Thursday, March 31, 2005

It's aliiiiiive! A haha hahahaha!

My PocketPC team programming team just got our program working to the point that we probably won't get any points deducted if we turn it in right now.

Being the perfectionists we are, we'll probably stay just a tad longer and make it a little nicer. I'm counting ten people in our lab, plus me and two of my team members. They've all been here all night. It's a really weird thing, let me tell you.

After this I'll probably grab breakfast and head straight in to work. With luck, I'll be able to leave early and take a little nap before class.

I've logged something like 40 hours on this project since Saturday. This is crazy. I'm starting to worry about my senior project, which I haven't worked on at all.

If I fall along the way
Pick me up and dust me off
And if I get too tired to make it
Be my breath so I can walk

If I need some other love
Give me more than I can stand
And when my smile gets old and faded
Wait around I'll smile again

Shouldn't be so complicated
Just hold me and then
Just hold me again

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together

You're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

If I couldn't sleep could you sleep
Could you paint me better off
Could you sympathize with my needs
I know you think I need a lot

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

... the pursuit of Justice

I'd encourage you to read this article (or one like it) about a man whose death sentence was overturned because the jurors referred to the Bible for moral backing as they were deliberating. Apparently one of the jurors was thinking that, as a Christian, it would be against his religion to sentence the convicted rapist and murderer to death. So the other jurors used the Bible to make their case that it was ok ("an eye for an eye"), and encouraged him to follow state law on the matter. But because the jurors brought in an "outside source" that was not presented in the courtroom, a higher court found that their decision may have been somehow prejudiced against the rapist.

I can see both sides of this. On the one hand, if the jurors had brought in, say, an article written about the case that hadn't been presented in court, this would be an obvious breach of protocol. On the other hand, if a juror decides that his religion forbids him from passing judgment ("judge not, lest ye be judged"), then there's an enormous risk of sacrificing justice because of religious ideals. Ideally, such a potential juror would be screened out early because they are unwilling to support state law based on religious grounds. But on the gripping hand, our society is based on the precept that protecting somebody from tyranny or mob mentality is worth that risk. Ten guilty people may go free, if we can be certain that one innocent person won't be punished for something they did not do.

This was my point when I made my comments on the Terry Schiavo case. I hope that nobody took my statements to mean that I think Terry needs to live. And I find it interesting that Michael Shiavo's supporters seem to be constantly complaining that people are "demonizing" or "vilifying" him for getting on with his life by starting an extramarital relationship. I haven't heard that argument, and I hope nobody entertains the notion that I ever made that argument. And we could debate back and forth for a very long time, trying to determine whether or not Terry would actually want to die. And I'm not saying that she doesn't have a "right to die." If I were in her position, I honestly don't know whether I would prefer to die. I do know that I would rather have that decision made by people who wanted to provide me with therapy in hopes that I might improve, rather than someone who is bent on denying me any care that might make me live any longer. But I digress. My point is that because we could go on debating this, and because there is reasonable doubt as to her condition, her wishes assuming she is in that condition, and the motives of the people who wish her dead, our legal system really had ought to, as Bush put it, "err on the side of life." That is to say, if she lives another month or year or however long in a state of oblivion, it is possible in the future to make the decision to allow her to die; no harm done. But if we decide to kill her now, and history proves us wrong, we won't very well be able to restore her to the condition that she was in previously.

On the plus side, her husband has apparently decided to allow an autopsy. (She was originally going to be cremated, which her parents point out is against her religion). So now we may at least know whether we were right or wrong on the matter. Not that we'd be able to do anything about it anyway. I find it interesting that Michael Shiavo won't consent to an MRI to decide beforehand if her brain is mush, but he figures that after he's starved her to death it's okay for us to find out one way or another.

In other news, "SEVENTY-EIGHT per cent of people who have died in Zimbabwe since 1980 are registered to vote and are expected to give phantom votes to Robert Mugabe in tomorrow's national poll." It's nice to know that those good folks will keep voting for you even after you've killed them... or at least will start voting for you after you've killed them. Hmph. Amazing.

Frodo: It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Rainy Days and Mondays

Last week I finally started to get fully in the swing of things. My internal clock readjusted to Utah time, and I was making the most of just about every moment of each day. I had my "physical" (turn your head and cough) and I think all I have to do is fill out my insurance information and I can send in my mission papers. Then Saturday I kind of threw off my groove. You see, we've got this project in one of my classes, programming a Bluetooth-based multi-device software framework for the PocketPC. It's due tomorrow, and we'd hardly done anything on it because all of the team members had been busy with other stuff. So on Saturday we all met in the lab and just worked on it as long as we could. I started at 10 AM, and didn't leave until 4 AM Easter Sunday morning. (Happy Easter, by the way). Even with this, we still didn't really get very far on it because Bluetooth is not easy to program for. One thing I did manage to do is to weaken my immune system, and so now I'm sick. I'm scrambling to take good care of my body now, in hopes that I'll be well enough to spend more time on the project tomorrow. And don't even get me started talking about the other stuff I have to do, like my Senior Project. Ugh!
Funny but it seems
I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny but it seems that
It's the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
we know what it's all about
Hanging around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Death, Liberty, and the Pursuit of ???

I heard an interesting interview as I was listening to the Hannity radio show in my car today. One of Terri Schiavo's nurses was talking about everything that Mr. Schiavo had done to make sure that Terri never recovered. For a while, she was getting therapy, even to the point that she could feed herself, but as soon as Mr. Schiavo won the malpractice suit he started taking steps to try to kill her off. I can't recount all the details here, but it included using intimidation and threats to prevent the hospital personnel from providing even the most basic care for her. He may have even tried to induce a coma by giving Terri insulin shots behind a locked door. Additionally, Terri was often responsive enough to laugh when the nurse said things that were funny and use basic words like "Mama," "help me," and "pain."

This is unlike anything that I had read or heard of up to this point in time. Every article that I had read (and there were several) pronounced Terri to be in a Permanent Vegetative State, in which she was able to sustain herself in terms of breathing and heartbeat and such, but was unable to respond to stimulus. Her husband claimed that she would not have wanted to live in such a state, and her parents claimed that she has a chance at recovery with therapy and that she wants to live.

So I started looking around and found some interesting information. This article, from the National Review, is about the only one I've found so far that takes a deeper look. So what's the big idea? My usual tendency is to believe the big news organizations over the small ones, but I've found their coverage lacking in a few incidents lately. Besides, this article appears to have been researched pretty thoroughly and--frankly--rings truer than the other story. Specifically, since I know a fair bit about medical imaging, including what you would be able to see with a CT scan versus a PET and MRI. Some of the more potent points:
  • Terri shows identifiable signs of neglect, which does not speak well for her quality of care. Specifically, because her husband has denied her even the most basic therapy.
  • Terri's diagnosis was apparently achieved based on a CT scan, a 45-minute visit by one doctor, and a 30-minute visit by another doctor. Proper diagnosis of a permanent vegetative state, especially in a life-and-death case, would involve an MRI and PET scan, plus weeks, if not months, of observation. (There was one court-appointed doctor, whose opinion is not mentioned)
  • Two of the five doctors enlisted to provide an assessment of Terri's condition found (after spending 14 hours with her over two weeks) that she is not in a permanent vegetative state, and that she may recover with therapy.
  • "A 1996 British Medical Journal study, conducted at England’s Royal Hospital for Neurodisability, concluded that there was a 43-percent error rate in the diagnosis of PVS. Inadequate time spent by specialists evaluating patients was listed as a contributing factor for the high incidence of errors."
  • George Felos (Mr. Schiavo's lawyer) has argued that an MRI can’t be done because of thalamic implants in Terri's skull. The doctor who put these implants in instructed Mr. Schiavo to have them removed.
  • Dr. Ronald Cranford, Mr. Schiavo's star witness, specializes in the field of clinical ethics, and has advocated the starvation of Alzheimer's patients in published articles like this one. (This sort of strikes home for me; my girlfriend's family currently cares for her great-grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. She's difficult to care for, but I've spoken with her and she definitely wants to stick around for "as long as these nice folks will keep me." I can't imagine the wickedness of somebody wanting to starve her to death out of convenience.)
  • Dr. Cranford has also described PVS patients as indistinguishable from other forms of animal life.
  • Dr. Cranford diagnosed a man with PVS who could pick up specifically colored pegs or blocks and hand them to a therapy assistant on request, and who could operate a both a standard and an electric wheelchair.
  • During Dr. Cranford's 45-minute assessment of Terri, he struck Terri very hard on the forehead between her eyes. Terri recoiled and moaned, seemingly in pain. In his court testimony, Cranford dismissed the reaction and moan as a “reflex.” (Note that PVS is defined as "a condition of unresponsiveness to mental and physical stimuli and no sign of higher brain function, wherein the patient is kept alive through medical intervention.")
Read the whole article for more details. This Wikipedia article has other interesting information about both sides of the case.

Now, are the powers-that-be doing the right thing in attempting to write laws specifically to force courts to deal with this issue? Probably not. From what I do know about the way our legal system is set up, they are using their power in ways that they were not intended to do so. That's called abuse. On the other hand, I have seen judges doing arguably the same thing when they "write" law in the name of constitutionality. And I think it is certainly wrong for these higher courts, just because they are used to making policy decisions, to refuse to reexamine the factual findings of the case. It seems interesting to me that, when we're deciding the guilt of a criminal our courts require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, yet we can sentence a handicapped woman to death by starvation when there remains significant doubt. Is that worse than sentencing her to continued life in a semi-responsive state of mind? I think so. It seems to me that if she's in a bad enough condition that she might welcome death, it is her husband that has put her into that condition, intentionally and deliberately. And the law needs to seriously investigate him on counts of neglect and--when the time comes--homicide. I am not in the position to judge him or his decisions, but there are certainly enough interesting points to merit an investigation.

It's far later than I intended to stay up tonight, and so I guess I'll end with a quick scripture:
2 Ne. 9: 8-10, 28-29, 40, 42-43

8 O the awisdom of God, his bmercy and cgrace! For behold, if the dflesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who efell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the fdevil, to rise no more.

9 And our spirits must have become alike unto him, and we become devils, bangels to a cdevil, to be dshut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of elies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who fbeguiled our first parents, who gtransformeth himself nigh unto an hangel of light, and istirreth up the children of men unto jsecret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

10 O how great the agoodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our bescape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, cdeath and dhell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

• • •
28 O that cunning aplan of the evil one! O the bvainness, and the frailties, and the cfoolishness of men! When they are dlearned they think they are ewise, and they fhearken not unto the gcounsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their hwisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

29 But to be alearned is good if they bhearken unto the ccounsels of God.

• • •
40 O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will arevile against the btruth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are chard against all duncleanness; but the erighteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.

• • •
42 And whoso aknocketh, to him will he open; and the bwise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their clearning, and their dwisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves efools before God, and come down in the depths of fhumility, he will not open unto them.

43 But the things of the wise and the aprudent shall be bhid from them forever—yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.

Lookin' more like a missionary every day.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Books on tape

I think it's just hilarious how the weather here in Utah has been absolutely beautiful for weeks now, to the point where even the flowers and animals think it's springtime, and then it snowed on March 20, the first day of spring. And now it's cold and dismal. But oh, well. I guess March must just be a precursor to those April showers, which are in turn a precursor to May flowers, which are a precursor to the pilgrims. Okay, lame pun. Anyway.

I downloaded the scriptures off of and burned the Triple Combination (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine & Covenants) to an MP3 CD. I've really been meaning to read from the Book of Mormon, but in the few cases where I have time outside of school and work and everything, I'm not really in the mood to sit and read scripture. So I play the MP3 CD in my car as I commute. It seems to be working well so far. I'll try to share any scriptures I hear that are particularly trenchant. For starters, I'll share a bit from 2 Nephi. Now, lest there be any confusion among non-LDS readers, we "Mormons" do believe in the Bible, both the New and Old Testaments, and the Book of Mormon is not a replacement for those, but rather another Testament of Jesus Christ. I'm not listening to the Book of Mormon because I feel that it's any more important than the Bible, but because I'm much more familiar with the Bible right now than I am with the Book of Mormon. Anyway, moving on, here are some verses from 2 Nephi, Ch. 2. Pay special attention to verse 25; I really like that one:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23 And they would have had no achildren; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no bjoy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no csin.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things.

25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men care, that they might have djoy.

26 And the aMessiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may bredeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are credeemed from the fall they have become dfree forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the elaw at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hawai'i pictures!

I got back from Hawaii on Saturday, but between jetlag recovery, work, church, and spending time with Liz, I haven't been able to compile the pictures until just recently. There are actually some more pictures than the ones that I have now, but for now I've put together collections of some of the best pictures from our digital cameras, along with comments, and put them into slide shows. You have two versions to choose from:
  • The web-based version is a good way to quickly browse through the pictures. The pictures here are relatively small.
  • This zip file contains larger versions of each of these pictures, plus a program to view the pictures in a slide show. To start the slide show, unzip the file, then run PicasaCD.exe in the Hawaii folder.
The pictures posted below are just a sample of all the pictures you'll find in the above collections. But hurry! Some day I may need to delete those files to free up web server space, and then you'd actually have to contact me to get the pictures! Perish the thought.

Of course, if you'd like even higher quality versions of these photos (like, to print photo-quality pictures from), or if you want to see some of the many pictures that didn't make it into this collection, let me know.

Honolulu City Lights

Oahu Sunset

Playing at the beach

The Birds!

Olivine Pools

A Maui Sunset

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ah, Hawaii

Here I am in Hawaii. And what, you might ask, am I doing sitting inside at a computer on a sunny day like this? Well, I just wanted to let the world know I'm safe and alive. So here I am, safe and alive. And paying 20 cents a minute for Internet access. How stupid is that? Okay, I'm going back to the hotel now. See you later!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Going to Hawaii

It looks like my dad's not bringing his laptop to Hawaii, so I may very well be completely incommunicado until March 14 or so. I'll see what I can do to find an Internet connection, but if I go totally silent then you'll know why. I promise to take lots of pictures, though, and share them all once I get back!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What's the big idea?

Apparently a bunch of Iraqi people are ticked off by the car bomb that killed 125 people the other day. No surprise there, I would be too. But these guys are ticked off enough that they put together a 2,000-strong demonstration to protest it. Holy crap. I mean, for the first time in decades, these people won't be summarily executed by the governing power. That's freedom, right? But the thing that really strikes me is that they're willing to face the possibility of retaliation by terrorist forces. I mean, think about it. If you're Al-Zarqawi, and you just killed dozens of people outside a hospital for trying to join the police force, and dozens more who just happened to be in the wrong place when it happened, what would you do if thousands of people started standing out in the open, publicly chanting "No to terrorism!"? When the people at large start having the courage to openly protest terrorism, I think that's a sign of hope. Does it mean they support the U.S.-appointed government there? No, probably not. In fact, some of the protesters are asking for Allawi to step down. Others blame the local police force for failing to prevent the bombing. But the fact is, they feel safe enough to gather peacefully and speak their minds; that's saying something! If I am fortunate enough to have any Iraqis reading my blog, God bless you. Stay strong, and take heart. If you can all, individually, just see this through, then you will see a better day.

I think the only thing that bothers me about this whole affair is the news coverage so far. Thus far, I can only find coverage on a handful of news sites, like ABC News and the Guardian. But notice that they only mention a sentence or two about the protest at the top of the story, and then launch into an unrelated story about a French journalist before finally providing a few more details about the demonstration. Maybe it's just too early to judge, but it sure does seem like a shabby way of reporting things. Don't you think?