Tag - health

Eating mud to survive

This kills me. Hungry Haitians are eating mud in an attempt to survive:

With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

“When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day,” Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Of course it’s probably not a good idea to have 5 kids if you can’t support them, of course it’s probably not a good idea to have a baby when 16 and single, of course there are larger things going on in the economy and government of Haiti that lead to some having much and most having nothing.


It ought to offend every sensibility all of us have that in 2008 people are reduced to eating mud in a attempt to survive. It’s not right. And if we can, we ought to help.

Here’s a few ways we can:

I recommend the last one, Meds and Food for Kids, for a couple of reasons:

  • they target kids
  • they have a simple nutritional supplement that doesn’t require special care, handling, or cooking
  • they manufacture what they need in Haiti, benefiting the local economy
  • they work with local Haitians to supply the services, rather than maintaining a big staff of ex-pats in-country
  • they have a great success rate
  • they’re easy to donate to via JustGive

Unbelievably busy

Well, I haven’t gotten around to doing anything at all on my new combined blog in the past week or so.  Part of the problem is the new job and the tremendous workload as I transition out of the old and squeeze into the new. Another part is the two courses I’m taking for my masters program. (That was a huge mistake: two courses plus a full-time demanding job plus a family plus some friends equals absolutely no time for numero uno.) I’m looking forward to December, because on December 1 I will have (God willing) completely all my papers and assignments for my courses, and I’ll be able to slow down a bit. I just submitted my last assignment for ETEC 522 – a education venture capital course – last night at midnight … and I have one last paper due for my ETEC 511.

It’s a 3000-word paper, though, so it’s not a minor project. Such is life: intentional imbalance for short periods of time to accomplish set goals. But I hope to regain some semblance of balance soon! 

When business is evil …

When the business you’re involved in is evil, you know it’s time to get out and start doing something else. Otherwise you will inevitably become evil as well. There are plenty of examples of that in the US health care system, which Sicko is highlighting right now.

Here’s just one of them …

Palmer still owes more than $7,000 for an eight-hour hospital visit that involved, by his estimate, only about 15 minutes of actual care.

That’s after getting more than $4K reduced for the “trauma activation charge,” which is a page to doctors and nurses that are presumably either already at the hospital or on call.

15 minutes of care? $7000?

His room was $2000. His CT scans were $3500. Sucks to be him, obviously … according to the administrator.

“It’s unfortunate that he’s in the situation he’s in,” Nazeeri-Simmons said. “But what is an individual hospital to do? Are we supposed to eat the costs?”

She know’s it’s wrong … but does she take any personal responsibility?

“It’s not us,” she said. “It’s the whole system, and the system is broken. We need to look closely at making changes and at how we can deliver care in a rational way.”

Rational health care? Here’s a couple of clues:

The United States spent an average of $6,102 per person on health care in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Canada spent $3,165 per person, France $3,159, Australia $3,120 and Britain a mere $2,508. At the same time, life expectancy in the United States was lower than in each of these other countries and infant mortality was higher.

I live in Canada, and the health care system is not always perfect. You usually have to wait … I guess sort of like Palmer.

But though I’ve had multiple broken bones, several car accidents, and various other incidents requiring stitches etc., I’ve never had to fear that an accident or an illness would wipe me out financially.

Spending an average of $6K/person and only actually covering about half of the people? That’s evil. I’m a pretty conservative guy, but there can be no better argument against the free enterprise system than American health care.

Theft, larceny, and even murder: that’s what it is.

I guess that would stop corruption

Whoa. I wonder what this would do to government corruption around the world:

The former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, has been executed for corruption, the state-run Xinhua news agency reports.

He was convicted of taking 6.5m yuan ($850,000; £425,400) in bribes and of dereliction of duty at a trial in May.

The bribes were linked to sub-standard medicines, blamed for several deaths.

I’m not condoning it or advocating for it in any way, but on a purely amoral the-ends-justify-the-means level, I bet it would get very good results.

Relaxing throughout the workday

Having endured years of chronic neck pain in my life, I know something about the need to intentionally relax your muscles.

I saw a good tip today intended to help prevent near-sightedness, but a major side-benefit (or perhaps the main benefit) is muscle relaxation. I find that I tend to get a little more stressed, hour by hour, at the office, and that results in tensing my muscles, locking up my joints, and making me more likely to have neck or other joint pain.

Here’s the tip:

Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. “It’s usually caused by nearpoint stress.” In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles like
the eyes into relaxing as well.

And here’s the source …

On being interesting

Russell Davies talks about how to be interesting:

While I was at the U of O I kept going on about how the core skill of any future creative business person will be ‘being interesting’. People will employ and want to work with (and want to be with) interesting people.

And since I’d spent quite a lot of time telling them all the things they should stop doing I’d thought I’d try and teach something useful. Since I don’t actually know anything useful I had to make something up. Which is below. It takes about 10 minutes to teach but it’ll take a lifetime for people to work out if it works or not, and by then I’ll be long gone. Ha!

A quick summary: first, be interested, and share. Then …

  1. Take at least one picture everyday. Post it to flickr.
  2. Start a blog. Write at least one sentence every week.
  3. Keep a scrapbook
  4. Every week, read a magazine you’ve never read before
  5. Once a month interview someone for 20 minutes, work out how to make them interesting. Podcast it.
  6. Collect something
  7. Once a week sit in a coffee-shop or cafe for an hour and listen to other people’s conversations. Take notes. Blog about it. (Carefully)
  8. Every month write 50 words about one piece of visual art, one piece of writing, one piece of music and one piece of film or TV. Do other art forms if you can. Blog about it
  9. Make something
  10. Read

The only caveat I’d have to this list is that if I had to do them all, I’d be so busy being interesting that I’d have no time for anything else.

So I’ll take the list in moderation. But it is a great list.

Global gunk

Sickening story in the NY Times on hazardous waste disposal in the new millenium:

It came from a Greek-owned tanker flying a Panamanian flag and leased by the London branch of a Swiss trading corporation whose fiscal headquarters are in the Netherlands.

This is getting to be a very complicated world.

[tags] NY times, hazardous waste, globalization, john koetsier [/tags]

Jackie deJonge

Jackie deJonge is the wife of Hendrik, a friend and colleague of mine.

Right now she, Hendrik, and their 5 kids are going through a very tough time – just as they were about to move to Australia, she was diagnosed with a very severe form of cancer in her left arm. She’s recently gone through multiple rounds of tests and surgery, and may still require radiation and/or chemotherapy.

The family has set up a blog, which they’re updating with more information as they get it.

Our family’s prayers and thoughts are with them!


Had my first Twinkie today. In 34 years of life.

The guys in the Art Prep department of my company forced me too. Or, more accurately, Dave Mazer forced me to.

Yuck. Fake. Gross. Twinkies are one unhealthy food I won’t have any trouble resisting. Unlike chips, hamburgers, chocolate, etc.

Well, at least there’s one.

[tags] twinkies, health, food, yuck, john koetsier [/tags]

Waging a living

I just saw POV on PBS: Waging a Living, and I am ashamed that I am ever in any way discontent with my life or my job or my salary.

Waging a Living follows the lives of 4 individuals who are “working poor.” (More details about them.)

One’s a security guard in downtown San Francisco, making $9-10/hour. A raise of 25 cents an hour is a big deal to him. One is a nurse in New Jersey who supports 5 people on $11/hour. Another is a waitress whose husband left and didn’t pay any alimony or child support. Another is a woman who was abused through childhood and has slowly, painfully been getting her education and increasing her standard of living: 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.

These people are inspiring. But their stories break my heart.

I’m a social, political, fiscal, and moral conservative, but:

  • it is not right that some make hundreds of millions and some make pennies
  • it is not right that a waitress could be paid less than $3/hour in New Jersey
  • it is not right that the gap between executive management and rank-and-file is wider now than ever (200-400x more, I think)
  • it is not right that many of us make so much money we don’t even think about spending it, or even know how much exactly we have, while others have basic living expenses that outpace their wages
  • it is not right that people die because they cannot afford medical insurance
  • it is not right that single mothers working for very limited wages have to spend half a week’s pay for over-the-counter medicines
  • it is not right that we have so little respect for people that we think we can pay them a wage that reduces them to living in inhumane circumstances

We can call a spade an implement for digging, or we can just simple say that this is evil. And – yes, I’m a Christian too – God will judge us for this sin.

That said, if I was counselling young people in school today, I would say the world is not fair, and you should never expect it to be. Get your education. Get your education. Get your education! It will improve your life.

And I would say to spouses: divorce will not only kill your relationship. It will not only scar your children for life. It will reduce you to poverty. All of the people profiled in this POV were divorced, and it adds greatly to the strain of trying to make a living.

May God make us thankful for what we have, and generous to those who have not been so blessed.

. . .
. . .

And, PS: I’m glad to live in Canada, where anyone, anytime, anywhere, is guaranteed to get the medical care that he or she needs, to the best of our ability to provide it, regardless of the size of his or her bank account. Choosing not to help someone who is sick because they can’t afford medical care is revolting.

[tags] POV, PBS, waging a living, working poor, poverty, america, minimum wage, ceo compensation, social justice, health insurance, john koetsier [/tags]

Strange feeling: no pain

I had a strange feeling today. For a while, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then I realized what it was: for the first time in months, maybe years, I was pain-free. I’m sitting here typing with the same kind of wondering, puzzled, amazed emotion. I can hardly believe it.

As I’ve mentioned recently (one, two, three) I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my neck.

It all stems from two rear-ender accidents that I’ve experienced in the past 14 years. Somehow, over all that time, even with countless physio appointments, doctor’s visits, stretches, and exercises, my neck has never really been right.

And just a few weeks ago, I really totally and completely massacred it, somehow, in the middle of the night.

But today, I feel good. I’ve been going to a chiropractor who has amazed me with his knowledge of my body and it mechanics. Dr. Grant O’Neill (he’s also an M.D.) in Surrey, BC, figured out just by looking at me that I’ve had issues with my shoulders (one has been dislocated about 6 times, the other about 4 times) and my ankles (severe repetive sprains).

And everything he’s said and done with the main problem, my neck, has made sense, and, more importantly, helped to fix it. Frankly, he’s like a physiotherapist with a better understanding of the mechanical underpinnings of the human skeleton. He’s slowly fixing the skeleton while giving me exercises and stretches that are re-orienting my muscles and nerves.

It’s still a little freaky, truthfully, when he cracks my neck and back vertebrae. After my first appointment, it was more painful, not less. But the pain was different: joint, versus muscle. And now, after every appointment, it feels better immediately.

It’s working, and I’m thankful!