Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A Father's Legacy to his Daughters

by John Gregory

His wife had died, and he had reason to believe he would die soon himself, so he wrote up advice for his daughters, under headings of "Religion", "Conduct and Behaviour", "Amusements", and "Friendship, Love, Marriage". And "Introduction".

It would not suit modern Harvard tastes, either in language or sociology, but by and large the advice, or the principles behind it, is sound. His approach to religion struck me as rather more secular than devout. It wouldn't be a "read once and done" book for a young girl; she'd have to re-read it every so often in order to recognize the things in her life and society that John was writing about.

The Harvard book-reading feature is a bit finicky on my machine.

Identify Friend or Foe

The current story says that the drone that hit our troops in Jordan wasn't recognized as a foe. Trent Telenko suggests that it followed a US drone in, and that "the trailed US drone had no IFF transponder at all, as the MX12B micro Mode 5 Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) transponder was only certified in 2021."

To complicate things still more, I assume some of our drones will be duds. Will the transponders be salvageable, and re-used in enemy drones?

Friday, January 26, 2024

art lawsuit

Althouse noted that one of the "performers" in an old exhibit at MoMA was suing. I'd heard of the exhibit some time ago--it sounded "modern art" level stupid. A gallery door was partly blocked by a naked man and naked woman, and visitors had to "squeeze" between them to get in. There was another entrance to the gallery, but I assume there was social pressure to "experience the art."

The man is suing the museum on the grounds that they did not protect him from groping--sexual assault. 14 years after the fact seems a little late in the day to complain, of course, and thus there seems to be reason to doubt his sincerity. But there might be another way of looking at it.

Just as clothing communicates things to other people, adults being naked outside of specific circumstances (doctor's office, group showers, etc) communicate sexual interest. So the situation is intended to be a sexual one, albeit with some implausible deniability ("This is ART, you fool!"). And if the man and woman are so close to the visitors that one has (remember the social pressure) to make contact with them, this seems a bit like unwanted sexual contact: a sexual assault.

It seems a bit unusual for an "assault-er" to complain about reciprocation. Although active groping does ratchet it up rather more than a notch.

Top Buck and Flock Queen

Goat herd behavior: I'd not heard of this before. Goats have never been much in my orbit.
If you are responsible for feeding your herd, they will associate you with the Flock Queen. The herd may attempt to follow you wherever you go and may be in a state of confusion when you are not around.


If you move your herd by driving them from the rear, they will come to think of you as the Top Buck. ... If you hold this position, you may have trouble handling the other bucks in the herd who are constantly challenging your authority.

different imagery

Sons like plants and daughters like pillars

Perhaps what comes to your mind is different, but the pillars for a palace makes me think of "beautiful strength", and the grown plants reminds me of fruitful trees. You'd maybe think that social era would imagine blessed daughters as embodying beautiful fruitfulness and blessed sons embodying strength, but the psalmist didn't look at it that simply.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Plastic nuts

Soft water is nice to have for appliances and what-not, but for cooking we wanted unprocessed. That's the way the cold water in the kitchen was set up anyway, so no modifications were needed.

The problem with hard water is that when it seeps, the minerals get laid down wherever the water went. Those nice plastic nuts that hold the kitchen faucet in place? They're easy to spin on and hand tighten, even when there's a sink basin in the way. But taking them off a few years later? When the mineral glue has had time to spread and harden? No way you're getting a big enough wrench in that tight a space; you have to break the nut to get it off.

Or cut it. I used what I had handy--a Dremel. That tended to "smear" the plastic rather than grind it, but whatever, it eventually got the body of the nut away, and a final hand twist "peeled up" rather than "unscrewed" the nut and thus broke it loose to the point where unscrewing was once again an option. The astute observer will notice that my elbow slipped a time or three.

Funny how it only takes a few seconds on the videos. In between re-stuffing rags so the edge of the cabinet didn't dig my ribs loose, and wedging my head in among the pipes, and standing the flashlight in place again, and reaching the tool into position--each iteraction of preparation took longer than the video.

This is the second I've done this winter. It's enlightening but not pleasant to spend time under the counter--you notice other things that are going to need attention pretty soon--like the rusty bracket that is holding up half of one sink. The Sippican Cottage guy knows what he's doing. I wish I did--time for more research...

Monday, January 22, 2024


The word on the street is that if you want to publish fiction, you'd better have 3 books in the can with a plan to write more. One book by itself shivers with little attention, but each in a series advertises the others.

So. Unfortunately I'm not sure how to solve the problem I dumped on the hero.

Thursday, January 18, 2024


The famous Uncle Screwtape said: "Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same."

This afternoon I was listening in on a discussion about recommendations for Multi Messenger Astronomy.(*) The authors recommend a fair bit of boilerplate (cooperation between NASA and NSF, etc).

However, one of the things they note is the problems and risk that results from data acquisition or analysis or simulation software that is custom made for an experiment, and supported by maybe one grad student. He wrote it, and other folks used it, and now he finds himself called on to support it over changes in OS and bug fixes and whatnot for years after he got his degree--and maybe left the collaboration. Support dwindles, though use may increase!

What the scientists value is doing the analysis and finding the physics--not supporting the software. Since the experiment will not succeed without good software, somebody with domain knowledge needs to write and support it. But that luckless person, not so tightly involved with analysis, is not so valued when it comes to new jobs or promotions. So the software support gets short-changed. (Thus the quote above.)

Some experiments hire professional programmers to develop, in cooperation with the scientists. This helps, but is more for the larger groups with more flex in their budgets. It is hard to sufficiently emphasize how vital software is for experiments with large detectors. Even something as simple as archiving, isn't simple.

Researchers from small institutions have less flexibility in working on an experiment than those in large ones, where (for example) teaching duties can be shuffled around more easily--and (dirty secret time) sometimes almost completely shuffled off. Hence "the rich get richer." This issue turns up in the section on "Inclusive Workforce Development", along with the boilerplate about women, black, indigenous, and PoC. The first context for that boilerplate is a fairly strange claim that aggressive people tend to be favored in juicy research roles, while these others "face greater social pressures deterring aggressive or assertive behavior." Do I have to note that the majority of those "pushed aside" are not from minority groups, or is that sufficiently obvious from the definition? It suggests mitigating this with a Code of Conduct "outlining expections regarding data sharing and co-authorship in a public document." The first big problem with this is that everybody gets their name in the paper anyhow; and who actually did the analysis is going to be the key thing other scientists pay attention to--the suggestion is facially stupid. The second is that we all know the CoC will have nice ambiguous language that will be selectively interpreted against politically unpopular individuals. Maybe that will be the jerks, but likely it won't. (not necessarily national politics here) Why? Because the jerks are often useful for getting the grants that make the experiments run.

Several of the recommendations turn into "you have to budget more money for important stuff like software and archiving." Yep. Very very true. However, getting money to the budget for that isn't easy--sometimes you get a bare bones grant that doesn't cover everything you need to do. And "sometimes" is optimistic.

(*) Astronomy is done with different "messengers": light, radio waves, xrays, cosmic rays, gravity waves, and neutrinos. If something interesting appears in one detector (light from a supernova, a burst of radio waves, a neutron star merger), you want to notify the others quickly to make sure they're looking in that direction, and quite a bit of work has gone into communication systems. Part of the report has to do with making it easy to compare events in different types of system--the systematics are always very different.

Monday, January 15, 2024


AVI has been thinking along similar lines.

There's an apparent paradox here. Most of the greatest joys in life come from being able to use the gifts you've been give to serve people you care about.

Nobody likes being treated as a servant.


"And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family?"

I've seen this quoted quite a bit, along with confident assertions that "X won't happen in the USA." While a disarmed population would certainly be candy to the powers that be, who could thereafter safely ignore one of the founding documents of the country, I submit that disarming isn't necessary for control, and night-time arrests are straightforward enough even with an armed population.

In fact, we've long had problems with gangs intimidating armed populations. They have asymmetrical information--they know where you are, you don't know where they all are--and they operate by defeat in detail and surprise. A gang might have difficulties if you and your neighbors stood up to them, but at 3am it's just you against their team, and you're half asleep. Or three cars converge on yours when you park, and six guys with guns at the ready start shooting at you from three sides.

I hope nobody takes offense at my comparison of an unjust government with gangsters: it's a venerable observation.

What have people done against the gangs? There doesn't seem to be a sure-fire cure. A few were dealt with through law enforcement, but lots haven't been. Organizing your own gang to counter them has temptations and pitfalls that not every group escapes. I hope it is obvious that expanding police powers is not a solution.

Likewise there doesn't seem to be an easy cure for unjust government.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Isotopic differences

It's no secret that deuterium instead of H1 isn't good for proteins, but apparently a certain percentage of it is not just tolerated but expected, with not-always benign consequences if it isn't there. Not what I would have expected...

A major deuterium-depleted water (DDW) phenomenon is the depressed growth of cancer cells, which is currently being exploited in a clinical trial. Previously, while studying the antiproliferation effect of DDW in human lung adenocarcinoma cells, we determined that DDW induces mitochondrial redox imbalance that leads to oxidative stress. In general, deuterium concentration between 80 ppm and 300 ppm (the natural value being ∼150 ppm) is found to be a cell growth regulator.

So what happens if you purify media (they call it Depleted) of the heavier isotopes of carbon and oxygen and nitrogen?

Well, e-coli grow faster, some proteins become more active, and other technical variations appear.

An M9 minimum media based on 13C-depleted glucose and 15N-depleted salt dissolved in D,18O-depleted water (Depleted media) was formulated. E. coli bacteria grow faster in Depleted media compared with isotopically natural media (Normal media). In addition, four different enzymes recombinantly produced in Depleted media showed faster kinetics compared with the enzymes produced in Normal media.

Found via SciTechDaily

Illiterate Digest

I hadn't thought of Will Rogers in years. Here he is helping Ziegfeld Follies girls do their income taxes; one of the articles he wrote for the Illiterate Digest. I'm not fond of trying to parse his dialect, but if you read it as though spoken he has some good lines.

Some of it slides past me, as it references events of the era. "I am following the Kaiser, who rewrote his life after it was too late."

"Please don’t consider these as my memoirs. I am not passing out of the picture, as men generally are who write those things."

Friday, January 12, 2024

Requiem for Battleship Yamato

by Yoshida Mitsuru (translated by Richard Minear)

Yoshida was one of the few survivors of the Yamato (the world's largest battleship, not a spacecraft). In 1946, shortly after the end of the war, he wrote a memoir, which the censors didn't allow to be printed. He tinkered with it, and various versions were published after the end of censorship. This translation is based on the last, from 1952.

Yoshida was a junior officer, not from the naval academy, who wound up spending most of the battle on the bridge. He survived thanks to a series of coincidences and lucky timings (e.g. the whirlpool from the ship's sinking was dragging him down, but the second magazine explosion changed the water flow and pushed him up).

It is written in present tense, but his memories may have the benefit of years of contemplation. The original work was shorter, and allegedly more antagonistic to the Americans and in solidarity with the dead--I'd be interested in reading that one too, but I gather it hasn't been translated. FWIW, he converted to Christianity in 1948, in between editions.

The sailors all knew this was a "special attack" and that they were going to die. A great deal of the book is what this knowledge means to him and to the others he knew, and about the conflict between wanting to live, wanting to die nobly, and wanting to at least accomplish something. And what does it mean for one to live and another to die? He records some mental arguments with a judge. He also describes some of the people he knew onboard (not all died then), and sometimes what he knows of their families.

FWIW, a subordinate who does not immediately salute is supposed to be punched in the head.

I'm not sure he cites the rebelliousness of some of the trainees in school accurately--or perhaps there's a translation problem. But then, perhaps utter obedience isn't incompatible with a semi-anonymous "This is stupid" note.

Read it.

UPDATE: A couple of things I didn't know: The captain had leeway to change the mission to fit the circumstances, and, though it was a closely guarded secret, the Yamato had enough fuel to return from Okinawa if the captain chose. And, when the ship's list was obviously fatal, the captain issued "all hands on deck" instead of "abandon ship". More might have swum to safety if they had known to get off right away.

Not important

While trying to get to sleep last night, the solution to a 50-year-old mystery struck me. I never mastered the front crawl--I kept drinking my bow wave. Why? Years before I annoyed my driver's ed instructor. He wanted me to turn my head when backing up; I kept turning my whole body to look backwards.

My neck doesn't turn very far. Never has.

No, I don't think that's what the Bible means by "stiff necked."

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Sloppy language--I think

A few blocks from me a tax prep place has popped up (it's that time of year), with a big banner titled with "MAX YOUR TAX". I don't think I'll be doing business with them.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Is somebody playing pranks?

At Rice University: AfroChemistry

When I was in high school I remember reading of Russian course on Soviet Mathematics, where the focus was on the victory of the proletariat and not on theorems. I thought the notion obscene. I still do. I hope somebody with a sense of the absurd is playing pranks. If not, I have to question the integrity of those running their chemistry department. A scientist needs some smarts, but without integrity that's worthless.


I ran across this today about the AWOL Secretary of Defense. It hadn't crossed my mind that continuity of government plans would involve 24/7 monitoring of all the cabinet and next level positions, but it makes excellent sense (Lincoln was just one of the targets of Booth's conspiracy).

So if Austin did command people to stop tracking him, and that didn't raise alarms, then this probably wasn't an unusual request. If that in turn is true, I wonder how effective this CoG effort really is.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Complex ordnance fail

Dud rates for various ammunition calibers from a USAEC report: From 0 to 11.7%, average about 3.45%. This was part of a paper about a model for ground water contamination from unexploded ordnance. Conceptual Model for the Transport of Energetic Residues from Surface Soil to Groundwater by Range Activities

Back in World War 1 from 10-25% of the explosives failed to detonate. (One source suggested that the British dud rate went up to as much as 30% when a manpower shortage required that they draft more of the craftsmen at home.) In the American civil war duds could be 50% of a batch (not sure about statistics batch to batch).

Rifle ammo is quite simple, and except for rimfire rounds, quite reliable. Artillery isn't quite so simple, as the higher failure rate attests. How about anti-aircraft or anti-missile missiles? Several sources have informed me that these much more complicated systems were used with a "fire two to be sure" philosophy in naval operations, and that sometimes they had to "float test" a missile that didn't launch--though I can't speak from any experience myself, and dramatic incidents tend to stick in the memory more than "no problem" ones. But you might guess what sort of "dud" rate that entails.

I'm not sure how many missiles Iron Dome uses per intercept. A wikipedia image shows 6 trails, though there's no way to see how many targets there were. If anybody knows how many missiles they use (it might vary depending on the percieved risk), I'd be interested in knowing. I'm pretty sure it doesn't average more than 3, from reported cost estimates.

Of course that's not a perfectly fair way to evaluate their dud/miss rate. For an existential threat, firing more than once isn't a bad idea.

I wonder about ICBMs. I assume the details about ours are classified, so don't get me in trouble here.

Some of Trent Telenko's twitter threads are about comparing complex turnkey weapon systems with cheaper systems (not just individual weapons), and the drone/communications arms race in progress right now in Ukraine. (I'm not as sanguine as he about Ukraine's chances for victory.)

Take a machine with a million parts, each of which can wear (even computer chips wear out over time), be distorted, corroded, or just out of tolerance to begin with. Which failures will cause the system to fail to work precisely as you want?

Epstein documents

I assume some of the names (e.g. Hawking) were brought in as bait ("Look who you get to hobnob with!") and others for attempted compromise. I'm more interested in who they succeeded in compromising and for what than I am in the details of the honeytraps. What were they trying to use a hold on Prince Andrew for? Or perhaps he was "bait" for others, or perhaps both.

"Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."