Monday, February 20, 2006

How Bird Flu Could Have Been Prevented

In the Drink

Last Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny. Not particularly warm, the temperature managed to crawl just a few degrees above zero. Still this was a far cry from the below zero temps and even nastier wind chills we had suffered from for much of the previous week. So it was a good time for a kayak trip at Cadboro Bay! (Note that I am wearing a red sweater... there will be a quiz later.)

Here's our gear lined up and ready to go. Paula had borrowed Alison's kayak. (Alison is kayaking in New Zealand for three weeks.) Normally, Bernie and Paula switch off with their kayak, but with Alison's kayak all of us could get in the water at the same time.

And away we go! Here's Dennis in his inflatable kayak...

...and Paula enjoying Alison's boat.

We paddled out of the bay and turned north along the coastline. That's Mt. Baker, an active volcano, ahead of us.

Three of us decided to cross over to Discovery Island. The womenfolk declined.
I had never been there myself, but both Bernie and Dennis had. There's some strong currents to watch out for, and the crossing of about 20-25 mins can be a little rough. You can see the bumpy water around Dennis in the picture below.

Discovery Island itself was beautiful. A series of small archipelagoes, it makes for a perfect place to explore inlets and rocky shores.

We found a little channel with a bit of a current in it. We decided to try our hand at running it. It wasn't a strong current, but this was our first try at something like this.

The first time I went through, there was no problem. The current was strong but not rough. I paddled against it, until it spun me around and sent me back from where I came.
No problem.
But my paddle was in the water and the current caught it, and dragged it under my boat. And over I went. Potential energy and gravity worked their magic. I was upside down in the water.
As you can see, I survived. I made my wet exit, and grabbed onto the back of my kayak. Bernie was nearby and beside me almost instantly. As we organized ourselves to begin the process of getting me back in my boat, my feet suddenly touched ground, and I decided to walk my boat ashore at a small beach.

Out of the water but totally drenched, I took off my sweater. I was wearing my Farmer John wetsuit and that kept most of me warm, but my arms under my sweater were freezing. It was fortunate that I was wearing my wetsuit -- "goner" might be too drastic a term, but I would have been in a lot worse condition. Fortunately, Bernie had overdressed and had taken off his fleece jacket, and he lent it to me. (Quiz time - Question 1: What colour sweater was John wearing at the start of the paddle? Here's a hint: It's not the same colour as in the picture below.)
It was, in retrospect, a good thing. We were reminded that we are dealing with nature, and nature abhors cockiness. We had an emergency, and we all survived. There was no panic or hysteria. We kept our heads and did what we had to do. My kayak flipped and everything stayed attached and dry, including my digital camera.
Much to Bernie's chagrin, my glasses stayed on my head.
We re-assessed the safety equipment that we had with us. A dry bag with a towel and/or some dry clothes suddenly seemed like a much smarter idea then it did a few minutes earlier.

Bernie found the incident much too amusing (as you can see below.) However, as we left he decided to shoot the rapids again! (Okay it was only one rapid. "Whitewater" it was not.) He got caught, too, and damn near flipped. He filled up his kayak with water and he had to beach to drain it.
Bernie didn't have his skirt on. Bad Bernie.
(He didn't have any pants on either, but that's a whole other story.)

And so we headed back. We vowed never to publicly speak of the incident. ("What happens on Brokeback Island, stays on Brokeback Island," I said.)
However, it was impossible to keep secret, not when I arrived back wearing different clothes what I had started with. The womenfolk cast us some wary glances.

But we survived and adjourned for some warm drinks at a nearby coffee shop. Dennis took this picture to annoy his friends back in Toronto. Blizzard, anyone?

Now that's a hot chocolate! Sure helped get the taste of salt out of my mouth.

And remember kids, don't try this at home!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Quote of the Day

From a skit on The Daily Show:

"The vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Whittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the bush."

How to Tell the Difference Between a Millionaire and a Quail


PS. Dick Cheney was hunting illegally when he shot his millionaire friend. Was he drunk, too?

Friday, February 10, 2006

State of the Groundhog Union

From long-time reader Elizabeth....

This year both Groundhog Day & the State of the Union Address fell within 32 hours of each other. It was an ironic juxtaposition: One involved a meaningless ritual in which we looked to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involved a groundhog.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Linus Health Update #5

The latest news is that Linus's blood pressure meds have changed over from a pill to a liquid. The liquid, which is administered via a little syringe into his mouth, seems easier to into get him than the pills, but he doesn't seem to like it as much even though it's fish-flavoured.
He goes and hides after each dose, so he's clearly not liking it, although the length of his hiding is decreasing with each dose. I guess he's starting to come to the conclusion that I'm not trying to drown him.
I'm told that both his meds can be administered via a gel or paste that is rubbed in his ears. I used this method for his painkillers after his recent minor surgery and it worked great. So I'm going to look into that when he needs more meds.

Unclear on the Concept 3

(Bugs Bunny vs. Bush ... that's one fight I'd like to see!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Bicycle Diaries: Gears

I've been having trouble with my gears. I ride a ten year-old 21-speed mountain bike, and despite the fact that I have a brand-new drive train on it, my gears are acting up.
When I'm in my high gear at the front, I sometimes have a devil of a time finding the low gears in the back. And it's got me thinking: do I really need 21 gears?
Honestly, I never use most of them. I rarely leave my top gear of the three in the front, and only use a few of the seven in the rear. Sure, if I was cross-country riding across lots of mountains, some low gears would come in handy, but as a commuter and trail rider, most of them are wasted.
I figure that I only need about five gears:
- go like hell;
- medium cruising;
- cruising in traffic;
- little hill;
- big hill.
Give me those five gears, and I'll be happy.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Election Denouement '06: Meet The New Boss, Same as The Old Boss

With his first act as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper demonstrated that he can play the political game as well as anyone, and his high-minded campaign of integrity, honest government and accountably were as worthless as Chretien's promise to remove the GST.
In other words, he said anything to be elected, and now that's he won, the real Harper agenda will now be revealed.

First, MP David Emerson, re-elected a scant two weeks ago as a Liberal, crossed the floor to join the Conservative cabinet as the Minister of International Trade, with responsibilities for the Vancouver Olympics. Emerson, who had vowed on election night to become the new prime minister's "worst nightmare", does not understand what the fuss is about. His Conservative opponent finished a distant third in his riding; clearly his constituents what wanted a Liberal representing them.
And after all the Tory's boo-hooing when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, and the cries of anger and outrage when the Liberals were apparently caught trolling for other Tory MPs in the last house, one would have thought Harper would heeded the calls from his party and enacted legislation requiring members that cross the floor to win their seats back in a by-election, rather than trolling for Liberals who value bigger pay cheques over serving their constituents. And he want after a Liberal! You remember them, those corrupt and decadent crooks that Harper just spent the last eight weeks telling us we couldn't trust.

Harper also appointed Michael Fortier to the position of Minister of Public Works and government Services. Fortier was the Conservative campaign co-chair in 2004 and 2006, and co-chair of Harper's leadership campaign in 2006. He lost a bid for the Conservative leadership in the 1990s, and lost a bid to win a seat in the 2000 federal election. While the PM has the right to name anyone he wants to cabinet, traditionally it has been a sitting MP, and if the person chosen is not an MP (as in Fortier's case), the new cabinet member usually runs in a by-election at the earliest opportunity. This will not happen this time; Fortier is being appointed to the Senate, where he will sit until the next election, when he will run.
In other words, Harper's first political appointee is a Conservative party hack who will sit in the Senate and Cabinet. Patronage lives! Worse, Fortier won't have to take questions in The House because he's not a member -- so much for accountability!
And finally, Stockwell Day was given the Public Safety portfolio. While giving Day any form of responsibility is a disaster waiting to happen, surely Day would have preferred some sort of Recreation portfolio. He's clearly a man who loves water sports.

Friday, February 03, 2006

How America Sees the World

From Alternet (via The Bernie)...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dreaming of Dwarves Playing Hockey

I now have proof that television and radio can affect your dreams.
A couple of nights ago, I spent the evening watch some Red Dwarf episodes. Then I went to bed listening to the radio, a local sports show dissecting the latest Vancouver Canucks game.
I had a dream.
I was watching the Canucks play on tv. They were short-handed (and playing without helmets for some reason), but Canuck captain Markus Naslund fired a wrist shot while cruising through the slot and scored. We cut back to the Canuck player in the penalty box to see his reaction. It's Second Technician Dave Lister of the mining ship Red Dwarf. He's holding a hockey stick, dressed in his usual slobby clothes (not a Canucks uniform), and stares straight into the camera and says, "What are you fookin' lookin'' at, Smeghead?"
Chew on that, Mr. Freud!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Linus Health Update #4

About two weeks ago, Linus went in for another bunch of blood and urine workups. Everything looked fine except for his blood pressure which was quite elevated.
His BP meds were increased, doubled in fact, and the vet was quite worried and puzzled by this development.
Yesterday, Linus returned for a further BP check. Instead of his BP being taken in the surgery area of the clinic as has happened before, it was taken by a tech in a quiet exam room with Linus relatively content and sitting in my lap.
His BP was low. Almost too low!
The tech adjourned to discuss matters with the vet. The vet, while pleased that his pressure had dropped, was not entirely convinced that the sudden change was not a result of equipment or operator error. The tech and the vet entered the exam room, and redid the blood pressure check. Linus's BP was now elevated, still much lower than the previous visit, but higher than just a moment previously.
We figured out why. This was the vet that had operated of Linus's foot a few months ago.
Yes, even cats can have "white coat syndrome."