Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Au Revoir Dear Friend

I never had a pet before, I thought dogs were not worth the trouble
I did not want to wake up early to take you for a walk
I did not want to pick up after you when you went on a lawn
I wondered if having you meant we could not travel any more
I thought you would bring in fleas and shed on my carpet
I assumed you would bark when I was trying to sleep
I worried you would nip my child and gnaw on the furniture
Still I loved my daughter and wife too much so I reluctantly said yes

I was never so wrong in my life

The innocence of those bright eyes, the boundless joy of that wagging tail
A reward for a long day at work
You were my daughter's pillow, her best friend as you grew up together
The selfless love, the trusting companionship made it all worthwhile.

As the lymphoma ravaged your body,
Your eyes told us you wanted to go
With dignity and peace at home on the front porch
On a beautiful sunlight eve, among all the scents that you loved
One last car ride to the funeral home

Au Revoir dear friend, You changed my heart!
A lasting lesson not to prejudge anyone again.

I will miss not having to worry about stepping on you when I get up in the dark
I will miss having to comfort you during the next thunderstorm
I will miss those Border Collie eyes tracking my every move
I will miss your whine and whimper when my pager goes off
I will miss racing you up the stairs - I never did get to beat you till you got ill
I will miss how you chased the deer and geese knowing you could never catch them anyway
I will miss the long walks around the soccer fields

It was all worth while
I was never so wrong in my life, except
You did shed,  but now that you are gone, 
I don't want to vacuum those last memories from the carpet....

A day later....

But hark, what is this?
A lightening of the heart, a lifting of the gloom
This presence besides me
Of course, you will always be with us,
How did I assume you would ever leave us for long
How did I misjudge you again?
I was never so wrong in my life!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Sobering Saturday

I woke up this morning reading a post by Jonathan Smith on Google+.  There I found a link to a video of a lecture by Albert Bartlett on YouTube.

It was the most sobering 80 minutes I have spent watching and listening anything online.  So what was so sobering?

I recently blogged about the need for civil and informed discourse for a successful democracy.  That post was about the Affordable Healthcare Act.  But there is an even more important issue facing the country and the planet that is similarly reduced to a squabble of statistics and jargon and conflicting emotionally charged opinions.

Humans have created a system where short term performance outcomes counted in terms of money are used to measure success e.g. corporate performance measured in quarterly cycles, Presidential performance measured in 4 year election cycles.  Another fundamental problem with the system is the assumption that if people look out for and vote for their own interests, and if the majority of the people vote for something, the country will be better off.  In essence we now have a system that will prevent a minority who have the knowledge and altruism and want to work towards long term global benefit from ever accomplishing something.

Imagine that everyone knew that at some point in the future we will run out of fossil fuel.  What would that mean?

  • Most of the food we eat uses fossil fuels to produce and transport.  
  • Our personal comfort - heating, cooling, communication, travel, entertainment requires energy - a lot of it produced from fossil fuel.
Suppose we knew that regardless of when we reach/reached peak oil state, we are depleting a finite resource and as our population grows and our economics require each economy to grow, this depletion will occur faster and faster.  Finding more fossil fuel sources will only postpone this inevitability.

Suppose we knew whether impacted by mankind or not, the planet is getting warmer and will lead to dramatic extremes of weather including floods, droughts, storms, blizzards all requiring more energy and causing more scarcity.

Suppose we knew this incredible change in our lives was going to occur sometime this century.  What would we do?
  • We would scramble to find solutions that make non-fossil fuels possible
  • We would force our governments and corporations to invest in these technologies
  • We would build small self-sustained communities
  • We would move towards using agriculture to produce food for humans rather that for cattle
  • We would conserve all the fossil fuel for critical activities that focus on solving this huge problem
    • Dissemination of information for education of people
    • Communication and collaboration among scientist and engineers working on this problem
    • Manufacturing renewable energy producing units like wind turbines, solar panels etc.
    • Ensure that we don't run out of fossil fuels before we had implemented solutions
  • We would start planning like we would for a local disaster
    • Install solar panels on our roof and a wind turbine in our backyard and a geothermal heat system in the basement.
    • Find a way to get to work without a car or work from home
    • Install a greenhouse and divert all the effort from maintaining a lawn to growing vegetables
    • Drill a well with a solar powered pump and an overhead water tank.
    • You get the idea...
    • But we don't because we are in denial and because we worry about the cost of all these modifications and whether they are worth it or whether they will be needed in our lifetimes.  "With fracking, gas will be cheap and we will have unlimited supplies to heat our homes" right?
Our current socioeconomicpolitical system will not be able to turn this ship around without a serious wake up call. Unfortunately the best chance of having something like this expired in the 1970s when the national and global awareness was at a peak.  If we wait for the next peak in awareness, it will be too late.  It is probably already too late.  The question is whether it will be a crash or a slide.  

The best consolation for the current generation is that when they pass away they will not be missing out on seeing a great future.  The best years of humankind are probably already behind us.  Everything that they learned to love and depend upon is going to be at a premium in the near future.  Also we probably don't want to be alive to hear the curses from our grandchildren!

Does economics violate the laws of physics? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=does-economics-violate-th
Playlist of Dr. Bartlett's lecture
ABC interview with Michael Mann http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/07/new-mccarthyism-described-by-climate-scientist-michael-mann/

Friday, July 6, 2012

Score 1 for Internal Medicine.

Those who follow this blog already know that we recently returned from a meaningful/purposeful vacation in Peru.  I am an Internist and my wife is an ophthalmologist and we were precepting students on a medical mission in the Sacred Valley in the Andes.  Our middle school daughter was our Medical Spanish translator.

She would split her time helping in both areas, Ophthalmology and Internal Medicine.  She got a kick out of helping patients get prescription glasses and the thrill of helping some kids see clearly for the first time.  After a couple of days, she got very comfortable with this and was able to independently get 20 patients a day to 20/20.

When helping in the Internal Medicine area, she learned the importance of history taking and the conversation in diagnosis and patient care.  She got a good exposure to this as she was the one translating the questions to the patient and translating the answers back to me.  After a couple days she told me, "This is so cool!  Its like solving a mystery by talking to people.  I love it! You guys are Low Tech, but High Talk!

There is hope for Internal Medicine yet!