Friday, June 30, 2023


We left LA in late '63. I don't remember weather like this, but I'm told I had bad asthma when I was young. I don't remember that either--I remember chickenpox, but not asthma. Perhaps things that happen frequently don't register as well. If your interest is the playground (and what happens when you melt tar with a magnifying glass--do ants get caught like sabretooths in the tar pit?), or the yards on the way to school, maybe you don't notice the haze in the distance. It's just the way it is.

I noticed the Canadian haze here well enough. I took it easy. No asthma--maybe I grew out of it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Warrior Ascetics

Maybe "ascetic" brings to mind a guy who lives in the wilderness and doesn't eat a lot or like being around people much. If you're well versed in your religious traditions, you may have a more nuanced picture. After all, the Templars were effectively monks. But these surprised me.
That religious ascetics would be inducted into fighting regiments is neither necessarily perverse – in the context of the history of traditional Hinduism – nor necessarily a radical break from a previous mode of life. There is an obvious similarity in the lifestyles of both soldiers and ascetics: both require rigorous self-discipline, enduring the hardships of lengthy travel and extended periods of camping; subsistence, sometimes, on meager rations; being subservient to a commander or guru; and enduring extended (or permanent) celibacy. In medieval India, asceticism, trade, and war were not incompatible.

Fighting ascetics are usually referred to as nāgās (deriving from the Hindi term naṅgā, “naked”). Nāgās are usually almost naked, except for a loincloth (laṅgotī/kaupīn ̣ ),

There may be a reference to such armed ascetics in a 7'th century romance, and maybe references from the 9'th to 12'th centuries. In the 16'th century "scorn is poured on yogīs, siddhas (another name for yogīs), mahants (chiefs/superiors), and ascetics who resort to arms, keep women, and collect property and taxes." And the East India Company ran into them: "Peasants and marauding Sufi faqīrs and Daśanāmī gosāīṃs fought company troops in the Bengal region, with many casualties on all sides, in a series of military encounters"

I gather that this kind of naga, though transliterated into English the same as naga (serpent), isn't related or pronounced the same.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Reporting on Titan

If he was reported correctly, Cameron implied that a hydrophone picked up the bang at the (presumably sound delayed) time that communications with Titan stopped. It was possible to come up with scenarios in which the crew survived, but not if there was a bang when communications went dead. We've all read that the Navy picked it up (and didn't understand it at first), but was there a hydrophone on the Titan's sevice ship? Another report claimed that they'd jettisoned the ballast and were on the way back up. I assume telemetry would include such things if they really happened.

Would the staff fail to mention such things before the search starts? Maybe. Embarassment, reluctance to squelch all hope...

One news source, which I will charitably leave nameless, claimed that the rapid compression in an atmosphere "with lots of hydrocarbons" ignited and reduced the humans to ash. (*) Yes, rapid compression superheats gas; no there wasn't lots of hydrocarbon in the air; and in any case the thermal mass of the gas would be small. The mechanical destruction of their bodies killed them, not a flash fire. Although--I don't have a good intuition for what you get when you super-compress a liquid. I assume it heats up too--compressed by about 2%--but that doesn't seem like a huge effect. (I'm having the dickens of a time trying to get the equation of state for liquid water, and I'm getting sleepy.) I'd guess the heating due to the shock wave traveling through the body to be greater.

Just after the accident several stories disparaged the use of a game-controller brand of joystick--as though a machine designed to work reliably despite abuse by excitable gamers is somehow inferior.

And "I warned you" types are coming out of the woodwork. Me? It wasn't on my radar and I had never looked at the design--and would have had to do quite a bit of research to say anything intelligent about the use of carbon fiber hulls. I'm pretty sure I'd have suggested testing to failure several times before trusting people in it, but I've never been in that kind of position, and I might have gotten complacent too.

Specific details can be keys to determined what happened, but in between cya and mistranslation and reporter ignorance, you can't trust the details. Or, sometimes, the big picture.

FWIW about ratings: we used to use some high voltage cables that were rated for 1000V, with SHV connectors rated for 5000 (now. I think they were also for 1000V back in the day). We ran them at 6000V.

(*) I will uncharitably point out that Newsweek's fact checker got the fact-checking wrong. No, the vessel did not become superhot, but the air did.

UPDATE: To be clear, the 2% compression is just for the liquid parts of the body. Lungs and other less dense things get mashed flat.

UPDATE*2: Also note that where and while bulk motion in a gas is comparable to the average speed of molecules in it (O(500 m/sec)), temperature isn't well-defined. When the gas motion is randomized again, you can define temperature again. And yes, I did find some formulae for the equation of state for water, but when I varied the temperature I found that they went weird at higher temps (O(300 degrees)), and I concluded that they might not apply in a wide enough domain for me to assert that rapidly compressed body tissue wouldn't get hot. So I don't know for sure.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

43 years

What with the "thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" the celebration was low key today, but we'll take it into extra innings later. It has been a good 43 years.

You can't always get what you want

We had a look at Luke's story of the demoniac from the aspect of what the various parties wanted and what they got. The demons wanted to not go into the abyss--"please let us go into pigs!" OK, they got what they wanted--but not for long. I have no idea whose intention that part was.

The townspeople wanted Jesus to please go somewhere else. Our opinions were divided--some thought Jesus threatened their bottom line and others thought they were terrified of that kind of power. Jesus gave the townsfolk what they wanted--He left them. But He didn't abandon them: He left a witness--the first of His evanglists.

The former demoniac wanted to go with Jesus. He was the only one Jesus said "No" to--he didn't get to go with Jesus. But, as the first of Jesus' evangelists, maybe Jesus went with him.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The sower and the lamp

My Bibles conveniently divided Luke 8:4-18 with headers: "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Lamp." So guided, I thought the parable of the lamp had to do with how visible God was in your life.

It wasn't until this morning when a fellow asked "What did Jesus mean by "take care how you listen?"" that the light went on. It's all one explanation.

How do you listen? In one ear and out the other (suitable for advertisers, politicians, and other known liars). Summarize as you hear; meditate on what you hear; critique as you hear; try to multitask; think about something else instead of listening.

The application to the different soils is obvious. The fruit comes to those whose mind is not just open to the word (light) but those who make it important.

So what's the lamp about? I think it's about the inside--what's in our mind. What do I do with the word (light) in my own mind? Put it up for observation or bury it under other stuff? Sooner or later what happens in my mind is going to show up outside--in actions, or fruit, or lack of fruit.

I think it all fits together. I feel pretty silly for not noticing before.

Sunday, June 11, 2023


I ran across this site tonight, and so, just for fun:

The sun burned high and hot, and he cared nothing for foolish giants like the rabbit warily chewing in the shade of the hedge. The ripples in the stream reflected in flashes under the maple leaves, and Siof raced from cusp to cusp drinking in their water-tempered light.

“Greedy one! Leave some for me!” Mog whistled at him.

“You’re as slow as a moondrinker! Dance! A cloud is coming!”

She beat him to the next and laughed red lilac at him as she skimmed on. He dashed after her breathing red pine. “So strong you are!” she giggled.

A thousand sips later they rested on the wings of a dragonfly and let the haze from the river wash them until the sun should come out again.

The young giant of the trampled shore skipped a stone into the river, and for once got its angle almost right. Siof and Mog leaped to the stone and rode it spinning into splash after splash. The sun came out just in time for the last splash, and as the rock sank the two flew into the light focussed by the water, racing higher faster and faster as the focus moved into the sky.

At tree top height they dove again.

“What do you think Mirabel will take as her fourth syllable tonight?” Mog asked. “I can’t imagine being that old.”

Siof chased flashes among the reeds. “One day you will be, young one, but never as old as she.”

Mog balanced on a water strider. “One day I’ll have a longer name too, and then you’ll see.”

Siof swung close to a fish’s splash and reflected the sun flash to her. “Maybe I’ll loan you a part of mine.”

“Is that a promise?” Mog whispered.

The wind shook the river birch. Siof flew through its cloud of pollen, dancing around its swirls in the air. “Catch me if you can!”

Friday, June 09, 2023

Burnt Offerings

Time makes a holocaust of all that we make or have. Even pyramids crumble, and knowledge is replaced. Pythagorus didn't discover his rule--who did nobody knows anymore.

An old preacher complained about that, perhaps forgetting that all our works are present to God, unforgotten.

Why did God command that some of the offerings be burnt offerings? He doesn't need smoke--the offering was for our sake.

A burnt offering shows our complete abandonment of the offering--there's no sacrificial meal we share in. That's a well-known part of the benefit for us--loving God more than things.

But perhaps it is also an object lesson to remind us that, contrary to our default expectation, we don't keep anything for long, but God holds all of our works and ways forever.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Great Powers around the American Civil War

How the British caused the American Civil War is worth reading for the background. I do not follow the author to the end--that the Brits provoked the war for their own economic ends. But that the Great Powers had a great interest in dismembering the USA seems obvious--I wrote years ago that if the South had won the Civil War (by not attacking), the USA would have rapidly devolved into chunks under the influence of the French and English empires. The author documents some of the maneuverings, and claims that the Tsar had a beneficial role for us.

It also helps put some of the attitudes towards England (part 1 and part 2) that Russell found into some perspective. In our retrospective we think of Great Britain in terms of its relationship as an ally since World War 2, but it was not always so. In fact, when during WW2 we needed to dust off some war plans for safeguarding shipments across the North Atlantic, the ones they found assumed that Britain was the enemy.

Poe says that Britain wanted the South independent of the USA, but as an economic colony of Britain. And a name you might recognize:

On September 25, 1861, following a long string of Union defeats, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a leading British statesman and member of Parliament, gleefully predicted America’s break-up into four or more pieces, “with happy results for the safety of Europe.”

“That separation between North and South America which is now being brought about by civil war I have long foreseen and foretold to be inevitable,” said Bulwer-Lytton in a speech.

He predicted that the U.S. would split not into, “two, but at least four, and probably more than four separate and sovereign commonwealths.”

And what France was doing at the same time was no secret either: "Years earlier, Louis Napoleon had carelessly admitted that he wished to “establish a French Gibraltar at Key West, to seize Florida, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast, and to bring the Mexican Empire under French domination,”"

The Civil War killed a lot of Americans. Alternatives might have killed a lot more.