Don’t Ask If You Don’t Want Me To Tell You

We recently ate at a pleasant Italian restaurant; a day or so later, having been contacted by OpenTable to post a review, I wrote something short and positive.

At least I thought it was positive: 4/5 stars for food/ambiance/value and 5/5 for service, which was terrific. After all, this wasn’t an undiscovered Michelin gem, just a perfectly nice little restaurant with an undistinguished décor and limited menu. I’ve eaten out enough to know what “outstanding” means – from Tour D’Argent in Paris in its heyday to our local pub, which has consistently excellent grub. And, hey, I’ve got the extra pounds to prove it!

Almost immediately, I received a very defensive reply from the chef-owner, wanting to know why I’d given him a “bad” review. (My comments about the “lovely little restaurant with delicious house-made pasta” apparently hadn’t been sufficient praise.) So this led to a series of back-and-forth e-mails in which I explained that one reason for my rating was that the bread was disappointing. As regular readers will know, I take my carbs seriously: flabby, squishy white bread is not ok – though I expressed this as, “I prefer a firmer crust and texture”, attempting to be diplomatic.

The point is, I wasn’t trying to be mean or snarky – but if you ask for feedback, you should expect feedback, not a gold star for trying. (This being the problem of an entire generation getting trophies merely for showing up.)

Which led me to think about other situations in which it might be unwise to ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers. A classic is, “Where is our relationship going?” Now, if a woman is asking a man, chances are that if he were about to propose, she would know it. If he’s asking her where they stand, well, sorry dude but she’s not that into you, as they say.

I don’t know if gay etiquette is any different, but humans being humans I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, in any relationship, if you don’t know where you stand you can assume it’s on shaky ground.

It’s the same at work. A good manager will praise what’s going well and offer constructive criticism to make you better. Be honest: If you were 100% perfect you’d probably be the CEO, or have retired by age 40 to your yacht in the South Pacific.

In other words, be careful what you ask for.

mistake-1966448_640

 

Good News Monday: Chocolate Is Good For You

chocolate-183543_640

This might be the best news ever!  Caveat: it needs to be the super-dark stuff, not super-sugary junk.  And we shouldn’t be eating TONS of it. Still…

7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

  • Highly nutritious, containing lots of fiber and minerals
  • Powerful source of antioxidants
  • May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure
  • Cholesterol benefits: raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation
  • May reduce heart disease
  • May protect your skin from the sun
  • Could improve brain function

Click the link for the full article.

 

 

 

Can one person make a drop of difference to a huge problem? Yes!

Happy weekend, everyone. I wanted to share my friend Terry’s wonderful safe water initiative with you. Thanks for reading!

Dear Cook’s Tour Readers,

A few weeks ago, you read about my incredible trip to Tanzania. Besides the amazing up-close interactions with wildlife, and the expansive, gorgeous views of the East African landscape, I told you about our visit to Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa (SWCEA) where they are working to bring clean drinking water to the local population.

Local women gathering water from a pond
In Tanzania, the fourth most populated country in sub-Saharan Africa, half the people (27 million) don’t have access to safe water.  In many cases, women and children collect water where animals drink, urinate and defecate. 

Only 34% have access to decent sanitation, something we take for granted.

Boiling, which uses expensive fuel, can increase fluoride to potentially harmful levels, and most Tanzanian families use no water treatment method at all.

Left, dirty water from a pond; right, after filtering

But there is a solution and you can help. SWCEA has developed an easy, inexpensive water filtration method and The Cook’s Tour has partnered with them and Safe Water Now (certified non-profit) to raise awareness.

I’m asking you to join me in helping to combat this problem.
Designed and created in Tanzania, one $40 filter can supply a family of six with safe water for five years.

Please consider donating to this effort because everyone deserves clean drinking water. Any amount is appreciated. And if you can’t donate, please share this blog post and/or the link below to our GoFundMe page.

Thank you.
gofundme.com/clean-water-to-the-rescue

Good News Monday: 11 Medical Breakthroughs

Look for these promising new initiatives to become more widely used in the next couple of years.

lab-217041_640

1. Tecnic Symfony, a newly approved, first-in-class lens replacement for cataracts, can now provide an extended depth of focus.  We’ll no longer have to choose between optimal close-up or distance vision, and a tiny stent is now available to treat people with glaucoma.

 2. Drones are distributing medicine to isolated areas. In 2016, a start-up company used drones to deliver medicine to Rwanda. This practice has since become routine and it’s estimated that even more areas will benefit.

3. Gene editing is helping prevent disease. A new technique to “edit” embryos (CRISPR Technology) may help future generations avoid retinal degenerative disease and inherited  diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.

4. ALS patients will soon be able to communicate with their thoughts. New technology may help decode the thoughts of people with functional brain activity who have a completely paralyzed body resulting from a stroke, traumatic injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

5. Diabetics can be helped by an artificial pancreas. Diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. In May 2017, it was reported that the first artificial pancreas systems (the Hybrid Close-Loop Insulin Delivery System) were beginning to be distributed, helping diabetics regulate their insulin levels.

6. Reduction of LDL cholesterol. When powerful cholesterol drugs — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — were approved by the FDA in 2015, experts hailed it as a huge breakthrough, but more studies were needed to see whether this would result in medications with fewer side effects than statins.

Since then, new studies have reported good news – earlier in 2017, a 20% reduction in LDL was reported in a study group of 25,982 patients. These new cholesterol meds should become increasingly available.

7. Enhanced post-surgery recovery. Traditional surgery protocol involves no eating or drinking beforehand, feeling nauseous or groggy afterwards, and being prescribed pain medication to help with recovery, which can lead to opioid dependence.

New research has been evaluating the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which recommends various methods including post-operative nutrition plans and alternatives to pain medication, to speed up the recovery process.

8. More targeted and precise breast cancer therapies. Treatments such as chemotherapy fight cancer cells but don’t always have the desired outcome. In the near future, according to Breastcancer.org, expect to see treatments for breast cancer that are designed to target specific cancer cell characteristics, such as the protein that allows cells to grow in a malignant way, .

9. Improved treatments for sleep apnea. Treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is often invasive and uncomfortable, involving the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

But a less invasive method was approved by the FDA in October, 2017. The Remede sleep system is an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.

Following successful trial studies, this may become the treatment of choice.

10. Next-generation vaccines. New techniques include freeze-drying, which allows vaccinations to be transported to remote areas. Companies are also investigating faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available.

11. The first human head transplant! Italian scientist Sergio Canavero and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — and yes, it involves neck bolts and electricity! The goal is to help patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

The surgeons have already performed the procedure on mice, rats and a dog, all of which survived surgery and even regained some motor function. Is that cool or what?!

Have a GOOD week! xx

Fall Lineup

Every year, the new TV season looks more and more like the previous year. Meanwhile, the networks order fewer and fewer episodes. Because, guess what – there’s much better programming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox, etc.

The problem is that network execs keep mining the same territory. Currently there are countless shows set in Chicago (Why not Dubuque or Roslyn, folks?) Dozens of shows about firemen, lawyers, and doctors. No wonder TV big shots keep rebooting classics like Murphy Brown and Magnum PI, and moaning that they’re losing share to reality shows.

There are tons of underrepresented professions that are full of drama and excitement. Here is my (Free! Unsolicited!) advice to the networks. If you guys start now, you can have your pilots all wrapped up in plenty of time to make it big next September.

Plumber’s Crack: Wise and witty plumber fixes sinks, toilets, broken hearts and dysfunctional families – one visit at a time. (You know this is fantasy because when is any household repair fixed in one trip?)

Lab Rat: Drama about the trials, toils and tribulations of a young assistant in the local college’s biology department. Academia is a fertile area for romance, backstabbing bosses and obsequious colleagues trying to get promoted even though the raise will be miniscule. Come on, people – it’s not just about law and med school!

Garbage Day: A mystery. In the search for the truth, intrepid garbage collector plows through all kinds of disgusting junk to find exculpatory evidence.

Techies: What better source for a new nerdy dramedy than a 60’s high school audio-visual club. Imagine the tension between the prom/football cliques and the guys without whom nobody can watch health ed instructional documentaries.

The Brazilian: Warm, caring aesthetician waxes philosophical as she hears all the intimate issues facing her clients. Every episode has a neat ending. Potential spinoff: “Eyebrow Guru”.

Play It As It Valets: Mix a swank resort, snooty guests, fancy cars and underpaid valets and you have a recipe for trouble!

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

tv-1529259_640

Images from Pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

Good News Monday: People Still Read Books

It’s not just about digital devices, TV and movies.  A recent survey of reader habits revealed some interesting stats:

  • Women are major mystery fans (37% citing as their preferred genre)
  • 2% of men admit that romance is a preferred genre
  • 70% of respondents prefer print over e-books
  • Women prefer reading in bed, and 13% of people read while they commute (hopefully not while driving)
  • Men and women were equally likely to read in the tub

beach-1866992_640Another cool thing: international literacy is on the rise. And although books are in short supply in developing nations, most people have access to cellphones, which broadens opportunities to read. In a UNESCO survey of more than 4,000 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Ghana and Zimbabwe, 62% of respondents reported that they were reading more — by using their phone.