Saturday, March 30, 2024

'as I have loved you"

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you."

We look at this in retrospect, knowing how Jesus showed His love next. No doubt He meant them and us to look at it that way thereafter, and that's the most important aspect to meditate on. But... how would they have herd it then?

How had He loved them so far?

He condescended. That's not available to us, since we're equals. Last time I checked, I wasn't God. But I can try to give up some of my pride.

He was patient. He reproved, but didn't give up on the disciples. We can try to do this, too, though within the church sometimes we have to exercise some discipline.

He protected them. We usually don't have that requirement or option.

He taught them. Teachers among us do so, but most of us are not in that kind of position vis a vis each other. I've taken the approach that everyone has something to contribute sometime or other in Bible study, and most everybody does eventually, but it's easy to spot the teachers.

He shared with them--apparently others provided most of the time.

He encouraged them ("You will see greater things than this", "I will make you fishers of men"). We don't read of many examples, but they act as though He was encouraging them, along with the recorded rebukes. We can do that.

He offered fellowship to Judas one last time, and the advice not to dwell on what he was about to do and deepen the sin. We can, when it isn't damaging the church.

He called them from many jobs, not just religious ones, and called them friends. I think we can handle this one too.

Looking at the list, I think Jesus was referring to love shown in unrecorded incidents; the kind of environment of little things that makes such a big thing.

And then there's Good Friday, which overtops them all.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Naming my designs

I was seven when National Geographic printed an article on the X-15. That seemed the coolest thing ever, and I promptly got pencil and paper and made a drawing of my own rocket airplane. With the naive confidence so cute in little boys (and so horrible in politicians and generals) I figured that the only thing it needed now was a name in order to be a complete design. The "X" series was in use already, so I picked "V" and explained to my father that this was a picture of a "V-1." I didn't quite follow all his earnest explanation, but I gathered that the name had already been used, likewise the "V-2", and that it would be much better if I didn't try to use anything in that series of names.

I mulled this over for a moment. "Y" just sounded weird, and "Z" too final. I asked if "W-2" would work as the name for my rocket plane.

My father was working as an accountant at the time. I don't remember if he laughed.

Monday, March 25, 2024


The penny finally dropped. I'd wondered why DEI seemed to be such a cult, overriding any human or observational law and even laws of logic. (In my defense, I never took Latin.)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Muddy speakers

I have heard muddy PA announcements too often. Sometimes it has been a lousy speaker, but often these days it is the room response doing strange things with the frequency mix. High frequencies may get absorbed, low ones echo, and the distortion makes it hard to distinguish words. The room response varies from place to place, and on how many people are in the room, which complicates matters, but for the moment just consider the average.

Suppose you could measure the room response, and use a "smart" speaker that included a correction for that. You send a digital signal, a chipset uses a programmable correction template and produces an output that would sound OK for that room. People will measure your room response for you. Invert that distribution (with cutoffs) and download it into a smart speaker, and you should get clearer messages. The only thing missing is the smart speaker technology--doable, but is it doable cheaply, and is it durable/robust over time and voltage spikes?

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Code of the Street

by Elijah Anderson (1999) This is ghetto Philadelphia from 25-30 years ago. Does it still apply? Probably, the situations and attitudes are self-reinforcing. Is it worse now? The trends were bad when he wrote it, and the politics of race turned pretty bad in the intervening years.

The labels the people in the area used were "decent" and "street," with meanings you can guess easily enough. The "street" boys and young men (growing old can be a challenge) live and die by respect and lack of it. Always being ready to violently defend your status puts a strain on everyone, including the "decent" kids who have to live in the mess--and who have to "look the part" to avoid being preyed on. It isn't entirely "all against all"--sometimes your family members will come out to avenge your injury or death, no matter the facts of the case. The dead are eulogized--everybody pretends they were good people.

Of course the more girls you get to have your babies, the higher your status is--among the other young guys on the street. The girls tend to get pregnant early, unmarried, and very often never-to-marry. Having a baby puts the young woman among the adults--whether she likes it or not. This was at a transition time of "welfare to work," and the welfare check expectation was changing--Anderson didn't know what was going to happen.

There is/was some respect for the older "decent" men who took no nonsense from their families or the street, but not enough to protect them. The "Grandmothers" still have some power--they can coordinate support from family members. However, with the increase in crack addiction, many of the grandmothers are also snared and useless.

At the time crack was a huge problem. I assume new stuff has taken its place. The appeal of the fast life as a dealer is huge, and some even retain a glimmering of a conscience--some dealers were known to return half of a woman's money when they found she'd spent the kids' food money on drugs. Most don't, and try to get anybody, even family members, hooked.

Most decided that the police don't care about investigating crimes--they have to fend for themselves. Given that they also don't talk to the police (as a rule), it's not surprising that the police don't bother wasting their time.

Outsiders have no idea who is "decent" and who is "street", and who is straddling the border of the categories. Not unexpectedly, they don't want to hire "street" and will write off anybody who looks the part or has a bit of a record. Since carrying a gun there is probably wise whether you're "street" or not (I would), it's easy to get snagged by unlawful carry laws and wind up with a record.

As an aside, several police departments have gotten rid of their gang registries--which seemed utterly mad when I first heard of it, and seems even crazier after having read this book. Most people don't cause problems--even in the ghetto. It would be nice to be able to sort out who's who after a stop.

He includes a number of individual stories, generally sad.

The "decent" folk concentrate on individual responsibility. Anderson brings up economics (almost no jobs available) and racism. He touches briefly on how those problems are fed by the crab-bucket "street" culture--nobody wants to hire "street", and the quickest ID is "black with street accent/clothes". And the price of expanding a business in the city being astronomical, businesses move to where the land is cheap and the taxes not so high--tough if you can't catch a bus to get there or need a second car.

OK, nothing unexpected in the book. I borrowed it precisely in order to learn about who, besides the most short-tempered thugs, the street respected, and how: The old heads and the grandmothers. That was interesting, though the trends were discouraging. He claimed that the framework for being hair-trigger, once understood/internalized, helped keep the violence lower than you'd expect. However, "an armed society" doesn't have to be a "polite society."

I was also hoping to learn if there were rules for courtesy. That didn't seem to be a focus of the book.

Naturally one wonders if the material is dated, or biased in some way. I looked around a bit to see what people thought of it. So far it seems to have held up well, though there are some subtleties about women and violence that didn't appear in the book--if they're real.

Monday, March 18, 2024

math creativity

Most mathematicians, like chess players, do their best work young. Not always, though. Claire Voisin describes mathematical creativity.

And yes, sometimes time at work is spent beating one's head against the wall in a fog, and clear thinking comes when you're walking or doing something completely different. I've had lots of great ideas come while I was in a worship service. I don't know if that's supposed to be a gift or a distraction...

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Poor Irish immigrants

But not always, apparently. Tyler Anbinder got ahold of bank records, which included quite a bit of info about the people who held the accounts. "four in 10 day laborers could end up in white-collar jobs"

What winds up in a jewelry box

Some jewelry, of course, including some necklaces that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn't get worn. Mali beads. My father's ruptured duck. And some coins.

These were easy to identify, except for the Louisiana public welfare tax token. Apparently those aluminum coins were for paying sales tax on small purchases where the sales tax was less than a cent. I'd not heard of them before, but my father must have used them.

And a couple of replicas of a bronze coin from Bar Kokhba, though I suspect these are replicas of a coin minted late in the war when they needed lots of money and weren't so careful about the dies.

Several daughters make art, and we have some African friends who might enjoy some of the necklaces. I gather that certain colors and styles go with different face shapes and hair colors and outfits, though I never got the hang of how that works.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

16 days early?

Platinum-crystal hydrogen fuel cells work more efficiently with caffeine. At least on the P(111) and P(110) crystal faces; on the P(100) face the caffeine molecules attach with a bad angle.

The coffee jokes write themselves.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Unexpected finds

We opened her car's hood so I could help youngest daughter replace a headlight bulb. Over in the opposite corner, near the A/C, we found wedged the bulk of a sandwich roll (one chunk soaked with water, the other parts dried crispy). The last oil change was a few months ago, but the bread wasn't moldy at all.

I hope this didn't reflect a culture of over-rushing work at the repair shop. I wouldn't care to eat while working on an oily car.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Naval Traditions

I'd heard of pollywogs and shellbacks. Apparently there are more traditions than the crossing the equator one: "blue nose", "red nose", and "Sea Squatter", among others. The opening paragraph about "rum, sodomy, and the lash" probably couldn't be penned today: it talks about vices.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Emblems of Texas

I gather that visitors to Texas are required to make a pilgimage to the Alamo. I was AWOL on that one. Another, possibly more important requirement, is to visit Buc-ee's. This we did. My impression was of a bigger and more open--friendlier--Walmart, but with a startling amount of "cult" merchandise. My wife got sensory overload quickly; neither of us having quite this reaction. The restrooms were as clean as advertised.

I wonder if the Texas enthusiasm will translate to Wisconsin--they're planning to build one in DeForest. That's not a huge trek, but Walmart and Target and Kroger and Menards and Woodmans and FleetFarm(*) are all closer to me. Midwest practical ... a "one stop for everything" has its appeal, but several of the listed places try for that title too.

(*) Not the same as Farm and Fleet, a similar but unrelated store not much farther away.

Monday, March 11, 2024


The trip reached everyone we had scheduled to meet and a few relatives we hadn't, and almost all the proposed sights along the way. Pretty much all trip's the surprises were pleasant--except for discovering that the A/C+heater system in the car suffers from a common problem with the Caravan/Voyager line--one of the internal control doors won't budge from the "full hot" position. We had to drive with a window open to keep from roasting. Testing the A/C isn't something you usually do in wintertime...

It gets tiresome only meeting distant relatives at funerals. This was a happier occasion.


The sermon was on the bronze serpent, about how the serpents weren't elminated, but their effect was made easily healable. I got the idea that this was set up in the center of the camp--which is perfectly logical, and would even carry a message to these not-quite-yet-monotheists: "The center of the camp is where God is, and the bronze serpent reminds us of Who sent this plague (and why) and that if we turn and look to where He is He'll freely heal us."

Well, it almost certainly was set up there, but I made the mistake of checking it out before commenting. I will in charity decline to link to numerous sites that interpolate "in the middle of the camp" when quoting Numbers, but Blue Letter Bible seems to indicate that that phrase isn't there.


Thursday, March 07, 2024

Thanks to first responders

Like Grim. Traffic was stopped for an hour and a half on I65 north at about 318 last night with a 3-vehicle accident: a semi smashed the guard rail on a bridge to flinders. Then the fire and rescue truck that showed up to help was hit by a car. No injuries, but it emphasizes that those guys have a risky job.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

A few thoughts on lesser aspects of the Transfiguration

Why Moses and Elijah? Why not others--Abraham, or Isaiah?

In one sense Abraham and Isaac are present already--in their descendants. In another sense the Father and the Sacrificial Son who are present remind us of Abraham and Isaac who so distantly pre-figured them.

Moses brought the Law, Jesus fulfilled it, embodies it.

Moses had no known grave and Elijah of course had none--both were taken from human knowledge and are returned here together, the resurrected and never-dead together.

Elijah was to be the forerunner of the new representative of God that Moses prophesied. He appears here to salute the new Law and new Lawgiver--and also the little christs who would go on to spread the word and become the new humanity--the church.

This church is represented by 3 men--one who is killed young, his brother who lives a long life and dies naturally, and a third who was executed later after having had a great deal more apparent influence than the one who died young. I have no hard knowledge, but all three were sent, and all three seem to have been largely faithful. Peter had an early dramatic example of not being faithful, and of being forgiven. I suspect all of them benefitted from similar forgiveness later in life as well, as we also hope to.

Peter reflects us and our usual response--make a memorial to capture the uncapturable event.

A word to the wise.

It may be overcast, and be early March, but you can still get sunburned sitting hatless through the 20'th birthday party of an 80-year old submarine. And get mosquito-bit watching for aquatic birds afterwards. (The party was a couple of days late and was an unexpected surprise during our visit to Galveston.) One does not generally get mosquitoes in Wisconsin in Feb/Mar

Friday, March 01, 2024

Houston Space Center

The Space Center at Houston is worth visiting. I’d never seen a Saturn V in person. It’s amazing. It’s also sad to see the corroded electronic cards and chassis; you start to wonder if we could ever do it again. Well, Artemis/Orion has launched once, but there’s not the same drive or, I fear, vision.

We had an overhead tour of the training area. One section of the floor had gratifyingly cluttered benches and desks, but quite a bit of the area’s desks were clean. The spiel of the guide on the tram included the cheerful assertion that the goal was to have a woman person of color on the Moon.

NASA has a bit of a history of trumpeting its "firsts", no matter the details or the significance, so this kind of foolishness has some precedent. But in an era of greater budget squeezes and no great obvious public enthusiasm for the project (or, I'm afraid, clear science or exploration objectives), it seems remarkably stupid to advertise a science/technology project as a social engineering project. The people most interested in "diversity and reparations quotas" would find this a rather inefficient use of money–much better if the money went to projects easier for them to govern.

On the brighter side, there must have been about 400 youngsters there from schools in Texas and several nations south of the border, in brightly color-coded shirts, apparently having a blast. The James Webb lecture was a LCD talk, but with some gorgeous before and after photos. There were lots of hands-on things for the kids, and some of the grownups, and tons of artifacts.

One thing they can do better is the signage. What’s there is OK, but if, for example, alongside the "this is a rocket nozzle from a Saturn V" they had a second poster with a line drawing of the nozzle with important parts labeled, that would satisfy the “general interest” people, but also give more explanation for those who are curious how the thing actually worked. (They often has a provenance explanation.)

Come to think of it, a display of how a rocket motor works is something I didn’t see there. It would best be shown with an animation–several stations for the different kinds of rocket. Maybe I just missed that section–it’s a large place. "How a simple rocket works" could be another display–like a water rocket. It might be too mechanically complex to be a reliable exhibit, though. But…

You’d need a clear plastic rocket (replaced regularly thanks to fatigue), captive to a guide rod. (Or maybe inside a clear pipe? Wear would make the pipe less than transparent after a while). At the bottom something presses it down (a hold-down) onto a plug that corks the bottom of the rocket. Through the plug run two tubes, one long and reaching almost to the top of the inside of the rocket (for air), and the other just inside the bottom (for water). Open the air valve to let air escape, and force water in at the bottom. Then shut the water valve, and force air in until the rocket is pressurized. Release the hold-down, and the air forces the water out and the rocket flies up to the top of the exhibit.

The constraining device would wear (or the rocket plastic distort), and eventually the rocket wouldn’t fall exactly back down where it ought to–so you’d need some guides at the bottom of the system to encourage the rocket to land properly. And some sensors so you don’t have to rely on timing to bring the hold-down into action (suppose wear on the constraining tube makes the rocket fall too slowly). And if this can be cycled once a minute, that’s about 600 launches a day–which is likely beyond the endurance of the toy models. NASA has bunches of engineers–or used to, anyway--so this should be solvable.

Another thing that cried out for explanation was why the instrument panel control switches had guards around them. Adults can guess, if they didn’t know already, but a sentence to explain it to the kids would be nice.

Also, a cartoon of what banks of instrument switches were for what would be nice for adults too. When you can’t read the labels it looks like this.

The atmosphere was upbeat–no mentions of why things failed when they failed, unless it was accompanied by a description of how they managed to fix it (e.g. the solar panel on Skylab, or the CO2 scrubber on Apollo 13.

I’m glad we went.