Supermarket finds: Diet water

Compliments Diet Water

This bottle represents everything that’s wrong with the food chain these days. It’s not just the general waste and unnecessary expense of bottled water, but the fact that companies have somehow managed to convince people to buy diet water. This is by no means the only diet water option on the shelves, I’m just picking on it because it’s explicitly labelled as diet water. And judging by the diet water shelves of my local supermarkets, diet water is one of the faster-growing food segments.

In a few short years, companies have convinced people that they need to drink water from little disposable bottles. But that’s not good enough, so they need flavoured bottled water. And with flavour almost certainly comes sugar or some other sweetener. And something to act as a preservative. And carbonated beverages sell better, so let’s make it all fizzy. And what you end up with is essentially indistinguishable from pop. I haven’t yet seen caffeine-free diet water advertised, but it’s only a matter of time.

Of course, the only problem with selling diet water is that water is naturally calorie-free, and it’s only because of all the crap that water manufacturers (there’s a phrase our parents would never have heard) are putting into their product that they now feel the need to make dubious health claims. Diet water indeed.  What started out as a healthy choice (water instead of pop or other processed drinks) has now been so corrupted by the drawers of water that the healthy choice has become indistinguishable from the unhealthy choice. Just how similar the two products are is made clear by the ingredients list:

Compliments Diet Raspberry Sparkling Water:

carbonated water, citric acid, potassium citrate, natural flavour, aspartame, potassium benzoate, acesulfame potassium, and malic acid.

Diet Sprite:

carbonated water, citric acid, natural flavo[u]rs, potassium citrate, and potassium benzoate, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium.

So, uh, what’s the difference between diet water and diet pop? Why bother?

But seriously, who needs diet water? Apparently, the people who drink Compliments (non-diet) flavoured water do: it has 90 calories per serving.

Me, I prefer good old Toronto Tap in refillable containers. When I want that extra shot of flavour, I use an old family water recipe: boil 2 cups of water, pour over tea leaves into a small pot. Steep for five minutes. Serve while hot. De-lish.

Best comparison chart ever

Can you tell the difference?

From yesterday’s Star, the above graphic (also available as a too-small PDF) accompanied a story about cougar sightings in Ontario. The relevant sentence from the story:

Some of the animals commonly mistaken for cougars: deer, lynx, coyotes, fishers, dogs, and house cats. Big ones.

Coyotes, I can understand. Lynx? Sure, why not. Deer? Okay, but only if the spotter has never seen a cat of any kind before. House cats? Seriously? You’ve got to be seriously spooked if you’re confusing your neighbour’s kitty for a cougar. Then again, if you have any giant mice hanging around your house, you’d probably want a giant kitty for protection.

Original graphic from the Toronto Star.

"How do I know you're not some kind of…weirdo?"

Warped perceptionI stood on a North Toronto street earlier this week pondering the question that you had just tossed in my direction. If only I hadn’t left my “Non-Weirdos of Canada Club” membership card in my other pants.

This was the second time in about three years  that someone has challenged me for taking pictures on the street. The previous occasion involved a business owner on the Danforth who became quite belligerent after I took a picture of a ghost sign directly above his establishment. By the time he said he was going to call the police on me, I said that I was feeling threatened enough to call them myself, and pulled out my phone to do so. Unsurprisingly, he skulked away when I started dialling. Also unsurprisingly, the business—new at the time—lasted less than two months.

That experience came flooding back into my mind as you continued, “I’m going to go inside now and call the police…” If you’re serious, I’ll wait right here for them. You’ve essentially handcuffed me anyway; if I use this as my opportunity to walk away from your accusations,  it’ll just heighten your suspicions.

Why is it exactly that having a camera and taking pictures in public places marks someone as a weirdo? Or, more commonly these days, a terrorist? Good thing I didn’t have a “professional camera” with me. And even if I am some kind of weirdo, what exactly do you think I’m going to do when I get home with my illicit booty consisting of a picture of a quiet residential street?

“You can’t just go around taking pictures of people…” Actually, yes I can. If I’m standing on the sidewalk, I can take a picture of anyone or anything I can see. I may or may not be able to publish it, but there’s no law preventing me from taking it. That said, there are almost never people in the on-the-street pictures I take, simply because some people don’t like it and I really don’t want to deal with the hassle. Cars and rocks don’t usually get offended when they find themselves in front of my lens. I frequently go out of my way to keep people out of my pictures, and there certainly weren’t any in the two pictures you just watched me take.

“It’s an invasion of privacy…” Cars and grass have no privacy rights. Sorry.

“I can’t just let you come around here, taking pictures of kids…” Excuse me? Do you see any kids anywhere around here? I certainly don’t. I understand that you’re concerned for your children, but don’t accuse me of endangering them by taking a picture of something else entirely while they’re inside a school at least two blocks away.

“Our house was robbed a couple of months ago…” I’m sorry to hear that. Mine was broken into a few years ago and I know how terrible it feels. But I don’t see what that has to do with me unless the guy who broke into your place was armed with a point-and-shoot camera.

“If I see you in the neighbourhood again, acting all weird…” Can you define weird for me? I work just a couple of blocks away and this is on one of my regular commuting routes, so you’re pretty likely to see me again. Carrying my camera and stopping every once in a while to take pictures, is that weird? You might as well just call the police now and get it over with.

“How’d you like it if I took a picture of you?” How do I know you’re not some kind of weirdo? But seriously, go ahead. I’ll even pose for you. You’re welcome. We really should have turned around so that the sun was in front of me; you won’t get any detail in my face with that shot. Oh well.

“Where do you live? How’d you like it if I came to your house and harassed you?” Five minutes ago, I would have been happy to introduce myself and tell you all about what I do with the pictures I take in residential neighbourhoods. I even would have pointed you to this blog. But now that you’ve announced your intention to harass me, no thanks.

“Next time, you should just take your pictures and then leave.” Hmm, that’s exactly what I was doing when you drove your car in front of me and started treating me like a criminal for having a camera. If I’m guilty of anything, it’s of attempting to respond to your questions even though it’s clear you’re not interested in the answers.

But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, let me get back to your original question. Simply put, you don’t know that I’m not a weirdo. And you never will. But I can assure you that carrying a camera, or walking in a residential neighbourhood, or riding a bike, or wearing a purple t-shirt, or even not shaving for a week (guilty!) doesn’t make me any more or less of a weirdo than if I didn’t do any of those things. It’s a sad statement on the state of our society when the mere act of taking pictures is enough to make me a suspect in some imagined crime. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you around the neighbourhood again, but it won’t be by my choice.

I see faces #11

Hyena in the trees

This figure emerges from the lower part of a dead tree inside the hyena enclosure at the Toronto Zoo. From my vantage point, it was impossible to tell for certain whether the figure—or the entire tree, for that matter—was natural or artificial. The resemblance to the nearby residents was so striking that I have to think it was constructed as something of a visual joke. If it’s a natural formation, it’s a remarkable coincidence.

Where's Jack?

Where’s Jack?

Hmm. It’s been a week and a half since the federal election was called and just five days remain before nominations close, and so far no candidates in Toronto-Danforth (including NDP leader Jack Layton) have managed to scrape together the 100 signatures required to submit their nomination papers. Who will be the first? It could be you.

Update: The Green Party’s Sharon Howarth just became the first to crack the list. The rest of you were a little too slow on the draw.

Working bikes

Green Gardeners bicycle trailer

Despite the increasing numbers of people who ride their bikes to work, relatively few people use their bikes as work vehicles.

I frequently pass as many as a dozen landscaping crews on my daily ride through Rosedale and Summerhill, usually with big pickup trucks and trailers hauling all manner of two-stroke trimmers, mowers, and blowers. So it was nice to pass by this bike trailer filled with traditional hand tools the other day. Kudos to Green Gardeners.

Supermarket finds: Two of my favourite things

Bacon and Chocolate

All my life I’ve dreamed about combining chocolate and bacon. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I mentioned that very desire to Risa just last week. As if reading my mind, a co-worker returned from Texas on Monday with a Mo’s Bacon Bar to share with the office. Amazingly (to me, anyway), it’s made with real bacon and has no added flavours.

The verdict: mixed. The chocolate isn’t bad, but the salty bacon aftertaste left me yearning for a couple of eggs, over easy. It’s not really suited for an afternoon snack, but this could be a pretty good breakfast chocolate bar. I imagine it melted over a pair of eggs and squished between a couple of slices of toast. Chocolatey heart attack heaven!

Kitchen reno part 3

Old kitchen

New kitchen

Before the renovation started


The contractors finished the floor yesterday and the cabinet crew took over today, installing all of the cabinetry. There’s not much left for them to do tomorrow other than putting up the moulding and doing some finishing work. It’s almost beginning to feel like a kitchen again. We’ll get measured for the countertop early next week. After tomorrow, we’ll be at the halfway point in the schedule.

Kitchen cat

His Highness, displaying two of seven shavings from his recent trip to the Veterinary Emergency Clinic, tries to look unimpressed by all the fuss as he lounges on the new floor.