Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trying to rejoice

Paul said to rejoice always, even though the prayer meetings request relief from pain and illness. That's a trifle hard to remember when you throw your back out (painting the basement floor, FWIW). Pain isn't the way it was supposed to be. Unfortunately...

When was the last time you heard a sermon using Isaiah 57?

The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way.

When you're rich, maybe things don't seem so evil.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Niagara boat tour thoughts

The world was made for God. We are rich enough to make ourselves comfortable and keep most things human scale and human-controlable, but the world isn't always either one. Things like Niagara drive that home. Farmers probably are forced to know that we don't control everything, and the rest of us should remember it. Maybe that's part of the daredevil urge--they try to extend human control, but do it by frankly facing the non-humanity and wildness of the world.

Bout and Liberia

Viktor Bout has a little history with Liberia--he helped a great deal to make it the mess it is now; supplying several sides. I have a little list of villains in that war (including Gadaffi), and no earthly court will suffice to bring justice.

I don't know Griner from Adam's off ox, but ... We just visited Canada. It's a friendly country, and there's rarely any problem with travel--but every now and then they do random checks. So, just in case, we made sure there was no contraband produce, medications were in original bottles, etc. I've never met a customs agent with a sense of humor, and our schedule was a bit tight; I didn't care to spend extra time explaining. If I were going to Russia (or China) I'd travel as light as possible, and triple-check everything--and then ask again if I needed each peice.

Granted, the two criminals both were importing contraband, but the trade is incommensurate.

Monday, August 29, 2022


"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack." George S Patton

There seems some wisdom in that. But suppose I try to apply it to myself--what am I most cynical about?

Politicians. The naive reply is that we have no lack whatever of them. But maybe one could probe differently--I have no political power, and no experience with the necessary tradeoffs and manipulations required to get anything done. I don't know--if I had such experience, would I be less cynical, or would that expand to include myself?

Advertisements. It's horribly hard to get noticed in the din of slogans and images. I was "watching" someone's playlist the other evening, and the pictures of bands used alongside their songs were always extreme in some way. Remember the fashion a few years back for attractive women to e.g. play the cello nude? I suspect it didn't help their careers long term as much as they hoped, but there weren't so many actually involved that one could do a good statistical analysis.

News and reporting. OK, fair enough. I lack enough good sources of trustworthy news. I know that when I investigate science reporting the story often has little resemblence to the facts.

Popularity. OK, fair.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Poetry of astronomy

Chesterton complained that
But for some mysterious reason this habit of realizing poetically the facts of science has ceased abruptly with scientific progress, and all the confounding portents preached by Galileo and Newton have fallen on deaf ears. They painted a picture of the universe compared with which the Apocalypse with its falling stars was a mere idyll. They declared that we are all careering through space, clinging to a cannon-ball, and the poets ignore the matter as if it were a remark about the weather. They say that an invisible force holds us in our own armchairs while the earth hurtles like a boomerang; and men still go back to dusty records to prove the mercy of God. They tell us that Mr. Scott's monstrous vision of a mountain of sea-water rising in a solid dome, like the glass mountain in the fairy-tale, is actually a fact, and men still go back to the fairy-tale. To what towering heights of poetic imagery might we not have risen if only the poetizing of natural history had continued and man's fancy had played with the planets as naturally as it once played with the flowers!

C.S. Lewis took up the challenge in Perelandra in the Great Dance scene, and in Already the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale. He would have been horribly compelled to feel this earth not as the base of the universe but as a ball spinning and rolling onwards, both at delirious speed, and not through emptiness but through some densely inhabited and intricately structured medium. He would have known sensuously, until his outraged senses forsook him, that the visitants in that room were in it not because they were at rest but because they glanced and wheeled through the packed reality of heaven (which men call empty space) to keep their beams upon this spot of the moving earth's hide.

Today I can post the Lewis links with a clear conscience...

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Freshness of children

A lot of people I know or read are fascinated and envious of the “innocence and freshness” of the very young.

I’m not so sure about the “innocence” part. It doesn’t take a very long acquaintance with the child to notice some not-so-innocent aspects.

But the “freshness” brings some other things to mind:

Their stories are adventure stories:

  • as though no one had ever walked before
  • as though no one had ever climbed the slide before
  • as though no one had ever explored this trail in the woods before
  • as though no one had ever known a dandelion before
  • and when a bit older, as though no one had ever been tongue tied trying to talk to someone fascinating, who you know would end your world if she laughed at you

Yet it isn’t entirely a matter of a new adventure story. The infant seems more completely present. It isn’t dandelions, it’s this instance of dandelion or of the woods, and nothing else matters right now.

An adult sees this dandelion but remembers thousands of others—picked, blown, left alone—as well as the people they were shared with and the days they lived in. The adult’s dandelion is less of a pure dandelion and more of a tapestry.

That’s not a terrible loss; if anything it’s an increase in beauty. But sharing time with children lets us have it both ways for a while.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

If I'd known then

When my father was declining and his memory was mostly gone, his nurses said he was always a gentleman.

I've changed a bit over the years, and value some things more than I did when I was in high school. Or in college.

If you were to restore my memories to only what I had back in '73, and put me on the plane to the States again, would I live differently? Are the changes in values memory-based, or changes in me? I can lose memories.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Thick paint

The floor paint is thick as mustard, and the paint roller tends to skid in the tray and on the concrete. I don't think a paint sprayer would do much good with stuff this viscous, and I don't care to use one indoors anyway. Maybe the best thing is to use a wide brush instead. It can't be much slower.

Yes, I washed the floor several times--soap water and rinse. And vacuumed with a HEPA machine. I'm emptying shelves and washing the contents, then the shelves, and then painting the wooden shelves. I figure I can get the plastic and metal clean, but concrete and wood have pores. I want it clean enough for grandkids.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Perhaps these are connected

From the local paper today:

"Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett ... goes up against one of his detectives who is accusing him of letting "identity politics" fuel the office's staffing shortage." "Hamilton ... says that too great a focus on recruiting women and people of color at the expense of considering as many candidates as possible has made staffing problems worse. ... Barrett ... said initiatives to recruit women and others from diverse racial, professional and socioeconomic backgrounds are a key solution to fix the deputy shortage."

At the bottom of the same page one finds this article: "Former Dane County deputy fired for fabricating attack is charged with misdemeanor": "Sarah Bortz-Rodriguez ... told investigators she’d been suffering from work-related mental health and substance abuse problems for months before the night of Oct. 21, when she said she was attacked at Festge Park near Cross Plains by a masked man with a box cutter, and then fired one shot at him. Instead, a failed search for the man turned up inconsistencies in Bortz-Rodriguez’s story that suggested she had cut her own arms with a box cutter and made up the attack."

Sunday, August 14, 2022


"The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

If money is, at its root, a promise that other people will do things for you, a love of money is like a hunger for promises from people. Granted, it isn't good for man to be alone; we need to be in relationship with other people. But why is there often no limit to this hunger for promises from people? Because you discount them, and need more promises to account for the discount? Because you can always imagine problems greater than the promises will meet? And as your wealth grows, losing some becomes another and greater risk. Because it's the wrong treatment for your fears and doesn't work?

moral evolution

Skimming the comment section of a post a few days ago, I ran across a dispute about whether modern reactions to a problem would differ from those of the 15'th century. The riposte was "500 years of moral evolution." Hmm. I assume he meant "improvement across the board," though evolution can make things significantly worse from a general point of view--for example the blind snakes found in caves. It doesn't hurt them to be blind in the dark, but we'd say it's better to be able to see.

Some things are better--going by Christian standards. Torture and slavery are deprecated and illegal most places. But has there really been evolution to something better, or merely change to a different set of values? I know some people who care about immigrants, and are eager to open our borders as much as we can, whose belief is based strongly in their Christian faith and who care deeply about their families. On the other hand, I know some whose love and sense of duty for family is rather more attenuated than their ancestors'. They care for the stranger as much as for their families, which is in their case is mostly abstractly.

Why are we so certain our popular sexual mores are superior to our ancestors', and our neighbors'? I've never seen that proven, just asserted that autonomy is more important.

Funny and unfunny

Over at ChicagoBoyz David Foster posted questions about humor.

St. Lawrence, while being roasted alive on a gridiron, asked his torturers to turn him over because he was "done" on that side. "Don't take life so serious, son ... it ain't nohow permanent."

To cite Lewis: "No people find each other more absurd than lovers." The beloved isn't as perfectly loveable as God, and we can't love nearly as well as He. Even at our best we see the difference, but it needn't be a painful difference; more like a game. We can happily live out our roles, and find them happily funny. From " Who Understands Who Anyhow?" by Ogden Nash "I will take all my hard-earned money. And I will bet it on the nose of the tribe whose men and women continue to think each other are funny."

In contrast it seems as though a lot of humorlessness comes from treating transient things as ultimate. "My pain at this percieved offense is sacred; don’t you dare joke about me."

You can’t joke about President N or President N-1 because ... lese majeste. Or blasphemy: your god is what you hold most sacred, and it’s easy to find people whose real god is the Party. I've heard the joke about God and the golfers, but never at church. The infinitely important isn't finite or fallible--or funny.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Hard at work

When I works, I works hard. When I sits, I sits easy. And when I thinks, I goes to sleep. Why thinking hard makes you tired

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A different stereotype

AVI has a post on Vermont stereotypes, as shown in pictures. The first picture is of a gaily decorated VW. It reminded me of something else I'd seen: Gus Klenke's garage (my wife has a picture I like better, but I'm not sure where it is). Gus had a poem written about him. It's the first in that article.

Every year somebody replants the flowers in the car. The locals probably know who, but didn't tell us.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Too soon old,

too late smart.

I'd started sanding the steps to make sure the new paint would adhere, and realized the wood dust was going to be dangerous. So I stopped. And then I remembered how old the house was.

There seem to be some supply chain issues with lead paint test kits--the local stores were out and the first place I ordered from waited until the (much belated) day the order was to arrive to tell me they were out of stock. The second order got to me in a couple of days, and I tried it right away.

So, I need a better mask, and tacky sheets, and maybe a HEPA vacuum. I'm contemplating ripping the stairs out completely (the stringers splayed a bit and most of the treads don't fit in the dados well--I put braces underneath), but I've a lot of cleanup to address first. And I've got to plan it so one cleanup doesn't stir up dust elsewhere. I had other projects planned... At least I was still using the coarse grit.

Thursday, August 04, 2022


Althouse has a post about someone I heard about first on the Bee who is adjusting her pronouns. I learned that Finnish lacks them, which about now sounds refreshing.

In some of Andre Norton's science fiction, she introduced the term "gentle-sap" as a generic honorific that applied to any sapient species or sex. One might drop the "gentle" and repurpose the remainder as a generic pronoun--pronounced with a long or short "a" depending on your mood.

If we insist on multiplying pronouns, why not use some that add some distinguishing information--marital status, youth or elder, grandparent ... ?

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Names from the past

The Friendly Orange Glow is about the PLATO project. I used PLATO as a TA when at U of I, and earlier when I was at SIU I was interested, got an account, and then got distracted and lost it. I wonder if my life would have been much different if I had gotten involved...

The book brought a name out of the past: Bill Roper. He was in the science fiction club, and into computers, and one day was explaining to me the premise of a sci-fi story he was writing that involved a computer program that hid itself in the unused bytes in allocated blocks of storage. I don't think he ever wrote code to do that, but computer viruses took advantage of not-dissimilar hiding places. I give him credit for early warning. You need quantum mechanics for a chemistry degree (and physics, of course), and there was a prerequisite math course to quantum mechanics that wasn't offered often enough, and his advisor slipped up. We parted ways on graduation, but I gather he has had a good career in IT instead.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Irrelevant and apropos of nothing

I'm not sure if it's a quirk or a flaw, but when I read something like the story of the Magi I wonder what happened to them afterwards, or read something like the one fighting against the prince of Persia, I wonder how that played out. You can get into trouble taking speculation seriously, but if it's just a "What kind of story can I tell" it seems harmless. These trend quite short: squibs and short stories. And sometimes I get an image or a problem, but it just sits there with no action or resolution, and I don't even get a squib.

Take the Daniel bit, which seems to imply a recalcitrant angel (demon?) in charge of an empire. Maybe a guardian angel of the Persian court? That idea just seems to sit there for me. Maybe the POV of the guardian angel's assistant would work as he tries to make them do right (or do wrong, if its a devil), with one of the humans starting off in a direction he or she should not go. Conflict ensues with the other humans and with the other empires' courts and their guardian angels. Call that Setting X. It could work, but it doesn't have the nice mythic feel you'd hope to find with these sorts of creatures. On the third hand, neither did Screwtape and that works brilliantly.

If you wanted to go with horror, you could notice that there's not a 1:1 map demon to human in demonic possession. The unnamed demoniac had a lot of unwanted guests. It might go the other way as well, and have 1 demon possessing or at least oppressing/influencing a nation's worth of people. Looking at some of the wicked madnesses that surrounded World War II, you might tie that in and call it the War of the Three Demons. The problem with that setting is that you can't tell a plausible story from the demon POV, and the humans are either captive or not. You could focus on unmotivated changes in individuals (as in the start of Ballroom of the Skies), and make the story be that of a friend trying to liberate a captive soul. But then you eventually need an exorcist of some kind, and the solution becomes too easy or too hard. It's also hard to have the friend "keep up" with the possessee. Maybe a group... Call it Setting Y, and with some effort it might turn novella.

Or you could take the bull by the ... whatever you please, just don't involve me ... and try to tell a story of a war between angels. Some big names have tried that (France, Blish, and so on) and some lesser lights (Peretti) without obvious success or plausibility. I don't think the mathematics rule "Try to solve a bigger problem" is going to work with Setting Z.

What would you try?

Number the stars

and figure which way they're going.

Some years ago we were working with Sloan Digital Sky Survey on a software management design. I thought the project was quite cool, and if I hadn't been working on CDF I might have been interested in joining. "The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has created the most detailed three-dimensional maps of the Universe ever made, with deep multi-color images of one third of the sky, and spectra for more than three million astronomical objects." (read "galaxies and quasars", not stars) (When our sons were little, I tried to put glow in the dark stars on their ceiling to display the Southern Sky, but it never looked quite right and I gave up 1/4 of the way through.)

It looks like it might get a little complementary competition from WEAVE, a multi-object survey spectrograph that is supposed to take spectographs of as many as 1000 different stars in our galaxy in a single exposure. Of course that only gives the star's relative speed towards or away from us, and doesn't tell us anything about side-to-side motion, but that's important already (SDSS does that too). The transverse (side to side) motion we can measure with enough patience--a few hundred thousand years should be good enough to measure most of them. Stars in our galaxy are close enough that you don't worry about the expansion contribution to red shift (they can estimate gravitational contributions).

WEAVE is going after stars to try to get a handle on how things are moving in our Milky Way

Unfortunately the SDSS only gets part of the sky, thanks to the Milky Way getting in the way. They've over 4 million galaxies. WEAVE will have some blind spots thanks to dust clouds, and uncertain regions ditto, but they should be able to improve the current catalog a lot.

I wonder how a VR view of the local stars would look. You'd only see all the familiar constellations from one vantage point, of course--what would you see in the sky if you moved your POV elsewhere?

Would you put a bubblegram of the local stars on your desk? I wish I'd finished the ceiling, even though it didn't look right and faded decades ago...