"Indeed I have heard that for them memory is more like to the waking world than to a dream. Not so for Dwarves."
Friday, July 31, 2015
Going slow for balance is kind of a big deal during the icy season of the frozen northlands, but somehow we don't apply the hint to the rest of our lives.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
If you’re not familiar with his work, he had a profound allergy to “happy endings” and a love of situations involving relics of war, disease, overpopulation, and advertising/control. And of madness, or at least a layman’s idea of madness, as either a result or cause of the mess.
In The Wind from Nowhere a wind springs up and grows until it destroys every human structure. IIRC in Passport to Eternity a man’s wife buys them tickets on a spacecraft that will travel forever with no destination. (Neither is in this collection.)
Very creative, but good only in small doses, and then only some of his work. An example of one clever idea (not really feasible, unfortunately) is to use gliders spraying silver iodide dust to create localized rain and as a result sculpt clouds. Nice idea, but the short story wasn't engaging.
I looked at the dates of the chaotic works, and remember how drab or depressing the movies were then (remember Silent Running?). I seem to recall having been infected by the mood of the era too: you felt superior if you could show how everything shiny was really dooming us. Plus: Overpopulation was going to kill us all. Pollution was going to kill us all. Nuclear winter was going to kill us all. I was into understanding things, not chaotic non-stories, so that didn't effect me much. I wasn't big into solutions; which is just as well. That path gets ugly in a hurry--you know so much better than hoi polloi that you must have the right to direct them. But I did like being more knowing, and a gotterdammerung makes a nice bang.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Milestones are a bit arbitrary, of course, but they're handy sometimes. New Year's resolutions, anyone? I need to prioritize and prune a bit: There are things I won't live long enough to do.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Even the well-respected hold close the secrets of their sinful hearts. (Some of us seem to succeed in hiding from even ourselves, crafting a twisted imitation of honesty.) Sometimes those secrets are merely shameful, and sometimes illegal, but all our heroes have feet of (at best) clay. If the offenses are fashionable we overlook them, and if unfashionable we tut-tut or else shift the hero to the “evil man” category.
Things aren’t always wonderfully obvious. François Villon is perhaps a better test case than the living entertainers above, since we have a little distance and no emotional involvement. He was a great and transformative poet, and also a robber and a member of a criminal gang. How much of the latter are you willing to forgive for the former? Up the scale a bit, you can probably think of several writers or painters who lived by mooching or who were abusive to their families. How much do you forgive, especially if you know one of the injured parties? (It is easy to forgive injuries to people you don’t know—and also easy to refuse to forgive, exactly as you please…) In an era when many considered drunkenness (especially of someone in authority) to be offensive, Lincoln replied to a claim that Grant was indulging: “Find out what brand he drinks and send some to the rest of my generals.” We snicker a bit at that one, because we don’t take drunkenness quite as seriously, unless the miscreant was driving. Fashion strikes again.
If the villain is on our side, we generally minimize his crimes. That complicates evaluation even more—are you too eager to forgive?
We’re eager to depose heroes—or anybody else--for heresy. Heresy we think worse than ordinary crime because it attacks the standard of morality; actions don’t matter as much as respect for right belief. (What God thinks of that approach remains unclear, but there’s some suggestion that He cares about actions.)
I think that to say that benefit A justifies offense B is a bit presumptuous. But we can try to recognize and be grateful for benefits: let the good that men do live after them, as much as we can. Even if we have to punish them for some heinous crime. In Ninety Three by Victor Hugo, a sailor was awarded a medal for valor for saving the ship by stopping a loose cannon whose uncontrolled sliding was smashing the ship’s frame, and then was executed for being the one who let it get loose in the first place.
Keep the names. Certainly Jefferson's, at least. (And quit trying to make out that Lee was a dishonorable man.)
San Francisco is experimenting with pee-proof paints that are hydrophobic enough to bounce urine (and other water-based fluids) back from the surface. I wonder what sort of surface you would need to keep oily droplets from sticking. Tile is easy enough to clean (but not the grout!) but oil still sticks. We don't tile ceilings (and they're hard to reach to clean), and cabinets and handles get begrimed and so probably a source of odor as well. We try to keep things clean enough in our house to forestall that, so I can't be sure about the source of the odor, but the surfaces seem the most likely candidate.
If the surface was oil repellant, it would be easier to keep clean--and maybe not wind up as rancid. If oil droplets wouldn't stick to the ceiling they'd drift down. It's easier to clean the counter and the floor than the cabinets and the ceiling...
Of course the devil is in the details. Would water droplets adhere better or worse to the new surface? How do you put on a second coat of paint later?
UPDATE: Oh, and is it food safe?
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Thursday, July 23, 2015
“Er, nothing,” replied Conway.
“There’s a position opening here, why don’t you apply?”
“How do I go about it?”
“You write me a letter.”
“What should I say?”
Cassels took pity. He offered to write the letter for Conway. He sat down at the side of the road on a stone wall in front of King’s College, rummaged through his briefcase, found a pen, pulled out a piece of paper, and began, “Dear Professor Cassels, I wish to apply for …”
For one student, Edward Welbourne, now a software engineer in Oslo, the most memorable was Conway’s linear algebra course – specifically, a session wherein Conway proved that for two symmetric quadratic forms, both can be simultaneously diagonalised (no small feat). “Doing each takes a moderately tricky piece of computation,” said Welbourne. “To do two at the same time is thus doubly tricky, like balancing a broom by its handle on one’s chin while juggling.” This is exactly what Conway did, while concluding the proof.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Sunday, July 19, 2015
(*) I don't find Aaron Copeland's blendings all that beautiful. Maybe that's my loss.
What friends do we have in the area? Among the people, just the Israelis and the Kurds. The Saudi royal family is more or less friendly, but the population is hostile--when the house of Saud goes away you'll see the difference.
Among the Sunnis elite you can find a number of allies of convenience, and sometimes even of temperament, but not so much on the ground. Insofar as people care about us, they don't care for us. I described why, with suggestions, some years ago.
My takeaway is that the MidEast is full of divisions, some of which are religious and some tribal. The largest attacks against us have come from the largest religious group: the Sunnis.
It makes sense to keep in touch with all the major parties, so that you can play one against the others when possible. Iran was going to get nukes unless somebody used force--the Saudis already bought theirs via Pakistan.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to trumpet this sort of bargaining, though. You always want the biggest pressures to be applied quietly, because in a couple of years you may be trying to wheedle favors and you don't want too much public shame to get in the way.
And this kind of tribe vs tribe diplomacy isn't something the US is used to. We tend to like nice black and white conflicts and don't have a lot of patience for the Great Game. I think our leaders and administrators often suffer from the same tendency.
The real problem is that Obama is provably incompetent in international affairs; and arguably almost as dishonest as incompetent. The only thread of hope I have in this agreement is that the French signed off on it, and they've tended to have a sharp eye for French interests, which while they don't overlap with American ones, probably aren't served by nukes flying about.
Several people have claimed that this treaty guarantees war. So it does: X implies "there will be war in the MidEast" is a true statement for all values of X short of "sun goes supernova."
Jesus touches the dead body, which in the eyes of the Law made Him unclean. Burying the dead was a good deed, and so there were things that justified becoming unclean. And of course His touch is more powerful than death and its defiling power. But it would be rather startling to Jairus to have a stranger touch his dead.
The woman with the hemorrhage is ritually unclean. How does she dare touch Jesus' clothes--she would make them unclean, and by contagion him also? She knows He can do miracles, but that means He's holy.
When Jesus asks who touched Him, she has to admit this before everybody. Of course, instead of chewing her out He told her that her faith had made her whole and that she should go in peace. But why did He ask her to fess up? Maybe to heal her guilty conscience too? Or was He making a point about the cleansing He provided?
Saturday, July 18, 2015
I wonder why things should be so active. There are lots of moons around, suggesting lots more traffic in the area than my naive expectations, so maybe Pluto took a big hit not too long ago and it's still relatively warm inside. Maybe it managed to grow around a core with some heavy metals, and the thorium is keeping things moderately toasty. And maybe there's some squishy ice clathrates that can be toothpasted around a little easier than the usual rocks--though I'd expect that they'd fall down quicker too, so maybe not.
It's a shame the probe couldn't have carried the extra weight of fuel to slow down and orbit a while. I hope some of those images due back in the next year carry enough information to get some spectral analysis of the surface rocks. (Reflection only tells about the very top layer, but that's better than nothing.)
Which article on the local production of the Mikado is from which?
But Cain noted the opera “has seen some backlash in recent years for using the traditional staging,” said Cain, who also is artistic director of Madison’s Fresco Opera Theatre, a company known for staging classic opera in unconventional ways.
“For this ‘Mikado,’ I decided to use a current art form rising out of Japan — animé or manga,” a style of animation that can be hand-drawn or computer-generated, Cain said.
It's a redesign rooted in more than just creativity. The change was important because, in recent years, traditional productions of "The Mikado" in Seattle and Providence, Rhode Island have drawn negative attention. The racism, use of "yellowface" and orientalism in such a staging, detractors say, make it offensive.
"The use of yellowface has been defended as loving homage or harmless parody," wrote Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang, responding to the Seattle production in summer 2014.
"Each time, when Asian-Americans have pointed out that we don't find the wearing of cosmetics and wardrobe to simulate Asian appearance to be 'loving' or 'harmless,' our concerns have been dismissed. "Which is why, despite my deep personal love of musical theater, I think these 'traditional' productions — yellowface productions — of 'The Mikado' have to end," Yang wrote.
Melanie Cain, directing for the Savoyards for the first time, got the message. As a founder of the freewheeling, irreverent Fresco Opera Theatre, she was uniquely positioned to take the Savoyards in a different direction.
The first article gives a thumbnail description of the opera (which was fun, BTW--if you're local go see it) and mentions a couple of the performers.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
I'm a physicist (albeit working in IT these days) and I keep up with a pretty broad range of science doings. So when my vocation comes up in conversations, people will often mention some new discovery they read about in the news and ask for my opinion.
If I can, I oblige, but as I've mentioned before the news reports are often extremely misleading and there's a lot of science fiction mixed with science fact in popular ideas.
When I contradict the narrative, it seems as though about 2/3 of the time people thank me for clarifying the matter, and about 1/3 of the time they disbelieve me.
I'm not sure how this 1/3 breaks down: how much is a healthy disrespect for credentialism, how much is "I trust whoever I heard first," and how much is "You're harshing my mellow."
I need to keep some notes.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
"When you look at poems such as Beowulf, they often mention these elite warriors with their amazing weapons and fine decoration. "But there was no archaeological proof of them, so it was thought they were made up. "But actually, the hoard is that proof."
"But there was no archaeological proof of them, so it was thought they were made up.
"But actually, the hoard is that proof."
Or there's this:
A hundred years earlier, Billy Balch, a leader of the Makah tribe, recounted a similar story. Before his own time, he said, all the water had receded from Washington State’s Neah Bay, then suddenly poured back in, inundating the entire region. Those who survived later found canoes hanging from the trees.
Please note that I didn't title this "Ancient Wisdom." There is evidence for a certain amount of modern unwisdom, though.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Everybody has heard of Einstein lensing: a galaxy in between you and some bright object in back of it will bend the light from that object, sometimes into a ring shape. Note that the light you see didn’t come “straight” from the object—the path is quite a bit longer than it would have been without the intervening galaxy in the way. In the image shown at that second link the light probably took a thousand years longer than it would if the near galaxy weren’t there.
That’s one key to the story at the first link. The other key is that just as a galaxy can bend light a lot, a large star or black hole in the galaxy can bend it a little. Maybe just a day’s worth.
That’s what the authors looked for in studying blazars. There were only a couple of candidates, but as one of them flashes in different wavelengths (gamma rays, radio waves, etc) they found that there was an echo for the gamma rays, of about 10 days. This is presumably from “microlensing” by something almost in the line of sight between us and the blazar. That’s cool by itself, but from the estimated size of the “microlenser” you can estimate how big the region was that the gamma rays came from. This is impossible with normal telescopes and utterly impossible with gamma ray telescopes—they just don’t have the angular resolution. But working back from the “microlenser” size they estimate that the gamma ray creation region is of order 10^14 cm or less. If it were igger you wouldn’t get a nice “echo”.
It is a bit like the way stars seem to twinkle in the night sky but planets don’t—the planets subtend a larger solid angle than the almost point-like stars do, and so our atmospheric variations don’t change the apparent direction much. In this case the gamma rays get lensed into an echo/flicker, but the radio waves, coming from a bigger area, don’t.
This isn’t exactly a surprise, as most models predict that gamma rays would be produced near the base of the jet from a black hole, but it is a clever analysis.
Monday, July 06, 2015
Not much wiggle room there, since that is part of the story, and pointing out the rest of the story just makes you sound like "Nya! You're another!"
There’s another solution, proposed 136 years ago:
GENERAL: Why do I sit here? To escape from the pirates' clutches, I described myself as an orphan; and, heaven help me, I am no orphan! I come here to humble myself before the tombs of my ancestors, and to implore their pardon for having brought dishonour on the family escutcheon.
FREDERIC: But you forget, sir, you only bought the property a year ago, and the stucco on your baronial castle is scarcely dry.
GENERAL: Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. I don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon.
(*) We had such a tradition ourselves until somebody spoiled it by doing a genealogical search. Irish, not Cherokee.
Weird. The embedding video starts at the beginning, rather than the moment (?t=3801) that I quote. The link should work, though.
It is conventional, for politicians upon winning elections, to declare that they are “humbled” by the experience. There you see a fruit.
No one who felt genuinely humbled would say this. He might show it, quite subtly perhaps, in how he behaved; it does not and cannot go into words, without becoming boastful. I use this example with something approaching warmth, for I have developed an allergy or aversion — a rash of the sort that comes from passing through brambles — when men in public positions make a show of their “humility.” It is invariably pharisaic; it is a warning that one is dealing with profound arrogance, and a vanity that is out of control. He speaks with crowds, but cannot keep his virtue.
Sunday, July 05, 2015
As we rested my mind went back to a dusty, dingy office in Victoria Street some fifteen months ago. "I want you to come," said Wilson to me, and then, "I want to go to Cape Crozier in the winter and work out the embryology of the Emperor penguins, but I'm not saying much about it—it might never come off." Well! this was better than Victoria Street, where the doctors had nearly refused to let me go because I could only see the people across the road as vague blobs walking. Then Bill went and had a talk with Scott about it, and they said I might come if I was prepared to take the additional risk. At that time I would have taken anything.A little traveling later:
Then came seven shivering hours and first thing on getting out of our sleeping-bags in the morning we stuffed our personal gear into the mouth of the bag before it could freeze: this made a plug which when removed formed a frozen hole for us to push into as a start in the evening.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
I wondered if it would make sense to rent a litter so that friends of a wheelchair-bound person could bring them along. You'd need a team of 3, more likely 4, as a minimum, and some way to retrieve people if a carrier sprains something along the way.
Wikipedia says these are used for tourists in the Huangshan Mountains, so there's some precedent--though there the pros carry people. Liability issues would preclude that here.
Some of those steps are pretty steep.