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Waves of Joy

January 16th, 2017

Victory is Mine

People are probably dying to find out whether I succeeded in getting my old HP 3300A function generator working, so here I am to help. It is now running.

What is a function generator? It’s sort of the opposite of an oscilloscope. A scope displays electrical waveforms. A function generator creates them. I don’t know all the reasons why this is useful, but I can list one. If you have something like an amplifier, and you want to see whether a signal is finding its way through it, you can hook a function generator up to the input. This keeps a varying voltage going into the amp while you check the circuit at various points. For me, as a guitar amp builder, the alternative is to hook up a guitar and pick a string over and over. That’s work, and as I have often said, work is against policy.

I suppose you could also check an amp’s frequency response by sending different frequencies through it.

For some reason I no longer recall (probably the guitar amp thing), I bought a used Hewlett-Packard function generator a few years back. I don’t know when it was made, but I know they were selling them in 1965. It’s the size of a big briefcase, and it weighs maybe 25 pounds. It will produce several types of waves (sinusoidal, square, etc.) at frequencies up to 100 kHz. I’ll bet it was really expensive when it was new, because it contains approximately 4 million components which were installed by hand.

A few weeks back, I pulled it off the shelf to see if it worked, and I was disturbed to find that I had no cord for it. Did I ever have a cord for it? Search me. I could not find it.

The cords we have on computers now are called C14/C15 cords. C15 is the female end. I leave it to you go guess what the male end is. As you know, these cords have three conductors, and the connectors at the ends are in a line, with the ground conductor above the others (or below them, if you hold it that way). The function generator had a male receptacle for a cord, but it was a bizarre old setup known as the PH-163. I have written about it before, presumably to everyone’s delight. It’s sort of like a C14/C15, but it has oval pins.

You would think there would be ten billion PH-163 cords for sale on Ebay, but there aren’t. The best deal I found was about $25, for a cord for a machine which, for all I knew, would never work. My solution? I took one of the thousands of spare cords I’ve accumulated, and I bought a receptacle for it. I opened up the receptacle hole in the generator cabinet and installed the new receptacle, and that allowed me to use a new cord.

I was really proud of that job, because I had to use a whole lot of tools, and the stuff I was working on was very small. I had to use a Dremel, two files, a drill, a soldering iron, a solder sucker, a power screwdriver and some other stuff I forget.

Because I know you’re excited about this, I will post a photo, looking down at the receptacle.

The two red things are new capacitors I put in. I will tell you about that shortly.

I got it wired up, and I plugged it in. POOF. It failed to work, and the lights in the garage flickered. Seemed like there was a short.

I looked it over and asked questions on forums, and I learned something interesting. Sometimes old capacitors short out for no apparent reason. One day, you have a capacitor which blocks DC and many AC frequencies, and the next day, you have what might as well be a straight copper wire with zero resistance. The transformer on the generator had a dual capacitor across the main power wires, presumably to filter out crap, and when I checked the cap, I got 4 ohms of resistance (a short) on one side.

A dual capacitor (that name may be wrong) is a capacitor that looks like a single capacitor yet which contains two capacitors that share one lead. It will have one lead in the middle that goes to both caps, and it will have two leads on the sides, each of which goes to one cap. I do not know why HP chose to use a dual capacitor, but it seems like a bad idea, because when one side crapped out, I had to replace both sides.

I guess that’s not really true, but I felt like it was stupid to keep an old capacitor when its twin had just kicked the bucket.

Meanwhile, the generator’s fuse had melted. After I tried running it in the garage, I took it in my office and plugged it in, and the breaker that powers the outlet popped. I assume this is what killed the fuse. I should have used a current limiter, but I didn’t.

Here’s something that may be useful to doofuses like me who can’t read fuses. The fuse in the generator said “6/10A” on it. I couldn’t figure that out. Six amps? Ten amps? Six amps on even-numbered days and ten on odd-numbered days? It turns out it means 0.6 amps, which is something the manufacturer could have stamped on it instead of “6/10A”. I had to go on Ebay and order new 6/10A fuses.

I also had to order the caps. I have maybe 2000 caps on hand at a given time, and when the generator needed one, I didn’t have a single 0.01uF.

When everything arrived, I put the correct fuse in the machine and solder the caps in place. You can see them in the photo. I even saved the funky old insulation from the old cap and put it on the new cap leads.

The solder sucker I used is wonderful. If you to to an electronics store at random and ask for a solder remover, they will give you a clumsy foot-long plastic thing which is hard to use accurately. I found a little metal Japanese solder sucker about four inches long, and it’s much more precise. Solder tends to get stuck in the nozzle, so you you have to stop and get it out, but it’s worth it because it’s so easy to use.

I got everything put together and plugged the machine in. No joy. After going through all this, I found that the on switch was dead. No problem, right? Buy another one for three dollars on Ebay. Sadly, that option was not open to me. This thing had an expensive “Marco Oak Press-Lite” switch, which is apparently an aircraft-grade switch. It lights up when it’s on. New ones are selling for sums well into two figures. No way was I paying that.

I figured out which pins on the switch needed to be shorted to turn the machine on, and I soldered a wire between them. Now the machine turns on when you plug it in. I ordered a small toggle switch, and when it arrives, I’ll cut it into the wire I installed. I’ll put it in the front panel of the machine, and I won’t have to deal with the aircraft switch.

I got all this junk done, turned the machine on, put an oscilloscope probe on it, and got a signal! I was thrilled to the marrow. I got square waves, triangular waves, and sinusoidals. I got big ones, small ones, fast ones, and slow ones. The bizarre “sweep plugin” module that came with the generator worked, too. I don’t know what it is, but it changed the waveform. I still have one knob which is frozen, but at my age, that’s to be expected.

So now I have a huge signal generator which can probably be replaced with twenty dollars’ worth of modern parts that take up ten square inches. I don’t care. It was fun to get it running.

If you’re still reading, here is the payoff.

1. If you repair electronics, use a current limiter when you turn them on. Don’t be stupid like me. I have a variac and a light bulb limiter, and I still decided the best option was to hit the switch and pray.
2. You need a metal Japanese solder sucker. Don’t bother with the big plastic ones. It’s an “Engineer SS-02.”
3. A 6/10A fuse is really a 600 mA fuse.

I still have to fix my old Hitachi oscilloscope. I don’t really have to; I could throw it out. But I should fix it. It could come in useful some day.

My definition of “useful” is unusually broad.

I realize my life is full of excitement and adventure. Try not to envy me.

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119/73

January 15th, 2017

Stick Those Pills in Your Ears

Man, I feel good today. My throat is a little dry, and I sound like Barry White, but other than that, 10 out of 10.

During my prophylactic visit to the doc-in-the-box yesterday, my blood pressure registered 167/90. I was not happy. For a long time, I’ve had a problem with “white coat” high blood pressure. That means I hate going to the doctor, and while I’m sitting there dying to leave, my blood pressure goes up.

The big problem with white coat high blood pressure is that doctors love finding things wrong with us. They overdiagnose and overprescribe. If you have white coat high blood pressure, every single time you get a high reading from a new doctor, you will get the lecture about how you need to keep monitoring it, and they will sometimes talk to you as if you’re in denial. Like you’re trying to introduce them to your invisible friend, Harvey the rabbit.

I didn’t invent white coat high blood pressure. Doctors came up with it. I don’t see why one doctor would tell me I had it and another doctor would treat me like a mental patient for revealing it to him.

A long time ago, when I was in my twenties, I showed up at a doctor’s office with fifteen pounds of extra weight on me, a total cholesterol reading of 208 (the “high” threshold was 200), and a blood pressure reading of 140/90. The doctor put me on a diet. He told me I had to exercise. He never mentioned white coat high blood pressure. He didn’t mention the fact that my LDL (bad cholesterol) was low and my HDL (good cholesterol) was high. My high “good cholesterol” level was the sole reason my overall level was high.

For several weeks I put up with his BS, and then I forgot all about it. I am not dead. My kidneys have not failed. I have not had any strokes.

My mother and grandfather both had cholesterol readings in the mid-300’s. Both were thin, and neither had heart disease. My mother’s blood pressure was so low doctors marveled at her ability to remain conscious.

This same guy called me after I went in for a stomach virus. He said my bilirubin was high, and that it needed to be looked at. I asked him what could cause it. He said one likely cause was a viral infection.

Yeah, okay. Why not just break into my house and take what you like? It would be a better option for me.

Let’s consider the alternatives.

1. You deliberately bring me in for pointless exams and treatment and take my money, and then you make me come back over and over and take pills I don’t need and which may harm me.

2. You break in and steal stuff worth the same amount of money, but you spare me the exams and treatment.

I would choose 2. In fact, that’s what I did, except he didn’t break in. With a racket like his, you don’t need to rob houses. I’ll say this for burglars: they may take your stuff, but they don’t stick things up your rear end. Generally.

When I was in college (the second time around), I got my typical reading of 130/90 during a visit for some minor problem. This was the first time a doctor mentioned white coat high blood pressure. She said I needed to come back and have it checked a few more times, to get me used to the horror of being in a doctor’s office.

At this time, I was waiting for letters from grad schools, and I was under stress. I was also being evaluated for ADD. The letters came, I got accepted, and I was given my first Ritalin prescription. Ritalin is a stimulant, but it relaxed me. I went to the same doctor, full of prescription speed, and my pressure was something like 125/80. The doctor was happy, and so was I.

I went to a doctor in 2016 to get a strep test (pretty much the only reason I ever go), and I came in at something like 135/90, and the nurse started talking down to me about how we might need to consider the possibility that I’m just imagining the white coat thing.

Of course, I went home and paid no attention at all. I do not want high blood pressure pills. They cause headaches, impotence, memory problems (according to my dad’s doctor), and God knows what else. Their use is also highly correlated with reduction of bank balances. Death doesn’t scare me as much as having to get up and take 15 unnecessary and expensive pills every day.

I first learned to distrust pills when I was treated for ADD. They gave me Ritalin, and I loved it, and then I developed a tolerance. I could take 120 milligrams per day without exploding or going nova or whatever the overdose reaction is. A typical dose is 10 mg. Same thing happened with Wellbutrin. A big dose is three large red pills a day, and on some days, I had to take seven. I took so much, they told me to get off of it gradually in order to avoid withdrawal seizures. Other ADD drugs nearly made me crazy. I learned that even if a pill works very well when you start taking it, you can’t trust it, because two months down the road, it may make you miserable. Ask a manic depressive about that. They’re famous for having to switch medications over and over.

It makes sense if you think about it. What happens to drug abusers, generally? The first time a junkie uses heroin, it’s wonderful. He loves it. The pleasure is like something he has never experienced. The hundredth time, it doesn’t feel so good. He has to take it in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Drugs are like sexy girlfriends who put out at will. Fun in the short term, but if you marry one, you will regret it. If it’s true of recreational drugs, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be true of prescriptions. A drug can’t tell whether it’s prescribed or not.

I will never trust pills again. If you take a pill once a year for an occasional problem, it’s fine. If you take it every day to get rid of chronic symptoms without addressing the cause, sooner or later it will let you down. That’s what I believe, based on experience. I think I could develop a tolerance to anything if I took it long enough.

Supplements are different. At least the ones I take are. They are intended to address the causes of problems, not the symptoms.

Because my pressure was so crazy yesterday (I didn’t know my body could even do 167), I decided to be cautious and look around on the web for advice. I decided to check my blood pressure in the morning.

I learned that 90% of people over a certain age have high blood pressure. That was depressing. Those are not good odds. Even if my blood pressure had been fine earlier in life, I might be screwed now.

Because I’ve been harped at so much, I have a blood pressure machine at home. Today I used it, and unlike the doctor’s people, I used it correctly. Here is what you do when you take your blood pressure. This may do you a world of good if you are currently being treated for a blood pressure problem you don’t really have. Take your blood pressure the correct way and see what you get. If your blood pressure is low, ever, you don’t have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure have it all the time. It’s a minimum value.

1. Don’t do it when you have a virus, because they raise your pressure.
2. Don’t do it when you’re fasting, because it also jacks up the pressure.
3. Take it while sitting or lying down, with your arm no higher than your heart.
4. Put the cuff on your weak arm or your leg. If you’re right-handed, keep it off your right arm.
5. If you’re sitting, put both feet on the floor, flat.
6. Do not take it until you’ve been still for a full 15 minutes. Doctors never tell you that.
7. Do not do it AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE or under any other type of stress. Hello?

Here’s what I got today: 119/73. That was right out of the box. I didn’t take it fifteen times and look for a fluke reading.

It was a shock. I was hoping for anything under 130, over anything under 90. To see a 73 in there…that was a present from God.

Why do I pay attention to these people? They don’t know how to take blood pressure correctly, and then they give you condescending lectures based on faulty data, with the intention of hooking you on drugs and bringing you back for profitable monthly visits. It reminds me of the time I went to the ER with a 2mm kidney stone and got charged $5000 for a completely unnecessary MRI. You know what I did the last time I had a stone? I stayed home and drank beer. Total cost: $13. Out came the stone. It would have cost even less, but I like good beer.

If you have kidney stones, start drinking purified or distilled (not spring or mineral) water, and drink two beers in a row once a week. See what happens. If your tap water has dissolved calcium in it, you are drinking the raw materials for kidney stones, and your body will try to put them together. Stay away from rhubarb and spinach, too.

Not only do I not have high blood pressure compared to other old people; I have somewhat low blood pressure compared to people half my age. What if I were a typical sheep-patient who takes every pill doctors throw at him? God knows where I’d be. I’d be on Ritalin, statins, and a cabinet full of pills that cause impotence and dementia.

I am so grateful to God. I hate going to doctors. I hate relying on the same people who believed in low-fat high-carb diets forty years after they were proven harmful. I hate relying on people who have powerful financial incentives to give me drugs and put me on monitoring programs.

If you think doctors don’t look for ways to make money on people, you are dreaming. They have been known to have seminars where they are taught how to find excuses for treating people and bringing them back. No one goes into medicine out of a hatred of money. The US is full of dishonest doctors who make a living giving known drug addicts painkiller prescriptions. I could name a few for you, now that I think about it. Doctors aren’t particularly pure.

Here’s another reason I don’t believe everything doctors say. To this day, doctors have no clue how to prevent gallstones, and they’re not even trying to find out. They yank your gallbladder out, as if it were some sort of divine mistake. Then you get diarrhea for a year, you don’t absorb vitamins the way you should, and you may still have stones! You don’t actually need a gallbladder to have stones and pain, and the recurrence rate is high. Yeah, that’s what I want. Gallstone pain plus chronic diarrhea.

I had gallbladder pain, and I avoided the doctor. I went online to read about the problem. I read that some patients choose to “watch and wait,” and that they generally had to have surgery anyway. I read that modern medicine was 100% incapable of preventing stones. I decided to watch and wait, and I ate a lot of fatty food. That was about five years ago, and I haven’t been cut. If doctors really want my gallbladder, they are welcome to cut it out after I die. I won’t pay, though.

I don’t have a single prescription. May God keep me free of them until the fateful day when he ends my earthly existence with a meteor. That’s what I always pray for. You can’t beat a meteor. One second you’re here, and then you open your eyes and you’re in heaven, and your family or coworkers are looking for a mop.

Lightning is good, too, but you don’t want to get partially roasted and then survive.

I can’t tell you how happy I am with that blood pressure reading. Greatest thing that’s happened to me all year.

Okay, it’s January. But still.

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Healing Comes in Different Flavors

January 14th, 2017

But it Usually Comes With Hot Sauce

I do not understand the way diseases work.

Last month I was exposed repeatedly to someone who had a cold. After about a week, I finally felt something. I wrote about it here. I started to feel an ache in my bones and a general crappy cold-like feeling. I was getting sick. I used my Christian tools, speaking defeat to it and so on, and a couple of hours later, I broke out in a sweat, and the cold was gone.

Great.

I was well for a long time after that. It didn’t return.

Today is a Saturday. On Thursday, I realized I was starting to get sick again. Evidently I managed to run into a second disease in a month.

I used my tools again, but this time the problem stayed with me. It never got very bad. My nose didn’t run. I didn’t cough. My only problem was a mild sore throat and serious snoring that kept waking me up.

Today I went to a doc-in-the-box at a local strip mall. When you get a sore throat, you should get a strep test, so that’s what I wanted. While I was sitting in the waiting room, my legs started to sweat, and I felt like I had low blood sugar. In other words, I felt like a fever was breaking again.

By the time the doctor looked at me, I was considerably better. He didn’t even seem convinced I had been sick. He said my throat was a little red, and that the problem could have been caused by something I ate.

My best guess is that he thought I was a hypochondriac. I was definitely sick, and it was definitely an infection. It’s not my fault it started to go away while I was waiting to be examined.

That was a couple of hours ago, and now I feel almost normal.

Some day I want God to sit with me and review videos of my life. I will ask why I got delivered from a disease in two hours, and I will then ask why I got something a couple of weeks later and couldn’t make it go away. Then I will ask why it started to poop out in the doctor’s office.

You would think that if you received miraculous healings, it would be a consistent thing. It hasn’t worked that way for me. Are some diseases attached to bigger spirits than others? Are those spirits harder to get rid of? When I can’t get a quick healing, does it mean I’m hanging onto something that gives the spirit power to stay?

Mysterious.

In any case, I am very, very glad I don’t have a runny nose and a severe sore throat. I’m glad I don’t have chills or a real fever. My temperature was 97 in the exam room. It might be a little high right now, but if it is, it’s not by much.

I feel very good. Better than I usually do. I am full of energy and enthusiasm. How can that be?

Life is crazy.

Yesterday and today I tried to kill myself with spicy food. I always do that when I feel sick. It makes me feel like I’m torturing whatever is bothering me. I had Thai food for lunch. They brought out the little jars of Thai condiments, and I piled some sort of chili paste all over my food. It was lovely. Sometimes I eat so much of chili paste and whatever else they have, the little jars need to be refilled after I leave.

I hate going to doctors. I always tell God, “Please keep me away from the witch doctors,” referring to human beings with secular remedies. I suppose that’s insulting, but if you’ve ever been healed by God you know this to be true: there is nothing like the real thing. Supernatural healing is the best healing there is. No side effects. No charge. No pain. No rehab. No being stripped naked in front of strangers and having objects and people’s digits rammed up your rear end or your genitals. Can’t beat it.

I suspect there are some things I need to get rid of. Maybe some CD’s, for example. I believe objects associated with evil give the devil footholds in our lives. I bought an Aerosmith CD to listen to during exercise. I feel like I ought to get rid of it. That type of rock and roll has always had a bizarre association with Satan. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true. White kids who are into rock love the devil. They’re like Jews who go around wearing Hitler T-shirts.

I hope by tonight I’m so much better I no longer wake myself up with snoring. That’s the worst. You lie there hoping to fall asleep, and then it happens, and two seconds later you wake up with that sound in your ears.

Keep me away from the witch doctors, Lord. I don’t want to go out like that.

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Just You Wait

January 14th, 2017

I’ll Fix Those Windmills

My Literature Humanities quest continues, and appropriately, I have moved on to Don Quixote.

For those who have a mysterious lack of familiarity with western culture, Don Quixote was a man (if I refer to the protagonist instead of the book, I can avoid typing italic tags) who went nuts and decided he was a knight errant. It’s an absurd premise. No one would invent a patently false identity for himself in middle age and let it lead to his destruction. For example, no famous male athlete who used to appear on Wheaties boxes would decide he was a woman and have himself mutilated by doctors in order to bolster his conviction.

I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that Cervantes (avoiding italics again) is a better writer than I had remembered. Maybe I’m reading a new translation. The first fifteen pages of the book are really dull, but after that, it picks up a bit, and it’s not actually painful. It’s not Catch-22 or King Lear (dang it), but it’s not the never-ending mental toothache we call The Iliad (more italics!).

I did myself a disservice by re-reading Shakespeare (ahhhh) before beaching myself on the dry sand of Cervantes. Shakespeare is simply astounding. He is profound. He is skilled. He is incredibly witty. He is entertaining. I should have read him last. It’s like I slept with Rachel before marrying Leah.

I think Leah was the first person to use the phrase “chopped liver” metaphorically.

I’ll catch it for this, but I’ll say it anyway: Cervantes isn’t funny. He almost draws a chuckle once in a while, and to his credit, I can tell when he’s trying to make me laugh, but it’s just not happening. Am I simply biased because I resent having to read the classics (even when I’m the one who forced me to do it)? Well, I am biased. But I’m right. Rabelais is funny. Voltaire is hilarious. If schoolboy resentment were the whole explanation, I wouldn’t think any of these old coots were funny.

Someone I am too lazy to look up said, “The soul of wit is brevity.” Or, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” I guess I just proved I’m lazy. The second one works better. Anyway, one of the keys to humor is to avoid beating jokes to death. Ideally, a joke should have one syllable, or no syllables at all. I’m not sure Cervantes is capable of writing a sentence that doesn’t run to three lines on a page. He lived in a time when people had very little to do (rich people like Cervantes, I mean), so he didn’t spare the ink. That’s a huge mistake for a humorist.

I really look forward to getting deeper into the book (italics win), because it will mean I’m that much closer to closing it.

To make my mind feel better, I looked at a book I actually enjoy, and I saw that my memories of it did not do it justice. I have a copy of Eugene Butkov’s Mathematical Methods of Physics I bought when I was slowly dying in grad school. At the time, I liked it a lot, because I found it easy to understand. Until I looked at it again yesterday, I didn’t remember how much I had liked it.

Wait…I’m going from literature to physics! That’s not right! You’re not supposed to treat physics books like…books! You’re not supposed to enjoy them! Well, if you think that, you’re high. When you’re in the STEM world, you get pummeled with one bad text after another, and some of them are even worse than Homer. They are torture to read. It leaves you with a desperate appreciation for good texts. I actually wrote a textbook author a fan letter once.

Anyway, Butkov has a great virtue: he writes about math the way physicists teach math.

When a mathematician teaches you about a mathematical tool, he will be very rigorous. He will make sure he is absolutely correct about everything, in order to deter pedants who will pick his book apart if he slips. For this reason, mathematicians take a long time to teach methods. Physicists aren’t like that. A physicist will teach you, say, Stokes’ Theorem in fifteen minutes instead of a week. He’ll tell you what you need to know, and he’ll leave out the BS. It’s not a superior way to teach. It’s just the best way to teach people who are interested in physics, not math. If you study math itself, you want to know everything about it. If you study math for physics, you just want to be able to use it.

Butkov leaves out the endless i-dotting and t-crossing that makes other books tedious and hard to understand. Very nice.

Yesterday I went over a bunch of stuff concerning complex variables, and it was neat. In like ten minutes, I went from the beginning of the chapter through Euler and de Moivre. That’s how a physicist is supposed to do it. Let the math guys wallow in details. They get off on that stuff. And on pornographic Japanese cartoons.

I read something depressing in the foreword. He said he was writing with “less gifted” students in mind. Ouch! At least he didn’t use my name!

For the heck of it, I got out a Schaum outline and did a few problems.

This experience got me thinking about my physics days. I think of myself as someone who washed out of grad school, but that’s not really right. I left. I was not expelled. It’s true, I had some problems, due to being pumped full of mind-bending ADD drugs that would have driven a wooden Indian (PC alert) crazy, but when I quit, I was a few weeks into a new semester.

The department had made an accommodation for me; that’s true. They said I could continue to study if I agreed to pursue a master’s instead of a Ph. D. But it’s not like I got a bunch of F’s. I only got one bad grade.

My best guess is that if I had stayed and done okay for the year, they would have lifted the condition they gave me. That would just be common sense. I will never know, however.

I wonder why I’ve gotten so used to thinking of myself as someone who washed out.

What I achieved was not something to be ashamed of. On a certain date, I didn’t really know algebra. A couple of years after that date, I was in class with grad students, including a guy who taught my second semester of physics lab. A year after that, I believe, I was in one of our country’s top grad school programs. That’s not bad. Somehow I feel embarrassed about it, though. All I think about was leaving.

I know people who were thrilled to get into the University of Miami. I don’t tell them, but I’m embarrassed about my UM degrees. There is nothing wrong with UM, but I started my undergrad studies at Columbia University, so UM was a step down. I started my graduate studies at the University of Texas, which was an excellent department. Then I got my only graduate degree at UM, in law, which is a discipline for people of very ordinary gifts. “Smarter than the average bear,” as my Evidence professor Mickey Graham used to put it when he wanted to needle us.

Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t have made it in physics, and of course, that’s wrong. I got some good grades in graduate school, and what I did as an undergrad was just crazy. I suppose that since I left, I have gaslighted myself.

I remember how crazy the ADD drugs made me. I took my first test in Quantum Mechanics at UT, and I froze up. I could not do the problem. Then I returned to the TA office and did it on the blackboard in a few minutes. I just wrote it out. I didn’t have to puzzle and ponder.

Imagine how frustrating that is. Meanwhile, the department’s big fixation was on weeding people out, not helping them. I didn’t know that when I agreed to study there!

I didn’t like UT’s attitude toward students who had problems. Once I understood it from my own experience, I decided not to fail anyone in the class I taught. There was a girl who was in turmoil of some kind, and she deserved an F. I told her she was getting a C, and that should could relax.

Was that a bad thing to do? No. She was pre-med. A C wasn’t going to get her an undeserved position in medical school and allow her to kill people with her incompetence. It was simply going to help her avoid disgrace and dealing with the deans.

Reading Butkov was very nice because even if he wrote it for the sweathogs of physics, it reminded me that I was bright enough to do the work.

I hope I’ll never stop rebuilding my knowledge of math and physics. I hate looking at my old homework papers and being unable to understand them.

It was a mistake for me to get involved in liberal arts stuff. The chairman of the English department sent me a letter asking me to apply to Columbia, and everyone assumed I would write literature, but that was a blind trail. The fact that you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should do it. I should have stayed away from that nonsense and stuck with the technical stuff. I may be less gifted in that area (or I may not) but I could have done it, and it would have prevented me from trying to join a segment of society that would never have welcomed me. I was already conservative when I left college, and I was on my way to becoming a Christian. People like that do not survive in the arts.

Anyway, I had nothing to say. To write novels and plays, you have to have something to say. There has to be something inside you that wants out. I didn’t have that. So regardless of how well I strung words together, I wasn’t actually capable of writing literature.

Other types of writing were closed to me, too. The first newspaper editor I wrote for said I was brilliant, but gradually the local papers became closed off to me. If you’re not a raging socialist, people will eventually figure it out, and then you will find them inching away from you. They control the newspapers. I could never have had a newspaper humor column or a comic strip, even though my work impressed people to whom it was submitted. A few people get through the red blockade, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to follow their example. The odds against people like me are overwhelming.

I would advise any young Christian to avoid the arts. You will not make it there, unless you’re a sellout. Don’t even try. In other areas, like business, medicine, and the STEM world, you have a chance. STEM people generally hate God, but on the other hand, he doesn’t come up that often when you’re designing a bridge or an engine, so unless you make your religion an issue, you should be able to fly under the radar without becoming a complete whore.

By the way, I’ve learned a few things about the Christian music business, and it looks like it’s fairly whored-up, too. I would be hesitant to try to make it in that arena if I were a young musician. I shouldn’t be surprised. Look how whored-up every single large charismatic ministry is. If it’s a big organization, you can generally bet the devil is running it, no matter whose face appears on the label.

This is what I’m thinking about this fine weekend. May your day be free of academics.

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Tired of the Gods of Mainstream Christianity

January 13th, 2017

Hurry up, Seventeenth Century

I finally finished Montaigne today, with no small relief. From my standpoint as a Christian, I think he knew very little about the real nature of life, and his lengthy streams of speculation were not always pleasant to endure.

Having closed the book, I have one impression that stands out above everything else: historically, European Christians haven’t been real Christians; they have been pagans who went to church. Maybe they managed to receive salvation, but they didn’t think like Christians. They didn’t know the Holy Spirit. They were influenced much more by people like Socrates and Plato than they were by Isaiah and Paul.

From the things Dante and Montaigne wrote, I can see that they had much more respect for dead Greeks and Romans than they had for Biblical figures. They quote the ancient pagans time and again, and Dante even puts their ridiculous heathen deities in positions of power in heaven and hell. They are like Jews who revere Talmudic scholars so much they would never question them. If Seneca or some other dead pantheist said it hundreds of years ago, you can cite it as a Christian would cite scripture. You can consider the blather of the ancients to be infallible. From a Christian perspective, it should be obvious how crazy that is.

Many people hold Christianity responsible for the Dark Ages. I wonder if that’s true. I’m starting to think pantheism is to blame. People like Montaigne had so much respect for the classics, they may have been unwilling to consider new ideas. There is a huge gulf of time between the classics and the era of Montaigne, and somehow, very little important thought was recorded in that period. I wonder how many original medieval minds got shot down for criticizing Aristotle or wondering aloud whether Christians should continue promoting the homosexual predators of The Symposium.

Past authority is a great thing in some ways. It lifts you up out of the mud of prehistoric ignorance. A person who knows the classics is better off than someone who grows up with very little inherited knowledge. On the other hand, it can paralyze you. If you crucify everyone who disagrees with your moldy old books, you can expect to remain stuck in the first century forever.

Christians should never have looked to pantheists for moral instruction. How can anyone ever have thought it was a good idea? Paul went to Greece and Rome to change people’s minds, not to adopt their garbage. People who came after Paul weren’t that smart. They tried to build a Christian church on a pagan foundation.

Montaigne ended his book with a plea to Apollo, not God. Apollo is a Satanic deity. You can’t have Apollo and Jesus; you have to choose. Montaigne was a smart guy, but he could not figure that out. I would no more praise Apollo than I would praise the devil himself. For all we know, Apollo is Satan.

It’s insulting to put a thing like that in a book, when you claim to be a Christian. Jesus was tortured to death for Montaigne. Apollo was not. Jesus allowed himself to be killed so Apollo could be discredited and so his prisoners could be saved from hell. Apollo is the enemy of every Christian. How can you praise someone like that, even if you’re not serious about his existence?

Apollo isn’t a joke, and neither were Zeus, Aphrodite, and the rest of them. People killed in their names. They made sacrifices to them. Antiochus sacrificed a pig to Zeus in the temple in Jerusalem. We don’t take the pantheist “gods” seriously today, but an astonishing amount of evil has been done in their names.

I don’t like reading books that try to supply heathen solutions to our problems. I don’t have any interest in philosophy or self-help. God gives me answers that are pretty clear. I don’t wonder about things that get philosophy professors excited; who would want a person like that as a life coach? I don’t wonder about the meaning of life. I don’t wonder why evil exists. I know the answers already, and they’re not complicated or hard to understand.

Evil exists because God refuses to withdraw free will. The purpose of our lives is to give God pleasure. This is what the Bible says. I have no difficulty believing it. Next question.

Montaigne says to give in to disease and let it run its course. God says disease is a curse, and, as my own experience proves, we can be healed supernaturally. I know who I’d rather believe. Montaigne says it’s wrong to cultivate the soul and fight the flesh. Well, God calls the evil we do “works of the flesh.” God says we have to crucify the flesh. Who is right? God, or someone he created?

Montaigne says “supercelestial” thinking gets along very well with base carnality, meaning he finds people who claim to love God contemptible and hypocritical. This is part of his rationale for giving in to the flesh. Imagine if Jesus had felt that way. He would have skipped the crucifixion, and we would all be on our way to hell.

There is an ancient conflict between pagans and people who serve Yahweh. In the centuries preceding the birth of Jesus, it was just as bad as it is today. Jews in Israel wanted to be like the Greeks who ruled their country, and that meant becoming huge sports fans and participating in nude athletics. That meant exposing their circumcisions, which set them apart. Jews started trying to undo their circumcisions, and some refused to circumcise their sons. People were drawn into idolatry, and of course, that’s why the Jews remained a conquered people. Christians are infected with the Hellenism bug, too, and it still controls most of us.

The “gods” of the Old Testament pagans aren’t different from the “gods” of the Greeks and Romans. They’re the same. They’re called by different names in different countries. They’re the same “gods” the Egyptians worshiped. Nothing has changed. Today most of us don’t worship them as gods, but we live and think like pagans, so we end up at the same place spiritually.

To be destroyed, you don’t have to follow a precise formula. You just have to fail to find the one true path. Satan doesn’t care. He’s all about options.

Oh, boy. Cervantes is up next. Give me strength. The first passage alone is 269 pages. I read the whole book in college (probably), so I don’t feel bad about sticking to the syllabus and skipping long passages.

Maybe it’s not as bad as I remembered. I can hope.

Do the Roman “gods” appear in Cervantes? I don’t recall running into them. It would be nice to get away from them.

I can’t imagine living in a world without evil people and spirits, or even a world, like the post-Tribulation earth, in which they are restrained and dominated. It will be too beautiful for me to imagine. Try to picture yourself looking at a morning newspaper and not reading about crime, war, disease, and death. That’s the future, for people who believe. There won’t be any problems with Hellenism, because the beings responsible for it will be bound in hell or running around screaming in the lake of fire. It will be as if the entire universe got a delousing.

I don’t care what people think of my beliefs. I’m going to die. I’m as good as dead right now, and so are they. My death is closer to me than my birth, and it’s not far away at all. If I am criticized, it’s by people who don’t know anything, and I will be free of it permanently before very long. If I get killed for what I think and say, the enemies that kill me will be providing me with an escape from their vexatious presence and a ticket to the presence of God. That’s a win for me.

Like Jesus, I am against religious tolerance. I have no confidence in any scheme that doesn’t involve the one real God. I have no confidence in man. I don’t want to weasel around and pretend I think other religions are okay. I leave that for people like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. The fact that lost people are willing to extend a foot and rub your eager, appeasing belly shouldn’t determine what you believe or claim to believe.

I better start steeling myself for Cervantes. I think he will make me miss drinking coffee.

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This Year’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner

January 11th, 2017

If he Loses, it’s Robbery

Hate telemarketers? Of course you do. A guy in Texas (I assume from his area code) has come up with an amazing way to get revenge. You can forward their calls to his bots, and they will waste the telemarketers’ time.

The enterprise is called “The Jolly Roger Telephone Company.” It has a Youtube channel. Here’s an example of a call, for your listening pleasure.

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Trump’s Russian Hookers

January 11th, 2017

Media Floundering Reaches new and Exciting Lows

I don’t watch the news any more, but I’m making an exception today. Donald Trump is having a press conference which will basically be a victory dance over the prone body of the mainstream media.

In 2016, someone put out a ridiculous “dossier” claiming Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a mattress on which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept. Major media outlets have published the story. Some have merely referred to it. CNN’s take on the story is so benign it almost amounts to an endorsement. Now the entire world knows the story is a hoax, and I want to see what Trump says.

Hmm…he was blunt, but he didn’t obsess on the story. He said it might have come from our intelligence agencies, and that this would be a major “blot” on their records.

That was pretty restrained, considering the speaker.

Journalists are not smart people. We can’t seem to absorb that fact. In college, they major in makeup, plastic surgery, diction, and wardrobe. That’s about all they know. Among journalists, people like Megyn Kelly seem like geniuses simply because they went to law school. Why do we trust journalists?

Let me refer to my new buddy Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. He astutely pointed out that people credit things they see in print more than things they hear, and he questioned that mindset. He was right. Put someone’s words in a newspaper, and suddenly they seem like the voice of God. Put a dimwit on TV, and suddenly he seems like the oracle of Delphi.

I think we all remember how Wolf Blitzer did on Jeopardy.

Trump looks pretty good. He is relatively sedate, he is serious, and he seems to be taking his responsibilities seriously. I hope that continues, but even if he spends his whole presidency making childish tweets and calling people names, it will be worth it to have the sane federal judges he appoints.

You have to wonder what the press will try next. Prank phone calls? Toilet-papering the Rose Garden? Sending pizzas to the White House? The childishness and gullibility boggle the mind.

It’s going to be an entertaining four years.

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Geppetto’s Folly

January 10th, 2017

In the Future, not all Robots Will be Helpful

My Arduino studies are still progressing.

As I wrote in earlier posts, I got myself an Arduino UNO, and I started learning to program it. I went to a website belonging to a person known as Ladyada, and I began working my way through her tutorials. I’ve run into a few snags, so while I haven’t stopped, I’m not moving as fast as I would like.

To program an Arduino, you have to write in a language which is either C or C++. If you’re wondering which it is, so am I. The Arduino website says, “the Arduino language is merely a set of C/C++ functions that can be called from your code.” They don’t know, either.

I guess they do know, but I don’t. I have no idea what the difference is, except that C++ came later.

Arduino comes with its own programming editor or “IDE” (Integrated Development Environment), which is a program like a word processor. You write the programs in it, and it can compile them (turning them into software that actually works) and help you debug them. It also helps you lay your programs out in a way that makes them easier to understand. Supposedly.

I say “supposedly” because it doesn’t really do that. At least it doesn’t seem like it. When you write computer programs, you make long lists of procedures and statements, and they tell the computer what to do. You’ll say things like, “If this, then that, but if this, if this, if this, then that, or else this.” You have to keep track of which “if” goes with which statements and so on. It’s very helpful if the program turns things different colors and indents them so things are clearly identified and so blobs of text that go together are clumped together visually. Arduino doesn’t seem to do this very well.

While I was using it (and getting confused), I remembered my ten minutes of college programming experience. I programmed in a language called Pascal (so named because computer science students are always under pressure – I kid), and I used a program called Borland Turbo Pascal. My dim and unreliable recollection is that Turbo Pascal did a very good job of coloring and clumping. I figured there had to be something similar out there (free) for C/C++, because the human mind’s ability to keep lines of code straight hasn’t improved since I took that course.

I found Turbo C++, which is apparently Borland’s C++ equivalent of Turbo Pascal. Sadly, when you run it, it takes up the entire screen, so you can’t move stuff to Arduino and upload it to your board.

I started looking for other stuff. I already have something called Dev C++, but it didn’t make me happy. I found Visual Studio, which is a free Microsoft program (free for hobbyists), and I decided to try that.

Visual Studio takes about a month to install. I believe that’s because it’s a huge program you can use to create your own version of AutoCAD or just about anything else. I was planning to use it to make three LED’s flash on an Arduino board, so maybe it was overkill. It took quite a while to figure out how to make it run, and when I did, it didn’t look too promising. People swear by it, though, so I plan to keep trying a while longer.

The tutorials themselves turned out to have a major flaw. The instructor asked students to write a program, and then way down the page, after it was all over with, she said the program wouldn’t work.

I learned this after trying to make it work. For several hours.

This is not the best way to present a course. When a problem has no solution, you really want to tell people up front.

It’s not surprising that a STEM instructor would do this. When I was in school, they did it all the time. They would give us integrals that diverged or problems the professors couldn’t solve, and they wouldn’t tell us until we had pulled all-nighters failing to find the answers.

The lesson I learned from this is to read the whole page before starting to write anything.

I’m starting to realize I need to think a lot about C (or C++) itself as I learn this. It’s not enough to take the little bits Ladyada provides and extrapolate. You have to know more than that. What’s the correct punctuation (or whatever) for an if statement? Can you read the state of a pin powering an LED to tell whether the LED is on? Things like that. If you start guessing, you end up with problems.

Arduino uses integers to label pins on the board. I don’t get that at all. If “int SwitchPin = 2” means the second pin is named “SwitchPin,” then doesn’t any integer you set equal to 2 become tied to that pin? I have no clue. Very confusing.

I’m going to have to go back and forth from C++ to Arduino to figure everything out, and I guess I should join the Arduino forum. I really hope it’s not full of snotty nerds.

I’m trying to come up with a strategy for writing programs. I think it’s best to start by writing a plain-language version of every program first. “This program turns an LED on if it’s off and off if it’s on.” Stuff like that. Then I can break it down into necessary steps, and then I can think up ways to say it in C++. Maybe that will be helpful.

Every mission needs a statement.

I still want to build a self-balancing robot, because they’re cool. I started looking into ways to build a robot that balances on one wheel or ball, and that got me to gyroscopes. Thanks to Arduino, I now know how gyroscopes are used to make rockets fly straight. You can go to Youtube and see the actual gyroscopes that made V2 rockets fly straight on the way to England.

I’m kind of hung up now, because I can’t decide between a kit and buiding a robot from scratch. A kit would get me past the relatively boring tasks of choosing parts and making components by hand, but it might push me into an area where I mainly turn the robot on and off instead of learning how it works.

It would be neat to make a robot that goes from one room to another and bothers people. You record a message into it, and then you send it across the house to your wife to say, “Bring your man a beer, pronto!” I’d need a really brave volunteer to try it out, though.

On a more serious note, though, I am disturbed when I think about the power machines will have in the very near future. As I check out the things very ordinary people with little training are doing with Arduino, as well as the crazy things well-financed organizations are doing with sophisticated electronics, I realize we are on the cusp between two ages: the age in which men were more capable than machines, and the age when machines will be more capable than men.

Some people worry that machines will become self-aware and then try to exterminate us. That’s silly. There is no reason to think electronics will ever be self-aware. The fact that something reacts to external stimuli doesn’t mean its aware, unless a TV is aware when you push a button on your remote. Machines won’t be aware. But they will act as though they were, so the future still looks pretty scary.

Right now, I get calls from robots that argue with me. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready, because it will. They call and ask you something which is obviously intended to smoke you out as a sales prospect, and something tells you you’re not dealing with a human being. You ask, “Are you a human being?” The robot pauses, laughs, and says, “I’m a real human being.” It has been programmed to say that. Then you say, “Can you say ‘God Bless America’ for me?” Then the robot is stumped. They don’t program them to do things like that.

I offended a legitimate caller the other day. She happened to have a voice that sounded too perfect, and I thought she was trying to sell me something. I started telling her I didn’t talk to robots. She argued with me, so I asked her to say ‘Gerald Ford.'” I like tormenting robots. To my amazement, she said it. Then I had to apologize. Unfortunately, she had never received a call from a robot, so she assumed I was crazy when I told her what was going on.

A good sales robot can get through several sentences without giving you conclusive proof it’s a machine. That’s remarkable. If they can do that in 2017, think what they’ll be able to do in 2025. It won’t be too long before it will be impossible to tell a robot from a person, without considerable effort. Eventually, it won’t be possible at all. Then we’ll end up in a Blade Runner scenario, where an average person will never be sure what he’s dealing with.

Robots already have superhuman processing speed, and in the future, we will be able to give them superhuman physical speed and agility. They’ll be able to move around. They’ll be stronger and faster than we are. They’ll be able to predict what we do. They’ll do our jobs–even complex ones–better than we do. They won’t hate us, because they won’t really have awareness, but they can certainly be programmed to react as though they hate us. From outside, a being that mimics awareness perfectly might as well be aware. We could find ourselves dominated and abused by machines we don’t have the brains or strength to fight.

In the movies, we get around this with ridiculous bits of code saying things like, “Never harm a human being.” That’s beyond stupid. If we have to rely on code–and we do–we’re in trouble. Look how much malicious code there is right now. Do you think things will be different when machines become autonomous? Why would they?

If the human race lasts long enough, we will eventually see people sentenced for programming robots to hurt or kill their owners. It’s inevitable.

There are a lot of malicious people in the tech arena. Right now, they program machines to do evil. In the future, they’ll be able to program machines to program machines to do evil. When that happens, we will be removed from the loop and the problem will be self-sustaining and self-augmenting.

Nikola Tesla predicted that wars would one day be fought by unmanned machines. He was right, just as he was right about so many other things. But it’s going to be worse than that. It won’t be just war, which takes place between nations. It will be intramural conflict, within cities and nations, between human beings and nationless machines. Won’t that be something?

We will have to delay things by putting restrictions on machines. We always say guns don’t kill people, and that’s true. Computerized machines, however, will kill people. Unlike guns, they’ll do violence without our input. They’ll be like super-powerful pit bulls that have to be penned and detuned. Wait and see. It will happen. But we can’t stay in control forever.

Autonomous machines will be able to shoot people extremely accurately and quickly. They’ll be able to dispense deadly chemicals. They’ll be able to blind us with lasers. They’ll act so fast the cops won’t be able to react. They’ll be like the big nasty drones in the Robocop movies, only much faster. They’ll be able to use weapons that exist today, with skill and speed we can’t match, and they won’t feel pain or have fear. They won’t feel regret or mercy. They won’t be concerned about jail.

I wonder if anyone is even thinking about defensive measures yet. I suppose they are. I guess they’ll be a lot like the machines they’ll have to battle. I would imagine you would need a robot to fight a robot.

I won’t worry about this stuff. I don’t know if the world will last long enough for rebellious machines to become problematic. I’m a Christian, so I expect this age to end pretty soon. In any case, making a primitive Arduino robot that wanders around the house won’t speed up our doom.

Arthur Koestler compared the development of the thinking parts of the human brain, in our species, to the development of a tumor in an individual human being. We have greater reasoning abilities than animals, but our emotions are just like theirs, and our ability to control them is also undeveloped. We develop technology, and then we invariably misuse it because we lack love and mercy. We should not have been surprised when we read about drones shooting video through bathroom windows, and we should not be surprised the first time a robot kills a person.

I never expected life to get this weird. But predicting the future should not be hard for those who can see the obvious.

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Prisoner of the Sixteenth Century

January 10th, 2017

I Want Out

I am not quite done reading the essays of Montaigne. I call him “Montaigne” instead of using his full name because it’s confusing, deciding what to write. “Michel Montaigne”? “Michel de Montaigne”? “Michel Seigneur de Montaigne”? I can’t deal with decisions like that. Anyway, I am working on the last part of the Montaigne assignments in Columbia University’s Lit. Hum. syllabus.

As you might have predicted after reading my other commentaries on this course, I am not terribly impressed by Montaigne. He seems like a fairly typical worldly liberal. He enjoys trolling people who believe in God, decency, and the obvious superiority of western civilization. I don’t need to open a moldy old book to hear that. I can turn on MSNBC.

One of the passages I was required to read is titled “On Cannibals.” In this essay, Montaigne writes about a Brazilian native he met. Predictably, Montaigne thinks savages like the Brazilian are not backward at all. Indeed, he suggests, we are the backward and uncivilized ones. Because, you know, we wear shoes and use soap and read.

Notice I didn’t put “savage” in quotation marks (not the first time I typed it). It’s a perfectly valid term. It’s not something to sniff at. Savages are savages. Their cultures are inferior. They don’t learn anything. They don’t accumulate knowledge or pass it on. A savage’s great-great-great-grandchildren can be expected to have lives just as hard and pointless as his own. When you’re a savage, you don’t solve problems and pass the solutions on. You pass the problems on. Your gift to your descendants is that they have to reinvent the wheel every time life gives them a challenge, and often, they will fail.

I don’t think Montaigne knew much about American Indians, because he died in 1592, a hundred years after Columbus landed in the Americas. Nonetheless, he felt qualified to say a lot about them.

Modern apologists for backward people like to pretend that only civilized people make war. That’s idiotic. Open an old National Geographic and look at the spears and shields. Primitive people are more warlike than the rest of us, because they have nothing better to do, because they are too stupid to write down history and be reminded how bad war is, and because they have less to lose. We worry about having our magnificent cities destroyed and our wealth consumed. That’s not a big concern when rebuilding your largest town takes three hours.

Read up on the Indians, and you will learn that they were heavily into war, slavery, and torture. People love to say the Indians could not be enslaved. All I can say is, “Read a book.” They were all about slavery.

Montaigne doesn’t fall into the trap of claiming Indians are sweet, gentle souls who spend their days dancing with unicorns. He admits they’re violent. He celebrates it.

Montaigne claims Indians ate their defeated enemies. He says they would take prisoners, feed and care for them, and then torture them as much as possible before eating their bodies. I don’t know if that’s true. He says the victims would sneer at their captors and taunt them, saying that when they were eaten, the victors would only be tasting their own ancestors, whom the defeated had eaten in years past.

He admires this behavior. I am not kidding.

It goes without saying that a life without elective war, torture, and cannibalism is superior. I don’t know how to prove it. It’s like proving good is better than bad. Some things are just obvious. I can tell Montaigne secretly felt the same way, because he made no effort to move to South America and get himself captured. He just liked posturing and trolling.

If he lived in America, right now he would be backpedaling on his promise to move to Canada.

Throughout history, swarms of human beings have done their best to escape crude societies and move to sophisticated ones. This was already true in the Sixteenth Century. That ought to tell Montaigne something.

You may say Montaigne was highly original in his views concerning savages. I doubt that. I’m willing to bet that two thousand years before he existed, there were educated Greeks spouting the same nonsense. The grass is always greener, and because that’s a fact based on immutable human nature, the grass has always BEEN greener. I don’t think originality is a good defense.

One of the things I’ve learned from reading the classics is that ideas we think were conceived recently are almost invariably ancient. You will see this in Montaigne’s own work. He cites the Greeks and Romans over and over.

Here’s something revealing. When westerners talk about their own history, they don’t hesitate to label their forebears as losers. We love putting them down. We say life used to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Here is the exact quote, from Thomas Hobbes:

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

If our ancestors, who were a lot like Montaigne’s Indians, can be criticized as underdeveloped, why are primitive non-western people who live in our time exempt? If anything, they deserve more criticism, because they have been around as long as we have, and we have moved forward, and they haven’t.

I don’t buy into the “noble savage” myth. Give me peace, air conditioning, modern medicine, and the internal combustion engine, any time. Montaigne’s romantic notion was just as silly and untenable in his time as it is now.

People love to defend savages, saying they live in balance with nature and don’t harm the earth. I have a couple of responses to that.

1. The reason they don’t harm the earth is that their infant mortality rate is gargantuan. They don’t multiply fast enough to harm the earth.

2. Not harming the earth is not a legitimate measure of a person’s virtue. Who said it was?

Primitive people don’t harm the earth because it defeats them. Their babies die and fertilize it. The rest of us increase our numbers and make the earth fruitful, and a certain amount of pollution is an inevitable side effect. I like pollution more than I would like living in a society where a typical woman has five kids and raises one.

Today I’ve been reading “On Experience.” It’s a fun read, but it serves to discredit Montaigne to some extent. Much of the essay concerns Montaigne’s views on health and longevity. He advises people to give in to disease, in order to let it take its course and be over quickly. He says we would should yield to evil.

Montaigne had kidney stones all his life, and he died at the age of 59, from complications from tonsillitis. When someone gives you advice about health, you have to consider their track record. He didn’t do too well.

A long time ago, my mother used to read books by a lady named Adelle Davis. This woman held herself out as a health expert. She told people to eat certain foods in order to protect themselves. She said a person should eat three almonds every day, to ward off cancer.

Cancer is what killed Adelle Davis. I don’t read her books.

Montaigne wrote an essay about the Western custom of wearing clothes. I haven’t read it, but I feel like I can write an outline just by guessing. My bet: he’s against it. Why? Because he’s a troll, and because no one would bother taking the time to write an essay in favor of wearing clothes. People are already in favor of it.

Yes, I just took a look. He thinks wearing clothing is a nutty custom imposed on us by people who lack faith in our bodies’ natural ability to protect us from the elements.

How predictable can you be?

I have to wonder if modern educators like Montaigne simply because he agrees with a lot of their quaint, discredited notions. No. That could never happen.

People say Montaigne was humble, but I would say the opposite. I think he was conceited, because he had no regard for the wisdom of people who preceded him. Well, I suppose he would have had wisdom for the brilliant savages way upstream in his ancestral line. The naked ones who tortured unarmed captives to death and ate them, I mean. But he didn’t have much respect for the ones who built the western world.

Montaigne made himself out to be humble, but so did Socrates, and he had an ego the size of a planet. It’s sort of like Obama saying he’s not a socialist; obviously, he’s a socialist. He believes in forced redistribution of wealth. What you say you are doesn’t determine to what you are. It’s not great evidence.

The book isn’t too boring, and it provides an interesting look at sixteenth-century life. It shows you how educated people of Montaigne’s time thought, and it shows how familiar they were with the works of earlier thinkers. It’s worth reading (bits of it), but I wouldn’t go out and start a Montaigne cult after reading it. He’s not particularly wise.

After this comes Cervantes. Thankfully, the syllabus doesn’t require me to read the whole book. I think Cervantes was overrated, and I suspect he was included simply because Spanish literature isn’t as good as literature from other countries. I think he was a diversity pick. I don’t look forward to plodding through hundreds of pages of work by a man who may have been chosen not because of merit, but through affirmative action.

Could be worse. I could be going to an oncologist who got affirmative action. Or riding a space shuttle built by affirmative-action engineers.

Not what I would ever ride a space shuttle. To get me on your airline, you have to get your death risk down below 1%. That’s a rule I have.

I suppose I should have done all the reading for Lit. Hum. back when I was 19, but I see that I spared myself a lot of suffering, and I didn’t cheat myself out of a ton of useful learning. I don’t feel motivated to read a lot more of this stuff. I might read a few things, but not a whole lot.

I’m not a savage. That’s sufficient.

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Malice Doesn’t Live Here Any More

January 8th, 2017

Plus it’s Elvis’s Birthday

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the way God is helping me to get his love to flow through me. I thought I should provide an update.

I’ve learned a few things about love. the most surprising thing is that it’s connected to power. A lack of love will constrict the flow of whatever the Holy Spirit is trying to get to move through you. That includes faith, and faith brings power.

I suppose this makes sense. As I wrote in my earlier post, last year God gave me this sentence: “You created the universe for love.” Love is the whole point of our existence. God created us to love and be loved. He didn’t need servants to help with his projects. He wanted the universe to be filled with love. If love is the reason for everything, then surely God will give more power to people through whom his love flows. God allots resources to those who are aligned with him.

I live in a country where malice is considered cute. I have been influenced by my surroundings. Instead of listening to God, I decided to be part of the problem. I loved criticism and verbal cruelty. I loved it when these things came from me. I loved seeing these things on TV, in the movies, and in things I read. People I interacted with saw nothing wrong with my mindset. They thought it was hilarious. They rewarded me for it.

Now I have habits that obstruct God’s work in me. Every day, I’m presented with tempting opportunities to make nasty jokes to myself, for no productive reason at all. In the past, that was okay with me, because I enjoyed giving in to that temptation. I thought it was harmless, as long as I was good to people when it mattered. I didn’t realize I was cutting myself off from my supply of strength.

I’ve gotten a lot better. God has improved me to the point where often I am often disturbed by remarks I’m tempted to make. I wonder why I ever thought saying or thinking such things was a good idea.

TV and the movies are messed up. They’re loaded with malice. In the Fifties, the American sense of humor was relatively harmless. Over the decades we changed, and now it seems like we can’t be funny without being cruel. We are presented with a continuous parade of snotty role models, and they have had a tremendous impact.

The end result of this is that we have come to think malice is a good thing. We literally call good evil and evil good. As the Bible says, this is a curse. It brings problems to those it affects. They sow misery into their own futures.

Now I’m getting better, and my society is getting worse. That is not an optimal situation, but on this planet, an optimal situation is not on the menu. It’s the best situation available here. It’s better to be surrounded by malicious people than it is to be one of them.

Modern humorists seem to feel that humor can’t exist without malice, but that’s not true. There are a lot of funny movies that aren’t malicious. You just have to decide to write that way. Malice, like obscenity and shock, is a shortcut to a laugh. It’s a crutch. In our competitive world, people generally go for the easy solution in order to get ahead, so malicious humor is everywhere.

If you want to see what malice does to people, watch a few minutes of Chelsea Handler. She managed to become a success, but her eyes are dead, and she is obviously a very miserable person. That’s where I would have ended up, had I continued down the path I chose.

People also use causes as an excuse for malice. No news there. If you’re maladjusted and hateful, but you don’t have a good excuse for hurting people, all you need is a cause. That’s an ancient cop out. People join Anonymous, Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter, the Westboro Baptist Church, or PETA, and after that, they feel free to unleash their cruelty at will.

We see this principle at work on the Internet all the time. Comment avengers go to news sites and say astoundingly vile things to each other, thinking it’s justified because they’re standing up for Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or God knows what else. Sometimes I look at the comments on news stories, and I get so disturbed I close the window and look at something else. I can’t believe how cruel we’ve gotten.

The world is full of Satanic safeguards intended to deter people who are trying to escape the tar pit of malice. When you try to get out, you will be presented with tremendous temptation to return. Satan knows love is power. He wants to keep it from spreading.

We need to get God’s help in eradicating the habit of malice, and we need to get the Holy Spirit’s love to flow through us. You can only do this through the methods God has provided. You can’t force it through willpower. You have to pray in tongues. You have to do communion often. You have to confess freely to God and repent. These days, liberals are the angriest people on earth, even though they talk about love all the time. They don’t know what love is. They say filthy things and follow them up with, “Love trumps hate.” They call the persecution of Christians “love.” Shutting down a family bakery over a cake you don’t really want has nothing to do with love. These people prove that trying to love without God’s help is futile.

Christians who reject the Holy Spirit are malicious, too. Think of all the kids who have been turned against God by beatings and verbal abuse they received at Catholic schools.

Religious people had Jesus murdered. You can’t get rid of malice by following rules. You have to have God living inside you.

America is going to get worse and worse. You need God’s help to seal yourself off from the corrupting influence. If you don’t have it, you and your pride will sink with the rest of the country. That’s just how it is.

I wish churches taught the truth instead of fables and lies. I have never seen a single church that taught enough of the truth to bring people real help. You have to go directly to the Holy Spirit, and it seems like most churches are dedicated to preventing you from listening to him.

Keep building up your prayer life. Keep asking for correction. Listening to your pastor isn’t going to help you, so go to the one who knows everything and never makes a mistake. The point of the crucifixion wasn’t to help you get to know your pastor; it was to help you get to know the Holy Spirit. If you’re still counting on your pastor after a year, something is seriously wrong. He’s just a matchmaker. He’s not the groom.

Hope this is helpful.

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My Invisible Editor

January 7th, 2017

Comments Stolen by WordPress Quirk

For some reason, this site trashed a few comments without asking my permission. If you wondered why your comment did not appear, now you know. I have restored the deleted comments.

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Here’s to a Cherished American Pastime

January 7th, 2017

Lying

Today I spent a little while reading about Chinese TIG welders. A commenter suggested getting a used Miller instead of looking at Chinese, and out of boredom, I went to see what other people thought. Man, it’s disappointing to see unprincipled old geezers bashing China on the forums. What a waste of bandwidth. Talk about “fake news.”

You can’t trust anything these guys say. They lost their cushy union jobs because American workers refused to accept a competitive wage. With the help of bad management, they killed the companies they worked for. Now they sit around lying about Chinese products on the Internet, like that’s going to bring Packard and AMC back. It will never happen. Not even Donald Trump can make us THAT great again.

I have lots of Chinese stuff. Some of it is real junk. No doubt about that. But all of it works, and a lot of it is excellent. The prices are fantastic.

Ridgid tools are very good. They come from China. Dewalt manufactures in Asia. I have no idea where Bosch makes its tools, but I guarantee you, it’s not in Europe or the US. I just got an Chinese oscilloscope which is built extremely well. My lathe is a very nice Taiwan job, and my mill, which works great, was made in Taiwan and assembled in China. My vertical band saw is Taiwanese. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

The other day I bought a Shars indexable end mill. I paid about $30. Shars sells mostly Chinese stuff. The end mill is magnificent. An American equivalent costs three or more times as much. Am I going to buy that? Are you nuts? Just so some guy in the Rust Belt can be overpaid? That’s charity.

I tried to find some honest comments on the AHP AlphaTIG 200X welder. It was not easy. Creaky retirees who hate China said a lot of nasty things about it. Had they ever used one? Of course not.

I get it. Old American tool companies make better stuff. SOME old American tool companes. But often they’re no better than Asian, and look what they charge. The welder I mentioned can be had for under $850, with a three-year warranty. If it blows up, the seller pays for return shipping, and then they ship you a new one. A comparable Lincoln or Miller will run you over three times as much. It will do exactly the same thing, no better. It will probably last a lifetime. That’s a plus. No one seems to know how long an AlphaTIG will last. But with the Chinese welder, you save two thousand dollars, and you get into TIG several years earlier because of the price.

At worst, you pay about $280 per year for the fun of three years of top-notch TIG and stick welding. That’s assuming the machine craps out in three years.

People always say, “Wait for a deal.” That’s a great idea. When you’re 25. When you get older, waiting five years for something may mean never getting it. You may die first. Or you may lose years of use you can never get back. If you’re 50, you probably have 35 years left (tops) to use your tools. If you lose five years sitting around waiting for a gift from Craigslist, you’ve lost a seventh of them time you could have spent enjoying yourself. If you’re sixty, it’s a fifth of the time. If you’re retired, you may be losing considerably more.

Here’s how it looks:

1. AlphaTIG 200X: $838, delivered.
2. Miller Synchrowave 215: $2735, delivered.
3. Miller Synchrowave 215, used, from a dubious no-name seller, with no warranty: maybe $1600.

Lincoln prices are right up there with Miller.

If I had to rely on a welder to make a living, I would buy American. No doubt about it. I wouldn’t want to worry about having two months of down time while an importer waits for a part or a welder for me. That could kill a business. But to goof around in my garage, Chinese is fine.

If I had to rely on machine tools or ordinary power tools to make a living, would I buy American? No way. Absolutely no way. American mills and lathes are no better than Asian. I’m not sure American power tools even exist. Where would I find them? I know we still make a few big things, like table saws. I think you can still buy American air tools. I don’t know about drills and grinders and so on.

It would be neat to have a shop full of beautiful American tools from the golden age, but people like me never, in the history of the country, had the opportunity to buy those items new.

I remember looking up the Clausing lathe I bought used, to find out what it had cost new. It was tens of thousands of dollars. No normal American had one of those in his garage in 1965. It cost several times what an average worker made in a year. If I spent that much for a lathe, I would have nothing else.

Aside from that, the Clausing was not that great.

Look at the American tools hobbyists were able to afford back when the big American companies were still manufacturing. Atlas and Craftsman lathes. Flimsy garbage, with tiny capacities. Nobody had a new 15″ LeBlond in his home shop. The closest you could get was WWII surplus.

There are a lot of people who buy old US junk and “restore” it. They’re proud of what they’ve done, and they put pictures and videos on the web. About 95% of the time, when it comes to machine tools, they’ve just repainted tools without returning them to new condition. For example a guy will buy a lathe with worn ways, and he’ll strip it, paint it, and make the feeds work. That’s not a restoration. It’s still junk.

Some kinds of machines can be restored without spending too much. Woodworking tools aren’t very precise, so they don’t have to be scraped and ground when they get old. I have a beaten-up table saw which works as well as it did when it was new in the 1990’s. But lathes and mills lose accuracy with time, and you can’t get it back with a can of spray paint.

I considered buying a “restored” mill from an outfit that scrapes them. I found out it was a bad deal. They scraped a few things, yes, but they kept the old screws, the motor, the bearings…everything you would want to have replaced. The paint looked nice, though. That’s important. You could do it yourself for $15, but never mind.

Human beings love to blame others for their problems. China-bashing is just another manifestation of the inclination. What if American union workers hadn’t demanded unrealistic wages and hadn’t refused to work full days? What if the people who ran companies had been more responsible? Maybe we’d still be selling tools instead of buying them.

The most revered American lathe company is Monarch. They still sell their coveted 10EE lathe. This is a small machine that does extremely precise work. Guess what it costs? Over $100,000. And it’s not even new. They sell refurbs. They buy used Monarchs and put new parts in them. Even the manufacturers can’t afford new American products.

I’m surrounded by China, and so are the old guys who lie on the forums. They use Chinese phones and computers to bash China. Chinese goods are all around us. Why should we delude ourselves and pretend these things aren’t there? If your shoes, your computer, your desk, your TV, your flooring, your wallpaper, your appliances, and half of your American car are from China, why not buy Chinese tools, too? Come on.

Here’s something really funny: Harley riders bash the Asians from dawn till dusk, but Harleys are full of Asian parts. Americans don’t make motorcycle forks! We definitely don’t make the electronics in the bikes.

I may get a welder this year. I don’t know. I do know the China-bashers will make it harder to get solid information.

7 Comments »

Wanted: Hunchbacked Lab Assistant

January 5th, 2017

Free Swill; Must have Green Card

I feel like I’m reaching a turning point in my evolution from white collar sissy to metalworking technonerd. I’m finally starting to feel like I have almost enough crap.

Back in around 2007, when I started buying tools, I would go out in the garage, hoping to do something, and I would see a big void. No table saw. No welder. No band saw. No nothing! Then I started accumulating stuff, bit by bit. This week, I knew I had made progress, because the 2017 Grizzly catalog arrived, and I didn’t even open it. There is nothing I absolutely have to have, right now, in order to keep from going crazy.

Mmm…Chinese TIG welders…mmm…credit card points…

Sorry.

Today I was working on Ladyada’s Arduino tutorials again, and I opened a new page. It listed a bunch of junk I had to have in order to do the next tutorial. Listed: a tiny push-button switch which can be inserted in a solderless breadboard.

I groaned. My local Radio Shack went Tango Uniform a while back, so if I want electronic parts, I have to drive across town to the electronics supermarket (where I will definitely spend over $75 regardless of what I “need”), or I have to wait for Ebay. Or I guess I could drive to the nearest Radio Shack, but dang, I love that electronics supermarket.

Anyway, I decided to check my stuff just to be sure I didn’t have what I needed. I went to the garage, and in the little drawer cabinet on the wall, I saw a drawer labeled “SWITCHES.”

Yes, I already have maybe thirty switches, not counting the ones I have left over from making guitar amps.

I’m living the high life. I should be in a beer commercial.

4 Comments »

Tuckered Out

January 5th, 2017

Rachel Marsden Must Have Turned Fox Down

I’ve been saying Megyn Kelly’s departure from Fox News would be good for the network, provided they chose her replacement well. It’s very easy to do what she does. There are millions of people who could do it if given a chance.

This morning I saw that they had given the job to Tucker Carlson. I now see Kelly’s departure as a disaster.

This is exactly the kind of move I used to complain about when I was trying to achieve some level of fame as a conservative blogger: conservatives have an inner circle of mediocre people they protect and promote, and if you’re outside the circle, it doesn’t matter if you’re Albert Einstein crossed with Winston Churchill crossed with P.J. O’Rourke. You are not going to get a chance.

Tucker Carlson seems like a nice boy, but he has almost no talent. He’s bad at what he does. He’s not unusually smart. He’s not witty or funny. He’s not perceptive. He has never said anything quotable, and that’s a real problem for a would-be pundit. He’s like Mary Katharine Ham in a suit.

I wonder if the Fox brass bothered to check Carlson’s resume. He has failed twice, and he has never succeeded. His show Crossfire was cancelled, and he had an MSNBC show which failed. Why would you hire someone who already had two swings at the ball? Investing is all about momentum. You don’t invest in something that isn’t succeeding already. Carlson, who is approaching 50, has a very long track record which proves people don’t want to watch him. Didn’t anyone notice?

I guess they really wanted to save 25 million dollars.

The sad thing is that he’s not bad enough to kill a program, so he’ll probably last on Fox, like the orange car at a dealership no one wants to buy. Too good to fire; too weak to succeed. Greta van Susteren was not very good at what she did, but she was good enough to survive, so her time spot remained clogged and wasted for years. Carlson will end up in the same boat.

I’m trying to think of an insider they could have promoted. Greg Gutfeld is smart and talented, but he’s immature and gets on people’s nerves. He doesn’t have gravitas. People can’t respect him.

Now I’m stuck. I can’t think of anyone but Gutfeld.

They need someone with Ann Coulter’s intelligence and Bill O’Reilly’s ability to handle guests. There is probably a blogger or Youtuber out there who could do it, but we will never get to see that person, because if anything happens to Carlson, Fox will go through its entire Christmas party invitation list before talking to anyone new.

Laura Ingraham is smart, but people don’t like her.

I had a weird experience this week, and it dovetails nicely with this subject. I watched a far-left Youtube vlogger, and I enjoyed it. I don’t know how that happened. His name is Jimmy Dore. He’s a comedian who appeared with a group of vloggers who call themselves the Young Turks. Their vlog is as boring as death, but he’s entertaining and smart. I don’t know how he ended up on the left. Childhood trauma, I guess. He’s Irish. Maybe he’s another casualty of cruel Catholic school nuns.

He has been hammering liberals for buying and promoting the “Russians hacked the election” story with no proof. It’s very pleasant to watch. Anyway, he’s really good, and like Conan O’Brien, he shows there is untapped talent out there, if you’re willing to look outside of your ten best friends.

Remember how O’Brien got his job? Everyone said NBC was nuts, hiring a writer who had never worked on-camera. Look how that panned out. If O’Brien had worked for Fox, he would still be in the mailroom, waiting for his gold watch. “Conan…Mr. Carlson says you forgot to use soy milk in his cappuccino! We won’t be needing you in the studio any more. Here’s your old toilet brush.”

The left has people like Colbert and Stewart–real talents–and the right gets Tucker Carlson. And we had plenty of alternatives. It’s a self-inflicted wound. Thank God Neil Cavuto doesn’t have a bipolar son who needs a job, or we wouldn’t even have Carlson.

I checked to see who’s on CNN at 9 p.m., and it’s Anderson Cooper. He starts at 8 p.m. I don’t know how anyone can stand two hours of that, but it’s true. I wonder how Carlson will do against him. I don’t know how Megyn Kelly has done. Well. I know she has done well. I just don’t know how well. I am too lazy to look. My guess is that O’Reilly will feed Carlson enough viewers to keep him on the air.

I don’t care much about this story, but I do find it interesting. I don’t watch Fox or any other TV news station. I see little bits of the news from time to time. Just enough to be disappointed!

Yeah, I’m being not a team player again. Once again, my tiny blog will be responsible for a Fox failure. They should send someone to assassinate me. If they had done that a few years ago, their comedy show would have been a huge hit. Because quality isn’t the problem. The problem is people like me, pointing out the obvious. My power is intoxicating. Behold my blog and tremble!

On the up side, Bill O’Reilly must be the happiest man alive today. Whatever he was worth to Fox last week, it has doubled now.

Maybe they’ll fire him and hire Jiminy Glick.

More

Here’s a great question. If they absolutely had to hire from within, why didn’t they consider Andy Levy? He’s as good as Gutfeld, plus he has the ability to be taken seriously.

Is he dead? I don’t keep up.

4 Comments »

David Caruso and Julianna Margulies Called

January 3rd, 2017

Want Their Career Strategies Back

I just read that Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox News. Actually, I’ve been reading about it for months, in the captions of clickbait ads. But now it comes from a slightly more reliable source: The New York Times.

It’s interesting. I think it’s a very bad move for her.

Megyn Kelly didn’t make Fox big. Fox made her big. Her political views are more in line with the Fox ethos than they are with the liberal culture at other networks, so she had an environment in which she could thrive. They gave her a lot of promotion, and she had viewers handed to her by inertia. People who watched the shows before and after her were likely to have the TV on when she came on the screen.

She’s good at what she does, and she’s a lot smarter than the communications majors and former models on the other networks, but she’s no Bill O’Reilly. People won’t tune in just to see her.

She has another problem: while she’s a little too liberal for Fox, she’s much too conservative for NBC. The organization will try to reject her like a transplanted arm. A lot of people there will want her to fail. Many will see her as a threat to NBC’s imaginary liberal moral superiority.

Other people have departed from Fox with big dreams or simply because they weren’t welcome any more. They don’t tend to do well. Kiran Chetry and Alisyn Camerota pretty much vanished. Andrea Tantaros is MIA. So is Gretchen Carlson. Generally, leaving Fox has been a lateral or downward move, from a career standpoint.

I think she will be considerably less prominent in January of 2018. No one can predict the future, but I think this is what will happen.

I believe this will be good for O’Reilly and Hannity. It will also be good for Shepard Smith, although he will probably leave Fox eventually. There is one less competitor in the pie-eating contest, so the rest will get more pie.

Is this good for Fox? Probably. Kelly had become a thorn in their sides, and she offended a lot of viewers. There is an unlimited reservoir of potential hosts out there, so if the Fox bigwigs choose well, they will be able to fill her slot in a way that improves the bottom line. Of course, these are the people who hired Rachel Marsden, so…

I don’t think much of the way she dealt with the Ailes kerfuffle. Sexual harassment is very bad, but the time to complain about it is before you praise the perpetrator to the skies and let him make you rich. Kelly gushed about Ailes after he allegedly harassed her, and then once he was on the canvas, she piled on with the rest. After that, her credibility is severely damaged.

My feeling is that her only hope of continued success is to pull a Huffington and pretend to have an overnight conversion to leftism. Liberals will support that; to them, honesty is a an outmoded, patriarchal, Eurocentric concept. They support Huffington even though she is clearly a tremendous, shameless liar. Kelly might be able to style herself as a heterosexual, attractive Rachel Maddow. I don’t think she’ll do well without some kind of repackaging.

I don’t watch the news any more, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. For all I know, for the last year, Kermit the Frog has been newsreading for Fox.

Interesting stuff, though.

Anyway, my prediction: bad for Kelly. Good for Fox. Good for other Fox heads.

Check back with me on January 3, 2018, to gloat or kiss my ring.

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