Wednesday, August 29, 2007


There is book on my bookshelf that used to own to my father. It's called the Encyclopedia of Ignorance. I'm sure that it is a little dated but this book is a collection of all of the things that scientists don't yet have an explanation. I remember finding it odd when I first scanned through this book that scientists would so readily accept hat they don't have all of the answers.
My current "reading" list includes a podcast of an NPR program called "Electrons to Enlightenment" it is a 5 hour program that examines the relationship and the conflict of science and religion. The program interviews many of the same authors that I have read in the past year, Richard Dawkins, Michael Behe, and Francis Collins and quotes many others like Carl Sagan and Steven J. Gould.
I one interview a scientist, Daniel Matt author of God and the Big Bang, noted that he had observed much more humility from scientists than he ever had from religious people. Scientists seem to be much more willing to admit their ignorance, whereas religious people claim to have all the answers.
I couldn't agree more. Granted there are many exception, however I find the whole "we have all the answers" attitude of most theologies to be very arrogant and lacking any humility at all. In many way I find that it lacks the awe and reverence that it is attempting to inspire. This reminds me of the bumper sticker, "Follow those who are looking for answers. Doubt those who claim they already have them."

The podcasts I mentioned can be found here:
Electrons to Enlightenment
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Prediction


There is something in the math that forces you to pick what he wants you to.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Halloween is a big deal for the Taylor family. Since I was a kid we always eschewed store bought costumes. Mom was pretty good at the sewing machine so we could always be whatever we wanted and she's make a kickin' costume for us. When I was about 5 or so mom made a bat costume that I loved. Well that costume has been passed down and a few years ago Noah wore it for Halloween.
I'm pretty handy with a sewing machine too so I've done my best to continue the trend of homemade costumes. So far my coop-de-gras was a mermaid costume that I made for Eveybug when she was just a month old. The costume was essentially just a sock with fins but it was cute.
A few years ago my brother got into creating his own chain mail armor. He has made several suits including a nice one for Aaron. I got interested in creating one for myself. However, I wanted to create a samurai armor. Rather than being made of large metal plates or from small interlaced rings like some, samurai armor consists of several small tiles laced together with miles of cords.
So I got online and found a site on how to make very authentic armor. This guy actually studied in Japan and makes and restores museum pieces. He really knows his stuff. Official samurai armor is made from lacquered leather tiles. However, most model replicas use plastic tiles and still achieve a nice effect. Stephen found a guy who could make some tiles for me and last year he got me a couple hundred tiles for Christmas.
Well I've finally gotten around to lacing these puppies together. I quickly found out that I'm going to need about four times as many in order to complete the armor. I've just about finished the chest plate and then I'll have to get some more tiles before I can continue.
This will probably be one of those ongoing projects that takes me a year or two before I can get it completed. But, I'll enjoy every bit of it.
I think next week I'm going to figure out do chain mail in Japanese style and sit down and work on the sleeves and shoulder of the costume. I think a Kurosawa film playing in the background should help to set the mood while I work it out.
I'll be sure to post other pictures as the project continues.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

3"x5" cards

I just stumbled across a very funny blog and I felt the need to share. Indexed is a collection of doodles of everyday events and experiences relayed in the form of mathematical diagrams, venn diagrams and formulas. She draws them throughout the day on 3"x5" cards and scans them in when she gets home. Considering my family's fixation with 3"x5" cards I thought these were really funny.

Emotions Revealed

A few years ago while reading one book I was inspired to read another. This is a common theme for me and is actually why my reading list continues to grow. If every book I read inspires me to read at least one more I guess I’ll never run out of good reading material.

I started out by reading The Wisdom of Forgiveness by the Dalai Lama. About halfway through they mentioned a meeting between His Holiness and Paul Ekman. Ekman is considered the world’s foremost expert on emotions and the human face. He's like a body language expert who focuses solely on the muscles of the face. He recently made the news for interpreting some of the Al Queda videos. Ekman commented that when the Dalai Lama felt any emotion that he felt it 100% and that based on his expressions he was the most honest and genuine person he had ever met. This prompted me to start reading Ekman's own book Emotions Revealed: recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life.

Starting from the most basic studies that show blind infants smiling Ekman was able to prove that our facial expressions are not learned behavior. He then took his research around the world to show that there is little if any variation in how our faces show emotion. Ekman studied several isolated cultures around the world and concluded that our emotions are somehow hard wired to our face. It’s very hard to stop our face from reacting to what our mind is feeling. Even in those that can successfully conceal their emotions, Ekman was able to demonstrate how their concealment would show on the face.

For more information:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google Sky

In case there has ever been any doubt I must confess that I am a complete and total geek. I also really love astronomy. For about 4 years now I have been trying to justify buying a 14 inch Newtonian reflector telescope. Well it looks like the guys at Google Earth have saved me the trouble. The latest version of GoogleEarth v4.2 gives you the ability to "turn the cameras around" and look out at the stars. Phil Plait has a great review of the program on his site I'd love to blog about it more but this typing is getting in the way of me looking at some really cool images of the heavens.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I've always loved magic. I've never been very good at pulling off tricks by I still enjoy them. I know the secret behind most of the magic trick that I see but I still am able to sit in awe at the execution of the trick.
watch the following short

It's amazing at what we can completely ignore when someone tells us to focus on something else.

Lets do the time Warp again

and I forgot to bring my rice and toast..

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Just a fun Meme

I saw this meme on another blog and thoguht it'd be fun.

1. Your name spelled backwards: Rolyat Sirron Leahcim

2. Where were your parents born? Clearfield and Salt Lake City, Utah

3. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer? A podcast for The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

4. What's your favorite restaurant? Lately it has been Sangrias if we’re going as a family, but Little Cuba in Tucker for date night.

5. Last time you swam in a pool? Last Saturday at my brother’s house.

6. Have you ever been in a school play? Never been in a school play. I was in a couple church road shows. Does that count?

7. How many kids do you want? Why, are you getting rid of some? I’m happy with the four we have.

8. Type of music you dislike most? That crap I get subjected to at every stop light via the next car’s subwoofer and rattling windows.

9. Are you registered to vote? Of course. I feel like a hypocrite if I wasn’t, considering how much I vent about politics on this blog.

10. Do you have cable? Nope.

11. Have you ever ridden on a moped? No. Motorcycle many times but never one of those little weed-eaters with wheels.

12. Ever prank call anybody? Yes.

13. Ever get a parking ticket? Never a parking ticket. I’ve had a few moving violations but nothing since about 1993.

14. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? Yes and yes, in a heartbeat.

15. Furthest place you ever traveled? Wakkanai, Japan. Three plane rides totaling over 18 hours and 12 hours of jet lag. Then a 7 hour train ride to the furthest north point in Japan. It’s one of the prettiest places on the planet if you ask me.

16. Do you have a garden? No. I enjoy walking past Victoria’s blueberries and flower garden as I walk from the door to the car.

17. What's your favorite comic strip? I’ve been looking for a comic strip as smart as Calvin and Hobbes for a decade now and I think I’ve finally found it in Non Sequitor.

18. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? First verse, yes. I forget parts in the other verses. America the Beautiful is a prettier song.

19. Bath or Shower, morning or night? Shower, as soon as I get home from work.

20. Best movie you've seen in the past month? Bourne Ultimatum

21. Favorite pizza topping? Jalepenos and green peppers

22. Chips or popcorn? Chips, I have to floss for about 10 minutes after eating popcorn to get all of those kernel chunks out of my gums.

23. What color lipstick do you usually wear? I guess this meme was originally written for women, but I'll play along. I did wear a bright shade of red for the road show in question 6.

24. Have you ever smoked peanut shells? Is this some form of folk remedy to cure athlete’s foot or something? Cause if it works I might try it. My foot really itches.

25. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant? I lack the qualifications.

26. Orange Juice or apple? Usually Orange Juice, but I’m flexible.

27. Who was the last person you went out to dinner with and where did you dine? It was the whole family at Denny’s in West Virginia on the way home from New York. That reminds me. I need to take my wife to Little Cuba this week. It’s been too long since just the two of us have sat at a quiet little table and split a plate of yucca fritas.

28. Favorite type chocolate bar? Hersey’s

29. When was the last time you voted at the polls? Nov. 2006

30. Last time you ate a homegrown tomato? Not much of a tomato fan.

31. Have you ever won a trophy? I don’t think so. If I did I’m sure it was for participation only and not a first place or anything like that.

32. Are you a good cook? I doubt I’d win any awards, but I love to cook and I get pretty good reviews from those I’m feeding. Isn’t that what’s really important? The kids love my fudge.

33. Do you know how to pump your own gas? As opposed to what? Sitting there and waiting for somebody else to do it? Yeah, like that’ll happen anywhere beside Oregon.

34. Ever order an article from an infomercial? No

35. Sprite or 7-up? 7-up all the way. There was this Japanese restaurant on Buford Hwy that used to serve 12oz 7-ups in returnable bottles. They’d wet the straw paper and stick it to the side of the bottle when they served it. Those were the best 7-ups on the planet.

36. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to work? Still do. They currently say BellSouth above the left pocket and I’m waiting for my ATT uniforms

37. Last thing you bought at a pharmacy? 1.25x reading glasses

38. Ever throw up in public? JCPenny’s camping department, Northlake mall, when I about 12.

39. Would you prefer being a millionaire or find true love? Well, if I can only pick one there is no way I’d trade in the one I already have.

40. Do you believe in love at first sight? Anyone who has ever watched their child being born knows that this is true. I’ve fallen in love at first sight four times.

41. Can exes be friends? I’ve never seen it work too well for others. Personally, since I don’t have and ex and I have absolutely no desire to create one, the answer to this question will have to remain a mystery.

42. Who was the last person you visited in a hospital? My sister and my newest nephew.

43. Did you have a lot of hair when you were a baby? Yes.

44. What's your all time favorite Saturday Night Live Character? Chevy
Chase’s Gerald Ford brings me to tears every time.

45. What was the name of your first pet? Bruno, my German shepherd

46. What is in your purse? My laptop, two books, a legal pad, a few adaptors and power cords, pens and pencils and a Garmin GPS. My friends at work call it my “man bag”. They can call it whatever they want. It's essentially just a purse.

47. Favorite thing to do before bedtime? Try to carry on a conversation with my wife in sign language while she gargles for exactly two minutes after brushing her teeth. My goal is to get her to laugh so hard she has to spit out the mouthwash before her precisely timed expectoration.

48. What is one thing you are grateful for today? Peace. The kids are playing together very nicely right now. It’s not completely unheard of, but I make a point of noticing when I happens.

How do you feel? 1- 10

I’ve always had a problem answering political questions with just a number. I frequently get phone polls about my political opinions and they want me to answer a very complicated question by just a number from 1 to 10. I realize that a few weeks ago I referenced just such a test. Rarely are my opinions so one-dimensional as to be portrayed as a point on a line. Some of the better quizzes are two-dimensional and place it on some sort of a grid. A better quiz would find some way of ranking these opinions on a multidimensional cube or hypercube etc. Well absence of any of these types of tests the best way to answer these questions is with a short paragraph or explanation. So, I’m following my brother’s lead and answering the quiz in words rather than with a simple number.

Abortion is a woman’s right —I will reserve my complete answer to this one for a much longer and more involved future post. Suffice it to say that I believe that this issue will always be a target for controversy because it is a crucial of religion and science. When asked if I am pro-life or pro-choice I always respond by saying both. Once a pollster said that since she could only check one or the other that she would check undecided. I told her that I would rather have no answer at all than undecided. I am passionately pro-life and pro-choice. I’ll explain later.

Require companies to hire more women & minorities — I know it’s a Utopian idea but I think a person’s qualifications to do the job to which they are being hired are the only things that should be considered when hiring. A man I admire once said, “I have a dream the one day men and women will not by judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Sexual orientation protected by civil rights laws — I believe that government should have no right to control or monitor whatever consenting adults do in private as long as the consequences of those actions have no impact on others’ rights to exercise this same privilege.

Teach family values in public schools — Whose family values? Pat Robertson’s family values teach the complete subservience of women to men. That’s not my family values. This seems like a foot in the door to allow religion in schools. Here’s a novel thought, let each family teach the children what they value.

Death penalty — There are situations where I might accept the use of the death penalty. But let face it, our criminal justice system is seriously broken. Until we have a completely perfect court system we should enforce no punishments that are irreversible.

Mandatory Three Strikes sentencing laws —Our jails are full of people guilty of three relatively minor offenses, while more violent single offenders are let go. I would rather judges and juries decide what the best sentences are.

Absolute right to gun ownership — The goals of the founding fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment are clear. It was written to ensure the people would be able to defend themselves against their government, should the need ever arise again. I accept that the US leads the world in gun violence, but any changes to the Second Amendment would go contrary to the wishes of the framers.

More federal funding for health coverage — How about ZERO federal funding for health care? Please show me which article of the Constitution gives government any control at all over health care, let alone the right to fund it.

Privatize Social Security —I don’t believe it should have ever been created in the first place. Nevertheless the deed is done and I fear the only way to get government out of the social security business is to privatize it.

Parents choose schools via vouchers — In practice in areas that have approved them, vouchers have overwhelmingly been used by the richest of student to move to private schools while the poorest students are stuck at a school that now has even less money. Ultimately I believe that since most voucher money will be used for church based schools the government will be put into a position to decide which schools should and shouldn’t be eligible for them. What are the odds that the Department of Education will treat a Muslim school or a Zen school the same as a Christian school? Not likely. My solution, abolish the Department of Education completely. Let me buy my own schooling on the open market.

Replace coal & oil with alternatives — I believe that there are some times when, in order to get things going in the right direction, government should undertake some projects that might not be profitable for a private company to invest. The interstate highway system comes to mind. It would have taken a lot longer to happen if we'd simply waited for market forces to create it. By government investing in it and promoting it the economy was spurred in a desirable direction. I think a similar type of action might be needed to shift from our current dependence on coal and oil.

Drug use is immoral: enforce laws against it — It’s not the government’s job to determine what is or isn’t immoral for me, so long as I am the only one affected by it. Now if I go commit some other crime in order to get more drugs then that is something the government should do something about. We should stop wasting time and money prosecuting crimes that have no victims besides the drug user.

Allow churches to provide welfare services —They already do and I am all for them continuing to use their offerings however they’d like. But if the question was meant as “Do you support faith-based initiatives that use federal tax dollars?” then the answer is no. Again, how do you pick one faith based initiative over another without making an establishment of one religion over another?

Decrease overall taxation of the wealthy —I support the Federal Sales tax and abolishing the IRS. I realize that this proposal has many flaws but it is much better than the current system which punishes investment and is hopelessly broken.

Illegal immigrants earn citizenship — I have many friends who have either earned or are currently earning their citizenship legally. I see no reason why somebody who did not obey the rules should get preferential treatment over them. If we are trying to “fast track” the current path to citizenship it should work from the front of the line back.

Support & expand free trade —Capitalism has it’s flaws but it’s the best economic theory around.

More spending on armed forces —I believe in having the best National defense on the planet. I also believe in having ZERO national offense. Yes, I know its another Utopian ideal and the truth is there is a very grey are between the two. I just think that we get too strung out in “nation building exercises” that ultimately make us weaker rather than stronger. I also don’t believe that the most expensive technology is necessarily the best. During the space race NASA spent a good deal of money to figure out how to make a pen write in zero gravity. The Russians just took pencils. This isn’t exactly military spending but the metaphor still applies.

Stricter limits on political campaign funds —Ah, here’s one of the flaws of capitalism. I believe the concept of each voice getting one vote. However capitalism tends to support the concept of each dollar getting one vote. I’m not sure that McCain/Feingold is the answer, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

The Patriot Act harms civil liberties — The single most unconstitutional action that government has taken in my lifetime. The Forth Amendment was written by patriots who understood that true freedom is inseparable from personal liberty and privacy rights. It’s a stick in the eye to those true patriots to use the same word to describe this cowardly, fear mongering act of paranoia.

Replace US troops with UN in Iraq — I don’t think we should have gone over there in the first place. However now the question is how do we get out? Two successive commanding Generals in Iraq have refered to the current situation as a civil war. No easy answers. I would favor an international solution that involved the UN.

So as you can see my political opinions are all over the map. That's why I'm not at all suprised that of the 19 currently announced candidates the closest one only agreed with me 43% of the time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Current Reading list

A friend, who has never let me down with one of her book recommendations, posted her current reading list on her blog and inspired me to do the same.

Emotions revealed : recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life
by Ekman, Paul

Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix #05
by Rowling, J. K.
Cd Book Fiction

The language police : how pressure groups restrict what students learn.
by Ravitch, Diane

The Lucifer effect : understanding how good people turn evil
by Zimbardo, Philip G.

Storm world : hurricanes, politics, and the battle over global warming
by Mooney, Chris (Chris C.)

Theories for everything : an illustrated history of science
by Langone, John, 1929-

What liberal media? : the truth about bias and the news
by Alterman, Eric

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows #07
by Rowling, J. K.
Cd Book Fiction

Under the banner of heaven /
by Krakauer, Jon

Quiz results

I can't really say this is a suprise.

Which Napoleon Dynamite character are you?

You are Kip Dynamite and you love technology.
Take this quiz!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Liberal Media Bias

A few years ago I read a book called What Liberal Media? the Truth About Bias and the News by Eric Alterman. I was a field technician at the time and spent a lot of time behind the wheel and consequently I was listening to an awful lot of talk radio. For the most part I simply accepted the fact that the talk show hosts were just entertainers. Their job, as many of them will freely admit, is simply to keep you irritated long enough to hear a few commercials. I never associated the opinions of the host with the overall opinion of the station. I did my best to believe that the news department was above the type of hysterics and fear mongering that the talk show hosts used.
Alterman claimed and provided pretty good evidence that in truth the media is actually impotent at best and at worst conservative biased. He pointed to the fact that most media conglomerates are so large and they have their hands in so many other ventures that it is virtually impossible for them to report on anything without potentially damaging their own bottom line. Shortly after Disney purchased ABC Michael Eisner was quoted as saying that he did not think it would be appropriate for ABC to report on any Disney news because it would be a conflict of interest. Alterman showed that this type of “protect the bottom line” journalism lead to the creation of a whole genre of news type programs and human interest pieces that aren’t really news at all. Personally I’m getting pretty sick about hearing all the gossip about Brad, Jennifer, Tom and Whats-her-name.
Alterman quotes just about every major conservative pundit as knowing that the “liberal media” was a myth but that it was a productive myth that they continued to perpetrate because it was entertaining.
So it’s pretty easy to make the jump from believing in a liberal media to an impotent media, but what about the jump from there to believing it’s actually a conservative media? That took a little bit longer for me to swallow. At the time I first read the book I did not quite accept his claims that the media was conservative, but some recent events have caused me to rethink this. Look at the ad that I have included in this post. Please keep in mind that this not an ad for any of the local talk show hosts. This particular ad is for the news department of WSB radio. The obvious insinuation here is that all three of these men are in the same line for the same type of treatment. You may or may not agree with the political statement made here, but that's not the point is it? Is this the type of insinuation you would expect to get from the liberal media? Can anyone honestly even call it unbiased? It seems clear to me that at least the advertising executive who approved this ad either has a strong conservative streak or they are deliberately pandering to their primarily conservative audience. Personally I have no problem with this when they are advertising for their “entertainment” opinion programming, but this was for their news programming.
When I first read the book I dismissed much of his claims as just reaching a little bit too far. Thanks to this ad I have checked out the book again. Now that I’ve seen some evidence of exactly what he was claiming, this time I won’t dismiss his claims quite so easily.

Harry Potter

I suppose I should give the obligitory, "SPOILER ALERT!" before I write any more on this subject.
I finally finished reading the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In a really odd way I found this whole series of books to be rather enjoyable. The reason I find it odd that I would like the books is because I can't stand the three main characters. Be that as such I really enjoyed the theme of having imperfect people behaving admirably in extraordinary circumstances. Hands down my favorite character in the entire series is Snape. I was a little upset at the end of book six because I thought for a while that my initial impressions about him may have been wrong. The extra details that Rowling added to explain his actions sealed the deal for me. I don't think I'll ever be able to completely relate to any of the three lead characters however, a man who has made some tragic mistakes in his past and is now doing his best to make amends and atone for those mistakes, now that is a character to whom I can relate.

I had taken a break from my other reading lists to finish this before somebody blew the ending for me. I enjoyed it but I'm looking forward to getting back to my other books now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

NSA Eavesdropping

This makes my point much better than any commentary that I could add.

Empiricism v Faith

I've noticed what I believe to be a disturbing trend. It may not be anything really new, but suffice it to say things have caused me to think about it much more than in the past.
Every week at church I hear anecdotes relayed from the pulpit or from other class members or teachers. You've likely heard the format. I know A because of B. For instance: I know that tithing works because I found a 10% off coupon for school supplies that day after I paid my tithing. I know that prayer works because my illness went away after I prayed. I know that the Book of Mormon is true because I went to Mexico and saw a carving of a tree on a Mayan temple that, to me, was proof that they had heard the story of the tree of life. I know that the Book of Mormon is true because it would be far too difficult for Joseph Smith to have made all that up. All of these claims and assertions may indeed be exactly the way that their proponents claim. The problem I have with them is that they are not based on faith. All of these claims are referencing some form of "evidence". The 10% off coupon, the carving and the improved health are all evidences of the effectiveness or truth of the principle. But is this faith? I don't think so, and I think that reliance on this type of evidence based spirituality can be very disastrous. What happens if you were to loose a coupon right after paying tithing? Or what about if a child dies after being fasted and prayed over? In those cases when the evidence does not support the doctrine we tend to revert back to the real purpose of the doctrine anyway. We'll justify our faith by saying, "This is just to strengthen our faith", or "this must be God's will." It can be a serious let down if you are always looking for empirical evidences to support your faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Why then do so many of the faithful feel the need to justify their faith with facts?
Dr. Michael Shermer in his book How We Believe referenced a study that shed some light on this curious phenomenon. When asked why they thought other people believed a certain religion a vast majority of those surveyed responded that they probably had faith in the teaching and doctrine. Yet when asked why they personally believed a majority cited specific empirical proof like those that I have state above. Why are most of us willing to admit that others can have faith, yet when it comes to our own spirituality we feel the need to justify it with facts or evidence?
I've been thinking about this little problem for several years now and I am deeply troubled by how many people are trying to grasp the complexities of religion with their mind rather than their heart. I can speak from personal experience that continuing to use evidence as a crutch will ultimately hinder your faith. A few years ago after a long quest for evidence to support my faith I was forced to admit that if I looked any deeper then I would find more evidence that went against my faith than supported it. That is exactly what happened and I eventually had to reevaluate my testimony and discard those aspects that were based on evidence and begin to rebuild them based on faith. An added bonus to this approach is that I no longer feel the need to be defensive about the evidences to the contrary. I am content to say that I have faith that prayer works. I have faith in tithing. I have faith that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are scripture. It is actually quite liberating to not feel the need to provide evidences to support these, especially when those evidences would lead to a paradox and negate any real faith that I had in the first place.
I believe that this is exactly the lesson that Christ was teaching Thomas.
John 20:29 “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Thomas was blessed for using his mind to answer the riddle of Christ's resurrection. But ultimately He praised those who used their heart above those like Thomas. There are times when it is appropriate to rely on empiricism and there are times when we're need to sit back and rely on faith. Figuring out which deserves which treatment can be the tough part, but ultimately I believe we benefit from the proper application of both.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Heat Wave

The Southeast is going through a nasty heat wave lately. For weeks I've been leaving the house and it has already been in the mid-80s at 5:30am. It's been really hard to get excited about doing anything outside. We went to my brother's pool yesterday and the pool was even at 92 degrees. It was still very refreshing but I was surprised at how warm it was.
During the winter it seemed like every time the temperature dropped a few degrees below the average friends and family members who think that global warming is a myth would make it a point to ask me if I still believe in "the liberal myth of Global Warming". I would try to explain to them that a few cold days doesn't disprove global warming any more than a few super-models disproves the fact that Americans are getting more obese. You can not look at a just a few individuals in a sampling and ignore the larger trend.
My "It ain't getting warmer" believing friends have been very silent on this subject lately. It would be just as flawed for me to point the the current heat wave as proof as it would be for them to point the the cold days as disproof. However, I've enjoyed the fact that they don't seem to understand this fallacy and have remained silent. Well perhaps in a five or six months when they bring it up again I'll just refer them to this post.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Folk Magic

I had an experience this week that I just need to get off my chest. I am an engineer for a major utility in the Atlanta area. Yesterday a contractor called me looking for some assistance in identifying a fiber optic cable that was buried along the right of way. I looked at our facility records and could find no such buried cable in that area. He assured me that it was there because he had “located” it. Now in my industry, typically, when somebody says they have located a cable they are usually referring to a technique that uses a number of devices that will induce a powerful electrical signal on the sheath of the cable from an access point like a splice location or terminal. They then use another device that is specifically tuned to that signal and they walk along the suspected route of the cable and make spray paint marks to indicate where they pick up the strongest signal. I asked this contractor which type of “locator” he was using. He responded by saying, ”I have a little method that I use.” At that point I suspected the worst and asked him, “Please tell me you aren’t dowsing for cables.” His response, “Hey my little wire has never been wrong”.
Cable dowsing is a curious blend of country folk magic and modern technology. The idea is that you take a bent piece of wire and hold it loosely in one hand so it can swing freely. Then you walk around where you think your target is and the wire will abruptly swing to line up parallel to the cable. It is folk magic. There is zero proof that it works. Quite the opposite in countless test of water and cable dowsing there has been failure after failure after failure. It is country voodoo and nothing more. If any ready of this can produce any single double blind controlled test that has shown statistically significant positive result I will gladly eat crow.
For the most part I’m just content to let live and let live with other people’s faith. And make no mistake about, absent the scientific proof to support it, this is just his faith we are talking about. However this time I did not have that option. Improperly located facilities can cause serious service interruptions when they are cut. But much more serious is that this is potentially very dangerous. There are gas, water, power and other utilities in the same area. How have they been located? Are backhoe operators relying on other people’s faith for the precision details the need to work safely?
I discussed the issue with several coworkers and the solution I came up with was to call him back and say, “I don’t care if you use a little wire, a rain dance or you just drop down on your knees and pray to know where the cable is. Take that information to put you in the ballpark. But I cannot help you until you have verified the location using a company approved method.”
A couple of friends soon began to speculate as to the mechanism of how it might work. I had to interject and tell them that this speculation was premature at best. It is wasted effort to speculate on “how” something works until you know “if” it works. I have never seen evidence of this and refused to speculate until I had seen evidence that we were talking about a real phenomenon.
I have since relayed this store to several friends and I was very shocked at the large percentage of them that completely toss logic and evidence aside in favor of paranormal explanations. I like to think that I am open minded to new discoveries, however so far I have seen no real evidence that dowsing has any measurable results.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Climbing Rocks and Jesus Rocks

Rachel and I headed over to Boat Rock this morning. She's been talking about walking and doing her best to stay in shape and lately she's really enjoyed it when we've gone climbing. Boat Rock isn't very forgiving with tennis shoes so we ran by REI and bought her a pair of adjustable kids climbing shoes and a small chalk bag in her favorite color blue. We climbed for just a little over an hour. We went to the Easy Crack area and played on the cracks and the slabs there. She couldn't quite get the hang of crack climbing, but she loved the slabs. Like most girls she has much better balance than strength and at Boat Rock balance is crucial.

We had to head back a little early because Noah had an eye doctor's appointment. Turns out his eyes are pretty good. he has a slight astigmatism but nothing serious. The doctor noticed that Victoria was having problems with her eye so she made her sit down in the chair. Turns out that she has a scratched cornea. She's wearing a protective contact over the scratch and she is taking eye drops to avoid infection.

After we got everybody's eyes checked out we headed to downtown Tucker for a little bit of live entertainment. A friend of mine plays bass guitar for, what I affectionately refer to as, a "Jesus Rock" band. The concert was an outreach for three local Methodist churches in the area. When I asked if they'd mind if a Mormon came to crash their party Dave just said, "We're Methodists. It's all good." The kids were too glued to the TV to come so Victoria and I were going to head out together and Sue said it sounded like fun. So I invited her and we all had a good time. Had to cut out after Dave's band 'cuz Victoria had to run to a wedding reception but it was really fun.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


By now readers to this blog will have noticed that I don't take much stock in a claim that doesn't state its source. So I thought it was rather funny when I saw this strip on I would do something like this.


Climbing adventure

Our monthly scout campout was last Friday and Saturday. We were supposed to head up to Mount Yonah to work on our climbing merit badge. The weather was looking a little bit unpredictable so I changed our destination so the guys wouldn't have to schlep all the gear up the access trail just to get rained out. There is this cool little rock climbing area just over the state line in Alabama. I used to go there at least twice a month but lately it's been more like twice a year. The rock is nice, especially for beginners, but the "local flavor" leaves a lot to be desired. At about 3:00am Saturday morning I sent the following email to my wife from my Blackberry:

Good morning.
Well we've had an exciting night so far. We pulled into Sandrock at about 8:00 and set up camp. Not too many people up here . Just a couple of climbers and one group of rednecks off in the woods.
At about 1:30 I get woken up to the sound of the scouts yelling "forest fire!"
So I got dressed and grabbed the water jug and started over towards the flames that were going 40 feet into the air. Somebody had set fire to the jiffy johny that the Climbers Coalition had paid for and it was spreading to the trees around it. I quickly realized that this was much bigger than I could take care of so I called 911.
I did my best to control the perimeter with the little water I had. My biggest concern was the trees that were burning 30' above me. As I continued to do my best to keep the perimeter, which was now about 50' across, under control I noticed that several places got worse when I put water on them. This was a gas fire. Somebody had put gas in the john and set it on fire. The whole time I was doing this I had one shirtless, missing a few teeth, redneck shadowing me insisting that I not call the police. When I told him that they were already on there way he got defensive and even accused me of starting the fire. To which I told him, "You might want to go back to camp and lay low for a little bit. When the firemen show up they'll see me, sober and trying to contain this and you, drunk, just standing around and they'll draw their own conclusions." He threatened to kick my @$$ a couple time but his slightly less drunk buddies convinced him it wasn't a good idea. I had 8 scouts standing around who were pretty sure that there was gonna be a "tussle". I think one had actually placed a bet on it. Nothing came of it. I just kept assuring then that I hadn't accused anybody of anything. I just wanted to get the fire out before it got any worse.
After about 20 minutes of my futile efforts the local volunteer fire department began to show up. First on the scene was a good old boy with his two young daughters who showed up in his Camaro. I was a little concerned until I saw that he was wearing his turn-out gear. In a matter of minutes there were three firetrucks on the scene and about twenty of Sand Rock's finest quickly got it under control. I told them what little I knew about how it could have started and they said they'd send up a deputy to make a report. I shook all their hands and thanked them for getting here before it got any worse. So far I haven't seen a deputy yet.
Conspicuously absent from the last half hour was my inebriated friend and his buddies. Perhaps picking a fight with the one guy who was trying to put the fire out wasn't such a good idea now that there were so many firemen on the scene.
Oh well. That's the excitement so far. I'll call you in he morning and give you a full report. Hopefully our day of climbing will not be marred by the event.

The day did get better. We never saw a deputy but we had a full day of climbing and the guys had a great time. We set up a few top ropes on the begineer wall and then went down to work on a taller route. I think the hardest they did was maybe 5.6 but they all got he chance to get up in the air and see what this "climbing" thing is all about.
We didn't finish the merit badge but I had a few scout come up to me and ask to go again. I since got on a discussion board and pledge the troop's support in helping to clean up Sand Rock at the next Climber's Coalition trail day. Now that they've seen first hand the effects of people abusing the land it'll be good to expose them to another group that cares for and actually takes stewardship of this world that we have to enjoy.
Here are a few picures from the weekend.