By Gus

                                                THE WORLD ORDER  

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 The War in Ukraine is not just about Ukraine. It is about preserving “The World Order.“ Ever since the end of World War II, it was clear there needed to be a “New Order.“ One nation could not decide to make new rules of how things are going to be. Germany could not march into Poland and take over their government. They could not decide that 6,000,000 people could no longer exist in this world and had to be exterminated. One Führer did not have the right to take those monstrous actions. It took six years, the cooperation of more than sixty nations, and the loss of 50,000,000 lives to establish that point. Something that has cost us too much to forget.

     This is our situation now. Vladimir Putin has unilaterally decided that Ukraine should be part of Russia for reasons that are not documentable on solid historical evidence. Various reasons have been floated, none of which can pass the smell test. Ukraine needs to be de-Nazified when in fact, there are no Nazis to be found in Ukraine. Russia needs to protect Russians, the Russian language, and their culture in Ukraine from “genocide. “ No evidence exists that the Russian language or culture has been suppressed, and no genocide has been uncovered. Putin says that all he wants to do is to unite the Russian people. He claims that Ukraine has become a Nazi country. This is despite the fact that Zelensky is a Jew, who was democratically elected by a 73% majority of Ukrainians, and no one, including the Chief Rabbi of Kyiv, can find any Nazis anywhere. Putin claims that Ukraine is not a real country, despite centuries of Ukraine being its own country, with its own language, culture, food, magnificently decorated easter eggs (google pysanky), history, along with its own authors, and heroes.           

     My father was born in Ukraine over a century ago. He and millions of people thought it WAS a country then. A plebiscite (vote of the people) in 1991 was an overwhelming affirmation that the Ukrainian people wanted to be independent. Over 90% of the population voted for Independence.

     Putin has delusions of grandeur and a perverted belief that he is the reincarnation of Peter the Great. The world cannot allow one man to look at his neighbor and decide that that country has no right to exist and then take “special military action“ to make that a reality. THAT VIOLATES THE WORLD ORDER! That illegal and irrational action requires the rest of the world to lead an intervention against the wayward country, not only to preserve a sovereign nation but to prevent us from being next!  

     If the world ignores that threat, where will it end? Putin will decide that Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania should also be part of Russia, and Sweden and Finland should not be part of NATO. Poland and Moldavia need to be demilitarized so as not to be a threat to Russia. The rest of Europe, Germany, France, England, and the other nuclear NATO countries need to hand over their nuclear weapons, as Ukraine was tricked into doing. In 1996 Ukraine was the third most powerful nuclear nation in the world. They gave all their nuclear weapons to Russia in return for security assurances. So much for assurances! Russia has proven itself to be dishonorable, perfidious, and not trustworthy.   Have we not learned from Nevil Chamberlain, who tried to appease Hitler? It didn’t work. It just caused more lost lives when it became obvious that if we did not resist, we would all be speaking German.     

     It distresses me that the ultra-right does not want to support Ukraine. Are they so bamboozled by Putin that they do not realize that Ukraine is fighting for not only their freedom but ours as well? They have forgotten or are too ignorant to know who Nevil Chamberlain was. Do they not know what Russia did to the Lisbon Protocol, the Minsk Agreement, and the Budapest Memorandum (security agreements)? Let me give you a clue. Putin just trashed them. I would not be surprised if he plugged up his toilet with those Accords. In 2009, when Putin had already been President for nine years, the US and Russia signed one more agreement guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty and reaffirming the promises Russia made in the Lisbon Protocol, the Minsk Agreement, and the Budapest Memorandum. It, too, had the same fate as all the other Accords. Putin is not crazy (maybe), but he is fighting for his own existence. If it comes down to his existence, judging by the promises made in his other agreements and the lives of 100,000 Russian soldiers, do you think he has the scruples to care about your existence? He will not hesitate to take us with him, despite all the Accords signed by Russia.             
      It appears that Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Tucker Carlson are not readers of history. Perhaps someone should read those Accords to them in case they are illiterate. Maybe then they will realize that Vladimir Putin is not their friend, is not brilliant nor even clever. Maybe then they, too, will “quack” in their boots (MTG gets roasted). Putin is a homicidal monster similar to other monsters we have had, like Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula. Is that not obvious from seeing the thousands of Russian soldiers that so far have been turned into corpses for Putin’s delusional and perverted interpretation of history?          
     Putin claims that he is ready to talk with all parties, but says that it is Kyiv that is refusing to engage in arbitration. This gives you a clue as to Putin’s arrogance and his failure to think like a normal person, and certainly shows the world that he has no serious intention of talking. Shooting Ukrainians and blowing up their country does not mix well with talking. Rule # 1 in negotiations: Stop shooting first, then start talking!      
     Besides not knowing the first rule of negotiation, Putin is also not known for keeping his word or Accords, for that matter, and he says whatever benefits his current position, which is often unrelated to the truth. He now threatens to start World War III and use nuclear weapons preemptively against the West. No one else to date has ever made such a threat since the first use of nuclear weapons 77 years ago. It gives you a glimpse of the man’s dark soul as if killing several billion people is just another minor thing on his “to-do list.” That alone is disruptive to the “World Order” and requires the world to understand that we have a serious problem.    
     In addition to threatening world annihilation, Putin wants to decide who can and cannot join NATO and has increased his military presence on the Moldavian border. Are they next? Putin’s advisers are bragging about how easily Germany can be defeated and are talking about a first strike at London. Ukraine is not the final goal of Putin! If London is in their sights, are you among the deluded that believe he will stop there?

A Friend I Lost

     This short story is about a friend I lost on November 22, 2022. I met Joe four and a half decades ago. I had been a Country General Practice doctor for about ten years when I realized that I really wanted to just do Surgery. To do that, one must have a Certificate that says, “You are a Surgeon.”  That takes five years to complete. My wife and I just had our first (and only child), a little girl we called Amber. I asked my wife’s permission to go off to “Surgeon School,” and she cheerfully consented, only to say to me six weeks later, “What have you done to our lives?” I was gone every other night on duty at the hospital, and when I did come home, I went to sleep immediately, to rest for the next call night. My income shriveled to subsistence levels, and we had to move to the city where the large hospital that gives out Surgeon Certificates was. Joe was a PGY-4 (4th postgraduate year), and I was a PGY-2 (2nd postgraduate year).            
     The making of a Surgeon is a complicated process. One must learn a whole new set of skills that require a lot of learning, training, and practice. Surgery is a “trade” that requires not only book learning but manual skills that are not easily acquired. Besides, one has to have some innate ability and inclination that are the foundations upon which one builds with building blocks of new knowledge and new skills. An old saying claims that Jewish boys that can tolerate the sight of blood become surgeons, and those that don’t become lawyers. To an extent, that is true, even though you don’t have to be a boy or Jewish.            
     The method of the education of a Surgeon goes back over 100 years ago to a man by the name of William Halsted. Prior to him, there were people that just did Surgery with little if any training. Many of them combined cutting hair and Surgery. Barbers could cut hair and had cutting tools, so why not wittle on the rest that is below the skin? That made for some very bad outcomes to say the least! Halsted brought a new standard to the field. He set up a school at Johns Hopkins University to train Surgeons to do better Surgery. It is that system of training that became the American standard for learning how to do Surgery. All of his “residents” became superb Surgeons, and most of them went forth to then become teachers of the Halstedian methods of Surgery. His trainees were called “residents” because Halsted required them to live at the hospital day and night – “in residency.”         
     Surgical skills are obtained by doing Surgery. My program had four residents in every year. Altogether there were twenty of us residents. The professor could not teach all of us at the same time. Much of the teaching was done by the senior residents who had already achieved competency in many of the lesser skills and passed them on to us at the lower levels. Of course, the generosity of what the senior wanted to give to the junior was always an issue. Joe was more generous than most, and I learned much from him. One small skill was placing an Art. Line. The Art. Line was a thin plastic cannula that was put into the radial artery at the wrist to monitor blood pressure continuously. Blood pressure is one of those measurements that tells us how the patient is doing during the surgical procedure. If it is too high, it means the patient is feeling some pain, and his system is reacting by his adrenal glands putting out adrenalin which raises the blood pressure. Conversely, if it is too low, it could mean that the patient is getting too much anesthetic or has lost too much blood. Customarily the anesthesiologist placed those lines while he was putting the person to sleep, but Joe would always insist that we were in the operatory while the patient went to sleep. That way, we could beat the anesthesiologist in placing the Art. Line. It was a small item in the whole picture, but if one knows how to do it, it makes one a better Surgeon. It takes more than a couple of placements that make one “good.” Joe saw to it that I became good at it just like he was. That was just one small thing I learned from Joe. There was also taking out the appendix, the spleen, and even the pancreas, one organ that I believed that God never meant us to touch until I met Joe. It is the most complex thing a Surgeon does! There were at least another thousand things I had to learn.
     Joe was an avid surfer. Any free time he could wrangle, he would be surfing. At seventy-six, he still had it in him! He was outside the break where he could get away from the crowd. People who saw him, said he was sitting straddling the surfboard when suddenly he slumped over and slid into the water. He was 300 feet from the shore, and by the time they got to him, he was gone. Joe was a unique person, smart, kind, generous, and a very capable Surgeon. He cared for the sick, the weak, and the dying. I knew him as a mentor and as a friend to me. And I know that if he could have scripted his demise, it would be exactly as it happened.              
 

Organic Farming

 

Pyrite, also called FOOL’S GOLD

Organic Farming is a scam! There is no evidence that organic is better, healthier, more nutritious, cleaner, safer, or more advantageous by any measure you can apply to it. This is a published fact supported by the government, science, peer-reviewed research, and common sense. It is, however, more expensive!
     Take, for example, the organic restriction of using NH3 (ammonia) that is produced by the Bosh Haeber process (synthetic) from the air in favor of bat shit (guano) for fertilizer is mind-boggling. Bat shit is not cleaner than air. It never has been, will be, or can be. Yet that is what we are told by the organic crowd. Just remember Covid came from bats. I must admit that they do have fantastic PR and salespeople to convince many of us to accept this idiotic nonsense. I suspect that a few used car salespeople migrated into the organic farming business. Even the name, “Organic Farming” is a subterfuge. It supposedly means that they are producing food, both plant and animal, without being man-made and implies that standard farming practices are not organic i.e., using synthetic fertilizers, using herbicides, pesticides, radiation to kill bacteria, and genetically altering the DNA of a plant or animal. That is not entirely true. Organic Farming has a long list of “synthetic chemicals” that are allowed. Some are rather toxic substances, such as Ethanol, Ethylene, a hydrocarbon, Copper hydroxide, Chlorine dioxide, and many Sulfates, Carbonates, Oxides of zinc, iron, molybdenum, cobalt, and others are magically given dispensation. Which are OK or not OK is entirely arbitrary. They spray it with all those things they say are OK. Where are the studies published that detail the double-blind controlled test done on all those substances? If transferred to other fields of human endeavor, we would have to eliminate cancer treatments using radiation and “synthetic” chemotherapy, jet airplane transportation, a mode of transportation that is certainly “not natural,” and genetic manipulation to cure illness as is being done to prolong the life of leukemia, lymphoma, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma patients. Why it is OK to X-ray your leg to diagnose a fracture but not OK to kill lethal bacteria in food is a mystery.
     Eating organic has failed to be helpful to you in any way, but it is also not harmful to you, that is, except in your pocketbook. There are, however, a few negatives to Organic Farming that are rarely brought up. Organic Farming takes more land, and more financing to produce the same amount of nutrition than standard agricultural practices. This is actually wasted money and wasted dirt to produce less. With many of the earth’s people starving, this is insane if not criminal. The restriction of pesticides has, in fact, caused more deaths than the pesticides themselves have caused. In 2021 there were 241,000,000 malaria cases worldwide with  627,000 deaths due to malaria, and 80%  are in children under age 5 years of age. We owe this to Rachel Carson who wrote a book in 1962, “The Silent Spring,” in which she condemns the use of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). In 1972 DDT was banned worldwide, and malaria cases skyrocketed. In 2006 the Word Health Organization reconsidered its ban in view of the malaria come-back and now allows the use of this chemical in all areas that have a high incidence of malaria, which is the entire continent of Africa. For a variety of reasons is still not implemented throughout the world. Most herbicides are another forbidden substance. Interestingly “natural” substances are OK’d by the organic tribe, such as Nicotine, which we all know is a poison and should not be used for anything.  
     Using antibiotics is also frowned upon by Organic Farmers. I agree that mass utilization of antibiotics is counterproductive and brings forth resistant strains of bacteria that are almost impossible to kill, but not treating specific illnesses of animals with antibiotics is cruelty!
GMOs (Genetic Modified Organisms) are also forbidden by the Organic Farming religion. Norman Borlaug, a geneticist and plant pathologist, changed wheat to make it stronger to survive storms, more resistant to disease, and, most importantly, produce more grain per acre. It saved millions from starvation, and Norman got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Original wheat had fourteen chromosomes. Our genetically engineered bread now has 42 chromosomes (Franken-wheat). You can’t even get the old wheat anymore without paying a lot. Yet few of us have grown a tail or a third eye by eating the evil genetically engineered bread, which all of us do!
     Another banned substance is nanoparticles. A nanoparticle is 1nM to 100 nM in any dimension. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. This is a relatively new restriction because the technology to make these particles is also relatively new. For that reason, there is still more science to investigate this, and an outright ban is premature, besides our own body reduces most all the food we consume to nanoparticles so that it can be absorbed. But as is typical of the science illiterates, their first reaction is to ban it.
     Organic Farming is junk science based on irrational, illogical, and false assumptions with no evidence to show its value. If you believe the organic mantra, I have the Brooklyn bridge for sale at a bargain price. Organic Farming is a scam and not worth your money! It is because of “man-made” things we were able to come out of the cave. You might say Organic Farming is Fool’s Farming.

Mozart, the Requiem, and the Autobahn

I was born in Linz Austria. Mozart was born in Salzburg. Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart, his parents, gave their first and only son the name  Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. When he was 21 years of age, it was trendy to Latinize your name, and he chose to change Theophilus (Greek for loved by God) to Amadé, the French version of Amadeus, the Latin version he rarely used. Here is his signature as he wrote it.
       The two cities are about 66 miles apart; it takes roughly an hour to get from one to the other, especially given that there is no speed limit on the Autobahn. I remember driving to Salzburg with the family. I was driving a Ford van with a four-cylinder engine and was trying to pass a long truck pulling a trailer. I barely saw the tiny image of the distant Mercedes limo in my rearview mirror when I pulled out to pass. By the time I got to the front of the truck, despite having the accelerator pressed to the floor, the Mercedes was only 100 feet from my rear bumper, furiously flashing its lights but maintaining his speed in excess of 100 mph. It seemed that he fully intended just to drive us into the ditch or just drive over us. I was barely able to get to the safety of the right lane when the Mercedes passed and pulled in front of me with palpable anger. As previously mentioned, there is no speed limit on the Autobahn, and people have a certain “get off my road attitude.” It is that drive from Linz to Saltzbug that will always remind me of Mozart’s Requiem (music for the dead.) We were so lucky to get to the birth town of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart alive.    
     I am not sure why Mozart is my favorite composer. Is it that we were from the same corner of the world, or is it because, during my formative years, I heard a lot of organ, choral, and orchestral versions of Mozart’s liturgical music in my role as an altar boy in the Catholic Church? My favorite is, in fact, the Requiem, which I want at my own interment ceremony, hopefully not anytime soon. It was also Fredrick Chopin’s request at his funeral when he died in Paris. It was quite a chore to get it approved to have women in the choir, which was forbidden at the time in France. The work has  +- eight parts, some of which have subdivisions, full orchestra, and choir, mostly in minor keys that is intended for somber music. The Introduction is followed by the Kyrie (Lord), the Dies Irae (day of wrath), Tuba Mirum (hark the trumpet), Rex Tremendae (King of tremendous majesty), Recordae (remember), Confutatis (the accursed) my favorite, followed by the Lacrimosa (tears), yielding to the Offertorium, then the Sanctus, the Benedictus, Agnus Dei (lamb of God), and finally the Communio which recapitulates the music of the first two movements. If you have not seen the movie Amadeus, it is one you should not miss, one of the best movies ever. Director Miloš Forman did accurately portray the life of the late 1700s and the flavor of the times. The film got eleven Academy nominations and won seven, including Best Picture.  One of the great scenes is the creation of the Requiem as Mozart is dying. Although not historically accurate, it is, in my opinion, a scene with great pathos and fantastic music to boot.
     Actually, the Requiem is indeed shrouded in mystery and intrigue. It was commissioned and paid for by a stranger who likely was going to pass it off as his own work. Mozart started working on it in July of 1791. He worked on it obsessively, and many historians think he had a premonition of death which, as it turned out, came true. This was going to be his own “Swan Song.” He had the first part done but only sketched out the rest. He died December 5, 1791, before he could finish it. One of his students, Franz Süβmayr, to whom Mozart had given extensive instructions along with his rough draft for its completion, did finish it at Mozart’s wife’s (Constanze) request as she was desperate to keep the commission. It was Beethoven who said, “If Mozart did not write the Requiem, it was a Mozart who did!” If you have never heard it, I highly recommend putting it on your “bucket list!” Furthermore, try to avoid driving on the Autobahn if you can help it.

 

 

Gender Reassignment

@dariaren

The Science of Gender is complicated. We are all assigned a Gender at conception. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes made of the double helixes of DNA strands, 46 chromosomes altogether. They, in turn, harbor some 20,500 genes identified by the Human Genome Project. Males have the XY and females have the XX configuration. Every one of our cells has either one or the other configuration. To speak of Gender Reassignment is a bit disingenuous, for to truly change our Gender, every cell needs to be changed to one or the other configuration. That would be 32.7 trillion cells that would have to change their Gender, an impossible task. To cut off the penis and make a vagina and give that person some hormones to grow breasts and a few other hormonal manipulations, for example, the suppression of facial hair growth or drugs that prevent secondary sexual development of puberty does not make that individual a female and is a feeble attempt to mimic nature. Surgical manipulation to imitate one or the other sex is not all that different than cross-dressing which is a feeble attempt to assume the attributes of the opposite sex. Boys that put on a dress are still boys and girls that wear pants are still girls. The cells continue to be either XY or XX. XY muscles will remain stronger than XX muscles regardless of hormonal influences. Just because a Transgender person has external genitalia that resembles a male or female does not mean that the muscles or neural tissues act accordingly. That is why the athletic competition allowing XY genotype individuals to compete in female athletics is ridiculous from a scientific viewpoint. You might as well paint pink XX letters on a boy’s forehead and let him be on the girl’s volleyball team. Not only is that farcical but it is very unfair. Girls will work their whole life toward achieving certain athletic goals that, given the same level of training, can be surpassed because having different cells that have the XY chromosomes will and have outdone the XX cells in strength, speed, and endurance. School Boards, educators, and politicians who make public policy that endorses and supports transgender athletic competition are challenged, not only in scientific understanding but also in the ethics of fair competition.
     Gender change operations are more or less permanent and cannot be reversed all that easily. For that reason, I believe the individual who undergoes such dramatic treatment needs to be evaluated very carefully and by multiple fields, including psychological, emotional, maturational, intellectual, and secondarily, anatomical/ surgical aspects. I also think a significant waiting period should be mandatory, as people do change their minds. There needs to be a whole set of rules and regulations with legal input and oversight to protect the individual who wishes to undergo this transformation, as well as protect society as a whole. This would include athletics, laws involving privacy such as bathroom access, civil rights of men, women, and children, and age discrimination mores and practices. The treatment of minors in this controversy is another issue. Vanderbilt University has just put a hold on all gender reassignment operations for individuals under 18 years of age.
     There are numerous conditions, some due to chromosomal changes and some due to hormonal aberrations, that can cause ambiguous genitalia or phenotypically normal external genitalia but of the opposite sex of the individual’s genotypical sex. For example, a normal appearing female may in fact be a genetic male of XY configuration. This is due to the insensitivity to testosterone and is called Testicular Feminization Syndrome. In my business as a surgeon, I am aware of some very famous “women” in the entertainment business that have achieved great success in part by their physical appearance but are males genetically. HIPPA laws prevent me from naming names, as they should. But these individuals are unable to procreate and do not have the internal organs to carry a baby. The testes that have not descended are at high risk of becoming cancerous and must be removed. Some hormonal conditions, such as Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, will cause a genetic female to look more like a male, and this can also occur with tumors of the adrenal gland. The goal of treatment for these individuals should be, first of all, to cure any life-threatening condition, but secondarily to create a functioning human being that is happy with their appearance, and if possible one that can enjoy a normal life with normal functional sex organs that may even give them normal fertility in certain circumstances. Many chromosomal X or Y anomalies do not have serious brain dysfunction but some are devastating, such as Fragile X Syndrome. Here too, there must be the participation of multiple specialties to choose the right path in terms of selecting a sex for that individual and the correct upbringing, education, and psychological development. This too relates to gender assignment and must have some of the same legal, medical, and surgical inputs to reach the best outcome for that individual.
     Gender reassignment is a new trend in human thinking and behavior. This has not been possible in the past because we did not have the technology to achieve this, nor is it anywhere near perfect at this point. Because it is new, with little experience in judging eventual outcomes, we need to be very careful and proceed with great caution. Vanderbilt University did the right thing.

Albert Schweitzer

Re-post of this article as it has vanished from my website mysteriously. It is nevertheless a worthwhile essay about one of the most selfless people that has existed. Watercolor of Schweitzer by me.

Schweizer became a role model and hero for me, inspiring me to return to school to become a surgeon after nearly 10 years as a GP. He had such a “Reverence for Life!”, which for him meant every living thing. Albert was born January 14, 1875, in Alsace-Lorraine, then a German province, and after the Treaty of Versailles was ceded to the French. His father was a Lutheran minister, and Schweitzer himself became ordained in the Lutheran faith. He wrote scholarly books on Christianity, one of them titled The Quest for the Historical Jesus. These efforts led him to the inevitable conclusion that the first-century theology derived from Jesus, and those that knew and followed him, is not compatible with, and far removed from, the theology that was later created and promoted by the, then pagan Roman Emperor Constantine, through the Council of  Nicea after  325 CE. Nevertheless, this is what is proffered as Christianity in our current world.

     In Schweitzer’s later life, he became more philosophical, accepting many views of the Creator and His Creations. Near his life’s end, he became a Unitarian, a non-dogmatic religion that emphasizes spiritual development and the search for truth in all faiths.                                                                             

      But Albert had many facets to his complex character and his rich life. He was a brilliant musician. He committed all the organ works of J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Caesar Frank to memory, and gave numerous organ concerts throughout Europe to raise funds for his hospital in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa. At lunch break and every Sunday,  he played his hybrid piano/organ built especially for him to withstand the hot, humid African climate.        

     Above all, he was a dedicated healer. In addition to his Ph.D. in philosophy and religion from the University of Tübingen, Germany, and his musicology education with an emphasis on the organ and piano, he found time to become a medical doctor.   At age 30, as a doctor of philosophy, pastor of St. Nicolas, the Principle of the Theological Seminary in Strassburg, and a renowned organist recognized as an accomplished interpreter of J.S. Bach, and despite the strenuous objections of friends and family, he returned to Medical School for seven years as a beginning student in a field in which he had no previous ability or knowledge. Upon graduation in 1913, he and his Jewish wife headed for Africa to serve the poor and forgotten Africans whom he called his “brothers” before that was part of the pop culture and language.                                            
     With his own funds that were obtained through his Bach organ concerts, he built a hospital in Lambaréné, and with his wife serving as nurse and anesthetist, they gave literally their all to help the sick, suffering, and the dying. He treated a variety of maladies, including the gamut of tropical diseases and parasites, and also operated on strangulated hernias, traumatic injuries, and obstetrical emergencies with his wife administering ether anesthesia. Many doctors, inspired by his dedication to life, came to Lambaréné in order to work with him.
    
     He was a prisoner of the French during World War I from 1917 to 1918 because he was German, but he returned to Lambaréné when the war was over and was there until the end of his life.

     
     He died at his own hospital on September 4, 1965, at age 90. “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace,”   so prophesied  Albert Schweitzer.                                                                           
     
     I was inspired by Schweitzer not only by his respect for all life, but also by his philosophical stance on religion, music, and human kindness, and the ambition and hard work of an accomplished and successful musician to go back to school to become a doctor so he could go to Africa and help “his brothers” who needed medicine for malaria, their hernias repaired, and their babies delivered much more than they needed J. S. Bach. But Bach did contribute when Schweitzer left his hospital in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa, for those times when he ran out of funds and had to go back to Europe to give Bach organ concerts which refunded him to buy medicines, surgical tools, and hospital beds. The watercolor at the beginning is my rendition of Albert Schweitzer, probably the most generous and selfless “Christian” ever on this earth after JC himself.  

 

CIVILIZATION

Venus de Milo

When did we become civilized?  What does it mean to be civilized? The great civilizations go back to Sumer-4000BC, Babylon-2,000 BC, Assyria-1,000 BC, Egypt-3,000-300 BC, Greece- 600 BC, Persia-300 BC, Rome-100 BC- 500 AD, and many more, like the Hittites, the Phoenicians, the Indus Empire, the Carthaginians, not even mentioning the Shang, Qin, and Han Dynasties that fit in somewhere between.

But what started all this? Was it tool making? Was it agriculture? What exactly made man work together in groups to cooperate, hunt, work, fight, eat, and live together?  Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, put “Civilization” with the first healed femur (thigh bone) 15,000 years ago. She reasons that for that individual to survive long enough for his thigh bone to heal, there must have been a support structure to protect and feed such an individual.  In nature, if any living thing breaks a crucial bone for getting around, they do not survive very long.  They become food for other animals.  But evidence for humans working together much sooner does exist. Working together in groups seems to me to be the real beginning of civilization. 

Tools go back to before we were even the genus Homo.  Australopithecus afarensis, “Lucy,” or her relatives from the Olduvai Gorge, were likely the first toolmakers, 3.3 million years ago.  These were very primitive and evident only by cut marks on animal bones, indicating they used stones to butcher and eat animals.  Tools that could be identified are first seen in the Homo habilis era ca. 2 million years ago. Homo habilis was bigger brained, and more skilled. After all “habilis” means “handy.” The first evidence of growing grasses to harvest the seeds was found around the Sea of Galilee. They were dated to 20,000 BC, putting the beginning of agriculture back by at least 10,000 years than previously thought.

73,800 years ago, there was a mega volcano, in Sumatra, Mount Toba, that caused a ten-year nuclear winter with devastating consequences to all of the earth.  2800 km3 of lava were ejected compared to Mt. St. Helens, which was only 4 km3. Toba was obviously more devastating, tons of sulfur content shot into the stratosphere and a white ash that covered much of the earth.  Sunlight was blocked by the atmospheric dust and debris, and what little sunshine hit the earth was reflected back by the white ash covered large parts of the earth, at least 10cm thick.  Earth was already in an ice age, but this was the icing, so to speak, on the cake.  Much of the earth was deforested.  Plant and animal life were greatly reduced.  The human population shrank down to perhaps less than 3000 females that were capable of childbearing.  That became a genetic bottleneck.  And we know this because there is far too little genetic variation in what is found in us today, because the present population has a smaller number of ancestors than you would expect from a gene pool that was close to 2 million years old. Hominids that were in competition with us became extinct, such as Neanderthals, who were, by and large, bigger than H. sapiens, also stronger and much more violent.  Murderous tendencies were the order of the day. In that respect, Neanderthals were more like Chimpanzees who are patriarchal and aggressive, killing anyone, not of their group.  Even cannibalism was not unusual among Neanderthals.  What evolved from the remaining Homo sapiens that reproduced, was a race of humans, more like Bonobos, who are matriarchal and live together with no or little violence.  The tribes that sprang from this small group of remaining H. sapiens after the bottleneck released its stranglehold was smarter, kinder, and gentler.  Humans were more cooperative, and more likely to make friends with neighboring tribes.  Tools made from far away materials such as Obsidian proved that trade was part of this cooperative interaction of tribes.  It is likely that tools and language made their appearance in close association. To make and use tools requires communication. This cooperation allowed us to survive and eventually thrive once more. 

We banded together in larger groups in parts of the globe that had a better climate and, consequently, was more fertile.  The Fertile Crescent was the perfect location, warmer, and with plenty of water.  

Civilization comes from the Latin “civis” which means “city or citizen of a city.” The first “cities” appeared right after the Neolithic revolution, which changed our culture from hunter-gatherer to living in larger settlements that grew plants for food and domesticated animals. The first city was the city of Eridu, located near another contender for the first city, Uruk in Sumer, located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Uruk was abandoned, possibly because the Euphrates changed course. A great flood destroyed the ancient city, and in their mythology, the whole world was flooded as retribution against mankind for some perceived wrongdoing that offended the gods.  It was up to Gilgamesh, the King, to save humanity by building a large boat to house all the beasts of the land.   Sound familiar?  That flood story predated the Old Testament by 1000 years, when Moses, the traditional author of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, left Egypt.  

We evolved socially into civilizations, one after the other, that created laws like the Code of Hammurabi, religions that were polytheistic and monotheistic, art, music, technology, and architectural marvels like the pyramids and the hanging gardens of Babylon.  Nevertheless, some civilizations did not cooperate as well as others.  Rather than sharing and helping, they had the territorial yours vs. mine attitude.  Interestingly, this aggressiveness is very dependent on our hormones.  Testosterone, the male hormone, is the cause of aggression in individuals and, by extension, nations.  While estrogen, oxytocin, and serotonin are the hormones of cooperation, friendship, and some say, love.  Civilization requires more collaboration and kindness than war, destruction, and conquering others. Perhaps more estrogen in our politics could give us a leg up to become more civilized.

TIME

The oldest and most impressive calendar (photo by Ankit Sood,-q0ZLK D7ngl- unsplash.jpg)

     Four hundred thirty-nine days after Julius Caesar introduced his calendar, replacing the old Roman Calendar, he was murdered on the Ides of March 44BC (E). Ironically the Ides was the traditional date on which all debts needed to be settled. 
     The Roman Calendar had advanced three months out of sync with the Solar Calendar and was really out of date, so to speak. Caesar hired a Greek astronomer/mathematician, Sosigenes of Alexandria, said by Pliny the Elder to be the smartest mathematician of the time.  His job was to create a new, more accurate way to keep track of the days, naming the 7th month after his boss (July) and the 8th month for the first and greatest Roman emperor, also related to Julius, Augustus Caesar. But even the smartest mathematicians make mistakes, and he, too, had overestimated the length of the year by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. By the mid-1500s, the seasons were about ten days ahead. Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian Calendar. It became the Gregorian Calendar which now is the standard throughout the world except for the Greek Orthodox church, which still uses the Julian version. Because the earth’s path around the sun is precisely 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.25 seconds, an error of an extra day per century needs to be corrected. The Gregorian Calendar takes care of this and other minor errors by adding an extra day in February every 4th year unless the year is divisible by 400 (the leap year).
     Time is like a river. It flows past us. Time is, however, relative. It can speed up or slow down. It was Albert Einstein who calculated the faster we travel, the slower time passes. Theoretically, if you board a spaceship that travels near the speed of light, you will not age as fast as your twin who stays on earth. This has actually been proven experimentally. A super accurate atomic clock placed on a jet traveling as fast as a jet can, when brought back, was slower than the clock that remained on earth. Gravity also affects the speed time passes. The more gravity there is, the slower time passes. If you would wear an ankle watch and compare it to your wristwatch, it will consistently be slower because it is closer to earth and, therefore, more affected by it. Time even stops when exposed to the strongest gravitational field there is, a black hole. If we carry this to its (il)logical conclusion, time could actually reverse if exposed to more gravity or travel faster than the speed of light. Time travel? I would, however, not hold my breath for that to happen. We do not have the technology (yet) to achieve that!
     Since my retirement, time does not affect me nearly as much. Saturday or Sunday does not matter. All I know is that there is no mail on Sunday.
     The day I was born was a day like all days. The earth was at a certain place in its travels around the sun. So every revolution of the earth since then, when the earth passes that point, it is my birthday. That marks a year for most of us, regardless if you use the Roman, Julian, or Gregorian Calendar. It is the same place in earth’s orbit. Why is that important? I used to be excited because of the presents I received. Now I am not nearly as delighted to receive presents. After nearly 80 years, you have probably gotten all the gifts you need and a few you don’t, and see birthdays just like any other day except it marks one year closer to our demise! Why on earth would I celebrate that? As Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be, that is the question!” It is only a matter of time!
     That reminds me of my favorite joke. A salesman wanders along a country road and comes across a farmer feeding his pigs. The farmer has an apple tree and lifts each pig up to the tree so they can grab an apple and eat it. After watching this for a while, the salesman asks the farmer a question. Why don’t you shake the tree, the apples will fall, and the pigs can eat their fill of apples? It would save so much time! The farmer shakes his head and says, “Yes, I know it saves time, but what’s  time to a pig?”

      THE AZORES, A LOST PARADISE

In 1969 all men born between January 1943 and December 1950 received notice from the Selective Service System (the Draft Board) to report for duty in the military. I was born in 1943, so I was eminently qualified. I was in a Residency Training Program for General Practice that finished in July of 1970. In August 1970, I was sent to Witchita Falls, Texas, for basic training. I never thought that a doctor would be taught how to march, shoot, and crawl under barbed wire, with live gunfire above (at least that is what they told us), but I was. The US had just included Cambodia in the Vietnam War. I was expecting to go to Vietnam.   
   But then a miracle happened! I was sent to Portugal as an Air Force Captain. I was able to bring my wife, and we were stationed on Tercera, the third largest island in the Azorian archipelago, a virtual paradise. The Azores were the first place Christopher Columbus stopped on his transoceanic trip to discover the Americas. The church where he prayed for guidance still stands and was the site of many a picnic we had with our Air Force friends. Angra de Heroismo is the largest town of about 35,000 inhabitants. Frédéric Chopin also stopped there during his search for a place that would be better for his lungs, which were besieged by the Tubercle Bacillus. I even sat at the piano, where he gave an impromptu concert for Angra. If you ever get to Angra, you must try the regional specialty, “Alcatra Regional,” a beef stew cooked in an earthen pot on charcoal, which is absolutely outstanding.

Mary Jane

Our base was composed of about 4,000 troops, mostly Air Force, but there were also Marines who did the security, the Navy who surprisingly did the flying, and Air Force that did the support, including the hospital. I “fought the war” for the next two years on a semi-tropical island doing health care for basically healthy young people. We bravely kept every Viet Cong from making landfall there. I didn’t know it then, but it was probably the best time of my life. I was young, full of energy and enthusiasm. There was a lot of time to pursue hobbies. I learned to work with wood in their wood hobby shop. Mary and I built shelves using an Acacia tree, the hardest wood in the Azores, that was split just for us. We also built a copy of a 15th-century Savanarola Florentine chair. I became a more sophisticated photographer and even learned to Scuba Dive to look for treasure. Lobster was plentiful in the Atlantic just for the taking, and we did. The harbor near our house had been the scene of great battles between the English and Spanish with treasure ships laden with gold that were sunk by Sir Francis Drake.   Unfortunately, all we ever found was a few barnacles-encrusted canons and the occasional shark that lost its way. But sculpting was my favorite hobby. I had always loved to sculpt. My beautiful wife served as a model for several works, one of which is seen here.

What is a RINO (Republican In Name Only)?

RINO is a pejorative word for a Republican who is not as right as the ultra-right think one ought to be. By that I mean you do not support Trump, and want everyone to be vaccinated! Republicans used to be the party of Ronald Reagan, the party who believed in the conservative point of view, Capitalism, less government, fewer taxes, law and order, but now it has something to do with Donald Trump and whether you get vaccinated or wear a mask.
     Trump was once upon a time the leader that embodied the Reagan principles. He won the 2016 election because no one wanted Hillary Clinton, but then something happened. Trump clearly had a meltdown. The anti-vaxxers took over. Vaccination was now against freedom, against my rights over my body. But vaccination has nothing to do with rights, nothing to do with freedom, nothing to do with Anthony Fauci. It is a vaccine against a lethal illness, that has killed close to six and one half million people. The problem came about by the issue if you can mandate people to get vaccinated against their will. Somehow the Trumpists allied with the anti-vaxxers even though it was Trump that first pushed the vaccine, and even though he and all his family took it. But the far right saw it as an infringement on civil rights. Somehow the personal right to choose became mixed up with the right to protect yourself.
     As a physician and a scientist, I find this a curious position that I have failed to comprehend. When the Polio Vaccine came out, no one talked about personal rights. We all stood in line to get our vaccine and were very grateful to get it. One issue is that the Covid virus is very clever. It can change (mutate) quickly and gains new characteristics that make it more infectious and able to avoid the vaccines we have developed to attack it. This somehow has weakened the argument for vaccination in the eyes of the anti-vaxxers. Science is however not like religion. It is not absolute and it certainly is not the word of God. Science is the search for truth. If evidence points to a new discovery then that becomes the standard. Science is not wrong, it becomes better educated and then acts accordingly. In this pandemic we have learned that this virus has abilities that we didn’t think it had. It can change into other forms quickly. Last year’s version of the vaccine does not work as well against it. Yes, you need the latest version in order to be fully protected, and it will likely become a yearly ritual. The older vaccine still works, just not as well. It will keep you out of the ICU and likely keep you from dying, but the newer vaccine works better. Just like the latest version of the newest model Tessla has more buttons and more features than last year’s model. Some models keep you safer in a car crash than other models, just like some vaccines work better than others.   I do believe in personal choice but I also believe that if you want to ride next to me in an airplane or be a police officer or serve me food you must be vaccinated. You have the right not to get vaccinated but you can’t infect me either.
     Wearing or not wearing a mask is another thing I cannot wrap my head around. How  in heaven’s name does that have anything to do with your being a Democrat, Republican, RINO, or anything to do with political persuasion? It is just a mask, a piece of material that filters out the air you breathe in and out. Granted, it does not do as good a job as you think it should, but it does work which has been shown to be the case for the last 130 years. That is what the science shows over and over. How much evidence do you need, and it is why surgeons wear them when doing operations?   You can get better working masks but they must be fitted to you and are really uncomfortable.
     I have come to the conclusion that I am an ELMO, a combination of the elephant , symbol of Republicans but also have Rino features at the rear, just as my cartoon above shows. An ELMO is a conservative who believes in vaccination, keeps believing in the US Constitution, and thinks that Trump has voided his ticket to run for President a third time.