Category Archives: Personal

9-11-2001

9-11On September 11, 2001, I watched with the rest of the world as our nation was attacked and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center came down. Only I watched from my mother’s hospital room.

She had had back surgery earlier that morning, and was under the influence of so much medicine that I’m not sure she knew what was going on. The noise from the TV bothered her, but my siblings and I could not turn it off. We had to learn what was happening to our nation.

Almost 3000 people died that day In the worst single attack on American soil since World War II. We must always be ready to defend ourselves from aggressors and make certain that such a thing never happens again.

Here’s Harvey.

Golden retriever mix Otis in survival mode, carrying a bag of dog food in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey
Golden retriever mix Otis in survival mode, carrying a bag of dog food in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey

Otis, a golden retriever mix, was apparently in survival mode yesterday morning in Corpus Christi, after hurricane Harvey tore through the city, when he was seen carrying a large bag of dog food down the street.

“Must be a Texas dog, cause he can survive without help,” one commenter wrote. I’m not sure who the commenter was, but he must not have been a Texan. Even in Texas, the home of the Lone Ranger, this is not the lesson to be learned. Texans do what we can for ourselves, as Otis is doing; but we also help each other, as plenty of other Texans are doing.

The La Quinta Inn in Victoria, for example, sheltered about 70 people plus a collection of dogs, cats, and at least one rabbit Saturday afternoon, after the storm hit the city with winds of over 100 mph. That’s what Texans really do. Even the Lone Ranger had to depend on Tonto sometimes.

It’s not over yet by any means. “It’s going to last four to five days,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who urged drivers to stay off the road. “This is Day One.” That was yesterday.

Take care of yourself, and remember to help somebody. And don’t forget the animals.

_____________________

Sources:

Does this woman belong in a public men’s restroom?

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed a bill requiring transgender people in that state to use the restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. That means this woman and others like her, who were born male, will not be allowed to use a public women’s restroom. Will you men be comfortable with them in the men’s restroom?

Maybe more to the point, how will women feel when a man enters and uses the ladies’ room because he happened to have been born female?

Fortunately, the State of Mississippi has not attached penalties to the new law. And since people are not required to have their birth certificates on their person every time they go out, nobody knows how to enforce it anyway.

Unfortunately, Mississippi is not the only state to consider passing such ridiculous and unenforceable new laws recently. Several other states are following suite.

As far as I know, we’ve been getting along just fine for the past 240 years without interfering with people’s very private lives in this way.

Happy Birthday, Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins

On this date in 1941, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi. His father had moved to Kenya from England during the Second World War to join the Allied Forces and the family returned to England in 1949.

Dawkins graduated from Oxford in 1962, earned his doctorate, became assistant professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley 1967-1969 and a fellow of New College in 1970.

The Selfish Gene, his first book, published in 1976, became an international bestseller. It and the award-winning Blind Watchmaker were translated into all major languages.

His other books include The Extended Phenotype (1982), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) and A Devil’s Chaplain (2003). His 2006 iconoclastic book, The God Delusion, which he wrote with the public hope of turning believing readers into atheists, became a bestseller in both the UK and the U.S.

Dawkins has held the Charles Simonyi Chair of Public Understanding of Science since 1995, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997. He is married to actress and artist Lalla Ward, who has illustrated several of his books and other works.

Dawkins has advanced the concept of cultural inheritance or “memes,” also described as “viruses of the mind,” a category into which he places religious belief. He has also advanced the “replicator concept” of evolution.

A passionate atheist, Dawkins has coined the memorable term “faith-heads” to describe certain religionists. Since his remarks in The Guardian (Feb, 6, 1999): “I’m like a pit bull terrier being released into the ring, as a spectator sport, to attack religious people . . .,” Dawkins is now affectionately known as “Darwin’s pit bull.”

Dawkins, a vice president of the British Humanist Association, was named Humanist of the Year in 1999. He is the 1997 winner of the International Cosmos Prize, and received an Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001. His column for The Observer (“Children Must Choose Their own Beliefs,” Dec. 30, 2001) pointed out: “We deliberately set up, and massively subsidise, segregated faith schools (Note: In the UK, where he lives). As if it were not enough that we fasten belief-labels on babies at birth, those badges of mental apartheid are now reinforced and refreshed. In their separate schools, children are separately taught mutually incompatible beliefs.”

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he eloquently warned in a Guardian column, “Religion’s Misguided Missiles” (Sept. 15, 2001): “To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.”

Photo by David Shinbone under CC 3.0

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.

—-“Time to Stand Up,” written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Sept. 2001. See Dawkins’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

– See more at: http://ffrf.org/news/day/26/03/freethought/#richard-dawkins

Happy Leap Year Day

Leap Year Day

It was 32 years ago today, February 29, 1984, that I got up from my desk at Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and told my boss “I quit.” Half-an-hour later, I was out the door. They didn’t want two weeks notice. Not from anybody. If you quit, you were gone as quickly as they could get you out the door.

It wasn’t the best decision I ever made, but neither was it the worst. The Bell System had just been broken up by court order and SWBT had officially become an independent company two months earlier, on January 1. It was a turbulent time in the company and in the industry.

By another year,  many of the people I had worked with had either quit or been laid off. Others had been transferred to other areas. I was just among the first of many.

I’m wishing us all a better Leap Year Day this year.

Pain Pump Posting Hiatus

Synchromed pain pumpI apologize for the hiatus in posting. I can only blame it on the minor surgery I had Monday, November 2. All went well, as expected; but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do much useful work yet.

I’ve mentioned my chronic pain before, but I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my “pain pump” or not.

I have chronic pain in several forms, and I’ve had it for more than 60 years. The two worst causes right now are my severe psoriatic arthritis and my sometimes excruciating peripheral neuropathy. In addition, I still have an occasional migraine, although I seem to have mostly “outgrown” those in my mid-40s. Before that, I had suffered migraine headaches every day for more than 20 years and less often even before that. The first one I remember, I was five years old; and I thought the left side of my face was rotting off for two days!

Since there is no known cure for either psoriatic arthritis or neuropathy, I use a variety of methods to control the pain. Probably the most effective way is by using a “pain pump” implanted under the skin of my lower right back. It pumps a tiny — but constant — amount of opioid liquid to my spinal fluid 24 hours a day, and can be adjusted by using a magnetic controller in my doctor’s office.

The pump holds up to 40 ml (about an ounce and a half) of a dilute liquid, which lasts for several months. When it runs low, it can be refilled over and over again by sticking a needle through my skin and into a diaphragm in the pump. About every five years, when the battery runs low, the entire unit is replaced.

No big deal. Really.

I got to the hospital about 8 am. Something caused the doctor to run late, but that was no problem to me. I was prepared. I spent the time reading a good science book on my iPhone. An anesthesiologist came for me about 11:00. He slipped a mask over my face and told me, “Just relax now and breathe deeply.” I remember taking about three breaths. The next thing I knew, I was in another room on another table, and somebody was telling me to wake up. By about 1:00 pm, I was on my way home.

While I was asleep, they rolled me over on my stomach, made a small incision in my skin, removed the cigarette-box-sized-but-round old pump, inserted a new pump just like it into the same spot, hooked it up to the tubes already in place from last time, made sure it was working, and glued my skin back together. I had a strip of clear, waterproof tape for a bandage.

I’ve had no increased pain from the surgery, and I’ve needed no additional help at home. It was by far the easiest operation I’ve ever had. So maybe it’s just making excuses to blame the posting hiatus on that. I dunno, but I’m gonna do it anyway. Wouldn’t you?

I’ve written this not only to make excuses, but also to inform others who might be suffering. Chronic pain is a terrible and very common problem among older people, and even among many younger ones. Pain is supposed to serve a purpose, but chronic pain serves none. It just hurts and hurts and hurts and it seems like there’s nothing you can do about it and sometimes you almost want to die.

Almost.

My medicine doesn’t take all the pain away, but it helps. It takes the edge off  and makes the remaining pain bearable. Sometimes, it almost goes away for a while.

My first pain pump 12 years ago

I resisted getting a pain pump for many years, until one of the best doctors I have ever known told me there was nothing else he could do for me. He had recommended a pain pump before, and he recommended a pain pump again. I saw two different “pain doctors,” and they both recommended installing a pain pump. So I had a pain pump installed. The relief was both quick and wonderful. For a long time, I told people I hurt less than I had hurt for 50 years.

It has never done the whole job. I still have to take pills. And I still hurt sometimes. But it helps so much I only wish I had gotten my first pain pump many years earlier.

I’m not a doctor, and I certainly don’t give medical advice. I only post this here in the hope that it will provide information that might help somebody else.


Source:

 

Ahmed Mohamed Moving to Qatar

Ahmed Mohammed

Ahmed Mohamed and his family are moving to Qatar.

Mohamed’s sister, Eyman, reportedly confirmed that the family will only be in the U.S. for a few more days before relocating to Doha. Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, the teen’s controversial father, added that he looks forward to moving his children to a nation in which they “can study and learn” while “being accepted by that country.”

Yes, Ahmed is the same 14-year-old boy who was arrested recently in Irving, Texas, for bringing a clock to school. His English teacher and principal said it was a “hoax bomb,” even though there was nothing in it that looked like an explosive.

Evidently Qatar appreciates bright students.

Eyman Mohamed asserted that Qatar is “basically like America,” noting that the decision to move was based on a generous offer her brother received from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. “Our family has been overwhelmed by the many offers of support we have received since the unfortunate incident of Ahmed’s arrest,” a family statement explained.

I have no idea why she thinks Qatar is “basically like America,” but that’s beside the point.

I’ve known several exceptionally intelligent boys and girls in my lifetime who would now be young or middle-age men and women. I hope I had some beneficial influence on several of them, possibly encouraging an interest in science or technology. Or, at least, education. In the long run, it’s usually difficult to be sure. I would have loved to have met Ahmed.

Unfortunately, he will apparently be lost to the United States; and that’s a crying shame. We need to keep our brightest students and encourage them to complete their education here and help make our nation great again. It is insane to drive them somewhere else to help make some other country great instead!


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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King Jr.

Constitution of the United States of AmericaAs noted in the sidebar, the above quote is the guiding principle of this blog. I intend to speak out about things that matter. While there are many kinds of things that matter, it has always been my primary intention to write about science and the skepticism that is an essential part of it, including the nature that science studies and the technology it creates.

My passion for those four things — science, skepticism, nature, and technology — will not diminish. However, I also feel compelled to discuss American Presidential politics more for the next few months — maybe all the way to the election in about a year and a half. Presidential election campaigns in the United States have become circuses that last a minimum of two years, beginning long before anybody officially declares his or her candidacy. This is insane. Election campaigns in most of the free world last days or weeks, by comparison.

Not only that, but American elections cost an enormous amount of money. So much money that all but two candidates this time are seeking the backing of billionaires and SuperPACs. Otherwise, they cannot hope to finance their campaigns. One of the two exceptions is himself a billionaire, so he doesn’t have to sell his soul — if any — to the super-rich for campaign donations.

The other exception is focussing on getting small donations from middle-class people and is doing incredibly well. So well that he has been able, so far, to wage a very competitive campaign against the Democratic front-runner, who, for a long time, was considered a shoo-in for the nomination.

The Republican frontrunner is a self-centered, sexist, blustering, billionaire, bully. Please don’t misunderstand; I have nothing against billionaires personally. I’ve always wanted to be one myself. It’s self-centered, sexist, blustering, bullies I have a problem with, whether rich or poor; but being rich makes them better at it. Whether or not he can keep his followers loyal until the primaries start in Iowa on February 1 is anybody’s guess. I hope not.

The other Republicans are all scientifically illiterate; even those you’d think ought not to be, like the medical doctors. They deny evolution, almost without exception. Several are young earth creationists, claiming our world is less than 10,000 years old. That’s incredibly ignorant for the potential “Leader of the Free World!”

Most of them also want to ban most or all abortions, repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than fix it, leaving tens of millions of additional citizens unable to afford basic medical care; and commit a number of other atrocities like gutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, and other essential services. Several even openly and plainly put their interpretations of the Bible above the Constitution a President is sworn to uphold and protect.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not pleased with the Democratic frontrunner, either. Too many questions remain unanswered about the Benghazi Massacre. “Why does it matter now?” is not an appropriate response to an investigator’s question. It matters because it speaks to the character, loyalty, and ability of the then Secretary of State (as well as the current President, of course; but he’s not a candidate this time). In addition, there are still too many questions about her email debacle.

I sympathize completely with the guy who said a few elections back, “If God wanted me to vote, I think He’d give me somebody to vote for.” But I will vote, as I always have.

For the duration of this political circus, I feel compelled to make a lot more posts of a political nature. The Presidency is just too important to let it fall into the hands of another incompetent ignoramus like some we’ve had recently, an irresponsible, self-aggrandizing blowhard, or any of those candidates who would place their own beliefs and desires above the Constitution and laws of our nation.

The United States is not, never has been, and must never be “one nation under God.” Our forefathers fled that kind of nation in Europe when they came to North America in search of religious freedom. That’s why we have always been (since 1789) one nation under the Constitution of the United States of America.