Thursday, August 27, 2009

Losing paramedics before they even start training

I love paramedics.

Paramedics help people; they go into unpredictable situations and must deal with some nasty stuff; and they are generally very well-natured.

I've never seen an angry 'medic — even through this seemingly-endless standstill with the BC government.

According to the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia, CUPE Local 873, the "strike" they are currently involved in (although they can't technically picket or walk out because they are considered an essential service) is not just over wages, it is a culmination of factors: community paramedic shortages; working conditions; recruitment and retainment; and compensation parity.

The issue that average Joes have heard about most is the $2 on-call wage. From what I understand, in general, paramedics must work part-time at this rate for years before nabbing a full-time position.

Before I heard this, I was seriously considering the career for myself. As a volunteer member of 100 Mile House Fire-Rescue, I've found the "helping people" part of the job the most enjoyable.

Because I'm a tad on the small side — not very tall, not all that buff — I sometimes feel limited in my duties at the hall. Becoming a paramedic seemed like a seriously good path for me to follow and I would be fine with part-time to continue my other full-time career with the news.

I've been fortunate and have not needed ambulance services in an emergency; but I have had experience with their assistance on fire scenes: after so long with a breathing apparatus on (mask and air tank), firefighters must go to "re-hab" where their vitals are checked, their bodies re-hydrated and then vitals re-checked by the ambulance crew.

The paramedics I have dealt with in these situations have been great, supportive and professional.

Situations such as fire scenes have inspired me to look into becoming a paramedic; but the current situation with the government is, obviously, a big turn off.

I am not going to pretend I understand the situation fully but, judging from the website, a big issue for the union is wage parity.

"Side by side, paramedics respond to emergencies with our colleagues from the police and fire departments in all corners of the province. We are on the frontline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, putting our lives on the line.

"BC Ambulance Paramedics have suffered the same drastic increases in call volumes, work load, retirement attrition and costs of living as other BC emergency services, yet have been allowed to fall far behind in compensations."

The union says on the website that they are looking for wage parity not only with other provinces but with BC police and firefighters.

Yes, paramedics should be in line with other provinces; but should they be earning the same compensation as police and fire?

From what I understand, paramedics have a list of limitations that hinder them from performing the duties police and fire are paid to do. Correct me if I'm wrong, please, but, in most situations, ambulance attendants must hang back while fire crews extract patients from vehicles, bring them up from embankments or lift them onto gurneys.

In no way am I suggesting paramedics are any less valuable than other emergency services; yes, the dedicated workers risk their lives — and lose them, as often sadly evidenced in the news — but if they are not allowed to do as much as other emergency workers there is a justified pay difference.

It's the pager call-out rate and wage parity with other provinces that I think the union should focus on. If wages are corrected, the recruitment and retainment problem will, most likely, solve itself.

However, the longer this drags on, the more likely people (like me, who has a real interest in becoming a paramedic) will be scared away.

"The Thompson-Okanagan-Cariboo are hard hit by the shortages of both ambulance resources and trained paramedics," states the union on

"Rural and remote stations are increasingly unable to staff their ambulances as it has become very difficult to attract new employees, partially due to the high cost of paramedic training in BC. It is also difficult to retain staff in rural and remote areas as the $2 an hour pager pay is not competitive compensation in today’s economy."

It is hard to justify spending over $5,000 to become a primary care paramedic when I'd be on a pager call-out wage of $2 for up to five years following.

As I am on the outside of this issue looking in, I would welcome feedback to clarify the facts.

But, from what I can see, the BC government needs to stop wasting money fighting the union in court and focus on fixing the BC paramedic situation before car crash victims have to hitchhike to the hospital and patients die in their homes while waiting for help.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Breast Gate example of 'entitlement' society

Last week, Kristen George was visiting Science World in Vancouver with her two young children when her eight-week-old baby got fussy.

To lull the babe's cries, she stuck a boob in his mouth; this, it seems, offended a teenaged volunteer for Science World, who approached the mother and suggested she use the nursing room available for patrons.

When George said she was fine where she was, the volunteer insisted she use the room, calling her natural act "immoral."

According to the Vancouver Sun article "Nursing mother 'humiliated' by Science World volunteer's comment," the volunteer continued to harass her by reprimanding her loud enough so others could hear; she was "laughed" at, she said, by people "from a culture that values being covered up" — whatever that means.

George was further offended by Science World's reaction, which was — according to the article — minimalist, offering her a three-month extension on her membership.

When contacted by the Sun, the president of Telus World of Science promised an apology was also on its way and said they have added breastfeeding guidelines to their orientation packages.

Why this is even a story is beyond me; this was obviously one young volunteer's opinion, someone who probably isn't even there anymore. Science World has revised its policy to include handling nursing mothers and they also have rooms previously available for moms.

The fact this woman came forward to cause this stir suggests she either has something against Science World or is trying to "milk" the situation for attention.

Granted, I may not be a mother; but if I was breastfeeding a baby in a populated area, (which I don't believe is wrong but not sure if I would do), and someone accosted me like that I may complain to management — but go to the press?

This "Breast Gate" just causes unnecessary attention for Science World, a family-oriented organization, and its other workers. That George thinks she is entitled to more than what she has received is greedy on her behalf.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unrealistic ideals expected from women

I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to have lines under my eyes; no one is — and I don't even mean wrinkles. But everywhere I look, even in the mirror, it seems the natural look of a face has subtle scoops, bags or lines.
I'm not supposed to get shiny, so I carry powder foundation wherever I go in case — God forbid — I perspire. My skin should also be flawless, pores unnoticeable, without moles or freckles and definitely sans acne or other hideous imperfections.
I know my hair should be silky, shiny and without fly-aways, so I hang my head in shame when my naturally ringletty hair gets a bit poofy.
I am aware that I can never lose enough weight. I should never have a "muffin-top" (access skin hanging over my pants) and should work hard to stay at society's ideal size of 0, including excessive dieting and exercise beginning at the age of 12. I should also be toned and my arms should never jiggle when I wave at someone, no matter what how vigorous my greeting.
And, above all else, I know I am not supposed to age; I should cover, dye and hide any signs that show I am not 19 years old.
I learned these unofficial rules of beauty from magazines and other print ads so prevalent in our world; they are ideals I will never live up to because they are not realistic.
So what has caused me and millions of other women to become so shallow, to care so much about our appearances that we primp, cut and change our bodies to live up to standards decided by someone else?
Well, situations like the following don't help: on Aug. 13, Dove's Self-Esteem Fund released a statement.
"This month, Kelly Clarkson joins a long line of celebrities — including Kate Winslet and Mariah Carey — who have seen their images altered to meet the media's unrealistic standards of beauty, as a heavily Photoshopped Self magazine cover featuring Clarkson hit newsstands.
"While the magazine's editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger admits 'Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best,' the magazine made dramatic changes to Clarkson's physical appearance."
Kelly Clarkson is a pop singer who made it big after winning the first season of American Idol. She's probably below average weight but, it seems, magazines don't agree with her rounder figure and constantly change her appearance.
This is the latest in retouching "scandals" that made news, joining Katie Couric's slimmer figure for CBS and Faith Hill's even thinner look for Redbook.
Digital photo retouching is commonplace in the graphics industry, but how far artists can change a photographed subject remains up for debate; come call it "beauty" retouching or digital surgery and others call it destructive manipulation.
Sometimes they take an already skinny model and make her even skinnier. Or erase Beyoncé's tummy. Or smooth Kim Kardashian's cellulite.
Humans seem to gravitate toward perfection, maybe because it's something no one could ever attain for themselves; but when society begins to see perfection as the norm, there's trouble.
Unrealistic ideals can attribute to eating disorders, unnecessary plastic surgeries and low self-esteem.
Those with physical imperfections, even minor ones, are looked down upon by others and are considered weak. When you see photos non-famous Myspace chicks have taken and retouched of themselves, they adjust the contrast so that it lightens their faces to hide any imperfections — sometimes even flooding out their noses.
If you think I'm overreacting, just watch one episode of America's Top Model; the artists who deal with the photos after the shoots blatantly manipulate the girls' features, without shame — it's just an accepted part of the industry.
So what does that mean for us regular gals who don't have a team of makeup artists and photographic retouchers at our disposal?
We gotta toughen up, accept what we have and not give any excuses to the contrary.

Check out these sites for examples of celebrity retouching. (True or not, they're interesting to view):

Friday, July 31, 2009

Everything I like is bad for me

This past week has been a bit depressing. Reports have come out about iced coffee drinks, sun tanning booths and talking on cell phones while driving.

I kinda like doing those things, and now I feel like a bad person. Or a yuppie ditz.

I'm addicted to iced coffee drinks.

There isn't a Starbucks in my town (can you believe it?) and I don't particularly like coffee (I've never had a cup of the black goo in my life), but chocolate and coffee create a perfect, harmonious union of yummy in my mouth.

A guy named Tim is the dealer of such delicacies in 100 Mile, and I'm both grateful and bitter toward his shop.

At first it was Iced Capps, a delicious blend of cream, coffee and heaven; and now, thinking it might be a more calorie-conscious approach, I'm on to the Iced Lattés.

Not having cable in my modest basement suite, I didn't realize the evening news did a report on how horrible these drinks really are for you.

Innocently grabbing my treat from the local TimmyHo, I arrived at work yesterday to a chorus of "Do you now how bad those are?"

So I looked it up: according to the Tim Hortons website, one medium Iced Capp made with chocolate milk has 230 calories and one gram of fat, with 52 grams of sugar. (At least I had never opted for a brownie supreme capp, from which I would ingest 330 calories and 16 grams of fat — from a small.)

OK, so what about those lattés I've been drinking religiously, thinking I've been saving calories?

It looks like I was right, with a medium holding only 160 calories, but what about fat?

Well I've been taking in six more grams of fat than an Iced Capp, but with less sugar. Now I can't figure out what's better (or worse) for me.

Now, to tanning beds, something I've only occasionally dabbled in but used nonetheless.

International cancer experts moved tanning beds from a possible carcinogen to the top risk category, up there with smoking and mustard gas.

I think that's a bit of an embarrassment for all those orange-skinned bleached blondes out there, but what if I only go once in a while, like in the dead of a -30 C winter where the only warmth get is from those lamps?

100 Mile House has at least three tanning shops, strange because less than 2,000 people live here.

So if and when I stop by one of these establishments to darken my skin's hue, will I be frowned upon by people on the sidewalk? Will there be a sticker on the bed that warns of UV light exposure, complete with grotesque photos of light-deformed skin and eyes like on cigarette packages?

Perhaps I will have to stop by back alley, unlicenced establishments in a trench coat and glasses to get my light fix.

Besides killing myself with sweets and artificial sunlight, I'm also trying to murder others — not intentionally, though.

I live four minutes from my office. (Now, before you ask why I don't just walk, that is four minutes of highway driving time on a road with no sidewalk. )

During my drive home after a long day, I sometimes call my out-of-town family to check up on things because, once I get home, there are a host of chores, etc., to do and it's sometimes the only way to fit a quick call into the day.

Reports are non-stop this week that the BC Medical Association, along with top cop brass and a supposed nine-out-of-10 British Columbians, support a ban on cell phone use while driving.

This is something I don't 100 per cent agree with. Say I was on a traffic jam, late for work and not going anywhere: must I really pull over to say "I'm late"? (Not that I ever am, mind you.)

Here's another scenario: A drunk driver cuts into my lane and turns left at an intersection. I follow — but must I stop and lose the driver to make a 9-1-1 call?

As a female who is regularly driving long stretches of highway alone, do I want to pull onto the shoulder to use the phone at night? Perhaps, if instituted, the ban could begin a rash of car thefts and assaults on the legions of drivers forced to pull off the road for the phone.

Now I think I know how a smoker in the 1960s felt; all these things I enjoyed were obviously wrong but, without having an agency telling me so, I enjoyed them, guilt-free. Ignorance truly is bliss.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Jackson memorial reflected lifestyle

Michael Jackson is 2009's global warming. Everywhere you look, he's all you see: "Billie Jean" has replaced public service announcements on climate change; we may yet see the price at the pumps go up for a provincial "Jackson Tax" to increase on an annual babsis for every year that he stays dead (you know fans are hoping he comes back a la "Thriller"-style).
In the past few weeks he has eclipsed Canadian soldiers' deaths, the hostilities in Iran and the G8 summit. Hour-long network coverage of his memorial service was offered on television stations while play-by-play blog and Twitter feeds told cyber fans what was going down.
I did not follow the circus in real time, but from what I can tell from the zillions of articles, TV specials and photos that followed, it looked more like a gathering of celebrities trying to one-up each other than a time to reflect and mourn the single-gloved singer.
Still photos show performers, wide-mouthed and gazing to the heavens, belting out tunes in their Academy Award-worthy outfits. Reality TV stars saw the event as a chance to be seen, the Kardashians sitting together in matching black dresses, sending sultry smiles to the cameras and showing more collective leg than a bus load of giraffes.
The Jackson family was there, of course, but so were some you wouldn't expect if you didn't follow MJ's crazy saga: I had no idea Brooke Shields and Michael were so close; and Queen Latifa? She has friends?
Eighties child star Corey Feldman DRESSED as the iconic character during the ceremony; now THAT is weird.
On a strange tangent, Feldman was once "very close" with Michael as a teen. — but I'm not going to go there.
The event seemed more like a chance for B-List stars to take a desperate grab for the spotlight than a memorial, but that's just par for the course for Jackson — he received a sendoff that mirrored his life: weird.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Gay penguins could teach Alberta a lesson

Just as Alberta passes Bill 44, there are two downy homos out there trying to boost same sex couples into a more positive light.
Bill 44 was added to the western province's Human Rights Act, giving parents the right to pull their children from classrooms in which teachers discuss sexual orientation, sexuality or religion.
As backwards as it sounds, the bill seems to fit Alberta's tough exterior.
Alberta, at first glance, is rough and rugged. But, like the cowboys in that famous movie filmed there a few years ago, Alberta is secretly gay.
Have you not heard of the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association? What about Alberta's thriving gay tourism industry?
The wild rose province has a gay/straight alliance, a pride centre in Edmonton and some gay clubs in Calgary.
So why is the government denying the queer side of the province and staying in the dark ages?
Alberta needs to step out of its cave and adopt a better mindset, showing the world it's OK to be gay — much like the male penguin couple did in Germany, recently adopted an egg from a heterosexual pair and successfully raising it thus far.
Alberta needs to embrace its pink official flower and adopt some penguin pride, because this latest move from the province makes them look like ignorant dodos.

Otters holding guns

How quickly people forget the past — and their favourite YouTube videos.
Remember "Otters holding hands," the video that caught the Internet by furry storm in 2007? The otters in the one-minute, 40-second clip drift about their watery pen at the Vancouver Aquarium holding hands until they seemingly doze off and separate, floating on their backs with paws in the air like cute teddy bears praying to the sun.
Once they float near one another again the younger otter grabs the other's paw and, once again, drift together. The video could even seem like a metaphor for a relationship: you're happy, you're together, and then you're apart. But, sometimes, the waves push you just close enough that you can forgive and rejoin — and all the world's right again.
Weird metaphors aside, no matter how you related to the video, people fawned over the clip — mainly because of the adorable, floating oversized hamsters.
Meanwhile, just across the Georgia Strait from where that video was taken, a Vancouver Island First Nations group thought the otters in that video looked better as hats.
Members of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council have reached a tentative deal with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to hunt roughly one per cent of the sea otter population in their territory, reports the CBC, working out to about 20 animals a year.
In the May 20 article "Sea otter hunt planned by Vancouver Island First Nations" posted on the CBC website, Cliff Atleo, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, said "For us, it's not about the numbers. It's about reconnecting with the pelts worn by our chiefs, the heads of our governments."
Atleo is also concerned about booming sea otters populations decimating sea urchins and shellfish.
"Right now the sea otters are taking more than they actually need," Atleo is quoted as saying in the story. "There's hundreds of sea otters down here that are multiplying year by year."
What are the otters doing?! Can wild animals really afford to be wasteful?
Can't say I've ever seen a sea otter take a bite of some urchin and throw it back in the water, wasting it so he could go catch and waste more... Well, not that I've seen a lot of them, but still...
How does he know this?
Sea otters were once hunted to extinction in the same area the tribal council is proposing the hunt's resurrection and had to be reintroduced from Alaska. There is something fundamentally wrong with that.
If an animal is listed as "at risk," then it should not be hunted by anyone.
This deal could open a can of endangered worms and have hunters all over the country asking why they, too, can't shoot a mountain caribou or a whooping crane.
If only those otters were holding guns instead of holding hands — then I might be on board with making them into ceremonial hats.

Peggy, the starving horse

I was pretty confused when I saw her, we all were.
What’s on her head, covering her eyes?
Reporter Joan Silver had just got back from the Canim Lake Band Reserve where she had photographed a herd of horses, after we received a tip from a local regarding the state of the animals.
The editorial crew and I were scrolling through the photos, checking out the emaciated animals. Dead horses, dying horses, barely standing horses. Most, as was well-described by one interviewee, looked like bags of bones wrapped in a thin layer of skin.
As we scrolled, we paused on a white horse whose ribs and hip bones were clearly visible; obviously that was distressing to me, but what I was interested in was whatever was piled on the pony’s head — it looked like a bird’s nest or a swarm of bees covering her eyes.
“It’s dreaded mane,” said one co-worker.
“It’s dirt and ice,” said another.
Whatever it was, this horse couldn’t see a thing and that mass on her head sure looked painful; I’ve had gum in my hair and this was probably 100 times worse.
The image stuck in my mind as we looked through the other photos. But none seemed as worse off as she looked.
A horse owner came in later on in the day with some blurry photos of the horses she’d taken that day and, in the midst of them, alone and almost blending in with a dirty snow bank, was that same white horse.
“Hey, there’s Peggy again,” a co-worker said, using the nickname we had given the horse — probably not a good thing to do considering the horse could either die or get put down any second.
We asked this equine-inclined gal about her unusual ‘do.
“It’s brambles,” she replied. “The horses are so hungry they are eating things they wouldn’t normally, like thistles, and the pointy plants are sticky to their hair and skin.”
This sounded even more painful than a bit of tangling.
So, now Peggy, a horse we’ve never met, has trotted into the hearts of the editorial staff of the 100 Mile Free Press and we wonder what’s going on with her.
We know she wasn’t one of the horses moved to Kamloops, as we saw photos of those horses.
Now we wonder, how can we help?
We’ve helped by getting the word out, I guess, but, personally, as someone who doesn’t have land to offer only some funds for hay, how can I help that one horse?
If someone would offer a place for her to stay I’d gladly donate money; do I just go looking on my own, round ‘er up and lead her behind my car?
I doubt she’d make it too far.
So, all we can do right now, is wait to catch another sighting of the bony, messy-maned horse and hope she’s doing all right.

The Fire Virgin

I had been at work in the office for half an hour when I heard the chatter over the scanner.
The 108 Volunteer Fire Department was paged to respond to a fire at the 108 Resort.
I wondered if it was big enough for 100 Mile Fire-Rescue, something I'm a member of, to be called out to as well.
That's when my pager went off.
"100 Mile Fire Department: Group page," said the familiar man's voice.
I jumped up.
Should I go? Could I go, just leave work and battle a blaze that may take two minutes to 20 hours?
I consulted my co-workers and, when we heard the urgency in the voices over the radio, I left to the fire hall.
I made it in time to jump on Engine 11.
Then the big, yellow vehicle drove from the hall, sirens wailing and horns honking through every intersection.
Upon arrival on scene, I saw various trucks already there, gathering around the front of the hotel. Flames leaped 15 feet into the hazy sky.
Nervous excitement invaded the engine's cab of five firefighters and we were driven around to the back, where we could see the full extent of the damage.
Although the front of the building looked intact, the back, by that time, was not faring as well and the interiors of the rooms were fully exposed and engulfed.
Our driver painstakingly backed the hulking vehicle down a golf cart lane and parked; we jumped out, in full gear, and started readying hundreds of metres of hoses.
No hydrants were close by; hoses shot off in all directions and I joined two men trying to pry open a small shed where a closer hydrant hid.
As one member pulled the door, I wedged a shovel between the gap and jarred the door just enough so I could fit in.
The hydrant within was old, rusted and impossible for me to work by myself.
Possibly thinking me a wuss, another member squeezed in and tried, only breaking his tools on the stuck valves.
I didn't feel so bad then.
When we did get it open I went back to the incident commander for reassignment. I was placed on a two-and-a-half inch hose, where I sat, spraying the building, for at least two hours.
After being order to rehab, I trudged through the snow to the front of the building where an ambulance waited for firefighters, to take their blood pressure and heart rate. This was no easy task, as my equipment weighs more than I do and, combined with the knee-deep snow, likely made watching me get around the scene very comical.
In the ambulance for 10 minutes, I went back to my post to take charge of a slightly smaller hose; this allowed me to be more mobile and spray vaster areas, with ease.
Although the temperature was a balmy -2 C, my soaked hands still froze in my gloves, prompting a trip to rehab again a few hours later.
Time flew by as crews steadily worked to get the fire under control and, around 3:30 p.m., officials were confident we had stopped the blaze at a breezeway between the sections of rooms. About one-third of the building was lost; but, on the bright side, that meant two-thirds of the building was saved.
It was time to clean up — no easy task.
Hose had to be collected, rolled and loaded; ladders needed to be collapsed and carried; and hot spots still needed to be tended to, something the 108 department stayed behind to look after.
Back at the hall, trucks, hoses, gear and tools needed to be organized and cleaned, something that took hours.
When it was all done, most of the crew took a few minutes to discuss the day; the chief seemed please with our performances and now the investigation into the cause of the blaze would begin.
I enjoyed the day but, I have to admit, I was a bit sore the next day; but I’ll do it all again should need be — I’d never wish for a fire but I hope to be there, ready, when it happens.
The experience gave me even greater respect for those who do the job day in and out — they must have really strong hands because I couldn’t even turn my bedroom door handle the next morning.

Rocky roads in the Cariboo

I was driving to work, 7:15 a.m. on a Monday, when I glanced down and saw the small crack in my windshield. It went from the corner, diagonally across toward the centre, about seven inches.
That’s a small crack in the Cariboo.
I’d forgotten about it.
The first chip on my glass was distressing; driving back from Vancouver in my brand-spanking new Mazda 3 only to reach the hill sloping into 100 Mile House and have a large rock fly at my face.
I remember the conflicting advice locals offered:
“If you put clear nail polish on a crack, it’ll stop it from spreading.”
“That’s only good if it’s a small chip.”
“Get them fixed as fast as possible.”
“Don’t bother fixing them; everyone has to replace their front window when you drive up here.”
My next one wasn’t as worrisome; I actually didn’t even notice it until it was two inches long, when it started to spread out of the left corner of my windshield.
As long as it doesn’t obscure my view of the road, I thought, it should be all right. And that’s the thought that again ran through my mind on Monday morning.
Then, like an invisible pen drawing a straight line across my window, the crack spread.
I tried putting my finger along its path of destruction to quell it’s speedy travel but it was no use — a streak was permanently etched across my windshield.
Looking at my car, one might think me a gangster; the front end is riddled with dents, making it look like I drove head on into machine gun fire.
For my Jan. 7 column, I spoke with representatives from the District of 100 Mile House, Interior Roads and the Ministry of Transportation.
All of them pretty much told me there was no way to get around the large “boulders” sneaking out of the “sanding” trucks, as the mixture is regulation size.
The ministry spokesperson even told me there were larger rocks in the mix to prevent it from blowing off the road.
This confused me, as the finer sand I’ve seen on snowy roads seems to stick it out quite well.
As a newcomer, I thought I was being a bit whiny about the road conditions, but, as it turns out, 99 per cent of South Cariboo residents, long-time, new or otherwise, also hate the roads. I gathered this as I receive complaint letters to the editor from drivers every week.
One woman sent me a photo of her vehicle after a rock flew up from a passing truck and shattered her rear side window — where her children usually sat.
For financial, safety and esthetic reasons, something must be done about these rocky Cariboo roads.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

One year, Cornish still missing

Feb. 22 marked one year since Dennis Cornish went missing, when he was last seen purchasing fuel for his light brown/tan 1995 GMC pick-up truck at Race Trac gas at the 108.

Cornish lived in the 108 Mile area for two years before planning to return to his home-province of Alberta in the beginning of 2008.

Despite pleas from family and friends, there is still little known about what happened to Cornish.

His parents, Janette and Dennis, made the trip from Calgary to 100 Mile House back in June, handing out flyers, checking in with the RCMP and speaking with the Free Press.

Since his disappearance, 629 members have joined the Facebook group, showing high interest in the case.

Cpl. Lorne Wood is heading the Cornish case, which he says is progressing. He reminds those with information to contact the North District RCMP Major Crimes Unit or Crime Stoppers.

In response to this somber anniversary, his parents released the following statement last week:

It is now a year since our son, Dennis went missing. We know he is no longer with us. That is the focus of the RCMP investigation. Our family does not know how and why he died. The most important thing for us is finding his body. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of him. We can’t find peace and move on until we have his remains and give him a proper burial.

We are open to all suggestions as to where Dennis might be. If you have any leads contact our family friend Ken at or the RCMP.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

News is the operative word

News - n. information about important or interesting recent events.
Reporter - n. a person employed to report news, etc. for newspapers or broadcasts.
When news happens in 100 Mile House and its surrounding area, residents expect their paper to cover it; the editor expects her reporters uncover the story; and those involved should expect to talk about it.
Some people forget that, not only are there those out there who make their living off of writing news articles, but the community relies on the paper to tell them what is going on and what to watch out for.
And when sources withhold information, they are being unfair to the paper and the public.
Small towns may not have the hard-hitting, intrusive sort of reporters larger cities have, but it doesn't mean rural community news matters any less.
So when something does happen, the involved parties in the news event are taken aback when they are approached by a reporter looking for answers.
Reporters represent the public and they will fight for their right to ask questions; granted, a person doesn't have to answer, but he or she can't silence the querying voice of the people.
Because sometimes "no comment" can speak louder than any words.
A town, its paper and authorities can work like a well-oiled information machine - it happens all the time.

Sympathy for the devil

"In the House" column from

Like most fields, the world of journalism is a very competitive place.

The time it takes to break a story can be the difference between making or breaking a reporter. Even for a weekly, such as the Free Press, the pressure is still there since cyber stories are expected to be updated constantly.

But just because there is pressure on journalists does not mean they should throw their morals to the wind when writing a story — the photographers snapping up shots of Britney Spears in intimate moments like they are gold are not journalists.

People can’t paint all in the media with the same brush; just as politicians are not all lawyers, not all journalists are paparazzi.

The job of a reporter, in my eyes, is to inform the public and dispel rumours that may swirl around an incident.

I’m not nosy by nature, but I’m curious; nosy refers to being too interested in other people’s affairs; being curious means someone’s eager to know or learn something.

I do not feed off of the suffering of others; I do not live for a tragedy.

I, in no way, enjoy contacting someone who has just suffered a loss, but sometimes it’s the only way to understand and describe the whole story.

True reporting involves not just covering the news, but uncovering it. Uncovering a story does not

necessarily mean badgering people or digging up “dirt”; it may just mean describing an event from a different angle, talking about not just what happened, but why and how.

I’m not into eavesdropping or snooping around other peoples’ belongings or property; if I show up to a scene of a crime, it’s because I need to know — it’s not only my job as the editor of the paper, but there are more benefits than disadvantages in keeping the public informed.

When I show up to an event — crime, sports or otherwise — I’m not there to make trouble.

Especially in a small town, when people see a big fuss happening on their street, they start to talk; it’s human nature to wonder what’s going on.

It’s understandable when a matter is before courts, under investigation or involving an extremely sensitive issue, but when officials withhold all information and disclose nothing, it paves the way for rumour and speculation.

But a newspaper is not necessarily a public service; it is run by a company and needs to make its own independent funds. Unless it is a paid ad, a newspaper has no obligation to run or cover an event, story, etc.

My favourite part of a paper is the letters to the editor; whether a big city or small one-horse settlement, I read a paper’s top stories in the front then skip to the letters because nothing describes a town’s main issues better than its readers.

But, just like stories, not every letter makes it into print; depending on time frame and space constraints, some letters may have to wait or some will be cut all together. I do my best to get every letter in because, as I said, they’re important.

As for editorialized pieces, like what you’re reading right now, readers have to remember they are opinion; I know you may never agree with what I am writing, and might doodle horns on my head shot at times, and that’s fine.

If you don’t like what I’m saying then I welcome your letters.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trying taekwondo

It takes some getting used to; bowing to others can feel pretty submissive.
And it makes it all the more awkward when you are at least 10 years older than everyone else in your class and your fellow students’ parents are watching diligently from the sidelines.
Those were my initial feelings during the start of my first taekwondo class at Whispering Pines in 100 Mile House.
I was told to just wear comfy workout clothes, but I felt out of place in my stretch pants while everyone else was in their white jammies.
I lined up with the
rest of the participants and waited to be called to the front, where I bowed and listened to my classmates recite “The Spirit of Taekwondo.”
Then, we were told to bow again – “kyung
nae” – in Korean. But the way instructor Lois
Gray said the command,
it sounded like a guinea pig or Pikachu the Pokemon singing out for love.
Our first task was to perform 20 number one front kicks. Initially confused, I wondered what my number one appendage was, but got into the swing of things quickly as Gray (who we had to call “Ma’am”) demonstrated the moves.
After 20 reps, we switched sides.
Following punches and more kicks, the belt groups separated to act out their forms.
I had absolutely no idea what this meant.
Ian Levic, a 15-year-old black belt, stood in front of the white belts (and wannabes, like me) and slowly took us through the appropriate form.
“Chamber, high block. Chamber, punch...”
This “chamber” business sure didn’t make sense but, not wanting to look dumb in front of the little ones, I kept my mouth shut.
I thought my kicks were high enough, but it seems my fists were a little floppy.
“It’s more like you’re doing spaghetti-style form than taekwondo,” laughed one student.
Once we had gone through the forms a few times, we were partnered up; I was placed with the kid who looked the youngest out of them all. We lined up, facing each other in a “ready” stance.
My first thought was “This would look bad if I beat up this kid,” immediately followed by a more embarrassing thought: “And it will look worse if he beats me up!”
What I thought would be sparring turned out to be another kind of form, called a one-step. My partner came at me with a punch, which I blocked and retaliated with a pre-determined block-punch combination.
The time flew by fast and, before I knew it, it was time to wrap up an hour of working out, while having fun and learning how to defend ourselves.
We lined up again, said another taekwondo blurb and bowed, then had to face our superior classmate and bow to him or her.
Although the kids were silly sometimes, when it was time to get down to it, they showed respect to their instructor and to each other, and it was a good healthy dose of discipline for young and old alike.
I guess sometimes leaders have to be
followers in order to be better leaders.

Set the standard

Three pedals. I just didn’t understand why there are three pedals.
Who needs a clutch?
I sure never have — I’ve been an automatic driver up until now.
My car is ill; for the past few weeks I’ve been searching for a something else.
Trucks seem to be the vehicle of choice here in the Cariboo. But there’s a problem: most trucks are standard transmission.
Stick shifts do look fun to drive, and there are four-by-fours galore for sale in the classifieds and on roadsides.
Yet it’s hard to test drive a truck when you can’t actually drive it; I found that out when I looked at a great 1988 Toyota 4Runner last week and had to watch the seller drive it around the block for me.
When friends offered to sacrifice the transmission of their old Chevy S10 for the sake of my better stick handling, I was grateful.
But my appreciation mounted to frustration once I was in the driver’s seat.
“OK,” said my friend-turned-driving-instructor. “Put in the clutch, all the way, and start the car. Now, slowly bring you foot off the pedal while giving it gas.”
“That’s OK. Try again.”
We sat there for 20 minutes until the truck lurched forward and down the grassy hill of the yard.
“Now put the clutch in,” coaxed my ever-patient instructor, “and switch to second gear.”
I go to the end of the yard — into a sloped ditch — and slammed in the brake.
“Put it into reverse, bring out the clutch and hit the gas.”
I rolled down the window to get some air and cool my building aggravation toward the stupid truck. I thought about putting the stick in neutral and just rocking back in forth in my seat until it left the ditch by force.
Eventually I rolled it back enough to drive forward, and back up the hill.
I thought about how hard it would be to air drum or eat a sandwich while driving a standard, and started to think maybe it really wasn’t right for me.
“You know, your footwear isn’t exactly suitable for this.”
I looked down at my red thong-sandal heels slipping across the clutch, brake and gas.
There are three kinds of people in the world: automatic, manual/standard and chauffeured.
I want to be a standard, making my own way in life, not just cruising through on autopilot.
… But I can do that in other areas of my life; it doesn’t have to be in my car.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008