Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year / Later this year

2019 August 30 -- Persecution

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. -- Matt.5:11,12 oNIV

I was required as a child to memorize a variety of Scriptures, including the Beatitudes. I was never very good at memorizing -- recently I point to my hair color and tell people "Now I have an excuse" -- so for Bible verses I learned Elizabethan grammar and the gist of the text, then reconstructed it on the fly (and it was usually good enough). Getting the gist means understanding what it says, and I thought a lot about the many places where Jesus promised his followers persecution, and the fact that I did not experience any -- although I read about Christians in other parts of the world (and increasingly, but at a far lower level, other parts of this country) who suffer severe persecution -- and I ask, Why not me?

I'm not volunteering, but I think last week I got a tiny piece of it, a blip.

The last three years I have been mentoring a computer summer day camp for high school students in the Portland area. We (the director and I, mostly I) think up a project they can do collectively, then I hang around and help them succeed. It's not the kind of thing they learn in school, so they need help, and that's what I'm there for.

But besides being immortal, kids that age also imagine themselves omniscient. "You can't trust anyone over 30" was the line I heard at that age. The program is held on the Portland State University campus, and the first year the director brought in one of the college professors to explain some of the technology they needed to implement. Her explanation was so abstract and opaque, the kids finally decided that Tom probably does know something, and we got along great after that.

The second year was mostly new kids on a mostly new project, and they mostly didn't have that experience of getting help to rely on, but the project I'd chosen for them was almost trivial (both years the project was designed to look harder than it was), and they succeeded again. The car drove itself around the track taped out on the floor.

This year the director wanted them to race (see "Disappointment" 3 weeks ago). "That's way harder," I told him, an order of magnitude harder. Ever the optimist, I convinced myself it's doable. I still think that if they'd worked on it as hard as they played their games, and if they'd paid a little attention to what I was telling them about how to do it, they would have succeeded. Some of the component groups did succeed (as well as I can tell), but all the parts needed to be there and functional. Two of the components, in each the guy responsible for the critical part utterly failed, two and three weeks into the four-week program. One of them I was watching and trying to provide guidance he didn't want (see "No Red 'S' on My Blue Tights" last month).

The other guy was not even around (I think he was working from home), so I could not monitor his progress. At the end of two weeks I worked with another guy on his team to undo the damage and get things going, but the rest of the project never recovered. The director had instructed me to essentially micro-manage the teams, thereby to control the risk of failure, and this guy was not there for me to do that. I didn't even know how bad it was until half the time was gone. A better manager might have controlled that, but I was flying blind.

Three weeks after the official end of the program, and after it was pretty obvious to everybody that the smaller group of people gamely still trying to finish it were not making any progress, this guy lashed out at me with an angry accusation that I was behaving in socially unacceptable ways. Nothing offends me more than being accused of some infraction that I might have done, but didn't. I need to get over that, but this instance bothered me more than it should have. At first I thought he was angry at himself for his own personal failure, but it didn't fit all the facts, notably his hostility at the beginning of the program.

A few days ago I suddenly realized this was against God, not me. I have not hesitated to post faith-based remarks in my blog, knowing full well that the kids in the program will go looking at my website and see them (two of them actually told me they had been reading my blog). This guy is raging against God, and as God's only visible representative, I get the heat. That's why he went out of his way to prove he could do this project better without my help. The fact that he was wrong only added fuel to the flames.

OK, I feel better now. I was afraid his unrebutted anger would encourage future insubordination, preventing me from doing what I'm there to do, but I think God is taking care of that in a different way. It's God's problem, not mine. I like that kind.

Even better: this guy is reacting to and engaging the claims of God on his life, and he can see that his rebellion brought harm to innocent bystanders (the other participants) whose efforts this summer were nullified by what he personally had done to them. This puts him closer to seeing the need for God's redemption than the atheist who simply ignores God as irrelevant.

2019 August 28 -- Sci-Fi and Religion

Modern anthologies are not the best source of good science fiction, and the Nebula Awards probably epitomizes the worst of the lot: the editors -- and especially the judges in the awards contest -- knowing that the function of modern art (including fiction) is to jerk the audience around, aim for what is "edgy" (that's the word one of the students at the summer workshop this year used to explain their adoption of the "dark mode" fad, see "The Dark Side" yesterday). Apart the obligatory Azimov piece (Azimov is a delightful read, even when he is congratulating himself on his awards) but I'd already read his story in another collection, the editor seems to have outdone himself so far. blech

Trying to inspire the somewhat rebellious students this summer to personal greatness, I offered them the opinion that "An artist works within external limitations to do what has never been done before. America is the richest country in the world because we are driven by the artist mentality, bigger and better and never done before." The greatest Russian composer Tchaikovsky, and one of the great mathematical and computational minds of our time Alan Turing, both suffered under the restrictive sexual morals (now done away with in most countries) of their time, and I now believe that felt restriction probably made their artistry greater. Absent that restriction, the first two stories I read in this collection (after skipping over the Asimov piece) just felt dirty. It wasn't even a necessary part of their stories. The story ideas were fascinating, and they mostly refrained from dragging gutter muck into their language, but they could have been better. The sad thing is, the editors probably encourage the dirt. sigh

I probably wouldn't have bothered to read the second of these (the third in the collection), because I normally skip over stories by or about females, and all those reasons stood up and sparkled in this one, but the author bio introduced Judith Moffett as "Conservative Baptist," and I really wanted to see if she could do it as well as (Mormon) Orson Scott Card (who was mentioned in the editor's introduction as a previous award winner). Not even close. My best guess is that she has abandonned the faith of her childhood -- it's not even mentioned on her own website, and her chosen profession (college faculty) is very hostile to religion, which as a woman she probably feels the need to toe the party line -- and without Christian values (the same external limitations I mentioned to the kids in my program) true creativity often goes through the floor. She doesn't even mention this vile story along with her other accomplishments, maybe she is ashamed of it. She ought to be.

Skipping over the next three stories (all female authors: I glanced at their bios and found no reason not to move on), I see Orson Scott Card has his own story in this volume, and according to the author's intro, very religious. I will look forward to it in its turn. Although not yet the caliber as Asimov, Orson Scott Card is certainly one of the better modern sci-fi authors.... Now after reading it, I'm not sure Card wasn't mocking the Mormons. His hero, like all sci-fi heroes, was unrepentant irreligious. It was written long before the Bush presidency motivated the political fraud now known as "climate change" so it couldn't be that, but it was definitely post apocalyptic, and the Mormons in his story lived on in quiet despair over the loss of their eschatology. Not as disappointing as Moffett, but certainly consistent with the nihilism of the Cold War era in which these stories were produced.

2019 August 27 -- The Dark Side

The latest fad this summer was retro screen settings, faint colored text on a black screen. Apparently it's now being promoted by the vendors as environmentally sound -- which it's not, at least not for most laptops, even if the miniscule energy saved by high-priced (and who knows how much chemical devastation) active OLED made any difference at all compared to the energy hogging GPUs used to drive them, and even if that energy usage actually made a significant difference to the environment (which as my regular readers know, it does not) -- and "easier on the eyes." What they don't tell you is that it's only true when you use your phone in a dark room; looking at a computer or phone screen in bright light, it's the other way around, and reading text is certainly made easier by the greater light reaching the eyes from a white background (smaller pupils result in better focus).

Anyway, it occurred to me last week that difficulty I observed reading their screens -- every one of them in the hard-to-read black screen mode which was almost impossible for me to make out what I was seeing -- was linked to the darkness of their screens, so I Googled the topic and turned up some interesting results. One web site gushed over how wonderful black is, but gave no hard data. Scientific American offered some hard figures on whether it actually saves energy (only for older CRT technology, which has largely been replaced in the USA by LCDs, where the white screen is about 2% more efficient, but the whole monitor uses only 25% of CRT monitors). They went on to say that most of the CRTs still in use are in third-world countries where the economies cannot afford the newer, more expensive LCDs.

Then it occurred to me that this is another form of retro, like steam punk and broadswords in fiction, and that it is a visceral reaction to the opaqueness of modern technology, where only a tiny fraction of the people in a culture (or the world) can understand enough of a small part of the technology to get paid working at it, and nobody at all understands even half of the total. The fundamental difference between Feelers and Thinkers is that the Feelers want (and give) unearned affirmation, such as that offered in romantic fiction, whereas Thinkers work hard to earn it (through technology). My essay today "Retro Romance" says some of that.

2019 August 20 -- Philosophical Fiction

The author imagines himself a philosopher of social morality. The standard atheist explanation of morality and ethics is that "it comes from the surrounding culture" (see my essay on Moral Absolutes), but this guy is smart enough to realize the nonsense of that, so he modifies it to acknowledge that it's the morality of some person or persons that people accept as their own, and it is enforced by the group removing the misfits, sort of the way the (former) Soviet Marxists explained their own tyranny. But the whole story plot rests on moral absolutes, adhering to a fixed ethical document which denies its followers any "first strike" defense (not exactly Christian "Love your enemies," but close). The book reads like it was written by a person of faith trying not to promote his faith: no gutter language, no sexual activity mentioned at all, and his only nod to the modern American establishment gender-neutral religion (where every author is trying to prove they are more heterophobic than the next) is a couple vague of references to "soulmate" where the partners could be both the same gender. The guy lives in Utah, perhaps he saw the trouble his countryman (and probably co-religionist) Orson Scot Card ran into, and is trying to avoid becoming victim to the same economic bigotry.

Other than some preachy chapters near the end where he pushes his philosophy of social morality rather harder, it read well. It's set twelve millennia in the future, so he has a lot of freedom in what his science can do, but one of the Bad Guys accused his hero of "magic" which [spoiler alert] turned out to be true: a million Good Guys all got their heads together (the buzzword is "net") and generated a force field that the otherwise militarily superior attackers could not penetrate, and which actually (by unspecified means, which is my definition of "magic") reflected their attacks back to the attackers and destroyed the indestructible title substance "adiamente". It wasn't exactly Deus ex Machina (pulling "god" out of the machine to solve an impossible plot) because there were a couple hints of X-men superpowers earlier in the book, but like Darwinism (which this guy seems to accept, along with a couple references to alleged prior global warming as for example "the hothousers' tides destroyed..."), eons of time cannot convert into fact what physics cannot do. Forty years ago the pandemic fear was global nuclear war, and all the sci-fi novels posited a post-apocalyptic radioactive earth. Today it's global warming, and all the sci-fi posits rising sea levels. I wish the novelists were a little more inventive, because we the people certainly are. Nuclear holocaust didn't happen, and neither will rising seas (although not for anything we humans can do about it, which even the Chicken Little pseudo-scientists admit).

Unlike some other recent books, I did not resent the time spent reading this, but I probably will not consider reading any of his other novels, at least one of which is admittedly "fantasy." When I see the unicorn on the spine in the library, I usually skip over all of that author's work, including those with Saturn or an atom (designating "hard sci-fi") on the spine.

Speaking of which, the icon on the spine of the book I left unfinished when I went to Portland said it was hard sci-fi, but the author admits that "time travel is fantasy" and proceeds to bring in unicorns and fire-breathing dragons and Jack's Beanstalk, but otherwise tries to cling to a rigorous hard science (with a few flaws) so that only in the half-dozen short stories at the end (same characters, same time machine) does it get really goofy. His time travelers come from 1100 years from now, and they have completely lost any sense of Christianity (totally unlikely, given that it still permeates our culture at 2000 years far more than it did in the first century) so that his calendar has been re-numbered to place the first atomic bomb as Year Zero. His thousand years also erased almost all of history, so his time travelers (unlike Crichton's Timeline) are largely clueless about the past they travel to; again, considering how much history we today have recovered from two and three millennia ago, when written documents were so much harder to produce and preserve, totally incredible. But as he said, time travel is fantasy, and his rather more so than most, probably because of that admission.

2019 August 17 -- "Lord, Is It I?"

Like everybody else in this great nation, the pastor of the church where I plunk my fanny on Sunday mornings is a Relationshipist, but less so than most preachers. He reads his Bible, and he preaches what he reads, even if what it says disagrees with what he believes. I knew one other pastor like that (mentioned in my Relationshipism blog post 11 years ago). Anyway, this guy, maybe it bothers him a little, so on Saturday mornings he preaches to the men of the church without using the Bible, so he can preach his Religion (believing what you know ain't so). That's a large part of why I usually don't go to these things, but today I needed to be there afterwards, so there I was.

Today the pastor deviated from his Relationshipistic message to ask us how we connect with the Church, and somebody responded with the L-word, and I offered my opinion that the Second Great commandment was about caring for your neighbor as yourself, but Jesus gave a "new" commandment that told us to care for our fellow Christians more than ourselves. I said something to the effect that caring is a better word than "love" because this is not about the warm fuzzies. The pastor picked up on that and said "If you have right theology but are not doing..." I was so startled to hear in a church context what I'm sure is the core teaching of Jesus and the rest of the Bible, I didn't even hear the rest of his sentence. Real-time spoken utterances are a lousy way to communicate something reliably to me, I think too slowly. I've been saying that for a long time, but now I have an excuse (hair color ;-)

He was looking across the table right at me when he said that, and then went on to discuss various ways people in the churches are not doing that, and I got the impression he was preaching directly at me. Is that what he thinks of me? I didn't think to ask. He said such people explain their behavior in terms of correct theology, but they are not doing what they should be. OK, I sit in the chair each week -- and with the exception of July when I'm in Portland, probably more regular than anybody else, including the pastor -- but I don't help stack chairs (the church hosts secular rock concerts as part of their ministry to the community, especially to the secular bands, and they remove the sanctuary chairs to make space for them), and I don't come to the work days; is that what he meant?

So here comes my explanation. Yes, I thought about it.

A. I'm not a member there. I put my tithe in the offering plate (when I have income to tithe from), but I don't come to the business meetings because I'm not a member. The church in Portland (where I go in July) hold their quarterly business meetings during the Sunday School hour, and I'm already there, so I eat one of their donuts and sit quietly. I'm not a formal member at either church because membership at least implies agreement with their theology, and I'm not a Relationshipist. I can't be, I don't find it taught in Scripture.

B. Caring about the other church members means doing for them what they need done. Who decides? Is it stacking chairs before a concert? It seems to me that they already have enough (mostly younger) guys doing that, I wouldn't be much help. Helping with yard work at the church or some member's house, or coming and helping them remodel part of the church? I mostly pay somebody else to do that to my own house and yard, why would volunteering my fumble fingers to do theirs help anybody?

C. He mentioned, as part of his discourse, spending time with others. One of the guys he mentioned has invited himself and me to lunch a few times, and I went and we talked -- usually until he ran out of gas -- but mostly people don't care what *I* think, they want to talk about themselves, and I let them do that after church or during the "little moment of chaos" (what I call the three to five minutes of meet-and-greet, which is part of many church morning services, and which the pastor here calls for only when he needs to collect his thoughts before the sermon), but how is that helping anybody? What is caring for somebody if not helping them? Warm fuzzies in my heart don't count.

D. What else is there? Money? Almost everybody in that church (obviously except the kids still in school) has more income than I do, how is giving them still more money helping anybody? Service? One of the older (retired?) men does woodworking. He's good at it, so he came in and worked on the flooring and wood-panel walls during the remodel. Other guys are in the construction industry. Me, I'm a computer programmer, and (possibly excepting theology) it's the only thing I do well, but who needs that? They really don't want my theologizing.

So hopefully it's not like Judas the Betrayer, who said "Lord, Is It I?" when both he and Jesus knew very well it was. God doesn't seem to want my theologizing in His church, dunno why, and I can't think of anything else I can do for people that they need, and that I can do better than what they already have. My niece called yesterday to ask me to house-sit with her father-in-law while she went shopping, and I said yes. I always tell her yes, but I sort of have an ulterior motive. Last week the piano guy invited me to come work with the guys again (see "Music" three months ago), so to be ready for another surprise (that was why I was there today), and I said yes. I'm not a musician, but I can stay on key if I hear it, which seems to be more than the guys not on the praise team. Does that count in what the pastor was saying? I don't know.

I guess if I need to be doing more, God can let me know. I don't think I'm shirking, but I might have some Clue Deficit Disorder, I get that a lot. Other times I need to know something, and God finds a way to get it to me, so I know that channel works.

OK, I did my due diligence. If the pastor was preaching at me, he will need to get more specific, because I see no evidence that his vague generalities apply to me.

2019 August 16 -- Failed Fiction

I'm back home again and (because I live alone) reading novels in the place of dinner conversation and instead of chemical sedatives at bedtime. When I'm away from my home for extended periods (like last month, see "Reading WIRED") I read other things, but still fiction 

It always seemed to me that the way to do away with racism is to not let it be a part of your thinking or conversation. If the feminazis were really honest about their religion (defined as "believing what you know ain't so") they wouldn't be feminists at all. "Feminism" is inherently sexist, and necessarily so, because there really is a difference for them to complain about. The point is, you can tell an author is racist or sexist if that's what he writes about. So it surprised me to find this novel that is racist and heterophobic to a fault, but he never says word one about the race of the lead characters. The book title sets the racist tone, even though the author improbably defines the word to mean Bad Guys who cannot be caught and punished. The racism is really subtle like that. I prefer fiction in which race is not an issue.

About halfway through the book I realized there were several reasons I didn't like it. Stephen King's testimonial on the back cover claimed he "had to read the final hundred pages in a single sitting," but I never finished the last hundred pages. Modern art -- including fiction -- takes as their highest moral imperative, their God-given duty to society, to jerk the audience around, and this guy does it with gusto. He alternates point of view between the lead night-watch detective Billy (numbered chapters) and some other low-life Milton (Milton's chapters are all titled with his name) who probably shouldn't be a cop at all (but is). He has several of these types in his fictional NYPD. It's part of the author's religion, which I suddenly realized, includes a big dose of moral relativism. Authors tend to do that, it makes it easier for them to jerk the reader around, which I think was the deciding point for me. Somebody is making deranged attacks on Billy, and beginning around the middle of the book,the author carefully has Milton doing things to suggest he's the perp. Blatant clues that early in the book means he's definitely not the Bad Guy, the author is just jerking you around. I don't like it.

The book was published the year before Trump's election put the kibosh on moral relativism (see my essay "Moral Absolutes"), but as I pointed out in my essay, moral relativism is self-contradictory and illogical, which makes this novel a fantasy. I try not to read fantasy, it's against my religion

2019 August 10 -- The Gender Divide

Robert Cargill, the new editor of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) came out of an academic environment. My observation is that academics are some of the most religious of all Americans (religion being defined as "believing what you know ain't so"). These same academics are the ones pushing the bigoted (anti-Christian) terms "BCE" and "CE" for dates Before the Christ Event and into the Christian Era -- of course they insist on anti-Christian names for the letters, but never do they ask to replace the names of other religious deities in the calendar (the Sun and Moon, Woden, Thor, Saturn, Janus, Juno, and so on). Anyway, political correctness is an important concept in religious thinking, and Cargill made it clear in one of his first editorials that political correctness would define his editorial policies in BAR. This month we see another piece in that religious dogma.

Cargill's editorial begins by complaining that "biblical archaeology... has always had a 'woman problem.' ...for the most part the field has been dominated by ...mostly white men." He doesn't appear to be in a big hurry to take personal responsibility to correct that problem: not only does the picture accompanying this editorial show him to be a "mostly white man" who is not resigning his post at this flagship publication, but in the masthead on the previous page "mostly white men" dominate all the top positions of authority for his magazine. On the other hand, women dominate the lower management positions. That's significant. These positions were filled mostly by the founder, who understood quality and hired the best people for each job -- probably including Cargill himself. The best people were "mostly white men." Does Cargill believe otherwise? Let him (personally) prove it. He won't, because the nature of religionis "believing what you know ain't so," and Cargill himself knows and believes himself to be the best for his job, better than any woman.

The fact is that America (where BAR is edited and published) and the economies we influence (like Israel, where most Biblical archaeology happens) are fiercely meritocratic: the businesses who fail to hire the best and most qualified people to do their work fail to stay in business against their competitors. BAR is a business success precisely because it was always meritocratic, before Cargill's religion destroyed its reputation (see my letter to BAR).

Careers in America and Israel are mostly self-selected. People -- especially high performance people -- choose for themselves careers that they want to (and can) excel in, and then they do that. If a work area is dominated by "mostly white men," it is because fewer women can compete there. There are other career areas where "mostly white men" cannot compete, like office secretaries and grade-school teachers and mothering. There are always exceptions, people with DNA and/or cultural heritage at the edge of their demographic who can cross over more easily, and they do.

And there are religious exceptions, like the girls who were pressured by the religious establishment (in their case the public high-school counselors) to enter fields they did not really like and would not otherwise choose, and for a while women made up half of new computer science students, but then they figured out this was not what they wanted (or were able) to do and the ratio is now back down to something like a more realistic 25-30%. It has the religious leaders wringing their hands.

A recent issue of the IEEE Institute (a quarterly publication about the people who make up the membership of the professional society I happen to belong to) ran a short piece titled "Why Companies Need Engineers With an Artistic Bent." It's almost comical. The so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers are the most meritocratic of all, and because of that, they dominate the power structure that made America the richest nation in the whole world. People who cannot compete on their merits look up at these prestigious positions and try to gain unearned their affirmation and pay. The "unearned" part is characteristic of the MBTI Feeler personality type, which dominates women and not men (where the majority corresponding Thinker type performs better in STEM careers). So author Kathy Pretz tacitly acknowledges that the people in her own demographic cannot compete on their merits and argues instead for what women are known to be better at. It's actually a good and true argument, but it puts the lie to the feminazi agenda (that men and women differ only in their reproductive organs). As I said, religion.

2019 August 8 -- Disappointment

The summer program this year has been a disappointment. The director wanted to race, and I resisted it for a while -- races tend to be won by very small margins, and software is a gas: infinitely compressible, but only with the expenditure of exceeding great energy. For the project to have a shot at winning, they'd need to think like race car drivers, which is an order of magnitude more difficult than just staying between a pair of white lines on the floor. I said so. We tried it anyway, but the kids were not up to the commitment and intensity required to pull it off. If they'd worked as hard on this project as they played their games, and if they'd not been so eager to implement untried technologies and to resist adult advice, they might have succeeded. I still think they would have succeeded. But it was a risk going in. We knew that.

Now I know better. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who get their jollies out of altering the position of molecules on the face of the earth, and those who get their jollies out of telling people to alter the position of molecules on the face of the earth. The latter make lots of money, and the former have lots of fun. I am definitely in the first category. "Fun" last year came from making a difference (which the second category rarely affords me), but that seemed to be a rare commodity this year. Herding cats is not only not fun (for me), I also can't do it. That's probably why it's not fun. The director is a good manager, but he cannot imagine any other kind of person, so he keeps telling me I can do it. Perhaps like the religious bigots in the educational system trying to tell girls they can do STEM equally well as the guys (they don't tell the guys that they can do nursing and schoolteaching and mothering equally well as the girls). We (the girls and I) our minds are wired up differently than what we are being told.

The Prime Directive for this program is that they have fun. The director asked them a couple days before the end, and they all agreed that they did. He often asks me the same question, most recently at the end of the first week. I told him, "Ask me in 3 weeks." When that time came, and the car was barely running blind, and the team responsible for the critical image processing had refused to continue working on it, and the self-appointed project manager was allocating the image task to the leader of the group who didn't want to do it, if the director had asked me again if it was fun, my answer would have been No. But this is not about me having fun.

They extended the program another week, and six (or seven, if you count the guy who didn't want to work on it) students came back. The next day it was four, and today three. They are working diligently, not always on what's most important, but it's not clear that they have the critical mass needed to carry this through to completion. Except for the guy gamely trying to pick up the pieces of the image processing, my advice seems increasingly ignored. That's all I'm here for, so I'm going home. The director left for Europe last Friday. Maybe the kids will keep working remotely, maybe not. They know how to contact me if they need help.

When I set the project up, I said "This year only..." That is now true in spades. Nobody will want to try to pick up the pieces and go to the races next year. If it were a paid job, maybe, but these kids are volunteers. Reading somebody else's code is often harder than throwing it away and starting over. Even they themselves understood that this week as the few remaining participants tried to make sense of code written by others no longer here.

They could still have a race-ready car in October, but not at the rate of progress I saw today and this week.

Dunno what we will offer them next year, but I doubt it will be an autonomous vehicle project.

2019 August 3 -- Clue Deficit Disorder

I was not an early adopter, but I believe WIRED magazine was originally designed by and for geeks doing digital stuff. The founders cashed out (sold it to a fashion conglomerate) and left it in the hands of not geeks but politically correct (disproportionate number of women) digital wannabes, who ran out of tech stuff to report on and turned it into a slightly technical People magazine. That seems also to have gotten stale, so now their feature stories, the majority of them have nothing at all to do with the magazine title topic.

Case in point, January this year had a collection of seven short fiction pieces by women and other people pretending to do sci-fi, what they think work will be like in the future, and three features: a pseudo-GW (Global Warming) Chicken Little piece about how the sky -- in this case a piece of Antarctica -- is presumed to be falling, followed by an obituary on the guy who invented several comic-book superheroes, and ending with a day in the life of meteor treasure hunters, and their failure to capture a recent landfall in Peru. I mean it was mildly interesting, and I have a warm place in my heart for Peru, but it's hardly what a reasonable person would expect to see in a mag with the title "Wired".

I still skim through the rag because it gives me some insight on why the kids in this summer program are so clueless.

Many colleges and universities rent out their dorm space to pre-college kids in summer programs -- the one I'm in being only one of quite a few here at Portland State -- perhaps they hope the exposure will draw students when they get old enough to do college, but from the noise level in the room next to mine even now as I write this, I rather doubt it. The thumping and bumping started about a week ago, and these girls scream and cackle like a bunch of chickens about to join the Colonel for dinner.

2019 August 1 -- Trump's Ill-Considered Remark

It is curious -- perhaps even amazing -- how many people are deeply offended by some remark the President allegedly made recently. I did not hear him, and I do not know what the context was, and I certainly did not vote for him (nor his predecessor), but you need to understand, this is the normal and natural result of living in a democracy: some people are happy with what their elected leader does or says, and some people are not. Actually, the same thing is true of a tyranny, but the numbers tend to be more divergent (more people are unhappy). We had a similar problem with the previous Prez (when he equated good law-abiding Christian American citizens with "terrorists") but the people who were offended were less vocal about it (or mostly the left-wing media refused to criticize him for it). It's a matter of religion, which you will recall from last year, is what you accept as True despite any evidence to the contrary. It applies especially to moral imperatives, which is what seems to have happened here.

If you believe in moral absolutes and that the Golden Rule is one of them -- all good Christians should believe it because Jesus clearly taught it, but not many people of that appellation base their beliefs on the teachings of Jesus -- then you know that both Presidents were equally Wrong (each did to his political opponents what he would not want done to himself); if your religion includes denying the notion of moral absolutes (is there anybody left in this day and age so foolish?) then both Presidents were equally right in expressing their personal opinions, which some people (mostly those who voted for them respectively) share, but others (probably most of whom voted for his predecessor and/or opponent) were offended. The only real difference is that the news media and the educational power structure are among the half of the country who hate the current sitting President, while the downtrodden and the low-income working masses are among the half who hated his predecessor (see also my blog post "Free Speech Is Hate Speech" last year).

Me, I think these people always hated Trump, and they are pleased that they now have a marketable excuse to justify their antisocial opinions. If they really believed in democracy, and if they truly wanted the best for everybody (not only for their own political demographic) they would argue and work for a leadership that everybody would like and want to vote for. But that would require that they pay attention to what those other people care about, perhaps by getting to know them and listening to them. We have not seen much of that in the last couple decades.

2019 July 29 -- No Red "S" on My Blue Tights

I guess it was Friday morning (end of the third week in this 4-week project) and the guy who was doing the critical image work that should have been running in the second week came to me and announced that his code was working, and it does not recognize the track walls. This guy has been resisting my advice since before the program officially started, so I asked to see the data and sure enough, it was full of the kinds of speckles that a good programmer who'd read my advice "What We Learned in 2018" would have taken out, and that my sample code (which they all had) actually did take out, and the sample state machine I coded up for him a little over a week previously would not recover from, so I told him, no problem, you just need to smooth the data and tune the state machine. He said he didn't want to do state machines any more, that he didn't believe they could work. Right. The mechanic who does not believe the car is fixable, or who does not want to work on the car, will not fix the car. Been there, done that, you get a different mechanic. Or a different car. Or both.

I decided I still thought the state machine mechanism was workable, so I asked him to email me a copy of the image, and when I got to my room that afternoon I tuned the previous state machine to be more noise resistant, then wrote a 40-line program to run it, and finally photoshopped the image to put the color back in, all before (a late) bedtime. I'd brought a copy of my development environment on a laptop I bought for the purpose last year, but I foolishly had not tested it, so I spent all day Saturday struggling with that. Sunday is my Day of Rest, but I told God why I thought this was important, and if He agreed, could I please wake up early enough the next day (today) to do whatever He had in mind for me. I was wide awake before 2am, so I got up, found the problem(s) in my development environment, but I didn't get my program working, not even in the afternoon. It's now almost midnight and I keep finding silly little mistakes. During my morning shower while waiting for everything to compile I decided to post my results on their message board with the comment, "Speaking for myself, things make better progress when we get help from Somebody Who knows what He's doing." It's not intended so much as a rebuke as advice, which if they take it, they still could get their car running by the end of the week. Or not, their choice. Or (considering my own experience) not their choice.

Three days later, it's still not running. Perhaps that's a lesson to me, reminding myself I still don't have a red "S" on my blue tights. Oh wait, I don't even have any blue tights, no red cape, can't leap over any tall buildings... "Except the LORD keep the city, the watchers watch in vain," and "The horse is prepared for battle [that's what you and I do] but the outcome is of the LORD." Add "No x-ray vision" to the list. Eventually it produced credible results, and I found one of the participants willing to implement the same engine (so it's his code, not mine, they use). No leaping over tall buildings for either of us.

2019 July 27 -- WIRED Admits Flaws in NNs

What I've been saying for over a year now, the December WIRED now admits in its cover stories -- except they are True Believers in the Established Religion so they are unwilling to give up their Darwinism and its AI implications. The same article quotes different people, some willing to admit that "deep learning" isn't thinking, and others who (despite its obvious and serious problems) are still convinced it's the only way to true artificial intelligence. A century ago the entire (Marxist) religious establishment in the Soviet Union argued for Lysenkoism (which is now thoroughly discredited). That's the kind of things that happen when religion (defined as "believing what you know ain't so") takes the upper hand as Darwinism and its progeny, neural nets (NNs) have in the pseudo-scientific community today.

The final article in the issue explores the so-called "free energy" hokum promoted by British wizard Karl Friston. He admits to looking for a simple "theory of everything," but the world God created is not simple. When theologians invent "simple" theologies like Calvinism (or its antithesis), they must discard large chunks of Scripture. Friston seems to be cut from the same cloth, except of course his Scripture didn't come from God. Nobody can understand the guy because he has thrown together words like "free" and "energy" in ways that bear no relationship to their dictionary (and/or technical) meanings, sort of the way modern "poets" have been doing for the last hundred years or so. Then the programmers program their computers to do the same nonsense and Lo! Behold! Poetry! What nonsense. It's random words thrown together in meaningless jumbles. But the "experts" claim it's deep and meaningful, so anybody with half an ounce of intelligence (the real kind, which God gave to us and not to the computers) realizes the Emperor has no clothes, but they don't want to appear foolish, so they say nothing. Friston's stuff -- at least as reported in WIRED -- is the same kind of nonsense, but wrapped up in pseudo-scientific terminology, so it's harder for mere mortals to figure out that it still means nothing.

Fortunately (and unlike biology professors) programmers trying to do real work with their NNs keep bumping into the facts of the real world. I tell people that NNs are "artificial stupidity, giving computers the same kind of intelligence that earthworms have, but not as smart as an insect." Some insects are hard-wired to do very complex jobs; they never learned them by trial and error. There are things humans can do also, which training an actual network of meatspace neurons cannot achieve in the time humans do it. Math is one of them. Yes, you can train a NN to know the times table of numbers under 100, but it cannot go beyond that, but people do it all the time. The WIRED cover story admitted that.

I think of NNs as a cumbersome, slow, and inefficient programming language for programming a computer to do things we are too lazy to figure out and program efficiently (like driving a car). The practitioners are still "programming" their computers, they are injecting intelligence into the software that the computer could not know on its own, but they do it with vast quantities of carefully tweaked training data -- that's the programming language -- and it's actually more work to build decent training data sets than it would be to program the computer in a classical language like Basic or Java. But it's Religion, so they are willing to put the effort into it. I tried to put the fear of God into these students to program their car, but they got Religion, and anything I tell them is about as effective as my telling church members that Jesus said you get into Heaven by good works (which he did). Their Bibles don't have those pages.

Martin Luther was not the first to preach against indulgences, Jan Hus said the same things a hundred years earlier and was burned at the stake for it. Sometimes I feel like Hus when I go up against NNs and easy believism. We don't burn people at the stake (the effect is counter-productive, it calls attention to their teachings) but we relegate them to obscurity. Maybe the stake is better. Whatever. God called Ezekiel to preach against "the house of Israel," and not to some foreigners (who would repent) like Jonah did, and God told him they would not listen, but that is what He wanted Zeke to do.

2019 July 22 -- November WIRED

The following month -- the date on these magazines is almost as hard to find as the page numbers -- they ran a double-header feature on Chinese espionage (theft of American commercial and military secrets), which if you read it carefully, came to a peak during Obama's reign. Recall, Obama was the gullible guy who sold out to Iran earlier in his tenure. True to WIRED's left-wing political bias, they were eager to blame Trump when the agreement fell apart. The second piece of the doublet told the story of the single spy outside China, whom the Good Guys arrested in Canada, and a missionary couple (but they didn't call them that) in China whom the Chinese arrested on fake charges to seek a prisoner exchange. The trouble is, their own spy didn't play the game.

Speaking of page numbers, the left-side pages on these two articles had real page numbers, and the right-side pages had three-character Chinese text where the page numbers should be. It didn't take much sleuthing to figure out how the numbering system works ("1" is a single horizontal bar, "3" is three bars, and a "+" symbol seems to mean "times ten"). Not all digits are represented, so my analysis is incomplete, but like when I was sitting in the Cairo airport waiting for my friend and benefactor to sort out his missing luggage and I learned the Arabic number system from the bilingual phone numbers on the ads, it was kind of fun.

The final article in this issue reported on an evil loser with nothing better to do than to call in bomb threats on innocent civilians and business meetings. It's called "SWATting" because the police call out their SWAT teams in response. The online community often did it as revenge on one of their own who violated their own "honor among thieves" moral code, but this guy did it to innocent parties, and finally got somebody killed. Despite his boasting, the guy is now in jail on multiple (state and) federal charges.

The victim's mother has lost her soul, which is too bad. My mother (who lost her fourth child) remarked on how hard it is to outlive your children, but she got on with her life. As often happens when I read one of these horrific stories, I started to wonder what I would do if I discovered my house surrounded by police pointing guns at me. Unlike the victim in this story, I probably wouldn't open the door to look: when I hear some unusual sound outside, I try to do my looking in such a way as to remain unobserved. I had not previously thought of police being the hazard, but now that I have -- and especially after my recent experience of being charged as the perp when an angry driver unsatisfied with my compliance with the law assaulted me on a public street -- I probably would call 911 and ask for advice, which has a good chance of defusing the occasion if I got SWATted. But mostly God protects His people from this kind of stuff -- except when He has some important message to convey, and then only using His best servants. I hope I can live up to His confidence if that happens to be me.

2019 July 18 -- WIRED's Religion

The WIRED issue I'm currently reading celebrates their 25th year of publication, and like many of the left-wing media -- is there such a thing as "right-wing media"? I know of none -- repeatedly bemoans the lack of women in technology. It's a religion thing ("religion" being defined as "Believing what you know ain't so"). Page 894 (out of a total of 124 pages, the page numbers in this issue, consistent with WIRED's long-term policy of making them as hard as possible to read or even find, uses zeros that look like eights) quotes "WIRED Icon" Kevin Systrom, "Women make up half of the world, so why aren't they half of the technology workers as well?" He did not ask why they aren't half of the world's secretaries or half of the worlds grade-school teachers, or half of the world's mothers.

A year or two ago, somebody else (I think he was an academic or college administrator) said in my hearing that women were 50% of incoming computer science majors in college a few years ago, but that dropped to a current 30%. Nobody is asking why. Or rather, they are asking the question, but they are uninterested in the reason. It's religion. People self-select for professions they are naturally good at, and the employers hire the best people for the jobs they need to fill. The companies who don't do that (there are always a few companies who hire for religion or other irrelevant purposes) fail to compete in the market place against the companies that do. That even works in non-capitalist economies (like the former Soviet Union) but more slowly and with more catastrophic results. A century or more ago, all the office secretaries in the world were men; women had more important work to do elsewhere. Then we invented factory farms and processed food and birth control, so the women weren't needed there, and they left home to compete in the job market, and took away from the men those jobs that the women did better. Go look in any bank: 2/3 or more of the tellers and mid-level bank managers are women. They are better at those jobs than men. The feminazis are not complaining about it.

You can tell that religion played an important part in who they chose as "industry icons" and their selection of the next generation -- a tiny fraction of them were well-known icons like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, which because they are all Caucasian males, they had to balance out their list with people you never heard of, nearly all of them women and/or non-Caucasians, despite whining bitterly about how few of the movers and shakers are not white males. That's what I mean by "religion" (believing what you know ain't so). Compared to my summer program, which are self-selected (they are there because they want to be), about one third are Asian, with one Hispanic (male) and one (white) female. The first year has a lot more female students coming, but they are not in it because they like it, but because they believe they need it. The students who stay on for the second year want to be there, it's in their blood. That can be enabled -- as far as I know, we have no students from schools where there are no computer science classes -- but it cannot be taught.

One of the letters in a subsequent issue referred to the abnormal number of women featured in this issue, which his daughter noticed and he spent his whole letter affirming his daughter in her interest in his guy-only profession, mentioning his son only once as if to say he does not matter, only girls do. That's what the educators are doing, emasculating the guys in our public schools. The girls are already choosing careers in fields that interest them in proportions consistent with the well-known distribution of Thinkers vs Feelers and other physiological factors affecting innate cognitive abilities, so the only possible outcome from this educational bias is the same effect as when the socialists try to equalize income without regard to who the creators of wealth are: the wealth distribution (except for the elite, who stay on top) gets equalized by removing the upper level producers, resulting in wide-spread poverty; in our case that will mean that STEM is equalized here by all the producers going to Korea and the USA becoming another third-world country like Russia. I will be gone by the time that happens, but your children and grandchildren will bear the burden.

Out of 774 F-1 race car drivers since the sport was defined, five were women. None of the 40-odd current active drivers are. Until very recently, there was a physical reason for that: men had more upper-body strength. There are obviously other gender-significant reasons, because nobody is telling women they can't do it. They don't because they don't want to. Or maybe their psychological make-up doesn't do it as well as men.

One of the participants in this year's High School Autonomous Vehicle Project is female. She is sharp and eager to please -- another adult (I won't say who) told me that's a female quality (and he's right!) -- and she knows her math and works hard to do her part on the project. Except for religion which she is annoyingly pushy about, she could or will do well in an industry eager above reason to hire females. The director was talking about how an F-1 race car driver (he was thinking about a particular one he had watched; remember they are all male) and used the male pronoun to refer to him, and she corrected him. Guys care about the truth more than they care about offending people. If she wants to succeed in a guy's world -- that is, in a career like STEM where truth is more important for success than affirming the customer: recall, in banks it's the other way around -- then she will need to let them apply their truth to social situations where it applies. But I didn't say that out loud. James Damore did and got fired. This is my only income. The director believes (as part of his religion = believing what he knows ain't so) that there is no difference between women and men other than reproductive organs. I know he knows it ain't so (for reasons I dare not repeat in public), but he needs to work with educators to make his program work, and it certainly is their religion.

Another place in the same issue of WIRED (page 828, the page between page 818 and 822, not counting ads) quotes visionist Stewart Brand:

How genetics and development actually work, it's a mess. It consists entirely of hacks and patches all the way down. It's not modular. It's not agile. It's not anything that an engineer would recognize... So when you go to try to reverse-engineer it, you can't. It's no good because it was never engineered in the first place. So how do you devolve what has never been evolved? ... In biology you can never understand the whole system.

Engineer and medical doctor (an advanced degree in biology!) Randy Guliuzza at ICR would disagree with Stewart Brand. I Googled Brand's education, his degree is in biology, not engineering, and he has no advanced degrees. He only knows what the priests of the Establishment religion choose to tell him. I had a doctoral student in entomology at a state university tell me that the faculty there do not tell the truth to their undergraduate and masters-level students, but they must tell the truth to the doctoral students or they couldn't do their research. Brand's religion obviously includes Darwinism, so he is not motivated to look for "anything that an engineer would recognize," because he believes for religious reasons it doesn't exist. Guliuzza believes otherwise, and he finds it.

Curiously, the next issue of WIRED (on somewhat more legibly numbered) page 19 put the lie to Stewart Brand's ridiculous claim: "3 Smart Things About Animal-Inspired Robotics," a book excerpt that tells of actual products created in part by reverse-engineering biology.

For a few minutes today it looked like I had a revolt on my hands. Some of the student participants in this year's summer program got it in their mind that what I was suggesting they do was not possible. None of last year's participants joined the revolt, they already knew and experienced the satisfaction of seeing how to make Tom Pittman's crazy ideas work. The Darwinists -- including Stewart Brand -- are like these younger students: they do not know and believe that it can work by design, they have neither the education nor experience to know that, so they are not motivated to try and make design work. Maybe we can get over that and put on a good show at the end, but it's a challenge and the development time is half over. I myself could do it, but I'm here only as mentor, not implementor. I'll let y'all know how it comes out.

2019 July 12 -- "Taxpayer Rights"

I did it. A couple years ago, the tax instruction booklet announced a "Taxpayer Bill of Rights," including "The Right to Challenge the IRS's Position and Be Heard." With last year's instructions came essentially the same information filling a whole separate page, including a phone number. I called the number and the robot gave me only two options, neither of them relevant to my complaint. The same sheet of paper also gave a government URL, but the site is encrypted, not open to the public. I am a computer professional, I can get around these limitations, but it ain't easy nor free. There was nothing there that I had not already learned from the telephone robot. I Googled "taxpayer advocate address" and got a regional office in Portland, with hours. Here I am in Portland, so after my duties of the day were completed, I walked over to the government building, went through their security rigamarole, and found the room number the Google search gave me -- which was not easy, as most of the doors (like most of the buildings on the Portland streets) were unnumbered, so it's hard to figure out which direction to walk and how far you still need to go -- and the door was locked and the label associated with the room number was some unrelated function (fitness room, or some such), "authorized personel only." Two doors down was another office obviously open to the public (glass doors unlocked, some guy being served by a woman behind the counter) but the sign on the door said to "Wait Here" (outside the door). I waited.

A few minutes later the woman behind the counter waved me in and asked if I had an appointment, and I told her the robot only offered two options, neither of them appropriate to my situation, and she gave some sympathetic expletive of frustration and told me to wait outside. After another 15 or 20 minutes, she finished with the guy and waved me in. I explained my problem, and she took my copy of the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" and disappeared into some back office a couple of times, then came back out and told me that I should talk to my Congressman. I allowed as the appropriate place to challenge a law that Congress made is in the court system, and that the "ombudsman" was there to assist me when I had exhausted all other avenues of relief. She corrected my term to "taxpayer advocate" and said that was not there, they were on the sixth floor. So I thanked her politely and went to the sixth floor, and after wandering around for a while among the unnumbered doors, found it.

The door to a small waiting room was unlocked and a sign invited me to pick up the telephone (no dialing needed) for assistance. There was no ring tone, no dial tone, nothing. I waited. I could hear voices behind the second door, so I knocked. Nothing. I knocked with a coin (which is a much sharper sound) and picked up the phone again, and this time I got a ringtone about the same time as a third door opened and a portly fellow came out and offered to help. He told me that having paid the tax does not give me "standing," that I need to owe the tax before I can take it to court. That isn't what I'd seen elsewhere ("pay first, then litigate") so he somewhat reluctantly told me what form I needed to file to request a refund, and then (if so) get a "disallowance" letter which gives me standing at tax court. He also told me that there is already an active case going through the courts (I didn't know that, but it's easy enough to find on Google), and warned me most severely that there is a $5000 "frivolous" fine if I lose. But at least I now know what the next step is. In that he was most helpful.

I couldn't sleep, so I got up and Googled "frivolous" and found "Frivolous Position (Tax) Law and Legal Definition" listing a few (but not all) of the situations that constitute a "Frivolous Position." A more diligent search found the text of the actual law, which referred to a list which the Secretary should make from time to time listing what counts as frivolous. Finding that list was a lot harder, but like I said, I'm a computer professional, I can do these things. There are 46 separate items in the 2010 list, mostly arguments denying for one reason or another that the IRS has the right to collect taxes, many of them advanced by Larken Rose (see my essay "The 861 Tax Question"). Taxes are authorized by God, so I never denied my obligation to pay them in full and on time, and I paid the tax in question. This is not "frivolous" by any of the listed definitions. All I want to do is challenge the right of Congress to "Establish" some religions as exempt from the penalty tax, while exacting the tax from me as not a member of one of the "Established" religions, which the First Amendment forbids. If the Court holds that no religions are exempt, or if all religions meeting certain nonreligious criteria (as is the case with me) are exempt, then I have no problem and will pay whatever tax is properly due. If the Court redefines the word "establishment" to be different from what the framers of the First Amendment intended and what the states voting for it voted for, they have that right as Sovereign King over the land, and I already paid the tax imposed on me and not on the members of the religions that Congress "established" (old definition) as exempt.

Next I searched for the active case and learned (as I suspected) that it is not based on the Establishment clause, but it did mention that a 2017 law reduced the penalty tax to $0. I didn't know that, but I found the law and it did do that, effective this year. So the $35 Conscience Penalty Tax I paid last year (for 2017) was a one-time thing, probably not worth fighting over -- at least not until the Dems take over at the end of Trump's term(s) of office and re-instate the "not one dime" penalty tax, and maybe not even then if I don't figure out how to earn more money. I guess it doesn't hurt to get and file form 843.

2019 July 11 -- Wasting Water

It rains in Oregon. Everybody knows that: when I lived in California, we joked about the rare occasion of rain as "Oregon mist: missed Oregon and hit California." It rained here in Portland two days ago. Portland is located at the join of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. According to the USGS, at the mouth of the Columbia river (some 20 miles west of Portland) the rate of flow is 123 million gallons per minute (gpm), 12-15% from the Willamette. There is no water shortage in Portland.

But the goofy people who run the dorms at Portland State University (PSU) where we are holding this summer High School Autonomous Vehicle Project workshop, they seem to consider it their civic duty to install expensive low-flow shower heads to conserve water. The water is soft, so the soap that accumulates on the shower stall floor is very slippery, and the shower head has two settings: slow and slower. There are no handle bars in these plastic stalls, nothing to keep an older person (thinking of myself here) from falling and breaking something (again thinking of myself), and the dribble of water out of this shower head does not have enough pressure to wash the soap off my body, nor to enough flow to wash it down the drain. Like low-flow spigots everywhere, it wastes water because it takes so much longer to accomplish what a reasonable water flow does in a minute or less.

Yesterday I replaced the shower head with something more reasonable. The difference this morning was night and day. My feet no longer slid around like they did on unsalted midwestern winter sidewalks, and the soap washed off immediately. I will put their defective dribble head back when I leave. Good shower heads are hard to find in a Blue State like this.

2019 July 9 -- Reading WIRED

Here I am in Portland again. The program got off to a hectic start yeaserday, but now it looks like everybody understands what they need to be doing and is working on it. One group decided they wanted to completely restructure the subgroups, and when they were finished, it looks pretty much the same as what I proposed to them two months ago; the only difference is that they thought of it, so it's their project. That's the way it's supposed to work.

Anyway, so I have some spare time to post to my blog... I've been stacking up WIRED magazine issues for the last year, and now (with no access to library books) I'm reading them. I even found a couple issues from two years ago. Pretty much everybody -- except of course all the people who voted for him, but they have no voice in the media -- is still mad at Trump's election.

One of the one-page editorials makes itself out to be a whine against Trump's opposition to climate change politics, but they make some curious admissions, like the sea level rise as measured over 21 years is only 2.6 inches. That's hardly enough to count as significant over round-off error. Nevertheless -- and this is a brag -- the worry-warts are pumping large amounts of cash into remediation, and there are plenty of sycophants ready to find ways to spend it. For 2.6" sea rise. No wonder the political party that claims to oppose excess government spending also vocally opposes spending on so-called climate change. The whole editorial never once said anything about any alleged human cause for this miniscule sea rise. See? You don't need to do it.

Six pages earlier in the same issue, the regular social advice column gave a startlingly Biblical response based entirely on 2C (Golden Rule, although he never cited any religious rationale) reasoning for avoiding porn, even with the consent of your significant other. Obviously there are good and sufficient reasons for the Biblical moral code, even if selfish people prefer to believe otherwise.

2019 July 4 -- Portland & Pottery

Y'all know I read Biblical Archaeology Review -- less enthusiastically now that founder Herschel Shanks is out of the picture and his successor lacks the cojones to tell it like it is (see "BAR Commits Suicide" last year) -- and I have often wondered how they could so confidently assert the date of a site (and asked them several times, see "Archeology and Dates" eight years ago), but not even Herschel himself could bring himself to tell us how that worked -- probably because (like Darwinism) it was based on circular reasoning and didn't work.

Then last month I was finishing up some back issues of BAR that I had not previously read, and there's this fascinating article on the discovery of the Biblical fortified city Sha'arayim (the Hebrew name means "Two Gates") with the compelling evidence that the city was designed with two monumental gates in the style of King David's fortress cities, all the rest of which had only one gate, and carbon-dated to 1000BC (Before the Christ Event, which divided modern calendars into positive and negative years, although the anti-Christion religious bigots usually try to invent a different significance for the initials). The anti-Christian religious bigots have been trying (without success) for hundreds of years to discredit the Bible as a source of history, but they whine all the time. Here on p.40:

Yehuda Dagan of the Israel Antiquities Authority claimed that the entire Iron Age city, with its gates, casemate city wall and buildings, was built in the Late Persian / Early Helenistic period [about 400BC], based on pottery sherds collected on the site's surface some 20 years earlier. -- "Qeiyafa's Unlikely Second Gate"
That's pottery dating for you, whatever feels good. This was January 2017, while Shanks was still firmly at the helm.

Tomorrow I head off to Portland for four weeks of mentoring the High School Autonomous Vehicle Project. The director, who in the past spent some of his excess wealth learning how to race Formula-1 cars, wanted them to race their cars in the international competition (in New York this fall), and I agreed -- this year only -- because everybody else is trying to do it with Neural Nets (see my essay "The Problem with 21st Century AI" last year), and I think the high school students can beat the university graduate students using designed code on a smaller processor. It's a challenge with significant risk. Even if we succeed, it won't kill NNs (which is after all religion, believing what everybody else knows ain't so), but it will give the intelligent people a data point for debates against the atheists.

Competition is not a Christian virtue, so mostly I try not to do this, but even God gets to laugh at the idiots -- at least the ones who don't want into His Heaven. That's His right to decide, not mine, so I need to tread lightly here.

Like last year, I will still be writing blog posts, but probably won't upload them all until I get back.

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