Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pope Approves of Gun-Brandishing During Bank Robberies!

Recently, the Pope said in an interview
There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a bank robber uses an unloaded gun, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization,  a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of bank robbery. That can really lie only in a humanization of economics. 

Oh, wait.  What he said was this:

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

in Greek is εὐχαριστία (eukharistia) or Eucharist. 

There is a school of thought in the US, often called "rugged individualism" in which the individual (envisioned as "rugged", usually male and adult) claims that he stands in a grand and solitary isolation, owing no-but nothing to no one.  He is under no obligation to others, and words like altruism, generosity, charity, and so forth are hurtful to his ears. 

This is nonsense, of course. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Mystery of Galileo

Much of the following is due to a fascinating essay at The Renaissance Mathematicus entitled Galileo’s great bluff and part of the reason why Kuhn is wrong

An abiding puzzle for many is: why were the physicists and astronomers opposed to Galileo's Copernicanism?  Most of his supporters were "Renaissance men," i.e., artists and men of letters who took a dilettante's interest in science.  There were some physicists who famously refused to look through the newfangled telescope.  This while the Jesuits were making significant telescopic investigations of their own; and were in fact teaching the Copernican calculation methods at the Roman College. 

Much of the confusion, imho, comes from looking at history backwards instead of forwards.  Backwards, meaning looking from the present into the past, and so looking with foreknowledge of what came after and often with the unexamined assumptions of the Late Modern Ages.  But one achieves a better understanding by looking at history from its own past, and not allowing knowledge of next year to affect the view of this year.

Continued here

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Musical Moment

While driving back from the doctor's office today, Bob Gibson streamed down from the satellite on the folk music channel.  YouTube has a version credited to Shel Silverstein, Bob Gibson, and John Hartford.  The video is nothing, but the song has a peculiar effect on me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Among the Skiffoids

This weekend was Philcon.  It was curiously small, and I heard this attributed to the Con Committee not sending out Program Participation invites until three weeks before the Con itself.  In any case, there were very few pro writers.  I saw Bud Sparhawk, Tom Purdom, and Gardner Dozois.  I suppose fantasy writers and gamesters were thick as ticks on a hound dog's back, but on panels I saw they introduced their oeuvre with the names of small publishers.  Some were impressive nonetheless.  A twelve-book series of YA fantasy is no mean accomplishment.  But the SF content seems to be getting thinner each year. 

One fellow had an interesting talk about the Apollo Guidance computer.  He had one, discussed the programs, the primitive nature of the hardware and the architecture lo these many years later. 

My own adventures ran as follows. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In the Lion's Mouth

O frabjous day!  Callooh!  Callay! 
The frumious Bandersnatch is slain!
It now remains to dress the carcass.

One man with a dream, at pleasure, 
Shall go forth and conquer a crown; 
And three with a new song’s measure 
Can trample an empire down.
 – Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881), “We Are the Music Makers”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shocking Lapse in Elementary Logic Discovered!

BERLIN, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Climate change could lead to colder winters in northern regions, according to a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research on Tuesday.

Next up:  Hitting the ground could lead to more falls!  Or perhaps: Breathing could lead to more respiration!  Evolution could lead to different species!

Change is not a cause.  It is an effect. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Enemy has Capitulated!

General Order General Headquarters, A. E. F.

No. 203 France, November 12, 1918

The enemy has capitulated. It is fitting that I address myself in thanks directly to the officers and soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces, who by their heroic efforts have made possible this glorious result.

Our Armies, hurriedly raised and hastily trained, met a veteran enemy, and by courage, discipline and skill always defeated him. Without complaint you have endured incessant toil, privation and danger. You have seen many of your comrades make the Supreme Sacrifice that freedom may live.

I thank you for your patience and courage with which j-ou have endured. I congratulate you upon the splendid fruits of victory, which your heroism and the blood of our gallant dead are now presenting to our nation. Your deeds will live forever on the most glorious pages of America's history.

Those things you have done. There remains now a harder task which will test your soldierly qualities to the utmost. Success in this and little note will be taken and few praises sung; fail, and the light of your glorious achievements of the past will be sadly dimmed.

But you will not fail. Every natural tendency may urge towards relaxation in discipline, in conduct, in appearance, in everything that marks the soldier. Yet you will remember that each officer and EACH SOLDIER IS THE REPRESENTATIVE IN EUROPE OF HIS PEOPLE and that his brilliant deeds of yesterday permit no action of today to pass unnoticed by friend or foe.

You will meet this test as gallantly as you met the test of the battlefield. Sustained by your high ideals and inspired by the heroic part you have played, you will carry back to your people the proud consciousness of a new Americanism born of sacrifice.


John J. Pershing,
General, Commander-in-Chief.

Now This is Funny

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Civil War Blog

Disunion is a new NY Times blog that will be covering the events of the Civil War in “real-time” as it happened 150 years ago. From one of the first posts about the last ordinary day:
[November 1, 1860] was an ordinary day in America: one of the last such days for a very long time to come.
In dusty San Antonio, Colonel Robert E. Lee of the U.S. Army had just submitted a long report to Washington about recent skirmishes against marauding Comanches and Mexican banditti. In Louisiana, William Tecumseh Sherman was in the midst of a tedious week interviewing teenage applicants to the military academy where he served as superintendent. In Galena, Ill., passers-by might have seen a man in a shabby military greatcoat and slouch hat trudging to work that Thursday morning, as he did every weekday. He was Ulysses Grant, a middle-aged shop clerk in his family’s leather-goods store.

The trick to history, John Lukacs used to say, is to study Salamis as if the Persians might still win.  But can we really read the above and think of Lee as just an Indian fighter, and Grant as no more than a dry goods clerk?  As if the trajectories of their lives were not about to get knocked skew-wise by great and terrible events to come? 

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Philadelphia Opera Company

sure do like to sing, even while shopping.  You saw them last at Reading Terminal Market singing opera.  Now, along with 650 close friends and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, they do a little seasonal chorale.  A word of explanation on the venue: Wanamaker's was the old downtown department story in Philadelphia, which features a huge organ that plays for shoppers.  There is also a large sculpture of an eagle that is iconic for Philadelphians.  "I'll meet you under the Eagle" was a common phrase when I was going to college down there, and explains all those people we would see sitting around at its feet.  It is also why the Philadelphia Football Team bears that name. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unclear on the Concept

The WSJ reports on its Best of the Web blog

"Students have vowed to protest or block North Carolina State University's Free Expression Tunnel until the university's chancellor gives guarantees that no hate speech will be allowed there," Raleigh's WRAL-TV reports:
[Sophomore Monique] Bonds said that graffiti demeaning many different groups is common in the tunnel.
"It's free expression, but nobody is walking through, regulating it," she said. "They're just letting it happen, and it's not just racism, but gender, sexuality and religious discrimination."
And that is too delicious not to count as todays Quote of the Day

"It's free expression, but nobody is walking through, regulating it."  -- Monique Bonds

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Gales of November

All politics is local, they say; so here is this here locale

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
As of 10:00 PM but with some updating to 10:30   63% of districts counted (now higher)

The political geography.  There are three Pennsylvanias
  1. Philadelphia metro
  2. Pittsburgh metro
  3. The T (Everyone else)

Dies Irae

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla !

which means

Day of wrath! that day
Dissolves the world in ashes:
As foretold by David and the sibyl!

The wrath in question is that of the voters, and the sibyls are the pollsters.  Supposedly, these will be made manifest most everywhere save New York, Connecticut, and possibly California, as the voters replace one band of nitwits by another.  The winners will fall to their knees to pray that our short attention spans will make them safe in two years.  Our liberties are secured by inducing fear in the hearts of legislators.  No more safe seats! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sometimes, the Mask Slips, a Little

Usually, it's in a passing remark in which the speaker wishes we could be more like China or that the President could just issue decrees to get things done.  At other times, it is simply shouting down or flashmobbing a disfavored double-plus ungood speaker.  But sometimes people get hurt.

50 women injured, and one hospitalized

Heaven and Earth, Horatio

Friends, you can't make this stuff up. The Wall Street Journal informs us

Colorado Flying-Saucer Believers Have Ghost Hunters in Their Sights.

DENVER—There has been plenty of partisan rancor across Colorado as Election Day approaches. Here in the capital, it's out of this world.

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to “ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact “with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles.” . . .

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. "Low overhead," he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it's harder to dismiss him as biased. ....

“We need to get this out of the realm of the Tooth Fairy and into the realm of diplomatic protocol,” says Ricky Butterfass, who works on the campaign.
But wait. It gets better. The major opponent is... a ghost-hunter. Bryan Bonner "dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds."
One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.

And he has rallied his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society to fight Initiative 300 as an embarrassment to science—and to Denver.

Replies Clifford Clift, a Colorado UFO researcher: "The paranormal group is saying we're outlandish?"
So apparently the paranormal folks are accusing the UFO folks of being an embarrassment to science; and a ghost hunter is calling UFO hunters "delusional." Friends, if the irony were any thicker, we could coke it up and smelt steel.

Wonder and Anticipation, the Likes of Which We Have Never Seen

  Hello family, friends and fans of Michael F. Flynn.   It is with sorrow and regret that I inform you that my father passed away yesterday,...