Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Last of the Mo

To wrap up the Movember efforts here’s a shot:  You do have to click on it, due to some wonky madness regarding the size of embedded photos that I just don’t feel like fussing with right now.

Boys of Movember

The Mo-Bro’s are Abraham, Jon, Tom, some doofus, Paul and Marc, if one goes clockwise from 12:00.  You do remember what clockwise is?

Meanwhile, our various supporters, who have been very kind as well as generous have enabled Team ITS-Mo to raise $255 for Prostate Cancer Canada, as part of Movember. 

If you want to donate to us, you can still uncork the wallet, with our appreciation.  Go to  You can join luminaries like Karen Lewy, Kim St. Denis, Janet Hockey and Robin Bradbury who feel that the topical application of money is a good way to support Men’s Health. 

And we did all without shaving. 

Thank you.

The Mo Update III

Now that we’ve all had a good laugh at my moustache, we’ll come back to a bit of learnin’ regarding Men’s Health, which is the real reason Movember exists and I’m growing a Mo.

Get squeamish guys, we’re talking prostate.  Yep.  That bit-bigger-than-a-walnut sized gland below your bladder and North-North-West of your asshole. 

It’s a fascinating little fellow and here’s what it does.  Your prostate secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that is about 25 to 30 percent of your semen.  Not the sperm themselves, that’s a nut job, pun intended, but the seminal vesicles pass up from the nuts to the prostate and mix together to pass down your penis when you pop your cookies from watching “The Golden Girls” reruns.  That Rue McClanahan…what a Minx!  Oh crap, that was out loud wasn’t it?

The reason the prostatic fluid is slightly alkaline is to give your sperm a fighting chance in the Great Swim of Life.  The vagina is acidic, so a bit of alkali lets the lads live longer, eventually leading to fertilization, yadda, yadda, yadda, right up to “Yes Dad, it’s a really nice Home and we’ll come to visit you every weekend.  We promise.”

The Creator did great, nay, fabulous work when He did Women, but Jeeze Louise, Male Parts were not His best:  The design is merely functional, like sex organs designed by Ikea.  It’s part of a system, but you can’t make sense of the instructions and the illustrations are cartoon sketches.  Women however, ahh, now that’s a Herman Miller Aero chair.

There are enough maladies that can befall the prostate that entire medical careers have been built on them.  It’s a very poor design, almost as bad as the knee, but at least the knee will stop working or swell up if you injure it.  The prostate just sits there like a walnut, asking itself “Am I Coming or am I Going?”

There are two ways to check the prostate and you need both.  The first is what is called a Prostate Specific Antigen test, which is a blood test, taken from blood from your arm.  The lab rats look for an increased level of Prostate antigen, a chemical that indicates a fine, healthy, happy, prostate or an unhappy prostate depending on the change between tests. 

Around the age of 40 to 45, men should have a PSA test yearly.  Some docs say 50, other say 40, but what you want to do is start early enough that you know what your PSA level is over a few years.  Mine’s normal, like 0.01, and has been since I was 40, which indicates no issues with increased antigen production, which would indicate something wrong if the number changes. The PSA test is an early warning, nothing more.

Up until last year, you had to pay separately for a PSA when you had your usual blood work done.  It was $15 most years.  I consider it money well spent.  Now most health care covers it, so ask for it.  If the numbers change, see a doctor right away.  A change in the PSA is an early warning that something is not right.  It hurts as much as having your blood taken hurts.  Instead of four vials, they’ll take five.  No biggie.

There are issues with the PSA test, both false positives and false negatives.  There are also issues with, in the female department, PAP tests, again false positives and false negatives.  In either case, having a baseline is part of early detection.  It isn’t a diagnosis, it just flags something for more investigation. 

The other way to check the prostate is a digital exam.  That’s right digit, as in finger, not zeros and ones digital.  Your doctor will insert a gloved and well-lubricated finger in your asshole and palpate your prostate with a digit to check for inflammation, something swollen or out of whack. 

If you have a swollen prostate you will scream like a little girl.  The sensation of having the prostate digitally examined is no worse that taking a five-pound dump after a night of bad Mexican food.  It’s no fun, but it’s over soon enough and feels much better when finished. 

A good, caring doc will have you lie on one side and have you bring one knee up to your chest.  An army-trained doctor will have you bend over the examining table and say “Hang on to your hat!”  I’ve had both and the knee up is much better.

Yes you might spring a Hollywood half-loaf totally without intention.  Pressure on the prostate can trigger a drop or two of urine, or a mild, momentary erection, no worse than a morning piss-hard and no more useful either.  The prostate is covered with the very same pelvic floor muscles that contract when you have an orgasm and cause you to ejaculate by giving the prostate a good hard squeeze.  It’s perfectly normal as the systems are all interrelated.  Or, absolutely nothing will happen:  It varies from human to human.

Odds are 50-50 you’ll fart too.  I asked and my doc and she said she’s been farted at so many times doing prostate exams that it’s now beyond disgusting and merely funny.  No, it is not appropriate to load up on jalapeno nachos, cabbage soup, beer and beans the night before your prostate exam. 

In either case, a digital prostate exam does not make you suddenly want to sing show tunes, or find the beauty in old Judy Garland movies.  Sorry guys, it doesn’t.  It’s not a comfortable sensation for many men, but it is insanely important to have done.  The prostate doesn’t give many clues that it is unwell and a PSA in combination with a digital exam is the best way to determine your prostate health.

To sum up.  Your prostate helps keep your participation in the fornicative and procreative arts alive.  It doesn’t kick up a fuss when it is unwell, so there are no symptoms to speak of.  A PSA blood test in combination with a digital examination is the best way to find out if things are in good order. 

As we all know, early detection means a much better chance at survival and the prostate is notorious for not kicking up a fuss until it’s almost too late.

If you want to learn more, has links to Prostate Cancer Canada and several dozen other very good resources.

The Mo Update II

Here’s the long-awaited update on the Mo.  It could be worse…


The team members are Mo-Brothers Jonathan Dyck, Marc Gendron, Paul Barrett and myself.  As Team ITS-Mo we have raised $105 for Prostate Cancer Canada.

You could donate, even if you don’t have a prostate.  Nice Mo-Sistas include Marylou Scott-Smith, Karen Lewy and Kim Roger-St.Denis. 

If you would like to donate, then will get you to our page on 

Remembrance Day

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we take a moment to remember those who served and gave their lives.  We do this by taking a minute to stand in silence, in remembrance of their sacrifice.  All those who have fallen have ever asked is for us to remember. 

We owe them if only for the freedom we have right now to read this, in reasonable comfort and safety, in our homes, offices, or on the streets.

We owe them that moment of silence and honour. 

We owe them.  Remember.

The Mo Update

I promised a couple of updates on Movember that went beyond the growing of the moustache and here’s one of them. 

The high concept behind Movember is Men’s Health and the lack of interest and knowledge about what can be loosely called men’s health issues.  There are plenty of events and knowledge promoting women’s health:  Breast Cancer awareness, Run for the Cure, various tests and so on.  But Men’s Health, not so much.

The reason: Men don’t talk about their health, specific to the parts we don’t have in common with women.  To paraphrase Spike Lee; It’s a Man Thing.  You Wouldn’t Understand.  We were and are brought up to tough it out, no matter what.  If a javelin is stuck through our head, we might consider seeing the doctor, but only because we’re having trouble going through the revolving door at the office, or can’t get into the cab of the forklift.  Which is utter bullshit.

Men absolutely do not, even under interrogation, admit to anything being abnormal, unwell or strange below the belt.  We don’t discuss it, we don’t ask our men friends any questions about the goods and we will not tell our doctors about anything that might be off.  It’s all perfect, wonderful, fully operational, potent, big and robust.  Which is also utter bullshit.

The penis, testicles and prostate are as susceptible to medical problems as any other part number, male or female:  Cancer, inflammation, injury, decrease in operations and so on are all just as prevalent in men, but being men, we’ll never admit it.  Which is why Movember exists:  Men should talk about it, and do what they can to prevent or find out about the afflictions that can befall us.

As an informal survey here:  How many men check their testicles on a regular basis for swelling, tenderness or abnormal growths?  Hands up please?  That would be none, as best as I can see from here. 

You remember Tom Green?  Ex-husband of Drew Barrymore and one-time funny man?  He lost a testicle to cancer because he didn’t check his junk on a regular basis.        

We were never taught or told that yes, indeed you should check the boys every month or so.  Give them a good feel, look for unusual tenderness, and run them through your fingers to check for swelling, or something misshapen.  Each testicle should be about the size of a walnut, give or take and shouldn’t be unusually tender.  Yes, testicles are tender, that’s their normal state, but if you’ve owned a pair for a while, you can tell if they’re more tender than they should be.  If you press on one and it goes “OwFuck!” then that’s not right and should be checked by a doctor.

The “Official” Junk test is here: from the Testicular Cancer Resource Centre.  The issue they bring up is not to find cancer with a monthly self-exam, but to get used to what your testicular state of “normal” is, so you find anything odd, early enough. 

It’s the same drill with women and a breast cancer self-exam:  Get used to what is supposed to be there (there is a wide range of ‘normal’ be it tits or nuts) so you spot an anomaly early, then get it checked by a doctor. Most women understand it, so why don’t men get it?  Because we are not as aware and have never been taught or told to check the junk on a regular basis.  Men, you have now been told and click on the link to be taught.

Can you turn this into a saucy event?  Sure, with a little imagination, a willing partner and some knowledge, you most certainly can.  One would think that you would have a reasonable base of knowledge about your partner’s bosomy delights and should feel comfortable enough with their geography to go touring on a regular basis, why not?  Since turnabout is fair play too, invite your partner to be more involved in your health. 

Bottom line?  Check the Boys on a regular basis. 



The Flu Shot

I got the H1N1 flu shot earlier this week.  Why?  Well, I’m a Type 2 Diabetic, so according to our protocol, I’m up near the head of the line in people who really, really should get the vaccine.  I’m fairly confident in the entire vaccine process and have a modicum of faith in the due diligence done by the government and the medical communities in creating as good a vaccine as humans can create.

Yes, the vaccine has an adjuvant and yes, it also contains thiomersal (which is also spelled thimerosal) which is a necessary antiseptic and anti-fungal in multi-dose vaccine preparations.  Until only recently, contact lens solutions also contained thiomersal.  Plus, I like tuna, especially fresh tuna, which also contains mercury, the controversial ingredient in thiomersal. 

We all know that mercury is not good in people, either ingested, or injected, but thiomersal is at an excruciatingly small parts per billion, so it’s a risk, but a controlled risk, like all vaccines are when you strip out the hysteria.  Also, I’m not a child, I’m not pregnant and I have no plans to become pregnant, so at worst, it’s bad, but not as bad as smokin’ drinkin’ and all the drug-suckin’ I did back in the day.

The lineup to get the wristband was just over one hour.  Volunteers kept us moving and made sure we knew how things were progressing.  In Ottawa the deal works like this:  You self identify as being in a priority group, then get a single-use paper wristband (think hospital kind of wristband) to put on.  You go away until later in the day and come back at the time they have told you to show up.  I got tagged at 9 am and was told my likely time was 5 pm.  At 5, we showed up with our paperwork (about five pages we had to fill out, essentially a “how ya doin’?” kind of questionnaire) and two minutes later was seated in front of a nurse who jabbed us.  Deed done.

There are always going to be horror stories about people waiting for hours in a blizzard on the side of a hill, next to a smelter, waiting to be told there’s none left so piss off and come back tomorrow. 

There will also be stories of some innocent who gets the H1N1 injection, then unexplainably goes on a five-day tequila bender, winding up in Cape Breton wearing a cowboy hat, no pants and has a shirt pocket full of Turkish money.  Then a video will turn up on YouTube and some lawyer will sue everyone on behalf of the innocent, who will feel much better with the topical application of $20 million dollars.

Realistically, I’m taking a controlled risk.  The same hold true for the prescription for Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) that the employer was gracious enough to make available and pay for, via our health plan.  Yes, the employer had a doc on site to answer all of our questions not just about Tamiflu, but the H1N1 influenza and vaccines in general.  The doc took as long as we wanted and before actually writing each individual prescription made sure we had as much time as we wanted to ask any further questions one on one.  There was no pressure in any way shape or form. 

Which, in summary, is again a controlled risk.  If I do get the H1N1 flu, I have at least a half a shot at reducing the effects of it and a half a shot at not winding up in hospital on a ventilator waiting to die.

Is the whole mass-vaccination system perfect?  Oh hell no. 

Is it our best effort with the best possible motivations of protecting the vast majority of people?  Yes, it is. 

That’s about all we can hope for.  Reasonably prudent and best efforts.


Three Days of Mo

Yes, I really am growing a moustache for Movember, the month formerly known as November, to raise money for Men’s Health, specifically Prostate Cancer Canada.  If you want to donate, the ITS-Mo team is at

The reason I’m farming some foliage is simple, 1 in 6 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.  Most men don’t even want to consider talking with their doctors about it, let alone be checked for the variety of Men’s health issues.  Unfortunately it will quite possibly kill them.

So a little money can go a long way.  Over the next couple of weeks, I might even tell you some of the easy, simple and non-invasive ways you, or your man, can take charge of their own health.

For the time being, this is what a three-day growth looks like.


It will fill in as we go through Movember, but right now, the Mo is a little sparse.  For the slightly suspicious of you, yes, Movember does have a Canadian Charitable Tax number and is a legit charity, otherwise I wouldn’t be involved.  If you do choose to donate, your receipt does show the charitable donation tax number and I thank you for your time and money.

The Transit Option

With the new job, I’m taking the transit again.  There’s no real sense in taking the car downtown, as there is no upside in paying some wall-eyed, illiterate Elbonian $15 for the privilege of ignoring the thieves who go from vehicle to vehicle looking for something to steal.  Everywhere the signs say “We’re not responsible for damage, even if we do it, you have video of us doing it and we try to sell your car seats back to you at 5 pm, we’re still not responsible” in both official languages.

This is an improvement over Toronto where they zing you $40 for the privilege of stealing from your car while you’re at work.  For $60 they won’t damage your car deliberately.  Seventy gets your car urinated on by a street person who is certified not to have the Black Plague, but that’s Toronto and different rules apply in the GTA.    

The alternative is public transit.

Ottawa has a very nice transit system compared to several of the cities I’ve been in over the years.  Toronto has a mammoth system of busses, streetcars, heavy rail, light rail and subways to move a million or more folks around twice a day packed like the Clearasil delivery to a junior high school.  New York has a multisensory affront that works despite itself, much like New York City.  Washington D.C. uses their metro as a soma dispenser, aerosolizing benzodiazepines through the tunnels to keep the inmates placid.  Chicago figures that if we have to move you around, we might as well defy gravity, good sense and aesthetics of any sort beyond the Meccano style of industrial design.  Los Angeles’ defines public transit as “take your own car”:  The LA Bus (singlular tense) only runs on days that contain the letter M, between the hours of 2:00 pm and 2:15 pm from the garage to the nearest 7-11, then back. 

Off-shore, the transit in Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Budapest are icons of sleek efficiency, medical cleanliness and relentless precision.  You could have open heart surgery in the Budapest Metro, it’s so clean and odds are the driver of the metro is a former cardiac surgeon, who now makes a living wage as a train driver.  Viet Nam’s transit consists of being strapped to the pillion of a 60cc Honda Charly scooter with a basket of dysenteric ducks, a leaking 40 pound propane tank, the driver, his extended family and two officers from State Security while everyone smokes foul Cambodian cigarettes.

Ottawa, being the National Capitol, has a captured audience of government workers who toil in a few square miles on either side of the provincial border.  Consequently, the transit is set up to bus the drones to the hive at 8 then back home to the burbs at 4. If you miss your connections, you have to stay downtown.  The street-meat smog-dog carts close precisely at 1345 by government fiat and the rest of the stores are shuttered at 2.  If you are trapped downtown after 5 pm, you might as well find a nice stairwell that is out of the polar winds.

The O-Train, which I take every day, is a German-Canadian co-production of Bombardier, called the Talent.  It is what is known as ‘light rail’ meaning a stiff breeze makes it sway.  The O-Train uses a discarded Canadian Pacific freight line that went close enough to downtown that it could be considered service to ‘downtown’ if you use the area code as your sole measure of distance.  Yes, it does stay in the 613, so that’s near downtown isn’t it?  Kingston is in 613 too, so Kingston is in Downtown Ottawa as well, despite being a two-hour drive away. 

The maintenance of the tracks consisted of taking the abandoned shopping carts off the rails and pushing a burnt-out 74’ Econoline Shaggin-Waggon van off to one side.  Grafitti artists were given biker meth, a pallet-load of spray paint cans in unnatural colours and told to decorate to taste:  They did.  I have no idea who or what OrekTRON is but his compatriot OrekWES tagged The Home Depot at Greenboro in response to OrekTRON at Bayview station.

The O-Train waddles worse than a bunch of overweight nuns on a two-week absinthe bender.  The rails are so poorly maintained they resemble a trigonometry problem.  Switches, which at least conceptually, allow trains to go to other tracks, are designed so that any speed above a walking pace will derail the whole works into a ditch or off into the orphanage playground.  Despite the lack of money for maintenance and the temporary nature (temporary meaning it has been running as a proof of concept since 2001) it actually works. 

I can drive from home to the downtown in 45 minutes.  I can take the O-Train and be at the same place in 12 minutes.  Several thousand of us make the same decision every day, deciding that taking the car downtown is madness of the first order.

Where the O-Train falls over is connecting to anything else.  Ottawa spent a zillion dollars twenty-five years ago to create the Mighty Ditch, a dedicated bus transitway that was blasted out of the Nepean sandstone of Ottawa, about thirty feet below grade.  In this they run city buses with the frequency of every eleven seconds during rush hour, then rent it out as camping spaces in the off hours.  The O-Train connects to the Mighty Ditch at Bayview Station and you transfer to a bus to rocket through the downtown core.  If you miss your stop, you might wind up in New Brunswick.

There wasn’t quite enough foresight to consider putting rails in the Transitway while they were digging the ditch, which is now messing up the potential expansion of the O-Train to the East and West.  The estimates have added another couple of billion to the cost.  The other large addition is a proposed transit tunnel under downtown.  Twenty-five years ago we could have punched a hole underground for a few hundred million, connecting our smallish downtown together, out of the weather.  But that would be an example of common sense and was immediately shelved for ‘further study’.  At the time Ottawa had four levels of government that insisted they would never talk to each other.  The Feds, the Province, the Region and the City.  I’ve left out the NCC on purpose. 

The National Capitol Commission is its’ own peculiar reality chartered to ignore everyone, including themselves, with the kind of legal powers that make Idi Amin sigh longingly for the Good Old Days.  The NCC does whatever it wants, in secret and you are not permitted to comment, let alone disagree.  The NCC says so, which makes agreement regarding the underground transit tunnel impossible, as the NCC is the sole authority regarding anything under, in or over government buildings from the core of the planet to the sun, plus 40 miles in any given direction. 

The NCC doesn’t want to hear about the downtown transitway tunnel as they might be asked to pay for some of it.  If the other levels of government dare continue, the NCC will simply wave the “heritage designation” card claiming eminent domain over the entire subsurface of Ottawa.  After all, former Prime Ministers may have discarded a gin bottle somewhere and that historical artifact must be preserved and studied in situ for generations to come.  No, you may not dig a transitway for fear of disturbing important cultural and historical artifacts that frame the Canadian Experience.

Which brings us back to the lack of foresight we enjoy here in Ottawa from our multiple levels of governmental finger-bangin’.  By the way, I haven’t even mentioned the cross-border follies:  The National Capitol has a significant presence in Gatineau, which is in the province of Quebec, so take our current level of bureaucratic orifice probing and double it for any project that could potentially make things better for people trying to go to work.

In the meantime, the Ottawa politicians muddle about bumping into microphones, beeping and mooing about how terrible the tax bill will be and how complex the problem is becoming.  The problem is easy to fix, the bureaucracy is the stumbling block.