Thursday, June 30, 2011


I have always hated hearing a parent tell his child "God says 'Children obey your parents' " when a dispute arose. True though it is (and the kids would be wise to follow that command), when the father (or mother) called God in on his side at such a time it seemed to me to take God's name in vain. It is disproportionate and offensive. The time to teach that law is when all is well and the kids are already obeying. Then the command is learned happily and with its promise from the Lord, and not as a tool in the hands of the mother.

The man who flashes a fat roll of large bills and tells me "Thou shalt not covet" is not warning me for my benefit but for his. The parent also seems to be teaching for his benefit and not for the child's.

The same principle applies to the admonitions that a wife should submit to her husband. The SBC made an issue of it and--quelle surprise--apparently a non-negligible number of men decided to use it as a club with which to browbeat their wives.

Suppose we let women teach such a rule, and men keep their mouths shut on the subject. And likewise, women not pester men to lay down their lives for them, but let men warn other men "Why don't you do right, like some other men do?" We accept such rules from Paul, who was inspired, single, and with no ulterior motives in any given relationship today. But let the teaching and explanation of such things be done in ways that do not tempt us to abuse them.

I will not at this point take up the question of whether Paul's rule is to be interpreted strictly and absolutely, taken as a general rule, or as "guidelines" (a la Pirates of the Caribbean), or ignored because it isn't fashionable. "Paging Junia..."

I gather from The Internet Monk that some of the fringe types are taking A Full Quiver as gospel. I read the book years ago--at this late date I have no idea who gave it to me. The thesis was simple and not terribly controversial: children are a gift from God even though the world measures them as burdens in dollars and time and loss of favorite recreations. And some secular cults begrudge them the food they eat and complain about the CO2 they breath out

The authors hammered away on the point, and I don't recall much recognition of health issues. I suppose that sort of one-sided stance is inevitable, and perhaps even appropriate, when addressing some grave problems; but it makes the book a lousy pastoral document.

At any rate, I read it, and put it away somewhere and out of mind. At the time I thought vaguely that there was a difference between being open to children and trying to sire as many as possible. The former is more explicitly a servant's attitude, and I'd think more likely to welcome adoptees. Couple the latter with the non-negligible absolutist "wife obey your husband" population and you have a recipe for cooking up unhappy marriages--and unhappy children. And I gather that has happened, though at what rate I couldn't say--sampling bias rears its head again, and the Internet Monk is no use for that kind of analysis.

I wonder what these families would have been like without the book to give the attitudes shape. No doubt some would have been train wrecks in any case--some people shouldn't marry and others should pay attention to warnings from family and friends. But I suspect some mean well--or as well as most people--and were led astray by poor teaching or pastoring, with the result that fragments of doctrine assembled into something false. And false teaching has consequences; in this case reducing a woman's role into "more kids now." (I wonder what they make of Prov 31?) (Michner The Source Urbaal: "if he had different gods, he would have been a different man.")

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Lederman's name for it is just plain wrong. You might call the Higgs a "Priest Particle" though: you can't have mass without it.

My version of a joke going the rounds

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Views of Travel

If you haven't read AVI's description of how different a trip looks to adults and to the children, go read it. If you ever traveled as or with a child, you'll recognize yourself.

I knew we'd all have different views of our big trip to Montana, and I knew memory was slippery, so I took notes every night and asked my wife to take notes every night and insisted, begged, and offered bribes to the kids to take notes. After the trip I wrote up my and my better half's notes, and then asked for the kids'. That was over 10 years ago, and I'm still waiting. Every now and then they let slip something they did or saw, but ... I wanted their stories seen through their eyes recorded so that their memories of the trip wouldn't be shaped by my story. Memories can fade a bit, but black and white stories don't. I'd like to hear their descriptions of the emergency visit to the doctor, or waiting on a crumbling precipice while I went to find rope, or wolfing canned stew before the thunderstorm hit. The floor is open :-) I can try to write up the tale you told of trying to kill a wasps' nest with a cousin allergic to bee stings

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Self Improvement

For the compilers of the little book before me are great on philosophy and ethics. ... Under the title of "How to Think" there are twenty-four rules of which the first few are: "Empty Your Mind," "Think of the Best Things," "Appreciate," "Analyze," "Prepare Physically," "Prepare Mentally," and so on. I have met some earnest students of this school, who had apparently entered on this course, but at the time of our meeting had only graduated so far as the fulfilment of the first rule.

And on vegetarianism:

The body is a sort of magical factory where these things go in as vegetables and come out as virtues.

Or this

For after all, blame is itself a compliment. It is a compliment because it is an appeal; and an appeal to a man as a creative artist making his soul. To say to a man, "rascal" or "villain" in ordinary society may seem abrupt; but it is also elliptical. It is an abbreviation of a sublime spiritual apostrophe for which there may be no time in our busy social life. When you meet a millionaire, the cornerer of many markets, out at dinner in Mayfair, and greet him (as is your custom) with the exclamation "Scoundrel!" you are merely shortening for convenience some such expression as: "How can you, having the divine spirit of man that might be higher than the angels, drag it down so far as to be a scoundrel?" When you are introduced at a garden party to a Cabinet Minister who takes tips on Government contracts, and when you say to him in the ordinary way "Scamp!" you are merely using the last word of a long moral disquisition; which is in effect, "How pathetic is the spiritual spectacle of this Cabinet Minister, who being from the first made glorious by the image of God, condescends so far to lesser ambitions as to allow them to turn him into a scamp." It is a mere taking of the tail of a sentence to stand for the rest; like saying 'bus for omnibus. It is even more like the case of that seventeenth century Puritan whose name was something like "If-Jesus-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned, Higgins"; but who was, for popular convenience, referred to as "Damned Higgins." But it is obvious, anyhow, that when we call a man a coward, we are in so doing asking him how he can be a coward when he could be a hero. When we rebuke a man for being a sinner, we imply that he has the powers of a saint.

But punishing him for the protection of society involves no regard for him at all. It involves no limit of proportion in the punishment at all. There are some limits to what ordinary men are likely to say that an ordinary man deserves. But there are no limits to what the danger of the community may be supposed to demand. We would not, even if we could, boil the millionaire in oil or skin the poor little politician alive; for we do not think a man deserves to be skinned alive for taking commissions on contracts. But it is by no means so certain that the skinning him alive might not protect the community. Corruption can destroy communities; and torture can deter men. At any rate the thing is not so self-evidently useless as it is self-evidently unjust and vindictive. We refrain from such fantastic punishments, largely because we do have some notion of making the punishment fit the crime, and not merely fit the community. If the State were the sole consideration, it may be inferred a priori that people might be much more cruel. And in fact, where the State was the sole consideration, it was found in experience that they were much more cruel. They were much more cruel precisely because they were freed from all responsibilities about the innocence or guilt of the individual. I believe that in heathen Rome, the model of a merely civic and secular loyalty, it was a common practice to torture the slaves of any household subjected to legal enquiry. If you had remonstrated, because no crime had been proved against the slaves, the State would have answered in the modern manner: "We are not punishing the crime; we are protecting the community."

Or about humans being the only creatures that laugh:

We may come upon him in some quiet dell rolling about in uproarious mirth, at the sight of a violet. But we shall not find the violet in a state of uproarious mirth at Mr. Moore. He may laugh at the worm; but the worm will not turn and laugh at him. For that comfort he must come to his fellow-sinners: I shall always be ready to oblige.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The turtles I've had experience with were all armored pretty thoroughly, so it was something of a surprise to discover that a foot-long snapper didn't slide when I tried to shove it out of the middle of the road with an ice scraper. (A 3 foot long scraper, of course!) Pried it over (briefly, they're quick)--and the bottom of the thing was mostly leather.

Yes, I tried getting it to bite onto the scraper--it kept letting go after about a second, so I couldn't lift it. Maybe it didn't like plastic.

It would have been nice to have a smart phone and a data package--I'd have searched the web and found out how to pick them up. Though I'm not sure I'd have cared to try the experiment for the first time on one so large.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adding capacitors

The New York Times ran a story about a battery powered model car in Imperial College. In order to add extra capacity and smooth out battery charging, they incorporated capacitors in the sides and hood. Cute idea.

But, can't you just see fender-benders lighting up the road when a crunched door capacitor shorts out? Or hailstorms turning the hood into reactive armor? I don't know about London, but we get some pretty good-sized hail here from time to time, and if you are storing enough energy to move a car around you'll get some lively pyrotechnics when it shorts. The first vandal who tried to key the car would get a little surprise. (Ever dropped the wrench when trying to take the cable off a battery post? I did...)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chesterton and the EU

From The Well and the Shallows:

Authority ruling men must be respected; it must even be loved. Men must in the last resort love it; for the simple reason that men must in the last resort die for it. No community or constitution can survive and retain its identity at all, that has not in the minds of its subjects enough of an ideal identity, to appear to them in certain extremes of peril as the vision of something to be saved. It is on that ideal, inhering in the reality, that every state will depend when there is a struggle of life and death. Men must feel something more about England than that she is commercial, something more about France than that Frenchmen are practical and careful about money, something more about America than that she happens at the moment to be monstrously rich, before any healthy and humorous human being will kill somebody else or be killed himself, and go out from the sunlight and the sane loves of this world, for the sake of any such abstraction. It will be found, therefore, that the practical theory fails at the most practical moment. It is useful while there is question of whether the commonwealth shall continue to be rich, or continue to be imperial, or continue to be monopolist. It is useless when there is question of whether the commonwealth shall continue to be. The materialistic state, cemented only with money as with mud, will fall apart under the blow of any people who have love or loyalty to their leaders or their cause; for the simple reason that those who care most for money care more for life. One may like or dislike the Fascism of Italy, the fiery nationalism of the Poles, the deep Catholicism of the Irish; but there is no doubt that their ideals can be idealized. They are conceptions for which real men can be worked up into a real rapture of sacrifice. The images under which they are presented to the world, and especially the world of their worshipers, the golden or the silver eagle, the breastplate of St. Patrick, the Roman salute, are things that do in fact lift up the heart, and were made by the mind so that they should uplift the heart. In short there is in them poetry; and that poetry is the most practical thing in the world.

This was written when he had only the beginnings of a glimmering how nasty Mussolini would be. Hitler was a much more obvious evil.

I have been asking for several years what the foundation of the EU is: does a Frenchman consider himself French first and EU second, or vice versa, or does the EU not figure prominently in his mind at all? Aside from the purely economic advantages of being in a single economic sphere (assuming honest accounting...), the only things I have seen so far that unite Europeans are a desire to push back against America and a disdain for the death penalty. I'm not sure these are adequate bonds to weather the inevitable storms.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Chesterton on blogging again

He predicted the self-absorption of the typical blogger: The Well and the Shallows.

But anyhow, I will affirm, on the same model, that who says essayist says egoist. I am sorry if it is an alliteration, almost a rhyme and something approaching to a pun. Like a great many such things, it is also a fact.

.... If I go out of my way to tell the reader that I smoke Virginian cigarettes, it can only be because I assume the reader to be interested in me. Nobody can be interested in Virginian cigarettes. But if I shout at the reader that I believe in the Virginian cause in the American Civil War, as does the author of The American Heresy, if I thunder as he does that all America is now a ruin and an anarchy because in that great battle the good cause went down--then I am not an egoist. I am only a dogmatist; which seems to be much more generally disliked. The fact that I believe in God may be, in all modesty, of some human interest; because any man believing in God may affect any other man believing in God. But the fact that I do not believe in gold-fish, as ornaments in a garden pond, cannot be of the slightest interest to anybody on earth, unless I assume that some people are interested in anything whatever that is connected with me.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Three Cheers for the Danes

2 miles is a good start!

UPDATE: I must be fair; the expensive government programs they sneer at were what made their work possible. Few are the individuals who can afford to explore and research with no hope of return in their lifetime--at their best governments can.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Malebolge, pit 10.

Chesterton and the Internet

From the wonderful title chapter of The Spice of Life read this prediction of the Internet and its flame wars:

If you consider what are the things poured into him, what are the things he receives, then indeed they are colossal cataracts of things, cosmic Niagaras that have never before poured into any human being are pouring into him. But if you consider what comes out of him, as a result of all this absorption, the result we have to record is rather serious. In the vast majority of cases, nothing. Not even conversation, as it used to be. He does not conduct long arguments, as young men did when I was young. The first and startling effect of all this noise is silence. Second, when he does have the itch to write or say something, it is always an itch in the sense of an irritation.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Bird sightings

On top of the van, claiming that vasty territory for his own: a red-wing blackbird strutting back and forth, calling out over and over with a flutter of his tail feathers on the last chirp.

A ratty-looking teenage robin walking around with his mother nearby on his maiden voyage from his nest (in a crook of the downspout) to the garden. A dove, that famous symbol of peace, left off wandering under the bird feeder and jumped to attention with the right wing open at the ready, lunging with stabbing pecks at the teenager, though never quite closing--the meaning obvious: get away from the spilled birdseed or die. Mama robin didn't move and the teenage robin seemed bemused, and eventually hopped away.

Ducks landed in our backyard to mate. Don't ask me why--there's no pond here, though the garden had just been thoroughly watered.

The wren lands on every high place in the back yard and loudly asserts his claim--most often on the lattice by the porch. Probably figures we're the big trouble-makers and and that we need a stern reminder.


Madison agreed to allow a "tent city" (all tents supposed to be down by 7am, sanitation restrictions, etc) to allow the professional protesters to have a convenient place to stay where they won't run up huge hotel bills. I predict that enforcement will be a bit lax, and that I'll have to find a slightly different route to work.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Clever Romans

Without refrigeration, how do you transport fish long distances?

How about building a large fish tank in the ship, with piping that a small pump could use to suck oxygenated water from the ocean into the tank.

OK, the tank is hypothetical, but the piping is there--not as suitable as other means for pumping out the bilge but adequate, using a small hand pump, to maintain good water in a 4m^3 fish tank. Apparently the Romans transported live fish at least once (Pliny the Elder: to introduce a valuable species into a new region), and there'd be obvious luxury markets for live fish for ornamental purposes and for fresh exotic fish dinners. Mostly dinners.