Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Share Your Story with Arthritis Research UK

Week in the UK.  Arthritis Research UK is a wonderful organization committed to find ways to prevent the onset of arthritis, develop a cure, and to transform the lives of those who live with the different types of arthritis

One of the biggest challenges in living with arthritis is that it’s hard to make others understand what it’s really like, day in and day out. For this week, they’ve developed a wonderful initiative to help break down the barriers to understanding between people with arthritis and the rest of the world.

Share Your Day is an online initiative in which people can pose a story of the challenges of living with arthritis and the triumphs, too, on the Arthritis Research UK site. Already, a lot of wonderful stories have been posted that shine a light on some incredible lives.

But that’s not all. Arthritis Research UK will use the stories you post to guide the research a fund in 2016. Pretty cool, huh?

This isn’t just for people who live in the UK — anyone can tell their story.

What will you post about?

Friday, October 09, 2015

Volcanoes in Toronto

For as long as I can remember, I have been completely fascinated by volcanoes. More specifically, erupting volcanoes. That incredible power, the smoke, the flying rocks, and the lava. Especially the lava. Realizing that we are all living on top of a sea of molten rock — okay, magma. Great word — has a way of making you feel not quite so much on the top of the food chain. But at the core of it all (see what I did there?), I am transfixed by watching glowing, viscous lava inexorably moving over the landscape. I remember watching coverage of an Icelandic volcano erupting when I was a child — it could’ve been the one in 1973 — seeing houses on fire and being captivated by watching the lava flow into the ocean. Ever since, I’ve wanted to see lava up close and photos like this just makes me want it even more. 

Unfortunately, my tires are made of rubber. Also, lava fields are usually not known for being accessible.

This past weekend, my long-dampened fascination for volcanoes was reignited (sorry, just can’t help myself). In the afternoon, we went to see the Pompeii exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. And it was incredible.

They hit you with the horror of it in the very first piece of the exhibit, the famous guard dog that kept climbing on top of the ever-increasing piles of ash until its leash kept it from climbing further.

(click photos to embiggen)

Cave Canem or Beware of Dog Sign

On the second day, they say, a pyroclastic surge sent toxic gases and rocks pummeling into Pompeii, killing everyone who remained. The heat that followed caused tendons and muscles in the dead to contract, leaving them in contorted positions.

All of a sudden, volcanic eruptions and lava began to shed their scientific and pyromaniacal appeal just a little.

Figs that never became dinner

After that initial bit of education into what happened, the exhibit takes a step back to show us Pompeii before the eruption. And it does so brilliantly, showing a treasure trove of artifacts arranged in different categories, including food, shopping, politics, entertainment, religion, and more. Each section has just enough to build and feed your interest, without challenging the attention span. There are items behind glass, items out in the open, and enough hands-on pieces that all of your senses are engaged.

A ceiling tile featuring Medusa

A saucepan

Just when you think that it’s close to over and the piece at the beginning is the only part that mentions the disaster, you see this

And then you turn a corner and see the dead.

Well, they aren`t the actual dead – these are replicas of the original molds made of the hollows within the ash that used to be people. And they hit you hard, these shapes so recognizable as someone just like us, so evocative of the emotion they felt at the time of death. There was a silence in this part of the exhibit, a reverence, and more than a few tears.

You’d think that was enough for one day, but we had plans for another adventure in the evening. It was Nuit Blanche, the annual night-long art party. We were especially interested in the Beaufort series, located along the shore of the lake, exploring wind speeds at sea (named after the Beaufort scale). And luckily, nature had obliged and provided quite a bit of wind. Steady strong wind with gusts of up to 65 km/hr (that’s 40 m/hr for the Celsius-impaired). On the Beaufort scale, that’s a fresh gale at force 8.

“Fresh.” Right. So cold it took us hours to warm up afterwards.

Beaufort 1: Dispersal Zone took full advantage of the wind, lending a wonderfully eerie quality to the dark streets. Instead of falling in a “glowing deluge” to the ground as planned, the gale force winds sent the smoke streaming from the street lamps, glowing trails connecting each lamp to the next. It was beautiful.

But for me — perhaps not surprisingly — the pièce de résistance was Beaufort 4: Lava Field No.2. Five years in the making, this was exactly what it said. A lava field created by a coke-fueled cupola apparently capable of producing temperatures up to 1800°.

The technicalities didn’t matter. What mattered was the magic of seeing lava up close, inexorably moving across over the landscape. In the dark and helped by the wind, it transformed the scene from a parking lot to a lava field on Iceland. Beautiful. Disturbing. Compelling.

And a wish granted.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Your Life with RA Book Two is Actually Happening

Is it really so? Am I actively working on the second book in the Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis series? 

Yes, I am!

Fiction writers talk about the characters taking over the book. It’s a wonderful experience to be writing with a bit of a plan going on and all of a sudden the characters or the action go in a different, often better, direction. When the book takes over, becomes an active partner in the writing process, it’s magic. It is what gets you addicted to writing.

It also happens when you write nonfiction.

To read the rest of this post, hop on over to Your Life with RA.