Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010.12.25 — A Week of Baseness has Been Ineffectual and Weak

 Well, it has been a week since I tested my body's acidity. And in that week I have managed to not have a single cup of coffee nor a single cup of beer. Furthermore, I managed to avoid all alcohol.

Hmmm. Not a great way to start this, with a list of negatives, when what I am doing is helping my health! But, negative seems to be the way of it, as I also avoided all beef and reduced by more than half the amount of other meat proteins I've ingested. My intake of water, mostly with fresh squeezed lemon juice and green tea, has significantly increased, probably by double. The amount of dairy products has been reduced by 3 or 4 times because I've stopped eating yoghurt for breakfast, which was a regular thing with me. No peanut butter, which was one of my regular foods, along with bananas. The butter intake is near zero too. I haven't increased the dark green vegetables as much as I'd like, but I ate them quite regularly before commencing this experiment, anyway.

I have also been eating and drinking high alkaline foods and beverages, supplemented with pH Protector Drops by Body Health.

And at my health food consultant's recommendation, I have been ingesting something called 'greens+' by Genuine Health. The label blazons that this product  is 'The original research proven superfood.'

This experiment is a bit challenging right now, with 'now' being Christmas. But still, I am doing very well  with my ingestion of alkaline producing foods outweighing the acid producing ones. And, as noted above, I have eliminated completely the worst offenders.

So, in that week what has changed in my pH? Well, last week when I tested my saliva's pH, I learned that it was at least a 6, which is very bad. It could have tested even lower if the strip I was given — a sample strip — showed results below 6. Yes, that is how bad my acidosis was, the sample strip's worst reading was probably higher than my pH level. Today, on the other hand, I opened up the 'proper' strips (Genuine Health's pH Paper), and they go to 5.5 with increments up to 8.0. Well, this afternoon I tested both my saliva and urine, and both test strips showed a pH of around 5.9. That was disappointing, I must say. But, to look for the lemonade in that lemon, it does offer at least a partial explanation for the fungal infection on and in my ears continuing to grow worse — the acid level of my skin provides a positive environment for its growth. And it suggests that my pH was probably quite a bit lower than 6.

And it has indeed grown much, much worse. The description given at the link for this ailment's beginning aligns with how I think it got started — using my Bose ear buds for extended periods of time created a fungal friendly warm and moist environment within my ear — and how my using headphones exacerbated the problem. Right now the epidermis of both my ears has peeled off. The ears are painful and swollen and inflamed. Following some on-line advice about 'natural' cures for fungal ear infections, I am increasing my consumption of capsulated garlic (which I took daily before onset). This afternoon I actually anointed my ears with some garlic oil! I washed it off about 30 minutes ago, after having it on for 4 hours or so, and while there are no signs of improvement, it does not appear to have gotten worse.

After washing off the garlic I have now re-commenced with the off-the-shelf fungal cream I've been using for several months (to no obvious effect obviously!), but now I'm combining it with another on-line natural recommendation — tea tree oil, which has anti-fungal properties, and grapefruit seed extract, which has anti-fungal properties as well. Both products 'just happen' to be in my medicine cabinet because my acupuncturist 'prescribed' them to me to help combat the fungal infection I've had in my sinuses since 1990 or so. They helped alleviate my symptoms immensely when I first began to take them in 2001 in conjunction with the acupuncture.

On the positive side of things, I feel, physically, excellent! I have vibrant energy, and feel an extra zip in my walk and in my feet. I have been extremely creative, writing for many hours each day, as well as doing the Christmasy things and cooking, cleaning, etc.

And so, the experiment continues. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010.12.22 — A Litmus Tested Slightly Acerbic Fushigi*

Earlier today I was playing with verbiage on, a reader/writers' social network. (Quite a good one, actually, I think.)
Specifically, I contributed a poem and discussion on a thread within the poetry string within goodreads. How it began is when one of the inquisitive regulars, who wants to learn to be a poet, proposed an exercise to use a word-of-the-day word to create a poem. The word he supplied was caliginous, adj. misty, dark. From that prompt a few of us created poems and commentary.

As usual with a fushigi, some elaboration is required, although this time, it is almost done. The key is Jefferson Carter. He is a regular contributor, published poet and retired community college chair and composition instructor. I've clipped the beginning of the entry Jefferson made for this exercise, which includes the title, 'Caliginous.'

Entitling his poem 'Caliginous' was his method of using the word 'caliginous' in a poem. This has the appearance of being a bit of a cheat, except that Jefferson actually made the poem work quite nicely with the title. Here's his poem:

Quiet! I'm taking
a litmustest.

The rumble strip
startled me awake.

Please flush toilet
after voting.

Jefferson's poem brought to my mind, instantaneously, a bunch of images. With his permission, I wrote them down. Here is what I wrote:

A litmus test is to test for level of acidity. The challenge of Dan's WotD is a kind of test; given what I have seen of the nature of your nature, Jefferson, your challenge is how to make 'caliginous' clearly acerbic.

You have done this quite well by making three clear statements (oddly linked in number to the three levels of acidity - alkaline, neutral, and acidic), which are not clearly linked.

However, litmus is often (usually) on a paper strip, and this provides an unstated verbal link between the first and second stanzas. The 'rumble strip' is a man-made bump in the road designed to alert inattentive drivers, but the sound construction of 'The rumble strip' I also associate to things like 'Sunset Strip', or 'The Strip' as a place to hang out, party, have a good time, drink too much.

The toilet flush is the day after fun on the strip. The gag reflex I feel about voting these days, creates in my mind the link between voting with vomiting, with a kind of alliteration. And thus the need to vomit after having fun on the rumble strip is hinted at.

Because vomit is now firmly associated with the toilet flush, what ties that back to the first stanza is the litmus test — vomit is comprised of acid destroyed food. The medicine to help an upset stomach is alkaline in order to re-balance the stomach's pH level.

And there you go! The power to make anything out of anything! And put into your verse a caliginous connectiion.
Hope this was as much fun to read as it was to write.

I find it very funny that as I wrote my bit in the thread on how Jefferson's poem's imagery played with 'acidity' in my imagination, I did not even make the fushigi association it had with my blog! On the 20th (into the 21st) I blogged my description of the process I have chosen to undertake in order to change the alkalinity of my body. I titled that blog Acid Wit Begon, to Wit, an Alkaline I'll Become.

Thus, even after having spent a few hours on a big blog in which I write all about acidity, I did not see the connection the next day as I also spent a substantial amount of time writing about acids and pH and litmus in another page. In fact it did not occur to me until very late this evening.

Thus I have included this as a fushigi because of the time proximity of the word litmus coming to me from completely disparate directions; and because it was by chance, more or less, that I even went into the 'Caliginous' poetry thread in the first place; and on Saturday (18th) I purchased for the first time in 50 years of being alive, litmus paper.

Oh! I might just as well contribute my own little poem, even though it contributes nothing to the fushigi:

On being asleep

I thought I was awake, when I woke.
So I wrote that down
and wondered,
in a half awake caliginous way,
what the day would bring.
Would I find myself waking up again,
Or dozing with Jack,
my calico cat?

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010.12.20 — Acid Wit Begone, to Wit, An Alkaline I'll Become

Now for something completely different in this blog. 

I've decided to take a private-ish issue into this blog. I suffer from a chronic ailment. It has a wide range of negative health effects, but it is a medical condition ignored almost completely, as far as I can tell, by the 'official' medical community. I suffer from chronic 'acidosis' of the body. Severe acidosis — which I don't have — can be deadly. Naturopathic and other 'natural' health practitioners argue that mild chronic acidosis is associated with, or even the cause of, a whole range of ailments including cancer.

I do not have cancer — or if I do, I am unaware of it at this time. But I have known that there has been something since I was a young man, although I didn't make the association until recently. I have worn glasses since grade six but it wasn't until my late teens that I noticed that metal frames of my eye glasses corroded where they touched my skin. In the space of a few months, the thin protective coating on a new metal frame would have disappeared and I would be turning green where the metal was being dissolved into my body. Only once did an optometrist comment on my skin being acidic. But the observation was without context. It meant nothing to me from an overall health perspective. Instead it became one of those things that had to be dealt with when buying eye glasses.
To avoid the problem I bought plastic frames.

As of a few days ago, I now know that what I experienced with metal frames was just one of several other bodily symptoms of my body's pH level.

For a typical listing of possible symptoms of acidosis, click

One of my adult-life characteristics — which I think now was a symptom of acidosis, has been tiredness. For about twenty years I have experienced chronic tiredness, and that I have ascribed to having been given, via rhinoplasty to correct a deviated septum, a fungal/yeast infection in my sinuses. But I didn't know that for the better part of ten years following the surgery because the official doctoring wrote my symptoms off as allergies, despite my repeated arguments that the sniveling, post nasal drip, vile smelling stuff stuffing my nose and filling boxes worth of tissue paper did not seem to follow an allergy pattern. During the worst of this time I often was so tired that it felt like my arms were going to fall off. Keeping my eyes open was extremely difficult in the evening, and pissed off my wife when I fell asleep while she was talking.

Picture from Wikepedia
Also, about twenty years ago, I had the joy of discovering that gout is alive and well in the world — because it was alive in well in me. After I understood what I was experiencing I ascribed it to eating too much beef. I am not a big fan of beef, never have been. But my wife, who until relatively recently did all the cooking, is and so I ate what she put in front of me. At least until the gout developed. Subsequently we were much more careful about my beef intake, including making separate proteins for our suppers.

Now here is where things get acerbically interesting.

Gout: the needle shape
of crystalline uric acid
Gout is an inflammation of the joints as a result of crystalline uric acid being deposited in them, often in the feet or lower limbs. These deposits happen because of an excess build-up of uric acid (hyperuricemea) in the blood. The reasons for that are unknown, but the shape of the crystals is well known: they are needle shaped!

So, for twenty plus years, I've kept this under control, most of the time, through diet. Once or twice a year it would flare up a bit, but the magic of pills and a change in diet normally did the trick to clear it up in a day or two. Every once and I while I would discover some new purine rich food, such as when I ate home made caesar salad! It so happens that anchovies are extremely purine rich, and purine rich foods are those mostly associated with gout. That attack was slow to heal. 

Curiously, even with too much uric acid in the blood, the official doctor did not talk about a diet to reduce my overall level of body acidity. Instead the discussion was about what pills to take when I get an attack, avoid eating those foods you know are problematic. He said that if I have chronic attacks then a 'permanent' diet of pills could be prescribed to suppress the formation of uric acid. And over time I began to be aware that before I felt it my right foot I would feel precursors to it between the bones in my left hand and increase fluid intake, reduce proteins, etc. That was that.

So with being mostly careful in what I ate and coping with the odd attack, life carried on.

Oh! It is interesting to note that one of the symptoms of gout is tiredness.

Back to my sinuses.
My wife saw a health news clip on the topic of chronic allergy symptoms being a misdiagnosed fungal/yeast infection. She immediately recognized that I was suffering from that kind of infection, and not an allergy. And that made sense to me, too! 

I spent some time trying various home remedies, but to little effect. I had left it so long that the infection was not going to respond to my little bit of good intentioned tinkering, if it ever would have.

With the help of a little fushigi*, I found myself being needled by an acupuncturist and one-time MD. He recognized immediately that my symptoms were most likely associated with a fungal infection. He asked to see my tongue, and felt my wrist pulse. He said he could help me, but did not guarantee he could eliminate it. 'I will boost your body's immune system to fight it. And that, with a change of diet will bring the infection under control.' He commented about acidic foods, but did not talk about measuring my body's overall acidity, nor that the body's pH is best to be slightly alkaline. He prescribed some herbal medicines, in caplet form as well.

I agreed to eliminate wheat, beer, coffee and alcohol from my diet. 

An example of a short needle
And so he laid me out to be pricked. For most of the needles  I didn't feel a thing — the two just below the outside of my nostrils were a little prickly, like having a beard hair pulled out. As he is putting the needles in me, he is talking about health — I've forgotten exactly what because I began to laugh uncontrollably. I felt utterly euphoric. After the needles were set the way he wanted them, he turned off the lights and left the room. My laughter subsided to chuckling. At the end of the hour, I got up and felt better than I'd felt in ten or more years. As I'm paying the receptionist, I comment about my starting to laugh. "Oh yes!" she said."That is very common. Most people either laugh or cry on their first visit."

I ingested the herbal caplets and received acupuncture for about two months. Wow! I cannot describe to you how wonderful I felt! I also followed the diet for about three years, quite religiously. However, as the pressures of living with another person began to wear down my resolve, now that I was feeling great, I slowly fell off what now I know as an alkaline enhancing diet, and returned to my old diet. We eat very healthily, overall! Very little processed foods, almost no 'junk' food, and as much as possible the food we it is fresh. In general we eat good quality fats — olive oil and the like, along with butter for baking and spreading on bread. We do eat red and white meats, but low fat and not huge amounts. About the only 'junk' food we eat with any regularity is sugar in home baking. And I began to enjoy a beer with dinner several times a week.

Slowly the fungal infection began to reassert itself. Nowhere near like what it was when I didn't know what was happening. I eased up on the bread, a little, and the beer, but did not eliminate them from my diet with the diligence I had done before.

Fast forward four years. Sinuses are getting bad again, still not horrible.

In the beginning of 2010 I develop an itchiness in my ear canals. I associate that with an allergic reaction to my having recently purchased Bose ear buds and listening to my iPod at work whenever I could. At first I don't pay attention to it at all, thinking it will go away. It doesn't. One morning I wake up with the one ear canal partially sealed by swelling and by a peculiar moisture in the ear. I stop using the buds, and visit my doctor. He takes a quick look, doesn't see anything wrong, and prescribes a cortisone-based fluid to drop in my ears. That helps for the swelling, which subsides, but the itching continues to grow more and more annoying. By that I mean the skin in my ear canals are now pealing and scabbing, so now they are painful to touch and itchy!

I begin to attend carefully the symptoms and how they are changing. It seems to me that I have developed some kind of fungal infection there too!

In the summer of 2010 I return to the acupuncturist and he gives me the treatment, and I feel a lot better. The inflammation of the sinuses subsides a bit, and my energy improves a lot. However, the fungal infection(s?) do not significantly improve.

Fall 2010. Now my ears are going crazy! I buy anti-fungal cream from the pharmacy. This seems to help a little. In December I get a gout attack, which along with the fungal business and a new manager at work who has been talking about body toxicity and pH levels, triggers something in my head: all these symptoms are supported by an acidic body, which has not only eaten away the metal in eye glasses, but is now in the process of dissolving the pearl earrings I wear in my left ear.

That brings us to why I began this fungal fun fest! After I made the associations, I did a bit of Goolge research, and decided that it was time to actively change the pH of my body.

So, my history is to set so that I can chart in this blog the denouement of my bodily pH balancing experiment. Because I have already two measure of my acidic pH — melting earrings and dissolving metal — I began to follow the dietary suggestions from the various web sites I'd visited four days ago.

Chemical structure of 7-hydroxyphenoxazone,
the chromophore of litmus components
In reading the alkaline-producing versus acid-producing foods, there are some surprising things! Such as lemon being extremely alkaline producing when ingested.But what was a kind of confirmation of my speculation was that beer and beef are two of the most acidic forming foods. See for an example.

On Saturday I purchased some alkaline enhancing drops and soluble mixes, and some litmus paper test strips.

And there was no surprise: my strip, which did not go lower than 6 — see chart above — was fully a six. According to most web sites, the pH level of the human body needs to float just above 7. Per, the 'ideal' pH is 7.365.

So, every week I will proceed regaling you with the compelling melodrama of my pH rebalancing experiment. I have fully stopped all beer and alcohol, coffee and beef. I have stopped eating peanut butter — a favourite food of mine, and same with bananas. I have been drinking about half again as much water as I used to, and am drinking green tea at least three times a day. I supplement my tea and water with "Body Rescue:pH Protector Drops"; in my tea and lemon water that I've started drinking too, I add "Greens+" 'superfood.

We'll see. Although, subjectively, I have already felt a boost in energy, and, even a certain clarity of mind. I think that this will be interesting, as I try this and that, and measure how my pH changes and how I subjectively feel in the process. And! There is the non-subjective measure — removal from my system of all fungal infections.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010.12.14 — Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick's NFB Documentary "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media"

@2:39:09 of 'Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media':
The point is you have to work. That's why the propaganda system is so successful. Very few people are going to have the time or the energy or the commitment to carry out the constant battle that's required to get outside of the you know, er, the McNeil/Lehrer or Dan Rather or somebody like that. The easy thing to do, you know, you come home from work, you're tired, it's been a busy day, you're not going to spend the evening carrying on a research project so you turn on the tube and you say it's probably right or you look at the headlines in the paper and then you watch the sports or something. 'Cause that's basically how the system of indoctrination works.

I am writing an economics course. Well, actually, I began writing it about ten years ago, and have worked on it more or less diligently in that time as my level of distress turned to anger at the economic reporting that was almost invariably pure propaganda. And too, my work on it has varied as my 'official' work has allowed or hindered my willingness to work on it.

A few months ago my wife suggested I apply to our local Continuing Education programme to see if they would carry it. I thought that a good idea, and did so. It was accepted. Today I received their mailed out winter catalogue — and sure enough, beginning February 21st I will be teaching a pared down to six hour version of that course. This short course I've called 'Economics Demystified'. [I am building its web page, but it's not quite ready to go live.]

So, what's that got to do with Noam Chomsky
Well, a big part of my course is to in fact De-mystify people who believe that economics is or is largely comprised of, what comes to them via the media. And given what I remember of it from watching 'Manufacturing Consent' about fifteen years ago or more, I wanted to include the film on the 'video links' section of my course's web site because Chomsky ravages the integrity of the media's eminence as an unbiased agency of societal knowledge and awareness. Because of its importance, I figured that someone somewhere on the wonderful WWW would have it, and that is in fact turned out to be the case. I found the complete film as a .wmv file at Google Videos, although it's graphics are pretty rough. 

So, last night, instead of watching 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' I watched the almost three hours long film of Chomsky being followed around by a Canadian NFB documentary crew:

The film is much much better than I'd remembered it! The last time I watched it I remember being 
very impressed because I had already come to see, on my own, at least some of the arguments Chomsky presents. And that was nice, seeing my observations validated and expanded by Chomsky. And he was challenging because he also highlighted the vastness of my ignorance. And, to a greater or lesser extent, I have continued my learning process without focussing exclusively on the media, or slavishly following Chomsky or anyone, but by meandering down my own path.

Given my meandering path, I was very amused/pleased with a response Chomsky made to someone who asked him which media outlets she could trust:

Now if you asked what media can I turn to to get the right answers, first, I wouldn't tell you that, because I don't think there's an answer.
The right answers are what you decide are the right answers. Maybe everything I'm telling you is wrong. Okay, could perfectly well be, I'm no god. But that's something for you to figure out. I can tell you what I think happens to be more or less right, but there isn't any reason you should pay any attention to it.
And that is what I've been doing — struggling to find the truth I see in the world.

For anyone who has even an inkling of a hint of a part of a thought that the media misrepresents the nature of our world society, do yourself a favour and watch it at GoogleVideos, or in the video link above.

The film examines with the very acute critical eye of Chomsky the role of the media in 'marginalizing' 80% of the population, and indoctrinating the balance to ensure that 'proper' democratic policies are embodied in the society to the benefit of those in position of power. And while it isn't  explicitly about economics, implicitly it argues that the manufacture of consent by the elite for the best of the democracy is primarily motivated by economic self-interest.

At one point Chomsky describes his role. And I was pleased — and horrified because it sounds so egotistical! — to see in his description what I think of myself and this course:
Chomsky: My work ... is not directed to intellectuals and politicians. It's directed to what are called 'ordinary people.' And what I expect from them is in fact exactly what they are. That they should try to understand the world and act in accordance with their decent impulses. And that they should try to improve the world. And many people are willing to do that, but they have to understand. In fact as far as i can see in these things I feel that I am simply helping people develop courses of intellectual self-defense. Interviewer: What did you mean by that? What would such a course be?
 I don't mean go to school because you're not going to get it there. Ah. It means you have to develop an independent mind. And work on it. Now that's extremely hard to do alone. The beauty of our system is that it isolates everybody. Each person is sitting alone in front of the tube. It's very hard to have ideas or thoughts under those circumstances. You can't fight the world alone. Some people can, but it's pretty rare. The way to do it is through organization. So courses of intellectual self-defence will have to be in the context of political and other organizations.

Here are two other interesting transcriptions from the film:
Individuals working behind the scenes are what empowers social change - the figureheads, the Martin Luther Kings and the George Washingtons, cannot succeed without the efforts of the forgotten many working in their communities, offices, etc.

Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain. Which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic [economic] formulation. Now it's long been understood very well that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource and that the world is an infinite garbage can.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2010.12.06 — The Giver Gives a Fushigi*

There occurred, a couple of hours ago, a remarkable fushigi*. And, typical of the truly remarkable ones, some elaboration is required. It begins with my originally joining 'Goodreads', which is a web based social site because it contains an interesting — not perfect library function. Goodreads' is a reading/writing/critiquing group. I like its library thing because members upload a record of their books read (and not read or almost read), which corresponds with my having kept my own 'books-read' journal. Once uploaded, then reviews and comparisons, and rating statistics, and book groups and quizzes can all be interactively created.

And I have been uploading books ever since, with greater or lesser diligence — as of today I have uploaded 1073 books, of which 783 are read. [I still have many to go!]

Tonight's fushigi begins with my visiting, as is my practice lately, the 'Comments and Posts' of the two Goodreads groups to which I belong. Up until November 19th I was in fact a member of only one group (poetry) because I am ambivalent about the time I have in a day to read the opinions of people who are nearly as verbose as me! On the 19th I received an invitation to join a second group, the 'James Mason Community Book Club, and did in fact join it.

Last week I began uploading books from childhood, and this reminded me of a YA (Young Adult) book BH had recommended to me. My memory suggested that I'd read it about 3 or 4 years ago. Because of my extreme negative reaction to her recommended book I clearly remember the book's plot line. But I could not remember the title nor the author, and that is very unusual for me — or at least the younger than I am now me. I spent an hour or more trying to remember them while looking for it on my iMac in order to include it on my 'books read' shelf (and be able to add my review!). When I couldn't initially find it I looked on the PC at work in case I'd e.mailed my reaction to it to BH from there. But after a diligent search, using search engines in the e.mail systems as well as on the hard drives, I was unable to find it on either my home or work computers.

Today Goodreads gave me the answer to my search! It was on ... ...Marialyce's 'Gift-Worthy' book list. And once I saw this, I was able to find it on my iMac! I have no idea why I didn't find it before, because my journal notation includes my friend's name, which is what I looked for. Here is my journal notation:

"20030830;0905","Lowry","Lois","Giver, The","Bantam Doubleday Dell - Laurel Leaf","0-440-21907-8",2,"I read this after BH praised it as one of the best books she has ever read.  I found it wanting.  The beginning was good, with a minor quibble about the protagonist's first leap out of his brainwashing was to the ability to choose... " 
Here is the review I wrote for Goodreads:

I read this book because it came highly recommended from a friend who is a teacher in an elementary school. We had been discussing YA books. She, for obvious reasons, and I because I'd taken the optional 'Children's Literature' course in the Education Department of SFU and found reading YA books as an adult to be fascinating. Thus arose the high recommendation. I was very disappointed. I'll rephrase. I was VERY disappointed, even shocked. The shock was because the book starts off well — not brilliantly, but solidly. Within the utopian community Lowry carefully, slowly builds an awareness in the reader that there are evils behind the literally 'black and whilte' world lived by the residents who had been 'blessed' by science's ability to keep passion and all other irrationalities from displacing reasonableness.

And, while this part was done well, the ending was horrible. Let me rephrase. The ending was dreck. I won't give away the details of its being dreck, but do not read further if you want to read this book and have the ending be a complete surprise. The ending is perhaps the absolute worst ending of any book of any genre of any age I have ever read. It stands out because, while I have read far worse books, I have not read any books written as competently for its bulk, to be blindsided by such Christian banality. The ending moved this book from a 3 star read to less than 1. If I had to choose between reading this book again and throwing sand in my eyes, gritty eyes here I come!

Finally, I hope that my extreme castigation of The Giver won't inspire you to test my reaction. However! This book may well appeal to a peculiar kind of Christian who sees saccharine sweet, unbelievable deus ex machina endings covered in corn syrup as powerful examples of God's wonder. I found the ending of this book to be an epitome of an infantile maudlin human sentimentality that was able to provoke my gag reflex.
There you have it. Another strange little fushigi

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010.11.23 — Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf

My friend RT asked me to watch the Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf interview clip from the CBC Archives:

Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf

Medium: Television
Program: Midweek
Broadcast Date: Oct. 28, 1971
Guest(s): Joe Borowski, Germaine Greer
Interviewer: Larry Zolf

And she also asked for my reaction. I wound up leaving a comment on the CBC's archive page (or at least I tried to — it was a confused and poorly functioning forum). But here is what I wrote:
GG handled herself with remarkable control and restraint even as it was becoming evident that LZ was not just playing a sexist devil's advocate but was genuinely condescending in his facile effort to undermine GG's credibility. It was a truly pathetic effort, on LZ's part, to use red herring class arguments to try to belligerently shut up GG. (And, weirdly enough, it reminds me of the condescending criticism Naomi Klein faced for her book No-Logo when, instead of arguing the merits or weaknesses of her book's argument, critic after critic tried to to shame her for being a hypocrite for having had the book published with an interesting cover.) On the one hand I was a little saddened to see that Canadian journalism has had its own arrogant, ignorant, condescending Bill O'Reilly's in their so-called 'hallowed' halls. On the other hand, this interview was a nice touch stone, for me, that re-affirmed just how big a gulf existed between male and female equality forty years ago, and how far it has come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010.11.22 — Economics Circling the Trade Floor — a Crafty Fushigi

This morning my wife our friend AG and I visited the

at the 
We walked in the door of the show room floor. We checked our watches — 10:30a.m. — and set ourselves to meet up in one hour. Then my wife and AG went one way, and I another, as we to begin wade our ways through the 275 exhibitors (per the programme guide, which, for completeness, I've listed below).

Without consulting the floor plan I found the food area where I bought myself a piece of pretty good carrot cake for my breakfast. Once I'd chomped that down I allowed my nose to lead me around the giant space, still without any plan. And it was big:

At about 10:40, almost immediately after starting to meander, I walked by a booth that caught my eye because it was a craft show anomaly. I have been to about seven of these Circle Craft trade shows, and perhaps a dozen others of one sort or another, and do not remember having seen a booth quite like this one. It was tiny, which isn't unusual, but it had books — which is a bit unusual. But what made it truly unique in my experience is that unlike the few book displays I've seen in the past, this one was not for children, nor was it 'art' books, or gussied-up re-covers of classics old or modern. Instead the display appeared to be of several copies of only two, or maybe three books. (Later I learned that two books were the prominent display, and that there was an advertisement for one other that was in the process of going to press.)

So I paused to look — I always at least stop to look at books on display — while the vendor was talking with a customer. Somehow, before I could walk away from what looked like a peculiar gardening book, the vendor grabbed one and waved it out in my direction and said something. I forget what it was, but I answered 'Is this a book about seeding a garden, or something?'

'No,' he said, 'it is about the failure of economics to feed the poor.' 

'Oh,' I said. 'What do you mean?'

Paraphrased, Hugo Bonjean told me that he became awake to what the corporate world was doing to the poor and third world countries while he was a VP for Merriott Hotels. When I asked him what he did after he hat that realization, he said he that changed his life. When I asked him how, he said that he quit his job as a VP in the Merriott Hotel chain because 'When I was told that the only thing that mattered was the bottom line, I realized that my bottom line was different than theirs.' And so he quit the corporate world and wrote his first book, In the Eyes of Anahita.

We talked about a few other related items, and then I told him that by chance I had spent several hours last night working on the 'anti-economics' economics course I am writing for my local continuing education programme. I told him that, specifically, I was looking for an old videotape I'd made of a NFB documentary of Marilyn Waring who found in her research on how economic measures are made that the official international books of account deliberately exclude so-called 'women's work' from any measure of economic well being (GDP/GNP). [The documentary, Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics, is excellent. It is a synopsis of her book If Women Counted. The entire 94 minute film can be seen on her facebook page.

Hugo and I talked about a few other things, specifically media misrepresentation of economic events. I told him about my article 'Death by Freezing,' which arose after reading Linda McQuaig. I told him that in one of her books a prominent Canadian TV journalist admitted to her that he had lied in his news story on the New Zealand financial crisis of the eighties in order to persuade Canadians through fear curtail social programs and move the economy towards a pro-corporate/business agenda. This is one of the most exposed examples of Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent in a so-called democracy.

I told Hugo about my perception and reaction to my official university economics schooling. And, lastly, I told him, very badly, about my having written a letter to a local television journalist that challenged him for his highly hypocritical misrepresentation of a local banking 'failure.' [The perpetrators of the failure were recently convicted of fraud that resulted in prison time for them but no financial compensation for the victims]. He called me about a month to thank me for my letter. A few months after that I stopped seeing him on the TV news station. I called the station to learn that he'd quit. And he has never said that my letter influenced him, but I have often wondered if it did, especially when I stumbled across his freelance piece on the corporate profitability of hand gun sales in third world countries.

I haven't published that letter on this blog yet, but now is a good time. I've made it a separate entry, which you can link to from here.

Oh! I bought Bonjean's 2nd book. I haven't started the book yet, bit will write a review when I do. You can read the first couple of chapters from his web page on this link.

Q: Does this encounter count as a fushigi? Well, I'm not sure, but it certainly suggests that life has a peculiar sense of humour. And that in turn infers that intelligence and perception are in Life extant.

Now for a sigh! For completeness of this fushigi I have included below the list of vendors, in order to give a better sense of how small was the statistical chance I'd have the experience I did, a chance made smaller by the layout of this show — different than previous shows — in that the small block configuration instead of long aisles allowed for maze-like zig-zagging that made missing booths very easy.

2010.11.22 — A Challenge to Hypocritical Journalism — A Letter

In 1998 I watched a news report on a local banking bankruptcy which wiped out the life savings of hundreds of people. I was outraged out the degree of hypocrisy I heard as the journalist blamed the government for a debacle that sounded like, and turned out to be, the criminal behaviour of now convicted frauds. Here's a piece of a 2005 CBCNews item on the Eron Mortgage story:

Beginning in 1993, Eron Mortgage raised more than $200 million from 3,350 investors, mainly from British Columbia. The company fell apart on Oct. 3, 1997 when the B.C. Registrar of Mortgage Brokers pulled Eron's licence.
... [E]vidence at the commission hearing found that most of the money went to pay for high interest payments on earlier investments, and the rest was siphoned off for other uses.
... Investors lost an estimated $182 million in what a securities commission panel called "a massive fraud" before the broker's licence of Eron and its principals was eventually lifted. 
 The full 2005 article can be found at CBCNews.

Anyway, in 1998 I wrote the following:

April 21, 1998

[Address information]

[Mr. N., News Reporter]
7850 Enterprise Street Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1V7

Mr. [N.]

During your report last week on the Eron bankruptcy I heard you say "The one thing we can learn from this is not to trust the government."

What exactly did you mean by that? Did you mean that the government — or more precisely a particular government agency — which was suppose to protect us from poor, if not unscrupulous, business practices was inadequate to the job? But if that is what you meant, then have you not contradicted CTV's and the other corporate media's efforts at undermining and/or eliminating government's role in the business community? In fact does not this government "failure" actually indicate the degree that the government cut backs have been successful as desired by the corporate media, in that there is no longer adequate staffing and/or resources to do the "red-tape" job of protecting the public from just such shoddy or unethical business practices, or like those we have seen in the building trades? This lack of government presence has been exactly what has been incessantly flying out of the mouths of the Michael Campbell's who prate on about that reduction of government as some kind of economic panacea which will save the world from the evil of government inefficiencies. Should you not have said, instead, "The one lesson we can learn from this, is that we can't trust big business?"

Or, instead, did you mean that you did, in fact, trust the government to protect us and are now disappointed that that trust has been broken? But if that is what you meant, then it was a highly hypocritical statement, in that the one thing that the corporate media has made absolutely clear in the last twenty years, is that the government is the enemy of the people and that big business is the friend of the people.

Or was your statement meant to preserve the illusion of the trust worthiness of big business, despite the owner socking away $1.8 million so as to avoid culpability, by casting out your vacuous anti-government jibe as some kind of red herring? But then, if that is the case, are you not implying that big government is, in fact, culpable and big business is not — of which the example of the building trades also implies? But again, that contradicts the overwhelming amount of press which has flown out of the mouths of the Eric Mallings of the corporate media about the lack of culpability of government — such as senators — and the eminent responsibility of business, despite such things as numbered companies, golden parachutes, etc.

All in all, your statement was empty and misleading, and suggestive of something Noam Chomsky has said of the educational apparatus:
The more articulate elements of those groups, the ones who have access to the educational apparatus, they should properly be referred to as a class of "commissars." That's their essential function: to design, propagate and create a system of doctrines and beliefs which will undermine independent thought and prevent understanding and analysis of institutional structures and their functions. That's their social role. I don't mean to say that they're conscious of it. In fact, they're not. In a really effective system of indoctrination the commissars are quite unaware of it and believe that they themselves are independent, critical minds. If you investigate the actual productions of the media, the journals of opinion, etc., you find exactly that. It's a very narrow, very tightly constrained and grotesquely inaccurate account of the world in which we live.
Chomsky, Noam. Chronicles of Dissent: Interviewed by David Barsamian. Vancouver, BC: New Star Books, 1992, pp. 5-6.


P.S.: Mr. [N.], please feel no obligation to reply or even acknowledge my letter, as I have come to expect, by experience, the lack of responsiveness to letters such as this from the corporate media, despite its hard sell at being "for the people." My public representatives have always at least acknowledged my queries or comments, which contradicts the image the corporate media have projected about the government being cold and distant and insensitive.
May 27,1998
[N.] called my home number @ about 12:15p in response to this letter. I left a message with CTV thanking him for replying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010.11.16 — Not Far from the Madding Pole — a fushigi

I got to work several hours late this morning. It was a surprisingly beautiful — cool, almost cold — day with clean air and brilliant colour on the trees and in the sky making it a perfect day to be getting to work late. I was late because I had taken my wife and I to a medical lab for blood works. That was extended because, after that, I waited in the car reading Made in America by Bill Bryson while my wife visited her medical specialist.

But, once at work, the perverse fushigi gods got together to mess with me. This very weird work one began in the year 2004. As such, unfortunately, a bit of boring background is needed in order for the fushigi to mean anything. The following events, while real, have been paraphrased and shortened to minimize the reader's pain.

Back in CW, a very green tech, was directed by our mutual and also relatively green, design manager, to fix a 'discovered-while-doing-something-else' — not reported — aerial utility trespass. Once the design manager was out of earshot, I looked at the job as her trainer/mentor and recommended that she not do the work. 'This is an extremely difficult trespass to fix,' I said. 'And given that the utility trespass is in an industrial area and that no one is complaining about it, I recommend that you don't fix it at this time. Wait until there is an actual complaint.'

CW, wanting to accommodate her directive, consulted another tech who, unfortunately for her, concurred with my recommendation.

'But,' CW argued, 'my manager has told me that I have to fix it.'

'Okay. Just put it into the 'work-to-done-when-I've-got-nothing-else-to-do pile. Since you will always have work to do that is more pressing, you will be able to not do the work without saying you won't do the work.'

CW refused to do that because it was a bit too underhanded for her comfort.

So, abiding her manager's directive she proceeded to begin the design by first creating the work order.

She struggled to get the job designed, as well as co-ordinating the different companies required to fix the non-problem problem. I helped her for a while, and then, as time passed, I forgot about it. Eventually the entire department was re-organized and we reported to different managers. More time passed during which there was another re-organization, a lockout, and a return to work in 2006. Once again we reported to the same manager, although not the one we did in 2004.

In 2006 CW had been put on a special assignment before the now old trespass job rose up from the nearly dead jobs with a phone call I got from the city engineers. GB asked me when the work on this job would be completed. He was concerned because the 'new' pole hole that had been dug by the other utility company in 2004 was still a hole and the pole that was supposed to be in it was laying on the ground. Both constituted a public safety hazard.

When I looked at the job, parts of it had been done, but parts needed redesigning before it would be ready to recommence.
(The reason the pole wasn't in the hole was because doing that without the construction crews present would 'trap' the cables on the wrong side of the pole.) I finished the changes, (see clip from construction drawing showing date), and then arranged for the various parties to co-ordinate their efforts and gave it to logistics to book the various groups needed to get the work completed.

Since then I have received about two calls per year from either the city or my logistics people about getting the work completed. Each time I received a call arranged with the various parties and their crew chiefs to get themselves together on the job site. When in 2009 I received yet another call that the work was still outstanding I threw up my hands, blew a gasket, and gave responsibility for its completion to the design manager for the area. He agreed to take it on and subsequently I was notified by him that the work had been done shortly before he retired. Oddly enough, I learned on February 2nd, 2010 (I checked my work notes) that once again, I was told that the work was not completed. (I passed off the work to the retired manages tech to deal with and, more less, forgot about it.)

Now for the fushigi. This morning, CW, OS and myself were talking about challenging pole designs. The discussion got started because OS was in the middle of a somewhat difficult one, made more difficult by the city's odd demands about the guying. So, of course, CW's now notorious challenge became a topic of discussion. 'Is that job completed yet?' CW asked me. 'Perhaps," I said, 'but I doubt. I seem to remember taking a call about it this spring.'

After a bit more discussion about how his job haunts me, it was time to get back to work. We all turned to our computers. When I looked at my e.mail I could not believe my eyes.
By its time stamp, there had been dropped into my e.mail in-box during our discussion a notification that this job had been once again re-approved (financially) to proceed. I was incredulous, and so called CW and OS to show them how weird life is.

So, just coincidence? Or a synchronicity-petite?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010.11.11 — From 'Seven Rings' — A Poem

I was blog-surfing the other day, and came across the delightful a handful of stones, a blog 'celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary.'

From the blog:

about a handful of stones
a small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. A shiny new stone will be published here every day.

The metaphor is to poetry: a stone is short poem, or poem-like observation of life. It is an expression of the practice of being absolutely alive, in this moment of being alive life. The selection of poems is exceptionally fine, and I recommend this blog highly.

I here thank Fiona Robyn, the blog's owner, for rekindling my love of the small poem. There was a time when I wrote them regularly, but life's busy-ness has kept me from the practice for many years. Today, on this Remembrance Day, with Fiona's blog-prod, I re-visited my small small poem collection. It was a pleasure to see my successes and failures, and to discover that I was even less prolific than I'd remembered. And it was an even greater pleasure to revision/revise some of them, now that decades have drifted by.

But in so doing have I not failed to respect the intent of 'being absolutely alive in this moment of life' by remembering past moments?! Sigh! More philosophical puffery! How can I be in the moment reading poems of yesterday? Well, how can I not be alive in the moment of writing what I am writing? Answer me that! In re-writing them, I felt completely alive in the moment. 

Of course, I was doing this instead of what I was supposed to be doing — which was writing course material for the continuing education course that, I learned yesterday, had been accepted by the school district for their winter calendar. I will be teaching 'Economics Demystified' — assuming I get enough students to take the class, of course.

I began this blog to publish, publicly, one of my 'polished stones,' in order to break my fushigi bender — although another one popped up last night, that I will be blogging anon. But, in this moment:

                   From seven rings
                   With practiced fingers
                   Carefully, gracefully
                   She extricates
                        the white

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010.11.08 — Can You Cut the Ketchup? Condiment Fushigi

On Sunday, I watched 'Transformation,' which is Episode 4 (of Season 3's) 'Next Iron Chef.'
From the Food Network (Ca)'s web page, here's the description:
Airing: Sunday, November 7, 2010

In this episode, the remaining 7 chefs undertake the Chairman's charge of TRANSFORMATION. In the Secret Ingredient challenge, the secret ingredients are American condiments and sauces like ketchup, ranch dressing and mayonnaise. The chefs have 30 minutes to transform these condiments into a dish of their choosing.

This morning at work I heard my friend NR talking with his daughter via the phone. From hearing his side of the conversation he was being taken to task for having taken with him to work the left over pizza from the previous night's supper. M had expected to have it for her lunch. In his humorous way, he told her that she could improvise a pizza by taking 'a bagel, cut it in half, pour ketchup onto the halves and then cover that with cream cheese. Voila — instant pizza.' From NR's laughter and comments, this completely grossed M out.

Later I asked N if he watches 'The Next Iron Chef.' 'No,' he said. 'Ever?' 'No.' So I explained to him that the reason I asked him was because their challenge on Sunday was to  transform everyday condiments into unrecognizable food, with one of those condiments being, of course, ketchup.

But what makes this funnier, is that I do not recall what the ketchup chef did with the ketchup!

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010.11.06 — What's in a Number? Football fushigi

For us Canadians, the big Grey Cup football game is fast approaching. There is excitement in the air, as the local Lions were all but eliminated from the play offs before today's game. Their fate was dependent on Saskatchewan winning their game. And, they in fact have managed to live on for another play off, with Edmonton's loss to the Riders. [I am btw, a Roughriders fan by birth.]

But, this fushigi started with GD selling a Grey Cup game pool ticket, as he does every year, to me yesterday. I gave him my money in exchange for a sealed envelope. When I opened it, the very official looking ticket had the initially dismaying numbers East 6 || West 16.

'Oh,' I said, 'these are not very good numbers [for football scores.]'

'Nah,' he countered, 'the 6 isn't great, but the 16 isn't bad.'

'You think so?'

'Of course. There was a 16 at some point in last year's Grey Cup,' he said.

I went away with my ticket, not fully convinced of his argument. But after watching the Edmonton Saskatchewan game — see below — I looked it up and he was right. And, furthermore, it turns out there was also a 6! And the only reason I looked that up in the first place was because, in yet another example of the humorous perversity of life, today's game contained a quarter in which 6 points were scored and the half finished with Edmonton having 16 points.

I know, I know, just a coincidence! But I repeat: at what point does a long series of improbable coincidences stop being just coincidences?