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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.



January 2nd, 2017

Bot of Course

I’m glad I got started with Arduino, because it helped me get back to learning C. It’s moderately enjoyable to learn C without any external apparatus, but somehow it’s more fulfilling when you add a second device (after your PC) at the end of a USB cable.

I’m still going through Ladyada’s tutorials. She can really teach. They say those who can’t, teach, so if you turn that logic around and twist it, maybe it makes sense that she’s an exceptional teacher, because she’s not one of those who can’t. She’s the owner of Adafruit Industries, which is a well-known supply house for tech hobbyists. Her PR blurb descibes her as an “MIT hacker and engineer.” I suppose she is overqualified to teach.

I have learned how to make the Uno print things out and do simple math. Naturally, I find it almost impossible to use the code she provides. I can’t take that kind of boredom. I have to make changes. I suppose that’s a good thing, because if you just copy and paste, all you learn is copying and pasting.

I’m thinking it may be time to build a robot. I guess that seems like a surprising jump, given that I can’t do much of anything with the Uno. But it turns out building and programming a robot is really easy, mostly because thousands of other people have already done the work and published the important parts online. Programming robots is one of the main ways people get good at Arduino.

I started looking at robots, and most of them were horrible. There is an Arduino-brand robot, and it looks like motorized ashtray. It’s a circular PCB with two wheels. I’m sorry; I don’t care how great it is as a teaching tool. I’m not going to be happy teaching an ashtray how to navigate the floor of my office, especially now that I don’t smoke cigars.

I still can’t believe I put dozens of Cubans by the side of the road for the garbage people. Those were some fine smokes. I just looked up the statute of limitations, and I’m safe, so yeah, I bought a lot of Cuban cigars. Take that, coppers. Not that the government cares. I’ll bet no one has ever been so much as fined.

There’s a robot called the “BOE bot,” and “BOE” stands for “Board of Education.” I guess that means it’s overpaid, can’t be fired for incompetence, and teaches kids they should consider being gay. The bot looks pretty boring. It’s sort of a little cart that putts around dodging things and following lines painted on the floor.

Here’s what caught my interest: self-balancing robots. These are robots that exist in unstable equilibria. They balance on two wheels or some other inadequate type of support. Cut the power, and they fall over. They’re much neater than four-wheeled robots because every time you turn them on, they demonstrate the possibilities of modern hobby electronics. Simply balancing and moving around are impressive tasks for unstable robots.

I looked at a bunch of these robots on Youtube. Most involve three flat platforms arranged like a two-story building. Wheels and motors go under the lowest platform. Batteries go on top. Each wheel has its own motor. To do it right, you should use steppers, but people use crappy Chinese hobby motors too.

Determining what kind of robot was best was not easy, because people have posted videos of bad robots during the last year, while others posted videos of superior robots as long as six years ago. My natural tendency was to look at robots which had been built recently, but then I would dig up older videos and learn that better designs had been around for quite some time.

I don’t know why people continue making bad robots. Everyone has Google.

Some of the robots are really awful. They fall down, or they can’t maneuver. Some have wires attaching them to computers. Come on! That’s insane. Who wants a robot that can only walk three feet?

One of the neatest robots is a kit job, and it’s called the “B-robot.” The name alone justifies the purchase. Many self-balancing robots wobble and don’t maneuver well, but the B-robot is nimble and sure of itself. It has an arm, too, so if it falls, it can use the arm to boost itself while it rights itself. Unfortunately, it costs $125, which is like $121 more than I want to spend.

I guess the next version will be the Dude-b-robot.

Why get a kit? Because every robot you didn’t design yourself is really a kit. Even if you make the parts, you’re using someone else’s design, so buying a kit is not cheating in any important way.

When I first learned it was possible to build two-wheeled balancing robots, I was surprised. After I got used to the idea, I started to wonder why I couldn’t built a one-wheeled robot. It could change direction faster. If you can balance with regard to one axis, you should be able to balance with regard to another at the same time. That’s what I thought. Then I checked. Sure enough, it has been done.

In my uneducated opinion, the best type of “one-wheeled” robot doesn’t have wheels. It uses a ball instead. It’s unclear who invented it. Various people seem to be trying to take credit. You put three or four steppers in the base of a robot, and you arrange them so they turn a ball trapped under them. The robot balances on the ball, and it can move in any direction by turning it.

A nut genius in England spent an incredible amount of time designing his own copy of BB-8, the small robot in the new Star Wars movies. A ball bot may have a ball which is mostly contained in the robot’s body, but you can also make a small robot which rests high on the upper hemisphere of a ball.

I guess I should be satisfied with a two-wheeled robot to start, because it has been done a million times, and there is an appreciable chance that I’ll be able to make it work. Ball bots are intimidating.

Once you get your robot on its feet, so to speak, you can start doing mods. You can put sensors on a little “head” at the top so it tracks objects. You can put a laser on top of it and shoot at things. You can put a camera on it. You can add a cup holder. You can add various types of displays. You could send the robot to your wife with a display reading, “Help. Out of toilet paper.”

Is it useful? Not in the slightest. At least I don’t think so. But it would teach me a lot without boring me too much.

I hesitate to put this in print, because some idiot may think it’s a great idea, but I believe you could use something like this for home defense. It’s possible to blind people with lasers. It works so well, it’s considered a war crime. You could send a robot out into your yard to shoot lasers at the faces of violent intruders.

I’m not suggesting you do that, because it’s vicious idea, but I suppose it would work. I don’t know how easy it is to get a laser strong enough, or whether it could be carried on a robot a person could reasonably be expected to build at home.

On the whole, I still prefer sharks. Call me a throwback.

It would be neat to make a robot that tracks balloons and shoots them with a laser. That’s actually possible.

I don’t know. There must be some use for these things.

Perhaps for now I would be smart to learn simpler things. I’m having delusions of grandeur.

I may have to trim my expectations, but there is no reason why I can’t build some sort of reasonably interesting robot. If I succeed, you will know all about it.

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Quality is Quality

January 1st, 2017

Good Books Can be Produced Without TPS Reports

A reader sent me a link to a story in which one writer “Fisks” another. If you’re not familiar with Fisking, it means tearing someone’s work apart, line by line. The Fiskee is one Laurie Gough, who has been published somewhere or other and takes the position that self-publishers are losers and hacks. The Fisker is the host of Monsterhunternation.com. I do not know anything about this person. It’s probably not Laurie Gough’s boyfriend.

The Fisking itself is very, very long, so I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did read a lot of it, and I read Gough’s entire piece. I have to agree with the Fisker. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, and a self-publisher imprint doesn’t mean a book is bad. On the other hand, it’s likely that most self-published work is even worse than most publisher-published work, simply because there is no one to hold the bad stuff back.

Not all self-publishers are inept. I think Ms. Gough forgets that there was a time when all authors were self-published. Moses didn’t have to deal with rejection slips. Neither did Homer. Many of the greatest works in history never went through the publication process during their author’s lives. Obviously, a publisher is not an absolute necessity when you want to create a work of real merit.

I don’t know for a fact, but I would be willing to bet a large pizza (cooked by someone else, because that phase of my life is over) that once the publishing industry was established, many of the authors we now revere got in the door by paying publishers.

She also forgets that we have modern authors who started out in post-Internet-creation self-publishing. I don’t know too much about The Martian, but it’s my understanding that it started out on the Internet. The movie version was very good. The author is stinking, filthy, reeking rich. The book and movie would not exist had he waited for a publisher to notice him.

We also have modern authors who did wonderful work without intending to be published at all. Anne Frank comes to mind. Highly reliable Internet rumors say that when her diary was submitted for publication after her death, it was rejected many times by editors. They almost protected us from that hack, Anne Frank!

I can’t agree with the snobby, elitist notion that self-publishing is only for losers. It’s not just wrong; it’s facially absurd. It’s like standing in an orange grove and denying the existence of fruit. It almost sounds like Ms. Hough is trying to set herself apart as a member of a distinct and superior class, simply because she has a publisher. That’s certainly easier than producing quality work and letting it speak for itself.

That being said, there is one very bad thing about self-publishing, and here it is: it’s harder to promote a self-published book. If you want your book to make money, you will almost certainly have to do radio and TV interviews, and to get those interviews, you want to be able to say you have a real publisher.

There are very, very good things about self-publishing. For one thing, if you self-publish, your book will exist. Existence is one of the main qualities a book needs. The book no one can buy anywhere is not a successful book in any meaningful way.

Another nice thing is that you can force your book into existence without help. You have control. You don’t have to beg anyone. You want to have a published book? Fine. Upload it now. Done.

If all you care about is expressing yourself, self-publishing is a great idea. You can write and publish fifty books a year if you’re up to it. The public won’t have to wait through a year-long process before each book appears. You can say anything you want. You won’t have to worry about editors killing your jokes by rewriting them or cutting out the parts of your work that are most important to you. Really, the only solid reason to insist on having a conventional publisher is a desire to make money.

The commenter said he would buy my work if I self-published again, but I think I’m self-publishing right now, so save your money! Anything made available to the public is published.

It’s very ugly for a person who got in the door to lob poop-bombs at all the people who haven’t made it yet, and given that Ms. Hough is not a highly admired author, it also creates opportunities for people to knock her off her high horse. If you really have to insult someone else’s work, you should be able to come up with names and specifics instead of issuing a mindless blanket condemnation of an entire class of writers.

A book is a book; published, not published, published by a publishing house, self-published…whatever. It doesn’t have to be publisher-published to be as legitimate as anything Ms. Hough will ever write. If you print one copy of your book and hide it under your bed, it’s still a real book, and its quality doesn’t depend on the opinions of publishers. Catch-22 was still a monumental achievement before Joseph Heller submitted it to publishers, and it was a monumental achievement while it was winning nothing but rejection slips.

If you feel like writing, write. If you feel like publishing, but you don’t care about fame and money, self-publish. What the hell. No one cares. Enjoy yourself.

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The Hegemony of the Mediocre

December 31st, 2016

Welcome to Cortlandt Homes

I had an interesting experience last night. Someone complimented my work and asked why I wasn’t writing for The New York Times. I thought that was nice, and I explained, basically, that I had never been a team player. I have a certain amount of ability, and I produce on demand, but the world of the arts is no meritocracy. You have to have cronies and benefactors if you want to do well. That means you have to say what they want to hear. If I can’t say what I want to say, I don’t see the point in writing.

On a more fundamental level, the reason I didn’t get anywhere is that God held me back. If he had let me succeed, I would have been wealthy and full of myself (more than I am), and I would not have felt any need to turn back to him.

Anyway, in my response to the comment I mentioned something that happened to me many years ago. I was working in a bar, and I had written and produced some funny radio ads for the owner. I applied to various radio stations and ad agencies in the state, trying to get a copywriting job. I sent out a funny letter with a funny photo. A guy who worked at a radio station called me and gushed over my work. He called me in for an interview. He introduced me to people throughout the station. They had been very impressed by my application, and they wanted to meet me. They treated me like a celebrity.

The interview went great. They hired someone else. And that person turned out to be…drum roll…absolutely nobody. No, they didn’t hire a genius who later became famous. They probably promoted a guy who swept the floor and went for sandwiches.

After that, the man who interviewed me made a horrible sample commercial for the bar, using the same concept I had used for my ads. It could have been described as a cure for laughter. He asked if I could get the bar owner to buy ads from him.

Yes, you read that correctly. He hired someone else, wrote ads that copied mine, and then tried to get me to help him get my boss to dump me and hire him.

I had other experiences like that. Eventually someone told me that when you try to get work in that kind of job, they give the hiring task to someone low on the totem pole, and that person knows that if he hires someone talented, he will put his own job in danger. He will be hiring his own replacement. So it’s standard procedure to torpedo anyone who could pose a threat.

Writing is a strange business, because it draws people who are incapable of doing it, and somehow, they find employment. I would estimate that over 95% of writers have no talent whatsoever and nothing to say. In order for them to survive, they have to do whatever they can to sabotage the rest of us. They should give up and become car salesmen or something, but for some reason, they doggedly cling to jobs they can’t really do, at the expense of the qualified.

I don’t know why they do it. For untalented people, writing is not pleasant. It drains them to write short pieces. A 500-word job makes their knees shake; I can write 500 words while standing in line at the grocery. Untalented people don’t actually enjoy writing. But the world is full of people who want to be called “writer” so badly, they are willing to devote their lives to a job they hate doing.

Most writers, even good ones, hate to write. If you hate to do something, maybe it’s not for you.

If football was like writing, you would turn the TV on every Sunday and see fat little bald guys on the field, with bifocals under their helmets. Whenever a real athlete showed up, they would put laxatives and roofies in his Gatorade.

I’ve had a few books published. I’ve introduced people to an agent. I’ve worked with people on books. So far, no one but me has actually written anything. No one I hooked up produced a book. I have never seen a book I co-authored reach completion.

When I got opportunities, I produced tons of material. No problem. No excuses. No extensions needed. It’s what I was designed to do. When I dealt with other people, even if their intentions were good, they generated almost nothing. The only exceptions to this were a couple of group-authored websites (in other words, pointless hobby time sinks) I ran. Even then, I produced a disproportionate amount of material.

Most writers don’t write.

It’s fascinating the way the world works. Law practice is the closest thing to a meritocracy I have ever seen. Most jobs are not like that. People are hired and fired for every reason except competence.

The reason it’s easy for a good lawyer to get a job is that most lawyers aren’t very good. They’re afraid to trust their own work, so they look for people to take the anxiety off of them. An old lawyer who isn’t good will hire smart young lawyers, make them do his work, pay them a fifth of what he gets for it, and sign his name to it. This is what Supreme Court justices do, except for the pay part. Clerks who die in obscurity write their opinions.

Out of curiosity, I Googled the guy who tried to steal my ad concept. He’s still out there. He has a small-time talent agency that supplies speakers. The home page has photos of two people I have never heard of, plus Jay Leno. Somehow I doubt this guy represents Jay Leno. Maybe Leno appeared somewhere, and he was allowed to carry his luggage. My guess is that if Leno’s people saw the photo, they would send a letter and demand it be taken down.

“A sampling of our clients: Jay Leno! Randall Pulaski! Dolores M. Weinstein!”

The thing that really struck me was the phrase that appeared on the tab of the Firefox page. It said, “Team Player.” No kidding. How spooky is that? Ellsworth Toohey would approve!

Look him up. Ellsworth Toohey, I mean. If you don’t know who he is.

I have come to accept the fact that I am not going to be a professional writer. I write for fun, and because I think my testimony is helpful to some people. That’s about it. I can write a pretty good book in six weeks, and I can do it over and over. I can write a good column every day. Doesn’t matter. The fact that you have a gift doesn’t mean you’re supposed to do anything big with it.

Gifts aren’t that big a deal. God doesn’t need gifted people. His ability to use you is completely unrelated to your gifts. Everyone in heaven is more gifted than Leonardo Da Vinci. Ho hum. While you’re on earth, it’s better to be steady, responsible, and honest than gifted.

I’m not sure what talents are for. Sometimes I think God gave me mine just for my amusement. That would be a pretty good deal. Low stress. As soon as you use a gift for something bigger than that, someone will show up and try to turn you into a slave or a milk cow.

Don’t be surprised that I’m not getting paid. I’m not surprised at all.


Wile E. Coyote had Nothing on Me

December 30th, 2016

Latest Arrival From Acme

The new oscilloscope arrived, and I have had several major triumphs.

1. I managed to turn it on and make it work.

2. I figured out how to get a bunch of downloaded Arduino sketches into the Arduino program.

3. I managed to edit the downloaded files to work with the version of Arduino I have.

4. I succeeded in building a breadboarded adaptor that allows me to put the Arduino’s output on my scope screen.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Tektronix distributes a set of Arduino files that turn an Uno into a signal generator. I found the files and downloaded them, and I figured out how to get them into the machine. Problem: the first one I chose would not compile.

I got an error complaining about a C type called “prog_uchar.” I got “prog_uchar’ does not name a type.”

I thought I was missing a library, but after Googling around, I learned that prog_uchar comes from an earlier version of Arduino, and it doesn’t work in later versions. I had to replace it with “const char.” Okay, fine. It worked. I’m pretty impressed with myself, since I don’t really know C.

I love the scope. I thought it would look cheap, but it’s very nice. Solid and businesslike. The screen is gorgeous. I love the way it just tells me frequencies and voltages instead of making me do math. The fan is a little loud, but as you would expect, there are online guides to installing better fans.

I have felt conflicted about hacking it. When I ordered the scope, I didn’t realize the hack would essential turn the scope into a more expensive model. I have been thinking it over. On the one hand, it seems a little shady. On the other, they sold me this thing, and I feel like I should be able to extract whatever potential it has. People hack car computers all the time to make them run better.

Anyway, for now it’s great. It’s nice to get one toe into the 21st century.

After using my balky old Hitachi, which weighs maybe 25 pounds, it’s a real luxury to us a 10-pound scope which does what you tell it to. The probes are easy to attach. They’re already adjusted. It’s like going from a Heathkit computer to a Fat Mac.

I got to use my super-cheap bulk resistors and capacitors on the breadboard between the Arduino and the scope, and that was nice. I found out the skinny leads on the cheap resistors work for breadboarding. That was a relief. They’re not ideal, but they serve their intended purpose, which is to allow me to do things requiring resistors when I don’t have top-quality versions of the values I need.

I will try to get through the exercises now. It will be neat to know what a few of my new buttons do.


Merry Holiday That Dare not Speak its Name!

December 30th, 2016

‘Tis the Season to be Offended

What strange times we live in.

Today I went to check Drudge, and I saw a photo of a duck with the word “LAME” superimposed on it. It was a baby duck, I should add. Not a big, mature, adult duck. Drudge put it up in reference to a story about the Russian reaction to Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

Isn’t it strange that he’s quick to expel diplomats while he has no interest in keeping terrorists, murderers, thieves, and rapists out? Maybe the best way to get rid of illegal aliens is to have them get jobs at the Russian Embassy.

I figured Drudge was trying to be cute, but then I looked into the matter, and I found out the Russian Embassy posted the photo first, on its Twitter account. The Russian Embassy gets in Twitter battles! We need a good term for this activity. How about “Twitfights”?

I’ll bet other people are already using that term. How about “wars of attwition”?

Here is my understanding of the story:

1. Hillary Clinton lost the election.

2. Obama was mad, because the world owed the left all power and glory.

3. Obama blamed Wikileaks, which had leaked damaging info on Hillary.

4. Wikileaks claims the information came from American Democrats.

5. Obama blamed the Russians, for reasons we haven’t been told yet. Perhaps it’s above our pay grade.

6. Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US.

The humorous part about all this is that Vladimir Putin came out looking like the adult in the room. He declined to expel anyone, and he had his people publicly invite the children of American diplomats to a Christmas (not “holiday”) celebration at the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin says “Christmas,” and Obama doesn’t, because Obama thinks Christmas is the Confederate flag of holidays. Liberals hate Christmas even more than Obama loves the murder of the unborn, which is saying a lot. Obama voted against a law that would have required doctors to provide care for babies that survived abortion.

By the way, have you noticed that Bill O’Reilly turned out to be right about the War on Christmas? Remember how he was ridiculed for it? This season has been scrupulously sterilized of all Christmas references. Like no other before it. When I went to stores this season, I almost never heard anyone say, “Merry Christmas,” and when I did, they generally had a defiant air, just as I did when I returned the greeting.

I saw a ridiculous ad promoting a publicly funded celebration involved a “community holiday tree.” I’m not making that up. What holiday is decorated trees associated with? Tet? Walpurgisnacht? Beltane? Help me remember.

Actually, we did get the tree from a pagan holiday. But still.

Where is the “community holiday menorah”? Can I see that please?

It’s absurd. It expands the realm of absurdity, just like the bizarre claims that Bruce Jenner is a woman.

For the first time, Christmas was nearly 100% Jesus-free. It was just an opportunity to go to malls and riot over trinkets made in China. Presents! That’s what Christmas is about. We should call it “Present Day,” and we could call the second ghost Scrooge met “the Ghost of Present Day Past.”

I’ve quit giving really good Christmas presents. Except for my dad, I pretty much top out at $30, and for kids, it’s more like $25. I resent feeling obligated to spend four figures to support a disgraceful, godless orgy of materialism. You can be good to people in July if you want. You don’t have to save up and wait for an officially sanctioned mall stampede.

We don’t have Christmas any more. We just have a rootless, totally arbitrary celebration of giving each other things we can’t afford. Let’s call it Credit Day! The Bible says the borrower is slave to the lender. How about “Slavery Day”? Most of us go into debt at this time of year. The Bible’s warnings about borrowing are treated like quaint curiosities from an unenlightened past.

O’Reilly is annoying, but he got this one absolutely right, with no hope of credible refutation. Anyone who says there is no War on Christmas looks stupid and dishonest at this point.

They’re like the people who continue to say relations between Obama and Netanyahu are good.

The War on Christmas wasn’t truly lost until we decided men could marry each other. That’s no coincidence. There is a huge gay movement to eradicate Christianity, because people seriously believe their unusual sexual desires are that important. Gays are openly persecuting Christians now, and a lot of Americans are willing to go along with stifling Christianity simply to make the unpleasantness go away. A lot of us will accept just about anything as long as we can have our cocoa and avoid confrontation.

Sex is not that important to me. I wish I had a lower sex drive. It amazes me that people pay for drugs to increase their sex drive.

I do not understand people whose whole lives revolve around sex. It’s not that great, even when it’s good. An hour or two of fun, okay, but it’s not so great you should make it the reason you live. I don’t understand people who think it’s torture to do without it. We all want a certain amount of sex, but it’s not like food or air. It’s not essential.

Sometimes I think I don’t understand other people’s feelings about sex. I once had an unsuitable woman chase me in vain, and she kept talking about how long it had been since she had had sex. Last thing I wanted to hear. Gross. Her chances of having a romantic relationship with me were about like my chances of having a romantic relationship with Tim Tebow. There are some people you could never, ever even consider thinking of that way. When a person like that talks about sex, you cringe and wait for it to end.

It had been longer for me than for her, but I wasn’t jonesing like a junkie all day. I still do not understand what was wrong with her.

I’ve read all sorts of literary works featuring characters who seemed to tacitly agree that sex was the central feature of life, and that fornication was completely normal and acceptable. I don’t get it. How can anyone stand a life that shallow? It reduces us to the level of dogs and monkeys. Isn’t anything else important? Family? Leading a useful life? Hobbies? The arts? Are we just goats that can read?

I finished reading Boccaccio this week, and I started on Montaigne. Boccaccio wrote about sex as if every person who gets an opportunity to have it, at any time, was expected to go for it. Married, unmarried, rape, whatever. He wrote as if it were impossible to understand the inner workings of a person who would forgo any sexual opportunity.

I had been told Montaigne was a great thinker, but sure enough, he was obsessed with sex. So far in my studies, he has spent an inordinate amount of time writing about impotence, as if it were the worst possible thing that could happen to a man. I don’t want to know what he thinks about impotence! Who cares? And who cares about impotency, anyway? I mean, okay, if it’s permanent, it’s bad, but if someone has an occasional off day, how is it the end of the world? People aren’t machinery. We have ups and downs. Get over it. Seriously, how insecure can you be?

Maybe the problem is that men know that 95% of women tell every woman they know about every sexual failure their men experience. Another thing I don’t understand.

Somehow I got here, from writing about Obama and Putin.

The two big things that made an impression on me today were a) the Russian Embassy gets in Twitfights on a very low level, and b) the president of the United States and Vladimir Putin had a dispute, and Putin, not the president, took the high road. Okay, yes, the Russian Embassy people were childish, but Putin’s own handling of the situation was shrewd.

More and more, the world is coming to resemble Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, a movie in which everyone is stupid, and all discourse takes place on the Internet-comment level. Our discourse is nearly in that state. It’s obscene, hateful, and dumb. We used to confine that kind of thing to locker rooms, but now the situation is reversed. It’s like the whole world is a locker room, and to get away from it, you have to go into a special shelter.

Here’s a look at the near future. The language is horrible, so don’t click if you don’t want to hear it. Mike Judge was trying to be outrageous when he wrote this, but I think we’re about ten years away from this scenario.

It may turn out that some or all of the people Obama banished were spies. So what? Isn’t every embassy full of spies? I thought we all knew that. You create a system in which diplomats have freedom to travel and can’t be prosecuted for crimes, and suddenly, some of them turn out to be spies. Shocking! A leader who wasted an opportunity to make his spies immune to prosecution would be remiss.

It will be very interesting to see what happens when Trump takes office. Apart from the predictable “protests” [riots], I mean. Will he bring us an age of profitable cooperation with Putin, or will Putin play him like he played Obama? I don’t know what to expect. As long as Trump appoints conservative judges, looks out for Christians and Jews, and protects Israel, I won’t have anything to complain about. In fact, I’ll feel like thanking God on my knees every day.

I can’t help wanting to root for Putin. I know how irrational that is. I don’t know if anyone but Obama could make me feel this way. The man is a disgrace.

I guess I’ll check Twitter from time to time, purely for entertainment purposes. It’s like watching a food fight in a mental ward. And our new culture of perpetual offense makes it even more lively. Steve Martin just got reamed out for calling Carrie Fisher “beautiful.” You have to wonder what kind of craziness is next.

If you want to rise above the insanity, get to know the Holy Spirit. Our “civilization” is on its last legs. You need to have something more solid to rely on.

That’s it for now. I need to go lie down in a dark room for about half an hour.


Is This How Dr. Nefario Got his Start?

December 29th, 2016

Molto Bene

My world of perpetually entry-level technology and engineering gets more interesting all the time.

I bought a digital storage oscilloscope. I will need to learn how to use it. I found out Tektronix (a top-level oscilloscope maker) has published a series of exercises designed to teach people how to use DSO’s. The exercises require an Arduino board. I bought one today.

I sort of glanced at Arduino a year or two ago, but I never got into it. It sounded like cheating. I wanted to learn how to design circuits from the ground up, and that’s not how Arduino works. They supply you with a prefab board you can program. I was offended! I thought I should learn electronics so well I could build whatever I wanted out of the drawers at Radio Shack.

I now think I was stupid. Designing circuits from individual components is not simple. It’s probably best left to real engineers. And aside from that, real engineers don’t build everything from resistors and capacitors. They use integrated chips which contain a whole lot of ready-to-wear circuitry. I think getting into Arduino would be a good idea, unless I want to create my first complex circuit when I’m 80.

What is Arduino? Glad you asked.

I don’t know a whole lot about it, but the idea is that a company in Italy sells you a board with a microcontroller and a USB port on it, and they tell you absolutely everything about its design and how to use it. In other words, it’s “open source.” Then you use C to write programs for the microcontroller, and you use the board for projects. There are additional boards called “shields” that snap into the main board, and you can build circuits that are more complex.

You can download a free program that allows you to write code for your boards. You connect them to your PC using USB.

It’s pretty cool, and I am hoping it will also be a gateway to bigger things that don’t require me to be dependent on Arduino.

“Arduino” is a hard word to type. The letters don’t seem to follow each other naturally.

I learned some stuff which may be even cooler than the Arduino stuff. If you use Arduino boards, you will shell out at least five bucks per board, even for Chinese clones, and they take up a fair amount of space. There’s an alternative. There is a family of integrated circuits called “ATTINY,” and they’re the size of op amps. If your project is simple enough, you can program an ATTINY and move your project to it. You can start on an Arduino board and move to an ATTINY.

This is remarkable. I’m talking about a chip the size of a Tic Tac.

Here is the bad news: it’s hard to get an Arduino board without resorting to mail order. Radio Shack sells them; good luck finding a Radio Shack within 20 miles in 2016. If you live in a city full of educated, cultured people (i.e. not Miami), you may be able to find other sellers, but in my area, you are better off shopping for churros, women’s stretch pants that display every possible crease and contour of the pelvic region in minute detail, or really fancy tire rims.

I shelled out $25 for an Arduino Uno board today, and that’s a lot of money for what you get. When you buy the original Arduino stuff, you’re actually making a donation to the Arduino movement, so it’s overpriced. I didn’t feel cheated, though, because it seems like a worthy cause to me. If you buy clones, you’re not hurting anyone, because there are no patents, so if I ever need more boards, China, here I come.

I ordered a few ATTINY’s because they’re so cheap. I plan to play with them eventually. I would love to create a digital tachometer for my drill press. I would be the boss nerd of my whole block.

I don’t promise all of what I wrote is correct. But it could happen.

My studies with the Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab are zooming along quite well. Now that I’ve given up on the idea of writing reports, I’m flying through several projects per day. It was a good move, because it would have taken me a year to do it the other way. Whatever I lose in depth of study, I more than gain in progress from concept to concept.

Today I get started on doing something or other with the lab’s digital display. That’s pretty cool. In my mind, electronics can be separated into two categories: stuff that has alphanumeric displays and digital components, and all the other stuff. That’s probably not quite right, but it’s how I see things. To me, making the leap from stupid circuits that turn LED’s on and off to circuits that put numbers on an LCD screen is a very big deal. It’s a jump from 1920 to 1975. It’s a jump to a realm which includes nearly every interesting electronic device a normal person owns.

You would think a Radio Shack product with the phrase “Learning Lab” in the name would be a kid’s toy, but it’s not. It’s very useful. If it included an oscilloscope, it would be considerably more advanced than the equipment I used in my first college electronics class.

One of the great things about it is that all the things you need for a whole series of projects are included. You can teach yourself electronics using a powered breadboard and your own components, but amassing the materials will be a giant pain in the butt. The cost of the Learning Lab is way more than offset by the grief it will save you.

Unfortunately, you can’t have one. They don’t sell them any more. But there are similar products out there. And you can find them used on Ebay.

The only problem with the lab is the analog meter on the board. I don’t use it. I use a Fluke meter which works better and is harder to blow up.

I guess I’ll fire up the Arduino and try to figure out how to use it. If all goes well, I should have a working minion by Tuesday.


There’s no Need to Talk About It

December 28th, 2016

I’m Old Enough to Scope it Out and Keep it Loose

Sorry for the really obscure Amazing Rhythm Aces reference.

I have done the unthinkable. I have replaced my Bronze Age Hitachi oscilloscope.

To be more rigorous, I have SUPPLEMENTED my Bronze Age Hitachi oscilloscope. I don’t plan to throw it out, but I got a new scope which will probably see more use.

I got the Hitachi because I was nostalgic for the days when I used to be intelligent, i.e., the days when I was studying physics. I took two electronics courses in college, using Tektronix scopes, and when I decided to revive my interest, I found a creaky Hitachi offered for fifty bucks (maybe it was seventy-five).

My college electronics courses were truly, truly useless. I’m not sure why they bothered. They took the physicist approach, and physicists can’t do anything. If you want to know where an electron in a certain type of potential is likely to be at a certain time, a physicist can help you, but if you want to design a simple headphone amplifier, you might as well hire a bartender. Physicists learn nothing which is of practical use.

My first course was full of calculus, and it centered on the theory behind simple electronic components. We built ridiculous things like differentiators and integrators. When was the last time you went to Best Buy to look at a new 55″-screen integrator? Never! People don’t use integrators. They use stereos, computers, and smartphones. I didn’t learn how to make one useful thing.

My second course was called “advanced,” but it was about things like shining a UV light on a piece of metal and counting the electrons that left its surface. I’m sure Samsung pays top dollar to designers who can count electrons.

Say what you will about engineers. They may be creepy and scary, but they can actually do things.

The Hitachi was useful when I built guitar amps. I used it for monkey jobs, such as finding out how far a signal went in a circuit before being cut off by one of my wiring mistakes. You can’t do that very well with a multimeter. You need a picture, because AC signals on multimeters don’t tell you much.

Unfortunately, the Hitachi is an analog scope, so it doesn’t tell you anything. It just gives you a picture of the signal. If you want to know the voltage or frequency, you have to work it out with a calculator or multiply in your head. Up-to-date nerds use digital scopes. They have little readouts on the screen, and they tell you stuff about what you’re seeing. They also store information so you can look at signals later.

I don’t recall whether the Tektronix scopes I learned on were digital or analog, but given the era, I would guess that they were analog.

You can go on Ebay and get old digital scopes from American companies for not too much money, but they have certain parts that tend to blow, and you may or may not be able to fix them. Also, the cheap new Chinese scopes have more features. I decided to go Chinese.

The Chinese oscilloscope game is quite interesting. There are a number of companies that make scopes that look pretty much alike, and it seems like every budget scope costs exactly the same amount: $400. But it gets complicated. Some scopes are built well, and others aren’t. Some scopes can be hacked, and others can’t. You have to shop carefully.

The scope I got is rated for 50MHz, but here’s something interesting: the frequency is limited by software, not hardware. In other words, the manufacturer makes a scope that will work fine at 100MHz, and they program it so it only goes up to 50 so they can charge less for it. Weird. Naturally, nerds have found the hack that restores its full capability, so once I hack my scope, 100 MHz will be well within range.

There are other hacks for oscilloscopes. I don’t know what they are. I do know that the big drawback to low-end Chinese scopes is crummy software. They tend to have bugs that pop up, and people complain, and the manufacturers have to come up with solutions. It’s my understanding that American scopes are less buggy, which is one reason they cost four times as much.

It will be a little weird, turning on a new scope that does what it’s supposed to do, without requiring a nurse or a shaman to make it function. I haven’t had that experience in well over 20 years.

I found a neat resource: the forum at Eevblog.com. This is a website started by an Australian geek named Dave. I tried another forum, but the people were just a little too obnoxious. I don’t know why electronics turns some people into the fat kid from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but it does.

Dave’s videos are neat, too. He’s a real engineer (someone who gets paid to do electronics), so he knows a few things, and he spills his guts regularly on Youtube. He takes scopes apart, which is nice. I decided to get a Rigol DS1054Z largely based on his dismantling video. The scope looks a little “Hello Kitty” on the outside, but on the inside, the build quality is very impressive.

Will I ever need even 10% of the scope’s capabilities. Not this year. Well, that means not in the next three days. Okay, not in 2017. I think. But who knows what I’ll be doing in 2018? Can’t hurt to plan for the future. I would really love to learn a little about digital circuits, and you need a digital scope for that.

The Hitachi’s problems appear to be fixable, and I feel obligated to try a repair. On the one hand, it’s practically worthless even when running normally. On the other hand, it’s a sophisticated, top-quality instrument that must surely have cost over a grand new, so it seems a shame to turn it into a parts cadaver.

Why didn’t I fix it before buying a new scope? First, I am lazy, and I like to buy new stuff. Second, I was really dreading fixing it. Third, when you need to fix a scope, one of the things you should have on hand is…a scope. That works. I should find the Rigol useful while operating on the Hitachi.

I can’t figure out what “Eevblog” means. I believe “vblog” is Australian for “vlog,” but what’s “Eev”? I saw something indicating it means “electron volt,” but if that’s true, what does “eV” mean? Short answer: it means “electron volt.” “EE” means “electrical engineer.” That still leaves “v” to be dealt with.

Well, my brain must have been short-circuited. The “V” is from the “vblog” part, not the “EE” part. Okay, so it’s “EE Vblog.”

Australians. Whatever.

I remember Dice Clay wondering aloud whether we do nuclear testing there.

I think we do.

If I get the Hitachi to function, I will almost certainly write about it here. You have been warned.

Comments Off on There’s no Need to Talk About It

User Error

December 28th, 2016

You Have More Control Than You Think

I’m a little reluctant to testify about things that could still go wrong, so I have been sitting on something for a few days. I feel like it’s safe to write about it now.

I have been exposed repeatedly to someone who has a persistent cold. I hate colds. I’m pretty sure I had one long cold from the time I was born until I was 12 years old. I was sick a lot, and it made me miserable. I hate the snot. I hate not being able to breathe or sleep. I hate it. I hate it all. I did not want to get another cold.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had tremendous success, speaking defeat to various problems. It sounds crazy, but it’s very Biblical. For instance, Jesus told a tree, “May you never bear fruit again.” It dried up promptly. Jesus followed up with a famous saying which has not worked very well for Christians since he died: “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

If you have a problem you can’t solve, you can say, “I speak defeat to [insert problem here] in the name of Jesus.” You have to have faith, and to have faith, you need to pray in tongues habitually. If you do it with the right preparation, it works surprisingly well.

Every day, I’ve been speaking defeat to this illness.

On Saturday, I started to feel strange. I felt the beginnings of pain in my bones. It was as if someone had draped a shawl over me, and everywhere a shawl would have touched–my outer arms, my shoulders, the back of my neck, and my head–I felt an ache starting up. I continued speaking defeat and looking for problems in my mindset or behavior that might open doors.

I started sweating, like a person whose fever was breaking. The pain went away. I never developed congestion or a runny nose. My throat didn’t get sore. It’s Wednesday, and I’m still fine.

I can’t say I have had no problems at all. For several days I had a strange sensation, as if I were enveloped in a cloud of someone else’s anger. I felt like something wanted in, and it was angry because it was forced to stay outside. I had problems sleeping on Saturday night.

One day my nose ran a little, but I had just sprayed a really filthy bathroom (not mine, I hasten to point out) with bleach. You can imagine the fumes I breathed.

Many of the emotions and drives we think are our own come from spirits. I know that for a fact. I remember walking into the National Holocaust Memorial and being overwhelmed by the grief of the Holy Spirit. It’s very common for mentally ill people to hear voices telling them to kill people they are not angry at. They kill their mothers, spouses, children, random strangers…the anger comes from somewhere else. One of the greatest rock and roll drummers shattered his mother’s skull with a hammer because voices wouldn’t leave him alone.

The fruit of the Spirit come from the presence of the Holy Spirit, so presumably, many of our viler drives come from loser spirits causing problems on their way to burn for eternity.

We have come to accept illness as normal. I don’t think it is. I think you get more power over it as you give more power over yourself to God.

David wasn’t well when he died, and Elijah died from an illness. We know Timothy had health problems because Paul said so. Does that mean we have to be ill? I don’t think so. Elijah made mistakes. He had to run from Jezebel because he ridiculed the prophets of Baal. Timothy probably made mistakes, too. We don’t know how many of the apostles’ problems were caused by their own errors, but surely many were. The Bible never holds any of them out as perfect.

A couple of weeks back, I looked into making a buffer arbor for my belt grinder. Every tool person needs to be able to buff things. I got on the web and looked into buffer safety. I found out buffers are extremely dangerous. A well-known knifemaker was killed by a buffer not too long ago. It grabbed a knife out of his hand and threw it into his heart. Buffers are scary.

I asked buffer users for advice. I wanted to know whether buffer accidents were inevitable or just the result of user error. Everyone agreed that buffer accidents are caused by bad practice, not some insurmountable characteristic of the machinery.

“User error.” That’s the phrase people use. If you run your hand through a table saw because you’re too cocky to use a push stick, it’s user error. It’s somewhat dishonest to call it an accident, because if you adopt bad practices, you almost assure that a disaster will occur eventually. If you willfully expose yourself to an avoidable risk, is it an accident when you get hurt? Not really. You consented. You ordained it.

I bring this up, because I have been thinking about it in connection with the problems we have here on earth. I believe most are the result of user error.

To make things more confusing, let me bring in the concept of inheritance.

The Bible says a righteous man builds up an inheritance for his children’s children. We always assume this refers to wealth. The truth, though, is that the best thing you can pass on to people is knowledge and wisdom, and that is most true of knowledge and wisdom concerning God.

Think of the way earthly inheritance works. Somewhere in a family’s line, a person who has nothing finds out how to get wealth. He works hard. He suffers. He has setbacks because of his ignorance. When he is old, he passes his wealth on, and his children don’t have to suffer as much or work as hard as he did. They do better than he did in life.

Knowledge and wisdom are supposed to work the same way.

People in good families pay attention to their kids. They don’t let them grow up untended, like weeds (as I did). They teach them how to do well and avoid pitfalls. God is a father, and he is a good father, not an inattentive or selfish one. He wants us to have knowledge and wisdom so we can avoid unnecessary suffering. He doesn’t want us to repeat the stupid mistakes our parents made.

When you learn about tool safety, you’re inheriting wisdom. The first guy who was hurt by a buffer probably didn’t have anyone to warn him properly. Ever since then, knowledge has accumulated, largely because of accidents in which people have been maimed. If you inherit the wisdom others accumulated with great suffering, you can make yourself safe. If you refuse, you get hurt just like they did, and you bring it on yourself.

When we suffer diseases and other setbacks in life, very often, it’s the result of user error.

The church rejects a huge percentage of the inheritance Jesus died to bring us. We reject prayer in tongues. We reject communion. We reject the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit; we feel we have to change ourselves. Like people who reject inherited money because they have the fantasy that they can be “self-made,” we want to make ourselves holy and earn God’s help.

We want to earn gifts. How is it a gift if you earned it?

We are supposed to be the earth’s nobility, and nobility comes through inheritance, not effort.

Healing and other helps from God are connected to confession, repentance, and obedience. Does this mean we earn his help? No, it just means we cancel it out by opening doors to the enemy. When you lie to God and pretend to be righteous, and when you habitually disobey him, you give other spirits rights. You drive the Holy Spirit out by dishonoring him. If you want the promises of the Bible to work, you need to make communion often. You need to admit that you’re responsible for the sacrifice of Jesus, and that you’re a taker, not a giver. God doesn’t owe you good things, and you need his help to control your flesh.

I still remember my friend who died from cancer. Everyone in my church kept telling him he was healed, but people got very angry when I said we needed to confess and get rid of sin and pride in order to close doors to disease. My friend was arrogant. That was just his nature. The church reinforced that. Now he’s dead. We invited God in one door and the devil in through another. God doesn’t like to share. He is “God,” not “a god.” He has to be given special honor.

One of the greatest things about having a good relationship with God is seeing other people inherit through me. There are a handful of people who have listened to me when I talked about things God showed me. Now sometimes I learn from them. They got things flowing, and they hear from God directly instead of waiting for me or some other human being to tell them things. That’s how it’s supposed to work. They will have better lives than I did. They will inherit instead of working. They won’t have to build up the same little stash of wealth that I did, all over again.

The church gave away inheritance a long time ago. Every generation starts over, in the dirt, and we die spiritually poor. If God manages to get some knowledge into someone, we ignore or murder that person. We don’t heal the sick very much. We only rarely raise the dead. We make the promises of the Bible seem like lies, because we rejected the knowledge that makes them work.

I’m very, very glad I’m not sick today. That’s all I can tell you. I can’t force people to listen or benefit. I plan to keep going forward, even if everyone I know dies in defeat.

I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow with a cold. That would be embarrassing.

Keep praying in tongues. Keep taking communion, with an emphasis on confession, repentance, and admitting you need help. Keep speaking defeat to pride and self-deceit. See what happens. It certainly beats giving a fifth of your paycheck to a white-trash liar in a purple suit.


Notes From the Grinch’s Workshop

December 25th, 2016

No Roast Beast This Year

Christmas has not been bad. It’s just me and my dad now, but life is peaceful, and my relationship with God is rewarding.

I don’t hear from my other relatives much. My sister is not really part of the picture now, and the others just don’t contact me often. It’s always about business when they do. I guess I offended them in some way, but I don’t know what I did. My grandfather left a screwed-up estate, and that tends to create alienation among relatives, but I have never taken a dime or a single article I wasn’t entitled to, and the only time I offered to work for the estate, I refused to charge. Oddly, they chose a cousin who took 33 percent of the proceeds of his work.

Could have saved each one of them thousands of dollars. Whatever their reason for turning me down was, it must have been compelling. Or maybe they just didn’t think it through.

I did hear from one aunt. Her relationship with the others is not great, but I don’t have any problems with her. She was upset because Obama jabbed Israel in the eye, refusing to oppose an anti-Israel UN resolution. She believes God will punish the US because of it, and history appears to show that she had good reason to be concerned.

For years, Democrats ridiculed people who said Obama had problems with Israel, but at some point during his administration, the gloves came off, and now people admit he’s Israel’s enemy. No apologies from the apologists, however. No admission of error.

The Bible predicts that God will start defending God personally when all the nations of the world turn against it. Has that happened, with the UN resolution? I’m not sure. We elected Trump, and he appears to be a rabid Israel fan. Ordinarily, you would think that would count for something. But he got fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, an enemy of God from the word “go.” That counts for something, too.

I am not worried, because worry is wrong. Besides, my relationship with God is going very well, so I don’t expect to suffer as badly as other Americans. I’m not all over the web calling the Israelis Nazis and comparing the Jewish state to South Africa. I hope as many people as possible get it together and stop provoking God, but I’m glad I’m withdrawing from the mass of ignorant people who are doing their best to bring on disaster.

The day was productive for me, by my standards. I spent a lot of time organizing and moving useless items into places where they will not be in the way as much. I spent some time reading an old quantum mechanics text, and I watched a quantum mechanics lecture on Youtube. I did a couple of simple problems. I am trying to pick up bits of the knowledge that leaked out of my head after I quit graduate school.

I also spent time with my handy-dandy Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab. I have been going through the projects and writing up lab reports, because reports help you learn things, but the more I got into it, the more I felt it was counterproductive to write things up. The material in the workbook does not lend itself all that well to report writing, and writing slows the process down by a factor of maybe ten. I started going through the book assembling and dismantling the projects one after the other, without writing anything. It seems to be the right way to do it. If I really feel the need, I can write about certain subjects, but I believe writing about everything will keep me busy until I’m 70.

It’s nice to do things right, but if you overthink and do them TOO right, you fall behind and never get anywhere. I wish I had understood that when I was in grad school. I felt like I had to understand everything, backward and forward.

I’ve been fiddling with the test equipment I own. I found out I don’t have a cord for my ancient HP signal generator. The resulting kerfuffle is really something. A thousand years ago, when it was made, they used a connector called the PH-163 or Belkin 17952. It’s sort of like a modern computer power cord connector, but it has oval pins. In 2016, a PH-163 cord will run you thirty bucks, not including shipping. Forget that. I ordered a male PC connector, and I’m going to rip the old connector out of the box, carve up the sheet metal, and put the new one in. I don’t even know if the signal generator works, so I’m not going to Sotheby’s to bid on a priceless antique cord for it.

My old Hitachi oscilloscope has a messed-up volts/division knob on one channel. It’s very hard to turn, as if someone put glue in it. I tried running Kroil into it, but it didn’t loosen it up completely, so I guess I’ll have to dismantle the scope and take a look at the pot/rotary switch/whatever behind the panel. I have no idea whether it can be fixed.

I’m also getting a funny display when I check the square-wave calibration function, and from what I’ve read, that means parts on the PCB have to be replaced. Fun, fun, fun. I don’t know how much effort I want to put into a scope that cost 50 bucks, but I plan to see what I can do.

It’s time to get a real scope. That means digital. I thought I might try to get an old Tektronix or HP, but people seem to agree that you’re better off getting a new Chinese job. I may splurge for a Rigol DS1054Z. They get raves. It would be nice to work WITH a scope instead of working ON it.

When people talk about the old scopes, they say they do most of what the new ones do, and the quality is better, but they also say this part burns out and that part quits working, and then you either have to become an oscilloscope technician or buy another one.

I don’t know much about it, but it looks like you can hit Ebay and pick up a 20-year-old scope that does what a modern Chinese one does, for maybe 40% less than Chinese. But is that a good idea? I saw a technical guy tear down the Rigol, and it’s no Alibaba toy. It’s built like Kim Jong-Un’s armor-plated underground end-game outhouse.

The Hitachi was fine when I was basically using it to see if I was getting any AC signal at all, without worrying whether the display was correct. I was working on tube amps, and that doesn’t require a lot of precision. I can’t get by with grossly distorted waveforms for the rest of my life. Sooner or later I’ll need to know what a signal really looks like.

I dread opening the box up and looking for problems. I’ll probably have to remove and store thirty knobs to get the front panel off, and they’re attached with microscopic set screws.

One of the big down sides to fooling with electronics is that you have to join forums frequented by guys who have never, ever, for very solid reasons, gotten a date. Some of the people are nice and helpful, but others think that because they’ve spent their entire lives staring at circuit boards and watching Japanese cartoons instead of engaging with human beings, the rest of us should crawl to them on our faces and shower them with offerings of Jolt cola and Skittles before begging their forgiveness for existing.

You really have to finesse them to get what you want without falling into the mud-wrestling pit. You have to know when to say, “Great. Thanks for the information,” when you have received no useful information at all and simply want to end the interaction.

I guess it’s insulting to humor and cajole people you could never respect, in order to get answers out of them, but you can only treat people as well as they let you.

Anyway, it was a pleasant, peaceful day. It would be nice if I woke up tomorrow and the half of my family that died from old age and cancer was still here, and we were all in Kentucky sitting around a Christmas tree, but things are good, and they’re getting better.


Christmas Presence

December 25th, 2016

If You Paid for it, it’s not a Gift

I wrote about the help God has been giving me with love. The process has not stopped, so I felt like I should keep writing.

Someone asked me how I go about loving certain people. Many human beings are venomous and obnoxious. That’s reality. A commenter wanted to know if I tried to think about the good parts of people.

That gave me pause, because the answer surprised me: I don’t.

That proves what’s happening to me is supernatural. I can’t do what I’m doing. It’s not me.

Sometimes when God makes an improvement in you, you forget what it was like before he fixed you. That’s the situation I’m in now. A couple of weeks ago, I would have had to grit my teeth and focus in order to try to love certain people. That’s not what’s happening now. It’s more like turning on a flashlight and letting the beam shine. I have the power to turn it on or shut it off, but I didn’t put it in myself. There is something inside me that wasn’t there before, and it doesn’t depend on the person toward whom I direct it.

That’s part of the beauty of it. If other people’s bad qualities prevent you from loving them, then they control you, right? They can always take away your love. How can you be the head and not the tail if other people can take your love at will?

We love saying other people can’t steal our joy, but we don’t say that about love very much. Love is more fundamental than joy. Love gives rise to joy, so if you can get ahold of love and hang onto it, joy will follow.

Saying, “You can’t steal my joy,” is a little selfish, because it leaves love out of the equation. It’s sort of like saying, “You can’t keep my paycheck,” when you haven’t been going to work. Not that love is work. I just mean love comes before joy, like work comes before a paycheck.

Maybe I shouldn’t have used work in the analogy. Hopefully, you get the idea. Sunshine comes before photosynthesis. Investing comes before interest. Planting comes before reaping. Wind comes before waves.

I don’t care how rotten people are; they can’t take this from me. I won’t have it. I’m not their slave.

I may not like everyone. There are many people I refuse to associate with, because associating with them is a nasty and unprofitable experience. There are a lot of people I can’t help but contemn. But I don’t have to hate them or live with anger because of them.

I feel a lot better now. Often in the past, I felt bad because anger was still in place. The root of anger will keep bearing fruit as long as it’s not pulled up. Whatever I tried to do with the root of anger in place was sabotaged by the root’s presence. It’s like trying to build a house right next to a tree. The roots will grow under the house and break the foundation, over and over. If you kill the tree, the house can be built. Now I have more power to cut the roots whenever they try to spread.

Christians in the US need to get ahold of this right now, because we’re very busy humiliating people who are against God, and anger is breaking up our foundations. We are crowing about Trump’s win, as if it proved we were the master race. That’s kind of crazy. If you’re going to be nasty and cruel, wouldn’t it make more sense to do it when you lose, not when you win? Anyway, it will bring a backlash of defeat. A certain number of people here have to deal with our win correctly in order to motivate God to keep helping us.

I believe an increased flow of love will improve my health and enable God to bless me more. I think that when your love is constipated, it’s like having obstructions in your lymph system and urinary system and so on. Things that should be cleansed get blocked and encrusted with filth. Destructive pressure builds up. Your body and mind will attack themselves. Seems that way, based on what I’m experiencing now.

It’s highly disturbing that famous preachers keep lying to us about money and keeping us convinced that God’s big priority is making us rich. Look at what we could be getting, if we weren’t deceived. We are chasing things we can’t get. We are chasing blessings that don’t exist, and when you do that, you’re really chasing curses. We’re offending God with our covetousness, and we are not chasing the good things he actually wants us to have.

People like T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Paula White, and Benny Hinn are poisoning us. It’s as if we’re all swimming in a septic tank, and these people are holding our heads under the surface. The evil they do is astounding, but we deserve it, because our desires give them opportunity.

The Pope…I don’t even know what to say about him. How can any Christian over the age of 12 love socialism? Who has killed more Christians than the socialists? Who has burned more churches? Who has touted man’s nonexistent power to change and help himself more? No one. The Pope is toxic and ignorant.

Cold, intellectual preachers are killing us,too. God doesn’t want engineers. He wants people with hearts like his.

The sad thing is that we have no leadership. Where are we supposed to turn? No one on earth–no one prominent–is teaching the things God has shown me directly. People say no church is perfect, but the truth is, no church is even adequate. Churches are poisonous. If you want to benefit from a church, go and get yourself saved and baptized with the Spirit, start praying in tongues as much as you can, and beg God every day for correction and knowledge. Then learn to ignore the garbage your church teaches you. This is your only hope of making real progress.

Be extremely careful about accepting any type of promotion from a church. It’s almost always a trap. When you’re part of the team, you have to parrot the party line, even if the party line is killing people. Don’t get attached to anything but God. Don’t owe anyone but God. You don’t need to be a youth pastor or deacon in order to serve him. You don’t need a “platform.” You can do just fine on your own, once you’re able to hear from God.

You don’t need a license from a man or an organization.

Jesus had no position in the religious hierarchy. Neither did John the Baptist or any of the apostles. Look at the prophets. They were rejected. Amos was a vinedresser. Elijah and Elisha were solitary. Elisha was a farmer. Moses was a shepherd. David was a shepherd whose brothers hated him. Meanwhile, the vast majority of priests amounted to absolutely nothing. Try and name a priest from the Bible who is honored today, to the degree that Stephen or Moses is honored.

The Jews killed Isaiah. They tormented and imprisoned Jeremiah. They stoned Stephen. If men love you and honor you, look out! It’s the devil, trying to put you to sleep on his lap so he can shave your head and put out your eyes. God help you if someone tries to point a TV camera at you. It takes God-given strength to endure that without being corrupted.

The Bible clearly says that God sets the godly apart for himself. That doesn’t mean he sets them apart in churches. It means he sets them apart, with him. In his presence. When you’re in church, be careful. Think like a person in a hospital ward during a plague. Avoid being infected. Avoid indiscriminate intimacy with the infected. This is part of what it means to be the head and not the tail.

To be holy, you have to have flexibility. Men will bind you with chains and straps so they can control you and tell you what to say. If you accept the chains, the Holy Spirit will go somewhere else. He is not going to be dishonored and compete with men for your loyalty. He is humble and patient, but he is still God, and he requires a certain amount of honor. Every day God gives up on people he loves, and he, personally, has them thrown into hell. If you tax him long enough, he will give up on you, too.

You can do what you want. Never forget that. It should scare you.

Don’t worry about the difficulty of doing what God wants. He does not want you to do it with your own strength. It offends and grieves him when you do that. He expects and demands that you accept his help. Don’t be discouraged. Look for his help.

We are heirs, not employees. How would you feel if you tried to give your son a fortune, and he insisted on getting a job at 7-Eleven and living in an efficiency?

Remember all those times in the Bible when Jesus worked really hard and got blisters? Neither do I! Never happened! God isn’t impressed or pleased with your hard work. He created hard work as a reward for the cursed. Learn to receive charity. Jesus himself was not too good to do that. Who are we to insist on deserving good things?

Imagine how terrible life would be if we got what we deserved.

Love is available. Faith is available. Victory is available. It has already been paid for, by someone else.

I don’t know if I’m doing a good job of testifying, since I’m not making many people angry. I guess I’m being spared their participation here. If what you say pleases everyone, it’s wrong. Real testimony gives rise to hate and murder.

If I can get good things from God, anyone can. Keep banging on the door.

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Consider the Ant

December 23rd, 2016

Forget the Palmer Worm

Since I wrote about my literature-reading habits today, I might as well follow up with some info on my technical reading.

It will sound stupid to a person who isn’t mathematically or technically inclined, but there is a special kind of pleasure associated with reading a well-written text or how-to book for STEM people. Believe it or not, there are texts which could actually be described as “beloved.” Herbert Goldstein’s Classical Mechanics and Morse and Feshbach’s Mathematical Methods of Theoretical Physics come to mind. It’s very hard to write a good STEM book, so when someone does it right, you almost feel like putting the book in bed next to you, like a little boy curling up with a new toy fire engine.

When I came to Miami from Texas, I had a lot of technical books, and I had to store them. I didn’t know carpenter ants ate paper. After several years, I checked on the books, and a lot of them were ruined. I had lost Richard Feynman’s autobiographical books, two neat quantum mechanics books by someone named Cohen-Tannoudji, Amit Goswami’s Quantum Mechanics, and a number of other books I liked. I lost my Japanese edition of Krazy Kat, which I treasured.

I had a copy of Mathematical Methods of Physics, by Mathews and Walker. I had bought it new. The bugs left most of it alone, but they ate a big hole in the spine, and it bothered me every time I looked at it. I felt so bad about it, I looked around online for a replacement, even though I didn’t need the book. If you check prices for new copies, you will understand why I didn’t buy one. They are not cheap.

This week I started Googling again. I found someone selling a new copy for well under the market price, and I decided to take a chance. It’s on the UPS truck right now, on its way here. I hope it’s really a new copy.

I also replaced some Schaum outlines. These things are priceless for STEM students. Textbooks tend to be pedantic, terse, and incomprehensible. Schaum’s authors know that if people can’t understand them, they won’t get paid.

I don’t know how much I’ll use these books. Honestly, I don’t think Mathews and Walker is a good text. It just bugged me. I can sell my chewed-up copy for about what the new one cost, so no loss.

There are also some books I’m glad I sold or lost. J.J. Jackson’s book on E&M is pretty horrible. I think I still have Fetter and Walecka’s abominable mechanics text. If so, I should start using the pages to locate end mills on workpieces.

Ants eat books. Believe it. Don’t take any chances when you store your library.

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New Message From the Literature Troll

December 23rd, 2016


I have a few minutes to kill, so I feel like writing about my Lit. Hum. project.

Literature Humanities is a mandatory course I pretty much blew off when I was at Columbia University, and I am going back over the reading to punish myself. So far, it has worked really well. I feel I have been punished greatly. I suffered through Plato’s bizarre tribute to homosexual predators, and I waded through the tedious, venal muck of Homer and Virgil. I am still buried in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and if memory serves, I will soon be tormented with Dostoevsky. I dread that like you can’t imagine.

I loved literature when I was young, and then I got over it. It looks like I’m not going to get a relapse any time soon. Literature is full of whining and self-pity. It’s unrealistic. It takes place in imaginary worlds where there is no loving God. It reinforces just about every type of evil urge a person can have. It tends to promote sexual sin, socialism, irresponsibility, and atheism. I’m starting to wonder how much of it a person can be exposed to without harm.

It kind of reminds me of rap music.

I liked Boccaccio when I started reading his book, but love has withered on the vine. His book goes on forever. It would have been much better had two-thirds of it been burned by his editor. It contains dozens of highly similar stories, and they’re not very imaginative. In terms of literary quality, I would rank it right up there with the Nancy Drew mysteries and John Grisham.

That’s not a compliment. John Grisham writes very badly, and his work doesn’t show much familiarity with the practice of law, which is odd, given his original profession. The wealthiest writers make up one set, and the best make up another. The intersection of these sets is small.

I think I can say with confidence that no one was ever moved or inspired by Boccaccio. There are no memorable quotes, either. You don’t put down the book and exclaim, “Wow! That’s brilliant!” He will never make anyone forget Joseph Heller or William Shakespeare.

Now that I’m farther into the book, I realize there’s a lot of filth in it. I mean real gutter porn, with no real literary value. It’s not even clever porn.

He reminds me of Cervantes. I haven’t read Cervantes since college (I took Columbia’s famous Don Quixote course, which was a farce and a waste of money). I don’t think Cervantes was much of a writer. He was just windy and irreverent. You can’t seriously commpare him to a French homologue such as Rabelais. He isn’t as erudite, nor is he as funny. If you want to read a brilliant, offensive book written several centuries ago in a place other than England, try Voltaire’s Candide. Don Quixote functions best as a doorstop.

Sometimes I think Cervantes gets air time simply because people are desperate to pretend Spain has a rich literary tradition that compares with northern Europe. Were that true, we would have found out about it by now.

I was going to read all of Boccaccio, even though the syllabus doesn’t demand it, but now that I see what a drag his book is, I am adhering to the schedule. I guess I’ll be done in a week. I would be moving faster, but I have other books on my plate, and they’re actually entertaining and/or full of useful knowledge, so they get priority.

I wish I had more good things to say about Boccaccio, because that would mean I was enjoying the book.

The moral, as always, is that you should read certain books in order to be educated, not in order to be entertained or impressed. And of course, they are useful to people who want to be punished.


Festivus, for What’s Left of Us?

December 23rd, 2016

Don’t Air Your Grievances; Give Them the Air

God keeps showing me good stuff and cleaning me up.

One of the needs I have been concerned about for the last few years is the need to love. A while back, God told me he created the universe for love, and that is consistent with my concerns. Love is important. Apparently, it’s one of the most important things there is. Also, on the occasions when Jesus visited me, the single sensation that impressed me the most was the warmth of the love that radiated from him. I also felt peace, protection, relief, and faith, but love stood out.

God can project his love through you, and that’s the kind of love he wants you to have. It’s hard to make yourself love without his help. We are fully of emotional scars. We feel cheated and wounded, because that’s what we are. Other people and malicious spirits prey on us, starting before we’re born. They get great pleasure from our suffering and humiliation. It’s as if they love bathing in our blood.

Years ago, while I was on my way to a church service, God’s love fell on me, and while it rested on me, I felt new love for other people. It didn’t matter who they were. I didn’t have to push it. The strength came from God. It was a great thing, but I wasn’t able to hold onto it. Ever since then, I’ve been aware that I needed it, and I wanted it back. Many times, I’ve asked God for this.

We live in a society of self-proclaimed victims, and I have been one of them. A person who thinks he’s a victim doesn’t feel obligated to love. On the contrary; victims feel entitled (their favorite word) to harm others. It’s not sin to them. It’s payback, karma, reparations, justice…there is always a name attached to it that makes it sound holy.

I had a warm personality when I was born, but according to my mother, that dried up during my first year of life. She thought it was because of an illness I contracted, but it may have had more to do with the presence of two abusive people in the house. My mother used to find my sister next to my crib, pinching me to make me scream.

In this world, we are taught to hold things against people and to feel cheated. I fell for it. Also, I got tired of opening up to people, only to have them mistreat me in return. People are truly sadistic. Many of them see openness as a welcome opportunity to violate and torment another person. It’s like a windfall to them. They pleasure of harming others is so pleasing to them, they can’t believe their good fortune when they get a chance to cause suffering. I found that I could protect myself by closing up and by using words to hurt back or to attack preemptively. I was rewarded for it, too, because I was funny. People admired me for it. They paid me with attention.

I became like the people from whom I wanted protection. I thought I was a good person because I wasn’t actively looking for opportunities to hurt people, but I was contributing to the atmosphere of defensiveness and malice. In Miami, everyone is familiar with this atmosphere, because people here are very antagonistic to each other. Everyone you see is a threat that has to be scared off or defeated. I believe this is largely due to the ways of the people who have made big cultural contributions here. Before Cubans arrived, the dominant culture was from New York, and after that, the aggressive ways of Cubans dominated our interactions.

I don’t want to be like that any more. I don’t care how other people treat me. I don’t want whatever petty victories they get to be augmented by the larger victory of depriving me of the ability to love.

Over the last few days, I’ve finally gotten relief. I feel like a passage inside me has reopened, and I’m able to let God’s love flow toward people. It’s extremely helpful. It cuts off tension and ugly thoughts before they get a chance to bloom. It’s relaxing. It’s healing to me.

I write about this because people need to know it’s available, and they need to know it’s essential. The Holy Spirit will give you a lot of great things, but without love, they’re very incomplete and ineffective. The propagation of love is the purpose of the universe, so if love doesn’t flow through you, whatever you’re doing in life is a waste of time and a failure.

One of the great things about this is that it helps you forgive nasty people. That’s important, because we swim in a sea of uncleanness and sadism these days. The Internet seems to be growing these things in us. Christians, especially, are subjected to constant provocation. We can’t sit back in self-righteousness, remain angry at unbelievers, and feel like we’re superior. We have to actively, deliberately focus love on them, even if we only do it internally. God is giving me the habit of doing this, and I can feel the pressure and tension inside me abating.

Love is not just a gift we give to others. It’s a gift we give ourselves. I say we give it, but in reality, we just let God run it through us. Love is power and internal healing. It will bring you victory, because God favors people who love, and he opposes people who are bitter and angry all the time.

It doesn’t matter what other people have done to you. To put it bluntly, whatever it is, they probably haven’t beaten you with a scourge and nailed you to a cross. You have to get over it and let it go, and only God can give you the ability to do these things.

I strongly suspect that a lack of love causes physical problems. In particular, I think it causes illnesses in which the body and mind attack themselves. Arthritis. Allergies. Psoriasis. Ulcers. High blood pressure. Heart disease. If you’re full of a desire to harm others all the time, and that desire can’t be fulfilled, surely you will end up harming yourself, simply because you’re available as a target.

My advice is to make love a priority. Quit thinking about what you “deserve.” Quit obsessing on “justice.” If we really got what we deserved, and if God gave us justice, it would be a lot worse than what we actually experience. We belong in hell, so maybe we should stop complaining about slights.

Think it over. I know it will help you.


The News, Condensed

December 21st, 2016

In Summary, You Should Just Die

I’ve been looking at news sites on the Internet a lot this year, and I have some information for people who want to skip the effort and reap the benefit.

1. You are obligated to find fat women attractive. It is not a matter of choice. You DO find them attractive, even if they’re not. If you say you have a problem with this, people should use filthy, insulting language to help you get over it.

2. It’s a good thing when a woman exposes her breasts in a restaurant, because asking her to put a thin piece of cloth over them while she breastfeeds is oppression, sort of like…no, EXACTLY like…forced genital mutilation. Also, breasts have nothing to do with sex. That may surprise some women and result in the rewriting of a number of sex manuals.

3. Principals and teachers who correct girls who go to school dressed like sluts need to be “shut down,” and a really good mother will respond with an obnoxious Facebook tirade, preferably with a photo of herself dressed in slutwear. Corollary: even though every type of sexual sin is good, boys who look at girls dressed like sluts are oppressors and need to be shamed relentlessly.

4. If Donald Trump said or did it, it is very, very bad.

5. The proper term for a person who doubts the climate is changing due to human activity is the same term you use for someone who pretends Auschwitz didn’t happen: “denier.” It is not necessary to respond with facts. Deniers are close-minded, but people who insult them and refuse to listen to them are open-minded.

6. It was very, very important for electors to betray their states and vote against Trump, even though he would have won anyway, because the vote would have gone to the House of Representatives. Who are you to argue with an actor from M*A*S*H?

7. When an actress or model or reality TV bimbo wears something skimpy, it’s an important news story.

8. White people need to shut up while everyone else explains why we are the cause of every evil in the world, including evils that occur in places like China and Africa. “Whiteness” is like a form of criminal insanity, and it should be treated, but it can’t, so just suffer and hate yourself until you die. Corollary: every cruel thing people who are not white do or say to white people is good.


10. It’s great when a hunter gets death threats, dies, suffers a gruesome injury or gets cancer. No sane person questions this or sees anything wrong with celebrating.

11. Your sexual orientation is forced on you from before birth, but you can choose your actual sex at will, and it’s a great day for America when a male sex offender can walk into any locker room or rest room he wants and expose his genitals to young girls.

Saved you a lot of reading.