When did feeling become more important than thinking?


As I go about my daily life, I constantly hear people talking about their feelings. Only, they are doing this when they are making decisions that ought to be made with their minds, not their feelings.

“I feel this would be the right job to take.” “I feel this is a good deal.” “I feel this scientist has made a mistake.”

Sure, it could be brushed off as a figure of speech. But what we say betrays how we think. If we really were talking about thinking, we wouldn’t say “feel” all the time, would we?

Not only that, but I see that the result of people listening to their feelings instead of their logic is a whole host of problems, not limited to abusive behavior, mental unstability, belief based science, and the desire to control what everyone else does instead of controlling oneself.  It can even lead to financial ruin for everyone from families on up to nations.

I am certainly not exempt.  This is something I struggle with on a daily basis.

I have nothing against feelings. I just think that they need to be listened to only when they are appropriate. Just as you wouldn’t necessarily think and analyze why a kitten is so cute when she’s purring and enjoying her fuzzy mouse toy, you shouldn’t just feel when it’s time to decide what mix of proteins and vitamins to feed her for optimal health.  Yet people do that all the time when they look at the cute picture on the bag instead of reading the ingredients list.

Which one would you choose?  Would you choose to be storm-tossed, at the mercy of your feelings, and making decisions based on what feels good?  Or would you choose to be informed by your emotions, but ultimately have reason at the tiller?

Learning to Fly: Turning

Turning in an airplane is interesting. On the ground, when you are taxiing, you steer with the pedals, not with the wheel the way you would in a car. Most modern trainers have two main tires that are fixed in place under the body of the plane, and a smaller one under the nose that can be steered. Some aircraft have the small wheel under the tail instead of the nose, and those are called “tailwheel” or “taildragger” to distinguish them.

When you are taxiing on the ground, you push with the main part of your foot to keep the plane centered on the yellow line, and if you need a bigger correction, you point your toes to use the brakes. Just a touch to one side or the other usually does the trick. One foot works the brake on the right main tire, the other works the left, so if you need to stop straight ahead, you’d better use both feet! Moving the yoke or wheel gets you nothing but a laugh from the instructor, unless you are in a crosswind and need to work the aileronn on the wings.

I was lucky not to have driven a car much when I was learning to fly. I didn’t have the reflexes to override, always wanting to use a steering wheel. In fact, when I flew solo for the first time, I still hadn’t driven a car without an instructor present! That didn’t mean I was instantly good at taxiing, of course. It still took some practice. After all, planes are not as good moving on the ground as they are in the air. But eventually I was trundling merrily down the center of the yellow line on the way to and from the runway.

Turning in the air is even odder for the uninitiated. Then you get to use the control yoke, using the ailerons to tilt the plane to the right or the left. It’s just like leaning on a bicycle if you are going around a turn really fast. You use your feet too if it’s a really steep turn, because now the pedals control the rudder instead of the nose wheel and the brakes. It can be fun, watching the horizon tilt to a fifteen, thirty, forty-five, or even sixty degree angle!

There are other considerations when you are turning in the air- wind speed, how fast you want to turn, what you are using as a reference. One of the things new pilots learn is S turns across a road, and turns around a point. That helps them with precise flying and putting the plane exactly where they want it, with no guesswork. So if you see a little plane circling around a particular area, over and over, when there isn’t really anything around to look at except maybe a barn in the middle of open country, that might be a student pilot out in the practice area, learning how to turn.

Looking Down at the World

It’s an interesting feeling, watching the world from the cockpit of a small plane. I used to fly. I even lived at a small airport for a while. Any old (air)port in a storm, as they say. When I lived at the airport, I usually flew in Cessna 152b trainers. They are small planes with two seats, a high wing design, one propeller, and a 108 horsepower four cylinder engine. They fly at a speed of about 80-110 miles per hour, and they weigh around 1500 pounds fueled. You can easily tow them on the ground without help.

I loved flying in those little planes. We rarely went out at night, and of course we always had rules of safety and politeness so we would avoid annoying people on the ground. Of course, by that I mean we didn’t want to annoy people on the ground, but I suppose you could read that the other way, that we also avoided the annoying people who were on the ground!

Either way, we didn’t fly too low, or in certain areas where it might be safe, or too close to man-made objects.. I learned how to do all kinds of things in the air. Various kinds of navigation, different turns, staying steady with my course, crossing hills or mountains safely. The world flattened out, hills looked insignificant, and suddenly roads were just valuable navigation landmarks. I’d look down at the freeway, see the cars crawling there like ants, and laugh like a loon. “I’m up here!” I’d cry. “You’re down there!”

Towns and fields, forests and waterways all spread below me. One of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen was at six thousand feet, above the clouds It was like flying over a sparkling white plain, with hills and clumps of puffy white and nothing but the blue, blue sky above. That was glorious! Another beautiful sight: a night flight, with a full moon in the sky and the wing gone silver with the light.

When I was new to flying, the sight that amazed me most was simple. The left main tire, in its fairing, sitting just below and next to my window. I’d seen that wheel touching the gritty pavement as I’d started the plane and taxied out to the runway. Now, below it, there was nothing under it but a thousand feet of space. That, and green fields, hills, rivers, roads, and a whole world to be flown over.

SpaceX makes me so happy.

I love watching SpaceX and seeing what they do. Not only did they successfully re-land the first stage of their Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, but they are set to do it again this Sunday, but this time on a drone platform in the Pacific.

Never before has any space agency done anything like this, and these folks are a private company!  Just look at the smiling faces and the excitement in this clip. It’s worth it, I promise.  These are folks like me, like all of us – smart folks, professional, they know their jobs well, but they are not the “steely eyed missile men” of yesteryear.

This is the future of spaceflight, unfolding before our eyes, and I am so happy to see it!


Medical Advice – Volume 1

Sometimes I help out on a public medical advice board.  Since these questions are already public, there’s no harm in sharing them here – along with my answers – for hopeful edification and maybe a little amusement.


Does the radiation emitted by infrared space heaters pose any health risks?

No more than any other kind of heat.  Infrared radiation is just another name for heat, so there’s no health risk.  Provided you don’t overheat yourself, of course.

are airbrush sets hazardous for your health?

I went to buy an air brush set ( with no paint added, this was just the spray gun) from Michaels.com and there was this warning label that read

“PROP 65: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm”

is this true? ..are there safer air brush sets out there?


If you get involved with art using real paints and good materials, you will soon note that the State of California thinks pretty much any good pigment is deadly.  Most professional artists routinely use deadly chemicals in their work, but since they aren’t chewing on, ingesting, or breathing their materials they are quite safe.  But the labels will definitely make you worry, so I understand your concern!

The key here is to use the airbrush set with proper ventilation (as you should anyway), spray away from your face, and wash your hands after you use the set.  If you want a little extra protection, wear nitrile gloves.

I do find it odd that the label said just the gun was gun was dangerous, I can’t see how this could possibly be true.   It could be that the rubber gaskets might outgas slightly, but you aren’t sniffing them constantly and you would wash your hands after using the unit.

In short, this unit is likely to be as safe as any other, and if you use it as it is meant to be used there is no danger to you.  Probably keep it out of reach of children, though, just to be safe.


I saw blood on my finger and licked it. If the person who had the blood is HIV+, can the virus be transmitted to me?


Vanishingly unlikely.  Your saliva is your first defense against viruses.  As you may have heard before, HIV is a pretty weak virus – it dies easily outside the body.  You would have to rub it into an open wound.  Please don’t tell me you also have an open wound in your mouth.

Also, just for hygiene’s sake, what are you doing going around licking other people’s blood off your finger?  And how, exactly are you getting someone’s blood on your finger?  And finally, how in the world do you know they are HIV positive?

Sounds like you are engaged in some pretty interesting activities and you might want to rethink your life.

Of course, you may have a perfectly plausible explanation as to why you are getting HIV positive blood on your finger and licking it.


is lupus a STD

Can people with Lupus pass in on to their sexual partners

Lupus is a lifelong disorder of the immune system, not an STD.  Here’s some good information about it.


Stay tuned for the next issue of Medical Advice!

How long is a moment?

Many don’t know this but a moment actually has a fixed length. In Medieval Europe, the hour was forty “momentums” long. (Momenta? Momenti?) If you do some calculations you will find that each moment lasts ninety seconds. The meaning still holds today. So if someone says “just a moment,” there is something you can hold them to.

In my line of work, people get picky about language. It’s frowned upon (quality assurance would say forbidden) to say “just a moment” when you need a customer to wait for you to do something. The reason given is that a moment is too vague and you should say “one to two minutes” or however long your task will actually take. The idea is to be precise and hold to your promises.

So I enjoy giving my team lead crap when they bring it up. “What do you mean, I can’t say ‘just a moment?’ Hey, that’s exact! A moment is ninety seconds!”

Little by little, my momentum builds.

Why science is not a religion

I’ve seen several articles and opinion pieces about why science is a religion and a belief structure. It is not. That’s bunk! Here’s why.

Science is simply the process of testing ideas to see if they are true or not. It is the search for objective truth. A true scientist does not consider belief as part of the equation. They observe measurable facts, form an idea based on those facts, then test that idea to see if that idea might be correct. They make sure their findings are repeatable and accurate and if they are not the researchers throw it out and try again.

Here’s the important part: if they are proved to be wrong, they form a new idea, or adjust the old one, and try again. A true scientist doesn’t cling to ideas that are false. They don’t say “maybe this could disprove my theory, but I’m going to believe it anyway.” If they did, they would be engaging in religious thinking. Religion is when you believe in something without hard evidence.

The real problem here is people who claim to be scientists, and make all the right noises, and wear labcoats and everything, yet cling to their beliefs and preconceived notions even when they find evidence that disproves their claims. It is that subset of false scientists that gives the whole scientific method a bad name. Luckily, there is a good way to tell a false scientist from a true scientist.

Ask a question.

The true scientist will say “I don’t know for sure but there is evidence pointing to this.”

The false scientist will say “I definitely know, and I will argue with you if you disagree.”

Roh Learns to Fly

It all started with a yellow piece of paper.

“Introductory flying lesson at Pearson Air, 40 dollars!” I got an extra for my roommate. I kept that scrap for months until I could save up the money.

Well, actually it started earlier than that- when I flew in a Fairchild Metroliner from Moses Lake to Olympia, I remembered my childhood obsession with Amelia Eearhart. So the childhood obsession came first.

New beginning.  It all started when I told people that I would be a pilot.

At about two years of age, some neighbor said “you have such long fingers, are you going to play the piano when you grow up?” To which I responded “no, I’ll use them to reach the dashboard on my plane!”

So it started there, I guess. And continued.  My first flight was in an ultralight, a Flightstar II trainer. I went up to 2000 feet but was too scared to take the controls when they were offered to me.  I think the absence of a door or a full fuselage had a little to do with it. Thank goodness for five point restraints!  I overcame my normal reticence and snuggled up close to the pilot when we banked at an uncomfortable angle.

I enjoyed the flight and wanted to go up again- I didn’t get a chance until my 21st birthday, when I got a plane ride to visit my parents as a present, on that aforementioned Metroliner. I had a blast. A couple of tame commuter flights and a lot of dreaming later, we get to the beginning of this story.

The orchestra strikes an opening chord, the curtain rises. Our heroine is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She is standing in the kitchen of a small apartment, holding a carefully unfolded yellow coupon, nervously preparing to call Pearson Air to schedule a flight lesson…

The roommate had gone up a week prior, so I knew what to expect. I knew that the instructor, whose name was Dave, would let me do most of the flying-unlike my intro flight in the ultralight. I called and made the arrangements, inwardly jumping up and down just to be TALKING to a pilot, let alone taking the first step toward becoming one myself.


19 May, 2002

That Saturday found me and the roommate at the Olympia airport, wending our way through the hangar, following little signs that said simply “flight training here.” Pearson Air was an interesting place, with a comfortable looking pilot’s lounge complete with couches, TV, water cooler and coffee pot. It had an interesting smell, too, sort of sweetish, possibly from upholstery cleaner. I made sure to wear my recently acquired flight jacket.

To my endless amusement, my new instructor was wearing something similar, along with a pair of aviator shades. Dave was a nice enough fellow, with dark curly hair and a relaxed way around him. There was no mention of paying in advance, or signing of paperwork, just an avuncular “let’s go flyin’,” and we were out the door.

The plane was parked nearby and we got in without preliminaries. He got the engine started and we were off. With a lot of help I taxied to the runway and he made the necessary radio calls. It felt natural to steer with my feet, but I wasn’t very good at it. Soon I found myself at the end of a big strip of concrete, with my own hands on the controls, my own keister in the left seat, and I was happier than anything. He worked trim and flaps and had me push power in- almost before I knew it, I was flying! I was entranced with just the idea of being in the air.

He showed me how to keep the plane level and guided me through some gentle turns. At one point I was concentrating on keeping the wings parallel with the horizon- I looked over and noticed that Dave didn’t have his hands anywhere near the controls. He was unconcernedly talking about landmarks. I was impressed. All those years of dreaming of flight, and I was finally doing it! My face was set to Permagrin.

Dave handled most of the landing, explaining what he was doing as he did it, letting me do as much as I could-not much. Dreamily, I floated back into the airport office. A fellow pilot (I assume) asked Dave how the flying was since he got his pilot’s license back, after the violations. Dave hastily explained that the person was kidding- but I already knew, and thought it was funny.

Then I wrote out my check to Pearson Air, and received a small Cessna-logo logbook. Inside was the notation “.5 hours. Intro to 152. Level turns, landings, takeoff,” and the instructor’s signature complete with license number. I handled that little booklet as if it were a relic from a lost civilization.

My face was stuck on Permagrin for most of that week. I couldn’t wait to get back. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get in the air again for several weeks… one lesson and I was hooked. It hadn’t been scary at all, but natural and fun. My fear of heights was nonexistent in the air.

For my birthday I got enough for two lessons. As soon as I could, I called in my reservation…

Subjective Truth

More and more, truth is treated as relative. Each person is thought of as having their own truth. While this may be useful for emotional response or philosophy, it can cause real problems when speaking about matters where there really is one truth.

For example, I see people all the time who believe what they want, even when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, because they were taught that truth is relative. If a scientist is presented with facts, then they must adapt to those facts rather than ignore them in the face of their own agenda. If rainfall is higher than previous years in a given area, for example, then it would be insane to claim that it is dryer! Or if the actual temperatures of each day of the winter have been five degrees cooler, then it doesn’t make sense to say the winter has been warmer.

People, both scientists and professors and laymen, often believe things despite evidence to the contrary. Truth is not relative, it is absolute. Perception is the only thing that is different. What are some examples you can think of?