Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Medicine Wheel

I was tasked with finding things to do/see in Big Horn in the summer(*), and one of the first places that popped up (as opposed to generic activities) was the Medicine Wheel. Archaeology has always been an interest of mine, so...

Stanford has a web page. There one learns that:

n 1974, an archaeoastronomer named Jack Eddy visited this Medicine Wheel and studied its alignments, that is, its arrangements of rocks, cairns, and spokes. He found the arrangements point to the rising and setting places of the Sun at summer solstice, as well as the rising places of Aldebaran in Taurus, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius in Canis Major -- all bright, important stars associated with the Solstice. Later another astronomer, Jack Robinson, found a cairn pair that marked the bright star Fomalhaut's rising point with the Sun 28 days before solstice.


The dawn or heliacal rising of a star is important because it pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before dawn, after it has been behind the Sun for an entire season. From about 1200 AD to 1700 AD, these 4 stars would have acted as solstice markers for the Native Americans - Fomalhaut (F to D) would rise 28 days before the Summer Solstice, Aldebaran (F to A) would rise during the 2 days just before the solstice, Rigel (F to B) would rise 28 days after the solstice, and Sirius (F to C) 28 days after that, at the end of August and hence marking the end of summer and time to leave the mountain.

Which sounds quite complicated and interesting, but the diagram associated with it is not so promising

The cairns aren't exactly neat geometric points, and the resolution doesn't look much better than 5 degrees. And the cairn orientations don't seem to line up with their putative use as observation points. If Jack started with a list of stars significant to the Cheyenne and found things that lined up with each of them, I'd be OK with describing it as a rough-and-ready calendar--though not 100% convinced. If he got a list of stars that were "pointed at" and then went looking for which were significant, I'd be less convinced. "look elsewhere effect"

(*) Things that don't involve strenuous hikes, and preferably also no precipices.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Whole hog

That phrase. "I do not think it means what you think it means."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Memorable but unremembered

On I65 one of the side roads leads to Walesboro. That name always reminds me of the line in "A man for all seasons": "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?" Except, of course, that I generally only remember the last 3 words, and have to reconstruct the rest. It's a memorable line, but I can't remember it. I'm even worse at getting all the bits in order for the unforgettable passage that ends "Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

I've an excuse when an earworm of Hava Nagila turns into mud (or into Halva Nagila, or into Harvey and Sheila, or just repeats like a scratched record), since I never learned the actual words and my ear isn't tuned to pick out the phonemes of Hebrew.

But English is my native language. When my mind says "This is important; stuff it in one of the quick-access slots," how come half of it falls on the floor? I summon up a teaser or key line or executive summary, but most of the details are missing.


On I74 headed east to Indianapolis, there is a billboard touting the services of a law firm that promises to help you after an injury or similar loss. What caught my eye as I drove by was that they describe themselves as "an award-winning law firm."

Not "a case-winning law firm?" Or does that not matter until validated by some awards committee?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two timing

Back in high school I read a book by Eddington in which he was explaining space-time. In one section, he suggested that different universes, with different numbers of space and time dimensions, would be limited in the ways they could intersect: that you could have a portal from a universe with 3 space and 1 time to one with 3 time and 1 space, but not to one with 2 time and 2 space dimensions. To this day I have no idea why he thought that.

However, it left this science fiction fan with a nagging idea for a setting: suppose we had 2 time dimensions? What sorts of things could happen?

Solving that puzzle had to wait until I got around to working out some of the dynamics, and when I finally did it turned out some other folks had already been playing with the idea. Including Sharshakavili (sp) and somebody named Bars.

To solve the dynamics you first have to decide whether you can violate causality on a macroscopic level--can somehow make your grandfather decide to become a monk before he met your grandmother? (Never mind quantum non-causality; I don't think I want to go there right now.)

I said no, and used a framework like the one Einstein used but with two time coordinates. Then you run into the question--how do you interact with a photon that's running along a slightly different timeline?

Hmm. I guessed that you would still be able to see it--but there'd be some probability that you'd miss seeing it entirely.

That was even cooler--you automatically would have trouble seeing some of the matter in the universe--it would be dark to you.

Presumably near things are mostly on the same timeline, and you'd only start to get major differences far away. OK, so what would a photon look like that came from a distant galaxy with a different timeline?

Oops. It would have the same number of "vibrations" in what would look like a shorter time--meaning it would be blue-shifted. Distant galaxies are red-shifted due to the expansion of the universe, and apparently the expansion is increasing (unless the supernova distribution is wrong somehow), which would make the redshift stronger, not bluer.

Plus, the blue shift complicates energy conservation. I think there might be a way to finesse that, but without either blue-shifted light or disappearing photons I think it safe to say we don't have macroscopic extra time dimensions. I gave up on the study. (If somebody wants to play around with a sci-fi setting in which multiple timelines interleave, feel free.)

On the other hand, if you've got 10 dimensions curled up in M-theory, Dr. Bars suggests that you can spare one for an extra time dimensions. He uses a formalism that uses position and momentum in symmetric ways, and argues from that symmetry that there should be another time dimension. (I think.) Unfortunately I don't share his optimizm about CERN discovering supersymmetry anytime soon--or anytime at all, for that matter.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Doing good

From Sidelights:
What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism. It is comparatively of little consequence that you occasionally break out and abuse other people, so long as you do not absolve yourself. The former is a natural collapse of human weakness; the latter is a blasphemous assumption of divine power. And in the modern world, where everybody is quarrelling about the urgent necessity of peace, nobody notices how this notion has really poisoned the relations of nations and men.

Thus the Irishman would never have minded the English saying he was mad; or even that he was murderous and slanderous and cruel. There was something to be said for the assertion; and Irishmen were often ready, if not to admit it about themselves, at least to admit it about each other. The trouble began when the Englishman advanced the obviously ludicrous proposition that he himself was sane; that he was practical and sensible and well-balanced. No wonder a whole nation went wild at so fantastic a fancy as that.

What the Prussian said about the French or the other Latins was simply ignorance: the ignorance found only among the seriously educated. It was what the Prussian said about the Prussian, that made half the world smell afar off something that stank with spiritual pride.

The moral is the same about much milder and more amiable things; indeed it is rather specially true about mild and amiable things. The trouble with the philanthropist is not that he does not love all men moderately, but rather that he generally loves one man too well. And, contemplating the sort of philanthropist who is also an egoist, I am tempted to recommend him to try being a man-hater, that men may more easily love him. I am tempted to say to him: Hate men as a sort of holiday; beat and kick them for a reasonable interval; burn down their houses, in moderation, and lay waste all civilization within reasonable limits: But do not be kind merely to exhibit your own kindness; for that is an insult that is never forgiven.

When you are helping people, pray for a spirit of humility; I had almost said, when you are helping them, pray for an appearance of helplessness. The deadly word ‘patronage’ is, like so many such, a word that has decayed from a much nobler meaning. But in this sense we may find another significance in the old conception of patron saints. It may mean that a man has jolly well got to be a saint, before he ventures to be a patron.

Chesterton nodded a bit here: he did not predict the rise of pat-your-self-on-the-back-for-being-so-observant self-criticism.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Good ideas

One of the talks concentrated on how we should try to organize analyses, and not keep re-inventing the wheel. She showed lists of related analyses, and urged us to make sure that all code was in the repository and not private sandboxes. And that students should learn how to have their code reviewed.

All noble goals. (She has led a working group, is one of the young big names in the experiment, and is a pleasure to work with.)

However, several people who've trained more students than she pointed out a few problems. Part of the apprenticeship is to do some of the exercises yourself, and there's no better way to learn how to minimize a log likelihood function on a complicated data set than to do it yourself. And, then, when you want to try a full-blown analysis, you'll tend to use what you developed and understand the best.

Another problem is validation--are you sure you don't have some subtle bugs in your code or your procedures? They do a lot of cross-checking, but often there's no substitute for an independent analysis. Sam Ting tries to make sure that two independent analysis groups don't communicate with each other. He allegedly is the only one that sees both.

On the other hand, my analyses over the years would have been improved by some better coding practices and review. I kept a record of all my coding errors over a year, and found that the plurality were cut-and-paste errors. She's quite right about that.

And private code from somebody's sandbox is hard to maintain, or re-use when the student has graduated and somebody else wants to process a couple more years' data.


One of the talks was on the possibility of seeing solar flares with the IceCube neutrino detector. That might seem a little counter-intuitive: how do big magnetic disturbances manage to make neutrinos?

A plasma with a magnetic field in it will carry that magnetic field around with it as it moves. (The magnetic field acts on the plasma and the plasma acts on the magnetic field--plasma physics is hard.) So far so good--the plasma erupts from the Sun, and carries some of the Sun's magnetic field with it. Think of it stretching those field lines further out into space.

But it turns out there's a lot of turbulence there too, so the plasma sometimes gets whirled around on itself. What happens when the magnetic field lines cross?

You get what you might think of as a magnetic short circuit. The magnetic field "lines" join and shift--quite rapidly. And this happens over a fairly sizeable chunk of space.

A rapidly changing magnetic field produces an electric field (and vice versa, of course). So out in the middle of Nowhereville-By-The-Sun, a bit of the flying plasma experiences a strong electric field. The protons move one way, the electrons another. Most of them bounce off other things and slow down and go back to balancing each other's charge eventually, but some luck out and keep getting accelerated (remember that the reconnection region can be large). Acceleration over a long distance builds up speed.

Some of those protons (electrons tend to get scattered away more easily) head out in our direction, and eventually may hit the Earth's magnetic field and spiral in to be part of an aurora.

The protons of interest here head back to the Sun, where some of them smash into another nucleus. Those kinds of smashes usually produce pions, and the charged pions eventually decay into a muon and a few neutrinos. And we can maybe see some of those neutrinos. They aren't terribly high energy, but they're higher energy than those usually produced in the Sun--maybe 10 times higher.

It's ironic--neutrinos produced in the center of the Sun are ordinary low-ish energy, but those produced on the outside during flares can be quite a bit peppier. I can't think of any everyday examples, but I notice that boiling water in a pot only really splashes you when bubbles reach the surface and pop. The pop can really fling hot water around. Remember boiling something dry too fast back in chemistry class, and getting "bumping?"

We expect similar sorts of things to happen, but on even larger scales, when the blast wave from a supernova crashes into interstellar gas. Some of the neutrinos IceCube detected were over 10,000,000 times more energetic than ordinary solar neutrinos.

Thursday, May 04, 2017


It isn't a great secret, though the latest negatives haven't been officially published. I suspect we won't have a smoking gun unless/until a Gamma Ray Burster or supernova lets loose in our galaxy. IceCube is designed to detect higher energy neutrinos than a supernova is likely to produce in its explosion, though the resulting shock wave hitting matter nearby is another matter.

Yes, I know it's odd, but the reactions that produce the supernova explosion are supposed to be the ordinary nuclear ones. When the shock wave from the blast (with magnetic field embedded) later interacts with gas (expelled from the star years before), the resulting interactions can accelerate particles to extremely high energies.

What that means, if I understand the matter correctly, is that the most likely neutrinos are too weak to ring up unless there are boat-loads of them, and we'll only get boat-loads if the source is close. And we might have to wait a while for the really high energy stuff to show up, since it isn't produced right away. And even longer for the protons and other nuclei to arrive. (If a source 50,000 light-years away produces iron nuclei whose trajectory is bent a mere three degrees, they'll arrive over three months after the light and neutrinos do. And we don't know in any detail what the magnetic field are out there, so we can't predict when.)

So we see GRBs in other detectors (SWIFT), but don't see anything out of the ordinary in IceCube. So far. Maybe there's an unnoticed glitch in the analyses: I'm not in a position to tell. I just sit through the talks, which show large p-values after unblinding.

There are plenty of things we can do, but some of the tantalizing problems are staying that way.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


You presumably pick elders as leaders because experience has given those of them willing to learn some perspective, an understanding of what patience means, some sense of proportion, and accumulated knowledge. Not that we have a habit of doing that in this country, but think about organizations of smaller scale than the state, and you may see instances of what I mean.

You'd also hope that habits of virtue would provide some inertia against the pulls of temptations.

Maybe they do--somewhat. But I suppose that power has its own set of temptations that most of us haven't been exposed to: to listen to sycophants, to be flattered by groupies, to come to enjoy arbitrary exercise of power. But history and literature (and, sometimes, our acquaintances) are full of the theme of a worker/conqueror who builds a fortune/dominates an empire only to have the children/grandchildren (born to power) fritter it all away. (Yes, I know I'm defining virtue a bit widely when talking about warlords, but they have to have at least some self-discipline and courage.)

I'm not sure there's a simple and robust way to survey this. If, for example, you looked at the history of family businesses, you might have some difficulty, from outside the family, in distinguishing mere lack of skill from carelessness.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Google translate

I gather that Google Translate has had an upgrade. I've had a favorite text to hit it with, a narration on the subject of the use of jargon. I follow Twain's lead of turning it into French and then English again. Experience on the Feverish Hornet was written by a contemporary of Twain's. It is not even remotely a fair challenge to any automatic translation system.

Google Translate did a better job than last time. Last time the English version still had chunks of French embedded.

"Yes, that's the way it is," Woodtick Williams said carefully as he looked up the high end where the eternal snow was shining in the summer sun.

"You are eminently correct, Mr. Buckskin has stated the exact opinion of the subscriber, safely, as a death and semi-annual evaluations.

"Each trade has its own style of lead and its particular plunge towards the horizon, from the high congressman to the neglected forward agent of the eternal gospel, each trade, I allow, has its own jargon. Pork and Bean Pilgrim States that have stayed in my camp for twenty-seven years said that the miner made more professional snowshoes useless than anyone else, but that is not the case. Take people testing, From flowering to the lower level, T much difference.

"Nine years ago, I and Timberline Monroe and Katooter Lemons of Zion hit the Feverish Hornet on Slippery Ellum. First of all, we knew that the prospecting season had closed and that, The surface had dragged, We decided to sink on the Hornet, just for luck.

"Then Timberline, Katooter and I went to Huckleberry Oleson's store at the lower camp and soaked our face for chuck, tanning the valley and a blastin 'outfit for work.

"Down five feet, she showed 150 colors to a piece of rock no bigger," a bottom plug, with well-defined wall rocks on both sides and a mucous wall like a trusted game at Frisco.

"The quartz, with a slight layer of gouge, seemed to have been blocked by the formation as a Sabbath-school scholar's elbow through an English cream pie, and it had crushed the prehistoric sawdust and Pre-adamite out of the geological crust in good shape.

"Katooter," I say, "if it manifests itself this way all along the way, I will be quite dodbuttered if I do not think we have stuck the sugar finally.We will run up ten feet And see how she looks with the naked eye.

"Ten feet wide, it widens to three feet between the walls, with a solid gray quartz as pretty as a bank notebook, and then we made a five-pound mill in a half-gallon mortar and cleared A dollar of dust on the blade of a long-time hand shovel.

"The Feverish Hornet prospectus was very encouraging.

"I sat on a candle and I sang something. I always have a few notes when I feel tickled on anything.

"Katooter listened to my singing a bit and then we went down the goulash whisper something about my music and pointed out that prosperity always had its little drawbacks after all.

"He slipped to the Fresco Hell and stuck his old red-spotted skin, so full of 49 vintage horse flags that he completely fell away from the head and walked away into the poverty of Rocks he did not know Timberline nor me from A pump in the stomach.

"This is generally the case with men who raise their noses to vocal music.

"Well, he did not improve so quickly that the next day he occupied a front seat at the largest triangular matinee of delirium you have ever heard of and was the sole owner of the largest aggregation of marbled tarantula and Of imported caterpillars and centipedes which has already been exposed in the Columbia Fair Field.

"All the time, he knotted a devilish insect crawling his sleeve or gently brushing his hair, then shouting like a maniac and praying and swearing like a man hired.

"The atmosphere seemed to be full of buzz as big as a stove, and whenever they cuddled or slipped it with their little stifling gimlets, Katooter would jump and rummage like a Piute's cure trying to soften a big waste Of turbulent cucumber.

"At that time Katooter would put his wardrobe and throw me in the fireplace and Timerline under the bed, he would go out in the light of the stars, with the thermometer up to 37 degrees, and would be wrapped only in his growing thoughts.

"As Timberline and I would get up and gobble up the cobwebs and the ashes of our eyes, Katooter would be halfway to the ravine and would light up like a Greek slave hunting for a clothing store.

"First we ran after him and tried to pull him out and frame him, but he was too impenetrable, and apparently so allied to the anguish of putting as much distance as he could between him and the tarantulas Blurry and falling style of centipedes, which he made quite a long time, considering the worst trail and light air of the mountain.

"Then, another thing: when we got to him, it was so embarrassing to hang on.

"You've probably tried before, when you were little, catch the boy who tied your shirt to the upper limb of a dead tree, and you put all of your energy into the effort, but you decided after a while d 'Until he took his clothes before punishing him.

"That's how it was with Katooter, he was the smartest man I'd ever tried to collect in the fold, we think we had it, and suddenly it slipped between our legs like a yaller dog And laughed wild A little laughter that would run the thermometer down 13 degrees, and far, he would read the trail as a red right head.

"Then I finally got angry, and I chased him with a lariat and a yellow fever.

"Yellow fever was a tinnitus mule that belonged to the company. It was called yellow fever because it was so fatal.

"Well, when Yellow Fever and I followed Katooter with the lariat, we always gathered it in - [Bless my soul, how long I twist this thread.]

"Well, to make a long story, Katooter rallied after a while, and during the spell, his chilblains were convalescent, and a newer skin was becoming on his system where he had slaughtered it by the midwife and Falling into the old abandoned holes, I had an offer of $ 50,000 for my third in the Feverish Hornet and sold.

"Then I went to Truckee and bought a small house from an old railroad there, and I stopped for the winter, and I was allowed to withdraw until the Snow remained in the spring.

"One night, about half after 12 years, I judge, I heard someone walking in the window of my boudoir. When I heard that night, I counted that something twisted Passed, so I slipped out of bed and I had my Great Blood Searcher and Liver Purifier, with the new style of central fire and cartridge ejector, and slid towards the window, calculating to push a tonic In which one could be who was picnicking around my request.

"I looked so as to have a good idea of where I wanted to run over him, and then I thought that before mutilating him I asked him if he had a choice on the part of his bowels that 'He wanted to preserve, then I sang it:

"Look below, pard, for I'll call the meeting to order in a minute!" Rise your hands, please, and make the great sign of distress, or I'll have to mutilate you! "And where you would like to have the fatal wound, and be judicious, because I have my brief costume and the evening air is cold!"

"He did not understand me, apparently, for a gurgling laugh from below, and the festival reaps:

"Hullo, Fatty, is it you?" I just saw if you had shot at it again. "You know I had to bring you back if the second seven was gone." Well, I went to the old man. Three are two hours late and four are on time, there are two sevens and two sections of nine, Skinney will take out the first seven and Shorty will train him with 102. It's you and me For the second seven, with Limber Jim on the front and Frenchy to keep the caboose.The first fire is bad side in a wash on this side of Ogallalla, and the old Whatshisname who runs 258 got his Crown leaf ceded And tetrapped his headlights in the middle of New Jerusalem.You know the little Swede who used to run extra for Old Hotbox on the emigrant for a while? Well, he was shooting the 258 and he was under three Apartments and a tank of coal oil with a brake beam s Its coupler, and its system more or less relaxed. He went on to sweet then too. The rest of the boys are more or less demoralized, Follow-up for repairs. Now you do not want to do monkey too much, because if you do not mind like six bits and go out on the tick, the old man will give you a time check and the big eastern bounce. You hear the sweet trill of my bazoo?

I slowly took off the Blood Purifier and moved to the street lamps where the silver rays of the moon could touch my dazzling outlines, I said," Partner, I'm glad and grateful to have met you. I do not know the first ding I am an ordinary miner, and my house is the digestive apparatus of the earth, but for the professional chin melody, you certainly take the cake. You also take the gesture. The cake basket and the cold pie on the spill. My name is Woodtick Williams. I discovered the Feverish Hornet on Slippery Elm. I'm proud, you know. Continue to become more familiar with your profession and by and by whom, when no one can understand you, you will be promoted and respected, and you will finally be a sleepy car driver, and you will enjoy the greatest mental calm and Margin of intellectual stagnation that has never seen the world. ---- '

"But he was gone.

"Then I took a pillow shield and wiped cracked spray on the soles of my feet, and I went to bed, wrapped in a big mouth."<\P>

"Oui, c'est ainsi", a déclaré Woodtick Williams avec attention, alors qu'il regardait vers le haut de gamme où la neige éternelle brillait au soleil d'été.

"Vous êtes éminemment correct. Le monsieur de Buckskin a déclaré l'opinion exacte de l'abonné, en toute sécurité, comme une mort et des évaluations semestrielles.

"Chaque métier a son style de plomb et son plongeon particulier vers l'horizon. Du haut membre du Congrès, jusqu'à l'agent avancé négligé de l'évangile éternel, chaque métier, je le permets, a son jargon particulier. Chaque pèlerin de porc et de haricots Des États qui ont séjourné dans mon camp pendant vingt-sept ans ont dit que le mineur faisait plus de raquette professionnelle inutile que quiconque, mais ce n'est pas le cas. Prenez les gens en train de tester, de la floraison au niveau inférieur, T beaucoup de différence.

"Il y a neuf ans, I et Timberline Monroe et Katooter Lemons, de Zion, ont frappé le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Ellum. Tout d'abord, nous savions que la saison de prospection s'est fermée et que, comme la disposition de la surface avait traînée , Nous avons décidé de couler sur le Hornet, juste pour la chance.

"Alors Timberline, Katooter et moi sommes allés au magasin de Huckleberry Oleson au camp inférieur et avons trempé notre physionomie pour le chuck, le bronzage de la vallée et une blastin 'outfit pour le travail.

"En bas de cinq pieds, elle a montré 150 couleurs à un morceau de roche pas plus grand", un bouchon de fond, avec des roches murales bien définies des deux côtés et une muqueuse murale comme un jeu de confiance à Frisco.

"Le quartz, avec une légère couche de gouge, avait l'air d'avoir été bloqué par la formation comme un coude d'érudit du sabbat-école à travers une tarte à la crème anglaise, et il avait écrasé la sciure préhistorique et pré-adamite hors de la Croûte géologique en bonne forme.

"Katooter", dis-je, "si elle se manifeste de cette façon tout au long de la voie, je serai tout à fait dodbuttered si je ne pense pas que nous avons coincé le sucre enfin. Nous allons courir jusqu'à dix pieds et voir Comment elle regarde à l'œil nu.

"Dix pieds de pied, elle s'élargit à trois pieds entre les murs, avec un quartz gris solide aussi joli qu'un carnet de banque. Ensuite, nous avons fait un moulin de cinq livres dans un mortier de demi gallon et avons dégagé un dollar de poussière sur la lame D'une pelle à main longue durée.

"Le prospectus de Feverish Hornet était très encourageant.

"Je me suis assis sur une bougie et j'ai chanté quelque chose. J'ai toujours quelques notes quand je me sens chatouillé sur n'importe quoi.

"Katooter a écouté mon chant un peu, puis nous avons descendu le goulache murmurer quelque chose au sujet de ma musique et souligné que la prospérité avait toujours ses petits inconvénients après tout.

"Il a glissé vers l'Enfer Fresco et a coincé sa vieille peau de taches de rousse, si pleine de drapeaux de cheval du millésime de 49 qu'il s'est complètement éloigné de la tête et s'est éloigné dans la pauvreté des roches qu'il ne connaissait pas Timberline ni moi de Une pompe à l'estomac.

"C'est généralement le cas avec les hommes qui montent leur nez à la musique vocale.

"Eh bien, il ne s'est pas amélioré si rapidement que le lendemain, il occupait un siège avant à la plus grande matinee triangulaire de delirium dont vous avez déjà entendu parler et était le seul propriétaire de la plus grande agrégation de tarentules marbrés et de chenilles et de mille-pattes importées Qui a déjà été exposé dans le domaine équitable de Columbia.

"Tout le temps, il nouait un insecte diabolique qui rampait sa manche ou passait doucement ses cheveux, puis il criait comme un maniaque et priait et jurait comme un homme embauché.

"L'atmosphère semblait être pleine de bourdonnements aussi grand qu'une cuisinière, et chaque fois qu'ils le câlassaient ou l'enfilaient avec leurs petits gimlets étouffants, Katooter sauterait et se fouillerait comme un remède de Piute essayant de Assouplir un gros gaspillage de concombre turbulent.

"A cette époque, Katooter mettrait sa garde-robe et me jetterait dans la cheminée et Timerline sous le lit, il sortirait dans la lumière des étoiles, avec le thermomètre jusqu'à 37 degrés, et ne serait enveloppé que dans ses pensées croissantes.

"Au moment où Timberline et moi se lèveraient et engluçaient les toiles d'araignées et les cendres de nos yeux, Katooter serait à mi-chemin du ravin et s'allumerait comme une esclave grecque sardin chasse pour un magasin de vêtements.

"Tout d'abord, nous courions après lui et essayions de l'arracher et de l'encadrer, mais il était trop impénétrable, et apparemment tellement allié à l'angoisse de mettre toute la distance qu'il pouvait entre lui et les tarentules floues et la chute Style de mille-pattes, qu'il a fait un temps assez long, compte tenu du pire sentier et de l'air léger de la montagne.

"Ensuite, une autre chose: quand on est arrivé à lui, il était tellement gênant de s'accrocher.

"Vous avez probablement essayé auparavant, lorsque vous étiez petit, attraper le garçon qui a attaché votre chemise au membre supérieur d'un arbre mort, et vous avez mis toute votre énergie dans l'effort, mais vous avez décidé après un certain temps d'attendre Jusqu'à ce qu'il ait pris ses vêtements avant de le punir.

"C'est comme ça avec Katooter. Il était l'homme le plus intelligent que j'avais déjà essayé de rassembler dans le pli. Nous pensons que nous l'avions, et tout à coup il glissait entre nos jambes comme un chien yaller et riait sauvage Un peu de rire qui courrait le thermomètre en bas de 13 degrés, et loin, il lirait le sentier comme un droit de tête rouge.

"Alors je me suis fâché enfin, et je l'ai poursuivi avec un lariat et une fièvre jaune.

"La fièvre jaune était une mule d'acouphène qui appartenait à l'entreprise. On l'appelait Fièvre jaune parce qu'il était si funeste.

"Eh bien, quand Yellow Fever et moi avons suivi Katooter avec le lariat, nous l'avons toujours rassemblé dans - [Bénis mon âme, combien de temps je tord ce fil.]

"Bien, pour faire une longue histoire, Katooter s'est rallié après un certain temps, et pendant le sortilège, ses chilblains étaient convalescents, et une peau plus nouvelle devenait sur son système où il l'avait abattu par la sage-brush et tombant dans l'ancien Des trous abandonnés, j'ai eu une offre de 50 000 $ pour mon troisième dans le Feverish Hornet et vendu.

"Puis je suis allé à Truckee et j'ai acheté une petite maison d'un vieux chemin de fer là-bas, et je me suis arrêtée pour l'hiver, et j'ai autorisé à me retirer jusqu'à ce que la neige soit restée au printemps.

"Une nuit, environ la moitié après 12 ans, je juge, j'ai entendu quelqu'un se promener dans la fenêtre de mon boudoir. En l'entendant à cette nuit-là, j'ai compté que quelque chose de tordu se passait, alors je me suis glissé du lit et j'ai eu mon Great Blood Searcher et Liver Purifier, avec le nouveau style de l'incendie central et de l'éjecteur de cartouche, et glissé vers la fenêtre, calculant pour pousser un tonique dans celui qui pourrait être qui faisait le pique-nique autour de ma demande.

"J'ai regardé de manière à avoir une bonne idée de l'endroit où je voulais couler sur lui, et alors je pensais que, avant de le mutiler, je lui demandais s'il avait le choix sur la partie de ses entrailles qu'il voulait préserver, alors Je l'ai chanté:

"Regarde ci-dessous, pard, car je vais appeler la réunion à l'ordre dans une minute! Lève-toi les mains, s'il te plaît, et fait le grand signe de détresse, ou je vais devoir te mutiler ! Montrez-moi où vous aimeriez avoir la blessure mortelle, et soyez aussi judicieux, parce que j'ai mon bref costume et que l'air du soir est froid!

"Il ne m'a pas compris, apparemment, pour un rire gargouillant venu d'en bas, et la fête récolte:

"'Hullo, Fatty, est-ce toi? Je viens de voir si tu avais encore tiré dessus. Tu sais que je devais te rapporter si le second sept était sorti. Eh bien, je suis allé au vieil homme Pour voir ce qui se passe dans le tableau. Trois sont deux heures en retard et quatre sont à l'heure. Il y a deux sevens et deux sections de neuf. Skinney va sortir les sept premières et Shorty l'entraînera avec 102. C'est toi et moi pour Le deuxième sept, avec Limber Jim sur le devant et Frenchy pour maintenir le caboose. Le premier feu est mauvais côté dans un lavage de ce côté d'Ogallalla, et le vieux Whatshisname qui exécute 258 a obtenu sa feuille de la Couronne a cédé et a tétrapé ses phares au milieu De la Nouvelle Jérusalem. Vous connaissez le petit Suédois qui avait l'habitude de courir en supplément pour Old Hotbox sur l'émigrant pendant un certain temps? Eh bien, il tirait le 258 et il était sous trois appartements et un réservoir d'huile de charbon avec un faisceau de frein sur son coupleur, Et son système plus ou moins décontracté. Il est allé au doux ensuite aussi. Le reste des garçons sont plus ou moins démoralisés, Suivi pour les réparations. Maintenant, vous ne voulez pas trop faire du singe, car si vous ne vous occupez pas comme six bits et sortez sur la tique, le vieil homme vous donnera une vérification du temps et le grand rebond oriental. Vous entendez le trille doux de mon bazoo?

"Ensuite, j'ai décollé lentement le Purificateur de sang et je me suis déplacé vers les lampadaires où les rayons de lune argentés pouvaient retoucher mes contours éblouissants, j'ai dit:" Partenaire, je suis content et gratifié de vous avoir rencontré. Je ne connais pas le premier ding Je suis un mineur ordinaire, et ma maison est l'appareil digestif de la terre, mais pour la mélodie professionnelle du menton, vous prenez certainement le gâteau. Vous prenez également le geste. Le panier de gâteau et la tarte froide sur le déversement. Je m'appelle Woodtick Williams. J'ai découvert le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Elm. Je suis fier, vous savez. Continuez à mieux vous familiariser avec votre profession et par et Par qui, quand personne ne peut vous comprendre, vous serez promu et respecté, et vous serez finalement un conducteur de voiture endormi, et vous délecterez du plus grand calme mental et d'une grande marge de stagnation intellectuelle qui n'a jamais vu le monde. ---- '

"Ensuite, j'ai décollé lentement le Purificateur de sang et je me suis déplacé vers les lampadaires où les rayons de lune argentés pouvaient retoucher mes contours éblouissants, j'ai dit:" Partenaire, je suis content et gratifié de vous avoir rencontré. Je ne connais pas le premier ding Je suis un mineur ordinaire, et ma maison est l'appareil digestif de la terre, mais pour la mélodie professionnelle du menton, vous prenez certainement le gâteau. Vous prenez également le geste. Le panier de gâteau et la tarte froide sur le déversement. Je m'appelle Woodtick Williams. J'ai découvert le Feverish Hornet sur Slippery Elm. Je suis fier, vous savez. Continuez à mieux vous familiariser avec votre profession et par et Par qui, quand personne ne peut vous comprendre, vous serez promu et respecté, et vous serez finalement un conducteur de voiture endormi, et vous délecterez du plus grand calme mental et d'une grande marge de stagnation intellectuelle qui n'a jamais vu le monde. ---- '

"Mais il était parti.

"Ensuite, j'ai pris un cache-oreiller et essuyé des craquelins pulvérisés sur les semelles de mes pieds, et je me suis couché, enveloppé dans une grande gueule."

Heads you lose

Surgeon plans human head transplant, revival of frozen brain.

I've seen this story in several different places so far, mostly with a "headline as a question." Reports are that there are plenty of volunteers for a head transplant. The surgeon says the first human trial will be in China in about ten months. He has grand visions: "I am also performing this operation to prove or refute that our consciousness is created by the brain." The OOOM article ends with his statement " I am for life, I believe in life." This jars a bit, in light of "In a few months, we will sever a body from a head in an unprecedented medical procedure. In this phase, there is no life activity – not in the brain, not anywhere else in the body. The patient is dead, clinically dead."

In other words, the donor will die. Since this is scheduled for China, you can probably guess who's elected.

I don't know if the reporter was selective in picking objectors, but most of the objections were "This can't be done" and not "This is wrong."

Coincidentally, I ran across a Dungeons and Dragons anecdote I'd never heard before: the "Head of Vecna".

Friday, April 28, 2017

Linseed oil

I decided to try to finish a garden seat with linseed oil, just to see how well it worked. I don't think I'll be trying it again. The drying time is way too long in our garage in the spring--of order a week. So far it looks nice, though.

Used rags are supposed to be stored under water so they don't catch fire--the stuff doesn't so much dry as react, and if there's inadequate air circulation the result can be very bad. So I dumped rags in the (enclosed and freestanding) firepit on the "who cares" plan. So far no flames. Next time I'll try wadding it up.

While looking up details, I found that poor King Tut seems to have had a little run-in with the stuff--his mummy wrapping were apparently soaked in it but not allowed to dry. I'm not sure if the researchers got a positive ID on the oil in this particular case, but apparently it was one of the standard treatments. I should try their little experiment. I'll let a tight ball of soggy rags stand in for a mummy.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


I saw some kids learning how to serve the volleyball yesterday, and as two tried to hit their balls over the net (one successfully), it occurred to me that the game is misnamed. There's no volley involved.

We could fix that. Two, or maybe three, serve at once, and your side loses a point if any hit the ground--or if you knock one out of bounds. Everybody has to be on their toes, including the scorer (did serve 1 hit the ground on your side before serve 3 went out of bounds?). The servers would, of course, try to overwhelm a position on the other side, so you'd need more players. And the strategy gets a bit more complex too--do you bat one in the air a bit longer so you can followup one ball that pulls the other team to one side with a ball to the other side?

Three balls might be too many, but..

Sometimes I write and then look things up. It turns out something like this is used a drill, except that each side serves at the same time instead of one side serving twice. Or thrice.


There's a collaboration meeting next week, with some pre-meetings starting Saturday. Some of the people coming into town want to spend Friday playing board games, and others want to do rock or wall climbing. I suggested they combine the two. Imagine teams playing checkers on a climbing wall. Diagonal moves would be hard, but captures would be amusing.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


You've probably heard of Caldwell's review of Christophe Guilluy's work trying to explain what caused the fissures in French society. A crude summary is that globalization and the "information economy" left the working class un/under-employed and made the centers so expensive that they were pushed out to the "periphery," often literally. (Periphery in particular means distance from the active economy, but high housing prices mean that this is "away from Paris" as well.) The housing built for the working class now houses immigrants and second generations of immigrants, who work cheaper, but are often hostile. The successful class is essentially oblivious--everyone they know is doing fine, and they enjoy life just fine.
While rich Parisians may not miss the presence of the middle class, they do need people to bus tables, trim shrubbery, watch babies, and change bedpans. Immigrants—not native French workers—do most of these jobs. Why this should be so is an economic controversy. Perhaps migrants will do certain tasks that French people will not—at least not at the prevailing wage. Perhaps employers don’t relish paying €10 an hour to a native Frenchman who, ten years earlier, was making €20 in his old position and has resentments to match. Perhaps the current situation is an example of the economic law named after the eighteenth-century French economist Jean-Baptiste Say: a huge supply of menial labor from the developing world has created its own demand.


Upwardly mobile urbanites, observes Guilluy, call Paris “the land of possibilities,” the “ideapolis.” One is reminded of Richard Florida and other extollers of the “Creative Class.” The good fortune of Creative Class members appears (to them) to have nothing to do with any kind of capitalist struggle. Never have conditions been more favorable for deluding a class of fortunate people into thinking that they owe their privilege to being nicer, or smarter, or more honest, than everyone else. Why would they think otherwise? They never meet anyone who disagrees with them.

That may sound somewhat familiar, and the article makes the connections, but the focus is on France and its unique situation.

One line struck me: "French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency."

I hear an echo of another famous delusion current a century ago: elan, "offensive á l'outrance." I hope the consequences of this delusion are not so deadly.

Both the new and old attitude seem essentially religious, both with the volk as the god. "We are too pious and good for bad things to happen to us." Of course "common decency" can be made into an extremely low bar.

I work in one of those elite groups: an international collaboration at a world-class university: knowledge-based and cosmopolitan. The folks here are smart and honest, and by and large extremely nice people. "Nice" is not the same as "good," but from inside the bubble it is easy to make that mistake.