Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Conferences can be a bit humiliating. You go to learn what everybody else has done, and it usually sounds so exciting. (Not always--a couple of talks were: "We found a bug and so we don't really have anything to report right now.") And sometimes the results really are impressive. A lot of the time the results aren't very dramatic, but represent a lot of necessary hard work to support said impressive results.

One's own accomplishments tend to look inconspicuous. Two aspects of my recent work are archive and backup--neither interesting at all until something goes badly wrong. (We're twiddling our thumbs on the archive plan: not sure if the delay is a NSF vs DOE thing or lower level negotiators.)

Go to collaboration meetings for a few years in a row and the patterns emerge. The great product that will ease everybody's life actually is, but it takes quite a bit longer to get into service than they estimated. The promising approach doesn't work so well as hoped, and the noise simulation still doesn't quite match the data. But it is closer.

Talk about your inconspicuous service! Estimating the noise rates accurately is critical for a number of different low energy analyses (e.g. supernova detection), but it doesn't have the same ring on the resume as "cosmological neutrinos". It probably needs a couple more man-years of work, too.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Two things I hadn’t put together before, that appear in the NASB translation of Isaiah 39:8: Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good." For he thought, "For there will be peace and truth in my days."

I’ve heard peace and prosperity linked, and peace and justice, but it hadn’t occurred to me that peace and truth need each other also. Without peace truth becomes scarce, and without truth peace won't last.

A little more Isaiah

Maybe I should elaborate a little. Isaiah opens with chapters warning the proud, the corrupt, those who abandon the Lord, those who add house to house and field to field, who enact evil laws—the luxurious. In other words, the stuff of the news stories or worse—things too common to call news.

The bumper sticker “Prosperity is my birthright” speaks for people I know. “Tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” Some of them are nice enough people, but they share the assumption that they will always be the pinnacle of civilization and knowledge and wealth. Somehow, someway there will always be money and things to buy with it, people to respect our position, and freedom to do as we please. I admit that sometimes I catch that bug too. I generally get disabused quickly when I do something stupid.

You’d think 9/11 would have been a wake-up call that our military isn’t infinitely powerful. I guess not; there seems to be a feeling that we have so much surplus capacity that we can make the first priority of the military be promoting diversity.

The proud: all around. Lewis noted that pride is one of those things we can’t stomach--in other people. Corrupt: Do I have to name names? You find it down at the local level too, where regulations get adjusted for the well-connected developer or the landowner who doesn’t want company. And so on through the list; it isn’t edifying to go into detail. ('God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.')

We’re confident in our uniqueness and wisdom. Every other society regulates sex, but in the West we’re so wise and noble that we don’t need to. We have such infinite resources that we can afford to subdivide every group indefinitely, declare them all oppressed, and create machinery to guard each against every nano-aggression. Remember how surprised people were back in 2008 to find that the stock market could go down as well as up?

I think at the back of everyone’s mind is a cowering realization that things can’t always go on like this, and that the fear of that end and the gap between expectations and realities feed a restless search for the next-door enemies that are somehow blocking the arrival of paradise.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


When my reading cycle reaches Matthew 25 every six weeks or so, I fear for myself. When it reaches its annual visit to Isaiah, I fear for my country.

"Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”"

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hiring bias

A study hit the news a few days ago claiming that in STEM, if a candidate was a woman she had a 2:1 advantage over a man in the probability of being hired. The direction of bias matches what a blurbs for job openings suggest; and there seems to be pressure to overcome alleged biases by hiring more women--if various statements from university committees are anything to go by. I get no pressure--an advantage of a low-level position. I was on only one hiring committee in all the years so far at UW, and of the 5 candidates that time the winner stood out--there wasn't a lot of judgment call involved. He worked out pretty well, too.

This doesn't match the preferred narrative, which is one of Ed Yong's hobbyhorses, so he triumphantly linked to a couple of reports that refuted the study, like this one which features gems like "The researchers’ own biases lead them to believe that women and men belong to two discrete groups (making genderqueer and transgender scientists invisible).". It is quite true that the final selection is based on different criteria than the test study, but it is also true that Harvard does not interview all the applicants. Or even most. If their hiring committee tells you they read CV from all 3000 applicants for a job, remind them what happens in the 8'th circle. The pre-selection biases matter, and that is where the original study really matters.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Travel advice

I've not spent much time out east (a half day in DC, half day at Harvard, a visit to colonial Williamsburg back in '74). Right now we're puzzling about what sorts of things one could stop and see along legs of a trip from Louisville to Richmond and from Richmond to Pittsburg. (We know Madison to Louisville well enough, and Pittsburg back is a long haul without stops.) Skyline Drive looks beautiful but precipices kind of weird me out. Once in Richmond we're planning to spend a day or so in Colonial Williamsburg and maybe Jamestown, so we have that part covered.

Probably stopover in Charleston on the first leg--not sure what's around there. One suggestion for the second leg was Gettysburg.

Ideas are welcome.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Neanderthal pictures

A Neanderthal apparently fell down into a cave and died, and his remains are embedded in stalactite formation along the wall. That first image is good and creepy, and I expect there'll be Halloween masks of it this fall. Extraction would probably take years, but they got a chunk of shoulder blade loose and were even able to get mDNA from it: he's about 150,000 years old, or thereabouts. Linked mainly for the pictures.

FWIW, Haggard's Kukuana in King Solomon's Mines apparently wouldn't have actually been able to preserve their kings, just their bones. Pity, it made a nice detail in the story.

Friday, April 17, 2015

School Discipline

From Remarks by Bill Nye:

Woodtick William's Story.

We had about as ornery and triflin' a crop of kids in Calaveras county, thirty years ago, as you could gather in with a fine-tooth comb and a brass band in fourteen States. For ways that was kittensome they were moderately active and abnormally protuberant. That was the prevailing style of Calaveras kid, when Mr. George W. Mulqueen come there and wanted to engage the school at the old camp, where I hung up in the days when the country was new and the murmur of the six-shooter was heard in the land.

"George W. Mulqueen was a slender young party from the effete East, with conscientious scruples and a hectic flush. Both of these was agin him for a promoter of school discipline and square root. He had a heap of information and big sorrowful eyes.

"So fur as I was concerned, I didn't feel like swearing around George or using any language that would sound irrelevant in a ladies' boodore; but as for the kids of the school, they didn't care a blamed cent. They just hollered and whooped like a passle of Sioux.

"They didn't seem to respect literary attainments or expensive knowledge. They just simply seemed to respect the genius that come to that country to win their young love with a long-handled shovel and a blood-shot tone of voice. That's what seemed to catch the Calaveras kids in the early days.

"George had weak lungs, and they kept to work at him till they drove him into a mountain fever, and finally into a metallic sarcophagus.

"Along about the holidays the sun went down on George W. Mulqueen's life, just as the eternal sunlight lit up the dewy eyes. You will pardon my manner, Nye, but it seemed to me just as if George had climbed up to the top of Mount Cavalry, or wherever it was, with that whole school on his back, and had to give up at last.

"It seemed kind of tough to me, and I couldn't help blamin' it onto the school some, for there was a half a dozen big snoozers that didn't go to school to learn, but just to raise Ned and turn up Jack.

"Well, they killed him, anyhow, and that settled it."

"The school run kind of wild till Feboowary, and then a husky young tenderfoot, with a fist like a mule's foot in full bloom, made an application for the place, and allowed he thought he could maintain discipline if they'd give him a chance. Well, they ast him when he wanted to take his place as tutor, and he reckoned he could begin to tute about Monday follering.

"Sunday afternoon he went up to the school-house to look over the ground, and to arrange a plan for an active Injin campaign agin the hostile hoodlums of Calaveras.

"Monday he sailed in about 9 A.M. with his grip-sack, and begun the discharge of his juties.

"He brought in a bunch of mountain-willers, and, after driving a big railroad-spike into the door-casing, over the latch, he said the senate and house would sit with closed doors during the morning session. Several large, white-eyed holy terrors gazed at him in a kind of dumb, inquiring tone of voice, but he didn't say much. He seemed considerably reserved as to the plan of the campaign. The new teacher then unlocked his alligator-skin grip, and took out a Bible and a new self-cocking weepon that had an automatic dingus for throwing out the empty shells. It was one of the bull-dog variety, and had the laugh of a joyous child.

"He read a short passage from the Scriptures, and then pulled off his coat and hung it on a nail. Then he made a few extemporaneous remarks, after which he salivated the palm of his right hand, took the self-cocking songster in his left, and proceeded to wear out the gads over the varied protuberances of his pupils.

"People passing by thought they must be beating carpets in the school-house. He pointed the gun at his charge with his left and manipulated the gad with his right duke. One large, overgrown Missourian tried to crawl out of the winder, but, after he had looked down the barrel of the shooter a moment, he changed his mind. He seemed to realize that it would be a violation of the rules of the school, so he came back and sat down.

"After he wore out the foliage, Bill, he pulled the spike out of that door, put on his coat and went away. He never was seen there again. He didn't ask for any salary, but just walked off quietly, and that summer we accidently heard that he was George W. Mulqueen's brother."

What brought this to mind was a 3'rd grader in the class my Better Half is assisting with, who's been in 3 other schools already this school year and who attacked another child the first day he arrived.

All Things Considered had a story about Crescent Leadership Academy in New Orleans, one of the places where the students who got expelled elsewhere wind up. "Students that came to us had serious criminal backgrounds. Fights, gangs. This is our third year and I think 14 of our students have been killed," she says. That number, she says, shows "just what our students are dealing with outside of school." Dealing with or doing? The metric a number of the people in the story were using was the number of expulsions--the lower the better. I'm not sure that's the best way to measure education.

Dickens took out the Yorkshire private schools (and I'm not trying to defend them), but I wonder what sort of environment their harsh discipline grew out of.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On the streets

From an Atlanta Magazine article on Freaknik: Ryan Cameron was a DJ at V-103 and now hosts a morning show on the station. "I would get into the metro helicopter and tell people where it was most crowded and where they should avoid. But instead of avoiding those areas, more people would come!"


Jermaine Dupri: I had a motorcycle just for Freaknik, just so I could ride around in the streets. You wanted to be in it. I had to have a convertible during Freaknik. I wanted to be seen, but I wanted to see everybody at the same time. It was the beginning of “flexing,” in every kind of way. The birth of riding around with your system blasting, with TVs in your car. All of that stuff came from people wanting to be seen at Freaknik.


Ayanna Brown: The highlight of Freaknik was getting stuck in traffic. It was in traffic that music got louder; people started talking to one another, asking, “Where are you from?”


Doug Monroe The city finally came up with a way to frustrate the students to the point where they did not want to come back. You can’t just shut down the city because of the need to get places. Once they started managing it the way they did, it took away a lot of the fun of when it was a big crowd. A lot of people came for the stopping in traffic, partying, meeting people in the street.

I leave out the music and dancing and sex aspects; what I find curious is the focus on the streets. When our team was helping with Katrina relief in New Orleans, I noticed that in our neighborhood the sidewalks weren't in great shape (OK, neither were the streets), and there typically wasn't a lot of traffic. There wasn't a lot of downside to walking in the street. I don't know about inner city Chicago (just north of Humbolt park for a couple of months 38 years ago), but most of the few vehicles that rolled the streets in N.O. were small trucks, a taxi or two, and the police--none of them probably felt as being part of the community.

On a smaller scale I see the same sort of thing around here (suburb-like): when the sidewalks are shoveled 9 times out of 10 any people walking in the streets are black. Do streets have some different cultural meaning?

Pop country followup

I looked at coarse patterns in subject of country and pop music, but these folks did a much more thorough study of "reproductive messages" in pop, country, and R&B for 2009. Figure 3 (page 11) is a longitudinal review; there's an interesting shift in the content of R&B. They even go back into classical music as well to see if the same patterns persist. (Found as a link from this article which says that popularity is partly driven by peer pressure. Not a huge surprise, of course...)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


A mathematician tries to use fluid dynamics to study shuffling: go read it. He got into Harvard on the recommendation of Martin Gardner.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford

I was one of those who didn't know anything about this, and yet it was a critical few months when fighters of Suleiman the Magnificent almost established a base for re-invading southern Europe. (Luckily his forces were also stopped near Vienna a few years later--that was the other prong.)

The invading forces far outnumbered the defenders, with better weapons and more supplies and an armada to cut off communications. But the battle isn't always to the strong, especially when different branches of the military don't have the same goals (sound kind of familiar?) and the defenders are ready to keep fighting long past the point where it was hopeless to continue.

Bradford tries to explain what the environment would have been like given what the records (both sides kept journals) said, and remembers to praise the unrecorded and unknown Maltese without whom the Knights would have failed.

Read it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


In sort-of recent political news, Ted Cruz announced that he was running for president. I didn’t listen to or read his speech, but I gather that all the right-thinking people hated it, which is generally a good sign. Shortly afterwards he was quoted as having said that after 9/11 the pop music he used to love didn’t quite resonate for him, but country music did. The right-thinking reporter suggested that he was probably pandering to his crowd, and that wouldn’t be unexpected for a politician. But the notion that pop was more vapid matched my prejudices, and I decided to try to compare the genres.

I don’t listen to either much, and both genres cover a lot of territory. Rather than try an in-depth survey of both (months of work), I decided to scan through the lyrics of the top 20 in pop and country, as defined by Billboard. That’s not fair at all, since the tail of the distribution could be much vaster than the peak. One sub-genre could be small with a few performers and another have much larger total sales spread among an even larger number of singers. Result—the first winds up in the top list and the second is nowhere, even if the second provides the bulk of industry sales. But I really don’t have the time to do a thorough survey.

A cursory review says the subject matter differs quite a bit. There’s overlap in what you might term “Short-term” relationship, but... I did some relatively arbitrary categorization (some fit it a couple of categories). And by arbitrary I mean that when I went over a second time I got slightly different counts, so the error bars on these are ± 1.

Short answer: I can see why someone would, in time of stress, find country resonating with them better than pop. I’d rather listen to Johnny Cash than Britney Spears myself.

Sorrow: she left or I screwed up25
Tribal and other06
Long term relationship22
Get to know me02
Short term relations93
Crass (sometimes tribal)32
I’m/We’re crazy20
Second chance please20

Billboard top 20 pop (10-Apr-2015)
SongPerformerWhat is it about?
Sugar Maroon 5 lovesick for you, heavy sexual theme
Style Taylor Swift You’re not good or faithful but let’s be wild together again anyway
Love Me Like You Do Ellie Goulding I’m crazy in love with you, love me back again
Uptown Funk! Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars I’m sexy, come and get me girls
Thinking Out Loud Ed Sheeran Kiss me now, I’ll still love you when we’re old
Somebody Natalie La Rose Featuring Jeremih I want to party, I want to have sex
One Last Time Ariana Grande I screwed up with you, please give me another chance
Time Of Our Lives Pitbull & Ne-Yo I’d rather spend the rent on a party and chance of sex
Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey) The Weeknd Our relationship won’t turn out well but I don’t care
FourFiveSeconds Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney I’m going to go berserk
Want To Want Me Jason Derulo I want you to want to have sex with me
I Want You To Know Zedd Featuring Selena Gomez It’s time for us together
Chains Nick Jonas I love you, why do you do me wrong?
G.D.F.R. Flo Rida Featuring Sage The Gemini & Lookas I’m rich and sexy and if you are sex kinky enough I want you
Outside Calvin Harris Featuring Ellie Goulding We’re breaking up. Why?
Night Changes One Direction He: don’t worry, let’s do it. She: maybe
Nobody Love Tori Kelly We’re in love and I don’t want to be cynical about it like everybody else
Riptide Vance Joy I want to marry you, why won’t you come back
Shut Up And Dance WALK THE MOON We are bound to be together (but she’s holding something back)
Talking Body Tove Lo Sex with you is so great, let’s keep it up

Billboard Country Top 20 (10-Apr-2015)
Take Your Time Sam Hunt I want to get to know you
Homegrown Zac Brown Band I like my home, my wife, my friends
Ain't Worth The Whiskey Cole Swindell I don’t want you to think I’m sad about you breaking up with me
Lonely Eyes Chris Young If you’re lonely spend the night with me
Girl Crush Little Big Town I want to be like her, then maybe you’d want me back
Drinking Class Lee Brice I’m a hard worker, hard drinker, hard player
Say You Do Dierks Bentley Pretend you want me like you used to
Homegrown Honey Darius Rucker You’re exciting and familiar (first meeting)
A Guy Walks Into A Bar Tyler Farr I met her and loved her and she left. It’s a pattern. Everybody else knows it.
Raise 'Em Up Keith Urban Featuring Eric Church Live your life fully, family, home, marriage, children
This Is How We Roll Florida Georgia Line Featuring Luke Bryan Our tribe has fun our way
Don't It Billy Currington Give me a chance
Smoke A Thousand Horses I’m infatuated and she permeates my life
Sippin' On Fire Florida Georgia Line Ditch him and pick me instead of sneaking off with me
Little Red Wagon Miranda Lambert You may like me but I’m a rambler and won’t stick with you
Little Toy Guns Carrie Underwood I wish my parents wouldn’t fight, or people speak so cruelly
She Don't Love You Eric Paslay My ex doesn’t love you, or trust anybody anymore
Diamond Rings And Old Barstools Tim McGraw With Catherine Dunn I wrecked us with my drinking
Wild Child Kenny Chesney With Grace Potter I’m in love with her but she can’t commit
Love You Like That Canaan Smith Take a chance on me, I’ll be solid
Like A Wrecking Ball Eric Church I can’t wait to get home to make love to you

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

How fast we forget

The Wisconsin State Journal reported this afternoon that a woman had been threatened by two home invaders, one of whom pointed a gun at her head. They escaped but were caught a little later. One of the two was a 19-year old. When I "googled" him I discovered a report from January that he and a different man had been arrested as part of a burglary spree. Got out on the streets again pretty quickly, I guess. But don't ask for a link to the first story at the WSJ--it disappeared. A TV station has the recent story, and the second.

The top stories at the WSJ site this evening are stories of convictions, not crimes. We've had a little uptick in the violent crime rate the past few weeks, some of it clearly gang related. I'd like to try to connect the dots, if I can.

I remember visiting New Orleans some years back when the crime rate there was lower than it is now, and noticing the difference in reporting between Chicago and N.O. The Chicago TV allotted a couple of minutes to the highlights of about 8 murders, and the N.O. station gave 15 minutes to 3. (OK, commercials included)

It is easy to stretch out the coverage to make a few crimes seem like a lot, or have a couple of trashed buildings represent the whole tornado-hit town, or 30 marchers look like a vast parade--happens all the time. It is also easy to sweep problems under the rug. If it didn't happen on TV, it isn't quite real, no matter what your neighbor swears happened. And there's always the memory hole.

Monday, April 06, 2015


I speculated on odors, but didn't do a literature search. "What the gases you emit say about you" looks like an interesting starting point. And, of course, you don't have to use a whole room; you could seal something against the skin too.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Saving money on inessentials

My son-in-law's Kia needed new brakes (very badly, it turned out), and I went over to see how he did it.

The rotor was screwed to the wheel hub with a single large Phillips screw. It had stripped instantly when he tried to remove it. After fighting with it for over an hour, with drill and dremel and hammering the screwdriver into the soft screw to try to get it to bite, he finally got it out. The auto parts store informed him that they didn't have any in stock--because they weren't needed.

It turns out that the screw is a assembly-line-only part, holding the rotor in place while the car moves from one station to another. Once the rest of the parts are on, it isn't needed. If you are repairing the car in one place it isn't needed at all.

So: not an essential part. OK. No point in greasing the thing before you put it in--why waste a step on the assembly line? And no point in getting a real screw, just use one of the soft metal screws like those that you get with cheap curtain hardware. At 6 per car, say 100,000 cars--the factory might be able to save as much as $10,000!

Of course it costs you or me an additional 4 hours or so per car... I don't know how the pros deal with them, but they're probably exasperated too.


I'm leading(*) a series of studies on spiritual disciplines for a men's Bible study which meets in a diner for breakfast. This past Saturday morning we discussed fasting.

In two weeks we will get together and talk about silence and solitude.

Go figure.

(*) I used "leading" instead of "teaching" because some of the group are far better at some of these disciplines than I. I was willing, that is all.

Saturday, April 04, 2015


Middle Daughter told me the other day that George Takei had bought 4 tickets on SpaceX and was offering 2 for fans in a kind of lottery.

I didn’t think long about it before deciding not to bother looking into the matter.

But I always wanted to go to space; why not? On contemplation, I realized there were several reasons, but one ranked higher even than “can’t afford the taxes”. A flight like that is too much of a luxury for me.

I’m inconsistent at some level—there’s no clear boundary between a little luxury like a cheese I don’t need and a Mercedes I also don’t need; it is just a matter of scale. But as my Better Half says, I can’t enjoy a candy that costs $2 a bite—the sense of disproportion and waste spoils the enjoyment. Watch inflation make that sound silly in a few years.

I don’t think a little luxury now and then is a bad thing, though there are many good people who have disagreed. I can reply to them that it doesn’t deprive the bulk of the people around me and helps with jobs for others. They would, of course, reply that my circle of acquaintances is shamefully restricted and reiterate that I don’t actually own anything, but am simply the steward.

Sometimes I win the argument (especially if it is a luxury I share) and sometimes the saints do.

Does scale make all the difference?

UPDATE: I'd like to see space travel grow, and have no objections whatever to other people indulging in what for me would be excessive. This is only about me.


After contemplating nostalgia I’m trying to mock up some kind of mental model of how my memory works. Your mileage may vary.

A movie takes a lot of memory unless you can find some way to compress all those pixels. One way is to start with the initial frame. That’s a lot of bits, but when people move at normal speeds the image of the next frame is almost the same as the first one. All you really have to do is record the pixels that are different, which is usually a huge savings. The next frame you treat the same way, and so on, until the changes add up to enough where starting fresh with a complete new frame is reasonable. (There are other aspects and I omit a lot of details I didn’t bother to look up.)

The MIDI protocols for encoding music encode not the sounds but the characteristics of the note (and instrument): pitch, volume, duration, vibrato, etc. When you feed the info to the playback system you don’t so much reproduce the original sound as reconstruct it. You could send the note info to a different “instrument” if you cared to; irrelevant details would be ignored and missing characteristics replaced with defaults.

Another simplification that reduces storage is to filter out unimportant details, perhaps replacing them with a generic object or leaving them out entirely.

And when storing data you can keep track of the less frequently used stuff and put it in slower storage. I read somewhere that the ancient Chinese imperial records got so unwieldy that they condensed them. And a few centuries later, did it again. Early records got a bit sketchy in the process.

I think you see where this is leading. When I try to remember things from Liberia, where there are pictures to compare to my recollection, I find that I often have what amount to “stills” of a scene in mind as background to the action, and the rest goes on in front like Yogi Bear’s head. And the “still” doesn’t match the photograph very well. The tree branches that we climbed on are clear enough, but those we didn’t handle seem to have been mentally replaced with “more tree”. I abstract the bejabbers out of the scene—sometimes including the dialog too. Yet other dialogues I recall word for word.

There seems to be a differential discriminator at work for medium-term storage. A match flaring is a big change; that gets filed. The puffs of flame scurrying around the hot coals later—not such big changes, not filed. Even though the match was 3 seconds and the hot coals were an hour, I remember the match more easily.

But the things we don’t remember still have some effect on us. I’ve heard amnesiacs can have “muscle memory” for things they can’t recall or sometimes even name. There was a very interesting report on someone whose short-term memory wasn’t there anymore, but slowly learned some mental tricks anyway. I know no way of measuring this effect, but ... My father had dementia and lost a lot of his memories, but those who worked with him said he was always a gentleman. A lifetime of actions built something that wasn’t conscious.

It seems that we don’t think things are real unless we consciously remember them (do people think they’re more real if they’re on TV?). That skews our view of our lives to only the dramatic (and usually unpleasant) incidents. But there was more to our lives than the flickerings on the memory screen.


This story about Special Forces concerns about bringing women into the teams is interesting.
As integration unfolds, the surveys have brought home the reality that there are "some reservations or misperceptions in the force in terms of why we're doing this," Bland said. Defense officials have stressed that they will not reduce standards in order to let in women.

And this:

Studies that surveyed personnel found "major misconceptions" within special operations about whether women should be brought into the male-only jobs. They also revealed concerns that department leaders would "capitulate to political pressure, allowing erosion of training standards," according to one document.

I wonder who has the misconceptions--the men who are actually doing the work and know what it is like or the desk jockeys who are doing the planning?

Thursday, April 02, 2015


AVI has a post on nostalgia and why it doesn't seem as common later in life. He suspects it might be because older events, often replayed in memory, have the sharp edges worn off and are more congenial.

Instead, maybe an event or a scene is a bigger fraction of our lives when our lives haven't been very long yet. Do I have an incurably mathematical view of life?

To have the same proportional effect when you've 40 years stretching your belt the events have to last quite a bit longer--but then they'll inevitably be much more mixed with other events and emotions. They won't be as "pure" and sharp. (That doesn't mean worse--an apple pie is less "pure" in this sense than an apple, but it's hardly inferior.) "Pure" and sharp events are easier to remember. I don't remember the emotions (I don't need to!) but I remember vividly the sensation of stepping on something yielding and looking down to see a mamba coiled beneath my foot.

A first kiss is a transition, and that helps make it more memorable. The 5117'th kiss is one of a lifetime of kisses and linked to so many other things that it doesn't stand out as much, even though it is richer. It links to a kiss on the balcony with the moon peeking from the clouds, and a kiss before surgery, and the last brownie, and myriads of other moments.

The things one misses

by not being Anglican: David Warren's Maundy Thursday column includes a liturgical detail I'd not heard of before:
In my old Anglican days, when I was a parishioner in an extremely High church, the Tenebrae was sung on Maundy Thursday. It was, for an unedifying reason, a liturgical event I looked forward to. The lights were extinguished one by one; and then the strepitus sounded in a tremendous clash, as the last candle in the sanctuary was extinguished. On this one day in the year, polite Anglican people — who queue so nicely for Communion row by row — were instructed to leave the church “in disorder.” In the darkness, the parishioners would collide, shove, step on each other’s toes — all in the proper liturgical spirit. One might wait all year for one’s opportunities.

(Most of the article is about education and the supremacy of theory, and is, as usual, worth reading.)