March 25, 2007

Like father, like daughter

Posted in family, fatherhood at 3:33 pm by Jerry


March 22, 2007

Ethical Dilemma Over Weapons Research

Posted in history, martial arts, philosophy, politics, science at 9:57 am by Jerry

How can scientists provide knowledge for others on how to defend themselves while ensuring that this knowledge will not eventually be used for the wrong purposes?

I just read in the January/February 2007 edition of Philosophy Now an article written by Dr. John Forge. Forge is a “member of the unit for History and Philosophy of Science at Sydney University. He works in the area of science and responsibility”.

Here’s some excerpts from his article:

We must acknowledge that there is no such thing as an inherently defensive weapon, something that can only be used for the morally acceptable purpose of responding against an aggressor. Doing weapons research for defensive systems is therefore not morally acceptable, as any weapons might feasibly be used as part of an unjust war of aggression.

[…] Deterrence is a historical state of affairs: deterrence is a relationship between states and hence is ‘in history’. NATO deterred the Warsaw Pact conventional forces of Eastern Europe with tactical nuclear forces, including cruise missiles. At the end of the Cold War this situation ended because there were no longer any hostile armies in Eastern Europe. But weapons that were once used for deterrence can be re-deployed elsewhere, and for other purposes – which is what happened to the US stockpiles of cruise weapons. They were rearmed and used in the Gulf Wars.

[…] [Young scientists] should only do weapons research in times when there is an immediate threat of aggression against their country. Furthermore, they should form a collective and undertake only to do weapons research on condition that they retain a copyright or patent on their work. The work is then given out under license to state-sponsored weapons producers until the threat has passed. Any remaining weapons are to be destroyed. (p.7-8, bold is mine)

Forge didn’t mention biological weapons in this article. I wish he would have because I thought “they were the future of terrorist weapons.” And correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought medical researchers are always trying to inform themselves on the biological weapons evolving in our innate environment. And rightly so. I wouldn’t want them to wait until the beginning of a killer disease breakout.

I’m also wondering about the moral accountability among scientists. Don’t see me as somekind of doomsday fanatic. I see “Dilemma” as a challenge to us all, rather than a morbid outcome.

March 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

Posted in fatherhood at 4:46 am by Jerry

“I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness.” – James Thurber

Shifu Shakespeare?

Posted in literature, martial arts at 4:37 am by Jerry


I haven’t gone to my kung fu classes for four months.

I’ve been practicing experimenting with what I’ve already learned, making a lot of notes, reading and scribbling for at least the fourth time, all over a book written by Shifu (teacher) Painter, analyzing and re-analyzing.

I know it’s time to get some training from my Shifu in Saskatoon because I’ve been looking for kung fu guidance in the most unlikely places…

…do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently. For in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say, whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. – William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,’ Act III, scene ii
O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant. – William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Measure for Measure, 1604-1605

March 7, 2007

Sir William Osler and Long Term Care

Posted in culture, science at 5:57 am by Jerry

Throughout my teenage years I grew up in a town named after Sir Edmund Boyd Osler. Osler is a good-looking town filled with young families, and just a 20 km drive north from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

I used to think my town was named after Sir Edmund’s brother – Sir William Osler (it was the only Osler name I heard of). That’s why I’m more familiar with Sir Will than Sir Ed. And I’m sure Ed was an interesting fellow, but I thought I’d take a closer look here at Billy boy…

Sir William was “a true Renaissance man — a physician, clinician, pathologist, teacher, diagnostician, bibliophile, historian, classicist, essayist, conversationalist, organizer, manager and author… His most famous work, The Principles and Practice of Medicine quickly became a bible to students and clinicians alike. It continued to be published in many editions until 2001 and was translated into many languages.” Check out the rest of his Wiki bio. Here’s an interesting part:

Osler insisted that his medical students get to the bedside early in their training; by their third year they were taking patient histories, performing physicals and doing lab tests examining secretions, blood and excreta instead of sitting in a lecture hall, dutifully taking notes. He diminished the role of didactic lectures and once said he hoped his tombstone would say only, “He brought medical students into the wards for bedside teaching.”

And who would’ve thought that such a well respected man was such a prankster? The distinguished Sir William is responsible for “fooling the editors of the Philadelphia Medical News with a report on the supposed phenomenon of penis captivus” (written under the pseudonym ‘Egerton Yorrick Davis’).

But of course, like everyone else, he had his own share of faults…

His speech (The Fixed Period), given on 22 February 1905, included some controversial words about old age. He claimed that, “the effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty” and beyond the age of 40 men were pretty much useless and after the age of 60, men were completely useless and should definitely be retired by age 60, if not by 40.

I work in a long term care facility. And I can tell you from first hand experience – nobody is completely useless. The residents I’ve had the privilege to assist always have something to offer back. Even when you’re sitting next to those few who have bed-ridden bodies, you have no choice but to receive something from their spirits or minds. Spend enough time with a resident and you will gain a deeper understanding of what they are capable of communicating.

Every resident responds differently to someone’s presence. And often, their response to anything I’ve said makes me wonder how many times in their past they’ve met people who talk like me or say some of the things I’ve just said to them.

March 5, 2007

Shit Disturbers

Posted in culture, politics, psychology at 12:55 am by Jerry

I think everyone, deep down, wants peace of heart, peace of mind, peace of the body. The trouble is, the methods we use to achieve this peace are rarely foolproof. Sometimes, the many methods we use cause more harm than good. And the harm can, and has been, justified as a means to a peaceful end. Which makes me curious – aside from this unethical intention, what is the “peaceful end” presumed to look like?

No one wants to, deep down, make vibrant towns into ghost towns. No one wants to, deep down, convert vivacious people into mindless zombies. And calming our hearts doesn’t have to mean turning down the volume. Nature doesn’t need any help silencing the world by spreading death across it (even though we say it’s in the name of peace). Peace between two or more people is not found in death – it’s found in communication.


But what kind of noise should we make? What does peaceful noise sound like? And if we heard it from others, would we welcome it? Or would we call the people making that noise “Shit Disturbers,” painting them as the enemy?

Funny thing about that phrase – “shit-disturbers”… disturbing shit may cause a stink, but it also makes shit decompose that much faster.

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. – Isaac Asimov