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General

Wind Farms Are Hardly the Bird Slayers They’re Made out to Be. Here’s Why.

Posted February 17, 2018 by guest
Flock of birds fly by a wind turbine
By Simon Chapman, University of Sydney

People who oppose wind farms often claim wind turbine blades kill large numbers of birds, often referring to them as “bird choppers”. And claims of dangers to iconic or rare birds, especially raptors, have attracted a lot of attention.

Wind turbine blades do indeed kill birds and bats, but their contribution to total bird deaths is extremely low, as these three studies show.

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General

#922 Getting a truck driver to blow their horn

Posted February 17, 2018 by Anonymous

Truckers have the best horns. Those things mean business. They’re loud and thundering and slap you in the face. None of this itty bitty bee-beep business that sounds less like a hatchback telling you the light turned green and more like a seagull telling other seagulls hey, there’s a guy throwing away crusts over here. […]

The post #922 Getting a truck driver to blow their horn appeared first on 1000 Awesome Things.

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Culture

David Simon Wanted John C. Reilly to Play McNulty on ‘The Wire’

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Can you imagine Reilly going up against Stringer Bell?

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General

Mexico’s Cross-Country Skier Finishes Last, Wins Olympics

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Give this guy all the medals.

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General

Help! I Found an SSRI That Works, But Now I Can’t Cum

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Advice from So Sad Today.

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Canada

Jagmeet Singh Needs to Spend the Weekend at Bernie’s

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

As the NDP convention kicks off, the party will be hearing from advisors to Bernie Sanders on how to start the revolution.

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General

Democrats Should Run on Gun Control All Over the Country

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Common-sense reform wouldn’t just be effective, it’s more popular than many candidates realize.

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General

What It’s Like Studying In a Murder House

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

When your new job is to show up and take hair samples after an axe murder, you might need a little hands-on preparation.

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General

Do offshore wind turbines generate noise that is harmful to marine life?

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Offshore wind turbine construction makes disruptive noise, but new regulations will help.

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General

NASA is designing a sub to explore Titan’s methane oceans

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

The challenges of designing a sub to send to explore Titan’s seas

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General

The Earth burped lava after being smashed by a dinosaur-killing asteroid

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

A giant asteroid impact made the Earth leak lava

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General

Scientist use nanorobots to attack and kill cancer in mice

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Nano robots attack cancer and leave healthy cells intact

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General

Ants treat battleground wounded during termite wars

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Ants successfully treat wounds of their injured comrades

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General

Corruption, bribery and cover-ups – is the sugar story too sweet?

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

Is our sugar problem really due to corruption and bribery in science?

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Culture

We Regret to Inform You That JNCO Is Going Out of Business

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

So long, JNCO jeans. Your pants were too big for our modern hearts to take.

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Art

The Long, Strange Conservative Obsession with Obama’s Sexuality

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

After his official portrait was revealed, far-right websites alleged it contained “secret sperm.”

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Canada

How The Media’s #MeToo Failings Hurt Victims

Posted February 16, 2018 by Manisha Krishnan

When reporters are careless, it’s the victims who suffer.

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General

Ottawa Announces Winners of $950Mln ‘Supercluster’ Competition

Posted February 16, 2018 by Chuck Black
         By Henry Stewart

Ottawa has announced the five “industry led” technology groups slated to get a piece of the $950Mln Federal government “superclusters” funding.

Minister Bains at the CSTM on Thursday, February 15th, 2018. The supercluster funds will be distributed over five years to the winners, which will be required to match the federal funding they receive with equivalent private sector funding. Photo c/o CBC News.

As outlined in the February 15th, 2018 Global News post, “Government reveals who is getting $950M in ‘supercluster’ funding,” Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains made the announcement Thursday at a press conference held in the Ottawa, ON based Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM).

The announcement “closed out a nine-month contest central to the Liberals’ so-called innovation agenda. The project was designed to encourage academia and businesses to work together on strategies to boost fast-growing sectors” and is a central platform in the Liberal’s Innovation Agenda, according to the February 15th, 2018 CBC News post, “AIs, Oceans and proteins: Ottawa announces winners of $950 million ‘supercluster’ competition.” 
The five technology groups chosen for funding include:

  • Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, based in Atlantic Canada, which will develop and utilize innovative technologies to improve competitiveness in Canada’s ocean-based industries, including fisheries, oil and gas and clean energy. Partners include PQ based ABB Canada, Ottawa ON based C-CORE and Cambridge, ON based exactEarth.
  • The Quebec based SCALE.AI Supply Chain Supercluster, which will work on building intelligent supply chains using artificial intelligence and robotics. According to its website, the consortium includes “over 80 Canadian companies, 26 business associations and 12 Canadian academic institutions.” 

Another proposal, from the Satellite Canada Innovation Network, which was discussed in the August 3rd, 2017 post, “Satellite Canada Applies for Innovation SuperCluster Funds,” didn’t make the list of finalists.

Last fall, the government narrowed a field of about 50 applicants to nine organizations. The money will be distributed over five years to the five winners, which will have to match the federal funding they receive, dollar for dollar.

The government expects the program to eventually create more than 50,000 jobs for Canadians.

_______________________________________________________________________

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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General

If CSA REALLY Under Spent its Budget by $800Mln over 17 Years, it Likely Gave the Money Back to the Treasury

Posted February 16, 2018 by Chuck Black
         By Chuck Black

Federal budgets are sometimes complex creatures which might not be immediately understandable to rocket scientists and the writers at consumer media outlets.

But the suggestion made by Canadian based SpaceQ that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has “under spent” its annual budget by over $800Mln CDN over the past seventeen years is simply not supported by any real evidence.

The upcoming RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is a useful example of how it’s difficult to assess funding without context. As outlined in the October 6th, 2012 post, “The Last Days of the Current CSA President,” the RCM program has been kicking around CSA headquarters since 2004, although initial phase “A” funding for the project only began in 2006. By 2012, as outlined in the May 1st, 2012 post, “Media Reports: CSA “Lost in Space,” RADARSAT “Over Budget” & UrtheCast “Hyped Vaporware,” RCM was over budget and behind schedule.  In 2013. the Federal Conservative government under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to the problem, as outlined in the January 12th, 2013 post, “A $706Mln Fixed Price Contract and Hard Launch Date for RADARSAT Constellation,” by negotiating an unusual hard launch date and fixed price contract with RCM prime contractor, the then Richmond BC based Macdonald Dettwiler (MDA). Of course, a fixed price contract didn’t mean that there weren’t extra costs, as outlined in the July 4th, 2016 post, “That 2013 “Fixed Pricing” Contract for RCM Might Not be Entirely Fixed.” It’s also worth noting that funding and accountability problems within the CSA were at the core of the 2012 David Emerson led Aerospace Review which, as outlined in the December 5th, 2012 post, “What the Space Volume of the Aerospace Review Actually Says” recommended removing most procurement functions from the CSA and adding new committees such as the Space Advisory Board (SAB) to oversee CSA activities. Graphic c/o CSA.

And those unspent CSA funds are not lying around in a CSA office somewhere just waiting to be reallocated. Any extra funds likely reverted to the Treasury Board of Canada, the Federal government department responsible for accountability and ethics, financial, personnel and administrative management of the Federal bureaucracy.

But it’s very easy to come to the opposite conclusion after reading the February 14th, 2018 SpaceQ post, “The Canadian Space Agency has Underspent its Budget for the Last 17 Years.” According to the post:

In the last 17 years the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has left $802Mln in planned spending unspent. In the last three years the CSA has under spent its budget by $201Mln.  

In 2010 the Conservative government began the process of decreasing the CSA’s base budget from $300 million to $260 million. The Liberal government has not restored the CSA’s annual base budget funding cut. Add these points together and it’s no wonder the space community is concerned. 

Those are strong claims, especially given that there is no immediate mention of the project funding normally allocated on top of the base “A” funding, which is used to cover operational expenses, salaries and other overhead.

Lowing the base A funding level is normally considered good for a government department and for taxpayers as well. It means less bureaucracy, over-site and paperwork to deal with for the same amount of project funding.

To find out what the CSA budget actually is, check out the March 9th, 2017 Federal government document, “CSA Departmental plan for 2017 – 2018,” which covers the CSA mandate, its plans for the year, the estimated budgets and HR requirements, the expected results and a variety of other supplementary data. The next CSA departmental plan is expected to be released in March 2018 and should be available on the CSA “Reports to Parliament” website. Graphic c/o CSA.

Project funding is what defines the success or failure of a government department, since it’s the money which goes to implement projects and programs and has the most effect on public perceptions of effectiveness. Project funding is normally a substantial portion of the overall department funding.

For example, as first outlined in the March 7th, 2010 post, “Feedback on the Throne Speech and Budget,” any reasonable assessment of CSA funding in 2010 would also include the $110Mln CDN allocated by the Federal government over three years beginning in 2009 for next generation Canadarms and rovers, plus the substantial additional funding allocated that year for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM).

These items are funded on a project by project basis and not from the base funding.

And while it’s common knowledge that the CSA is only allowed to reallocate it’s base budget and is restricted in what it can do with project funding for programs like Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) and other programs as listed on the “Government of Canada, disclosure of grants and contributions awards for the Canadian Space Agency,” it’s also generally conceded that CSA subcontractors would prefer less oversight and more project funding.

But that’s not the whole story. Most Federal government procurement includes a “risk reduction” mechanism, where a government department will often hold back a proportion of the final payment to contractors until milestones have been achieved and/or the contract is complete.

Governments do this in an effort to cost costs and maintain leverage over their contractors. These “contingency fundbacks” are normally small, especially when the provider is a large, well respected company performing well understood work.

Governments and private sector organizations often maintain “contingency funds,” a reserve of money set aside to cover possible unforeseen future expenses. When those unforeseen circumstances fail to materialize, the funds are rolled over into the next project. Image c/o The Canadian Encyclopedia.

But fundback requirements typically increase when the contractor is smaller, inexperienced, a start-up or if the required work contains a large research and development component.

You know. Like the innovative new projects often contemplated by the CSA.

When a project doesn’t pan out, the funding normally is either rolled over into the next year to try again (something called “re-profiling“) or the funding is cut off and the contractor is required to repay the portion of the work considered incomplete.

Sources have indicated that some of the Canadian government fundbacks for R&D focused work hover around 40% or more of the total contracted worth although the average is normally far less. Understanding fundback requirements and how funds are often provided in increments contingent on completing milestones would go a long way towards explaining why the CSA seemingly spends so much less than it gets.

After all, R&D projects don’t always work out the way people intend. When failures happen, good government procurement people spending the taxpayers money do what they’re supposed to do. They cut their losses and retrieve what funds they can.

But that ongoing pot of unused funds also makes it difficult to request additional funding for new programs from the treasury.

For example, as a side effect of the government fundback requirements, CSA contract managers have a reputation of pushing hard to get more work for less money. In most cases, they’re not allowed to dig in to the fundbacks and contingency funds. The end result is that they have a pot of unused, but allocated funds available between December and March of each fiscal year which can’t be spend on other items.

But while bureaucrats and project managers might insist that they need more, a cursory audit would show extra money in the bank and turn any new funding request into an uphill battle.

This is how Federal budgets work. Objecting to this, as seems to be the case with the SpaceQ post, is not the sort of argument which will reinvigorate our CSA or free up additional funds for government funded projects.

As outlined in the May 17th, 2011 BBC News post, “What is debt ‘reprofiling,” the term is common enough in international financial circles and is a type of restructuring, in which known financial responsibilities are stretched out over a longer period of time, but the overall value of those responsibilities remains the same. It’s considered to be a little better than simply modifying or changing financial commitments unilaterally and much better than reneging on commitments previously made (which is also known as taking a “haircut“). Screen shot c/o BBC News

As outlined in a February 16th, 2018 e-mail from Julie Simard, the strategic manager of communications for the CSA:

As you know, space projects are complex, with changing requirements, and are generally spread over a long period of time. They are in fact the epitome of innovation, in which we constantly push further scientific research, knowledge and technology. 

For this reason, and as part of sound management practices, the CSA plans some contingency funds for each project in order to help mitigate risks and ensure their successful delivery. The percentage allocated to the contingency funds varies from one project to another, but also to the project phase. 

Contingency funds are released when they are no longer needed, all along the project duration. Contingency funds are necessary and allow the CSA to remain agile, flexible and being able to react to unforeseen situations.

It’s also worth noting that, as outlined in the February 15th, 2018 Space News post, “Canadian Space Agency president not surprised by NASA ISS transition plans,” CSA president Sylvain Laporte is taking a “wait and see” approach to NASA’s plans to end funding of the International Space Station (ISS) in the mid-2020s, in order to help fund the proposed Deep Space Gateway, a follow-on plan which CSA hopes to build a mission around, after the ISS shuts down.

In essence, the CSA is waiting for a mission, not an audit.

Back to you, SpaceQ.

Chuck Black.

___________________________________________________________

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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General

Featured Fellow: Meric Gertler

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

University of Toronto, Meric Gertler, Fellow, RCGS

Meric Gertler has been president of the University of Toronto since 2013. (Photo: Lisa Sakulensky/University of Toronto)

University of Toronto president Meric Gertler is a world leader in urban theory, focusing on the geography of innovation, creativity and culture in city centres as economic drivers. Besides authoring, editing and co-editing several influential books and dozens of academic publications, he has been an advisor to North American and European governments, to the Euro­pean Union and the Orga­nisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in Paris. Here, he discusses leveraging U of T’s urban location and reimagining education in that light.

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General

Ask Angela: My morning coffee recipes, Instant Pot reader poll, and more!

Posted February 16, 2018 by Angela (Oh She Glows)

I have to say, this blog series is so much fun to put together each week. Even though I reply to your comments and questions a couple of times each day on the blog, making this round-up inspires me to dig a bit deeper and try new things to help troubleshoot. I also learn so […]

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General

West Virginia Candidate Ousted From Hearing for Reading Industry Donors. But Bill She Opposed Just Passed in House.

Posted February 16, 2018 by Steve Horn
Lissa Lucas being removed from the West Virginia Senate hearing on HB 4268

On Friday, February 9, Lissa Lucas — a Democratic Party candidate for West Virginia’s House of Delegates — was forcibly removed from a Senate hearing for calling out how many thousands of dollars legislators backing a pro-oil and gas industry bill have received from that very industry.

The video of Lucas’s public comment and removal has gone viral and served as a launching pad for her campaign, which has raised more than $46,000 since the incident. Previously, she had raised just over $4,000. Coincidentally, Lucas supports a publicly funded campaign finance system. 

The bill (HB 4268) she opposed, however, has passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

That law, “forced pooling” legislation which makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to obtain mineral rights from private landowners as a precursor to drilling, has the support of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. It enables oil and gas companies to perform more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on private land in the state by mandating that, rather than securing land lease contracts from all landowners, companies only need 75 percent of those living in an area to sign leases and are granted the remaining 25 percent by default.

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General

#923 Doing anything that makes you sort of feel like a caveman

Posted February 16, 2018 by Anonymous

There’s something about getting in touch with your inner neanderthal that strokes your brain stem just the right way. Accomplishing something caveman-style feels good — a combination of clenched teeth, throbbing veins, and good old fashioned feistiness that we don’t always get to experience in today’s sophisticated society. Now, although there are a lot of […]

The post #923 Doing anything that makes you sort of feel like a caveman appeared first on 1000 Awesome Things.

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General

In Trump’s First Year, EPA Is Fining Polluters 49 Percent Less

Posted February 15, 2018 by Anonymous
Donald Trump with Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke

The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has seen a measurable difference in the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been holding polluters accountable compared to the past 25 years. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has collected, on average, 49 percent less in civil penalties against violators of federal environmental laws than in the first year of the previous three administrations, according to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.

President Trump’s dismantling of the EPA means violators are less likely to be caught, making illegal pollution cheaper,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement. “The president’s ‘law and order’ agenda apparently wasn’t intended for fossil fuel companies and other big polluters.”

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General

FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Spent Much of His First Months in Office Meeting With the Fossil Fuel Industry

Posted February 15, 2018 by Anonymous
Rob Powelson

In his first few months at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), commissioner Rob Powelson scheduled the great majority of his meetings with fossil fuel energy companies and utilities, his work calendar shows. The calendar, obtained by DeSmog through an open records request, can be viewed below.

Nominated to FERC by President Trump, Powelson began serving on the commission last August. He previously served on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

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General

I always hated “I Love Lucy.” Now I have another reason.

Posted February 15, 2018 by Kathy Shaidle
I always hated “I Love Lucy.” Now I have another reason.

Yes, Lucille Ball was a gifted female show-biz entrepreneur, although she was preceded by Gertrude Berg, who receives only one-one-millionth of the credit for doing the same sort of thing years earlier.However, I hate I Love Lucy. “Shut that screaming off!” my mother would yell when she was within earshot of the show and it […]

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General

A bear in the henhouse

Posted February 15, 2018 by Anonymous

A polar bear on Mitivik Island

A polar bear, its paws covered in eider egg yolk, on Mitivik Island, Nunavut. Mitivik is home to Canada’s largest eider colony, but climate change has introduced a powerful threat: hungry polar bears. (Photo: Evan Richardson)

Polar bears are more yellow than white. That’s the somewhat peripheral thought that pops into my head as a bear suddenly crests a ridge 50 metres from where I’m sitting. I had been enjoying a game of chess and a cup of tea but now my heart is racing. At the moment, it doesn’t seem very important where I move my pawn.

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General

Nobody listens to me… Ban schools, not guns.

Posted February 15, 2018 by Kathy Shaidle

I wrote this in 2012 and stand by every word:A survey of popular culture indicates that attitudes about compulsory public education have drastically devolved. Children have always hated school, but the Our Gang kids only “played hooky” from class, they didn’t shoot it up. The “juvies” in Blackboard Jungle (1955) just smash up some classical-music […]

Kathy Shaidle’s NEW book, Confessions of a Failed Slut, is available HERE.
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General

Infographic: How the three-wheeled ‘Explore’ is helping more people enjoy the backcountry

Posted February 15, 2018 by Anonymous

Christian Bagg, trail, invention, wheelchair, Great Trail

Icon Wheelchairs founder Christian Bagg has tested many versions of his powerful Explore model on The Great Trail’s West Bragg Creek routes, in Alberta.

All of a sudden one day in 1996, Christian Bagg could no longer snowboard, mountain bike or hike the backcountry he loved so much.

A snowboarding accident broke the young Albertan’s back, but he was soon using skills acquired as an apprentice machinist at the University of Calgary to build a wheelchair that actually fit his 6’5″ frame. He started designing better equipment for medical tech companies, and by 2010, had founded Icon Wheelchairs with 13-time Paralympic medallist Jeff Adams. 

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General

#924 The fact that glass exists

Posted February 15, 2018 by Anonymous

Grab a handful of sand, heat it up to a few thousand degrees and suddenly, presto change-o, whaddaya got? That’s right, friend: a handful of glass and one severely burned paw. Now, how incredible is the fact that glass is made from sand? I mean, think about it: there aren’t many things you can’t see […]

The post #924 The fact that glass exists appeared first on 1000 Awesome Things.

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General

Justin Trudeau to join Liberal community celebration of Lunar New Year in Markham

Posted February 14, 2018 by Liberal Party of Canada

Markham, ON – Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, will join Liberal MPs, supporters, and community leaders for a celebration of Lunar New Year in Markham on Thursday, February 15, 2018. Thursday, February 15, 2018 7:30 PM – Armchair discussion with Justin Trudeau Hilton Toronto/Markham Suites Conference Centre 8500 Warden Avenue Markham, […]

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General

Climate Denier Tim Ball: Trump Approved, But Not Credible Enough To Stand Accountable For Libel

Posted February 14, 2018 by Anonymous

It was gratifying, today, to see a senior justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia denounce the professional “climate change sceptic” Dr. Tim Ball as incompetent, inattentive and, perhaps, indifferent to the truth.

But it was an outrage to see the same judge let Ball so casually off the hook, by dismissing a libel action that had been brought by University of Victoria climate scientist and B.C. Green Party leader Dr. Andrew Weaver.

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General

Judge Dismisses Libel Claim, Climate “Sceptic” Tim Ball Not Credible Enough To Take Seriously

Posted February 14, 2018 by Anonymous

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a libel action against “climate change sceptic” Dr. Tim Ball on the basis that Ball’s writing is not sufficiently credible to inflict damage on the reputation of a professional climate scientist.

The libel suit was launched in 2011 by Canadian climate scientist (and now leader of the British Columbia Green Party) Andrew Weaver in protest against an article that Ball had written for a website called Canada Free Press (“Corruption of Climate Science Has Created 30 Lost Years,” Jan 10, 2011). The article belittled Weaver’s credentials, challenged his competence as a scientist and Professor at the University of Victoria and accused him of being part of a politically corrupted campaign to overstate the dangers of climate change.

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General

“A new book suggests the Catholic-born icon was more spiritual than the “beatnik” label suggests”

Posted February 14, 2018 by Kathy Shaidle
“A new book suggests the Catholic-born icon was more spiritual than the “beatnik” label suggests”

Rather old news, but the American Conservative seems to think not.(And “of the end of time” is the only variety of “eschatology” there is, but no matter…)The real tragedy of Kerouac’s reception was that the people who should have known better took the en vogue hedonist reading at face value, writing him off as a […]

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General

Introducing Glow Getter: Entrepreneurs making waves!

Posted February 14, 2018 by Angela (Oh She Glows)

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re celebrating with friends, family, or a special someone today, I hope you have a great one. And if all else fails, I have a feeling my Easy Vegan Sugar Cookies, Pink Power Detox Smoothie, or Cheerful Vegan Nachos will give your taste buds the lovin’ they’re looking for. 😉 This […]

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General

Inside the Toronto Zoo's bison breakthrough

Posted February 14, 2018 by Anonymous

Wood bison at the Toronto Zoo. (Photo: Hannah James/Canadian Geographic)

Gabriela Mastromonaco has seen many babies born at the Toronto Zoo, but when her zoo colleagues called her on July 11, 2017 to say that a new wood bison calf had arrived, she…

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General

Steve Sailer on “Black Panther” and “the real Wakanda” — Ethiopia

Posted February 14, 2018 by Kathy Shaidle
Steve Sailer on “Black Panther” and “the real Wakanda” — Ethiopia

Steve Sailer writes:Wakanda, as you may have heard, is vibrant due to its massive deposits of vibranium, a literal Magic Dirt, which proves Trump is racist. Or something.Nobody can quite explain the logic of Wakanda Worship, but it’s extremely popular at the moment.In the old days, however, it was easier to fantasize about distant lands […]

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General

PSA: Please Don’t Joke About Sometimes Wishing You Had Anorexia

Posted February 14, 2018 by Yoni Freedhoff

Given what I do for a living, it happens not infrequently that someone will joke with me about sometimes wishing they had anorexia or bulimia in the context of their struggles with weight management.

And while I can see where their unfortunate attempt at humour is coming from, it always leads me to have a gentle chat with them that contains these truths.

Lives are ripped apart by eating disorders. Families are devastated. People die.

Eating disorders aren’t punchlines.

        
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