Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Okay, so tell me what you think.

Here's a list of the books that I keep wanting to read but never have time to as a medic (or should I make that a very slow reading medic).

I'm looking to get advice as to which i should read first, if you've read one and it wasn't that good so I can axe it from the list, or if there's books I REALLY need to add.

In no particular order:

1. The politics of Jesus by John Yoder

2. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

3. Christi-Anarchy by Dave Andrews

4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

5. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

6. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere

7. Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology by Neil Postman

8. The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul

Alright those are just the ones that spring to mind again and again, there's others of course that i want to read but these are the ones that seem to stick in my mind. Any suggestions? Thoughts? Help me out here, I'll probably only read one or two by the end of the year (if I'm REALLY doing well that is).


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday 09-07-06 On the train to Rome from Siena

On the train to Rome... well actually to Chuisi - the countryside here is golden yellow and actually quite beautiful. The hill top towns we pass by are really well preserved. (.........) I really loved Siena. I'm so glad we stopped there. Thank God we were able to have that time there. It was so beautiful and not as tourist crazy as Florence. I wish I could have sat at the window of our room looking out onto the street for hours and hours. Towns like that are so romantic and sensual to me. I wonder why... I guess it evokes images from an imaginary past, or maybe because it shows how the city is organic, not centrally/mathematically planned with roads narrowing and winding, merging and diverging. Maybe it's the close proximity of things to each other. Rome will be good I hope but of course it will be a lot more manic than Siena. The world cup should be cool there, though.

Monday 10-07-2006 3:00 p.m. - Rome
So today was it, we went to the Vatican. The lines were long but they went quickly. St. Peter's was enormous. Very Majestic. Almost moved me to awe, but I'm too desensitized to that stuff, that type of art. At the very back behind the altar and above St. Peter's throne, was a piece that did move me to worship, but the rays of light -in gold- seemed a little too dull compared to what's deserving of our God. the line for the Sistine Chapel was even longer. They brought us through so many other rooms and chambers before actually seeing the chapel that you're really tired when you actually get to see it. Saw Raphael's "School of Athens" if I hadn't known it was famous, I probably would have skipped it over like most of the others. The facial expressions + clean style don't move me because they don't feel true to emotion. what did move me were the many pieces of modern art immediately before the sistine chapel but I had to consider the others I was with + how tired we all were/are so we didn't stop to ponder. The sistine chapel was a bit strange. There were so many people there was well as many security guards. Every few moments they would loudly Shhh! us and tell us to be quiet. A warning few took seriously. A very loud announcement came over speakers reminding us of the same + not to use any kind of photography - this warning came in 4 languages and definitively disturbed my peace.

Walking out I see the many street hawkers. They're lucky I guess, at least they have some capital. we passed by some car window washers. They really must have nothing, but they're not begging, wow. I was thinking today, the vatican is not the centre of the church today, if it ever was. Philip Jenkins has observed it right but Christ let us know long before. His kingdom is not of this earth, with palaces, gold + silver, prestigious art, his kingdom turns that on its head. I wonder if Benedict knows that?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The whole stem cell/science thing

Who am I to comment on US policy, but I will comment on US news coverage. I've been reading a few articles covering the decision of Barack Obama to overturn the decision that George W. Bush made to ban public funding of embryonic stem cell research. I really don't know what I think about embryonic stem cell research in general, it's a lot more gray I think than some would want to admit, but I also think it's a debate that's a bit past its time as the most promising stem cell research today doesn't come from embryos but from people's own cells. Anyway, that's not my point....

My point is the false dichotomy that reporters seem to be making between Religion and Science. They say that this decision brings science back to the White House.

One such article was by Roger Simon at (my favourite american political news source at the moment)

"President Barack Obama did a lot more than lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research Monday. He came to the startling conclusion that scientific research should be based on science."

What does the phrase "scientific research should be based on science" mean? Scientific research should of course be scientific, but research is always subject to outside demands. Funding (it needs someone who is interested in the question being studied). Politics (it must be politically seen as advantageous if it's to receive public funding) Ethics (all reputable scientific endeavors must undergo ethical questioning before beginning the project and even attaining grants). Bush (who I can't believe I'm defending) I believe, didn't argue against the liklihood that experimenting with embryonic stem cells, will eventually give rise to effective treatments for terrible illnesses. His argument was (agree or not) that these embryos had human rights and created an ethical issue that would be difficult for many tax payers to see their money going to. (probably a bad argument given that public money already goes to abortive perhaps a bit inconsistent). But nonetheless, this was his point. It wasn't an issue of science verses ethics. It's an issue of one groups ethical arguments vs another group's ethical arguments.

Simon also writes:
"Some centuries ago, they didn’t like Galileo saying the Earth revolved around the sun, and they got him to recant (and spend the rest of his life under house arrest). That wasn’t good for science, but it was just fine for the Inquisition."

Again, this is an unfair comparison. The church in this instance was arguing with Galileo's results. That's not happening here. People aren't against embryo testing just because they don't think it would work, and they wouldn't change their views if proven concretely that this is the case. They form their view from ethical values that determine human embryos are human beings. This is a philosophical and theological question, and therefore does not lend itself to exploration through the scientific method (even though certain findings such as: the ability of an embryo to split into twins, or the mapping of the genetic make-up of an embryo, and other chracteristics, can inform the debate, they cannot come up with an answer to the question.)

-Writing this I just heard a commentator on CNN say that "we should consider issues of religion, ethics, politics, but that at the end, science must come first...." what does that even mean? I guess in this sense they just mean the process of discovery. But how can a process, or methodology, of discovery control itself, without things like ethics. Science, itself, is an amoral undertaking. It's how the information discovered is used, or the techniques that one uses for that discovery.

For instance, if the issue was, (as they did in several countries in the 20th century) using those who have learning difficulties or who are prisoners to perform medical experiments on would people say "well, science must come first". The processes were often scientific, and even some knowledge we have about drugs I learn about in medical school comes to us from unethical experiments performed in Nazi Germany (it was a bit surprising finding that out). But obviously we would have ethical concerns, and we would recognise that perhaps there should be some boundaries to scientific endeavours.

It's really easy though to confuse people today. Scientific process cannot comment on ethical issues as such. Science can and must be used to help humanity (this is the basis of all medicine), and the ethical basis for using stem cell research for good. But saying, that science must come first before ethics, is REALLY an unwise statement. It's the type of statement that could cover many wrongs (as it has in the past).

Okay, that's enough of a rant for now. I should go to bed.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Missing Person

I just wanted to put this up just for a chance in a million. This is a woman who is the wife of a pastor of Elim Church in County Navan. Please pray that she would be found and kept safe.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A few pics from our weekend away in Romsey

This is pretty much what we did for most of the weekend. And I think that's a good thing.

Having another tense match of day I will beat Steve Jones...but not any time soon.

It's great having kids around, that's definitely something you miss about student life. Kids are especially cool though pretending to drive Con's quad bike.

The saturday walk was definitely one of the highlights...

Although there was the occasional local you had to run away from...thanks for the action pic Tom!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Classic Article from the Irish Times. Worth the read.

ONE FROM THE ARCHIVE/JANUARY 30TH, 2001: RUGBY PEOPLE. Can’t live with them. Can’t shoot them. Mainly can’t live with them. Can’t afford to live with them. Haven’t the bloodlines to live with them. Haven’t the patience to live with them. Haven’t the language skills to live with them. Haven’t the desire even. Rugby people have always been college scarves and jutting jaws and silly songs I don’t know the words of.

C-A-N-N-O-T live with them...

read on at:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Image of the Weekend!

"Sloppy Joe, meet Krispy Kreme. I promise, you’ll be great friends."

I saw this on a friend's tweet. Wow. If I'm honest I think I would try it if offered (cause I can't lie that I'm intrigued...) but if you're looking for a way to gain a stone or two in a week, this would be your diet. I am impressed at the concept though. So wrong but it is functional and logical.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Favourite Image of The Week

I want a big version of this to hang in my room. This map is based on population size. The bigger a country's population the bigger its size on the map.It definitely gives some perspective. It's mostly India and China. Maybe it would be good to keep this on the wall if we ever struggle with delusions of our own self-importance in the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just to update. Phil Rizk has been released safe to his family. For more info go to

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hey Everyone,
I just wanted to do something and try and raise awareness about a situation regarding someone I went to Wheaton with. I don't know Phil well but he's a friend of many of my friends, and is someone who has great respect for the work he does.

After graduating from Wheaton Phil (who's half Egyptian half German) went to work for a British Aid agency in Gaza for several years. He's now currently undertaking a graduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies at American University Cairo. He's continued to be a peace activist and advocate for palistinian people and has been one of the first people to help facilitate medical supplies going into Gaza after the recent conflict there. He writes a blog at about what's happening in Gaza.

At a recent event, a peaceful march for solidarity with the palistinian people he was abducted by Egyptian secret police. They have refused to give any information as to the whereabouts or why he is being held.

Please pray for his safety and quick release.

Here's some links for more info about his story:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Last weekend I managed to watch the film "Blood Diamonds" twice. Once I was watching by myself with the directors commentary on (really interesting insights to the film that way) and the second time I watched it with some friends who hadn't seen it before (I had to stop myself from saying every few minutes..."oh this is how they filmed that scene" "those roads are rubber, and those mountains in the background are CG"). If you haven't seen it it's a film about the Diamond trade and how the illegal diamond trade in Sierra Leone fulled the conflict that has so violently damaged that country and the millions of people there. One of the gruesome practices performed by the militias there would be to cut off people's hands to show their power and keep people in fear. One of the poignant lines spoken by the lead woman, an American journalist trying to uncover the facts and bring this to light, was this:

"People back home wouldn't buy a diamond if they knew it cost someone their hand"

We had a discussion afterwards, where we discussed if that's really true? I feel more so these days that we've just come the accept (myself included) that our products have come at the suffering of those far away from here, but that's just a fact of life and there's nothing we can do about it.

Case in point. The above picture is from the DR Congo, it's of Rwandan militas in the eastern part of the DRC where, as it was with diamonds, militias and armies have been fighting over the trade of the rich mineral resources in the area. We have been told so many times that our cheap electronics, our ipods, and mobile phones can only be made through using these materials. We know that this trade has been fuelling violence leading to the deaths of over 3 million people in the past 10 years. But we have seemed to accept it as the inevitable perhaps "collateral damage" of technological 'progress'.

HERE's a link to the most recent BBC article that alludes to this, along with other complexities involved. It's somewhere in the back pages.

To see some GOOD news happening in the region, check out the work of one of my favourite organisations, Congo Initiative, which some of my friends are involved in helping to run: Congo Initiative

Friday, January 16, 2009

As someone who has had the blessing (although it doesn't always feel that way) of needing to fly in airplanes on a frequent basis (let's just say I owe the world a few trees), the picture above serves as a bolt of hope, and completely made my day. The amount of times I'd seen those animated videos of what will happen if the plane needs to land on water, and people piling out onto wings and magical rafts that come from the doors, never once thinking that it was even remotely possible.

Ah New York, what a crazy place to live.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Obama the political genius and Sanjay Gupta

I'm just enjoying watching almost-President Obama do his political maneuvering. He's so great at it. Remember this is the guy who was rated the Senate's most liberal senator (or at least close). This guy struck fear in the hearts of many a conservative (probably for good reason). But the people he's been upsetting most lately seem to be democrats, and liberal democrats at that. Obama is completely changing his image (although i doubt his substance). This guy's a genius.

First it was his more centrist cabinet choices, then all the angry blogs about him asking the Christian pastor Rick Warren to give a prayer at his inauguration (bizarre for a country which is supposed to separate church and state -perhaps i'm more of a mennonite in that), and now this latest one which interests me because it's medically related.

I've been reading about Obama's possible appointment of one of People Magazine's 'Sexiest Men of 2003' (that's wikipedia knowledge, not my own...honest), Sanjay Gupta as new Surgeon General of the United States. Surgeon General as far as I can understand is pretty much mainly just a figurehead anyway, and the person who the public see as the most authoritative person when it comes to health matters, which is handy because Gupta is widely known in the US for being CNN's Health Correspondent, and for writing a widely read column on health matters. He briefly worked in the Whitehouse as a fellow under Hillary Clinton during the days of the failed attempts at reforming health care policy.

Anyway, the reason this is a massive political win for Obama, is that again, all the press about his appointment is from left-wing democrats complaining that this guy had a big argument with Michael Moore for his film Sicko. Now, i didn't realise this fact about Gupta, and I doubt most people do. But now people who are even semi-interested in Gupta will know this. For conservatives this will put their hearts at ease; anyone who disagrees with Moore gains points in their books. So that will put the emotional fear element to rest, but actually Gupta's views are to reform health care in the US, much in line with Obama's plan, and as Obama's Surgeon General it'll be his job to try and convince the nation that it's a good idea. So who better than to get someone who most in the nation regularly welcome into their homes and go to for medical advice.

Obama (or at least someone on his team) is a political genius.

Massive Job Losses

This is another reason why I love Ireland. In few other countries in a newspaper article about a manufacturing plant closing would you get such a gracious, thoughtful perspective in relation to seeing such a painful event unfold.

I just read this in the Independent

"The dread day has arrived and the worst rumours are proved true. Although the job losses had been heavily signalled, nothing really prepares us for the realisation that the work is going and with it the salaries, the security, the mortgages, the immediate future.

People are saying that it's ironic that we trained the Poles who will now take 'our' jobs.

But you can't help but notice that many of senior Dell managers interviewed all day on the radio had a distinctly American twang to their Irish accents.

Who trained them? Whose jobs did Limerick take back in 1990 and keep for the last 17 years? What did they think in Texas when Michael said he was setting up in Ireland and giving 'their' jobs to us?

So perhaps this is part of that natural economic cycle that the economists are always talking about where manufacturing invariably flows to the locations with the lowest costs? We'll have lots of time to think about the answers for the next couple of years."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaza day 11

Let me just say that to start this off that I know of no solution to the ongoing problems in the middle east, and that there are two sides to the story. This CBS interview with a Norwegian doctor working in a hospital in Gaza was sent to me by one of my housemates who said it almost brought him to tears. I think people everywhere, and hopefully those who desire to emulate the radical way of Christ, need to mourn this and speak out against war in all its material forms.

These people have nowhere to run. I can't (and don't want to) imagine what that's like.