Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SAD - social anxiety disorder

It seems all my life I have battled with a behavior which has come to be known as social anxiety disorder (SAD). It's never been very intense but has nevertheless frequently guided my actions or in-actions when dealing with other people. Throughout my daily life and work, I find that I will do everything I can on my own before reaching out to other people for assistance - especially those that don't know me very well. Calling someone on the phone is something I prefer to avoid. Although cordial, I subconsciously wish for the conversation to end. Sending e-mail is much, much easier and I have no problem with that type of communication - most of the time. When people reach out to me, I'm fine. But I hesitate when it is my job to reach out to someone else. Needless to say, this has held me back in my career. A manager or teacher I am not.

One recent episode involved car-pooling with the husband of my wife's aunt (which we socialize with several times a year). I came up with the idea to share a ride out to a nearby town for a photography class - something we're both interested in. My wife arranged the communication and I was to pick him up on my way. For reasons I don't understand, I had convinced myself that I did not need to stop at his house, but that he would provide his own transportation. I had to apologize to everyone involved for that mess up.

I have always hoped that this type of behavior would eventually stop and my human interactions would be less avoidable. Most of the time I'm OK but occasionally I slip back into that insecurity. The battle, apparently, is not over yet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Government Health Care and Food Subsidies


"If the government were paying for our health care, the government would have a very strong interest in changing the way people eat." - Michael Pollan

So if the government was subsidizing your health care, they would probably become more interested in healthy food habits and promoting healthy food production rather than subsidizing the corn and cattle industries.
I know, how about making bad food expensive and healthy food inexpensive, instead of the other way around. It's just an idea.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Center of Black Holes

data:
Approaching the event horizon of a black hole, time slows down.
Upon reaching the event horizon, time stops.
In black holes, matter has collapsed to a zero point; the matter is gone, but the gravitational effect remains.

suppose:
Going beyond the event horizon, time goes backward.
The farther in, the farther back in time you go.
The center of the black hole is the beginning of time: the big bang.
The center of all black holes is the beginning of this universe, or another universe.
What happens to the light that turns back on itself?
Since the gravitational effect of hyper-compressed matter remains in our space, how can the attributes of this mass exist in more than one physical state? Is it 'waiting' to be 'born' as part of a big bang in another universe?
And what about the slow, gradual dissipation of a black hole's mass? How does that effect these ideas?

And by the way, is the gravitational constant really constant? Or does it change over time? Same goes for the speed of light; has it changed since we first measured it?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The One True Twinkie

No twinkie but Twinkie. The Holy Hostess is the One True Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.  Blessed are the cake-makers, for their cakes shall be filled. I'm going on a pilgrimage to Schiller Park, Illinois where the Twinkie was born four score and two years ago. Dolly Madison Zingers are not the one true cream-filled cake. They shall be cast out of my snack drawer. Oh! I long to be filled with the cream of the Holy Hostess.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Believolution

Nearly all knowledge is partially an act of faith. When we read something or listen to someone speak, we take their words as truth depending on our set credibility of that person and their sources. But true knowledge is cumulative and self-reinforcing. Known facts and concepts about the world are continually revisited and improved over time.
Generally then, today's picture of our world and the universe we live in is an improved view of what we had fifty years ago. When I was a child, pictures of galaxies and comets were in black and white and without much detail. There were race riots, segregation and bigotry. There was unbridled pollution and exploitation of natural resources - like the supply was endless, and the Earth would take our abuse without consequence. How wrong, or at the very least, how incomplete our knowledge was.
It was generally accepted that most people went to church every Sunday, and that this Christian nation had God on our side; that Jesus is the true Son of God; that He would return someday soon; and that all other religions were sadly in error in their doctrine.
Knowledge in these areas has increased; even in the areas of how we might regard religious belief, superstition, the occult, the supernatural, spirituality. We are now more aware of how the mind creates, reinforces, and distributes conflicting belief systems. The preacher's words are just another voice in the cacophony of information we sift through every day.
We cannot go back to the 1950's. Too much has changed. Too many real answers have been found. Too many more questions have been asked. It is literally a different world than that of my childhood. There's no going back.
I was taught that all languages came about because the Babylonians tried to build a tower up to heaven and God caused the builders to all speak different languages so they couldn't complete the project. Each language-speaking group moved away to their own country so they could all speak their own language together. The Italian-speakers moved to Italy, the Chinese speakers moved all the way to China, etc.(Genesis 11:6-9)
It has taken a long time, but I have begun to replace my childhoon learning with evidence-based knowledge. I have faith that evidence and reason will point the way toward better and truer truths.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Not Being Alive

Not being alive sucks! There's nothing to do; no body to do it with; no brain to think with; nothing. It's very quiet, I'm sure - no consciousness. I'm not really looking forward to being dead, but that outcome is inevitable within the next sixty years or so. Impermanence. Before I was born, I was nothing. For me, time and space didn't exist in a similar way that time itself (for our universe) didn't exist before the Big Bang.

The fact that I WAS born is amazing unto itself. Adding this beautiful planet and surrounding universe is incredible! And the best of all, our species now has the capability of measuring the scope and essence of it all - while still refining our knowledge. The more we learn about how it all works, the less we are inclined to ascribe supernatural explanations to stuff we don't understand yet.

I think I'll take good care of my body from now on, expand my knowledge, and love my family to the utmost. Life is too precious and wonderful to do otherwise.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Headline News

21 dead in gunfire skirmishes along the Washington/Oregon border as Oregonian troops, aided by Iranian allied forces attempted to reclaim Hayden Island from the 'Washers'. Disputes over settlement rights to the island, located near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, have been going on for decades while ideological differences between the two states has escalated in recent years, requiring the military aid of middle-eastern countries.
Washington State has a high percentage of Presbyterians while Oregon is primarily Lutheran. Recent fighting between the two denominations has stalled talks of peace and prompted the leader of the Oregon Coalition to make this statement, "Washington has always been more Presbyterian than Oregon, and that's damn close to Episcopalian in my book. The Episcopalian sect, as everyone knows, is as near to being Catholic as you can get without actually being Catholic. And there's the problem. Hayden Island is ours by divine right and we'll use any means necessary to secure our god-given heritage." The mayor of Vancouver had no comment, but Facebook indicates that a military build-up, possibly with the aid of Canadians, may be assembling at an undisclosed location near Chehalis in response to the Oregon threat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

church and state

In ancient times (pre-1980), many so-called leaders utilized the postulations of religion to augment and sometimes supplant political power. Nowadays, in a more PC-aware climate, it is considered low-handed and even unconstitutional to invoke a religious belief as a basis for political law, issue stance or campaign strategy. To do so risks the raising of eyebrows in the thinking community at the least, and political suicide in the extreme. Would that we lived in a climate such as this.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Believe

I believe it is a sin to want to live forever.
I believe it is a sin to have faith in anything not testable.
I believe it is a sin to apply the unrealistic claims of religion, superstition, myth, occult, mysticism or the supernatural to everyday life.
I believe it is a sin to influence children into believing in an afterlife when there is no evidence supporting that claim.
I believe it is a sin to think that the salvation of the presumed soul is needed or that it can be accomplished simply through the declaration of faith in a particular doctrine.
I believe it is a sin to claim that a god's law is man's law.
I believe it is a sin to waste the greatest gift of life - the human mind - on a life based not on reason and truth, but on lies, hearsay, anecdotes and human interpretations of ancient scripture.
Go thou and sin no more.

Friday, January 13, 2012

In The Midst

We are in the midst
Of a young adult universe
Galaxies have matured
With spiral dust from supernovae
And stellar nurseries

We are in the midst
Of a middle-aged star system
After the lightning birth of the sun
The violent shuffling of planet material is mostly past
Our star system is relatively in balance

We are in the midst
Of a planet well suited
To plants, animals, and human life
The weather patterns have stabilized
For the moment

We are in the midst
Of a great age of discovery
The ancient myths and superstitions
Are being supplanted with scientific knowledge
We are starting to understand ourselves and our place

We are in the midst
Of our short but amazing lives
Our brief encounters with just a few of our kind
The expanding family of global experience
The wealth of a changing community

I am in the midst
Of a life more wonderful
More precious than could be imagined
I exist between two vast stretches of non-existence
A brief opportunity to shine my light

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bubbles

Today I went to school like always. I met my buddies and we swam around looking for food and generally hanging out together. When you're with your friends you feel safe. In these Alaskan waters it is best that a fish not let himself get singled out. Large beaks have shot into our world from above and taken some of my friends. It frightens us so we scatter momentarily, then regroup.

This morning things were different. There were very few beaks from above but some strange vibrations coming from below. Some bigger creatures live down there but rarely do they bother us. Then I saw some bubbles. My buddy came over to me and said, "Hey, did you see? There are some bubbles over there, like a wall of them. Can I come over here and swim with you?" "Sure.", I said. "There is plenty of room in this area. Well except for way over that way - looks like more bubbles. Maybe if we go over this way there won't be any."

So we swam away from the bubbles that my friend saw, and we swam away from the wall of bubbles on the other side. But soon this way had bubbles, too! Bubbles are bothersome - I don't like them. We turned around and the other fish were sensing it as well. The walls of bubbles were all around us - and they were getting closer!

Soon the other fish were gathering around where we were, asking questions amid the confusion. "Why are there these bubbles?" "They frighten me." "I'm trying to swim away from them, but they seem to be all around us." "What's happening?!" We were all swimming very close now and trying to stay together but away from all those bubbles! We couldn't see anything but the other fish. As far as I could tell, we were all swimming around in circles. The bubbles were squeezing us together even tighter. What could be causing this? I began to get really scared.

Just then the odd noises from below suddenly stopped. I was getting a bad feeling about this. The bubbles were thinning out a bit and I heard and felt a rush of water coming from below. Then I saw dark walls rising up around me, carrying all of us upward, toward the light. We were all packed together so tight we couldn't swim. For a moment I couldn't breathe and it was so bright everywhere. But the walls came together above us blocking out all light.
I was still bumping into fish in all directions as we went down - deeper than I had ever been. The next moment was only pain. I don't remember anything after that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Creation

The bible claims that God created the heavens and the Earth in six days. In calculating the begats listed in the bible, Christian fundamentalist claim that the Earth and indeed the entire universe is less than ten thousand years old.
But why did it take God six whole days to do it. Being all powerful, couldn't He have accomplished it in six minutes, or six seconds, or six picoseconds? Here's why I think it might have taken all day for God to complete each of the ordered tasks before him.

On the first day he created light, and light created he it. But light in its very fundamental nature has a finite speed to propagate the universe. So even though the universe was created almost instantly, God had to place also the radiant beams of photons outward from their origin precisely to match their distance so that the distant stars would at once be visible from the Earth, which was to be created the next day.

It took all of the second day to separate the sky from what would become the ground. God could have created the Earth instantly, but He wanted to take care in crafting this planet to appear much older than it was. So he placed fossils in the ground and molded the rocks and strata into layers so that silly geologists would later be fooled into thinking that the age of the rocks was much older. This was deliberate and in harmony with God's divine plan.

On the third day, he started shaping the land so that the oceans would have their place and the mountains and dry land would appear. This He accomplish by volcanism, er, His divine will, to create large plates of granite which could be moved around to form continents, mountain ranges, and frightening earthquakes to show His power later on. He carefully fashioned these mountain ranges so that they appeared to have been formed over millions of years; even though they were not. Apparently, this didn't take all day so he added grasses, plants and trees. This was before any living thing appeared in the oceans. That wouldn't occur for another two days.

Curiously enough, God didn't create the stars or the sun and moon until the fourth day and started the earth spinning and revolving around the sun; so we could have calendars and know when it is night time. That took all day!

The fifth day was when sea creatures and birds appeared. It is a bit puzzling that the oldest fossils man has found are of sea creatures. God must have taken great care on the second day to create this illusion so that one day, archaeologists would be taken down such an erroneous path of reasoning that they might just forget this whole curoisity/knowledge thing and stick to the wisdom of the holy scriptures for all the answers any of us would ever need. These beings are commanded to be 'fruitful and multiply'. I always found that phrase to be a bit redundant; like being "frightend and scared". Why did it take a whole day to do that when just the day before, He created all the stars and planets? Thank God it was Friday!

On the final day of God's work of creation, the animals were made. Perhaps as an afterthought, human creatures were added to the mix because they look so much like Him. Everyone is told, like the birds and fishes, to be fruitful and multiply. And God gives Man the mandate to 'fill the earth, and subdue it.' Very good, God.

Ignorance and Apathy

I've learned that: Appearances are more important than deeds. Opinions based on an emotional response carry more weight than statistics. When confronted with a mystery or a burning question, we're more likely to make something up rather than wait for the true answer to be discovered. Our minds are pliable; belief systems are far-reaching and incredibly diverse. We can easily argue for or against something with only a limited amount of factual evidence. Ignorance and apathy are widespread; many people are satisfied with a little knowledge and they just don't care. Regardless of the obvious effects of overpopulation, people will still continue to have more babies than they can afford to raise properly. Future generations will inherit our folly, and regard it as long-standing tradition. More people will die an early death because of these absurdities.

Christian School

I was raised up Christian; sent to a Christian K-12 school where we were taught that everything in the bible was true. The universe, stars, sun, moon, Earth, animals, and finally man were created in only six days. We read the begats and, even though some of those early guys like Adam, Noah, and Methuselah live hundreds of years, we could calculate the generations from Adam (the first man), to Jesus (the lamb of God). So it was figured that the cosmos came into being about six thousand years ago. When someone asked about the Earth's strata showing millions of years of change or fossil records showing animals that lived hundreds of millions of years in the past, we were told that God had made it all to look that old, but that it really wasn't. I was taught that history was really "His story" and that Jesus Christ really offered Thomas (the doubter) the opportunity to put his finger through the holes in Jesus's hands. Thomas politely refused, then fell to the floor and worshiped his Lord. The name Thomas will always be associated with someone who questions heresay and requires the evidence of his eyes and reasoning. After reading an astronomy book about Halley's comet, I asked my dad if the star of Bethlehem could have been a comet as some have suggested. He was sitting with his brother, Gordon, and immediately replied, "No. I believe it was the 'glory of God'". Hmm, I thought.

Deiconomics

Perhaps God is a result of an ever-shrinking budget and runaway downsizing. He was just a normal guy, doing his job while absorbing other people's work after they took an early retirement, were let go, or otherwise just left. God found Himself having to do more and more with less and less. Eventually, He had to do everything using nothing. He was the only one that remained. The others moved to Florida, or spent copious amounts of time in Cancun or Aruba, leaving everything up to God. But that's not the final Word. God found a way to do absolutely nothing with absolutely everything. And now you know the rest of the story.

Crackpot Theorist

People keep talking about gravity as a force; one of the four forces in nature. They try to combine it with the other three forces and cannot... and wonder why it is so weak compared to the electromagnetic force or the strong nuclear force.

The familiar drop of an apple from a tree (the apparent 'force' of gravity) is merely the behavior of two massive objects which are able to move in relation to each other within this structure of space-time. Our human experience observes motion and gravity with the perspective of distance and duration, accelleration and inertia, so we naturally label it a force.

I'm thinking that gravity is not a 'force' at all; not it the cosmological sense. It does have the attributes or behavior of a force when two or more objects having mass move close to each other. But doesn't it make more sense to think of gravity as a dimension of space-time? It is a predictable flexation of the fabric of space-time given the presence of mass.

The dimension of gravity regulates and gives structure to the space-time continuum. It balances matter and energy states. Without space-time, matter-energy has no place to go and nothing to do. Without matter-energy, space-time couldn't exist. The dimension of gravity explains what the universe is and what it does on a large scale. It isn't any 'thing' or 'force' per se, and yet it is the prime ingredient of everything.

But what is it? When trying to explain the propagation of light waves through space, scientists invented a substance called the 'luminiferous ether'. Which turned out didn't exist and wasn't needed. Now scientists have come up with 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' to try and explain the increase in the expansion of the universe. Just a few years ago, no one could guess whether we were living in a closed universe or an open one. Now they are trying to detect sub-atomic particles to explain this mysterious energy and/or matter that can't be seen, only theoretically surmised. They keep waiting for the discovery of the graviton which would mathematically connect the world of the very large with the world of the very small through the theory of quantum gravity.