Sunday, December 25, 2016

Against Gulching

"Gulching" refers to setting up a retreatist community of political conservatives. It is named after Galt's Gulch in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Saturday Night Live ran this in the wake of the GOP victory in the Presidential election of 2016:
In The Bubble, the election never happened.
View on YouTube here.
On the Objectivist discussion board, Rebirth of Reason, frequent contributor Luke Setzer posted a link to the video under the headline "Turning Galt's Gulch on Its Ear." In the discussion there, I said that no successful society is monolithic.

The defining attribute of fans of the Atlas Shrugged movies is that they are people who want to set themselves apart in a separate, isolated and hidden community of like-minded people. Many dream of a physical locale. Most enjoy online communities. In those discussions, the occasional reports of attempts at a “Galt’s Gulch” receive close attention.

Although the plot element of “Galt’s Gulch” served a poetic purpose, it was not a call to action. Ayn Rand was specific in stating that art is not didactic: a romance novel does not teach. When Ayn Rand had something to teach, she wrote essays and delivered lectures. Rand’s intention as a philosopher was to create and explain the ideas that can liberate individuals, human society in general, and the United States of America in particular.
New York City from
Admirers of the works of Ayn Rand generally have two goals: to improve their own lives by living better; and to change the world. They intend to achieve the latter by spreading the ideas of Objectivism until they are accepted by (arbitrarily) “enough” other people. Their goal is a cultural shift more dramatic than the rise of classical Greece or the Renaissance.  Specifically:
(1) reason, science, and philosophy replace religion
(2) the ethics of egoism become as widely accepted as the tenets of altruism are today
(3) capitalism displaces socialism
(4) government is limited to basic functions of law and order by protecting the rights to  property.
(5) the observably dominant works of art (painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, theater) project rational people living in a knowable universe.
Cleveland's West Side Market indoor space.
The inherent contradiction in “Objectivist culture” – the common interactions in-person and online among those who admire the works of Ayn Rand, perhaps just best called “Rand Fans” – is the dichotomy between reaching out to teach other people and walling yourself in with a group of individuals who claim to believe the same things that you do.
In the language of Objectivism, “in Atlas Shrugged, the heroes withdraw their moral sanction from their destroyers.” In other words, not only do they stop obeying the economic regulations of the government, they divorce themselves from anyone who would claim a right to any moment of their lives. They want nothing to do with looters and moochers. That is the active ideal of a Rand Fan in dealing with other people.

The problem that they cannot solve is that the capitalist who owns a gas station is a Muslim. The capitalist who owns a convenience store is a Hindu. It is a fact that Costco founder James Sinegal is an ardent Democrat.  The greatest capitalists of our age – George Soros, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and the entire list of global billionaires—are all condemned as “crony capitalists” traitors to laissez faire, who cause and amplify the oppressive laws, taxes, and regulations under which we suffer, but they, by the power of their privilege do not. Objectivism does have its own real-life capitalists. Three that stand out are T. J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, Ed Snider (1933-2016) of Comcast Spectacore, and John Allison of BB&T. Many others orbit in the pull of Ayn Rand. Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Frederick W. Smith (FedEx) are among them. But Cuban supported Hillary Clinton for President. 

Cleveland's West Side Market outdoor space
from Delta Sky Magazine
As explained by Ayn Rand and her one-time colleague psychologist Nathaniel Branden, most people harbor unresolved personal contradictions. If the Muslim who owns a gas station were consistent in his philosophy, he would recognize that the principles that bring success in business – identifying facts, testing theories, treating customers fairly  - speak against the tenets of his religion. If the crony capitalists were consistent, they would deny their government subsidies and advance laissez faire.
I and M Bank Market, Nairobi 
What do you do when other people do not live up to your expectations for philosophical consistency?

For many Objectivists, as distinct from mere “fans of Ayn Rand,” the unworkable solution is to withdraw from those who disagree with you. So, it is ironic that the philosophers of the Ayn Rand Institute who do not speak to the philosophers of the Atlas Society probably buy their gasoline from Muslims and get their cars fixed by Christians and find great bargains at big box stores owned by Democrats all the while running Windows software on their computers.

The minor premise of "Gulching" and a theme that is easy to find among fans of Atlas Shrugged, is that in order for there to be a second Renaissance, civilization must collapse. They do not just predict it, they look forward to it with a millenarian fervor. 

The fact is that civilization is, literally, city life. Historically, people from disparate tribes left (and still leave) their homes to come to the places where strangers benefit themselves by exchanging value for value, whether or not they agree on any other fact, claim, or belief.  That cultural matrix is powerful. Examples of farming communities destroyed by crop failures are easy to find. Harder to uncover are cities that starved. Total war does bring that. Fortunately, such wars are exceptional. Examples from the Dutch wars of liberation from Spain show that when the city rulers attempted to control the price of food, the city went without and fell. Cities that let the price of food rise incentivized smugglers to run the Spanish lines. A farm feeds itself (theoretically), but a city is fed by the whole world.  It does not matter that the Chilean farmer whose grapes are on your table has a religious icon in his home. If you cut yourself off from him - and the global commercial network - you only have the grapes you grow yourself... if you grow grapes, rather than apricots, kiwi fruit, watermelon, coconuts, ...

City Air Makes You Free  
Vectures: Monetizing Urban Transportation  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Not Less Grammar Errors

Public radio delivers a cachet of culture and higher education. So, I hear a bellwether when presentations lead away from my expectations for correct grammar. Last night, on KUT-FM, a show on the death penalty opened with the statement that Texas is executing "less people" than in the recent past. I would have said "fewer people." KUT-FM here in Austin is not alone in that. I hear it often, but read it less frequently.

Languages change. As strangers learn to live together civilized languages tend toward larger vocabularies and simplified grammars. We still have archaic plurals "children," "oxen," and (less common) "brethren" in our daily speech. Also, common plurals "fish" and "deer" are still with us.  (Fishes and deers refer to different kinds of the same thing: trout, sharks, and carp are among the fishes, though Luca Brasi simply sleeps with the fish.)  We still have "goose-geese," and "mouse-mice," and but not "moose-meese" or "house-hice." An old King James Version of the Bible might have "kine" as the plural of "cow" but you will not hear it even in Texas cattle country.

So, we will hear less references to "fewer." Personally, I prefer fewer degradations of common grammar. Grammar defines thought. Sloppy grammar allows inexact and incorrect mental formations. Weak thinking leads to bad actions. You cannot have a gallon of executions.  Opponents of the death penalty should remain focused on the fact that an execution is a discrete event that happens to an  individual.

Why do Young Women Growl?
Why Democracy is Difficult
What Colors are Your Rainbow?
Imaginary Numbers are Real

Monday, December 12, 2016

Newtonmas 2016: Great Man or Social Forces?

December 25 is the traditional birthday of Sir Isaac Newton(1).  So, some fans and followers of physics, and perhaps some professionals, celebrate Newtonmas on December 25.  The TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory brought the holiday to millions who had not heard of it.(2)  The question remains: Why celebrate Newton, rather than Descartes, Einstein, or many other scientists?
  • Sir Isaac Newton represented Cambridge at Parliament.
  • He offered an original proof of the binomial theorem, what in high school we learn as “Pascal’s Triangle.”
  • He developed an algorithm for rapidly approximating square roots.
  • He investigated light and demonstrated that “white” light is composed of discrete colors.
  • Based on his experiments with light, he invented the reflecting telescope.
  • He invented calculus.
  • He invented calculus as part of his general proof of the laws of motion, including the motion of bodies under the influence of gravity. He showed that motion on Earth is not different from motion in the heavens. That was a radical departure from 2000 years of philosophy.
  • He served as warden and master of the British Royal Mint for 30 years. His tenure began with his rescuing the British economy from near certain collapse. He had himself sworn as a magistrate so that he could investigate counterfeiting, going in disguise to pubs.

If he had done any one of those, he would have earned a place in history.  He did all of them. 

That brings up the problem of “the great man” versus “social forces.”  If Newton had died in infancy, as he was truthfully at risk, would someone else –Robert Hooke, Rene Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz – have filled the void?  Would we have waited until 1800 or 1900 for the next Newton to invent calculus and achieve all of those other heights?  Did we wait until 1680 because some previous Newton of 1300 died at birth? 

For all of Newton’s specific achievements, his greatest glory may be in being the exemplar of the Age of Reason and the gateway to the Enlightenment.  The Newtonian Revolution was not just about the orbit of the planets.  The American Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution are consequences of the work of Sir Isaac Newton. The founders of our republic sought natural laws to inform their designs for a just and workable republic with a balance of powers.  As late at the 1830s, diametrically opposed philosophers August Comte and Herbert Spencer attempted to devise “social physics” as a science of human action. They each gave up on that label and settled for mere “sociology.”

(1) Note: Newton was born in 1742.  The English Parliament passed the Calendar Act in 1750 to take effect on 2 September 1752, which was followed by 14 September 1752.   Newton’s birthday (New Style) is January 4. Similarly, George Washington was born on February 11, 1732, which became February 22 when the calendar was set forward. The Gregorian reform of the Julian calendar realigned the solar year with the vernal equinox in order to keep Easter in the spring. 

(2) Note: The first Newtonmas was actually celebrated in Japan before 1890.  I recorded a Newtonmas message for the Community Commentator series of WKAR AM/FM, East Lansing, in 1982 or ’83. I sent Newtonmas cards to my friends off and on over several years.  Meanwhile, Kwanza was invented. Then, Seinfeld introduced “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.”  Organized atheists began offering Newtonmas as an antidote to Christmas.  Whether and to what extent Newton would have felt honored or horrified is open to debate. Counterfactuals can be unresolvable. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Creature Comforts Show No End to History

It is a wonderful time to be alive.  We have become so used to material abundance that we have lost all perspective on where we are in the deep, broad, and swift flowing stream of history.  The best is yet to come, but the present is pretty good. 

My thoughts here were inspired by a discussion at work as a young lieutenant and an old sergeant wondered about the consequences of Star Trek transporter technology. The transporter is the basis for both the replicator and the holo-suite. Given those, why work?  Contrasting our lives with those of medieval serfs, I found lots of reasons to continue working.

My own discussion on this topic with a young captain started the day before, as a result of my buying a knife. On the recommendation of another young captain, I went to everyone's favorite tactical store and bought a Benchmade "Mini-Barrage." The next morning, I went online here at home and read about knives. "Why not a Gerber?" I asked at work. I got the same answer there that I found in an online forum for zombie hunters: the Gerber is a nice every day carry (EDC), but the best Gerber is about like the cheapest Benchmade both for price and quality. 

I was astounded at the content about pocket knives in four pages of links even before I got to the reviews of knives from Guns & Ammo magazine. My captain said that I could find people who know that much about luggage or briefcases.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Star Trek: (Not too Far) Beyond

It was all right as such things go. I know from numismatics that the coins we cherish today – Bust Half Dollar, Peace Dollar, Walking Liberty Half Dollar – were reviled in their own time. Shakespeare and Bach were lost and then re-discovered in the 19th century.  So, perhaps time will serve this movie well. For the present, Wikipedia quoted Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times (July 18, 2016): “[e]ven with its big-screen pyrotechnics and its feature-length running time, Star Trek Beyond plays like an extended version of one of the better episodes from the original series, and I mean that in the best possible way.”

Like much television writing, this plot had problems.  To be fair, we watched it twice. Between times, I read Wikipedia and Memory Alpha to understand what was happening. Perhaps I am getting old, but a lot flashed by at warp speed the first time, and I missed some details. Nonetheless, the second viewing after all of the reading revealed unsolved problems with the plot.

The only surprise was that the movie ran 122 minutes. It felt like three hours. All of the elements of a Star Trek story were in place, but nothing more. We do not learn anything new about our virtual friends or their universe.  The star base Yorktown was visually compelling, but we have seen its like from Coruscant of Star Wars, if not Earth of The Jetsons. 

Captain Kirk’s closet.  He has a rack of identical uniforms. I have two uniforms. It is hard to imagine how he gets dirty during his working day. And the ship must have some kind of laundry, even if replicators were not yet invented in this timeline.  I get the point: life is monotonous; even his wardrobe is boring. Still, he must have had work clothes, work-out clothes, and a formal.

Why did Dr. McCoy go into Chekov’s locker?  That seems like a gross violation of personal liberty, even on a military vessel. It is not clear that alcohol (or anything else like it) is forbidden on board. Presumably, of course, one cannot report for duty incapable of performing as required. But Saurian brandy and other references are known from the Original Series. In By Any Other Name, Scotty gets the Kelvan, Tomar, drunk. “What is it?” the alien asks.  “It’s green,” Scotty replies. For the Next Generation, we had a bartender mixing amusing concoctions.

Nietzschean Philosophy. Krall (formerly Captain Balthazar Edison of the Franklin) launched his vicious attack in defiance of the unity and peace of the Federation. Humanity needs the struggle of war to advance, he claims. So, he acquires a powerful bioweapon in order to destroy millions (perhaps billions) of people thereby giving the survivors something to live for. That twisted logic is familiar from 50 years of James Bond villains, but probably has roots in Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo and Robur the Conqueror.  

Minions. Where does Krall get his crew from? Were these the other survivors of the Franklin? He throws them away easily enough. That callous disregard for his minions must have been evident to them decades earlier. If they agree with his philosophy, why have they not fractured into 50 warring kingdoms with hordes of battling robots, rather than being unified under Krall’s (questionable) leadership? (This is the same problem from Space Seed and the story of Noonian Singh Khan.) Why had they not reduced their numbers, as they sucked the life out of each other over 100 years.  

Zombies/Vampires. These beings from the Franklin can only extend their lives by sucking the life force of other beings.  It seems like thin fare, as seldom as the nebula has been visited.  Krall and his minions must be constantly on the hunt.  Also, while Jaylah is clever enough to have survived, her origin is not clear. (I fell from the sky.) Neither is it clear where the other scavengers came from, or how they survive, again, given Krall’s powerful army of zombies and robots. (Perhaps they were living on bats and moths, the only animals on the planet, apparently.)

The Reputation of the Nebula. Given that it harbors an army of vampires or zombies, supported by a huge army of robots, the nebula should be infamous as a place to avoid.

Magellan Probes. The point above is underscored by the reference to the Magellan probes. The Federation has been exploring the nebula for some time. The mysterious disappearance of the Franklin must have been a warning, as would be the unsuccessful series of probes. The reference to the Magellan probes also contradicts Kirk’s warning that they are entering a nebula that will make communication with the Federation impossible.  The probes were expected to work.

Captain Edison’s Complaint.  Krall/Edison’s grudge against peace and quiet is reinforced in his own mind by his allegation that the Federation “abandoned” him. But he must have known that communication outside the nebula was difficult or impossible until he himself was able to “piggyback” Magellan probes to establish a read-only traffic from the Federation.

The Beastie Boys.  As annoying as that so-called music is, it is, nonetheless music with complex patterns. It is no worse than Klingon opera. Work as it did against the robots, it failed to affect Krall’s ship.
Found all over the Alpha Quadrant.
No telling where it originated.
The Writing on the Wall.  Finding a single inscription on a wall in a cave, McCoy and Spock leap to the conclusion that the Abronath artifact originated from this planet (Altamid) because the writing is similar.  When I first was attracted to numismatics, it occurred to me that a time traveler to Pax Romana could freely spend Mercury dimes. Hopefully, no one today looking at one of them thinks that they came from ancient Rome.

On the Up Side.  The stone in the necklace that Spock gave to Uhura was named “vokaya” by the founders of Memory Alpha,  Daniel C. Carlson and Harry Doddema. “Doddema thought of trinitite, a real radioactive material created by the Trinity atom bomb test that was used in jewelry before its effects were understood. Such radioactive materials would have been created on Vulcan in the nuclear wars before the Time of Awakening. Studying the Vulcan language, they settled on the name "Vokaya" as a contraction of Vokau-heya, meaning "remembrance stone" or "memory stone", as the Vulcans would use vokaya to remember how warlike they were.” (Memory Alpha here.) 


Monday, November 21, 2016

FOND Bone Broth

Not only is Fond Bone Broth good for you, being shelf stable for one year, it makes an excellent gift.  

On their website (here) they say that they took the name FOND because it is French for "base" or "foundation."  They do not say that the word "restaurant" comes from "restore." Following the disastrous policies of Louis XIV and his interventionist minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the middle class of Paris was starving amid plenty. The French cuisine we treat ourselves to now was designed to puff up severely limited resources with air.  Those who could afford it went to "restaurants" where they were restored with strong broths and other good foods from whole ingredients.  FOND broths follow in that tradition. 
I met Michal from FOND Bone Broth
of New Braunfels, Texas,
at the Wheatsville Co-op on South Lamar.

You could make this yourself. My wife, Laurel, does. It takes her two days. She has the time because she works from home.  Most people do not have two days to cook the bones of happy free-ranging animals along with organic herbs and spices.  

And then there is the retail price. It is less than $15 per pint. ($154 for a case of 12.) That sounds like a lot if your head is still in 2008.

I had a couple of graduate classes in economics during the Bush-Obama Wall Street Bailouts. One of my professors, Steven Hayworth, was a good Marxist. He knew his stuff; and he was intellectually honest.  He put up a graph of the infusion of cash into the banking system. (He said $3 trillion. It was more like $4 trillion.  See Forbes magazine here. ) Prof. Hayworth asked, "What will happen to prices?"  No one said anything.  With two index fingers, he pointed to me up front and my conservative comrade in the back. "You tell them," he said.  "Prices are going to triple," we said.  Prices have not tripled over night because banks have been storing the imaginary money, eking it out slowly so as not to trigger public panic.  Prices today are only about 40% higher than they were a decade ago. The true cost of nutritious food has gone up while fast food chains sell "salads" of iceberg lettuce for the price of meat.
Biodegradable packing from corn starch.
Fond Bone Broth has a Kickstarter campaign (here)
"A short cut tastes like a short cut, so we don't take any. We start with local farms, and carefully tended backyard gardens whenever possible. Then using traditional french cooking methods, and a lime-twist of modern mixology we arrive at our FOND™ signature flavors perfect for sipping or for use in your every day cooking."

Sunday at the Co-op
Hail Merry Desserts
Shannon Beer of Keller, Texas
Great Bean Chocolate

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Spoken American Grammar

"If he was to go to the White House..."  
"A group of men were on their way..."

Languages change. We know that.  Years ago, working for yet another software development firm, I asked the engineers to write up management summaries of their parts of this project. One of them turned in work that was below high school level.  I went to his office and asked him about it.  "You write in a computer language," I said. "It has grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.  How can you not write well in your native language?"  He replied that in his mind, he was not writing sentences, but stringing connections on pulleys.  He built machines with computer code as his "Erector Set."  A few days later, he came into my office.  "Languages change," he said.  I agreed, of course.  "So, how does this happen?  Do academics and professors get together and write new rule books for us to follow?"  Of course not, I admitted. Languages change and somewhere along the way, it is noted and rules are amended. "So," he replied, pressing his point, "if you follow the manual, you are not using the current version."

Our local NPR affiliate (KUT-FM), also carries the BBC World News.  I heard a collective noun used as a plural: "The team were traveling to ..."  I perceived that as an older construction, not a modernism.

It is an interesting generalization that so-called "primitive" languages have more complicated grammars than the languages of civilized peoples.  In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe noted that Chuck Yeager sometimes fell into an archaic verb form of "helped" as "holped."  We have three tenses now with "help" as a weak verb: help, helped, has helped. In Anglo-Saxon and Old German, it was: help, halp, holpt, yholpen.  

When I was in the first grade, one of my classmates, newly arrived in Cleveland from West Virginia, always began sentences with consonants even when reading: "Hit is a dog. See the dog." Later, at the College of Charleston, my professor of German, a philologist, identified that as another archaism.  Some years later, working in Cleveland, a Slovenian colleague said that European Slovenians find American and Argentinian Slovenians speaking with rural forms no longer heard back home.

Another change, brought into common American by African-American urbanites is the strong past tense.  "I had gone to the store." for "I went to the store."  

I believe that the reflexive is also fading.  "I did it for me." rather than "I did it for myself." 

Maybe I just notice these because I heart languages.  I believe that the fundamental purpose of language is to enable thinking.  Communication with others is a secondary consequence.  It is true that human language evolved from animal calls. However, that is in our past, and for about 5000 years, self-awareness has been the primary function of modern language.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Still Riding the Gray Planet

Conflict, combat, even war in outer space against the Russians always seemed like a real possibility and may yet come to pass.  That big spinning wheel of a space station might be built.  The asteroid belt probably does contain a plethora of rocks worth fighting for. In my mind, I was about 10 when I first read this book, but the bibliography shows that I was closer to 15.
  • Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet by Blake Savage, Western Press, 1952
  • Assignment in Space with Rip Foster by Blake Savage, Whitman Publishing, 1965
  • Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet by Blake Savage, Western Golden Griffon, 1969

First Edition
In the narrative, the astronomy and physics are explained, but with World War II still close in the past, and the Cold War and the Korean police action in the news, the military details required no spoken footnotes.  That said, it was only during my re-reading last week that I actually perceived the Special Operations Squadron soldiers as a platoon: lieutenant, sergeant major, two corporals, and six privates. I still needed Wikipedia to place the friction between “Planeteers” and “Spacemen” in its proper context. It was easy enough to accept that different branches of the armed forces hold themselves in highest regard. That this was “Marines” versus “Navy” should have been obvious to me.  The Planeteers follow Major Joe Barris, but the Spaceman obey Commander Kevin O’Brine.

Lieutenant Richard Ingalls Peter “Rip” Foster has just graduated from his academy aboard a space station. Expecting to go home on leave, he is re-deployed to the asteroid belt to retrieve a large rock (about a mile across) of pure thorium.  By the same process that he picks up a “spack” (space pack) of gear from a supply room, he picks up his team:

SGM Koa - Hawaii USA
CPL Nels Pederson - Sweden
CPL Paulo Santos - Philippines
PVT Kemp - USA
PVT Dowst - USA
PVT Bradshaw - UK
PVT Trudeau - France
PVT Dominico - Italy
PVT Nunez (not Nuñez or Portuguese Nunes) - Brazil.

They serve the Federation of Free Governments.  The bad guys come from the Consolidated Peoples’ Governments: the Connies. The good guys are Feds.  
NASA Exchange KSC 12/98

The narrative and dialog is rich with jargon. Space itself is personified as Old Man Nothing and Old Man Cosmos.  Surprised or angry, they exclaim, “Great cosmos!” and “By Gemini.” The command to hurry is “Show an exhaust!”  “High vack” can be a verb: He high vacked into the control room, i.e., he hurried. But the high vacuum of space is also a noun: “let high vack into the space suit”.  Too much time in outer space can leave you “vack wacky.”  The origin of “son of a space sausage” must remain unexamined.  They call sick bay the “wound ward.” Ships had sick bays before spaceships had them, of course, but it nonetheless seemed to me to reveal the extent to which the vocabulary of Star Trek became common English.

Sidney, Ohio, 9/99
The Planeteer force – Special Operations Squadron – depends on a huge body of volunteers to wash out. Every boy in the free world must want to join. (In one scene, a Planeteer quips that the Spacemen are the ones who failed.)  According to the narrative, 15 of 100 applicants make it to the Planeteer Academy. After two years they become privates.  While they study science, exploration, colonization, and fighting, ten of those 15 make the next cut.  Finally, only 1 of 500 applicants earns the orbital insignia of an officer. Officers study astrogation, navigation (which seems redundant), and a specialty field.  LT Rip Foster specialized in astrophysics. In real life, astrophysics can be orbit plotting, but even in 1952, it was largely the study of the energy cycles of stars.

Austin, 8/16
As for the physics, most of the book was acceptable for working in low gravity.  However, the Planeteers carry old-fashioned side arms, which they never used (gratefully).  Their weapons were small rockets (at a distance) or knives (close order).  To work on the asteroid, they had no special reactionless tools. They did anchor each other to an outcropping to drive a spike, but then they  screwed the spike into the rock with no allowance for torque and conservation of energy. Egregiously, they tethered a block of thorium with a towline and tugged it to the cruiser with a space boat. Apparently, the rock did not slam into the ship, but stopped politely of its own volition.

Rip Foster’s adventure is a small part of the common culture. You can find a stub in Wikipedia here and also a biography of Harold Goodwin who wrote as “Blake Savage” here

Two versions are archived on Gutenberg:
Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet by Harold L. Goodwin
Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet by Harold L. Goodwin

Previously on Necessary Facts

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Living Fish Swims Under the Water

My Google email account associated with this blog is  It is a pun. I took USZIK ELEVEN from what is supposed to be one phrase mutually intelligible in Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian.  “The living fish swims under water.” You can google the phrase for articles dedicated to it.
ISO map of the Uralic languages from Wikipedia

The proposition was offered by Mall Hellam, a scholar from Estonia who has taken on a fight for the cultural traditions of ethnic minorities within western Siberia. In those lands, native peoples speak languages that are similar to Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian.  Over the years, I acquired books and articles about the languages of the Ostyak, Vogul, and others.  I recognized words that I learned in Hungarian, such as “kutya” for dog. 
  • Estonian: 'Elav kala ujub vee all
  • Finnish: 'Elävä kala ui veden alla.
  • Hungarian: 'Eleven hal úszik a víz alatt.
  • English: A live fish is swimming underwater.
"Linguistic roots common to both branches of the traditional Finno-Ugric language tree (Finno-Permic and Ugric) are distant. About 200 words with common roots in all main Finno-Ugric languages have been identified by philologists including 55 about fishing …" 
Wikipedia here:

“The Dying Fish Swims in the Water” in The Economist here:
(Article is about the suppression by the Russian central authorities of native cultures in northwestern Siberia .)

Wikipedia articles
Ural-Altaic Languages

Uralic Languages

Finno-Ugric Languages

Mall Hellam “European of the Year” here:

Mall Hellam and Human Rights here:
Mall Hellam biography (in Estonian) here:
(The Latin words “Information” and “Institute” are easy to spot. The Finns and Estonians must have had some contact with the Czechs in the distant past, and apparently stole all the vowels from the Czech   language and brought them back to the Baltic lands.)


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Do Young Women Growl?

If you listen to young women, about age 35 and below, you will notice that they growl.  They also end every sentence and many phrases with an uplifting question tone.  The two mannerisms combine to deliver a distinctly female way of talking that is also demarcated by age. Whatever their other sins, Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Warren do not growl.

You can hear this on the radio, especially news radio, and most especially on public radio.  I do not know that this affectation is a cultural consequence of progressivism.  But that is where I hear it because that is what I listen to on the radio.  We have a Fox radio affiliate here in Austin, KLBJ-AM/FM, but the only deejays I hear there are middle aged white men.  And I do believe that this does cross ethnic lines: from certainly some to perhaps many young Black women who are college educated also mimic this linguistic artifact.

I noticed this first perhaps five years ago.  But thinking back, I suspect that this began in California with the “Valley Girls” of the 1970s.  I finally decided to log a few convenience samplings for my citations. We have several non-profit radio stations here in Austin, and our NPR affliate is KUT-FM.

KUT Kate McKee
“Why Don’t Austin Community College Trustees Represent Specific Districts?”
(October 20, 2016)

KUT  Audrey McGlinchy
(Audrey is from Brooklyn, NY)

KUT Ashley Lopez
“What Mexico Can Teach Texas About Birth Control”

NPR All Things Considered
Melissa Block
“Going for the Gold…”
(September 8, 2016)
What is interesting here is that the first two women that she interviews also growl.

NPR Rae Ellen Bichell

NPR Here and Now
Sarah Cliff

Perhaps the best offender I found right away is Alyssa Rosenberg  of the Washington Post. She was interviewed for her series “IN POP CULTURE, THERE ARE NO BAD POLICE SHOOTINGS:  DRAGNETS, DIRTY HARRYS AND DYING HARD: PART III” which was published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, and for which she was interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Thursday, October 27, 2016, by Kelly McEvers. McEvers also growls, but Rosenberg is deep into it. Here:

In this last example, the interviewer, McEvers, growls in a more typical fashion, at the end of sentences or at the end of significant clauses within sentences.

I could suggest several origins.  For one thing, we all project tentative, unproven beliefs. “I think, like, maybe, there is no God?, in the traditional sense?, but there might be a Higher Power? out there on, like, a higher metaphysical? plane.”  That just begs for growling and upward tones.  Valley Girls of the 1970s would have been unsure about homework but certain about make-up and clothing, like ya know what I mean?

Regardless of the etiology of this linguistic disease – if it is that and not a mutation? with survival benefits?—it remains a cultural artifact.  I first learned of this studying Japanese.  (I had two college classes in "Japanese for Business" before working for Kawasaki and Honda.)  Japanese women speak in different tones than Japanese men. They also have different words for the same things.  I understand that this phenomenon of gender differentiation in active language is not limited to the Japanese, only that I learned of it while studying their language and culture.


Saturday, October 22, 2016


Dated at 2360 BCE, Sargon of Akkad eclipsed the Sumerian kingdoms along the Tigris and Euphrates. In Akkadian SALIMUM ALLAKUM means “peace will come.” Today, even among Turkic peoples of central Asia, the common Arabic greeting has been adopted into the local culture as one word: SALOMALEIKUM–“peace be upon you.”  It is nearly the same in Kyrgyzstan, the first western neighbor of China: ASALAMU ALEYKUM (two words).  But those are not native to those Turkic people, either.  They inherited them when they adopted the Muslim religion of the Arabs, who were and are Semitic. 
A Grammar of Akkadian (Second Edition)
by John Huehnergard, Einsenbruns, 2005.
The word for “seven” in Akkadian is SEBE.  It has not changed much in over 4000 years. The Indo-Europeans found it convenient. The word “number” comes from “name-bearer” and these early peoples, Semitic and Indo-European, shared a margin where the Hittites met the Akkadians. The earlier Sumerians had their own merchant colonies within Hittite cities and it was the Sumerians who invented the naming of quantities.  Everyone else stopped with “one, two, many.” When the Akkadians conquered Sumeria, they adopted the cuneiform script and much else that went with it.  The Akkadians borrowed words from the Sumerians, also a common occurrence, among them those for Crown, Palace, and Scribe. 

Dog was KALBUM like the modern “Caleb” a man’s name in the Bible or “kalib” in modern Arabic. 

House was BITUM like the later root “beth” as in Bethlehem or Elizabeth. It is seen the second letter of our alphabet: Beta from the Phoenician letter which was a pictograph of a house.  Their letters were called Ox, House, Camel, Delta, … as in modern Hebrew:  Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth.

The common Arabic man’s name HABIB (beloved) is found in the Akkadian word KABTUM.  Like the Indo-European languages, the Semitic have a tie from the aspirated Ha to the harsher (velar) Ka. We see it in Latin, Spanish and Italian CARA which are the English WHORE and German HURE with French in the middle with CHER.  K-H is also found in words common to Finnish and Hungarian. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Moment of Science Fact as Science Fiction

The picture that appeared on was startling familiar.  "My god! Someone built the Time Tunnel!" I thought.  But, it was actually the shrinking machine from Fantastic Voyage that NASA did not build.  What they did announce was preparations for the James Webb space telescope.  And congratulations are appropriate.

Submarine about to be shrunk and injected into a patient.
Isaac Asimov's novel was made into a movie (1966) starring
Sophia Loren, Donald Pleasance, and Edmund O'Brien.
James Webb space telescope being prepared.
Video from NASA on Reuters here.

Previously on Necessary Facts
Fantastic Voyages: teaching science with science fiction
Monsters from the Id: Science is Mankind's Last Hope
From Texas to the Moon with John Leonard Riddell
Great Scientific Experiments