Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lies my doctor told me

(1) Milk is good for you.
Fact: Milk probably causes breast and prostate cancer (incidence now one in eight).
Rates for both in China (where environmental pollution levels are high): 1:10,000. Until they start to eat what we eat, then they catch up. Normally, they don't touch cow's milk.

(2) You need milk for your bones.
Fact: The more milk you drink, the higher your risk of hip fracture. You read that right--higher. Top of the hip-fracture stakes are USA and New Zealand, who drink enough milk to sink the Titanic. Bottom of the list--the winners--are Tokyo and Singapore, who don't drink milk. This was shown in a Harvard study, people.

(3) A mammogram may save your life.
A new study from the Cochrane Library, a non-profit group based in the UK, found that for every 2000 women having a mammogram, only one would have her life prolonged. Well, OK, but they also found that another ten women would have potentially devastating and unnecessary treatment, undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy after screening when--in their case--the changes discovered on screening would present no danger to them in their lifetimes. So much for preventive screening.

(4) Chemotherapy for breast cancer is 30% lifesaving.
Not! If 100 breast-cancer patients are given chemotherapy, only ten will get any benefit. And chemotherapy has a 1.3% risk of causing leukemia, all by itself. Plus, a recent study showed that not only is chemotherapy famous for causing hair loss and vomiting, but it's also associated with frequent trips to hospital emergency rooms, causing millions of dollars to be spent in treating its other side effect--life-threatening infections from bone-marrow suppression.

Stay away from doctors. And stay away from milk of all other species, even the organic sort. It was never meant to feed humans. Knowing this may save your life. Why isn't this widely known? Follow the money.
Trust me. I am--was--a doctor.

And go read "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. Some wacko? No--a lifetime nutrition expert out of Cornell University in New York State.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

And the winner is...

Is there anyone who hasn't broken out in a muck sweat, or had their ears turn a telltale shade of beet red, when being called on to stand up and say something before a roomful of critics? Tonight was presentation night, three minutes of fame, when each of the students in Sra. Romo-Gonzales' Spanish class spoke--in halting Spanish--about a topic of their choice.

Some were ambitious: big photo spreads, handcrafts from Iqaluit, even a wooden hammer created specially for the event with a jig-saw. Tales of cats, of epic journeys, memorable holidays. (No, the cats weren't mine.) Each "turn" drew friendly applause. We all vied for the Presentation of the Evening award. I thought for sure most of the women would bring out endearing pictures of above-average children, and having three answering that description I decided not to go that route.

But the winner, hands down, was Sam.

Sam is a construction worker by day, and though he enjoys the classes immensely they're a challenge, and he tries not to make himself too conspicuous. He works on high roofs without a second thought, so he's not afraid to give it a go when he's called on, and stumbles through the exercises with a strong Canadian accent, looking mildly astonished when it's the correct answer.

Sam was the one who talked about his family. Showed us the little group--wife , himself and three children--and explained slowly who each of them was, their names and ages. More photos, this time the two dogs. "They don't eat much," he pointed out, "they're little dogs." Questions: "What are the dogs called?" There was a quick consultation with the teacher. "Go ahead, just call them what you call them at home." "'Puppy'," he said, "and this one's 'Doggy'".

He got the most laughter, and easily the longest applause.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Antonio Banderas, please call.

Busy weekend: there was this assignment for an on-line writing course from NYC, plus a short essay for the Spanish class I'm taking (much to the derision of my son Alex, who's bilingual). OK for him, he has a lovely Colombian chica (see earlier post). I demand a date with Antonio Banderas, that's the only way I'll ever get proficient.

Plus there was the Beeb's "Pride and Prejudice" to watch on DVD. Since I don't have TV--I refuse to pay good money to have dross piped into the house--I rent movies and have only just got round to watching it. Brilliant. The very best scene in the whole series has to be the quadrille. For the crackle of sheer sexual tension it's rivalled only by good flamenco.

Darcy put me in mind of Heathcliff, in that all he's called on to do is glower--but then again, who could resist the allure of all that lovely real estate? (Note to self: my next cat will be called Darcy.) And you have to love those horses. Whoever had the horse franchise had it made in the shade. Mr. Bennet was lovely. I know someone exactly like Mrs. Bennet, and I've met the Ugly Sisters, too; unfortunately their ilk is alive and well in the UK.

Now I have to buckle down and actually read the book.

Monday, October 09, 2006

River dance.

Picture this: on the van radio, the andante movement from Mahler's 2nd symphony. The sky, deep peaches and purple in the twilight, the trees silhouetted black. The river is calm, reflecting the sky, and in this peach-and-purple mirror a family of beavers is cruising around their lodge, their snouts carving black vees in the surface. On top of the lodge sits the sentry, like the conductor of the beaver dance, their one last fling before they're cooped up in the stick and mud dome for the winter.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Que hay de nuevo?

I'm looking for the upside-down question mark on the keyboard. There's a tilda and an accent grave (how do you get it to sit on top of the required letter?) but none of the inverted punctuation essential to Spanish.

Victor Borge, the musician/comedian, made a classic contribution to punctuation some years back, narrating a steamy encounter with sound effects for each mark. He would have had a field day with Spanish.

This is all because I'm in the beginning stages of learning Spanish, my son being smitten with a chica from Bogota, Diana Maria. Diana didn't speak much English for a while; our conversations, when face-to-face, consisted of lots of hand gestures, plenty of hasty drawings and dips into the dictionary. But somehow we managed to makes ourselves understood.

The trick is to start thinking like a Spaniard, and especially to really start making the lips and jaw do some work--no use muttering between tight lips and making a half-assed stab at it--no, learning a foreign language is a serious relationship that requires commitment. Never make fun of someone who speaks with an accent, the saying goes, they speak more languages than you do.

I'm eagerly awaiting Speaking with the Hands, 101. I want to get going on the street with my cellphone, waving my arms even though the person I'm speaking to can't see me. How can I possibly be fluent in Spanish if I can't talk with my hands?