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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fido: Love me, love my 'owner'

(Photo by Mdk572)
The way to a dog’s heart may not be through its stomach, but rather through its owner’s heart.

John Moore of AFP reports on a Japanese study in which dogs refused “food offered by people who have snubbed their master.”

This discovery shows that dogs have a “capacity to cooperate socially” beyond the motivation of self-interest.  This social
capacity, which is also found in “humans and some other primates,” is allegedly rare among animals.

Study leader Kazuo Fujita of Kyoto University pointed out that this trait “is one of [the] key factors in building a highly collaborative society.”


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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Through a lens lightly

(Public Domain)
Ever wonder why people seem so drawn to photography? 

Whether they’re peering through pages of images gone by at family reunions, or gaping at front-page sensations in the local newspaper, viewers have been significantly impacted by such captured moments.

What is it about photography that draws people in?  Jan Phillips, Executive Director of The Livingkindness Foundation, views this art as “an act of intimacy… between other individuals and herself, the earth and herself, or the great
mysteries and herself.”

Having utilized a camera to “express her emotions, heartbreaks and hope since 1969,” Phillips will soon be sharing her experiences via a Spirituality & Practice e-course.   

Themes within this course will include the following:  …retraining our eyes to see divinity in our midst…  identifying our commonness with those who seem
different…  discovering new ways to add light to the world.  


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Space elevator: Tower of Babel?

Up, up and away!   (Circa 1370 AD)
When humans tried to kiss the sky the first time around, it didn’t work so well.  Neither did it seem to work for Hendrix himself.

Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way since the days of “Lingerie, Third Floor” type elevators.  So long, in fact, that we’re now planning an elevator into space…

Astronaut Chris Impey explains to NPR’s Terry Gross that this is not as far out as it seems.  You simply “string a cable up into space… to a geostationary point [the point at which the cable’s “orbital period” equals the rotation period of the heavenly body from which it was launched].”

Impey compares this to “an Indian rope trick” in which the spinning of the cable sends it “straight out away from you by the centrifugal force.”  If launched from Earth, the cable “rope” would have to be 100,000 kilometers long.  We don’t currently have “a material strong enough to make a cable that long suspended against [Earth’s] gravity.”

Our current technology, however, could make this work from the Moon’s surface.  Because the Moon has only one-sixth the Earth’s gravity, our current cable materials can withstand that lesser amount of opposing force.

Impey concludes:  …if you build a space elevator, you can get essentially anywhere in the solar system for the cost of almost no rocket fuel.  A free ride?  Hardly.  We don’t yet know the hidden costs.   


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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

'Healer-in-Chief' sings 'Amazing Grace'

Olney Hymns   (Public Domain)
When you’re President of the United States (POTUS), it often seems as though you’ve “been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls…”

After surviving all that, President Obama is feeling liberated, so much so that he belted out a heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace” for all the world to hear.

While paying tribute to the Charleston, South Carolina shooting victims, Obama also put out “a call to action” for ending “racial insensitivities.”

This plea included some firm words regarding the “pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.”

During a Rose Garden “victory lap,” the president referred to recent Supreme Court decisions regarding “Obamacare” funding and gay marriage as “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

All in all, it's been an amazing week for a president who hasn’t forgotten “Amazing Grace.”


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

Friday, June 26, 2015

AI motto: Better a pet than a steak

Back to the future?  (Photo by Sigurdas) 
Thought for the hour:  Be kind to pets because some day you might become one.

At least that’s what Steve Wozniak predicts.  And he should know, having taking that historic bite of the Apple.

Benjamin Snyder of Fortune reports that Wozniak preached this gospel to a roomful of “captive” humans at a recent technology conference.

Wozniak stated something to the effect of “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”  He theorized that such pets will be treated real well by their robot “owners” because, after all, humans were the “gods originally.”

On the other hand, you can’t necessarily trust your kitchen appliances.  Wozniak warns that they may someday rise up and collectively rebel against the servitude that people have imposed upon them.

So use that blender sparingly, lest you become “a real smoothie.”


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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hunting for oceans: The glint effect

Vietnam Glint   (Photo by Handyhuy)
Since oceans mean water, and water often means life, scientists have been hunting for oceans in outer space.

Alan Yuhas of The Guardian explains that there are many “ice-rich worlds which potentially harbor subsurface oceans.”

Jupiter’s moon Europa is likely one of them.  NASA already has White House approval to do a fly-by mission of Europa, complete with “ice-penetrating radar.”

Astronomer Vikki Meadows has been seeking out oceans via the “glint effect.”  She describes this as a familiar phenomenon for anyone who has “ever sat on a beach after sunrise or sunset.”

These small flashes of light that bounce off the water might also occur on other worlds.  Researchers have already calculated “the glint effect for other planets,” and will utilize it to “help detect oceans on solar systems outside our own.”        


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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Michael Douglas: Jewish by what definition?

Douglas in 2013  (Photo by Georges Biard)
Actor Michael Douglas, born of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, has embraced a Jewish identity later in life.

Because Douglas is also married to a non-Jewish woman, his own children have a mixed heritage.  Nevertheless, Douglas’ son Dylan was bar mitzvahed last year.

During a recent Israeli event in which he was awarded “the second annual Genesis prize,” Douglas stated:  strongly believe that Judaism should reflect the spirit of welcome and tradition that existed in Abraham’s tent.

However, centuries of Torah interpretation have led to some widely divergent definitions of Judaism.  Who is and isn’t a Jew has been sharply debated throughout the ages.

Orthodox and Conservative Judaism would contend that Douglas was not born a Jew because his mother was not a Jew.  Reform and Liberal Judaism instead note that “in the Bible the line always followed the father…”

Then there are those who ask whether the definition of Judaism should hinge so strongly upon genealogy.  Genealogical definitions could make Judaism seem more like a race than a religion, a view that the Nazis murderously promoted.

As Douglas pointed:  Inclusiveness and tolerance are Jewish values, too.


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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Praying for El Nino

(Photo by Bidgee)
When meteorologist Joe Sirard heard that there was going to be an Interfaith Prayer for Rain in California, he stated:  I’d recommend they pray for a strong El Nino this winter.  We need all the help we can get.

Although skeptics have pooh-poohed the whole venture, it is far from a new idea.  In fact, an Arabic prayer for rain is said to have worked wonders within African villages.

When word of this Arabic prayer spread, Dr. Ahsan Khan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim
Community in Los Angeles decided to give it a try.  He called upon members of many different religions (“Muslim, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian Scientist”) to gather together for this prayer ceremony.

Khan explained:  Prayer for rain is actually common across different faiths.  Water holds a very special place in three of the world’s foremost religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), all of which “originated in the desert.” 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars  (by Daein Ballard)
Because living in a biodome (essentially “a box without direct sunlight, wind or rain”) can get old before you do, scientists are searching for a better way to settle in on Mars.

Jessica Orwig of Business Insider reports that terraforming might just be that way.  She defines terraforming as “the process by which humans would alter the global environment of another world to make it resemble the friendly conditions we enjoy here on Earth.”

Creating “comfortable temperatures” would be a top priority.  Carbon dioxide might be the key to this endeavor.  If the right amount (not too little, but not too much) can be found within Martian soil and ice, CO2 could then be released into the currently-thin atmosphere. 

This CO2 “blanket” would increase the planet’s warmth, hopefully to a degree that humans can easily withstand.  Then all we’d have to worry about is suffocation and dehydration.


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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Peace a Long and Winding Road

Paul and Linda McCartney (Jim Summaria)
Some say that peace is not only the journey, but also the destination.  Nevertheless, for Paul McCartney, peace has been a long and winding road.

“The Long and Winding Road” that McCartney so lyrically describes is filled with tears of pain.   It reflects the historic breakup of an intimate partnership.

McCartney, who later lost his wife Linda to cancer, knows firsthand how elusive peace can be.  He also knows how important it is to “take these broken wings and learn to fly.” 

And again.  

So when he recently dedicated a rendition of "Long and Winding Road" to the grieving souls in Charleston, the lyrics rang true.  McCartney then called upon his listeners to “take a moment to pray for peace and harmony among the people of different colors.”

Dover AFP reports that McCartney afterwards sang “Blackbird,” explaining that it was originally recorded during America’s “racial tensions” of 1968.


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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Leonard Pitts: 'Race is a chimera'

Asian Diversity, c. 1904  (Public Domain)
When viewed through a macroscopic International Space Shuttle lens, borders between nations are unrecognizable.

When viewed through a microscopic genetic-mapping lens, borders between races are equally unrecognizable.

In a recent column, Leonard Pitts explained that researchers “could find no difference” in the “genetic codes of five people – African-American, Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic.” They therefore concluded, back in 2000, that “the concept of race has no scientific basis.”

“Race” is instead “a set of cultural likenesses, shared experiences and implicit assumptions,” a far cry from the “immutable truth” that it is often made out to be.

Tragically, these “implicit assumptions” can lead to persecution, torture and mass murder if left unchecked.  Although race might indeed be “a chimera,” it is a chimera that far too many believe is real.


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


Friday, June 19, 2015

Space pioneers: A whole other breed

Chris Impey   (Uploaded by Kevinkhu123) 
During an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, astronaut Chris Impey discussed the difficulties of sending humans into space.

First off, you’ve got to feed them.  Ditto on adequate clothing and shelter. Humans also have this tendency to become bored and lonely.  (There are just so many reruns of Earth that any one orbiter can stomach.)

Nevertheless, Impey points out that pioneering another world has its silver (and multi-mineral) lining.  Such hardy souls may even be fostering the evolution of a distinctly different species.

Predicts Impey:  …after maybe only a couple of generations, these people will become an offshoot of the human tree.

The difference in gravity will change their physical bodies.  These changes will be passed on to future generations.

Psychological effects will be just as apparent.  Space settlers will begin to feel like “a new colony, a new people,” as did Earth’s pioneers.

Impey theorizes:  …they’ve going to quickly turn into maybe even a new species. 


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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Golden Warriors kiss 'Golden Calf'

Worshipping the Calf   (Public Domain)
All that glitters isn’t gold.  Or even all that golden.

The NBA Championship Trophy, coveted by many and won by few, is actually mostly silver and vermeil (an amalgamation of metals).  Wikipedia notes that it is “valued at $13,500”
(pocket change for many NBA players).

Nevertheless, these very same players were literally kissing the trophy after winning the recent championship.  Now some might say they were hamming it up for the cameras, but their level of intensity seemed beyond that.

MVP Steph Curry held the “Calf” (as opposed to the “Cav”) in a tender embrace as he smooched his own reflection in its 14-carat veneer.

At least the original Calf was allegedly Golden through and through.  Exodus tells us that it was made from earrings that the Israelites had given to Aaron.

Does holding this trophy indicate that a certain Golden Warrior is the best basketball player on the planet?  Not necessarily.

What it does suggest is this:  Idol worship (of oneself and/or others) is far from obsolete.    


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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

From termites to skinks, monogamy rules

Shingleback Skinks  (Photo by Coojah)
Those who see lifetime commitment as a burden might very well describe it as having “an albatross around the neck.”

Little do they know how rooted in scientific fact that allusion actually is. explains that albatrosses mate for life.  Once an albatross has its heart set on another, it utilizes an elaborate system of “preening, pointing, rattling, bowing and other sweet dance moves” to woo that partner.  After that, “unto death do us part” is their motto.

Albatrosses aren’t the only ones who get hooked for life. There’s an alpha female behind every alpha male in the wolf pack.  Amazingly enough, these two alphas are adept at sharing dominance within the group. Humans can certainly stand to learn a thing or two from their example.

Shingleback skinks (“slow-moving lizards”) are also in it for the long haul.  They have been known to “go steady” for months before copulating.  Their union can even last beyond death; the surviving skink has been known to “remain by its mate’s dead body for days, tenderly nudging it…”

Last but not least (except perhaps in size), termites “are one of the most monogamous creatures on Earth.”  In fact, termite families (“colonies”) are “more sophisticated than the families of any other animal.”

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rosetta and Philae: Give us your answers true

Philae Obelisk  (Photo by Eugene Birchall)
In days of yore and lore, Rosetta was a stone and Philae was an obelisk.  Together they led humans to a deciphering of ancient hieroglyphics.

Rosetta was the driving force right along.  When discovered by Napoleonic soldier Pierre-Francois Bouchard in 1799, she “spoke” to him in three ways:  Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and Ancient Greek.

When Philae joined the fun in 1815, her talents were added to the mix.  On her tall narrow surface were two scripts:  Egyptian hieroglyphs and Ancient Greek.

Neither icon made many more headlines until decades later.  In fact, it was just recently that the two began to really surface again.

On a sort of “second honeymoon” to comet 67P/
Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the partners rode tandem for much of the trip.  However, constant togetherness can take its toll on any relationship.

Philae therefore hopped aboard the comet’s surface while Rosetta hovered nervously overhead.  Rosetta’s worst fears were soon realized. Philae feel into a deep sleep, and didn’t awaken for months.

Rosetta and the folks back home on Earth remained steadfast throughout all this drama.  Their loyalty was recently rewarded:  Philae slowly awoke to the sound of universal cheering.

It’s amazing what faith plus science can accomplish…


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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sex in space: The smile high club

International Space Station  (Hmm...)
Just because humans are hurtling through space doesn’t mean that they won’t want to do what came naturally back on Earth.

The big question is:  How does that work (or not) in little-to-no gravity?

As astronomer Chris Impey pointed out during an NPR interview, “all your capillaries and your muscles are designed to deal with the tug of gravity, and you won’t have that.” 

Impey also warned that “Newton’s third law of action and reaction” could interfere with certain “methods of sex that you might use on Earth.”

Don’t have a clue what Impey is getting at?  This might be a good incentive for boning up on high-school biology and physics...


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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton: Cupcakes and Corinthians

Hostess with the Mostess?  (Public Domain)
Even a presidential candidate has got to eat, and what’s a meal without some dessert?

While recently on the campaign trail in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton therefore ducked into a bakery for some cupcakes.

While there, she noticed that a fellow customer was studying the Bible.  Clinton walked over and and asked what section he was focused upon.

The man, Rev. Frederick Donnie Hunt, answered that he was reading Corinthians 13.  Clinton replied, “Oh I know it well.”

From there, the candidate and minister engaged one another in a brief conversation about the importance of Bible study.

Turns out that Rev. Hunt, who later claimed no foreknowledge of Clinton’s visit to the bakery, is a Democrat who voted twice for Bill Clinton.

Nevertheless, he voted for Obama over Hillary last time around, stating that he had preferred Obama’s “vision” to hers.  Apres cupcakes, Rev. Hunt is all for Hillary, explaining:  I was really impressed that she knew that particular scripture.


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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wagg nabs a planet

'Blue Stragglers'   (ESA/NASA photo)
Not that long ago, teenage lads spent their free time fishing for trout.

These days, there are way bigger fish to fry.  CNN reports that 15-year-old intern Tom Wagg, who was undergoing a work experience at Keele University in England, “noticed a tiny dip in the light of a star as a planet passed in front of it.”

Turns out that this planet (as big as Jupiter) had not been discovered before.  That’s partly because it’s “1,000 light years away.”

Wagg’s find is in the process of being named.  It currently goes by the label “WASP-142b.”  WASP is an acronym for “Wide Angle Search for Planets,” a Keele University project which “scans millions of stars in night skies.”

Wagg is understandably excited about his “catch.”  After all, it’s not every day that you get to hitch your wagon to a star.


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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Christopher Lee: A walk in the dark

Lee as Dracula in 1958   (Public Domain)
For some, life seems like a walk in the park.  These are the sunny optimists who see the glass as half-full.

Then there are those who focus on the darker shades of life.  You know, 50 and counting…

Christopher Lee seemed to be one of those latter individuals.  He once told the Guardian:  There is a dark side in all of us.  And for us ‘bad’ people, the bad side dominates…  We
cannot stop ourselves doing what we are doing.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lee found persistent nobility to be somewhat boring.  He was “fascinated by the nature of evil,” and perhaps sought answers within his “library of 12,000 books on the occult.”

Lee may have reached deeply into his own dark side in order to portray characters as brilliantly as he did.  He was the first to play Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in living color, and starred as Dracula ten times over.

Sharing a birthday with horror legend Vincent Price just made it all the bloodier.  Both were born on May 27th, Price 11 years before Lee.  Lee died recently at the age of 93.


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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

LeBron James: Christmas in June

Apple Watches   (Public Domain)
Although this King James has not written a Bible, he certainly has the “love one another” part in progress.

When LeBron hands out Apples, they’re more for his pupils than for his teachers.  While serving as an unofficial team coach, James recently gifted each one of his fellow Cavaliers with these popular watches.

Teammate J. R. Smith recently reported that “every day it’s something different… sneakers, Beats…, hoodies, book bags.”  Smith then added that he “can’t wait to come back next year.”

Behind all these material gifts (which NBA players can certainly afford to buy for themselves) stands the one gift that humans seem to prize above all others:  the gift of appreciation.

Whether on the court, or holding court, LeBron is a master at sharing knowledge, wisdom and gratitude with his basketball family.

Dave Daniels of points out that there is one more gift that LeBron has fully shared with them:  “the gift of his presence.”


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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Obama: Yeah, but did he inhale?

(Photo by Geierunited)
When a recent photo of President Obama showed him to be holding “something roughly cigarette-packed-shaped,” a chain reaction quickly fired up.

Inquiring minds now want to know just what the president was hanging on to.  An old habit?  Or perhaps just a deck of cards.

It took an ace writer like Philip Bump of The Washington Post to dig down deep into the matter.  After mulling over the sordid possibilities, Bump concluded:  We are, none of us, without our bad habits…  Therefore, for God’s sake, let the man smoke an occasional cigarette if he wants to.

Bump then invited everyone and his brother-in-law to e-mail harangues about “how irresponsible that attitude is.”  His only stipulation regarding such complaints was this:  Please include your own personal bad habit and what your plan is to kick it.


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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hopeful Tiger: And why not?

Woods in 2011 (Photo by Angela George)
Life is filled with naysayers.  If you buy into their predictions, then you’re flirting with a future of self-fulfilling prophecies.

The “hit ‘em when they’re down” crowd now has its muzzle pointed straight at Tiger Woods.  (When LeBron recently proved them wrong, they hunted for a different king to depose.)

In an article titled “Tiger Woods’ game is spinning. So is he,” Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post began with a close-up of Tiger’s “receding hairline and… weary eyes.”

This was soon followed by a litany of critiques, which included everything from Tiger’s now-181st ranking to his “tabloid scandal.”

When Tiger countered with some upbeat statements, they were called “defiant” rather than “hopeful.” After all, what has optimism ever done for anybody?

Plenty.  It was LeBron who said:  You can’t be afraid to fail.  It’s the only way you succeed…


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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Color them categorical

(Photo by MichaelMaggs)
When all is said and done, we humans tend to remember categories more than individuals.

This was especially apparent during a recent study by Jonathan Flombaum, a cognitive psychologist at John Hopkins University.

According to Live Science, Flombaum and his team “conducted four experiments” on how participants perceived various colors.

By asking people to identify different hues, researchers found that “fuzzy naming” was most prevalent near the boundaries between colors.  Participants therefore tended to “choose the same shades as the best example of each color.” 

These “best example” shades were then seen as representative of the entire color category.  In other words, many shades of blue would be cognitively lumped together under the umbrella of the “best example” shade of blue.  Sort of like:  “You’ve seen one blue, you’ve seen them all…”

Flombaum therefore concluded:  In general, we tend to remember things as more similar to our expectations of how those things are.


Copyright June 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 7, 2015

CP Swagger: He ain't heavy

Wheelchair-Swing  (by Ingolfson)
About ten miles from the finish line, Hunter Gandee wasn’t sure if he would make it.

Having already carried his seven-year-old brother Braden for approximately 30 miles, Hunter was feeling overwhelmed.  Braden, who suffers from cerebral palsy (CP), cannot walk on his own. 

NBC News reports that Hunter’s goal had been to raise awareness about cerebral palsy by completing a 40-mile walk with Braden “securely strapped to his back.”

Feeling so near and yet so far, Hunter had seriously considered giving up.  Battling “heat, rain and fatigue” for miles had worn down his spirit, to say nothing of his body.

So what got them through?  At mile 30, “Hunter reached out to a friend, who said a prayer for the brothers.”  This, plus some rest and adjustments to Braden’s position, renewed their stamina.

When later crossing the finish line of this “Cerebral Palsy Swagger” walk, Hunter and Braden were met with “thunderous applause and cheers.”


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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Rabbi advises: 'Think before you snip'

Brit Milah   (Photo by Vatsnews) 
According to Rabbi Benjamin Shalva, the decision to circumcise is not always a rational one.

In an article for The Washingon Post, Shalva cites some “irrational” reasons for circumcising his own son.  These reasons did not rest upon medical considerations, but instead upon feelings of being “called by God, history and tribe to make the cut.”

Shalva explains:  …the heart does not operate according to the latest updates from the CDC.

Nevertheless, the rabbi warns that circumcision is not only “primal” and “bloody,” but also “painful.” Many modern-day Jews have therefore refrained from putting their sons through this “snippet of flesh and blood sacrifice.”

Shalva encourages parents to “think before you snip.”  For some, circumcision might be the right spiritual choice.  Others may find “less traumatic methods” for helping their sons to lead overall “healthy” lives.


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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Surgical songfest: The brain on music

Surgical Instruments?   (by Sara Guastevi)
Removing a brain tumor can be a delicate procedure, but not so delicate as to preclude musical accompaniment.

Astonishingly enough, that music has recently been provided by the patient himself.  Deborah Hastings of New York Daily News reports that Anthony Kulkamp Dias strummed his   guitar and sang everything from Beatles to country while undergoing brain surgery.

His right hand felt a “bit weaker, because that was the side they were operating on,” but Dias was otherwise satisfied with his performance.  The surgeons obviously were, too, since they asked Dias for an encore at one point.

So what's the rationale behind this surgical concert?  It turns out that “keeping brain surgery patients awake is a pioneering effort that allows physicians to speak to those they are operating on, and to chart their responses.”  This helps surgeons to pinpoint target areas.

And the pain?  The anesthetics must be given “at levels that make patients pain-free without rendering them unconscious.”


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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hair today, donated tomorrow

Chemotherapy Drip   (PD)
An 8-year-old boy named Christian McPhilamy is living up to the very best of what his first name implies.

After viewing a commercial for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Christian learned that young cancer patients often lose their hair during treatments.  He became determined to donate his own blonde locks for this worthy cause.

After putting up with teasing and taunting by peers for the next two years, Christian was finally ready for a haircut.  Good Housekeeping reports that his dedication produced four long ponytails for the children at St. Jude’s.

Christian's mom, Deeana Thomas, stated:  Christian has such a huge heart.  I don’t even know if there are words to describe…

There are:  faith, hope, charity.


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

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Robots and software and jobs, oh my

You rang, Sir?   (Photo by Gnsin)
Although researchers are predicting that 47 percent of current U. S. jobs might be automated within the next two decades,
this doesn’t necessarily mean that the unemployment rate will skyrocket.

Nor does it necessarily indicate that meaningful work is a thing of the past.  Jeff Ward-Bailey of Christian Science Monitor points out that “new jobs will arise as others are ceded to machines.”

For example, even food servers are subject to this change.  Restaurant chains such as Applebee’s are already utilizing tablets for customers to place orders on and make payments with.  Legal secretaries and telemarketers are also being phased out.

However, new industries such as “software development, big data analysis, and renewable energy” are providing jobs that never used to exist.  Industries “that haven’t even been dreamed up yet” will also help to fill some employment gaps.

Ward-Bailey explains that America is no stranger to vocational transitions.  Whereas approximately 40 percent of the U. S. labor force was agriculturally based a mere century ago, “today only about 2 percent” still is.


Copyright June 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The killer in painkiller

(Photo by James Heilman, MD)
“No pain, no gain” might soon be revised to read:  No pain, ill gain.

Rebekah Marcarelli of HNGN reports on a study which shows that “certain drugs bring out homicidal behavior” by weakening impulse control and interfering with emotional processing.

These drugs include commonly-prescribed painkillers, antidepressants and “tranquillizing benzodiazepines.”  The elevated risk of homicide in some of these cases has been deemed significant.

This study from the University of Eastern Finland “looked at the prescription drug use of 959 individuals convicted of a homicide.”  Results were uncomfortably startling.

After other factors were controlled, “antidepressants were linked to a 31 percent increased risk of homicide,” benzodiazepines to a 45 percent, opiate painkillers to a 92 percent, and anti-inflammatory painkillers to a 206 percent.

Pain, of course, is a part of life that we all must struggle with.  Researching safe, and even beneficial, ways of processing such pain can be an important part of the spiritual journey.


Copyright June 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 1, 2015

Eris: What's in a name?

Eris, circa 550 BC   (Public Domain)
Eris, that hotly-debated “celestial body” within our solar system which is rightfully named after “the Greek goddess of strife and discord,” is an Eris by many other names.

It is also dubbed “Planet X” (by astronomer Percival Lowell), a “dwarf planet” (by the International Astronomical Union), “Lila” (by Mike Brown of Cal Tech, who referenced a namesake Hindu belief that the cosmos is “the outcome of a game played by Brahma”), and “Xena” (by the 2003 discovery team, that referenced both the “Warrior Princess” and the
previous “Planet X”).

If all this weren’t confusing enough, Eris’ “dwarf planet” categorization has also been a source of contention.  Eris’ discovery forced the IAU in 2006 to hone their definition of just what a planet is.

This IAU definition of a planet now includes the following: “…an object that orbits the Sun, which is large enough to make itself roughly spherical… [and] has enough gravity to force any objects of similar size or that are not under its gravitational control out of its orbit.”

Two out of three ain’t bad, but are nevertheless not enough to call Eris a full-fledged planet by IAU standards.  Since Eris doesn’t have the gravitational clout to qualify, it has been relegated to “dwarf planet” status.

And Pluto?  Don't even ask what a shake-up that’s been…


Copyright June 1, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved