Archives 2007

Archives 2006

Archives 2005

Archives 2004

 

obviously photoshopped
2005-05-31-- Posted by: allegra

But amusing nonetheless. You'd never see four bears together like this UNLESS there's a very very big pile of food in front of them.

Getting to Makkah
2005-05-31-- Posted by: allegra

Makkah is, as most of us know, a hard place to get into if you aren't Muslim. Or is it? I checked with my co-worker, and apparently if you're Ahmadi, Ismaili or Druse AND you make the mistake of letting the authorities know you are before you go, you can be refused entrance. These are sects of Islam considered apostate. I consider the Ahmadis to be like the Mennonites of the Muslim world, and the Ismailis to be pretty amazing; like the Jews, they have made a contribution to civilization that is disproportionate to their numbers. I know nothing about the Druse except that they are a minority in a minority wherever they live. Anyway the rules are applied so haphazardly that it's hard to tell when it's bureaucrats being crabby or real rules; and of course if you're somebody's relative you're more likely to get passed in.

The other thing he told me is that Makkah is not off limits to non-Muslims. If you are a member of a construction crew for the ongoing infrastructure upgrades in Makkah, the authorities don't care if you're Muslim or not. As long as you don't do anything actively stupid or disrespectful, and you get a long list, I'm sure, of what those activities might be, it isn't an issue.

Floating mat of condoms
2005-05-31-- Posted by: allegra

Whitley Streiber, well known whack job, has a note on his website about a mat of condoms floating around the Pacific that's SO BIG you could land an airplane on it. Uh huh. I looked it up on the internet, and the first reference to it dates back to, get this, 1996, ha ha, and is on a website of dubious soundness when it comes to the information gold standard. So Streiber's site referring to it as a possible catastrophe and then providing a link to purchase a book on catastrophes is just another example of how, when it comes to making money, maybe he isn't a whack job; maybe he's just a relentless opportunist with a well rounded millennial shtick. Carl Sagan is still dead, but if he was alive, he'd be shaking my head that I'm even looking at Streiber's site.

Gardening with Pokey
2005-05-31-- Posted by: allegra

Pokey continues to enjoy his freedom in an entertaining way. He used the utility pole in the left front corner of the property as a scratching post vigorously for the best part of five minutes yesterday. I told him he was a most excellent kitty and watched him wait for John; he was restlessly patrolling the front edge of the property waiting for his dinner to get home. All the while a crow was sitting on the utility line about two meters from the pole.

Pokey quite visibly came to the decision that this ongoing scolding (the crow went on and bloody on about it) had to stop; then he sprang up about a third the height of the pole, at which point the crow went Holy Crap and flew off. Good Pokey! I assured him. And went back to moss patrol. Another two wheelbarrow loads of moss, and I trimmed back the hawthorne and the rhodo in the front yard as well as top dressing a couple of parts of the front beds. Man, 40 litres of gardening soil is NOTHing. If we're going to level this hellish lawn I'm going to need many cubic metres of dirt. And the back compost bin, which is like 4 cubic metres, is jammed to the gunwhales with the moss so far. Dunno what to do about it.

It is now too late in the season to do anything about the grapes, we're just going to have to live with it until next year.

Neglected to mention that I found a pupa, which looked like a carved, oiled wooden peg, in the back yard while raking moss (what else) the other day. It was the same day I took all the pictures but I didn't take a picture of it - closest I could find on the internet is posted here. It was so close to hatching that it MOVED in my hand when I picked it up, a totally science fiction moment during which I startled but didn't drop it. I set it aside so other people could look at it but when I went to look for it yesterday morning it looked as though some enterprising crow had gotten to it. It was, given its size, very likely something I didn't want in my garden anyway.

A sacrifice to science
2005-05-31-- Posted by: allegra

Milagros Cerron is a year old, just. She has a condition she shares with a handful of other children across this planet, partly because her condition is rare and partly because the ones born with it don't often get this far. Her name in English could be rendered Miracle Hill. Her irregularity makes her like a cross between a chicken and a mermaid; her legs and feet are fused. She faces 15 years of surgery to get her legs apart and her plumbing working through the correct number of taps. She's running on the equivalent of half a kidney and has had a *lot* of urinary tract infections. Now she faces the first surgery, to separate her feet from her heels to about halfway up her calf. The parents aren't talking to the media, and I think they are being wise.

Let us meditate on the life of Milagros. Oh my father, who has served the law all his life; oh my mother, who has served the nurturance of being likewise. Keep my mind steady while I think about this.

I have a number of reactions to a birth defect of this severity, and they don't always play nice in the sandbox.

I think, what would I do if it were my child? And I think, I'd fight, but to a point. If I could see nothing in her quality of life but one painful operation after another, during which she'd be subject to GHAStly systemic infections and organ shutdowns and be the nexus of... Hey, let's see. A media circus? The personal torment of my entire family? Human medical experimentation of an imperfect but well-intentioned kind?

So let me get this straight. I'm supposed to support the continued existence, in a state of suffering, of my child, despite the costs, so doctors have a child to operate on.... to practice new techniques on?

This is a painful dilemma, unless, of course, you take a Deist view of the situation, and agree to 'prolong life' and 'trust God's will' as part of your contract with your exacting deity. Then you have no choice, and a lot of people will support you in your most commendable action for religious and ethical reasons. Embarrassing to mention, but there are bits of me, scattered here and there, which take this view, which will be trading slaps with the previous view pretty fast if they don't conclude a truce, or at least get distracted with ice cream.

The allocation of resources question could be raised, and just as swiftly dispensed with. Is this set of surgeries the best allocation of resources? On the other hand why bring up the notion of scarcity when life is so plentiful? (Bazillions of surgeries, flare up/die down media glare until she dies, money in the system diverted to save the one when the many are unvaccinated, waste and pomp, harumph harumph.) I figure my opinion aside, the people who live in Peru have laws which reflect their national character, and so I leave it to the people of Peru to deal with any legal, medical or financial implications, and that means allocation of resources. I imagine the Catholic Church has the religious aspect pretty much in a holy headlock. I would not contribute money towards keeping her alive; if the parents decide to sell the story and the state picks up the medical tab, I am not sure my contribution would be required and it would be insulting, like they can't look after their own. I didn't see anything about fundraising efforts.

When I was a kid I was an interested observer of the goings-on of a major teaching hospital. I remember thinking there are a lot of desperate folk willing to throw themselves under experimental knives. And why shouldn't they? What is more human than hope? Brief pause while I refrain from taking a cheap shot that had something to do with plastic surgery.

There's nothing wrong with being simple folk who believe that their prayers and a doctor's skill will draw down God's mercy. I must admit a shade of envy towards people who can think that way. It is amazing how, through the testimony of their own lives, people of faith can exert force on the world. Whether God is seen or unseen, looks like a rat or a man, makes cool sounds or is a still small voice within, followers of every path can find a way to shining communion with all that is. Frankly some find communion and dispense lightly with God. Some of us wonder what could be better than injecting heroin... keep your communion, pal. There are a lot of deities, and there's certainly a roaring trade in interpreting their wishes on subjects of morality, behaviour and shoe wearing.

I know what I'd do. I look back at my ancestresses, who, crying, put down mermaid-tailed babies and walked away into the tall grass. I couldn't do that, even if part of me says, even after 2,000 years of Christianity and fancy rhetoric, that putting that baby on the ground is the wisest thing to do. I believe it's okay to be conflicted, but not okay to put that little girl down.

So I finish where I started. If she was mine, I'd fight. When I judged that fighting was no longer humane, I would face the moral responsibility and endure the recriminations of those who didn't think I fought long or hard enough. I would acknowledge to myself from the very beginning that I would have few options and most would be bad. I would have to trust the doctors to an unprecedented extent. I'd have other issues to deal with as well as the simplest, which is that most of my free time would evaporate and there would likely be catastrophic financial consequences from my daughter's medical condition - there's always a drug the government won't pay for, even though it's the only thing that will get her through her next infection. I can see worrying a lot and reading medical textbooks. I can see arguing with the doctors if I could witness or attend the surgeries. I can see being considered either an angel or a complete pain in the ass at the hospital depending on who you talked to.

So I wish well to Milagros' parents, who no doubt are being coached by somebody friendly what to do and not do about the media. I wish the surgeons and the surgical staff clean conditions, steady hands and good light. I offer a brief prayer for the sanity of the senior hospital administrators, who are probably going frikkin' bananas, right about now. I hope the media behave themselves, and that Milagros pulls through. Who knows? Maybe she will walk for my 60th birthday. In the meantime the doctors will learn plenty, and that's a good thing, right?