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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


A Russian does Spike Jones one better with an innovative variation on a glockenspiel.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hunting the wild

Scott Van Zyl was hunting crocodiles by the Limpopo, and apparently they found him first. Three were killed, and DNA testing verified that one at least contained Van Zyl.

I'm sorry for him and his family. Closure is a good thing, but I wish they hadn't killed the crocs.

Not that I have any fondness for the creatures. If the last tiger on Earth were killing people in my neighborhood, I'd join the posse to go kill it. But Scott's case is a little different.

I want no wild threats to my home, and will be as thorough as I need to be to make sure of that.

A farmer who wants to harvest a steer or three wants as little fuss as possible.

A subsistence hunter needs food. If there's something dangerous out there, he would prefer that it either be elsewhere or be made incapable of harming him and his tribe. Man-eating bears interfere with the hunting he needs to do to keep his family alive.

A deer hunter wants the challenge of outwitting a deer on its native ground. He's not looking for danger, just the venison and the challenge. Similarly with geese, turkey, etc. If a pack of wolves started stalking hunters instead of just spooking deer, I think most of us would go along with relocating them--either far away or to the tanner's. Man-eating wolves would interfere with the sport.

But a crocodile hunter is hunting it precisely because it is dangerous. Likewise a lion hunter, or a grizzly hunter--only a jerk would go to a lion farm to shoot a quasi-tame lion. If the hunter has a very bad encounter with something wild, that just emphasizes the wildness and danger for the next hunter. Killing the dangerous animals to make it safe again interferes with the sport.

I wonder what Scott would have thought about it. I'm pretty sure his wife and kids wanted closure.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The peaceful sea

Some varieties of sea urchins, when disturbed, turn loose some of their stinging appendages (pedicellariae) to float around like little mines--mines that bite instead of explode. Bee-sting like.
Many people are familiar with the spiny appearance of sea urchins, but most have probably never noticed the pedicellariae that grow between the spines. Each one is less than a millimeter across, and they come in several different types, some of which are more suited to cleaning away algae than fighting off predators. Collector urchins have a particularly fearsome variety of pedicellariae consisting of stalks topped with biting jaws. The three sections of the jaws open outward like flower petals, each one ending in a venomous fang. A dense forest of these structures covers the collector urchin's shell, waving and snapping in response to touch, chemical signals and looming shadows.


Four of the urchin species kept their pedicellariae, but the collector sea urchins released a continuous stream of the biting appendages. In the original experiments, collector urchins released tens of pedicellariae per trial, but in subsequent tests, which have not yet been written up and published, they spewed hundreds over the course of 30 seconds

Apparently fighter drones aren't a new invention.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Restricting traffic is an old idea, and everything old is new again. After a container-truck accident killed a popular performer, there are calls to restrict the trucks to night-time operation in Monrovia. The article includes plenty of insinuations that the trucks are not road-worthy--an accusation I'd cheerfully believe--but includes no claims that the drivers are careless; a curious oversight. I sort of doubt the truck drivers would be better drivers at night, with mediocre street lighting and pedestrians even harder to see.

I found this hilarious: "“Has the LNP put any speed bumps to prevent unnecessary over-speeding and death at the road where the young musician Quincy B met his fate?” a young man asked." On most roads they're not necessary, and I thought one of the jobs they wanted Ellen to oversee was to fix the infrastructure.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Peter had a confusing career. He told Jesus to go away, because he (Peter) was a sinful man. Jesus called him anyway. A little later Jesus called him Satan. When Peter swung a sword to come to His defense, Jesus rebuked him. Peter, along with the others, swore he'd never deny Jesus, and then he lied like mad when his poor spy scheme was uncovered. He had a decided tendency to fall asleep when praying (Gethsemane, Joppa): one man called napping "The Prayer of St. Peter." After the Resurrection, the angel said "Tell His disciples, and Peter." Ouch. Though maybe he already felt like an outsider. Even after the Resurrection, Peter thought the best thing to do was go fishing. And then Jesus grilled him.

He was clearly not the head honcho at Jerusalem; James was. Paul had to call him on the carpet at one point.

I'm not at all persuaded that he was appointed head of the church, but I think one might do worse than appoint a klutz who's been through the fire a time or three--somebody who's had to learn a bit of humility.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Problems and solutions

But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him.

Our church has decided to try to help address the problem of "the achievement gap" in Madison. There's a problem there, true. And perhaps there is something we can do to help, though I seriously doubt that we'll have any grand solutions. Even a few lives are worth a lot, though.

I don't know the history of the decision, but I wonder how it evolved. It sometimes seems as though we see a problem and glom onto it, work up a plan and advertise for volunteers.

Do we wind up in a different place if, instead of looking at problems, we ask "What solutions do we have? What skills and enthusiasms do our people have?"(*) One fellow in our church wasn't very bright, and his skill set was pretty limited, but he put together a list of people to call, and when he heard that someone in church was moving, he called people on the list to assemble a team to help. That's not the sort of thing I usually hear when the church says they need people to help. (Typically they're short of child care workers.)

I tried to rouse interest in a "What I can do" list at our last church: a list of things people say they're willing to volunteer for. Ideally this would be pooled by local churches, since one church may not have a critical mass of people able to address a problem that needs a team. In practice I couldn't get ours interested. Possibly this had to do with liability issues, possibly the concept has serious flaws, and possibly I'm not very good at salesmanship.

I finished Organic Community tonight, which is about how much better the results are from collaboration and encouraging people to develop their own activities than from "cooperation" (aka do it my way) and central planning. The last time I checked a body needs both flexible flesh and solid skeletons. Still, quite a lot of the appropriate work of a church goes on through informal or almost informal networks of friends. The liturgy, whether high or low, is only part of the work.

(*) I do not mean those spiritual gift questionnaires.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


WHO Report: Over One Million Liberians Suffering From Depression.

I hope this isn't true. I expect millions are stressed and very unhappy, and that's a very big deal, but depression is more than just that.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


I gather the makeup artists for horror movies work hard to make people look suitably gruesome, without going that extra inch that makes them look silly.

Hollywood is missing a bet. They could simply hire DMV photographers.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

I will find it difficult to write a more interesting description than David did. You should definitely go read that.

It was rather disconcerting to think how close some of this was when I was in Chicago. I had read the news, but forgotten most of it, just like everyone else. This is a good reminder of what madness can lie just around the corner.

The year Several years before I first arrived at college, student riots had burned down Old Main. The main computing facility was in a limited access building that permitted defense in depth. (They opened a new and more open facility while I was there.) Iranian students did some demonstrating, but there was very little drama otherwise--a big crowd assembled on the rumor that a sorority had scheduled a streak, and the student government was dominated by a party which ran on the platform that they would bring the Grateful Dead to perform. I think there must have been a bit of a reaction against politics.

Chicago Circle had more diversity of weirdness. I had a few letters to the editor published under the pseudonym of Ho Lee, Chairman of Reeducation Committee, and cosigned by Korean War Veterans Against Admitting Hawaii as a State and others of that ilk. To give some flavor of the dialog on campus: I overheard people who thought the letters were real. Nothing was too crazy.

Some of those crazies stayed crazy.

You should read the book. A couple of things jumped out at me: the Law tended to only catch the bombers by accident, and the revolution runs on money. Friendly lawyers, ECUSA, or bank robbery--somehow revolutionaries had to get the bucks. And one other thing--no matter how weird things are, they can get worse.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


The story read Who sold embassy in Spain for $1m? "Liberian officials say “a crook” in Spain has sold Liberia’s embassy there at over US$1m, but Spanish government have already seized proceeds of the sale and were trying to return the buyer’s money and give back Liberia its foreign mission property."

I just had to follow up on that kind of story, and found a new story from a few hours later: Govt to close embassy in Spain? In that we learn that the illegal sale was in Sweden, not Spain, and that both buildings are in such derelict condition that the Liberian government wants to sell the Spanish one in order to pay for repairs in the Swedish one.

I wonder what tomorrow's story will tell, and what the Spanish think of this type of triage. Neither story said who bought the place.

FWIW, when I wanted a visa I went to a Liberian Consulate on the south side of Chicago--and just barely caught the officer before he went out on a long lunch. The address turned out to be a back room in a rug store. It has since been closed.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

What makes you angry?

I ran across the "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" line attributed to Voltaire. Since Voltaire made a fairly successful career doing just that, it didn’t sound quite his style--and apparently the line is of fairly recent coinage, and is attributed to a fellow who doesn’t like Jews.

The first time I ran across it, it seemed a little extravagant but mildly plausible—but I remembered reading about complaints in the army, and the principle started to seem less than universally accurate: more of a matter of "who are the favored ones" than "who rules." They aren’t the same people. In academia there most certainly are people who, if you criticize them, you risk your career. Mentioning some topics will kill it dead. Anybody remember Lawrence Summers?

To say it more accurately: "To find out who the favored ones are, find out who you aren’t allowed to criticize or make fun of." Zzzzz.

Still, the idea of probing the structure of something with humor or criticism might have some potential.

Who do you really worship? I know a number of people who, if you mock God, will have a very mild response. If you mock their president (current or previous, depending on their tribe) they go ape. I get it that we have an obligation to protect the honor of family and friends, and think it reasonable to rise to their defense. But realistically, the president is only your friend in abstract. Maybe you met him once, but you don't know him. If, on the other hand, he is the one you put your trust in, the symbol of all you hold dear, perhaps you are putting him in a role only another can fill.

Screwtape wrote of "God And" as a tool to pry people away from God. Do my reactions tell of my God or my And?

I often hear of some Muslims going ape when someone disses Muhammad or the Koran, but rarely hear of them getting angry when someone complains about God. (It does sometimes happen.)

Some of us get bent out of shape by lies. We often get more bent out of shape by lies about us or our tribe, of course, but insofar as we try to be even-handed this seems like a love of truth and a good thing. But when you jump to oppose some lies and not others, perhaps you've let your "And" rule.

I feel a strong urge to jump in when somebody starts munging(*) up something about physics or astronomy, but it generally doesn’t make me angry. On the other hand, when somebody starts claiming that the moon landings were faked, I find that I start with some invidious (and usually accurate) assumptions about his willingness to review evidence. It doesn’t mean that I think the moon landings are more holy than F=ma. So my reaction doesn’t map neatly onto deeply held beliefs; it’s a mix of my gut reaction to the issue and my reaction to you.

When I mentioned in one circle the rather obvious fact that Hillary was a bad candidate (**) the others assumed that I meant that I disliked her character and her politics. That is true, but not what I was talking about--their reaction was also to an assumption, that I was announcing membership in a different tribe.

So I think this probe is most useful in self-examination. It is too easy to make mistakes applying it to other people. Though one is sometimes tempted to draw conclusions from obvious cases...

(*) Mung: recursive acronym for Mung Until No Good

(**) Just count the signs up for her in Madison vs those for Obama 4 years earlier, and compare with the number for the senate candidate. Reliably Democratic Madison wasn’t very enthusiastic at all. Not a good candidate...

More tame foxes

From the fact that PBS did a story on them, I gather that interest has not subsided, and from the low price ($9000)(*) I gather that the supply end is doing OK.

The changes in behavior have been remarkably rapid--less than 60 years to effective domestication. Andrew Wagner warns that there may still be some residual issues.

"[You can be] sitting there drinking your cup of coffee and turning your head for a second, and then taking a swig and realizing, ‘Yeah, Boris came up here and peed in my coffee cup,’" said Amy Bassett, the Canid Conservation Center’s founder. "You can easily train and manage behavioral problems in dogs, but there are a lot of behaviors in foxes, regardless of if they’re Russian or U.S., that you will never be able to manage."

"Never" is a long time.

(*) That doesn't seem too crazy for an exotic. Some rare dog breeds are up there too: e.g. a saluki for $2500.