2017-08-22 02:44 pm
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Eclipse Trip

I've just returned from my eclipse trip. There were enough clouds in the area that we were nervous, but it was clear where the sun was at the big moment. The eclipse itself was incredibly beautiful, but not quite the spiritual experience it was for some people. The light of the partial eclipse though the trees was cool but it doesn't like up to my memory of the partial eclipse in Champaign some years ago, I don't know if it's just the effect of memory or if I just couldn't find a really good spot to see it.

Touch of Nature where we were staying is a very nice place and I'd love to visit again when it's not so hot and humid, I spent a fair bit of time hiking/walking around but I would have spent even more if it had been less uncomfortable. Astronomy people are incredibly nice and happy to share their cool toys; I got a good look at Saturn on Saturday night. The meals they provided were not exciting but edible, and I still managed to eat more than I should have.

My real camera decided to crap out on me, so I was limited to taking pictures with my cell phone. I did not have my phone out during the eclipse but I took pictures of nature-y things while I was there. I didn't bring my guitar and I guess I should have, there were campfire sings on Saturday and Sunday. Although I would still have been really shy about playing in front of a group of strangers who didn't know my kind of music -- I don't really know campfire songs. The camera that didn't work is almost as heavy, though more compact, than the guitar.
2017-07-31 02:20 pm
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Silly thought for the day

In Canada, the equivalent of having a green card in the US is called being a landed immigrant. So why do they give priority to people who come by ship or plane over people who walk or drive over the border?
2017-07-29 01:00 pm
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If I Were King

I spend a lot of time thinking about what's wrong with our economy and what might be done to fix it. Of course, the rich and powerful would never allow things to upset their happy apple cart, so pretty much the only way they could happen would be if they put me in charge.

I dashed off some of my thoughts in a chat group I'm in and I thought I'd record them here, for my own interest if nothing more.

stuff in here )
2017-07-11 02:23 pm
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I'm an Old Geek

I watched Gremlins at movie night at a friend's last night. (I imagine I'm the only person anywhere who hasn't seen it yet, but this is hardly a spoiler.) I laughed my ass off at the Robbie the Robot cameo. Nobody else got it.
2017-07-10 02:07 pm
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Math and Physics (from XKCD)

Today's XKCD:


My comment: If you can't do the math you don't know the subject. If you don't understand it intuitively without resorting to the math, you don't really understand the subject. So basically nobody understands modern physics.
2017-07-10 12:36 pm
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I was taking my walk this morning, and I started humming a couple of bars. They seemed familiar, I was sure they were from something I knew, but I couldn't place it. So I tried to see where they would go to see if it helped me remember what it was. Soon I had a tune. It was simple and repetitive but it was catchy. I repeated it a bunch of times as I walked along in the hope I wouldn't forget it. It may be from something else but I still can't place it.

I started to improvise some silly lyrics. And they seemed to come together into a song. I got home and wrote down the lyrics and started to file down some rough edges, and here they are.

Oh it's a butter
A happy butter
Do do do doot do do do
He's looking for
A happy flower
Doot doot do do do do
And if he finds
A girl butter
Do do do doot do do do
Then they will make
Next year's butters
Do do do doot do do do

And their eggs
Survive the cold, etc.
That's how it's been
Since days of old, etc.
The cycle turns
Goes on and on, etc.
For that is how
Life's will is done, etc.

And there's a bird
A happy bird
And he sings
His happy song
And he feeds
His wee fledlings
Til they can learn
To fly down south

And they return
After the cold
That's how it's been
Since days of old.
The cycle turns
Goes on and on
For that is how
Life's will is done.

Life evolves
Along comes man
Who makes the world
Fit to his plan
He tames the fire
He tames the wolves
He plows the fields
He tromps the roads

He build canals
He burns the coal
Not how it's been
Since days of old
The cycle breaks
It can't go on
And who will know
This song's been sung?

(hum first half of verse)
(fading out)
The cycle turned
Went on and on
It was the way
Life willed it done

I don't know what's happening to me. I don't write songs. I hope I don't forget the tune, since I don't have any meaningful way to record it.
2017-07-05 12:59 pm
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Childhood Safety

I'm going to post something here that may get me yelled it, but it's something I believe.

This was inspired by a story I just heard on the radio about how some kids in Hannibal, MO got lost in a cave and were never found. It described how they went off on their own and no one was concerned until they didn't come home for dinner, and how that would never happen today. It would be considered child neglect.

long and somewhat incendiary comment inside )
2017-06-28 11:51 am
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Question About the Obligation of Society

I have a philosophical question that I'd like to pose as a hypothetical. This is strictly a thought experiment and it's not intended to refer to any real person and certainly not to any identifiable group of real Americans.

Suppose there is an able bodied person. They have no physical limitations and no diagnosable mental health issues. They have no kids. They don't do unpaid work (such as assisting family or volunteering). They are simply unwilling to work in any way.

What obligation does society have to that person? Is it ethically appropriate to leave them to starve in the gutter? If not, what level of support must society provide? If the answer is "it depends", how would you define what it depends on how the obligation varies with that?

In particular, what is the obligation in a prosperous modern Western democracy?
2017-06-28 11:12 am
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A Verse

I took a nice long walk this morning, and as I walked I wrote a little song.

(ttto "Babylon Is Fallen")

I wish I had an orange tiger. I would beep him on the nose.
I would give him lots of scritches; I would pet his fuzzy toes.
I would give him toys to play with; I would give him lots of love,
But I would not walk beneath him where he could pounce from above.
For I know he's very pointy; he could bite my spine in two,
And I know that his instinct even though he loves me too.
2017-05-14 07:27 pm


I was listening to the radio this morning and there was some discussion about the connection between facts and truth. The person on the radio contended that while facts can be checked and verified and reasonably be shown to be correct, but truth is more subjective and hard to pin down. This inspired a train of thought.

I believe in science as a way of understanding the world. Science approaches a problem by forming a hypothesis and collecting facts to see how well it fits. If most of the facts align, the hypothesis is strenthened. If there are facts that don't fit and there's a pattern to those facts, it points to a way to refine the hypothsis, or possibly even throw it out and start over. But in most sets of data, there are a few outliers -- measurements that are way outside the range of most of the data. If the data can be graphed on a scatter plot, there's a very heavy concentration of points along the expected line, but there are just a few apparently randomly around the graph. If there are few enough outliers, we consider the hypothesis valid despite these outliers.

In politics, on the other hand, we focus much more on the outliers rather than going with the general trend. If a debater can present a single fact that disagrees with an opponent's point of view, and that fact is verified, it's considered a valid argument (at least to one side of the question). There is little attempt to see the general pattern and ignore the outliers.

This problem is very much driven by the way the media work. Ordinary events -- those in the main blob of data points on the scatter plot -- aren't newsworthy because they're common. Outliers, because they are novel, receive far more attention than they generally deserve; and this tends to reinforce extreme viewpoints by reinforcing them with outlier examples. For example, consider how many people worry about how dangerous air travel is but never pay attention to how dangerous car travel is. This happens because plane crashes are so rare that every one is going to get media attention, while car crashes are so common that they're hardly ever mentioned.

Truth is somewhat subjective and squishy, but a reasonable view of the truth should be formed by considering the ordinary majority of the facts rather than concentrating on the outliers.
2017-05-08 12:11 pm
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Gun Control

When you are holding a gun, everything looks like a target. Responsible gun ownership means recognizing this tendency and controlling it.

I mean this seriously, not humorously. I do not mean no one should have guns. Everyone I know who has guns is responsible by this metric. Responsible owners are still human and can make mistakes, but I assert that most of the gun crime we hear about is caused by irresponsible owners who should not have guns. The real issue of gun control is how to keep the irresponsible from having guns without taking away the rights of the responsible.
2017-05-08 12:06 pm
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Tool Usage

You know how they say when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I assert a corrollary:

Phil's Law of Tool Usage: When you have a hammer in your hand,everything looks like a nail.

Commentary: When you're holding a chainsaw you can be dangerous. :-)
2017-05-07 08:10 pm
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I had two cool experiencse as I was driving home from EFRC today, both related to breathing.

this is a bit long to force into your feeds )
2017-05-04 12:32 pm
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The more I type on this laptop keyboard the less I like it. I need to get a decent USB keyboard. Sadly I'm not sure they make them anymore. I want moderate travel and tactile feedback but not the noise of the IBM buckling-spring keyboard. Many years ago Fujitsu made the perfect keyboard but I haven't seen one like it in ages.
2017-05-04 11:58 am
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The Backfire Effect

I do not normally read The Oatmeal, but a friend pointed me to this strip. I find it thought provoking and worth reading. Be warned that it is very long, despite being called a comic, and (as the first part imprecates) you need to read the whole thing.
2017-05-01 12:01 pm
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Built a thing

After years of being annoyed that I don't have a good place or way to dry my boots after I wash them after working at EFRC, I threw together some bits of scrap wood I have lying around. It's not pretty (I'm a wretched carpenter) but the boots are now sitting on it. And I even put away my tools after I did it.

I've been acting like this since helping my mom gave me a kick in the ass. I hardly recognize this person I am these last few weeks. I hope it lasts.
2017-04-27 09:22 pm
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Guitar practice

I'm finding that taking a song I know well enough that I know exactly what I mean to play (even if I don't always execute it perfectly) and playing it in a completely different style is a good way to stretch myself. A few weeks ago I tried this with Tammuz, which I had pretty well set as a performance piece with a flatpick strum. I tried a double time fingerpick pattern, and (1) it pushed me to hit my Bms cleaner and quicker, and (2) I really liked how it sounded and I think I'll be playing it that way in circle now. Tonight I took Harbors, one of the first songs I really worked out something that felt like mine, and played it with a flatpick instead of fingerpicking. I'm not sure I want to make it the new way I play the song, but it made a song I love but hardly ever play feel fresh and new again.
2017-04-18 11:00 pm
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The Midnight Contingent

Now I've played the CD I just got from Cheshire Moon.


It is awesome. It's like Cheshire Moon except even better. If you didn't back the kickstarter, they probably have a few left :-) and you should definitely buy it. Or I'm sure you folks with technology from this millenium can find a place to buy it digitally.
2017-04-18 12:07 am
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Good thing, bad thing

My postal mailbox had two things in it today: an enormous credit card bill and my Cheshire Moon kickstarter CD. One of these things makes me happy.
2017-04-16 09:25 pm
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Need a client program

Something that's going to be a limiting factor on my use of DW going forward is that there doesn't appear to be a full-featured client available. I really prefer posting through a client than through the standard web interface. Semagic sees to do everything on LJ but according to the DW wiki only works with DW by crossposting from LJ. If I want to move away from LJ I want to post directly here, not post on LJ and also have it show up here.