Closing Doors

•May 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Veniatregnum (the blog) will be closing its doors indefinitely.

I haven’t had any compelling reasons to post any content here lately, that I’ve felt needed to be voiced in a scope beyond my family and friends. I’ll be leaving this site open for anyone who wants to access the minimal content in the archives and in case I come to a point in my life where I would like to return to the aims of this blog.

I am working on a new site dedicated to Physiology. This site I will be making a much more concentrated effort toward maintaining since it will also serve as a means for me to write about my profession and passion.

Thanks for reading, I’ll update this post with a link to the Physiology site once I have a few articles up, and I feel it’s reading for prime time.

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Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat it Too…

•November 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Perusing the comments of a recent NPR article discussing a recent journal article on the hypothesis that human’s intelligence may be an evolutionary trade-off to an improved immunity as seen in some chimps (the article isn’t the point of this post but it’s an interesting, although I’m not necessarily convinced of the authors’ conclusions, hypothesis), I ran across a user conveying outrage at the simultaneous existence of the pointless and harmful worshiping of a non-existent deity every Sunday while nations wage war and death upon each other. I’ve come across these two points stated together before (so have other more intelligent people than I), but for some reason this comment gave me pause and made me thing about this oft repeated sentiment.

I’m interested how people can hold both of these as bad/immoral things. That there is BOTH no God (and a harmful delusion that there is) and killing/war is inherently evil. I find that statement horribly inconsistent, and I think those that make it know its inconsistency yet still viscerally can’t/won’t admit the logical and rational conclusions of a materialistic impersonal universe without any sort of god.

Either God does exist and this existence is the very foundation for human value (created in the image of this God), or God does not exist and we’re all the result of impersonal, materialistic forces driving us toward this unimportant moment in time. I’ve heard it said way too many times that the only value out there is the value we give it. Ok, so why should one person have to value human life if he doesn’t want to (see Hitler, Stalin, etc.). Either there is transcendent value to humanity, or we’re all just a bunch of protoplasm and atoms bouncing around in a meaningless void. Every Darwinian (I actually have a lot of Darwinian leanings – I’m not debating evolution here) stops short of being a full fledged materialist social Darwinian. They don’t like where it necessarily leads which is a true “survival of the fittest,” might makes right.

To quote Wilson (to whom I’ve linked above), “without God, nice does not exist.” There is no reason why atoms organised in cells, tissues, organs, to bodies should be called people. It’s easy and often correct to attack the abuses of religion and rightfully to call out the problems with many wars and all murder, but you can only do so by borrowing from a deistic point of view. Otherwise on what grounds can you point out the “immorality” of certain actions? That they violate human laws? Why do we need to listen to a bunch of cells stacked on top of each other? The only reason I’ve ever been able to be convinced of is that that stack of cells bears the image of a deity who fashioned it from the clay and breathed (animatus/animosus/soul) life into it.

I’m not stating atheists are unintelligent, rather I’m saying I’ve always noticed this inconsistency. I’ve just never understood how they avoid coming to the strict materialist social Darwinian conclusion without appealing to some internal/personal endowment of humanity with value. When you personally decide to give value to humanity out of a materialistic worldview, don’t you still out of necessity have to appeal to the right of others who themselves choose to not give this same value the right to do as they so please such as murder, steal, and commit other violations of another person’s humanity since these things don’t really have any real existence anymore?

FDA’s Cigarette Graphic Images

•November 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

First some disclosure, I don’t smoke (except the infrequent and celebratory cigar/pipe tobacco), I know a lot of people that do, there was a brief segment during my undergraduate years when I had a more frequent clove or regular cigarette, and I really have no issues with smoking. I don’t choose to engage in the activity, it sends my wife into anaphylaxis, I get a quite upset about it being done around kids and those that are involuntarily exposed to it, and there are a myriad of reasons to not smoke and to quit as soon as possible.

That being said, what decisions you make as an autonomous adult in regards to your own lifestyle and health are yours, and I have no right to force you to do or not do anything. If you are open to it, I would try to convince you not to smoke and help you find ways to quit if your so inclined. At the end of the day if you still want to smoke, I or anyone else has no right to force you to do otherwise.

I took the time today to look through the proposed graphic images for cigarette packaging and advertising and rather than being encouraged by the FDA’s most recent attempt at cutting smoking rates, I was quite underwhelmed, a bit offended, and weary of their tactic. From what I can gather the basic premise for the graphic image labeling is to deter smokers from purchasing cigarettes by giving vivid examples of what cigarette use can do to you and those around you (ranging from COPD and cancer, to death).

What offended me wasn’t what the images themselves portray (I actually wish that was the case, it would be evidence toward their effectiveness), but the fact that they’re quite mediocre in production value and almost seem comedic rather than effective in preventing cigarette purchasing. I get what the FDA is trying to do, I actual support it in theory, but why not treat people as adults (last I checked you couldn’t buy cigarettes unless you were one) and be upfront and honest rather than resorting to scare tactics using what I’m guessing is going to be another ineffective shot in the dark.

One of the unintended consequences I would not be surprised to see (I’d be happy to be proved wrong) when these images come into effect is that cigarette sales may actually jump due to kids/young adults/juvenile-minded-adults thinking the “warnings” are funny and grabbing a pack because these warnings, rather than preventing them from otherwise making the purchase, spark their interest and draw their attention from something they may have otherwise not even noticed.

This is the root of where I’m offended by these images. If you’re going to try to deter someone from using something, don’t make it front and center with what could be taken as clever reverse-type-advertising. Isn’t there a reason why every other warning sign we know of isn’t a sub-par photograph of a corpse with a toe-tag but bright yellow/orange backgrounds with clear black bold lettering or stick figure enduring frightening mutilation. On a personal note, one of the major contributers to my never embarking on routine tobacco use was the actual histological comparisons of smokers’ vs. non-smokers’ lung tissue. Something about the black, necrotic tissue of smokers’ lung pleura still makes me squirm, but rather than using this in these recent images, the closest thing I could find was a rather cartoonish computer re-imaging of this comparison that wasted all of its inherent thunder.

These images are only a section of a campaign against cigarette use, but I’m a little nervous it’s going to do a bit more harm than good to the other more honest approaches (family education, very well produced tv spots/commercials, physician clinical advising against continued use, the development of much better cessation programs and medications, etc.). I hope I’ll be eating these words next year when these images find their way before my eyes on a convenience store checkout shelf, but at this moment I still have my doubts.

Back to School – Cloud based and (nearly) paperless

•September 11, 2010 • 3 Comments

This fall marks a transition back into the classroom for me as I pursue a master’s degree in Cellular and Integrative Physiology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Inspired by Lifehacker’s What’s in your Bag post a while back, I thought I’d share a bit of the tools and protocols I’ve adopted for this round of education.

This semester I wanted to try and accomplish two main things in my organization scheme for class: have my notes stored in such a way that I can access them no matter where I am, and to do so without the need to carry around a bunch of binders stuffed with paper. The only real purchase I made was to upgrade my very heavy, and very non-portable Dell Inspiron 5100 to a new shiny Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook. First thing I did was removed the Windows 7 that came with it and installed Ubuntu Netbook Edition (which in afterthought was a bit rash, I should have backed up Windows 7 on a USB to install later as a virtual machine instead of needing to resort back to XP).

Ubuntu Netbook Edition

Ubuntu Netbook Edition

After getting UNE running great and customizing it to the look I wanted, I got it geared up to become a super-note-taking machine. I installed the Dropbox client for Linux and created folders to store all my course documents (powerpoints, syllabi, problem sets, etc.).

Dropbox Folder on UNE

Dropbox set up

I’m a big fan of Evernote and am sorely disappointed that they don’t have a Linux desktop client, but I was able to find a suitable workaround using Nevernote.

Nevernote

Nevernote - Evernote desktop client on UNE

I put my schedule on my Google Calendar and manage tasks using Remember the Milk (Astrid on my Android phone). The result: I can now access and edit any of my course documents, notes, tasks, schedule from any computer and even my Android phone with any changes seamlessly synchronizing everything in the cloud. For good measure I set up a couple of redundant back-up systems locally on my netbook and to my home server in case something were to happen to any of my remote data.

Another happy product of this set-up is that it allows me to be (nearly) paperless. I’m taking a biochemistry course which does require me to pull out the occasional notepad to jot notes not easily typed on a computer, or chemical equations/mechanisms which need to be drawn out. Another added benefit of Evernote however, is that once I have these things written down on paper, I can pull out my phone, take a snapshot and upload it to Evernote where it’s cataloged alongside that day’s notes or problem sets. I’m also evaluating the merits of purchasing a Boogie Board LCD tablet ($35) to completely remove the need for paper at all.

The Final Result

Here’s a picture of the tools in my arsenal, depending on my mood I’ll either walk or bike to school so my pack changes from the Mountainsmith Tour shown or a Timbuk2 messenger bag respectively simply moving all the supplies from one to the other.

In my pack

My typical school back pack set up

Since part of the point was keeping this as paperless as possible, I didn’t want to buy a notebook so I found an old lab notebook I had and cut it down the middle so it’s more portable. It ended it being one of my favorite note pads. The other lab notebook is my homemade text on Haitian Creole I keep on me to review whenever I have some spare moment or the other to look it over.

So far I’ve been incredibly happy with this set-up, I love being able to study my notes on my phone’s Evernote app while waiting to meet up with someone, or having access to a syllabus or lecture notes via Dropbox. Feel free to hit me up in the comments for any questions about implementing something like this for yourself or if you have any suggestions for good methods you’ve used.

Upcoming Posts

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last Friday was my last day at the research lab technician position which I have been doing for about the past two years. I’ll be having more free time (most likely starting next week, as this week we are moving) in which I’d really like to get a couple of posts/reviews/thoughts on the site which I have been mulling over for the past couple of months. Here’s a quick preview of what is to come.

Music Reviews:

  • Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
  • The New Pornographers – Together
  • Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void

I’ll work up and post a more comprehensive description of our last trip to Haiti.

Have a couple of book reviews and thoughts to share/discuss.

I’ll also be sharing some highlights from our move this week, things we’ll fix up, and if we have any clever decorating/fixing ideas. You can follow me on Twitter for more current thoughts/happenings/pictures, and check out my Flickr for photos from our move and our upcoming trip to France.

Haiti Medical Trip Photo Site

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My apologies for the abysmal amount of time it took me to finally link to this. Here is the photo site where a couple people from our last trip to Haiti have posted portions of their photos from our week in Haiti.

http://gcmedical2010.shutterfly.com/

Haiti Photos

•April 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here are a couple of photos taken from our Haiti medical trip last week. I only had my cell phone so the pictures aren’t anything real detailed or very numerous. I’ll be working on a photo sharing site where each team member will upload their own photos here within the next week, and I’ll share the URL here once the site is up.