Monday, November 30, 2015

Read My Lips...

If your family makes less than $250,000 a year, your taxes won’t go up. That is a new Clinton pledge. Good bumper sticker but maybe a bad idea, according to most Progressives.
Amazingly, many Progressives were very upset with the limits. More than half a dozen economists told "Time" that while Clinton’s red line may be good politics in a general election, it is misguided policy that would limit her ability to work with Congress to enact a domestic agenda. They say that Clinton’s $250,000 threshold constrains her from proposing progressive items that might require broad tax increases and give her an arbitrary obstacle to negotiating a smart tax policy. “From the perspective of the progressive policies we actually need—not to mention the pressures on the fiscal budget in coming years—it’s a serious mistake to sign up to these thresholds as if they’re etched in stone,” said Jared Bernstein, chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden from 2009 to 2011.
These people have extraordinary demands for their personal plans and policies. And they are certain; there is little modesty in their beliefs or their conclusions. Nor are they hesitant to draft bystanders into their vision--at the bystander's expense. They are a righteous as if they were drafting people into a war against the Nazis. This is a Pharisee's assumption of rectitude and power. And anyone who disagrees shies away as they are accused and pilloried.
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
What this really means is, when these people want to spend other people's money, they mean all other people. And probably all they can get.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday, 11/29/15

Today's gospel is another eschatological talk, containing a surprisingly sympathetic line noting "the anxieties of daily life."
Yeats wrote his "Second Coming" after the First War, when the realization of the true horrible meaning was clear.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cab Thoughts 11/28/15

"It is a cruel mortification, searching for what is instructive in the history of past times, to find that the exploits of conquerors who have desolated the earth, and the freaks of tyrants who have rendered nations unhappy, are recorded with minute and often disgusting accuracy, while the discovery of useful arts, and the progress of the most beneficial branches of commerce, are passed over in silence, and suffered to sink into oblivion."--John Kenyon’s 1983 volume, The History Men

The Netherlands is a land of tall people. Average height is more than six feet. 

A guy has a website where he argues that any time a deck of cards is shuffled, the resulting order has probably never been seen before. This is from his reasoning:
He starts with picking three cards of the 52 for three positions.
How many different possible combinations are there for three cards in order? We just multiply how many possibilities there were for the first position (52) with the possibilities for the second position (51) with the possibilities for the third position (50). So there are 52 • 51 • 50 = 132600 different possibilities for three cards in order.
What about a whole deck? We just multiply the possibilities for each of the 52 positions, which is 52 • 51 • 50 • 49 • 48 • 47 • 46 • 45 • 44 • 43 • 42 • 41 • 40 • 39 • 38 • 37 • 36 • 35 • 34 • 33 • 32 • 31 • 30 • 29 • 28 • 27 • 26 • 25 • 24 • 23 • 22 • 21 • 20 • 19 • 18 • 17 • 16 • 15 • 14 • 13 • 12 • 11 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1. A mathematical way of representing all those numbers multiplied together is called the factorial, so we could write this as 52!, which means the same thing. When you multiply all those numbers together, you get 80658175170943878571660636856403766975289505440883277824000000000000. That number is 68 digits long. We can round off and write it like this: 8.0658X1067
Now how many shuffles have been made in human history?  Cards were developed in the 1300s, so everyone in the last 700 years shuffling cards for five seconds throughout their lives...... well it's a lot and doesn't come close.
So next time you shuffle a deck of cards and lay them on the table, chances are you're looking at some never-before-seen piece of history. You are, with the deck, unique in history.

Entrepreneurship is a democratizing process, allows for more transparency of knowledge and is a logical outgrowth of the academic world. Regrettably, the academic world still  must learn this.
Hemingway’s letters are being published in a series that is expected to fill 17 volumes.
Originally the Internet served to interconnect laboratories engaged in government research, and since 1994 it has been expanded to serve millions of users and a multitude of purposes in all parts of the world.  Two innovations have changed the way people use the Internet. In the social web people have found a new way to communicate. Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has grown into a worldwide network of over 1,000 million subscribers. Mobile technology, on the other hand, has made possible a much greater reach of the Internet, increasing the number of Internet users everywhere.

Who is....Alphonse Marie de Lamartine?

It is a bit surprising to me the El Faro sinking did not get more attention. The 790-foot (241 meters) container ship left Jacksonville on a weekly cargo run to Puerto Rico on the evening of Sept. 29. It was last heard from on the morning of Oct. 1 when the captain communicated that the ship had taken on water, was listing at 15 degrees and had lost propulsion. Its last known position was close to the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, battling 50 foot (15 meters) waves and winds over 100 miles per hour (161 km per hour). Sinking ships with loss of crew is from the older world of danger.

The Delaware River was first explored by Henry Hudson (ca. 1570-ca. 1611), who called it 'one of the finest, best, and pleasantest rivers in the world.' Along the Delaware's western bank in Philadelphia, the muddy/gravelly edge of the river originally lapped up to the future location of Water Street.
Some of the city's first settlers actually lived in caves they dug into the embankment, pretty much within the space between where Front and Water Streets came to be.

A former NSA intelligence analyst has claimed that a senior European diplomat told him that the entire government of a European country considers president Obama to be literally mentally unwell. John Schindler, a security expert and whistle-blower who now writes for The Daily Beast, has claimed that a senior EU official from an undisclosed country also inquired about impeachment proceedings, saying that the nation believes Obama is not fit for office. According to Schindler’s source, one of the EU governments considers Obama to be mentally unstable. Schindler is a former U.S. Naval War College lecturer and is known to have many high level military and government contacts. This in the Daily Beast!

Nefertiti, the famous Egyptian queen, means “the beautiful one has come.”

An informative summary: Beginning in the late nineteenth century, and especially after 1930 in the United States, the term liberalism came to be associated with a very different emphasis, particularly in economic policy.  It came to be associated with a readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable.  The catchwords became welfare and equality rather than freedom.  The nineteenth-century liberal regarded the extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the twentieth-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom.  In the name of welfare and equality, the twentieth-century liberal has come to favor a revival of the very policies of state intervention and paternalism against which classical liberalism fought.  In the very act of turning the clock back to seventeenth-century mercantilism, he is fond of castigating true liberals as reactionary!--the Friedmans

Golden oldie:

will no longer feature full nudity. Instead, it will be moving toward a partially clad, cheesecake pin-up style.The disappearance of full nudity from Playboy magazine is a perfect example of Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction. Schumpeter wrote that the “essential fact about capitalism” is creative destruction — the process “that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” In essence, Playboy created a new environment that allowed new innovators within it to destroy them. So the offspring destroys the creator.

The Constitution is "the law that governs those who govern us."

In his CBS interview, when told Russia's Vladimir Putin was challenging his leadership, President Obama's first response was to say that his "definition of leadership would be leading on climate change." There is a weird quality about this where the Americans are depending upon the good nature of their opponents and enemies. And history. Obama seems to agree with Fukyama: It's all over but the shouting. Reagan believed this but never thought the decline of failing states would be voluntary. In some ways, Obama is like Bush, where high-mindedness wins.

The germ that causes the plague began infecting humans thousands of years earlier than scientists had previously thought.
Researchers analyzed teeth from the remains of 101 individuals that were collected from a variety of museums and archaeological excavations. They found DNA of the bacterium that causes plague, called Yersinia pestis, in seven of these people. The earliest sample that had plague DNA was from Bronze Age Siberia, and dated back to 2794 B.C., and the latest specimen with plague, from early Iron Age Armenia, dated back to 951 B.C.
Previously, the oldest direct molecular evidence that this bacterium infected humans was only about 1,500 years old.

Black Friday, a day the Americans have set aside as devoted to intense and unashamed commercialism. It is really horrible. But what it signifies is beyond me. Capitalism vs. commercialism? Feeding frenzy? Media influence? Whatever it is is ugly.

Oniomania n: 1. an uncontrollable desire to buy things. ety: Oniomania derives from the Greek ṓnios meaning "for sale" and the Late Latin mania meaning "extreme desire." It entered English in the late 1800s from the German Oniomanie.

In the 1580s, Seville's Royal Prison incarcerated over 20 per cent of that City's official population for such crimes as "blasphemy" and "greed." What sounds oppressive was loosely managed. Anyone who tried to escape was unlikely to be stopped unless his face is well known to the guards. Many a new prisoner would keep his head down for a fortnight or so and then simply walk out as though he were a visitor, while some more familiar characters, who feared being recognized, dressed up as women and escaped that way.

A survey of economists asked: If the federal minimum wage is raised gradually to $15-per-hour by 2020, the employment rate for low-wage US workers will be substantially lower than it would be under the status quo. Agree or disagree? 
Less than a quarter of the surveyed economists disagreed.  And a greater percentage of the surveyed economists (26%) either agreed or strongly agree that such a hike (of 107%) of the national minimum wage in the U.S. would substantially shrink the employment prospects of low-skilled workers.
Astonishingly, 74 percent of these surveyed economists either disagreed, were “uncertain,” or expressed no opinion that such a huge hike in the minimum wage would cause substantial shrinkage of low-skilled workers’ job prospects. That is 74% were not sure raising prices would decrease availability.
How is that possible?

In the year 1898 a watershed moment in American history brought the Spanish-American War and the capture of the Philippines as the first American colony. It was America's first step toward becoming an empire. Yet many Americans were appalled and as a result, galvanized into an "Anti-Imperialist" League. Some members included ex-President Cleveland; his former Secretary of War, William Endicott; former Secretary of the Treasury, Speaker Carlisle; Senator 'Pitchfork Ben' Tillman; President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford; President James B. Angell, of the University of Michigan; Jane Addams; Andrew Carnegie; William James; Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, and numbers of other Congressmen, clergymen, professors, lawyers and writers. The novelist William Dean Howells thought the war 'an abominable business.' When his friend Mark Twain came home from an extended trip abroad, he too became a member of the League. 

Early in the morning of 23 June, 1848, some seven to eight thousand workers marched unopposed onto the Place de la Bastille in Paris. A new revolution was stirring. This was seen by Marx as the end of the Old World as he expected the farmers to join the disaffected workers in the revolution and the working class soldiers to stand down. It did not happen; the farmers joined the soldiers and the revolutionaries were cut to pieces. The first deaths came at noon on 23 June, when the barricade at the Porte Saint-Denis was attacked by National Guards. It is said that two beautiful prostitutes hoisted up their skirts and, taunting the troops with obscenities, dared them to fire. They were immediately cut down in a hail of bullets. The National Guards managed to overcome the defenses, but only after losing thirty men in some bitter fighting.
Alphonse Marie de Lamartine, who joined the fighting at twilight, saw the cannon sent by Cavaignac levelling the fortifications in the north-eastern Faubourg du Temple. He counted 'four hundred brave men, killed or mutilated, [who] strewed the faubourg'. It was carnage.
Marx was so disillusioned he withdrew and reworked his philosophy away from human dynamics.

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnnddddddd....a graph: Internet Growth Statistics over the Years:

Internet Growth Statistics over the Years

Friday, November 27, 2015

Microcosm in the New Land

The early Pilgrims were on the edge of the modern world. Somehow, inherent to us, when given the choice we often default to wild optimism. Perhaps it is the legacy  of the Middle East religions. The Pilgrims had inherited ideas about individualism and property from the English and Dutch trading empires but, for some reason, they tried socialism first when they arrived in the New World. They decreed that each family would get an equal share of food, no matter how much work they did. In fairness, this was part of their charter, created by businessmen who should have known better. This was the same plan as tried by the settlers at Jamestown.
The results were disastrous.  Gov. William Bradford wrote, “Much was stolen both by night and day.”  The same plan in Jamestown contributed to starvation, cannibalism, and death of half the population.
So Bradford decreed that families should instead farm private plots.
Success is currently attributed to luck and birth as much as process and work. This is a good example of the conflict. The first process, the communal holding of land, did not work. Nor has it worked in modern states with a lot more threat available. The private ownership did work.
Its success was--and is--not luck.
From pages 1338-1339 of Robert Ellickson’s landmark 1993 Yale Law Journal article “Property in Land"

To finance their voyage, the Pilgrims formed a joint stock company with London investors.  At the investors’ insistence, the settlers agreed to pool output, land, capital, and profits during their first seven years abroad.  From this “common stock,” residents of the colony were to receive food and other necessities, and at the end of the seven-year period, the land and other assets were to be “equally divided betwixt” the investors and the settlers.  The colonists initially complied with the spirit of this contract.  Although they planted household gardens almost from the start, they collectivized initial field and livestock operations.  The setters had some agricultural successes, but they were unable to grow corn in their common field.  Within six months of reaching Plymouth, almost one-half of the population had perished from disease.
In 1624 the Plymouth colonists deviated from the investors’ plan and assigned each family from one to ten acres, depending on the number of family members.  This greatly increased productivity.
[Parcelization] had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted then other waise. . . .  The women now wente willingly into the field, and tooke their little-ones with them to set corne, which before would aledg weaknes and inabilitie; whome to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression. ( William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a tricky word. It means gratitude but it implies more than something to be grateful for, it implies something to be grateful to.

In the fall of 1621 the Plymouth settlers had a celebratory meal with a local Indian tribe as part of a traditional English harvest festival. There are two accounts; no mention is made of a Day of Thanksgiving but they were probably happy; since their arrival they had a 50% mortality. It lasted three days. A Day of Thanksgiving, a day the English would have considered religious, was first held in the new land in 1623 following a needed rainfall. Various days of thanksgiving were celebrated by the country over the years, the first in commemoration of the end of the Revolution by Washington. In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln formally made Thanksgiving an annual event.

It is interesting to see these two men, Washington suspicious of organized religion and Lincoln harder to read, celebrating an official Thanksgiving, but both seem heartfelt, Lincoln's surprisingly so. Washington's is almost a mirror of the mindset of the time. The two proclamations are below.

The Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America: a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me `to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence [sic], have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wrecks: HMS Erebus

In 1845, two ships led by Sir John Franklin, the expedition's captain, left Kent bound for the Arctic, tasked with being the first to navigate the Northwest Passage, a hoped-for trade route between Europe and Asia through the Arctic Ocean. Franklin's two ships were some of the first polar vessels to be equipped with steam engines—repurposed railway engines—leaving port with 12 days coal aboard, for example, as well as state-of-the-art Massey double action bilge pumps.The ships never returned to England.
It is thought the two vessels, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were abandoned when they became icebound, leaving the crew to begin a trek on foot across Canada in the hope of finding supplies, or human settlements along the way. The crewmen never made it to safety, and subsequent investigations of remains, found over 100 years later, found traces of starvation, lead poisoning, scurvy, pneumonia, and cannibalism among the party.
The history of the Erebus and Terror has been built up piecemeal since the ships were lost, using testimony from local Inuit, the objects left behind by the crew on their desperate journey, and even notes written by the acting captains following the death of Sir John Franklin, the expedition's captain.
The Inuit reported seeing one of the ships go down off the coast of King William island in around 1850, and they would be the last humans to lay eyes on the vessels for the century and a half that followed. (Anyone interested in a hair-raising fictional and spooky account of the trip might read The Terror by Dan Simmons.)

Recovery efforts have been narrowed to two areas, one in the Victoria Strait, another in Queen Maud Gulf, prompted by testimony from local Inuits who reported going aboard the vessel after its desertion by Franklin's men.
The Parks Canada returned every year, surveying the two areas for traces of the lost vessels. With ice making the areas inaccessible for much of the year, the archaeologists had only a handful of weeks at a time to hunt for the missing ships.
In 2011, the searchers drafted new technology to aid the search: aircraft equipped with lidar symmetry, which could scan the shore areas to a depth of around 20 meters. While the lidar systems weren't expected to be able to pick up signs of a wreck, they could help the team put together better maps of the region, which is still largely uncharted even today.

With better maps, the team could use side-scan sonar and multibeam echosounding, which can build up a picture of the seafloor, without risk of damage to the environment or to their equipment. After six monotonous years of scanning in September last year, an image loomed out of the sonar data.
A shipwreck. It proved to be the Erebus.
A robot, the Saab SeaEye falconer remotely operated vehicle (ROV), went first. The, later, scuba divers. While the ice closed over the site and eventually put an end to explorations, the team were able to return to the Erebus in April 2012, carrying a new piece of equipment that would allow them to access the site even in winter. Defence Research and Development Canada, the military's technology arm, lent the archaeologists a tool that uses a jet of hot water to cut through ice. Using DRDC's 'hot water knife', a two meter section of the ice was removed, allowing the divers to slip beneath the ice and onto the wreck site.

The Parks Canada team face the difficulty of navigating within the ship itself, mapping the location of the objects within it and any subtle associations with them. The team used stereophotogrammetry for that. Harris said, "It's an extremely important tool for us now. Essentially it uses a whole bunch of still photos, and software is able to determine the three dimensional relationship between subsequent exposures and produces a three dimensional model or a point cloud of what the camera saw, so in just a couple of hours you can aquire a whole bunch of data and produce three dimensional images of the entire wreck site."
The expedition is also experimenting with laser scanning, in partnership with Canadian firm 2G Robotics which makes underwater scanners normally used for detecting damage on oil pipelines. The company developed a longer range scanner for the Franklin expedition, which can map up to a five meter range with millimeter resolution, used to image the outside of the wreck. The expedition also used a smaller machine, with a range of between 50cm and 20cm, for investigating the interior, allowing the team to record the position of small objects, like plates, where they lay within the ship.

The company developed a longer range scanner for the Franklin expedition, which can map up to a five meter range with millimeter resolution, used to image the outside of the wreck. A smaller machine, with a range of between 50cm and 20cm, is used for investigating the interior.
 A 7.5-meter autonomous underwater vehicle, the Arctic Explorer, can stay underwater for 72 hours, and was packed with all sort of tech: inertial guidance systems and doppler velocity logs to plot the position and speed of the vehicle, as well as an interferometric synthetic aperture sonar (InSAS) system that can record a far wider swathe of radar (630 meters) than the towed side-scan sonar system the survey boat normally uses.
Said Harris, "It can resolve a target the size of your thumb anywhere in that sonar record, because it's using almost like synthetic aperture radar—it's using multiple radars and its synthesising that into one coherent very, very accurate image."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wrecks: The Mars‏

The Mars sank in 1564. It was at the time perhaps the biggest ship in the world—a fearsome vessel with over one hundred guns and 700 men onboard. The Mars met its end in a bloody sea battle between Sweden, which had built the formidable warship, and the combined armies of Denmark and the German province of Lübeck. During the battle, the Mars caught fire but, despite the clear danger, the Mars was still boarded in its last minutes by enemy forces. The flames ignited the gunpowder stored on the ship causing a huge explosion that blew out the stern of the ship and took her, and the men aboard her—the Swedish sailors and invading forces alike—to the bottom of the ocean. Why was she boarded at such a dangerous time?
One suggestion was that the boarders were desperate to recover the thousands of valuable silver and gold coins the ship was said to carry, even if it meant risking—and ultimately losing—their lives.

Johan Rönnby, head of the MARIS research institute at Södertörn University set up to study the Mars, said, "Mars is a legendary ship in Sweden, and almost everybody wanted to find it. It was built by the King Erik the XIV, who was son of Gustav Vasa—Vasa is our Tudor dynasty.  The ship is connected to the building of Sweden. Sweden had become a country, and there was an attempt to make Sweden a European superpower and Mars was part of that concept, really. Erik had built maybe the biggest ship in the world in the 1560s, so Mars was a special ship. She was more than 60 meters long and very modern-equipped."

The conditions in the Baltic Sea—the temperatures and absence of shipworm, which can destroy submerged timber—mean any ships that have sunk in its waters are often well preserved. Over the course of Ocean Discovery's search, the team had found tens of wrecked wooden ships maintained in a good state by the Baltic waters, located using the trawl snag data from the fishermen, but none had been the Mars.
The sidescan sonar is the best technology available, but it's not so detailed that you can see cannon and things," said Lundgren. "It's more technology for locating, not for marine archaeological survey."
Having spotted the wreck, the team sent down an ROV for a closer look. "The camera quality on the ROV is quite poor. We did see the intact hull side but we didn't see any gun ports. We were filming for an hour but we didn't see any cannons. Navigating an ROV on a complex wreck site like that is hard. It's very three dimensional, there's wood sticking up, and the umbilical from the ROV can get tangled. The ROV surveying couldn't prove it was the Mars, it could only prove it was a large warship," Lundgren added.
Absolute confirmation would require human divers
"In 2012, we made a photo mosaic of the whole site with 600 pictures put together. It's at 70 meters depth, it's totally, totally dark in the Baltic Sea. It's a tricky case to work on. You need to take diving technology and rebreathers and a lot of lamps, of course," said Rönnby.

Using sidescan sonar and multibeam sonar, the project began to build up a high-resolution three-dimensional picture of the wreck too.
Multibeam sonars can be either mounted on the underside of a ship or on an ROV and, by emitting sound waves and recording how long and from what direction they bounce off a surface and return, can build up a 3D picture of the sea floor.

The project is also working with a BlueView sonar scanner from MMT, which when positioned on the seafloor can gather 60 million measurement points in 15 minutes. Combined with the million photos taken by divers, a map that's precise to two millimeters has been built up—higher resolution than the multibeam. In time, however, the BlueView point cloud will be merged with that from the multibeam sonar so the two technologies can fill in any gaps from each other.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wrecks: The Antikythera

Jo Best has an article in the "TechRepublic" about the technology being used to find deep wrecks. The next three days will be drawn from her article.

The  Antikythera is best known for one of its wreck's artifacts: The Antikythera Mechanism.
Thought to have been built at the end of the second century BC, the mechanism is considered the first programmable computer, before the birth of Christ. Small and bronze, it is an intricate series of gears and dials. The mechanism could be used as a calendar, to track the phases of the moon, and to predict eclipses. It is an object out of time: no other artifact as complex was built during the thousand years after the mechanism's creation—that we know of.
The Antikythera mechanism was named after the shipwreck on which it was discovered. Having sunk to the bottom of the sea in the first century B.C. taking the mechanism with it, the shipwreck lay undisturbed until 1900, when a group of Greek sponge divers discovered it and began bringing its treasures to the surface. The ship is huge. The true size of the ship could be over 200 feet in length, putting it in the same ballpark as HMS Victory, the warship commanded by Admiral Lord Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar. The only other known ships of the era that were larger were the pleasure barges that the Roman emperor Caligula used to cruise across Lake Nemi.
After the death of one diver and two others becoming paralyzed, operations to recover the artifacts were brought to a halt, but not before statues, ceramics, and the mechanism itself were brought up.
In 1953 and 1976, marine explorer Jacques Cousteau led the next expeditions to the wreck. Again there was difficulty in access but artifacts were retrieved.
Recently the Greek government invited a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), headed by Dr. Brendan Foley, to begin the first significant excavation of the wreck since the Frenchman's over 40 years ago.
The team is using an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with stereo cameras. Using an algorithm called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), the imagery from the stereo cameras can be knitted together to make an extremely precise map of the seafloor. During a few days in June, the robot created 10,500 square meters of map, with a resolution of 2mm. A separate remotely operated vehicle (ROV) carrying metal detecting equipment is also being used to spot hints of bronze or iron-carrying objects lying in the water.
Information from the ROV will be overlaid on top of the data from the 3D map generated by the autonomous underwater vehicle to build up a heat map of where the team should direct their excavation efforts when they return to the site later this summer.
"Putting humans in the water is always the option of last resort because we have to eat, we get tired and we're really not that efficient underwater. With the rebreather, we increase that efficiency, but it's still we're only want to put people down when there's no other way to do the job," Foley said.
And there is a second wreck, maybe a companion or maybe older, 400 years before Christ.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cab Thought 11/21/15

People can command, dictate, and legislate; however, people cannot consciously create law any more than people can consciously create human language.  Genuine law, like language, evolves; each is the result of human action but not of human design.--Bruno Leoni 
Some figures I cannot explain: It is estimated that nearly 800,000 children will be reported missing each year in the U.S; 40,000 children go missing each year in Brazil; 50,500 in Canada; 39,000 in France; 100,000 in Germany; and 45,000 in Mexico. An estimated 230,000 children go missing in the U.K. each year, or one child every 5 minutes.
The Enlightenment began not only with books and pamphlets, but with an earthquake. In 1755, an earthquake flattened Lisbon, set it aflame, and then caused a massive tsunami that swept the Tagus River into the city, killing more than 40,000 people. Theologians claimed the disaster was divine retribution for earthly pride and sin.The French philosopher Voltaire argued, though, that it was simply nature’s systems that had caused the movement of the earth’s crusts. He criticized the Catholic Church for claiming God was behind the disaster rather than the clock-maker master of the system of nature. Voltaire’s opinion led to a famous international debate that helped him move public opinion away from mystical explanations of natural phenomena and toward scientific authority.

Who is....Christopher Harper-Mercer ?

The economist and demographer Julian Simon consistently challenged the population-growth doomsayers, making uncannily correct predictions about future plenty using arguments that are much more widely accepted today than they were at the time.  In his The Ultimate Resource, Simon argued that the real source of prosperity is neither land, nor natural resources that might one day be exhausted, but people and the creativity they bring to solve current problems. Managed societies always see people as a burden or threat whereas free societies see people as a potential solution to problems. His book was written in 1981.
Historically, people have had two periods of sleep each night. Every night, people fell asleep not long after the sun went down and stayed that way until sometime after midnight. This was the first sleep that kept popping up in the old tales. Once a person woke up, he or she would stay that way for an hour or so before going back to sleep until morning -- the so-called second sleep. The time between the two bouts of sleep was a natural and expected part of the night
Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to Edger Allan Poe as “the jingle-man”, and told a friend he could “see nothing in ‘The Raven’”. T.S. Eliot insisted that, despite what looks like “slipshod writing, puerile thinking” and the use of “haphazard experiments”, “Poe had, to an exceptional degree, the feeling for the incantatory element in poetry, of that which may, in the most nearly literal sense, be called ‘the magic of verse’. . . . It has the effect of an incantation which, because of its very crudity, stirs the feelings at a deep and almost primitive level”. For Eliot, however, these rhythms are not quite enough. Eliot was critical of casual words and phrases. What, for example, are we meant to make of the adjective “saintly” in the line, “In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore”? And in the lines from “Ulalume” (“It was night, in the lonesome October / Of my most immemorial year”), how can a given moment in the poet’s past be “immemorial” (beyond memory), when in fact he remembers that moment very well? The phrase is intentionally uncanny and imprecise, underscoring the “dramatic arti-factuality of the poem”, Jerome McGann argues in his new book on Poe, The Poet Edgar Allan Poe, Alien Angel. He argues the strangeness of the lyric style, the misuse of words and awkward phraseology that have been criticized even by Poe’s fervent admirers, are taken as virtues, heightening as they do, a given poem’s conscious and calculated formalism.

Lassitude: n: 1. weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate, etc.; lack of energy; listlessness; languor.
2. a condition of indolent indifference: the pleasant lassitude of the warm summer afternoon.
Ety: Lassitude stems from the Latin term lassus meaning "weary." The suffix -tude appears in abstract nouns of Latin origin.

Restriction of property rights will be more easily attained if they are brought about gradually with the assurance that, in principle, property will remain protected than if they are made suddenly under threats of totally abolishing such property.  Since welfare legislation appears to be more harmless than a communist revolution, it is, as far as the protection of property in the long run is concerned, perhaps more dangerous.--Gottfried Dietze
There are about 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. Sunnis make up 87% to 90% of the worldwide Muslim population. Shiite Muslims make up approximately 10%. Indonesia has the largest following of the Islamic religion, 13%, though Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have large populations as well. According to U.S.-based Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America, there are about 7 million adherents to the Islamic religion in the United States. Pew Research Center estimates Muslims make up 0.9% of the U.S. population.
Of the world's 94 major crop plants, 18 percent are pollinated by the wind, 80 percent by insects (92 percent of these by bees), and about 2 percent by birds.

President Barack Obama's stance of calling on Syrian President Bashar Assad to transition out of power while maintaining basic government functions after he's ousted is a "fantasy" in the context of how the country works, according to Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  "The biggest myth out there is the existence of 'state institutions' separate from Assad," Badran said in an interview. Rhymes with "Iraq."
The Federal Constitution of 1787 was designed in part to solve the problems created by the presence in the state legislatures of [common people]. In addition to correcting the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was intended to restrain the excesses of democracy and protect minority rights from overbearing majorities in the state legislatures. ...throughout the middle 1780s he [Madison], along with other national leaders, had wrestled with various schemes for overhauling the Articles of Confederation. But it was his experience serving in the Virginia assembly in 1784-1787 that convinced him that the real problem of American politics lay in the state legislatures. During the 1780s he saw many of his and Jefferson's plans for reform mangled by factional fighting and majoritarian confusion in the Virginia assembly. More than any other Founder, Madison questioned the conventional wisdom of the age concerning majority rule, the proper size for a republic, and the role of factions in society. His thinking about the problems of creating republican governments and his writing of the Virginia Plan in 1787, which became the working model for the Constitution, constituted one of the most creative moments in the history of American politics.--Gordon Woods, from his Empire of Liberty

The average family income of a minimum wage worker is more than $44,000 a year – far more than can be earned by someone working at minimum wages.  But 42 percent of minimum-wage workers live with parents or some other relative.  In other words, they are not supporting a family but often a family is supporting them. Only 15 percent of minimum-wage workers are supporting themselves and a dependent, the kind of person envisioned by those who advocate a “living wage.”
Belgium has always been a battlefield among all the leaders trying to advance themselves in Europe. One reason is Antwerp was a dominant port in the 16th century and the largest city in Europe after Paris.
“Our age is the age of criticism to which all must be subjected.” The ultimate goal of this critical movement was to create reason for the betterment of society, and this reason would have to stand the “test of free and public examination,” Kant said as an explanation of the Enlightenment. And what does criticism bring? The idea of secular human progress, Hegel warned, was misguided in attempting to bring “heaven” to the “earth below.” Hegel felt that this hubris, as well as the loss of all Christian morality and the belief that humans could build a secular paradise, had brought about the Terror of the French Revolution. If Nietzsche embraced Voltaire as the great debunker of religion, he nonetheless believed that secularism did not lead to the betterment of humankind, but instead opened the door to nihilism. The Second War was a blow to the Enlightenment as well. Here knowledge and science bred Nazis and atomic bombs.
Golden oldie:

“Seems the more people you kill, the more you are in the limelight.” That blog post on the email address of Oregon mass-murderer Christopher Harper-Mercer was made after Vester Lee Flanagan shot and killed that Roanoke TV reporter and her cameraman. “I have noticed,” according to the blog post, “that people like (Flanagan) are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who you are.”
Between 1871 and 1895 British tonnage passing through the Suez Canal was never less than 70 per cent of total tonnage and remained above 50 per cent until after the Second World War.

Apparently Iran was willing to help the U.S. in its concerns over Middle East terrorism but U.S. indifference and Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech ruined everything and now, after a decade of Hezbollah violence, Iran is supporting Russia in Syria. Here is an excerpt of the hacked CIA chief Brennan's mail: 
"The tragedy of the al-Qa’ida launched terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland in September 2001 prompted the U.S. Administration to engage in a far-reaching campaign to eradicate the sources of terrorism, and Iran, understandably—but regrettably—was swept up in the emotionally charged rhetoric that emanated from Washington under the seemingly all-encompassing rubric of “The Global War on Terrorism.”
The gratuitous labeling of Iran as part of a worldwide “axis of evil” by President Bush combined with strong U.S. criticisms of Iran’s nascent nuclear program and its meddling in Iraq led Tehran to the view that Washington had embarked on a course of confrontation in the region that would soon set a kinetic focus on Iran. Even Iran’s positive engagement in helping repair the post Taliban political environment in Afghanistan was met with indifference by Washington."
World leaders will gather in New York at the United Nations to endorse international development goals for the next 15 years. It is the culmination of a four-year process for setting priorities to help the world’s most disadvantaged people—a process beset from the start by horse-trading, haggling and endless consultation. In a bid not to offend anyone, the new development agenda is expected to include an incredible 169 targets for investment. Giving priority to 169 things is the same as giving priority to nothing at all.--Lomborg
People have different amounts of self control but research implies that self control is a limited resource and can be fatigued.
AAAaaaaannnnnndddddddd........a map of Belgium:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hard Men and Brittle Men

"Apparently, they're scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America."
That was how Obama, in Manila, rebuked Republicans on Tuesday for expressing concern about ISIS terrorists slipping into America amid the 10,000 Syrian refugees he wants to bring here. He may be lukewarm about ISIS but he is flat out furious at Rube-publicans.
I have not heard a single idea from the Rube-publicans that would solve the terrorist problem but there are some concerns that simply cannot be ignored. Even if one accepts the nihilistic notion that terrorism, like the flu, is inevitable and will cause its mortalities, if the state has any value, one would expect it to accept some responsibility for prevention and contagion.
Obama's response here is simply inadequate. And, as his peculiarities mount, I think insincere. He is besieged by events, by malignant men, by rivals on a stage that gradually is dwarfing him. Putin is rising, an almost comic foil for Obama, placing him in an increasingly ludicrous position.
My bet is that in the future his grand presentation of himself amidst the Greek columns will be the universal example of bathos.
Thoughtful men hate to become silly but not every uncertain man is Hamlet.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


The Russian involvement in Alaska was surprisingly large.
The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Danish navigator Vitus Bering sighted the Alaskan mainland. Russian hunters were soon making incursions into Alaska, and the native Aleut population suffered greatly after being exposed to foreign diseases. On Kodiak Island, Grigory Shelikhov, a Russian fur trader, founds Three Saints Bay, the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska in 1784, and Shelikhov lived there for two years with his wife and 200 men. From Three Saints Bay, the Alaskan mainland was explored, and other fur-trade centers were established. In 1786, Shelikhov returned to Russia and in 1790 dispatched Aleksandr Baranov to manage his affairs in Alaska.
Baranov established the Russian American Company and in 1799 was granted a monopoly over Alaska. Baranov extended the Russian trade far down the west coast of North America and in 1812, after several unsuccessful attempts, founded a settlement in Northern California near Bodega Bay.
Russian interests in Alaska gradually declined, and after the Crimean War in the 1850s, a nearly bankrupt Russia sought to dispose of the territory altogether.
The American Civil War delayed things but, after the war, Secretary of State William H. Seward, a supporter of territorial expansion, was eager to acquire the tremendous landmass of Alaska, one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States. On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.” In April 1867, the Senate ratified the treaty by a margin of just one vote.
Alaska, rich in natural resources, has been contributing to American prosperity ever since. On January 3, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th state.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cool Education

Expect a new consciousness-raising, this time about air conditioning. A recent NPR broadcast was outraged-- in an understanding and thoughtful way--over the American use of air conditioning. As usual the Third World is the catalyst. Only two percent of Indian homes is air conditioned but it is growing at a 20% rate. If that continues with the improving Indian economy, the use will end up 50X the U.S. use. That implies all sorts of economic and global warming disruption. But it is not the Indians' fault. The consensus is that American culture is at fault; the Americans want too much, undefined comfort. And it is they who set the norms. So the poor benighted Indians are only following the standards set by the rapacious and hedonistic Yanks. Thus experts, i.e. the enlightened ones, must help by reeducating us. With luck, the reeducated American norms will become the international norms.
I'm not sure what the next step would be if reeducation fails. Maybe ninjas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


On Aug. 7, 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents. Heyerdahl believed that Polynesia’s earliest inhabitants had come from South America, a theory that conflicted with popular scholarly opinion that the original settlers arrived from Asia.
Even after his successful voyage, anthropologists and historians continued to discredit Heyerdahl’s belief. Nonetheless, he continued to demonstrate his theories about how travel across the seas played a major role in the migration patterns of ancient cultures. In 1970, he sailed across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados in a reed boat named Ra II (after Ra, the Egyptian sun god) to prove that Egyptians could have connected with pre-Columbian Americans.
His book, Kon-Tiki, is exciting and was very popular. Despite his failure with experts, he continued to be a successful author and was voted “Norwegian of the Century” in his homeland.

Monday, November 16, 2015

442nd Regimental Combat Team‏

"Americanism is not and has never been a matter of race or color. Americanism is a matter of mind and heart."-- FDR

After the attack on Pearl Harbor there was a lot of ambiguity towards Japanese-Americans. At the beginning of the war, a person of Japanese descent--a citizen--was classified 4-C, meaning "Enemy Alien". Undraftable. Eventually two all-Japanese-American units (the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team) were created.

The 442nd got its first major operational test in the Fall of 1944, when a company of Texas National Guardsmen were trapped, surrounded, and pinned down in the Vosges Mountains by nearly a full division of German troops. The 442nd was to be their relief. The 4,200 men fought 5 days, often hand-to-hand, got to the Texans and fought their way out. 30% casualties. One member of the outfit from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, a second generation Japanese-American, was issued a Bronze star and a commission to Second Lieutenant for his actions.

Later Inouye's platoon was ordered to capture a German strong point along the Colle Musatello Ridge. He led his team through intense fire to capture an observation post, a mortar team, and an artillery position, and then moved his troops within 40 yards of a heavily-fortified defensive line, where they immediately came under heavy suppressing fire from three different heavy machine gun positions.  During the initial firefight he was shot through the abdomen. Instead of withdrawing, he assaulted the first machine gun nest on his own, taking it out with a grenade from just five yards away and then clearing the rest of it out with his Thompson gun. When that one was taken care of, Inouye sprinted to a second position and destroyed it with two grenades. As he attacked the third position, he was hit with a rifle-mounted grenade point blank which gave him multiple wounds and shredded his right arm. He pried the grenade out of his useless right hand with his left hand and tossed it into the nest. He then cleared out the third machine gun position with the Tommy Gun, changed the magazine, and then started running towards the main body of the enemy position, by himself, shooting the machine gun with his off-hand, rampaging like a madman. Eventually  Inouye was shot in the leg, lost his footing, and fell down a hill. All told, he had killed 25 Germans and wounded 8 more by himself.

Daniel Inouye received the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He lost the arm and had it replaced with a hook, and after 20 months of surgery and recovery in various military hospitals, he went home, got a law degree, and worked as a prosecuting attorney. In 1962 he was  elected to the Senate thus making him the first Japanese-American in Congress.

After a 50-year career in the Senate — the second longest ever — Hawaiian senator Daniel Inouye died in 2012 at the age of 88. According to staff, his last word was aloha.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday 11/15/15

    Today's gospel is the "Eschatological Discourse," from the Greek "eschaton" or "the end of time."

    Christ describes the descent of the universe back into chaos. And it contains the interesting:
    "But of that day or hour, no one knows,
    neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." 

    This is famous in heretical writings being focused upon by the Arians to challenge Christ's divinity.

    But the essence of the gospel is judgment, the evaluation of the hearts of men and each man. In the modern world of minimalism and relativity, judgment is seem as inappropriate at best; judgment is more likely a function of arrogance and bigotry.
    It is astonishing that we are so open-minded with so much evidence to the contrary. As primitive and cruel as the ancient world was, nothing can approach the Nazis for clear-eyed, focused evil. And anyone denying that would have to invent new words to describe it. 
    Now we have the Paris atrocity, an act whose perversity is heightened only by people's willingness to take credit for it. It is presented as an effort to strike fear in people. But, at its heartless center, this kind of behavior feeds upon hopelessness. Despair. The outsider sees no easy motive or explanation. The perpetrators are as amorphous as their motives. And there is no recourse, no place to go, no alternative. Because there is no negotiation. One can not sue for a truce. Or surrender. This is a conflict for which there is no settlement, no appeasement. Like the Nazis, the murderers see an endpoint in the distance which can be reached only by desolation of everything before it. The nature of their transition is death and only death.

    Of course, again, the Greeks had a word for it. In their mythology they had a peripheral demon called Thanatos who was the personification of death. Freud tried to explain such behavior as aggression, sadism, heroism, risk taking as a death drive later named "Thanatos" by others.
    Has evil slipped everyone's mind? Doubtful. It's just that when evil becomes an element in life, judgment follows. And no civilized guy wants that.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Percy, Struggle and Clarity‏

    Walter Isaacson has a nice little article in the NYT on Walker Percy and New Orleans. The gist of it is that Percy saw the complexity of every day life morally fatiguing and challenges clarifying and uplifting. Isaacson sees this in the purposefulness of New Orleans' rebuilding after Katrina.

    “Though science taught that good environments were better than bad environments, it appeared to him that the opposite was the case,” he wrote of Will Barrett, the semi-autobiographical title character of his second novel, “The Last Gentleman.” “Take hurricanes, for example, certainly a bad environment if ever there was one. It was his impression that not just he but other people felt better in hurricanes.” Percy’s diagnosis was that when we are mired in the everydayness of ordinary life, we are susceptible to what he called “the malaise,” a free-floating despair associated with the feeling that you’re not a part of the world or connected to the people in it. You are alienated, detached. The heroes of his books, each in his own way, embark on a search for the cause and cure of this syndrome. “What is the nature of the search?” wonders Binx Bolling, the narrator of “The Moviegoer.” “The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.”

    But Percy’s theory about the redemptive power of hurricanes goes beyond the fact that dangerous situations allow us to become action heroes or saints. “True, people help each other in catastrophes,” he wrote in “Lancelot.” “But they don’t feel good because they help each other. They help each other because they feel good.” The hurricane blows away our alienation.

    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    Einstein's Kids and Cruel, Mean Regression

    IQ is highly heritable, and that heritability is largely driven by genes (from 50% to more than 70% according to most estimates, some going as high as 90%). Since it is hard to define, intelligence is harder to track. Einstein's progeny is instructive--and alarming. (Remember, Mileva Marić, Einstein's wife, was also really smart; in fact she contributed to some of Einstein's work.) 
    Einstein had three children:
    Lieserl, who died in infancy, Eduard, who was a promising medicine student, but then started developing schizophrenia. He was institutionalized for a large part of his life and the primitive treatment methods he was subjected to deeply affected his cognitive abilities. Hans Albert was a pretty brilliant scientist. He was a professor of hydraulic engineering at UC Berkeley and the world's foremost expert on sediment transport.
    Hans Albert had four biological children, but only one of them, Bernhard Einstein, ever survived to adulthood. He became a physicist, worked in engineering for Texas Instruments and Litton Industries, and received half a dozen US patents in his life.
    Bernhard Einstein has five children, the only info was that one is an anesthesiologist.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Cab Thoughts 11/11/15

    [T]o indulge in any racial preference is not to award to a Race, but to the State the power to create differing classes of citizens, and to rule on who shall belong to each class.--Mamet

    John Boehner's decision to resign is a mystery to me. But it seems to be a mystery to everyone. The whole thing looks to be a good example of how little insight the free press is offering.
    During eclipses Aristotle noted Earth's shadow on the Moon was always circular. For that to be true, Earth had to be a sphere, because only spheres cast circular shadows via all light sources, from all angles, and at all times. If Earth were a flat disk, the shadow would sometimes he oval. And some other times, when Earth's edge faced the Sun, the shadow would be a thin line. Only when Earth was face-on to the Sun would its shadow cast a circle.

    At a site on the edge of the desert escarpment at Saqqara, overlooking the capital city of Memphis, an Egyptian nobleman named Imhotep supervised the construction of a pyramid of six steps to house the tomb of Netjerikhet (Djoser), a pharaoh who reigned in the twenty-seventh century BCE. The Step Pyramid at Saqqara was the first monument in the world to be built entirely of stone. Rising to a height of 204 feet, it was the tallest building of its time. And its construction marked the beginning of the Pyramid Age. Pyramid building required a highly organised supply system involving quarries, mines, shipyards, storehouses, workshops and a labour force of thousands. The pyramid itself consisted of 600,000 tons of limestone blocks. Its main burial chamber was made up of ten blocks of granite, each weighing twelve and a half tons, which had been transported by river barge from quarries at Aswan. But the construction went further. The pyramid was set within a forty-acre complex of buildings enclosed by a mile-long rectangle of perimeter walls built of fine white stone. It is estimated that the quantity of copper chisels needed to cut such a vast assembly of stone blocks would have amounted to seventy tons' worth, delivered to workshops from newly opened copper mines in the eastern desert. --from The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor by Martin Meredith

    Who is....Sidney Blumenthal?

    Harbin-based Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group, or Longmay Group, the biggest coal miner in northeast China which has been struggling to reduce massive losses in recent months as a result of the commodity collapse, just confirmed China's "hard-landing" has arrived when it announced it would cut 100,000 jobs or 40% of its entire 240,000-strong labor force.
    Asians are on pace to become the largest immigrant group in the the United States. Meanwhile, the share of new arrivals who are Hispanic is smaller than it was 50 years ago.
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson writes the Earth is not rigid. Its surface rises and falls daily as the oceans slosh in and out of the continental shelves, pulled by the Moon and, to a lesser extent, by the Sun. Tidal forces distort the waters of the world, making their surface oval. A well-known phenomenon. But tidal forces stretch the solid earth as well, and so the equatorial radius fluctuates daily and monthly, in tandem with the oceanic tidal and the phases of the Moon.
    Henry Clay, in the first half of the nineteenth century, pioneered the "American System" that was later adopted by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. To achieve this goal the power of government, through sale of its enormous landholdings, could well afford to subsidize internal improvements. By levying protective tariffs, the government should foster the development of American manufacturing and agricultural enterprises that, in their infancy, might not be able to withstand foreign competition. The promotion of industry would create a home market for agricultural commodities, just as farms provided a market for manufactured products. The enemy in the thinking was Britain, whose free trade policy threatened to swamp the new America.

    Between 30% and 60% of cocaine users combine the drug with alcohol. This concurrent use is the cause of nearly 75% of cocaine-related fatalities in the U.S., and a cocaine user is 25 times more likely to experience sudden death when combining it with alcohol.
    Child pornography is one of the fastest growing Internet businesses, increasing at an average 150% per year for each of the last 10 years.
    "I think that another generation will look back and say 'how could you have made that mistake all over again? How could you have failed to understand Hayek's notion of the fatal conceit, that central planners can't do better than the dispersed knowledge and signals of free market processes?'"--Mark Spitznagel, hedge fund manager. He is talking about, amazingly enough, the Fed's --and the government's--belief the Fed can centrally manage economies.
    Espial: n.: 1. the act of spying. 2. the act of keeping watch; observation. Espial is related to the word espy, which comes from the German word spähen meaning "to spy." The suffix -al forms nouns from verbs, as in the word refusal.
    The Panama Canal, built by the U.S. Government between 1904 and 1914, was at the moment it was undertaken the biggest financial and engineering feat in the history of the world. President Theodore Roosevelt, known for his boundless optimism and inexhaustible supply of energy, was perhaps the individual most responsible for making it happen, according to David McCullough in The Path Between the Seas.
    This is astonishing, if true. Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries. 
    "The truly unique feature of [Homo Sapiens or Sapiens] language is not its ability to transmit information about the [tangible]. Rather, it's the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all. As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled. Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution. Many animals and human species could previously say, 'Careful! A lion!' Thanks to the Cognitive Revolution (which occurred about 70,000 years ago), Homo sapiens acquired the ability to say, 'The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.' This ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language."--Yuval Noah Harari.
    Because the earth has a bulge at its center, if you stand at sea level anywhere on the equator, you'll be farther from Earth's center than you'd be nearly anywhere else on Earth.
    Influential psychology textbooks have illustrated mass panic by citing supposed examples such as the Iroquois Theater fire of 1903 in Chicago in which some 600 people perished and the Cocoanut Grove Theater fire of 1942 in Boston in which 492 people died. In the textbook explanations, theatergoers burned to death as a result of their foolish overreaction to danger. But Jerome M. Chertkoff and Russell H. Kushigian of Indiana University, the first social psychologists to analyze the Cocoanut Grove fire in depth, found that the nightclub managers had jeopardized public safety in ways that are shocking today. In a 1999 book on the psychology of emergency egress and ingress, Chertkoff and Kushigian concluded that physical obstructions, not mass panic, were responsible for the loss of life in the infamous fire. Current belief is that during disasters people are very practical and community minded. Referencing the behavior of the British during the civilian bombings of WWII, 'The Blitz spirit' has become a cliché for communities pulling together in times of adversity.
    There were no Libya analysts at State during the Benghazi attack. Instead, Hillary Clinton employed a private intelligence service, whose chief was......Sidney Blumenthal! Blumenthal's operation employed a former top CIA official, Tyler Drumheller, to supply intelligence for the secretary of state at the same time he worked as a paid consultant to CBS News.
    Golden oldie:
    When the British captured Philadelphia on September 26, 1777, they expected collapse of the revolution. The city was the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, seat of the Continental Congress and de facto capital of the United Colonies. They didn't realize that, unlike a traditional European power, the decentralized American government would not crumble once its capital was conquered. Congress quickly reassembled at York, and General Washington moved his forces to Valley Forge after the Battle of Germantown. There were a lot of British Loyalists in Philadelphia and considerable fraternization with the army. When the French entered the war, the army, now under Clinton, withdrew to New York and left their Loyalist friends behind. The rebels reentered the ruined city immediately. There was some violence against the Tories but General Benedict Arnold, military commander of the city, limited violence by declaring martial law. Councils of Safety, composed of radical Patriots, seized Tory property and ordered Loyalists to report for trial. The estates of seventy-nine Philadelphians were confiscated, and over one hundred were convicted of treason. Three of them were executed.
    AAAAaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a picture of the Stepp Pyramid at Saqqara:

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    Advice From The Millionaire Next Door‏

    The Millionaire Next Door is a long, fascinating reassessment of success in America. Some of it is not flattering. In short summary, the following covers the essentials of becoming the millionaire next door.

    The majority acquired their wealth in one generation and  followed these  factors of wealth accumulation:
    Live well below your means.
    Spend  your time, energy and money efficiently in ways that build wealth. Believe that financial independence is more important than social status. Their parents didn't help.
    Their adult children are  economically  self-sufficient.
    They know how to pick market  opportunities.
    They chose  the right occupation.

    In raising their children and passing on their beliefs, they have rules for how they raise and educate their children on becoming as self-sufficient and successful as they have become.

    Never tell your kids you are wealthy.
    Teach your children discipline and frugality.
    Minimize  discussion on what your kids will  inherit.
    Emphasize their achievements.....not your success.
    Assure them  many  things are more valuable than money.
    You are not defined by the car you drive.
    Beware the effect of colleges and college students who actively diminish effort and material achievement.

    Monday, November 9, 2015


    My infatuation with Quora is fading.
    At first I was thrilled with the questions and answers, so many interesting ideas. Then I made a mistake; I asked a question. It involved Gödel. I spelled it without an umlaut and Quora corrected me. The answers were crisp and humorless--the question begged for a humorous answer. Then I could not upload an answer. Then I realized there was a sort of currency involved; you could earn credit to ask or answer.
    With just enough complexity to work through I began worrying about the questions. Many were clearly looking for answers to school questions. Many were genially naive. A lot were purposefully leading, raising questions that suggested racist or political answers.
    I'm not sure it will survive my search for an internet something to fill the pauses in the day.

    Sunday, November 8, 2015

    Sunday 11/8/15

    "It was because of your hardness of heart that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but it was not this way from the beginning."

    An interesting battle has emerged over divorce in the Catholic Church. The wing that sees itself as liberal, wants to loosen divorce laws and allow more acceptance of divorce in the Church.
    They are opposed by the forces who want to hold marriage as a single, important commitment that does not bend with circumstance. (Prominent in this group is the African church.) These are called conservatives.
    But--and this is the fun part--those conservatives point to Christ's specific division of the Old Testament law from His New testament law where Christ rejected the old notion of Moses' allowing divorce. Contemporary apologists support for divorce is labeled by the conservatives as Old Testament, "Neo-mosaic ."
    So the conservatives stand for the New Testament, the liberals for the Old.

    Saturday, November 7, 2015

    Cab Thoughts 11/7/15

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
    ~H. L. Mencken

    When has a culture owed so little to its few “great” minds or its few hereditarily fortunate men and women? One of the contrasts between the culture of Europe and that of the United States is that the older culture traditionally depended on the monumental accomplishments of the few, while the newer culture – diffused, elusive, process-oriented – depended more on the novel, accreting ways of the many.--Boorstin

    Chinese scientists have created genetically-engineered, extra-muscular dogs, after editing the genes of the animals for the first time. The scientists create dogs that have double the amount of muscle mass by deleting a certain gene, reports the MIT Technology Review. They were working on beagles.
    Dogs have always been of interest to researchers because of their defined personality traits; identifying the genetic sites for aggression, docility, loyalty (probably not pointing and retrieving--although it makes for an interesting sci-fi idea) has implications for human control. This particular muscular enhancement in dogs is actually a known genetic defect in some, a loss of the myostatin gene which allows for heavier muscle development. These researchers simply deleted the gene and caused the genetic defect. It does not cause the dogs to bark with an Austrian accent.

    The north pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus is unexpectedly fascinating and complex with large and deep fissures suggestive of global interplay between the surface and potential seas underneath, seas that future missions might target for signs of life.

    Witchcraft: By the fall of 1692, twenty men and women, ages 20 to 80, had been executed under the imprimatur of the highest officials in Massachusetts. (Contrary to popular memory, however, no one was burned alive. Nineteen people were hanged, and one man was pressed to death with large stones in a failed attempt to extract a confession.) As many as 165 more, in two dozen villages and towns, had been publicly accused of sorcery; they ranged from an American Indian slave to one of the richest merchants in the colony. In 1693, the executions stopped, the accusers fell silent, the jails emptied. The magic had stopped.

    Who is...Irving Berlin?

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has called for the criminal investigation of people and organizations that are seen as global-warming deniers. This would include lawsuits against the coal and oil industries, certain think tanks and other organizations that question global-warming. Apparently they would use RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statutes rather than old fashioned Grand Inquisitors. (Of note, Holocaust denial is a crime in  many countries.)
    Kakistocracy: n: 1. government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power. Kakistocracy entered English in the early 1800s from the Greek word kákistos meaning "worst," and -cracy, a combining form meaning "rule" or "government."

    There have been at least four attempts in five years in which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. One investigation uncovered an attempt to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer from the Middle East, the first known case of its kind.

    From The Daily Mail: "A successful doctor and mother of three had been taking cocaine and drinking with two men before she was found dead in the doorway of a Manhattan apartment, a source told Daily Mail Online. Kiersten Cerveny, 38, had been taking cocaine while she was with Marc Henry Johnson, a married 51-year-old television and movie producer and another man, James 'Pepsi' Holder, 60, who is being sought by police, before she died. Cerveny had passed out and been taken downstairs by the two men, the source said. Police were today examining the scene of the death, at an apartment block in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. Cerveny had been drinking heavily in the Lower East Side of the city before partying with the men in the third-floor apartment. She was not wearing any underwear at the time and they were later discovered in her purse. Cerveny, 38, had a notable career in dermatology after graduating magna cum laude from Duke University. She had risen to be an assistant professor and lived in a million dollar home in Long Island with her second husband and their three young children." This is an astonishing story worth looking up.

    For centuries, the real cost of labor has been increasing while the real cost of raw materials has been declining. That’s why we can afford to buy so much more stuff than our ancestors could. As a labor-intensive activity, recycling is an increasingly expensive way to produce materials that are less and less valuable.

    Alexander's Ragtime Band, Anything You Can Do, Easter Parade, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, There's No Business Like Show Business, White Christmas. Irving Berlin had no musical training, and his piano skills were the most rudimentary of all the great composers, but he had an ear for melody and soon he began writing music as well. (Famously, Berlin only ever learned to play in the key of F-sharp, and had a specially designed piano that allowed him to transpose keys by turning a small wheel.) The combination of his lack of training, on the one hand, and seemingly inexhaustible, high-level production, on the other, spawned urban legends, which would persist his whole life, that he had between one and three 'colored boys' in the back room who wrote his songs. --from The B Side by Ben Yagoda

    Politics has little in common with science. "Strictly speaking, pure science is about the search for the genuine causes of observable phenomena; politics is about gaining the authority to pursue favored outcomes. The method of science entails tolerance of and relentless but reasoned criticism of all views, including one’s own; the tools of politics include what urbanist Jane Jacobs calls “deception for the sake of the task.” Real science is about critically examining premises; pure politics is about defeating your opponent."--Sandy Ikeda, a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY

    Berlin has become a magnet for European youth, with 40,000 new residents flocking to the city every year, but only about 8,000 new housing units are added each year.

    A rich entrepreneur named Martin Shkreli recently bought the rights to Daraprim — a drug used mainly to treat life-threatening, parasitic infections in babies — and almost overnight raised its price from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. That’s over a 5,000 percent increase. What we see is a wealthy man profiting, or at least trying to profit, from the misfortunes of the ill and less well-off. What makes his efforts possible is the complex and expensive regulations prevent a competitive drug from being developed. Note that the drug Daraprim is generic. Such behavior is possible only with real or de facto monopoly.

    The word diamond is derived from the Greek adamas, meaning 'unalterable' or 'unbreakable.' Each diamond is a single crystal. In a typical diamond there are about a million billion billion atoms perfectly arranged and assembled into this pyramidal structure. And it is this structure that accounts for its remarkable properties. In this formation, the electrons are locked into an extremely stable state, and this is what gives it its legendary strength. It is also transparent, but with an unusually high optical dispersion, which means that it splits light that enters it into its constituent colors, giving it its bright rainbow sparkle. The combination of extreme hardness and optical luster makes diamonds almost flawless as gemstones. Because of their hardness, virtually nothing can scratch them, and so they keep their perfectly faceted shape and pristine sparkle not just throughout the lifetime of the wearer but throughout the lifetime of a civilization. Even in antiquity diamond was known to be the hardest material in the world. 

    For 12 consecutive years — from 2001 through 2012 — each home run leader in the American League had a Hispanic surname. When two American boys whose ancestors came from India tied for first place in the U.S. National Spelling Bee in 2014, it was the seventh consecutive year in which the U.S. National Spelling Bee was won by an Asian Indian. Does inequity of outcome imply unfairness?

    AAAAnnnnddddd....a picture of a whippit with the myostatin gene missing: