Category Archives: Diversions

My favorite Christmas (anti) carol

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Baby Jesus

I am not known to be a great sentimentalist about Christmas. There is one “carol” that I do like to play this time every year, however, which is a based on a poem by John Pole about a homeless newborn child, called “Anti-Carol.” The best-known version of this was recorded acapella in a strong Cockney accent by British folksinger Frankie… Read more »

Worth a read: Galileo and the Science Deniers by Mario Livio

Galileo and the Science Deniers

“[T]he present Pope, who abhors the liberal arts and this kind of mind, cannot stand these novelties and subtleties; and everyone here tries to adjust his mind and his nature to that of the ruler.” Piero Guicciardini, describing Pope Paul V (1550–1621) Astrophysicist and Hubble Telescope guru Mario Livio suggests that you substitute the name of some current political ruler… Read more »

Probability in 1000 words

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Iowa storm

There are some words that I use a lot in this blog. This is the first in a series of attempts to “get pithy” with my explanations of these words. It’s probably going to rain today. Long before there was math, the human brain figured out a “gut level” understanding of when rain was more likely than not. One way… Read more »

Worth a read: How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr

How to Hide an Empire

I like history books that surprise me with something important that I should have previously known. Daniel Immerwahr starts his recently-published How to Hide an Empire: a History of the Greater United States with a photocopy of a draft of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous December 7, 1941, “Day of Infamy” speech. Scratched out of the draft is a mention that… Read more »

The top posts of 2019

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Old Man Yells at Cloud

This classic image from The Simpsons characterizes this blog well. However, some posts do seem to take off on their own, usually because of forwards from Twitter and Facebook followers that I don’t even see. I have also been getting some traffic from the new social media site sponsored by Wikipedia, called WikiTribune, found at WT.Social. You have put your… Read more »

Worth a read: A Decent Life by Todd May

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A Decent Life

Ever since Aristotle tried to simplify the complexity of ethical reasoning down to his one-word concept of virtue, successive theologians and philosophers have been throwing out words or short phrases for labeling their life’s work formulations. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) came up with his duty-based categorical imperative. My own study of this field in the 1990s was heavily influenced… Read more »

Schlemiels, schlimazels, probability and free will

Laverne & Shirley

“The brain is a machine that remembers the past in order to predict the future.” — Dean Buonomano [1] Schlemiel and schlimazel are two Yiddish words known to many only by their mention in the theme song to the old television show Laverne and Shirley. In the classic definition, the schlemiel is the bungler who is always spilling soup on… Read more »