Sunday, February 27, 2022

"To do justice"

A team at church did an in-depth year-long study on justice in the Bible, and the preachers announced that they were using their work to create a sermon series on the subject centered around Micah 6:8. Alas, injustice is a very poor paradigm for evil -- it's hard to stretch the concept of injustice to cover idolatry or envy without diluting it into uselessness.

They offered a service of lament tonight, and while most of it was fine, part held an implicit message that our systems were oppressive and that not listening to our brothers and sisters in pain was sinful. The details were obscure. (What was omitted was curious too--I thought our church had pretty firm convictions about abortion.)

I tried to pray for the things left out.

When there's a problem and the noisy folk misdiagnose (including lying) and demand that if you're not part of their solution you're part of the problem, I'm strongly inclined to wash my hands of the whole business and go elsewhere. And yet the problem is still there, and if I walk away I answer to God. Perhaps I give up too readily. Not that there's anything I know how to do or would be allowed to do, but my heart is more horrified by their lies than hurt by their pain.

UPDATE: The service was a first try at such a thing, and the lead pastor says they tried to cover far too much--and that some things were squeezed out and others forgotten in the press of time. Followups are promised to be more focussed.

Underground sounds

Small things underground make noises. You can tell different species of grub apart from the different sounds they make. And it isn't just ants and springtails that use sound.
All the tubes were filled with soil, but some were exposed to the vibrations of flowing water (running through a tube on the outside of the pipe). Gagliano, ..., reported that the pea plants favoured growing roots toward the sound of water, even though the water itself was not accessible to the plants and no moisture could seep into the tubes.
Henson knew.

Putin and Ukraine

The people I've read seem to fall into 2 categories: "I have no idea what he was thinking" and "Here's what he is planning." The latter don't agree with each other all that well.

I admitted a few days ago that I'd no knowledge, which puts me in Socratic-ly good company. Unfortunately, though Socrates was an honored and brave soldier, I suspect he'd not have made a good general--you don't always have the leisure to hash out the truth. So, as an exercise, I'll try to figure things out too. But to try to avoid getting married to a favorite theory, I'll lay down several, and we can see which fits new data better.

Reports are that Russians invaded on many fronts, with relatively small forces, and have attacked mostly military targets--being sure to capture Chernobyl too. Further, reports say the Russians are hitting very stiff resistance and having problems with their timetable.

  1. Reports are exaggerated; the Russians are doing OK and expect to be able to dictate terms within a few weeks. With all Ukraine as a satellite/protectorate (no longer "orphan nation") they don't want the expense of rebuilding infrastructure or having to constantly pacify an angry population, so they're being cautious about civilian casualties.
  2. The reports are more or less accurate; things are going badly. Putin expected the upper echelons of Ukrainian government to be as corrupt and unpatriotic as his own or ours. He may have even had assurances from us or Turkey that asylum/refuge would be offered. With civil government collapsed, Putin could have offered terms to take only part of Ukraine, and a more friendly government imposed with a fig leaf of independence. He wouldn't want to rile the civilians too much, or the Ukrainian army might not stop fighting easily. He wouldn't have needed overwhelming force for the invasion.
  3. The reports are more or less accurate; things are going badly. Putin expected to crush the military quickly and inherit the valuable intact infrastructure and industry. Except either his underlings lied to him about Russian and Ukrainian readiness and capacity, or he didn't ask/listen--and the inadequate forces are in far more trouble than anticipated.
  4. There were multiple plans, and the wrong ones started getting implemented. That demanded follow-through, ready or not.
  5. "He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. He deprives the leaders of the earth’s people of intelligence And makes them wander in a pathless wasteland. They grope in darkness with no light, And He makes them stagger like a drunken person." This seems to fit the USA right now; maybe it fits Russia as well.

I suspect China is scheduled to "broker" a deal that gives away east Ukraine. However, they have their own interests, and might find it convenient to delay and force the Russians to waste more resources.

If (1) is true, we'll see Ukraine controlled in a few weeks, though if the Ukrainians get good at attacking supply lines this might stretch the conflict out at a lower level for years. In (2) or (3), either Putin gets overthrown quickly, or the fight escalates with less capable troops thrown in and lots more infrastructure and civilian damage. In (4) there might be a fall guy available to blame the fiasco on and allow a sort-of face-saving de-facto exit--but that gets harder the longer they wait.

None of these theories looks great for Ukraine, except maybe (5).

Suppose for the sake of argument that Russia and Ukraine were and again ought to be a single country, as Putin alleges. That's very idealistic of him--I trust he would not object if it were ruled from Kiev.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Spending my time in documentation

I've used the phrase "institutional knowledge" quite a bit when talking about planning to avoid stovepipes at work. It's strange to think that that's me now. I've been there longer than anybody else in the group--one fellow was there before I was but left and returned later.

So, what are they going to need to know? The projects I'm working on, of course. But also who was involved with which dataset, and why they needed such-and-such an access, and who promised us what... Lots of things that I don't think of until the need arises; things "out of sight, out of mind"(*). When the secondary backup server went queep and died, where did we archive a snapshot of the Projects tree?

Chesterton's fence is alive and well in research IT. "You don't know what that's for? I don't care if you're out of space, don't delete it until you know what it did." And who's left who knows? Me. Somewhere in the mental filing cabinet...

(*) Back in the late sixties/very early seventies I read an anecdote of one of the early efforts at machine translation--between English and Russian. The researchers tried the idiom "out of sight, out of mind", but there weren't any Russian speakers that afternoon, so they ran the result back through the Russian-to-English process--and got "invisible maniac". That's become a household byword for forgotten things.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022


I have not tried to study the geography of the area, or the probable locations of strong points and weak, or game out aircraft vs anti-aircraft. I know enough of the history to know that what happens depends on what's in the minds of people I don't know, and who have no reason to reveal their real thoughts to reporters or self-appointed pundits.

To make it still cloudier, the leaders' underlings may be lying to them about preparedness. What happens doesn't depend on anything I can do, and I doubt that what Biden thinks weighs much in the balance for the interested parties.

And once Mars takes over, even leaders can turn into puppets.

The runup to this uncovered appalling corruption and stupidity--and that's just in the US. I hear the Ukraine is worse, and I decline to trust that Russia is better. And the difference between sources of information is staggering.

I have to be content with not knowing much. Trent Telenko has been reporting things from World War II that are still not well known; initial reports from Ukraine are bound to be incomplete and often simply wrong.

My daughter told me she'd just watched Drachinifel's youtube episode on ship's cats--one of which slept through a bombardment at D-day. Sleeping isn't a crazy thing to do, when there's nothing you can do but pray, and wait.

UPDATE: And yes, one of my colleagues has relatives there, and another was stationed there for quite a while, and a professor has connections there too. It isn't something we don't care about.

Monday, February 21, 2022

NTDS and Aegis

A history.
The Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Ordnance Systems Command were both intimately involved in shipbuilding and sometimes their prerogatives and responsibilities got in each other's way. There was usually just an uneasy peace between the two. The relationships and responsibilities as to who did what when building and equipping a ship were governed by a list of agreements. For example NAVSEA was responsible for installing the deck studs that held down a missile launcher, but NAVORD was responsible for supplying the nuts and washers that went on the studs.


Project Seahawk never came to fruition, probably for two reasons; 1. it did not enjoy the same vigorous OPNAV sponsor support that NTDS had, and 2. the individual project managers and sponsors of the participating systems seemed to be less than enthusiastic or cooperative about being pulled into orbit around a 'super' project manager.

1970-80 era computers that have to fit through a submarine deck hatch, Navy purchasing that bought computers for less than the commercial prices (no gold plated wrenches), and computers that got more reliable as they aged. Parts of the story may seem a little dull, but read it all, and see the cruiser in a cornfield and learn about the sandstone sphere that was supposed to be part of a radar system.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

"Reality is wrong"

I know what he meant: the world is broken, but we can hope.

Bt that's not what he said. Is this a slogan you want to teach second graders?

And though the wikipedia entry tries to paint him in the best light (I almost wrote "whitewash"), Shakur still sounds like a gangster, however talented.

Do French schools lionize Villon?

Friday, February 11, 2022


We're assured that patriarchy is double plus ungood. I don't generally see a clear description of what that means, but it seems to be contrasted with matriarchy or egalitarianism, though defining those is a bit fuzzy too. I can think of others, like "spoiled-child-archy".

I don't hear a lot about modern matriarchies, though we're told there used to be a wonderful matriarchy before the horrible Bell Beaker people showed up and did bad things. I gather that the professionals don't think much of Marija Gimbutas anymore, but like the claim that Columbus proved the Earth was round, pop culture won't let go of it. If we restrict ourselves to modern cultures, there don't seem to be very many. This is a representative list of what one finds in a brief search.

In that list, the Mosuo are tiny and isolated; the Minangkabau seem to use a division of authority; the Akan, though with matrilineal clans, have men as kings and women as queen-mother who may or may not have authority; Bribri are also matrilineal and men and women share distinct authorities; the Garo are matrilineal but men manage; and the Tuareg also have division of roles. It looks as though women inheriting is taken as the key feature of a matriarchy. Most of them seem to have distinct but roughly equivalent roles for men and women--which would fit under egalitarian, wouldn't it? (Except for extreme definitions that draw no distinction between the sexes...)

Why so few? Why are there essentially no tribes where women run the show? There seem to be two competing hypotheses: That in every place on Earth men succeeded in leveraging their greater strength to seize power, or that patriarchies survive better than matriarchies. The distinction between the two may be a bit blurry, but the assumption behind the first is that the power is not held legitimately, and the conclusion of the second is that it is held this way because it arises naturally and works better, with no moral implications.

I have a suspicion or two about the first hypothesis--it seems too facile.

Chimps and nuts

Even after a year of exposure to the nuts and rocks chimps didn't figure out that they could crack the nuts. (Some chimps elsewhere do crack nuts with rocks.) "According to the zone of latent solutions hypothesis in Anthropology, chimpanzees ... can reinvent cultural behaviors individually." The experiment seems to disprove this; chimps have to learn how. They apparently show each other. I'd never heard of the zone of latent solutions before, and it sounds overly expansive. Cats are natural hunters, but to be effective hunters they have to learn--and that's just using native equipment, not external tools.

I wonder how much the chimps learned from watching humans.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

This sounds interesting

The Silent Book Club. I'm not keen on wine, and some books (e.g. Chesterton's) often demand to be quoted aloud, but this sounds just up my alley.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Spectral Evidence

Trigger warnings, traumatizing speach, microagressions--We've seen this movie before. Entirely subjective evidence is taken as gospel to destroy the new witches just as it was used to destroy the old ones.

Sunday, February 06, 2022

"things too marvelous for me"

You can find plenty of ways of parsing out what a human is: body/mind/soul, body/soul/spirit, body/spirit, and so on. Set aside the materialist "body-only" as obviously wrong. The bottom line seems to me to be that there's something blended in a way we don't understand well. We can tell there are material and supermaterial/supernatural aspects, united into something different from either alone. We have no good words to describe this "everyday incarnation." It shouldn't surprise use that we have problems understanding the Great Incarnation. Or the Trinity.

But we try.

Incarnation is one of the deep mysteries of creation. I think one can even say it is one of the principles of creation

If that's true, there are clearly different levels of incarnation.

At one extreme take the simplest case: God creates a universe with certain rules and parameters and calls it good.

A human creator puts time and thought and purpose into the things he makes. In the care he gives those things you can see some love as well--"willing the good of another"--in this case in giving a thing existence and worth, which are good things.

If we assume that God's creating is like that in its own inimitable way, we see that God puts some of His wisdom and love (and glory, per Paul) into His creation. Since God is simple, these attributes are not different from Him, and so He in expressing Himself in creation is present in, and at some simple level united with, His creation.

That sounds almost pantheistic, but isn't--God is immeasurably beyond all creation, and only the faintest image of His glory is there, and this uniting is not as profound as other forms.

Imagine a sunset, and then imagine what you would have if God withdrew His attributes. Beauty and glory and purpose gone--no color or shape or significance (day to night). Wisdom and rule gone--no physical laws, just dark chaos. Existence gone--nothing, which we cannot even imagine, since an observer or imagine-er is something.

At the other extreme of incarnation we have Jesus--unimaginably God and Man and incarnate at every level.

In between, there's us. And angels, but I don't know enough about them to say anything useful--I have no idea what, if anything, corresponds to them as matter does to us.

We're part of creation, and exemplify the usual ordinary-creation aspects of God: beauty, wisdom, form and order, and so on.

However, we are also capable of knowing these things--a different and more profound manifestation of God's knowledge. We can know, with Him, that He is present and active in our actions.

We are incarnate spirit and matter, and each of these effects the other and to separate the two destroys us. We're shown in scripture that in the resurrection/restoration the body and spirit are remade together. This form of "amphibian" God called good. A body with a ghost, or an ethereal spirit trapped in matter, are things of horror stories--they're the wrong form, not a true incarnation.

We feel that when we work we leave something of ourselves in the work--and certainly some of our time and thought went into what we did, and from a perspective outside time they're still there, embedding part of us--at least our gifts--in the world. As God displays in His creation, in a smaller way we appear in ours.

There's another possible version of incarnation, which I feel even less qualified to explore--the Spirit of God living in us, in some kind of union with us. Perhaps Theosis?

Friday, February 04, 2022

Horned serpent

A U of Cincinnati group claims to have evidence of an extra-terrestrial airburst at Hopewell sites across the Ohio River Valley. They suspect a comet was involved. Their range is from 252AD through 383AD: Chinese astronomers recorded 69 comets during this period, and the "The Miami tell of a horned serpent that flew across the sky and dropped rocks onto the land before plummeting into the river" "The Ottawa talk of a day when the sun fell from the sky" They claim evidence of fires over about 10K square miles.

"A horned serpent" is an evocative description. A comet with two tails?

Clearly the comet didn't hit, but a chunk might have broken off after warming up by the Sun. Chelyabinsk--or maybe more the size of Tunguska...

Interesting. I'd be surprised if there was just one chunk, though of course the odds of hitting the Earth are pretty small. Unless a small chunk blew up near someplace literate, we'd not know likely learn about it, and certainly have no idea about the date.

According to the Ohio History Central, the Ohio Hopewell built mounds up until 500AD, so they may have been set back by crop loss (as the article suggests), but they weren't done for. Assuming the platinum and iridium are the smoking guns here that they usually are...

Most serpent stories seem not to be astronomical, some do.

For the curious, W Bruce Masse proposes that the flood myths from around the world suggest that "only a globally catastrophic deep-water oceanic comet impact could account for all environmental information encoded in the corpus of worldwide flood myths" Hmm. Global tsunamis? Some places would be far less effected than others.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Doing it the hard way

Our experiment is trying to take advantage of the (potentially) greater reliability of using cloud services for things like email and web service. The former project hasn't advanced far for technical reasons that may well prevent it going forward at all. The latter--well. Granted it isn't easy to find drupal experts.

We had a couple of public-facing web servers, one the new one and the other deprecated. We contracted with a group to set up the new web service and copy the pages from our newer server to the new cloud-based web server.

They set up the cloud server, and copied the pages from the old web server instead of the new one. And took at least an extra month at it. And now I think we know why.

Instead of just doing a copy of the web code and images from the old server to the cloud server, they apparently brought up each web page separately and transcribed it into a new one--adding typos and mislaying some figure captions along the way. Not copy-and-paste; this looks like they were typing.

One of our staff is going to fix it with a simple script to copy the data from the correct machine to the cloud one.

FWIW, I'm not persuaded that the cloud is more reliable. Amazon has had some high-profile failures recently, and when I click on a link on one of our pages, it doesn't always "take" the first time I click.