Michael A. Covington    Michael A. Covington, Ph.D.
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Is it always wrong to speak falsely?
Linux doesn't see Windows, leaves it off boot menu
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That big sunspot group is visible with eclipse glasses and no further optical aid; it will still be on the face of the sun for at least a couple of days.

This picture isn't great; I took it through cirrus clouds. Stack of 5 1/1600-second exposures at ISO 400 with Thousand Oaks solar filter, using my 1980-vintage Celestron 5 and my Canon 60Da.

Linux doesn't see Windows, omits it from boot menu (grub menu)

Quick answer: If the system BIOS is set to "Legacy Boot" then Linux's os-prober program will not see Windows Boot Manager. Set the system BIOS to "EFI Only."

Detailed story: One of my old laptops (starting to fall apart from heavy use, but still used for experiments) was dual-booting Windows 10 and Linux Mint 19.3. The latter is no longer supported, and there is not a direct upgrade path to Linux Mint 21.3. So I decided to wipe and reinstall (Linux only). Fortunately, if you boot Linux from a DVD or USB drive, it offers the option of overwriting just the Linux partitions while leaving the rest of the disk alone.

That worked fine, but there was no longer a grub boot menu when the computer booted up — it always went straight into Linux. The command sudo update-grub didn't fix it. Trying the os-prober program, I found that it could not see anything but Linux.

Panic. Had Windows been wiped out? Although nothing mission-critical was there, I rather wanted to keep the Windows files and software.

No; the Windows disk partitions were still there, just not being detected.

The problem was that I had had to set the BIOS to "Legacy Boot" in order to boot from a DVD. When I did that, it booted from disk by using the first bootable partition that it found, which happened to be Linux.

I set the BIOS back to "EFI only," ran sudo—update-grub, and got the boot menu back.

Small libraries

Sometimes a well-curated small library can be more useful than a big one. I was remembering Cross Campus Library at Yale, the library the students studied in, which was stocked with the books that the professors actually wanted to be able to assign students to read. So it had the most important works in every field, and no fluff or nonsense. It was a great place to browse in subjects outside my specialty — using it was like getting advice from experts.

The main research library, of course, had everything it had ever gotten hold of — major works, minor works, and things that deserved to remain obscure. If you browse in a library that big, you'll find fascinating things, but they aren't endorsed by anyone; no professors requested or approved them.

Unfortunately, well-curated small libraries like Cross Campus are rare. The libraries of good, small colleges sometimes have that quality. Other small college libraries are just random mixed of useful and useless material. And local public libraries are generally full of books that people read for entertainment rather than study.



This may be the first time I've been 2 weeks without writing in the Daily Notebook. Don't worry; I'm still here. COVID didn't make us seriously ill, but its aftereffects are not gone. Meanwhile, work has kept me very busy, and being weakened by COVID, I've been in a situation of all work and no play.

Thursday, February 22, was an especially eventful day for Athens, Georgia. It started with reports of a national AT&T cell phone outage, which fortunately didn't affect our AT&T cell phones. I was at the FormFree office all day.

Then, in late afternoon I was going to go to the UGA library but thought better of it because it was late. If I had gone, I would have found the University in the process of shutting down. A student (Laken Riley, actually a nursing student from Augusta University's satellite campus in Athens) had been found murdered on a jogging trail near Lake Herrick, on the edge of campus. Classes were cancelled starting at 5:30 Thursday and will resume tomorrow (Monday) morning. I suspect students were already fleeing the campus, heading home early for the weekend to get away from a possible killer on the loose.

Fortunately, a suspect was identified almost immediately, and an arrest was made. It was apparently a strange case; he had no connection to the victim and no known criminal history. He's described as a Venezuelan whose immigration status hasn't been announced. I hope the town doesn't erupt in anti-immigrant or anti-Hispanic sentiment; this was a rare event and is not part of a wave. (The last homicide on campus was 41 years ago.)

Meanwhile, word reached us that early the same morning, a student had taken his own life in Brumby Hall (a residence hall). And there were unconfirmed reports that yet another student had died of meningitis. Three in one day.

Dinner date

After about a two-month lapse, Melody and I were able to go out on a dinner date (to La Parrilla) on Friday, Feb. 23. It required a walker, but we got there.

I posted about it on Facebook and have gotten applause from about 140 people. You'd think I'd been out on a date with Taylor Swift! Which I don't think I'd want to do even if I were single — I wouldn't want to see her severe, eagle-like facial expression across the table for an hour. I much prefer Melody's sweet smile.

Speaking of which, why is Taylor Swift suddenly the most important person in the world? There's even a political circus going on, as people who are starstruck about Trump are trying to also be starstruck about Taylor Swift and are finding out she's a Democrat. There is also a very weird flurry of gossip that asserts that she is a Christian (which AFAIK she does not claim to be) and then that she must be a hypocritical one. Wait a minute...

A point about philosophy of music

While in the library a few days ago, I briefly picked up a book about music by Roger Scruton, and, expanding on a point he made, realized that:

Thanks to radio, recordings, and "elevator music," everyone born after about 1940 has been exposed to a huge amount of mediocre music. Much of it is quite forgettable, but it reinforces our expectations about tonality, harmony, and cadence; after all, there is quite a bit that Bach, the Beatles, Hank Williams, and the 101 Strings have in common.

Thus it provides quite a different context for the experiments of Stravinsky and Schoenberg than what concertgoers had in their minds when those works were first heard in the 1920s. It may even have ended them.

Scruton is someone with whom I cannot agree about everything. Although he is a good expositor of traditional values, around 2000 he was a paid shill for the tobacco industry, which is an odd thing for a philosopher of art to be, and it caused many people to doubt both his wisdom and his honesty.


What I have in common with Chopin, or,
How much to study

I just learned that I have something in common with Frederic Chopin. Since I am not a musician, you might be wondering what on earth it is.

It has to do with teaching methods. Reportedly, Chopin would scold his students for spending too much time practicing.

Similarly, I would sometimes poll my students on how much time they were spending on my course, and there would be a few who seemed to think they should spend all their waking hours studying.

In Chopin's case and mine, the problem was the same: Those students didn't really know what they were supposed to be learning or whether they had learned it. To such a person, there is no such thing as studying enough, because they never know whether they've finished.

Learning music and learning languages

While sitting around recuperating, I've discovered that YouTube has lots of good videos about music education and how to learn a musical instrument. This piqued my interest for two reasons: I want to learn to play the keyboard that Melody and I gave each other for Christmas (to understand music better, not to perform), and, more importantly, it's strikingly like language education, which I know a fair bit about.

What musical instruments and foreign languages have in common is simple: Every student is at a particular level, and they learn fastest from material just slightly above that level, "comprehensible input at level N+1" as some linguists put it. Practicing with material at or even below one's level is also beneficial because it helps reinforce skills and make them automatic.

What's not helpful is slogging through material far above one's level, mastering it with lots of difficult memorization. That doesn't build skills of lasting value.

And there are educators who feel there is too much of that in the piano lessons often given to children. They wrangle with recital pieces that are well above their level while proceeding too slowly with the regular series of lessons, which sometimes seem designed to fill time rather than build skill.

One more thing that learning a musical instrument has in common with learning almost anything else: you should practice the things you're having trouble with, not just play aimlessly and call it practice. That is, zero in on the exact places where you need to learn something. To be a fast learner, don't avoid the hard parts.

COVID update

Around mid-week, we reached 100% participation, with positive COVID tests for Melody and Sharon as well as me. Nonetheless, none of us have been seriously ill. We cough a lot, and we are staying home. Although technically cleared to leave home by mid-week (5 days after onset of symptoms), I have stayed at home as much as possible because the nurse practitioner advised me that I could still be shedding viruses for a total of a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, FormFree is starting to get Passport into active use, and my team and I have been scrambling to address needs discovered during testing. Never a dull moment.

None of the three of us could get Paxlovid, the usual antiviral drug, because of conflicts with other medications. All three of us were prescribed Lagevrio (molnupiravir). And from there, our stories diverge. Sharon's insurance covered it 100%. My insurance would have left me with a co-pay of $700, and the pharmacist advised me that starting it several days into the course of the disease was probably not worth it. Melody's was the same, but she is a very high-risk patient, we were able to start it on the second day of symptoms, and so we opted to pay the $700; we'll appeal it with the insurance company. (Actually, it may simply make us hit the out-of-pocket limit earlier and get $700 worth of something else free later.) American health insurance is crazy, but I suppose the alternative, in most countries, would have been for none of us to get it at all.


And then there's this...


I now have my badge of admission to the 2020s — a positive COVID test. I've almost certainly had COVID before, in the fall of 2021, but did not test positive.

This looks like a mild case with a slow onset. For several days I've occasionally felt weak or feverish (without a demonstrable fever) and wondered if the weakness was just old age catching up with me. Cold-like symptoms started and got worse, and this morning I decided to do a COVID test, just in case. Positive. I will start antiviral medication tomorrow.

Fortunately I had not been out in public much and had been wearing a mask a lot, mainly because I was in medical facilities and didn't want my slight cough to scare people.

I'm actually glad to know that this vague weakness was COVID, not old age. By the end of the month I'll be rid of COVID but will still have old age.

Melody, by the way, continues to make good progress; has been instructed to put as much weight on her bad leg as she can bear; and uses a walker rather than a wheelchair most of the time.

What does it record?

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

I've just found out for certain why this musical instrument is called a recorder. (I had had vague information for a long time but wasn't sure.)

Its original purpose is to "record" (reproduce) tunes for training singers. Just as a modern choir room always has a piano in it, a medieval one often had someone with one of these. It was a teaching instrument (think of pitch-pipes today), not a performance instrument.

That didn't stop everybody from Vivaldi to The Association from using it in musical performances.

I took up playing the recorder in college because it was convenient and affordable; I wanted to enjoy making music but didn't see a good opportunity to resume the few piano lessons that I had had in high school. Part of the appeal of the recorder was that it was a short slope from beginning to what might be called "intermediate" level, being able to play most of the music that should be playable on the recorder, though not as a virtuoso. I have 4 recorders, partly because, during long summer trips, more than once I wanted to play the recorder and bought one locally. I haven't played the recorder in about 20 years but am getting back to keyboard music just a little, due to the Christmas present that Melody and I gave each other (a low-end Yamaha keyboard).

Is it always wrong to speak falsely?

This started as a discussion among Christians on Facebook, but the issue isn't actually theological and may interest others.

A Christian leader asked: "Is it always a sin to deliberately speak something untrue? Did Rahab sin while hiding the spies? Did Corrie Ten Boom's family lie while hiding Jews?"

First, let me dispose of the elephant in the room: For several years we've had a veritable plague of people infected with the evil idea that it is fine to spread (and believe) political falsehoods in order to "help the right side win," that if the wrong candidate wins, it will be so evil that even mass deception and self-deception are justified to prevent it.

That is repugnant. It's self-serving lying, and the obvious question is whether the belief that it is justifiable is itself part of the self-deception. Yes. Enough of that.

Back to Rahab and Corrie Ten Boom (and examples mentioned by Cicero and Plato).

My take? Many people are asking for a simpler answer than is possible. You're not going to get a 3-word easy answer to this. It's complicated, and you shouldn't be afraid of thinking it through.

I think one key point is that not everyone is entitled to the information that they ask for, and sometimes, in order to not give information, you have to leave the person believing something false.

Another key point is that truth does not reside in words. It resides in an act of speaking, in context, with an intention and expected result. People should know they sometimes have no right to an informative reply to a question, and any answer they do get will not be accurate. That is part of the context.

So I think the key to it is, if a person is not entitled to information and the information would facilitate something that is undeniably wrong, then don't give them accurate information, even if you have to say something that is literally false. In context, it is not a lie; it is privacy.

Two excuses won't work. One is that you have to deceive voters about politicians in order to keep something evil from happening. The voters have a right to accurate information. They are not enemies. They are a legitimate authority in a democratic society.

The other excuse that won't work is "it's OK if it's done in a spirit of Christian love." That turns ethics into an emotion and is on a level with the notion that "extramarital sex is OK if you're really in love." How do you test whether you've achieved the right emotional state? And doesn't this mean anybody who can manipulate your emotions can manipulate your ethics?

So, to sum up: Uttering a false statement to prevent an evil act can be justifiable if it's done to someone who does not have a legitimate right to true information. And it is an extreme move, to be avoided if at all possible — it's rather like shooting someone in self-defense — a last resort.


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