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Category: Fun

Two cannibals are eating a clown and one says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

July 20, 2018 | 5 Comments

Mail Bag

I daily receive thoughtful emails from readers. Some ask questions, many point to articles or “studies” that need comment. Others just want to say hi.

I am grateful for these missives and thank you all for them. Please keep sending them. But I must apologize that I do not have time to answer them all. I try. I am now just over two years behind.

Here is a minor attempt at answering some.

Mail #1 Five or six times a week I get emails like this.

Hello,

My name is Emily Olsen and I work with Perennial Relations, a PR firm based in NYC.

I have a client who is interested in getting some basic exposure on your website via a guest blog post, or even just a quick mention of them within one of your articles. This is a reputable, well-known company that I’m confident you’ll be comfortable mentioning on your website.

I’m authorized to offer up to $40 for the post and can pay by Paypal. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Yours truly,
Emily

Emily Olsen
Perennial Relations

The highest offer was $100. Now I’ve never taken any of these, and never will, but that there are so many for this site (which obviously has modest traffic) proves it’s a productive business. Meaning a good deal of what you see (elsewhere) on line is fake or touted or suspect.

The only donations accepted, for this wholly independent blog, are from readers.

Mail #2 True Enlightenment (ellipses original).

What an excellent read your book “Uncertainty” is. I am a very quick and experienced reader. At this moment,…on page 24.

It is a true joy to read intelligent “common sense” from time to time, especially as a German citizen…

Thank you!
(PhD student, devouring your ideas)

The must-read book this fine young man is talking about can be had here. Buy two copies in case you ever, heaven forefend, lose one.

Speaking of students. I haven’t any. This puts a damper on the amount of practical work I can get done. I’m trying, among other things, to put together a package of predictive methods. A major reason for the lack of adoption for these True Methods is that no pre-packaged software exists. One I’m doing is based on MCMCpack (with full acknowledgement of the severe limitations of simulation methods). This would ordinarily be work I could delegate.

So if there are any students out there who want to volunteer to do some leg work, for no pay and no official acknowledgement, let me know. (Has to be unofficial, because I have no ties to any institution.)

Mail #3 Difference Made (name withheld).

Hello William,

I somehow stumbled on your site. Anyway its an interesting read especially since you make a interesting arguments and from the Liberal test (the trigger into your site) I found myself nearly with a 100% agreement (with the progressive).

Yet – as I reach midlife I am starting to question some of these beliefs. Starting with spirituality (from a lowest base possible) where do you start to get a basis where your coming from?

Best regards,
J

J, I used to be, and not that long ago, and even in some parts still, too in love with the world. Many years ago when I started this blog, I was still mired in atheism and the sins of rank individuality. Mine was no Road to Damascus. I stupidly chose to walk back to Reality barefoot over the most overgrown path.

What helped me return to Sanity? Books. Like these:

The Last Superstition by Ed Feser. All of Feser’s books are worth reading, but this is the best to start with.

Against the Idols of the Age by David Stove. Stove was an Australian philosopher who never wrote a boring sentence. He was a self-proclaimed atheist, but I don’t believe, and can’t believe, judging by his work, that he was sincere. Like Feser, anything Stove wrote is worth reading. Start with Idols, or even What’s Wrong with Benevolence. Or On Enlightenment.

Bible. Read it. Start with the New Testament. Read slow.

Next, turn off the TV. Or if you can’t, as an experiment, don’t watch anything produced after, say, 1960. This includes sports. Cut yourself off from your usual sources of information, such as (if you use it) NPR, any newspaper.

Read other old books, this blog, Social Matter and the links within, The Orthosphere. And so forth.

Really do this. You will be amazed at the end of the fortnight how different things appear.

July 4, 2018 | 28 Comments

Fireworks!

This post originally ran 4 July 2014.

The first one that says “grand finale” gets it. It’s over when it’s over.

I spent a year of boyhood in Chicago, 1975. Actually, Oak Park. An enormous creaky house one block from the Chicago city limits. UFOs were in the air—and on television. There were areas of the house into which I would not go unescorted.

Fireworks were legal. So was the idea that you could set your kids loose in the neighborhood with only the warning “Be home for dinner.”

Who was it that said the past is a foreign country?

We would collect pennies and nickels and trade them for weapons of minimal destruction, or WMDs. We’d take off down the alleys on our bikes lighting bottle rockets from smoldering punks held in our teeth, holding the rockets just until ignition to get a better aim. Not unlike jousting.

My favorites were the plastic green grenades which looked exactly like those my grandpa used to hoist at Germans. Inside was a cardboard tube with a fuse. Tremendous thick clouds of white smoke. But they were expensive. So we’d buy the little round smoke bombs, light two of them and jam them into the grenade. Almost the same effect, but you ran the risk of melting the plastic.

They had this one tiny firecracker the thickness of spaghetti. To show your bravery, you lit one and exploded it in your hand. Some guys pretended to do the same trick with the regular-sized WMDs, but we told each other too many stories of fingers flying in all directions to do it for real. Somebody knew somebody who knew somebody who heard of a guy who lit one he was biting. No takers there.

The elusive goal was a cherry bomb, or M-80, said to be illegal. They were supposed to look like an over-sized smoke bomb and be the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite. Rumor always had it the kids in the next neighborhood had one. Massive explosions were attested to. Eyewitness reports were plentiful. But none of us ever had one.

Next best thing was to tape a bunch of regular firecrackers together, twisting their fuses into one. If you did it right, these would go off more or less at once. Looking back, I don’t know how powerful these were. We tried to blow up a bike tire with one. No success.

The same trick, incidentally, can be done with bottle rockets. Tremendous boost in take-off speed. And with snakes, those little cylinders of carbon which when lighted unspool to great length. A pile of five or six would release as much smoke in the air as a press conference by Chuck Schumer.

Remember those little green army men? I had battalions of them. Some came equipped with plastic parachutes, which worked if you were careful about throwing the man in the air just so. Well, all experiments to send a parachuter up with a bottle rocket failed. Oh, he’d soar into the wild blue yonder, all right. Sometimes. But he’d always stick to the stick of the rocket—the parachute would never deploy—or fall off at take off. If anybody ever solved this engineering problem, I’d be glad to hear of it.

Since I am, I blush to say, the Statistician to the Stars, I must present the total of all deaths caused by the WMDs in my neighborhood: 0.

Fingers blown off? 0. Teeth shattered? 0. Eyes poked out? 0. Maimings of any kind? 0.

Burns? Well, one or two, here or there. Mostly from holding the punks or the bottle rockets too long, or just as likely from gripping the match incorrectly or from picking up a thought-to-be-cool spent sparkler. Yes: we used to carry packs of matches everywhere.

But even though no mayhem ensued, it is a logical truism that it could have! And this mere possibly is enough for the more effeminate among us to quail and quake and to invoke the ever-present urge to San Francisco the problem, i.e. to ban, ban, ban. For your own good, naturally.

The “grand finale”, by the way, is the end of the fireworks show, the point where dozens of rockets are sent up at once, an end with a bang. It is the event which is always announced half a dozen times before it really happens.

Happy Fourth of July! But be careful about attending a parade or looking at a flag. You might turn into a Republican.

June 1, 2018 | 15 Comments

The Curse Of Kenny Rogers

The story I am about to tell is true. You will not believe it.

I am a radio man from way back. My career began in 1971 when I disassembled my old grandpa’s cathedral-style tube radio in his Dearborn basement. I wanted to see how it worked.

I failed. Worse, I never succeeded re-assembling it. Worst, I never actually asked permission. But my gramps was a far greater man than I will ever be, and he forgave me.

It wasn’t long after that I went at my mother’s transistor kitchen clock radio with a screwdriver. I can report to you that everything you see in the movies about how electricity, when encountered in its raw form, can throw bodies great distances is true. To this day, I’m not sure my mom knows why the radio broke (Hi, mom).

The Air Force finally paid me to routinely shock myself. And also to learn about flip flops, bi-mags, tubes, and that bad booze rots young guts but vodka goes well. I became adept with o-scopes, solder suckers and wicking wire. And I figured out how radios worked.

In due course, I became a ham (no stretch) and began the quest for radio’s holy grail: the perfect antenna. I have never found it. But I still listen.

Now I have complained here before that location of my apartment on the small, but densely populated, island on which live is constructed almost wholly of EM radiation. Picking up radio stations, even local ones, is a battle between noise and interference. So to feed my habit, I switch to listening on line.

There exists a few hundred software-defined radios which their hosts graciously make available to the internet. They can be controlled much like a local radio, but with the added benefit of waterfall displays (to spot signal intensity), variable bandwidth, filters for different modes, and so on.

I mostly enjoy broadcast AM. You can log onto a machine in, say, Mala, Sweden, which I did just yesterday, navigate to the first visible station, and out comes…”Allaaaaaaah”. A call to prayer? Indeed, four or five stations in Sweden were in (what I took to be) Arabic, and were religious broadcasts. I found a Christian one, too, with songs in English. As well as one with a DJ speaking heavily accented English. First song: AC/DC Back in Black. I settled on a German station playing volksmusik. Let’s Polka!

But this was not a normal session. Something else usually happens to me instead. And I promise this is true. It’s a thing that occurs so often that I sure it cannot be a coincidence.

First example, from maybe a year ago. I though, “Let me try Julusdalen, Elverum-Norway. That’s sounds exotic.” Strong signal at 1215 kHz. Click!

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field
We’ve had some good times, we’ve had some bad times
But this time your hurtin’ won’t heal
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.

I need to go to Norway to hear Kenny Rogers?

The very next station I tried was in Athens, Greece. I believe it was 854 kHz. Get ready to zither! Click!

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, find a way…

Opa! Kenny Rogers in Norway, maybe. But simultaneously in Greece? I shut the site off.

These were not the only times. As I said, it happened to me not infrequently, and all around the world on stations I had never heard of. It happened again today, this very Thursday evening. I switched on KXPA, 1540 kHz in Seattle.

You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.

I ran. Spooked, but still wanting to listen to some music, I launched Accuradio. They had a suggestion for me. “Top 40: Week of May 21, 1977.” Say, 1977 was a good year. Living on the lake in northern Michigan. Fireworks. Fishing. Food. I clicked. This, I swear, was what I heard:

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field…

No more radio for me.