Monday, 29 June 2015

Nothing good comes out of Google

Google Chromecast

Remember the days when Google was selling itself, quite successfully, under the “do no evil” banner? Well, it worked on me; I was hooked, and it took (and is still taking) a huge effort to disconnect myself from the prying conglomerate. Not that one can ever truly disconnect from Google nowadays.
But still, Google has some interesting products up its sleeve, and for a brief while I was tempted. This is the story of how I learnt my lesson.

I suspect you’re familiar with this problem I was trying to solve with Google's help:
(you stay somewhere that’s not your house) + (you’re short on entertainment) = (not that great a feeling about staying away from your house)
Say, you’re staying at a hotel. How do you keep yourself busy once the dust is settled? Don’t tell me you do so with a TV. That’s so 20th century!
I used to entertain myself with a book. Then we’ve evolved to have additional options like laptops and now smartphones and tablets. One problem still remains with those: a small screen. Wouldn’t it be nice to tap on the reseource that’s already there, the hotel’s large TV, but use it to your advantage and play your own stuff? 
That’s what I had in mind when I stepped in to my local OfficeWorks and bought myself a Google Chromecast. Sure, Google is invasive and all, but how bad can it be when Google clearly state one can switch off the Chromecast reporting? That privacy option is available, but only after the initial setup (read: only after Google learns what your wifi password is). Sort of a fair trade, I thought: As it happens, I can easily create a wifi network to play my own contents with, and by sticking the Chrome into the hotel TV’s HDMI input (note not all hotels let you do that!) I can watch my own stuff.
I thought this meant problem solved.

Setting up the Chromecast at home seemed to be a breeze. The Chromecast generates its own wifi network, to which I connected using my iPad/iPhone and the Chromecast app. It then asks you to select your own wifi network and provide its password, after which it uses your Internet connection to update its firmware. So far so good (assuming you’re happy with Google familiarising itself, and by proxy the NSA, with your wifi password).
Trouble started when I sought to replace the home wifi network with the one created by my portable wifi router. The problem is simple: that portable wifi that I take with me to hotels does not have an Internet connection; it’s just there to share stuff between different devices (camera, tablets etc). But, and here comes the bugbear: the Chromecast will simply not work without an Internet connection, even though it does not need the Internet in order to work!
In other words, Google may give up on its ability to know what it is that you are doing with your Chromecast through the privacy settings it offers, but it will not give up on its ability to know who you are, where you are (through your IP address), and when you are using your Chromecast. And let’s face it, the concession on the “what” department isn’t that much of a concession anyway given that Google is likely to know what you’re watching anyway (as in the case of you using its Chrome browser).
Which is to say: The Google Chromecast may be a lovely, useful, device to use; but first and foremost, it is just another one of many devices for Google's surveillance brand.
Personally, regardless of the spying elephant in the room, the Chromecast thus became completely useless to me: given the architecture of my travelling gadgets, I do not have an Internet connection to supply the Chromecast with. Hotel wifi cannot be trusted anyway, because it would usually block Chromecasts, and even if I have my own mobile Internet I’d hate to use it on account of Google gobbling up too much of my allowance.

Thus I ended up returning the Chromecast to OfficeWorks the day after I had bought it. To give credit to OfficeWorks, they gave me my money back without a shred of trouble. Very nice of them!
Me, I learned my lesson. I’m pretty much done with Google.

Image by Maurizio Pesce, Creative Commons licence (CC BY 2.0)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Savouring the Savoury

OK, So I’ve embarked on a sugarless diet (better referred to as sugar reduced diet). Is that it, then? Did I give up on pleasure food?
In plain English, what do I snack on now that the vast majority of conventional snacks, from your chocolate bars to cookies and ice cream have been banned?
I have so far developed a three pronged approach to this question.
First, there’s water. Water is calorie free (!), healthy when consumed at reasonable amounts, and when drunk in bubbly form can be surprisingly filling. I was surprised how far I could get away water during summer months. Alas, recreational consumption of water during the cold winter months is quite unattractive.
Second, coffee. Coffee fills me up quite well, and in the form I like it best (soy flat white at cafes or latte at home) it offers good value for the calorie. I like my coffee strong and bitter, so sugar need not apply. Alas, coffee consumption as of 14:00 hours is a dangerous affair given the half life of caffeine in the blood and the potential damage it might incur on the night’s sleep. Even decaf coffee has caffeine in it, enough to interrupt sleep when taken at the wrong time.
The third option is the most interesting one, coming straight from Israeli culture. It’s probably a weather thing, but whereas the dominating snacks in Australian culture come from English origins (read: heavy stuff, featuring sugar fortified with more sugar), Israelis know how to snack on nuts. Pistachios, almonds and cashews are, as far as I am concerned, pretty attractive snacks.
Then there is the Supreme Master of all snacks, the roasted + smoked sunflower seed. It used to be that Australia would only have tiny non-smoked sunflower seeds draped in salt, but nowadays one can get the real deal: sunflower seeds roasted and smoked in Israel (as per the photo). You can note the seeds are quite big, the cooking is optimal, and while salt is there it is not so abundant that it is visible.
Mind you, this could be a case of replacing one problem (sugar) with another (salt). I try to solve it by resorting to non salted solutions when they are available, but so far could only find unsalted cashews, almonds and roasted chickpeas.
Another problem is the calorie intake: these nuts sure pack heat, and it is all too easy to overeat. 100 grams of pistachios, for example, which take me about a minute and a half to consume, are equivalent to a proper dinner at a bit more than 2,000KJ.
On the other hand, there is no denying the health value. The nuts contain protein, iron and fibre that are all good for you. They are rich in fat, true, but that fat is also of the good kind. In other words, when it comes to snacking the smart thing to do is it in reasonable measures. Then again, that is the case with all food.

I’d be lying if I was to say I deny myself of all sugar. Apart from the occasional dish that has been prepared with some sugar inside, I do give in to the dark side and surrender myself to a Lindt chocolate or artisan ice cream. It’s just that I do it at far lower frequency and quantity than before, and by all [anecdotal + unverified] accounts this reduction is doing me a lot of good.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Security Is a Process

I do not disguise the fact I have been trying to migrate the people I am in regular contact with into using the Signal messaging app (or, as it known under Android, TextSecure). I will also add I've been pretty successful. The reasons why I consider Signal the best communication method after face to face have been elaborated here; suffice to say it is its security that puts it above the rest.
More often than not, the reaction I receive upon asking/begging my friends to install Signal is that of lazy rejection. "You already asked me to use Telegram" or "You already asked me to use PGP emails" are both reactions I have heard several times.
What these people don't seem to want to get is that keeping things secure is not a one off affair. Security is a process. It's ongoing. One has to step up with the times. One needs to identify the things they would like to keep secure (in my case, private discussions), identify threats to those things, identify the vulnerabilities that may apply, identify risks (essentially, where threat meets vulnerability), come up with mitigation strategies, and - and that's the catch - repeat the whole process again and again because the world does not keep still. That's risk management in a nutshell for you.
Not only do most people fail to get that, their basic disposition is to mock me over my passion for privacy/security. Because, as you know, they make sure that their private information is headline news. Or, sarcasm aside, because they live a life of blissful ignorance when it comes to online threats.


The problem is, online threats just keep on getting bigger and bigger.
Today we have learned of a huge security problem affecting passwords in Apple systems, specifically on OS X (that's Macs for you) and iOS (that's iPads and iPhones). The crux of the matter is that there is a way to steal passwords from secure lockers on these systems, either Apple's secure keychain or a very popular password manager in the Apple ecosystem, 1Password. Personally, since I rely on 1Password (and have warmly recommended it), this is a big deal for me.
I was therefore very interested to read the analysis published by 1Password's own publishers, AgileBits, on their blog here.
Reading the linked material, it is clear Apple has some severe issues with its sandboxing (that is, the facilities its systems utilise in order to prevent one application from stealing another's information). I find it very interesting to note that, contrary to common belief and past evidence, the researchers that identified this new Apple vulnerability consider Android's sandboxing facilities superior to iOS'.
Since Tim Cook himself has been selling Apple lately on account of its security and privacy credentials, this is a big deal with potentially big financial ramifications.

Let us go back again to the original point of this post, the point about security being a process.
This latest Apple zero day vulnerability (it's called "zero day" because there is no fix for it) demonstrates that fact. It's not like we can avoid storing passwords on our computers anymore; at the very basic levels, our browsers need to be able to allow us to enter a password so that we can, say, login to our web mail. The only thing that we can do, other than throw the whole of Apple's gadgets away, is to learn and adapt our ways. As it is, there are things we can do to mitigate the risks: we can avoid installing dodgy stuff on our Macs. We can also be careful with the add ons we install on our browsers. If we do these things then our browsing is still pretty safe and 1Password is still the great and extremely useful tool I consider it to be.
The point is, the problem is more or less solved even without Apple patching its territory simply by us adapting to mitigate the risk.

image by David Gohring, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) licence

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Work - What Is It Good For?

Work, what is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again
-Sung by Bruce Springsteen, misheard by yours truly


The recently reviewed Zen Pencils got me thinking. As I have noted in my review, one insight that hit a soft nerve of mine was the one asking why we have to lock ourselves in an office for 40 hours a week in order to generate 10 hours of productive work. Doesn't that turn work into a prison? Wouldn't future generations of humans, centuries (but perhaps decades) from now look back into what we did to ourselves and feel flabbergasted at the sadistic torture we've inflicted upon ourselves, the waste of that most precious of commodities called human life, simply by going to work?
Not everyone would agree with such far stretching conclusions. Check wile.e.coyote out in his comment to a previous post of mine dealing with work: the coyote was openly mocking my disenchantment with work.
At the other hand of the spectrum, science fiction author Charlie Stross' analysis of work is heading down my thought lane. [No surprise there, since Stross' insight has been known to affect my perceptions on a regular basis; I highly recommend his blog.]

All of the above inputs have worked to help me congeal my views about the modern institute we refer to as "work".
First, I will state the obvious and argue that using work as the main feeder for one's self esteem is a dangerous affair. Sure, Tim Cook can pat himself on the back and say "you've done well". But if you look at the 7 billion people on this planet, only a tiny minority of them can do the same without losing face; the vast majority are stuck in dead end jobs, doing all sorts of things they wouldn't do out of their own free will if it wasn't for the need to bring food to the table and a roof above the head and the various restrictions imposed on them from above to block them from becoming Apple's CEO.
The question then turns into that Stross is asking: do we really need to work in order to be able to be able to acquire the necessities of life, given that technology coupled with over population have brought us to a state where there are not enough jobs for everybody? Given that job shortages are only going to grow worse as newer technologies, such as the self driving car, come along? Given that we are already producing more than we need and more than the planet can sustain?
Do we really need to imprison ourselves for 30 hours a week, every week?
Which brings me to the crux of the matter. I argue that, as per contemporary world order, work is not about being productive but rather about the division of status between members of society, with status being the true scarce resource, the true currency of our society. Status gets paid with dollars, which in turn correspond to power.
Think about it. Why do various professions hosted almost unanimously by middle aged white men hold the highest salaries, while the truly important jobs - the ones that make life or death differences, the ones that affect people's entire lives, jobs like nurses and teachers - earn peanuts in comparison? Is it because those middle aged white man contribute more to society? Yeah, what a joke.
It's because the middle aged white man have managed to shape society to a manner that benefits them best. A society that propagates their elevated status while offering limited mobility to the masses and delusions of grandeur such as The American Dream.
And what if the masses are imprisoned for 30 hours a week? That's a benefit; think of the damage these people can do if they were to be set loose.

Image by Bille Wilson, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0) licence

Sunday, 14 June 2015

That Sugar Movie

I have laboured here quite a lot, recently, discussing my weight loss affairs, the benefits it seems to have brought along, and attempting analysis of the underlying reasons.
Then I watched this video:

Now I do have to add a very strong disclaimer with regards to the video:
I have no idea whether the things this Robert Lustig guy is saying are true or not; I am simply and very strongly ignorant of the science behind it. When Lustig says that one molecule turns into another and then turns into another, I am completely incapable of verifying if what he’s saying is true.
This will not be the first time I am presented with a scientific argument that I have to either accept or reject without having the skill to do so on my own (think: big bang, quantum mechanics). Normally, I rely on peer reviews: if the bulk of the experts in the field seem to agree on things, regardless of how insane they sound (think quantum mechanics again), then I will take their word for it as I enjoy using a smartphone containing billions of transistors relying on quantum mechanics to work.
It’s just that in this particular case, the case against sugar, the peers seem to be awfully silent. There is a lot of flak flying about from parties claiming to have the magic formula worked out, but not much in the way of proper support for one’s claims - whether for or against Lustig. In this field of weeds, Lustig does stand out as a person claiming to use science rather than personal feelings or revelations.

Let us assume, for a minute, that Lustig is right in his claims and that sugar is the real enemy of the 21st century person’s diet (and thus health). Let us assume sugar is a poison.
If he is right, then his claims do easily explain how I managed to lose weight and felt this has been achieved rather easily. The claims explain why my health stats have improved across the board to levels I have never witnessed before. The claims explain why exercise does not contribute much to weight loss and why I was able to lose weight without it (not that the lack of exercise is in any way recommended!). And last, it explains why I have been feeling much better since I have started counting calories.
As a P.S. I would add that Lustig even explains why drinking water after fruit makes you fart.

If Robert Lustig is right, the bulk of my dietary success can be attributed to the severe cutting of sugar intake in my diet. While the scientific debate continues, I do wonder aloud whether the correlation between what Lustig is saying and the success of my diet is more than coincidental.
In other words, is it really all about that sugar?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Parental Rewards

Smiling Sun (Explore)

The other day I was walking my son to school. Or rather, walking with my son from our remote parking space to school, remote because the driving/parking displays I have seen around school during drop off times seem to have been taken directly from a Freddy Krueger horror flick.
At one moment, as we were holding hands to cross the road, my son looked up at me and said "Abba [that’s me], I really enjoy our walks to school together". And he gave me one of his big, explosive and sincere, smiles. 
It was one of those moments to cherish and remember. As far as parenthood is concerned, this is as rewarding as it's ever going to be.

Image by Norbert Posselt, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Getting Rid of Pests: A Practical Guide


Here’s a short, practical guide for you on how to get rid yourself of pests in modern day Australia:
  • Got Jehova’s Witnesses knocking on your door? Tell them you’re Muslim.
  • Your phone keeps ringing with cold calling call centre people trying to sell you stuff you don’t want? Answer the phone with a hearty "Allah Hu Akbar".

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Good Alternatives to Bad Gmail


Since I have been an advocate for the abandonment of Google services and Gmail in particular, I get to hear a lot of feedback on the matter. I am often informed by people that they made the conscious choice of sticking with Gmail because it is the best web email service out there and everything else is crap. I also noticed a lot of people in my circles, people who share my contempt for Google and its services, are often just as ignorant of the alternatives, too.
For the benefit of both camps, I decided to write this post and share some of my personal experience with alternative services to Gmail that do not treat one’s privacy with contempt and which are not there simply to act as a tool with which to vacuum as much personal information about a user as possible.
Before jumping in I will add that, as sad as it is, Google does have the advantage of offering a complete package (email, calendar, contacts and more) that works seamlessly and is dead easy to use – especially if yours is an Android smartphone. However, one does need to bear in mind that this comes at a price, and the price is you; fact of the matter is, there are worthy alternatives, and one does not have a reason to sacrifice oneself on the altar of Google’s bottom line.
With that in mind, here are the three web email services I recommend from my own personal experience:

1. GMX
I have been using GMX for a few years now; my wife has been using them for decades.
Although international by now, GMX is a German provider and therefore claims to adhere to German privacy legislation, a major step up from the default USA privacy protection laws that are best summarised as No Privacy Laws. The gist of that is that your email will not be read by GMX (although it is scanned for malware and spam assessment), nor will it be sold to third parties, but it will be given away to authorities bearing warrants. If you seek to avoid the NSA reading your emails then I do suggest you look elsewhere, because, as per Wikipedia, GMX does have USA based servers. And that aside of the fact that all emails travel the world quite openly when they move from sender to destination, ripe for the picking. [Yes, email is not a secure format and things that you email are not secure from prying eyes!]
GMX is a commercial email provider, no doubt about it. I would recommend using an ad blocker when you access GMX through a browser! I do find GMX to work very well on my iPhone/iPad/Thunderbird setups, certainly much better than Microsoft’s Outlook; I would rate its IMAP performance on par with Gmail, which is saying a lot.
Generally speaking, since moving from Gmail to GMX I haven’t looked back. The only problem I can report? Gmail seems way too kin to classify emails I send to its addresses from my GMX as spam.

Stepping up a notch on the privacy department from GMX, we arrive at Tutanota: another German provider sporting adherence to German privacy laws. The main promise with Tutanota is encryption: its solution encrypts your email before they leave your device with an encryption key of your choice, so that Tutanota itself cannot read them without applying its inside knowledge. In addition, emails you send to other Tutanota users are end to end encrypted, negating the need to resort to painful measures such as PGP encryption. And if that’s not enough, Tutanota allows you to encrypt emails sent to non Tutanota users with a password of your choice (I guess you can coordinate a password through facilities such as Signal). This is a big deal, because it allows everybody to send encrypted emails for free without requiring them to acquire Edward Snowden grade IT skills in order to run PGP encryption.
If you do choose to go with Tutanota, you do need to bear two things in mind: First, unencrypted emails sent to non Tutanota addresses are still as exposed as all other emails, and are therefore to be regarded by the pessimists amongst us as public. Second, the use of encryption means one cannot use Tutanota through the generic IMAP/POP email applications on one’s smartphone or through applications like Thunderbird. That said, Tutanota does offer iOS apps with a well functioning notification system, and their browser facilities are good.

Proton’s concept is very similar to Tutanota’s, encryption and all, with the key difference being Swiss rather than German based. Since you’re probably aware of the Swiss banking system, you will already know the Swiss come bearing good privacy protection policies.
Unlike Tutanota, Proton does not have iOS apps yet (these are claimed to be under development), so you have to use a browser. Proton does ask for a second email address into which they will email you notifications of activities in their inbox as some sort of compensation.
Also worth mentioning is that with Proton you cannot get your email working instantly; you have to wait (in my case, for a few weeks) before your email is up and running.

In conclusion I would also like to mention the above three services offer, to one extent or another, facilities for contacts and calendar management. That said, I do not consider those particularly useable; I will therefore reserve the discussion on worthy Google calendar/contacts alternatives for another post.

Image by EFF Photos, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) licence

Sunday, 7 June 2015

When the Legal Alternative Sucks

With the general availability of legal options for video, audio and reading digital material, one could almost be forgiven if one was to think the legal availability of digital media for consumer consumption in Australia is a non issue.
The reality is we are very far from that. I am not referring to the fact that, Netflix or not, most movies and TV stuff are still unreachable. I’m talking basics here: The services pretending to step up and deliver are failing us.


Check Zinio, for example, the online service through which the bulk (if not all) of my magazine reading is done nowadays. Perhaps I should have omitted the word “service” from that last sentence, because that’s the last thing Zinio provides.
Where should I start? Magazines I’ve purchased take ages to download at the speed of darkness. Often, after I have downloaded the magazines – sacrificing notable iPad battery reserves in that lengthy process – the issues disappear the next time I start the app. Or the app simply forgot where I got to in my reading.
Then there is the usual bundle of DRM related issues. I bought the magazines, they’re “mine”, but not really. If I want to share something I read, like an article or even a small excerpt, I can’t. If I want to read on a device for which there is no Zinio app, I can’t, really. PC reading, for example, requires the installation of Adobe Air; me, I refuse to introduce this vulnerability riddled platform into my life just for the sake of reading a magazine.
Thank you very much, Zinio, but once my subscriptions expire I’ll be leaving you.

Then there’s the mighty behemoth that has been there first, Amazon with its Kindle.
I used to base the bulk of my reading on Kindle material. Yet Amazon had a way of getting on my nerves and making me ask “why”. If you ever tried to buy the gift of an ebook to an international friend, or had the dubious pleasure of receiving the gift of an ebook from an international friend, you would witness the full wrath of the geo-blocking monster.
What really made me put the brakes on the Kindle was the realisation of just how far Amazon goes with tracking my reading habits. It’s there in plain sight, actually: Amazon tracks how much time I spend on a page, what I'm looking at as I read, and everything that goes with that. Call me a weirdo, but when I think of what’s included in the purchase of an ebook I do not necessarily bundle it with the inclusion of the Stasi taking inventory over my shoulder.
Thank you very much, Amazon, but when I want to buy an ebook I want just that: an ebook. Call me when you’re willing to actually sell me one.

Image by gaspar shieh, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Racism: Australia Is Full of It

Adam Goodes

This week, Aussie footballer Adam Goodes was told off by TV commentator Eddie McGuire for performing an aboriginal battle dance to celebrate a goal during an official Australian battle dance of a type commonly referred to as football.
Sometime last year, police came by our house looking for a couple of guys who stole from a nearby supermarket and, according to the police, attacked a worker there. Only that throughout this affair and even after the criminals were caught – eventually, one of those guys turned out to be hiding behind our own garbage bins – these were no “guys”. They were no “men”. They were no “people”. They were “abos” [aboriginals].
Earlier this week I have seen three old women, heavily clad in winter coats and umbrellas, cross a road in one of those safe crossing places. You know, the special pedestrian crossings where a car isn’t allowed to go as long as there’s someone on the crossing. Not once but twice did cars cross the crossing, at relatively high speeds, and awfully near the women. I have never seen such a display at a special road crossing before. Did I mention the women were all Chinese looking?
Yesterday, as I was getting into my car together with my son, I noticed something strange on the car next to me. The mother, grandmother and baby have left their lunch, an unopened Coke can (not Diet!), iPhone and wallet on the roof of their station wagon and were now ready to drive away. Instinctively, I ran towards them. The mother saw me coming; the look on her face, as she was staring at me, was the utterly terrified type. As far as her facial expression was concerned, I was coming to burn her alive and do the same to her baby. The grandmother eventually figured my intentions out, and I even got a feeble “thanks”.

Racism is rife in Australia.
On its own, that shouldn't be a surprise. If you think about it, it's not that long ago that White Australia was the name of the game. Nor was it that long ago that aboriginals were herded through laws not that different to that of the famous South African apartheid. Just like the legalisation of gay marriage will not cure Australia from anti LGBT discrimination, the fact those racial policies got deactivated does not make the racism behind them disappear.
The problem is in the way we let racism invade our day to day lives today. We elect Prime Ministers on the basis of their racist promises. TV presenters can acquire celebrity status and rise up their industry’s food chain despite, or perhaps, because, of their racist views. Popular football club presidents can achieve and maintain their status despite their racism.
We got to put a stop to it. We got to stand up to it. We can all make a difference on this matter, be it when we stand up to the racism we encounter in our daily lives or when we vote.

Image by Michael Coghlan, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence

Monday, 1 June 2015

Breakfast in America

My shiny, beautiful, successful and unintentional campaign for weight reduction seems to have hit a stumbling block lately. Whereas before I’ve enjoyed months of easy going limited calorie intake that felt like a perpetual motion apparatus, now I’m constantly hungry. I keep thinking about food. I see images of chocolate, ice cream and meringues before me when I close my eyes.
The fault is easily identified: it’s bloody cold! Or, in other words: f-ing Melbourne winter!

Wedding breakfast, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, ON, Canada.JPG

What I really wanted to discuss in this post is another area altogether where my diet is being challenged: breakfast.
Over the past couple of years I seemed to have hit upon the right formula for a breakfast that is nourishing, appetising and easy on my stomach at the same time. It is heavily based on legumes. Or, in plain Hebrew: hummus!
The idea is not as farfetched as it may sound. Arab culture, from which the dish we call hummus has been derived, used to regard it as a breakfast thing and in many respects still does.
The problem is when the idea is challenged. That is, when I go out for breakfast in the wider reaches of Australia, where no hummus is to be found. And nowhere is the challenge more blatantly obvious than in that most coveted of institutions, the all-you-can-eat hotel breakfast buffet. It does not take a genius to figure out such a breakfast constitutes clear and present danger to one’s diet; the catch is in the how.
Almost every hotel breakfast features cereals. By now I consider these off limits barring an emergency: the bulk of popular cereals are heavily fortified with sugar, even the allegedly healthy ones, and often comes bundled with other chemicals that are redundant to harmful to anyone on an otherwise balanced diet. There is the option of oats, but other than being as attractive as a glass of crab juice, such options no longer bid well for my stomach – and not surprisingly so, as cereals were a relatively recent addition to our ancestors’ kitchens.
The next hotel breakfast option is pastry based. You get lots of cookies, Danish cakes, croissants, pancakes, muffins etc. In other words, you get carbs laced with oils that are often of the worst type, health wise, and are also very heavy on the sugar. I can get away with these, given I do not do so too often, but I wouldn’t want my whole breakfast to be based on them.
Which leaves us with the last option: the cooked breakfast. Or, to use one of my favourite words in the English language: bacon!
There is no pretending with the cooked breakfast. You know exactly what you’re getting: grease, fat and cholesterol is what you’re getting, thank you very much! On the positive side, you do not get the sugars, which – the matter is still heavily contested and frankly I am out of my depth when it comes to determining which side is right – some argue are much worse enemies of one’s health. Me, I tend to side with the anti-sugar side; not because I know something about the science, but rather because I know what makes me feel better afterwards and what makes me feel lesser afterwards. And good bacon, eaten at moderate quantities, certainly makes me feel good!
Alas, there are often cracks in my bacon ideal. Most notable is the fact Australians tend to cook their bacon the English way – that is, if you haven’t figured it out already through the use of the E word – bland, boring and uninspiring. The more aspirational kitchens will work to solve this problem: some hotels offer American style bacon, while others offer genuinely good quality bacon (e.g., smoked). However, more often than not, one falls on the lowest common denominator kitchen to enjoy the privilege of bacon that tastes like PVC. Poor pigs.

I was thinking of the above while I was having a resort breakfast the other week. I could not escape the conclusion that what might have once been a great event worth looking forward to has now become a wasteful affair featuring highly on frustration. The problem is not just with me, personally, although I am definitely at the very edge of the “easy to please” scale. It’s not just the customer who’s wrong; the core of the problem is with the supply side of things, where most externally cooked food tends to err way too far into the unhealthy.

Image by Cory Doctorow, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence