December 27, 2015

Some New Year's Makeover hints for 2016

We are fast approaching the new year, 2016. Twelve months bursting with potential and promise stretching out ahead of us. In the spirit of the New Year's Resolution tradition, I offer some suggestions for some easy tweaks to beautify your world and your lighten your soul.

Weight loss is easily accomplished by dumping all the baggage currently hauled around intended to weigh and judge whether those in need are deserving of help.
By dumping the requirement that people have "earned" compassion, the ability to reach out and help everyone who needs help is achieved. Feeding people because they are hungry, comforting those who are in pain, offering healing to the sick, and a roof to the homeless. Without worrying about anything besides identifying the needs.

Work out more by exercising your right to vote in every election. Strengthen our democracy by making your voice heard on every issue that is important to you. Email your legislators, petition your government and make your representatives accountable to you.
Get your heart rate up by doing things that scare you, that make you feel uncomfortable and that push your boundaries. 

Increase your vocabulary by having conversations with people who are different than you are. People with different interests, different backgrounds, different beliefs. Speak up about your values, and discover how enlightening assuming the best of people's intentions can become. Add the words "why not?" and use them frequently to follow any statement that contains the words "of course we can't"...

Meditate on the awesome smallness of specks of stardust, and the hugeness of the universe. Open yourself to infinite possibility. Wrap yourself in the patchwork quilt of humanity, in all its beautiful variations.

And in the words of the great philosopher Wil Wheaton: Don't be a dick.

November 16, 2015

Another shout into the void

*Disclaimer: I do not identify as religious, but I am very spiritual. I belong to no organized religious group, and prefer to choose my teachers based on their teachings rather than on their sect. I live in a culture that identifies predominantly as white, western and Judeo/Christian. I also write this stuff primarily to organize my thoughts and make them easily accessible, not to advise others on how to relate to the ineffable.*

Religion does not cause violence. So many folks believe this to be the case, make art and write songs about how getting rid of religion would make a peaceful world. Sorry.
We create religions as a means of sorting "us" from "them". Because as trooping primates, that is what we do. Identifying who we fuck versus who we fight.

National borders are there to mark where our troop has staked a claim on the local resources. If those resources start to get low, we go to war with someone who has more of the resources we need. It is more obvious when we were fighting with rocks and clubs - but it is still what we are doing. We create political constructs to explain why our region of resources is vastly superior to the other guy's. And it makes a handy excuse when we need to go "liberate" his resources for the use of our own.

When any of these groups get too big, whether they are religious or secular, schisms have to occur to allow smaller subgroups to form that are viable units to maintain what has been termed the "monkeysphere" Dunbar's Number.

We will use religion, or political systems, or historic grudges, or assumed territorial violations to rationalize war against the "other". But ultimately it is always just some variation on a resource grab.
Even the seemingly stateless terrorists we see today are quick to declare a "state" and to start attempting to move into and take over regions to acquire their resources. They recruit women to populate those regions with their offspring. Same old story whether it is chimps, Visigoths, or Exxon.

We have evolved socially and culturally quite rapidly, and now with technology our culture is evolving even faster. Our bodies and brains are on a MUCH longer timeline. So no small number of our impulses, coping mechanisms, instincts, etc were developed in a vastly different environment.
And our drive to name, to categorize, to sort is a product of this need to identify what constitutes a threat versus what is "us".

Survival as a species is going to require us to understand and accept this, and to utilize that knowledge using the beautiful large frontal lobes we now possess to guide us going forward. Maybe there are just too many of us and we are not ready for a monkeysphere that encompasses the entire planet. It could be that we will wind up decimating our populations via war-related disease and famine back down to a size that has enough space to keep the current model.

If you assume you are in a group likely to survive, it probably doesn't sound so bad. And hey, maybe it won't happen in your lifetime.


November 14, 2015

For the Lost

Grieving for all those lost to hatred.

Those whose lives are lost in acts of hatred
Those who are lost fleeing hatred
Those who are lost seeking sanctuary from hatred 
And those who have allowed hatred to turn their hearts to cold stone.

May I be strong enough to protect my own heart from that fate.

October 22, 2015

I think we need a bigger stick...

The unique talent that we possess as tool using primates is not so much the ability to pick up the stick lying nearby and poke it down a termite mound to access the tasty inhabitants. Our talent lies in the ability to generalize from that discovery, and use the stick to access other termite mounds and ant hills as well.
A hurdle we still have not overcome is the tendency to generalize TOO much and try use that same tool to solve every problem. We keep poking that stick down into the tiger den and being surprised by the results!

October 12, 2015

Broken and Unashamed

After mothballing a long ass rant on all the ways our system is fucked up, I decided to get with the times and do something short and snappy.

Because the message of shame, from without and within, pervades every aspect of our lives:

September 23, 2015

Namaste for a minute and read this.

 Perhaps you were smart enough to be born to the right family, in the right place, in the right time.

Maybe you are in the racial majority where you live.

Perhaps you arranged to be born male.

In a first world country.

With access to a good education.

And plenty of healthy food, and medical care when you needed it.

Being clever enough to arrive at adulthood with the right background in a decent economy you have not been unemployed.

Bad news: even with all that exquisite planning and preparation on your part, someday you are going to get sick. You may even live to be old. Short of a cross-town bus taking you out in your glorious prime, chances are good that someday somewhere you are going to need help.
You are going to need someone to take care of you, and you are going to experience being dependent upon others. Based upon my personal experiences with folks from a wide and varied range of cultures and backgrounds you are going to get up close and personal with some real perspective.
How painful that process will be depends entirely upon you.

Because it is terribly sad to witness people suddenly confront the humanity they failed to recognize in others only after personally experiencing the vagaries of life and mortality.

So by all means, count your blessings. Give thanks to whoever you credit for your good fortune. And remember that there but for the Grace goes you. And being nice to people is a very good investment in the future, as well as a pretty decent universal Spiritual practice.

July 19, 2015

Using Jargon for better web searches

There is a massive amount of information available to everyone out there at the touch of a keyboard these days. This is an amazing and wonderful time to be living, but it can also be overwhelming and confusing trying to sift the wheat from the chaff!
There are answers to a vast array of the questions we might have throughout the day - problem is that the answers are often contradictory and very confusing.
If you are NOT an expert (which would be why you are looking stuff up in the first place!) it can be hard to figure out what exact question you should be asking to get the best answers.
I have some suggestions for getting better and more reliable search results in some of the areas in which I have some expertise and experience.

The biggest help is using the jargon and terminology of whatever specialty you are searching for information regarding.
Want to find out more about the rash on your cat? Try feline dermatitis.
Your feet are swelling up? Pedal edema would be a starting place to search.
 How well does madeupatoinin work for fakediseaseitis? Search for efficacy (medical term for effectiveness) of madeupatoinin in fakediseaseitis treatment.
This will work for non-medical stuff as well - there is just so much crap out there to sort through that having a starting place to find reliable information can be really helpful. The phrase "evidence-based" is your new BFF for searches.
You know you have success when Google asks you if you want to see "scholarly articles" based on your search. A good chunk of those are only moderately comprehensible to anyone outside of the area of expertise but I generally scan them anyway. Even the regular hits you get should be of better quality - places like the NIH, WHO, Mayo clinic for medical stuff indicate you are on the right track. And NIH also has veterinary articles as well.

Some helpful links to bookmark:

Medical Dictionary

National Library of Medicine

Merck Veterinary Manual

TOXNET - Don't Panic

Some quick search terms that can be really useful:

Efficacy = effectiveness of a drug or treatment
Mechanism of Action = how something, usually a drug, works. This is unknown more often than you would think!
Conflict of Interest = anyone publishing a medical paper is required to reveal any money, support or other potential influences involved in the study and publication. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if it exists but should be taken into consideration.
Canine: dogs
Feline: cats
Geriatric - elders, seniors and used in pretty much all species
Pediatric - sub-adults, children, infants
Adverse effects - this is the list of unwanted or unintended effects of a treatment that have been reported in clinical trials as well as after release. Having an adverse effect is NOT the same thing as having an allergy. It just means that you experienced one of the effects of the drug outside of it's intended purpose. The severity or seriousness of these adverse effects determine whether the treatment should be discontinued. ALWAYS report them to your provider, they will help you decide if the need for the treatment is balanced by the side effect and may prescribe another treatment to address the side effect (example would be getting laxatives to deal with constipation from a drug).
Allergic reactions are included in the list of adverse effects, and would require immediate discontinuation of the drug. But again - ALWAYS report this to your provider. They need this info so they don't prescribe another drug in the same family in the future.
Metabolism - this describes how a drug is changed by the body. Often the active form of the drug only exists after the liver has had it's way with the drug. Processing by the liver is also how many drugs are broken down into metabolites for elimination by the bowels or kidneys. Knowing how something is metabolized helps your provider to adjust dosages depending on how well kidneys and liver work. Dogs have super-livers that break down a lot of drugs really well, which means they need much larger doses of some drugs than even humans do!
Osteopath - You see some doctors listed as DO rather than MD. What's up with that? Osteopathy is a second path to practicing medicine for doctors in the US. History of Osteopathic Medicine. Chiropractic techniques are a part of their practice as well as conventional allopathic medicine. The focus is more holistic, and DOs also specialize just like MDs in cardiology, oncology, neurology, etc.


Here's an example search that will give you an idea of what you might see using the right jargon in a search: efficacy of inhaled albuterol on reactive airway disease


Professional jargon, especially of the medical sort has gotten a bad rap. People see it as an attempt by elitist healthcare providers to shut them out of conversations about their healthcare. And it does happen, but mostly without any ill intent. That jargon is a refined language (lots of it Latin) that allows healthcare professionals to speak very precisely to each other about specific things and use words that have very exacting meanings. Regular English is like a Basset Hound - really adorable and easy to love but incredibly sloppy. One big role of nursing has always been to function as the interpreters of medical jargon between the medical team and families. But since our roles have become more extensive and complex we often fall into the bad habit of using that jargon with our patients as well.
So this can get you started in trying to do some of your own translations!