Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stringing the chords

Like Norah Jones would say...... "Here we go again....". Yesterday was my first day at the guitar class. With some motivation from my wife I finally decided to get out there and try it out. So I signed up for these lessons at an adult education centre.

Four years ago there was a similar crisis in my life. I felt the need for music and went and bought myself a keyboard. I know you are wondering why I didn’t ust go and buy myself a music system instead. Something I wonder too. I was primarily inspired by a colleague of mine who used to play it effortlessly. Watching him play made be a bit jealous of the fact that I couldn't play any instrument. So with his help I went and bought myself a second hand keyboard. That was followed by the self teaching books. A few days went by and the interest waned. I guess it was discouraging that I was not making any progress in understanding the notes at all. I would be able to play a couple of tunes but I knew within myself that they were simply key combinations to me and nothing more. The notes meant nothing whatsoever.

Then came a time when I took drastic action. Bought myself a CD and a MIDI cable and hooked up my keyboard with the computer. That was an improvement because the software timed my keystrokes and told me if I was off tune. A few days went by (not that I made much progress on the music front) and one fine day my computer went on the blink. I had no idea what triggered it. So I suspected my MIDI connection and never dared connect it to my new laptop that I replaced the computer with.

That was 3 years ago. A lot of things have happened in 3 years. But my yearning to play an instrument effortlessly still lingers. So here I am stringing up my (borrowed) guitar and off to the classes. I hope to play a better tune this time around.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In defense of the church.

The other day I got into church about five minutes late for the regular Sunday service. The church was full and I was left standing at the back of the church. The service was pretty ordinary, and things were going along as usual until I noticed somebody standing next to me. This was an old lady probably in her sixties. She was standing with her two grown sons. Nothing out of the ordinary really except that both the sons appeared to be suffering from something that resembled Down's syndrome.

She went about her prayers and the sons stood there probably unaware of thier surroundings. They sometimes sat on the floor, sometimes stood up, sometimes glanced around and always greeted people who were walking by with a big smile. And yet the lady was unmoved. She seemed completely comfortable with the antics of her grown sons. She would only instruct them to be mindful of the alter when the really important parts of the service came along.

Whenever I argue about the churches stand on abortion and the women’s rights to choose in case of an unhealthy fetus I always wonder if I am being terribly obtuse in not completely moving to the "pro-choice" camp. I don’t even understand why parents should not be allowed to chose the kind of baby that they decide to bring to the world. Why is testing the fetus such a bad thing according to the church after all?

Meanwhile looking at that lady next to me, she seemed totally content with her situation in life. I can only assume that she had the choice to make. She chose the tougher road that lead to those two boys. What is it that keeps her from regretting her decision? And better yet what is it that keeps her so at peace with herself?

If we assume for a minute that she made her decision based on the churches teachings then isn’t that great for the two kids who were given life and allowed to live a full life? So why slam the church for teachings that celebrate life? It is what the church stands for and truly believes is the value of life. Why is that considered to be a very hard and narrow thought process? On the contrary isn't it narrow minded to be thinking of oneself and the difficulties you would face? Why is there an outcry at the churches stance on fetal testing?

Could it be that we are looking for affirmation from a moral authority for something that we know is inherently wrong? Could it be that, at the end of the day we are looking for the church to say its ok?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stem cells for the church?

The catholic church has been ferociously against stem cell research and anything to do with harming an embryo. To its credit it has been extremely consistent with its stance on abortion, stem cell research, artificial birth and many more. But stem cell hits a perticularly raw nerve for a lot of people since the research is targeted at curing some of the most dihabilitating diseases that are known to man.

So why is the church against it? Well for obvious reasons since the creating of a stem cell line essentially destroys the embryo and kills what could possibly have turned out to be a baby. A couple of days back researchers announced that they have found a way to develop cell lines from embryos without actually destroying the embryo.

For various reasons including testing the health of the future baby, scientists have been separating out cells from an embryo for years. When the embryo initially multiplies it forms blastomeres. Scientists detach a single blastomere from the embryo and test it for various diseases that the baby could be vulnerable to. This is all done keeping the embryo intact. Today researchers believe that they have found a way to develop stem cell lines from blastomeres without destroying the embryo.

Does this change the Churches stand? Well no. Because the church believes that even testing the embryo is wrong because you are attempting the determine the fate of the child before hand. The church is also against artifically developing an embryo or putting it under any sort of risk. So really there is no change on that front.

But how can that be. If we can develop and research new ideas without killing the embryo and if that can help millions of people eventually, then why not? Should we have to wait for scientists to figure out how to develop stem cell lines from spinal nerve cells before it can be acceptable?

Hard to say. Moral issues are never black or white. For the Church this is crystal clear but the real question is if this new discovery greys up the area for conservative politicians who are vehemently against it.

Fedral funding for stem cell research did you say?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Latte or oil?

I walked into Starbucks today and bought myself a latte. Flipped out my wallet and casually paid out a princely sum of $3. I actually felt pretty good being in the coffee shop and enjoyed the latte as well. The whole experience is enjoyable from the time you step into the coffee shop. I guess that is why I pay the $3 for my small cup of latte. I am rather satisfied with my explanation.

I then go to the gas station to fill gas in my car. $3.04. good lord I used to pay $0.91 in 1998 as a poor student. What has the world come to? This is definitely the oil companies price gauging. That $55000 a second profit making oil companies. They all deserve to be taxed and punished for manipulating the market like this. Unbelievable!

The irony is that even after contrasting the two purchases I still feel I am justified in my thought process. Oil is an essential commodity and cannot be priced like the Latte that I had earlier in the day. Oil is what the economy runs on. If the price of oil was set like the latte in Starbucks I would think that I would be doling out my pay check just to get to work everyday. Hence the sense of outrage at the way the oil prices move and the suspicion of price manipulation during hard times by the profit making oil giants are justifiable in my mind until proven wrong.

But in that case what defines essential commodity? You would safely assume that a college education is an essential commodity in today’s world. Yet where is the outrage.
Private universities and schools set tuition fees indiscriminately. So why aren’t we asking the question. Is it because we view private universities as something that is a luxury and that there are always cheaper options such as community colleges and public schools? Is the argument that since it is a private university they should have the pricing power that the market gives them, however unreasonable as it might be? Then why do we look at private oil companies differently. Why the outrage when market forces help them price their product higher. Why doesn’t the government set up a cheaper alternative if they think that they can do better?

If oil is as essential as a primary education, then let the government provide a cheaper alternative where the prices are fixed to be affordable to the common person on the street. Lets not walk into Starbucks and expect the latte to cost as much as the coffee that I just brewed in my kitchen.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Opening the lair

When I read other blogs I am astonished at the amount of things they have to say to the world. The interest with which people follow blogs and the amount of opinions that are out there on just about anything. Fascinating.

So here I am out to make a little space for myself too. I have nothing specific in mind right now but I will try and make in interesting reading. I will not claim to try and change the world. Maybe it might just turn out to be just a place were I read out my thoughts. Either way I welcome all of you to read (whoever actually finds thier way here) and post any comments you might have. Maybe you might answer the questions I have.