The trials and tribulations of a new knitter...

What Vancouver Is Not

Few cities can match Vancouver's culture of fitness and commitment to healthy living, to be a smoker in Vancouver is to be as close to an outcast as one can be without actually being one. You will be met with sneers, people taking wide berths around you on the street, potential romantic interests turning up their nose at you, and should you succeed in getting invited to a public event, admitting you smoke just may cost you 5 minutes of lecturing.

Yet, for all Vancouver's fervor for fitness, the city produces a sparse few highly competitive athletes. Not zero, but too few, given its culture. Vancouver is not a breeding ground for top notch athletes. For Vancouverites, everything is a lifestyle, and to be taken in moderation, albeit seriously. The few aspiring professionals Vancouver produces are lauded by one and all, and held up as pinnacles of all that Vancouver stands for, but surely not a realistic example for the weekend warriors.

Vancouver most definitely considers itself a trendy city, and people allocate the necessary spending to stay up to date with fashion, this is clear as you walk down any street. Not only this, but underground street scene movements buck trends, creating the tension between commercial fashion and street fashion necessary for any city to call itself a fashion centre. Despite this, Vancouver is sorely lacking in leading fashion designers whose name you might have heard. Not that there aren't aspiring designers who show potential, but of those who make a name for themselves beyond Vancouver, the list is short, too short.

Vancouverites love their culture, they love experiencing new cultures, they're exceedingly open minded to new ideas and creative thinking. The concept that is, but when it comes to being creative, actually getting out of the box, again, Vancouverites fall short. Notable Vancouver artists are few, the city claims some impressive musicians as its own, but again, it's still a short, although impressive list. Bryan Adams and Sarah McLaughlin(actually from the east coast, though moved to Vancouver as a young adult), made it so big that nobody questions Vancouver's musical success, but it's been a long while since the city produced such a success, or even any real success. You could argue 9 inch nails, if you're into that kind of music.

The same goes for artists, painters, and writers. A few standouts, but again, the list is short considering Vancouver's reputation and culture as a city of arts and lifestyle, not to mention two million people. Ironically, Inuit art has found many fans in Europe and Asia, which consider it some of the world's oldest and most precious remnants of former civilizations. The Inuit people have been largely pushed aside by the Canadian government, shuffled off to reservations, or more recently, allotted their own land as a "gift." With their recognition by many nations as legitimate societies within the Canadian society, the government has a newfound respect and appreciation for them, as does the rest of the world.

Some things Vancouver does well, but yet are not widely considered part of its culture are media, particularly the alternative variety, driven by regular people, not large media outlets. Vancouverites have a healthy distrust for media, due to their environmental stance, which for many years was maligned by big business. This fits hand in glove with the tech scene, another foray which Vancouverites excel at, and which produces plenty of Vancouver blogs. Often, a Vancouver blogger is first and foremost a techie, capable of creating his own credible blog which he maintains and promotes all on his own. From there, a topic will be chosen, or most often, a general topic which leaves room for a wide variety of discussions.

Vancouverites love technology, and they're good at it too, so good that Vancouver is home to a number of world class technology companies and the birthplace of companies like EA studios and Hootsuite. Somehow though, this hasn't permeated the culture the way you might expect it to, which is very much lifestyle and balance driven. Perhaps that's why, since all work takes a back seat to lifestyle in Vancouver, the lifestyle city.

Canada phone cards
Michael Yates is a Vancouver blogger.

You Do Not Know This Positive Bangladesh!

A centered red circle atop a vast green filed represents the color scheme of Bangladesh national flag. Red symbolizes the rising sun and blood of freedom fighters in 1971 and green stands for the greenness of its land. You may not see this flag very often; some of you may even raise eyebrows and mumble "Oh! It is a poor overpopulated South Asian country kissing the Bay of Bengal." Some other may recall scenic parliament compound being one of the nicest architectural wonders, or famous Royal Bengal tiger prowling in the Sundarban forest (a world heritage), or Cox's Bazaar being the largest unbroken sea beach. Bingo! This story tells about that country, but offers a more positive Bangladesh.

The "bottomless basket" of Mr. Henry Kissinger, the then US foreign minister, has turned out to be a basket of potentiality and resourcefulness in the course of time. Mr. Kissinger envisaged its bleak economic future. Surprisingly, the country has bounced back with a vengeance to find itself among the top 50 largest economies in the world, considering the GDP in purchasing power terms. Since the early 1990s Bangladesh has been registering steady and strong economic growth with an average constant rate of about 6% each year. A dream growth for most developing countries! The World Bank recognizes this surprising economic resilience terming it as "development paradox". The outstandingly stable growth also attracts global economists' attention. Goldman Sachs, a renowned American multinational investment banking firm, has identified Bangladesh as one of the eleven countries who have immense potential for growth and development. N-11 has huge potential to become largest economies in the 21st century. The United Nations also recognizes its gradual improvement in social development indexes. Bangladesh boasts of having one of those few economies that quite successfully survived the impact of global economic recession during 2008-09. Economic growth never halted during that trying period.

Bangladesh has adopted holistic approach to ensure unfettered progress. Prudent fiscal and monetary policies restrain the inflation rate within a manageable single digit. Sluggish international trade hardly contains the satisfactory growth in export rate. Garments, the big export item, earned nearly 10 billion US dollar in 2012-13 fiscal year. Fitting short and medium term macroeconomic policies set the direction and purpose well. Huge and ever increasing incoming foreign remittance keeps the economy healthy. Bangladesh has never defaulted in paying back foreign loans. For better management, Bangladesh also gives special preference to digitization process in every sector of governance. It has sets a target to materialize a "digital Bangladesh" dream by 2021.

Alongside the economic development, Bangladesh has also achieved remarkable progress in social sector. Income poverty has reduced to half. Bangladesh has ensured a firm footing by reaching many targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The UN has awarded Bangladesh government for achieving several targets of MDG well before the deadline. The country is being considered a role model for meeting most of the MDG deadlines in time. Per capita national income of this country, a long-time leader of Least Developed Countries, has already crossed the threshold of 1000 US dollar in this very year (2013).

The country's success in international arena also deserves due attention. As a responsible nation, Bangladesh takes active part in the UN peacekeeping missions. It has already attained a good standing in this respect among the nations. This role duly reflects the urge of the country in maintaining world peace. By now, Bangladesh has become world's largest contributor to peacekeeping mission.

Positive Bangladesh gleams with success in various other sectors. Though overpopulated, Bangladesh achieved enviable feat by attaining self-sufficiency in food grains. Not many of the world communities have such commendable success. Being one of the most natural disaster-prone countries, Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters. It fights successfully with the problem and by now the ordeal has made Bangladesh a global leader in disaster management and risk reduction. Bangladesh also has leadership role in Non-government Organization (NGO) sector worldwide. BRAC, an international development NGO originated as well as based in Bangladesh, is presently the world's largest NGO of the kind, in terms of number of employees and beneficiaries. Bangladesh propounds worldwide the concepts of micro-credit and social business.

Positive Bangladesh also does not lag behind in research activities. Some recent milestone inventions have glorified the proud existence of Bangladesh in the arena of science. Despite limited resources and opportunity, the enthusiastic Bangladeshi scientists have invented the genome sequence of jute. Besides, they have also decoded the DNA make-up of a deadly fungus which is harmful to plants. Bangladesh further invented the world first SONO arsenic water filter technology. This invention helps in obtaining arsenic-free safe water. Scientists have also developed a bone graft implant technology which helps generate damaged or lost bones.

The success stories are unlimited. Strong, independent and vibrating print and electronic media of Bangladesh truly reflects the aspiration of common people. Its burgeoning civil society is rapidly gaining strong ground. Bangladesh has also achieved a stronghold in pharmaceutical industry. Bangladesh secures 12th position among the countries using mobile phones. Though 3rd largest Muslim country, Bangladesh boasts constitutionally secular stance and state mechanism itself successfully combats and downsizes religious militants.

We do believe that this is the time Bangladesh gets due positive attention. The relentless fighting spirit of 170 million Bangladesh citizens must not go unnoticed.

This is Mir Md. Amtazul Hoque from Bangladesh and I work as a legal professional. I nourish a specific target of promoting positive aspects of my Country and desire that all aspiring Bangladesh citizens and other well-wishers join this endeavor. Mir M.d Amtazul Hoque

How Important Are Rainforests to Our Global Ecosystem?

Tropical rainforests are found all across the world just below the Equator belt. Almost half of the remaining tropical rainforest is to be found in South America. One out of four ingredients in our medicine is from rainforest plants. 80% of flowers in the Australian rainforest cannot be found anywhere else. The rainforests of central Africa are home to more than 8,000 different species of plants. These amazing places cover only 6% of the world's surface but they contain over half of the world's animal and plant species.

A rainforest can be described as a tall, dense jungle. The reason it is called a "rain" forest is because of the high amount of rainfall it gets per year. The climate of a rain forest is very hot and humid so the animals and plants that exist there must learn to adapt to this climate.

Today tropical rainforests are disappearing from the face of the globe at a very quick rate. An area of a rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed each second. Even though international concern is finally growing, rainforests continue to be destroyed faster than 80,000 acres a day. World rainforest cover now stands at around 2.5 million square miles, an area about the size of the United States of America or Australia and it represents around 6% of the world's land surface. A lot of this area has been influenced by human activities and no longer has "full biodiversity".

But why are the trees disappearing? They are being destroyed by human activities, both ignorantly and also sometimes purposefully. In the past 50 years much of the rainforest in Africa and Asia has been destroyed. Large areas of rainforest are being cut down, often in order to remove just a few logs, and rainforest is being destroyed at double the rate of all previous estimates. Unfortunately this means that there is a very high rate of extinction, as the wildlife depending on the forest dies with it.

One example of this is cattle ranching. Lots more people are beginning to eat beef in large quantities, so more cattle have to be bred to meet the demand. However, what many people do not realize is that cattle are one of the worst animals to breed. They create lots of methane in the atmosphere and they ruin the land after a few years by continually going over it with their heavy weights, puling up the grass by the roots when they eat.

In damp moist areas like the UK and northern Europe, this doesn't matter. However, cattle ranching in hot tropical places like the Amazon rainforest, there are no trees to catch the rain when it falls onto the land where the cattle are being farmed. Why are there no trees? Because they have been cut away to make room for cattle and their ranchers.

Whenever it is not raining here, it is hot, and the wet mud dries and becomes hard and difficult. Even grass will no longer be able to grow in the soil. The soil is not protected and is being dissolved by rain so that it becomes just dirty brown puddles, and there is simply no way for new growth to occur, for the earth to renew itself. Eventually, in this manner, and many more besides there will be no forest left and no space to grow it back on.

Of course, I am talking of only one of many many reasons why the rainforest is disappearing. Some other examples include the burning of the forests, mining oil and natural gas, and logging.

The solution to this problem must be based on what is possible, and depends on developing a new conservation policy built on the principle of "sustainable use and development of rainforests". Efforts to bring back ruined forests along with the launch of protected areas are crucial in securing rainforests for the long-term benefits they can provide us.

Charities like "Rainforest Concern" have specific projects to help the conservation and protection of rainforests. One of the projects that this particular charity has is called; "The Choco-Andean Corridor Project" in Ecuador. The objective is to create "habitat connectivity" to help species survival by linking the last unprotected forests between the Maquipucuna, Mindo y Pululahua reserves to the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve and going north to the Awa Reserve in the province of Esmeraldas. They have been working on this project since 1993. That's over 10 years!

What can we do to help? We can start by trying not to buy anything grown in rainforest regions, and to not buy furniture made from tropical wood, such as mahogany. However, staying in the UK, there isn't a lot that we can do, other than helping to sponsor charities and giving donations to help them out.

Some people do not realise how important the Tropical Rainforest is to everyone on the planet. For a start, it helps to regulate our planet; turning our waste carbon dioxide into oxygen again for us to use. They absorb the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and provide the oxygen we need to breathe. When rainforest trees are burnt they release that carbon dioxide, which pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Deforestation is in fact considered the second major driver of climate change, responsible for 18-25% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions!

They also act like a sponge for the world's water, soaking it up from the soil and releasing it back into the atmosphere. In fact, it is commonly believed that the Amazonian rainforests alone store more than half of the planet's rainwater! Without rainforests continually recycling huge quantities of water, feeding the rivers, lakes and irrigation systems, droughts would become more common, potentially leading to widespread famine and disease.

So, tropical rainforests are vital to our planet, and to us. They are even often nicknamed "The lungs of Mother Earth". We have to do our best to help save them by supporting the charities who try everyday to keep the rainforests in check. We should also cut down on imports from rainforests and keep an eye on where our oil, food and furniture come from. Hopefully, one day, we can save the rainforests and, because of that, save the planet as well.

Want to read more from this interesting author?? There are a couple of things you can do. First, go to this site to read writer related articles as well as chapters from her novel. Second, go to this site for articles pertaining to all sorts of issues. J M Hart

The Opposite Of Junk Mail

It remains a great thrill for me to receive a handwritten envelope in the post whether it contain a card or a letter. In our ever increasingly digital lives, it's become a relatively rare event; but because of that, increasingly special.

Receiving a handwritten letter or card immediately tells me that the sender has invested a degree of time, thought and energy well beyond that of the user of Emails, text messages and or glib comments on social media sites. In my perception any expressed feelings of gratitude, appreciation, support etc., are going to carry more weight with them in the written form.

Certainly, when sending such thoughts and messages the phrase 'there's no school like the old school' rings true for me. This is my opportunity to amplify my feelings, customize them, choose the specific carrier (funny, thoughtful, sincere, appropriate, seasonal etc.) - making the message itself much more unique and impactful.

Here's another thing too - with a physical carrier like an envelope (or packet) you can easily enclose something additional to enhance the message or surprise the person your communicating with. My perennial favourite is to tear out interesting newspaper articles (funny, sad, moving, inspiring) and distribute them amongst friends in a random pattern in cards and letters over the coming months, sometimes years.

Of course, being a 21st century citizen, I do make frequent use of Email, the telephone, text messaging and social media services. Immediacy and ease are often good or essential - 'horses for courses'. But, do you know what? Already (for me anyway) these have turned into utilitarian communications mechanisms - quick, easy, cheap... shallow? Is this just me; one size does not fit all?

I feel like I'm on a crusade to encourage more people to take some time and thought to express things properly, when it really matters. When I want to demonstrate real gratitude, love, empathy, sympathy etc., there's nothing like doing it by dropping someone a note, a letter or a card. It's good karma - and you get to feel good too!

Lastly, and here's the BIG difference between the handwritten communication and 'junk mail'; permanence. Physical reality turns into keeps sake. It remains with us because it is special - it made us laugh, cry, smile, remember. It made a real connection, albeit from afar. Somehow, it makes us human. It offers us the opportunity to express ourselves with more freedom and effect. Hopefully, the message will mean more, and last longer, when its received. Karen Bowden

Can Spirituality Be Non-Denominational?

This is a prominent question in today's life with all the different things going on in the world at the moment. So many people would love to know if the troubles that we as one people face, such as the threats of Libya, North Korea and Al Quaeda, might be easier and perhaps non-existent if the human sense of spirituality was totally non-denominational. That is to say that all faith was not centered around a religion but an individual core belief.

But is it possible for human nature to drop ties with religious denominations and follow their own faith? And how similar would people's core beliefs be in comparison with each other?

In theory, yes. Spirituality can be non-denominational. After all, these denominations and religions are man-made, and are created through spirituality. They cannot trap spirituality in a inescapable bond, or they themselves would be bound in return. Spirituality is the very essence of religion, faith, belief. And people experience this in different ways.

However, the question must be asked whether humanity as a whole is able to forget about the man-made denominations and work individually each to his own belief. Why did man create denominations to begin with? Denominational laws divide the masses between good and bad behavior according to a perceived identical faith, and to begin with this seems simple enough. But what about when you reach further within and find anomalies within a denomination?

For example, the Catholic Church is against gay marriage, saying the act of sodomy is against the will of God. Therefore any gay Roman Catholics must remain chaste their entire lives if they are to follow their denomination of choice. One might argue that those people would simply leave the Catholic Church and follow a different denomination of Christianity which is more accepting of their sexual orientation. This leads me on to another point which I have to hold for a second.

What about those who have no choice to be in a religion, those who are born within some fundamental denomination who cannot leave it? They may not agree with the rules upheld by other members of their denomination but there is nothing they can do to change it. Therefore these anomalies in a denomination show that the identical faith spoken of cannot be real. Everyone's ideal of spirituality is different and shows that under the right circumstances spirituality can and possibly needs to be non-denominational.

And I can now return to my point. Why should the gay Catholic go to follow a different Christian denomination if they feel that overall they are more in tune with the traditional teachings of the catholic church? Why must they follow any denomination at all if they understand which moral rules and teachings they believe in? It should be simple for people to march alone following their own unique concept of spirituality, but for some reason most people just cannot.

Let's take a closer look at human behavior then. School is the perfect example. When a student arrives at a school they are categorized into a group according to their interests, fashion sense, looks, and intelligence. Therefore a pretty, sporty, sociable girl will quickly be shoved into the popular group. Her main topics of conversation with her friends will likely be fashion, films and boys. But what if she secretly loves watching Battlestar Galactica? If her friends knew, she would be tossed from the group because after all a sci-fi loving nerd doesn't belong with the popular kids. So what does the girl do? What would most insecure teenagers do? Keep it a secret. She would rather be in a group of people who share other similar interests with her rather than brave it and take on High School on her own, free to follow all of her interests without judgement.

Do you see the pattern here?

Spirituality can be and sometimes is non-denominational for people. But the majority of people just aren't brave enough to follow their own instincts with their faith. They're just too insecure that without denominational guidelines they'll stray from their spiritual path and get lost in a tangle of incorrect beliefs. However, in my opinion you just have to risk it. I understand completely that people feel more comfortable part of a community where they share most beliefs or interests with the rest of the denomination, but I have also grown up believing that everyone is unique. Therefore they should not categorize themselves within a group where their whole personality cannot be expressed.

Please check out this link for more articles. From time to time when I am really moved by something, I will post up on this site. Thank you J M Hart

The Pros and Cons of the Affordable Healthcare Act

The objections to the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) are really not about its goals, that everyone should have healthcare, but how the government achieves those goals. The center of the controversy is about the total cost of reform. The present regime told us before it was instituted that it was going to be more comprehensive and you would pay less. Without even reading the bill they sold us that as fact.


The truth is it will cost more, way more because the AHA includes pre-existing conditions and expanded inclusions of healthcare that was not covered before. For example, Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) has three times more devices in the USA per capita as in other developed nations. The widespread use of these advanced medical devices would be expensive if millions more had access to them, thus driving up prices. The main objective of AHA is to insure everyone in America; inevitably costs will be driven up. The spending of $899 billion on healthcare while cutting Medicare pretty much guarantees its success.

Twenty one new taxes will be created from the AHA that will mean more money for the government to run the system but less money in your pocket.


The good news is everyone in the USA will be able to receive healthcare, even with pre-existing conditions, providing the same access to our healthcare system that the presently insured now have.

One hundred fifty three new federal agencies will be created manned by thousands of government employees that will control over 25% of the economy. This large expansion of the federal government will be good for people that get hired (average pay now for employees is $72,000) and will certainly contribute to the paying of new taxes.

Controlling Costs of the AHA

The regime in D.C. so far has not been able to control medical costs which is a secondary goal of AHA and is much likely to not be achieved in the long term because it has not to this date been able to reach this objective.
America is now spending 17% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare alone; a level that is almost double that of the OECD average and more than twice what it was in 1980 when it stood at 9%. In 1980 the feds accounted for 25% of the nation's healthcare spending, while today it has sharply risen to 45% and will continue to grow as the Baby Boomers continue to retire and move into the system.

Big Pharma

I must point out countries like Canada & Britain with national healthcare benefit from the medical innovations and new drugs that emanate from America's capitalistic system. Medical companies and Big Pharma make their money off the American consumer only to sell their newly conceived products overseas at much cheaper prices to state run systems.

AHA Monster

The AHA is putting extreme pressure on the federal budget; Medicaid & Medicare at this date account for 21% of the feds total outlays. What is in the hopper now is to cut back Social Security disability payments and entitlements (like food stamps), cut in half unemployment insurance paid out, and rid the federal system of overlapping programs. Clearly this is a good thing; the system should become more cost effective and will need to if they plan to implement this monster to get it up and flying.

Higher Cost Comes With More Benefits

By imposing expensive arrays of new mandates and regulations on the insurance industry like new rules for insurance companies rejecting people (or charging them more) because of pre-existing conditions that the industry calls a "guaranteed issue", this will also drive the cost up.

No Caps

Not allowing caps on benefits per year on treatment costs will also drive cost up. The insurance company will then be on the hook for a catastrophic health condition needing to cover the beneficiary's expenses no matter what the cost.

Other Problems

The paperwork involved for doctors will be almost a full time job leaving many with too much bureaucratic red tape and very little time for patients. This is already causing many doctors and healthcare professionals to move on to a different career with less stress and an adjusted attitude.

Insurance Companies Support AHA

1. The new law gives insurers as many as 30 million new prospects for customers, assuming all states participate in Medicaid expansion. This large market (as large as the population of Canada) will be compelled to buy the industries product. Ones that cannot afford it will be given help from the feds to purchase what they need making them the ideal customer.
2. Insurance companies still remain free to pass on the increased cost to the consumer in the form of higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles. If they increase too much, however, they could be prevented from selling insurance through the exchanges that may become a major problem in the making.


Congress stands to benefit from the AHA being fully implemented because they are already aware of what companies stand to gain with this law they created. With their insider knowledge Congress stand to make millions by becoming shareholders in companies that will profit big time from this law. My question to you is, you didn't think it was about you did ya?

If this helps you gain a better perspective on what is in store for us then go to to find out more about the written word. Gary Kent Boyd

Why You Should Still Buy Physical Books

Physical books are gradually being phased out in favor of ebooks, which are downloaded onto and read from thin electronic tablets. While it is great that people are reading at all, it is a shame that paper books are no longer fashionable. Many people in the field of literature are working to bring physical books to the forefront once again.

Tablets have become popular because they appear to be convenient. People love the idea of having a whole library that is accessible with the touch of a finger. However, building this sort of library requires a significant upfront cost. Tablets are not cheap. Electronic books are slightly less expensive than physical ones, but one would have to buy hundreds of ebooks before the money saved would fully absorb the initial cost of the tablet. Savvy readers who buy physical books online often find books that are cheaper than ebooks. One cannot make the switch to ebooks with the goal of saving money.

Another problem with tablets is that they break. Like smart phones, ebook tablets are notorious for having screens that shatter easily. It is very common to see someone reading an ebook around cracks in the tablet's screen. Some models have glossy screens that create huge glares, disrupting the reading process, though some companies have begun to use a matte finish on their screens. Whatever minor inconveniences physical books were perceived to pose have now been replaced with a whole new set of annoyances.

Academics dislike ebooks for several reasons. First of all, one cannot highlight phrases or write in an ebook. It is impossible to quickly flip to an appendix or skip to footnotes. Tablets eliminate the fluidity of the reading process as it has been taught up to this point. Turning pages and feeling paper is part of the experience of reading a book. Everyone knows what it is like to make creases in a book's spine for the first time. A small sense of pride comes from having made it through a book and left one's mark on it.

Books become heirlooms that are passed down through generations. As new editions are published and different cover art is printed, an old book increases in value. It also becomes an object of curiosity. Old books have a certain mystique about them. It is fascinating to look through a book that someone else has owned and look for notations or drawings. These little messages from a book's past owner contribute to a book's character. An ebook cannot be shared with others in the same way.

It is unclear how ebooks will factor into early childhood education. Children who use tablets are receiving a kind of education that their parents did not, but they are missing out on the tactile experience of turning a book's pages. Books for children are manufactured to contain different textures and pop-up features that cannot be mimicked in an ebook. Time will tell whether children suffer for not having this particular experience.

The main argument against ebooks is similar to the larger argument against people's growing dependence on technology. A book is not something that can only be enjoyed through an expensive electronic device. Some things should be left in their purest forms, and a book is one of those things.

Penny Lee is an avid reader and lover of books in its physical form. She enjoys reviewing best selling titles for readers and buy most of her books from this Singapore-based online bookstore. She previously wrote an interesting article on the effect of reading to newborns. Penny P. Lee