Monday, May 31, 2021

Benedict Arnold backstory

Smithsonian magazine traces his history. "The American Revolution as it actually unfolded was so troubling and strange that once the struggle was over, a generation did its best to remove all traces of the truth."

Revolutions typically bring exactly the wrong people to power, and personal enmities matter more than the public good. We lucked out in the end, but the history isn't always pretty. "In limbo like this, Arnold was dangerously susceptible to seeing treason not as a betrayal of all he had held sacred but as a way to save his country from the revolutionary government that was threatening to destroy it."

Memorial Day

Memorial Day isn't a personal one for my family.

We have veterans: My father was in the Navy in WW-II, my wife's father in submarine service in WW-II, one of my uncles was infantry in Korea, another was career Air Force, one of my wife's uncles was a doctor in a forward aid station in Korea (the ones that fed the MASH units). The generation before was mostly too old, too young, or in critical industries. Of those who served I don't know of any that didn't make it home. We have the war diary of one of my wife's ancestors--U-boats came close but the troop ship arrived in time for the Armistice. One of my brothers-in-law was in the Navy in VietNam. (My experience is limited to registering for the draft. I was classified 4H: 4A but Holding. The VietNam war was winding down.)

For reasons having to do with research for a novel the lunch conversation turned to the battle of Midway and the fate of Torpedo 8, and I reminded the youngsters around the picnic table that every one of the men who died that day was younger than they. My wife reminded me that the officers were generally older than the rest, but even of them I think most were younger. I hoped they could imagine how life and death and the fate of millions rested in the decisions of men who didn't live to see their own young ages.

We'll forget them: even when we make the effort it's hard to remember. But One remembers. May God have mercy on them. And on us, who might just as easily have been in their boots.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Does that explain them?

If taking a photograph steals a bit of your soul, what happens to movie stars?

Apparently I'm not the first to notice...

Saturday, May 29, 2021


UFO's are in the news, with some wild-sounding behaviors. They supposedly can travel ultra-fast, change direction easily, and show up visually and on radar.

I like science fiction, but the first thing that comes to mind isn't aliens, but spoofing. Suppose you had a drone with radio gear aboard that rebroadcast the radar signal with a slight delay. It would appear to the radar to be farther away than it really was, and its speed (and acceleration) would appear proportionately greater too. Your eyes can see it, but it isn't easy to judge distances of strange objects.

That would be rather worrisome. If hostile drones can spoof their locations, our warships are more vulnerable than we think. And so, of course, are land installations--though land installations could more easily use info from multiple locations and triangulate the real position.

I imagine you could do some cute things with retransmitting a "locked-on" radar signal to try confuse a missile. You couldn't confuse it as to direction--the signal would stil be coming from your drone--but if the missile has the distance wrong it could detonate too late.

Friday, May 28, 2021


I was curious about the Mandaeans. I'd heard they consider John the Baptist to be the Messiah.

That seems not to be an ideal description of them. They regard him as the last and greatest of the prophets, but I don't think John would recognize them.

They're the last of the ancient gnostics. Baptism is an important weekly ritual. They have a curious sacred book--the Ginza Rba, which is divided into two parts: a Right and Left Ginza, printed on alternate pages upside-down wrt each other. The Right's current version seems to date from "early Islamic" era; the Left's is much older. If you want a sample: The Book of John the Baptist is a collection of "proverbs", such as straightforward ones like "The first of your care is: know your account and then speak." and "The unjust is like a pomegranate, showing a resplendent face from the outside, but inside is full of mold." and some that are confusing "The words of the wise man at the gates are like pearls on a pig." I gather that "at the gates" has to do with the gates of ignorance and evil--did I mention that they are gnostics?

Their funeral ceremonies--The Mandaean Ṭabahata Masiqta--are complex, involving raisins in water, a pigeon, and many rituals, some of which seem vaguely Egyptian (they have an opening of the mouth, etc). This is a diagram of part of the ceremony. The new body is in the Light-world, of course.

Apparently a Mandaean who marries outside the faith is deemed to have left it, and nobody is allowed to convert into it, so it's a strictly ethnic religion at this point--and a persecuted one.

If you are curious about what the ancient pagan rituals were like, you could do worse than read that funeral exposition. It seems so wildly different from what you usually think of when you hear "gnostic" that I wonder if it came from merging two different religions--maybe a long forgotten compromise. "We aren't going to choose between the old cult and the new elite gnostics--we'll do both"

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Long meetings

Do you know someone who doesn't believe he has had the last word unless he has had the last hundred?

Amnesty law

Would a "war crimes court" bring justice and closure to Liberia?

Maybe, though I doubt it. I think the price tag would be too high.

There's a reason the amnesty act was passed in 2003. It hasn't been all that long, and the warlords are still around. Would you care to bet that they forgot where their weapons caches are?

Warlords are honored legislators; their crimes stay unpunished. And will.

We have it good here--most places. We even have leisure to worry about posthumous punishments.

He must have wanted privacy

We heard the cry of a red-tailed hawk on the back porch yesterday. I wondered if the bird feeder had attracted a different kind of bird feeder. When we looked, a blue jay was splashing in the bird bath. He jumped out and gave a red-tail's cry, and jumped back in. Lather, repeat, until the water level in the bird bath got too low.

Programming pasta

Carnegie Mellon University had an idea for making flat pasta turn into shaped pasta when you cook it.

Why? Curly/hollow pasta holds more sauce than flat does. OTOH, flat pasta can be stored much more compactly. (As one of the commenters notes, small is not necessarily beautiful when you need to catch the customer's eye at the grocery store.) So if you need to store a lot of pasta but don't want to lose the curly-factor, it would be nice if the pasta curled up when you cook it.

They tried stamping ridges on one side of sheets of flat-rolled pasta.

It works.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Rooting for laundry

We aren't at British soccer fan levels of sports "loyalty" (though NBA victory riots may come close), or the Blues and Greens dividing along every possible preference. Different political partisans can still support the same baseball team, at least as of 2020.

I've never been excited about sports, unless I was playing, and not always then. At the SuperBowl parties I've been to I spent more time in the kitchen with the snacks and good conversation than in front of the TVs. And what I don't care about I'm tempted to deprecate.

But we're not overburdened with things that bond us.

The Cubs aren't just Chicago, they're regional--Oak Park-ians can call them "our team" as easily as 4'th ward-ians. It may well be the only thing that links them--a trivial thing, but better than nothing.

The "laundry" isn't just a team symbol but a symbol of "membership in my region," and it's an American sort of ideal that you can change regional membership.

I'll try not to disdain "rooting for laundry."

And cat videos--anything benign that draws the disparate tribes together is beneficial. They won't cure our problems, but despising the little things is worse.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Browsing around a bit more

on the site I used for the previous post, I found other curiosities about songs...

Mahna Mahna

I knew the Muppet Show version (much more polished than the Ed Sullivan Show version), but I'd no idea how recent the base song was, nor where it came from.

Herod's Song

Try it and See was the first use of the tune--not as good as the Jesus Christ Superstar version.

Girl from Ipanema

(Adam Neely analyses it) Believe it or not, I'd never heard Amy Winehouse sing this--or anything, actually. Not sure I missed much.

Eres tu

Did Calderon copy an older work? It sounds like he picked out a theme, but developed it completely differently. Is that enough to make it derivative?

Pass me by

My memory's a bit fuddled sometimes. I thought I remembered hearing Peggy Lee's Pass Me By on the car radio in California, but the song came after we left. The notion of telling the world to "pass me by" and leave me alone is an attractive one, but somehow the world isn't generally inclined to do that. I like the first version better than Sinatra's or Lee's--the percussion is more realistic. "The whole darned world" gets a vote.

Saturday, May 22, 2021


Hank Campbell has a suggestion for helping Africa (it isn't quite as simple as he makes out, though), and a reminder that smears are easier than real arguments.

I don't know what local reporting is like in your area, but here they're little better than national media at doing background checks on the NGOs that produce the press releases. "Their mission statement wants a greener and more equitable world. Good enough--they're trustworthy, put 'em in the rolodex."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Home office sights

A chickadee on one of the clematis trellises was hopping gently about, flapping its wings slowly from time to time as though it were trying to attract attention. Binoculars established that it had a large green caterpillar dangling from its beak--a bit too large of a mouthful to handle on the fly, as it were. Was it signaling for its mate? (or "displaying happiness"?)

After a while it did attract attention--a female cardinal (quite a bit bigger). After the cardinal hopped still closer the chickadee decided it had urgent business elsewhere--not in the direction of its nest box.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Folklore Fights the Nazis by Kathleen Stokker

Subtitle: "Humor in Occupied Norway 1940-1945" Let me get the bad bits out of the way quickly: She hammers way too hard on the point that humor helped stiffen resistance. The book's prose and structure are somewhat academic.

That said, the recorded Norwegian humor differs in tone from that I read of from You Call This Living? (Banc and Dundes) in Soviet and Nazi lands. It was more confrontational, and less concerned with ubiquitous snitches (though there were collaborators and the Germans were not kind).

A farmer received a threatening letter about his failure to produce enough eggs. He wrote back saying, "Have submitted your document to the individuals concerned, but inasmuch as they refused to comply, they have been court-martialed, placed before a firing squad and executed."

Compare the tone with

Two guards walked their rounds down empty streets. The first asked, "Tell me truthfully. What is your opinion of the regime?"

The second replied, "The same as yours, comrade."

"In that case, said the first, it is my duty to arrest you."

As the war turned sour for the Germans, the local Nazi (NS) party, never huge, started to suffer.

Have you heard they're awarding prizes to those who can increase Nazi party membership? Anyone who can get 5 people to join will be allowed out of the party. And those who can get 10 people to join will recieve written documentation of never having been a member.

Imbedded in the book is quite a bit of history of the war from Norway's perspective.

The "quick-witted putdown" is apparently something of a cultural tradition, and Norway was more homogenous than many of the countries appearing in You call this living, so perhaps that might contribute to the more direct tone. Needless to say, most were not told to Germans--though some actors skated very close to the line.

Many of the jokes are given in Norwegian and English--the puns are explained, and if you read Norwegian you get the full benefit.

I thought it interesting. Don't expect to be rolling on the floor laughing, but read it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Masking the vaccinated

The CDC announced what was intuitively obvious if vaccines did any good at all (and Israel's numbers say they do): the vaccinated don't need to wear masks indoors. The state said fine, we'll go with that.

Dane County is heavily progressive, and therefore behind--they'll let the current mandate expire 2-June instead of repealing it. This is in one of the most heavily vaccinated counties in the country.

Perhaps this is the usual allergy to admitting that anything you may have decided needs to be changed..

Monday, May 17, 2021


BBC has a bit on myths and legends and disasters.
In Brittany, the story is about the city of Ys, ruled by King Gradlon, which was protected by a complex series of sea defences that required gates to be opened at low tide to allow excess water to drain off the land. One day, the king’s daughter, Dahut, possessed by a demon, opened these gates at high tide, allowing the ocean to flood the city, and led to the abandonment of the city.

They also mention Austalian stories, which I commented on before. I don't know if there's a selection bias in what gets reported, but imagine which would be remembered longer--a log of where the highest tide had been for the recorder's grandfather, for his father, and for him--or a story of Ngurunderi chasing his wives?

Some colleagues have expressed annoyance at dramatizations of famous discoveries/discoverers, in which ahistorical conflicts or love interests were introduced. Tell the straight story--and see which one people remember. I'll bet it's the story with the demon-possessed princess.

The calculations change when you have contemporaries writing matters down, but there's still a bias towards "story."

Sleep on it

A one-off software system quit working at work. I'd been trying to figure out why before I went on vacation today.

I woke at 3 this morning with a simple answer: one technical bit of prep hadn't happened. I didn't want to wake anybody up getting up to fix it, so I made a mental note to deal with it first thing on getting up and went back to sleep. Hurray for sleeping on a problem!

I didn't get back to sleep at once--and ten minutes later realized that it would have never worked in the first place without the prep. That hadn't been the answer.

Middle-of-the-night realizations have never been correct for me. Nor have midnight plot ideas worked.

Some people's dreams are useful. Not mine.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Justice of the Peace, back in the day

From Bill Nye, back in the 1880's:
The justice of the peace is sometimes a peculiarity, and if someone does not watch him he will exceed his jurisdiction. It took a constable, a sheriff, a prosecuting attorney and a club to convince a Wyoming justice of the peace that he had no right to send a man to the penitentiary for life. Another justice in Utah sentenced a criminal to be hung on the following Friday between twelve and one o'clock of said day, but he couldn't enforce the sentence. A Wisconsin justice of the peace granted a divorce and in two weeks married the couple over again—ten dollars for the divorce and two dollars for the relapse. Another Badger justice bound a young man over to appear and answer at the next term of the Circuit Court for the crime of chastity, and the evidence was entirely circumstantial, too.

Another one, when his first case came up, jerked a candle box around behind the dining-room table, put his hat on the back of his head, borrowed a chew of tobacco from the prisoner and said: “Now, boys, the court's open. The first feller that says a word unless I speak to him will get paralyzed. Now tell your story.” Then each witness and the defendant reeled off his yarn without being sworn. The justice fined the defendant ten dollars and made the complaining witness pay half the costs. The justice then took the fine and put it in his pocket, adjourned court, and in an hour was so full that it took six men to hold his house still long enough for him to get into the doors.

Friday, May 14, 2021


I remember wondering about Leeuwenhoek's amazing lenses that let him make his not-reproduced-for-a-century observations using the weirdest looking microscope ever. He refused to tell anybody how he made them.

At TU Delft they put one of his microscopes in a neutron tomography system to get a non-destructive look at the details.

It was a simple process, already known--melt a glass rod and led a bead form on the end. Use that bead.

I guess the secret was just patience and quality control. I suppose that's still a useful secret.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021


"God has us fight besetting sins to remind us of how ugly the unnoticed ones are." I can't recall the attribution. This is a paraphrase--from some of the Eastern fathers, I think.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Essays in Idleness

I've been a fan of David Warren (currently recovering from heart surgery)'s "blog" Essays in Idleness. Given his breadth of reading, I should probably have looked up the reference, but had no clue until he pointed it out that there was a famous older work by that name Tsurezuregusa, or Essays in Idleness.

One Yoshida Kendo, apparently unhappy with his life serving the Inperial court, retired to become a Buddhist monk, sometime between 1330 and 1332, and wrote this classic.

"Essays" in this case are thoughts ranging from a sentence to a few pages, on subjects from popular supersitions to friendship. It is called of the Japanese classics. Some is humorous, and much of it illustrates the "vanity of vanities." Some of his attitudes towards propriety and aesthetics seem to still flavor Japanese thought today.

For a dedicated Buddhist, he held very strong opinions about proper ritual and beauty and love affairs and other ephemeral things.

"things thought but left unsaid only fester inside you. So I let my brush run on like this for my own foolish solace; these pages deserve to be torn up and discarded, after all, and are not something others will ever see."

"It is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met."

"A certain recluse monk once remarked, ‘I have relinquished all that ties me to the world, but the one thing that still haunts me is the beauty of the sky.’"

Kinyo no Nii had an elder brother called Abbot Ryōgaku, who was very hot-tempered. A large hackberry tree grew alongside his hut, so people called him ‘the Hackberry Priest’. Offended by this, he cut the tree down. The stump was left, so he was then called ‘the Stump Priest’. This made him angrier still, and he dug the stump out, leaving a large hole that filled with water. So then everyone called him ‘the Ditch Priest’.

If you're curious about Japan, read it. There are several translations. The above is one; Wikipedia links to a scan of a different one.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Does the lawn really need mowing?

For when boys or soldiers or poets, or any other blossoms and prides of nature, are for lying steady in the shade and letting the Mind commune with its Immortal Comrades, up comes Authority busking about and eager as though it were a duty to force the said Mind to burrow and sweat in the matter of this very perishable world, its temporary habitation.

Is October difficult?

When Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal, he suggested that perhaps Baal was asleep, or taking a leak, or on a journey.

It seems that the Japanese tenth month is the month without gods, when all 8 million of them go on vacation (pilgramage?) to Izumo Shrine. I don't believe the wikipedia attempt to fiddle with the etymology--I'd guess that the spoken language's usage would dominate, not the spelling.

After the Japanese adopted the Gregorian calendar, October became the problematic month. Interpret as you please.

Why? It's hard to tell--the suggested "plausible" explanation suggests that it began as a family reunion and match-making discussion session, but the background info isn't enlightening.

How old is dreaming?

"Since alligator tastes like chicken, what does chicken taste like? Dinosaur."

We dream, dogs dream, cats dream, mice dream: "the brain patterns were so similar they could tell what part of the maze the rats were "dreaming" of."

Apparently zebra finches dream too: "humans cycle between SWS and REM sleep roughly every 1.5 hours, but birds appear to do it every 10-15 minutes."

Maybe dreaming for memory consolidation is fundamental to animal brain design. Sleep is certainly important: "A good night's sleep improves young birds' ability to learn new songs". But, of course, "birds initially struggle to replicate and remember songs when they first wake up." They lack coffee.

What would a T-rex do first thing in the morning? Shake his head and mumble "Was I really such an idiot as to fight a triceratops in a thunderstorm? What is a triceratops anyway?"

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Elephant's Foot isn't forever

Radioactive materials release energy. I don't know if you've ever wondered where it goes. At the end of the day most of it gets turned into heat, but the paths the energy takes along the way can be interesting.

Radioactive decay in naturally occurring substances results in 4 types of particles flying out: electrons/positrons, photons (gamma/x-ray), alpha particles (He nuclei), and neutinos. The neutrinos escape and don't heat things up nearby--ignore them. As alphas pass through matter they ionize nearby atoms--so much so that they lose energy quickly and slow down, grab a few stray electrons and turn into a He atom. The ionized atoms recombine with nearby electrons, releasing low energy photons and generaly shaking things up a bit locally. Shaking means heat.

The electrons/positrons and photons mostly interact with other electrons around the atoms of the material they are passing through. Both typically travel much farther than an alpha, spreading their ionization along a longer track. The same sorts of things happen to the ions--they recombine, releasing lower energy photons and shaking things up a bit locally. Heat.

Sometimes the electron going through kicks the atom's electron hard enough that it in turn starts flying through the material. If the energies are high enough you can get a cascade going--and pair-produce electron/positron pairs as well. One single high energy (much higher than radioactive elements produce, btw) electron can produce a shower with thousands of particles.

Fission--let me make a little digression here. The higher the number of protons in a nucleus, the higher the fraction of neutrons you find in stable isotopes. For example, the most common iron has 26 protons and 30 neutrons: ratio is 1.15. Uranium-238 has 92 protons and 146 neutrons: ratio is 1.59 When uranium fissions, two smaller nuclei fly away from each other, with more neutrons than is good for them--and neutrons can come from the primary fission as well. The smaller nuclei try to shed neutrons, either directly or by emitting electrons (and neutrinos) to turn the neutrons into protons. So in fission you get the ordinary kinds of radiation, plus neutrons.

So, fission produces neutrons--and being neutral, neutrons don't interact much with the electrons. But they do bounce off nuclei. Bounce=random movement=heat. But in a solid, each atom has a particular place in the local lattice. If a neutron kicks its nucleus, that atom is now dislocated, and there's a gap where it originally sat. You can imagine how this effects the solid. If enough atoms get dislocated, the material tries to swell.

Neutron embrittlement can be a big problem in reactors. Designers have to choose materials carefully. I didn't see "design for replacement" anywhere, but I assume that's a factor too.

Solid structures sustain microscopic battering wherever the neutrons fly.

It had not occurred to me that other artifacts might suffer the same fate, but in Chernobyl's melted reactor, blobs of radioactive lava are disintegrating. "Early on, an FCM formation called the Elephant’s Foot was so hard scientists had to use a Kalashnikov rifle to shear off a chunk for analysis. “Now it more or less has the consistency of sand,” Saveliev says." And that results in lots of dust, too. Cleaning the place up looks very complicated.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich

He makes several claims:
  1. Our knowledge, and to some degree even our intelligence, is strongly social
  2. Our social intelligence/culture co-evolves with our bodies

His favorite examples of social intelligence are the young children vs chimps in problem solving. When both are young enough, the chimps are faster at figuring out simple problems, but even at that age the children completely outclass the chimps in learning from others. (Once language is involved, no creature comes even close to human performance.) Another is the explorers starving--or being slowly poisoned--in the midst of plenty of food they just don't know how to prepare. South American preparation of cassava is intricate; African methods are somewhat simpler--and chronic cassava poisoning is a problem in some places. The primitive toolkit of the Eskimos would take someone with plenty of time on his hands years to develop--and a castaway typically has no leisure for figuring out a good material for binding together a fish spear.

Humans predigest our food, so we don't need as large a large intestine as other creatures--and it isn't as large. We have a vast amount of cultural knowledge for our clan members to pick up, and it turns out that humans take far longer to mature than similar creatures.

He noticed that some South Pacific tribes have taboos that have subtle safety effects. Women are forbidden certain fish, which it turns out often carry parasites that can harm unborn children.

Here I wonder if he's cherry-picking the data. Dr Harley's Native African Medicine with Special Reference to its Practice in the Mano Tribe of Liberia summarized the local treatments as being roughtly 1/3 effective, 1/3 neutral, and 1/3 harmful. Is there a systematic analysis of the taboos Henrich mentions?

He tries to explain how culture can literally evolve. Hang around near high status people to pick up either status or knowledge, depending on how they got their status. Over time, status from knowledge grows knowledge and reproductive success.

He admits--insists on--the fact that this sort of knowledge/culture growth is delicate, and information can be lost (forever as far as your tribe is concerned) in a famine or plague or dead end approach). He gives a New Guinea example--a tribe forgot how to fish. And forgot lots of other things too.

Hmm. It seems so delicate, and takes so long, that one comes away with the impression that this kind of cultural/physical evolution isn't possible. There should have been more signicant culture earlier or much more rapid physical changes recently. Or a combination gift.

I'm not sure what their algorithm is doing

I searched for tribes of the liberian hinterland, and the search returned Schwab's book. That's good.

It also returned, in order: "Azure Moon" CD, "Cybertela Only God Can Judge Me T-shirt", "Manscaped groin hair trimmer", "Stay strapped or get clapped T-shirt", "Cephalofair Games Gloomhaven board game", "Honeywell redLink to internet gateway", "people who tolerate me on a daily basis T-shirt", "Spin Master Games Santorini board game", "realistic LED candles", "Mansions of Madness Board game", "Lubridem Men's unscented lotion", yet more realistic LED candles, "Empire of the Summer Moon (good book, BTW)", "Five Tribes board game", "Czech Games TZolk'in", "Calliope Tsuro board game".

6 board games, 3 novelty T-shirts, 2 flameless candles, 2 "shaving"-related products, 1 network connection setup, 1 music CD and a book about the Comanches.

I guess it picked up the business about tribes and flagged a bunch of board games with something "tribe" in their description. Maybe it chopped "hinterland" to get the trimmer and brought along the aftershave as an obvious add-on. Aside from that, I'm stumped.

Do I need to say that none of these come close to anything I've searched for? I picked up the Comanche book second-hand, not on Amazon.


The ship l'Utile with French sailors and Malagasy slaves wrecked on a deserted island. The story starts with a "trigger warning," which just means that people back in 1761 acted like people back in 1761, for good and for bad.
When Dutch merchants chose to establish settlements in the Mascarene Islands in the 17th century, particularly Mauritius, they faced the uncommon colonial dilemma of finding no local population to enslave. There were plenty of dodos, but no humans. The dodo being unsuited to hard labour, the Dutch set about driving the birds to extinction and importing the forced labour without which no self-respecting colony could survive.

The Indian Ocean slave trade is less well-known than its Atlantic counterpart, but it flourished for at least as long and formed its own complex ecosystem.

Archaeologists have been uncovering the stone buildings left behind. It's a long story, but worth the time.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021


You know the phrase "whitewashed wall". Even now this is a beautifully painted wall--compare it to the peeling paint on the wall of the building in back.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Computer woes

From A Canticle for Leibowitz
“Well, Domne, they say your predecessor was fond of gadgets, and it is convenient to be able to write letters in languages you yourself can’t speak.”

“It is? You mean it would be. That contraption — listen, Brother, they claim it thinks. I didn’t believe it at first. Thought, implying rational principle, implying soul. Can the principle of a ‘thinking machine’ — man-made — be a rational soul? Bah! It seemed a thoroughly pagan notion at first. But do you know what?”


“Nothing could be that perverse without premeditation! It must think! It knows good and evil, I tell you, and it chose the latter. Stop that snickering, will you? It’s not funny. The notion isn’t even pagan. Man made the contraption, but he didn’t make its principle. They speak of the vegetative principle as a soul, don’t they? A vegetable soul? And the animal soul? Then the rational human soul, and that’s all they list in the way of incarnate vivifying principles, angels being disembodied. But how do we know the list is comprehensive? Vegetative, animative, rational — and then what else? That’s what else, right there. That thing. And it fell. Get it out of here — But first I’ve got to get a radiogram off to Rome.”

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Variable weather

Beneath this stone--a lump of clay--
Lies Uncle Peter Dan'els
Who too soon in the month of May
Took off his winter flannels.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Breakthrough oddity

From the CDC, on "breakthrough cases":
Total number of
vaccine breakthrough
infections reported to CDC
Females 4,580 (64%)
People aged ≥60 years 3,265 (46%)
Asymptomatic infections 2,078 (31%)
Hospitalizations* 498 (7%)
Deaths† 88 (1%)

*167 (34%) of the 498 hospitalizations were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.

†11 (13%) of the 88 fatal cases were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.

This is curious. Why would more women than men be reported as having the disease after vaccination? Rates of unvaccinated infection are reported as being the same, though men are more likely to get a bad case. Maybe the false positive rate is greater for women. If so, the "Asymptomatic" group should be almost all female. Or maybe women are just twice as likely to get themselves tested, in which case the "Asymptomatic" group should be 2:1 female to male. (I'd guess this is the explanation.)

It's a pity they don't break down the data more for us. They have the data (assuming their form is filled out), and they state "To date, no unusual patterns have been detected in the data CDC has received." Maybe, but I'd like to see for myself.