Thursday, November 29, 2012

Augustine:  Regarding the value of a college education.

The Economist has a follow up article on this topic.

"But, besides the punishments of childhood, without which there would be no learning of what the parents wish - and the parents rarely wish anything useful to be taught - who can describe, who can conceive the number and severity of the punishments which afflict the human race - pains which are not only the accompaniment of the wickedness off godless men, but are a part of the human condition and the common misery - what fear and what grief are caused by bereavement and mourning, by losses and condemnations, by fraud and falsehood, by false suspicions, and all the crimes and wicked deeds of other men?" - City of God, Book 22.

Yes, the pain and torment of reading City of God is nearing an end, although it hadn't quite crossed my mind that the miseries of life begin with the educational torments inflicted by parents onto their innocent offspring.  There is certainly something in here regarding the Tiger Moms.

In our modern enlightened era, we try to cause children to learn without punishments, which is a big reason for the failure of American education.  But do the children learn anything useful?  And if we had sensible discipline, would they graduate with any sensible learning, even if they actually did learn?  Undoubtedly there is no point to discipline, since there is little point in what is taught.  Finally, is it more of a sadistic punishment to spank the non-learners, or to put $1 trillion of student loans onto them whether they learn or not?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Augustine (354-430AD): Enlightenment and Relics.

"Thus one of the most learned men, and certainly the most eloquent, M. Tullius Cicero, says that it is surprising that the divinity of Romulus was believed in, because the times were already so enlightened that they would not accept a fabulous fiction." - City of God, Book 22.

Cicero lived from 106BC to 43BC, while Romulus is supposed to have lived around 750BC.  It is always a fun topic to consider whether or not our ancestors were idiots.

"Eucharius, a Spanish priest, residing at Calama, was for a long time a sufferer from stone.  By the relics of the same martyr, which the bishop Possidius brought him, he was cured.  Afterwards the same priest, sinking under another disease, was lying dead, and already they were binding his hands.  By the succor of the same martyr he was raised to life, the priest's cloak having been brought from the oratory and laid upon the corpse." - City of God, Book 22.

As much as I enjoy Augustine's writings, there are still some things that are awkward.  Modern protestants are taught to have no regard for relics, especially since Martin Luther was a key factor in bringing to an end the abuses of their use during the Renaissance.  So what should we make of all the miracles attributed to God through relics that form a large portion of the writings of Augustine?  He uses these as a key part of his apologetics to argue against with the pagans.  Are we to dismiss all of them, including those he claims to have witnessed personally?  We must also keep in mind that Augustine does not dismiss the miracles claimed by the pagans either, although they are inferior in accomplishment and he suspects that there might be some trickery.  I wish I had some charismatic followers to add some thoughts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Augustine: On Hell.

"But enough has been said in reply to those who acknowledge the authority of the same sacred Scriptures as ourselves, but who, by a mistaken interpretation of them, conceive of the future rather as they themselves wish, then as the Scriptures teach." - City of God, Book 21, chapter 27.

I am nearing the end of Augustine's City of God for the second time.  Book 21 is all about Hell.  It is about the eternity of punishment in a literal fire for those who refuse to accept Christ and turn from their sins.  What astounds me about this is the amount of words to be expended on the topic.  This shouldn't have been necessary, but it turns out that a very large number of arguments had been generated against the notion that men could be punished for their sins.  Much of the arguing seems to have resulted from an attempt to reconcile the Bible with neo-Platonism.  One thing that stands out to me is the inferiority of the modernists in their re-formulation of the same old arguments.  They are usually incredibly simplistic compared to the arguments of 16 centuries earlier.  On the other hand, modern Bible believers have little patience for such discussions either.  Yet at the same time, both the modern Bible believer and the intellectual modernist/post-modernist believe that we are living in an enlightened era where studying these earlier writings is quite unnecessary.  I am gradually learning to accept the conclusion - that it is pointless to study the past - but for the opposite reason.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lake Tahoe from Emerald Bay

The swim club told me that a group swam across Lake Tahoe last summer.  The distance is 11.5 miles, which is about 7 times longer than a normal workout.  Maybe a goal to set for next summer?

There is a plan to expand the Desolation Wilderness to include all of California.  Some adjustments will be needed to the permit process.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is good that this is still one of America's most important holidays.  Thanksgiving was instituted by a group of Fundamentalist Christians who gave thanks to their Creator for the blessings He had given to them.  It wasn't much in terms of worldly things, since they had less than most of America's homeless of today.  A year or so earlier, half of their group died due to what was most likely the "investors" having purchased expired provisions to supply the colony as it started up.  Instead, their thanks was for a spiritual blessing to be able to worship without being persecuted for what they believed.  For this, they gave thanks and invited their Indian neighbors to give thanks with them.  They were still threatened, however, by pirates, French, Indians and rapacious business men, but these didn't threaten them for who they worshiped. Thanks to God for his amazing gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Puzzling over the mortgage backed securities market ...

There is undoubtedly a lot I don't understand, but the news just noted that the US Federal Reserve is spending $85 billion per month on buying up securities, mostly of the mortgage backed type.  That is an asset shell game worth $1 trillion per year.  Is that in addition to the $1 trillion per year deficit?  Something to ponder over.

Mortgage backed securities are pieces of paper that state who owns the house loan that we pay ... in other words, when we mail a payment in, who finally gets the money?  Since the homeowner has to make his payment regardless of who owns the loan, this isn't directly relevant to him.  What it effects is who gets left holding the bag when 1.41% of homeowners default on their loan each month.  If the Fed is holding the bag, then, well, I guess they are the one holding the bag when the defaults happen.  It appears to be a great way to sweep the losses under the rug, without any possible negative side effects.  I am wondering why we haven't just been doing this for the last century?  Or to put it another way, why doesn't the Fed just loan everyone whatever money they need to buy whatever house they want at zero interest?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Presidential Debate Transcript from the year 2054.

UPDATE to this posting:  There is an article discussing recent research babbling on this topic here.

I won't say how this document came into my possession, but the circumstances were related to my work and certain physics experiments.  These experiments would be too technical for this forum.  The year 2025 saw a great economic breakdown followed by a protracted civil war before things eventually settled down.  A group of technocrats was then appointed to come up with a new world-wide government.  Looking back at the trends, it was discovered that the human intellect had been atrophying as a result of technological progress.  If an aborigine makes an illogical choice, he could very well be dead and not pass his genes on.  For a modern, however, illogical choices were frequently rewarded more than logical ones, while more recently sperm banks actively sought out genetic material from the most illogical specimens. The result was that illogical had a significant evolutionary advantage over logical.  The technocrats went back through the literature of illogic and were able to scientifically prove this connection.  Early advocates of illogic such as Marx, Engels and Hitler wrote large works that supplied detailed and exhaustive illogical explanations which were necessary to convince the reluctant masses.  By the year 2000, however, all this had been reduced to little more than tomes that were collections of anecdotes.  An argument could neither be developed from premises to a conclusion, nor could the masses actually process one had it been presented to them.  What was really striking, however, was that as the politicians logical faculties diminished, they were increasingly lauded for their communication ability, while people were more and more connected and enamored by the existential message.

The technocrats analysis resulted in a dual governance system.  The real government was turned over to computer programs that efficiently managed things, but then there was a virtual government that permitted humans to engage in the usual pandering and power politics, but with little harm done.  A "wealth placebo" had been invented which confused the distinction between the rich and poor, yet the class warfare raged on based on the "perceptible wealth gap".   A presidency was re-instituted which primarily had the function of continuing class warfare rhetoric, since this proved to be necessary component of human existence.  

And now, an excerpt from the debate, with some changes made so that we should not be easily able to change the future when we see this happening.  The following portion was deemed to be the highlight of the debate by various pundits and specialist observers, and where the clear knockout blow had been delivered:

Moderator:  "What are your proposals with regard to the proposed temporary increase in the 'placebo tax', and the impact of this measure on the perceptions of inequality?  Candidate B, it is your turn to go first."
Candidate B: "Um, well, duhhh."
Moderator:  "Candidate A?"
Candidate A: "Yes, certainly, like duh-uh"

Afterwards, a focus group was interviewed to see how they thought the candidates performed.  

Interviewer:  "What did you think of this daring move by Candidate B?"
Member 1: "He came across as elitist.  Candidate A was the clear winner.  He empathized with my needs and truly expressed that he cared more for the things that matter to me."
Member 2: "Yes, Candidate A clearly won this round.  He simply explained his plan better than Candidate B."
Member 3: "Well, I certainly like and respect Candidate B.  But I am worried about the future, thus, I will vote for Candidate A."
Member 4: "Candidate A.  He is clear minded and eloquent, whereas Candidate B is simply out of touch with reality."

And so it was.  Or will be.  Or whatever.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Water World Swim:  Winter Alcatraz Event.

On January 5th.  Too bad it isn't New Year's Day.  As long as I don't get sick this should be easy to do.  The January Alcatraz swim might be a good way to start the year off on the right foot, um, fin?  This group is limited to 50 which is much to be preferred over starting in a pack of 800 swimmers for the large summer events.

The other swim event that looks tempting is the Golden Gate crossing, which is 3km ... a bit longer than the 2km Alcatraz swim.

Invitations ...

"Dear Professor Looney,

By this letter I would like to invite you to participate in two scientific events, which will be held in 2013.  First of it is Mini-Symposium 'Creep and Plasticity at Cyclic Loading' (CPCL), which will organized in the frameworks of Fourth Nonlinear Dynamics Conference.  It will be held in the tourist center 'Sevastopol' near Sevastopol, the town and port in the Ukrainian Black Sea shore.  Not only the problems of cyclic loading description, but wide range of the Creep, Damage and Plasticity directions will be presented in the CPCL sessions, like the previous one, which was in Kharkov in 2010 ...

I do appreciate such invitations, especially since the subject matter is dear to my heart.  Sadly, my sponsor  has cut back on all travel to conferences, so I will need to pass on this.  Maybe next time.
A Taste for Change.

There was a Chinese restaurant that my wife and I frequented for a few years.  It changed owners several times, but remained Chinese and always seemed to have a good business.  Then a few years ago it switched to "Miss Saigon".  Obviously no longer Chinese, but the business was always good for this Vietnamese restaurant and we went there often.  A few weeks ago, this one closed and re-opened as an Indian restaurant.  This probably makes it the 30th or 40th Indian restaurant to open in our area over the past two years.  We now have North Indian, South Indian, Indo-Pak, Vegetabletarian Indian, Halal Indian, Krishna Indian, Tandoori Indian and who knows what else Indian food.

For a time, I had been trained to believe that the world had two major categories of food.  Chinese food and Foreign food.  With Chinese having long ago lost the preeminence, I should probably revise this to admit that the two major categories are now just Indian food and Foreign food.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Augustine:  On pundits.

"For Babylon means confusion, as we remember we have already explained.  Nor does it matter to the devil, its king, how they wrangle among themselves in contradictory errors, since all alike deservedly belong to him on account of their great and varied impiety." - City of God, Book XVIII, chapter 41.

I have been listening to Augustine while commuting for a few months.  The statement above is with regard to worldly philosophical sects which produced directly contradictory opinions, even though they all purport to be the experts on wisdom.  The contradictions began with the Greeks, and spread to the Romans.  Augustine is still a timely read, since it reminds us of how great nations rot due to vice, and then are brought down by the external problems when they can no longer withstand things.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hebrew studies:  Over the hump?

I have gotten back into things and am roughly half way through the second semester.  The grammar push is now winding down.  I have memorized the vocabulary for the first two semesters, which works out to about 600 or 700 words.  The total vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible is around 8,000 words, but I have learned the higher frequency ones.  The words for Ostrich, Ibex and Myrtle tree will just have to wait.  My Hebrew Bible has the lower frequency words in the margin, so I can now read along provided I can figure out the grammar.  There are also multiple meanings to the more frequent words which is creating a certain amount of confusion.

The studies now are getting more directly into the Biblical text, which is a big relief.  Earlier, the parsing of a sentence would be an exercise in total futility as nothing made sense unless the teacher provided things broken out word-for-word.  Now the reading proceeds along fairly quickly and it is more a matter of understanding the nuances.  This feels good, but I am afraid that the instructor is going to quickly take things to a whole different level.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Apocalypse Preparedness Training at REI.

Glad to see that I am not the only Californian wondering about such things, although this isn't quite what I had in mind as the threat.  But you never know!

More post-Election pondering:  The Gender Gap.

A female would let this topic go, but being a male the news keeps coming and I have to keep pondering ... and I really should have the good sense to leave this topic alone.

"President Obama won women by 12 percentage points, while Mitt Romney won men by 8".

I generally view that men and women vote similarly in intact, healthy families, so that the differences are more reflective of America's post-family, baboon troop style culture.

Of course the big monster financial issue for the next N years is the trillion dollar deficit that we have taken on a decade earlier than was scheduled for the Social Security / Medicare meltdown.  This leads me to wonder whether there is any correlation between debt handling and bill payment and gender.  A quick search  and here it is:

"An April 2012 study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation shows that women with low levels of financial literacy are more likely to engage in costly credit card behaviors than men with low financial literacy."

For much of the lower classes, welfare moms dominate the culture so that the government effectively performs the role of husband to them.  Then there are food stamps, housing subsidies, medical benefits, etc.  When you are on the edge, the notion that the government must do whatever it takes to supply your needs today will drown out all other considerations.  Let the future be damned.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Baffled:  Why did Petraeus resign?

From the article, General Petraeus says, "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

I genuinely agree with that statement, but let us play Devil's advocate.  Literally.

General Petraeus had apparently been faithful to his with for 38 years before this happened.  Doesn't that mean that he was engaging in the mentally damaging practice of suppressing his animal instincts?  How is it that he was permitted to be head over the CIA with this ongoing denial so apparent to everyone?  Isn't the fact of having an affair a liberating experience that helped him to get in touch with his real inner being - making him more qualified to be head of the CIA as well as an honest and genuine husband?  Didn't we just go through the ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so that America's military men would not need to suffer due to a repression of the DNA programming that they were born with?  Now that we are discovering that humans are born with all kinds of peculiar biologically determined orientations towards both known and unknown species, why do we continue with such old-fashioned thinking?  Even Clinton owed his re-election to an affair.  So what I would like to know is why the affair of Petraeus is wrong per the standards of our post-modern value system.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

California Super Majority?

The dream of the California Left of becoming a one-party state seems to have been finally realized.  Not that the Republicans were much of a check on the left over the last decade.  Californians also voted twice to increase the taxes paid ... apparently buying into the notion that it is possible to save California's schools.  May the revolution continue to its glorious conclusion!

Tomorrow morning I will go back to swimming and forget what is happening on the land.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Final Vote:  God appoints Obama.

No doubt God has a good plan for America.  I tend to think the good plan is that we should become a third world nation and suffer both economically and at the hands of the morally depraved so that we might be enticed to humble ourselves and repent of our sins.  Our current situation also reminds me of a prophecy from the book of Jeremiah:

"In those days people will no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.'  Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes - his own teeth will be set on edge." - Jeremiah 31:29-30

The meaning of the proverb was that the parents would sin, and the children suffer the consequences.  I can't think of a better way to characterize America's deficit spending madness.  I am looking forward to the Apocalypse!

Monday, November 05, 2012

We have counted the ballots, and the winner of the election for new captain is ...

Hopefully he can save us.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

More election pondering.

"Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh." - 1 Peter 2:16-18

This is difficult, especially for me.  But so it is commanded by God.  The king during this period was likely Nero who doesn't have a particularly virtuous reputation.  Many Christians were slaves during this era, including some in the household of Caesar.