Running for President?

Is it my imagination, or is Indiana Congressman Mike Pence suddenly all over the national media lately?   As I looked at a video featuring the congressman this morning the thought jumped into my head:  Mike Pence is thinking about running for President (you read it here first!).

On the other hand, he hasn’t posted on his blog since April 27.

Then again, given the recent luck the GOP has had with social media*, Pence’s stale blog might be better than the alternative.

I doubt I’ll be voting for him.

* See also TPMDC.

Twitter’s Limitations

I would have titled this The Trouble With Twitter (clearly the best possible title), but Michael Crowley at The New Republic’s blog The Plank beat me to the title.  Michael links to Joshua Kucera’s post at trueslant.com which seeks to document some of the disinformation that has come out of Iran via Twitter in the past few days .

Actual newsgathering media still has a place in the world.

Meijer comes to town

Meijer opened a location in Marion a couple of months ago.  With the great coupon we received in the mail, I was there shopping the first week.  Upon entering the store, there was the panel that held the map of the store layout.  I could immediately see that this store had a dramatically different layout than any such store I’d been in before.

As I shopped, it became clear that the layout was indeed different and I had a very difficult time finding the frozen foods/dairy section (surrounded on all sides by non-food merchandise.  The few people I know who have been to the store have the same reaction to the layout:  what the @#%@! (not in so many words).

On the way home today, I stopped at Meijer to take a picture of the store map for the purposes of this post.  I walked through the store and could not find it.

I spent a few minutes looking for a map online, but I am not that persistent when searching the net and I didn’t find one.  I did find a couple of pages that extol the new Meijer store layout: “Products are located in a much more ergonomic fashion, designed to make the shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable for our customers.” That’s talking about the Gaylord, Michigan store, but what description it gives of the layout also applies to the Marion store.

Also, “the store will be much more user friendly in its layout”, which is discussing the Marion store.

On the way home today, I first stopped at Walmart to buy a few groceries (yes, I know, shopping at Walmart is an issue unto itself).  Walmart being a large corporation, is not likely to just ignore the opening of Meijer just down the street.  Sure enough, there is a reaction.  Walmart is reorganizing the layout of the grocery section (at least).  Now, I’m not saying the previous layout was the final answer for supermarket layout, but it wasn’t bad.  The early outlook for the new layout isn’t promising.

So, someone at Meijer was paid money to devise a store layout that forces someone looking for a frozen pizza and a gallon of milk to walk though the clothing area.

And someone at Walmart was paid money to decide that in response to this competitor with the absurd layout, Walmart should screw with their own layout.  How does this make sense?

And this is the vaunted private sector.

Science and Religion

A decent sized corner of the internet is consumed with arguments over atheism, belief, evolution and creationism.  More often than not it seems to be a less than civil discussion.

So much energy and bandwidth expended for an argument that is both unsettleable (new word!) and nonexistent.

Nonexistent?  OK.  Clearly the argment exists.  But it shouldn’t.  Science and religion are two completely different ways of looking at the universe.  Science is  a systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Although the dictionary leaves it out, an important and common element of religion is devine revelation.  Science relies on observation and experimentation.  Science is one observation away from changing a theory.  Religion is not.

Unsettleable, definitely.

Science has made amazing progress in its understanding and explanation of the universe.   This has been accomplished through millions of observations, thousands of theories and predictions, and tens of thousands of experiments and tests.  (very unscientifically, I made those numbers up).

This is how science works.  Every claim in science is subject to verification from other scientists.  Any claim that has not gone though such verification tends to not be given much credence.

Science tells us the universe is about 14 billion years old.  Science tells us that life on earth began millions of years ago and slowly evolved to the scene we have today, including us.

But can science tell us this is the ultimate reality?  No.  And it never will be able to.  It is my understanding (and I may not be stating this exactly right) that no system of mathematics can be proven to be valid from within that system.  The only way to prove validity is from outside the system.

At this point, science views the universe as a mathematical system.  It follows that the validity of that system can only be proven from outside the universe we inhabit.  Which can never happen.  Even if someday we found a way “out” of our universe, then all that has happened is that we have expanded the universe we inhabit and all the problems of validity still apply.

It may be possible for science to determine the ultimate truth of the universe.  It is just that we can never know such truth has been reached.

Scientists should not be so cocky.  It cannot be proven that the universe was not created this morning and is only fourteen hours old (but even if this was true, evolution would still be the best available explanation for how life has come to be the way it is.  Evolution is how life on earth works.)

Believers are no better.  Most of them have the Word of God.  They believe every word of the document and there is nothing left to discuss.  And why should there be?  It is the Word of GOD!!  If I believed a given document was the Word of God, I wouldn’t be so open to discussion either.

Religion is (mostly) about the one thing science cannot address:  ultimate reality.  This is why religion will always be with us no matter how many books the atheists write.

Ground zero of this argument is the theory of evolution.

The problem is that believers do not want their children taught evolution.  Scientists do not want creationism or intelligent design taught as alternatives to evolution.

Schools exist so that our children will grow up to be adults capable of contributing to society in a productive way.  My previous post talked a bit about how the economy suffers when education is poor.  An adult who has an understanding of science is likely to be better able to contribute that way, if only in an ability to understand the issues of the day.  Creationism and intelligent design are not science.  To teach them in science class is to confuse students about what science is and how it works.

It is sometimes argued that before the teaching of evolution a statement should be read to students that there are alternate explanations.   I suggest something close to this.

Science is one method of looking at the universe.  When looking at the universe in a scientific way, evolution is the best available explanation for how life has come to be.  This is a science class, evolution will be taught.  There are other ways of looking at the universe that have alternative explanations, specifically religions.  See your religious leader (or religious text) for details.

Schools and income inequality

This Freakonomics post talks about and links to Education and technology: Supply, demand, and income inequality, a post at Vox.

The upshot is that income inequality has increased and the cause of the increase is poor education.

Although I am liberal on most things, I tend to be conservative on education.  It just seems to me that the more education is “new and improved” the worse it gets.  Schools (and school districts) get larger and larger and teachers are more and more constrained in what they can do.

Sometimes it seems to me that the schools are designed to squeeze the joy of learning right out of kids.   Kindergartners that are eager to learn turn into middle schoolers that just have no interest.

Of course, I overstate the case a bit.  There are plenty of kids getting a good education.  But not enough.

Personally, I think the answer is small classes with good teachers that are left alone to teach as they see fit. (Yeah, I know.  What’s a good teacher? Details, details.)  Everything that has been done to try and improve the schools is just trying to find a cheat around small classes and unencumbered teachers.  I heard a story on NPR the other day that talked about computers in the classroom.  A teacher was talking about how she could ask a question of the class and the students could answer on the computers (each student had one) and the teacher would get the results on her computer and know how many students were right and how many wrong and who.  Sounds cool, but also sounds like a cheat around a small class.

Education is expensive.  And that is the problem.  But if we pay for good education, then tomorrow’s workforce would be more productive and it would be easier to pay for good education (and your social security, maybe even mine).

I forgot…it is a small world

In my second post, Donating “to science”, I forgot something!  I’m guessing this will not be the last time this happens.

As I posted there, my siblings and I had the opportunity to talk to the students who had learned anatomy from Mom.

Many years ago, Mom played an important role in the growth of the Northern Indiana Arts Association (now South Shore Arts) as Membership Director and as President.  (Mom was an amazing woman).

It turns out that one of the students had won blue ribbons in several art shows, enjoyed many theatre productions and won a scholarship to take an art class at the Munster Performing Arts Center, a terrific facility that might not exist if not for Mom’s efforts in the early history of the organization.

A small world.

Who will save the Republican Party?

Sooner or later, everyone will figure out that my politial views tend to the liberal. One result of that is I tend to read liberal sources. Notably blogs at Talking Points Memo and The New Republic.

Ever since the election, I have seen many posts on various outlets concerning the diminishment of the Republican Party. Today brings yet one more: http://blogs.tnr.com/blog/the-plank/tnrtv-how-limbaugh-and-cheney-are-killing-the-gop

The GOP is becoming a regional party. The GOP is increasingly comprised of only the extreme right base. Etc. Etc.

Who will save the Republican Party? Are we in danger of becoming a one party country?

Don’t worry about it.

The Democratic Party will see to it that the Republican Party will enjoy a resurgence. Maybe not in 2010. Maybe not in 2012. But the time will come when the Democratic Party will just get too carried away and the country will look to the Republican Party for salvation.

Just like the Republican Party was the recent salvation of the Democratic Party.

Rumors of the death of the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated.

07/22/2013 Update: The New Republic changed up their web site and the link I posted became broken. I have changed the link to what I believe is the page I originally linked to. Unfortunately, the content of the tnr post was mostly in a video which does not seem to be available anymore.

Donating “to science”

In my early teens, my fraternal grandmother, in her early nineties, died. There was no funeral, just a memorial service. Nonnie had given her body to science. I had no idea what that meant exactly, and I didn’t question it. But it seemed like a good and honorable thing to do.

About twenty-five years later (1996), my father died. He, too, had given his body “to science”. We all knew ahead of time that Indiana University would receive custody of his body when the time came. Unfortunately, Dad died while vacationing in Florida. So the University of Miami got his body.

At this point, I understood better that what this meant was that future doctors get a hands-on anatomy lesson. Although I assumed that such students went about the dissections with a bit more respect than what might be found in a high school class dissecting frogs, I also assumed that it was all very anonymous. A year or so later, Dad’s cremated remains were returned to Mom and were interred in a grave.

About a year ago, Mom (Anne) passed. We all knew ahead of time that she had donated her body to Indiana University. They were called. They took care of everything. It was a blessing to not have to urgently deal with any details of a service or funeral. A memorial service was held.

Several months later, my oldest sibling received a letter from the instructor of Human Gross Anatomy at the Indiana University School of Medicine – Northwest. From the letter:

Your beloved mother bequeathed her body for use in anatomical education.  Anne’s gifts to my students, myself and our faculty and staff are many; her gift of “self” is the most profound gift that any person can give.  We have learned much and continue to learn from Anne.  Your mother will touch the lives of the thousands of people that we serve.

This letter was an invitation to the school’s annual Service of Thanksgiving & Remembrance of Our Donors. Four of Anne’s children attended this service. It was powerful and moving. There were prayers and readings. But there was also the opportunity for the four students who worked with Mom to tell us what they learned.

When they mentioned Mom’s broken arm, my brother told the story of how it broke and what happened in the hospital.

There were six donors being honored that day. Twenty-three students educated.

Anonymous? I do believe that all 23 students will always remember with gratitude the name of the donor he or she worked with.

Mom & Dad gave tirelessly to so many people all their lives. And beyond.

It is my understanding that though the IU School of Medicine – Northwest is the only school that holds such a  service, the respect, reverence and gratitude exhibited by the students we met that day are the norm.

More info can be found at the Anatomical Education Program web site.

Here I go….

I’ve been meaning to start blogging for several months.

The enterprise begins with engineering provided by my son, Rick. He can be found at RickBeckman.org. Rick is supplying the server space, answering my queries, and doing I know not what with the nuts and bolts. Thanks, Rick!!

Anyone who reads this blog and Rick’s blog will no doubt learn quickly that Rick and I have some fundamental disagreements about some important stuff. Yet somehow we manage to get along. As readers of his blog know, Rick is a fine young man. I am the proud father.