Tuesday, March 27, 2007

No more snapshots

First of all...


I feel so good. Things kept coming up to thwart me: timing, weather, temperature, laziness...I was getting mad at myself for not making it happen yet. But today I did it, and it was great, and I feel great, and I am going to keep doing it. But not again this week because tomorrow's the Lent activity at church followed by Young Adults dinner; Thursday is donating blood (I could ride by bike TO blood donation, but then I couldn't ride it home, and Paul can't pick me up that day); and Friday I'm going to PA after work to see Addy & Franny's musical. Next week I will be able to ride my bike any day, and will therefore do so at least twice. I'm not yet, but just riding my bike to work today made me *feel* thinner.

Hannah has been working out a bunch since she got back from France (where she lost a lot of weight from walking everywhere), and she was telling me last weekend about setting short-term goals for herself, so she inspired me to set one for myself. My eventual goal is, of course, to look great in my mom's wedding dress, which is currently way too small for me. My intermediate goal is to fit into my favorite pink flirty H&M dress by the end of May so that I can wear it to Katy & Corey's wedding. Thanks, Han!!

Paul and I went on a big hike on Sunday afternoon that made me super-sore on Monday, so I figure that counts as my second bike-ride for the week.

Unfortunately, while at the top of the hike at the beautiful overlook, my camera broke. I don't know what's wrong, but now the lense is halfway extended, and even with the battery fully charged it refuses to turn on or to retract its lense. I am bummed and do not know what to do. I really liked doing the previous post, and was hoping to continue with the random snapshots, but I can't even share with you the fun pictures from our hike! Also, it broke right before I got to take a picture of Paul & me together, so I have no picture of us from the hike. bummer. I am going to take it in to radio shack or something before I resort to sending it off to Canon, which I am sure will cost me an arm and a leg, and I would rather put my arms and legs towards my WEDDING.

Speaking of the rest of the week, tomorrow is yummy Lost Dog Cafe with the RELC Young Adults group, and Thursday I am hopefully going to get to see my friend Nicole from Juniata! I really really hope that works out, because I haven't seen her since we graduated, coming up on 2 years.

Then on Friday it's the cousins' musical in Lebanon, PA, and I can't wait to finally see Addy in person in a leading role. Yay Addy! And Franny too! I am very excited for that.

Saturday morning my mom and I will go pick out (and hopefully purchase) wedding invitations, and then I will head back down to VA. Paul's parents are supposed to visit, altho I guess that's up in the air due to car trouble, but if they come we will be getting together with them for dinner after Paul gets off work at 3:00, and they are also supposed to come to church with us on Sunday morning, which I think will be nice.

So that's my life thru Sunday. I will leave you with one final anecdote, which I have been excited to blog about all day:

My boss Kelly came upstairs to give all of us these cool pens today. I don't know where she got them, but she has a bunch to get rid of, and they say "SAIC," and came in a plastic case with a pen refil and an extra set of batteries in addition to the batteries already in it because it lights up all different colors. It's very cool. That's fun enough, but it also came with a slip of paper containing instructions and a lifetime guarantee. The pen is called the "Illuma-Pen," and on the lifetime guarantee section it reads thusly:
"The Illuma-Penis guaranteed against any mechanical defects."
What a place to leave out a space!! Oh my god, my co-workers and I were laughing our @$$es off, it was so hilarious.

Today was a good day, and Paul is making chicken and forty cloves to go with leftover rice for dinner, plus "House" is new at 9:00, so it promises to be a good evening too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Measure out my life in...snapshots.

No one read my previous blog rant because it was soooooo long and heavy, so let this be a hopefully pleasant counterpoint to that - light reading.

Paul and I just finished watching Stranger than Fiction, which was totally adorable and wonderful and satisfying, and which I highly recommend to everyone I know unless you only like action flicks.

After that, I looked up the weather for tomorrow morning, and decided that 31 degrees is still too cold to ride my bike to work. Same excuse for Thursday morning. Hopefully soon, tho.

To help me ride my bike to work, in the mail today came the other half of my most recent order. The first half was two CDs, John Mayer's "Continuum" and Jack Johnson's "In Between Dreams"; two good, solid, laid-back, guitar-driven, relaxing albums, just what I was aiming for. I seriously don't think Jack Johnson can write a bad song. But I digress. The second package contained the book I was ranting about previously (see below), and also a small, sporty AM/FM radio that will allow me to switch off bike rides between my iPod and NPR. I envision a kind of psychological experiment: which makes the ride seem quicker and/or easier, NPR or a 23-hour-long playlist containing all of my favorite mp3s?

That's today...but I've been meaning for a while to post a brief summary-in-pictures of my recent goings-on, so that's what the rest of this blog entry will be...

This is the garlic bulb that sprouted in my closet, on the right soon after sprouting and on the left this evening - it's grown so much! I might get a long window box, separate the bulbs, and plant them for real!

This is my new computer set-up at work - both monitors act as one, and I can move my mouse between them and see way more at once - it makes work so much cooler!

Also from work, my Norfolk Island Pine that I bought soon after moving down here to VA in August 2005. It wasn't happy in my apartment window - not enough sunlight - but now that it's in my office with two plant-friendly lightbulbs pointed at it for 14 hours a day (I have the lights on a timer), it's so happy that it's getting a new tier of branches!

This is a photo of some hydrangea at the flower shop that's doing my wedding flowers. I had been fabric shopping with Paul's sister Megan and my mom, and thought I had setteled on a dark, warm, crimson color for my bridesmaids, but then my mom didn't like it and Hannah didn't like it, and they were trying to talk me into brown, which I definitely don't want. While I was at the flower shop with my mom two weeks ago, I had a small epiphany, and my new chosen color is about what you see here (altho the camera didn't quite reproduce the color 100% faithfully): deep periwinkle with a definite hint of purple, just enough that it's definitely not blue, just a good, vibrant, beautiful color for my wedding. I love color, so I knew my bridesmaids needed to be wearing something other than brown. The flowers they hold might be pale green hydrangea (the color they are before they turn the color of the dresses), small sunflowers (nice deep vibrant yellow), and who knows what else.

Flash forward one week to Hannah and Addy taking a nap on Addy's bed after Katy's wedding shower so they will feel refreshed for Ninny's 50th birthday party, which took place the same evening. This all took place this past Saturday, after I spent 4 hours in my car Friday evening driving thru rain, sleet, freezing rain, wet snow, and heavy snow to get home for the busy weekend. Oh, and while I was sitting in barely-moving traffic on 270 North somewhere in Maryland, I was passed by George W. Bush's motorcade, comprised of over 20 big, black Chevy Suburbans (so that no one could tell which one contained the prez). That's right, I was within 15 feet of our not-so-esteemed leader, altho I didn't know it at the time.

So that's it for my life recently. Oh, one more thing: Paul and I have pretty much FINISHED the GUEST LIST for our WEDDING, and so I will soon be able to send save-the-date e-mails, and also start on the really fun wedding things like REGISTERING for COOL STUFF such as various kitchen accessories that we covet. I'm taking suggestions!

Time for bed!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Beating a Dead Horse?

The book for the next book group meeting at my church down here in VA is The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate by Phillip E. Johnson. This is the same man who wrote Darwin On Trial and is, according to the Wikipedia article linked above, "considered the father of the Intelligent Design movement."

Our past books have been so intellectual and not at all at odds with scientific views of reality, so mainly I'm curious as to whether the guy who picked this book actually buys into Johnson's beliefs, or just wanted to present something controversial to the group. My experience so far is that people pick books they feel strongly about, and by strongly I mean "strongly agree with," and they pick them because (A) they think the book is so good that it will change other's minds if they don't feel the same way, and/or (B) they want to scope out how the other members feel about the issue without actually coming out and declaring "I believe X and I want to know if you believe the same." At least, that's how and why I picked my book (For the Time Being by Annie Dillard) , and thus far all the other books have reached conclusions that the people who picked them have agreed if this guy doesn't agree with the beliefs of Johnson, it will be the first time since I've been a member that someone has picked a book of which they didn't agree with the conclusions.

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a class called "God, Evolution, and Culture," and since it was the first time the class was offered, it generated a lot of public (and private) discussion of the Creationism-versus-Evolution debate throughout the rest of my college years. It has also been in the news over the years (Dover, PA school board for example), and so I feel like I've read and thought about this topic about as much as any layperson can. I don't think that anyone other than the guy who picked this book might actually agree with the beliefs of its author, but I am nonetheless worried that I will not be able to keep a civil tongue in my head during the discussion because I feel so strongly that Intelligent Design is a crock of shit, and I don't want to either embarrass myself nor hurt this guy's feelings, because that wouldn't be nice, and it wouldn't be a very good thing to do at church. In my worry and frustration, I wrote the following thoughts, loosely written as though I am speaking to the book group:

I have to say, right at the beginning of this discussion, that I talked about this a LOT in college – first in a class I took my Sophomore year called “God, Evolution, and Culture” and over the next two years partly as a result of the discussion generated by the class I mentioned, as it was the first time this class was offered – and it seems to me that all debate about this topic is missing one vital point. That is, what are the hallmarks of a scientific theory, and why Evolution has it and “Intelligent Design” (ID), of which Phillip Johnson is a founder and proponent, does not.

The theory of Evolution makes no claims at being complete, or completely explaining everything, or being perfect; in fact, like all good scientific theories, it openly asks to be added to, challenged, and revised continuously. But the theory as it stands at any given moment has a major ability that ID does not have: the ability to make predictions and test those predictions
With a scientific theory such as Evolution, a scientist can say: “Based on such-and-such theory, I should find (blank) to be true of the natural world.” Using the scientific method, the scientist can then test his or her prediction. If the prediction is true, it strengthens the theory used to make the prediction and advances the body of scientific knowledge, as well as possibly leading to other helpful predictions/conclusions and adding applicability to abstract scientific theory. If the prediction is untrue, it leads the scientific community to revise the initial theory, or perhaps even to discard that theory altogether.
Example: The Big Bang theory led scientists to believe that the universe is expanding. That prediction was tested and proven. It further led to the prediction that the rate of expansion would be slowing; that prediction was tested and disproved. The fact that the expansion was indeed speeding up led to much speculation and reconsideration of the Big Bang theory, and in this case the theory wasn’t scrapped, but expanded to include the possible existence of “dark matter” exerting extra gravitational force, or an as-yet-unknown force, causing the universe to speed up in its expansion. This speculation in turn leads to ever deeper and more nuanced scientific inquiry.

ID or any other form of Creationism that tries to be an “alternative” to Evolution lacks the key abilities of a scientific theory mentioned above. It cannot lead to testable predictions about the universe. Anything that claims to be a prediction based on ID is actually a prediction based on the belief in that person’s (possibly misguided) understanding of a Christian God. Such predictions are not testable because they are by definition based on an un-provable belief. Thus ID offers no opportunity for advancing human understanding of the universe, but is only itself an attempt at “proving” a belief that is, again by definition, held without want or need of proof. [In other words, people who believe in a Christian God profess to need no proof, and further to defy any attempt at proof as sacrilegious or futile (at least, that is how I feel); and yet, the disbelief in Evolution in favor of ID can only be as a result of feeling their belief to be threatened and the feeling of needing to validate their belief.]

Phillip E Johnson is the founder of the pseudo-science known as “Intelligent Design” (ID). Since Johnson, in this book, is telling us to “ask the right questions” and to be open-minded, I think it is disingenuous of him to not clearly state his assumptions. The reasons debates such as this one are often so deeply frustrating and unfruitful is because the two parties are starting from vastly different (and possibly irreconcilable) foundational assumptions, but these assumptions are never addressed; thus the parties are always talking past each other, never actually answering or even addressing the issues that the other side is actually referring to.
I believe this is the case with Johnson’s books: he is not detailing his foundational assumptions, and neither does he have any understanding of his intended targets’ assumptions. He writes as though I know and understand his assumptions, and as though he understands (but disagrees with) mine; but in reality, I disagree with his assumptions, and he constantly and consistently misrepresents, misstates, and deeply misunderstands my assumptions. Thus his arguments are of no effect against my current stance, and all he has achieved is to add yet another huge black mark on the face of misguided “Christian Science,” again widening the ever-deepening gap in the ever-more-important dialogue between Science and Religion.

I would also mention that Johnson is a lawyer, whose job it is to tell half-truths in order to lead a jury to the conclusions most favorable for his client. In this case, his “client” is his own beliefs. A lawyer often knows very well that he is leaving out vital facts, but because of his training and because of the way our judicial system works, it seems to me that the general feeling of law practice is “the ends justify the means”; in other words, he is aiming for a conclusion, which he believes to be the correct one; he doesn’t care how you get to this conclusion as long as you DO get there, so he will use any means necessary to lead you there, even if it is by a path he doesn’t particularly care for himself.
I am quite possibly doing what I before accused Johnson of doing, namely misrepresenting his foundation assumptions. That’s why I leave this as a footnote, as another possible explanation for the vehemence with which I disagree with him. I find my earlier explanations much more probable and complete.
That said, the positive side of this argument is that it gives him the benefit of the doubt: he sincerely holds a belief in the conclusions of his book, and he is not intentionally lying, but only acting as he has been taught to act to achieve the results he dearly longs to achieve. I am here indicting his method, but not his honesty.
This is not to say that Scientists in general and Evolutionists in particular are not sometimes guilty of the same misleading tactics as I am here accusing Johnson of, and the practice is certainly equally reprehensible on both sides. The debate will never move forward until it is taken up by moderate and reasonable parties on both sides, those willing to truly discuss the issues
clearly and with open minds. This, as far as I can tell, has not yet happened.

As much as I dread reading this book, I am going to read it, keeping in mind the goal of having much more credence when I argue against having absorbed all of its misguided material.

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, and yet this is still a major issue in America today. This, quite frankly, scares me more than just about anything else with regard to the future of the human race, because it's the same kind of thing that leads to terrorism.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add, or anything to disagree with? I would really love to hear other opinions and thoughts in this forum, where I feel like I can speak more clearly and freely than I can at, say, church book group...but if no one responds, then I'm just talking to a wall, and I'm therefore just as one-sided and useless as the people who write dumb books like Phillip E. Johnson's.