Monday, February 25, 2008


Help me out a little bit here. The President is urging the Congress to pass a version of a bill that will retroactively make telecommunications companies immune from prosecution for assisting the government with wiretaps on us citizens. Today he asserted that their past cooperation was legal and at the direction of the government. So here is my question. Why do telecommunication companies need immunity from prosecution if they did nothing wrong? Isn't this like calling for a bill to make people immune from prosecution for driving the speed limit? It seems to me that the only logic in making these companies beyond prosecution is so that they are protected no matter what the government tells them to do, legal or illegal. Personally, I think that our government already has or has plans in the works to use the telecommunications companies in direct defiance of our fourth amendment rights.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I’ve just finished listening to a podcast that really struck a chord with me. I think that within American culture there is far too much emphasis put on knowing the answers. And those who don't know the answers or doubt what they are taught are perceived as somehow deficient. This trend disturbs me. Personally, I have grown so much since I started doubting and really looking for explanations.
Early in grade school we seem to learn how to make fun of the kid who asks the questions, even if we don't know the answer ourselves. It's as if we don't want to be the one to admit that we don't know the answer, but we want them to find it out for us so we don't look ignorant. To this day I know people who refuse to admit that they don't know all the answers. Even when someone tells them something that they didn't know before they respond by saying something to the effect of, "Yeah I know that." Perhaps they still perceive not having the answers as a sign of weakness.
In today's political culture where everything gets painted as black or white (perhaps red or blue would be more appropriate) people feel this need to adopt equally simplistic solutions to very complex social issues. When I hear these simplistic solutions presented I typically play devil's advocate and try to get them to think deeper about the issue. These discussions usually end differently than I would like. Rather than them coming to a realization that the world isn't as black and white as they believe they typically just label me as a nut that's the opposite color than they are. It was never my intent to come across as knowing the answers. I just wanted to get them to think that perhaps the issue at hand could be more complicated than they first thought.
From the pulpit we have the monthly ritual of standing in front of the congregation and telling everybody a detailed list of what they "know". A few of these testimonies show genuine introspection and reflections of their own faith. Those I really enjoy. Most, however, do not. My least favorite type of testimony is when they criticize others who don't share their beliefs. In such an environment how could somebody who has honest doubts actually share their thoughts and expect to be treated with understanding? More likely those that are in the congregation that have these doubts will tend to suppress them rather than confess them and have them turned into a topic of discussion.

"Nobody surely doubts that he lives and remembers and understands and wills and thinks and knows and judges. At least, even if he doubts, he lives. If he doubts, he remembers why he's doubting. If he doubts, he has a will to be certain. If he doubts, he thinks. If he doubts, he knows he does not know. If he doubts, he judges he ought not to give a hasty assent. I love this being and this knowing. Where these truths are concerned, I need not quail before the academicians when they say, 'What if you should be mistaken?' Well, if I am mistaken, I exist."
From Saint Augustine's City of God.

I share Saint Augustine’s view of doubt. To me doubting is not a weakness. It’s a humble reflection of what I know and how I know it. If we approach an issue already convinced we know the answers then we will be much harder to convince if we are mistaken. This doesn’t seem like a very good starting point if we are honestly looking for answers.

I have a little bit of a reputation as a “Mythbuster”. I just don’t like it when people base their actions or opinions on some anecdote without testing it or researching it for themselves. I’m sure that not knowing all of the answers can be scary for some people. For me knowing all of the answers would take the wonder out of the universe. I’m intrigued by that fact that even behind the answers find there are just more questions. I hope that I never loose my desire to question and try to find out the answers.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Victoria has tagged me to divulge 7 random facts about myself that would astound and amaze you! LOL Or just stuff you don't already know.

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

1. I’m a food separatist. I don’t believe in mixing foods unless the chef tells you to. If you’re just gonna mix it all up on your plate when you eat it why follow a recipe? Just put the ingredients in a blender and have a homogenous shake. I actually kinda miss the compartmentalized trays from grade school.

2. When I was a kid I asked the eye doctor to check me for color blindness. I passed the test just fine but I see a little bit greener out of my left eye and oranger out of my right.

3. My right thumb points about 45 degrees different than my left thumb. I never really noticed it until I was about 21 so I’m not sure what caused it. It was either when I fell down a flight of icy steps in Japan or just years of playing saxophone in marching band.

4. I once had to get rescued off of the side of a cliff in Yosemite National Park. It’s a long story for a future post. Suffice it to say somebody was at the base of the cliff trying to steal our packs and cars keys. We got in a hurry trying to get down and catch them and made a stupid mistake.

5. I have a commercial driver’s license and I passed the test in a semi with a manual transmission.

6. I don’t like money. I don’t like thinking about it or planning how to spend it. I almost have anxiety attacks trying to figure out my retirement and 401K stuff. Just let me work and I’ll trust Victoria to spend and invest it wisely.

7. I WRITE IN ALL CAPS. My “upper case” letters are just slightly bigger versions of my “lower case” letters. Victoria has actually created a font out of my handwriting and she uses it in her scrapbooking.

If you want to play...No PRESSURE...


I'll come up with a seventh later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A few years ago I was taking an economics class and the professor announced that our entire economy would collapse if people just wanted less. It struck me as a little odd that the whole supply and demand model assumes that there are limited resources and unlimited demand. I wondered what would happen if people just simply wanted and needed less. I had a friend send me this link today and it really struck a nerve. It details many of the same concerns that I had with our modern economy. I'm going to do a little bit more research on a few of the fact presented. Some seem a bit too alarmist, but I totally agree with the position.
I realize this will just reinforce the perception that I'm a "treehugger" but so be it. Please go to this site and watch the entire video. I encourage you to take a look at your own consumption and see what you can do to improve.

Science Debate 2008

I have just finished adding my name to this petition and I look forward to watching the Science Debate 2008. I am a big fan of science. I'm not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for what the scientific method has taught us about our world. I get very irritated when I see people basing their actions on non-science, pseudo-science and in some cases downright fantasy. Many of this issues that are facing our country and our world are inseparably linked with science. With that in mind I think it is completely in bounds to ask politicians questions that are directly related to science policy. Mike Huckabee's comments that he’s running for president and not writing an eighth grade science textbook is a total sidestep of the issue. As head of the Executive branch he would be in a position to do much more than just write a science textbook. He would be able to appoint the Secretary of Education. So it is a completely fair question to ask candidates if they accept the theory of evolution. Yes, it's not a perfect theory but at least it is a theory. Creationism, intelligent design or whatever else you'd like to call it isn't even a theory; it's just theology in disguise.

Global warming, stem cell research, alternative energy, etc, etc. So many of today's critical policy issues are inseparably linked to science. I don't expect candidates to be scientist but I do expect them to appoint scientists who will give them factual information and not just partisan political spin that hints at scientific legitimacy. I still reserve the right to disagree with their policy but I will be more tolerant if that policy is at least based or credible science. The current administration treats science with such distain that nearly anything would be an improvement. See my previous posts on this subject here, here and here.

So if you agree that our elected officials should be making policy decisions based on sound science please join me and sign this petition to get our presidential candidates to share with us, the voters, their opinions and their views on the role of science in public policy.

Monday, February 11, 2008


The guy in the cube next to me has a very interesting way of just trying to start up a conversation. Just completely out of the blue he'll ask me questions that make me feel like I'm on stage competing for Ms. America.
"If you could meet any historical figure who would it be?"
"If you could ask the President just one question what would it be?"
"If reincarnation was real what animal would you like to come back as?"
You get the idea. I realize that he's not necessarily looking for that exact answer but It's just a funny way to start a conversation. This morning's question was in this same genre' but a little more philosophical. "If you could domesticate any wild animal what would it be and why?"
I had to think about it for quite a while. I actually enjoy wild things just the way they are so this question was counter intuitive for me. I thought I might have bee putting too much thought into it so I just decided to play along and said, "the Humpback whale." He accused me of not taking it seriously, which I must confess I wasn't.
So he did want a serious answer after all. I began thinking about all of the wild animals that I admire and respect. What aspects of them did I admire? Without exception I felt that domestication would remove the admirable traits. Would a domesticated eagle even be worthy of the name eagle anymore? How about a domesticated grizzly bear? You get the idea. But how was I going to give any kind of an answer that would satisfy my friend? Finally I agreed to play his game backwards. I told him, "If I could go back a few millennia, I'd un-domesticate the cat." Nothing against cats, but I just feel that many of the features that I admire in wild cats are missing from house cats. He didn't like my answer but had defiantly started a conversation and I think that was his main goal. I then threw another wrench into his plan. "What if we are actually some other species' attempt to domesticate a chimpanzee?"
It's a much more intriguing question than the one he originally posed, but apparently he'd had enough of me appearing to avoid his question.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


During the summer my wife and I were discussing the fact that we'll need to replace her car in the next year or so. We sat down and created a short list of features that we'd like to have in our next car. We'd like it to be four-wheel drive so we can get out of some of the sticky situations that we find ourselves in from time to time. It needs to have at least 6 seat belts so we can safely carry the whole family. I'd like to find a diesel so we can start using biofuels once they're more readily available. We both would like it to be stick shift. And she'd like it to handle like and be just as cute as a Mini Cooper.
We'll from this list it's obvious that we're going to have to compromise a little to get a new vehicle. We haven't yet figured it out but we're hoping that our current vehicles will buy us a little more time to figure it out.
As I was standing in line at the polls this morning I felt a similar sense of compromise. I have a long list of issues that I feel passionate about. Not one of the candidates on either side of the aisle shares more than a couple of the same opinions that I do. If I were buying my car today and not picking a President I'd have to drive away with less than half of my desired options. Even if I concede that the diesel, automatic, 4x4 Suburban is the best compromise it's still a bittersweet accomplishment considering the other features that I had to sacrifice to get it.
To continue this analogy, I've found that several options come bundled together and it's next to impossible to find the two separate. Six seat belt vehicles are almost always automatic transmission. So finding a six-seater with a standard transmission is quite difficult. The same follows with my choices today. A feature that I like is bundled with a feature I don't. Supporting the FairTax is bundled with teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. Getting out of Iraq is bundled with socialized medicine. Fiscal conservatism is bundled with tolerance of "waterboarding".
So when I left the polls today I found that I was more than a little disappointed. I hadn't voted for somebody that I really felt would lead out country to where I wanted it to go. I just compromised and voted for the one I felt could do the least amount of damage. Considering the choices I can live with my decision. Just once in my life I'd really like to feel good about who's going to be running our country.