Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Not sure if I have much blogworthy this week, besides being stung by a bee. Also had to change the number our men's singing group will be singing this Sunday due to someone unexpectedly not being able to make it. This weekend will also be the church's women's retreat, so I look forward to seeing all the men trying to take care of the kids :)

Saturday, April 26, 2003

In the spirit of everyone making favorites lists, I've spent some time to think up my top ten list of symphonic pieces of music. The task of coming up with favorite pieces of any kind was just too daunting. So I have left out wonderful chamber pieces, solo pieces, choral masterpieces, and short works. These are all multi-movement (with one exception) symphonic works. In looking over them, I've noticed certain weird things about my taste, among them that most of these pieces are ones I became familiar with in high school, or earlier. I suppose the music of youth has a way of estabishing itself in one's mind. So here is my annotated list, alphabetically by composer:

1. Johannes Brahms, sym #4. This serves as a stand in for all 4 symphonies, not to mention the fact that he is in my estimation, the most skillful composer to live since J S Bach.

2 Havergal Brian sym #1 (The Gothic). An overwhelmig piece of music my perhaps the most unjustly neglected composer of the 20th century. Brian created a prodigious output of what I understand to be high quality music (I haven't heard much of it myself). This particular work is notable for the fact that it takes around 300 muscians to pull it off. You have to hear it t believe it, but it isn't for the timid or the time-challenged as it lasts over two hours.

3 Anton Bruckner sym #9. Don't know what to say about this one other than I never grow tired of it. Seems like the sort of thing an Ent would like; slow, ponderous, deliberate and powerful.

4 Aaron Copland sym #3. If you have ever enjoyed Copland but aren't familiar with this one, go get it. This is, if I understand correctly, the source for his famous Fanfare for the Common Man.

5 Howard Hanson sym #5. Again, this is a stand in for all his work. Another lesser known composer, but someone who tirelessly promoted the music of other americans. This particular piece I performed with a youth orchestra in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, so it carries a lot of memories for me. It is designed as a musical depiction of Passion Week.

6 Aram Khachaturian sym #3. Brass, brass and more brass. I grew up playing brass (French Horn) and have never gotten it out of my system. This one has some zip to it.

7 Felix Mendelsohn Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is a piece which I listened to every night at bed time for several months when I was about 14. By far the closest to "classical" of anything on my list. I think I'm just amazed that he wrote this at the age of 16.

8 Dmitry Shostakovich sym #5. I think Shostakovich appealed to the melancholy in my character. I used to have a great love of the tragic, and there isn't much for me that evokes tragedy quite like this.

9 Sibelius sym #2. Though I like all his symphonies (#5 is also terrific), this is the one I performed so I got a real sense of the details of it. The final movement reminds me of being carried along giant waves.

10 Ralph Vaughn William sym #6 (The Pastoral). I don't think many are familar with this, but it's another one I've never tired of, and quite a chage from the louder stuff on this list. Quiet, smooth, and peaceful.

Runner's Up:

I had to leave off works such as The Planets and Respighi's Roman set, because I didn't think they quite fit the category (plus I wanted to keep it to ten). Other close calls were Dvorak's sym #9 and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

You probably shouldn't visit this site.
In other news, last night we attended our first eeting of the Mebane Historical Society. Heard a terrific lecture by the man who heads the county historical museum (also a lecturer at UNCG). Learned a lot about what yo umight call the pre-history of our little town. Long story short, the town exists pretty much because the Mebane family paid off a legislator in the next county to the north and we ended up with the railroad tracks instead of them.

Also watched Run, Lola, Run. Enjoyed that quite a bit. Certainly was funnier than I had anticipated.
Phew! We got our visa applications in the mail today. Lenise got her updated passport bak on Monday, so I made sure we got the forms ready. Then just as I went to get the mailing address, I find that the Ukrainian Embassy website was down. Fortunately on the internet there is usually more than one way to skin a cat, so I found the info I needed. BTW, if you want a little intellectual puzzle, look up the list of countries for which Ukraine does NOT require an entry visa. Such entities as Mexico, Israel, Croatia, Cuba and Vietnam. I figured I'd go to the grocery store, buy the money orders for the fee and bring them over to the local Wrap Pack and Ship. Not having bought a money order in about 10 years, I had forgotten that you need CASH MONEY DOLLARS to buy them. So I had to go back to the bank to get the money. Even though I go into the bank about every week, I happened to get a teller who didn't know me, so I had to show ID. No biggie. Back to the store. Now there was a line to wait in. Thumb twiddling. Bought the money orders. Wrap Pack and Ship is 2 doors down. Unfortunately they don't open til 10. Got some reading done. Go in at 10. Took about 25 minutes to arrange everything. Also the store didn't know where the business cards were which I had ordered from them 2 weeks ago, but that's another story. In any event, the applications are on their way. Pray that the consular beaurocrats would not find fault and return them to us in a timely fashion.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

And happy Easter to all. We had what should be mandatory for Easter, i.e. lamb. Plus asparagus, carrots (which all the kids present called Laura), vino (French, in the spirit of forgiveness), cake and cigars for the men. Lovely day all around.
Nerds rejoice! TRS-80 computers were Y2K compliant.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

This might be one of the best paragraphs I've seen from this writer (and I've seen a lot of them).

I'm looking at a slide: It shows me, standing on the beach in my bathing suit, displaying a degree of musculature rarely found outside the asparagus family. My face has an expression that conveys the emotion: ''I cannot see a thing.'' I had removed my thick, Soviet-style eyeglasses, in the foolish hope that this would make me attractive to girls, which it did not, and even if it had, I would have been unable, without sonar, to locate them.

I'll paypal $.02 to the first person who can tell me who wrote it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Courtesy of William Gibson, this is both a fascinaing and disturbing look at the war from our "friends" abroad.
Amazing. Where's the academy award for this one? Also, I won't link directly to this one, because of content, but someone made a really interesting short film about internet chatrooms, called The Parlor. It explores what a chatroom would looklike if it was in an actual room. It appears to have been an entry in something called the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Fest (or something like that). I found it at That shoul give you plenty of info to find it for yourself. It does contain the sort of language that keeps me out of chatrooms myself, just to warn you.
You have to ask yourself, would we be better off today if our poiticians wore masks.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Finished the Paul Tourier book today. No great feat, as it ws only 63 pages long. But goodness, what a great writer and thinker he was. Inspires me to think that someone well outside of the professional religious community could write so well on Christian issues.. This particular book asks several questions about how people, especially Christians, should participate in conflict (not limited to military ones). He had amazing skill at what we americans would call cutting through the crap on this issue. Short summary of his approach is that a purely intellectual approach to the question, "Am I obligated to stand up and fight about this, or am I obligated to let it all pass", is not likely to be fruitful. Beyond trying to reason it out he suggests the two approaches of prayer and letting God change you. This may sound trivial the way I put it, but when illustrated with real examples from his patients, it was quite powerful. If yo ucan find or borrow this book, I do recommend it highly.

On a down note, did a little googling of Mr Tournier today. One of the top entries was an old paper from a Wheaton student which showed pretty conclusively that Tournier was a universalist. I say conclusively, because Tournier said as much in a personal letter to the writer. I guess no one's perfect. In any event, I don't have the least doubt that Tounier was quite genuine in his faith, theological stumblings aside.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

It is exciting to see the funding start to come in. We've gotten a check each of the last 3 days. I do waver between faith and doubt on the whole funding of our trip. I guess I'm leaning towards the desparation of faith since we've bought the tickets now.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Mission trip update:

I do love searching for best prices on things, just as a theoretical exercise. However, trying to get the best price for a group of people for this trip has been a little time intensive. Plus there's the minor frustration of finding what looks like a good price, but then having to check with others before actually booking the tickets, then having that fare become unavailable. Also, if one more person suggests one more "great place to find cheap tickets" I think I'll scream. Then there's the "what if we change this date", or "what if we leave from a different city" scenarios. Good thing I have some time available and a certain amount of patience at dealing with this sort of thing.

If any of you would like more info about what we will be doing, or would like to help with funding support, just email me (link over to your left), and I'll send you our official letter.
I'm curious as to exactly how many churches send their business to this company (notice the top of the left sidebar).
Math for doctors:

I'll give you a couple examples relating to medical care. In the U.S. and many European countries, women who are 40 years old are told to participate in mammography screening. Say that a woman takes her first mammogram and it comes out positive. She might ask the physician, "What does that mean? Do I have breast cancer? Or are my chances of having it 99%, 95%, or 90% ­ or only 50%? What do we know at this point?" I have put the same question to radiologists who have done mammography screening for 20 or 25 years, including chiefs of departments. A third said they would tell this woman that, given a positive mammogram, her chance of having breast cancer is 90%.

However, what happens when they get additional relevant information? The chance that a woman in this age group has cancer is roughly1%. If a woman has breast cancer, the probability that she will test positive on a mammogram is 90%. If a woman does not have breast cancer the probability that she nevertheless tests positive is some 9%. In technical terms you have a base rate of 1%, a sensitivity or hit rate of 90%, and a false positive rate of about 9%. So, how do you answer this woman who's just tested positive for cancer? As I just said, about a third of the physicians thinks it's 90%, another third thinks the answer should be something between 50% and 80%, and another third thinks the answer is between 1% and 10%. Again, these are professionals with many years of experience. It's hard to imagine a larger variability in physicians' judgments — between 1% and 90% — and if patients knew about this variability, they would not be very happy. This situation is typical of what we know from laboratory experiments: namely, that when people encounter probabilities — which are technically conditional probabilities — their minds are clouded when they try to make an inference.

What we do is to teach these physicians tools that change the representation so that they can see through the problem. We don't send them to a statistics course, since they wouldn't have the time to go in the first place, and most likely they wouldn't understand it because they would be taught probabilities again. But how can we help them to understand the situation?

Let's change the representation using natural frequencies, as if the physician would have observed these patients him- or herself. One can communicate the same information in the following, much more simple way. Think about 100 women. One of them has breast cancer. This was the 1%. She likely tests positive; that's the 90%. Out of 99 who do not have breast cancer another 9 or 10 will test positive. So we have one in 9 or 10 who tests positive. How many of them actually has cancer? One out of ten. That's not 90%, that's not 50%, that's one out of ten.

Here we have a method that enables physicians to see through the fog just by changing the representation, turning their innumeracy into insight. Many of these physicians have carried this innumeracy around for decades and have tried to hide it. When we interview them, they obviously admit it, saying, "I don't know what to do with these numbers. I always confuse these things." Here we have a chance to use very simple tools to help those patients and physicians to understand what the risks are and which enable them to have a reasonable reaction to what to do. If you take the perspective of a patient — that this test means that there is a 90% chance you have cancer — you can imagine what emotions set in, emotions that do not help her to reason the right way. But informing her that only one out of ten women who tests positive actually has cancer would help her to have a cooler attitude and to make more reasonable decisions.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Blogger ate my last three entries. Not sure how I offended the internet gods. Or who I need to propitiate.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Oral arguents in Grutter v Bollinger going on right now apparently. Can listen here if you like that sort of thing.