You will breastfeed, and you will like it.

Once again, RoboCop Bloomberg is on the rampage. His NYC campaign “Latch On NYC” is designed to increase the incidence of breastfeeding in New York hospitals.

Pause for breath here.

Breastfeeding is good. In fact, it’s pretty certain that it has significant benefits over bottle feeding. La Leche League has been encouraging new moms for decades, the research is out there, and I don’t need to recap it for you here. But the plain truth is, there are some moms that just can’t, for any number of valid reasons – and it’s not the job of the government, at any level – federal, state, or municipal – to get their collective noses that far into people’s personal choices.

There’s no question that formula manufacturers love giving free samples in hospitals – it’s advertising, plain and simple, and a lot of doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals have a bone to pick with that. But it’s a separate issue: hospitals should not be legislated into locking their formula up just because Hizzoner has a bee in his bonnet. This is way the hqiz out of the purview of any governmental organization, just like some of his other initiatives; our country doesn’t need nanny-state laws.

So yeah, breast-feed your baby if you can; it’s good for the baby, and it’s good for you. But don’t let what Mayor Bloomberg thinks drive your choice – that one is up to you and your family alone.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Brains, 25¢

Even zombies could live more cheaply back in the 70’s.

Photo by Jack Klobnak. Found at BoingBoing.

Klobnak wrote: “”I took this pix in the 1970’s. It is on Choteau Ave. in St. Louis, which was famous in the early 20th Century for Brain Sandwiches (use a lot of mustard). It was not uncommon for dolts to be told to take a quarter down to Choteau to get some brains. Sadly, the building is no longer standing.” The location appears to have since been completely redeveloped as a hospital.”

Huîtres Variées

Earlier this month, I posted a brief reflection on John Howard Griffin. Often my mind floats back to his seminal book Black Like Me, nudged there by something I see, or hear, or smell – the language of the book is simple but evocative, and I have read it so often that many paragraphs are always close to the surface of my memory.

One such bit comes to mind when I think of New Orleans, which I have never visited but once, briefly, of an early morning while driving from Los Angeles to Key West in the summer of 1972. I stopped in at a little greasy spoon for breakfast, somewhere close to Interstate 10, possibly in the midst of the area destroyed by Katrina, but far from the French Quarter, which I know of only by hearsay and the Disney-esque reproductions that one sees from time to time.

Griffin wrote, “At Broussard’s, I had supper in a superb courtyard under the stars – huîtres variées, green salad, white wine and coffee; the same meal I had there in past years. I saw everything – the lanterns, the trees, the candlelit tables, the little fountain, as though I were looking through a fine camera lens. Surrounded by elegant waiters, elegant people and elegant food, I thought of other parts of town wher I would live in days to come. Was there a place in new Orleans where a Negro could buy huîtres variées?1

While I speak fluent French, I have never encountered that phrase except in Griffin’s book. I began to wonder what huîtres variées were, because I love seafood (drooling now at the thought of oyster stew and steamed clams at Joseph’s Original Cap’n Cat Clam Bar in Franklinville, NJ, or a huge plate of mixed shellfish eaten at a lakeside restaurant in Torcy, France) and because I would love to try them in honor of Griffin’s life and work. Yet the only hits on the Internet lead back to the book itself or are oblique references; no restaurant seemed to offer the specific dish, except an old menu from Ben Gross restaurant in 1966, horribly misspelled as huîtres variées cheaudes et frôids, and the Grand Hôtel de Maubeuge, on the French border close to Belgium.

I had more luck when I looked up Broussard’s – they’re still there, and it does look like a lovely place to dine.

Copyright photo viewable here.

Broussard’s courtyard by day

The dinner menu at one point offered oysters as a specialty:

Definitely oysters, and prepared in various ways. So if I were a betting man, I’d say that Griffin had something like the Gulf Oyster 2-2-2, and simply chose to give it a French name, or else back in 1961 they had something similar on the menu. Sadly, the dinner menu has changed somewhat and these are no longer featured. Perhaps a seasonal change? I’ll have to keep my eyes open in the spring and summer.

Unless someone can dig up a menu from Broussard’s of that era, we may never know. What I do know is this: I gotta get me down to New Orleans.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

1Griffin, John Howard, Black Like Me, Signet Books, 1960, p. 11

Açaí, a Sigh, Assai! – The Great Weight Loss Scam

(Cross-posted from my LiveJournal)

If you haven’t heard about the “Açaí Berry / Colon Cleanse” diet rage, you’re either a luddite or have been living in a cave somewhere.


It astonishes and saddens me that people in the 21st century continue cheerfuly sending money to scammers in the hopes of getting something for nothing, or losing weight without effort.

Enough, already. This particular scam, which has flooded infomercials, targeted advertising and AdSense slots, and promoted (like just about every other fraud, as having been seen on Oprah, MSNBC, and the Dark Side of the Moon), is

a) unadulterated horse-hockey that redlines the BS-meter, and
b) potentially harmful to your health.

So here are a few facts.

1) People want your money, they don’t care about your health, and you are being lied to. The outright dishonesty with which this “miracle diet” is promoted should be enough of a red flag to send anyone with half a brain screaming in the opposite direction. Want some examples? Check out the açai scams update at Waffles At Noon. The deception goes many, many layers deep. Look up “açai berry scams”, and most of the links either take you to more product websites, or fraudulent E-zine articles or “blogs” which look like “unbiased” reviews. The depth and breadth of advertising fraud is absolutely heart-stopping, and it’s “all about the Benjamins, baby.”

2) There is nothing special about the açaí berry. Antioxidants are good. Virtually thousands of randomized, double-blind, placebo-based studies published in JAMA, Lancet and other mainstream medical journals show that free-radical scavengers help improve overall health. Fruits are full of antioxidants. The açaí berry is a fruit. Just like strawberries, kiwis, oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, mangosteens, ningxia wolfberries, and you name it. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, they’re all good for you. But there is nothing “miraculous” about this or any other fruit.

3) Colon cleansing is unnecessary and potentially harmful. Your colon is an amazing apparatus. With the exception of abnormal medical conditions such as fecal impaction due to longstanding constipation, or intestinal torsion, your colon cleanses itself efficiently and regularly. If you do a colon cleanse, you’re likely to lose a few pounds as the result of clearing out two days worth of food in your system, but as soon as you start eating again, it will come right back. Colon cleansing on a regular basis can disrupt the natural intestinal flora, and impair the colon’s natural ability to regenerate its lining. A diet rich in soluble and insoluble fibers is all your body needs to keep your colon happy, and doing what it does best – absorbing nutrients and expelling wastes.

4) Detoxification is something your body does all by itself. There are three ways the body handles toxins. It can store them, neutralize them, or excrete them. Adequate fiber in the diet increases the motility of the bowel, reducing transit time and thereby decreasing the amount of time any potential toxins are present in the colon, thus reducing reabsorption. An adequate supply of vitamins, minerals and co-factors in the diet ensure that the liver is given all the tools it needs either to convert toxins into harmless compounds, or conjugate them with other molecules, rendering them less toxic, and eject them along with the bile.

So if you’re interested in releasing weight, what can you do?

Eat less, eat better, and exercise more. There, I’ve just saved you hundreds of dollars. There really is no other answer to sustained weight release.

A few pointers:

Eating is fun. We like to eat tasty, appetizing and satisfying foods. And you can, and still lose weight. One of my favorite books (with which I have no affiliation or financial interest) is Picture Perfect Weight Loss. While I don’t necessarily recommend this specific program above certain others, if you want an eye-popping look at really yummy, healthy eating alternatives, this is a good book to keep around. It will get you thinking along the right lines.

Low-glycemic eating makes sense. Low-Carb diets are bad for you. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary energy source, and robbing your body of carbs makes it turn to secondary sources of energy which can have deleterious effects on your overall health. However, as a nation we are addicted to high-density carbs which have the effect of rocketing our blood sugar into the stratosphere. When this happens, a chain-reaction of events takes place:

a) Your body releases insulin to bring the blood sugar down to normal.
b) Because this is a “red alert” reaction, blood sugar levels tend to fall below healthy levels.
c) In response to this, your body releases a cascade of hormones to promote conversion of fat into glucose, and also stimulate your appetite.
d) You typically reach for something quick, unhealthy and satisfying – and the cycle starts all over again.

Thus we find ourselves in a constant blood sugar loop of spike and crash, spike and crash – and as we do so, our insulin levels become elevated over time. Since insulin is your body’s primary fat-storage hormone, hyperinsulinemia is effectively telling your body to store fat no matter what else you do. This is the main reason people fail at weight loss: they are carb-addicted and can’t break the sugar-spiking cycle.

Your body does best when blood-sugar levels are kept in a very narrow band just above your fasting glucose baseline. To do this, choose foods that have a glycemic index below 55, and a glycemic load below 10, and eat smaller, more frequent meals. In addition to all the physical benefits of not spiking your blood sugar, such as reducing the arterial aging rate, it helps you stay satisfied and functions as a defense against binge eating.

Get Social Help If you want a commercial plan to help you along, I recommend Weight Watchers. (Again, I have no financial interest here.) I say this because their rates are reasonable, you don’t have to buy special foods, and because their plans (point-based or an essentially low-glycemic list of core foods) give you the flexibility you need to enjoy life and still be successful.

Exercise. Just do it. 5 times a week. Get off your duff and move, getting your heart rate up for 20 minutes at the very least, and your body will thank you for it.

Get adequate vitamin support. I’m not going to tell you what to take, because I happen to promote a specific solution and I’m trying to keep this unbiased. What I will tell you is that out of thousands of products on the market, there are only about 4 or 5 companies who provide an adequate balance of vitamins, minerals and co-factors for optimal health, and almost none of them are found on grocery-store shelves. Do your research. For a number of reasons, this is a critcal part of a good weight-release plan.

Drink plenty of water. Your liver is essential in weight-release. If you get dehydrated, your kidneys don’t function as well, and shift some of the detoxification process over to your liver, which is then less able to perform its fat-burning functions. 8 oz of water, 8 times a day is baseline, with an added 8 oz. per day for every 25 lbs of extra weight you are carrying.

As a nation, we’re obsessed with weight loss, because 30% of us are morbidly obese, and 65% of us are overweight. That means that the sleazeballs will come crawling out of the woodwork to sell you anything you’ll buy.

Do yourself a huge favor, and stay away from it all. There is no magic bullet.

Bloodsoaked flawless fatal victory (translation version)

Translation can be funny. Spend a career in and around the industry, and you hear all the jokes. The disasters. The catastrophes.

Translation students invariably hear the story of the interpreter (or the computer, depending on which version of the apocryphal story is told) who rendered “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” into Russian as “The wine is good, but the meat is rotten.”

Some bad translations have long passed into legend: “The lift is being repaired today. During this time we regret you will be unbearable.” – supposedly seen on an elevator in Hungary, or Japan, or any number of other places. One can find endless lists of these on the internet, and while some are obvious fabrications, others are true because one does see such abominations out there; assembly instructions for products from the Orient used to be notoriously bad back in the 70’s, and is still a font of amusement if you want to see bad translation work.

Let a computer do your translation for you, and you can embarrass yourself and your entire nation:

If you don’t understand the results you’re getting, it’s dangerous to use automated translation – what the original restaurant name was supposed to be, no one will ever know.

The same goes for emails, if you don’t speak the language you’re dealing with:

This particular sign didn’t last long, as soon as the city council members discovered what had happened.

And then, in the midst of all the hilarity, one encounters brilliance.

Now, since I use Firefox with Adblock Plus and F.B. Purity, I never see ads on the Internet, but many folks aren’t so lucky.

I’ve got more to say about the Açaí berry scam (stay tuned), but you still see these ads, and thousands like them, all over the internet. And, these ads need to be translated for other language markets. Given that the preponderance of these Facebook and Google ads are 100% bullcrap, it’s easy to see why an ethical individual would soon tire of committing electronic fraud. One Finnish translator decided to go out in a blaze of glory.

Here’s what the ad looked like:

But if you’re Finnish, this is what you’d be seeing:

Like a boss!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

What it was like when I scraped my knee

Happened all the time. Skating, climbing trees, those deadly playground implements of destruction. And depending on what was in mom’s medicine cabinet (or even worse, if I was visiting my cousins in the country,) the cure was often worse than the injury.

Mom used Mercurochrome, until I begged her to start using Bactine™ (“Psst! Goes the Bactine™, and down go the mean old germs,” said the TV commercial, and I was all over anything that was pain-free.)

But Aunt June, for all her sweet kindness, was a closet sadist: she used merthiolate in her home, and woe unto the child who came in with a cut.

The chart below shows my impressions as a child of what various remedies were like; the pain scale images are from the inimitable Hyperbole and a Half.

Nowadays, I just wash an owie with soap and water (yeah, it stings a bit, but suck it up), slather on some Neosporin™ or other antibiotic cream, and call it good. But as a kid, my pain threshold was  lot lower. Sucks to be a kid.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

On occasion I stumble across things on Facebook or reddit or elsewhere that are relevant and which deserve to be shared. Here is one such example:

Alternate Pain Scale 1

The Old Wolf has edited.

Gargoyles of Notre Dame

Photos taken at Notre Dame in Paris, while bumming around Europe as a student in 1971.

I loved this little guy and the city scene next to him. I was captivated by the fine detail in the stone work.

Notre Dame: “Nothing ever happens around here.”

Notre Dame: Watching over the city

All photos ©1971-2012 Old Wolf Enterprises

Note: These are not gargoyles proper, as they don’t act as rainspouts (or hot lead dispensers, if you’re in Hollywood.) The term comes from “gargouiller,” a French verb describing the gurgling sound they made when water was flowing from their mouths. These would more properly be called “grotesques.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Images of Villach

I lived in Austria for almost two years, between 1975 and 1976. It has a picturesque beauty comparable to that of Switzerland, and I was privileged to live in this beautiful land and get to know these good people.

In October of 2002, I had the chance of returning again – not the first time I had been back, but I took some pictures of Villach during that trip, the first city I lived in. I share them here for your gratuitous enjoyment.

Villacher Hauptplatz – 10/22/2002

Gasthof Hofwirt – Villach Main Square. Our church had a meeting place on the second floor in the 70’s.

Hot chestnut vendor in the middle of the main square.

Sankt Nikolai Church

Autumn Colors

Villach on the Drau – Autumn colors on the river

This is a 1975 view of the main square from the Hofwirt building shown above, but from the other way – the St. Nikolai church in the background. The square used to be a traffic thoroughfare before it was turned into a pedestrian space – a great improvement, in my opinion.

Villach Square, March 1975, showing traffic lanes.

Town square during Villach Kirchtag (harvest festival). It’s called “church day,” but it’s more of a week-long thanksgiving event, held in the summer. This year it begins on July 29th. Music, traditional costumes, and drinking appear to be the major activities.

All images ©1975-2012 Old Wolf Enterprises

The Old Wolf has spoken.