Friday, November 13, 2015

Concept II

[This post was originally entered on July 31, 2015 when the ergometer arrived. I will revise it along the way to record progress toward the million meters. I'll change the "post date" occasionally.]

This Model D arrived today (7/31/15) - the goal is 1,000,000 meters before August 1, 2016.
(As of 11/12/15 the 300-day year rate 1,890,000.)

Results 1 August 2015 to date:
Month of August: 250,156 meters, 1,246 minutes. Meters to date: 250,156 meters.
Month of September: 162,590 meters, 769 minutes. Meters to date: 412,746 meters.
Month of October: 181,160 meters, 840.8 minutes. Meters to date: 593,906 meters.
November 1st to 12th: 62,146 meters, 297.4 minutes. Meters to date: 656,070 meters.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Have You Noticed Job?

[Originally posted March 27, 2005, and revised February 6, 2006]

When the Accusing Angel (AKA the Old Testament’s “Satan”) arrived at the Conference, apparently a little late, God asked him, “So, where have you been?”

The AA replies, “I’ve been looking all over the earth,” with a slight attitude problem, it seems.

God, curious, goes on to ask, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is as good a man as there is, perfect by human standards.”

Satan says, “Yes, I noticed him. Why shouldn’t he be so good? Look how it pays! It is not for nothing that your pet man Job is so perfect,” the Accuser responds. Take away his assets and I’ll bet he will tell you to go to Hell in a heart beat.”

God says, “It’s a bet! You can take all his family and assets away, and I’ll bet he will still worship me.”

So off goes the Accusing Angel to kill Job’s seven sons and three daughters and wipe out all his wealth. But all Job does is say, “Well, God gave me all this stuff so I guess he has the right to take it all away. Praise God.”

At the next Conference, God observes to AA, “Well, what do you think of my man Job now? You ruined him and killed his children and he is still loyal.” (Of course, because of Poet-Job’s fine dramatic irony, Job does not know about this unusual heavenly wager. If he did, he might have reacted differently.)

Upping the ante, the AA responds, “This is not a fair test. Ruin his health, make him fear for his life, and THEN we will see how “loyal” he is.”

God, not to be outdone, says, “OK, it is a bet; you can do anything to him short of killing him.”
(So God agrees to let the Accuser ruin and scare Job almost to death, just to win a bet. Pete Rose was kicked out of baseball for doing considerably less.)

Long story short: in the end Job stands his ground, manages to get God to come down and, in whirlwind speech – the longest speech directly from God in all of Bibical literature, admit that that all the pain and suffering that Job was having was God’s doing after all. And, Job shamed God into to replace all his family and wealth. (No mention of justice for the 10 dead kids. I guess every good form of Entertainment comes at a price.

Interestingly, God stipulates that Job's three new daughters are to have equal legal rights with their brothers, becoming the first women to enjoy equal rights with men. Who says the Bible is hopelessly patriarchal? )

But God gave as good as He got, however. He tells Job from his whirlwind podium, “This is my Creation, Job, and don’t you forget it! I made all this stuff, and lots more. I will do with it what I want. Spare me your ideas of moral management.”

So in the end the Accuser, Job’s wife, and Job’s pious orthodox friends all lose. The Accuser loses his bet with God and apparently leaves town. Mrs. Job, who counseled Job to "curse God and die," seems to go with the Accuser. And God would have punished Job's three comforting "friends" if Job had not intervened for them.

Great poetry. Tough stuff for the "His eye is on the sparrow" school. A Jesuit friend once said, "Job is a bootcamp for Christians."

So what is the point?

Do not conform mindlessly, even to God. Challenge authority when it is acting wrongly. Orthodoxies are often shells filled with mush. Creation favors the intelligent rebel, but do not expect a reward. There is no connection between sin and suffering, or virtue and reward. Always oppose unaccountable power...that power that does not put itself at risk. Like John F. Kennedy once remarked in a press conference, life is unfair. God is not in the justice business.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

War making by PowerPoint

PowerPoint presentation for military briefings on wars in Irag and Afghanistan.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat… “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable…”

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation
And now please welcome President Abraham Lincoln.

Good morning. Just a second while I get this connection to work. Do I press this button here? Function-F7? No, that's not right. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to reboot. Hold on a minute. Um, my name is Abe Lincoln and I'm your president. While we're waiting, I want to thank Judge David Wills, chairman of the committee supervising the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery. It's great to be here, Dave, and you and the committee are doing a great job. Gee, sometimes this new technology does have glitches, but we couldn't live without it, could we? Oh - is it ready? OK, here we go:

People in the grip of error

“One of the hallmarks of the Manhattan mentality is the inability to draw the most obvious inferences from the facts in front of your eyes.  I have often accused Manhattan groupthinkers of flat refusal to get outside their cushy homes and offices and walk around town, thinking that if they actually walked around and observed things they could not help but draw the obvious conclusions.  Well, it's really too much to ask them to walk around, but how about putting a chart of data in front of their eyes?  No, that won't work either:  it seems that even if data on what's going on are collected and presented in a very clear fashion, a Manhattan groupthinker will continue to grasp tightly to his preconceptions in the face of the evidence…” Francis Menton, “The Manhattan Contrarian”

“How could so many intelligent people be so grievously wrong for such an extended period of time? How could they ignore so much overwhelming evidence that contradicted their most basic theories? These questions, too, deserve their own discipline: the sociology of error…Whenever smart people cling to an outlandishly incorrect idea despite substantial evidence to the contrary, something interesting is at work…some of those forces were ideological in nature, matters of social prejudice and convention. Some revolved around conceptual limitations, failures of imagination and analysis…”    Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. Page 15, 126

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Candidate Carson v. the Truth-o-meter

Carson v. the Truth-o-meter: 

“…Carson said that under the Nazis, ‘German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s,’ which allowed the Nazis to ‘carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.’ This is a misreading of history on two levels. First, German citizens as a whole were not disarmed by the Nazis. Jews and other supposed enemies of the state were subject to having their weapons seized. But for most German citizens, the Nazi period was one in which gun regulations were loosened, not tightened. Second, a lack of guns was not the issue. If the majority of Germans had wanted to use these guns to fight the Nazis, they could have. But they didn’t. Carson ignores that the Nazis enjoyed significant popular support, or at least, broad acquiescence. We rate this claim False.”

Carson & Truth-o-meter v Barry: 

I think Carson has a point, in that an armed citizenry is less likely to be subjugated than an unarmed one. Consider what would have happened, or not happened, if King George III’s ministers in the 13 colonies had confiscated every firearm in those colonies in about 1770. But I think both Carson and the Truth-o-meter are off target.

The Nazi assault on the civil rights of Jews in Germany was so massive, legalistic, and gradual that their gun ownership was not much of a factor either way. Being only about 1% of the German population, German Jews had no political clout, were easy to victimize.

Most of the Jews murdered were rounded up in Poland, Russia, Austria, France, Italy, and other areas controlled by the German army. The infamous camps were mostly in Poland and Austria. So the question of how gun laws relate to the murder of European Jews would have to take into account more than just how the Jews were treated under the gun laws of Nazi Germany.

Once the Nazi “Final Solution” got rolling, in 1939-41, it would have been a little silly to suggest that even well-armed and combat-inclined Jews of that time would have been able to organize and defend themselves against a German army that nearly defeated the best armies of Britain, France, Russia, and the United States combined.

A real examination of the question of gun laws and the treatment of Jews (and others) by the Nazis would need to take in account the 1930s gun laws of Poland, Austria, France, Italy, and, most of all, of the USSR, because that was where most of the arresting and murdering of the Jews actually took place.

Source (at Politifact):

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Abilene Paradox

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
The term 'Abilene paradox' was introduced by Jerry B. Harvey in a 1974 article: The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement. The name of the phenomenon comes from the above anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to describe the paradox.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Heart Grows Smarter

A study of how and why some men are happy found, in part, that they believed certain things that distinguished them from the others:

"What goes right is more important than what goes wrong. The magic formula is capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order, and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives. The big finding is that you can teach an old dog new tricks."

'The Heart Grows Smarter," by  David Brooks, in the NYT 11/06/2012

kleptoparasitic hawks

"…But instead of killing the tropic birds, the hawks had what scientists call a kleptoparasitic relationship with them, pecking their backs and beating them with their wings until the tropic birds disgorged the fish that they had been intending for their young."
"In The Heart of the Sea" p. 143

According to Ishmael & Father Mapple

"Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shown certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom - the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February's snow."

(Ishmael, sitting in church, describing Father Mapple as he is about to start his sermon; 
"Moby Dick," Chapter 8: The Pulpit, p. 38)

Toward the end of Father Mapple's sermon that day, as recalled by Ishmael: "…Now Jonah's captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers."

"Moby Dick," p. 44

Monday, August 17, 2015

Peter Schramm's muddy boots

I met Peter Schramm at a political conference in Washington, D.C. in the late 1990s. He gave a lecture then on the down-to-earth nature of many of the great Americans of history, particularly Sam Grant, who is said was a leader who liked to have “mud on his boots.” I saw the following post on Powerline Blog today, and thought of him that day praising muddy boots.  -jb


PETER W. SCHRAMM, 1946-2015, RIP

Our great friend and teacher Peter Schramm passed away yesterday after a long struggle with cancer. We took note of Peter’s battle last month, and have featured our exclusive conversations with him here on Power Line before.
Tributes are pouring in from everywhere today, from former students and colleagues and friends. As everyone who knew Peter will recall, this Hungarian-born American citizen fancied himself something of a cowboy, but that is not as unlikely as it may seem, as his daughter Bekky explained today in a voice that unmistakably reflects her father’s teaching and ongoing presence:

That my dad fancied himself a cowboy should not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever known him, let alone anyone who has had a conversation with him for 5 minutes. You see, cowboys love this country. They love the way the land sculpts itself into a complicated but perfect blend of mountains and rivers and fields of waving grass. They love watching the skies light up at night with a million twinkling little stars. They love talking to Americans, and learning from them, and just being with them. There is an easiness with cowboys that can’t be found in other mortals. They are comfortable in their own skin, in their boots, and in their purpose. They talk slowly and emphatically, offering deep wisdom to anyone who is even the slightest bit interested. They find an immense amount of pleasure in working hard all day for their beloved country, and then coming home, slumping into an old leather chair, and taking their boots off. That feeling is so delicious that few things compare to it.
My dad the cowboy has taken his boots off for the last time.