Chesterton: ATC2

G.K. Chesterton's All Things Considered is proving to be so quotable that I'll need 3 posts to hit the highlights. Here's #2:

  • It is cheap to own a slave. And it is cheaper still to be a slave.
  • I heard Mr. Will Crooks put it perfectly the other day: "The most sacred thing is to be able to shut your own door."
  • The woman's world is a small one, perhaps, but she can alter it.
  • [T]here are some things that a man or a woman, as the case may be, wishes to do for himself or herself. He or she must do it inventively, creatively, artistically, individually—in a word, badly.
  • It is the thing most common to humanity that is most veiled by humanity. It is exactly because we all know that it is there that we need not say that it is there.
  • All persons, as far as I know, on this earth receive money for what they do; the only difference is that some people, like the Irish members, do it.
  • The saints, the most exalted of human figures, were also the most local. It was exactly the men whom we most easily connected with heaven whom we also most easily connected with earth.
  • I certainly should not know if a soldier's sash were on inside out or his cap on behind before. But I should know uncommonly well that genuine professional soldiers do not talk like Adelphi villains and utter theatrical epigrams in praise of abstract violence.
  • But I do think that I am not exaggerating my own sagacity if I say that I should begin to suspect the doctor if on entering my room he flung his legs and arms about, crying wildly, "Health! Health! priceless gift of Nature! I possess it! I overflow with it! I yearn to impart it! Oh, the sacred rapture of imparting health!" In that case I should suspect him of being rather in a position to receive than to offer medical superintendence.
  • And as long as one is loyal to something one can never be a worshipper of mere force. For mere force, violence in the abstract, is the enemy of anything we love. To love anything is to see it at once under lowering skies of danger.
  • It would be the end of German soldiers to be affected by German philosophy.
  • [I]nvalids (alone of all human beings) desire strength.
  • Journalists do control public opinion; but it is not controlled by the arguments they publish—it is controlled by the arguments between the editor and sub-editor, which they do not publish.
  • No educated man born of woman will be quite so absurd as the system that he has to administer. In short, we do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws.
  • Men always attempt to avoid condemning a thing upon merely moral grounds. If I beat my grandmother to death to-morrow in the middle of Battersea Park, you may be perfectly certain that people will say everything about it except the simple and fairly obvious fact that it is wrong.
  • [T]he modern world will not insist on having some sharp and definite moral law, capable of resisting the counter-attractions of art and humour, the modern world will simply be given over as a spoil to anybody who can manage to do a nasty thing in a nice way.
  • [T]he vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar.
  • At no English public school is it even suggested, except by accident, that it is a man's duty to tell the truth. What is suggested is something entirely different: that it is a man's duty not to tell lies. So completely does this mistake soak through all civilisation that we hardly ever think even of the difference between the two things. When we say to a child, "You must tell the truth," we do merely mean that he must refrain from verbal inaccuracies. But the thing we never teach at all is the general duty of telling the truth, of giving a complete and fair picture of anything we are talking about, of not misrepresenting, not evading, not suppressing, not using plausible arguments that we know to be unfair, not selecting unscrupulously to prove an ex parte case, not telling all the nice stories about the Scotch, and all the nasty stories about the Irish, not pretending to be disinterested when you are really angry, not pretending to be angry when you are really only avaricious. The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is exactly that—that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy.
  • [H]is righteousness would be more effective without his refinement.
  • We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.
  • Precisely because our political speeches are meant to be reported, they are not worth reporting.
  • Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another; the public enjoys both, but it is more or less conscious of the difference.
  • Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false.
  • The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.


"There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart."

— from "Lorena" by Henry Webster 

Mo' Problems

"[W]hile greater knowledge is a greater burden, we should still get wisdom.   We should grow, knowing that our burden will grow with us."  

— N.D. Wilson

Beta Testing

"[W]hen we refuse to acknowledge Him here and now, the end result is that we start building little prototypes of Hell in order to test drive them."

— Douglas Wilson

Happy Warriors

"They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat, [...]"

— J.R.R. Tolkien, from Mythopoeia


"The data necessary for centralized decision-making is not available at all."

— Steven Hayward, summarizing a point by F.A. Hayek

The meatier version, with context:
"Hayek was emphatic that no matter how big and how fast our computing power got, it did not change the fundamental defect of all centralized economic control: the problem is not simply mastering or processing a large amount of raw data.  Information and circumstances change too quickly.  More fundamentally, the data necessary for centralized decision-making is not available at all."

..., he said (to your great-grandparents).

"Government has become ungovernable; that is, it cannot leave off governing. Law has become lawless; that is, it cannot see where laws should stop. The chief feature of our time is the meekness of the mob and the madness of the government."

—  G.K. Chesterton

The "Secret" History of Halloween

Steven Wedgeworth:
"We have shown that the modern holiday, while incorporating various elements of recreated ancient paganism, medieval Christianity, early-modern Reformation and nationalism, and Celtic Romanticism, is nevertheless an entirely modern construct, coming into its own in postwar North America. This is our Halloween."
Many different theories of the origin of Halloween have been floated through the years, but this article digs further into the real story than any I've seen.

Full article...

Life Together

"I know every town worth passing through,
but what good does knowing do
with no one to show it to?"

— Jason Isbell, from "Traveling Alone"

Wojtek the Bear

"Wojtek [...] was a Syrian brown bear cub found in Iran and adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped move ammunition."

More on Wikipedia...

Divine Presents

"Lord, [...] make other men's gifts to be mine, by making me thankful to thee for them."

— Thomas Fuller

Calvin on Monday-morning QBs

"[M]any complain when God executes his judgments: they would measure all punishments by their own ideas, and subject God to their own will."

— John Calvin

Merton on Solitude

"I ought to know, by now, that God uses everything that happens as a means to lead me into solitude. Every creature that enters my life, every instant of my days, will be designed to wound me with the realization of the world’s insufficiency, until I become so detached that I will be able to find God Alone in everything. Only then will all things bring me joy."

— Thomas Merton

Taking the fork in the road.

"[Y]ou cannot build a federal system when the component parts belong to different civilizations. Neither can you do it when the component parts were once part of the same civilization but have been headed in different directions."

— Douglas Wilson

Exploding glass

Destin (an engineer from Huntsville, AL, and the host of Youtube channel "SmarterEveryDay", with 1M+ subscribers) explains a phenomenon known as "Prince Rupert's drop".     There's some really good high-speed video of what happens:

Rubber, meet road.

"[I]f we think our great grandfathers should not have had such a hard time repenting, then maybe we should demonstrate for everybody how simple and easy it is."

— Douglas Wilson

sola gratia

"If shame could make us good, we'd all be good by now."

— Douglas Wilson

Letting it go

"The thing that prevents us from taking risks is the fear that if we don't succeed, we'll lose out on something we need in order to be happy.  [...]  But because everything we need, in Christ, we already possess, we can take great risks."


"Every attempt on our part to fix someone else [...] is actually a subtle attempt to fix ourselves."

 — Tullian Tchividjian

The Long Now

A remarkable passage from Seneca, doing what he does best (remembering that there are other times and places than here and now).  On the question of what comets are and how they move:
Why should we be surprised, then, that comets, so rare a sight in the universe, are not embraced under definite laws, or that their beginning and end are not known, seeing that their return is at long intervals?  It is not yet fifteen hundred years since Greece counted the number of the stars and named them every one.
And there are many nations at the present hour who merely know the face of the sky and do not yet understand why the moon is obscured in an eclipse. It is but recently indeed that science brought home to ourselves certain knowledge on the subject. The day will yet come when the progress of research through long ages will reveal to sight the mysteries of nature that are now concealed. A single lifetime, though it were wholly devoted to the study of the sky, does not suffice for the investigation of problems of such complexity. And then we never make a fair division of the few brief years of life as between study and vice. It must, therefore, require long successive ages to unfold all. The day will yet come when posterity will be amazed that we remained ignorant of things that will to them seem so plain. 
Men will some day be able to demonstrate in what regions comets have their paths, why their course is so far removed from the other stars, what is their size and constitution. Let us be satisfied with what we have discovered, and leave a little truth for our descendants to find out.

— L. Annæus Seneca (c. 65 A.D.)

Talking around it.

"We want the euphemism, not because we are too delicate to hear, but because we are too cowardly to fight."

— Douglas Wilson


"The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship."

— Peggy Noonan

C.S. Lewis on Statism

David Theroux digs into C.S. Lewis's views on government.   He comes up with a great deal of source material, and some excellent quotes, such as:
  • "We have on the one hand a desperate need: hunger, sickness, and dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnipotent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement?"
  • "Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."
  • "[the demon Screwtape:] Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden." 
Read on for more of the same...

Now you own it.

"If you are going to be picky, the place to do it is when you are making your selection."

— Douglas Wilson

Fear Not

"It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel."

— Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Chesterton: All Things Considered

I've been reading G.K. Chesterton's All Things Considered, which is a collection of various short articles.   I'm less than halfway through, but it is already a goldmine of quotables:

  • It is so easy to be solemn; it is so hard to be frivolous.
  • These people ask the poor to accept in practice what they know perfectly well that the poor would not accept in theory. That is the very definition of religious persecution.
  • Society is becoming a secret society. The modern tyrant is evil because of his elusiveness. He is more nameless than his slave.
  • The elaborate machinery which was once used to make men responsible is now used solely in order to shift the responsibility.
  • In the end it will not matter to us whether we wrote well or ill; whether we fought with flails or reeds. It will matter to us greatly on what side we fought.
  • If we are really to find out what the democracy will ultimately do with itself, we shall surely find it, not in the literature which studies the people, but in the literature which the people studies.
  • For the two things that a healthy person hates most between heaven and hell are a woman who is not dignified and a man who is.
  • On every bookstall, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how to succeed. They are books showing men how to succeed in everything; they are written by men who cannot even succeed in writing books.
  • [T]here are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating.
  • They also serve who only stand and wait for the two fifteen. Their meditations may be full of rich and fruitful things.
  • An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
  • All injustice begins in the mind.
  • For there would have permanently sunk into every man's mind the notion that it was a natural thing for me to have a fantastic and irrational power. They would have grown accustomed to insanity.
  • [T]he man who alters things begins by liking things.
  • When people have got used to unreason they can no longer be startled at injustice.
  • Are we without the fault because we have the opposite virtue? Or are we without the fault because we have the opposite fault?
  • It is easy enough to be refined about things that do not matter;
  • Barbarity, malignity, the desire to hurt men, are the evil things generated in atmospheres of intense reality when great nations or great causes are at war. We may, perhaps, be glad that we have not got them: but it is somewhat dangerous to be proud that we have not got them. Perhaps we are hardly great enough to have them. Perhaps some great virtues have to be generated, as in men like Nelson or Emmet, before we can have these vices at all, even as temptations.
  • It is a good sign in a nation when such things [sports] are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is a bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on.
  • If men do not understand signs, they will never understand words.
  • [T]he chief object of education is to unlearn things.
  • [T]he more a man really appreciates and admires the soul of another people the less he will attempt to imitate it[.]
  • Why should we celebrate the very art in which we triumph by the very art in which we fail?
  • Mad Frenchmen and Irishmen try to realise the ideal. To you belongs the nobler (and much easier) task of idealising the real.
  • I would much rather be ruled by men who know how to play than by men who do not know how to play.
  • It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. To be at last in such secure innocence that one can juggle with the universe and the stars, to be so good that one can treat everything as a joke—that may be, perhaps, the real end and final holiday of human souls.
  • Oh what a happy place England would be to live in if only one did not love it!


"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

— Neil Postman

ht: Joy Hutzler

The Late John Garfield Blues

"Old men sleep with their conscience at night; young kids sleep with their dreams."

— John Prine, from "The Late John Garfield Blues"

... & Consequences

"Whatever it costs to put the lie right, it will cost less than not putting it right."

— Douglas Wilson

Force Multiplier

"A decisive point is a place that is significant enough to matter to the enemy if you successfully take it, and insignificant enough to actually take. [..] To identify and go after a decisive point is the way to have a disproportionate impact."

— Douglas Wilson

Social Mercy

"Hell is social justice. We need social mercy."

— Douglas Wilson

Trouble either way...

"If you adopt the rhythm of stability, then change is a threat. Adopt the rhythm of change, though, and you'll get restless right on schedule."

  — Seth Godin

Arms Race

"An ad that pretends to be art is – at absolute best – like somebody who smiles at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s insidious is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real substance, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill."

—  David Foster Wallace

The Elect Lady (II)

I finally finished reading George MacDonald's The Elect Lady. Slow and steady wins (or at least finishes) the race. Here are the quotes that stood out to me from the second half. Quotes from the first half of the book were earlier posted here. Also, note that I have suspended the numbering of "quote" posts on this blog, because it was a) dumb, and 2) ate up precious space on social media.

  • Surely the part of every superior is to help the life in the lower!
  • [T]here is no teacher like obedience, and no obstruction like its postponement.
  • To [a farmer] the weather is the Word of God, telling him whether to work or read.
  • [H]is fellow-Christians mourned over his failure and his death, not over his dishonesty!
  • Our own way of being wrong is all right in our own eyes; our neighbor's way of being wrong is offensive to all that is good in us.
  • [O]ur immediate business is to be right ourselves.
  • Suffering does not cause the vile thing in us—that was there all the time; it comes to develop in us the knowledge of its presence, that it may be war to the knife between us and it.
  • Who obeys, shines.
  • One ought not to be enriched by another's misfortune!
  • Where people know their work and do it, life has few blank spaces for ennui[.] 
  • "I think [gambling] is the meanest mode of gaining or losing money a man could find. [...] There is no common cause, nothing but pure opposition of interest."
  • [I]f it is essential to any transaction that only one side shall gain, the thing is not of God.
  • It is an argument for God, to see what fools those make of themselves who, believing there is a God, do not believe in Him—children who do not know the Father. Such make up the mass of church and chapel goers.
  • [H]e was as indifferent to the praise or blame of what is called the public, as if that public were indeed—what it is most like—a boy just learning to read. Yet it is the consent of such a public that makes the very essence of what is called fame. How should a man care for it who knows that he is on his way to join his peers, to be a child with the great ones of the earth, the lovers of the truth, the Doers of the Will.
  • [H]e worshiped the god vilest bred of all the gods [greed], bred namely of man's distrust in the Life of the universe.
  • Right opinion, except it spring from obedience to the truth, is but so much rubbish.
  • [T]hey that will not awake and arise from the dead must be flung from their graves by the throes of a shivering world.
  • The thief who is trying to be better is ages ahead of the most honorable man who is making no such effort.
  • When I see a man lifting up those that are beneath him, not pulling down those that are above him, I will believe in his communism. Those who most resent being looked down upon, are in general the readiest to look down upon others.
  • I don't wonder at God's patience with the wicked, but I do wonder at His patience with the pious!

Q204: Calling

"It is the nature of vocation to appear to men in the double character of a duty and a desire."

— C.S. Lewis

Q203: Change

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

— Buckminster Fuller

Q202: Now you've done it.

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."

 — often erroneously attributed to Voltaire

Just fix it.

Clive Thompson on the benefits of learning to fix things:
"There’s also a sort of puzzle-solving pleasure in fixing, a sense of grappling with complexity. You encounter a lot of mystery that you’ll never solve and just have to live with, which is what makes repair a philosophically powerful activity."
Full article (make sure to watch the "Kickstopper" video)...


Q201: Why, indeed?

"If it's so great outside, why are all the bugs trying to get in my house?"

  — Jim Gaffigan

Q200: The Word

"We live in a world made up more of story than stuff."

— Jonathan Safran Foer

ht:Katie Rhine

Kipling has number, dials it

Below is Rudyard Kipling's "The Gods of the Copybook Headings".    Written almost a century ago, it anticipates our own age's worst problem:  the tendency to reject reality (as it is) and supply our own reality in its place.   Problem is: the truth will out.


AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

ht:Douglas Wilson

No Survivors

David McRaney ( on survivorship bias (a common logical error):
Survivorship bias pulls you toward bestselling diet gurus, celebrity CEOs, and superstar athletes. [...] The problem here is that you rarely take away from these inspirational figures advice on what not to do, on what you should avoid, and that’s because they don’t know.
Full article...

Q198: Mother's Day

"Motherhood is the big-leagues of self-sacrifice. Millions of women kill to avoid it. In our culture of self-gratification, to embrace selfless motherhood is a revolutionary act."

 — Rachel Jankovic

Doctrinal Jenga

From Steven Wedgeworth's essay "What Depends upon an Historical Adam?":
"Death is, according to the Bible, a judgment based upon Adam’s sin. If that original sin was not itself real, an event occurring in this world, then the judgment is arbitrary and unjust. We should also say that if death is simply a natural part of the created order, the normal process of decay inherent in the evolutionary model, then it is not actually a "problem" at all. It is just a feature of the universe. This then must attribute death to God’s original design, a species of Gnosticism.  [...]   If Adam was not historical, then Christ need not be either."
Read the full essay here...

Q197: Original Intent

"[D]enial of original intent is always an attempt to supply the intent of another. [...] It is not whether words will be governed in accordance with the intent behind them, but rather whose intent it will be."

— Douglas Wilson

Q196: Strengthen the things that remain.

"Intentionally stripping away dependencies on things you can no longer depend on is the single best preparation to change."

— Seth Godin

Raise your hand if you're sure...

D. Kahneman, in the NYT:
"The confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true."
Read the rest...

Q195: Mavis Gallant

"He had never really held a place and could not by dying leave a gap."
"[S]he was the daughter of such a sensible, truthful, pessimistic woman — pessimistic in the way women become when they settle for what actually exists."

 — Mavis Gallant

These quotes come from "Voices Lost in Snow" by Mavis Gallant.   You can hear a reading of the story (and a discussion of it) here.

Q194: The Elect Lady

I'm currently reading George MacDonald's The Elect Lady (if occasionally returning to a book for a few minutes can be called "reading").    So far, the book is a veritable quote factory.    Here are some bits from what I've read up to this point:

  • [T]here are other ways than idleness of wasting time.
  • A man should not do what he would not have known.
  • [H]e was a little too particular in the smaller points of his attire, and lacked in consequence something of the look of a gentleman.
  • To many men and women the greatest trouble is to choose, for self is the hardest of masters to please[.]
  • [W]hat we call degeneracy is often but the unveiling of what was there all the time; and the evil we could become, we are.
  • He was more and more for himself, and thereby losing his life
  • We wrong those near us in being independent of them.
  • She had learned the how before the what, knew the body before the soul—could tell good binding but not bad leather [.]
  • [T]o do the will of God is the only way to improve one's self.
  • [P]eople mocked him for a poet and a heretic, because he did the things which they said they believed.
  • [I]f we were so foolish [...], it would be better to find it out, and begin to grow wise!
  • They got up from their knees. They had said what they had to say: why say more!
  • To explain what the Lord means to one who is not obedient, is the work of no man who knows his work.
  • It is a poor reward for being a great poet to be allowed to take liberties. I should say that, doing their work to the best of their power, they were rewarded with the discovery of higher laws of verse. Every one must walk by the light given him. By the rules which others have laid down he may learn to walk; but once his heart is awake to truth, and his ear to measure, melody and harmony, he must walk by the light, and the music God gives him.

Easter, by the numbers

Jay Ryan from Classical Astronomy gives a good overview of why we celebrate Easter when we do.   You'll learn such intricacies as:
[...] every 19 years, the Moon's phases will recur on the same dates of the solar year.  This 19 year "luni-solar" cycle was the basis for the calendar used in Babylon. In the west, its discovery is attributed to the Greek philosopher Meton, who may have learned it from the Babylonians. The 19 year cycle was generally well known and understood in antiquity, and was apparently used by the Persian rulers of Babylon after the restoration of Israel.
Full article...

Now you see it...

From the project's page:
"We propose a method for removing marked dynamic objects from videos captured with a free-moving camera, so long as the objects occlude parts of the scene with a static background."
In other words, they can delete people or other moving objects from videos, even if the objects momentarily block other (even moving) objects in the background.   Have video evidence of your existence?  Too bad: you have been erased.  Demo:

Close enough

I ran across an interesting tidbit that I missed during my years in school.   Apparently 0.9̅ = 1.  (If you can't see the special character, the 0.9 is repeating, meaning 0.9999999...)  I initially didn't believe it either, since I, too, thought of this number as something approaching the limit of 1.    It turns out that you have to think harder about the nature of infinity in order to get your definitions right.   What helped me is this:  how small is the difference between 0.9̅ and 1?  It's infinitely small, or 0.

From Wikipedia:
"The equality 0.999... = 1 has long been accepted by mathematicians and is part of general mathematical education. Nonetheless, some students find it sufficiently counterintuitive that they question or reject it, commonly enough that the difficulty of convincing them of the validity of this identity has been the subject of several studies in mathematics education."
Link to article...

Also, the best part:

"Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"A: 0.999999...."

Q193: Proof of belief

"Faith is the essence of what we do: when we believe in something, we act on it."

— Nick Begich

Q192: We understand each other

"It is wrong to claim that nations and human beings come to blows because they do not understand [one another].   They come to blows because they understand."

— Romain Gary 

(Note:  I don't speak French, so this translation might not be the best, and yes, I'm aware of the pun.)

For certain values of real...

Here's something that may bother you for a while afterward.   First, watch the video below.   It purports to be a video of a UFO sighting over California.    Decide whether you think the UFO is real or an obvious fake.  Once you are sure of your opinion, click here to learn the surprising truth about the video.

[Heads-up for those with kids around:  there is 90% of a profanity in the person's reaction at the end of the video.]

What your modem was doing.

Ever wonder what your modem was doing while it was connecting (assuming you are old enough to remember using a modem).   Here's a breakdown of what all that noise was about.    Reading through this, I can even remember what each part sounded like.

(click image to enlarge)

ht:Steve Gibson

Q191: The Scales of War

"Since it is God that turns the scales of war, there is great uncertainty in the issue of battles."

— Flavius Josephus, reporting Antipater's advice to his son Herod

~ · ~

"Kings do not use to requite men for those kindnesses which they received when they were private persons, the height of their fortune making usually no small changes in them."
— Josephus

~ · ~

"With whom is what is righteous, with them is God himself."

— Herod, to his men before a battle

~ · ~

"If we allow that this was done by the will of God, we must allow that it is now over by his will also, and that he is satisfied with what hath already happened; for had he been willing to afflict us still more thereby, he had not changed his mind so soon."

— Herod, before battle, encouraging his men not to worry about a recent earthquake

~ · ~

"For it is a constant rule, that misfortunes are still laid to the account of those that govern."
— Josephus

Q190: More Josephus

"[...T]he principal scope that authors ought to aim at above all the rest, is to speak accurately, and to speak truly [...]"

— Flavius Josephus

"[...I]f you now fight manfully you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshiping God."

— Josephus, reporting the words of Judas Maccabeus

Stand clear of the elephant

I think there's a moral in here ... somewhere.    Josephus on the death of Eleazar Avaran, one of the Maccabees:

"But when his brother Eleazar, whom they called Auran, saw the tallest of all the elephants armed with royal breastplates, and supposed that the king was upon him, he attacked him with great quickness and bravery. He also slew many of those that were about the elephant, and scattered the rest, and then went under the belly of the elephant, and smote him, and slew him; so the elephant fell upon Eleazar, and by his weight crushed him to death. And thus did this man come to his end, when he had first courageously destroyed many of his enemies."

— Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 12.9.4

So, it isn't funny (I keep telling myself that.  Well ... maybe it's a little bit funny.).   Eleazar died a heroic death and it was seen as such at the time.  I take away something sort of like "pride goeth before a fall", but not in a negative sense.    Eleazar's victory was genuine — he was doing exactly what he should have been doing; it's just that the very fact of that victory opened him up to defeat.     

Have you noticed how often this is the case?    Just when you are on top of the world, that's when trouble comes along.  And not just that:  the trouble would have passed you by and left you alone if you hadn't let your guard down because of your success.   From now on, I'll say to myself in that situation:  "make sure to stand clear of the elephant".

Q189: Gravitation

"Pick a flower, and you move the furthest star."

— Slashdot user "osu-neko",  discussing gravitational interaction between bodies

Q188: Josephus

I'm reading through Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews.   Some bits I came across:

"[I]nnocence is the strongest army."

— Flavius Josephus

— · —

"Your bodies are mortal, and subject to fate, but they receive a sort of immortality, by the remembrance of what actions they have done."

— Josephus, reporting the words of Mattathias (father of the Maccabees)

Artist: Cody F. Miller

While looking around for teaching materials, I came across this artist.   He has some very good takes on various Bible stories and characters.

"Hosea and Gomer"

"The Annunciation"

"Prodigal Son III"

"Sarah and the Promise"

See more...

Mechanical computers

I was aware that, before electronic computers, they used to use mechanical computers to automate hard math problems, such as fire control for warships. Seeing this set of videos, however, really made me appreciate how unbelievably clever some of these mechanisms were.  

Q187: Getting it down on paper

"Writing is nature's way of letting you know how sloppy your thinking is."

— Dick Guindon

Q186: Public service

"It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government."  

— David Mamet

Q185: Target-rich

"Most thought Goliath was too big to fight. David believed that he was too big to miss."

 Douglas Wilson

What kind of criminal are you?

Glenn Reynolds writes:
"Traditionally, of course, citizens have been expected to know the law.  But traditionally, regulatory crimes applied only to citizens in specialty occupations where they might be expected to be familiar with applicable regulatory law, while ordinary citizens needed no special knowledge to avoid committing rape, robbery, theft, etc.   But now, with the explosion of regulatory law, every citizen is at risk of criminal prosecution for crimes that [...] involve no actual harm or ill intent.  Yet any reasonable observer would have to conclude that actual knowledge of all applicable criminal laws and regulations is impossible, especially when those regulations frequently depart from any intuitive sense of what "ought" to be legal or illegal."
from a paper titled "Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything is a Crime"....  

Q184: Ignorance may be an excuse.

"There is no freedom more essential than the right to know the laws you live under."

— A.J. Venter

Q183: Reality Check

"Living in the world that actually exists is an enormous advantage. [...] a courageous man defending the way reality actually is may of course be killed -- but he is still invincible."

— Douglas Wilson

Swartz: "How we stopped SOPA"

Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) — one of the names behind the movement to stop the SOPA legislation last year — remembers that campaign:

2012 Year-In-Review

It's year-in-review time for 2012.   Pour yourself a bowl of black-eyed peas (I recently mentioned this Southern New Years Day tradition to a kid in Northern Virginia and she was very confused for quite some time until I told her I didn't mean the pop group) and read on through the things that stand out to me from the year of the erstwhile Mayan apocalypse.


Here are some of the events (world and otherwise) that caught my attention in 2012:

  • Political.   Unfortunately, there is no avoiding that some of the major events of 2012 revolved around U.S. politics.   While your characterization of events will no doubt be different than mine, this is my blog, so I guess I'll say what I need to say (with apologies to John Mayer — that's two years in a row I've had a John Mayer reference in the year-in-review ... maybe I should be apologizing to you).     The year started up with the big SOPA protests and blackout (this blog participated).   It remains to be seen if that sort of regulation is truly dead (I doubt it).   Next up was the whole Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) debacle in the Supreme Court.    Whether you liked the decision or didn't like it, it seems clear that it was a major modification of how the citizens stand in relation to their government — for the first time people could be penalized (or taxed, I guess) for not buying something.    Then there was the run-up to the election where I was faced with a choice between (IMHO) bad and worse.   In my view, the country chose "worse".    The year ended up with calls for doing violence to the 2nd Amendment, so all in all, this didn't seem like a great year for the Constitution.    The trend looks like it will continue into 2013 as Congress debates over whether we should continue pretending like we have enough money or not.   I remain hopeful (I hope?) that some sort of coalition might be put together (encompassing freedom-loving individuals on the left and right) to stop the slide toward thinly-veiled lawlessness.  We'll see.

  • Personal.   My own personal life was fairly interesting (to me) this year.   I visited Israel for the first time. Later in the year, I spent time in the hospital (also a first).   My college football team (Alabama) won the national title (and will play for it again in a week or so).    It seemed like astronomy was (unintentionally) a major player in my life this year.   I was well on the way to missing the second (and last) transit of Venus in my lifetime due to cloud cover, when the clouds parted just long enough for me to see and photograph second contact.    I saw several conjuctions of planets and the moon during the year, and was able to see some of the Geminid meteor shower a few weeks ago.    I even caught a few very nice passes of the International Space Station during December.   Those are really easy to see (no equipment needed) if you know where to look.


I read a lot of different sorts of books in 2012 — from slogging through (most of) the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle on my phone (during various "wait" times during the year), to a collection of Richard Matheson's sci-fi / horror short stories.   Here were the major ones that stuck with me:

  • The Master and Margarita.  I started out the year (actually just finished 2011) on Mikhail Bulgakov's novel, in which the Devil shows up to cause trouble in Soviet-era Moscow.   This had been on my to-read list for about a decade, so I guess I can check it off.    The story itself was funny and somewhat unsettling (for reasons I can't quite nail down) — the sub-story about Jesus and Pilate especially so.

  • Henderson the Rain King.   I've wanted to read this one for quite some time, as well, due to its significance in the music of the band Counting Crows.    It didn't give me a great deal more insight into their lyrics, but it was well worth the read on its own terms.   It dealt, among other things, with the question of what life is for:   should we just do the same things over and over that others have done over and over before us, or ... what?   Extra points for a scene where the hero tries to dynamite a pool full of frogs.   This was my first experience with Saul Bellow, and I'll probably read more of his work in the future.

  • The White Horse King.   Ben Merkle's biography of King Alfred the Great. I didn't really know much about this period of history (England in the 900s or so), but it is now one of my favorites. England is just then starting to unite as one country, and the Vikings are causing trouble left and right. Alfred was born into a society that was on its way out of existence, and somehow managed to leave his successors a kingdom that would grow to become one of the great world empires. Can't recommend this one highly enough.

  • The Gods Themselves. I had never read much of Isaac Asimov, but I enjoyed this one very much.   Three stories set around the same events. Each is well-written, but serves more to get across various big ideas about possible futures and about human nature, among other things. The middle section (set in another universe which is in contact with our own) stands out. It spends most of its time examining the domestic life of the aliens there and uses that set-up to get at a lot of insightful observations about humans in general and relations between the sexes in particular.

  • Short stories.   Short stories came back onto my radar in 2012.   I read a number online, such as E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops...", and "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" by Cory Doctorow.    I read "Four Stories", a collection from Etgar Keret, as well as making some progress (during a week of jury duty) in big short stories anthology I bought in a thrift shop for a dollar or so.   I even managed to cross over into other media, enjoying some readings and illustrations of Edward Gorey stories on Youtube ("The Beastly Baby" is some sort of achievement, though I'm not sure which sort).


2012 continued a positive trend (at least from my perspective) in the rebuilding of decent music.  (Though, I think on the whole, 2012 will be remembered as the year that Dubstep became mainstream.     Once car commercials pick up your genre, there's no going back.)  Here are five (plus) albums that I enjoyed this year (in no particular order):

  • The Lumineers - The Lumineers.   I didn't really start to appreciate this album until late in the year (ht: Adam Brown), but pretty much every song is decent.   You've heard "Ho Hey", which is great and was on autoplay in my head for several months, but I think "Dead Sea" is my favorite at the moment:

  • The Followers - Wounded Healer.   Another late-in-the-year find.   Eric Earley (of Blitzen Trapper) teamed up with the pastor of the church he goes to to make ...  a worship album?    Sort of, but not like any worship album you've ever heard.    It has a whole 70s vibe to it, sort of like what if the Jesus Movement had kept going at full strength just a little bit longer.   I'm also counting this as this year's Blitzen Trapper album, as their Portland sound is very much on display.  The songs range from the quiet, hymn-like guitar song ("God's Eternal Now") to a full-on stars-for-eyes technicolor-animated-schoolbus 70s love-fest ("You Did Everything"), the title track is fairly representative:

  • Counting Crows - Underwater Sunshine.   My most-anticipated album of 2012, and it did not disappoint.   To paraphrase Pedro:  "Pick up this album, and all your wildest dreams will come true."   This is a collection of covers (though most are obscure) and Counting Crows owns every track.   I haven't listened to it recently, but that is only because I basically wore it out.    Hands-down album of the year.    "Return of the Grievous Angel" (link isn't to the album version) stands out, as does "Hospital", ... wait, I'd better stop this list before I put every song on it.    I'll leave you with my favorite ("Mercy"):

  • Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now? and Ahoy!.   Two new Punch Brothers albums  (well, one's an EP) came out in 2012, and when they're on, they are on.    Progressive bluegrass at its finest.    When a band with bluegrass instrumentation covers Radiohead at every opportunity, you know it's going to be interesting at the very least.   Try "New York City", "Hundred Dollars", "Another New World".   Probably my favorite as of this writing is "Who's Feeling Young Now?":

    Bonus:   Chris Thile (formerly of Nickel Creek, now front-man for the Punch Brothers) has been very busy recently.    He teamed up with (among others) Yo-Yo Ma in the Goat Rodeo Sessions, and released a fairly straight-ahead bluegrass/country album (but with a lean, mean sound) with Michael Daves called Sleep With One Eye Open.  Have a listen to the title track.   (Full disclosure: both of these projects were technically released in late 2011, but I didn't hear about them until well into 2012, so sue me.)

  • Spirit Family Reunion - No Separation.   So, for the longest time I couldn't find an actual album from Spirit Family Reunion, but they do now have some available for purchase.   They are in love with the Woody Guthrie folk/country sound and are possibly the most energetic band I've ever seen.    The band is from Brooklyn, but they sound like they are playing on the Plains in the 1930s (but at an energy level that would likely hold up in court as probable cause to search their touring van for cocaine).   Check out "Alright Prayer", "I Am Following the Sound", "Leave Your Troubles at the Gate", and ... well, this one's too good not to show the whole video (the drummer is worth the price of admission alone) — "100 Greenback Dollar Bills":

  • Also notable from 2012:  Bob Dylan - TempestLionel Richie - TuskegeePropaganda - Excellent

Other Media

Well, I watched some films that came out this year, but some of the most influential ones I saw this year were made sometime before.   Also, anything that isn't a book or a song goes in this section.

  • Of Gods and Men.    Finally got around to watching this movie in 2012, on a digital copy that almost managed to sync the subtitles with the dialog.   Still great though.   The (true) story of some French monks in Algeria who decided to stay in a little Muslim community (and for the most part die) when the going got rough with Jihadists in that country in the 1990s.  

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock.    Even though I almost always enjoy older movies, I (for some reason) can never convince myself to start watching them.   This one has been sitting on my hard drive for years now, but I finally got around to watching it around Halloween.    It has an aesthetic that I can't compare to anything else.    Without a great deal actually happening, it manages to thoroughly unsettle you just by lingering on certain shots and playing strange music/ambient sounds.  Beautiful and horrifying.

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.    I'm a big Tolkien fan, so of course I saw this one.   Many good moments (the council in Rivendell, "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold..." sung in Biblo's house, Radagast the Brown etc.).   Overall, it seemed like this one was more the director than the source material, though.   Hopefully the next couple will get back to solid ground.

  • Also notable:
    • The Dark Night Rises continued, somewhat improbably, an honest-to-goodness discussion of (Christian, even?) knighthood in the modern day.   The series seems bent on getting  Batman's snarling mug up there alongside the Nine Worthies.   Is it possible for a comic book superhero to stand in Kierkegaardian absolute relation to the absolute?   Maybe.   I still don't like comic books, though.

    • Speaking of knighthood, Cartoon Network's Adventure Time continued its strong run, albeit perhaps slowing down a bit toward the end of this year.    Still, though, what other character from a cartoon lugs around a copy of the Enchiridion?

    • On a less serious note, you can watch Batman villain Bane's commentary on Gangnam Style.   Why would a man dance through garbage, indeed?

    • The Grey was about a plane crash / ongoing wolf attack, or all of a sudden, was it about ... God?   A surprising movie.  

    • I started watching the BBC series Rev. (and am waiting on the second "series" or season, which is scheduled for shortly before the end of time).    It is a light-hearted look at the various troubles of an Anglican vicar in the inner city of London.   Sometimes, it isn't so light-hearted, though, and the vicar often finds himself praying for help in this or that situation.

    • I ran across a great Youtube channel called Insane Edition.  It takes clips from popular movies or shows and loops them infinitely, although very subtly so that it is sometimes several minutes before you realize what is happening to you.    The best was their take on a scene from Deliverance, which has since been removed due to a (ridiculous) copyright claim.


Here are a few of the large-scale themes I kept coming back to in 2012.   When certain ideas keep coming up in reading, media, and other experiences, it's hard not to see them as things that were put here for me to find — in other words, intended.  There may be other ones that I just haven't realized yet.   We'll see.

  • Death.   I thought a lot about death in 2012 — not a morbid dwelling on the end of my own life or someone else's, but the concept itself.    Most importantly, what does it mean to give your life for someone or something (even if you don't literally die in the process).   What does it mean to die in the sense that Scripture talks about it:  dying with respect to yourself, but living with respect to Christ and his life?   If we take the Christian worldview seriously, that means that one of the most fundamental facts of existence is resurrection.   But for resurrection in any sense to take place, death of some kind is a prerequisite.   People don't like to talk about death (even metaphorically).  Maybe we are afraid of death (of all kinds) because it means that the things we love are taken from us.    What if instead of death as a being-taken-from, we saw death as a laying-down.   "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."   What about that?

  • The King.  What does it mean to rule, to be in charge?   What is a leader?   You hear a great deal about leadership and becoming a great leader, etc., but is that even something we should be trying to do?   I'm leaning toward the idea that "leadership" as a concept is almost entirely without merit.   The best "leaders" throughout history have not really been the ones that got out in front and started giving orders.   That sort of leadership devolves quickly into worship of the self and arguments over whether everyone else is sufficiently respectful of my authority.   The best understanding of leadership (and the example left for us to follow) is the kind of person who is willing to take the hit, to bear the burden on behalf of others.   Picture everything you've been told about what makes a great leader.   Imagine that person, then let that image collide with:  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."    Leadership is a form of death.

  • The Unseen World.   Many times in 2012, I had the experience of being very interested in (or caring deeply about) various things that almost no one else around me could see the importance of.     Even something as simple as various astronomical occurrences, even though they happened out in the open for everyone to see, passed largely unnoticed.    Not everyone is into sky-watching, so no big deal, but what about when deeper, more fundamental things are at stake — things like honor, freedom, God, love, mercy...?    So much of life floats right by people, and they seem not to notice it at all — the eternal at work in the everyday.    I'm by no means immune to that, but how am I to relate to the things I do see?    If society around me continues to insist that the world is as flat as a pancake, should I still trouble myself with the roundness of it all, or play along?  

Punch Brothers - "Another New World"

As always:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His divine countenance upon you and give you peace."