Sunday, August 30, 2009

Philosophies of men

Not infrequently at church, the "philosophies of men" I think get a bad rap. I can't count how many times I've heard someone say we will be led astray by the philosophies of men, either implying or directly connecting the philosophies of men with science. Which is a little hard to take, especially as a scientist.

The scientific method--the trying to disprove theories instead of proving them--is really an attempt to avoid succumbing to the philosophies of men. Not that it always works, but that requirement, that we ask what would prove a theory wrong, not what would prove it right, is the antithesis of the way most human philosophies are formed. People are not naturally critical of their beliefs (which is why even the scientific method doesn't always prevent acceptance of theories that are later proven incorrect).

Religion encourages faith, the belief in things that are not seen, but are real, but also un-provable. It's rather difficult to prove, or even disprove, something that can't be tested (like faith, religion, God), which means, whether you like it or not, faith leaves you far more open to blind acceptance of what turn out to be philosophies of men than a more critical mindset would. Probably because I'm a scientist and, I suspect, possess a viewpoint more characteristic of an outsider than an insider, but I hear a fair amount preached over the pulpit that sounds like a philosophy of men--like something that depends strongly on the culture or background or age or gender of the one doing the preaching.

Which leaves a predicament: I know there is good in religion, and not just in my own, but in all religion focused on improving the individual and the community in which it acts. How does one critically decide which beliefs, philosophies, and paradigms are truly eternal in nature? I do believe eternal truths exist, and I believe my particular religion is privy to many that are cast aside by others, but I don't really know that. I don't really know what I'm taught, and what I'm teaching my child are really things of God, or if they're just a set of successful memes that somehow produce some reproductive or cultural advantage.

But I suppose that is the point of faith.

Sleep, beautiful sleep

So, last night I, silly person that I am, stayed up until 2 am reading a book (Tales from Earthsea), which I do have to say I quite enjoyed. Earlier this week I finished reading The Shell Seekers, which was okay but not really the type of book I typically read (preferring science fiction and fantasy normally). Somehow reading something I just found okay made me want to read something I really enjoy, thus the indulgence of reading a collection of fantasy short stories far into the night.

Typically, staying up late isn't a problem because Sylvia sleeps about as late as we do. Or, if she wakes early I can nurse her back to sleep and go back to sleep myself. Unfortunately, last night when Sylvia woke up she started crying--hard--and would not be comforted. I'm not sure if she had night terrors or if there was something wrong that we missed. Eventually she fell asleep, but she woke up maybe an hour later, crying again. She basically didn't sleep longer than 45 minutes the rest of the night (which meant I also didn't sleep longer than 45 minutes the rest of the night).

Needless to say, I'm pretty tired.

We put her to bed earlier tonight, hoping that will make a difference and she'll sleep better tonight. I'm pretty sure it's not teething since her most recent tooth (#8--yeah!) came through earlier this week. If anyone has ideas on other things to try, I'm all ears...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


So, I remember being engorged shortly after having Sylvia. The pain of having too much milk in my swollen breasts on those evenings Sylvia would sleep longer than I expected her to. I also remember having to adjust to pumping, and how difficult that was, particularly on days when my schedule wasn't as amenable to pumping in a timely manner. I'm glad I wasn't fired, like this woman in Ohio was. Not that I purchased anything from Isotoner, but I'm even less likely to now that I know how unfriendly their policies are toward breastfeeding mothers.

Update: this post discusses the class issues inherent in the breastfeeding case.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Borax the buggers!

My cat sleeps anywhere and everywhere. On my bed, on the couch, under the bed, in Sylvia's room, under the kitchen table, in the hall, and, on occasion, on the bathroom rug. That wouldn't be such a big deal except that Mattie has developed a flea infestation and since she sleeps everywhere, there are now fleas everywhere. Everywhere.

Yesterday morning, I spotted a flea on Sylvia's forehead while we were playing in her room. So, I pulled out the flea powder that I've been trying (rather unsuccessfully) on my cat and dumped it all over the carpet in Sylvia's room, left it for a few hours, and then vacuumed the rug thoroughly.

Then, this afternoon I spotted two fleas hopping across Sylvia's forehead while I was nursing her on my bed. So, after a very productive (and enjoyable!) day of canning tomatoes with Mary, I spent my afternoon cleaning bedding and vacuuming every place I could reach in my house. I'm not so sure about the wisdom of spreading flea powder everywhere in the house, especially with a one-year-old, so I purchased a box of borax and spread that around, which should dessicate the little critters (or so I hope).

Perhaps my annoyance with my reading material has simply been practice so that the real dander raising event of the week isn't such a shock to my system.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Two sigma

Derrick is on his way to Oregon, from whence he will leave on a research cruise for about a week. While we were driving to the airport, Derrick suggested that instead of giving speeding tickets for going over the speed limit, speeding tickets be given for going more than two sigma over or under the average speed of traffic (that being, theoretically, the speed suggested by the current speed limits). I could just envision a world where, under the speed limit sign, you see a histogram of the speeds of other drivers on the road, and from that calculate where your speed lies on the distribution. I'm so glad my husband is a nerd.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Anthropocene

Apparently this is my week to read things that get my dander up. The Economist has a nice little story up about global warming beginning 5,000 years ago thanks to agriculture. They reference a paper that I can't read yet, as it is still in press, so I don't exactly know what it says, but the author, Bill Ruddiman, argues elsewhere that the Anthropocene (the Geologic age defined by Humans becoming dominant contributors to geologic cycles) should start with the spread of agriculture, 5,000 to 8,000 years ago rather than in 1784 with the invention of the steam engine (see here for a quick summary of the argument between Ruddiman and Paul Crutzen). The Economist story isn't a bad story, actually, for its brevity.

Then come the comments. In them, the same tired, "humans can't really influence climate/global warming isn't real/it's a natural cycle/where were the humans to cause the end of the last ice age/pick your favorite duplicitous misrepresentation of science" were trotted out, refuted, and re-trotted. Why, when scientists argue amongst themselves about the minutia of our fields, is that argument immediately taken as proof that what we say is wrong? The argument here is not whether or not global warming is real, is happening, is significant; but rather the argument here is whether anthropogenic forcing of the climate began earlier than most scientists (and non scientists!) suppose. It's an argument over definitions, and boundaries, and ultimately over what is considered significant. I realize it may be difficult for a non-scientist to catch all of what's going on in a quick blurb (and realistically, anything less than a book is probably a quick blurb), but seriously, could we employ our brains for just a few moments and examine what we're reading logically? Is an article that ends with,
So although the size of the effect has increased markedly since the industrial revolution, it looks as if humanity has been interfering with the climate since the dawn of civilisation.

really a great one to support the "global warming isn't real" mantra?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unfortunately, church publications may not be

Evidence: this fascinating article on a woman who leaves the home for the workplace, finds herself drawn more and more to the workplace as it is more fulfilling to her, and eventually realizes she has to quit working because she was "straying so far from my divine role." Thank you, Ensign, for you contribution to the mommy wars. I also find it problematic that the solution allowing her to return to full-time motherhood involves the foreclosure of her business venture and her husband taking on the financial consequences of that failure. But that's probably a whole 'nother post.

While I can empathize, and agree with the idea that we should not allow our outside work to be detrimental to our parenting, I disagree with the idea that enjoying said outside work, and working hard on it, qualifies as straying from our "divine mission as women." I find even the few hours I work every day at being a grad student makes me a happier, and more enthusiastic mom, and I know I'm not the only one who feels the same. Parenting, mothering, is demanding, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and in order to effectively fill that role of parent, of mother, we each need to find and embrace those activities that strengthen us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually (and I wonder if I could have structured that sentence to accommodate a few more commas). I can see how this woman would realize she needed to refocus herself on that responsibility, but the jump to "I need to quit working outside the home" doesn't jive for me. Are the temptations of worldly accomplishment, of adult companionship, of responsibilities that don't involve bodily fluids just to much for some women to handle? If that's that case, doesn't that make them just like most men?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sometimes, church is just cool

I love Sundays where I really do come back from church feeling spiritually rejuvenated.

This week I heard good talks in Sacrament meeting, had a nice visit with a friend during Sunday School while watching Sylvia sleep, and then enjoyed a great lesson on friendship during Relief society.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's about LIBERTY!!!

The health care debate is rather fascinating, not least because there are so many people so very upset about the possibility, and using such impressively misleading and illogical arguments to stop attempts at honest change.

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting about national healthcare policy.
WHERE: Tippecanoe County Library
WHEN: 7pm Monday, Aug.17 at South St. Lafayette branch, and 7pm
Tuesday, Aug.18 at Klondike Rd. W.Lafayette branch
WHY: To discuss/debate the ramifications of a national healthcare policy

Senators Lugar and Bayh, as well as Congressman Buyer have been sent an invitation via certified Fedex, fax and email. In addition we have invited State Senator Ron Alting, Rep. Sheila Klinker, Mayors Roswarski and Dennis, all city council members. We have requested, in person, that Senator Lugar cancel his trip to Canada next week and attend our meeting. Please call his office in Indy. and do the same. Local elected officials are important because they can lobby congress on our behalf, and should do so.

This could not be more important. A national healthcare plan, and /or the cap and trade policy would be the nail in the coffin of what remains of our freedom.

It's not about health, it's about LIBERTY!!!

It is about liberty, but not in the way this writer intended. Health care is fast becoming a severe burden on our economy, and eventually will be a severe burden on our society. I suppose we could let things go back to where only the wealthy or the lucky have access to reasonable health care, but that seems a waste, given we would then be essentially abandoning a significant population and essentially wasting the other investments that have been made in them. Our nation needs freedom from skyrocketing costs that do little to aid our health and leave many close to or in bankruptcy.

I hear people up in arms about government intrusion in health care and about rationing, but right now insurance companies are the ones intruding and the ones rationing, and they apparently aren't very good at doing either in a way that actually controls costs. We need a system that is actually capable of providing the basics of health care to everyone, allows those with greater needs/wants to secure those, and does this without breaking the bank. The current system is heading far from that, providing basic health care to fewer and fewer, and doing it all for more money. For that reason alone I don't buy the argument that the market creates efficiency. I am unconvinced that competitive markets work well for public goods--roads, schools, the military, and apparently, health care. If it's something everyone needs access to, the requirement of profit for the provider seems to inhibit the provision of the good or service to everyone. That seems like a problem to me, and one I have yet to hear a good solution for from the status quo people.

Friday, August 7, 2009


19 lb, 2 oz. 30 inches long.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Uncle Butch

I've always heard my Dad refer to his Uncle Butch as Uncle Butch. Turns out his name is actually Larry (Lawrence Allen). It's funny the things you find out about people after they die. Mimi told me tonight that Butch used to cry and scream when he didn't get what he wanted, so his mom (Great Grandma Tressa) would stick him outside where he would cry and yell and make lots of noise. Then they dug out a basement for the house, so Great Grandma Tressa would put him in the basement when he cried. Soon after, he stopped crying because "nobody could hear him down there."