From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Digging dragons: Qijiang fossil found

Emperor's  Dragon Robe  (Public Domain)
According to Wikipedia, Chinese dragons have long been depicted as “snake-like with four legs.”

References to Chinese dragons can be traced back to at least several thousand years ago.  These creatures have traditionally symbolized “potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricanes and floods.”

Farmers in Qijang City, China must have therefore been thrilled to discover a fossil that resembles “one of China’s mythical dragons.” This skeleton surfaced while the farmers were “digging for a fish pond.”

Dr. Tetsuto Miyashita from the University of Alberta explained:  Nowhere else can we find dinosaurs with longer necks than those in China.

Could that be why “dragons” have long played such a significant role within Chinese culture?


Copyright January 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 30, 2015

St. Louis 1 Cemetery cleans up its act

Marie Laveau (Portrait by Schneider/Catlin)
The destructive practices of some tour guides and other patrons have led the Archdiocese of New Orleans to ban unauthorized visits to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

This well-known historic cemetery is believed to be the final resting place of “19th Century voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.”  The Associated Press reports on a local claim “that Laveau will grant a wish for someone who makes three Xs on [her] tomb… knocks on the tomb, and shouts the wish.”

As a result, Laveau’s alleged tomb has been marked with crayon, eye shadow, ink and lip balm.  Some have even carved Xs into the marble.

The cemetery, first established in 1789, might not have been able to withstand such desecration had it continued unchecked.  In addition to markings such as these, the
cemetery as a whole was being vandalized and trashed.

The Archdiocese has therefore imposed a ruling that tour guides must now register before entering the cemetery.  Relatives of those buried there, along with scholars “conducting     genealogical research,” will be able to arrange for personal visits.


Copyright January 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Frosty the Forbidden Snowman

Not a snowman!   (Photo by Thelmadatter)
Upon first glance, it might seem as though the building of a snowman is an entirely innocent act.

However, when one considers the intricacies of religious doctrines, it becomes difficult to predict just what will or won’t contradict at least one of them.

Dubai Reuters recently reported that “a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric” issued a “religious ruling” against “the building of snowmen,” describing them as “anti-Islamic.”

Just what is it about snowmen that could be deemed anti-Islamic?  This cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid, has explained that a snowman is an image of a human being with a soul, and creating such an image is “considered sinful” by the strict standards of Sunni Islam.

Sheikh Munajjid added:  God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on.

One of the Sheikh's Twitter supporters wrote:  It [building snowmen] is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism.  This comment might have been prompted by another Twitter   entry which included “a photo of a man in formal Arab garb holding the arm of a ‘snow bride’…”


Copyright January 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Yoda's kittens: Heart of the matter

Newborn Kitten (Photo by Aravind Sivaraj)
Yoda the Cat’s heart wasn’t always in the right place, but it sure is now.

When animal activist Beth Stern first laid eyes on Yoda, she had “never seen a more pitiful creature.”  There he was, “sitting in a cage… skinny… you could see his bones … and had poop matted in his hair.”

Stern soon learned that Yoda also had a life-threatening heart condition, “the equivalent of a human needing a heart transplant.”  He was quite depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and
just about to give up.

The Sterns, Beth and Howard, took Yoda into their hearts and home.  However, Yoda didn’t begin perking up until a new litter of kittens arrived.  He assumed the role of mother to these young ones, “grooming them twice a day” and making sure they ate.

Just a few months later, Yoda’s fostering efforts came right back at him.  The New York Daily News reports that Yoda then “looked like a cat in a commercial – fluffy, clean…”  Miraculously, even Yoda’s heart was on the mend.

Beth Stern recently said this about Yoda’s progress:  He’s better and totally off the meds for his heart.  It’s proof that love and purpose can heal.


Copyright January 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Metta: A little bit of good

Statue of Buddha   (Photo by Purshi)
Because there's (at least) a little bit of good in the (so-called) worst of us, it behooves us to encourage that good rather than criticize the bad.  It seems that what we pay most attention to is what eventually prevails.

The Buddhist practice of Metta is a way of directing attention to the good within us all.  Wikipedia explains that Metta means “amity, friendship, good will, kindness, close mental    union…  and active interest in others.”

It is a straightforward practice that can be done under practically any circumstances.  Metta entails “six successive stages of meditation” during which the practitioner “cultivates benevolence” towards the following:  himself or herself, “a good friend, a ‘neutral’ person, a difficult person,” all of these first four equally, and “then gradually the entire universe.”

How can this actually be done?  The Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta offers this Metta-type language: May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and may they look after themselves with ease!

The gist of this sacred intention can be used as a meditation mantra by tweaking the grammar to fit the recipient (e.g., May I be free…  May he or she be free…  May they be free…).


Copyright January 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 'little woman' behind India's 'big man'

Modi at GNLU  (Photo by Uncletomwood)
They say behind every “big man” there’s a “little woman,” and the gist of that certainly rings true within India’s highest ranks.

Although Michelle Obama was right by her husband’s side as they dined with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the other night, Modi’s wife was absent. 

Unfortunately, Modi’s wife has been absent from pretty much every important event in the prime minister’s life. In fact, Modi has acted for years as though his wife doesn’t even exist.

The Washington Post reports that Modi and wife Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi were promised to one another as children, according to the custom of their small-town Gujarat community.  They married as teenagers, but this union has allegedly never been consummated.

Shortly after the wedding, "devout Hindu" Modi wandered off to the Himalayas in contemplation of embarking upon a “religious life.”  He wound up returning to Gujarat, but not to his wife.  In fact, he joined a Hindu nationalist group (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, aka “R. S. S.”) that particularly discouraged marital ties.

Modi is now 64 and has never divorced.  His wife still patiently awaits a marital reunion. Her brother, with whom she lives, has said:  We try to tell her that he [Modi] will call her one day, soon.  She has full faith that he will call her to him.


Copyright January 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Unboiling Humpty Dumpty

Livin' on the edge...  (Public Domain)
It seems that what all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t do is now at least partly being done by scientists.

After Humpty Dumpty’s great fall, it’s a pretty sure bet that the wall was splattered with clear gooey slime. If some thoughtless
servant had then tried to boil him up for the king’s dinner, that slime would have thickened and whitened.

CNBC reports that this thickening/whitening process is caused by the tighter entanglement of egg proteins upon heating.  Their original “clear and mucus-like” state then becomes “white and rubbery.”

Now it’s bad enough to be cracked into smithereens, but morphed into something white and rubbery?  Not this egg!

Court magicians therefore scrambled to come up with a way to unboil Humpty, but with no luck at all.  Nevertheless, time has a way of smoothing all tangles.

All it took were a few hundred years plus some ace “researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Flinders University in Australia.” These days, it’s even possible for Mother Goose to lay a golden egg without worrying about whether all that glitter will end up white and rubbery. 


Copyright January 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Something fishy beneath Antarctica

Antarctica  (NASA map)
Nearly half a mile beneath the icy surface of Antarctica lies a world that has just been discovered.

To the surprise and delight of many, “a team of researchers found live fish and other aquatic animals inhabiting one of the world’s most
extreme ecosystems.” reports that the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has now provided us with vital information about “the ‘grounding zone’ where Antarctic ice, land and sea all converge.”

This scientific breakthrough has also provided
astounding verification about the adaptability of life itself.  If such varied and complex forms of life exist beneath this thick Antarctic glacier, then the possibility of life existing far below the surface of other icy worlds remains quite strong.


Copyright January 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 23, 2015

Colorado baker exercises her own free speech

A Holy Book, Not A Cake     (Photo by Raul654) 
Free speech not only entails what you choose to say, but also entails what you choose not to say.

When Colorado baker Marjorie Silva was asked
to add anti-gay messages to the top of a Bible-shaped cake, she refused to do so.  Silva had instead offered to bake the actual cake and then give the customer “icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself.”

The customer not only declined this suggestion, but also filed a complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Division.  He alleged that Silva had “discriminated against his religious beliefs.”

According to the Associated Press, the case is now being reviewed.  Whereas some are saying that “Colorado’s public accommodation law is not working” at all, others are pointing out that there is a qualitative difference between Silva’s case and a previous one in which the baker was told that he had "to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs."

Silva did not refuse to serve her customer.  She was willing to bake the Bible-shaped cake, and was even willing to hand over materials so that the customer could write the message himself.  What Silva wasn’t willing to do was compromise her own free-speech principles by directly expressing messages that were contrary to her compassionate beliefs.

Copyright January 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Doomsday Clock: Later than we think

Norse Ragnarok   (PD)  
As far as the Doomsday Clock was concerned, it had been 11:55 p.m. throughout 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Megan Gannon of Live Science tells us that the metaphorical Doomsday Clock “was created nearly 70 years ago by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.”  It was meant to be a visual reminder of our tenuous position here on planet Earth.

If the Doomsday Clock were ever to reach the stroke of midnight, that would signal the end of civilization as we know it.  Therefore, 11:55 p.m. brings us way close to obliteration by some major catastrophe.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will soon determine what the score is for 2015.  Because of epidemics, terrorism, nuclear capacities and the like, Doomsday’s hands could move even closer to the edge.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has already disclosed that 2015’s two biggest global threats will be “climate change and nuclear warheads.”  These threats have been exacerbated by “a lack of progress in the United States and Russia to shrink nuclear arsenals,” and by a lack of adequate international
“action to cut greenhouse gas emissions during recent U. N. climate talks in Lima, Peru.”  


Copyright January 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beyond Pluto: X, Y and ?

(Uploaded by Gabefair)
Life used to be so deliciously simple.  All you had to do in grade school was master this simple acronym:  My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

Memorize this mouthwatering statement and you would not only know how many planets are in our solar system, but you could also reel off their names.

Not so these days...  It seems that there are some toppings on the pizzas that Mother was just unaware of.  NBC News reports that “at least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk in the dark depths of space far beyond Pluto.”

Why do scientists now think that Planets X and Y (and who knows what else) probably exist out there?  Their theory stems from analyses of ETNO (“extreme trans-Neptunian objects”) orbits.

“Some invisible forces” seem to be altering these orbits, and the “most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto.”  Current calculations predict that “there are at least two [of these] planets, and probably more…”  


Copyright January 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

State of the Union: Science or science fiction?

Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address    (PD)
When it comes to State of the Union promises, it
might not be so much science as a mixed bag of
politics and economics that holds us back.

Benjamin Solomon of Bloomberg reports that the past 35 years of State of the Union addresses “offer a uniquely American version of Utopia.”
This Utopia includes visions of 3D-printing
manufacturing (Obama), smart guns (Clinton),
hydrogen-fueled cars (George W. Bush), a Star-Wars type nuclear shield (Reagan), “cyborg” microchips (Clinton) and WiFi for all (Obama).

Some of these presidential pledges are well on their way to fulfillment.  In 2014, Ohio surgeons “installed a microchip in a 23-year-old man’s brain that allowed him to move paralyzed limbs.” Honda is working on a hydrogen-fueled car as we speak.  (Coming up with enough hydrogen “fill ‘er up” stations remains a whole other challenge.)  Although 100 percent WiFi still hasn’t occurred, “97 percent of American households have a wireless device.”

Smart guns, however, are an example of how that mixed bag of politics and economics can block action.  “Thanks both to the National Rifle Association and to lack of consumer interest,” guns have not grown much smarter in a real long time.  


Copyright January 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 19, 2015

Muhammad Ali: Still fighting, still winning

Muhammad Ali in 1967  (Public Domain)
You don’t get nicknamed “The Greatest” for nothing.

Three-time world boxing champion Muhammad Ali has never given up the fight.  He has been battling Parkinson’s disease for years, and has recently been hospitalized twice for a urinary
tract infection.

Always a winner, Ali was released from the hospital just in time to celebrate his 73rd birthday.  His daughter, Maryum Ali, posted a picture of them relaxing at home on that occasion.

Another notable fight was won when Ali refused to participate in the Vietnam War.  When the United States government would not grant him conscientious-objector status, Ali sent appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court, and finally won the case.

Ali’s courage in standing up for his convictions (even after being arrested and stripped of his boxing title and license) impressed a generation of anti-war protestors, not the least of whom was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

After being inspired by Ali’s example, King “began to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.”  King had previously hesitated to do so “for fear of alienating the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda.”

Ali fought brilliantly with words, as well.  One of his famous Vietnam quotes was this:  Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville [Ali’s home town] are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?


Copyright January 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fat not funny: Celebs speak up

Lawrence in 2014  (Photo by Kurt Kulac)
When actress Jennifer Lawrence (the media’s “poster child” for “curvy”) was interviewed by Barbara Walters in 2013, Lawrence had this to say:  I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV because why is humiliating people funny.

Famed plus-size model Ashley Graham couldn’t agree more.  E! Online reports that Graham “is speaking out about the
industry’s unrealistic body image standards.”

For example, Jennifer Lawrence has stated: In Hollywood, I am obese.  Graham, however, calls Lawrence “tiny.” She nevertheless applauds Lawrence’s efforts to “help young girls embrace their figures.”

Graham explains that whether you’re a size 2 or 22, “you can be healthy as long as you’re taking care of your body, working out,” and loving what you’ve got rather than simply what Hollywood thinks you should have.


Copyright January 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Full of Malarkey: Didn't visit Heaven after all

Highest Heavens  (Illustration by Gustave Dore)
According to Business Insider, Alex Malarkey didn’t visit Heaven after all.

At the time of the alleged visit, Malarkey had been in a car accident that left him paralyzed and in a coma.  When he finally came to, Malarkey began
telling stories about visiting Heaven and meeting
with Jesus.

These stories eventually became a book titled The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.  This book has been on the shelves of many a Christian bookstore.

The trouble is, if you didn't visit Heaven in the first place, then it’s hard to come back from there.  A book about such then quickly becomes bogus.

When asked why he lied about these heavenly experiences, Malarkey replied:  …I thought it would get me attention.

An obvious case of “Watch what you ask for…”  Although Malarkey is certainly getting plenty of attention these days, some is the kind that false prophets have often received:  public condemnation.


Copyright January 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 16, 2015

Michael Douglas embraces Jewish heritage

Michael Douglas  (Photo by Georges Biard)
The Jersusalem Associated Press reports that actor Michael Douglas was just awarded the Genesis Prize, a $1 million allotment that has often been called the “Jewish Nobel Prize.”

This honor reflects Douglas’ “commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community, and the state of Israel.”  Douglas attributes his passion for promoting Jewish culture to family

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present Douglas with “the award at a ceremony in Jerusalem this summer.”  Groups that administer this prize have “close ties to the Israeli government.”

Michael's father, actor Kirk Douglas, grew up in a Jewish family.  Michael is now passing this legacy on to his own children.  He and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones celebrated “the bar mitzvah of their son Dylan” in Israel last year.

Michael Douglas explained that he will use this prize money “to promote inclusiveness and diversity in Judaism.”


Copyright January 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pope Francis: Freedom of responsible speech

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (PD)
While everyone is shouting, “Je suis Charlie” - and certainly with much good cause - Pope Francis has been pointing out that ethical freedom of speech entails a great deal of responsibility.

CNN reports that when Francis was recently en route to the Philippines, he said that people should neither “kill in the name of God” nor “insult other people’s faith.”

Clearly referring to recent events in France, Francis went on to explain that freedom of expression is meant “to help the common good” rather than to disrespect human dignity.  In keeping with this, Francis added:  One cannot provoke… one cannot make fun of faith.

The pontiff nevertheless strongly reiterated:  To kill in the name of God is an aberration.

Copyright January 15, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Solitary in Seattle: Canine commuter

Downtown Seattle  (Photo by Almdudler26)
Leashes are for dogs that have to walk from point A to point B.  Buses are for dogs that prefer a set of wheels.

Eclipse, a Seattle dog, is one of the latter.  Victoria Cavaliere of Reuters reports that this black Labrador “has been riding city buses without her owner to a local dog park.”

Dogs are generally welcome commuters on the Seattle bus lines.  Most of them, however, are accompanied by humans.

Not Eclipse…  She waits alone at a bus stop near her home.  When the familiar bus arrives, she hops aboard and stares “intently out the window.”

A short while later, Eclipse apparently recognizes her stop.  With tail a wagging, she jumps down from her seat, runs off the bus, and heads straight for the park entrance.

This feat has been witnessed many times by fellow commuters.  One happens to be radio-show host Miles Montgomery.  After he publicized the story on Seattle station KISW, listeners responded with disbelief and wonder.


Copyright January 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mastodon madness: Dem bones

Bacchus  (by Caravaggio)
USA Today reports that two Michigan neighbors dug up 42 mastodon bones from one of their backyards.

The great Greek god of grapes, Dionysus (aka "Bacchus"), would have been well pleased had they celebrated with a glass of wine.  He, too, had been destined to cross paths with these mighty beasts.

Legend has it that Dionysus was fathered by Zeus, king of the Mount Olympus gods.  Dionysus’ mother, however, was not Zeus’ wife Hera.  Therein the problem lies.

Hera was determined to get rid of this dastardly reminder of her husband’s infidelity. tells us that she therefore “threw” Dionysus “into a state of madness, in which he wandered about through many countries of the earth.”

Along the way, Dionysus fought many a great battle. With a little help from his “host of Pans, Satyrs, and Bacchic women,” Dionysus managed to charm most of his enemies.  Nevertheless, he sometimes needed to bring out the big guns.

These “big guns” turned out to be mastodons.  It is said that Dionysus drove the Amazons from the Aegean island of Samos by employing an army of elephants.  The site upon which this is said to have occurred is known as Panaima, which means “Bloody Battlefield.”

Panaima contains some of the most prolific fossil beds in all of Europe.  The presence of all these mastodon bones might have long ago inspired the Greek myth of Dionysus and the war elephants.


Copyright January 13, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 12, 2015

Totally anything? How prejudice spreads

Birmingham Central Mosque  (JimmyGuano)
There’s a firestorm of protest (and well there should be) concerning a recent pronouncement by Fox News commentator Steven Emerson.

Emerson declared that Birmingham, UK is a “totally Muslim” city, and that “non-Muslims "just simply don’t go” there.

Whether any place on this planet was ever 100 percent anything is highly doubtful.  Certainly, a modern metropolis within a highly diverse nation would not qualify for such a narrow (minded) description.

Alex Ritman of The Hollywood Reporter states that the 1.1 million population of Birmingham, UK is actually “approximately 80 percent… non-Muslim.”

After being publicly criticized for his false reporting, Emerson apologized and offered to make amends.  Admitting that he “should have been much more careful” in his fact-checking, Emerson then said that he would be “making a donation” to Birmingham’s children’s hospital.

And how about one to a Birmingham mosque?

Copyright January 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Food for thought, not bellies

What about her?  (RonaldDuncan)  
Why humans call some animals “pets” and others “dinner” remains a mystery.

People in the United States who wouldn’t dream of eating dogs happily chomp down on cows (all the while criticizing Koreans for raising dogs as gourmet delicacies).

Nevertheless, compassion of any ilk is to be celebrated.  The Alexandria AFP recently reported that “a dozen dogs originally destined for dinner tables in South Korea arrived in the Washington
area to be adopted as pets.”

This was due to the efforts of the Humane Society International (HSI), which negotiated with a South Korean dog farmer in order to
bring this about.  The farmer, who admitted to a fondness for dogs even while raising them for food, agreed to release these dogs and begin blueberry farming instead.  HSI compensated him for this decision.

HSI is also working with “local groups in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to raise public awareness of the dog meat trade.”  How wonderful it would be if this compassion were to extend to all of the animals we call burgers, nuggets and stews.

Copyright January 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Puberty: Earlier and earlier

Annunciation   (Painting by El Greco)
People are often shocked to hear that Juliet was only 13 when she met Romeo, and Mary was likely even younger at the time of the Annunciation.

Today’s young ladies are growing up (at least biologically) faster yet.  Carey Wallace of Time reports that “girls are going through puberty earlier than ever before,” and some are “showing signs of very early puberty – before age eight.”

Wallace attributes this markedly early puberty to three major factors:  obesity (citing that “twenty percent of children and adolescents are now obese”), chemicals (that influence the delicate hormonal balance), and stress (especially from “poor familial relationships”).

Although extremely early puberty may be traced to some 
of these factors, finger-pointing will only make matters more
difficult.  Learning how to “manage this phenomenon” in a way that emphasizes its “hidden blessings” rather than its “pitfalls” can instead be supportive to all concerned.


Copyright January 10, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fracking rattles Mother Earth

Utica Shale Regions  (USGS)
Being poked, prodded and injected with acrid chemicals has got to be quite the rattling experience.

At least that’s how Mother Earth seems to perceive it.  After putting up with environmental abuse for all these years, she is now fighting back.  Rattle her cage, and she just might rattle yours.

Becky Oskin of Live Science reports that hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has been triggering “earthquakes on a hidden fault in ancient crystalline rock beneath a natural gas well in the Utica Shale.”

Since earthquakes had never before been “recorded in this region of Ohio before fracking started,” and since the “shaking stopped after the well was shut down,” it is highly likely that the earthquakes were a direct result of the fracking.

Seismologists from Ohio’s Miami University “identified 77 earthquakes” (magnitudes 1 through 3) during eight days in March 2014.  

Never fear, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has promised to “stop drilling and evaluate a site if quakes occur.”

That is, if it’s not too late by then…   


Copyright January 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 8, 2015

'Forest Person' freed in Argentina

'Forest Person'   (Photo by Eleifert)
According to Wikipedia, the very name “orangutan” is derived from two Malay and Indonesian terms:  orang (“person”) and hutan (“forest”).  This name originally applied to “forest-dwelling humans,” rather than to great apes.

The intelligence of orangutans was noted early on.  Dutch physician Jacobus Bontius wrote in 1631 “that Malaysians had
informed him the ape was able to talk, but preferred not to ‘lest he be compelled to labour.’”

Orangutans are now known to be “among the most intelligent primates,” and have been “extensively studied for their learning abilities.”  They utilize a variety of “sophisticated tools,” are “very technically adept nest builders,” do cost/benefit analyses, and play computer games at Zoo Atlanta.

Richard Lough of Reuters reports on a recent “landmark ruling” by an Argentinian court.  Sandra, an orangutan at the Buenos Aires Zoo, was afforded the rights of a “non-human person.”  Due to her high cognitive functioning, AFADA (the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights) had argued that she “should not be treated as an object.”

AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre pointed out that this case paves the way “for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories.” 

As compassion evolves, may cognitive functioning become just one of many reasons for freeing these
sentient captives.   


Copyright January 8, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Creativity: Dishonestly speaking

Michelangelo   (by Daniele da Volterra)  
When trying to enhance creativity, does honesty just get in the way?

Some seem to think so.

Lynne Vincent of The Conversation UK reports that “being dishonest can actually promote creativity.”  A study by Francesca Gino and Scott Wiltermuth showed that
participants who had cheated on a specific task subsequently performed better on a test of creativity than those who hadn’t cheated.

Because dishonesty often involves the breaking of societal rules, this very rule-breaking allows people to then “flout convention and expectations.”  History is filled with examples of creative leaders who became successful by deviating from the straight and narrow.

Vincent also reports that people who self-identify as creative “may feel more entitled” than those who don’t.  These feelings of entitlement tend to promote the taking of “creative risks that they otherwise may have shied away from.”


Copyright January 7, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Michio Kushi: Careful yet mortal

Kushi's teacher, George Ohsawa (PD) 
Although many of us find this difficult to accept, immortality seems to be spiritual rather than material.

As Michio Kushi’s son, epidemiologist Haruo Kushi, recently explained:  But everybody [emphasis on “body”] dies of something…

Haruo Kushi likely made this statement in response to those who are wondering why his father, mother and sisters all died of cancer.

After all, wouldn’t careful macrobiotic living guarantee against such a fate?  As with many other claims regarding material immortality, the answer seems to be a resounding “No!”

Nevertheless, there are many good reasons for adopting a healthy lifestyle, quality of life here on earth being one of them.  If our days upon this precious planet are, indeed, strictly numbered – then all the more reason to maximize each and every one of them.

Michio Kushi not only maximized his own potential, but also that of countless others.  As Emi Boscamp of Mind Body Green explained:  He sowed the seeds of the health food movement in America.  He changed the way we eat – and therefore function.


Copyright January 6, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 5, 2015

Alien life detector: Nano nano

(Drawing by norro)
Forget listening for signals from outer space.  So 20th century…

The new deal these days is to watch for microscopic movement.  In other words, nanotechnology can now detect whether or not microbes are wriggling their way throughout the universe.

HNGN reports that researchers in Belgium and Switzerland have devised “the first ever alien-life detector.”  It has not only recognized “nearby human, plant and mouse cells” here on earth, but is also expected “to find microscopic alien life on other planets.”

Professor Giovanni Longo of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de 
Lausanne declares:  Life is movement.  Therefore, when tiny “feet” are on the move, there will be telltale traces.  These traces consist of “an increase in the amplitude of the measured fluctuations.”

There now, isn’t surfing the “nano nano” waves a lot more fun than sitting at SETI for decades to come?


Copyright January 5, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Brain surgery: What's up doc?

Trepanated  Neolithic Skull  (Photo by Rama)
If you happen to wake up during brain surgery and want to know how things are going, all you have to do is ask.

At least that was the experience of 19-year-old Iga Jasica, who woke up halfway through the removal of her brain tumor.

Fox News reports that while Jasica’s “brain was exposed,” the anesthetic “wore off.”  She was therefore able to chat awhile.  (Hey, you don’t want to appear unfriendly while surgeons are slicing and dicing.)

Although this might seem somewhat barbaric to the modern reader, drilling through skulls was formerly quite in vogue.  Known as trepanation, the procedure consisted of boring holes into hard heads order to “treat health
problems related to intracranial diseases.”

During ancient times, trepanation was thought to release “evil spirits.”  Wikipedia reports that the trepanned bone “may have afterwards been worn as a charm” in order to ward off future demons.


Copyright January 4, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Venus charms NASA

Come hither, Earthlings!      (Public Domain)
It seems as though even the most accomplished scientists can’t resist the mythological charms of Venus.

Goddess of love, beauty (plus a whole lot of unmentionables), Venus has lured many a human to her side.  Now she is bidding the bigwigs at NASA to send over some astronauts, pronto.

Lo and behold, NASA officials are working on just that.  (Which goes to prove:  Whatever Venus wants, Venus gets.)

HNGN reports that “researchers from the Space Mission Analysis Branch” at NASA “believe a mission to Venus makes more sense than one to Mars.”  (It’s that sulfur dust she sprinkled into their coffee, no doubt.)

Of course, these astronauts better not get too close, because Venus is one hot mama.  Her surface temperature (863 degrees Fahrenheit) would be capable of melting lead.  That, plus the abundance of sulfur, makes any intimate relationship with this goddess downright hellish.

NASA is therefore exploring the possibilities of colonizing her atmosphere, rather than her surface.  Sounds like the perfect romantic set-up for unrequited love:  Forever look, but never ever touch.


Copyright January 3, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mario Cuomo: 'A Catholic Governor's Perspective'

NY's Mario Cuomo  (by Kenneth Zirkel)
With customary brilliance and thoughtfulness, Mario Cuomo stood before his Notre Dame colleagues and wrestled with angels in September 1984.

His stated theme was “Religious Belief and PublicMorality,” a theme complex enough to grapple with forever. Cuomo therefore made it clear that he did not wish to tackle the entire tangled web of “Church and State,” but would rather “try to stay contained.”

Cuomo could not, however, resist this one quick zinger before launching into the body of his speech:  Certainly, although everybody talks about a wall of separation between church and state, I’ve seen religious leaders scale that wall with all the dexterity of olympic athletes.

Cuomo also couldn’t resist naming some names.  He made mention of an alleged prayer that “Fishhooks” McCarthy (no questions about the nickname, please) recited each morning on his way to Tammany Hall. 

As “Fishhooks” quickly ducked into the recesses of St. James Church in lower (lowest?) Manhattan, he would whisper these words:  Oh, Lord, give me health and strength.  We’ll steal the rest.

Cuomo himself was far more devout.  During this talk, he proclaimed to be “attached to the Church first by birth, then by choice, now by love.”  He identified the Catholic Church as not only his “spiritual home,” but also his “hope.”

He very openly admitted that “applying religious beliefs to everyday life often
presents difficult challenges.”  Cuomo, nevertheless, took on the most intense of
these challenges, and did so with courage, compassion, fairness and integrity.

Quite a rare combination of virtues, especially for one who was “by training a lawyer
and by practice a politician…”  He will be greatly missed.


Copyright January 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Left behind: Centuries of prejudice

Monroe leaning left...    (Public Domain)
What do Marilyn Monroe and Anglina Jolie have in common? 

Nope, not that.  Nor that.

It turns out that they’re both left-handed.  In other words, they’re in that minority (approximately 10 percent) of people
with left-hand dominance.

Although it didn’)t seem to do either one of them much harm, there are those who would argue the point.  Culturally, left-
handed people have been discriminated against for centuries.

Wikipedia explains that long before toilet tissue was prevalent, the left hand was what people cleansed with. The favored right hand was reserved for eating and social interactions.

The left hand was therefore looked upon as “unclean.” It is not surprising that religious literature also reflected this bias.

For example, in Matthew’s Gospel the chosen sheep are sent to the right, and the rejected goats to the left.  In Bible-based artwork, Satan is often depicted as being left-handed.   

The English word “sinister” (meaning “evil”) originated with the Latin word “sinister” (meaning “left side”).  The English word “right” (meaning “correct”) is rooted in the notion that the right side is the more upstanding (“righteous”) one.


Copyright January 1, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved