For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Calling out the BS

I've heard about this commercial in the US featuring a Canadian who claimed she'd be dead if she hadn't gone to the US for healthcare, but haven't seen it until recently. Here it is.

Shona TV Spot - "Survived" - kewego
TV spot from Patients United Now highlighting Shona's Story.
Keywords: health care shona
Video from aforp

After watching this, I have only one response.




It is a lie, plain and simple. A complete misrepresentation of the Canadian medical system.

Actually, the first lie is from the Canadian woman, Shona. It turns out she didn't actually have brain cancer. She had a benign cyst, something she admitted to later. Her life wasn't in any danger.

As for waiting lists, people on it are priority marked based on urgency. Sometimes openings appear for one reason or another (like... oh, I don't know... someone taking themselves off the list because they went somewhere else for treatment?). When that happens, the most urgent cases on the waiting list that can make it in for treatment will be called. This is how my original greater than 6 months wait for surgery (the clinic - a private one, I might add - only booked up to 6 months in advance) got shortened twice and I ended up getting surgery in less than 2 months - and that includes the minimum 2 weeks needed to get any ibuprofen out of my system, which I'd been taking for the pain, but could cause excessive bleeding during the surgery. That's taking into account Christmas holidays. My case file was flagged urgent for a type of surgery that, for other women, would normally be considered cosmetic. The only reason there was a waiting list was that paying customers had priority over medicare patients.

When my husband was on the waiting list for his overnight sleep apnea test at a sleep research facility, he regularly called the contact number to ask if there were any openings. There was a last minute cancellation opening up a spot the last night the lab would be open before shutting down for 2 weeks of Christmas holidays. Because of the urgency of his case, he got that spot. Sleep apnea isn't usually as life threatening as my husband's was at the time, and I'm convinced that if we hadn't found out about it at the time, he probably wouldn't have survived to see the new year. We wouldn't have known to stop certain medications and take other measures that exacerbated the situation. He was even banned from taking cough medicine! No one else on that waiting list was in an actual life threatening situation like his.

Even now, as we've had various tests and procedures, our experiences have been good. The only real complaint I have had was with the respiratory specialist that kept wanting to blame things on my fat, even after test results showed otherwise. I've had a CT scan and a broncoscopy with minimal waiting time. For things like blood tests that don't require fasting or to be done at certain times of day, I don't even need to make an appointment. I just take the paperwork from my doctor and drop in at the lab. Now that our family doctor has moved offices, that will involve going from the 4th floor to the basement level of the same building. There's an Xray lab there, too. No appointment necessary. As full as the waiting rooms have been, I think 45 minutes is the most I've ever had to wait.

My husband recently had an MRI done on his knees. The dr. wrote him up for it and we had to wait for a call once his receptionist got an appointment for him. We were actually surprised to get a call back as quickly as we did, and for the appointment to be so soon. After all, we kept hearing about these long waiting lists everyone was complaining about!

The clinic was in mall we'd never been to before, and the waiting room was crowded. Rather than taking up 3 seats when we didn't have appointments ourselves, the girls and I decided to check out the mall. It turned out to be a medical mall. Aside from a grocery store, department store, pharmacy and a small food court, everything in the mall was medically related, with specialties ranging from food ailments to plastic surgery, and a few we'd never heard of before. It was like a hospital, without the hospital staff running around all over. Not much to look at, so the girls and I soon found a bench to sit on and I brought out my crochet, expecting to have a long wait before my husband called to say he was finished.

I barely got started when the call came. My husband was already done. He'd hoped to be able to see some images, but they've gone all high tech now, and the scans are sent out instantly. Gone are the days when we could go for Xrays and the techs could show us the images as they checked them before being sent out. It's all digital now.

Are there waiting lists? Sure. Are there problems? Yes. Are people being denied care because the government doesn't consider patients worthy? Absolutely not!! Does the government tell us what doctors we can or can't go to? No!! Does the government decree what treatment we can or can't get? No, though the system won't necessarily pay for all types of treatment available. This is where a public/private partnership comes in.

The Canadian health care system isn't one homogeneous thing. Each province and territory is responsible for their own health care system. Personally, I'd prefer it if coverage was the same across the country. I have an overnight sleep apnea test booked that I'm going to have to cancel because I can't afford to pay for it, even with my husband's private medical insurance. It's not covered where we live, even though the test is done in a hospital. I'd like it if more types of drugs were covered, etc. I would love it if dental procedures and eye exams were covered, too.

Universal health care is a misnomer. It can't cover everything, nor should it. The important thing about a government run health care system is that it covers the basics. If you break your leg, get shot, or just want an annual physical, it's covered. If you come down with a debilitating illness, you will be treated. If you're like me and find yourself needing to have a breast reduction for medical reasons, it will be covered. If it's for cosmetic reasons, pay for it yourself or have private insurance to cover it.

Unlike private insurance, you don't get dinged for actually using the system. It's paid for through our taxes and, in some provinces, premiums. You will never be denied treatment for lack of insurance. Your premiums will never go up because you smoke, have a BMI outside the "normal" range, or because you like to sky dive in your spare time.

I personally believe that a combination of public and private health care can work. We already have that in Canada, so a certain extent, but it could be improved. There's always room for change and improvement. I'm disgusted by the wasteful bureaucracy in the public system - something that applies to all areas of government and needs to be constantly guarded against.

Our system has flaws, but this commercial is completely off base with what those are, and completely misrepresents how it really is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thanks for the laugh

I've been having an off-list conversation with someone from an email list I'm on. That conversation has ended, as you'll be able to see later, but I wanted to post it here, as it's quite typical of the sorts of "rebuttals" I get.

The whole thing started with someone promoting a showing of Food Inc., which I have not seen, and saying:

This is supposed to be as good as Inconvenient Truth.
If you've been following my blog at all, you know that I don't think very highly of the error riddled AIT. Since I didn't think the person intended to say that Food Inc was an error filled vanity movie, I responded with this (I will use coloured text for my own responses).
Uhm... I don't know that this would be a good comparison, seeing as how Inconvenient Truth was proven pretty much completely false.
This got an immediate response from the moderator, reminding people that, while promoting things to the list was acceptable, they were not to be used to incite debates of any kind. I didn't think I was doing anything of the sort, but it's not my list and I know the moderator personally and like her very much, so I wasn't going to argue. Someone else, however, didn't pay attention and sent this.

Completely false? Uhm, by the way, does not have an "h." Perhaps you mean
"hum," as in what the bees do. The bees that are disappearing along with
everything else.

Aside from being one of the more disjointed and confusing responses I've encountered, I decided it was worth responding to - privately, since the mod. had already asked for this sort of thing to be kept off list. (I did notice, meanwhile, that the mod. did not send a message after this email, as she did after mine.) I was hoping for some clarification, since the person really didn't say much of anything. This was my (typically verbose, I'm afraid) response.

Completely false?

Pretty much, yes. Rather than go into detail here, you can read my review of the movie here.

And of the book here.

As for the errors, along with the 9 specified by the British court ruling, 35 errors referenced in the now dead link to the original source I had in my reviews can be found here.

All of which is thoroughly verifiable.

Uhm, by the way, does not have an "h."

I'm sorry, but perhaps I'm missing something by this being in text rather than in person. Are you trying to be sarcastic?
But since you bring it up, uhm is the typically British spelling, while um is used in the US. Since Canadian spellings generally lean towards British spelling, as in words like colour and honour, spelling it with an h would be considered more correct in Canada, though both versions are acceptable.

Perhaps you mean "hum," as in what the bees do. The bees that are disappearing along with everything else.

Again, I seem to be missing something. Sarcasm again? Either way, if you're talking about colony collapse disorder, perhaps you missed that it's now known to be caused by a parasite.

As for "disappearing along with everything else," I'm curious as to what "everything else" you mean. Before you answer, though, I would recommend some light reading - Eco-facts and Eco-Fiction and The Really Inconvenient Truth would be good places to start. There's also Scared to Death and Facts Not Fear (which is actually a children's book that *gasp* doesn't talk down to kids ;-) ), just for a short list.
Though what dying bees has to do with the accuracy (or lack of it) of AIT, I'm not sure.

None of which has much to do with the point of my original email response. [Name withheld] wrote that Food Inc "is supposed to be as good as Inconvenient Truth." Since, as I've pointed out above, AIT is riddled with errors and cannot, by any honest definition, be called "good," this would be an inappropriate example. Unless the intent was actually to say that Food Inc is equally flawed, which I don't believe it was.

Now, I still don't know exactly what this person's actual position is, other than the apparent disagreement that AIT is full of errors. He did not, however, say or send anything to explain that position, but just went off on a strange tangent about bees due to a spelling disagreement. I am honestly not seeing the connection between what I'd said about AIT, and what this person wrote in response. I'm okay with that, though. I enjoy trying to understand what people think and how they came to their conclusions. Especially if they disagree with my own.

This is the response I got, instead.

You appear to have a great deal of faith in your own knowledge, or in knowledge that happens to support your political views. It's fairly easy to find "facts" to support any position. My feeling about these matters is based simply on what I've seen with my own eyes, which is: the ongoing destruction of the natural world by our hunger for material wealth. Nothing else really matters to me.

As for "Uhm," I concede the point, though I have never seen it spelled with an "h." I stand corrected.

If you can believe that the disappearance of bees is not alarming in the same way as the disappearance of songbirds, salmon, cod, killer whales, etc, etc, etc, I'm happy for you. I wish I could be so accepting.

You'll note that, once again, the person did not really say anything of substance in response to either my original statement (that AIT is error filled), nor to anything I wrote in response. This person has, however, made a number of assumptions about my motives and beliefs. Here's my response.

You appear to have a great deal of faith in your own knowledge,

Interesting observation. Faith? Doesn't that more rightly fall into the realm of religion?

I've spent many years gathering my knowledge, and I am selective as to which sources I consider reliable. I am perfectly willing and open to changing my views should evidence emerge to contradict them. This is how I came to conclude that the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (and AIT) was wrong in the first place. My initial leanings on the subject had been in the other direction, but to continue on that path would have required denying what the data was showing me.

or in knowledge that happens to support your political views.

I don't recall ever mentioning my political views. Not sure what that has to do with anything.

It's fairly easy to find "facts" to support any position.

Did you bother to read any of the links I sent? Or did you, like so many others, automatically reject them because they didn't support the conclusion you've already decided on?

My feeling about these matters is based simply on what I've seen with my own eyes, which is: the ongoing destruction of the natural world by our hunger for material wealth. Nothing else really matters to me.

Perhaps it would be more useful to suspend your feelings and take a hard look at reality. If you look closely at where the destruction is happening, how and why, you might be surprised. I know I was. Nothing like having my preconceived notions turned completely over. I recommend looking up the Kuznets Curve.

I'm curious about this ongoing destruction of the natural world you've seen with your own eyes. What/where would that be?

If you can believe that the disappearance of bees is not alarming in the same way as the disappearance of songbirds, salmon, cod, killer whales, etc, etc, etc, I'm happy for you.

Did I say the disappearance was bees was not alarming? No, I pointed out that a cause has been found. With a little more research, you'll find that this has happened before, and that the causes for some of these past die-offs have never been found. As for the other issues (though re: songbirds, the data shows that their numbers in general have actually gone up, not down, often thanks to activities by humans, local exceptions notwithstanding), they are often complex and need to be dealt with based on actual cause of destruction, not based on supposition. It's not useful to ban cell phones to help save the bees, when the bees are being killed by a parasite.

I wish I could be so accepting.

Well, yes, I am accepting of hard data gathered by reputable sources. Thank you very much.

I had hoped that this email clarified my position and cleared up the assumptions the writer was making about my motives. I was also a little frustrated at his complete avoidance of actually saying anything of substance; instead resorting to assumptions on what they *think* I meant, instead of looking at what I actually said. My family feels that this person is projecting.

I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, but could you at least explain why? And maybe give me some shred of evidence to back it up, other than "this is what I feel?" I respect that someone might feel differently, but why? I really did want to know.

My conversation partner, however, decided to end it with this. Since I will respect that person's wishes to not respond to them anymore, I will include the responses I would have written, and my reactions to the email.

Listen. Is there any point to this at all?

Yes, actually, I believe their is always a point to exchanging ideas. It helps increase knowledge and understanding, even in disagreement.

To me, you sound like a nutbar,

K, this had me laughing out loud! One of the funniest things I've been called, ever.

Interesting, though, that this person *still* hasn't given anything to counter what I'd said. As far as I can tell, just the fact that I disagree with him makes me sound like a nutbar.

and obviously I appear the same to you.

Sorry to disappoint, my friend, but you're wrong. The thought never even occurred to me. I don't consider people nutbars just because they hold a different view than I do. As edifying as it is to discuss things with people who are on the same wavelength as myself, I find it much more intellectually stimulating to discuss things with people who hold different opinions. There's a much greater chance of learning something new that way. Sadly, there was no such exchange of ideas in this conversation.

I suggest we end the discussion, such as it is. I regret jumping to your bait in the first place.

Once again, this person is misreading my motives. I wasn't trying to bait anyone. I just thought the person who wrote the original email might like to know that their comparison probably wasn't what they intended.

Should have known better. But no harm done. You see the world your way, I see it mine. And if it's any consolation, your world view is the majority one by a long stretch.

Fair enough - I can live and let live easily enough, though I really don't care what the majority world view is or isn't. I prefer to come to my own conclusions.

As for years of gathering evidence from reliable sources, well, we can all claim that!

Is it just me, or does it sound like he thinks I'm bullshitting him? Or is this sarcasm again? I don't do sarcasm well.

Good luck with your ongoing search for the truth. Seriously. It's better than not making any effort.

My thanks and agreement on that. I can't help but think, however, that this person didn't even make the effort to look at any of the links I sent. Certainly, he hasn't had a chance to look at any of the books I recommended, and I somehow doubt he will.

I recently wrote a post on logic and emotion, which I will expand on in another post, and part of the reason I posted all this is because it illustrates what I was trying to say earlier. All of this person's responses fall firmly into the "emotion" side, with no logic given to back it up. I would like to assume that this person has actually done the research that would allow logic to back up their emotional response, but there's no evidence of that in this exchange.


One of the things I keep hearing is how we evil humans are causing the destruction of vital ecosystems. While I certainly agree we are responsible for quite a bit of damage, as usual, the reality is a bit more complex that simple greed and materialism.

In one of my more recent reads, I saw examples of how the very laws designed to protect the environment have instead lead to its destruction, particularly in the US. The Endangered Species Act, rather than saving species, has led to "shoot, shovel and shut up," while stopping the very activities that helped re-establish species that had been driven out.

Some typical examples include forest management. People who have planted trees to provide wood to the marketplace, reforesting regions that once had been cleared for farming, simultaneously provided conditions allowing certain wildlife to return to a wooded ecosystem. Unfortunately, birds on the endangered species list would also move in.

Why is this unfortunate?

Because once these birds were rediscovered, the owner would suddenly not allowed to use their own land and trees, supposedly to protect the birds that wouldn't be there if these people hadn't created their preferred environment in the first place. Facing the prospect of losing more millions of dollars in resource value, the owners would stop the planting and harvesting methods on their remaining land. Instead of these new ecosystems being expanded, people were forced to curtail them, or loose their investments, as well as control of their own personal property. Another example would be prevention of farming practises to protect a burrowing animal, only to have the animal move out of the area because the land became choked with thatch those agricultural practises kept clear, leading also to massive destruction by fire because so much fuel had formed. People who had once planned on re-establishing species onto their land changed their minds once the ESA passed. Had those species been brought back, they would have lost all control of their land, so they instead prevent those species from returning to protect themselves. Even Penn & Teller did an episode on the ridiculousness of the situation.

Part one
Part two
Part three

I find myself thinking, however, of more urban examples. There are a lot of attacks on human encroachment on wild life. Housing developments are frequently used as examples.

I had the opportunity to see some new housing developments in various stages of construction, all in sequence. On one end of an area, land was still being cleared, while in the other, neighbourhoods were well established.

At the "raw" end of the neighborhood, I saw large swaths of bush that had been cleared. One could understandably object to this destruction of a wooded ecosystem. Where once had been trees and brush, there was nothing but bare dirt, infrastructure newly installed, waiting for roads and driveways to be installed, then houses built. There were still treed areas on the outskirts of the area, including right next to the houses I was observing this from, but the construction zone was nothing but dirt, a pad where a entry sign would eventually be installed, and in one spot, a giant hole.

It was the giant hole that piqued my attention. Beyond it, I could see others that had been completed. They were man made lakes and ponds, surrounded by completed houses and newly completed yards, giving a preview of what the construction area would look like once completed.

The newly finished development wasn't fully established yet. A few houses remained unoccupied, and a couple of yards hadn't been landscaped yet. Most of the back yards faced these man made lakes.

The lakes themselves, new as they were, already had wildlife using them. Nearby yards had flower gardens, shrubs and young trees, all of which were already providing shelter and food for birds, insects and small animals.

As I progressed through the development to the oldest buildings - less than five years old - I could see more established ponds and lakes. These had paved paths through them, small seating areas, and the occasional sculpture. These were barely visible, hidden by the cattails edging the water. Other water plants were established and thriving. More waterfowl made use of nesting areas, while songbirds darted in between the cattails along the water's edge and the shrubbery and flower beds in nearby yards. Even muskrats had already moved in. The streets were lined with trees that would, in a few more years - or decades, for some varieties - provide shade and shelter. People's yards all had more trees that, on maturity, covered a variety of sizes and density, as well as flowering and fruiting trees that would not have grown in previous conditions. Many homes had bird houses and feeders as well.

So while it's true that the housing development did lead to the destruction of one type of ecosystem dependant on dense trees and brush, two new ecosystems were created, one based on water, the other on more open spaces, flowers and a wider variety of trees. There had been no open water in the area at all, yet once these lakes were made, water dependant wildlife quickly moved in to take advantage of it, well before the construction was complete. Shrubbery in people's yards provided shelter and safety to song birds, as larger forest birds, such as magpies and crows, that attack them and their nests were less able to reach them. Increased varieties of flowers supplied nectar for insects that would have found little to no food in the bush that had been growing there before.

Even larger animals, such as deer, where not driven out completely. There was still a wide belt of bush, but now there was a reliable water supply - though having deer come into people's yards is a mixed blessing, as they are notorious for destroying trees and gardens. Smaller animals such as jackrabbits could graze in relative safety from their predators; the foxes and such that are less likely to approach human habitation.

Thinking about the type of wildlife that lives in the sort of wooded area leveled for the housing development, and comparing them to the types that lived in the new conditions created by people in the housing development, I came to the realization that the housing development created ecosystems that supported a larger and more varied population of wildlife.

The encroachment of human habitation had actually led to a net increase of wildlife.

Not quite the death and destruction housing developments are supposed to be responsible for.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Logic and Emotion

First, to follow up on my previous post, I'm just shaking my head. I have the dr's appointment made for the end of July, but the lump is already gone. The spot is still irritated and pains around there come and go, so I'll get it checked out anyways. If I'm "lucky," I'll have a new lump for my dr. to examine when I see him. *L*

It's probably quite silly for me to try and post right now. It just passed midnight and, knowing me, this will take at least an hour to write. But what the hey. It's not like I'd be able to fall asleep if I went to bed, anyways. Still, I apologize ahead of time if any of this comes out rather disjointed.

I wanted to write about something I've been thinking about for quite some time. I've long tried to understand why people do the things they do and believe what they believe. It's especially made me curious when I see people who look at the same information, or share similar experiences, yet come to completely different conclusions.

I found myself looking for an explanation in how we response to things; logically, or emotionally.

Logic is cold. Linear. Inflexible. Dispassionate.

Emotion is hot. Intuitive. Fluctuating. Passionate.

Emotion tempers logic, while logic reigns in the chaos of emotion.

The realization I came to years ago was this.

Logic is what people use to justify their emotional responses.

Over the years, I've yet to see anything to counter this. As humans, we are both logical and emotional beings. Both sides are valid. I'll use a personal example to illustrate.

When my first daughter was born, I was about as prepared for motherhood as I could possibly be without actually being a mother. I had plenty of experience with children from newborn to pre-school, as individuals and in groups. I thought I was prepared, and for the most part, I was. What I wasn't prepared for was having a child that wasn't at all like any other child I'd been around so far. I'd never before experienced a high needs baby. Thankfully, I had enough confidence to follow my instincts and parent her the way she needed to be, long before I ever discovered that there were other children just like her.

By the time she was a year and a half old, I was already dreading the idea of sending her to school. My daughter processed information differently. I knew that, in a classroom setting, she would be "diagnosed" ADD or ADHD, and that I'd be pressured to drug her, as had already happened to a nephew of mine. I knew she wasn't ADD/ADHD, but schools just aren't designed to handle children that don't fit a particular mold.

At the time, I was going to La Leche League meetings. I'd had breastfeeding problems immediately after my daughter's birth, and a LLL leader was the only reason we overcame them. She was incredible, and even came to my home quite late in the evening to help me out. She brought along her two young daughters, who quietly sat in the hallway with books while their mother worked with me and my baby. I had made a comment about how I hoped their being out so late wouldn't make it hard for them to go to school the next day. I was assured this wasn't a problem, since she home schooled. We weren't able to discuss it more at the time, but it stuck with me. As I got to know the LLL Leader that hosted the meetings I attended, she happened to mention she was home schooling her daughters.

I had only one question for her. "Is that legal?" She assured me it was. At that moment, my decision was made. I was going to home school my daughter.

My husband was at sea at the time and wouldn't be home for some time. This gave me the opportunity to research home schooling and be able to give him information when we talked about it. No question about it, though; the decision was instantaneous and purely emotional, and I used logic to justify it.

Here's the key point, though. My emotional decision was based not only on knowing my daughter as well as I did, but on many other fine threads of experience throughout my life that I didn't even think of, but were in my subconscious, contributing to my emotional response. The logic was in doing the research and finding out the many positive things about home schooling I had no idea about. This was the logic that backed up my emotional response. Also important is that, while this turned out to be the correct logical conclusion for us, it may not be the correct conclusion for someone else. What turned out to be right for us will not necessarily be right for someone else; their alternative conclusion for their own family in no way makes ours wrong for us.

Sometimes, logic fails to justify the emotional response, even as we try to make it do so. I knew nothing about home schooling at the time, and assumed I would have to do school-at-home. It was the only model I knew. As I researched more into styles of home schooling, I began to lean more towards a theme-based or unit study model. However, as I discovered more about learning styles and brain functions, I began to realize that what would work best for our daughter was an unschooling way of doing things. It took logic to overcome the emotional response I had based on incorrect information.

In other words, I was open to changing my emotional decision (that we'd have to do school-at-home), when logical research showed me I was incorrect. This is, to me, a vital point.

As emotional beings, we will come to conclusions based on our experiences and intuition. So long as we don't rely completely on our emotions, tempering them with logic, there's nothing wrong with our conclusions. In the face of contradictory evidence, however, we must be willing to change our minds.

This, I believe, is the biggest problem people have when it comes to hot topics like anthropogenic global warming.

In the past couple of years, increasing evidence is proving AGW theory to be wrong. At the same time, rhetorical attacks on "skeptics," and ever shriller language is being used by those who insist otherwise.

I'll admit that, before I started researching the topic, I tended to believe the AGW side of things. This was my emotional response to what I was encountering in the media. After all, all those articles and documentaries had to based on fact, or they wouldn't have been published or produced, would they? Yet I was never able to completely believe it. Based on personal experience and research in other areas, I was also getting a contradictory emotional response, even though it was only a vague sensation that I was missing something.

So I turned to logic. I began to do the research myself.

It's been about 3-4 years of researching climate change and AGW theory , and I'm still doing it. In the process, logic has reigned in my emotion responses. My emotion was telling me things like, we have to do something! We're poisoning our planet! We're causing unprecedented temperature increases! Destroying our environment! We need to Save The Planet from the horrible things we humans were doing to it!

This is the side that the alarmists are catering to. With their dramatic descriptions of cities under water, famine, sickness, extinctions, and destruction, is it any wonder that people become frightened enough to believe it?

Then, the alarmists try to use logic to justify the emotional responses. Unfortunately, they often do it by exaggerating numbers, using flawed computer models that will come to whatever conclusion they want them to (and if they don't, well, those results just don't get published), and in some cases, "adjusting" data to fit their emotional conclusion. Should that fail; should people instead look at the data dispassionately and come to a different, logical conclusion, the alarmists can only resort to trying to prevent data that contradicts their conclusions (by preventing publication, for example), convincing the general population that the contradictory data is tainted (ie: by claiming "skeptics" are in the pay of Big Oil), or by ramping up the emotional rhetoric ("if we don't Do Something, our children's children will all hate us and die! and the Earth will burn to a crisp!).

What I'm seeing is that some people are so entangled in their emotional response (whether it's fear that the earth is dying, or making themselves feel good by Doing Something), that they are blinded to anyone else's logic that doesn't support their position. They have made an emotional investment and, in trying to justify it with their own logic, they can only accept data which supports their emotional conclusions; anything else simply cannot be tolerated. The stronger their emotional attachment to their conclusion, the less willing they are to entertain contradictory views. They must, after all, Save The Planet. So long as they can justify it that way, they can feel good about changing their light bulbs, taking the bus instead of a car, or using cloth grocery bags. They are convinced that these sacrifices are for the Greater Good. They are Doing Something. If anyone points out that, well, those "green" light bulbs are worse for the environment than incandescent ones, or that driving cars doesn't contribute to global warming, or that using cloth grocery bags isn't going to reduce the amount of garbage in the world, their self-worth is so closely tied to their emotionally justified "logic," it becomes viewed as a personal attack.

As humans, we will always have a struggle between logic and emotion, as each side tries to overcome the other. So long as we are aware of this dichotomy within ourselves, we can look to our own conclusions with an open mind. We can say to ourselves, "yes, I made this decision based on an emotional response. This is why," and still be able to step back and let logic either justify it, or be willing to let go of the emotion in the face of facts that tell us we're wrong - and to do so without feeling our self-worth has been somehow attacked in the process.

After all, emotion is needed to temper logic as much as logic is needed to control emotion.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I should probably get that checked...

Well, now.

Since my breast reduction surgery, I've never completely recovered sensation to certain areas of my breasts, and there would occasionally be sharp pains. I started getting some yesterday, but as today wore on, I started feeling an ache on the outside of one breast. I just realized why. I've got a big honking lump that's developed in that spot. Lovely. I guess ought to have to have it checked out. It's probably another cyst - when the tissue removed during my surgery was removed, it was riddled with cysts, so that would be no surprise.

Knowing me, by the time I actually see a doctor, it'll be gone. Ah, well. I'm due for a physical anyways.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

100 Miles

Last night, sick with a cold and unable to sleep, I decided to take advantage of having tv and went flipping through the channels. There's not a whole lot to watch at 3am. I ended up catching the concluding episode of The 100 Mile Diet Challenge on The Food Network. I'd briefly caught part of an episode some time ago, but nothing more.

First off, I just want to make it clear that I think there are a lot of excellent reasons for shopping local for food. These reasons run the gamut from supporting the local economy, to the improved flavour of fresh ingredients, to being more aware of where our food comes from. I think that, in general, people are too far removed from their food, and have no clue as to what's involved in keeping our grocery stores stocked. If buying local helps people become more aware and connected with their food, I think that's a great thing.

This, however, is not the point of The 100 Mile Diet. It is, according to the show and the authors of the book, actually about reducing our "carbon footprint." I'll have to assume that when they say "carbon," they actually mean "carbon dioxide." At which point, the 100 mile diet would be a failure. It's already been demonstrated that, for most things, shopping local actually has a higher "carbon footprint," than buying mass shipped, or even imported, foods in large grocery stores. Dozens of small producers bringing their products to scattered farmer's markets, or consumers having to drive far afield to find these local products, emits more CO2 than the more efficient grocery chain model. If reducing CO2 emissions were truly the goal, you'd be better off going to these big franchises than driving around to various markets, roadside stands or directly to the producers themselves. This was actually demonstrated in the show, as the participants found themselves spending a great deal of time driving around to find local produce. It was rather amusing to see how the authors brushed this off as being an example of how bad the current system is.

Leaving off the CO2 footprint entirely, there were a few other interesting things that had me shaking my head about the show. One was the location. The idea was for an entire town to take part in the 100 mile diet challenge, to varying degrees. The show itself followed the 6 households that signed on to go 100% local for 100 days. Others signed on for 80% or 50%.

The town this was in?

Mission, BC.

In the summer.

For those who don't know why that's a head shaker for me, it's a bit like setting a family up in a major grocery store and telling them they can only eat what they find in the building. The region Mission is located in is a cornucopia of food production, not only for the richness and variety of foods produced in the area, but the long growing season and mild climate, as well. A real challenge would be to do this in, say, Thompson, Manitoba.

The one episode I'd seen part of before must've been very early in the series, as it showed the families having their first 100% breakfast, after having removed from their households all non-local foods the day before. I was surprised by how little these people knew what to do with their food. Unable to buy whatever they wanted, most of them had no idea what to do with what they had, unable to "make do." A strange concept to me, since making do is pretty much the only way I know how to cook. By the end of the challenge, however, they all seemed to have overcome this lack of knowledge and did quite well. A valuable lesson, I believe.

Another thing that had my eyebrows twitching is the obvious wealth among this group of people. Of the 6 households, only one didn't appear to be rich, and they were farmers already producing a lot of their own food. Obviously, family finances weren't discussed in the show, but in looking at their homes, the equipment they had to work with, and the land they had available to start growing their own food, these were all things out of reach of a lot of people. I certainly couldn't see how someone on a retirement income, or even an average income family, could have all this. There certainly wasn't anyone on a limited income living in a tiny apartment and no balcony. Just as an example, with one couple the husband said that his wife did all the bill paying, grocery shopping, etc., and he had no idea about the household finances. Fair enough; it obviously worked for this family.

It's probably a good thing he *didn't* know it, either. His wife was meticulous about keeping receipts for food purchases during the challenge, even if it meant writing the number on a scrap of paper if no receipt was given. For their first month on the challenge, their food budget doubled to over $1200!!! Granted, as she got the hang of things, that number dropped to their usual budget by the last month. First off, the fact that they could double their food budget without him even noticing tells me they had a fair amount of financial leeway. Second, they could actually spend over $600 a month on food for their family (I believe they had 2 young children). My grocery budget for our family of four is about $800 a month. Note I say "grocery" budget, not "food" budget. My grocery budget is for whatever I buy at the grocery store, including laundry supplies, household cleaners, personal hygiene, pet supplies and even some of my husband's prescriptions. Not all, since he's had a few that would take up about half of my budget all on their own, never mind adding them all together. So when it comes down to it, my food bills probably range from about $300-$400 a month for the four of us - and this is actually the highest it's been in quite a few years. In the past, I've had to work things out with much less. I manage it because I know how to do a lot of things from scratch, and how to make do with what I can afford.

So this was another area where I found the challenge to be unrealistic for a lot of people. Buying local is, quite frequently, more expensive. Unless one is able to grow/raise a lot of the foods themselves (which quite a few of the challengers did attempt), going local is financially out of reach for many people.

It was particularly interesting to hear what the participants had to say about the challenge at the end of it. Of the 6 couples, one found it to be quite a negative experience, and they couldn't wait for it to be over. They found the whole thing was a lot of bother, took up too much time, and wasn't worth it. Time was a factor mentioned by most of the participants. Finding, prepping and preparing the foods took up inordinate amounts of time. As someone who grew up helping produce most of the food for our family of 7, this was no surprise to me. There is a lot of time and effort required, even if you're not actually growing/raising the food yourself. For one family with an autistic child, it actually interfered with the mother's ability to follow the special program they had for their son.

The reactions to this family that had a negative experience was part of what made it so interesting. The authors had me chuckling with their holier-than-thou, they just didn't try hard enough attitude. The other families, however, seemed to resent this couple quite a bit. You see, they travelled a great deal, which means they "cheated." They actually got caught on video drinking coffee. This was a sore point among the group to the point that a new "rule" was established by the authors, and this couple had to perform a penance to make up for their cheating ways. Eventually, it was reveled that pretty much everyone else cheated at some point, too. They just didn't get caught.

A few other details stood out with me. There was a lot of talk about how much "healthier" they were eating by eating locally, and how much better they felt. The implication, of course, is that food outside 100 miles is less healthy somehow. There were some hints, however, that each of these families actually had quite poor dietary habits to begin with. Despite the implications, eating locally produced food isn't going to be that much healthier than the same food shipped in. All fresh food begins to loose nutrients as soon as it's harvested, whether you buy it at a roadside stand or from a store. From my experiences on an organic food service, where locally grown fruits and vegetables were delivered to my door weekly, they are more susceptible to bugs and fungus.

At the end of the challenge, when the families got their bins of non-local foods back, and they could start buying whatever they wanted again, things were particularly revealing. Pretty much every adult on the program started off with coffee. The sheer bliss on their faces as they took their first sips was amazing. There was also chocolate, pop, foods with sugar in them, and even tequila. One guy was in heaven over a glass of orange juice. Even though all the families said they'd learned a great deal and would continue to buy local more often, most were only too happy to return to their "forbidden" foods. The authors seems rather disappointed about that.

For all the benefits that come with buying local, clearly, restricting people's diets this severely made them simply want those foods/drinks even more.

As much as I like the idea of buying locally, and especially growing and raising our own food, I completely disagree with the authors that following a 100 mile diet would be of benefit to the world. The main reason for this is that it's inherently selfish. Such a limitation is the ultimate in protectionism. Until recent years, humans have never willingly limited themselves so severely. Instead, we have always been eager to import foods, drinks and spices. Such trade didn't just make importers wealthy. It gave producers new markets beyond their local sphere.

If we really want to make a difference in impoverished nations, giving money to large charities isn't going to do it. Most of the money doesn't make it to those who need it. Donating food doesn't work, either. The donations often end up propping up warlords, or get sold in the local markets. Neither will provide people with a permanent hand up, rather than temporary hand outs. That means buying their goods. Exporting their produce to other countries allows producers in some of the poorest nations to make a living; to make a life for themselves and their families. Increasing their personal wealth leads to improved conditions for the entire community, which in turn leads to improved environmental conditions.

If you want fresh ingredients, buy from a local producers. If you want to reduce your "carbon footprint," buy at a big box grocery store. If you want to help your local sphere, buy local produce. If you want to help someone on the other side of the world, buy imported goods.

I think there's room for both.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sometimes, I worry...

... about the people Pres. Obama has surrounded himself with. Like his "science czar," John Holdren. He co-wrote a book, Ecoscience: Population, resources, environment, way back in 1977. His co-authors? None other than the Malthusians, Paul and Anne Ehrlich. So it's no surprise that he advocated for stuff like this.

  • compulsory abortions should be legal
  • single mothers should have their babies taken away from them by the government, or they could be forced to have abortions
  • mass sterilization of humans through drugs in the water supply is OK, as long as it doesn't harm livestock
  • The government could control women's reproduction by either sterilizing them or
  • implanting mandatory long-term birth control
  • The kind of people who cause "social deterioration" can be compelled to not have children
  • Nothing is wrong or illegal about the government dictating family size
  • A "Planetary Regime" should control the global economy and dictate by force the number of children allowed to be born
  • We will need to surrender national sovereignty to an armed international police force
  • Pro-family and pro-birth attitudes are caused by ethnic chauvinism
  • As of 1977, we are facing a global overpopulation catastrophe that must be resolved at all costs by the year 2000

Granted, he wrote this a long time ago, but he has never renounced any of it since then.

Vist here for more details.


Going through my morning news, I noticed something curious at Google News headlines. I'm looking at the health tab, and this is what I'm seeing.

Top of the list (newest) is about Calgary hospital workers and H1N1. There are 8 related articles. It's only been posted 18 minutes ago, so it's not going to have a lot yet.

Obesity/H1N1: top one posted 5 hours ago, where 10 cases apparently is enough to make a connection between obesity and H1N1 severity, 2,757 related stories.

Next, we have stories on the isotope shortage, top one posted 3 hours ago, 413 related stories.

"Health workers told to shut up," from yesterday, 59 related articles.

"2730 breast cancer patients to be retested," from 2 days ago, 40 related articles.

"Workers' flu not linked to pandemic..." three days ago, 193 related articles.

Bpa found in glass baby food jars, from yesterday, 91 related articles...

On it does, down the list, with the numbers getting ever smaller.

So how is it that a bullsh*t article about obesity and H1N1 warrents over 2,700 stories, but all the others, including the ones also connected to H1N1, at most warrent a few hundred?

Curious, indeed!

Friday, July 10, 2009

This is what an apology looks like

PM Harper made a mistake. When he found out, this is what his response was.

“During that press conference, I attacked Mr. Ignatieff for some things he had allegedly said about Canada and the G8,” Mr. Harper said this afternoon at a wrap-up news conference of the Group of Eight major industrial nations.

“This was not a quotation of Mr. Ignatieff. I regret the error and I apologize to Mr. Ignatieff for the error.”

Actually, there are two apologies...

Mr. Harper's spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, said it was he who told Mr. Harper about the quote, which he said had been forwarded to him in the early morning hours Thursday.

Mr. Soudas didn't know who the quote was attributed to, only that was an academic.

“I also advised the Prime Minister, that, had he said that, it would be unacceptable,” he said.

“Firstly I have to apologize to the Prime Minister for misinforming him and ill-advising him to attribute a quote to Mr. Ignatieff that is not Mr. Ignatieff's,” he said.

“Secondly, and more importantly, I have to apologize to Mr. Ignatieff.”

Mr. Soudas said he will accept whatever consequences come to him. He did not say whether he has offered his resignation.

What do we have here?

1) erroneous action is identified
2) error made is pointed out
3) person targeted by the error is identified
4) admission to and responsibility for error is taken
5) unequivocal apology to the target is made.

What don't we have?

1) no blaming of the error on the person who gave the information
2) no sideways blaming of the victim
3) no "I'm sorry people were offended by my comments" psuedo-apology

We also have an example of sleaze.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said that the matter showed Harper's true character.

“I think all Canadians have to recognize that we have the smallest man on the world stage that it's possible to imagine, and that's Stephen Harper,” Mr. Rae told CTV News Channel.

“He never misses an opportunity to stoop. Not to conquer, just to throw mud.”

Let's see... PM Harper and Mr. Soudas made a mistake. They acknowledged their mistake, took responsibility for it and unequivocally apologized for the mistake.

Bob Rae uses this as another opportunity to make an over-the-top sling at the PM.

Yes, Mr. Rae. It does show true character.

So does your response to it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Nothing better to do? updated

Man, some people are really reaching for something to b*tch about.

Did Harper pocket the wafer?

A video posted on YouTube shows Harper taking the host, but does not show him swallowing it afterward. Soudas said he consumed the wafer seconds after taking it.

Harper is a Protestant and would not normally be given Roman Catholic communion, though it was unclear whether it could be appropriate on special occasions.

Henneberry said that if Harper accepted the host but did not consume it “it’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view.”

I notice the article didn't include a link to the video. They usually do. I wonder why not, this time?

Still, ya gotta wonder how a story like this is up there with China threatening to kill rioters, or Chalk River closing down.

Having grown up Catholic, it was made very clear to me that you could only go for communion after having had First Communion - that ceremonial even where little girls dressed like brides and boys in shirts and ties (I don't know if they still do it that way) and are given their first communion after having taking special classes and proving their knowledge of the importance and background of this sacred ritual. My mother in particular let me know that one had to be forgiven of sins as well. Whether that had anything to do with Church doctrine, I have no idea, but going to confession at least once a year was vital, and I came away believing that if I hadn't gone to confession, I wasn't worthy of communion. Years later, having stopped going to church regularly, I attended mass as part of a special event. When it came time for communion, I and my family stayed in our seats. My mother was surprised and asked me about it later. I told her why and she let it drop.

Personally, I no longer feel welcome in the Catholic church. I got married by a Justice of the Peace, which means the RC church does not recognise my marriage. I no longer attend mass. The only reason the kids got baptised was because it was important to the grandparents and getting it done got my mother off my back about it.

Having said that, I still respect the rituals. These things are important to a lot of people, and I can respect that.

I don't know how appropriate it was for a Protestant to take communion in a Catholic mass - I don't know enough about Protestants to say, but I do know that it is acceptable among the big 5 Christian faith groups to partake in each other's rituals and recognize each other's ceremonies, such as marriage. I can't even remember what the big 5 are, except RC and Anglican. So it may have been entirely acceptable for the PM to partake in communion.

That people jump to the conclusion that, in not seeing the PM eat the wafer in the short video clip meant that he pocketed it is just plain silly. I remember any number of people who would eat their wafer half way back to their seats. Some even waited until they reached their seats and ate it while kneeling in prayer. That fact that the PM eating it wasn't visible in the video (which I have yet to find and see) doesn't mean a thing.

As for "pocketing" the wafer, it's no where near the faux pas it's made out to be. It certainly isn't a scandal. My mother regularly "pockets" wafers. She gets an extra from the priest to take home to my father, who is no longer physically able to attend mass. Sometimes, she gets one for her sister, who is also unable to attend mass anymore. Yes, this is perfectly acceptable. Obviously the PM wouldn't be doing this, but it still wouldn't be that big of a deal. If anything, it would have been ignorance, not disrespect.

But hey, it's PM Harper. Can't let a good slag go by, even if it's nothing but supposition.

update: So I finally saw the video at This is what I see - someone who had no idea what to do with the wafer. Since the wafer was in his hand before the view of the PM was blocked by the priest, then no longer in his hand after, he ate it then. He just needed to see the other guy eat his wafer to know what to do with it.

Personally, I'm more curious as to why he went for communion while holding a piece of paper in his hand. He clearly has no familiarity with RC rituals.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th...

Wishing my friends and visitors from the US a Happy Independance Day. I hope you have a great time celebrating. :-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!!

Just taking a moment in between outings to wish my fellow Canadians a Happy Canada Day.

I hope you're having as wonderful a day as we are! :-D