Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Brief Look Back and a Glance Forward 

Last year on this date, I said the three most important issues of 2019 would be the South China Sea, the trade war, and human rights.

The South China Sea is still an issue, but it has really been on hold all year, so it is not an immediate issue.

The trade war definitely stayed up front all year. And they are talking about the first phase being ready to sign now, but I am skeptical. It does look like Trump is winning, although winning slowly, but this really needs to be a win-win situation. If one side loses, they both lose. But I guess it must be said that the trade war has not become the disaster some predicted and most feared.

Human rights is still very much an issue because of Xinjiang. There is some talk that the camps may be closing, but I am not confident. But the BBC sattelite photos put a lot of pressure on the Chinese government. Their initial denials became ludicrous and they were forced to develop other rationalizations.

The one I missed, of course, was Hong Kong. Nobody anticipated it. If they had, they never would have introduced that extradition bill. I personally do not see the introduction of the extradition bill as a malicious act. But it was definitely clueless, and points to the perpetual insensitivity of the Hong Kong government.

For those of you who don't follow Hong Kong politics, the Chief Executive in Hong Kong is sorta elected, but in a lopsided way that basically ensures that Beijing is in control. The people who get picked for the job are not Communists per se. But they tend to be pro-Beijing elitists. So far, not one of them has left office without being roundly condemned by the common people. It is not a good situation and not entirely fair either to the common people of Hong Kong, or to the Chief Executive. What I mean is that most of the time, the Chief Executive is actually not a bad administrator. But the ones who get chosen are often viewed as "out of touch." For example, when C.Y. Leung was C.E., he remarked at one time that if democracy were more direct, there would be people voting who only made 1000 (Hong Kong) dollars a month. In other words, he was concerned that minimum wage people would actually have a part in choosing the chief executive. It's the sort of thing that makes you say, "That's what democracy is about, C.Y." I really don't think he meant it maliciously. But it was a stupid thing to say.

But what happened last summer really was the ultimate faux pas for a Hong Kong leader. How Carrie Lamb could have thought people would accept an agreement to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China just boggles the mind. Pandemonium. As I have said before, I do not justify the violence of the young people. But she lit the fuse. And it's not over. That could slowly get better or get much worse. And the involvement of ignorant uninformed American members of Congress does not help.

So I thought I would let you hear from a unique group of young people. Four Hong Kong students at Columbia University share their thoughts. They are not ignoramuses like American members of Congress, but they are also not as one-sided as the demonstrators who have lived all their lives in Hong Kong and tend to be very self-centered in their thinking.

This will be the defining issue at least in the first part of the year. But the trade war is also ongoing because it is not finishing up quickly the way Trump anticipated. I think the South China Sea is probably going to stay in the background for the foreseeable future. Regarding Xinjiang, if China gets those camps closed down very quickly, they may survive this, because most people realize that there were, in fact, jihad Muslims in Xinjiang and something had to be done. But the actions of the government have been way, way too heavy-handed, so it really needs to end now, because the situation is precarious in terms of China's reputation before the watching world. It is not fun to live a world where everybody hates you and your own best citizens are embarrassed to admit that they are from China.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Science Night - What is a gyrocopter? 

What is a gyrocopter? It is probably the most misunderstood aircraft. Gyrocopters came into the news a few years ago when a postal worker from Florida landed a gyrocopter on the White House lawn. I was amused to see news personalities refer to the craft as a "small helicopter." A gyrocopter is not anything like a helicopter. It looks like a helicopter. But that is where the similarity ends.

A gyrcoplter does not fly like a helicopter. Everyone knows how a helicopter flies. A giant rotor spins and creates lift. But a gyrocopter could never fly like that. Why? Because the rotor on a gyrocopter has no motor attached to it. It is free-wheeling. What good is a rotor that doesn't even have a motor? If you look at a gyrocopter closely, you will see that there is a propeller behind the airman that pushes the craft forward. The forward motion of the aircraft causes the rotor to spin, and once it starts spinning, it essentially becomes a wing. So a gyrocopter flies just like a fixed-wing aircraft. But why would you want to use a spinning rotor as a wing instead of a regular wing? Because a wing made out of a solid sheet of metal (even aluminum) with that kind of wing space would be much heavier.

I always used to say that the gyrocopter is the original ultralight, because gyrcopters were ultralight when ultralight wasn't cool Ultralights became popular in the seventies and eighties. It started with hang gliding. Hang gliding became a fad during the time that I was in college. I remember when a guy jumped off of Pike's Peak with a hang glider. Later they started adding motors to them. So the first ultralights were basically motorized hang gliders. In fact, that's what I used to call them. I did not hear the term ultralight until later.

In contrast, the first gyrocopler flew the year my father was born (1923). But it must be admitted that the first gyrocopters looked more like conventional airplanes than ultralights, so perhaps it is more accurate to say that when the ultralight movement started, it was easier for the gyrocopter to adapt to that mode, since it had always been designed as a craft that could be aerodynamically efficient at slow speeds. It was a natural fit.

But I need to be clear that having a free-wheeling spinning rotor is not the only way to create a wing that is light-weight. The Rogallo wing for example, which I will talk about another time, was made of fabric, which is very light. So as the ultralight movement has developed, experimenters have found other ways to create lift with a very light wing in a way that allows efficient flight at slow speeds.

Years ago, when I was in the trucking industry, I worked for a flatbed outfit out of Fargo that had a contract with Reynolds Aluminum. I hauled many loads of aluminum out of the huge Reynolds plant in McCook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. One time had a load of wing skins going to Boeing in Auburn, Washington. If you saw those huges sheets of metal, you would not believe they could fly. They were very thick and very heavy. How can something like that be made to fly? The answer, of course, is speed. I heard once that you could fly the Empire State Building if you could get it going fast enough.

So speed compensates for weight. But if you want a vehicle that flies slowly, it needs to be very, very light. The gyrocopter was really an ingenious way to do this. Not the only way to be sure--as I said, as the ultralight movement has developed there have been many innovations seeking to maximize lift by minimizing weight.

Now back to the guy who landed on the Capitol lawn. Aside from being amused at how the news media couldn't resist calling a gyrocopter a "small helicopter," I was curious to see how the law would deal with a guy who was basically harmless--he obviously wasn't a terrorist--but who had violated very serious laws about flight safety and security. Landing on the lawn of the Capitol is quite obviously a breach of security that should not be taken lightly.

He got a four month jail sentence. I think the reason they gave him such a light sentence was because he was clearly not a terrorist. He did not hurt anybody and did not intend to. But I am not concerned about the threat to the Capitol. I am more concerned about the threat to general aviation. I don't know any country in the world that gives experimental airmen as much freedom to innovate as the United States. This is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. There is nowhere near that kind of freedom in China. When one person abuses that privilege, it is jeopardized for every other flyer. Countries that do not have a strong general aviation system are forced to borrow innovation from countries that do. That is just a fact. This guy was not a terrorist, I get that. But he was not a hero either. He did not really put the Capitol at risk. But he did put general aviation at risk. He should not be allowed to fly.



Monday, December 23, 2019

Lesson 1 - John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word... 

I am beginning, with this episode, a study of the Gospel of John.

To work through this study effectively, you will need the e-Sword software. When you go to the e-Sword website, there are two things you need. First, you need to download and install the e-Sword application. Second, you need the training demos. For the training, you have two options. You can either download and install the training module on your computer as a separate installation, or you can use the online version, running it off their website. But you cannot run e-Sword itself off the website. You must download and install it.

OK. We will start, of course, with the first verse of the first chapter. This verse introduces the Logos, which in English is "word." If you are interested, you can examine the two characters that are used to express Logos in Chinese and Japanese respectively. I am not sure why the Chinese version does not use the same character as the Japanese version, but I suspect that it is because the translators of the Chinese Bible wanted to communicate to the Chinese people that the Logos is the "real" dao.

The major controversy about this verse today centers around whether the word (logos) is actually God, or just a god. Upper case G or lower case g. But I believe this debate is a distraction. When I began to examine this verse, and read it in the Bible Hub interlinear, I noticed something that is rarely mentioned, but which I think is quite significant. The syntax of the last clause of the sentence is reversed. It does not say, "the Word was God," it says "God was the Word." Take a look:

Why is this? In the podcast I discuss this matter at some length. It's not that big an issue as far as how it affects the meaning. After all, if a = b, then b = a. But I think it opened a Pandora's box, because to change "God was the Word" to "a god was the Word" would be weird and unacceptable. But changing "the Word was God" to "the Word was a God" is more subtle and easier to put over on people who are not familiar with the Scripture. Even William Barclay goes along with this idea.

So why did they do it? Why is the syntax in all present day English versions reversed from the original Greek? I believe it was done because some translator thought it would sound better in English. I did find a couple articles that give a grammatical explanation. I personally do not believe that it was changed for grammatical reasons, but I have posted those articles anyway, so that you can read them. The gist of the argument is that this is a predicate nominative. Again, I do not think the syntax was reversed in English for reasons of grammar, but you can take a look at these arguments and see what you think:



Regarding the tendency of translators to edit or improve the original instead of just translating it, I gave the example of the word baptizo , which is transliterated when referring to the Christian ordinance of Baptism, but translated when referring to ordinary washing. I said it was in the Gospel of Luke, but I was mistaken. It's been awhile since I looked at it last, so I should have double-checked it--it's actually in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 7:4). I don't want to get sidetracked into a discussion of baptism. My only point is that the translators took it upon themselves to use two different words, when God obviously thought there only needed to be one. And we have been arguing about baptism ever since.

Do I tend to be suspicious of translators? Yes. So I admit that I have a bias. I have a knee-jerk reaction when I see something in a translated version that differs significantly from the original. I tend to assume that the translators have taken liberties to which they are not entitled. I brought up the example of baptizo lest anyone try to tell me that translators "would never do anything like that." They clearly did in that case

Finally, today we introduce an old gospel song from the 1880s. Feel free to sing along, or just listen.

Next time we will focus on Verse 2. Do go through the e-Sword training module, either by installing it, or by using the online version. The training module is very good, and will enable you to teach yourself e-Sword even without help from your children.



Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Peaceful Protests? 


Senator Ted Cruz
404 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Cruz,

Digging up bricks from the street, destroying punblic property is peaceful?

Spray painting public art pieces is peaceful?

Desecrating national heritage sites is peaceful?

Verbal abuse of police by demonstrators is peaceful?

Throwing bricks at police officers is peaceful?

Throwing Molotov cocktails at police is peaceful?

Starting fires and shooting arrows at police is peaceful?

Vandalizing the Legislative Council (the congress of Hong Kong) after the bill they were protesting had already been suspended is peaceful?

Joshua Wong the next day tweeting "I'm proud of what they did last night" is peaceful?

Vandalizing places of business is peaceful?

Throwing petrol on someone and setting him on fire because he disagrees with what the the protesters are doing is peaceful?

Beating up an unarmed man because they suspect him of agreeing with China is peaceful?

Setting up barricades to disrupt the lives of Hong Kong people and then beating a good citizen senseless when he tries to remove them is peaceful?

Senator, do your homework. Better yet, just stay out of it. With all due respect, Sir, your remarks look and sound ridiculous to someone who knows what's actually going on in Hong Kong.



Eric Langager
Beijing Diary




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