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Hanabi

There’s this cooperative game called Hanabi (that I love), where, in order to play a card, you are dependent on hints other players have given you. I decided early on to play with hope. I will hope that my fellow players gave me good hints and didn’t neglect to give me necessary hints. It can backfire when the constraints of the game limit the available hints, and so my fellow players were between a rock and a hard place. …

Anyway. When a person is first learning, a lot of times they don’t know what hints are the most important, or how to give good ones, or maybe they do, but they don’t know the kind of player I am and how I will respond. And so my preference for playing hopefully may be reckless for one round of play. It may leave the hint-er feeling like a failure. (I am disinclined to consider myself the failure.) Hanabi is a game for playing more than once. It is a game for learning people. In watching me respond in a certain way, even if we crashed and burned, now that player knows more about communicating with me in the future.

And one of the humbling beauties of the game is that not only are they learning how I play; I am also learning about how they give hints. So we adapt to each other. I probably won’t stop playing with hope just to adapt to a cautious strategy, but I may adapt to the things they evidently meant to communicate, and the things they think are priorities.

Yeah. But this morning I was thinking about the willingness to teach through failure. In the movie Penelope, a young woman goes to a bar for the first time and the bartender slides her a beer, but she watches it slide on off the counter. “You’re supposed to catch it,” he smiles at the crashed glass, and pours her another, which he slides to her in a second attempt. More than likely, he thought she’d figure it out the first time. Definitely expected her to not let another one hurdle off the end of the counter. But he didn’t have each of his customers go through orientation. He didn’t show them diagrams and examples. He didn’t hold the first beer a few inches from their hand and then give it a slow push to slide gently into the hand he’d made sure was waiting for the pint. He risked trust. He risked wasted beer and broken glass and embarassment.

I’m not going to just play it safe and have a mediocre game. I’m going to play like I think it should be played, and lose very badly a few times in order to become really great players and get great scores more consistently. I guess I could explain things out, train the game before playing (thinking especially of teaching kids), but that kind of defeats what is to me one of the objects of the game: to practice paying enough attention to other people, and putting your fate in their hands, to communicate and cooperate better and better.


To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Wert

I cried tonight. I didn’t expect it. I was watching a movie that wasn’t sad, that didn’t have me in the least feeling teary, and it ended without anyone dying, and I remembered something I told someone earlier in the day, that I didn’t feel very deeply when I said it. And I just cried. 

I mean, I know that I have had a long and overwhelming few weeks. I know that the whole world feels like it is inevitably sliding toward the brink. I know that I have sadness that is not depression that hasn’t been all the way dealt with. Not that I feel like it’s holding me back; I have a job, after all. I gather and laugh and pray and work and even occasionally meet new people. There was Covid. There still is the strangely rapid totalitarian takeover that is sort of called Covid. I think there’s a lot of sadness in me about that. I know that “captivated by hope” is not currently the best descriptor of me. 

But the tears did surprise me. Hard tears, real crying for a minute or two. Tears that have to do with actual hard things in my actual life, and not just pulled out of me by a sad movie or another person’s struggle. 

Earlier today I told someone I work with that I had wanted twelve kids. 

My job is fine. It’s a job. It’s work that I don’t feel is completely meaningless. I’m probably overqualified, but no one would really know that from a resume. (Not that there are things I don’t know, like how to make the e in resume have that little accent line over it to distinguish it from picking up where we left off.) I actually work really hard, much harder than is strictly necessary, at my job. I try to find ways to make it better, whether it would particularly benefit me or not. 

So after I cried, I was wondering. If I’d had twelve kids and a household by now, that would be an enormous task. I’d probably have cried more over the years. But I wonder if I put so much into my job because I really believe I’m capable of doing more – you know, like wrangling a whole big family. 

I got to be on a team this week. My little sister and her husband own their first house, and I was helping them fix it up by handling a drill and a hammer and all sorts of other things I am vastly underqualified to do. One day in particular a fellow volunteer was someone I’d served with years ago at a ministry, and it brought back fond memories of that teamwork. No joke; I was so grateful to get to be on a team with him again. 

Another team member from that ministry back in the day has had a life really different from what I expected. He’s been doubting things he taught others about Jesus back then. And suffering from life and human betrayals in a way that is undoubtedly all knotted up with the other doubts. That makes me sad. Ecclesiastes says not to wish that we were back in the former days, romanticizing the past. How do you do that when the former days held so much that today doesn’t? People have literally died. Marriages are broken. Doors are closed on hopes. Friends moved away. Comrades in Christ have professed not to trust Him anymore. What is that? 

I know how to obey Ecclesiastes. It’s like a friend was texting me recently: to look to God, to think about Him and His plan and what we know He’s doing. Hours before the crying, I was thinking about that. There is this book I really like but haven’t read in a few years, and the author weaves in glimpses to the plots of demons, like Screwtape Letters, and then the readers get to see their evil plots unfolding, everything going according to plan, and it is horrible, but it is so good for me, because as the story goes on, it so happens that there is a bigger plan by a more powerful Person, and that it is actually His will going according to plan, so that the end the demons hoped for is completely thwarted. In the immediate future, I cannot imagine what bigger plan is going on. But I do know that in the very end the end we hope for is true. The King comes on a white horse, vanquishing enemies and making a home for His beloved faithful, receiving His own due reward and desire. 

I got to work early this morning, and turned on our Pandora while I got things set up. I picked a different station, and was surprised that it played me hymns. I changed it to less overtly religious music when we opened, but it was so nice to have a quiet ten or fifteen minutes being reminded “which, wert, and art and evermore shall be.” 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Two Fields

Once upon a time there were two fields and two farmers. One field was fertile, and the farmer who lived there worked diligently to plant crops, care for them, and harvest. His harvests were so abundant that he made more than he and his family needed. The second field was sandy and dry. Harvests tended to be small, and many years there wasn’t enough to feed the farmer and his family. Their generous neighbors shared some of their excess, and the poor farmer’s family didn’t starve. 

Then along came a central planner one year. He noted how unfair it was that one farmer had better harvests than the other farmer. To solve this problem, he decided that the farmer with the good field must share half of his planting seeds with the other farmer.


So both farmers set to planting. And they tended their fields. They watered. They watched. When the time came, they reaped. Where before there had been a bounty, there food still grew. It wasn’t as much. The first farmer’s family would be a little hungry that year. On the other field, hardly any food was harvested. This farmer had grown a tiny bit more than before, but still not anywhere close to enough to feed his family. And the previously prosperous farm had none to share. The second farmer gave all the food he could to his children. He and his wife died that winter. 


Central planners all over are inviting us to repeat this story. 


To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

When I am allowed to make personal judgments about how I behave in this pandemic, I am not just considering one or two facts. In the case of wearing masks when out shopping, here is how I would reason it, if the government weren’t superimposing their will:

  1. Transmission is extremely rare in circumstances without prolonged close exposure, and
  2. Transmission by people without current symptoms is a small portion of total transmissions, and
  3. Even among symptomatic people, most infected don’t pass the virus to anyone else: super-spreaders do way more than their fair share, and
  4. Cloth masks only filter some droplets and fewer aerosols, and
  5. Masks are mostly recommended as source control, which is only relevant if I am currently infected and contagious, and
  6. I know I have not had prolonged exposure to the most contagious type of infection, and
  7. I know that I am not experiencing any symptoms whatsoever, and
  8. I know that I am getting lots of Vitamins C and D, which are shown to be immune-supporting and virus-inhibiting (so the chances that I am capable of spreading the virus should I be exposed are even smaller), and
  9. Finally, the statistical likelihood that in the extremely remote chance that I have it multiplied by the extremely remote chance I give it to anyone else, that such a person would experience any long-term detrimental effect is very smallprobably as small as with Influenza and many other viruses which have never previously induced me to do everything in my power to reduce any possibility of spreading.

 

I am obeying the requests of business owners and private individuals, and even of governments, for the most part, regarding masks. But that does not make me very carefully take off my mask and not touch it again until I am washing it, or to conscientiously sanitize my hands every time I touch my mask. I don’t believe those things are relevant in a significant way under my circumstances, so I am only complying with what other people demand. It is not personal conviction in the slightest.

 

However, if circumstances were different and the facts about the virus were the same, 

 

I could build a different set of facts for different circumstances, too. 

  1. Transmission is more likely in circumstances with prolonged close exposure, and
  2. Transmission by people with current symptoms is a higher proportion of total transmissions than asymptomatic carriers, and
  3. Cloth masks filter some droplets, if not aerosols, and
  4. Exposure to higher concentrations of virus makes infection more likely, and
  5. Masks are mostly recommended as source control, which is relevant if I am likely to be currently infected and contagious, and
  6. I know whether I have had prolonged exposure to the most contagious type of infection, and
  7. I can tell whether I am experiencing any symptoms whatsoever, and
  8. I know that certain people I could choose to be around have weak immune systems, are in high-risk categories, live in a place where they are likely to spread it to other health-compromised people, or they have insufficient access to good health care, and
  9. Even though the risks are probably almost as small as with Influenza and many other viruses, I would have taken precautions to avoid spending extended time around vulnerable people when I was sick, in those other cases, also.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Black Lives Matter Global Network uses a non-profit fundraising technology company used by many democrats and leftist organizations, ActBlue(1). This organization has at least three branches(2): one for 501(c)3s – charities, one of 501(c)4s – civics, and one for a PAC. BLM uses the charities branch as a pass-through.
When a person donates via the ActBlue platform, their receipt(3) provides them with a tax ID number that is associated with a 501(c)3 charity called Thousand Currents(4), formerly legally known as IBEX.
Thousand Currents entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Black Lives Matter back in 2016(5,6). This makes BLM basically a “project” of the legally recognized, pre-existing charity(7). The group running the Black Lives Matter website, the women who started the hashtag, do not have their own 501(c)3 or tax ID number. Some local chapters, and some scams, do.
Audits and 990 Filings are published on Thousand Currents’ website(8), and 990s are available through the IRS(9). They document that (at least for a year after the donation is made) the sponsoring organization is holding donations earmarked for BLM in a separate account, restricted from general fund use. These funds are by far the majority of their revenue. These tax documents also record paying the salary of the managing director of BLM.
thousand-currents-990-2017
As far as I can tell, there are no public breakdowns of how money donated to Black Lives Matter is allocated. Since suspicions(10,11) have been making internet rounds this week, BLM has announced a $6.5 million fund(12) to support local affiliates in grassroots organizing work. They also announced intentions to develop a curriculum in line with their worldview and activism goals. Accusations that funds donated through Black Lives Matter were funneled directly by ActBlue’s PAC to Democrat candidates seem to be unfounded. However, the fine print(13) on ActBlue does say that allocated funds from uncashed checks will be moved to ActBlue to support its “social welfare activities” (if you were donating to a 501(c)4) or ActBlue Charities (if you were donating to a 501(c)3). I have not been able to determine how such funds are used. 
 
Footnotes: 
 
(2) ActBlue, “What is the difference between ActBlue, ActBlue Civics, AB Charities, and ActBlue Technical Services?”, accessed June 12, 2020 https://support.actblue.com/donors/about-actblue/what-is-the-difference-between-actblue-actblue-civics-ab-charities-and-actblue-technical-services/?fbclid=IwAR3j5frLc-aQ7IctBXvG9-3XQgRmemMqmJCiCZ2K00bxd5Ob5qMrz-knv10 
 
(3) Taylor @_aambush on Twitter June 1, 2020, accessed June 12, 2020 https://mobile.twitter.com/_aambush/status/1267681478739099648?fbclid=IwAR0MT2PbxPxRHwM6P1TiZOUUs2AdsmAkRGf-rsGiS7ccUZoIYnUVoqNJaSQ (also many such examples when googling images including Tax ID 77-0071852)
 
 
(5) Thousand Currents Press Release: “IDEX and Black Lives Matter announce global partnership” September 6, 2016, accessed June 12, 2020 https://thousandcurrents.org/idex-and-black-lives-matter-announce-global-partnership/?fbclid=IwAR3j5frLc-aQ7IctBXvG9-3XQgRmemMqmJCiCZ2K00bxd5Ob5qMrz-knv10 
 
 
(7) National Council of Nonprofits: “Fiscal Sponsorship for Nonprofits”, accessed June 12, 2020 https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/fiscal-sponsorship-nonprofits
 
(8) Thousand Currents Financials, website and PDFs accessed June 12, 2020 https://thousandcurrents.org/financials/?fbclid=IwAR1UaJ-AxOquTrAa8ZBOwiO_127h14k0l7cqPq1jD4Jf8ukCKcwslh514PI 
 
 
(11) Candace Owens @RealCandaceO on Twitter, June 10, 2020 accessed June 12, 2020 https://twitter.com/RealCandaceO/status/1270874599635529732 
 
(12) Black Lives Matter: “Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation announces $6.5 million fund to support organizing work” June 11, 2020, accessed June 12, 20200 https://blacklivesmatter.com/black-lives-matter-global-network-foundation-announces-6-5-million-fund-to-support-organizing-work/?fbclid=IwAR0c7rENZ85iVg1d7I5hoH8lPEb1smi6FS7Vpz_aR0O47cmNP8ZCmCFK-wM 
 
(13) ActBlue: The Fine Print, “Re-designation of Contributions”, accessed June 12, 2020 https://secure.actblue.com/content/fineprint 
 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

 

Herd immunity.
The idea that after a certain number of people in a group are immune to a pathogen, it progressively becomes almost impossible for the pathogen to spread broadly.

If we could choose which of the members of society to be exposed to the pathogen and so become immune, but not all members have equal risk of harm or death from the disease, how would we decide?

For an extremely simplified example, suppose there are 1000 people in our herd. As more of them recover, the disease is less and less likely to spread. But (also just for a simple example) it takes until 50% (500) before the virus is basically no longer a threat.

100 of the herd, Zs, if they catch the virus, are known to be more likely to suffer harm or to die (maybe 5% of the infected Zs will die). When they die, they reduce the numerator and the denominator for the future – future being the realm where herd immunity continues to be useful. But to keep this simple, I am ignoring this small fact in the math.

200, the Xs, say, have almost zero risk of harm or death, but they can still contribute to the percentage of the herd that needs to be immune in order to have herd immunity.

In between, we have the other 700, the Ys, who have a varying risk of death, but let’s say it averages to 1% of the infected.

Scenario 1: If we select people at random to bear the burden of exposure, sickness, and hopeful survival into an immune state, a high percentage of the vulnerable Zs will die. Herd immunity may take longer to accomplish. 500/1000 will have to get and survive the disease. Around 50 will be Zs. Two or three Zs will die. About 350 Ys will catch it. Three or four of them will die. Around 100 Xs will catch it. None of them will die.
Total death count would be five to seven.

Scenario 2: If we prevent most of the least vulnerable Xs from being exposed, but don’t prevent others (Ys and Zs) from being exposed, then an even higher portion of the most vulnerable will be exposed, sickened, and die from the disease. 500/800 will have to get and survive the disease. Around 62 or 63 Zs will catch it. About three will die. Around 438 Ys will catch it. Four or five will die. No Xs catch it. None die.
Total death count seven or eight.

Scenario 3: If we choose to reverse this, and carefully prevent the most vulnerable from being exposed, while allowing the risks to be more or less evenly distributed among the Xs and Ys, we will have built herd immunity with less total harm and death. 500/900 will have to get and survive the disease. For the sake of argument, we are perfect at protecting the 100 Zs. None get it. None die. 389 Ys catch it. About four die. About 111 Xs catch it. None die.
Total death count is four.

Which scenario do you support, and why?

Which is closest to what our leaders have chosen for us?

Please note. There is real data that could be substituted, for the percent of our population that is of a certain age, for example.

We could stratify the Ys into more age or vulnerability brackets.

The infection fatality rates assumed for the sake of simplification are not accurate, but they are somewhat close. They are least accurate for Ys, I believe.

We actually aren’t perfect at sheltering any group of people. For simplicity, I assumed that all Zs, in Scenario 3, were protected, and all Xs, in Scenario 2. The real world is less sharply divided. However, I believe this example is demonstrative because it is such a small number relative to our total population.

Finally, there is some interesting thought about the most social* people being the most likely, quickest, and most necessary group to get infected for the purposes of herd immunity, which could affect this example, both in the total percentage required for herd immunity, and also for the natural tendencies that are not the same as mathematically random selections of the infected.

*Social defined here as having near physical contact. It doesn’t have to be in a way that involves communication; proximity could work.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

I care about disparity in wealth: I want more disparity between starvation levels and the poorest poor. If the richest rich also increase their prosperity in so doing, I have no objection to letting them. 

Of course, I think it is also good to exhort rich and poor to work hard; to seek to add value to the world; to buy and sell goods and labor at just and honest prices; and to be generous to the unfortunate poor.

I am convinced that shutting down and discouraging such large parts of our economies increases the disparity between the richest rich and everyone else. The poorest poor are even more facing starvation, after decades of reducing starvation around the world. And much of the financially-stable middle class is being sunk into poverty. 

Sure, the richest rich are not making as much money, but they are still making it, and they are not in danger of losing the power and influence their money buys. To the contrary, the richest rich are posturing for greater influence in a panicked world controlled by central planners more than ever. 

Meanwhile, the way our US government is addressing the lockdowns, rather than re-opening, is to borrow a whole bunch of money with which to pay paltry sums to poorer individuals, and money in the millions to the already influential lobbies representing the interests of the richest rich. 

Free people engaging in free economy is the most effective means of resisting corruption and improving the economic status of the poor.

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

If the Treasury Secretary started issuing orders for which US Navy ships should go where, is it the Christian thing to do for the captains to submit to that governing authority?
Of course not! Our government is not set up for the Treasury Secretary to have authority to command the military.



A Christian captain conscientiously obeying Romans 13’s directive to be subject to governing authorities is still doing so while disregarding the authority presumptions of our hypothetical Secretary.



Neither is the United States set up to give anyone in government the authority to command us not to assemble, or gather for worship, or to speak, or for the press to investigate and report.



To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Before Christmas I read a quote about feasts by GK Chesterton, and since it intrigued me, I tracked down the source. This involved my embarrassingly asking the Facebook Group which had posted the quote, whence it came – only to be told that the citation was the very first thing in the post, preceding the quote. Much of Chesterton’s work is available free online, so I set about to find the entire article, from The Illustrated London News 1906. It may be scanned in somewhere, but not easily searched nor found.

In my searching, I did run across the existence of printed volumes of GK Chesterton’s articles, so my next effort was to find a copy at a library to which I had access. In this I was again nearly thwarted by the fact that all the volumes were contained in the same catalog entry, so that I was unsure how to request only one (without driving an hour or more each way to access the library in person). I decided to risk the request, imagining that even if the wrong volume was sent, it would likely be worthwhile to read anyway. The electronic catalog was better than my estimation, and I was today able to pick up the exact volume bearing the article I sought, along with several books about geysers, volcanoes, and pillar-cobbled causeways made from cooled lava flows. 

All of this is a hopefully amusing introduction to my much shorter actual reason for writing this blog post: As I read one entry from the middle of a collection of weekly essays written by the witty Chesterton, and began the next, I had the exact feeling I get when I flip to the middle of a Calvin & Hobbes collection, and realize that I am intruding on a story already in progress, and that I do not know how many editions backward I must retreat in order to enter at the episode’s gate. 

And the fact of this coincidental phenomenon led me to the discovery of a fact. Chesterton and Watterson were in the same business; their art delved into the same themes; their skills produce the same enduring delight mixed with education. I don’t know if GK Chesterton ever saw a sketch of a phalanx of garish snowmen, but if he had, I feel sure he would have approved. 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

This Christmas, I selected Mary as the theme of my etymologies. Please note that this is not a Bible study, but an etymology study of the English words used in the story of Mary from the Gospel of Luke. With the exception of the name, Mary, none of these etymologies touch on the Greek words used in the original text. Because of the nature of this post, I discourage you using it to draw interpretations or applications from Mary’s character or circumstances.

Mary – As the name of a Jewish woman in Israel, is predictably from Hebrew, Miriam, literally “rebellious”, from the root mârâh, which means “to be bitter, to rebel, to be disobedient, to resist, provoke, change”.
blessed – This word has been a part of English since the 12th century, meaning “supremely happy” or “consecrated and holy”. From bless, Old English bletsian, “to consecrate by sprinkling blood”. It shares the same root as blood. The definition having to do with happiness is newer, and was probably influenced by the unrelated bliss.
blood – A word from the Proto-Germanic *blodham, also meaning “blood”. Perhaps came from a Proto-Indo-European root for “that which bursts out”, *bhlo-to-, also the proposed root of bloom and blow.
bliss – Since Old English days, this word has has meant “bliss, merriment, happiness, grace, favor”, from Proto-Germanic *blithiz, “gentle, kind”. It was probably influenced to have a more spiritual or heavenly idea of happiness because of its similarity to bless.
favor – First an Old French term: “a favor; approval, praise; applause; partiality”, favor comes from Latin favorem, “good will, inclination, partiality, support”, coined by Cicero from favere “to show kindness to”, from Proto-Indo-European *ghow-e- “to honor, revere, worship”. Etymologists believe the Old Norse word ga, “to heed”, comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root.
maidservant – This compound word shows up in English in the 1520’s.
maid – “Unmarried, young”, maid often referring to a virgin woman. It was, in its early decades, used as a sort of shorthand for the Virgin Mary. The term was also early on applied to young unmarried men, but not anymore. Shortened from maiden, which is in Old English mægden, with essentially the same meaning. The -en is a diminutive – that is, it comes from a word meaning “woman”, and the suffix tells us it is a little woman, or a younger woman. But this word for woman, mægeð, also had a connotation of inexperience, or of one yet “growing in power”. From a Proto-Indo-European root *maghu, which referred to young people of either sex, and became the root of words in other languages for “unmarried”, “slave”, or in Old English, “son, male descendant, child”. I think the Old Irish, maug, meaning “slave” is one of the most interesting cognates, given the late evolution in English of maiden into maid, meaning “domestic servant, housekeeper”.
servant – From the root serve, servant appeared in 12th century English as “to render habitual obedience to”. From Old French servir “to do duty toward, show devotion to; set table, serve at table; offer, provide with”. In many cases, the Latin root of this French word was used of slaves, not only people rendering voluntary service. There is debate about the origin of this Latin word, servire. Is it from Etruscan names? From a sense of “binding”, as in Latin sero? Or is it from a Proto-Italic word meaning “to heed and observe, to shepherd”?
woman – One of the most ordinary words in our modern English language, the etymology of this Late Old English word, then spelled wimman, is interesting and contested. Most etymologists think that the earlier form was wifman, an obviously compound word attested in literature. Man, at that period, meant “a human”. Wif meant “woman”, revealing that the Late Old English (and our word, too), is a silly compound literally meaning “woman-man”. Other etymologists speculate that rather than wifman, woman derived from womb-man. Other languages have such terms, but none of the sources I read were able to cite examples of this progression in English. Some etymologists believe wif comes from the same root as weave, and refers to a woman’s role in medieval English homes as a weaver of clothes. Others suggest a root meaning “to tremble”. Digging further back, other etymologists suggest wif comes from Proto-Germanic *wiban, also meaning “woman”. (It took a while for wif to specifically refer to a married woman.) We deduce from the fact that speakers made the word wifman that wif alone at that time didn’t do enough standing alone to communicate “woman”. But we’re not sure why. Nor do etymologists have consensus whence the Proto-Germanic word comes.
womb – The Old English ancestor of this word referred to “the womb, belly, or even the heart”?! From Proto-Germanic *wambo, the source mostly of other Germanic languages’ “womb” words, but also in Old English the root of a word for “child”, umbor. Most likely comes from a root meaning “bulge” or “swelling”.
magnify – Our English word hasn’t changed much from Latin’s magnificare, “esteem greatly, extol, make much of”. Ultimately, it comes from a combination of two Proto-Indo-European roots, *meg- “great” and *dhe- “to set, put”. The predecessor to magnificare in Latin meant “someone who does great deeds”. Unlike many other words having to do with praise, magnifying almost cannot invent virtue; it must be earned – just like a magnifying glass cannot make a small thing to exist, but only draw attention to it.
An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter William Skeat
With reference to a few other old etymological dictionaries.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn