Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Ca Pros Journey takes a new turn

A few weeks ago I received schedules for a scintigram and a CT scan in May. In the light of my astonishingly low PSA in Feb I queried whether these were really necessary at this time. So my consultant agreed that she would reconsider the scan plans if a current PSA test was still encouraging. Fifteen minutes after getting her email I was in the lab giving up yet another little contribution of blood.

The results have just come through - it's up from 5 to 12 in two months. And my testosterone level is consistently up with it. That's a bit of a shocker. So a phone call to the office and, yes, we need to go ahead with these two expensive and time-consuming tests to get some kind of a picture of what's going on.

All in all, it's a bit of a disappointment after the Feb PSA being so good. But in myself I haven't felt better in a dozen years. Another cheerful piece of news is that at least one very expensive medication has just come onto Pharmac's free list. So it looks like another bunch of pills is going to be on the way in a few weeks.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Buying the News

A long time ago I bought a secondhand book for $1. It began: “the biggest heist in the 1970s never made it on the five o’clock news.  The biggest heist in the 1970s was the five o’clock news.”

The Newscasters by Ron Powers, went on to tell the story of the takeover of news media programming to benefit commercial interests. “The salesmen (sic) took it; they took it away from the journalists... with such finesse that nobody noticed until it was too late.”

Now it’s happening all over again right here in NZ. TV3’s outstanding Campbell Live current affairs programme is threatened by the ratings kings and the bean counters. 

Some allege that the government is leaning on the broadcaster. Others point out that the new CEO of TV3 has no broadcasting experience and has no sympathy for this particular programme.  Gifted satirists and intellectuals alike are fulminating against the threat. A petition is under way and there will be demonstrations around the country tomorrow. Perhaps the public - which didn’t actually watch the show enough to pull up its ratings - will rally round.

But the reality is, unless the taxpayer provides some funding specifically for an impartial news media service of some kind, private broadcasting will inevitably shape its offerings to build its bottom line. We may deplore their taste and motivation. But in an unregulated market we can hardly blame them.

What we need to do is insist that the our taxpayer dollars do more to support programming that may not have commercial potential. Obviously Radio NZ handles news more appropriately than television; merging radio with a free-to-air satellite TV service could work. There may be other ways. But let's at least explore the possibilities....

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lecretia and Me

I've just made a small contribution to legal costs to support a doctor named Lecretia Seales. She is dying from brain cancer. Next month she will ask the  High Court to determine that the law which says her doctor cannot end her unbearable pain by assisting her to die breaches our Bill of Rights Act.

According to today's NZ Herald, her statement of claim has been filed by no less than a senior legal and policy advisor at the NZ Law Commission.

Her case is somewhat based on a favourable judgment recently given in Canada. There the Court also directed that the existing law is flawed and instructed Parliament to address the matter within twelve months. In this country our courts cannot make such demands on Parliament. But if Dr Seales eventually wins the right to chose to end her life at an appropriate time, a kind of precedent will be created for others.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NZ has asked to be a party to the case and my small gift has gone along to help with their expenses. Understandably, the Care Alliance Trust also asks to represent the opposite view. And the Human Rights Commission, with no predetermined opinion on the matter, feels it should be there also. These three bodies would seem to represent a balanced and realistic forum.

Today's procedure to decide who may be involved is the first step in what may be a most significant journey down a path our very conservative government is choosing not to take.
Like Lecretia Seales, I am at present enjoying robust health in spite of oppressive therapies for significant cancer. Like her, I don't wish to end my life now nor in the immediate future.

But, also like her, I believe I should have the right to make a different decision in changed circumstances. I do not wish to force my view on others. But, at risk of standing accused of trying to influence the Court, I just express the hope that a way will be found to provide a framework for reasonable choice for every person.

Monday, April 20, 2015

ANZAC centenary? I think I'm over it...

In a busy but very satisfying time of reinventing myself in digital publishing and temporarily masquerading as a Barbershop Chorus Director I am trying to take notice of all the stuff on the centenary of the Gallipoli landing and the role of NZ and Australia in it.
The celebratory mood seems to be full to overflowing of interpretation that is being superimposed on one of the most monstrous military failures in history Personally, I have heard enough about the horrendous blunder that Churchill bestowed on the British community of nations - he did better later on.
And I am also troubled that we seem to be attributing inappropriate motives to the people who went to serve. We are now holding them up as if they actually went off to give up their lives so New Zealand could be free. I think we use too much language of "sacrifice" and "honour" for people who got killed screaming and cursing on the beach or in the trenches.
Of course this is an appropriate time to remind ourselves of the pain, cost and outright stupidity of war. Of course it is appropriate that our national psyche has some concrete memorials of great tragedies in its life. And of course there have always been conflicts that have been maintained by individuals who had no idea about the original cause.
But, just after Easter, I am struck by the way in which the reinterpretation of the tragic cost of NZ life at Gallipoli sounds remarkably like the reinterpretation that the church has for upwards of 2000 years put on the living and dying of Jesus of Nazareth.
And I am troubled that the plethora of "news" items around the number of poppies that are being made all round the country is obscuring news about the appalling suffering taking place right now in almost the same part of the world that was the setting for the Gallipoli story.
The Anzac spirit might be better expressed in a massive intervention of compassion in the Middle East right now rather than so much focussing on the tragedies of a hundred years ago.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Busy E-days

The prospect of some extra months or years added to my life expectancy has prompted a fairly busy time over recent few weeks.  One of the things I did while on holiday in Canberra was explore e-publishing work done by for independent ("indie") publishers like myself.

Coming home, I first worked on my book of short stories. It was print-published just last year so should have been in good shape to convert for reading on an iPad, tablet or phone. But it was quite a long journey getting it prepared for digital publication. With some coaching I finally got it uploaded and it's had a couple of hundred downloads in three or so weeks. The book on the century of Russell Methodist Church went up next. It was a little easier to manage and has also been downloaded a remarkable number of times.

After that I uploaded my two main books on church and ministry: Ecclesion - The Small Church with a Vision and The Cavalry Won't be Coming. These are also being opened up by quite a few readers. Of course, I am not looking for any payment for any of my books at this stage and everyone is on the lookout for free books. But it's still a surprise that so many copies of the ministry books are going out so quickly.

It's been a fascinating experience to attempt something quite different. I've been negotiating a very steep learning curve. And from time to time it's taken two of us to sort paragraphs into proper order. But there's a rare sense of achievement in solving a range of new problems and devising ways of dealing with the written word for an unfamiliar new medium.

We all need a new challenge now and then. Without the intellectual stimulus and the physical activity that may go along with it, life could easily become just ordinary. Not around here at the moment, anyway!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Noteplayers or Musicians?

Recently I led worship at our home church for the first time since moving here. It's a strange congregation, with little sense of its own character. It certainly doesn't meet the clearly defined worship expectations that I carry around with me. And it could be expected to have some resistance to a card-carrying progressive Christian.

So when I found the lectionary invited me to think about John 3;16, that was a challenge.

I invited the congregation to consider the text and identify a key word that spoke to each of them. Google Images gave us a huge range of illustrations around different words in the text. These were screened as we noted the variety and strengths and shortcomings of each viewpoint. People acknowledged their own choices as we proceeded. Then we looked at the relationship between the individual words and any central theme or story that might lie behind them.

The musical director of our barbershop chorus had previously told me of a trombone student who was about to play the tune Maria in competition. The lad had got hold of the basics of managing the instrument.  But he played just the notes. Warwick realised that he didn't know the song. 

So our organist played the "Maria" notes on the organ, loudly, stiffly and woodenly. Then our hefty stereo suddenly filled the church with a heartfelt rendition of the opening of I've just met a Girl Named Maria down to "...say it softly, it's almost like praying".

As we follow the way of Jesus and interpret the biblical words for our lives, I asked us all, are we just noteplayers, or are we musicians?