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Lionel Mandrake

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: The Left Coast
Home country: USA
Current location: electrical wires
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2007, 06:47 PM
Number of posts: 3,235

About Me

I study, play the piano, play chess and go, and enjoy the company of my wife, children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends. I am a perennial student at a local university, where they let me take classes and use the library for free (because I'm old). My serious reading includes math, science, history, and biography. I enjoy science fiction and mysteries, which my wife and I refer to as "mind rot". And now on to politics. I hated Nixon and Reagan. I think W is a war criminal and was easily the worst president in US history. Thank Darwin he's gone. I will support any candidate who is a "dove". I support "plan B" without prescription for girls of all ages. I support free abortion on demand, without delay, and without the requirement to notify anyone, for all women and girls who want it. I think it's time to repeal the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the very rich. I think other damage done by conservative Supreme Court Justices rivals that done by the monster they put in the White House.

Journal Archives

Which should I blame, Netfucks or 20th Century Fucks?

Trying to start up the 20th Century Fucks movie "12 Years a Slave" on a DVD, I ran into the usual pile of advertisements for other movies. But this time I could neither skip past nor fast forward through the shit. I'd like to know which company perpetrated this outrage.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri Apr 4, 2014, 02:01 AM (3 replies)

Twenty arrested at UC Santa Cruz as teaching assistants strike

Source: Los Angeles Times

Twenty picketers were arrested Wednesday morning for blocking traffic at UC Santa Cruz as unionized teaching assistants and tutors began a strike at two UC campuses.

The arrests came around 8 a.m. as the picketers, mainly graduate students, tried to block auto entrances into the Santa Cruz campus, according to university spokesman Jim Burns. The 20 — cited on charges such as failing to disperse and being a pedestrian in a roadway — were taken to the Santa Cruz County jail and were expected to be released soon. One of the 20 also faces a charge of resisting arrest, Burns said.

Student academic workers walked off the job at Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley on Wednesday. Union officials said the strike would extend to all nine UC undergraduate campuses on Thursday.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865 — which represents about 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and readers — called the strike to protest what it called unfair labor practices and intimidation by UC administrators. Among other issues, the union contends that growing class sizes and workloads are making it difficult to offer quality teaching and tutoring.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-uc-arrests-20140402,0,4374812.story#axzz2xpxOKsBO

University administrators in the UC system, like those in the CSU system, view graduate students as a plentiful source of cheap labor. The administrators don't hesitate to call in the cops to remove picketers. The picketers were breaking the law, but where, exactly, should they set up their picket lines on a sprawling university campus?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Thu Apr 3, 2014, 11:37 AM (9 replies)

They are afflicted by the notion that their sacred texts are literally true.

Martin Luther, for example, criticized Copernicus by pointing out that Joshua bid the Sun, not the Earth, to stand still. For Luther, Joshua 10:10-15 would not make sense if the Sun were already standing still.

I took a college course from a biology teacher who was similarly afflicted. This guy has an MS in plant systematics, but he attacks evolution when he is supposed to be teaching it. I referred him to the famous essay: "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution", by Theodosius Dobzhansky, a Christian who saw no conflict between evolution and the bible. Unfortunately, the creationist biology teacher was not persuaded by Dobzhansky.

As an atheist, I don't see the bible or any other religious writing as relevant to science. To me, religion is a sort of mental illness which afflicts most humans. Our brains are wired to see patterns where there are no patterns, to seek comfort from beliefs for which there is no evidence, etc. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that some Christians accept evolution, while others feel threatened by it.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat Feb 8, 2014, 09:11 PM (1 replies)

One of my favorite Sarah Vaughan songs

The lyrics are nonsense, but just listen to her voice!

During the song, she mentions her fellow musicians:

John Malachi - piano

Joe Benjamin – bass

Roy Haynes – drums
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat Dec 28, 2013, 09:07 PM (5 replies)

Attention Shakespeare fans: All you need to know about MacBeth

As I was rummaging through the files on an obsolete computer that I want to get rid of, i came across an old paper I wrote a long, long time ago. I can hardly make sense of this any more, but maybe some of you youngsters can. It claims to provide the key to understanding Shakespeare's MacBeth.

The unity of Shakespeare’s Macbeth was more apparent to
audiences four centuries ago than it is to us. They saw a grand
design where we see separate episodes, motivated by separate
conflicts, and punctuated by irrelevant supernatural phenomena.
The English language may not have changed much in the last four
centuries, but we live in a different cultural epoch, and our
world view is radically different from that of Shakespeare’s
audience. This difference must be addressed if we are to make
sense of the play. We need to view the whole play, including
the supernatural plot elements, as if we believed what those
people believed.

To see the separate conflicts as parts of a greater con-
flict, we must suspend our disbelief in the ridiculous supersti-
tions of 1600, which are quite different from the ridiculous su-
perstitions of our own time. Supernatural plot elements which
require analysis, but which seem strange to us, include the
witches’ prophecies and the strange behavior of animals and of
the weather beginning at about the time of Duncan’s murder.
These plot elements seem ridiculous even to those who believe in
equally ridiculous notions such as harmonic convergence, pyramid
power and psychic detectives. As a society, we are arguably
just as superstitious as people were four centuries ago, but we
are differently superstitious, and therein lies our main problem
in understanding the play as a whole.

Important conflicts in Macbeth include Macbeth’s internal
conflicts as well as conflicts between pairs of characters.
Macbeth has no internal conflicts before he meets the witches,
and he has none to speak of during the final duel with Macduff.
The most important conflict between any two characters is that
between Macbeth and his wife in Act I, but it ends there with
Macbeth finally agreeing to murder Duncan. None of these con-
flicts lasts long enough to be considered the central conflict
of the play.

Of course the play is about good versus evil, but this
statement is tautological and finally empty of meaning for this
particular play. What conflict drives the entire plot of Mac-
beth but not that of any other play? The natural order has
been upset by Duncan’s murder and Macbeth’s usurpation, and na-
ture herself fights back to try to restore everything to its
proper place. Macbeth’s proper place is certainly not the mon-
archy. He would not be a suitable king under any circumstances.
The particular way he becomes king is such an affront to nature
that cosmic forces will come into play to remove him and place
Malcolm on the throne. Malcolm belongs there, both because he
is the heir apparent, and because he has the character traits of
wisdom and caution which are essential for a king and which Mac-
beth lacks. Macbeth’s proper place in the great chain of being
is that of a warrior. Only when he is returned to this place
will the natural balance be restored.

The great chain of being is a medieval concept which was
still very popular in early modern times but went out of style
during the Age of Enlightenment. According to this concept,
different forms of animals and different classes of people be-
long at different levels in the world. Natural forces are
brought into play when necessary to restore living things to
their proper levels. For example, the hawk, which hunts other
birds, belongs above the owl, which normally hunts mice. When
an owl eats a hawk, clearly something is very wrong with the
natural world. This is a form of sympathetic magic which Shake-
speare’s audience would accept as literal truth, not just as a
metaphor. The unnatural behavior of birds, like the cannibalis-
tic horses, are Signs that the natural order is seriously out of
balance. The Signs point to Macbeth’s guilt. Those who read
the Signs tend to oppose Macbeth. Thus nature herself helps to
bring about his downfall.

Raphael Holinshed’s history, which was Shakespeare’s
source, reports these unnatural phenomena as historical facts.
Holinshed does not express the slightest doubt that such events
really happened. His book as read by Shakespeare and by Shake-
speare’s audience was in its second edition, which proves that
the book was popular. This book would not stand up to contempo-
rary standards of historiography, but it was entirely acceptable
four centuries ago. From this fact it follows, as the night the
day, that Shakespeare and his audience really believed in these
supernatural phenomena.

They also believed in witchcraft. James VI of Scotland was
one of the champion witch-hunters of all time before he became
James I of England and had the Bible translated into the English
version that is so familiar to us. Just as he took his religion
seriously, he really believed in torturing old women to make
them confess to crimes for which they could be burned at the
stake. Their screams would then remind the Scottish people how
important it was to accuse still more women of being in league
with the devil, and the ghastly cycle would continue. This
style of witch hunt was illegal in England, but James didn’t
change his mind, and nobody as astute as Shakespeare would dare
to appear soft on witchcraft. Shakespeare’s audience, including
James, accepted the witches as real and evil, not metaphors or
figments of the characters’ (Macbeth’s and Banquo’s) imagina-

Act I is a morality play within a play. The previously
discussed forces of nature are present as always, but in Act I
they are upstaged by the old time religion. Macbeth and his
wife lose their innocence after being tempted by the witches,
who are clearly doing the Devil’s work. While plotting Duncan’s
murder, Lady Macbeth advises Macbeth to "Look like th' innocent
flower / But be the serpent under 't" (66-7). Here Shakespeare
intends us to compare Macbeth and his wife to Adam and Eve. But
it is the witches and not Macbeth who are like the serpent in
the Garden of Eden.

Macbeth’s internal conflicts begin with his temptation.
Before that, he is a happy warrior, justly renowned for his
bravery. After the first meeting with the witches, Macbeth says
to himself: "why do I yield to that suggestion ... My thought,
whose murder yet is but fantastical / Shakes so my single state
of man" (I.iii.134-40). Macbeth's greed is in conflict with his
fear. His integrity is gone. For the first time in the play
(and perhaps in his life), he experiences a strong internal con-

The contrast between Macbeth’s and Banquo’s reactions to
the witches’ prophecies reveals that Macbeth lacks certain char-
acter traits that are necessary for a king. Macbeth is gulli-
ble, whereas Banquo is frankly skeptical of everything about the
witches. Banquo tries to warn his friend: "And oftentimes, to
win us to our harm / The instruments of darkness tell us truths
/ Win us with honest trifles, to betray 's / In deepest conse-
quence" (I.iii.123-6). While Macbeth considers only the content
of the prophecies, Banquo is wise and cautious enough to ques-
tion the underlying motives of the witches. Banquo’s caution
would become a king. Macbeth’s impulsiveness becomes a soldier,
but not a king.

The nobility of Banquo’s character, in contrast to Mac-
beth’s, is also shown by their differing attitudes toward Dun-
can. After being praised by Duncan for heroic exploits, Macbeth
replies: "The service and the loyalty I owe / In doing it pays
itself (I.iv.22-23). This is ironic, because although Macbeth
is lying, he expresses the sentiment that Banquo truly feels.
Macbeth receives a tangible reward, becoming Thane of Cawdor,
and yet he is not satisfied. Banquo receives only an embrace
from the king, and for him that is enough. Banquo is truly no-
ble, but Macbeth is not.

The conflict between Macbeth and his wife begins when he
gets cold feet and says, referring to Duncan: "We will proceed
no further in this business. / He hath honored me of late, and I
have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people / Which
would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so
soon" (I.vii.34-8). Lady Macbeth calls him a coward, but for
once he rejects the challenge and says: "I dare do all that may
become a man. / Who dares do more is none" (I.vii.51-2). Since
the usual taunt fails this time, Lady Macbeth tries a different
attack. She says he is going back on his word and should in-
stead follow her own (albeit hypothetical) example: "I have
given suck ... I would ... Have plucked my nipple from his bone-
less gums / And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you /
Have done to this" (I.vii.62-7). Macbeth doesn't remember hav-
ing sworn an oath, but he will not allow his wife to think him
irresolute as well as cowardly. He shows his admiration for his
wife's fierce determination by saying: "Bring forth men-children
only, / For thy undaunted mettle should compose / Nothing but
males" (I.vii.83-5). Shamed by her example, Macbeth gets with
the program, saying: "I am settled and bend up / Each corporal
agent to this terrible feat" (I.vii.92-3). This is the crucial
moment, the saddest moment in the play. Hereafter, Macbeth and
his wife are doomed.

Macbeth is not particularly bright, but he has a certain
low cunning, which is revealed most clearly during his conspir-
acy with the men who will murder Banquo. Macbeth first fools
them into believing that Banquo is their enemy; then he taunts
them, saying: "Ay, in the catalogue you go for men" (III.i.92).
This taunt shows that Macbeth understands very well how to ma-
nipulate others the same way he is manipulated by his wife.
Question their manhood, and they will do what you want. It
works, not because men are stupid, but because they subscribe to
the warrior ethic that all challenges must be accepted. This
can be made the stuff of comedy (as in The Three Musketeers) or
tragedy (as here). After the prospective murderers agree to
kill Banquo, Macbeth mentions (for the first time) "Fleance, his
son, that keeps him company / Whose absence is no less material
to me" (III.i.135-6). Fleance's "absence" is really the main
point of the exercise, but Macbeth cleverly presents it as a
mere detail in a plan, the main outline of which has already
been agreed to. This is an appeal to the murderers to be reso-
lute and not go back on their word, which warriors should never
do. Here again, Macbeth manipulates others in the same way his
wife manipulates him. He can dish it out as well as take it.

Throughout most of the play, there is a steady progression
that has an air of inevitability about it. Macbeth’s character
is revealed more and more clearly to be inadequate for a king.
His friends and allies disappear or desert him. He tries to
control his fate by committing additional murders, by planting
spies throughout the land and by consulting the witches a second
time, but his efforts are counterproductive. His enemies gather
strength in faraway places, then converge to do battle at
Dunsinane. The final outcome is never in doubt.

The climax of the play is the duel between Macbeth and
Macduff (V.viii). To avoid humiliation, Macbeth is quite will-
ing to fight a battle that he expects to lose. In a sense, he
has come full circle. Once again, he is a simple warrior, with
no significant internal conflicts. Physical courage is all that
is required, and this has never been a problem for him.

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat Dec 21, 2013, 05:16 PM (15 replies)

Off Minor

Not the band, the Thelonious Monk tune, played here by Cedar Walton and friends.

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Dec 11, 2013, 09:01 PM (3 replies)

Sunshine Of Your Love

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Mon Nov 25, 2013, 01:40 AM (0 replies)

Congress made the right choice on airport scanners for the wrong reason.

The following item was tucked away on page A10 of today's LA Times:

TSA's 'nude' body scanning is history

By HUGO MARTIN — Los Angeles Times

The "nude scanners" are gone.

The full-body scanners that used X-rays to create what look like nude images of passengers have been packed away and removed from airports across the country. The 250 or so machines were removed about two weeks ago, before the June 1 deadline set by Congress. ...

The TSA now relies solely on millimeter-wave scanners, which previously generated similar nude images but have been upgraded to portray a generic figure on which they point out objects concealed on travelers' bodies. The scanner is made by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. of New York.

The X-ray scanners made by Rapiscan Systems in Torrance were removed after Congress required all airport scanners to use privacy-protecting software, such as the technology used by L-3. Rapiscan did not create the software for its X-ray scanners.

Nowhere in this article is it mentioned that X-rays are dangerous in a way that millimeter waves are not. X-rays and millimeter waves are very far apart in the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.

As you can see from this figure,

1. X-rays have higher frequencies and smaller wavelengths than Ultra-Violet (UV). Like UV, X-rays are ionizing radiation and hence can cause cancer. Sunscreen protects you from the solar UV rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. Nothing you take to the airport can protect you from X-rays. In the past you had to trust Rapiscan and the TSA not to give you too big a dose of X-rays. They say the dose is negligible, but do you trust them? I don't.

2. Millimeter waves are way below the visible part of the sptctrum shown above. They are called millimeter waves because the wavelength is on the order of 1 mm, as shown in the figure. As far as anyone knows, this form of radiation is harmless. Its frequency is way below that of ultraviolet light, which has the lowest frequency that can ionize molecules and thereby cause cancer.

The decision to remove Rapiscan scanners was made for what I consider a trivial reason - privacy issues - and can easily be reversed if Rapiscan changes their software to prevent TSA operators from viewing images that look like nude bodies. How stupid would that be?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Mon Jun 3, 2013, 11:45 AM (5 replies)

Check in here to congratulate CaliforniaPeggy.

CaliforniaPeggy now has more than
1 0 0,0 0 0

She announced this surreptitiously in another forum:
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Nov 7, 2012, 07:50 PM (121 replies)

Mathematics of Sex

My earlier thread on 'Oral Sex Etymology' appealed to one of the "Two Cultures" described by C. P. Snow. For proper balance, I thought it advisable to offer another thread which would appeal to the other "Culture", (i.e., nerdy, scientific types).

I shall grossly oversimplify the rich variety of human sexuality as follows: every person has one of two genders (M or F) and one of three orientations (S, G, or B). There are thus six types of people. Each entry in the following table is a '1' if the type of person indicated to the left can perform a particular act (designated by the letter 'C') on the type of person indicated above.

    |   M   |   F   |
  C | S G B | S G B |
  S | 0 0 0 | 1 0 1 |
M G | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
  B | 0 0 0 | 1 0 1 |
  S | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
F G | 0 0 0 | 0 1 1 |
  B | 0 0 0 | 0 1 1 |

All the entries in the first three columns are zeros, because the act in question can only be performed on a female. All the entries in the fourth row are zeros, because a straight female would refuse to perform any sexual act on another female. Can you explain the other entries in the table?

Here are tables for two other acts that people sometimes perform on other people.

    |   M   |   F   |
  F | S G B | S G B |
  S | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
M G | 0 1 1 | 0 0 0 |
  B | 0 1 1 | 0 0 0 |
  S | 1 0 1 | 0 0 0 |
F G | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
  B | 1 0 1 | 0 0 0 |

    |   M   |   F   |
  T | S G B | S G B |
  S | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
M G | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
  B | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
  S | 0 0 0 | 0 0 0 |
F G | 0 0 0 | 0 1 1 |
  B | 0 0 0 | 0 1 1 |

Easy questions: what do the letters 'C' and 'F' stand for?
Harder question: what does the letter 'T' stand for?

On edit: Following is an advanced topic which assumes you know how to multiply matrices.
The 6 by 6 matrices C and F are related by a similarity transformation:

C = A F A  and  F = A C A,

where A is another 6 by 6 matrix:
     _           _
    |             |
    | 0 0 0 1 0 0 |
    | 0 0 0 0 1 0 |
A = | 0 0 0 0 0 1 | .
    | 1 0 0 0 0 0 |
    | 0 1 0 0 0 0 |
    | 0 0 1 0 0 0 |
    |_           _|

The matrix A represents a permutation which replaces males with females, and vice versa, while preserving the orientations S, G, B defined earlier. The matrix A is symmetric and is its own inverse, i.e.,

A A = I,

where I is the identity matrix:
     _           _
    |             |
    | 1 0 0 0 0 0 |
    | 0 1 0 0 0 0 |
I = | 0 0 1 0 0 0 | .
    | 0 0 0 1 0 0 |
    | 0 0 0 0 1 0 |
    | 0 0 0 0 0 1 |
    |_           _|
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Apr 4, 2012, 12:35 AM (33 replies)
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