There is a direct relationship betwen skin dryness and the use indoor heat in winter, says a professor of environmental studies at UPEI.

Darren Bardati said indoor relative humidity in winter tends to drop unless humidity is added by a humidifer or an air exchanger.

“This latter system relies on outside humidity, which may also be quite low in winter but higher than indoors.”

Dry skin isn’t considered a serious medical condition but for chronic sufferers of dry skin, winter weather will often times make the condition worse.

Holland College nursing instructors Christie Lougheed Bambrick and Andrea Slysz said winter can be hard on the skin.

As in the summer, there are simple ways people can protect their skin in the winter.

“Put a scarf around your face,” said Slysz.

Lougheed Bambrick said skiiers sometimes don’t protect their face and end up with wind burn.

“Be mindful. Even in winter, your skin can be damaged.”

Heather Robinson of Economy, N.S. is a diabetic and suffers from dry skin all year long.

As a diabetic, my skin is drier than it used to be. Plus, my age plays a factor too.”

She uses a gentle cleanser and moisturizer which contains an SPF of at least 15 every day, Robinson said.

“Any product containing urea is really good for dry skin and is recommended in many diabetic resources.”

(Published in the March 12, 2009 issue of The Surveyor.)

Dead zones in the ocean will have a major impact on the fisheries industry, says an aquaculture student.

Trisha Lewis, 20, is a student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro and the daughter of a Five Islands fisherman.

Oceanic dead zones are caused by human-made chemicals, like certain fertilizers, entering the water systems. These particular ocean areas are low in oxygen and have become inhabitable by many species of fish.

All living species need oxygen to live, said Lewis.

“When there is a lack of oxygen, living species may no longer be supported. In areas where there is a decreased oxygen, many fish may be faced with hypoxia.”

Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the fish’s tissues. This can be lethal if the species doesn’t find a way to get the oxygen it needs, she said.

“Hypoxia can lead to death very quickly and it is very stressful for the fish, which means the immune system will also become weak and the fish will be more susceptible to disease.”

The oceans are affected by a decrease in fish and also an increase in organic matter settling on the bottom of the areas with decreased oxygen.

“If dead zones are created, many aquatic species will no longer be able to live in those areas and be forced to go to other areas of the ocean which do have an adequate supply of oxygen,” Lewis said.

These dead zones can have a huge impact on the fishing industry if something isn’t done soon, she said.

“Since these dead zones are usually along coastal areas, fish will begin to move into deeper waters.”

Many people fish for recreation along the coast and many fish for a living, she said.

“If the fish are forced to move, the fishermen may see a decrease in their catch which directly affects their pocket book as well as the supply of fish for people to eat.”

Central Northumberland Strait Fisherman’s Association president Mike McGeoghegan is troubled by the issue.

“It is a concern,” he said.

McGeoghegan, a commercial lobster and crab fisherman, said it doesn’t take much to upset the environmental balance.

“The ecosystem is very fragile.”

However, he’s skeptical about these types of reports and the science community.

“Our voices are not heard very well,” he said.

These dead zones – and other oceanic anomalies – could be better understood by the scientific community by working closer with people who are impacted by them most, he said.

“When you’ve been out on the water, you learn a few things.”

(Published in the March 12, 2009 issue of The Surveyor.)

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Holland College primary care paramedicine students Amanda Dyke of Truro, N.S. and Geneieve Ferris of Dartmouth, N.S. learned plenty about people skills and dealing with the family of patients while on their recent on-the-job training.

Dyke, 20, said she felt prepared for most of the challenges OJT could and did provide.

“We had a list of skills to check off anyways on OJT. I got to do all my mandatory skills, such as spinal immobilizations and CPR and all the other ones.”

Ferris, 22, said she had no expectations before leaving the safety of the classroom and heading out in an ambulance.

“Like usual, people are like, ‘Ah, I’m gonna see something gross and disgusting.’ Then you actually see something gross and disgusting. I didn’t find that it was too bad.”

Dealing with upset family members was a new challenge and one that is sometimes hard to deal with, said Ferris.

“It’s different dealing with the patient and some of the stuff they’re going through. It’s 100 per cent different dealing with the family who’s screaming and whatnot.”

Dyke and Ferris returned to Charlottetown in early February to continue their training, concentrating on trauma, paediatrics and toxicology.

So, some of the cases I saw… say, toxicology and trauma, my preceptor kind of said, ‘OK. You’re gonna watch this and watch what we’re doing and we’ll get you to help in the ways that you can,’” Dyke said.

One patient had to have a splint put on his broken femur, she said.

“And I had no idea how to do it ‘cause we haven’t done it yet. So, I got to watch them do it and learn from it.”

Each student is assigned to a preceptor, Dyke explained.

“It’s kind of the person who’s in charge of you, in charge of your safety and well-being while you’re there. And they’re your teacher.”

Ferris said different types of patients make for different types of experiences and can make or break a medic’s shift.

“You’re taking these really nice – well, most of the time – really nice geriatric people and you’re taking them from hospital to hospital and they’re so excited with the fact that they’re actually getting outside.”

Just being able to see the sky from the back windows of the ambulance is a treat for them, Ferris said.

“It’s like a child going to Disneyland and they’re in the back of your ambulance going for a transfer.”

Dealing with children is a lot different than dealing with adults, said Ferris.

“We had one. We were trying to take his blood pressure and we said, ‘We’re going to take your blood pressure.’ And he thought we were gonna give him a needle or something and he started to bawl.”

Dyke said paramedics travel all over the area they are assigned to.

“Sometimes we went to the city. Sometimes we went to New Glasgow. Sometimes we went to Kentville. It all kind of depends on where dispatch puts you.”

It’s hard to train for particular situations in class, Dyke said, so hands-on training is important for this particular program.

“You can go through scenarios in class on how to communicate with patients but you can’t really learn that stuff until you’re out doing it.”

After graduation, Dyke plans to get work in Nova Scotia and possibly New Brunswick.

“And then from there, after a few years as primary care paramedic, I’m going to do my ACP (advanced care paramedicine).”

Ferris hopes to work in triage at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“I’m going to take different training courses, stuff like that. See if I can get onto an EMT swat,” she said.

Ferris said she learned many things during her OJT but quickly realized her fondness for people.

“I swear to God, you can be the crankiest god d*** person on the planet and I will make you laugh. Give me 15 minutes.”

Besides dealing with upset family members and personal grief towards patients, there are lots of other things that no PCP student can learn from a textbook.

“They throw you out there. Here, you know the human system,” Ferris said. “Now learn the human soul.”

(Published in the March 5 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

The renaming of a king

March 5, 2009

Not that many college-age kids give a flying cod piece but this year marks the 500th anniversary of the coronation of English king Henry VIII.

I know. Exciting stuff. You can barely withstand your exhilaration, I can tell.

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Illustration by Natasha Kudashkina

I happen to be a long-time fan of Henry Tudor and his various achievements. He’s best-known for being a turkey leg-eating, wife-beheading womanizer who was a strict Catholic one minute and an anti-papal bad boy the next.

But despite his bad reputation, some historians want King Harry to be bestowed with the title of “Henry The Great” (and not just because of his size). And what better time to give Henry the title than this?

But what’s so “great” about this guy anyway? He’s been dead for, like, a million years. Why is his story still relevant?

(Actually, he’s only been dead for about 460 years, but I digress.)

Henry had his faults, especially when he was older. But compared to his royal contemporaries, he was a chivalrous romantic, inspired by whimsical tales of King Arthur and his court.

He divorced his first wife, a Spanish princess, to marry someone he was in love with, something that no other English king had ever done. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, was executed on charges of adultery that were almost certainly false.

His third wife died in childbirth and his fourth wife, a German princess, agreed to a divorce and lived wealthy for the rest of her life. Henry’s fifth wife, a 16-year-old, was executed for adultery (but at least this time, the charges weren’t so fake).

His son, Edward VI, died of tuberculosis when he was a teenager. His daughter Mary burnt hundreds of Protestants and earned the title ” Bloody Mary”. However, his daughter by Boleyn, Elizabeth I, is known as one of the greatest monarchs in history.

One of Elizabeth’s greatest victories was the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It was her father who poured so much money into the impressive English navy.

Henry VIII was able to divorce his wives because he (and his councillors, many of whom helped Henry along his path to greatness) simply changed the law.

He was born a Catholic but rejected the Pope’s wishes, named himself Head of the Church of England, divorced Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn.

I don’t know about you, but risking purgatory so you can marry the woman you love is a bit romantic, isn’t it?

Henry continued searching for the perfect queen until a few years before his death, a wife who would deliver him a healthy son who would carry on the Tudor family tree. His final wife, Katherine Parr, acted as nurse and companion when Henry was bed-ridden and far too ill to conceive.

Henry VIII died in 1547. During his life, he was a patron of the arts and the first English monarch to authorize an English-language Bible. By separating England from the power of Rome, Henry instilled a sense of identity and pride in his people.

He may not have been the perfect ruler, it’s true. But any fan of English history can tell you there’s no such thing and no such person.

If Henry was anything, he was one of the more human of all the English monarchs. And definitely one of the most interesting.

And for that reason, he deserves to be called “Henry The Great.”

(Published in the March 5 2009 edition of The Surveyor. Also featured as a guest post on historical blog Tudor Stuff.)

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The economic crisis isn’t affecting P.E.I. pet owners – yet – says an Island animal shelter employee.

P.E.I. Humane Society development coordinator Kelly Mullaly said there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of dogs left at the shelter compared to this time last year.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure why and we’re not sure if that would go necessarily back to people having some economic problems now. It’s possible, since it is more expensive to take care of a dog than to take care of a cat.”

But the number of pets being dropped off at the shelter has increased by a huge percentage in the past few months, she said.

“We’re kind of taking a watch and wait position right now. It hasn’t been very dramatic for us but we don’t know what this year is going to hold and the next year after that. It almost feels like the worst is still to come.”

Over the past couple of years, people have left their pets because the owners are leaving the Island to work in more prosperous provinces, particularly Alberta, Mullaly said.

“That has slowed down, obviously, because not so many people are going out west.”

The shelter has received more calls recently about litters of puppies or kittens and owners not being able to afford to feed them, Mullaly said.

“So, we have felt it a little bit. But maybe not as dramatically as some of the other parts of Canada have.”

People may have to start making some decisions about their priorities on where they are spending their money, she added.

“They may be changing the food or the cost of the food they buy for their pet. The extras, like toys and treats may have fallen off the list. Hard to say for sure.”

But the actual animals weren’t the only thing that Humane Society staff have to worry about in these uncertain times. Fundraising is also a major issue.

“We were very concerned that that was probably going to take a big dip because peoples’ priorities have to change a little bit. But thank goodness, we’ve been holding steady in that regard, too.”

Volunteers haven’t been in short suppy at the shelter recently either, Mullaly said.

“Maybe because some folks are having trouble finding work or as much work as they want to and they want to keep their résumé well-rounded by doing that kind of work with us.”

The Tack Store in Charlottetown sells gear for horseback riding. Employee Jenifer Dyment said horses are a bit different than other pets in concerns of economic issues, as they are usually non-negotiable.

An owner might move their horse to a cheaper location, but for most horse owners, they are pets, like your cat or dog. When cash gets tight, you don’t sell. You adapt.

Nova Scotia Agricultural College student and animal lover Nicole Hawkes worked at a veterinary clinic in Sackville, N.B. during the summer of 2008.

She said grooming prices have gone up and vet charges have generally stayed the same, but the economic crisis definitely is taking a toll on pets.

There are lots of people who need to give there pets up because they can’t afford it.”

Animal control officers often times have to collect pets from homes when families can’t afford to care of them, Hawkes said.

“This one lady told us all about how people can’t afford to look after them or that people just don’t admit it and have there pets taken away from them.”

According to the British Columbia SPCA, the economy is affecting the health of animals.

Because of financial troubles, many families are not able to fulfill the needs of their pets. People are buying lower quality pet food and taking their pet to the veterinarian less often.

Some cities have set up pet food banks in order to help struggling pet owners in their, and their furry companion’s, time of need.

(Published in the March 6 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

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Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst star in How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, released on DVD on Feb. 17. Photo courtesy of MGM.

Based on Toby Young’s 2001 memoir of the same title, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is a cliché from start to finish and a knock-off of five other movies, all of which are better than this one.

As an avid fan of romantic comedies and English actor Simon Pegg, I had high hopes for this film. I really did. It looked clever and cute. And who doesn’t love peering into the glamorous lives of A-list celebrities like a voyeur?

Pegg’s character, Sydney Young, is a struggling journalist in London who gets the opportunity to work for a prestigious celebrity magazine in New York. He tries to be different and write what he wants but ends up selling his soul and bowing to the powers of those who can help his career progress.

Pegg’s characters are always lovable. They’re always a bit clumsy and awkwardly charming. And good for him for breaking into American film, even if it wasn’t a great one. But he brings that weird, nerdy, English charm to all his projects, making him a pleasure to watch on-screen, even in this piece of cinematic garbage.

There was nothing fresh or new about this film. The characters are generic beyond compare and the story has been done a thousand times. An underdog gets the chance to see how the celebrities live, only to find that it’s not as fabulous as they always thought. (How original!)

This film is generally a lesser version of The Devil Wears Prada (2006) but with a male lead. Fashion models are replaced by movie stars and Meryl Streep is replaced by Jeff Bridges as the scary, intimidating editor.

Kudos, though, to Gillian Anderson (of X-Files fame) for her performance of high profile publicist Eleanor Johnson. She was fabulous and scary. Megan Fox (Transformers, Hope & Faith) plays the young, pouted-lipped celebrity Sophie Maes and the object of Young’s lust. 

Kirsten Dunst portrays Young’s love interest and fellow journalist, Alison Olsen. She’s a serious writer who is trapped writing the fluff stories she always despised. She hates her life and, at one point, is seen drowning her sorrows away by drinking wine right from the bottle. (My kinda girl.) 

At one point, a scene is directly copied from There’s Something About Mary (1998). Young tries to befriend the dog of a love interest. Instead of seriously wounding the dog (like Ben Stiller’s character did), Young accidentally kills the dog. (Call me old-fashioned but a dead dog doesn’t make for good comedy.)

The film doesn’t paint journalists in a positive light. But it’s honest in its portrayal of competition in an office environment (except for a particularly awkward scene involving an office prank and a stripper). It also explores the friendships and rivalries that develop between coworkers.

I chuckled seven times during this movie, which runs almost two hours long. (Yes, I counted.) And I don’t mean to demean myself or my sense of humour, but generally, I’m easily amused. So, that says something.

Despite this waste of money and time, the film has a wonderful soundtrack, featuring Joey Ramone, The Kinks, Scissor Sisters and The Killers. Instead of renting this movie, just go buy the soundtrack. And then go rent The Devil Wears Prada and pretend Anne Hathaway is a dude.

(Published in the March 5 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

Co-ed’s business plan may have emotional consequences

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A 22-year-old California university student who is selling her virginity to the highest bidder in an online auction to pay for her tuition may have relationship problems in the future, says a UPEI professor.

The young woman, who goes by the pseudonym “Natalie Dylan”, recently graduated from Sacramento State University with a degree in Women’s Studies. She wants to continue her education and earn a master’s in Psychology.

But instead of getting a summer job and a student loan like the average college student, Dylan is accepting bids for her virginity.

Dylan agreed to spend a night with the highest bidder at the Moonlite BunnyRanch in Nevada, a licensed brothel.

So far, Dylan said she’s received over 10,000 bids with a current highest bid of $3.7 million. Half of the profits of the winning bid will go to BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof.

Peter Koritansky, a Religious Studies professor at UPEI, said what Dylan is doing doesn’t come from a failure to see the value of virginity but from a failure to see the value of sexuality.

“There was a time when sex was understood to be something sacred, not necessarily in the religious sense. That is, something belonging to the very core of who we are as human beings and therefore not something to be taken lightly or treated as merely recreational.”

The fact that Dylan has made her sexuality into a commodity is disturbing, Koritansky said.

I believe she will find out, it has the effect of an extreme self-degradation.”

Koritansky said Dylan’s actions may cause problems in any intimate sexual relationship, including marriage, she has in the future.

“She will come face to face with the fact that she’s severely damaged her ability to use sex as a means of expressing love.”

More people are reporting that engaging in meaningless, recreational sex early in life seriously hinders one’s ability to have a meaningful sexual relationship in the future, said Koritansky.

That she’s become a prostitute only makes matters worse.”

Rose Michels, the financial secretary of the Women of Steel chapter at IMP Aerospace Components in Amherst, N.S, said Dylan was wrong to offer her virginity to the highest bidder.

But we don’t know about her situation. I know that is no way to show respect for your body or anyone else,” she said.

First year Holland College Culinary Arts student Caitlin Hueser said she understands the need for money but found Dylan’s story very disappointing.

“Selling your body, I don’t know. It’s… ew.”

Something as important as your body shouldn’t be sold, Hueser.

“That’s something that’s priceless.”

(Published in the February 26 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

Twenty-one-year-old mountain climbers fall to their deaths in the French Alps

The weather likely wasn’t a factor in the recent death of a young mountain climber, says a climbing enthusiast.

Substitute teacher Chris Ferguson made the comment following the recent deaths of two young mountain climbers in the French Alps.

Ferguson lives in British Columbia and has over 15 years of mountain-climbing experience. He has climbed in Alaska, the Yukon, the Rockies, Wyoming, Nevada, California and British Columbia.

Ferguson said he’s likely summitted about 200 mountains.

“This, however, tells you nothing about skill and real experience when it comes to climbing. I’ve also spent probably hundreds of days climbing where getting to a summit was never the point.”

Mountain climbing features several different categories: ice, rock, mixed, big-wall, alpine/mountaineering and bouldering.

The range of ability in each of these is exceptionally broad, Ferguson said.

“Many of the world’s elite climbers do things on par with world record holder Olympians and dedicate their lives as much or more. Some climbing types are very safe while others have very serious consequences.”

Rob Gauntlett set a record in 2007 when he became the youngest British climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Randy Campbell, an outdoor leadership instructor in the Sport and Leisure Management program at Holland College, said Gauntlett’s climbing training would have been extensive.

I don’t believe that Mount Everest is an incredibly technical mountain, but being that it is the tallest in the world, it is huge challenge.”

Gauntlett’s age would have been an asset while climbing Everest, Ferguson said.

“Young legs and heart would be an advantage. Too young and you might have a harder time carrying some of the weight required to move up the mountain, although that can be minimized through the use of sherpas.”

Between April 2007 and October 2008, Gauntlett and John Hooper, his climbing partner for Everest, traveled from the North to the South Pole to help raise awareness of climate change. They traveled using skis, dog sled, yacht and bicycle.

In January, the bodies of Gauntlett and a climbing companion were found in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc area of the French Alps. The two climbers fell while ice climbing. Gauntlett and his partner were 21.

They were on a route called the Gervasutti Couloir,  Ferguson said.

“A couloir is a 45-50 degree gash up the side of a mountain, usually filled with snow and or ice.”

This particular couloirs was flat enough to ski, Ferguson said.

“Other climbers found them accidentally, so I do not think the weather was a factor.”

Ferguson said it’s hard to say what exactly went wrong during the climb.

Fatigue and poor decisions are almost always involved.”

Mount Everest was first summitted by Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese sherpa, in 1953.

The record-holder for youngest person to climb Everest is held by Temba Tsheri of Nepal who reached the summit at age 16 and lost five fingers to frostbite. 

(Published in the February 26, 2009 edition of The Surveyor.)

Two articles in The Surveyor

November 27, 2008

In last week’s issue of Holland College’s newspaper, The Surveyor, I had my article on the new Fundamental Arts program (and the new instructor that is teaching it) published. So, that was pretty cool.

This week, my interview with Cape Breton musician Carmen Townsend was published. I only wish the photograph was a little better.