Monday, June 19, 2017

One Last Tribute To My Trailblazing Mother Helen Freedhoff

The last week was an incredibly difficult one with our family reeling from the sudden and unexpected death of my mother.

During the course of the week I reached out to Hilda Bastian as I felt that as a fellow trailblazer for women in STEM, she might be interested in my mother's career.

After reading about her, Hilda offered a nearly unbelievable kindness - over the course of her own weekend, Hilda put together a Wikipedia entry for my mother (click here to read it) which I was able to share with my father before having to leave Toronto.

Through his many tears also came, "how lovely, how lovely", and "what a tribute!"

Were my mother still alive, an incredibly modest and private person, she'd have been embarrassed (maybe even mad at me for indirectly facilitating) and might have asked that the entry be removed, but since she's unable to complain, and as I and her family is intensely proud of her accomplishments, consider my sharing them my last opportunity as her son to shake her tree a bit (please also find our eulogies below).

With the shiva over I will slowly be returning to social media and blogging. Will be returning to Twitter and Facebook first, and blogging a touch later. With Jewish mourning, the first 30 days have a special significance and so I'm thinking I'll start blogging again (aside from this post of course) once they're complete part way through July.

[My deep and heartfelt thanks to Hilda for her compassionate kindness and generosity in putting my mother's Wikipedia page together.]



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Monday, June 12, 2017

Remembering My Mother (And Why I Won't Be Around As Much For a While)

Dr. Helen Freedhoff January 9th, 1940 - June 10th, 2017
My mother was her own force of nature, and tragically, wholly unexpectedly, and thankfully without suffering, she died on Saturday. To say our family is in shock is an understatement. My mother lived life on her own terms, both for the better, and at times for the worse, but there was never an instant in my life where I didn't know how fiercely she loved me, nor where I didn't love her back.

A theoretical physicist who received her PhD from the University of Toronto she was a trailblazer for women in science. Her work in science is baffling to me. I read the titles of her papers, and while I understand some words here or there, they might as well be written in a foreign language - one of her students told me that this paper is one of which she was especially proud. She once explained to me how it was she went about choosing what to study. The gist was that she would look at experimental results that people could not explain, and then if she thought that the solution would be mathematically elegant, she'd get to work. And while I may not be telling that story perfectly accurately, that's how I remember it anyhow. We've no doubt, that had it not been for mandatory retirement (she missed its abolition by 2 years), she'd have still been teaching.

It was my mother who taught me, again for better or for worse, to always speak my mind and not to be shy, even with criticism. Below is the obituary we're placing in the papers - and I thought I'd share it here as well and let it fly out into the ether. Love you Ma, can't believe you're gone, and will always be proud to be your son.


Helen (Henchy) Sarah Freedhoff (nee Goodman)

Passed away suddenly on Saturday June 10, at the cottage she loved in Muskoka at the age of 77.

She was predeceased by her parents Sholom and Ethel Goodman (Kohl)

She will be dearly missed by her husband Stephen of 57 years, her daughter Michal (Michael Van Leeuwen), her son Yoni (Stacey Segal), her brother David Goodman, her grandchildren, Rena, Zahava, Talia, Sammy, Leah, Vivienne, and Yael who adored their Omi, and many nieces and nephews. Sister-in-law of Judith and Aubrey Golden,Sylvia Goodman (late brother Irving), and Doba Goodman.

Helen was born in Toronto and excelled in the sciences, having graduated from the University of Toronto with the highest marks and was awarded the Governor General’s Gold medal. She went on to obtain a PH.D in physics and was appointed an assistant professor at York University in 1967. At the time of her appointment, she believed she may have been the only woman in Canada teaching at the university level in her field.

She took a keen interest in her students and was responsible for many of them under her guidance continuing their careers in science. She was soft spoken, a voracious reader, had taken up piano again upon retirement, was an expert ken-ken solver, a weekly yoga practitioner, and maintained a meticulous household

Funeral service at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel 1:30 Monday June 12.

Shiva at 38 Alexandra Wood. Morning services daily at 7:45 a.m. Evening services at 8:45 p.m. Shiva will conclude Sunday morning, June 18.

Donations in memory can be made to Associated Hebrew Schools, Ethel and Sholom Goodman Fund, (416) 494-7666

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Friday, June 09, 2017

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox Is All Kinds of Hilarious

Honestly, today's Funny Friday bit, with Fox lecturing Trump about the wall, is just genius.

Don't miss it.

Have a great weekend!



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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Canadian Nutrition Society Calls 13 Daily Teaspoons of Added Sugar "Moderate"

To be fair, it wasn't the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS) directly who told attendees of their recent annual scientific conference that consuming 13 daily teaspoons of added sugar represented a "moderate" amount, it was the handout they stuffed into all their conference swag bags that did.

That handout, available here, had this to say,
"In 2004 Canadian consumption of added sugars was about 11% of daily energy intake (53g or 13 tsp per day), according to an analysis of dietary intake data from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Average intake ranged from 9.9% of energy in adults aged 19 and above to 14.1% of energy in adolescents aged 9-18 years. This is generally considered to be a moderate amount"
Given it was authored by The Canadian Sugar Institute, it's wholly understandable that they're not lining up with the World Health Organization or Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation in considering 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day a daily maximum, and 6 teaspoons of sugar per day a better goal. Less understandable though for the CNS.

According to the CNS, their aim is to,
"foster the next generation of skilled nutritionists, thereby building a better and healthier future for all Canadians"
I struggle to see how providing the food industry with the ability to influence and directly access the next generation of nutritionists would fit within that mandate.

(Thanks to the dietetic student attendee who sent me the handout, and for the record, I feel the same way about medical organizations providing pharma with the opportunity to stuff medical conferences' swag bags with their marketing materials)

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Definitely Don't Take Your Kids To See Red Shoes And The Seven Dwarfs

Via Tess Holiday on Twitter
Want to know how socially acceptable weight bias is?

There's a movie coming out, for children, about, what if Snow White were fat?

The trailer highlights the apparently hilarious horror.



The pervasiveness of weight bias in children's movies, TV shows, and books is a near constant.

Can you imagine how you'd feel if you were a little girl with obesity and you saw this poster (let alone the movie)? Or if you were a schoolyard bully that hadn't yet started targeting kids for their weights (weight by the way is the number one target of bullies by a long shot).

It's horrifying that weight bias is so normalized that a movie studio signed off on this. Hopefully, with awareness, ticket sales will be sufficiently bad and the outcry sufficiently loud, so as to dissuade future such projects.

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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Saturday Stories: Opioid Origins, Trump Loneliness, and the Confederacy.

By Infrogmation of New Orleans - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Pamela Leung, Erin Macdonald, Irfan Dhalla and David Juurlink in New England Journal of Medicine expose the 1980 letter to the editor that may be responsible for today's epidemic of opioid addiction.

Rebecca Solnit in Literary Hub with an amazing piece of writing on the loneliness of Donald Trump.

New Orleans' Mayor Mitch Landrieu in The Atlantic with the speech he gave to explain why his city's confederate monuments had to come down.

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Friday, June 02, 2017

This Commercial Almost Makes Me Want To Watch Shark Week

But not quite.

That said, today's Funny Friday video is a gem for those of us old enough to be Seal fans.

Have a great weekend!



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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

If Pokémon Go Doesn't Keep People Moving, What Chance Does Public Health Have?

You remember Pokémon Go, right? I remember when it launched I was giving a talk in LA, and honestly it seemed as if the entire city was trying to catch Pokémon. Flash forward a year or so and I can't remember that last time I saw anyone trying to catch one.

I was curious about whether or not people were still playing and so I hunted around online a bit and found a few articles.

What I learned was, during that launch time last summer there were 28.5 million global daily users. That same article has it that by January, just 5 months later, the number of daily players had dropped by 80%.

Or has it dropped even further than that? Certainly if this Reddit thread can be believed, it has, as the thread asserts that a large percentage of active players now are
  • "Bots used by scanners -- Who knows how many bot accounts are out there.
  • Multi-account players -- Based on concerns of gym shaving, this appears to be prevalent, but there is no way to determine how many "alt" accounts are out there.
  • Account Sellers -- Overlapping 1 and 2, there are many accounts that are floating around out there for sale that have been either leveled by bots or by hand."
All this to say, that the 5 month drop off rate of the most viral and widely launched augmented reality game is somewhere between 80 and 90%, strikes me as more evidence that rather than promoting flashy, feel-good, new online tools and commercials that stand virtually no chance at inspiring sustained behaviour changes, we need to spend our energies and efforts on environmental engineering to squeeze more activity out of our normal lives (eg. cycling and walking infrastructure, tax incentives or disincentives, stairwell renovations and signage, etc.), forcefully building the opportunity for exercise back into our kids' lives (eg. the return of proper school recess), and lobbying our politicians for same.

And maybe it's just my cynicism, but I do find it odd that despite our global and possibly total failings at inspiring intentional, because-it's-good-for-you, behaviour change, both with food and fitness, that as a society we still seem to be clinging to the notion somehow, someone, somewhere, will figure out the golden message, app, or website that will set us all straight. At this point, and certainly in the developed world, it's hard to imagine that the problem is a lack of education as to the benefits of exercise and/or a healthful diet.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Forks vs. Feet for Obesity: The Great Debate Part II (Next Week in #Toronto)

Which is more critical to obesity treatment and prevention - our forks, or our feet?

That's the subject of my upcoming debate with the inimitable Dr. Bob Ross.

It's actually a redo of our prior debate from 2011 on the same topic (which you can watch here if you'd like).

It's being presented by the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) and it's taking place at 5pm on Tuesday June 6th in the Ben Sadowski Theatre of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Tickets are just $15 with proceeds going towards the support of the chapter's activities (and you can buy them in advance by clicking here).

My prediction?

There's going to be far more agreement than you might imagine.

Also?

It should be a lot of fun.

Hope to see you there!

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