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Monday, January 30, 2006

Share Power - Business & Human Rights

I just returned from 3 days of Amnesty meetings in Ottawa. As always, I return a little tired, but also inspired. (I wasn't inspired by flight delays and re-routing which made it a 12 hour trip home.)

It's an odd thing really - some of us have a need to look at what's wrong in the world (human rights abuses in this case), in order to feel connected to the world in an genuine way. For me, this often leads to anger or sadness... and then to awareness and action, even if small.

This link is to a new campaign by AI call Share Power. It's related to Business & Human Rights. If you have a chance to open it and have a look, I'd be interested in any comments on the animated introduction...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Latte Lectures Offers Canada a Shoulder... and Advice

Auntie Willow, over at Latte Lectures, offers well-written, suitably tongue-in-cheek condolences to Canada, after our election this week. Watch out for her librarian's ruler when you're over there!


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Little Story on the Lighter Side

Enough politics!

I think I need to get outside into the fresh winter air, take some deep breaths, look at the stars and realize how small and insignificant we all are... meanwhile a little story.

Years ago I was living in Khartoum, Sudan (working for the Red Cross/Red Crescent). I went for a meandering walk one afternoon - a hot, dusty, dry afternoon (like every other afternoon). As I wandered away from the Nile into a jumbled neighborhood of mud walls and small square mud homes, I was drawn up the street to what looked like a gray tent, flapping in the hot breeze just next to the hard-packed road.

When I reached it, I leaned over, pulled back the cover and peeked in (it was a cloth tarp over sticks). There looking back up at me was a tiny, wizened woman. She had few teeth in her mouth and even fewer possessions in her tent. I felt rude and backed away, until she spoke in Arabic and waved me back.

To make it a shorter story I'll tell you that she sat me on a paving stone, put her small pot on a charcoal stove and made tea for us. We sat together for a long time, sipping tea and just being... with no words (I only spoke 10 words of Arabic). I felt like I was with everyone's grandmother.

As I left, I tried to give her some Sudanese pounds, out of concern and to thank her. She waved her small hand at me in a univeral way that said, "No way! You'll just upset me if you keep waving that money at me." I went back quickly, squeezed her hand and headed off to find my way home.

Just a moment in time. Now I'm going outside...

White House defends spying policy

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair's) gravesite - he's rolling in it...

... but 58% of Americans favour a full investigation into whether it is legal (story here). Let's see, the President and Attnorney General Gonzales say it's just fine to illegally spy on US citizens (with no legal process to approve it). Gee, I guess it must be just fine!

This is a good line to draw and fight over...once enough laws have been compromised, once enough human rights have been abused and once enough Americans stop fighting for their freedom of speech, of expression and of conscience - well, the real war is over. I think we need an army of Cindy Sheehans, people who will put their bodies on the line and demand the truth.

The three phrases from Orwell's 1984 that encapsulated doublespeak:
"War is Peace"
"Freedom is Slavery"
"Ignorance is Strength"


The envelope please! (Canadian election results)

Okay, it's over now and we have a Conservative minority government, which means they will need some allies to pass any legislation, which means the more extreme policies may not fly. That's the good news. It's very Canadian to have to work to consensus to get anything done.

I'm not thrilled, but I can live with it (no need to have Nerdine post Norwegian immigration information yet...)

The NDP gained a number of seats, including one in my riding and will be a good social and environmental conscience at the table. That's a good thing.

This BBC article is a pretty good summary of it all.

By the way, for my US visitors: Canada still has paper ballots, scrutineers from every party watching every step, and a manual count of the little pieces of paper in every one of the 66,000 polling stations. How very un-Floridian!


Monday, January 23, 2006


Now here's a message from Michael Moore re the Canadian Election. (Thanks Michael!)

Michael Moore is currently in production on his next movie. As an avid lover of all things Canadian, he has issued the following statement regarding Canada's upcoming election on Monday:Oh, Canada -- you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's a joke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor, and certainly a well-developed sense of irony, but this is no longer funny. Maybe it's a new form of Canadian irony -- reverse irony!

OK, now I get it. First, you have the courage to stand against the war in Iraq -- and then you elect a prime minister who's for it. You declare gay people have equal rights -- and then you elect a man who says they don't. You give your native peoples their own autonomy and their own territory -- and then you vote for a man who wants to cut aid to these poorest of your citizens. Wow, that is intense! Only Canadians could pull off a hat trick of humor like that. My hat's off to you.

Far be it from me as an American to suggest what you should do. You already have too many Americans telling you what to do. Well, actually, you've got just one American who keeps telling you to roll over and fetch and sit. I hope you don't feel this appeal of mine is too intrusive, but I just couldn't sit by as your friend and say nothing. Yes, I agree, the Liberals have some 'splainin' to do. And yes, one party in power for more than a decade gets a little... long. But you have a parliamentary system (I'll bet you didn't know that -- see, that's why you need Americans telling you things!). There are ways at the polls to have your voices heard other than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

These are no ordinary times, and as you go to the polls on Monday, you do so while a man running the nation to the south of you is hoping you can lend him a hand by picking Stephen Harper because he's a man who shares his world view. Do you want to help George Bush by turning Canada into his latest conquest? Is that how you want millions of us down here to see you from now on? The next notch in the cowboy belt? C'mon, where's your Canadian pride? I mean, if you're going to reduce Canada to a cheap download of Bush & Co., then at least don't surrender so easily. Can't you wait until he threatens to bomb Regina? Make him work for it, for Pete's sake.

But seriously, I know you're not going to elect a guy who should really be running for governor of Utah. Whew! I knew it! You almost had me there. Very funny. Don't do that again. God, I love you, you crazy cold wonderful neighbors to my north. Don't ever change.

Michael Moore

(Mr. Moore is not available for interviews because he now needs to address the situation in Azerbaijan. But he could be talked into it for a couple of tickets to a Leaf's game.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

500 Years Later - an indigenous President in Bolivia

Evo Morales is Bolivia's new president and the first from its indigenous people (story). He is a former llama herder and coca leaf farmer who is unhappy with the neo-liberal model and adds another to the think-for-yourself left-leaning leaders being elected in South America. (Cool shirt too, don't you think?)

"I wish to tell you, my Indian brothers, that the 500 year indigenous and popular campaign of resistance has not been in vain. We're taking over now over the next 500 years. We're going to put an end to injustice, to inequality."

After centuries of colonialism, racism and then modern day interference by the US and others - this is really a day to celebrate.

Speaking of Henry Kissinger - this election reminds me of my favourite bumper sticker: MY KARMA JUST RAN OVER MY DOGMA.

May first peoples around the globe find hope today.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Voting away the future... Jeez!

It looks like we're about to elect a right-leaning government in Canada on Monday. I'm puzzling away as to how we got to this, but think I'll just spend the weekend with some nice whisky, a stack of good movies (The Big Lebowski & The Worst Day of My Life come to mind), then I'll vote Monday for our NDP (left-leaning) candidate.

Auntie Willow, an American blogging buddy with a sharp librarian's ruler for those who misbehave, expressed the dilemma very well in this post... I wonder if it's too late to put her on national television?

Time of Life

Back from another road trip (consulting to a health organization)- over some wonderful, but snowy peaks for part of it. This photo is one of the passes the road descends from, it's called Anarchist Summit (the photo is another season altogether from this week).

I am at a time of life where my inclination or pulls are towards what we call retirement. I mean they are away from the ambitions of the marketplace and ambition and more towards freedom, focus on things that interest me, travel, reading/writing and just being with people I want to be with.

There really seem to be natural adult phases, should one live long enough to go through them. I was certainly blasting my way out into the universe in my 20's - exploring the inner and outer worlds with amazing vigour. I couldn't get enough...

In my 30's it was more measured and I seemed to be collecting learning and experiences in a way that I could use later. I sometimes felt pulled in different directions and probably had a sense of knowing that choosing some roads meant never going down others.

In my 40's I felt like a mature fruit tree. Lots of leaves, good strong roots and a regular load of apples ready to pick. It was a time of knowing with more certainty who I am (and comfortable with any uncertainty).

I'm in my 50's now and I feel more like in my 20's, except that I'm not going to sleep on the floor in Indian ashrams or on Turkish train station benches (well, I'm not opposed to hostels...) Our kids are nearing the leave-home stage and my thoughts turn to simplify, travel, explore, learn... communicate. Who knows?

Musing from a tired traveller...

Where are you on the map?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Stewie Griffin and Osama in one clip - it's all too much

I'll assume none of you are Osama fans and that some of you just might be Family Guy fans. Whatever... here is a funny video clip that I found courtesy of DA - who is pretty funny himself at times. (He's also very sensitive.) I think he found it courtesy of Julian Blue, who is funny, witty and very intelligent too... Someone, somewhere put this in the blogworld first. It likely was not a White House leak.

Click away here for the link.


This is my newspaper column for this week - health focused... and a serious health issue at that. Anyone not know someone with dementia?


It’s Alzheimer Awareness Month and 2006 marks 100 years since Dr. Alois Alzheimer identified the disease that now bears his name. The Alzheimer Society of BC is organizing events this month, including the Walk for Memories on January 22. They provide many services, such as co-coordinating nearly 100 BC support groups for caregivers and for people in the early stages of dementia. (For information - www.alzheimerbc.org )

When this disease comes up in conversation, I’m used to two different responses. The first is an uneasy humour – for example, jokes that ask about the benefits of having Alzheimer’s disease (you’re always meeting new people, you never watch re-runs on TV, you hide your own Easter eggs and so on…) The second is a reverent pause and a sense of caution or even avoidance in discussing Alzheimer’s disease. For some, it’s just too frightening or too close-to-home to easily talk about.

What is this illness - and is there anything you can do to prevent its onset? Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for various types of brain diseases that result in memory loss, confusion, behavioural and emotional changes. It is not a part of normal aging. While there are some cognitive changes associated with simply getting older, such as slower processing of information, dementia is a disease.

Many of us will live with dementia or support a loved one who lives with dementia. Based on information provided by the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, it’s estimated that 61,000 British Columbians have dementia (41,000 women and 20,000 men).

Media stories about the latest research into Alzheimer’s disease often relate to understanding its causes or seeking improved treatment or a cure. There has been less attention paid to a new area of science that indicates there are things a person can do to reduce the likelihood of developing the illness. Elisabeth Antifeau is the Clinical Lead for Dementia for Interior Health. According to her, “There is a growing body of evidence that modifiable lifestyle risks such as smoking, excess alcohol, and inactivity are associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older age.”

For example, it’s known that there is a link between dementia and cardiovascular disease. The connection between heart disease and onset of dementia means that what’s good for your heart…is also good for your brain. The not-so-good news is that if you’re an overweight couch potato, who loves to drink, smoke and eat unhealthy snacks – you’re at increased risk on both counts.

Smoking is associated with greater cognitive decline - it’s a tough addiction to break and now brain health is another reason to quit. Regular exercise can help to keep your weight and blood pressure down - both are risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. A healthy, sensible diet is good for your heart and circulation. High cholesterol is thought to lead to stroke and brain-cell damage.

Elisabeth Antifeau notes, “There’s also a connection between regularly engaging in mental and social activities as a strategy to reducing dementia. Expand your hobbies, learn new skills and continue with life-long learning. Mental exercise is valuable – reading, playing cards, chess, crosswords…all of these give your memory and thought processes a workout. It’s also useful to maintain active social networks, as social disengagement is a risk factor for cognitive decline, especially in the elderly.”

There is much more we need to know about the causes of dementia and it’s a complex subject. Do we know how to fully prevent it? No. Do we have cure? No.

However, there is enough information today to know that a healthy, active lifestyle (mentally and physically) is valuable – it’s good for your brain health and may contribute to preventing dementia.

Chile gets first woman president

Yippeee! Michelle Bachelet is the new President of Chile (story)! She is a single mom of 3, medical doctor and experienced politician. Her father was imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime by Allende (and died of a heart attack during that period). Michelle herself was imprisoned as a young doctor. She lived in exile for a while also.

Today she is the first woman President in the Americas (including up here and the US) - and Pinochet is under house arrest. She's also a social democrat, who leans to the left and wants to reduce the disparity between rich and poor.

Let's admit it bloggers! There is good news sometime...

How's this for a quote from a new Presidente:

"I'm agnostic...I believe in the state," Bachelet told several evangelical ministers last week. "I believe the state has an important role in guaranteeing the diversity of men and women in Chile - their different spiritualities, philosophies and ways of life."


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Angela Speaks - George rebuffs (on Guantanamo)

Refer to earlier post this month: Okay - Angela Merkel did bring up and criticize the Guantanamo detention centre when she met with George (story) . Some of us thought she'd only do it with the media before actually being in Shrub's presence ... just for show. But no, she complained to the face. Well, 'it can't go on indefinitely' is a kind of complaint.

Maybe it's still mostly for show, but on this issue at least, Angela has shown some (metaphorical) balls.

Unfortunately they now seem to be friends ...guess we'd better stop electing Right Wing Freaks (by European and Canadian standards which are pretty left in the US).

Oh shite! Seems we might elect Angela Tony Stephen Harper here in Canada. What's wrong with us?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tory candidate dumped over smuggling charges

Hey, my riding is in the national news! Our Conservative candidate in the current federal election seems to have not only been a young, whippersnapper on the right wing of Canada's political spectrum - he also lied and is facing some charges for attempting to smuggle a Mercedes and 112 bottles of liquor into Canada from the US. Not exactly weapons of mass destruction, but certainly an exhibition of stupidity. Hey, who hasn't tried to slip a tax-free bottle across or a pair of shoes we forgot we were wearing? But a Mercedes and 112 bottles...maybe there were 113 originally.

Anyhow, I feel sorry for the lad, but it means one less Conservative sitting in the House (should he have won).

I put a sign for Alex up in my snowy yard tonight- he's the New Democratic Party candidate. These are people who are not afraid to use words like liberal, socialism, redistribution, justice, national child-care, real security etc. when they talk.
Bill O'Reilly would really hate these people...


This Tagging Thing

I've seen the tagging thing on blogs, but never understood it till now. My friend over at Pica completed these questions... then tells me I have to do the same now. She's a very powerful archeologist, so I must do it...

Seven things to do before I die
Return to India for a long visit
Write and publish a book
Try every Scotch whisky once (at least)
Visit all my childhood homes (4 down, 8 to go)
Travel to Europe with my daughter
Meet Nelson Mandala
Meet the Dalai Lama

Seven things I can’t do:
Play the trombone for anyone but me (and that's not easy)
Be interested in any sport but casual walking
Skate like a Canadian
Grow hair on top
Be tolerant of intolerant people
Cook anything much
Juggle more than one ball (literally)

Seven things that attract me to blogging
Developing a virtual community
Expressing myself
Avoiding work or other responsibilities
Learning to take photos (to post)
Venting, ranting and griping
Being part of a movement
Linking to others around the world

Seven things I say most often:
What the f***?
Would you guys please be quiet, I'm on a business call!
What time will you be home?
But I'm right
I don't care, I still think I'm right

Seven books that I love, in no particular order
(note: this would change regularly...)
A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
Ghost Road - Pat Barker
Due Preparations for the Plague - Jeanette Hospital Turner
River Out of Eden - Richard Dawkins
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Wars - Timothy Findley
All The Pretty Horses - Cormac MacCarthy

Seven movies I watch again and again
The Wizard of Oz
Swiss Family Robinson
The Big Lebowski
My Dinner with Andre
American Beauty
Farewell to Arms (1950s version)

Now you must do it - or as we say in Canada, "Sorry, but would you mind doing this if you have time and you don't mind... sorry." Vee, Madcapmum and DA

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sign of the week (please tell me to stop with the signs...)

This is great graffiti - sometimes tagging is good (don't tell our local police I said that). Courtesy of Miss Cellania (one funny blogging buddy).

Can a neo-con change his spots? I think not...

We're in the final days of a federal election campaign here in Canada. The Liberals have ruled for a long time and have engaged in scandals and stupid behaviour to the point that many Canadians just want a change. (They have also generated years of surplus budgets, a growing economy and Canada is generally ranked one of the top 3 countries in the world - on any scale).

Okay, the Conservatives and leader Stephen Harper have scared the shite out of most Canadians for years - they smell too much like US conservatives and have often acted out little demonstrations of bigotry, homophobia, free marketeering and alignment with US foreign policy (we'd be in Iraq, we'd be partners in Star Wars.)

So now Harper seems okay? He appears to be headed for at least a minority government. Read this article if you want an answer to the question in the heading. (There's a funny drawing too.)

Damn those Liberals for rolling in the mud! Damn the Conservatives for such good acting! Damn the Canadian voter if he/she eats it up and applauds!

I'm voting NDP myself... and I think our guy, Alex, will win (Kootenay/Boundary riding).


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And then it was winter...

We live in a western Canada mountain valley, near the town of Nelson, BC (amazing place, by the way). There has been plenty of snow high up in the mountains since November, but we've had an unusually warm winter and no snow down where we live (view from my home office). Two days ago, green lawn - this morning this... It's beautiful in its own way - even if a gray sky.

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that
within me there lay an invincible summer."
- Albert Camus

"In the depth of winter, I finally rejoiced
that I'm going to Mexico in February."
- Gary

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Canada: Helping to prevent torture

From crazy signs to preventing torture - who says this isn't an eclectic blog?

This may be an interesting link for everyone... and is a direct link for Canadians to sign on to a letter to Prime Minister Martin, asking him to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). This protocol puts some teeth into international inspection of detention centres. Torture is practiced in many states and the current tacit endorsement in the 'war on terror' is simply a nudge and a wink to many thugs around the world. Everthing that might put fright up their butts is a good thing - this is one of those things.

Hey, there's an election going on here - maybe Paul will listen up! I recently sent an email to all 4 local federal candidates on a similar issue - two of them responded (and not form letters either).


Okay, I'm on a sign roll...

It would be fun to run the sign text, no?
(Click on the photo if you can't read the printing...)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Photography for dummies (like me)

I finally went digital and bought a used camera through EBAY this year. I'm still only playing with it and aspire to sit someday at the digital feet of photographers like Ian Russell or Madcapmum. Meanwhile, you may have to look at the odd picture as I post. Here's a couple ... unrelated to each other.

From a walk on an old mountain ranch.

My 18 year old bohemian son, heading off to school this week. (I'll post some of his great poetry soon too.)

Merkel criticises Guantanamo Bay (Go Angela!)

The US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay (nicknamed Gitmo) should be closed. It's illegal by any national or international definition. The UN has not been given permission to visit it under circumstances that would allow for a fair investigation. Hundreds of men, imprisioned, without charge, without evidence, with a sham military tribunal as their only legal option... no end in sight.

Angela Merkel, Germany's new Chancellor is speaking out just before meeting King George II in Washington. Good for her.

For more background on Gitmo, or to learn how you might take action on this, have a look here.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I love a good sign

...and this is a good one. I'm too tired to think much about a thoughtful post. Off to Prince George for work tomorrow (a city in Northern BC).

Monday, January 02, 2006

We're at war...so I can do whatever I want

Okay, President Bush is really pissed off now that the nation knows he personally approved illegal spying on American citizens (recent story). He's steaming! And why? Because somebody leaked the news. A little irony here, no? "Now listen kids, it's okay that Billy punched Joey in the face and stole his money...but you can't go around telling people he did it. I'm afraid someone needs a spanking now - and it's not Billy."

And why is it okay to go after those exposing the truth, instead of the President and those, breaking the law? Because "We're at war." I wish they would just begin to call it Warism, since it truly is this era's Communism - the bogeyman. In the name of freedom and security - let's remove freedoms, manipulate the media, stifle dissent, go to war without cause... and generally run amok. I sometimes hope there really is a business-cabal behind it all - that way I wouldn't have to consider that it might just be ignorance, arrogance, greed and plain power-hungry stupidity. Not sure which is worse.

Oh, by the way - someone does need a good spanking and it's little Georgie Bush. (It could start with the mid-term elections.)


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hey - did you think ever think you'd get to be this old?

When I was 20, we really did say, "Never trust anyone over 30!" And somehow, that seemed pretty old. I figured they were all sellouts and couldn't imagine being 30 myself.

If you told me then that I'd welcome in the year 2006... as a healthy, middle-class, middle-aged, look-a-bit-like-dad kind of guy...I wouldn't have believed you. Now to be fair, I still rant, still like new music, still love to travel, still have ideals... and I've got more to remember and look back on each year.

I don't make resolutions generally (although I left one at Vee's site) because I saw a quote I liked there...

So for 2006, how about predictions instead? I'm going to make a few and welcome you to do the same. Stick to reality - or knock yourself out and make the wildest, weirdest predictions you can.

What will 2006 bring?
There, now your turn...

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