Sunday, December 13, 2009

Delivering Words

Words, like tsuki, are best delivered from a relaxed state.

And, like tsuki, words require practice.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fighting Nearsightedness

There's an interesting article on New Scientist about studies that have been undertaken to determine the cause of nearsightedness. One recommendation is to be outside. Apparently the bright light that people encounter somehow causes the eyeball to grow less long, which is the problem in nearsightedness. Myopia is growing rapidly in many areas of the world, and this is explained by people being inside much more than before.

Article here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Evolution: The Grand Experiment

And what a grand experiment it is.

A week or two ago I saw on one of the local channels a show entitled "Evolution: The Grand Experiment". At first I thought it was going to be a nice, dry documentary about evolution, but after only a bit of watching it became clear that it was a disguised anti-evolution video. So I decided to record it in its entirety and watch it later to see what they had to say.

It's disappointing. I don't think the creators really understand either biology or how it gives rise to evolution very well. It's like they only know half of the story. They point at that half and say, "See, it just doesn't match up." Well, if you only allow half the bridge to be used of course you can't get to the other side.

I took the entry-level biology class in college. Well, I took two entry level biology classes -- one for the non-biology people and one for the biology people. (I was entertaining thoughts of changing my major at the time.) I occasionally watch Nova on our local PBS station. But that's about it. I'm no biologist. Still, even I can see some of their misunderstandings or omissions, and that's sad.

There is a cool Nova show on epigenetics that came to mind at one point. Epigenetics. That stuff is cool. It multiplies the complexity of DNA, allowing some measure of adaptability even within an individual, and that adaptation can be inherited. While epigenetics is not involved in evolution it was interesting that they interviewed some biologist who said something like individuals can change in response to their environment and this change can be passed on to the individual's offspring, and then the narrator said something like this is obviously not true because of DNA. I think the biologist had epigenetics in mind, so it can happen, and it doesn't contradict our understanding of DNA. And of course there can be environmental influences on DNA mutation that can be passed on to the offspring, as well.

Sorry, just wanted to show off some trivia.

On a different note I remember the first day I was in that biology class for the non-biology majors. Well, it may have been the first day of talking about evolution, not the first day of class. It's been too long for the ol' brain to remember. The teacher was, if I remember correctly, a pretty popular and had a fun, dynamic way of teaching, which made the class of many hundreds of people still fun to be in. He knew that a significant enough portion of our class had or would have a problem with either believing in evolution or trying to reconcile a belief in evolution with religious belief. So he had a handout prepared with various quotations from religious leaders on evolution, to help us reconcile it with religion. I do remember the butterflies I had in the pit of my stomach.

That was one of the first times in my life that I'd really been confronted with the issue of "science vs religion" to any real extent. Oh, I'm sure it had come up before. I can't remember it ever being this potent, though. Prior to that point I had fairly successfully kept science and religion separate. Never keep them them in RAM simultaneously, just swapped one out to disk when I wanted to swap the other in to RAM. If ever they were both swapped in, well one of them was on it's way out, and religion would just trump in that case. At least until it was swapped out again.

I wish I could say that my biology class was the turning point for me in my reconciliation of science and religion. It wasn't "the" turning point. But it was an important course correction. I understand the importance of that moment when that teacher handed out this paper more now in retrospect than I did at the time, I think. I say Hallelujah for people who recognize the truths in both scientifically- and religiously-inspired ideas.

And hallelujah for people who don't see them as separate.

I expect our scientific understandings of things will evolve. Scientists don't always get things right, nor complete. Partly this is because we humans just aren't capable of understanding everything yet. (I sincerely hope that to be true.) Of course, sometimes we just get things wrong, anyway. So we must hope for evolution in our scientific understandings.

I expect our religious understandings of things will evolve. This is a part of my faith, and is a central tenet of my religion, as well. Just like science, this is partly because we humans just aren't capable of understanding everything yet. Sometimes we just get things wrong, too. So we must hope for evolution in our religious understandings.

All things denote there is a God, said someone once. Yep. Including evolution.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Some words from the Buddha

I was poking around the 'Net last night reading about karate when I came across this quote attributed to the Buddha. My initial reaction was to think, "Oh yeah!". My second reaction was to think, "But it's more complicated than that." and to start thinking about it more deeply. I expect the Buddha, and God, would encourage that. Because of reaction number two I decided it was worth presenting here for your thoughts.

Do you agree or disagree with it?
Can you think of any scriptures that are in harmony or conflict with the idea presented?

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honour for many generations and in many places; do not believe anything because many people speak of it; do not believe on the strength of sages of old times; do not believe that which you have yourselves imagined, thinking that a god has inspired you. Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests. After investigation believe that which you have yourselves tested and found reasonable, and which is for your good and that of others.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Calling E.T.

Tonight as I was out walking I shined my flashlight at Jupiter. It's a really nice flashlight -- very bright -- and a cool planet -- also quite bright in our sky. So I started wondering how long it will take for my meager photons to get to Jupiter. At this website I discovered that Jupiter is currently 4.545 AU from us, or 679,922,910 kilometers. That means, if my Google-math is correct that my light will get to Jupiter in about 38 minutes. Well, will have gotten, then. I've been home about an hour.

PS. Google-math is doing multiplication, addition, units conversion and the like by typing them into the search box on Google. For those of us who are too lazy to click the start menu and launch the calculator program.

PPS. My flashlight is da bomb.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taking Care of our Bodies

Something I've heard before:

"One of the purposes of this life is to learn how to take care of our bodies."

Think of your conception of what heaven will be like. Do you eat or not eat? (Can you?) Can you get hurt or not get hurt? Does your hair grow or not grow? Do you need to sleep or not? Poop? Etc.

Now, tell me if the above sentence makes sense together with your conception of heaven. Why or why not?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Train Wrecks on TV

A while ago my wife became interested in the tv show "Jon and Kate Plus 8". As most of us know, the show stars (starred?) a husband and wife, Jon and Kate, and their two sets of multiple birth children -- twins and sextuplets. The show follows the family around as they go on vacations and outings, and whatever fun stuff the normal among us can't really afford to do (with a bunch of young kids).

As my wife watched the show of course I ended up watching it, too.

I don't remember if it was on the show itself, or if it was some news article I'd read at the time, but I remember hearing that the statistics for divorce among couples with multiples isn't very good. It seems like it was on the show, and they were talking about how they were going to beat the statistics. Pretty quickly after watching the first episode or two I'd seen of the show (it wasn't the first season) I said to my wife, "They're going to get a divorce." "You think so?" "I guarantee it."

Of course they ended up getting a divorce. Or wherever they are in the process now. Has it finalized yet?

For days before the official on-show announcement the news was all abuzz about the rumored impending divorce. Not just "People" magazine and similar, but places like CNN. Why a couple's divorce should be front page news on one of the most popular U.S. online news sites is beyond me, but there it was. (Oh, I know why it was front page. I just wish it wasn't. And feel guilty for clicking anyway.) And for weeks afterwards we were treated to Jon's latest girlfriends flings and Kate's "work" habits and rumored boyfriend whatever.

Why do we watch? Why is it front page news? Why does the show remain on the air -- when it certainly doesn't seem healthy for the children?

It's a train wreck on TV. And we just can't turn away from a train wreck.

It's just one part of the much larger reality tv fad, where we get to see real people have really crappy lives, and whatever.

But that's not really the purpose of the post.

My wife also watches another show, "18 Kids and Counting". This show stars a fairly strict Christian couple who are fairly strictly (not harshly) raising a family of 18 children. (Soon to be 19.)

Why do we watch it? Why do I watch it? It's reality TV. We want to see people who we believe are worse than us. My wife likes to make fun of the girls' hair. "They all look the same." "Are they not allowed to wear pants?" "Pregnant again? That makes me sick." (Literally sick. She's been nauseated lately.) I admit I find myself wanting to make fun of their particular brand of religion.

I keep waiting for some train wreck. Surely the TV life will screw up their family, just like it did for Jon and Kate's.

And yet, after all of the episodes I've seen, I can't see anything that shows they are anything other than a happy, well-functioning family. I am honestly and completely impressed by the entire family. Too many kids? Nope. They all seem loved and cared for. They have a big enough house and a bus. Too conservative? They seem to have plenty of fun, and seem to build loving relationships with others. The worst thing about the show is that the father's name is Jim Bob, and he doesn't even have buck teeth or a beer gut, and has an IQ of at least 100.

Maybe there is some cancer there. Maybe someday we'll see that they really were all angry and bitter and fighting with each other all the time, and the parents get divorced and the kids all become druggies, or at least militant atheists (which may be worse to the parents). But I don't wath that. I want them to succeed. I want them to be the family who proves us all wrong -- that some families are strong enough to survive life in front of a camera. Beyond that, I want to see a family that can stake out some standards that are more strict than the society around them and show that the enjoyability of life has not been diminished.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You know...

When it's you versus the world the world wins. Every time.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

So a while back I ended up having to do a whole bunch of software installing. Windows, server software, etc. As that takes a lot of time I decided to see what internet videos had to offer. On the front page of Google Videos I found a link to this video: Killing Us Softly 3 Advertising's Image of Women".

(Hmm, can I get it to show up in the post somehow?) (Ah yes.)

I know that the presenter, Jean Kilbourne, is cherry-picking ads that show her point, which is that advertising can be sexist and harmful to a healthy treatment and view of women, both by men and by the women themselves. Still, seeing some of these advertisements was an eye-opener for me. A few were wide-eye-opening.

Just for fun I took a look through a magazine that I randomly received 3 copies of in the mail recently. (Probably from something I bought from Amazon.) After a quick perusal none of the advertisements there caught my eye, except for one. It was for some alcoholic drink. It had, as you might expect, hot girls in bathing suits at the beach. These were apparently from the 70s, or something, because they were more curvy than current models seem to be. One of the pictures had a guy with a girl slung over his shoulder. Another had a guy with a girl on each arm. The tag line was, "Your father didn't have to pour his own drink."

One thing that I thought of as I watched the video was this: Why do these models participate in making these advertisements? Do they not think they are harmful? Or do they think the ads are harmful, but still want to get their buck?

Well, I wonder how much of our attitudes are the expression of our nurtures, and how much is the expression of our natures -- of our genes, epigenes and such. As a general case, is it natural for men and women to treat and view women in these ways? Maybe. Maybe not. It is hard to separate out nature vs nurture. And you also have to deal with the issue of whether nurture is, itself, an expression of nature.

This reminds me of something a wise man once said: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man....

Here's the video.