Friday, October 28, 2011

A "Fatal Illusion" Killed Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
I am still  mourning the death of computer genius and entrepreneur, Steve Jobs.  His gifts to the world, in information technology and other related fields have changed our lives forever.  But could he have  conquered the cancer diagnosis as he had so many other roadblocks in life?  It is true that the  prognosis for the pancreatic cancer that Jobs suffered,  is low.  But this is because this virtually symptom-less disease is often diagnosed after it has reached a stage where it is essentially  incurable.  However, when diagnosed early, as had been the case with Steve Jobs, the prognosis is excellent.  But why might Jobs have resisted medical recommendations for nine months, while experimenting with an alternative medicine diet, a vegan diet, and herbal remedies, which he found online, according to his biographer,  Walter Isaacson?   It was a decision he later regretted.

Jobs's phenomenal success in life had come about because he understood the laws of information technology at a fundamental level.   Information, does in fact live happily in the infinity of cyberspace, but alas, humans do not.  This is despite an entire sci-fi genre devoted to people or their mental facilities being sucked into the matrix of a computer.   It is the laws of nature that define the parameters of life, and they are finite, distressingly so.

The power and potential of information technology is so extraordinary, that it can easily mesmerize us, into believing that the laws of nature are as elastic as those of information, or even that our human-ness is at its core a matter of information.  But such misperceptions are not merely in error, they can be fatally so, with the tragic, premature death of Steve Jobs to prove it. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Conversations with Philosopher & Kenpo Master Sifu Mack

Kenpo Master Dr. Alvin Mack
Portrait artist: Ed Parker, jr.
My son began kindergarten in Okinawa.  In the afternoons when I would go to pick him up from school, the style and rhythm of boys' play was different from what I had been accustomed to at home in the United States.  Learning that Okinawa, this beautiful island off the coast of Japan, was the birthplace of karate, suddenly put the kids' skillful playground kicking and open-handed strikes in perspective.   Upon returning to Texas, I looked in vain for a martial arts training experience for my son, which resonated with our year in Asia.   And then I met Sifu (teacher) Alvin Mack.  This amazing Kenpo master is one of the most gifted teachers I have ever known, explaining to students that his style "is about grace and inner peace rather than power."  Sifu Mack can also be intimidating, in that he demands focus and precision from children whose educational  experiences have never given priority to the harmonizing of mind and body and the cultivation of self-discipline.   However, he teaches with such compassion, energy and humor, that his students have come to love him as have we parents. I began this series of conversations with Philosopher & Kenpo Master, Sifu Alvin Mack,  in an earlier blog, [please click here].  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

As the Dream of Human Space Travel Fades

I was in Barnes & Noble a few days ago, and noticed something odd about the Sci-Fi book section.  More than half the titles were about warlocks, dragons and trolls, witches and magical wardrobe closets.  And maybe that's not so bad.  For as much as I love exploring issues within Astronomy and Astrophysics, I no longer believe that humans have a future beyond our tiny planet earth.  The universe is far more complex and inhospitable than early fantasizers of space travel could ever have imagined.  Besides, there's no one else out there.  It is not merely that we haven't met up with the space aliens yet, my premise goes deeper.  It is a biocentric one, based on the work of Dr. Robert Lanza, who writes:  "We have yet to learn that physical existence cannot be divorced from the animal life and structures that coordinate sense perception and experience."

So, what does the universe look like without the pattern-making sensory processes of living organisms -- nothing or perhaps little flashes of light-energy.  As for what the tree sounds like falling in the woods with nobody there, let's not forget that the portions of a fallen tree are also alive.

I'll have more to say on this later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY: The first 10 people to sign up as "Followers" on this blog will get a free copy of my latest book: DOES ISRAEL HAVE A FUTURE?

In order to FOLLOW this blog, click on FOLLOWERS button in upper left column.

Does Israel Have a Future?
by Constance Hilliard, Ph.D.


The Jewish people are in greater danger than ever before. Given the debacle in Iraq, many Americans who had not taken a serious interest in the Middle East have begun asking themselves, What are we doing wrong? Why do we keep misreading the signals coming from that part of the world? More fundamentally, where will Israel be in two, five, ten years from now? Should Zionism be replaced by a post-Zionist state that welcomes all people, rather than one that privileges only the Jews? Will there even be a Jewish state? These are the questions Constance Hilliard addresses in Does Israel Have a Future?, forgoing polemics and wishful thinking for straight talk and painful truths.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Does Wife Acquitted of Murdering Batterer Husband Now Have License to "Terminate" Spouse #2 and #3?

Barbara Sheehan Acquitted for Killing Batterer Husband
Should feminists or anybody else be celebrating the acquittal of Mrs. Barbara Sheehan, The New York woman who pulled out two guns and fired eleven shots into her wife-beating husband?   I sincerely hope not.  
There was no doubt that Mrs. Sheehan had killed the man.  The question before the jury was whether she was justified because of 24 years of alleged physical and emotional abuse. The murder victim, a retired police sergeant officer, had reportedly beat his wife with such vigor that one of the couple's children called the father "a monster."

My question is the following.  If society condones the so-called "battered spouse legal defense," what do we do when the acquitted spouse remarries someone remarkably like the first husband, who also turns out to be a batterer?  Psychologists have long noted that someone who divorces an alcoholic spouse is upon remarrying, more than twice as likely to choose a new wife or husband who is also an alcoholic.  The same principle applies to battered women.  In such a case, should the battered woman be acquitted for shooting the second and third husbands for the same reason as she disposed of the first?   Or better still, should a wife-beating husband be acquitted for killing a co-dependent wife, claiming self-defense because she could have snapped and "terminated" him at any time with impunity?  I do not wish to make light of the painfully serious subject of spousal abuse, but as with so many aspects of human behavior, the courts may be the last place to go in search of our common humanity.  

America is already the most violent country in the industrialized world. Should we be offering even more justifications for us to pull out the .44 Magnums and Remington semi-automatic rifles and shoot someone for being just as flawed as we are?    

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Morphing into a Super-Tsunami

A tsunami is coming and political commentators are mistaking the drawback, that is the water receding from the beaches as a signal that the status quo is safe.  This is not surprising.  Political types detest the power of intuitive modes of communication.  Everything has to be clearly laid out empirically -- with statistics, formulas, graphs and clearly-defined political agendas.  But guess what?  Those are precisely the most dishonest and easily manipulated or co-opted ways in which humans communicate with one another.   

What is most frustrating to politicians and news commentators is that protesters banging on bongo drums in a Wall Street park cannot be fit into a simple ideological category in order to be ridiculed and their actions dismissed as meaningless.  As a consequence, political observers are having trouble understanding how such an amorphous seeming movement is growing exponentially.   But for all those who may be frustrated in their cluelessness,  Alex Pareene at Salon offers an amazingly concrete "demand," which reflects the essence of this movement.  He explains: 
Household debt is at 90 percent of GDP. Any stimulus proposal -- even "dropping money from helicopters" -- would result in a massive transfer of money from indebted Americans to cash-engorged banks, rather than the spending spree that would theoretically put us back to work.[...]
So my immodest proposal is simply this: Individuals and households in the bottom 99 percent who owe debt to any large financial institution that received federal government support during and after the 2008 crisis should see their debt forgiven. That would certainly stimulate the economy, as most people would suddenly find themselves with a great deal more money to spend on iPads (and food, and clothing, and housing, and healthcare). The debt can be forgiven by decree or if the government really wants to it can step in to pay it itself; I don't much care either way. (Though it'd be nice to see it just wiped off the books, to enrage the banks.)
Let's wipe the debt of the 99 percent off the books, tell the financial sector to eat it, and get on with our lives.

If the media needs specifics, they should write about these as a starter. And in the meantime I'll be joining the  "Occupy Wall Street Movement" in North Texas.