Monday, July 23, 2012

A New Way to Dive

For those of you interested in new scientific innovations or who like to SCUBA dive, this post is for you.  There is a coming development that will change the way diving safety is managed by offering a new way of calculating the risk divers face from Decompression Sickness while SCUBA diving.

I should let you know from the start that I do have a personal interest in this project.  The man behind these innovations is Dr. Saul Goldman, PhD, my father.  And I have also been working with him in constructing a website to publicize his findings.  This is in fact the major project I am undertaking until I start my graduate program in the fall.

Very briefly, Decompression Sickness (DCS) involves a set of physical and/or neurological symptoms that sometimes arise when diving underwater and breathing compressed air, then resurfacing without giving the body adequate time to safely eliminate the gas dissolved in blood and tissues.  For over 100 years, there have been protocols used to avoid DCS using various techniques such as slow ascents, and stops at shallow depths.  Originally this took the form of mathematical tables that divers had to understand and use when receiving their SCUBA certification, and is still part of the certification process.  Now this is all computerized, but the algorithms used are based on the same assumptions from decades ago.  I am not even going to go near all the details of how the current models are deficient, as I will probably get things wrong, and my dad would insist on complete (and VERY thorough) accuracy, which would involve a whole lot of stuff some people may have difficulty understanding.  But Dr. Goldman, being not only an avid and experienced SCUBA diver, but also having very strong backgrounds in chemistry and physics, was able to create an algorithm that not only better reflects the rates at which the body actually eliminates these gasses, but also conforms better than current models to actual data gathered regarding cases of DCS.  This new development, the Safe Advanced Underwater aLgorithm (or S.A.U.L. - clever, huh?) is fast becoming the talk of the scientific community, as he has presented his developments at conferences around the world and has published both in scientific, peer-reviewed journals and in diving magazines.  The next step will be to incorporate this into a dive computer and take this to market.  This is what the world will use to dive.  A better, safer way to dive.  Again there are many more details on the website,, you can click either on the link here or on my sidebar.  The website features publications containing all the scientific details, as well as plenty of readable and understandable information about what the SAUL model is and why it is so important.

While it is not my intention that this blog becomes a forum for promotions and advertising, I am keenly aware of the importance of using what means I have at my disposal.  The field I will be studying and eventually working in is Marketing Research, so the project of designing a website and generating traffic is some interesting practice for me before I start my studies.  The experience I got in learning how to build a website was very useful as well.  Putting up a blog here on blogger (or a similar free platform) is a very different experience that is little like the real thing.  While having this blog was useful in that I already was familiar with using CMS programs to post information online, building a site from the ground up and having full administrator controls is something else.  First, though I decided to run the site using WordPress software, it is not primarily a blog so I had to figure out how (and whether) I would be able to customize the setup sufficiently to deliver what was needed.  I have also begun to learn just a smattering of HTML and CSS coding, because I know there will be things that I want to customize further than the templates make possible.  And I am even delving into SEO tactics, though that appears to be quite a bit harder, though so important.  A website is not of much use unless people are able to find it, especially those who don’t already know it is there.

Also, if any other bloggers out there have an interest in this area, feel free to either link to this post or even repost it on your own site, with appropriate attribution of course.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Local Food Fest

Guelph is a city that takes environmental stewardship seriously.  Guelph often takes the lead in green innovations to waste management and champions local food producers.  I think part of this is because the University of Guelph is home to an agricultural college, a veterinary college, and a food science department.  There are many farm and garden co-ops in Guelph and nearby and several festivals that celebrate local food.  Back on June 24, I attended the Local Food Fest, held on the grounds of the Ignatius Jesuit Retreat.  This is quite an interesting institution right on the north edge of Guelph that does a wide variety of things.  First it is a religious retreat, where people can get away and take part in spiritual workshops and other activities.  The Ignatius centre is also a farm that grows a wide array of crops, mostly on a small scale.  It is also a Community Shared Agriculture co-operative, where people can buy shares in the farm and receive a regular basket of the various foods grown there.  They also have many plots devoted to community gardens, where local residents can cultivate a small garden plot with whatever they wish.  There are also various community initiatives that the centre undertakes, mostly involving the environment and community service.

Part of the Ignatius property.  The garden plots are community garden plots (click to enlarge)

One thing that impresses me about the Ignatius centre is that, while they obviously have a particular set of religious beliefs and this is meant to be a religious and spiritual centre, they do not seek to impose their beliefs on anyone, even those who attend the spiritual retreats.  They claim to welcome people of all religions and beliefs and from what little I was able to see, they live up to that.  The most obvious values and purposes they seem to espouse are not so much their religious principles, but more the concepts of environmental stewardship and responsible, sustainable agriculture.  Everything they do reflects on being environmentally aware.  So it is a natural that this is the location for the Local Food Fest.

While this was not a particularly huge event, there were many different things going on.  One aspect was like a one-day farmer’s market, with local food purveyors selling their product. As this was late June in southwestern Ontario, there were strawberries, some lettuce, radishes, green onions and only a few other things that were fresh from the ground.  Also many restaurants set up booths, and provided various good lunch and snack options.  There were other stalls selling bread, honey, preserves and other stuff.  There was even a local kitchenware store represented.

The tents for the market stalls

There were also workshops where people could learn how to start up various gardening-related projects.  I sat in on part of a workshop about growing your own food on a small plot, designed for urban dwellers with only a small backyard to use.  Other workshops included raising backyard chickens, hobbyist beekeeping, building and maintaining organic soils, and other things.  There were also several cooking demos throughout the day.  Two that I watched were making kimchi and making sourdough, in which I was particularly interested.  This past winter I have started experimenting with making sourdough bread, and was definitely interested in picking up some more pointers.  The presenter was from a local bakery I like very much and sells at the local farmer’s market and he gave some interesting advice and gave some useful tips on maintaining a sourdough starter and how certain details in the breadmaking process affect the finished product.  It gave me some valuable insight and some strategies for the next time I do baking.

The two white tents were for the musical acts and the cooking demos

There were also tours of Ignatius farm available.  There were wagon tours and you could also walk their network of trails on your own.  There was also information about the programs run by the Ignatius centre.  Finally, there were also several live musical acts and play areas for the kids.

One aspect I like about this, and about any event that is supposed to be for the public good, there was no set admission fee.  Like foodstock last year, this was a pay-what-you-can event, with the suggested donation set at $2, which I think was sensible given what was offered.  The wagon tours carried an additional suggested donation of $2 and, of course, the farm and restaurant booths set their own prices for their products.  You could still get to this event, located on the edge of the city, even if you did not have a car.  The local airport limousine service partnered with the event and offered a free shuttle from downtown and a community centre.  I was thinking of using this myself but, since the weather was unsettled and I thought I might want to leave at a different time than the shuttle was scheduled, I did take the car and found there was plenty of parking.

I can certainly see why this centre is a spiritual and meditative retreat.  It is just on the very edge of the city so, even though it is quite easy to get to and close to many people’s homes, it is such a peaceful area on a large expanse of land.  There are hiking trails through their large property, including one through a wetland and another past ruins of historical significance.  Seeing the property for the first time gave me a great deal of perspective on a local furor over a development issue several years ago.  I might write a post about this, but several years ago, Wal-Mart decided they wanted to open a store near here and the way everything went down is one of the reasons I refuse in all circumstances to shop at Wal-Mart.

Anyway, it was quite the enjoyable day and a celebration of Guelph’s agriculture and environmental awareness.