I’m far more inspired by these photos from the Paralympics than I was by anything I saw from the Olympics. There’s something much more moving about athletes overcoming physical adversity to even participate let alone win their events.

Some highlights:

  • high jump with only one leg
  • table tennis with irregularly formed hands
  • archery with feet
  • handstands without hands
  • blind running

Particular interesting are the measures taken to empower these athletes, such as guide runners for the blind, specialized prosthetics, and sports specifically designed around their capabilities (such as goalball). Also of interest is the rather sophisticated system for describing capabilities and disability used to ensure that athletes compete primarily with those who have similar capabilities.

While writing this, I started wondering whether disabled was a word I could use here, and eventually decided it wasn’t. If this isn’t an example of how physical adversity due to accident, genetics, or birth defect doesn’t necessarily ‘disable’ someone, I don’t know what else could be. These people are clearly just differently abled to the rest of us.


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Urgh. Just noticed the RSS feed URLs for this blog were wrong, and have been for at least 2 years. A copy and paste error when building the current site theme.


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There was a short opinion piece in the Press the other day about plans for the Avon River as Christchurch rebuilds. Read it here.

The plan they’re talking about is broadly that espoused by the Avon-Otakoro Network, and envisions rejuvenating the damaged lands along the river (where much of the heaviest quake damaged land is) by creating a park and reserve.

I’m generally in favor of something like that, and commented on the article accordingly:

I strongly support turning the banks of the Avon into a reserve. I don’t so much mind the specifics: a wetland, a park, a garden, or a common use space – all would be great, I think. A combination of the above would suit me best.

I think the following are important:

  • we shouldn’t rebuild houses that will slide into the river the next time we have a quake.
  • we shouldn’t solidify the banks with concrete. It’s tragic how deadened a city looks with that sort of land management.
  • we should use this as an opportunity to build and recast our city in a way that captures our shared ideals and that offers us opportunity to create meaning in our lives (whatever that means to each of us individually).
  • we shouldn’t let a small group of powerful individuals (be they politicians, business, or the wealthy) tell us how to use the land. It may be held by the government, but it’s our city, and we should have a say in how it’s used.
  • we should cater to as diverse a selection of citizen’s interests as possible.
  • we should respect and showcase the land and its flora and fauna. They’re a big part of what makes NZ so special. Living overseas as I have on and off for the last few years, I’m struck with how much the rest of the world is jealous of our country, and it makes me sad when we take that for granted.

I’d like to see nature reserves, bike trails, foot trails, gentle banks with willows, band rotundas, parks for markets and fairs, and more. So few cities have the opportunity to remake so much of themselves, and I’m really hoping we’ll be able to meet our own dreams and take advantage of that.

I grew up near Horseshoe Lake and the Avon. I’m in the US now, but I miss my home, and it strains me not to be able to be there as it rebuilds.


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Tomorrow morning, I start the Anatomy and Embryology class that all medical and dental students here at the University of Washington take. I’m neither, but since my PhD dissertation work centers around teaching anatomy, I’m taking it.

Anatomy is typically taught using a combination of methods: lectures, living anatomy, and dissection. Of these, dissection is the most remarkable and unique. There’s really no other field of study in which you are so closely exposed to the dead and thus to thoughts of your own mortality. It’s an intense experience. I’m not sure what to think, or how to feel.

I know from visiting the dissection labs briefly last year that I won’t simply freak out and be unable to cope. But, I also know that there’s a pervading sense of unease and queasiness from being in the room that I’ll have to cope with. It’s not clear to me if that will come with time, or whether it will take substantial reflection.

I know that the smell won’t be intense or even particularly bothersome. But, I also know that there’s a raw physicality to it all that reminds me too much of cured meat for that to be an attractive food stuff for some time.

I’m not worried about being shocked. On the contrary, I expect to be fixated and fascinated. I’m worried about the slow moving emotional effect of being around the dead, and what effect that will have on me. Worried is the wrong word – curious and a little apprehensive is probably more accurate. Curious because I want to know how it’ll affect me, and apprehensive because I really have no idea what to expect.

Regardless, it will be challenging, and intensely meaningful. If that doesn’t make something worth doing, I don’t know what is.


Posted in Life, Medicine & the Human Body, Personal | No Comments »
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