Need to stop thinking about…

I’m wishing tonight, after having a pleasant dinner out, that I could stop thinking about things that touch me too deeply. Tears are welling in my eyes and threatening to fall down my cheeks as I can’t do anything to help. I’ll try to concentrate on something I COULD do last weekend.

I managed to help my young friend Olu “Climate” Idowu from Nigeria raise the last couple of hundred dollars that enabled him to attend an important meeting in Ethiopia. He has been running a program to teach youth to sustainably work the land so they can become employed and feed themselves and their families. By flocking to urban areas, rural people in developing countries have lost the skills they thought would be useless in the city. As Olu and I were chatting on Facebook I also got a message from Thalini who is training to be a surgeon in NSW, Australia, wondering how to do something that I know all about, and I thought !! Bingo!!

Maybe Thalini would have some of the cash Olu needed for his conference and I could in turn help Thalini with her problem! It worked and didn’t cost me a cent of the money I haven’t got!

So this week I became an international online entrepreneur! That must be an achievement I can be happy with.

What techniques can I use in the future to stop myself becoming too sad and emotional about problems that other people are in a much better position to fix? Genuine help needed!

Positive post script:

The rescue cat pictured below was adopted and neutered. She was previously on death row at Manhattan Animal Rescue in New York City because she was found roaming the streets. She was approximately 5 years old, and as you can see, not the most attractive-looking animal you might expect to take home.

Kitty's got the blues

Kitty’s got the blues

I contacted a heap of people who lived in or near NYC to try to get her a kind, warm home. Someone responded and I am so very relieved.

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It is a genuine dilemma in this age of new-fangled “molecular” drugs, that some seem to work very well during their first human trials, but we have to wait years to get them to the public.
Of course there is massive cost to consider in some cases, but I don’t know about eteplirsen. Public health advocates can have a terrible time deciding if a few people can have an expensive drug vs. a lot of people getting a cheap one. For instance, how many doses of polio vaccine would you trade for one of eteplirsen? These are the realities of government budgets. I wouldn’t like to do it, would you?

 

Health & Family

Austin and Max Leclaire are brothers. Austin is older, Max is younger. Like most siblings, they have many things in common and just as many that set them apart. For now, though, their strongest bond is over something they share — Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the most common lethal genetic disorder among children. Duchenne’s hallmark is increasing muscle weakness that eventually makes it hard to breathe and confines kids to wheelchairs, which is where Austin finds himself these days. Now 14, he lost the ability to walk four years ago, a development that helps explain why the disease looks so different in the two brothers today.

Because Max, 11, was still able to put one foot in front of another in the summer of 2011, he was eligible to enroll in a drug trial for Eteplirsen, which is designed for children like the Leclaire brothers who have trouble producing a protein…

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What will keep me going in 2013?

Just gathering my wits at the moment to make a blog post. I managed to get through 2012 with a few wobbles in the middle surrounding mis-haps in the arts and the inability to intervene in the fate of a beautiful cat. Around Christmas things were better than the previous year due to a win in the arts, brought swiftly to earth by an abrasive encounter at a pre-Christmas party.

On the upside, I managed to recover from the abrasive encounter with the support of dear friends and family, plus juggling my pills and vitamins! Currently I feel pretty good and I’ll do my best to continue along this trajectory.

Several things lying around the house (never tidy, but usually not a pigsty) have reminded me that reading has been a good tonic in the past, so I am glad to have a large pile of reading to look forward to this year too. Sonia Faleiro‘s book Beautiful Thing. Portrait of a Bombay bar dancer, is still sitting on the edge of the coffee table, reminding me how surprisingly moving some books can be. I was captivated by this tale of the knife-edge existence of a young woman with the “ambition” to be a genuine dancer, not just a roughly used barmaid. Convinced that her life was quite positive compared to others in India, she made me realise how different circumstances shape different personalities and how everyone has their own frame for their dreams of a “better life”.

While there is nothing in my “to-read” pile that promises to be as inspiring as that book, there are plenty that will keep me occupied with mayhem and mystery!  eg. Michael Connelly‘s The Black Box. He’s always a good read.

Spotrick gave me for Christmas a little book of poems titled I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats.(Author Francesco Marciuliano). On the cover is a cheeky ginger & white kitten who looks similar to our Bendix. The contents are hilarious and are good cheer-ups if I’m feeling a bit meh. Here’s the beginning of “Unbridled love”:
I knead your chest with my sharp claws
To show you my affection
I bite your arm and don’t let go
To show you adoration…

That is sooo characteristic although I wish there was something I could do about the biting! My forearms sometimes get gory teeth-marks from those “adoring” chomps- ye-owww.

I could pee on that

I could pee on that

Books are generally for bedtime reading for me, whereas I often get occupied with online courses during the day while Spotrick is at work. While in 2012 I was finishing my Masters degree, with that merely needing some corrections this month, I’ll have more time to concentrate on other things. Last year I did some online courses through EdX and Coursera including “Listening to World Music”, and “HarvardX: PH207x Health in Numbers: Quantitative Methods in Clinical & Public Health Research” , gaining course credits that could be used in real life if I wanted that. Several other courses I sampled, but didn’t complete formal assessment were Computing for Data Analysis (4 weeks of learning to progam in R), CalTech‘s Machine Learning and Community Models of Public Health . I have just started “Economics for Scientists”  as I think it will help me understand more about health economics and the political economy of health, with the hope of enrolling for a PhD connected with those later in the year.

Incidentally, I was stunned to hear of the death of the man who practically invented the “political economy of health” . Gavin Mooney was murdered in Tasmania, along with his second wife Del Weston, whose son from a previous marriage is being held in connection with their cruel slaying. I only met Gavin late last year at a seminar and he seemed a great believer in making the best health facilities available to the most disadvantaged people. He was a lovely guy, and was obviously held in very high regard by people throughout the community as seen by the tributes in Melissa Sweet’s Croakey blog.

Not ruminating about things like the previous paragraph is something I have to develop this year and I have become sufficiently motivated (I think) to get back to some of my art & craft activities, like knitting and quilting. I meant to make some cushions for several friends for Christmas, but time flew by too fast while I was finishing off the degree. Though Christmas is almost a distant memory, I’ll keep going on the cushion project, starting with a log cabin pattern in greens for a friend who has an unusual green leather lounge suite.

Green theme

Green theme

These fabrics are in the mix and I am putting my new electric scissors to work cutting the strips just right as my wrists and thumbs are wrecked for working with manual ones.

There’s a lot of fabric hanging around here that needs to be made into clothing as well, but I’ve been very slack on the sewing for many years- I can’t get moving on it. This year I’ll get out some projects and see what happens- maybe inspiration will stay with me for a while. I really like these bright, lightweight cottons for making summer dresses and tops:

The garden is starting to look more lush than it has since we moved in, largely due to Spotrick’s efforts in tidying up old plants and pots. I’ve also been blitzing the plants with plenty of fertiliser and misting water under the larger ones on hot days. My ambition is to almost obscure the courtyard walls!

 

Book Banquet 2012

Shai Coggins’ blog reminded me that I have read quite a pile of books this year that I should list, even if just for myself. If you have read any of these and have an opinion, please comment!

  1. Nonfiction. Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society Will Hutton. This book applies equally well to the Australian scene since the Global Financial Crisis and is a big influence on how I now view the political economy of public health.
  2. Nonfiction. David Harvey. The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism. This book was the basis of a pre-conference workshop on the Political Economy of Health before the international Public Health Association meeting in Adelaide in September 2012. It convinced me that I’m on the right track with my lack of capitalism in its present form ever leading to fairness in the distribution of resources compatible with good health in a nation. All capitalism depends on gambling that the small amounts of money held by “lesser” people can be collected together by crooks on the stock market to increase the large amounts held by people who consider themselves “the bosses” of the rest of us. It can’t keep happening as eventually the poor run out of resources, get angry and disrupt the system, or the rich find there is little value in their cash because workers are not producing anything more for them to buy with it. They can then either stockpile wealth to absolutely no avail or start financing jobs for the unemployed so the economy can start moving again. Have I convinced you? Anyway, I could rave about this forever, knowing absolutely nothing about economics!
  3. Jo Nesbo The Redbreast. A horrific Scandinavian thriller, as are the next four.
  4. Jo Nesbo The Leopard
  5. Jo Nesbo The Devil’s Star
  6. Jo Nesbo The Snowman. These are so well-written I couldn’t put them down.
  7. Henning Mankell The Troubled Man. Detective Kurt Wallander has turned sixty and thinks he is succumbing to the dementia that ended his own father’s life. Meanwhile he is struggling to help solve the mystery of a murdered naval officer.
  8. Peter Hoeg The Quiet Girl. Odd but thrilling, with a young girl kept apart from others by an apparently obscure group of “nuns”, helped by a strange Bach-loving clown. There are touches of magical realism about the tale but it all hangs together in the end
  9. Camilla Läckberg The Ice Princess: The body of crime writer Erica Falck’s childhood friend is discovered, wrists slashed, in an ice cold bath. Was it murder or suicide? The investigation leads her to a community on the brink of tragedy.
  10. Camilla Läckberg The Preacher: Twenty years ago, two young women disappeared in Fjällbacka – now their remains are found, along with a new victim. As Patrik Hedström works to solve these murders, do the dark secrets of a local family hold the key?
  11. Camilla Läckberg The Stonecutter: When a little girl is found in a fisherman’s net, the police realize it was no accidental drowning. Patrik Hedström investigates the death of a child both he and Erica knew well.
  12. Hakan Nesser – but can’t remember the title- think it’s different in Australia than the USA. But it’s another crime thriller.
  13. Yrsa Sigurdardottir Last Rituals Set in Reykjavík, this thriller concerns the murder of a student who appears to have odd symbols carved into his chest linked to ancient folk tales.
  14. Martin Walker Black Diamond. Policeman “Bruno” Benoit Couregges is on the trail of truffle merchants who are rigging the price of their expensive finds in French provincial markets.
  15. Martin Walker  The Crowded Grave. I loved the description of the French countryside in this mystery about a modern murder victim concealed at an archeological dig against the suspicion of local cross-border terrorism.
  16. Non-fiction. Ted Nield Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet. About the history of the major tectonic plates that cover the earth and how we can see the ancient links between them by matching the minerals and landforms at the break-apart sites.
  17. Non-fiction. Simon Winchester Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories. I skipped most of the battles etc. & concentrated on the accounts of how the Atlantic is being widened by the upwelling of volcanoes along the mid-continental ridge and the currents that carry whole species to unusual destinations on its shores.
  18. Nonfiction. Richard Dawkins. The Ancestors’ Tale. This gave me a really clear view of evolution by tracing the origins of all living species back to where they branched off from their closest genetic relative on the evolutionary tree. The explanations for the sometimes bizarre separations of different species or varieties of animals and plants from each other by geological changes, such as continental drift and tectonic plates and climate change are quite revelatory as well. One of the best books on genetic evolution I’ve ever read- much better than all the ones that start with a single cell and come from past to present!
  19. Geraldine Brooks Caleb’s Crossing. The Pulitzer Prize Winner’s novel of early America- Caleb is the first Native American to attend Harvard University, after being brought up quite traditionally on the site of modern day Martha’s Vineyard.
  20.  Lars Kepler The Nightmare. Detective Inspector Joona Linna investigates the recovery of a young woman’s body from an abandoned yacht drifting around the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, and the forensics team is sure that she drowned. Why, then, is the pleasure boat still afloat, and why are there no traces of water on her clothes or body? The story involves international conspiracy and crime on a horrific scale, not easily relatable to the original death.

You can see by this selection that I’m a great fan of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, the history of the planet and the relationship of economics to health- what a weird mix  eh?! What’s your mix look like?

 

China vs India: What & why

I’ve just started a new ScoopIt bulletin on this topic after seeing an article in The Australian newspaper. I wasn’t aware that India felt that China was gradually surrounding it with pro-China [and anti-India] nations by getting them into China’s nuclear expansion plans. India has always had border difficultis all along the north because of dubious lines drawn on maps, arbititray splitting of tribal and religious groups and clashes over arable, habitable land in extremely mountainous areas.

While I’ve been aware for some time that Pakistan is probably [knowingly or unwittingly] sheltering pro-Taliban groups, I wasn’t aware that China still had designs on India and was befriending more nations on the borders. Apparently there have been some agreements forged between China and others concerning supply and support of technology & weapons. I’m not sure of the details [who is?], but it seems India is quite paranoid about it. Indian newspapers abound with stories, especially about supposed Maoists who may have been recruited to the older-style communist philosophies of China on the north-east border.

If you’re interested, have a look at the articles gathered by my ScoopIt bulletin

If you are commentator or expert on the topic, please send me some links! I need to learn.