Saturday, May 17, 2014

All Abuzz About Insects

Bug season has begun in my part of the world with more rehashed research on the benefits of bugs and why we need more of them. More bugs are not something anyone wants to contemplate on a cool damp morning in cottage country. Clouds of biting blackflies are gathered outside my windows hungrily waiting for me to step outside. Millions of stinging mosquitos are breeding in puddles left by the spring rains. Not to mention deer flies, horse flies, gnats, no-see-ums and many others whose sole purpose for living is to drive humans mad.
   Meanwhile news sites are reminding us of the United Nation’s report on how insects are good for our planet and good for us to eat. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says that 35 years from now the world will have nine billion people and food production will need to almost double. Land scarcity, fished out oceans, water shortages, and climate change will make feeding the world more difficult.  Insects, the UN says, are the solution to feeding a hungry world.
   “In the future, as the prices of conventional animal proteins increase, insects may well become a cheaper source of protein than conventionally produced meat and ocean- caught fish.”
   Raising livestock for beef, pork, lamb, poultry is inefficient, and some people say, unethical. You have to grow billions of tons of grain to feed those animals, then they pass gas which adds to global warming.
   Insects are protein packed and can be reared with little technical knowledge and capital investment. They don’t require butchering; you can eat them whole. And, I gather, they don’t pass gas.
   So there it is: the solution to the spring fly season is to start eating them.
   I’ve unintentionally breathed in and swallowed my share of bugs. I have never found them tasty, satisfying nor healthful. Whenever I feel myself running low on protein I’ll vote for a hamburger or a couple of strips of bacon.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Niagara Falls’ Dirty Little Secret

   Just finished a little holiday celebrating a special anniversary in Niagara Falls. Hotel room overlooking the falls, pleasant dinners out, some sightseeing and a trip to the casino. Totally enjoyable, except for the muggings.
Panorama: American falls left, Canadian falls right
   The first mugging was at the breakfast restaurant when I noticed a charge listed as TIF. It was three per cent of the bill. I inquired and was told it is a tax for “tourism improvement.” I assumed this was just another tax mugging. After all, Canada is a world-class innovator of devious ways to pick its citizens’ pockets.
   The TIF kept appearing to beat me up. It was there when I paid the hotel bill; almost $13. And an hour later when a waitress brought me a bill for breakfast. I became more and more perplexed, so I pulled out the smartphone and consulted Dr. Google. He informed me that TIF, which sometimes goes by other names, is not a government tax. It is an extra charge dreamed up by Niagara hotels and restaurants. The Ontario government has raised concerns about the charge but has never done anything about it. It is three per cent of your bill for food and lodging and is said to raise $15 million a year for the businesses.
   Most interesting: It is VOLUNTARY, although no hotel or restaurant employee will tell you that. There is no legal requirement to pay TIF or whatever other name is being used. If you are in Niagara and see it on your bill, ask them to remove it.
   Niagara hotels and restaurants are scooping enough money without nicking clients another three per cent just because they want to. The place is outrageously expensive because it is a tourist destination (almost $4 for a cup of coffee with your breakfast). People pay inflated prices because Niagara Falls is a scenic, historic and fun place to visit but we deserve better than being mugged for extra cash masquerading as a tax.