Good Afternoon December 31, 2016

Good afternoon on this the thirty first day of December, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2016.

Fair warning, I won’t be talking about the changing of the year because as a mathematician I just can’t get worked up about rolling over of numbers in arbitrarily chosen bases. We all have our weaknesses.

I put together a second computer, for my second son, so that he and his older brother can play minecraft together. He had been borrowing an old laptop of mine which was very slow (“laggy” is the term my eldest son has picked up from the minecraft youtubers he watches, though to my ears that refers more to events happening after the fact rather than low framerates). Interestingly he’s a bit young for most cooperative games because in minecraft they tend to be puzzle games, and he’s not old enough to really understand puzzles. Herobrine’s Mansion, which is a class RPG hack-and-slash adventure has proven to be nearly ideal since it is cooperative but the cooperation is all about hitting undead things with your sword until they’ve been restored to a normal state of being dead. It’s a wholesome activity—demon-infested corpses should (in general) be put down quickly and inhumanely—and simple enough even for young children to get the idea and not screw up the game for their older siblings. (It’s also really cute to hear him screaming, “Naughtie zombie! Naughtie skeleton!” as he bashes them with his preferred simulation of a re-dead maker.) I suspect in another year or so they’ll be able to play the games with logic puzzles in them, which will be very awesome to watch. Incidentally, I really enjoy playing Herobrine’s mansion with them. Hack-and-slash are some of my favorite games, and were since I was a child.

Which brings me back to the topic of restored continuity. With new technology people keep recreating old games, both for nostalgia and because the old games were good—I was going to say, “and just lacked good graphics”, but sometimes the graphics were good (if mostly by being skilfully suggestive), and in Minecraft unless you’re using a high quality resource pack (like Chromahills) together with a shader pack like the SEUS shaders, Minecraft doesn’t have good graphics. Anyway, there was a huge disruption of culture in the late 1800s and the first half or three quarters of the 1900s, but I think things are settling down. My parents, I believe, felt somewhat disconnected from me, and their parents—again, I believe—felt somewhat disconnected from them. But I don’t feel disconnected from my children. I don’t mean in a complete sense, of course; all parents have a strong connection to their children. I just mean culturally. My children play the same sorts of games that I played as a child, if perhaps as a somewhat older child than they are now. Then again I listened to the same sort of music my parents did—I was a big Simon & Garfunkel fan as a child—so there is probably some similarity there too. And the things I used to do that they don’t, I mostly don’t do now either. I don’t feel any loss of cultural connection because we had land-line phones and kids these days only use cell phones. I only use cell phones these days too. I think this is classed in, “my children are better off than I was”, even though I can’t take any credit for it unlike the immigrants who worked their fingers to the bone so their children would grow up with a good education and an easy job that doesn’t leave them weary and sore in the evening.

It’s an interesting subject, because for example audio codecs have gotten slightly better than mp3s, but it doesn’t matter much and the music is still the same (especially pop music with its eternal three cords). And amusingly phones are getting HD voices at a time when people increasing text rather than call each other. That in particular I find a fascinating trend. As soon as the technology in cell phones got good enough, we didn’t move to video calling or video+smell-o-vision or whatever. We “regressed” to pure text. Bad news for the blind, perhaps; great news for the deaf, and for most of much more convenient. But we’re not going to see HD text which is radically different from the texts we send now. I’m not such a fool as to think that life will be unchanged in 100 years—in A Stitch in Space I certainly gave a vision of progressed technology with implantables that overlay on top of our optic and auditory nerves, though I didn’t flesh its implications out all the way—but I suspect that we’re going to see technological progress appearing to slow down because of human preferences. We will preferentially adopt new technology which doesn’t require much change of us, and so new technology will often emulate old technology with improvements, and the people who grew up with that old technology will feel that things haven’t changed all that much. We’ll see, of course. Nothing is so hard to predict as the future. But at the very least I sure am enjoying it as my kids do the things that I did as a kid, or those things with mild variations.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 30, 2016

Good morning on this the thirtieth day in December, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2016.

I’ve been reading the latest Deus Vult post from TOF. It’s a fascinating thing, but the thing which caught my attention at the moment is the dating. Apparently “in the year of our lord” was originally “in the year of our lord’s incarnation”, which I rather like, so I’m adopting it. Also the habit of naming particular people and how far they were into what they were known for, to locate an event, was also an interesting practice.

On a different note, I’ve been talking with a fellow to whom I’ve had to explain that pride is a universal temptation because having a self immediately brings with it the possibility of placing the wrong value on one’s self. I called it a “universal temptation” and he asked, “how could something internal be a universal temptation?” Clearly, I’m not dealing with the brightest knife in the picnic basket.

Which brings up an interesting problem. If you are far smarter than the person you’re trying to explain something to, you don’t only have to be careful not to skip too many steps in your explanation, but to go through every step patiently. That’s important, but not enough. More important is that you have to be careful of what you are explaining. There are things which are simply too complex for people of limited intellects to grasp, at least in this fallen world, because the amount of mental energy required is more than can be exerted. Even where one is willing to patiently find out every stumbling block or missing piece of education and explain them, the person trying to follow will tire and get confused. He will lose track of why you were talking about this in the first place. And the end result will not be a man whose education has been greatly improved, but a man who has been greatly confused.

To give a concrete example, I was talking with a friend about the problem of evil, and explained all sorts of possible interpretations of natural disasters and other hard cases, and this didn’t get anywhere because every explanation requires three sub-explanations, and they in turn each required several sub-sub-explanations, and so on. Finally I said, “Let’s start again. It is possible that permitting some evil allows greater good to be achieved, and I trust God.” He replied, “I don’t.” I replied, “I know.” And the subject hasn’t come up since.

Presumably I could have done a better job explaining the complex particulars of how this or that evil is compatible with particular greater goods, but for whatever reason my friend was not able to follow me there, and no matter how willing I was to explain the path to him, he would always get too tired before he had gotten far along it, and we had to drop the conversation.

So, in conclusion, if you’re having trouble explaining something to someone who seems to be having great difficulty with it, don’t just try to come up with a simpler explanation. Try to come up with a simpler conclusion. Yes, you will leave things out. But you can’t teach a man more than he’s capable of learning anyway, so the trick is to find out what the most accurate version of the truth which he is capable of learning.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 29, 2016

Good morning on this the twenty ninth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Yesterday, I wrote about a post by Brian Niemeier. He stopped by and left a comment I found very interesting, so I’m copying it here:

Hi, Chris. I can certainly empathize with your problem.

Here’s a piece of advice from a friend who is far more financially astute than me: If you don’t have money, you can substitute time.

That advice dovetails nicely with a second key principle of indie publishing that I didn’t have space for in the OP, which is learn to do as much as you can by yourself. If you can do an hour of online research per day, take a community college night class, or attend a web seminar on cover art, formatting, or web design, you’ll gain skills that will slash your overall publishing costs.

And even if you don’t have extra time for learning new skills, producing professional quality books doesn’t have to be expensive. On average, each of my books cost me around $650 total to make and get to market. Building good professional relationships is key.

God bless,

In other news, I read this post by Russell Newquist. (If you missed my interview of him, here it is.) It’s in response to this post by Daytime Renegade, which was pondering the purpose of his blog. These posts bring up two things to me, which to some degree are variants on what Russell said. The first is about traffic growth. This blog has yet to gain much traction, or at least in ways that I know about. I’m not sure how much wordpress’s page view metrics capture people who read my posts in the wordpress news feed (supposedly 30 people are subscribed to my blog) and in RSS readers like newsblur. It might or might not, I just don’t know. My youtube channel certainly has gained more. As of the writing of this post I’m up to 182 subscribers, and there the subscriber count certainly followed something like an exponential growth pattern. (The mathematician in me really wants to point out that 1.000001n is exponential, but very close to linear.) But certainly it’s the case that since youtube recommends things based on view counts and just what people happen to watch, small numbers of views result in small numbers of recommendations. As one gets more views, one gets more recommendations, and hence more views. And thus more subscribers. But even without youtube’s recommendation engine, the same thing happens by way of more normal recommendations. In blogs this is shares on social media as well as other blogs linking to and talking about blog posts. Few readers generate few links and shares, but more generate more. The exponential growth curve is (more or less) inherent to the platform. It’s not merely how things work, it is (absent advertising) how things have to work. As Russell and I talked about in our interview, with production costs approaching zero, the key problem of our age is discoverability. And it is discoverability which produces this sort of growth curve. Patience may be the most practical of the virtues.

The other thing which I thought about was the subject of uniqueness, as Russell put it, or being an expert, as Daytime Renegade put it. Russell is right that originality is overrated. Russell gives this example:

You feel like none of your thoughts are new – but this is precisely because of all the time you spend reading: reading books, reading news, reading other blogs. You make the mistake of assuming that your readership is already familiar with all of the ideas you’re familiar with, because of course everyone else has read all the stuff you read. Doesn’t everybody?

In a word, no. Even other highly intelligent, highly educated people haven’t read everything you have. They can’t. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs on the Internet today. Roughly 1,000 new books are published every day on Amazon, with roughly five million already available in their Kindle catalog. Nobody can possibly read all of that, even if they’re independently wealthy and all they ever do is read.

That is, he gives the example of having read something that many if not most of your readers haven’t, so passing it on is giving them something that they could have gotten elsewhere, but didn’t. That is valuable, but there’s another reason that originality is overrated: in a somewhat different sense, originality is guaranteed. God is simple, but creation is complex. Every being in creation reflects some unique aspect of the goodness of God, and moreover created things work together to synergistically reflect some aspect of the goodness of God which they can’t reflect on their own. (This is related to how composite beings are real, which hyper-reductionism misses.) And rational creatures such as ourselves are each given the ability to appreciate some aspects of the goodness of God. I like archery and another man likes roller coasters; we each some some aspect of the goodness of God reflected by these created things which the other does not see. To some degree we can share these things—especially by describing the wonder of them through language. But also we can teach each other how to see these things. And here is where the guaranteed uniqueness comes from. Because each of us sees some different aspects of the goodness of God, whenever we describe anything to others, we do not describe it in precisely the same way. What is important, what is not; what we emphasize and what we don’t; what connections we make and what analogies we use—all these things may be similar, but will not the same, as what everyone else does when describing the same insight or truth. And equally true, not all readers will find all choices, emphasis, connections, and analogies intelligible; it depends on what they have been given to see. So having the same truth explained in many slightly different ways can really be of value to many people; as they find the people who explain truths in ways they find easy to understand, things they have have encountered before become intelligible. For all people, it’s quite possible that there are more than a few people who can’t learn from a smarter blogger than you just because what that blogger can give and what these people can receive are not compatible.

This is getting absurdly long so I’m going to cut it short, but one of the big themes of creation is that of delegation. When we feed a hungry person, we become God’s gift of food to that person. When two parents create a child, they become God’s act of creation of that child. In this way, by delegating his power to us, God incorporates us into himself. (This makes the incarnation, and the ancient Christian saying that God became man so that man could become God especially relevant, I think.) But it seems that within creation there is a great deal of delegation too. It’s easy to see in professions where people make tools for others to use, and so we share in each other, but this is specially relevant in intellectual matters. Geniuses can rarely explain things well except to very intelligent people, and very intelligent people can rarely explain things well except to intelligent people, and so on. There is variation, of course, and teaching is a learned skill, etc. But for those who think that they have nothing to contribute, it is no small matter to take the work of someone greater and make it intelligible to someone lesser. We all have our place within the hierarchy of being, and the greats often need the merely highly intelligent in order to have any impact at all. Socrates may have been the wisest man who lived, but his wisdom would not have helped nearly so many people were it not for an army of teachers who followed after him to explain his wisdom to people who couldn’t get it directly from his words.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 28, 2016

Good morning on this the twenty eighth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I read an interesting blog post by Brian Niemeier on the subject of how an indie author pays for all of the work he does while wearing his publisher hat. I think this accurately sumarizes his conclusion:

Never give anyone a percentage of the royalties for one-time work on a self-published project.

So far I’ve followed that myself, though Brian (being a much more popular author) comes at it from a very different angle than I do. He discusses at length why giving away a large part of what you own—let’s face it, as important as the cover, editing, etc. are, without the book they’d be nothing—is a really bad idea financially. And let’s face it, authors do not typically have a smooth, even, reliable income stream in the way that, say, university professors do. And to be clear, it’s obvious in his post that he’s talking about paying a fair one-time price for a person’s work, such that they’ve been well compensated for the value of the time they put in.

But I’ve got the opposite problem. My royalties don’t amount to much, yet—I’m still only in year 3 of my 20 year plan—and until one starts to make real money from books there’s absolutely no guarantee that one ever will. (So far sales have paid for one cover and part of the second cover.) Especially in my case where I’ve never been the stuff of which popularity is made. So I’ve got a strong preference for paying a one-time fee for work such as cover art and copy-editing (I haven’t been able to afford to pay for full editing yet), because this ensures that the person I’m dealing with has been paid fairly for their time. I’m not asking anyone else to share in my risk.

God bless you.

Good Evening December 27, 2016

Good evening on this the twenty seventh day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I’m sorry I missed the last few days. Things have been really crazy. On the plus side, I did the interview with Russell Newquist:

It was a great conversation, and while it did digress a few times—all conversations which involve me as a participant digress, it seems to be an iron law of conversation—I think it hit on a number of interesting subjects and I found Russell’s perspective quite interesting.

I also suspect he’s right that advertising as a business model is probably going to be increasingly non-viable to support writing, and that with distribution coming ever closer to being free, the big problem that we’re going to have to solve is discoverability.

Good Evening December 24, 2016

Good evening on this the twenty forth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I was recently in a conversation which Eve Keneinan pointed out (paraphrased):

I think that you need to grasp what the resurrection means fully in order to evaluate it. Christ brought a couple people back from the dead, so it’s not just that.

Which brought to mind this passage:

“I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it up again.”

Which is an utterly fascinating statement. To be brought back to life by the power of another is not that different from being brought to life in the first place, which is normally done by the power of another. But to be able to bring oneself back from the dead is quite another thing. It implies quite a different level of power, and quite a different reason for having a temporal life in the first place.

One of the many interesting things about Christianity is that it is entirely a story about a freely given gift; which fits in which what natural theology teaches us. Since God is complete in himself (simple with no parts), we cannot give him anything, an so the only possible reason God created us was for our sake. He cannot receive, but he can give.

On a different note, I’m at a relative’s house and we’re watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on DVD, and while it’s certainly enjoyable, it does turn out that the Blu-Ray version is noticeably better than the DVD version. (I’ve found that’s often not the case, for example I don’t think that the blu-ray of Terminator 2 is noticeably any better than the DVD version. Pride and Prejudice, by contrast, is much better on blu-ray. The one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, I mean.)

Have a happy Christmas, and may God bless you.

Good Afternoon December 23, 2016

Good afternoon on this the twenty third day of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

I see that TOF just posted his latest installment in the Deus Vult series. It’s a series of historical blog posts which is very reminiscent of his excellent Great Ptolemaic Smackdown series. I’m looking forward to reading that.

I finally got my video responding to my friend’s nephew out. (The Probability of Theology.) I’ll be posting the script to it soon. I’ve still got a bunch of other videos to edit, including Chapter 4 from Orthodoxy which I recorded several months ago. Editing audio can be a real chore, I’ve found. Partially I’m not that fond of listening to the sound of my own voice, but partially it’s that it’s hard to edit audio in less time than about three times the time that the audio takes to run. Even with fast movements, one must listen to the audio, make the edits, then listen to make sure that the edited audio is correct. It’s quite time consuming. On the plus side it can be done five minutes at the time, and while the house isn’t as quiet as it has to be for recording.

On an unrelated note, something I’ve never understood, and may well never understand, are thin-skinned people with sharp tongues. I can understand people who can give as good as they get, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me that people who can’t take sharp criticism will give it out. That’s just inviting people to respond in kind; it’s like a person with brittle bones picking fights with strangers on the street. It makes no sense purely from the perspective of self-interest.

This is related to the phenomenon of twitter atheists telling me I’m irrational, delusional, and mind-controlled by an evil entity, then complaining when I tell them they’re badly educated and incompetent at logical thinking. Twitter atheists are almost invariably both of those things; one fellow who told me that theists can’t deal with logic seemed taken aback when I asked him how many university-level logic courses he’d taken. I’m increasingly wondering if this isn’t just an influx people who all want to be the next Christopher Hitchens or TJ Kirk or Bill Maher or whomever, all trying out what they’ve seen and hoping to get fame and fortune as a result. In fairness to them, who becomes popular is often very hard to predict. None of the famous atheists I mentioned are particularly beautiful or smart, though they are charismatic in the same sort of way that dogs are. I mean, if you think about it, people love dogs despite them being ugly, smelly, greedy creatures who urinate on your floors and expect you to clean it up. That’s not a bad metaphor for popular atheists, either.

Also that atheist who told me that theists can’t handle logic later offered to debate me without insults, and I explained that I’ve read Hume and Nietzsche, and I have several friends who are Nietzsche scholars, so what the hell does he have to offer me that I should debate him? He told me that he wasn’t interested in debating me any more because I’m too full of myself. Meanwhile, in theory he doesn’t even have a position. Which is necessary for a debate to happen anyway. I had to point this out to a number of commenters. If one person makes the case for a position and another person says that he didn’t do it well enough, he’s just heckling. As my friend put it, “If you don’t have a position then by definition you’re in the audience. Shut up, sit down, and listen to the people who do have positions. Maybe you’ll learn something.” I wonder how many of these people realize that if they’re doing anything, they’re making Christianity seem more plausible by making atheists look dumb. On the other hand, it is their claim that while geniuses can be Christian, and even partial idiots can be Christian, all complete idiots are atheists. It’s tempting to say that they’re voluntarily claiming to be dumb as a bag of hammers, but it’s never been proven that hammers are that dumb. It is a very curious question in what way hammers relate to God. Of course in the aftermath of Modern Philosophy we like to think of matter as dead, but experiments in quantum mechanics certainly are suggestive (though by no means conclusive) that that’s not the case. It turns out that elementary particles just don’t behave themselves (hence falling back to statistical trends instead of individual prediction). And the world is in general a stranger place then we tend to imagine it.

God bless you.


Good Evening December 22, 2016

Good evening on this the twenty second year of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

So I got the idea to interview some of the authors that I know on my youtube channel. Specifically I’ve lined up Russell Newquist and Brian Niemeier. Both men are Catholic, and thoughtful, so I think there’s some rich ground to explore. One of the great things about the Catholic faith is that it is universal in the sense of being for all sorts of men, not for being a cookie-cutter that can make all men alike. That is, I think, the ideal for conversation: enough in common real subjects can be talked about; enough different that different ideas can be exchanged.

Actually, I should mention that Russell is also an indie publisher with a nascent publishing house in addition to being an author. His publishing house is called Silver Empire, and  they’ve got a project in the works called Lyonesse. It’s a way Russell has conceived of making short stories economically viable in the modern age (with magazines having gone the way of the horse drawn carriage. Incidentally, I actually was driving behind a horse drawn carriage two nights ago, for a minute or two, before it turned off the main road. (I think it was some kind of Christmas gimmick.)

I think that we’ll have interesting discussions, but of course one motivation for Russell and Brian is that doing these interviews functions as publicity. But my channel isn’t very big. Right now it’s only got about 170 subscribers. But publicity doesn’t need to be all that big; there is of course the issue that it’s not about how many people you reach but how many of the right people you reach. (By “the right people” I mean people who want to buy what you’re selling.) But for things to reach a large audience without you having to pay for it with money, you have to pay for it with something, and generally that something is interesting content. And that’s where doing an interview on a small-time youtube channel can be worth it. I don’t have many viewers (compared to what you need for selling enough books to make a living at it), but if the interview is interesting, Russell and Brian have friends with larger audiences who will spread the word about the interview. This is related to a mistake that self-published authors sometimes make. Your friends are not your market; they’re your marketing. At least if you write a book that they can be proud of. If you write something they would be embarrassed about, that’s a different matter. But if you do that, you’ve probably got bigger problems on your hand.

Anyway, it’s part of a nice situation where things are mutually beneficial, at least as long as I do a good job interviewing them. 🙂

God bless you.

Good Morning December 21, 2016

Good morning on this the twenty first day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I ran into this description of knowledge on twitter:

Which, in case twitter ever goes away, said, in reponse to my saying that you can tell which actions are good and which evil, “by all the normal methods of discovering how the world works”:

You mean my senses filtering information to my brain, which reasons and makes choices based on past experience?

Unless I’m badly misreading the guy, he’s gone full Hume. As the saying goes, never go full Hume. Oddly, he’s also one of the people who argued with me about alinguism. If knowledge is “knowledge” by which we mean anticipation of future sense experience by way of past associations of sense experience (that’s not Hume’s definition word-for-word, but it’s close enough), then “language” would indeed not mean anything. To some degree this is just a testimony of how little atheists think about what they or anyone else says.

I think that I may do a video on alinguism, issuing a challenge to atheists to provide evidence of language to me. If I do, I’ll have a section where I anticipate the most common “evidence” of “language” so I can get those out of the way. I may even have a section at the end where I give the game away and explain that the problem is that atheists fall back on hyper-reductionism, where no composite entities are real; only the indivisible elements out of which they are made is real, and since language is not an indivisible element, this hyper-reductionism doesn’t permit believing in language. What makes this work is that composite entities have a different mode of being than indivisible entities, and consequently a different sort of reality. Because these different sorts of reality can be distinguished, one can be denied while the other is affirmed. This is appalling nonsense, of course, since as human beings they are composite entities and to deny the reality of composite entities is to deny their own reality. And yet they continue to exist.

Oh well. Atheists will frequently say that their believing in morality while being an atheist proves that morality is in no way dependent on God. I have no idea what to do with a person who is not in the habit of thinking about what he himself says. Fortunately, we can pray for him.

God bless you.

Good Evening December 20, 2016

Good evening on this the twentieth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I don’t have much because today my oldest son was recovering from a minor outpatient surgery he had yesterday. It went well, and he’s doing quite well—up and active—but he gets upset very easily in an atypical way that suggests that all is not normal. Which I wouldn’t expect it to be, it’s just in the category of appearances can be deceiving since he seems to be doing so well.

Yesterday on twitter I declared myself an alinguist. That is, someone who lacks a belief that language exists. Words exist, of course, but they’re brute facts and “language” is just a fiction that bronze-age people used to explain words. And since I don’t believe in language but communicate just fine, communicating with words is obviously not evidence of language. But if anyone has such evidence, I’d be glad to hear it. After which I will summarily dismiss it as not evidence, of course, since there cannot be evidence that language exists, but being willing to listen marks me out as being very virtuous. And just to make things clear, linguists don’t believe in Klingon or Sindarin, I just don’t believe in their language either.

And so forth. Sometimes one needs the emotional release afforded by parody. It’s not like any atheists will actually get it, of course, but on the other hand you never know when you’ve tilled the ground so that someone else can plant the seed that will one day turn into the tree that will bear fruit. And the inspiring incident was some twitter atheists showing up out of nowhere and saying stupid things at me with all the self-assurance that goes along with an impressive incompetence at the basics of logical thinking. Which is not in itself a justification for making fun of them, but on the other hand making fun of them may be a bitter medicine which helps them. Some of them are so bad at thinking that the only response which seems at all honest is to point out that they’re far too bad at thinking to be attempting thinking on serious issues, and should go back to the beginning. That sounds harsh, but where it’s true—and the people I’m talking about are incompetent at secular thinking, not just thinking on religious matters—anything else would be doing them the disservice of allowing their false notion of competence to go unchecked. Such people won’t learn from me, of course—I often recommend courses in logic at local community colleges for that reason—but they weren’t going to do that anyway. If a man has a clear compound fracture in his leg, but for some reason challenges you to a 5k, the thing to do is not to politely humor him and slow up so he’s not too far behind. The thing to do is your best to get him to a hospital. Now imagine if both his legs had multiple compound fractures, and there was a gaping wound in his left arm, and you saw him struggling mightily to lift a gun to his head because (due to loss of blood) he thought it was a fly swatter. Now just replace all those things which the epistemological beliefs of the average twitatheist, and you’ve got an idea how badly off these people are. Sportsmanship is for healthy people. Who are playing sports.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 19, 2016

Good morning on this the nineteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Last night my children and I watched the A Charlie Brown Christmas. The seven year old got more out of it than the four year old did, which I think will shock no one. It’s a very interesting short film. It’s fundamentally about the contradiction between the secular holiday of Christmas and the religious holiday of Christmas; as such it is itself just such a contradiction. It is fundamentally a commercial work, and yet its theme is genuinely religious.

Ken Levine has an interesting blog post where he recounts how it came on the air in the form we know it, and it’s not surprising that executives at CBS wanted the part where Linus quoted the bible removed (I recommend you read the whole thing, btw). And yet it is a commercial work, not a religious work. That need not be a big distinction, since Christians do engage in commerce and their christianity should infuse everything they do, but for a great many people it is a big distinction, which is what makes it being a smaller distinction here so surprising. Sometimes, it turns out, someone having an artistic vision does result in better art.

There’s also something fascinating about A Charlie Brown Christmas because it is a deeply melancholy film. There is the counterpoint of the dancing to Vince Guaraldi’s Linus and Lucy, which is an extraordinarily fun piece of music. But the driving force behind the plot is how Charlie Brown is unhappy that he doesn’t fit in, and further that he’s unhappy that he’s unhappy since the Christmas season is supposed to be a happy time. Which actually, I think, makes the film work rather well as an Advent film. Consider the lyrics from one of the few Advent songs:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
who mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Charlie Brown is mourning in lonely exile, even if his exile happens to leave him physically next to other people. After all, in the Babylonian Captivity the Jews didn’t all live in the hills; many of them lived among other peoples after they were scattered. And in fact the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, where the other children partially accept Charlie Brown by way of accepting his tree, then singing Hark! The Herald Angel Sings, also mirrors the refrain of the song:

Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

It is somehow fitting that exiled among the Christmas songs is one Advent song, and exiled among TV Christmas specials is one TV Christmas special which is really about Advent. And both are about being exiled and longing for things to be put right. Well, that’s what Advent is all about, Charlie Brown.

God bless you.

Getting Cinelerra to work with a Webcam Video

This is just a quick technical post which I’m leaving more for anyone googling around trying to figure out what was wrong and how to solve it. It’s going to be pretty much nothing like my normal posts.

This is all taking place on Ubuntu 16.04 using a Logitech C920, Cheese to record the webcam video, and Cinelerra compiled from the official upstream (though the same thing happened in cinelerra-cv). I recorded the video in 720p even though the camera supports higher because it saves disk space and my intro and outro are in 720p. Plus it’s just me talking, not something interesting to look at, so I don’t think that the extra disk space, upload time, etc. is worth the trouble, especially since most people stream 720p not 1080p (I believe; I haven’t looked up official youtube statistics if there are any). What Cheese produces—I’d say “by default” but about the only option you get is the recording resolution—is a .webm file, which is a matroska container with VP8 as the video codec and vorbis as the audio codec.

Initially this looked like it worked well as it imported into cinelerra. But then I ran into the first problem: for some reason the video was marked as having a frame rate of 250.0, not 25.0. This caused cinelerra to play it at 10x fast forward. That was fixed easily enough by right-clicking on the media clip and choosing info and setting the framerate to 25. But then I hit the bigger problem which took me quite a while to solve: my voice sounded like the chipmunk effect had been applied to it. Also it was out of sync and then did weird, repeaty things when it ran out but there was still video to go. Of course that sounds like an audio-rate mismatch, but it wasn’t that. I triple-checked that one. Finally I noticed that there was a single channel in the audio stream. Well, actually, I kind if figured that out when inserting the video in cinelerra only pasted one track and I had to duplicate it, but I didn’t notice that for some reason cinelerra thought that the video had two audio channels. I’m not sure if this is a limitation in cinelerra or what, but the number of audio channels was not configurable. So I used ffmpeg to convert the video to stereo with 25fps, and it worked perfectly in cinelerra. For reference, here’s the command like I used:

ffmpeg -i ~/Videos/Webcam/2016-12-14-173128.webm -s hd720 -r 25 -ac 2 -strict -2 output.mp4

I converted to mp4 for an inconsequential reason, I think it would have worked as well to convert to VP8. Also you may notice I scaled to 720p, because I did actually record the original in 1080p and I wanted it to make my intro and outro video segments which as I said above were in 1080p. I believe this (which leaves the video unchanged) would work too:

ffmpeg -i ~/Videos/Webcam/2016-12-14-173128.webm -r 25 -ac 2 -c:v copy -c:a vorbis -strict -2 test.webm

A quick test showed that video to be slightly out of sync, so I’m not sure what that’s about, but something like it would probably work.

That being said, I’m switching to guvcview. It’s got far more options, can pull video at the full 30fps the camera can deliver it (using the camera’s built-in h.264 compression), and can record in stereo audio and video marked at the correct framerate. If I could just figure out some way of getting it to record the h.264 coming off of the camera rather than re-encoding it, that would be even better, but it’s not the end of the world to re-encode it. My computer is far more than fast enough to re-encode in h264 or vp8.

Good luck.

Good Morning December 18, 2016

Good morning on this the eighteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Yesterday I talked about the game Dragon City. I’ve kept playing the game, and there’s a very interesting dynamic in its mode of play. It uses the free to play model, where it’s free but you can pay money for extras. But the odd thing about this is that paying the money doesn’t actually get you much. Here’s where I am today, btw:

Screenshot (Dec 18, 2016 11-11-06 AM).png

And if I had put about $10 in yesterday, I’d be only a little further along. It’s likely I don’t know the best way of using gems (the things you can buy which can be used to speed up certain actions, and pay for certain types of buildings), but at the same time it’s not like there’s a detailed video tutorial which explains how to get the most out of your gems. Especially since I’m not flush with cash because it’s too hot in my house to burn more dollar bills for heating, it seems much more practical to just wait a bit longer.

And this is where we come to the curious aspect of this sort of game. It’s designed to be very addictive, but it requires not inconsiderable amounts of patience to play. There’s a small amount of action every few minutes, but most of the time you’re just waiting for things to complete. So the very odd things is that while it is created the way it is in order to try to maximize profits for the people who made the game, it turns out to be a fairly good tool for teaching people practice. God has a sense of humor.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 17, 2016

Good morning on this the seventeenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

As I write this, the two oldest children are currently watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the second time. It’s one of my favorites too. Boris Karloff does an amazing job narrating and acting the story. Of course I saw it at least once per Christmas season as a child myself. There’s a lot made of the massive discontinuity in how children grew up with how their parents grew up that’s been brought about both by cultural changes but especially by technology, and that’s certainly true, but in many ways technological change is slowing down, and those of us who grew up with technology are having our children grow up with at least similar technology. If we don’t tell many stories around the fire any more, we do watch the same Christmas specials. I’m not interested in arguing that it’s the same—because it probably isn’t—but on the other hand it is continuity. There are things my children are doing which are just like the things I did, and this does form points of connection. As nice as it is to have things in common with my children, I think it’s much more important for them to have things in common with me. My oldest son found it very interesting that I used to watch Scooby Doo, and he’d often ask for “the Scooby Doo you used to watch as a kid.” Granted, it was very well done and I still enjoy it now (see my post about formative fiction), but I think that personal connection was important to him, too.

And on the subject of technology, there was for a while—I think most concentrated roughly in the 1950s through the 1990s—the idea that technology was on an exponential curve of improvement. You can find people who will talk about the singularity (when technology really starts accelerating because technology is able to make itself without our intervention, which I jokingly summarize as, “and the word became silicon, and dwelt among us” (see John 1:14)). And yet, this is not how a great deal of technology actually develops in practice. Consider cars, for example. From 1910 to 1960, the top speed of (ordinary) cars went from something like 20 miles per hour to around 70 miles per hour. By the 80s, however, the practical top speed of cars was something like 85 miles per hour. Again talking about ordinary cars, you wouldn’t want to drive a car made in the 2000s above 90 miles per hour. While the engine and drive train and so on can take it, the problem is that he aerodynamics are awful. It’s not just a matter of air resistance, but the fact that the air can push so hard on a vehicle at that speed that it isn’t safe to go faster. Between aerodynamic lift and sideways pushing, it’s just dangerous to drive a common car that fast. I don’t think that there’s much of a difference between cars made in the 2000s and cars made in the 2010s in that regard, and I don’t think there’s likely to be much of an improvement in cars made in the 2020s in that regard either. Most roads don’t permit you to go nearly 80 miles per hour anyway, so why pay lots of extra money and make trade-offs in convenience and interior space to be able to drive at such high speeds once every few years? And here we come to one of the most significant retarders of technological progress in the modern world: economics.

There are all sorts of things it’s technologically possible to do which do not get done because no one finds them to be worth the money. There was, a few years back, a high powered rifle which used a linux-based computer and high quality digital camera to be able to identify targets, then when you pull the trigger it waits until you are aiming the gun exactly to hit the target and only then fires. It could accurately hit targets almost two miles away, I believe, but it cost well in excess of $50,000. So no one bought it, because, well, why would you? It’s very expensive and takes all the fun out of shooting. My guess is that they probably had military applications in mind and were just using the civilian market as a means of proving that it worked, but who knows? They stopped making it because of a lack of interest, and it no longer exists, so far as I know. It’s not that we can’t make it, it’s just that we don’t. (The “we” being our species.)

Televisions are another interesting example of this. TV makers have a big problem that people don’t replace TVs very often, but there was a big boom in demand back when everyone was switching from CRTs to LCD TVs. They really want another replacement boom, but despite the fact that it’s now possible to replace one’s 40″ TV with a 60″ TV, most people don’t find that to be very necessary, and while they might go for a bigger TV when their current TV finally breaks, it’s not compelling to spend the money now. TV makers also hoped that 3D was going to be huge and drive another lucrative replacement cycle, but 3D offers very little over 2D (not nearly as much as color offered over black-and-white) and is generally too much of a pain in the neck to be worth it. 4K TVs are the current hoped-for rainbow with a pot of gold at the end, but the actual quality improvement over 1080p as far as human beings evaluate it is very minor. (Technically 4k is four times the resolution and thus four times as good as 1080p, but it makes for a very slight increase in enjoyment to a human being.) I’m going to come back to this topic later and give it a more thorough treatment, but the upshot is: technology is slowing down in an umber of key areas because our capacity to enjoy technology is becoming saturated. So I think we’re going to be feeling like there is more continuity between the generations than the people in the 1960s through the 1980s felt. Just a guess, but it’s looking like it, at least on the technological disruption front.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 16, 2016

Good morning on this the sixteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

I recently started playing the game Dragon City:


It’s a mobile game, which means it’s played on a phone or tablet. My two boys have been playing it, so I decided to start playing too in part because it looked like fun, and in part because I think it’s good for me to be playing the same games that they do. It gives us a connection, both personally and as parent/child so that adulthood is not as foreign a thing to them. A lot of people lose sight of the nature of the parent/child relationship. It is not an equal relationship, but it’s purpose is to raise the children up to adulthood so that it can become an equal relationship. There’s a reason why God is analogized to a father within christianity; he created us out of nothing so that he might give us more, and even more than that incorporates us into himself so that we might become more like him. As the ancient Christian saying goes, God became man that man might become God.

On the one hand, playing games is part of adulthood, and not showing children that is misleading. On the other hand, it’s also the case that to raise someone up, you have to be able to lower yourself to meet them. If they could meet you on a higher level, they wouldn’t need your help.

There’s also an interesting aspect to such games that they are nearly perfect skinnerian training devices for playing them. A descendant of games like farmville which was itself a descendant of Sim City, it’s in the genre called resource management where you farm for some resources and then allocate them in order to maximize your resource acquisition. You can also buy things enjoyable for their own sake; in this case dragons where you get to enjoy the pretty art. That last part is crucial because if your game is purely utilitarian in the way that materialists assure us that real life is, we lose interest very quickly because it’s utterly pointless. No one takes a boring game and attempts to give it some other meaning like atheists constantly assure us is why we are not without meaning if we are without God. In real life, we only consider activities meaningful if they are related to something we inherently know is meaningful, beauty being perhaps one of the clearest examples. I think that game makers are increasingly discovering that allowing people to unlock beauty as the reward for playing the game is one of the best motivations there is. (Which is not to denigrate other motivations, like the excellence of action which is the reward in many games like first person shooters, etc.) It’s an interesting trend.

And of course there is also the risk of such easy rewards becoming addictive. That’s the flip side of it being a skinnerian training device for playing it. On the other hand that’s why such games are fun at all—that you can get lots of success and rewards with enough effort to feel like you’re doing something but the minimum effort so you get the rewards much faster than in normal life. Like most good things, it can be abused.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 15, 2016

Good morning on this the fifth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I ran into an interesting video talking about how in the star wars universe the Dark Side doesn’t make sense:

To some degree it’s meant for humor, but it’s also got serious analysis, and it points to a common problem, especially in modern fiction, of unrealistic evil organizations. To some degree this is a similar sort of issue pointed out by the top 100 things I’d do if I was an evil overlord. It includes things like:

45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say “And here is the price for failure,” then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.

48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.

68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they’d better save my life again.

187. I will not hold lavish banquets in the middle of a famine. The good PR among the guests doesn’t make up for the bad PR among the masses.

188. I will funnel some of my ill-gotten gains into urban renewal projects. Although slums add a quaint and picturesque quality to any city, they too often contain unexpected allies for heroes.

Basically, the problem is that evil organizations are often designed in completely unstable ways that could never work. This instability is exploited by the hero, making the writer’s life much easier but the story far less satisfying. Truly evil organizations are generally the decaying corpses of better organizations which are currently run by a parasite, but it is a short-lived phenomenon because it can only last while there is host left to be consumed. The most obvious counter-examples are marxist dictatorships, but as evil as these were, they rarely managed to be completely evil. Like the Roman empire killing Christians in the arenas, the extreme evil tended to be in spurts, and concentrated in particular places. North Korea might be the best counter-example to this, but I believe it largely continues to exist as it does because it is the client-state of China, and as such it still represents decay, though a somewhat special case because it’s one small decaying piece of a much larger host. Much of what keeps North Korea intact is, I believe, aid from China. (I’m not very familiar with this and I might be wrong; it might be a better counter-example than I think it is.)

This was always a problem with the Klingons, incidentally. Modern armies have a tooth-to-tail ratio of about 1:10; the high technology of Star Trek would probably leave that about the same through increasing maintenance requirements but also increasing automation. So how did a warrior culture as thoroughly warrior-focused as the klingons manage to have scientists and engineers and accountants? These are all things necessary to get a functioning space ship flying around in outer space, and yet all anyone in the Klingon empire wanted to do was hit each other with pain sticks and boast while they ate live animals which were trying to eat them first.

Probably the worst example of this in fiction would be the reavers in Firefly. They were a completely chaotic society of mindless killing maniacs who somehow also managed to operate and maintain space ships. One can at least imagine Klingon engineers who did all the warrior stuff in their spare time; the reavers couldn’t even talk to each other—at least they only appeared capable of jibbering—and were so consumed with killing and destruction it’s really hard to imagine them refueling their space ships, let alone performing maintenance on them.

It’s a theme I’ll come back to, but it’s tied into the basic truth that evil does not have a positive existence, only a negative existence, like a shadow. Evil organizations can, therefore, only ever be in decay. Minimally functional societies require far too many virtues to ever be completely evil.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 14, 2016

Good morning on this the fourteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I’ve been reading TOF’s The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown. It’s excellent, and you really should read it.

And then by complete coincidence, I happened across this video, which is a description of a classroom lesson on scientific experimentation:

It looks like a really good lesson for students in a science class, btw. If you don’t have time to watch the video, the professor seals a rectangle of aluminum foil inside of a block of paraffin which is very slightly larger than the foil, then asks his class to make observations and try to figure out what it is without doing destructive experiments. Especially in the version where the students can only look at it and ask the professor to turn it around and shine lights on it, this actually does a good job of representing the difficulty often faced in science: for one reason or another you can’t do the experiment which would actually tell you what you have, so you have to be crafty and clever to try to find substitute experiments. This applies to a great degree in the problem of astronomy, especially in the seventeenth century, when celestial objects were so remote and barely observable.

It’s also interesting to hear about the mistakes which the students make along the way, which to some degree mirror the progression we saw in astronomy, where assumptions always start out simple and familiar, then are disproved by experimental evidence.

Which actually brings up a really interesting topic I don’t have time to get into, about The Scientific Method versus actual science. The very short version is that half of the scientific method as typically described comes from Modern Philosophy where knowledge was reconceptualized1 from being descriptive of the real world to creative and limited to the inside of the human head. This corresponds roughly to the steps of the scientific method which are about forming a hypothesis and to a lesser degree devising tests. Since as Chesterton said the modern age is the age of publicity, Modern Philosophers have spread the idea that this is really the key to Science brand natural investigation (please read that like “Kleenex brand facial tissue”), when in fact it may be one of the less important parts. Theories, history has shown us, are a dime a dozen2. The hard part is getting good experimental data. Because as history has also shown us, experimental data is easy to come by if you don’t care whether the experimental data means anything. Experimental data where you’ve tested for the existence of variables and then controlled for them is very difficult indeed. It’s also often quite expensive. But I’d argue that it’s the experimentalists who really give science it’s glory. For some reason the theoretical physicists seem to have better publicity than the experimental physicists do, possibly because what they do is far less messy and therefore sexier than what the experimentalists do and can therefore be packaged for retail much more easily. But a great many exciting theories have turned out to be at best mediocre fiction, while experiments are often inconclusive but always true. And when they combine both, the experiments are amazing. In theory the experimentalists require the theorists to give them some idea what to experiment upon, but I’m not sure how true this is in practice. No one in the seventeenth century needed a theory in order to point a telescope at Jupiter and make detailed observations about its moons. As the saying goes:

In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there often is.

God bless you.


1. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist this absurd, modern word to describe the absurd, modern project.

2. This is actually overstating the case; they cost about how often academic scientists publish divided by their yearly salary. This actually makes them fairly expensive unless you consider them to be side-effects of some other job such as teaching students or increasing a university’s prestige to bring in donations.

Good Day December 13, 2016

Good day on this the thirteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I ran into an atheist on Twitter today who was repeating the talking point that if there were no people who believed in God, no one would call themselves atheists. This is a point as profound as saying that if human beings couldn’t produce the “b” sound, English would not use the word “blue” to name the color “blue”. Yeah, no kidding. I think it might have been news to the poor fellow that this point is barely fit for a kindergartener, and is a shameful waste of time when said to adults.

There are more than a few atheists on twitter who are:

  1. aggressive
  2. poorly educated
  3. not very bright

It’s hard to know what to do with such people. One wants to be kind, but on the other hand the kindest thing to do seems to be to point out that such people have nothing of value to say and be best off by far if they stopped talking and went and rectified numbers 1 and especially 2 and at least took number 3 into account since there’s not much they can do about it. Their lives are being based on a whole collection of lies, and it is in their best interest by far to throw the lies and out and rebuild on a solid foundation.

And I’m not just talking about repenting and believing in God. Learning what an argument is and how to make it would be a great idea. I had to explain to one atheist today that if he holds one of the premises of his argument to be unprovable, he can’t legitimately use it as a premise in his argument. (Specifically he claimed that he didn’t rape because of his empathy, and when I asked him for evidence of his claim he asked how he could be expected to prove a lack.) This is purely secular incompetence. I also had to explain to the same person that you can demonstrate you have understood somebody else’s point by explaining it in your own words to their satisfaction. He actually asked me how he could demonstrate he had understood my point! (I made that a condition of giving him an example of the rule I was quoted as saying which is why he was talking with me at all.) He made it all the way to being an adult without ever having encountered a technique for demonstrating that you’ve understood something!

It might be his fault for being badly educated—he might have attempted to assault all of his teachers until they gave up on him—but presumably it isn’t. And yet at the same time, he’s aggressively saying stupid things on the internet and acting as if he is competent at thinking and arguing when he obviously isn’t. That very incompetence means that one can’t use reasoned demonstrations of his incompetence to convince him—that would be like trying to demonstrate to a man with bad vision that he has bad vision using sharp pictures. The fault you’re trying to communicate inherently prevents that mode of communication. You can’t convince a man that he’s deaf by shouting at him.

There don’t seem to be many options open which have any plausible chance of working besides bluntly telling such a person that he should learn how to think and argue properly, and refusing all conversation and argumentation with him until he does. It’s not nice, but there doesn’t seem to be any other way to help such a man. Until he knows his current state is unacceptable, why would he change it? This is a most unpleasant conclusion, but I believe I’ve rediscovered excommunication. It’s almost like there was a reason for it in the first place.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 12, 2016

Good morning on this the twelfth day of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

The topic of Santa Claus is an interesting one. Last year I did some informal research into the origins of Santa Claus, and it seems like Santa Claus originated with the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as Twas the Night Before Christmas. (The name Santa Claus itself being presumed to be a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself a corruption of Saint Nicholas.) There are precursor figures that Santa Claus was undoubtedly drawn from, though for example the English figure of Father Christmas wasn’t very close.

One thing that has puzzled me about the later Santa Claus lore in relation to the poem is that the poem is fairly clear that the sleigh and reindeer traveled along the ground and essentially jumped up to the rooftop:

“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys‍—‌and St. Nicholas too

That pretty clearly does not describe descending from the sky but rising from the ground. Be that as it may, the common practice of presenting the myth of Santa Claus to children causes not a small amount of controversy, and though not the same as the original controversy around Christmas, it does bear some relationship. Originally protestants (or at a minimum English protestants, but I think it was most of them) were dead-set against Christmas as a papist tradition. Merriment and celebration don’t really go well with doctrines like the total depravity of man. (Luther is his own basket of contradictions, but his view of human nature was at best rosy only by comparison to Calvin’s; Luther thought that the saved would be smuggled into heaven, clothed by Christ, like snow-covered dung hills. Merry Christmas.)

In modern times the controversy is rather around the veracity of what is told to Children than that a good time is had by all, but there is the similarity of two camps around Christmas celebrations, one of which seems decidedly less jolly than the other.

Having said that, I myself have attempted to thread a middle ground. We do some of the rituals involved with Santa Claus, but at the same time I don’t tell my children anything factually inaccurate. The truth is, after all, pretty good: Saint Nicholas was a bishop who lived many centuries ago and was known for his love of, and kindness to, children. In his honor we give gifts to children in his name, continuing the celebration of generosity to those least able to give in return. Thus presents labeled as being from Santa Claus are, in that sense, from him, though we as our children’s parents also take part in that gift. It makes sense to my children according to their age and ability to understand, and doesn’t seem in any way to diminish their fun at listening to me reading the poem, or to getting gifts from Santa Claus, or the rest of it. Most of the time they talk as if the stories of Santa Claus are literally true anyway. The stories are, in any event, figuratively true.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 11, 2016

Good morning on this the eleventh day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I had an interesting exchange with my four year old son today:

Child: I want my [specific toy].

Me: Where did you last have it?

Child: In my hand.

Me: That’s… true.

It’s always funny when children answer questions in a very literal way, and it gets to the heart of what I think is a common misunderstanding of children: the idea that children are irrational. (There is, I think, a true idea that children are irrational in the sense of what changes at the age of reason, which is to say, when they seem to gain the ability to reason in an abstract manner, but that’s not what I mean and isn’t, generally, what people mean either.)

In particular, children aren’t nearly so much irrational as inexperienced. In a theoretical sense, knowledge and what you do with it are two separate things. This is related to the distinction of knowledge coming from experience and wisdom from learning the right lessons from that experience. Children take questions—like my question above—literally not because they can’t conceive of any wider meaning, but because they have no experience which suggests any wider meaning. Most of the things we say in life we mean very literally. “Don’t draw on the table with that crayon” does not have an esoteric meaning. “Do you need to use the potty” does not allude to any large topic with complex considerations. “Do you want a PB&J or Grilled Cheese?” touches on no subtleties. But when I ask my child where he had his toy last, this does bring up some of the complexities of looking for lost items; or at least it is meant to. But the child can only know that by this question being a prelude to trying to conjure in his imagination where the object was.

And as an incidental detail of child raising, it turns out that doing this is in fact a learned skill. I can remember with my oldest child helping him to find things several times by doing the very simple, “where were you when you last had it” and then going and looking there. They learn that skill very quickly, though, since it’s so effective, and it only take a few repetitions before they go look on their own and only ask for help when it’s not where they remember playing with it last.

There’s another interaction I can recall, which shows a similar pattern:

Me: Stop hitting your brother with Optimus Prime!

Child: Puts down optimus prime, picks up Bumblebee, starts hitting brother with Bumblebee.

The child wasn’t trying to get by on a technicality. In the first few months of hitting one’s brother, there are a lot of complex lessons to learn, such as that the objection to optimus prime (which I didn’t explicitly state) is not some special thing about Optimus Prime which I know and the child didn’t and so he just had to trust me, but that Optimus Prime was made of hard plastic, which the child can know himself, and consequently that this same objection holds to Bumblebee, who is also made of hard plastic. By contrast, when the children are hitting each other with balloons, I don’t object, because the balloons are soft and have little mass and can’t hurt anyone. But it takes a lot of data for the child to figure out what’s common to the few things he and his brother may hit each other with and what’s common to the many things he may not. He’s not trying to see what he can get away with, but just utterly lacking the experience of adults in knowing what actually hurts people.

And part of how you know that he lacks this experience is that he makes the exact same mistakes when applied to himself. He does things which hurt himself and is surprised at the result. For example, it seems that children will not believe you about not snapping rubber bands on themselves until they’ve done it hard enough to cry at it. They’re not attempting to lawyer their way through technicalities, but to navigate a big and complex world with a great many twists and turns in it without any data.

This same problem does affect adults interacting with each other, by the way. Except that while with children we expect them to not know what we know—at least somewhat expect it, anyway—it’s all too common for adults to assume that all other adults know what they know, and furthermore to hold it to be a failing if the other adult doesn’t know it. This results in a great deal of miscommunication, since on any complex subject we only say a small fraction of what we mean (for efficiency’s sake) and require the listener to interpret most of our meaning based on shared knowledge and context. Especially on the internet, which throws together people with vastly differing backgrounds, it’s a very good idea to make sure of what someone’s unstated context really is before you assume you know what they mean. Don’t go full Wittgenstein—never go full Wittgenstein—but it is true that a great many philosophical and political disagreements turn out to be misunderstandings. There are enough real disagreements in the world; it’s unhelpful to shrowd them in a haze of miscommunication.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 10th, 2016

Good morning on this the tenth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Winter is clearly here in force now. I was waiting for my oldest son at the bus stop and felt like I was slowly turning into an icicle. And I deal better with cold than with heat. There’s something fascinating about the cycle of how in northern climes the world dies off then comes back to life again. It’s an interesting metaphor, anyway. It also raises a curious question about fiction set in lands that are in permanent snow: what’s the basis of life there? It various with the fictional environment, of course, but perhaps the ones I find most interesting are the ones where there are warm lands nearby, so the basis of life is something like fish which wander into the colds to birth their young where there are fewer predators. It can make for some very pretty images.

As I’m working on the video response to my friend’s nephew which I mentioned before, I did a quick video which is just a short description of how to use a neodymium magnet as a stud finder, in place of an electronic stud finder or knocking with one’s finger and judging how hollow the sound is. The video wasn’t great but came out alright. As the British would say, it’s fit for purpose. But there’s one mistake in it where I want to put a text overlay and for some reason the video editor just isn’t playing sound. I’m sure I’ll fix it eventually, but it’s a reminder of the continual frustration of using technology. None of it works very well. Chesterton complained about this in What’s Wrong With the World:

Cast your eye round the room in which you sit, and select some three or four things that have been with man almost since his beginning; which at least we hear of early in the centuries and often among the tribes. Let me suppose that you see a knife on the table, a stick in the corner, or a fire on the hearth. About each of these you will notice one speciality; that not one of them is special. Each of these ancestral things is a universal thing; made to supply many different needs; and while tottering pedants nose about to find the cause and origin of some old custom, the truth is that it had fifty causes or a hundred origins. The knife is meant to cut wood, to cut cheese, to cut pencils, to cut throats; for a myriad ingenious or innocent human objects. The stick is meant partly to hold a man up, partly to knock a man down; partly to point with like a finger-post, partly to balance with like a balancing pole, partly to trifle with like a cigarette, partly to kill with like a club of a giant; it is a crutch and a cudgel; an elongated finger and an extra leg. The case is the same, of course, with the fire; about which the strangest modern views have arisen. A queer fancy seems to be current that a fire exists to warm people. It exists to warm people, to light their darkness, to raise their spirits, to toast their muffins, to air their rooms, to cook their chestnuts, to tell stories to their children, to make checkered shadows on their walls, to boil their hurried kettles, and to be the red heart of a man’s house and that hearth for which, as the great heathens said, a man should die.

Now it is the great mark of our modernity that people are always proposing substitutes for these old things; and these substitutes always answer one purpose where the old thing answered ten. The modern man will wave a cigarette instead of a stick; he will cut his pencil with a little screwing pencil-sharpener instead of a knife; and he will even boldly offer to be warmed by hot water pipes instead of a fire. I have my doubts about pencil-sharpeners even for sharpening pencils; and about hot water pipes even for heat. But when we think of all those other requirements that these institutions answered, there opens before us the whole horrible harlequinade of our civilization. We see as in a vision a world where a man tries to cut his throat with a pencil-sharpener; where a man must learn single-stick with a cigarette; where a man must try to toast muffins at electric lamps, and see red and golden castles in the surface of hot water pipes.

This is not precisely the complain that modern technology doesn’t work, but it’s tied to it, for modern technology being more complicated, it is more prone to failure. And nowhere is this more true than in computers, which in general barely work. (I say this as a professional programmer.) But even when they barely work, they are marvelous things, allowing us to do all sorts of marvelous things like write and read blog posts. And whenever these things which barely worked in the first place do fail, we get very frustrated by it. Which is natural enough; but I try to remind myself of how close all modern technology comes to not working, and to remember that even if computers and phones and such work 99% of the time, it is still when they work that is the exception, not when they fail. For all their success is snatched from failure. It is really a miracle that they work at all. It’s not accurate to the small picture, exactly, but it is accurate to the big picture. We live in an enchanted world, and it’s healthy to remember all he millions of men who have lived and died without ever having placed a single telephone call, or whose computer never booted up at all because it would be several centuries until the invention of electricity on demand.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 9th, 2016

Good morning on this the ninth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Something I was randomly thinking about recently was Tom Naughton’s rather good talk Science for Smart People:

If you haven’t seen it, it’s very much worth watching. Tom Naughton is always enjoyable to watch and he presents good advice on how to deal with the popular reporting of science (specifically about diet and nutrition).

I got some more comments on my video Atheism vs Meaning, which amount to, “I can do whatever I want, so I can decide my life has meaning”. Yeah, if you can do that and all choices are equally valid, your life doesn’t have any meaning. And in any event, if he’s right, I can choose that the meaning I give to life is that his meanings are meaningless. It does get frustrating, some times, getting comments from people who are angry at me because they’re incapable of thinking clearly.

There’s a tiny amount of snow on the ground outside, so I suppose that means it really is winter. The bitter cold was another clue, of course, as was the date, but it can be a bit hard to accept that winter has really arrived. I’m not sure why, since I do like winter. It’s a very poignant season, often beautiful but with a harsh beauty. On the other hand all of the disease-carrying insects are dead or dormant, so I think we an overrate its harshness a bit.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 8th, 2016


Good morning on this the eight day in December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

It is also the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on the Roman Catholic calendar. The doctrine of the immaculate conception is a very interesting one; in brief it is that the salvation of Christ was applied to Mary at the moment of her conception so that she would have the ability to become the mother of God, and relatedly so that she could make with perfect freedom the biggest choice anyone in the whole history of the human race has ever made. For various practical reasons we tend to focus on the freedom to say “no” to options, but sin weakens people and is perhaps clearest in addicts that freedom also requires the freedom to say “yes” to things. I won’t dwell on the doctrine since I know so little about it, but it does certainly raise some interesting questions.

In other news I posted a second hangout on my youtube channel:

This time I had the pleasure of talking with The Distributist. As conversations are wont to do, it wandered over a variety of subjects, but it started and to some degree ended by discussing classical liberalism (the liberalism of the post-reformation and enlightenment era). It was a little more structured than my hangout with Deflating Atheism, but not tremendously so. I’m still very undecided about whether a conversation or an interview is a better format. And of course, “neither, do both” is always a possible conclusion.

I also noticed that Hoyt and Bowtech have announced their new bows this year. (In general new bows tend to be announced at the end of archery season, it seems.) In general there doesn’t seem to be much difference; I think Bowtech characterized this as, “this year is about refinement”. And once again the only fast 80# or greater bow seems to be the Matthews Monster Safari, which costs $2,100. I did get the opportunity to shoot once once (rare, since they are all custom made and no one stocks them) and it was an amazing bow. It had a very, very smooth draw cycle and just felt amazing to draw and shoot. It costs so much money because they really went all out with hard-to-make parts that were optimal for the workload, and it shows. If you can afford it—and so far I can’t—you’re paying for performance, not for looks or a nameplate (though I do think it looks nice enough).

So I’ve basically concluded that if I want something to shoot my 0.175″ deflection arrows (which are as stiff as you can get in factory made arrows) with more than 102 ft-lbs of kinetic energy, my best bet is to keep working on my carbon fiber longbows. Right now I’m using wooden limbs with carbon fiber backing, which seems to be easy to do up to round 40#, just guestimating. When one pushes above that, limb design becomes more critical, and so far I think I’ve been too aggressive in tapering the limbs, which puts too much bend in them towards the tips. An all-composite material could probably handle that much bending, but wood doesn’t like to be bent that much. Accordingly it works better to concentrate the bending loser to the handle, where less bending is required for the same draw distance. The bow I’m working on now (well, to be fair, it’s laid aside for the moment in the middle of being made) is promising, but I had an initial glue failure in the limb where it delaminated because I didn’t have a good bond between the ipe belly layer and the walnut core. Basically, I forgot to rough it up before gluing. So I’ve done a good job of that and just need to re-glue them up, but gluing with epoxy is always something of a production and I just haven’t had the time and energy to set it up. Also since there are minimum batches of epoxy (to make mix ratios easy to attain accurately), I always feel bad about small projects which therefore involve a fair amount of waste. At the same time I really should look for a different epoxy for doing wood laminations, since the concerns for gluing wood together are not the same as for setting up composites like carbon fiber. It’s possible there’s a more ideal epoxy for the wood layers. (If it isn’t clear why the limb delaminated, the inside of a curve is shorter than the outside of a curve, and so when the limb bends the belly really wants to push out further than the core (and the core further than the back), which introduces sheer strain on the laminations. Thus the most important characteristic in the glue for the laminations is its sheer strength.)

May God bless you.

Good Morning December 7th, 2016

Good morning on this the seventh day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I was joking last night with someone who doesn’t have children yet but wants to that the myth that children sleep is a lie spread by the pajama industry. Obviously this isn’t literally true—at a minimum the bedding industry must be involved too. But it does remind me of a great quote from Chesterton about how common the experience of human life is, especially at its most core elements:

For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important. We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate, under Nero or St Louis. Daybreak is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance; food and friends will be welcomed; work and strangers must be accepted and endured; birds will go bedwards and children won’t, to the end of the last evening.

I do not know from personal experience whether birds actually will go to their beds, but I can testify that children certainly won’t.

It is an amazing privilege to bring children into the world and care for them and teach them what it is to be human. It is also a great deal of work. Most good things are.

God bless you.

Good Morning on December 6th, 2016

Good morning on this the sixth day of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

So I did my first hangout with another youtuber today. (Properly I published it today, it happened earlier.) It was definitely an interesting experience. I talked too much, I think, and the conversation was not very focused. I don’t think that’s a problem in itself, but it did result in my saying “um” and pausing more than I’d have liked because I was evaluating possible things to say and trying to decide whether they were too far afield. (There’s also just the issue of being chronically underslept from little children.) Deflating Atheism was great to talk with, though again I feel like I sometimes gave him unfocused questions or just didn’t give him much to work with. Still, I think it will be enjoyable enough to listen to—deflating atheism’s parts, anyway—and it’s certainly a learning experience for future hangouts, both with Deflating Atheism and others. Everything in this world has a learning curve. Even small changes to things one is familiar with have a learning curve. It’s a good reason not to judge a book by its first page, nor a TV show by its first episode, nor a person by the first words out of their mouth. Conversely, it’s also why it’s a great idea to not over-commit to the first one of something that you do. In programming this has a maxim: plan to throw out the first implementation; you will anyway.

In less interesting news, I got to the gym again last night, which is a good step in rebuilding the habit of going to the gym regularly. And in a very small personal triumph, I managed to use the same absurdly light weights I did last time I went.  I figure in another two weeks, I can start adding in a little more weight, and in 2-4 months, depending on how I feel, I can finally start lifting genuinely challenging amounts of weight. But I’ll get there much faster if I don’t have to rest up any injuries. 🙂

God bless you.

Good Morning December 5th, 2016

Good morning on this the fifth day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

Yesterday my oldest son, who is seven years old, was asking me about the Hobbit, and whether we could go to the library and get it. I said that wouldn’t be necessary, since I have a copy of it, but last night when he asked me to get it, I couldn’t find it. My wife, who was helping me to look, did notice that I had a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and suggested that my son might enjoy that too. Whereupon I launched into an enthusiastic sales pitch because I really love the Chronicles of Narnia. (If I recall correctly, I own about 2 shelf-feet of books by C.S. Lewis.) At some point during my sales pitch my son politely interrupted me and said he was interested and could we start reading it tonight? If there’s one thing I’ve learned about sales (and there may in fact be only one thing I’ve learned about sales), it’s that you should never sell past the close, so I said yes.

He got to sleep a bit late, unfortunately, but we ended up reading the first three chapters, and it’s as good as I remember it. It’s also, aside from the occasional british-ism, very accessible to young children. I myself read it when I was a teenager, but it works at an age where children can read but still like to have things read to them.

In other news, I finished the first draft of my response to my friend’s nephew, so I should be editing the script today and if I’m lucky recording tomorrow. Overall I think it came out decently, though it is a bit scattershot. That’s part of the problem  with a question whose problem is a collection of errors embedded into the ground presuppositions of modernity. Like fabric, the errors that people make tend to be woven out of several threads spun by people who came before them. Ideally, I suppose, I’d address each point in its own video, but it can be very valuable to actually show in a practical way where such errors lead one wrong, and in any event the task at hand is answering this question, so it will probably do more good to do the task I’ve been given than to try to invent a different one for myself and ignore this one while I work on it. That’s not always true, of course; sometimes it’s better to start laying a foundation for what you’re going to do before you do it even if you’re under time pressure. But as I was recently reminded, that doesn’t really apply to videos, because you can’t assume people will have watched your other videos anyway.

God bless you.

Good Morning December 4th, 2016

Good morning on this the fourth day of December, in the year of our Lord 2016.

So I finally opened up libreoffice to finish doing the formatting work on The Dean Died Over Winter Break. For those who don’t know, that’s my first mystery novel, the other two novels I (self) published having been broadly in the science fiction genre. I’m very fond of mystery, so I’m looking forward to it. The book is finished and edited, all that remains is to format it for publication. It’s been that way for quite some time, actually, so I feel guilty for having dragged my feet so much.

In part it’s just being busy—having a one-year-old in the house does take up quite a large amount of time, especially when there are older children around too. She’s finally starting to be able to play by herself a bit—and hold her own with her older brothers—so supervising her will become a lot less intensive as the months go by.

Another part of it is that around the time I was finished with writing the novel, I began to be active on social media. From what I gather this is critical for self-published authors (and most other-published authors as well) who want their books to get read. Granted for most this is a direct financial consideration, while for me it’s more just about finding readers. My plan is to continue working my day job at a minimum until my kids are safely on their own, and then we’ll see, so I’m working on what I call my “twenty year plan”. It takes time to build an audience. And so far my most successful social media platform is my youtube channel, having recently hit 125 subscribers. Now of course social media is not merely about trying to build up readers—to be blunt, that’s not a primary consideration—but that is a potential benefit of it, and so watching my youtube subscriber base go up has made it very tempting to hold off on publishing the novel for a bit in the hopes that it might get a bump from that. And the way that sales ranks affect Amazon’s recommendations leads to a probably unhealthy concern with getting initially decent sales in order to try to reach a wider audience.

At the same time, one of the key ingredients in getting things done is actually doing them, and it’s all to easy to wait forever for ideal circumstances, which will in any event never come in this life. And someone who enjoyed A Stitch in Space reminded me recently that I said I’d get the new novel out soon, so I’m going to finally make myself do it. In the end we never really know what we’re doing and have to trust God anyway.

Good Morning December 3rd, 2016

Good morning on this the third day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I had an interesting discussion with a friend about the bayesian interpretation of statistics. I was doing a little research for a video which I’m working on (answering a question from a friend) and what I studied in math was what would often be described as the frequentist interpretation. I’m still a little skeptical of the bayesian interpretation, but much less so as I learn that it’s an interpretation of statistics which completely punts the assigning of probabilities. It calls them “priors”, as in “prior assumptions”, and says nothing about how we arrive at them. Basically, it turns statistics from a math problem that doesn’t apply to the real world (frequentism) into a quantification of our ignorance. Perhaps the clearest example of this is using bayesian statistics to gauge how surprised we should be by an outcome; surprise being, in this case, a measure of how much work we should put into re-examining our priors.

This is a far more reasonable thing than the descriptions of bayesian statistics I had heard before. I should note that those sources were not reliable ones, so I did hold off on judgment. And I think the problem with them was common to how people use classical mathematical probability: they want it to be a way of turning ignorance into knowledge. The desiderata is: garbage in, gold out. Which is to say, what is desired is alchemy for data. The ability to get a lot for little work. And that desire is a perennial temptation.

In other news, I’ve been working through the Vulkan tutorial. I’m still a ways away from being able to display anything on the screen, but I’m up to the point where I’ve found an available graphics card and a suitable queue family from which to request a queue to use for submitting commands. Having already read through the tutorial once, Vulkan is very verbose to set up—the tutorial took abut 800 lines of C++ to get a single, motionless triangle onto the screen—but a lot of that involves making decisions appropriate to your project, which you encapsulate into functions which are much easier to work with, so once you’ve done all this setup work, actually using it for the main graphics work is not significantly harder than other easier, less verbose APIs like openGL. And I do like the approach of having skimmed the tutorial first, then going back and doing it slowly to learn how things go. (And since I’m using the lwjgl (Light Weight Java Gaming Library), there’s a bit of translation work from the C++ of the tutorial to how lwjgl does things.) Fun stuff.

And it’s been a long time since I’ve done any bowmaking, but my problem is that since my third child was born it’s very hard to get an hour or two to myself when it’s OK to make baby-waking levels of noise. When she’s a bit older, I’ll get back to it.

One thing I’ve learned over many years of having a large number of hobbies, is that it’s important to be OK with putting some things on hold for a few years. It’s probably going to be four or five years until I take up knitting again, which I haven’t done much of in the last five years. And that’s OK.

Good Morning December 2nd, 2016

Good morning on this the second day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

I’m not doing as good a job getting this written early in the morning as I had started out, but since the title sort of forms a theme, I’m going to stick with it for now in the hope that it will encourage me to get things done in the morning. At least they’re still getting done. 🙂

I went to the gym last night in the first time in a long time. Really since around the time my wife was pregnant with my third child. The gym has a room where they watch kids while the parents exercise, which we’d taken advantage of before, but that started to involve too much negotiation. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m hoping to take advantage of it to buy the time to actually get to the gym. I’m significantly closer to 40 than I am to 30, so I’m entering the age where I simply can’t afford to not work out. Especially given that I have a desk job by which I earn my livelihood. (I’m a programmer if I haven’t mentioned that before.) My preferred form of exercise is lifting weights, and it’s absurdly tempting to lift at close to what I had been lifting before (which was never all that high; two years ago I could do perhaps 4 reps of dumbbell presses (bench press but with dumbbells) with the 120lbs dumbells, and clean-and-press about 135lbs). But that’s a terrible idea. Even if I can lift close to it, the risk of injury is pretty high. So I’m stuck doing tiny amounts of weight for a few weeks at least. And I’m using the machines rather than the free weights to really play it safe. But if I do a good job playing it safe, at least I’ll be back to lifting real amounts of weight in a few months. It takes a long time to recover from injuries.

In other news, I got a comment on my review of the song Can’t Feel My Face:

The commenter was saying that the song wasn’t about addiction to romance or sex, but to cocaine. The “she” in the song is cocaine, personified. And googling around a little, he’s not the only one to take that interpretation. And a point in his favor, cocaine is a topical anaesthetic. It’s related to novocaine, lidocaine, and benzocaine and in fact there is medical cocaine which is used to numb areas prior to some types of surgery. It’s not as common as the others, but it’s a powerful vasoconstrictor and so there are applications where that helps. Anyway, this does suggest an explanation for the otherwise very strange metaphor “I can’t feel my face”. Since cocaine is usually snorted, it would make sense that it numbs at least the nose and possibly a wider area of the face. I will note that if the lyrics are personifying cocaine, they’re not well written, as they suggest the cocaine gets numb, whereas the cocaine doesn’t change. (That’s very artistically significant when personifying objects; how little they are is one of the most powerful things brought across in such a personification.) Anyway, I did cover the addiction interpretation of this song in my review, though I took it as romantic/sexual addiction, not cocaine (the cocaine angle hadn’t occurred to me, since the lyrics didn’t suggest it and never having used cocaine facial numbness isn’t instantly connected with cocaine in my mind). But I didn’t spend much time on this because addiction is boring. Addiction is most interesting to aspiring addicts; to almost everyone else it’s just about the most boring thing there is.

(By “aspiring addicts” I mean the people who are flirting with addiction. In the Catholic baptismal vows there’s a line, “Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?” People flirting with addiction are in the position of hearing the empty promises but not really progressing onto the works part, where they find out that the promises are empty. So they’re full of hope because they’re tantalized by the promises they don’t realize are empty. And empty promises can promise so much! If you don’t plan to deliver on your promises, you might as well make very grandiose promises, after all.)

I don’t mean to keep ending on downers. If you’ve got a mathematical background, perhaps you’ll enjoy Klein Four’s Finite Simple Group of Order Two:

Or, more accessible, is this I Will Derive video that youtube recommended to me after I re-watched Finite Simple Group of Order Two:

Good Morning December 1st, 2016

Good morning on this the first day of December in the year of our Lord 2016.

So once again I’m contemplating the fact that there are many dumb atheists on Twitter who are good neither at thinking nor at reading. It’s frustrating, of course, but that’s really not very important in the grand scheme of things. More important is that it is a real temptation to over-generalize. Twitter’s extremely short character limits require a fair amount of imagination, background knowledge, and good judgment in order to understand non-trivial things which are said; of those who do not understand well some just move on and some ask for clarification, but there is a self-selection in favor of people with at least some wits and wisdom keeping their mouth shut unless they have something of value to say. Twitter, therefore, selects for a great many replies (to non-trivial tweets) being very dumb, since their lack of wits and wisdom make them think they have something to say when they didn’t even understand what they’re replying to.

But any time one has a self-selection bias, it becomes a great temptation to incorrectly generalize. And there are few ways to lose credibility faster than incorrect generalizations. Of course errors tend to compound, too, so not only will one lose credibility; believing in false generalizations will mean that before long, one won’t deserve credibility either.

For the moment my strategy is to mute people on twitter liberally. It’s not optimal; all people have value, though not everything everyone says has value, but I think what most of these people need is a friend to talk with them in depth over the course of several decades. That I certainly can’t be to random people on Twitter, so I think that simply ignoring them is the best compromise in order to avoid the temptations which the spewers of idiocy pose.

On a happier note, I tried out teledoc for my reinfection of strep, and it worked really well. The first time, a few weeks ago, I went to the local urgent care facility, which wasn’t too bad. Better than a hospital and about equal with a doctor’s office, though with less annoying paperwork. Still, one has to sit around and it’s not the cheapest thing in the world, if not overly expensive. At least under my insurance, Teledoc costs $40 per consultation, and after I signed up and filled out a short medical history questionnaire, I requested a consultation by phone and a doctor (located in my state, so they say) called me within five minutes. I described the history and symptoms in two minutes, she sent a prescription for amoxicillin over to my pharmacy one minute later, and after answering my question about the relationship of amoxicillin to penicillin (they’re the same class of drug, but are not at all the same drug, like how some drugs are metabolic precursors of the same thing, i.e. they become the identical drug once they get into your bloodstream), I was done. For the sort of illness which can plausibly be diagnosed over the phone, this is a really great option, and I’d certainly prefer this over going to a physical doctor’s office. Nothing in this world comes without tradeoffs, but at least for common stuff this seems like a real improvement.