Monday, November 30, 2009

The coolest Hot Springs around! Ainsworth!

I recently had occasion to visit one of my favorite places once again.  Ainsworth Hot Springs.  It's located on the western shore of the North arm of Kootenay lake in the Interior of British Columbia.  That's about 1.5 hour drive from the US border where Idaho meets BC at Porthill.  It's about 5 hours North of Spokane Washington.

So, what's so great about it? Well, most hot springs that I've been to are basically giant hot tubs with mineral water in them and no real jets - not much fun in my opinion.  But Ainsworth - while it does also have the usual large warm pool section - also has the reason I go there: the cave!

It's not a natural cave.  It was dug out a long time ago to get to the spring.  It's a horse shoe shaped cave about 7 feet high and about as wide, with a few alcoves leading off of it.  The floor is tiled and the water dept ranges from about 2 to 3 feet.  Over the hundred years or so that the cave has been there with mineral laden steam soaking its walls it has developed a thick coating of fascinating mineral formations like those you would expect to see in a limestone cave that's thousand of years old. And you're allowed to touch these ones!  The walls above the water line are covered in the stuff and it looks amazing in the underwater lights and the steam.  At the back of the cave in the dark is a small waterfall where the really hot water comes in from the depths of the mountain.  Outside the cave, the view overlooking the lake and the mountains is nothing short of spectacular!
For the brave, the cold lunge with water just a bit above freezing dropping into it from a high waterfall is right next to the cave entrance.  May favorite ting is to go through the horseshoe cave until I'm dizzy from the heat, then quickly jump in the cold plunge for a few seconds until it starts to hurt just a little, then get back in the hot water.  It just lights up your nerve endings!  Your whole body gets the most amazing tingle and your heart goes nuts.  This is obviously not recommended for those with medical conditions like high blood pressure, arrhythmia or heart disease!

So if you're ever in the area of Nelson BC, take a side trip and check it out!

Ainsworth Hot Springs

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Mythology of Childhood (things I once believed)

We recently acquired a hot air popcorn popper - because the microwave stuff has too much fat and salt my wife's dietitian recommended it.  My younger daughter, Emma age 8, just loves it.  She sits, entranced by the whirling kernels spinning inside the machine until one by one, they explode in a puff of whiteness with a great POP.  It reminds me of something my older siblings had told me as a child:  If you look into the popper while it's running, it'll make you go blind. 

I have two older siblings, a sister and brother, and both were prone to telling my gullible childhood self interesting things that I later found out were blatantly false.  Some of my friends who were older than me also liked to play the game of seeing what stupid things they could make me believe.  Here are a few examples of the myths that coloured my childhood:

-  The skinny reddish roots that are exposed when you dig in the sandbox come from plants that are growing in hell and the roots reach upwards.  If you pull on the roots, it makes the devil angry.

-Eating ice-cream before bed will result in nightmares - every single time.

-If you forget to rinse the shampoo out of your hair, worms and maggots and other creepy things will grow there overnight.

-If you go to bed with gum in your mouth, it will end up in your hair no matter what. It's a certainty.

-Orange juice is an essential ingredient in egg-nog.

-That old out of shape pink house across the back-lane is haunted.  If you go to the door and wave your hand in the window, you will see a ghost hand waving back from the far room (it was a mirror of course, but it freaked me out anyway!)

-Every Easter, my sister and her friends kill the Easter bunny, and a new one takes its place.  That Easter there were actual rabbit tracks in the light snow that had fallen (a coincidence) and a red spot in the snow (food coloring I think).  My sister denies this ever happened, but I remember it very clearly because I was quite traumatized.

-Santa Claus once screwed up and labeled my gift for my younger brother, and his for me.  I woke up first and was puzzled by the gift.  Luckily, my parents somehow knew about the error and re-wrapped the present for him and gave me mine.

There were a few others, of course.
I bet you've got some of your own.
Care to share?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A better understanding of Fibromyalgia

I recently developed a back problem - possibly a disc bulge or herniation - that caused sciatica, which made my left leg numb and painful and weak.  The weakness caused my ankle to roll, and it wasn't long before the ankle rolled at an inopportune moment as I reached the bottom the stairs and put my whole weight on that foot.  Now I have a 3rd degree ankle sprain, and constant severe pain in my calf and ankle.

So what does that have to with understanding Fibromyalgia?  Well, my wife has fibromyalgia.  She's in constant pain and even the smallest things can aggravate it and doing tasks that most people wouldn't think twice about cause her great pain and exhaustion.  Intellectually I understand that.  But an intellectual understanding is not the same as sympathy and empathy and experiencing it a bit for yourself.  Now that I'm dealing with this injury, walking to the other end of the house causes pan with every step which is oddly exhausting.  Just bearing the pain - even with the meds - leaves me trembling an exhausted.  I look at chores I should be doing, simple small chores, and just can't make myself do them because I know the price I'll pay in pain is just too high.  Once I'm fairly comfortable in bed or sitting I'm now asking my daughters to fetch things for me, because to get up and get something myself requires great effort and pain.  I feel useless, like a burden.  It's extremely frustrating and it takes an emotional toll.  And I've only been dealing with it for a week and only one leg bothering me!  My wife has been dealing with it for a decade with her whole body bothering her.  I now have a much better understanding of what she's going through and I admire the strength she has for continuing on despite everything.  I wish I could make her better.  No one deserves the kind of torture she endures on a daily basis.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting the Book(s) out Part 2

A while back I wrote part 1 on this subject:
Part 1

Long story short I wrote a bunch of short stories and I've partnered with a friend who is a talented artist to illustrate my books. In August/September 2009 we released the first book: Hal the Unwashed Dragon.  We have just released a second book: Teevert the Little Green Leaf.

So far we've sold a little over 50 copies of Hal through direct sales to people we know, or know our parents etc.  This has given us a good base to start with.  Some of the sales were to libraries in the town where I live now and the libraries in the area I grew up.  The libraries were easy sales and have the added advantage of being perpetual free advertising.
I contacted a number of local bookstores.  Most didn't bother to return my emails - I'm not sure if they got caught in junk mail filters or what.  One responded more than a month after I sent the email.  I've so far managed to get Hal carried by Black Bear Books here in Creston, Mik-L-Maxx Books, Teas and more in my home-town of Dauphin, Manitoba, and soon the Lotus Books store in Cranbrook which is a small city close to the town where I live now.  But the biggest coup is getting the book carried by the local Overwaitea. Overwaitea is a large chain supermarket in this province (British Columbia).  I contacted their corporate offices and hey got me set up in their computer system as a supplier, then I hooked up with the local manager.  The book will only be in the local branch, but even so, there is a huge amount of traffic there every day and the manager is happy to help promote the book by having some copies near the registers and allowing me to a book signing.  They will also distribute bag-stuffer flyers to promote the signing for the week ahead of the event.  That will be our first book signing.
After that we have a table at the local Christmas craft fair later this month.  I am hoping to have copies of the second book as well by then.
Then we have a reading and signing at Black Bear Books the same evening as the Santa Claus parade.

We have also started up a Facebook Fan page (see ink in side-bar) and started promoting through there.
For media exposure I first got myself into monthly employee newsletter for the company I work for.  It has a circulation of about 3000 employees or so.  I thought it would be great, but while I liked the article, I have only had one email inquiry out of it. However, after I posted a screencapture of that article on Facebook I was offered an interview on 730 CKDM radio which is in my hometown of Dauphin Manitoba.  The interview ran about 7 minutes and was a lot of fun.  Plus we got the MP3 and were able to match to a slide show of artwork and put it up on Facebook.

Once I had all these dates lined up and the book available at a few retailers it was time for the press release.  I sent it out just last week and so far a local magazine and the local paper have both indicated they'll be writing articles for their publications.  In fact, I'd better get to bed because I have an interview with the newspaper in about 9 hours.

That's about it so far.  Learning lots and having fun.  When you have a product with broad appeal you have a large potential audience compared to marketing to a niche.  That can be difficult sometimes.  But when you start out selling a book you've written there is one niche every author has: local.  Promote your book locally and the fact that someone in their own town has a book i print is enough of a motivator for many people to buy the book.  This the market in which we learn how to promote a book, how to work with retailers, do book signings, etc.  And who knows where it will lead! 

Both books can be previewed and purchased on Lulu: Marc Archambault's Lulu store or you can purchase directly from me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question.

Everywhere you turn these days H1N1 and the vaccination campaign are in the news.  More than almost any other medical treatment, vaccines bring with them a great deal of controversy. If you're looking for an answer the question posed in this blogs title - sorry to dissapoint.  I certainly don't have the answer.
I'm not really interested in discussing here the facts and arguments for or against vaccination in general or against H1N1 in particular, but in the phenomenon of the controversy.

When I was a bit younger I was very much involved in the alternative health movement.  I was newly married, had a baby, and was getting into courses to become a Homeopathic Doctor.  I was reading books like The Medical Mafia and How to raise a Healthy Child in Spite of your Doctor, and other books critical of the medical establishment and of vaccines in particular.  Then I attended a seminar by famed Dr. Vera Schreibner who was (maybe still is?) one of the leading opponents of vaccination.  Anyway.  In a nutshell, I was solidly in the anti-vaccine camp.  I chose not vaccinate my kids, I told other new parents not to vaccinate their kids, I spoke to everyone who would listen about what I felt was a very serious issue. And to be very honest, I felt a little superior to those parents who chose to vaccinate.  It went that way for a few years.
Then gradually, I had less and less attachment to the alternative health scene.  I work as a life insurance underwriter, so I have a significant amount of medical background (in addition to all the med school courses I took during Homeopathy training), and every day I'm in contact with MDs and reading medical reports etc.  None of it has anything directly to do with vaccines or even alternative versus "allopathic" medicine, but I just fond that being away from the controversy and not having certain arguments and points of view constantly reinforced gave me room to think for myself and become less opinionated and biased about the issue and more open to considering both sides and trying to take a realistic look at the evidence.

Actually, I've found that in my experience, this is an essential component of how opinions and beliefs of all sorts are developed and maintained - religious, political, scientific, etc. We may have some leanings towards a particular stance, maybe we do a bit a research etc.  But what really allows an opinion or belief to take hold and become strong is reinforcement and feedback plus opposition.  When "everyone" around us seems to say the same thing, we start to believe it, and strongly.  And then there's opposition.  We hear dissenting opinions that may cause us some doubt or anger or whatever, so we learn arguments and find information to back up our beliefs, which makes them stronger.  I think subconsciously most of us start with a conclusion and wok our way backwards instead of starting with a question and working our way towards a conclusion.

On the H1N1 issue specifically I think people tend to find themselves in one of a few categories.  On the one hand there are those who are staunchly anti-vaccine.  I'm willing to bet that in the vast majority of cases, the people advocating not getting vaccinated for H1N1 were already against vaccinations.  When this issue came up, they went and found information that reinforced already held opinions about vaccines.  They were already inclined to be skeptical of pro-vaccine information and open to anti-vaccine information.
On the other hand, there are those who are already pro-vaccine, and go along with the new vaccine without too many questions.  They are already inclined to believe what health officials are saying and to view alternative opinions with skepticism.
Then there are the poor people who've never really had to think about this before and find themselves with some friends telling them the vaccine is a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies and that if you get vaccinated you'll develop some serious neurological problems or whatever, and if you vaccinate your kids and they end up autistic you'll never forgive yourself.  Other friends say if you don' get your kids vaccinated and they die of H1N1 you'll never be able to forgive yourself.
  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  It's scary.  Fear clouds our judgment and our decision ends up based on which scenario we fear the most. On top of that, we have to fear he impact the decision will have o our relationships.

Pretty messy and divisive stuff, isn't it?  I think the real shame is that everyone wants the same thing - to do what's best for everyone.  But in the process we often find ourselves dealing with very much unfriendly judgments.  The issue becomes overly emotional because it's about our health and our children's health, about making the right choice, and about feeling we've made the correct responsible choice so we can avoid feelings of guilt.  It's an emotional mine field!
In my opinion, like so many things, there are valid arguments on both sides and the issue is not cut and dry. There are risks to be weighed, and ultimately everyone must their own informed decision and everyone deserves to have their decision respected and not be made to feel guilty or stupid or ignorant by those who disagree.