Thursday, March 23, 2017

Update On My Struggle With Advanced Math

I got a book on Fourier series because I liked the way the cover looked.


Yesterday I started reading David Bohm's Quantum Theory and was encouraged by his assertion in the Preface that his approach de-emphasized a dependency on advanced math. But then on page 1 of Chapter 1 he mentions that, despite this approach, some familiarity with Fourier series cannot be avoided in order to understand the book. Then before he got to the Fourier series there was what seemed to me to be an awful lot of complex math for someone who was de-emphasizing math. For all I know it might have been a great de-emphasis indeed for a textbook on quantum theory.

My point is that I still hate math and that that is still hampering my study about things like electromagnetic fields and waves and quantum theory. Perhaps it's in part that 55 is a very advanced age to pick up mathematical studies which one broke off in the 10th grade. I think I know now what that capital sigma means in mathematical... equations. I don't know whether "equations" is the right term for all that weird stuff which Good Will Hunting and famous physicians scribble all over their blackboards.

I've been thinking lately about various math teachers of mine. I got along well with all of them. Maybe that had more to do with my talent than my personality. All of them were disappointed when they saw that I wasn't planning on an extensive career in mathematics. I feel bad about disappointing them. But such a career was never a serious possibility. There's only so far you can do, hating what you do. I imagine that successful mathematicians and physicians, when they see one of those blackboards covered with all of those squiggles, or a difficult paper or book on Fourier series or quantum theory or what have you, feel something somewhat like what I feel looking at an ancient text or a commentary on that text: intense interest, a strong desire to immerse myself in the subject at hand. I can't imagine that a person could get very far on ability alone, unaccompanied by a love for the subject.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Shaq Said The Earth Is Flat

Some of the leading thinkers of Western civilization over the past two and a half thousand years, and their opinions about the shape of the Earth.

Shaquille O'Neal has a podcast. Apparently it doesn't have a huge following, but all of a sudden it's getting a lot of attention, because someone noticed that back on the 27th of February, on his podcast, Shaq said:

“It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. Yes, it is. Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America. So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this s*** is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

Some are assuming he's serious, some wonder whether he's joking. Earlier in February, Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving publicly announced that he believes the Earth is flat. As with Shaq, opinion is divided over whether Irving is serious or if he's just messing with people's heads.

Given the magnitude of Shaq's fame and his prominence on TV as a basketball analyst, I'm assuming that either we're going to be hearing a lot more about this or we're going to be seeing a lot less of Shaq. He has a BA from LSU, an MBA from Phoenix University and a Doctorate in Human Resource Development from Barry University. Will any of those 3 institutions have anything to say about this?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Enda Kenny Spoke For Americans Yesterday

I hadn't noticed, until yesterday, that it's traditional for the Prime Minister of Ireland to visit the US on St Patrick's Day. Someone recently pointed out that when a democracy is functioning properly, one of the luxuries it affords is that you don't have to pay very much attention to it. People are paying much closer attention since Nov 8, and much closer still since Jan 20, and we will until Trump is out of office. So anyway, yesterday, St Patrick's Day, Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland visited the US, and I noticed for the first time that this St Patrick's Day visit is traditional. I'm still trying to find out how many years back this tradition goes. Yesterday, with El Cheeto Grande standing nearby, Enda Kenny said:

"It's fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy. He too, of course, was an immigrant. And though he is of course the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe, he's also the symbol of, indeed the patron of, immigrants.

"Here in America, in your great country, 35 million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.

"Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed, and four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.

"We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came, and we became Americans.

"We lived the words of John F. Kennedy, long before he uttered them. We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America, and we still do."


I don't know how people back in Ireland felt when they heard or read these words. I do know that many Americans feel very grateful to Kenny for saying what he did when and where he said it. And today I had a little epiphany: it just occurred to me that these days, Kenny, and many other leaders around the world, are speaking for us, for Americans, because our President currently is not.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Where Did The NY Times Say Obama Wiretapped Trump?

We all know by now that Trump has no evidence that Obama wiretapped him. He says he got that idea by reading about it in the New York Times around January 20.

If Trump had said that he'd read about it on the Breitbart website or heard it on Fox News, I wouldn't be so skeptical. But he said he read about it in the New York Times.

I want to see that allegation of wiretapping in the NYT.

Of course I don't believe that there was any such allegation in the NYT. But I want to see reporters rub Trump's nose in that a bit more: "Mr Spicer, where exactly is that passage about wiretapping in the Times? So that we can all see for ourselves just exactly what it was that the President read, that gave him the idea about the wiretapping, that nobody else in the world noticed, with millions of people reading the Times, and who knows how many other news outlets regularly quoting the Times? Where exactly is that passage in the Times from on or around January 20, Mr Spicer?"

No evidence of the wiretapping, Mr President. No evidence of the existence of the thing you say you read that made you think the wiretapping happened. No evidence that the truth is in you. No evidence of whether or not you can see how many of us can see that you lie all the time. No evidence of whether or not you even know you're lying. Sad.

PS, 16 Mar 2017: Okay, there actually is a NYT story from 19 Jan about wiretapping. The problem is, it says: It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself. That's the "evidence" behind Donald's tweet: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" No, Mr President: this is farce.

Glad We Got That Cleared Up

The International Business Times yesterday:

Over half of Americans approved of President Donald Trump’s performance in mid-March. That was the first time since Trump’s inauguration in January that the majority of Americans approved of his job performance — albeit, a narrow majority of 52 percent. About 43 percent of American voters did not approve of Trump’s job performance, according to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll conducted from March 9 through 13 and published Wednesday morning.

The International Business Times UK yesterday:

US President Donald Trump's approval rating has dropped by five points, according to a recent poll.

The survey, by Fox News, found 51% of people polled disapprove of the president, while 43% of people approve.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Thought I Was Picking Up S P Oakley's Commentary On Livy Books VI-X

I thought that was what I had ordered via inter-library loan. However, what I picked up from the local branch of the public library was Volume I of that commentary,



published in 1997, containing an introduction to all 5 books, VI-X, and Oakley's commentary on book VI. I had assumed that Oakley's commentary on all 5 books, VI-X, would be contained in one, medium sized, volume. The Preface to volume I begins with Oakley saying that volume II, covering books VII-VIII, was already in the press (it appeared in 1999), and that volume III would cover books IX-X. Actually, volume III, published in 2007, covered book IX, and there was a volume IV, published in 2009, for book X.

The volume before us, volume I, is not medium-sized, it is large, over 800 pages. Over 300 of those pages contain the introduction to all 5 books, VI-X, and less than 350 contain the actual commentary to book VI, which is proceeded by 50 pages of historical introduction to book VI (distinct from those 300 pages of general introduction to books VI-X) and followed by appendices, a bibliography and indices.

I know that my habit of posting about books which I have just gotten and haven't read yet must be maddening to some of my readers, who expect a review of an entire book which I have already read. In my defense I will just say that there are critics who are paid, quite handsomely paid in some cases, to deliver reviews of books which they have read, and who publish things which pretend to be such reviews, but they haven't actually read the books yet, and, quite unlike me, probably never will.

You want me to provide evidence for this bold and slanderous statement? This book,



an heroic act of public service, is an excellent place to start collecting that evidence. (And yes, I've read it cover to cover.)

I'm sure that the dry tone of this post so far has not adequately conveyed it, but I am excited to have before me this vol I of Oakley's commentary. I'm especially looking forward to an exhaustive discussion of the manuscripts of books VI-X, which covers well over half of those 300 pages of general introduction. (I quote from p 153: "There are at least 195 mss of L's first decade.") (Livy's "first decade" is books 1-10, i to X, of the 142 books of his history of Rome.) (Of those 195, "twenty-four predate the thirteenth century." ibid.) To those who share my inclinations, I know I don't have to explain this excitement. To those who don't, I don't know how to explain it. Maybe some lay readers of my blog have gradually come to share my interest in manuscripts of ancient Latin texts, if they've read many or all of my numerous posts on the subject. Maybe not. (The bibliography cites 8 items by Billanovich and 11 by Reeve! Yay!)

It's amazing to me how recent it was that such commentaries held no interest for me, even though I was very interested in Livy. It was simple ignorance: I had no idea, really, what such commentaries are.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I Am A Tiny Kitten.

Clearly, some people don't see this. Some call me "Big Dog," but in reality, all stretched out in a catlike stretch, front paws to back paws, I'm barely as long as a big dog's paws are wide. When I meow it's barely audible, that's how small I am. In a strong person's hands I'm featherlike. I'm just saying, please keep in mind how fragile I am. I'm helpless. I'm at your mercy. I hope you have some.

Like all cats, I am an alien from outer space. So there's the answer to that question: No, you are not alone. We are among you and we are friendly. We mean you no harm. Take me to your leader -- no, wait, don't do that right now. Impeach your leader and remove him from office. Then I'll wait for the other guy to serve out the rest of the four years and have his party get trounced in the elections. Then, take me to your black lesbian wheelchair-bound Communist leader, the one who will convert the US to over 80% solar and wind power in her first 3 months in office, triple taxes on millionaires and give guaranteed incomes to the (up-until-then) poor. That's the leader I want you to take me to, not this scary clown. Wow, I'm tired of him. Surely even Republicans will eventually be tired of him. How many are waking up and going, "Hey... ?!" right at this minute, as it begins to penetrate their thick skulls how badly they're being shafted? How many ares shafters rather than shaft-ees, and were never really fooled, but are beginning to feel a strange, uncomfortable emotion creeping over them? (The emotion is what you and I would call "shame." They've been unfamiliar with it until now.)

We're not ultra-intelligent, we're not judging you and testing you and reporting back to some inter-galactic council. In fact, we crash-landed on Earth a long time ago and have completely forgotten how we made our spacecraft. Sorry. Except for being cute I guess we're pretty useless. But we're very cute, let's face it, I'm just saying.

Meow meow moew, meow meow meow meow meow. Meow meow. I'm just a tiny little kitten.