Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Flattering my ego

Every real rainbow I see is a halo around the shadow of my head.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

If you were curious about nephilim interpretations

A rabbit trail led to a podcast from Ancient Faith that looked too odd to skip by: Land of Giants. "But the Orthodox Church takes giants seriously." Well, one of the fathers explains that the Orthodox Church has few actual dogmas, and that their particular interpretation isn't holy writ, and I gather one can be a lifelong faithful Orthodox without giving a moment's thought to the nephilim.

I had no fixed idea of what in the world Genesis 6:1-4 was about--neanderthals, maybe?--but it wasn't and isn't important so I was OK with "idontknowbut" about it. The podcast above offers a take that's new to me, which I neither accept nor reject. Somebody might find it interesting. Since the podcast is quite long, without any obvious 1.25x speedup tool, I'll summarize. You're welcome.

Og had an iron bed 9 cubits by 4 (14 feet by 6 or thereabouts). A bed like this has been found, and another is attested as being at the top of a ziggarut where it was part of a place where a select woman would conjugally meet with one of the gods. Such unions no doubt took place (as they did in many other parts of the world--like Japan), and the likeliest understanding of them was that the already semi-divine representative (the king, or somebody like that) would be ritually infused with the god being called on.

Some texts have Gilgamesh as 2/3 divine and 1/3 human. The arithmetic doesn't work on that, unless you count the king and the god as two parents, and the woman as a third (purely human).

OK, so far you have evidence for a ritual in which a god and demigod join to impregate a woman--in Sumer, and quite possibly in Bashan as well. (Japan is a little different, in that the emperor doesn't get pregnant. The Aztecs had Toxcatl, but it isn't obvious what happened to resulting children.)

So far so strange. (I somewhat rearranged the order they presented things in for simplicity.)

They riffed a bit on "giant" having some additional connotations or even denotations revolving around power. Not nice giants... Maybe so nasty that they don't need to be oversized...

OK, suppose the god in the equation is a demon (1 Cor 10:20)--invited into the ritual in order to produce an exceptional child. Exceptional as intended by the demon, of course. Demonized, not just possessed.

Assuming this to be possible, a society that goes in for this sort of thing is going to have what will become an elite of really nasty characters. Why not Sumer? is a question I'd have liked to ask them. What is to be done with such a society? The same thing that happened to the Anakim?

I do not care to try to guess whether their speculation is justified, though we can think of a few historical figures (and criminals) that make you go "Hmmm." But that the early church fathers (later ones doubted that demons could reproduce) understood the giants as the mating of demons and women is illustrated by this from Irenaeus:

18. And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness, in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colors and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled.

Their speculation gets around the problems with angelic reproduction and explains the weird 2/3 divine business too.

Yes, the alleged book of Enoch ties into this, though perhaps more as a witness to what Jews believed circa 200BC-100AD.

I'm not sure this was a good use of my time--it makes no difference in my life beyond writing a blog post--but I was curious what people thought. And before you ask me, someone asked them, and they averred that even the demonized had the possibility of repentence available to them.

Friday, May 26, 2023

African Music Theory

An untrained ear such as mine misses a lot of detail in the overall impressions.

The article explains a book by John Collins. "The agbadza ... is a recreational dance of the Ewe people and emerged in the 1920s out of much faster traditional war dance."

The author explains the parts of the agbadza as contributions within a 12-beat measure, in which no single instrument plays every beat. Even with the explanation I have trouble following the music. Perhaps someone can tell whether this Ghanaian performance matches the description.

Bethel Revival Choir does an Agbadza gospel medley, on non-traditional instruments.

Or an older recording... I can at least tell that some of the rhythms aren't quite as simple as the article describes.

UPDATE: Wikipedia has me in way over my head very quickly. I'm a fan of examples...

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

American grapes

I don't remember hearing about grapes when we went to Cahokia, but they, and many other tribes, used grapes. Raw, dried, as jam, as medicinal tea, a drink thickened with cornmeal--one variety even was used for a snakebite remedy and an emetic. Another was supposed to strengthen women and increase fertility.

One familiar use is not in the list.(*) I'm not sure why--perhaps the North American varieties didn't have enough sugar to make it easy. Some people make wine from American heirloom grapes, but I notice that they include as "heirloom" the crosses between the Old World Vitis vinifera and the American varieties. I suspect they would maybe be a bit more selective if the native varieties were as good.

Idle curiosity--I'm not into wine myself.

(*) The Zuni made wine from grapes. (The Kwakiutl made an alcoholic drink with elderberries, molusks, and tobacco. Yikes.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


I saw the movie in elementary school in LA during a heat wave. The auditorium was the only air-conditioned space, so they stuffed us all in there and played a movie. At least, I’m pretty sure it was Dumbo; I don’t remember much about it. I didn’t think the weather was all that hot, but I was just a kid. I didn’t mind not being in class: a boy’s natural habitat is “anywhere but class.”

Somehow or other, around that time, I acquired the conviction that Disney animations were kid-stuff, childish and beneath me. No, I don’t know why–maybe it was being crowded in with all those really little kids, or maybe I picked up on some older kids’ blase attitudes. Just guessing, since I remember neither.

It didn’t matter much, because shortly the scene changes to Africa. At that time the theaters were about an hour’s drive away, and we didn’t see a lot of movies anyway. When we did, it was generally something my parents thought they might want to see and didn’t suspect would be inappropriate for us. (The trailers were not matched to the current movie ratings, and I suspect they regretted some of the trailers.)

With very few movies and not much TV as alternatives, I read a lot. We had a set of the Book of Knowledge, which at that time mixed art, poetry, story summaries and science and history and all, all together in each book. You had to use the index to find a topic you wanted, but at the end of an article you probably found something else completely different but interesting. Kind of like the internet...

We also had the Britannica. One of the volumes had a special illustration page–it must have been a serious extra cost to produce–that showed how animators created an image based on layers. Transparent layers lifted off to show the various cells that made up the final image.

It was fascinating. I’d take it out, lift off the layers, and let them fall one by one to make the picture. I went to it dozens of times.

The image was Dumbo.

I was fascinated, but I didn’t want anyone to see me looking at a kid’s cartoon. When once or twice someone did, I acted like I’d been caught looking at porn. (Which I wasn’t familiar with–my mother’s medical books were decidedly not erotic, though many parts were interesting, even bizarre.) It wasn’t that it was wrong, just unworthy.

I suppose the same sort of thing happens now, if I follow a link to a link to a reference to a reference and wind up looking at something that isn’t really part of my interests–and someone looks over my shoulder.

Curiosity is too strong a word for how I got to where I was, and it’s embarrassing to realize how far drifting will go. No, I’m not really interested in horse breeds, or obsolete Japanese calibers, and the steps for how I got from Haydn to here is one of shameful unthinking “a-musing”.

UPDATE: On the other hand “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ― C.S. Lewis Still, drifting is not a noble use of the mind.

Thursday, May 18, 2023


Most of the time I compose on the computer, but sometimes pen and paper are what's handy (and they have no email or other distractions). Poems I always write on paper first. I don't know why that's different.

I like the feel of writing with a fountain pen, but it's lousy for composing. When I'm trying to think of the next bit, as I silently stare off into space, the pen is not idle. It diligently makes a bigger and bigger blot on the page. That symbolizes my current thoughts very well, but it has its downsides.

Stopping to recap the pen breaks the flow, of course.

Saturday, May 13, 2023


I'm not quite sure why "Sing" wound up fixed so indellibly in my memory. I wasn't exactly in the Sesame Street cohort, and the Carpenters recorded in in '73. Maybe it played in the dorm at college?

At the time I didn't think much of the metaphor. What did that have to do with physics research? Some decades later, I notice that life (even in the lab) has had a lot of rhymes and rhythms to it. Granted, I've been off-key a lot, but "song" doesn't seem as inapplicable as it used to.

If life is a song, it's a canon, with new generations of voices starting up the melody and the old voices dying away.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

De Santo

Grim's Hall had a post about Nicholas De Santo, so naturally Youtube took the hint.

He illustrates why having everybody hate you isn't proof of your virtue, and then explains where, appropriately enough, the attitude came from.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Bears and rabbit holes

My daughter was listening to an analysis of Tim Treadwell. Naturally that reminded me of Waltzing with Bears, and while I was poking around on that I learned what everybody else probably knew already: Seuss wrote Uncle Terwilliger Walzes With Bears first, and when he declined to have others cover it, Herdman came up with her own version. It is derivative, but I think Herdman's version is better.

Of course there's a book, though it isn't about the songs: Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects, in which one learns that the infamous Denver Airport automated baggage handling system (so late and buggy that it delayed the airport opening!) was a project nobody wanted to touch, and "When the DIA board of governors first put the [Automated Bag Handling System] out to bid, nobody was willing to submit a bid for the scheduled delivery date... Eventually, the airport engaged BAE Automated Systems to take on the project on a best-efforts basis."

I have something I should be working on instead of going down rabbit holes. Prov 17:24--"the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth." Back to the chores...

UPDATE: See Douglas2's comment.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Study war no more?

" I think our current generation in Washington has hardly any experience in war and, yes, there is an urge to be close to violence."

I think that hits part of the situation. It certainly ties in with David's thoughts about victory: "Do not slay them, or my people will forget". Our elites, unaccustomed to war, have nonsensical notions about what matters, and an urge to get involved despite their ignorance.

I think "an urge to be close to violence" includes "an urge to prove yourself in an important struggle." If there is no existential or even merely important struggle at hand, you'll find or imagine one. We need to be needed; need to be important. We'll exaggerate the threat (words=violence!) until we matter--or until life hits us with a clue-by-four.

Thursday, May 04, 2023


One of the aspects Jackson brought out in the book I just wrote about was the different view of gifts and charity.

A benefactor's clients owed gratitude and support to him. Apparently in Roman times benefactors could be choosy about who they gave to. The benefactor could lose face if his clients were unworthy--they were now associated with him.

In modern Korea (from the book):

An American couple slowly became suspicious as a Korean they knew showered them with gifts and treated them to luxurious restaurants. They finally discovered why. After spending months attempting to establish guanxi ("relationship"), she hoped to obligate them to teach her son English. Reciprocity is a natural part of relationships.

I have never found the article from years ago which claimed that when "The Best and the Brightest"™ devised the fundamentals of the modern American welfare system they didn't bother to talk with the mere religious folks who'd been doing the heavy lifting for years.

One of the side effects of the system is that, because it is merely a bureaucratic machine, there is no relationship between benefactor and client. It is impersonal, which is isolating and bad enough, but also, in our individualist society, evokes nothing from the recipient--not even always gratitude, since the gift is often seen as entitlement.

As quoted above, reciprocity expectations can and will be abused, but in charities their lack--if it doesn't actively divide us, it fails to unite.

I'm not proposing any cures or improvements. I doubt there are any. But I wish TBATB had listened first.

Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes by Jackson W

Honor and Shame in Paul's Message and Mission

Jackson (a psuedonym) says that an individualist reading of the New Testament misses aspects of the meaning that are clearer in an honor/shame perspective. The reverse is true also--but we already use an individualist model.

He begins by justifying his use of "Eastern" as a shorthand for honor/shame, and then explains how "face" works in practice. A key point is "imputed" honor and shame, acquired from one's family, or office, or friends. He then wrote an exegesis of Romans looking for aspects which differ when viewed from an honor/shame/collective perspective.

Perhaps I was reading too late at night, but I kept drifting off. With that understanding, I thought this a very interesting and useful book. Evangelists in China who try to use "crime"-based descriptions of sin run into unnecessary resistance. Jackson has a take on one aspect of it that seems interesting: We are God's creation and representatives in the world, and what we do reflects on God, and when we sin we make God lose "face".

One aspect of the faith which is pretty explicitly explained in scripture but I haven't heard a lot of focus on, is that a Christian is now a member of a new family, with family-related obligations and sharing in the honor ascribed to the Father. Perhaps you, by leaving the religion of your ancestors for the true God, are not so much bringing shame on your family as you are able to share your new imputed honor with your family. Perhaps--I'm not expert on the details of the cultures.

Since a good deal of the early writings of the church were within honor/shame societies, one should also be able to find aspects of this in the church fathers. Most things are the same under either viewpoint, of course.

Faith of a few close friends

We've all read the story of the paralytic let down through the roof, and Jesus' reaction: " Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”"

Naturally that sort of thing sounds presumptuous; the religious leaders objected, and got shown a miracle to validate Jesus' authority.

What did his friends think? No doubt they were ultimately delighted to have him healed, but in the meantime, it's easy to say "You are forgiven," because who's to know? The Pharisees knew that it is harder to honestly say that--Jesus' words might have sounded different for the two sets of people.

Then, once Jesus showed that He is entitled to forgive sins--did the paralytic's friends wonder if they could get forgiven too? "Friends, your sins are forgiven you?"

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Haitian resistance

The gangs are out of control in Haiti; the government is useless and people are fighting back--machetes, stones, gasoline, road blocks...

The gangs started launching attacks outside Port-au-Prince, and at least some of the people have had it, and are taking matters into their own hands. You may have seen some of the pictures of suspected gang members about to be killed and set on fire. I'd guess that most of them were easily identified outsider gang members, and richly deserved what was coming to them.

I skimmed some of the comments on the article. The ones dealing with Haiti (and not drawing conclusions about matters elsewhere), seemed to be of three kinds:

  • "Good for them!" I agree that this is the right thing for the villagers to do. They owe it to their families and neighbors to fight anarchy.
  • "Beware. Vigilantes turn into gangsters themselves." Quite true (happened in Chicago)--less of a risk if more of the people are involved. Probably the best outcome here is for the local resistance to become very broad and then to become the local government. The worst is more of the same with different gangs.
  • "The UN needs to intervene." No. Very little good has come from outsiders intervening in Haiti over the years, and a lot of trouble. I think Haiti's solutions will have to be homegrown, and this sort of grass-roots resistance may prove the seed of something durable. Or it may not.

There's a lot of pain in the offing, no matter what. The gangs have modern weapons, and are malicious and vindictive.

UPDATE: So far so good as of 27-May

Mars (voyage) needs women

Should a voyage to Mars be all-women? Women (on average) are smaller, eat less, use less O2. "A 1,080-day space mission crewed by four women would need 1,695 fewer kilograms of food compared to an all-male mission." That could be a lot of fuel savings, or alternatively a lot of reserve fuel and supplies. The article goes on:
“Statistics show that all-woman groups are far more likely to choose non-confrontational approaches to solve interpersonal problems, and most definitely are more likely to deal with a situation without resorting to violence, which could be a big problem on a Mars journey, where the crew must live in close quarters for 2-3 years,” Landis wrote. “Numerous sociological studies have shown that women, in general, are more cooperative, and less given to hierarchical social structures.”

I assume that one vets the team members and tests the team to make sure they work together well.

All male expeditions, at least those that demand a lot of physical effort, are known to work successfully: until they don't.

But I seem to remember reading (I obviously wasn't involved) about bitter jockeying for status among junior high and high school girls. It isn't obvious that an all-women crew will be more peaceful. Less violent--probably, though catfights are not uncommon in the high schools. But pathologies ("I'm not talking to her!") could be just as problematic.

I don't think there's a magic bullet for staffing. For a voyage to Mars you want methodical risk-takers who respect each other.

Monday, May 01, 2023


An archaeologist on a video I was watching explained how very many pottery fragments they found, and how big the village was, and I thought "That's about a bowl a month per household gone smash!" We break cups and plates around here too, but not so many as that.

OK, our china is probably more robust than their pottery. The shell bits and other stuff in the pot below are for tempering so it doesn't crack in the heat when you hang it over a fire. It doesn't look terribly robust.

But look at it (late Anglo-Saxon, British Museum). Imagine trying to scrub it clean if something gets caked on. I suppose if it got used every day you wouldn't get strange things growing in it, but it doesn't seem altogether appetizing to be eating "Pease porridge in the pot nine days old". And if it was as fragile as it looks, cleaning it would be a daily risk.

Maybe a bowl a month is about right.


The youtube video "The Origin of Black American Culture and Ebonics" by Thomas Sowell asserts that the foundations for much of modern "ghetto black" language and culture are traceable to the ScotsIrish culture of the American South (also see Albion's Seed), and thence to their aboriginal cultures in the British Isles.

My first thoughts were that I'd already noticed some cultural similarities (and important differences--modern "black ghetto culture" is orders of magnitude wealthier than the old backwoods white South and Central USA), but that the language seemed only sort-of related. But I know little about dialects.

My second thoughts were wishing he'd given some numbers for the achievement statements he'd made, but realizing that they probably aren't there.

I don't have the years needed to answer the question: At the time of the Civil War, what was the African ethnic background of blacks in the various parts of the country (and territories)? Fischer's African Founders notes that some people wanted Igbo slaves and others wouldn't have them. That sort of preference would make for initial regional differences in ethnicity. If there was a founders' effect in slave culture, or if the descendents of those slaves stayed in the same region, you'd expect some differences from region to region.