Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Leaving" implies both something being left and something else being reached.

Death.  The soul leaves the body.  The body is a shell, nothing more than a vessel for the soul, the fifth, transient element.  For example, we call your body "yours."  Like a possession.  Not yourself.  Do you see what I mean?  "Self" is personality and thought and memories (not memory).  And what is personality and thought and memory?  Chemicals in your brain.  But not even that.  The way those chemicals come together, with the physical tissue of your brain and its orientation in space and time.  But these things, personality and thought and memory, self, are not physical, nor would we ever presume to describe them as such.  Really, how would we describe them?  Abstractions.  Not matter, but abstractions.  It's a small step from abstractions to energy.  After all, how would you describe energy?  Try; it's really damn hard.  Okay, you can say "I don't know" now.  Self is so amorphous, indescribable, intangible, abstract… you get the picture.

Death.  I keep wandering away from it (intentionally, perhaps..?).  Body is a possession, a vessel, a shell.  Even when you're alive.  But it's a possession like a home.  A house or an apartment.  It's very personal, very you. Still, when the soul leaves, it's just a fallen log, a discarded muffin in a muddy parking lot (don't ask), a footprint in wet sand.  It's the physical manifestation of memory, a dead body is.  I want to be cremated.  I want my body to go to the fire.  Well, actually it's between cremation or just being left out for the animals and the plants and the elements.  Air (the great oxidizer) and water (the great eroder) and earth (the great consumer) and fire (the great equalizer) and life.  Other life: dogs and raccoons and birds and worms and beetles and trees and fungi and soil bacteria.  Either way I am returned; even if I was embalmed and locked in a metal box and buried (*shudder shudder*) I would eventually return to the universe as organic molecules and even atoms.  It would just take longer.  Much longer.

One thing about my faith is that it's not particularly comforting.  But that's the thing: that's because it's realistic.  The world is not "made" for us.  We are not "supposed" to be able to survive, thrive in it.

The "meaning" of life is that it works.  There is no great reason.

The soul is recyclable, but not always recycled.  Yes, reincarnation is in here somewhere, but I've got my own bent on it.

But I do know what happens when you die by a hand or a force other than your own.  Sort of.  Obviously I don't know, really.  I mean, no one does.  If only we could remember…  Think of the first law of thermodynamics; conservation of energy and matter.   Add up all the energy and mass on both sides of the chemical equation and they'll match.  Mostly.  I'm not going there, at least in this paragraph.  Besides, I forget what the principle or whatever is called.  Well, what is a soul but… something.  I mean, there aren't specifics, but souls are like the gods; they have to be made of something.  And there's only two things in the universe (don't you even think about it): matter and energy.  Personally I'm leaning toward energy, and it makes sense/sounds good: heat energy, light energy, life energy.  You know?  But the point of this whole idea is that souls can neither be created nor destroyed (perhaps they can be converted, but not going there right now).  Anyway, this means they have to be re-used, and I think they come out the other side looking pretty much the way they did.  It's, like, hard to change energy, man…

Whoa, I just started making sense!  Like, trippy, right?  Betcha didn't see that one coming, huh?

So, souls survive the journey from one body (the deceased) to another (the newly born) pretty much unchanged.  I have no thoughts on the actual method of the journey at this moment; I will just say that Death is neutral among divines (I'm not even sure he qualifies as a divine) and men, and there are Angels [of Death] and Reapers involved.  What; you thought I didn't have a theory?  Silly, silly; you don't know me yet, do ye?  Actually, have you been, like, paying attention?

BTW: I've been writing this to myself.  Because I talk to myself.  I know, circular, but I get hold of an idea and I'm like a terrier with a bone.  Never let it go.  Just sayin'.

So, I don't really know the mechanism, and the importance of that statement is that I don't know why we don't know who/what we were.  I think that now would be the time to point out that souls are present in all living things, so species, even kingdom, is sort of a nonissue.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Good and bad and everything in between.

I've started watching Dexter again.  I don't know why I ever stopped; it's such a fascinating study in human nature.  Or... something else... I guess Dexter would describe himself as other-than-human, but what is it that makes us human?  If it is the physical condition of being human (born human, of humans, in humanity, with the same genetic makeup as humans and the same material needs) then Dexter is most certainly human.  And he's not a sociopath, as I've heard suggested.  He displays some sociapathic characteristics, but he wouldn't care about all these people, even Harry, if he was.  And he does care, and that's why the show's interesting.

I've watched all the usual crime/forensics/police dramas: CSI (in its many incarnations), Law & Order (in its ever-more-numerous masques), Bones, Inspector Lynley, and such, and I feel this has made me better able to appreciate Dexter.  I do not mean to suggest that any of these are realistic (I have come to realize over the years that many are far from accurate, most notably CSI (in which techs are given guns and the lab rats go into the field).  I think maybe this innacuracy allows me to juxtapose CSI (which, I must admit, is probably the worst perpetrator) with Dexter.  But knowing these shows allows me to ignore all the forensics and police procedural part.  I imagine Dexter's as accurate perhaps as L & O, but the point is not accuracy, precisely.  The other route a show like this usually goes is invariably the drama route, which I suppose they are, deep down inside, but Dexter doesn't even really land there.  Sure there's the family drama, with his sister and his father and his girlfriend and her kids.  But it's not really about these people; it's all about him.

At the core, every story is very specific; it's about one or a few people and the world's relationship with them.  That's what a main character is: a focus, a thumbtack on a map with strings radiating.  It seems simple, even simplistic when I say it like that.  Oh, well.

On the surface Dexter looks like another fascinatingly twisted string of executions that draw us in a mob to the gallows (everybody likes a good beheading).  But I think underneath it's a more subtle weaving pushing common ideals--such as the morals we're taught when we're three and too young to think--and challenging our senses of ourselves.  Actually, I think that most people who watch it tend to ignore that bit, and that's why it's survived so long.  People feel gratified to watch Dex fulfill their needs for justice (even though justice resides in a different realm and looks not at all like what we think justice should), but they don't examine why.  I've long given up trying to be disgusted at the revenge-fantasy this heroic vigilante-ism brings to the surface in me.  I'm comfortable with my amygdala; are you?

I like Dexter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Silver: Here I am writing about peptidoglycan for my roommate.

So, every time I ask my roommates what I should write a blog post on, my one roommate L says "peptidoglycan."  Since it was her birthday this week, I'm going to write about peptidoglycan (not too much I promise, as she is the only person I've ever met that thinks it's interesting).

I know there are some of you who are staring at the computer screen right now, eyes slowly glazing over, saying to yourself "what the heck is peptidoglycan?"  Peptidoglycan is a carbohydrate-protein scaffolding (called a polymer) that is a major component of some bacterial cell wallsAll living things are made up of cells, and animal cells are different from plant cells are different from bacterial cells, and so on.  One [of the many] major differences between animal cells and bacterial cells is that bacteria have what is called a cell wall, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it's a stiff boundary that surrounds the cell and helps it keep its shape.  That's why we animals are so squishy, our cells don't have walls, they only have membranes which are fluid (bacteria also have cell membranes, in addition to the wall).

Peptidoglycan isn't very exciting on the whole, except for one thing: penicillin.  You may know parts of this already, but a quick refresher: penicillin is an antibiotic, meaning it kills bacteria.  Actually, it's kind of THE antibiotic, because it was the first substance used therapeutically (medically, to treat disease) as an antibiotic, and the story is a study in serendipity.  In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming was culturing some bacteria.  When you culture bacteria, you coat the bottom of Petri dish with a medium like agar (something with sugars and other nutrients in it that growing bacteria need) and then you spread bacteria from somewhere--another culture, some lake water, your mouth--over the medium with a Qtip or a plastic rod or something.  Then you stick it in an incubator (many bacteria require temperatures similar to body temperature to grow) and wait a while.  But when Fleming came back and took his plates out of the incubator, he noticed far less bacteria growing than he'd expected.  He also noticed that there were spots of fungus growing on the plates, and there was a circle around the fungus where no bacteria were growing.  Voila; penicillin!  The fungus was Penicillium notatum, and he found that when it was grown under the right conditions it secreted a substance that acts as an antibiotic; he called it penicillin.

Nowadays, the term is used to describe a group of naturally derived antibiotics, so when the doctor asks if you're allergic to penicillin she's actually asking if you are allergic to the fungus P. notatum and/or substances derived from it.  What does this have to do with peptidoglycan? you ask (and if you weren't asking it just pretend you were).  Glad you asked.

Penicillin is antibiotic because it inhibits the formation of the peptidoglycan wall.  It stops links from forming between individual peptidoglycan subunits and results in an overall weakening of the wall and even holes in places.  Because bacteria are constantly remodeling and repairing their cell walls, penicillin acts pretty quickly, stopping the individual parts from linking up.

Remember how I said that the wall helps the cell retain its shape?  Cells are basically bags of fluid and protein and sugars, and they're surrounded by more fluid and protein and sugar.  At all times, the weights of the water inside and outside the cell are fighting.  Think of when you swim all the way to the bottom of the pool and you can feel the water squeezing you harder the deeper you go.  It's a complicated and dynamic process, keeping enough water pressure inside the cell to keep it from collapsing, and at the same time having little enough pressure that the cell doesn't burst, and the cell wall makes it a little bit easier, itself pushing both in and out.  But when the wall is weak, the cell is not equipped to handle all those conflicting pressures by itself, so it bursts.  Peptidoglycan has, however indirectly, killed the cell.

So that's the main reason for focusing on peptidoglycan.  We're always looking for faster, better, easier ways to rid people of disease.  Not all bacteria contain peptidoglycan cell walls, but knowing about the penicillin mechanism offers new ways to go about looking at other potential systems for killing bacteria in our water, our waste, and in our bodies.

There's peptidoglycan in a nutshell.  Happy birthday, L!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Something important to talk about: the fraudulent link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and a mini-lesson on vaccines..

Okay, here's something for me to talk about: measles.
Graph from WHO showing the estimated childhood death toll worldwide.  (Measles is red.)
The WHO (World Health Organization) factsheet on measles starts out with the key points.  The first key point is:
"Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available."
Another point is:
"Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008 worldwide."
Here's the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) page on possible complications of measles.  Okay, pneumonia (what else is new), ear infections, diarrhea... whoa, wait.  SSPE (Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis)? "Rare, but fatal" encephalitis?  

Yeah, you heard it: encephalitis.

Here's an article from Medical News Today about how much of a stir the disease causes even in "developed" countries like the US.

Good news!  It's covered under the MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) vaccine, usually given to young kids, which confers lifelong immunity!

You may have been hearing about this lately, because it's rumored to "cause" autism.  Okay, that's unfair; mostly people who are proponents of this theory are saying MMR and autism are "linked."  Only slightly better, since word choice doesn't change that it's a load of crap.  Okay, I guess that's unfair, too, because [as a reasonable, thinking scientific person] I would approach it as a possibility.  Pertinent: a possibility and no more.  There's literally no scientific evidence that even remotely suggests such a connection.

Finally, here's the CDC page addressing this precise topic.  Guess what?
"To date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with [Autism Spectrum Disorders]."
(That emphasis on "not" is theirs.)  In the meantime panicked parents and fear-mongers (who we sometimes refer to as "the media" when we're feeling charitable) are using falsified information from a 30-year-old study by some British physician.  Oh yeah, and the study was found to be fraudulent.  Made-up.  Hogwash.  This physician, Andrew Wakefield, was subsequently found guilty of several conflicts of interest and professional misconduct by the General Medical Council of the UK and they basically kicked him out, disallowing him from ever practicing medicine again in the UK (not that anyone else would have him, either).  The article was originally published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal in 1998, but when they found out he screwed with the data they retracted it, even going so far as publishing a statement (you can get a free Lancet account to see the whole thing, but it basically lists the allegations against Wakefield) distancing themselves from Wakefield and his bunk study (NB couldn't even find the study on, though I did find Wakefield's response to the retraction).  Even after all this the MMR vaccine controversy goes on (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  *sigh*

The worst part is that lives were worsened because of Wakefield's irresponsible idiocy.  This is an article by the parent of an autistic child who suffered under the false claims of a connection between autism and MMR.

Oh wait, maybe the worst part is that lives are in danger because of Wakefield's irresponsible idiocy.  Like most vaccines, the MMR depends heavily on "herd immunity," which is the idea that if the majority of the members of a population are vaccinated and are therefore immune to the disease, the few members of the population that can't be vaccinated for whatever reason (immunocompromised, allergies, etc) are protected.  Maybe there isn't a 100% guarantee that they won't contract the disease they can't be vaccinated against, but the un-vaccinated members of a population are normally few enough that a disease can't just leapfrog between populations.

I feel the need to explain herd immunity farther (here begins the mini-lesson on vaccines and epidemiology).  Think about a hypothetical situation in which there are three populations of about a hundred members, and there's a communicable pathogen--for simplicity, we'll just stick with measles.  If you plotted the locations of the populations on a map, they would roughly form a line; let's call them A (western-most), B (middle), and C (eastern-most).
Excuse my handwriting, but I thought I could explain it better with a figure.
Okay, in this figure the measles virus is not present in any of the populations (A, B, and C).  Now imagine that red means the virus is present (most/all members of the population are infected/infective), blue means that most/all of the members of the population has been vaccinated (immune, or resistant) and green means most/all members of a population have not been vaccinated but don't have the disease (susceptible).  (For those of you keeping track, I'm simplifying the terms "infected," "resistant," and "susceptible."  You can decide for yourself if you want [I'm using the SIR model].)
Pop A is infected (either partially or wholly), B has been vaccinated (either partially or wholly), and C has been protected from the spread of the virus (red arrow) by the vaccine (blue X) even though they haven't been vaccinated.
I've simplified transmission a bit using geographic location (putting B between A and C) but you get the idea, right?  The virus could not physically get to C to infect it because it can't even get a foothold in the B population because they're immune.  Now consider this: C might not have been vaccinated for some random reason, like they just never got around to it, or it could be because C couldn't be vaccinated.

What if C is allergic to something in the vaccine?  There are lots of things in vaccines that aren't the actual "active ingredient," things like antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination, that people can be allergic to.  Here's an info sheet (PDF) about what's in a vaccine from the American Association of Pediatricians.

Another possibility: C could have a weakened immune system.  Maybe C has cancer and is undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, or has an autoimmune disorder (eg rheumatoid arthritis) and takes immunosuppressant drugs to keep their symptoms in check.  C could also take immunosuppressants because they recieved an organ transplant and need to keep their body from rejecting the foreign cells of the organ.  C could have HIV or AIDS.  It's extremely dangerous to give many vaccines to people with compromised immune systems, because many vaccines are what's known as attenuated vaccines (they contain only weakened viruses, not completely killed).  Why would we do this, purposely expose someone to a potentially infective organism?  Because sometimes that's the only way to get the body to react enough to make the vaccine work (look for the blue highlighting).  It also has the added benefit of triggering a longer-lasting (in some cases, lifelong) immunity.  But if someone has a weakened immune system, even the extremely weakened virus in the vaccine could produce disease symptoms.  So we can't vaccinate them.  (Actually, I know I already linked to this ("react... work") but it's a really good primer on vaccines.)

Back to my story: for some reason (which isn't important here) C cannot be vaccinated.  Well, guess what happens if B isn't vaccinated because his parents didn't know about herd immunity (among other reasons)...
Look'a that: everyone's infected.
 The virus has unfettered access to population C, and so everyone's infected.  Whoop-dee-doo.  Now, this would be bad enough if C had a regular, healthy immune system to begin with, but remember how we said earlier that C had a lowered immune system?  The upshoot is that not only could C not be vaccinated and protected, but now C is going to suffer more from the disease than either A or B.  Kinda blows, huh?

These diagrams and explanations can also be applied to a three-person system (as in A, B, and C are just people).  So let's look at another system.
The colors mean the same thing; red is infected, blue is resistant, and green is susceptible.
In this seven-person model, A is infected/infective, B is vaccinated = immune, and C is not vaccinated = susceptible.  Statistically, C can only get the virus from six people (A and 5 B's); C has one-in-six chance of contacting an infective person.  Now if B isn't vaccinated...
C has a six-in-six (aka 100%) chance of contacting an infective person, ie a much greater probability of being infected and developing symptoms.  And C is immunocompromised, so the disease will be worse for C than for either A or the B's.  Sucks to be C.

In short: not vaccinating your children because of lies spun by a morally-bankrupt "scientist" is irresponsible and potentially injurious to: a) your children, because it is far more likely that no vaccination will lead to potentially life-threatening (and preventable) illness than vaccination will lead to autism, and b) to the your community, both local and larger, because you risk upsetting the balance and benefit of herd immunity.

Please: vaccinate your kids.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Playing god and other human pursuits.

Today I'm thinking about euthanasia.  Alternately, murder.  I don't know.

Up until a few years ago I was set on a career in veterinary medicine.  I wanted, needed to be a veterinarian.  I... honestly, I don't really know why it was so important to me.  At first I suppose it was just like, "Oh I love animals, and I want to work in the sciences, and I want to help the animals that live with us."  I have always liked animals more than humans to some extent; as I've aged it's shifted from disgust with the human race and reverence of non-human animals to, well, I'm still pretty disgusted with humans, but it's less of a generalization and more on a case-by-case basis.  So when I was little I deemed non-human animals more deserving of medical care.  I counter any protests of "But you're human, and our pets need humans to provide that care," with "I was, like, six years old."  Six-year-olds aren't known for their expansive considerations of reality (ie how the world works).

As I got older I developed more concrete reasons for becoming a vet.  I started feeling that pulling at my heart when I thought of animals suffering illness or mistreatment.  I realized that I felt personally obligated to do whatever I could to help them, for they could not help themselves.  I still feel that obligation, but I realize now that your life's work should also be something that is fascinating to me, and my fascination is not in veterinary medicine.

My career plans are not the point.  So what is? you ask.  The point: one disparity between medicine for humans and non-humans is at the end of medicine.  By that I mean, of course, how and when death comes.

The very simple fact is: humans often choose when an animal will die.  Another simple fact: it is illegal and usually considered amoral for humans to choose when a human will die (with exceptions and/or loopholes).  Why?  If you ask someone that question, chances are they will have a hard time with a solid answer.  I've thought about this question a lot, and I've come to the conclusion that the law is as it is because there is an inherent assumption that humans are more important than non-humans.   I wouldn't expect an easy answer out of anyone to this question, either, even though it's basically a yes/no question.

My take is that it's something that people believe deeply--perhaps subconsciously--but are uncomfortable voicing aloud.  But shouldn't a person be able to say what she thinks?  Also, this belief in human superiority is probably widely-held, so speaking it aloud would place one squarely within the clear--albeit close-mouthed--majority.

I will speak: I do not agree with the statement that humans are more important than non-humans.  I strongly believe that humans are of equal importance with non-humans.  Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind in a few years; I did start out believing that non-humans were of more importance than humans.

The most trouble I have with that statement is the use of "important."  Calling something important implies that there is a purpose for it, and we've already said there is no purpose for living things, nor even for living.  Actually, Oxford English Dictionary defines important as "of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being."  You could argue that because of the inclusion of "profound effect on... survival" it might have bearing on the relationship between these two things (humans and non-humans); actually there is no relevance to this comparison because the it is not comparing to methods of finding food or shelter or anything like that, so there is no element of survival.  It is not calling into question the survival skills of either being, but comparing them as if they were instrumental to some sort of universal scheme, which smacks of monotheism (and actually most religions with divinity/-ies). 

So the natural next question is "Why then do we decide when animals die and not when humans die?"  When we can't easily answer that one, we might go to "Why is it socially acceptable to decide for animals and not humans?" or even "Is it right?"  And then we get to right vs wrong, my least favorite dichotomy of all time (and I can even say with confidence that I will never meet another dichotomy that I loathe more).

It's been a hard week.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More thoughts on morality, along the lines of "Why?"

The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer : NPR
I felt as though, in Farmer, I'd been offered another way of thinking about a place like Haiti. But his way would be hard to share, because it implied such an extreme definition of a term like "doing one's best."
This is an excerpt from a piece on the NPR site (which is actually an excerpt from Mountains Beyond Mountains) about Paul Farmer, the guy I was talking about in my last post.

In a way it articulates what I have been trying to say: "charity" as such is beyond the scope of what [I would suggest] most of us concieve of as charity.  Charity is self-sacrifice but not in the sense that there is sacrifice.  I look at Farmer because he is an example near-at-hand, and I see that he sacrificed time and money to help the poor of Haiti.  More significantly, perhaps, is that he sacrificed that staple of American life: comfort.  In the excerpt from Mountains, Kidder tells of how he met Farmer and came to learn about his life.  He writes:
He worked in Boston four months of the year, living in a church rectory in a slum. The rest of the year he worked without pay in Haiti, mainly doctoring peasants who had lost their land to a hydroelectric dam.
Yet Kidder noted as they had dinner in Miami:
He clearly liked the fancy restaurant, the heavy cloth napkins, the good bottle of wine. What struck me that evening was how happy he seemed with his life.
While we can't get into Farmer's mind, it seems to me that he would have to view his work in Haiti as anything but a sacrifice in order to keep up this hectic lifestyle.

But is charity such ignorant sacrifice?  ("Sacrifice" here meaning something that takes from the one who gives it.)  And is sacrifice charity?  I guess the question is not if we should redefine something but what we should redefine?  I think we've pretty clearly got the meaning of "sacrifice" down here, but I think we've got a bit more difficulty in "charity."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where is Spring?

It’s March, but the sun is still weak.  March is the gateway, when all things begin to grow again.  At least that’s what ought to happen.  The trees should leaf out, and buds should poke up from the rich black soil, now uncovered by the snow.  But the snow is still here.  There are still piles of it around, resisting the lukewarm rays of the still-weak sun.

The birds chirp in the morning, at least.  It is getting warmer, but in infinitesimally small increments.  It seems that the days warm by one or two degrees, and then the world is hit with another brutally cold one.  Senseless violence, committed by mad air currents and a vengeful planet.  So, perhaps not senseless.

Inner-city gangs have nothing on the weather.

Clouds cover this pallid sun, making light merely light, and not the conveyance of warmth.  But these clouds, these amalgamations of water vapor and dust, cannot block out the sun completely.  Without even this watery sunlight, the world would be unlivably cold and dark, so even when betrayal presents itself as the only explanation for the sun’s capriciousness, the sun yet makes the world a place to live and die.

It seems that all is not lost.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Evolution of a Sort of Moral Code; A Belief in Ethics, If You Will.

Ethics and morality are slippery and always-controversial subjects.  I often avoid them for that very reason, but I find that I cannot always stand quietly by in the shadows.  I need for my voice to be heard.

I'm reading Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer, a fairly well-known medical anthropologist.  You may have heard of Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is about Farmer's quest for global health.  I don't mean the sort of global health that is tracking who gets sick and where so disease can be controlled and contained, I mean global health in the sense that the whole world, everyone in the world has access to such resources that might keep or make them healthy.

I just have a quick note (because I've only just started the book) about my thoughts on charity and morality, actually.

"The ends justify the means."  When Machiavelli wrote that, he was thinking and writing of governments and rulers, not the rights and freedoms of the ruled; in fact, I've heard it argued that he was thinking the opposite, and many commonly define his "ends" as a total subjugation of the people.  I believe that, whatever the original ideas behind the statement, it can be applied to my concept of charity and morality.  The end in this case is the improvement of living conditions and quality of life for a people, and the means are all the charities that funnel money and labor into this project, and all the donations by the well-off to those charities.

The first part (of two) of Farmer's book is titled "Bearing Witness;" the first part of the first part--a sort of prologue to the part--is an elaboration on that title.  Farmer says he is anxious about the title and a reason he gives is that he is apprehensive of misrepresenting the poor.
"Some of my anxiety has legitimate sources: the boundary between bearing witness and disrespectful (or self-interested) rooting is not always evident, even to those seeking to be discerning." 
This is his way of saying "morality" for its own sake is not morality.  I use "morality" here to represent many of the good-samaritan acts or charity projects that the well-off do for the worse-off.

I want to emphasize that I don't think that charity and such is "bad," I just think it's maybe not as truthful as we'd like it to be.

I'm having trouble forming coherent sentences, so I think I'm going to go to sleep now.  But as I read the book, I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say.  Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Silver (theoretically "Daily"): Maybe I should rename it "Periodic Silver?"

But that sounds like it's the physical element Ag (silver)...  Nonetheless, my posts display a sort of periodicity, do they not?

Anyway: the news.  The new is... it's almost spring break!  The other day one of my profs asked the class if anyone was going anywhere nice over break.  There were the usual "Florida"s and stuff, so I said "the dentist."  Don't think that qualifies as "nice," though.

In other news, I'm applying for a paid internship studying parasites and energy cycling in the ecosystem in Indiana, and I am so excited.  I just sent in my application today; wish me luck!

In still other news, I haven't been doing much of anything lately, except working on my application.  I guess that isn't really news, but it's happening, soooo...

That's really all I have for now.  I'm in total hunched-over-waiting-for-break/nice-weather-mode.  It's possible that I'm actually comatose, like, right now, as I'm writing this...  Next week I'll have all the time in the world to read and blog and spend exorbitant amounts of time playing computer solitaire!  Ciao!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Daily Silver: New directions for earth-based faiths.

Today's Silver is brief; I just want to share this article I read at The Juggler (the Pagan Newswire Collective culture blog).  It's called "Toward a Pagan Critical Theory: Introduction."

Also, I apologize for being elusive this week.  I have two big tests tomorrow, and I honestly haven't been that much fun this week as of yet.  I will attempt to emerge and write more this weekend and next week.  Ciao!