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  • Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

    “You Better Go to Raw Data”

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd April 2021 (All posts by )

    People operating complex machines and systems–ships, aircraft, and nuclear power plants, for example–are often dependent on information that has been processed or filtered in some way. The same is true of people exercising their responsibilities as citizens in a large and complex society, inasmuch as they  cannot directly and personally observe most of the relevant facts and events.  Disasters that occur in complex physical systems can serve as a metaphor to help shed light on disasters–actual and potential–in the political sphere.

    On June 9, 1995, the cruise ship Royal Majesty was on a routine voyage in good weather.  The vessel was equipped with GPS, which displayed latitude and longitude position…which the crew diligently plotted..and also drove a moving map overlaid on the radar scope.

    Unfortunately, the information being displayed and plotted bore little resemblance to the actual reality.

    As the gray sky turned black veil, the phosphorus-lit radar map with its neat lines and digital indication seemed clearer and more inviting than the dark world outside. As part of a sophisticated integrated bridge system, the radar map had everything–from a crisp radar picture, to ship position, buoy renderings, and up to the last bit of data anyone could want–until it seemed that the entire world lived and moved transparently, inside that little green screen. Using this compelling display, the second officer was piloting a phantom ship on an electronic lie, and nobody called the bluff.

    The bluff was finally called by reality itself, at 10 PM, when the ship jerked to the left with a grinding noise.  It was hard aground on the Rose and Crown Shoal, and could not be backed off.

    It was quickly determined that the cable to the GPS antenna had come loose, and the system was not actually obtaining the real, current positions. The captain ran to the LORAN unit, a completely separate electronic navigation system. The position accurately displayed on the LORAN differed from the displayed GPS position by 17 miles.

    The GPS unit had in fact honestly disclosed its lack of current information: it did this by displaying the characters ‘DR’…for Dead Reckoning, ie, extrapolating the current course and speed..but the annotation appeared in small characters and was not noticed. The crew thought they were getting an actual portrayal of the current reality, rather than an estimate that would progressively become a guesstimate with the passage of time.

    To use the term which has become common in media and political circles, the GPS and its associated display units were creating a convincing narrative…a narrative so convincing that no one, evidently, took the trouble to cross-check it with the LORAN, or to do a celestial fix.

    How many American citizens live in a media and information environment which is as closed and as convincing as what the crew of the Royal Majesty was seeing on their bridge?  Consider how quickly overwhelming media narratives were put together concerning, for example, the Hunter Biden laptop or the murders of the women in Atlanta.  In most such cases, you could watch CNN, MSNBC, and some of the old-line tv networks, you could listen to NPR, you could look at the memes being circulated on social media–and they would all be telling you the same story, an overall narrative which for most people will be as consistent and as convincing as that phantom world displayed on the Royal Majesty‘s radar scope and plotted on the paper charts was that ship’s Second Officer.

    As disasters go, the Royal Majesty affair was a fairly minor one: embarrassing and expensive, but no one was killed or injured.  Here’s a case which was much worse–the approach of a Delta Airlines flight into Boston Logan Airport, on July 31, 1973.

    At 11:40:07, the Captain advised the First Officer, who was doing the flying for this approach:

    You better go to raw data.  I don’t trust that thing.

    “That thing” was a Flight Director, an instrument which displays the calculated actions needed to follow a desired flight path.  Both Captain and the FO had become concerned about indications on this instrument which didn’t seem to make sense.

    It was too late.  25 seconds later, the plane slammed into the seawall. There were no survivors.

    The NTSB determined that the Flight Director’s ‘mode’ switch was incorrectly set: while the Captain and the FO believed it was displaying the calculated actions required for the airplane to follow the Instrument Landing System radio beam down to the runway, it was actually doing no such thing.  “Raw data” refers to the display of the plane’s actual, physical vertical and horizontal deviation from where it should be on the ILS beam…and would have shown that the airplane was not where it needed to be.  The Raw Data was not, however, so prominently displayed on the instrument panel as were the Flight Director commands.

    Convincing displays, convincing narratives, can be very dangerous.  New information tends to be absorbed into the overall picture.  When the navigating officer of the Royal Majesty observed the radar reflection of a buoy on his radar screen, and, shortly thereafter, the passage of a buoy was reported on the ship’s port side, it confirmed in his mind that it was the ‘BA’ buoy, which marks to entrance to the Boston traffic lanes…and the whole GPS-derived picture became even more convincing.  But it wasn’t really BA–it was actually the Asia Rip buoy, anchored to a sunken wreck, which marks the Rose and Crown Shoal.

    In the political/media sphere, the misleading narratives that are convincingly presented are not the matter or mechanical or human error, they are a matter of human design.  Some of the people and organizations propagating these narratives know they are false, some would rather–for career or social reasons–not think about it too deeply, and some actually believe the narratives. It happens on both/all political sides, but happens a lot more, and more effectively, on the Left, because the Left/Woke dominance of media is so nearly complete.

    The pilot and copilot of Flight 723 had only a matter of seconds to question and cross-check the ‘narrative’ that they were seeing on their Flight Director.  Citizens, operating in the political/media sphere, have less time pressure…but the time available is not infinite.  Multiple sources of information are more available than at any point in history–but the Narrative of the like-thinking media and its influence strategies is overwhelming, especially for people who don’t have a lot of time to follow political matters.  Confirmation bias, too, plays a strong role.

    Will a sufficient number of people, metaphorically check the displayed GPS position against the LORAN, or check the Flight Director command bars against the raw localizer and glideslope data?  And will they do so before it is too late for recovery?

    (More on the Royal Majesty incident at my post here.  Detail on the Delta Flight 723 accident is provided in the NTSB report.)

     

     

    Posted in Aviation, Leftism, Media, Miscellaneous, Politics, Tech, USA | 32 Comments »

    Welcome to Section 22 Week, Day 4

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 22nd February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the fourth Chicagoboyz post (Feb 22, 2021) in the “Section 22 Week” count down to the 24 Feb 2021 Bilge Pumps podcast with the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list. Today’s post will include slides 49 through 60 of 82 of the Section 22 Powerpoint information packet.  These slides cover Section 22 combat operations from January to July 1945.

    It is worth pointing out that while there are 82 slides worth of material I will publish over “Section 22 Week.”  They represent, at best, a “picture book highlights reel” of what the between 500 to 1000 men involved in Section 22 radio counter measures operations did between May 1943 and August 1945.

    It is simply very hard to draw a line on who was in or not in a Section 22 field unit as the US Navy field units outfitted dozens of ships and submarines in the Australian and  American navies and many air crews on Section 22 missions were pilots and gunners teamed with a one or two RCM operators simply because their plane was on the roster for a mission that day.

    Certainly the crew of the submarine USS Batfish did not think of themselves as part of Section 22, yet they carried Section 22’s institutional DNA and the radar intercept equipment that helped them hunt down three IJN submarines in February 1945.

    This fuzzy ‘were they/weren’t they Section 22‘ grey area is where  I pull into this post one Radio Electrician George L. Johnson (USN) of the AGC-3 USS Rocky Mount. The AGC-3, like all of it’s contemporaries was the forward logistical repair node for all things radar.  This included the Mark III IFF as its transponder was a form of “secondary radar.”

    The USS Rocky Mount had been Admiral Raymond Turner’s flag ship in the invasion of the Marianas in the summer of 1944.  During the Leyte invasion, it flew the flag of Rear Adm. Forrest B. Royal as commander of Amphibious Group Six.

    Cmdr Jolley’s Oct 1944 Section 22 Current Statement and his Appendix N to the Leyte invasions orders hit people like Radio Electrician George L. Johnson on the USS Rocky Mount in the gut.  They maintained the Mark III IFF for the Pacific fleet and his ship along with every other AGC in the invasion force were tasked with making sure every Mark III in the Leyte invasion fleet worked and worked well.  Some time in the six weeks leading up to the invasion and the few weeks after — in the midst of Kamikaze attacks — Radio Electrician Johnson found time to redesign the Mark III IFF and submit that redesign up the USS Rocky Mount’s chain of command in November 1944.

    This redesign package was endorsed the the captain of the USS Rocky Mount, Admiral Royal and reached Admiral Raymond Turner’s staff in late November 1944.  On December 7th, Turner endorsed the design and sent it to the Bureau of Ships in Washington D.C.  See the archival document photographed below:

    Adm Turner Dec 1944 endorsement

    Admiral Raymond Turner’s Dec 7, 1944 endorsement of Radio Electrician George L. Johnson’s redesign of the Mark III identification friend or foe system to prevent Japanese exploitation of the system to identify allied ships & planes.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Welcome to “Section 22 Week,” Day Three

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 21st February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the third post in the “Section 22 Week” count down to the Bilge Pumps podcast with the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list.  By way of background, the Section 22 ‘SIG’ started in March 2015 with myself as list administrator and later as the groups cloud drive guru. The list accomplished it’s goal of mapping the Australian, New Zealand and American archives for Section 22 materials in early 2020 with the publication of Craig Bellamy’s doctoral thesis.

    Since early 2020 my goal for the list has been to get this material wider visibility in the WW2 history community.  By posting Section 22 materials from that thesis, and other list research, consistently on Twitter, I earned the list an invitation to the Bilge Pumps naval affairs podcast on the CIMSEC web site.  That podcast is due to go up on their site 24 Feb 2021.

    Today’s post will include slides 30 through 48 of 82 of the Section 22 information packet.  This will include a spotlight on Section 22’s third Assistant Director, Cmdr. J.B. Jolley, USN reserve.

    Cmdr. J. B. Jolley US Navy Reserve, Asst Director Section 22

    Cmdr. J. B. Jolley US Navy Reserve, Assistant Director Section 22

    Commander J.B. Jolley USNR was with Section 22 early – at least from Oct 1943 from documents Craig Bellamy found in the Australian national archives.   Current Statement #48 dated 24 October 1943 states that USN submarines (unnamed, darn it!)  were being fitted with radar intercept receivers at that time.   Cmdr. Jolley then ran Section 22 for a short time before and during the Leyte campaign (from about 4 September 1944 until at least the 10 Nov 1944) until his health failed.  Yet that time, Section 22’s efforts under his leadership made its biggest contributions of WW2 and Jolley demonstrated a level of moral courage in his leadership that was unmatched in the Pacific War.

    Yet, despite much research, our list has never found Cmdr Jolley’s first and middle names to go with his initials.  This anonymity was part of the price Jolley paid for his moral courage as a leader, for he crossed Admiral Ernest King on the issue of Japanese radar tracking US ships and planes through their Mark III identification friend or foe (IFF) systems.

    See Jolley’s IFF procedure at this link — ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/r at paragraph 11. IFF PROCEDURE sub-paragraph f. which is named in slide 30 below. 

    Adm. Turner, CENPAC’s amphibious forces commander, did not include anything like it in his Iwo Jima or Okinawa attack plans.  And he knew far better…but did not want to draw Adm. King’s attentions.

    To understand the context here, you have to know that electronic IFF was the US Navy’s technological turf in WW2. The U.S. Navy had created an IFF system before WW2, but the UK’s Mark III IFF was chosen for the sake of Allied commonality. And with radar centralized under Adm. King, IFF was part of his personal fief. King’s actions in the “Great South Pacific IFF Visitation” in Jan – Mar 1944 versus Section 22 made the combat failure of the Mark III IFF a failure in the same class as the Mark 14 torpedo and his own very personal tar baby.

    Adm. King’s CIC magazine did not admit to what Jolley wrote into the Sept 1944 7th Fleet Leyte invasions until the March 1945 issue.  Far too late for the intimidated Adm. Turner to add Cmdr. Jolley’s technique into the Okinawa invasion plans.

    The combat failure of the Mark III IFF had to be made to go away…and it did…but that story is for coming “Section 22 Week” posts and slides.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Welcome to “Section 22 Week,” Day Two

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 20th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to day two of “Section 22 Week” on Chicagoboyz.  Today’s post will add slides 15 to 29 of 82 of the information packet that sold the Bilge Pumps podcast crew on interviewing the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list.  It will also add additional information about the birth of Section 22.

    Outside the 2 minute speech thumbnail of the last “Section 22 Week” post, the birth of Section 22 was complicated and had a lot of bureaucratic moving parts tied to the campaign to reduce Rabaul.  This campaign showed that the Imperial Japanese were a fell high tech opponent punching in a weight class above the Soviet Union in WW2, at least when it came to the fields of radar, long range high frequency (H/F) long distance radio and electronic warfare.
    .
    Further, Section 22 was politically radioactive at senior flag rank level with the US Navy, USAAF and War Department Military Intelligence during WW2 and especially going into the post-war merger of the War & Navy Departments.
    .
    Worse, from a archival research historian’s point of view, Section 22’s work was not well documented in any one place, or any one military service, in American, Australian or New Zealand National Archives.  This is in large part due to Macarthur taking his SWPA files to the USA, followed by the MacArthur Memorial making off with a large amount of the General MacArthur’s NARA Maryland archive collections to the  MacArthur Memorial Norfolk VA.
    .

    Additionally, Admiral King ordered all ships logs and particularly submarines not to include ultra code breaking or radar intelligence.  These were separate “classified annexes.”  Many of these submarine log annexes are currently found in US Army Signal Corps files in the NARA archives in Maryland and the microfilm files of the Air Force Historical Research Research Agency in Alabama.  These are -Not- places frequented by archival naval historians!

    As the Feb 19, 2021 Section 22 Week “elevator speech” mentioned, most of the early pre-Section 22 history of Radio Countermeasures (RCM) in the SWPA (1942-1943) happened in NW Australia revolving around Australian patrol planes and later with the USAAF 380th Heavy Bombardment Group, after it was established.

    Lieutenant Commander Joel Mace RANVR (sp) was the prime focus/nucleus/crystal in supersaturated solution for Sec 22.  His RCM shop was discovered and annexed as the “Radio Countermeasures Group” by MacArthur’s theater signals officer, General Spencer Ball Akin, in the summer of 1943 as both it and Gen. Kenney’s intelligence units — Kenney’s personal B-17 transport/ad-hoc Ferret and 5th AF Radio Signal Mobile Company — were seriously stepping on the toes of Gen. Akin’s Central Bureau Y-Service sigint operations monitoring Japanese aerial observer lookout posts near Rabaul and in Timor that were now sprouting Radars.

    Lt Cmdr Joel Mace

    Lt Cmdr Joel Mace, Royal Australian Naval Reserve (sp),  the “sp” stood for special training in radar

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    The Past as a Foreign Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th January 2021 (All posts by )

    I’ve just finished and released into the wild a WWII novel, My Dear Cousin, for which the concept came to me in a dream last July. Since the current year-long plus covidiocy demolished nearly every fall market and holiday event which would otherwise have taken up my time, I set to work and finished it in six months.  As much as is possible, I did my research – and the internet makes the kind of information I needed available at my fingertips: a detailed 1930s map of Singapore, a hand-written diary of a woman who escaped Malaya in early 1942, a breakdown of what constituted the tents and facilities for a frontline Army hospital in 1944, and the newspaper archives of the wartime Singapore Straits Times and Brisbane Courier Mail. All that and more went into an account of the war, as seen through the lives of two cousins, on opposite sides of the world.  Accuracy is what I strive for – and most times, I think I come very close. The rest of this entry is what I felt obliged to include in the notes at the back of the book.

    In the interests of fidelity to history and racial attitudes of the 1940s with regard to the Japanese and to a lesser extent, the Germans, the current social climate requires me to add the following caveat; yes, the general attitudes of American and Australians towards the Japanese were by current standards, viciously and unrepentantly racist. However, this book is, as nearly as I can make it, written with an eye to fidelity to the historical record. I will not cut and tailor my fictional cloth in accordance with current fashion. ‘Presentism’, wherein the accepted fashionable attitudes and conventional opinions of the current day are retrofitted, however unsuited and historically unlikely, onto those characters living in past decades and centuries, is a grim transgression against the art of bringing a past era into life, warts and all. Writing a so-called historical novel merely by placing 21st century characters in different costumes and strange technological shortcomings is a disservice to the past, and a hampering to complete understanding. It’s the past – they did things differently, back then. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 68 Comments »

    Big Brother Watches Dilbert

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd January 2021 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz are excellent managers – and have opinions. I’m curious how effective you see:
    TECH THAT AIMS TO IMPROVE MEETINGS.

    If you aren’t sufficiently paranoid about 25,000 National Guards brought in for a nonexistent “coup” sleeping on the freezing floor of a parking garage and hearing they will be there until March (I don’t know how Abbott’s order to bring his men home is going – at least the Texas contingent should leave sooner), then consider Big Brother recording your blood pressure and eye contact at your next business meeting. (Does this seem a breakthrough in efficiency or something akin the Stasi in The Lives of Others?)

    It gives useful information; it might encourage quieter members and rein in talkative ones. Could interest be faked for the camera? But a leader who doesn’t sense the mood of the room and who doesn’t encourage contributions and differing approaches tactfully would probably not use AI information well either.

    Neither as employee or employer did I find these necessary (probably incorrectly). Forced into biannual meetings, I fell asleep or went off on diversions. This technology would quickly cull me (“Doesn’t play well with others”). But I’m not sure that makes it, well, bad. Invasive, yes. Nonetheless, I suspect it fosters conformity and forces consensus: in short, is UnAmerican. But maybe that’s just me.

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Diversions, Management, Miscellaneous, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 22 Comments »

    You Can’t Handle The Truth

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd January 2021 (All posts by )

    The new sermon series at church is going to be “You Can’t Handle the Truth,” focusing on Daniel. That’s a nice convergence for me after just seeing the Max McLean production of The Great Divorce and just finishing Till We Have Faces. Of all Lewis’s works, those may be the two where that lesson is strongest.  It is in fact a common theme of Lewis’s throughout his works, that there are truths we do not wish to be true, but refusing to accept them keeps us from God.  If that seems unkind or condemning on his part, know that his works are often autobiographical, and the excuses he puts into the mouths of characters are ones he has used himself. 

    James’s comment about the holy being both dark and light is like that for me.  I am not attracted to the earthy, hidden, primitive parts of Christianity like eating the god or imagining the witness of the dead watching us. Even singing as a necessity I think I might rebel against, as I would prefer that music just be an entertainment. I would stay with the idea portion of the faith if I could, of things to contemplate and discuss.  But Lewis taught me decades ago to beware of that as a thin, incomplete faith – we are not wired as cerebrally as we pretend, and mystery is a tunnel, not a swamp.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Ways of Knowing

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd January 2021 (All posts by )

    I would like to start by thanking Mike Kennedy for his observations over the last months. We all bring some knowledge to the pandemic, but he brings a good deal more. I think he has been properly cautious in interpreting information as it has emerged and even more cautious in offering advice, even though he might be tempted. It has been a reminder to me throughout not to pretend I know more than I do and not leap to conclusions. If he can refrain from pronouncements, how much more should I refrain, eh? Saying this, I admit my memory might be inaccurate. Mike may have made all sorts of knuckleheaded predictions and offered cockamamie theories over the last ten months and I just forgot them. Yet I think my overall impression has been correct, and I am grateful.
    ****

    When my oldest was a small boy, he took it into his head that not fastening our seat belts would cause us to get into an accident. He had clearly picked up associations we had made between the concepts of accident and seat-belt.  The distinction between “in case we get into an accident” and “because we’ll get into an accident” is not easy when you’re three or four. No real harm done at the time.  He fastened his seat belt willingly and we didn’t think he’d graduate from highschool with that misapprehension.

    There are a lot of theories and descriptions of the various ways people come to think they know things and what they trust.  They are not mutually exclusive.  We all trust our own experience while attaching some importance to what we hear happens to others.  We all have authorities we trust, but also trust our own ideas and reasoning. We also have opinions about what other people trust in ways of knowing. We particularly dislike it when those benighted other folks trust the wrong authorities or exhibit poor reasoning.  We also mix categories. In the long sorry state of CoVid commentary, we have had lots of complaints about people trusting “experts,” always in sneer quotes, yet our solution is nearly always that they instead believe…different experts.  Ones that we like better.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 40 Comments »

    Welcome Wagon – Progress Note II

    Posted by TM Lutas on 31st December 2020 (All posts by )

    I’m currently soliciting for source material and authors to write material for the Welcome Wagon on Quora. You can see that here.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Christmas 2020

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2020 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of  The Night Before Christmas.

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    A Christmas-appropriate poem from Rudyard Kipling

    I was curious as to what the oldest Christmas carol might be:  this Billboard article suggests some possibilities.

    The story of electric Christmas tree lights

    Mona Charen, who is Jewish, wonders  what’s going on with the Christians?

    The 2017 Christmas season, in combination with the Churchill movie Darkest Hour, reminded me something written by the French author Georges Bernanos:  A Tale for Children.

    Here’s a passage I’ve always liked from Thomas Pynchon’s great novel Gravity’s Rainbow.  The setting: it is the grim winter of 1944, just before Christmas. The military situation in Europe is not good, and WWII seems as if it will never end. London is under attack by V-2 rockets and V-1 cruise missiles (as they would be called today.) Roger and Jessica, two of the main characters, are driving in a rural area in England and come upon a church where carols are being sung. They decide to go inside.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, History, Holidays, Miscellaneous, Music, Poetry | 5 Comments »

    New Cousin

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st December 2020 (All posts by )

    Finding new relatives that no one in the family talked about or perhaps even knew about is one of the risks/joys/adventures of having a DNA test done.  I have a new relative, just a little younger than me, positioned somewhere between first and second cousin. She was a closed adoption in Ellsworth, ME in 1958.  Only two other listed relatives on her paternal side, both quite remote. She messaged me on Ancestry.com.  People are quite tentative about this, with good reason.  Folks don’t want to hear about extra babies born who were hushed up at the time.  I think I have mentioned before that we have that situation with our adopted nephew/fifth son.  His mother was a closed adoption in 1967.  He has a very close DNA match that we have narrowed down to be his grandmother’s sister. We asked her for details and received the reply that no women in her family had a baby in Cambridge in that year.  They were all in California the whole time.  So we still don’t know, though another match on that line might tell us which girl went away to “summer camp” that year.

    It is uncomfortable.  It became clear that this new cousin must be a child of one of my grandparents or one of their siblings. On that side, my grandfather had four brothers and my grandmother was an only child, so I assumed at first that that side was more likely.  But the centiMorgans of the common relatives did not come close to matching.  We concluded at first that my grandfather must also be her grandfather, with an unknown son born around 1920 or so.  As Ellsworth is across the bay from Nova Scotia, that made some sense.  So…Grampa…he is long gone, died in 1983.  I knew him a bit and it did bother me just a touch.  I worried it might bother some other people more.  What to do?  What to say? How do you ask such questions without giving away the suspicions?

    The woman is working with Search Angels, which helps people locate birth parents.  I spoke with them trying to narrow the places and dates, but it still didn’t add up.  I don’t have a huge number of DNA matches on that side but I have some, but she was not showing up as connected to them at all.  Which is impossible. We cast about until the person (from San Diego) mentioned that it must still be him because he had lived in Westford and her distant connections were from Leominster (he mispronounced it) which was so nearby. Ah, that was the key.  It wasn’t my grandfather from Nova Scotia at all, it was his first wife, from Leominster, whose family had been in that area (Fitchburg, Shirley) for generations. She died youngish in 1952 and I never knew her. I actually had a hard time talking him into that, but it made sense to me. So she had a child before marrying Carl, who was a very silent person.  I never heard him mention her.  Or much of anything else, actually. I don’t know if he even knew about the boy.

    That boy in turn was the father of my cousin, born two states and 300 miles away, so she has two mysteries to solve to place herself in the genetic world accurately. I hope to meet her after all this avoidance of contact is over. My father had a half-brother he never knew about, and I have a half-first-cousin I just learned about, and it is time to close the circle.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 19 Comments »

    Reopening — III (Theory ∧ Practice)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 27th November 2020 (All posts by )

    “We should act incrementally as prudent risk minimizers and pursue any effective no-regrets options. We do not have to wait for the formulation and acceptance of grand strategies, for the emergence of global consensual understanding, or for the universal adoption of more rational approaches.”

    — Vaclav Smil (Global Catastrophes and Trends: the Next Fifty Years)

    This post is an attempt at synthesis; those just grazing in (Midwesterners don’t surf) are directed to Reopening — I (Practice) and Reopening — II (Theory) for accounts of my earlier action and contemplation, respectively. For my third installment, I can do no better than lead off with a quadrant diagram of my own devising:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Human Behavior, Management, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Science, Tech, Tradeoffs, USA | 28 Comments »

    Welcome Wagon – Progress Note I

    Posted by TM Lutas on 25th November 2020 (All posts by )

    A stub site is up at welcomewagon.citizenintelligence.org. There’s nothing really there at the moment (thus, stub site). I’ve gotten good advice that distribution is a major key to success so work is starting on that front.

    Welcome Wagon has also received our first potential advertising customers.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Radioactive Words

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 16th November 2020 (All posts by )

    There are always radioactive words in any society.  Some are mostly forbidden, some are completely forbidden, some are conditionally forbidden, and some are secretly encouraged, so that people can show what brave rebels they are. At the moment the n-word is both conditionally forbidden, in that black people can say it, but otherwise absolutely forbidden, in that no others can say it under any circumstances.  There is protest over this, that the rules have gone entirely outside any sense of reason, in that it cannot be quoted in a context and cannot be uttered even to condemn it.  This is why I use the word radioactive, rather than sticking with the more usual term forbidden. One cannot even approach the word or handle it in any way unless one has the proper protections. If this seems unreasonable, remember that it was ever thus.  Of course it’s unreasonable.  So what? Live with the unreasonableness, because that is what language does, everywhere, at all times.

    Those whose objections are unreasonable, who declare we cannot even quote from Huckleberry Finn, however important the book was in improving the way the culture thought about black people, might have bad reasons for the insistence.  It may indicate an imbalance in them that suggests they will always be miserable unless they have a change of attitude. Yet this is not new. They are responding emotively that if we do not follow the rule, it is evidence that we just don’t understand how serious this is.  If we protest that we indeed do, they will shake their heads.  If you really understood, you would not do this. They are always among us, and keeping some words radioactive might be good for us, however ridiculous each individual case might be.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Pecans and Aunts

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Words are pronounced differently throughout the country – just about anything with an “a” in it, for example – but very few words are sometimes pronounced differently by the same person.  Two of the most prominent, the two above, work from the same set of sounds.  People generally say ant or aunt the same way in every context, but sometimes, individual aunts will be referred to by the other pronunciation because well, that’s their name. This happens more often when two sides of a family have a different preference.  The children grow up with a preferred pronunciation for the generic, but some of both pronunciations for individuals. There is also the even more regional Aint or even Ayunt in the south, such as Andy of Mayberry’s Aint Bee. Both sides of my family used the traditional Boston-area aunt-with-a-“u” version, but my mother’s second husband came from North Haven and used Ant. I found it jarring when he would refer to my mother’s aunt as Ant Sal, because…because that wasn’t her name. Of course Aunt Sal wasn’t her name either.  Her name was Selma, and Aunt was a title. And yet, when you are an aunt or an uncle it is your name to some people, and that might even start extending to friends and neighbors as well.

    Pecan is even more complicated, because not only the vowel sound can vary, but also which syllable is accented.  Most people have a single pronunciation for every use of the word, puh-CAHN, or pee-CAHN, or PEE-can, or pee-CAN. Others vary it depending on whether they are talking about the pie, the tree, or the plural of them in the bag at the store. Even people who use one of the “can” variants in every other setting might shop for pecahns at the store, and so buy pecahns to make a pecan pie. The pie is particularly tricky, because for some it is one of those phrases in which none of the syllables is accented: Pee Can Pie or Pee Cahn Pie. Even those who accent one syllable or another in the phrase tend to do so in an underplayed manner. Others will change their pronunciation if there is a modifier in the front, especially “Georgia.” Because that’s their name, don’t you know, regardless of what the nut is called in general.

    The other most common word with variable pronunciation in the same mouth is “route.” One grows up with a preferred pronunciation, but might visit a place for vacation a few times as a child and adopt the other for a specific road.  Rout 17 is the best root to go.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    Dead White Males

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s the “dead” part that is the most problem. The goal is not to increase the number of voices the student hears, but to reduce them, so that only the present exists. The illusion of multiculturalism is not hard to overcome, as what they mostly mean is different foods, music, ways of dress. Fun stuff. Not too intellectually demanding. One can indeed learn something about other cultures by reading Zora Neal Hurston and Ida B Wells, and should. But they aren’t very dead, not even a hundred years, and the cultures the write about still not so very far from ours. And even they, if I can tell aright from this distance, are not read for what is different about their lives but for what the student can pretend is “just the same,” as illustrations that prejudice America now is really not that far from what they wrote about.  Those two women would say otherwise, I have no doubt. They sang more than one note.

    Female writers are few as one goes back in history, as are writers of color. Yet this is a feature, not a bug, as it becomes difficult to find anyone from the past who might whisper to the student that people thought otherwise than they do today. Let us talk about the prejudices they faced, children – just like today! Pay no attention to how their values and motivations were not quite the same as ours, because then we might learn something from them. We therefore have only moderns to draw from, people who drive cars, watch TV, go to restaurants, and get everything from markets. The amount of diversity is going to of necessity be quite limited.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    Specifying Glenn Reynold’s Welcome Wagon: Second Draft

    Posted by TM Lutas on 12th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Thanks to all those who suggested improvements to the mind map in the first draft. The ones I could figure out how to include should be reflected in this second draft below. Volunteers should contact the project email at welcomewagon@citizenintelligence.org . Thank you spammers. So far you have actually provided useful contacts which is a pleasant surprise to this point. When the budget comes together, legitimate companies will get access to the RFPs.

    As before, the mind map is drawn up in Freemind. If you want a copy of the mind map file, email a request. We’re not yet to the size where this needs to go to a Git repository.

    Is this mind map complete enough for a first version of this aspect of the project? Can we move on to a different way of looking at things?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    Specifying Glenn Reynold’s Welcome Wagon: First Draft

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Conceptually, a welcome wagon is just two things, information and free stuff. The welcome wagon provider gets paid to distribute the free stuff and the new resident looks at the free stuff in order to get to the useful information.

    Sometimes it’s useful to just noodle around with a mind map. Here’s a first draft written in FreeMind.

    What should I add to it?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 31 Comments »

    The Simple Act of Counting

    Posted by Lucretius on 7th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Apparently, election officials in numerous American states find it challenging to perform the simple act of counting. Surprisingly, Florida is not one of those states, because after the embarrassing “hanging chad” election of 2000 they cleaned up their act (a process seemingly initiated by Jeb Bush in 2001). So here’s a proposal for Republicans, independents, third parties, and even some Democrats to rally around: clean and fair elections from sea to shining sea. Instead of eliminating the Electoral College, institute an Electoral Kindergarten where election officials can learn to count. As states under Republican leadership start to routinely and transparently report election results immediately upon the polls closing, whereas unreformed states continue to take days (and even then under a cloud of suspicion), Republicans can make a straightforward offer to voters: elect us in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Nevada (etc.) and we’ll put in place an election system you can count on. Simple enough, eh?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Five Years is Enough Waiting

    Posted by TM Lutas on 7th November 2020 (All posts by )

    On October 8, 2015, Glenn Reynolds’ USA Today column featured a proposal that people in states receiving a large influx of immigrants from other US States work up a “welcome wagon” that would be “Something that would explain to them why the place they’re moving to is doing better than the place they left, and suggesting that they might not want to vote for the same policies that are driving their old home states into bankruptcy.” That was sound advice. Professor Reynolds suggested that some of the money bags supporting the GOP get behind the effort.

    So what’s happened over the last five years? Here’s Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit Blog, currently the latest mention of the welcome wagon proposal on November 5, 2020, “Someone still needs to implement my Welcome Wagon Project.”

    Five years of waiting for someone else to pick this up is enough.

    I’ve cracked open a new email address, welcomewagon@citizenintelligence.org and am giving the project a free three month trial. If you are interested in participating, drop me a line.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    If Biden’s (and Buttigieg’s and. . . ) Description of Trump’s Incompetence Bothers You

    Posted by Ginny on 2nd November 2020 (All posts by )

    “Top Twenty Lies about Trump’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic” helped organize my thinking. I knew Demo charges against Trump’s treatment of the pandemic were not just emotional and unpersuasive, but often wrong. And it bothered me (undermined trust in my memories) that so many appeared to buy those charges. One of the Nevertrumper ads literally (and many in campaign speeches implicitly) laid every Covid death in America at Trump’s feet, a fearmongering demagoguery on the level of their race baiting. But I couldn’t always remember the actual misreporting or misunderstanding.

    Through the spring my husband and I had listened to Trump’s press conferences, waiting for the nightly news to begin. Lately, I hear statements of Trump’s arrogance, lack of empathy, incompetence. That wasn’t how I remembered it. Of course he blustered – that’s his way. But neither he nor the scientists were omniscient or even consistent: the usefulness of masks was just one of many turns and reversals. But then, China had not been forthcoming or even honest. The curve did flatten, respirators were created – harnessing the natural ingenuity of American business. What worked and what didn’t as far as treatments – often attacked politically – slowly proved themselves. We all started taking zinc and vitamin d. Older people were given more protection.

    The allegations seemed wrong, sometimes I could remember why and sometimes not. This gave me more faith in my often deceptive memory. Instapundit linked it. So I just wanted to say thank you and pass it on.

    Posted in Health Care, Miscellaneous, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    You Knew This

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd November 2020 (All posts by )

    I like Bing because of the photos, and I think they are marginally better on privacy than Google. I use DuckDuckGo most of the time.  Yet i have been annoyed at the bias of the Bing newsfeed, those clickable stories along the bottom of the page.  At the moment it is a refutation of the video claiming that Biden misidentified the state he was talking to.  I’m on conservative media pretty regularly, and I hadn’t seen that one.  I’ve seen links to lots of other videos with Biden gaffes but not that.  You see the effect?  By telling you the one that is discredited, without reference to how commonly viewed it is, it casts doubts on all those other, accurate Biden videos. 

    Next is that Lady Gaga “hits back” at Trump, with headlines that the Trump campaign has “chosen a celebrity target,” as if the poor girl was hunted down and selected out of nowhere to be criticised by the Trump campaign.  She chose herself.  Maybe it’s terrible optics for Trump to even acknowledge it, but now a whole slew of folks claim Trump is drowning who have thrown themselves into the deep end quite on their own.

    And the GOP “can’t stop count” in Nevada county, as if the Republicans didn’t want votes from that county from being counted, rather than an objection to the way this is proceeding.

    Multiply this by a thousand days and ten thousand stories, creating an impression based on selective reporting.  I think I read something somewhere recently about the indoctrinated believing they have come up with their opinions entirely on their own.  That is not only ironic, it is part of getting them to believe their misapprehensions forever. They consider arguments carefully.  They weigh pros and cons.  They check on alternate opinions (or more usually, what their usual sources tell them are the opinions of those stupid people over there). And then, with furrowed brow and a quiet nod of the head, they conclude that their tribe is the most intelligent, the arguments of the people who control their social destiny are superior, and none of their authorities need Air Wick.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Apropos of nothing, really: The Browder Boys

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

    Jay Nordlinger’s National Review article has stuck in my mind – an interesting family history of curious (in both senses) people and how complicated man and his loves and choices are. I know nothing about math and little about American communists, who seemed (and seem) to me quite foreign.

    But the Browders were broad in their abilities: perhaps the effect on of Russia and America, communism and western values, might draw observations, especially if readers are more familiar than I with their lives. Bill Browder “goes around the world campaigning for “Magnitsky acts” — laws in honor of the murdered lawyer” who had represented him, battling Putin who was behind Magnitsky’s persecution and death. His grandfather is probably not a familiar name today, but he represented the Communist Party in America for decades and was famous for what we may (I’m sure my parents who were more his contemporaries would) see as absurd, the concise argument: “Communism is 20th-century Americanism.” The generation between – three sons – were remarkable American mathematicians.

    The complexity of human nature? What we learn from our parents and what we believe and how we rebel? How remarkable talents are handed down and how some families are able to cultivate those talents? How math can deliver real answers and politics become fuzzy as consequences, empirical evidence, is ignored? Oh, well, at least this may entertain as we await Tuesday’s verdict on our culture – perhaps a temporary one but important nonetheless.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Business, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, National Security, Political Philosophy, Science | 11 Comments »

    De Tocqueville on Cancel Culture

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

     Rather prophetic.

    Princes had, so to speak, materialized violence; the democratic republics of today have made violence as entirely intellectual as the human will that it wants to constrain. Under the absolute government of one man, despotism, to reach the soul, crudely struck the body; and the soul, escaping from these blows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics, tyranny does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body alone and goes right to the soul. The master no longer says: You will think like me or die; he says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your goods, everything remains with you; but from this day on you are a stranger among us. You will keep your privileges as a citizen, but they will become useless to you. If you aspire to be the choice of your fellow citizens, they will not choose you, and if you ask only for their esteem, they will still pretend to refuse it to you. You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellows, they will flee from you like an impure being. And those who believe in your innocence, even they will [419] abandon you, for people would flee from them in turn. Go in peace; I spare your life, but I leave you a life worse than death. (Democracy In America Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 7, “Of the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects,)

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Political violence

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th October 2020 (All posts by )

    I am caught up with my reposts with this one.

     I observed decades ago, and reported in the first years of my own blog, that there is a fundamental difference between conservative violence and liberal political violence.  This is more apparent when one gets to look at the psychiatric cases, where the usual filters are off. The left goes on offense. The paranoid leftist fantasizes about going out and assassinating someone, or going and destroying some stronghold of what they think is oppressing the people. I have heard them say “I think about skinning George Bush alive,” or being caught in a plan to blow up a federal courthouse.  As things progress, they may have developed a grudge against Ted Kennedy, who they used to work for but the campaign fired them, or against Hillary Clinton, who they just don’t believe is responding properly to the 100 letters they have written her appealing for help. The press uses such dodges to pretend the person who showed up with a bomb-vest at Clinton headquarters was actually some sort of conservative, but this is just a dodge. Yet even those are exceptions.  Most stay true to form and want to set a housing development on fire because it harms the environment or break windows at a drive-by of Republican headquarters or a military recruitment center.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 23 Comments »