Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't Sneak

I consider myself a man's man, willing and able to do what needs to be done. But there are some stories that are guaranteed to render me helpless--and make me cry like a 5-year old boy whose puppy just disappeared.

I suppose there is some deep-seated explanation for "the trigger" and its inevitable, emotional  response. In 50-odd years of walking this earth, I have yet to discover the reasons for this drama, and move them into my conscience for closer examination.

All I know is that I have watched "Remember the Titans" three times, and three times I have been reduced to a blubbering idiot.

And now, this story told on NPR's StoryCorps in which a man tells his adult daughter the touching story about a surprising bit of advice his father had given him years ago, when he was a teenager.

On the surface, the two stories--Remember the Titans and Don't Sneak--may seem to be completely unrelated. But I invite you to follow the link, check out the story with an open mind, listen to the recording if you have the time, and see for yourself what you think.

Patrick Haggerty dresses in drag in 1959. As a teen,
Haggerty learned from his father never to "sneak" around his identity.

Here is the quote that really stuck me to the wall. The father realizes that his son Patrick is, as might have been said back in the late '50's, a little light in the loafers. And this is how this father deals with the issue:

"Now, I'm gonna tell you something today, and you might not know what to think of it now, but you're gonna remember when you're a full-grown man: Don't sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you're doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you're doing the wrong thing, then you'll ruin your immortal soul."

Here is an amateur attempt at self-diagnosis. I seem to have a soft spot for stories about the strong father-figure (dad, coach, teacher) who accepts and encourages an insecure young man who desperately wants to do achieve something authentic, bold, and great.



To thine own self be true.

Know yourself and seek self-improvement.

Don't sneak.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Meal Inspired by Forks the Book

You already know I participated in the Kickstarter campaign that brought the world this incredible book: FORKS

And you also know that Melanie Grace and I recently enjoyed meeting Allan Karl, in person during his book promotion tour when he stopped at The Organic Butcher in McLean

This brings us to Part 3 of the story: How Mel prepared a delicious, FORKS-inspired meal--our first recipe taken from Allan's book. Based on the result, this was the first of MANY dishes to come!

Bolivian red quinoa salad

Our first recipe from FORKS was the Bolivian red quinoa salad, found on pages 86-87 of the Kickstarter edition of FORKS. 

almond-crusted salmon filets in a lime-and-dijon mustard sauce

We served the quinoa salad along-side baked, almond-crusted salmon filets in a lime-and-dijon mustard sauce, and paired it all with Flying Dog Agave Cervesa.

Flying Dog Agave Cervesa

It was a pleasure making the gorgeous food photos come to life in our kitchen, and even more fun savoring the flavors, textures, and aromas of Bolivia. Life is Delish!

The first of MANY dishes to come! 

Culture, Cuisine, and Connections: Thank you, +WorldRider!

Read more:

My First (Live!) Encounter with #WorldRider Allan Karl

Entrepreneur, motorcycle adventurer, foodie, self-published author and +WorldRider Allan Karl was in our neighborhood recently, to connect with fans and promote his book, FORKS.

The ad promised:

"Meet Allan Karl adventurer and author of the bestselling travel, photo and recipe book FORKS—A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection on Saturday afternoon, September 20th from 11am – 4pm."

Perfect vanity plate for World Rider Allan Karl and his adventure machine

Melanie Grace and I hopped on our respective Harley-Davidson motorized bicycles and rode over toward the sweet smell of exotic cuisine. We pulled into off-street parking directly in front of The Organic Butcher of McLean.

The ad continued:

"Allan will share a recipe or two (Rwandan Brochettes for example) using the finest meats from The Organic Butcher in McLean."

Step inside and have a look around: this is a small but truly inspiring butcher shop!

The ad delivered!

We were not disappointed but rather overjoyed. Delicious dishes from FORKS were prepared in the Green Egg grill, and served on a side table, where Allan was signing copies of his book and graciously posing for pictures. 

Allan and the decorated Sprint van in which he hauls his bike and boxes of books.

Allan seemed genuinely thrilled to meet us. To my delight, he recalled my excited, "look what just came in the mail" tweet--one that he re-tweeted several times. As for me, I was star-struck. I felt I was chatting with a personal hero and, dare I say, kindred spirit.

Allan Karl's 2005 BMW 650GS Dakar

I'm so glad Allan brought his adventure machine along for the tour! The BMW 650 GS Daka has a single valve engine with two spark plugs for maximum efficiency. This bike is modified from the original stock configuration. You can see the engine protection bars, center stand, and wider foot pegs.

Another rear oblique view of Allan Karl's 2005 BMW 650GS Dakar

Allan's brother, Jonathan and sister-in-awe Maria (who live in the DC area), and Allan's colleague, Tim Amos were present and added to the fun. Jon told stories of coming to Allan's rescue a time or two. We are looking forward to seeing the photos Tim took. There is at least one of Mel and me with Allan all standing beside our bikes!

Melanie Grace and me with Allan Karl and his adventure machine

Here is the bottom line:

Buy the book. Try the recipes. Follow your passions in life. 

I want to be a World Rider, too. 

Don't you?

Friday, September 12, 2014

How do you tell a 13-year old about 9/11?

Where were you the moment you realized the world was forever changed? 

Where were you on 9/11?

E Ring of the Pentagon, between Corridors 4 and 5

Me? I was in the Pentagon, on the 3d floor, E (outer) ring, between corridors 4 and 5.  Lieutenant General (LTG) Timothy J. Maude was the Army G1, and I was his representative to an Army Transformation Campaign Plan meeting being held in the G3's conference room. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into LTG Maude's office on the 2d floor, E ring, between corridors 4 and 5. A floor slab is all that separated me from the inferno below. The conference room in which I had been seated and from which I safely escaped later collapsed into the fire.

LTG Maude was only 53 years old when his life
was cut short by a terrorist attack on the Pentagon 

A friend of mine answered the "where were you?" question this way, "Getting ready to teach US History in Long Beach, Ca ...trying to figure out how to explain this to 13-year olds."

That really got me thinking! How would my friend--or any of us--explain 9/11 to 13-year olds in 2001? Even more interesting--how would our explanation change over time? Would the lessons of 9/11 remain the same for 13-year olds year-after-year? Of course not. The intervening events of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the execution of Osama bin Laden, the Coalition's recent redeployment from Iraq, and the subsequent and rapid rise of ISIS would all be part of the story--part of the post-9/11 world.

Memorial benches point toward the Pentagon if the person was on the plane and
away from the Pentagon if the person was in the Pentagon at the time of the attack

What do you say about 9/11 to a child who has grown up in the post-9/11 world? My own children were 7 and 4 on the day I came home early from work because my office disintegrated. They were 13 and 10 at the time I deployed to Baghdad to join MNC-I. My children were directly impacted by 9/11 and have grown up in a post-9/11 world. What would you say to a 13-year old US History student on Sept 11, 2014?

184 memorial benches, one for each victim, are aligned with the
flight path of the jetliner that slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11

I would say this: History is a jagged line over time. The point of studying history is to remember past peaks and valleys, reflect on the significance of them, and renew our values and sense of purpose so we can keep absorbing life's plot twists, return to the center line and continue driving on.

The nameplate on LTG Maude's memorial bench
is viewed with the Pentagon in the background.

The USA today is far from an idyllic Garden of Eden. In fact, the impressive achievements of mankind are matched in magnitude by our horrifying failures. Looking across time at the arc of history, I would say that things have gotten both better and worse since the earliest days of civilization. The peaks are higher and the valleys are lower. We live in times of increasing amplitude. Resilience is more critical to survival than ever. I would look at the arc of history and tell young students that they must stay strong--getting back up when knocked down, and continuing to struggle against the forces that push and pull.

LTG Maude was born in 1947. This marker designates
the row in which his memorial bench can be found

The post-9/11 world today looks quite different from the world I saw as a 13-year old 40 years ago. By the time my kids reach my current age, they will likely have witnessed even greater heights and even lower lows. Because history is a jagged line over time....and at the extremes, the amplitude is increasing...

This five-sided memorial in Arlington National Cemetery contains the
names of all 184 people who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack at the Pentagon

God Bless educators for helping prepare our young people for survival, stability, success, and hopefully even significance in an uncertain and sometimes frightening world. May we all draw upon the lessons of 9/11 to learn how to find balance, restore calm, and share peace.

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy

Trunkworthy co-founders Gary Stewart and David Gorman have started a project I can really get behind. Beginning on his 60th birthday (Aug 25, 2014) and continuing weekly as long as interest holds, these two promise to share a song a week from Elvis's vast catalog.  Read what they say about the selected song, and listen to the audio clip.

Trunkworthy says, "We can’t think of anyone who’s written 500 songs as consistently good as his 500 songs . . . and we hope to turn you on to some of the best you’ve never heard."

I could not agree more! So I am collecting links to their efforts and publishing them here in hopes that PhilosFX readers will join me in sustaining this project. Enjoy!


1. Emotional vulnerability: "Human Handsfrom Imperial Bedroom (1982)


2. Acidic lyrics with an upbeat (and unforgettable) melody "Worthless Thingfrom Goodbye Cruel World (1984)

3. Elvis shows his bona fide soul side: "Either Side of the Same Townfrom The Delivery Man (2004)

4. Going Gospel with the Fairfield Four: "That Day is Donefrom The Fairfield Four’s I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1997)

5. Comfort food for long-time fans: “You Tripped At Every Step” from Brutal Youth (1994)

6. That time he invented Americana: “Jack of All Parades”  from King of America (1986)


7.  Breaking up? Broken up? This one's for you: This House Is Empty Now from Painted From Memory (1998)

8. What Midlife Crisis? This Is Rock: “45” from When I Was Cruel (2002)

9. How to sing to the back of the room: Couldn’t  Call it Unexpected No. 4," (though originally recorded for the album Mighty Like a Rose, Trunkworthy highlights the live, unamplified version of the song with a clip pulled from A&E’s Live by Request in 2003)

10. The man in the Deep Dark Truthful Mirror from Spike (1989)


11. Political outrage fuels this killer garage track: American Gangster Time from Momofuku (2008)

12. Oh, when Toussaint came marchin' in: “The Sharpest Thorn” from The River in Reverse (2006)

13. Deep, Dark Soul For When You’re Done Clowning Around: “Clowntime Is Over No. 2,” first released as a B-side to “High Fidelity” (1980) and then on Taking Liberties (1980)

14. A love song for the ages, Manhattan style: “I’m in the Mood Again,” from North (2003)


15. Sweet ear candy with a poisoned filling: “Charm School,” from Punch the Clock (1983)

16. The glorious sound of hippie optimism turn, turn, turning on itself? “You Bowed Down,” from All This Useless Beauty (1996)

17. The sound of love’s death from 1000 paper cuts.“Little Triggers,” from This Year’s Model (1978)

18. Sing along to the best song you won’t understand: “Crimes of Paris,” from Blood & Chocolate (1986)

19. Elvis & The Roots Pound the Apathy Right Out of Us: “Wise Up Ghost,” from Wise Up Ghost (2013)


20. The official battle-cry of your mid-life crisis, “Last Year of My Youth,” first performed on the June 4, 2014, Late Show With David Letterman

21. The Eerie Revelations Of An Unearthed 1975 Demo “Poison Moon,”  recorded at home, late 1975-early 1976

22. Cry-in-your-whiskey country from a most (or least?) unlikely place: How Much I’ve Lied,” from Almost Blue (1981).  

23. This Is What Happens When You Piss Off a Great Songwriter: How to Be Dumb,” from Mighty Like a Rose (1991).


24. Sulky girls and the men who stalk them: Sulky Girl,” from Brutal Youth (1994)

25. L.A. gets another kick to the crotch: Heathen Town,” originally released as the B-side to “Everyday I Write the Book” (1983). 

26. False optimism, self-delusion, and new age bromides all meet a painful death under “Alibi”‘s unrelenting glare: Alibi,” from When I Was Cruel (2002). Read the lyrics here.

27. The Torch Song Burning Beneath a Glossy MTV Hit: "The Only Flame in Town," live version.


28. Here’s the song we wish we had around when we were sending mix tapes to the unattainable objects of our affection: “That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving,” from National Ransom (2010) Lyrics here.

29. Shut up and dance: “Getting Mighty Crowded,” originally released as the B-side of “High Fidelity.”

30. If you've ever had a baby play around, you get it: “Baby Plays Around,” originally released on Spike (1989).

31. You can sit and stew in the blue chair, or you can jump up and dance around it. Better yet, you can do both! This week’s pick is a two-fer: “Blue Chair,” originally released on Blood & Chocolate (1986) and then as a completely re-arranged and re-recorded non-album single (1987).


32. Costello remakes one of his earliest singles for a whole new generation of fans. We let his target demo decide if his aim was true. This week’s pick: “A Monster Went And Ate My Red 2” feat. Elmo and Cookie Monster (2011).

33. Tony Soprano said, ” ‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” That sums up this song pretty nicely. This week’s pick is the last song to play at your High School Reunion: “Dirty Rotten Shame,” released as a B-side to Secret, Profane & Sugarcane’s single “Complicated Shadows” (2009), but played live starting in the mid-’90s.

34. What happens when you mix the bossa nova rhythms of swinging bachelor pad/lounge music with the more sinister tones and textures of ’60s-era spy soundtrack music? You get something like this:“Harry Worth,” released on Momofuku (2008).  

Gary and David do not mention this in their story, but the title is a pun on multiple levels.
"Harry Worth was an English comedy actor and comedian. Unlike the brash humour of other comedians at the time, Harry portrayed a charming, gentle and genial character, totally bemused by life, creating comedic confusion wherever he went." --Wikipedia.  
This aspect of Elvis Costello's writing makes me appreciate his craft all the more.

35. Costello paints the grays in the otherwise black and white screaming match of god v science. This week’s pick: “If I Could Believe,” released on Wise Up Ghost (2013)

36. Elvis explores the dark power dynamics of failed relationships behind a wall of sound: “No Dancing,” released on My Aim Is True (1977).


37. A sultry and slightly sinister slow jam, this week's pick is its own little erotic fever-dream: “Love Field,” released on Goodbye Cruel World (1984).

38. What a broken heart has sounded like for over 50 years: “Poisoned Rose,” released on King of America (1986).

39. This week's song could have been a perfectly good folk ballad about 1930s blues / jazz singer Stella Gloria Crowson, aka Teddy Grace--and her many trials, tribulations, and traumas. Thankfully, Elvis kicked out a jam instead: “Stella Hurt,” released on Momofuku (2008). You can read more about Teddy Grace here.

40. This deceptively simple ballad packs a powerful punch, gently rocking you in to a dark, decidedly Southern nightmare: “Country Darkness,” released on The Delivery Man (2004)


41. An eerie meditation on faded beauty, masterfully rendered in under two minutes. It also makes one hell of a love song to Detroit. Slow dancing with Architecture: “Hoover Factory,” released on Taking Liberties (1980). 

42. Elvis Costello's magical musical London tour guide: “London’s Brilliant Parade,” released on Brutal Youth (1994).

43. This week's pick is so much more than the sum of its parts: lyrics, music, production and musicianship at the level of the highest art. “All This Useless Beauty,” released on All This Useless Beauty (1996).

44. This week’s pick is Entourage directed by David Lynch, peeling back that sun-soaked, hedonistic Hollywood fantasy to expose the crushed dreams, talent and ambition left in its wake: “The Other Side of Summer,” released on Mighty Like a Rose (1991).

45. An immigrant's tale well-told should be ringing in your head as you watch the red, white, and blue fireworks this 4th: “American Without Tears,” released on King of America (1986).

[Note: this edition of The Elvis Costello Song of the Week was published just before the 4th of July holiday in America. If not for that bit of timing, I bet Gary and David might have chosen a different song for this spot on the list.]


46. Sometimes swaying to a world gone wrong is just what you need. This week’s pick: “Tripwire,” released on Wise Up Ghost (2013).

47. This is what it sounds like when a snappy old R&B song is slowed down, torn up, and left crying alone in the dark: “Please Stay,” released on Kojak Variety (1995)

48. For the soundtrack of a biopic loosely based on the life and music of Carole King, Costello honors the master writers of Motown: “Unwanted Number,” released on the Grace Of My Heart soundtrack (1996).

49. This week's pick is an increasingly angry, noisy, caustic, and scary look at the downside of human nature: “Tart,” released on When I Was Cruel (2002).


50. What might have happened if Cole Porter, Tom Waits, and Elmore Leonard wrote a cheating song for George Jones: “Motel Matches,” released on Get Happy!!  (1980). 

51. In honor of Billy Sherrill's passing, here is a "cry in your whiskey" country ballad from a most--or least--unlikely place: “How Much I’ve Lied,” from Almost Blue (1981).

52. An artist at war with himself while seeking reconciliation: “When I Was Cruel (No. 1),” from Cruel Smile (2002)

NOTE: Elvis Costello's birthday is August 25th. In 2014 the eclectic songwriter and musician turned 60, and many music-themed magazines celebrated the event. I searched through the Internet to find them all. In the hunt, I discovered Trunkworthy and their concept of selecting and sharing an underplayed Song of the Week from EC's enormous catalog. For a year, I have archived links to Trunkworthy's selections. I hope readers and fellow EC fans have enjoyed coming to one place for links to all of the selected songs so far. I also hope that Gary and David have something special in mind for next week (and many more weeks to come)! 

Here's to creative genius of Declan Patrick MacManus, and to the brilliant men behind this project.

53. Encore (August 25, 2015). And so we conclude our one-year journey in to the most Trunkworthy songs by the man who inspired Trunkworthy itself: “Just A Memory,” from Taking Liberties/Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How’s Your Fathers (1980), originally the b-side to “New Amsterdam.”

"This week marks the end of our year-long attempt to honor the artist who, more than any other, expanded our own musical minds and record collections. We wanted people who didn’t know Costello’s work to give him a shot, we wanted casual fans to dig deeper, and we wanted deep fans to reconsider songs they might have passed over the first time or offer some reasons to go back and listen to them differently. We hope we’ve done one of those things for all of you who checked into our little listening party each week." --Gary & David, Trunkworthy


Please visit Trunkworthy, sign up for email updates, and join me in supporting and sustaining this project. I'll continue to publish the links here as I get them. but why wait on me? Go direct to the source, and make sure you follow, like, share, etc. Trunkworthy on social media to spread the word.

Let's see if we can sustain this effort for a year. A year of songs of the week? That would be 50 of 500. Wouldn't it be great to see the Trunkworthy Top 10%?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What is Science?

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews begins a July 31, 2014 story on Colorado's 6th Congressional District race with the following line:

"Rarely does political science bear resemblance to actual science."

To which Seth Masket, blogging for Mischiefs of Faction and expressing irritation at this dismissal of political science, replies:

"Political scientists come in a variety of flavors, but basically we're in the business of proposing theories about the way the political world works, testing those theories with some kind of data, subjecting our findings to a peer-review process, and hopefully publishing those findings so that others can confirm or refute what we've done. And our understanding of the political world has improved substantially over the past century using this approach. (See Hans Noel's article for some great examples, and see Julia Azari on Twitter for some more schooling.) That is science."

Masket's definition of science caught the attention of my friend, Professor Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, who posted this quip on Facebook:

"Well, sure it's a science -- but not, as this author claims, because of its vaguely neo-positivist logic of inquiry. It's a science because it is, at its best, systematic, public, and worldly, aiming at producing impersonally valid knowledge about matters of fact. None of which is limited to proposing and testing hypotheses."

Perhaps it is unnecessary for me to point out that Prof PTJ is a social scientist. To assure the reader (and my friend) that I mean this distinction as a compliment and not a disparaging remark, I hasten to add that I aspire to be known as a social scientist as well. It's a label I'd be proud to wear. That said, I appreciate and embrace the distinctions some would make between different types of scientific inquiry.

A good answer to the question, "What is Science?" must include all science and exclude all non-science. Definitions of science that exclude some branches of science are, therefore, unhelpful in my view. The techniques of inquiry that distinguish branches of science from one another are important. Natural and social sciences are different in meaningful ways. However the over-arching definition of science must include the branches.

Jackson's definition of science emphasizes knowledge and facts generated in real-world, applied settings. Theories, hypotheses, and experiments are nice, he contends, but not strictly necessary in the legitimate pursuit of Truth. Moreover, some Truth exists without the benefit of confirming experimental results. This idea is similar to the one which appears in poster form below:

The definition of science stirs a fair amount of passion--among scientists, anyway! What one means by the word, "science," seems to be somewhat dependent upon whether one is talking about the so-called natural or "hard" sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) or the social or "soft" sciences (psychology, sociology, economics). More to the point, the practitioners of hard sciences seem to take umbrage when social scientists assert that they are, in fact, "doing science."

All of this sturm und drang led me to ponder the question,

"What is Science?"

I concede that standards of rigor, validity, falsifiability, and reproducibility can vary with the subject of one's inquiry. Some inquiry lends itself to very precise measurements, but some perfectly legitimate inquiries use squishier scales. Still, it seems obvious that the relatively softer social sciences can, when done well, contribute to the body of human knowledge for the good of all mankind.

"Science ... is the pursuit of truth and knowledge for the good of all mankind."

When I was a PhD student at Walden University, my First Year Adviser, the inimitable Dr. Ruth Maurer, told me that

"The aim of scientific inquiry is to extend the boundary of human knowledge by an amount, epsilon." 

As if to encourage me, Walden's own Dr. Ruth continued:

"...and epsilon can be very small."

Science Club on BBC Two. Photograph: Andrew Hayes-Watkins/BBC

Naturally, all of this talk of the pursuit of Truth got me thinking about whether there is or even can be a universal definition of Science. I Googled "what is science" and got over 1 billion hits in under 1 second. Someday, when we as a species will have advanced a bit further, we will all look back on the foregoing sentence and laugh. We'll laugh not because we'll have even faster searches in the future, though we most likely will. Rather, the above search results will strike us as funny because, in 2014:

  • there were a billion references to people asking and attempting to answer such a fundamental question, and
  • to "Google" something was to type a question into a search engine, with fingers and a keyboard and a monitor, as opposed to simply thinking the question and having the answer play in our mind.

In the future, we'll have coalesced around a more universal understanding of what it means to "do" science, that is, "to conduct inquiry for the purpose of adding to the body of knowledge." Meanwhile, here are a few of the many answers I skimmed from the great social stew we call the Internet.

Science is:
"...the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." [Note: it says "and" experiment, not "or" experiment, so I disagree.]
"...a process of discovery that allows us to link isolated facts into coherent and comprehensive understandings of the natural world." [Note the emphasis on the process or method of discovery, as well as to the natural vs social world, so I find this too limiting.]
"... a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge." --Carl Sagan [the preference for the rigorous process of inquiry over the often temporary result. is appreciated but this is too generic to satisfy] 
"...a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match."--Isaac Asimov [clear, simple, and agenda-free. I like it]

I conclude this "Science is" section with an insight from the Great Explainer

"Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation."--Richard Feynman [That is a powerful insight, even if it does not precisely answer the question.]

This figure was accessed August 4, 2014 on

Of course, all of this language around what science IS led me to wonder what we could learn by discussing what science IS NOT.

To begin, here is a look at the "hard vs soft" divide from the perspective of scientific rigor:
There are "five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.  ... Happiness research is a great example of why psychology isn't science" because there is no universal definition of happiness, happiness cannot be quantified, and without these two elements the remaining three are impossible.  LA Times, "Why psychology isn't science." July 13, 2012, by Alex B. Berezow

Here is a more explicit view of what science is not, based on what it does not do:

Science doesn't: 
  • make moral judgments
  • make aesthetic judgments
  • tell you how to use scientific knowledge
  • draw conclusions about supernatural explanations

I like this summary of Science and Non-science, er, Non-sense
Science …Nonsense …
deals only with natural phenomenais often based on claims of supernatural phenomena
is based on evidence from real world testshas no supporting evidence
is consistent with the coherent body of scientific modelscontradicts well-established scientific models
is based on logical arguments; anything found
to be based on a false premise is abandoned
is based on false premises or illogical arguments or often both
is always falsifiableis often not falsifiable
This table was accessed August 3, 2014 on

There is a hierarchy among scientific fields, yes, but the hierarchy I see has less to do with external measures of validity and more to do with the history of time--and of inquiry itself. Does this sort of chronological hierarchy work for you? Try it on...

  • First, the Big Bang. Physics is the science of understanding motion, light, gravity, mass, force, velocity, and entropy (among many other things). 
  • The Earth spins around its molten core. Volcanoes erupt. Gases spew. Water evaporates and falls in an endless cycle. Chemistry is the science of elements in motion, reacting--or not.   
  • The quest for light and unity. Biology is born. 
  • Inorganic things interact in predictable ways according to the laws of nature. We know that water will seek it's own level, and that sufficient heat will convert the water to steam. Lack of heat will eventually convert the same water to ice. We are still talking physics here, with a little inorganic chemistry mixed in and biological implications.
  • Living things interact in less deterministic ways. With sufficient heat and light, bacteria will grow, reproduce, and die. Paramecia, algae, pond scum, insects, fish, frogs, monkeys, and people with various levels of education, experience, and abilities and variable opinions, values, and means. Sociology is not the study of life but the study of how living things interact in groups. And it is a science because it is the pursuit of truth and knowledge for the good of all mankind.
There is a hierarchy among sciences, and the definition of science must include all the branches while excluding other forms of inquiry and practice that may be related to science, but are not strictly organic to science. 

Not included? 
  • Mathematics is not science, it is the language of science and of logical inquiry. I suppose math theory is science, but the point of math is to share abstract ideas via symbols. It's mostly a language.
  • Technology is not science, it is the application of science to solve some sort of problem. 
  • Medicine is technically a technology, though the line is blurry. Medical research is science but medical practice that is not aimed at adding to the body of knowledge is just an application of established ideas. If my doctor treats me and publishes a journal article about it, then the lines get blurry. Medical doctors, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, registered Nurses and other members of the caring profession are not scientists when they are caring for a patient, but they may be scientists when they design, conduct, or participate in clinical trials or other scientific research. 
  • Although one may earn"Science" degrees in Engineering and Management. these pursuits are not science, but applications of science.  
  • Para-psychology, and other pseudo-sciences must be distinguished from legitimate Social Science. Tarot, MBTI, Astrology, Numerology and the like my have the ring of truth in some cases, but here is where I circle back to the key distinction Professor Jackson articulated, namely, that science aims at producing impersonally valid knowledge about matters of fact. My personality profile or destiny code may help me appreciate certain things, but such knowledge is hardly impersonal or even factual.

Now finally, with all the talk about what is and is not science, there must be some discussion of Quality. All physics is not "good" physics. Quality, like beauty, is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the Quality of a scientific endeavor is socially constructed. If so, that would explain how certain things once held to be true may be later discarded as false in light of newer and better information. I like how ProfPTJ said it best and conclude with his definition:

"Science is, at its best, systematic, public, and worldly, aiming at producing impersonally valid knowledge about matters of fact."  

Polling Pollsters Poll

During my most recent stint in academia, I became a student-member of AAPOR. What a great organization! I highly recommend them for their education and training programs, support, conferences, and peer-reviewed journal. I even served as a pollster myself, briefly, and enjoyed it. I still use polls to collect data for my math models, and I follow polls to see how they work and to keep up with trends in survey science.

I thought I would share a list of pollsters. Maybe I'll also create and share a Symbaloo page so I can more easily see what pollsters are tracking, and how polls or public opinion surveys on similar questions might differ based on polling technique.

Feel free to add updates in the comments.

Production Tools
These are a few tools of the polling trade

Survey Monkey
Poll Everywhere
Poll Maker
Mistakes to Avoid

Primary Producers
These organizations hire pollsters and produce polls and public opinion surveys

Secondary Producers
These organizations mine the data others produce

Google Analytics
Google Trends
Huffington Post Pollster
Real Clear Politics

Gigapixel view of Notre Dame v. Michigan

Hey, Irish fans! Did you go to the Michigan game?

Can you prove it?

Check out this 26 billion pixel interactive image of Notre Dame Stadium just before kickoff at the Michigan game. The resolution is phenomenal.  

I enjoyed looking for friends who were able to attend the game, but retired without success. I guess I'll have to wait until they tag themselves. Or, maybe they will post their seat numbers in the comments. I have a stadium map!

I noted that relatively few people were honoring the flag during the playing of the National Anthem. In fact, it took me several seconds of scanning before I found a few people rendering honors, and figured out from them what was happening. How many people are wearing hats? How many have their right hand over their heart but are still covered? Search for the man who doffed his hat and covered his heart. He's in there, God bless him.

Notice the number of people who were taking cell phone photos while the Gigapixel Camera was simultaneously taking their pictures!  Kinda takes "living in a fishbowl" to a new level, doesn't it?

I zoomed in on the three parachutists, and was quite surprised to find the clear image of an airplane in the deep background behind the risers in one of the parachutes. Can you replicate the screen shot I pasted in below? Can you zoom in even more and recognize the plane?

Screen capture image shows one of three parachutists. See the plane in the deep background?

This image is presented by South Bend Airport. It's an interesting and entertaining bit of technology on display.