3 Rs




Monday, October 13, 2014


My Benign Essential Tremor started when I was about nine or ten years of age. I used to build model planes out of plastic as opposed to wood because I experienced difficulty carving the balsa to the desired shape. I don’t recall if I had tremors when working with wood. I do recall having difficulty putting the small sails and thread-like webbing on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, my first models when I was a boy. Plastic pieces that fit into each other with a male and female connection were easier to assemble than playing with wood.

My tremor was dianosed as a neurologic movement disorder by Dr. Michael Stuparyk in 1983. He referred to it as a benign essential tremour, It is characterized by involuntary fine rhythmic tremor of my left arm and hand. It has affected my head slightly, and as I entered my senior years it has affected my voice, tongue, and the roof of my mouth (palate), which at times makes it difficult to articulate speech. In retrospect, when I was in Grade 5, I had to attend a special class after school for an hour. My teacher told me that I wasn’t articulating my words clearly. It was referred to as Speech Class, or that’s what I remember it being called.

My neurosurgeon, Dr.Andres M Lozano of Toronto Western Hospital   simply calls it an Essential Tremor. Benign is usually associated with person s who have a growth that is non-cancerous. That may be why the word 'benign" was dropped.

Unlike people with Parkinson’s disease, the Essential Tremor is non-life threatening. Tremors increase in amplitude with age, usually starting in the forties. In my case, manipulating utensils and drinking liquids from a glass is a challenge.

I was in a restaurant one time and the waitress asked what we wanted to drink. I replied, “I’ll have an apple juice with a straw.” The other three of my colleagues ordered coffee. She looked at me funny and said, “Would you like the kiddie’s menu as well?” I replied with no facial expression and looked her right in the eyes, “I’ll have an apple juice with a straw, please.” I didn’t get upset with her. She didn’t know. I wasn’t offended at all. Some people are ignorant of the disabilities of others. Besides, to put the scene into context, we were joking and laughing before she popped the question. As we ate our breakfast and she noticed my tremors, as I spotted her in my peripheral vision, she had a hurt look on her face bordering on remorse. Poor woman.

Before my deep brain implant to control my tremors, I stopped going out to restaurants. It was just too embarrassing. I changed my attitude with the implant. Although my tremors have come back, I still go to restaurants. If it’s a buffet, I get the person in front of me to put food on my plate People are genuinely nice. They have made my life easier and I am grateful.

This piece about my tremor is an introduction to what is to come. I am going to post videos on YouTube with me building my pneumatically controlled Canadarm, piece by piece. It will be a mini-how-to-series especially for people with tremors. We have to feel useful and that we can contribute something. I am fortunate. I have conducted science workshops for children and adults on how to build my Canadarm. It is great fun.

I have a workshop coming up on Saturday, November 15, 2014 from 2:15-3:15 pm. The following is posted on the on-line flyer: " Pneumatic models such as: Front end loaders, Hickory Dickory Dock clock, Brakes and Tow Truck models will be demonstrated. Participants will build a miniature pneumatic controlled Canadarm to take home." (Resource: www.stao.ca/program).

China to Mars

An purportedly anonymous official of the China National Space Administration has indicated that China will continue with its deep space mission and that it will put a man on Mars in 2020.

I do a Space workshop with Grade 6 students through Scientists in School (www.scientistsinschool.ca). In my presentation, I state that China will be the first country to put a man on Mars. My rationale is quite simple: China doesn't have the battles of the budget that plague Western countries. China's leader doesn't change as frequently as Western leaders which simply means it is easier to stay the course.

I interviewed a scientist a few years ago who was involved with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). "Positioned 1.5 millions km from Earth in the cold darkness of space, JWST will be able to discover and study objects thousands of times fainter than those seen by current telescopes." (This quote is from an article I published in Crucible, September, 2010). The telescope was to be launched in 2012. It's still on the ground in a laboratory. The USA changed leaders and the telescope was no longer a priority.

Each country has its own brilliant scientists. I was pleased when India sent a spacecraft to Mars; the first Asian country to do so.

Did you know that NASA through thought about setting up a launch site on Cape Breton Island (Canada) which is on the same line of latitude as Kazakhstan? They changed their minds, and leaders. The USA says it will put a person on Mars in 2030 and they have been saying this for the past five years. Too late.

I can't wait to see which country does what in the next few years of space exploration. We live in exciting times.