Susan's Musings

These musings—blog entries—are for the year 2014. Other years can be accessed from the blog's home page, use the link in the upper right.

I was taught as early as grade school that Civilization was a result of Agriculture.

Civilization seems to be one of those things that you can recognize but not firmly define. A study of the early European contact with the Amerindians suggests that the Europeans believed themselves civilized while the natives were not. I suggest this is a fairly universal definition: "we" are civilized, "they" are not.

We like to think the so-called hunter-gatherers (those poor sorts who cannot shop at Whole Foods Markets and Neiman Marcus) are not civilized. They lack x, y, and z. And yet . . . a thoughtful examination of the archaeological record reveals many similarities between the people of 30,000 BC and us.

How really useful is the Civilization word? (12-29-2014)
There's a drug for that
With the wide adoption of smartphones, "there's an app for that" has become a common declaration. I suggest that the pharmaceutical industry's attitude towards medicine can be similarly stated as "there's a drug for that." (12-9-2014)
What happened to "do not call"?
The phone rang in the afternoon. With the hope that it might be someone I actually knew, I answered "hello." Several seconds later a recorded voice began "please hold the line . . ." upon which I hung up. Hold the line? For an underpaid foreigner who was taking the job of an American to try to sell me something I do not want on a phone which has been registered as do-not-call? I don't think so. (12-8-2014)
Alfa !
In late 1973 I bought my first car as a single woman. I wanted a fuel injected driver's car, two-seater, sporty. I chose the 1974 Alfa Romeo Spyder in red (of course!). I never regretted it, even though it occasionally was undriveable for long periods of time waiting on a part from Italy. I kept it 14 years, after driving the length and width of California several times. I learned that Italians have short legs and long arms: I could never straighten out my driving leg. The trunk held two backpacks. I once squeezed one very tall man into the area behind the seats so three of us could go to lunch in my car, he never complained. I have missed it ever since, while enjoying my oh so practical Mercedes sedans.

Today's New York Times has a story on a rally in Italy of Alfa Giuliettas with photos that brought a smile to my face. (12-5-2014)
Dementia and coconut oil
Bruce Fife, the ND who became the guru of coconut oil, has another gift for us: Conquering Alzheimer’s with Coconut Ketones is an account of the cause of dementia and Alzheimer's in insufficient energy metabolism in the brain and the use of dietary coconut oil to correct the brain's deficient energy metabolism. Central to this correction are the ketones produced by the liver from the medium chain fatty acids present in coconut oil. Ketones are used by the brain, to supply its energy needs when glucose is not available. Eating coconut oil every day can achieve therapeutic blood levels of ketones that will have a significant effect on brain function. (10-15-2014)
Military troops "fighting" Ebola
Today's LA Times carries the headline "U.S., Britain to send troops to help fight Ebola in West Africa." I hope I am not the only person to be struck by the dissonance in this headline. "Troops" to "fight Ebola." As I understand it, Ebola is a viral illness that has been present in Africa for some years and is presently causing significant illness and death. So what does the military have to do with an illness? Where are the medical personnel?

The article explains: "The military forces will build treatment facilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone to help care for victims of the virus." Is this what our military is trained and supplied for? Building medical facilities? Perhaps this is part of extending their justification for existence. If there aren't enough wars, our soldiers can always be pressed into civil construction projects. Wow.

And I must again protest against the mis-use of the word "fight." As in "fighting" illness. After all these years, haven't we a better word? Must every effort be converted into a military one? And I guess I should also raise the question of quarantine when these soldiers return home. I found no mention of that. I can only hope that someone thinks of it besides me. (9-8-2014)
The paucity of medical understanding
It used to be that doctors faced with a patient's illness which they could not diagnose told the patient, usually a woman, "it's all in your head." Now they say "it's genetic."

Genetics, especially the exploration of the genome in various species, including ours, is the latest source of medical employment and buzz. We have only begun to see the contents of DNA. To suggest that we now truly understand what the various components do is unmitigated arrogance. A hundred years from now today's explanations will be the subject of coffee table humor—disparaging humor.

Claiming an illness is caused by the patient's "genetics" has no support in epidemiology (the study of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations). We have little knowledge of our parents' health, and virtually none of our grandparents. Thus we have no useful history on which to see a pattern of inheritance. QED. (7-14-2014)
Foreign policy and military adventures abroad
I am appalled at the amount of American dollars and manpower squandered in military adventures abroad, and at their results. Our actions have destabilized entire regions, and we are still at it.

I believe our foreign policy should be based on respect for the sovereignty of other nations and their peoples. Our foreign policy should also be based on humility, especially given our inability to understand, support, and shepherd our own people.

The history of our interventions in foreign countries is littered with failure and disaster. It is also encumbered with the lies that were told to justify the interventions. This does not make America a world leader, it makes us a world despoiler and predator.

Consequently I strongly disapprove of any continued or new intervention in the Middle East. I am particularly alarmed by President Obama's request for money to fund yet another intervention, this one involving Syria.

I ask you to reject his request. (6-26-2014)
Hope and change
This was Obama's rallying cry in the 2008 election. I now think that "hope" is a four-letter word. And "change" is never for the better. He conned us. And continues to do so, but his words are longer. (6-12-2014)
Today's New York Times website has a lead to the article "The Fall of Narcissism" by Anna North. Apparently narcissism is considered by some an epidemic in youth.

Let's be clear: narcissism is NOT the same as self-absorption or selfishness. Narcissism is the inability to view the world and others as anything other than an extension of yourself. It is the inability to recognize that other people are different than you. In my personal experience narcissism has some similarity to autism—where the autistic are unable to have a relationship with other people. Narcissists cannot have relationships with other people, only with themselves. They may think they are relating with other people, but the reality is that those other people only exist as projections of themselves (the others exist, but their authentic self is overlaid with the projection).

I have no hope for a cure for narcissism. It repeats generation after generation in families. I have no basis for considering if it is inherited, learned, or both.

Another commonly misunderstood word is co-dependent. A co-dependent person is one who willingly abandons their own personality in order to reflect the projections of a narcissist. I believe narcissists have their best and closest "relationships" with co-dependents. If one spouse is a narcissist, it is likely the other spouse is a co-dependent. (6-5-2014)
Ignoring the bad
I suggest that two phrases be stricken from our speech as they embody viewpoints that are detrimental to our society. In each case we are capable of recognizing degrees of success, and failure, in outcomes. But our language encourages us to ignore the failures and pretend they didn't happen. This leads to schizophrenia.

"Side effect" refers to an effect that is unintended and unwanted and, all too often, dangerous. Referring to side effects allows us to congratulate ourselves on the desired, beneficial effects while ignoring and even denying responsibility for the undesired, dangerous effects. It allows us to administer drugs to people with the hope that only beneficial effects will result, knowing that all-to-often bad effects result. It allows us to pretend that medical drugs have only good outcomes.

"Collateral damage" refers to the unwanted and unplanned wartime deaths of our own soldiers at our hands. It allows us to talk about war we promulgate and the damage sustained by our enemy while sidelining, ignoring our dead and the carelessness which led to their death. It allows us to pretend that war has only good outcomes. (5-23-2014)
Josef Stalin's take on dogs
Apologies to my dear friends who love their canine pets.
"Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs." (1-24-2014)
A joke from John Phillips in the San Rafael News Pointer
Democracy in the Middle East: An Afghani was quoted as saying, "If voting could really change anything, they would make it illegal."
Josef Stalin reputedly had a different take: "You know, comrades, that I think in regard to this: I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how." (Apparently cited in the 1992 "Memoirs of Stalin's Former Secretary" by Boris Bazhanov, published in Russian. The sentiment is considered an urban legend.)
And now a comment on repeating quotations without verifying their attribution. It's not a good idea! I just did it myself. I found a Wikipedia mention that the main sentiment attributed to Stalin was also said by Emma Goldman: "If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal." (again with no verifiable source) (1-23-2014)
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Revision: 3-16-2015.