Saturday, April 28, 2007


I learned a few things this week. I learned to be contrite. I initiated an action that caused another person to have an accident. Fortunately, she wasn't injured or her car seriously damaged. It all happened in a split second and was due to a lapse of caution on my part. Prior to entering a toll plaza, I didn't check my blind spot before changing lanes to avoid a slower vehicle in front of me. The correct course of action should have been to slow down and stay in my lane. A car behind me slammed on its brakes and spun out of control. I called 911 and went back to the scene as instructed by the 911 operator. I didn't protest as I knew I may have been responsible, and I certainly was a witness. I was relieved to find the woman was unhurt. If traffic had been heavier, she could have been killed or seriously injured. I confessed to my lapse and admitted fault to both the woman and the trooper. Afterwards, the trooper said that my honesty was rare. He said that he usually had to track most people down from the tollbooth cameras, and then they still deny it unless confronted with the evidence. Denial is conditioned into us these days it seems.

That evening I had to take an online course at work about pessimism and negativity. I tend to be a half full sort of person and outspoken to boot. The blunders in judgement my managers have made or been forced to make from more senior managers makes me wonder about corporate culture at the place I work. There was a statement in the online course that struck me as being the definition of reality that politicians and PR people use every day. While it is true that changing your perception alters your reality, it's more true to say that reality alters your perception of what is real. Marketing and sales people tend to be overly optimistic. They are in denial all the time. Things will get better, the numbers will turn around, ecetera. Scientists and engineers deal with reality every day. Things either work or they don't work due to physical laws and processes. Good scientists tend to be overly skeptical and engineers tend to be pragmatic. However, most business people deal with other people and people will let themselves be manipulated (trust?). The unscrupulous will manipulate others and lie to achieve their ends. Denial plays a strong role in business culture and being an optimist it seems. I couldn't help reflecting on what the trooper told me and what was expected of me by this course. He confronts people daily with their actions and they deny them. The course is training people to not rock the boat, but to be congenial, and if necessary, be in denial. This is how it is, make it work. But what if "it" is flawed? (1)

The collapse of Enron was a tale of denial and deception. A few became wealthy at the expense of many others. When reporters and auditors brought up their concerns, they were derided or removed from their positions. The senior executives believed their own lies. Others went along with them because they were making money from Enron even though they knew it was wrong. Iraq, the War on Drugs, and Homeland Security all seem to be the same thing. A few people of influence are making money and going along with a strategy or plan that is fatally flawed and failing, while many others are paying a terrible price. If one looks around, self deception and denial are all around us. When did confronting the truth about oneself or one's society become a rarity? Sooner or later, reality will change your perception. Just ask the Corps of Engineers and the people of New Orleans, or wait for a state trooper to knock on your door.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

It's All Been Said...

"We killed Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. We kill all those people who tell us to live in peace."
George Carlin

I've been a bit quiet lately. There has been little significant news. Work's been there. I miss the intellectual stimulation of academia. The buzz one gets from a stimulating idea or the success of getting an experiment to work. As far as philosophy, it's probably already been said. The Buddha has told us how to get to Nirvana. Jesus likely told his disciples how to get to The Kingdom of Heaven before Orthodox followers mangled the teachings. There have been numerous Zen Masters. There was Yang Zhu and Lao Zi and their teachings of Taoism. Every religion has a core of spiritual truth that one can follow if one looks deep enough. One just has to do the part of training one's mind. Some will spontaneously reach Nirvana, others will have to work at it. In the end, one sits atop the hilltop. On one side lies Being, on the other side lies Doing. It's a dynamic balancing act. You can call it spiritual gravity (I borrowed the analogy from an ISSurvivor article.), but the analogy would hold for a 3D graph in sequence space for many problems dealing from optimal enzyme kinetics versus enzyme structure (protein structure/function), and numerous dynamical computer and mathematical problems too numerous to mention.

Throughout it all though, is evolution. The planet is changing. The Solar System is changing. The Universe is changing. Sometimes I think it's all just a simulation. We're part of some huge program crunching its way to a conclusion a trillion minus 13.5 billion years from now. Every major stellar or planetary body is a process and every process has its own threads. Yes, computer programs are fractal. The Unmanifested would be the kernel and the Universe (the Manifested) would be a userland simulation. None of those labels does any of what I said justice. But then, it's all been said and thought. I wanted to say that we should get with the program, but that's not right. Regardless of what one does, one is a part of the program, a part of the whole. It would be nice if people would stop squabbling over insignificant amounts of money and power and focus on what is spiritually and humanly important, but I'm likely wasting my breath and good electrons just posting it. After all, humans kill the great leaders who tell us to live in peace, and I'm "no one".


Monday, April 02, 2007

Feeling for the Bear

I was watching Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel last night. There was a scene of a male polar bear, desperate and starving, trying to kill a walrus to get a meal and survive. He lost the gamble. He was gored by a tusk and severely injured his left hind leg. The bear, cold and tired and likely in shock, dug a hole to lie down in and likely slept for the last time. He was dying, slow or fast, it was hard to tell. I hope the shock and the cold killed him quickly and he didn't suffer a lingering death. The whole scene was gut wrenching. At the intellectual level, I know that that bear is already dead. Between the time of filming and the time of airing, at least a year has gone by. But that realization doesn't eliminate the emotional impact from seeing an animal fight and lose its life starving and injured. My ex-wife would feel compassion for the prey. She hated it when the gazelle gets eaten by the cheetah. Most people cry for the prey, but few cry for the predator. The prey will usually die a quick and hopefully painless death. Few animals rip their prey to pieces, usually it's a quick snap of the neck or strangulation at least for most cats. But for the cat or wolf or polar bear, failure means starvation. Their deaths are not swift unless a fellow predator kills them. So it was gut wrenching to see that bear lay down and die. So much for being detached. It's easy to say that everything is a molecular dance and that the consciousness of the bear will go on, or some aspect of it will metaphysically and maybe physically speaking, but emotionally I can't help but feel for the bear's plight. What do you say? I know that I was manipulated by the show to feel compassion for the bear. It was a deliberate effort by the film makers, but that doesn't make it wrong. If I'd have been there, I'd have shot a damn walrus for the bear, maybe two to make sure he wouldn't starve. But I wasn't and he's dead now. He may have been so badly injured that he would have bled out any way. Maybe his death wasn't in vain though. Perhaps it was meant to be for just this purpose, to raise people's consciousness. If you think about it, what were the odds that the film crew would be in the exact spot to witness the bear's demise, or get such gut wrenching footage. But when all is said and done, I wish that bear would have lived to hunt the ice again.


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