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Saturday, September 30, 2006

The landlocked salmon of Kootenay Lake

Many years ago, the lake I live on was teeming with sockeye salmon, which migrated down and up the Columbia River system (hundreds of kilometres). When the river was dammed (many times over), their access to the Pacific was cut off.

They adapted by living in the deep cold waters of Kootenay Lake and by spawning up the many streams and rivers in it. They became smaller, yet continue the same life cycle.

When living in the main lake, they are bright silver - when they spawn, they stop eating and begin to absorb their scales, turning a bright red (body) and green (head). They are called Kokanee - which means 'red fish' in the local native (Ktunaxa) language.

As you probably know, they fight their way upstream, find a place to nest (in pairs)and after depositing, fertilizing and protecting their eggs... they die. Their flesh feeds animals, birds and the small organisms in the stream that their young will feed from. It's a cycle...

The photos are of my daughter and our Spanish exchange student, walking along a spawning channel... and of a pair of Kokanee fish in the stream. (click to see larger)

Friday, September 29, 2006

A sad day that will be remembered

The US Senate has passed controversial legislation endorsing President George W Bush's proposals to interrogate and prosecute foreign terror suspects.


"This longstanding tradition of our country about to be abandoned here is one of the great, great mistakes that I think history will record," Democrat Chris Dodd told the Senate.

Others backed claims by human rights groups that worry that the complex set of rules will allow harsh techniques that border on torture - such as sleep deprivation.

"This bill gives an administration that lobbied for torture exactly what it wanted," said Senator John Kerry.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

This week's graffiti

Not sure who the artist is, but comes from UK - I like it.
(click to see larger)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fall morning in the Kootenays

Yesterday morning, peeking around the corner of our house.
(Click to see larger)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Make your voice heard in America - it's a crisis...

I got this letter from Larry Cox today, from Amnesty USA. If you have a moment, read it and act. It may or may not stop the madness, but you will have voiced your dissent - they won't think you support them... or are nicely asleep, watching ET and Survivor. I know you're not.

Dear Gary

Yesterday, President Bush and several members of the Senate struck a deal on human rights. In the process, they dealt away America's commitment to fundamental human rights principles.

Make no mistake about it, this deal is a betrayal of the America we believe in. No human rights activist can remain on the sidelines in the days ahead. Call on your Senator to oppose these dangerous provisions. We are literally days away from action in Congress on a proposal to:

The soul of our nation is in jeopardy. Everything we believe in is on the line. That's why we're mobilizing the entire Amnesty community. We're going into action today and we won't stop until every last Senator has made it clear whether he or she is willing to stand up for the America we believe in.

Please act today. Those behind this dangerous deal are doing everything they can to quickly build momentum. We have to break that momentum and we have to do it now.

We implore you to call Congress immediately.

If America renounces the Geneva Conventions like President Bush wants to do, nations all over the world will follow. American soldiers will be placed in greater threat of torture and cruel treatment when captured, not just by one or two rogue nations, but by many nations that follow America's lead.

Call 1 800 AMNESTY and our operators will connect you to your official or call the Congressional switch board directly at 202-224-3121. Let the person on the phone know that you are a constituent, and tell them that the deal President Bush has struck is a betrayal of the America you believe in. Ask your Senators and Representative to stand firm in defense of human rights.

After you've made your call, report back on how it went.

Thank you.

Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Newspaper column for next week

Here is my LIVE WRITE column for next week. Comments welcome ... and I could use a better title. Any suggestions?


This column will make you laugh or it will fail. It’s meant to support your health through an evidence-based practice...laughter.

Before I proceed – I offer a disclaimer. Writer E.B. White said, “Humour can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind. “

Modern neurophysiology states that laughter is linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which produces endorphins after a rewarding activity. This might include after you have good meal, after you have sexual intercourse and after you understand a joke. This means that after you laugh, you feel good, which is healthy. (And let’s face it; laughter is more accessible than sex or even a good meal.)

While it is a cliché that "laughter is the best medicine", there are proven medical theories that attribute improved health and well-being to laughter. For example, a study demonstrated that neuroendocrine and stress-related hormones decreased during episodes of laughter. This provides support for the claim that humour can relieve stress.

Here is a test – read this: When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C. The Russians used a pencil.

If you laughed at that (or even chuckled), you have confirmed what the LaughLab at the University of Hertfordshire, UK learned, in collaboration with the British Association for the Advancement of Science. LaughLab solicited more than 40,000 jokes from around the world and then had people rank them (for funniest). They had almost 2 million ratings. The joke above was judged the funniest by Canadians.

While some jokes in the study tickled the funny bones of people across national boundaries, there were distinct national differences. For example, people from Australia and New Zealand have a strong preference for jokes using wordplay.

Patient: “Doctor, I've got a strawberry stuck up my bum.”
Doctor: “I've got some cream for that.

Americans and Canadians much preferred gags where there was a sense of superiority – either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person, such as:

Texan: “Where are you from?”
Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”
Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”

Humour has some identifiable ingredients. These include surprise/misdirection, contradiction, ambiguity or paradox. A good joke also appeals to feelings or to emotions.

Jokes can be hurtful, but when used well, they can also be insightful. According to writer and humorist Mary Hirsch, “Humor is a rubber sword - it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”

Whether you smile, chuckle, chortle or belly-laugh – enjoy humour where you can find it…and pass it along.

(A final note: If this column has done nothing for you – you might agree with these sentiments from Groucho Marx, “I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.”)

For you humour 'researchers' , here's the Laughlab link.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blame Canada

Okay - this has it all. Robin Williams, dancing Mounties (in hotpants no less) and that good old South Park classic BLAME CANADA.

I offer it up to the Bush administration to make their own and use to deflect attention from their idiotic policies. Just blame Canada...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Canada clears 'al-Qaeda suspect' (and then some...)

Yesterday was a small victory - perhaps even a large one. Visitors from Canada will know that Maher Arar has been vindicated in his seeking to clear his name and to reveal at least some of the events leading to his illegal detention, rendition, torture and subsequent release. (Story here)

There are plenty of fingers pointing in Canada - particularly at the RCMP. The US, of course, did the actual kidnapping and hiding of Maher in a Syrian prison, to be interrogated and tortured on their behalf. (Don't falter, Senator McCain...don't let the bastards legalize torture.)

Maher came to our town of Nelson, BC a couple of weeks ago as a guest of the local Amnesty International group. He spoke to a respectful and receptive audience of more than 400. His story was difficult to listen to, but told with courage and dignity - and the hope that it will help us all in the fight to maintain civil liberties and human rights...for all. No exceptions.

I hope Maher, his wife Monia and two delightful children will soon live a life that is 'normal' and I hope that Maher will one day leave behind the nightmares that haunt him still.

Amnesty International op-ed piece here.


We'll stick with Banksy graffiti this week too...

Here's another piece of graffiti from UK artist Banksy. Isn't this better than blank walls?
(Click to view larger...)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Speak out against Bush & Co.

There's an important struggle taking place around Bush's intention to keep the doors open for illegal treatment of detainees (story). The Senate may be passing a bill that will at least put the brakes on (war crime trials will have to wait). The US has squandered any moral authority it has through the use of illegal detention, spying on its own citizens, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition (kidnapping and flying people to hidden prisons in unmarked jets), 'ghost' prisoners and more.

A quote to think about:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along...All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same in every country."

- Hermann Goering, Nazi leader - at his Nuremberg trial

Here's an Amnesty action for US folks to consider.

Check out the flash movie - Connect the Dots

Get sad... Get mad...Say something...Do something. Hug your kids. Don't give in to fear. Send them packing in November.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This week's graffiti...

This is courtesy of Banksy, a well-known graffiti artist in the UK. Must raise a few bowler hats and eyebrows...

Monday, September 11, 2006

FIve years later...

Two summers ago, we went to New York City with our kids. One of the things we did was to visit the site of the former World Trade Towers. It was humbling to see that great absence and to feel the palpable grief in the air. So many untimely and unfair deaths.

When I quietly reflect five years later on these awful events, I am gripped by great sadness.

The first feeling is certainly for those who lost their lives and those who love them who must face each day knowing they are gone. I've heard interviews on CBC radio with widows of Canadians who died in the Towers and it's difficult to even listen to, let alone live their pain.

The other well of sadness comes from my deep sense that the empathy, sympathy and charity from around the world to Americans at that time has been so severely and fully squandered. Instead of working to build a secure world for all, a world with justice and human rights at its core (incuding justice for such horrendous crimes as those September attacks) - more people in more nations than ever either feel a hatred towards America (and unfortunately Americans) or as I do, a great disappointment and at times anger. I do separate it from the American people (or try to), since I believe the Bush administration is to blame for using the horrors in the world to lead the American people down an empire buliding road of "them" and "us".

I believe the world (and America) is less safe than five years ago. But it didn't have to be this way.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Next week's newspaper column

Here's my LIVE WRITE newspaper column for next week. For those who don't know (or care about) hockey, you could probably substitute football or baseball or soccer for some of the advice here. I'll let one of you Canucks explain (if it's possible) who the gent in the photo is...


The first time I escorted my son to the hospital from a hockey rink it was for a neck injury delivered through a check from behind. The second trip (in an ambulance) was for suspected internal injuries, after he was speared with a stick. He recovered after both injuries and was eager to get back on the ice. I think I aged a year or two with each incident.

There are more than 500,000 players registered in Minor Hockey in Canada. According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, youth hockey injuries rank third after basketball and soccer in emergency room visits related to sports and recreational activities. In one BC study, one in five of these hockey injuries were head injuries.

Injuries occur more often during games than practices. Exhibition and pre-season games have roughly three times as many injuries as league and post-season games. Injuries occur in the later periods and in the later minutes of each period. Forwards get injured the most often and almost half of those injuries are of the head and face.

The body-check is one of the most commonly reported causes of both soft tissue and severe trauma injuries, followed by contact with a hockey stick. There has been some debate as to what age young players should be allowed to body-check. According to SMARTRISK Canada www.smartrisk.ca a rule change that allowed 11-year-old hockey players in Alberta to begin body-checking for the first time more than doubled their risk of severe injury. In that study, concussions were more than three times as common and fractures 2.6 times as common among the body-checking 11-year-olds.

Commentators writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal contend that body-checking should be eliminated from minor hockey altogether. I won’t join that debate here, but will pass on some safety tips for players, parents and organizers.

Ensure coaches are certified and qualified to teach players to be aware of injurious situations. Officials should be certified and qualified to strictly enforce the rules that predispose players to injuries (high sticking, checking from behind and fighting).

Protective gear won’t make any player invincible, but it works. No blinding eye injury has been recorded for a player wearing a CSA full face protector, a number have occurred with a half visor. Mouth guards have been proven to prevent dental injuries. Youth players should not be allowed to play unless wearing all their protective gear and wearing it correctly.

Higher injury rates in the third period and later minutes of each game indicate that fatigue plays a role in increasing the risk of injury. Proper physical conditioning (strength, flexibility and endurance training) and a proper warm-up will help prepare the body for increased physical demands.

Most parents and coaches want their young players to have fun and to learn hockey skills. However, you don’t have to attend many minor hockey games to learn that the negative attitude of some parents and coaches affects the kids on the ice. Perhaps they are modeling harassment and bullying so that we’ll all know what it looks like.

Here’s an inspiring statement, ‘We all want our children to be safe – keeping them safe means putting the child’s best interests first. In sports, this means ensuring that the young player is treated with respect and integrity – emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically, culturally, and spiritually.’

That quote comes directly from Hockey Canada, the organization that runs minor hockey across Canada. Perhaps it should be read out loud before each game.

My son eventually traded his hockey stick in for a guitar. I miss watching him play the game, but so far we haven’t had any hospital visits from musical injuries.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Friday Afternoon Humour...

Thanks to my friend Michael D. for this one. Some of the logic is sketchy, but hey... so is this adminstration.

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to replace a lightbulb? The answer is 10.

1. One to deny that a lightbulb needs to be changed;

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the lightbulb needs to be

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the lightbulb;

4. One to tell the nations of the world that they either favor changing the
lightbulb or support darkness;

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a
step ladder under the banner "Lightbulb Change Accomplished";

7. One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in
detail how Bush was literally "in the dark";

8. One to viciously smear #7;

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had
a strong lightbulb-changing policy all along;

10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between
screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Guess what this is...

As soon as someone identifies what this is a photo of, I will tell you a little about an interesting vacation a couple of weeks ago. Get creative if you don't recognize it...

Global Day for Darfur

The Sudanese Government has rejected the UN Secuirity Council decision to send a large peacekeeping force to protect the people of Darfur. Instead they claim to be sending government troops themselves. Well... they have, and a few days ago they began bombarding several towns in North Darfur (at least two that I have visiting in the past). People are dying and the international world seems stuck in place.

Here are a couple of things that are happening to make some noise.

1. Add your voice to this letter to demand action

2. Think about doing something on September 11th - people around the world will be joining rallies for Darfur and will wear blue hats to symbolize the UN peacekeeper blue helmet. If we don't get a group thing going here, I'll at least wear a blue hat and talk about it that day.

From the DayforDarfur site:

Thousands of people are still losing their lives...

Despite the signing of a Darfur peace agreement on 5 May 2006, the violence in western Sudan has not stopped; in fact, in some parts of Darfur, the violence has grown worse.

People are still being killed and raped and displaced - every single day.

On September 17 people around the world will take part in the Global Day for Darfur to show world-wide support for the Darfuri people and to put pressure on our Governments to protect the civilians.

We hope that you will be able to join us on the Global Day for Darfur.
Wear a blue hat on September 17th

When UN peacekeeping forces enter a region, they are recognized by the blue berets and helmets they wear.
Wearing a blue hat will symbolize the urgent need to protect the people of Darfur with UN peacekeeping forces.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Billionaire Boom - (but a billion isn't what it used to be...)

Forbes has updated its report on billionaire sightings on the planet. In spite of global warming, the war in Iraq, 33 other armed conflicts, a record breaking hurricane season and other bad news - there was a bumper crop of new billionaires in the last year (perhaps because of these things in some cases).

There are now 793 individuals on earth who have a billion or more each, for a combined total wealth of $2.6 trillion. American richies account for just under half of this amount, proving again that George Bush's policies are indeed working out very well (for oh... about half of 793 people...).

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are still number one and two, even after lumping about $65 billion together and putting it into the Gates Foundation. Bill is worth about $50 billion now and Warren a paltry $42 billion.

Proving that money doesn't only flow to those in wealthy neo-conservatively managed (former democratic society) nations... the youngest new billionaire is a Lebanese woman, 22-year-old Hind Hariri, who inherited $1.4bn from her assassinated father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. I hope she wasn't vacationing in South Lebanon in July.

About a billion of us live in abject poverty, including a greater number of Americans every year.

I wouldn't want to make a judgement here - I will only say that a free market, based on exploitation of natural resources and poor workers, supported by tight military and corporate security systems, linked to an erosion of human rights and a distinct decline in intelligent discourse - seems to be working very well.

What do you think?


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