Friday, August 31, 2007

One Step At a Time

I'm trying something new this year and signed up for a marathon training program with Rogue Running. I'm mostly doing it for the social aspect, but I'm also hoping to get help from the coaches to take my running to a higher level. I kick off the season tomorrow with a 7 mile run around Town Lake and I'm pretty excited to see what I can accomplish this year.

Right now my biggest challenge is going to be to monitor my hip pain and try to stay healthy. I went to the doctor 3 weeks ago and while he confirmed that I have mild bursitis in my hip, most of the pain I'm feeling is actually coming from my sciatic nerve which is probably originating with the sacroiliac (SI) joint. He suspects that this is due to muscle imbalances in my hip abductors (outer thigh) and gluteus medius so I'm currently going to a physical therapist once a week for some manipulations of my hip and lower back and for exercises to fix the muscle weakness. I also suspect piriformis syndrome. I had this problem and fixed it on the right using this stretch. But that stretch didn't replicate the pain on the left and wasn't resolving the pain so I was off to the doctor. Things are getting better, but there's still pain when I run. I at least have the consolation that it's not muscular, it's not getting worse, and so far they say it's okay to keep running. Actually, things feel a little better although there's still pain.

If all goes well, I'll be running the Houston Marathon on January 13 and the Austin Marathon on February 17. My goal this year is to get to 12% body fat and complete the marathon in under 4 hours. If I lose the weight then the second part will easily fall into place. I'm optimistic that I'll actually be able to run significantly faster than that, but I'm trying to stay reasonable and set myself for success.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Are Educated People More Religious?

The Mormon prophet recently stated:
A study was made some years ago that indicated the higher the education, the greater the faith and participation in religious activity.
I was curious what study this might be because I'm pretty sure that this is not, in general, the case. It is also interesting that he mentions that it was made some time ago. Sort of like the quote that continues to circulate in the church curriculum about the dangers of caffeine as a justification for the church's prohibition of coffee and tea. Imagine my shock to learn that his reference is another church magazine:
5. From “Rise Up, O Men of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 61.
Great, so he's quoting from another article in a church magazine. This just happens to reference his own talk in General Conference where he originally bemoaned the fact that the men of the church were falling behind the women in education. However, that article does not provide a reference so I guess we'll have to just take his word for it and trust that the study was from a credible source.

A quick Google yielded the following from Wikipedia:
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins [5] cites an article by Paul Bell in Mensa Magazine, containing a meta-analysis of studies relating to the connection between religiosity and intelligence. Analyzing 43 studies, Bell found that all but four reported such a connection, and he concluded that "the higher one's intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious or hold 'beliefs' of any kind."[6]

Dawkins also discusses the very low percentage of notable scientists (Nobel prize winners, etc.) that are religious and that even those that are religious tend to be very unorthodox in their views and don't seem to take it very literally.

I think the more likely answer is that religion is more strongly linked with culture than education. Churches are full of people who are very religious and also very educated. So education certainly isn't orthogonal to religious belief and practice. But Western Europeans are as well educated (and perhaps more so) than their American counterparts and are very secular and not terribly religious. Education there doesn't seem to enhance religiousity.

I think my own experiences as a Mormon missionary are more typical. The wealthy and the well educated weren't interested in what I was selling. I taught almost exclusively to the poor and uneducated people of Bolivia and they were the only ones that I baptized. The church's greatest growth has been among the poor and uneducated in Latin America, not among the wealthy and educated. The church chalks this up to the pride of the wealthy and educated. They just lack the humility to accept the extraordinary claims. Either that or they have enough education, experience, and critical thinking ability to recognize a fraud when they see it.

The Church Youths' Attitudes Toward Education

They New Era also had the following quotes that speak for themselves.

3. True or false:
A good education is more important for young men than young women.


President Hinckley’s counsel is clear: both young men and young women need to get as much education as they can (see “Seek Learning” on page 4 of this issue). His words are fresh on many teens’ minds as they consider their future.

“I love President Hinckley, and I think it’s cool that he’s stressing that we women get an education,” says Sydnee Barney of the Meridian Idaho Stake. “I think it would be cool to both be smart and be a mom—to be a smart mom.”

“The prophet sees us as equals,” says Camille. “He said it’s just as important for girls to have an education as the guys because both of our roles in the future are important.”

Ryan says, “If my future wife knew how to rear our children well, teach them things that they need to know for school, and help them out, I think that would be great. I think it helps to be with someone that’s around your educational level.”

Ty Harris of the Meridian Idaho Stake remembers President Hinckley’s recent counsel for boys to “rise up” when it comes to getting an education (see Ensign, Nov. 2006, 60–61). “He was straightforward about it. He said that women are getting more college education than men. I think men need to step up and become the caretaker of their family and provide for their family.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seek Learning (Especially if you're male?)

The New Era is the Mormon church's magazine for its youth. The September issue arrived in our home today and the First Presidency message for the month caught my eye: "Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning". The church has always stressed the importance of education and supports education through its church universities such as Brigham Young University. But its attitude about education for women has always been a mixed message so I was curious how that aspect of the message was treated in 2007. I guess I wasn't really surprised. Here are a few excerpts although you're welcome to read the entire article (it's linked on the title of this post). The fact that the counsel much be tailored for men and women should tell you something. Here are the relevant sections. I've highlighted and inserted my comments in italics.

Special Counsel for Girls

In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so. [This is code for the case in which she can't fulfill her divine calling as a wife and mother.]

The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it.7 I am grateful that women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. You are as entitled as are men to the Spirit of Christ, [The fact that he feels the need to point this out should tell you something. Apparently it's not clear otherwise or perhaps it speaks to common attitudes in the church. Still, it's nice that he's trying to counter it.] which enlightens every man and woman who comes into the world (see D&C 84:46).8

You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.9 Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family [In other words, getting married and having kids is more important.], but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry [The prophet has already counseled that a wife and mother should stay home, not work.], or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry [Again, if you get married you shouldn't pursue a career. In that case your education is a bauble or an insurance policy in case your marriage isn't successful.]. Education will increase your appreciation and refine your talent.

Special Counsel for Boys

No boy anxious to please his Heavenly Father would fail to take advantage of educational opportunities.11 But there is a troubling trend taking place. Young men are more likely to drop out of school than young women. Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men.

It is plainly evident that young women are exceeding young men in pursuing educational programs. [The implication here is that this is clearly a bad thing. There's no question whether or not you'd find this comment in the previous section if the opposite were true.] And so I say to you young men, rise up and discipline yourself to take advantage of educational opportunities. Do you wish to marry a girl whose education has been far superior to your own? [This is not the first time he has said this. He's also made the same comment in General Priesthood Meeting where it was met with laughter from the congregated men. Is it too much to ask what would be so bad about that?] We speak of being “equally yoked.” That applies, I think, to the matter of education. [In fact he's saying quite the opposite. He thinks that in education the man should strive to be superior in educational attainment to his wife.]

I knew a young couple that had recently graduated from college. The wife was very intelligent and had a masters in accounting while the husband wasn't nearly as smart or accomplished. She surrendered a likely successful career to stay at home and start a family because that is what the church teaches. While that's their choice, it would be refreshing if the church could consider that there might be equally acceptable alternatives such as another Mormon couple where the wife continued to pursue her successful engineering career while her husband sacrificed his job as a public school PE teacher to be a stay at home dad.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I'm a Total Geek

Here I am sitting in the back seat of the Suburban while my son drives to Lubbock where he's starting his freshman year at Texas Tech University and I'm on the web reading about publishing.

I have a Sprint PocketPC 6700 phone that is also a small computer with a slide out keyboard that has a word processor, email, web browser and more. I recently upgraded the firmware on it and noticed a new application called "Wireless Modem". I had been considering getting a wireless broadband card for my laptop, but didn't want to shell out $150 for the card and another $50 per month so I wondered if my phone could now be used to give my laptop access to the internet. After a call to Sprint I tentatively extended my contract for a year and signed up for their wireless broadband service for an extra $35 per month. Now all I have to do is start up the wireless modem application on my phone, connect it to the USB port of my laptop, dial up the internet, and voila! I have a high speed internet connection.

So far I've been using it for about 350 miles and several hours across BFE Texas without the connection dropping once. In fact, I'm composing this over my cell phone while traveling along at 65 miles per hour.

I guess that the fact that I find this really, really exciting means I'm a total geek.

Oh yeah. My cost justification? Over the last two weekends I've more than paid for the service for over a year by being able to book consulting fees while sitting at the car while I'm at the horse show with my daughter.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Pain in the

A man walks into a doctor's office with a duck on his head.

"Can I help you?" asks the doctor.

"Yeah, can you get this guy off my ass," replies the duck.
Sorry. Relevance? Probably none except that the pain in my left hip that started in February's marathon hasn't gone away despite laying off running for 7 weeks. It's back with a vengeance now that I've started running again. I thought it was a muscle strain, but I think I've ruled that out. I thought maybe it was nerve pain, but I think I've ruled that out because there is local tenderness. One possibility is ITB syndrome. The iliotibial band is a ligament that runs from your hip to your knee on the outside of your leg. It often gets tight in runners and usually presents with pain on the outside of the knee, but it can cause hip pain too. But ITB stretches and exercises don't seem to help. My last choice is hip bursitis and that is what I think I'm suffering from. There is a small area of tenderness right on the point of the hip that feels "lumpy" as I massage it. So, I'm laying off running again, taking ibuprofen, massaging it, and doing hip stretches and exercises. It doesn't bother me so much during the day, but right now it aches at night and keeps waking me up.