The Three Melting Smiles

You are a tube.

Don’t be offended. I’m a tube, too. All individuals of most animal Kingdoms are.

The inside of the tube is your GI tract. Sphincters stand sentinel at each end. And from a certain perspective, the rest of your body is just the outside of the tube as well as the machinery which helps supply quality matter to keep the tube doing its job.

This notion isn’t just a specific or esoteric view of anatomy, it’s something that goes back to organismal development, when the invagination of the blastula (also called gastrulation) results in three major layers of the organism: ectodoerm, endoderm and mesoderm. The blastula is the stage at which all the cleavages (cell divisions) of the original fertilized cell (apparently the christian/catholic soul arrives at the same time that the successful sperm gets into the ovum) result in a hollow ball of cells. The blastula forms about eight days after ensoulment fertilization.

Fate

Why the little science lesson here? Because the larger facts of the above lesson crossed my mind a few days ago when I was in my physical therapy (PT) session as my therapist was teaching me the relaxation technique of The Three Melting Smiles. It was the three that, in the context of gross anatomy, caught my attention.

Three is a magic number everywhere.

My “hippie-dippie” physical therapist (who was as gorgeous and fabulous as she was soft-spoken) taught me the technique of The Three Melting Smiles: picture a smile that begins at the back of your head and melts down the back of your body…down the back, the buttocks..down the back of your legs, down to your heels and the bottoms of your feet, down your triceps past the elbow, down to the top of your wrists and the backs of your hands and to your finger names. A second smile starts similarly at your face and down your front and a third begins in your mind and moves down your insides all the way down your trunk, through your pelvis and down through your knees to the bottoms of your feet.

Even as I was laying there my more literal sensibility wondered what kind of propulsion a smile might use if it “melted” horizontally. That made me laugh and, eyes still closed, my physical therapist must have wondered why I’d chuckled in the midst of my supposed relaxation.

But that same, more materialist and objective mind remapped the three smiles into endo-, meso- and ecto- counterparts and suddenly I had something that worked for me. Tissue induction was the propulsion and of course the smiles would travel that way. Also, it was a way that suited the most fundamental anatomical model I could think of. Bonus!

An16456 All of this had me recalling something that my rather hippie-dippie therapist (the normal kind of therapist), Ronald, once said: he’d just said something quite Northern Californian to me and, knowing my tendencies towards more analytical thought, said, “that’s my language for it and I know you’re going to find your own terms for it, so bear with me.”

That qualification turned out to be a kind of Rosetta Stone for me in so many ways. He was telling me to discover the pattern of a thing instead of embracing the literal terms of the thing. Not only that, he was giving me a sort of permission to take the puzzle apart and put it back together for myself. Now, this is something that everyone does, to some extent, when learning anything, but like most, I am hesitant to do anything other than rote absorption of facts in any milieu in which I’m not already somewhat familiar. Clinical psychology being one of those things, Ronald opened up to me the idea of setting aside the idea of authority (or rather, a lack thereof) whatsoever in a subject and just let it play itself out for you.

Very Zen, of course, this Beginner’s Mind stuff, but the Buddhists don’t have a corner on the idea, nor would they claim so.

Three is, as I said, a magic number. This is both for how often it naturally and emergently appears in all sorts of places, but also because it’s the first, best step out of the polarized, unmagical, uninteresting world of Two, of the Either-Or (Good vs Bad, Black vs White, Yes vs No, ad nauseum).

I walked away from PT department at Davies Medical Center with an abstract sense of the pain which comes from very concrete causes (fractured ribs, contused spleen & lung, hairline fracture down the length of the clavicle).

In particular, I’m there doing PT for the shoulder/nerve problems. Referred pain from nerve damage in my shoulder and around the fractures and bruises has me feeling pain in the strangest of places. Like a pinball inside of me bouncing from one place only to arise in some other place a couple of hours or days or even weeks later.

It’s a powerful reminder than none of our brains experience the objective world directly. Our brains sit in solemn sequestration and far and away from the actual matter around us, depending solely upon what our senses report to it. And if there is an objective reality out there that is ponderable, the pondering can only happen far from it.

And isn’t that ironic, Al-Ayn-is?

All that said, I don’t like pain. Pain is a warning that something bad is happening and that the body should get itself away from it or should carefully cradle those parts in pain to protect them from any further damage. Pain is a real and concrete thing that gets to take the bypass around consciousness and make its case to those mechanisms which are there to help ensure bodily survival and nothing more.

Living in the Valley of Pain isn’t something I would wish on anyone, even if they might wish it on themselves. Pain Lies on the Riverside, so there’s no choice but to keep swimming.

Pain is birthmother of nihilism and existentialism, methinks, and if so, I am quite Pro Choice.

Good thing for me there’s no pain involved in beating a dead horse, eh?

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Rectum Santorum

The sheer blatancy of Rick Santorum’s recent disassociation with the Thomas More Law Center, a “Christian-rights” organization, speaks volumes about the hubris of the American Right Wing. They’ve always been in a state of denial about the world, but until recently, they’ve fooled enough people that they could get away with it: there were things that no one would call them on, a space where no foes would enter: the Conservative Sanctum Sanctorum.

SabirthOn the surface, Rick Santorum’s move is inexplicably stupid. He gives every appearance of being a fair weather friend, of changing his mind because he backed the losing whores horse.

What he actually is doing is attempting to set up further support for so-called “Intelligent Design” by distancing himself and ID from the “religious argument”: Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was troubled by testimony indicating religion motivated some board members to adopt the policy.

Religion and ID overlapping?!? Why, The Honorable Mr. Santorum seems to be surprised by the notion that they’re not separate things! What a fellow.

Apparently Santorum will hook up with just anyone without checking out their background. He had an association with the Thomas More Law Center, whose website contains their mission statement, quite easily discoverable. An excerpt:

The Thomas More Law Center affirms the right of Christians to publicly practice their religion and freely express their religious beliefs. Our Founding Fathers fought for a nation built on a foundation of religion and morality. Our lawyers are committed to restoring and preserving that foundation.

These are the folks who were defending the Dover schoolboard’s decision to require teaching of ID in science classrooms. So you can see how Santorum would be surprised to find out that people choose ID over evolution for religious reasons.

Personally, I think ID should be mentioned in Science classrooms in its due proportion of scientific merit. If I were a science teacher, I would mention the existence of groups of people who believe origins to be based on Intelligent Design and then offer a summary of their position: God Did It.

And then I’d spend the rest of the school year providing examples and theories and research all supporting evolution.

ID isn’t Science. It isn’t even anti-Science. It’s ridiculous posturing and lying by Christians who should be following their own Commandments.

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The Science of Science

So. Intelligent Design. I wonder if its proponents are starting to wish that their grand plan to redefine science wasn’t also the work of at least one Intelligent Designer.

There’s an irony to the pomposity and pride that accompanied the Christian/Fundamentalist push to corrupt Science in order to serve themselves. Last time I checked, Humility was a big deal with the Christians. That’s not ironic, tho, that’s just hypocritical. What’s ironic is that Humility has a profound role in the scientific approach to discovery, and that it was Science’s absence of ego that thwarted the Christian attempt at corrupting it.

I’m not saying that every scientist is humble; far from it. What this is about, in fact, is that there is no hubris behind something arrived at by proper scientific method. Assertions generally require believability; and believing generally requires a strong persona (human or mythic) in which the masses can have faith. Science uses assertions, of course, but only tentatively or temporarily, meaning that there’s a willingness to drop an assertion when it’s demostrated to be untrue or impossible, or to drop an assertion when the truth of it changes.

Christian “truth” mongers abound, hiking up and down Main Street America with their big sacs of capital-T’s, asserting various truths to be Truths, immediately ossifying each into Timelessness (see? those capital-T’s come in handy!). Trouble is, many truths don’t become Timeless Truths, they just become Dated.

I can assert here that this is a plausible mechanism by which every myth moves into History: it becomes incompatible with the Present because it refuses to adapt to the times.

The Discovery Institute—which seems hell bent on doing everything to prevent actual discovery of anything, calls the recent Dover ruling a “triumph”, stating: “Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world…”

Remember, folks, these are the same types of people who brought you the Scopes Monkey Trial, who saw fit to find John Scopes “guilty” of teaching evolution. Again. Not irony. Hypocrisy.

KitzmillerpdfFact of the matter is, the rest of us are living in another world, the world of material explanations which humbly acknowledge the limits and limitations of learning and set to painstakingly carve out those niches of knowledge that are discoverable. We don’t live in the world they live in, where Zeus came down from Olympia to create the world, the world where interpretation of the Christian bible contemporarily paints Jesus of Nazareth as a neocon.

These are the people who deny the mutability of truth even as they seek to change it.

Click on the document icon to download the full PDF of the Dover judge’s summary of Monkey Trial II. Below is an excerpt that I find extraordinary for its directness:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

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VirtualRibbon

This year, World AIDS Day is a tough one for me. I usually don’t try to suss out why, but the personal reasons this year are obvious, sometimes nearly orthogonal and exceedingly multiple.

Animation5 Hope is a tricky thing. When there’s a lot of hopefulness (quantity), it lacks specificity (quality), and when it’s quite specific, it is small and personal in its solicitude. I don’t like to think that this is simply the nature of Hope itself, but instead some too-obvious pattern of human economy, where one thing always has to take from another, when jealousy or morality steps in to question the value of certain kinds of Hope when those things Wished For cast too long a shadow on other forms.

I have had the extraordinary experience of rediscovering a friend from High School who blessedly and thankfully has ended up with an M.D./Ph.D. and works so industriously and brilliantly to combat the human suffering caused by infectious agents—including HIV. Her work, her person is a powerful and pointed example of why Hope has merit in this world and why pessimism serves nothing but its own unimaginative purpose. Her staggering brilliance and admirable use of it humbles me.

Then there’s the synergistic timing of reading a futurist book, including talk of the wonders of the future of medical advances and technological advances—or, more to the point, the flipside of all that: those who didn’t quite make it to the next level of available palliatives and curatives. Of course I speak about Allen Howland and what he lost by not being here to experience the wonders of the world and what the world has lost by losing the million things that were alive in that marvelous memory and intellect of his and what the immediate constellation of friends and family have personally missed out on as we all continue to miss him.

This applies to anyone who’s lost anyone special to them, naturally, and for the time being, death is something we have no preventatives for—though I think one day that will change, perhaps in time for those of us alive today to exploit. So why specify AIDS as any more or less a cause of death than cancer or accident or murder? Why have a day for it?

To this I answer a question with a question: why must the assumption be made that World AIDS Day detracts or somehow competes at all?

To this I answer a question with solid science laced with Hope:

  • HIV is infectious: awareness and diligence have an effect on slowing or stopping HIV.
  • Scientific knowledge learned here can be applied to a vast array of other maladies: viral mechanics, cellular communications mechanisms, protein synthesis, gene activation and molecular pathways and epidemiology and morality and ethics and social phenomenon all play a part and knowledge about each has increased dramatically, directly, from AIDS-related research.
  • The Past must be preserved: “out of sight, out of mind” applies. And “out of mind” leads to “out of consideration” which leads to behaviors that favor the continued transmission of HIV and other socially- and sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • AIDS affects 40 million people around the world: imagine if all 40 million were Americans: then every seventh person you walked by in a typical day could be assumed to be HIV+.
  • Three million people became HIV+ in 2005 alone, and eight thousand people die from HIV-disease-related causes every day. Five people every second. That means by the time you got to these words in this entry, another 150 to 300 people have died.

And Yet? Hope.

Hope, in spite of a staggering loss worldwide and individually. Hope, in spite of moralists who’d rather see people die than live the “wrong” way. Hope, in spite of missing Allen and Bob and Kelly and George. Hope, in spite of worrying about J. and M. and V. and B. and S. and M. and J. and high percentage of gay male San Franciscans getting sick and leaving us too soon, far, far too soon.

And finally, Hope. Hope that keeping present the staggering loss and the ongoing pain and the simple remembrance of the bad things, the hurtful things, the things we were taught to feel shame over will lead to more and more Hope of a healed future.

Perhaps I feel so downtrodden and debilitated in the present because I feel so full of the future and that takes me away from the Now.

And that’s why we—that’s why I—need a World AIDS Day: as a reminder that the only chance of making a difference is to be in the Now and DO SOMETHING, even if that’s reaffirming that you won’t negligently or intentionally become HIV+ or if you already are HIV+, that it ends with you.

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The Singularity Is Near

Ray Kurzweil is a very interesting man. He’s one of those scientists who is also incredibly accomplished; the intellectual rubber hits the practical road. Essence shapes Accident.

Some may look at his books as the pie-in-the-sky-ish or over the top, or cartoonish, but they miss the point: there’s always value in blue-skying. And even more value in faith. Yes, faith. Not Faith like I’m sure the literalists will insist you accept, but the kind of faith that’s based on prior accomplishments. The kind of faith that tells you the road will continue past where you can see, or the sun will rise tomorrow, or that the process of learning increases the rate at which you can learn. In other words, faith is the entropy, the free energy from which we humans can direct our own destinies.

A synopsis of Ray’s new book, from one of his websites:

The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.

Tall order. But that’s the beauty of exponential growth. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term, “exponential growth”. Most people, I think, have. But there’s a difference in understanding it and really feeling it—that is, getting it on a visceral level.

Humans tend to think in linear ways. Velocity is an easier concept than acceleration. We know a thing. We can know things about that thing. But beyond that, we start to lose our own traction: consider what you might know about the things about the things about a thing? Meta-meta-meta. Meh-meh-meh. M-E-H-meh.

And see? I’ve introduced a new concept, gone and switched gears on you. I’m now talking about metadata. What does that have to do with exponential curves? Well, I’ll leave that to you to think about (and after? try thinking about how you thought about it. And then, in having thought about how you thought about it, will understanding how you went about understanding help you understand more quickly in the future?).

Anyhoo. The Singularity is Near is the book I’m reading now. Kurzweil has some crazy-ass ideas, ones that fuck with my sense of the relationship between matter and energy and information. It makes me think of protein folding and IC fabrication and how some cafes will stack glasses or mugs between plastic trays. It makes me think of sub-atomic goings-on and the Egyptian pyramids and genetically-engineered square watermelons and a little brain game my 4th Grade teacher did with us involving a glass jar, marbles and sand. Yeah, it’s one of those kinds of books.

I don’t think it’s going to sit well in my noggin. In fact, I know it won’t. But I have faith in my own abilities to adapt to new and even radical ways of thinking, ways of looking at the universe. It’ll stew for a good long time, and I’ll reconcile it eventually with things that happen on our human time- and activity-scales, even if it means acknowledging that even those scales aren’t fixed, and are, in fact, accelerating, and are relative—to their own prior iteration.

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The Good and Decent Right

It’s a strange tack to take, not only pigeonholing the infinite, but then having the audacity to speak on behalf of His Holy Infinity, but Pat Roberts has managed to do just that. Again.

Now, before I launch into this, I should put Pat in some perspective. He’s not the only Christian who does this sort of thing. Many other Christians climb their bully pulpits every Sunday and remind their fellow Christians that heathens and the profane should fear the Christians. Not only fear the Wrath of God, but fear, in earthly and malevolent ways, Christians.

And to also be fair, there are an enormous number of Christians, who, despite the hubris and pomposity of claiming to know their Creator’s wishes in the first place, are really rather decent, mild, meek, helpful people.

But these days, those people remain silent. Perhaps they’ve bought into being afraid of not toeing the Christian party line, too?

So Pat Robertson, the sore loser (at least ideologically) in Dover, PA, not only tells the fine, smart folks of Dover, PA—who rightly punished those who wanted to suborn science by removing them from power—that they’ve turned from God (hey, I thought “Intelligent Design” wasn’t about God!), but that God has turned from them:

I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city…And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.

Well! How about that, Dover? You’re up shit’s creek without a Deity.

<sarcasm>And then there’s my good buddy, Bill O’Reilly</sarcasm>.

So miffed was he over Prop I, or rather, miffed over the fact that we San Franciscans approved Prop I, that he’s handing us over to the terrorists. It takes him just a little bit of time to get there. First he leads with what each and every one of us who voted in favor of Prop I knew could be the consequences:

You know, if I’m the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, “Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you’re not going to get another nickel in federal funds.”

That’s how our government forces schools to permit military recruiters: by paying them to do so, or at least threatening to starve them of funding if they don’t. I suppose patriotism and sense of duty should be the driving factors, but, whatever.

But then he becomes his usual insane self. You can almost hear the wheels fall off the wagon of his sanity:

Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead…And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Didn’t he just commit an act of treason? And more to the point, isn’t he going to get stretchmarks? All this from the man who wants his values pushed in schools and will do anything, no matter how unsavory, to make that happen, ranting at a bunch of people who want their values reflected in schools and actually go through a constitutionally-approved, let-the-voters-decide procedure to make that happen? Why, Bill, one might think you’re a hypocrite, if you’re not careful.

So Pat Robertson hands Dover, PA over to the forces of Hell, and Bill O’Reilly encourages terrorists to blow up San Francisco.

Where are the hoody’s and the Vigilante Papists and the Aquinas-brown-nosers and the teen-age martinet-marionettes railing about God’s love and how these people should be punished for their moral relativism? Probably we’ll hear apologies, excuses, rationalizations, because clearly sacrificing people for their own agenda is more important than the pro-life agenda itself.

Watch, world. Watch how the theocrats decry nothing.

You didn’t hear it here first.

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Praos Theory

Whew!

Some of those nasty state Props were close to passing (although the couple of what I thought were good ones also failed to pass).

Politics is a funny business, where often one is called to speak other than they think (and dare to call that “diplomacy”!). And these days, add to that that one is called to speak and proselytize other than what they believe (when I was growing up as a good Catholic boy, we were taught that that was called “lying”, though today it’s just called “doing God’s work”).

And what is God’s work these days? Well, that depends on who you ask. There are plenty of absolutists about, daring to claim theirs the One True _____, daring to insult, desultorily or otherwise, the beliefs of others as inferior. Their Truth is Everyone’s Truth, and to challenge that Notion, well, makes you a moral relativist and Not To Be Trusted!

The strange thing is, when it comes to the domain of opinion, or belief, or supposition, observable fact has very little to do with anything. Which means that Science has no entry point, nowhere to gain traction. So it goes where it will, it does what it does and leaves the opining-believing-supposing to those who need someone else to define their own places in the world for them.

You’d think religion would do the decent thing and return the favor: leave observation, analysis, empiricism, theory and fact to the scientists. But then again, many of these are people who so desperately need to believe in something that they’ll go to great lengths to attach their cosmologies to things which cannot and must not ever be proven-observed-experimented! Certainty is the enemy of Faith. Those who talk to God are prayerful. Those to whom God talks back are crazy.

Crises of Faith come from within. Crises in science come from without. That is to say, the only “crisis” science can honestly admit to is the onslaught of outsiders who feel threatened by findings, or by prima donna individuals who place their own ascendancy before the ethic (and hell, the god-ridden have those, too!).

Being wrong, or being not-entirely-correct is not a bad thing in science. Often it’s a good thing. Often it’s the pudding which supplies the proof that the Scientific Method, the ethic of reproduceability, the mechanism of peer review and the rigors of scientific publication actually work. It makes for better scientists and that makes for better science.

The crises that faith suffers are from those who question openly, and from those who question in their own minds and hearts the veracity of what parents and other people of religious authority have asserted. And get it right, these are assertions. Not fact. Not Truth. They’re not even evidentiary, much less proof.

When Science meets the Unknown, there is elation: more to discover!

When the Faithful meet the Unknown, there is one-note: God did it.

Thus armed with the weaponry of Christ go they into the world, a seed crystal of regimented (at least publicly) thought and behavior attempting to fix the world into a conformity that is nothing but replicative of themselves. More of the same, larger crystal. Pretty! Smooth facets and hard vertices. The only self-organization in the world they’re willing to admit to.

Never mind the Brownian motion outside their own keeps. The ‘theory’ goes like this: give up your freedom of thought and belief and think how we do and believe how we do—or die. They’ll clench so tight as to force an entire world down the long narrow path of their own neediness-based religion, and to hell with what horrors it creates along the way, to hell with the strife and the difficulty. To hell with fact and observation and rationalization.

Chaos and disorganization and rioting and mobs are useful tools when they happen to someone else. In fact, it’s what the faithful have prayed for: praos.

It’s the 11th Commandment, the “Godenfreude Amendment” if you will: though shalt delight in the misfortune of the profane and the heretical.

It’s the only commandment they enjoy keeping.

Proposition 73, which sought to moralize young women through heavy-handed use of the government (remember when Republicans wanted the government to stay out of people’s lives?) machinery, is a terrific illustration of Praos Theory. Make their bodies not their own and let the state have them: yes, dear, we know it’s your uterus, but we’re going to make our own use of it because we know better.

Praos Theory is the tactic of the Religious Right. Suborn human nature by praying. And show the godless that you mean it by hoisting whatever weaponry you can find as your praying to god makes a big spectacle of it. Offer them a choice: brandish the weapon or be at the business end of it.

Kansas school board fired that weapon because the heretics just wouldn’t listen. Science is in crisis there because it’s being silenced, or at least being led away from unobstructed search for the truths of our reality.

I hope some Kansas teachers who will be forced to teach the utterly debunked (from a science perspective) “theory” of Intelligent Design, who have been utterly reassured that it’s NOT Creationism and it’s NOT about God “per se” will remember that the world was created by Zeus and the other Olympians, and that the Hebrew god, like the platypus, was created by Apollo much by accident when he burnt his ass on the Sun as he pulled it across the sky and exclaimed “God Dammit! Jesus Christ on a Cross!”

I know I’ll be praying they do.

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Pandemic?

Never mind Iraq my low approval numbers Scooter Libby KKKarl Rove Scalito Harriet “Quag” Miers that I’m a moron Fitzmas day the man behind the curtain [ibid. Rove], says our feckless leader, George W. (where dubya is the long form of ‘duh’) Bush, we have a freakin’ pandemic! to worry about!

Well, ok, we don’t actually have a pandemic yet, but gull durn it, we will! And after all, the Republicans have an amazing track record on paying attention to the science of epidemiology, population mechanics and the like. Right? Riiiiiight? (is this thing on?)

The idea of being ready for a flu outbreak is a terrific idea, don’t get me wrong. But I have trouble believing President Bush on this one, because he’s being alarmist at the same time. I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense that if the smoking gun of a viral outbreak is found, then in some sense it’s already “too late”. Wait. No. Mushroom cloud. Too Late. Smoking Gun. Prettybirdprettybird!

Ahem.

So he keeps using the word “pandemic”, which actually means:

<br/> pan•dem•ic<br/> adjective<br/> (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.
noun
an outbreak of such a disease.

Whereas “epidemic” means:


ep•i•dem•ic
noun<br/> a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time : a flu epidemic.<br/> • a disease occurring in such a way.<br/> • a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon : an epidemic of violent crime.<br/>

The built-in Dictionary.app in Mac OS X Tiger (10.4)—which I believe uses these sources, even goes so far, in notes for the definition of “epidemic”, to make the distinction among “pandemic”, “epidemic” and “endemic”:

<br/> USAGE A disease that quickly and severely affects a large number of people and then subsides is an epidemic: throughout the Middle Ages, successive epidemics of the plague killed millions. Epidemic is also used as an adjective: | she studied the causes of epidemic cholera. A disease that is continually present in an area and affects a relatively small number of people is endemic: malaria is endemic in (or | to ) | hot, moist climates. A pandemic is a widespread epidemic that may affect entire continents or even the world: | the pandemic of 1918 ushered in a period of frequent epidemics of gradually diminishing severity. Thus, from an epidemiologist’s point of view, the Black Death in Europe and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are pandemics rather than epidemics.

And so I have to wonder why the President would use pandemic when clearly it isn’t even an epidemic yet? Did he feel the need to politically elevate a potential epidemic to a full epidemic to a full pandemic?

From cnn.com:

“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire,” Bush said. “If caught early, it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected, it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it.”

WHAT?

Forgiving for a moment the alarmist misuse of the word, why aren’t the Reagan asskissers out there taking Bush to task for insulting the former President’s public health policies?

It all reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon, where Linus overhears Lucy telling someone that “Indian Summer” was a ruse created by Native Americans to lull the pilgrims into a false sense of complacency. Linus, tongue out, can only say, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Is that what you’re doing to the pilgrims, Mr. Bush?

Don’t get me wrong, I think something like this should be in place. But I also think it should be motivated by people wanting to protect other people, gunning for the ounce of prevention instead of the pound of cure. But this isn’t that. This is grandstanding and panic-inducing. This is the same tactic he used to get us into a war. This is motivating by Bush imploding.

When are the pilgrims going to realize he just doesn’t care about anything but himself? More to the point, that he can and will climb over the backs of any American to get the brass ring for himself?

When?

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Orthography & Idolatry

Some people enjoy the footfalls of syllables and sounds of symbols thrown down the metered hallway of prose; others prefer the lyrical poesy of too many rules applied to too few utterances.

Some escape the swoon of the siren’s call of their own voices or the voices of the author or the poet and find meaning. Or at least for value.

Yes, escape from the swoon, a sobering up from the narcotic bliss of Truth! by attaching one’s self to the speaker, the writer, the lyricist. He speaks Truth! one may say, falling all over herself to get the sweet misery just right. And up on a pedestal the sayer goes, a ceremonious removal from regular society, from merely mortal minds. A tall and a narrow pedestal, so easy for others to knock over.

The words of the speaker wither whither? To thither, of course, shuttled off to an out-of-earshot echo chamber on a wave of irony, cleaved from the speaker by the sycophants.

It’s the thing that probably kept Flaubert up at night for, the reason he was so hell-bent on the separation of Church of personality and State of art.

Today we are asked to accept the writer, the poet, the philosopher, the mathematician, the priest, the saint, the martyr, not on merit but on Tradition. We humans have produced a great many great thinkers, or at least we have noted them. Noted them and whisked them away from Time and Refutability of Person.

Aquinas did not have the option of feeling in his bones the possibility of absence of a god; Gödel did not have supercomputers available to him; Peirce did not have Watson & Crick to rely upon. We do have all those; we are future Kant’s and Nietzche’s and Tutu’s and Ghandi’s. I do not puff myself up and suppose I am such a great thinker as Gödel or Russell or Kant or Peirce or Hegel, but neither do I accept that I am ill-equipped to challenge what I think are their shortcomings.

And after all, the Greats did not stand in the shadows of the giants who preceded them, they instead climbed upon the shoulders of such, saw what others priorly did not have available to them, and expounded on the view with their vision.

Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?

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