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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Graffiti of the week

Thanks to Sophie in Vancouver for this lovely little bit of art.

"Happiness is the feeling you get when you realize you have always had what you need to be happy".

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Newspaper column for this week...

Here's my column for this week ... goes to about a dozen papers in BC. Comments always welcome.


What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken? I pondered that question and it led to some interesting memories. Was it traveling where I shouldn’t have, which led to a sub-machine gun being held shakily against my forehead by a nervous teenage soldier? Was it driving a three-ton truck for the first time, up a narrow cliff-edge track in a snowstorm on Baffin Island? Or was it wandering through New York’s Central Park in the dark, with the noise of rats scuttling in the bushes and footsteps racing up behind me on the path?

It is a paradox that while we strive to reduce risk in our lives - many of us also seek the experience of putting ourselves at risk.

We live in a society inundated with risk aversion and caution. I pay for insurance for these things: health care, my teeth, a house, two vehicles, a business, our children and my life itself. Society protects us at every turn – seatbelts, bike helmets, no smoking by-laws, health inspections, immunizations, traffic signs and now… no lipstick on airplanes. It sometimes feels as though these boundaries and rules surround me like an unseen, yet tangible net.

Some suggest that one reaction to this complex web of protection may be an increase in thrill seeking behaviour. Unsafe sexual behaviour, abuse of drugs and alcohol, injury-prone extreme sports, foolish stunts (teenage boys come to mind) and travel to remote or dangerous destinations are all examples.

Another paradox around risk is that our perceptions and behaviour are often at odds with reality – we often worry about the wrong things. Psychologists tell us that our assessment of risk is increased if a situation or event is unfamiliar. People will estimate a situation as even more risky if it is one that produces a feeling of dread. Additionally, people are more likely to rate the risk as higher if the exposure to the situation is involuntary, and higher still if they feel they lack personal control over the events in question. The evening news comes to mind…

I might lie sleepless at night, worrying about Mad Cow Disease, West Nile Virus, youth crime and terrorists on the flights I take. If I were to worry based on evidence instead, I should think about driving my car safely to town or about gripping the handrail as I descend the stairs for coffee in the morning. Why? Because the most common causes of death from unintentional injury for most Canadians are motor vehicle crashes and falls.

How do we deal with these contradictions? There is a balance to be found in enjoying a full and free life, while also considering risk. Seek accurate information and be thoughtful about your actions. Parents should learn about what risks their children face and provide protection and guidance to them, appropriate to their age.

There are different approaches to finding the balance between caution and bold action.

Artist Vincent Van Gogh offered cautionary words, “Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.”

Encouraging bold action, writer Mark Twain advised, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Finally, Confucius proposes the philosophical middle road, “Chi Wen Tzu always thought three times before taking action. Twice would have been quite enough.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In the mood for a new season yet?

Fall is coming - the days are shorter and the nights are cool now. It's the most beautiful season to me. Then comes the snow...

This is a photo of my nephew Rusty. He's a semi-pro snowboarder/film maker and sent me this last winter. I think it was taken near Whistler BC. I don't do things like this...I board the inner slopes of my mind instead (which can be exciting too, but probably safer).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Darfur still simmering horribly...

Much attention has rightfully gone to Lebanon and northern Israel in recent weeks, but let's not let our leaders forget that the so-called peace process in Sudan has not brought any sort of peace at all for the people in Darfur, and Sudanese refugees in Chad. Amnesty International is calling for a peacekeeping force with the mandate to protect people. This story elaborates. Excerpt below.

For those of you in Canada, here is a link to a simple way to send a letter to your MP - to let him or her know that this is important and something needs to be done. AI USA has this interesting action coming together in September.
'Once again the world at large is ignoring the conflict in Darfur, playing along with the charade that peace is in progress, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth,' said Kate Gilmore (AI Deputy Secretary General). 'There has been more conflict since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed, not less, more displacements of people, not fewer, and more human rights violations perpetrated without any progress towards justice. And what's more, there now is a very real danger that this conflict, as it spills over the border, will continue to spread beyond Sudan.'

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Some war...

Photo from: Israeli attack on Qana that claimed nearly 100 civilian victims.

Okay, a month or so passes:
- over a million Lebanese civilians displaced, many to return to destroyed homes and communities
- over 1,000 Lebanese dead, the majority civilians (of all political and religious backgrounds)
- over 3,500 seriously wounded
- Red Cross vehicles, UN outpost and hospitals deliberately targeted...
... in all the numbers above, UNICEF has been estimating about a third are children.

Oh, the major roads, bridges, power stations, docks, airports and other infrastructure - bombed to small pieces.

What was accomplished? Is Hezbollah gone and fnished? Seems like they're stronger than ever and now a majority of Lebanese people support them (from a small minority in June). Is there a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian State question? No. Are Israeli citizens (who also should not be targets) safe from future rocket or suicide bomb attacks? No.

Maybe it's time to try something else. Maybe it's time to elect a new US government. Maybe it's time to put money and political pressure into a solution for people rather than political posturing for leaders and states. Maybe it's time to stop state-sponsored violence when states simply name the enemy 'terrorists'. Maybe it's time for millions of us to hit the streets and scream.

Maybe it's time to give peace a chance.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hummingbirds again...

This amazing series of photos of hummingbirds was not taken by me. Here's the link and someone named Maggie is to be thanked. Nature is astounding...and magical.

This is the size of the nest...

Mom on nest




And just about ready to go. Twenty four days from birth to flight.

Toronto hosts HIV/Aids conference

Twenty-four thousand delegates are gathering for a big international conference on HIV and Aids, which begins in Toronto today. The number of people around the world infected with the virus that causes AIDS is now more than 45 million. The poorest countries have the worst outcomes (and the least resources for prevention, treatment and support).

Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa is a keynote speaker at the conference and an incredibly passionate advocate . Bill Gates and Bill Clinton will speak also. The Gates Foundation just announced a $500 million contribution to the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS.

Our compassionate Prime Minister, Stevie Harper, has decided he doesn't have time to attend. He's probably busy meeting with church groups to preach abstinence... or busy fighting crime or cutting daycare for poor families or taxes for rich people or scuttling the Kyoto Accord. What a busy twit he is...


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Interesting graffiti

Not sure why I like this one so much, but there you are...


This is my LIVE WRITE newspaper column for this coming week. Not a particularly profound message, but I hope it's a fun read. Comments always welcome

Years ago I traveled with Lucie, a Red Cross nurse, to a number of villages in Darfur, Sudan. We were assessing food needs during a terrible drought. As we arrived in each village, the elders invited us to sit in the shade and offered whatever hospitality they could. With daytime temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, it’s not surprising that the offer was sometimes a glass of water.

The first time this tepid glass of water was handed to me my health warning alarm bells began to clang. The water was a green colour – the hue of limeade. With sunlight shining through the small glass, I could see tiny bits floating in it - some appeared to be swimming. We were a seven hour rough drive to the nearest five hour flight to the nearest medical clinic. I looked at the gaunt, yet smiling faces of our hosts and wondered how to avoid downing this precious liquid.

Lucie saved me. She expressed with great feeling, “Oh, after such a long drive we were so looking forward to a glass of hot tea. Could you please take our water and boil it up for tea instead?” They did…and I dodged a probable water borne disease…that day at least.

I take it for granted that I won’t find green water and floaters in my tap water at home. I shouldn’t be so sure. There are more than 300 surface water systems in the British Columbia Interior Health region under boil water advisories, including mine. This means water protection workers have determined that water borne disease is a real risk in these systems.

Public Health instructions for drinking water under a boil advisory are straightforward. Boil the water for one minute (rolling boil) or disinfect the water by adding two drops of household bleach per litre and let it stand for twenty minutes. Otherwise use an alternate supply of water or commercially bottled water.

What is the rationale for a one minute rolling boil? Basically, boiling will inactivate or destroy pathogenic microbes that may be in contaminated water. The required temperature to accomplish this varies from 60 degrees Celsius for bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella to 85 degrees Celsius to inactivate Norovirus (found in mollusks). Heating water until boiling is an easily recognized endpoint that doesn’t require the use of a thermometer.

Here’s some science. A rolling boil is when the little bubbles that form at the bottom of the pan break free and rise to break at the top – this is a true boil. And yes, water does boil at lower temperatures as altitude increases. At sea level it boils at 100 degrees Celsius. At 2,100 metres (7,000 feet) water boils at about 92 degrees Celsius. Since the highest communities in Canada fall below that altitude, the standard one minute boil will do its work across our land. If you happen to be scaling Mount Everest, you need to be more careful (about many things).

As for my drinking days in Sudan, it was under a glorious starry night sky, at the Camp David Café in the town of Nyala, when a pathogen found a comfortable home in me. I sipped water politely that evening and spent the next three days in a delirious haze – stumbling between bed, a bucket and the unpleasant outhouse behind our thatched roof home. My ordeal evolved to the above-noted five hour flight to Khartoum and a medical clinic. I was drugged enough to not soil the two-seater plane.

Remember, if in doubt, ask for the tea.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

10th Annual Gentlemens Cruise A Palooza

I returned last night from four days on Kootenay Lake with 10 other men. Each year we rent a 5o foot long steel hulled boat (The Ariadne), equiped with a kitchen, bathroom, some bunks, a big deck and a diesel engine that will take us anywhere. The Kootenay Lake shoreline is about 50% boat access only.

Yes, there were martinis at 4:00 (shaken not stirred). There were also hikes, rock climbing, fishing, swimming, cards, rowing, windsurfing and very good and sometimes very tall stories... Remember gentlemen, "What is brought to the Cruise, stays on the Cruise."

Some pics (click to make larger):

The Ariadne at rest in Mathieson's Cove

Sailors making serious decisions in the wheelhouse (me on right)

Early morning walk - nice lighting...

Rock climing with a safe landing (I row the boat instead)

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