Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photography Tips - Part 1

The other afternoon I met Suzanne, a photographer at the beginning of her creative photography career. She had a tripod, a decent camera, a good eye for a photo, and a few questions - which I tried to answer. And that got me thinking... I realized that I have never posted about photographic technique. So... here are a few tips and tricks. Thanks for the inspiration Suzanne!
I'll start at the beginning with the basics and then proceed to the more complicated.


Theory: Let's begin with a question. What is still photography? My definition is this: Still photography is the process of capturing and preserving a small slice of light with the intention of having that slice be pleasing to the eye. What do you think?
I like the medium of still photography because it allows me to do what no physicist can do... stop time. A small bit of light enters the lens of my camera and I fire the shutter. If my shutter has stayed open for the right amount of time, I have a properly exposed photograph.
Let's talk for a minute about exposure. There are three components or factors to photographic exposure: 1. Shutter Speed,  2. Aperture (often called f-stop),  & 3. ISO (often called ASA).

1. Shutter Speed - Cameras can open their shutters for whole seconds and for fractions of a second. Professional camera shutter speeds range from 1/12000th of a second to 30 seconds to BULB. The BULB setting means that the shutter remains open for as long a time as the operator wants it to be open - and that can be as much as several hours or as little as 31 seconds. If you were to take a two hour photographic exposure, for example, the light levels would have to be less than you could see with your naked eye or else the photo would be over-exposed.
In order to hand hold an average camera with a standard lens (I'll talk more about lenses later) and have the shutter speed last for a short enough duration so the photo will not show camera shake, the shutter speed needs to be faster than 1/60th of a second. If you want to take a longer exposure or if you want to use a telephoto or closeup lens, then a tripod is recommended. In the absence of a tripod, leaning the camera on a ledge, a knee or a sturdy upright support might provide enough stability to get the shot.
Shutter speeds are offered in such a way that there are full jumps and then either half or 1/3 jumps in between - all for the purpose of controlling the light more precisely. Beginning at 1 second, full jumps are as follows: 1sec - 1/2sec - 1/4 - 1/8th - 1/15th - 1/30th - 1/60th - 1/125th - 1/250th - 1/500th - 1/1000th - 1/2000th of a second - etc. Each full jump in shutter speed, 1/30th up to 1\60th for example, cuts the light reaching the film plane (or digital sensor) in half. As an example, a shutter speed of 1/15th allows 8x more light to reach the film plane than does a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second.

2. Aperture - Aperture, or f-stop, is the measure of the size of the light's pathway through a lens to reach the film plane or digital sensor. Aperture is like the pupil in your eye - it gets bigger or smaller depending on the light intensity.
As a general rule, the bigger the diameter of the lens, the more light that is available to make the photograph and, as a result, the better the photo quality. The farther away the lens is from the back of the camera the bigger the lens needs to be. For this reason, tiny point and shoot cameras are thin with small lenses and SLR's are thick with big lenses. (SLR stands for single lens reflex, or cameras that show in the viewfinder the exact scene that the lens sees.)
F-stops are expressed in "f" numbers. Expensive zoom lenses may have a maximum f-stop of 2.8, while cheaper models might be limited to f4 or f5.6. These numbers may sound confusing, but the learning curve isn't all that bad. The rules are easy enough.
a. The larger the f-number, the less light the lens is able to gather.
b. The smaller the number, the more light the lens is able to gather.
c. The larger the f-stop, the more depth range of the photograph that is in focus, or in photographic lingo, the more depth of field there is.
d. The smaller the f-stop, the less depth of field.
e. There are full f-stops (f1.2 - f2 - f2.8 - f4 - f5.6 - f8 - f11 - f16 - f22 - f32) and there are half stops or even 1/3 stops, depending on the camera. The important thing to remember is that every time you change the setting by one full stop, you either double the light reaching the film plane or cut the light in half. For example, the difference in the amount of light getting into the camera at f2.8 as opposed to f8 is 8x less at f8 than it is at f2.8. Switching from f8 down to f16 means that 4x less light will reach the film plane. If you measure from f2.8 to f16, the difference in the amount of light reaching the film plane is 32x more at f2.8 than it is at f16.
a shutter speed of 1/125th and an f-stop of f-8 will still be perfectly exposed when shot at 1/60th and f11 or at 1/1000th & f-2.8. The difference in the photographs (assuming all three shots were taken in focus with the same lens and without camera shake) will be in the depth of field - the amount of front to back area in the photograph that is in focus.

3. ISO (often called ASA) - ISO is the measure of the film or digital sensor's sensitivity. Common ISO settings are 100 - 200 - 400 - 800. Each of these sensitivity numbers corresponds to one f-stop or to one full jump in shutter speed. Consequently, ASA (ISO)100 requires twice as much light to expose the digital sensor properly as ASA200 would, etc, etc. Now you may be asking the obvious, "If I can use a much faster shutter speed at ISO800 than at ISO100, then why wouldn't I just shoot all my pictures at 800"? A good question! The answer is that the higher the ISO, the more the image quality degrades. If you want a grainy look in your picture, like you might want to create in a soft, close up portrait, then by all means shoot at ISO800, 1600, 3200, 6400 or even ISO12800. Your shutter speeds will be higher, and if you are outside, your aperture will have to be a high f-number too (resulting in a lot of depth of field).

In conclusion to Part 1, manipulating ISO, Shutter Speed & F-stop allow you to create different effects of the same image that you are looking at. If you want to freeze action, for example, then use a higher ISO and a faster shutter speed (a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second will freeze most action). If you want to take a panning shot with a kid on a speeding bicycle going past you, for example, (panning is when you swing the camera and track the object you are photographing), and as a result, streak the background but keep the object sharp, then you will want to use a slower shutter speed and a lower ISO. For pan shots, 1/15th of a second up to 1/60th usually work well, depending on how fast the object is moving. When you pan, just try to keep the part of the image you want in focus in the same place in the viewfinder as you snap the photo.

Photography is about effect, expression and creativity, so have fun. Don't be afraid to experiment - especially if you have a digital camera. If you have a happy accident, remember what you did so you can do it on purpose the next time. Just remember that shutter speed, f-stop and ISO are all related and can be combined like cream, sugar and butter to make the perfect icing for your carefully prepared masterpiece.

In Part 2, I'll talk about either composition or lenses - or perhaps both. Composition has my heart, but lens choice can make all the difference. Knowing how to use a cheap lens can make your photos very good with just a little know how. Stay tuned...
And thanks for tuning in this time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My 29th Wedding Anniversary Remebered

It is with great fondness and joy that I recall that fine summer's day when I married Diana, the red haired girl of my dreams. Even though it’s been 29 years, the scene seems like only yesterday. Since that wonderful, life changing moment in 1982, my life has not gone according to plan, but overall, it has gone pretty well. Sure, I’ve had ups and downs both great and small, but through it all, Diana has been there – an anchor in a hurricane, a Popsicle on a hot day, a voice of reason when I was unreasonable, a sweet and delightful companion in both sickness and in health, a friend always. Yes, I'm still in love! Marrying Diana was the best thing I've ever done and I'm often amazed that as a naive 22 year old I chose so wisely. If I hadn't had God's help in the choice, my life would be not nearly so nice!

The hopeless romantic in me recalls the words of a favourite song. It's by Jud Strunk and was written and released in 1973. Sadly, Jud died nearly a year before Diana and I married but I appreciate what he left behind. The song is called “Daisy A Day”.
Daisy A Day
By Jud Strunk

He remembers the first time he met ‘er
He remembers the first thing she said
He remembers the first time he held her
And the night that she came to his bed
He remembers her sweet way of singin’
Honey has somethin’ gone wrong
He remembers the fun and the teasin’
And the reason he wrote ‘er this song

I’ll give you a daisy a day dear
I’ll give you a daisy a day
I’ll love you until the rivers run still
And the four winds we know blow away

They would walk down the street in the evenin’
And for years I would see them go by
And their love that was more than the clothes that they wore
Could be seen in the gleam of their eye
As a kid they would take me for candy
And I loved to go taggin’ along
We’d hold hands while we walked to the corner
And the old man would sing ‘er his song


Now he walks down the street in the evenin’
And he stops by the old candy store
And I somehow believe he’s believin’
He’s holdin’ ‘er hand like before
For he feels all her love walkin’ with him
And he smiles at the things she might say
Then the old man walks up to the hilltop
And gives her a daisy a day


Strunk performing “Daisy a Day” live on stage
Jud Strunk - wikipedia article

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Davis L. Bigelow's Writing Tips

Writing Tips

Over the course of many years, I have read and analyzed a lot of different writing styles. I think that if you, as a writer, are happy with the words on your paper then your words are probably good enough and your style is probably good enough too. Being overly critical can stifle creativity, and honestly, I’ve seen some rough writing that was sculpted in such a way that the roughness worked in sweet harmony to produce what I thought was a great result. I recommend that you just write and then think about your writing later. In school, not every English teacher I had liked my style, but that was an expression of their personal notion of what they thought my style should be. I have found that one style does not fit all readers. Opinions are usually free – even educated and credentialed opinions, and sometimes they are worth that price and not a penny more. If you are a creator of sentences, lines and prose, then you have the right to decide what words live or die in your original work. Rules in writing are nice, and often helpful, but they are only guidelines.

As for me, I began earnest writing in 2001. I completed grade 11 English in high school and winged it from there on. During that final semester of school, I took an English placement test and made it into the 98th percentile of all 12th grade students in the province of British Columbia, Canada. I’ve done more than OK. Since 2003, I have authored two books - one autobiography and one adventure novel, with a second adventure novel in the works. As I wrote, my style slowly changed into something I was happy with.

Here are some things that work for me:

  1. When I read, I pay attention to the writer’s style. Do I like or dislike the writing style? Could the style improve? How? Do I like the style enough to try my own version of it?
  2. When I hear awesome words, I write them down & try to use them in my writing.
  3. When I think of or hear cool names, I write them down. I think that character and place names can make or break a story.
  4. When I think of good story lines or complete plots, I write them down. Sometimes I dream good stories & sometimes I think of plots out of the blue. The important thing I do is to write my thoughts when they're fresh because if I don’t I only can remember that I had a good idea – but what was it?.
  5. Another thing I do is to consider the styles of other writers, but when I write my own stuff, I just do what feels right to me. After the words are written, then I go back and edit and hopefully improve the flow of the work.
  6. I write nearly every day, but sometimes it is just in my journal.
  7. Often, I have only five or ten minutes to work, but I write anyway. I carry my net book with me as often as is practical, but sometimes I use my I-Pod and email my files to myself.
  8. When I edit, I always read out loud to myself. Using this technique, I tend to catch 99% of grammatical errors on my first edit. I find that "grammar check" doesn't always know how to write. (I use MS Word. I find its grammar/spell check is mostly accurate, but not always.)
  9. On my second edit, I look at the flow. How long are my sentences? Are they all the same length? How long are my paragraphs? Does each paragraph convey one complete thought? Long paragraphs tend to slow the story, so I try to ensure that the paragraph and sentence lengths match my intended flow pattern.
  10. On my third edit, I look at my characters. If the story is long, I try to edit the entire manuscript all the way through - one time for each main character and look to see that their voice is consistent with their personality from the beginning to the end.
  11. On all my edits, I listen for words that don't flow smoothly together - unless I want the words to sound rough for effect. I also look for words that are used too often and find appropriate synonyms to replace them. I pay attention to the mood the work is conveying and adjust as needed. Finally, in my latest writing, I use an outline and build my stories from that framework. I never used to do this, but recently have found it quite useful – especially in light of the fact that I often write for just a few minutes at a time with major interruptions between times. I find an outline helps me get back to the story faster.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

O Canada! July 1, 2011 marks 144 years!

In my fast paced life I appreciate taking time to pause to consider my well nourished roots. I was born in Canada - quite probably the most war free country in the world, and I am grateful for the peace and safety I enjoy living here. I suppose there will always be those immature and socially dysfunctional folks who try to give a country a bad name (like the demonstrators who recently threw violent temper tantrums following the
Vancouver Canucks' loss in the last game of the Stanly Cup final with Boston), yet most of us who call Canada our home make an honest effort to be good citizens. Along with England, France and Germany (and perhaps there are more countries that should be in this list), Canada is and has been a very immigration friendly destination in the global village. It has been said that "Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery" (John Paar), and I tend to agree. Before the global economic downturn, Canada was right up there in the top two or three best counties to live in, but today, Canada stands alone at the top. We enjoy the best standard of living in the world, the most stable economy, and I think we also enjoy the lowest crime and murder rates. And at least some of our politicians are honest! Throughout the world, nearly everywhere Canadians travel, they are welcomed as friends. One can walk downtown in Toronto or Vancouver (without getting mugged) and hear a myriad of different languages - within just a few minutes. In fact, even among the people I see and speak with here in rural Alberta, at least ten different languages are represented. Canada is truly the ultimate melting pot for the whole world. Canada is where friends live with friends. Canada is an awesome place to live!

Here is our national anthem, "O Canada" (all the verses of the song).
"O Canada! our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western Sea,
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western Sea,
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. (by Stanley Weir - with slight changes)
Happy 144th birthday Canada!!!
For more info on our national anthem and Canadian heritage.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father, Lyle Dean Bigelow – The Leader of the Band

Father's Day Tribute - To My Dad

I’m grateful that I remember my Dad. Sadly, that’s more than some can say about their own fathers. On August 2nd, 1995, at the end of 69 years of life, my father passed away peacefully, leaving my mother and six children to go on with life. I was 35 years of age at the time and felt much too young to be advanced to the front line of our family’s male generation, but there I was anyway, reluctant and feeling old before my time. It’s been sixteen years since that sad summer day, and I still miss my father.

I recently visited Dad’s grave, located in Cardston, Alberta, and spent a few quiet minutes contemplating the life of a man who, thou human, gave me life and raised me the best he knew how to. When Dad was three years old, his mother died in childbirth. When he was nine, his father died in an accident. Dad’s childhood and subsequent youth were filled with turmoil and an abundance of uncertainty. My father’s early life was a bumpy ride, and Dad bore those early scars for all his life. Some of those scars made him weak and other scars made him strong and wise. Considering Dad’s rocky early years, not to mention his ongoing poor health, I’m proud that he made as much of himself as he did. I’m not sure I would have done so well. Dad sacrificed for us children. Dad tried hard to set a good example to us.
I’m grateful that he was as good a father as he was to me and my five sisters. And as the years passed, just like most fathers, he got better at being a Dad.

In July of 1957, because of his poor health, Dad took my mother and three older sisters to the lights on the rugged and remote wet, west coast of Canada and became a lighthouse keeper. Little did my parents appreciate how their move would affect their posterity. By the time I was born in 1960, my family was living on their third lighthouse, a tiny, oblong dot of land called Pointer Island. Their move to Pointer Island Light in 1958 would be my parent’s last move until Dad retired in 1984 - and by then I was grown up, moved away and married.

As I stood by my father’s grave, I shed tears of sadness and tears of joy. I smiled as I remembered the story Dad often related about his birth – how the doctor had told his mother that she shouldn’t get attached to him because he wasn’t going to live long. Dad had greatly outlived both his parents as well as the doctor’s expectations. After 69 years of dodging death, Dad now lay at rest in the family plot – and I was left to continue on his legacy... The chorus of a famous 1981 song came to mind – a song written by Dan Fogelberg, called “Leader of the Band”.

“The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I'm just the living legacy
to the leader of the band.”

More tears flowed. Dad hadn’t been perfect in life, yet he had tried – and over time, as I watched the years flow by, Dad became more and more the man he wanted to be. “I’ve seen the light... Have you?” Dad’s oft spoken words sounded again in my mind, accompanied by my memory of Dad’s easy smile, but this time I finally answered the question. “Yes Dad. I think I have finally seen the light. I think that getting life right is about making sustained efforts to improve myself over time – lots of time. I’m not sure I’m as far along as you were at my age, but I will keep on trying – I’ll keep struggling forward. And because I saw you succeed, maybe I can too. Thanks Dad! Thanks for being the leader of our band!”

 P.S. The six seagulls soaring in the beams of the light shining from the skeleton tower on Pointer Island represent me and each of my five sisters. My older sister, Sharon, drew the sketch for Dad's fittingly unique headstone.

Dan Fogelberg in Wikipedia
Dan's live, 1982 performance of "Leader of the Band" on youtube.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Product Review - Salomon Trail Running Shoes – Model: X-Trail 1

A few months ago, I dropped in to a Camper’s Village store in Edmonton (the capital of the province of Alberta) and discovered a big clearance sale in progress. Happily, I found a pair of trail runners in my size and in my price range. When does that ever happen!! The Salomon X-Trail 1 shoes fit my narrow foot perfectly, but I found that I needed a ½ size bigger than I normally wear. I liked the breathable uppers, aggressive tread, the very light weight but tough design features and quick lacing system. The colours were awesome too.

The lacing utilizes a one pull system. When tight, the lock and excess lace tucks up into an concealed, elasticized pocket in the tip of the tongue where it never comes out until called f
or. The lacing system is very well thought out and I love it. Now I should confess that I’m a hiking boot kind of guy, but since the price wasn’t too high, I decided to give the Trail Runners a try. I figured that even if they weren't all that great to hike in that they would still do well in the car, at the mall or on my treadmill.

Finally, on June 4th after a nasty cold and wet spring, I put the Salomons to their first test – the Wishbone Trail in Waterton Park. 
How did they do? The initial wilderness trail was mostly grass and dirt with the occasional brittle deadfallen stick to snap under my weight. The Trail Runners were stable and responsive and didn't transmit an excessive amount of force into the sole of my foot when I came down on pointed rocks or bumpy branches. As the 8km hike progressed however, I felt the pointy underfoot objects a little more than at first, but not too much more. We’ve had an excess of rain here in Southern Alberta and the trail was soupy in numerous places. I tried to skirt the temporary water holes, but soon decided that I should change my name to Davis Bogtrotter! So long as the water level was no more than a half inch deep, my feet remained dry, but some bogs were unavoidably deeper and soon my socks were soaked. The shoes were definitely breathable – at least everywhere except the soles! I tramped about 6km with wet feet before I saw my car again, but I got no blisters – and I liked that part! And the water seemed to leave the shoes as quickly as it came in. Near the end of the trail, I jogged a few hundred metres (they are trail runners after all). Their light weight was a welcome break from my usual hiking footwear, but I still raised my heart rate! Go figure. I did find that the Salomons allowed me to maintain a faster walking pace than my boots ever allowed me to – and I liked that very much. Greg, my hiking partner for the day, complained that even though I was 11 years his senior that he could hardly keep up with me. (It was just the shoes Greg!)

At home, I pulled out the wet insoles and thoroughly rinsed away all the dirty bog-water (with warm water in the bathtub). I set the insoles out to air dry and put my shoes in the dryer with four dry towels (to absorb water and shock). I set the dryer on the air only setting. After about an hour of banging around in the dryer, I let the Trail Runners dry for a day and then tried them on again. They fit just like they did in the store and seemed to suffer no damage whatsoever. I’m impressed! Even wet, the shoes felt good and I was pleased with their overall performance. I will definitely use my Salomons again! (Sorry Greg!)

For more info, visit Salomon USA or Salomon Canada

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Four Tests Of Life

I'm a thinker (and that's not an apology), and in this weeks post I want to drip a few more drops of ink from my overactive mind. I hope you will find my thoughts interesting - and perhaps even personally beneficial.

In considering life, its meaning and its progression from birth to death, I believe that each of us will be forced to take a stand, from time to time, on some jugular issues. I don't mean superficial stuff like the house we want to buy and live in or the clothes we wear (although those things may have great impact on us), but I am thinking deeper. I am thinking about the way we each approach and deal with life and its vicissitudes.

We all make decisions, some tough and some easy, but I believe that some of the decisions we make are like the oxygen we breath - if we are to live, we are forced to make them. For example, I walk down the street and see a fat wallet laying right in front of me on the sidewalk. Am I surprised? Yes. Am I forced to make a decision? Yes. At that moment, I have power over that wallet. It may contain a large amount of cash or some other valuable commodity. What do I do? Do I pick the wallet up? Do I steal what I find? Do I turn it in to some authority? Do I walk past the wallet and leave it behind me? No matter what else happens, I am forced to decide something. The only way I would not have to make a decision is if I had not seen the wallet - but it's too late for that now. Because I was there at that moment in time, I'm forced into making a quick decision in regard to that wallet.

Now this principle of forced decision making is probaboly not new to any of you. It seems that I live in a stream of continual confrontation with the opportunity to decide. I hear a joke, I see the cover of a magazine, I stub my toe, I get a paycheck with lots of overtime paid out, I am put in charge of someone - the stream of life never stops washing over me and I expect it never stops washing over you either. The stream just keeps flowing and I am left with only one option - to make numerous quick decisions - whether I want to make them or not.

So, you may be wondering... what are the four tests of life? Well, I will tell you what I believe they are. As I have pondered the seemingly endless stream of forced decisions, I believe that every ultimately significant decision can be categorized into one of four groups: money, power, pain and sex. I believe that the real tests of life are how we personally handle the forced decisions within those four groups - especially the forced quick decisions.

I may not be rich, but I do have enough money to live. I may only have power over ants and mice, but I still have power. I may not feel pain at this moment, but I will eventually confront physical or emotional pain. I may wish that I hadn't notice well photographed cleavage on a magazine cover in a store checkout line, but I am now forced to decide to either stare or look away. And I believe that the sum total of how I handle money, power, pain and sex will determine, yes, determine who I really am today and who I will be tomorrow. How I do in making my forced quick decisions tells me how I'm doing today. My carefully planned decisions are much easier to get right, but the real me shows true character when I make quick decisions that are forced upon me without warning. If I am to find and fix weakness in my character, I must examine the moments when I am at my worst. I find this painful, but I believe that I deserve to do better, therefore I must take a hard look and ask myself the hard questions. How am I doing with money, with power, with pain, with sex? And since I deserve to succeed in life, what can I do differently so I can succeed?

I believe that we are all created equal in importance and that we all deserve to succeed in life - but not at the expense of others. I believe that we all have challenges, but I also believe that we all have the power to choose positive responses to whatever comes our way. I believe that none of us can get it right all the time, but I believe that practice makes perfect, so hang in there and get up each time you fall. I hope I do well, and I hope you do too! To quote Andre the Giant from the movie The Princess Bride, "I hope we win!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The King’s Speech – Movie Review

It was a real pleasure for me to witness this modern portrayal of a lesser known, but very significant historical event – an event that profoundly influenced the world in which I now live.

On September 1st, 1939, as the inevitability of World War II rolled across the British Empire like thick English fog, King George VI was preparing himself to utter perhaps one of the greatest speeches of all time – a speech he was ill prepared to make. Because of the sudden abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, the new king unexpectedly found himself on the throne. King George would obviously have to speak in public but his life long speech impediment stood firmly in his way. The new king’s faithful and determined wife, Elizabeth (mother to Queen Elizabeth II and grandmother to Prince Charles) had previously hired several speech therapists, but King George’s progress was non-existent – until she hired a man named Lionel Logue.

An ordinary man, Mr. Logue was anything but common. Lionel immediately went to work trying to help the king – using unorthodox methods to change the course of history. This movie is about the ultimate triumph of King George VI, a real life reluctant monarch thrust into the spotlight by circumstance beyond his control. “The King’s Speech” is the story of a man who rises to meet his obligations – even when those obligations felt like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen support. This story is about determination and determination and more determination – and I liked it a lot!

In the United States, “The King’s Speech” was rated R (14A in Canada), and I will tell you why. The movie has no sex or violence, but it does have a few scenes when the struggling king uses profanity to help him in his speech therapy. As you may already know, I’m not a fan of profanity and wish it had been omitted. I did, however, brave the occasional swarms of foul language masquerading as acting, and enjoyed the movie anyway.

The movie stars Colin Firth, Goeffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall and Anthony Andrews – and they all do an awesome job of portraying this “based on true” story. 

Visit “The King’s Speech” official website.  
For more information and support materials for children and adults who stutter: The National Stuttering Association provides educational and support resources for children and adults who stutter, educators and speech therapists. Over 100 local chapters provide additional support.
Visit www.westutter.org for more information.

Here's the real speech His Majesty, King George VI delivered on September 3rd, 1939

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gardening in Cold Alberta - Green Peppers & A Micro Greenhouse

Southern Alberta is not really cold in the summer, but the winters can get nasty. Here, we enjoy Chinook winds in the winter months - warm winds that melt the snow and raise the temperature as much as 40 degrees C in 24 hours. In the spring however, the Mother Nature provides us with a variety of conditions. We can have great weather for days, followed by one morning of frost. What to I do in the garden to keep the plants going? Cover them with plastic.
Typically, Southern Alberta will not be guaranteed frost free until June 1st, but most of us who plant gardens here put our plants and seeds in the ground on the Victoria Day long weekend (about the 23nd of May). We usually get a frost the morning following the full moon, and that occurred May 17th so we are probably out of the woods as far as frost goes until the end of September - if we are lucky.
I started my peppers and tomatoes from seed in early March. The plants grew in our kitchen window until about the end of April when I put them out in our most protected greenhouse. The thriving plants are definitely ready to be in the ground and most of our greenhouse dirt is already planted with flowering tomato plants and soon to flower green, red and jalapeño peppers. Outside, Diana and I prepared a special place of protection for additional pepper plants - since we had too many for our two greenhouses.
We selected a plot about 24 inches wide and 11 feet long. Then we dug a trench about 6 inches wide and 4 inches deep, all around the rectangular perimeter of the plot. Next, we planted the pepper plants - 7 of them in the 11 foot row. With each planting, we used liquid fertilizer 15/30/15 to prevent any transplanting shock. (Miracle Grow or RX-15 are two 15/30/15 fertilizer brands I know of.) We added about 4 cups of fertilizer water (1tablespoon per gallon) to each plant. Next, we placed the drip irrigation hose against the stems (we use the kind of drip irrigation hose that weeps from micro pores everywhere along the hose). With the hose in place, we took 2 large plastic garbage bags and cut them down the sides to form long rectangular sheets of plastic. We folded the bags lengthwise, covered half the plot lengthwise and placed big dirt clods in a few strategic places to hold one edge of the plastic. With the fold against the stem of each plant, we cut a + shaped hole for each plant, about 5 inches each way. We then carefully pulled the plants through the holes, overlapping two garbage bags to reach the entire length of the row. We smoothed out the black plastic and I then pushed 6 curved wires through the plastic and into the ground such that the wires entered the ground at the edge of the 24 inch wide plot and along the inside edge of the 6" x 4" trench. Each wire hoop is 88 inches long and about 1/8 diameter and is the kind of wire used for farm fencing (non rusting and fairly bendable). We pushed the wire hoops into the ground about 8 or 10 inches at each end. (Please note: the two end hoops are pushed in at about a 60 degree angle and the bottoms are less than 10 inches away from the first perpendicular hoop. This helps support the end of the clear plastic when it is stretched. Also, the hoops are placed so that none of them pass directly above any plant.) Next, we cut a piece of 2mil clear plastic 6 feet in width and 16 feet in length. (The plastic is not UV stable, but it really only needs to last about 4-6 weeks to accomplish its magic so this isn't a problem. Thin and cheap is the name of the game.) With the clear plastic cut to length, we draped it over the hoops, centered it and piled the dirt from the trench all along its edges. Approximately 4 - 6 inches of plastic was available to sit in the trench, and the piled dirt tightened the plastic nicely.
The result? A perfect micro greenhouse. Now there are a few cautions I need to tell you about before you try this at home...
First, this micro greenhouse is a closed system - meaning that no air is flowing in our out. Inside the tube, humidity levels are high and the plants use and re-use their own oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is OK for a while.
The plastic is nearly all buried. All that remains to be done is to finish covering the closest edge and sweep off the patio blocks. (It the background, you can see two of the drip irrigation hoses.)
Second, if the ambient temperature gets too high, the plants will cook
So... We'll leave our micro climate alone for about a week or so - until the hottest daytime temperatures get up to no more than 78 degrees Fahrenheit. (80 degrees is the maximum upper limit if there is full sun.) When the days are warm enough, we'll stick a knife into the clear plastic and cut 3/4 circles, leaving the top 1/4 of the circles intact so they act like a flap. The circles will be about 4 inches in diameter. We'll cut one circle in each end and two along each side for a total of 6 vents. After about another week or two, the plants will be getting tall. We'll then cut holes directly above each plant so the leaves can get out of the tube. The holes will be about 11 inches across which will mean that there will not be much plastic left on top. At this point, we'll also cut out and enlarge the 3/4 circles along the walls of the tube so there's better ventilation. We'll add a few more holes to the walls too. Eventually, the clear plastic will come off, but it can remain on until harvest - and a nice harvest it will be!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Small Stuff - 1440 Little Things Each & Every Day

What do you think? I bet you have an opinion. Some say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Others say, “Everything is small stuff.” Well, I agree and I disagree – all depending on how I look at the definition of small stuff. Today, I’d like to talk about ‘time’ – you know, the small stuff that prevents one thing after another from becoming everything all at once.

Let’s first consider the math and then we’ll move on to more pleasant considerations (unless of course you're a math aficionado and then this is a bonus situation of desert first).

In every 24 hours, there are 1440 minutes. That sounds like a lot, but for me, those daily increments can go by very quickly or very slowly. For example, I can hold my breath for well over two minutes, but each minute passes by pretty slowly! Without my accustomed steady supply of oxygen, two minutes seems like an eternity! And how about when I’m sleeping? Eight hours (480 minutes) seem to pass by in less time than it took me to hold my breath without passing out. This phenomenon of time distortion has always fascinated me – and sometimes scared me. In my short life, all 26,928,000 minutes of it – give or take, I have been both efficient in my use of time and wasteful.

In spite of my seemingly endless supply of minutes, I really ought to consider the reality that my minutes have a finite limit – I only have so many minutes allotted to me before my mortal life concludes. The thought might seem a little morbid, but if I’m to get done what I want to get done in life, then I need a plan that fits my parameters – or at least considers those parameters. So... since I don’t have any inside information about the exact number of minutes I have allotted to me, I seem to have only one of two choices. I either live each minute without regard or notice of its passage, or I pay attention and try to maximise the efficiency of each one of those minutes.

Even though any given minute may be my last one in mortality, should I be fearful? I think not. I think that I should embrace and employ and enjoy each minute that I get. Do I always do that? Sadly, no, but I believe that awareness is the first step to creating good habits. My future is going to happen no matter what I do, so I might as well try to push it in a desired direction.

Here is a personal example... About a decade ago, I began writing my book, “Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off” – my book about growing up on the lighthouse. I was working full time and after work I built up my home-based photography business – as well as fulfilled all my obligations with my growing family. I had no time to write – or so I thought. Then something great happened. I got a Palm Pilot and a compact, folding keyboard. I began pulling the system out on my breaks at work and typing while I ate and rested. In the four years I did that, I wrote over 80,000 words – mostly about 4, 5 or 6 minutes at a time. Occasionally, on my 30 minute lunch breaks, I’d get in over twenty minutes of writing, but not always. What did I learn? I learned an important lesson about using time. I learned that if I did a little bit of writing when I could, that my writing would add up to a lot – eventually. So, what did I do? I took that Palm Pilot & keyboard everywhere. If I had to wait to see the doctor, I wrote. If I had to wait in the car, I wrote. I didn’t read unimportant stuff just to pass the time. I did spend time pondering and thinking – because I found those things important to a balanced life, but I looked for small windows of opportunity and appropriately seized them. I learned that some minutes needed to be sacrificed in order to help other people and that I should not scar my important relationships with the tip of my pen (so to speak). I learned that some minutes, however, were ‘fair game’ and those minutes were mine to gainfully employ as my obedient servants in the pursuit of my creative writing.

Today, I use my small laptop – a Samsung N210 Netbook, to get my words in order. It’s not quite as portable as was my Palm Pilot, but I can input a whole lot more words in a document than I could in the old days – and it has spell check! Today, my battery lasts longer and my data is easier to move around. I just plug in a flash drive to back up my precious files and I can easily transfer data to my archive. I enjoy the onboard thesaurus and the much bigger screen. I can even upload posts to my blog from this nice little computer. All in all, I still try to write whenever I have a few free minutes. And when my computer is not handy, and I have a creative surge, I use a paper, a Post-it note or even a dry erase board (old fashioned I know, but they work in a pinch).

How about you? What do you do to maximize your precious minutes?

I invite you to visit Stephen Covey.com for lots more time management inspiration.You can even join up and send me a friend request. Have fun!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Who Do You Write Like?

This morning I found a fun place to start my day. I visited Deirdra Eden Coppel's blog and found a very cool widget! I followed the link to a program that analyses a person's writing style: http://iwl.me/
Rather curious about comparing my own writing style to the styles of others, I posted a small sample of my new novel, "Treasure of El Grado Escaso" and the analysis said that:
I write like
Ernest Hemingway
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I then posted a much bigger sample of the "in progress" novel and it still said that I write like Ernest Hemingway.
I next posted several excerpts from my yet unpublished book, "Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off" (about my growing up on a lighthouse on the west coast of Canada) for analysis and it said:
I write like
Edgar Allan Poe
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
For my third and final post, I uploaded some of my novel, "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" and it said:
I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!
I'm most definitely flattered!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Consequences - A Moral Dilemma!

Consequences - A Moral Dilemma!

I seems that one of my biggest challenges in life has been to accept the fact that when I pick up one end of a stick, I also pick up the other. When I jump off the diving board, no matter how high I spring into the air, I’m always going to fall and I really hope I planned ahead and made certain that there was water in the pool. Sometimes, I look ahead and make choices based on getting their projected consequences – consequences I want. I lock my car so my stuff will remain inside. I tie my hiking boots correctly and confidently expect my laces to remain secure until I untie them (and they have always stayed ties up for me). In spite of the fact however, that over the years I have made several very valiant attempts to alter the consequences of my actions, I have always been unsuccessful. 100% of the time. Perhaps it’s a good thing? Perhaps being able to accurately predict and count on a particular outcome is a wonderful thing? Why then do I sometimes want to manufacture inconsistent outcomes – inconsistent consequences?

I should be able to get what I want – right? At first glance, getting what I want sounds to me like the embodiment of the “Canadian Dream” (Of course, in the USA, it’s called the “American Dream”). After all, don’t I believe that I should have freedom? Who is it out there in this big old world that has the right to deny me of my personal right to get whatever I want in life – and out of life? Why do consequences often block my personal pursuit of happiness? Why can’t I just do what I want and have it be OK with everyone?

I have pondered these questions, as perhaps you too have pondered them. I find the questions to be intriguing. And I sometimes find them to be much more complicated than I’d like them to be.

A great many years ago, my associate Wade B. and I were discussing consequences, personal choice and religion. (A brain-full to say the least!) At the time, I was only 20 years old and Wade was 21, but we had a mature, adult moment that seemed to go beyond the wisdom of our young years. Wade and I talked about how all religions, when considered in combination, promoted a vast variety of beliefs – some the same, some only similar and some very different. We considered how some people felt that religion was restrictive, mind numbing and even claustrophobic. Some people seemed to be saying, “We want to keep on doing whatever we want - but we want to be able to get different consequences”.

Wade expressed concerned discouragement over the fact that there seemed to be an undercurrent, in some members of society around us, of opting out of formal religion and following their own personal belief systems – a personal, informal religious affiliation of one if you will. I agreed. The problem I saw with this personal religious affiliation of one idea was with the practice. After all, how do I settle on an appropriate personal code of conduct if my exclusive creative force is to allow me to do whatever I want and have it be OK? Even at age 20, the notion sounded rather selfish and self serving - not to mention arrogant.

Wade and I agreed, as you may also agree, that every human being will eventually settle themselves on a personal belief system and then at least try to live by it. Wade then, in complete facetiousness, offered a funny idea, but in the thirty years that have past since I heard it, I have often thought that he was onto something quite thought provoking. Wade jokingly suggested that we start a new church that would seem to meet the needs of all the folks who wanted to do whatever they wanted to do without the associated consequences – a personal religion outside of formal religion – a personal religious affiliation of one. Wade called his make-believe religion “The Third Church of the Stillborn Again”.
“And what is it‘s doctrine?” I innocently asked.
“If it feels good do it.”
“Wow!” I said. Does this church believe in baptism? Wade grinned and said, “If it feels good do it.”
”How about repentance of sins?”
“If it feels good do it.”
“Loving your neighbour?”
Wade grinned some more and said, “If it feels good do it.”
I laughed – we laughed together, but in the years since, I have often reflected on that day – sometimes with a smile and sometimes more seriously.

As my life has progressed, I have learned to like consequences more and more. I have learned that each and every action has a predictable reaction – a natural consequence that I may or may not like. I can always count on consequence. I have learned that while I can defer the arrival of a consequence of one or more of my actions, I will eventually have to pay the piper his full due – and if I defer, the price is usually higher. I have learned that my life goes better if I stop resisting natural law and just make choices based on their consequences. This is a no-brainer for some of you, but it took me a while to get to this spot in life – and I’m still working at staying here.

And so I return to my first question, “I should be able to get what I want – right?” My answer is “Yes!” - but I must make the choices that will ensure I arrive at my wanted destination. I have to base my focus on the results I want, not on whether something feels good at the time, or whether something is convenient, or whether taking the course of least resistance beckons to me with fair promises of success. Easy Street, in reality, is an overgrown dirt lane with vacant, weed-infested lots and not one liveable house in sight. If I am to get what I want, I have to think ahead. I have to plan my work and work my plan. I have to consider the complete consequence, not just the parts I like. I cannot cheat my way to a permanent positive result – no one ever has and I personally think that no one ever will (except on television - of course). A temporary high sounds more like an addiction than lasting happiness – you know, live for today and who cares about tomorrow. I think that it takes work to be happy – no surprise for some of you, but it was for me.

And here’s one final thought from the peanut gallery… I smiled a few days ago when I heard a friend’s definition of insanity – “Insanity is to keep on doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.”

Now all I have to do is live by this wisdom!!! I will try, but it might be a while before I get my life to work as perfectly as my faithful bootlaces.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review of the Samsung Netbook Model N210

Samsung N210
I bought a Samsung N210 Netbook about a year ago and I love it. I’m an author on the move and really appreciate the very long battery life. I often sit in bed and type while my wife sleeps in beside me. In the dark, the lowest screen brightness setting is plenty bright. Even in daylight, I rarely use more than a 50% brightness setting.

I’m not a trackpad kind of guy so I immediately purchased a folding wireless mouse – which I love.

I’ve done slideshows on my big screen – the netbook plugged into the TV and the mouse on the couch. The system works great.

In all fairness to heavy Internet users, I do not use my netbook much online, but in the limited use it gets, the performance is acceptable. I’ve never seen a wireless laptop / netbook that could compare to the speed of a wired connection, so if I need to do big updates or downloads on my N210, I just plug it directly into my router.

The N210’s processor is a little slower than my Windows XP desktop with 4Gb RAM and a Pentium 4 processor. I recently upgraded my N210’s RAM to 2GB and that sped things up some. I installed Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 on the N210 and it works well, but it is a bit slow. MS Word and Dragon NS running together are real RAM hogs! The best way I’ve found to use Dragon is to record on my Sony IC Recorder, download the Mp3 file onto the N210 and then tell Dragon to transcribe the recording. The transcription process is silent and I can leave the computer to go do something else while it chugs away. The transcription is pretty accurate and I can then compare it to the recording and tweak any errors. The best part of recording my voice is that I can do it nearly anywhere and do not have to carry the computer – even though the computer is not very heavy. In this way, I get more out of my spontaneous thoughts.

Someone asked about how loud the N210’s keyboard is. In response, I visited the four keyboards in my house: my Samsung N210, my Sony Vaio Laptop and my two desktops. The desktop keyboards are two different models made by Microsoft.
What I found: the N210 had the quietest keyboard out of the four I compared. The N210′s keys have a very soft sound, not a distinct clicking, but not perfectly quiet either. As I mentioned earlier, I use the N210 beside my wife while she is sleeping and Diana doesn’t even hear the keyboard. (Diana is not a heavy sleeper.)

I always use a hard surface between the netbook and my lap, so the cooling fan (which I have never heard) isn’t restricted. I’ve been told that one of the fastest ways to wear out a computer is to let them get too hot inside. (My Pentium 4 desktop has lasted well over 5 years now probably because it has an extra cooling fan.)

In conclusion: I got my Samsung N210 to compose words, not to play games or surf the web. So far, the N210 is all I imagined my dream netbook should be. I definitely recommend it. I love the long battery life, the great look of the pure white case, the high resolution screen and the ease of it’s use. The keys are very comfortable to my touch. The only thing I don’t like is that the right ‘shift key’ is not quite in the right place and I had to teach my right pinky to reach out a bit further to activate it. (Good thing I can be taught!)

All in all? The Samsung N210 is fantastic and if I had to buy another netbook, I would get another N210. (And the red model would look very nice beside my white one!)

Read more reviews.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hiking / Backpacking / Camping - Dehydrated Ground Beef Recipie

In my backpacking adventures in 2009 and 2010, I used this recipe and loved it. I've never seen a recipe for dried ground beef, so I invented my own and thought some of you out there might like to try it. The dehydrated ground beef reconstitutes in boiling water in just a few minutes and is a great addition of protein and flavor when added to other dried foods in making soups and stews along the trail. If you are a fan of Oriental packaged soups like Ichiban Noodles, etc, then you'll be pleased when you add a little of this recipe to the mix. Enjoy...
Ground Beef – Dehydrated
Original recipe by Davis L. Bigelow

1kg Extra Lean Ground Beef (1kg = 2.2lbs)
½ tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 Tbs onion flakes (or 1½ tsp powder)
2 Tbs water
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground thyme
1 tsp marjoram
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (more if you want the beef to be spicy)
1 bouillon cube (enough to make 1 C of broth)
1¼ tsp cornstarch

1. Cook meat
2. Mix in water, spices and bouillon (not the cornstarch)
3. Cook for 5 minutes
4. Drain juice
5. Cool juice and keep meat hot
6. Mix cooled juice and cornstarch
7. Add juice to meat and brown meat for at least 10 more minutes. Mixture will be dry, so stir constantly.
8. Cool for 20 minutes
9. Spread 1 C on each dehydrator screen (while loading screens, place a paper towel under the dehydrator screen to catch any juice that my drip through) and then dry until brittle - about 14 to 24 hours in a low humidity environment – longer if the ambient humidity is high. As an alternate to using a dehydrator, use an oven set to 150° F. Prop the door open slightly to allow moisture to vent.
10. Seal without air in the bag. Stores well in the freezer.

* 1 kg of fresh, extra lean ground beef equals 2 C of dry meat & 1140 calories
* 250 grams raw equals ½ C of dry meat & 285 calories
* When dry, ½ a cup of meat weighs 45 grams
* 454 grams = 1 pound
* Backpacking Chef has a great website with many more dehydrating ideas and tips. Enjoy...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Treasure of El Grado Escaso - My New Novel

OK, OK, enough serious blog posts. Several weeks ago, I mentioned my new work of fiction, and here I am, as promised, to tell you about the excitement.
It all began in November 2010, when my wife Diana and I went to Mexico with some friends. I went scuba diving 13 times and was awed at the sights and sounds of the southern Baja Peninsula, or "Baja Mexico Sur" as it is locally known. Before the trip, I wondered if my holiday should include doing a little research for some future writing, but when I was immersed in Mexico, my decision was obvious. How could I be surrounded by such an awesome place and not put pen to paper? 
During the vacation, one of our group coined the name of a perfect Mexican fictional character for my future writing pleasure - Rico Suave. I liked the name and as our time ticked by, I took more and more photographs to support my future creative writing. As our trip drew to an end, one of the group proposed a scenario where each member of our group randomly picked five numbers from 1 to 1500 (the number of photographs my wife and I had taken). I would then match the random numbers to the corresponding photos, put the photos together and then craft a story based on those photos. (I've included 12 of the photos in this post.) And who was to be the star of this crazy story? You guessed it, our fictional Mexican,  Rico Suave. I even got a title suggestion, "Los Aventuras de Rico Suave" - Spanish for "The Adventures of Rico Suave".
Well, the challenge was accepted and the story begun. I identified the 25 photos, added 5 of my own (not picked at random), and began to write. But the lessons I learned from writing "In Ravenscrag's Shadow" quickly rose to meet my excited efforts. Where is your plot? How do I incorporate these 30 photographs? Who is Enrico Suave? Who are the other characters? What do these people look like? What motivates them and drives the story forward? What kind of story is this anyway?
With these questions and more bouncing off my cranium like a surrounding barrage of attacks in the 1980's video game of Asteroids, I stopped writing and began preparing. First, I decided what kind of guy Rico Suave was. Then, I created a back story to support him. It took longer than I imagined it would, but when I was done, I had a deep rooted character of substance - a character that could last for a series of books - if I wanted him to. Next, I developed a plot, followed by a character arc for Mr. Suave. I then began filling in the other characters, giving them life and personality-fuel so they would add to the story. Next, I decided that because I had multiple story lines, that I needed a chronology to keep the lines separate in my head and to be able to mesh the contemporary story lines at the appropriate moments - you know, "we interrupt this exciting story line with another exiting story line". And somewhere in the middle of all this process, the title of the book changes several times. I finally settled on the perfect title, "Treasure of El Grado Escaso".
As I was working on the chronology (which I still am), I made the decision to incorporate as many actual facts into the story as I could. I am capable of making things up, but why do that when there are so many awesome things in the world of reality. And besides, when I read a fiction novel, I assume that a certain portion of the book is factual - and I very much like that. So I researched and researched and researched! I sent out emails to people who could expand my understanding of certain tools my characters would use (Like the versatile Foldspear my heroine will defend herself with or the very cool SOG pocket knife sported by one of my bad guys). I enjoyed researching, but was anxious to begin writing. As I worked on the chronology, I would catch myself writing expansions of the notes. I mean, how could I not. The scenes were just begging to be written - twisting my arms!
And so, here I am, my larger-than-it-should-be chronology is nearly done. My major characters are mostly complete (I've made character reference sheets for each). I have 30 great photographs, a great title, great back stories for my major characters, great locations for the plot to unfurl, great land and sea adventures in southern Baja, great gadgets, great bad guys, exciting treasure, great twists and turns, great romance, great heartache and of course, a great hero - and so far you only know the short version of his name, "Enrico Suave".
Stay tuned...
The adventure is only beginning...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Siamese Twins, World Peace & Homosexuality - The Davis Bigelow Test

Siamese Twins, World Peace & Homosexuality

Last week, I talked about world peace and offered my thoughts on how we can achieve it. In last Saturday’s post I said, “I think that tolerating and even encouraging reasonable differences in others are the twin keys to world peace.” I feel that these two keys are like Siamese twins that cannot be separated without the result being death. I believe that when world peace is finally achieved (and yes I think it will be one day) that it will be the collective and simultaneous embracing of the principles of tolerance and respect that will make it happen.

Last week, I also promised to tell you all how I think we can accurately determine what behaviours in others are reasonable, and should be tolerated and encouraged. The test I am about to propose is a two edged sword that cuts both ways. The test not only cuts through the rhetoric and emotion and personal preference and past tradition to reveal what behaviour is good and what behaviours should be encouraged, but it also clearly highlights behaviours that are not good and what behaviours should be discouraged. Are you ready to hear the Davis Bigelow Test? It is really quite simple and works best when applied to the jugular issues of life - especially moral and ethical issues.

Here is my theory: Take a particular behaviour – any behaviour, and by imagination, apply that behaviour (action or inaction) to every person in a society who is of the appropriate age to be included in the hypothetical test. (For example: 1st Grade education to 100% of all normal 6 year olds, or Marriage of 100% of all normal adult men to 100% of all normal adult women of similar age, or Homosexual relationships for all 100% of all normal adult men, etc, etc.) Then, in your imagination, project the result of the behaviour if 100% of the study group did it – or didn’t do it. Then, ask the tough, open-minded question. “Are the results positive or negative?” If the results are positive, then that behaviour should be encouraged and enhanced and incorporated. If negative, then the behaviour should be discouraged and quickly gotten rid of. It seems that the entire debate over what is right & wrong could easily be solved with this technique. What would happen if 100% of adults never told the truth? Or how about if 100% of all drivers displayed road rage? Or what would happen if 100% of all adults played video games for eight hours for each and every day? The list of behaviours that can be plugged into this test is vast, but each imaginer must follow some basic rules: 

1. The projected result must not be influenced by a personal opinion.

2. The projected result must be founded in fact and ideally should be based on actual, available data. (There are thousands of empirical studies to choose from.)

3. Some behaviours, such as, “Which side should we part our hair on?” (at least for those of you who have hair), are not significant enough to matter and should not be plugged into the Davis Bigelow Test. The categories of questions that will trigger the best responses from the Davis Bigelow Test are very toughest questions of religion, morality, sexuality, honesty, etc.

Let’s take the traditional marriage/gay marriage debate as an example. If 100% of all who wanted to marry, engaged in traditional marriage, what would be the result? How about if all we had was gay marriage – for 100% of all adults who wanted to marry? What would happen in either scenario? Would society benefit or not? The questions are not, “Would I benefit?” or “Will the result be what I personally want?” When I ask these last two questions, and I’m going to be blunt about it – I am showing my yellow belly of selfishness. I do not live alone; therefore, every choice I make in public or in private makes some difference to society, either large or small, and therefore all my choices are the business of everyone else. I have an obligation to tolerate and to give willing respect to others. And I have the right to be tolerated and respected by others. How about world peace? I think the 60’s song got it right, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”

Sounds like the ultimate extreme adventure to me – and you know how I feel about adventure!