April 16, 2014

Frankenstein Feet

Now I know why Frankenstein's monster usually looks so miserable. It's not existential angst or loneliness, not even body image problems. Nope, none of that. What's wrong with Frankenstein's monster is foot pain. Specifically, plantar fasciitis.
Mayo Clinic definition: "pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes."
I can tell by the look in his eyes. This guy is in physical agony.


No doubt all his joints ache. But the soles of his feet, they're in excruciating pain. He feels like gravity is pummelling his soles into the hard ground beneath his feet. If he sits down, for a few minutes of relief, his feet howl at him when he rises again. But staying on his feet for more than a handful of a minutes at a time is a problem too. The pain is more or less constant.

When he's sleeping the stabbing pain wakes him at least once a night, and makes it difficult for him to fall asleep in the first place. Granted, he probably wouldn't sleep like a log anyway, because of the other issues I mentioned, like the existential angst and feelings of alienation. But it's the feet—the plantar fasciitis—which is Frankenstein's monster's numero uno problem.

How do I know this? I recognize that haunted PF look in his eyes because, man, I'm feeling that Frankenstein's monster foot pain big-time. For the first while—and by that I mean, like, the first year—the foot pain didn't interfere with my life very much. My heel hurt a little when I got on my feet after a period of sitting or sleeping and then the pain swiftly disappeared. My doctor suggested I wear supportive shoes at all times, even indoors (staring at this full length photo of the monster, I seriously think he needs to get his hands on some New Balance running shoes!) and I did.


But that didn't help. Instead the pain got worse. Then my knees started to hurt too. Not a lot and not often. But enough for me to return to the doctor, who diagnosed patellofemoral syndrome (runner's knee) on top of my plantar fasciitis. She prescribed physiotherapy, and off I went, happy to hear from my physiotherapist that I should begin to feel better in 2 - 3 weeks and be back to my old self in 8 - 10. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and instead my condition got exponentially worse. After 5 weeks I was advised to drop the physio, and now, about a month afterwards, I'm at a place where the last two weeks have been the worst yet.

The arches of my feet are in severe pain. They're most comfortable when I'm lying down, but even then they feel stiff and achy, like someone else's feet have been roughly attached to my body. Sometimes the pain is so bad I'm driven to tears and chills. My knees can't handle stairs and feel like they're being sliced into if I squat or bend at the knee at all, or even sometimes if I don't. My calves are so tight that they feel as though they're about to snap and my IT band is a mess too. My normal gait doesn't exist anymore. I limp and wince.

Just yesterday I began seeing a sports doctor who says my severe case of plantar fasciitis gave rise to patellofemoral syndrome in both my knees and has affected my whole kinetic chain, hence the pain in my legs, thighs, calves and, well, just about everywhere from the waist down. Now I'm going to be trying a number of things she's suggested—some of which will have to wait until I get back from my upcoming trip to Ireland (during which I will be spending more time sitting down than anything!) because orthotics and night splints need to be broken in gradually.

But these ongoing health issues have been crowding my life since December/January and are some of the reasons that I haven't been online often. I'm almost as tired and beleaguered as Frankenstein's monster looks in the top photo! So once I kick this thing I'm determined to search out the poor monster, share my weapons of choice against planter fasciitis and finally, finally bring him some much needed peace.

April 01, 2014

Canadians: Don't Let Harper Sabotage Our Public Health Care

I've just come from a rather long appointment with my GP. Cost to me: FREE. Then follow-up blood-work. Cost to me: FREE. Next, multiple X-rays at the local hospital. Cost to me: FREE. When I can get an appointment with the sports doctor I've been referred to that will also be FREE.
All thanks to Canadian socialized medicine!

Meanwhile Stephen Harper's Conservative government is trying to sabotage "the Health Accord that protects equal care for all Canadians" by quietly "cutting $36 billion over 10 years and breaking the pact that all Canadians should get equal care, no matter what province they live in."

"By pulling out of the agreement, cutting billions in transfers, and letting standards fall across the country, Prime Minister Harper will undermine our public health system.

If he succeeds, cash-starved provinces will face intense pressure to let America’s titanic for-profit companies buy into our system and give us worse care for higher prices."

You can begin the fight for our health care system by emailing your Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper and and Health Minister Rona Ambrose via Lead Now.

Don't Let Harper sabotage your health care

Then please pass this message on to everyone across the country. A whopping 94% of Canadians "support public —not private, for-profit— solutions to making the country's healthcare system stronger." We can't let Harper gut our treasured healthcare system.

February 25, 2014

February Made Me Shiver

Yes, February made me shiver. This winter has been unusually brutal, extremely cold and snowy with very few breaks. And I can't believe we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis before their times. Such sad news.

This month I also started going to physio for knee and arch woes (ouch!). My dad's furnace broke down and had to be replaced and my mom was in her third snow-related car accident (thankfully she's fine but her car was totalled) within six weeks. So February hasn't been the best of times, but neither has it been the worst of times and I wanted to blog about some of the good things that happened this month before it gets away from me.

Things like Paddy having Valentine's Day off which allowed us to spend the day together. We spent part of it tromping around Oakville in the snow. Indeed the laneways were such a wintery white that the town nearly appeared like someplace else.

Snowy Oakville Street, February 14, 2014

Below you can see Oakville's " Homecoming Trail" looking ever so pretty in the snow. If you gaze closely enough you'll see the pier jutting off to the left. Even years after writing Come See About Me the location always make me think of Leah and Liam!

The Homecoming Trail,. Oakville, February 14, 2014

I felt a bit sorry for this reindeer buried under layers of snow in a Christmas arrangement outside a local business. Surely with the holiday long behind us the reindeer should be off duty by now and allowed to go on its merry way?

Buried Reindeer, outside an Oakville business, February 14, 2014

Wonderful Canadian author Monica Kulling (who penned the Mister Dash books and the Great Ideas series) very kindly sent me a copy of her beautiful new picture book, The Tweedles Go Electric this month. Thanks so much, Monica! The Tweedles have already garnered a glimmering star from Kirkus which described the book as, "A fine joke, well-delivered, and as clever as it is timely."

And here's what I had to say on Goodreads:

"The clever Tweedle family are bound to attract a slew of young fans with this infectiously fun and visually fetching tale. I wanted to jump into the book the way Mary Poppins and her young charges did with chalk drawings, and stay there awhile."

The Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling

Don't you just love the Tweedles' spiffy green electric automobile? Every time I look at the cover I like to pretend I'm the woman on the Penny Farthing bicycle.

I couldn't possibly talk about February without mentioning the fantastic Blue Rodeo gig Paddy and I caught at Massey Hall on the 20th. If you live in the GTA you'll remember that day as the one we caught unexpected late afternoon/rush hour snow which turned to evening rain. But what better way to spend a rainy night than watching Blue Rodeo play most of the tracks from their new album, In Our Nature, as well as old favourites like Rose Coloured Glasses and 5 Days in May? You can take a look at the entire setlist here.

We were fortunate to have fourth row centre tickets and from my seat I had a good view of one of the security folks singing along with Head Over Heels (he knew all the words) in the centre aisle.

Below are a handful of concert shots I took on the night, and to hope that the rest of the month will be as much fun as the Blue Rodeo show would be wildly unrealistic, but at least I have The Tweedles and their world to keep me company. There's no snow where the Tweedles live, I've noticed, and no chilly temperatures. No need for snow tires or outerwear any heavier than a blazer!

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 20, 2014

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 20, 2014

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 20, 2014

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 20, 2014

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 20, 2014

February 10, 2014

The Science & Tech Behind Yesterday and Tomorrow

Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin and Tomorrow by C.K. Kelly MartinI'm currently awaiting a revision letter for my new contemporary young adult book, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing, and getting ready to leave the future behind me, at least for now (science fiction is far too captivating for me to make the goodbye permanent!). As you can see, I made a few cosmetic changes to the website to reflect the return to contemporary fiction. But before I completely leave 2063 and the U.N.A. in my wake, I wanted to discuss some of the science behind Yesterday and Tomorrow. Many of the forces that define the North America of 2063 in Yesterday and Tomorrow — global warming, nano-medicine, the ubiquitous presence of full immersion virtual reality, and the widespread replacing of human workers with robots or other technologies — are highly possible given where we stand today. As the rate of technological change and climate change increases, we're in for a wild ride.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, by the twenty-first century I expected many changes that haven't come to pass — flying cars, much more extensive space exploration than humanity has actually accomplished, sophisticated robots (or should I say Replicants?), and cures for countless deadly diseases that still plague us. Meanwhile things I never expected have either greatly impacted our daily lives or loom large just around the corner. I'm chiefly talking about two things — how intertwined our "real" lives have become with the Internet and other technologies, and the enormous threat climate change presents to most living things on our planet. Bizarrely, even now that the threat is well recognized, we've barely begun to respond to the problem, and procrastination will only make our future direr.

Still waiting for a Jetsons car in 2014

CLIMATE CHANGE

In March the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report on global warming. A draft of that report was leaked in November 2013 and stated that, "Many of the ills of the modern world - starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease - are likely to worsen as the world warms."

"Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth and poverty reduction, further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger. Climate change will exacerbate poverty in low- and lower-middle income countries and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries with increasing inequality."

A recent University of Hawaii study projects that world temperatures will be off the charts hot come 2047, with various cities reaching the boiling point much sooner. Kingston Jamaica will be likely be permanently off-the-charts hot in just a decade with Singapore following in 2028, Mexico City in 2031, Cairo in 2036, Phoenix and Honolulu in 2043, San Diego and Orlando, Florida in 2046 and New York and Washington in 2047.

According to study author Camilo Mora, "the 2047 date for the whole world is based on continually increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gases. If the world manages to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases, that would be pushed to as late as 2069. But for now, the world is rushing toward the 2047 date."

ROBOTS

We could call it the next industrial revolution and it's already under way. You can see it in stores and airports in the form of self-check-in/out terminals, in Amazon's Kiva warehouse robots, machine driven commuter transport like Vancouver's Skytrain, and the imminent closing of most London tube system ticket offices in favour of direct payment via contactless bank cards. Google has "just purchased Boston Dynamics, a company known for building walking robots for the military" and says "it wants to build a robotic army for the manufacturing sector."

Replicant Roy Batty

Google and numerous car manufacturing companies have been working on self-drive car technology. "Rice University computer science professor Moshe Vardi says that in 25 years "driving by people will look quaint; it will look like a horse and buggy. So there go many of the approximately 4 million driving jobs out there. Same for sanitation, and those are just a couple examples of how physical jobs will be replaced."

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School's Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45% of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades. The authors of the study "believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage. Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such as engineering. This 'technological plateau' will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk."


VIRTUAL REALITY

Most of us already spend quite a bit of time in an alternate reality known as the Internet, or immersed in increasingly realistic videogames.

According to eMarketer's estimate of media consumption among U.S. adults, average time spent with digital media per day was set to surpass TV viewing time for the first time in 2013. "The average adult will spend over 5 hours per day online, on nonvoice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, eMarketer estimates, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television."

Because eMarketer estimates all time spent within each medium (for example if someone spends an hour watching TV while also multitasking on a tablet, the time would be counted as spending an hour with TV AND an additional hour on mobile) the overall figures are sky high. U.S. adults spent an average of 11 hours and 49 minutes with media each day in 2012, and were forecast to spend 12 hours and 5 minutes with media in 2013.

In terms of gaming, full-body virtual reality has arrived with Virtuix Omni and virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. Palmer Luckey, Oculus' founder, says, "I think in a few years, maybe a few decades depending on how lucky we are, we'll be able to get Matrix level virtual."


Given the above info, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil's belief that, "by the early 2020s we will be routinely working and playing with each other in full immersion visual-auditory virtual environments. By the 2030s, we will add the tactile sense to full immersion virtual reality" doesn't sound at all far-fetched.

Kurzweil posits that, "There will be limited ways of adding the tactile sense to virtual and augmented reality by the early 2020s, but full immersion virtual tactile experiences will require tapping directly into the nervous system. We'll be able to do that in the 2030s with nanobots traveling noninvasively into the brain through the capillaries and augmenting the signals coming from our real senses."

NANO-MEDICINE

Kurzweil also says, "in 30 or 40 years, we'll have microscopic machines traveling through our bodies, repairing damaged cells and organs, effectively wiping out diseases. The nanotechnology will also be used to back up our memories and personalities...The full realization of nanobots will basically eliminate biological disease and aging."

We have a ways to go before reaching that Star Trek level of healing but clear progress is being made. "Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed nanoparticles to target artery walls around the heart and release small quantities of drugs on a timed basis decided upon by a doctor beforehand."

"South Korean scientists are developing a new treatment for cancer that will be more efficient and less harmful than chemotherapy. A team at Chonnam National University has developed nanorobots that can detect and treat cancer cells in a way that avoids the harmful side-effects of modern drugs." Imagine, no more chemotherapy!


So if you were ever curious about where my ideas for 2063 U.N.A. society came from — here are the roots of the Bio-Net, gushi, robots workers creating mass human unemployment, and climate chaos rendering areas of North America almost uninhabitable. Roots that are firmly planted in the world of today.

December 31, 2013

Body Snatchers Warning Signs

alien C.K.
Alien C.K.
We've come to the end of another year and once again I'm without a favourites of the year list of any sort (although I will happily share that my favourite read of 2013 was actually a 2009 YA novel called Raw Blue, by Kirsty Eagar, and at this very moment I'm falling in love with Jo Baker's Longbourn).

Instead I'm offering a brief list of another kind entirely—some ways you'll know if I've been taken over by an alien interloper in 2014 (not that I'm expecting such a fate, but one can never be sure!):

• If I say, without any hint of sarcasm, that Toronto mayor Rob Ford is doing a good job

• ditto Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (aka the Grinch who Stole Canada)

• if I mention having gone to a spa or gym or having had a pedicure/manicure

• if I use the words 'bromance' or 'man cave' without ridiculing the terms

• if I say I can't wait for the latest new adult romance between a tattooed, womanizing, bad boy type and the 'relucant' girl he wins over

• if I tell you I watched Game of Thrones last night

• if I say Matt Smith played the Doctor better than David Tennant

• if I say 80s music sucks



There are countless more warning signs, to be sure, but if any of the above biggies occur in 2014 please contact CSETI (the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and inform them of what's happened! Then hopefully a rescue attempt can mounted for me.

Happy New Year everyone! And don't forget to post your own Body Snatchers Warning Signs list so that you have a chance of being saved if you're taken over by an alien life form.

December 13, 2013

The Grinch Who Stole Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gotten into a pissing contest with the Grinch, insisting his own heart is at least four sizes too small compared to the Grinch's two sizes too small.

Stephen harper: The Grinch Who Stole Canada

At this point the majority of Canadians probably have no problem agreeing with Harper's assessment that he has the smaller heart. But should you still require proof, you might want to check out this recent Toronto Star article detailing the Conservative government's dismantling of social programs that were built over generations. Thanks to Harper's government, Canada has become a meaner place to live, something the Grinch never accomplished with Whoville.

Congrats, Stephen. You should be ever so proud.

December 11, 2013

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing

Today I'm incredibly excited to announce Dancing Cat Books, an imprint of Canadian publisher Cormorant Books, is going to publish my new contemporary YA book, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing! It will hit shelves in Canada this coming fall and I'm beginning the editing process in January.


In essence The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing is about the difficulties fifteen-year-old Serena has in establishing authentic relationships with boys in a society that both sexualizes and shames young women. Meanwhile she’s also dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics caused by her missing favourite brother, who left the family without a trace when his drug addiction spiralled out of control.

Serena has barely begun to enjoy the popularity that comes with being newly thin and pretty when her basketball player boyfriend of four months puts her in a compromising position at a party. It’s not the first time he’s made her feel somehow wrong but it’s the last—she swears off the opposite sex. If only fixing her family life were as easy…...

Serena's consumed with worry for the brother she was so close to growing up. Even as she searches for him she’s determined to get her own life together—new friends, a new part-time job and no more guys—ever. Until she meets Gage, a temptation she can’t resist but who brings with him another set of complications.

I'll share more as time goes on! But in the meantime, if you don't hear much from me, you'll know why. I can't wait for you to meet Serena!

December 09, 2013

Toronto Aquarium

I spent part of this weekend at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto. While the weekend isn't the ideal time to visit this new Toronto tourist attraction (the crowds!) I certainly wasn't disappointed by the sights. The various Jellyfish were mesmirizing and one of the other highlights was a moving walkway that gives you an incredible visual experience as it ferries you through an enormous sea life landscape where exotic fish, turtles, and sharks swim overhead and on either side of you.

The expensive entry fee means I won't be dropping in again any time soon (Toronto zoo tickets are $7 cheaper and it takes much longer to cover the zoo) but I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits. If you're thinking of visiting, here's a sample of things you'll see:


sea pens, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014


spotted australian jellyfish, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014


Moon jellyfish, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014



Baby seahorse, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014

starfish, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014





Sea horse, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2014


Diver feeding manta rays, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2013


sawfish, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 2013

Potato cod, Toronto aquarium, December 8, 20136

November 29, 2013

November Chills, Thrills & Defending Our Climate

It's not quite December yet and this morning the temperature felt like -16 degrees Celsius in the GTA. Brrrr. One exceptionally chilly February snow day years ago I industriously went out with my camera and took some photographs of the excessive amounts of snow in the area. Well, I took some snaps until either my camera or the batteries stopped working because of the cold. Anyway, I'm actually pretty much the same way; I don't function well in the cold. I was probably only outside for about three minutes this morning before my eyes started streaming. Generally my whole body tightens up, wanting to close in on itself in a futile attempt to keep warm, whenever I'm out walking in winter. Maybe my genetically Irish cells would naturally prefer more moderate temperatures?? I don't know. But I'm happy to be indoors again and happy that it's a gorgeous bright day. When the days are so short we really need the light whenever we can get it!

I'm home from the office unexpectedly early this morning and because I have this bonus time I want to share a few lovely reviews my books have gotten lately, as well as photos the organizer of the Oakville Defend Our Climate rally sent along of our local protest. I'm the one with the Canadian flag style sign.

Defend Our Climate. Oakville rally

Defend Our Climate. Oakville rall

On November 16th this is what the Defend Our Climate
movement looked like across Canada:



And the fight continues! In Washington-based Center for Global Development's assessment of 27 wealthy nations Canada came dead last when it comes to environmental protection. Also, for the second year in a row Canada has placed near to last in Germanwatch’s Climate Change Performance Index with only Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Iran behind us. We have a hell of a lot of work to do to dig ourselves out of this hole!

Finally, here are links to three reviews from the past couple of weeks which I'm extremely grateful for:

Ivy Book Bindings on Come See About Me: “From beginning to end, this book drowns you in a sea of complex emotions, its prose evocative and strangely compelling, despite its subject matter. Moreover, while Martin's stark realism can be difficult to swallow at times, it is a much appreciated slap into reality. Come See About Me won't be a book for everyone, but as a reader who actively seeks gritty novels that are deserving of their "realistic" tag line, this novel was a godsend.”

Frampton Books on Yesterday: “With an engaging and vivid writing style and multi-layered plot Yesterday is a far more accomplished novel than some of it’s more well-known contemporaries and deserves to be read by a larger (and older!) audience.”

CM Magazine on Tomorrow (Yesterday Book #2): “Martin obviously understands intrigue and knows how to construct a story that leaves readers wanting more with each passing chapter. She also manages to cover difficult and nuanced topics of sexuality and race, as well as environmental destruction and international warfare, with a light touch. ”

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that CM Magazine has called Tomorrow “Highly Recommended” and “very much worth seeking out.” Just thinking about it could almost keep outdoor cold from hunching me into my ordinarily tense posture.

And now I'm going to get down to writing while there's still some sun in the sky to power my efforts. Happy Friday!

November 14, 2013

Defend Our Climate

When I grew up there were alot of TV commercials and school messages about the dangers of littering. The below is an American PSA we'd also catch up here in Canada that'll give you an idea about the focus.


So, okay, leaving your pop cans and candy wrappers lying around forests and stuff was a bad thing. We learned that. What we didn't learn about was the potential for human activities to wreak havoc on longterm weather patterns, putting human lives and the lives of numerous other earth species in jeopardy. And most of us still live our lives as though we don't know that's happening. It's a terrifying thing that we don't want to focus on and/or feel helpless to change. I feel the same. What can I do? I put my name to environmental petitions, I recycle, don't own my own car, I replaced my old lightbulbs with supposedly more environmentally friendly ones when that idea became all the rage (it may not have been such a smart one after all because it turns out Canada's "mercury-waste facilities are either patchwork or non-existent" but that's another story).

But when it comes down to it, what can I do that will make a real difference? I don't have great power or influence. Probably not even medium power or influence. And I'm certainly not single-handedly saving the planet by taking my Coke cans and old newspapers down to the apartment's recycling room.

So what does change things? Mass pressure on the politicians and corporations who possess real power. Right now those people don't believe enough of us are concerned about things like climate change, pipelines running through our communities and the destruction of ecosystems to warrant changing our society's toxic ways. There will be more hurricanes like Sandy and typhoons like Haiyan. Greater and greater disasters occurring with more frequency, if we don't make our voices heard on the issue of climate change now.

One way you can make your voice heard is to take part in one of the over a hundred Defend Our Climate rallies happening in communities across Canada on Saturday, November 16th. Stephen Harper and the Conservative party have had their heads buried in the {dirty oil} sands long enough. It's time for Canada to wake up to reality.

I'll be outside my local MP's office with a sign in my hand on Saturday...but it will mean so much more if you're there too!

On November 16, 2013 thousands of Canadians are coming together to Defend Our Climate Defend Our Communities

 
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