Monday, October 29, 2012

Proof Of Heaven- Book Review

I've read several books on NDEs. With the ambitious title Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife and the quotes on Amazon from Ray Moody and Pim Van Lommel and the fact that it was written by a neurosurgeon, this book set very high expectations. I've been around the block enough times to suspect that the use of the word "Proof" in the title was hyperbole, just like when I read Karen Armstrong's "Proof" of God. Again, I was right. There's no proof of anything in this book. It it well written although short. It's a very quick read and it drew me in right away. There is quite a bit about Eben Alexander's life before the NDE and that is quite interesting. Almost as fascinating as the NDE itself is the fact that he contracted the type of meningitis he did (a 1 in 10 million chance) and that he survived the type of brain trauma he experienced as a result. The fact that the guy is upright walking around and talking is a miracle. So, you could say there are three miracles that happened to him that week.

As another reviewer noted, I was left wanting more of the NDE itself. Dr. Alexander talks of great insights he received while unconscious in our world. But, what he gives us in the book are generalities that most NDE experiencers seem to bring back. Those being that we are all greatly and unconditionally loved and there is a purpose to all of this madness. One of the unusual things about his NDE is, while in that state, he has no recollection of Earth. I had a friend a few years ago who had two Out of Body Experiences that sound very similar to Dr. Alexander's. He talked of places like the Core and the Gateway (mentioned in the book) and of being in a state where he had no language, no real thoughts and was just experiencing things. I haven't heard any other NDErs describe things that way.

Overall, the book is good. But, if you're looking for "proof" of heaven, I'm afraid you'll have to keep looking. I've read of other NDEs where the person experiencing them, who should have no knowledge of what is going on on Earth, has been able to describe things he could not possibly know. There's no such proof in Dr. Alexander's experience. Dr. Alexander tries to explain why his experience couldn't have been produced by his brain. I wanted to believe and I do.  But, while I believe him, I don't think he proves beyond any doubt that it could not have been created as he was coming out of the coma. We've all had dreams where seconds in that dream state seem like minutes or even days.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cichlid Stones by Underwater Galleries- Review

I just got my 75 gallon tank a week ago and decided to stock it with African Cichlids. More specifically, Lake Malawi Mbunas- which, I've been told, are very aggressive and need lots of hiding places.  I looked at several alternatives to provide a backdrop for the aquarium and hiding places for them and decided to go with the Underwater Galleries Cichlid Stone Bulk Pack .  They arrived yesterday.  So far, the little guys love 'em and I do too.

The other alternatives I considered were:

  • Texas Holey Rock- a natural limestone with holes worn through it.  Pros- looks great and provides natural holes.  Con- expensive, heavy, displaces a lot of water and how many holes is dependent on the piece since each is naturally formed.
  • An artificial Texas Holey Rock- there's a company that makes modules that look like Texas Holey Rock but are more lightweight.  Pros- more lightweight and has more holes then natural Holey Rock might.  Cons- still expensive.
  • Clay pots-some people just break up clay flower pots and/or drill holes in them.  Pros- cheap.  Con- looks anything but natural
  • PVC pipe- you can use PVC pipe, gravel and aquarium silicone to create caves. Pros- they look pretty natural, inexpensive.  Cons- not as natural look as I would like, requires some work, not very stackable- takes up a lot of horizontal space.
  • Build my own from stones- either buying rock locally at a landscaping store or going out to find rock.  I live in an area with a lot of limestone (which naturally raises water pH and hardness- something Malawi cichlids love).  Using some rock and aquarium silicone, I could build caves.  Pros- inexpensive and natural looking. Cons- some amount of work, heavy, displaces a lot of water.

After considering all of the alternatives, I decided to go with the Cichlid Stones from Underwater Galleries.  They weren't too expensive.  They ended up being about $70 for the 15 pack- no matter the source.  In total, the 15 pack only weighs about 15 pounds.  The equivalent amount of any type of stone would weigh several times that.

Here's what I like about them:

  • They are ceramic, not plastic- eco friendly. Fired stone.  I'm assuming/hoping they'll be good for the water chemistry as well as being good for the planet.
  • They are lightweight- I don't have to worry about the silicone failing, them falling and having a cracked tank or dead fish.
  • They are easily installed, rearranged and/or removed- because they are completely separate, you can arrange them any way you like. Scatter them around the floor or stack them up.  When I first got them I thought the tops should be flat so they could stack easily.  A few of the medium sized ones do have flat tops. But, I realized they look more natural not being flat on top and bottom.  To get them to stack, I just rested the pile against the back wall of the aquarium.
  • They don't displace a lot of water- Because they're hollow, they fill up completely with water.  My 75 gallon tanks still has about 75 gallons of water. An equivalent amount of stones would not only be much heavier, they would displace much more water giving me smaller amount of water to carry oxygen, etc.
  • They provide a LOT of hiding spaces for the volume they take up.  Any other alternative other than the pots and possibly the PVC piping would provide less hiding spaces and room for my cichlids.
  • They look pretty realistic- the paint job is good and the shapes look very natural.  Of course, you don't see natural rocks with holes in them and hollowed out. But, this is a good trade-off to get so much space for the fish.  As they get some algae on them, I think they're going to look even better.

I've only had them for a day.  But, unless the finish wears off and they turn white, I can't see why they would just get better over time.  I'm very happy with my purchase.
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