Sunday, September 29, 2013


Something has changed. You’ve noticed it, too. Ten years ago, I was irritated that people were talking on their phones everywhere I went. Now they’re on their phones but not talking into them. It irritates me more. 
My classes used to be full with happy chattering when I entered. I would tap the podium to get things started, usually having to ask two or three times to begin. Now it’s dead quiet. Everyone’s texting. In the morning, people get on my building’s elevator, texting. Sometimes they don’t press the buttons or get off at the right floor.

Teenagers in malls, walking in groups, looking down, texting. People on exercise bikes at the gym, looking down, testing. Couples in restaurants, looking down, texting. Academics at conferences, looking down, texting. People in cars, looking down, texting. People. In cars. Looking down. Texting. One nearly killed me the other day as I was cycling to work. At the last second she looked up, slammed on her breaks and, of course, honked at me.

The good news is that I can die happy now anyway, because yesterday – I swear I am not making this up – I saw a guy walk into a tree while texting. It actually happened. I was eating my lunch on a bench and saw it coming. I should warn him, I thought. And then I thought, no. I wanna watch this. Then it happened. Wham. Tree. I clapped my hands with glee. He was okay. Just sort of looked around, embarrassed, then saw me sitting on the bench, staring right at him. We made eye contact. Understood one another perfectly. “Dude, you’re not going to tell anyone about this, right?” “Dude, I am going to tell everyone about this.”

So I had exactly one day to produce an entirely different blog than the one I had intended to post. And I know what you’re thinking. “This is so 2009.”  Yes, yes, yes, Broad. We know that “time saving” technologies don’t really save us time; we know it’s rude not to pay attention to the people you’re with (especially when they’re trying to teach you something); we know that the Internet is rewiring our brains and giving us shorter attention spans; we know that…uh…just a sec...

Anyway, enjoy all that. Because I don’t own a cell phone.  Well, I do. An old flip-phone that’s a hand-me down from my wife, who is newly equipped with an iPhone 5S. But I’m not sure where it is, and I don’t think I can send texts on it anyway, and I don’t really take it anywhere because it weighs as much as a hand grenade.

People gasp at this. No phone! “What will you do if there’s an emergency?” they ask. I dunno. Die, I guess. Or hope somebody else calls 911. Or texts 911. Or Tweets 911. Or at the very least records my death for posterity on Instagram or Youtube.

I can see it now. I have horrendous crash on my bike. A bystander whips out her iPhone.
“Siri, dial 911!”
“Searching the Internet for Nine West. There are five Nine West locations near you.”

And that will be my epitaph. “Made the supreme sacrifice so that others could have shoes at a discount.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Today is the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, in which three thousand people perished in flame. Judging from the many hostile e-mails I received to my blog post about visiting La Cambe, many people will be spending a portion of the day in quiet commemoration of those nineteen terrorists who made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in. After all, they must say, in order to be consistent, who are we to say that what they did is wrong?


Monday, September 2, 2013


Those of you who read comic books back in the 70s and 80s will remember those ads, written in the very best tradition of hyperbolic circus-show fanfare, that promised to transform you overnight into a master of the martial arts. Hidden secrets of the dark arts would be revealed; effortlessly you would be remade into a man both feared and respected. And girls would like you. What red-blooded twelve-year-old Spiderman reader could resist?

So one time I scraped together the requisite two bucks (cash – I crammed American quarters right into an envelop) and sent away.  What came back four-to-six weeks later was a little booklet, printed on cheap paper, made up of dark and grainy black and white pictures of attacks and defences. You know the kind. Panel “A” would depict the stupidest criminal in the world. He would do something dangerous like grab your shirt, and then, very helpfully, stand there waiting. Panel “B” would show your response, typically: chop him on the neck, poke him the eye, and kick him in the nuts. That was pretty much it. Grabs your wrist: chop him on the neck, poke him in the eye, kick him in the nuts. Grabs your throat: chop him on the neck, poke him the eye, kick him in the nuts. Asks for the time: chop him on the neck, poke him the eye, kick him in the nuts. I was ecstatic.  No wonder these deadly secrets had to be hidden away! Knowing them was like carrying a concealed weapon around. Go ahead, punk. Grab my shirt. Make my day. Your nuts have my name on them. Or your name. Whatever.

Anyway,  I'd forgotten all about this until recently, but lately those ads have come roaring back into my memory. Let me explain. Lately, I’ve become interested in fitness and nutrition. I’ll write more about this later, because I’ve found a very good gym and in the past year I’ve progressed from tub of lard to medium-size convenience pack of margarine instead, which is pretty good for me. I can do a pull-up. I have a six pack, too, although I had a couple last night so I’m down to four. Zing!

And, ooops. I’ve revealed something terrible about myself. I’ve consumed alcohol, which, according to innumerable nutrition websites, I’m never supposed to do.  You’ve probably seen the ad for websites of this kind. There’s a “five foods you should never eat” banner ad that has been chasing me around the Internet for months now. So earlier this week, with nothing on my plate except a pile of marking and a tenure application, I decided to Google “five foods you should never eat” and see what's up.

The precise phrase returned 43,000 hits. I clicked on a few at random. The remarkable thing was how much these pages sounded like those 1970s martial arts ads.  “Nutrition secrets they don’t want you to know!” “Transform your body overnight with super fat-burning foods!” “Hidden information revealed!” "Earn respect and be sexy!"  Increasingly this involves hormones. (Hormones are big these days.) “Put your hormones into overdrive!” one ad for a nutrition system said.  One home-and-garden type website even presented “five foods your doctor doesn’t eat!” I’m not sure how they know Dr. Baker, but there you go.

I discovered quickly, however, that in this community of nutrition experts, boldly revealing the secrets of their profession to the me, personally, for the first time, there is no consensus about which five foods I shouldn’t eat. For example, Cosmo suggested the following:

Artificial sweeteners
Soy Protein Isolate
Diet Foods
Frozen Meals

While another fitness and nutrition expert suggested strawberries, butter, white bread, processed meat, and orange juice. My confusion mounted. More clicking ensued, more foods followed. In fact, after  visiting about half a dozen sites I had a list of twenty-five different foods or kinds foods I should never eat. These included: white chocolate. White sugar. White rice.  Beer. White bread. White wine. Red wine. Brown bread. Canned tomatoes. Processed meats. Meat. Fried foods. Eggs. Microwave popcorn. Butter. Margarine. Vegetable oil. Olive oil. Table salt. Orange juice. Salad dressing. Strawberries. Peanut Butter. Non-organic produce. Soda.

Measure of Doubt has long insisted that it is not merely the second best blog of that name. It is also an indispensable public service. To that end, your noble author, heedless of mortal peril and thinking only of the well being of humankind, followed in the footsteps of many a hero (and super villain) and performed an unauthorized scientific experiment on himself.

In a single weekend, I ate eighteen of the five things you should never eat, some of them simultaneously. I ate strawberries, had processed deli meats on white bread and scooped peanut butter right from the (plastic) jar. I had fried eggs and ham on brown bread and washed it down with orange juice. I snacked on microwave popcorn and Coca Cola. I stir fried non-organic produce in vegetable oil and ate it over white rice. Above all I drank beer. Lots of it.

Result? Well, let’s put it this way. Visitation will be held between 2-4 and 7-9 this evening. Memorial donations can be made to the Canadian Armed Forces "Save the F-35" Fund.

Pah. I’m fine. Barely even burped. These are beginner “never eat” foods for posers.

By contrast, after having conducted MINUTES of research I have compiled my own list of five of MEGA DESTRUCTIVE CERTAIN DEATH FOODS that you should NEVER eat. Some of these will SHOCK you, because THEY have told you that these things are good for you. But they're NOT.  I reveal this here to YOU for the FIRST TIME.

Measure of Doubt’s "Five Foods You Should Really NEVER Eat"

People. Never eat people! The average American, for instance, contains over 500,000 calories – more than 30% of them from fat!  (People from places like Africa might have fewer calories from fat, but why take the chance?)

Ninja Throwing Stars. Ever wonder why you don’t see many Ninjas around?

Water. Not only is a water a chemical substance (never eat anything with chemical substances in it!), water can sometimes contain sharks, poisonous blowfish, and even Nazi U-Boats!

Glutten. I have no idea what this is. But don’t eat it, whatever you do.

Food.  Food is the number one cause of obesity and a choking hazard. Avoid temptation by not keeping it in the house.

Send $59.95 for the video. I will show you how to avoid the agony of food preparation and meals with family and friends. I'll reveal the hidden secret I used to lose 30 pounds in one night, just by sawing my own leg off!  And, as an added bonus, I’ll throw in the sixth food you should never eat, yours to not eat for free! (It’s black liquorice. Shudder.)