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User Journal

Journal Journal: Been a while 12

So I was reading xkcd and it made me think about /. so I wandered back over here and starting poking around. Looks like 8 or so friends still post journals. Not like it was years back when I was checking for new stories or JEs all day almost every day. I find it funny that as the "social web" has grown into a mainstream.-even-my-parents-are-on-the-web,-jocks-too,-and-now-celebrities-hire-companies-to-manage-it thing, I've found less and less satisfaction with it.

My main social group these days revolves around a 4X game on facebook that a coworker got me to try out. I think I honestly crave the anonymity of the old days (like /.) and a game with a pseudonym and a forum fits that bill pretty well. Plus the fact that it's a semi complicated sci-fi strategy game keeps it relatively nerdy, which is my preferred company. Though of course there are the self described jock types in the game who resort to homophobic slurs when you cross them. I think the /. trolls inured me to that, so thanks trolls!

Feeling really nostalgic right now though. Can still remember many of the old Circle posters usernames off the top of my head and I have a terrible memory for names...


Journal Journal: Solar adjectives 10

The adjective form of Jupiter is Jovian. Does Saturn have an adjective form?

Is it safe to use the pattern that arises from the planets I know for the ones I don't? That would be:
  • Mercury - Mercurial
  • Venus - Venusian
  • Terra - Terran
  • Mars - Martian
  • Jupiter - Jovian
  • Saturn - Saturnian?
  • Uranus - Uranian?
  • Neptune - Neptunian?

Journal Journal: Followup to Blood Donation, Africa, HIV, and Group O

Well, after no response for many months, I emailed the Red Cross again. To my surprise and joy, I got a response on the same day! Here are some clarifications I got from them.

First, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not one of the African countries which are high risk for Group O. The "Congo" they are concerned about is the Republic of the Congo (notice the lack of the "Democratic" prefix). So, suddenly I am able to donate blood.

They do anticipate having a screening test that can detect 100% of group O carrying blood as soon as the FDA approves one that matches their screening methods. The only currently FDA approved group O antibody test does not use the right kind of technology for their screening process.
User Journal

Journal Journal: 42 6

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that "What's the meaning of life?" is precisely the same question as "What's the meaning of fire?".

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reinforcement of standards of evidence

In case anyone is wondering why I think a legislator creating a legislation against X is not proof that X is real, I present this interesting news item from Utah. Utah County Republicans reject 'Satanic' resolution. Here are some selections from the article:

Utah County Republicans defeated a resolution opposing well-heeled groups that a delegate claims are pushing a satanic plan to encourage illegitimate births and illegal immigration

Don Larsen, a Springville delegate, offered the resolution, titled "Resolution opposing the Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal," warning delegates that an "invisible government" comprised of left-wing foundations was pumping money into the Democratic Party to push for looser immigration laws and anti-family legislation.

"Satan's ultimate goal is to destroy the family," Larsen said, "and these people are playing a leading part in it."

Larsen's resolution contained quotes from the New Testament on the battle between good and evil. The copy of the resolution handed to delegates stated it "fulfills scriptural prophecies about our times."

"We are not going to be the majority party if we keep pushing the Latinos out," Wright said.

But Cameron Sevy, a Provo delegate, said the GOP shouldn't be ashamed to say that America is a Christian nation

Turns out legislators can be nuttier than slashdot tinfoil hatters.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ah well 4

Yeah, so I've got another Freak. I liked his taste in music and his sports commentary, so I followed his journals. Apparently my questions about his politics are just annoying, though, and he doesn't want dissenters to answer his taunts. He foed me, and then responded to me. I can't really respect that, so I dropped him as a friend. Guess I'll live without his perspective.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Blood Donation, Africa, HIV, and the mysterious Group O 3

About two weeks ago, I attempted to donate some blood to the Red Cross. They have a handy website that will let you find a local upcoming drive and schedule an appointment. I did so, and carefully perused their eligibility guidelines, and found nothing amiss. So, the day of the donation came, and I went, excited to be able to help people in some small way.

Well, it turns out I'm not good at reading, or somehow was looking at the wrong eligibility guidelines. My wife lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a stretch of her childhood, and I was ignorant of the fact that I am therefore indefinitely ineligible to give blood. Here's the first restriction based on travel:

Persons who were born in or who lived in certain countries in Western Africa, or who have had close contact with persons who were born in or who lived in certain West African countries are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about HIV Group O. Learn more about HIV Group O, and the specific African countries where it is found.

And here's the specific bit about HIV:

  • were born in, or lived in, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea,Gabon, Niger, or Nigeria, since 1977.
  • since 1977, received a blood transfusion or medical treatment with a blood product in any of these countries, or
  • had sex with anyone who, since 1977, was born in or lived in any of these countries. Learn more about HIV Group O, and the specific African countries where it is found.

(And yes, in that last section, it offers a link to learn more about HIV Group O that just links right back to itself. Helpful.)

First note: my wife is from the DCR, not a country simply called Congo - but the worker at the donation drive did not think there was a difference. A call to the Red Cross has not yielded any further enlightenment about whether they intended to exclude both the Republic of the Congo (which is colloquially called the Congo) and the confusingly similar Democratic Republic of the Congo (used to be called Zaire, but now just muddies the waters, nomenclature-wise). It seems likely that they mean to exclude both, but I would like to know. Either way, they really should spell out the full country names in their guidelines - bits are cheap on the internet, and it would have saved me a trip.

More disturbing to me is the fact that they are restricting donors based on first or second-hand exposure, but that still only matters if you know. First-hand, most people would know if they lived in one of the restricted countries. Second-hand, what if my wife had not told me she lived in one of them? If we were in a casual relationship, I may or may not have heard about her childhood in the DCR. She has no accent, so I would have no reason to assume that she had lived anywhere but the USA without further information. Furthermore, what if I had an intimate relationship with someone else after? They could know all about me, and I still may never have told them that my wife had lived in the DCR. If they were then screened at a donor drive, they would be let through. Risky business.

The biggest question is, why does it matter? Doesn't the Red Cross test all the blood that they collect at drives anyhow? They certainly screen for a lot of things - why not HIV Group O? Well, it turns out that (and you can read about this near the end of the eligibility guidelines) that HIV screening tests do not always catch Group O.

There is a rare form of HIV called Type O that is found in western Africa. The available tests for HIV do not always detect the Type O strain. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep this virus out of the blood supply by not taking blood donations from those who have been where the virus is found.

A side note - they don't even test for malaria, they handle that entirely by screening questions, which also seems a bit risky to me.

Recently (December of 2008) a combination test has been approved by the FDA:

The new FDA-approved test detects nucleic acid from HIV-2 and from HIV-1 Group O. ... In addition to HIV-2 and HIV-1 Group O, the MPX test simultaneously detects nucleic acid from the most common form of HIV, HIV-1 Group M, as well as the Hepatitis C Virus and the Hepatitis B Virus.

Up until this point, they only had an 80% success rate identifying Group O in samples. As I noted earlier, I have not heard back from the Red Cross, but I'd like to think I could go test myself for Group O and then be cleared to donate. We'll see. In the meantime, my trepidation about blood transfusions has gone up quite a bit, and I don't think I'll feel completely comfortable with the situation until they start testing all donations for Group O. The web site says:

It is possible that the tests used to screen donated blood may someday be improved so that they detect Type O HIV. If so, these donation restrictions may be removed.

Obviously, it'll take a while to put a new blood test in place, so 1 month after approval by the FDA, they haven't rolled it out everywhere. Even so, it seems like HIV is a damaging enough disease that testing for even rare strains should be rolled out across the US as aggressively as possible. If they ever do call me back, I'm definitely asking them what their timeline is on implementing Group O testing across the board.

User Journal

Journal Journal: If you can't get enough of me here 2

You can now follow me on Twitter - search for my username's initialism, and you'll find me. Not that I have much to say, but if you've followed me for all these 285 slashdot journals, maybe you're looking for more from me, but in a pithier format. Twitter is there; or, uh, here.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Silence 14

The frustrating reality is that nothing, positive or negative, can be inferred from silence.
This applies to job searches, religion, debates, and many other situations.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] What to believe? 12

So, I'm aware that I'm offending people with some of my posts, but I really need some sort of forum to post this stuff and talk about it. Despite treading on other people's faith, I really don't mean to offend... I just really want to work this all out, and check my blindspots.

Anyhow, on to this journal's real topic; What to believe?
Essentially, since faith is necessary if I am to adhere to a religion, there remains one question to ask:
How should I determine what, amongst all the possibilities, to have faith in?

I know intuition has been raised by a number of commentators as the path - I still think that the number of directions taken by people who use intuition as their spiritual guide to be in line with the null hypothesis, that is, that there is no absolute truth outside of reality that can be found via intuition. To be honest, I'm not convinced that intuition is in any way different than the conscious problem solving or creativity that people exhibit, except that it happens below the "awareness of thought processing" radar. If I had seen intuition solve problems that were unsolvable via normal thought, then I would be convinced. The fact that intuition leads to as many bad decisions as it does to good decisions leaves me uncompelled.

Is intuition the only other possibility aside from rationality, or is (are?) there some other way(s) to find something beyond this reality?
User Journal

Journal Journal: 10 quotes about truth 15

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

Truth springs from argument amongst friends.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.

The real searcher after truth will not receive the old because it is old, or reject the new because it is new. He will not believe men because they are dead, or contradict them because they are alive. With him an utterance is worth the truth, the reason it contains, without the slightest regard to the author. He may have been a king or serf -- a philosopher or servant, -- but the utterance neither gains nor loses in truth or reason. Its value is absolutely independent of the fame or station of the man who gave it to the world.

1. Bible, 2. Albert Einstein, 3. Dorothy Thompson, 4. Anaïs Nin, 5. David Hume, 6. John F. Kennedy, 7. Pierre Abelard, 8. Stephen Hawking, 9. Tryon Edwards, 10. Robert G. Ingersoll
User Journal

Journal Journal: Don't you ever wish you could rewind that back? 2

I often think back on past situations - interactions - and consider what I learned from them. Their effect, in hindsight. I tend not to be a worried person, or regretful, but I do have moments of regret. The most poignant moments are those that can not be "done over". If I can't call up the person I was talking to - if I can't affect what I've done, I get a little pang: sadness, remorse, most often the echo of undeliverable gratitude.
Some of those situations are what you'd expect. I used to be at odds with one of my grandpas about religion and general world viewpoints. Obviously, I've been through a change, and feel like I could have learned a lot from him. Even before my recent release from dogmatism, I mourned the lost opportunities to get to know what my grandpa cared about, what drove him. But now, I most feel the pang of the fact that I can never say "Thanks" for all the insights he was able to impart, even when I was busy deflecting them.
Some of them are a little more odd - a few years back I traveled next to a man who was 30 years my senior on a 4 hour plane trip. We got to talking about a lot of things, but it all revolved around the question of what life is about. He was right about a lot of things, and I fought him on many of them - I wish I could somehow, even anonymously, send him a thanks for what he told me. I want him to experience the validation he deserves for spending some time and emotional energy on an ungrateful (now, I was polite, just not willing to listen) youngster.

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Religion] Why Believe? 42

I have a couple of thoughts, which may seem offensive, but I don't mean to be. These are just thoughts that have distilled out of my consideration of many different books, essays, talks, discussions, and debates. I'm hoping that it won't be offensive - as a matter of fact, I am sure that many of you on slashdot who disagree with me about whether or not there is a deity will actually agree with me about one or both of these points, though your final thoughts may be different.
No one has found a rational reason to believe in any deity.
There is no deity who is apparent.
Explanations for the above claims:
If there were a rational reason to believe in any deity, it surely would have been brought out in one of the debates against atheists, or in one of the many books and essays I've read about "why believe?", but it has not. I can not guaruntee that there is not a rational reason out there, undiscovered, but it seems unlikely. If one were to be found, I would be very excited to hear it, but for now, rationality must go out the window to believe.
If a deity were apparent (in the mystery of creation, or some such), there would be no major conflict about whether or not there is a deity among serious thinkers, and the attributes of said deity would not be so debated among the different religions.
If there is a deity, it must be a non-rational, unapparent deity. I know a few people who beleive in a deity that doesn't, by definition, try to tread into one of those areas, but most theists do tread there.

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"All we are given is possibilities -- to make ourselves one thing or another." -- Ortega y Gasset