EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

Opposition to Kaliwa, Kanan & Laiban Dams

Today March 14 is the international day of action for rivers and against large dams. Today also marks the first week since the "Bloody Sunday" operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in CALABARZON region. Among the nine (9) individuals that were killed in the simultaneous operation are Randy Dela Cruz and Puroy Dela Cruz who are Dumagat indigenous people (IP).

     Their communities are affected by the construction of large dams in Rizal and Quezon provinces - the Kaliwa, Laiban and Kanan dams.

Puroy and Randy are also members of Dumagat Sierra Madre opposed to the ongoing Kaliwa Low Dam project which the government is implementing despite the absence of free prior informed consent (FPIC) and other requirements by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Prior to the Bloody Sunday massacre, the Dumagat communities are constantly subjected to threat, intimidation, and red-tagging due to their unwavering commitment to defend their ancestral land against large dams.

     Currently, fear and terror are haunting the communities of Dumagat in Rizal as their communities have been heavily militarized since the incident. Families and supporters of the murdered IPs are struggling to raise resources to finance the funeral needs.

     We, the Network Opposed to Kaliwa, Kanan, Laiban Dams (NOtoKKLD) appeals for continued calls for Justice for Puroy Dela Cruz and Randy Dela Cruz and for the other activists, development workers, environmental & human rights defenders that have died in the hands of AFP and PNP. An impartial, thorough, and speedy investigation should be carried to determine irregularities and prosecute authorities that have abused their power.

Financial support for this campaign is also welcome, you may use the following accounts BPI: Charmane Jay Maranan (0919233249), GCASH: PAMELLA HORNILLA (09163258140), PAYPAL: CASEYANNECRUZ

Justice for the Victims of Agent Orange

Veterans for Peace (VFP) e-news, March 23, 2021:

"Sixty years ago, the United States used approximately 19 million gallons of 15 different herbicides, including 13 million gallons of Agent Orange, over southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed during the spraying and many more continue to be exposed through the environment. Agent Orange exposure continues to negatively affect the lives of men and women in Vietnam and in the United States."


VFP hosted a webinar on the lingering aftermath of the despicable use of agent orange by the US military since the 19602. In this powerful panel, Hoan Thi Tran and Heather Bowser talked about their personal stories as disabled children of parents who were exposed to the toxic compound agent orange. A defoliant deliberately mixed strong enough to kill people, the US said it used agent orange to clear jungles where it suspected Vietcong forces were hiding. The US Army Chemical Corps and the Flying Crews were charged with the task. It was poured over people, too. US personnel ordered to spray it in many areas succumbed to illness as did Vietnamese people. Not only did they suffer from cancers and other diseases such as Parkinson’s, their children and grandchildren suffered deformities and illnesses, too. Jonathan Moore discussed the U.S. legal cases around Agent Orange, and Tricia Euvard cited the current lawsuit in France. Susan Schnall laid out the broad health effects of Agent Orange, and Paul Cox briefly described and weighed the legislation on Agent Orange that U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee would soon introduce. This webinar also occurred in conjunction with the recent release of the powerful new film “The People Vs. Agent Orange.”


In 1960, the United Nations passed a resolution to create a treaty against chemical weapons because of discoveries of damage related to their toxins to all people, animals and plants. The use of agent orange was a violation of this treaty and international law, and as such, a war crime.


The struggle to get justice for this monolithic crime continues. Tracking the history, we can see how costly the use of agent orange has been in terms of life and dollars. The US Agent Orange Act of 2005 assigned some compensation totaling $75 billion to US military veterans. Though the US government cannot be sued, there have been lawsuits against chemical companies. Many litigation cases by US veterans and non-resident aliens have been dismissed. The US military and government claim the effects of agent orange were unexpected “collateral damage” rather than intentional harm. However, it has been shown that the level of dioxin in the mixture sold to the US military was designed to cause death.


The effects of agent orange are still being studied and learned. For instance, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s, bladder cancer and other illnesses have been known as consequences of exposure, though not officially recognized until 2021.


Veterans and their allies persist in educating the public about the true crimes of US wars. VFP reported on one historic action in its e-news release of April 6, 2021.

"Many veterans came home from Vietnam with a mission: to tell the truth about the wartime atrocities being committed and demand an immediate end to the killing. In April 1971, a group of more than 1,000 veterans launched the Dewey Canyon III operation, a ‘limited incursion into the land of Congress.’ April 23 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential anti-war actions of the era."


VFP and the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs hosted an online forum about this operation and the lessons it offers on April 23. 

Unsolved Missing Persons

I have been learning a lot about unsolved missing persons in the US, Australia and Canada in the past three weeks. My main source has been the CanAm Missing Project and the video series tagged "Missing 411" of the said project, which is run by policing expert, researcher and author David Paulides and his team. (Beware impostor videos.) See the website called canammissing.com and the CanAm Missing Project channel on Youtube. David Paulides has composed a series of books covering different regions and victim profiles as well as two feature-length documentary films. Over 1200 of these cases have been uncovered so far and the books and movies highlight many of them.


The cases that this Project examines are unexplained mysteries. Criminal causes have been excluded. Urban cases are not considered; the project looks into rural cases, many in national parks and national forests but sometimes near a village or even on the fringes of a metropolitan area. These people have simply disappeared, often without a trace. It has always happened to individuals walking alone. They can be any age, but the missing includes alpha males and females with high levels of education, such as physicists and physicians, who are usually experienced in the outdoors, well equipped and very fit. Some are seasoned hunters or active/ former military or paramilitary personnel. No case has turned up in which the victim was carrying a transponder (aka personal locator beacon) and a firearm. There are no witnesses to the disappearances; people in pairs or groups do not go missing in this way. (There is one exception, a father-daughter pair.) Most of these missing persons are of European descent, though some European visitors and local people of other ethnic origins have disappeared. (There could be a simple cultural explanation for this, in this blog writer's view. Who most likely hunts or hikes through back country?) The youngest case is age 20 months and the oldest in the mid-80s. Some of the victims have physical disabilities. Some are poorly equipped. They do not disappear directly from shelters or cars; rather, they are always on foot outdoors and usually on known trails and roads. 


Sometimes human remains are found, the bodies having been displaced from the last site seen or point of departure from companions several days, weeks, months or years after the location of discovery had been thoroughly searched by expert rescuers and searchers numerous times. There are some survivors who are found either sleeping or unconscious, especially children, but who have no memory of the lapsed time and cannot explain what happened. (The CanAm Project does not discuss alien abductions accounts, though does refer to the research into alien abduction witnesses.) Discovered living or expired, the victims are often found in or beside bodies of water or at a much higher elevation away from the known or supposed route. Their shoes have always been removed, yet their feet are clean and show no significant injuries. Bodies are usually dry and clean without signs of assault. All or much of their clothing has been removed. Of the evidence, if any, that shows up sooner or later, it is the shoes, flung here and there or set neatly in the open; other articles of clothing may turn up in strange locations, which never show any indication of animal predation--no blood, hair, lacerations and such. Autopsies have detected high levels of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the bloodstream of a few of the deceased. HOW?! Most autopsy reports cannot conclude a cause of death. If a cause is cited, it may be challenged as implausible.


Another noteworthy aspect: these type of missing persons cases have been carefully mapped out. Mapping has revealed clusters of missing cases spanning over a century. There are large and small clusters in most states of the US and in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario in Canada. Sheesh, there is a cluster pegged in a mountain area I can see from my home in the Greater Vancouver area in BC!--Seymour Mountain. A little farther away is another, Eagle Mountain Park! These are popular recreational areas in provincial parks. There are no clusters in the central North American continent where large bodies of water are few and mountains absent. There are clusters in the Blue Mountains and the outskirts of Melbourne, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia. Indigenous people ("Amerindians" in the US) have been interviewed; they recount ancient lore and contemporary stories of strange disappearances and sightings among them. There are some places they do not roam. Also, sites of the missing frequently have local names with the word "Devil" in them! How and why such names?!


State park and forests authorities likely reluctant to divulge data and opinions on the matter, the Paulides team has tracked down search and rescue, police and news documents, and interviewed 100s of associates of victims or survivors themselves. More information comes to David Paulides directly from his readers and viewers who have even more stories to share, even stories about similar situations in other countries. He believes that the parks officials are withholding information, particularly lists of the missing within park boundaries. Officials such as those at Yosemite National Park, the place with the largest cluster of missing people!, deny having any knowledge of missing people and defy the law in refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. There are indications that somebody knows something, as FBI agents have been seen at search sites for no apparent reason. 


Indeed, the whole business is shrouded with mystery and intriguing yet frightening implications. In fact, many witnesses and observers in the cluster areas have strange tales to tell: flashes and great orbs of bright lights, bone chilling howls and chatter in the darkness, bigfoot sightings, shadows, UFOs, inexplicable parting grasses and branches, the sense of being watched and odd sounds such as flute music, voices out of nowhere, the thunder of stampeding horses or cattle and loud snaps and bangs. 


David Paulides does not publicly offer any explanation. He likes to provide facts, relay what people have to say from experience and what experts say based on scientifically informed consideration. However, he does conclude that there is an obvious pattern. Therefore, everyone should be aware of the danger.


David Paulides does not recommend everyone stay home. He himself is a self-professed avid hiker and camper. He never tells anyone not to enter state parks and forests. Rather, he provides some safety tips for those desiring to continue to enjoy the outdoors away from urban life. #1 is never go alone! Don't allow yourself or any companion to be alone even for an instant! #2 is carry proper equipment, even if you plan a short day-hike: a locator beacon, a phone/ GPS gadget, a paper map, a loud whistle, a compass, first aid supplies, extra food and clothing, a waterproof lightweight blanket, a garbage bag for rain and so on, and plenty of water. (Drinking from local water sources except true springs can make you terribly ill!) He strongly recommends that those licensed to carry them and trained to use them take their weapon and extra rounds. For one thing, firearm is a loud noisemaker. However, Everything can fit into a lightweight, waterproof backpack with hip straps. Of course, there are jackets and vests with large pockets. Finally, dress for the weather and wear comfortable, protective footwear. Once you have gathered together this stuff, you will feel more secure about any eventuality and be most able to protect yourself. 


In my view, it is worth the trouble. I have been a local hiker, myself, and know that it is easy to get lost, get tired, hungry and dehydrated, or have an injury. Moreover, the weather can change suddenly and dramatically, especially in mountainous and coastal areas. I would add that hiking/ climbing and camping in the wilderness is no time to use substances including alcohol, although I know many (yahoos and city dudes) out there like to imbibe. It will just add to your risks and trouble.


Personally, I am of an age now when I avoid regular high-impact activities as my knees are already showing signs of wear. That's why I only do short hikes in urban/ urban edges settings. I do those alone as the areas are very safe and many people are around. I have belonged to hiking groups and have many wonderful memories and stories from those times. Yes, I have trekked serious mountain trails alone, but only twice. The power of the natural forces around me become too real and intimidating to venture further. I know my lack of training. I have started out on a solo trek in the coastal and Cascades Mountains (the latter a danger area, according to Paulides!) for up to an hour, never able to relax, the whole time feeling that something bad could happen. Heck, I passed over fresh bear tracks, stood on a precipice overlooking a valley with serious mountains and threatening dark clouds in the distance. I sensed all the unknowns and the millions of years of evolution which have unleashed power I cannot comprehend to either push up or tear down tall peaks, create valleys and deep lakes, etc. I must respect it all. I for one do recommend that most people stay close to home, leave the wildlife and wilderness unharmed and be with what you are raised and able to be with.


Community Celebrations

Various community and grassroots organizations have been featuring celebrations online. I have watched a few unusual but very endearing ones over the past few months. Some of them were put together by my friends and associates.


Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a play on the Lunar New Year greeting in Hong Kong Cantonese, Gung Hay Fat Choy, this annual events combines a Robbie Burns Dinner with Canadian Scottish and Chinese heritage. Robbie Burns, a romantic Scottish nationalist and poet, was born close to the time of Lunar New Year. This event promotes the truth of history and multiculturalism.  There are bag pipe players, poets, singers and speakers.https://www.facebook.com/WORDvancouver/videos/483912249435238


Cuba Solidarity Festival - Cuban cultural authorities and musicians planned an online concert to give thanks to North American Cuba solidarity activists. This concert boasts some expert jazz performers in Cuba, the US and Canada. There are a few words of solidarity, but most of this video is fantastic music.  For Cuba! For Solidarity! International Concert Against the U.S. Blockade on Cuba!

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1017433785335802


I am a member of a politically relevant and active choir based in my area. The Solidarity Notes Choir reached its 20th year of learning and singing songs for social justice and peace last year. For this occasion, we made a video to show its history and role. We are now rebuilding and rejuvenating this choir to ensure its future. Check it out! https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#trash/FMfcgxwLscxRBtflJKJxNdRxdCFBDnNz?projector=1 


Finally, here is a concert recorded at a Vancouver cafe in 2017. It features my chum's group, the South Vancouver Big Band. Very professional.

https://www.facebook.com/southvanbigband/videos/616173629357459 





New Things

We here value the big and the little, for the little may be bigger than you think. As I consider how I am doing so far this year, I therefore reflect on all new experiences and all events in my life and what I have been witnessing adjacent to my life.


Verging on feeling gloomy again and noticing my body get a little stiffer in recent weeks, I found a new exercise routine. It is a 10-minute series of 9 movements which can be expanded over a longer period. I found this set on a Youtube channel of two aging physiotherapists who provide tips to the 50+ age group. The exercises are geared for people at any fitness level and many can even be done while sitting. I am in pretty good shape for my age, having always been physically active in one way or another, so I expand on the harder elements such as the squats, push-ups and arm pulls. I like having a short yet expandable series as I find some routines get monotonous. With some brief movements that can be done any time of the day without necessarily changing clothes or showering, I am more apt to performing them most days. Of course, I get outside to roam around, often incorporating errands into the promenades, as an alternative. This winter in my region has been exceptionally rainy and dark, though, so I needed to get in motion with indoor activities. (I don't usually go for a few weeks without some pointed exercise because I start feeling too uncomfortable to tolerate the inactivity.)


I resumed library use last week. I "checked out" an e-book and downloaded it from my local library for the first time ever. I also went online to put one of its books on hold. Just picked it up this morning, which was the first time I had entered a library in close to a year!


I have been sampling e-books using my mobile device while in transit. Travel and long waits are the occasions when I am most likely to read. I had not been reading on the bus as I ride the buses so little these days.


I came across some great advice while sampling a motivational book. It is written from a "positive thinking" perspective. "Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn" by John C. Maxwell is available from the Google Playbook Store for $3. Maxwell's main message is to expect more losses than wins and use losses as opportunities to learn and grow. Not an uncommon viewpoint, but he has his own way of arguing and interesting types of examples. What I wish to underscore here is his roadmap for learning. He writes a whole chapter on each place in the map.  As an educator, I see it as a philosophy for learning in an context. I quote his map here.

             Humility: the Spirit of Learning

             Reality: the Foundation of Learning

             Responsibility: the First Step of Learning

             Improvement: the Focus of Learning

             Hope: the Motivation of Learning

             Teachability: the Pathway of Learning

             Adversity: the Catalyst for Learning

             Problems: Opportunities for Learning

             Bad Experience: the Perspective for Learning

             Change: the Price of Learning

             Maturity: the Value of Learning

Pretty good. I'll let you stew on it. I have already devoted months of this blog on positive thinking as applied to aging and addressing problems; in fact, that was the premise for this blog back in the winter of 2013/14, as many of you readers know.


My skills at writing and using technologies for communication have thrived since I started this blog. I've been using iPads for teaching, for instance. I am getting better at using Vistaprint's new platform and blog entering procedures. Again, I regret the long delay in catching on and keeping up the blogging.


Speaking of teaching, I have been teaching beginner French totally online for the first time. What else is new with me? Hmm. I boiled and ate purple potatoes for the first time yesterday. Taste is similar to that of Russets. 


Speaking of food, I have been trying new seed mixes for the wild birds on my block who feed at my porch. I now have two hanging, cylindric seed feeders along with two hanging suet "cages." Lots of little birdies including some new visitors have been gobbling up my offerings. The type of bird feed in my area is limited and costly, though, so I have been experimenting with stuff off the supermarket shelves and making my own recipes. The corn meal base mixture passed. Today I provided a formula of uncooked human cereal and rice combined with chopped peanuts and sunflowers. So far, so good. It is a job keeping the greedy and messy starlings away to prevent them from spilling a lot of it and eating too much too fast.


The resident flocks of brown and black chickadees and the juncos are regulars from dawn to dusk. The local towhees, flickers, nuthatches and Eastern (Lincoln?) sparrows appear every day, too. The newest species visiting my porch are a few pairs of house finches, up to 20 siskins and a couple of delightful kinglets. 


I have come to know the species well enough to feel confident about identifying and tracking them during the formal annual bird counts. I participated in the Cornell (ornithology) Lab's annual North America, February count for the first time ever. It was a great experience! It happened to snow the weekend of the count, but I enjoyed trekking around, binoculars and notebook in had, regardless. I took a little time out on three days: first, I just observed the activity at my balcony, before walking neighbourhood streets the next day and winding up on a walk through residential areas to a small shopping plaza. A couple of extraordinary things occurred during those times. Making my return to my place near the end of my first outdoors count, the area robins returned! I found most resting together in a couple trees while a few ventured into gardens to forage through the snow. I counted about 40 robins. Another fantastic sight was the sudden arrival of around 60 Herring Gulls to the shopping centre. They were following a woman through the parking lot. I had never seen such a situation before. However, I noticed many gulls circling over the park next to the shopping centre as I passed by in a bus this morning; on my return trip an hour later, I spotted that woman taking things out of her bags and cart to feed to the gulls, all of whom were rather patiently standing around her for their bites of the goodies. My role in this national count was uplifting. I think I'll do it again. There is another national count in May.


We are two months into 2021 already. The spring equinox will soon pass us by. Better not to be impatient for the spring and the sun, but to relish time every day.


pushing democracy

I've been watching an online forum put on by some British revolutionaries. After showing a documentary on the Cuba medical system's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum participants have been discussing the implications for the British medical system's response to the pandemic. One key conclusion that arose from this discussion is the accusation of "social murder." The speaker who raised this concept quoted a recently published article in the British Journal of Medicine that quotes Frederick Engels (Karl Marx's close associate in building revolutionary theory and action programming). It was Engel's who first used the term "social murder", which he generally intended to mean the deliberate neglect of sectors of the population to the point where thousands of people die because of lack of intervention where and when there could have been state intervention. The speaker underlined the state's preference in choosing "the economy" over people, which of course means, in the type of economy Europe had in his day and still has now, choosing to keep profits for a privileged minority rolling in rather than rolling out medical and social assistance to the general population. The speaker referring to this term "social murder" rightly called attention to the BJM article as "very remarkable." He described the article as a scathing criticism of the NHS of the UK's lack of action to protect the whole population from COVID-19. It means scientists and physicians believe that the state and corporations are directly responsible for genocide. WOW! I think the authors, editors and the publishers of the article, and the readers that support it, are correct. Many of the forum participants engaging in the post-video viewing discussion pointed to factual circumstances that provide evidence to support the cries of "social murder." They spoke to the government's limp response at the onset of the pandemic in the UK when PM Johnson and company basically told the populace to wash their hands and be careful, but that life would be business as usual (expression deliberate by this blog's author). They also highlighted the lack of planned pandemic management and the failure to have a response ready to begin with. The underscored the extreme reluctance to close down any businesses. They spoked to the lack of quarantine support, testing and PPE distribution. In short, authorities allowed the pandemic to flourish to the point where today over 100,000 people are expiring every day, and where an extensive lockdown has been imposed as a last minute thought. They talked about overcrowded housing where the poorest live, the lack of financial support for the folks who need it the most and the absence of planning to keep children connected and involved in the classroom with special measures and in reduced classroom sizes. The forum participants revealed how many among the Brits are fuming and devastated by the existing predicament, how teachers, social workers, factory workers and others are anguished and furious. This is a condition in which, as one of the speakers suggested, where conspiracy theories and reactionary thinking can thrive, adding another dimension of danger to the mix. The situation is paralleled in the US, Canada, many European and Latin American countries, sadly. The only way forward is for people to act to take care of their communities at the grassroots level. Waiting for the government to rescue everyone never resolves things. People must push democracy from the ground up. Legal and parliamentary measures must be attempted, of course, but the most powerful and therefore important response must come directly from the majority of the working people and oppressed themselves. Discussions, exchanges of info and ideas, support group formation, political mobilization and coordination, street protests, alternative peoples' media and such must get into action. This is how basic change can and will transpire. It is how it did in Cuba, for example.

Blog

taking stock of 2019

Posted on December 16, 2019 at 7:00 PM
Just passed another birthday and the calendar year is closing. Time to review the year.

I always review my goals and see what I accomplished or changed. I refer to both short (1-year and 5-year) and long term (10 years).

What's more, I consider a few categories of life: finances, career, social, travel, health, activism.

FINANCES

I've had a steady income from self-employment and employment, working generally part-time, with a few relatively high-income months. My savings have remained frozen this year. However, they are set to mature in January, as planned, when I will have to decide what to do with the cash. Following through with a second goal, I have applied for my Canada Pension benefits, picking mid-2020 as the time to start receiving them. It is financially advantageous for me to claim them a little early. Tbirdly, I am able to reduce my taxes by virtue of my growing status as a self-employed citizen. As well, I am taking advantage of other senior programs. For example, I qualify for a housing subsidy and a discount applied to prescribed pharmaceuticals.

Furthermore,living in this province offers some financial advantages. Premiums for the provincial medical plan were halved this year. Members of this plan will not have to pay any premiums as of 2020. Their are transit and other concessions coming in the near future.

Last year I wrote about a dispute with the tax department, which was billing me for 10s of thousands of dollars. A series of my objections were ignored, but I was finally vindicated in the spring of this year. All taxes, fees, interest and penalties were canceled. I even received a small refund in the end.

I am developing a longer-term financial strategy with information coming available over time. Rather than purchasing a home by full retirement, which would have had to have been in a small rural community, it appears that my savings would best be used as partial income. I am contemplating having an annuity fund set up. It would dispense a small, pre-set amount each month for twenty years plus.

WORK

Two-thirds my income comes from self-employment. This represents an achievement of one of my five-year goals. I wanted the independence and control over my paid work. The arrangement also saves taxes because there are more deductions allowed as business expenses which employees of other companies cannot claim. It also has to do with the type of work I do. I am doing things I prefer over other types of tasks related to education and writing. I am tutoring children, teens and adults in a range of areas, from straight-forward beginner to intermediate English Language Learning, to study skills and preparation for college entry and entry tests. I teach writing extensively as well as vocabulary, reading and speaking. Occasionally, a student wants tutelage in French.

One of the things I do is provide evaluations of official English speaking tests that measure fluency and competency for work and study in English language environments. My rate of compensation for the testing climbed two levels this year.

I pretty much finished a book project, though I may have to do a little further editing in early 2020. I am thinking of a new writing project.

More importantly, my satisfaction has risen. I have a better handle on my schedule and geographical areas of work, as well on the types of work I do.

TRAVEL

I was surprised to find myself going on two voyages that were on my list of travel dreams. They were both tied to attendance at huge and important political gatherings. 

I thus fulfilled several wishes just in one three-week trip. After attending the activists' conference in late spring, which was one goal. I continued on my way by returning to Italy to explore it further (2nd goal), after which I returned to visit France (3rd goal), during which time I revisited an important place where I resided in France in my youth (4th goal). Everything came together--my schedule, the budget, the timing with the conference, the availability of lodgings and regional transportation in Europe. One decades-long dream came true! Despite the extreme heat, I reveled in the beauty of Torino and enjoyed the comforts of swapped, free-of-charge private housing. In France, I explored Lyon, which I had not seen before. I finally returned to a place that opened up my life and transformed me while I was in my early 20s. It restored and concretized my memories.I could see what had become of the place, which, I have to say, was a bit of disappointment as it has turned into a big tourist site. All the same, I felt the trip validated the experience and the life decisions I took as a result. Though little made sense to me back then, looking back it all comes together. I could see clearly how my life adds up today.

In September, I decided to embark upon the second trip after having received an invitation through a local organization in late July. I took this trip just before Halloween and it lasted just one week. It was a fantastic opportunity and colleagues needed someone to go represent them and use the event for networking and research. I had not been to Cuba in 17 years, when I participated in a social and political, group tour with folks from Vancouver. We sang, met trade unionists and got political lessons as we rolled from town to town, meeting to meeting in our coach bus. This time, I attended a huge gathering in the main conference center in Havana in the year of the 500th anniversary of Havana and the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. There were many of my comrades from Vancouver and across Canada, as well as my group's associates in Central America and elsewhere. We tackled the attacks on progress in Latin America and the Caribbean and pledged solidarity on many fronts, from the uprisings against neo-liberal policies in Chile to the demands for a decent standard of life and democracy in Haiti, from defense of regional revolutions to support for the movement for the independence of Puerto Rico. Many important politicians, popular leaders, and intellectuals were in attendance, including current and former state leaders! It was greater than what I had dreamed as a return to Cuba.

ACTIVISM

My biggest rewards of the travel in 2019 were the advances in my roles as an activist.The conference attached to the first voyage was an international assembly of a league of anti-imperialists groups to which I belong. I hadn't been to such a gathering in about 10 years, so it was a gain just to attend this last one. At that event, I found a way to boost my volunteer work in political causes as I had hoped. It had been one of my 5-year goals to increase my participation and responsibilities as an activist. Check! 

I wound up leading a commission workshop on peace when I stepped in to fill a vacant seat. It was successful, so we were able to keep our peace commission marching on by making plans and finding volunteers to coordinate it. I found myself in the leading coordinating role. It was owing to that position that I represented our league at the international anti-imperialist, Latin America solidarity conference in Cuba. After attending that event, I have since been invited to join a peace building collaboration effort in Latin America. I have also been able to revitalize my home organization, the small "Just Peace Committee" and contribute nationally to the peace movement in Canada. I have started up a newsletter and built a website for the league's peace commission (https://peace450.wixsite.com/website). Through collaboration, we have coordinated three actions: to remember the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, to take to the streets on UN International Peace Day and to oppose the most recent NATO Summit.

HEALTH

On course, steady as she goes. I generally keep up my regular, moderate exercise. I do an all-round set of movements to manage the effects of aging. They include quad squats or presses to keep the knee joints strong, shoulder and back presses to keep the core, back and shoulder joints strong, actions to sharpen my balance, stretches for general flexibility, some abdominal movements for core strength and a little low-impact movements for cardio and weight control such as rowing machine or glider. I go to the gym once or twice a week or do some exercises at home. 

Though I have not had a specific weight loss plan, I lost about 10 pounds last spring and a couple in recent weeks. The loss occurred during my busiest phases, so I guess being busy, especially since I have relied on catching buses.

I eat well. I have honed my diet down to a food list that seems to work well for me. The items on this list address aspects of nutrition suitable for my age. They are mostly organically grown. I take vitamin and mineral supplements daily. I eat kale with a variety of other vegetables to make it interesting most days. For minerals, It is high in vitamin Bs. I eat whole grain bread and cereal for protein and B vitamins all the time. For minerals, especially electrolytes, I eat a little a couple of teaspons of avocado, 6 oz. of coconut water, a stick or two of celery, and one small or 1/2 large banana nearly every day. I eat pears for magnesium when they are available at a reasonable price. I eat one egg nearly every day for Vitamin E, sulphur and protein.  My diet is almost dairy free except for a little cheese; I use unsweetened nut milk. Still, my diet is high in protein; I rely more on fish and vegetables than red meat and poultry. I occasionally get a little beef or other red meat, tryng to find it from locally and small farm grown, organically grain or grass fed sources. Same for chicken, though I have chicken very occasionally. Instead, I look for wild seafood or some legumes.

As a consequence of this high quality diet, I do not yearn to go to restaurants much. I experience an aversion to fast food and mass produced, processed food.

Overall, the budding arthritis, which was detected two years ago, has been kept at bay. I hope to slow down or, better, stop its development.

I may get a flu occasionally, but symptoms are relatively minimal. I have no other health complaints.

SOCIAL LIFE

I just accept I am a loner. I am generally content. I have not tried reaching out to go dating again. I try to keep up friendships and the bond with my brothers and their families. I have made more friends through work and activism.

NEW EXPERIENCES

I continue to enjoy new things. It is important to learn and do new things for the sake of keeping life interesting as well as keeping the brain sharp. It is also good for personal development. One should not let one's life stagnate.

-I read at least 20 books.
-I completed a non-fiction manuscript about the nuclear industry.
-I used a new web-building program to build a website for the second time in my life.
-I got through two probational periods as an English speaking test examiner.
-I did my tax return online for the first time.
-I explored two cities I had never explored before.
-I attained a leadership role in the peace movement.
-I have been tutoring English literature, which is a joy.
-I learned some more physical exercises.
-I learned a couple more songs recently.
-I watched some TV series by means of DVDs, series I had seen little of before.
-I got back to blogging.
-I participated in a vacation housing swap for the first time ever.
-I saw a live performance of "The Taming of the Shrew".
-I got several new students.
-I attended an international solidarity conference in Cuba.


Categories: communication, living, positive thinking, journal writing, just peace, late career development, social justice and change

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Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.


A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.


Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.


Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 


Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 


I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.


Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 


On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.


I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 




Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!


I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.


I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.


Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).


 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.


The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.


I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 


Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 


However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.


It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.


My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 


There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.


2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 


I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.


Ed Wise

TEST

15 January 2020

THIS IS A TEST OF THE NEW PLATFORM FORMAT AND BLOG ENTRY SYSTEM.