The first video is from Task & Purpose, and presents a brief history of tiny El Salvador, the progress that has been made against the powerful gangs that have held the country hostage, and at what cost that progress has come. Insights into how previous political mistakes can turn around and bite you, especially if you insist on compounding them with present political mistakes. Plus the question: How much liberty are we prepared to give up in the name of safety? We surrendered much in the face of COVID, which for most of us was a very mild threat. What would we do if threatened by violent, merciless, implacable gang rule?

Think about that next time you watch the world pouring over the Texas-Mexico border and spreading throughout the country. (21 minutes)

For over 60 years our educational system has been fixated on our ignorance of math and science. (Not that we've done much to ameliorate the problem, but at least we pretend to try.) For much of my life I was on board with that, being a fan of the hard sciences, with little respect for social sciences and humanities. The older I get, however, the more I realize that our greatest educational lack, the deficit far more likely to make our lives miserable or even kill us, is in history and current events. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been. "It can't happen here" (or now, or in my family/town/nation) is a critically dangerous attitude.

Bret Weinstein, who himself lived for a while in Panama, visited the infamous Darien Gap, a gauntlet that kills many and maims most of the migrant families as they fight their way to the Mexico/U.S. border. In the process, he discovers evidence of not one, but two migrations: a migration driven by the pursuit of greater economic opportunities in the United States, which includes people from all over the world, and a lot of families; and a second, cryptic migration which includes mostly people from China, of military age, heavily skewed towards men. Bret and Heather discuss his visit, and his resulting hypotheses about our border crisis, on DarkHorse Podcast #210. I have not actually made time yet to see that podcast, which is an hour and three-quarters long, but here's Tucker Carlson's interview with Bret, which covers the story very effectively. It's an hour long itself, but worth every minute, if you can fit it into the interstices of your day. Or get hooked, as I did, and watch, transfixed, from beginning to end. I prefer to hear the normal pace of the interview, but it also works well at higher speeds.

And neither of these videos considers how much the Mexican drug lords would love to spread their control throughout the United States.

As my daughter said recently: We all have our own kind of hard. Her attention at the moment is on holding her family together while their two-year-old daughter fights for her life against a rare form of leukemia. And it is meet and right so to do.

We all have our own kind of hard, and most of us are overwhelmed.

How can I help our granddaughter and her family in the struggle for her life? In small ways of encouragement, and especially by prayer.

How can I help in the struggle to make the world a good place for her to live that life? I can pray, and I can vote, two of the most powerful actions. I can also keep my eyes open, learn, think, and write, in my very small corner of the Internet. 

If [a watchman] sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if any one who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them, that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. (Ezekiel 33:3-6)

No one, not even those who do not already feel overwhelmed with critical duties, can keep up with all the sources of danger, but it behooves us to find and listen to those who do the watchman's work. I am not a watchman, but I am a watcher of the watchmen, and what I learn I like to share here. What others take from my writings is not my responsibility; but woe to me if I see a sword coming and don't blow my little trumpet.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 4, 2024 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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Once again, the CATO Institute has come out with its assessment of relative personal and economic freedom among our states. I'm always suspicious of all those surveys that purport to measure "best state to live in," "happiest city," "most family-friendly country," and such, because so often their criteria are not only different from my own, but even polar opposites. But the CATO Institute appears to have done a good job, and they're open about their criteria and how they calculate their rankings. It goes without saying that there are "freedoms" considered here that each of us would be happy to do without. I'm actually rather pleased that Florida ranks #37 in "gambling freedom," although I understand why that's included in the calculations. They even have an appendix for high-profile issues, such as abortion, that make a generalized assessment of freedom difficult.

Here is the definition of freedom that undergirds this ranking:

We ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.

Here is an image of the overall freedom rankings. I encourage you to go to the website, however, where you can find much more information.

Way to go, New Hampshire and Florida, the gold and silver winners!

The dubious distinction of coming in dead last goes to my birth state of New York, where I lived until I was 15 and came back again for college and several years thereafter, home of my beloved Adirondack Mountains, and birthplace of our children. I still love New York and pray for it daily, but can no longer imagine—as I once dreamed—of returning to live there. However, your mileage may vary. One man's liberty is another man's license, and New York may be just where you'll feel freest in the areas that matter most to you. (If so, please stay there and enjoy it. Don't move to Florida for the weather or the low taxes and then do your best to make us like New York.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 5:56 am | Edit
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Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.

— Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

I saw the part in bold quoted online and knew I had to share it here. As usual, my cynical side insisted I confirm that the attribution was correct (so many aren't), so I was able to include a litte more of the text.

One more book for my already impossible need-to-read list.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 17, 2023 at 6:04 pm | Edit
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It is refreshing when someone whose eyes are wide open to "the hosts of evil 'round us," and has suffered much in exposing them, finds evidence that all is not lost. Heather Heying writes about this in Natural Selections: "The Flame of the West Is Alive." The post, as usual, is long, and for quite a while is more dark than hopeful. But near the end, Heather tells the following story:

My sign-off for DarkHorse, which seems more apt than ever, is this:

  • Be good to the ones you love;
  • Eat good food;
  • And get outside.

To which I would add two things: music and dogs.

When in Prague two weeks ago, after the launch of the Czech publication of Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide by Institut H21, several of us went to a pub and stayed late. Two Czech men with opposite politics sat across from me, disagreeing, laughing, drinking. I only met them that night, but I feel confident in saying that they are both good men. In part I have that confidence because I watched them describe positions of almost polar opposition—on Trump, on what is being taught in schools, on guns—and they listened to one another, and to others at the table who disagreed or agreed, and they did not dissolve into puddles or erupt in fury. How many places would that be possible in America now?

The director of Institut H21, the amazing Adam Ruzicka, had brought a guitar that evening, in the hopes that we could sing around an actual campfire after the book launch. Weather did not permit, but he broke out his guitar in the pub instead, and began to play Czech folk songs, of which there are many. I heard estimates that all Czech people know the words to at least thirty folk songs, which they can and will sing along to, given the opportunity.  [Editor's note:  That is not exactly how Adam's surname is spelled, but my platform's editor curled up in a ball and died when trying to swallow all the diacritical marks.]

Adam pulled out his guitar and began playing, and in short order a young man at the next table pulled out a violin and joined. The joy grew, and the singing got louder. A few women from a neighboring room came in and began to dance. And at the third table in the room, a man pulled out an accordion and joined in as well. I know—I must be making this up. Exaggerating. But I am not.

Everyone but us two Americans were singing along, including the men who had been arguing amicably just moments before. When one song ended, another began. The guitar was handed around and played by others before being returned to Adam’s capable hands.

It was late though, well after 1am. The pub was on the bottom floor of a residential building, and it was a Tuesday. The bartender came in from the other room and asked Adam to keep it down. The noble subversion of the Czech spirit kicked in then, inspiring Adam to raise the decibel level considerably, encouraging even more raucous singing, before finishing with a flourish.

Later, the bartender would tell Adam that in his position, he would have done the same thing.

I dare not quote a larger section than this, so to find out what she has to say about dogs, you'll have to go to the original post.

I'll close with the comment I wrote there:

A hearty YES! to the civilization-saving importance of music, by which I mean above all homemade music, such as you experienced in Prague. That sounds like an impromptu Czech version of the Irish seisiún, also found in pubs. Or the regular Friday-night pizza dinner/hymn sings at our daughter's house.

The difference between making music yourself, especially with other people, and what plays omnipresently in our homes, our stores, our doctor's offices, and our earbuds, is like the difference between raw milk, unpasteurized apple cider, or homemade sourdough bread, and what goes by the names milk, cider, and bread on the shelves of our grocery stores.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 8:00 am | Edit
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The State Department has issued travel warnings for Israel (Level 3, "Reconsider Travel") and Gaza (Level 4, "Do Not Travel"). Not insane, though a bit generous, I would think: other than high-level diplomats, military personnel, journalists, and people with dire need, who in his mind would travel to an active war zone, which clearly includes all of Israel, not just Gaza.

What makes it very odd, in my mind, is knowing the greater picture: not long ago, many of the world's countries, including safe, first-world Switzerland, were given the dreaded Level 4 Do Not Travel status. Because you might catch Covid there. Never mind that you could just as easily catch Covid by staying home. And that for someone who is healthy enough to travel, the consequences of catching Covid are a whole lot less significant that the consequences of being blown up by a missile or a bomb, or raped/killed/kidnapped by a terrorist.

As I've said before, the Level 4 warning is so broad as to be almost meaningless. It needs to be re-evaluated.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 5:32 am | Edit
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This isn't the post I had planned for today, but it seems timely.

Lift Up Your Hearts! is an eclectic blog, and I don't apologize for that. With death and disaster (largely self-inflicted, I fear) threatening on every side, sometimes I feel I should do more screaming from the rooftops. I try to seek and speak the truth and proclaim what I learn, with sources if I can, so that others may be aware and make up their own minds about important things.

Maybe it is trivial in such a situation to write about genealogy, or making beautyberry syrup, or the antics of our grandchildren, or random thoughts. But then again, these are the "sensible and human things" and need to be remembered.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 9, 2023 at 9:06 am | Edit
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Since we always buy used cars, I may not live long enough to get a cool car like the one my sister-in-law just bought. It has some impressive features, such as using facial recognition to know which of its regular drivers is sitting in the driver's seat, and adjusting the seat and mirrors accordingly. It has camera vision all around the car, and if in spite of all that you are about to back into an obstacle, it applies the brakes for you. It does many more cool things, including getting you from Point A to Point B, the last being pretty much where it and my own car intersect.

Recently I read an article that somewhat cooled my auto-envy: Modern Cars Are a Data Privacy "Nightmare," Says Study, in the International Business Times. If you're happy with your fancy modern car, don't read it. Elon Musk-haters will probably get an ironic kick out of it. It's a short article. Here's a teaser:

"Modern cars are a privacy nightmare" at a time when "car makers have been bragging about their cars being 'computers on wheels'", said Mozilla, which is best known for its privacy-conscious Firefox web browser. "While we worried that our doorbells and watches that connect to the internet might be spying on us, car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines."

Tesla was the worst offender, according to the study, with Nissan coming in second and singled out for seeking some of the "creepiest categories" of data, including sexual activity.

The study found that a staggering 84 percent of car brands admitted to sharing users' personal data with service providers, data brokers, and other undisclosed businesses.

Today's connected vehicles not only mine data from driving, but track in-vehicle entertainment and third-party functions such as satellite radio or maps.

Enjoy your next ride!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 27, 2023 at 5:49 am | Edit
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I'm not posting the article I read about the latest efforts of China and other worrisome countries to use AI to divide and conquer America, because it's behind a pay wall. But here's the freely-available article from Microsoft that inspired it, and some brief quotes (emphasis mine).

In the past year, China has honed a new capability to automatically generate images it can use for influence operations meant to mimic U.S. voters across the political spectrum and create controversy along racial, economic, and ideological lines. This new capability is powered by artificial intelligence that attempts to create high-quality content that could go viral across social networks in the U.S. and other democracies. These images are most likely created by something called diffusion-powered image generators that use AI to not only create compelling images but also learn to improve them over time.

We have observed China-affiliated actors leveraging AI-generated visual media in a broad campaign that largely focuses on politically divisive topics, such as gun violence, and denigrating U.S. political figures and symbols. This technology produces more eye-catching content than the awkward digital drawings and stock photo collages used in previous campaigns. We can expect China to continue to hone this technology over time, though it remains to be seen how and when it will deploy it at scale.

Jack Barsky, former Soviet spy turned patriotic American citizen, has warned repeatedly against cyber warfare. He has also pointed out that disinformation campaigns behind enemy lines are nothing new. I immediately thought of him when I read this article, because the sophistication level of disinformation is skyrocketing, thanks in part to Artificial Intelligence.

Remember when you could easily detect phishing schemes because the English grammar and writing styles were so bad? AI can solve that problem, and it's getting better all the time.

We all know how divided America has become, on almost any issue you can think of. Part of that is real, but there's an accelerant out there that is turning our campfires—around which we can roast marshmallows, drink cocoa, and calmly discuss anything from the details of our lives to the problems of the world—into world-destroying conflagrations.

That accelerant is social media interactions by agents pretending to be what they are not, insinuating themselves into online discussions, poking and tweaking, providing "news stories" of questionable veracity and false "personal experiences" designed to provoke anger, irrationality, and hopelessness. It's important to remember that the enemies, whoever or whatever they may be, don't care much, if anything, about what side we are on in the conflict, as long as we get angry and learn to see those who differ from us as less than human.

We must not fall for this. We must fight this with all we have.

I do not mean we need government-and-big-tech censorship, which has already proven far too effective at keeping us away from information that is actually helpful. I'm not certain of any good way to counter this kind of attack, except personally.

We can stop rising to the bait.

When faced online with some speech or action that makes us angry, we need to bring to mind a respected friend who holds views we consider related, and respond, if at all, with that friend in mind. If we can't find a friend like that, we need to get more friends. And it's probably better not to react at all. If it's a Chinese tiger or a Russian bear that's poking us, we're not going to get anywhere good by poking it back.

I don't mean that there isn't real evil out there worth getting angry about. Nor do I mean we shouldn't speak the truth. Now more than ever it's important to seek and speak the truth. We need wisdom in choosing our sources, our venues, and our battles.

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 8:55 am | Edit
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Have you ever heard of Pippa Malmgren? Maybe you have—not everyone is as ignorant of current events and culture as I am. Let's just say she has a very broad knowledge and experience base, and is absolutely fascinating in this 1.5-hour podcast with Ed D'Agostino, where she expounds on geopolitical, social, and economic realities, and how they connect.  (bold emphasis mine)

I haven't listened to the podcast; instead I read the transcript, which you can find here: The Space Wars Are Here. Take your pick; I'm a fast reader, and generally prefer print to audio, but the podcast at double speed might have actually been faster. If you can make the time, I'd recommend it. It's good stuff, and unfortunately may be important to be aware of.

Here are some time stamps, followed by a small handful of excerpts:

Time stamps:
00:00 Introduction to guest and what we talk about
03:28 The real story behind the “coup” in Russia
08:10 A Ukraine resolution has become a NATO imperative
15:19 How China and Taiwan fit into the Ukraine peace negotiations
24:02 We are already in WWIII
25:18 The invisible war in space
34:43 How tech innovation solves tech vulnerabilities
41:10 The mood in Washington and across the country in general
51:50 The rise of political angst in America, and what might be driving it
1:03:12 The economic “elevator” in the US is broken
1:08:58 Thoughts on the US presidential election

On the Russian side, I always think the most wonderful quote is really apt here. It came from Carl von Bismarck, who was the Iron Chancellor and who knew more about diplomacy than anybody alive today, and he said, "Diplomacy is the art of building ladders for others to climb down." And that's the situation we have here, is that Putin in some ways, he has no exit from what has turned out to be a terrible situation, and so this is not about being nice to him. It's like you're dealing with a cornered caged creature that is going to behave worse, until they can find a way to escape the situation.

There's an active strategy that the US is literally airlifting the most valuable parts of the semiconductor production in Taiwan, which are mainly those Dutch lithography machines, which cost 250 grand each, I think, and they're moving them to Texas and Arizona. And they're moving the families, because you need a certain amount of skill to operate these things. There's been lots in the press in the United States about we don't have the skills to make super edgy semiconductors, but the Taiwanese know how to do this. And those families are like, "Great, I'll just become American. How fabulous." ... I also see semiconductor production moving into space. We're going to have in orbit manufacturing that produces much higher grade computer chips at a lower cost.

We're in a hot war in cold places. Now those cold places are space, the Arctic, and the High North. People are like, "What do you mean we're at war in space?" I'm like, well, okay, so let's remember we live in a GPS world, and so we're completely dependent on satellites for not only missile guidance, but frankly, Uber Eats, right? None of this happens. ...

So what's been happening in space? The Russians have been targeting their own satellites, particularly the really big ones that weigh like 4,000 pounds, smashing them to smithereens, creating this huge debris field, which they call a Kessler effect, which has been described as razor blades in a washing machine. And that is partly what has forced the International Space Station to nearly evacuate on a few occasions, because they're getting caught in the shrapnel field that the Russians created. Now, why did they do it? Because they're trying to deny access to those critical orbits. ... The Chinese have also been very active in space, demonstrating they have lasers and all kinds of offensive capabilities, but two things there. One is only the United States and China have satellites with robotic arms. And the Chinese recently demonstrated with, I believe it's called the Shijian-17 satellite, that it was able to go up to a Chinese satellite, grab it with the robotic arms, and then hurl it into outer space. Now, why are they hurling their own satellite into outer space? To show us that they can. And so we're like, "Oh boy, all our satellites that we depend on could be gone in a heartbeat, and never to recover into the depths of space." So this is space wars.

It also has led to a fight over subsea internet cables. ... The fastest internet cable in the world is on a little island in the Arctic called Svalbard in Norway. Now, why is it there, of all places? Because that is where pretty much all the high altitude satellites connect to Earth, is at Svalbard. So you cut that cable, and suddenly your missile guidance system's not working, and your Uber Eats isn't neither. So how much damage can you do to the world? Answer, a huge amount. But luckily, that was a lot of redundancy already built in. ... It's such a wonderful story, it's so interesting. There was a oligarch yacht positioned over the top of the cable, and that yacht had a submarine inside it, but they think that, and I'll just say, we don't know who did this, right? And nobody wants to acknowledge who did it, but somebody's submarines went underneath it, and they cut away, I think it was six and a half kilometers of [cable]. Somebody cut it at both ends and took it away. Luckily, it was redundant. But it was the opening salvo to my mind of World War III.

There's this invisible war that it's there if you look for it, but because no one's given you the overarching narrative of this World War III happening in these spaces, in these ways, most people just don't even see it. And then that's just the hot war in cold places. I've also said we're in a cold war in hot places, which is what I've described in the Pacific and Africa. And I'm about to do a piece talking about the hot war in hot places, because now the coup in Niger, and the string of coups across Africa, it's literally heating up into a regional war, where it's ultimately the Russians versus the West.

I feel like this is coming to a head, some of what was happening in this country politically, where you had far left and far right people ... I'm going to try to thread the needle on this, but you had one side not understanding the other, and I almost feel like that was a distraction put out on purpose by the political class, if you will. I've abandoned the idea of there being this real left versus right divide. I'm sure there is to some extent, but I feel like the bigger divide is really those with political power and everybody else, all the rest of us. There was a song released last week by a little known singer in West Virginia named Oliver Anthony and this guy, he was doing his thing, he's an artist, he's putting his music out on YouTube and getting maybe a few hundred views. Then he released a song that I want to play for you, because I really want to know what you think because this song, last time I looked, after having been posted for eight days on YouTube had already achieved 12 million views. I'm sure it's way higher even as I speak, but I think this guy nails really what a lot of people are thinking.

Wouldn't you know? The day I read that paragraph, I had also run into that song elsewhere. The Malmgren podcast had been sitting in my inbox for weeks, and I just happened to get to it the day I heard this song for the first time. Here is Oilver Anthony's Rich Men North of Richmond (which as I write this is up to 61 million views).

Remember those days when everybody said inflation was dead? And I'm like, "Listen, as an economist, I'm telling you, when you throw free money in the system and you drop interest rates to zero, the only purpose is to create inflation." ... What we did is we tipped the balance in favor of the speculators, at the expense of the savers. And the savers are now feeling it, or the people who don't have any savings, they feel it in the form of, "Wait a minute, I'm working this hard, but I can't feed my family." And this is what gives rise to Trumpism. ... Inflation hits the poor really hard and really fast.

One of the trends that I find really heartening is that a lot of companies in America, particularly regional, large, medium-sized businesses, so not your Fortune 500s, but real companies that generate genuine unimpaired cashflow that do real business, increasingly they've been ... reverting to a very old model, which is, let's hire high school graduates, not even college, let's hire high school graduates and let's offer them that we will train them in the company because the school system isn't even providing the skills that we need. They may have a degree, but we got to train them again from scratch. So, let's bring them in, and then we'll say, "We'll pay for your college education." So you can do that while you work here, but we train you first with our priorities. And so it's the old-fashioned apprenticeship system that the whole German economy was always built on, and that economy has always been very sound because it was focused on small and medium-sized businesses. A lot of family owned businesses, regionally rooted businesses. And that's working well. But of course, that's heretical to say to the education system, which thinks that they own the stamp of approval on whether you're employable or not.

I am very optimistic about the world economy of tomorrow. I see so many new jobs being created, so much innovation that's going to make our lives easier and better. I think the biggest constraint on the future is, number one, we refuse to take advantage of the free time that we're given, because we're so ego-driven. ... We keep wanting to still make more money and have more stuff. So, that's a human problem that can be solved. Second, our most undervalued asset in the world economy are people. And we have this industrial revolution mentality that you have to have a certain degree, and you have to have a certain title, you have to have certain job skills in order to do certain things, which is simply not true. And people are capable of extraordinary things.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 15, 2023 at 5:36 am | Edit
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Earlier this week I both took a Covid test and wore a face mask for the first time in a long time. I hadn't been planning to do either.

I really didn't think I had Covid. I had a wicked sore throat, and barely any voice, so I wasn't going to church anyway, but I finally decided to take the test. If it turned out negative, Porter could reassure choir members that I hadn't exposed him—at least not to that—and if it were positive, I would have the reassurance that I was being given an immunization better than any vaccine could.

Taking a Covid test is a lot less stressful if you really don't care about the result.

As I had expected, it was negative.

For some reason, that knowledge didn't help either my throat or my voice. Covid-19 must not be the only virus game in town. At least I had the "it's not Covid" reply at the ready should anyone ask.

The face mask? That was because I had to go to the grocery store. I know masks are no longer considered particularly useful at stopping the spread of viruses, but it was completely effective for what I asked of it: encouraging other people to keep their distance, and shielding me from  their dirty looks should I be afflicted by a sneeze or a cough.

The only really scary part of the experience was how normal the mask felt after the first few minutes.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 9, 2023 at 9:50 am | Edit
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I wonder how many internet searches have been made in the past week for "Idalia name origin." When I made mine this morning, this is what I got back: The name Idalia is a girl's name of Italian origin meaning "behold the sun."

A pretty name, if a bit ironic as the name for a hurricane. It makes me think of flowers ... and onions.

Be that as it may, when the weather radio awakens me at 4 a.m. with a tornado warning, that's too close to my regular rising time to even think about going back to sleep, so I might as well write.

The eye of the storm has already passed west of us, but of course the storm is much bigger than its eye, and we are currently feeling the effects as a drizzling rain.

The tornado danger is serious, as it is with all Florida summer storms. However, I do wonder about what appears to be inflation in the language of our weather advisories. I'm accustomed to "hurricane warning" meaning that a tornado has been spotted nearby and one should take cover immediately. Indeed, "take cover immediately" is what the weather radio said. Porter may have taken that literally, in his own way—rolled over and adjusted the sheet around himself—but I got up and checked out the weather map. I would have expected a tornado watch rather than a warning, which means "conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather," but a tornado has not yet been spotted. Then again, it's hard to spot much of anything in the dark, and I certainly would have been more concerned if we lived in the eastern part of the county, which was clearly getting some pretty nasty weather. But it was moving away from us, so life goes on, albeit with a little more vigilance.

Preparation without panic.

As far as I can tell, our state and local authorities have done a good job of that. Schools and government offices were closed in advance of the storm; given that Idalia could easily have altered course in the middle of the night, I think that decision was not made from panic, but prudence. When we were on the highway yesterday morning, I was happy to see lines of power trucks snaking their way into the state—we saw several from North Carolina, one even from Michigan. That makes good sense, too, since the hurricane will hit somewhere in Florida and it will be useful to have the workers and equipment close to hand. Governor DeSantis has already shown that he puts priority—speed and funding—into getting Florida up and running again as quickly as possible after a disaster. For the same reason I was glad to note yesterday that a portable generator had already been put in place at the sewer system pumping station in our neighborhood. Even if many of these preparations turn out to be, as seems likely, unnecessary, it's a good drill.

Sometimes these days I look around at the world and wonder, "Is this work I'm doing (whatever it might be) worth spending time on? If my world blows up next week, will what I'm doing have mattered at all? Should I instead "take cover immediately"? Are we in watch or warning mode?

"Watch," I think, and go on with my work. But it's a question worth asking now and then.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 at 4:48 am | Edit
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Tomorrow will still come, our objectives have not changed, and our number one job is to work toward tomorrow and those objectives. — Warren R. Langdon

I am the family curator of my father's journals, written between 1959 and 1970. It's still on my List to get them into a form more accessible to his descendants; so far I've only managed to get all the pages scanned as jpg's. It would be great for them to be searchable, but while my father was an engineer, by handwriting he could have been a physician, and Google Lens' OCR hasn't been up to the challenge.

The scanned pages do make it easy for me to browse through them, which I like to do on occasion. Recently I was curious to see what my father had had to say about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I remember the event, because I heard about it on the radio at the eye doctor's office, but I wasn't in school that day so I missed whatever excitement might have occurred there. Any direct impact on my life was nil, so I was interested in what might have gone on that my 11-year-old self simply ignored. The following excerpts are all I could find that my father wrote.

Friday, November 22, 1963

This is the day that President Kennedy was shot and killed. I was at the door of my office for some reason when I saw several people head for Wally Giard’s radio. I went along to see what was going on and heard the news that the President had been shot. I don’t know why the radio was on—I have never seen it on except for the World Series—perhaps someone’s wife telephoned in the news. Work continued more or less as usual during the afternoon, although most everyone had an ear glued to the radio, too. My own reaction was one of shocked disbelief—the same reaction I had 18 years ago one afternoon at work when word came that President Roosevelt had died.

Of course the entire evening was spent keeping up to date on the latest news and the radio and television stations kept up a continuous coverage, cancelling all their regular programs until at least after the funeral. I did manage to get quite a bit of studying done tonight as well.

Sunday, November 24, 1963

The church was somewhat more crowded than usual—attributable directly to the President’s death, I believe—but by no means overflowing. The minister made moderate reference to the President’s death and I felt very much in agreement with him when he said that at this time when we look for signs as to whether this is a time for sorrow or supplication, for fear or hope, for a feeling of loss or a feeling of opportunity, the one sign that is clear is that God is not dead. I think this is a better way of putting my feeling that tomorrow will still come, our objectives have not changed, and our number one job is to work toward tomorrow and those objectives.

And that's what keeps the world going. We go on, putting one foot in front of the other, doing our best at whatever we have been called to do.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 18, 2023 at 11:58 am | Edit
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Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 27, 2023 at 7:41 am | Edit
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How is trust broken?

It may be by a sudden betrayal, but often you wake up one day and realize that the perfidy has been a long time growing to the point where you finally put the puzzle pieces together.

Despite personal experience with some dedicated and excellent teachers, I reached that point with our educational system some 30 years ago.

It took a little longer with our health care system.  About 25 years ago I began to have my doubts, a slow process that accelerated exponentially over the last three years.  I feel blessed to have two physicians in our own family, but even they, being newly-minted, have a tendency to parrot the official lines they were taught in their establishment med schools.  With time and experience, they will be great, but that doesn't mean I trust them to know best right now.

In the United States, thanks to our well-established educational rights and freedoms, it is relatively easy to obtain a good education while eschewing the conventional educational system.  Not so with medical care.  When you are extracted from an auto accident and taken to the hospital, that is not the time do insist, "leave me alone; I don't trust hospitals."  Even if you really don't trust hospitals.  I suspect that what a doctor told me many decades ago is still true:  Doctors are very good at emergency medicine; it's their approach to health in between emergencies that you can't trust.  I will elaborate in a future post on occasions where the medical establishment has failed in those interstices in my own life.  For now, it suffices to say that, malgré a few wise and compassionate doctors I know personally, my faith in our medical authorities is at an all-time low.

This was driven home to me today in a way that caught me completely by surprise.

I've been sorting through old medical records, and wondered why a urinalysis would be concerned about nitrite levels.  (I also wondered why urinalysis isn't generally done any more.  It's been longer than I can remember since a doctor asked me for a urine sample.  But that's also a question for another day.)

I posed the question to Google, and the Cleveland Clinic answered.

It seemed to me that the Cleveland Clinic should be as good a source as any, but their answer did nothing to bolster my waning confidence.  True, they let me know that nitrites in urine can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, which answered my question.  But the language in which this information was expressed made me want to flee as far as possible from this organization.

Bacteria in your urinary system cause nitrites to form in your pee. The bacteria enter your body through your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body). As a result, you develop a urinary tract infection (UTI).

The bacteria may travel to your bladder (the organ that holds urine), causing bladder inflammation (cystitis). From the bladder, a UTI can spread to your kidneys, the organs that make urine. This leads to a kidney infection (pyelonephritis).

Women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more prone to getting nitrites in their pee. In fact, people AFAB are 30 times more likely than people AMAB to get UTIs. That’s because their shorter urethras make it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra and reach the bladder. Also, a person AFAB’s urethral opening is closer to the anus, where stool comes out. Exposure to poop containing E. coli bacteria is a common cause of UTIs.

You've got to be kidding me.  Who do they think they are talking to?  They leave you to infer from the context that "AMAB" probably means "assigned male at birth," yet think they need to explain what a bladder is?

And how am I supposed to have any confidence at all in a medical facility that uses an abomination like "people assigned female at birth"? Of all people, doctors ought to be clear about basic human biology. If the Cleveland Clinic believes that a birthing attendant's pronouncement can determine whether a baby is a boy or a girl, how can I believe anything else they might say?

(I mean, if a Supreme Court justice faltered when being asked to define the term "woman," you would certainly expect my faith in her intelligence and wisdom to be compromised, wouldn't you?  Oh, wait—that really happened, didn't it?)

And what's this "pee" and "poop" business?  Those are slang terms that might be used with very young children, or perhaps among close friends—certainly not by medical professionals who hope to be taken seriously!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 26, 2023 at 8:14 pm | Edit
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In a post from earlier this year, The Domestication of City Dwellers, Heather Heying expresses many of my doubts about the crazy new "15-minute cities" concept, along with some I hadn't thought of.

Fifteen minute cities are intended to reduce sprawl and traffic, facilitate social interactions with your neighbors, and give you your time back. If it took fifteen minutes or less to get to all the places that you need and want to go, imagine how much more possibility there could be in life.

You might well wonder how such remarkable results will be achieved. The answer is: through restricting automobile travel between neighborhoods, fining people who break the new travel restrictions, and keeping a tech-eye wide open, with surveillance cameras everywhere.

Apparently, say the promoters of fifteen minute cities, we need to promote access over mobility. In their world, the definitions are these: “Mobility is how far you can go in a given amount of time. Accessibility is how much you can get to in that time.” The same post further argues that “Mobility - speed - is merely a means to an end. The purpose of mobility is to get somewhere, to points B, C, D, and E, wherever they may be. It’s the 'getting somewhere' — the access to services and jobs — that matters.”

This is not just confusing, it’s a bait-and-switch. Speed is not the same thing as mobility. Being able to “get somewhere” is mobility. Mobility means freedom to move. This freedom has been undermined for the last three years, in many countries, under the guise of protecting public health.

Fifteen-minute cities would further restrict your freedom to move. Your ability to get anywhere will be restricted under the pretense of making it easier and faster to get everywhere that you really need or want to go.

Dr. Heying goes on to explain several of the problems with this reasoning, and the whole article is worth reading. Including the footnotes. But a few of her points immediately jumped out at me.

First of all, who decides what exactly it is that comprises "everywhere that I really need or want to go"? One dentist is just as good as any another, right? Once upon a time, one church (Catholic) was all that any town needed; who really needs churches of different Christian denominations, not to mention mosques and Hindu temples?

If there's a public school within 15 minutes of my house, certainly I don't need to send my kids to a private school that may be located outside my neighborhood? In fact, this 15-minute city idea has a strong odor of our American public school system—in which children must attend the nearest school, and parental choice in education is strongly opposed—writ large.

And how will these convenient services for "everything we need and want" be set up? Who gets to open a grocery store in which neighborhood? What if no one wants to open a store there? Will some neighborhoods have only government-run facilities? Will we have mega-stores with every variety of foodstuffs instead of family-run ethnic markets? Or maybe no stores at all, just Amazon Prime? Do we really want thousands of tiny libraries, art museums, and concert venues, each offering a tiny fraction of what is now available? Or will we be told that we should get all our culture and information online?

And worst of all: Granted, it would be wonderful if all our loved ones lived within 15 minutes of our homes. Imagine having all our friends so close, and grandchildren just down the street! But how will that be accomplished? Our friends and family are spread all over the globe. Of course I'd like them to be closer—but not at the cost of imprisoning them! Even if they were all forced to move into the same 15-minute neighborhood, how long could such a situation be sustainable? Population control on a massive and tyrannical scale?

Besides, anyone who has grown up in a small town knows not only how wonderful they are, but also how insular, parochial, and restrictive they can be. If our COVID lockdowns produced a massive increase in suicide and other mental health problems, just wait till we've lived in 15-minute cities for a generation.

And if in that one generation people have come to believe that living under such tyranny is normal and good—the only word for that is tragedy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 29, 2023 at 3:28 am | Edit
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