Cold Ground
email Derryl (replace AT with @)

Places to Go:
Derryl's Fotolog
Fictionwise (reprints of some of Derryl's fiction)
Alyx Dellamonica
Boing Boing
Charlie Stross
Jena Snyder
Making Light
Randy Reichardt

~ Saturday, August 24, 2002
Here's the rocking illustration of my story "Lost Jenny" in On Spec, done by this year's Aurora winner Jim Beveridge.
"We have viruses, bacteria and prions — this could be an entirely new form of life," says the man, talking about a possible cause for schizophrenia.
~ Friday, August 23, 2002
Lifted from boing boing because I know of at least one reader here who like animation, this Origins of American Animation is a great site.
Boo-ya! Here are the winners of the "Dark and Stormy Night" worst opening sentence contest for 2002.
It's been awhile since I visited Something Awful. There are a couple of decent features right now, including part 2 of their look at Canadian candy, but I have to say that not since the (very rude) Children's Books have the Photoshop Phriday forum goons come up with such a dandy. "Irish Wakeboarding" had me busting a gut.
No signed contract yet, but I'll jump the gun and tell y'all I've sold my novelette "Wasps at the Speed of Sound" to Oceans of the Mind, an email magazine that pays pro rates and runs some pretty decent authors. This will be my second story with them. The first, "The Abbey Engine", was in the nanotechnology theme issue. This one will be in the Winter 2002 issue, I imagine, the theme of which is Canadian Writers.
~ Thursday, August 22, 2002
Yes, the author of the book is pretty dense for not taking advantage of his ability to head over to a public library (or better yet, an outdoor outfitter with a guidebook section), but I have to say that the crown for King of Stupidland goes to this guy. What sort of idiot goes rafting on a river, any river with whitewater, without a proper guide book and maps? The Ram is a fun river to run, but if you don't do it right it, like any other fast-moving piece of water, can kill you. Worse, the river is far away from anything, and almost impossible to climb out of, which means if something happens you have no choice but to keep on heading downstream.

The descriptions don't jibe, though, and so I wonder if things are being blown up beyond all reason. The Ram River Falls are the only ones that approach 20 meters in height, as far as I recall, and they are where everyone puts in. Further on there is a waterfall that drops about three meters, and then after that another that's about eleven.

In case you haven't guessed by now, I've done this river. Many years ago, I was invited to join a raft-supported kayak trip. There were two kayaks and four of us in a self-bailing raft. Yes, there are a couple of spots where someone with a raft might wipe out, especially if they don't stop and scout first, but most of the whitewater was anything but hairy. The smaller falls were so fun, as a matter of fact, that we ended up staying there all afternoon, running them then hauling the raft back up for another go. The worst danger for us was that the front of the raft would hit the river while the back was still moving, meaning the guys in the back would slam their heads into the thankfully-cushioned lifejackets of the guys in the front.

The second falls were more problematic, but nothing a little ingenuity and insanity wouldn't solve. The intention was to portage around the edge and slide down the steep scree slope, then lower the boats and gear down by rope. But Terry Cooksley, one of the kayakers, was having none of that. An experienced amateur diver, he lined himself up and dove over the edge, helmet and lifejacket on. Doug Shanks and I, at the time both shooters for The Edmonton Sun, lined up at the edge with our cameras at the ready, exhibiting the typical tabloid photojournalist's desire to get the good shot, even if in this case it meant dragging a dead body the rest of the way back.

It didn't turn out that way, though. Terry later told us that he'd skimmed the bottom, it was so shallow, but his skill as a diver had helped. As did, I imagine, the horseshoes up his ass.

This is the waterfall I suspect our unlucky and unwise rafter went over. The first falls probably caused them to wash out, and the second one -- well, lucky for him, I say. The water was likely flowing low and slow, considering the time of year and the drought, which meant that his son could stand a few feet from the edge and not be swept over. But that same low flow would mean a rockier greeting at the bottom. Perhaps the raft got between him and a sandpapered face.

No Darwin Award here folks. Move along, now, go look for someone who is successfully stupid, if you know what I mean.
I'm sorry I missed Studs Terkel on Donahue on MSNBC last night. Great piece about what he had to say over here on Slacktivist, including a pointer to the transcript.

In the meantime, with Chretien making it official, I do believe we have 18 months to work towards finding someone who would actually be interested in seeing such a plan work. He said in a blindingly naive moment.
Thanks to Don for this one. Language warning, but do read carefully. Very funny.
~ Wednesday, August 21, 2002
A frightening list of quotes I got from Randy's blog.
More health care meanderings:

Here is what I'm talking about. Two of the victims are in hospital in Grande Prairie, AB, a city about half the size of Prince George (I think. Been some time since I was there). They weren't brought to hospital here, and more power to them, since this place is such a mess when it comes to healing folks.
I've been following this plan off and on for a couple of years now. It will be interesting to see if the genetic material is still viable, and if they really can come up with a mammoth.
So the previous mention of an online comic strip didn't even come close to touching on everything. Go to the home page of e-sheep and check them all out, but especially check out "Spiders", which is an astonishing journey into an alternate universe where things are still going down in Afghanistan.

I mean it.

Go now.

Blow your mind.
No surprise to read here that Utah has the second-highest water usage in the US. I've never in my life seen so many people wrestling with big patches of green lawn. The fact that there are so many churches (yes, primarily LDS) with large fields and that those churches all seem to utilize automatic sprinklers (at all times of day) would certainly add to it.

There is one house in North Logan, a very large two-level, one of those places that look like wannabe mansions. It sits on two or three acres of land, and aside from just a few sorry excuses for trees the rest is lawn. Just a huge expanse of grass, and you can't even play croquet on it, because it slopes. Every time I passed it on my bike or in my car I found myself wondering just what the point was. I mean, besides all the water wasted, who has time to mow the damn thing?

On the flip side, our friends Rob and Barb Lilieholm live in Providence, just south of Logan. They have a beautiful yard, lush and full, some grass for the kids to play on, but with plenty of trees for shade and a vegetable garden. But instead of using the taps, Rob is lucky enough to share water rights for some of what comes down from the mountains. In lean times, he gets less water, but he still has times where he is allowed to redirect the flow to his yard. It's an interesting way to do things, looking like a green, tiny version of Bangladesh during the monsoon season. But because of the shade, a lot less is lost to sun-induced evaporation. The ground drinks it up, and the plants are satisfied until the next go-round.

Here in Prince George, things have been drier than normal this summer, and I've noticed the lawns around here are paying for it. My comment to Jo last night was that they looked browner than lawns in Logan. her response, certainly a valid one, was that people here don't water like there's no tomorrow, as opposed to Utah. And she's right.

More ammo for my decision to xeriscape, even in the comparatively green climes we live.
Change the location of John M. Ford's poem "110 Stories" to here. Seems there was a bandwidth situation, with too many people showing up at the party.
~ Tuesday, August 20, 2002
How come I never get to witness this sort of fun and games?
Health Care Part Deux:

So Roy Romanow toured the emergency room of a local Toronto hospital and even got to play doctor. They dressed him up in a white coat and gave him a pager, and then he was given the opportunity to diagnose a "patient".

Last time Aidan had an allergic reaction, we had to visit the emergency room here. I would have tried the local walk-in clinic, but their hours are 4-9pm on weekdays, a few more on Saturdays, and nothing on Sundays. Best as I recall, we didn't get to talk to any politician during our visit, retired or otherwise. Someone I did talk to was a nurse from Vancouver who is actually flown up to Prince George on a regular basis so that she can fill in some shifts. Seems they can't find anyone local.

I digress. Aidan's visit this time was precipitated by a nasty rash that, we believe, was the result of the red dye in red Jello. Normally a rash wouldn't be that serious, but because of his other allergies, we tend not to take chances. Informed of his life-threatening allergy, it still took us almost an hour to get in to a stall, and then another two hours or so to see a doctor. The end result? Watch what he eats, he's fine, have a good night.

I live in a city of 81,000 or so. If I were an hour away by highway, during the winter, and Aidan suffered an anaphylactic reaction, would I be able to make the drive in time? The government here promised that no one would be more than two hours away from emergency services, but that means that in the meantime there are plenty of places that they can close down, some for good and some just cut back on the hours.

And let's say that icy roads be damned, I do get here in time. Will they have enough people working in the emergency ward? That's the real crux for me, as someone who lives in an urban environment (well, as urban as you can call PG). To save money they close down health facilities in small towns, but they don't make up for it by bumping things up in the nearby community that has to pick up the slack. If just two other parents are here with children suffering from similar maladies, then who gets to the front of the line? What if the EpiPen Jr. we carry didn't work? What if Aidan's father was an idiot and forgot it someplace? (The last has happened, more than once, although I'm getting better.)

To carry this thought experiment a little more, what do we do if we want to live in a smaller community? What about people who already live in one, but also have someone in the family with an ailment that can kill? Would I live in such a town?

The answer is No, of course not. As much as living in Logan made me realize I prefer smaller centers to large, I know for a fact that as long as Aidan is in this house, we can never afford to move someplace even smaller. Crappy as it is, the hospital here is all we have.

As a side note, for anyone who doesn't quite understand this fear I deal with: next time you go to the grocery store, grab a package of some sort of processed food and read the contents label on the side. Check cookies, check crackers, check ice cream or popsicles. See if any of them have warnings about peanuts and/or nuts. And then imagine trying to feed a 6-year old boy.

More to come.
And indeed, it works. I now have a comments feature. Thanks, Randy (even though where you sent me wasn't taking new users).
Just testing something. Nothing to see here, folks, so move along to the next post...
~ Monday, August 19, 2002
This one is now making the rounds of the blogosphere, but I know I have some people who check here who may not have poked in the same corners I do. John M. Ford has written "110 Stories", 110 one-line poems, each line telling an individual story, all centered on September 11.

It's remarkable stuff. And nice to read something that remembers the people, rather than pumping up the war on terror.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden makes a good point in her blog, Making Light, which I'd like to stress here; although explicit permission to make one or two copies for individual use is given at the bottom of the poem, it is more than likely that this will end up floating around via email. Please remember who wrote it and make sure that it is properly attributed.
Another dandy online comic strip, via boing boing. Don't worry, I will get back to the health care stuff.
On the way home in the car after picking up Jo from work, I was listening to CBC radio and a news report about the country's doctors complaining about new moves that Quebec is taking to guarantee care. And now I read here that the CMA's own numbers tell them that people are generally happy with the state of health care in the country.

Speaking as someone who recently moved to the Canadian city that ranked 54th out of 54 in Maclean's 4th Annual Health Report, let me tell them that the view from up here in Prince George is not at all rosy. As our doctor, a recent Scottish arrival to the country, put it in terms that were only barely over the top, the health care system here is of third-world quality.

I know for a fact that there are problems with the American system. My friend Harve had moved to Logan after being injured on the job as a police officer. He took with him a decent enough settlement, enough to guarantee a salary, but not enough to take care of his brood, a fourth child having been on the way. So he took a job as a receiver with a store and paid a chunk of his salary from there for coverage. But then the company was bought out, and the new owners decided to increase his premiums to over $600/month. Yes, US dollars, a figure that makes many a Canadian's jaw drop. He could no longer afford to work there, and so quit and ended up shilling on commission for a carpet company, but at least they had a benefit package people could handle. I could also name the father of one of our babysitters, who after a heart attack had used his million dollar total life benefit, and so only saw the doctor when it was an absolute emergency.

But we were the flip side. Jo's benefits only cost about $30/month, on top of which we would factor in the copay for each visit (and man, let me tell you that was daunting the first couple of times). What these costs don't tell you, though, is the service that was available in Cache Valley. Similar size to Prince George (although only 45 minutes from Ogden and 1.5 hours from Salt Lake, as opposed to 8 hours from Vancouver up here), Logan's facilities were first-rate: two hospitals (one private, although funnily enough it was the public one that offered free valet parking at the emergency); pediatric specialists; surgeons with all sorts of specialties; and of course the ability to phone a doctor and get in for an appointment that day. The only thing lacking was an allergist, but he was a short drive down the highway to Ogden.

When Aidan had his hernia, we went from family doctor to surgeon in about three days. It was a Monday, the surgeon took a look and asked if Thursday would be OK for his surgery. Of course we said No, because we were caught so completely unaware of how they scheduled things down there and were busy that day. So he found another day and everything was tickety-boo.

Contrast that with here. There is no local allergist (this in a city with a tonne of wood and pulp mills and an exceedingly high incidence of childhood asthma), so when your doctor makes an appointment for you, it's to see one who comes into town from Vancouver every few months. There are two or perhaps three pediatricians in town, which meant that when Brennan was suffering from a series of what may have been allergic reactions (although the family doctor - more on that later - didn't think so), the first attempt at making an appointment, in May, was rebuffed, since the doctor was so busy he could see no one until January or February of 2003. The second attempt has yielded us an appointment for September 8 of this year, but of course the problems Bren was suffering are gone.

The only reason we do have a doctor is because Jo and I ganged up on Allison (bless her heart for breaking down). But when I took Bren, she was away, and so we saw a sub who was good for about two minutes and not much in the suggestion department. What she prescribed was based entirely on guesswork, which I know is a large part of the good - and bad - doctor's trade, and this time it did no good. Whatever it was settled down on its own.

More on another rock. We're off for a family walk.
This is more beautiful because once upon a time my father was a Shodan, black belt first degree in Judo. Ah, sweet, capricious fate.
Via boing boing, this one's for Randy, a fan (as I recall) of National Lampoon.
Here are specs for that immense Russian helicopter that crashed in Chechnya, killing approximately 80.
Seven years of being official with my lovely bride today. No sitter, so we just watched movies and drank a nice red wine accompanied by some pita chips with hummus and a feta dip, kind of a double-header for Saturday and Sunday.
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