“You Know How Much I Love Watching You Work.”

Prince Humperdinck: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.

So, over in Syria, another horrible, bloody yet minor chapter in Islam’s conquest of the West is playing out. In saner times, we – the Christian West – would go to the aid of our rapidly being martyred Christian brothers and sisters with, oh, maybe an army. And impose order. In a largely unicultural way, with a measured lack of sympathy for a culture that consider it a father’s right to murder his daughter if he feels like it or burn people to death within their churches if they are infidels.

The question that has not been answered: under what plausible scenario would it make any sense for Assad to gas civilians? As Jerry Pournelle points out:

“The provocation is about 100 civilians killed by war gas. The death of those civilian Syrians could not have been very useful to Bashar al-Assad, and thus he would have had to be a very stupid man to have ordered their use against that target: if you are going to cross a line in the sand, you don’t do it by spitting across it.”

Yet our warmongering President is pitching real hard to get to drop a few cruise missiles on somebody swarthy over there. Not enough to impose our will on them, because that would be wrong – imperialism, and all that – but enough to make sure everybody knows we’re determined and tough, and will not stand for people getting in the way of the spring-time blossoming of democracy and freedom in soil that has ever produced tyranny and wars of conquest. Even, perhaps especially, the ones who get to die so that our dream for them can live. Even, perhaps especially, when those flowers look a lot like the desert weeds that have grown there for the last 1300 years.


Science versus Science!

Lovely post by the inimitable Mike Flynn discussing, among other things,  a canard that’s annoyed me for years: the assumption that in the Old Days, people were stupid, unlike us smart guys now days.  For example, in the old days, those pathetic morons had to amuse themselves making stuff like this:

And this:

:Reims Kathedrale

And make do with art like this:

File:Laocoon Pio-Clementino Inv1059-1064-1067.jpg

Or this:


But we, who have invented reality TV and People magazine – we’re the smart ones. Riiight.

Continue reading “Science versus Science!”

T. Swift & Daughter #2

Here, behold Daughter #2, recently turned 16, and three of her friends writing Taylor Swift lyrics on the dresses they will be wearing to a T. Swift concert in Sacramento tomorrow. Daughter is on the left, with her hair braided so that it will be really wavy tomorrow.


Daughter made each of the dresses, each different. Then each of the girls chose a Taylor Swift album, and are now writing the lyrics to every song on that album on her dress. This is the epitome of fun and cool.

Tomorrow, the eldest girl, who has a red Mustang convertible, drives the team the 60 miles to Sacramento. Then, dinner, the concert, and a night in a hotel (one of the girls’ mom works in the hotel industry and got them a deal).  Sounds like major fun.

While it would be a gargantuan understatement to say Swift’s music is not to my taste, I’m still very impressed that my daughter and her friends were able to pull this off.

4,500+ Miles,

13 states,10 motels, almost 10,000 feet in elevation difference, a dozen or so natural wonders, thousands of photos, thousands of cows, hundreds of horses, dozens of sheep, a herd of elk, a dozen or so llamas, 6 camels, 2 donkeys, 2 buffalo (or, as my children lept to correct me, bison), 2 pronghorn, and a young grizzly bear later – back in the saddle. Kids voted Craters of the Moon their favorite, just ahead of Yellowstone, but this has much to do with them getting to spend hours climbing around in lava tube caves, as opposed to staring at stuff through the car windows. We need to go back and spend a week or two at several of these spots. (Tetons National Park was my fav – very impressive and beautiful, and where we saw the bear.)

So far, mostly been trying to catch up on my reading of other bloggers. Next time, I must remember to politely request that everybody I read stop thinking and writing while I’m away.

That not being the case, there were a couple things that were allowed to transpire without my participation, a shortcoming to be addressed ASAP.

Update: In. Sane. Roadtrip

1. 2,400+ miles in. Writing from Hays, KS on our way back from dropping off Eldest Daughter at Benedictine College in Atchison. Kansas, as well as eastern New Mexico, has been getting a lot of summer thunderstorms, so everything has been lush and green.  We ended up driving the Old Santa Fe Trail much of the way – didn’t really think about it before hand, but makes sense if you’re going from Santa Fe in the general direction of St. Louis that that’s the road you’d take.

2. While we shall keep the pictures to a minimum, here’s one:

Death Valley

We will use this cute picture as a segue into a discussion of taking the temperature.  Turns out that this location, Furnace Creek, out in the flats 190′ below sea level, is where the hottest temperature ever recorded was registered back in 1913. Started googling around, came across the following. Can’t attest to its accuracy – I found no corroborating information.

A few years back, they built a new temperature station at Badwater, which is even lower down. Funny thing: instead of putting the station out in the center of the valley, it’s on one side – the west facing side – up against some cliffs. If you wanted to pick a spot where you’d be likely to set an all time high, this would be it: low down, where the Death Valley inversion layer will trap the heat and near cliffs that will absorb and re-radiate out the heat towards your thermometer.

So, why build a new station in Death Valley, when you have one 20 miles away that’s been in continuous use for decades? Because, according to the link above, nothing is more annoying to the global warming crowd than really old record high temperatures.  Or, to put it the other way, record high temperatures are their bread and butter, so that when they fail to happen, it might look bad. Really old record highs suggest that it’s not way hotter now than it used to be.  But, alas! 11 years later and still no new record high, even after stacking the deck to get one. Even if this report turns out to be inaccurate, it is an interesting data point that some record highs are really old – 100 years or more.

3. Now writing from Westminster, CO, near Denver, from the living room of a college friend of my wife’s. A delightful thunderstorm is driving temps into the ‘very comfortable’ range, in addition to supplying a nice show.

4. Benedictine College is a pretty school on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The Benedictines arrived there in 1858. The brothers have an abbey as part of the college. The sisters have a convent a couple miles south. Both ran schools, for men and women respectively. Some years back, they decided to merge into one college. Then, they decided maintaining two physical plants was too much; now, just about everything is conducted in the buildings surrounding the abbey.

Lots and lots of brick, which looks odd to a Californian. Brick is not a good choice where there are earthquakes. One striking thing about the brickwork on the older buildings – much of it looks a bit slapdash, with uneven rows and joints and partial, broken bricks. I’m guessing it was originally plastered over or had some sort of fascia to cover it up, because it runs against the convenient myth that craftsmanship was much better in the old days. While that may be true, it’s also true that poorly made things tend not to last, so that well made things are overrepresented in surviving old things. However it has come about, as the buildings are remodeled and repurposed, there is now plenty of exposed brick and stone work that, while perhaps not first rate to my gimlet eye, is nonetheless beautiful and cool as all heck:


Makes a fellah want to crack open a classic and get at it.

5. Santa Fe’s population has almost doubled from what it was when I first got there in 1976, from 35,000 to almost 68,000. It is a beautiful place, so it is not surprising people want to live there. One has to wonder: how do people make a living there? There’s state and city government, two small colleges, a prison, and? Sure, there are plenty of art galleries, hotels and restaurants, but these more often than not provide low and uncertain wages to most of the people who work in them.

Odd how a place can feel more like home when visited for a day or two than it ever felt when I lived there.

6. Heading up to Wyoming Catholic College tomorrow, then on to Yellowstone and Idaho Falls Friday, Elko, NV Saturday and on home Sunday. 4,200+ miles. The kids have been total troopers so far.

The In. Sane. Summer Road Trip

He looks almost happy. What could go wrong?

At least once in a man’s life, I suppose, it is required to do an insane road trip. Not just a long road trip, but one with enough moving parts to invite disaster from multiple directions. So, at crack of dawn tomorrow:

– Driving #1 daughter back to school at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. We live in the Bay Area. Covering over 4,000 miles in 12 days.

– Bringing the entire family, except the dog and snake. So: 6 people in a minivan for 70+ hours of driving. No chance to get a break from my charming company. My poor kids!

– Hitting as many of the sites along the way as possible: Mono Lake, Death Valley, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Santa Fe, Wyoming Catholic College, Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon.

– Only twice will we spend 24 hours without needing to drive – one day each in Santa Fe and Atchison.

In. Sane. So: may bring the laptop and try to blog a little. Might not. See y’all later!

Gateway to “Mysticism”, Part II – Logic

Part of series. Background:

I may have mentioned this before: Carl Sagan managed to reeeeeally rub me the wrong way back in the early 80s when I first became aware of him through Cosmos, a comically overrated Science! series. One thing that got me was his repeated sneering dismissal of ‘mysticism’, a term whose functional definition was anything Carl didn’t like: God and religion, of course, but also philosophy and especially metaphysics, insofar as they have anything to say about Science!.

Painting of David Hume.jpg
Nice hat. Did he just step out of the shower?

Next, after explaining what math is and where in the material world it comes from, the materialist should have a ready answer to this question: where, in the material world, is logic observable? A related, and slightly more subtle question: why should anyone care? Why prefer rationality to irrationality?

I, and Hume and Kant and others, fail to see any material basis for logic. Not only do we not see logic, we are stumped by the question: what would a material manifestation of logic look like? Not only is logic not observable in the natural world, but it is impossible to imagine how it could be observable. Sense impressions flood us, one after another or all at once, and we decide that it is reasonable to assume that some small subset of those impressions follow invisible laws (which I always imagine as an old man with a white beard in the sky), and that, following those laws is reasonable.

No, rather logic is something mysterious, mystical, even, that we (assuming there’s a ‘we’ – might just be a ‘me’, how could we/I tell?) that we bring to the game, not deduce from it.  After reading Hume, Kant felt obliged to create the concept of categories of perception – he concluded that pure reason is entirely the product of the mind and that categories condition our perceptions in such a way that we truly cannot imagine what, if anhy, relationship exists between our thoughts and the world of independently existing things.

Kant may be wrong, but he is convincing in his assertion that the thing he is describing is completely mystical in the sense Sagan uses – logic and reason are certainly not flowing out from objective observation. They are not facts under any consistent materialist theory.

You get nowhere in science without math and logic. Math and logic are immaterial and unobservable. Therefore, in Sagan’s sense, Science is founded on Mysticism.