Thursday, January 17, 2019

Who to serve

I help out with the sound and slides and lights for church services.(*)

I don't like the drum/overamped guitars/praise chorus variety of music. I don't like the style, the volume hurts my ears, and I can't hear myself sing and have no idea whether I hit the note or not.

The music grated on me each Sunday, and after a while I started to think of the band as interfering with worship—as adversaries. When I realized that I thought of them as opponents, my duty was clear.

I had to serve them.

That's when I volunteered to work with the sound team. I wound up behind the stage curtain managing the monitor board (and handling microphone batteries and matters arising). Their wishes were my commands.(**) I wore black so the congregation wouldn't notice me getting in and out of the stage-side booth.

A few years later the church reorganized the electronics, eliminating the need for a separate monitor board, and opened two other services. I started serving in one of the other venues instead.

I still don't like loud music, and think it is bad for congregational participation. But I like the people of the bands, and I have a feel what they're trying to do, and I appreciate them.

It's kind of an obvious distinction, but I'm a slow learner sometimes. And the appreciation isn't abstract, but real.

(*) The directors say about rehearsals that "If you're early you're on time; if you're on time you're late." The sound man has to be there even earlier.

(**) “I need a little more of me in my monitor.” “Got it.” “A little less now.” “Got it” “OK, that’s good.” The level is right back where it was before—probably the musician just needed to re-sensitize his/her ear.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Technological artwork

Hackaday sponsored a contest.. "Can you use the wires of the circuits themselves as the structure of a sculpture, and tell a story with the use and placement of every component?"

This is one of the winners.

"The circuit itself is a light-activating chirping circuit built with 7400-series logic and installed in the hollow of the bird. The sensor is in the nest, and sounds like the baby birds beckoning their parents to feed them."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Unexpected source

I missed this when BBC first published it.
I suspect my grandfather's hands shook as he took the measurements and fitted the suit of this particular German officer, who must have been pleased with the finished article as he then offered my grandfather and brother-in-law a warning: "Get out, while you still can. There's a round-up coming."


Dr Werner Best was a doctor of law and had an uncanny ability to bend the law in his favour. After the war he not only convinced the Danish courts to commute his death sentence to a prison sentence, but years later - when he was accused of signing the death warrants of 8,000 Poles - he managed to convince the judge that he was too sick to stand trial. The case collapsed and he lived for a further 17 years as a free man before dying of natural causes.

A key priority for Best, as the Third Reich's plenipotentiary in Denmark, was to maintain the flow of agricultural goods from Denmark to Germany. ... Hitler's order to make Denmark "free of Jews" - Judenrein - therefore came at a bad time for Best.


And when it became apparent that the primary escape route was across the Oresund, all German patrol boats on the water were ordered into harbour. They remained there for three weeks, when the bulk of the escapees were crossing to Sweden. The official explanation was that the boats needed a paint job. All of them - at the same time.


When the extent of the failure of the round-up became apparent, Hitler telegrammed Best ordering him to explain himself. He responded that he had done as he had been ordered - he had made Denmark Judenrein.

Maybe he thought Hitler's order was evil, or maybe simply stupid. He seems to have participated freely enough in the Nazi rise, but had qualms about scorched-earth during its fall.. People are complicated.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

1 mana = 60 gin

I hope you appreciate algebra. When you look at the alternatives, what you tried to learn in high school looks almost trivial. Algebra wasn't hard; just a bit tedious.

Since India and Mesopotamia were pretty close, it isn't obvious which discovered what when, since we only have a few fragments. And a lot of the "Arabic" work was done in Mesopotamia too. But "The Precious Mirror of the Four Elements" was probably made independently.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Peasants and hunters and other folk dance.

In the West we also have a tradition of nobility dancing too--IIRC for a while dance was one of the things young nobles had to learn. I was reminded of that while listening to the New Years' Strauss concert on youtube the other evening. It might be beneath the dignity of some sufficiently august ruler to try to cut the rug, but the tradition was still there.

How about in China? You can't imagine the Emperor on the dance floor--I'd think there'd be professionals doing the dancing. Turns out that different dynasties had different ideas about that. The dances were apparently often also important rituals--though sometimes peasant dances might be reworked for the court.

Persia had court dances too, for amusement and for ceremony. And later: "The harem of Nassereddin Shah, the 4th Qajar king, hosted dance performances in which many of his eighty-four wives and a number of his daughters participated. At the time, Shiite law forbade any kind of dance, but the most powerful man in the country had the luxury of breaking religious law."

I wonder what they were like.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


The most memorable vacation times are those spent with people. Some people just click with you.

Scenes and actions are wonderful (except possibly the white-knuckle times) too, but something about those click times is amazing.

Sometimes, when driving by a town, it occurs to me that somewhere in that town are some men and women with whom we could spend a joyful few days, who we do not know and almost certainly will never meet in this life.

I wish there were a way to meet them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Youngest Daughter is currently between jobs, and has spent quite a bit of time online. She commented to me tonight that Facebook et al get boring. There's much that's flashy, but not much substance, and no accomplishment.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Old Order Changeth

"No, he said there's no way to stop it."

"Then our time's about up. Half a million years is a good run, though. I think we've done well with the years."

"I agree, but that's for the judge to decide," Heard answered.

"We'll finally get to see what the Hadrokkons did. If their sunset dance was anything like ours."

"Probably not. Their tails were completely different." Heard could not imagine anyone not doing a sunset dance.

Gerald asked, "The manira are cute. Are they the next in line?"

Heard replied, "He said it would be the descendents of those," and gestured with his short clawed arm at some skittering small creatures dashing from the cluster ferns to a hole in the ground.

"OK; not what I would have expected at all. Did he say anything else?"

"No, that's all we needed. We'll learn the rest when we reach the timeless ourselves."

"21 days. Where will it hit?"

"Just offshore."

"Ouch. That will make a mess."

"The whole world, he said. Time for something new."

"I hope the manira make it. I love watching them."

"Are you ready to work on the final song?"

"I should walk with Dromo for an hour first. She inspires me. I want to do this right. It's quite an honor." Gerald swung his tail to a musical fragment in his mind, and then turned to run to the grove where Dromo liked to listen to the manira. "See you tonight!" he called over his shoulder.

Spending time

Isaiah 55:1-2 says:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.

It isn't quite "without cost." It costs us time and a choice.

I have 24 hours to spend today. What will I spend them on? There may come a day when I'd give the world for 2 more hours, but it turns out I can't bank them. And in between now and then, I will have spent them all. What will I have bought with them?

Each moment has choices. Most of the time I just keep doing what I started doing a few minutes ago, but sometimes I distract myself. While I wondered what to write next, I clicked over to read some news. I didn't really learn anything, so why did I bother?

I can't bank choices either. Some choices are big (who to marry, what career to work in) and require follow-through with the lifetime of implied little choices--in fact, if I don't follow through, did I ever make that big choice to begin with? Or was I fudging? This brings to mind the whole issue of New Years' resolutions.

Most of the people I work with understand choices and promises in their professional life. You make a promise, make a choice, and that binds you to a lot of subsequent choices. Nobody wants to work with you if you don't. You don't get anything done if you don't. They mostly understand the principle in personal life, but not always or all the time. I wonder what makes it easier in one case than the other.

And why it is always so easy to choose what isn't bread.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The contemplative vs the active

AVI has an interesting post up about IQ and success.

This reminded me of an old story, as told by J.D. Suggs:

The preacher had to go across the lake to the church, and the boy rowed him across. This Sunday morning a new preacher walked down to the boat, says: "Good morning, son. Are you the one carries 'em across the lake to the church?" Boy says, "Yessa, parson." So the preacher gets in the boat. He asks, "What do you charge, son?" "Twenty-five cents a person."

So the parson gives him a quarter. Boy shoved off from the bank. Preacher says, "Sonny, you ever go to Sunday school?" Boy answers, "I hate to tell you, parson, but I never did." "Did you ever learn the Ten Commandments?" "I hate to tell you parson, but I never did." Preacher said, "Son, you lost half your life then."

Then he asks him: "Son, did you ever learn theology? Did you ever learn geography?" "No." "That's too bad, son; you lost half your life."

About that time the boy paddled on a snag up there in the lake and capsized the boat. Out went the parson. Boy, he commenced swimming off. Parson went down. When he come up the boy hollered to him, "Say, parson, you ever learn swimology?" Parson said, "No, son, I never did." "Well, parson, I hate to tell you but you lost all of your life."

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Years Note

Just a word to the wise: When you are installing a Twist-N-Set, allot plenty of time for scraping the inside of the pipe, and plenty more to slowwwllly twist that gasket up to the proper (tight) position before pushing it into place. There's a lot of friction there--so much that the notion of "tightening it in place" is a joke. Never mind what certain Youtube videos suggest.

The tiler left too small a hole in the tile to put in a normal flange, so I trimmed the Twist-N-Set flange down with the table saw. It's OK now. One closet bolt is in the original cast iron flange, and the other is a hanger bolt sunk into the beam beside the broken part of the flange. If the iron flange breaks again, we'll have to cut into the tile, but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Further Further explosion followup

Footage(*) of the gas line explosion was released.

No criminal culpability was found. The widow is suing the firms involved.

Followup to an Earlier note

(*) I'm showing my age with the word "footage."

The debtor is the slave of the creditor

Taiwan News claims that China is
preparing to seize some major assets in the African nation of Kenya, as a result of debt-trap diplomacy.

African media reports that Kenya may soon be forced to relinquish control of its largest and most lucrative port in Mombasa to Chinese control.

Other assets related to the inland shipment of goods from the port, including the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi, and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), may also be compromised in the event of a Chinese port takeover.

Kenya has reportedly taken extremely large loans from the Communist government for the development of some major highways, and especially for the SGR, which forms a crucial transport link to and from Nairobi for the import and export of goods through Mombasa.

Very interesting, if true. But this makes the report sound a little over the top:

The African Stand also seems to suggest that the SGR, which is operated by the Chinese, may have been designed to be a “loss-making venture.”

With a reported loss of KES 10 billion (US$98 million) in its first year of operation, it would be nearly impossible to repay the loans taken for its construction in the time requested.

Yes, the Chinese might have been hoping for defaults so they could get hold of resources. But if that were so, with Zambia (and possibly other countries) also facing defaults, I wonder if they would be underestimating resistance to collection.

We'll see if this is hardball negotiating or new colonialism. My guess is the former.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

More Augustine

City of God is interesting. Apparently Livy reported that King Numa Pompilius wrote and was buried with books explaining the religious rites for Rome he had established. When these were accidentally uncovered, the Roman Senate examined them and ordered them burnt. Augustine draws his own conclusions.

I speculated long ago that polytheism grew naturally from compromise: I encountered the numinous at the river and you at the mountain, so let's have two gods. It naturally diminishes my worship of the rivergod to merely a rivergod when I have to acknowledge this mountain add-on, but we can worry along somehow. Sort of. After enough add-ons, though, the numinous doesn't matter nearly as much as the rites and the "what's in it for me."

So what happens when you merge different pantheons? You can try to equate Zeus with Jupiter, but there are these pesky differences in rites. You have an oceangod, and so do they, so maybe one is the deepoceangod and the other is the waveoceangod. Ok. Now add another pantheon, and you have to partition responsibilities even farther. Rome started as one city with its own gods, but had gotten to be a pretty big empire. I wonder how many pantheons it had absorbed in the process of trying to maintain civil peace. (just within Italy, before it became such a big player and could impose..)

Venilia, says this theology, is the wave which comes to the shore, Salacia the wave which returns into the sea.