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 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 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 polit­i­cal 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.

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 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.