Recently in Hope Category

The End Of Cancer

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By way of Slashdot comes this amazing story:

The 70-nanometer attack bots--made with two polymers and a protein that attaches to the cancerous cell's surface--carry a piece of RNA called small-interfering RNA (siRNA), which deactivates the production of a protein, starving the malign cell to death. Once it has delivered its lethal blow, the nanoparticle breaks down into tiny pieces that get eliminated by the body in the urine.
The ex-nuclear power naval service member in me is cheering loud and often for this affirmation of the benefits of science. Of course, I await with bated breath the fundamentalist harpies screech about the End Of The World.

Kevin Drum

He recounted all the grief he and his family went through while work on their kitchen renovation dragged on and on and on. "During that time, I had blood lust against my contractor," Inslee said. "Six months went by, and he was still arguing with the plumber. Eight months went by, and there were still wires hanging down everywhere, and he was having trouble with the building inspector."

But eventually, the job got done. "And now I love that kitchen," Inslee recalls saying. "I bake bread in that kitchen. My wife cooks great meals in that kitchen. The contractor's now a buddy of mine, and I've had beers with him in that kitchen."

Inslee looked at his colleagues and declared: "We've got to finish the kitchen." His point was that Americans won't experience any of the benefits of health-care reform until Congress puts a new system in place.

I called Inslee about his kitchen oration after Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) told me it was one of the turning points in calming Democrats' nerves. "Now," Wu says, "people run into him in the hallway, smile and say, 'Finish the kitchen.' "
I have to admit, this makes me feel hopeful. Why? I do not know. Still, it does do a fine job of pointing out how the emotions of the moment do not necessarily define the outcome of the moment.
Every so often some information comes to me via the internet that restores my faith in human kind. Today, it is by way of LGM: Mortality Rates Decline During Wars.

First, the mortality rates in question are national mortality rates. The authors of the report look at national death rates and see whether they rise, fall, or fail to change on average when the country is at war. They find a general decline. But this doesn't mean people aren't dying where war is happening. They are. The question is why this isn't resulting in a spike in mortality at the national level. Here's why:

a) Peacetime mortality rates are declining steadily around the globe. This is largely due to the revolution in child survival caused by immunization campaigns. So death rates are already falling, and the question is whether enough people get killed in today's conflicts to reverse that decline. They don't, because...

b) Wars are generally much smaller and more localized than previously, so a conflict breaking out in one province of a country, for example, doesn't necessarily reverse the already steady decline in peacetime mortality rates. At most, it may slow it a bit. (There are exceptions in the data - Rwanda in 1994, for instance.)

c) Today, when wars break out, an influx of humanitarian assistance arrives on the scene to increase life-saving interventions such as vaccinations against the kinds of diseases - malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections - that account for the massive death tolls in conflict zones, as well as significant numbers of preventable deaths in peacetime. These additional interventions offset the numbers being killed due to violence in buttressing the overall national survival rate, particularly for children under five. In some cases, they actually cause more people within the country to survive than might have been the case in the absence of the war.
So, despite the ongoing examples set by the Conservative/Republican/Tea Party faction of the human race, it seems we really are evolving.

Hope

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Every so often people do something so small, yet so significant that it gives me hope. This is just that type of event:

Last Saturday, Dec. 5th, something startling and wonderful happened at The Aramingo Diner in Port Richmond.

The 52-year-old landmark restaurant at 3356 Aramingo Ave. is open 24 hours a day, so it's always a-bustle. But the place really hops during weekend breakfast and lunch time. Last Saturday was no different, and both wings of the diner - the booth area and the bigger dining room -  were lively.

The manager on duty, Linda (who asked that I not mention her last name here, for reasons I can't get into but let's just say everything worked out okay...), tells me that a couple in their 30s paid their check at the register, then asked the cashier to let them secretly pay the check of another couple in the dining room - a couple they didn't know.

"They just wanted to do it," she said. "They thought it would be a nice thing to do."

When the unsuspecting patrons went to pay their check, they were floored to find out that strangers had picked up their tab. So they asked the cashier to let them pay another table's check, also anonymously.

When that table's patrons approached the register, they, too, decided to pay the favor forward for yet another table of unsuspecting strangers.

You know where this is going, right?

For two hours, delighted customer after delighted customer continued to pay the favor forward. And a buzz began to grow. Not among patrons, who had no inkling what was going down at the register, but among the dining-room wait staff  - Marvin, Rosie, Jasmine and Lynn - and other Aramingo workers moving in and out of the room.

"We were amazed," says Linda, adding that neither she nor her staffers that day recognized any of the participating patrons as regulars. "Nobody knew each other. But once they found out someone paid their check, they got excited and wanted to do the same thing for another table."

Hat Tip C&L

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Human Ingenuity

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An example of simple, straightforward reasoning that proves, when not full of magical, muddled thinking, humans can accomplish anything.



If one man can move blocks of over one ton by himself, without the aid of powered machinery, than the United States Congress can pass health reform. That is, if we can shut out the noise of the magical thinkers.

The Hope Of Flight 1549

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I was thinking of writing a post on US Airway's Flight 1549 as a harbinger of things to come under an Obama administration, but Walter Brasch beat me to it.

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