Friday, April 29, 2005

Random Thoughts - Playing among the Fields of Gold

I have again reproduced in the following another of my all-time favourite song from the modern era, "Fields of gold", by Sting. Like "Mad About You" as discussed in my previous posting, the lyrics of Sting’s “Fields of gold” has, in my opinion, also extensively utilised vivid imagery to convey the central theme. Unlike "Mad about you" whose theme centres on the vast emptiness of power, the central theme of "Fields of gold" should be that of love that lives at eternity's sunrise. The last four words of the previous sentence were of course borrowed from the great poet Willaim Blake's "Independence of Joy" which incidentally was reproduced in one of my earlier postings. I just could not find any other phrases that would describe how I feel about the lyrics of the song.

One of my greatest desire is to be able to sit at the verandah of my ranch house, overlooking vast fields of barley under the setting sun, together with the person I love, holding her hands firmly and kissing her lips gently, while our children play hide and seek among the fields of barley. Nothing would ever make me happier than the day when this scenario materialises. As such, I guess the reason why I feel so deeply for this song is because inside me, i secretly wanted to be the person in the song.

Fields of Gold (By Sting)

You'll remember me when the west wind moves

Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so

Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in fields of gold
We'll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

It's Probably Me

(By Sting with Eric Clapton)

If the night turned cold and the stars looked down
And you hug yourself on the cold cold ground
You wake the morning in a stranger's coat
No one would you see
You ask yourself who'd watch for me
My only friend who could it be
It's hard to say it
I hate to say it but it's probably me

When you belly's empty and the hunger's so real
And you're too proud to beg and too dumb to steal
You search the city for your only friend
No one would you see
You ask yourself, who could it be
A solitary voice to speak out and set you free
I hate to say it
I hate to say it, but it's probably me

You're not the easiest person I ever got to know
And it's hard for us both to let our feelings show
Some would say
I should let you go your way
You'll only make me cry
If there's one guy, just one guy
Who'd lay down his life for you and die
It's hard to say it
It's hard to say it, but it's probably me

When the world's gone crazy and it makes no sense
There's only one voice that comes to your defence
The jury's out and your eyes search the room
And one friendly face is all you need to see
If there's one guy, just one guy
Who'd lay down his life for you and die
It's hard to say it
I hate to say it, but it's probably me
I hate to say itI hate to say it, but it's probably me

N.B. This is a wonderful song about friendship in a sad and desolate sort of way. The effect was further enhanced by the simple acoustics accompaniment which came in the form of Eric Clapton's guitar. At this point, I would like to highlight that there are actually two versions to the song. One version has only Sting performing to a traditional jazzy arrangement. The version I am referring to has both Sting and Eric Clapton performing to a bluesy arrangement, with Eric Clapton on the guitars and as backup vocals.

Random Thoughts - Emptiness of Power

I have reproduced in the following one of my all-time favourite song from the modern era, "Mad about you", by Sting. The lyrics of Sting’s “Mad about you” has, in my opinion, incorporated one of the most extensive use of vivid imagery in modern music. If you should be so kind as to review the lyrics, I am very sure that you would concur with my opinion.

Mad about you (By Sting)

A stone's throw from Jerusalem
I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight
And though a million stars were shining
My heart was lost on a distant planet
That whirls around the April moon
Whirling in an arc of sadnessI
'm lost without you, I'm lost without you
Though all my kingdoms turn to sand and fall into the sea
I'm mad about you, I'm mad about you

And from the dark secluded valleys
I heard the ancient songs of sadness
But every step I thought of you
Every footstep only you
Every star a grain of sand
The leavings of a dried up ocean
Tell me, how much longer,
How much longer?

They say a city in the desert lies
The vanity of an ancient king
But the city lies in broken pieces
Where the wind howls and the vultures sing
These are the works of man
This is the sum of our ambition
It would make a prison of my life
If you became another's wife
With every prison blown to dust
My enemies walk free
I'm mad about you, I'm mad about you

And I have never in my life
Felt more alone than I do now
Although I claim dominions over all I see
It means nothing to me
There are no victories
In all our histories
Without love

A stone's throw from Jerusalem
I walked a lonely mile in the moonlight
And though a million stars were shining
My heart was lost on a distant planet
That whirls around the April moon
Whirling in an arc of sadness
I'm lost without you, I'm lost without you

And though you hold the keys to ruin of everything I see
With every prison blown to dust my enemies walk free
Though all my kingdoms turn to sand and fall into the sea
I'm mad about you, I'm mad about you

The song's central theme on the vast emptiness of power has resonated very strongly with one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most famous poem, Ozymandias, which I had the honour of being examined upon in my literature lessons during my secondary school days. I have reproduced the said poem below.

Ozymandias (By Percy Bysshe Shelley)

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.
Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

N.B. The morale of the story in this case should be everything is only transient and nothing lasts forever :)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Medical Journals - Ephedra

Ephedra is also known as Ma Huang, Ma-Huang, Cao Mahuang Desert Herb Herbal Ecstasy, Joint Fir, Mahuang, Mahuanggen (ma huang root), Muzei Mahuang, Popotillo, Sea Grape, Teamster's Tea, Yellow Astringent, Yellow Horse and Zhong Mahuang among others.
Ephedra is an herb, whose branches are usually used to make medicine. However, the root or whole plant can be used. Ephedra contains a chemical called ephedrine, which stimulates the heart, the lungs, and the nervous system.

There is limited evidence that ephedra may decrease the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing problems but in most cases the does needed to lessen these symptoms is too high to be safe. Using ephedra for these conditions is not worth the risk, since there are many safer alternative treatments. There is no credible evidence that ephedra has any effect on weight loss or improving athletic performance.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that ephedra is not safe, especially when used in high doses or when used long-term. Use of ephedra has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, muscle disorders, seizures, strokes, loss of consciousness, and death. Ephedra can also cause less serious side effects including dizziness, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and others.

Taking ephedra with other stimulants, such as caffeine, is extremely dangerous. This may increase the chance of having serious and possibly life-threatening side effects. Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola nut, guarana, and mate.

Under no circumstances should ephedra be taken with medicine for depression that is classified as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Blood pressure could get dangerously high. There is some concern that ephedra could also cause high blood pressure if taken with certain migraine medications such as ergotamine. There is also some concern that taking ephedra with digoxin might cause an irregular heartbeat. Ephedra can increase blood sugar. People with diabetes might need to have their medications adjusted to make up for this.

Lead of a pencil

The pencil lead, as it is known today, is actually not made of lead. The traditional material used to make the pencil lead is actually a mixture of Bavarian clay (or, to a lesser extent, Georgian clay) and graphite from Sri Lanka, Madagascar or Mexico. The above mixture is bound together with waxes from Brazil or Mexico and gum Tragacanth from Asia. The wood used to encase the pencil lead in the Americas is generally derived from cedar from California, Oregon and some parts of Nevada. On the other hand, white pine and basswood are the preferred pencil wood in Russia and China respectively.

The purest graphite discovered was revealed in 1564, when an oak tree fell during a storm near Borrowdale, England. The shepherds in the area found the rough chunks to be useful to mark their flocks, but the raw material was also very dirty and messy to handle. That problem was addressed by cutting the material into square pieces and encasing them with wood. The material discovered was called "plumbago" (imitation lead). In 1779, K. W. Scheele, a Swedish chemist, found "plumbago" to be a form of carbon and suggested that it be called "graphite" from the Greek word for writing. The first hand made pencils, in the form that we know today are the "Crayons d'Angleterre", made from Borrowdale graphite. One year after the discovery in Borrowdale, Conrad Gesner of Zurich, wrote the earliest surviving description of a pencil in his Treatise on Fossils, illustrated with a woodcut by the author showing a wooden tube holding a piece of graphite. Some scholars believe this "Gesner pencil" was used by Shakespeare.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fame of a commoner

(By Wendy Cheng a.k.a. Xiaxue, the blog mistress, “Why are you worshipping the ground I blog on” at

A friend once told me, "But you are not common and normal, you are a celebrity." And I replied, "Yeah but the only reason why I became a celebrity, is because the world likes to read how common and normal I am."

N.B. This is one of the most impressively wise statements i have had the pleasure of reading in a long while :)

Random Thoughts - The Babel Fish

The following paragraphs were reproduced in full from a blog posting titled “Evangelising has a time, and funerals are not it” under the blog called “Why are you worshipping the ground I blog on” by Wendy Cheng a.k.a. Xiaxue, the blog mistress, at These paragraphs were in turn extracted from one of my all-time favourite classics, the first of five “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” book series by Douglas Adams,

"The Babel Fish," said The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quietly, "is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy not from its carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel Fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel Fish."

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof for the nonexistance of God.

The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It would not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

"Oh dear," said God, "I haven't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

All of a sudden, I understood fully as to why Douglas Adams chose to name the mind-bogglingly useful fish “Babel”. For this sudden revelation, I have to extend my thanks to Xiaxue for linking the above extracts from “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” to the content of the blog posting as mentioned in the above. In view of the unfortunate circumstances under which Xiaxue’s blog posting was written, I shall not further elaborate its contents in this blog posting, mostly because of my sheer inability to do justice to her elegant and precise proses with my often clumsy and long-winded paraphrasing techniques. To experience the full impact, I strongly recommend that you visit her website to read it for yourselves.

Needless to say, the name “Babel” was mentioned in the Bible. Of what little that I know of the Bible, and according to the narrative documented under Genesis Chapter 11 of the Bible, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity in order to reach the heavens. To prevent the project from succeeding, God confused humanity’s languages so that each human spoke a different language, and hence couldn't communicate with each other and thereby no work could proceed. After that time, the people moved away to different parts of Earth. The story is generally used to explain the existence of many different languages and races. There is no implication that God directly destroyed the efforts of the builders, that is the tower, and so presumably, the building fell into disrepair later on.

In view of the fact that the very essence of the Babel fish is its ability to allow the carrier to instantly understand anything that is said to him in any form of language, perhaps Douglas Adams named the fish as such in a large part due to the sheer irony of the name, and in a smaller part hoping that, even in fantasy, the natural barrier to free communication that God has imposed on humans will one day be lifted. For fear of blasphemy, I dare not construct any phrases stronger than the above :)

N.B. The noun “ Babel” derives from two roots: "bab" ("gate") and "el" ("God"), "the gate to God". However, in the Hebrew language, there is a similar word, "balal", which means "confusion".

Medical Journals - Opiates

Opiates are a class of drugs that are derivatives in the broadest sense of the word of opium. These include two groups of alkaloids, namely phenanthrenes and papaverines. Opiates in the narrower sense of the word are only the phenanthrenes. Opioids are synthetic drugs that are chemically unrelated to the opiates, but act on the same receptors in the central nervous system and have similar clinical effects.

Examples of Phenanthrenes naturally occurring in opium are Morphine and Codeine. Examples of Phenanthrenes from semisynthetic derivatives are Heroin, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone and Oxycodone.

Phenanthrenes which are fully synthetic can be divided again into two groups, namely Phenylheptylamines and Phenylpiperidines. Examples of Phenylheptylamines include Methadone and levomethadyl acetate hydrochloride (LAAM). Examples of Phenylpiperidines include Meperidine, Fentanyl, Alfentanil, Sufentanil, Remifentanil.

Examples of Phenanthrenes from semisynthetic derivatives that are specifically manufactures for veterinary uses include Etorphine and Carfentanyl. In view of the fact that the constitutions of the larger animals, like the elephants, are generally much stronger than that of the human beings, the Phenanthrenes that are used are generally much stronger than those which are not designed for veterinary uses. For example, although Etorphine is semisynthetic derivative of morphine, it has the potency of 10 000 times that of morphine itself.

Opiates generally belong to the group of medicines called narcotic analgesics. Narcotic analgesics are used to relieve pain. Opiates generally act in the central nervous system to relieve pain. Some of its side effects are also caused by actions in the central nervous system.

When a narcotic is used for a long time, it may become habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence. A high number of opiates are considered to be highly addictive. One exception is loperamide, which cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. However, people who have continuing pain should not let the fear of dependence keep them from using narcotics to relieve their pain. Mental dependence or addiction is not likely to occur when narcotics are used for this purpose.

Physical dependence may lead to withdrawal side effects if treatment is stopped suddenly. However, severe withdrawal side effects can usually be prevented by reducing the dose gradually over a period of time before treatment is stopped completely.

N.B. Cisapride is a medicine that increases the movements or contractions of the stomach and intestines. It is generally used to treat symptoms such as heartburn caused by a backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. This medicine could be used in conjunction with opiates to prevent the natural gagging reflexes of the body to purge the opiates, even if taken to an excessive level, to achieve whatever ends there is to achieve.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Stairway to Heaven

(By Led Zeppelin)

There’s a lady who’s sure,
All that glitters is gold,
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows,
If the stores are all closed,
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

There’s a sign on the wall,
But she wants to be sure,
’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook,
There’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a feeling I get,
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen,
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.

Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s whispered that soon,
If we all call the tune,
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn,
For those who stand long,
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow,
Don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the may queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run,
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won’t go,
In case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know,
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road,
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know,
Who shines white light and wants to show
How ev’rything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard,
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all,
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

N.B. Although he will probably never get to read this in this life, I would however still like to extend my gratitude and thanks to MajorEasy for mentioning and dictating the lyrics of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven in his post, thereby reviving my memory in respect of this very wonderful song :)

Book Review - The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Excerpt of Chapter One)

(By Mitch Albom - reproduced in full from the following website:

The End

This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun. It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.

The last hour of Eddie's life was spent, like most of the others, at Ruby Pier, an amusement park by a great gray ocean. The park had the usual attractions, a boardwalk, a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, bumper cars, a taffy stand, and an arcade where you could shoot streams of water into a clown's mouth. It also had a big new ride called Freddy's Free Fall, and this would be where Eddie would be killed, in an accident that would make newspapers around the state.

At the time of his death, Eddie was a squat, white-haired old man, with a short neck, a barrel chest, thick forearms, and a faded army tattoo on his right shoulder. His legs were thin and veined now, and his left knee, wounded in the war, was ruined by arthritis. He used a cane to get around. His face was broad and craggy from the sun, with salty whiskers and a lower jaw that protruded slightly, making him look prouder than he felt. He kept a cigarette behind his left ear and a ring of keys hooked to his belt. He wore rubber-soled shoes. He wore an old linen cap. His pale brown uniform suggested a workingman, and a workingman he was.

Eddie's job was "maintaining" the rides, which really meant keeping them safe. Every afternoon, he walked the park, checking on each attraction, from the Tilt-A-Whirl to the Pipeline Plunge. He looked for broken boards, loose bolts, worn-out steel. Sometimes he would stop, his eyes glazing over, and people walking past thought something was wrong. But he was listening, that's all. After all these years he could hear trouble, he said, in the spits and stutters and thrumming of the equipment.

With 50 minutes left on earth, Eddie took his last walk along Ruby Pier. He passed an elderly couple.

"Folks," he mumbled, touching his cap.

They nodded politely. Customers knew Eddie. At least the regular ones did. They saw him summer after summer, one of those faces you associate with a place. His work shirt had a patch on the chest that read Eddie above the word Maintenance, and sometimes they would say, "Hiya, Eddie Maintenance," although he never thought that was funny.

Today, it so happened, was Eddie's birthday, his 83rd. A doctor, last week, had told him he had shingles. Shingles? Eddie didn't even know what they were. Once, he had been strong enough to lift a carousel horse in each arm. That was a long time ago.

"Eddie!" . . . "Take me, Eddie!" . . . "Take me!"

Forty minutes until his death. Eddie made his way to the front of the roller coaster line. He rode every attraction at least once a week, to be certain the brakes and steering were solid. Today was coaster day -- the "Ghoster Coaster" they called this one -- and the kids who knew Eddie yelled to get in the cart with him.

Children liked Eddie. Not teenagers. Teenagers gave him headaches. Over the years, Eddie figured he'd seen every sort of do-nothing, snarl-at-you teenager there was. But children were different. Children looked at Eddie -- who, with his protruding lower jaw, always seemed to be grinning, like a dolphin -- and they trusted him. They drew in like cold hands to a fire. They hugged his leg. They played with his keys. Eddie mostly grunted, never saying much. He figured it was because he didn't say much that they liked him.

Now Eddie tapped two little boys with backward baseball caps. They raced to the cart and tumbled in. Eddie handed his cane to the ride attendant and slowly lowered himself between the two.

"Here we go . . . . Here we go! . . . " one boy squealed, as the other pulled Eddie's arm around his shoulder. Eddie lowered the lap bar and clack-clack-clack, up they went.

A story went around about Eddie. When he was a boy, growing up by this very same pier, he got in an alley fight. Five kids from Pitkin Avenue had cornered his brother, Joe, and were about to give him a beating. Eddie was a block away, on a stoop, eating a sandwich. He heard his brother scream. He ran to the alley, grabbed a garbage can lid, and sent two boys to the hospital.
After that, Joe didn't talk to him for months. He was ashamed. Joe was the oldest, the firstborn, but it was Eddie who did the fighting.

"Can we go again, Eddie? Please?"

Thirty-four minutes to live. Eddie lifted the lap bar, gave each boy a sucking candy, retrieved his cane, then limped to the maintenance shop to cool down from the summer heat. Had he known his death was imminent, he might have gone somewhere else. Instead, he did what we all do. He went about his dull routine as if all the days in the world were still to come.
One of the shop workers, a lanky, bony-cheeked young man named Dominguez, was by the solvent sink, wiping grease off a wheel.

"Yo, Eddie," he said.

"Dom," Eddie said.

The shop smelled like sawdust. It was dark and cramped with a low ceiling and pegboard walls that held drills and saws and hammers. Skeleton parts of fun park rides were everywhere: compressors, engines, belts, lightbulbs, the top of a pirate's head. Stacked against one wall were coffee cans of nails and screws, and stacked against another wall were endless tubs of grease.
Greasing a track, Eddie would say, required no more brains than washing a dish; the only difference was you got dirtier as you did it, not cleaner. And that was the sort of work that Eddie did: spread grease, adjusted brakes, tightened bolts, checked electrical panels. Many times he had longed to leave this place, find different work, build another kind of life. But the war came. His plans never worked out. In time, he found himself graying and wearing looser pants and in a state of weary acceptance, that this was who he was and who he would always be, a man with sand in his shoes in a world of mechanical laughter and grilled frankfurters. Like his father before him, like the patch on his shirt, Eddie was maintenance -- the head of maintenance -- or as the kids sometimes called him, "the ride man at Ruby Pier."

Thirty minutes left.

"Hey, happy birthday, I hear," Dominguez said.

Eddie grunted.

"No party or nothing?"

Eddie looked at him as if he were crazy. For a moment he thought how strange it was to be growing old in a place that smelled of cotton candy.

"Well, remember, Eddie, I'm off next week, starting Monday. Going to Mexico."
Eddie nodded, and Dominguez did a little dance.

"Me and Theresa. Gonna see the whole family. Par-r-r-ty."

He stopped dancing when he noticed Eddie staring.

"You ever been?" Dominguez said.


"To Mexico?"

Eddie exhaled through his nose. "Kid, I never been anywhere I wasn't shipped to with a rifle."
He watched Dominguez return to the sink. He thought for a moment. Then he took a small wad of bills from his pocket and removed the only twenties he had, two of them. He held them out.
"Get your wife something nice," Eddie said.

Dominguez regarded the money, broke into a huge smile, and said, "C'mon, man. You sure?"
Eddie pushed the money into Dominguez's palm. Then he walked out back to the storage area. A small "fishing hole" had been cut into the boardwalk planks years ago, and Eddie lifted the plastic cap. He tugged on a nylon line that dropped 80 feet to the sea. A piece of bologna was still attached.

"We catch anything?" Dominguez yelled. "Tell me we caught something!"

Eddie wondered how the guy could be so optimistic. There was never anything on that line.

"One day," Dominguez yelled, "we're gonna get a halibut!"

"Yep," Eddie mumbled, although he knew you could never pull a fish that big through a hole that small.

Twenty-six minutes to live. Eddie crossed the boardwalk to the south end. Business was slow.

The girl behind the taffy counter was leaning on her elbows, popping her gum.

Once, Ruby Pier was the place to go in the summer. It had elephants and fireworks and marathon dance contests. But people didn't go to ocean piers much anymore; they went to theme parks where you paid $75 a ticket and had your photo taken with a giant furry character.
Eddie limped past the bumper cars and fixed his eyes on a group of teenagers leaning over the railing. Great, he told himself. Just what I need.

"Off," Eddie said, tapping the railing with his cane. "C'mon. It's not safe."

The teens glared at him. The car poles sizzled with electricity, zzzap zzzap sounds.

"It's not safe," Eddie repeated.

The teens looked at each other. One kid, who wore a streak of orange in his hair, sneered at Eddie, then stepped onto the middle rail.

"Come on, dudes, hit me!" he yelled, waving at the young drivers. "Hit m --"

Eddie whacked the railing so hard with his cane he almost snapped it in two. "MOVE IT!"

The teens ran away.

Another story went around about Eddie. As a soldier, he had engaged in combat numerous times. He'd been brave. Even won a medal. But toward the end of his service, he got into a fight with one of his own men. That's how Eddie was wounded. No one knew what happened to the other guy.

No one asked.

With 19 minutes left on earth, Eddie sat for the last time, in an old aluminum beach chair. His short, muscled arms folded like a seal's flippers across his chest. His legs were red from the sun, and his left knee still showed scars. In truth, much of Eddie's body suggested a survived encounter. His fingers were bent at awkward angles, thanks to numerous fractures from assorted machinery. His nose had been broken several times in what he called "saloon fights." His broadly jawed face might have been good-looking once, the way a prizefighter might have looked before he took too many punches.

Now Eddie just looked tired. This was his regular spot on the Ruby Pier boardwalk, behind the Jackrabbit ride, which in the 1980s was the Thunderbolt, which in the 1970s was the Steel Eel, which in the 1960s was the Lollipop Swings, which in the 1950s was Laff In The Dark, and which before that was the Stardust Band Shell.

Which was where Eddie met Marguerite.

Every life has one true-love snapshot. For Eddie, it came on a warm September night after a thunderstorm, when the boardwalk was spongy with water. She wore a yellow cotton dress, with a pink barrette in her hair. Eddie didn't say much. He was so nervous he felt as if his tongue were glued to his teeth. They danced to the music of a big band, Long Legs Delaney and his Everglades Orchestra. He bought her a lemon fizz. She said she had to go before her parents got angry. But as she walked away, she turned and waved.

That was the snapshot. For the rest of his life, whenever he thought of Marguerite, Eddie would see that moment, her waving over her shoulder, her dark hair falling over one eye, and he would feel the same arterial burst of love.

That night he came home and woke his older brother. He told him he'd met the girl he was going to marry.

"Go to sleep, Eddie," his brother groaned.

Whrrrssssh. A wave broke on the beach. Eddie coughed up something he did not want to see. He spat it away.

Whrrssssssh. He used to think a lot about Marguerite. Not so much now. She was like a wound beneath an old bandage, and he had grown more used to the bandage.


What was shingles?


Sixteen minutes to live.

No story sits by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.

The end of Eddie's story was touched by another seemingly innocent story, months earlier -- a cloudy night when a young man arrived at Ruby Pier with three of his friends.

The young man, whose name was Nicky, had just begun driving and was still not comfortable carrying a key chain. So he removed the single car key and put it in his jacket pocket, then tied the jacket around his waist.

For the next few hours, he and his friends rode all the fastest rides: the Flying Falcon, the Splashdown, Freddy's Free Fall, the Ghoster Coaster.

"Hands in the air!" one of them yelled.

They threw their hands in the air.

Later, when it was dark, they returned to the car lot, exhausted and laughing, drinking beer from brown paper bags. Nicky reached into his jacket pocket. He fished around. He cursed.
The key was gone.

Fourteen minutes until his death. Eddie wiped his brow with a handkerchief. Out on the ocean, diamonds of sunlight danced on the water, and Eddie stared at their nimble movement. He had not been right on his feet since the war.

But back at the Stardust Band Shell with Marguerite -- there Eddie had still been graceful. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to summon the song that brought them together, the one Judy Garland sang in that movie. It mixed in his head now with the cacophony of the crashing waves and children screaming on the rides.

"You made me love you -- "


" -- do it, I didn't want to do i -- "


" -- me love you -- "


" -- time you knew it, and all the -- "


" -- knew it . . . "

Eddie felt her hands on his shoulders. He squeezed his eyes tightly, to bring the memory closer.
Twelve minutes to live.

"'Scuse me."

A young girl, maybe eight years old, stood before him, blocking his sunlight. She had blonde curls and wore flip-flops and denim cutoff shorts and a lime green T-shirt with a cartoon duck on the front. Amy, he thought her name was. Amy or Annie. She'd been here a lot this summer, although Eddie never saw a mother or father.

"'Scuuuse me," she said again. "Eddie Maint'nance?"

Eddie sighed. "Just Eddie," he said.


"Um hmm?"

"Can you make me . . ."

She put her hands together as if praying.

"C'mon, kiddo. I don't have all day."

"Can you make me an animal? Can you?"

Eddie looked up, as if he had to think about it. Then he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out three yellow pipe cleaners, which he carried for just this purpose.

"Yesssss!" the little girl said, slapping her hands.

Eddie began twisting the pipe cleaners.

"Where's your parents?"

"Riding the rides."

"Without you?"

The girl shrugged. "My mom's with her boyfriend."

Eddie looked up. Oh.

He bent the pipe cleaners into several small loops, then twisted the loops around one another. His hands shook now, so it took longer than it used to, but soon the pipe cleaners resembled a head, ears, body, and tail.

"A rabbit?" the little girl said.

Eddie winked.

"Thaaaank you!"

She spun away, lost in that place where kids don't even know their feet are moving. Eddie wiped his brow again, then closed his eyes, slumped into the beach chair, and tried to get the old song back into his head.

A seagull squawked as it flew overhead.

How do people choose their final words? Do they realize their gravity? Are they fated to be wise?

By his 83rd birthday, Eddie had lost nearly everyone he'd cared about. Some had died young, and some had been given a chance to grow old before a disease or an accident took them away. At their funerals, Eddie listened as mourners recalled their final conversations. "It's as if he knew he was going to die . . . . " some would say.

Eddie never believed that. As far as he could tell, when your time came, it came, and that was that. You might say something smart on your way out, but you might just as easily say something stupid.

For the record, Eddie's final words would be "Get back!"

Here are the sounds of Eddie's last minutes on earth. Waves crashing. The distant thump of rock music. The whirring engine of a small biplane, dragging an ad from its tail. And this.


Eddie felt his eyes dart beneath his lids. Over the years, he had come to know every noise at Ruby Pier and could sleep through them all like a lullaby.

This voice was not in the lullaby.


Eddie bolted upright. A woman with fat, dimpled arms was holding a shopping bag and pointing and screaming. A small crowd gathered around her, their eyes to the skies.

Eddie saw it immediately. Atop Freddy's Free Fall, the new "tower drop" attraction, one of the carts was tilted at an angle, as if trying to dump its cargo. Four passengers, two men, two women, held only by a safety bar, were grabbing frantically at anything they could.

"OH MY GOD!" the fat woman yelled. "Those people! They're gonna fall!"

A voice squawked from the radio on Eddie's belt. "Eddie! Eddie!"

He pressed the button. "I see it! Get security!"

People ran up from the beach, pointing as if they had practiced this drill. Look! Up in the sky! An amusement ride turned evil! Eddie grabbed his cane and clomped to the safety fence around the platform base, his wad of keys jangling against his hip. His heart was racing.

Freddy's Free Fall was supposed to drop two carts in a stomach-churning descent, only to be halted at the last instant by a gush of hydraulic air. How did one cart come loose like that? It was tilted just a few feet below the upper platform, as if it had started downward then changed its mind.

Eddie reached the gate and had to catch his breath. Dominguez came running and nearly banged into him.

"Listen to me!" Eddie said, grabbing Dominguez by the shoulders. His grip was so tight, Dominguez made a pained face. "Listen to me! Who's up there?"


"OK. He must've hit the emergency stop. That's why the cart is hanging. Get up the ladder and tell Willie to manually release the safety restraint so those people can get out. OK? It's on the back of the cart, so you're gonna have to hold him while he leans out there. OK? Then . . . then, the two of ya's -- the two of ya's now, not one, you got it? -- the two of ya's get them out! One holds the other! Got it!? . . . Got it?"

Dominguez nodded quickly.

"Then send that damn cart down so we can figure out what happened!"

Eddie's head was pounding. Although his park had been free of any major accidents, he knew the horror stories of his business. Once, in Brighton, a bolt unfastened on a gondola ride and two people fell to their death. Another time, in Wonderland Park, a man had tried to walk across a roller coaster track; he fell through and got stuck beneath his armpits. He was wedged in, screaming, and the cars came racing toward him and . . . well, that was the worst.

Eddie pushed that from his mind. There were people all around him now, hands over their mouths, watching Dominguez climb the ladder. Eddie tried to remember the insides of Freddy's Free Fall. Engine. Cylinders. Hydraulics. Seals. Cables. How does a cart come loose? He followed the ride visually, from the four frightened people at the top, down the towering shaft, and into the base. Engine. Cylinders. Hydraulics. Seals. Cables . . . .

Dominguez reached the upper platform. He did as Eddie told him, holding Willie as Willie leaned toward the back of the cart to release the restraint. One of the female riders lunged for Willie and nearly pulled him off the platform. The crowd gasped.

"Wait . . ." Eddie said to himself.

Willie tried again. This time he popped the safety release.

"Cable . . ." Eddie mumbled.

The bar lifted and the crowd went "Ahhhhh." The riders were quickly pulled to the platform.
"The cable is unraveling . . . ."

And Eddie was right. Inside the base of Freddy's Free Fall, hidden from view, the cable that lifted Cart No. 2 had, for the last few months, been scraping across a locked pulley. Because it was locked, the pulley had gradually ripped the cable's steel wires -- as if husking an ear of corn -- until they were nearly severed. No one noticed. How could they notice? Only someone who had crawled inside the mechanism would have seen the unlikely cause of the problem.

The pulley was wedged by a small object that must have fallen through the opening at a most precise moment.

A car key.

"Don't release the CART!" Eddie yelled. He waved his arms. "HEY! HEEEEY! IT'S THE CABLE! DON'T RELEASE THE CART! IT'LL SNAP!"

The crowd drowned him out. It cheered wildly as Willie and Dominguez unloaded the final rider. All four were safe. They hugged atop the platform.

"DOM! WILLIE!" Eddie yelled. Someone banged against his waist, knocking his walkie-talkie to the ground. Eddie bent to get it. Willie went to the controls. He put his finger on the green button. Eddie looked up.

"NO, NO, NO, DON'T!"

Eddie turned to the crowd. "GET BACK!"

Something in Eddie's voice must have caught the people's attention; they stopped cheering and began to scatter. An opening cleared around the bottom of Freddy's Free Fall.

And Eddie saw the last face of his life.

She was sprawled upon the ride's metal base, as if someone had knocked her into it, her nose running, tears filling her eyes, the little girl with the pipe-cleaner animal. Amy? Annie?
"Ma . . . Mom . . . Mom . . . " she heaved, almost rhythmically, her body frozen in the paralysis of crying children.

"Ma . . . Mom . . . Ma . . . Mom . . . "

Eddie's eyes shot from her to the carts. Did he have time? Her to the carts --

Whump. Too late. The carts were dropping -- Jesus, he released the brake! -- and for Eddie, everything slipped into watery motion. He dropped his cane and pushed off his bad leg and felt a shot of pain that almost knocked him down. A big step. Another step. Inside the shaft of Freddy's Free Fall, the cable snapped its final thread and ripped across the hydraulic line. Cart No. 2 was in a dead drop now, nothing to stop it, a boulder off a cliff.

In those final moments, Eddie seemed to hear the whole world: distant screaming, waves, music, a rush of wind, a low, loud, ugly sound that he realized was his own voice blasting through his chest. The little girl raised her arms. Eddie lunged. His bad leg buckled. He half flew, half stumbled toward her, landing on the metal platform, which ripped through his shirt and split open his skin, just beneath the patch that read Eddie and Maintenance. He felt two hands in his own, two small hands.

A stunning impact.

A blinding flash of light.

And then, nothing.

Book Review - The Five People You Meet in Heaven

(By Mitch Albom - reproduced in full from the following website:

"All ending are beginnings. We just don't know it at the time..."

From the author of the number one New York Times bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie comes this long-awaited follow-up, an enchanting, beautifully crafted novel that explores a mystery only heaven can unfold.

Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. As the park has changed over the years -- from the Loop-the-Loop to the Pipeline Plunge -- so, too, has Eddie changed, from optimistic youth to embittered old age. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.

Then, on his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his -- and then nothing. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.

One by one, Eddie's five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom gives us an astoundingly original story that will change everything you've ever thought about the afterlife -- and the meaning of our lives here on earth. With a timeless tale, appealing to all, this is a book that readers of fine fiction, and those who loved Tuesdays with Morrie, will treasure.

Medical Journals - Adipocere

Adipocere, also known by the terms such as, grave wax and saponified flesh (which create the phenomenon termed as soap mummies) is mostly met with by forensic medical experts, hence its other name of mortuary fat. It’s a greyish-white or yellow waxy substance that forms from the fat of certain parts of dead bodies, especially when fatty tissue are allowed to decompose in an alkaline and wet environment with limited oxygen. Anaerobic bacteria digest fats of the dead body and thereby converting them into a waxy solid. The changes occur quite quickly and can accompany a form of natural mummification.

It’s known to occur in ancient bog bodies and in those preserved in ice, such as the Alpine man Ötzi. It’s also encountered sometimes by archaeologists investigating relatively modern sites containing burials; an example was the difficult and harrowing excavation in the crypt of Christ Church Cathedral in Spitalfields, London, in the early 1980s.

The word derives, via French, in which language the word was first employed in the late eighteenth century, from the Latin adipis, “fat” (as in adipose tissue), and cera, “wax”.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Three Princes of Serendip

In ancient times, there existed in the country of Serendippo, in the Far East, a great and powerful king by the name of Giaffer. He had three sons who were very dear to him. And being a good father and very concerned about their education, he decided that he had to leave them endowed not only with great power, but also with all kinds of virtues of which princes are particularly in need.

In order to provide the best tutors for his sons, the king travels throughout the island until he finds a number of scholars, each specialized in a different field. And to them he entrusted the training of his sons, with the understanding that the best they could do for him was to teach them in such a way that they could be immediately recognized as his very own.

As the three princes are endowed with great intelligence, they soon become highly trained in the arts and sciences. However, when the tutors inform the king of his sons’ achievements, he is sceptical. So he summons his eldest son and announces that he wishes to retire to a monastery and that his son should succeed him as ruler. The eldest son politely refuses, insisting that his father is wiser and should reign until his death. The two younger sons also refuse when commanded in a similar manner.

Although the king is astonished by the wisdom displayed by his sons, he decides to send them on a prolonged journey so that they can acquire empirical experience. He summons his sons and, giving the impression of being angry and disappointed because they have all disobeyed him, banishes them from Serendip. Thus, they started their peregrination and moved out of his kingdom until they reached the kingdom of a great and powerful emperor, whose name was Beramo.

Misfortune befalls the princes when a camel driver stops them on the road and asks them if they have seen one of his camels. Although they have not, they have noticed signs that suggest a camel has passed along the road. Ever ready to dazzle with their wit and sagacity, the princes mystify the camel driver by asking him if the lost camel is blind in one eye, missing a tooth and lame. The camel driver, impressed by the accuracy of the description, immediately hurries off in pursuit of the animal.

After a fruitless search, and feeling deceived, he returns to the princes, who reassure him by supplying further information. The camel, they say, carried a load of butter on one side and honey on the other, and was ridden by a pregnant woman. Concluding that the princes have stolen the camel, the driver has them imprisoned. It is only after the driver’s neighbour finds the camel that they are released.

The princes are brought before Emperor Beramo, who asks them how they could give such an accurate description of a camel they had never seen. It is clear from the princes’ reply that they had brilliantly interpreted the scant evidence observed along the road.

As the grass had been eaten on one side of the road where it was less verdant, the princes deduced that the camel was blind to the other side. Because there were lumps of chewed grass on the road the size of a camel’s tooth, presumably they had fallen through the gap left by a missing tooth. The tracks showed the prints of only three feet, the fourth being dragged, indicating that the animal was lame. That butter was carried on one side of the camel and honey on the other was clear because ants had been attracted to melted butter on one side of the road and flies to spilled honey on the other.

As for the deduction regarding the pregnant rider, the princes guessed that the camel must have carried a woman because they had noticed that near the tracks where the animal had knelt down the imprint of a foot was visible. Because some urine was near by, the princes wet thier fingers in it and as a reaction to its odour, they felt a sort of carnal concupiscence, which convinced them that the imprint was of a woman’s foot. They further guessed that the same woman must have been pregnant because they had noticed nearby handprints which were indicative that the woman, being pregnant, had helped herself up with her hands while urinating.

Emperor Beramo is so astounded by the princes' sagacity in the matter of the missing camel that he invites them to be his guests. He is soon convinced that they are blessed with the powers of prophecy when they divine that one of his counsellors is planning to poison him. Their remarkable abilities prompt him to tell them a strange story. He relates how there was once a Mirror of Justice in his realm that revealed the guilty, so ensuring peace and tranquility. However, the mirror was stolen and taken to another land, where it came into the possession of a Virgin Queen. Beramo urges the princes to retrieve the mirror so that justice can be restored.

Their task is complicated by a giant upright hand that has appeared upon the sea near the queen's capital and is terrorizing the inhabitants. The decision is made to bring the mirror to the shore and orient it towards the hand. As a result, the hand starts to clutch at animals rather than humans. Understandably, the queen is reluctant to part with the mirror, as it now prevents any further human loss. The daunting challenge for the princes is to subdue the hand once and for all.

The princes arrive at the queen's capital and proceed to the beach to confront the hand. The eldest realizes that it is a symbol illustrating that if five men unite for a single purpose, they can conquer the world. So he holds up his hand with only the second and third fingers erect, demonstrating that it is an error to believe that five united men are necessary, when only two would suffice. The giant hand disappears forever beneath the sea and the queen gracefully surrenders the mirror.

When the princes return the Mirror of Justice to Beramo, they learn of the catastrophe that has befallen the emperor in their absence. Beramo has fallen in love with a beautiful slave girl called Diliramma, who one day questioned his honour in public. In a fit of rage, he had her bound and abandoned in a forest. The next day, Beramo was filled with remorse and ordered a search for his paramour. No trace of her was found, leaving Beramo ill with sorrow.

Witnessing the emperor's suffering, the princes advise him to build seven beautiful palaces and to reside in each one for a week. In addition, the best storyteller in each of the seven most important cities of the empire is to be brought into his royal presence to recount a marvellous story.

Over the weeks, in his various palaces, Beramo listens with appreciation to six of the stories, his health steadily improving. While listening to the seventh story, about a ruler who spurns his lover, Beramo suddenly realizes that it concerns Diliramma and himself. On being questioned, the storyteller reveals that he knows Diliramma and that she is searching for her lord to tell him that she still loves him despite his act of cruelty. Overjoyed, Beramo sends for Diliramma and they are reunited.

Beramo asks the three princes how they conceived such an effective remedy. They tell him they recommended seven different palaces to be built so that variety might cure the root of his illness, insomnia. As no trace of Diliramma had been found in the forest, they refused to believe that wild animals had eaten her. Therefore they suggested that storytellers be summoned from afar in case news of her might be received. As Diliramma had been discovered in the forest by a travelling merchant, who took her far away, their strategy turned out to be precisely correct.

The princes return to Serendip, and the story ends with the three wise sons of King Giaffer becoming three wise rulers. Upon Giaffer's death, the eldest son succeeds his father as King of Serendip. The middle son returns to the land of the Virgin Queen, marries her and becomes king. Emperor Beramo, who has a daughter, sends for the youngest son and offers her in marriage. Soon after the wedding, Beramo dies, and his son-in-law becomes lord of his empire.

N.B. I developed the inspiration to research and to write on the subject matter after reading the blog conversation which occurred between between 17 and 18 January 2005 between serendipitygracey and axiuex (better known as Wendy Cheng a.k.a. Xiaxue, mistress of the egoistically named blog “Why are you worshipping the ground I blog on” at The link containing the above mentioned conversation can be found at

Actually, despite the fact that i said Xiaxue's blog was egoistically named, i personally thought that there is relatively good basis as to why the blog was named as such after having the privellege to review the said blog :)

On the morning of January 28, 1754, Horace Walpole (1717-97), fourth Earl of Orford, son of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, connoisseur, antiquarian and author of the famous gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (London, 1765), sat down at his desk in the library of his gothic mansion, Strawberry Hill, to attend to his correspondence. It was a daily ritual, for the man in question was probably the greatest letter writer of his era, or of any other for that matter. On that winter’s morning in Twickenham, London, he composed a letter in which he committed to paper for the first time a word that has contributed much to the English language. As a consequence, he resurrected a strange Oriental tale that would otherwise have been condemned to obscurity.

The word he invented was, of course, serendipity. And the tale he rescued from literary oblivion was The Three Princes of Serendip. The letter - to Horace Mann, an envoy in the service of King George II stationed in Florence – was written to acknowledge the safe arrival of a portrait of Bianco Capello, a 16th century beauty and Duchess of Tuscany. This letter is contained among the 31 volumes of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (New Haven, 1937), edited by Wilmarth Sheldon

“This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavour to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right – now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table.”

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tartarus - Greek Mythology

Tartarus, or Tartaros, is both a deity and a place in the underworld - even lower than Hades. In ancient orphic sources and in the mystery schools Tartaros is also the unbounded first-existing "thing" from which the Light and the cosmos is born.

The Greek poet Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall 9 days before it reached the Earth. The anvil would take 9 more days to fall from Earth to Tartarus. As a place so far from the sun and so deep in the earth, Tartarus is hemmed in by 3 layers of night, which surrounds a bronze wall which in turn encompasses Tartarus. It is a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom. It is one of the primordial objects, along with Chaos, Earth, and Eros, that emerged into the universe.

While, according to Greek mythology, Hades is the place of the dead, Tartarus also has a number of inhabitants. When Cronus, the ruling Titan, came to power he imprisoned the Cyclopes in Tartarus. Zeus released them to aid in his conflict with the Titan giants. The gods of Olympus eventually defeated them and they were cast into Tartarus. They were guarded by giants, each with 50 enormous heads and 100 strong arms, who were called Hecatonchires. Later, when Zeus overcame the monster Typhus, the offspring of Tartarus and Gaia, he threw it, too, into the same pit.

Tartarus is also the place where the punishment fits the crime. For example Sisyphus, who was both a thief and murderer, was condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down at the top. Also found there was Ixion, the first human to spill the blood of a relative. He caused his father in-law to fall into a pit of burning coals to avoid paying the bride-price. The fitting punishment was to spend eternity on a flaming wheel. Tantalus, who enjoyed the confidence of the gods by conversing and dining with them, shared the food and the secrets of the gods with his friends. The fitting punishment was to be immersed up to his neck in cool water, which disappeared whenever he attempted to quench his thirst, and luscious grapes above him that leapt up when he tried to take a hold.

In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to avoid sinners escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamant, a substance akin to diamond - so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Furies who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus and many other sinners. Still more sinners are contained inside Tartarus, with punishments similar to those of Greek myth.

The author of Peter's First Epistle alludes to this tradition, naming Tartaros as the judgement of fallen angels.

Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos were the judges of the dead and chose who went to Tartarus. Rhadamanthus judged Asian souls; Aeacus judged European souls and Minos was the deciding vote and judge of the Greek.

Medical Journals - Chimerism

In zoology terms, a chimera is an animal which has (at least) two different populations of cells, which are genetically distinct and which originated in different zygotes (fertilized eggs). Chimeras are named after the mythological creature Chimera (please kindly refer to my notes below for further details).

Chimerism may occur naturally during pregnancy, when two non-identical twins combine in the womb, at a very early stage of development, to form a single organism. Such an organism is called a tetragametic chimera as it is formed from four gametes—two eggs and two sperm. As the organism develops, the resulting chimera can come to possess organs that have different sets of chromosomes. For example, the chimera may have a liver composed of cells with one set of chromosomes and have a kidney composed of cells with a second set of chromosomes. This has occurred in humans, though it is considered extremely rare, but since it can only be detected through DNA testing, which in itself is rare, it may be more common than currently believed. As of 2003, there were about 30 human cases in the literature, according to New Scientist.

Chimerism is a condition that is clear and distinct from that of Mosaicism, although individuals with the respective conditions, known as chimeras and mosaics respectively, are individuals that have more than one genetically-distinct population of cells. In mosaics, the genetically different cell types all arise from a single zygote, whereas in chimeras, the genetically different cell types originate from more than one zygote. The distinction between these two forms is quite clearly defined, although at times ignored or misused. In mosaics, the genetically different cell types all arise from a single zygote, whereas chimeras originate from more than one zygote.

N.B. In Greek Mythology, Chimera was one of the offspring of Typhon, who was a titan and the final son of Gaia (Mother Earth) and Tartarus (this is apparently both a deity and a place in the underworld which is even lower than Hades itself and this will be further discussed in the following posting), and Echidna who was also known as the mother of all monsters (among her more famous offsprings, other the Chimera include Geryon, the Nemean Lion, Cerberus, Ladon, Sphinx and the Lernean Hydra).

Chimera had the body of a goat, the hindquarters of a snake or dragon and the head of a lion, though other descriptions of her said that she had heads of both the goat and lion, with a snake for a tail. Chimera also breathed fire from one or more of her heads.

Chimera was finally defeated by Bellerophon with the help of Pegasus, the winged horse, at the command of King Iobates of Lycia. There are varying descriptions of her death – some say merely that Bellerophon ran her through on his spear, whereas others say that he fitted his spear point with lead that melted when exposed to Chimera's fiery breath and consequently killed her.

Syllogism - Aristotlean logic

A syllogism is an inference in which one proposition (the conclusion) follows of necessity from two others (known as premises) and this forms the foundation of traditional logic. This definition is traditional in nature, but is derived loosely from Aristotle's Prior Analytics, as such, syllogism is also known popularly as Aristotlean logic. As a matter of interest, the word “syllogism” has its roots from the Greek word "sullogismos", which means "deduction".

Syllogisms consist of three things: major, minor (the premises) and conclusion, which follows logically from the major and the minor. A major is a general principle. A minor is a specific statement. Logically, the conclusion follows from applying the major to the minor.

For example, this is the classic "Barbara" syllogism, given by Aristotle:
If all humans (B's) are mortal (A), (major)
and all Greeks (C's) are humans (B's), (minor)
then all Greeks (C's) are mortal (A). (conclusion)
That is,
Men die. (general principle)
Socrates is a man. (specific statement)
Socrates will die. (application of major to minor)

A metaphor, in contrast, resembles a form of syllogism called affirming the consequent, which is a logical fallacy:
Dogs (B) die (A).
Men (C's) die (A).
Men (C's) are dogs (B).

A Barbara syllogism involves grammar and logical types; it has a subject (e.g. Socrates) and a predicate (mortal). Affirming the Consequent, the basis of metaphor, is grammatically symmetrical: it equates two predicates. This form of syllogism is logically invalid.

Syllogisms may also be invalid if they have four terms or the middle term is not distributed.

Epagoge are weak syllogisms that rely on inductive reasoning.

The conclusion is a biconditional only when all premises are biconditionals. This statement is of great practical value. In a succession of deductions we must pay close attention to see if the transition from one proposition to the other takes place by means of a biconditional or only of a conditional. There is no equivalence between two extreme propositions unless all intermediate deductions are equivalences; in other words, if there is one single implication in the chain, the relation of the two extreme propositions is only that of implication.

Proverbial question: Falling tree in the woods

Question: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it necessarily make a sound as it falls? For that matter, did it really fall?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Medical Journals - Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic agents and they act as central nervous system depressants which is a category of drugs that slow normal brain function. Most of these drugs act on the brain by affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that facilitate communication between brain cells. gamma-aminobutyric acid works by decreasing brain activity. Although the different classes of central nervous system depressants work in unique ways, ultimately it is through their ability to increase gamma-aminobutyric acidactivity that they produce a drowsy or calming effect that is beneficial to those suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines commonly are used for a variety of situations that include seizure control, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, control of drug-associated agitation, as muscle relaxants, and as preanesthetic agents. They also are combined frequently with other medications for conscious sedation before procedures or interventions. Because of their widespread popularity, these drugs commonly are abused. In addition, Benzodiazepines frequently are used in overdose, either alone or in association with other substances.

Among the medications that are commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:
Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), which are used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), which can be prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks; the more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) can be prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders.

In higher doses, some central nervous system depressants can be used as general anesthetics.

Despite their many beneficial effects, barbiturates and benzodiazepines have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed. During the first few days of taking a prescribed central nervous system depressant, a person usually feels sleepy and uncoordinated, but as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, these feelings begin to disappear. If one uses these drugs long term, the body will develop tolerance for the drugs, and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same initial effects. In addition, continued use can lead to physical dependence and - when use is reduced or stopped - withdrawal. Because all central nervous system depressants work by slowing the brain's activity, when an individual stops taking them, the brain's activity can rebound and race out of control, possibly leading to seizures and other harmful consequences. Although withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be problematic, it is rarely life threatening, whereas withdrawal from prolonged use of other central nervous system depressants can have life-threatening complications. Therefore, someone who is thinking about discontinuing central nervous system depressant therapy or who is suffering withdrawal from a central nervous system depressant should speak with a physician or seek medical treatment.

At high doses or when they are abused, many of these drugs can even cause unconsciousness and death.

N.B: Given the unique properties of Benzodiazepines, such central nervous system depressants could very well be used in combination with other form of drugs which by themselves are not palatable and may therefore be rejected by the human body through the normal purging reflexes. Since Benzodiazepines surpresses gag reflexes, the inpalatable drugs will then be given sufficient time to be fully absorbed into the human body to achieve whatever purposes they are meant for.