Monthly Archives: July 2009

Horror Hotel: Travelodge Review

If you travel to it, it will lodge in you like a cancerous tumor.

My sister and I drove up to Edmonton, Alberta for my brother’s surprise birthday. My sister-in-law had paid for a room at the Travelodge on 45 Ave.  As we drove in we noticed the nearly empty parking lot and mounds of dirt. Okay they were renovating or changing the lot. We go in and it’s relatively small as “hotels” go though I would call it more a motel. A little pool right off the front desk.

We went to register and they found it right away. Good so far except then the guy asks how we are going to pay for the room. My sister said, It’s already paid for. She came in personally to pay for it. (We didn’t have a confirmation number but it was supposed to be more than confirmed.) The guy says there’s nothing here. He looks in the written book and it just has my name, no other information. We insist it’s been paid for and he says, there is nothing we can do.

As we’re standing there two guys come in from down the hall. One is wiry, bald, very long mustachios and a few tattoos. He’s already looking florid. He said something about paying for, and booking, the hotel online and how his friend (who had booked it)  was charged a month before they even got it. But the room they were given had air conditioning that wasn’t working (it’s 35 degrees Celsius in Edmonton right now). They’d shown him another room that was dingy and just as bad. In a livid rage he said he wanted his money back as the guy said, we can’t do that. There is nothing we can do.

We watch all this, now getting a true sense of Travelodge. As this guy rants the staff member goes, I’m senior management, there’s nothing we can do. It’s policy (like a broken record) which just makes this biker guy madder. He and and his friend say we’re going to post this on the internet. I’m not sure what eventually happened there as we were trying to deal with our problem. We can’t call my sister-in-law directly as this is supposed to be a surprise birthday for my brother. So I call my other brother but he’s enroute and can’t pass the message on.

So we reiterate that my sister-in-law came in Wednesday or Thursday in person and paid for the room. There is also a girl behind the desk and she says oh she would have booked the room by phone. But we say, maybe but she came in to pay. If she booked it by phone do you have a credit card number then? Can you check to see if she made a payment in her name? Then we get, we only use a credit card on the phone to hold a room. Well do you ever charge to it? No, we only hold a room. I ask, what happens if I don’t show up for my room then? Do you charge it? No, we never do that. Then why do you take the credit card as confirmation? You don’t understand, we only use it to hold the room. But if you actually never use it to charge for a room I could make up a number, couldn’t I?

Anyways, we go around like that for a bit with the supposedly “senior management” guy looking back through they payments made and saying there is nothing. There is nothing we can do. So my sister and I cart our luggage back to the car. It’s too early for the party so we just opening the car and trying to figure out what we can do when some other guy runs out and says oh they want to see you at the front desk. We had already been there for a half hour trying to sort this out. As we walk back in the girl comes out and says there has been a big misunderstanding that in fact yes, my sister-in-law had paid for the room and in fact the supposedly senior management guy had not read the deposit column. So, we do have a room but they had made no notation anywhere that it had been paid for or anything. I have to say the girl was apologetic. The other guy was arrogant and unhelpful and made the situation worse.

We walked down the dimly lit corridor with a well worn brown carpet. They were putting us on the first floor of a three floor hotel. We went into the hotel room, noticing the sagging beds, but got ready for the evening. There is a mirror in the bathroom and one full length one near the door. The outlet in the bathroom didn’t work for a flat-iron and there was no outlet near the other mirror. Other outlets were not flush to the wall, with plastered holes showing but not painted. The room was dim even with all the lights on (a desk lamp, a floor lamp and two bed lamps). My sister tried another outlet that didn’t work. Oh, and yes, there were ants in the bathroom. So on our way out we said, there are ants, the outlet doesn’t work in the bathroom nor in the room.

They were supposed to have fixed it but when we returned at 2:30 am there were over a dozen ants in the bathroom. Big ants. I flushed about ten down the drain, and we called them up. Instead of saying, sorry and coming to us and helping us move to another room, they made us pack up everything and come to the front desk so that we could then move to another room. Where it turned out the air conditioner barely put out slightly cool air through the night, the outlet in the bathroom didn’t work, another outlet in the wall didn’t work, the beds were uncomfortable and the pillows as lumpy as oatmeal. These rooms weren’t cheap and cost about $140 a night.

If Travelodge offered me a free week at their hotels I wouldn’t take it. The hotel was so rundown looking, the beds so bad (and the sheets were wrinkled and made us suspicious that they hadn’t been changed), the rooms so shabby that I haven’t stayed in something this bad since India. Their overall lack of customer service and sheer arrogance was offputting. And whether those guys who had booked through the internet and had read the info correctly or not, there are better ways to diffuse a situation than what these guys did. Be warned. I would consider this chain of hotels to be any better elsewhere.

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Will Your Kids Live in a Floating City?

I’m about to go on holidays and may be posting sporadically, so I bring you a little bit of history for the pre-dotcom days. This was first published in Technocopia.com in December of 1999 and I interviewed Mr. Nixon about his dream.

There’s a new city on the horizon and it is the floating community called the Freedom Ship.

Freedom Ship is the dreamboat of Norman L. Nixon, who has licenses to practice structural, electrical, sanitary and civil engineering. Nearly a mile long, wider than two football fields and rising twenty-five stories above water, it will be the first self-contained city that not only floats, but also will circumnavigate the world every two years. It will set into ports for the benefit of its residents and for tourists to come onboard and shop at duty-free stores.

Using new technology, Nixon’s plans for a pollution-free, energy efficient and safe ship beyond standard measures used on ships or in cities today. Freedom Ship’s website informs us that “As a sea-going commercial vessel, it will fly the flag of a specific country (to be determined at a later date), enjoy the protection of that country, and be subject to its laws and regulations, as well as to maritime law. In addition, its residents will be subject to the ship’s Rules and Regulations.”

If this is so, then how will Mr. Nixon promise the tax-free lifestyle that he advertises to businesses and residents? Surely whatever country the ship sails under will demand taxes from its residents–Colleen

Most cities evolve naturally, starting as small communities set up around some service or trade that grows as workers move in. Merchants and services then appear in proportion to the inhabitants’ needs. Freedom Ship will start from the ground up on all fronts. Built with every amenity and a wide variety of facilities, the four thousand businesses and seventeen thousand homeowners will find everything they need on board including:

  • A fleet of commuter aircraft and hydrofoils to ferry people to and from shore
  • Hangars, internal marina, repair and machine shops for private aircraft and boats
  • Residential space with (supposedly) fifty different styles available
  • A multi-language library, with computer and internet accesses
  • Schools from K-12 through college, emphasizing science, engineering, and medicine
  • A first-class hospital, with wide spectrum medical care and philosophies at “reasonable cost”
  • Domestic and home nursing personnel
  • Retail and wholesale shops, including bakeries and supermarkets
  • Over 140 acres of outside open space
  • Banks with currency exchange and fund transfers
  • Hotels for those wishing to vacation on the Freedom Ship
  • Restaurants, done in different cultural flavors
  • Entertainment facilities; movies, theaters, clubs, casinos
  • Offices
  • Warehouses
  • Light manufacturing and assembly enterprises
  • A wide array of recreational and athletic facilities
  • Electricity, satellite TV, and water
  • Internet connection and phone service at a very good rate. Free radio communication.

A great deal of money will be needed to construct the Freedom Ship–6 billion dollars’ worth. Although Nixon has some backers, it’s obvious that construction money will most likely be generated by the sale of the residential units. The promotional information stresses that there are no hidden costs and no taxes such as homeowners’ taxes. The sixteen different units listed on the website range in price from $138,000 for a 10’x30′ room with no kitchen to $7,178,600 for a 5100 square foot ocean view residence. That’s pretty pricey and though Mr. Nixon is quoted as saying average prices are $800,000 with some units going for as little as $24,000, none are listed on the site.

A 10’x30′ room is a small as the room I am currently writing in. And such a residence would not have a view of the ocean but of the hall or maybe the shopping mall.—Colleen

Even though there will be no property taxes, utility fees are said to “be only slightly more than USA rates,” and monthly maintenance fees “comparable to those of USA land-based luxury condominiums” are listed from $469 to $11,616. Few people who own a house or condominium pay monthly fees that would come close to these amounts. You could consider the benefit of the unending cruise to different ports of call as part of that price.

Some amenities will be included for that price such as no sales tax, spa and recreational facilities like jogging paths, open land and tennis courts (just like a regular city), twenty-four hour tram and railway system, and discounts on ship-operated stores like transportation and medical. As well, every shipboard resident will be given a credit card and billed monthly for purchase by the ship’s computer.

With such prices for residential units, Freedom Ship may be a resort city only for the rich. Yet there will be ample employment opportunities. Businesses can hire their own employees or use the ship’s “employee leasing services” where workers will be trained, given uniforms, access to the employee cafeteria, and room and board on the lower decks. One could say this sounds similar to Victorian England’s upper and lower classes with the servants kept separately, yet many people work on cruise ships today, living in similar situations, to make and save their money, and see the world.

Such a large ship or city will also need its own security force. A two thousand-strong security force will patrol the decks, do security checks as people board and be reinforced with an “electronic incursion-detection system.” Wayne Dawson of the Free Nation Foundation (a Libertarian think tank) questions whether “there has been any thought to dispute resolution or a court system.”

Building the Leviathan

The task of constructing a cohesive working city that will house fifty thousand residents, fifteen thousand employees and up to twenty-five thousand visitors is as monumental as the ship’s size. And none of the finer details will matter if the ship cannot withstand the rigors of the sea.

Originally Norman Nixon and his company Engineering Solutions, Sarasota, Florida, designed a modular ethylene plant in Japan, which was then towed to Saudi Arabia and the one hundred cells reassembled on site. From that technology, used for floating oil-drilling rigs, they looked at building an island city from the ground up for Hong Kong (which did not materialize). A backer then suggested building an island that could visit different countries.

Freedom Ship was born from that idea and six hundred airtight modules would allow the massive ship to float. Unlike cruise ships, the Freedom Ship is wider than it is tall and if the ninety-eight external modules were breached and flooded the ship’s draft would only increase by one foot, say the designers. As well, they say it would withstand force five hurricanes, be “impervious to lightning” and “virtually fireproof,” but there will still be an automatic sprinkler system.

Remember, like concrete buildings, it’s not the building that burns but what you put into it. After all, they said the Titanic was unsinkable too. —Colleen

Some architects and engineers are skeptical about the structural integrity because the floating city is five times larger than the largest cruise ship. Popular Mechanics points out that, “The Destiny displaces 100,000 tons of water. The largest vessel afloat, the supertanker Jahre Viking, displaces 564,739 tons. Freedom will displace 2.7 million tons.” (02/98) That’s an awful lot of water. But Nixon and his team of twenty-four engineers and consultants say it can be done and that a hundred-foot wave would only displace the ship by one inch.

Mr. Nixon hopes to confirm Puerto Castilla, Honduras as the construction site within the next couple of months. Freedom Ship will take forty months to build, with assembly to be done at sea because of its size, but it will set sail after twenty-eight months and the first four thousand units are built. Construction and interior detailing will be finished on the other decks over the last twelve months.

State of the art technology will be used to make the vessel safe and as environmentally friendly and non-polluting as possible. Some of the features are:

  • Use of high-tech incinerator toilets that eliminate sewage and sewage disposal.
  • Recycled gray water from washing into drinking water
  • Non-welded, bolt-up construction that eliminates pollution
  • Recycling of all glass, metal, paper and plastic
  • Clean burning of non-recyclable materials as fuel for steam and power generation
  • Energy recapture of engine exhaust, using a proprietary system
  • Environmentally clean and energy-efficient appliances
  • Water-based paints, natural fibers, and natural wood wherever possible
  • Minimization of plastic or other petroleum-base products capable of outgassing
  • Electrostatic filters in every unit and the hallways, eliminating airborne bacteria and viruses as well as dust and pollen
  • Using diesel instead of cheap marine fuel because it burns cleaner

Mr. Nixon isn’t the only one who has put thought into floating cities. Richard Morris of the Free Nation Foundation has looked at designing a man-made island that would be tax free, and able to be towed or pushed out of the path of oncoming storms. His company, Sea Structures, Inc., looks at floating structures as being more stable than those built on land and subject to tremors and earthquakes.

Raising the Titanic might be easier than building the Freedom Ship. However, Norman Nixon has already spent two years working on his vision and the scrupulous details. If contracts are approved on the Puerto Castilla site, construction could very well begin in the next few months. It will be an interesting experiment, if nothing else, to see not only if the world’s largest ship can be built, but whether a floating city can be constructed on the spot and support a viable commercial and residential life for its inhabitants.

Ten years after this article and it seems the Freedom Ship is nowhere near its launch though Nixon is trying to keep his dream alive.

More Information and Related Sites

Freedom Ship website http://www.freedomship.com

Dr. Eugene Tsui Architect design of floating cities books http://www.tdrinc.com/home.html

Popular Mechanics—illustration and short discussion on floating sea cities http://popularmechanics.com/popmech/sci/tech/9905TUOCAM.html

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Perspectives on the World

The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

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What Egalitarian Means

They called it Women’s Lib or Feminism. They called it Black Power. They called it Gay Pride. They  called it the Suffragette Movement. It has had many names but what it all boils down to is equal rights. Yes, equal rights, that every person, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or religion should have equal rights.

I realized a while back that I’m not really a feminist, and it’s too bad some people color that as a negative thing (misconstruing it with feminazis who are adamant, woman over the expense of others hard noses). I am an egalitarian. Whether I am that color, that race, that gender, it matters not. Everyone should have a fair chance.

Obviously, I was raised in a culture that alows women certain rights, that also has laws about human rights. In my lifetime those rights have changed, allowing in most places across Canada gay marriage, recognizing discrimination. It’s not perfect and there are still obvious cases of discrimination, racial profiling, bigotry and hate crimes. Otherwise we wouldn’t hear about these in the news.

I think everyone needs to be given a fair shake. Unfortunately, everyone is born into different circumstances. They may be in a country that lacks human rights, that treats women as chattel, that considers a race inferior, that has poverty, corruption and disease. They might be born into a family with too many kids and not enough money to feed them, into royalty, with physical or mental defects, into a loving family, a hateful neighborhood, a low populated farming population. They could be affected by war, drought, flooding, car accidents, rape, murder, economic collapse, disease, love, hate, generosity, prejudice, fear, etc. There are thousands of ways that each person begins a life without being on even footing with everyone else.

This does not mean that we should just accept this status quo, that it’s your lot in life and you should therefore accept it and not strive above your station. If that were the case, women would still not have the vote, black people would still be slaves in the US, Japanese would still be in interment camps in BC, royalty would still be ruling… Oh, right, we still have that. I am inherently against monarchies whether figureheads or leaders, because they did not attain their position through popular vote. They get to be “royal” and rich because they inherit the position. Sure, we the people might vote in a scoundrel (Bush comes to mind) but it is the bed we make ourselves (mostly, but not all in Bush’s case), not the bed we are shoved into.

Inheriting the family business is one thing but not if it’s nominative ruler of a country. In an election everyone  who runs should have a fair shake at winning. That’s being egalitarian. Of course we have examples of sham elections, fudged ballots such in Iran and with Mugabe’s tyranny in Zimbabwe or Bush’s suspect election in the US. When something becomes unfair as the rigged elections of these rulers, it really bothers me. It’s not fair, the rules for everyone having a “fair chance” are tossed out.

When it comes to subjugation of women and children, and in some places men as well, I cannot understand how someone could treat a person as inferior because they are of a different sex. We’re all human beings. We must work together to survive and because one sex bears the fruit of the race does not make them inferior. To keep someone subjugated means that they aren’t allowed to do things or make their own decisions, that they are possessions of another. There have slaves of various races and there are slaves of gender. No matter how you cut it, it is still slavery, one human owning another.

There are people that believe in religious freedom but only if it applies to them. They then think that “those people over there” need to be converted or are Satan’s minions or the infidel. They shouldn’t do it that way. To convert someone by sword or gun serves only to give lip service to a religion not build true faith. It would definitely backfire with me, for no matter what I said to preserve my life I would grow to hate and detest the “faith” that was trying to convert me. In essence, should a person’s faith require them to wear an icon, a seven-pointed hat, a tattooed forehead or robes with pink polka dots, it is up to them. They shouldn’t, no matter what they claim, have a faith that requires them to subjugate, beat, murder, rob or otherwise denigrate another human being. What has been done in the name of religion is inexcusable. Basic human rights is what it comes down to.

So yes, I’m an egalitarian to the bone. It is such a fundamental part of my being that it could never be removed. Am I perfect in my philosophy, free of judgment and prejudice in all things. No. Cultural and societal conditioning, moires and values can sway and color us. I too have to watch for attitudes sneaking in which could prejudice me against someone. Difference is sometimes a hard thing for people to accept.

A person should get the fairest chance at life. That means through skill and experience should someone get the job, not through age, or gender, or looks, or color or religion. It should be on what the best person can do. If that goes to a white guy fine. If it seems there are too many white guys and not enough women or people of color then don’t rig requirements for a job or admission into something by that criteria because it is reverse discrimination. Instead, make is possible for those people to attain better educations if they have come from limited circumstances, no matter who they are.

I know there are many connotations to fairness and that ethical equations come into play, sometimes protect a culture or a way of life. But to me the basic rule applies, do what you will, as long as it hurts no one else. And everyone should get a fair chance at life and all its aspects and not be limited due to how we were born.  Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad way to live my life, trying to consider the rights of others and working to make sure they get a fair shake.

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The Mind and Eating Disorders

I’ve talked before about the eating disorder I grew up with. It was always accompanied with self-loathing and vows to never binge again. Those vows were always broken. I felt I couldn’t remove myself completely from eating because we obviously need food to live. It wasn’t like alcoholism, I told myself, because you can remove yourself completely from alcohol. In many ways it was just like alcoholism.

One reason to eat all of something was instant gratification. The more my life sucked the more I could find instant pleasure in eating. I could not get enough of the taste. But then of course it was the catch-22 of hating myself for eating so much, feeling fat, sometimes gaining weight (though not always because I’d cut out most other foods), being hungry, eating sugars. Around and around and around.

When I finally sought help, I couldn’t go for counselling because it’s not covered by the health care system. But psychiatry is. Psychiatrists sort of counsel but they love to give out medications. I mentioned in my other post about the Prozac and then the Fenfluramine. Every week when I went in to see the psychiatrist he’d ask me how many times I had vomited. I would say, “Remember I’m the bulimic that doesn’t puke?” It didn’t give me much faith that he couldn’t note this in my chart or get it right.

We never talked about how I felt, why I couldn’t control my eating or why I had a bad body image. We talked about my writing, in the least likely way to relate to eating disorders. He told me, oh you’ll lose weight on these drugs. This psychiatrist specialized in eating disorders and had evening sessions at his home for people to talk about their experiences. I’d go and there would be a bunch of skeletal models and me, the bulimic, the fat one. It didn’t inspire me to feel like I wasn’t the only one with my problem. Instead I felt like the only weirdo amongst the weirdos. But still, all of those models knew at least one person who had died from anorexia. I didn’t. I think I only attended one of these meetings.

It’s said that people’s serotonin levels balance how much they eat. Too much and they eat little. To little and they eat a lot. I don’t believe my serotonin levels were out of whack to begin with but with the years of the disorder I do believe that they became unbalanced and that’s why I never felt full. I don’t know if this is accurate but it did seem to change. After about a year of taking the drugs and not losing a pound, of fruitless “counselling” and seeming to go nowhere, I quit the drugs and I quit the psychiatrist.

I did realize then that in fact my eating behavior had changed. I felt full when I ate. I could now have some chocolate in the house, or ice cream and not eat it all in one sitting. I still rarely keep these things in my place for fear of triggering the disorder but I can have them in small quantities now. When I’m depressed or unhappy there is still the urge to gorge but it’s more controllable. I feel less out of control and I can rule the food as opposed to it ruling me.

When people look at an overweight person and arrogantly say, She/he should just lose some weight, they need to understand it’s not an easy thing. True, dieting in and of itself takes time and isn’t easy but there are many factors than someone judging by looks alone can’t know. There could be genetic factors such as thyroid issues, metabolic such as a sluggish one or high cortisol factors, emotional factors such as past abuses, psychological such as phobias and blocks, and other external factors. One can’t know unless they’re in those person’s shoes. And even the person dealing with eating disorders and weight issues may not know. I’m not a medical professional so I can’t name all of the aspects that could affect a person’s weight but to gain or lose weight is not always as easy as just willing it.

The brain is a powerful tool and it can kill us. People with eating disorders struggle enough within themselves. Not one, whether thin or fat, wants to be that way. They either see themselves as fat when they’re not, or possibly thin when they’re not. However, an overweight person or a skinny person does not automatically mean an eating disorder. As I said, there are other factors and some people are naturally not in what we conceive of as the norm for body size, and some are happy where they are. But one thing is for sure, the more ridicule the person with a disorder receives the harder it is for them to get to a state of mental health.

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Sustainability and A Planet Out of Whack

We are talking more and more about sustainability, as an end to our oil resources is something almost calculable by now. As our living space will decrease with population growth and demands on usable water will increase. As our landfills overflow and seep toxic gunk into the groundwater.  As our land turns to dustbowls or swamps and arable land becomes scarce, as millions of cars belch fumes into the sky.

Right now fires are sweeping across BC, again, threatening people living in cities. In Westbank/Kelowna 11,000 people have been evacuated with another 6,000 on alert. This echoes the terrible, devastatingly traumatic fires that swept through parts of Australia earlier this year. Fires so intense and vicious that they caught people as they tried to get into their cars, that burned land to a cinder killing all living things, whether plant or animal, that stood upon the land. Australia faces the collapse of its wine industry, vines grown for years either burned to a crisp or without water to keep the crops going. Their cattle industry is also in danger. A whole country and continent without enough water.

This is not a new thing. Disasters and climatic devastation have happened throughout history but the ferocity and frequency are increasing as the planet warms and suffers under the onslaught of chemicals and fumes not meant to play with nature. The change in the planet probably began with the industrial revolution, once machines were chugging blue smoke into the sky and sluicing runoff into the streams. It began with the first car. And if we think about it, that was only about a hundred years ago. A tenth of a millennium and civilization has existed for at least twenty thousand years.

Think about it. We are exponentially increasing the danger to the planet and to ourselves, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. So just what is sustainability? Let’s look at defining it first, from Merriam Webster: 1: capable of being sustained 2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society> 

So that a resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Wow. Perhaps it’s easier to look at what is not sustainable than what is. What’s left over is what we have to work with. Let’s start with the biggest resource. Our planet. It is of a finite circumference with finite water and land. The world population is at 6.7 billion. It is expected to increase to 9 billion in 2040. That’s within a lot of our lifetimes. There will be less land to live on and the more building that happens takes away from land to grow upon. Water is already an issue in many places. What will it be like in thirty years?

This means no matter how much you love children, think they’re cute, want to be surrounded by bundles of joy or your religion has said, go forth and multiply, it is just not sustainable. Everyone can take personal responsibility and for every couple have one child. That will bring our population down. It will make the planet breathe a sigh of relief and continue a bit longer. Plagues, diseases and flus won’t spread like wildfire. And yes, businesses will have to restructure from the grow grow grow buy more mentality. But we’ll survive.

What is not sustainable is manufacturing more and cheaper cars, SUVs, Hummers and every gas guzzling monster. For sustainability they should be outlawed. And we see right now the glacial progress of moving to electric cars. Governments need to move faster on this and provide incentives to get people to change. More cars plug city thoroughfares and raise costs in maintenance, accident prevention and care. Fewer cars and bigger carpool systems will lessen the strain and road rage. Electric cars, bicycles, viable and cheap public transit will help alleviate both pollution and the sucking of the world’s limited oil and metal resources. Another unsustainable depleting resource.

Manufacturing that uses water needs to be looked at, if our water is becoming limited. Healthy, interactive systems of filtration need to be used to keep our water pure and reusable. We could end up like the people in the novel Dune, having to wear suits that recycle and sweat and urine into drinkable fluids over and over because the planet is desert. Water saving devices for taps, toilets and showers must be used. Education will help stem the tide there.

Building homes and offices, making paper all work on depleting trees. The forestry industry has been made responsible for replanting for quite a few years. But you can chop down more trees in a day than will grow in  a year. it takes years to get a big tree, centuries. Ripping out too many tress not only affects flora and fauna of an ecosystem but also affects the topsoil, the nutrients and the infrastructure of the land for both stability and water.

I could go on but every person as well as every company and government must take responsibility and look at what they use and how it’s reused or discarded. Everything from food to clothing. If we don’t start now, we should have started fifty years ago. And if you truly love children, start now and look at what you can do for sustainability because there could be no tomorrow.

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BC Liberals Slash Health Care

Just a month or so after our pitiful election where barely half of eligible people voted, Gordon Campbell’s true colors shine again. And his determined plan is to undermine our health care, make people suffer with their pains and illnesses and bring in privatized medicine. Ralph Klein pulled this same move in Alberta. At one time he had closed all lab/x-ray clinics in the city of Calgary except for two. My mother went one day for a blood test that she’s required to have monthly. She waited eight hours and then had to go back the next day. For a two minute blood test.

This way Ralph Klein could then say that the system was overloaded and the only way to deal with it was to open private clinics…because he had closed the clinics in the first place. As a military commander it would have been a good move. As a political leader he wielded as much power and thought he’d slide everything through. I don’t know all of what happened but I’m sure he did get in some privatization even if the private clinics have been under scrutiny. There are private clinics now in Alberta.

It was announced yesterday that the BC Coastal Health Authority (a fancy name for Ministry of Health) is going to reduce their administrative costs, which rippled through as being, elective surgeries will be cancelled, especially during the Olympics, in case there is an emergency. It’s obvious that the ministry should be renamed to the Ministry of Pain and Minister Kevin Falcon is babbling double speak to cover the fact that the government is hurting people.

First, to cancel elective surgeries during the Olympics makes no sense. There are many hospitals and to cancel before there is any medical emergency is just plain idiotic. But wait, we have a government health care system so it’s not like revenue is coming in. It’s just a way to save money at the expense of well-being and lives. Oh, and remember that big white elephant, the Olympics,which haven’t even happened yet? Yes, already losing money, already over budget, as if I didn’t know that back when they were lying to us about all the costs.  So guess how we’ll get some of the money to cover those costs. Cut out some health care.

Some might think I’m being overly dramatic when it comes to saying people’s lives are at risk. After all, it’s elective surgery. Well, let’s look at what elective means. It means it’s not life threatening, as in a heart attack, or cancer, or a burst appendix. Not immediately life threatening. But elective surgeries could cover cosmetic surgery for someone badly burned and scarred in a house fire, every knee, hip or shoulder surgery, and any other joint problem like carpal tunnel or a bust ankle.

What happens if you put off surgery on a hip or knee or shoulder? We already have super long waiting times (it could be a year to see a specialist and a year or more for surgery). The part of the body affected will change and pain will become chronic. Scar tissue can build up and bone can deteriorate further. On top of that, the person who is suffering might not be able to walk or move, could be in constant pain, unable to eat or sleep or work. Pain is an insidious thing and constant, unrelenting pain can lead people to suicide. For others, it will wear them down and cause other chronic problems.

In the long run, and long run it is, a person will end up with more health problems and require more health care the longer they must wait for a corrective surgery. I’ve seen some of this first hand with friends requiring surgeries. It’s extremely wearing on loved ones as well. So, by cutting costs now, it hurts people and the system later. But then that’s the shortsightedness of government, isn’t it? We fix today but don’t look into the future.

The worst (and as far as I’m concerned, criminal) part of this is that people will suffer and yes some will die earlier because the government plays politics with health. Should they just cut administrative costs, it could work. Maybe. But what happens if there isn’t enough staff to run a clinic or a hospital or to file X-rays and blood work properly? We’ll end up with cases like those in the East, where people were misdiagnosed or results weren’t followed up.

And then of course, the last statement yesterday was that perhaps they would have to look at more privatized medicare. Hello Gordon Campbell in Ralph Klein’s clothing. Cut back health services and then say, “Oh look, we don’t have enough. Of course we need private health.” Nice strategy but I see through it. Unfortunately the only thing I can do to stop this and make people aware is write this. (Not that anyone seems to care enough to vote, until it’s them waiting for surgery.) Oh, and I can stay healthy to try and avoid the ongoing slings and arrows of the Liberal government and the Ministry of Pain.

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Canadian SF Giant Dies

Phyllis Gotlieb left the mortal coil on July 14. She is probably not a name known to many in the world of speculative reading yet she was known by many writers. She was a steady writer; though not as prolific like Rob Sawyer or Charles de Lint, she was in her own way a pioneer in the field.

Judith Merril was known as the grandam of science fiction and Phyllis as the mother of Canadian SF. She began writing and publishing when there were fewer writers in the field altogether and very few women. Canada was a pipsqueak next to the US, yet Phyllis was making her mark. She was a founding member of SFWA, and the only Canadian at its time of inception in 1965.

Phyllis began writing when science fiction wasn’t as popular as it is now, but was a fan of the early pulps. She was known for her poetry and during a writing block in the 1950s her husband suggested she write science fiction. She sold her first novel Sunburst in 1964 and the Sunburst award is named after Phyllis’s book.

Phyllis was known for her no-nonsense, wry wit and intelligence. She was an active member of SF Canada and has been quoted as being instrumental in encouraging such young writers in their careers as Robert Sawyer, Cory Doctorow and Sandra Kasturi.

It’s no easy thing to be a writer in a country with a small population, be a woman, and be writing in a field that wasn’t very popular, yet Phyllis was pretty much the first Canadian speculative writer published and continued unabated, publishing her last novel in 2009. Her matter of fact Valentine’s poems to her husband Kelly were often amusing and hilarious. She gave insights that made one think deeper and longer about topics and sometimes cut straight to the chase without the sugary coating.

SF Canada will miss Phyllis greatly, and I’m glad that we had a chance last year to award her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her contribution to SF and Canadian writers will be felt for a very long time.

Condolences and memorial messages can be added here: http://www.benjaminsparkmemorialchapel.ca/MemorialBook.aspx?snum=125855&sid=134769

An Interview with Phyllis from Challenging Destiny: http://www.challengingdestiny.com/interviews/gotlieb.htm

CBC’: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2009/07/15/phyllis-gotlieb.html

The Sunburst Award: http://www.sunburstaward.org/

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Cats and Gods

Cats, we all know them. We love them or we hates them. There are those of us who love them, and that’s pretty much everyone on my block. My neighbor had a cat that died a year ago. He’s just got two new cats. I have one but used to have two. My other neighbor has four, two of which were the children of my cat when she was an unwed, teenage mom (also abandoned on the street). There used to be three of her children but one died. And my neighbor’s other two cats were street cats as well.

My landlady, the Mother Teresa of cats, has adopted so many homeless cats over time. Her two current cats were adopted from the street. One actually abandoned his first owner and the other was taken from his rough tom days on the street. We used to have a fish factory at the end of the street and there was always a bunch of feral cats living there. My landlady captured them, had them fixed and released them. She also still goes and feeds them every day.

Neighbors across the street and down the block have cats or have had them. There are two or three dogs but the cats outnumber them and the neighboring blocks have many cats as well. I also at one point, when I had my previous cat, had an interloper, a very pregnant, little tabby female. It turns out that she knew how to use my cat door and at that time I didn’t have one that looked. It seemed obvious to us that she was going to have the kittens in my place since I’d found her sleeping on my bed several times.

So we cleaned out the bottom of the closet and arranged some towels for the inevitable event. My landlady had laid out a little bed in the sink in the work shed but the cat studiously avoided it. And sure enough, I went away one weekend and when I came back, the cat had had kittens, seven of them on the seventh day of the seventh month. That’s a large litter for a cat. She also had chosen to have them, not on the lovely towel bed we had made for her in my bedroom closet, but in the den on a bunch of fabric I had stored.

With such an auspicious number of cats with the 777, I decided they all had to be named after gods. I named her Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, because giving birth to all those babies made her a deity. The only black kitten, a female was name Kali after the Hindu goddess. There was one tuxedo cat that was named after a Celtic god but I can’t remember which one, Cuchulain rings a bell but he was a hero not a god. There were four tabbies, two with brown noses that I named Freya and Loki and two males with pink noses that were named Zeus and Hermes. And there was one longhair tabby male. I can’t remember all the names but I covered the Norse, Greek, Celtic, Egyptian and Hindu pantheons with the names. I believe there was an Isis and Osiris in there.

The cats went off to different homes and I don’t think any of them kept their original names. The longhaired cat became Smokey because of the color of his fur. Hermes and Zeus became Starsky and Hutch. I guess they weren’t meant for godhood.

 But then my other cat came along, she whose children were adopted next door. At the time I just wanted to name her after a god but I had no special reason. She was petite, with bunny fur and big eyes. Aphrodite seemed to big a name for such a small cat so I named her Venus. She did, after motherhood, fill out into a matronly form. However, she became less aloof after my other cat died and did in fact prove that I’ve named her aptly. Any time anyone enters my house my cat flops over at their feet and splays her belly to be rubbed. She loves attention all the time and being pet, even in the wrong direction. She doesn’t care as long as it’s attention. But she hates and is jealous of other cats.

Cats have been around a very long time and domesticated by humans for millennia. However, they have not been domesticated as long as dogs, the first animal that humans domesticated. And one can argue the domestication of cats, who maintain their independence. Cats are definitely more agile with their paws than a dog is, and they can go in litter boxes, eliminating the need for a daily walking. They are also pretty resistant to training, which dogs are not.

Between that life of ease, the aloofness, the independent behaviors, it’s no wonder that they have been associated with godhood. Ancient Egyptians worshipped them and mummified them, just like humans. And I believe that it’s the Thai people who believe that nothing perfect can remain on Earth, because it would ascend to heaven. Therefore the cat’s tails are cut so that they aren’t perfect.

So is it any wonder we name cats after gods? I always say I’m coming back as a cat in my next life. It wouldn’t be so bad to be pampered. My neighbor now has two new cats and my landlady and I think he should give them godly names. They’re Persians so they definitely look regal. It’s fitting to give a cat a godly name, because it goes with their nature. If one named a dog after a god, that god would have to be goofy or obedient, not exactly the way we see deities. Hail, the noble pussycat. 🙂

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Red-Faced About Rosacea

rosacea, acne rosacea, skin problems, red skin

This is a moderate to severe case, where rosacea can permanently disfigure the skin. From clinicaladvisor.com

Just after I returned from my trip to Ireland in the fall of 2007 my eyes started turning pink. Not red, not high grade irritable but a little drier than before and evenly pink. I went to the doctor who gave me drops for allergies. Still pink. I went to the optometrist who saw nothing wrong. I went to the naturopathic clinic where they gave me different drops. Still pink. I repeated appointments with each of these people, ending up at the doctor’s again. So she sent me to an ophthalmologist.

The ophthalmologist took one look through her high-powered magnifying thingy and said, Have you heard of rosacea (pronounced rozaysha)? I had but knew little about it. What she told me was that the oil in my skin had changed consistency, becoming waxier and therefore collecting in the ducts of my eyes and irritating the eyeball.

This also meant that the oils on my skin, especially my face, neck and upper torso, was doing the same thing. In the right light I can see the waxy build-up. I have to shampoo my eyelids every morning to keep the ducts clear. Washing my face and using lotion will help with the rosacea since washing dries out the skin.

Rosacea can cause red bumps, flushing, broken capillaries and in the severe cases, disfigurement. It also causes a rosacea acne, which is the red bumps. These aren’t really pimples in the traditional sense, but more like cysts. They can be itchy as well and asymmetrical in where they appear.

In reading up, I found out that if you have European ancestry, northern European or British/Irish, you are more susceptible to getting rosacea. The classic rosy cheeks is the first sign, or if a person easily flushes/blushes. I’ll get a heat flush that I can feel on my cheeks.

What causes it? Good question. Hormones can and once a woman goes through menopause it can go away. Another contributing factor seems to be foods with histamines. This is interesting because of the eczema I’ve been getting since my amoxycillin allergy and prednisone cure is also caused by histamines. It’s a progression into more severe forms of histamine reaction.

There are many things one is supposed to avoid with rosacea: wind, sun, cold, spices, alcohol, etc. Foods that have histamines can be a biggy: cheese, sour cream, yogurt, citrus fruit, liver, chocolate, vanilla, soy sauce, yeast extract (though bread is OK), vinegar, eggplant, avocados, spinach, broad-leafed beans and pods, and foods high in histamine or niacin. W.C. Fields’ classic red nose is the sign of a chronic drinker and of rosacea. And let’s see what I like: spicy foods and wine.

You’re not supposed to exercise either where strenuous workouts will increase your temperature. Talk about being a delicate flower. It’s completely annoying and who knows if it was ever only eczema or a progression through subtle stages of rosacea. So yes, I’ve cut down on the aggravating foods though I have a fridge door full of hot sauces. But I haven’t cut down on exercise, though I try to have a fan on me. I can’t say how frustrating this is, eating bland foods, cutting out chocolate, etc. etc. Makes me pout.

There is a rosacea organization and the disease (if that’s the right word for it) is more common than I thought. http://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/coping/tripwires.php I have lost the good skin I used to have though I can get it back if I’m completely vigilant. It’s better in summer too, when the weather is warmer (but not hot) and the waxiness shows less. Rosacea is common enough that there are lotions and even makeups made for the condition. I’ve tried some and found they don’t do much difference than cleansing with a gentle cleanser and using a good lotion. Sunblocks become necessary as well.

I often have red splotches on my cheeks or neck, or the acne red bumps. It’s getting better and I’m trying a lot of diet related stuff at the moment. If this works, even if it doesn’t, I’ll write about it. Because, besides the rosacea, all the trigger foods are now becoming full blown allergens for me and I do blame prednisone for that. I want to have more flavors to taste, not less.

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