Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Tragedy of December 1991

Stephen Cohen puts forward a compelling case that the breakup of the Soviet Union under Yeltsin was in fact the death knell for democracy in the USSR. There's been a lot of stupid stuff written by some very smart people to explain how radically free markets would take Russia forward into utopia, and when it didn't work it was obviously a flaw in the Russian soul rather than a stupid theory. As you read them, it becomes clear that this is theological bullshit dogma rather than argument based on evidence. Truth is, by adopting the neo-liberal crap, Russians may be worse off now than at any other point during their history. Many thousands are now living through conditions worse than those at the time of the seige of Stalingrad.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Theme Party--Hawaii

Theme parties are always fun! I've done one or two in my time and attended a few in my youth. Seems the theme party idea went out of style.......of course everything old becomes new again and today the theme party was the topic in my e-newsletter Sweetspot.

I highly recommend visiting the Hawaiian music site. I never knew Hawaiian music could be so much fun!! There is even a Christmas album which may become the "must have" album for my collection of odd Christmas tunes!

First, we're picking a theme for our impromptu party and going retro-Hawaiian with inspiration we picked up from our last trip to London's coolest pub, Trailer Happiness. (But any theme will do.) We're decorating the room with party lights (stolen from our Christmas tree), surf boards (erm, or in our case our snowboard) and colourful tropical fabrics (please, who doesn't have access to a thrift store boasting racks of $1.99 Hawaiian shirts?).

We're playing telephone, spreading the word with our guests coming in beachwear. If we're really ambitious we'll make leis out of paper and string. One of our favourite online resources is Party 411. They've got all the supplies we need for our pseudo-Luau.

Sips and Eats
We're serving Mai Tai cocktails, fresh fruit, shrimp rings and some yummy Ono Ribs. But there are more tropical-themed recipes in this awesome online guide.

Set the mood with some Hawaiian music. We're downloading tracks from

Nothing says Hawaiian than Elvis in Blue Hawaii. We're renting the DVD and popping it on for some side-splitting backdrop entertainment. Long live the king! Then later (after the Mai Tais kick in), we'll be suggesting a couple of rounds of Identity Crisis or The Therapy Game. We may even try our hands at island-authentic limbo and hold our own how-low-can-you-go contest. Party 411 has the kit.

We're feeling the Waikiki heat...all we need now are a few sun lamps, sand and a cabana boy to say "Aloha!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Linus: March 28, 1990 - Dec 19, 2006

Linus, the most beloved and bestest cat in the history of the world, passed away peacefully in his person's arms yesterday after bravely facing a short and sudden illness. He was nearly 17.

As a kitten, he quickly mastered all the difficult tricks: flying, levitation, wall climbing, and plant destruction. It was during this phase of his life that he earned the nickname "Booger-cat!" which stuck with him his whole life. But he was a gentle and loving spirit that won over all he met, cat-lovers and cat-haters alike.

As he matured, the "boogerish" aspects of his personality faded, and he remained gentle and sweet, and a constant "couch buddy" to his person.

There will other cats in his person's life; there will never be another cat like Linus.
Linus leaves behind an empty sunbeam, his toy mouse, his spot on the couch, his sixteen-year old scratching post, the cat blanket he never used, and the tears of his heart-broken person.

Linus, my friend, companion, and furry hot water bottle, I miss you terribly...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who Needs A New World?

When we haven't finished finding out about this one yet....

I'm sure by now that everyone has seen the photos of the new cuddly christmas toy, the yeti crab

Image: (c) 2005 Ifremer / A. Fifis

There is a great page about where and when it was found here.

But there was more to this years marine census; In the Nazare Canyon of the coast of Portugal, at about 4,300 metres down, researchers found a single-celled organism that is a full centimetre across.Apparently, it is encased in a "plate-like shell...composed of mineral grains.

Another interesting article here.

There is a Canadian connection to the Census of Marine Life; researcher Ron O'Dor is the Senior Scientist with COML.

Man, we really know nothing about this planet and its complex ecology.

powered by performancing firefox

The Big Ouch: What Happened Part Two

The one nice thing about being seriously injured is that you go to the front of the queue at Emergency. This was probably a good thing, as by the time the ambulance got me to VGH, my arm was really hurting and I could feel myself getting more uncomfortable. I was probably going into shock, perhaps not deeply, but going there.
As I was waiting to be admitted, one paramedic noted my discomfort and offered me a blanket. Being a stoic male, I declined the offer.
"Let me give you some advice," said the paramedic. "When a paramedic offers you a warm blanket, you should take it."
"Golly," I said, "maybe I'll take that blanket after all!"
It was now about 6:00, about an hour after I fell off my bike.
Soon, I was wheeled into a cubicle, where they quickly started me on an IV. A doctor came in, took a quick look and very quickly determined that at the very least my shoulder was dislocated. He asked if I had any numb patches and I indicated I did, on the side of arm. This could mean nerve damage.
Then he uttered the one word that I was longing to hear: morphine!
But soon I was left alone, and I reflected on my situation. I would need help tending to my sick cat. Someone was going to have to call work and let them know I was going to be off for a few days.
I looked at my arm. Man, I really wrecked it.
By this time, more of my guardians began arriving. First, my sister Brenda arrived, followed by my girlfriend Louise. Each time, the nurse mistook them for my wife.
My memory of events during this period is somewhat fluid, but somewhere between the blood tests and the IV drips, they took me to X-ray.
This was not an experience I'd like to repeat.
The x-rays taken while I was standing up weren't so bad, but I had to lie flat on my back for a set and this really hurt. I never saw any of the "before" X-rays until much later, but lying flat was excrutiating and I could clearly feel bones floating around in there. That was 20 minutes that I never want to repeat.
But interestingly, the numb patch in my arm regained feeling after the x-ray ordeal. I surmise that something moved just enough to take pressure off the nerve, and there were (and are) no more concerns about nerve damage.
I was taken back to my room to await judgement. Brenda and Louise both commented about how cold my hands were.
Soon, a young woman appeared, the orthopedic intern. She'd looked at x-ray, and reported that my arm was broken in three places and my shoulder dislocted. Worse, I had broken ay arm at the ball joint, making repairs all the more troublesome.
Here's the x-ray:

Now, I'm no doctor, but clearly you can see that the shoulder is out of the socket, and the ball is broken, and not in the correct shape.
She said there were two courses of action. I was going to need surgery on the arm, no question. But do we fix the dislocation with surgery at the same time, or do we fix the disocation manually, then do surgery on the arm later?
This didn't seem like much of a choice to me. If I'm going to go under the knife anyway, must as well do it all in one go.
But she wanted to call in some experts, so who am I to argue?
Somewhere along the way, the paramedic's gear was removed from my arm and replaced with a sling which I am still wearing. (I'm typing this one-handed, so plus read this at half your usual reading speed to get the full effect.)
The intern returned with the verdict.
"When I suggested we fix the dislocation first, everyone laughed at me."
There were two problems with her plan. First, the ball was broken off. It was not attched to the rest of the arm. There was no way to re-insert the ball into the socket. It probably would have caused more damage. Secondly, even if it was safe to proceed, she probably couldn't have done it.
I'm a big guy, and she was not a big girl. (She made Chantelle at work look like Shaq.) She physically could not have done it and the last thing my broken arm needed was someone heaving and hauling on my shoulder.
She said she would start on the paperwork and took a felt pen and initialed my injured left shoulder.
So it was surgery, a one-stop fix everything chop. Sort of like Midas Mufflers.
Surgery was set fot 7:45 the next morning, not at VGH, but at Royal Jubilee Hospital. The only question was, could they find a bed for me there? An ambulance was ordered anyway to transfer me. Louise and Brenda said their goodbyes and headed out to spread the word that I would, in fact, live. They noted before they left that my hands were warming up.
A nurse returned with the paperwork for me to sign, but stopped herself before handing it over. It seems that the intern, despite having examined and marked my injured left shoulder, put down on the forms that it was my right shoulder that was to be operated on.
Once the paperwork was fixed, I signed. Good thing I'm right-handed.
So there it was. I was facing my first surgery since having my tonsils out when I was 5.
The orthopedic surgeon, my newest guardian, drove over from the Jubilee to examine me. He explained that the surgery would take about two and a half hours. I've heard since that he is the best "shoulder man" on the Island. So far, I'd have to agree.
Around about 11:30, an ambulance arrived to transport me to the Jubilee, they found a bed for me, so we were all set. They loaded me up, and away we went. It was a quiet night for emergencies, the paramedics said. The quietest night they'd ever seen. They'd been on duty for six hours, and I was their first call. And I was just a glorified taxi ride.
By 12:30, I was safely tucked in my bed in Jubilee. Surgery was mere hours away.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The New Normal?

So there's been two more storms this week, both with high winds blowing in from the east--which has meant some amazing waves in Cadboro Bay. It also means that two more boats have torn loose of their moorings and washed up on the beach. One, a 4 metre powerboat is almost directly in front of Sinclair Road. It is thrashed--big chunks broken out of the side and back. The other is a five or six metre sailboat that has washed up a ways down the beach--where the other group of three ended up. I haven't been down to look at it, but it seems to be in okay shape, and just waiting to be hauled off and re-moored.

But somehow I suspect that this new ferocity and frequency of storms is just the new normal for the Island. The general feeling is that our winters are to become wetter and stormier while the summers become hotter and drier. Last summer we went four months without measureable rain which certainly put a significant dent in our water supply (and Tofino, for various reasons, ran out of water). But according to our Prime Minister and our Environment Minister (Rona Ambrose), there is no reason that Canada should cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

powered by performancing firefox

IBM and What?!

This is one of those "things you might not have known" stories. You know, like the history of Prescott Bush. IBM helped the National Socialists with their "Final Solution" difficulties during the Second World War. GNN has put together a short video on the topic you might find interesting.

powered by performancing firefox

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Big Ouch: What Happened Part One

It's an odd sensation, realizing that your bicycle has suddenly stopped but you haven't. That your handlebar has suddenly snapped to the right and stopped your bike cold while momentum is still carrying you forward. That not only are you flying over your handlebar but that you are twisting in mid-air to the right and are now travelling sideways, a change of direction that will probably save your life, but in this moment only adds to the disorientation.
Then you realize that the ground is getting closer. You barely have time to register that this is going to be bad. And that it's going to hurt.
It is bad. And it hurts.

Two and a half weeks ago I was riding my bike home following the path I do everyday. Part of the journey is a short trail connecting Burnside Road with the back of Tillicum Mall. On this day, dusk, 5:00 pm, water had washed out a pothole that had been filled by gravel back in the summer. Was the washout caused by all the rain we had received in November? Or was it run-off from the watermain that had burst in Tillicum Mall an hour previously? I don't know. All I do know is that as I went down the path, my front wheel caught the pothole and I flipped off my bike. There was a small culvert ahead of me with a concrete pad over top of it. I landed on the concrete pad with all my weight on my left shoulder.

The air rushed out of my lungs on impact. I bounced off my shoulder and onto my back (my backpack, actually). My legs swung up beside me and ended up in some bushes just off the trail. I'm not sure what happened to my bike. At least it didn't run over me.

I knew right away something was wrong with my left arm. It didn't feel "attached" properly. Still, I tried to gently move it, but the pain toldme that I had probably broken it. There was also the disquieting sensation of things rubbing together that should not be rubbing together.

Okay, so the left arm was clearly an issue. What else was broken? I hadn't hit my head (and yes, I always wear my helmet). I wiggled my toes, they seemed okay. My right arm seemed fine. It felt like I might have a scrarch on my left leg, but this was minor. Everything seemed up and running save my left arm.

I needed my cell phone which was in my backpack, and was now underneath me. Okay. This was gonna hurt, but there wasn't much else to do. Cradlling my left arm as best I could, I swivelled on my butt, getting my legs out of the bushes. Then I sat up.
Yes, it hurt.
I rested a moment, then cradled my left hand in my lap, then slowly unbuckled and removed my backpack.
I somehow managed to get my left arm out of the straps, then I opened it up and fished out my phone. I turned it on, hoping that it still had some juice. It did, I dialed 911. The operator was cool and professional and able to figure out what trail I was on. He asked if I was bleeding; I said I didn't so. He asked if I could get up and walk along the trail. I said I probably could, but I'd just as soon sit where I was.
I hung up and started to call family members to alert them to my plight. I told my mother that Louise would call soon. (I was supposed to help Louise move some furniture that evening -- clearly, I would do anything to get out of that.)
Just as I finished calling my mother, my first guardian of the evening arrived. A gentleman named Ollie rode down the trail and stopped to assist me. He picked up my bike from across the path and offered to wait the ambulance came.
When the ambulance arrived, Ollie, who as it turned out lives just a couple of blocks from me, offered to take my back home.
The bike was fine. Of course.
The paramedics checked me out. They cut away my bike jacket and jersey from my arm. I'm no doctor, but I could see that my shoulder looked wrong. Instead of curving down, it suddenly dropped off, and there was a large bump where there shouldn't be a bump. This was the ball joint at the end of arm sitting in a place where it shouldn't be. They checked my arm for numbness and I had a big numb spot on the outside of left arm. This indicated possible nerve damage.
They immobolized my arm by wrapping what looked like a life preserver around me, they got me to feet and we walked down the path. I climbed into the ambulance and sat down. They moved me over to the stretcher later as they tried to put in an IV line in my right hand. The paramedic kept failing to find a vein and apologised profously for continually poking my right hand in vein, er, vain. We went to Victoria General Hospital.

Friday, December 08, 2006

We're not going to have a war, we're going to have the appearance of a war

Oh yeah, why is it that there isn't enough bullshit in the world to worry about and get active over, but that the idiots on the religious right have to make shit up? Really. And you'd think that they'd know better--particularly with that whole injunction against bearing false witness and such. Personally, I'd love to wage a war against Xmas, but you know, in the long run I think I'd rather wage a war on poverty, or HIV, or child labour, or any of a thousand other things that make my blood boil a hell of a lot hotter and faster than Xmas. Although, if I could do a surgical strike on Xmas muzak.....

powered by performancing firefox

Cain't do it. Just cain't...

That is, of course, George Bush. He just cain't talk to Syria and Iran. Cain't do it. Won't do it. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, long time Bush buddies, stand accused of funneling millions into Iraq to buy arms for the resistance. But them, he'll talk to. In the meantime, you only need $2,200 in assets to find yourself in the wealthiest 50% in the world. With a million in assets, you've made it into the top 1%, and you and your buddies control, well, everything. The top 2% command over half the world's wealth, according to a UN report covered by the Reuters news agency. If the world's population, according to the director of the World Institute for Development Economics, were reduced to 10 people and the world's wealth to $100, then one person would have $99 and the other nine would be left fighting over a dollar. And since reagan/Thatcher, this has just gotten worse instead of better, and worse at an increasing rate. It's a miracle we can walk this planet without being killed and eaten by the seriously poor. No wonder we're envied and hated.

powered by performancing firefox

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is Victoria Sinking?

The Sierra Club thinks so. Here's how they envision climate change affecting the coast around Victoria.


Quiverfull; a "Christian" movement that's trying to populate the world...with home-schooled fundamentalist "Christian" babies. Building an army with the fruit of their loins (eesh! what an image, fruit of loins...).

What is it about women that drives men batshit? Okay, not all men. Primarily men who follow one of the Abrahamic religions. Are men really so pathetic, or are we just culturally modified to be crazed control freaks with a deathly fear of vagina dentata?

I think about my grandmother bearing 17 kids and how, in her 70s, she still bore a grudge against the town doctor for not helping her out with any form of birth control. She sure as hell noticed that his wife stopped after bearing only two.

For some reason, our culture is having trouble looking outside itself; unable to see that what we want might just be what other people want as well. Things like freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to confront our accusers, control over our fertility, the ability to be self-determined actors in our own lives. We want it, but we're not really willing to allow others the same right to make their own choices. If a culture is defined by how it treats its women--and a damned good case can be made that it is--then the Abrahamic religions have a lot to answer for around the world.

powered by performancing firefox

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why does this feel weird?

I was sitting in Starbucks--yeah, I know, but they really are my local coffee shop--and there was some not too bad music playing. Then there was a station ID; I was listening to Starbucks own radio network, which, the voice pointed out, was available exclusively on XM satellite radio. Okay, so you buy a satellite radio, pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, and then listen to ... Starbucks? This just feels weird, like some bizarre form of corporate incest run amok.

Must Be Tough

Well, seriously. It must be tough to realize that what you thought actually was a coalition of Christian groups turns out to be a front for a hate group. Two million deluded people who actually think that Christ would have put up with this shit for a New York second. And when someone actually wants to put serious topics on the table, he's told "These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base".

When does a church cross the line from religious group to political action group? Seriously. Because one is almost above the law and the other has to abide by it. And in Amerika today, it seems that all you have to do is say that you're a church and bingo! you are. Even if what you're doing is acting as a fundraiser for the RNC or as a front for hate speech.

This is a serious question, because so many of these groups are acting in Canada. Just this summer my niece, nephew and I were approached by an Amerikan evangelical in a water park in Mississauga. To say nothing of the support for Ted Morton in the Alberta race for leader of the Conservative party. There is a lot of Amerikan time and money going into social control in Canada--just like in El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Iraq. And for the same reason--Amerika can't afford to have any part of it's neo-colonial empire slip away. And that means us.

powered by performancing firefox

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Month of Storms

Ah, Cadboro Bay. The Bay is a gorgeous place,  very protected, and looking out on a view that takes a backseat to no other.

I took this shot of the Bay back in late September, trying to catch the morning light coming over Ten Mile Point. The Chain Islets are visible in the middle distance, as are the Olympic Mountains over in Washington State (I find it amusing that while the border is officially the 49th parallel, only four of eleven provincial capitals lie north of the 49th. Here on the Island, you don't hit the border until Ladysmith).
Cadboro Bay is nestled on the east side of the lower tip of Vancouver Island, making it one of the safest and most sheltered bays around. Victoria itself is in a rain shadow from the Olympic Mountains, and then Cadboro is further sheltered by hills to the south and Ten Mile Point to the north.
But as the last month has proven (over and over again), even Cadboro Bay isn't always as placid as it appears in the photo. We've been hit by a month-long series of storms that have lead to record or near record amounts of precipitation, power outages, and more than a million people under a week-long boil-water advisory.
Locally, the phenomenon is refered to as the "Pineapple Express", which happens when warm, moisture-heavy air from the south Pacific meets an Arctic cold front running down the coast before heading over the mountains into Alberta. The result is amazing amounts of precipitation usually over a very short period of time. This time it was a sequence of storms slamming into the coast, bringing rain, winds over 100 kph, and this last week, snow. And then snow again.
While we went without power for several hours, people living near us went without for over two days. With temperatures below zero and windchills adding another -10C, this situation was nothing to be laughed at.
The first storm of the month saw this:

From all appearances, this boat had been in use right up until the storm. But it hadn't been moored in Caddy Bay--this is just where it washed up. Locals were very polite; they waited two full weeks before stripping everything of value out of the hull. By that point, what had been a damaged but repairable hull, had become a serious mess. The sequence of storms, high tides, and storm-driven tide  surge had shoved the hull up and into the stacks of driftwood on the beach. Then the new driftwood--logs ranging from 30 cm across and three metres long up to, well, the drowned tree resting next to the boat in the picture--had broken out the stern and punched new holes in the side of the hull. By the 20th of November, city workers had come by and hauled the hull off the beach.
But this wasn't all....

Three more boats had been torn loose from their moorings and tossed up on the beach. By the time I took this photo, the power boat and day-sailer had been filled with driftwood to keep them planted. But the big hull, the 10 metre one, well, that was another story.
The damage this boat had taken was extraordinary. It too seems to have been in use up until the storm that tore it apart. I walked down the beach to it the other day--less than three weeks after it washed up--and the hull is now in two pieces and shredded. The blue day-sailer was hauled back out to its mooring in the bay (of the three boats, this is the only one I've seen moored in the bay), but has since been pulled loose again and is nearly back on the beach for a second go-round. The power-boat has since disappeared--I suspect that Saanich hauled it away as well.
Even further down the beach was this:

This was one of the boats moored in the bay. It had simply torn loose and been beached. Fairly soon after taking this photo, this boat had been taken off the beach and re-moored--hopefully more securely.
So, in total there were five boats washed ashore during the first two storms of the month. Since then there has been a third storm and the snow. Quite the month. But, it appears, not unique. Under the tree near this last boat, is this hull. Obviously it's been there a while :-)

powered by href="" >performancing firefox