Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Good Samaritan and the Spiritual Zombies

A homeless man shows New York that he has more compassion than most of the rest of the city. The people who ignored the dying man, who could not even be bothered to dial 911, are the walking dead. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Let the dead bury the dead". Avoid at all costs becoming a spiritual zombie. Is a society of such zombies already dead and just pretending to be living? Is such a society worth saving, or is it rotten to the core?


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Colorectal Screening Saves Lives

Until now, there had not been a study directly proving that a direct examination of the colon (sigmoidoscopy) saved lives and prevented colorectal cancer. It's also interesting that you'll have all the colorectal polyps you'll ever have around age 55. Does this mean that we screen people too often in America?


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Answer to Another's Question

I posted the following in response to a Tom Rick's post.

Chaos is a higher form of order that our minds have not yet grasped or understood fully yet. The Universe and the local part of it we call our World seem chaotic on the surface, yet there is an order underneath it. The Indian sages call this world, Maya, the dream. Given a long enough period of time, nothing lasts and today's events and people seem as if they were part of a dream. As a thought in one's head has a brief lifespan, so do people and things in this world. The physical Universe in this analogy is the mentation or thoughts of a Universal Consciousness or an intelligent entity. Each individual is more than a mere thought or idea, but just as ephemeral nonetheless.

Rick's pointed out an incident that E. B. Sledge had where a voice told him that he was survive the Pacific Theater and the war. There are moments every human has of a particular clarity and specialness. They are moments of acute perception and awareness without a trace of thought. They can be experienced, but never fully comprehended by analysis or thought afterward. The Zen Buddhists call them satori. Christians call them mystical visions. A variation of satori likely happens quite a bit to soldiers in combat because of the stress and fatigue of combat, and the necessity of being constantly aware of your environment. Both physics and metaphysics are converging on the truth that the Universe is both the observer and the observed. That fact leads to the inescapable conclusion that there is a Universal Consciousness that exists and that everyone and everything in this Universe are part of that "Mind". The existence of such a consciousness would explain instances where people knew their loved ones were in trouble or people being prescient. (There is a story in Halsey's Typhoon of a sailor's father knowing his son was in a life threatening situation. The father could not know his son's destroyer had sunk and his son was threading water in a massive typhoon, but he did know his son's life was in extreme danger. So, he got his wife and they prayed for their son's safety.)

We will likely need new ways of thinking and analysis. Since both Nature and thought are fractal (interactive repetition) as are most human endeavors, our mathematics and behavioral analysis should probably go in that direction. We've seen the limits of Gaussian distributions, economic models, and risk management against the fractal reality (and fraud) of Wall Street. War is no less complex a system as Wall Street, but it is rooted in the fractal nature of the human and natural world as Wall Street is. Any analysis of human endeavors also has to deal with the loss of observational information just as a physicist loses information by the measurements he or she conducts on the object being measured. Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle is not just a quantum law. The ultimate skill is not fighting or analyzing the war, but avoiding the war in the first place. Was not this the first of Sun Tzu's rules? Skill in analyzing and fighting a war is a poor second to the first skill of avoiding the war in the first place through shrewd analysis and diplomacy.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cheap Antifungal Itraconazole Slows Tumor Growth

Itraconazole seems to be a growth inhibitor of cancer cells as well as fungi. It likely can't be taken by pregnant women since it would affect the growth of the fetus. If researchers can come up with a combination therapy, metastatic cancer will become a chronic condition. This is not a cure. It's just a delaying tactic. It buys one time.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Up to Bob Hoover Standards (Bad Piloting)

The 1994 Fairchild AFB B-52 Crash


Bob Hoover Tea Pouring Demonstration


Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Van People

The Good Samaritans
By now you've likely seen the "Collateral Murder" video. I did not have any problems with it up until the van pulled up to help the wounded man. The Apache gunship crews were doing their job in a war zone. Innocent people die in war. Bullets don't discriminate between friend, bystander, or foe. So, I could understand what they did that day. Logically, I can even understand why they took out the wounded man and the van people trying to save him, but it seemed a bit ruthless - something an ancient soldier would do on the battlefield after an engagement, not a modern warrior from a more peaceful, civilized society. In spirit, it would be like shooting a medic or stretcher bearer on the battlefield. An act the Japanese in WW II or the Vietnamese might do, but that clean cut American soldiers aren't supposed to do. At least one Iraqi War veteran with experience in video feed interpretation and field ops believes that shooting the van and its good samaritans was wrong. I'll defer to his training, judgment, and experience.

I would not have liked to have been that aircrew after the mission debriefing or the officer debriefing them. Was it murder? That would be for a war crimes court to decide. Such a court will never likely be convened though. I would at least hope that the Army counsels the men involved in that mission and fixes its rules of engagement so that civilians trying to help the wounded aren't slaughtered once any threat has been nullified. Had they retrieved weapons, they'd have been fair game. But, the van people were just doing the right thing as human beings. They paid with their lives and two children were injured. Their sacrifice should not be in vain. We should do the right thing and take care of those kids and their families.

When I suggest that the Apache crews get counseled, I would hope that the Army takes care of them to ensure that they don't kill themselves from guilt or remorse. Every time they see a child, they'll likely remember what they did to those kids that day. More soldiers are dying from suicide these days than from enemy action so there is something horribly broken in our military establishment when people are so stressed that they take their own lives by eating a gun. This video only damns the Army even more because it would seem to be covering up the killing of wounded and the people trying to help them. Both the aircrews and the people they targeted are victims in this drama with the video release. One would hope that the nameless van people and the video of their deaths will become an inspiring iconic symbol of true humanity like The Tankman. They were the true and only heroes in that video.

I don't want my country to act like the PRC. We were supposed to be better than that.

Addendum (04/20/10):
Here's an interview with one of the Bravo Company soldiers who showed up after the helicopters attacked. The shooting of the kids disturbed him greatly. I hope he heals okay. The Army isn't known for taking care of their own enlisted men well, otherwise the suicide rate wouldn't be so high. But compared to the Russians or Chinese, our Army likely babies its soldiers. They only do this because democracies are tough on armies and their leaders. Generals get cut a lot of slack in repressive states because they have power.


Monday, April 05, 2010

The Decline of Religion

The nature of the one Reality must be known by one's own clear spiritual perception; it cannot be known through a learned person. Similarly, the form of the moon can only be known through one's own eyes. How can it be known through others?

- Shankara

Why does a religion decline? There are likely many causes:

1. External - natural or human disaster
2. Internal - social and scientific advancement while the religion fails to keep up

Religions die just like other human institutions die. In the market of free human thought and ideas, religions are born, bear fruit, like any blossom or flower, then wither and die. Sometimes, the religion dies suddenly along with the culture that spawned it. Witness the Aztec and Inca religions that were abolished by the conquering Spaniards. A religion can die from internal rot and decay. This is partly due to an orthodox belief system that becomes overly brittle and rigid due to a lack of debate and introspection - there is the Teaching and only the Teaching! Except for the fact that the essence of the Teaching is the truth that emerges from the individual human consciousness stripped of all illusions and inhibitory beliefs. Most all religions share this core value because they are the products of inquisitive human minds. In the past, religion served a useful purpose in guiding and educating societies and their cultures. Religions also were repositories of human knowledge and learning. Monks and priests had to know how to read and write when the vast majority of people in the society were illiterate. Often the religion was ahead of society, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism, to name a few, were advanced for their day. Judaism promoted one incorporeal God, while Christianity promoted sexual and human equality before St. Paul fell under the sway of Roman matriarchs. Both Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity promote peace and tolerance, yet Buddhism and Christianity were embraced by warrior cultures in Japan and Europe, and now, in the United States. Yet, when one looks at the spirit or essence of these teachings, nonviolence is the rule, not the exception.

Why am I even asking this question? It's because from my perspective (which may be flawed), Buddhism is dying. One of the most introspective and pacifistic philosophical systems to emerge from the human mind is being destroyed. I wondered why this should be. I think part of it is due to external and internal reasons. In India, its place of birth, the culture itself changed. The cause was internal due to societal change. In China, the cause was also internal due to the rise of an atheistic political belief system called Communism. In Tibet, the cause was external due to invasion by the Communist Chinese who are destroying the Tibetan culture. In Japan like China and India, the cause is internal as well. But in Japan, the internal cause is more subtle. I believe that the rise of universal literacy due to education is the central cause of the decline of Japanese Buddhism. Buddhism has to compete with many different ideas and philosophies in these modern times. This is the same dilemma that Christianity finds itself in. In some ways, modern society has caught up and surpassed these religions in terms of sexual equality(1), human values, and understanding nature. I believe that where these religions are still superior is in terms of compassion, humility, and introspection in the case of Buddhism. It may be that Christianity and Buddhism will evolve with the times along these core values with the help of science. There's always been a give and take dynamic between society and religion. In the past, religions generally gave up or subdued their teachings on human and spiritual equality because society was still mired in sexual and social inequality. (Jesus forgiving the woman adulteress is a lesson in sexual equality because her male companion in the "crime" was not going to be punished even though it was Jewish Law.) So, when one criticizes a religion for oppressing women or dissent, it's very likely that at some time in the past, those views were a cultural norm and were imposed on the religion by the culture to promote the status quo. Religions are supposed to be liberating, directing people towards freedom and enlightenment - salvation. But religions can be used to misdirect people into harming themselves, such as covering themselves with burkas, which is the opposite of liberation. True spiritual leaders realize that the past is not this present, and illusions for what they are, so liberating change has already happened for those people wise enough to see through such falsehoods.

Perhaps Buddhism and Christianity will see a rebirth. The future is uncertain. What is certain is that sooner or later, illusions will be stripped away and the spiritual core will burn as brightly as the heart of a star. This will be the result of the evolution of the human mind should we humans make it as a species.


1. Dan Knight who was the minister at Culver City Church of Christ pointed this out to me when we discussed the dynamic between religion and society around 1993 or so. So long as there are spiritual leaders like Dan Knight, Christianity, Buddhism, and other religions that share these core beliefs or ideas will survive.


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