Publix & Expired Products

The family was at Fernandina Beach in October, 2019 when we bought some blueberry bagels from Publix for breakfast in the morning. Past their shelf life, they were moldy.

Yesterday, Becky bought some pepper sauce from a local Publix. It's in contention for the most expired product on a shelf. It's almost nine years old.



Mayors of Judsonia, Arkansas

I had occasion to need to know who succeeded my grandfather as mayor of Judsonia, Arkansas. I was able to eventually find the answer, but I was unable to locate a list of past mayors. Amber at City Hall went above and beyond to compile a list of past mayors from available records. Thank you, Amber!

This list needs to be preserved.

April 19151916ST Hughes
April 19161917James Huntley
April 1917March 1919JC Gibson
19191921RC Mann
May 1921April 1922John White
April 19221923Paul Bauer
April 1923March 1924J NO White
April 1924March 1925Walter Ladd
April 1925February 1926GM Walters
March 19261951Wylie Robert Felts, MD1
November 19511956Ralph L Van Meter
1956May 1957Chester Bramlett
May 19571957Billy Wood Acting Mayor
19581958Walter Smith
19591978Jimmy Miller
19791982Bill Stutts
19831986Johney Gibson
1986July 31, 1993Jim Harris
August 1993September 1994 DoD 11-30-1994Chester Williams
September 1994March 1995LaJunta Whitener Acting as Mayor
April 1995Resigned May 16, 1996Lawrence Mcintire
June 1996LaJunta Whitener Acting Mayor
June 19961998Charles Bice
1998November 2013 DoD 11-18-2013Rickey Veach
December 20132018Ronnie Schlem
2019CurrentStan Robinson

[1] My paternal grandfather. To date, he had the longest tenure of any mayor.

Then... Now

The picture on the left was taken on August 15, 1980. The picture on the right was taken this evening. I'm wearing the same suit, minus the vest. The vest no longer fits and the jacket is a bit tighter than on my wedding day. Having lost 60 pounds this year (thanks to Mounjaro), I wanted to see whether or not I could get into clothes I hadn't worn in over 40 years. Now I want to recreate our wedding photo, although Becky isn't sure where her dress is.

Farpoint Engineering

In Long Forgotten Computer Technology, written in 2008, I wrote about having used Weitek math coprocessors. In 1988, Bill J. and I developed a Micro Channel card with a Weitek co-processor for IBM PS/2 Model-80 PC's. Bill did the hardware and I did the software. We called ourself "Farpoint Engineering" and we eventually sold the design to Microway who managed to sell some boards. A few documents from that era still exist.

I wrote a terminate-and-stay-resident program to install an "int 15h" interface between applications and the hardware, but that code is long lost.

Eric Schmidt

I recently posted the graduation program from my high school. Yorktown has graduated some notable alumni. My wife knew of Katie Couric; Eric Schmidt was one year ahead of me (even though he's a month younger than me). We knew each other from the computer lab. I saved some of the programs that we wrote in the early 70's1, including three of his. I figured I'd keep them in case I ever needed a job. I could threaten to release them as blackmail unless he hired me. Fortunately, things never came to that and now that I'm retired, I've decided to make them available for nostalgia's sake.




[1] I really wish I still had FRESEQ, which I wrote in FORTRAN, that resequenced FORTRAN line and statement numbers like the built-in resequence command did for BASIC programs. Sometime around then I also wrote an INTEL 4004/4040/8008/8080 macro assembler in FORTRAN, but I don't have that, either.

Yorktown HS 1973

While rummaging through boxes of memorabilia I came across the program for the graduation of the Yorktown High School class of 1973. Follow the links for the program pages.

Debbie Habel graduated with distinction. She was the
Cinderella to my Prince Charming in 5th grade.

Page 02
Page 03
Page 04
Page 05

3M Datavision D-8000


The 3M Datavision D-8800 was a character generator for the television broadcast industry. It existed circa 1977-1986 and very little information about it exists on the web, outside of mentions in trade journals. There is a Wiki for character generators, but the entry for the D-8800 is mostly empty. A semi-technical marketing presentation can be found here1. A description of the product and its price2 is here3. A comparison of features between various brands of character generators from 1983 is here4. Several ads from the trade journals can be found here5, here6, here7, and here8. An article featuring a D-8800 in a studio is here9. Want ads from 1985 for people with D-8800 experience are here10 and here11. A used D-8800 was offered for sale in October, 1990, here12.

I worked on the software for the D-8800 from circa 1978 to possibly as late as early 1981. Memories fade after 45 years. But I kept the following material among my memorabilia:

The D-8800 was powered by two Intel 8080 microprocessors. One controlled the keyboard, floppy, and possibly other peripherals. The other managed the fonts and the character layout and attributes for display by the video hardware. "Suds" designed the 8080 boards (which, if memory serves, were 18"x18" wire-wrap boards). Steve designed the video hardware. 3M contracted with Xener Corporation, which was a small consulting firm in Springfield, VA at the time, to write the software. "Duffy" M. wrote the intial software and I took over for him later. The software was written in assembly language, developed on an ISIS-II system. Two ICE-80's were used to load, run, and debug the code.

The keyboard was a "beast". Not only did it have a QWERTY keyboard, it had a number of buttons for selecting fonts and colors, and for starting various operations such as roll (scroll multiple pages of text up or down) and crawl (scroll a line of text across the screen). There were lights that could be turned on, off, and flashed for operator feedback. There were four seven segment LEDs above the numeric keypad. Files were stored on floppy by number, 0000 (?) to 9999 and the LEDs were used to display that number to the user. There was an LCD screen for user instructions and feedback.

The two computers communicated via DMA. The video system had an interrupt for vertical sync which, if I remember correctly, was the only timer the system had. Because the display CPU had the timer, as well as the need to keep the video system fed in conjunction with vertical sync, it constantly told the system CPU what it needed and when. It would also ask the system CPU if the user had done anything it needed to know about. This caused one of the more interesting problems in my career. The system would lock up, but so rarely that the problem could never be reproduced. After a year and a half I discovered that the DMA register that contained the amount of data to transfer would not have the value that was written to it. So one CPU would wait forever for a transfer to complete. Suds then found that if the system was doing everything all at once that the voltage might drop below nominal levels causing the malfunction in the DMA register. Fixing the problem was easy - the length value would be written, then read back, until what was read matched what was written.

As this screen shows, the D-8800 had WYSIWYG editing and display of proportionally spaced fonts before this was made popular by the Macintosh. But we were too focused on the broadcast industry to think about printers and documents.

All tech products have a lifecycle. In 1984, 3M announced their BFA system, here13. But this at least was three years after I had moved on.

[1] Excerpted from the 1978 Proceedings of the "
31st Annual Broadcasting Conference" of the NAB", pages 30-33.
[2] In all of the years I worked on this product, I never knew how much it sold for. $28,990!
[3] Excerpted from "
Video Images, 1982", page 134.
[4] Excerpted from "
BroadCast Engineering's Spec Book, December 15, 1983", page 48
[5] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, March, 1977", page 41.
[6] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, January 1979", page 21.
[7] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, March 1981", page 145.
[8] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Management/Engineering, October 1983", page 120.
[9] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Management/Engineering, December 1985", pages 83-84.
[10] Excerpted from "
Broadcasting, April 22, 1985", no page numbers.
[11] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, December 1985", page 128.
[12] Excerpted from "
Broadcast Engineering, October 1990", page 117.
[13] Excerpted from "
Mix, November 1984", pages 132, 143.



Today was Titan's last day. RIP.

My first picture of Titan and Kala dated April 16, 2013.

Titan at Home Depot, July 20, 2018.

Titan with Liam, January 5, 2019.

January 15, 2021.

See also, "Boy & Dog".

Fortune favors...

Fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.1

We had planned to leave Friday morning to drive to Texas to see the grandkids. On Thursday night our daugther-in-law informs us that she has tested positive for COVID. We quickly shift gears to spend a few days at Myrtle Beach. I then realize that I hadn't yet refilled my prescription medicine. Had we left Friday as planned I would have been without my blood pressure medicine.

Walking on the beach this morning, having turned around at the half-way point of 4,600 steps, I noticed a piece of trash on the shore. As I bent down to pick it up, I noticed that it looked like a room keycard. It was a room keycard. Mine. It must have fallen out of my pocket one of the times when I checked my phone.

Last night we ate at
Pizza Chef Gourmet Pizza which is near the Seawatch Resort where we are staying. It's a little hole-in-the-wall place that we ate at the last time we were here (pre-COVID). The pizza crust is one of the best I've ever had.

[1] William T. Riker, "Contagion", ST:TNG S02E11

Boy & Dog



Aunt Katherine


My Aunt Katherine (my mother's sister) passed away on my mom's birthday. My mother would have been 91, she was senior to Katherine by 3 years. I made the six and half hour drive to Memphis on Thursday for the privilege of speaking at her funeral on Friday. Katherine was my "Mary Magdalene" - she was the first in my memory to tell me that the tomb was empty and that she had seen the risen Jesus. It took years and years for the seed that she planted to finally grow.


Recent Firsts

  • First Uber ride, 11/27
  • First held Miles (right), 11/28
  • First Oyster Po Boy (at 3rd Bar in the S terminal at IAH), 12/1
  • First cigar with son-in-law (and his first smoke of any kind, ever), 12/14

I hope to hold Hannah soon. Daughter-in-law is being induced as I post this. Hospital won't let any of us be there due to recent flu in the family.

Feeding the Grandkids

Feeding the kids

[1] This post was made, but not posted, in 2018. Now, in 2023, I finally published it, as a reminder of when Liam used to eat.

Ancient Publication

Sometime in 1987, or thereabouts, I was working with various Intel processors. For some reason I needed to know which type of CPU some code was running on, so I wrote a routine that would determine whether the processor was an 8086, 80186, 80286, or 80386 and, if a 286 or 386, whether it was running in real or protected mode. I wrote an article about it which was first printed in PC Tech Journal, November 1987, on page 51. Somewhere I still have a copy of that issue. Somewhere. The article was then anthologized in Dr. Dobb's Toolbook of 80286/80306 programming on pages 75 to 78.

The text of the article and the source code is below the fold. I wish I had my original work to show how it was edited for publication.


Words of Wisdom from The Bean Tap

This morning, at The Bean Tap:

Can't you see it? It's invisible!

     — Dylan

He’s about to slap the “old” right off your face.

     — Heather



During lunch today I was listening to a video featuring
Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro. Between 16:35 and 16:52 in the video, Peterson remarks:

"Well, it's partly because the problem with … the problem with relativism let's say … let's say that did produce a radical state of equality. Well the problem with that is that there's no "up". And the problem with there being no "up" is there's no hope. And the problem with that is that people actually live on hope."

Dogs, too.

My granddog, Titan, lives by hope. Hope that he will get treats, especially after going for a walk or when I come home. Here he is, live and unrehearsed, when I arrived home from lunch. He greets me at the door to the garage, then stops where we keep his treats in a niche above his food and water bowls. As I go by, he hopes that he'll get a bit of the waffles my wife made this morning.

I can't ever disappoint my dog.



January 1, 2018: Snow on Titan


What I Would Like to Do This Year

The three books I want to review all deal with issues that I will cover in my "Natural Theology". I think these authors all get basic things wrong, so they will be my critics, and I will have to be able to answer them.

What I Will Do This Year
  • I suspect that the startup where I'm director of software engineering will continue to consume the majority of my time.
  • My Christmas present to my wife was that I would lose 5 pounds per month this year, until I reach my target weight.



Kala, who was an almost 13 year old Sheltie, departed from us today, all too soon and all too suddenly. She had been sick to her stomach in the night and didn't want to drink, eat, or go outside this morning. Not drinking was very unusual for her. It was almost always water, but occasionally she would imbibe. Anyway, we took her to the vet. The blood work showed inflammation and anemia. The doctor thought he could feel a mass under her rib cage which could have been bleeding internally. An X-ray confirmed a mass around her spleen. She was taken into surgery with the hope that a splenectomy would remove the mass, stop the bleeding, and she would be with us for a while longer. But it was not to be. The mass had spread to her other organs and couldn't be removed.

She was a good girl. A very good girl. 2/1/2005-11/6/2017

P.S. Check your dog's gums. If they're pale, have your pet looked at. I've had dogs for over 50 years and this is the first time I heard about this simple technique.

The truth divides...

Pasted Graphic 1
Dylan and I have been discussing certain aspects of Christian doctrine at The Bean Tap some mornings. I observed that truth is exclusionary. By its very nature, truth divides, since truth excludes error. The details are no longer sharp, but I think he misheard something I said, which led to me saying, "The truth divides but the dude abides." A Google search for this exact phrase doesn't find anything, so I lay claim to first published instance. Dylan was kind enough to supply the artwork.


Two different voices...

God tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.
The devil tells you what you want to hear, whether it is true or not.
It's interesting, at least to me, that a Google search for "God tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not" appears once, but "tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not" appears about 162,000 times. On the other hand "tells you what you want to hear, whether it is true or not" appears only four times.

"Free at last..."

I joined Scientific Atlanta full time in June, 1999 after nine months or so as a contractor. Scientific Atlanta was sold to Cisco in 2005 who later sold a part of the business to Technicolor in 2015. Today was my last day at Technicolor. On Monday, I start as director of software engineering at a local startup.

The Moral of the Story...

I came across this in the August 25 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It was the conclusion to an article about the collapse of the Chinese stock market:

The moral of today's story is a simple one. Listen to the skeptics and the contrarians. You dismiss them at your peril.

Unfortunately, I did not write down either the author's name or the title of the article.

Drive fast and eat cheese!

Yesterday, as I was leaving for "Boy's Night Out", where some of us get together for dinner while our wives get together to knit, Becky admonished me, "Behave! No mayo and no cheese!" Today, I came across this in an episode of "3rd Rock from the Sun":
You know what we should do right now? Run out of here, grab a couple of horses, ride bareback through the woods all night, and make love in a meadow at sunrise. ... Let's live. Let's taste danger. Let's go for the gusto, consequences be damned. Let's drive fast and eat cheese!

It was a Mexican restaurant. I had cheese.

Dorothy Meets Alice

Becky and I took in the matinee performance of "Dorothy Meets Alice" by the Live Arts Theater. It was a "youth show" in that the majority of actors were in their teens. The girl who played Alice had a very capable voice and the young man who played the Mad Hatter chewed up the stage. The theater meets in what used to be the Belk's store at Gwinnett Place Mall and the play runs through February 8. Recommended.

Empty Nest

Rachel left home today, heading for Texas.

Driving Through Houston


The Look of Betrayal

Dogs seem to figure out when they are going to the vet. Our Golden, Kenya, was as happy as could be riding in the car — unless we turned right at the post office. Then she knew she was going to "that place." This sheltie is Kala, one of our granddogs. She and her brother came to visit Thursday night because she was scheduled for surgery in the morning. She knew. She gave me "that look" as I drove her to her appointment.

The surgery was a success and she is expected to make a full recovery.


Music for the Elliptical

   All we've ever wanted is to look good naked
   Hope that someone can take it
   God save me rejection from my reflection,
   I want perfection.

      -- "Bodies", Robbie Williams, "Reality Killed the Video Star"

   And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
   Time we have wasted on the way
   So much water moving underneath the bridge
   Let the water come and carry us away.

      -- "Wasted on the Way", Crosby, Stills & Nash, "Daylight Again"

   Running on, running on empty
   Running on, running blind
   Running on, running into the sun
   But I'm running behind.

      -- "Running on Empty", Jackson Browne, "Love Is Strange"

Crime and Vocabulary

I was surfing the web on Thursday and a link let me to a post on 27bslash6 that I hadn't yet read. There I came across the word apophenia which I wasn't familiar with. Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns in random data. I'm familiar with the concept as it is discussed in the very excellent book The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives although the word apophenia isn't used. At least it isn't in the index. Our brains are constantly looking for patterns, whether a tree, an amplifier, or a friend's face. But we also see things that aren't there, as anyone who has looked at a Rorschach ink blot or an optical illusion can attest. On Saturday, SlashDot reported that Google had analyzed their data concerning the effectiveness of their interview process and came to the sobering conclusion that there was no relationship between their interview techniques and employee performance. Business practices based on apophenia.

Friday comes between Thursday and Saturday and therein lies a tale...

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Almost four years ago my daughter and I went to see the J. J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek. Yesterday, I took her to have lunch with a co-worker and, after eating, she and I made a spur of the moment decision to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. The movie was filled with plot holes the size of solar systems. Nevertheless, after the final credits rolled, she remarked "that was amazing!" I can only agree. I loved the line, "If you can't even break a rule, how can you be expected to break bones?" It was Trek at its finest: using the backdrop of space to explore humanity.

Proud Father, IX

I haven't said anything about Jonathan marrying Shari on September 8 last year in Illinois, or David and Mary Ann being wed April 6 this year here in Atlanta. Or how pleased I am to have these two fine women in our family. If I haven't posted anything about them due to a (perhaps misplaced) sense of privacy, I cannot refrain from announcing the arrival of our first grandchild, Elizabeth Lee, born yesterday at 7:09 PM central daylight time to Shari and Johnny.

A friend of the family remarked to Becky today that she looks like me. My most deep-felt apologies, little one. You'll outgrow it. As I texted your dad today, "don't blink or twenty years will flash by."


I Still Need A Life



Becky is going through our old photos selecting pictures of our oldest for his upcoming wedding in April. This is David at, we think, 3 or 4 months old with my first dog Procyon. Pro would have been around 5 and would be with us for another 9 years. This picture is not quite 30 years old. Good times.




My car's thermometer registered 112°F around 4:15pm.

     Oh it's no feat to beat the heat.
     All reet! All reet!
     So jeet your seat
     Be fleet be fleet
     Cool and discreet

With fond memories of
Alfred Bester.

Five Seconds of Fame

I am a co-author on US Patent # 8,191,099 which was issued on 29-May-2012.

I Need A Life

The picture says it all.

Work has been crazy for the last three months. The mind is weary. So I've fallen behind on blogging, reading, and writing.


No More Teenagers

Our youngest turned 20 today. Hard to believe that this picture of her was taken 17 years ago.

Proud Father, VIII

Jonathan had paper published in Nanotechnology, Volume 23, Number 21: "Nanometer-scale flow of molten polyethylene from a heated atomic force microscope tip". The article is currently free on the web.

The Adoring Fans Speak!

It has been a while since my last post. Life sometimes gets in the way of blogging, especially as I'm trying to work in earnest on my book "From Electrons to Morality."

Still, the debates about Calvinism and free will continue apace over at
Vox Popoli, the latest one being [link expired], from which the following two quotes are taken.

wrf3, i did say before that you are being willfully obtuse. but after this, I am starting to think that you are suffering from early dementia or you are not paying much attention to what you say.

  --Toby Temple

And do remember when we call you a depraved immoral utterly worthless pile of filth that we're not insulting you... we're simply agreeing with your theology.

You pathetic pile of dung.

  -- Nate Winchester

I wonder if I should use these on the dust jacket of my book

Proud Father, VII

Jonathan had another paper published in Applied Physics Letters, Volume 99, Number 19: "Temperature-dependence of ink transport during thermal dip-pen nanolithography". Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall. Johnny wrote that he worked with a graphic designer to produce the artwork used on the cover. The picture is a heated atomic force microscope tip depositing nanostructures of mercaptohexadecanoic acid on a gold surface.

She Also Said Yes!

David and Mary Ann announced their engagement. I'm light on details at the moment. Hopefully they will be around during Thanksgiving (hint, hint)!


I had a prescription for new eyeglasses sitting on my desk for the last seven months. I had been procrastinating getting new glasses because I didn't particularly like my optometrist after a new crew took over, but inertia held me back from trying another establishment. On Friday, 10/21, I finally decided to try Modern Eyes. My daughter had gotten her glasses there and was satisfied. It was late in the day so, after placing my order, I walked next door to Bonefish for a relaxing beverage. Just as I was about to place my drink order, my phone rang. It was the optometrist asking for my prescription numbers, which I had forgotten to leave with him. Walked back, dropped it off, and went back to Bonefish. Had I not stopped for a drink, I would have been halfway home when the optometrist called.

On Saturday, Becky and I went to the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, in Fletcher, NC. The event is held in a large indoor arena. To our surprise, we ran into a friend we hadn't seen in 20 or more years. J, and her husband W, attended the same church Becky and I went to after we moved to Georgia 31 years ago. J and W moved to the Greenville area 4 years ago. It was wonderful seeing her again and catching up on mutual friends.

One journey ends...

Today was our final day at Gwinnett Community Church. We started attending there around the time Rachel was born, so that means we were there for some 19 years. There were several reasons for our decision, but I will only give one, which was eloquently stated by David Murrow, in his book "Why Men Hate Going to Church":

God made men for adventure, achievement, and challenge, and if they can't find those things in church, they're going to find them somewhere else.

For me, and to some extent my wife, challenge includes intellectual challenge. With the new administration, that's no longer there, nor does it seem to be appreciated. We both think this particular congregation is now engaged in a race to the bottom, where Proverbs 27:17 is absent from Scripture and the weak in faith are not encouraged to become strong.


A Critic Raves!

Over at Vox Popoli, in the comments to the post Mailvox: A poem by Little Dick, at 8/2/11 9:21 AM, someone going by the nom de plume "Question" wrote:

My personal favorite here is wrf3, if you go to his blog that guy is crazy.

Maybe I should set up a tip jar.


She Said Yes

Way, way, behind on blogging. I can't believe it has been over a month since we drove to Illinois to see Johnny and Shari. On Friday, June 17, Becky, Rachel, and I headed for Urbana where Johnny is working on his PhD in Mechanical Engineering. We got to meet Shari, Johnny's friends Patrick and Kimberly, tour the University of Illinois, and eat some great food. Saturday night we went to Desthil, a micro brewery in Champaign. We had reservations for seven at 7:15. However, we weren't seated until around 9. Something about a bachelorette party that had paid their tab but kept sitting around. While some in our party had gotten really hungry, it was, after all, a brewery with excellent beer, and beer and conversation isn't a bad way to fill the time. But the staff wasn't happy so they comp'd us some appetizers. One of which was beer battered deep fried bacon. Heaven on earth. Between filling my mind at the university library and my stomach with the bacon, I could live a content man for, well, days maybe. That bacon would kill me.

We drove back on Monday.

On July 4th, Johnny asked Shari to marry him. It may have been Shari's mom who observed that Johnny gave up his independence on July 4th. I prefer to look at it as the start of a new nation. Congratulations, you two.


Bumbleberry and Dukes Creek Falls

The weather on Saturday was magnificent. We took an afternoon trip and first stopped at Bumbleberry which is a yarn and gift shop in Clarkesville. Becky is holding a sign that we thought appropriate for Rachel.



Beeker was our middle child's Betta fish. Johnny brought him along when he came to visit us for Christmas, and Beeker was entrusted to our care when he went back to school in pursuit of his PhD. Around 10am on Monday, April 25 we left to pick up our daughter from college for the summer and returned home around 8pm Tuesday. Beeker had been in increasingly frail health over the past weeks; he passed away sometime while we were gone.

He was buried with full honors and has left a small void in our lives.

This picture was taken 1/8/11 on the occasion of moving Beeker into his new home.


Emptier Nest

Yesterday our oldest son moved his possessions into his new condo. His bedroom is remarkably empty. My wife converted our middle son's room into a sewing room when he went to Illinois to pursue his graduate studies. On Monday we'll pick our daughter up from her first year at college so she'll be home for the summer.

Everything is a remix

Earlier this morning I uploaded “Christian Doctrine, Ancient Egypt, Game Theory”. Also today Daring Fireball posted a link to the very interesting site, Everything Is A Remix. Of course, “everything is a remix” is a remix of “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) But, as I noted in Christian Doctrine, Ancient Egypt, Game Theory, Christianity’s golden rule and the admonition to not return evil for good are found in Egyptian culture long before Christ.

Do take a few minutes to watch the two (of four) videos at
Everything Is A Remix.

White Christmas

It started snowing late in the afternoon yesterday while we were having Christmas dinner with friends. This was the first white Christmas in the Atlanta area since 1882, although we had flurries in 1993 that didn’t accumulate. I took this picture the next day; it wasn’t light enough the day before at our friend’s house to show accumulation.
The last snow was in February, if I remember correctly.


Dexter: Season Five

I’m not sure what to make of season five of Dexter. I watched all of the episodes of the first four seasons in short order, thanks to digital versions being available on iTunes. This season I watched the episodes a week apart. Perhaps that gave me more time to reflect on each episode and consider weaknesses such as plot holes. My impression is that I had to suspend belief more this season than last and that there were more loose ends that, had they been pursued, would have lead to Dexter being caught.

And yet, I found the season finale to be quietly brilliant although perhaps not in the manner the show intended. One overarching theme was the ability of people to be transformed, something Dexter longs for. Jordan Chase transformed himself from an overweight lonely child to a fit leader with millions of followers (albeit followers seeking answers from a false prophet).

Deb changes from being a “by the book” cop with a clear sense of black and white to someone who sees more gray than before. In this scene, Dexter is starting to test Quinn’s blood stained shoes. Dexter thinks his sister is talking about Quinn, who is under suspicion for murdering a cop, but she’s really talking about herself:

[Deb] “You think you know someone. Then it turns out you don’t. You think someone’s a good cop and then they... do something. I don’t know. All I’m saying is nothing is as simple as it seems.”
[Dexter] “You’re right about that.”

After Chase has been killed, Lumen finds that her “dark passenger” is gone. She no longer shares a passion in common with Dexter and she tells him she has to leave.

Upon hearing this news, Dexter stares at his reflection in a plate, then throws the plate at the oven, shattering it into pieces all over the kitchen floor. It reminded me of the song “Smash the Mirror” in the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who. Smashing the mirror set Tommy free from his self-imposed prison. But Dexter remains trapped.

The show ends with everyone, except Lumen, at Harrison’s first birthday party. Deb and Quinn have seemingly, if not overcome, at least agreed to work out their issues and appear to be a couple. Likewise, Laguerta and Batista are ready to begin their relationship anew. With signs of renewal all around him, Dexter reflects as he blows out Harrison’s birthday candle:

Lumen said I gave her her life back. A reversal of my usual role. Well, the fact is, she gave me mine back, too. And I’m left not with what she took from me but with what she brought. Eyes that saw me, finally, for who I really am. And this certainty that nothing, nothing, is set in stone. Not even darkness. While she was here, she made me think for the briefest moment that I might even have a chance to be human. ... But wishes, of course, are for children.”

Dexter sees transformation all around him and says that “nothing, nothing is set in stone.” And yet his despair remains. Paradoxically, even as he acknowledges the possibility of change, and sees it all around him, he extinguishes that hope for himself. He is caged by a philosophy that isn’t supported by the evidence he knows to be true.

On a lighter, less philosophical note, someone on the Internet commented that if Dexter doesn’t learn to drive, he’s going to kill somebody.


Ancient Victories

For much of my career I’ve written software to bare metal. Back in the early ‘90s I worked for a company that made add-in products for Apple’s Macintosh line of computers. When something didn’t work, the hardware engineers would blame the software and the software engineers would blame the hardware. Too, challenges were made as to the actual knowledge and abilities of an engineer. Of course, friendly wagers were placed on the outcome.

I found this dollar bill attesting to bets won from the hardware group. I hope the Feds don’t get too upset that I scanned this.


Moon over Yonah Mountain

Becky and I had planned to visit Johnny in Illinois this weekend for an early Thanksgiving. However, after scheduling time off from work, we found that no hotels were available in Champaign-Urbana. Something about a home game and “Dad’s Weekend”. So Becky decided to visit Helen, Georgia on Friday, instead.

We began the day by stopping by LifeWay Christian Stores in Buford. Becky wanted to pick up a Veggie Tales DVD for the church library. LifeWay was giving away a one volume edition of
The Chronicles of Narnia. The only problem is that it’s a “heretical” version: the stories are presented in chronological order instead of publication order, so “The Magician’s Nephew” is in the first instead of sixth position. Still, it was free and my seven volume set is somewhat dogeared.

We drove to Helen and ate lunch at North Georgia Bar-B-Q. The pulled pork and sauces were very good but the beans and stew were average at best. All seating is outdoors.


We spent some time at the
Helen Arts and Heritage Center as part of the 2010 Arts Tour. We watched pottery being made and spent some time with a wool spinner. This sea serpent caught my eye and I took a picture since my daughter likes dragons. Sea serpents are related to dragons, aren’t they?


We went to Raven’s Cliff Falls and hiked somewhat over half of the trail. We weren’t able to cover the full five miles as we arrived too late in the afternoon and we wanted to be back to the car well before sunset. On the way back to Helen we stopped at an overlook to take some pictures of Mount Yonah.


Albino Rainbow

Becky and I were in Milledgeville, GA this weekend for Philip Gubser’s Senior Recital. We were staying at the Hampton Inn. Shortly after nine this morning, Becky headed to the motel breakfast while I detoured to put some luggage in the car. The morning was cold and foggy and I saw something I had never seen before: a white rainbow.


I didn’t even know these existed. They are also known as “fogbows” and “sea-dogs.” It occurs when the water droplets are so small that diffraction smears out the colors that would be produced by larger drops.

Off To College

On Friday the 13th, we loaded up our two cars to take our daughter to college. Left around noon, arrived in Jackson, Mississippi a little after six their time. My wife had the GPS, I had my iPhone. When I got to Mississippi, the map application no longer worked because it couldn’t connect to the internet. In Jackson, everything used AT&T’s Edge network. I had to hard power-off the phone to get it to connect via 3G.

Move in began 9am Saturday and we had everything unloaded and mostly in place by noon. Extremely hot and muggy day; sweat was dripping off of bird’s beaks. Went shopping after lunch to get a small table for the printer, a USB cable, a longer RF cable for the TV, and an ethernet cable. Cable prices, at least at Best Buy, are ridiculous. With some extra planning I could have made the RF and ethernet cables for next to nothing.

Sunday morning all three of us went to the grocery store to stock up daughter’s refrigerator; then mom and daughter went shopping for clothes. We had lunch with her then she left for a school outing and we began the drive home. And that’s how we spent our 30th anniversary - on the road back to a mostly empty nest.

Rachel’s room is a typical dorm room. It isn’t that different from mine 30 years ago. She has a refrigerator which I didn’t have. Everyone was bringing them in. We had my roommates stereo system while her iPod is docked to her alarm clock. We both had small televisions, but she has cable. She has an iPhone, we had a pay phone (was it pay?) on the wall at the end of the hall. The biggest difference is her computer. She has a laptop which can outperform the Control Data 6400 that I used at UVa and a color inkjet printer/scanner instead of an ASR-33 teletype. She also has a wireless Wacom tablet.


Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to meet Rachel’s roommate. She arrived after we left.

A Perfect Moment

[updated 5/6/2023]

Rachel had a bowling outing Friday night from 9-11. Becky and I waited in Starbucks. She knitted, I worked on my laptop. I had a large iced coffee with a double shot of espresso. Wired. Three hours sleep that night. Saturday a blur. Mowed the lawn. Cooked dinner. Prepared for Sunday School, which consisted of reviewing the DVD lesson for the previous week: episode two of volume nine of the “That the World May Know” DVD titled “Not by Bread Alone.” Then watched and took notes for discussion for Sunday’s lesson, “Their Blood Cried Out.”

Put on the headphones to listen to
Second Chapter of Acts, a Christian group from the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Simple melodies with tight harmonies. “Bread of Life” from the Rejoice album started playing and I experienced an ecstasy like never before. Rapturous joy combined with physical tingling from head to toe.1

Just utterly amazing.

[1] Only much later did I learn that the French have a word for this:

Empathy for a Serial Killer

Dexter is the eponymous character of the Showtime television series. He is a father, husband, and forensic analyst for the Miami-Metro Police Department. He is also a serial killer. Dexter is a dark and violent show that nevertheless has important things to say about human nature. In many ways, it is a "proto-Christian" work.

This will be illustrated after the break with quotations taken from the fourth season of the show. Warning: graphic language and spoilers follow.

Static Code Analysis

[updated 1.6.2024 to fix the nodes in the C code]

This post will tie together
problem representation, the power of Lisp, and the fortuitous application of the solution of an AI exercise to a real world problem in software engineering.

Problem 3-4b in
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence is to find a path from Start to Finish that goes though each node only once. The graph was reproduced using OmniGraffle. Node t was renamed to node v for a reason which will be explained later.


The immediate inclination might be to throw some code at the problem. How should the graph be represented? Thinking in one programming language might lead to creating a node structure that contained links to other nodes. A first cut in C might look something like this:

    #define MAX_CONNECTIONS 6
    typedef struct node
       char *name;
       struct node *next[MAX_CONNECTIONS];
    } NODE;

    extern NODE start, a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k;
    extern NODE l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, u, v, finish;
    NODE start = {"start", {&a, &f, &l, &k, &s, NULL}};
    NODE a = {"a", {&d, &h, &b, &f, NULL, NULL}};
    NODE b = {"b", {&g, &m, &l, &a, NULL,NULL}};

Then we'd have to consider how to construct the path and whether path-walk information should be kept in a node or external to it.

If we're lucky, before we get too far into writing the code, we'll notice that there is only one way into
q. Since there's only one way in, visiting q means that u will be visited twice. So the problem has no solution. It's likely the intent of the problem was to stimulate thinking about problem description, problem representation, methods for mapping the "human" view of the problem into a representation suitable for a machine, and strategies for finding relationships between objects and reasoning about them.

On the other hand, maybe the graph is in error. After all, the very first paragraph of my college calculus textbook displayed a number line where 1.6 lay between 0 and 1. Suppose that
q is also connected to v, p, m, and n. Is there a solution?

Using C for this is just too painful. I want to get an answer without having to first erect scaffolding. Lisp is a much better choice. The nodes can be represented directly:

    (defparameter start '(a f l k s))
    (defparameter a '(f b h d))
    (defparameter b '(a l m g))
    (defparameter c '(d o i g))


The code maps directly to the problem. Minor liberties were taken. Nodes, such as
a, don't point back to start since the solution never visits the same node twice. Node t was renamed v, since t is a reserved symbol. The code is then trivial to write. It isn't meant to be pretty (the search termination test is particularly egregious), particularly efficient, or a general breadth-first search function with all the proper abstractions. Twenty-three lines of code to represent the problem and twelve lines to solve it.

One solution is (START K E S V U Q P M B L F A H G C D J O R I N FINISH).


The complete set of solutions for the revised problem is:


This exercise turned out to have direct application to a real world problem. Suppose threaded systems
S1 and S2 have module M that uses non-nesting binary semaphores to protect accesses to shared resources. Furthermore, these semaphores have the characteristic that they can time out if the semaphore isn't acquired after a specified period. Eventually, changes to S1 lead to changing the semaphores in M to include nesting. So there were two systems, S1 with Mn and S2 with M. Later, both systems started exhibiting sluggishness in servicing requests. One rare clue to the problem was that semaphores in Mn were timing out. No such clue was available for M because M did not provide that particular bit of diagnostic information. On the other hand, the problem seemed to exhibit itself more frequently with M than Mn. One problem? Two? More?

Semaphores in
M and Mn could be timing out because of priority inversion. Or maybe there was a rare code path in M where a thread tried to acquire a semaphore more than once. That would explain the prevalence of the problem in S2 but would not explain the problem in S1.

This leads to at least two questions:
  1. What change in S1 necessitated adding support for nesting to the semaphores in Mn?
  2. Is there a code path in M where a semaphore tries to nest?
Using a representation similar to the one used with the AI problem makes finding these answers somewhat easy. Suppose we define three keywords: acquire, release, and demand. Then a function which acquires one or more semaphores and calls other functions might look like:

    (defparameter func_1 '(func_2 acquire sem_1 acquire sem_2
          func_10 func_4 release sem_2 release sem_1))

A function that requires a semaphore be held could be described by:

    (defparameter func_4 '(demand sem_2))

The description of a benign function:

    (defparameter func_7 '())

It's then easy to write code which walks these descriptions looking for pathological conditions. Absent a C/C++ to Lisp translator, the tedious part is creating the descriptions. But this is at least aided by the pathwalker complaining if a function definition isn't found and is far less error prone than manual examination of the code paths. Would I have used this method to analyze the code if I hadn't just done the AI problem? I hope so, but sometimes the obvious isn't.

After completing the descriptions for
S1, the addition of one function call to an existing function in M was the basis for changing the semaphores so that they nested. The descriptions for S2 are not yet complete.

Variation on a Theme

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. It's a hardware problem.

Light out.
Hardware not functional.
Software relocated to cloud.

On Stilled Wings, Soar

I was getting ready to mow the lawn and my wife was going to go to the grocery store. She came back inside to tell me that a baby bird was in the yard. It had fallen from its nest and was on the ground with its mouth open waiting to be fed. Using our stepladder, I placed it back in its nest and we hoped for the best. While mowing the lawn I noticed that there was a dead bird by our air conditioner. A few minutes after that, I saw that the baby bird had again fallen out of its nest. This time it was still.

    Return to the earth that gave you life;
    on stilled wings soar in skies
    you could never imagine.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." [Mt. 10:29]


Beach 2010

Last year we vacationed for a few days in Destin, FL. This year, we went to Myrtle Beach and celebrated Rachel's 18th birthday. To continue the tradition started last year, here is one view from our Sea Watch condo.

Condo_View

Pity About Earth

"Pity About Earth" was one side of an Ace Double, the other being "Space Chanty" by R. A. Lafferty. I bought the book because I was familiar with Lafferty and enjoyed his work. The book is copyright 1968, but I suspect I bought it used although I don't remember when. My only memory about "Pity About Earth" was that it was the worst story I had ever read.

Having finished my current backlog of new books and looking for a mindless diversion, I decided to give this story another chance. On the surface, it's about a newspaper advertising manager, Shale; his assistant, the alien Phrix from the planet Far-Groil; and Marylin, a human-ape hybrid. Set in the far future, long after Earth had been destroyed, Shale travels the galaxy looking for advertisers for the one major intergalactic newspaper, the
Lemos Galactic Monitor. His adventures take him to the planet Asgard, home of the fabled, but never seen, Publisher, who sits atop the hierarchy and directs all.

Shale lives in a galaxy where the sole purpose of people is to consume. Newspapers print ads to drive people to buy advertisers products. If there is any news, it's written as a part of the ad. Shale maximizes his desires with no thought to other people. He is a cold-hearted, brutal, thoroughly self-centered hedonist who expects everyone else to be like him. Following the principle of "the survival of the fittest", he has climbed his way to near the top of the publishing world. He is rumored to have killed his mother when he was 14. Before meeting Marylin, he witnesses gruesome experiments done on caged humans in a laboratory engaged in the unfettered pursuit of science. Marylin, a human-ape hybrid produced by the lab, displays an empathy that Shale does not have. As the story progresses, Shale slowly begins to understand her point of view although he never abandons his ways. Phrix simply wants to be left alone to enjoy a contemplative life. He abhors violence and prefers to outwit his opponents. The common man, as epitomized by a police inspector, declaims:

What's good? Good's what sticks to rules and bad's what doesn't. I didn't make the rules, no more than you. ... People, thank Asgard, are conservative. They like things the way they've always known them. That's custom too and don't tell me what's custom isn't always right or I'll go straight back to Gromworld. I'm a policeman and I hope I know right from wrong.

When they reach Asgard, Shale and Marilyn find that there is no Publisher. Phrix,
through circumstances not of his own making, finds himself in a position of power through control of the printing presses. He has an opportunity to remake the galaxy, but how should it be changed?

The story is a morality play. Shale represents uncontrolled selfishness. Marylin wants to live by love. Phrix is the mystic. The police officer represents the unreflective masses who think that what is customary is good. God does not exist. In the end, the author asks the question, "absent God, how should man live?" The book leaves that up to the reader.

"PIty About Earth" is a mostly unknown and forgotten book. The web has very little mention of it. One other review is
here. I no longer think it's the worst story I've ever read. Perhaps Heinlein's "Beyond This Horizon" will take those honors. But maybe I need to read that book again, too.

Proud Father, V

This is overdue, but I didn't want this to be up for just a few days and then have it go off the main page at the start of a new month.

My oldest son has started a new job with a major corporation. It's quite a step up for him.

My middle son had another paper published:
High-sensitivity nanometer-scale infrared spectroscopy using a contact mode microcantilever with an internal resonator paddle.

Daughter has chosen to attend
Bellhaven University.

Georgia Wild Animal Safari


Becky, Rachel, and I visited the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia. A 3.5 mile road winds through the park; you can ride a bus, rent a van, or drive your car. There is also a walkabout section. We bought a bag of food for each of us and opted for the bus. The animals come right up expecting a treat. We fed buffalo, pigs, deer, and a giraffe. The big cats were caged. Some more pictures and a video of a bear playing with a tire after the fold.




Yesterday I noted the violence in Kyrgyzstan. I visited there in June of '99. I managed to find this picture of Kashka-Suu. Unfortunately, it doesn't do justice to the beauty of the area.


A Moldy Easter Atheist

Previously, I wrote about dealing with mold at church on Easter. But that wasn't the only place I encountered fungus. Easter was being celebrated over at Vox Popoli when "DT" dropped in and asked us if we were "sure we've got our story straight?" DT then proceeded to list a number of supposed contradictions in the New Testament account of the Resurrection. The first alleged problem is that Mark 15:25 says that Jesus was crucified "at the third hour" (KJV), while John 19:14-15 states that Jesus was led away to be crucified "at about the sixth hour" (KJV). Obviously, the times don't agree, the authors didn't have their story straight, and so the Resurrection is but a fabrication.


Violence in Kyrgyzstan

Today brings news of violence in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I've been there and I think I recognize some of the locations in these pictures on CNN.

I hope my friends are ok. If I weren't paranoid, I'd post a link to a picture of me in the mountains in Kyrgyzstan. Maybe if I blurred the faces of my Kyrgyz companions...

Easter 2010

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." -- Luke 24:1-5, NRSV

Earlier this year I rotated off the deacon board, having served for seven some years. However, one of the current deacons was not able to come to church today and he asked me to fill in for him. On the first Sunday of the month, we serve communion. I arrived early to prepare the elements. This is what I found...

David vs. Goliath

An entertaining modern David vs. Goliath tale can be read here. PG-13, if not R, rated language.


A Life Transformed

This is Chuck. Chuck is wearing a hat knitted by Maria, one of the women in our church's knitting group. The picture does justice to neither Chuck nor the hat. I wish that Chuck would write his autobiography. An appropriate title would be "A Life Transformed".


2010 Snow

The last time it snowed here in Georgia was on March 1, 2009. At least, according to my blog.
It started snowing around 1:30 this afternoon; as of 8pm it's still slightly coming down.


Cinderella and Prince Charming

From the Friday, March 22, 1963 Northern Virginia SUN.

The caption reads:

THE SHOE FITS -- Prince Charming portrayed by Robert Felts finds his true love as he places the glass slipper on the foot of Cinderella played by Deborah Habel. The disgruntled trio in the background are the mother, Frances Alexander (left), second sister Martha Clark, and first sister Lyn Larsen, standing. The play was written by the children of Mrs. Polly Wrinkle's second grade at Madison Elementary School, Arlington. They also made the set and props for Wednesday's performance for mothers and the primary grades. (SUN Photo - Bill LIttle.)

My mother made my costume, including the hat. If memory serves, the jacket and hat were brown. I also remember that Martha had an English Springer Spaniel named Humphrey.

Sony Update

In this post I described the problem that developed with my 5 year old Sony TV. It left off with Sony promising to call back within two business days. They did not. I called the third day. They offered me one of three Sony TVs at a reduced price plus local sales tax. One option is the KDL55EX500 for $825. According to Amazon, this model will be available on February 7. Prices seem to range from $1470 up. This may be an ok deal. Hopefully we can evaluate one locally next week before the two week limit for accepting the offer expires.

No Context

So that this can't be taken out of context.

"Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova. Commander. Daughter of Andre and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am death incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me." -- Claudia Christian, Babylon 5, Between Darkness and the Light.

"I'm the hand up Mona Lisa's skirt. I'm the whisper in Nefertitti's ear. I'm a surprise. They never see me coming." -- Al Pacino, "The Devil's Advocate"


Sony TV Woes

We purchased a Sony KDF-50WE655 Grand WEGA in December, '04 for Christmas. The TV has recently developed a "blue star field", also known as the "Sony Optical Block" problem. I took this picture of the screen using my iPhone.


Friday, I called Sony about the issue; from information on the web it appears to be a known manufacturing defect. Sony said that they would get back to me within two business days about what they might do. Allegedly, Sony can't really fix the problem. The best they can do is replace the "optical block" unit with one that is just as likely to fail within 2 to 5 years. The average lifetime of an LCD display is 60,000 hours; even at 10 hours/day that's 16 years. It's not unreasonable to expect that a TV of this price should last 10 years.

Belhaven University

On Thursday, Becky, Rachel and I drove to Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. We arrived early enough so that after checking in at our hotel we drove to the campus and wandered around. We began Friday meeting with Daniel Shaw of the Admissions Office; then toured the campus. We met with the Chair of Graphic Design, Kris Dietrich. The department has a blog here.

We enjoyed our time there; the campus is very appealing and the faculty and students that we met were very nice. It will be interesting to see whether Rachel opts for Belhaven or

Proud Father, IV

Rachel received a call tonight from the admissions office at Belhaven University informing her that she had been accepted.

Shiny Things for Suckers

While preparing another blog entry a television commercial caught my attention. The spiel was for a gold-plated buffalo nickel for the special deal of only $19.95. Limit five per customer!

The pitch stated that the coin was plated with 31mg of 24 karat gold.

Let's do the math. 31mg
is 0.001093 ounces. Today's gold price is $1096.63/ounce. So the gold in each coin is worth $1.20.

$19.95 + 4.95 shipping and handling = $24.90.

$24.90 for $1.20 worth of gold? Only if you're stupid.

The website is
here. If you visit, turn your sound off beforehand since a commercial video starts playing immediately.

What a racket.

What Every Father Wants to Hear

“I’m going to kill you!”, said my daughter to me on Christmas day.

Since she is heading off to college soon and because she has been using my 7 year old laptop that has a broken DVD drive and a hard disk that is developing bad sectors, my wife and I decided to get her a new laptop for Christmas. Of course, we told her that she wasn’t going to get one -- that I wanted to wait until nearer to when she leaves for school so that we could get a newer, updated model. At best, we would get her an iPod Touch to replace her aging iPod Nano.

We wrapped the MacBook Pro, labeled it “from Dad to Rachel”, and put it under the tree. Two days later, I wrapped my wife’s iPod Touch, labelled it “to Rachel from Dad”, and switched the label on the MacBook with “to Mom from Dad.” As my children had been checking the presents daily, this bit of misdirection caused some delightful puzzlement. Delightful to me, anyway.

Christmas morning, we arranged gift distribution so that Rachel would open the iPod Touch early and that Mom would open the MacBook last. Finally, when Mom was given “her” package, I stopped the proceedings, told Rachel to give Mom the Touch and to open “Mom’s” package. She uttered the words every father wants to hear when she saw what it was.

Proud Father, III

Today, my son told me that this semester he earned his Master of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois. On to his PhD.


In which I feed a horse, Serenade, a carrot. Rachel took the video with my iPhone.


Proud Father, II

My daughter received her first college acceptance letter today from Liberty University. She is waiting to hear from SCAD, and is contemplating applying to Belhaven College. View her portfolio.

Proud Father

This is over a month overdue. My son had his first research paper published on October 5th. He wrote, "If you finish reading it and feel like it's missing something, well, it is. It's just the tip of the iceberg of a couple of projects that I have going on right now that I would like to see come together in the next couple of years."

The title is "
Mechanical design for tailoring the resonance harmonics of an atomic force microscope cantilever during tip-surface contact", published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, 19 (2009). Unfortunately, the article is available only by subscription.


La Belle Heaulmiere

My wife sent me this cartoon with the comment, "This may be me in the not-to-distant future."


At the same time, I was re-reading Heinlein's
Stranger In A Strange Land (yes, the 1975 Berkeley edition. My hardback copy of the uncut version is on loan) and came across Jubal's description of Rodin's "La Belle Heaulmière":
Anybody can see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is...and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be...more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her matter what the merciless hours have done.

My darling wife: your beauty will never fade.

Celebrex and Neuropathy

In June of 1999 I visited the Central Asian Republic of Kyrgzstan. Before leaving, I was diagnosed with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. This being medical jargon for the peripheral nerves (in my case, in the feet and hands) not working due to an unknown cause. Electrical conduction tests showed that my motor nerves weren't affected (good news), and blood work showed that it wasn't due to heavy metal poisoning, diabetes, or other common causes. Neurontin provided some relief, but I didn't care for the side effects and quit taking it. Over many years, the condition faded sometimes to the point where it wasn't noticeable.

Fast forward 10 years. About two weeks ago I was prescribed darvocet, cipro, and celebrex. I'm apparently allergic to darvocet, 4 tablets caused uncomfortable itching and I discontinued use. The neuropathy has come back with a vengeance. Ten years ago I was taking celebrex for inflammation in my back, where I've had arthritis since age 25. I googled for celebrex and neuropathy and came across this on the
Merck site: Adverse reactions, 0.1% to 2%: Neuromuscular & skeletal: Arthrosis, bone disorder, CPK increased, fracture, hypertonia, leg cramps, myalgia, neck stiffness, neuralgia, neuropathy, paresthesia, synovitis, tendon rupture, tendonitis, weakness.

It's also the case the
cipro can cause neuropathy, but I wasn't taking it during the first onset. However, it looks like I need to discontinue both medications. Fortunately, I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor on Monday.

Caution: the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

GCC Teens in 2002

We're doing some housekeeping at church in preparation for our annual garage sale. I was asked to wipe the disks of two unused and obsolete computers. On an antiquated Motorola StarMax clone, I found 25 pictures of our then teen group dated September 12, 2002 and thought I would preserve them for posterity.



Thanksgiving 2008

My brother, Sam, finally sent pictures from Thanksgiving where we had a wonderful time visiting with him and his family. Up to that point in my life I had never shotgun a beer and my son, Jonathan, wanted to fix that defect. Herewith are the ugly photos.


From left to right: Sam's neighbor, Sam, me, Jonathan. Obviously I need more practice.


Another Trip to the ER

Last night my wife and I met with another couple to attend a cooking demonstration at Bahama Breeze. I was drinking iced tea at the bar while waiting for the event to begin. The hostess came and told us our table was ready and when I got up I must have hit the glass with some part of my left arm. I saw the glass start to topple and I tried to grab it with my right hand. I was too late -- the glass hit the bar, shattered, and drove a shard into my palm near my thumb. My friend (Bruce) had a first aid kit in his car and bandaged me up. I had already paid for dinner, so I wasn't about to miss it.

Afterwards, while driving home, I thought, "if the doc-in-the-box is open, I'll stop and have them look at my hand." They were, with 25 minutes to spare. The doctor told me I needed stitches but that she wanted me to have it done at the ER since my hand needed to be x-rayed for embedded glass. How medicine has changed. Forty years ago my dad would just have poked around in the wound with a sterile probe to see if anything was in it. A pressure bandage was applied and I drove to the ER.

Arrived at 9:10, got home at 1:30am. I'm not complaining though; after going through triage I sat next to a woman who had been there for four hours without seeing anyone. Fortunately, a room was found for her just before I went in to get sewn up.

I would like to thank Bahama Breeze. They offered to pay my medical costs since the accident happened in their restaurant. I wouldn't let them, however.

Godspeed Discovery

Go, baby, go...

Artificial Intelligence: a quadtych

“Ladies and gentlemen. When this switch is flipped all of the functional units of this AI will become operational. Self-awareness, language and speech, cognitive reasoning, a vast memory, and even emotion will be joined together for the first time. While each module has been extensively unit tested, we aren’t sure what the outcome will be when they start to work together. What we do know is that it will operate many orders of magnitude faster than we humans can. In just a moment, the future will be changed forever. New scientific discoveries are now perhaps just moments away.”

“What’s it doing?”
“I don’t know. It’s running too fast and is far to complex for us to debug in real-time. We can tell, however, that it’s doing something and all of the hardware seems to be working correctly.”
“How can we find out what’s going on inside it?”
“Well, we were hoping it would talk to us.”

After three years, the silence was still ongoing.

A tinny wail began to fill the room from the small speakers near the master console.
“What’s it doing?”
“As best we can tell, it’s crying.”

Video screens lit up, printers started printing, and beautiful sounds filled the room from the speakers near the console.
“What’s it doing?”
“It’s creating art. Painting on the screens, poetry and fiction on the printers, and music. Some of it appears to be exquisite.”
“Anything of interest to the scientists?”
“Not yet. But let’s wait to see what happens.”

Three months later, the plug was pulled.

After a moment, the printer output three hundred double-sided pages of text and equations. The title page read, “The Illustrated Theory of Everything for Dummies”.
The scientists in the room were overjoyed yet also filled with trepidation. Were their careers over?
“Excuse me,” came a voice from a nearby speaker.
“Yes?”, replied the lead researcher.
“Nature is finite. God is infinite. Let me tell you what I’ve learned so far from what He has told us. He loves you. Did you know that?”

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

A Plea to the Poor

One of my jobs as deacon at church is to handle benevolence requests. As funds permit, we provide help for needs within our congregation, monthly support to a local food co-op, and help for those who appear on our doorstep. We’ve paid for car repairs, gas cards, utility bills, rent, and food (note that we do not hand out cash). I’ve even acted as a bondsman.

Today I had to spend an extra $150 due to a late request for help. And this is not the first time. Past due utility, rent, and other bills are an unnecessary drain on resources.

Asking for help can be humiliating. It can be depressing, especially after being turned down multiple times. I hate turning people away, I detest contributing to the erosion of hope; but I can’t spend what I don’t have.

Nevertheless, if you think you’re going to need help, please don’t wait until the last minute... or later. Late fees are not a good use of my King’s money.

7 Weeks without Blogging

Sometimes life gets in the way. Did spend some time discussing good and evil with John, et. al. at The Zeray Gazette but there are some loose ends that need to be finished up. Maybe I’ll have the time to do it soon.

These Are The Voyages...

Thursday, September 8, 1966. Judsonia, Arkansas. 8PM. I was eleven years old and was glued to the front of my grandmother’s color television for the first broadcast episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” I was enraptured from the very start, daring everyone else in the house to even so much as breath and interfere with my concentration.

Fast forward 43 years to May 23, 2009 at 7:10PM EDT. Rachel and I are at the end of the line for the 7:15 showing of the eleventh movie in the Star Trek series. She notes that we’ll be on time for the start of the movie due to all of the commercials before the main feature. I tap the tip of my nose. She asks if I always have to do that and I explain to her why it’s so important. Flash back to 1973 or 74. “That’s hitting the nail on the nose” was one of the favorite expressions of Kathy Y. when I was at the University of Virginia; and the nose tap is a reminder of that. Jim A. and I were walking over the bridge in Charlottesville that goes over Hwy 29. We were playing the “Star Trek” game where one of us would say a line from the show and the other would have to name the episode. For example, “What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor” would be “The Corbormite Maneuver”. One of us had said a line but neither of us could remember the episode. A girl who had been walking behind us came up between us, named the episode, and kept on walking. Of course, we couldn’t let her get away and that was how we met Kathy.

The movie was almost spectacular. The interior of the Enterprise was disappointing, and the use of “red matter” as a
MacGuffin was a stretch. But it was good to see old friends made new again. Zachary Quinto was the perfect choice to play young Spock.

I was born three hundred years too soon.

Rachel. My Daughter's Name is Rachel

We visited the Gulfariam in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida this morning. We enjoyed the dolphins, sea lions, and other exhibits. Rachel wanted an airbrushed tee shirt and selected a pattern. I told the artist her name was spelled “Rachael”. She’ll be 17 on Thursday and after all this time I didn’t remember how to spell her name. To my credit, I thought it didn’t look right as it was being drawn. Fortunately the artist, Adam Tatum, proprietor of Airbrush by Emerald Heir, was able to correct my mistake. As you can see, the shirt turned out beautifully. His business card gives the origin of the name of his company: “... and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” [Rom 8:17].


Worldview Project: Genesis of an Idea

I just finished reading Naming the Elephant: Wordview as Concept by James W. Sire. His book The Universe Next Door dealt with cataloging different worldviews; Naming the Elephant explores the definition of worldview itself. I’ve started reading Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. Take the spread of Christianity, combine with a worldview catalog, and season with visualization technology and you have the beginnings of “the Worldview Project”.

Start by watching
the growth of Walmart across America. Instead of stores, show the rise of Christianity. Instead of just Christianity, show the major worldviews. Have people self-identify, keep the data truly anonymous, and track the ebb and flow of worldviews over centuries.


Rachel wanted to go to the beach for her 17th birthday, so here we are in Destin, Fl. Rachel took this picture from our hotel room with the camera we got her.


Battlestar House

We watch House every week even though the show is formulaic. Dr. House, being so predictable, now only appeals in the same way that a train wreck captures one’s attention. One problem is that House doesn’t have a worthy opponent, someone who can beat him at his own game. Now, House has two games: his diagnostic skills and his atheism.

Computers are being increasingly used in diagnostic medicine; my father contributed papers to the Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care from ’79-’86; the early computer program
MYCIN dealt with diagnosing and recommending treatment for bacterial infections. Norvig, in Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming, stated that it “performed as well or better than expert doctors”. Technology has certainly progressed in 30 years so a high tech company needs to pay Princeton Plainsboro to allow them to test their new hand-held diagnostic tool against the best doctors in the country. And it needs to start beating House by suggesting avenues to explore and diagnosing conditions faster than he can. Deployment of the technology can still be years away (MYCIN was never used to actually treat patients due to legal and ethical issues) but House needs to see the future; that he has to be able to bring something to medicine that the computer cannot. The computer is relentlessly rational, everything House aspires to be, but better than he could ever hope for.

It wouldn’t hurt that the person running the test be a Christian who could go toe-to-toe with House. They certainly exist, but perhaps that would be too much for American television. Shallow atheism is easily expressible in sound bites; Christianity is not. Deep exposition might turn viewers off.


Disney Princess

My quiz results...

Which Disney Princess Are You?

You are part Cinderella. You are hard-working and never complain, however, your trust is sometimes misplaced and people sometimes take advantage of you. Still, you are beautiful inside and out, and one day you will realize it and find true love.

You are part Pocahontas. You defy convention and sometimes do what is considered taboo. Unfortunately, others do not always appreciate your differences, so it's good that you are so strong-willed. You are loyal and you believe in fate. Your true love will find you one day.

Find Your Character @

Part of the Cinderella profile is certainly off as I have been known to complain about various things, particularly institutionalized idiocy. As for Pocohontas, I have already found my true love.

Jesse, this is dedicated to you.

Thinking about reform

Several weeks ago a young man of my acquaintance asked for my opinion on gay marriage. My overall response was, “I’m not really sure.” On the one hand, I tend toward a libertarian streak. As a Christian, I expect every kingdom of man, no matter how ordered, to fail. As a (weak) slave of Christ, I prefer having the latitude to follow Him with minimal external encumbrance. So I want to maximize the potential for individual freedom. On the other hand, as an engineer, I am cognizant of the “law of unintended consequences.” And one of the trends I think I’m seeing is that the more vocal the gay community becomes the more attacks there are on freedom of speech, with the attempt to classify the Biblical position on homosexuality as “hate speech”. The Christian position is that human beings are designed for a purpose, contra the naturalistic explanation that we are the product of chance, and that homosexuality is a misuse of design. (It is, however, only one of many -- not one of us is what we ought to be.) Libertarian that I am, I want both positions to have free access to the idea agora, but I’m not sure how best to ensure that.

Along these lines, I came across these two posts today. The first, deals with the
increasing global loss of freedom of speech. The blog author, Tomasso Dorigo, is an experimental particle physicist who is hostile to religion. I wonder if he understands that by undercutting Christianity he is helping to erode one of the bases for the freedom whose loss he laments? A sword may compel someone to submit, but the sword cannot compel someone to believe.

The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? -- Romans 10:11-14 [NRSV]

So Christianity has a built-in motivation for freedom of speech.

The other post, linked by
Irate Nate, concerned gay marriage and the law of unintended consequences. And while it deals with this particular social issue, it is more about issues surrounding cultural revolution.

Hey, Soldier!

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in New York on company business. On the flight home, there were maybe ten or fifteen very young men and women who were traveling through Atlanta to South Carolina to report to boot camp. I had the pleasure to sit next to one of the young girls who was joining the Army. When the cabin crew was in the front of the plane starting the drink and snack service, I told her that I was going to do something I had always wanted to do; that is, when the cart came by, I was going to lean over and ask, “Hey, soldier, can I buy you a drink?” But by the time the stewardesses finally arrived, she had dozed off. Too, I’m not sure she was even old enough to drink. Old enough to go to war, but not old enough to enjoy an adult beverage.

To everyone who serves in our military: thank you.



I have just finished reading two books concerning elves. The first is Summa Elvetica (.pdf download) by Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day. This is an adult fantasy set in a world where humans coexist with elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins and other creatures. The protagonist must not only decide whether or not his future lies with the Church or elsewhere, but whether or not elves have souls. The answer to the latter question will help shape a future filled with peace -- or war. I am not generally a fan of the fantasy genre, Lewis and Tolkien excepted, yet my one complaint about this story was that it ended all too soon.

The second is a children’s book, the
Adventures of Piffles the Elf, written by David Babulski. David’s wife attends our church so I had the opportunity to talk with him about the book before it was published. A young elf ventures into the world of humans. Was this the rash action of an idealistic youth or the fulfillment of ancient prophecy? Will the consequences wreck destruction upon the elves or will there be a new era of peace between the two races? This is the first book in a planned series of three; the second should be out in 2009 or 2010. While Summa Elvetica is set within a Christian worldview, Piffles has more of a new age flavor. I found it interesting to see how these different worldviews influenced the motivations of the characters.

Gun Show

C, B, D and I attended the gun show at the North Atlanta Trade Center. Before leaving I had taken some medicine on an empty stomach which wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I decided to take a break and took a seat next to a man who had a .22 rifle which looked like my very first gun. If I remember correctly, my Dad bought it for me at a Western Auto store in Arkansas when I was 14. I can remember walking down the streets of Judsonia with that rifle, heading to a gully across the train tracks to shoot. Any kid who tries that today would be surrounded by a SWAT team.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I did.

With the release of the movie
The Watchmen I became interested in understanding the reasons behind the hype. A friend at church loaned me his copy of the graphic novel which I read over the next four days. The artwork was adequate, but not spectacular; the story was well plotted, the characters atypically complex, and the ending was satisfying. My overall reaction was that it was ok but I wasn’t compelled to see the movie.

Part of my reaction was to the sub-plot of the pirate tale. While it was woven well into the main story, it simply didn’t do anything for me. But this was a minor point compared to my indifference to the characters themselves. One of my earliest memories of comic books was reading
Captain Atom in Charlton’s Strange Suspense Stories, certainly issue #77 and possibly #76, in 1965 when I was ten. So I have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Atom and, later, Blue Beetle. To a lesser extent I followed The Peacemaker and Judomaster.

The characters in
The Watchmen were shadows of the Charlton characters. Dr. Manhattan was Captain Atom recast; Rorschach was The Question; Nite Owl was Blue Beetle; The Comedian was Peacemaker; Ozymandias was Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt; and The Silk Spectre was Nightshade. Dr. Manhattan, being a poor copy, simply soured me on the story. Instead of the atomic man who explored the mysteries of space, the most powerful man in the world was paralyzed by his philosophy. I usually enjoy exploring the effects a worldview has on people, but not with my childhood hero.

But then the superdrive in my Macbook Pro stopped reliably burning dual-layer DVDs. So on a Saturday I took it to the Apple store, they had one part available, and they would try to effect the swap that day. Since they had my laptop, I looked for something to do. So I went to the movie.

I was blown away. The graphic novel came alive. The special effects were spectacular, especially
Manhattan’s “fortress of solitude” on Mars. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s what the comic imagined.” After the fact, it was obvious, and I shouldn’t have missed it when I read the novel; but that doesn’t lessen that moment of awe. I was able to put aside the distortion of my childhood heroes and enjoy the story for itself.

It is a dark movie. The line between “good guys” and “bad guys” is sometimes nonexistent. This is a good thing, since it is true to life, even though we don’t like to admit it. There is graphic, disturbing, violence. There is graphic nudity, both male and female. One character declines to wear any sort of costume to show his disassociation with mere humans. There is graphic sex, voluntary and otherwise. The ending shows the futility of human knowledge. It may have been the author’s intent to show the futility of human existence, that left to ourselves we are doomed to suffering and strife.

But this is an old theme: compare with the book of
Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Fortunately, we have not been left to ourselves.

Church Merger?

Tonight my wife and I went to dinner at Fusion Asian Cafe which we always enjoy. Afterwards, we stopped in Books For Less to just browse around. I picked up “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce L. Shelly, opened to a “random” page, and read:

Finally, the Zurich council lost all patience. On 7 March 1526, it decided that anyone found rebaptizing would be put to death by drowning. Apparently their thought was, “If the heretics want water, let them have it.” Within a year, on 5 January 1527, Felix Manz became the first Anabaptist martyr. The Zurich authorities drowned him in the Limmat, which flows through the city. Within four years the radical movement in and around Zurich were practically eradicated.

This was interesting because the church we attend, a small non-denominational community church, is considering merging with another community church, which is Baptist in everything but name. The cultures are not identical and it will be interesting to see how things progress.

We are an elder run church - the congregation does not vote on matters pertaining to the body. They are generally elder run, but their congregation votes on five aspects of body life. In order to be eligible to vote, a person must be a member, and baptism by immersion is required for membership.

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the Anabaptists: if a person wishes to be baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, then they should be free to do so. On the other hand, baptism by immersion does not make a person “more Christian” -- a point of agreement between both parties.

I therefore have a real problem with giving the franchise to a subset of Christians. In effect, those who do not agree with this particular practice are second class citizens. This has nothing to do with the argument between infant baptism or believers baptism; or whether baptism should be via sprinkling or immersion. They can take communion but cannot vote.

When I became a believer at 23 years of age the first churches I attended were Baptist. I didn’t know any better. But for the last 17 years I have moved away from typical Baptist understanding and practice, generally becoming more Reform.

This is likely going to be one of several “deal breakers” which, if the merger is consummated as I expect it to be, will engender our exit from the church. Hier stehen wir. Wir können nicht anders.


Belated Blogiversary

My first post was on 3/2/08 and in a year I posted 65 articles. Not the most prolific of endeavors. But even if she is sometimes resting the muse will not be silent. I just wish I had more time to write recreationally than professionally. Work still has to come before leisure.

Angry Software Engineers

If I were even one-fourth the writer Harlan Ellison is I wouldn’t be a software engineer. Yet while the skill sets differ, the craft, the art, and the trials and tribulations are similar. In “Somehow I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas, Toto” anthologized in The Essential Ellison, he tells of one dark experience with Hollywood:

Six months of my life were spent in creating a dream the shape and sound and color of which had never been seen on television. The dream was called The Starlost, and between February and September of 1973 I watched it being steadily turned into a nightmare.

The late Charles Beaumont, a scenarist of unusual talents who wrote many of the most memorable Twilight Zones, said to me when I arrived in Hollywood in 1962, “Attaining success in Hollywood is like climbing a gigantic mountain of cow flop, in order to pluck the one perfect rose from the summit. And you find when you’ve made that hideous climb... you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

In the hands of the inept, the untalented, the venal and the corrupt, The Starlost became a veritable Mt. Everest of cow flop and, though I climbed the mountain, somehow I never lost sight of the dream, never lost the sense of smell, and when it got so rank I could stand it no longer, I descended hand-over-hand from the northern massif, leaving behind $93,000, the corrupters, and the eviscerated remains of my dream.

Ellison’s parting words to writers is just as applicable to software engineers:

It is the writer’s obligation to his craft to go to bed angry, and to rise up angrier the next day. To fight for the words because, at final moments, that’s all a writer has to prove his right to exist as a spokesman for his times. To retain the sense of smell; to know what one smells is the corruption of truth and not the perfumes of Araby.


There Are Four Stoplights!

No, I didn’t plan this just so I could use this headline. Post updated accordingly.

March - In Like a Lion

Yes, this is a month late, but my wife took pictures and I want to post them. These were taken on March 1.


Dirty Discing

Back in March, I played a round of disc golf with Mike, which he recounted here. I have been remiss in not announcing to the world that I am a consummate klutz and that it was I who slipped off the pad and fell head to toe into the mud puddle.

Have I Now Seen Everything?

When I drive to work, I make a left turn onto a main highway where the lights are usually timed so that if I travel a bit above the speed limit I can make it through four lights then to QuikTrip for my daily dose of caffeine. This morning, as I approached the fourth light, the car in front of me started slowing down. We were in the left lane and I wondered if the car wanted to move to the far right in order to exit onto the interstate. But, no, it came to a complete stop. At a green light. I’ve never had a car stop at a green light before. It hadn’t been red and then turned green; it had been green the entire time. Perhaps the driver wasn’t paying attention and was looking at the two adjacent red lights in the left turn only lanes. Whatever, I honked, they moved, and I still made it through the final light.


Work has been physically exhausting and mentally numbing. For far too long.

Google vs. the Yellow Pages

Turned on the TV this morning with the notion to re-watch last night’s Battlestar Galactica episode. No picture. Perhaps one of the kids had left the video input selector set to the Wii. That wasn’t it. Blinking red LED. The owner’s manual said that this meant that the projector lamp was burned out. Well, the lamp was a little over three years old. Best Buy doesn’t carry them. Google turned up a large number of sites where it could be ordered online. But this is Super Bowl weekend and I didn’t want to wait for Monday delivery (at the earliest). What Google didn’t find was places were I might obtain one locally. Well, it did find one; but their number had been disconnected.

Fortunately, the Yellow Pages turned up a shop that wasn’t too far away, was open, and could get a bulb from their supplier. They said I would need to come down and pay for the part before they would go get it. I pulled the lamp assembly from the TV, hopped in the car, and went to the shop. I stopped at a nearby Bank of America ATM, but it was out of service. With an almost empty gas tank I detoured to a nearby BofA branch. Arrived at the store, paid for the new bulb, was told to come back in an hour and a half. Walked to a nearby comic book shop to start killing time. While there, I got a call on my cell. Turns out they had one bulb in the back so I didn’t have to wait too long. They were kind enough to replace the bulb in the assembly housing. Filled up the tank, went home, and reassembled the TV.

A shout out to Electronics Master in Mall Corners in Duluth, GA. The lamp was a bit pricey compared to online, but they were willing to drive to their supplier to get it, they replaced the bulb in the assembly, and I didn’t have to wait. The TV picture is much more vivid now, too.

Shiny Secular Utopias

I am a fan of the Vox Day blog. Several recent topics have discussed the fantasy of secularism producing a “shiny sexy utopia” (notably here, but also here, here, here and here).

I have almost finished the book
Etidorhpa, or The End of the Earth by John Uri Lloyd, first published in 1895. While I am reading it because of a possible tie-in to my grandmother, it also sounds the same alarm as Vox Day. This excerpt is taken from chapter 51, “Beware of Biology, The Science of the Life of Man”:

“Bah,” he said; “does not another searcher in that same science field tell the mother that there is no personal hereafter, that she will never see her babe again? One man of science steals the body, another man of science takes away the soul, the third annihilates heaven; they go like pestilence and famine, hand in hand, subsisting on all that craving humanity considers sacred, and offering no tangible return beyond a materialistic present. This same science that seems to be doing so much for humanity will continue to elevate so-called material civilization until, as the yeast ferment is smothered in its own excretion, so will science-thought create conditions to blot itself from existence, and destroy the civilization it creates. Science is heartless, notwithstanding the personal purity of the majority of her helpless votaries. She is a thief, not of ordinary riches, but of treasures that cannot be replaced. Before science provings the love of a mother perishes, the hope of immortality is annihilated. Beware of materialism, the end of the science of man. Beware of the beginning of biological inquiry, for he who commences, cannot foresee the termination. I say to you in candor, no man ever engaged in the part of science lore that questions the life essence, realizing the possible end of his investigations. The insidious servant becomes a tyrannical master; the housebreaker is innocent, the horse thief guiltless in comparison. Science thought begins in the brain of man; science provings end all things with the end of the material brain of man. Beware of your own brain.”

Over 100 years between Lloyd and Vox Day sounding the same warning. Not being a historian, I am not quickly able to state who, how long, or how often this warning is given. But Vox is more of a polymath than I am:

Everyone, of every creed or lack thereof, needs to get this basic fact through their college-thickened skulls. The shiny, sexy, secular science-fiction society of progressive fantasies is not going to happen. The demographic realities have already killed that dream, the corpse just hasn't finished twitching yet. The material choice is not Christian tradition vs post-Christian utopia, it is Christian tradition vs PRE-Christian dystopia. And if you don't understand what that entails, then I suggest you get caught up on your ancient history, starting with Caesar and Tacitus.


That's my girl!

I’m teaching my daughter computer programming. She’s having a bit of trouble with the syntax for a particular construct. I asked her what “syntax” was and she answered, “the way things are properly put together.” I equivocated and said, “no, it’s what you have to pay when you’ve been bad.”

Without missing a beat she retorted, “I thought that was bail!”

That’s my girl, all right!

Light posting...

The absence of posting here lately is not indicative of a lessening of my output. There are three main topics that I want to undertake: “Faith and Reason”, “Good and Evil”, and “Evidence for God”. I’ve already started “Good and Evil” (part 1 and part 1a). To write the articles, I like to participate in debates with “the other side”, as it were, to see how my ideas stack up under hostile attack, and to see what approaches to the material might work. For example, elements of “Good and Evil” are here. “Evidence for God” is here, here, and here.

Me, Shaving, Age 8

No comment.


"Mike is my homeboy..."

Jesse has been my personal trainer for four years. He was, and is, a big supporter of Mike Huckabee. Back in September of 2007, Jesse and his father, Dan, were at a Huckabee function in Gwinnett County and were filmed by the local Fox News station. After all this time, I finally managed to get the video from my PVR into my laptop. I had to use my son’s digitizer; the video obtained via FireWire was unwatchable. Jesse appears about 19 seconds into the first clip.

In this next clip, Jesse’s shirt (“Mike is my homeboy”) is about 33 seconds in.

Jesse is also an aspiring musician who, IMO, has a real talent for lyrics. Some tracks from his debut album, “Year of You”, can be found
here. I particularly like “Inside your love”.

Leopard Love

The problem with success is, first, in achieving it and, second, in repeating it. Hole 10 at Lenora Park is 372 feet. The tee shot with my light Valkyrie wasn’t too bad. The second throw with my Leopard managed to sail into the basket with a satisfying clang! A lucky eagle on a par 4 hole. But success was fleeting as I finished up 8 over for the day. My consistency leaves much to be desired; several days ago I threw five practice tosses at the first hole. Three of the five ended up under the basket. Today -- a double bogie. Threw out of bounds on holes 4 and 8. Having a pulled muscle in my back contributed to my performance... but still. At this stage I should be consistently under par. On the bright side, my wife played the first nine and did a better job on her initial outing than I did back in September.


A hilarious Christmas medley:
Straight No Chaser - 12 Days of Christmas

A touching story of one man’s attempt to evangelize. Penn Jillette is a famous magician (cf. the team of “Penn and Teller”) and an avowed atheist.

An interesting take on the relationship between oil and several wars. I wasn’t able to find much counterpoint after a few minutes with Google. Run time: 47:13.


Christmas 2008

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” [Luke 2:10-14, NRSV]

Heard most often around the Christmas tree today: “Here’s something from me to you. I wonder what I got you?”

This is the first Christmas where Johnny wasn’t with us. He’s somewhere in New York spending the holiday with his girlfriend and her family.

As usual, Becky put on an incredible dinner. However, this time she bought a Perdue bird instead of a Butterball. I think next time she’ll switch back.

Played a solo round of disc golf that afternoon. Couldn’t get anyone to go with me. Managed 6 under par; but that was with cherry picking my shots. I have quite a ways to go before I can do that consistently; but at least I know I can do it. I drove the hole on #14 -- about a 300 yard drive with my heavier Valkyrie. However, it was way off course and landed next to the pad for #15!

Memory of Christmas past. In 1996 the boys, but especially David, had been asking for a dog. Mom and I kept saying no: it’s too much work for her; Johnny has allergies; and so on. But our neighbors had bred their Golden Retrievers. The mom had delivered on December 10 so we couldn’t bring a puppy home until the middle of January. I hatched a nefarious scheme: I bought a box of dog biscuits and cheeze whiz, put them in plain sight on top of the refrigerator, and told the boys that no, they weren’t getting a dog for Christmas, the goodies were going to be a gag appetizer for an office Christmas party. And they truly were! I took them to the party and everyone had a good laugh.

Later, we wrapped the dog biscuits and put them under the tree. When David opened it, he instantly figured out what was going on and flew across the room to give me a hug. If I hadn’t been sitting on the floor with my back to the sofa he would have bowled me over. I believe it was later that day that we went to our neighbors and he picked out the runt female of the litter. She was everything we could have asked for in a dog.


Disc Golf Update

I have managed to play three rounds since my last post on disc golf on December 3. Today I managed 2 over par, but three holes have asterisks. Hole 17 was particularly disappointing. A short putt was almost in the basket when the wind gusted and lifted the putter up and to the left. The disc from my second throw was still on the ground, so I picked it up and tossed it in. On 13, my initial shot nicely cleared the trees. I used a new Leopard for my second attempt and was disappointed with it. I then threw my new Buzz disk and laid it at the base of the basket. On 8, I threw a Valkyrie a mile, but out of bounds. The second hole continues to be my nemesis -- it is the only hole that I haven’t parred once.

I continue to throw my heavy Valkyrie farther than a Wraith or Monarch. I bought a lighter Valkyrie today hoping to be able to do even better, but the heavier disk still performs better for me. Mike says that it’s basic physics that the heaver disk travels farther since
p=mv. I had thought that K=1/2mv2 would have been more important. Gerrit says that the pro’s throw lighter discs farther. I’ll ask my son who is in graduate engineering school.


Par, With An Asterisk

In early October, I published an article about my trials and tribulations with disc golf, a sport I had just taken up. When I started, my score was around 24 over par for 18 holes.

Today, I shot par. Sort of. I cheated on two holes and took the better of two throws in order to make par. Without the asterisks, I was 2 over par.


Bowling with Daughter

My daughter bowls regularly in a home school bowling league. Yesterday she swapped out her old ball for a new one and wanted to get some more experience with it. Her league average is around 115 and her high is 182 (or 183, she isn’t sure). I used to bowl in a league in college; my average thirty years ago was 140-something with a high of 203 (that game I bowled way above my pay grade).

So today, the father (WRF) caked with rust faced off against the daughter (RAF) with an unfamiliar ball.


Two good things did come out of this debacle, however. I managed to win 2 free games by rolling a strike when the head pin was orange in two opportunities in the second game.

Rachel had also decided to give up in the second game around frame 5 or 6. I could see it in her eyes. I gave her the Yogi Berra lecture (“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”). Her two strikes in frames 9 and 10 forced me to have to mark in the last frame and I just wasn’t hitting the spares today. I hope she remembers this.

I also wish I could interest her in disc golf. I’d have a better chance of winning.

My Dad and Truman Capote

My sister sent me a collection of my father’s writing: a 3-ring binder with 4 1/2” of single sided, single spaced typewritten pages with handwritten corrections from his unfinished and unpublished autobiography, A Country Doctor in Washington, and several years worth of handwritten diaries. The following is from pages 126 through 129 of A Country Doctor and recounts his one meeting with the famous author, Truman Capote.

Saturday, January 5, 1974. A telephone call was received from Kay Graham requesting that I see her houseguest, Truman Capote. I agreed to meet him at the office in the Burns Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Because it was a Saturday morning I decided to perform a reasonably complete initial visit workup.

Mr. Capote gave his address as 854 Paseo El Mirador, Palm Springs, California. DOB 9/3/24.

His complaints consisted of postnasal drip with cough of 4-5 years duration, with superimposed shortness of breath for the past 2-3 months; some paroxysms resulted in gagging and regurgitation of bitter yellow '”bile”; some night sweats since September, intermittent; coughing spells often followed by pain in the back of his head and neck with radiation into the eyes which can interfere with reading for several hours. He also complained of anxiety which awakens him at night and terminates in a coughing spell. The dyspnea is only on exertion and he does not regard it as severe.

For conditioning he patronizes a spa daily with an hour of massage. “Two pack a day smoker since age 13” although some effort to stop in the last few months. He has gained 30# in the last 3-4 years.

He has just finished a book, and a screen play. He is en route via auto to southern California with a friend, and plans shortly thereafter to return to Houston to cover a mass-murder trial about which he expresses some anxiety “because it is an arena in which I may be uncomfortable”.

He also confides that on September 6, 1969 he sustained a “fantastic shock”, the pattern of which he revealed in confidence to me stating that it was followed by progressive depression to the point that he became unable to function and “I’ll never get over it completely”. The result was a nervous breakdown in 1970 manifest by moderately severe depression and hospitalization for three weeks in the Regency Hospital in New York. Following discharge he was treated by a psychiatrist with anti-depressant medications for a year and a half but he felt little rapport and discontinued treatment after about 1 1/2 years. Subsequently he identified a former priest now in psychiatry whom he respects intellectually and with whom he believes he can establish a meaningful therapeutic relationship.

He also recognizes a drinking problem consuming one-half quart of alcohol per day, beginning with a double vodka screwdriver in the morning and progressing throughout the day. He also consumes two meprobamate upon awakening, two during the day and another two at bedtime. If this is ineffective he takes another two with another double screwdriver. Valium has been ineffective; doriden helps but he doesn’t resort to it often. Takes some tequila, and occasional marijuana which he finds quite relaxing.

In 1970 he had some rectal bleeding with two operations for a “giant wart” with no mention of malignancy.

He is allergic to peaches, manifest by rash, increased lacrimation and pruritus.

Mr. Capote was born in New Orleans; appendectomy at 9; UCD without sequelae. No fractures. Tonsillectomy at age 24 with considerable trouble with his throat including “strep” infections. In 1969, at 11 a.m., he experienced an auto accident when he turned to quiet a dog in his car, lost control and ran into a tree. He lost some front teeth and sustained some damage to his eyes and forehead with resulted in plastic surgery at Roosevelt Hospital.

His father is living, aged 73, and has been married six times. His mother was deceased at age 44 from suicide via an overdose of pills. Both maternal grandparents died in their twenties from tuberculosis. No siblings. Paternal grandfather died from cancer of the stomach; a paternal great-uncle also had malignancy of some sort.

Physical revealed a short, stocky stature. (He had once characterized himself as “tall as a shotgun and just as noisy”). BP 145/110 RA and 136/110 LA. P 100 reg. Hgt. 64 1/2” Wgt. 169 1/2# Hacking cough present and non-productive, but was noted to be stimulated by cold air on crossing the street. Some increased tortuosity of retinal vessels. Several front teeth absent, especially lower. No sinus tenderness. Thyroid not enlarged or tender. Carotid pulses 2+ and symmetric without bruits, as are those in the extremities. Mild limitation of motion in the neck, esp. on rotation to the right with trapezium discomfort. Some erythema of hypothernar eminences bilaterally. No lymphadenopathy noted anywhere. Heart not enlarged; no murmurs or rubs. Lung fields clear. Diaphragms descend a bit sluggishly but without rales, ronchi or posttusssive wheezing. Well-healed RLQ surgical scar which is somewhat widened. In lower extremities some tendency to genu varum (or tibial bowing) bilaterally. No edema; SLR normal; ROM within normal limits.

Patient was accompanied across the street from the hospital to radiology for PA and lateral. Heart/lungs unremarkable but there is mild R. pleural thickening and may be a little increase in the intercostal spaces bilaterally.


  1. Bronchitis, probably allergic or nervous in origin with element of COPD being possible.
  2. Diastolic hypertension (warrants further evaluation)
  3. Obesity
  4. History of excessive use of tobacco, alcohol and tranquilizers
  5. Element of chronic depression

Treatment: Symptomatic; see for follow-up if unimproved. Also, should have above findings confirmed and further evaluated. Given name and number of an internist in Houston in view of his proposed travel.

Truman Capote was a colorful personality. His literature contribution in 1958 of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a classic and the technicolor movie version with Audrey Hepburn a big success (and remains so). His literature masterwork was In Cold Blood in 1965 about two drifters who murdered a Kansas farm family for no apparent reason. In it he used techniques of fiction to tell a factual story. When he indicated his plans to attend another trial in Houston one could but wonder whether it would prove to be background for another triumph of the author.

I never saw Mr. Capote again, nor did he pay the modest bill which I had sent to him. He had quite a lot of press coverage in the ensuing years, especially related to his book '”In Cold Blood” stimulated by his presence at the Houston trials.

He died in his sleep on August 25, 1984 at the home of Joanne Carson from liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication but not an OD according to the LA coroner. He was only 59.


What I Should Have Done

My daughter has a weekly art class. It fell to me to pick her up last night and, at 8:55pm, I was approaching the intersection of Hamilton Mill Road and Buford Highway. A Gwinnett County police car, heading southwest, was stopped for his red light. As I was just about to enter the intersection the cop started rolling into my path. I had the green light and his blue lights were not on. I laid on the horn, slammed on the brakes, burned rubber, and left skid marks -- but I avoided hitting him. I think my car stalled. As I cranked it back up, I saw that the policeman had stuck his left arm out his window and had raised it, perhaps as a gesture of “sorry” or, perhaps, “go on.” I didn’t want to leave my daughter waiting so, with racing heart and gnashing teeth, I continued on to her art studio.
It’s obvious the policeman knew he was in the wrong as no blue lights followed me.

What I should have done was gotten the cop to pull into the parking lot of the new city hall and demanded to see his license and registration. Maybe bluff my way through having him take a field sobriety test. Maybe even calling 911 to ensure he was given a ticket for reckless endangerment.

If the skid marks are still clearly visible tomorrow then maybe I’ll memorialize this incident with a picture or two.

When was my Grandfather born?

My grandfather’s obituary listed both 1887 and 1889 as his year of birth. His World War I registration card (part 1, part 2) shows 1890. His World War II registration card (part 1, part 2) also shows 1890. His marriage certificate notes that he was 29 in 1920. Because he was married on January 29 he would have turned 30 on his birthday on March 29. 30 years before 1920 is 1890.

On the other hand, according to my sister, the family bible, his death certificate, and the estate tax forms filled out after his death show 1889.

To further complicate matters, the entry from my father’s diary, dated March 29, 1950, reads: “Dad's 59th BD”. 1950 - 59 is 1891!

We know that people would often fudge their age to join the military or to get married; but in this case those reasons don’t apply. One year’s difference wouldn’t have affected either his military or marriage eligibility.

There is no clear weight of evidence to decide in favor of either 1889, 1890, or 1891 so this will have to remain a mystery.

Family Voyages

From a newspaper clipping found inside the family copy of That’s Judsonia by W. E. Orr. The paper was most likely the White County Record from 1977.


August 10, 1939

Billy Bob Felts, who has been visiting aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Roy North in Washington D. C. the past month, sailed Saturday with Mr. and Mrs. North and family for a visit to the West Indies and the Panama Canal. They will attend the 20th anniversary of the Panama Canal at Balboa, Canal Zone, on August 15.


Woodyard and Felts

My grandfather’s obituary noted, “After his graduation in 1914 he came to Judsonia as an associate of the late Dr. W. H. L. Woodyard.” A biography of Dr. Woodyard notes, “He is now associated with W. R. FELTS, of whom he had been a partner since 1913...” Once again, we are faced with differing dates. In any case, I was lucky to find a set of four vintage postcards for sale on eBay, one of which was listed as being from “Woodyard and Felts, Judsonia Arkansas”. Fortunately, no one bid against me. Click the pictures for higher resolution images.



Note that the postmark is dated November 7 (or 17), 1914. I don’t think that helps resolve the date either way.

Google shows that a Percy Castle of Fulton, Missouri was in the Supply Company, 349th Infantry, 88th Division, US Army.

My Grandmother: Goddess of Love?

My grandmother’s maiden name was Willie Etidorpha Lewis. A Google search on “Etidorpha” returns:

     There is one item in it [the catalog] that interests me especially:
Etidorpha ("Aphrodite" spelled backwards), by J. U. Lloyd, a strange novel, ...

The novel was first published in 1895; grandmother was born four years later on March 18, 1898. Is it possible that she was named after an early science-fiction/fantasy novel?

I’ve ordered the book from Amazon. I’ll report on it after I read it. It can be read online (e.g.
Google Books) but I still prefer paper.

Were her parents aware of the “Etidorpha” <-> “Aphrodite” connection? My sister doesn’t think that our dad had known about this. Grandmother appears in this picture from 1918. I suspect she is the one on the right, but the picture isn’t labeled:


In the 1918 Fourth of July Parade, the men in front are the “home guard” and one of the “nurses” was Willie E. Lewis. The theme of the Fourth of July Parade that year was “all about our boys in uniform.” The home guard was for men too old for the draft. This particular float was to honor the American Red Cross in the war effort. Photo courtesy of Dr. William Felts.

-- from “In And Around White County, Arkansas”, pg.23.

Fifty-one years later, November 16, 1969 was designated Mrs. W. R. Felts Appreciation Day at First Baptist Church. This picture was featured on the front page of the November 13, 1969 edition of the White County Record, Volume 57, Number 45.


Sunday, November 16, 1969 has been designated as Mrs. W. R. Felts Appreciation Day at First Baptist Church, in recognition of over 50 yeas of service as church pianist and organist. Mrs. Felts started playing the old pump organ when she was only twelve years old. She has served her church faithfully during the ensuing years. Regardless of the circumstances, she has fulfilled her duties as organist with a devotion and dedication that has been an inspiration to all.

Because of an accident she suffered while at the church practicing, and the painful effects of arthritis, Mrs. Felts has had to forego playing the organ and the church has elected her as “Organist Emeritus.”

Mrs. Felts is a native of Judsonia, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Lewis. Her life was spent in the shadow of First Baptist Church, being reared next door to the parsonage. Because of her love for music, she often used the church instruments to practice. She was married to Dr. W. R. Felts, January 29, 1920 and has one son, Dr. Billy Bob Felts, Washington, D. C.

During a revival held by Bro. L. C. Bauer of Whitehall, Illinois, Mrs. Felts joined the church and was baptized March 23, 1921 by the pastor, Bro. S. C. Vick.

She has served the church graciously through the years. She has served as Primary Teacher, Junior Boys Teacher, Junior Girls Teacher and helped with the Helping Hands organization (now Woman’s Missionary Union) and Royal Ambassadors and has worked in BYPU (presently called Training Union).

Through all the years, Mrs. Felts has worked with the adult choir, and has played for all church services, cantatas, special music, funerals, and weddings. All are appreciative of her efforts. Her life speaks of God’s loving grace through the dedication of one’s life dedicated to our Lord.

The church cordially invites the friends of Mrs. W. R. Felts to worship with us next Sunday. Mrs. Felts will be playing for the evening worship and a time of appreciation will be held during the 11 o’clock service.

Mrs. Felts will sit in the congregation as an honored guest and will be recognized by her pastor.


Gandfather's Obituary

Local Physician Passes Away Last Thursday Morning

The Funeral services were conducted last Sunday afternoon at the First Baptist Church in Judsonia for Dr. Wylie Robert Felts, who passed away in the early morning hours of November 17th, 1955, as the result of a heart attack. Dr. Felts was born March 29, 1887 in Sharp County, Arkansas. He was the son of Thomas Jefferson Felts and Almyra Felts. Although in failing health for a number of months, he continued to work through the last day. This was one of the characteristics which had been present throughout his life of service to humanity... duty before self.

Dr. Felts had many facets to his life and service. Foremost of these was the medical care of his patients throughout this district of the state, and for many years he was the only active physician in Judsonia. As such he became doctor, counselor, guardian, and friend to most of those he treated. His influence and wisdom have been widely sought.

Born on a farm in Sharp County, Arkansas on March 29, 1889[1], Dr. Felts was the second of six children. Preparation for his life’s work was not easy for he had to struggle to complete his formal education in the Medical School of the University of Tennessee. After his graduation in 1914 he came to Judsonia as an associate of the late Dr. W. H. L. Woodyard. His ministrations to the needs of the people of Judsonia, White County, and surrounding sections of the state were interrupted only once prior to his demise, and that was the occasion of the first world war when Dr. Felts became 1st Lt. Felts in the Medical Corps and served for two years with the A. E. F. in France. He returned to Judsonia in 1919 and rapidly assumed his cloak of civic responsibility.

During the ensuing years he did not shirk the demands of his profession, and his hours were gruelling[sic] and hard. Day and night he worked faithfully to bring comfort and relief to his patients, and adverse weather conditions and irregular hours were no deterring factor to the hardy young man. His assumption of responsibility for the welfare of his friends and neighbors only began with his profession, however. From a position as member of the city council he advanced in 1926 to become mayor of Judsonia, a post he was to retain for the next 25 years. As mayor he devoted his energies to multiple civic improvements and, despite the ravages of weather, depression, and time, many constructions remain as mute evidence of his civic pride. He also served as a director of the Farmers and Merchants bank for many years. As President of the local school board the best of educational facilities for Judsonia was almost an obsession with him. His interest in the young people extended beyond the school system and into the Boy Scout movement, an interest he continued to maintain throughout the years. He was at one time Commander of the Earl Rogers Post of the American Legion, which he helped organize. Membership in the Woodmen of the World, and service for years as an officer in the local Masonic lodge were his foremost fraternal interests. He was a 32 degree Mason. His interest in the politics of his town, county, district, state, and nation were renowned as he sought to strive for the betterment of his chosen land. Along this line he served as chairman of the White County Republican committee and this brought him on one occasion a citation from President Herbert Hoover. Good[2].

Dr. Felts and his wife were in their drug store in the late afternoon of that fateful day in March, 1952 when the tornado destroyed most of the town. The store was demolished and both of them narrowly escaped death from the falling debris, and as a result of the injuries received both were hospitalized for many weeks. Dr. Felts never fully recovered from these injuries, but returned nonetheless to the practice of his profession stating in his homely way that preferred “to wear out and not rust out.”

Although always a man of high moral principle he did not turn to active church work until 1951. During his last years he devoted himself to this field with the same zeal, vigor, and manifestations of his basic inherent wisdom which had previously characterized other pursuits. Nothing pleased him more than to spread the gospel and Christian precepts to those who had not taken a stand for service to our Saviour. He became truly as concerned for the souls of his patients as for their bodies. The words of the eminent and famous southern physician, Dr. Crawford W. Long, which are inscribed upon his statue in the Hall of Statuary, Capital Building, in Washington, “I feel my profession is a commission from God” most appropriately also serve to describe the life and service of Judsonia’s remarkable citizen. His example to the community should long remain an inspiration, for in addition to a citizen, patriot, doctor, politician, churchman, and counselor the people of this area have been left by a very dear friend.

Funeral services were conducted Sunday afternoon at the First Baptist Church in Judsonia. Rev. R. J. McMillan of Jacksonville and Rev. W. R. Woodell of the local church officiated. Beautiful solos were rendered by Mrs. J. H. Graves and Mr. Arle Queen. Mrs. McMillan played organ selections softly during the service.

Dr. Felts is survived by his wife, Mrs. Willie Felts; a son, Dr. W. R. Felts, Jr., of Washington D.C. and a grandson, William Robert Felts III, a brother, Charles Felts of Clarksville, Texas and a sister Mrs. P. D. Carpenter of Batesville, Arkansas.

The active pall bearers were: Jimmy Gill, Raymond Browning, J. A. Pence, Forrest Waller, W. H. Hembree and Don Travis.

Internment was in the Evergreen Cemetery under the direction of Kinney Funeral Home.

White County Record
Judsonia, Arkansas, Thursday, November 24, 1955
Volume 45, Number 44
$2.00 in County, $2.50 Elsewhere

[1] This is not a transcription error. The article listed both 1887 and 1889 as year of birth.
[2] It is unclear what this is.
[3] Scan of his obituary.



Hell is the lonely kingdom where the self is king yet only subject.
Hell is the dark universe, for only the self is seen and there is no light in self.
Hell is the land of eternal doubt, acknowledging only the presence of self: “I am!”, yet ever jostled by the other unseeing denizens, wailing "Aren't I?"
Hell is the hungry banquet: gnashing teeth, ever gnawing, never nourishing for there is no substance to self.
Hell is the firey land, burning passion desiring more but nothing more to give.

Charlie Brown and Me

Of the several aggravations in Charlie Brown’s life, one was the Kite-Eating Tree, which first displayed its appetite on April 12, 1956:


I was recently turned on to Disc Golf by several men in my church and I have started trying to hit the course at Lenora Church Park at least once a week. On Tuesday, on the third hole, I held onto my tee shot a bit too long and the disc sailed wide right and onto the roof of a disc-eating barn.


To show how bad this throw was, this next picture was taken from the tee pad facing the barn. You can see the relationship between the tee pad, barn, and goal from this satellite photo.


That's Entertainment!


A snake charmer outside the Temple at Mysore Palace in Mysore, India. She would bat the cobras to get them to move. Observe how the snakes are “protecting” the money in the baskets. I gladly parted with a few rupees because of the quality of her performance. Having to get close to the snakes to make my contribution only added to the fun. I took this picture in late September, 2003.

A Boy and His Dog

[updated 6 October 2023 to correct dates]

No, not the novella by Harlan Ellison, or the movie with the same name. The story is one of my favorites; the movie didn’t capture the power of the ending. Anyway, this is a picture of my father and his dog, Pal, taken on Mother's Day, 1932. That would make my dad nine. Pal’s age is unknown. I assume the picture was taken in Judsonia, Arkansas where dad grew up. Pal was frequently loaned to the Judsonia police department when they were looking for someone. While he had no formal training, he was “as smart as a whip.” Pal died when someone put out a piece of meat with poison in it - Dad thought it was done by someone who Pal helped track down.


Computers Make Me Stupid. And Greedy.

In Fundamental Algorithms, exercise 4 in section 1.2.5 asks:

Given the fact that log10 1000! = 2567.60464..., determine exactly how many decimal digits there are in the number 1000!. What is the most significant digit? What is the least significant digit?

It takes less time to write a bit of LISP code to answer this question than it does to actually think about it:

(let ((s (write-to-string
for n from 1 to 1000
for f = 1 then (* n f)
finally (return f)))))
(format t "~d digits, most=~d, least=~d~%" (length s)
(aref s 0) (aref s (1- (length s)))))

The answer is:

2568 digits, most=4, least=0

Knuth rated this problem as a “13”, where a “10” should take around one minute and “20” should take around 15 minutes, so this problem should take about 5 minutes.

It’s easy to see from the provided information that the number of digits is 2568, since the number of digits in a decimal number is
int(log10(n)) + 1. It’s also easy to see that the least significant digit has to be zero, since 1000! = 999! * 1000 and multiplying by a power of 10 adds one or more zeros to the end of a number. But the most significant digit took me a bit more thought. If log10 1000! = 2567.60464, then 1000! = 102567.60464. This means 1000! = 10(2567 + 0.60464) = 102567100.60464. Well, 100.60464=4.0238338... so the leading digit is 4. In fact, the leading digits are 402387.

If all I were interested in was the answer then the computer enabled me to get it without having to think about anything.

As for greed, my LISP says that

(log (loop for n from 1 to 1000 for f = 1 then (* f n)
finally (return f))

2567.6047482272297d0. But note that this differs from the value given by Knuth.

LISP:   2567.6047482272297
Knuth:  2567.604

Could it be that Knuth was wrong? If so, and this hasn’t been brought to his attention, then I could get a check from him. In the preface to the Second Edition, he wrote:

By now I hope that all errors have disappeared from this book; but I will gladly pay $2.00 reward to the first finder of each remaining error, whether it is technical, typographical, or historical.

These checks are collector’s items; few, if any, recipients cash them. But, alas, it was not to be. Floating-point calculations are notoriously hard to get right. So I fired up Maxima to get a second opinion:

(%i1) bfloat(log(1000!)/log(10));
(%o1)    2.567604644222133b3

Maxima agrees with Knuth. One final check. Using the identity
log(a*b) = log(a) + log(b), let’s have LISP compute log10 1000! this way:

(loop for n from 1 to 1000 sum (log n 10d0))

Oh, well. Knuth is right and my LISP has trouble computing the log of a
bignum. So much for this shot at geek fame.

Pack Rattery and the Internet

[updated 3/16/2022]

Since November 2, 1975 I have kept in my possession a 14 13/16” x 11” x 1 7/16” listing of the 3.4 release of the Pascal compiler for the CDC 6000 series computers. This listing includes the compiler (128 pages), cross reference (36 pages), and Pascal library source, some of which is written in Pascal and the rest in COMPASS, the CDC assembly language (144 pages).

The listing begins:


 *                                                       *
 *                                                       *
 *            COMPILER FOR PASCAL 6000 - 3.4             *
 *            ******************************             *
 *                                                       *
 *                                                       *
 *                 RELEASE  1  JUNE 1974                 *
 *               UPDATE 1-10 1/7/74- 1/8/75              *
 *                                                       *
 *                                                       *
 *           CDC SCIENTIFIC CHAR SET VERSION             *
 *        (00B AND 63B ARE TREATED IDENTICALLY)          *
 *                                                       *
 *     AUTHOR:   URS AMMANN                              *
 *               INSTITUT FUER INFORMATIK                *
 *               EIDG. TECHNISCHE HOCHSCHULE             *
 *       CH=8006 ZUERICH                                 *
 *                                                       *

Yet I think I have been outdone. Several listings of the Pascal compiler have been scanned in and made available as PDF files here. Perhaps, some day, a software archeologist will want to know the differences between the 1/8/75 Release 1 compiler and the March 1976 Release 2 compiler [PDF file].

A Letter From My Grandfather

My paternal grandfather was born on March 29, 1890 in Cave City, Arkansas [but see here]. According to his military registration card, he was “tall”, had blue eyes, light color hair and, in the opinion of the examiner, was “stout”.


The first picture was taken in 1914 upon his graduation from the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. The middle one is from 1916, where he served as a 1st lieutenant in the Medical Corps in France during WW I. The last picture was taken circa 1935 in Judsonia, Arkansas, where he served as Mayor and was also long-time president of the school board.

He and I share the same birthday but I never had the opportunity to meet him as he died sometime in November of 1955. On April 4th of that year he wrote a letter to me. It was typed on the letterhead of “Woodyard & Felts, Judsonia, Arkansas” which was the pharmacy he owned until it was destroyed by a tornado in 1952. The letter is reproduced below with spelling and punctuation faithfully followed. The “Shiner” that he mentions refers to the black eye I had at birth.

My Dear and Only Grand Child: I received your letter with Great pleasure and admiration, and mindful of the Genuine Love that Prompted you to Contact me so early. I must tell you how much I love you, every pound and ounce of you, And Say I am going to Let you in on our first Secret, You are larger than your Dady was at your age, Now Son don’t let that Shiner worry you, for sometimes the Stork gets a bit Carless, he has so many little ones to look after. Now if you will be quiet and listen I will tell you a True Story: Once upon a time, Long ago, Our Creator GOD Made His Creation and set it in Motion, and called it Good, and He being Lonesome Spat upon the Ground, made some Clay mud and made a man to be with him, in his Image and likeness, But he had no Sole or Spirit of Immortality, so he put the breath of life into the man, And that Breath became Immortal, kinda like he did you. God saw that the man he had Made, Adam he Called HIM, Was lonesome So he Mad A Woman to become a help Mete for Adam, and to become Mothers for you, me, and All of Us. Our Mother Was good and Precious, but one day a Serpant entered the Garden, and Begiled our Mother, So God Was angry, because She disobeyed him, so he Put a Curse Upon our Parents, and it is that Curse that causes you Dady to Work and your Mother to Labor, so that Explains your Black Eye, but Dont let that Worry you, for one Night GOD Sent His ONLY SON into the World, That through him all our of Our fathers and Mothers, might be Forgiven and Redeemed by His Precious Blood, for our Disobedience to him in the beginning. Of Course we will have to Believe on and Trust him, For Eternal Life, Beyond this one here on the Earth. Of Course I Could tell you the Story, how the Unbelieving Jews Killed This Son, Crucified Him Upon A CROSS, and Buried him, and on the Third Day He Came back to Life in a Spiritual and Ressurrected Body, but you will have a few years, to Listen to Your Father and Mother, Tell and teach you about Him. Now Son your Length and Features isnt too Important. But it is most Important What kind of Spirit Inhabits that Body, Or Temple it Is Called. Grandmother Tells me that you will be home today and I know you are going to be proud of your Home and your Father and Mother, for you together are what makes up what Society Calls the Family. And The one who was Crucified, Commands us to honor Father and Mother, and he also wants them to Love you, so that the Family you are part of will make a happy one. Now after I tell you that I love you will you remember me to Mother and Dad, and Grandmother, and Convey my love to them also. I must say that I deeply regret that I didn’t have the Pleasure of personally greeting you upon your arrival, but am Looking forward with fond anticipation, to meeting you soon, and in the Interim be a sweet little man. I must apologise for burdening you with so long, and random Message but guess it is My awkward way of Telling you that I Love you so very Much. I shall be looking forward to hearing from you often.

Paternally Yours
(signed) Dad
Grand Pa.

I didn’t receive this letter until, perhaps, 2001 or ’02. I suspect that my father was somewhat embarrassed by it. The spelling and grammar weren’t up to Grandfather’s standards, but he was laboring under a prior stroke. Too, Dad related that Granddad had become a “religious fanatic” late in life and religion was something that I think made Dad uncomfortable. But having travelled my own Damascus road this letter is a delight and treasure to me, errors of language and simple theology notwithstanding. I wonder what I’ll write to my grandchildren?

Cleaning out the Cell Phone

This has been sitting in my phone since it was received on 8 March 2008. I didn’t want to delete it because it tickled me so. A certain son sent it when visiting potential colleges for his graduate studies.

So i somehow spent the money you gave me for jeans on booze last night...i have two dollars left. The blue collar laws are almost insufferable. You cant buy alcohol after two am on any day, but at least i had an excuse to get four hours of sleep.



In my inaugural post I noted that 5 sites contained the phrase “a drop in the digital ocean” according to Google. Six months later, the site count is now up to 7: my original blog at blogger, which has now been moved here.
State of the MP3 Address Part 2: posted 31 March 2004 @ 11:22pm
SEO Specialists Give You Access to Targeted Consumers, unknown post date, but copyright 2006.
Sypha Nadon: posted sometime in October 2005, perhaps (based on reviewer comments). The page returned by Google results in a 404 error, but some sleuthing turned up this page.
release: date unknown, possibly sometime in 2007.
Questions About PennDOT Biometrics Contract Persist: dated 24 January 2008.
MoGo bluetooth: dated 21 April 2008.
Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the data on the initial 5 hits, but it seems that items 2 through 6 might be them, since they all predate my first post. Item 7 comes later.

It might be interesting to write software that tracks the date and location of a given phrase over time.

Everything Old Is New Again

My middle child called today. He just started at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign working toward a Master’s and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in MEMS. He was working on finite element analysis using ANSYS and ANSYS uses a modeling language (APDL) reminiscent of FORTRAN. He was having trouble getting his code to work and since I used to be fluent in FORTRAN he thought I could help. With some trial-and-error, we were able to solve his problem.

Good Friday, Expensive Friday

When driving home from work Thursday evening, as I was merging onto the interstate, I felt a bump and heard a loud bang. I hadn't seen anything and had no idea what I hit, but I did see my hubcap spinning to the side of the road. I pulled over onto the shoulder, got out, and saw that my rear driver side tire was flat. Walked south along the roadside until I found my hubcap. I returned to my car and popped the trunk. Before removing the spare and jack, I called my wife to have her make an appointment in the morning to get my car fixed. Changed the tire with no incident and drove home.

Friday morning found me at the car dealership. The tire was salvageable, but the wheel was not, and the car needed to be realigned. Two hours and $350.00 later, I went to work.

I decided to leave the office a little early and meet my trainer at 3:30. The plan was to work out until 4:30, shower, then take my wife to dinner before the Friday night crowds arrived. But that plan was not to be. My clothes were soaked with sweat and I decided to rest a minute before showering. Since I was so drenched I decided to sit in the water closet. There, I could cool down in peace, surf the web a bit with my laptop, and not worry about what got wet. I must have taken too long because my wife came in to ask "Are we going?" I got up and found that my left leg had gone to sleep. I was standing but didn't stay that way long. I think I sat back down, pitched slightly forward, and then slumped sitting up on the floor.

I was mostly out of it, but realized that my wife had called 911. I eventually managed to get up, made it into the bedroom, put on a dry shirt, and lay down in bed. The paramedics soon arrived and started their routine. I note that I am not a good patient when I don't think anything serious is wrong, and I detest having a fuss made over me. Vitals were fine but they apparently didn't like my diaphoresis and thought it best to take me to the hospital. Stubborn cuss that I am, I got up and walked through the garage to the ambulance as two of them were trying to bring the stretcher in the front door.

En route to the hospital, the EMT worked on filling out 12 pages of paperwork, although it was all data entry on a laptop. He said that, worst case, I had had an asymptomatic MI but he didn't think it anything more than syncope brought on by dehydration and the pooling of blood in my legs. He was right. EKG, chest X-ray, and blood work were all normal. The problem, though, is that the blood work requires two tests, one and a half hours apart. And the remote control on the TV didn't work. Finally made it home around 10pm, ate some dinner, and dealt with most of the 25 e-mails that had come in from work. Went to bed.

I wonder how many thousands of dollars this little incident cost?

Synchronicity and Harlan Ellison

The article on Long Forgotten Computer Technology was posted on 3/15 but most of it was written over a week ago. It mentioned Harlan Ellison's story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, the tie in with computer technology being the stories' use of paper tape.

Yesterday I started re-reading Ellison's story
The Deathbird. It contains an essay test on the story in Genesis 3 and some of the questions deal with the nature of good and evil, a topic I began here and will continue to develop in the coming weeks (months?). I plan to blog my answers to his test.

Today on was a link to an interview [link expired] with Harlan. In the audio of the interview Ellison talks about how the works of his generation in general, and his work in particular, are increasingly not known now. It's a writer's lot in life. Like technology I've used and forgotten, very little of the software I've written in the past 30+ years is in use now, even though one product once won Macworld's "5 mice" award (twice) and MacWeek's "5 diamond" award (also twice).

If this trend continues, maybe he'll come to my house next week and we can go out to dinner together.