Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A blog that needs to be visited..

Hey everyone, sorry this has to be short and sweet. I'll do a longer update later. But I've just been over at my friend Chika's blog and I need to recommend it here. Her last few posts are really insightful, well written thoughts, that everyone could benefit from. So I'll put the link up here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Barack Obama

So I don't know if you've been keeping track of the American presidential campaign (I hope you're not because there are much better uses of your time....I however seem to be addicted to anything political.....). I don't know about you but i think if you asked most people in the US today, they'd probably rather have a new election tomorrow than spend another 2 years with the current administration. As it seems about time for a democratic president, and with now real strong republican candidates appearing (at this still early stage) attention has been given strongly to two people, Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary (recognizable by simply her first name in many parts of the world) is a known quantity, which from what I read, is a good quality to have in US politics. People seem to be much more likely to vote for someone if they don't feel like they're going to be surprised by their actions. Obama on the other hand, is not very well known. However those of us who have lived in Illinois, do know him. I remember when he was running for the US Senate while I was at Wheaton. There was such a buzz around this charasmatic man. At that time I did a little bit of research on him and his biography was enough for me to set him apart in my mind. He was born to a Kenyan father and White American mother (from Kansas). His parents divorced when he was 2 and then his mother remarried an Indonesian man and the whole family moved to Indonesia, where Obama spent some of his childhood, before moving back to Kansas to be raised by his grandparents. In other words he was a Third Culture Kid (the type of youth that my brother and his wife work with).

Anyway, I've been reading more and more about him, and truly does seem a different sort of politician. Some of the comments he makes, cut through the intensely polarised, black and white understandings that are all too common in the US 2-party system and he is a politician that embraces that most issues are a lot more grey and require compromises along with difficult, unpopular decisions.

Anyway, I think this short video about his background and what even got him to this point is quite informative and worth a quick look.

At the end of his speech on the video his rhetoric shows him to be a different type of leader, one perhaps who would be able to lead a now post-modern, pluralistic nation.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Western governments' foreign + economic policy matters....

I got this from the charity OXFAM's website.

Access to medicines

Life-saving drugs under threat in Thailand

Thailand's national HIV and AIDS treatment programme has succeeded in providing cheap drugs to 90 per cent of the people who need them.

However, the US push for a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand threatens the future of the treatment programme by enforcing stricter patent rules. This could increase the price of new and improved AIDS drugs by as much as 90 per cent, costing the Thai government up to $3.2 billion and putting thousands of lives at risk.

For Solada, the availability of affordable medicines is a matter of life or death. She is 43-years-old and HIV-positive. She is currently receiving medicine through the government treatment programme. She lives with her husband who is a casual labourer, and her 16-year-old son. Sewing bags for a living, she is the family's main breadwinner. "When I first learnt I was HIV-positive I couldn't accept it," she says. "But now, because of the treatment I receive, I feel alive. I'm born again."

Experts say that about five per cent of drug recipients each year develop resistance, as the HIV virus mutates. When this happens, new and improved drugs are required. These medicines are expensive as they are patented by international drug companies. The current prices charged by companies for these drugs ($6,782) are more than ten times the cost of cheaper copies currently provided by the government ($482). If the US and pharmaceutical companies get their way, life-saving drugs will be priced out of the reach of Thailand’s poor people.

Isra is a 34-year-old dried seafood retailer living with HIV. Without support from Oxfam, he would be unable to pay for his HIV treatment, which costs twice what he earns per month. "I want drug companies to make drugs affordable," he says. "The new drugs are expensive. I think they should also be part of the government programme, as people on my income can't afford to buy them. I get depressed and stressed when I think of it. I have no choice, I want to survive. I need these drugs."

The economics of effective AIDS treatment: evaluating policy options for Thailand (World Bank; 2006), by Ana Revenga , Mead Over , Wiwat Peerapatanapokin , Sombat Thanprasertsuk , Emiko Masaki , Viroj Tangcharoensathien , Julian Gold.

Act now - email Novartis CEO Global drug company, Novartis, must stop denying India the right to produce cheaper medicines for poor people worldwide!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Climate Change.....are critics sane?

So probably like most people, I'm one of those who tries to do my bit for the environment, but probably could make a lot more of an effort. I try to recycle, not take too many uneccesary car journeys (easy when you don't own a car) and the like. I definitely believe that human activity overall impacts the environment more for bad than good, and that we really should be doing more to reduce our carbon emissions and live in more of a harmony with what's left of nature.

(A quick side-note, I remember once when Janet, a Dr. with Servants Cambodia, took me out on a trip to the countryside where she helps do a TB clinic. When we got there, I felt as if I was in paradise, and wondered to myself if this was the first time I had ever breathed "pure" air. It was so untouched by pollution).

So anyway, I was reading on Drudge Report which I use as my source for a right-wing perspective in news (I like to get a wide spectrum of news sources to try and then formulate my own opinion), and found this article written in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. Written by Richard Lindzen, a professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, the article discusses the politics of climatology and what he sees as the silencing of anyone who dissents on the topic. It is interesting reading, and I don't know enough about the author, or the context in which he is writing to really know what to think of it, but it does make me think. Basically what he says is that the jury is still truly out on how and even if man's activities on earth are causing a global rise in average temperature.

This is basically his main point: "Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred."

Anyway, I find it interesting. I'm the type of person that likes for dissension to be free. The second we start silencing opposing voices we threaten scientific progress and the accountability that comes with having people research debated and questioned. We wouldn't stand for a government without having an opposition, we also shouldn't be content to have a scientific community where dissension, no matter how small the voices, are squashed out of political and monetary concerns (on both sides).

Have a read of the article for yourself's only about a page long.

I think that whatever happens to be the cause of rising global temperatures, we still have good reason to quench our carbon emissions, and burn less fossil fuels which cause mass polution and bad air quality. Humans are here as caretakers of the environment, nature was not made FOR us, but rather for our maker
, therefore we must stop acting like we were the only things made, and stop treating the rest of the world as there for our exploitation.

Matt's Visit

So there are nicer things about living closer to home. My brother was in England on a business trip and so he was able to stop by for a night and stay with me and see where I live. I took him up to Winchester on Friday night (cause in fairness it's a lot nicer than Southampton), and we had a drink at the Wykeham Arms (a famous pub that's become sort of our local as med students when we're at the Winchester campus). Then we went out for dinner at ASK pizza and pasta, on the high street, which was really nice.

Today, Saturday, we slept in a bit (i.e. till 10) and then headed into southampton so that matt could see it, could buy some prezzies for his kids, and then we headed for lunch at "Cowherds" a really nice pub/restaurant in Southampton. I had toad-in-the-hole it was pretty amazing food (thanks matt for taking me out by the way).

That little paper cut out is a miniature version of a school child who goes to school in Indianapolis, Indiana. A friend of mine who is a teacher made a project where each kid made a miniature version of themselves and they sent them around the world, to different people to see what experiences they get up to, so I've been trying to have her with me at the ready....still there's not too many exciting things that happen to me here.
I thought I probably needed a picture of my brother, just to prove to people that he actually came. It was good having him. I hope he comes back, and next time can bring Hailey, Eoin and Moia along as well.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Books that deserve my attention but probably won't get it...

Well, I made it back to southampton alright. It's pouring down rain here, but I'm just thankful to be back and finally done with travelling for the moment.

I've decided to put off editing on the essays i need to do in order to list a few books that I'm really wanting to read but that this medical school thing combined with the fact that i'm a really slow reader, are making impossible.

These aren't in order by the way.....

1) The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly (2006)

A rigorous study of the overall failure of the attempts of the North to transplant its institutions on the South and propel economic, social and political development.

2) Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

-I've started this one, and it's good, really interesting. I'm finding myself having to look up a lot of the hindi/samskrit terminology he uses, but i'm finding his ideas fascinating....i'm only 20 pages in though, so it's still slow going, and i'm guessing i won't get to read anymore till easter.

3) Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

-I want to read it partly for reasons of being conversant when it's brought up in conversation, but also partly to know what this book that i keep recomending to people really has to say....slightly worried.

4) From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality by Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos

-it's a topic that always interests me, almost because the term "Male Spirituality" can sometimes in our society be seen as an oxymoron. I also have a deep respect for Richard Rohr, partly be recomendation, partly from listening to him speak and partly from the work I read by him on the Enneagram.

5) Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism

-although I'm not sure I like the title of this book, cause the question itself almost sounds triumphalist to me.... i am deeply intrigued by the idea. There is so much that I see as good in the Catholic tradition, especially among the religious orders. There is so much history and depth of understanding in the traditions of spiritual direction, that I have many times thought about conversion. There is still however, in my mind, some things which keep me from doing this. I believe this book, by one of the worlds most reknowned scholar of modern christianity would greatly increase my understanding.

These are some of the first that come to mind. I'm also open to any suggestions if you have any that you think would be good for me to get a hold of.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'm still alive...for now...

Sorry I've been out of posting for a while, I've been doing my Christmas tour of America and didn't seem to get much of a chance to sit down and ponder. I had a good time in California with relatives, my other mission for my time there was to do my shopping that i've been needing to do for a good 3 years, (and hopefully will last me for a good 3 years more). So now, my shoes are not falling apart, my jumper doesn't have a huge giant hole in the sleeve, and i have more than one pair of trousers besides jeans (sort of a necessity in med school..).

The nebraska wedding was great. John and James (two of my ex-floormates) were kind enough to give Benjamin and I a lift from Lincoln Nebraska to would have been only a 6-7 hour trip had we not woken up to a blizzard. As we were on the motorway still inside Nebraska a car infront of us slammed on it's breaks, we we're only going 40 miles per hour, as the snow and ice was thick, but as John swerved to avoid the car in front of us our car lost traction and we skidded accross four lanes of the road. Because for some reason or another God wanted at least one of us in that car to still be alive, our car missed all the other traffic and skidded into the muddy median between the two sides of the road. Again, by the mercy of God, we were able to push the car out of the deep, and covered with mud, were able to get back on our way. When we walked into a McDonalds to get some breakfast and to see if the storm would get any better, the woman behind the cash register burst out laughing....we did look pretty funny, one of us had a huge chunk of Mud on his forhead that he hadn't seen to clean off.....anyway...the rest of the trip to chicago was pretty uneventful....although we did have some good times dancing in the back seat.....okay so it was only me who was dancing.....

Chicago: it really felt like going home. It felt so good to be in a place that I had spent 4 years getting to know, with people who in some ways know me better than family. It was great to stay with Matt and Ryan, who I had been in a prayer group with four 2 years, Sam, also part of that group, was there with us for 2 nights as well. Sunday night was a good time just to catch up with everyone as we saw in the new year, and then on monday, as we all eventually woke up, we headed over to "Father Paul's" house for Kenyan Chai, and ended up having dinner there too. When I was part of the HNGR programme, during the integration/consolodation part of the programme, we had a class every wednesday night during my last semester at Wheaton. After that class each week Dr. Robinson (whom we all seem to lovingly call Father Paul) would invite us all over to his house just for discussion, mentoring and 'most importantly' Chai (usually made for us by his wife Margie). It was a really good time for me, and was especially good to discuss the whole emotional/personal side of how HNGR affected us than was really appropriate in the classroom. The HNGR programme really has the capacity to mess you a good way that is, it literally turns your world upside down. Anyway, on monday we talked a lot about our lives now, how we were trying (to more or less success...less in my case) to live out the values and things that we learned during HNGR. Our conversation ranged from gossip about who was dating who, to the effect of online media (such as blogging) on society and internationally, to God and the restoration of the world from all the mess that we're in. It was seriously a great time. Dr. Robinson encouraged us all to see Blood Diamond so we all decided to see it then that night. YOU NEED TO SEE THAT FILM. It's not something that will make you feel good, actually it will probably make you feel sick, but it is important to see because the exact same things are still going on today, not just with the diamond trade but also with other resources like the coltan in our mobile phones found in Democratic Republic of Congo. Maybe with more awareness, something can be done....maybe.

Anyway, it was great being in Chicago, and although I felt so at home, and was overjoyed to see such close and valued friends, i got a sense of peace that right now I am where I'm meant to be, in Southampton. So Sunday, I'll be on my way, back to Glen Eyre Hall and the Bolderwood campus to rejoin the long trudge towards qualification. Let's just hope I haven't forgotten everything over the break.

THE Event of Last Year!

Mark and Dana's wedding was good times. I was really honoured to be a part of it. I can think of very few couples who i've thought were more suited for each other than Mark and Dana. Their love and mutual commitment to God was inspiring and they definitely displayed through their wedding ceremony that the most important part of their relationship was their commitment to God and what his purposes are for them as a couple. It'll be interesting to see where they end up in a few years.

Dana is awesome. What more can I say?

(Left to Right) 'Pulitzer prize nominated' Dakarai Aarons (star journalist for the Memphis paper "Commercial Appeal"), Benjamin Washam (my former roommate and the guy who keeps me on the straight and narrow), Steve Coddington (Mark's brother and best man), and then Me, now a good 10 lbs heavier, thanks to my 3 weeks in America.