Polustanochki

Polustanochki, in Russian, are little train stations that dot the map, “whistle stops”  There may be a town there, and there may not.  Across the endless expanse of the Russian continent, these outposts of civilization are plopped down in the infinite nowheres.

This album from the year 2000 is in my opinion the best from this Russian group, ЛЮБЭ, whose name is rendered Lyub in English.  The first, title track Полустаночки “Polustanochki” is intended to seat you in one of those little train stations, perhaps with a cup of Russian tea, watching all the myriad Russians going back and forth, buying a newspaper, eating some dumplings, and decidedly not watching them get smashed on 13% beer which after all is “not hard alcohol”.

My favorite tracks are the first “Whistle Stops”, the last Прорвёмся “Break Through!”, and the fifth track старые друзья “Old Friends”.  I find the sixth track солдат (soldier) tedious and wrought — it won a Russian “Grammy”.

This is a band with a mission, starting just before the fall of the Soviet Union.  They wanted to preserve some of the old Russian folk culture by bringing it forward through mergers with rock, pop, jazz, blues.  The group is joyously pro-Russian, and the lead singer Nikolai Rastorguyev was appointed by Putin to a post of Cultural Advisor.

I bought a couple of “mix-tape” CDs while I was in Afghanistan.  All Russian music, there was a lot of great stuff, and this band is one of the gems.

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Je ne comprends pas …

The morning after at least two were killed and an additional 12 wounded near a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, Trump tweeted “Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!

“The Democrats and President Obama gave Iran 150 Billion Dollars and got nothing, but they can’t give 5 Billion Dollars for National Security and a Wall?”

There are numerous ways to enter this country illegally:

  1. Over-stayed visas
  2. Vacations
  3. Anchor babies/ chain-link relatives
  4. Jobs given and paid ‘under the table’ with no employer ss id#
  5. Gang members attacking ICE officers and jumping over the currently impotent borders

The Donald is right re: #5: We do not have the physical barriers necessary that I consider the most important to keep out MS 13.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Why, do you think, did Michael Cohen plead guilty to two felonies in violating campaign finance laws?

He must know, as we all do, that even a violation of that law is extremely difficult to prove.  If there is any other personal motive for  the outlay,  it’s not a violation. They couldn’t even convict John Edwards!  Menendez still has his seat in congress.

And why would he plead guilty to felonies, when apparently it is not at all settled that a violation is civil or criminal?

Finally, what did he get for it?  Three years is a loooong sentence.  He does not seem to have struck much of a “bargain”.

Why not just say, you’ll never make it stick; I’ll take my chances with a jury?

Does what he did make sense to anybody out there?

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Steyn and the Judge on Steyn vs CRTV

We discussed the CRTV/Steyn business a bit on the RAMU today.  Here’s the Steyn post wherein he goes over the verdict (Steyn won) with lots of juicy details.

For those readers new to this wretched business, last February CRTV canceled my TV show on their subscription network and fired me, precipitating the worst year of my professional life. Over the course of the last twelve months I’ve been asked regularly by various people: Why don’t you just walk away?

Which is a fair question, with a very simple answer: I couldn’t walk away because CRTV sued me for ten million dollars. All this “claimant”/”counterclaimant” mumbo-jumbo obscures the reality: CRTV were the plaintiffs, they brought the suit, they dragged me into a pit of legal hell.

So I had no choice in the matter, because I was the defendant. So I defended myself. And today the New York court ruled that CRTV lost – and I won, comprehensively

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I Will vs. I Am?

I just read a phrase in James : ” the hopeless inferiority of voluntary to instinctive action”.

Twice, I’ve seen males: one a boy, one a man– put out fires with their bare hands, to protect a female.

Oh, admittedly, not big fires.  The boy did it in high school when a science project malfunctioned.  The man did it  at his retirement dinner, when one of the servers  at the buffet accidentally ignited her own hair.  ( An Afro, so quite spectacular…)

But I thought to myself on both occasions: this is raw courage, this is inborn heroism,  it cannot be faked, it cannot be fabricated: an instinctive response.

One can “will” heroism.  That is what the words “Nothing in his life became him so well as the leaving of it, ” describe.  You know: Sidney Carton and his ilk.

But I’m moved to write to you tonight about that nerdy, unpopular boy, and that somewhat embattled Irish-American doctor:

They HAD it, the hero gene!

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Gathering Storm

“These are the clouds about the fallen sun,/The majesty that shuts his burning eye:/THE WEAK LAY HAND  ON WHAT THE STRONG HAS DONE,/Till that be tumbled that was lifted high/And discord follow upon unison,/And all things at one common level lie.

And therefore, friend, if your great race were run/And these things came, so much the more thereby/Have you made greatness your companion,/Although it be for children that you sigh:/These are the clouds about the fallen sun,/The majesty that shuts his  burning eye. ”   –Yeats

 

(I promise you,  I have a lot of poems by other poets memorized, but, idk, Yeats just seems particularly apt for these times.   He was  a wartime poet, after all. )

I capitalized one line of this poem; you will know why.  Trump is a giant, our champion, no one else could have avhieved what he did!  And he has made good on his promises with unprecedented rapidity, and to an unprecedented extent.   But the etiolated pale bureaucrats, the envious Cascas,  now “lay hands” and oh! there  are so many  of them; their name is Legion.

But that is the fate of the strong, maybe even the hallmark of greatness.   If  the laudable project fails, is tumbled d by the weak,  it is our children who will suffer.  Pity them.

(Note:  This is what the poem says to me.)

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Emanuel Micron and the Circle-Jerk Elites

I don’t know if I came up with that appellation – it seems obvious enough – but clearly his political status has been diminished spectacularly in just a few days. He always struck me as a strange man. He acts positively weird around Trump,  he married his high-school teacher(!) and he’s French.

At some point, even the globalist French ( and international) media can’t prop him up without further damaging their reputation(s).

They only have the ears and eyes of those who already believe them, and this pool diminishes at each new iteration of “news” reportage. There’s no way for these media outlets to maintain their narratives and also regain credibility with those who have seen behind their curtain, so they continue to lose traction. They are rapidly  becoming little more than a  psychological defense mechanism for the elites. It’s to their pages and programs the invested class, the cake-eaters, turn to for rationalizations, reassurance and guidance.

Certainly the media are supported and maintained by important people, thus providing them with outsized influence, but in the end they are gaslighting themselves/each other in a downward spiral of insanity. The reaction of the outside world comes as a shock, and they retreat into even more outlandish interpretations. This then reveals their insanity to the masses, furthering the cycle.

These elites are so self-insulated they no longer feel the need to make sense when lecturing us. They just assert. “Nationalism is the opposite of patriotism”, for example. The policies inflicted on the hardest-working people, transferring wealth (and rights!) to non-working new arrivals for the elites to take pride in their magnanimity as though there’s no cost, is more proof of their divorce from basic realities.

We’ve seen this here up close with the Trump phenomenon.

These people have proven to me one thing for sure. Even if they recover their sanity, they do NOT believe in democracy.

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How Great was WordStar, Really?

I love WordStar.  Used it in my youth.  I remember flying around the page, being ridiculously “productive”, if you could say that I ever produced anything.  It was valuable to me, at any rate.

Nowadays, in this world of word processors which all try to be layout suites for desktop publishing, there is good reason to miss the older tools.  For one, I remember being amazed in the 1990s that the computer couldn’t keep up with my typing.  How many times have you rattled on while the display is frozen, or watched the computer actually miss keystrokes, leaving you with charaters missing from text that you *know* darned well, you hit squarely?  Well, how would you know for sure that you had indeed hit the key right?  The old keyboards told you so.  But that’s another story.

Computers also began taking longer and longer to boot.  Longer boot times, missed keys, frozen display — this is progress?

For a long time now, long enough that I remember discussing it with my father, I have surmised that a person could make some decent money issuing a yesteryear laptop.  But that, too, is another story.  The story today is one of the things that this yesteryear laptop could do for you — run your favorite old programs and let you be blissfully productive.  XTree had a family of products XTPro, XTreeGold, something like that, which I loved using.  To this very day, I have never found a file manager which would let me cruise through directories at will, “tagging” files to be moved, deleted, copied, whatever.  Moving to another directory didn’t wipe out the selections you had just made.  You could tag a ridiculous number of files, all over the place, and then execute a command on everything you had just tagged.

I also used BASICA and soon thereafter GW-BASIC.  We had a couple of manuals sitting around for GW-BASIC, which today is the only language I ever really got good at.  Digital documentation is for amateurs, because it does not grow experts.  I wrote toys, utilities (including a WS file converter — doesn’t everybody?), and even a couple of tactical applications.  Every Electronic Warfare tech in the known universe at one point wrote “the Navy’s only signal database”, and my shop was no different.  I wrote an application to do some trigonometry so that two ships on a known leg could triangulate the location of something detected passively.

I wrote “agglobberation” models in which an active (lit up) pixel wandered about the screen until it found another pixel turned on, and then the pixel would stick — start another pixel.  A friend found it remarkable that I had used the screen as a storage device — I said it was easier than programming arrays.  Sometimes it rained pixels, sometimes they blew about, and sometimes they orbited a point where the next position equaled the current position plus the current trend plus the immediate value of the inverse square of dx to the “black hole” or whatever.  Close enough for my purposes, anyway, and fun stuff.

I have had several “peaks” of skill in certain areas over my career, including being very good at Windows Active Directory management with PowerShell and the AD-Module, writing firewall rules for a centrally-managed, distributed endpoint security client, writing big-iron MS SQL database applications with app front-ends and everything.  I have been the Excel master and the Powerpoint superstar, the guy who flew through usenet newsgroups on unix using trn and pico, chatted with the sysadmin girlfriend by telnetting to her VAX across the country, and so forth.  But the one that breaks my heart is WordStar.

But wait a minute!  If it was so great, wouldn’t it be back?  I’ve been thinking a lot about these old tools, and I have long told myself that it’s not mere nostalgia — that there are quantifiable, reasonable rationales for these superior preferences of mine.  If I have a hard time explaining it, that’s because people just don’t understand — they’ll *never* understand.

One thing that I think many of us old-timers (in computer years anyway) tend to overlook is that no matter how good it was, it was good in its time, and this is a far cry from being objectively, timelessly good.  Buried in almost each reminiscence about WordStar is this sentence, “I still remember the [control keys / keybindings / commands]!”  The control keys were good, but they were not miraculous.  It could have been many things, but objectively, no set of keyboard macros will ever be perfect — not even WordPerfect — neither mnemonics, context, nor position can be expressed fully on a keyboard.   So the ESXD keys map nicely to up, left, down, and right.  In the days before arrow keys, this was important.  Observe emacs’ pathological “ALT+V is down; SHIFT+ALT+V is up” methodology.  Typically, they try to have shift+[something] be the reverse, undo, opposite, alternative [something], but that is another unattainable goal.  The many dimensions of meaning do not map into any finite set of keys and modifiers.  What is the opposite of “right justify”?  Feel free to choose from left justify, center, non-justify, re-justify… it’s a bigger problem than any set of keys could model intuitively.  But shift?  Really?

WordPerfect 5.1, the one I recall, came with great room-sized posters listing the various magic key combinations.  Shift+F12, perhaps, was the incantation for Reveal Codes, which was amazing.  This greatly helped troubleshoot documents which had begun to misbehave — I’m looking at you, MS-Word 1997-2018.  But WordPerfect, for all its good points, was always an also-ran for me.

WordStar’s commands worked very well for people who learned them through long experience.  The onscreen help was something I *never* turned off — it was extrasomatic knowledge for me, as if I literally had access to a real fast cache of human RAM right there on the screen.   This was much better than any of the other word processors I used at the time.  I cannot begrudge BASICA for being a less-than-ideal text editor, and for most of my GW-BASIC development, I still used plain old EDIT.EXE.  Wait, what?  If WS was so good, why wouldn’t I use that?  Because even in the days when WS was the best thing going, it was overkill for making quick and dirty edits to .bas files.  Compared to EDIT.EXE, WS.EXE was slow to load, clumsy to use, and feature-rich when all I needed was to add a damned semicolon to an if-then-else.

There were other editors around.  I never got any good at them.  WS differed from other battleship editors in having a lean and graceful learning curve.  Unlike emacs or vi, WS allowed you to dip in only as many toes as needed to get a particular task or set of tasks done.  emacs and vi fairly require you to master half of the capability of the things just to get your first text file written and saved without having a heart attack.  dired mode?  Just save the blinking file!

Contemporary word processors are easy to start up with, in part because we all have twenty to thirty years using their direct ancestors, in part because the popular windowing interfaces allow cautious, measured involvement with little pictures of now-standard actions, pop-up hover text describing what that button is about to do, and a nearly perfect image of what is going on — what you see is what will print.

WordStar was miserable to print from.  First, getting a printer going required the equivalent of a driver be loaded not to the system, but to WordStar itself.  You needed a “printer file” which told WS how to yoke, bridle, and bit the particular printer.  There was no abstraction except in WS itself.  You issued printer commands right in the document, in a way that showed up on screen but not in the printed product.

.paginate 25
.margin 8
.. gotta foreshadow this about ten pages ago

Those are analogies — the actual dot commands escape me.  The double-dot notes were like comments, in the programming sense.  WS would take those WS commands and use the printer file to translate machine motion commands to the printer.  It was the worst of all worlds, but it did produce a beautiful product.  WordStar went through several gyrations as Windows started up, and blew it.  The company (companies) behind WordStar were fumbling the ball, but part of this must have been the difficulty of re-factoring their suddenly out-dated model of printing — a core feature was built upside-down.

WordStar had advantages in its block management, which is like a grown-up version of cut/copy/paste.  See the middle of this guy’s blog post here:  https://sfwriter.com/wordstar.htm  He explains it much better than I would, but the upshot is it let you think while doing, and do while thinking.  The blog post there is an excellent argument for the superiority of WordStar — I agree with everything he says, and it’s nice to see my hunches and habits explained so clearly.  And yet…

… where is the modern WordStar?  Where is the keyboard-centric mental-flow super-powered, unintrusive text editor?  I keep seeing things that purport to allow you a distraction-free writing experience, but three things:  First, distractions aren’t the problem — miserable mouse-only buttons and commands are.  Second, these are typically just junk editors with backgrounds blanked out so that you actually have to *wave a mouse around the screen* to get a button to pop up — so you can click it.  There is zero workflow in this.  Third, these are still not capable of handling more than one region of marked text — this is a common failing, but a failing nonetheless.

I thought I could recapture some of that old capability in the Unix world.  Short answer, no.  Long answer, noooooooooooo.  Every text editor known to man() seems to come with a “wordstar-like” mode, but this is almost always something bolted onto the top of an otherwise unreformed character-plopper.  Internal functionality remains decidedly not WordStar-like, and it shows through.  Fair enough, and I appreciate the amount of work that has gone into allowing codgers to use the keystrokes we remember, but there’s more to it than that.  At least in the unix console world, I’m not drowning in mousiness.

But you know what?  I don’t live in the unix console world.  Might be nice, and maybe someday, but I work in IT, and for most of us that means Windows, Office, mouse and Active Directory.  PowerShell when you’re lucky.  I am fortunate that at this point in my career, most of what I do is produce paperwork, which I know the techs see no value in — after all, they already know the problem, the answer, and their preferred tools to save the world.  I write reports and emails — that is what I do.  I read in Windows, I write in Windows.  I use MS-Visio and MS-Project in Windows.  I have a dirty habit of using PowerPoint, too, and that all happens in Windows.

It will profit me nothing to develop an ideal home environment which goes to war with my work environment.  Perhaps some people can successfully deal with using a different toolset for love and for war, but I am not one of those.  If WordStar were available in a clean, supported, 64-bit executable, maybe I could get it purchased by the government.  But it isn’t, and there is no way I will be able to set up virtual machines at work just so I can use my favorite old text-banging tool.

WordStar, the mountain range in the rear-view mirror, is gone and it’s not coming back.  It may be that despite all of its technical merits, WordStar was good for me *because I was good at WordStar*.  Perhaps Wordstar was good at the time, because the time was right for WordStar.  And perhaps the time was right for me as well.

One of my favorite old movies was The Running Man, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Dawson.  The movie featured trenchant social, political, and media commentary.  It was a great movie!  I remember it clearly.  I went to re-watch it not long ago.

It was awful.  Just unwatchable.  Made it about twenty minutes in, just enough to confirm that this was, indeed, the title I though it had been.  But it was not at all the movie I thought it had been.

I got WordStar running in a virtual machine about a year and a half ago.  Man, that was great!  I took some screenshots — posted them about town.

Haven’t touched it since.

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The Old Botswana Morality

Those who value cultural conservatism are made happy when agreeable ideas flow through the mind of a favorite character, straight off on the first page of the 18th book of her series.  Mma Ramotswe, founder and proprietress of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, thinks about these ideas at first in terms of clothes:

.  . . -but she was never keen to pay one hundred pula for something that could be obtained elsewhere for eighty pula, or to get rid of any item that, although getting on a bit, still served its purpose well enough.  And that, she thought, was the most important consideration of all – whether something worked. . . She also felt that if something was doing its job then you should hold on to it and cherish it, rather than discarding it in favor of something new.  Her white van, for instance, was now rather old and inclined to rattle, but it never failed to start -except after a rain storm, which was rare enough in a dry country like Botswana – and it got her from place to place – except when she ran out of fuel, or when it broke down, which it did from time to time, but not too often.

Her author, Alexander McCall Smith, then makes one of his transitions between internal monologue and direct speech in dialogue, of the sort and of the, well, beauty of which he is seemingly effortless master, in the manner of Austen.  She converses with her husband on the question of replacing his worn-out work boots.  Anybody who has had a husband knows how that conversation goes.

When the story has got going and the problems presented, Mma Ramotswe thinks while driving to a distant appointment in her faithful van:

. . . that men should let ladies sit down if there are not enough chairs to go round and that they, the men, should stand – well, who would disagree with that?  To the surprise of both Mma Ramotswe and Mma Potokwane, it appeared that there were people who felt that this was an old-fashioned way of behaving and that if a man reached the chair first he should sit down, even if a woman ended up standing.  These people argued that offering a lady a chair implied that she was weak and that men and women should be treated differently.  Well, said both Mma Ramotswe and Mma Potokwane, of course women should be treated differently.  Of course they should be treated with respect and consideration and given the credit for all the hard work they did in the home, looking after children (and men), and in the workplace too.  Offering a lady a chair was one way of showing that this work was appreciated, and that strength and brute force –  at which men generally tended to excel – was not the only thing that counted.  Respect for ladies tamed men, and there were many men who were sorely in need of taming; that was well known, said Mma Ramotswe.

The gentleness of the exposition of these ideas arises from its context in beautiful Botswana, beautiful Botswana cattle, and the old Botswana morality.  That context plucks the heartstrings of millions of readers around the world who had never heard of the place.  That’s encouraging, I think.

There are bad people in the stories who do wicked things; nobody is walking around with eyes closed here.  The particular style in which the just are shown to pursue the wicked and make judgments about how to handle various problems is a reassuring, soothing style. There a times a reader wants a techno-thriller or a series of nice medieval battle scenes.  Then there are those times when a Mma Ramotswe story is just what is needed.  Thank goodness the author keeps rolling them out.

McCall Smith was born in Rhodesia, spent a great deal of his boyhood in Botswana, studied law in Edinburgh, co-founded the law school in Botswana, and specialized in medical law and medical ethics.

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I Must Be in India

Or somewhere around there.  Something has happened within the last couple of hours that has Indian, Tamil, Urdu something cluttering up my YouTube search results.  YouTube is of course Google.

I am not seeing videos in those languages so much as the phrase I want embedded in videos about speaking English — for users who speak Tamil or Urdu.  Or whatever.

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Slack-Jawed in Amazement

I literally sat with my mouth open, which I assure you I do not do.  This starts getting good once he says “But then you know — you always get into difficulty when you try to explain the behavior of permanent magnets.”  His expressions, his voice — his whole demeanor changes when he says this.  Slight, but I submit undeniable.  He seems to transform briefly from a professor teaching — to a survivor confessing.  A stolen glimpse into the thousand-yard stare of a veteran of the frontlines of physics.

War.   War never changes.

I had never seen the one piece of steel demonstration vs the two-piece, nor the ball vs piece demonstration.  Holy Cow!

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Mindfulness: A No-Brainer?

A devout Catholic friend of mine is all incensed (!) about a segment of Oprah which dealt with “mindfulness”.  She sees it as a direct threat to Christianity, a competing religion in itself, even though it pretends NOT  to be a religion.   She says the guest ,  (probably Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has the latest book on this far-from-new topic)  claimed that in hunter-gatherer societies people lived in the moment, that when they  sat around the campfire at night, they thought of nothing! They just were, there in the moment as the sparks flew upward.

I don’t think there has ever been a human society, no matter how primitive, which did not tell stories, and that,  if you think about it, is kinda the polar opposite of living in the moment.  (And why? In my opinion, because we dream, and dreams “prove” conclusively to our species that the consciousness can leave the body.) Also I’ll bet those exhausted hunter-gatherers around the fire were probably worrying about the next day’s  game and harvest.   That’s why they had rituals and superstitions involving their tools and weapons which were intended to guarantee  the success of the next  foray.  That’s my educated opinion; Dr Kabat-Zinn is entitled to his.

I can make sense of my devout friend’s angst  if I recall  Pascal’s divertissements:  all human activity, actually, except prayer  and contemplation,  is a mere pernicious diversion because it prevents us from thinking of eternity and the awful judgment awaiting our souls.   Concentrating on being “mindful” only of the moment, willfully excluding all anticipation or regret from one’s consciousness, is just another attempt to forget our true human condition, and that is ungodly.

Or maybe just delusional, depending on your beliefs.  It is unpleasant to contemplate our situation:”Sick with desire/And fastened to a dying animal” as Yeats put it–whether you believe in an afterlife or not.  We have to be “in denial” about death, or we can’t summon up the heart for life.

Yeah, but here’s what I wanna tell you: “Mindfulness” is just a placebo.  It’s harmless in itself, in my opinion, and actually quite consistent with  a lot of OT and NT scripture which I could quote.  It creates a pleasant but transient effect.

But  time flies, whether you’re enjoying yourself or not.

Without using the term, I was determined to be, and was, “mindful ” of the experience of mothering an infant, especially of nursing.  I got used to the routine, one gets used to anything! but I never allowed myself to read, watch TV, talk on the phone, while we were joined. I was there.  I did not take it for granted.

But…it’s over now–gone as irrevocably as if I had done it on automatic pilot.  Do I remember it better  than I might otherwise? Maybe. I don’t know.   But it IS only a memory, still.   There is no holding on.

“Nor hope nor dread attend/ A dying animal. / A man goes to his end/ Dreading and hoping all.”  (Yeats again..)

Rituals  of “mindfulness” are a mere drop into the ocean of this boundless void we dread.  They can never fill the place of, nor even threaten, religion.

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Knowledge is Power — Logarithms

Greetings!

This is the patented Hawk Dahl method for understanding logarithms, or in classical parlance, the logarithm, is if it were some supernatural worm (i.e., snake, i.e., devil) winding its way through the universe, in and out of the numbers, appearing at will behind the trunk of every tree full of juicy apples.

Are you ready for the big secret?  It’s a mnemonic:

y = log(b)x
is pronounced
wye is the power to which I must raise base bee in order to get eks

And that’s it.  If you can keep that straight, you can follow any argument about the logarithm.

The above can be rendered y = logbx.  This is the usual format, and it still means the same thing, namely that x = by

Let’s use base ten, which many of us are most familiar with. Recalling the post a few days ago about scale, we can knock many may zeroes off of the page by representing things as power, rather than straight-up numbers. A million meters. How many zeroes do I have to stack up? What, are we dealing in zeroes? No! But we are dealing with powers of ten, which show up as zeroes because when you multiply by ten, you just add another zero. Conventiently enough, when you work in base ten (as we with ten fingers are wont to do), when you multiply by ten, you add another power of ten to the stack — you add another zero to the end of the line. Well, we can pretty soon stop worrying about millions, zillions, craptillions and all of that. Face it. The real question is “how many zeros is that?”, and we find ourselves translating back and forth when trying to understand scale.

Well. Logarithm to the rescue. “How many zeroes is that?” can be translated, “What is the power to which I must raise ten in order to get a million?”

The answer is six.

6=log(10)1,000,000

Let’s add seven more zeroes (that is, add seven more powers of ten) to that number and see what happens.

(6+7=) 13 = log(10)10,000,000,000,000

Hmm.  When we add powers, we multiply bases.  I would certainly rather add 6+7 than raise something to a bunch of powers.

Now how hard was that?

EOF

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J’accuse (deux)!

They’re closing the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, after the Arc de Triomphe was defaced.

Uh…… what did you think was gonna happen, Macron et al., after you subordinated France’s sovreignty to the latest Ozymandias?

There is no mob like a French mob.  Fear it!  They’ll carry your headless corpse on display  for miles, like they did with the Princesse  de Lamballe.  They’ll cut out your heart, roast it on the street and eat it, like they did to  Ravillac.  They’ll sit placidly knitting under the guillotine while your blood bespatters the yarn.  Do you doubt it? 

Let Paris rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of a failed and bankrupt pseudo-alliance, a mere bankers’ tryst.  It was not worthy of the fearless  populace which mobilized for total war in 1792, whose Grande Armée  ravaged the known world, toppling thrones and desecrating altars.

I hope, again, “Le jour de gloire  est arrivé!”

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On the Threshold

Every year when the season of Advent  approaches, I make a determined effort to enter it with the intent of holding on,  like Jacob wrestling with the protean spirit: I will not let thee go, except thou bless me!   Yes, of course:  the day breaketh, dawn will come, the season will end, we will return to quotidian tasks and a prosaic state of mind.  Don’t think about that now.  Be here! among the light and music.

I attended a Christmas concert last week, and when it was over  my friend and I had the same thought:  we could be doing this kind of thing all year, the music, the candles, everyone singing! but we don’t.  Only at Christmas.

Here are some familiar  lines from a poem by George Herbert, 17th Century, which are not about Christmas ( the festival may even have been banned in England by the time he wrote this)  but famously, about prayer.  The poem is referred to as Prayer (I).

Still, to me these particular lines mean Christmas, they describe the heightened consciousness, enchantment,  and festive anticipation of the season.  I don’t know why.  But I hope you will enjoy them:

 

“Heaven in ordinary, Man well-dressed,/ The Milky Way, the Bird of Paradise,/Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood, / The land of Spices, something understood.”

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