Saturday, August 20, 2016

We saw this fellow yesterday. He is in the overflow pipe of our kitchen drain. How he got there I don't know.

I am not sure the picture captures his "green-ness".

Oremus pro invicem!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Robots: Love and Destruction

These comments are a long time coming. I haven't had much time for thoughtful posts of late. But I am on a 2-week vacation from my Adjunct teaching (really not that much time, as I have to spend a bunch of it getting ready for the Fall semester, and I do have other work), but I have a little.

The articles I am commenting on come from a mainstream, widely circulated, professional engineering magazine - not some sci-fi rag.
First: Apparently there was an article (I didn't read the article itself) in the online edition of the magazine pertaining to humans forming romantic relationships with robots. Okay, I think there have been sci-fi movies over the years exploring this, but in IEEE Spectrum? Here are some excerpts from comments on the article:

Exhibit A: One thing is sure: A company that sells good-looking "male" and "female" robots complete with humanlike anatomy will make more money than Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined. ... future people will see it as normal, just as normal as smartphones are now.

Exhibit B: Another problem is that people might become so enamored with their robot mates that they abandon human relationships. (just like they do with smartphones now? - JC)

Exhibit C: Since we don't know how human consciousness really works, we can't comment on whether consciousness could be simulated acceptably (in robots). If we believe that when humans fall in love, the brain is just implementing some algorithm, why shouldn't a machine be able to implement it too?

So, there you have it: everything comes down to utility, money, and sex. What was stunningly absent was any concern about morality. There could have been, of course- more comments online. However, the magazine only printed ones with the tone of the Exhibits above. This is the world we live in.

The same magazine had a cover article in the June issue about the role of robots in the future, i.e. can we trust them in the operating room, on the road, and on the battlefield.

The section on autonomous weapons was particularly interesting. All those quoted assured us that a human would have a final say on targeting. I have several concerns-even if this is the case.
First, we shouldn't want to make war easier to conduct. Along these same lines, will the technology populations care so much about what foreign adventures conduct if all the killing (on our side) is done by remote control?  
Second, the interviewees claim we would be saving lives-but whose? Our soldiers, sure, but innocent civilians? Does the warfare today with all our targeting technology really protect civilian?
Thirdly, who will get their hands on these remote control destructors? The Cold War and its aftermath have armed every population and tens of thousands of terrorists around the world. Do we really think the arms trade will stop here?
Once again, get out your rosaries!
Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Finished ... The Brothers Karamazov

I have been slogging through The Brothers Karamazov since early May. The back cover claims three of its chapters "rank among the greatest pages of Western literature."
Who am I to dispute that? I would agree that "The Grand Inquisitor" was immensely thought provoking.
I did enjoy it, but wanted it to end after a while. And certainly the claim that Dostoevsky planned a trilogy is borne out by the ending (and by a stray sentence on the first page) which leaves a few major plot lines in the air.
I broke with The Gulag ... to read The Brothers. So I stay in Russia. UPDATE: Just noticed that I first ordered The Gulag interlibrary loan in 2008. Now I have my own copies-but talk about taking a long time to finish a book!
I do have one question to research. Several times in the book, the Orthodox worship was referred to as: "the Mass." I thought the Orthodox referred to "The Divine Liturgy" as opposed to "the Mass", which is, to my understanding a Anglo-version of the Latin dismissal-thus doesn't make sense for an Orthodox liturgy. Maybe it was a Roman translator?
Ah, these loose ends.
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A song

Update: I suddenly realized that I posted this video a couple years ago. Not that I tire of it, but instead I will post a different video below of Nick, Matt, and Connor doing one of Nick's songs.  Again .... enjoy.

I hope I am allowed a little latitude as a father proud of his children. Someone was watching my son Matthew's YouTube channel today, and I just can't help posting this video of a song he wrote for and performed at my 50th birthday party a couple years ago.

It makes me cry-especially because I wish the words of the song really reflected my fatherhood.


 Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Genderless animals

I was at the library the other day with a young boy who is staying with us. I haven’t been in the children’s section for quite a while, so I decided to stick with something safe: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. It was billed as a modern retelling, but really there was only one modification from the classic tale: no gender was assigned to the 3 bears. We had a large bear, a medium-sized bear, and a small bear.

At a doctor’s office with the same young boy a few days later, I read another fairly recently issued children’s book about a young character with a fairly generic plot:  child having a bad day; decides to run away; but then returns after missing sounds and sights of home (as well as meals.) All the characters in the book were talking animals-although the type of animal was not clear from the illustrations. As with “the 3 bears”, there were no specific gender references to either the child character or to the adult figure (note that the household had only 1 adult figure.)  Gender specific pronouns were absent.

Now this is just an anecdotal finding, but I won’t object so much in the future to Mrs. Curley’s insistence on saving boxes and boxes of children’s books for our grandchildren and/or other child visitors to our little homestead.

Up until now (homeschooling and all), we have been somewhat insulated (by design) from the cultural revolution against our children. I have read numerous articles and warnings about what is being taught in public schools; I do worry about nieces and nephews. But truly we haven’t experienced some of these things firsthand.

So what’s so devastating about genderless bears? First there are no genderless bears living in the woods! (Farm kids will know this-but we have less and less of these.) Secondly, the 3 bears are representative of a family. One book doesn’t make a cultural revolution, and in the absence of the 2nd book, I would have thought it stupid but uninteresting. But if this is a trend, it has an agenda to destroy the family and indoctrinate our children-especially because it isn’t “in your face”, but subtle as the case builds, book after book.

And, by the way, in both cases, the young boy doesn’t read yet, so I did insert gender (Papa Bear an Mama Bear) into both books.
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

cantaloupes and cats

Last year our cantaloupe crop was lousy to non-existent. This made me nervous because I didn't have too many seeds left from 2014. Here is what I said about the cantaloupes in 2014:
A friend of ours saved some cantaloupe seeds from his dad's garden in Nebraska 30 odd years ago. Last year he planted them and 5 plants came up and fruited with some of the sweetest cantaloupe I have ever tasted. My friend gave us one of these treasured cantaloupes. I saved these seeds and planted them this spring. We harvested the first ones this week. Boy are they good. The best I have ever tasted. Guaranteed we are saving more seeds!

This year it looks like we will have a good crop. I picked two this morning. (pic)
However we have lost 4 big ones, not quite ready for picking. I think its the cats clawing at them and taking a few bites. This really annoys me. These cats don't do their share in catching mice. We overfeed them, and how they are wrecking my cantaloupe crop! But I need proof!
And here's a view of our modest sunflower patch.

Oremus pro invicem! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Course Evaluations

About midway through a semester I get the previous semester course evaluations. Sometimes the comments are helpful, but there is always something I get a kick out of.
Take this one for example:
I’d cut out the quizzes, they were utterly unnecessary. The quizzes would pertain to the most simplistic things, usually making students overthink their answers. Aren’t the purposes of quizzes to boost grades? Not hand out free 0’s?

Besides the fact that quizzes are not given to "boost grades", does the student even understand the irony of his own complaint?
Another complaint was that the test questions were not the same as problems we worked in class or on the homework. I always try to impress upon the students that we don’t want simple regurgitation. We teach the concepts and then work examples which apply those concepts. Working test problems correctly will show that the student understands the concept and can apply the concept. It is not a matter of just memorization of problems. It is matter of learning and understanding. But that is not what they (some of them) want.
After Mass on Sunday, Father asked us to pray with him a Hail Mary and the St. Michael prayer due to all the violence going on. I am thinking that this will become a weekly thing....
Oremus pro invicem!

Friday, July 08, 2016

A contrast, but not a contradiction

A contrast, but not a contradiction .....

Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

On our own ....

Mrs. Curley wasn't home this evening to cook dinner, so I stepped up to the plate and hit at least a double with the fried chicken, okra, and salad. Here's what was left after the 7th inning stretch:
Now to the shower to wash of the dust from our neighbor's corn field which he graciously let us gleam for leftover corn before he disks it. Then, maybe some cribbage?

Oremus pro invicem!

Voting again

My point is not to dispute particularly with anyone, including my friend, neighbor, and better writer than I who lives not too far away, but ........

A vote for Hilary is a vote for Hilary. A vote for Trump is a vote for Trump. And a vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?)  is a vote for Darrell Castle.

To say that my vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?) is a defacto vote for Hilary Clinton tries to deny me the right to vote for the best person running for president.
Why do we have legal same-sex marriage, absurd gender issues, women in combat, women poised to be required to register for the draft, continued abortion on the demand, and host of other problems, both economic, moral and financial?

I could make a good case that it is precisely because men and women of good conscience continue to vote against that conscience, election cycle after election cycle. And because of that the Republican party knows it can ignore moral and social issues and give us the likes of McCain and Romney as nominees, and now Trump. These guys lose anyway, so why not vote for someone better?
The question has been asked: Are you better off than 8 years ago? Financially, most definitely yes. (I give the credit to God, however, not Obama!)
When asked the question, most people think of the financial aspect.
Culturally and morally we are much worse off - and it effects everyone regardless of financial well-being. There is more moral desperation than ever before, more confusion, and more hurting, more poverty of soul.
I know that neither of our major party candidates can make this better because they are either immoral or amoral.
Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


I read an article the other day praising the interstate project of 60 years ago and claiming we need another such project now.

My initial reaction was that the interstate project destroyed many local economies, communities, cultures.

Big business certainly benefitted as now they could truck their goods more efficiently across country on the taxpayers back.

Individuals may seem to have benefitted with easier travel and mobility, but communities not on the interstate routes died. (Think the movie "Cars", or the story of my town, Bethune, SC which used to be on the route to Florida from the Northeast.)

On the other hand, towns along the interstate now boomed, just like the days of old for communities on the major rivers.

So, some folks gained, and some folks lost.

And by the way, America has always been about mobility: Go West Young Man!

I still think that the loss is greater than the gain. After all families and communities are made up of individuals and the apparent short term benefit is a long-term cultural loss.

The interstate was one of the early steps which killed the family farm. (Need I say more?) We need tasteless tomatoes from California; bland cantaloupe from (who knows where) in the middle of winter; watermelon which tastes so-so, but can sure be stacked (Bradford).
As far as another BIG project now? Isn't everything the government does BIG now? They take over everything: BIG education for one. Now they are regulating bathrooms and marriage licenses!
We need "small is beautiful" not big is beautiful. (or: Local is lovely-Distant is disaster?)

Oremus pro invicem!