Monday, November 27, 2023

More C.S. Lewis

If you've read The Pilgrim's Regress you know C.S. Lewis wrote poetry. Or if you read AVI.

And he has some narrative poetry (e.g. Dymer) that I never got into.

His short work was collected.

Yes, of course I picked up a copy. He played with lots of different styles, and wrote from many different moods, and hit the mark a lot.

The Prudent Jailer

Always the old nostalgia? Yes.
We still remember times before
We had learned to wear the prison dress
Or steel rings rubbed our ankles sore.

Escapists? Yes. Looking at bars
And chains, we think of files; and then
Of black nights without moon or stars
And luck befriending hunted men.

Still when we hear the trains at night
We envy the free travellers, whirles
In how few moments past the sight
Of the blind wall that bounds our world.

Our Jailer (well he may) prefers
Our thoughts should keep a narrower range.
'The proper study of prisoners
Is prison,' he tells us. Is it strange?

And if old freedom in our glance
Betrays itself, he calls it names
'Dope'--'Wishful thinking'--or 'Romance',
Till tireless propaganda tames.

All but the strong whose hearts they break,
All but the few whose faith is whole.
Stone walls cannot a prison make
Half so secure as rigmarole.

Or in a lighter mood:

Lady, a better sculptor far
Chiselled those curves you smudge and mar
And God did more than lipstick can
To justify your mouth to man.


"I suppose there are two views about everything," said Mark.

"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one. But it's no affair of mine. Good night."

In math that's not always strictly true. In arithmetic, yes; but sometimes objects of very different types turn out to be equivalent to each other. A proof may be quite hard within one system, but in the equivalent class of objects in a different system may be quite easy. Relatively speaking, of course.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Writing tropes

The pre-lunch conversation worked around to a complaint that villain monologues at the captive hero are frequently boring "these days".

I have nothing to say about that, not having read/watched a lot of villain monologues in the past few years--nor composed my own. Item 6

Such verbal gloating was a sign of vulnerability, of weakness. The villain needs something from his victim, some sign of pain or despair. Some writers give the victim (before the climactic table-turning later) a way to thumb the nose at his tormenter, to frustrate him. Some of the most notorious real villains didn't bother confronting those who are about to die to gloat or anything else. They didn't need any confirmation from their victims.

It's harder to show a hero's courage and defiance without such scenes, though.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

GPS Spoofing?

I was pointed to an interesting article which, if true, says that GPS (GNSS) on airplanes can be spoofed to drive planes off track. One wild oddity is that it reports that the backup Inertial Reference System was sometimes confused too. One would hope that a backup system runs independently of the primary one, but apparently sometimes the IRS is updated from the GPS.

Navigational errors make a big difference if you are flying near hostiles. And says GPS is easy to spoof, because the signal is unencrypted.

I remember trying to follow directions to a party in Gex, and not recognizing an exit from a roundabout as a real exit (it was night, and the road was tiny). That exit miscount, followed by precise adherence to the subsequent turns, ended up with me having to back the rental car up out of a cow path in the middle of nowhere, France. Cell phones were not a thing back then. Paper maps are your friend.

Just a smidgeon more research

BBC has a puff piece on using bamboo in construction in Europe. Why isn't it used more? The article says a big reason is that we don't know how--what are the load characteristics, etc. A quick google search finds that it has durability issues, and needs chemical treatment to keep it from rotting easily or being eaten by beetles. "Treated bamboos must not be burned; the gases of such a fire are toxic. Bury them in the ground, away from wells."

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


"I give you great thanks. I cannot, indeed, understand the way you live, and your house is strange to me. You give me a bath such as the Emperor himself might envy, but no one attends me to it: a bed softer than sleep itself, but when I rise from it I find I must put on my own clothes with my own hands as if I were a peasant. I lie in a room with windows of pure crystal so that you can see the sky as clearly when they are shut as when they are open, and there is not wind enough within the room to blow out an unguarded taper; but I lie in it alone, with no more honour than a prisoner in a dungeon. Your people eat dry and tasteless flesh, but it is off plates as smooth as ivory and as round as the sun. In all the house there is warmth and softness and silence that might put a man in mind of paradise terrestrial; but no hangings, no beautified pavements, no musicians, no perfumes, no high seats, not a gleam of gold, not a hawk, not a hound. You seem to me to live neither like a rich man nor a poor one: neither like a lord nor a hermit."

I like this passage from That Hideous Strength: it illustrates the absolute and relative aspects of "rich" nicely. "Absolute:" surplus tasty food, useful medicines, comfort, amusements, recreation time. "Relative:" servants, people who envy you or honor you, more stuff than people you know. "When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?"

"Relative" wealth: "To reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n."

"Relative" wealth: Aesop: Avarice and Envy

Since money is a promise, how do you prove to yourself that you have money? Is it numbers on a page, or the stuff and services you get when the promises are redeemed (or dangled)?

For money I suppose you can also read "power," except that there's no balance sheet to measure power--but the action of it is similar. You get people to do what you want.

Inflation robs us all, but hits the "absolute" wealth harder--possibly one of the reasons the powers that be aren't generally worried about it.

Either category can make a needle's eye for us to go through, but I suspect the "relative" is more dangerous.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Dark matter resolution?

SciTech Daily has an article on ALMA's work trying to locate dark matter. The Figure 1 doesn't seem to appear in the paper itself. The figure looks very odd. The caption says it depicts calculated fluctions in dark matter density--it looks grid-like. I assume there's more elsewhere. The figures in the paper don't look quite so regular. Regularity like that of Figure 1 makes me suspicious--is it an artifact of their procedure?

Unfortunately I'm not familiar with the tools described in the paper, so I can't guess.

If their work pans out, they're getting much better resolution than before thanks to a more sophisticated analysis. I'll bet a number of the MOND people are already all over it, so we should find out soon.

For fun

"don't spoil the denouement"

Ogden Nash. There's a slight typo in the web page's version.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Parody of a parody?

We went to a high school performance of Game of Tiaras last night. It is Game of Thrones acted out by nominal Disney princesses with a bit of King Lear to touch off and motivate the action. I hadn't seen half the princess movies (e.g. Frozen), and seen neither the Game of Thrones series nor Martin's novels, so I had to guess at most of the references. But, apropos AVI's note on Stationary Bandits, what I know of the Thrones plotline suggests that it is a non-comic parody of history, exaggerating the violence and backstabbing to the point where I'd think underlings would be reluctant to give the last full measure of devotion. Can somebody who has seen it tell me if I'm wrong?

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Outreach efforts

CERN has expanded their science outreach facilities. It's a lot bigger now than when I was last there--I visited the Dome a long time ago. At the time they had a manned exhibit on superconducting magnets--it needed at least three people to make sure no kids stuck their hands where they oughtn't. The rest of the Dome was meh. This looks a lot fancier. Not a travel destination, but if you're in the area...
Previously, most of the visitors who came to CERN were already familiar with the lab. They were interested in touring its experimental areas. “They wanted that authentic ‘behind the scenes’ CERN experience,” Sanders says.

But Sanders is hoping Science Gateway will become a tourist destination for both dedicated science fans and more casual visitors. “A lot of our exhibits involve play,” she says. “That’s a valid goal: to make a place where families can have a fun day out. If kids have fun at CERN, that’s an important first step in engaging them with science.”

I like that "authentic 'behind the scenes' CERN experience." Authentic involves trying to find the leak.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023


At least the skeletons and spiders are almost all gone--and the strings of orange lights too. Mostly. The stores are spreading Christmas gear, but we've a little breather around people's yards.

In some fiendish lair, brainstormers are trying to figure out what color of strings of lights go with inflatable pumpkin pies and pilgrim hats. Perhaps something that flickers the colors of a flame in a fireplace would complement the ten-foot high turkey? The decorations need to incite the neighbors' envy while not giving passing drivers the mistaken impression that they advertise a restaurant.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023


I read decades ago that the use of the term "anti-semitism" spread as a euphemism for "hatred of Jews." It was a less "in your face" term; abstract and verging on respectable. I haven't tracked down a source for that claim yet, but it seems plausible. Hatred is personal, while being "anti-"X could mean you've a scholar's thorough understanding of why X is bad.

NJOP says the term was coined by Moritz Steinschneider, writing against Ernest Renan's "jews are an inferior race" claims. (Renan seems to have changed his mind, or nuanced things considerably. The NJOP article's claim about Wilhelm Marr's repentence is disputed.)

At any rate, when you read a news story about demonstrations on campus or the state house, mentally replace the euphemism with the phrase it replaced, and see if the result describes the actions and attitudes more clearly.


I should ask somebody why Christ Lutheran has lutefisk and meatball dinners.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Some things don't change much

From Description of Greece, by Pausanias (approximately 110-180 AD):
The popular belief has prevailed almost universally that Theseus played into the hands of the people, and that from his time they remined under a democratical government, till Pisistratus rose up and became tyrant. There are other untrue traditions current among the mass of mankind, who have no research and take for gospel all they heard as children in the choruses and tragedies.