“First We Eat”: A Lighthearted Film Takes on More Serious Overtones

The Canadian documentary “First We Eat” takes a rather amusing and lighthearted perspective on the challenges of eating locally particularly in Canada’s Yukon.

It was precipitated by a landslide that covered the only road into Dawson City. Grocery shelves were emptied in 48 hours. This caused Suzanne Croker to embark on a one- year project to only eat local. Her husband and three children were reluctant but, in the end, supportive. By day three Suzanne is exhausted and near tears. Making your own salt from plants and getting your drinking water from trees and making birch syrup is not an easy task. In fact, it is just about a full time job.

Crocker realized the family would not make it unless they obtained help from a group of hard nosed but supportive hunters and gatherers and the viewer is on a journey discovering a community of producers including dairy farmers, livestock producers and most interestingly Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in natives  who have been living off the land for thousands of years although the younger generation has to “go back to school” and be trained on hunting and gathering. And such respect and veneration they have for the fish and animals they kill and where nothing is wasted. Suzanne notes her vegetarianism is on hold as the only source of protein was from fish and meat.

Crocker’s family accomplished Crocker’s goal an amazing feat where 97% of food is transported into Dawson City. There are moments of family agony and retching and gagging over terrible tasting food. Yet there is the triumph of making birch syrup, homemade yogurt, butter, cheese and moose beef and kidney pie amongst many other dishes. Soap berries or pig blood and milk smoothies anyone?

Crocker notes when you rely on outside sources for all your food you are in trouble. Crocker strongly believes in establishing a relationship with all the producers of her food to the point she knows where everything came from on the family’s plates.

As Crocker says, “Some of the challenges we faced are very much specific to the North, but the theme of food dependence is global. A community that depends on its food coming from elsewhere is extremely vulnerable. And I like to say that the North is the canary in the coalmine of food security.”

I try to eat local and it does take some effort  but the produce I eat is fresher and not doused with preservatives and chemicals but if the pandemic spirals out of control I will not have to depend on grocery stores to the extent most people do. Never take for granted your food supply and give thanks to those who produce it and transport it to you.

In a way there is some similarity to a Canadian documentary I saw (the name of which escapes me) of a couple wanting to make a point that much of the food produced simply rots away as garbage so they lived off food from restaurant and grocery store dumpsters for a year.

Crocker is an acclaimed film maker and “First We Eat” is very well produced conveying an important message. It won the 2020 Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival. It has been playing throughout Canada including Cinema Parc in Montreal other virtual theatres are described here https://blueicedocs.com/stream/31/first-we-eat/.

Congratulations Crockers! You did it! Watch this trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LmBY915KNQ Oh by the way Suzanne no longer requires blood pressure medication.


The Barren Land of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

If you have been exposed to an MBSR/MBCT course through a hospital which is quite often a step for people suffering from depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder mindfulness becomes a bland therapeutic tool focusing on a apparently simplistic tool of meditation focusing on the breath to give the mind a respite from what has upset it. At the end of the day it is therapeutic type of tool. Whether it be MBSR or MBCT in an institutional setting it really has very little soul. A constant Jon Kabat-Zin theme of being in the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion. Often boring body scan meditations. Breathe, breathe and think of nothing else but the breath. This has so much wisdom in it but having been  at least 14 days of MBSR training at a local hospital I can say only a few really understood its significance .Nor is there any understanding of Buddhist or Daoist traditions that form the core of modern mindfulness.

Yes MBSR and MBCT arguably are simply tools. Like prescribing an anti-depressant MBSR/MBCT has become a “drug” to deal with stress and psychiatric disorders. I participate in, or used to before COVID, a monthly mindfulness group meeting headed by a psychiatrist at a local hospital. Yet try to talk about “being in the present moment” or “feeling as one” during meditation really no one understands these concepts. That is a shame to see that mindfulness may be just another RX script. A new nondrug drug. The way I see it taught within the hospital situation is that mindfulness is about a state of mind and not a state of how to live mindfully.

Now if it works to reduce or control stress and psychiatric conditions bravo!

But mindfulness living requires more than a technical sophistry if one wants to take that path. Should there be a value-based mindfulness? By this I mean a conscious attempt to import certain values into a mindful practice. Arguably if one becomes aware of these values isn’t one mindful of them?

Can we move beyond that shallow technical application of head towards a value-based mindfulness that involves principles of living and relating that involves more than a quick and dirty meditation that frees the mind from adverse reactions to life?

Perhaps this is something we should delve into? Are there principles of mindfulness that take us beyond the quick and dirty technical use of mindfulness and shape our lives to a more rich and rewarding intellectual existence beyond that trite “living in the present moment” expression. Well it is not that trite but in my experience it is trite as MBSR participants have absolutely no or little understanding of how it feels and how it means.

Yet should we have a cup of “mindful tea” wearing our mindful T-shirts. Or should we be suckered in by employers offering mindful courses to perhaps exploit and manipulate their employees. Hey, the employer says, we gave you the tools to manage stress so let’s put more responsibility on how as after all you have been “trained” to handle stress.

Let us delve deeper into what mindful living might encompass. Coming up a discussion on the 16 guidelines of life.

(The author is certified in mindfulness by the University of Toronto and the University of Leiden.)


E-Hotleier’s Post on AI in The Hotel Industry: Efficiency and AI: We Know the Result

Automating guest communication? Chatbots are just the tip of the iceberg

Zoe KoumbouziPosted on Yesterday at 9:18 am


In times of crises, we tend to look to technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Previous crises have boosted digital transformation and the current corona pandemic is no different. Digital transformation means replacing existing practices with more advanced digital technology to become more efficient. It can involve many technologies, but currently, Artificial Intelligence and big data are driving much of the transformation.

It has been shown that companies that adopt quickly and decisively in times of crises to new paradigms, later reap the rewards. It’s not the moment to play it safe, on the contrary: now is the time to reassess your digital tech stack. Once we reach the post-pandemic era, newly implemented technologies will become the new norm. Taking an early digital leap will set your property ahead of your competitors when things take off again.

What technologies should I consider?

Let chatbots do the chatting

Artificial intelligence has been named as the most promising technology of the past few years. It’s clear that we will see a rapid increase in the use of AI in all sorts of platforms, messaging being no exception. AI-driven chatbots are a great tool to streamline guest communications, whether before, during or after their stay.

During the pandemic, we have acquired new digital habits, most of which include our mobile phones, like scanning QR codes for restaurant menus, video calling, not to mention a huge global uptake in messaging use. The post-pandemic guest will expect to be able to request services or ask questions through their usual messaging channels instead of having to queue at reception.


Automate and streamline workflows

Chatbots are a great way to start the digitalization of your guest communication. However, it is important that the processes that follow or precede the conversation are equally digitalized and streamlined. When a guest requests come in through your messaging platform, the right automated processes should be in place, so the requests immediately land into the right hands and it’s clearly understood what the next steps are.

Don’t wait, automate

Consider automating your reactive (incoming) but also your proactive (outgoing) communication. Send out the key information before arrival, so your guest can come prepared with the right expectations, and you can be well prepared for your guest. By proactively contacting your guests at key stages of their guest journey, you can detect any needs before they become issues and facilitate essential information.

Collect, analyze & learn from guest data

In this changing landscape it can be hard to pinpoint guest needs, which is where guest analytics can help you. To understand your new type of guests, analyze guest data by gathering information through messaging interactions and guest requests. Collect all your interactions and stays into one profile to better understand who your guests are and create smart guest lists for a more effective and segmented communication.

Learn about your guests’ needs and preferences by analyzing your incoming guest requests: what services or information do they request most, through what messaging channels, etc. Guest request data can also help you improve and streamline your operations by looking at what issues are reported most frequently, what are the root causes, are all issues resolved, how fast are they resolved, etc. Keeping track of guest data will allow you to adapt and better your strategies as the situation continues to evolve.

When you decide to introduce a chatbot into your organisation, keep in mind that for a successful digital communication strategy you need much more. They are a great starting point, but the rest of your operations should also be optimised and streamlined with the right technologies so you are well-prepared for what comes after the pandemic.


Your Mother Always Said Eat Fruit and it May Actually Benefit Your Health!

Logo of nihpa

Nutr Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Mar 31.Published in final edited form as:Nutr Rev. 2010 Mar; 68(3): 168–177.doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00273.xPMCID: PMC3068482NIHMSID: NIHMS171310PMID: 20384847

Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health

Arpita BasuMichael Rhone, and Timothy J LyonsAuthor informationCopyright and License informationDisclaimerThe publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Nutr RevSee other articles in PMC that cite the published article.Go to:


Berries are a good source of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, micronutrients, and fiber. In epidemiological and clinical studies, these constituents have been associated with improved cardiovascular risk profiles. Human intervention studies using chokeberries, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries (either fresh, or as juice, or freeze-dried), or purified anthocyanin extracts have demonstrated significant improvements in LDL oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia, and glucose metabolism. Benefits were seen in healthy subjects and in those with existing metabolic risk factors. Underlying mechanisms for these beneficial effects are believed to include upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, decreased activities of carbohydrate digestive enzymes, decreased oxidative stress, and inhibition of inflammatory gene expression and foam cell formation. Though limited, these data support the recommendation of berries as an essential fruit group in a heart-healthy diet.Keywords: anthocyanins, berries, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, nitric oxideGo to:


Consumption of fruits and vegetables has been correlated with decreased risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD). National health objectives reflected in Healthy People 2010 advocate increasing fruit consumption by more than 75% or to at least two servings per day in persons 2 years of age and older.1 Currently, only 32% of adults and 13% of adolescents meet this goal of fruit intake.2,3 Between the years 2000 and 2020 overall fruit consumption in the United States is anticipated to grow by 24–27%. This increase is attributed in part to an increase in per capita consumption, and in part to a predicted increase in the total consumers in the US market.4

The consumption of berry fruits and their contribution to improving cardiovascular health is a subject of considerable interest. The commonly consumed berries in the United States include blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberries. Less commonly consumed berries include acai, black currant, chokeberry, and mulberries. Berries are low in calories and are high in moisture and fiber. They contain natural antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, andmicronutrients such as folic acid, calcium, selenium, alpha and beta carotene, and lutein. Phytochemicals found in berries include polyphenols along with high proportions of flavonoids including anthocyanins and ellagitannins. Table 1 lists the commonly consumed berries and their selected nutrient and phytochemical composition as identified in the USDA food composition database.5,6 Anthocyanins comprise the largest group of natural, water-soluble, plant pigments and impart the bright colors to berry fruits710 and to flowers. Approximately 400 individual anthocyanins have been determined. They are generally more concentrated in the skins of fruits, especially berry fruits. However, red berry fruits, such as strawberries and cherries, also have anthocyanins in their flesh. Anthocyanin content is usually proportional to the color intensity and can range from 2 to 4 g/kg, increasing as the fruit ripens. Evidence suggests that Americans consume an average of 12.5–215 mg of anthocyanins per day.11 Studies have shown that berry anthocyanins are poorly bioavailable, are extensively conjugated in the intestines and liver, and are excreted in urine within 2–8 hours post consumption.12,13 Post-harvest processing, such as pressing, pasteurization, and conventional and vacuum drying, can significantly affect the polyphenol (including anthocyanin) and vitamin content of berries, and therefore their bioactivities and effects on CVD risk factors.1416

Table 1

Berries with select nutrient and phytochemical profiles expressed in values per 100 g of edible portion.5,6

content (mg)*
C (mg)
E (mg)
Blackberry  90.4642.5  2.49  435.3  211.17
Blueberry163.5251.71  9.72  572.4    9.70.57
Bilberry430.91  4.13NFNFNFNFNF
Chokeberry, raw437.22NF  8.90NFNFNFNF
Cranberry juice (unsweetened)NF  0.9220.82  460.1    9.31.20
Cranberry juice cocktail    0.46  0.19  1.79  54NF  42.30.22
Cranberry (dried, sweetened)    0.72NF  6.91NFNFNFNF
Cranberry sauce (canned, sweetened)    0.14NF  5.111511.0    2.00.83
Currant, black, raw272.44  1.1712.69  63NF1811.0
Mulberries, rawNFNF  2.47  431.7  36.40.87
Black raspberry324.02NFNFNFNFNFNF
Red raspberry (raw)  38.68  6.63  1.32  526.5  26.20.87
Strawberry  33.63  4.51  1.6  322.0  58.50.29

*Total anthocyanidins (cyanidin, delphinidin, peonidin, petunidin).Total flavan-3-ols [(−)-epicatechin, (−)-epicatechin 3-gallate, (−)-epigallocatechin, (−)-epigallocatechin 3 gallate, (+)-catechin, (+)-gallocatechin].Total flavonols (kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin).

Abbreviation: NF, not found in the USDA food composition database.Go to:


Nutritional epidemiology provides convincing evidence of the cardioprotective effects of frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables high in fiber, micronutrients, and several phytochemicals.1720 Data reported from the INTERHEART study, comprising dietary patterns from 52 countries, revealed a significant inverse association between the prudent dietary pattern high in fruits and vegetables, and risk of acute myocardial infarction.21 Evaluation of selected nutrients and food group intakes among 2,757 overweight US adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is an established risk factor of CVD, showed that less than 50% of subjects consumed the minimum recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.22 A comparative study between the US and French populations revealed significantly lower fruit and vegetable consumption among American men and women versus French adults.23 Analyses of 24-h recall data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999–2000, revealed that only 40% of Americans consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.24 These data indicate a significant gap between the actual amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption and the recommended number of servings for the US population.25 Furthermore, NHANES (2001–2002) data reported the pattern of fruit intake among US adults, who mainly consumed apples, pears, and bananas, followed by melons, citrus fruits, and grapes.26 Thus, berries do not seem to be commonly consumed fruits by the US population in spite of their benefits, as documented in emerging nutrition and health research.

Studies have also reported specific associations between berries or berry flavonoids (anthocyanins) and cardiovascular health. Data reported from the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) showed a significantly lower risk of CVD-related deaths among 1,950 men in the highest quartile of berry intake (>408 g/day) versus men with the lowest intake (<133 g/day) during a mean follow-up of 12.8 years. These findings were based on a model adjusted for major CVD risk factors, which further showed an inverse correlation between intakes of fruits, berries, and vegetables and serum haptoglobin, a marker of inflammation.27 Post-menopausal women (n = 34,489) participating in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, showed a significant reduction in CVD mortality associated with strawberry intake during a 16-year follow-up period. In the case of blueberries, an age- and energy-adjusted model showed a significant decrease in coronary heart disease mortality, though the significance did not persist following adjustment for other confounding variables. For both strawberries and blueberries, the significant reduction in relative risk was associated with at least once per week consumption. The data also reported that a mean anthocyanin intake of 0.2 mg/day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of CVD mortality in these postmenopausal women.28

Female US health professionals enrolled in the Women’s Health Study (n = 38,176), a randomized controlled trial of low-dose aspirin and vitamin E, provided dietary information using a 131-item validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Strawberry intake was described as “never” or “less than one serving per month” up to“6+ servings per day” of fresh, frozen, or canned strawberries. Analyses of baseline strawberry intake revealed that only 7.7% of subjects consumed greater than two servings of strawberries per week, whereas 42% of subjects reported an intake of 1–3 servings per month. During a follow-up period of approximately 11 years, a decreasing trend for CVD was observed for subjects consuming higher amounts of strawberries (P = 0.06). The study also showed a borderline significant risk reduction of elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (≥3 mg/L) among women consuming higher amounts of strawberries (≥2 servings/week). Blueberry intake was also examined in the study and no significant association was reported with risks of CVD or CRP.29 Elevated CRP has been significantly associated with inflammation and is a high risk factor of CVD.30 Analyses of NHANES data (1999–2002) revealed a significant inverse association between serum CRP and anthocyanin intakes among US adults.31 These observational data suggest a potential anti-inflammatory role of berry flavonoids, which may contribute to overall reduction of CVD risk.Go to:


As summarized in Table 2, a number of intervention studies have investigated the effects of acai berries, black currants, bilberries, boysenberries, blueberries, chokeberries, cranberries, lingonberries, raspberries, strawberries, and wolfberries in healthy human subjects or in subjects with CVD risk factors.3251 The most significant outcomes of these clinical studies show an increase in plasma or urinary antioxidant capacity, a decrease in LDL oxidation and lipid peroxidation, a decrease in plasma glucose or total cholesterol, and an increase in HDL-cholesterol following berry intervention. Since elevated plasma glucose, lipids, and lipid oxidation have been associated with coronary artery disease (CAD),52,53 these data suggest the potential role of edible berries in ameliorating these risk factors. Of 20 trials reviewed, nine involved measures of post-prandial status, in which berry consumption was shown to significantly decrease postprandial oxidative stress, especially lipid peroxidation.3235,3739,42,48 Thus, dietary inclusion of berries may be an effective strategy to counteract postprandial metabolic and oxidative stresses that are associated with CAD.54 In addition, specific berries, such as bilberry and black currant extracts, chokeberry juice, cranberry extracts, and freeze-dried strawberries were shown to have favorable effects on plasma glucose or lipid profiles in subjects with metabolic risk factors including type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, or metabolic syndrome.37,47,50,51 These studies ranged in duration from 4 to 12 weeks and used conventional berry products or purified anthocyanin extracts, suggesting that both these forms of delivery are effective. Berries were also shown to increase plasma antioxidant capacity36 and to decrease lipid peroxidation42 in smokers who are at high risk of developing CVD.55

Table 2

Summary of berry intervention trials.

ReferenceDurationStudy designStudy subjectsControlBerry interventionSignificant findings
Cao et al. (1998)32PostprandialControlled trialEight healthy female subjects (mean age, 67 ± 0.6 years)Coconut drink240 g strawberries added to the control drinkIncrease in plasma vitamin C, serum and urine antioxidant capacity (P < 0.05)
Paiva et al. (1998)33PostprandialControlled trialSeven healthy elderly women (mean age, 67 ± 0.6 years)378 mL coconut drink240 g fresh, whole, and homogenized strawberries added to the control drinkDecreased plasma carotenoids versus baseline (P < 0.02)
Marniemi et al. (2000)34Eight weeks and postprandialRandomized controlled trialSixty healthy adults (mean age, 60 years)500 mg calcium gluconate100 g deep-frozen berries (bilberries, lingonberries, or black currants); 240 g berries in postprandial studyIncrease in serum ascorbate (P < 0.05); slight decrease in LDL oxidation (P = 0.07), and slight increase in serum antioxidant capacity (P = 0.08) in berry group; decrease in LDL oxidation in postprandial study (P < 0.05)
Pedersen et al. (2000)35PostprandialRandomized controlled trialNine healthy female volunteers (mean age, 31 ± 2 years)9% (w/v) sucrose in water (500 mL)500 mL blueberry juice (Beutelsbacher, Germany) or cranberry juice (Ocean Spray, UK)Increase in plasma antioxidant capacity, vitamin C and phenols with cranberry juice (P < 0.05); no effects with blueberry juice
Van den Berg et al. (2001)36Three weeks with a two-week washout periodRandomized controlled crossover trialTwenty-two male smokers (mean age, 33 ± 11 years)Control drink (330 mL)Fruit drink (330 mL); 30% clarified blueberry juice concentrate (SVZ International, the Netherlands)Increase in vitamin C, carotenoids, and plasma antioxidant capacity with fruit drink (P < 0.05)
Simeonov et al. (2002)37Three months and postprandialBaseline and post intervention effectsSixty-two patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus (median age, 46.2 ± 4.04 years)None200 mL chokeberry juice (Aronia melanocarpa)Decrease in fasting glucose, HbA1C, and lipids (P < 0.001) in the three-month intervention
Kay and Holub (2002)38Postprandial phases, one week apartSingle-blind crossover studyEight middle-aged male subjects (mean age, 47 ± 2 years)High-fat meal (McDonald’s Corp.)High-fat meal supplemented with 100 g freeze-dried wild blueberry powderIncrease in serum antioxidant status (P < 0.05)
Mazza et al. (2002)39Postprandial phases, one week apartSingle-blind crossover studyFive male subjects (mean age, 47 ± 2 years)High-fat meal (McDonald’s Corp.)High-fat meal supplemented with 100 g freeze-dried wild blueberry powderIncrease in serum antioxidant status (P < 0.05)
Bub et al. (2003)40Ten weeksRandomized crossover studyTwenty-seven non-smoking men (mean age, 35 ± 4 years)NoneAnthocyanin-rich juice containing aronia, blueberries, and boysenberries in a mixture of apple, mango, and orange juice (76% w/w water); 330 ml/dayDecrease in plasma TBARS; decrease in oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes (P < 0.05)
Chambers and Camire (2003)41Twelve weeksRandomized controlled trialTwenty-seven adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age, 56 ± 13 years)Colored powder as placebo capsules (6 capsules/day)Cranberry juice concentrate powder (6 capsules/day)No effect on fasting glucose, lipids, or HbA1C (P > 0.05)
McAnulty et al. (2005)42Three weeks or postprandialRandomized controlled trialTwenty smokers (mean age: blueberry group, 26 ± 3.3; control group, 29 ± 4.2 years)Usual diet and lifestyle with restriction of large amounts of fruits and vegetables and all vitamin supplementsAcute or daily consumption of 250 g blueberriesDecrease in lipid hydroperoxides in blueberry group versus control at 3 weeks (P < 0.001)
Ruel et al. (2005)43Fourteen daysBaseline and post-intervention effectsTwenty-one healthy men (mean age, 38 ± 8 years)None7 mL/kg body weight cranberry juice per day (Ocean Spray’s Light Cranberry Juice, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA)Decrease in plasma ox-LDL (P < 0.05); increase in plasma antioxidant capacity (P < 0.05) at 14 days
Ruel et al. (2006)44Four successive 4-week phase (including 4-week run-in phase)Placebo-controlled trialThirty healthy men (mean age, 51 ± 10 years)Placebo juice (Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA); 500 mL/dayIncreasing doses of cranberry juice cocktail (125, 250, 500 mL/day, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA) during three successive 4-week periodsIncrease in plasma HDL-cholesterol at the end of 4 weeks of 250 mL/day cranberry juice intake (P < 0.01); decreases in body weight, BMI, and waist circumference at the end of the study (P < 0.05)
Duthie et al. (2006)45Two weeksRandomized controlled trialTwenty healthy female volunteers (mean age, 28 ± 7 years)Natural mineral water with strawberry flavor + sucrose (9 g/ 100 mL); 750 mL/dayCranberry juice (Ocean Spray Cranberry Select, UK); 750 mL/day (3 × 250 mL)No effects on blood or cellular antioxidant status, lipid status, or oxidative DNA damage in cranberry group versus placebo (P > 0.05)
Ruel et al. (2008)46Sixteen weeksSuccessive 4-week phases of increasing dose of cranberry juiceThirty healthy men (mean age, 51 ± 10 years)Placebo juice; cranberry flavored and low calorie (500 ml/day for 4 weeks)125, 250, and 500 mL/day cranberry juice cocktail (Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., USA); each dose for 4 weeksDecrease in plasma ox-LDL, adhesion molecules (ICAM, VCAM), and systolic blood pressure following cranberry intervention at 12 or 16 weeks (P < 0.05)
Lee et al. (2008)47Twelve weeksRandomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studyThirty type 2 diabetic subjects (mean age, 65 ± 1 years)Placebo capsules (3/day)Cranberry extract powder; 500 mg/capsule; 3 capsules/day (Triarco Industries Inc., USA)Decrease in total and LDL-cholesterol and total:HDL-cholesterol ratio in cranberry versus placebo groups (P < 0.05); no effects on glucose or glycated hemoglobin
Jensen et al. (2008)48PostprandialRandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trialTwelve healthy subjects (mean age, 19–52 years)Placebo capsules (0.5 g each) prepared by mixing white potato flakes with a purplish food-coloring blend, redrying, grinding, and providing in vegetable-based capsules120 mL juice blend containing acai berry, cranberry, blueberry, wolfberry, and bilberry in addition to other fruit juicesIncrease in serum antioxidant status and inhibition of lipid peroxidation versus placebo (P < 0.03)
Erlund et al. (2008)498 weeksRandomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, trial72 subjects with cardiovascular risk factors (mean age: control group, 58.4 ± 5.6 years; berry group, 57.5 ± 6.3 years)One of four control products each day to match the energy intake in the berry group; 2 dL sugar-water, 100 g sweet semolina porridge, 100 g sweet rice porridge, or 40 g marmalade sweetsTwo portions of berries daily; whole bilberries (100 g) and a nectar of 50 g crushed lingonberries every other day; black currant or strawberry puree (100 g, 80% black currants) and cold-pressed chokeberry and raspberry juice (0.7 dL, 80% chokeberry) on alternating daysInhibition of platelet function; increase in HDL-cholesterol; decrease in systolic blood pressure in berry versus control group (P < 0.05)
Qin et al. (2009)5012 weeksRandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial120 subjects with dyslipidemia (mean age: placebo group, 55.1 ± 5.4 years; anthocyanin group, 55.3 ± 5.0 years)Placebo capsules pullulan and maltodextrin (2 capsules twice daily)Anthocyanin capsules 320 mg/day (2 capsules twice daily); 17 different natural purified anthocyanins from bilberry and black currantIncreased HDL-cholesterol, decreased LDL-cholesterol, decreased mass and activity of plasma cholesteryl ester transfer protein in anthocyanin group versus placebo (P < 0.05)
Basu et al. (2009)51Four weeksBaseline and post-intervention effectsSixteen women with metabolic syndrome (mean age, 51 ± 9.1 years)None50 g of freeze-dried strawberry powder as beverage (California Strawberry Commission, USA)Decrease in total and LDL-cholesterol and lipid peroxidation at 4 weeks versus baseline (P < 0.05)

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Abbreviations: ICAM, intracellular adhesion molecule; VCAM, vascular cell adhesion molecule; ox-LDL, oxidized LDL.

Of 20 trials conducted using different varieties of fresh and processed berry products, only two showed a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure: one was conducted in healthy men following cranberry juice supplementation46 and the other was in subjects with CVD risk factors following mixed berry supplementation.49 These data suggest a need for future studies on berry supplementation as a potential dietary therapy for the management of pre-hypertension or hypertension. Interestingly, none of these clinical studies showed any significant effect of berry intervention on biomarkers of inflammation, with the exception of a significant decrease in adhesion molecules following cranberry juice supplementation in healthy volunteers.46 This suggests a need to investigate the effects of cranberry intervention, per se or in combination with other berries, on adhesion molecules or inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein or interleukins in subjects with the pro-inflammatory conditions metabolic syndrome or diabetes mellitus.56,57Go to:


Oxidative stress and inflammation play a pivotal role in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis and CVD.58,59 Several lines of evidence indicate a role for berry anthocyanins in significantly decreasing oxidative damage and inflammation in cellular and animal models of CVD. Youdim et al. have reported the incorporation of elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells, following a 4-h incubation at a concentration of 1 mg/mL. In addition to the cellular bioavailability, elderberry anthocyanins significantly decreased cytotoxicity caused by chemical inducers of oxidative stress.60 Anthocyanins from blackberry extract were shown to protect against peroxynitrite-induced oxidative damage in human umbilical vein endothelial cells.61 Mulberry anthocyanins have also exhibited antioxidative and antiatherogenic affects, by inhibiting oxidation of LDL and formation of foamcells, respectively, in an in vitro model of atherosclerosis.62 Anthocyanins from berries commonly consumed in the United States, such as blueberries and cranberries, have been reported to reduce TNF-α induced upregulation of inflammatory mediators in human microvascular endothelial cells.63 In an 8-week study, DeFuria et al. have shown the attenuation of inflammatory gene expressions in male C57Bl/6j mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with blueberry powder versus the unsupplemented group. This study also showed the protective effects of blueberries against insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, thus reducing the risk factors for CVD.64 In a rat model of prediabetes and hyperlipidemia, Jurgoski et al.65 further demonstrated decreased activities of inńtestinal mucosal disaccharidases (maltase and sucrose) following dietary supplementation with chokeberry fruit extract for 4 weeks. These animal and in vitro data show the potential of berries to ameliorate inflammation, glucose, and lipid abnormalities that contribute to CVD.

Nitric oxide (NO), when formed through activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), has proinflammatory effects, leading to increased vascular permeability, induction of inflammatory cytokines, and the formation of peroxynitrite, a strong oxidizing agent.66 Pergola et al. have reported inhibitory effects of the anthocyanin fraction of blackberry extract on NO biosynthesis in the murine monocyte/macrophage J774 cell line stimulated with lipopolysaccharide. The study also reported that blackberry anthocyanin extract inhibited inducible iNOS protein expression, thereby decreasing the inflammatory response in macrophages and inhibiting the formation of foam cells.67 While increased iNOS expression leads to the proinflammatory effects of NO, generation of NO by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) plays a crucial role in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis by favorably modulating blood pressure and reducing endothelial dysfunction. Xu et al. and Lazze et al. have reported the upregulation of eNOS by cyanidin-3-glucoside in bovine artery endothelial cells, and increased protein levels of eNOS by anthocyanin treatment (cyanidin and delphinidin) in human umbilical vein endothelial cells.68,69

Berry anthocyanins have also been shown to affect lipid metabolism in cellular and animal models of dyslipidemia. Administration of chokeberry juice for 30 days in rats fed a standard or 4% cholesterol-containing diet, showed the anti-hyperlipidemic effects of chokeberry juice in the cholesterol-fed group.70 Purified anthocyanins from blueberries and strawberries added to drinking water were shown to prevent the development of dyslipidemia and obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet for a period of 90 days.71 Anthocyanin treatment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells was further demonstrated to regulate cholesterol distribution by interfering with the recruitment of tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factors (TRAF)-2 in lipid rafts, thereby inhibiting CD40-induced proinflammatory signaling.72

Thus, on the basis of these data, berry anthocyanins may exert cardioprotective effects by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation through effects on iNOS activity, interfering with carbohydrate digestion and reducing glucose absorption, favorably modulating dyslipidemia, and upregulating eNOS expression so as to maintain normal vascular function and blood pressure.Go to:


Berries are emerging as a dietary source of multiple compounds and nutrients, including anthocyanins, flavonols, vitamins, and fiber, that reduce CVD risk. While limited epidemiological data inversely associate consumption of berries with inflammation and CVD, these conclusions need to be strengthened in future case-control or cohort studies investigating the long-term health benefits of berries in specific populations. Clinical studies in healthy humans, subjects with diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, or in smokers, show a significant decrease in CVD risk factors, especially glucose, lipids and lipid peroxidation, and systolic blood pressure, following berry intervention. The principal mechanisms of action underlying the potential cardio-protective effects of berries include counteracting free radical generation, attenuating inflammatory gene expression, downregulating foam cell formation, and upregulating eNOS expression; through these effects, progression of atherosclerosis is slowed and normal vascular function and blood pressure are preserved. In light of the decrease in nutritional value that occurs during processing methods, including drying and pasteurization, consumption of fresh or frozen whole berries as part of a regular diet may be better than intake of juices or extracts, which do not have the same nutritional profiles as whole berries. Since some clinical studies have also found antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic effects of encapsulated berry supplements, these forms may be suitable for the management of specific metabolic conditions.

Further rigorous, prospective studies are needed. These need to involve large patient populations with outcomes of berry intervention that include not only CVD biomarkers, but also “hard” cardiovascular and metabolic endpoints. Also, comparative human intervention studies should address the effects of whole berries versus purified berry anthocyanins, and any potential synergistic actions with other nutrients or medications. Such studies are readily conceived but expensive and challenging to conduct.Go to:


Funding. This work was supported, in part, by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center General Clinical Research Center grant M01-RR14467, the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Institutes of Health.Go to:


Declaration of interest. Arpita Basu has received past and present support from US Highbush Blueberry Council, the Cranberry Institute, and the California Strawberry Commission for clinical trials. The content of this review does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of these agencies.Go to:

Contributor Information

Arpita Basu, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.

Michael Rhone, Department of Nutritional Sciences, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.

Timothy J Lyons, Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.Go to:


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Massive Loss of Tourist Jobs Will be Lost in the USA (E-Hotelier report)

A staggering 9.2 million jobs could be lost in the U.S. Travel & Tourism sector in 2020 if barriers to global travel remain in place, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed.

US unemployment 2020

The new figure comes from WTTC’s latest economic modelling, which looks at the punishing impact of COVID-19 and travel restrictions on the Travel & Tourism sector.

According to the latest data, 7.2 million jobs in the U.S. have been impacted. If there is no immediate alleviation of restrictions on international travel, as many as 9.2 million jobs – more than half of all jobs supported by the sector in the U.S. in 2019 – would be lost.

WTTC has identified the four top priorities which should be addressed, including the adoption of a comprehensive and cost-effective testing regime at departure to avoid transmission, the re-opening of key ‘air corridors’ such as between New York and London, and international coordination.

The challenge of restoring safe travels in the new normal is one of the biggest issues facing the U.S. as it grapples with a depressed economy devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the Travel & Tourism sector particularly hard.

The WTTC Economic Impact Report for 2019 revealed that Travel & Tourism contributed $1.84 trillion to the U.S. economy and was responsible for more than one in 10 (10.7%) American jobs.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Firstly, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and we wish them every success in these challenging times. The U.S. government has a real opportunity to lead the international coordination and save millions of jobs globally and across the U.S.

“In 2019, Travel & Tourism was responsible for almost 17 million jobs, which is more than one in every 10 jobs across the U.S., so it’s vital we recover as many as possible to power the economic recovery of the country.

“Globally, eight out of 10 businesses within Travel & Tourism are SME’s, employing millions of people around the world, and all of which rely on a thriving Travel & Tourism sector. It is also one of the most diverse sectors, employing people from all socio-economic backgrounds regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, with almost 50% of whom are women and up to 30% youths.

“WTTC, has been at the forefront in leading the private sector in the efforts to restore international travel and rebuild global consumer confidence with several major initiatives. We launched our ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, to enable travellers to recognise destinations around the world which have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols.

“We offer to work closely with the U.S. government to recover international travel whilst avoiding transmission, through a four-point list of top priorities.

“We need to learn to co-exist with this virus and measures should be in place to reactivate both inbound and outbound travel responsibly and avoid further economic and social hardship.”

Across North America, WTTC research shows that between 10.8 million and 13.8 million jobs within Travel & Tourism are at serious risk.

Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO, said: “The numbers show that restarting global travel is an absolute must from an economic and jobs standpoint, and it can be done safely by embracing health and safety guidance and technologies, which have been widely deployed across the travel industry.

“Moving away from quarantines and implementing the practices that we know will work—chief among them rapid, reliable and efficient testing, the universal wearing of masks in public, and the use of contactless technologies—will help restore confidence and growth.”

The resumption of international travel will act as a catalyst to re-energise the global economic recovery. According to WTTC, the four main priorities for the new U.S. administration should be:

  • The re-opening of ‘air corridors’ on vital routes, especially those across the Atlantic to re-establish crucial business travel between major economic hubs
  • The introduction of a testing regime at airports, with globally recognised standards to avoid exporting and importing the virus
  • A commitment to ensure safe and seamless travel, with enhanced health and hygiene measures as well as contactless touchpoints
  • Ensure international coordination to adopt standards that will allow international travel to restart and rebuild consumer confidence.

During 2019, the report detailed how Travel & Tourism was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330 million in total), making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.


European Tourism Suffers The Second COVID Wave (E-Hotelier Report)

A new surge in Covid-19 cases and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have halted European tourism recovery with international tourist arrivals to Europe down 68% halfway through the year relative to 2019.

European tourism recovery

That is according to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) latest quarterly report “European Tourism: Trends & Prospects” for Q3 2020 which has been closely monitoring the evolution of the pandemic throughout the year and analysing its impact on travel and tourism.

The easing of pandemic restrictions across Europe led to a slight pick-up in July and August 2020 compared to earlier months, signalling people’s enthusiasm and desire to travel again. However, the recent re-imposition of lockdowns and travel restrictions has quickly halted any chance of an early recovery. Looking at the months ahead, heightened uncertainty and downside risks continue to dampen the outlook with European arrivals set to decline 61% in 2020.

Speaking following the publication of the report, ETC Executive Director Eduardo Santander said: “As the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic grips Europe and in advance of the winter season, it is now more important than ever that European nations join forces to agree on common solutions, not only to curb the spread of the virus but also to support tourism’s sustainable recovery, restore travellers’ confidence, and most importantly protect the millions of businesses, jobs, and enterprises that are at risk, so they can survive the economic fallout. The direction of the economic recovery across Europe will depend significantly on the recovery of the tourism sector, a sector which generates close to 10% of the EU’s GDP and accounts for over 22 million jobs.”

Southern European destinations & islands among the most affected

Digging deeper into the above numbers, Mediterranean destinations Cyprus and Montenegro saw the steepest falls in arrivals at a distressing 85% and 84% respectively, attributable to a higher dependency on foreign travellers. Among the other countries most impacted are Romania where arrivals plunged 80%; Turkey (-77%); Portugal and Serbia (both -74%). Island destinations, Iceland and Malta (both -71%) also performed poorly, challenged by their geographical location and strict border restrictions.

On the contrary, Austria appears to have benefitted from pre-Covid-19 winter travel at the start of the year, resulting in a decline of just 44% for the year to September. A greater reliance on short-haul trips also placed Austria in a strong position to attain a less volatile recovery as restrictions in the country have eased much quicker than other countries.

This further highlights the need for member state cooperation across Europe as the disparity of approaches regarding travel restrictions has depressed travel demand and consumer confidence. A recent survey by IATA suggests that travel restrictions are as much a travel deterrent as the perceived risk of catching the virus itself. Harmonised solutions towards testing and tracing, along with quarantine measures will be crucial to mitigating the downside risks across Europe.

Future outlook & shift in traveller preferences

The importance of domestic and intra-European travel cannot be understated in terms of the role it will play in the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months. In a welcome update, the latest forecasts predict a quicker rebound for domestic travel in Europe, surpassing 2019 levels by 2022. European short-haul arrivals are also projected to bounce back faster by 2023, being helped by a swifter easing of travel restrictions and a lesser perceived risk compared to long-haul trips. Overall travel volumes are now projected to return to pre-pandemic levels only by 2024.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also impacting destination choices within particular European countries. The summer season has shown a significant increase in those seeking to travel to rural and coastal locations, clearly as a result of concerns regarding visits to highly-populated urban locations, where it is more difficult to practice social distancing.

This change in travel preferences may ultimately mitigate the issue of over-tourism and allow destinations to boost sustainable tourism demand. Increased travel interest for secondary destinations will relieve some popular tourist hotspots that previously struggled to cope with excessive travel demand and will help spread the economic benefits of tourism more evenly within countries.

The full report and the infographic can be downloaded from ETC’s corporate website under the following link: https://etc-corporate.org/reports/european-tourism-2020-trends-prospects-q3-2020/


Uncorked: The Liquor Control Board of Ontario Vintages $14.95 and Under Corner: And The Winners

Here is a red wine called Hécula from the Yecla appellation in Spain.

Black cherry in colour. Aroma of black cherry, blackberry, lavender and ripe strawberries. On the palate fairly solid tannins that leave a nice fruity ring encapsulated around the tannins. No doubt about it. This is a full-bodied wine but being a big boy wine means you have some responsibilities and that is delivering some flavour! In this case there is flavour and it is tight and there is no jamminess nor flippancy. It is tightly held old big and fat strawberries with black cherry nectar clinging on for dear life. I would say this wine will sail nicely on for the next 5 years and improve. Nice long finish. If General Franco and his big ego were still alive today this might be a wine he would relish as it is big and strong like the Spain he always wanted.

I would think these needs something meaty on the grill or something with a very rich tomatoe and wine sauce like osso Bucco.

(Hécula, Monastrell 2017 DO Yecla, Bodegas Castaño,Yecla, Spain, $14.75, LCBO # 718999, 750 mL, 14%,Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me Blog Rating 92/100).

The further you go in France well the cheaper the wine gets. At one-point southern France supplied the working class of Paris with their cheap and not so tasty wines but they were cheap and my goodness sometimes blended with Algerian wine. Well they have cleaned up their act but it make take a few more years to get the glowing reputation they deserve.

In this case we have a white. It has a golden colour. Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair! On the palate it tries to convince you it is an off dry wine with a very quick vaccination like prick of sweetness but it finishes mostly dry with a bit of sweetness left in the after palate. In fact it is a full bodied white with class! On the nose some apricot, peach and honey which if it wasn’t for its initial jab of sweetness just might make you think you were trying a Viognier. A blend of gros manseng, petit corbu and arrufiac. Now how is that for local! The label state this wine is good with seafood, fish and salads a well as cheese. Now that makes sense but I think you would have to be in Southwest France where this wine originated from to make the perfect choice. As for us Canucks this would go well with poultry and I include turkey for that lonely COVID-19 inspired Christmas party you are going to have!

(Plaimont Témoignage Saint Mont 2017, AOC Saint-Mont, Plaimont,Saint Mont, France, $14.95, LCBO # 16208,  Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me Blog Rating 92/100).

“Mutantism on the March” :Chapter 100: The Canadian Army Rolls into Quebec: The Son’s of Westmount Strike!

Immediately after the War Pretension Act was passed the Canadian army rolled into Quebec in a show of overwhelming force. Other units were placed on alert throughout the country. Canada in peril! The pimply faced beer swilling youngsters from The Atlantic provinces were proud to be patrolling the streets of Montreal and Quebec City beating up “suspects” and arresting them without warrants. It was more fun than sitting on the base and cracking “frog” jokes. The presence of the army calmed the knee shaking Quebec Anglos and thrilled Hecklevesque who now had an enemy at the doorstep to verify his warnings of a hostile Canada. The Quebec government led by Poorassa played into his nationalist hands by refusing to criticize the occupation of Quebec. In fact they supported it! Hecklevesque was to use their support against them by pointing out to the population how weak they were by refusing to assert themselves against the traitors. In public he chastised the army but of course privately it was the best thing that could have happened. The CDQ and the mutants were equally vocal in their outrage calling it, “the most hypocritical action of federal politicians who profess a belief in the concept of rights and civil liberties”.

Matters became more confused wen yet another kidnapping was announced. The Quebec Minister of Communications, Pierre Laflirte was abducted as he left his favourite Michigan Red Hot frankfurter restaurant Chez Lafleur in Montreal’s Ville St. Pierre. The kidnappers called themselves the “Son’s of Westmount For Freedom” (SWF) and threatened to execute Laflirte unless the FLQ released Dentalfloss. In a communique dispatched to Montreal’s English radio stations the SWF outlined its demands;

“The Son’s of Westmount for Freedom

We have abducted Minister Laflirte and will execute him unless our sole demand is met. Release Dentalfloss from the hands of the French-Canadian Marxists. We English have endured enough discrimination. We have resorted to such drastic action to protect the English community in Montreal. The kidnapping of Her Majesty’s Royal government’s servant illustrates how law and order has broken down. We have taken the law into our own hands to save Canada from anarchism. So what if the Canadian army has been dispatched to Quebec. What can we expect from Prime Minister Fauxdo a Quebecer? His roots render impartiality impossible. Latin blood obstructs rational decisions. Release Dentalfloss you commie thugs or else!

Long live the Queen

Long live the Commonwealth

Long live a free and united Canada

Long live a free and democratic Quebec united within the bonds of Confederation.”

“My Life as a Golf Marshall” :Your Intelligence Network

You have several sources of intelligence open to you as a Marshall.

  • The Starter: The Starter has the first real view of the skills and attitudes of golfers. Are they angry or argumentative?  Are they abusive? Are they hackers? Do they reek of alcohol or cannabis? I often start my rounds on the first hole chatting up golfers. This may be your first and best intel source. It is not Afghanistan but a week-end at a municipal golf course may be close to combat.
  • The Golfers: Many golfers blame delays on the group immediately ahead of them which is incorrect 90% of the time. On a shift I had there was a back up developing on the third hole but I caught up with the offenders on the 12th hole who were running late by 25 minutes. Chasing down the source is time consuming. The more experienced golfers have the ability to see beyond the party ahead of them. They can be your ally in identifying the culprits.
  • The Cart Lady: These are the ladies who zoom around the course selling beer and other alcoholic beverages and food. They can tip you off who may be pickled or getting to that point. You can also look in the garbage cans and see how many beer cans are not being sold by the cart lady but smuggled in. Most golf courses prohibit bringing in your own alcohol.
  • The Reputation: If you have been around long enough you will recognize what to watch out for. There are names that say to you I have encountered this foursome before. It could be Mr. that took swing with a golf club at A Marshall. It could be the perpetual laggards that are so slow they run 25 minutes slow time and time again.
  • You: Once you identify a gap of a hole ahead of a group of golfers. You have identified the criminals!
  • The Marshall You Are Replacing: If you are replacing a Marshall that Marshall will give you the low down on the slow, abusive and clueless as to etiquette.

“My Life as a Golf Marshall” :Welcome to the Oven! Summer Golf in Toronto

I’ll take a cool fall day with brilliant colours surrounding me hoping that the chill wakes up my hidden golf abilities!

Summer in Toronto in the past couple of years has been nothing short of brutal. You know how bad it can be that golfers are soaked through at 10:30 a.m. and complaints about slow pace are replaced by dehydrated golfers almost begging for the refreshment cart. Humidity would seem to be an enemy of a good game score wise. Many golfers have remarked after 15 holes with sweat rolling down their face and into their eyes they just want the game to end quickly.

I had made a suggestion that the golf cart refreshment brigade be doubled to a cart serving the front nine and another serving the back nine. It has fallen on a deaf ears. I am trying to ensure happy golfers in Hades realm but the third party refreshment provider lacks much commercial sense. Those who ignore a profit-making opportunity…what do we call them?

What does heat and heat paired with humidity do. It slows the pace particularly the later the start in the day the more impact the heat and humidity have. Humid air is “thick” and slows the trajectory of the ball.

While the chilly spring climes on a golf cart make life miserable for a Marshall due to the wind chill created by zipping around on a golf cart the zipping around in heat creates a natural cooling effect at least when you are moving and a Marshall often makes stops for conversation and to make requests to speed up. So a Marshall can feel the heat and humidity but the smart Marshall know where the shade is and can advantage of that.

I will chill a litre of water in a flask and take a root beer or San Pellegrino fruit drink and hydrate galore. Despite all this at the end of a shift in the summer whatever the hour I am drained. On my stressful Sunday 12-5 shift a chilled beer afterwards in the backyard is a prerequisite to moving on to normal life. I have no appetite only a thirst for a bitter thirst-quenching Ontario craft brew IPA.

Summer golf can be hell but golf addiction defies realities and that addiction powers golfers through Dantes Inferno. The cart lady has huge beer sales and attendant tips! She walks away with 4 times more than I do per hour. Oh injustice!

RKS Wine: The Penniless Pensioner Ratches Down His Cali Cab Expectations!

The Penniless Pensioner appears flushed with cash but his period of austerity has infused a “budget streak” in the man who laments the amount of money he once spent on trophy wines. He seems to have an obsession to troll the bottom end of the monetary scale for wine and he loves the challenge to find a bargain. I advised PP I found a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store manager mark down of a Monterey California Cabernet Sauvignon from $17.95 to $12.95. PP is excited hoping he will have discovered Nirvana. His base house wine in the California Cabernet Sauvignon category was Mount Veeder Winery Cab from Napa selling at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for $70.

I tell PP that the winery is located in Greenfield a hotbed of legal and illegal cannabis cultivation in California at least until the megacorps started edging out the smaller growers. PP quips noting he hopes the winemakers were not stoned when they made the wine! He then goes into a diatribe about Celine Serpent his most likely ex-fiancé after that disastrous open house barbeque. He snickers Celine was most likely a low life stoner taking her CBD and THC for her arthritis. Why he exclaims he never saw her limping and in pain so it’s just an excuse to be a stoner. I try to explain there is such a thing as medical cannabis. I also suggest that as Celine is not limping around perhaps the CBD and THC is working. I just get a frustrated retort about that damn Trudeau legalizing cannabis. I don’t bother saying that cannabis was legal until 1937 in the United States until the rise of Big Pharma that had an interest in selling chemicals.

So we try the super discounted Cab. If worse comes to worse I’ll use it in cooking.

In colour black cherry. On the nose blueberry, black cherry, blackberry and a bit of charcoal. On the palate mild tannins. One gets the sense of very ripe grapes used to make the wine and there is no problem with that unless they are simply too ripe and the sugar content is upped making many cheaper wines tasting like cough syrup. This wine is not chop and screw for sure but it is has a rather whopping 10 grams of sugar per litre. That is quite high as most red wines of the dry variety come in at 2-3 grams. Its palate lacks character. Short finish. On deeper reflection there are notes of prunes and coffee which are for me indicators of wine made from overly ripe grapes.

The wine was aged for 10 months in French, Hungarian and American oak 30% which was new.

Monterey is in the Northern Central Coast. The Central Coast of California is a huge wine producing region.

If you were eating a burger either a veggie or meat one or a simple pasta sauce with fresh Ontario field tomatoes this would be a palatable match. However taken on its own it is nothing special an attribute of the majority of wines on the market.

(District 7 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey, California, Estate Grown, Scheid Family Wines, Greenfield California, $12.95 with manager discount down from $17.95, LCBO # 10473, 750 mL,13.5%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 85/100).

“My Life as a Golf Marshall” :Rain, Sleet or Snow: The Unpredictable Canadian Spring! (April 11, 2021)

I notice I am paying very close attention to the weather as I’ll be out in it as long as it is not pouring rain, there is lightning or snow is falling. The weather forecasts are atrociously inaccurate The golf season will run from April 1 to sometime in November when it is simply too cold to golf.

Today I drove to the course in medium velocity rainfall asking myself who on earth would be golfing on a day like today? Well there are golf fanatics that would play in their snowshoes if they could and yes despite the rain there are a dozen golfers on the course and when there are golfers in action you need a Marshall for safety and liability purposes.

I drag a towel from the back seat of my car we use for the dog but I could not find my rain pants so I pray to the golf gods the rain lets up. And thank goodness an hour later it’s gone and the golfers increase in volume but nothing too much to handle.

An overjoyed young lady tells me of her first birdie ad I congratulate her. A birdie is always a special feeling. Another golfer on 18 tells me he’s just played the best game of his life.

My hands take an hour to warm up. I had to return to the car and get my gloves.

I chat here and there and even those having a bad game are in good spirits. Golf can do that to you. But it also has the possibility to turn you into a raging maniac and golf clubs can be thrown into the water!

So today I have ordered a Misty Mountain set of rain pants. I am ready for anything in this unpredictable spring. You have to be prepared or mother nature will kick your ass. You can’t underestimate the wind chill created by zipping around in a golf cart.

Of course, there are viciously hot days coming and I have an unpleasant feeling a light snowfall and the inevitable frost delays as fall creeps closer.

So by way of analogy, I am part of the US Mail slogan that neither rain, sleet or snow will keep a golf Marshall from being on duty. On those cold or rainy days have pity on the golf Marshall. As a last comment a Golf Marshall should enjoy dealing with people. There is no room for confrontation or argumentation. You may need a thick skin! Time will tell. But poor weather may mean less golfers which might lead to loneliness and too many may lead to frustration where the weather is fine as the more golfers the more problems such a jam ups and more beer consumption which are the biggest sins a golf Marshall will have to deal with

RKS Wine: The Penniless Pensioner is Rolling in Dough; Are South African Wines Beneath Him?

We last left the Penniless Pensioner stewing over his impending marriage to “converted lesbian” Celine Serpent.

Well he phoned me gleefully the other night saying his Panamanian bank accounts had been unfrozen and cash was rolling his way. He bought a small house in the Leaside area of Toronto and drives a new Volvo S 60. He says that as an old rich man he should be driving a Porsche with a “real woman” at his side….preferably twenty years younger and much better looking than him. The ageing rich man syndrome.

I admit I see his newfound wealth as tenuous knowing that Canada Revenue Agency is cracking down on offshore accounts. The fact that he acted as counsel for Bernie Madoff on certain transactions make the amount of money in the Panamanian bank accounts stink a bit.

In any case to celebrate his new house purchase he is hosting an open house barbeque and he has already bought a few cases of South African wine saying that this is where the bargains are. Could I try a couple of the wines and give him my opinion? It will be a catered affair by Toronto’s “The Butler” with the main BBQ fare being wild Coho salmon from British Columbia and beef tenderloin both served with a fresh green salad and baked potatoes and grilled corn.

PP wants something versatile that will be pre-BBQ and served with BBQ.

He chose a Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé as a farewell to summer and a good match for the salmon. It is mid-pink in colour with a slight orange tinge to it. It has rather a riveting nose of strawberry and raspberry. It has a solid texture to it and it teeters on being a full- bodied rosé. On the palate there is tangerine, strawberry with a smattering of watermelon and sweet red grapefruit. It has a moderate finish.

It will suit the grilled salmon to a tee and is also a great sipper. Gone are the days of me blowing absurd amounts of money on wine PP says. He thanks me for showing him that there can be winners in the bargain bin and at $13.95 this is a winner. I can only hope PP will be a winner with the Canada Revenue Agency when and if that time comes.

As for Celine Serpent she will be attending the open house. It is obvious by the way PP is talking about her he is pining for her!

(Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2020, WO Coastal Region, Mulderbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa, $13.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 999821, 750 mL, 12.5%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 89/100).

We move to a M.A.N. Family Wines Syrah from the Coastal region of South Africa. On the nose I might venture to say it has characteristics of a warm climate Syrah. On the nose a bit of that hallmark earthy South African funk. There is smoke, black cherry, blackberry, dates and smoked meat. On the palate it has mild tannins so makes it a great sipper. On the palate it has a low tannic threshold. Rather smooth but not anemic. There are notes of choke cherry, cassis, red plum and date squares. Short finish. I wish for more tannins to stand up to rare tenderloin but as we move to above rare beef where tannins are less important to break down the protein in the beef the wine will excel. So whilst a good sipper it limps in as a match for the beef. PP makes a statement that “Forgive them as they know not about wine”.

(M.A.N. Family Wines Skaapveld Syrah 2019, Coastal Region, M.A.N. Vintners, South Africa, $14.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 71332, 750 mL, 13.5%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 89/100).

As the night progresses and the alcohol is being drained by guests I see in the corner of the backyard Celine Serpent hurling a glass of Syrah in PP’s face staining his Harry Rosen shirt. Oh my! And to add fire to the awkwardness the poop on PP’s new Volvo does not look like racoon poop!

“My Life as a Golf Marshall” :“So *ing Cold on My Training Day” (April 3, 2021)

Yes up at 4:45 a.m. with my West Highland Terrier, a senior, barking for a “piddle” in the backyard. As the alarm was set for 05:45 for a 7 a.m. start no sense in getting back to bed so a shave and a change into a warm outfit with three sweaters as it is bloody cold. Minus 9 overnight so the green of the course is topped by a white layer.

I pour some tea into a vacuum container and head out to meet G an experienced Marshall at this busy Toronto golf course. G is to train me.

We zip out for a quick 18-hole tour with a do and don’t lesson and reams of paperwork. I thought I had retired from doing billion dollar deals as a lawyer. Here I have a bunch of paperwork 75% of which I barely understand but I suppose I will have to master the bureaucracy somehow without any practical experience.

I have three sweaters on and I am so cold with the wind chill factor in zipping around with a cart I am shivering and by God a shot of vodka might be just the thing!

Yet there is a severe alcohol policy at the course. Ask the patron who has brought his own booze on the course to dump it and hand over to me so he or she can pick up on their way out. Belligerent and insulting responses then call the clubhouse who can have Toronto by-law enforcement officers sent to deal with it. And you as a Marshall say keep on drinking your own liquor boys and the police will be waiting for you at the parking lot. And you’ll be stuck for hours before you get in your car when you are sobered up. Cannabis? Leave them alone. Golf course booze has a big fluorescent label tied around the can so you can detect if its smuggled or golf cart course supplied. But there are many tricks of concealment and when you see a Marshall coming cover it with a towel. I suppose at $2.45 a can at the Beer Store is cheaper than $6 golf cart beer plus tip. Alcohol consumption a matter of profit over safety?

Under no circumstances touch a golfer. If so you are fired. Like the feeling of being a eunuch in a harem?

Always be polite. “It would be great if you could speed up just a bit.” As a golfer you can be fuming about the idiots ahead of you. As a Marshall there are no idiots. Actually there are but you can’t say that just smile and be a happy Marshall.

All your interactions with golfers are written down whether it be a friendly greeting or urging.

A Marshall is a diplomat pleading with the 90% decent human beings and puzzling how to deal with 10% dicks who according to G will be dicks forever. Unfortunately as we have seen in American politics there are too many diehard dicks.

So being untrained and full of support for golfers I have been dealing with for 25 years as a golfer they say take it easy. We like your initiative today.

Just don’t be a Judge Judy they say…the accountants that seem to be the ruling caste of golf Marshalls.

Speaking of caste the golfers are 96% male and 70% white. A few Chinese and Koreans and one women in the morning crowd. The golfing crowd is a throwback to the 1960’s. However there are a slew of teen golfers who take advantage of a special annual junior rate. Even Rodney Dangerfield could get respect from these polite youngsters! For some reason the fall weather swells the number of Korean golfers.

Due to a frost delay of three hours and 45 minutes my training is 15 minutes. Have I been thrown to the wolves?

“Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog” :Reggie Says Thank You and Good-Bye

As a 15-year-old dog telling you my story about the first three years of my life has made me realize how lucky and happy I am. There has been sadness and tragedy in my life but that’s life isn’t it. Telling you my story has been like being on an emotional rollercoaster. It has exhausted me.

One lesson you may wish to take away is that however humble your beginnings you can rise to incredible heights if you try. Of course not every person or dog will succeed and again that’s life isn’t it?

What have I learnt is that humans can be both cruel and compassionate. As a dog I say there is hope for you humans yet!

I have also been a testament that horrible situations can be blessings. If I had not been injured by that Rottenwhiler dog in Cairo I never would have been rescued by Snookie’s Society and brought to Toronto.

I have discovered a unified spirituality amongst humans although stupidly most of them fail to realize that. I often said I prayed to Allah however after meeting religious leaders and seeing my favourite BBC documentaries humans from a “primitive society” in the deep Amazonian rain forest and humans from “advanced societies” are looking beyond themselves for answers about why they are on earth. If only you humans would take the time to REALLY LISTEN TO EACH OTHER the world would be a better place.  

As a closing comment I am puzzled why so many dogs are badly treated? What bad have they done to humans except wanting to be loved and cared. What price is it to cuddle and take care of a creature that really can’t take care of itself. Why in Egypt do they shoot and poison street dogs? Who is the animal the dog or the human?

I don’t want to say good-bye on a sad note. I have enjoyed taking my journey with you dear readers. At 15 I am in the twilight of my years and look forward to travelling to the land beyond to meet with my first master Anwar and my dearest friends Dillie the Westie and Karim another Snookie’s dog. Look out world beyond the Rat Pack is coming! And remember NEVER EVER MESS WITH A STREET DOG FROM CAIRO!

I may be back with more stories after I rest up a bit.

God bless!

Poetry Corner: “Do you Remember Those Fascist Days?”

 Do You Remember Those Fascist Days?

If you have seen as many World War Two Films
as I have
you may have found the fascination by those nasty Nazis
always asking for identity papers as obsessive and overbearing!
oh by the way do you have your vaccination certificates and photo identification?
and the health workers who refuse vaccination are sent to re-education camps
is this what my Uncle Bill who at 22 died in France shot down by a German pilot died for
as Remembrance Day is coming soon think about it

Robert K. Stephen

“My Life as a Golf Marshall” :What Does a Golf Marshall Do?

A golf Marshall is a golf course ambassador meaning in many cases a job description is impossible as it means handling whatever can come up. Primarily it is moving the game along. It’s called keeping pace. In the ideal world there is an interval between foursomes teeing off every 10 minutes so the space should be always 10 minutes between golfers with no jam ups or bottlenecks throughout the entire 18 holes. But this rarely happens and why? Most golfers should be playing ready golf which means playing individually and not congregating waiting for each golfer to hit and then dispersing for their own shot. It is fine to walk together down the fairway for a bit of time but at some point golfers should head for the ball they strike for their next hit. Not always done particularly by juniors. Then there is the golfer hunting for their lost ball or looking for other’s lost balls. And then there can be the golfer taking five practice swings and duffing the ball. Inconsiderate and rude golfers are the bane of the Marshall who has to be polite and say speed it up or walk to the next hole or leave the course. On the other hand as etiquette courses are not mandatory the laggard golfer may be blissfully ignorant.

So it is a diplomatic game where you feel like saying “You are not a particularly good golfer. You should be playing at a pitch and putt and why the * are you taking more time than a professional golfer to hit your ball. Hit the * ball”. No you are a diplomat saying please, please can you help me and keep pace. If you can’t politely enforce pace you have no career as a Marshall. Sorry “career” is a bad choice of words.

Then you may have to ferry a late golfer to his/her group. You may need to take bandages and ice to a golfer that has scraped a bodily extremity on a rough edge of a golf cart or ferry an elderly golfer up to their car.

Be ready for just about anything. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be even tempered. Do not be overbearing. Be Mother Theresa. Blessed be those who are rude, selfish and ignorant.

Before I go a Marshall loves those who play ready golf in a true Scottish tradition. Walk up to the ball, select a club based on intuition and experience without a viewfinder gauging distance. HIT THE BALL. ONE PRACTICE SWING. PUTT WITHOUT ANY PRACTICE STROKES. MOVE QUICKLY TO THE NEXT HOLE. The Marshall’s dream is seeing golfers are ready golfers.