Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I am a little surprised this time around at the number of people I hear asking for a ‘None of the Above’ option in this year’s provincial election. What worries me about this is most of the people I hear talking this way tell me they are going to ‘spoil’ their ballots as a way of protesting the deplorable choices we’ve been given. Let me say this about spoiling your ballot…

DON’T DO IT!!!!!  There’s a better way.

Here’s the deal. ‘Spoiled’ in election parlance is a term that refers to a ballot that has been improperly filled out. The category was created as a response to  people who, quite frankly, are incapable of following simple instructions. They use a mark other than an ‘x’, check off two names instead of one, that sort of thing. These ballots are simply discarded by the returns counting pencil-pushers. They are not counted, they are not reported, they are not taken notice of – they are simply destroyed.

This is why I say, “Don’t spoil your ballot! It accomplishes nothing!”

There is an option however, you can formally DECLINE your ballot. Here’s how it works…

Go to the polls with your ID in hand. Register with the returning officer and watch as they stroke off your name. Take the ballot that they hand to you. Then.. instead of going behind the cardboard screen,  hand your ballot back to the official and say something like, “I want to formally decline my ballot.” They will ask if you are sure and after you affirm that it is what you want to do, they will then set your ballot aside and record the fact that it was declined!

The number of declined ballots is seldom report by the media, but they are counted, tallied, and become part of the official election records. The government and the political parties are made aware of the number of declined ballots. In the absence of a formal ‘None of the Above” option actually printed on the ballot this is a far better way to send a message than spoiling your ballot. At least this way it will be counted instead of just being ignored.

Now… I’m not saying that this is what you should do in Thursday’s election. Who you do or do not vote for is entirely up to you. Frankly, I’m still thinking it over. But, if you are going to try to send a message about how frustrated you are, at least do it in a way that will be noticed and become part of the official record.

Don’t spoil your ballot…  Decline it!

And don’t do nothing… get out and vote!!

Shalom…

An Open Letter from Adam & Eve

Posted: September 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

The other night I watched Albert Mohler defend Adam and Eve on the Stephen Colbert’s the Colbert Report. I consider satire on of the most noble forms of humour and Colbert is brilliant at it. Too bad Mohler wasn’t as brilliant in his defense of Adam and Eve. But then maybe I should let them explain the issue, with the help of Zachary Bailes  over at  Associated Baptist Press.

http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/6714/9/

I think it’s worth the read and even some discussion.

Dennis

Well, I finished.  Two days, 215 kilometers, 9.5 hrs of riding, my best time ever for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I feel pretty good physically, and emotionally I’m still riding kinda high. It’s a great weekend and a great cause. I’m very proud of my involvement and with the involvement of the rest of Team Kortright.

Speaking of which, what a great group of people. Noah and Tyler finished well ahead of the rest of us, but that was expected. Denise rode over 170 km, much further than last year. I am very proud of her as I am of Brian who kept her company and encouraged her every step of the way even though he could easily have kept up with the boys and me. Two members of the team Bruce and JaneAnn tackled the challenge of the 200 mile route. Bruce was unable to ride on Sunday due to other obligations but Jane successfully completed the entire 200 mile route. Well Done!

The one shadow on the weekend however was the fact that two members of the team were unable to ride for health reasons. Darby, who rode last year, suffered a whiplash injury a few weeks ago and was advised to limit her bike riding by her therapists. Marika incurred a concussion injury while playing rugby and faced similar restrictions from her doctor. I really missed having them along for the Ride but they joined us at the finish line and participated in the celebrations.

I know I’ve already said this, but it was a great weekend. And next year should be even better. It’s the 5th running of the Ride to Conquer cancer next year and they are planning all kinds of extras. Not the least of which is the awarding of a commemorative Gold Bike Helmet to all those who have participated in all 5 rides. This year, out of almost 5000 riders, there were only 444 of us who had been there every year since the beginning.

I truly believe that all of us need to have a cause we believe in; something we do just because it feels good and does good for other people. The Ride to Conquer Cancer is mine; and likely will be for some time. I hope you are able to find a cause to which you too can commit and find hope.

I’ll likely have more to say on this later, but for now…

Shalom.

 

I’ve been trying to get offended by Living With Lions latest album cover, but so far this is the only reaction I’ve been able to muster…

We so badaas punk we're making fun of a religion who'e credo is "Love Your Enenies."

With the church having faced everything from Chocolate Jesus to Piss-Christ to flexible Rature scheduling, taking on the Christian Church in North America, especially in terminally-polite Canada is just too easy; or at the very least is going to take a lot more edginess and/or imagination than a faux Bible cover. I mean there’s no risk involved whatsoever. We were doing ‘Holy Shit’ jokes when I was seven; mostly involving pictures of little brown piles with halos over them.

And if it wasn’t lame enough on it’s own, when you add the fact that they were embarrased into giving their gov’t grant money back, I imagine now punkers know how many Christians feel when the likes of Pat Robertson open their mouths.

Later….

I know, the title of this post reads like a newspaper headline, but it’s truly how I feel about last night. Canada is different place this morning and for a number of reasons.   When this election started I was very much of the opinion that it was unneeded and would turn out to be a waste of time. I, like many people, felt we would likely just get more of the same, a Conservative minority government.

However; as you have likely noticed even if you didn’t stay up till 2 am to see the final results as I did, the face of the nation underwent a significant facelift last night.

The Conservatives have their majority mandate, largely centred in the west but with significant presence in Ontario. Harper’s place in history is secured with three Conservative victories in a row.

Jack Layton’s place in history is confirmed as well, leading the NDP to it’s most prominent place in Parliament ever – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He has good reason to feel proud this morning. With its base in Quebec it is a historic accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation.

Micheal Ignatieff is more than just a footnote as well. He must wear forever the mantle of being the leader who took the Liberal party to the back benches for the first time in its long history. I’ve read two of his books and was impressed with his writing. I wonder what the title of his next book will be.

Giles Duceppe likely has the most to answer for. He not only lost the election but the Bloc has lost official party status. We will not be hearing from them in Parliament any time soon. The question now is will the voters of Quebec compensate for this massive turn by putting the Parti Québécois back in power provincially.

And for the fifth change in a single election, unprecedented in any previous election at any level of government, Elizabeth May has won the Green Party’s first seat in Parliament, earning her party a limited voice and a seat at the debates four years from now, provided the media types don’t change the rules in the meantime.

But there is one more change that took place last night that cannot be seen in the popular vote, the number of seats, or who does or does not have official party status. In previous elections, as the night wore on, I would find myself sitting in front of the TV set watching the results come in essentially by myself as Roberta dosed off on the couch beside me. But last night I had company.

Sarah, and Carlo, and Darby, and Brian and a host of others were watching right along with me. We commented and cajoled, lamented and wept, cheered and boasted back and forth without even being in the same room together. Through the medium of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Messenger I was able to watch the results and converse about them with over a dozen friends and strangers from all across Ontario, from Guelph to Ottawa; across the nation from New Brunswick to B.C.; and even heard from friends in the United States and as far away as the British Isles in real times, only a few key clicks away.

It will change the face of Canadian elections forever, as it has done in other jurisdictions. Last night the major broadcasters followed the rules and refrained from sending out results across the nation until the polls were closed, but Canadians did not. From the beginning Tweeters and Facebookers sent out the word 140 characters at a time. As soon as the first ballot box was counted in Goose Bay, people in Vancouver knew the result.

Broadcasters, pollsters, political parties, Elections Canada even everyday Canadians are all going to have to spend the next four years figuring out how to conduct an election under this new reality. This new level of connectivity has the potential to make strategic voting a tactic that will skew and slant election results even more than our antiquated first-past-the-post Westminster model of government does already.

The results last night do, I believe, demonstrate the need for electoral reform. An 8% increase in the popular vote garnered the Conservatives and additional 13% of the seats in Parliament. An 11% drop in the popular vote in the GTA cost the Liberals nearly half the seats in Toronto. There does seem to be a valid reason to seriously consider proportional representation.

But what isn’t known yet, and won’t be known until the statistical analysts have had time to crunch all the numbers, is how much did Tweeted results from Charlottetown affect voter response in Burnaby. How much was the slight increase in voter turnout from 2008 inspired by the Social Voting movement and how much was due to Frank in Kingston screaming on Facebook, “Harper’s winning! Get your ass out there and VOTE!”

The pundits will pontificate for months on why we have the results we do. Did Harper get his majority because Canadians care more about the economy than they do about honesty and transparency? Or did he get it because we hate elections and punished Ignatieff for forcing one? Did Jack gain in Quebec because his attack on Micheal’s attendance record hit home? Or because he bloom has fallen off the Separatist rose? I’m not certain we’ll ever truly know for sure.

But what we do know is this, for better or for worse the people have spoken and we are going to have to live with it for the next four years. And I am fairly certain that last night’s results will change the way elections are conducted in this country, one way or another.

Yesterday I went down to the Juravinski Cancer Centre for the first check-up since the end of my radiation treatments. My radiation oncologist Dr. Wright and his resident poked, prodded, peered and perused every corner of my throat, inside and out. The tissues are healing nicely, slightly ahead of the average curve apparently, there’s no swelling anywhere there shouldn’t be, and everything is returning to a colour vaguely resembling the colour it was before it all began. The conclusion: he is willing to go out on the proverbial limb and declare me to be 100% cancer free – with 95% certainty.  The 5% is reserved until after I have a high-contrast CT scan performed in the next few weeks in case it reveals something completely unexpected. Failing that though, I’m done. To quote the good doctor, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see you in six weeks”. In two weeks we’ll see if my surgeon is willing to make the same bold declaration.

If he does, it’s a declaration that has me facing some previously unexplored territory – the future.

Let me explain…

I was 14 in 1967 when my Dad decided to explore the family genealogy as part of the whole ‘Centennial Year’ thing. What we discovered was that the males in the Gray family are pretty short-lived. On average we tend to kick off in the mid-Fifties, with the overall average being a ripe old 56. In the dozen or so generations he was able to track down nobody survived past the age of 60. My father did not buck the trend, passing away from colon cancer at that very same Gray family average.

So over the next few years I thought about that from time to time and by the time I reached my twenties I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that 55-60 years was the best I could hope for. Planning for retirement was pretty much set aside and I started living life with little more than your basic 5-year plan.

But now, it looks like I have to re-jig my thinking. It would seem that there is a new paradigm on the horizon; for the first time in my life I have to seriously consider the prospect of growing old!

I know, to you it sounds strange, but the reality is that I truly had fully resigned myself to dying of cancer sometime in my Fifties. In fact, in some respects I was actually looking forward to it; you know, seeing Jesus and all. When Dr. Wellman revealed that cancer had been found in my cyst back in November there was no shock, no dismay, no fear, because I had been expecting it all along. The diagnosis arrived exactly on schedule just as it did with my father. There were no surprises at all.

However, one thing has changed – medical science. Unlike all the preceding generations, when the inevitable struck me, no one was saying, “This is it I’m afraid. You have x months to live.”  No, instead, there was a very confident team of specialists saying, “Here’s how we’re going to get you out of this.” They laid out a very convincing plan of action and all that they planned has gone exactly as planned, maybe even a little bit better.

There was another difference as well. While my family has always been of the church going variety, faith in God to change the future was never a part of the religious dynamic. Faith was something that carried you through the hard times and gave you the strength to face certain doom with the traditional British stiff upper lip. Disease, misfortune and death were not things to pray your way out of, they were part of God’s mysterious ways and no one seriously expected anything to change.

I however, have been blessed to be part of a praying and more importantly believing faith community. Dozens of people have contacted me to tell me they are praying for my successful recovery; there have been dinners brought to the door, rides to treatment offered and a variety of other expressions of love and support that have, quite frankly, left Roberta and I feeling slightly over-whelmed. And it would seem that all that prayerful support have borne fruit. The cancer has come and gone and I’m still here. Praise God!

Now, before I get a minor flood of emails taking exception to my crediting God in this I will answer your objection right now. I have absolutely no idea why everyone who is prayed for as I was doesn’t get healed. I have no doctorate in theology, no inside track on the details of God’s plans for the Universe, and no pretensions for being anything other than the simple believer that I am. However, I am a believer, and I believe that the prayers of my friends at Kortright and elsewhere have had just as much a bearing on this outcome as the ministrations of the doctors, nurses and technicians at the Juravinski and St. Joseph’s in Hamilton.

And I am immensely grateful to each and every one of those who prayed, cooked, drove, hugged, filled in for, and gave of their time and resources to support Roberta and I over the last 5 months.  You people are amazing!  God bless each and every one of you!

However, that still leaves me facing a future I never thought I’d face.  And though the prospect is actually a little scary, I’m looking forward to it. I now have to actually ponder what I might do with my twilight years. Any suggestions?

Till next time… Shalom.

Side effects may include…

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s a strange thing when you are doing well means you aren’t doing any worse than average. I had my third review with the radio-oncologist the other day and he tells me he’s pleased with my progress. I suppose I have to take that at face value, but it’s hard when you realize that his standard is based on how bad most cancer patients feel at this stage. Since most people feel the same as I do or worse, he’s pleased because I’m not feeling worse than I am. My pain levels are increasing “pretty much on schedule” and he’s content to continue “farting around with various meds” until we find the combination that manages my pain the best.

I know that it’s my frustration talking but it really is hard to endure some days. I never truly appreciated how small changes in my life could make such a big difference.  I haven’t talked much about about the side-effects of the radiation treatment, so now seems like as good a time as any.

The primary target of the radiation treatment is my throat, since that’s where the tumor was located in what was my right tonsil. However, since the cancer cells that originally blew the whistle were in a cyst attached to a lymph node basically everything from the Adam’s apple up to my earlobes is being bombarded to one degree or another.

Most noticeable is the area at the back of my throat, the traditional ‘I have a sore throat due to cold’ location; although in what can only be described as the biggest pain in the neck since  the guillotine, nothing that would traditionally sooth a sore throat can be used in this case, as all of the traditional remedies will actually aggravate the condition. So no cough syrups, lozenges, citrus based juices, or dairy (yes that means ice cream).

What this all boils down to is swallowing hurts – all the time. Imagine the mother of all strep throat cases and there’s nothing to take for it except Tylenol3, in liquid form no less as liquids are a little easier to swallow than solids. However, the Tylenol elixir stopped working about a week ago and now I’m on another liquid cocktail of various pain medications. Fortunately, it can be mixed with juice so it tastes a little better (I’m using mango) but that’s really a moot point because….

Everything tastes like crap!

Actually everything tastes like tofu on wet cardboard. You see, the radiation has shut down both of my saliva glands, which means I suffer from a very dry mouth. Your taste buds require saliva to function properly, so now, due to that and the radiation thing nothing, and I mean NOTHING tastes the way it used to. Ice cream and all other dairy taste like paste, bread tastes like tofu, potatoes taste kinda like sucking on a wool blanket, you get the idea.  The only thing that tastes normal are a few spices so right now I’m loading up on cumin and oregano just so there is a flavour of some kind.

Dr. Wright assures me that after the radiation treatments stop my saliva glands will heal and return to function, but never back to 100% so while flavour will return things will never taste quite the same. I will admit to a certain curiosity as to just what this implies. Will I suddenly like lentils? Will chocolate lose it’s appeal? Who knows?  A friend who had this same situation had to have most of his tongue removed, taste buds included, and now just eats to refuel as there are no tastes left to him at all.

The dry mouth also has affected other things. I’m drinking a ton of fluids (4 liters + a day) to compensate and there is a special mouthwash that is a concoction of the good doctor himself that helps a great deal, but no fluid except saliva can replace saliva and so there are still things with which one must deal.

My dentures not fitting or tasting right is one. A few weeks ago they felt okay and tasted of nothing. Now they float a lot more and have a definite flavour that occasionally triggers my gag reflex. Lots of fun.

Spontaneous coughing is another one. Although that could be a virus that I’ve picked up on top of everything else, because the radiation has also compromised my immune system. My boss called me and told me to stay away from work today because he has something I don’t need to catch. I wasn’t about to argue.

The dry mouth, non functioning taste buds, and the hurts-to-swallow thing have left me with little or no enthusiasm for eating; which is bad because the radiation is burning up my energy levels which come from the good calories not the fat ones so actually I should be eating more than usual. I’ve lost 10 lbs since I started and that’s about the limit. They tell me I must gain some weight this week. Cue the protein supplements.

The extra fluids are of course giving my kidneys and bladder more exercise than they’ve seen since my college days. (Actually I didn’t go to college but my girl friends did so I went to a lot of parties.) This means a change in habits as I must now never, ever, bypass the opportunity to visit the loo.  Even more fun I must say.

Finally; dry mouth, spontaneous coughing, perpetual sore throat and a tripling of the need to pee do not combine to make sleeping an easy thing to do. Especially since I need to sleep more to compensate for the radiation sapping my energy levels. Cue to sub-lingual lorazopam 1 mg. under the tongue before bed and while I do wake up three times a night to visit the room next door, I do sleep between visits. Thank You!

So, if I seem a little agitated from time to time folks, you now know the reasons why. Like most guys, I’m pushing myself too much and d0 need to rest more, but for the most part I seem to be handling things fairly well.  But that’s only because I’m getting a ton of support. At church, at work, on the Internet and of course from my own dear wife Roberta, the emotional, spiritual, and physical support has been amazing. I can’t begin to express my gratitude.

When I feel my lowest in the midst of all this even just knowing how many people are out there praying for me makes a world of difference. I feel like I need to see this through just for them. And believe me I will see this through. I have every intention of participating in the 2011 Ride to Conquer Cancer with a yellow flag attached to my bike designating me a cancer survivor.

Oh wait… there’s one more thing. The radiation has also killed numerous hair follicles on the sides of my face, so the beard that I have traditionally worn for the last 20 years is now toast. Guess I’m going to have to get used to looking at this face… and so will the rest of you.

So thanks everyone! Until next time …  Shalom!