Yes You Can!

Everyone deserves someone in their life to tell them “Yes you can”. Even better if everyone could have many, many people telling them that they can and should reach for the stars. But one voice alone can make all the difference in providing the self-confidence someone needs that is otherwise missing. The self-confidence we need to sees ourselves through the challenges that we may face in life. The ‘Yes you can’ ingredient.

For all of those children, students, would-be athletes, and employees who have dreams of what might be, only to have them dashed by a parent, teacher, coach or boss – or sibling or neighbourhood bully – who unthinkingly or otherwise knocks their abilities, having someone who encourages their dreams is life changing. Remember that words of encouragement cost nothing … and may give the world its next astrophysicist or Supreme Court justice. And that astrophysicist or Supreme Court justice just might be a woman! Continue reading

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Thoughtful Thursday: spreading kindness

Kindness seems to be in short supply these days in many parts of the world. We need all we can get, now more than ever in such stressful, uncertain times. Hopefully these kindness quotes will resonate with you. Pick one or two of your favourites and help spread their spirit through your actions; the recipients will be forever grateful.

We may never know whose day (or life) we have changed by extending the hand of kindness, but rest assured it makes a positive difference. And we feel so much better ourselves when we treat others with kindness rather than responding with anger, rudeness, or indifference. Continue reading

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Map Monday: looking at air quality in a world wracked by wildfires

The topic of this week’s Map Monday was inspired by a link sent to me by a friend.  Thanks, Sharon. The world is watching the horrific wildfires in California, Oregon, and the state of Washington, which are following closely on similar wildfires of historic proportions last year in Australia, Siberia and other parts of the Arctic. Climate change on the march. Man-made climate change.

It’s not just burning millions upon millions of acres of forest, destroying whole towns, killing people, and killing animals along with their habitats.  It’s also having a frightening impact on the air quality for people in the fire zones and far beyond as the smoke drifts north and east. A large chunk of the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta have seen nothing but haze for the past several days, and their lungs are feeling it.

Poor air quality has been known to be a serious health risk for a very long time.  In this time of COVID-19, which attacks the victims’ lungs in ways we don’t even understand yet, this air quality deterioration is even more threatening.

The following two maps can be enlarged and explored with ease by following the link to the source. Continue reading

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Mother Nature doesn’t care if you believe in science or not

It seems to be fashionable these days for people to pick and choose among scientific theories and advice, depending on whether they like the implications of that scientific advice. They may treat one scientific theory like the gospel and another theory like a hoax, to be ignored at all costs. It’s called the post-truth world: whatever we want to believe to be true is true and whatever is troublesome to be taken seriously is not true. How is this working out for you?!

As convenient as this is for personal and political decision making, presumably students are still taught and tested on established scientific principles. And while I can identify with not knowing the answer to every question on a science test, it never crossed my mind to just dismiss the question as wrong if I couldn’t get the answer. Maybe too difficult to understand without having done enough studying, but not wrong. I guess that’s because I was pre-post-truth!

There is no doubt that for many people these days, including, sadly, some powerful political leaders, the economic, social, and/or political expediency of denying and even disparaging the findings of science wins out with depressing frequency. This is our post-truth world.

The work of scientists is to try to understand the structure and behaviour of our physical and natural world – aka Mother Nature. Much of the work scientists undertake in furthering our understanding of our physical and natural world is for the betterment of mankind. How to predict hurricanes and earthquakes with more accuracy in order to save more lives. How to develop medicines and vaccines to treat an increasing number of new viruses. How to cure cancer. You get the picture.

Scientists rarely discover a theory that won’t eventually be improved upon as more observations are made, that’s the nature of science. But they are working with the best possible knowledge at the time. For example, although bacteria was first “discovered” in 1676 by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, using a very early version of a microscope, it wasn’t until 1928 – 250 years later – that Alexander Fleming made the serendipitous “discovery” of penicillin, our first large-scale successful anti-bacteria treatment. I put the word “discover” in quotes because the bacteria was always there, we just didn’t know about it. In fact, there is evidence that bacteria has been around for as long as 3.5 billion years. And penicillin was already there, too, waiting for humans to notice.

Since the advent of antibiotics, less than 100 years ago, scientists have learned many, many things, but there’s always more to uncover and understand. And understanding something is just the first step in solving whatever challenges this new understanding might pose to humans. Scientific knowledge evolves, that’s how it works. But we ignore what we do know at our peril.

In the 1850s there was a terrible outbreak of cholera in the heart of London. Nobody knew what caused it. People had all kinds of theories and treatments, based on superstitions and gossip. People were dying in droves. It took one pharmacist to make the connection between the filthy water people used at the public wells and the disease for the cholera epidemic to be brought under control. Before then, nobody had understood that there could be a problem with using water contaminated by sewage and rubbish. Believe it or not. And not everyone bought into the idea of not using the water they had always used, just because some know-it-all said so. Those people kept dying. That’s less than 200 years ago. It would appear that we’ve been fighting every step forward.

We’ve cleaned up lots of things. The big cities that used to burn coal finally realized (or admitted) that people were dying from breathing in the particle-laden dirty air and stopped allowing it to be burned in home furnaces and fireplaces. That was only in the 1960s. Did that finally happen because you could actually see the coal particles on your clothes and skin, as opposed to carbon exhaust from automobiles and heating plants, where the haze hanging over the cities now is somehow less obvious?

We finally acknowledged that cigarette smoking killed people (duh), after decades of having been told so by scientists. And, lo and behold, after 20+ years nobody can imagine having to go into a restaurant or airplane and be overcome by second-hand smoke. But we all did, for decades, until finally public interest won out over profit. The tobacco lobby was very powerful, as have been the oil and gas industries. But we continue to hesitate to follow the science – and our own common sense – at our peril and to the peril of our planet.

More extreme weather events can be expected. The horrific wildfires in the western U.S. are symptomatic of climate change, as were the horrific wildfires in Australia last year and the unprecedented wildfires in Siberia and other parts of the Arctic. The weather in these places has been hotter and drier than anything on record. The fires are not because of poor forest management. You can believe that – it’s your right – but that’s not going to change the march of man-made climate change. Sorry, but things will undoubtedly only get worse as climate change advances.

More pandemics can be expected. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is caused by another outcome of human interference with nature: destruction of wildlife habitats. We have been destroying them through carbon emissions that are responsible for the melting polar ice (polar bear habitats, etc.), but also by cutting down huge swaths of tropical and sub-tropical forests in order to plant non-native single-species crops, primarily for the first-world consumer market. It’s not that this revenue is not vital to the local economies, but an unintended outcome is that as wildlife habitat is lost the wildlife starts competing with humans for the limited remaining space, and their viruses spread. This isn’t going to stop with COVID-19. You can believe it’s a hoax – that’s your right – but believing that will not make it disappear. Believing that it’s a Chinese plot won’t make it go away either.

More extinction of animals can be expected. Scientists estimate that animals are going extinct at a rate that is 1,000 to10,000 higher than the “background” rate one would expect from historical extinction rates. Wrap your head around that figure. And by the end of this century, large mammals such as the elephant, tigers, rhinos, and polar bears could no longer roam our planet, thanks to us. Thanks to man-made climate change, wildlife habitat destruction, and illegal poaching. I weep.

Attending to the destruction we have wrought on our planet and attending to the gross inequalities around the world is what we need. Desperately. Now. And that requires countries around the world working cooperatively and collaboratively to solve what are world problems. That requires world organizations to be accountable and to know they are supported. That requires international agreements to be respected and protected. That requires us all to understand that we have to be in this together. Why are we going in the opposite direction??!

Mother Nature doesn’t care if we listen to our scientists. Mother Nature doesn’t care if we get it right or wrong. The natural world will just keep responding to the harm we’re causing it as best it can. And if we cause our own complete destruction, which we just might, nature will pick up the pieces and do just fine without us. Sad but true. Believe it or not. Truth or post-truth.


Image credits:,

Posted in Climate change, History and Politics, Social justice Saturday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Thoughtful Thursday: leading a meaningful life

For most people in the northern hemisphere, Labour Day is the real mark of a new year. School begins, activities resume that have been in recess during the summer, and as summer starts to fade – and the glorious colours of fall make some initial overtures – we settle into a more scheduled pace of life, with great hopes for the new ‘year’ ahead. Well, of course, this year is a little different. Depending on where you live, kids may or may not be going back to the classroom. Favourite activities such as club meetings, recreational sports, and weekly card-playing may or may not be possible. I hope for your sake that some kind of return to normality is possible for you. Some vestige of normalcy at least … while you are staying safe.

We’re having a fair bit of luck that way in our neck of the woods. Earlier this week my husband went to the first fall meeting of our local Photography Club by signing onto Zoom after supper. Maybe not face to face, but it was still a welcome return to an engaging social activity. Yesterday, the reading group I belong to held its first face to face meeting since February, meeting in the social room of the apartment building of one of our members, where we could be together but socially distanced. No food, masks mandatory, and complete wipe-down of chairs, tables and everything else we’d touched when we left, but it was a very positive return. And, getting to the point of my topic today, next week the philosophy discussion group I belong to, which met by Zoom in March and April, will return to face-to-face meetings in another meeting room in town where we can be socially distanced, again wearing masks and wiping everything down and locking up when we leave. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

If you’re wondering where the meaningful life of the title comes in, the resumption of our philosophy group is the key. The topic that our group has chosen to explore this term is: how to lead a good life. And we’re starting our discussions by reading the classic book by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Continue reading

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Map Monday: taking a look at geological and weather events around the world

This Map Monday presents an overview of what kind of geological and weather events one may encounter across the globe. Some of these maps are a few years old, although within a decade. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the weather shown is becoming more and more extreme because of climate change. A few of these maps will speak to those changes. As usual, click on any map to examine details more closely.

Earthquakes and volcanoes.

Earthquakes. This world map has a somewhat different orientation (centered around the Pacific) to more effectively show earthquake areas of concentration.

Volcanoes. Not surprisingly, there’s a relationship between many locations of volcanoes and earthquakes.

The following map is in the form of a cartogram. It shows how human settlement patterns and the global distribution of volcanoes correlate by drawing a 100km radius around each of the world’s volcanoes and then projecting this data onto a gridded population cartogram. The red areas show large population areas near a active volcano, highlighting the risk to humans for a natural disaster.

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.

It’s hurricane season in our neck of the woods. We’re also hearing on the news about dangerous cyclones and typhoons.  What’s the difference? Well, they’re all tropical storms, and the only difference is their location.  Hurricanes are found over the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific; cyclones are found over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean; and, typhoons, such as the one being expected in Japan this week, are found in the northwest Pacific. Anyone who has experienced even one of these storms at the lowest intensity knows that they are something to be feared. And with the warming of the oceans due to man-made climate change, they are coming earlier, more frequently, and with greater intensity. Not good news.

Historical hurricane tracks

Tracks of all tropical storms, 2017. NASA Earth Observatory.


This map of precipitation includes snowfall as well as rain. Notice how large parts of the Arctic landmass are nearly desert, just very cold desert which until recently was frozen and covered with snow most of the year.



Where tornadoes occur


This is an interesting map of temperature range throughout North America in 2018. Some of it’s pretty impressive. If you live in places that are in the red or brown, you experience a HUGE range of temps, from VERY COLD to VERY HOT! We can all expect more extremes like this, for better or worse.

This map from NASA is also interesting, in a sobering way. It shows the difference in annual temperatures in 2019 from the 1951-1980 average. The warming of the Arctic – the canary in our coalmine called earth – ahead of everywhere else is bad news for all of us.

So, based on all of this map data, is there a perfect weather place in which you’d like to live?!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Choosing hope

A rephrasing of a quote by Desmond Tutu

We can always learn from the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

… and the wisdom of Leonard Cohen


Posted in Odds and Ends | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Look out, sporting goods stores, there’s a new trend in running attire!

OK, so maybe it’s not a trend. But I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice when the New York Times’ running newsletter showed up in my email inbox this week with the intriguing title “Naked Came the Runners”.

I’ve always believed that one of the many positive benefits of running is the minimal investment required. (Financial investment, that is, not physical investment.) Compared to nearly every other sport, all you need is a pair of running shoes. Well, you also need to get up off the sofa, put on your running shoes, open the door, and then put one foot in front of the other, but that’s it. No need for expensive gear. Who needs a sporting goods store?

The truth is, of course, that once you get hooked, there are endless opportunities to drop scads of cash at any number of welcoming sporting goods stores to make your runs that much more comfortable – and stylish. There’s gear for cold weather, to help you stay warm, but not too warm. There’s gear for hot weather, to help you keep from overheating. There’s always something new that you can be convinced you can’t do without. There are sports watches to tell you how far you’ve gone, how fast you’ve gone, and where are you; they can map your every move and keep track of your heart rate. There are specially designed belts to hold your phone and ID, to clip your music onto, and hold your power gels. There are specially designed holders for your ever-so-important supply of water, the runner’s elixir. And that’s all before you you realize that several pairs of running shoes would be better than one. Not to mention planning for the races you’ll undoubtedly enter. Once you start down that path, you’ll need to add an extra room onto your house in order to store all your race t-shirts and finisher’s medals.

Fortunately, it now turns out that there’s a way to avoid most of this consumerism – clothes optional running! The NY Times August newsletter author, Jen Miller, opened my eyes to the benefits of naked running as I read about her experience at the recent Bouncing Buns Clothes Optional 5K, held at the Sunny Rest (nudist) Resort in Pennsylvania. This may be one of the few running newsletters that even non-runners would find entertaining! Continue reading

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