Bravo Steve!
July 29th, 2010

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Fitness has been proven to promote a longer, healthier life. Sure, there might be some fitness deniers out there who, like Tom Cruise and climate change deniers, just can’t handle the truth, but the evidence has been mounting for years. If there isn’t air-tight causal proof that a sound body helps to achieve a sound mind then there is certainly an irrefutable association between one and the other.

Test after test has been administered to pre-schoolers and throughout K-12 systems across the world, all pointing to the same conclusions: success in school and in life is greatly enhanced by physical fitness. Even coach potatoes–maybe, especially couch potatoes–know this.
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Do you enjoy filling out surveys? ….
July 22nd, 2010

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Do you enjoy filling out surveys?

a)      Hate them.
b)      Depends if I get frequent flyer points or a free magazine subscription.
c)       Love them.

Do you think a mandatory long census form is good for Canada?

a)      I don’t believe in income tax forms, air bags, or second-hand smoke.
b)      Depends if I get frequent flyer points or a free magazine subscription.
c)       Absolutely.

Do you think it is important for social-economic policy to be determined by facts and hard evidence?

a)      I prefer factoids and truthiness.
b)      I believe you can develop social policy by reading a Ouija board.
c)       I worry when social policy isn’t informed by evidence and hard data.

Do you think Canadians understand that the long census form is good for sound research?

a)      Does the question include Alberta?
b)      74% of all statistical information is meaningless.
c)       I hope so. (more…)

I talked to some Shads this week. Shad Valley kids, that is…
July 17th, 2010

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I talked to some Shads this week. Shad Valley kids, that is—48 of them to be exact, gathered here at Memorial for the last few weeks as part of the annual Shad Valley program. They count themselves off before each session, and so waiting to be introduced I watched them shout out their assigned numbers, all the way up to 48. Impressive, articulate, energetic, these youngsters aged 15 to 18 sure lived up to their reputation. As the web site boasts, “We find the best and make them better.” Aimed at excellent high school students, the program has flourished since 1981 when some forward-looking people acted on a very good idea. It’s all about leadership, of course; the Shad Valley mission “is to provide a transformational experience” for today’s most promising youth, the leaders of tomorrow.

The Shad Valley motto is Drive. Stretch. Dream. I like this trio of action verbs; it suggests possibilities, imagination, a life of the mind. It is much more appealing than “outwit, outplay, and outlast,” the Survivor manual to crafty endurance, a cynical trinity of imperatives, if ever there were one.

What started as a dream, indeed, is now a thriving international enterprise. In Canada this summer, ten campuses are playing host to the Shad program. That means about 500 lucky, smart Canadian high-school students are being treated to a rich and diverse set of workshops and seminars, with time for cultural excursions, sight-seeing, and the necessary opportunity for socializing with each other. Only good can come of such a thing. (more…)

Marseille, France, almost 40 degrees celsius…
July 8th, 2010

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Marseille, France, almost 40 degrees celsius, by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea. Life is, well, very French right now, and that’s a good thing. Somewhere further north of here hundreds of latex-clad cyclists are sweating through the ups and downs of the Tour de France. Indeed, everywhere across rural France one encounters people of all ages on fancy bikes, pedaling their thighs to the max to get up and around just one more mountain climb. It’s one thing to see youngsters in body-fitting synthetic, looking hot in every sense of the term, and quite another to see a high number of middle-aged and older helmet-topped cyclists, fantasies of youthfulness dancing in their heads. Actually, as I zip by them in my sleek Peugeot on the way to my next most amazing meal I almost envy their discipline. But not really. Right now I am thinking of what awaits me at dinner and they are thinking of conquering their pain.

Taking a time-out from work and stress in Canadian summer is practically a loyal act of citizenship. So it is that I am amused to read that research on the benefits of vacationing is rather scanty. Can one return from holidays somewhere new and wonderful and be utterly refreshed for resuming all the meaningless tasks we do to earn our keep? Not clear, say the experts. (more…)

It’s Canada Day, and fireworks are lighting up the Middle Eastern sky…
July 2nd, 2010

It’s Canada Day, and fireworks are lighting up the Middle Eastern sky. I am far from home; in fact, I am thousands and thousands of kilometers away. Yet Canada has followed me here, in the complicated, golden, multi-racial, hotly contested city of Jerusalem.

Sitting at my hotel desk, typing this blog, I was suddenly startled by a familiar snap, pop, and bang interrupting the evening hum of cars and electrical wires. This is Jerusalem, and loud sounds of any kind immediately produce a tightening in the spine and a skip of the heart. I jumped to the window and stepped out on to the balcony to see a glorious spectacle of large, colourful fireworks illuminating the Jerusalem sky, spotlighting the minarets and towers of the Old City beyond the walls, and the spread of local, light yellow stone of which every building must be constructed here. Turns out the Canadian Embassy was celebrating the nation’s 143th birthday and I just happened to have had a privileged view of the light show. Imagine that–Canada was responsible for such a warming, delightful surprise so far from home. (more…)