Monday, August 11, 2008

Bad week for my hands

It was a bad week for my hands.
  1. Last Sunday I planted some bushes and herbs in my garden. I had to hack up three bush stumps with a hatchet, resulting in a couple bad blisters on my right hand.
  2. As I leave my condo I always swing my front door shut then reach back to lock it. On Thursday, in too much of a hurry, I reach back and smashed my left middle finger in the closing door. Cripes, did that hurt!
  3. On Friday, playing softball, I fielded a high hop and didn't quite get my glove on it, so I stopped it with my bare right hand, resulting in a bruise near the base of my index finger.
  4. Yesterday, while moving a pile of dishes that had accumulated in my sink to the dishwasher, I nicked my right ring finger on a knife.
I can be, in general, a clumsy person, so this isn't entirely surprising. But I don't know why it's gotten worse recently other than coincidence.

On the bright side, I've taken the opportunity to witness some pretty cool things our bodies do to take care of us.
  • I'm always fascinated by watching scrapes and blisters heal. The scab covers the area to protect it form germs (sometimes helped along by first aid cream and a bandage), after a few days the skin slowly repairs itself. It's just a little over a week later, and the skin is almost fully healed.
  • The smashed fingertip was the worst of the lot. It hurt like crazy for the first ~20 minutes, then settled to a dull throb. I wouldn't notice it for a while, then it would pop up again and remind me of the pain. This sort of degrading alert system reminded me of monitoring we have for production systems at work. I also noticed that, within a few days, I was already subconsciously adjusting to the damaged finger. When I would pick up an item with my left hand, without thinking about it, I would hold that finger back and use the other 4 (this after a few times when I didn't do that, and I painfully stubbed the tender fingertip).
  • The knife cut has, in less than 24 hours, already sealed closed.
Thank you, evolution!

Orson Scott Card on religion and science

I'm about halfway through Speaker for the Dead on audio book right now. I don't like it quite as much as Ender's Game, which is one of my favorite novels, but it's still very good.

Religion is a much more prevalent issue in the sequel, which takes place about 3000 years after EG. Unfortunately since it's on audio book I couldn't earmark the passage, so I don't have the precise text handy. But, the passages that caught my attention were:
  1. The Catholic Church has returned to its medieval prominence (or, close to it) in culture and government. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I sure hope that isn't the case 3-4 millenia from now.
  2. In describing the faster-than-light communication technology known as the "ansible", he writes that even though humanity has learned to utilize this technology, nobody really understands how it works. I'm not sure what Card was getting at here, but it smacked of a flaky "science is just another religion" viewpoint. I suppose one could argue our understanding of quantum mechanics is like that now, but I would think by the time we're able to integrate quantum theory into common technology we'll have a better idea how it works.
  3. When the main character first arrives at Lusitania, the planet whose colonists are overseen by a Portuguese Catholic theocracy, he's greeted by the local mayor. He has a reputation for being a raging atheist, but he surprises the mayor by espousing his appreciation for religious belief. Near as I can tell, he thinks religion is an "opiate of the masses", and that's a good thing.
It's too bad, I really like the characters, and I like Card's writing.

I did a little research on him and found he's an outspoken Mormon advocate (and a homophobe, to boot). In this article, he explains his belief that Mormonism is better than other religions because it's more scientific. This part sounds good:
... all scientific "knowledge" will eventually be found to be at least incomplete and quite possibly flat wrong, so if any area of science remains unquestioned, that is where the errors will accumulate.

Real scientists are unafraid of questions and never stifle them. The evidence of honest experiment will either affirm the existing belief or replace it with a better understanding. What's to fear in that?

There are no final answers in science, and anyone who thinks he has found one is no scientist.
Excellent sentiment. We should always be willing to test existing knowledge. But he loses me here when he says his church uses the scientific method to discover
The LDS faith is an experimental religion. We use the scientific method. No one is asked to rely on other people's faith; we are expected to ask the questions ourselves, and then "prove" and "test" the answers we are given.
This is laughable given some of the basic tenets of his religion, excellently satirized by South Park.

I suppose his outlook is better than those who do not question their faith at all. I only hope that many of them come to the conclusion that they can hold onto the valid and powerful aspects of their faith (e.g., their strong emphasis on family and community) while discarding the silly ones.

Ah well, he still writes good sci-fi.