Friday, December 20, 2013

Logically Right, Logically Wrong

As a teenager, I admired Spock. As an adult, I better understand the character and what Gene Roddenberry intended us to understand about him. The balance between one's emotional self and one's rational, logical self, is one that all humans must determine for themselves. Some of us are entirely emotional, others try to "out-Spock" Mr. Spock and squash their emotions, but most of us try to balance them out.

Even so, the allure of "pure logic" is that it leads to the best, most rational solutions. After all, isn't that what scientists use? You start with known facts, make a hypothesis, come up with a way to test it which others can replicate, and find out whether the hypothesis is wrong. If it survives your first test, you look for other ways to test it. Eventually, you can state with some certainty that your hypothesis was right and add it to the body of knowledge.

Yet it turns out that in real life scientists are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. They are perfectly capable of making unjustified leaps of faith, believing that what they know already allows them to make conjectures in other areas outside their fields of expertise and, as a body, pronounce what is so without doing the grunt work of testing hypotheses.

This all-too-human failing has held back advances in medicine and other areas. Consider Ignaz Semmelweis whose beliefs concerning hygiene offended his colleagues and ended up with his eventual confinement and death in an asylum, beaten to death by guards. Was he right? After all, he did conduct experiments that showed a dramatic decrease in deaths when physicians and nurses washed their hands before delivering babies, but he had no explanation for why it was so, since that was long before Louis Pasteur's germ theory.  (

Or what about "global warming"? Here we're told there is a "consensus" of scientific opinion, but our climate system is so large and complex that there is no way to reliably test the hypothesis that human activity is affecting or warming the planet. Those who dare to question that consensus are, like Semmelweis, held up to ridicule and called "deniers." And all data that cast doubt on the concept is either ignored or massaged by those who proclaim global warming to be "proven science." Never mind that there has been no measurable temperature increases since 1998! Of course supporters of the theory can point to times 100 years before when the hottest years were colder than current temperatures... but they have to ignore the existence of the Medieval Warm Period when temperatures were warmer than any time in the last 200 years and persuade themselves that during the decades that England produced fine wines that only Europe was unusually warm. Or that even earlier in the Copper Age that a shepherd died far above the current tree lines in Europe.

Then, what about social issues? Those who believe in God, the Bible, and sin are coming under fire of late for "holding to disproven superstitions." Those who reject those things are then free to cast aside all prior beliefs regarding morality and marriage... millennia of cultural norms and behaviors are cast aside and we thus are "free" to replace them with no norms or standards of behavior at all!

So, on to "free love" and same-sex "marriage"! Out with the old, in with the new! Do what you want! But don't you dare be judgmental of anything new because everything old is harmful, hateful, homophobic, or worse!!!

And watch as we reap the whirlwind. All of those old norms existed because human experience showed that the consequences of breaking them led to terrible consequences, like the murder of millions of Jews, Romani (Gypsies), Evangelical Christians, Catholic priests and nuns, as well as the murder of homosexuals and mentally ill or handicapped people. (

Add to that the unnecessary abortions of tens of millions of children. And the deliberate starvation or outright murder of tens of millions more in Stalinist Russia or Mao's China.

This former trucker really wishes people would think about what they believe and what the consequences of acting on those beliefs will be. If you don't like the results...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's a Wide, Wide, Wide, Wide World

As strange as it may seem to people who have known me, I routinely go to a gym. When you've got an ICD, or, to be more exact, a CRT-D implanted in your chest you have to do what you can to stay heart-healthy. And in my case that has meant using equipment that includes heart-rate monitoring so I don't rev my heart up too high.

Being a modern gym trying to attract a younger clientele, they have installed a number of wide-screen monitors above and in front of the various aerobic machines. At any moment of the day you can usually see a dozen or more folks huffing and puffing on treadmills, stair steppers, various forms of exercise bikes, and rowing machines. They're all focused on being thin and trim, unlike the folks on the TV monitors.

Now, I don't own or particularly want a huge monitor in my home. There's no place to put one, and when I do watch a DVD I use a nice, wide monitor on the family computer that cost way less than its bigger kin. Between it and the speakers, I do OK.

So, forgive me, those of you with thicker wallets and wider TV monitors, when I ask why people are watching a standard-size TV broadcast (1.33:1 aspect ratio) stretched out sideways on monitor built for watching wide-screen (16:9 or more!) images?

I'm tired of seeing cars with apparently oval tires. I wonder, just how much weight a woman would have to take off before her face would look human? We're not all related to Jabba the Hutt, right?

Or should I drop my standards and accept that before long most people will think I've of a normal width?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Did They Do That?

Anyone who's ever had a large sign prepared knows that it takes several days, perhaps weeks, to prepare them -- to design them, have them professionally printed, etc. -- then to distribute them to where they are needed. How is it the federal government had the signs ready to go up at all the entrances to national parks and federal buildings on October 1 unless this shutdown was planned in advance?
As a former technical writer, I know that the production of those signs took at least a couple of weeks. As a retired trucker, I know a big operation when I see one, and delivering those signs took TIME, as in a week or more, unless the federal government contracted the delivery of those signs to FedEx! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Washington Shenanigans (or Business As Usual!)

While I might disagree with the details of how the Republicans have finally taken a stand, I'm glad to see them finally do it. All my life I've watched the Republicans in Washington bluster, talk big, then "compromise" or "reach across the aisle" and do the Democrats bidding. They have repeatedly, for decades, mistaken abject surrender for compromise.

The good news in the current "government shutdown" is that people are finally noticing that the Obama administration is deliberately shutting down things that hurt the little guy, the common folk, the ordinary Americans who don't live and work within the Washington Beltway.

It's no wonder the President's popularity has tanked ( People are beginning to associate him with what his administration does. While he ran for re-election as an outsider railing against the Republicans, that act isn't working too well while National Park Service officials are trying to kick everyone out of the National Parks, 80 and 90 year-old World War II veterans are having to move "Barrycades" to visit their own memorial, and the President keeps talking about not negotiating with the House of Representatives while he's saying he's ready to negotiate with Third World dictators.

Speaking of Barrycades at the National Parks, here's a bison's reaction to one...

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Day to Remember

Yesterday was a day of remembering emotions from 4 orbits of the sun earlier. That Saturday, September 12, 2009, was the day my heart quit beating.

I had gone to my youngest daughter's karate school in Orem for an open house activity. I waved to and shouted "Hi!" at the manager/instructor, and proceeded into the bleachers to watch. I decided to get a regular chair because of back pain. As I walked around the end of the bleachers, something was going wrong in my chest but I hadn't a clue -- no pain, no dizziness, no symptoms of anything.

The next thing I knew it was the morning of Monday the 14th of September. A nurse asked me to quit struggling with her and told me that I'd had a heart "event" which the doctor would explain in more detail. I relaxed and went back to sleep.

Please keep in mind that I found out that I had NOT had a heart attack. My arteries had been "beautifully clear." Got that? I had not had a "plumbing problem." Instead, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Non-Ischemic Dilated Ventricular Cardiomyopathy... for some undetermined reason my heart muscles had weakened, allow my left ventricle to blow up like an old balloon. It had finally weakened to the point that it was no longer effectively moving blood and had gone into fibrillation. I had immediately lost consciousness and had clipped my head against the bleachers. I was in full cardiac arrest.

During the 40-odd hours between the event and my awakening, so very much had been done for me. To start with, other the adults at the school had responded beautifully, analyzing the situation and starting CPR. Even as one lady had dialed 911 and was requesting help, the karate instructor had run across the parking lot and a street to the nearby fire station. He rallied the EMTs and had them almost to the school before the 911 system had relayed the call to their station. When I was able to thank him for outrunning the phone call, he brushed it off as a "basic black belt skill."

My wife had brought the other 2 daughters still at home with her to the school after receiving word of my collapse. They arrived while the paramedics were packing me up for transport to UVRMC in Provo. I was awake and talking, but they soon could tell that I wasn't firing on all cylinders mentally. It was Monday before I would earnestly ask why I was in the hospital, get a full explanation, then forget the conversation and ask again just minutes later. I have no memory of those conversations!

OTOH, I do have some brief memories of voices and faces, of people walking into the room to visit, but those are fragmentary and hard to make sense of, much like a dream.

Now it's 4 years, 4 orbits of the sun later, and the emotions tied to those memories as still just as vivid and strong as an others I've ever had. I have to limit how much I let myself dwell on that day to keep myself functional. I'd just forget the whole thing if I could... but that's both impossible and impractical. Learning to live with the memories is possible and healthier... but also dangerous. So much changed that day, including my driving privileges... I had to surrender my CDL since having a cardiac arrest is an automatic disqualification for a commercial driver's DOT medical card.

Ah well... I've had 4 extra years granted to me so far, and that's something to be grateful for.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Around the Bend

Even though you have a better view from the driver's seat in a big truck, you still can't see around the next bend or curve in the road. Sometimes your life will depend on things you can't see or even possibly know... sometimes you'll need to follow a hunch, a feeling, perhaps a spiritual prompting.

After a rather dry winter in Oregon they finally had a good storm in March. I'd driven through it late on a Thursday night and made my way down to Bend for a delivery the next day. Then, with an empty trailer, I headed back over the now-white mountains to pick up a load of plywood in Aurora. The skies were blue, the roads were clear, and traffic was light. As I approached a curve marked at 45 mph, a feeling of dread made me slow down even more. I rounded the bend to discover that laboring up the two-lane towards me was a heavily loaded logging truck followed by dozens of cars. There was no shoulder to speak of on either side--just sheer drop offs of 20 or more feet. And there was a single convertible trying to pass the whole lot of them.

Because I had already slowed to about 30 mph on that curve, I was able to slow down just enough for that car to slip back over into the other lane. Had I gone the suggested safe speed of 45 on that curve, it would have ended badly for the two young men in the convertible.

I can't definitively say why I had had that feeling. I can say I was glad I responded to it as I did.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

End of Summer 2013

One of the many things I miss about truck driving the the perspective such a high seat gives you. You can see over most vehicles and better judge what's down the road. It doesn't mean you will see what's going to happen, you just get the chance to.

In a lot of ways, that's what turning 60 this year means. Because of the life I've experienced so far I can better judge what's going on than the typical teenager who thinks their generation is the first to experience sex, alcohol, or rock & roll. I certainly remember feeling that way for a few heady days before common sense kicked in and reminded me my parents certainly knew about those things or I'd not even exist!

So, as the Evangelist reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9,
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
That's not to say Apple won't come up with a new gadget, that verse means that there's nothing new coming up in terms of human behavior. There will always be war and peace, love and hatred, the whole collection of human virtues and vices as long as there are imperfect mortals on this planet.

So enjoy the good, cling to those you love, prove that love in how you treat them, and act as if every day were your last. It just might be!

At least that's the view from up here.