Friday, December 28, 2012
I have been working on a new project at work and came across a few great resources. Of course this is always FLICKR and now Pinterest but there are still a lot of great sites out there with the old and arcane.
Old Book Art is a great website to browse. It is filled with old engravings and illustrations as well as old maps--the reason I first visited. It's a great resource for illustrators looking for reference. I'm certain that I'll be back when I finally get started on the children's book that my wife has written. And speaking of maps, this one shouldn't be missed. While not all maps found on Map Collection--Collection of Interesting and Artistic Maps are free or in the public domain, it is a great reference site. Decline and Fall Resources, like the aforementioned, is also a great resource.
These are just a few based upon what I was looking for. You could get lost in these sites for a very long time!
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Saturday, September 08, 2012
I have always wanted to read Stephenson as I hear only good things. Time is always the enemy. So what did I think? It started slow, very slow but the hint of what was coming started early. This is the story of two converging tales. One of Christendom in the wake of the Mongol onslaught. The other, a tale of the sons of Genghis Khan who were left to rule after his father's death.
The first is told from the point of view of a "Binder." We aren't told what a "Binder" is but learn bits and pieces as her story unfolds. Cnan was mysterious but the pace was slow. The so-called warrior monks were colorful and offered an interesting glimpse into the various factions and nations that made up 13th Century Europe.
The Mongol story is told from the point of view of a Mongol warrior, Gansukh. He is enlisted by one of the sons of Ghengis to try to prevent another, the new "Great Kahn," from drinking himself into complete uselessness. He is a warrior but he knows not the ways of so-called court life and is must be schooled by a Chinese slave. It is a good story, but like so many other threads started, it is incomplete.
There are many valid complaints about this book. The loudest is that too many authors have spoiled the story. It may be valid as this one ends mid-stream with nothing but questions... but the point that there is too much fighting does not ring true for me. If you consider that the Mongol army slaughtered on tenth on the world’s population, one would expect quite a bit of carnage. I wouldn’t pick up a read because it was gory, but if it should be part of the story it should be good.
Overall, my sneaking suspicion is that once this trilogy is written, a great tale will be have been told. I also believe it would be so much better if it were re-written by one.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
What moves you and why?
Sunday, August 19, 2012
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
"After graduating from college, I was certain of only one thing--I did not want a desk job in some office. I worked as a sailing instructor on the beach, a zoologist at a wildlife park, and as a naturalist driving airboats in the Everglades. At the start of the first Gulf War, I joined the U.S. Army and flew as a crash-rescue and medevac pilot. After receiving my discharge from the army, I became a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State and had the good fortune to serve in such places as the Bahamas, Russia, Afghanistan, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and at U.S. Southern Command in Miami."Tom and I were college room mates but I had lost touch with him over the years. Back in 2009 reconnected with him like so many others on Facebook. I traded posts and "likes" with him and was shocked to hear that he had been living with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) since 2005. Early last month, I found this post on my Facebook feed. I hope that you will take time to read it. Hearing from Tom always helps me put life into perspective.
Last week, on the 4th of July, scientists announced they may have discovered the Higgs boson. Frankly, I think if it were not a holiday and if there was nothing else newsworthy taking place, this announcement would have still have received little notice despite the significance of this discovery. This is unfortunate for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is how American scientific curiosity has been replaced by a need for superficial sensationalism. Don’t take my word for it--just look at the amount of major network news airtime devoted to the Higgs boson announcement vs. the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce announcement. Still, the discovery of the Higgs boson sounded a clarion call across the planet--great discoveries are still out there to be made and with them, comes great hope.
As we celebrated the birthday of the United States that day, it was evident just how shallow our country had become. In a nation founded by citizen scientists and deep thinkers such as Franklin and Jefferson, we now look at science like Dorothy and her companions viewed the Wizard of Oz--a mysterious force that sometimes grants wishes. Instead of wanting to know how our world works, we only want to know that it works. Instead of learning the issues ourselves, we allow the media, politicians, and PR types to influence our decisions. We have neither the time, nor inclination to learn even the simplest science--unless we learned in school, let others figure it out and we‘ll just go along with what they say. To tell the truth, I was just like most Americans until recently. If not for my diagnosis of ALS, I probably would have remained a Monday morning scientist… “Hey Bob, did you see the eclipse last night?” “Solar, lunar, what’s the difference?” “Did you hear about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes?“ If it’s not worth watching on the Discovery Channel, it’s not worth knowing. Sad to say, our interest in science has been reduced to how entertaining Hollywood can make it.
Maybe, that’s not a total loss. As a grad student, I once taught a college course in American Government. The course professor insisted each student have a daily subscription to the New York Times. Granted, many in academia would argue that the Times is the gold standard for daily news. However, these were 18- and 19-yr. old undergrads, more interested in the next keg party than the minutia of daily politics. Knowing this, I argued that the students would be much more likely to read the paper if it had simple articles like those found in USA Today--simple was better than nothing. Nevertheless, my argument fell on deaf ears and I can only imagine all those New York Times subscriptions that found the recycling bin before a single article was read. That said, I suppose a glossy, but hollow science segment on TV is better than nothing.
In 2005, I was told I had a terminal illness for which there was no known cause, no viable treatment, and no cure. That was it. I was only in my early 40’s, but I was a dead man walking. Most Americans believe the mantra that if we eat right, exercise, and live within moderation, we will live to a ripe old age. Despite following this instruction manual, I was broken and nobody had replacement parts. I stopped seeing my neurologist, because all he would do is shake his head and mutter how devastating ALS was, and I buried my head in the sand hoping it would all just go away. Didn’t work. As my body slowly rotted away, I desperately looked for answers. Unfortunately, what I discovered was disheartening. No diseases were being cured. Big Pharma had everything geared toward “marketing” medical conditions. There were billions to be made in drugs and treatments to manage disease. Curing them would eliminate all that profit. ALS only effects 30,000 Americans, so developing drugs to treat it offered little financial incentive. I was screwed. So, I started to look outside the pharmaceutical industry for answers. In order to understand what I was looking for, I had to rewire my heretofore keg-seeking brain for science. Not an easy task, but these days I am devoid of a job and a life in general, so I have had the opportunity to do something I never actively did before--study.
The good news--I have found scientific disciplines of which I excel at studying. The bad news--none of them relate to ALS. However, (and this is really the point of this writing) like those undergrads I wanted to have read USA Today, I am now at least able to discern trends and discoveries of significance and I will say this--we are on the verge of a medical revolution, the likes of which have never been witnessed by the human race. That said, we are only at the beginning of this revolution and many of us may never live to reap its benefits. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that a child born today will never have to fear ALS, MS, Alzheimer’s, and most other diseases. Thankfully, Big Pharma has met its match in an even more powerful industry--insurance. The insurance industry has been getting killed by Big Pharma’s “string ‘em along” policy. The insurance industry needs us to either die quickly, or live healthy. Since western society won’t tolerate early death, healthy lifestyles are the only option. So, we see the sudden advent of regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, etc.
Stem cell therapy alone, is developing at a phenomenal pace. Seven years ago, the best one could hope for was an offshore procedure, which simply transferred cells from one body part to another. Huge controversy surrounded the use of embryos, which were considered the most viable source of stem cells. Today, a patient can use their own cells, which can then be manipulated into the needed cell type, thus avoiding any ethical or rejection issues. Countries free from regulatory and Big Pharma constraints such as Israel and China, are developing stem cell technologies to rival our own. Entire organs are now being created in the lab, paralyzed mice are walking again, and some patients are seeing complete reversals of their medical conditions--all from stem cells. One can only imagine what we will see from stem cells seven years from now!
Seven years ago, there was only one drug available for ALS patients; a drug which prolonged life expectancy a whopping 2-3 months! These days, there are a number of promising drugs currently in clinical trials, with dozens more being looked at. Diaphragm pacers are now prolonging the need for invasive breathing procedures. Reports of ALS patients improving after receiving stem cell treatments both here and in Israel are generating a buzz in the ALS community. Did I contribute to any of these breakthroughs? Of course not. Did my newfound interest in science make a difference? Yes, it saved my life. I cannot overstate that enough. By understanding on at least a very basic level where the science was taking us, I found hope…and hope is what sustains me.
So, what does the Higgs boson have to do with all of this and what’s its significance? Stephen Hawking’s bestseller, “A Brief History of Time” was supposed to be a layman’s guide to understanding these types of theories, but every attempt of mine to read his book resulted in me giving up after two chapters. I am obviously the last person who should attempt to explain the Higgs boson to anyone. In any event, here’s my attempt…. The Higgs boson, also known as the God particle, was first predicted almost 50 years ago. The boson and its corresponding field are the final pieces of one of the most successful physical theories in history--the Standard Model, which encompasses all of nature's fundamental particles, and every fundamental force apart from gravity. The Higgs boson is believed to be a catalyst for the Big Bang and the creation of the universe. That said, the real significance for us mortals who can’t fully grasp all of this is that science persevered. Despite all the crap we now occupy our lives with, despite the dwindling interest in science, despite monetary disincentives, scientific curiosity still exists. Those noble souls who toil away far from the spotlight, let us know that the secrets of the universe are still attainable and through their deeds, hope springs eternal.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Sunday, June 17, 2012
It took me years to do it…
but I finally got the nerve to hold your hand.
It was something that I had to do.
I had only recently gotten comfortable
with telling you that I loved you.
Up until a few months ago
it was unspoken but I always knew.
I could see it in your blue eyes.
Blue like the sky and every bit as deep.
And as I took your hand in the darkness,
I could feel your heart beating with mine…
slow and steady and time seemed to stop…
and part of me, the selfish part,
wanted to hold on to that moment forever…
hold on and never let go.
So I held your hand in the dark.
Your hand was so soft, but too warm for December…
no words spoken…
then I, too, closed my eyes
and let the memories of the times we shared flood over me
and I wondered why this moment
had taken so long to arrive.
Was it only yesterday that I picked you up
and carried you through the door and put you in your bed?
Or was it a week ago?
Time slips in times likes these. Peace settles in.
And the night begins to play its tricks on you.
So I held your hand, this one last time,
and one last time I turned to you for strength
because I knew you could hold this reality together.
You were always the strong and sensible one.
The magical one who could do anything by shear will.
And I held your hand.
Then time slipped away… like the beating of your heart,
there in my hand… and it was time for me
to walk out that very door I had carried you through.
Time to leave you there with your wife one last time.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Thursday, April 05, 2012
CNET reports that over 600,000, almost 60% of Mac users in the U.S. alone, are infected with the Flashback botnet/Trojan that was designed to steal sensitive information and send it to identity thieves. The Trojan originally came packaged as a wrongly named Adobe Flash Player plug-in installer back in September. The new tactic, Flashback.N is a modified version that searches for Java vulnerabilities and installs itself when you visit an infected web site. If you have visited one of those sites your computer is at risk. It appears that Flashback is using Twitter to deliver commands and directions.
Apple issued an update for its OS X operating system to patch the problem on April 4. If you want to be sure that you AREN'T infected, there is a manual check that you can perform using Terminal and simple cut-and-paste to see if you are infected.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
We've been living in the "Year of the Dragon" now for about a month, do you feel lucky yet?
For those of you who didn't know, “The Year of the Dragon” is the year of empowerment. It is the fifth of twelve animal signs and is considered to be the luckiest of the Chinese Zodiac. But for me, it isn't about luck or empowerment, it is about being prepared and aware for if you are prepared and aware, then you will be ready to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. Time and again throughout my life, I have been called lucky. When I found the hundred dollar bill floating in the water was one time, but I found it because I was looking when the rest of my family were oblivious because they were lost in the moment and totally in the family reunion moment. I have also heard that I am lucky to be alive. While I believe that luck is generally nothing more than being a bit more aware of your surroundings and capabilities and prepared to seize upon any opportunities that might present themselves, there is something more. Is it karma or some special plan that God has for us? I cannot answer that but I can be ready.
Last year’s rabbit had all of us scurrying a bit too much. So, like the dragon, here’s wishing you a magical 2012.