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Reflections on the flu

I heard someone say today they were suffering through the worst flu they could remember for more than 20 years. While there was little I could do to help, I did wonder why such things seem to be getting worse.

Tonight I learned that influenza is an especially tricky virus to fend off because it mutates regularly, and there have been at least 24 varieties observed by modern scientists.1 Some viruses and bacteria might change over time, but the flu virus seems to do this every year now, making antibodies obsolete when a new strain invades. Worse, the 15 versions of H and 9 versions of N can combine into a multitude of unique variations, although the body seems to recognize them primarily by those two proteins, so perhaps 24 is the greatest number that humans must face (at once!) for now.

We have all heard for years that nothing can treat a virus except time and a natural immune response, but there is now a trio of antiviral treatments that all seem to function in the same manner as one another. Zanamivir (commonly called Relenza)2, Oseltamivir (known as Tamiflu)3, and Peramivir (trade name Rapivab)4 all inhibit the chemical action of neuraminidase, an enzyme the viruses produce to enable them to escape from infected cells and spread into healthy cells. As inhibitors, they do not attack the virus directly and do little against a full-blown infection. But taken very early after exposure, they can help to limit the virus’s activity and thus shorten the time required for the immune system to eliminate it from the body.

As any informed shopper knows these days, overuse of antibiotics (which only work against bacteria) can allow resistant strains to rise when their competitors are pushed back. These antivirals can be overused in the same way, blocking some of the flu viruses and allowing any new mutation to spread like wildfire. Even this limited line of defense can quickly fall apart if it is abused. A healthy immune system really is the best defense against the flu, and not everyone has that anymore. Still, people are working on solutions.5 6 7 Please share any more that you find in the comments below!

 

References / further reading:

  1. Book: “Gasping For Air” by Kevin Glynn, MD; published 8/3/2017 by Rowman & Littlefield
  2. Zanamivir: https://www.medicinenet.com/zanamivir/article.htm#what_is_zanamivir_and_how_does_it_work_mechanism_of_action
  3. Oseltamivir: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/tamiflu/how_work.htm
  4. Peramivir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peramivir
  5. Urumin is effective against strains of the virus that resist the three antivirals above. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumin
  6. Scytovirin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scytovirin must be cultivated from bacteria at present but is topically protective against flu virus and HIV, among other deadly pathogens.
  7. One promising step toward a universal flu vaccine was announced in 2010 http://mbio.asm.org/content/1/1/e00018-10.abstract and seems to have begun development by several more teams.

Soldiers as Guardians… and more importantly, as Humans

Soldiers are celebrated as heroes, as well they should be, putting their lives on the line to defend what they believe in. But problems arise when people can no longer believe in anything real. Artificial borders, political affiliations, religious zealotry… these are ideas that are meant to divide humans from each other, and they do so quite effectively.

I heard something tonight that got me thinking more than ever about this issue. Whether fictional or not, the very concept of a “NQK” (No Questions Kill) mission is troublesome on the face of it. The supremely destructive act of taking a life, while sometimes necessary for the greater good, should never be undertaken lightly, nor blindly. Well-trained soldiers with understanding from an informed populace make the BEST soldiers, because they understand the reasons behind their orders, and so can follow them with conviction when right, or know to question them when wrong.

The problem with “blind loyalty” is right there in the name: it is BLIND. And of course, “there is none so blind as one who will not see.” If someone refuses to consider new ideas, that person has stopped learning and indeed has stopped thinking. Confirmation bias is a widely-known psychological phenomenon to which no one is immune; the only way to avoid it is by constantly questioning one’s own reasoning and conclusions. Sound reasoning can stand up to this. However, rationalizing what we already want to believe is no way to live, and it is the antithesis of truth.

Regarding leadership, some people have been shown to thrive with firm guidance, but most people can do so much more with encouragement, education, and opportunity than with slavish obedience. There are people who are so scarred, mentally and emotionally, that they need structure imposed upon them to function at all, but “breaking” people so they can become better at following orders still requires BREAKING in the first place. If breaking the spirit of horses is innately cruel (since they have a right to life), then breaking the spirit of humans is just as cruel (since they have a right to life, too). There is no difference unless we close our eyes and cry dogma, and that difference is artificial and deadly to all life.

With compartmentalized knowledge and secret missions, police become simple tools of the person or group in power, and military soldiers become no more than pawns in power struggles, and not the guardians of their people that they should be. Even our so-called National Guard simply protects financial interests in other countries much of the time. Soldiers should be entrusted with the protection of their people, and the full understanding of what and whom they are protecting, and why.

People with strong tendencies are easy to steer. This is not necessarily the same as passion. Passion for something is a choice you make, something you are happy to pursue. Drives, however, can compel you to take actions, good or bad. These can stem from healthy convictions or from poorly-understood emotional obsessions. The detective who never misses a clue at the crime scene may still feel compulsions that capture his attention in daily life, even to the point of letting him walk right into danger unawares. The officer or agent who remains cool in the face of most criminal activity may still lose his self-control in the presence of someone who did what was done to him in his youth. If it made him feel powerless and victimized years ago, he may overreact to the newest villain and even lose sight of his training, perhaps even compromising the prosecution against the new monster before him. Mature children of manipulative parents who outgrow the oppressive grip under which they were raised, still may find the old reactions coming back years later, even after just a phone call with a parent or someone who reminds them of that time.

All of this speaks to why blind obedience is just as dangerous for soldiers and the people they would protect, because blind followers can be used like tools if you know how to grip their handles; sailed like winds on the sea if you know which direction they blow and how to tack. Rich metaphors for certain, but the same is true for those who train people too narrowly.

Soldiers who are best suited to protect themselves, their families, and their homelands, are well-rounded, intelligent people who understand their own psychology as well as that of their opponents. Enemies of humanity abound, but they can only climb to power and work from within if they first train their guardians not to look inward. True heroes may or may not be patriots, but if you believe that this is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, then the Free and the Brave must be free to question their leaders and brave enough to do so. Everyone is wrong sometimes. The wisest among us understand this, value honest feedback, admit our own mistakes and learn from them, to grow wiser and stronger over time. This is true leadership. The stubborn and the strong may defeat a person, a group, or a nation, but they will never be handed victory without a fight by anyone who knows who they are but questions everything honestly, to ensure that they stay true.

Any path through the chaos of life is never easy, and we must always remain vigilant to know upon what ground we stand, and which way we are facing as we move across each terrain that we encounter. Stop and rest, recover your strength, look inward at yourself and at those around you, and you will see which way to go after a time. Life is like travel by foot. Sometimes there will be fog all around; sometimes visibility is clear for miles. Sometimes everything seems uphill, but there is always a balance to that if you just keep going. I read once, “If you’re going through hell… KEEP GOING!” Anywhere you stop and give up, you will remain. Even if you settle in a fertile valley by a river, if you do not pay attention and tend to the land around you, you will stagnate and start to decay.

Only through challenge can we grow stronger. The person whose injuries are healing but who will not test his muscles because they still hurt, will lose what muscle he had, and will continue to weaken. The person who never pushes the boundaries never learns what she can do. The child who never encounters bacteria or dirt may never develop the immunity to carry him through the dangers of adult life. The adult who stops questioning her values stops understanding them and shrivels into a creature of blind habit. The elder whose habits and traditions have never been challenged collapses upon himself and may wonder one day what all he has missed by never looking the other way. Or he may never wonder at all, and lose even the benefits of hindsight and the wisdom of reflection.

Struggle, in modest doses, makes us stronger. It makes us wiser, as we learn where we thrive as well as what always hurts more than it helps. It broadens our horizons whenever we take up something new, even for a day, a year, a decade. Exercise your body when and where you can. Be careful, but take risks. Push a little every chance you get, then reflect on how it made you feel. Even fear cannot rule us when we understand it and call it by name. Everything you learn makes you stronger. Insight is a tool at least as powerful as a strong back. Experience opens more doors than you can count. “New” may be daunting, but growth can be inspiring. The endorphins people talk about when they exercise are from pushing themselves in the right ways and the right amounts. People can feel the same invigorating release of energy from mental accomplishments and emotional milestones.

Work. Push. Think. Learn. Reflect. Discuss. Understand. Find peace in motion and growth in sharing, whether you connect with other people or with everything else around you even while seemingly alone. There is always something. No part of this planet is truly empty. And if you are there, it can be a rich place indeed.

Briefly: Aeon.co

This week I discovered a new essay-publishing site called Aeon.co – a not-for-profit site supported by reader patrons, and perhaps syndication fees.  Some of these essays are short, some very long, some video clips, and all thought-provoking with good titles and great subheadings. I look forward to exploring more about this site and sharing at least some of the articles and videos therein.

https://aeon.co/

Today’s Random Brief Discovery

5/2/2020 – “Science Will Win” – I just watched this great commercial about science, working together, and doing everything we can to advance our understanding and even beat pandemics. Well done!

 

1/10/2020 – “Discover the unsearchable” – DiscoverTheForest.org What a beautiful TV spot and a marvelous website! Reconnecting families with each other, and helping people of every age bond with the natural world around us all. A lesson more timely than ever, and eternally valuable!


1/2/2020 – Today I discovered MUJI, short for Mujirushi Ryohin, a Japanese company that specializes in “no-brand quality goods” and environmental responsibility. Unexpectedly delightful, they have spread across the globe since 1980 and bring fascinating products and some real excellence to boot. See their pens, their octagonal chopsticks, and their household goods (and more) right here, at
https://www.muji.com/us/ – if you prefer another language, just visit https://www.muji.com/ and select your nation of choice there. Check it out today!


12/1/2018 – I was out shopping today, when I saw a T-shirt that made me laugh out loud in appreciation. I have always loved great wordplay!
This one said CARPE SKIEM (the image below is not my own photograph; clicking on that image will open a link to buy this shirt for yourself, if you want to – no affiliate anything, just sharing the fun!)

CARPE SKIEM T-shirt


11/19/2018 – Today you can meet Shadan Kishi Price, a vegan/vegetarian chef in Denton, Texas with multiple degrees, boundless energy, and a passion for fabulous food and friendly service. Shadan won an award this year for the most unique menu in the Food Truck Championship of Texas. She runs a food truck, serves the community, caters for businesses, and hopes to start sharing her most popular menu items in area grocery stores soon as well. Learn more about her
Middle Eastern fusion here, check out some wonderful photos, and find out where Leila’s Food Truck will be next. Full of Flavor, Free of Meat, and always delicious!

 

11/4/2018 – Learning new languages can deepen your understanding of different cultures. Such bridges lead people to peace, sharing, and growth for all. Find a group, an app, or a course that interests you; start learning about other cultures through their language; then find a community where you can practice your skills and get to know a different people in their own words. Start anywhere you like, but start today!

https://www.duolingo.com/

 

7/28/2018 – One famous leader on screens large and small was inspired by a genuine family of innovators and adventurers. This is your primer on The Piccard Stratosphere Flight – joining Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame and real-life Captain Bertrand Piccard of the Solar Impulse 2, the first plane to navigate the globe powered entirely by the sun.

 

7/7/2018 – This morning, a new TV ad came on showing a woman bursting into the (female) President’s meeting room, filled with advisers. She exclaimed, “It wasn’t an attack, just a failure in the mainframe; don’t worry – I fixed it!” She holds a microchip in her hand, and the scene fades to a student holding the same microchip, smiling as she envisions the future and where her knowledge might take her. The tagline of this commercial, of course, is “We believe that if you can see her, you can be her™.” #SeeHer

https://www.seeher.com/

 

6/12/2018 – Most of the time, looking for vegan food options in the Southeastern USA means constant vigilance and a lot of questions. Tonight I found a site where someone has done that work already. Follow the link below for vegan options at a host of modern fast-food places.

https://coolasvegan.com/vegan-fast-food-options-list/

 

6/4/2018 – It feels good to stretch your body out in the morning, but avoid anything too aggressive. Health and wellness coach Jeffrey Siegel says that the spinal discs naturally absorb fluid as your body restores its hydration balance during sleep. He cautions that while the discs expand, sometimes making you a bit taller in the morning, this natural process also limits movement of the vertebrae and causes the spine to stiffen. As a result, flexing and bending too deeply when you first wake up is not only harder, but potentially dangerous. Move gently right when you wake up to avoid any injuries.

 

5/4/2018 – Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA, where grave gardeners cultivate beds of flowers in planters over the graves. True to the era in which the cemetery was created, this brings some extra peace and a lot of new life to a place of mourning and quiet reflection. Once a public park, people are returning to enjoy the grounds.

https://www.gravegardeners.org/

 

1/26/2018 – This week I discovered a new essay-publishing site called Aeon.co – a not-for-profit site supported by reader patrons, and perhaps syndication fees.  Some of these essays are short, some very long, some video clips, and all thought-provoking with good titles and great subheadings. I look forward to exploring more about this site and sharing at least some of the articles and videos therein.

https://aeon.co/