Ramblings: Omicron in a Nutshell

I have tempted to give up on commenting on COVID because the flood of misinformation is overwhelming and the practitioners of that misinformation are deeply invested into those false narratives for political or religious reasons. It is almost impossible to reason with someone who holds opinions with political or religious fervor. However, when I see people get sick, some die, it motivates me to keep up the good fight for truth.

On November 9th a new variant (mutation) of the COVID virus was identified in South Africa that has been named “Omicron.” Since then Omicron has been found in about six other countries (and that number is rapidly growing). The concern about this mutation is that it has more than 30 mutations are in the part that causes the problems of spread and disease (spike protein). Now, we don’t know if those mutations have made it more dangerous, more resistant to the vaccines, and easier to spread, but it could. It could even make it less dangerous than other forms, but the early indications are that it spreads easier than even the delta variant. It will take about two weeks before the scientists know more.

It is a long standing principle of virology that the more viruses that you have in the community, the higher the chances the virus will grow more deadly. The mantra is that viruses can’t mutate if they can’t replicate. There is no question, no debate, that the vaccines are the best way to reduce the amount of active virus in the community. The studies are clear that the vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing COVID and are the safest medications or vaccines that have ever been produced. There is unanimous support for this among the brightest virology scientists, good people who know this stuff better than anyone else. It is only those who have some political or religious agenda (and it behooves me as to why) that promote the false information that the vaccine is not effective or dangerous. Unvaccinated people are being admitted to hospitals in American at five times the rate as vaccinated, and they die at seven times the rate of the vaccinated. It is part of the misinformation campaign that as many vaccinate people are getting COVID as the unvaccinated. That is a lie. There is no secrete conspiracy or agenda for someone to hide side effects or bad outcomes in order to hurt you. But I digress. The best way to fight COVID by far is getting vaccinated and getting a booster if you qualify.

What happens if the Vaccines are not effective against the Omicron variant?

For a long time the major virus will continue to be the standard and delta versions of the COVID virus, of which the vaccines are very effective. But if the vaccine is not effective against the Omicron, the companies that make the vaccines will immediately work to reprogram the vaccines to block this new variant. That will take months to create and do the testing to make sure they are effective and safe (which the conspiracy theorist won’t believe anyway). But you must understand, like influenza, COVID will be here to stay with new variants each year. Like with the Flu vaccine, everyone will likely need to get a new COVID vaccine yearly. It will probably come as a FLU+COVID combination vaccine. People must be aware that if they had COVID, it will be likely that they can still get the Omicron variant.

The reason the virus is mutating so fast is the lack of vaccinations. No one guessed that nearly 50% of Americans would remain unvaccinated due to an well-orchestrated misinformation campaign. In other parts of the world it is the lack of access, not conspiracy theories that are preventing vaccinations.

Other Treatments

There is promising work on anti-viral treatments, but nothing is here now. The drug dexamethasone has reduced some of the mortality of COVID and there is some marginal benefit from monoclonal antibodies. There is no benefit from hydroxychloroquine (the same political and religious sources have created the false notion that this is a cure). There has been several studies with ivermectin in the prevention or treatment of COVID. These studies have not show consistent benefit for COVID patients and more studies are underway. It is misinformation that this is an effective treatment and that some boogie man is attempting to cover up that information. It is the same with vitamins and other treatments. For example, it was observed in Asia at the very start of the pandemic that those with low Vitamin D did worse. So, there have been several studies that looked at vitamin D as a preventative or treatment. There is some evidence that high levels of Vitamin D has some modest protection for black individuals but none for white or other races. Regarding masks, there is no question that masks reduce the transmission of COVID and are safe to wear. Sadly, there has been a huge amount of misinformation about masks.

In summary, keep wearing your masks and get vaccinated and boosters if you don’t want to get COVID. In a normal world it would only make sense to listen to the experts who know what the hell they are talking about than to people with political or religious agendas and are ignorant on this topic. Please stay safe. Mike

Ramblings: Thanksgiving, Part II, Those with Empty Chairs

This has been a good Thanksgiving for us. Four of our five children are home and with their spouses/significant others in tow. One son, his wife and three grandsons, healthy but too far to come. I’m so glad that we still have our children, and that our relationships with them are good. I’ve spent so much time alone in the past three years, their presence is more meaning than usual.

But I write because my mind is with those with empty chairs. Most of us at my age has lost someone. For me, my parents, brother, and my sisters too far away to see. But for many people, the holidays is a hard time. An empty chair representing traumatic or acute losses. No, it is not like the Thanksgiving they remember. I feel their pain as best as I can. I wish I could comfort those hearts. Some are completely alone and it is for them I feel the most sorrow. Know that you are on my mind and heart. God grant them mercy in this hard time.

One More Empty Chair at the Table Tonight | by Piper Steele |  ILLUMINATION-Curated | Medium

Ramblings: Justice – A Day of Real Thanksgiving!

This is an opinion piece that some may not agree with, and that’s fine with me. I hope to soon corral these opinion pieces into another form so it is not in the center of my blog and those uninterested can avoid them better. But if you disagree with anything I say, please understand that you’re still my friend. I still respect you. If I only had friends who agreed with all my opinions … I would be the loneliness man on the planet. As I’ve said before, I write my opinions for those who are disillusioned with their own views, not to persuade the content. This brief article is about justice and simple religion (I don’t like that word, but’s to make a point).

We have witnessed a series of major trials in the US in the past few days. While I have not watched them, I have had them on in the background while I did chores. As I said before, in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, I trusted our system … and still do. I also trusted our system in the Ahmaud Arbery case, although I had some fears about justice. The reason for the fear is the long history for black people not getting due justice, especially in the south. However, I am proud of the system and the jury (all white but one) who spoke confidently in their verdict in Georgia. This is a great day and great week for Justice in America and we should be proud of the system that our forefathers set up. At the same time, I feel sad for all those who have lost their lives in these cases, and those whose lives have been deeply fallowed. Now, with the above said, it does not mean that there is not a need for commentary and more work. It also does not mean that those who want to fight culture wars will suddenly stop exploiting the juries’ decisions in each of these cases.

I’ve stated before that I left the subculture of “white evangelical” in 1990 (although I am still white, wink). I spent the 90s trying to make some sense of that experience through rigorous study and I came to several life-changing conclusions. Religion, in my opinion, is a very complex system that is geared toward helping people feel good about themselves. It is ego-centric. When I left evangelicalism, I was fed up with that system. Later, when I rediscovered the historical Jesus, I saw how simple and comprehensive a relationship with the creator could be, when we were focused outwardly (toward other people) like Jesus was.

After living through years of complex rules and mores for spirituality, pages and pages of must-believe dogmas, it was a breath of fresh air to revisit the prophet Micah’s message to the nation of Israel:

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

In this passage, Justice is not a footnote in the relationship of people and their creator, it is the over-arching theme.

I can only speak for Christianity as I don’t know other religions that well. I do know more about Islam and it mirrors Christianity in some ways, especially Christian fundamentalisms. In other ways, I can also speak for atheism and agnosticism as I’ve both view points at times in my life. But I see the religionization of Christianity as having two major driving forces, that makes it a complex and self-serving system.

The first driving force is about power. If you study the history of the Christian Church play out, you will see this theme over and over. Catholics did it. Protestants did it. The cover for this power lust is “Biblical.” They give the impression that their notions to power over people were from the Bible. But most of these dogmas have no Biblical support, or very loose support based on inference and conjecture. You can tell if this the process if they put these obscure doctrines at the center of their system, but completely ignore those things that the Bible really is clear about, that takes away their power. Like loving people, serving people … and justice.

The other inward focused driving force is personal experience or to use a crude term (that clarifies better) “spiritual masturbation.” Activities that give a good feeling to the pilgrim, but does nothing for others.

Both of those complex system agree on the principle that the self is the center of the process. I will illustrate these two big influences in the modern situation within American Christianity today. It is the lust of power that is driving the right side of Christianity toward culture wars and merging their cause with the Republican Party. Their causes are now indistinguishable and it is not really about “Biblical” mandates, but raw power. These so-called Biblical mandates don’t exist.

Meanwhile, on the left side, Christianity is being lured deeper into “personal experiences” as the OM of knowing God. I’m talking about irrational mysticisms, mostly borrowed from eastern religious traditions, Buddhism in particular. I predict that magic mushrooms will soon find its way into the center of this from of Christianity. This lust for experience to make their personal relationship with God meaningful, is likewise ego-centric. I’ve been in countless such meetings and they quickly bore me. I see God in others, in creation, but not inside my navel.

Both the lust for power and personal experience has long held Christianity into a religious state, being “me-focused” and built around complex systems created by cleaver people.

But Micah points us back to what is really on God’s heart … justice, kindness, and humility. No assault weapons and election rigging. No eyes rolling back in your head to taste that which is divine and to “escape” this awful world. On the other hand, justice it societal, outward focusing and has the love for others woven deep within its fabric, love for other people and this WONDERFUL world in which we live. Even good justice can be perverted by the egocentrics by over-focusing on their own injustices. That’s what can happen to cancer patients. Hasn’t really happened to me more than flighting temptations, while depression and other ills have tempted me stronger.

It was at the end of my search truth and meaning, circa 2000, that I made this passage in Micah as the summary of my Christian experience. I dreamed that my life would focus on others and finding remedies of their injustices. I approached my treatment of chronic pain in my medical practice with this attitude. I’ve always been the happiest when I was “others-centered.”

Cancer has forced me to be self-focused and I regret that. For decades, I have had a special place in my heart for the developing world and those who have suffered injustice from war. But I have failed miserably in this quest. I pray to God that I could do better. Think about these things. I’m thankful today for justice and the American system for finding it. Justice, mercy, and humility make God smile :>)

Mike

Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Death of the American Novel

I’ve said before that my attempts to be a novelist while in my sixties makes about as much sense as trying to start a boys’ band. But I find the process quite rewarding. While I have been writing, even with published writing as far back as 1983, creative writing has been an uphill journey that started just a decade ago, so I’m still a novice with much to learn. But writing has kept me sane during an experience over the past three years that should have driven me mad.

In my latest venture, I am working hard to make it my best writing, going after the illusive reward of being picked up by a major publisher. I also chose a new genre, Thriller. I started this process a year ago with the manuscript having the working title, Retribution.

Writing, at least for me, is very laborious, along the lines of being child laborer in a coalmine in Wales in the nineteenth century … but like I mentioned, a labor of love. I do spend hours per day, everyday working on it. I am presently doing my twenty-second re-write. If you were one of my beta readers, that was after rewrite number two and you will not recognize what it has evolved into. The process also requires me to attend writing workshops, conferences, and reading countless books.

While I’ve always been an avid reader, up until circa 2006, I only read nonfiction in the fields of science, history, philosophy, math, theology, and etc. It was my children who challenged me to read fiction like they do. I picked up a list of the top 100 English novels of all time and read through them. Most of them were the old classics, a few written in the past fifty years. I was hooked and it was at that juncture I decided to try and write fiction.

The 100 best novels written in English: the full list | Books | The Guardian
Some of the top 100 English Novels

I continued my reading and after having finished the top 100, I started reading only novels nominated for Pulitzer Prizes or books of authors who won Nobel Prizes. These works were an incredibly beautiful works of art.

On August 8th, 2018 Saudi Arabia dropped an American-made bomb on a school bus in Yemen, killing sixty young boys. As soon as I heard the story and saw the footage, I knew there was a story around this tragedy. A complex story of many layers of tension. What if I inserted an American PA, a man who lost his dad in 9/11, a guy who served in Afghanistan … but who since had become a pacifists? Who is now faced with his best friend, a Yemeni, loosing his son in the bus bombing? Mix in romance, a huge loss, and a drive to prevent the next, and worst 9/11.? With such an intensity of events, I figured the story had to be a thriller.

As I started to write my thriller, I began to read financially successful thrillers by successful authors, something to emulate. I’ve read about forty of those this year and they seem to all have one thing in common … I found them appalling. While their success, measured in sales, left me scratching my head, I also saw an opportunity to write better than they do. A novice’s miscalculation?

Then came my own education. In August, I thought my novel was ready for its coming out party, under its new working title, The Mills of God. But, before I approached an agent (which is required these days before going after a major publisher) I did a personal, self-funded work with a professional editor and coach. While she liked the writing, it was irrelevant, because the book was DOA as a thriller. The reason? The industry now has a long list of rules, actually twelve categories of rules, that a writer must adhere to, to have a snowball’s chance in hell to get the attention of an agent. I’m not talking about the grammatical rules we all learned (some of us didn’t) in high school. Yeah, you must nail those without any creative liberties. Shakespeare would not make the cut, nor would most of the great novelists of the past two hundred years. I was going to list some of the rules, but in summary, your thriller novel must read like a video war game, or Bruce Willis shoot’em up movie. It MUST be two dimensional and every sentence must take the reader toward the climax. Nothing extraneous allowed, and no depth. I’ve heard many times from the experts that today’s readers have very short attention spans. The dialogs must also be so predictable that you find your mouth muttering the words of the next sentence before you even read it. Some experts predict that the all the future best sellers will be created by AI and computers, which can follow the secret formula perfectly. Lord, I hope not!

Hardcover How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-By-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters Book

So, in order for me to try and sell my book to editors, I have to really dumb it down. No philosophical considerations. No artsy descriptions. No back stories to explain someone’s nature. Nothing more than a “he-man” protagonist looking at himself in a mirror and admiring his own biceps. Excitement pushing the story along as through a pipe, being driven by bullets, blood, pieces of skulls, and dead bodies. Bruce Willis stuff.

I have never liked to color inside the lines. I’ve approached all areas of my life this way. Never in my life and I’m not going to start now. I made it clear to her, I would rather have a well-written book, which engages the whole mind, than to make a million dollars with a simpleton book. Even if the reader wants such two-dimensional thrillers, that they can follow with one eye on the page of the book, the other on their cell phones. No, I want a book that demands both eyes, that pulls the reader in, chews them up, makes them cry, makes them ponder the meaning of life, then spits them out at the end … a different person.

After this experience with the editor, and trying to read one more best selling thriller, which I found brainless and boring because it was so predictable, I put it away. To refresh my creativity, I decided to go back and read a classic. The classic I choose was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I remember hearing about it in high school (in the Bible belt) but we never read it. I think it was banned because it dealt with adultery, a topic too familiar with the personal lives of people in our town, but not to be spoken out loud in public. As I started the introduction, which Hawthorne labels The Custom House, my breath was taken away by the way he describes the scene. Yet, no modern agent or publisher would consider this for a second because it violates virtually all the rules. I hope readers can rediscover this rich world. I’ve posted the beginning of that introduction at the bottom of this page. I also hope to have my book out in the spring, taking my time to make it as good as it can possibly be. It will be published under the new genre of “literary fiction, suspense” and not as a thriller. The new title is The Runner Stone; a journey out of Yemen. Stay tuned.

P.S. This blog is taking a new look. I had a strange marriage of three blogs, The Christian Monist, one on writing, and one about my journey with cancer.

In the Christian Monist I wrote articles for those who had left evangelicalism, trying to explain what happened and giving them a hope of finding truth again, rediscovering the historical Jesus outside of religion. That blog was combined with me new blog about writing in 2015. Then, in 2019 those were commandeered by my sudden descent into disease and near death and I began blogging about that.

At that juncture of my cancer, I had a new influx of several hundred people, of who I was tremendously thankful for. But it was a bit messy. Some of those new people, many of them content with their religion, evangelicalism, or political adherences did not appreciate what they saw as criticism of their view point. That was never my intent. I have never questioned someone else’s relationship with God or their spirituality since I left evangelicalism in 1990. My articles about the pursuit of truth was never intended to question their ways of thinking, but was directed to those who already had doubts and needed answers.

My ramblings articles, on the same blog as my cancer updates, created some awkward moments, and candidly, some very painful moments for me personally. I’ve had a few or those well-intended people, who came to read about my cancer, then read my ramblings and felt it was necessary to tell me in person or by letter that I wasn’t a real Christian, or if I was, there was no evidence of a personal relationship with God based on what I write here and how I am dealing with my cancer. I am sorry for that and in ways I wished I could have kept my ramblings from cancer updates. But I am a deep searcher of real truth … and I am quite candid. If I struggle with my cancer … it is because I am human and honest about that.

I’m now going to combine my blogs in a new way under the title of The Hermit at Loch Eyre. For the past three years I’ve been mostly confined to my modest house on an immodest Lake Erie. It is a place of deep reflection, prayer, writing, and building things. From that watershed (pun intended) I draw the things I write and say here. I eventually will try to divide my postings on my cancer (which are fortunately becoming less frequent) here in writing. I may turn to podcast for my articles on the pursuit of truth and writing. That may be easier for me and the visitor.

From The Custom House / Introduction to the Scarlet Letter

Furthermore, on the left hand as you enter the front door, is a certain room or office, about fifteen feet square, and of a lofty height, with two of its arched windows commanding a view of the aforesaid dilapidated wharf, and the third looking across a narrow lane, and along a portion of Derby Street. All three give glimpses of the shops of grocers, block–makers, slop–sellers, and ship–chandlers, around the doors of which are generally to be seen, laughing and gossiping, clusters of old salts, and such other wharf–rats as haunt the Wapping of a seaport. The room itself is cobwebbed, and dingy with old paint; its floor is strewn with grey sand, in a fashion that has elsewhere fallen into long disuse; and it is easy to conclude, from the general slovenliness of the place, that this is a sanctuary into which womankind, with her tools of magic, the broom and mop, has very infrequent access. In the way of furniture, there is a stove with a voluminous funnel; an old pine desk with a three–legged stool beside it; two or three wooden–bottom chairs, exceedingly decrepit and infirm; and—not to forget the library—on some shelves, a score or two of volumes of the Acts of Congress, and a bulky Digest of the Revenue laws. A tin pipe ascends through the ceiling, and forms a medium of vocal communication with other parts of be edifice. And here, some six months ago—pacing from corner to corner, or lounging on the long–legged tool, with his elbow on the desk, and his eyes wandering up and down the columns of the morning newspaper—you might have recognised, honoured reader, the same individual who welcomed you into his cheery little study, where the sunshine glimmered so pleasantly through the willow branches on the western side of the Old Manse. But now, should you go thither to seek him, you would inquire in vain for the Locofoco Surveyor. The besom of reform hath swept him out of office, and a worthier successor wears his dignity and pockets his emoluments.

Ramblings: Kyle Rittenhouse Case, and More on the Loss of Truth

I’m not going to write what you might think I am. Is Rittenhouse criminally guilty? I haven’t a clue. Not that I don’t know the basics of what happened. But I don’t know the Wisconsin laws regarding carrying arms and the engagement rules for self-defense at the level that you must know to make a judgement. While I did have the trial playing in the background, I did not pay enough attention to know all the evidence presented on each side. However, I do trust our legal system … most of the time.

We do have a good system of justice. You can trace the idea of a jury trial back to the Greeks and it has endured because it is so fair. While I trust the judges and jury, there are exceptions. I think most Americans think the O J Simpson trial was a miss application of justice. Certainly history has documented the unfair ways that some people of color have been treated, especially in southern courts and with all-white juries. There is a different set of rules for the rich (who can afford savoy lawyers) and the poor (relying on public defenders).

My point here is about Truth (I use a capital T). It is an ideal that I’ve held dear since 1990. Again, what I mean by Truth is according to the original Greek definition, “consistent with reality.” I am not talking about religious truth, which you could call dogma, or political truth.

Bail for Kyle Rittenhouse Set at $2 Million in Kenosha Protest Shooting -  The New York Times

Here is the rub. When this tragedy first happened in Kenosha and again now, I see this country quickly migrate to their corners of “certainty.” The right wing people see Kyle as a hero. The left wing, a murderer and possibly racist. The two sides reach this “truth” (small t) quickly and because they have been preprogram into that view. But perceived bias is the enemy of Truth. If you know how this trial should turn out now, I suggest that you may not be interested in Truth, but the propagation of your tribe’s opinion.

I will conclude this short posting by saying, you can debate if sending a 17 year old with an assault weapon into a protest-riot situation was a wise thing for a mother to do. There is no debate that Kyle wasn’t a monster, but real debate if he lacked judgement. I think there is very little debate if damaging businesses was a good way to voice a dissatisfaction (there are a very few who would say such behavior is justified, but I prefer the MLK approach). There is no debate that Kyle caused the deaths of two people and wounded one. In my view, there is no debate that all parties involved, including the accused and the victims, were created in God’s image and thus have great value.

I do trust the people on the ground, those in the jury box, to make legal sense of this tragic and complex situation. But for this country to heal, we must be invested in finding Truth (capital T) again, the real Truth and not just ideas that support our religious or pollical belief systems. Our entire government is dysfunctional now because of this lack of desire for real Truth but promoting tribal truth, where we reach conclusions based on emotion rather than the evidence and reason.

I hope we can do better than this. Tomorrow, or soon, we will know the verdict and hopefully trust that justice has been served.

Mike

Ramblings: Dr. Foley and the Natural Medicine Approach to COVID 19

Dr. Christopher Foley was trained in evidence-based medicine and became an internist in Minnesota. Later, he moved into “Natural Medicine” and became an outspoken critic of evidence-based medicine. During the COVID pandemic, his voice became one of the loudest criticizing mask wearing, saying “they are dangerous.” He opposed shutting down the economy, He was a strong critic of the COVID vaccine, saying it was “experimental.” He did not have those criticisms based on any research that he had done. He had no expertise in virology, immunology, or vaccines but spoke for philosophical reasons as a proponent of “natural medicine.”

Dr. Foley advocated that if someone takes care of themselves, uses natural treatments such as Vitamin D and other vitamins and taking ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID, they will be fine during the pandemic.

It sincerely saddens me to announce that Dr. Foley died this week. His son says that he died from complications from COVID 19 and that he was unvaccinated. I am sure that Dr. Foley was a good man. I think he was misled in his approach to COVID and misled thousands of others, including friends who have died from COVID. Each death from COVID saddens me deeply, because the vast majority of deaths are preventable. I have read about a dozen or so of anti-vaccine spokes people, more often political people with pod cast or radio programs, who have died from COVID.

Some would argue that I’m cherry picking those who opposed the vaccine as the one’s dying. I’m not. Of the people hospitalized with COVID, about 98% are unvaccinated. Of those who die, about 99% are unvaccinated. Yes, some people have been fully vaccinated and catch COVID, but for the vast majority of them, the illness is very mild, which the studies predicted. My friends and family who oppose the COVID evidence-based information also cite people, such as Colin Powell, who were fully vaccinated but die anyway. That’s the cherry picking. But the rare person who was full vaccinated and died are most often people like Colin Powell, and myself, who have serious health problems that make the vaccine ineffective. In my category, bone marrow transplant, cancer, on chemo, on steroids, and have renal failure, even after three vaccine doses, I virtually have no protection from COVID and if I caught it, the odds of me having severe disease and dying is almost 50%.

Philosophical Considerations

It is hard from me to fully understand why someone choose to believe the conspiracy theories about COVID, especially when so much is at stake. For example, they say the death rate is exaggerated, that there are records of people with serious side effects or death from the COVID vaccine that’s being covered up, and as Dr. Foley claimed, there are natural things you can do to prevent and cure COVID. All lies. I wish with all my heart the last one was true and I can understand why that is wishful thinking. Some of the other conspiracy theories have political roots. That is the most mind-boggling as this is a public health issue and has NOTHING to do with polotics.

Along with “natural medicine” philosophy, the proponents of alternative treatments for COVID often combine that with conspiracy theories that “Big Pharma” creates chemical drugs that do more harm than good and the government is in on a big cover up to push these drugs and to bury the great treatments that natural medicine offers. This simply is not true.

I worked 38 years on medicine, two years of that devoted 100% to migraine research around research the rest of the years. We had a passion to find “natural treatments” that worked. The problem was, after studying many vitamins diets and etc., they simply did not work any better than a placebo. For example, we would have been rock stars if we were able to prove that gluten caused migraine. But the well-designed gluten studies failed to show any benefit from a gluten-free diet. But patients begged us for special diets and vitamins that would cure them and we wanted to give them that gift, but we also didn’t want to lie about it.

While I know that there are times of mischief in evidence based medicine research, for example when the Oxycontin people promoted their drug as being non-addicting, while it was very addicting. But such mischief is the exception. It is also true that there is more money for medication research than natural research, because the final product of a medication can be lucrative if effective for a disease. But there is also billions of dollars to be made from “natural treatments” because people love to believe that those things work.

I take handfuls of supplements everyday, despite any evidence of them showing benefit for the diseases that I have. But I do it because evidence-based medicine has very little to offer me.

In closing, I want to again review the philosophical considerations behind this desire for the “natural” cures. There are two basic ways to look at nature. One is that nature is broken and is repairable by humans. Both evolutionary atheists and Christians have historically shared this view.

In the eighteenth century an new philosophical theory appeared. I will call it the Rousseauian theory, after the writings of John Jacques Rousseau. He was reacting to his Calvinist upbringing when he decided on a new model, that nature is perfect and only bad things come from human interfering with nature. That only nature can cure human ills. From that, the philosophy arose that all diseases are man-made. I think that’s why some people, such as Senator Rand Paul, argues that COVID was man-made, in the lab. But that is irrelevant.

Evidence-based medicine, and the reason I love it, is that their greatest pursuit is truth. I love truth, real truth. Not religious or political “truth.” But which is consistent with realty. Evidence-based medicine use the double-blinded study as the gold standard to rule out bias and find that truth. From that research, we know about 99% of human illnesses are from natural sources, such as viruses. There is even one theory that the type of cancer I have starts with an invading virus that reprograms my DNA. So far, only a handful of human diseases can be traced to human intervention, such as smoking and obesity. The idea that all diseases are caused by “toxins,” which means man-made, is Rousseauian theory.

I write passionately about COVID because I know so many who have suffered and some who have died. I know that within the next twelve months I will see many more die. I may be one if I’m exposed. I do not write these things to see ideas, to promote political parties or religious belief systems … but purely to save lives. I gave almost a thousand vaccines myself, at great risk, because I do not want people to suffer needlessly. I am an advocate for the vaccine because I love truth and I love creation, including people.

May God give grace to the Foley family and the families of those almost 800 thousand who have died from COVID. May the truth prevail so that more lives can be saved.

Mike

Ramblings: The Re-Masculation of Men

I have now heard from several sources that there is a growing movement toward the “re-masculation” of men. It starts with the premise that in the twenty first century, men have been emasculated. Some evangelical pastors have been preaching this for decades, as well as writing about it. For the pastors, I believe it was often a code for anti-homosexuality.

But now, there is a growing political movement sharing the same goals. Senator Josh Hawley is the mastermind on the political side. This is the start of yet another cultural war sound bite. Politics and religion are a lot like arms dealers. The arms dealer makes a lot of money when there is war. Politicians and religious leaders (certainly not all of them) can corral more people into their spaces (votes, pews, followers, donors, etc.) when they set up cultural wars with emotional sound bites. Both Republicans and Democrats do it. The political catch phrases on the right have been “Pro-life” and “Pro-family” but will now add, reversing emasculation of men to that list. On the left catch phrases like racism can be used in that way. Don’t take me wrong. Racism is very real and awful and I’m not talking about abortion or marriage either, but simply the sound bites that these groups use for political purposes.

But I want to take a minute, before this new war escalates and good conservative people grab their babies and run and hide from the evil emasculators on the left, to discuss what I think is real masculinity. My expertise on the topic is, last time I looked, I am a man. Women fit most of these as well, but I’m not an expert on that because I’m not a woman.

Braveheart' and Creating the Battle of Stirling

Introduction The False Concepts of Masculinity

I will error in this by over-simplifying the topic, but I over-simplify it to keep it brief, not to misinform. From a anthropological view, most societies throughout history have been patriarchal. The real reason for this is simply, men are born with stronger muscles (speaking of averages as of course as there are plenty of women, especially now that I have cancer, who can kick my ass. Denise can kick my ass). So, through the centuries, men have risen to be the “boss” of families, tribes, and cultures. Yeah, there may be other anthropological reasons, personality types and etc., but again I’m keeping this simple.

Most, but not all, religious movements have adopted patriarchal systems, I believe due to the above, and they tend to harbor the most severe form–abuse of the woman. Now, in our human nature we love to say that “God told me to do it” whenever we do anything self-serving and shameful. The same applies here. No, I will not get into a theological argument or hermeneutics (the science of Biblical interpretation) here. But for a simple exercise, if you have a Christian background, study the patriarchal society of 30 AD Palestine from historical texts and then compare it to how Jesus treated women. You will see the difference between claiming God’s plan for a bad idea, and how God really sees the world. I believe that even Jesus limited how he related to women (while still far above the rest) due to him having to work within a patriarchal society. They would have crucified him on day one if he went around preaching that women are equal to men. So, he spent three years showing us. With all of that said, I want to move on to the point, and that’s what I consider to be the traits of a good man.

A Real Man is Strong

While strong can refer to the mechanics and power associated with muscles, in this case it refers to character. Strength is the ability for a man to admit when he is wrong, taking the blame when the blame is due him. A weak man is terrified of his own failure and will do all he can to cover it up. A strong man never uses his physical power, either defined by muscles or by political power, to hurt people for the sake of his own gratification. It is easy and cowardly to punch someone in the face or to call them names. It takes a very, very strong man to listen to someone else, reconsidering their own ideas in the face of the other person’s ideas. A strong man never needs to project a better image of himself than he really is. A strong man never lies, because all lies are designed to cover up weakness not to strengthen them.

A Real Man is Courageous

There is nothing more scary than putting the needs of others above your own. The weak and fearful fight to put their needs first. The courageous man will take great risks, such as being emotionally honest to those around him. A courageous man never lies, because all lies are designed to cover fear, fear of people knowing you you really are in your private world.

A Real Man Protects

A real man protects those around him, especially those weaker than himself. He must first protect others from himself. He would never hurt, physically or emotionally, someone else, especially someone weaker. He would never push his ideas ahead of others or his interests. He would never start conflicts, for in all fights, people are hurt.

A Real Man Has Empathy

It takes an incredible about of strength to feel what others are feeling because it is our natural instinct to only feel for ourselves. This empathy must be directed at all living things, especially towards those that we claim to love.

A Real Man Has Fidelity

A real man is trustworthy by his friends and family. He honors his commitments, never wavering from them. He never betrays relationships.

Ramblings: The Celebration of the COVID Vaccine for Children

It is a momentous movement in our fight against the COVID pandemic. Up to now, 6.4 million American children have had COVID and 700 have died, but that is the tip of the iceberg. They have carried COVID to many parents, teachers, and grandparents causing many more hospitalizations and deaths. It is day to celebrate. I am concerned however, that only 35% of parents said they would definitely get the vaccine for their children. I know that if my kids were still young, I would fight my way to be first in line for their vaccination. I would do this, because I love them. I have complete confidence in the vaccine because I’ve read virtually every study done as well as all the misinformation that is circulating. I am not suggesting that the 65% of parents who will not get their children vaccinated don’t love their children. Of course they do. But I do feel they have been dangerously misinformed and children will die as a result.

I’ve personally known healthy unvaccinated people who have died. I don’t share these things to win arguments. I’m not sure I will even be here in a year or two and winning arguments no longer matters to me. But I do care deeply about people, especially the little people who will be here for many decades, if we give them the chance.

The “Debate”

The safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines is not debated in the scientific community because the data is overwhelming. That is different than say the new Alzheimer’s drug, aducanumab. In that case the FDA approved it, and big pharma wanted it approved, but there is real debate among experts if it should have been approved. Not that it is dangerous, but that the data supporting the clinical benefits is not that convincing and may not be worth the money or the few side effects it does cause.

But in the case of the COVID vaccine, among those who really know viruses, vaccines, and research are overwhelmingly (>99%) support that not only should they have been approved, but also the idea that everyone should be vaccinated.

The so-called “debate” is between factual information confirmed by studies of thousands of patients and misinformation being generated by laypeople, hearsay, or well organized misinformation campaigns by people who will benefit from those campaigns financially or politically, often presently in highly emotional ways.

The Mayo Clinic Factor

Mayo Clinic is highly respected around the world. Few people would not jump at the chance to take their family with a serious illness there. I had the privilege of working there for five years and I vouch that their standards for truth is greater than any institution I’ve ever been associated with.

I remember standing on an elevator at Mayo Clinic, Rochester one morning, leaving a meeting where I spoke. A physician and attendee of that meeting was on the elevator and asked me, “Where do you get the data to support you claim x?”

I scratched my head and said, “Well, it is assumed throughout the headache community that x is true.”

He winked and said, “You should never, ever make claims that are not supported by the data.” That has become a mantra for me since.

I spent hours on the topic researching articles about my statement x. Guess what? I didn’t find the data. Someone just made up x along the way and it was assumed as truth. I was wrong. I changed my mind and stopped declaring x as true. Years later, when better research was done, it proved that x was actually not true. So real research matters. Most people don’t know how to read scientific studies because they are not educated in that area. I don’t know how to generate paper work to sell a house or plot a route of an airplane, because I’ve never studied it.

You should never, ever make claims that are not supported by the data.

Laypeople often tell me they have “researched” the vaccine and don’t trust it. Because they are not trained in interpreting scientific data what they really mean is that they have read information A from the pro vaccination people and compared it to information B from the anti-vax people. The scientists could quickly debunk the information B, because there is no anti COVID vaccination data. None. The claims of so, are false. If you think you have some send it to me.

Mayo Clinics’ defense of the vaccine is here.

Now, if you are a conspiracy believer, that the vaccine is very dangerous, the side effects are being hidden so that pharma can just make money, stop to think for a minute. Do you really think that the 4,500 physicians and researchers at Mayo Clinic have never seen Trucker Carlson (college dropout by the way)claim that “They have been lying to you about the COVID vaccine?” Do you really think these highly intelligent, hard working, highly moral (Mayo has a very high standard of ethics, including ethical guidelines of not being unduly influence by money, politics or big pharma) have been duped, yet Joe Smo on Face Book, who never studied science for one day, doesn’t know how to read a scientific study, has suddenly discovered that vaccines cause children to become gay (or whatever the latest claim is, tongue-n-cheek here)? Does that really make sense? What about the tens of thousands of physicians and researchers in virology from countries around the world who strongly support the vaccine? They have been duped by “big pharma?” Meditate on that idea for a while. Yet believe a man or woman who has never studied science but instead, spent his life making millions of dollars by suing vaccine companies, is telling the truth?

Summary

I will stop here. I wrote this as a celebration but today being my high steroid day, I have to be careful as seeing the harm and deaths first hand, it is personal. I will finish in bullet statements. But I will not argue about it. Many topics are debatable. If everyone had been vaccinated last spring, the pandemic would be far in our rear-view mirror. The present continuation of the pandemic is the unvaccinated’ s “gift” to America. We can do better. We are smarter than this. We are more caring than this.

  • In America 46 million people have had COVID. While for some it was mild, for many it was serious and has left them with long haul symptoms. COVID is a wicked virus. If everyone had been vaccinated, this would have been only 4 million and virtually ended by July.
  • In America 760 thousand dear people have died a horrible death from COVID. If everyone had been vaccinated, only 70,000 people would have died.
  • The data is clear. The vaccine does work. More than 90% of people admitted to hospitals for COVID and more than 98% who die … were unvaccinated, while only 35-40% of the population are unvaccinated. If you have heard of a vaccinated person being admitted or died it does mean the “vaccine doesn’t work” but it works exactly as the studies showed, 90-98% effective.
  • There have been 4.5 billion (yes that’s billion) doses of the COVID vaccines given around the world. The side effects are followed very carefully and documented and in summary, the vaccine is literally one million times less dangerous than COVID is itself. There is false information being circulated about side effects and deaths from vaccines. Simply a lie. Shameful.
  • There is no vitamin, exercise, state of good health, anti-worm medicine, that prevents COVID or treats it. These things have been tested in thousands of patients and found to have no benefit. Go to Google scholar and look up the studies and then sit with someone who is trained to read studies.

Stay safe. Propagating false information about COVID is the same as driving drunk. Someone is going to get killed. Get your kids vaccinated.

Mike

Ramblings: The Monetization of Hate

Somewhere circa 1995, we got our first computer. It was a Gateway … you know, those in the cow boxes. A high school teacher friend insisted that we get one and get on the internet, especially considering we were homeschooling five children. It wasn’t like I had never had a computer before. I had purchased the world’s first laptop in 1987 (Kaypro 2000), before moving to Egypt. I did it so that I could communicate to friends back home, but not via the internet, which didn’t exist for us mere mortals at the time, but by snail mail. We didn’t even have an old fashioned telephone in Egypt. The Kaypro was not user friendly, requiring programing skills using MS-DOS and dot commands.

Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: "You might think you're good at recycling but have  you saved and reused moving boxes for so long that you're at the using-a- Gateway-computer-box-in-2019 level of good-at-recycling? 😄🐄💻…  https://t.co/caQU9i5NSW"

I remember the day our cow boxes came. The kids were thrilled. We set it up, then I couldn’t get near it for hours as the kids fought over taking turns. When I did get on the computer and had the dial-up internet set up, I sent my first e-mail via America Online to none other than the high school teacher who wanted me to get it. I remember the message as clear as I do the very first phone call in history, Alexandria Graham Bell saying to his assistant Watson, “Mr. Watson … come here … I want to see you.” On my e-mail I told Rob, my friend, something along the lines of, “This is fantastic. What an invention. This can change the world for good. I just can’t imagine all the possibilities of bringing peace to the world and eliminating suffering.”

That was my hope. Flash forward twenty-seven years. Now, I have the feeling that the internet is a sum loss. This sum loss has now spilled over to the media twin, cable TV. While the biggest menace of its first decade was porn and luring people into dangerous relationships with strangers, now, I think the greatest harm is through the monetization of hate. This has taken center stage with the recent document dumps from Face Book and the scrutiny brought about by the whistle blower, Frances Haugen. The thing that is most revealing isn’t that Face Book has a political bias (and the Trump tribe would strongly disagree) but a bias in favor of that which increases traffic. The more traffic, the greater the advertising revenues. There is nothing that drives traffic to a engage online like hate. Cuteness (puppies, cats, views of nature) does a fair job, but no where close to hate.

Francis Haugen

Now, cutting Face Book and Mark Zuckerberg some slack, he is not the devil. He is not doing anything unusual for the business world. The big oil companies have been brain washing people that climate change caused by humans isn’t real, even though their internal documents show that they have know it was real since the seventies. Oxycontin makers convinced doctors that it wasn’t addictive, when their internal studies showed that it was. If oldest human occupation (per the saying) was prostitution, then the second oldest is conning people.

We have always had division in this country. Political divisions. Racial divisions and etc. But it appears that those divisions have been made much worse and much more aggressive for the masses due to the internet and cable. But hate is a lucrative business. To get people riled up about something, anything, causes them to become more engaged, almost like an addiction. The best way to get people riled up is to first figure out their opinions, then exploit those opinions by exaggerating the positions of the opposing side, even lying about it. Face Book’s sin was not creating the lies, but matching people with certain opinions to those sites (not owned by Face Book) that put out lies that magnify their opinions. Opinioned “news” programs do the same, but in their case, they create the “riling of hate” by magnification and lies. CNN, in my opinion, does more harm by magnification, Fox News by blatant lies.

Our vices are like tar, sticky and trapping. The thick part of our vices are very difficult to escape, like a saber toothed tiger in the Brea Tar Pits. If that vice is generational (like in the story I mentioned in the series Maid where alcoholism and abuse, as well as enabling, seemed to go back generations) it is like the tentacles of the tar penetrates even into our mitochondria. Escaping that almost takes a miracle. But there is a starting place that is much easier.

Repentance from Hate Starts Here

If the center of the tar pit of hate is very difficult to turn from, the edges, not so much. The edges are the behaviors that enhance our feeling of anger and hatred. In this case, it is watching “news shows” or have a tribe of FB friends that share inflammatory information about the people you hate.

When Trump ran for president in 2016, I was appalled. I had known of him for decades as a self-absorbed, money-loving con artist. I watched every speech he gave, hoping that they would prove my opinion wrong, however, for me, they only confirmed them. But then a perplexing thing happened. Basically my entire world of friends and family became Trump devotees. What shocked me most was my evangelical friends, all of them, who for ages had been preaching moral purity, buying their daughters “purity rings” assuring that they would remain virgins until the marriage bed, preaching not being lovers of money, and etc. But then they suddenly became totally devoted, more so than to Jesus, to a man who brags about having sex with thousands of women, often while married to other women and lusting for money like no one in history. But I must stop here.

So, in my bewilderment, I started to seek out friends who, like me, did not like Donald Trump, replacing those who adored the man. Soon, I was bombarded by nasty stuff about Trump, much of it true but often exaggerated, and some lies. For years I had gotten e-mails and FB posting from my evangelical friends of Hillary Clinton with turds coming out of her mouth, her being gang rapped, Nancy Pelosi with spears in her chest and etc. While I found such “comedy” disguising, I just deleted it. It did not stir my hate because I was never a big fan of Hillary (certainly not deserving the hateful cartoons o her I mentioned) and knew very little about Nancy.

But the anti-Trump material did magnify my anger and hatred for the man. It finally reached a peak when I was watching MSNBC and realized it was as shamefully anti-Trump as Fox News is pro-Trump.

As I had purged many of my old evangelical friends who were sending me pro-Trump and hateful anti-“Libtard” material, I had to then start purging my new online friends who sending me terrible things, images of Trump being tortured, raped, made to look like a complete fool. Some of the “information” was simply false. Most of it a magnification of the truth.

I had joined Face Book years ago, only to see photos of my grandsons. They have moved beyond Face Book now. After the election in 2020, where Trump clearly lost, I made the pledge to myself to never discuss him again. Then Jan 6th happened, that breaks the heart of all true patriots. The pro and anti Trump chatter continued on Face Book at least. For the sake of remorse, I tried to say out of the fray. But then each morning when I checked Face Book there were volumes of lies about COVID. Total bullshit, provided by my evangelical and republican friends. I don’t know why a world pandemic became either religious or political. It is not. But I felt passionate about that, not because I oppose evangelicals (but I do favor truth and it disappoints me when they choose to believe lies) or for political reasons. But it breaks my heart that over 700,000 Americans have died from COVID, many more will suffer for years, and it did not have to be that way. It is because of lies about COVID and the vaccine that people promote to make money or feel special.

I fought that battle for months, but I found it was like trying to stick my finger in the mythological hole in the dike. I found myself toying with hate again. Hatred toward the bad people who put out these murderous lies. Anger toward those who choose to believe them. So, my act of remorse and repentance was to leave Face Book. I will leave the misinformation fight about COVID up to others. The same with American politics. There are plenty of people who can fight these fights on a daily basis without their personal hatred increasing. This is not true for me. This act of repentance for me is not because I am strong, but because I am weak.

Coal tar sealant

But in these shallow places of vices, along its edges, the tar of entrapment is thin, and the effort to free oneself is simple and practical, that is the best place to begin. For some, like me, they need to turn off the TV, get away from Face Book, certainly stay away from extremist’s websites, and unfriend those people who send hate-provoking messages … ESPECIALLY if you agree with those messages.

Mike

Maid: And the gift of motherhood

There is a saying that you never get between a bear and her cub. That’s what the new miniseries now playing on Netflix titled Maid, is about. Motherhood, and the instinct for a mother to protect their child at all cost. It is an adaptation of the book, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land. Without hesitation I would recommend the show and the book.

In the film, the acting is superb, Andie MacDowell’s greatest role of her life (in my humble opinion). In Groundhog Day, she was simple and one dimensional, a sounding board to Bill Murry’s bigger than life persona. But in Maid, she has come a long way, hardly recognizable (and I would not have recognized her if it had not been for her familiar North Carolinian accent), not only because of aging, but stepping so far out of her normal roles.

I will also have to mention Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, age five, was spectacular. I can never understand how someone of that age can act so well. Of course, the protagonist, Alex (played by Margaret Qualley) role is well-acted as well. What I didn’t know until I started writing this piece is that no only does she play Andie MacDowell’s daughter in the miniseries, she is her daughter in real life.

On top of an engaging story and great acting, it was filmed locally. Most scenes were filmed around Victoria, BC (ferry ride from us) but the location was an imaginary Fisher Island, which easily could have been Anacortes. They mention going to the “Skagit Casino” once. However, the true story took place in not so distant, Port Townsend.

Is Maid a true story? The real life Alex who inspired the show

This is a story about Alex, a young mother with an abusive boyfriend. Too typical. Actually, almost all the men in the story have deep flaws. Her evangelical father was abusive, prior to being an evangelical but not repentant afterwards. I’m sure that in some people’s universes, this is also typical. But there are good men out there. Of course, this story is based on a memoir and the authors of memoirs always paint themselves in the best light and the villains, the worse.

But the story is emotionally exhausting, and that’s the point. It illustrates what lengths a good mother would go through to protect their child and give them a better hope. Its true for dads too, but there is that special bond a mother has for which us men can only envy. It is just one of my litany of personal envies. Children will bond more with a mediocre mother than a great dad, and that’s just the way of nature. I watch our twin male goats, who are almost adults in goat years, laying one on each side of their mother. While she would still sacrifice her life to protect them, she is getting more annoyed with them as they get older and fight between themselves more.

But Alex was a great mom. She made some mistakes. Her biggest is being a habitual enabler. But the sin of enabling those we love must be one of the lessor of sins (although the person harm from it can be great).

I also have a long litany of wishes along the lines of, “If I could come back to earth I would want to be …” in this case a mother. But just any mother, the mother of my own children. I made a personal vow to myself when my first child was born, that I would try to be the greatest father on the planet. But possibly, if I could have achieved that lofty goal … that it still wouldn’t compare to the gift of motherhood. Sometimes it helps me to see God as my mother, rather than father. We all miss our mothers when we are in times of need. I feel a special sadness for those women who wanted this role, but for one reason or another it never came to them. I feel sad for all men … we who can’t even imagine the role.

Mike

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