Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Flames

For some this past ten years were memorable, for others, best left behind. Here's hoping the next ten will still be better than the last for all. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Faded Frenzies now Peace, maybe even Joy

It's amazing what we as a society will do for the commercial version of peace and joy. We go to battle on the streets, row after row of armies of tanks, and other assault vehicles, in the trenches and aisles, fully equipped with plastic power launchers, that go ballistic. Modern day weapons can wipe out 100s of Hiroshimas in one bomb, and society's very generous giving to the annual stimulus for our own economy is enough to wipe out hunger in many Hiroshimas and countries in the world. Oh the power we have to do bad, but also good, in the world... if we more seriously wanted to.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lenin and McCartney

Paul McCartney in Red Square, 2003, doing "Two of Us". The song is about him and his then girlfriend Linda Eastman, not John Lennon, but it is apparently thought to be, and could well have been. In any case, a nice number about camaraderie, with a catchy bass run.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gifted Already

I still take part in customs of peace and joy,
and try to be that deserving good boy.
But as exchanges have merit where good intent is meant,
I'm happy just with civility, and simple caring, to be content.

With warm lodging, enough food, and comforts of life,
not in fear, violence, and never-ending strife.
There's justice, freedom, and protection in society,
not the chronic cruelty and grief of others' anxiety.

We acquire things to fill some needs,
then follow ads to spend and give - those marketing creeds.
While more things don't always make us content,
Others hope for new ways for energies to be spent.

We are lucky to be here I know is cliché,
it's just that we had no input on where we would stay.
We didn't determine what place to be born,
the "I" in us could here, there, or could be foreign.

Whether luck or a gift, how fortunate to be in peace and free,
that beaten brother, and tortured sis on tv, could be you, could be me.
That Guatemalan woman, stripped by a mob, about to be set on fire,
makes me wonder why her birth place was not mine, and senselessly dire.

As we search for loved ones' gifts at stores like the Gap,
its other meaning is all over the map.
Live news broadcasts the strife of the poor,
and it makes me want less, more and more.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Greatest Christmas Surprise in Labrador's History"

That's how Metis Nation president Chris Montague described the linking of phase 3 to the other sections making up the 1,150 drive across Labrador. For the first time, it is now possible to actually drive all the way across Labrador's wilderness, previously unseen to virtually everyone. It means more convenience for residents for travel, transport, communications in person, and family interaction. For anyone it means a chance to see a wild and beautiful part of our province that is unknown, an opportunity for photos, hiking, discovering, appreciating and respecting. It will also mean more opportunities for the development of services along the way, thus, allowing for economic development. For vacationers, it opens up over 1100 km of possibilities for in-province vacation trips to a great and "new" land.
Click map to enlarge (map source - CBC/NL)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unusual Christmas Gift Ideas

DVD - Songs of Martyrdom - Tony Bennett and Friends

The Weather Network DVD set - forecasts for 2000-2009

Why not open a CIBC No-Interest Savings account (*you earn next to No interest on your savings)

Walmart's combo Defibrillator/Nitroglyceron kit, for those "Shop Till You Drop" Days

Greenpeace's Climate Change Disposable Plate Set
Toys and Games

Bagpipe Hero

Martyrdom and Dumber from Fisher Price

Where's the Infidel?

Botox Barbie

Burka Barbie

The Taliban Nut Pack

The Taliban U.S. President Effigy Set

Tickle me Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


Playin' a Round - Tiger Woods

Made Off - Bernie Madoff

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Insta-Mega Millionaires are Giving Back .. just as They Promised

When Kirby and Marie Fontaine won $50,000,000 from the Manitoba Lottery Corporation, they promised to make positive changes to their Sagkeeng First Nation community, 150 km from Winnipeg. From many reports of people who know the couple, and from their own words and actions, the lottery win could not have happened to two nicer people. At their press conference in November, partially paralyzed Kirby and wife Marie, said that they had been down to their last few dollars. They were clearly happy, and had much to smile about. They were smiling at not only improving their own lot -outlook, and actual dwelling - but also that of the community they shared with others.

They are making good on their promise to help by funding three school breakfast and hot lunch programs, funding make-work projects that not only employ those who would otherwise have to move away for work, but beautifying the community that is, and will remain in their homes. Kids are concentrating more on learning and less on empty bellies, and there are fewer discipline problems says one school principal.

Marie and Kirby are living many people's dreams right now, by being able to make and see their community improve, in a fast way. At any time of year, to this First Nation couple we can say, "That's the spirit!"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

John Lennon Would Have ..

done a concert tour in 1981 to follow the success of his last album Double Fantasy. There is no reason to imagine it would have been his last, or last album. There had been enough extra music that Yoko released songs in 1981. As well John and Paul were on more friendly terms at least since 1974 when they actually jammed together and sang Lucille, along with Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilson. There are bootleg recordings of this, and can be found online, but it's nothing to be proud of.. it was during John's so-called "long weekend" of excess.
The photo is a rare shot of Lennon and McCartney "together" at least in the same photo, post-Beatle breakup.. in 1974 during a jam session

In 1980, Lennon was listening to music by Paul McCartney, and he liked what he heard, specifically "Coming Up", the catchy upbeat solo hit by Paul. Lennon has said that, "it's a dam fine number.. I just can't get it out of my head", and some say it was a factor in him getting back to the recording studio.

During the 1970s, despite old wounds from financial and management disagreements during the breakup of the Beatles, Lennon still did not totally discount a Beatle reunion of some type. He told friend Eliot Mintz that "if it happens, it happens because we would want to." So it is very conceivable given a warming of relations between Lennon and McCartney that they and the other Fab two would get back together for a concert, album or both.

Lennon would have been 69 today. The only thing possible is to enjoy the music and message he left. Below is the last Beatle performance, on the Abby Road studio rooftop. They performed five songs, and this clip is "Don't Let Me Down".

Monday, December 07, 2009

Leaping into Winter

Might as well get used to it

It's only Dec. 7, and a major dousing of angry mother nature has kicked of what looks to be a long road ahead of snow and cold. Sorry David Suzuki, but global warming where are you?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

cool views on winter

before we entered the net
and could watch digital tv,
winter's snow and ice
were great things, and free

it's still true today
with kids out at play,
there are no winter complaints
except shortness of day

now it causes heaps of wrangle
tied tightly to the age of our angle,
clothes aplenty, keeping dry
can simply limit winter's tangle

like kids seeking a winter thrill
ways exist to cool the chill,
a brisk beauty to be seen,
as more than just sliding down hill

Friday, November 27, 2009

FreE-Learning Music

Life is an information highway and I want to ride it all night long.

A little twist on Tom Cochrane's hit song Life is a Highway, which can be found in many forms on the net. See Tom or others cover it, find the lyrics, or learn to play it yourself by finding the chords and tablature (tab). You may already have a good ear for figuring out music, but if you need help, tablature and chord charts are everywhere online.

The world is definitely smaller now as people meet at popular web spots, viewing each other, commenting, and learning from each other. At You Tube itself you can find practically any song being covered, and many people make actual lessons, though often amateurish videoing, slowing down their picking or chord pattern to teach you how to play a version of your favorite song. The quality of the instruction varies greatly, but people are still happy to share the way they know how to play a tune, see a sample below.

You can learn individual notes on a guitar fretboard for example, through tab. Depending on the song complexity, each note, chord, and techniques are graphically outlined, showing where to play what note, as in the the image above (tabs are often posted by not necessarily professional musicians, and therefore, there may be an incorrect note or chord, or song credit, as in the graphic above).

Tab has been around for at least a dozen years, and song tablature is easy to find. Many people have a good ear for music, but if there is one song you just cannot quite get, or just missing a key chord or note, check out some tab sites.
Here are a couple to find the song you want to learn:
Ultimate Guitar Tabs
Guitar Tab

If you just prefer to see the video, just do a search for the song, artist or band, and include "lesson", "tab", or "cover" for example. Keep in mind that there are many different interpretations of songs, and they do not all sounds exactly the very same as the original recording. Below is a lesson on how to play the Jimi Hendrix classic Purple Haze. The video includes the person's explaining where he placed his fingers, on what fret, and there is a fret note graphic that sometimes appears to show the tab notes of what he just explained.

For a nice full version of Jimi's tune, check out a version by a great guitar player called Buddy Clontz right here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K1T8MSAerg

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rock and Rolling

Perhaps years of challenging waves
transforms the younger rock into the polished, solid boulders,
that endures, passing from generation to generation,
the knowledge of long term vision under pressure,
standing strong amidst the ebb and flow of pounding currents.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dwindling Family Size Causing Transplant Donor Shortage

Blood cancers like leukemia can be treated and possibly cured through bone marrow or stem cell transplants, but because of smaller family size, the number of sibling donors are declining, and so are the chances of patient survival. If you have leukemia for example, there is a 25% chance that a sibling will be a good enough genetic match to pursue the transplant treatment. The larger the family, the better the odds. However, family size is dwindling, and the chances of a patient getting a family match will be half of what it was only some years ago.

Transplants can save lives, though different hospitals/doctors put the success rate at anywhere between 40-75% or more. The transplant process itself is very risky for the patient, can be an 15% chance of not making it, due to infections on a wiped out immune system. Some transplants are very successful, and return many people back to their normal lives, and others have side effects (graft versus host disease), sometimes life altering follow up problems, while others just do not make it at all.

But the chances of surviving with a transplant is much greater than just from chemo and radiation alone. And, ideally the donor would be a family member, male donors for male recipients preferably too. But with smaller families comes more risks. The other hope is to receive a transplant from an outside donor, and that can save lives too. Sometimes the risks are higher for graft versus host disease complications, but other times, it works well.

So if you are ever inclined to feel like saving a life by being a possible bone marrow or stem cell donor, check out OneMatch to sign up as a donor.
p.s. Many thanks to blood donors for saving thousands of lives each year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

FIFA Handily Raises Ire in Ireland

The Olympics of soccer, the World Cup takes place in South Africa next year. Like the Olympics, only the best in the world will compete, in this case, it comes down to 32 countries. So qualifying to squeeze into the coveted 32 has been taking place this year, and a few days ago, two top European teams battled it out for that spot. Unfortunately, FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, has been very rigid in playoff competition, so much so that an obvious handball, which is illegal in soccer, was allowed to pass, when it assisted a game winning goal, and one country's loss.

The unfortunate team was Ireland, and the victor was France. The unfortunate player at the centre of Ireland's ire was Henry Thierry. He is seen in the photo. Thierry has not disputed unintentionally touching the ball, which was lobbed to another French player who easily booted it in the Irish net. In fact, Thierry has even called for a rematch, as did Ireland. But FIFA's decision was final. There were no instant video replays, only what the referee had seen, and judged on at the time. This is FIFA's rule. However, incorrect the ref's decision, or however out of his eyesight the play had been, does not matter, only his immediate decision.

This does not seem like a fair call at a game with such high level stakes, and for an obvious goal based on a handball. It certainly left many Thierry-eyed fans on both teams.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seal of Approval at Parliamentary Restaurant

It's about time. Seal will be to added to the menu along with other harvested animals on the menu at the parliamentary hill restaurant. What was good for the Governor General is good for the rest of the flock of MPs it appears. They'll be getting not just protein but also a supply of healthy omega-3 fats which will help those hearts, which have to fight the stresses of public service. I've had seal flipper once, and it was good, but the delicacy was not an accessible food from my original part of the province, so did not really get into it. Just wondering how it will be prepared to serve. Anyway, bon appétit members of parliament.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ontario's Big Mac Tax Axe

Ontario will be exempting fast food under $4.00 from 8% of it's 13% HST coming up next July.
The exemptions announced Thursday on food or beverages heated for consumption, salads, sandwiches; platters of cheese, cold cuts, fruit and vegetables will cost the province $325 million in revenue, Duncan said, but the plan will more than pay for itself in jobs created and by expanding the tax base overall.
There are a couple of quirky things about this, from two angles. First of all, health care needs less strain on it, rather than having more obesity, heart, stroke and other problems associated with over consumption of garbage food, that cheaper junk may assist in doing. Second, a customer might buy individual products like fries, or a drink, or a burger, separately for under $4.00 but if they buy a combo, then it goes over $4.00, and then all the same products now become taxed.

Food and beverages heated for consumption will presumably cover many junk foods burgers, fries, hot dogs, spam-type meat sandwiches, etc., so is that a step forward for society? Or, healthcare, which is a huge piece of a provincial budget? Making it easier to have future health problems seems to be part of Ontario's HST plan. Perhaps the 591,000 net new jobs over 10 years will include many more health professionals to help deal with a combo of health problems trash food contributes to.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Owed to the Fallen

to come and go as we please
the win without much ease
the odes we owe are eternal
to those who fought overseas

Photo from the NL Heritage web site.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mother Nature Going through the Change

The United States wins the "World Series" for the 104th time - Amazing!

Wow, a U.S. team has once again been proclaimed World Champions. The best in the whole wide world! Incredible. Even Lance Armstrong, winner of seven straight Tour de France tournaments, which is authentically a "world" series of bike races, is still blown away. What's behind all that winningness that makes them win the World Series pretty well always? Well, ok, Canada has a team since 1977, and they did win it twice, beating all the other nations in the World Series.

One country with many teams, plus Canada's one team makes for the title of "World Series"? Yes, that's so real. Why not "Baseball Night in America" and calling this the "Playoffs". Other baseball playing countries must get a chuckle out of this title. At least the World Cup (of soccer) actually involves many all the worlds best countries, and the best wins. This may be a long shot, but I'm willing to bet the United States will take the World Series again next year, they're that good.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Mousse on the road a big problem

This photo was sent in via blackberry of mousse sightings near Clarenville.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NL Vaccination Schedules for H1N1

Originally set to begin Nov.2, Eastern Health it is now beginning Friday, Oct. 30. for high-risk individuals. The clinic will be open on Fri., Sat., and Sun. Here is the official announcement from Eastern Health on this. Here are schedules for Immunization clinics across the province.

* Be sure to take along your MCP card.
** Also, remain cautious after the shot, as it takes 10-14 days for the vaccine to be fully effective.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine and Guillan-Barre syndrome

H1N1 is not the only thing that's gone viral these days. There's plenty of links and info about "H1N1 scams", and frightening write-ups, and videos about vaccine complications. This blog has also done some investigating H1N1, and the new vaccine released to help prevent it, and hope to clarify information on the H1N1 vaccine, and add perspective.

It is not a shocker that there is a great deal of confusion and/or doubt about the safety of the current vaccine being used for the H1N1 virus. After all it is new, and there has not been a long-term clinical study done in this country on it (though that is in progress and monitoring is taking places for any serious reaction to it)[H1N1 vaccine safety might be a follow-up post to this]. Part of the concern might be rooted a in a fear of getting GBS (Guillan-Barre syndrome - a neurological disorder) after being vaccinated.

In 1976, a small swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix in the U.S. sparked a national scare, and over 40 million vaccinations were delivered. One woman, Judy Roberts, was profiled on the popular show "60 Minutes". She attributed her condition to getting vaccinated, and so had others. The impact that stories of people affected by GBS, has frightened many people about taking the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and sparked questions about its safety. These fears should not, and have not been dismissed. Below is also a modest attempt to shine more light on it as well.

GBS is rare and happens in 1 out of a 100,000. From a read of the references below, it was assessed that during the 1976 experience, an additional 1 out of 100,000 showed symptoms of GBS. Officially, research has not concluded that the 1976 vaccine was directly linked to the cause of peoples' GBS. However, there was indeed an association. It should also be kept in mind that the flu itself can stimulate an immune system response which has been also associated with GBS.

From reading literature on this, and listening to national health specialists, this message comes through as well - that todays vaccine is more purified than that 33 years ago, and there remains only minimal risk of rare side effects (see sources and quotes below). Most of the side effects are swollen arm, redness, fever, or headache.

People will make up their own minds about getting the H1N1 vaccine, but it is good to know all the risks involved. The risk of getting a rare side effect is very small, while the risk of actually catching the H1N1 flu is growing by the day. Today on CBC Radio, Dr. Faith Stratton, NL's chief medical officer of health, said that it's likely that every community in the province has someone with the virus, even though it has yet to be diagnosed as such. Last week alone, there were 97 new cases, so it is spreading quickly, and the chances of getting infected are far greater than getting a rare disease as a side effect of the vaccine.

We are in the information age and thus can be more informed in our decisions. While it is not a complete zero risk if you get the vaccine, you will be greatly protected from the H1N1 flu. Keep in mind, that, especially if you are under 65 (those born before 1957 may have some immunity to it), you do not have any antibodies in your immune system to protect you from H1N1. We have seen mainly mild cases of the disease this year, but its second wave is now upon us and getting the vaccine will help stop its spread. In whatever decision you make, here's wishing you the best of health.

See links below of some references on H1N1 vaccine & GBS, including FAQs from Public Health Agency of Canada, WHO, and Centre for Disease Control

From the World Health Organization (WHO)

Q. How can a repeat of the 1976 swine flu vaccine complications (Guillain-Barré syndrome) experienced in the United States of America be avoided?

A. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an acute disorder of the nervous system. It sometimes develops following a variety of infections, including influenza. Studies suggest that seasonal influenza vaccines could sometimes be associated with an increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome on the order of one to two cases per million vaccinated persons. During the 1976 influenza vaccination campaign, about 10 persons per million vaccinated persons developed GBS which stopped the vaccination campaign and led to the withdrawal of the vaccine.

The reason why GBS developed in association with that specific vaccine has never been firmly established. The potential for the development of a similar risk with future vaccines can never be firmly excluded. However, the influenza A (H1N1) vaccine will be manufactured according to established standards and post marketing surveillance will be conducted to monitor potential development of any serious adverse events following administration of vaccine. Safety monitoring systems are an integral part of strategies for the implementation of the new pandemic influenza vaccines.
Public Health Agency of Canada (FAQs on H1N1)

Q How are you going to be monitoring for adverse reactions once the vaccine is in use? What sort of reactions would be of the most concern?

Once immunization begins, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will work with provinces and territories to produce weekly reports of all reported adverse events associated with the H1N1 flu vaccine.

This reporting will be done through two existing programs – the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization Reporting System (CAEFISS) and the Link goes to external site Immunization Monitoring Program-Active (IMPACT).

* Link goes to external site IMPACT is made up of a network of nurses who report on immunization adverse events observed at Canada’s major teaching hospitals; and

* CAEFISS is supported by healthcare professionals who report adverse events to their provincial/territorial public health offices, who share the information with PHAC.

Adverse events can happen with any vaccine, and we expect we will see primarily mild reactions to the H1N1 flu vaccine.

The monitoring for adverse effects from the H1N1 flu vaccine will be aggressive and tailored to seek out any potentially serious adverse events. Any serious events (including those that led to hospitalization or death) will be investigated.

Serious adverse events following immunization are rare. In any immunization campaign, from regular childhood vaccines to seasonal flu shots, the average reported rate of serious adverse events is about one for every 100,000 doses of vaccine distributed.

The majority of adverse events are minor reactions – like soreness at the injection site, or a slight fever – but sometimes, more serious events are reported. Serious adverse events are reactions that cause life-threatening illness, hospitalization, disability or death, like a severe allergic reaction, paralysis, or a seizure. These events are carefully investigated to determine if they are related to the vaccine directly, or if they were caused by an underlying health condition or some other reason.

Q. What is an adverse event?

A. An adverse event is any unwanted medical reaction following immunization.

The majority of adverse events are minor reactions – like soreness at the injection site, or a slight fever – but sometimes, more serious events are reported. Serious adverse events are reactions that cause life-threatening illness, hospitalization, disability or death, like a severe allergic reaction, paralysis, or a seizure. These events are carefully investigated to determine if they are related to the vaccine directly, or if they were caused by an underlying health condition or some other reason.

Serious adverse events following immunization are rare. In any immunization campaign, from regular childhood vaccines to seasonal flu shots, the average reported rate of serious adverse events is about one case for every 100,000 doses distributed.

Careful monitoring and prompt reporting of any adverse event after immunization are an essential part of the Government of Canada's commitment to providing a safe and effective vaccine. Reporting an adverse event does not mean that the vaccine caused harm. Careful investigation is needed to determine if the events are linked or if they are coincidental.

If there is ever an indication that a vaccine, or a specific batch or lot of vaccine, is harmful to the general population, the Government of Canada has systems in place to quickly and effectively stop or alter immunization programs.
Globe and Mail
Here's a part that many are concerned about, GBS associated with swine flu vaccination:

Q: Should I be concerned about GBS? Also why can children under 6 months not get the vaccine for H1N1?

A: GBS (Guillan Barre syndrome) was associated with the swine flu vaccine in 1976 and never since. An association does not mean that it was caused by the vaccine, only that they were associated (like saying that umbrellas are associated with rain, doesn't mean they cause rain). The association that year was a possible increase of 1 case per 100 000 people vaccinated. Please note:

1. that is pretty small;
2. the risk of getting GBS from having natural flu infection is greater than that;
3. the risk of serious complications from the flu is much greater than that; and
4. Most cases of GBS are actually caused by infections including food poisoning.

So GBS, like the adjuvant and thimerosol, are red herrings.

Will there be a possibility of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) cases following the 2009 H1N1 vaccine? (Centre for Disease Control)

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. It is not fully understood why some people develop GBS, but it is believed that stimulation of the body’s immune system may play a role in its development. Infection with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni, which can cause diarrhea, is one of the most common risk factors for GBS. People can also develop GBS after having the flu or other infections (such as cytomegalovirus and Epstein Barr virus). On very rare occasions, they may develop GBS in the days or weeks following receiving a vaccination.

In 1976, there was a small risk of GBS following influenza (swine flu) vaccination (approximately 1 additional case per 100,000 people who received the swine flu vaccine). That number of GBS cases was slightly higher than what is normally seen in the population, whether or not people were vaccinated. Since then, numerous studies have been done to evaluate if other flu vaccines were associated with GBS. In most studies, no association was found, but two studies suggested that approximately 1 additional person out of 1 million vaccinated people may be at risk for GBS associated with the seasonal influenza vaccine. FDA and CDC will be closely monitoring reports of serious problems following the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines, including GBS.

Dr. Donald Low, a leading Canadian Microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, was interviewed on CBC Sunday, Oct. 25, and responded directly to the questions about GBS risk, and the current H1N1 vaccine. He said that the vaccine has been tested, is safe, and that he was aware of the 1976 swine flu and claims of GBS being associated with the vaccine. He said that it has not been proven that the vaccine caused GBS.
Other references

Dangers of the Swine Flu Vaccine: A Conspiracy Theory?
Anti-vaccination groups have been blazing blogs with dire warnings against the vaccine and twitter is chuck-full with dubious claims of conspiracy theories. Claims range from the vaccine causing neurological disorders to reduced fertility to cancer. The problem is that this fear mongering may possibly cause more harm than the virus alone could ever do.


To start off, it is important to point out that the fear of a flu vaccine may not be totally baseless. In 1976, there was a similar outbreak of swine flu in Fort Dix in New Jersey that killed one US soldier. As everyone panicked in fear of a new flu pandemic, president Gerald Ford ordered mass vaccination. The threat turned out to be exaggerated and the virus never spread from Fort Dix. However, 22 million Americans were vaccinated.

This was followed by a spike in reported cases of a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) which led to the death of two dozen people. The flu vaccine was blamed for this and an investigation was put together whose final verdict was that there is no conclusive data whether the spread was related to the vaccine or not.

The remaining shots were destroyed and a lot of people were left distrustful of vaccines after this incident. This has caused several problems, including a sharp increase in measles in the US and UK because parents refuse to vaccinate their children out of fear of the vaccine.

Today, anti-vaccination groups are claiming that the H1N1 vaccines in the works will cause a similar increase in GBS cases, claiming vaccines are still causing the disorder all over the world.

"The vaccine is produced in fertilized eggs. This method has proven to be non-carcinogenic. Modern techniques may cause cancer, but these are not tested extensively yet so we don't use them"
But before acknowledging such a piece of information, one must look at the bigger picture. Normally, the prevalence of GBS is 1-4 in every 100,000 people around the world. "Vaccination causes an increase in the rate of GBS of no more than 1-2 persons per million," Dr. Mostafa Orkhan, director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) National Influenza Center for Egypt, told IslamOnline.net.

And it is also important to keep in mind that the flu itself may cause GBS. The 1976 case was indeed unfortunate, but health officials have much more experience now than they did back then. Clinical trials are underway right now to rule out an increase in GBS and national health systems will be on the lookout for any spikes.

"GBS takes six weeks before it can be detected. That is why the clinical trials are taking a long time. We are trying to rule out any increased susceptibility to GBS," said Orkhan.

2009 H1N1 Flu Vaccine Safety:
Frequently Asked Questions
(Public Health, Butte County, California)

Q. Is there a risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome from the H1N1 flu vaccine, as may have happened in the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak?

A In 1976, a swine flu vaccine was associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which a person’s immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. The risk was very small (about 1 additional case per 100,000 people who received the vaccine.) Vaccine production techniques have changed since then. Today, vaccines are highly purified to eliminate any potential contaminants. In addition, scientists use only selected viral proteins in the shots, not the entire virus, as they did in the 1970s. Scientists expect the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to have a safety profile similar to seasonal flu vaccines, which have very good safety track records.

----- Other posts related to H1N1 ------

  • "H1N1 - Are We Ready?" - Sept. 26
  • Women with Unborn Children First - Oct. 20
  • Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Community Loneliness and Social Change

    In at least one community that this blogger is aware of, where the population has steadily declined over the last 20 years, and more people are moving and staying away, there is another sad social consequence for some of those remaining. The average lifespan of men and women is also holding true, where there are more widows than widowers. It gets mentioned how lonely and lifeless times can be in the place, especially for seniors. It's been mentioned, that it is more difficult to find people to help "get things done."

    It is sad if a feeling of loneliness was caused, or partly due to a void in the human interaction they were accustomed to. If happiness and a positive reason to live positively affects health, then it is possible that a chronic state of lacking such, negatively affects health as well. It may not just be in terms of decreased contact with others, but also due to more physical demands like snow clearing, or repairs, for example. One wonders how this translates into lifestyle like use of medications, food habits, and a person's spirit, or level of contentment.

    This one community may be typical of others in the province where the out-migration, population declines, work demands, use of technology and technical distractions, and social attitudes, has brought social change which affected personal contentment. If anyone else has sensed a similar trend in a community they know of, please feel free to share in a comment.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    A piece of Pouch Cove

    The photo below is taken on part of the East Coast Trail with the community of Pouch Cove in the background. Some spots like this do not have safety rails so they are somewhat risky to pass by.

    Somewhere near the cliffs of Pouch Cove there was a heroic rescue in 1875. Alfred Moores had himself lowered down a cliff and rescued 11 people from a shipwreck. See plaque below.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    H1N1 Vaccine - Women with Unborn Children First

    Pregnant women are among the most at risk group for being infected with the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu. A bit of good news from Canada's Health Minister yesterday, that the vaccine is on route to the provinces and is expected to get formal approval for use later this week. Note: This is not mentioned on all sites or news reports about the H1N1 vaccine, but it can take two weeks for the vaccine to be fully protective, so while we are entering a second wave of H1N1, the sooner the better for vaccination.

    "We know that it takes about 10 to 14 days from the time someone's immunized until they're actually protected against the virus," said Dr. Katz. "So, adding a week is certainly a helpful thing." (Dr. Kevin Katz, medical director of infection prevention and control at North York General Hospital in Toronto.)

    Other higher risk groups according to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), that "those that need it most get it first" , are:
    • People under 65 with chronic health conditions
    • Pregnant women
    • Children 6 months to less than 5 years of age
    • Aboriginal peoples and people living in remote and isolated settings or communities
    • Health care workers involved in pandemic response or the delivery of essential health care services
    • Household contacts and care providers of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized or may not respond to vaccines
    • Populations otherwise identified as high risk

      Others who would benefit from immunization include:

    • Children 5 to 18 years of age
    • First responders
    • Poultry and swine workers
    • Adults 19 to 64 years of age
    • Adults 65 and older
    H1N1 is a pandemic, which means virtually no one has any immunity to it, and therefore, should be taken very seriously. There are people who still do not consider it anything more than a regular flu, judging by comments at news sites, or letters to paper editors. Here is a link from two weeks ago on how serious it is, and could become, and how we can reduce the risks of getting infected.

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Ocean Energy Making Waves

    We can obliterate a nation with nukes and technology, (and fossil fuel pollution), but we practically have not harnessed the eternal energy of the ocean for clean fuel. Well, there are ripples of promise happening. At Agucadoura, Portugal, a wave farm is generating electricity for 1500 homes. Britain has also gotten excited about the potential of wave energy. Here are some other developments are utilizing wave farm technologies. Britain is surrounded by an abundant resource, and so is Newfoundland - it seems like a renewable offshore resource, for shore.

    To hear and see the fury of incessant waves crushing and pushing on shore, one imagines some day that this energy will be converted to a zero-carbon energy. On a regular day, the tides are powerful enough to literally move shore boulders weighing hundreds of pounds. Today, the ocean showed its might with ten times more strength. In the picture below, winds created what looked like a giant spray plume from a fast jet boat, which shadowed the wave it rode, laterally making its way across the seascape.Australia will have at least one wave power prototype in operation this year. The particular system is called Ocean Energy Bionics, by BioPower Systems. It is just one design by one group. See others here.

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Thankfulness for where we live

    Happy thanksgiving folks. If you ever feel that there's little to be thankful for, then start with just the fact that you are alive, and while alive, with good enough health that is, you can enjoy life or make it better for yourself and others. Then, for further reasons, just flick on the news and be thankful that you do not live in war torn place, anti-democratic, violent places with little or no freedoms, places with inhumane brutality, corruption, hate and insane views on life. Though we live in a harsh climate in winter, we are spared tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, devastating floods and many other life-taking weather extremes. Though we are far from a perfect place, we do live in a relatively civilized place with many comforts. Enjoy what you have and best wishes to you.

    Thursday, October 01, 2009

    Paul White wants to take you Fishing for Reality

    Like his personal mentor, Skipper Bruce, Paul Michael White likes salmon fishing, and also likes to inspire people to do their best, and take charge of their own catch in life. Paul is a Newfoundland "Work-Life Balance Expert, Inspirational Speaker, Author, Nature Therapist and Life-Leadership Coach", and is officially launching the first NL self-help book, "Fishing for Reality" on Oct. 6. White is a motivational speaker who is based in Newfoundland but has given motivational talks to other Canadian cities.

    The book launch happens on Oct. 6, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, at the INCO Center, Memorial University of NL;
    Theatre Room IIC 2001

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    H1N1 - Are We Ready?

    Update Sept. 28: Again, this cannot be overemphasized, that we the public have to realize that hospital staff are already working at full capacity, but the demands on them, on equipment and medications will increase to critical levels. As a community rep on a local ethics committee, I attended some very informative meetings lately, and can say that we are looking at the demands of ICUs possibly doubling, while at the same time, medical staff could be cut in half due to infection and staff family illnesses. So it is up to us the public, and the Dept. of Health to emphasize the need to cover coughs, sneezes, stay clear of anyone sick, avoid touching food or our eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

    Although the H1N1 virus (or swine flu) is not the category 5 pandemic of 1918 which took 20 million lives, it is a very serious cause for concern right now. H1N1 should NOT be taken for granted as just another flu bug, because it is not! Being a pandemic means that there is practically no immunity to this virus for anyone and it is potentially fatal. People born prior to 1958 may have been exposed to the virus and have a small level of antibodies for H1N1 - that was the last major "swine flu" outbreak. The earliest available vaccine is in November. Health care officials say there have been over 100 cases in Newfoundland by mid September, and a second wave is expected to roll in this fall and winter.

    Just over a week ago, there was a provincial ethics pandemic planning day given at the Health Science Centre. The information presented illustrated how dangerous the H1N1 virus is, and the potential new health crisis that can and may develop.

    One of the most anticipated and eye-opening sessions was a recap of the Winnipeg experience with H1N1 this year, which was presented at a Health Canada symposium on H1N1. Physicians and policy makers from across Canada attended, including local a intensive-care specialist. What they heard alarmed them. To say the least it was cause for a heightened level of concern.

    One message was that, unlike the seasonal flu, it is not primarily the very young and old who are getting seriously ill. 40% of patients requiring ICU treatment were between the age of 15-50. One of the presenters at the Health Canada conference, Dr. Arnand Kumar, reported that young, healthy people were "essentially struck down in the prime of their life" and the hospitals were filled with "rows and rows" of patients in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

    A typical patient, who had been completely healthy, quickly became symptomatic, and required hospitalization. At the peak of the outbreak, Winnipeg's ICUs were beyond capacity, and near breaking points. The equipment and medications required to deal with infections caused by H1N1 were huge. One particular drug supply, which would normally last one year, was used up in 6 weeks. As well, there was a 25% increase in flu-related absenteeism among health care workers themselves.

    Young people and aboriginal groups were disproportionately attacked by the H1N1 virus. In fact, 17% of the H1N1 hospital cases were First Nations peoples. Let’s hope that the Federal Government’s special communication initiative, announced Saturday, will adequately inform Aboriginal groups everywhere. Other at risks groups include pregnant women and the chronically ill who had higher rates of ICU admissions and deaths. Experts there warned that hospitals need to get ready for a surge of severely sick patients.

    Another related issue was raised at last week's information session as well - ICU's here are already at full capacity. We regularly hear media reports of cancelled surgeries due to a lack of Critical Care beds. So when there are more cases needing ICU care but we have exhausted the space, or staff or supplies, what's to be done? Who gets priority? What is the health care worker's duty to care when they might fear becoming infected themselves? These are real issues with no easy answers at a rare time in disease history.

    It is useful to learn from the H1N1 experience of another province so we can better prepare for what may lie ahead in this province. H1N1 is coming again this season but does not necessarily have to be a severe crisis that will paralyze our health care system. It is up to each and every one of us to do our part to reduce the risk of becoming infected and infecting others.

    So are we ready in Newfoundland and Labrador? As a citizen I will keep these three public health goals in mind:

    1. Delay transmission and lessen outbreak peak
    2. Decrease burden on healthcare infrastructure, and
    3. Reduce the number of cases

    To be part of the solution, wash your hands well and often. Cover coughs and sneezes so others don't have to run for cover. Cough and sneeze into your sleeve or tissue, not your hand. Do not put unwashed hands to your eyes, nose or mouth, or touch food. Avoid close contact if someone is sick, and avoid others if you are sick yourself. Gargle three times a day, even with just water, as this helps eliminate the virus from the throat. These habits will protect you and also minimize possibly spreading a virus to anyone else.

    What also ought to be spreading though, is not just communications and information about how to protect ourselves, but hospital plans for health care workers who could run into equipment, drug or space shortages. This concern was expressed at last week’s conference on pandemic planning, and needs to be addressed for front line health care workers.

    In the event of illness, individuals need to have plans as well. We can borrow a habit that's also spreading across the world, given the name the "buddy system". Actually it is common sense – if you’re sick, just identify someone to get your meds for example, keep in touch, help look after their needs. But we can extend it a bit to remind friends and family to wash their hands after arriving from anywhere, after touching door handles, etc., to educate people who are still not aware of how flus are transmitted, to communicate to isolated groups or individuals.

    This H1N1 pandemic is a rare experience that a society has to deal with. It happens only several times a century. At times like this, do not be surprised to see masks worn by people to reduce their risks of catching or spreading flu viruses. We could even adjust as a society to avoiding the good old handshake for a while, whether it's at work, a party, or at church – surely we can forgive the social faux pas for now.

    As one member of the Ethics committee put it, "no one can protect all of us from H1N1 better than ourselves." Again, the impact of H1N1 can be mild if we work together, by simply doing our own part.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Brad Gushue and Team NL are On Fire lately

    They beat the best in Canada to win a circuit tournament (Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville, On) today. This is their second major win in a week. Well done guys!

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Congrats to NL Curling Team on Winning Baden Masters

    Team Newfoundland & Labrador has won gold at a curling meet in Baden, Switzerland. Teams from eight countries participated including Randy Ferbey, who won it last year. This has to give Brad Gushue and the team (Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Jamie Korab) a confidence boost leading up to Olympic qualifying later this year. They won the same competition in 2007 as well. Good going guys, and best wishes throughout the season.

    Friday, September 04, 2009

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Could you Stomach an Annual Federal Election?

    Liberal leader Mike Ignatieff is throwing his election feelers out there to see if Canadians are willing to do what we did last year, vote again. Come on now Iggie, is this really necessary? Sure, you are at an age where every year is particularly precious pertaining to Prime Ministerial popularity, but really, is the sky actually falling for Canadians right now? This would make it the 3rd election in 4 years! Look, if your ideas are so much better Iggie, and you have a willingness to make Canada a better place, then can't you find a way to persuade Harper to use them without costing our country another $280 million for an election? If it's your idea that works, the historians will give you credit, one would hope.

    Well, believe it or not folks, there could possibly be another fed election by Nov. 9 or 16th. In a time of recession where Canada is weathering the downturn okay, the curiosity of how Mr. Ignatieff would do as Prime Minister is not enough right now to justify setting Canadians back an amount approaching $300 million. You have the floor Mr. Opposition leader, and a unique level of influence. Become the best Opposition leader ever, and spare us an election.

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    H1N1/Swine Flu Virus Could Cause 90,000 Deaths in U.S.

    People should not panic but they should be concerned.

    An American Science report states that an expected outbreak in September could infect from 30-50% of the U.S. population by fall and winter. It is plausible that up to 90,000 people will die as a result. Vaccines are currently being developed but may not be available till mid-October there, and NL's immunization program won't start till November. People die from seasonal flu each year. In the States it's around 40,000, but the H1N1/Swine Flu virus could more than double that number by itself.

    Here, the Newfoundland & Labrador government is launching an infection prevention campaign aimed at kids to keep hands clean. Spreading preventative measures is good medicine. Of course there will be some detractors but one should not be presumptuous about peoples' knowledge and practices regarding hand washing. Busy kids at school and play, easily spread and catch bugs, and schools can be higher risk environments - close proximities, and physical contact. Many people in general Do Not wash their hands before meals, or after bathroom, sneezing, or whatever. Sometimes by a handshake you know that soap and water has not seen that hand in the last 12-24 hours. So the more that hand washing and other healthy habits are repeated, the better.

    Here are a few more preventative tips to avoid flus:

  • Avoid touching door handles where possible. Either use your arm or elbow to push down on handles, or use your sleeve to touch handles or turn knobs.

  • Use public sanitizers on walls to disinfect your hands

  • Bring along your own sani-wipes, hand-wash/sanitizer, on your person or in vehicle.

  • Avoid people who are showing symptoms of flu.

  • Avoid touching your hands to your mouth, nose, eyes, face unless you have washed your hands.

  • As soon as you return home, immediately wash your hands for at least 30 seconds.

  • Do not touch food unless your hands are clean.

  • Public places like schools, college, MUN, restaurants, hospitals, clinics, anywhere there are door knobs, handles, should have knobs and handles disinfected each day several times - it's just another way to minimize the risk of picking something

  • and of course, the usual - Cover sneezes/coughs. It's common sense, but being a patient with a zero immune system several times, bad habits stand out more. One time a nurse in the same room sneezed a few feet away without covering.. not a good thing when your defenses are gone.

    If deaths attributed to the H1N1/Swine flu virus can more than double the number of seasonal deaths in the U.S. there is no reason not to possibly see the same proportion happening in Canadian provinces.

    Also see posts on Preventative health and future health care
  • Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Going Blue

    Trying to keep up with someone who has 80 years berry picking experience is a tiring task.
    We hit the jackpot today though, picked three buckets of the tasty organic, antioxidants (as the older generation liked to call them). After two hours, and thirty minutes of bending, trudging, and picking, the neck and back of this blogger's frame will need all the anti-aging nutrients in the woods. Oh well, will do blueberry stretches before the next trip.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Too Much Computer Use and Dreaming of the Queen

    I am from the generation who at first was scared to turn on a computer for fear of breaking it. Like most, it's become a daily tool, and I have even learned to use it to earn a living. However, I am realizing that too much of my life revolves around the computer. Last night I received a subconscious hint that this was the case.

    The wacky sequences of some dreams must be what it's like to experience heavy drug buzzes. One dream, not the wackiest, had me sitting next to God. He wore a white robe (or housecoat), grey-white beard I think - it was blurry, so hard to tell, didn't say much, but was probably wondering how I managed to get in. Last nights unpredictable imagery involved someone also powerful and mighty - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. And boy was she majestic - 20 feet tall in this dream.

    The scene was my old homestead of Rushoon, population 400, give or take 20. I was standing on the road outside my old home,  with other people, and when I turned around Her Majesty was standing tall and commanded notice. Being very into digital photography, this was a "must get" photo opportunity. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera, and that's when my daily computer rituals sparked an idea.

    Her Royal Highness was dressed in a brand spanking new ivory gown, tiara, a stylish pearl necklace - they looked real too, she must have went all out for these, and the shoes were not too shabby either. She told us it was all for a new official portrait, as yet unreleased. Hmm, this could be a scoop if I could just capture this image of her first. So, as Her Highness gazed down at her subjects, I decided to Right-Click my thumb on her dress. The idea was to make the Windows command box appear, and then click the Save As option, to save the image of the Queen to my computer, which was nowhere in sight.

    As I've done thousands of times before, I again right-clicked her dress using my right thumb as if right-clicking a mouse. But nothing was happening - no Windows fly-out box appeared anywhere in mid air or on the dress. In the meantime, QEII was a tad disgruntled, but controllably gracious towards me as I completely broke royal protocol. So, having not been successful at saving her image, I asked if an assistant could email me a .jpeg image of her, and with a  dismissive look and tone, she said a quick "I suppose so", and it was all over.

    When the dream ended, it was a wake up call. I realized it was time to ease off the computer use, and stop thinking in software terms about things. So,  more making friends in real life, not on Facebook, more chatting in real life not in Messenger, and cherishing more the presence of people in my life.

    I feel free again, like I've shaken off the computer shackles to live a simpler life away from a desk and the terminology. The dream has become my break from cyber imprisonment, like someone had given me an escape key, to control, alt and delete my habits, and shift to life outside the XP box. I am filled with gratitude for it, and intend to learn the words to "God Save As the Queen" very soon.
    Blogged with the Flock Browser

    Sunday, August 09, 2009

    Globe article featuring Rushoon

    A past blog post on Rushoon has been getting lots of hits in the past couple of years, and quite a few in the last several weeks, including a visit from the Globe and Mail. Many readers are aware that just a few days ago, the Globe did a story on Newfoundland & Labrador's workforce, economy, in/and out-migration. It featured Rushoon and people from the community, who migrate out west for work. For anyone interested here is the link to the Globe article.

    The author of the article was correct when writing that the money is/was good in Alberta, and the example of Anne Marie's salary was an excellent example. It's amazing how much one can make, or could make, as the Alberta 12 cylinder, four-barreled economic engine is not firing on all cylinders these days. Still, there are many people continually working out there, and going back and forth. This is going to continue for a long time to come. NL's coffers will have large deposits in years ahead, but there is no miracle going to happen for most outports, which have been steadily dwindling in population certainly since the early 1990's.

    For towns and communities on the outskirts of St. John's, there are tangible signs of prosperity. Many new and generously spacious homes are going up on the tip of the eastern Avalon. Maddox Cove, just 10-15 minutes from town, has a new subdivision underway. This is a small community that used to depend on the fishery for much of it's existence. It is somewhat unusual to see a batch of new homes being built in such a small, (and pretty) place.

    Oil, nickel, and other ores are mega resource industries, but one should not wait for it to happen around them. You are indeed your own best resource. We probably know ourselves best and cannot rely on others to determine how best to use our own specific talents, skills and creativity. Seek ways to make the best use of your personal abilities.

    Singer Bette Midler said to "cherish forever what makes you unique". That's so true and it needs to be emphasized more than ever in a place where there has been great reliance on resource based industries.

    Some words of advice on becoming successful, and independent are always a useful and handy motivator for anyone wondering what the future holds. Here are a few words of wisdom for people anywhere, any age, to consider:

    Studies indicate that the one quality all successful people have is persistence. They’re willing to spend more time accomplishing a task and to persevere in the face of many difficult odds. There’s a very positive relationship between people’s ability to accomplish any task and the time they’re willing to spend on it.
    Dr. Joyce

    Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great
    Mark Twain

    Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it will be spent.
    Carl Sandburg"

    For better or worse, you must play your own instrument in the orchestra of life.
    Dale Carnegie

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Pilot Control

    These are not the greatest quality shots but here's a pilot whale (aka, pothead whale) grocery hunting for caplin. The competition can only look on from above.

    About 80 feet or less from shore
    It was a good decision not to shoot from here.