Saturday, September 17, 2016

Why newspapers matter (Musings on digital age killing print journalism)

Updated: 18 Sept. 2016
This blog derives from attending Paula Simons' talk at EPL's Forward Thinking Series. 

Since it was published, as always, I've revised the blog significantly. Main reason is the first version is a stream-of-consciousness draft that nearly always needs major work to capture thoughts fully and present them in an interesting way. Translation: First iteration often sucks and begs to be improved, putting readers out of their misery.
As an instructor and prof teaching transfusion science in Med Lab Science, to my surprise I was often asked to speak at conferences. Partly it was half-believing Bernard Shaw's maxim, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” But that underestimates teaching, because it sure as hell ain't easy.
My suspicion is that I was asked to speak mainly because of presenting the real-me, even if politically incorrect and risking criticism, something that Alyson Connolly and others see as critically important in public speaking. 
That's what The Edmonton Journal's Paula Simons did in her EPL talk. She was unafraid to be authentic and reveal her genuine thoughts on many topics, even if possibly seen as politically incorrect by some. As well, Paula demonstrated a classic way to give an entertaining, successful talk. Her presentation style caught my attention from the get-go, because it's a skill I team-taught in Med Lab Science.
So what follows is what I really think about the digital age and print journalism. And how the digital revolution undermines democracy, especially as it affects the young, pretty much the opposite of what everyone claims.
My views are not balanced and fair, but they are genuine. Revisions are shown in [brackets].
The motivation for the blog specifically comes from meeting a young woman at Paula's talk who told me she was tired of superficial news from social media like Facebook and was glad her Mom encouraged her to attend Paula's talk because she learned a lot. She also noted that she was concerned that she was being stalked on Facebook with ads targetted to her interests.

[Oh yah! Not only Facebook. Google is the main culprit and tracks everything you do, unless you turn it off. And there's so much more about the digital age that invades our privacy. My take is that most young folks could care less if their privacy is invaded, if they see ads based on their interests, that's AWESOME! They don't care what Apple, Facebook, Google does.See FURTHER READING.]

In my 7th decade, I have subscribed to a newspaper for as long as I've lived independently from parents, obviously many decades. Residing in an Edmonton university-area apartment complex whose residents are mostly University of Alberta students, it's hard not to notice that I'm the only one on my floor who takes a newspaper, in my case the Edmonton Journal. Suspect it's the same on all 28 floors.

Headlines such as, 'Internet growing as Canadians' main source of news' concern me, especially if news is mainly via social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Detesting Facebook for many reasons, I prefer Twitter.

But the fact is we tend to 'friend' and follow folks who think just like us, meaning we on social media seldom see alternative viewpoints. As an oldster I have the breadth of experience to realize others think differently. But those younger likely do not. 

[Indeed, judging by my fellow tenants (mainly University of Alberta students), most don't have a clue about issues important in Edmonton or even Canada and definitely receive no in-depth analysis. 

How could they? Few listen to local local radio stations like CBC's Edmonton AM, watch cable news at 5 or 6 pm or national newscasts later in the night. Few subscribe to cable TV or have a land-line phone. 

They don't subscribe to or read Postmedia's monopoly troika, the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, National Post. The Globe and Mail, are you kidding? They don't even read the free local daily Metro News judging by the stack of freebies left in the front lobby.

So where do they get the news that makes for an informed citizenry. They don't. Dare I say they don't vote in significant numbers either, despite major efforts to motivate them and make it easy.]

I'd love to see the University of Alberta's Faculty of Extension  offer a course correlated to what Paula Simons gave a masterclass in at EPL's Forward Thinking Series. 

Perhaps call it, "Why local newspapers matter" or similar. Maybe even expand it to being a compulsory course in many faculties.

[Upon reflection, this title doesn't cut it. It's way too boring. As a transfusion instructor the one word that woke students up immediately, like no other, was SEX. And the target audience for such a course is not folks like me, it's young people from late teens to early thirties,who have abandoned newspapers, think they don't matter.

In Paula's EPL talk, she joked that when we read her column, we have 'intellectual intercourse' and we were all fabulous. So how about these suggested course titles:
  • Newspapers: Best intellectual sex you'll ever have;
  • Best intellectual sex you'll ever have is this media course;
  • Be adventurous: Give intellectual sex a try.]
Main topics would include (no particular order):
  • [Great intellectual sex you're missing without newspapers]
  • Why, if newspapers did not exist, you'd be clueless, dumb and dumber. Reporters would not exist to tell your stories, those of your city, local entertainment, sports team, nada.]
  • Newspapers before the Internet (Sources of income, reporting standards such as requiring 2 sources of information before printing. [Does it sound quaint? Don't be ignorant. Watch All the President's Men.]
  • Newspapers in the Digital Age (Loss of advertising revenue, Internet users want everything to be free. [Who do you think will work for free? Would you?]
  • Rise of democratic 'citizen journalism' (Anyone can blog, become a source of information for tens of 1000s with zero accountability. [Some citizen journalists are quality, many are not. You're their poodles because you don't require them to give evidence for claims.]
  • Why it's critical to an informed citizenry for print journalism to survive, especially at local level (In-depth coverage of local issues, helping citizens understand issues. Prefer to be dumb or want others to decide your every-day life for you? Then don't support local papers who inform you.)
  • Negative impact of Digital Age on print journalism (including many excellent journalists losing jobs and pitfall of rush to immediate reports that are often false.) [Guess you don't care if info is wrong.]
  • Positive impact of Digital Age on print journalism (Mostly ability to inform citizens in real time. One of the pros of the Digital Age, but downside is the first information may be wrong, and often is.)
  • Strategies for how print journalism, often denigrated 'main stream media', can survive. [They need your help.]
I'm just a senior citizen who sees the past, present, and future of newspapers and hopes print journalism, with its high standards, will find a way to survive.

I've no doubt omitted many key issues but hope you can see why such a course would be a wonderful resource for Edmontonians, especially the young, but indeed everyone.

And Paula Simons would be first of many experts I recommend to teach the course. Others include (not an exhaustive list)

[Small sample of ethics of social media companies the young rely on. Won't even start on Facebook.] 

Apple should repay Ireland €13b, European Commission rules (30 Aug. 2016) | Only paid ~ 0.005% in 2014

Yes, Google Play is tracking you — and that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg (14 Sept. 2016)

Google agrees to £130m UK tax deal (23 Jan. 2016)

Google searched for (and found) the perfect tax havens (14 Sept. 2016)

Monday, September 12, 2016

My take on Buddhism (Wherever you go, there you are)

Updated: 13 Sept. 2016
Decided to expand on my journey into Buddhism to help readers understand where I'm coming from with regard to my husband's IPF and Esbriet

First, Buddhism may not even be a religion as it doesn't propose, as most traditional religions do (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), that there is a supreme, all knowing being who created us, our earth, indeed the entire the universe.

Think about the universe. We don't know where it ends and it may go on forever. Today's astronomy experts estimate the total stellar population at roughly 70 billion trillion.

One of which is Earth, our pale blue dot.
Traditional religions ask us to believe that we are special, the creatures that know and know we know. That's true but evolution clearly shows that we're just one branch of life on earth that began of millions of years ago. Canada's Margaret Laurence balanced the two truths well:

Yes, I believe in Dawkins' The God Delusion. And The Greatest Show on Earth is awesome, a word I seldom use. 

FACT: When you examine human DNA and those of other  living creatures (not just primates ~gorillas, chimps), you see that all life is related, we're all distant cousins, not just with apes, birds, cows, pigs, fish, whales, but even with the vegetable kingdom of trees, plants,etc. Evolution is not a straight line but consists of branches that led to different life forms.

Despite the great diversity of life, we are connected with all other life forms. Yes, I believe I'm distantly related over millions of years to the veggies I eat. Occasionally I mutter, 'Sorry, little buddy' when eating a pea or carrot.

So, where does Buddhism fit and why does it resonate with me and help in coming to grips with a fatal disease in a loved one? What follows is my lay person's take on Buddhism. My views are based mainly on three books:

Four Tenets of Buddhism
Usually called the '4 noble truths', these ideas are what spoke to me from the get-go. How I see them (my words):

1. Life consists of suffering;
2. We suffer because we overly cling to our desires and possessions and become sad when we lose them. We see life as being 'all about me' and our needs;
3. We can end life's suffering if we see its true cause;
4. The way to end suffering is to follow the ''Eightfold Path'.

How to end suffering
Please remember that the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) lived in India between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. Like traditional religions, many myths and legends and lack of reliable history, make it impossible to know if he existed and who the heck he was (See Further Reading - Ancient History Encyclopedia).

Buddhism grew out of a reaction to Hinduism, similar to how Protestantism was a reaction against Roman Catholicism. As such Buddhism includes reincarnation and karma, but western Buddhists like me are free to reject reincarnation. Karma is what my spouse often says:

  • What goes around comes around.  
  • Always take the high road.
Here's what 'Sid' said about how to end suffering:

1. Right Views - Believe that the cause of human suffering is because we strongly cling to our needs, often basing our happiness on our possessions and the actions of others towards us. Believe in all the 4 Noble Truths.

2. Right Intent - Do we really want to deal with the issue of what causes suffering? Are we prepared to be single-minded and persistent?

3. Right Speech - Become aware of what our speech says about our character and identify the motives that lead to being unkind. Strive to become more truthful and charitable to others.

4. Right Action - Understand why we act as we do, and try to behave better, e.g., don't lie, steal, kill (more or less Christianity's 10 commandments).

5. Right Livelihood - A man of his times, Sid included slave trader, prostitute, arms maker, and occupations like butcher. Reminds me of my Dad's view of used car salesmen, which caused me to go into helping professions, first high school teacher, then medical laboratory technologist, finally transfusion educator.

6. Right Effort - It's hard to follow the main precepts of Buddhism (being a better person) and takes much effort. I see it as a journey, not a destination, because I fail daily but still strive.

7. Right Mindfulness - Being intentionally aware of our thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

8. Right Concentration - Concentrate when meditating, focus the mind. Goes together with 'right mindfulness'. The two taken together become the practice of meditation.

Four more key Buddhist concepts that resonate with me:

1. Impermanence. Everything in life is impermanent. Our bodies decay, relationships change, even mountains erode. Change defines life. Don't cling to possessions, loved ones, a cozy existence.Don't depend on others for happiness. 

We will eventually die. Indeed, ultimately, we will all lose everything we hold dear. And it's normal. Put another way, 'Get over yourself.'

2. Loving kindness. Before we can love and help others we must love ourselves, be kind to ourselves. 
Only once you are free of clinging attachments can you truly give yourself to others.

3. Dont-know mind, sometimes called a beginner’s mind, is wide open, not closed. What I love about Buddhism is that it's open to questioning. In brief, if something sounds like BS, subject it to evidence and reject it if it doesn't meet the test. 

Born into a Western culture and trained in the scientific method, there are parts of Buddhism I reject. Fact is, I see myself as believing in only core, original Buddhist teachings, i.e., concepts that are generally accepted as true by all the branches that arose as Buddhism spread in Asia and beyond. Certainly, I reject the transmogrification of Buddha into a near god-like creature, with bejewelled statues in monasteries.

4. There is no self. This is tough concept to understand. When we say my body, my needs, who the heck is speaking? Is there a person inside our head that is "I"? If so, who is this 'being' and is it separate from our bodies? Does what traditional religions think of as an everlasting soul separate from our body exist? Buddhism says No.

What does it all mean? To end life's suffering, see its cause as being 'all about me'. Focus on why we behave poorly and try to be a better person by following the eight paths to ending our suffering and becoming happier.

Humans have evolved as life forms who know and know that we know. Buddhism proposes that we are all in this world together, that all living things are part of the same family of life on Earth.

So there you have it. My take on Buddhism, why I value it and how it helps me cope.


Buddhism, an introduction (PBS)

5 minute introduction to Buddhism

Siddhartha Gautama (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Thursday, September 08, 2016

IPF and Esbriet (Musings on extended life vs quality of life)

Updated: 12 Sept. 2016
Another blog, probably the last for awhile, on my spouse having idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and its treatment with pirfenidone (Esbriet®). 

Earlier blogs documented the initial diagnosis through getting Alberta government funding for Esbriet® via the STEDT program, to problems with serious drug side effects.

This blog discusses the difficult decision to stop taking Esbriet
® because of its side effects and resulting poor quality of life. In brief, after decreasing the daily dosage from 2403 mg/day (nine 267mg capsules/day) to six/day (two per meal), Peter has decided to opt for a side-effect free existence, knowing it will likely shorten his life. A tough decision, to say the least. 

We must thank Peter's pulmonologist for his ongoing support and the Inspiration™ Patient Assistance Program's nurses for their support while on Esbriet®.

First, research shows that pirfenidone, while not a cure, helps prolong life. And for those who have few side effects or cope with whichever ones they have, wonderful. Indeed, the day that Peter received Alberta government funding was a happy day. And we thank friends who wrote on his behalf to support government funding. 

Many articles on drug side effects encourage you to try everything to lessen them. Peter tried that by decreasing the dose from 9 pills/day to 6/day. He stayed out of the sun after getting a rotten rash, one of pirfenidone's side effects requiring him to stay off the drug for a month. And he took the pills with food.

About the sun, he wasn't thrilled about the need to wear long pants and long sleeves and a broad rimmed hat, and be slathered with 50+ SPF suntan lotion on any exposed skin in 25oC weather.

 It pretty much meant our visits to Edmonton's beautiful Hawrelak Park and vacations to Hawaii were kaput.

Yes, enjoying the sun was a luxury, but why did Peter decide to give up the drug that could prolong his life? In brief, it was because the drug's side effects made his life miserable. Even on a reduced dosage, life was hell. More specifically, the most serious side effects (won't stress others like dizziness) included: 

1. Insomnia. Being awake most of the night is not fun, and it requires the need to sleep during the day, creating a cycle.

2. Decreased energy, being constantly tired. These go with IPF and it's ironic that the drug exacerbates them.

3. Gastro-intestinal: Bloating, gagging, retching upon eating, plus ongoing cycles of constipation and diarrhea.

4. Altered taste. Food that was earlier loved now tastes awful, requiring all to be covered in ketchup. Soon ketchup too becomes unbearable. Desire to eat anything loses its appeal. 

In summary, on Esbriet® Peter was exhausted most of the time, barely able to get though each day, unable to enjoy food or life outdoors. Having energy for only 2-3 hours each day, and then being totally exhausted was depressing.

Without the drug, IPF's limitations exist, most notably

  • Everyday tasks like getting dressed or walking short distances are exhausting; 
  • He never know when he will need to cancel an event with short notice because energy comes and goes unexpectedly;
  • Travel becomes iffy due to the risk of getting a cold, which can be devastating for those with lung diseases.
But off Esbriet Peter has more energy, decreased insomnia, can enjoy food and the outdoors, and his outlook has improved, as would be expected. He becomes more of the person he was before being diagnosed with this incurable, crappy disease. Meaning he laughs, smiles, jokes and keeps me laughing as he has for the 44 years we've been hitched. 

Whatever the future holds, we'll deal with it, head-on. Peter is exercising on our treadmill as a way to prolong life, even a bit, and, for sure, create an increased ability to enjoy life as the disease progresses.

In Comments I indicated I'm a Buddhist, so decided to wrote this blog
Further Reading

Last blog: To be or not to be (Musings on IPF and Esbriet)

Duck A, et al.  Perceptions, experiences and needs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. J Adv Nurs. 2015 May; 71(5): 1055–65.
  • Research's purpose was to highlight the significant burden IPF has on a patient's quality of life.
But 99% on Esbriet reported 1 or more treatment-emergent adverse events, 57% reported severe adverse events.They include as SAE. Sounds like BS,no? Surely realities of disease leading to SAE means drug did NOT help.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Postmedia's Thomson, not Alberta Premier Notley, uses overheated rhetoric

Quick and dirty blog to get something off my chest. Respect Edmonton Journal's Graham Thomson and have done so for years. I'm going to disagree with his latest column and criticize him. Because he's not above criticism, though Edmonton Journal colleagues will likely dump all over me for daring to do so. 

Lately Graham has morphed into a typical Postmedia journo whose biases show via use of ridiculing language, similar to that typically used by journalists in National Post during Alberta and Canadian 2015 elections. Was it because they believed what they wrote or to please CEO Paul Godfrey? You decide.

Examples of language in this Graham Thomson's column: 
Notley's overheated rhetoric roasts her own credibility (24 Aug. 2016)
Note over-the-top, overheated pejorative language he uses: 
  • crowed Notley
  • ram through
  • wildly out of touch
  • railroaded the vote
  • ridiculous logic 
  • ridiculous rhetorical flourishes 
  • verbal flame thrower
  • demonize conservatives
  • rhetorical cheap shot
What struck me most in this column, even more than his Postmedia ridiculing language, and makes me wonder if he's gone over to the 'dark side' (sub-consciously fearing for his job or listening to too many right-wing politicos?), was Graham trashing Notley for saying of PCs:
“Their idea was that if you fire thousands of teachers and teacher’s aides and school support workers and nurses and nurse’s aides and people who work in the hospitals that somehow the price of oil would go back up.”
Graham's sarcastic comment: 'Really?' Then he further ridicules the Premier to support this false accusation.
To me, Notley's rhetoric (price of oil would go back upclearly meant nothing more than the PCs habitually believing that saving money by cutting education and healthcare staff will make everything alright. Because that's the longstanding PC/WRP fix for all of Alberta's ills. That and giving the oil industry tax breaks. 
I for one will never forget the 1990s when PC 'King Ralph' cut 40% from the province's lab medicine budget plus devastated healthcare funding in general, with laboratory technologists, nurses, physicians out of jobs, fleeing overseas if they could. The ramifications for Alberta were devastating for decades. 
That's the legacy of the PC's go-to fix for saving money, balancing budgets, rather than increasing taxes in line with rest of the world on energy companies. Or other strategies like diversifying the economy by moving to sustainable energy so that oil prices do not control and determine Albertans' lives so significantly, the main legacy of PC's 44+yr reign.
Toe end this short blog, Thomson's language is overheated, folks, undermining his credibility. Rachel's speaks to Alberta's history of decades of PC rule and its sad legacy.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Postcards from the ED in Greater Edmonton (Musings on a battered woman)

A mini-blog on what you observe in an Edmonton, Alberta hospital emergency department (ED) - a small anecdote that I thought worthwhile to relate that occurred in the University of Alberta Hospital.
  • A policeman accompanies a young (20ish) black woman into the ED, She is brutally beaten up with severe bruising all over her face and scrapes on her hands as if she had been dragged on cement. 
  • She avoids eye contact with other ED patients, sits quietly with eyes focused on the floor. 
  • The policeman speaks in respectful and kind tones to the young woman and explains he's going to talk to a physician and she should remain in the ED waiting area. 
  • A well dressed woman, perhaps a minister, accompanying an older disoriented woman, leaves her charge, approaches the young battered woman, and sits beside her quietly saying a few words. The young woman begins to cry silently, with tears streaming down her face. 
  • The policeman comes out of the ED 'pod area' with a physician who looks at the young woman and says, yes, let's take her in immediately.
In reviewing this 'slice of life' both I and my spouse begin to cry. When you see the results of violence on an individual human being it makes it so much more real than statistics. 

We don't know if this young woman's beating was a case of domestic abuse but it may have been. This issue has only gotten worse in Alberta since the collapse of oil prices and resulting economic downturn.

Source: Domestic silence: Meet the faces of abuse (by Jana G. Pruden, Edmonton Journal, 15 Nov. 2015)
Alberta has one of the highest rates of reported intimate partner violence in the country. There were almost 13,000 calls to police in the province in 2013, nearly 8,000 in Edmonton alone. 
A recent report by The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters showed more than 10,000 women and children stayed at shelters between spring 2014 to spring 2015, and nearly double that — almost 19,000 women and children — had to be turned away because of lack of space. There were more than 50,000 crisis phone calls to shelters in the same period. 
Since August, four women have been killed in alleged or confirmed domestic homicides in the Edmonton area.
As someone who observed up close the abuse of a beloved aunt for years, I'm well aware why victims may stay with abusers, especially if they have multiple children to care for, they have never worked outside the home, and abusers provide a roof over their head and food on the table. 

About the young victim's demeanor in this case, with eyes focused on the floor, we wonder if she wrongly feels shame at being beaten up, as if it reflects on her worth, not the character of whoever battered her. That possibility is sad indeed. 

A map of Alberta's women shelters includes Fort McMurray. It's currently unknown if its facilities survived the wildfire. In any case, please consider  donating to Alberta's shelters. They need your help and support day in day out, year in, year out.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

While my guitar gently weeps (Musings on the political fallout of the Fort Mac fires)

Updated: 6 May 2016
This Thursday, on his regular spot on CBC's Edmonton AM, Paul McLoughlin, publisher of Alberta Scan, brought up the politics of the catastrophic Fort McMurray wildfires. I'm glad he did because it's been on my mind ever since the widespread devastation of the wildfires became clear.

Until now, I've been afraid to write anything because of potential twitter bullying. As someone with atypical ideas on sensitive subjects, I fear that tweeps with tens of 1000s of followers may casually and wittily trash ideas that clash with their world view. Then their followers retweet it and some may even jump in to dump all over me for having a different opinion. Been there, done that. Such is today's Twittersphere. But so far I've never suffered the unforgivable abuse some celeb female tweeps have. Fingers crossed I never will.

This blog is not about the suffering of those affected by the devastation or about their strong spirit and 
resilience or about how Albertans and Canadians have rushed to their aid. Others have written and will write on these important features as the weeks and months of the disaster's recovery and relief progress.

Instead the blog offers a few musings on 
  • What comes next, after the Fort Mac wildfire is controlled and we're into the recovery phase and 
  • How informed citizens should monitor the behaviours of politicians and their operatives. 
The blog's title is from a 1968 Beatles ditty by George Harrison,While my guitar gently weeps.

Of course, it's an unwritten rule - and common human decency - that politics should never be mentioned early in the game when the lives of many people are so profoundly affected, in this case suddenly and rapidly. During the crisis, the important things are for all concerned to concentrate on saving lives and key infrastructure, and getting the disaster under control.

But 'natural disasters', regardless of their multiple contributing factors, often portend political disasters too. Think Hurricane Katrina and the undoing of George Bush.


What can go wrong with disaster recovery?
Well, the possibilities are endless and include:

1.When a disaster has widespread and long term negative consequences to people's lives, opportunities for screw-ups abound. It's worse if the disaster has never happened before or if it's the biggest of its kind, because few or no templates for what to do exist, except in general terms. But the devil is always in the details.

2. Fort Mac's disaster has not occurred in a vacuum, which also complicates what can go wrong. Alberta already suffers from over-reliance on oil revenues, thanks to 44 years of PCAA governments. Rachel Notley's NDP government has opted to run deficits rather than cut back on education, healthcare, infrastructure, and more. Those on the right of the political spectrum already judge maintaining social programs at the expense of a deficit to be a huge blunder and show the NDP's incompetence.

The bill for Fort Mac's disaster recovery is likely to run into the $billions. The funds will come from the Alberta and Canadian governments and insurance companies. Already large government deficits will grow. How many Fort Mac citizens had adequate insurance on their properties and possessions is another matter.

3. Invariably, governments cannot respond to the needs of thousands of devastated citizens soon enough. The needs are too many and life doesn't stop because of the disaster. Many competing priorities exist and government must deal with them. Other emergencies may arise.

4. That's when those affected by the big disaster start screaming about how the government is doing nothing. We've all seen it on the news and it's heartbreaking for the folks involved. But it doesn't mean governments have failed. Only so much can be done and, in the view of those suffering, seldom will it be timely enough and sufficient.

5. Also, all media delightfully supply a megaphone for the victims. Especially Postmedia, which consistently runs anti-NDP propaganda. They'll have a field day once the b*tching starts and make sure every Canadian knows about what an awful job Alberta's NDP (and Canada's Liberals) are doing on the Fort Mac file.

What can go right with disaster recovery?
Well, the government and its civil servants, who carry much of the load of disaster response and recovery, can do their best, do most things right, and get some credit from citizens. 

It helps if local media are fair and balanced and some are. Unfortunately, many good folks have lost their jobs due to cutbacks, but some remain, including the Edmonton Journal's 
However, Postmedia's near monopoly has an effect. One or two voices of reason tend to be drowned by multiple big-name columnists writing for the National Post, promoting Postmedia's party line/orthodoxy, and carried in local newspapers that are part of its chain.

Let's return to the unwritten rule not to take political advantage from a tragic disaster like Fort Mac's wildfires. So far Alberta's opposition parties have not overtly stooped to benefit from the tragedy.

WRP's Brian Jean, a resident of Fort Mac, is a naturally sympathetic figure as he personally lost much due to the wildfires.

More interesting is this tweet from WRP political operative, Vitor Marciano. Even if a genuine Jean moment, it's self-serving. Most folks who do truly selfless things don't take pictures and have operatives distribute them to the masses.

So I suggest citizens interested in politics monitor the Twitter accounts of politicians on the right and their surrogates, including those in the media. Will they bond together and fully support the Alberta and Canadian governments in their Fort McMurray recovery efforts over the difficult challenges on the long road ahead? Or as soon as folks complain, will they use it for political advantage?

My guess is that sooner, not later, politicos and their operatives will start to dump on Notley's government (Trudeau's too) over the handling of the Fort Mac tragedy. Bet on it. They'll distort events and spin anything for political advantage. And the Fort Mac wildfires give them an opportunity like no other.

At first it'll be subtle, because they're not stupid. The foundations have been laid already with Marciano's self-serving tweet portraying WRP Jean as hero-personified. Of course, I could be wrong  - and hope so - but time will tell. 

As noted, this blog focuses on political aspects of natural disasters and their aftermath. The scale of the Fort Mac tragedy presents enormous challenges to all levels of government and the private sector too. As such, it will serve as a valuable case study in not only disaster relief and recovery but also in the politics of disasters. For the latter, it's useful to monitor a government's political opponents to document how they attempt to gain political advantage.

In the meantime, please support the 
Your donation will be matched by both the Alberta and Canadian governments.

What to do when you see the future and can do nothing about it? Write a blog, of course. 
Some lyrics unused in the final version caught my fancy:
I look at the trouble and see that it's raging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The sound of silence (Musings on Alberta Health emergency depts)

Updated: 15 Apr. 2016
Brief blog on something I experienced 6 April 2016. I tripped and fell in the public parkade of the apartment complex I've lived in for ~25 yrs and was taken by EMS to Edmonton's UAH ~ 2 blocks away. Why and how I fell isn't important. For the record, some suggest I could possibly sue (who knows?) but am not interested. I like living here and the stress involved just ain't worth it. 

My aim in writing the blog is to document what it's like to have a concussion and what folks experience in emergency apartments

As a sports fan I've read about the awful toll on football players and others by concussions but as a senior citizen I never expected to experience one myself. 

In brief, I tripped over a raised piece of metal (what doesn't matter) in the public parkade that runs between the multiple buildings in my apartment complex. I've fallen before on icy sidewalks but this fall was different. I was astounded to feel my face smack violently against a concrete floor. I'll never forget the shock.

Now I know what it's like to have a concussion. After I fell and my head hit the cement, full-force, I heard and saw maintenance guys rush over and say "Let's put a pylon over this" (the raised piece of metal). They tried to lift me to my feet immediately, but I muttered no-no-no because I didn't know what parts of my old bod were still working.

But then the effects of the brain rattling about in skull must have taken hold because I recall nothing from that point until I 'awoke' in the apartment complex office, pretty groggy, and my spouse was there. I had no idea where I was or how I'd gotten there or what day it was, etc. I still recall nothing of how I got to the office after I fell. Suspect that's gone forever.

But I've since learned that two office staff took me to the office (not EMS or maintenance staff). Once there they apparently asked me if they should call my spouse and I looked at them blankly at which point they likely thought, "Oh! Oh! No one's home!" and called EMS. 

Amazing how with a concussion you can seem to be awake but not take in any stimuli at all via eyes and ears.

Going to the emergency department (ED) at UAH was the usual nightmare. I know because I've accompanied seniors there many times. I was in the ED from about 1 pm to 6:45 pm. Had multiple x-rays of rib cage and right elbow, plus a CT scan of head. No broken bones and noggin is okay. 

Fall caused pain and suffering, albeit limited, but still ongoing. Screaming muscles improved in a few days, have bruises in places I cannot show. Suspect rib cage pain will take months to alleviate. It seems worse now than earlier. Rib cage especially hurts when lying down, coughing, laughing, blowing nose. Not a big deal but definitely aggravating and stressful. 

But will never forget the shock of my face smashing violently against concrete.

Here's the main point of this blog. Take what you will from this narrative. Its point is to motivate improvement in Alberta's health care system.

At UAH I was on a gurney situated in a separate space between the ED proper and ambulance bay. EMS staff were noisy - very LOUD - as they met and happily chatted with colleagues they had not seen for awhile. So boisterous that I eventually had to ask them to be quiet as they were giving me a headache. EMS guy who brought me there did explain to colleagues that I had a concussion and they should be quiet. 

But eventually more and more EMS staff met in that space and their chatter was incredibly loud and distracting and sometimes bordered on inappropriate.

On past visits to the UAH ED with seniors I'd experienced similar narratives so wasn't surprised. It seems some AHS EMS staff are unhappy campers. They especially gripe about the shifts they get or, more importantly, don't get, and how they want to be transferred to another location.

And there seems to be a particular guy (dispatcher?) that some feel doesn't like them and hence bugs then relentlessly. He's apparently quite short (4 ft something and married to xxxx) and has never really worked at any real EMS job. 

Do EMS staff think patients within hearing distance are deaf? Or have they never been educated about professionalism?

Unsure if this is correctable but I heard VERY intimate medical and personal details of folks in ED 'cubicles' on both sides of mine. I did not know the patients but it's conceivable I may have. 

Also heard a patient argue repeatedly with successive nurses and physicians demanding that no matter what their tests showed, and even if her symptoms did not fit, she was certain she had a blood clot in her thigh and they must do an ultrasound. 

That's it for now.

This Simon and Garfunkel ditty seems appropriate.