Monthly Archives: May 2012
Anonymity & Identity
Filed under Uncategorized
How to Win the Game of Thrones
After many positive recommendations I have relented and begun to watch Game of Thrones. It is a pretty sick show to be sure, and it is probably the first show I have watched since The Wire in which I find myself actually caring about the characters.
Filed under Uncategorized
The Cancer That’s Killing Facebook
Pardon me for the tongue-in-cheek title of this post, but its a reference to a commonly-used phrase on a website whose name the first two rules of the internet forbid me from mentioning.
Now that you have absolutely no idea what the fuck I am talking about, let me reassure you that facebook is (mostly fine), but I did spot a post from my sister which caught my attention. It was a CTV report by Lloyd Robertson (evidently from a few years back) which talked about the use of a cheap chemical called DCA which was showing success in curing cancer but whose efficacy was for some reason being denied by the Canadian Medical Association?? Canadian Drug Administration? Well, whatever the Canadian equivalent of the FDA is anyhow.
The posting of the video sparked some enmity from two of her friends, one a microbiologist and the other a cancer researcher (its funny how people who post online are always the undisputed experts of whatever topic they are talking about.
Ian (the cancer researcher) posted first:
Ian: I don’t even have to watch this to know it’s fake. I work in cancer research – anyone claiming to have ‘a cure for cancer’ doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases, not a single condition that has ‘a cure’. It’s like saying “I have discovered a cure for disease”.
Ian: Yeah, DCA is an old story. For some reason it keeps popping up despite the fact that it’s been shown to be based on terribly shoddy science over and over again:
.php (I never checked out the link)
When I got to the computer half an hour ago, the microbiologist, Jas had said his piece:
Jas: Yup, this video is nonsense and dishonest
There was some banter back and forth between Jas and my sister and then I decided to weigh in:
Me: Ian, if cancer is “hundreds of different diseases” why are you even researching it? surely you must see the hypocrisy…
As well, the venom with which you attack the video (before watching it no less) betrays an interest in not seeing alternative medicines work Cancer research is big business which carries both fortune and prestige for the researchers.
I am unfamiliar with DCA (the video is playing as I write) but I have heard of Dr. Stanislaus Burzynski and his antineoplastins which have had amazing success in Texas but have been brutally suppressed by the FDA and the American Cancer Association (http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=1qG_ZWs04es). I suppose he is a quack as well?
I will agree with you that in the broader sense cancer has no simple cause or cure: Removing asbestos from a worksite for example does not solve the greater structural problem of an exploitative labour-market system which will negligently subject workers to the next harmful substance with impunity until specific legislation is passed to prevent it.
There is a definite tendency to look at causes and cures too reductively and not consider the socio-economic factors which contribute to the proliferation of diseases.
However, what makes the formal institution of cancer research (the institution I assume you work for) so different? Do you, in your work, address the social factors or look at the more localized (i.e. physiological aspects?) If so, wouldn’t that be no better than someone claiming to have a cure?
You can’t even cry make a cry of “misinformation” at this video, because normal people (me and Tanya for example) are incredibly UN-informed. These alternative medications which presume to threaten the formal institution of cancer research get almost no airplay in mainstream media and that’s no accident.
Unfortunately, people are getting fed up: Years of research and all you guys can offer us is radiation and chemo?
“No” you say? There are other treatments available? Well to the initiated researcher those cures might be known but for the lay-people (again, me and Tanya) you cancer researcher types don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to protesting alternative cures until you show & prove.
Best of Luck.
The (dis)qualifier “alternative” denotes a more democratic, less profitable solution.In much the same way, solar, wind and geothermal are all “alternative” sources of energy.
“Medicine” is any substance or therapy that has been proven to improve patient outcome. This is why there is no such thing as proven alternative medicine because at that point it becomes medicine.The first sentence you wrote on this thread is ridiculous btw – nobody sees the hypocrisy but you. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases and we will never find a cure in our lifetime. This is obvious to anyone who’s spent a moment learning about it.
What I was implying is that someone who gets paid to research cancer in the economic paradigm in which we live has an interest in not seeing other cures taken seriously. I don’t mean to imply that Ian is knowingly lying to anyone, but I would suggest that by being so immersed and ingratiated in any system, one would be inclined to disregard information which falls outside of the realm of approved knowledge. i.e. Einstein was probably considered crazy at first by scientific minds who had made their careers as champions of the Newtonian physics paradigm
Call it overly suspicious, but why would the heads of international cancer research give up willingly the profitable racket they have eked out for themselves by supporting a cure? Like you said, “we will never find a cure in our lifetime.” Imagine that, a perpetual source of income and access to all the research funds you could want. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.
I’m not sure where you got your definition of Medicine (a textbook or dictionary I will assume) but I mostly agree: medicine at its core should be benevolent. With regard to the appellation “alternative,” it is simply a disagreement on what constitutes alternative and we will have to agree to disagree.
I’m hurt by your last comment which implies I have never spent a moment studying cancer; I read all of your posts in their entirety.Be well
There is no world conspiracy to suppress knowledge of disease – no entity has that kind of reach.
And your use of the “C” word is not appreciated. Implying someone is a conspiracy theorist is like calling someone crazy. Its dismissive and attempts to invalidate their argument without refuting it. You, as a scientist, should be able to do better. I expect better from my scientists because I put all of my faith in them.Without divulging my credentials, which are modest, I will say that without having the specialized knowledge of you and Ian, I do have a knowledge of science and the scientific method, we simply have different vantage points.
Filed under Uncategorized
The Story So Far…
Most of you know that “blog” is short for “web log,” and the word “log,” to me, implies two things: First, a regularity in entries, and Second, a personal aspect, or subject matter dealing with the writer’s own life. My blog has been somewhat deficient in both of these regards as of late. Here’s why…
With regard to regularity and the recording of my daily life events, I find that little has happened as of late which merits a full blog entry. To be sure, there have been certain notable occurrences as of late, but none which can’t be adequately summarized and explored in a twitter post or two (@dreguan). Other than these chance occurrences, all I have been up to lately is submitting (lamentably) the past few months to wage-slavery. This sort of base existence does not really lend itself to anecdotes worthy of relating, but its a necessary evil for the time being. The irony is that while I was travelling I had all the stories in the world to tell and often no computer. Now I have all the internets I could want and a rather uneventful existence. Such is life.
Another reason I have not been reporting on my own life actually springs out of my wage-slavery circumstance: faced with the abominable boredom of doing work fit for automation for 8 hours a day, I have turned to listening to documentaries while I work to both educate and entertain myself while I pass the time. This has had something of a re-honing effect on my (justifiably) grim outlook on the world, which took a turn for the rosier when I was traipsing about the world meeting all sorts of wonderful people and fellow kindred spirits. Learning more about the inherent problems with our system while at the same time once again faced with the reality that every hour I was travelling took several hours of work to finance, I can’t help but be a little bitter about how the world works and hanker for some real change. I feel this has influenced my recent writing to the extent that it has moved the focus away from me and more to the problems I see in the world and their manifestation in my life.
However, there is one aspect of my life which is developing slowly and also warrants mention here. It is my potential transfer to the air force. Family and friends are constantly asking me about the progress of said transfer and it is an uncomfortable topic for me because there are only so many inventive ways I can say “no answer yet.” But I will set the record straight no because it is something I am loathe to discuss and that in itself makes it worth discussing.
I first applied to transfer from the army reserve to the air force as a pilot back in June 2010. I was anticipating a quick process where I would go and be tested for suitability, receive either a positive or negative answer, and go from there, knowing that even if I didn’t get in at least I made the attempt to achieve something I had been thinking about for years. From the beginning it got complicated as I was soon told that I would have to wait until the following April (2011) when the next transfer intake started because I had missed the 2010 intake. Patiently I waited.
Come April 2011 I waited a week. Then 2. Then 4. Then 6. At this point I finally started sending emails and realized with dismay that my point of contact no longer held his position and that someone else had taken over. After getting in touch with this person I was informed that my application had not been picked up for the 2011 intake and that I would have to wait until the following April (2012) to see if I got picked up then. I should remind you that at this point I still wasn’t even waiting for a position as a pilot, but simply for a chance to go in for a 3-day selection process to see if they would start training me as a pilot or not (a training process which I could still ultimately fail out of).
I took this news on the chin for two reasons: One, I had, from the beginning (June 2010) prepared myself for a potentially long wait; years if need be. Second, it occurred to me that the transfer centre, with their constant suggestions that they could cancel my application if I wished whenever I emailed them impatiently about the status of my transfer, might drag this process out on purpose for the sake of weeding out those candidates for selection who were not serious about the commitment.
Leading up to March 24th I completed both my comprehensive vision test with an opthamologist and my interview (it is an employment transfer after all). With the successful passing of the PFT on the 24th of March, I figured nothing really sat between me and the selection I had waited for for so long.
Since I had been so on top of my game and had finished all of my preliminary testing before April 1st I informed the transfer centre that they could expect the results of all my testing within a week or two and waited, content that I would get an answer soon. When I finally did hear from anyone, it was a Captain Taylor who had received my file and was waiting for the flight surgeon to sign off on my medical results before scheduling me for a selection serial. I got in touch with the physician’s assistant in London who had done my physical exam and asked if he had received my medical results from my family doctor and passed them on to the flight surgeon. He had received them and they hadn’t yet been passed on. I was told to keep waiting. Sometime not too long thereafter he got back to me informing me that the rules had changed as of March 4th, and the initial medical assessment he had performed with me was now supposed to be done by the clinic in Toronto not London. He said that since I had done mine before the regulation had changed he would see if he could get my results validated.
I waited a week and called back. He was still looking into it. 8 days later (last Tuesday) I decided that it made better sense to just redo the portion that was no longer valid rather than waiting for an exception that may never come. I informed the physician’s assistant about this and he suggested a doctor.
I went to to look for this doctor in the Toronto base directory and couldn’t find him. So I emailed the PA back asking for more information on how to contact him. The PA simply responded that I should call the London clinic as that’s where the doctor worked out of. This seemed weird to me as the PA had earlier told me that the testing now had to be done in Toronto. That was Wednesday, and I called several times that afternoon, and throughout the day on Thursday trying to get a hold of either the PA or the doctor in question, but neither were diligent about returning calls. Finally, this past Friday morning I got a hold of an Officer Cadet who informed me that the actual new instruction was that all medical assessments for potential pilots had to be performed by contracted doctors, not PA’s which explained why the PA had referred me to a Dr. in his clinic in London.
That all sorted out, I asked the OCDT to schedule me in for a re-assessment ASAP. The earliest date she had was 25 July 2012. Unacceptable. And I let her know as much. Politely.
My problem with this date was not so much waiting 2 and a half more months, but losing any priority I might have for selection this year and having to wait until the following intake year to go for selection. She understood my plight and said that if she didn’t call me back later that day to call her Monday morning.
Come Monday (yesterday for those keeping track) she called me and said the doctor could squeeze me in that day at 13:00. Now it was 9:30, I was in Oakville at work and I didn’t have a car. I had no idea what Via and Greyhound schedules were like and plus I was ya know, at work. I told her I would call her back. After an abortive attempt to borrow a friend’s car I reasoned that since I was trying to get there on army business I was justified to use an army vehicle. I called the quartermaster who controls the vehicles for the regiment to see if I could borrow a truck. She was not around. Then I called my friend Lloyd (who works with the QM) on his cell phone to see if he could issue me a truck. As it rang I remembered that his wife was a couple of days overdue with her baby and that he might be at home celebrating the birth of his new boy or girl, and totally uninterested in my never-ending missions to get a chance to fail selection for the air force. I thought I heard someone pick up the phone then the line went dead. If he had hung up on me it was probably deserved, after all it was 9:30 am, he was on leave (which I found out later) and I could have woken up the baby. On trying the quartermaster again I got a hold of the private who works for her and who was the only person manning the office that day. Rather serendipitously, he had just learned how to issue a vehicle for the day. What a co-inky-dink; I needed a vehicle for the day. After checking my credentials via computer database he agreed to set me up with a truck.. I promptly left work and took the train to Hamilton where I picked up the truck and started heading to London.
I made it there at 12:40 (20 Minutes early) and then waited an hour and a half before the doctor was ready to see me. But then, waiting an hour beats waiting til July 25th so I really couldn’t complain. We redid the portion which had to be redone by a doctor (motor skills, eye and ear check, strength test, etc…) and I was struck by how much less comprehensive these exams were than the ones initially done by the PA.
During the appt. the doctor asked me if I had had a urine test. I wasn’t sure if I had. Certainly my family doctor’s office would have performed that test when they were doing my blood work, right? Wrong. In fact the necessary urine test had never been requisitioned and was now outstanding. As well doctor informed me that I needed an ECG. With relief I told him that I had already done that test. He informed me that I had done an Electro Cardiogram, not an Echo Cardiogram, which I still required.
So that’s kind of where I stand now, waiting to do two more tests that I should have been made aware of back in January/February. The piss test is a walk-in, but seeing as I am going to have to miss work to do the Echo Cardiogram I might as well see when the military schedules it and do the piss test the same day. You know, get two birds stoned at once.
If this seems like a long read, imagine how I feel having to basically recite this same series of events every time someone asks me innocuously, “Hey, what’s going on with the air force?” Its actually kind of fucking with me because I feel like people have been asking me that for years now and I never have an answer which shows much progress, and it seems (to me at least) that this betrays some sort of lack of diligence on my part.
Ultimately, I can’t let what I think people’s expectations of me are mess with my head, but there is also a more practical inconvenience to all of this waiting: For the last few months since I have returned I have felt somewhat in limbo; Do I set out in earnest applying for the advertising jobs I want knowing that I could be gone if I get picked up by the air force, or do I wait and see how it pans out during selection before I take any definitive action in that regard? As much as I gripe on work in general, I am glad that I have a long-term employer in the mean-time who can accommodate my unpredictable schedule and who keeps me on staff knowing I might be gone in the middle of busy season.
The most troubling aspect about the limbo I find myself in right now is that I do have a relationship which the possible acceptance into the air force has large implications for. In winter/spring 2011 we had discussed moving in together and were both really into the idea but I decided against it because I wanted to see where I was with my air force transfer (if I got picked up I would be heading out west and I didn’t want her to be alone). Obviously the transfer didn’t pan out that year. So this year, even after the military contacted me in January telling me to get ready to be called for selection, we decided to get a place together (which we just moved into last week) and deal with whatever my transfer might mean for us as it comes. At this point, whether I got picked up or not I mostly want an answer so I can know whether or not to get too comfortable where I’m at.
It seems I have little difficulty recounting stories of my triumphs, and even my losses become fair game for recounting after the initial sting has worn off. But I find it difficult to deal with obstacles I currently face and continue to face because the possibility of failure, or conversely the lack of any progress whatsoever bothers me so. It feels good to be able to get this off my chest.
Filed under Uncategorized
A few days back I became embroiled in a lively lunchtime discussion centered around the Canadian government’s plan to renovate some Canadian prisons. My fellow co-workers were indignant about footing the bill, as taxpayers, for the plush accommodation the prisoners in said jails were to be receiving (bigger cells, world-class gym, wi-fi, etc…*). One co-worker even said “put them in a dungeon,” though he later retracted this statement as the conversation developed. Naturally I chimed in as I feel very strongly about prison, what its purpose should be and how that purpose should be achieved.
First of all, I reject any argument for prisons being segregated from the population. What a great world it would be indeed if we could just sweep our problems under the rug and forget about them. Concepts like the Lunar penal colony and inter-dimensional penitentiary make for great fiction but what they amount to in practice are horrors like Siberian gulags. No, that simply wouldn’t do; prisons should be located centrally and serve as a constant reminder that there is something not quite right about the world we live in as it makes monsters out of men.
Second, and related to the first point, any argument for greater austerity in the lives of prisoners related to the costs of housing them should be refuted. Prisoners are once again, our collective burden and a group we must deal with if we live in a system which creates them.
With these two points made, I feel that the purpose of prisons can be discussed. The purpose as I see it should be rehabilitation, not punishment. Now its hard to rehabilitate people who commit crimes for money (over 90% of inmates) because they will always need money and the system is set up in such a way that there often is not access to decent-paying jobs in low-income areas.
In either case, whether sicko or criminal for pay, the approach to the stated goal of rehabilitation seems clear. One is not rehabilitated by being locked away in poor conditions and deprived of human dignity. Nor are they rehabilitated by being either held in solitary or immersed in a general population which has been just as poorly socialized. It seems clear to me that these measures only serve to aggravate maladjustment and make better criminals.
In a perfect world there would be no crime.
In a slightly less perfect world, maladjusted/poorly socialized individuals would be be accepted into communities of people who live harmoniously with each other. There they could learn that they don’t need to hurt other people to get ahead and they wouldn’t have to fear for their own safety. This has been tried with notable success by the Israelis when they decided to send criminals to kibbutzim for rehabilitation.
The problem with this solution is that most people don’t want to live among criminals. We have been so individualized in our culture that we feel little kinship with or affinity to our fellow man, much less those whom society deems criminals. So we instead make them live in prisons. Well ok, but assuming we still want to rehabilitate these people (and that is the operative assumption here) we can’t really nickel & dime them on amenities. A prison sentence should be a period of growth, positive growth.
Even someone who has been sentenced to life in prison or death should be able to improve themselves every day until their demise.
Without getting too specific, the broad categories of things which I feel contribute to rehabilitation/remedial socialization would be comfortable (not decadent) accommodations, access to fitness facilities, access to education, and lots of interaction with people outside the system. Remember the goal here is not punishment but rehabilitation, but even if you do believe that there should be a punishment component remember that the prisoner is still without their liberty.
I should mention that I lack a psychology degree and I have no formal training in rehabilitation. I have spent no time in prisons** and friends of mine in law enforcement and corrections would probably disregard my ideas as idealistic and naive, citing the gravity of the crimes of the inmates. What I do have is personal experience though. And while I realize that you can’t extrapolate personal experience into general rules, it strikes me that people in similar situations would be inclined to make similar choices. For example, I have been been destitute, desperate and hopeless (albeit by choice) while hitch-hiking and travelling. These emotions tend to make you do things you would not normally do: strike yappy animals, steal, and run from police. I have done all of these things on the road, and except for that last one I am ashamed of these actions.
These experiences taught me that the wretched are prone to wretched behaviour. My whole stance on prisons is predicated on this idea and this is why I don’t believe in punishment so much as an earnest effort by the state to reform its wayward citizens.
Now of course the alternative viewpoint is that some people are just bad. Natural born killers as it were.
I refute this type of dangerous thinking because it is a bedfellow of psuedo-sciences like phrenology and eugenics. Furthermore, attributing crime to genetics/heritage is a cop-out because it allows us to glaze over structural problems which cause crime and need fixing. Such problems have no easy solution, so it is far easier to blame the individual. I think that anyone who hasn’t felt wretchedness and the cavalier attitude toward morality which it engenders can not really understand how good people can do wrong.
Basically I think we all have a capacity for evil which can be brought out by poor circumstances and a lack of socialization. If jail is to remedy criminal behaviour (which I believe it should) it must address the causes of the crime and supply the education/skills, interaction, meaningful relationships, and positive expectations the criminal has been lacking in their life.
It is much easier to preach about my beliefs however than it is to act, so I am going to look into volunteering for Corrections Services Canada so that what I write is not just so many meaningless words.
**I have a actually spent a little time in Sarpoza prison in Kandahar City, Afghanistan during a tour of duty. I was not permitted to tour the cell blocks though unless I left my rifle with security. I was unwilling to do so.
Filed under Uncategorized