Sunday, May 29, 2011


I'm 99.9999% sure that without some media bigwigs wanting a story to mock Christians, I'd have never heard of Camping's predictions.

I heard his radio station once while driving in Illinois. The first thing I heard was a program with a perfectly orthodox exegesis of a chunk of 2Kings, then a little Christian music that didn't involve distortion pedals, and then a dead serious elaboration (without explanation or attempt at proof, BTW) of the contention that the Spirit had left the church 10 years before and so should all true Christians.

I tuned in something else at that point. As I drove along I wondered if this was any weirder than praying to Mary(*), or more dangerous than the "say this prayer and walk down this aisle and you're safe forever." I still haven't decided, but it was obvious that this fellow's followers would be hurting.

I had no idea of the name of the host and no inclination to find it again, but I discovered last week whose it was.

I think part of the Camping affair is that we don't treat prophecy seriously enough. I don't call for rocks outside the city, but it would be good if someone who claims to predict the future and fails repeatedly (like Camping) or proclaims what God actually intended by some calamity (like several people we all know who "explained" 911 or Katrina) could be formally denounced as false.(**) Warn members against people who claim to know the future--"test!"

(*) I remember hearing on the radio during Lent a prayer to God to please listen to Mary when she prays for us. My first (and second) thought was: If He's already affectionately listening to you, why not talk to Him instead of trying a carom shot?

Yes, I still listen to Relevant Radio. I learn a lot, and a lot is bemusing, and some is off (I turn off Hail Marys). There seem to be a lot of subcultures involved here. Their afternoon talk host is a noisy sort who likes his own voice and talks about "powerful prayer" in a magical way, and their morning host is a mild-mannered convert who makes the guests do all the talking. Some of the speakers are pastoral sorts, some more scholarly, and some seem a little misinformed. And I gather that Marian devotion is optional.

(**)Of course some denominations tend to use such systems for political denunciations--which is itself a form of false prophecy, and certainly is taking God's name in vain.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


In typical breathless fashion we are told that "Students who struggle with math may have a neurocognitive disorder called dyscalculia". There's even a research paper written about it (be still, my beating heart!).

They use MRI studies of the brains of people doing or struggling with math, and find differences. Given how plastic the brain is, it would hardly be a surprise to find differences between people who have trained pathways working and those who don't.

Seriously--why must the first impulse on discovering something in the human condition be to medicalize it? It seems positively diabolic--any weakness means you must be handed over to the doctors who, even if they cannot cure, will at least charge.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Air France Flight

So now we know. As expected, the pitot tubes must have iced up--but then the copilot did something even I know not to do. It isn't the most important rule in flight--I think "Land wheel side down" is tops on the list--but "if you stall, nose down" is something I thought was drummed into pilots from the start. But he nosed up. And apparently the other copilot did the same (or at least he didn't get it right either), and the pilot didn't have time to take control.

Of course if I were in the cockpit I'd have had to spend a dozen minutes figuring out what did what and have been below the waves long before I figured out how to get the thing into manual mode.

At this point I start wondering about the user interface. I have to assume the pilots were competent, and tolerably familiar with the controls. If so, then what they thought they were doing didn't match what was actually happening. Either the instruments lied to them, or their operation was misleading. If you are trained to use a computer interface that hides the details of the flight model from you--where you can say "Go there" and it goes--that interface hides the breakdown of the model from you. Did they have an interface that would tell the computer to tell the plane to "climb" by pointing up?

Or, pilot's union protests to the contrary, they might have been stoned to the gills. Flights are supposed to be boring...

Friday, May 20, 2011

SF Fans

At dinner tonight Youngest Daughter described the three new bunnies at the barn, and Better Half suggested they have the names Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Youngest Son interjected: "I get the reference. That's from Silent Running."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can blogging be permanent?

Seizing on a notion at the end of one of AVI's posts, I got to thinking about how you could make something more connected, and perhaps more useful, and (fond hope) more permanent from blog posts. Otherwise, as AVI says, "each passing year sends them further down the chute."

To make posts somewhat less ephemeral requires that we organize them differently.

Some bloggers put a "best post" list in the sidebar--simple but limited. Suppose we took the time to evaluate our posts and make weighted indexes like that for all of them we thought worth the light of day.

It might be possible to generate various tree views easily if Blogger allowed categories to have 3 values: name (already there), relevance to this post ("this is tangential" you would record as near 0, "main subject" record as near 100), and your own estimation of the quality of the work (0=please don't look at this, 100=I think I'm Shakespeare). Assign default values of "50"--only the name is necessary. A 4'th number might be a relative organizer not related to quality; as in "read this first, this second, etc."

If the reader clicked on a subject category you could show a list of posts you think the best you've done in that subject, organized by quality. Or you could display a tree of posts, with the list from the selected category as the trunk and things you think more or less related as branches. Or you could create a "book" of posts, with some kind of sidebar showing where the current post is within the book.

If you find your thinking has evolved on a topic, instead of deleting the old post you leave it here for history's sake and display a "see this other post" link whenever the old link is in a list.

There's no getting around the need for time and thought if you want it organized--no google algorithm will help us.

The reader must be able to bypass any of this for a "show the most recent" view. Always be kind to faithful readers.

A different approach to malaria?

Instead of spraying insecticide, perhaps we could spray water with bacteria? As usual, more research is needed to verify the effect and see what the side effects might be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Old Man River

Those 100-year floods come fairly often, don't they? The gaussian distribution isn't a good fit for the tails, I guess--underestimates them by quite a lot.

One of these days will come the inevitable, and it might be smart to think about where the new port ought to be. It would be even smarter to start figuring out how to channel the river to prepare for that day, and have facilities ready for a controlled relocation, but that's probably politically impossible. Too many oxen will get gored, and the inevitable corruption surrounding a new port city (especially in Louisiana) would make it too easy a target to shut down. And can you hear the unending laments that we must not lose a historic American city? They might even call it a "great city," though aside from the port I'm not sure it has been that in a long time. Even the great New Orleans culture seems more nostalgic than lively. I might be missing something, since I don't live there, but from the reports I've heard Katrina disrupted the critical mass.

Ancient meals

We have a few cookbooks detailing medieval recipes. The authors reconstructed the dishes as best they could from the old manuals; trying to figure out what "well mixed" might mean in this context or what in the foggy blue morning some untranslated ingredient name could be. There are some Roman recipes around, though they also suffer from the same weights-and-measures/ingredient-name problems.

We have some notion of what the entertainment was at the king's banquets, but not so much on how the less money-heavy dined. Such is history, I suppose; nobody generally thinks to record what a family reunion dinner is like: though we do have Bruegel for a wedding. Its only 500 years old, but is probably close enough to stand for the previous few centuries.

One little missing detail that makes a huge difference in how everybody felt the next morning is "How was the cleanup done?"

Friday, May 06, 2011


Some years ago we got Rosetta Stone German for Youngest Son. He swiftly went beyond it, and since I'm supposed to go to Berlin in June I figured I should try to get some use out of it myself. It is sort of an elementary courtesy to take a stab at the language of the land you're in.

And now I've got a sore throat. Germans seem to be inordinately fond of consonants, and unwilling to be French about them--they pronounce every single one. Except for CH which sometimes seems like a cross between Y and SH, and sometimes sounds like they're gargling rattlesnakes.

And those drills--I grant that they're well thought out and useful, but I'm going to dream of landing in Berlin and seeing bus routes that read "Das weiss auto ist blau." Or "Das schwartz Obertail isst Pferden." Or something.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Achieving School Safety

When I came to pick up my sick son at school, the office desk bore a sign that read We ID For School Safety. I think it would be more effective to SuperEgo For School Safety.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden

Assuming the reports are true, then this is good news--an enemy leader dead, a hint that the Pakistani military was sympathetic, the possibility of uncertainty among the enemy about whether there was a traitor, and so on. Of course the ISI will be angry, and we'll be told that Laden is now a "martyr," but since he was already a rallying point the martyr business doesn't actually change anything.

If I'm to take Job 31:29 at all seriously, I can't break out the fireworks. The people who've been searching for years may celebrate their success as they please; their effort and blood have earned a commemoration and a "well done." But I'm on the sidelines and in me the same celebration would be blood lust.

So--good news, good hunting, and may the Lord have mercy on the wretch's soul.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Not disruptive.