Friday, October 19, 2007

My Newest Guitar Guy Crush

Here's a video of Chi-Ning, from the band 929. He's performing the song titled "Looks Like Stars". I really like this song, but what I love are the guitar riffs, especially the one at the very beginning.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Previous posts on the Darfur Crisis in Sudan. LINK

Last Thursday, I watched this documentary titled Darfur: On Our Watch. I found it very frustrating as I watched the how this war has been going on for almost 8 years, and yet so little has been done about it. The UN, which has been having countless meetings about Darfur all this time, has been able to produce very little work towards bringing the conflict to a close. The major reason up until 2006 was the role China has to play in the decision-making process.

According to the documentary, China has invested a lot into the oil industry in the Sudan. The Sudanese government gets payment for the oil, while the Chinese gov't sends engineers and developers to go to the Sudan to excavate oil. More importantly, the Chinese gov't supplies weapons and arms to the Sudanese military (who in turn supply weapons and arms to militias like the Janjaweed). This is why China has opposed UN efforts - however weak they were - to intervene in the Darfur Crisis.

Another roadblock, and this is a major one, is the definition of genocide. Some claim that what is happening in Darfur is genocide, while others are saying it's tribal warfare. The definition is this: "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." From what I've read, the beginnings of the conflict may have been motivated by the animosity between tribal interests. However, at this juncture, when you have one group who consider themselves to be Arabs slaughtering and raping people who consider themselves to be Africans, then it is one ethnic group against another. Then, it is genocide.

At the end of this documentary, I got this message, and perhaps it's a confirmation rather than a declaration: Help hasn't been given to the people of Darfur because they are black. If they were white or if they looked European, member countries of the UN would not have had such a hard time deciding on how to act. They would have acted a lot sooner to put a stop to it. For example, Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia. The US acted very quickly. The US got a lot of support very quickly. This time, it was not as easy and I do believe that skin colour has a huge role to play in stalling the decision-making process. The result is that over hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, raped, maimed and displaced since 2002 when the conflict erupted.

What annoys me is that this issue has not be discussed very much, if at all, in the Chinese media.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New English College Pathway Curriculum

Yesterday, I went to a workshop organized by the TDSB on the new grade 11 and 12 English College prep programs. It was lead by instructional leaders Valerie Fraser and Rachel Cook, held at The Highbrook Learning Centre.

The morning session focussed on the new curriculum documents themselves, and what the highlights are from each of the four strands: Oral & Listening, Lit. Studies & Reading, Writing and Media Literacy. The important point gathered from this activity is that the new curriculum is a lot more flexible as far as choice of texts and types of assignments are concerned. The stress now is on how the material is taught, the delivery. Simply, the stress is on skills building to improve literacy. The skills that the new curriculum targets as being important are the listening skills and the media literacy skills. How do we teach this? The answer is using metacognitive strategies. We teach students how to listen by making them aware of how they listen. This goes with writing, reading and media literacy as well.

The afternoon session focussed on metacognition and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance students' skills acquisition. Namely, we could use anticipation guides before, during and after reading or listening to text.

Does this make me feel more knowledgeable about the 12C English course? Nope. I feel like I want to start prepping it right away.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some of My Fave Novels

I'm going to talk about some of my favourite novels that are set in the Canadian farming country.

1. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Plot: Mr. and Mrs. Morrison die in a car accident, leaving behind four children. Luke is the oldest of all at 18, and Matt is second at 17, Kate at 7 and Bo at 2. One part of the story is partly about how they survive on their own. The other part of the story is about Kate and how she lives through adulthood living inside a bubble, and how she comes to realize this truth.
Setting: Crow Lake, a fictional town in northern Ontario located north of North Bay. It's very north, but not as north as Sioux Lookout ;)
Canadian Farming Country: I loved the descriptions about all the living things living in the pond near the children's home. The road that connects the town, Crow Lake, to the rest of the world southward is also a memorable image because Kate describes it as a one-way street. It doesn't allow you to travel northward because nobody ever had the desire to any further north than they already were.
Online Review: I think this is a lovely
REVIEW, one of the best I've read about a book I really like (and there are hardly any)

2. Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Plot: I don't remember much of the plot, and I have a feeling there wasn't much of a plot at all. The story was riveting all the same because there is a mystery death of a young town-girl to solve. Beth Weekes, 15, is the narrator.
Setting: Rural British Columbia. For some reason, I remembered it being set in the prairies, but after researching it on the net, it's confirmed to be BC.
Canadian Farming Country: What I love about the setting is not just the descriptions of the field, but rather the descriptions of what people have to do to make a living on the farm. There is work to be done in the field, and work to be done in the barns and in the home. It's so different from living in the city, which is probably what attracts me to these stories.

3. The Winter Helen Dropped By by W.P. Kinsella
Plot: A young boy befriends a Sioux woman, and a very moving friendship develops.
Setting: Manitoba or Saskatchewan, I can't remember.
Canadian Farming Country: Don't remember much except for a river that is described according to the seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. A lot of action takes place on or near the river. I guess it's the metaphorical boundary between childhood and adulthood. If you stay within the boundary, life still seems like a fantasy, and the dangers that threaten the idyllic life of a child is merely a threat.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Exporting Generic AIDS Drugs to Rwanda

Click HERE to read my previous post on this topic, written approximately one year ago.

Now, CTV News has reported that Canada is going to be the first country to export generic anti-retroviral drugs to a developing country: Rwanda. Apotex is the name of the company that manufactures the drug, and its name is called Apo TriAvir. Canada is able to do this for the following reasons:

1) Rwanda is unable to manufacture this drug on their own.
2) Rwanda has invoked the "compulsory license" which allows it to import a generic version of a drug, after negotiations have been made with the pharmaceutical company that holds the patent for that drug. This means that some compensation must be paid to the pharmaceutical company.

What's the Catch?

I dunno. The news article doesn't say, but I do wonder how much money Rwanda had to pay to the pharmceutical companies that hold the patent in order to import generic drugs from Canada?

And, when AIDS patients become resistant to the current TriAvir drugs, how will they get to import the next drug? Will this whole process have to be repeated again? How much harder will it be when that time comes to invoke the compulsory license? What road blocks will pharmaceuticals have created by then to further prevent these things from happening?