Saturday, November 30, 2013


AVI recently posted on the spiritual gift of "Reminding".

He noticed that he rarely learned anything new from Bible reading and studies, and thought it a good thing: reminders are not news but we need them, even when we're not enthusiastic about them. Someone learning new things may applaud the teacher; someone hearing the also-necessary reminders may just grump. The job of Reminder is definitely more like foot-washing...

I'm still learning aspects of the faith emphasized by other branches--finally getting around to it--which is very interesting and edifying and not always very attached to how I live. On the other hand, my familiar daily readings that cycle through the gospels bring me to Matthew 25 regularly. Every time it seems to dig a little deeper: "Pay attention, dummy!"

If we hunger and thirst after new things, the old familiar may seem, and perhaps eventually become, mere rote. (Merton said he knew monks dead from the neck up.) There must be a trick to being thankful for reminders. Maybe experience? The oil level in the van hasn't been a problem since we bought it, but we still need to check it--one day it won't be OK. Hone up the kitchen knives. Sweep the floors, call your mother, mow the grass (come Spring): do the ordinary maintenance that, if we keep it up, isn't so ordinary.

Sometimes I find myself so far afield that I wonder if I need a flapper. Now that I think of it, most of the prophets were doing reminders (linked to an "otherwise here's what's coming" or "this happened because"). And they were highly honored for it (usually after they were dead): I think AVI's right; "one of the higher gifts we should aspire to."

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Going to Italy is not in our budget anytime soon. But Google Maps has gotten there already, and no stress on my knee!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Distributed detection of chemical weapons

Cell phones for chemical weapons detection?

The idea seems reasonable enough--if the technology is cheap enough and the drain on batteries low enough, you could put environmental testing into a cell phone and have it relay back the GPS coordinates when something untoward is detected.

One reading isn't any use. I doubt they can get the false positive rate down to anything near 0, and in a city with a hundred thousand cell phones somebody's phone will always be setting off a warning. So it isn't very good for detecting as-yet-unused munitions--they need to be leaking enough so that more than one phone in the area is effected.

That doesn't mean the technology is of no use. If you have a dozen flags up all at once, civil defense can send out warnings, try to isolate traffic, get people indoors--the usual stuff.

But a couple of questions come to mind.

  1. Are there chemicals that will give false positives? If so, the usual suspects will make it happen.
  2. Can the control be turned off by an app? A mole app, if popular enough, could generate false positive patterns, or disable the system entirely so civil defense has less active systems than they think. If their models lead them to expect 100 and they only have 30, what does that mean?

You could make a simple compromise radiation detector that just looks for gammas. Most alpha emitters will include beta and gamma in the decay chain somewhere (tritium is tough, though). Pity the poor guy who got radio-isotope therapy. He'd have to stay indoors for a week.

Be sure to wear your helmet when playing in the driveway

Son hit by meteorites?

It could be, though I'd want things checked a bit more closely. How hard did the objects hit the boy? We can estimate how fast rocks that size should be traveling at terminal velocity and see if the injury is consistent. Is it really airplane debris? If it turns out to be just bits from an old satellite that should stir a bit of a fuss.

If it is real, I wonder what the boy's life will be like? Everywhere he goes he'll be the meteorite boy. Sort of like being a celebrity's kid--you have to duck the fame or try something to be known on your own.

I wear hats to keep off the Sun's UV. I don't think I'll upgrade. If a meteorite wants to clobber me I guess I'll just have to worry along somehow.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Imagining a world without antibiotics

You've probably read it already; if not, do so.

I'd be long dead without antibiotics: several bouts of pneumonia plus other kid stuff I've forgotten about.

The drugs have been getting more and more resistant, as predicted. McKenna warns about regularly mixing antibiotics in animal feed--I gather it helps the critters grow more quickly. But it obviously speeds up the rate at which bacteria become immune. There are details..

However, the companies which sell antibiotics report that only 13 percent of all product sold were sold under the “performance enhancement,” or growth promotion, label. The rest is for animals who need medicine to prevent and treat illness! Therefore, looking at the total volume of product sold is not meaningful to this debate. Although everyone continues to harp on this 80 percent number, it is important to understand that there are many more livestock in the U.S. than there are people; most are larger and need a larger dose. Also critical to this discussion, the types of antibiotics used in humans are much different than those used in animals.

My main take-away from this (interested) party is the claim that the antibiotics used in humans aren't the same as in animals. It isn't clear if he means people get one penicillin derivative and animals get another: in fact one of the comments claims "In 2010, 70 percent of antibiotics sold for use in food animals were ionophores or tetracyclines."

Another says "Drug use is rarely effective to'compensate' for poor practices. A large percent of ontimicrobials, has been often stated, are ionophores. Ths effect of this class is to push the rumen microbial fermentation over to a more favorable volatile fatty acid ratio, improving the efficiency. Also, some work out of Minnesota suggests that the growth promotion effect in hogs with other antibiotics may be in fact a similar mode of action. Which seems to also be a common thread in the press lately about obseity and gut microbes in humans." Which is related to the "grow more quickly" that I thought common knowledge.

So things are a little more complicated than met the eye.

Butchering isn't a precision job, and some cross-contamination occurs with the gut bacteria. Even if the antibiotic residue is below the allowed value, the bacteria are still there and itching for a little sloppy meat handling. Or fertilizer handling--veggies fertilized with nice organic manure...

The companies' report of 13% may or may not be very useful. For oral antibiotics, what's to keep you from mixing an old batch into the big feed bin after the sick cow gets well? As long as the residues die away by the time you ship, who's to know?

I've thought that "provide for the common defence" applied just as well to epidemics as it does to merely human enemies. (No, the ordinary cold and flu season doesn't qualify; you're on your own. Think Spanish flu or bubonic plague.) Systematically building up antibiotic resistance seems like an activity designed to undermine the security of the state.

That said, I suspect that the next big plagues won't come out of American farms, but out of megacities. People share diseases pretty easily, and in a lot of the world the antibiotics can be a little old (I've heard of donated drugs arriving pre-expired), or will be taken only until the patient feels better. Another recipe for new plagues.

Friday, November 22, 2013


No, my name is not on the paper.

Local paper report

Some other details, and an "interview" with Claudio and Naoko (she had a cute baby later) and Halzen.

Halzen and Karle and Yeck assembled a good team; sharp and pleasant to work with: people who like to solve problems and find things out. And there were a lot of problems. It turned out that the clearest ice in the world had a tilted dust layer in it thanks to some distant volcano, and studying the properties of that took man-years (and is using lots of GPUs even now). And the background rates from cosmic ray showers in our atmosphere depend on "forward-going" charm quark production rates that even the LHC has trouble measuring.

Congratulations to all.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Process theology

The subject came up recently, and I've been trying to learn a little about it.

If I understand process theology's principles correctly, one foundation is that existence means to be in relation. When this is applied to God, it seems to contradict classical theology with its "aseity" although (forgive the proverb) the devil is in the details. The Christian Trinity exists both in Himself and in relation with Himself, and the source of relationship is within the trinity, but you still have contradiction for simpler monotheisms. Some of the P.T. proponents seem to be claiming that God is compelled to create as a requirement of His own existence--in order to exist in relation.

In addition, some assert that God does not know the future. IIUC, this is not the common predestinarian confusions that mix human experience with eternal views of time. Instead they are asking what are the implications of co-creation. I think this simply shifts the paradox to a new corner--which of the infinite set of possible histories do we agree to make. Their pop expression "does not know the future" is not helpful.

Why would we want to try to redefine the ground of existence as relationship? The first thing that comes to mind is the amazing success this sort of thing has had in mathematics. Pick up any advanced math reference, and it starts out describing mappings (morphisms). Category Theory is a hot topic, and a very powerful tool. Spending the effort to make a description of a physics law independent of the coordinate system you pick makes some symmetries much clearer. Analyzing relationships is what much of modern math does.

Of course we exist in relation, but that's not the same as saying everything must. Which is why I thought of math first.

I think the Creator/creation divide is so great that the same terms in the language don't mean the same things when applied to each side (I notice that the Chalcedonian debates were followed by a rise in apophatic theology: it seems fitting that after arguments over fine distinctions there be an admission that sometimes words mislead.) So I'm wary, even though I've written about God as a suffering servant myself.

The process theology field spreads over a moderately wide range, and the theologians I ran into first may not be typical. They seem to elevate the human view of the relationship to be a peer to God's view, which of course makes the current political and social fashion the next step in the revelation of the relationship between God and man.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Typing one-handed

is very error-prone. I remember a suggestion that the superior quality of older letters was partly due to having extra time to think every time you re-dipped the quill. We all know there are several biases to the sampling involved in that evaluation, and if the principle is true my output should be of nearly Shakespearean quality for awhile.

Rotator cuffs are amazingly complex machines, but they have several unpleasant failure modes, and I gather they don't heal as well as simpler systems.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


In commemoration of the Kennedy assassination, BBC dug up stories of Oswald's life in Russia.
Oswald basked in the attention of being one of Minsk's few foreigners, and its only American. He regularly made social calls to a girls' dormitory, near his flat.

"He would come without warning and knock at someone's door and say, 'Hello, here I am,'" says Inna Markava, an English-language translator who was a student at the time. "And that's it - spend two or three hours.

He thought that he was the centre of the group," she says.

"I remember that we were in the room, sitting, and if he thought we had forgotten about him, he would immediately remind everybody, that he was there, that he should not be forgotten."

The article's author says:

Still it was somewhat unnerving to hear so many good things about a person whose name is associated with one of the most infamous acts of our era.

I think David Stern and I may have different ideas about what constitutes "good things" about a person. "Weird" is the word I'd choose.

I gather one is supposed to try to remember where you were that day. I'm afraid I don't remember much at all. Maybe I've forgotten, or maybe I just didn't pay a lot of attention at the time. A friend of mine was vexed that his favorite program (Fireball XL5) was preempted by funeral programming and for some reason blamed the Kennedys. (We didn't have a TV, and my oxen were ungored.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Round world

When did people learn that the world was round? The Greeks figured it out and taught the West and the Arabs, and I presume the Indians as well. The Chinese seemed to consider it flat until Ricci et al, though perhaps that was due to the representation of the Earth (a grid) in the language, taken mystically (Yin/Yang) or at face value by the unlearned. Though apparently it took a while for Chinese astronomers to buy into Ricci's notions. The Chinese weren't lacking in good astronomers, but astronomical knowledge about the stars and planets doesn't demand that you understand the shape of the Earth.

I read claims that the Maya knew the world was round, but I haven't yet found an explanation, just bald assertions. Once again, astronomy doesn't have to tell you the shape of the Earth unless you ask the right question (Earth's shadow on the Moon).

The lies of Draper and White have been dreadfully long-lasting, and clutter up google search badly enough to make finding information tough.

Supertime speculation

I referred to the science fiction notion of humanity as a psychically linked collective organism in a previous post. If that were the case, we'd be one unhappy organism. When cells in your body decide to go "every man for himself" we call it cancer. And if the super-organism carried our individualist attitudes up to the next level... The world=The flesh=The devil and the church is emergency surgery.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Technological decline

Via Not Even Rocket Science: some interesting notes on Tasmanian technological decline.

Summary of the situation: after rising seas separated Tasmania from Australia, they lost, according to the archeological record, the skills required to make clothing, fire, composite weapons (i.e. putting a stone tip on a spear), fishing boats--in fact they stopped eating fish. Wrapped in a skin and smeared with grease to keep off the cold, they used clubs and sharp sticks. Yet their ancestors back in 6000BC knew better; even in 1000BC they still had bone tools.

The theory proposed is that the populations were small enough that there were not enough apt pupils to maintain the more complex technologies. Knapping takes either instruction or a lot of trial and error. In their models teaching is lossy, and only a few pupils better their master. I'm not sure there's always a best way to attach a spear-point--more likely several good ways that you adapt depending on details of the wood and the point.

Henrich explicitly assumes that human intelligence averages are universal, which is known not to be the case, but it may not matter much for this argument. The information loss model is easily illustrated in the loss of native technologies and stories when European technologies arrived in the Americas. The reason differed, but the operation was the same--not enough people to learn the old ways, and sometimes even the language dies out. The Forgotten Revolution (I'm still reading it) describes how the Hellenists reached heights of scientific understanding not regained for two thousand years--but when political purges scattered the Alexandrian Greeks the knowledge died out. Without a large enough pool of scholars the chances of getting someone with the intellectual horsepower to understand Eratosthenes, much less carry on his work, are poor. You're lucky to be able to teach a little pre-algebra. I assume everybody has read A Canticle for Leibowitz.

That may be the solution, but I wonder if that's all. You can imagine a Tasmanian PETA that persuades the rest that fish are bad. After a while you forget why--but in the meantime you don't need fish tridents or nets, and you forget how to make those too. Disease or poor nutrition (famine) will drop the average IQ of a cohort of youngsters. Their kids may be OK, but in the meantime information gets lost.

It isn't pleasant to think that the things I've worked with will evaporate without a trace--knowledge is supposed to be cumulative--but it has happened before, and can easily happen again. I suppose we need to be "Faithful in his generation", even if those who come after lose it all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pehn-Pehn Ban

Recently Liberia decided to ban the motorcycle taxis that have been serving Monrovia. They are cheap, often overloaded, and if you can believe it, even less careful of traffic rules than the taxis and money-buses. The last straw seems to have been when an accident ended with a bus being burned by motorcyclists in retaliation.

As you can guess, there is more than one side to the problem. (The official exchange rate is 85 LD to the USD, but I suspect the unofficial rate is twice that.)

Garloe, who claimed he has been operating motorcycle since 2012, said the leadership has always devised schemes to collect money from them. "We are often confronted by our leaders to purchase various items such as stickers, daily tickets, identification cards from the Union."

"Think about this, we pay L$600 for stickers, L$50 for daily tickets that are not even monitored along with L$500 for
identification card which many of us have paid for and are yet to receive; we do not know where the money is going," the frustrated motorcyclist said.

Quizzed as to what was responsible for the latest restrictions coming from government, he said "maybe, the union's refusal to remit money and fines collected from motorcyclists and the inability of the union to adequately monitor and supervise the sector are some of the reasons they have been banned from plying the main streets."

Adding his voice, motorcyclist Samuel Zeiguah, mirrored the issue from a very different perspective, saying that the ban will not only affect them as riders but will also affect police officers and officials of the Union who are in the habit of clamping down on poor motorcyclists.

"Police officers along with the officers of the five different unions will find it increasingly hard to regularly pay their 'susu', because of the ban. Policeman is going to seriously and surely feel it," he asserted.

I like Samuel's little sarcastic touch.

Turns out there's even more at stake here:

Mr. Bernard feared that this policy could increase the high criminal rate in the country, as many of the 'pehn-pehn' riders may revert in their ugly past, stressing: "Some of these bike riders you see here today are former combatants, and some of them are former armed robbers, who saw bike riding as a means of making livelihood.

So, if you do something that will keep them less busy, you give room to rise in the criminal rate."

Unintended consequences all over the place.

(Source for the quotes is AllAfrica)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Things Considered

The whole is here, but for your edification:
Real pain, as in the case of being burnt at Smithfield or having a toothache, is a positive thing; it can be supported, but scarcely enjoyed. But, after all, our toothaches are the exception, and as for being burnt at Smithfield, it only happens to us at the very longest intervals. And most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences—things altogether of the mind. For instance, we often hear grown-up people complaining of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train? No; for to him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures. Because to him the red light and the green light on the signal are like a new sun and a new moon. Because to him when the wooden arm of the signal falls down suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown down his staff as a signal and started a shrieking tournament of trains. I myself am of little boys' habit in this matter. They also serve who only stand and wait for the two fifteen.


For instance, there is a current impression that it is unpleasant to have to run after one's hat. Why should it be unpleasant to the well-ordered and pious mind? Not merely because it is running, and running exhausts one. The same people run much faster in games and sports. The same people run much more eagerly after an uninteresting little leather ball than they will after a nice silk hat. There is an idea that it is humiliating to run after one's hat; and when people say it is humiliating they mean that it is comic. It certainly is comic; but man is a very comic creature, and most of the things he does are comic—eating, for instance. And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing—such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife.

Now a man could, if he felt rightly in the matter, run after his hat with the manliest ardour and the most sacred joy. He might regard himself as a jolly huntsman pursuing a wild animal, for certainly no animal could be wilder. In fact, I am inclined to believe that hat-hunting on windy days will be the sport of the upper classes in the future. There will be a meet of ladies and gentlemen on some high ground on a gusty morning. They will be told that the professional attendants have started a hat in such-and-such a thicket, or whatever be the technical term. Notice that this employment will in the fullest degree combine sport with humanitarianism. The hunters would feel that they were not inflicting pain. Nay, they would feel that they were inflicting pleasure, rich, almost riotous pleasure, upon the people who were looking on. When last I saw an old gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park, I told him that a heart so benevolent as his ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the thought of how much unaffected pleasure his every gesture and bodily attitude were at that moment giving to the crowd.

The same principle can be applied to every other typical domestic worry. A gentleman trying to get a fly out of the milk or a piece of cork out of his glass of wine often imagines himself to be irritated. Let him think for a moment of the patience of anglers sitting by dark pools, and let his soul be immediately irradiated with gratification and repose. Again, I have known some people of very modern views driven by their distress to the use of theological terms to which they attached no doctrinal significance, merely because a drawer was jammed tight and they could not pull it out.

I can testify to the elusiveness of the free-range hat.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


I don't know why I'd have thought so, but I generally expect pain relievers to kick in as soon as the drug hits the bloodstream, or at least start trying. So ibuprofen seemed like so much candy: it never seemed to do anying at all.

I ran out of Aleve a few days ago, and since I have to stop taking it tomorrow anyway, I didn't bother getting more. The past five days have seen steadily increased shoulder pain. I wonder how much is inflammation and how much is the drug slowly leaving the system. And if it works like that as you stop, I wonder if it took several days to start working too--I just didn't notice because I don't usually stop to notice "no-pain."


I'm trying to decide if I care about the robot roach kit. Backyard Brains offers a Bluetooth "backpack" kit you can attach to a roach (some dis-assembly required) and guide it remotely. Critics say it is inhumane and instrumentalist, which perhaps it is. On the other hand what I generally do with roaches is crush them to death. Or perhaps poison them, though I haven't had to do that in decades. Does the Giant Shoe Of Doom cause less stress than being run in circles by a 12-year-old? ...maybe...

"A company spokeswoman told the BBC that the backpack had been developed solely to encourage children to take an interest in neuroscience which, she said, needed to be better taught in American schools." Umm. I'm not sure I believe that. I'd bet they saw a possibility for a new kind of science kit, and didn't figure anybody would worry about experimenting on roaches. True, you have to replace its antennae, but you also have to handle it carefully and feed it and take care of it for a while, almost like a pet.

I don't like causing pain for the sake of pain. I burned ants with a magnifying glass in my youth(*), and tried to emulate the LaBrea tar pits when the ant crawled on a bit of tar filling cracks in the playground. I wouldn't do that today. I don't think the youthful exercise turned me into a psychopath, and I'd not worry unduly about kids trying it out once or twice. Making a habit of it is another matter. I wouldn't try to robot control a mouse just for my own entertainment, though I've no objection to studying mouse brain workings in general.

I'm not perfectly consistent, I suppose. It doesn't seem neatly black and white. I might, if I thought the kid was properly interested, give such a kit--though the $100 price tag is a little much for a one-shot kid's demonstration experiment.

(*) It is harder than it looks. Ants move quickly.

I did learn that it wasn't easy to set leaves on fire with the magnifier. It wasn't until many years later, when I was showing my own kids how, that I tried two at once and discovered the hard way that a nice hot fire got going in between the two layers.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Supertime for fun

I went off on a tangent on one of AVI’s posts and thought it might be amusing to pull it all together cleanly to describe a science fiction setting.

Instead of just traveling in time, suppose one also can travel in “supertime.”

You have undoubtedly heard of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where each possible outcome appears in some “world.” This is a modified version of that. The full many-worlds setting isn’t restrictive enough to tell very satisfactory stories in (though see Amber, Flight of the Horse)—you can pull any rabbit you please out of the hat.

The universe has a history from beginning to end. Just before the end of time, a man decides to have scrambled eggs. In another history, just before it all ends he decides to have bacon and waffles. Those two universe histories are otherwise identical, and if they both exist they will be “close to” each other in the obvious sense. Suppose that instead of a landscape the set of universes is a subset of the full many-worlds set—a well-ordered set of histories that progress from one to the next in “supertime.”

Obviously the earlier a decision is made in a history, the larger the “supertime-duration” between the histories. One way to think of visiting the “next” history is to time-travel to the EOT, step to the next history and travel back in time.

Since an ordinary human only experiences one history, the question for the writer is “who is making the supertime choices that changes history to history, and why?” We can round up the usual suspects here: humans make up a collective being and this being is aware of supertime; supertime aliens try to maneuver to some goal; or (why not?) angels and demons nudge history this way and that to a different kind of apocalypse. You could combine the first and third, with the collective humanity being the devil. (You leave ordinary science fiction behind with this option, though).

The next question is “why is the hero interested in the outcome of other histories?” Presumably after he learns what’s going on, he must find or create a more congenial history, retrieve a loved one, stop a villain from fouling up the histories, or something like that. Maybe a villain wants to find a nicer history for himself and compel a swap with his other self, and things go south from there? Changing histories needs to be tricky because large changes mean big jumps which aren’t very close together, so maybe shortcuts cause big problems, and the hero has to help put things back. Maybe if you go far enough back in regular time you'd have trouble getting anything to notice you at all, so most of your work is done in the near future (no going back to prevent the crime). Plan a setting to trap the villain, until the "big boys" take exception?

I wouldn't want the story to go the way of Star Maker--kind of evolving to the Omega Point--it seems a waste of a decent setup.

Art cache

BBC reports about a cache of lost paintings seized by the Nazis.
Previously unknown artworks by masters are among more than 1,400 pieces found in a trove of Nazi-looted art


Previously unregistered works by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Max Liebermann and Henri Matisse were found. The paintings were found in March of last year after Mr Gurlitt was investigated for tax evasion.

The framed pictures were stacked on a shelf, like in a museum storeroom while the unframed works were piled up in drawers, said customs official Siegfried Kloeble.

According to a report by Germany's Focus magazine, Mr Gurlitt, the reclusive son of an art dealer in Munich, would occasionally sell a picture when he needed money.

Maybe I'm too suspicious, but could it be that some of these paintings were unknown because they are recent creations? 1400 is a lot of paintings to make and artists to fake, so they're probably real.

Philistine that I am, I have failed to covet the pictures published so far.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I want one

Laser cutter, that is. Not very portable, unfortunately.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Welcoming climate

My turn at the diversity fest. This was a small group session looking for input on how to improve the climate for diversity. There was just one man among the 9, and the majority of the participants headed small committees dealing with student life.

I asked if the UW had any studies available for why people might be leaving or who was at risk, and was told that we needed to do this, with an explanation flavored with a couple of unhappy anecdotes.

Discussion rapidly devolved from general discussion to suggestions for making diversity training mandatory for faculty (using a "stealth" program), and from that to complaining about their budgets and the evil fiscal conservative student government.

Despite the hints at the start by the facilitator's assistant (?) that voices could get overlooked if some people talked too much, two dominated--one an aggressively aggrieved administrative assistant who didn't like people ignoring her in favor of the degreed, and the other a month-new liason to Indians and Eskimos giving chapter and verse of how the student charged with running a pow-wow was disrespecting her. Neither the facilitator nor the assistant tried to steer the discussion back to something useful.

"Was there enough oversight of students running the student segregated fees?" was the question of the hour. I'm not sure what it had to do with how to make students feel welcome, but somehow it seems like a natural evolution of the project.

It would be a bit much to expect any careful thought about what "diversity" is or needs from such a group. And to be fair, the pettiness was driven by a few of our number (one lady barely said a word).

If I'd tried to redirect the meeting I'd have gotten flack about white male privilege, and I didn't think the chances of getting anything useful were worth the bother. But noblesse oblige, maybe I should have tried--it couldn't have been worse and the noisy ones would have had the joy of seeing their prejudices confirmed.