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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why we can't all get along...

Good people often ask, "Why can't we all just get along?" There are four main reasons that, as the world exists today, it is impossible for us to get along unless we make some changes.

Reason 1:
The animal part of the brain is in charge a surprising percentage of the time, and the animal brain does not like anything or anyone different. There is a well known Biology experiment where you take a group of chicks that hatch at the same time, and when they are about a week old, you use food coloring to dye one of them red, one green, and one blue. The little yellow chicks are soon pecking the dyed chicks to the point of injury. There seems to be a template in the brain based on the faces a child grows up with, and a face that doesn't roughly fit in the template brings feelings of uneasiness and distrust. Kids who grow up going to day care in the San Francisco area seem to be exposed to enough different faces that all the kids seem to get along. If you introduce a kid with a different skin color or ethnic facial features into a remote rural area where kids have only seen their immediate family members faces, there are usually bad reactions.

Reason 2:
Parents usually feel a need to pass on their political beliefs; biases and prejudices; religious beliefs; and life philosophy to their children. This is highly successful most of the time. As a result, we have two factions of Islam still hating each other over who should have succeed Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh as leader of the religion when he died in 632 CE.  We have many different groups of Christians who disagree about even basic principles. We have several different groups of Jews so polarized it is difficult to believe they are part of the same religion. We have tribes who hate each other because one took slaves after winning a battle 300 years ago, and so on and on and on.  Too many grudges to count. We even have families who hate each other over something great great great grandpa Wilber did in 1792.  The European colonization movement provided the conditions for people in the colony to hate a whole country. Various missionaries, believing they were doing the will of their god, perpetrated terrible atrocities on indigenous peoples in misguided efforts to "save" and "civilize" the heathen savage. The North American colonists and later, the United States government wiped out many cultures and languages, not to mention whole tribes of people.  Now most of that would just be inconvenient if it weren't for one thing: each group believes they have the one and only truth that came direct from the hand or spoken word of their GOD, him or herself. Christians point to a passage in their book, that according to the circular logic they are so fond of, PROVES that they have the one and only exclusive truth. Combine that with being passed from parent to child, the strength and irrationality of their beliefs, and the conviction that everyone else is WRONG, and you have a downright dangerous situation. Because of this, only a few learned and brilliant scholars can discuss religious thought with members of different religions rather than argue or fight. I always wanted my children to decide for themselves what they believed because I've never been sure about anything, except that it is wrong to treat other people badly. Giving your children that freedom is a little uncomfortable, but I believe parents need to stop teaching after we communicate some basic ethical principles. Until people are able to look at religious, philosophical, and political issues objectively and discuss calmly; allowing themselves to recognize the possibility that another person may have a worthwhile point, rather than feeling a need to prove them wrong, we will always have the seeds of violence between people on the earth.

Reason 3:
My father told me that human greed was the single most dangerous emotion. He said that without greed, con games wouldn't work, people would not gamble away their savings, and there would be no reason for war. Someone always profits from war. Starting with the flint knappers, the people who supply the weapons profit from war. They always find ways to exploit Reasons 1 and 2 so that everyone else, who has everything to lose, will fight in their wars. Kings waged war to expand their territory, and thus increase their income by having more people to tax. In Shakespeare's play, "Henry V," Prince Hal has led a wild, drunken life and so the people didn't expect much from him. His father doesn't know Henry's true capabilities, so on his death bed he advises, "Have a foreign war." The father's advice was based on the idea that having a foreign enemy would bring the people together behind their new king. I can definitely visualize GHWB, or George I, advising GWB, or George II to have a foreign war.

Reason 4:
People are lazy, especially intellectually. Most people don't want to think for themselves. They want the Preacher or Rabbi or Iman to tell them what to believe. They read their holy book, but don't bother to get the education needed to properly interpret what they read or put it in context. Historians copy from older historians without bothering to research whether the old historian knew what he was talking about. For centuries, people were content with Aristotle as THE authority on everything. Sadly, Aristotle just pulled things out of the air and never did a real experiment. Because people are mentally lazy, they are easy to manipulate. So much is known about the psychology of selling and advertising that it is a simple matter to convince a whole country that WMD are an imminent threat, when in fact, no Weapons of Mass Destruction existed. I see evidence of mental laziness in politics today because rather than present data, politicians (and lots of citizens) just call someone a "liberal" as if that is a dirty word, and that name calling alone is sufficient to make a case or prove a point. There is little meaningful discussion or debate in U.S. politics today, and so elections have become popularity contests.  Most politicians today don't do any work to learn how to run government more efficiently and how to work for the good of the people. Combine that with the greed of politicians who allow themselves to be bought by corporations and special interests, and you have the mess the U.S. Government is in today.

Now how can we get ourselves out of this mess? Well, it would take good old fashioned work. First, people who really want to fix things need to organize, find and train candidates who are completely committed to honest government, for the people and by the people. Second, they need to work to get those candidates elected. The Presidency is really not as important as the Congress in putting together a working reform movement. If you have a majority in Congress, you can do a lot whether or not the President agrees. If you have a big enough majority, you can override the Presidential veto, and pass legislation in spite of Presidential opposition. It certainly would be a lot safer to make changes this way than to take to the streets in a Twitter uprising. I don't think the corporations who have the real power now would hesitate to use deadly force on even a million protestors, and I'd hate to think what military weapons would do to massed or marching protestors. The question is, do we have any people honest enough and hard working enough to make real change possible? Can we stop bickering over ideology long enough to actually get something done? What do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011


I am always amazed at the total lack of discipline in people here both as drivers and as pedestrians. I am constantly reminded of the wonder on the paleontologist's face when the herds of dinosaurs in the movie, "Jurassic Park" wheeled and swirled like flocks of birds. This is exactly how people here move. I don't think anyone is even capable of walking in a straight line. The stop for no reason, move in different directions without looking, don't ever seem to look where they are going, and walk straight at you and expect you to get out of their way. They are totally oblivious to what the packages they are carrying are doing. On the MRT the other day, a lady was fanning herself with a fan woven from palm fronds and on a fairly stout stick handle. Every other swish, it was whack on my left shoulder, pause, whack, pause, whack. I squeezed Grace's hand a little harder than I intended, and tried to remain serene. When driving, people who own their cars seem almost sane, but the traffic mix is insane here. There are pedal powered bikes with metal side cars welded to them, pedal powered cabs, push carts, motor powered tricycles, totally under powere scooters, taxis, jeepneys and all sizes of buses trying to use streets that are too narrow for the traffic volume, all at the same time.  The tricycles, both human and motor powered, pull out in front of anything, always seemingly without looking, and the vehicle that should have the right of way has to slam on the brakes. Speaking of "right of way,' it seems to be law of the jungle, and who ever cares least about getting hit and is most aggressive TAKES the right of way. This is the ONLY place I've ever been, where people drive on the right side of the road, where people turning left think THEY have the right of way. This total lack of self discipline is to blame for a lot of the traffic chaos here. Taxis and tricycles and buses win NOT pick a lane and stay in it. They are constantly trying to jockey for a few feet advantage. I've said before that people here are only really happy if they are driving in two lanes simultaneously, and it is totally true! This applies to walking too. It seems that some people feel their mission in life is to get in front of the person ahead of them. If they are fast walkers I don't mind that, but when the get in front of me, 90% of the time they slow down to a crawl. It is impossible for us to walk together holding hands, most of the time, because people walk straight toward our hands and expect us to clear the way for them. The streets are so wide some places that it is impossible to cross them. There are lots of pedestrian bridges, but it is very difficult to use them because the steps climb at a very steep angle, and because of all the pushing and shoving from other people. Most of the time, the steps and walk ways are steel, and when it rains, they are VERY slick.  The other day, I bought a small slow cooker. By the way, I'm cooking beef stew and it is almost ready. It smells very good. When I was bringing it home, the MRT security guard decided I must be a terrorist, smuggling a bomb in my Rustan's shopping bag, with my Rustan's receipt on top of the slow cooker box, so I had to not only take the box out of the bag, but take the slow cooker AND every bit of packing out of the box so he could visually inspect and make sure I hadn't hidden some C4 in the bottom. Grace doesn't like beards, but does like stubble, so I also had a new Braun cruZer in the shopping bag so I can keep a uniform stubble look. Grace says it makes me look like a bad boy. Now that all of you who have know me forever are done rolling on the floor laughing at the idea of ME being a bad boy, I'll get to the point of the story, which was that I was afraid he would make me open that and have to inspect all of the small combs and parts that come with it. Mercifully, he didn't, but the whole slow cooker inspection took a terribly long time.  Usually, security guards don't check me carefully because they think Americans are not a threat. Maybe it was my "bad boy" stubble that made him visually profile me. There are security inspections at the entrance to every mall and public transportation terminal.  Not that long ago, a package in the luggage locker of a long distance bus exploded and killed several people, so there is an actual need for security checks here. There is a different line for men and women for inspection, and Grace didn't see what was happening, so she was already out of sight when Mr. Efficient got done with me. I felt like the three year old who got too brave and now can't see mom. In our business, people frequently hang up when I answer the phone, I guess they are afraid they will get a terminal nose bleed if they hear more than two words of English. (That's what native Tagalog speakers say about talking to me...I give them a nose bleed.  It means that the mental work of thinking and speaking in English is too much work.) Grace usually answers my phone, and had it in her bag, so I didn't have a way to get in touch with her. I didn't know whether to just stand there and wait or to go down to the platform and hope I could find her. Fortunately, she came looking for me before I had to sit down and start crying. I THINK I could have made it home by myself, but it probably would have involved finding a taxi, and have been more expensive. I need to remember to keep a phone on me when we are out!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

About My Pre-Retirement Life...

Some of you have known me forever, and some of the people I think are significant in my life have been out of touch for a while, so this is a brief autobiographical sketch.
School and Work:
After graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa in 1966, I attended Grinnell College and graduated with a BA in History in 1970.  I attended U.S. Air Force Pilot Training at Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma but did not graduate, and was assigned to Navigator Training at Mather AFB, just outside Sacramento, CA. I graduated and went on to Navigator Bombardier training, eventually becoming a navigator on B-52D aircraft at Dyess AFB, Abilene, Texas.  I did 2 TDY tours to Anderson AFB, Guam and flew 3 combat missions at the end of the Vietnam war.  I resigned my commission in 1975 and went back to school at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, to get my teaching certificate.  I worked as a janitor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Abilene while I was attending classes. I taught one semester in the Abilene, Texas Public Schools in 1978 as a Special Education teacher at Jefferson Jr. High.  I worked nights at Jack-in-the-Box, and the third time they asked if I wanted to be an Asst. Manager, I asked how much it would pay. It was twice what I made teaching, so I went to work for Jack. I was transferred to Albuquerque, NM to help open a new store in 1979.  In 1980, my store manager told me he was really an alien from another galaxy, and he was totally serious. I found out there was a teaching vacancy at Taylor Middle School, and the next day I was teaching again. I taught several Special Ed. programs at Taylor until the new Lincoln Middle School opened in Rio Rancho.  At that time, Rio Rancho was part of the Albuquerque school system, so I transferred to Lincoln. I taught there until November of 1987, when I took a full time position with the New Mexico Air National Guard. Before that time I had been a weekend warrior, working in Personnel and as Budget Officer. My new position was Commander of the Mission Support Flight. In 1989, my good friend, Don Wetzel, got me an interview with GTE Educational Network Services in the Dallas, Texas area, and I was offered a job answering their customer support line. A year later, ENS upgraded their main computer system to a reconditioned Sequent S-81, and my boss told me, "George, you are good at making things work, so you are our new UNIX system administrator." After looking up UNIX to make sure it didn't involve amputation of any body parts, I accepted the job, and ENS paid for a number of classes at the Sequent factory in Beaverton, Oregon. I am proud of the work I did for ENS because I ran hardware that was both a production and development system simultaneously. In 1994, the parent GTE company decided to close ENS, just as we were on track to be profitable in 1995.  I interviewed with Oracle Corporation, and took over as the Sequent System Administrator. The position had been vacant for over a year, so there was quite a backlog of work, but I was single and didn't mind long days or working all night, so I got the backlog cleared in about three months and reduced configuration request response time from 2 weeks to 24 hours or less.  I got a programmer's bonus share that quarter, and bought a 23 foot Santana sailboat, which I sailed on San Francisco Bay from the Coyote Point Marina. In 1999 I went to work for West Interactive in Omaha, Nebraska, mainly because the cost of living in California was so outrageous. In addition, IBM bought Sequent to get their patents to Non Uniform Memory Access or NUMAQ technology, and I realized that my time at Oracle would be limited when IBM killed the Sequent product line.  I did a lot of the pre Y2K UNIX work for Oracle, and wrote a lot of the policies, so West hired me to make sure their preparations were adequate.  West fired me shortly after Y2K came and went without an issue.  I worked for First Data in Omaha, and then got a call asking me what it would take to bring me to Charlotte, North Carolina. It seems Electronic Data Systems (EDS) had a major client running Sequent hardware.  I gave what I thought was an outrageous figure, and 2 weeks later I was driving a U-Haul to Charlotte. I worked for EDS from  October 2001 until I was laid off in January 2007.  The client bought Sun systems, and it was much cheaper for EDS to hire someone in India or Brazil than to pay me, even though I was fully qualified on Sun systems.  I briefly worked as a consultant for Wachovia Bank, but apparently the manager who put in the request had moved on, and no one could find anything for me to do, so at the end of 3 months, my contract ended.  I was not able to find any UNIX SA work, so  I did substitute teaching in the Cabarrus County, North Carolina schools while I worked to qualify for a North Carolina license. In 2008 I was hired to teach any elementary students assigned to a school for kids expelled from their home school, usually for some criminal act or serious violation of district rules, like bringing a gun to school,  in the Charlotte school system. I had one 4th grader to start with, and taught him on the stage of the multipurpose room.  The next year I had my own room and as many as 11 kids, all 6th graders, in my class. When I reached 62, I was ready to retire, and have never regretted that decision.
Significant Relationships:
I married Kathleen Cory Avise in May, 1969. We were friends in High School, and our youth minister's wife pushed us at each other Christmas vacation 1968. We had two birth sons, Kristofer  Kane Avise-Rouse, in December 1969 and Kelly Kyle Avise-Rouse in January 1971. We adopted two children, Kymethe Kory, and Kenneth Kevin.  Kate and I were primarily casualties of the Vietnam war, and divorced in 1977-78.  Kate passed away in 2005.  I married Earlene Louise Maharg in June 1978. We had one son, Jason Martin Wolfe in November 1984.  We divorced in 1988.  I married Gwen Marie Helm in June 1996. She already had 3 great kids, Tansy Marie Wolfe Perlman (Tansy changed her last name to mine the day after her 18th birthday, so I must have been an OK step-father), Adam Michael Wait, and Danielle Brooke Wait Leffler.  Gwen and I divorced in 2008.  I married Mary Grace De la Torre on November 30, 2010 at Paranaque City Hall in the Philippines.
Health Issues:
I kept getting sick and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong. I had my left kidney removed because they were sure a growth on the main artery was renal cell carcinoma, but it turned out to be benign. I had my gall bladder removed. Nothing helped. Finally, I got so sick they were able to diagnose the problem, acute pancreatitis. I was on no food for a week, and then took 8 pills before every meal for 2 years. I changed to a low fat diet, and have been fine ever since.
I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2007, which, by the way, was a terrible year for me. I was on hormone suppression therapy for a year to get the prostate down to treatable size. That was a TRIP! I got to experience the joys of menopause first hand. Guys, don't ever joke about hot flashes. They are NOT fun. Neither is wanting to cry when there is really no reason, and wondering if you are going crazy. Then I flew to Nassau, Bahamas for High Intensity Focused Ultra Sound treatment. Basically it microwaves the prostate 2mm at a time. Fortunately, I was asleep for the 5 1/2 hour process.  I chose this treatment because it is least likely to have undesirable side effects, and since I met Grace, I have been VERY glad I made that choice.  I have been cancer free, according to my quarterly blood tests, since July 2008, and had that confirmed with a 12 needle biopsy in September of 2010, here in the Philippines.

So now you are pretty much up to date with the "Long and Winding Road" that led me to the Philippines.

The Philippine Obsession With Written Records

When I worked at Radio Shack to earn extra money so I could buy Jason Christmas presents, I had to ask every customer for their phone number because the company customer database was keyed off telephone numbers. Many privacy conscious people objected, and I lost more than one sale as soon as I asked for the phone number. Well, record keeping is an obsession in the Philippines, and it isn't just putting a phone number into a computer, in most stores, it MUST be hand written. This makes the process of purchasing something difficult and terribly time consuming. In addition, employers have ZERO trust in their employees, so a minimum of two people have to sign off on everything. For example, one employee gets the item from the stock room and makes out a hand written paper ticket. You accompany him to the check out person who verifies that the box has the correct product number on it. In some cases, they will open the box to make sure it really contains, for example, a desk chair, and you aren't using the box to smuggle out a flat screen TV. You pay for the item, sometimes a manager has to sign off on the transaction, then a security guard escorts you to the door, where you have to sign, acknowledging that you have indeed received the item. This is all done with multiple carbon paper copies. However, no one has ever told me to "press hard" as the U.S. cashiers used to do when you had to sign NCR forms in triplicate.  I don't think signing for Top Secret documents was ever that time consuming when I was in the Air Force! I saw a security guard escorting a janitorial employee to the shredder truck the other day with a bag of what looked like carbon paper and receipts, I'm sure to verify that the paper wasn't stolen or sold for potential credit card information or signatures. EVERY security guard carries around a cloth bound record book and at frequent intervals, makes what appear to be detailed notes. I'm not sure what they are supposed to record, or if anyone ever reads it, but I think it is an attempt to show they are working and justify their employment. The major department stores and the super markets, fortunately, use bar code scanners, but still, standing in line for an hour to pay for your groceries is not that unusual. We have learned that there are some days and times to avoid stores at all costs because the lines will test both my back and Grace's patience.  I have said before that I enjoy the fact that there are always store employees ready and willing to help you find things, but many times there are not enough cashiers to check out the long lines of customers, and I think there should be a higher ratio of cashiers to sales associates to speed things up. Still, it beats searching for half an hour for an orange apron or an hour for a blue jacket or apron when you can't find something at Home Depot or WalMart. Stores don't trust customers either. Every store requires you to check packages before they will let you go into the store. Once we were at the super market just before closing time, and the left overs from our dinner got left in the package check because it was closed when we got through the check out line. We decided against reclaiming the bag the next day because the shrimp would have only been good for catfish bait, and I don't think they have catfish here. If they do, the streams are so polluted, I wouldn't want to fish in them anyway.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, or Third World Realitiies

I have awarded Grace an Honorary Doctorate in Philippine Engineering.  She can figure out how to make anything work with rubber bands, a paper clip, a twist tie, or a 25 centavo coin.  She used 2 coins to wedge the shower hose onto the water inlet of the washing machine so we don't stand there and hold it.

There is no adaptor available to connect the two different sized connectors.  There just aren't big stores like Home Depot where you can get an adaptor for the adaptor for the adaptor.  This is pretty typical of life throughout the Philippines.  You realize this is a Third World country, despite the modern high rise buildings as you see all the vulcanizing shops repairing the bald and endlessly recapped tires.

OSHA would have nightmares. Scaffolding on major construction projects is sometimes made of bamboo poles lashed together. Other times, it looks like a rope ladder.  I saw one man, lifting a panel larger than himself,  into place while balancing on one scaffolding pipe. No safety harness, and 3 stories up.  Watching them build the new condo cluster behind ours has been an education.  They still hoist everything up using rope and pulley, even though there is a big crane built into the center of the building.  I guess it is reserved for the REALLY heavy stuff.

I've talked about the shoddy cement block construction before, and now I have an explanation.  Apparently mortar has a time limit once you mix it, and if you take a break for lunch and then try to make it workable again by adding water, it doesn't have the right consistency, does not dry correctly, and does not have any strength.  Grace's uncle Burt says this is the main reason concrete block work is so poor.  He also told me that the blocks themselves are poorly made and crumble around the edges during shipment and handling, so the workers use whatever pieces they have, piece them together any way they can, and don't worry about it because everything will be coated with cement anyway in the finishing stage of construction.  When done, the buildings look great, but they are rotten to the core, and I'd hate to be in or near one if we ever have a major earthquake.

Plumbing is poor quality with galvanized pipe the usual water supply line.  That makes repairs difficult because it corrodes so quickly.  Our condo is not that old, but the fittings for the water supply to the toilets are already solid rust.

The electric utility workers here don't have bucket trucks. They prop a ladder up against a pole and climb up.  They seem to have no fear.  Of course if they want to keep their job, they had better just shut up and make do because there are at least a hundred, if not a thousand others willing to take their job.

Government services are also interesting here. When we filed my application for Permanent Resident Status, we were told that as part of our application we had to supply our own legal size folder.  I thought we would have trouble finding one because Immigration is in an out of the way corner, close to the old city. Not to worry, Mini Stop to the rescue. I was afraid our white folder would not meet government standards, but as soon as I paid my fees, they happily took it, and then I saw that all the other folders on the desk must have come from Mini Stop too.  With all the budget problems at all levels of government in the U.S., there may come a time when you will have to supply your own folders too.  I've often said that it seems people are determined to turn the U.S. into a Third World country.  I don't think those people have ever BEEN to a Third World country, or they would realize that it isn't much fun unless you have a good source of income that isn't dependent on the financial stability of a country that could go bankrupt.

With two wars wasting billions of dollars a month, the U.S. could find itself going begging to the world bank for a bailout just like Ireland and Greece if something isn't done to stop the financial bleeding.  Remember, Russia lost their effort to invade Afghanistan because they went broke, and Russian communism fell because of that bankruptcy.  I fought in a war that had no purpose other than to use up war stuff and make defense contractors rich, so I have a better perspective on this than people who are brainwashed into believing patriotism requires blind, unquestioning obedience.  Americans have a DUTY to speak up when our government is not doing what is in the best interests of the PEOPLE of the United States!  We have a responsibility to hold our representatives accountable and not allow policies that are ruining the country to continue.  I feel a great deal of regret that President Obama has been convinced that the wars George W. Bush used as a smoke screen to hide his incompetence and hidden agenda to restrict Americans' Constitutional Rights, are necessary.  I hoped he would have the courage to lead us on a new path toward being the good guy in world affairs and true Liberty and Justice for ALL in the U.S.

Now, the majority party in the House of Representatives thinks they have Carte Blanche to turn back the clock to the bad old days when no one but WHITE males had any rights at all, and they are hijacking religious beliefs to justify their actions.  Even then, if you were Jewish or your family immigrated from certain countries, there were rigid limits on where you could live or play golf.  Reactionary thinking is always a sign of people who have NO original ideas to offer and trade on fear and a misremembered past that wasn't as nice as they think it was.  Even as a white male, when I visited places where there were segregated facilities, I felt a sense of oppression and wrongness.  I was a pretty ignorant kid from the midwest, but even then, I knew it was wrong to treat other people that way.  Some of the proposed legislation in the House of Representatives seems intended to turn back the clock and treat women like they have no right to make their own choices or control their own lives.  Just because someone has power because they are an elected official and just because their party happens to have a temporary majority does not mean they have a mandate to take away the rights of OVER HALF the population in their misguided attempt to bring back the good old days.  Please let your representatives know you object to this assault on women and will not tolerate this gross misuse of power.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

George's 4 Rules for Taking Chinese Medicine

There are a lot of Chinese drug stores here, and since Grace has some Chinese ancestry, it isn't surprising that she suggested I take a medicine from the Mandarin drug store, especially since it is cheaper, reportedly more effective, and much easier to get than the Mumbai pills I got from the online Canadian site.

We bought two pills, I took one, and it worked VERY well.

Subsequently, I started wondering what was in the pill.  Prompted by a scene in the movie, "The Air Up There," in which Kevin Bacon finds out the poultice soothing his injured head is made from sterilized camel dung, I joked that the Chinese medicine was probably sterilized yak dung.

When we bought a bottle, all the writing on the outside of the box was in Chinese,  but a small paper inside listed the ingredients in English.  Fortunately, dung was not among the ingredients, but a part of the yak was.  This brought up the whole issue of using animal parts in over the counter medicine, and I'll talk about that later.

The next time I took a pill, it didn't work nearly as well. Now it might have been a puny yak in that pill, but it is more likely that knowing what I took degraded the effectiveness.  The experience led me to formulate the following rules for taking Chinese medicine.

1. Only take Chinese medicine if someone you really trust, and who knows what to buy, recommends it.

2. Do not read the list of ingredients.

3. If it works, make sure you NEVER read the list of ingredients. Tell yourself that it works by ancient Chinese magic and keep your curiosity under control.  Remind yourself what happened to Pandora frequently.

4. If it does not work, read the list of ingredients. Maybe knowing what you are taking will make it effective for you.

I'm very glad there wasn't tiger or rhino, or some other endangered and poached animal in the pill.  I still don't know how I feel about the issue.  If it is OK to use one animal, how do we keep endangered animals off limits when they are reputed to be more potent?  If it works, why is taking a pill with yak, seal, and small water turtle parts in it any worse than taking something made in a lab?  By the way, the third pill must have come from a BIG bull yak, so I'll be taking the pills until they find a cure for age.

I took a lot of Biology in high school and college, and I have always agreed with my teachers and professors that humane use of animals in medical research is vital to human health.  However, one has to put the "HUMANE" in bold all caps.  Mr. Houser, my favorite Biology teacher, was fierce in his insistence that proper pre-vivasection procedures MUST be followed so the animal would NOT feel any pain.  After all the surgery I've had, even with anesthesia, there is still a fear factor.  I think it is dangerous to anthropomorphize and say that animals must feel that fear even more than humans.  Still, I have to ask myself, "How do we know what an animal feels and to what degree an animal can think or reason?"  Is brain size a factor?  Is there some critical mass that has to be reached before an organism is sentient?  Is it any different to use parts of animals in medicine than it is to eat hamburger or steak?  I've spent some time moving cows from here to there, and my experience has been that they are one of the stupidest creatures alive, so perhaps brain size isn't a good criteria.  Maybe some ratio of brain volume to overall weight?  Well, until Francis the mule talks in real life, not just in the movies, or Mr. Ed breaks his vow of public silence, or we get smart enough to translate dolphin speak, there will be more questions than answers, and no way to resolve the issue.

I think everyone will agree that we need to treat medical research animals humanely, but that brings up the issue of who gets to decide what is humane treatment and how do we administer and enforce any rules we make?  Do we need an escape clause if an endangered species is the only key to stopping a pandemic from making humans extinct?

Have you noticed that I ask a lot of questions and don't give many answers?  I think the history major part of me is responsible for that.  All I do know is that the more I see, the more questions I have, and the less sure I am about everything I thought was fact.