Science! Look Close, Find Stuff

[Update: These pics of Juno’s approach from NASA really are dazzling, mysterious and beautiful.]

On some blogazine called Observer, we encounter the breathless and predictable headline:

NASA’s First Close-Up of Jupiter Is Shocking and Surprising Everyone on Earth

17 051 2 NASA’s First Close Up of Jupiter Is Shocking and Surprising Everyone on Earth
Some NASA pic of Jupiter, looking down on the its south pole.

Well, not *everyone* exactly. I, for one, have learned from a lifetime of experience that just about every time some space probe gets a close look at anything in the solar system, it finds that What We Thought Was Wrong! This has a lot to do with planets and moons and comets and stuff being really, really far away. When you’re looking at something from a couple hundred million miles away, it’s pretty likely you’ll miss some important details that will be evident once you get, say, “only” a million miles away. The probe that produced the picture was 52,000 kilometers away at the time – practically spittin’ distance – so I’d be shocked if it didn’t find cool new stuff. I would bet heavily that if, somehow, we got a look from inside Jupiter’s atmosphere or its solid surface, wherever and whatever that might be, we’d find out, again, the Much Of What We Thought Was Wrong! And act all surprised.

This is a tiny and relatively harmless example of Science! in action. NASA, whose political/public relations tail is always trying to wag its scientific dog, is going to try to drum up enthusiasm and gee-wiz us every chance it gets. For example: 

“We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”

One can hardly blame the program executive for pointing out her project was a success. That would be an essential part of the job. But that last sentence is telling: the probe has “already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.” A journey, it must be remembered that cost 1.1 billion taxpayer dollars.  By NASA standards, that a bargain, and, again, it is part of an executive’s job description to make the case that the project was worth the money.  It’s also part of the job of us taxpayers to wonder about that.

Me? I’m cool. Love me some Hubble pictures, I get very excited about the Webb, no matter how over budget it is. Space probes are cool, and comparatively cheap. I start getting concerned with manned missions that are projected to cost planetary-level investments, such as a trillion dollars or some such astronomical (heh) sum. That kind of money will attract the worst kind of attention from the most lamprey-like political players, and, being too big for any one country to swallow, will attract world-wide parasitic attention. It could easily end up as logically coherent and focused as the U.N.

And nobody wants that.

Frankly, I’d like to see a real space station where significant numbers of people live for years at a time, or a moon base, before we just throw people at Mars or whatever. Proof of concept. Ya know?

So, glad we’ve discovered all this interesting new stuff about Jupiter, just like we discover new stuff about anything we get a good long close look at for the first time. But keep your pants on.

 

Dinner Date

My beloved and I went out for dinner, a lovely affair at Luna’s, a local Italian place. It was very nice. We had this dessert:

IMG_3902
Pears in an almond cake, scoop of vanilla ice cream, and delicious sauces. Bonus points for presentation. 

Then, because we were both quite sated (and we’d split a bottle of wine), we walked a half block to Half Priced Books to get a little exercise. On the plus side, it’s a cheap addiction. I went through John C Wright’s list of essential Sci Fi reading, and picked up a bunch of cheap used paperbacks – because I don’t have enough books already that I haven’t read yet:

IMG_3908
It’s remarkable how little Heinlein I’ve read – well, here are 4 more. 

Even more on the plus side, these are all under 300 pages long – one or two night reads, for the most part.

Then, we drive the 1 mile home (would have walked, but got pressed for time). Annnnd – our beloved daughter (with help from the Caboose) had prepared this:

Yes, a homemade pistachio cake with pistachio frosting spelling out 30, topped with strawberries and raspberries.

And we were far too full to eat any.

The kids were very sweet, and said that of course we could eat it tomorrow.

I love my kids.

30 Years and Running

The only 2 pictures I carry in my wallet:

Anne-Martine 8th Grade
Miss Anne-Martine Brilliant, around 8th grade. I love this picture, and have carried it in my wallet for over 30 years. I just like to be reminded of the sweet, bookish girl who grew up to be my wife. 
Kids
Our 4 oldest, taken about 16 years ago. The personalities of these kids hinted at in this picture absolutely held true as they got older. I don’t carry a picture of our youngest son – must remedy that!  The photo paper has not held up so well, but we have other copies. 

30 years ago, right around this hour, the lovely Anne-Martine Terese Brilliant stood in front of God and church full of people  and vowed to be my wife. I, with much less trepidation than would have been called for in her case, likewise vowed to be her husband. And, thus, we confected a sacrament together. It was pretty fun. It keeps getting better.

Three decades, two trips to England and one to Italy, 5 children born and 2 miscarried, the founding of a very weird school, the loss of a son at age 20,  the loss of 3 parents and two sisters and one grandmother, a college graduation, a household that’s gone from 2 residents to 7 to 3, endless birthdays and holidays and holy days later – I’d do it all over, no questions.

Now we face more of the troubles life presents if you embrace it, more relatives getting old, sick or both, more growing pains with kids and friends and relatives, more concerns with what it means to be a mother and fathers, a wife and a husband to and in the world, more questions about God’s will and whether we are surrendering to it.

Accepting all this, with any luck, Anne-Martine and I get to grow old ourselves, together. If God so wills, then we, in the fullness of our lives and surrounded by our children and children’s children, will join our son and our parents and siblings in the places He has prepared for us, and await the family we leave briefly behind.

Thank you, Anne-Martine. Thank You, my Lord and my God. Have mercy on us, and let Your Light shine on us!

 

Updates, Home Improvement Project

Things did not go quite as planned this weekend. Grandma Brilliant (my mother-in-law) paid a visit to the hospital and is now in a convalescent home. We would like to break her out and bring her home.

However, as anyone paying a frankly unhealthy degree of attention to this blog will recall, a couple months back Middle Son tore out the little concrete slab walk that allows on to get from the driveway to the front door (as mentioned in passing here), leaving a gap manageable by the spry, but otherwise impassible.  Younger Son and I did get the concrete base upon which bricks will be laid down – progress, but not good enough for wheelchair access.

Soooo, instead of whiling away our long weekend with less strenuous activities that would leave me awake and pain-free at the end of the day so I could write, I spent a good number of hours on my hands and knees laying bricks in order to finish the walk so that, if it works out to bring Grandma home, we could get her into the house.

Here’s where it stands:

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The area bottom center is sloped too much to simply brink over – I’m considering options…

Got all the whole, roughly level bricks in; started in on cutting all the fitted bricks. Still need a half-day to finish, then sweep dry mortar into the gaps, gently water, clean up – and Voila!

I might even live through this. My 59-year-old back, knees and hands are not really up for more than a couple hours of hard manual work at a crack.

Anyway, please say a prayer for Grandma and those who love her. Thanks.

Logistics

Today, was reminded of a saying brought to my attention by Hrodgar in a comment to a post from a few months back: 

Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.

Google reveals claims this is something said by General Omar Bradley, who I’ve long irrationally liked based on his portrayal by Karl Malden in Patton. Sounds a lot like Sun Tsu, who hammers home that an army should not outrange its supplies.

Infogalactic has the following to say:

The historical leaders Hannibal, Alexander the Great, and the Duke of Wellington are considered to have been logistical geniuses: Alexander’s expedition, the longest military campaign ever undertaken, benefited considerably from his meticulous attention to the provisioning of his army,[11] Hannibal is credited to have “taught logistics” to the Romans during the Punic Wars [12] and the success of the Anglo-Portuguese army in the Peninsula War was the due to the effectiveness of Wellington’s supply system, despite the numerical disadvantage.[13] The defeat of the British in the American War of Independence and the defeat of the Axis in the African theater of World War II are attributed by some scholars to logistical failures.[14]

I *hate* the overuse of the idea of war – war on drugs, war on poverty – when all the name is meant to do is excuse in advance the excesses of our political maneuverings: we’re at WAR, man! This is no time to quibble over the rights of the people who are wrong anyway, let alone a few hundred billion dollars! That sort of thing. I prefer using the term war for actual armed conflicts.

Nonetheless, this once, let’s go there, as history dolefully reminds us of how bad things can go: if there is a culture war, what are the logistical considerations? Are our supply lines secure?

Those in favor of protecting and passing on Western Civilization – you know, Christendom – have long been thinking tactics. The acolytes of Gramsci and Alinsky and the Fabians in their sheep’s clothing (1) have been thinking logistics for over a century.

Thus, in the name of Western Civilization, we get exemplary and admirable tactics like the foundings of St. John’s Great Books Programs and Thomas Aquinas College and other related programs, who, all together, graduate maybe 1,000 students a year. At Thomas Aquinas, they are even told that it’s their sacred duty to defend Western Civilization!

Meanwhile, those who wish to destroy Western Civilization control the logistics. They do not generally found colleges with the express purpose of creating good little socialist tools and useful idiots. Instead, they seek to control the hiring and firing of the staff at existing institutions.  For a long time now, in virtually all public and private colleges and universities, they have been in a position of being able to force out anyone who displeases them. Anthony Esolen was forced out of Providence, a putatively Catholic school, for holding orthodox Catholic positions; they can force the president of Harvard to resign.

The enemies of Western Civilization now control what can be taught or even said in almost every college in America. They train people on staff who might be their opponents to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Those who won’t don’t get the job in the first place.

Thus, apart from those 1,000 or so graduates who are taught to defend Western Civilization, the other 1.9 million graduates from the other 4,140 US colleges and universities are systematically taught to revile the culture that produced the colleges they attend and despise those who defend it, all the while believing they are members of the most moral and enlightened generation History has ever produced. They have almost certainly never heard their teacher’s ideas challenged, let alone been forced to deal with opposing ideas seriously on a level playing field. In my experience, graduates of modern colleges not only have not heard the arguments, they have no idea what an argument even *is*.  Yet, they are certain they are the most broad-minded, reasonable people ever, even as they shout down and revile anyone who disagrees with the dogmas they have been taught.

To make matters worse, with very few exceptions, one cannot teach in a grade school without having passed through the filter of a college education department. There, future teachers are taught all sorts of interesting things – but anything that challenges the educational status quo is not among them. So, now, your 6 year old gets taught the undesirability of independent thought by the success-through-obeying-orders model, and your 13 year old gets taught gender theory as if it were simple fact – which, given the filters through which his teacher has passed, that teacher most likely believes is absolutely true.

Changing things is not a simple matter of convincing people things ought to change. The very people whose minds we’d need to touch have received 12 or more years of training in how not to think, how to dismiss those who disagree with them via name-calling. For this, they will be patted on the head and told how brave they are. The mechanisms – the supply chain of ideas – are completely under the control of the enemies of civilization.

Tactics versus logistics. The situation is only freed from despair by the knowledge that lies do eventually out, that truth will win given even a crack of an opening.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s grim out there.

  1. You know, these guys: 

    Image result for fabian logo
    Fabian Society Coat of Arms. 

The Fabian Society is a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of Communism via gradualist and reformist effort in democracies, rather than by revolutionary overthrow. [ed. – because violent revolution is unpopular, not because they have anything against it in principle.]

The Fabian Society was named—at the suggestion of Frank Podmore—in honour of the Roman general Fabius Maximus (nicknamed “Cunctator”, meaning the “Delayer”). His Fabian strategy sought gradual victory against the Carthaginian army under the renowned general Hannibal through persistence, harassment, and wearing the enemy down by attrition rather than head-on battles.

An explanatory note appearing on the title page of the group’s first pamphlet declared:

“For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless.[6]

Writing Update

In one of those odd coincidences, discovered that I had Heinlein’s graduation address to the Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, from which he graduated, on my phone. Don’t know how it got there. In among a manly-yet-ultimately-unintelligible defense of (some small fraction of) traditional morality from a sociobiological(1) perspective, he mentions his 5 rules for writers:

Heinlein Rules for Writers

Well. Got #1 nailed – I spend at least an hour writing *something* just about every day, often a lot more, when I’m not out manning it up in the wilderness. So, yea, I write.

Problems start with #2. So, inspired, I lined up 4 nearly-finished stories that are between a week and several years old, and said: let’s do this thing! Spent a couple hours, got closer. If the things that have come up, as mentioned in the last post, permit – and they should – I should in fact finish a couple at least in the next week.

#3 is a BIG part of #2. That’s where I must remember that I’m a rookie, I’m not Walter Miller, my first output is not going to be a timeless classic – but it could be pretty fun IF I can finish it and let it go.

#4 Wow, the resources on the Web for writers to find markets are impressive. Concurrent with finishing up these stories, I shall pick who it is who will have first crack at rejecting them. I read through the submission guidelines to somebody’s helpful list of SFF markets (sorted by how much they pay!) and discovered that there are markets for what I would have thought of as super-short stories – under 2,000 words.  Good thing I checked, because a couple in the pile could actually benefit from being that short, whereas I would before have thought it a good thing to make them 5-6,000 words long. So, I’m making a list and checking it twice.

#5 is where Heinlein says it gets real tough. I don’t think so, for me, anyway – if I can get past #4, getting emotionally beat up AGAIN seems small potatoes. Let’s get those callouses developed.

I think the kids all getting grown is making this writing stuff more real. Younger daughter is home for the summer after a semester in Rome, but middle son and elder daughter will remain living where there lives really are these days, and come home only briefly. So, it’ll be mom, dad, 13 year old, and 19 year old for about 3 months, then back to just the three of us – for a couple of years, then the two of us from then on out. I don’t expect the college kids – they will both be juniors next year – to ever come home for the summer again. Each has plans for the next steps in their lives, and the summer is where you get work on those.

I will have many hours of being alone to fill. I’ve always wanted to write, and do in fact write a lot – this becomes now the next logical step.

Wish me luck!

  1. What are the cool kids calling sociobiology these days? Over my lifetime, the idea that human behaviors can be fully explained via Natural Selection seems to have changed its popular name about every few decades, as the previous term has acquired a patina of dishonor. Here, let’s Google:  other terms include Darwinian anthropology, human behavioral ecology and evolutionary psychology. But, judging from Wikipedia, Sociobiology has been hanging in there as the preferred term since like the 1980s, even though behavioral ecologists call themselves behavioral ecologists even when the ecology under consideration is human society. Somebody needs to start referring to The Bell Curve as a sociobiological study (it not, really, as far as I can tell – but the truth is irrelevant) and we can get people to make up something new. How about anthro-sociology? bio-behaviorism?

Couple Links: Education

Things have come up. You know, things. So not sure how much blogging I’ll be doing for the next few weeks. Anyway:

A. Mike Flynn, who I am beginning to suspect hides a curmudgeon behind all that good cheer and erudition, posts about this delightful chart:

To sum up: adjusted for inflation, school costs have more than doubled in 25 years, despite a mere 22.6% increase in the number of students. Librarians – imagine! – are the only ‘instructional staff’ to have decreased in number – absolutely, not just in proportion to the increased number of students.

Commenter Sean points out that the biggest part of the increase is in the ancillary staff needed to comply with federal regulations that insist everybody be mainstreamed. Thus, where in the 1960s a school could be run with one teacher per classroom, one principal, a secretary and a janitor – a total of 3 people who didn’t teach full time – now the other people involved outnumber the teachers significantly in all schools.

This phenomenon of always growing staff provides a nice segway to a general observation about how you get, hold, and grow power: you need your guys in place everywhere you might be challenged. A clumsy or arrogant man might start by trying to replace those he cannot control with those he can. Somebody with the power to do something is very likely to notice this. (1)

A more sophisticated operator starts by merely making sure his people are there, waiting for attrition to take care of his opponents and making sure his people get the main gatekeeper roles so that he can eventually replace his enemies with his people. This insertion of loyal hacks is easiest to achieve if the pool of potential positions is growing – you don’t have to eliminate your enemies, just outflank them. Therefore, would be tyrants are often in favor of anything that requires more staff.

Only once this process is well underway does the would be tyrant risk out and out attacks to remove opposition. This is why education is in a constant state of ‘reform’, needing ever new programs and staff.

This is the state of education in America today. The ‘educators’ – a new class that didn’t exist until well into the 19th century – started by establishing education departments in the states and education schools in the colleges.  Virgin fields, as it were, with no established power to unseat. At the time – first half of the 1800s – education was delivered by very many largely independent sources, from the one-room schools on the frontiers, to myriad religious and private schools in the cities, to the local parson who educated Jefferson. Learning to read from the King James Bible and how to cipher figuring bushels and pecks with daddy on the farm – these many approaches were how America produced the generations that won the War of Independence and drafted the Constitution.

As Socrates pointed out, charging to teach something any competent adult could do is fraud. Before you can even try that scam, you must somehow convince Grandma she can’t teach reading and Dad that he can’t teach math. Convincing American adults of their educational incompetence took over 100 years.

Within a generation, these new educators, from their positions as gatekeepers at the state and college level, began to insert their people into the newly-created and ever-expanding education bureaucracies. The cities fell; the rural school boards and one-room schools took longer. Subterfuge and lies have always been the main tool of destruction.

Which leads to:

B. This video is all sorts of chopped up – don’t know why – but in the few minutes here, John Taylor Gatto describes the process by which the education establishment mops up the last feeble pockets of educational freedom:

 

This is essentially how they destroyed the one room schools in the first place. Bait and switch fueled by outright lies. Seems a few remote one room schools still exist, and that the locals love them dearly. They can see with their own eyes that the schools produce better educated, more sane students and, besides, this is New England, land of town hall democracy. So the education department gets the school buildings condemned, and claims it will take as much to bring them up to code as to build a new school to replace them. Trouble is, that new school will be a typical modern school under the complete control of educators.

  1.  A colorful example: in 410, Olympius the master of intrigue had gotten his guys inserted into the leadership of the Legions in Italy. Sarus, the Roman Gothic general, noticed, and, not being too prone to overly subtle moves, gathered a 100 picked men and attacked an encamped Legion on horseback, getting past the defences and fighting his way through thousands of armed and skilled troops until he’d killed Olympius’s 20 or so men and those he suspected of supporting them – and got out alive. As a master of palace intrigue, that’s the sort of thing you’d want to avoid.