Holy Saturday: The Two Reactions to Proclamation

Holy Saturday is one of those holidays that for most seems to be only a gap for most people.  We see the re-enactments of Christ’s passion on Good Friday and the celebrations of his resurrection on Easter.  But what happened between the two?

What took place is what used to be called the “harrowing of hell”, i.e., when Christ came though the underworld (with, implicitly, the repentant thief in tow) and brought out all of those who had looked forward to his coming.  It’s a topic that brings out a lot of Biblical discussion, but that’s the bottom line.

But the ones who looked forward to his coming weren’t the only one’s Our Lord interacted with.  As St. John of Damascus (The Orthodox Faith, III, 29) tells us:

The soul when it was deified descended into Hades, for, just as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) rose for those upon the earth, so likewise He might bring light to those who sit under the earth in darkness and shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2): for just as He brought the message of peace to those upon the earth, and of release to the prisoners, and of sight to the blind , and became to those who believed the Author of everlasting salvation and to those who did not believe a reproach of their unbelief (1 Peter 3:19), so He might become the same to those in Hades : That every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth. Philippians 2:10 And thus after He had freed those who had been bound for ages, straightway He rose again from the dead, showing us the way of resurrection.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “on earth as it is in heaven”, but this is an example of how the other place reflects earthly realities.  While Jesus was on the earth, some accepted his teaching, some rejected it vehemently.  When he passed through hell, it was the same thing: some had looked forward to him and accepted his teaching, others that didn’t had rejected him.  Needless to say, what they thought about what he said was entirely different.

It’s the same today: some accept him, some reject him.  In this life, however, we can choose; in the next one, we cannot.  Holy Saturday, the “gap” that it is for many, is a good time to make the choice one way or another.

To start making that choice, click here

Why Christ’s Passion was the Best Way: A Good Friday Reflection

From Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, 3 q.46 a. 3:

Among means to an end, the more suitable is that whereby the various concurring means employed are themselves helpful to such end. But in this that man was delivered by Christ’s Passion, many other things besides deliverance from sin came together for man’s salvation.

  1. In the first place, man knows thereby how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation; hence the Apostle says (Romans 5:8): “God commendeth His charity towards us; for when as yet we were sinners . . . Christ died for us.”
  2. Secondly, because thereby He set us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues displayed in the Passion, which are requisite for man’s salvation. Hence it is written (1 Peter 2:21): “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.”
  3. Thirdly, because Christ by His Passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited justifying grace for him and the glory of bliss, as shall be shown later (48, 1; 49, 1, 5).
  4. Fourthly, because by this man is all the more bound to refrain from sin, according to 1 Corinthians 6:20: “You are bought with a great price: glorify and bear God in your body.”
  5. Fifthly, because it redounded to man’s greater dignity, that as man was overcome and deceived by the devil, so also it should be a man that should overthrow the devil; and as man deserved death, so a man by dying should vanquish death.

Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:57): “Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was accordingly more fitting that we should be delivered by Christ’s Passion than simply by God’s good-will.

Les compagnons de Paul: Jésus va revenir est-tu prêt?

(KO 091113) 1973?

The best way to describe this album’s style is “eclectic.”  But that’s not in a contemporary sense–even for the time it came out–but in a traditional sense.  “The Companions of Paul” (the group’s name in English) draw from a variety of folk styles, including French folk music (an ancestor of zydeco), bluegrass and traditional American Gospel (before the polyester suit types got into the act), which in turn have ancestry in British folk music.  The result is an interesting album that would be even better if the vocals were a step up in quality from what they are.

And I doubt seriously that those who accompanied the Apostle played a banjo.

The songs:

  1. Il a les pieds tout blancs
  2. Pardone leur
  3. Déception Blues
  4. Ne pense pas
  5. Le Seigneur souffre
  6. Si seulement
  7. Remord
  8. Le Seigneur patiente
  9. Ne te moque pas
  10. Supporte le
  11. L’Étincelle


Getting With the Program: The Lesson of the Brandon Eich Fiasco

When I was growing up, one of my father’s favourite expressions to get my brother and I to not stray from the path he set before us was to demand that we “get with the program”.  The flip side to that was that, if we did get with the program, life would be good.

That authoritarian presentation of life didn’t always sit well with us.  Part of the problem was that we were in the wrong country to make it work.  Had I emigrated to a place where “the program” was more uniformly enforced, life probably would have had a more familiar feel to it.  But this used to be the place where people could make choices in an open society for the kind of life they wanted to live.  That’s not really the case any more; we have a more corporatist mentality where anything that stands in the way of whatever goal is fashionable at the moment is cast aside.

These days the most fashionable goal is same-sex civil marriage.  Although the immediate stated objective is “equality” there are many other goals wrapped up in it, and I won’t take time to go through these.  But now it’s the litmus test of a person being “beautiful and good” as the Greeks used to put it.

The latest high-visibility failure of this litmus test is the aborted attempt for Brandon Eich, who invented Javascript, to become Mozilla’s regular CEO.  After 11 days and a howl of protest from LGBT activists inside and outside of Mozilla, he stepped down from that vaunted position.  That took place because he had the bad taste to donate USD1,000 to the support of Proposition 8, which (temporarily) nullified same-sex civil marriage in California.  Not willing to fully repent of this in the style that the Chinese used to expect during the Cultural Revolution, he left after his support collapsed.

Before I go on, I’d like to make two passing observations:

  1. As a web site maintainer and one who reads his statistics, I think that the Mozilla browser deal is on the downhill run.  Good as they are (and I’ve certainly used them for many years) and as successful as they have been against IE, they’re being overtaken by Chrome, both in PC’s and on mobile devices, where they really haven’t gotten off the ground.  Mozilla needed to hire based on merit if they needed to survive; Eich’s fall is a major step backward in that regard.
  2. I felt long ago that Proposition 8 was ill-advised, and believe that the abolition of civil marriage is what’s needed in our society.  I don’t support same-sex civil marriage because I don’t support the extension of a franchise I’m trying to get rid of.  But since civil marriage is the necessary prerequisite of same-sex civil marriage, that leads to the next question: if Eich (or anyone else) opposes civil marriage altogether, will they be subjected to the same animus that we saw in this case?  I think we’ll find out soon enough, but in the meanwhile…

What happened to Eich is reminiscent of what happened during the “Red scare” days of the 1950′s.  And I don’t throw that around casually.  In the 1930′s both communism and fascism had their fans–and well placed ones at that–in the United States.  Fascism’s fans took it in the chops during World War II, when we were actually at war with these people.  Communism’s turn came afterwards.  People who thought they were in a mainstream found out otherwise.  What changed was the country.  The left’s teeth were set on edge by the McCarthy Era, but now that the shoe is on the other foot: things which were legitimate before (like supporting legal ballot initiatives) are now beyond the pale.

There are some in the LGBT community–Andrew Sullivan is probably the best known–who realise the nature of what has happened and are appalled by it.  But there are others who take the Vince Lombardi approach to life and politics: winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.  It’s “get with the program” time for these people; a really free country, with the benefits that come with it, means nothing to them.  But perhaps they should (but probably won’t) stop and consider a couple of things.

The first is that, while Eich’s experience threatens people’s ability to get and keep employment, the growth of the entitlement system makes obtaining and retaining employment less necessary than before.  Today we have a government which is open in making it possible not have to work to get health insurance, which has allowed the disability program to expand to unprecedented levels, and which inflates employment figures by allowing many people to drop out of the workforce without a care of getting them back.  Such a reality, which is facing those who are supposed to be entering into the workforce now, probably wouldn’t have affected a person such as Eich, but I would have taken it into consideration in my choices, and many others are doubtless of like style of mind.

Moving on, in hiring into the competitive environment we have now, we have, as Chairman Mao used to say, “put politics in command”.  The LGBT community would like to humour us with the idea that promoting their equality promotes merit, but putting litmus tests like this front and centre will attract political and ideological hacks.  To draw a historical example, V.I. Lenin had no problem retaining the services of Alexei Brusilov, the Tsar’s best commander in World War I, to fight the Russian Civil War.  Why?  Because he wanted to win.  But such a sophisticated mentality is beyond the crazies of our time.

The Russian history analogy brings up another point: the LGBT community would do well to put its foot soldiers somewhere else than behind their Twitter accounts.  For example, given Putin’s policy re that community, there should be “gay brigades” fighting him in Crimea, just like the leftists who fought against Franco in Spain.  There should be like forces in the Middle East against those who hang homosexuals from hydraulic cranes.  If you’re going to deal harshly with domestic enemies, you need to consider your foreign ones.  But our current Occupant is pursuing another hippie dream of putting flowers in gun barrels, which will negate much of the “progress” going on.

Personally I’d like to see Eich cut a deal with the Chinese.  They don’t care about such things; they went through their era of “putting politics in command” and like Lenin want to win.  The two revolutions of the 1960’s—the social-sexual and the computer—were antithetical then and can be so again, depending upon who pulls the strings.  Mozilla was the single strongest single open source alternative to the corporatist monolith on the Internet, but I guess that freedom is going to have to come from somewhere else.

My Thoughts on Bill Nye, the (so-called) “Science Guy”

In early February we were regaled by a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham over “creationism vs. evolutionism” which attracted more attention than it deserved.  I’m tempted to move on about this except for this fawning piece in the New Republic (lefties can certainly be sycophants when the situation calls for it, something Barack Obama is greatly thankful for).  Now, of course, Nye has graduated from defending evolution against New Earth Creationists to being the current darling of climate change fanatics (we’ve passed from advocacy).  So, since they’re going to keep him in the spotlight, I think I will oblige.

Nye and myself have a few interlocking life threads.  He graduated from Sidwell Friends school in DC (where my father started his educational career) the same year I graduated from St. Andrew’s in the land where the animals are tame and the people run wild.  He went to Cornell (and from there on to Boeing) with a high school friend of mine.  Nye and I both had the same major (mechanical engineering) and would have graduated at the same time except that I graduated from Texas A&M a semester early.  I too went first into the aerospace industry before moving in the other direction.

But, as you will see, the similarities end soon.  This is a classic case of two people who have taken the same data and come to opposite conclusions.  Since Nye’s “day job” for many years was to promote science, let’s consider that in view of the hot topic in education these days: STEM education.  It’s traditionally been something of a job to get Americans interested in STEM careers and the education that leads up to them.  Let’s start by considering two fundamentals in favour of that career path.

The first is that STEM educated people eat and many others don’t.  That’s more obvious today but it was certainly true when Nye and I were making career choices.  Part of Nye’s problem is, perhaps, that he never considered a non-STEM type of career; many engineers and scientists are that way.  For me, I bounced around various career options (most in the arts) until just before my senior year in prep school; for me STEM was an afterthought, which made playing catch-up as an undergraduate something of a challenge.

The second is that our civilisation, such as it is, is powered by the results of science and engineering being applied.  Although we think of our present state as the demonstration of that, this fact was true in Nye’s formative years as well.  In some ways, however, the interaction of that fact with the social movements of the 1960′s and 1970′s has skewed the debate about science and engineering in this country in the wrong way.

I’ve made this point before but it bears repeating: the social upheaval of the 1960′s was a profoundly Luddite, anti-technological business, from the anti-moon Luddites (who have finally triumphed in Obama’s scaled back NASA) to the attempted destruction of the computer at the Courant Institute.  Those upheavals put an end to a “golden age” in STEM which were (in part) detonated by the Soviets’ Sputnik launch.  That was the backdrop for just about anyone getting, for example, an engineering degree in the 1970′s, and many others went into professions that promised more money for less work and higher grades: law, business, etc.  That last process continues to this day; the work (and lower grades) involved with STEM majors means that they are often left to those who value hard work and diligence, i.e., the immigrants.

Given both positives and challenges, how do we build on them and induce people to make a career in STEM?  Nye’s career as the “Science Guy” has been based on an underlying assumption: if we make science “exciting” for kids, they’ll want to grow up and make a career out of it.  Personally, I’ve always found “science promoters” like Nye (sadly, there are others) a little creepy and “gee-whiz” in nature.  Superior pay and the technological nature of our society have worked for my family for more than a century and a half, why isn’t that enough?  Americans, however, hate to promote anything from hard necessity; like John Lennon, they’d rather be dreamers, even though their dreams turn to nightmares.

Nye would do well to consider the nightmares he is promoting these days. I think it unwise that he would carry the water of people (and their disciples) who, having turned the world upside down by closing campuses (including Nye’s at Cornell) now trumpet themselves as the “scientific” élite lording over the Luddite masses.  (Think: how can another Harvard lawyer really be the “scientific” President?) Thoughtful consideration of the two “litmus test” issues (evolution and climate change) will bring to light the weaknesses of such an approach.

For me, the Nye-Ham debate was a dissatisfying business.  By making the debate squarely about the age of the earth, Ken Ham let Nye off of the hook about the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory.  Those implications–or at least the ones that the proponents want to promote at a given time–have always been evolution’s most distasteful result.  They range from Social Darwinism and Marxism in the nineteenth century to the fatalism engendered by current evolutionary biology.

Adding to the problem the evolutionists’ favourite mantra: that it’s necessary to “believe in evolution” to be scientific.  The blunt truth of the matter is that there are substantial areas of science, engineering and technology for which “belief” (which makes the business a religion) in evolution is totally unnecessary for successful result.  One which is significant for Nye is mechanical engineering; one can go through an education and career in same without ever having to consider evolution at all.

With climate change, it’s been understood for a long time that, everything else being equal, the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will result in a greenhouse effect and temperatures will rise.  But with earth sciences there is one basic problem: nothing else is ever equal, which is why the data, to use a good Thomistic term, is not univocal.  And as someone whose first degree is in mechanical engineering and his later academic specialisation is geotechnical engineering, I know all too well that mechanical engineers can easily miss the finer points of earth sciences.

Beyond that, climate change fanatics have raised justifiable suspicion about their cause by their proposed (or lack thereof) method to fix the problem they are so passionate about.  When pressed for solutions, we always get the same answers: solar, wind, etc.  Although these are promising, the simple truth of the matter is that, with one exception, none of these fossil fuel burning alternatives will meet the requirements of our technological society in the foreseeable future, and certainly within the horizon that climate change fanatics normally live in.  That exception is nuclear power, the bête noire of environmentalists for nearly half a century, even though Greenpeace’s founder has found peace with it.

The only way, using the limited options the fanatics place in front of us, we’ll get to where they want to go is to return to a poor, primitive state that makes the fifty square metre apartment look luxurious.  There’s nothing particularly scientific about that.  Fanatics characterise their opponents as “anti-science” but why should their opponents believe them?  Science got us into this mess, why can’t science get us out of it?

That’s a question that Nye, if he were true to his original profession, would be asking, and asking intently.  It bothers me that so many in the scientific and engineering community have rolled over to the highly unscientific powers that be these days.  Nye, like the Imitation Foreign Devil, is playing up to those who trashed his first profession in times past.  I don’t think the result will be as rosy as he would like to think.

Pauline Mills: Pauline Sings

Century 35625 (1963?)

One of the frustrating things about our culture is that everyone “markets” what they do as brand new. That includes Christian music. Music leaders, composers, and publishers would like to think that the move away from “traditional” Christian hymnody (and they usually fail to define “traditional”) is all recent and the music they produce is the “vanguard” of this new move.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The move away from hymns is one that’s been going on for a long time, and one of the pioneers in this move was Pauline Mills.

She was at the centre of modern Pentecost (and the Charismatic Renewal) in the last century: healed under the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal pastor’s wife, and the mother of Dick Mills, whose prophetic ministry is well-known. She wrote a variety of songs, the most famous being “Thou Art Worthy,” which appears on this album.

This album has something of a “homemade” feel to it. She plays the piano and sings, and with the occasional “amen” corner that’s just about it. But it’s enough. She wrote many songs and choruses taken directly out of Scripture, which was regarded as a novelty but which actually antedates “traditional” hymnody, as any student of Anglican, Catholic or Orthodox music knows.

For those of us who were involved in Charismatic prayer groups in the 1960′s and 1970′s, this album will evoke many memories. Because she flows from one song to another, the album is recorded in two continuous tracks, with “Thou Art Worthy broken out separately.

  • Track 1
    • When You Know He Cares
    • He Is The Great I Am To Me
    • The Rock Holds Me
    • A New Breath of Fresh Air
    • My Haven
    • With Security I Sing
    • Behold I Will Do A New Thing
  • Track 2
    • If My People Will Only Pray
    • I Will Extol Thee, My God
    • When You Walked In
    • Magnificat ( Song of the Virgin Mary)
    • Thou Art Worthy
    • The Desert Shall Rejoice

Personal note: in 1989, my wife and I went to a CBN event in Nashville, where her son Dick prophesied that we would have the opportunity to give counsel to those in the upper reaches of our society. I’d like to think that this site is a fulfilment of that, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Go Ahead, Make My Day. Excommunicate Me!

(Note: the Markov chain example starts about halfway through the post).

One of the issues that the Roman Catholic Church wrestles with on an ongoing basis concerns the status of those politicians which a) profess and call themselves Roman Catholics yet b) show that they do not ascribe to the teaching of the Church in the way they vote and the positions they take.  Since the Roman Catholic Church expects the faithful to follow its teachings without reservation, the question comes up: why doesn’t the Church excommunicate these people?

The answer to that question is like a lot of things these days: it’s complicated.  It ranges from the desire of the Church not to be unduly unpopular to not wanting the state to retaliate against it for such an action.  It also stems from the fact that neither the United States nor any other nation can be called a truly Catholic country, and thus the standard of expectation is not the same.

It’s fair to say that the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the only church that experiences this difficulty.  The tale that this blog piece deals with comes from Russia, a place where many strange things happen and many unexpected results come to reality.

In 1901 the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated Lev Nikolayevitch Tolstoi, the famous Russian writer.  He had developed an idea of Christian anarchism and pacifism which (among other of his ideas) was unacceptable to the church.  The church wasn’t the only one unhappy with Tolstoi’s idea: in his last years his wife was increasingly disenchanted with his desire to renounce his wealth, as he came from an aristocratic background.

One of those in Russia who was likewise disenchanted with the state of things was the mathematician Andrei Andreyevitch Markov.  Markov is best known for his development of Markov Chains, an example of which can be found at the end of this piece.  Markov, far from basing his idea on Christianity, was an atheist.  Nevertheless, in protest of the Church’s excommunication of Tolstoi, he requested that the Church excommunicate him too.  The church made his day and did so, and he remained outside of its communion until his death after the Revolution.

It’s easily forgotten today, but Tolstoi was very influential in the development of non-violent resistance and action towards social change.  That influence was more felt outside of Russia through people such as Gandhi (India), Martin Luther King (United States) and in his later years Nelson Mandela (South Africa).  For that to be effective requires conditions which were present in the last century but which may be a thing of the past today.

In Russia, Markov’s fellow atheists the Bolsheviks took a more violent (and I might say a non-Markov Chain type of) course.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the same Russian Orthodox Church, almost driven to extinction under Stalin, made a comeback. After seventy years of atheism and all that went with it, Russians are chary of attacking an institution which stood against it, as Pussy Riot found out the hard way.  And they’re still hanging tough on Tolstoi’s excommunication.

For all of Russia’s strange and sometimes horrific history–a history that continues to play out in our time, with impact everywhere–one has to admire Markov when comparing him to the mealy-mouthed politicians who use their religious affiliation to garner votes which at the same time acting and voting in ways which go against its precepts.

About Markov Chains

Markov chains concern themselves with predicting the outcome of a sequence of events given the probability of an outcome at each step.  The following example comes from Marvin Marcus’ A Survey of Finite Mathematics (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969).  We present another interesting example from Marcus’ book here.

In any case, consider a population of women which, like Gaul, is divided into three parts:

  1. Those who are overweight at 40;
  2. Those who are underweight at 40;
  3. Those who are normal weight at 40.

(The example doesn’t define the break points for weight, which is always the tricky parts in studies like this).

The transference of this condition from mother to daughter runs as follows:

  1. For mothers who are overweight at 40, 70% of their daughters are likewise, 20% are underweight and 10% are normal weight.
  2. For mothers who are underweight at 40, 30% of their daughters are overweight, 50% are likewise, and 20% are normal weight.
  3. For mothers who are normal weight at 40, 15% of their daughters are overweight, 60% are underweight, and 25% are likewise.

We arrange these results in what we call a transition matrix, shown below.  Each category of mother represents a column in the matrix and each category of daughter represents a row in the matrix.

P=\left [\begin {array}{ccc} {\frac {7}{10}}&3/10&{\frac {3}{20}}  \\\noalign{\medskip}1/5&1/2&3/5\\\noalign{\medskip}1/10&1/5&1/4  \end {array}\right ]

We now want to diagonalise the matrix.  We do this first by finding the eigenvalues and eigenvectors for the matrix.  These are reproduced below, with the following notation: [eigenvalue, number of occurrences, {[eigenvector]}]

[[{\frac {9}{40}}+1/40\,\sqrt {73},1,\left \{[-7/4-1/4\,\sqrt {73},3/4  +1/4\,\sqrt {73},1]\right \}],[{\frac {9}{40}}-1/40\,\sqrt {73},1,  \left \{[-7/4+1/4\,\sqrt {73},3/4-1/4\,\sqrt {73},1]\right \}],[1,1,  \left \{[{\frac {17}{14}},1,3/7]\right \}]]

In floating point form, the eigenvalues are .4386000936, .0113999064 and 1.

We now construct a matrix of the eigenvectors and its inverse, as follows:

Q=\left [\begin {array}{ccc} {\frac {17}{6}}&-{\frac {13}{16}}-1/16\,  \sqrt {73}&-{\frac {13}{16}}+1/16\,\sqrt {73}\\\noalign{\medskip}7/3&1  &1\\\noalign{\medskip}1&-3/16+1/16\,\sqrt {73}&-3/16-1/16\,\sqrt {73}  \end {array}\right ]

Q^{-1}=\left [\begin {array}{ccc} {\frac {6}{37}}&{\frac {6}{37}}&{\frac {6}{  37}}\\\noalign{\medskip}-{\frac {1}{2701}}\,\left (69+7\,\sqrt {73}  \right )\sqrt {73}&{\frac {1}{5402}}\,\left (-27+23\,\sqrt {73}\right  )\sqrt {73}&-{\frac {1}{2701}}\,\left (-227+7\,\sqrt {73}\right )  \sqrt {73}\\\noalign{\medskip}-{\frac {1}{2701}}\,\left (-69+7\,\sqrt  {73}\right )\sqrt {73}&{\frac {1}{5402}}\,\left (27+23\,\sqrt {73}  \right )\sqrt {73}&-{\frac {1}{2701}}\,\left (227+7\,\sqrt {73}\right  )\sqrt {73}\end {array}\right ]

Careful observers will note that there is a scalar multiple between the original eigenvectors and these arrays.  This is an artefact of a struggle with Maple I didn’t quite win, and will cancel itself out in the diagonalisation process.

That being the case, we multiply them to obtain

D=Q^{-1}PQ=\left[\begin{array}{ccc}    1 & 0 & 0\\    0 & {\frac{9}{40}}+1/40\,\sqrt{73} & 0\\    0 & 0 & {\frac{9}{40}}-1/40\,\sqrt{73}    \end{array}\right]

We obtain, as we would expect, a matrix with the eigenvalues along the diagonal.

We then use the diagonalising matrices again by multiplying to obtain the distribution of results after an “infinite” number of generations, thus

A=QDQ^{-1}=\left[\begin{array}{ccc}    \frac{17}{37} & \frac{17}{37} & \frac{17}{37}\\    \frac{14}{37} & \frac{14}{37} & \frac{14}{37}\\    \frac{6}{37} & \frac{6}{37} & \frac{6}{37}    \end{array}\right]

The result is as we want: the three columns are identical.  That result is a good check on whether your result is correct; I found it very easy to make mistakes in the entries of the transition matrix, which will show up if either those entries are invalid (or unsuitable for a Markov chain) or an incorrect value is entered.

The three rows represent the final outcomes of the chain.  Thus, in this case, the top row represents the women who will be overweight at age 40, the second row those who will be underweight, and the bottom those of normal weight.  We thus see that the result is that at age 40, 46% of the women will be overweight, 38% be underweight, and 16% be of normal weight.


  1. The example above leaves out a great deal of the theory of how the diagonalisation process is used to analyse the Markov chain.  Marcus goes into this in some detail, but in the example he actually uses another method to get his result.
  2. Although some will find this example objectionable, linear algebra is full of examples like this.  When I took advanced linear algebra, I fell ill during Spring Break, and ended up in a Catholic hospital, where I saw the election of Pope Francis.  (I told them during the process, “You better pay attention, you’re getting a new boss…”)  I came back from this experience only to be presented with an example involving people dying in the hospital!

Unloading on Roman Catholicism: A View From the Pew

In response to my post Think Before You Convert, George comes back with some tough observations, which I reproduce below, with my comments interspersed:

I’m a catholic and this church feels so empty that I cannot recommend anyone to convert into the RCC. I am one of those “too enthusiastic” types, reading the Bible, volunteering at church, reading the catechism, etc… As noted in the article, this is an authoritarian church, there is not really a dialogue. If you know your Bible, and initiate a conversation with a priest, you will soon find they will not “encourage” you with a discussion on any topic where the validity of an RCC position is being discussed. The priest doesn’t have to defend anything, you can take it or leave it. That is the RCC.

It’s tragic that a church with such a broad-based intellectual tradition, where you can find the question “why”? answered (a question Evangelicals are notoriously flat-footed in dealing with) for a variety of topics.  But the “take it or leave it” approach is not atypical at the parish level.  I’ve always felt that one of the great gifts from God in my life was that my first parish used the chapel for the archdiocese’s major seminary, where I could interact with the priests and professors there.

Converting is also quite a long and boring process. And you will have to sit through a ton of presentations, and will be expected to shut up and nod in acceptance of whatever you are told. Not kidding, ask a question, and they get uncomfortable quickly. The RCC is not a place where questions are asked.

I think the RCC has the idea that, if they make the conversion process difficult, they won’t get “box checkers”, which they have in abundance.  The problem is that the system, for other reasons, tends to encourage the formation of box checkers.  It’s kind of like my old cat, who thought that, if he hid behind the chair, we would not see him, oblivious to the fact that his tail was sticking out in plain view.

The Bible mentions so many spiritual things like; casting out demons, healings, visions, dreams, voices from Heaven, etc… The RCC has an intellectual acknowledgement of these things, bur if anyone actually talks about these things happening today in the laity, they look at you like you are crazy. So it is an intellectual Christianity, not a Christianity of the heart.

The problem here is that the RCC (especially these days) is obsessed with all the grace from God flowing through the church and the sacramental system.  That isn’t the way it works.  As far as head and heart knowledge, it’s a favourite “either/or” proposition of churches, but I don’t think that this is was God’s plan either.

The RCC has had a long obsession with Latin. For a long time mass was held in Latin, which is not the vernacular of anyone. So they chose for a long time to teach the word of eternal life in a dead language that hardly anyone can understand. Jesus and the apostles after the holy spirit descended on them spoke in languages that people could understand. The RCC chose latin that no one could understand for whatever bizarre reason that pleases them.

In the years after Our Lord was on the earth, his apostles and their agents, successors and assigns (sorry for the legalese, I’ve hung around lawyers too much) spread the Gospel in the languages then current.  One of those was Latin.  It was intelligible in the Roman Empire and widely so for a thousand years and more afterwards.

Unfortunately the people’s ignorance of the language turned what was intelligible to what was not, and it became a mystery, which turned into mystique, one buttressed by the fact that Latin is generally chanted.  It’s a good opportunity for parishes who want Latin Masses (and this applies to mixed ones too) to give Latin lessons, which would improve the people’s English to boot.  It’s also a splendid opportunity to pitch the Church’s dreadful pronunciation of the language.

Quite frankly, finding Jesus in the RCC, while not impossible, is super hard. Just find yourself a better church and enjoy the good news of the gospel.

That’s a tragedy for a church with such far a far reach into society.  Forcing people to make such a choice only impedes the advance of the Gospel and causes pain for many of us.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal