Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suburban Mayhem

This movie is genius.

The movie should be required viewing for all judges and juries. It's would make an ideal case study for any psychologists or psychiatrists with the question, "and what would you do differently".

It's an Australian production that could never have been made in America because quite frankly it could well be a metaphor for America. Winnipeg's Guess Who wrote the song banned throughout the US, America Woman. It was just this kind of woman the song was about.

Katrina is a clinically accurate portrait of the true female psychopath. Her sociopathic brother ends up in jail because the 'system' can deal with men but is wholly incapable of dealing with the new age female version of an ancient and most endearing mask of the devil. The movie shows just why the 'system' fails when it comes to women but it in no way enlightens us as to how things could be handled differently. With a docu drama twist, it is a truly violent action flick that turns into a witchy horror film. Like watching a snake dance I couldn't keep track of all the moves and didn't see the strikes coming when they did. That's the genius of writer and director. The acting is all superb.

The women and men in the movie are unable to deal with Katrina's sexual manipulations. A regular blue collar Cleopatra she demonstrates well how women can use sex and proxy violence for social terrorism. The movie captures the Eva Braun Syndrome to a tee. Absolutely a must see.

Writer: Alice Bell (only a woman could have the balls to write this!)

Director: Paul Goldman

Katrina: Actress Emily Barclay

Monty, 90 years old

"I want you to meet Monty," she told me. "He's been my mentor for as long as I can remember. He's in town visiting from Quadra Island."

My friend is an Aboriginal minister with the Anglican church. She didn't know I knew Monty. I'd met him years before talking about planes. He was a radioman and gunner in WWII. 19 flights over Germany, I think he told me. I told him my Dad had been in the Lancaster and he said he'd flown in the Halifax.

He'd been coming to the Dug Out AA meeting long before I had. I'd been going nearly a decade. We shared the deaths of the kind hearts like Chris and Margaret. It's a quiet place where I've come to know Lyle and Al, Christy, Jan, Ed, Sally, Herb, Ron,Nancy, Archie and so many more. Monty was always a voice of inspiration and wise with laughter.

We shared our plans by text messaging. Arriving in from a week of sailing, I needed to go to church and told her I was going to Christ Church, then to the Dug Out and then to lunch. But today I was running late and decided to stop at St. James' Anglican Church. She'd told me she had to attend her vestry meeting at another church and we'd left it that. I'd meet her and Monty for lunch the following week.

Meanwhile my Roman Catholic friend, Laura, hadn't been to an Anglo-catholic High Mass service and getting to Christ Church across Vancouver during the Olympics might have made us even that much later.
So with attended St. James.

Father Mark Greenaway-Robbins shared in his sermon that "People look at me odd when I'm wearing my collar and when I mentioned this to my other priest associates they shared that they had the same experience. It wasn't that way in my previous parish where Christianity and priests were the norm. Here though Christians are in the minority and I think Christianity does best when it is…as a minority I have to reflect on what it is to be a Christian and consider seriously what Christ means to me….I even have to not take it for granted when I talk to other Christians that they will understand what I mean when I say the words sacrifice and grace.…When we're on top of the world it's easy not to think about Grace….but it's all Grace….all God's grace." And though I'm sure he said it better and my paraphrase is wholly unworthy of his much more profound message, that's what I came away with. And I liked it. Lent is that time of reflection.

And I was thinking about Grace after I left the service. How God, the unknown, the other, the mystery is the first principle and I am at best the second.

And there was Vivian, Monty and Vivian's dog Puta (I know that's not how it's spelt but he loves me regardless). They'd gone to Christ Church and heard Alistair's sermon. I explained how we were late and attended St. James. Since I've moved to North Vancouver St. James has by proximity become my default church too.

We entered the Dug Out together and were later joined by Al who when asked shared that it was his 29th year of sobriety, 'today…this day…though I'm taking my cake on the Friday." Monty then shared that it was his 90th birthday. He'd first got sober in the 1950's but didn't stay sober until a decade or so later. The 90 was his 'belly button' birthday. Otherwise he'd look even younger than he does.

Monty talked about Agape, that realization that there was something the same in you as in the other. This empathy he said was the realization of God in each other, the essence of spirituality. And he said, "that's what makes you care for each other." He shared that alcohol produced an artificial experience but that when you have the real experience you don't want to go back to the artificial. He told me later that Hell, theologically, "just means isolation".

I never knew Monty was an Anglican minister. "after the war and naziism all I thought about was God. When I met my wife I told her that and she said that was okay. We had 4 children and I'm very proud of them. We've loved each other a long time even if there's been times here and there when we haven't particularly liked each other. Loving some one doesn't mean I approve of their behavior. I certainly love my sons but there have been times when I haven't approved of their behavior."

Later we all had lunch together and Monty told me that he studied pastoral counseling and that the United Church minister, Taylor at UBC had been his mentor. "He taught me more about the Eucharist and Mass than the anglican's did. He'd been to India and come back to Canada and explained to me that we come to church to join in congregation and be filled with God so we can go out into the world and give it all away so we can come back again and get renourished. He told me too that when he was in India he'd been overwhelmed by how large the task was, so many hungry people then, and he realized that wasn't his job that was God's job. His job was just the small part of the whole that was facing him.... God's love is giving and as I've got older I've learned to see Jesus as my ideal man. I had lots of other ideal men when I was younger but now I really know Jesus as my ideal. It's all about sacrifice. That what love is." said Monty.

The blueberry pie was delicious. We were looking over the train yard at Coal Harbour. Canada had won the Olympic Men's Hockey Gold and there was shouting and horn honking in the streets.

He told me, "I know a lot of people down here because when I worked at the Central City Mission. It was pretty much just a shelter when I came there, but I set about turning it into a rehabilitation facility. It's what I believed in."

"And the way you don't get burnt out is that you look for the gift every individual you help brings you. Each person is individual and unique and each has something special that only they can share and they'll give that to you when you help them. That's God working in people."

Outside the honking and cheering were intense. Monty took out his hearing aids then, "You know there are advantages to getting older. " Now there was Grace.

All around us as we walked to the cars there was cheering. The cherry blossoms were in bloom. We hugged in parting. Four friends on a special day. Monty is 90 years old. "You know you're about the same age as my son," he said in parting. "My Dad is 91," I told him. "You're still pretty young."

"Hooray for Canada! Hooray!" a passer by called from his car, waving the red and white maple leaf flag.

Olympics Canada

There's a lot of shouting and horn honking in the streets today. Canada just won the men's hockey gold. That's a lot of Olympic Gold Medals for Canada. Whistler, Blackhomb and Vancouver are beautiful. British Columbia is beautiful and Canada is beautiful, too. It's good people have had an opportunity to experience this.
People here are talking about patriotism and national pride in a way they weren't a couple of weeks ago. There's a new found appreciation for excellence as well. It's a real inspiration for young people. "To dream the impossible dream!" A lot of dreams will have begun and been fueled here these last two weeks. That's good. That's really good.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ganges Harbour Cruising

The plan was to sail from Vancouver to Victoria. I set out to do that at Christmas, too. Then I stopped in Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island and used the excuse that my autopilot had fried and I had a leak in my engine salt water cooling system. After that I just cruised Ganges Harbour in my dinghy.

I didn't leave yesterday and the very pleasant wharfinger at Salt Spring Marina taking payment for another night said kindly, "I noticed you were still here." Sleeping in on a boat with the gentle rocking and the cats bum in one's face just goes against the "early start" continuing on to Victoria would have required. It wasn't until 2 pm yesterday that Laura and I had 'breakfast" at MOBY's. She had a healthy 'approved' chicken salad while I had more of MOBY's fries with a side of halibut.

I did a lot of lying around yesterday and completed reading Wilbur Smith's, A Leopard Hunts at Night. I really want to sail to Africa now. Africa is obviously the tourist destination of the 21st century when the tribes aren't eating each other. Malaysia seems equally exciting but the pirates there are forever kidnapping people and now that my mother's dead ,I'd not think anyone would pay to get me back if I went missing.

There are no pirates or kidnappers on Salt Spring Island unfortunately. Being held hostage here would be next best thing to visiting as a tourist.

I got the dinghy in the water yesterday which was a good thing because I could feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment that allowed me to go back to lying about eating pastry and drinking santa cruz ginger ale while shooing the cat off my face. She seems to think if I'm reading my face isn't being used so would make a great place for her to lie on.

This morning I wanted to run about in the dinghy. It was too late to cruise on to Victoria and because it was raining I just didn't feel like trolling a fishing line over to Bedwell Harbour. I've caught salmon many times between Salt Spring and the Pender Islands and rainy weather is the best fishing weather. That said, TreeHouse Café has great bennies.

Laura was excited by the idea of a dinghy ride. "I can wear my new Pioneer cruising wet gear. I've not worn it yet" She said. So we boarded the dinghy and with the power of the mighty Yamaha 4 hp cruised Ganges Harbour. Cruising Ganges Harbour is exciting and fulfilling without any risk of tsunamis, hurricanes or pirates.

The Treehouse Café has great eggs benedicts. They're brought to the table and we don't have to do dishes after the meal. Laura and I checked out our Facebooks while having coffee. We even talked some before the meal arrived. Then we chowed down in silent revelry. The bennies are really good.

After we checked out the Pegasus Gallery. What a terrific 'space'. Historical and Contemporary Art and Northwest Coastal Native Art. We loved it. There was a piece by the native sculptur whose work is highlighted at the Vancouver Airport. It only sold for $10,000. Cheap at the price. Almost Rodin but I confess, I turned to Laura and said, "I could get a Harley Davidson Electroglyde for that with a trade in of my own Harley". "But your Harley wouldn't be worth two or three times that in 5 years, would it?" said the curator. And yes, he was right but being a barbarian that's how my mind worked until he then told me about 'leasing' art and Canadian Tax write offs. Harley hasn't anything like that so he certainly had pigued my interest enough to say. "I'll be sure to discuss that with my accountant, Anil Aukluck."

The fact is that I bought a number of fine pieces of Canadian art which were great investments but I bought them back when the government wasn't squeezing the art community and had made it much more attractive to invest in Canadian culture. Today they only support the banks, giving us credit for buying RRSP's. It doesn't really matter, my investments to date have gone to divorce, another government supported industry.

Volume II Bookstore was next door to the Pegasus Gallery facing onto the government dock. I used to dock there and remember the dogs happy flights up to land from there. They peed on the rocks. They peed on the plants. They just loved peeing on non moving land after having only the moving water washed foredeck to pee on at sea. Having a stable poop after their sea going experiences was sheer dog heaven on Salt Spring. Then they'd wait patiently outside the bookstore while I browsed. Laura and I loved the bookstore and the owner. Naturally we walked out with a half dozen books between us.

We walked across town to the Salt Spring Island Coffee Shop. They have free internet connection here and we are still having chai latte's. The coffee shops on the island are all friendly, glad to have you hang out , sort of places, like Blenz' and Waves in the city, but more so. Laura's sister lives on Mayne Island, "When I visit there, if she's not at home, I just go over to the bakery because there's a tea shop there and that's where she's usually hanging out."

Don't know where the teen agers go. There aren't any malls and the island. I wonder if they stay home and do their homework or possibly find some other place to have pimples and hormones.

The pubs used to be the main island venue 20 years ago when I began cruising the West Coast in GIRI. I like the coffeeshops a whole lot more. I was a bar tender in London, England and my recollection of the neighbourhood pub was at it's best like these coffeeshops are all the time. At their worst, the pubs were always places with loud drunks and arguments. "Barfight" is an actual word given it's commonality. Hard to imagine a coffeehouse brawl, especially here at the Salt Spring Island Coffee Co.

Now we'll probably head back to the dinghy, buying some more diet coke and kitty litter on the way, the main reason for this expedition, then cruise Ganges Harbour some more before getting back to heavy reading and cat shooing. We'll probably work a shower into the day too having collected a veritable hoard of loonies for the metered water.

Tomorrow, we'll probably head back to Vancouver. I may even put up the sails after we leave Active Passage. It is a sailboat. Thankfully the dinghy doesn't have sails. No guilt there. It has oars though. I feel twinges of guilt about not using the oars. It would be healthier if I rowed. But you can't floss rowing and you could using the Yamaha 4 hp engine. That's something to think about.

I just read in the wash room graffiti, "Jesus died for our sins, so if you don't sin his death would be for nothing." Some days that logic has a certain kind of appeal. At least I own floss. Cruising Ganges Harbour might not be the same as the Vancouver Victoria round trip but it sure has a lazy laid back relaxing kind of appeal. This resting on one's laurels isn't such a bad thing. Like Oscar Wilde, "I can resist anything but temptation." Right now I'm plotting how I'll get back to the dinghy avoiding Harlan's Chocolates which is just around the corner. Someone ate the whole box last night. I think it was the cat.

Pegasus Gallery of Canadian Art, Salt Spring Island

The Pegasus Gallery of Canadian Art is a real find on Salt Spring Island. It's a truly wonderful 'space' that's so reminiscent of the Athropological Museum of BC. The only difference is that here you can actually buy the works. The prices ranged from $50 to $20,000. Our most famous and elder British Columbians work were there along with newest artist destined by their genius to similar fame. Works of First Nation carving going back a hundred years were juxtaposed with the art by the sons and daughters of the very same artists. Traditional and modern, there was fine craftsmanship in wood, silver, and bone with lovely paintings by contemporary islanders adorning the walls. Visually delightful, it was truly enhanced by the director whose love of the exhibits was as palpable as his appreciation of art as 'investment'. Ian Sigvaldason, the owner is a very special kind of artist himself in his showcasing of works and human talent.

Volume II Bookstore, Ganges

Volume II Bookstore in Ganges, Salt Spring Island is best described as a unique boutique bookstore. It's charm is in the selection. The owners are definitely erudite. One has the suspicion that they've read all that's in the store and only are selling their treasures so they can buy some more.

We chatted with this delightful woman who not only knew Natalie Goldberg's, Writing Down the Bone but as easily waxed poetic about the WestCoast Classic, "Curve of Time".

In Curve of Time,written in 1927, Muriel Wylie Blanchet, widowed, takes her 5 children in a 25 foot boat cruising the coastal waters of British Columbia. It was one of the books that so inspired my early years living aboard GIRI travelling in her wake.

A new book, Following the Curve of Time, has been written by Converse attempting to follow up on Blanchet's life. Naturally I compared this to Zen and Now, the Richardardson retrospective of the Pirsig's classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The beautiful grey haired bookseller lady following on our discussion of retrospectives, told us, "Martin Scorsese has done some amazing retrospectives that are aired occasionally on PBS. He did this one on Dylan showing Joan Biaz and him. They were just children then. I was in the 60's and it was only seeing these retrospectives that I realized how I'd grown older."

Betty Hill, the Volume II Bookstore owner knows the tastes of the customers offering a profound choice of all that a tourist or a local or a visiting Canadiana academic might want. William Deverell's books are showcased alongside organic island gardening treasures.

When I told her I was buying the Bernard Shaw play to read aloud with friends one night , she told me that "they have a group that does that on Salt Spring Island. In fact, they have a group for most everything literary on Salt Spring." That certainly reminded me of when I lived in Marin County, California.

Buying the latest Jack Higgins, "Rough Justice", naturally brought up the recent death of Dick Francis. "I think his son will continue his legacy. He co authored his last three books." She said.

"My husband and I read some of the same books and it's a race who gets to read them first." she shared when Laura told her that she and I were avid Harlan Coban fans. "

"Harlan's obviously having too much fun with royaltiesand not writing enough because of it," I said, "He's like my other of my favourite writer, William Gibson. They "owe" us more books and that makes a case for starving artists. Doystoevsky would never have written, The Gambler, were he not in debt himself."

The store and the owner, the books, the ambience, all conspired to make our visit there a truly pleasant "bookstore" experience.

Leaving I told Laura, "I've been coming here off and on now over 20 years. I used to dock on the pubic dock outside there and tie up my dog Shinto when I'd go inside." I remembered first Shinto and later Stuart's excursion up those docks and their waits outside the bookstore for me.

"I really liked that bookstore. It felt wholesome," Laura said as we walked across town to the Salt Spring Island coffeeshop. We could hardly wait for our chai latte's, wanting so much to take a 'peek' into our latest bookstore 'finds'.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ganges Harbour

I love Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island. I've been anchoring here for some 20 years. I've come over by every vehicle I've owned especially to enjoy the Farmer's Market on the weekend when the artisans bring out their wears. Taking the ferry over with the motorcycle has also been a favourite as it's allowed me to explore the interior, buying lamb and cheese from the farmers themselves. The island is famous for it's lamb but then increasingly it's famous for most of what it produces, an increasing variety each year. There's a real creativity here that has over the years attracted the finest of artists while maintaining the grass roots of the fishing farming community.

Alcoholics Anonymous annually holds a great round up here on Rainbow Road in August. Hundreds attend and it's been graced with superb weather for the camping and lamb roast.

We sailed down from Nanaimo with the intention of staying a night or two and going on to Victoria but just like my trip here at Christmas, I've been trapped once again. I love Salt Spring Marina. They have the best laundry facilities, showers, and right at the top of the dock is the best boat maintenance yard in the islands with a well stocked marine store. Laura loved the patisserie around the corner.

Moby's Marine Oyster Bar and pub have long been a favourite serving great halibut and terrific lamb burgers. When we arrived, Laura and I were happy with the scrumptious plain old burgers while the big screen tv played the Olympic hockey game.

We walked the 5 minute to town the next day and enjoyed veggie bennies at Treehouse Café. It serves breakfast till 4 and in the evening has folk and country music concerts. It's one of the real unique Salt Spring Island fares in summer when seats are set outside for people to enjoy the concerts while having coffees and cakes. The young people of Salt Spring Island are really talented not surprising given that Valdy is a regular here along with a group of other famous entertainers who have made Salt Spring home at one time or another.

Laura and I did well at Mouat's. She got gifts for her grandchildren , island clothing and toys. I love the country hardware store that has everything but all I could remember was needing propane for the coleman catalytic heaters. The weather was so warm that I almost forgot even them.

Then Sabines sucked us right in. It's one of BC's very best bookstores, both old and new but with sections for sea and history and canadiana that reflect the high level of education on the island. Readers too. I got away with only 4 books this time. Not bad given I've literally loaded my boat on other occasions.

Harlan's chocolates kind of creep out and whip your legs right out from under you. I was being dragged into the store by my tastebuds before I even knew it, $20 of chocolates jumping right into my bagged and then fuguelike finding myself out on the street again wondering how that happened.

Hand made soap was a must this time. Last time it was the honey candles. Coffee at Salt Spring Coffee when it rained then when it let up walking the short distance back to the boat for more reading.

Laura made the beef hotdogs we'd bought before leaving so we could use our whole wheat hot dog buns. Delicious with mustard and relish. My friend Alex makes the best "Grandmother's Recipe" home made mustard.

We watched another captivating episode of the intrigue science fiction series, Dead Zone and there was our friend and former neighbor, Blue Water Cruising Association member, Ken Taylor, the actor playing, of all things , a doctor. Lion's Gate Productions makes the series filmed in Vancouver and it's just great, especially when you see people you know and admire. Ken and Sharon wrote the funniest stories in Currents, the Blue Water Cruising Association journal, when they sailed In the Mood down to Mexico a few years back.

Today Laura and I have been reading. It was sunny so I put the dinghy in the water and got the 4 hp Yamaha outboard running. I imagine taking it over to town and maybe even running out into the harbor with a crab trap if I get really ambitious. I've decided Victoria seems too strenuous a trip compared to lying about in the GIRI with electric heat reading Wilbur Smith. I thought of fishing for salmon and may trolling over to Bedwell Harbour 10 miles away but it all seems a lot of effort. The Halibut and fries are calling too. Just a short walk up the dock to Moby's or a dinghy ride into town and I wouldn't have to even do dishes.

Now having blogged I'm faced with the monumental choices of what to do next, eat, sleep, read, or maybe play guitar. This sailing is tough going. Something about Ganges Harbour just saps the busy right out of a person. I'm beginning to lose the guilt even about lying about doing nothing. Next thing I'll start enjoying myself. Better get back to work soon. I don't think I can handle too much of this relaxation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Sailing Georgia Strait

We've just had spectacular weather for cruising. We departed from Coal Harbour, Vancouver, leaving the frenzy of the Olympic party scene, for the tranquility and beauty of cruising Georgia Strait. It was a magnificent Saturday with sunny skies and temperature in the 40's. No wind though. We just motored across Georgia Strait at the 5 knot cruising speed the 40 foot steel hulled 13 ton full keeled cutter rigged SV GIRI likes. Her 26 hp Yanmar engine just throbbed with the pleasure of passage.

In the morning I'd seen again the salt water cooling pump leak and remembered the one thing I had to do before cruising again. Jim Giesbrecht had completed the electrical repairs I needed. He'd also wired the new Electroscan sewage treatment plant,installed the new Wagner Autopilot pumpset, hooked up the stereo and put up a new antennae for the hamm radio. All that was stopping me from leaving was the leak so I phoned Land Sea (604-946 5996) the Yanmar parts dealer in nearby Delta. They have an emergency line and were kind enough to answer and confirm they had a new water pump in stock. For $150 they'd come in but confirmed they could ship it by air to Nanaimo, my first destination.

So Laura, my first mate, and Angel, the cat (commodore or admiral depending on the day's disposition) and I set out. It was a good decision. Not a single problem en route.

Dolphins joined us. They like to play about the bow wave. They're delightfully uplifting and bring good luck to a voyage. I love the stories of dolphins and porpoises rescuing sailors by leading them away from dangers or warning them of risks. These dolphins seemed just to be celebrating a beautiful day with us.

It was night when we entered Nanaimo harbor. I've a Furuno Radar, charts, Sailing Directions, 2 GPS units, and Tridata Autohelm Depth Sounder. I 'm an old sailor and don't trust anything really but binoculars, compass, lights and paper charts. I've even a sextant on board. I just hardly use any of that stuff anymore.

The Navionics Marine Application GPS plotter and maps for iPhone that served me best. It cost me, I think $9.99 but has more features and maps with plotter and waypoints and masses of information than what I paid a couple of thousand for 15 yeas ago to have on my computer. The standard equivalent program for the computer costs a couple of hundred dollars and then you have to buy maps on top of that. Technology is amazing with the advances. This iPhone apps serves all my navigation needs and I'm really feeling spoiled by it because of the accuracy and ease of operation.

We anchored in Nanaimo that first night because I'd had a surprise with a 5 foot depth reading heading for the marina. I've always anchored in Nanaimo Harbour off the Good Point of Protection Island. So that's what I did in 30 feet depth. It was a cozy night with the Dickinson Stove and a Coleman propane catalytic heater combination. My Dickinson Stove had begun to have troubles crossing the Strait so on Sunday I set to solving the problem.

I took apart the fuel line and cleaned replaced the filters, then checked the pump, even to the point of re wiring, took the carburetor apart a few times. I actually got it flaming amazingly only I couldn't turn it down so had a moment of consternation waiting for the fuel in the stove to burn up, higher and higher, after I'd turned off the fuel line and carburetor switch. I finally concluded it must be the pump which was rather sickly. That left us with low heat and coupled with the propane catalytic heater we were warm.

I made moose burgers with onions and garlic and small potatoes and carrots with sour cream. It was a meal fit for a king, the last of the moose.

The next morning I pulled up the anchor and drove the GIRI carefully across to the marina watching the depth sounder in this shallow harbor. At the marina the wharfinger answered on VHF 67 asking for the depth of keel before advising us to moor on the new Cameron Dock. Nothing could be easier as it was nearly empty. Lines and fenders out I was moments later at dock hooking up power.

Angel was amusing. She immediately jumped on the dock and rolled about on her back as if to say, 'land, thank god, we're on land again." We walked about the seawall to the wharfinger's office where we paid the $38 overnight fee with power and showers.

Land Sea said they'd be flying the water pump part to Nanaimo Marine Centre on Stewart Street. When I phoned them on the cell phone (boaters love cellphones) it wasn't in but they would deliver 4 deep cycle batteries and another fuel pump for the dickinsons. Jim had replaced 4 of my batteries, but didn't know I had the second bank. You have to complete changing all the batteries at one time so the old ones don't damage the new. I'd had these batteries since before I sailed to Hawaii and back so felt less pain at the $150 a piece cost. The fuel pump was that much as well.

The walk to the Nanaimo Marine Centre was a pleasure in the sunshine with the first cherry blossoms showing and the crocuses along the route. Nanaimo is really a beautiful city these days. I lived in nearby Parksville some 15 years ago and the changes that have occurred are amazing. It's really transformed from a logging mill port, with Harmac Pulp Mill across the bay, to a terrific little tourist destination. I've always loved the little town by the public marina with the Vinyl Café like record stores, second hand book stores, funky and fashionable boutigues, the old Anglican church with it's bell, St. Andrews United Church, the Old Court House but I'd never been to the Old Quarter. Laura and I had a lovely walk the few blocks up to this area where dozens of quaint old period houses had been turned into a yuppie and granola mix of shops, very Vancouver Island. Yoga mats sold next to the lastest in haute couture Crispin shoes, with mystic readings apparently while you received acupuncture. We loved it.

When we got back to the GIRI the Nanaimo Marine guys were trollying my new batteries down the dock. I had already taken the old ones out. I had taken a picture, drawn a picture, and labelled all the connections to be sure I had the new ones correctly connected together. I installed the new fuel pump and was sorry to see that the Dickinson Stove flame didn't go any higher meaning it was another problem and now I had an back up fuel pump.

Apparently by some screw up somewhere the water pump took a flight to Victoria only to be redirected to Nanaimo arriving at 3 in the afternoon on Harbour Air. Nanaimo Marine delivered it to the boat and I installed it while Laura was up enjoying the shower. After that the engine ran just fine, engine below 150 and no leak so the bilge pump stopped having to flush the excess water.

I had a shower then and enjoyed getting clean. A looney was good for 3 minutes of hot water and I found to my surprise that 6 minutes was more than enough for a pleasant shower whereas another three minutes was good for just standing under the nozzle enjoying the water neck massage. Later Laura told me she'd used 4 loonies and I wondered what she'd been up to. Her hair isn't that much longer than mine.

That night I found that the shank roast of venison I thought I'd packed was indeed tenderloin. Venison tenderloin! I didn't know I had any left. So more potatoes and carrots boiled then served with sour cream and butter. The tenderloin cut into medallions, marinaded in soy and tomato sauce with a touch of curry and lots of pepper, fried with garlic and onion. I just about died after that candle light meal.

I'd begun reading Jack Higgins Solo having already finished Loitering with Intent by Stuart Woods. These are great boat books. We'd planned to watch a movie only after dinner didn't think we could stay awake for a feature. The electric heater was complementing the tired Dickinson so we were toasty cozy in the v berth bed with 2 comforters and a cat.

This morning it was early up. The Dodds Narrow turn was at 10 am and I'd not done that passage so was uncharacteristically wary planning to do it by the book. I made coffee and Scottish Oatmeal with brown sugar and honey. Then it was double checking the tide charts and maps before untying from the dock and setting off.

Dodds Narrows is only 5 miles from Nanaimo and there are lots of warnings about it's narrowness and the rapids that run at 9 knots. When the GIRI finally passed through them it was actually flat water and easy as any tidal current passage could be. Now we've passed down Stuart Channel past Porlier Pass, the passage I normally take from Georgia Strait into this protected Tricomali Channel leading down to Salt Spring Island. Our ETA is a couple of hours for Ganges Harbour. It's been raining with about 5 knots of wind on the nose. I've known glorious fair weather sails up or down this channel with wing on wing and 15 to 20 knots of joyful wind but today it's just the iron jenny chugging us forward. It's chilly and wet out there and I'm rather content sitting at this computer in the cockpit with a Coleman catalytic heater at my feet, roughing it, really.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Escaping Winnipeg

I first came to Winnipeg at the age of 5. I was born in Toronto. My father took my mother, my brother and me to Winnipeg to install the conveyor systems for the Airport and Post Office. Mother struggled with the idea. She saw leaving Toronto to be with her man, a tremendous sacrifice, especially considering that to her Winnipeg was a wildwest outpost. Civilization ended well before the borders of Ontario. We were only supposed to stay for a year or two but the work continued and before I knew it I'd be there for another 14 years. Even then I was only lucky to escape to London, England in 1970.

Given that the English didn't favour educating foreigners back then and that Canada had a more advanced education system with scholarships for bright local kids and student loans which would cover the cost of living and education, I returned. I'd been so touched by Oxford to believe that maybe universities could still be places of higher learning.

It was also mainly the University of Winnipeg that attracted me. Dr. Carl Ridd was still alive back then and despite travelling all over Western Europe even to Northern Africa I never met another man as inspiring. I didn't know it though when I left the University of Winnipeg to bicycle across Europe and live in London. He was such a humble man that I just assumed there were many more like him.

A year overseas however taught me that he was truly one of a kind and further that Winnipeg despite it's prison like qualities was surprisingly full of genius.

Dr. Frank Beck, a quiet Checkoslovakian Canadian genius in his own right noted that Winnipeg was a regular cesspool of scholarship , but having himself escaped from Winnipeg to Vancouver summed it up as, "They can't go outside most of the year and have nothing to do but work so why wouldn't Winnipeggers be brilliant. There are no distractions."

I stayed in Winnipeg another decade after return from England. I studied first at University of Winnipeg and later University of Manitoba. Dr's Jack Hildes, Arnie Naimark, John White, Harry Prosen, Nady el Guebaly, Bill Bebchuck and the likes would all profoundly influence me. Medical research on surviving hypothermia and military advances in defence against mosquitoes together served to aid my survival there.

I seriously asked myself at different times how it had happened that I stayed as long as I did in Winnipeg. Cross country skiing and white water canoeing helped. Friends and family were a major part of the glue. However "My Winnipeg" tells it all. There is something addictive about Winnipeg. A strange extraterrestrial influence competes with the aboriginal spirituality river confluence that serves magnetically to trap people in Winnipeg.

Since leaving Winnipeg I've lived in California and British Columbia and the Northern Marinana Islands. I've returned to Winnipeg many times to visit family. Every time I've begun thinking, wouldn't it be nice to live here again. As a result, I've considered taking preventative antipsychotic medication before trips to Winnipeg. It's strange to experience selective enticing memories of people and times that completely leave out snowmobiling to work in blizzards, cars not starting, mosquitoes finding pin holes in tents and the sense that the next reincarnation will be as a asteroid dweller, the Winnipeg experience fully preparing one for indoor dwelling.

Yet when I read MacDonald's House Boat Chronicles all the beauty of travelling out to Lake of the Woods from Winnipeg comes to mind. The weekend trips down to Grand Forks seem unforgettable. The nights at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the coffeehouses, the folk music and poetry, the humor, the libraries, Fort Garry Hotel and now the Forks all are irresistibly attractive. I loved being a country doctor in Morris and a flyin northern doctor and consultant with Northern Medical Unit. So I cross myself every time I leave for Winnipeg. A sprinkling of holy water helps.

Finding ourselves both visiting Winnipeg at the same time one recent winter, my childhood friend Kirk and I recollected walking to school as children. You could never teach a Winnipeg kid not to get into a stranger's car in winter. Without hitchhiking down Pembina and Point Road we'd be unlikely to have survived our youth. Today parents would collectively be sentenced for child abuse just for sending their kids daily on survivor expeditions to school and back.

As adults, Kirk and I feeling like a little mid life adventure retraced the childhood journey from home to Vincent Massey High School we'd taken daily on foot in the era when child abuse was encouraged. We made it but felt better able to appreciate Shackleton and his men in the Antarctic. Kirk lives in California today. I live in Vancouver. We think you get to leave Winnipeg when you yourself feel you've done sufficient penance. Masochism is very Winnipeg. People in southern latitudes poke needles through themselves and hang from wires but Winnipeg prefer their own kind of penance. It's far less dramatic. It's called 'living in Winnipeg."

So this time en route to Winnipeg I am prepared. There's a Vincent Massey High School Reunion in May this year and I'm afraid I'll have nostalgic moments and consider even the briefest return to Winnipeg. I've heard that's how it happens. Many a former Winnipegger whose gone on the wagon decides on a brief return that.. I'll go back "Just to get ones' bearings", they say. Winnipeg is the centre of Canada and pretty much the real centre of North America despite what folk down around Atlanta might think. Winnipeg is a principle place for product testing with the idea that if any thing can sell in Winnipeg everyone else will want it.

So Time Magazine had it's March Issue on Longevity. I read this and learned that in my 50's I might live to be a hundred if I took Resveratrol a compound found in grapes, red wine and peanuts. This may well have explained why I became a wino, always wanted to be fed grapes by naked nubile bodies, and ate lots of peanut butter. Given the negatives associated with being a wino I figure I'll just up the peanut butter and grape intake.

Rapamycin, already being used as an immunosuppressant drug was found in the soil of Easter Island. It promotes longevity but may also increase risk of infection. Spermidine, found in sperm promotes the cellular process of autophagy, removal of cellular garbage. I can see this would serve as a potential argument and it certainly could overnight change society's attitudes, especially as to the best form of birth control. The only other easy way to increase longevity is to increase Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oils and flaxseed. These apparently increase the telomere length, the plastic capping type ends on chromosones that stop unraveling and are seen as a marker for biological aging.

Unfortunately while I was pleased about the idea of consuming my way to old age I learned that fasting and being lean increased longevity as well. Resting was good also, as sleep increased the human growth hormone. I just came from visiting my 92 year old father and given the amount of sleeping he does one would have expected him to be 12 feet tall. However he is somewhat bent over and that may explain while his sleep induced growth hormone isn't as apparent.

All this Time Magazine reading on longevity made me think , do I really want to grow old in Winnipeg where stepping outside in winter can lead to sudden death and summers are plagued with man eating mosquitoes and black flies.

I already have a ticket that goes on to Vancouver. Vancouver has it's problems but it's the warmest place in Canada thanks to having the Winter Olympics. Apparently this was such a stupid idea given how much it will raise taxes that the ire of the general population raised the temperature to the highest its been in 150 years. The 'hot air' of the politicians involved in the Olympics might have been a contributing factor as well.

Exercise is also good for aging. People are said to "run away " from Winnipeg. At my age I'd probably just walk. With a plane ticket I'll fly away I hope. I've got years to go and the Northern Mariana Islands was a climate and place I'd rather grow old in even if obesity and diabetes there from good eating don't promote longevity. The beaches are beautiful. But the skies of Winnipeg, now there's beauty hard to find anywhere in the world. Bettter get out the antipsychotics if I come back for Vincent Massey's reunion.

Winnipeg is just that kind of irresistible place that one loves. Walking around Vancouver now in shirt sleeves having escaped Winnipeg yet again, I am tending to forget that escaping Winnipeg is not ever as easy as one would think. There's a million or so souls still trapped there.

Genius: the Hidden Handicap

Finally Genius has been listed as a compensatable disabity. For long this hidden handicap has excluded it's sufferers from advancement in government or institutions. It's naturally excluded them from participation in politics. Excluded by the mediocre, geniuses have been often forced to work for paranoid megalomaniacs and sometimes the just plain stupid. Otherwise they have suffered severe poverty or been made inmates of jails, though more commonly, asylums.

Wanting to find peace as a cure for war or a means to save mankind from disease, they have as often as not been required to develop weapons of mass destruction and create diseases for the mercantile benefits of stupid bullies.

Now geniuses will be able to carry a card designating them as disabled. Designation will allow them to have access any number of government jobs previously limited by quota to various other designated minorities. As an extreme minority, long bullied and persecuted by the majority, geniuses will finally be able to have equal access to work and advancement in the work place.

In addition they will have parking passes allowing them to park their big brains in otherwise big brain non parking zones. They will be allowed to park in all original parking areas not usually designated as such but just waiting for the extreme creativity of normal genius.

Finally geniuses will be exempt from the dirty looks and overt eye rolling discrimination that they normally get when asked what they're doing and they respond, thinking. In a feeling and doing culture hell bent on destruction, creative thinking will no longer be judged inferior and useless. Imagination will even be allowed in experimental situations that have non military applications.

As genius is a matter of opinion, given the political abuse of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the cultural and political biases of majority rule applied to existing IQ tests such as WAIS and Raven, future genius designation will be decided by a quotient of dog sniffs divided by cat huffs factored over baby gurgles times the nods of a long demented adult for the time it takes for an average egg to boil at sea level during a lunar eclipse.

Geniuses will further be immune from 'unreasonable expectations' and phrases such as 'somebody as smart as you should be able to regularly floss now, shouldn't they?" A number of such political incorrect phrases will be identified and individuals using them will be open to being brought before a panel of geniuses who will decide what appropriate 're-education" is indicated for the offending members.

Genius insensitivity classes will be held and those who would rather be reading Cosmopolitan or Sports Today will be required to leave their televisions and busy hair dresser schedules and pay to listen to Bach, hear what Einstein had to say about r atomic matter, while speeches by Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha and Newton will be recorded simultaneously with episodes of Simpsons and played backwards by teen age DJ's. Discovery Channel homework will be mandatory along with select PBS viewing. None of this information will ever be relevant to their work as airport security guards, government censors, guidance counsellors and administrators in general, along with others most likely to be politically incorrect, but will give otherwise unemployed geniuses opportunities to develop genius propaganda for future decimination at government expense the masses. The reading of the Song of Songs will be required for all evangelicals and reading of the Little Prince will be mandatory for military personell

Universities, long an institution given to expelling genius for activities like Godiva Rides, Political Rioting, and pranks such as hanging VW Bugs off Bridges, streaking through dormitories of other genders and presidential offices, various forms of political incorrectness, and general creativity and imaginative use of University years, will be required to have a Department of Genius. This deparment will study genius, self aggrandise genius, destroy all idea of genius as universities generally do to any subject and finally give tenure to anyone who has to date never been tenured at an academic facility despite having completed excessive training and received multiple grades.

Those who have successful patents without attendance at learning institutions will also get honorary degrees from the Department of Genius. Graduation will be accompanied by an unmanned space flight, a cash grant and their own personal yoga mat and prayer shawl. Parents will be asked to stop wailing ," why couldn't my child be normal". "If only you were normal, you wouldn't be in all the trouble you've been." Parents will finally be thankful to have a genius as children.

The motto of genius is "One and half steps since one step ahead of the crowd makes you a leader, while two steps ahead you're doomed a martyr"

Classes in how not to appear smart and how to dumb down will be part of the special education package instituted for genius at an early age. At an early age genius will be specifically taught how to talk to parents, teachers, ministers, policemen, judges, psychiatrists and government officials in general so as not to 'threaten' them. Videotapes of stupid people will be included in remedial class room materials so that geniuses who don't learn sufficient lessons watching others, the tv , especially the soap operas, news and sports networks, will be prepared for the future and not be blamed individually for the gross inadequacy of present day education systems dominated by teachers from kindergarden on who like those who are like themselves, ie stupid. Geniuses are early identified by those neglected or given negative attention by teachers, unless of course the teacher is a genius trying to disguise themselves to avoid working in a bank.

Drama of the Gifted Child by Ms. Miller will be required reading for all teachers while parents will be allowed to have black market copies of the Omnipotent Child by the Mr. Miller.

Thanks to the new legislation, Genius will no longer be associated with increased increased morbidity and early mortality. Further more geniuses will be able to reproduce when women of reproductive age see geniuses portrayed equally in tv shows and ads, geniuses themselves being allowed to freely run ads for genius.

Hollywood will finally be required to have a Genius category at the Oscars. Best genius actor and actress qualities and movie with most genius will go along way to making amends for the countless geniuses that have died of suicide or homicide as a consequences of watching movies, feeling themselves utterly alienated, or being killed by those who know that the world doesn't in general care for genius. Another genius dead would likely get no more attention than the loss of an endangered swamp beetle despite the fact that genius has never been more endangered than it has now in recent global and economic times.

A new 'Stupidity' quotient will air along side the Dow Jones Average, Weather and Pig Stock prices so that geniuses can plan their day on whether or not to leave their beds or homes thereby gives geniuses some guidance in daily activity.

All together, Genius: the Hidden Handicap will get the attention it deserves. However it must be remembered that "He is a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom".

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canada Aviation Museum Ottawa

When I visit Ottawa and ask my 91 year old father where he'd like to go, he says' "I'd like to see that Lancaster Airplane again." Dad was a Royal Canadian Air Force bombardier in WWII on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. I ask him if he dropped bombs. "Yes, we did. They said it was a submarine but I think it was probably just a whale." My dad understates his own experiences. It's not uncommon with the survivors. He doesn't think he did much compared to all the men who died in the RCAF in WWII.

"Billy Attlesby was a tail gunner in the Lancaster. He did two tours. That's 12 trips over Germany each time. I don't know if he got wounded. He didn't say. His family's farm was next to ours in Swan River Manitoba. I asked why he went back for his second tour and he told me, "John, I went over to fight for my country so I figured I'd signed on to do that. I just kept doing it till the war was over."

"You know not many people survived as tail gunners." Dad says, " The fighters came right up under you."

I picked up my nephew, Graeme on the way. He's an engineer with the fusion plant in Kanata. Takes waste and turns it into gasoline. My dad is really proud of him. "Graeme's a really smart man," he tells me. We're driving in a little rental Hyundai Accent I've picked up from Budget for the trip. "Couldn't get a smaller car, eh Uncle?" Graeme jokes. "It's great for parking" I say, as these two tall men scrunch their bodies into the car with a lot more room than the military gave a tail gunner.

Graeme navigates and I pilot while Dad sits in the back and remembers.

At the museum Dad heads straight to the Lancaster. He's blind now. Macular degeneration. Has some peripheral vision. The walker keeps him upright and he tires easily. He's had a heart attack and he's becoming forgetful. He tells us the story of Billy Attlesby again. He crosses over the line and gets right up so he can sideways peer into the plane. He looks around and then is satisfied. "There was something I wondered about, " he says, "and I found it." I don't know what it is. He doesn't tell me. Something about the plane and his memory and it's now right. "We can go whenever you want to, " he says later.

We walk around the exhibits. I love the bush planes. My years with the Northern Medical Unit as a fly in doctor in Northern Manitoba and Northern Ontario come back to me when I see the De Havailland Beaver. "The pilot had to heat the oil pan with a blow torch one winter rescue mission we flew " I tell Graeme and Dad. The DeHavaillan Beavers and Twin Otters, Norseman, Cessna's, an Pipers all come back to mind.

Graeme's a photographer as well as an engineer. While Dad and I are looking at the Canadian Starfighter, the jet that made such an impression on me as a youth, it broke the sound barrier and served the backbone of NATO interceptor fleet, Graeme's taking pictures of the early wooden planes that began the age of flight. I like the way the exhibits are laid out with cars and motorcycles of the period set beside some of the older planes. They even have a 1912 Harley Davidson motorcycle.

All us guys just have to stop and look at the evolution of the plane engines. Naturally Dad, with his mechanical engineering and Graeme have more to say on the matter. It's certainly impressive to see the development. Reminds me of the NASA Cape Canaveral exhibits I visited in Florida. Both museums show a whole lot of care for detail.

Pressing a button Graeme starts the machine gun with the explanation and demonstration of how they developed the first synchronization of firing so that the nose mounted machine gun didn't shoot up the propeller. That impressed Dad. "Well, I'll be," he said. "I don't know if I ever knew how they did that."

We've walked around the whole exhibit and I know he said he'd seen what he'd come to see back at the Lancaster. He's made a stop in the washrooms which are spacious and clean.

At the Aeronautical Boutique, I've buy him a black Lancaster ball cap. They've got ballcaps for each of the old planes. It's a tourists heaven here with books, videos, pins, and clothing. But Dad's sitting in his walker now so I know he's tired.

As we're leaving I see his old RCAF uniform. When I was a child I remember mom keeping it in the cedar chest. He looks at it from the side using his peripheral vision to see and a smile comes on his face. "You're right, it is." He says, remembering.

I'm proud of my father. He asks again if he can pay for the admission as we're leaving. Graeme says, "Grandad, Veteran's are allowed in free. " "You're a cheap date, Dad, " I tell him. The admission for Graeme and I was $15. The experience was priceless.

Arrogance & Addiction

Arrogance is the opposite of humility. Humility is not however low self esteem. Humility represents the healthy positive attitude of a 'right sized' ego. Like most aspects of health, mental health and spiritual health included there is a concept of homeostasis. Like weight, and temperature, etc. ,too much or too little of a thing is equally unhealthy.

Arrogance is commonly a sign of drug or alcohol addiction, active or "dry" but certainly not 'sober'. Emotional sobriety refers to having humility as a cornerstone of one's life. Humility is that middle place between a superiority complex or an inferiority complex both of which vie as unique and carry with them 'narccisstic entitlement". Entitlement is a key feature of arrogance.

While souls may be equal before God, and individuals equal in democratic votes, they are not equal in skills or capacity. A pilot flies a plane while an arrogant person may claim they can fly a plane without experience, education and credentials. They overstate their situation, claiming either a monopoly on superiority or a monopoly on suffering. Both deviations represent arrogance.

In addiction work they are said to be a "legend in their own mind". Another term is 'egomaniac with an inferiority complex'. Whatever the underlying issues, they come accoss as arrogant, self centered and shallow.

The trouble with addiction is that it disconnects an individual from community and profoundly affects their capacity for relationships. The paranoia associated with addiction results in a sense of inferiority (I need my addiction) and I need to prove myself, so I can deny my addictive need. Lacking internal valedation, dependent on their addiction, they have need for more increasing external validation. This is the 'more' of addiction. How much do you want? More. How much do you need? More.

The addiction to substance moves to addiction to external validations such as fame or fortune. The greater this is driven by fear or comparison or envy the greater the arrogance. Some arrogant people thrive in hierarchy because they have those below them to sneer at and those above them to fawn.

Arrogant people rarely know they are arrogant. This is because their arrogant exterior stems from either a superiority complex or inferiority complex both of which stem from an 'emptiness' and a need to 'fill' that emptiness with anything but 'relationship': relationship with self, relationship with others or relationship with God. Arrogance is false pride. They prefer their own lies about themselves and are masterful at arranging their lives to avoid hearing truth, either by prickliness, threats of suicide or homicide or variations of such emotional extortion, or by surrounding themselves with yes men and yes women or isolation. They tend to keep moving. They "use" and "take" and do little to 'reciprocate' and 'replenish'.

They are often also called psychopaths or sociopaths because of their lack of empathy and over riding self centeredness and manipulativeness. Addiction is called the "great eraser' as it removes first the highest ideals of humanity, that which separates us from animals, the mammalian relational world of family and community and ultimately all but the "false self". For the arrogant and the addicted all is sacrificed for the 'false self". The true self is "apart of" and not "a part from". Happy individuals are 'happy in their own skin' and in their 'relationships". They are not 'paranoid'.

Arrogance is only possible with gross dishonesty. Honesty leads us directly to humility. Honesty is the cornerstone of recovery from addiction. With honesty one can see that they are indeed "not God" and that they can not be the 'best' in everything, being human they make mistakes, are finite and have limitations. They understand the 'golden rule' "love thy neighbor as thyself' or put another way 'do unto others what you would have them do unto you." The arrogant fundamentally can't accept this rule and believe themselves above the law. They believe that there will be no ultimate consequence to their action. They commonly make fun of the spiritual because an afterlife would be frightening to them when they're living on the idea that they can get away with murder. Their principal rule is 'don't get caught.' They are 'baby' souls and as such need to be understood.

But they also don't recognize that the more 'reductionist' they are, treating others as 'things' the more 'thing like' they become. Consequently eating a steak they really only experience cardboard. The difficulty for the young is that they compare their 'insides' with others 'outsides' and can't recognize the 'chameleon nature' of the arrogant. The arrogant put on a good show but in the end it's just a show because the more they alienate the more alone and afraid and alien they become.

The ancient Greeks saw arrogance as 'false pride' and that 'false pride' invariably lead to a major fall in which the individual's physical losses are matched with the potential for spiritual gains and insights into the truth about themselves, their relationship to others and ultimately their relationship to God.

This is what is called 'recovery'. When one stops the addiction they enter onto a journey of recovery where they regain their relationships with self, others and God. They become 'child like' again experiencing life at it's fullest rather than as the shallow false reality of addiction. No longer arrogant they learn humility and experience gratitude. The greatest gift of recovery for so many is being thankful to be alive. The arrogant are never satisfied with life. The humble celebrate life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I don't look like a Terrorist

Airport security forces frighten me. I travel a lot. Far more frequently than chance they separate me out for intensive inspection. I am not a terrorist. I am aware when they do this that they are making a mistake. If a doctor cuts off the wrong leg, we get a little concerned and certainly curious about his skill and training.

I do not look like a terrorist either. My brother and I were fascinated in Japan that the airport security there consistently selected out the 'gringos' from the group despite the fact that the greatest terrorist killers had been Japanese.

This observation made me realize that the security forces are acting predominantly based on their predjudices and general lack of education and experience.

In medicine there is a standard idea of 'false positives' and 'false negatives'. A 'false positive' is when your test indicates a disorder where there isn't one and a 'false negative' is when the test says alls well and it isn't.

I really don't believe the security forces are subject to much scrutiny. Certainly not scientific scrutiny. The 'false negatives' are what we read about in the newspapers. Horrendous errors of security in which people rather obviously threaten the security of millions despite literally billions of dollars and a standing army of people who predominantly interfere in the business, communication and transportation of the country with very little oversight in terms of their actual efficacy. There's a rule that says they are 'preventative' but are they?

As a doctor I'm criticized for doing 'too many tests'. I'm outside the 'norms' for my group so am threatened with loss of income and very clearly encouraged to do less tests even though my deviation from my group norm is a product of the practice I have which has a very sick group who don't use doctors and individually and collectively are at high risk for disease. Of the last 6 MRI's I ordered 3 were positive for undiagnosed brain tumors and injuries. That said, I'm terrified ordering more medical tests fearful of being penalized for what really is very conscientious and highly educated and experienced behavior. Much less educated and much more junior people rarely encounter the kind of scrutiny that medical specialists are subjected to these days.

It's that lack of 'fairness" that comes to mind when I am again pulled aside and man handled, stroked and delayed. I know that I will soon be of an age where such caresses by these sexually charged and aggressive young people are actually welcome but right now they scare me. I am convinced by their ignorance in their excessive attention to my shoes for instance that they're missing the real terrorists. Terrorists don't look like me. They dress to fit in. They wear three piece suits. They actually try to dress like off work airport security personnell and police because that's obviously where the real blindspots are. Terrorists are most likely to look like police or airport security.

I look like a typical tall bespectacledlong haired geriatric educated middle class pot bellied Canadian professional who wears a Harley Davidson cap and carries a shopping bag of 2010 Winter games hockey tshirts for his nephews. Terrorists don't look like me. How can these people be so far off the mark? Given how highly paid they are and how much money is being spent on security is it not about time that there is some oversight.

I run this by my police security friend and he says, "You would have been right a year a go but last year a psychiatrist was a terrorist."

"But he was middle eastern and military and young." I countered.

"He was a psychiatrist." my friend said.

And it turns out that a disproportionate number of psychiatrists are geriatric, pot bellied, long haired and for some unknown reason wearing Harley Davidson fashions this year. I could be 'profiled' as a psychiatrist.

Now, none of us are likely terrorists even though I have thought some of my older exerciseaholic vegetarian female colleagues would be less frightening if they went back to eating little meat and confessed about their occasional chocolate binges.

It may be that the security forces are at the cutting edge. After talking to my friend I'm still going to be grumpy about taking off my shoes but maybe the young guy recognised me as a psychiatrist. Maybe someone is being scientific about this whole terrorism business.

Thanks to one psychiatrist idiot in our midst our group got listed with the most wanted criminals. That's the way my moslem professor friend feels about the assholes who keep getting him strip searched at airport terminals.

It's easy to forget that the terrorists are the ones that cause all the inconvenience. It's what they want. Only in chaos and disorder can the psychopaths and sociopaths get ahead.

The airport security forces are my friends. Terrorists aren't.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Electroscan Inauguration

Jim told me he'd completed the plumbing on the installation of the new Elecstroscan. He didn't really give me any warning but I hoped I had it in me to test the machine. Because of the river water running into the sea nearby the saline content wasn't apparently sufficient for a good reaction. He gave me a salt shaker and suggested a tablespoon or so would be sufficient to salt the shit so to speak. Pepper and other spices are sufficiently added the usual way. The low salt craze perhaps contributes to the need for add salt directly to the water in the bowl before sitting to contemplate the task involved.

I was able to look at the shiny clean machine with all the wires and hoses coming off it while I was preparing for the final push. It wasn'tt as productive as I might have wanted but sufficient for a test and satisfying. I think just knowing there was salt in the bowl flavoured the whole event positively. It gave me a charge to pump my achievement up the hoses and into that amazing feat of engineering wizardry. Quite satisfied with my self I pressed the 'START" button. Ampere and voltage registered on the display as amazing grumbling and grinding sounds emanating from the box as if I was listening to the belly of a beast after a particularly satisfying meal.

Reminded me of my dog who I had to shoo away from eating my shit out in the woods. Cured him of that bit of trouble but never could keep him away from the cat's litter box. No wonder she wasn't as fond of playing with him as he was fond of playing with her. Naturally she didn't like playing his favourite game with her as his 'squeaky toy'. I'm sure seeing him lunch at her litter box before he mouthed her might well have contributed to her not being a particularly good sport about his idea of fun.

There was a kind of whosh sound when it was done. Whoosh. Like the whole matter was taken care of. The display lighted up with a very joyful communication of completion and indication of readiness for more water sports and brownies. I felt really good. And told Jim.

"That was very good, Jim."

And he said, "I'm really glad you're happy with your new Electroscan."

"I am, Jim, " I said. Now I know my shit doesn't stink and I think that few can say that with the certainty I can, especially those of the politician class especially.


Well, then that was the inaurguration of the Electroscan. I was just sorry that I didn't have it in me to give it another go. I'm confident though that I'll have plenty of bullshit to pass on to the little beast in future and look forward to many happy moments just feeling positive all over about my Electroscan shit zapper. It's a great country and a very fine day in one's life when you can own an Electroscan. Every time I poo I'm doing my bit for the planet. That's the feeling I get, thanks to my Electroscan. It's really saved me from being an ecological throw back.


Laura being catholic was the first to notice that I had a halo around my arse. When I looked in the mirror I could see it too. A regular saintly halo, right there around the old hole. And I owe it all to my Electroscan. I think anyone who can own an Electroscan will be as happy with their product as I now am.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Existence of God in the Age of Reason

While Kant said that reason can not be used to study metaphysics, in practice there is in man's consciousness and unconditional moral obligation that only makes sense if belief in God, freedom and immortality are postulated. This is Kant's famous "CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE". It says that the feeling of "thou shalt" or 'thou shalt not" whatever the consequences requires:

  1. A God who is entitled to command. Of course this may be an inner voice, like a 'wee small voice', or the 'collective unconscious' but ultimately it remains a 'moral' 'dictate'. Kant sees this experience as intrinsic to human nature and that the experience of command implies a commander as such.
  2. Further he says that 'thou shalt' can only be said where 'thou canst' can also be said thereby implying 'freedom'. Morality as such says that I have the experience of 'freedom'. Even if I am a puppet actor in a play and my thoughts follow the actions of the play which is pre determined, my experience is of freedom since I 'feel' choice , in that I feel I 'must' make one decision or the other. This clearly is a matter of the 'MIND' which is as different from the brain as a rider is from the horse. Whether the rider is leading or the horse is however may be a matter of faith. The question of whether I am God or I am not God is an arbitrary decision for some but this is addressed specifically by the theologian Schlelermacher who knew and studied Kant.
  3. Kant further says that the moral perfection that man feels obliged to seek cannot be found within the bounds of life so this implies what he calls an after life or at least another life. Plato was more for parallel existence and of course 'language' limits the expression of the experience. The native sense of afterlife and parallel is among us and certainly in dream we are within and without or transcendent or imminent. It's just that the very notion of perfection is to Kant not of a clearly "imperfect' world. The engineer knows this well in his 'tolerances' and 'approximations' of measurement. Perfection is a matter of mind and again it becomes a question of rider and horse and the relationship. St. Francis called his ride or body 'brother ass' . The universe we expeience is parallel in this sense and certainly the dualism of Descartes carries into the limits of the experiment as Heisenberg clearly showed that the experimenter affects the experiment. Mind impacts on brain while brain may no doubt set limits on the mind.

Romanticism is contrasted with Rationalism in that the universe to the romantic is a work of art and not a machine. Shleiermacher, the great theologian of Kant's day found that the starting point of religion is man's feeling of absolute dependence. I find this interesting because it essential says that the experience of God is directly proportional to one's humility. Humus or pride goes before a fall. Pride is to such a large extent fear driven. Yet I know my limits. I can't take back these wrinkles or levitate today and I can't do so many things I can 'imagine'. Despite my best prayers I can't restore the limb of the amputee, yet. I can imagine a world in which what I think occurs but in this world I am limited. I lack God like powers. I simply can't leap over tall buildings. In fact I'm hardly leaping any more at all. Pouncing maybe but not really leaping. And yet there's this creation I'm apart of. Perhaps some unknown part of my self creates this creation or the collective activity of our collective consciousness makes this creation but it's not me. I'm decidedly humble in relation to the world. Being in nature facing seas and winds and watching my life in general go different from what I intended, not that that was bad, but it's all taught me clearly that I'm not God. Not me. Wrong guy. If an alien arrived today and said show me to your leader I would gladly take him 'there' because he or she or it wouldn't be 'here'. I'm not the leader. I may think I am but I'm not.

Shleiermacher says that "God is given to us in feeling in an original way; and if we speak of an original revelation of God to man or in man , the meaning will always be just this, that along with the absolute dependence which characterizes not only man but all temporal existence, there is given to man also the immediate self consciousness of it, which becomes a consciousness of God."

It think that's brilliant. Schleiermacher gets an A in my book because as I contemplate my humility God grows in my consciousness. Certainly that's the experience of meditation.


It strikes me that 'lack' of 'belief' in God, a higher power, an over self, a creator or the other, or the mystery is quite 'irrational' . It's imminently sane to be a theist and even without Pascal's wager, somewhat insane to be an aetheist. I say this because the conventional aetheists I've talked have been desperately intent on their own 'saniety' while very clearly questioning mine, criticizing my belief and insisting that they are a priori right . While I respect that by the limitations of this reality I can't truly "know" , for 'yea but now we see through a glass darkly' I am bullied by their insistence that they do 'know'. As I've grown older and more experienced I have become more suspicious of anyone who insists they are right because that is by definition 'arrogance'. As a scientist I have a 'hypothesis' which I'll naturally argue and yet if I become emotionally invested in it, more often than not I'm really arguing the 'business' or 'politics' of science and have long left the 'truth' of the matter.

That said, I think I'm right in saying I think Kant and Schleiermacher are right and probably God is too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Psychosomatic and Complex Pain

Pain disorders have been called the new "hysteria". When I began in psychiatry I saw a lot more 'waxy catatonics' and 'hebephrenics'. There was a lot of 'drama' in psychiatry a few decades back. Multiple personality disorders let loose with alien possessions and demon states. More and more though 'lethargy' and "pain" became front and centre. Part of it is an aging population. There's just so much drama the old can stand. "Martha, don't get your depends in a twist." That's the new toughlove statement of the new aging boomers..

When I began in psychiatry everyone was hearing the devil speaking to them. Today the only ones who care about Satan are the one's who have that name on their record labels. Hallucinations are not from religion but from the CIA. Big Brother is watching, not God. Paranoia is as common if not more so, just the themes have changed.

Pain is subjective. With hysteria there was 'mutism' and 'mannerisms' and generally some 'objective' criteria. Today pain is seen in a 'limp' or a 'grimace' but everyone has pain. Your pain is greater than my pain. I can work. You can't work. I can't work. You can work. Secondary gain is the same. Is there an advantage to having the pain. Of course I 'll argue till the cows come home and indeed my arguing in that way will only mean 'the lady protestest too much' but my lawyer will make it even clear. I've got pain. Get it. If it's associated with a compensation claim or insurance the pain just has to be worse. But then there is pain. Chronic pain is the worst. Once you've had pain you appreciate pain. Experience brings empathy

"It's not all in my head, doc." He says when I say "You've a pain disorder." Of course it's all in his head. Cut off the head and the pain would go for sure. But I know what he means. "You're not making it up and you're not imagining it but all chronic pain is 'psychosomatic." Indeed all medicine is psychosomatic. Only the surgeons would have us believe anything is just physical. In collusion with the anesthetist they do their work with the patient in a dream state and because their 'fix' is 'mechanical and 'visible' and 'objective' then it's 'real'.

But their post surgical survival rates are 'psychosomatic'. It's all a combination of mind and matter and nothing is just physical because the mind is the communication hub. Without the mind or 'psycho' there would be no complaint that lead to the surgery and no inhabitant of the housing to appreciate the sutures post surgery. Infection, well, that's a whole lot worse in people with depression or a variety of contributing mental illnesses.

Psychiatry separates pain disorder with a physical medical condition and pain disorder with out an accompanying physical condition. In the former case the pain is the subject of treatment as well as the physical condition where as in the latter there is as yet and may never be a treatable physical condition. In the formal case, treating the physical condition often alleviates the pain as much as just treating the psychological state. Treating the physical pain in the latter can create addiction and generally those conditions respond better to antidepressants or anti anxiety medications. Not surprisingly most of the 'chronic pain' conditions were treated with psychiatric medications like amitriptylline.

I began treating the pain of cancer patients. We used a cocktail of antidepressants, anti anxiety medication and traditional anti pain medication. If narcotics only treated pain there would simply be no addiction to narcotics. Either that or life is pain. The Buddha said Desire is the root of all suffering. Kierkegaard, the great Christian existentialist said Life is suffering unto death.

Yet I have recovered addicts who take narcotics for their physical pain, plates in broken bones, and they don't abuse their pain medication while they used to 'abuse' the very same medications for it's 'psychological' effect.

I had a marijuania addict trying to convince me he had a pain disorder. Trouble was he was an addict and when I offered him another drug that would take away the pain he described he said, "Nah, I just want you to fill out the paperwork so I can get my herb." He didn't want to work either. There's a perfectly good drug, not like the drug cannabis, which specifically treated the pain he described. Any patient with that particular pain would leap have leaped at the treatment. There are these incongruences. The sad part is the addict so often thinks they're 'fooling' you or they are unwilling to 'admit' to themselves. The key feature of addiction is the 'dishonesty' linked to denial.

My detective friend took a video of an 'academy' teaching people to jump in front of cars so that they could get hit but not hurt. They actually charged students for the knowledge and practice. As a consequence insurance all over goes up exponentially. Fraud is what it's called but often it's masquerades a "medical" or 'psychiatric disorder'. Not only that there are those who have 'factitious disorders' ,these are people who actually 'feign' physical or mental disorders to get medical or psychiatric treatments. The police know of the same sort that do things to get cops to shoot them. It's true that life is stranger than fiction.

Psychiatrists recently were advised against diagnosing "malingering' and told that increasingly judges are afraid to make such a diagnosis. Just as politicians are running countries based on popularity polls increasingly no one wants to take the risk of 'offending' anyone. The last wheel chair I took away was given back to this person because they 'psychologically' needed it. Overnight I became suspicious of the disabled parking signs and the politics of priviledge increasingly infiltrating 'disability'.

Yet even as I validate a person's pain I have to say that not exercising is also not good for them. Sadly the surgical treatments for pain disorders, removing the nerves to a region, also removes the danger sensations. Workman's compensation locally found that people who had injuries commonly went home and lay about on the couch compounding their injury where as now they have a club house and get the person to come out and socialize rather than become agoraphobic. Depression is best treated in community. This approach cut down on the alcoholism associated with work disability. Home alone injured , what better to do that crack a brew, and another ,and another. Of course it's also cut into the second family businesses but for those who are wanting to get back to work the club house approach and physiotherapy certainly expedited the process.

The contribution of mind over matter is sometimes 30% versus 70% or vice versa. Personally I've found that rarely has the pain that I remember I said prevented me from an evening with a mother in law interfered with hunting or fishing. Then there has been pain that stopped me even fishing. Now that's pain. I understand when the mother crying says she can't pick up her baby. However when I asked a woman if her pain affected her sex life, she told me "I can't have sex with my husband." Did you have sex with him before the pain? "No, I never liked sex with him," she said.

The sad part is when a man or woman is trying to work to the limits of their pain to strenghthen their muscles or ligaments and a camera catches that moment. Suddenly he looks bad, but shouldn't he do what his chiropractor told him. One patient after a morning in the gym loses the whole next day with pain and fatigue. I can relate, but he's only 20. My doctor wants me to exercise more but I'll probably only listen because I got the dentist bill and he said, "It would have been better if you'd flossed."

But the worst 'act' I ever saw of pain was a guy claiming he was having a heart attack and demanding a shot of morphine. If I'd not have done an EKG I'd not have 'caught' the massive MI. In contrast my native woman didn't make a sound but only turned her head to the side as tears flowed out her eyes when in an emergency procedure I took blood clots out of her post partum womb without anesthesia. Cross culturally pain is even more difficult to assess.

Regardless, acute pain and chronic pain are different. What is done for acute pain is commonly diametrically opposed to what is done for chronic pain. Acute pain requires rest usually where as chronic pain requires exercise. Yet how do you explain that to someone who is personally and culturally faced with a paradox.

Psychosomatic pain doesn't mean it 'doesn't exist', "it's imaginary' but rather that it's 'complex'. Indeed the new term is "complex pain disorder" is increasingly being used because it saves everyone a lot of bother.

Nothing has changed much but the 'term'. There's more to it than that but even that is 'complex'. No 'it's not all in my head" Really. It's complex. You know, like our relationships these days.