Tom Pittman's WebLog

Earlier this year
 

2020 September 15 -- Lost and Gone Forever

There's this aggressive thorny tree in the neighbor's yard that sends out underground runners in every direction, which sprout new trees in the middle of the lawn, starting just past the fence separating the two properties. I was having somebody come over with a chainsaw to cut down these volunteers, and I wanted to get started by cutting off the low-hanging branches, but I couldn't find my pruning tool. My experience is that these things re-appear just after I stop looking -- for example by buying another one -- so I was thinking grumbly thoughts about the loss, and it reminded me of the song Clementine. Somebody sang it on one of the movies I watched a couple weeks ago, but I couldn't remember all the words.

Google Knows All. Whenever I can't remember the words to a song, I type "lyrics:" and the song name or even a memorable phrase and there they are! One of the hits said that Tom Lehrer had done a spoof on it, and sure enough, there was a YouTube video -- well, actually an audio taken from a record, with the words karaoke-style instead of video, which was helpful because Tom Lehrer can sing very fast, and in this case also in Italian. It was delightful.

When I was in high school, my Uncle Tom was singing folk songs at the local station where he was in college, and when we saw him (Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas) he would sing for us. We urged him to sing the funny songs, like the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly amd Rickety-Tickety-Tin, and he also introduced us to Tom Lehrer's songs, some of which I can repeat to this day, but usually only parts. I think Tom Lehrer is gone now, but most of his songs are online for listening.

Tom Lehrer was a mathematician at Harvard when I first heard of him, and he often spoofed the academics in his songs. While I was looking for or listening to his Clementine (I Googled "Tom Lehrer sings Clementine"), there was also a link to his Lobachevsky song about mathematics. That was my major too, so I clicked into it. Lehrer was a good comedian, but whoever did the lyrics video really got the spirit: the Russian names were all written in Cyrillic (I know very little Russian, but enough to know they were spelled correctly), and there were a couple places where Lehrer repeated (in very fast Russian) the alleged Pravda review for the book he was singing about -- and the words were spelled out on the screen in Russian! I cannot read Russian fast enough to know if it was accurate, but I think it was. It was great fun.

Speaking of seeing Russian on the screen, one of the flicks I watched last Sunday was a (silent) movie about the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin done in Russian, with English translation added to the dialog screens. I still remember a few Russian words -- I took it in college and did poorly because I had trouble memorizing the alphabet, I think the teacher gave me a C on the condition that I not go on to the second semester -- so I had some fun reading Russian names and very few other words I could make out ("borshch" is any soup in Russian, not just the beet soup we all call borscht). Anyway it was interesting to see this part of the Russian revolution, as told by the Soviets.
 

2020 August 20 -- True Classic, Part 2

I mentioned reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and while some of the stories celebrate sin and adultery, many of them do not. You can tell Chaucer's own social class, his upper and middle class pilgrims have less wickedness and better plots to their stories, and far less bickering between the pilgrims. I especially enjoy reading about things that my social peers know nothing of -- for example, Chaucer is well acquainted with Scripture. Do you know the name of the Biblical author who discouraged Kings and Princes from drinking entoxicating beverages? There it is, line 12,520. He also seems well learned in Greek and Roman deities, so maybe it isn't so remarkable as a fact that 600+ years ago there was no internet for entertainment, so people read (and had read to them) books. Probably over and over.

This same pilgrim -- his day job was a "Pardoner," one who goes about selling indulgences, basically "Get out of Jail Free" cards: you pay him a fee, money or goods, he's not particular, and kiss his relic and go straight to Heaven if you die before it expires. The same thing that got Martin Luther going. The pardoner admits to being a greedy shyster, and quotes a lot of Bible against his own practices. The bulk of his story is one long sermon against vice, which he ends with a hard-sell. It certainly is timely, and I was reminded this very evening of my own recent experience with person(s) in the church business to whom this criticism applies:

Alas! Mandkind,how may this thing betide
The to thy dear Creator, Who thee wrought,
And with His precious blood salvation bought,
Thou art so false and so unkind, Alas! -- lines 12,844-12,847
His problem, not mine.
 

2020 August 6 -- Zoom Doesn't Scale

COVID kills more than just a few people. Good statistics are hard to find -- Google is essentially a popularity contest, and people don't ask the questions I want answers to, so Google can't find it in its popularity-sorted results -- but (near as I can tell) the per-capita infection and mortality rates for the virus in the USA since March is about the same as the per-capita injury and mortality rates for automobile accidents. Nobody is in a panic over getting wasted due to contact with a moving vehicle. On the other hand, maybe the virus casualty rates are down because people are in a panic. Whatever.

Anyway, we are doing our summer camp thing (see "Summer Videos" three years ago, and other more recent blog posts), this year virtually using zoom, but these virtualizers were designed for infinite bandwidth. There's no such thing (except what God is and made), and the virus dumped everybody on the internet in vast quantities very suddenly, so they did not have the opportunity of gradually experiencing the limits.

I noticed this a couple months ago, when I was staying at my nephew's while my sewer was out, and they wanted to watch movies on Netflix, which was also designed for infinite bandwidth (see "Netflix Failed" a little over a month ago). So today the same thing happened with zoom. I mentioned to the other participants that I got more sound when live video of their faces wasn't hogging bandwidth, so mostly they turned their faces off. The screen sharing is mostly static, so it uses less bandwidth. Today the director was giving his wrap-up speech, but he left his video on and I only heard every tenth word or so. The image was also pretty much frozen like digital TV mostly is.

Zoom noticed the problem and said my internet connection was "unstable" but it was fine, just reduced bandwidth. Zoom is what was unstable. Sometimes it just up and crashed. Or dropped out of the meeting (and reconnected, but lost all my chat buffer). Other times -- this is a design bug, not an implementation failure -- its spell checker would insist on changing a word to something else because it didn't know what I meant. Back in the days of punched cards, I had a clerical person transcribe my handwritten code into punched cards, and the better typists would respell my variable names (which introduced bugs in the code). I finally convinced her not to do that. Anyway, zoom does that and I'm looking at my fingers, so I know I didn't spell the abbreviation for "widget" ("wgt") as "wit", but there it is silently doing the WRONG THING without warning. I hate programs that think they are smarter than I am -- especially when they are wrong. But that's not COVID's fault. I blame unix programmers, the same ones who assume everybody has infinite bandwidth just because their employer has infinite bandwidth (internally). Not really infinite, just they didn't hit the limits when they were testing (before the virus drove the usage through the roof), and unix programmers have limited experience, so their code breaks more often.

A few years ago, before Apple killed the "aging" (17-year old) Mac and replaced it with a "modern" (34-year old) unix (OSX is unix under the hood), some wag on MacWeek pointed out that "everybody knows unix programs crash all the time." Mac programs that crashed all the time wouldn't sell. Maybe that's why the programmers dissed the Mac (and everybody else loved it). The world is poorer for the loss.
 

2020 August 5 -- A True Classic

I searched through some 1800 books listed in my computer list of my personal library -- most of them stale computer technology, or else religious stuff too heavy for light reading or pure Relationshipistic froth -- and identified a couple dozen that might be suitable bedtime reading. I decided the most promising of them was Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and indeed this is a true classic. It is printed in parallel columns, the original Olde Englishe spelling, and a "modern translation" which I'm reading.

The fellow who did this "translation" did nothing more than giving modern spelling to most of the words and changing out a few others to preserve the rhyme and meter, with the result that it reads more or less like the King James Bible, which most people are unaware is widely distributed in a revised form not much older than this "translation" of Chaucer. Like the KJV Bible, it still has a substantial number of words that are not part of American English today, like "franklin" which I looked up in the Oxford English Dictionary. I always thought of it as the meaningless name of the fellow who invented lightning rods and bifocal spectacles, and now a metanym for the one piece of currency that might have a total value in circulation (most of it outside the USA) as much as all the rest of the circulating currency of all the countries in the world. But nobody knows for sure. Anyway, "frank" means "free" so a franklin is a freeman (not noble, but also not a serf). All of us Americans are born franklins. Some of the obscure (untranslated) words in this "translation" are footnoted, most are not.

Speaking of obscure language, the Canterbury Tales is the book I cited (with a totally unreadable image of its first page) in a talk I gave on BibleTrans in a church some 16 years ago (scroll down to slide #24), to point out the need for Bible translation, even in Bible times.

Leaving aside technicalities, I'm now halfway (two parts out of four) through The Knight's Tale (the first of a couple dozen stories, not counting "prologues"), and it's very readable, a jolly good story, probably at least as good as the best of the old movies I download from the Archive.org website, and certainly better than most of the more recent movies I used to get from the (now shuttered by the virus) public library.
 

2020 July 24 -- Silas Marner

I trudged through the rest of Seven Gables without thinking of anything more worth saying about it, so I guess there won't be a Part 2. Next in my stack of "Macmillan Pocket Classics" is Eliot's Silas Marner. I don't know what it is these people think makes a book into a classic, but they have different values than I do.

Duh. For some 200 years now, the influential people of the world have deemed themselves too smart for God -- I think that's part of the "Enlightenment" where the darkness of human reason is deemed brighter than the Light of the World. "And this is the condemnation," the Apostle said, "that light is come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." Jesus said that as the end draws near, it will be like the days of Noah, when (we are told) "every human thought and imagination was only evil continually." Yup, that pretty much describes the vast majority of people today.

So imagine my surprise to read in the biography of Mary Ann Evans (her real name) that she became quite religious. I almost wondered how that would lead to her writing acclaimed "classic" literature, but the next page has her abandonning her faith. Perhaps the title character is somewhat autobiographical, as he also went from an ardent churchgoer to a disillusioned agnostic in the first chapter summary of his back-story. The problem is that England was already past its religious prime -- that state having already been transferred to the USA -- when Miss Evans was growing up, so the religion she got was not the religion that made the British Empire great, nor the religion that made the USA the superpower it is today -- it should be noted that the political power follows Spiritual enlightenment by about a century; we are already on the down side of our peak -- witness this remark on page 3:

...the sense of the Invisible in the minds of men who have always been pressed close by primitive wants, and to who a life of hard toil has never been illuminated by any enthusiastic religious faith.
She obviously never had any exposure to the "enthusiastic religious faith" that is to be found among people "pressed close by primitive wants, and ... a life of hard toil" like those where I grew up. But this is fiction, wholly made up in the mind of the author, with little or no basis in Reality. The skewed quality of her opinion of religion was better disclosed on the next page:
...farms which, from a spiritual point of view, paid highly desirable tithes.
The desirability of monetary income from the tithes of rich farms is about as UN-spiritual as you can get. "How hard it is," Jesus said, "for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." And in another place the great Apostle tells us that "the love of money is the root of every kind of evil." In the second chapter, Silas Marner has come to dearly love his money. The author even goes so far as to declare it to be his deity.

The amazing thing -- well, it's not so amazing, our author was just plain ignorant of what she wrote about -- I also went through the same kind of disappointment in church (at least three or four times, depending on how you count it), but unlike this character and his authoress, I had a faith based soundly in God's Word, with the result that I already knew to "trust God, not people." People are sinners, sometimes worse in the church than elsewhere, but God is faithful.

These six books are older than I am, so obviously I inherited them, perhaps from one of my parents. I'm pretty sure I would not have brought this one home from a bookstore or library, if for no other reason than I never read a female author I enjoyed. I have not yet noticed much of the characteristic feminine style of writing -- perhaps in adopting a male pseudonym, she also consciously tried to write like a guy. The introductory bio remarked that it took literary giant Charles Dickens to detect the feminine flavor in her writing. So far it's only her mistreatment of the Christian faith that bothers me. Like the sci-fi athors I have remarked on from time to time, it's not that they have tried the Christian faith and found it wanting, but that they never gave it an honest try at all. Mostly because we in the church have fallen down on the job. I suspect there will be a lot of surprised church members on Judgment Day, when Jesus asks them, "Do I know you? Have we even met?"
 

2020 July 6 -- Seven Gables, Part 1

The library is closed until further notice -- probably when the virus blows over, or at least after everybody likely to get it has already died or recovered -- but I have my own private library, over 1700 books (most of them not worth reading, at least not now, decades after they were current), but included among these books are numerous classics I thought I might some day consider reading. That day is now.

I finished up The Last of the Mohicans a month ago, and last week (after getting tired of reading or mostly skipping over WIRED's froth) I started in on Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables. In his preface the author calls it a "romance," but I suspect that the word has changed meaning in the last 200 years. The prose is somewhat more turgid than Cooper's, or maybe it's the indoors-y sit and look at the pictures on the wall style of writing, compared to Cooper's outdoors action. At least it doesn't keep me up all night like a modern thriller.

About a quarter of the way in, one of the lesser (so far) characters exclaims of the young lady (a major character, I just peeked at the last chapter and there she is) "I never knew a human creature do her work so much like one of God's angels as this child Phoebe does!" I can't find any evidence that Hawthorne was much of a Christian, but he seems to have captured in this line the classical Christian notion of vocation, the Calling of God to do His work with joy in the real world. I know people like that. I hope to be one.
 

2020 June 30 -- "Machine Learning" Is Still Religion

A couple years ago I adopted a definition of "Religion" that better matches how the word gets used in the Real World: "Believing what you know ain't so," or more precisely, believing what the best evidence points otherwise. The IEEE Spectrum professional magazine often has well-done articles on technical topics related to electrical engineering or computers or power generation (their core technical areas, after of their various mergers over the years). But Religion trumps science -- especially among those without the technical chops to know what the purported technology really does. Neural Nets -- variously known as "machine learning" or "Artificial Intelligence" -- but probably more accurately as "artificial stupidity" because it's not even as intelligent as an insect...

Hmm, I seem to have made most of this point before, see "AI (NNs) as Religion" a couple years ago, and my essay "The Problem with 21st Century AI" a year before that. Well then, think of today's post as an update.

Periodical publications like Spectrum vary a lot in quality. It's the nature of the case. They need to print thus many pages each month -- in commercial pubs the number varies by how many ad pages they sold, which tends to be somewhat seasonal, but non-profits have a monthly budget that tells them how many pages to fill -- and their sources are much more serendipitous, whenever whoever thought up an idea is finished getting it ready to publish. Whatever month Spectrum closed its editorial decisions for May (probably much earlier in the year) was rather thin this year, and they printed two silly paeans of praise for Machine Learning, in two different domains, both of them nonsense. But people are so busy genuflecting at the altar of the gods of stone (mostly silicon with a few metal interconnects), they cannot see that their emperor -- I mean deity -- is naked.

"In the future, AIs -- not humans -- will design our wireless signals," proclaims the first of the two. Entropy will surely prevent that in the future, but for the present it is sufficient to show that the claims they made for their new "DeepSig" mechanism are bogus. Any time you see the prefix "Deep" attached to some technology, hold onto your wallet, there are lies to follow. In this case they didn't say, but you can be sure that the NNs did not design their radio circuits from scratch. For one thing, they never made that claim -- at least not in the text body -- which they certainly would have if it were true. Instead, as I read between the lines, real engineers designed a collection of transmitter and receiver circuits that might be configured using various differing parameters to alter the transmission characteristics. Then they programmed a computer to optimize the reception by tweaking the parameters. As explained, it's a static optimization for each transmitter-receiver pair, which does not dynamically adjust to changing conditions -- they should be smart enough to know that buildings come and go, weather changes every day, even solar activity has its ups and downs, yet all of them affect the signal quality as they described it -- or maybe it recalibrates itself every few hours or so, perhaps if the error rate exceeds some threshold; they didn't say. In any case the computer doing the optimization is not designing anything at all, it's only tuning the parameters within limits previously designed by the human engineers who did the real design. Their optimization probably would work faster and use less hardware if they used standard linear regression algorithms well known and understood decades ago. But computers are cheap, and NASA has a big budget for novel ideas that aren't totally catastrophic.

The next page announces "The AI Poet: 'Deep-speare' crafted Shakespearean verse that few readers could distinguish from the real thing." There's that "Deep" word again. The authors don't tell you, but it helps in cutting through the baloney to recognize that modern poetry can be easily recognized as such by the fact that it has no rhyme, no meter, and no intelligible message. So unless they are inviting critics familiar with the forms of Shakespearean poetry (which has all three of the properties absent in the modern stuff that fraudulently goes by the same name) to tell if their computer-generated stuff passed the Turing Test, it's all a hoax. They admitted that they got modern readers with a passing knowledge of English to do the critique. The selected critics were smarter than the researchers: they knew they had no clue, so they Googled the text, and found all the true Shakespeare online -- which it is, that's where these "scientists" got their control and training data, 2700 sonnets from that era, a third of a million words.

These guys worked a little harder and were somewhat more open than the radio guys in telling us exactly what they did. They did what NNs always do, they ran averages, how many times do these two words occur adjacent? And (they didn't say, but considering what they did say) How often do these two words end parallel lines that are required to rhyme in the sonnet form? There are less than 30,000 distinct words total in all of Shakespeare, only some 16,000 that occur more than once, so the Deep-whatever NN does not need to know how to pronounce -- nor even to spell -- these words, a 5-digit (15-bit) number is sufficient.

There is a lot of research studying the form of Shakespearean sonnets -- at the top of Google's search is a site that offers "Reading Shakespeare's Language: Sonnets" (no link, like most sites these days, it is encrypted) -- which, among other things, points out that  Shakespeare's sonnets use words that carry several senses, many of which are significant in the same context. There's no way a computer can do that kind of semantic trickery without understanding not just which words are most likely to occur together, but what the word semantics actually is. In days of yore (before NNs were invented and computers were fast enough to run them) "Artificial Intelligence" meant computers doing things that if people did them, they would be considered intelligent. Today all that is out the window. Putting words together based on probability is not intelligent, and it's certainly not poetry, it's just plain silly.

The following month, ComputingEdge (Spectrum's goofy stepdaughter) ran a slightly more academic (they surveyed several products and  included some history) "Automated Coding: The Quest to Develop Programs That Write Programs" to tell us about DeepCoder (recognize that prefix?) and DeepCode (same idea, different group), along with RobustFill and SketchAdapt, this last one using a "hybrid model of structural pattern matching [probabilities again] and symbolic reasoning" where I suppose (they didn't say) they are actually doing intelligent work rather than pure probabilistic selection. It's still doomed for entropic reasons, but people who have guzzled the Darwinist Kool-Aid are unlikely to notice it (see my blog posts "End Zone" and "The End of Code" three and four years ago).

Most of the people pushing "deep" foolishness are male -- in these cases, all of them -- and in my experience, men are less susceptible to bamboozlement than women, so I have to wonder, do these guys really believe this crock? Or is it that they've found a cash cow and they are milking it?
 

2020 June 29 -- Netflix Failed

I mentioned reading back issues of WIRED. One of them announced a new Netflix proposal to give the viewer control over the outcome of their story. Like video games, which pretend to have a story line but in fact are hard-coded to a foregone conclusion, these "interactive TV" productions are like the flowcharts that once graced WIRED pages, three or four outcomes, a dozen or more silly questions allegedly about some topic, and random lines connecting the yes and no answers to other questions and eventually to one of the outcomes. The mag replaced it last year, I think, with some other silly "user" feature -- some kind of 6-word haiku that is supposed to portent some future cultural situation.

The point is that the producer of these "interactive" flicks can only program in a limited number of outcomes, of which most are necessarily boring or silly -- the article pointed out that everybody who wants to talk about it at the water cooler the next day -- this was before COVID -- would have to watch them all anyway, so what's the point?

But it reminded me of my own observation of Netflix at work during the four weeks I was out of my home because a Blue State has (literally) gone to pot so there is nobody doing service work like plumbing, nobody growing food, nobody doing anything. But you can smell the pristine air polluted by burning hemp and boom boxes and too many wi-fi nodes for any stable net access in the state-mandated ghettos (see "Climate Hoax" three weeks ago).

Anyway, the library is closed down, and the laptop computer I had taken with me was flakey, and one of the family members played the TV too loud for me to think or sleep, so the activity of the evening was Netflix movies, which during prime time slowed down to a stuttering crawl, mostly their little red circle going round and round. My host was frustrated, they didn't know what the difficulty was, but *I* did. It's the same problem I have with wi-fi here in the ghetto. Not exactly, they live in a mansion separated from their neighbors on all sides by trees, but their TV is on cable, and the cable capacity is maxed out as people stuck at home, trying to do schoolwork over the internet, or watching movies because they can't work, suck up the bandwidth far above the projections the cable company had assumed from their mathematical models made before the networks pushed all this high-res (high bandwidth) media on everybody. Remember what Vaclav Smil said about models a couple days ago.

Even when it was working, Netflix was trying really hard to make their service unusable. Like there doesn't seem to be any way to tell it "No, I don't want my house and mind polluted by more air pollution [F-bombs] and stupid stories" -- low-budget made-for-TV are generally too stupid to waste time on, you have to look for the "TV-MA" code that graces about 90% of their offerings to skip over it. And if you do see one that might be interesting, you hardly dare keep looking for something better, because it won't be there when you try to come back to it. The whole thing is as unstable as the Unix OS it is probably built on, basically shifting sand.

I guess somebody likes it, or they couldn't stay in business. Or maybe nobody likes it, which is why they keep trying something different. Whatever. They won't get *my* money.
 

2020 June 27 -- Numbers Don't Lie

Another issue of IEEE Spectrum, another really insightful line:
Those who put models ahead of reality are bound to make the same false calls again and again. -- Vaclav Smil
It came at the end of a delightful piece pillorying some geologist M.King Hubbert, who in the 50s predicted that oil output would peak in 1970, then fall to the same levels it was in 1920. He accompanied this ridicule with a graph showing a nice smooth blue line that went up, then went down, like a statistical bell curve. Overlaid on this was a ragged red line that more or less followed that curve up to maybe 1965, then jumped up +20% before following the curve down (at that +20% level) until around 2010, then took off for the sky, like the alleged global warming curves. According to this guy, US oil production is now 50% higher than the peak in 1970, and in the wrong direction for the 80% drop predicted. We now lead the world in oil production.

The fact is -- and Smil dare not mention it, dunno whether he believes it or not -- these mathematical models cannot account for human creativity. More than two centuries ago Thomas Malthus predicted (based on his mathematical model) that massive starvation would limit world population growth. Population is now growing faster than ever because we have stopped so much of the disease that used to kill people off. After the Malthus prediction, another Thomas (this time Crapper) invented the flush toilet, which has been credited as being the greatest medical advance in all history, in terms of lives saved. We have population growing faster than Malthus modelled, and starvation is way down -- except in Marxist countries where the government just plain got it wrong. The Marxist mathematical models are more wrong than Malthus or Hubbert.

Which brings me to a much more current mathematical model -- again Smil dare not mention it, dunno whether he believes it or not, but the magazine editors where he published this item certainly believe the model -- so-called climate change. I have been saying for at least a decade (see my essay "A Christian View of Climate Change" last year) that it's more about politics than science. The models are broken. Always were. "Again and again," according to Vaclav Smil. He's right.
 

2020 June 20 -- Mice vs Mousetraps

The IEEE Spectrum, which usually is much better reading than the house rag of their daughter organization The Computer Society, as you've probably noticed me to say from time to time, this month one of their feature articles is about a guy who invented a mechanical way to clean up oil floating on the ocean, usually caused by sea-derrick or shipping disasters. At first I wondered if this would be like ComputingEdge, whose articles often make grandiose claims without any technical support, but I looked ahead, and a couple pages later they do explain it well enough that anybody could build one. Or at least believe that it works.

What caught my attention today is a quote on the first page:

"I thought if I built a better moustrap, everyone would want one," Kennedy says. Instead the world has decided they're okay with mice."
There's a lot of hidden insight in that line. Basically, this is a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) thing. Everybody is OK with mice, as long as those mice are not eating my food and making my children sick. There are a few environmentalists who care about the oil on the water, but they're not offering to pay their own money to clean it up. They don't have any money. They don't know how to make money, all they can do is hoover up the piddly donations they can get from the few people with nothing better to do with their money. The people with the money, the large corporations and the government -- well, the government has no money, they just print it on demand, and if they print too much, the economy tanks like it did in Greece -- and the corporations are required to do what is profitable for their shareholders, and paying somebody to clean up oil spills does not improve the profits for their shareholders. Unless the government forces them to. It still isn't profitable, but it's less costly than fines and jail sentences.

The government, they don't care about the environment any more than the corporations and T.C.Mits (The Common Man In The Street) do, it doesn't put food on their table or keep their children out of the hospital. Besides, oil spills are so last year. The politically correct catastrophe of the day this year is global warming and COVID. Climate change is rapidly becoming stale too. But the virus, that's actually taking food off the grocery shelves and threatening to put kids in the hospital. Well, the empty shelves are really the fault of the mega-chain groceries like Wal-Mart with their idiot Just-In-Time stocking policies that break down at the slightest disruption. COVID just happens to be that disruption this month.

So Kevin Kennedy, you need to find something that people want to pay for. Generally that is food and housing for themselves, and health care to keep their kids out of the hospital. If there's any left over, some entertainment would be nice. Oil on the water thousands of miles away? Not in my back yard, not my problem. Shoddy oil rigging and tankers (resulting in oil spills), that just makes my food and entertainment cheaper, why should I care?

The Christian perspective is very different. "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof," and you always take care of the Boss's interests (even if you are not a Christian and the Boss merely pays your salary). Jesus called it "The First  and Greatest Commandment. The Second is like unto it," he went on, it's the Golden Rule. You always treat other people the way you want to be treated. Oil on the water makes things bad for people living on the coast near where you spilled it, and you wouldn't want to live there, so don't do it. The trouble is, the government took the Ten Commandments off the school walls 60 years ago, thereby giving everybody permission to behave dishonorably (just don't get caught). Oil spills on the shore and empty grocery shelves are part of the consequences. Thank the ACLU and the government. But mostly it's selfish people willing to ignore God for a slightly better standard of living.
 

2020 June 6 -- Climate Hoax

I'm still reading back issues of WIRED, this time April. The May issue had more ad-paid pages than they had worthwhile articles -- which is a pretty low standard for WIRED -- so they filled up the rest of the mag with low-level people stories. One was so boring they artificially added glare to the pedestrian pictures they had to illustrate it. I think their art director feels worthless unless he had successfully hidden the content that readers want to see behind some kind of artsy rubbish. Usually it is almost impossible to find or read the page numbers, this time he wanted to obscure the content of the illustrative pictures. Illustrating what? They weren't worth looking at in the first place, but he earned his salary.

They seem to be doing themes, this time climate change. In the opening editorial, the editor admits to filling his pre-teen kids with an unnatural fear of global warming. I guess he hasn't heard that the earth has been cooling the last couple years. Or maybe his parents filled him with an unnatural fear of global nuclear war, and he sees it as his obligation to carry on the tradition. Nuclear war didn't happen -- Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" actually did what it was supposed to do, but not as originally intended: as the critics predicted, it could never have worked to prevent a Soviet first strike, but instead it scared the red shirt off the Soviets. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" actually resulted in tearing down that wall, but the left-wing bigots don't like to remember that. So they invented another crisis that a grandstanding President can't stop -- but then, neither will will a carbon cap, because God has everything under control (see my essay "A Christian View of Climate Change" a half year ago). This whole issue is built on a lie, but they can't know that, because the gatekeepers are all under the leftist thumb of the Democrat-appointed research funding agencies. Go against the Established Religion and you lose your government grant, as Robert Gentry learned. Everybody else saw that and don't dare tell the whole truth.

Depending on how you count them, most of the articles in this issue are by female authors. That is significant from a conservative Christian perspective, because they are less likely to question the sources of the hoax [1Tim.2:14]. One of them, her author bio at the end credits her with writing "about climate, justice, and emotion." They got that right. Seeing that the American people as a whole are not as bamboozled as the political party promoting the hoax, she now leans farther to the left -- I did say this was political, not science -- she says "your power in this fight lies not in what you can do as an individual but in your ability to be part of a collective..." That's Marxist-speak, the propaganda of the political far left that took their capstone empire, the now former Soviet Union, crashing into the ash-heap of history. Only ivory-tower academics and women believe it any more.

The next article (another female author) writes about some guy who developed a computer program to calculate the carbon flow of humans and nature, who said "But when I entered all that information into a program that would calculate our total carbon footprint, I was shocked: It estimated that, poof!, the carbon sequestration provided by the forest's cover... cancelled out everything else we did." I've been saying that all along, the whole thing is independent of human activity. Of course this guy is still a True Believer (he must be, in order to retain his Federal grants) and she's only a writer, without even the science chops to ask the hard questions.

A short sidebar piece a few pages later ends "The key to saving the world? It's all politics." At least the so-called climate change thing is, not true science at all. It's all politics.

The next major article (another female name for an author) starts off uncritically reporting a video of some guy fueling his car on air. Now if women could get themselves interested in learning a little science, they might realize that such a notion is a violation of entropy, and that her whole article is very likely more of the same. Right. I stopped reading that drivel.

Nevermind the following article -- it's a cute idea that won't make much difference even if they do it -- the little factoid over the top of each article, this one in particular breathlessly announces "18% [or maybe it's 10%, because they used one of those silly fonts where the eights and zeroes look the same] portion of agriculture-related global heating caused by rice cultivation." Flip over the next page to see "24% Portion of global greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture and forestry." Not only are the editors of WIRED scientifically illiterate, they are also innumerate. Or maybe they only suppose -- probably correctly -- that their readers are, and whereas "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Do the math: 10% of 24% is 2.4% which is statistically insignificant. Poof!, the forest's cover cancelled out everything else we did (or will do).

Next article, another female author, this time blatantly bubble-headed thinking. She accepts uncritically that "you could survive on just peanut butter sandwiches and oranges." She admits she didn't do the analysis, but it's probably true: the proteins in peanuts and the grains in bread complement each other to supply all the essential amino acids humans need, and the fresh oranges provide fiber and vitamin C and what-all else. So she packs a lunch to drive from Oregon to central California, and includes not only peanut butter sandwiches and oranges, but also coffee. This in a special issue devoted to human-caused global warming caused by burning fossil fuel, probably two or more tanks of gas to drive that distance and back, when a phone call or teleconference app would do it in a tiny fraction of that much fossil fuel -- or in this case, because both Oregon and northern Calif get much of their electric power for hydroelectric sources, zero. Wait, there's more: do you know where they grow coffee? Certainly not in Ore-gone, all they grow here any more is pot. I think all the coffee comes from central or southern America, shipped on cargo liners that burn... fossil fuel! Don't forget the oranges and the peanuts and the wheat in her bread, they don't grow them in leftist Ore-gone either. Shakespeare once said something about "full of sound and fury and signifying nothing." That's climate change talk, and this magazine in particular.

Then there's the piece where this guy is trying to crowd cities closer together. Ore-gone already does that in a left-wing elitist government policy that favors crowded ghettos for low-income people (I live in one of those) where the air pollution (that includes both sonic and electronic, plus the particulate matter resulting from burning the largest cash crop in close quarters) is insufferable, worse than sprawling LA. Anyway, he claims that 70% of the global emissions comes from cities, and 15 pages earlier, 24% comes from ag and forests, that would pretty much account for 94%. Duh. He thinks crowing the people in cities closer together will improve the climate. Perhaps, but not the air pollution for those poor schmucks stuck in the ghetto. The people proposing and implementing these idiotic policies are rich enough to escape the ghetto. Look at the guy in the picture, he doesn't live in a downtown slum walkup.

A timy sidebar on the next page, "Tech We Need" includes a way for "influencers" to "post pics of themselves riding public transit instead of jetting to Reykjavik." Of course the "influencers" who jet to Reykjavik are riding public transit. People who can afford private jets do not waste time posting pics of themselves. Several pages later, somebody "estimates that Amtrak is 33 percent more energy efficient than flying on a per-passenger-mile basis." That's not a big difference, and after you factor in all the difficulties of connecting with trains, it probably disappears, except in commuter runs. But everybody who can benefit from that savings already does it.

Me, I think the "climate change" hoax is a crock, but when the oil and coal are gone, they will be gone. It makes sense to switch over to renewable energy sources for that reason alone. The article poking fun at the Wyoming government for stonewalling wind farms was a hoot. I must have gotten tired of the whole climate thing, there are fewer markups as I worked my way to the end of this tiresome issue.

Probably in another context, somebody said that most people pick their issues out of tribal loyalty without regard to the facts. I suspect that's generally true, and this issue of WIRED is clearly a case of it. Whatever. The USA is so wealthy, compared to the rest of the world, and in all history, we can afford to waste national reasources on scientific nonsense like "climate change" and still not feel the pinch. Certainly no politician will ever do anything close to what the True Believer scientists say would be necessary, let alone what would actually be necessary to overcome what God is already doing. Like so many other things, it's Not My Problem.
 

2020 June 5 -- Don't Blame Trump

Three months ago I took an extra large stack of books home from the library. Sometimes I get to the checkout counter with what I consider reasonable, and they tell me I have a book waiting on hold, so I take that one too -- then renew the extras if they time out before I get to them. Sometimes they are so bad, I skip over two or three in a single week. This time it was Providential (as in "The LORD doth provide") because they shut the library down over the weekend. So instead of the nominal three weeks, I had three months. The library is still closed, so I went back to reading back magazines. I was saving them for my next trip to Portland, but that got shut down too. We don't need a half-dozen nukes on port cities from a rogue nation like North Korea to take the USA out of the picture for Armageddon, we just need a silly plague virus for six months [Rev.6:8, 9:20,21, 15:1, 16:2, 18:8]. Once every few years, I read through the whole last Book, and there's no mention of the USA in the great battles there. We're already gone by then.

So here I am reading this "Pop-Sci for Dummies" (WIRED) magazine, which tends to be weak on science, strong on anti-Trump politics. The May issue had a Covid focus, complete with a front-page editorial promoting the magazine's Religion (= believing what you know ain't so) and even used the word "faith -- in each other and in the scientists..." At the bottom of the page he gets to his political jab:

A government can do things to make that [people helping people] happen, and in a better timeline [that is, not this year] it would. Sadly, we don't get to choose a timeline. Luckily, we do get to choose a government.
He got that one wrong. The "we" that he considers himself part of does not seem to have gotten to choose the government he wants, it was the rest of the country, the "we" that he pretends doesn't exist, who actually did choose this government. And it appears that Trump did exactly The Right Thing to get people to do the helping.

Clive Thompson is a regular columnist, and his contribution in this issue a few pages later is similarly blindsided. After spending most of his ink praising the people who creatively used their own resources to make up for what the manufacturers did not, he gets around to condemning the left-wing bigot's favorite whipping boys, capitalism and their Prez:

It also shows a failure of capitalism. Part of the reason we're short on essential med-tech is closed-source designs, often created to maximize vendor profits...
Of course they're created to maximize vendor profits. Creating stuff takes time and effort, and if that time does not result in financial reward, the creative people will not be able to pay their mortgages and buy their food and their tech toys so they can create innovative med-tech products. Clive Thompson himself creates "closed-source designs," so that he also can maximize profits on his own products. Do you think he wrote this piece for free? WIRED usually hides their text behind a "paywall" (their word, this issue being an explicit exception) so they can pay Thompson the big bucks he gets for writing this stuff. So-called "open-source" products tend to be imitative knock-off copies of the true innovative products that somebody else got paid real dollars to create and perfect. The "free as in beer" open-source products tend to be buggy and very hard to use, sort of like WIRED information, even though WIRED gets paid for their mag -- and rightfully insists on it!

Capitalism works because the capitalists make products that people are willing to pay for. If you don't pay them for their work, then they cannot afford to be making that stuff, and you are far worse off, like it was in the country that no longer exists, the (former) Soviet Union. If you try to insist that the vendors give away their pandemic cures and vaccines for free, then they won't bother to be ready to produce them in the large quantities that will be needed (because that kind of preparation costs money). That is indeed something the government did to us, but it was his predecessor, not Trump, who perpetrated the kind of wealth-destroying policies that drove the (former) Soviet and (present) Venezuelan economies into the ground. It takes time to build for future profits, don't lay this one on Trump.

Thompson's clincher: "It was the US government's job to prepare for a pandemic..." Clive Thompson probably isn't old enough to remember the words of a famous President of the other party, "Ask not what your country [government] can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." If this had happened four or eight years earlier, Obama would certainly have bungled it far worse (as he did for many other things), but the press -- obviously including Thompson and the magazine he publishes in -- would have found somebody else to blame. Obama and Trump were/are both incompetent, but in different ways. Trump's biggest problem is that nobody wants to take Thompson's advice and help out. Except in a pandemic, but of course they were already doing it when he wrote this.

Later in this same issue is a long 16-page whine about the repressive tactics of the Hindu-only party governing India. I read this stuff all the time, in a monthly rag published by Christians trying to do something about it, but WIRED does not support what the Christians are doing there, this article is by a Muslim. Which is rather ironic, because the Muslims are doing exactly the same (or worse) to the minority religions in the countries they dominate. I have a hard time giving much attention to hypocrites.

What was that new neologism I learned in an earlier issue of WIRED? "TL;DR"

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