Michael A. Covington    Michael A. Covington, Ph.D.
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RStudio keyboard input is sluggish on high-DPI screen
How to approach politics without abandoning Christianity
Moon (Mare Nectaris)
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This Losmandy GM811G telescope mount must be really good — it has brought me a triple portion of the bad weather that is supposed to accompany an equipment upgrade. I'm only getting to use it about once every three weeks, so it's still in the "breaking-in" or verification-of-function stage.

I did get it out last night, with the C8 EdgeHD on it, and verified, in short order, that PEMPRO (for PEC training) and Metaguide work fine with it. Then, in order not to come back empty-handed, I took an image of Jupiter rising over the hot roof of my house. The air was fairly unsteady, but the picture isn't too bad, given the circumstances. Stack of the best 25% of about 5000 video frames.

I am getting things sorted out with search engines. Everything will be re-crawled in the next few days, and then we'll see where we stand.


Now it's HTTPS

I was one of the last holdouts. That is, this was one of the last web sites that used the "insecure" HTTP protocol rather than the secure HTTPS protocol. I figured it didn't matter because I don't collect any information from users.

However, browsers were giving people warnings that the site wasn't secure, and, more importantly, search engines were neglecting it. I'm troubleshooting multiple reasons search-engine coverage of this site has been poor, but I know HTTPS sites are given preference, and before making many other changes, I wanted to to ahead and change to HTTPS.

That means paying Sectorlink $30 a year for a security certificate and (by my choice) an additional $10 a year to install it immediately when it renews, so the site won't be down waiting for me to intervene each time.

When they installed the certificate, the site immediately became accessible by both HTTP and HTTPS. I then put in a web.config file so that all HTTP requests are redirected to HTTPS. That is why, even if you type http://www.covingtoninnovations.com (etc.), you actually get the page via HTTPS.

I've detected two other reasons for poor search engine coverage:

  • Google and Bing were finding many of the pages via redirection from www.covingtoninnovations.com/michael/blog to the current blog entry, and that redirection was type 302 (temporary), which told them that the redirected address was not "canonical" — was not the best of multiple ways of reaching the page — and should not be indexed. I've changed the redirection type to 301 (permanent). I am also adding, to newer blog pages, declarations of what their canonical URL is.
  • I was in the habit of adding each new month to my previous-months page as soon as it started. Bad move. Google and Bing were using that page to find all the blog entries, and they were indexing each month before it finished being written. Now I will add months after they end.

I don't know how much good all this is going to do. One thing that is certain is that Google and Bing coverage is very poor today because the new site, at the HTTPS address, hasn't been crawled yet. We'll know where we stand in about a month.

You will note, by the way, that the search box at the bottom of this page and on the previous-months page has been changed to use Google instead of Bing. Google is simply giving me better indexing (though neither one is perfect). I'd rather use DuckDuckGo, but it doesn't seem to be embeddable the same way. [Update: Changed back to Bing, which by August 31 was already giving better coverage.]

The sad fact is, search engines aren't what they used to be, and I blame political extremists! You can no longer use any search engine for full-text search of the entire Web; they are biased toward stable commercial sites. And one reason for the bias is apparently to avoid propaganda sites and counterfeit sites.




This is what was overhead yesterday afternoon. I snapped it quickly with my iPhone.

Redacting popular music

Melody and I have a new minor hobby, which we commend to others: Using Audacity to make customized versions of popular songs.

Many songs from the 1970s exist as only one good performance. Reasons we might want to make a custom-edited version include:

  • There is something wrong with the audio quality, which we can counteract with further audio processing.
  • The musician fumbled something, or there was an extraneous noise. (In that case, the solution is often to lower the level for an instant.)
  • The applause at the beginning or end is too loud.
  • We like part of the song but not all of it. Melody is especially good at finding good instrumental parts in songs whose lyrics are not to our taste, and may actually be offensive. We extract the part we enjoy hearing. (For example, we made an instrumental cut of John Cougar Mellencamp's "I Need a Lover." We don't want to have, or be, the kind of lover he describes!)
  • Part of the tune or part of the lyrics is weak or annoying and needs to go. Sometimes, one verse of the lyrics is a lot weaker than the rest.
  • The song has several themes in succession, and we only want to hear part of it. (There is a strong precedent for this in classical music. How many of us have heard all of "Also Sprach Zarathustra"?)
  • The song is just too long.

Audacity enables us to do, at the click of a mouse, things that would have been beyond the capabilities of even a good recording studio in 1970-75. So why not make the minor repairs that weren't feasible then? And even major edits, if we want to create a version of a song that was never performed.

I just wish there were a good way to fix mispronounced words. For example, Cat Stevens mispronounces "re-creation" in "Morning Has Broken," but there's no way to get him together with Rick Wakeman again to re-do that extraordinary performance. Maybe, in the future, speech synthesis can come to the rescue. And fix Stevie Wonder's "Holloween" too, which got a whole generation mispronouncing that word.

Lost to Google?

For some reason, neither Google nor Bing is indexing the Daily Notebook at the moment. In fact, they seem to have dropped indexing that had previously done correctly. I am investigating. You'd think that when they crawl Previous.html they'd also crawl all the pages to which it links. I don't know why that's not happening. One hypothesis is that the redirection page (www.covingtoninnovations.com/michael/blog) was using a 302 redirection code, indicating that its destination was temporary, which now is taken to mean it should not be indexed. I have changed it to 301 (permanent redirection) even though it changes every month.

If any of you can tell me for certain what is wrong (not just assign me a lot more things to check), I'd appreciate it. In the meantime, I'm waiting for the next crawls to take place.

Short notes from Facebook conversations

When I speak out on a controversial issue, I am trying to persuade people who do not already agree with me. That means I absolutely MUST know what the other side actually thinks. It won't do to make up a silly or evil position and attribute it to them. That would never persuade a well-informed person.

If you post a political comment or poll, you'll bring out people who like to bash other people. That can be useful, because such people are hard to work with, and you might want to avoid them.

There must not be political correctness requirements for employment. But I think we can distinguish between people who defend unpopular opinions rationally and respectfully, and those who just dish out insults and trash-talk. The latter are probably excluding themselves from jobs and opportunities because nobody likes a person who acts that way.

A further word to the wise: Assume that everybody in the world can see what you post on Facebook, because it's very nearly true.

I agree with the decision to cancel John Hinckley, Jr.'s concert in Athens, Ga. I want him to earn a living, but not by profiting from fame he obtained by committing a crime.

That, I think, is the clearest way to sum up a concern that a lot of people have expressed less clearly.


Academia frequens


I went to a luncheon on campus today and saw the University in a more crowded state than at any time since the pandemic began — what Cicero would doubtless call academia frequens — the university with everybody there — like senatus frequens.

What was surprising was the drab attire of the students. The predominant colors were black, cream, white, gray, and desaturated pink, almost as if these colors were required or issued to people.

On the bright side, the place was truly smoke-free, without the small percentage of rebels that we used to see in past years. I did see one vaper emitting a cloud briefly on South Campus, from under his or her pink hair, one of the few spots of bright color in the crowd. The cloud itself wasn't welcome; even when odorless, vape fumes are dangerous to breathe and I'm under doctor's orders to avoid them.

And the campus is full of life. I look forward to spending time there this year. The energy of the crowd is invigorating, even when the crowd is cream-colored and gray.


RStudio keyboard input is sluggish on high-DPI screen

In my work, I use RStudio for statistical calculations, mostly through a remote desktop connection to an Azure VM, and my screen is 3840×2160 pixels scaled 250%, meaning the software thinks the pixels are 250% as large as they are, so that everything is displayed normal-size.

My RStudio problem did not seem to be video. I was having trouble typing, and it seemed to get worse with newer RStudio versions. There was a delay whenever I hit keys, as if it were 1980 and I was using a mainframe computer through a terminal at too low a baud rate. It was driving me batty.

Today I found the solution: RStudio itself was wasting too much time, or maybe fighting with Windows, trying to scale the display up to the right size.

One quick check was to take my screen out of high-DPI mode and make it 1920×1080, scaled 100%. (See this.) That cured the RStudio problem, but for other reasons I didn't like the look of it, so I went back to 3840×2160×250% and fixed RStudio.

To do that, I located rstudio.exe (deep within Program Files) and right-clicked on it and chose Properties. Then I chose "Override high DPI scaling" and told it to have the scaling done by "System" (not "System, Enhanced"). (Click here for more about the process.)

That worked. In the internal settings of RStudio, I set a further zoom of 125% to get everything to look best. The RStudio window is now slightly blurrier than the other windows on the computer, but I can type at full speed.


It's no longer Grad Studies!

The building that I've spent more of my life in than any other — except my house — has changed name. The University of Georgia's Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center is now the Boyd Research and Education Center.


I approve of the change. Graduate study is no longer a novelty at UGA. It wasn't even in 1968, when the building was constructed.


Until just the other day, that sign said "Graduate Studies Research Center." When I made the building's acquaintance in 1973, it building contained the Science Library, the computer center (with its massive machine room), the administrative offices of the Graduate School and of Grants & Contracts, and the departments of Mathematics and Statistics (no Computer Science then). It reportedly also contained, on the top floor, a highly secure animal research lab of some kind whose existence was semi-secret. On my first day of freshman classes, I had a mathematics course in "Grad Studies." Later, from about 1986 to 2013, my office was in its basement. I have a beige brick from it, given to me when something was being remodeled on an upper storey.

This year I've resolved to re-engage with UGA — it's time to either do that, or lose track of it altogether. I'll be giving two talks at the Institute for Artificial Intelligence during fall semester.

Mare Nectaris


A couple of nights ago, we finally had weather clear enough for me to get the telescope out on the new Losmandy mount. The air was unsteady, and I didn't get good pictures of anything but this. Here you see Mare Nectaris, an ancient impact basin on the moon, and look at what's below and to the left of it — the beginnings of a set of concentric rings like those around Mare Orientale.

I had never taken a good look at Mare Nectaris illuminated this way. This is the moon a few days past full, visible around 2 a.m., an hour at which I don't normally do a lot of lunar observing.


How to approach politics without abandoning Christ

This entry is for my fellow Christians. We live in turbulent times, and the turbulence seems to be changing hour-by-hour and mostly will not be reported here. (The "raid" on Mar-a-Lago is the latest development.)

Today I want to state some guiding principles for how a Christian can and should approach politics. It will be immediately obvious that a lot of American Christians have been going entirely the wrong way. Indeed, a new study shows that 40% of people who call themselves "evangelical" rarely or never attend church, which begs the question of what on earth "evangelical" means to them. Apparently it's only a political and cultural label (though a correspondent points out that some of these people may be real Christians who are put off by the politicization of the churches they belong to). That is how far we've come.

For those who are unsure, "evangelical" is historically the name for a type of Christians who believe a personal commitment to Christ is important, the Bible is authoritative, and the way the church is organized is flexible. Until just now, it had nothing to do with politics. It is what I am, but I've had to stop using the word.

It is much easier to follow a political party or candidate than to follow Christ, and that's what a lot of Christians have fallen into.

Here, then, are some principles I live by. They are radically different from the way a lot of Christians or ex-Christians do politics.

(0) Politics must be fact-based, not narrative-based. My moral duty is to care about what is actually happening, not some story I or someone else can make up while ignoring all the facts that don't fit it.

Narrative-based thinking is the biggest source of what I've been calling "weaponized stupidity." It's a way to manipulate people by getting them to believe things that aren't so, and ignore things that are so. A symptom of narrative-based thinking is labeling everything "liberal" or "conservative" before looking closely at what it is.

(1) Neither candidate is God's perfect choice. Bad things happen when Christians get the idea that one candidate or party is "God's choice" and deserves their unconditional loyalty. They start lowering their standards to "help the right side win." No, no, no... Our support for candidates should always be tentative and partial. Sometimes it is strong, when there is a clear and large difference, but it's still tentative. We support candidates only to the extent that they are better than the alternative.

It follows that there is no God-endorsed political party. There may sometimes be enough difference between the two parties to give us a strong preference, but it isn't absolute and certainly isn't unchangeable. Political parties would like to own us as captives, and we must not let them!

I have argued that God may well want some people to vote one way and others to vote the other way so that the winner is not overconfident and the opponents get some voice. Some Christians seem curiously incapable of understanding this. But if it is true, people voting both ways can both individually be doing the will of God.

By the way, we will get the most representation if we are swing voters. Candidates should have to worry, day by day, whether they are still winning our votes — not just announce a few litmus-test positions and then do anything they feel like.

(2) We are here to persuade, not demolish. Evangelism is all about getting people to become Christians voluntarily. The same goes for spreading Christian values. We need to be showing the world why our way is better, not trying to obliterate people who oppose us.

The term "culture war" has done some harm. Of course there is a war between good and evil in any human society, but the term "culture war" has led Christians to think that we are here to defeat people, which is not at all the case. Not for a moment were we sent here to wipe out non-Christian people or those who don't share Christian values.

The culture war mindset has also led to three other misconceptions:

(a) That politics is winner-take-all; that the winning side owes nothing to its opponents, because they are evil and have no rights. NO. They are your fellow citizens and fellow humans. The goal of the political process should be to get each group as much as feasible of what it wants, not to give total control to the winner.

(b) That extremism is good. Goldwater said, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." He got it wrong! Extremism (manifested as violence, deception, or the truth-shunning habit of thinking in exaggerations) is certainly a vice, no matter what you think it's in defense of. Our goal is to know what is actually true and do what is actually good — not a caricature of it!

(c) That political processes are compromises with evil. This mistake is what leads to extremism. In real life, politics is always compromise, not about moral principles, but about what it is possible to do at any particular time. We get part of what we want, even if we don't get all of it.

(3) We recognize what is good or bad about any candidate or party. We are not "loyal" or "committed" to one, such that we can't criticize it, nor such that we can't say anything good about the opponent.

How much sin have Christians told me not to speak out against, because it would hinder "the right" candidate? How much virtue have Christians told me not to acknowledge, because it would strengthen "the wrong" candidate? I don't play that game.

I also don't engage in "trash-talk," playful (?) insults directed at the other side. Whenever I oppose something, I feel obligated to be able to say why. Pointless insults give the impression that I have no good reasons, that I'm just acting hateful.

(4) We want our fair share of representation, but we do not want to deprive others of theirs. We recognize that not all our fellow citizens are Christians (and the ones who are Christians do not agree with us about everything). We must not be power-hungry. Unfortunately, power-hunger has recently become glamorous and mistaken for holy zeal!

There have been times when Christians haven't had their fair share of a voice in American politics. One of them was the early 1970s, and surely part of the reason is that in the 1960s, people had been letting the name of Christ be applied to a bad thing — racism. As late as 1973 I remember seeing people objecting to "integration in churches" and wincing. Fortunately, it blew over, but for years afterward, Christians were somewhat distrusted in the political realm. That is not the last time such a thing has happened.

(5) We recognize that politics includes differences of opinion about temporal matters. Most political issues are not simply moral issues and there is no single Biblical position on them.

Should gasoline taxes be raised? I don't find an answer to that in the Bible. Answering it would involve finding out what the tax money is used for, how it affects the market, whether it is unduly burdensome, what would happen to actual revenues if it were raised (people might buy less gas), and so on. The answers might be genuinely uncertain and hard to get. An economist can shed a lot more light on them than a preacher. I have no business invoking the name of Christ on a subject on which He gave no teaching.

(6) We can be politicians, campaign workers, etc., but we must do it cautiously. If this were not permitted, it would imply that God doesn't want anyone to be politicians or campaign workers, which is nonsense.

A Christian who goes into politics needs to follow God's standards of honesty and benevolence, not merely whatever he or she can get away with. "All's fair in love, war, and politics" — no — God never said that.

(7) We must get the easy moral issues right before we speak out on controversial ones. If we flunk basic kindness and honesty, who will listen to us on more controversial matters?

Indeed, if we act hateful, people will attribute hateful motives to us when we speak on controversial moral issues, and we won't be able to prove them wrong. This is a heavy burden for honest Christians at the moment. It's not just what we say about moral issues — it's the audience's misconceptions about why we're saying it.

Short notes

I haven't written a Notebook entry in half a month! During that time, Melody has been to Kentucky to see the grandchildren. She went with her mother and sister while I stayed home with Sharon. Now we're all back, safe and sound, and I have an awful cold.

Meanwhile, FormFree has begun commercial use of RIKI, the creditworthiness index that I played a large role in developing. It will be strange if my most important work ends up having been done this late in life, in a field so far away from my training. But everything important I've ever done seems to have been outside my field at the time.


If what you are looking for is not here, please look at previous months .