Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chesterton again

From Varied Types, Chapter 11:
He saw, that the actual crimes were not the only evils: that stolen jewels and poisoned wine and obscene pictures were merely the symptoms; that the disease was the complete dependence upon jewels and wine and pictures. ... A denunciation of harmless sports did not always mean an ignorant hatred of what no one but a narrow moralist would call harmful. Sometimes it meant an exceedingly enlightened hatred of what no one but a narrow moralist would call harmless. Ascetics are sometimes more advanced than the average man, as well as less.


It is strange that the most unpopular of all doctrines is the doctrine which declares the common life divine. Democracy, of which Savonarola was so fiery an exponent, is the hardest of gospels; there is nothing that so terrifies men as the decree that they are all kings. Christianity, in Savonarola’s mind, identical with democracy, is the hardest of gospels; there is nothing that so strikes men with fear as the saying that they are all the sons of God.


And the end of it all is the hell of no resistance, the hell of an unfathomable softness, until the whole nature recoils into madness and the chamber of civilisation is no longer merely a cushioned apartment, but a padded cell.

humanitarian to brutal

AVI has a post asking for comments about why humanitarians turn brutal in power. My comments were too long, so I'll post them instead.

He asked for comments on A Short Hop from Bleeding Heart to Mailed Fist, which presents 6 possible explanations for why humanitarian plans turn vicious.

I can think of three sources of human oppression and violence: individual and collective and accidental.

Individual is easy to understand—you know brutal and predatory people, and if you don’t you should get out more. They show up at the 1-2% level in the best environments, and much more frequently when the culture encourages them. Original sin is the one Christian doctrine you can prove from the newspaper. Or from inspecting your own heart.

Collective/tribal conflicts can congeal into laws and informal rules when one party manages to dominate. I’m thinking of India here, and not kindly. And the slightly more extreme Nuremberg Laws.

Accidental is as good a term as any to describe the side effects of compromises between tribes (We fish on our side, you fish on your side, nobody fishes in the middle—but some poor shmoe starves because nobody lets him fish in the middle during a bad season.). Alternatively, economic rules seem cruel until you look at what happens without them.

The ultimate source of all three is in the evil in each individual heart. But sometimes the connection is hard to see.

  • “Bleeding hearts” often think they can solve the “accidental” easily enough—just change the rules of the system. But typically an individual doesn’t have the smarts to match the wisdom of traditional compromises, and so El Primo breaks the old system and unintended hell breaks loose. A simple example is the electoral college we use—I haven’t heard anybody’s suggested replacement that addresses the concerns that provoked the compromise in the first place. Pretty much all of them just say “Let the cities win.” Strangely enough, they are all from the cities... You can predict what the consequences would be.

    And plenty of B.H. seem to think that “supply and demand,” or “you can’t get something for nothing” are arbitrary rules. The results of monkeying with these are predicatably catastrophic; predictable by anybody not blinded by “empathy.”

  • Collective oppression is a more promising target. At least it seems so at first, until you actually try to repeal caste laws and discover that you get violent reactions. Which, if you want to accomplish your goals, will have to be met with force. Maybe that’s best. Maybe not.
  • Individual oppression we think we mostly agree on, but the devil is in the details: hang ‘em, rehabilitate them, lock ‘em up, try pro-active intervention (God preserve us all!)? The tools used matter, and might provoke reactions. Think about “stop and search” policies that we have now—they get quite a bit of reaction. A number of people, both of the B.H. variety and not, hold models of human behavior that are just flat wrong and are guaranteed to cause havoc if you try to implement them--but the B.H. folks are more likely to try.

And then the B.H. run into what I think of as Godel’s Pollitical Problem: “Every new political framework generates new problems.” The B.H. aren’t smart enough to find a perfect solution. They think they are, which is a problem and demonstrates un-wisdom as well. (A committee is usually worse.). And when the solutions don’t work, they have to fight to make the obviously holy and true solution fit despite resistance. When the world doesn’t react the way your model says it should, is that a flaw of the model? Nah, it's gotta be rebellion.

B.H. tend not to distinguish between Nuremberg Laws and accidental oppression. You can legitimately use force against some types of oppression, therefore you can use it against all types. It doesn’t help clarify matters that the power of government is force.

The article’s suggestions are

  1. Politics is brutal, and the brutal wind up taking over. As the article points out, it does happen, but very often the B.H. themselves turn brutal.
  2. In a wicked world, the best way to pursue good policies is with violence. It might be better to say that the only way for a government to pursue extreme changes is with force. It turns out tha the cures are usually worse than the diseases.
  3. Hostile foreigners force them to be violent. On inspection, this claim generally falls apart.
  4. The bleeding-heart rhetoric is propaganda, the goal is dominance. Certainly true of some people—I incline to think a majority—but others seem to actually try to help—at first.
  5. Bleeding-heart rhetoric is disguised hate speech. Once again, obviously true for some B.H. Envy and hatred are problems for us all, if we’re honest, and some of us make a meal of them.
  6. The policies work so poorly that only force can sustain them. Very true.

Neglect his case 1; it doesn’t require explanation. In a revolution, very often the most brutal rise to the top. Water is wet. Neglect his case 3; in some cases outsiders matter, but not enough to require explanation.

His cases 4 and 5 are closely related, and are quite easy to recognize in other people. The B.H. are agonized for their tribe, not everybody. I think 5 plays a major role, and 4 is lurking behind the scenes. People have mixed motives.

About 2 and 6: When the only tool you have is a hammer, and it isn’t working, use a bigger hammer. And if that doesn’t work use a bigger hammer. And if that doesn’t work, smash it into the ground with a pile driver. Because the B.H. are human too, and get as frustrated or hateful as the people they despise, especially when it starts to become clear that the B.H. were wrong. They can’t be wrong, and they have to prove it while they can.

UPDATE: The most prominent B.H. these days tend to be of the political collectivist persuasion, but Savonarola and Jim Jones also seem to have started out with a pure concern for the well-being of their fellow-man, or at least some subset of them.

Keeping warm FYI

If you are changing a battery while standing on -14F ice for an hour, while wearing regular and wool socks and "800 gram" boots, your feet get quite cold. Changing back and forth between two pairs of gloves helps your fingers, though. Don't ask me why Honda made certain design decisions, though. Nor why a certain un-named party doesn't have a decent screwdriver.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


From Arthur Machen's story The Terror
Now a censorship that is sufficiently minute and utterly remorseless can do amazing things in the way of hiding ... what it wants to hide. Before the war, one would have thought otherwise; one would have said that, censor or no censor, the fact of the murder at X or the fact of the bank robbery at Y would certainly become known; if not through the Press, at all events through rumor and the passage of the news from mouth to mouth. And this would be true—of England three hundred years ago, and of savage tribelands of to-day. But we have grown of late to such a reverence for the printed word and such a reliance on it, that the old faculty of disseminating news by word of mouth has become atrophied. Forbid the Press to mention the fact that Jones has been murdered, and it is marvelous how few people will hear of it, and of those who hear how few will credit the story that they have heard. You meet a man in the train who remarks that he has been told something about a murder in Southwark; there is all the difference in the world between the impression you receive from such a chance communication and that given by half a dozen lines of print with name, and street and date and all the facts of the case. People in trains repeat all sorts of tales, many of them false; newspapers do not print accounts of murders that have not been committed.

I can easily name people who put great trust in the newspaper and their in favorite TV news (violently disparaging the competition!). If the story wasn't hinted at in these organs, these people presume it to be fake. Rumors don't seem to take much hold on them--unless, of course, their sources report them as fact.

But rumors abound, and sometimes seem to be trusted more than any news media. You've probably heard tales of toxic jet contrails, or the anti-vac claims, or the some of the stories that circulate among poorer black communities. Suspicion of the authorities, right?

Or am I and Machen wrong? Are wild rumors and conspiracy theories just as popular among those who trust the media? And by "wild" I mean not sanctioned by hints in their favorite sources; not even mentioned. I'm generally not a very encouraging audience to that sort of thing, so I probably don't hear as much as I could.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Old Ones. Or not.

The Scientific American has an article about long-lived microbes inside the Earth. Tuning the metabolism down to nearly nothing, a surprising quantity of living things can survive where you wouldn't expect there to be enough food. Nothing big, mind you--just microbes.

One bit that surprised me was about Lipman

Back in the late 1920s, a scientist named Charles Lipman, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, began to suspect there were bacteria in rocks. Not fossil bacteria. Alive bacteria.

When placed in solutions of coal dust and sterile water, in two to three weeks he began to see what looked like bacteria.


Intriguingly, he found that a rehydration period of at least a few days in liquid was essential for revivification. If the crushed coal was wetted but immediately placed on food-infused gelatin-like agar in a Petri dish, nothing grew.


In fact, he found that heating the sample for hours at 160°C never managed to kill the bacteria inside the coal. If anything, it only seemed to encourage them. The longer they were baked – up to an incredible 50 hours – the better they seemed to grow when the coal was subsequently crushed (If his results were genuine, they may not be altogether surprising given both the conditions that create coal and the effects of heat shock proteins).

That's a pretty dramatic result, and I'd expect lots of people would check it out. But a quick googling doesn't show that anybody has reproduced his results. On the contrary:

S.K. Roy, 1937 Popular Astronomy 45:499.

Charles Lipman claimed to have found living bacteria in stony meteorites. Roy doubts this, pointing out Lipman had also "found" living bacteria in ancient terrestrial rocks and coal, but that other scientists had failed to verify this. Roy also tried to obtain living cultures from meteorites, but failed.

Did the experiments that "failed to verify this" ever get published? If not, why not? Popular Astronomy vol45 doesn't seem to be available online. I will have to see if the Astronomy library has a copy. Maybe it will have references.

The failure to reproduce ought to be as famous as the claim.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Witch hunts; can we stop them?

There were times of witch hysteria, in which an accusation meant ruin or worse. We had to read The Crucible in high school--I wonder if it is still required. Given the popularity of witch hunts now, probably not. Of course we don't use the term "witch", but the notion that subjective testimony outweighs any objective evidence is still central to convictions. Racism is a real thing, but the term gets slung around like mud. Remember the reaction to Damore's memo? Accusation=conviction, no appeal.

There's a bright spot in that link above:

Calef reports that in October 1692, a “worthy gentleman of Boston” was accused of witchcraft by a resident of Andover (the actual location of many of the “Salem” proceedings). The accused gentleman immediately responded by lodging a “thousand pound action for defamation” (a ruinous sum) and advising the accuser to get his evidence ready for trial. Not surprisingly, the gentleman’s accuser changed his mind, and shortly thereafter the accusations of witchcraft dried up altogether.

I gather that some of the Covington parents are contemplating this kind of option. Given that the reporting didn't bother with due diligence, and that there was obvious malice on the part of a number of commentators e.g. Disney producer Jack Morrissey, they might have a good case. The old saw says you shouldn't try to argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel, but I think I'll root for the underdogs.

The dangers of using averages

instead of looking at the whole histogram: The bifurcated city. The planners want "people like us--hip and affluent." I don't think this sort of "screw the peons" was deliberate (though there've been rumors that some city planners pushed blacks out of central neighborhoods intentionally); I think that large chunks of the population are just not on the planner's radar at all. That's probably one of the reasons Trump won--besides Hillary not listening to advice.
At its best, gentrification is primarily an organic process, part of the narrative of urban improvement. Its contemporary urban version, however, has too often been driven by targeted policy interventions, such as tax-increment financing, subsidized arts districts, sports stadiums, or urban-renewal projects, as in Portland, which typically depend on the exercise of eminent domain. Policies such as these can crowd out scarce public funds that could be spent more wisely elsewhere and have something to do with the high costs of housing (among other goods) that make it so hard for middle-class families to afford living in urban cores.

Bus service, critical to poor and working-class residents, has often been reduced, even as rail service, intended to serve more affluent riders, expands. (Some cities have invested in passenger rail lines in an effort to reduce auto use, but transit market share has either stagnated or declined, a fact that rarely gets mentioned in reportage.) Public infrastructure spending on rail or on urban-containment policies does succeed in driving up the price of land, increasing economic pressure on lower-income residents. Many cities have emphasized the construction of high-density housing, which is largely funded by foreign investors, who often don’t occupy their units, creating expensive housing that sits empty. Nationwide, as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of new housing product is luxury-oriented.

In my town, most new housing is lawyer-mansions. I get it that it can be more lucrative to build and sell palaces than the equivalent value of moderate-sized houses. Still, some cities tend to put their thumbs on the scale. "The average income went up!" doesn't mean a thing without the context. Zuckerberg chased everybody else out of town?

Lin Wells' memo

From April 2001. A good reminder about predictions.

UPDATE: Typo in link. What would planners have thought in 1900, 1910, etc?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Observations about political talk

Political chatter acts like crack.

When you indulge with your friends, you get a feel-good buzz as though you were actually doing something useful. You are, after all, "raising awareness," or at least just keeping each other woken, like a gaggle of night watchmen gazing into the fire.

Each bit of snark is like a dainty morsel going down into the innermost parts. It feels so good that the habit grows. More and more of your conversation involves it. You feel important—perhaps it is the only time you feel important—when you gossip your judgments on your enemies.

And you react with such shock and hatred when anyone harshes your mellow with nuance, or even—God forbid—a contradiction.

It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I read of a judge who admitted that he only paid attention to the prosecution's arguments during bench trials. He said that if he listened to the defense too, he got confused.

That seems to be pretty common elsewhere. Even though first reports are rarely complete and commonly just wrong, how many people do you know who remember the followups? First impressions trump everything.

When the matter has nothing to do with your life and you don't care, that bias seems mostly harmless. But that little weakness, exploited by the malicious, starts to loom larger when you do have to judge.

The media have reputations to uphold, and retractions that might sully their record for accuracy have always gone deep in the classifieds or the round file. We just get the first impressions faster today.


Einstein said "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." He also said something often simplified:
Found in Montana Libraries: Volumes 8-14 (1954), p. cxxx. The story is given as follows: "In the current New Mexico Library Bulletin, Elizabeth Margulis tells a story of a woman who was a personal friend of the late dean of scientists, Dr. Albert Einstein. Motivated partly by her admiration for him, she held hopes that her son might become a scientist. One day she asked Dr. Einstein's advice about the kind of reading that would best prepare the child for this career. To her surprise, the scientist recommended 'Fairy tales and more fairy tales.' The mother protested that she was really serious about this and she wanted a serious answer; but Dr. Einstein persisted, adding that creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist, and that fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality." However, it is unclear from this description whether Margulis heard this story personally from the woman who had supposedly had this discussion with Einstein, and the relevant issue of the New Mexico Library Bulletin does not appear to be online.

Variant: "First, give him fairy tales; second, give him fairy tales, and third, give him fairy tales!" Found in The Wilson Library Bulletin, Vol. 37 from 1962, which says on p. 678 that this quote was reported by "Doris Gates, writer and children's librarian".

Be careful about taking such advice. When the grateful bird tells you how to get to the magician's castle, she may be making some automatic assumptions about how you travel. Little inconveniences like the crevasse may have escaped her notice.

Einstein was, contrary to the story about his elementary school grades, very good at math. For some of us mastery comes easily. It may not have played as great a role in his internal history as the difficulties with understanding light.

Just to get a feel for the matter, consider the papers from his Annus Mirabilis. In all of these, creativity/genius played a big role. What else would you need? How much math?

The photoelectric effect is simple and profound: light exists in chunks, with each different frequency having a different energy. In a phototube, light hits a surface with a coating of cesium or some such easily ionized atom, and knocks loose electrons that an electric field pulls away for measurement. "Einstein noted that the photoelectric effect depended on the wavelength, and hence the frequency of the light. At too low a frequency, even intense light produced no electrons. However, once a certain frequency was reached, even low intensity light produced electrons."

This is pretty easy to understand without much beyond elementary algebra. Creativity played a big role here. Score one for Einstein's Quotes.

Brownian motion isn't something you've noticed unless you spend some time looking through microscopes. Tiny particles jiggle around randomly. Einstein devised a model in which the molecules of the fluid the particles sat in bounced randomly off the sides of the speck; sometimes more on one side and sometimes more on the other. And by "devised a model" I include doing the calculations to show that this was potentially the cause of Brownian motion. That required more than just algebra--statistics and understanding limits was needed too. Score one for Oops: Solid Math Background.

On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies might give a little clue about the math required to study the matter. Maxwell's Equations use calculus and differential equations, and although the Special Theory of Relativity is easily explained using elementary algebra, getting there needed some ways of thinking about vectors that aren't entirely elementary. Score one for Oops: Solid Math Background.

E=mc^2 was explained in a separate paper working out consequences of the previous one. The math isn't terribly hairy, but it requires understanding the previous paper, so I don't think I can score this one so easily.

So: Creativity 1, Oops 2. Of course creativity alone wouldn't have gotten Einstein anywhere with the photoelectric effect unless he had some background knowledge (energy, momentum, how the experiments worked) to draw it out on. And my experience teaching freshman physics lab suggests that not everybody acquires that framework.

Feynman wrote "If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in."

Can Do

We saw The Martian a couple of days ago. Yes, I'm not up to date.

It was a feel-good movie, remembering the old can-do culture. (From all reports I've heard NASA is a pretty sclerotic bureaucracy these days.) See the movie if you haven't.

Some scenes pushed willing suspension of disbelief quite a bit, though. The outsider with the solution was too silly, his solution didn't require supercomputer access(*) (and you don't get access that way anyhow--servers are monitored and somebody trying to crack one would get some attention), and the solution wasn't a solution, as the plot eventually showed. You have to know about a vast number of moving parts in that kind of system--more than any one person can keep track of--and so you have to run it by many dozens of engineers who know what you can keep and what you can discard--and what you could discard if it weren't joined at the hip to something you need. The devil is in the details. I've worked on big experiments for years. Changes need buy-in from people who know the details. Wonderful improvements don't happen because there isn't the power, or the bandwidth, or 6mm extra room, or because somehow a little bit of epoxy got squeezed through a crack into a cooling tube.

And the mixed sex but unpaired team sent to Mars is the kind of nonsense 'new' NASA would come up with. And, despite the famous scene in Marooned, unfortunately you can't speed up work concentrated in a tiny area--when you put more people in each other's way, they work slower.

And the connectors... Ever rummaged in a box of connectors looking for the kind you need? And the Iron Man...

Never mind. Fun movie.

(*) Unless you are running thousands of possible configurations in parallel. And for that you need the details only the engineers know.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Who to serve

I help out with the sound and slides and lights for church services.(*)

I don't like the drum/overamped guitars/praise chorus variety of music. I don't like the style, the volume hurts my ears, and I can't hear myself sing and have no idea whether I hit the note or not.

The music grated on me each Sunday, and after a while I started to think of the band as interfering with worship—as adversaries. When I realized that I thought of them as opponents, my duty was clear.

I had to serve them.

That's when I volunteered to work with the sound team. I wound up behind the stage curtain managing the monitor board (and handling microphone batteries and matters arising). Their wishes were my commands.(**) I wore black so the congregation wouldn't notice me getting in and out of the stage-side booth.

A few years later the church reorganized the electronics, eliminating the need for a separate monitor board, and opened two other services. I started serving in one of the other venues instead.

I still don't like loud music, and think it is bad for congregational participation. But I like the people of the bands, and I have a feel what they're trying to do, and I appreciate them.

It's kind of an obvious distinction, but I'm a slow learner sometimes. And the appreciation isn't abstract, but real.

(*) The directors say about rehearsals that "If you're early you're on time; if you're on time you're late." The sound man has to be there even earlier.

(**) “I need a little more of me in my monitor.” “Got it.” “A little less now.” “Got it” “OK, that’s good.” The level is right back where it was before—probably the musician just needed to re-sensitize his/her ear.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Technological artwork

Hackaday sponsored a contest.. "Can you use the wires of the circuits themselves as the structure of a sculpture, and tell a story with the use and placement of every component?"

This is one of the winners.

"The circuit itself is a light-activating chirping circuit built with 7400-series logic and installed in the hollow of the bird. The sensor is in the nest, and sounds like the baby birds beckoning their parents to feed them."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Unexpected source

I missed this when BBC first published it.
I suspect my grandfather's hands shook as he took the measurements and fitted the suit of this particular German officer, who must have been pleased with the finished article as he then offered my grandfather and brother-in-law a warning: "Get out, while you still can. There's a round-up coming."


Dr Werner Best was a doctor of law and had an uncanny ability to bend the law in his favour. After the war he not only convinced the Danish courts to commute his death sentence to a prison sentence, but years later - when he was accused of signing the death warrants of 8,000 Poles - he managed to convince the judge that he was too sick to stand trial. The case collapsed and he lived for a further 17 years as a free man before dying of natural causes.

A key priority for Best, as the Third Reich's plenipotentiary in Denmark, was to maintain the flow of agricultural goods from Denmark to Germany. ... Hitler's order to make Denmark "free of Jews" - Judenrein - therefore came at a bad time for Best.


And when it became apparent that the primary escape route was across the Oresund, all German patrol boats on the water were ordered into harbour. They remained there for three weeks, when the bulk of the escapees were crossing to Sweden. The official explanation was that the boats needed a paint job. All of them - at the same time.


When the extent of the failure of the round-up became apparent, Hitler telegrammed Best ordering him to explain himself. He responded that he had done as he had been ordered - he had made Denmark Judenrein.

Maybe he thought Hitler's order was evil, or maybe simply stupid. He seems to have participated freely enough in the Nazi rise, but had qualms about scorched-earth during its fall.. People are complicated.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

1 mana = 60 gin

I hope you appreciate algebra. When you look at the alternatives, what you tried to learn in high school looks almost trivial. Algebra wasn't hard; just a bit tedious.

Since India and Mesopotamia were pretty close, it isn't obvious which discovered what when, since we only have a few fragments. And a lot of the "Arabic" work was done in Mesopotamia too. But "The Precious Mirror of the Four Elements" was probably made independently.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Peasants and hunters and other folk dance.

In the West we also have a tradition of nobility dancing too--IIRC for a while dance was one of the things young nobles had to learn. I was reminded of that while listening to the New Years' Strauss concert on youtube the other evening. It might be beneath the dignity of some sufficiently august ruler to try to cut the rug, but the tradition was still there.

How about in China? You can't imagine the Emperor on the dance floor--I'd think there'd be professionals doing the dancing. Turns out that different dynasties had different ideas about that. The dances were apparently often also important rituals--though sometimes peasant dances might be reworked for the court.

Persia had court dances too, for amusement and for ceremony. And later: "The harem of Nassereddin Shah, the 4th Qajar king, hosted dance performances in which many of his eighty-four wives and a number of his daughters participated. At the time, Shiite law forbade any kind of dance, but the most powerful man in the country had the luxury of breaking religious law."

I wonder what they were like.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


The most memorable vacation times are those spent with people. Some people just click with you.

Scenes and actions are wonderful (except possibly the white-knuckle times) too, but something about those click times is amazing.

Sometimes, when driving by a town, it occurs to me that somewhere in that town are some men and women with whom we could spend a joyful few days, who we do not know and almost certainly will never meet in this life.

I wish there were a way to meet them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Youngest Daughter is currently between jobs, and has spent quite a bit of time online. She commented to me tonight that Facebook et al get boring. There's much that's flashy, but not much substance, and no accomplishment.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Old Order Changeth

"No, he said there's no way to stop it."

"Then our time's about up. Half a million years is a good run, though. I think we've done well with the years."

"I agree, but that's for the judge to decide," Heard answered.

"We'll finally get to see what the Hadrokkons did. If their sunset dance was anything like ours."

"Probably not. Their tails were completely different." Heard could not imagine anyone not doing a sunset dance.

Gerald asked, "The manira are cute. Are they the next in line?"

Heard replied, "He said it would be the descendents of those," and gestured with his short clawed arm at some skittering small creatures dashing from the cluster ferns to a hole in the ground.

"OK; not what I would have expected at all. Did he say anything else?"

"No, that's all we needed. We'll learn the rest when we reach the timeless ourselves."

"21 days. Where will it hit?"

"Just offshore."

"Ouch. That will make a mess."

"The whole world, he said. Time for something new."

"I hope the manira make it. I love watching them."

"Are you ready to work on the final song?"

"I should walk with Dromo for an hour first. She inspires me. I want to do this right. It's quite an honor." Gerald swung his tail to a musical fragment in his mind, and then turned to run to the grove where Dromo liked to listen to the manira. "See you tonight!" he called over his shoulder.

Spending time

Isaiah 55:1-2 says:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.

It isn't quite "without cost." It costs us time and a choice.

I have 24 hours to spend today. What will I spend them on? There may come a day when I'd give the world for 2 more hours, but it turns out I can't bank them. And in between now and then, I will have spent them all. What will I have bought with them?

Each moment has choices. Most of the time I just keep doing what I started doing a few minutes ago, but sometimes I distract myself. While I wondered what to write next, I clicked over to read some news. I didn't really learn anything, so why did I bother?

I can't bank choices either. Some choices are big (who to marry, what career to work in) and require follow-through with the lifetime of implied little choices--in fact, if I don't follow through, did I ever make that big choice to begin with? Or was I fudging? This brings to mind the whole issue of New Years' resolutions.

Most of the people I work with understand choices and promises in their professional life. You make a promise, make a choice, and that binds you to a lot of subsequent choices. Nobody wants to work with you if you don't. You don't get anything done if you don't. They mostly understand the principle in personal life, but not always or all the time. I wonder what makes it easier in one case than the other.

And why it is always so easy to choose what isn't bread.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

The contemplative vs the active

AVI has an interesting post up about IQ and success.

This reminded me of an old story, as told by J.D. Suggs:

The preacher had to go across the lake to the church, and the boy rowed him across. This Sunday morning a new preacher walked down to the boat, says: "Good morning, son. Are you the one carries 'em across the lake to the church?" Boy says, "Yessa, parson." So the preacher gets in the boat. He asks, "What do you charge, son?" "Twenty-five cents a person."

So the parson gives him a quarter. Boy shoved off from the bank. Preacher says, "Sonny, you ever go to Sunday school?" Boy answers, "I hate to tell you, parson, but I never did." "Did you ever learn the Ten Commandments?" "I hate to tell you parson, but I never did." Preacher said, "Son, you lost half your life then."

Then he asks him: "Son, did you ever learn theology? Did you ever learn geography?" "No." "That's too bad, son; you lost half your life."

About that time the boy paddled on a snag up there in the lake and capsized the boat. Out went the parson. Boy, he commenced swimming off. Parson went down. When he come up the boy hollered to him, "Say, parson, you ever learn swimology?" Parson said, "No, son, I never did." "Well, parson, I hate to tell you but you lost all of your life."

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Years Note

Just a word to the wise: When you are installing a Twist-N-Set, allot plenty of time for scraping the inside of the pipe, and plenty more to slowwwllly twist that gasket up to the proper (tight) position before pushing it into place. There's a lot of friction there--so much that the notion of "tightening it in place" is a joke. Never mind what certain Youtube videos suggest.

The tiler left too small a hole in the tile to put in a normal flange, so I trimmed the Twist-N-Set flange down with the table saw. It's OK now. One closet bolt is in the original cast iron flange, and the other is a hanger bolt sunk into the beam beside the broken part of the flange. If the iron flange breaks again, we'll have to cut into the tile, but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.