Sunday, November 1, 2015

Shining a Light

There were two people who spoke today at church whose message really touched me. The first spoke about how appreciative he was of the excellent manners the youth and children showed as they were trick-or-treating. He noted they were quick to offer unsolicited "Thank-you's" and otherwise behave in a very polite fashion. He went on to talk about many simple acts of kindness he observed in the neighborhood - people sharing produce from their garden, or bringing bread or some other homemade goody to a neighbor...

The second individual talked about a friend who had been coming to church with him lately - a man who had experienced some difficult times. He expressed gratitude to the many members of the church who had been so welcoming to this man. He expressed that the man "felt like a rock-star" the way he was treated by the congregation.

I was touched to tears by their expressions of gratitude for simple kindnesses.

Later we were having a lesson on Faith, in which it was noted that "Faith is choice, not chance".

That led me to recall a... parable one of my brothers shared a number of years before. He is a racing fan, and he shared the analogy that race car drivers, are aware of the wall, and want to avoid hitting the wall (which could be painful or even fatal), but they don't focus on the wall. They focus instead on the line they are driving - where they want to go. Because if you are looking at the wall, you are probably going to hit it.

More personally, I remember my own experience cycling - I've done a number of 100+ Mile rides, and when you are riding for that long, you do have a little time on your hands. I observed that if I looked to the side, the bike would inevitably drift to the side. If I looked to the side and consciously made an effort to compensate for that drift, I would inevitably drift the opposite direction.

In order to maintain the desired course, It is necessary to look where you want to go. You have to focus on the desired goal, and not get distracted by the stuff on the side.

All this led me to recall how a few months ago, I made the decision to stop listening to the radio while driving to/from work. I never found music that I liked or found appropriate, so I would end up on one of the news/talk stations. I became aware that I was coming home feeling agitated, angry. So... I turned the radio off. In a few weeks I realized that I was no less informed on critical current events, and I was arriving home in a MUCH better mood!

Typically when "Shining a light" is mentioned, it is taken to mean pointing a light in the darkness. It is used to mean drawing attention to or exposing corruption, scandal... To expose the bad behavior of those working in secret. Particularly those in power (governments, corporations, etc...)

But it occurs to me, what we really need to do more of is shine the light on the bright spots - To call attention to the many acts of kindness, to celebrate the simple acts of politeness and human decency... We need to look to where we want to be - stop focusing on where we don't want to be.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Salsa Verde (Green Tomato Salsa) - and one small (big?) lesson learned

With the Cold weather coming, I cleared the Tomato patch out of the garden, and ended up with a fair quantity of green tomatoes. I've never used green tomatoes before. I was going to try fired green tomatoes, a couple years ago, but procrastinated until the tomatoes rotted. So this year, I had a friend who made salsa verde, using green tomatoes instead of tomatillos (I've never made salsa verde of any kind, but his was tasty, so I thought I'd give it a go. As I often do, I looked around at a few recipes, then kind of did my own thing. It is pretty darn delicious!

I don't know, maybe this is just me, but I find the "waste" bowl to be rather beautiful...

That will go to the copost pile to become part of next years vegetables! But I had to take a pic, because it is.... a natural work of art?

The jalapenoes came from the freezer, from last years garden, the habaneros were pretty tiny - one was ripe, one was half-ripe and the last one was just barely starting to ripen (It's what I had on the plant. Have to start that one earlier next year).

Salsa Verde

36 cups cored, rough-chopped green tomatoes
10 large jalapeno peppers
3 small habaneros
8 cups chopped red onion
1 head garlic
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups lime juice (fresh squeezed plus the pulp)
3 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper

Run the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic through a food processor and add to a large pot.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. I got size quarts out of this.

Of course then I went to look up processing info, and found that Salsa shouldn't be processed in quart jars, which is what I had available, and therefore filled and loaded in the canner before I went looking for processing times. Additionally, they are rather iffy on making up your own recipes and canning (at least water bath) as salsa is a mix of acid and non-acid ingredients, thus may not be safe for water bath canning. I've got 6 quarts of questionably processed salsa verde now. Ooops. I guess I could get some ph test strips and get at least a rough guess on approximate safety.

Guess I will be eating lots of green salsa this week. Salsa anyone?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Experience With Religious Persecution

"Kill those Jehovas! Kill those Jehovas!"

That was my first real experience with religious persecution. I was in second grade, and that day is forever burned into my brain. I was in the classroom, with one of my best friends (don't even remember his name now, he move later that year). A girl I knew (and liked) was talking to another girl abut religion. The other Girl was Jehovas Witness. "What's that?!" I asked, trying to look and sound cool, and not-ignorant.

My friend then told me he had heard all about them from his Mom. "They were a cult!...  had their own 'bible' called the "Green Dragon"...  worship the Devil!... Brainwash people!...".

I have always have a bit of a hero fixation - always like heroes - always wanted to be one. I grew up watching Battlestar Galactica (the original TV series, not the lame reboot), Buck rogers, Jason of Star Command, Justice League, Knight Rider, A-Team, The Equalizer (At one point, that was my career plan - Join the military, train as special forces, and become the equalizer...). I used to play knights, rescue heroes, space explorers...

Still like heroes - real heroes.

Always wanted to be a hero. And fight evil.

So... I spent recess marching around the playground like an idiot, with my friend, shouting "Kill those Jehovas! Kill those Jehovas!..."

After recess our teacher gave us a stern talking to for our inappropriate behavior. More importantly, she planted a seed of doubt as to the veracity of my friends claims.

That troubled me. Why would he lie? I asked my mother (a voracious consumer of books and their contents) about the Jehovah Witness. She provided a reasonably thorough education (for one who is not a Jehovas Witness) regarding their beliefs, noting the similarities and differences to the Latter Day Saint faith.

I felt... Humiliated, Embarrassed, Crushed, Betrayed. That day was the end of my friendship with that kid. Though in retrospect it wasn't my stupid friends fault. And it probably wasn't his stupid Mom's fault. Perhaps not even their stupid preachers fault. Who know where the ignorance sprang from, a misunderstanding during a heated religious conversation with some preacher, an angry half-truth from a disaffected member of the faith. An early historical event taken out of context...

I don't remember if I ever apologized to the girl. But that day is a permanent scar in my memory.

My next taste of religious persecution came in high-school - some christian group sent their kids to a bible school, and they came back armed with anti-mormon propaganda, some of which was slipped into my locker. That was the same year somebody drove past me as I was walking home from school and yelled "Mormon A-hole!". Also the same year I received a letter full of anti-mormon "questions" from a friend. My encyclopedia Mom was again the source I turned to. She put the various statements into context, separated the truths, half-truths and lies into neat little piles. She produced plenty of source material to read (our house had more books than wall space).

Somewhere right around that time (the summer after, I think) I participated in 'friendly ribbing' of a kid who had suddenly decided to join some new age, vegetarian group. It sounded so weird. I quit within a few seconds, and followed him outside after the meeting to apologize. He made a few cracks about Mormons, and we parted friends.

Of course, after that, I served a mission in Florida, where there were billboards advertising a hotline to call in order to save your Mormon friends from their satanic cult, where I had a number of Christians pray for my soul. Where the friends of one girl we gave a Book of  Mormon to took it form her and burned it. Where a teenage girl had a prayer group pray over her and push on her stomach until she threw up and convinced her that it was the devil coming out of her. Where I heard all about the "Joe Smith and his Mormon mafia, who kidnapped virgins and took them to the Salt Lake temple to force them to marry old men." and this was known to be true because some of the girls had jumped out of the tower and into the great Salt Lake, where they swam to safety and escaped (Look at a map of Salt Lake City. Note the location of the Temple and The great Salt Lake. Impressive feat, no?).

And now, with the internet allowing every idiot (including myself) a voice...

I have seen plenty of anti-mormon propaganda, I have also seen plenty of anti-islamic propaganda. Fortunately, on my mission, I met a devout muslim, who came from the Middle east to the U.S. to study medicine, and was at that time a successful Doctor. He gave me a Quran as a trade for the Book of Mormon we offered him. My brief experience with him serves as a counter-point to the claims I now hear. The copy of the Quran a source from which I could fact-check claims, and read quotes in context.

I am forever regretful, and forever grateful for my encounter with that girl in 2nd grade. I wish I could find her and apologize to her, but because of that experience I am slower to listen to propaganda, quicker to question the accusatory claims, and somewhat better at seeking common ground. (Though I still have an infuriating habit of challenging peoples' strong beliefs - the always/never/all/none kinds of beliefs, not because I agree or disagree with them, mostly out of curiosity, and to deepen the conversation, but inevitably I upset people and then I feel bad for weeks/months/years...).

I am also grateful for the example my mother set, of reading, studying, digging deeper - seeking context, motive, understanding.

I have concluded the most (if not all) persecution comes from ignorance. And from a lack of personal conversion.

I believe that in all religions (and many groups who think they aren't religions), there are those who are converted and those who are brainwashed. The converted recognize their group as one filled with both truth and flaws. They recognize that most if not all others are ultimately seeking, stumbling toward greater truth, and they are thus willing to share, co-exist seek, common ground...

The brainwashed are weakly connected to an ancillary idea, a person, a group... They have no foundation, no real confidence, so they cling desperately to it, and consider everything else - no matter how different or similar - a threat. They must therefore attack it, belittle it, destroy it, minimize it, subdue it, assimilate it. Only their way of thinking can be tolerated.

This ramble probably has a couple endings, and probably should have ended paragraphs ago. So to close? We are more alike than we are different. We can find a way to co-exist. We are better off for the diversity, we don't always have to agree - or even support each other - to co-exist. We can find a way to compromise. It is either that, or more blood.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Proving God: Math and Personal Science

I think I have exhausted my thoughts on this (at least for the near to immediate future). It has been an interesting process, Just one last post to close out the sequence of thoughts

Here is a list of the posts in order, in case you wanted to review:
1. Dis/Proving God: Math, Science and a Checkerboard.
2. Dis/Proving God: Anecdotes, Logic and Water.
3. Dis/Proving God: The Facts.
4. Dis/Proving God: Science and Faith.
5. Dis/Proving God: Patterns.

So the basic conclusion I draw from my thoughts is that it isn't practical or possible to prove or disprove through formal scientific process the existence of God, and that it is in fact harder to disprove than to prove the existence of God. There is nothing about science or scientific process or faith/religion or religious process that prohibits the two from coexisting. In fact the two can be very compatible.

I believe that, while dis/proving God on the public level is not feasible, it is entirely possible to apply scientific processes in one's own personal search to prove - and understand - God.

There is a cool word used in Mathematics which provides the starting point for this.


Yes, that is a valid word in mathematical proof, used in proof by exhaustion, proof by contradiction...

 It has been used in science before. Atomic theory began with a belief that atoms existed. Based on that assumption, mathematical models were created.Over time, as tools became more sophisticated, those models were refined.

You can apply the same process to religious discovery.

Assume God exists.

What does that mean? Who is God? What is God like? What is our relationship to God? Study what is known, search for the patterns, and develop your theories. Test them against what is known and what 'makes logical sense'. Hang on to what fits. Discard what doesn't.

Assume God exists. Either he loves us, or he doesn't.
If he doesn't, then he is irrelevant, is he not?
But, since you find repeated through nearly every religion and mythology, the idea of a 'savior' - of one sent by God to rescue mankind from everlasting doom, then it seems safe to assume that God does in fact love us.

Assume God exists, and he loves us. Then why do bad things happen? There are really only a few possible explanations that fit, when one considers the big picture.
1. This short earth life is so insignificant in the grand, infinite scheme of things, that all the horror that we are experiencing simply... doesn't matter.
2. This life, while perhaps insignificantly short to God, matters, but it is ours to experience. As such he is "un-involved". Not in the sense that he doesn't care, or doesn't listen to us or answer many prayers or grant many requests, but that he doesn't interfere.

If God loves us this life must have meaning, must have a purpose. So option 1 really doesn't make sense.

Assume God exists, and he loves us, and this life is for us to experience.
Then clearly he has a plan for us,he wants us to learn, and grow, and become better. So we can safely assume that as we search for answers, as we seek to treat each other with love and kindness, we will find the answers we seek in time, with patience and persistence.

It simply... makes. sense.

Prepare to be wrong sometimes. At one time, scientific thought was that heat/cold was due to a tasteless, odorless colorless particle called the caloric.After decades, new evidence disproved this idea, and a new model was developed.

Remember of course that being wrong about one thing doesn't mean you have to discard everything. Science is an iterative process. We work our way toward the truth in tiny steps. The more we learn and discover the more our model may change, and the closer our assumption about reality- based on our observation of a relatively small piece of the puzzle - will come to matching things as they really are.

It is possible to perform scientific experiments on religious matters. A prophet named Alma gave excellent counsel on this topic.

Perform an experiment. Study the words of prophets, apply their instructions in your life, be patient, be persistent, be observant. What is the outcome for you personally? How does it change your life? For the better? Hold on to it. For the worse? Re-evaluate.

It is okay to not have a complete picture. It is okay to not have all the pieces fit.

And it is okay that each persons journey may be slightly different. They might use different names, different terms, rely on different explanations... That's okay. It doesn't mean they are right and you are wrong, Most likely it means they have some thing right, some things wrong, and you have some things right and some things wrong. Scientific progress requires discussion, cooperation, sharing, a willingness to learn.

Finding truth is a journey, not a destination. It is a process. One that will fill a life time. And more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Proposing Some Gun Violence Solutions

Gun talk is everywhere again, and I am sitting here not sleeping because my mind is going crazy with thoughts, so I might as well get them down.

First, the assumptions - please let me know if you think I am off base:

The key factors driving gun violence are (in no particular order):
1. The comparative effectiveness of firearms - They are better at killing things.
2. The availability of firearms - The are cheap, easy to acquire, and readily available
3. Lack of education about, and respect for firearms - A key factor in accident shooting and gang incidents.
4. Mental health - Mental health care stinks
5. Desensitization coupled with classical and operant conditioning - Violent Movies, Shows, Games etc... (not saying they make everyone violent, only that they are significant contributors to the propensity toward violent acts. See the info at this link for more info.
6. Nihilism - Rejection of moral principles. I (unscientifically) claim it is on the rise, and clearly contributes to the problem.

Now the proposals:

1 and 2 are where most of the focus/debate is. I have seen no headway. I don't foresee that changing.

3. I propose we make basic firearms safety training a required part of middle-school curriculum. We teach kids proper care and handling of the kitchen cutlery, shouldn't we also teach them to never play with a gun, how to make certain a gun is unloaded? safely stored?

I further propose that we implement an "Advanced Firearms Safety license". This would be voluntary, and would be a reward based solution. By completing this , which would include background checks, advanced firearm safety training, training in proper defense and engagement tactics, etc... you would qualify for certain additional privileges, like concealed carry to many otherwise restricted locations, Airplane carry... Not sure what, the point is to make it rigorous and rewarding.

4. It is funny how readily we accept the fallibility of every organ in the body except the brain. Limbs, eyes, ears, heart, liver, kidneys etc... wear out, break and degenerate. We know this, we accept this. we are sympathetic to those who suffer from various conditions, and we have all kinds of tests to help detect them. Many insurance providers offer free coverage for an annual health check-up, they look in your ears, they listen to your heart, they draw blood, looking for indicators of a number of health problems, which when detected early can be prevented, treated, or managed.

Yet most people seem to still believe that the brain is somehow infallible (With the exception of a few various obvious birth defects, or strokes). How dumb is that?

I propose we offer a tax credit or other incentive for a free annual mental health checkup. Tests could include blood draws, brain activity scans, psychological questionnaires... At first, much of the information would have limited use, but after a few decades of collecting information from the entire population (or most of anyway), we would begin to establish useful correlations which would allow for appropriate preventative programs to be implemented. The sooner we start, the sooner we will get there.

5. I propose that a risk tax be placed on movies, shows, music, and games which contain excessive violence, or glorify/represent the misuse of firearms (improper stance, firing into crowds, unlimited ammo, mass shootings, "trick shooting" etc... Tax the shows, and the tax the actors/actresses. That may reduce the quantity of violent content to a more manageable level, and the taxes will help fund the previously proposed education and health check-ups.

I further propose (This one won't be popular) that parents can be fined if they allow their children to view or play content which is rated for mature viewers only. And they can be tried as accessory to murder if it shown shown their underage child perpetrator was allowed access to mature content.

6. I don't have a practical proposal here. The community at large has to make the choice to reverse this trend. To take responsibility and teach their children to "Love one another".

Okay, I think I'm done. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? I'm going back to bed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dis/Proving God: Patterns

I feel I should take a moment to explain this series of posts - I realize I probably sound a bit lecture-ish, that is not the intent. Yes, I'm a nerd, yes, I read encyclopedias as a kid, so yes, I know quite a few words. I try really hard to pick the right words to be as precise as possible, in the hopes that it will lead to less misunderstanding. Communication is a tricky thing.

Secondly, I am not writing this to preach to anyone, this exercise is for me. It is an effort to take a series of random thoughts swirling about in my brain and solidify them, organize them, and clarify them. It is an effort to understand myself, my understanding. That said.

Patterns are an important feature of scientific analysis and discovery. Science constructs mathematical models to describe the behavior of the universe, by observing and quantifying patterns. That you hold an apple up, let go, and it drops to the ground every time is a pattern which leads to an understanding of gravity. If the apple were instead to go off in a different random direction each time, it would be difficult to derive much useful information.

But there is a pattern. It falls. What's more it falls, and accelerates. And it does so with a great degree of consistency, which allows us to come up with numbers and equations to describe the effect of gravity.

Observing a pattern is not enough in itself to definitively establish something as a truth of course, but it does certainly give one reason to consider the thing further.

Apply this to religion, Can we see patterns? Consistencies?

Have you ever played the telephone game? Where one person whispers a story to one person, that person repeats it to the next person, and so on through a line of people. The last person then talls the story they heard, and it is usually nothing like the original story?

It is a good example why gossiping is a bid idea, but it also carries an interesting idea about stories from the past. They change over time as they are told and retold. Consider the Old testament, particulary the first 5 books, which also make up part of the Torah, and the Quran. they were written by Moses (Are we absolutely certain the texts we have are in fact penned by Moses, or is it possible they were copied by someone else, from writings Moses made?) How long after Moses wan't alive for the events of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph ... thousands of years of history, thousands of years of people going their several ways, thousands of years of stories being passed down from one person to the next. It is not at all surprising then to find the stories have changed... drastically.

It is then very compelling when patterns, consistencies are found from one mythology to the next. I was, as I said (am, actually) a bit of a nerd. I was big into Mythology, as a youth. Greek and Norse were my favorites, but I also learned a bit of African, Babylonian, Egyptian... There are some stories which show up in nearly every human mythology.

The Creation - okay,big deal, who wouldn't wonder where they came from and make up a story?

A great Flood - Now this one is very interesting.

  • The Chinese called it Gun-Yu.
  • The Greeks tell of the Gods flooding the earth to destroy the wicked, leaving only Deucalion and Pyrrha alive, 
  • In East Africa the Masai say it was Tumbainot, his wife, and three sons. 
  • The Lakota tribe tell the same story of destroying the wicked by a flood, noting that the rainbow was given by the great spirit as a sign that there would be no more great flood.
  • The Coctaw tell of a prophets sent to warn of a coming flood
  • In Arizona, the Papago have a story of Coyote who foresaw a flood, gnawed down a great tree,  crawled inside and sealed it. Montezuma took coyotes warning and built a canoe. The story goes on to say that he later became wicked and tried to build a tower to heaven.m The great mystery destroyed the tower with an earthquake and change the languages so people could no longer understand animals or other tribes.

These two aren't the only two repeated themes.

Most mythologies talk of two (or more) great destructive events. One of a water event (the great flood), the second is a fire event.

Most every Mythology includes a supreme being, a father god.

Most every mythology has some reference to a great tree (yggdrasil, tree of life?)

There is nearly always a conflict between forces of good, who quietly encourage people to be kind and good, and forces of evil, who use subterfuge and deception to trick people into being selfish, contentious... evil.

Most every mythology has a story of life, death, and rebirth, usually involving an individual who is part god, part mortal (Consider Hercules as one prominent example, his father was Zeus, the Supreme God, and his Mother was a mortal woman, he performed many miraculous feats, including taking the place of Promethius, who was sentenced to eternal punishment for stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to humans. Hercules also bore the weight of the world, and descended into and returned from the underworld. Another example is Thor, Son of Odin, and Joro, who was a giantess (and whose name means "earth"), whose greatest foe, Jormungandr,  is a serpent. At Ragnarok (The apocalypse) the two slay each other. Early american mythologies includes stories one who defeated death and brought a "gospel" of peace, promising to return some day. Some of the early Spanish explorers were mistakenly thought to be this returning god, which gave them great advantage over the natives in their conquest of the Americas.

Every Mythology has an apocalypse event, in which the earth/universe is destroyed and reborn.

So which story is the real one? Are any that we have the real one? Scientifically, it would be very difficult if not impossible to come to any certain conclusion. But the consistent recurrence of certain themes should not be cast aside lightly. If a pattern emerges, it usually means something.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dis/Proving God:Science and Faith

I think we often forget that science is not the antithesis of belief. Science often depends upon belief in order to progress.

In around 400 BC, Democritus Posited That matter was composed of atoms and empty space. He had no tools to see an atom. He was acting on belief. And educated belief, based on observation and keen analysis, but a belief nonetheless.

In 1803 John Dalton proposed "Atomic Theory", going beyond the original hypothesis of Democritus, and Isaac Newton (1700'ish), to give detail about the role mass played in atomic composition.

In 1873 James Clerk Maxwell proposed that the empty space was in fact electric and magnetic fields. In 1894 G.J. Stoney, based on prior experiments with Cathodes rays, concluded that electron were particles.

Moving forward to 1903, and H. Nagaoka suggested that Electrons orbited positively charged particles in flat rings.

Niels Bohr in 1922 Modified this model to present electrons as orbital shells around a nucleus.

None of these individuals saw and atom, or an electron.

They acted on a belief, performed experiments observed and measured. There were times when experiments or theories were wrong. The first experiments using cathode rays to prove negatively charge particles failed. That didn't cause all of science-dom to declare electrons a myth (Though there were scientist who did not accept atomic theory as valid). Instead they reevaluated their model, discarded some theories about the properties and behavior of the particles, developed new tests, and moved forward. Electrons behavior changed from flat orbit, to spherical orbit, to sort of smeared out in a shell above a nucleus.

Today their are scientific theories, beliefs regarding other as yet undiscovered (much less seen) particles, such as the graviton - a theoretical particle responsible for gravitational force.

Belief is an entirely acceptable, even necessary facet of scientific discovery.

Religion makes an equally foolish mistake in attempting to ignore or discount science. Or basic logic.

I have on occasion asked a question, because it is one I find interesting to discuss... "How do you reconcile the Old and New Testaments? Specifically, in the Old Testament, God seems very wrathful, and quick to punish: examples include Lot's wife who was turned to salt for 'looking back'. To boys were eaten by a bear for making fun of a prophets bald headed-ness, A prophet chastises the king for not killing every man, woman, child, cow, etc... Then in the New Testament, Jesus, spend his time among sinners, inviting them to follow him, teaching everyone to love one another, and forgiving the very people who crucified him."

I have received some very thoughtful responses to this question. I have also received responses like "Who are you to reply against God?" and "They don't need to be reconciled". If I as a religious person, see a discrepancy in scripture, or teachings, etc... It does not prove that God doesn't exists, but it does say that there is an error either in the scripture/teaching, an error in my understanding of the scripture/teaching, or an error in my understanding of the nature and/or character of deity. To ignore the discrepancy is... blind faith... stupid faith.

So then, we accept the possibility that one or more deity may or may not exist.We recognize that, as we have insufficient resources to prove any case, we must therefore consider all possibilities. That doesn't mean we believe all possibilities, but we accept that each individual has the right to believe as they will. We respect the beliefs of others, seek common ground where possible, accommodate where possible.

How then can we hope to find any truth, personally or collectively. By utilizing a scientific principle of seeking patterns, commonalities, threads of truth.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dis/Proving god:The Facts

On the topic of deity, one must start with what it known, and from there move to what is most likely, given available evidence.

To begin with, there are three possibilities, one and only one of which is true:

1. There is no god. (The atheist belief)
2. There is exactly one god. (The monotheist belief)
3. There is more than one god. (The polytheist belief)

It is notable that the last two are not as straightforward as many think. For instance. God vs Allah. Is one right and the other wrong/false? Or are both referring to the same one god? Or Are they both real, and separate? Dueling it out in some great astral chess game in which we are all pawns? The latter scenario takes what are generally thought to be beliefs systems of type 2 and defines them as type three.

Likewise many type 3 belief systems could also in fact be type 2. Some view Hinduism as having many - even millions of gods and goddesses, others say there is only one deity, that the "many" are merely different manifestations of the same "one". For other multi-deity belief systems, such as Greek and Norse mythology for instance, It is possible that these system were originally a single god system, but over time, the stories began to change, and the one being was re-imagined as multiple beings, perhaps to make it easier to rationalize what the believers saw as behavioral discrepancies in said deity.

Similarly one could argue that monotheistic systems performed the same process in reverse. To determine which way such a process went, one would need clear timelines for the various stories so that one could which were closer to the source stories, and which were more altered re-tellings.

In the absence of concrete evidence, we must assume that all three of the above possibilities are equally likely.

Some would claim that there is concrete evidence - Dinosaur bones for instance, which prove that the world wasn't made in 7 days as the Old testament claims, this portion of the "Old testament" is a key part of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith. But all this proves is that the biblical claim that the earth was made in seven days is either incorrect, or misunderstood. It is possible the biblical telling is meant as more poetry than prose. It is also possible that the story was altered over the years of telling and retelling (what we have was either written by Moses, or by someone who heard it from Moses, making it at least one re-telling from Moses, and possibly more. But who did Moses hear it from? It could have been re-told and altered for several generations by the time it got to him).

Another possibility is that the writer or original teller (God?) may not have been talking about earth days (What is a day to someone who isn't from our Earth?) According to the Genesis telling of the story, The Sun, Moon and Stars don't come into play until the 4th day, suggesting that it wasn't earth day that was being used as the measure of time.

"But if the bible is imperfect or incorrect, then there must not be a God" right? Again, this is not proof of the nonexistence of God, rather it is proof that some theories about God are incorrect. The fact the the bible, prophets, and the world are imperfect leaves several possibilities in which God exists:

1. God is imperfect.
2. God does not micromanage.
3. Imperfection is part of the design.
4. We have an incorrect understanding of the word "perfection" where deity is concerned.

(typically about this time someone goes on a rant about religious people and their double-speak. This isn't doublespeak. It is merely the nature of language. Language is imprecise and fluid. Meaning changes over time, and from one person to another. The goal is to reach beyond the syllables to the personal meaning. Real communication isn't speaking at each other, it is understanding each other.)

So, an objective review of the facts reveals that the facts neither categorically prove, nor categorically disprove the existence of God. What then are we left with? Speculation. Theory. Belief. Hope. Faith. And "personal science"

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dis/proving God: Logic, Anecdotes and Water

A man lives in the desert. He hears a story about some substance called water. He is told every living thing needs it.

"Well," says he. "I see no water here, but I do see cactus. And cactus is a living thing, clearly getting by without water so water must not be real."

A man from New Orleans, Louisiana claims  he as seen water. Furthermore, he knows from personal experience that water boils when it reaches a temperature of 212 degrees F (100 C). Another man from Alma, Colorado claims he has seen water and furthermore knows that water boils at 193 F (89 C).

Each accuses the other of having "false water", contaminated water or "not the real water". Our desert dweller hears of this and declares it further proof that water isn't real, and that these two gentleman are just a couple of crazies, making things up.

The above is more parable than anecdote, so don't try to analyze it too deeply. It is meant to be as absurd as it sounds.

Given the relative improbability of proving or disproving the existence of God through hard evidence, we fall back to anecdote. But as you can see, this is very problematic, and the conclusions are likely wrong due limited information, personal bias, or any number of other factors.

The debate between New Orleans and  Alma, for instance isn't about one being right  and the other wrong. They have simply failed to understand one characteristic of water, namely the boiling point varies with altitude. At sea level water boils at 212 Farenheit in New Orleans. Alma Colorado is not at Sea level, it is 10,000 feet above sea level. And at that altitude, water boils at 193 degrees Farenheit.

And this is the problem with claiming God does or does not exist based on anecdote.

"Bad things happen to good people therefore there is no God"

"I witnessed a miracle therefore this is a God"

"One person is miraculously saved from death by God, and a child is killed senselessly, therefore either God is the biggest jerk ever, or he doesn't exist."

"Religious people have done violent things, and caused terrible wars, therefore there is no God."

"I prayed and felt something special therefore there is a God." or more specifically, "I prayed and felt something special about a specific religion, or leader, therefore there is a God, and this is his one and only truth."

"People of lots of different faiths claim to have had spiritual experiences letting them know their respective faith is the one and true faith. Clearly they can't all be the one true faith, therefore there is no God."

These conclusions are all various forms of logical fallacy. None of these anecdotes individually or together definitively, conclusively, scientifically justify a logical conclusion that deity does or does not exist.

They may be sufficient to disprove certain claims regarding the nature, character or motive of deity. But that is all. So, from a perspective of logic, rather than attempting to discredit deity or claim absolutely the existing of deity, it seems a rational person seeking to apply scientific principles would do better to consider the alternatives, rule out the impossibilities, identify the improbabilities, accept the uncertainties and consider the possibilities.

Women in the military, and re-addressing heroes.

I've been seeing lots of posts and likes and kudos and news acclamation for two women who just successfully graduated rangers school.

Perhaps I am in the wrong to feel so, but the news saddens me a bit. In my - perhaps sexist -  mind women were still somehow above that.

That sounds like am either dissing women, or dissing our military - I don't mean to. I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who choose to serve in the role of protector, defender. Some of my favorite people and stories include Captain Moroni.

and the 2000 Sons of the people of Ammon.

War and conflict are an unfortunate part of human existence. But while it is one thing to  have to defend life, liberty, family and freedom, it is quite another to seek for blood. For some reason - right or wrong - in my mind, the graduation of these two women and consequent talk of the changing role of women in the front lines of military - viewed by the media as a step forward for women... to me feels more like a loss. Men have, it seems, already in large part embraced a baser nature, a nihilistic bloodthirstiness, but... now women succumb to it as well?

This lead me to think about a comment I had seen and replied to quite some time ago, on a video about Esther, and some other women who were being compared to her - her quality of courage specifically...

The individual's comment expressed disdain for the video, implying a sexist quality, as  the "courageous women" were shown putting on pretty clothes, make-up and jewelry. If the video had been about a man or men, they would have been shown strapping on swords and armor. Getting ready for battle, the poster noted.

I responded by saying "I think the idea was to have each one mirroring Esther, and in her case, that was her preparation. It wasn't about going to battle, it was about putting her best foot forward,in spite of hopeless circumstances. Preparing by dressing in their best, is symbolic of expecting success. (Honestly, I think these women display greater courage in facing unseen, untouchable dangers, versus than taking up arms against a mortal foe)."

As I thought about that, it occurred to me that we generally have a very narrow perception of courage, of heroism. And it does revolve and mortal, physical combat. We honor those who "Sacrifice their lives to the cause", but we forget the quiet heroes who give their lives TO the cause: the Mother Theresa's, the Gandhi's, The Jonas Corona's and Ethan King's

So maybe we spend too much time worshiping the wrong qualities... Or maybe I'm just an old fashioned, sexist pig.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dis/proving God: Math, Science and a Checkerboard

Imagine you live on a checkerboard, and that this "world of yours is completely sealed in by four walls and a low ceiling.

Two other people share this checkerboard with you.

One claims there is a helium atom somewhere in your checkerboard world.

The other claims there is not.

Who is right? How do we determine it?

Let's assume you have a helium detector, which can detect a single atom of helium within one checkerboard square.

You could wander around checking a few squares at random. A traditional checkerboard consists of 8x8, or 64 squares, so in each square, you have a 1 in 64 (1.6%) chance of finding the helium atom - if it in fact exists. If there are two helium atoms, your odds are even better. Twice as good in fact.

Now if the helium atom is stationary, by the time you have checked 32 squares you have a 50% chance of finding the atom. But until you have checked EVERY square, you can't be certain that there is no helium. In other words, it is actually slightly easier to prove it does exist than to prove that it doesn't. To prove it exists, you need only search until you have found one instance. To prove that none exist, you must search every square.

But just testing each square is not sufficient either. Unless the helium atom is stationary. Let's say we set up the following pattern to check every square, by traversing side to side as we move forward across the board. It would be very easy for a moving helium atom to slip past on the left side of the board while we are over on the right side.

There are a few ways I can overcome this:

1) With enough people and sensors, You can place one sensor in each row, side by side, and they can move down the rows in unison, effectively creating a net to ensure the helium doesn't slip past.

2) You  could use a net that stretches from one end to the other, and drag it across the board until I have left a single row, then I can traverse that row with my sensor.

3) You could design a sensor which will test an entire row at one time, then move across the rows from one end to the other.

4) You could design a sensor or sensor web which tests every square at once.

Now, what if instead of a 2 dimension checkerboard we are talking about a three dimension cube? Now instead of 8x8=64 squares to test, you have 8x8x8=512. Probability of finding the atom in one cube is 0.2%.

To apply the strategy in 1 you would need enough people and sensors for each row and column, you have gone from needing 8 of each to 64 of each.

To apply strategy 2, you would first need to drop a net from the ceiling to reduce the search area to an 8x8x1 space, then drag the end-to-end net across to get to the single 8x1x1 column necessary.

Strategy 3 would require the same 64 sensors as strategy 1

And strategy 4 would require 512 sensors.

What of the cube is significantly bigger? 1000 x 1000 x 1000? That would be 1 billion cubes!
What if it is much, much bigger? Say 91 billion light years across(the distance across the observable universe)? There aren't enough people, enough sensors capable of creating the necessary web, nor sensors capable of spanning that mind-mindbogglingly huge distance.

And if you have never actually seen a helium atom - know nothing of it's physical makeup - how can you be certain your helium detector actually detects helium?

The same logic applies to god(/s) detection. We have an enormous space, and insufficient resources to scan said space, for a being (or beings) of unknown composition.  In fact, one could argue it is even worse, as we would also need to consider the space outside of observable space. Or the possibility that said being(/s) exist in an as yet undefined, unobserved dimension (yes, I know it sounds pretty sci-fi, but then so did spaceships and robots and glow in the dark sheep once upon a time).

Therefore, anyone who declares that there is a deity or deities, is doing so based on personal belief, and not by scientific analysis.

Any anyone who declares that there is no god is doing so based on personal belief and not by scientific analysis.

We simply do not have the means to prove or disprove the existence of deity through pure scientific, mathematical process.

What is left then is speculation based on observation and interpretation of available evidence.

More on that later.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Different Flavors of Marriage

The cool and crummy thing about language (American English in particular) is that it can be fluid.

Language is really just sounds that we put together in unique ways and assign meaning. And written language is just a way to represent those sounds... without making any sound...


I say that word, and you have an image in your mind.


That one might have a couple possibilities. Without some context, you may be visualizing a spherical object, or you might be seeing people dancing.

"Fat", "Phat."

Same sound, different spellings, different meanings.

Meanings can change over time as well. "He was a killer", "That's killer".


I think part of the problem with this word is that it means several different things. There are several flavors and contexts. I thought I'd take a stab at listing them. The idea is to break it up into the various separable components.

Social-Contractual - In this context, marriage is a contract between two or more people to "bind their fortunes". They agree to combine their resources toward a set of common goals. Often, but not always this includes the creation and rearing of offspring for a number of purposes, including contributing to society, maintaining a family namesake and/or legacy...

Social-Emotional - (That may not be the right title, suggestions?) In This context marriage is a... celebration of a union, of one or more... things? I am trying to leave that as open as possible to account for all cases, Such as a Man who married his dog, or a nine year old who was married to a snake (symbolically. She will still get to marry someone else when she grows up).

Civil-Legal Blanket -(Again, not sure I love the title) This represents a contract recognized by society as a sort of master contract, which saves the paperwork required to establish joint property ownership, inheritance, access to "Family" benefits etc...

Civil-Incentive - This represents a union which gains access to benefits created by the governmental unit: This would be things like child tax credits. This facet exists primarily because governments want to encourage population growth and/or child rearing activities. So they reward people for participation in the Social-Contractual facet of marriage.

Civil-Regulatory - This represents a level of governmental oversight of marriage. An example: In the early days of the United States, marriage was often a case of two people moving in together and declaring themselves married (There are still laws in some states, which establish a time frame after which cohabitation is automatically recognized as marriage after a certain duration). Then at some point, some states decided to regulate the process. Most of what I have read indicates this was sometime after the Civil war, with differing reasons given, the most common being to prevent interracial coupling, and cousin coupling.

Commercial - This facet refers to the industry built around the term "Marriage"; The dresses and tuxedoes and parties and cakes etc... It is most closely tied with the Social-Emotional aspect.But really no different than any other commercialized holiday. It is a group of industries encouraging or creating a need for their products.

Religious - This represents a contract between deity and two or more individuals. It is defined by the specific religious practice selected by the individuals. Typically in involves an agreement to set aside personal individualism in favor of familial collectivism. The join their purposes and wills together, along with that of their respective deity in accordance with laws and guidelines established by that deity.

Did I miss any?

While there are points where each of these touch one another or overlap slightly, they are in fact separable.

Do you suppose, if each had a unique name, much of current political strife could/would have ben avoided?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Regrets 5: I regret not learning how to weld

I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted to fix some metal object, or build a go-cart, or jet engine or some other metal contraption! Sadly, I lack the skills. I never learned to weld.

And it just tears me apart thinking about the hundreds of dollars I could have saved over the years if only I had learned how to weld.

Well, if only I had learned to weld, and had a few thousand dollars of welding equipment.

Hundreds of dollars could have been saved...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Place Your Bets

I really want to get my kids better trained in picking up - keeping their rooms clean, keeping their stuff picked up and put away. I know I get frustrated when I have to look for things that I know should be in a specific spot, so I'd really like to get them trained up right, with the right habits.

I just snapped this photo of the floor in my office. It has been like that for a couple months now.

So that whole teaching my kids to keep things picked up... What do you think my odds are?

Gardening adventurers 2014

I did a fairly poor job at the gardening last year, and the one grand experiment for the year was so poorly documented as t barely qualify as an anecdote, but here it is anyway. I decided to do some experimentation with tomato growing, to see what would give the best yield.

I tried three different methods... well, six, really.

1. Free growing bush, no pruning
2. Free growing bush, some pruning
3. Tomato cage, no pruning
4. Tomato cage, moderate pruning
5. Single Stake, moderate pruning
6. Single Stake aggressive pruning

Unfortunately with all the health issues, I sort of fell down on care-taking, and documentation. So I may need to try and run the experiment again, probably not this year, as well...

I managed to lose the photos I took as well, save this one.

At any rate my largely unscientific conclusion is that Stake and moderate pruning (5) produces the best yield. The first 5 options are actually in order from worst to best. and 6 was somewhere near 3 in performance, gotta leave enough leaves on to gather the energy to make the tomatoes...

One other thing I am thinking of trying - take a tomato start, lay it on its side, and bury all the the branches sticking upright (that would probably by 3 or 4 branches). In theory, each of those can be stakes and treated as an individual Tomato plant (3 for the price of 1! ). We'll have to see how the weather (and my health) goes .

Incidentally, if you are thinking of growing a few Jalapenos, one plant is really probably sufficient. Below is one harvest from two plants. First time I have grown them, had no idea....

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Health Update: An Unexpected Turn of Events.

A few months ago I started experiencing rather severe joint and muscle pain. It was beginning to look as if I might be graduating from just Crohn's to something more debilitating. My Dr. ruled out Rheumatoid, then gave me some meloxicam to see if that would help.

A week or so later, the joint and muscle pain was gone, but then I started experiencing abdominal pain, and spasms. They were constant, ranging from mild to severe. At first it was bad on the weekends, and would then start fading away of the weeks.The first two weeks, during the weekend I would decide to go seem my Dr. but then by Monday morning it was starting to fade, so I would decide to wait and see. Then by Friday when Dr. wasn't available it would hit again with a vengeance. On the third such weekend, it was so bad I made the trip to the emergency room. And so began a prolonged adventure.

That was about two months ago, and we have been running tests ever since. You hit a point after awhile when you are actually disappointed when they tell you "Everything looks good."

A couple weeks ago I added a new symptom: Chest pain, radiating into my left arm. Sunday I put up with it. I knew it sounded like "Heart attack", but I doubted that was it. Monday morning, I called urgent care from work to ask for their recommendation. They told me don't bother coming to them for chest pain, as they would just send me straight to the ER. I really didn't want to do two ER runs in one month, but a couple of my co-workers overheard the call, and politely suggested to me that dying from a heart attack just because you didn't think it was a heart attack was probably fairly stupid.

So, back to the ER, and some more tests. The good news, my heart if very healthy, all that running and cycling appears to have paid off. The bad news, still no answers. The chest pain actually disappeared a few days after the ER visit (some weird virus maybe?). The abdomen pain and spasm continued relentlessly. I was really hoping for some answer, almost any answer, though I feared the answer was worsening Crohn's, leading to a need to switch to one of the more aggressive treatments; the kind that wipe out your immune system - mine is already fairly useless.

Then comes the twist.  During all this, I decided to try a different GI doctor. He asked some questions, and decided to work his way through my insides: Endoscopy, small bowel discovery... the full tour. The tour ended a few days ago, His initial conclusion (still waiting for biopsy results): "Everything looks good".

New first, that means he couldn't find anything to account for my problem. It also means he could find no sign of Crohn's.

Now until the Biopsies come back, it is still to early to draw any conclusions. It could mean I am not presently displaying visible symptoms. It could mean I am in remission. It could mean the original diagnoses was a mis-diagnosis. Back to square zero on my pain and spasms. But fingers crossed....

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dealing With a Disaster

For the past few days we folk in Nibley, Utah have been dealing with a minor disaster. I say minor, because homes are still standing, and there were no great cataclysmic upheavals, no significant destruction of physical property and (to my knowledge) no loss of life.

Our water supply became contaminated with diesel fuel.For a couple days were were on a "Do not use" order, now we are down to just "Do not drink". After first notification, the local stores did well in water sales. I admit I was in the line grabbing a couple cases of bottled water (all the larger containers were sold out. It is noteworthy that I did not see any fighting over water, and sale prices were left in place).

Now, as I said, this was really a minor disaster. No fires, no tumbled buildings, no rising death toll. Mostly a considerable inconvenience - not being able to run the dishwasher, or washing machine, or take a shower, Rationing the water for flushing toilets. Taking sponge baths... camping in essence.

But in spite of not being a major disaster, the valley response was impressive.  Individual homes in neighboring cities have opened there homes, offering Nibley residents a place to shower, do laundry, or fill water buckets. The Logan recreational center offered their shower facilities for free. At least one local hotel offered a deep discount to Nibley residents. I recently learned there were some businesses which for the past couple days have kept coolers stocked with sodas and water, which they have offered to Nibley residents for free.

For our church meeting today, a young man (16'ish years old) took the initiative to make sure we had bottled water available in our meeting houses for our services.

It is encouraging - inspiring to see so many people respond so quickly and voluntarily to see to  the needs and basic comfort of others.

Way to go Cache Valley!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret I Discovered in "Meet the Mormons"

It took three viewings before I saw it.

I went and saw "Meet the Mormons" in the Theater with my Kids. I enjoyed it... mostly. I mean it is a great story, six great stories actually, of six amazing people who have done and who are doing great things in the world. As documentaries go, it was well done, well filmed, good flow, good music. fin, light, inspiring.... What's not to like?

Well, there was this part of me that was watching all these amazing people and looking at my own life, thinking, "what a loser. You haven't done anything like that. Your just one more average nobody, living a d+/c- life, earning a paycheck, breathing air, and not really making a difference.

Still, I enjoyed it, so, when it went on sale, I bought it.

On my second pass through, I think I managed to watch it the way the filmmakers intended it to be watched. Maybe I was able to set aside my Social issues, and just watch and appreciate the six  people they highlighted. Perhaps, I realized that what I was seeing was the bits that were carefully picked to tell the story, that these people weren't perfect in real life, that what the producers were trying to show was the ideal, something to work for.

Whatever the reason, I was able to just watch and celebrate the accomplishments of the individuals, and feel inspired to try a little harder.

The next day I watched it again, and that is when it happened. I noticed something I had missed the first two times. I noticed all the other people. I mean really noticed them. The various members of  Bishop Sullivan's congregation, his wife and his sister. Ken's family and colleagues, Bishnu's father and his daughter. I was truly struck by the over-arching thread of love, respect, kindness, friendship and service. Each individual was extraordinary to me. Can you imagine what this world would be if we all treated each other the way these people did?! Glorious Indeed!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A New Insight Into Addiction

First, a little back story:

About a year ago, The change of Companies brought a change of insurance providers and plans, and a consequent change in handling of prescriptions (actually I found myself questioning the legality of this from an anti-monopoly perspective...). The new insurance provider doesn't allow 90 day prescriptions from a local pharmacy, only through CVS mail order. a 90 day is the same price as a 60 days prescription. So you are essentially forced to use the CVS pharmacy. Additionally the new insurance doesn't cover Pentasa, which I was taking for Crohn's.

I was thus moved to Balsalazide. And I have been going downhill ever since. It started with Reflux problems, which I suspect were triggered by the Balsalazide, but so far the Dr. aren't interested in that theory.

I was put on a a few different proton pump inhibitors to deal with the reflux, but long term use of them seems to trigger Join and muscle pain. (Going on and off the meds a few times on my own, I have established at least a correlation to support these therories of mine).

An NSAID was added to the regimen, after which things have taken a serious turn for the worse. The past couple weeks have been agony.

The primary, root symptom is a sort of spasming in my upper abdomen, right around the solar plexus. This have been fairly constant, and ranges from moderately uncomfortable to excruciatingly painful. Presumably as a result of this, Muscles elsewhere in my body tense up as a sympathetic response, leading to pain through my back, and radiating into my chest and lower abdomen.

Curiously there appears to be a certain weekly cyclic nature to it, Tuesday it is quite mild, By Wednesday evening it begins to increase in intensity. The increase in discomfort/pain continues through the remainder of the week, Peaking somewhere late Saturday or early Sunday. Then late Sunday or really Monday the intensity declines somewhat. I am very curious as to what is driving that.

Anyway, two weeks ago I finally went to insta-care who referred me to the ER (concerns of pancreatitis among other things). They weren't able to give me a diagnosis (not uncommon for abdominal issues. But they were really great!). They threw the whole pharmacy at me to try and alleviate my symptoms, mostly stuff focused around indigestion and ulcers. None of it seems to be helping my symptoms, but  it has added nausea, loss of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue, dizziness and exhaustion to my list of symptoms.

They referred me to a Gastroenterologist, who has started down his list of procedures. Of course those all have to be scheduled, so It was a couple days before the Hida scan, and a week after that to squeeze in the Endoscopy (That is this coming Thursday, and I suspect it was only that soon because the GI told his nurse to schedule it for is lunch break). In the meantime, the pain and discomfort remain.

Last night I hit a new peak (Though the way I am feeling at this moment, I stand a fair chance at beating it this evening). The whole of my abdomen was a mass of burning, swelling and cramping sensations, and the massive piles of drugs were doing nothing but adding nausea to the mix. The Er Dr. prescribed a Narcotic Pain-killer, just in case. I had been trying to avoid using them.
1. Their are only a very few of them, and I want them to be around for the really bad days.
2. I generally try to limit pain killer use, as they can mask symptoms.
3. I have been well indoctrinated on the dangers of Addiction.

This however seemed to meet the criteria of a "Really Bad Day". The instructions were to take one or two pills every 4 hours as needed. I took one, and waited. Nothing.

I took a second one and waited. Nothing.

Twenty minute later, and I REALLY wanted to try a third, or a fourth. I mean REALLY. I stood in the bathroom, holding the pill bottle reading the label over and over, wondering how much fudge room there might be in the dosage restriction.

That is not typical for me. Ask my wife, she has on more than one occasion had to practically cajole me into taking a Tylenol.

But that much pain for that long... It wore me down. I was desperate for a break, just a few minutes of relief even.

This morning, I think I gained a new insight into narcotic and alcohol addiction. Not necessarily every case; we know genetics plays a role in addiction, but how many of these cases of addiction are cases of people in pain, desperately self-medicating in an attempt to just get a break?

An interesting thing about pain; it is - in a way - all in your head. You feel pain because nerves in your body respond to certain stimuli, and send an impulse to your brain.Your brain interprets it and tells you what you are feeling: warm, hot, cool, cold, pressure, pain... That means, everyone's interpretation of pain can be different (extremely so in some cases, such as Ashlyn Blocker's. Can you imagine going crying to her about a second degree burn you got from touching a hot stove and being told "Oh suck it up you big baby"?). One person's paper cut could very well be another's severed limb.

And can emotional pain be just as... painful... for some? How much of addiction is an attempt to deal with chronic pain that isn't recognized, or properly managed?

How can we measure an individuals level of pain, relative to their pain threshold, relative some relate-able standard?

When we talk about solving the growing problems of addiction, of the war on drugs, of dealing with alcoholism, is this another case of hacking at the limbs, rather than the root cause? Would we be better served if that energy was instead directed at a "War on Pain"?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Indiana's religious freedom bill came to be - A theory

I've seen a great deal about this in the past few hours. Mostly talking about the evil, malicious nature of the law, and praise for the various organizations who are aiming financial punishment at the state for their participation in this act of discrimination.

It took a fair amount of hunting to find the actual text of the law, here.

It is true legalese, Mind numbing, vague, sterile... But after a few reads through, I really didn't see the malice or intent to discriminate that the opinion-sters are buzzing about. It looks more like they are trying to protect against discrimination against religious groups to me, such as the well-worn photographer case. (Just a thought, since photography is a form of personal expression, arguably, falling under free speech - that was the argument Larry Flint made and won years ago - Isn't compelling someone to photograph something they don't believe in, in essence a violation of their right to free speech?)

Last night an alternate theory came to me, as to how this all went down. Let me start by establishing the straight-gay continuum. The distribution numbers are purely guesses, but I expect this is approximately what the population distribution looks like.

Now, 4L and 4R, though the smallest groups, are the ones who get the most attention; make the most noise. If you hear something in the news, it is most likely coming from 4L, 3L, 3R or 4R.

Now I won't speculate as to how it all really began, that is lost somewhere in the past, and the fallibility of human memory virtually guarantees it isn't coming to light. But more recently, I suspect someone in 4L did something to irritate 4R - most probably launched an attack against a 2R. so 4R, and probably some 3R went storming off to the legislature to do something about it. I imagine 2R got involved as well, as they were the group who got attacked.

2R then produced a general idea for a law that would provide protection. 4R wasn't happy with it, and tried to push the law to be more aggressive in nature. 2R favored something more precise, less vague, but as 3R pointed out, 4L would not be happy with the law regardless, and would actively seek to invalidate the law. 2R conceded and thus relented to requests for greater vagary as a proactive defense against these inevitable attacks.

And thus the baby was born, with plenty of crying, screaming and pooping to go around.

I believe this model fits rather well, conforms to the wisdom of Hanlan's razor, and likely fits just as well with most every controversial bit of legislation.

A few other points it brings out:

  • 2L, 1L, 1R and 2R make up the majority, yet they get the least say, and are usually the cannon fodder in these issues. They seriously get taken advantage of.

  • Politicians don't really like 2L - 2R. These people tend to be reasonable, rational, which means they could vote either way, given solid, accurate, informed, unemotional information. Politicians need to stay in office, so while they may not really like the Jihadist nature of 4L and 4R, they nonetheless try to push the respect 2's toward the 4 position through crowd manipulation, to help secure their votes.

  • 4L and 4R are where Terrorists come from. They are black/white thinkers. They aren't willing to compromise - a necessary feature of living in large groups(unless of course you think absolute homogeneity is a good idea [read up on the history of bananas]). I read a rather compelling quote recently - dealing with engineering, but it applies well here - "There is no one right answer, just different flavors of wrong."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Eliminating Inalienable Constitutional Rights Pt. 3

I spent two post laying ground work, so let me get to my point, Many fo the groups who are out and about defending constitutional rights.... are doing it wrong.

Here is one very good example. Warning, it is long, and somewhere after about 5 min he throws out a fair amount of profanity. Sixty seconds is really enough to get the point.

Here's one more, from the same 2nd amendment theme.

And one last one of a different nature (Don't wast your time after about 2:00. Very boring and pointless). Yes, I realize I am talking about the constitution and showing a clip form another country. Don't get lost in the minutiae.

The point, imbeciles like this run around "defending our rights" by thumbing their noses, being confrontational, and demanding that our rights be protected. They seem to lack understanding that those rights can be revoked. There is nothing so sacred about the 2nd amendment that it could never be removed.

Instead of investing so much effort in schooling authorities on "The law", their time would be better served in teaching responsible use of said freedoms. Yes you have a right to open carry a firearm. But spend enough time flashing your gun just for the sake of proving your right, and you may very well find that right taken away. And you can then be as belligerent as you want about the loss of freedom, about the Countries descent into fascism, into police state-ism, but it will still be your fault.

Eliminating Inalienable Constitutional Rights - Pt. 2

The U.S. Declaration of Independence talks about "Inalienable human rights", among which are "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness", and establishes "The Government"'s purpose as that of protecting those rights.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights were formulated around that idea, and enumerated some freedoms deemed necessary, consequent to, or otherwise inherent in those inalienable human rights.


Those documents -ultimately are just documents, written by men. Based on their feelings/opinions/inspiration. They are therefore subject to change - and have changed over time. (18th amendment is a good example).

And irrespective of those documents, what rights do we have which are truly inalienable? i.e. Natural, cannot be taken away?

Life? That is taken away all to often, for any number of valid or invalid reasons.

Liberty?  Plenty of people are robbed of this.There are still an estimated 20-30 million slaves in the world today.

Pursuit of happiness? That one might stand. You are free to pursue it, assuming that you recognize happiness as a personal state of mind, not dependent upon the behavior of others, or the accumulation of things.

Freedom of speech can be curtailed.  Freedom of religion can be drastically restricted. Firearms and property can be confiscated. Laws can be changed. And as technology progresses, there may be a day when even Freedom of thought could be intruded upon.

Much of human freedom in the crowd setting is - a social construct. We are what we as a group decide we are. We have the "freedoms" we decide to give.

Does this all make sense? Have a made a logical error anywhere?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Eliminating "Inalienable" Constitutional Rights

Imagine that you and three of your best friends have gone together to purchase a $300,000+ Lamborghini Aventador.

Everyone gets a day on a rotating schedule. One evening, you are out with the friend whose day it is. You had gone separate ways briefly to run a few errands. You are back at the car, waiting - just as the sun is beginning to set. Your friend shows up, staggering slightly and it becomes quite obvious that your friend is fairly inebriated, and thoroughly impaired. You offer to drive but your friend insists it is his day, and he is going to drive.

Now assume that your drive home follows a narrow, winding road with an abundance of very steep drop-offs. Are you going to stay in the car with your friend? You have a considerable investment in it after all. Furthermore, you realize that the drive home is going to take you right through a large park, which this particular evening is hosting the state championship kick-the can tournament. It is therefore  going to be literally crawling with hordes of youngsters in dark clothing, paying scant attention to traffic.

Bad planning on the part of city officials aside, is it fair to say that there are certain times and certain circumstances when it is appropriate, even necessary to restrict the freedoms of certain individuals? In the interest of the freedoms of other individuals?

Monday, January 12, 2015

An alligator in Logan, UT

At lunch today I went for a walk. There is a path near my office which runs along the Logan river, through a pasture. It was cold, raining-on-the-verge of snowing. SO I had my hood pulled down, and I was walking fairly quickly.

The path crosses the river a couple times via little foot bridges, and as I approached the last bridge on my return trip, I caught movement in the water, just at the edge of my peripheral vision. My first thought, given the abundance of tadpoles was "frog", but it was really too large to be a frog, and moved through the water much to smoothly.

Then, whether because I had started at frog and therefore had amphibian (and consequently reptile) on my brain, or because my wife and I have been looking a pictured of Florida the night before, or both, I quite clearly realized that what I was seeing was none other than an alligator! A small one, maybe a a foot or two in length, but most definitely the correct size, shape, texture, color and motion.

Then that smart-astic voice in the back of my head chimed in with that annoyingly smug voice...

"Really..... You are in Logan.... Utah.... in the middle of January, in rain/snow... And your going with alligator?"

At about that moment, the muskrat dove under the water and out of site.

The funny thing was for that brief instant, I really did see an alligator, that is how my mind interpreted the visual stimuli it received. It was only at that very last instant, that rational mind kicked in and saw "Things as they really are".

I got to thinking about that- how often, to what extent, and for how long do our brains get misled in a life time, by misinterpreted or out of context stimuli or information?

And has this phenomena increased in the age of tweets, instagrams... increasingly short and fast info-bits?