Tuesday, May 30, 2006

BBQ Season's Starting Up Again...

...and the Endangered Fish Alliance folks have released a list of better fish to eat.

I like this kind of suggestion. Christine and I no longer eat fish, but something we hear constantly when folks find out we've gone vegetarian is "I could never do that, I love meat too much". Being that I used to say that a little over a year ago, I understand the sentiment.

This kind of suggestion is good for folks who don't feel they're able to give up a food type altogether, but might be willing to modify their diet ever-so-slightly. Hopefully you find something you like.

Isaac Foundation Petition

You may recall a post of mine about The Isaac Foundation. Isaac's family have set up an online petition for people to sign, and if anyone reading this can take a few moments to do so, every little bit helps.

Thanks. ;-)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bell Curves

In what has to be considered an upset, at least on the male side of things...

The results are in, and PETA is pleased to announce that Grammy-winning rock royal Prince and the veggie Venus of Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, have been selected the 2006 winners of PETA's "World's Sexiest Vegetarians" poll.

Both of this year's winners are more than just sexy vegetarians—they're also active animal lovers. Going vegetarian was an easy choice for brainy beauty Kristin Bell, who says, "I have always been an animal lover. I had a hard time disassociating the animals I cuddled with—dogs and cats, for example—from the animals on my plate, and I never really cared for the taste of meat. I always loved my Brussels sprouts!" Speaking of cuddling with companion animals, Kristen is crazy about her dogs, Shakey, Lola, and Sadie, explaining, "Lola and Shakey come from the East Valley pound in L.A. Sadie is a Hurricane Katrina dog. ... Sadie stole my heart. She is 12 years old and just wants a comfy home to rest in. She is a wonderful addition to our family!"

A symbol of humanity and an artist of compassion, Prince is a "prince" of a guy to animals, and he won't eat "anything with parents" because "Thou shalt not kill means just that!" The strict vegan—whose critically acclaimed new album, 3121, just debuted at No. 1—was praised by animal lovers everywhere for giving fans the lowdown on wool in the liner notes of his CD Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. Photographed looking fabulous in faux wool, he closed the CD with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "2 my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being."

So PETA came up with these? I wonder if Prince and Kristen have both been asked by them to dress like Satan or sheep like I have? Not only do I have no interest in doing something like that, I really have no interest in seeing either of them do it either. Maybe a naughty nurse or a strict librarian-type though...

Kristen Bell, I mean. Not Prince.

Top Ten Greenest U.S. Cities.

As complied by The Green Guide. A very lenghty article, which I'll try to summarize.

Last year on Earth Day, The Green Guide recognized ten green cities and a handful of runners up. This year, in response to widespread interest, we pursued a more comprehensive evaluation, ranking each city on its performance over several criteria. We sent out surveys to mayors' offices in all 251 metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 or more. By scoring survey responses in combination with information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other independent sources, we came up with our ranked list of the top 25 green cities in the U.S., giving special recognition to the top 10.

The Criteria
In compiling the list, we gave points in the following categories:

Air Quality:
Electricity Use and Production:
Environmental Perspective: City administrators were asked to rank from 1 (highest) to 9 (lowest) nine issues in order of importance to city residents -- education, employment, environmental concerns, health care, housing costs, public safety, reliable electricity and water service, property taxes and traffic congestion. Scores were assigned depending on the ranking given to environmental concerns.
Environmental Policy: In our survey, we asked city officials whether the city has an environmental policy, a specific indication of concerted effort at the municipal level to better the environment. Thirty-six cities, or 58% of respondents, had such statements.
Green Design: The resource-conserving, non-toxic standards of USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program have become the basis for many cities' green building projects. Recognizing this, we based scores not only on survey responses about policies and incentives for green design but also on LEED projects listed on the USGBC's website.
Green Space: Survey respondents were asked to identify the variety of green spaces, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trail systems and waterfronts, along with any additional spaces.
Public Health: Scores were based on Robert Weinhold's rankings of the 125 healthiest U.S. cities as published in the March 2004 Organic Style.
Recycling: Survey respondents were asked to indicate which items their city recycles from a list that included aluminum, cardboard, glass, hazardous materials, paper, plastic, tin and other. Cities that had more then seven categories of recyclable items were given the highest scores.
Socioeconomic Factors: Having considered affordability in 2005, this year The Green Guide expanded the analysis to consider the impact of income on the ability of urban residents to lead healthy lives. Cities scored well for having less than the national average of families and individuals earning below the poverty rate. Participants also gained points for having a city minimum wage and for the availability of housing affordable to families earning the area's median income according to the National Association of Home Owners' Housing Opportunity Index.
Transportation: Wishing to recognize efforts to get people out of their cars (reducing greenhouse gases, traffic congestion and smog), we asked survey respondents about the transportation options available, including bicycle paths, bus systems, carpool lanes, dedicated bicycle lanes, light rail, sidewalks/trails and subways.
Water Quality: In order to assess this complicated factor, we drew on data from the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) and noting violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act, with the greatest weight given to health violations.

Each of these factors was equally weighted, with a maximum score of 1 point per criterion, to create an overall maximum possible score of 11 points, though only one city we looked at, Eugene, Oregon, scored 9 or better.
Unfortunately due to lack or response or incomplete surveys, some cities that might have ranked higher are not included here.

Top 10 U.S. Green Cities

1. Eugene, OR (score 9.0375, pop. 137,893)

First on our list is the university town, Eugene, well known as a powerhouse of green industry, clustering sustainable businesses like an environmentally minded Silicon Valley...Hydroelectric and wind power contribute over 85% of Eugene's power, reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably. A little over 16% of Eugene is green space, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trails and waterfront. The city has over 2,500 acres of publicly owned wetlands, and its West Eugene Wetlands Program includes a mitigation bank, a native plant nursery, protected wetlands and educational features.

...assistant city manager, Jim Carlson notes that "In next year's budget, we're planning to purchase 25% wind power for all existing general fund buildings such as libraries and city hall."

2. Austin, TX (score 8.5325, pop. 656,562)
Austin reappears in our top 10 list where once again it stands out for its commitment to solar power and green building. Offering its customers one of the highest solar power rebates in the country, Austin plans to meet 20% of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020. Austin's Green Builder program provides information for homeowners, renters and members of the design and building professions to help build more energy efficient and environmentally sound dwellings...Austin's Smart Growth Initiative is designed to preserve drinking water quality, ensure proximity to mass transit, and maintain a pedestrian-friendly urban design. And it's S.M.A.R.T. (Safe, Mixed Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced and Transit Oriented) Housing offers incentives to developers to create more affordable housing.

3. Portland, OR (score 8.24, pop. 529,121)
Portland also returns from last year's list, not a surprise, perhaps, for this evergreen city which has directed all of its departments and agencies according to its Sustainable City Principles since 1994. The principles, which cover the protection of natural resources, habitat and ecosystem conservation and minimizing human impacts on the environment both locally and worldwide, haven't languished on paper these last 12 years. The first U.S. city to have a plan to reduce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, Portland gains 44% of its energy from hydroelectric sources and encouraging the installation of solar power through municipal tax incentives. Light rail, bicycle lanes and buses help keep residents out of their cars..Portland not only recycles the standard glass, metal and plastics, but also composts residential yard waste and food scraps from businesses. To enjoy their green city, residents have over 92,000 acres of green space (over 11% of the total city area) ranging from waterfront areas to trails, athletic fields, parks and public gardens.

4. St. Paul, MN (score 7.805, pop. 287,151)
With a quarter of its area given over to green space, St. Paul almost seamlessly integrates urban life with the natural environment. And this will improve as the city charter not only ensures the protection of parkland but requires expanding public access to the Mississippi River which winds through the city. Working to reduce global warming, St. Paul has passed its 1997 goals in CO2 emissions-reduction goals and now plans to reach a 20% reduction of 1988 C02 levels by 2020. To achieve this, Rick Person, program administrator for St. Paul's Department of Public Works, says the city will need to complete its central corridor light-rail system and adopt a 20% renewable energy portfolio. To assist residents in installing renewable energy, the state provides property tax exemptions for the value of the system, and St. Paul's Neighborhood Energy Consortium (NEC) provides assistance and expertise in obtaining Energy Efficient Mortgages. Helping reduce congestion and smog, NEC's Hourcar program provides hybrid and energy-efficient cars at neighborhood level for shared use. Lastly, St. Paul's requirement that 20% of all new housing units be affordable by those with incomes less than half of the area median ensures that these environmental benefits will remain available to all.

5. Santa Rosa, CA (score 7.785, pop. 147,595)
Fifty-five miles north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa provides clean air, water and a healthy environment for residents, with its smoke-free public spaces and restaurants. Enhancing these elements, Santa Rosa has implemented California's Build It Green certification program certifying environmentally sound building construction for municipal, commercial and residential sectors. The program's goal is for more than half of all new municipal building starts of over 10,000 square feet to meet or exceed LEED certification requirements. Well equipped with bicycle paths and lanes, Santa Rosa has recently finished a walking and bicycle trail connecting to the Joe Rodota Trail that leads to nearby Sebastopol. And for a novel way to reconnect with nature, stroll among the native California Gray Rush plants in the Snoopy Head labyrinth at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

6. Oakland, CA (score 7.3675, pop. 399,484)
Oakland has taken a progressive stance on renewable energy, adopting a plan to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2017. Now it's turning its attention to food, with the Oakland Food Council setting a goal for 30% of the city's food production to occur within a 100 mile radius. Bringing those goods into the city are six farmer's markets, while seven community gardens help production right at home. With multi-family housing making up most of Oakland's new building, the city's Green Building Ordinance passed in 2005 will encourage them to achieve LEED Silver rating with rebates and permit fast-tracking. To create a denser downtown and reduce pollution from traffic, Oakland is encouraging 10,000 new residents to move into the downtown area where they'll have access to the city's subway, bus and bicycle path systems. The proof is in the pudding, with 20% of Oakland residents commuting by bicycle or public transport.

7. Berkeley, CA (score 7.285, pop. 102,743)
Berkeley's distinguished history as a center of politically progressive thought extends well into the environmental movement, and the city currently boasts the highest number of members of environmental organizations of any city in the U.S. Located on the gorgeous San Francisco Bay, Berkeley shares the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system with neighboring Oakland and San Francisco, linking all three cities in a community where organic rules. Berkeley requires that all new city-owned buildings be built to LEED Silver standards and has created a sustainable development fee on all new permits to pay for the creation of green building guidelines for residential, multi-family and commercial buildings. Nineteen percent of Berkeleyites commute on public transport and besides BART and the bus system, residents also may take advantage of the city's car sharing program. The green thumbed may work the earth at over 20 community gardens, and their children can get a start at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School's Edible Schoolyard program where students grow, harvest and prepare organic food.

8. Honolulu, HI (score 7.055, pop. 371,657)
Renowned for its clean air and pure water from Oahu's aquifer, Honolulu is among America's healthiest cities, with a mild climate that encourages outdoor activities along the 28 acre Kaka'ako Waterfront park. Although Honolulu draws 89% of its energy from imported oil, Bill Brennan, press secretary to the mayor, notes that 7% of its power is from burning garbage. The city's H Power Plant burns 500,000 tons of waste annually helping cut down on landfilled trash. To further reduce waste, this March Honolulu launched a lawn, garden and tree clippings or "greenwaste" recycling program...The future looks green as well: By 2007, all new city buildings of over 5,000 square feet must meet LEED Silver standards.

9. Huntsville, AL (score 7.035, pop. 158,216)
New to the top 10 list this year, Huntsville has devoted almost a third of its land to green spaces including undeveloped forest and nature preserves, along with public gardens, parks and waterfront. The city-funded Operation Green Team has been remarkably successful in their public education and city clean-ups, enlisting 12,000 volunteers in their 2005 effort to clean and green the city. Thirteen percent of the population commutes by bus while a trolley is available for special events to reduce congestion, helping clean up their air. The hospital possesses its own light rail system to shuttle staff across its grounds. Although Hunstville relies on coal and nuclear power for the majority of its energy mix, homeowners can purchase solar or wind-generated energy through the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The city is also developing a first-of-its-kind industrial park: 100% of all water runoff, says Ben Ferrill, city of Huntsville planner, will be biofiltered with swales, wet ponds and dry ponds. Rooftop runoff is separated from parking and street runoff to capture pollutants on site before they reach the subsurface aquifer.

10. Denver, CO (score 7.0325, pop. 554,636)
"Denver has just completed a five-year plan for its Greenprint Denver sustainable initiative, covering everything from green building to greenhouse gases," says Beth Conover, director, Mayor's Greenprint Denver initiative. Focusing on greenhouse gas reduction, water conservation and quality, waste reduction and increased recycling, Greenprint Denver also has three solar installations under consideration, one of which is now approved and will produce one to two megawatts. A signatory to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, Denver maintains one of the country's largest hybrid municipal fleets. It is also in the midst of completing the nation's largest light rail system, serving the larger metropolitan region and with an anticipated half-million riders daily. Conover notes that the city of Denver has recently created a position for the promotion of green business and has the "largest CO2 based dry cleaning chain in the country, Revolution Dry Cleaning, using waste C02 for a zero greenhouse gas effect." As for green building, Denver currently has 17 LEED-certified buildings and 73 in the process of certification. With clean water and access to skiing, hiking and wilderness nearby, Denver remains a gem in the Rockies.

American cities, in adopting Kyoto Treaty protocols and taking it upon themselves to build green, are putting themselves at the forefront of the environmental movement at a time when some have predicted its death. But like the once predicted death of cities themselves, forecasts for the demise of the green movement have been greatly exaggerated. Should it be any surprise that people prefer to live in healthier cities with more vibrant (and wildlife-filled) surroundings? Not to those who live there -- or even visit.

Losing Reasons to Bitch About Auto Racing.

First the Fonz, then Corn Cob Bob.

From the Herald Tribune (Southwest Florida):
Even race car drivers care about the ozone layer. Sunday will mark the first Indianapolis 500 in which all the cars burn ethanol, the corn-based fuel additive that has been generating more buzz in the wake of the recent spike in gasoline prices and the heightening search for American-grown renewable energy. Where else to make a big splash but the heartland, a stone's throw from the cornfields of Indiana? "To me, it's very appropriate," said 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier.

Returning to my "in training" roots here, ethanol is one of those things that I hear about frequently but am not particularly knowledgeable about. Here, the American Coalition for Ethanol comes in handy. Patching together a couple of their sections...

Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that is produced from renewable sources. At its most basic, ethanol is grain alcohol, produced from crops such as corn. Because it is domestically produced, ethanol helps reduce America's dependence upon foreign sources of energy.

Pure, 100% ethanol is not generally used as a motor fuel; instead, a percentage of ethanol is combined with unleaded gasoline. This is beneficial because the ethanol:

  • decreases the fuel's cost
  • increases the fuel's octane rating
  • decreases gasoline's harmful emissions

Any amount of ethanol can be combined with gasoline, but the most common blends are:

E10 - 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded gasoline

E10 is approved for use in any make or model of vehicle sold in the U.S. Many automakers recommend its use because of its high performance, clean-burning characteristics. In 2004, about one-third of America's gasoline was blended with ethanol, most in this 10% variety.

E85 - 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline

E85 is an alternative fuel for use in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). There are currently more than 4 million FFVs on America's roads today, and automakers are rolling out more each year. In conjunction with more flexible fuel vehicles, more E85 pumps are being installed across the country. When E85 is not avaialble, these FFVs can operate on straight gasoline or any ethanol blend up to 85%.

It is important to note that it does not take a special vehicle to run on "ethanol". All vehicles can use E10 with no modifications to the engine. E85 is for use in a flexible fuel vehicle, so some people confuse "ethanol" with the blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

The majority of the ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, but it can also be produced from other feedstocks such as grain sorghum, wheat, barley, or potatoes. Brazil, the world's largest ethanol producer, makes the fuel from sugarcane.

A few of the sources that I read made sure to point out that it was "sweet-tasting". I guess that's good, because by my understanding, regular gasoline tastes like hell.

In any event, I do recall some negatives coming up in certain articles, but I was unable to locate them just now. The sites I went to were very pro ethanol, as you can imagine. If and when I do, I'll post them here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm Going to Run Until I Bjork.

I was kidding about running in the buff in Spain, but then I came across a flyer for this series of events spearheaded by the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Jeepers. That's pretty cool. I believe I'd have some difficulty raising the funds, but it's worth exploring anyway.

I've requested more information on the Rejkaw...Reikav...Reykwa...the one that takes place in Iceland. There's a place that not everyone has visited and I believe it would be very interesting.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And Once I'm Done Walking Canada...

...I'm off to run nekkid in Spain! Whoooooooooo!!

I Feel Another Mission Coming On.

In 2010, Canada will play host to the world as the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games come to Vancouver/ Whistler and our athletes will take centre stage. This year the Hbc Run for Canada will focus on providing our brightest young athletes the best chance possible to compete at an international level.

The focus of the 2006 Hbc Run for Canada will build on the spirit of Canada! The fundraising element of the event will now focus on raising money for our Canadian athletes striving for success in the Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and Pan Am Games between now and the 2012 Olympic games. We want to provide these bright young athletes the best possible chance to compete at an international level.

Two hundred different Canadian athletes have been identified by the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Hbc Foundation has pledged to raise a $5000 bursary for each of them. With your help we can help our athletes achieve their dreams!

I can dig that. They have three categories: 10K Run, 3K Walk, 1K kids Walk. The run is probably still out of my league, and while I'm not much bigger than a toddler, I doubt they'd let me do that one. But a 3K walk? That's more than manageable. I could do that with my eyes closed.

Well...anyone could do it with their eyes closed. You don't need to see to walk, as long you have decent directions. But that's neither here nor there, and I digress somewhat.

I have other things to look into, because I had other plans that day and it may be that this will clash, but like the CN Tower Climb before, I'm going to aim for this. I always enjoy the Olympics, and as one of the many people who has bitched that the athletes aren't properly funded, it would be almost hypocritical to skip over this opportunity.

We'll see what happens. More details by clicking the picture above.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cancer Destroyed by Antibody 'Triple Whammy'

Love those scientific medical terms like "triple whammy". :-) From NewScientist.com:

A new cancer therapy using a "triple whammy" of antibodies has shown unprecedented success in mice. Not only does the treatment destroy tumours – even when they have spread around the body – it also prevents the tumours coming back. And the approach should work for a range of cancers.

Success in mice is far from a guarantee of success in people, but human trials have now begun on one component of the therapy.

The research, by scientists in Australia and Japan, is “an exciting advance”, according to cancer biologist Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania, US: “This novel form of therapeutic vaccination would not only enable potent tumour eradication but also protect from recurrence.”

The idea of using the body’s immune system to kill cancerous cells is already routinely deployed. Our immune system contains killer white blood cells called cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), which single out and destroy tumours. But the body’s natural response to cancerous cells is often not strong enough to wipe out the tumour.

The new therapy, called TrimAb (triple monoclonal antibody) therapy, may solve that problem. Mark Smyth, at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Australia, Kazuyoshi Takeda, at the Juntendo University School of Medicine in Japan, and colleagues used a cocktail of three different antibodies.

The first attacks the tumour directly, by stimulating the receptor for a death-inducing protein on tumour cells, called TRAIL. The boost that strengthens the response comes from the other two antibodies which activate killer T-cells that pitch in to kill the tumour.

TrimAb cleared large breast tumours in 80% of the mice that received the treatment, while the tumour disappeared in less than 30% of mice that got either single antibodies or double antibody combinations. And furthermore, the therapy induced a complete cure in 60% of the mice in which the breast cancer had spread to the lungs, liver, and brain.

TrimAb causes T-cells to produce an immune molecule named interferon gamma. “This molecule is key to tumour destruction”, Smyth told New Scientist. While TrimAb elicited the killer molecule in the lymph nodes of treated mice, treatments with a single or a pair of antibodies did not. “TrimAb also recruits a higher frequency of CTLs to attack the tumour,” he adds.

Many cancers express TRAIL, so TrimAb is not just specific for breast cancers. In particular, says Smyth, it works for renal cancer and sarcomas, and colon cancer is a promising target.

TrimAb prevents the recurrence of cancer because destroying the tumours presents the immune system with antigens, priming it for the future. A specific advantage of this is that the immune system is then primed against that particular tumour.

Three antibody combinations have never been used in patients to treat cancers, says Smyth. Although the combination was non-toxic to mice, careful pilot testing of each component and combination needs to be done in human trials, he cautions. The team is now awaiting results of Phase I trials involving humanised anti-TRAIL antibodies.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Constrasting My 87-year Old Inspiration...

I was speaking with a salesman for the insurance company I work for, and he was telling me about his 9-year old grandson who, it seems, was receiving some kind of award from Unicef as a result of fundraising done for them. I thought it would be nice follow-up to the previous story, but so far grandpa has failed to deliver on his promise of a link to his grandson's website.

In the meantime, I came across a story about Upper Canada College and their own accomplishments. The most impressive thing for me is that they could get that many people on board.

Students and staff at Upper Canada College know the grass is greener on the side of environmental awareness.

The Toronto Green Awards were held at City Hall at the beginning of the month, and UCC was one of the big winners, receiving an award for water efficiency.

In the past few years, UCC has managed to considerably reduce its use of water in several ways. Some of those ways include cutting the time students spend in campus showers, switching to waterless urinals, using taps that use a low flow of water, and adjusting the irrigation system according to the weather and soil moisture.

Stephanie Foster, the executive director of UCC’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability, said to date, UCC has reduced water use by more than 40 per cent. As a result the school has minimized its overall impact on the municipal water system.

Foster said she is very happy that UCC is part of Toronto’s effort to be "green". She hopes others will follow the boys’ school example of doing what they can to help the environment.

"One of our goals is to learn by living it," she said of providing students with the skills to improve the delicate state of the environment. "By raising environmental awareness at school, we hope they (the students) take it home and make a difference" she said.

UCC currently has two green clubs—one for younger students and one for the older ones, to get involved with environmental efforts.

Adam Jutha, a grade 10 student at UCC and a leader in the green school committee, said he felt honoured to receive a green award from the city.

"The green school really made me more aware of what the environment is all about and what we can do to help," he said. Jutha said he shares what he learns as a green school committee leader with friends and family in hopes of promoting environmental awareness. As a result of his involvement with green initiatives at UCC, his home is now lit by energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs.

As part of a commitment to becoming a "Green school for the 21st century" the school is also doing its part to conserve energy and reduce waste. Students and staff use a garbage system that maximizes recycling and minimizes waste, and residence buildings on campus are powered by Bullfrog Power, a company that uses clean, renewable power to source electricity. Bullfrog Power was also a winner at the awards ceremony hosted by Mayor David Miller and Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, receiving an award for market transformation. Other winners include the Toronto Botanical Gardens for green design, the Brahms Energy Saving Team for community projects, and the Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market for health.

The green award winners each received $5000 to go towards the environmental organization of their choice. Staff and students at UCC haven’t yet made a final decision about where they will donate the prize money, but Foster said it will most likely be invested in a water-related group.

UCC will choose the recipient of the prize money this month.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And I Would Walk One Hundred Miles...

the proclaimers

Have I mentioned that I climbed the CN Tower recently?

Discussing this with a co-worker of mine the other day, she told me about what her father-in-law does. The dude walks from Ottawa (or maybe Gatineau, on the Quebec side, I'm not certain) to close to Montreal. It's something referred to as the "PĂ©lerinage Chemin des Centenaires". That's difficult to translate, but the point is that it's a pilgrimage. In total, it's 223 kilometres (about 139 miles) over the course of 12 days. He's doing it again this year, starting June 11th and and reaching his destination on the 22nd.

Fairly impressive in itself.

Then you're told he's 87 years old.

Man, I love that to death. I recall an older gentleman at my previous gym who used to pound the treadmill until sweat dripped from his elbows. Tell me that doesn't push you into going an extra few minutes on your own machine.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Feel Free to Join the 21st Century.

A Spanish assistant bullfighter is tossed by a bull during San Isidro's bullfighting fair at Madrid's Las Ventas bullring May 12, 2006. Madrid celebrates its patron saint San Isidro every year with a fair which includes cultural events and concerts, as well as three weeks of bullfights.REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Ah, bullfighting! A brilliant display of...well...to what lengths people will use "tradition" as an excuse for committing acts of cruelty (above) and/or idiocy (the running of the bulls). But at least in the case of my pink sock-wearing friend here, it looks like reproduction may not be in the immediate future.

"Honey! What socks should I wear for my bullfight today?"
"Oh, I don't know, sweetie! Go with the pink! They make your 'stache look all fluffy!"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Something to Sink your Choppers Into

The first person to surprise me in terms of being into this whole "green" stuff was Woody Harrelson. Here's #2.

That reminds me, I don't believe they've selected the hottest vegetarian yet. At least, I didn't get a phone call. will investigate.

LONG BEACH — You won't find any cat burgers or mystery soups at this greasy spoon.

Long Beach motorcycle builder Jesse James, of West Coast Choppers fame, is expanding his
modest blue-collar business empire into fast food with the opening of an earth-friendly
hamburger joint featuring prime beef, organic veggies and biodegradable wrapping.

"I wanted something you could eat everyday and not feel like (garbage) afterwards," said
James, who attended the eatery's grand opening Friday with actress wife Sandra Bullock.

"We're offering something a little healthier with better cuts of meat. You can eat it and not feel
like you're getting all fat and sick."

Cisco Burger, at 620 W. Anaheim St., is located just east of James' West Coast Choppers
complex, where the 37-year-old films "Monster Garage" for cable TV's Discovery Channel.
The show features James and a crew of rotating motorheads building one-of-a-kind vehicles
like a police cruiser/mobile doughnut maker and a Chevy Suburban/wedding chapel. The
restaurant, which features preservative and hormone-free Kobe beef burgers, low-fat burritos
and organic toppings and dairy, is powered by solar panels on the roof and employs about 30
full-and part-time workers, James said.

Cisco, named after James' sharp-toothed pet pit bull, is reminiscent of a 1950s-era burger stand
with stainless steel seat posts, open grill, tile flooring and neon outdoor sign. The site is
located next to a former railroad right-of-way which is being converted by the city into a
greenbelt park.

"We're expecting pretty good business from the neighborhood people and from all the workers
on the Westside and in the port," James said. "We'll wait and see how it does."

Not Gonna Happen.

Received from the PETA.

The sign of Satan is less than a month away (6/6/06), and there’s no better time to plan a wicked demo to show people in your city how hellish life is for chickens who are killed for KFC! One easy idea is to get a Satan costume (even a red suit with horns would work) and stand outside your local KFC for an hour while holding a sign that says, “KFC Is Hell for Chickens.” PETA even has evil Colonel Sanders masks that you could wear as well as signs that say, “Colonel Sanders Is Satan to Chickens.” The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

I understand that at times, you have to talk REAL LOUDLY to be heard. But I think there's a line you cross where you just come off looking like such a jackass that your message gets lost. I'll leave you to decide where this one fits for you, but I know I've made up my mind.

I'm reminded of a co-worker telling me about seeing two topless women a couple of blocks away from where I work protesting against fur. Now I admire on the one hand that they'd use the most powerful weapons on Earth (boobies) to state their case, but on the other hand, how many people (well...guys) remember what they were out there for? I'm willing to bet that a significant portion of the male population that laid eyes on those two will not recall that they were protesting against fur, and if they do recall it, it won't be a part of the story when they tell their buds.

Or, for that matter, when they post the ladies' pictures on the internet. Cameras on phones now. Ain't technology grand?

Yay! Here's me!

They've finally added my picture to the WWF photo mosaic. I'm part of a leaf, for the time being, but they warn that...
As the mosaic is being continually updated, the position of your picture can change. However, the link above will always to lead you directly to your photo.
I expect that as my international fame continues to grow, I'll get some better real estate on that thing, like an eyeball or a fang or something. A fang would be cool.

So for those of you who don't know me, I'm the dude directly above the giant cat head.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Red River Hogs


In a photo provided by the San Diego Zoo, two male red river hogs make their debut Monday, May 1, 2006, at the San Diego Zoos Wild Animal Park. The piglets and their parents can be seen in the Nairobi Village. The red river hog is found in Africa. It is named for its reddish brown fur, and the fact that it often wades through water. These pigs are active both day and night and are good swimmers, holding their tails above the water. They can also swim underwater, catching a breath every 15 seconds or so. (AP Photo/The San Diego Zoo, Ken Bohn)

Friday, May 05, 2006

EPA's Top 10 List of Retail Green-Power Partners

Source: Greenbiz.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the most recent national Top 10 Retail Partners list highlighting the largest retail purchases of renewable energy by members of its Green Power Partnership. The list reflects renewable energy purchases made through March 27, 2006.

The actions of the Top 10 Retail Partners help drive the development of new renewable energy sources of electricity generation. Combined, the green power purchases of the Top 10 Retail Partners amount to over 877,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of green power annually. This is enough renewable energy to power approximately 82,000 average U.S. homes per year or is equivalent to removing the emissions of 107,000 cars from the road annually.

The Top 10 Retail Green Power Partners, listed in descending order of purchase size, are as follows:
  1. Whole Foods Market (463,128 MWh)
  2. Starbucks (150,000 MWh)
  3. Safeway Inc. (87,000 MWh)
  4. Staples (49,456 MWh)
  5. FedEx Kinko's (40,6000 MWh)
  6. HEB Grocery Company/Austin Region Operations (27,000 MWh)
  7. Liz Claiborne Inc./N.J. Corporate Headquarters (25,000 MWh)
  8. prAna (16,500 MWh)
  9. Lowe's Home Centers in N.C., N.M., S.C., Tenn., Texas (16,500 MWh)
  10. MOM’s - My Organic Market (1,488 MWh)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"We're Looking for a Lifeboat"

Those of you who read semi-regularly may remember a post I made about The Isaac Foundation a little while back. I still hear from a couple of Isaac's relatives due to a common interest and stay more or less "in the loop" as a result.
Imagine my surprise though, while in Toronto for the climb, to come across a story about young Isaac on the front page of the Globe and Mail. Lisa Priest wrote an excellent, comprehensive article which can be read in full at the link provided. That the family may be forced to move to England in order to deal with this with is baffling and embarassing.
The parents of Isaac McFadyen have two choices. They can move to England where a drug to treat their son's rare disease is funded by government — at a staggering cost of $300,000 to $1-million per patient annually — or they can stay in Canada and watch him be ravaged by the inherited metabolic disorder.

The two-year-old Ontario boy is already suffering from the effects of Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome: a piece of his skull and a portion of vertebrae in his neck were removed earlier this month after they began compressing his spinal cord. Isaac's corneas are clouding, his forehead protrudes and he has an umbilical hernia.

The only drug available to treat the progressive disease, known by the trade name Naglazyme, is so expensive that even its U.S.-based developer and manufacturer, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., acknowledges no patient can afford it.

“For the average citizen, no matter what country you are in, it's impossible to pay for this out of pocket,” Steve Aselage, senior vice-president of global commercial operations for BioMarin, said in an interview from Novato, Calif. “For most of the world, you need the government to step up and pay for the product.”

The drug is used to treat mucopolysaccharidosis type VI, or MPS VI for short, a disease so rare it's estimated only three to 10 Canadians have it. In developed countries, there are an estimated 1,100 sufferers, virtually all of whom will experience severe disability and shortened life spans.

In most countries where Naglazyme is licensed, such as those in the European Union, governments cover the drug's cost. In the United States, it is largely funded by private insurance.

But in Canada, there is no policy for “orphan drugs” like Naglazyme — medications for rare diseases, the incidence of which varies by country — and no way for people like the McFadyens to afford such costly therapies.

The EU, the United States, Japan, and Australia all have some form of orphan-drug policy. While the U.S. policy doesn't necessarily provide access to rare drugs, it has been successful in providing incentives to pharmaceutical companies to find treatments for rare diseases.

Whether it involves fast-tracking drugs for rare diseases, providing tax incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments, or extending market exclusivity for drug manufacturers, these countries have found ways to deal with a problem that threatens small numbers of people in the most devastating of ways.

People with MPS VI, for example, are missing an enzyme called arylsulfatase B, needed to break down carbohydrates known as glycosaminoglycans. The carbohydrate builds up in the body's cells and many organs are affected.

Signs of the disease include stunted growth, enlarged tonsils and adenoids that cause breathing problems, poor mobility, and dramatic changes in facial features, including a flat nose and large head. Once sufferers reach their teens, they often require heart-valve surgery.

In England, a national advisory group aims to help health-care providers by assuring a cash flow to support rare and expensive treatments. The group has approved the funding of Naglazyme and a small group of patients recently began receiving weekly intravenous treatments in London and Manchester.
“Canadian patients with rare diseases are the last people in the developed world to gain access to drugs,” said Kirsten Harkins, executive director of The Canadian Society for Mucopolysaccharide and Related Diseases Inc.

“There are no clear policy guidelines in terms of licensing or funding them in Canada.”

That could change in June, when a report on expensive drugs for rare diseases is to be presented at a meeting of Canada's health ministers, marking the first time the country has attempted to deal with the orphan-drug issue.

“The important thing for the really expensive drugs is that we have a national approach,” said Bob Nakagawa, assistant deputy minister for pharmacare for British Columbia, whose government is co-chairing the task force in June with Health Canada.

“If [provinces] have different standards, then do we force patients to move to the province that covers them? Is that something we want people to do?”

In the case of the McFadyen family, it isn't just a case of travelling to another province but of uprooting their idyllic life in the town of Campbellford, Ont., and crossing the Atlantic with young Isaac and their five-month-old son, Gabriel.

Andrew McFadyen, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher in Kingston, and his wife, Ellen Buck-McFadyen, a public health nurse, feel they have no choice but to look for employment overseas to get treatment for their son, Isaac.

“We're optimistic that even with the limitations he's had, they aren't affecting his quality of life,” said Ms. Buck-McFadyen, 28. “We have to get him on the enzyme-replacement therapy, at least to slow down the progression of the disease.”

Because Mr. McFadyen is eligible for British citizenship through his Welsh mother, he only needs to find a job in England and maintain residency for a period of time for young Isaac to receive the drug, where it is currently offered in specialized centres in London and Manchester.

Even though the overseas move is onerous, the couple feels lucky that, unlike others, they at least have a shot at being able to obtain treatment for Isaac.

They are making plans to move to England this summer, taking their infant son and his sandy-haired, high-spirited big brother, Isaac, with them.

“We're looking for a life boat,” Mr. McFadyen said. “We're just so sure that we're going to get him on this enzyme replacement therapy and it's going to help. If we spent any real time thinking about it, it would be terrifying.”

While Naglazyme can technically be obtained under Health Canada's special-access program, patients are still faced with having to cover its enormous costs. No hospital or provincial government funds it. Under the special-access program, patients with serious or life-threatening conditions can obtain unlicensed drugs when conventional therapies fail, are unsuitable or are unavailable, so long as no licensed alternative is available.

Monday, May 01, 2006

No Animals Were Harmed in the Writing of this Post.

Press release from the API:

The Animal Protection Institute (API) today announces the launch of its new consumer-driven campaign to combat the misleading animal testing labeling practices by the cosmetics industry.
Recognizing that consumers wish to avoid animal testing when shopping for cosmetics, many companies label their products as “not tested on animals” but, sadly, those claims can be misleading. “Not tested on animals” may only refer to the final product, not its ingredients, or the company itself may not test their products on animals, but may pay someone else to do it.
API is leading a national initiative to educate consumers and animal advocates nationwide to bring to light misleading labeling by cosmetics companies and empower the public to make ethical choices when shopping, by supporting only those companies that are signed up to the Leaping Bunny program — the only internationally recognized standard that guarantees that products are free from animal testing.

API’s campaign includes the launch of a cosmetics dedicated website — www.CompassionateConsumer.com. Packed with educational materials, resources, and shopping tools, the website will empower concerned consumers like you to make ethical choices when shopping.