program – such as it is – here in Canada. There seem to be different rules, different protocols and different levels of access from province to province, and even from health board to health board.

I was able to get the H1N1 vaccine – and the regular flu shot while I was at it – on Wednesday, October 28 in East Vancouver, and it was an interesting experience.

As soon as I heard the shot was coming out soon, I started checking the BC flu vaccine clinic website, and calling the listings to ask if they were distributing H1N1. When I called the community centre near my house on Monday, October 26, I was finally told that they were doing an H1N1 clinic, and they asked if I wanted to leave my name and get a time to drop in. I said yes, and asked if I qualified under the rules, and when I explained my health situation they said yes, they thought I’d qualify for a jab.

I was given an appointment time to show up, and on the date of the clinic I arrived about 45 minutes early. I didn’t know at the time, but the clinic was scheduled to run only from 8am to noon. I was very lucky to have gotten a time.

When I arrived, I was greeted by several community centre staff members who really seemed to know what they were doing. One gave me the rundown on what was happening, while the other one gave me a piece of paper with a number on it – 66. I was then told to go to the gym to wait, along with about 50 other people sitting on folding chairs or standing.

It was very orderly, there was no conflict or panic.

A large proportion of the waiting people were pregnant women, and here were also some small children and people who were visibly ill or disabled. The gym was divided in the middle, and the separate section seemed to be the clinic site. There was someone at the door calling numbers, and people were entering at a rate of about one per minute. It soon became clear to those of us waiting what was happening: People were being called in to register first, then were called back to be assessed by a nurse and, if appropriate, get a shot or shots.

Not everyone who waited ended up receiving H1N1. While the BC Health Ministry announced weeks before the vaccine was due that nobody would be turned away, that had not been repeated in recent times, and it was made clear to us at the clinic that the nurses were rejecting visitors who did not qualify. While I waited, several people over 65 came out with just the regular flu shot, because they apparently had immunity from one or more of the previous Swine Flu epidemics.

After about 45 minutes my number was called for the first time, and I went through to the injection room to fill out an application and show my Care Card. I then went out again and waited some more – approximately another half hour.

When I went in to see the nurse, she was very nice and businesslike. We discussed my health issues and she confirmed that I qualified for both shots, and we discussed where to put them! Apparently (and this was borne out by my personal experience), the H1N1 vaccine causes a stronger-than-usual reaction in people, so they try to put it in people’s non-dominant arm.

The injection was quick and painless, and I managed to get home on the same transfer I went out on! Before I left (they ask recipients of the shot to sit and wait for 15 minutes after receiving it to make sure they don’t have a bad reaction), I complimented the people at the front on their organisation, and they told me that they run several flu clinics per year so they just applied that template to this project, with good success.

I must say that I DID have a strong reaction to the shot.

I was fine at first, but I got progressively sicker all day, and my right arm (the H1N1 arm) got more and more sore. The nurses at the clinic were actually recommending painkillers, they said it got that bad! By the end of the day my right arm was almost immobile, and I changed clothes with the greatest difficulty.

Despite the discomfort after, the experience was remarkably painless (from a convenience standpoint at least). I feel very fortunate in retrospect to have has such a short wait, and to have been able to receive the vaccine.

How about you? Will you be getting inoculated? Have you tried and failed to be treated at a flu clinic? Have you HAD the swine flu? Please let me know.


H1N1 alerts on the Government of Canada’s website

I am a relatively healthy 60 year old, however in summer 2007, the results from my annual physical showed slightly elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and blood sugars. Nothing to be too concerned about, and I admit to not making many/any changes to my lifestyle at that time.

I began taking SBT Seabuckthorn Flavone Capsules as well as the Seed Oil and Fruit Oil Capsules in May of 2008. I take one capsule of each per day, and also occasionally drink SBT Seabuckthorn’s Tea.

In July 2008 the blood tests from my annual physical showed results very similar to the 2007 tests. Not much improvement on the markers tested, although none had gotten worse.

When I had the same tests repeated for my annual physical in July 2009, after another 12 months of taking a daily supplement of the capsules (I have now switched to one Flavone and one Single Source capsule for convenience and value), there was a noticeable change for the better over 2008 in every one of the markers tested.

LDL, HDL, triglycerides, creatinine, potassium and blood sugar levels as well as every other marker were in an improved position. Another year older, no other lifestyle changes (I had actually gained about 5 pounds over this time!), and healthier results. I’m happy!

The bonus for taking SBT Seabuckthorn Single Source capsules has been an improvement in menopausal and aged-related mucous membrane dryness.

The bonus for taking SBT Flavone capsules and drinking the tea has been an enormous decrease (to almost zero) in the amount of pain in my osteo-arthritic knee. This injury was a result of a ski accident over 25 years ago, and over the years the pain intensified, especially when walking up stairs, or walking on a down-slope. The anti-inflammatory properties in the Flavone capsules and the tea have made a big difference. A pain free day is a good thing!

SBT Seabuckthorn capsules
– from seabuckthorn.com
SBT Seabuckthorn seed and fruit oils: the differences – .PDF from seabuckthorn.com
SBT Seabuckthorn and women’s’ health – .PDF from seabuckthorn.com
Fatty acids for a healthy heart and brain – .PDF from seabuckthorn.com

Nova in the tub (note the rubber mat, reassuring to dogs)It’s fall, and that means that for us North Americans, tis the season when skunks born in the spring are sent off on their own, making life more challenging for curious dogs and their owners.

Nova has been sprayed twice: once directly on her face when I couldn’t stop her from snatching up a juvenile skunk from within a bush, and once on her back end when I couldn’t drag her away fast enough.

While researching de-skunking remedies, I learnt the truth about skunk musk: the only remedy that works is Hydrogen peroxide! Tomato juice and most other de-muskers don’t work. But the good news is, Hydrogen peroxide is way easier to get hold of in the middle of the night! And is much less expensive than a tub full of V-8 or Mott’s Clamato!

Most of the recipes for de-skunking dogs that I found online were the same; I modified mine slightly and found that it worked fine; here’s mine:

500mls or half a quart (1 large bottle) of Hydrogen peroxide* **

¼ cup baking SODA (as the recipes state, not baking powder)

a splash of liquid dish soap – not dishwasher powder. Liquid soap is OK too if no dish soap

500mls of water

Combine everything in a small plastic or glass dishwashing tub or big bowl (not metal, because the peroxide acts on it) and apply to your dog (carefully avoiding the eyes and mouth) with a big scrub brush or hand towel. Scrub thoroughly and rinse. Repeat if there’s any of the stuff left in the tub. Use straight away after mixing and don’t store any of the leftovers. Non-toxic in small doses, but will hurt like heck if exposed to the mucous membranes or any cuts.

*Get it at any drug store or supermarket

**Might as well buy two or three since you’ll need to repeat the procedure

This recipe is also good to clean up anywhere the dog has exposed her or himself to your house. When Nova got sprayed the first time, I made the mistake of letting her drool all over the floor, and I used a bit of the mix to clean it up later.

McEnroe the cat never got sprayed, but he’s a very paws-on supervisor.It’s important – nay, vital – to bathe your dog right away, so she or he doesn’t contaminate your house, garden, garage, or anywhere else. If you’re not accustomed to bathing your dog yourself, refer to my previous post, Getting started with an adult dog (part 2 of ?) – How to bathe a reluctant dog.

When Nova got sprayed in the face I had to repeat the procedure about five times before the smell really went away (partly because I couldn’t physically get to every location she’d been sprayed because they were sensitive areas), but when she got sprayed on the backside she was odour-free after two peroxide baths.

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach and a strong disinfectant. Use all relevant caution considering those two things.

There’s currently a discussion on CBC.ca: Cost a factor in Canadians’ diets. Apparently 54% of low- and middle-income people think that cost is a “significant obstacle” to eating healthy food.

“Cost is a significant barrier to healthier lifestyles for those making less than $75,000 a year,” said Jack Bensimon, president of Bensimon Byrne, the Toronto-based advertising agency that commissioned the study for its quarterly Consumerology Report, in a release.Other reasons for a less-than-ideal diet included insufficient willpower, the availability of healthy foods, lack of time, and inconvenience.

According to this article, Healthy eating costs more than junk food, study says, the cost of calorie-poor, nutrient rich food is rising against the cost of less-healthy, high-calorie food.

They found the price of the lowest-calorie fruits and vegetables was more than $18.16 per 1,000 calories, while the high calorie foods cost $1.76 per 1,000 calories.

The foods they studied were green vegetables, tomatoes and berries. As if anyone’s going to get their entire caloric intake from those three foods…

I don’t disagree with the results of the study, but the assumptions it is based upon are misleading. The study says that calorie for calorie, nutrient-rich food is more expensive than nutrient-poor food, and getting moreso. Well, duh. That has been true for a long time (since the advent of processed flour, I’m guessing).

In other words, the study looked at the contrast in cost between foods that are high in calories (junk food, processed food) and those that are low in calories (vegetables and some fruits), and found that the densest foods calorically had the fewest nutrients, and vice-versa. Consequently, the cheapest way to get your daily calorie requirements is to consume the most nutrient-poor foods, and getting your daily caloric requirements from nutrient-rich foods is more expensive, because many of them have so few calories.

But so what, really? First, the majority of us in the Western world (even low-income people) get too many calories, so sacrificing a few calories for nutrition isn’t a concern for most. Second, the study focuses on vegetables, calorie-for-calorie the most nutrient-rich foods available. So… if I want to eat 1800 calories worth of veggies a day it’s going to cost me a lot more money than 1800 calories worth of donuts and potato chips. Hmmm… again, well duh. Most of us neither need nor choose to get all our calories from veggies, and the addition of some healthy calorie-rich foods to plump up our diet will help to balance our budgets and our calorie intake.

In other words, if you choose inexpensive veggies and fruit and augment them with healthy, economical and nutrient-dense proteins, carbohydrates and fats, you will be able to meet your calorie requirements without breaking the bank.

The article did make one good point, which I agree with wholeheartedly; that the government (US government in this case because it was a US study, but it could apply to us here in Canada too) must alter the way it subsidises agriculture, which is currently skewed in favour of factory farms and cash crops.



There’s long been a myth that eating more healthfully has to be more expensive, but that doesn’t have to be true. If you’re eating hand-picked, organic, heirloom variety amaranth with cruelty-free sheep’s feta and artesian capers every meal, then yeah, it’s going to be pretty expensive. But if you keep the specialty foods to a minimum, eating healthily should actually be cheaper than eating processed, packaged empty calories. In fact, many studies show that the more processed and packaged a food is, the more expensive it is. And throughout the world, the most resourceful cooks choose unprocessed foods to save money.

Here are 5 tips for improving your diet without adding to your food bill:

Choose less-expensive produce. Not if it’s not nice or if you really don’t want to eat it, but most of us have a wide enough variety to choose from that we can pick a few fruits and veggies that we feel like eating from among the less-expensive produce. For instance: at my green-grocer’s today, grapes were $4.99/lb and bananas were $.29/lb. Asparagus was $3.99/lb and both yams and beets were $.49/lb. ALL are nutrient-rich!

Don’t buy anything that you don’t feel like eating. It seems like a no-brainer, but food isn’t the place for best intentions. Buy healthy food that you have a good chance of eating, give the stuff that you’d have to force down like medicine a pass.

Comparison shop between stores. Produce and other healthy items vary remarkably in price, and you can’t always assume where it’s going to be cheaper. Avocadoes at my local store are $.89 each, at a large grocery store $1.29 each and at Costco, almost $2 each. I’m not suggesting going to 6 different stores for your groceries, but seek out the best-priced produce in your neighbourhood. Furthermore, such staples as spices and whole grains can be much more reasonably priced at certain types of stores, such as those serving particular cultural groups, than at your local supermarket or health-food store. For instance, I go to a South Asian store to buy beans, nuts, spices and brown basmati rice in bulk, at a substantial savings over any other store. And those chipotle peppers that are sold in packets of three for a fortune? Cheap as air in bulk at Mexican delis.

Limit expensive proteins. Meat, eggs, meat analogues and processed dairy are all very expensive, and we can get more than adequate protein with less-expensive alternatives. Beans, whole grains and simple soy products (like tofu and soymilk as opposed to TVP or veggie hot dogs) are high in protein, provide calories, and are packed with nutrients. And they’re much cheaper! Even canned beans are cheaper than many other proteins, but if you soak your own dried beans, you’re saving even more.

Choose less-processed foods. Rather than stocking up on organic salad dressing, gourmet vegetarian frozen dinners and ancient grain cereals, emphasise simpler, unprocessed alternatives. Three or four staple grains, several varieties of beans, some nuts and dried fruit, lots of inexpensive produce, and some more expensive protein and specialty foods for fun and variety will more than do you, and probably reduce your grocery bills.



Cheap and healthy recipes – a bunch of mainstream homey recipes on faqs.org

Great Depression Cooking with Clara – ultra-inexpensive recipes by a woman who cooked her way through the Great Depression – on YouTube

8 Budget-healthy superfoods – ultra-nutritious foods to add to your grocery cart, plus recipes

Cheap Healthy Good – a blog devoted entirely to cheap, healthy, good food

For just under a year, I helped a neighbour who was practicing the Gerson Protocol anti-cancer diet, by preparing for her freshly-squeezed juices and food as indicated by the diet’s rules.

The salt-free, fat-free, mostly vegan, low protein, high-potassium, organic diet was developed to correct the underlying causes of ill-health (as postulated by the late Max Gerson), and is practiced primarily by people seeking an alternative cancer therapy.

I have no evidence or opinion as to the safety or efficacy of the programme, but I will say that the woman I was preparing food for was suffering from a very aggressive, late stage uterine cancer so dangerous that 50% of women who were treated for that particular cancer at her late stage were dead six months later. She is 2.5 years past treatment and cancer-free.

The highly restrictive diet is onerous for most adherents, and new, creative recipes are enthusiastically welcomed. While I worked for her, I created several recipes that I want to share with interested readers, especially those following Gerson or otherwise interested in unsalted, fat-free, wheat free vegan recipes.

A note on the recipes (in separate blog posts, linked below): Oats are the only grain allowed by the diet, so where you see oat flour that’s why. I have made some small adjustments (cheats) to the strictest interpretation of the diet: my friend preferred peeled potatoes, so that’s what I usually used in recipes; she liked herbs a lot, so I added more than was recommended; and there may be others. If in doubt, consult your personalised Gerson programme.

I’m not endorsing the Gerson protocol, simply providing some delicious food to its adherents.

Feel free to use, adapt, share and/or publish these recipes – credit “Natalie Lanoville” please.


 My recipes:

·         Potato pancakes

·         Potato soup with greens

·         Salsa

·         Veggie stew

I made myself this dish – albeit with a handful of chickpeas and a sliced clove of garlic – almost every day for lunch in Grade 11.

I adapted this recipe for a neighbour for whom I was doing some Gerson cooking for her anti-cancer diet. The Gerson Protocol limits herbs, aromatics and other concentrated flavours, but my neighbour really needed the extra pizzazz of the herbs, hence the relatively generous quantity. The Gerson protocol also limits cooking temperature, but my time was too limited to experiment with different oven temperatures and cooking times, so I just chose the lowest temperature I knew would work.

Gerson prefers unpeeled potato, but my friend was sick of potato skins, so I have used peeled potatoes in all my Gerson recipes.


Veggie stew

December, 2007



½ a baking potato, peeled

1 smallish tomato

1/3-1/2 a medium yellow or red onion

1 very small or part of a larger zucchini

1 or 2 pinches of a savoury herb: thyme, oregano or rosemary are ideal

A little water (optional)



Preheat the oven to 325º

Wash the vegetables and get out a small oven-safe covered dish.

Cut the tomato in half and slice the halves into very thin slices.

Cut the zucchini into very thin rounds, or if it is a large zucchini, halve it lengthwise first.

Peel and halve the potato, cut the half in two, and slice the halves into very thin slices.

Cut the onion into very thin slices.

Place all the ingredients in the roasting dish with the herbs and combine thoroughly.

Add a bit of water (1-2 tbsps) if desired.

Note on portions: It’s useful to think of the dish in these terms – 1 part potato, 1 part tomato, and 1 scant part each zucchini and onion.

Bake covered until the potato is tender, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Will take 20-30 minutes minimum at that low temperature.


Suggested modifications

·         If you like your zucchini tender but not soft, cook everything but the zucchini for 10 minutes, then add the zucchini and stir.

·         Add a handful of cooked beans before cooking.

·         Other vegetables are worth trying.

·         A little bit of oil and/or vinegar added before serving would make it more like a warm salad.

·         A small minced clove of garlic is nice if you like garlic.


*Makes 2 small or 1 large serving.

Feel free to use, adapt, share and/or publish these recipes – credit “Natalie Lanoville” please.

I created this recipe for a neighbour for whom I was doing some Gerson cooking for her anti-cancer diet. The Gerson Protocol limits herbs, aromatics and other concentrated vegetables, but my neighbour really needed the extra pizzazz of the herbs, hence the relatively generous quantity of cilantro.



December, 2007



2 sm or 1 lg tomato (approx. 1 cup total)

1/4-1/3 cup red onion, finely minced

1 heaping tbsp finely minced cilantro

lemon, lime juice or vinegar to taste



Blend half the tomato in a blender or food processor until it is fairly smooth.

Chop the other half into very small pieces.

Mix with the minced cilantro and onion and let sit, covered, for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to blend.


*Makes approximately 1-1/4 cups of salsa.

Feel free to use, adapt, share and/or publish these recipes – credit “Natalie Lanoville” please.

I created this recipe for a neighbour for whom I was doing some Gerson cooking for her anti-cancer diet. She preferred peeled potatoes, which is why these potatoes are peeled. This is a very good way to help get in the Gerson-required quantity of potatoes and dark greens. My inspiration was a soup I had at a Portuguese restaurant when they made my mother and I something special since there were no vegetarian appetisers.

My neighbour liked little chunks of potato, but you could also blend or food mill the whole thing before adding the greens.


Potato soup with greens

November, 2007



1 baking potato, peeled and cubed

Small wedge of yellow onion – about 1/8-1/4 cup per potato, chopped

Water to cover

Leafy greens: mustard greens, swiss chard, beet greens, etc, chiffonaded



Place the potato and onion in a pot, and add enough water to cover, plus a bit extra.

Cook, covered, on low heat until the potatoes are tender.

Mash the soup with a potato masher, and put through a food mill or a strainer if desired (not to strain out anything, but to make it finer).

Thin with a bit more water if desired.

Take a leaf or two of greens, remove the spines, and slice very very thinly into long thin strips (chiffonade) like extra-fine julienning (should total heaping 1 cup loosely packed).

Add to simmering soup and cook until desired tenderness.

Eat right away.

*1 potato renders 2 small servings.

Feel free to use, adapt, share and/or publish these recipes – credit “Natalie Lanoville” please.

I created this recipe for a neighbour for whom I was doing some Gerson cooking for her anti-cancer diet. The Gerson Protocol limits herbs, aromatics and other concentrated flavours, but my neighbour really needed the extra pizzazz of the herbs, hence the relatively generous quantity of dill. The Gerson protocol also limits cooking temperature, but my time was too limited to experiment with different oven temperatures and cooking times, so I just chose the lowest temperature I knew would work.

The recipe was adapted from Ashley/Medellia12 at Vegan-Food.net, and I am very grateful to that site for the inspiration. I chose their recipe as the basis for mine because it was already fat-free and used oat flour rather than wheat flour. I added dill and changed the proportions a bit, as well as moving the cooking venue from a frying pan to the oven. Gerson doesn’t allow any salt and discourages pepper, so I eschewed those as well.

Gerson prefers unpeeled potato, but my friend was sick of potato skins, so I have used peeled potatoes in all my Gerson recipes.


Potato pancakes

Modified from a recipe on vegan-food.net

October, 2007



1 cup grated baking potato (approximately)

¼ c. finely minced red onion

2-3 tbsps finely minced fresh or frozen dill

3 tbsps oat flour




Preheat oven to 350º

The order of preparation is to minimise browning the potatoes prior to cooking.

Have a baking dish, grater, measuring cups, tablespoon measuring spoon, mixing spoon, potato peeler, two mixing bowls, a chopping board and a knife ready before starting.

If following the measurements exactly, put the oat flour in one of the mixing bowls and mix in enough water to make a thin batter, like a crepe batter.

Mince the dill and onion and add them to the mix.

Peel and grate a cup of potato, then chop it lightly to make the pieces smaller and add to the batter.

Mix thoroughly, spoon out into four neat piles on the baking dish, then gently spread and press until the patties are 4-5 inches in diameter and 1/4-3/8 of an inch thick.

**If you’re adjusting the other ingredients to use up a whole potato (which is usually approximately 1-1/4 cups), then skip the oat flour step, mince a little bit extra dill and onion, grate the whole potato, measure it, and use an extra tbsp of oat flour for every 1/4-1/3 cup of potato. Mix the oat flour mixture in the second mixing bowl and add it after it’s thoroughly mixed.

Bake for 30 mins, then carefully flip the pancakes and cook 20-25 minutes more.


Suggested modifications

·         Leave out the dill and serve with salsa

·         Leave out the dill and serve with applesauce

·         Add some peeled, grated apple (1/4-1/3 cup)

·         Season with different herbs

Feel free to use, adapt, share and/or publish these recipes – credit “Natalie Lanoville” please.

We at Seabuckthorn International Inc are pleased to announce that our SBT Seabuckthorn therapeutic skincare line has been chosen by Puresource Natural Products as their only line of seabuckthorn products.

Puresource is a national natural products distributor with a 20 year history of serving quality Canadian retailers, and we’re very excited to be part of their family.

We look forward to being able to serve our Canadian retailers even better with the help of Puresource’s well-informed, enthusiastic sales force.

In addition to fonts, I love birds. One of my favourite pastimes is sitting quietly in my garden listening to the busy chatter and watching the hypnotic movement of birds.  While I do have a lot of glass in my home and deck, my home must be situated just right because, thankfully I do not have many bird meets glass fatalities.  Sadly, according to eighth grade student Charlie Sobcov of Ottawa, Ontario in Canada this is definitely not the norm. Did you know that over 500 million birds die every year from collisions with windows! That is an unimaginable number!

Charlie thought so too so he determined to do something about it. After much research Charlie came up with a brilliant, simple and economical idea. For his latest school science fair project he has invented painted, plastic decals that can be placed — discreetly — right in the middle of a windowpane.

“This paint is a colour that birds can see but humans can’t,” he said Wednesday on CBC Radio’s All in a Day. “It’s like putting a big stop sign in the middle of the window.”  Charlie has done some field-testing of this new invention and it works like a charm. Apparently the birds just veer right away from the windows that have the decals. Not a single bird lost. And the views that we humans so treasure remain unimpeded and pristine.

Don’t you love this idea! I want to buy a bunch right now and give them to all my friends. I am also completely enchanted that someone like Charlie is thinking about things like this. Charlie, you are my hero and I definitely nominate you for the SBT Seabuckthorn Heal the World badge. Thanks Charlie! 


Listen to an interview with Charlie (Real Audio, CBC.ca)

Oops! They did it again! Researchers have removed another card from the house built by the beer, wine and spirits stakeholders who are trying to convince consumers that alcohol consumption confers a net health benefit.

Yes, research still shows that heart disease (by the way one of the easiest syndromes to improve or avoid through lifestyle changes) is improved with moderate alcohol consumption (or at least isn’t made worse. As far as they can tell.). But in yet another study – Study links heavier drinking to prostate cancer – incidences of cancer rise in proportion to rising alcohol use; in this example, it’s prostate cancer. In a recent post – Study says one serving of alcohol per day enough to increase cancer risk in women – researchers found an increase in several other cancers linked to levels of alcohol use, in a study of 3 million women.

There is a marriage of convenience here: booze stakeholders who want to get consumers to drink more, and people who want to find a reason to not drink less. It’s a challenging relationship to break up – but the wedge, provided by hard science – is getting sharper.

Image courtesy WikiMediaFoundation.org, via GNU documentation license.According to a recent Vancouver Sun article – We’re told to go easy on students, B.C. teachers say – school principals are ordering teachers to ensure good grades to students, even if it means never giving a zero on an assignment or allowing a student to take a test as many times as necessary to achieve a passing grade.

According to author Janet Steffenhagen, school principals across British Columbia have embraced “Assessment for Learning”, the outcome of which, teachers say, is an undermining of teachers’ autonomy over their classrooms.

Editor’s note: I pride myself on my Google Fu (prowess with successfully using Google to answer questions and gain knowledge), but googling “ “assessment for learning”, I was unable to find a link that defines it in the context of this article, so I linked to the google search itself, and you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions.

What do I think? Well, I’m not well-versed on the politics of education, but I’ll weigh in with a couple of points. First, I think it’s ridiculous to never give a zero (as ridiculous as never giving perfect marks, a policy I came up against often in high school ;-).) Second, I am not so sure about re-taking tests.

Yes, there are some professions where getting it perfect or near-perfect the first time is critical. But it’s not the defining characteristic of successful work in general. There are lots of professions, even responsible, highly-paid ones, where the end result is the critical element, not how you got there. For instance: If I’m being taught by someone (yeah, I’m laughing at the irony of this example), I don’t care whether it took them 50 minutes or 50 hours to learn what they’re teaching me – I only care how well they are able to pass on what they know.

So, should the student who takes three tries to get 90 on a test enjoy the same advantages as the student who got it right the first time? No, I don’t think so. But it’s actually fairly easy to tweak the system to ensure the best students are still rewarded. I’m sure I’m not the first person to suggest this, but if I were to implement a system of re-taking tests, I would assess a 5% compounding penalty for each re-take. So if a student got 45% on the first test, took it again and got 55%, s/he would be given a 50 on the test (55%-5%). If they took it again and got 65%, they’d get 55% because they’d be dinged 10%, 5 for each of two tries.

That’s the end of my input, although I’m sure the issue itself is nowhere near over. What do you think?



Report Card – Ms Steffenhagen’s education blog on Canada.com

Not so long ago, in a blogoverse not at all far away, SBT Seabuckthorn Blog maintained a series of satellite blogs on major blogging platforms!

Why do we do this? Well, a main reason is because we’re very active in the blogging world, we read a lot of blogs and we comment on a lot of blogs, and many blogging platforms support or even require logins, which are connected to their native blogging platform.

And belumph fristred blogoverse platform snufflepus!

In other words, HUH??? What the heck did I just say?

Well, let’s figure out some of the particulars. First, if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that a blog (short for Web Log), is a kind of a cross between an online diary and a news outlet, which allows users to post (publish) frequent, chronological updates or broadcasts regarding whatever the user wants to write about.

You might also know that readers of the blog can comment on individual posts, offering praise or criticism, adding information, or participating in a discussion of or at the blog post.

So how does one start or find a blog? Well blogging requires special software, which lives on big servers on the internet (not on your home computer). Because this special software is created by particular individuals or companies, they like to manage it from their own servers. So online communities such as LiveJournal, Yahoo!, Blogger, and blogging specialists such as WordPress make their software available to people who want to blog, and when those people start a blog, it is stored and managed from the blogging software developer’s servers. You own the content, but it is stored and managed from a remote location, kind of like webmail. The software is called a blogging platform, and the locations where they are stored are called blogging sites.

To protect their blog authors – who are all members of their unique community by virtue of a login just like webmail – these servers give preferential treatment of various kinds to registered users. This preferential treatment includes automatic approval of comments.

Because we at SII are interested in participating in blog-based discussions, we have created satellite blogs on some of the major blogging platforms, partly to make it easy to leave comments on other blogs on the same platform, and partly to make it easier for other bloggers to find us!

So where are we in the blogoverse? Good question! Here’s the answer (so far):

  1. Yahoo!360°
  2. gaia.com
  3. Blogger
  4. MySpace
  5. LiveJournal
  6. MSNLive

If you don’t read these blogs regularly you won’t be missing much – we don’t update them very often and we don’t break any critical news on one of the satellites and not the MotherShip (AKA Seabuckthorn.net), but if you blog on one of those platforms, you might get a friend request from us, or see a comment from us!

We look forward to getting to know you better in your own internet neighbourhood.

Like most North Americans, I have a lot of stuff. Like most North Americans, most of my stuff is precious. However, some is unwanted, some is disorganised, and some comprises unfinished projects that haunt my psyche and stress the Fire Marshall.

For various reasons, I find that the degree of mental discipline required to independently deal with these collections is outside my natural abilities. Without outside help, the steady murmur of my clutter is not sufficient to goad me into action. I’m just that good at ignoring things!!

But I have wanted to deal with it. Further to that end, over the years I’ve tried to enveigle numerous of my junk-loving neighbours to do de-cluttering parties with me – I’d come to their place to help them, they’d come to my place to help me – but none of them took me up on the suggestion. I’m not sure why… if they were ashamed of their mess, or if they thought they would deal with it themselves, or if they just never planned on dealing with it!! Whatever the reason, I was never successful at getting the clutter buddy I so keenly desired.

Enter Craigslist. scrummy, yummy Craigslist!!! The magical place where junk lovers and junk leavers make beautiful music together.

I posted an ad asking for a de-clutter buddy – someone who was in a similar situation to me who would exchange time with me helping each other organise our messes. I got one reply, from the perfect person! She was in a very similar situation to me, and had also tried to get people she knew to go in with her on the project.

We’ve gotten together at least once a week for a while now, and it’s been going great! We help each other with things from going through boxes of mementos to fixing furniture; from finding good homes for rock collections to shredding old paperwork. Sometimes we both get our hands dirty working, other times the visiting helper is just there for moral support.

For most of human history over most of the world, ‘many hands make light work’ was not just an adage, it was an operating philosophy. Particularly in the day-to-day lives of homemakers (whether from Western or developing nations), collaborating on household chores – or even just gathering to keep company while working on individual projects – was a way to get through necessary, but sometimes tedious, work.

We’re lucky: in this era, in this part of the world, most of the necessary work is no longer tedious. But that doesn’t make the remainder any less of a chore! I think it we could tap some of the spirit of help and cooperation that was more common to previous generations, many of us could tackle unpleasant projects and have happier, more orderly home lives.

I don’t know if my clutter buddy wants to be named – she’s a journalist with lots of articles online – but if she doesn’t mind, I’ll write more on this topic in the future.

I was listening to Norah Young of Spark on CBC Radio on Saturday. In their own words: “Spark is a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching. It’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us. 

As someone who does a lot of presentation work I am passionate about fonts. So the item on the “ecofont” made my ears perk up. Gerjon Zomer, a Dutch entrepreneur and visual artist, has designed an environmentally friendly font!  His challenge was to see how much of a font could be removed yet still maintain legibility. After much testing he determined that the most effictive design was essentially a polkadot font, one where there were as many white dots as possible. He maintains that this font uses 20% less printer ink than standard fonts.

I was so captivated by this whimsical creation that I determined to put it to use in our paper gobbling office. Janet, our very talented Office Manager has just finished converting all our Simply Accounting templates to the ecofont. She is just as excited and proud as I am at implementing this micro conservation measure. We will be closely watching our HP printer reports to see how those incredibly expensive cartridges are holding up.  I want to nominate Gerjon Zomer of Sprang to our Heal the World category for this charming and inspired contribution to the good of the world. 

I am not a particularly good student of history but I do remember that we spent considerable time studying the violent and bloody history of Europe. As I recall the obscene wealth and land holdings of the few were built on the virtual slave labour of the many. The many were called serfs. They worked the land of the wealthy and were permitted to eat some (not much) of the food they produced. They had virtually no rights and their lives were completely governed by the whims and passions of the oddly named “nobility”.

While our lives today are nothing like those of the serfs of the past an uncomfortable and uneasy parallel has emerged in the last few months. I must be slow to react because after listening to the reports of the global meltdown for about five months I am finally furious. I still cannot get my head around the fact that millions of people on “Main Street” as the pundits call it, have been laid low by a handful of elite on “Wall Street”. The fact that millions of people around the world are out of work, that the manufacturing sectors of most countries are collapsing, that blocks and blocks of houses sit empty in US cities because of the unconscionable greed of a few high flying scoundrels is simply unacceptable to me.

In fact, I think Canada and the US should source materials from within their own countries for infrastructure projects. Let’s try it and see if the sky falls. How are we going to rebuild our manufacturing sector? When does the citizen matter? When do the people that pay taxes matter? Why can’t we buy Canadian? Why does everything in our stores have to come from some other country? What would happen if each country in the world decided to start at home to rebuild? I would love to find out. I have the chilling suspicion that if the “experts’ and the bucket shop jockeys have their way it will remain business as usual and the only winners will be the ones who control the money. Business as usual – or – the 2009 version, no business as usual.

Its time for a quiet revolution folks. I don’t know quite what it should look like but it starts in neighbourhoods. It starts with people buying locally and giving locally. Vote in the MUNICIPAL election. It is the most important election we have. It is where we live. It affects our quality of life. While it certainly does not look like it right now, Main Street is where the real power lies. It is time to figure out how and why the millions surrendered to the few and TAKE IT BACK. Not with blood, not with violence but with intelligence, communication and community.

When Wall Street is Starving Main Street – from the Oxdown Gazette
Admiration Turns to Anger as Wall St. Bosses Feather Nests – from The Washington Post

Welcome to Seabuckthorn Q&A, where we answer questions posed to us through email, blog comments, or search engine searches.

This month’s featured question is: Where to buy SBT Seabuckthorn Therapeutic Cleansing Bars in Toronto, Canada?

First of all, I’d like to say that the vast majority of health food stores have access to our products through noted Health Food Products distributors Purity Life and Puresource, two of the biggest natural products distributors in Canada, both based in Ontario. Virtually all health food stores a customer visits can request our products through special orders if the store does not carry our SBT Seabuckthorn products.

With that being said, below is a short selection of the many excellent stores in Toronto that carry our SBT Seabuckthorn soaps:

121 KING ST W. #B123
M5H 3T9
Google Maps

Hooper’s Pharmacy – Toronto
2136 Queen St. East
M4E 1E3
Google Maps

Noah’s Natural Foods – 667 Yonge St
667 Yonge St.
M4Y 1Z9
Google Maps

Whole Foods Market – Toronto Avenue Rd Toronto
87 Avenue Road
M5R 3R9
Google Maps

Margis Pharmacy & Organics
408 Roncesvalles Avenue
M6R 2M9

Google Maps

Evergreen Natural Foods – Roncesvalles
161 Roncesvalles Avenue
M6R 2L3
Google Maps

Peachtree Health Foods
2239 A Bloor Street West
M6S 1N7
416 913 4466
Google Maps

Second Nature Foods
2179 Bloor St. W.
M6S 1N2
416 915-8269
Google Maps

The Big Carrot
348 Danforth Ave
M4K 1N8
Google Maps

I’ll soon be interviewing to fill a position here at Seabuckthorn International, and there’s one question I won’t be asking the applicants: Tell me your biggest weaknesses.

I sometimes lose focus in hostile environments, my attention to detail can become a liability in certain circumstances, and while I work well independently, I find it challenging to perform at my best in the absence of clear leadership.

It’s a question I answered (awkwardly and not without trepidation) numerous times over the years, but it wasn’t until a position a few years ago where the principals regularly used my answers against me in my day-to-day work, that I realised what a huge responsibility it is to ask that an applicant reveal such intimate and delicate self-knowledge.

Do you really think you should be walking and chewing gum at the same time? I thought you said you lose focus easily.

I suppose that the question can be usefully revealing to a good interviewer, but I’m not sure that every interviewer – particularly if that person is also the hiree’s direct supervisor – is able to set aside the anxiety and mistrust induced by the revelation, and give the new employee an opportunity to succeed or fail on her own merits.

I think the best insight an interviewer can expect from this question is the level of self-knowledge of the applicant. A dishonest, delusional or off-topic answer can be a red flag, certainly.

My co-workers are so jealous of me that they regularly sabotage my work…

I’m too nice…

 I’m too real, people can’t handle it…  

I am very depressed…  

I’m afraid of commitment…  

My therapist says I use people…

An honest, on-topic answer shows that the applicant knows his own limitations, is capable of recognising which behaviours and character traits influence his work, and has a degree of honesty and courage. This honesty and self-knowledge is a gift, and as interviewers, employers and supervisors, we have an obligation and responsibility to use this information judiciously.

In my opinion, we should be using an honest, on-topic answer as evidence of a person who is capable of self-monitoring and growth. We shouldn’t be using it like an electron microscope that helps us focus on weaknesses or defects. If the person we hire is capable and qualified enough to bring into the fold, we should be judging them on their performance and nothing else.

And if we do find an irrepressible need to bring up the employee’s answers to interview questions, it’s essential that our inquiry be diplomatically-worded and that our memory of the answers be accurate!

But you said that your detail orientation can sometimes be a liability. Don’t you think you’re getting a little carried away with that obsession of yours?

Managing people is important. But managing your employees by reminding them how sure you are that they are going to be tripped up by their own insecurities is a form of human resources insider-trading. I think it takes a very big person to utilise the answers to that question in a manner that truly helps with the hiring process without becoming a liability after making a successful hire, and I’m not sure I’m that big a person.

I’m a raging alcoholic, I steal from the till, and I can’t remember the words to Happy Birthday.

If only it were that easy.


According to this CBC article, a recent study of 1.3 million women concluded that as much as 13% of cancers in British women may be accounted for by alcohol consumption.The study, which followed the women (most of whom were light to moderate drinkers and 25% of whom were teetotallers) for an average of 7 years, was published in Tuesday’s issue of Great Britain’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“These findings suggest that even low levels of drinking increase a woman’s risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver and rectum — and in smokers, cancers of the mouth and throat,” Naomi Allen of the University of Oxford, who led the study, said in a statement.

While this is just one study, the number of related studies supporting this view is growing. In my mind, it underlines the importance of taking the pro-alcohol medical conclusions with a grain of salt.

People want to drink, and they justify their alcohol intake by telling themselves that it’s good for the heart. But in fact, even if this is true, two other things are also true:

  1. Any one of the following: Quitting smoking, exercising or improving diet will do more for your heart, and will help your other bodily systems, than the level of alcohol consumption that has been shown (in some studies) to improve heart health; and
  2. Even moderate alcohol consumption damages other bodily systems, notably the brain and liver.

In fact, according to the article, it is alcohol’s effect on the liver (even in low to moderate drinkers) that is responsible for the additional cancer risk.

In a related statement, Michael Lauer and Paul Sorlie of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States said, “There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe,” an unpopular opinion, according to Dr. Kathy Pritchard, an oncologist and head of clinical trials and epidemiology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre.

The article also noted that both men and women who drink have higher estrogen levels in their bodies. Gross.

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