Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It has been a long time since Lynnda and I have had a winter like this one... first we have had the weather that is really a winter... it has been cold and snowy. Second, we have Shamus our oxymoron... that is 'our black Golden Doodle.

Several people have asked me how Shamus is doing... he just had his eleventh month birthday, and we are planning to have an Irish beer celebration of his birthday on the 17th of March. He is about 80 pounds and loves to be in the park with his buddies. This is about 60 acres of off-lead area for the dogs to romp... and this winter has been perfect for them. I was there last week and did some snow shoeing with Shamus, these pics were taken when we were alone for a few minutes.

Lots of fun...

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"How Canada's 'haves' get had"...

On the weekend past, I had occasion to read the "National Post" from the Friday prior. I picked it up from my neighbor, who gets it delivered and reads it religiously. I scanned it and realized that it is about as far right from a political point-of-view as one can get... and certainly not something I would put on my preferred reading list.

I made a point of reading each of the commentaries and the editorial... as well as many comments. Yesterday, as I was about to trash the paper, I had a look at the front page... and there was a long article titled "How Canada's 'haves' get had". The sub on it was "equalization a formula for stagnation.

The article was by a Calgary (remember I said this seems to be a right wing paper) writer named Kevin Libin. The writing is really quite good IMHO, and was based on a study published recently called " Dollars & Sense: A Case for Modernizing Canada’s Transfer Agreements " I decided to scan it, and found the article very interesting... ultimately searching for the original published report and finding it thorough and well researched.

But I wasn't as interested in the tact that the writer of the article in the Post was taking. Rather, I looked at it to understand what has happened on the east coast of Canada as a result, partly, of these transfer funds. It seems to me that we want to believe that Nova Scotia for example is a "have not province". As a Bluenoser myself, I have often argued that it is important that the people in Upper Canada should remember that it was Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces that were financially able to donate needed funds to build the St. Lawrence Seaway, and many of the infrastructure projects in the late 40's and 50's... isn't it time that the middle of the country support the east in that the east has lost much of the natural resources... fish, lumber, coal and so on... that was fodder for the provinces earlier in the 20th Century.

Well, a couple of years ago I read some history that indicated these transfer payments have been going on for more than the 50+ years that the author discusses and were based on the strategy promoted by James Buchanan, the Nobel Laureate economist. And it seems to me that what has happened is that the off-sets have spawned a culture that seems to need motivation to get it off the lamb. No one will argue that Halifax, St. John and now St. John's haven't jumped forward... industrious, successful and so on. But there are so many people rooted in the mindset that we can have a rustic, peaceful life style, and we are owed a living... that many parts of the provinces are literally rotting from the lack of initiative.

There needs to be some leadership in the east that will convince people that much of what they want in life is unsustainable if they don't change their ways of life. No one in this world is going to hand them a loaf in the future... yes, the fish are gone... yes the coal is gone... yes the pulp and paper and lumber is gone... knowing that, what are you going to do now? Modern health care in Cape Breton... unsustainable for less than 100,000 people living around the coast line, and no one owes it to anyone. Perfectly repaired roads, great schools, universities, day care, palliative care and so on can not be sustained in the villages and towns in areas that do not have adequate population to fund them.

What is the next move... the government has to ensure that the centers are well supported... the large cities especially. Like a living organism, if it is in trouble, nature ensures that most of its resources protect the heart and major organs. The government needs to recognize the importance of sustaining the organs... redistrict the voting mechanism and ensure that the major centers have appropriate representation. Consolidate universities and reduce the number of marginal students, increase the community college spaces for trades training. There are many things that can be discussed, most "have to be done" and soon.

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I have been asked about the "Thanks, Wikipedia" logo on the blog site... why do I have it here. Basically the answer is that I use Wikipedia as a first line, quick overview site for questions that come up in my life at least ten times a week... some times more often. If I am reading an article, a book, or just cogitating, and I don't understand something... I type the item or question into Google and up pops Wikipedia in the first or second place in the page one listing. It gives me guidance as to whether this is worth exploring, and where to look.

Wikipedia was first developed by Ward Cunningham... and it is now supported by a foundation. Below is an outline of the start of Wikipedia, "WIKI" meaning speed in a Hawaiian language. I like the functionality, the fact that each subject has been built by individuals that 'contribute' information... and there may be errors... but I have not found errors that have sent me in the opposite direction of what the item for which I have searched, should take me.

Interesting, useful, free, developed by a foundation... that occasionally asks for donations...

Howard G. "Ward" Cunningham (born May 26, 1949) is an American computer programmer who developed the first wiki. A pioneer in both design patterns and Extreme Programming, he started programming the software WikiWikiWeb in 1994 and installed it on the website of his software consultancy, Cunningham & Cunningham (commonly known by its domain name,, on March 25, 1995, as an add-on to the Portland Pattern Repository. He currently lives in Beaverton, Oregon and is the chief technology officer for AboutUs.

He has co-authored a book about wikis, titled The Wiki Way, and also invented Framework for Integrated Tests. He was a keynote speaker at the first three instances of the WikiSym conference series on wikiresearch and practice.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shoveling Snow Tonight...

I have heard it said that shoveling snow is a rite of passage here in Canada... I just didn't expect that in 20!! I would still be earning that rite! WOW, I just cleared another 5 inches of snow this evening, and it hasn't stopped. As well, it was 5 inches that were not in the forecast.

When I was a young boy, I used to look forward to snow storms in Truro, the town in Nova Scotia where I grew up. Back in the '50s shoveling snow was a big industry in the winter time. There were few snow plows, and fewer snow blowers, especially the two-stage, eight horsepower units that are around today. So everyone shoveled snow... even Moms and Dads.

It seems like there was more snow back then, as well. We had a home on Golf Street... a modest place with no garage, attached or otherwise... and a long driveway. The winds would sweep in over the marshes to the west of us, pushed by the tidal bore and Mother Nature to form huge snow drifts right the length of the gravel surface. And because we didn't have a garage, the car would always be snowed in... that was the first thing we had to consider. How could we extricate the car, before Mom's husband, Garfield needed to leave for work. And my brother and I knew that we had to be careful not to scratch the car in the process.

For some reason the snow that blows in is packed in, not powder. This makes it almost stiff. It doesn't push with a plow... you have to 'block it' and then lift and throw the blocks back off the drive far enough that they wouldn't roll back down into the way. The hundred feet or so would be all hard-pack and the old coal shovels we used, with the short, wooden handles, could fit really large blocks. As my brother Harold and I grew up, we graduated from throwing half blocks, half shovel-fulls, to full shovel, man-sized chunks of snow.

These chunks, with the right quality of snow, could also be used to make forts and snow houses. It was important however to finish the driveway before we started building anything. We would clear the entire path of the car... and make it wide enough so that mis-calculations didn't end with the car in the snow banks. And we would make certain that there were no messy parts to the drive way... it was as smooth as if there were no snow... just a coating above the stones.

Oh, and there were rules... we couldn't pick up any stones with the snow, because we were throwing the snow onto the lawn... and the stones could end up being thrown by the mower in the summer... chipping windows. And we couldn't cut into the lawn itself... this was a really bad mistake... the edging on the lawn could not be damaged in the winter, it would take weeks to repair it and have the lawn perfect by the end of May.

As soon as we would get the drive completely cleared, it seems like clock-work that the snow plows would arrive for the street... and of course... they would push huge amounts of snow back into the mouth of the driveway. These drifts could be as much as 5 feet deep... and if the snow was at all sloppy, it was critical that the drive be opened up, wide, almost immediately. If not... there was a chance the pushed in snow would freeze... and this was a fate worse than even hell freezing over. Without the opening there, Garfield wouldn't be able to get the car in off the street at night... Ouch!

As Harold and I grew bigger and older, we realized that we were pretty good snow shovelers. We got so that we could finish our driveway quickly... and offer our services to neighbors... for money! We learned that if we got up earlier than other kids, we could get our driveway done and move to others... and earn some money. We got to know the neighbors who would pay more than others... and we fought to get there before anyone else. The bigger kids would try... and often did, but we learned to get up earlier and to shovel faster... and to do a cleaner job.

The ultimate snow shoveling job was to get on at the CNR where they shoveled big snow storms for days. And they paid more than anyone else. The rail road was big in Truro, and as we got to Junior and Senior High School, I for one used to want the money, more than the education. I could be found shoveling with guys who hadn't gone to high school and were much older than me. Funny, looking back, I didn't catch on that they were on their way to failure... I thought they were cool and onto a good thing... being strong enough to shovel snow for days at a time... and earn all that money.

Tonight as I mused through the snow I thought about those shoveling times. There is a rhythm to moving snow... one that you learn at a very young age. And if you survive the rigors of life to the point that you are in your 60's, there is a calling to shovel it. Yes, there are people who have heart attacks, and sore backs when they spend some hours shoveling snow. But as I listen to my heart during these times alone in the snow... looking at the flakes and frost in the street lights, I hear the songs of my youth with a steady beat... just another reason to stay in shape, and shovel a little snow, eh?

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Here is an interesting study that is mostly about cardiovascular disease, and how it is treated in various types of institutions in the California emergency hospital markets.

I think it tells us a lot about what we have to do "after" some one has a heart attack. We continue to need to treat cardiovascular disease, and that will continue for some time. However, if we start treating the population for cardiovascular disease before catastrophic occurrences (read... costly), the outcomes would be still better.

When will we start to drive our acceptable cultural norms to include exercise, no smoking (NYC has just legislated that no one can smoke in public areas, including parks, sidewalks and so on), healthy eating and so on. The billions of dollars spent on critical care for CV disease and rehab from Heart Attacks, Strokes, Arterial Aneurysms and so on, could be saved; and recycled into other less preventable diseases.

Here is the report from "Healthcare Business News"...

Higher spending, fewer patient deaths, USC and Harvard researchers find

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: February 4, 2011 - 2:30 pm ET

Higher spending appeared to lead to lower hospital mortality rates for patients with any of six common conditions, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors warned, though, that the "findings should be interpreted with caution" because it's unknown which costly interventions led to the positive results.

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Studying a database of more than 2.5 million patient discharge records for 208 California hospitals between 1999 and 2008, researchers with the University of Southern California and Harvard Medical School found that hospitals that spent more on treatment of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, acute strokes, gastrointestinal bleeding, hip fractures and pneumonia had lower mortality rates for those conditions.

In fact, the authors calculated that heart-attack deaths would have increased by 1,831 if the patients had been admitted to the lowest-spending rather than the highest-spending hospitals.

The RAND Corp.- and National Institute on Aging-funded study contradicts recent reports showing that regions that spend more on healthcare have poorer outcomes than those who spend less, but the researchers said the results could have been skewed by "unmeasured confounders."

Read more: Higher spending, fewer patient deaths, USC and Harvard researchers find - Modern Physician

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cancer Free

On February 2nd, 20!! I was in Halifax for my quarterly cancer follow-up 'check-up'.

This was already an auspicious date for me... it was exactly 10 years ago that I had open heart surgery and the good doctors at the Arkansas Heart Hospital replaced my aortic valve with a prosthesis. So, I was already planning a celebration that evening... and having dinner with my friends from the "Give To Live" Foundation that operated the bicycling trip from Vancouver to Austin last fall.

But now 2.02. (enter any year) was to become yet more important a date to me... During my third check of the day, my cancer oncologist declared me "CURED". And just an hour later, my cancer surgeon conCURrEd! It has been over five years since my second surgery and my chemo/radiation treatments... WOW, Cured!

So, celebrate we did... first with a personal dinner and then as I trudged through the snow thinking about what to do next, I remembered my good friend Todd Abbass and the fact that his bar/dining room often has entertainment, but at a minimum, Stayners in Halifax has great tap choices and champagne. Luckily for me, all was in order... thanx Todd for being there.

Then as time marched on, I walked back to the Marriott for just a few hours sleep, knowing full well that it was now February 3rd, and I am officially cancer free and have a great prosthesis covering where the cancer used to be; knowing full well that my heart beats with a perfectly working prosthesis covering where my original gave up ten years ago; and walking on the Peteller Tendon Graft that replaced my torn ACL 12 years ago... a walking body-shop production from the likes of the Arkansas Heart Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, and the Penrose General Hospital... the so called Canada/USA failed health system... failed you say?

So, now I am ready to start riding again... I have memories of the ride to Austin, Texas, from Vancouver with the five friends in the picture above. I plan to raise a bunch of money again this year, and I am going to attach the announcement I wrote to my email friends on Wednesday... it will fill you in on the attack plan for BRuce's future... hope you come with me

To: My Friends February 2, 2011

This morning I am starting my day here in Halifax, five years after being told I have Cancer, trying to metabolize the fact that I was told yesterday afternoon that I am cured! I am here for my quarterly check-up and after visiting with my four, fantastic, lead physicians; and many of the nurses, technologists, and administrators who treated my cancer... all professionals that have become my friends over the past five years, I start today free of the cancer boundaries that surrounded Lynnda and me all these years. It is an experience that gives me cause to pause and give thanx to them; thanx to the Nova Scotia healthcare system, and also to my support team of family and friends. To Lynnda and everyone who has supported me along the way...


So, where to from here? With more support from my friends, I intend to continue to raise money for the fight against cancer, cardiovascular, and Alzheimer’s disease. I am focused on understanding the opportunities... how to best challenge myself, and the population I can touch, to do the best we can against these and all diseases.

With cardiovascular (CV) disease, avoiding it is relatively manageable. Also, we know how to treat it... as long as we catch it in time. Things like better diet choices for our children and young people; a reduction in the numbers of people smoking and working in conditions that expose the human CV system to chemicals harmful to our hearts and other organs; and getting our population moving, exercising our hearts to keep more healthy. Providing proper diagnostic tools and wo/man power, we can diagnose disease and treat it… but it takes capital and principles. I can help with that through leadership, persistence, and self-control.

With cancer, it is clearly less manageable. For some time we have been trying to understand the way our system deals with the over 212 different forms of cancer. How do we rationalize the research into the prevention, symptom recognition and diagnosis, treatments, and appropriate care? How can the governments of the world coordinate an attack on this disease that will claim almost 10million people’s lives each year and devastate the lives of 18million cancer sufferers who survive annually? And what of the economic costs… care and lost opportunity, too? Big questions, with many focused on them… but with the potential of each of us to help at least those we can touch by being knowledgeable, caring, and by “doing”.

Alzheimer’s disease is different… it threatens our very existence as a society… and we haven’t even rubbed the surface of early recognition, diagnosis, prognosis management and cures. The social costs to the familial structure and economy are immeasurable… yet we don’t have a national plan in either Canada or the USA to deal with the tsunami of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease about to sweep over our society. Can we simply dispose of these lost souls… perhaps hide them from our reality… I think not!

We have to do better! We have to make decisions; perhaps to forgo materialistic life styles in favor of pushing our leaders to deal with these real issues… perhaps, our best investment, for the next ten years, is a large percentage of our net worth identifying channels to managing our healthcare problems into submission. This is my mission as a very small part of the cure. So, when I come calling for donations to this cause, please plan your philanthropy well… if you can’t give to these three causes, I hope you will give to other’s that are equally important. But please join me in the mission to get ahead of these diseases.

With national election campaigns revving up in both Canada and the USA we should hold our leaders and representatives to new standards. Let’s ask them what their plan is for these issues… in fact, do they even have a plan? If there isn’t a cogent answer, don’t elect these representatives of ours. Find someone with a plan that is in a party with a plan… not just to get elected… but to implement.

Enough of my pontificating, for this I apologize… but as I do, I remind myself that I have never met anyone who isn’t worried about these issues… yet we elect comparative “do nothings” to our legislatures. Should we ask ourselves, why?

Again, thank you to everyone who helped me through my latest challenge, I hope I can help you when you need it, too…

Love , BRuce

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!