Went Ahead and Voted

Look, I live in Sacramento. I get it. The chances my vote will make any difference in the suicide dance we are deep into here in California are effectively zero.

But there is a purely satanic amendment on the ballot. I wouldn’t be able to sleep well if I didn’t vote against it. And there’s a chance we might have a little sway on the local stuff.

And then there’s this:

I stepped out after voting into a brief downpour, followed by a truly spectacular double rainbow. This photo does it no justice. Horizon to horizon, and the color was very rich and full.

13 I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being. 16 When the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature—every mortal being that is on earth.

Genesis

Coof Madness

Long time, no touch this issue. Two items:

Today, the excellent Coffee and Covid newsletter sums up the news:

I was able to find one person in the U.S. — little Sally Rodriguez, 3rd grade, from Akron, Ohio — who was surprised yesterday to learn that the CDC’s vaccine approval committee (“ACIP”) met, took public comment, and then voted 15-0 recommending that covid shots be added to the childhood vaccination schedule.

Two of the 15 committee members, who supposedly are experts or something, were wearing a mask ON ZOOM. They actually believe covid travels over the internet. Or maybe they think they can get it from THEMSELVES. Either way, it was a bad sign right from the jump.

Um, yeah. Tinfoil hats make more sense.

The committee, who were all sitting in little boxes in a dystopian version of “Celebrity Jeopardy,” never discussed the fact that covid poses a miniscule risk to healthy kids. The committee never discussed natural immunity. The committee never discussed adverse events.

The CDC hasn’t yet officially added the shots to the standard school schedule, but given the unanimous recommendation from the committee, it’s a sure bet, likely to happen today or tomorrow.

As soon as that happens, the vaccine makers will permanently enjoy liability protection, and the national state of emergency that is currently shielding them can end. So that’s a blessing. Then it will be up to each state whether to follow the CDC’s new guidance and include the mRNA shots in its list of vaccines required to attend school. Many states allow religious exemptions, and a few states have recently eliminated exemptions.

To recap: generally, before 2020 and even with all the interested parties (that would be both the drug makers and the government approval agencies) playing the hell out of our flawed and biased drug approval process, it took 8 to 10 YEARS and about a $1B to get a new drug approved. Now, after less than 2 years OF FIELD TRIALS – that means WE ARE THE GUINEA PIGS – and, effectively, none of the usual trials done before a drug is approved FOR ANYONE, the CDC MANDATES a drug FOR CHILDREN who are, according to their own numbers, effectively at no risk. After two+ years of shouting down, demonizing, and destroying the careers of people who pointed out the bald refusal of the drug companies and the CDC to follow any of the basic science standards (e.g., no ongoing control groups, no double-blinds, no support for adversarial positions (to put it mildly), no serious adverse affects studies, no cost-benefit analyses) they MANDATE this drug FOR CHILDREN.

Satanic.

Another Coffee and Covid reference from a couple days ago:

A new pre-print study published on medRxIV last week titled, “Age-stratified infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in the non-elderly informed from pre-vaccination national seroprevalence studies.” In the study, researchers calculated the current worldwide ‘infection fatality rate’ for covid. You remember the IFR — it’s the ratio of number of deaths to number of confirmed infections.

Back in the day, you could get canceled for comparing covid’s IFR to the flu’s IFR.

The researchers found, for unvaccinated and for previously uninfected, the median covid infection fatality rates were:

  • 0.0003% at 0-19 yrs
  • 0.003% at 20-29 yrs
  • 0.011% at 30-39 yrs
  • 0.035% at 40-49 yrs
  • 0.129% at 50-59 yrs
  • 0.501% at 60-69 yrs

I probably don’t need to say this, but for all cohorts under 50, these IFR’s are far below the flu. For 50-59, the covid IFR is comparable to flu. And, flu IFR’s are also higher for older people, I just don’t have those figures handy this morning.

So.

Long-time readers may recall that, early on in the panic, I (along with many others) pointed out the absurdity of the CFR – Case Fatality Rate. In a disease with a huge percentage of asymptomatic infections, and where even symptomatic infections tended to have very minor symptoms, it is inevitable that huge numbers of infections were going to go unnoticed or otherwise unreported. This, before noting the panicky, highly incented drive to overcount infections and deaths. Put it all together, and I (and, again, many other people) pointed out that simply applying a little logic to the picture, and the IFR, meaning, the chance of anyone dying from a Covid infection, had to be at least an order of magnitude under the scary-sounding CFR.

The above numbers suggest that even that idea was overly pessimistic. A person under 20 stands a three in a million chance (per year, I assume, since these numbers tend to be annualized) of dying from a Covid infection. That’s what we numbers guys tend to call noise, in the big picture. Of all the bad things that can and do happen to young people, this ain’t the one to worry about.

Today’s Essay by William Briggs

No time to write anything, but can link to stuff you should read. Like this:

All Those Warnings About Models Are True: Researchers Given Same Data Come To Huge Number Of Conflicting Findings

Some brave souls handed out a massive dataset to a bunch of sociologists, and asked them to use it to determine some very sociological-sounding relationship: “Whether “more immigration will reduce public support for government provision of social policies.””

Hilarity ensued.

I’ve loved reading Dr. Briggs since I first came across his blog many years ago, because, as a pro, a real mathematician and a scientist, he gives succinct and accurate statements where I, the amateur (in the best sense of the word, I’ll own) have only scattered and sometimes overbroad thoughts. For example, here he sums up the fundamental, inescapable problems with modeling:

There are many warnings about models we examined over the years, you and I, dear readers. Two that should have stuck by now are these:

1. All models only say what they are told to say.

2. Science models are nothing but a list of premises, tacit and explicit, describing the uncertainty of some observable.

The first warning is easy to see, and it goes some way in removing the mysticism of “computer” models (that a model was computed still impresses many civilians). Every one of those 1,253 models was a computer model.

The second warning I can’t make stick. Let me try again. By premises I mean all the propositions, or assumptions, observational or otherwise, that speak of the observable. This also includes all premises that can be deduced from the premises.

Even before I spent a couple of decades working with a particular mathematical financial model, a million plus lines of code describing all the cash, tax, and accounting implications of a given transaction, I knew instinctively that models just describe a perfect world that lives only inside the model builder’s head. After asking clients a thousand times to specify what they wanted to model to do, and telling them a thousand times that, no, the model output doesn’t predict the future other than saying what will happen IF a giant list of assumptions hold exactly as specified, I knew two things:

  1. A well-built model can be very useful if used intelligently by people who understand how it works;
  2. Almost nobody understands how models work.

The pros I worked with understood that any transaction can be blindsided by some random unpredictable or at least unexpected event with financial implications. “Risk” was thus built into the model – but only insofar as such risk could be measured. But since very well compensated and trained professionals have been working to identify and quantify risk for centuries now, there’s a certain level of confidence that models like the one I worked with can be useful. But an 8-point quake hits California? Krakatoa goes off again? Some drooling imbecilic pushes the Big Red Button while reaching for his tapioca? Hey, all bets are off.

Slightly more subtly: while any number of individual disastrous events may be vanishingly unlikely, taken all together, it’s all but inevitable that some unexpected disaster or other will in fact happen sooner or later. This observation hardly rates as science – it’s more like history, or common sense. But it is nonetheless real.

Anyway, read and enjoy.

Round 2: What’s More Foodie?

A. Homemade pastrami on fresh homemade ciabatta rolls, with mustard, sauerkraut, and sharp cheddar?

or

B. Pulled pork from a beautiful Boston butt off a backyard raised pig, on the same ciabatta rolls, with a homemade Carolina honey mustard sauce?

I mean, c’mon, man. We’re living the good life. More relevant info: actually had a brisket off a locally raised grass fed cow, but there are drawbacks: a huge fatty brisket is kinda what one wants for pastrami, not necessarily a beautiful but lean one off a grass fed cow. Pastrami still remains the best, highest use for brisket, so not a loss by any means, it’s just that – I think – pastrami anticipates a low quality cut, and this was hardly that. No matter – it was fabulous.

We got that lovely grass fed brisket from my daughter’s father in law, and since I was making pastrami anyway, I got a Costco slab o’ beef. Pastrami making is one of those things where, once you’re making any, you might as well make a lot. Brined in a new recipe for me, one including a significant amount of sugar, and it was frankly wonderful. BUT – I went oven-baked, not smoked, because I don’t have a smoker and failed to make arrangements with some people I know who do. It works fine, but I’m going to need to run the side-by-side with a smoker some day…

The grass-fed one was absolutely delicious. But I’m not sure the Costco one, especially the point, was not as good, and more ‘traditional’ – marbled, fat cap, etc. Couldn’t go wrong here.

The Boston butt was about as beautiful a cut of pork I’ve ever seen: lovely red, even marbled. And it cooked up wonderfully.

So, yea.

Art Appreciation & Hegel

This week, in the art history/art appreciation class I’m teaching, we were going over cave art and the materials and techniques they might have used. I threw this picture up:

And then this picture:

And had the students discuss them side by side using the elements of art and the principles of design. We all had a blast.

A while ago, Caroline Furlong posted and linked about the Pylos Combat Agate from the Griffin Warrior’s Grave at Nestor’s Palace in Pylos, Greece. Mind blown:

Pylos Combat Agate. This thing is under 1.5 inches wide!

To recap: 15,000+ years ago, somebody could paint that buffalo on a wall in a dark cave using such things as powdered rock mixed with grease and pieces of moss. Then, 3,500 years ago, somebody could carve a detailed battle scene into a pebble, displaying a da Vinci level appreciation of human anatomy and with details too small to really see with the naked eye. Nothing approaching this level of artistry is found anywhere else before about 500 BC.

The Griffin Warrior’s Grave was discovered and excavated in 2015. Alta Mira cave first became widely known in 1880. Hegel was long dead before either of these masterpieces were discovered.

I really don’t want to get into the details and caveats in Hegel’s history of art, but any idea of a more or less linear awakening of artistic expression as the Spirit came to know Itself in History is patent nonsense in light of these two works, without enough caveats and retconning to choke a horse.

Flash Fiction: Cold Crawl

We lived in the Bones. The view is incredible, what with a million wrecks and a trillion shreds of debris, twinkling against a backdrop of nebulas backlight and glowing from embedded stars. You could say the ghosts of a billion warriors haunt the Bones. If you like that sort of thing.

Miners, scavengers, whatever you want to call us: we scour the wrecks for valuables and raw materials. We tend to call ourselves wranglers, a term whose origins are lost – kind of like ours.

Since the prime targets in any battle are the power units that drive the ship and its weapons, and since such power units tend to be physically isolated from the rest of the ship, a lot of sailors and settlers don’t get vaporized. The bodies, often still fresh in their suits no matter how long they have floated in icy space, we slap a microthruster on and nudge toward an eventual rendezvous with a nearby star. When we have the time and the spare microthrusters. Seems like the right thing to do.

On this side of the Cold Crawl there is territory worth having. This side is one of those rare oases of interstellar calm. Dozens of yellow stars near 1 standard mass; background radiation is tolerable with minimal magnetic shielding; nearly a hundred workable if not already livable planets. Close, but not too close. Good solid civilizations have lived in this little bubble, hardly 20 cubic light years, for millions of years.

The other side is not quite so nice, and not nearly as densely packed with habitable planets. Conquerors or settlers – remarkable how alike these classes are in practice – inexorably explore and push their way through the nebulas, in those comparatively cold parts where dust and debris shield them from the background radiation. At least three stars blew, those many millions of years ago, and their shock waves and nebulas interacted to create dead spots. Those shifting passages we call the Cold Crawl.

A thousand great battles have been fought right here in the Boneyard, where the Cold Crawl clears the nebulas. It’s the logical place to take a stand in defense of the bubble, the only place an attack from the direction of the galactic core can realistically come from. The conquerors/settles come in their millions, in their thousand ships, are met there by the defenders of the bubble.

Plenty of planets and resources on either side, really, but when has that ever stopped anyone? Empires conquer or get conquered, certain as the law of gravity. And so an economy of sorts has arisen. We junk wranglers fertilize the growth of the this pocket republic (a republic this week, at least) with the bones of a million ships.

Microthrusters are darn handy. Stick one or more on a part or a meteor or a body, tell them where you want them to go, and they take care of the rest. If it’s close by, might only take an hour or a week. Tell them to go to a star a half light year away, and it might take a few thousand years – but they will do it. We found crates of the things on a dead freighter when I was a kid. We’ve sent many a dead warrior to his own stellar pyre, and still have thousands of the things left. We slap them on smaller wrecks and let them reel them in. Darn handy.

The supply of wreckage never ends. It was only 11 standard centuries ago – yesterday, in space – when a long banished Usurper from the Outlands and his puppet emperor decided, in the name of the Empire’s gods, to take over the Empire and reinstate traditional Order. Ten thousand ships, so the story goes, crept through the Cold Crawl, and met the Master General, with 10,000 of his own. That epic battle restocked the Boneyard.

After 11 centuries, most of the things on board the wrecks that were going to spontaneously explode have already done so. We hope. None of us have gotten killed yet. Harvest has been good. For generations, my clade has grown fat.

Lucky us.

Nobody knows how many battles have taken place in the Boneyard, or for haw many years. We still come across tech we’ve never seen before from some battle unknown ages past. About 100 million standard years, give or take, is a popular guess.

My clade has a nice rotator, with a nice solid .9 g out on the rim. 315 of us live there, not a freak or a stretchy among us. Took us a couple centuries to build. Our power array orbits the red giant. Probably good for a few more millennia, at least.

But we’re most proud of our Gatling spinnies. We have three, top drawer, two deployed and powered up at all times. Nobody is messing with us. Until that one day they did.

I’d never seen a ship like that before, black and thin as a razor. It approached like a thin black line, some unfamiliar tech masking its approach. Somehow, it disabled the spinnies.

In the vast volume of the Boneyard, we wranglers some times come across the remains of tech nobody alive has ever seen before. Creatures not like us, not biologically human, seem to have fought over this same turf time out of mind. Sometimes, scavenger diagnostics will even figure out what it is, before some slipup kills them. My guess is we were being raided by just such a lucky wrangler.

Our scanners told us that they had us. Any attempt to power up weapons would mean instant death. And they’d already taken out two of our spinnies.

We were negotiating surrender, or, really, how soon and painfully they would kill us. We scavengers can’t leave a raid unavenged. It’s not how the game is played, at least not for long. So if you’re going to raid another wrangler, you might as well exterminate the clade, because you’ll need to kill them all sooner or later. All the parties involved knew this.

A synthesized voice came over the comm. “Send your stores over now, and we’ll let you live.” A blaster shot neatly sliced a small corner off our rotator’s hub, the piece of glowing metal spiraling off into the blackness. “Any more delay, and we will not be so kind.”

Our storehouses, per common practice, are at the ends of long arms radiating out from the rotator’s core, perpendicular to the Wheel. The doors opened, and a slow parade of salvage started slowly toward the attacker. Unless they really liked our rotator, they would wait just until the last item cleared the doors, then slice us up. We become more raw materials.

The nondescript crates and boxes, each with a dozen or so microthrustors, marched past. On one box was a body in a suit.

Nobody really likes to do it, but sometimes a suit is special. Sometimes you evict the late occupant and keep it. So seeing a suit in with the scrap was not so unusual.

This was not one of those times. Scanners showed nothing, no life in the suit and nothing powered in the box. We sometimes found cool ancient tech ourselves.

The box and the body on it got nearer and nearer to the attacker’s ship, until it was only a hundred meters away, beneath cargo doors that had just opened.

The plan became clear. The suit’s owner was waiting to get into what should be a blind spot in the attacker’s defenses. Right in the ship’s belly, with the doors’ wings blocking any clear shot. Just as the last crate was about to clear our warehouse, something came alive one the scanners. The box and its rider separated. The box accelerated as fast as several dozen microthrusters could push it, the rider shot like an arrow in the opposite direction.

“You displease u…..” began the synthesized voice, right as our backup gatling spinny simultaneously obliterated the box it as in and lit up the inside of their cargo bay.

Thousands of tungsten slugs tore through the attacker’s ship in an instant, then the spinny, overheated, blew.

The lone figure in the suit, flying at reckless speeds, entered the cargo bay just ahead of the debris from the shredded, exploded ship. She flew up the radiating arm under power, flipped and blasted to a halt as the armor door slammed shut.

That was some flying. I’m proud of my daughter.

Free Citizens and Police States

One of the bitterly funnier moment I’ve had in my life was when a long-time friend who had just recently become a Chicago judge told me in all seriousness that what the world needed was more lawsuits.

Hammer, meet nail.

He seemed to seriously (and arrogantly) think that society’s problems would get solved if only people submitted them to the adjudication of right-thinking people such as himself. No other options existed in his mind, as far as I could tell, such as a personal commitment among citizens to resolve their differences peacefully, or suck it up and take minor injustices for the team. No acknowledgement that, if the court system is what’s holding your polity together, that polity is already dead.

Or, checking in on Scripture:

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.

Matthew 5:25
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Attempting to solve more and more issues in court is not a road to social improvement, but rather a sign of an already dead society – the twitchings of a culture’s corpse.

The function of laws. We have long had the notion of the law-abiding citizen. That’s a person who understands that laws need to be obeyed, especially when there is no one there to enforce them. The laws work, when they work, because of a consensus of the law abiding. In a such a culture, responsibility and enforcement are ultimately personal, not a function of the enforcement arm of a legal system.

Much more important, law abiding citizens can only exist within a strong culture. Personal relationships and obligations, personal honor and virtue, must be highly valued by a large enough group such that those who do not value them are forced by social pressure to conform.

A law-abiding society is the only kind of society in which people can have any real freedom.

The alternative is the police state. A police state is here defied as a situation where laws matter only to the extent to which they are enforced.

We tend to think of totalitarian dictatorships when police state is mentioned, with official thugs lurking everywhere, but I will here contend that insofar as an individual’s relationship to the law depends merely on enforcement, police ‘states’ are ubiquitous.

These ideas came up as I discussed the state of local schools with people who have had children in them or had friends who have had children in them, or otherwise had experiences in them. It has gotten to the point, according to these folks, where it takes literal physical assault of a teacher to call down any disciplinary action on a student – and even that might not be enough. Teachers tend to get whatever percentage of the students who are interested in learning into the front few rows, and simply let chaos reign in the back rows and try to teach over it. Admin and teachers are at war – the idea that admin would take steps against the students for the teacher’s sake is laughable. The schools rules are ignored until they are enforced. Exhausted teachers have little interest in enforcing them. Any teacher who does enforce the rules is instantly an outsider, more likely to draw the ire of admin than its support.

The students in this environment divide themselves or are divided into feral tribes. In the No Rules tribes, attempts to flaunt whatever norms do exist drive behaviors. Who can wear the most scandalous prom dress? Who can utter the most filthy profanity? Who can defy the teachers most obviously? Such behaviors increase the standing of students in their tribe.

Is this all true? I don’t know, but the people telling me this are not the kind of people given to melodramatic exaggeration. I therefore assume so.

But even if reality is not quite that bad, anything like such a situation illustrates not so much the Law of the Jungle as an at least nascent police state. In the jungle, you win or you lose, there is no appeal. In a police state, you get away with whatever you can – until you can’t. In the jungle, no one is there to stop you if you try to burn it all down, while it is likely someone would try to stop you from burning the school down.

And here is the crux of the matter: what happens to the fine young arsonist in this latter case? Since all violations of the laws have been ignored so far in his young life, what does he expect to have happen? Will it be ‘fair’ in his eyes? We can easily imagine a modern principal simply letting him go due to assumed mitigating factors – and we can just as easily imagine the child (if old enough) thrown into jail. The reader can insert the variables that might influence such different outcomes.

Similarly, a student holding views unpopular with his teachers can become the target of abuse. The teachers’ vendettas become, in effect, the law – and there is nowhere within the school system for such a student to turn.

While it may seem fun, after a fashion, for young hooligans to do whatever they think they want, eventually, all boundaries have been pushed too far, and something must be done. The school system is an organism, and as such wants to live. It is a police state in which there is no real freedom and no escape – and our children are being raised in it.

Talking ‘bout the Weather, with a brief remark on Fahrenheit.

Today will be the 6th straight day of 100F temperatures here in Sacramento. Three of those days hit or exceeded 110F. A couple new all-time highs were set.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to hit 88F. I assume what the locals call the Delta breeze is projected to return.

In San Francisco, under a two hour drive away, temperatures have reached the 80s, but are now back in the 60s and low 70s in accordance with Tradition. Sea breezes have not reached the interior yet, creating that odd phenomenon I’ve mentioned before: a 40F spread on opposite sides of the Berkeley hills. 105F on the inland side, 65F on the Bay side.

Another reason to prefer Fahrenheit: the range is easy to understand in terms of human comfort: if it’s 100F, it’s way too hot; if it’s 0F, it’s way to cold. 50F is reasonably comfortable.

That my story, anyway.

And that is all.

Royalty

Of course, my prayers and condolences go out to the British Royal family (as if they care!) But: an old lady died after about as long and full a life as anyone could hope for. That she was Queen of England means nothing to me. I’ve long held that Americans interest in royalty is a neurotic tic, a failure of imagination. She was one of the richest people in the world – how? Our ancestors fought a war just so we would not be ruled by the likes of her – why?

Anyway, may she rest in peace, and may God comfort her family.