Monday, April 21, 2008

Blue Funk Railroad

For the last day now I have been in a bit of a blue funk. I cannot quite pinpoint its cause, except that it may have to do with some reflections on my last relationship going south or how sometimes I struggle with my sister’s principled acceptance with the illogical. Hey, it may even have to do with all the snow that is blanketing Alberta and Saskatchewan too.


First, I am forty-seven and I ain’t getting any hugging and kissing. Okay that might not be such a big deal as the other kind of intimacy: the handholding, long walks and mutual support and view towards the future. But it doesn’t seem right going to movies and weddings alone. Also being pursued as I was six months ago gave my ego a tremendous boost; I was happy being in a relationship (until it shifted). I wouldn’t mind being back in that place. It seemed at the time a lot of physical aches and pains momentarily disappeared. Thus, I believe there is a strong association with good emotional health and good physical health. I miss the good “things” that came with being in a relationship. I know I am in rebound. I am advancing beyond the initial heartbreak. I am regaining a good picture of who I am and my potential. I know I court disaster if I get desperate because I think I will be alone. It doesn’t help either casting my view throughout the city as I walk wondering if the next woman I see is the one for me. Perhaps it used to be that way back in the Forties, but I don’t know if that still can happen today. So there is a lot of conflict here.


My sister is older than me by fifteen years. But, being male I think I have some responsibility to look out for her. She is intelligent, but sometimes her logic goes against what I consider better judgement. Like normal siblings we have arguments. Also, we each possess a strong stubborn streak. It frustrates me at times that when I present arguments based on facts supported by evidence that she is resistant to changing her mind. I am the least one to be called Mr. Spock, but this denial of the logical irritates me. I also look at her and I sometimes wonder how close I will become in accepting the same habits she now possesses. Maybe the underlying root to how I feel is fear. Perhaps I fear that somewhere along the continuum a genetic trigger will fire leaving me exposed to chronic pain issues like she has. I already notice some changes similar to patterns and ailments she is living.


And darn it, when will all this snow stop falling? I have a BBQ planned on Friday. I want good weather to enjoy it with my friends.


JAPB

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Soldiers & Suicide

I heard on the CBC radio news today about soldiers (men & women) who committed suicide after returning from active duty in Afghanistan. It took a Freedom of Information request by an officer in the Canadian Army, who is also an expert on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to learn that thirty-nine regular/reservists ended their lives in 2007.

As a rule suicides are hardly ever mentioned in the media. So its reasonable that these deaths would have gone unreported in their respective communities at the time of occurrence. However, as a demographic the number is alarming. Further investigation by the officer, Maj. Michel Sartori, showed that the "normal" rate for suicide among members of the Canadian Armed Forces was sixteen a year between 1994 and 2005. Against each other this is a considerable spike.

We hear and see the news about physical losses on the battlefield: "Latest Slain Canadian Soldier had 'Warrior Spirit 100 per cent' " (CBC News, March 17, 2008). We are saddened, and after a day or so we move on. But since we don't hear about those who have returned whole, and may be bearing mental stress, they slip under our radar until something happens publicly. And that's rare. Suicide is such a lonely death.

I support the Canadian mission to Afghanistan. It doesn't make me a hawk. I do however believe that oppression by the Taliban needs to be eliminated. Is it realistic to believe we can do it? Probably not as soon as we would like. So, we are going to see more deaths on the patrol and battlefield. We are going to see more suicides. I hope that with the news of this rise in needless deaths in front of us we will be shamed and moved to give the
needed prevention treatment. Our soldiers need to know they are valued.

Note:
Maj. Michel Sartori, was once detained by Bosnian Serb forces in Yugoslavia when serving there in 1994 as part of the Royal 22nd Regiment (the VanDoos). He was a Captain at the time. Very few Canadians know much about how the Canadians fought and endured in Croatia and Yugoslavia as part of UNPROFOR. That is because the incident of the torture and murder of Somali teenager Shidane Arone happened about the same time. The government of the day, already swimming in bad press, was not eager to publicize much of what going down in Europe. There were some serious cases of PTSD afterwards, but they went largely unnoticed and unreported until Corporal Paul Delmore, 26, a member of the PPCLI, "put on his full dress uniform and shot himself" on September 12, 1993 in his Winnipeg apartment. It was reported in the Winnipeg media as being a casualty of the Croatian peacekeeping mission (I have never understood the use of the word "casualty" as it is related to death or injury. There are nothing casual to these events). To read more about Canada's involvement and how the Dept. of National Defence responded to the effects of critical mental trauma in our soldiers of the day read The Ghosts of the Medak Pocket : the story of Canada's Secret War by Carol Off (Random House, 2004).

This Today, April 19, Pt. 2

I managed to get to my haircut appointment. The roads were terrible to navigate at 10 AM. By the time I made my return trip they weren't any better. Although the sun was now shining.

My sister and I were to pair up to go grocery shopping and having lunch together. Its her birthday today. However, as I stepped out of EnRoot (my barber) I wasn't confident about doing the rest of my errands. I called Linda and suggested postponing until tomorrow (well, she asked if we could do them on Sunday). After that I went to buy my niece a gift. I also ended up buying a gift for my pastor and picked up some DVDs and CDs that were on sale.

I am going to take the rest of the afternoon to do some Bible Study Fellowship homework, read the Globe & Mail and couch. I need to make some bread too.

JAPB

This is Today, April 19


This is today as I look out my windows. It has snowed constantly since ten A.M. yesterday morning. You get used to Spring snow storms when you grow up on the Prairies. Indeed I think they can some of the most fierce. While largely removed from farming these days I have had the experience of being there. I know that calving has just occurred. Calves can be most susceptible to weather resulting in losses.

That said, while I can expect these storms it don't mean that I like them. I have a number of things that need to be done today outside of the house: a haircut; need to buy a gift for my niece; grocery shopping, etc. all this snow and wind is going to make it difficult.

Friday, April 18, 2008

So I am Thinking...Portland

A couple of years ago I began researching a vacation to Oregon going through British Columbia and Washington. I wanted to see as much of this coastal area as possible. I would do some camping, museum-hopping, and hopefully get some whale-watching in too.

The trip never happened largely due to money. If I recall correctly in 2006 it would have cost me roughly 1200-1330 dollars. I wasn't flush with cash, but approached my banker with whom I was developing a working relationship to see what I could borrow. She nixed it for me. While I was disappointed it was probably the right thing to do at the time.

Things have become better for me. In the weeks ahead I should be clearing my Canada Student Loan (CSL) debt from the ledger. While I took my first CSL in 1980, I never used much of it and paid it off in quick-time. The one I about to eliminate I have been carrying that yoke since 1985 when I went to the University of Saskatchewan. In some form I have probably paid the original amount off. However, I went back to school in 1990 and incurred more CSL debt (~12K). I had some of it forgiven, but largely have been dealing with about ten thousand since 1994. So it is a considerable relief that this burden will soon be lifted . It opens ways to take care of other debt that I have and start looking at building wealth.

Perhaps it even allows for a vacation to be taken. I don't think I would want to do the same trip that I had planned out before. A smaller one will do just as fine. Oregon still seems a place I to explore. I have heard much good about Portland. Its renown for its art venues and other cultural institutions. It is also a portal to doing some trekking and eco-tours in the coastal areas and to Mt. St. Helens.

It's still not cheap to travel there. I checked today with Air Canada today, and a round-trip would cost over 670 dollars. On top of that lodging and events would still take you up to the range I was looking at two years ago. But since we are looking at 1.80 oil these days the estimated cost is not bad. So, I am thinking Portland in September. It seems right especially on a day like today where its snowing the dickens out of Southern Alberta, and will be for the next five days or so.

I'll see.

JAPB

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Birthday Thoughts

Today was my birthday.

I hold the view that whomever you know has a birthday you should make a point of bringing honour to that someone with a card or some kind of greeting. For it is an anniversary of unequalled value. God brought that person into being for a purpose:

"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-14)

and each purpose is unique in God's s
ight. As we are taught through Scripture to revere God, we accordingly should show respect for his Creation. I try to make this my practise, my small ministry, by sending out a card. If God would so see it that I have wherewithal in the future I would like to be able to take these same people out for a dinner or a lunch. This is an idea I received from reading Harvey MacKay's book, Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive (Ivy Books, 1989). However the underlying motive of Mackay's instruction was to generate sales leads and business. I think you should do it for the opposite reason. Do it to be nice.

Today's activities began with some energy as the stereo came on . After the obligatory maintenance work was dealt with, I prayed. I thanked the Lord for the breathe that fills my lungs and everything else that keeps me alive. Although I shall look to the day when I am returned home too. For I thanked him for the years that I have in, and what I have been taught from the imperfect and the kind persons whom He has had me associate. I also sought would He inform of where he is working, and may I be placed there to be a jar of clay.

My sister and a friend, Dawn, sent me e-cards from Dayspring. They both sent the same card. I was delighted to receive them, and couldn't help but think that they had conspired on the card selection. Further, I was quite amused to find my name in the card artwork (it is central to the message). I thought they had had added my name somehow. I sent an email to both of them thanking them for their blessing.

My sister phoned later in the morning to say they had not. She went looking for a card to send me and, without programming any names, there it was, a card with the name Darryl in it. I don't believe in coincidences, and rarely do I come across cards with any names other Jesus Christ to accept this could be something more that it is not. The Bible verse accompanying the card is
Isaiah 46:4 (NIV):

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he [God], I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Well, I have been showing some gray hairs for more than a little while.

I confirmed with Dawn later in the afternoon that there was no scheme. It was as Linda said. Just the same, what a wonderful beginning to the day.

I rode my bike to work. Since Saturday I had not take the time to wash it. This was a mistake. As the grit from the mud puddles of that day had adhered to the chain and gears causing a "loss of power." I spoke with a colleague who says a good wash and re-oiling with 3-in-One will bring it back to snuff. I'll do that on Saturday.

The rest of my birthday was filled with work at the job. My colleagues bought me lunch, and we enjoyed a great buffet. I worked out a plan that will save my boss some money on new printers. Although I lose out in giving up my own workstation printer, it is worth it in the long run.

I am but a week away from retiring my Canada Student Loan. I have been carrying that thing for the last twenty years. This event will place me all that closer to obtaining a mortgage hopefully in a couple of years time.


This evening I spent time with my friends, Malcolm and Ginny, enjoying a brilliant dinner at Big T's Smokehouse Restaurant. We each have busy summers lying ahead. Alas, there will be little camping time together as in the past several summers. Hopefully we can do a couple of hikes.

I close out the evening with this entry. I have received a great number of greeting from other friends via email and Facebook. I am happy. It has been a great day.

Another year is a happy gift,
So cut your cake, and say,
"Instead of counting birthdays,
I'll count my blessings every day!"

- JAPB

Sunday, April 13, 2008

At Your Own Peril




I was bike riding on Saturday along the river path in Calgary. I came to a junction that had a sign. It read "At Your Own Peril" or something like that. Then they apologized for it. How nice of them.

But the thing was there was a short rise before you got to the snow. And the question was, "do you want to proceed?" Oh, what the hey. I was having fun up to that point.

Well, I went the distance -- that which you see above, but now looking back. I've never ridden on snow before. Its a lot harder than it looks. I stayed upright. When I got to where I took this image, and I looked ahead to what appeared more of the same to Banff (:-), I turned around.

As I began my journey back to safety I noticed a young couple coming my way. Its difficult to distinguish here, but the guy is leading. His gal is following on foot.



When they reached me I told them it was all like this the rest of the way. Where they wanted to be was across the river. Its do-able in the summer. I facetiously suggested hoisting the bikes over the fence and crossing the railroad tracks and the river the old fashioned way.



I think the guy was interested in turning around. But there was estrogen all over this situation. The woman didn't want to walk her bike, she wanted to ride. so they went farther. I went back.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

U2 in 3D

Last night I went to see U2 3D at the Cineplex. Its an IMAX movie that goes far beyond what you can usually expect. I have never enjoyed previous 3D media. It never quite seemed real. Yet, U2 have partnered with 3eality and National Geographic to produce a stunning (awesome was the word I had on my lips as I exited the theatre) digital three-dimensional experience. You can go here to read more about it from the producers. Click on What is 3D for an explanation.

All I can say is that the way it has been filmed and edited you get the experience of not just being in the audience at their four big South American gigs, but you are with the band on the stage and above the stage...man, you have the best seat in the house. I was watching the crush of people at the stage barriers in these stadiums, and granted I wouldn't mind being anyone of those people enjoying U2 LIVE, but this film makes it possible to enjoy the band in no other way possible.

I read a review of the film prior to going, I think it was at Rotten Tomatoes, that included this paragraph, "
By the time Bono turns to the camera during a searing rendition of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," reaching out to his audience in a typically theatrical plea for peace, love and understanding, one half expects his outstretched hand to surge through the screen and seize one of your own." You know what the reviewer wasn't kidding (read the full review here). If I hadn't been in a room full of strangers I probably would have reached out my hand to grasp his.

The music is U2, and I had hard time to keeping my body still. There is a scene where hundreds of people are moshing, doing the pogo, and oh how I wanted to join them at that moment. I remember when version 1.0 came out with the Earthquake and other disaster movie back in the '70's. Technology has come a long way baby. The sound is played back in 5.1 Surround Sound with incredible clarity. I cannot imagine that you would have heard it so good live from any seat in the house.

The vintage concert films like The Last Waltz, Woodstock and even Paul Simon - Graceland (the African Concert) will always remain as classics. However, what the producers have done with U2 3D has risen the standard for this genre of movie. Perhaps for film period. To imagine Terminator II using this processing, especially in the freeway/motorcycle scenes where John Connor's cyborg protector (A. Schwarzenegger) is evading and fighting the Terminator. The violence and destruction would probably be too much for the average viewer as they are engulfed in the explosions and debris flying through the screen (and landing on top of the audience). Yet, Disney say that its future animation films will be shot in 3-D (Note: they already have begun, starting with Chicken Little in 2005, but few theatres were able to screen it). If Disney raises the bar, the other studios will be certain to follow. This progression I don't think will be able to follow through into the home markets. I have seen HD TV, but this goes beyond what HD is all about. I could be wrong.

And, yes I did have to wear glasses to watch the film. That's okay, so now I have my own personal pair when I go back and see it again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Snowy Day in the Spring

I have the luxury of a stereo system that also operates as a clock radio. I seem to start my working days better when they begin with music (see entry Bach in the Morning – Dec. 2007). So I program when the stereo should turn on in the living room, load it up with CD’s (or sometimes select the radio function) and go to bed. Such was the case last night; this morning I awoke to the lovely sounds of Cuban guitar and chorus. I lay there for a while allowing my brain to sweep away the cobwebs of sleep. Finally I went to the kitchen for my obligatory several glasses of water. To my horror, when I looked out the window, I saw a world of white. It was snowing! Huge, water-laden, flakes were falling everywhere, completely obscuring the downtown core. Okay, April snowstorms are not that uncommon. However, they are usually quite short in duration. It is near 11:30 in the morning as I write this entry; the snow is ankle deep (2-3 inches) and it continues to fall. Someone said that its supposed to keep snowing into the afternoon too.

What it is doing to the cityscape is quite spectacular. Pretty is a word that comes to mind. Trees are covered, weighted down by the mass of snow. Places that have gone undisturbed since the snowfall began are taking on an appearance of innocence. Their outlines and underlying textures now bear an impressionistic countenance.

It was interesting walking to work this morning. Some people were not prepared for the experience; optioning to not wear hats or toques the top of their heads becoming snow piles from the massive accumulation. I had to shake the snow off of my clothing many times, and I was surprised how quickly it would build up after each shaking. The temperature was actually warm. It was just when you came to an exposed corner that you had to turn away from the wind to avoid snow falling into your face. Apart from that the trip in was pleasant.

JAPB

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Asssessment for Dizziness

This morning I had a physiotherapy appointment to assess the extent of dizziness episodes I have had over the last two years. This is the latest tactic my doctor is employing since I went to him about last July. I have already had blood test, EKG and MRIs. We have ruled out possible parasitic causes that may be attributed to when I went to Mexico on mission in 2005.

 

My therapist put me through a battery of motion tests that would have caused my middle ear/balance system to produce dizziness. Nothing that Shelia put me through could bring about any of the symptoms, which in the past had included a lack of balance while walking or the room to go spinning while I was seated. I remarked that I just asked the best plumber in town to come and look at my faulty toilet, and when he arrived it was working quite fine. Indeed, lately I have been feeling well with regard to this condition. I have had moments of stress in January and February where there has been mild onset.

 

I learned that not having enough water through out the day could lead to dizziness. Therefore, because I like coffee, and have about 32-40 ozs. per day, I need to keep myself hydrated with equal or more amounts of water on a daily basis. I also learned that blood-oxygen chemistry could contribute to this condition. So the next step in this investigation is to test the levels of CO2 found in my blood using a capnotrainer. If I am not getting enough oxygen I will have to learn how to breathe properly to ensure I am.

 

JAPB