Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Out of this World

(* See also at The Telegram web site)

Robin Williams stole something from all of us, himself. In a weird way, that's sort of how it feels when thinking about the sudden, shocking departure from living, of Williams. For anyone who realizes the astounding talent, gifts, humour, energy, and, it's being told, his personable character, it just feels like "it can't be true", or, "I don't want to think about it being true". There are deaths of all kinds, none of them happy, but to take yourself out of it, seems like it would rank high on the "saddest" scale.

It's too shocking. Robin Williams especially, totally personified energy, life, fun and laughter. It would be no exaggeration to say that he made 100s of millions of people laugh, often, all over the world, for close to 40 years.

"One of a kind" easily comes to mind when thinking of him. Williams' fiber-optically fast brain wiring was like watching the fastest computer in the world, make up jokes, and tell them to an audience. There was more than one time when the impression he gave, was that he was wired, as in, "What is the matter with him?" or, "What is he on?" It sometimes seemed like his brain was continuously on hyper, and he could not restrain it. Well, lucky for so many, he didn't restrain it too much, but instead, performed and shared his brilliantly wired mind, wit, and comedic abilities with the world.

His delivery was lightning quick, amazingly impromptu, and unpredictable. Very few can make it up "as you go", but he could. Many years ago, after watching a standup up routine of his, there was a feeling of being dazzled just by how he operated as a performer. Even if there was a script to go by, it felt like he injected material that just occurred to him.

His first appearance on Happy Days in 1978, could be one of the shows most memorable episodes, when Williams' Mork character, an alien, gave the viewing audience it's first taste of his unique style. An alien from a more advanced world could not have fit Robin Williams' style better. His speech was rapid quick, persona was one of being ahead of others, thought-wise, and the unusual alien words, phrases and behavioral mannerisms in the role, just looked like it was made for him. It's hard to imagine it being pulled off so well by any other. His natural ability to perform the hardly natural, made it extra believable for acting as a character from a more advanced world.

Similarly, with Mrs. Doubtfire. It was reported months ago that he agreed to make a follow up Mrs. Doubtfire movie. But now, it seems an impossible act to try and follow up. Comedienne Joy Behr said that nobody in the standup comic field wanted to follow his act, because his energy, performance, and humour was electric and impossible to at least match. For a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire, only a twin or clone, maybe, could try. He was so unique as an entertainer.

Williams was public also about his treatments for substance abuse, and struggles with it. His PR representative said that recently he had been suffering from severe depression. It will no doubt, bring more fire to society's growing awareness, and concern about depression, and mental illnesses. That's a good thing, and there will be much more written and discussed about it.

Now, he is out of the picture, but, still left the world with a huge catalog of him in the pictures, providing healthy doses of laughter. It's a good medicine every day, where the side effect is smiling, laughing and making life worthwhile. From playing doctors, singing like Elmer Fudd, acting like aliens and more, his creativity, genius, and entertaining abilities were very much, out of this world. The next time you look up at the night sky, look for the extra bright star.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Salute to Phil Everly

* Also, see this at The Telegram, Jan. 11, 2014.

Phil Everly's voice could restart your heart, or stop it, especially when he harmonized with his famous other half, Don. The higher he harmonized with Don, the more awakened your heart and emotions became. It wasn't even the actual message or story that had to be sung, it could be just the opening word to Little Richard's "Lucille" that the captivating duo spellbindingly pined at their 1983 reunion concert.

Singer Linda Ronstadt, who made even more famous, Phil Everly's "When Will I Be Loved", said that the Everlys ".. had that sibling sound.. you can get a sound [with family] that you never get with someone who's not blood-related to you."

Phil Everly's voice and music with Don made people feel glad they were alive to hear their harmonic vocal perfection. His voice was the slightly higher tenor, while Don's, more baritone. It's been said that it was hard to distinguish one from the other – it’s easy to hear why. On record or on stage, their synchronicity sounded like a high reaching voice, and its shadow, conjoined at the voice box.

From 1957 to 1962, the boys had achieved their peak success with such time-honored singalongs as "Bye Bye Love", "Wake Up Little Susie", the sadder, yet melodic "Crying in the Rain", the upbeat and innocent "Til I Kissed You", "Birddog", and the romantic "All I have to do is Dream".

The Everlys owe much of their stardom to husband and wife songsmiths, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who composed "Bye Bye Love", "Wake up Little Susie", "Devoted to You", and many more. Phil and Don could write hits also, "Cathy's Clown", "Til I Kissed You", and "When Will I be Loved". They continued to write as a group, and as solo artists. They played guitars, as did their somewhat famous dad, Ike, back in Kentucky. He was quite the picker. But the main instrument of the boys was their two piece vocals, which together sounded like a third vocal instrument. That's what largely inspired countless other singers and stars to follow. A few you may recognize.. Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, John and Paul and their little ensemble, The Beatles, who referred to themselves as the Foreverly Brothers. Their influence carries on with current stars, like Norah Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong who just released a recording of the Everly's second album songs.

Singing in harmony is one thing, but soaring high together on a melodically catchy and pretty tune, is a beauty in itself. It's an appreciation of the natural gifts possessed, the precision, the skill, but also, the brotherhood, echoing in agreement a sentiment, and a shared understanding of the songs message or desired mood.


1983 Reunion Concert

While Phil and Don, had their spats, one resulting in a ten year separation, from 1973-83, they did communicate a love and admiration for each other in doing what they were born to do, sing and entertain. That bond, particularly evident in 1983, when they reunited for concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, was also a reason why audiences found them appealing. A reporter once asked Phil what his most memorable experience was. He said it was the 1983 reunion concert with Don. Phil himself was humble, a gentleman, and as one of his fellow musicians put it, a man who was even sweeter than his music.

Listening to the beauty of the Everly’s harmony still causes smiles, happiness and now, sadness of a void, of another reunion that will never be, and perhaps, will leave many fans, cryin' in the rain. Many could just dream for more, but we could not ask for more. Thanks Phil Everly for sharing your gifts with us.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ottawa Doctors make a Breakthrough in Fighting Leukemia

Doctors David Conrad and John Bell have developed a tiny nano-particle that causes human blood cancer cells to kill themselves.

This is very interesting, and though like any "breakthrough" it is early days and there is much more testing and research trials to be done. However, at this point, it sounds very promising. Please watch and listen to the short clip on the link below. Dr. David Conrad is being interviewed by CTV.

This is a video link published Aug. 13, 2013 at this CTV News web site:

Dr. David Conrad: ".. We've developed a 'particle-based therapeutic', and we can introduce it intravenously to mice that have leukemia. We've observed that not only is the leukemia eradicated but it sets up an immune response so that relapse does not occur... we set up an 'immune memory' with this treatment."

Wow, this sounds revolutionary - a treatment to kill the cancer, and then even prevent a relapse. Let's hope that this study's finding will be repeated in more trials, so that there will one day be human trials, and similar successful results. Researchers are keeping the hope alive with this study, and the "serial T-Cell" treatment from two years ago in Pennsylvania, and New York labs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dell computers are 2nd Hand Junk - at least it seems that way

You buy a brand new Dell Inspiron M5030 in the summer of 2011. It completely blacks out, no start up, no file access - fried by Dec. 2011. You call tech support in India or Pakistan, and run a few tests, and they arrange to send it to Ontario to examine and fix it. You get it back, and it is still behaving quirky, but generally working.
Then it crashes after a few more weeks in early 2012. Same process, ring the guys in India, send by courier back to fix-it guys, get it back, and guess what.. it crashes two more times in 2012. So four times in 2012. It is sent away again in Dec. of 2012, and you are guaranteed that the problem will be fixed.. as most often is the case, the motherboard needed replacement, at least twice the hard drive was damaged too, and could not be retrieved. It should be called the Dell UnInspiron.

So, this brings up to today. Since 8 months after it returned, it was "working", still odd things happening with hibernate/sleep, and some files missing. In the last few weeks the awful random grey screens began to appear, and this evening the depressing, stressful, reminder of past computer traumas, the 7 beep flatliner sound that is usually associated with the premature death of a new mother board. Yes, 5, five times this same computer has crashed since purchased two summers ago.

That's beginning with new, and then after Dell "repaired" it again and again. So either this computer was a lemon from the start, or the parts or the people repairing it are rusty. It never behaved like a new computer. It consistently behaves like a car that is getting old, but a newer part here, another there, will keep it going for a few more months.

But, sadly it's a computer that is unfortunately relied upon to store files, communicate, search the net, edit photos, do work, save other peoples' work, and conduct other business. Time after time, it has caused major inconvenience, some file loss, huge stress, frustration, and anger at Dell for not completely replacing this piece of "second hand" junk, or refunding the money paid for it, as was suggested.

Here it goes again, just about to call Dell for the 5th time about the same problem. Come on Dell, just do the right thing this time. Incidentally, a new Dell purchase will never ever take place from this computer chair.

For readers, be careful what you are buying. Take a good look around, there are plenty of other good brands out there. As I type this blog from a borrowed pc, I write it as a protest to Dell, and a reminder that this story, and hopefully others will be shared here, as a warning to other consumers, and to companies like Dell. Companies are doing/fooling consumers in every way they can legally do so, to cut costs, and with it, services and quality. More voices and stories can help change the way quality and customer service is going. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment or story.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Taming the wild lupines

They're almost everywhere, and could grow anywhere it seems. Roadsides are a common home to the colorful lupine. But there are gardeners who proudly plant and love them. Here are a few wild lupines from around town.

Lupines + photography = Color depth of field
The sky's the limit
Lupine army, at attention

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Promising T-cell Therapy for Leukemia and other cancers - Event May 30

There is an exciting buzz about a new "serial killer" T-cell therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and CLL. T cells, which are part of your immune system, are taken out of patients' blood; are genetically modified with a virus; put back into the patient with leukemia; and the "killer" T-cells hunt for cancer cells, and kill them. Two years ago, researchers at the University of Penn. reported that a small study showed astounding results. Patients who had no other alternative were given this treatment, and went into remission. Other medical centres have been testing similar methods since, and the results are showing promising results.

While this new therapy is in its infancy stage, it could potentially treat leukemia, and make transplants unnecessary, and also treat other forms of cancer.

On May 30, 2013, the Newfoundland & Labrador Thrombosis, Blood and Immune Disorders Research and Education Project will host an event with keynote speaker Dr. Kevin Curran, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York city. Dr. Curran is one of the researchers in this new treatment. This presentation is open to the public, and should be very interesting for anyone in the community and among health care workers. See details below, and see links to web sites which describe the T-cell therapy which Dr. Curran is involved in.

Links on T-cell Immunotherapy

NY Times Article http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/health/altered-t-cell-therapy-shows-promise-for-acute-leukemia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hp

ABC News Story http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/experimental-cancer-treatment-offers-hope-18785966?tab=9482931§ion=1206835&playlist=1363742

Washington Post Article http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/leukemia-treatment-shows-good-results-in-a-handful-of-patients/2013/03/20/b807450e-919a-11e2-bdea-e32ad90da239_story.html

Adoptive T cell Therapy for Cancer- How your Immune System Can Cure Cancer

Keynote Speakers:
Dr. Kevin J. Curran, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center NY< NY
Dr. Paul Moorehead, Faculty of Medicine at MUN
Holly King and Charlie Cheeseman, patient and family advocates

Date: Thurs., May 30, 2013 Time: 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm Location: GEO Centre, St. John's

Description: This is an exciting and promising leukemia/cancer therapy news event. Topics include leukemia, childhood leukemia and a promising new immunotherapy that is exciting the medical community the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. We will hear from Dr. Kevin Curran, a pediatric oncologist who is a member of a large research team, and working at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Clinic, New York. Dr. Curran is the principal investigator for a study using this treatment for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) . This treatment has so far been used successfully with patients with ALL and CLL. Clinical trials are opening for other types of cancer and other conditions currently managed by stem cell or bone marrow transplantation. The hope is that this treatment will be more effective and less toxic than stem cell or bone marrow transplantation.

6.30 Refreshments
7.00 Introduction Dr. MF Scully and Dr. M. Larijani, Faculty of Medicine at MUN
7.10 A patient and family perspective
Holly King and Charlie Cheeseman, NLTBI Volunteers
7.30 Acute Leukemia in Children, Dr. Paul Moorehead, Faculty of Medicine at MUN
7.50 Question and Answer period
8.00 Adoptive T cell therapy for cancer -How Your Immune System Can Cure Cancer
Kevin J. Curran MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center NY, NY
8.40 Questions and Answer period
8.50 Panel Discussion
9.00 Refreshments

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The tall ship Kruzenshtern in St. John's

Each year the east coast port city of St. John's welcomes vessels of all types and sizes. Cruise ships have become a common sight in St. John's harbour particularly in the fall of the year. At other times, there are high tech rowing boats moored at dock, designed to tackle the seas between Newfoundland and England. You will commonly see whale watching tourist boats, freighters, tankers, and sailboats and special ones like the Kruzenshtern. The Kruzenshtern is 375 ft in length, and is 169 ft high. It was built in 1926 in Germany, and was first called the Padua. She was surrendered to the USSR in 1946 as war reparation, and was given a new name, after a Baltic explorer in the Russian service.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Leaks in the Premier's Office

CH has found the source of the leaks in the Premier's Office, as described by Premier Kathy Dunderdale. CBC reported that the cost of renovations for the top job office increased just a wee bit, from $20 million to $50 million - one might think that there are all sorts of things leaking from our government.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Armstrong took us for a ride

Remember when Bill Clinton told his country that he did not have relations "with that woman..", and then admitted it? Well, he did prime time comedians a huge favour, by giving them lots of material to get laughs. Expect to see a marathon of Lance jokes on your favorite show.

Though not a president, Lance Armstrong was the king of cycling for almost a decade, and he also beats Clinton for longest time for hiding the truth. This fall from race is a huge story for plenty of reasons. By choice, Armstrong was a serial liar, and it's incredible how he not only fooled the world, his family, sponsors, cancer patients, donors, and big business employers, but how long he did it, and, what an amazing acting job!

Not a man of much apparent outward emotion, he vehemently denied on many occasions, ever doping to win bike races. When questioned by USADA (the US Anti-Doping Agency) in 2005, while videotaped, he denied all doping allegations. Take a look at his acting skills as guest on the biggest prime time U.S. shows. As a matter of fact, it was only in the last several days, with Oprah Winfrey, that he has finally admitted that, well, he took us all for a ride.

So, since 1998 around when there first was talk about illegal performance enhancing drugs while riding in the Tour de France, he began his acting career outside the cycling. It is remarkable how convincing and stubborn Armstrong was, how many friends he lost, how he seemed to ignore the feelings of those close to him, and put money, power, and unfortunately, an ironic false pride first.

It is rare for a world stage figure to lie for so long, earn so much wealth, respect, and sustained popularity, and maintain that poker face. There are so many things wrong with what Lance did, and it is hard not to wonder, what's going on in his head. In his interview admitting drug use, he said he was sorry, and maybe he is all cried out, but there was little sign of sadness from him. He's got million$ of reasons to be sad. Anyone who wins a Tour de France, or any major sport, is bound to make huge money from acting as the trustworthy face for the company's product or service. He denied that opportunity from potential clean racers, at least 7 times. His "heroics" shamefully leaves doubt, disappointment and distain from those who believed that anything was possible.

It is sad really to see a person so publicly humiliate himself, be so greedy and at the expense of others, and obstruct their opportunities. Perhaps though, Lance's seemingly cold reactions and psychopathic-like demeanor will work in his favour to salvage his own respect, and true sense of worth. He's 41 and could live to be an old man. As a cancer survivor, it is hoped that he can, for that reason alone.

So, there could be many years to work on repairing the damage he has done. At least admitting his guilt, and flaws is a start. Once he has apologized to everyone he has hurt and disappointed, there remains his organization Livestrong, a fundraising foundation for cancer survivors. While he was asked to step down from his chairman position, there are endless opportunities and needs in the world for him to do good deeds. Not everyone has to forgive and forget him, but helping other groups, charities and ultimately people, is never unwanted.

Armstrong may very well lose a huge chunk of his $100 million + fortune, and still have lots of pocket money, but his racing days are pretty much over. His need to win remains, but the prestige from winning races is unreachable now. However, remember President Clinton again? He's more respected now than ever, gets standing ovations and has been an international ambassador for peace and humanity. Lance Armstrong may have serious flaws, but it's never too late to turn that around and be honest, to help others more, and regain respect. By doing that, he can't lose.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Forces of nature

Many say that change is good. Well, it all depends on what the change is doesn't it. When it comes to nature and weather, it also depends. Many view the fall as a sad introduction to a harsh and tormenting winter. No doubt, winters can be brutal, but as with all seasons, it carries different opportunities, especially for photography. Fall is a beautiful time of transition and the green industry of photos changes to yellows, reds, orange and more. See some fall photos below as well as a capture of a great natural combo - a terrific red-pink sky, and a powerful surf at dawn.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Will voters make history again in the 2012 U.S. election?

In my last post, I said that the Clinton speech would help Obama, and boost him in the polls by 5% or more. Well, a CNN poll a few days later had indeed reported a relatively huge gain by the Democrats after their convention. Before the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats were at 50%, and in the post convention poll, they were at 59%. Since then, Obama has pulled ahead in swing states like Ohio.

Obama could very well make history again when the final results are in, by being the first president who won an election with an unemployment rate of 8% or higher. No president was re-elected with this status before.

However, it seems that there is either a lingering mistrust of Romney, and a perception of him not really relating to the average middle class Joe. Or, there is a broader understanding that the economic problems inherited by Obama, could not be, as Bill Clinton said at the Democratic convention last week, solved in four years by any president including himself. Or, both.

As well, while each campaign stretches or distort the truth to different extents, Obama is at least attempting to appear the honest and diligent choice. In an interview some days ago, he told a reporter that he is aware of his own short-comings, referring to the sluggish economic rebound, not the one he had hoped for.

Politically he should have the support of a sizable chunk of a number of major groups - African Americans 90+% support, women (with his abortion stand), gays (with his support of their marriage), and the Latino vote. At the Democratic National Convention, there were a number of Latino speakers, including a rising star in California, San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro, and his twin Joaquin Castro, representative from Texas, so he is covering that base.

Bill Clinton was strong at the convention, telling Americans, that no matter who was president, no one could clear it up in one term. So with this support, and the possible new perspective of what the economy was like, and how slowly it is rebounding, voters at this point seem to be still willing to give Obama a second term.

He is likeable, and perhaps many voters appreciate that as the first black President, his sense of place in history, Obama will serve with integrity, and accept his human limitations.. and in doing so, realize that the opponent Romney, also has his limitations, and weaknesses. It's getting more interesting.

History can be made again. From this blogger's chair, there is a sense that people are becoming more aware of a broader economic picture of the recession that welcomed the Obama administration, and willing once again to evolve as voters in understanding economic and recovery perspective.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Clinton's Captivating Speech Could Re-elect Obama

Even if Bill Clinton had not been a successful president himself, the masterful speech he delivered last night will boost Obama's support, lessen Romney's and more likely re-elect the incumbent. Clinton's piece by piece analysis and perspective of the situation Obama inherited, and his subsequent economic efforts and achievements, were a huge part of the former president's sales pitch.

It was also his delivery, sometimes succinct, and folksy style of wording, where people not only understood, but could take it home, and talk about it, and believe it. He could drill down on details, and yet simplify for a broader understanding. It was spellbinding to watch. President Obama's record could not have gotten a more believable and superior endorsement. Clinton's delivery will certainly be studied in future university text books.

His mastery of political perspective, and especially presidencies since Reagan's time, gave him the apparent ease, persuasiveness, and indisputable story lines that simply stand out and above any speaker in the DNC or GOP national conventions. His speech approach was delivered in a way that the listener was convinced that this man was sincere, exceptionally well informed, and understandable. Much of it was understandable because President Clinton, could look at the larger picture, and sum it up in simplified ways. For example, when describing the Republican's pitch to voters, he put it this way.
"Now you gotta listen to this. They said that Obama received a mess, he did not solve it fast enough, so elect us back in."

This was after telling the audience that the eight years of Republican leadership was largely to blame for the mess that Obama inherited. Clinton's point was sharp, simple, and memorable.

Every word that he spoke captivated the audience in the auditorium, and they often responded with exuberant cheers and applause. Clinton's gauging of the audiences' excitement and noise, was thoughtfully built in to his delivery. He made sure that they were not going to miss anything he said. For example, he would say, "Now you gotta listen to this," or, "I want you to listen to me." It had the effect of convincing the audience of his own self-confidence, his conviction in the facts he was about to say, and his commanding authority to speak about Obama's record, and Republican contributions in causing the economic crisis.

Clinton also, piece by piece, refuted major claims made last week at their national convention, against President Obama. He made the Republicans look terrible, misleading, and simply, the wrong party to vote for.

The job of Obama in his speech tonight should be that much easier because Bill Clinton covered much already. It should be easier if Obama can now present a more detailed, plausible and persuasive economic plan for the next four years, and also, expand on the themes from the last two nights of speeches on creating more opportunities for the middle class and youth, and investing in broader health coverage.

The pressure is on, and he has to connect with listeners, and give a clear vision of what they can expect. His speech has to be remembered. Two nights ago First Lady Michelle Obama gave a tremendous speech about her husband, which could win some voters. Bill Clinton made history with his speech, and supreme support for re-electing Obama. It is being hailed by veteran political analysts as the greatest he has ever delivered. Tonight, it will add to the challenge of President Obama, to give a memorable, hopeful, constructive speech, that is his own, and that will linger in the minds of the electorate.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Having a ball


"Hey, catch!"

"Having a ball"

"Oh waitress, may I have a napkin please?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Iceberg Alleys

Looking out through the village of Quidi Vidi at our northern visitors enjoying a beautiful sunrise.
Several local berg watchers get a little too close as the iceberg suddenly decides to break apart. The ice was breaking apart and sliding towards them, as they made a wise decision to reverse course.
Fire and ice

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia ( CML) A good news story for cancer researchers

The public is invited to the GEO Centre, Monday, April 2 from 7 - 10 pm for presentations on CML. Two guest speakers will speak on the disease. See below for more detail.

Friday, February 24, 2012

NL Thrombosis, Blood & Immune Disorder Project March 1 Event

If you or someone you know has a blood or immune system health problem like leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma or blood clotting complications, please let them know about event at the Geo Centre. Specialists will speak about these conditions and research being done.

March 1, 2012
7 - 10 p.m.
GEO Centre
St. John’s, NL

Dr. M. Larijani will present “The human immune system; links to
leukemia and lymphoma”
and

Dr. R. Chitsike will present “An overview of Venous Thromboembolic
Disease including Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary
Embolism (PE)”


This event is open to the public.
The talks will be of interest to health-care professionals,
students, patients with their families and friends.
The lectures will discuss issues of interest for patients
living with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma,
hypercoagulability, deep venous thrombosis
and pulmonary embolism.


Question and answer period to follow presentation.

Cash bar. Refreshments will be provided at 9 p.m.

Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Newfoundland Winter Coastline

Sure it's wet, slippery and often bone-chillingly cold, but it also completely changes how our environment looks, and provides months of photo opportunities. It also helps to highlight what an interesting province we live in, with so much geographic variety. Below are some recent captures.