Antenna Guru

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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Christ for Prez

This one makes me laugh on the outside and cry on the inside…

celtic straits

Who would Jesus align with in the political America of 2010?


“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), U.S. reformer, suffragist

“Every man thinks God is on his side. The rich and powerful know he is.”
– Jean Anouilh, French dramatist, playwright

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do.” -Anne Lamott, Author

Someone forwarded me a recent blog on readersupportednews.org, an overtly liberal political site. In the blog, an unknown author writes a “humorous” piece in the form of a news article about Jesus being selected as a Supreme Court nominee. In the article, the GOP is rallying in the press to reject the nominee (or should I capitalize it, “Nominee”?)…

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Stewed Pork Roast


1          3 – 4 lb center cut pork roast 3          qts chicken stock
½         cup Cajun seasoning (more or less) 2          cups dark roux
3          cups diced onions ½         cup garlic powder
1 ½      cups diced celery 1          tsp black pepper
1 ½      cups bell pepper 1          tsp cayenne pepper
1          cup dried oregano 1          cup dried sweet basil
½         tsp thyme 1          tsp cumin
1          tsp chili powder ½         tsp cardamom
1          bunch carrots 2          lbs potatoes
  • Rub the roast with Cajun seasoning (Tony Chacheres or equivalent) and refrigerate for at least an hour prior to cooking.
  • Using a large skillet or a griddle, sear the roast on all sides. Remove roast from heat and set aside.
  • Saute the ‘holy trinity‘ (onions, celery, peppers) with the basil and oregano until the onions begin to brown.
  • Transfer the ‘holy trinity’ into a large pot. De-glaze the saute pan with some of the chicken stock and pour the ‘dirty’ liquid, plus the rest of the stock into the large pot.
  • Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the spices and stir well.
  • Use tongs to transfer the roast into the simmering pot, cover and boil for at least an hour until the center temperature of the meat is at least 160 degrees (F).
  • (You can also add other vegetables, such as squash, corn, mushrooms, …whatever you have. Add the tender vegetables late in the process, or else they will get mushy. Ten minutes is long enough to boil squash or mushrooms.)
  • When the roast is done cooking, remove it from the pot and place it on a platter. Skim off some of the spices from the pot and coat the top of the roast with them. Cover the roast with aluminum foil and let it set for a half hour.
  • Add the roux to the pot to make gravy.

They have bred the fat almost completely out of modern pork so that ‘roasting’ a roast makes it come out too dry. This is a great way to keep the meat juicy. You can use a crock pot, too; I would rather wash a big kettle and I like having everything on the stove to make all the transfers easier.

We don’t eat much ‘red’ meat, mostly because it is so much more work than seafood to prepare. This one’s a keeper, though.

Blow the Trumpet in Zion

I realized that this blog has life because I want to write it, not because anyone else wants to read it. This entry has been difficult to write. I believe it is important, however.

Salvador Dali, Canita tuba in Sion, Wikipaintings.org

For no particular reason, the text of Joel chapter 2 crossed my path the other morning. After awhile I began having visions of Orrin Hatch‘s and Diane Feinstein‘s heads affixed to locusts’ bodies, swarming the Capitol Rotunda.

Buzzy. Creepy. Claustrophobic.

I last watched television regularly in 2007 or so. It feels like my ability to reason and understand (especially in emotional situations) has undergone a sort of buoyancy since that time. I haven’t suffered through any political ads since Bush|Kerry.

They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.

At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers.

They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. They rush  upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows.

Who are they?

They are the partisans, the strategists, the marketers, the fervent, militant proponents of any ideology who want us to give up our own feelings, thoughts and beliefs. They are not constrained to any race, creed, economic or social status, political party, geography, public or private organization. They cannot be categorized, except that they are shrill and unreasoning.

Democrats/Republicans are not your enemy, you are your own enemy if you lock your knees and stop your ears.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions…

…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Sir Francis Galton (Wikipedia)

Galton undoubtedly thought that the average guess of the group would be way off the mark. After all, mix a few very smart people with some mediocre people and a lot of dumb people, and it seems likely you’d end up with a dumb answer. But Galton was wrong. The crowd had guessed that the ox, after it had been slaughtered and dressed, would weigh 1,197 pounds. After it had been slaughtered and dressed, the ox weighed 1,198 pounds. In other words, the crowd’s judgement was essentially perfect. … Galton wrote later, “The result seems more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgement than might have been expected.” That was, to say the least, an understatement.

James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

It’s crowded inside my head right now–

  • The national elections are coming up in November,
  • Some of my friends are predicting the end of the world as we know it,
  • We are experiencing a global energy transition,
  • We are trying to come to grips with the reality of climate change,
  • The universe is evolving toward infinite complexity,
  • We need to do something…

(One difference between me and my computer is that I can decided to jump outside of a problem without my computer thinking I am broken. I think I will do that now!)

I bought Surowiecki’s book, if not his argument. I think that strange things happen all the time in life, and while there is inescapable correctness in both democracy and the Iowa Electronic Markets, there are also brilliant flash-insights that go against the majority’s opinion.

Jumping out of jumping-out-of-the-problem, here are some interesting statistics that might seem unrelated to my list, or to ‘wisdom’. On one hand…

Americans’ self-reported church attendance has continued to inch up in 2010, with 43.1% of Americans reporting weekly or almost weekly attendance. This is up slightly from 42.8% in 2009 and 42.1% in 2008. The increase comes as Americans’ economic confidence has also risen, suggesting that, instead of church attendance rising when economic times get bad, as some theorize, the opposite pattern may be occurring.

—Frank Newport, Gallup

On the other hand…

Characterizations of religious life in the United States typically refererence poll data on church attendance. Consistently high levels of participation reported in these data suggest an exceptionally religious population, little affected by secularizing trends. This picture of vitality, however, contradicts other empirical evidence indicating declining strength among many religious institutions. Using a variety of data sources and data collection procedures, we estimate that church attendance rates for Protestants and Catholics are, in fact, approximately one-half the generally accepted levels.

—Hadaway, Marler and Chaves, What the Polls Don’t Show

“Secularizing trends?” You mean, like in science…

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The recent survey of scientists tracks fairly closely with earlier polls that gauged scientists’ views on religion. The first of these was conducted in 1914 by Swiss-American psychologist James Leuba, who surveyed about 1,000 scientists in the United States to ask them about their views on God. Leuba found the scientific community equally divided, with 42% saying that they believed in a personal God and the same number saying they did not.

More than 80 years later, Edward Larson, a historian of science then teaching at the University of Georgia, recreated Leuba’s survey, asking the same number of scientists the exact same questions. To the surprise of many, Larson’s 1996 poll came up with similar results, finding that 40% of scientists believed in a personal God, while 45% said they did not. Other surveys of scientists have yielded roughly similar results.

—The Pew Forum, Scientists and Belief

(In the direction of peer pressure, and since science is a collegial enterprise, one could assume that the unbelieving group of scientists would not be truthful.)

  • As many as 51% of scientists believe a higher power exists in the universe.
  • As many as 20% of “regular citizens” do not attend church regularly, but do lie about it.
  • Fracking could replace global warming as the Next Big Thing Argument.
  • Whoever gets elected in November will very likely be the right candidate for the job.
  • The world as we know it is always ending. That’s a good thing, actually.
  • The universe is probably evolving exactly as it thinks it should.
  • We don’t need to do anything, but we get to, if we want.

There oughta be a…

Complaints to the government are up sharply about unwanted phone solicitations, raising questions about how well the federal “do-not-call” registry is working. The biggest category of complaint: those annoying prerecorded pitches called robocalls that hawk everything from lower credit card interest rates to new windows for your home.

So, the way it is supposed to work in this society is that when some sort of noxious behavior gets bad enough, we complain to our lawmakers who, when the lobbying gets strong enough, enact a law. We have such a law against unwanted telemarketing. We also have laws against running red lights, passing on the shoulder, bank fraud, insider trading, …

… but only nice people obey laws, so we have telemarkers, redlight runners, passers on the shoulder, fraudulent bankers, inside traders, … a whole host of human beings who want to get ahead at others’ expense.

One solution is enforcement. Enforcement leads to higher taxes, police brutality, choked court systems and overcrowded prisons.

Another solution is vigilantism. Except for certain survivialists, e.g., the ones with huge stocks of weapons and ammunition, we moderns take a dim view of that method.

I propose a third solution: Talk up noxious behavior as extremely un-cool.

Ever seen a fellow with one pant leg hiked? He was unwittingly copying somebody who rode a bicycle with street clothes who didn’t want to get chainring grease on his pants. I used to get a kick out of the poseurs who rolled up their left pant leg.

How about people who wear their pants around their thighs, with three pairs of boxers over a pair of briefs? Those guys are mimicking some ‘cool’ person who lives on the street and cannot afford clothes that fit.

I say, why not find that cool homeless person and give them some decently fitting clothes?

I say, those of us who have ‘made it’ need to engage young people in a way that makes them want to emulate us, not some skanky drug dealer. Come on, we’re smart people, can’t we be as engaging as a skanky drug dealer?

I have a friend who combats telemarketers by talking to them. He asks them how their day is going, how many sales they’ve made, talks about his family (no names, of course) and so on… knowing that they don’t like to hang up on people. So, he just keeps them talking and talking, wasting their time, never letting them get to their sales pitch. I like that method.

The other day a door-to-door salesman knocked on my door. I live in a private community with gates and a big sign that reads, “…” Well, you know what it reads. Still they come. So this fellow human rings my doorbell and I answer it. He starts in with some well-rehearsed line to engage me and I change the subject.

He goes back to his line of lingo.

I change the subject.

He goes back to his line of lingo.

I say, “We’re not really listening to each other,” and frown my saddest frown. (Playacting, of course.)

He stops his lingo. I close my door.

When facts change

John Maynard Keynes -NY Times/UPI

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?

– John Maynard Keynes

Republicans are not supposed to agree with Baron Keynes, just as Democrats are not supposed to agree with Allan Greenspan. All the same, Democrat President William Clinton agreed with Greenspan enough to re-appoint him chairman of the Federal Reserve. And Republican candidate Willard Romney agreed with Keynes enough to use his words.

I am personally not a fan of President William Clinton, nor am I a fan of candidate Willard Romney (and it has nothing to do with their first names or party affiliations). But I applaud their willingness to borrow ideas from ideologies that they largely oppose.

In a similar way, I applaud Ben Shalom Bernanke’s borrowing of the Greenspan Put. (I also really like that fellow’s name. “Ben Shalom” means literally, “son of peace.”) On the other hand, over-use of this trading tactic was one likely cause of the housing bubble, and I am not happy at all about sitting in my living room with a metaphorical snorkel.

Of course, reality does not change. It is our perception of the ‘facts’ (not the facts themselves) that change. Our perception of the facts can be influenced by how they are presented to us, so we had better be careful to do some fact-checking on our own, no matter how much we like the source. The best guard against mis-perception of reality I know is to begin with the broadest possible perspective and then ‘zoom in’ on a case-by-case basis as the facts warrant.

Here are a couple of good tools for zooming…

…that you might want to book-mark for this Fall.

What is ‘Truth’?

Picking up from here

 writes:

[Gödel] believed that mathematical objects, like numbers, were not human constructions but real things, as real as peanut butter sandwiches. …

If numbers are real things, independent of our minds, they don’t care whether or not we can define them; we apprehend them through some intuitive faculty whose nature remains a mystery. From this point of view, it’s not at all strange that the mathematics we do today is very much like the mathematics we’d be doing if Gödel had never knocked out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. For Gödel, axiomatic foundations, however useful, were never truly necessary in the first place.

Gödel didn’t prove numbers are “real things,” but by proving that there are true statements about numbers that cannot be proven, did he not  imply that numbers (and thus, possibly other things) exist apart from the human mind?

This is echoed in Ayn Rand‘s philosophy of Objectivism. Once again, however, something has been left out. This time, it’s Gödel’s incompleteness theorem— Objectivism seems to hold that:

  • Logic will eventually gather all the knowledge there is to gain, and
  • If it cannot be attained through logic, then the so-called ‘knowledge’ is not ‘real’, e.g. ‘knowledge’ gained through ‘faith’.

But if “no system of logical axioms can produce all truths about numbers because no system of logical axioms can pin down exactly what numbers are,” [Ellenberg] how, then, are those truths to be produced and pinned down, except by a rudimentary kind of faith? It is easy to forget that Pythagoreans were mystics who used mathematical ideas for religious purposes.

I found help in an essay by Princeton mathematician, Edward Nelson–

The notion of truth in mathematics is irrelevant to what mathematicians do, it is vague unless abstractly formalized, and it varies according to philosophical opinion. In short, it is formal abstraction masquerading as reality.

[‘Truth’] is a correspondence between a linguistic formulation and reality.

Abstract ideas [about truth] have concrete consequences– this is their power.

[Nelson, Mathematics and faith, in “The Human Search for Truth: Philosophy, Science, Theology – The Outlook for the Third Millennium,” International Conference on Science and Faith, The Vatican, 23-25 May 2000, St. Joseph’s University Press, Philadelphia, 2002.]

Perhaps the truth of mathematics is metaphorical. Perhaps the only way we can perceive truth is through metaphor. Perhaps the only way we can make the connection from metaphor to truth is to employ a kind of faith.

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