Sunday, September 25, 2022

World Record Again

Eliud Kipchoge has broken the world record in the marathon, coming in at just over 2 hours and 1 min. He thinks breaking 2 hours is possible. If it seems fascinating in the world of numbers that the record for an idiosyncratic distance could converge on an integer in an event measured in units 1/3600 as small, it is not really that odd.*  It does have an almost poetic sound to it, however, to run a marathon in two hours. It was about 2:15 when I started following track, by Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia - who ran it at the Rome Olympics. It wasn't until the 1964 Olympics that I started to become aware.  Bikila did it barefoot.  Take that.

Kipchoge is older (37, just looked it up) but thinks he can do better still. It's hard to count him out at this point. 

*There are a lot of events, so the record for one converging on an integer, when they are always improving, isn't that strange. Running the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds had already been accomplished before 1900 and now it is converging on 9 seconds.  The race is seldom run, however. The 100 meter is what is run now, and that converged on 10 seconds in the 1960s. The 4-minute mile was first run in the 1950s and the record is well below that now. High jumping 8 feet - a foot is an unusual measure; pole-vaulting 20 feet, ditto. Simple numbers show up all the time.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Explaining What Shouldn't Need Explaining

James pokes some holes in the assertion that "Polls show that one-in-five Americans believe the core tenets of Qanon."

Over at Althouse the fourth comment under the post about Feminist Science also points out the obvious.  Yes, it is possible that bringing in people who look different or come from different groups might provide new ideas or perspectives.  Yet that is in no way guaranteed. If a man enters a women's Bible study there is a chance, on certain subtopics, that he will be able to offer an important perspective.  But most of the time they are going to find every acorn on their own. Sometimes a particular man may be able to offer insight after insight and be useful.  But another woman would be as likely to be that good an addition. We might say the same about Koreans, or cowboys, or cooks. Sometimes their perspective as a member of those categories will add something to the group knowledge. Usually it will be neutral - and making neutral things a priority as if they are central wastes energy.  Just adding in colors or groups doesn't necessarily improve the broth, and might consistently worsen it.

Will Trump Be Indicted?

Andrew McCarthy thinks it is an open question, and one that will not be decided on the basis of whether he is guilty or not.

Here is what most jeopardizes the former president at the moment: When we are asked to ponder the question of whether Trump is likely to be indicted, the answer no longer calls for an assessment of the evidence. The Justice Department undoubtedly figures it has sufficient evidence to indict and convict. At this point, it is a question of prosecutorial discretion — not can the Justice Department prove the case, but rather is there more downside than upside to filing criminal charges? 

....On the other side of the discretion ledger, Trump has two things going for him: Hillary Clinton and 2024. 

Clinton could similarly have been charged with mishandling national-defense information, destroying government records, and obstruction in 2016. The FBI conceded that her behavior had been recklessly irresponsible. Yet, the Obama–Biden Justice Department let her off the hook. Even Republicans who have no use for Trump are irate over the double standard: Trump may bring it on himself, but he is hounded while Clinton is insulated; the Capitol rioters may be numbskulls, but the earth is scorched to nail every last one, even those who did nothing more than parade through the rotunda, while the Biden Justice Department coddles radical left-wing lawyers who firebombed a police car and a left-wing rioter who lethally torched a building.

Remember that while this may generally be a small potatoes item blown out of proportion of taking records to his personal residence, it is not under discussion who owns them.  The American people own those documents and presidents do not have the right to pretend otherwise.

Jewish Holidays

The list is in response to the joke among Jews that "All our holidays are the same: They tried to kill us.  But we're still alive.  Let's eat!" Apparently this is not quite true. I guess that's only Chanukah, Purim, and Pesach (Passover).

This ties into so many things in the Wyman household. We were that sort of gentile that celebrated Passover, and even had our own Haggadahs and afikomen bag.

Tables Turned

 It's Called Soccer Now

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Just To Break Up The Monotony


Punitive Public Criticism

I was going to call this "Woke Criticism," but there are conservative versions as well.  I think there are fewer and they are less powerful and prominent, but they are there. There is a point about this criticism that I have known for years, yet somehow keep forgetting.

The intensity of the attacks are not a measure of out outraged they are or how wrong they think you are. They go after those they think they can hurt.  They go after people who have bosses and can't afford to lose that job, or have vulnerable, fragile, fickle audiences and can't afford to lose them.  Howard Stern said far more offensive and outrageous things years ago and continues to say them. It blew up one day, he gave a minor apology that "it was a different time then" and that he was sorry, and it was over in 24 hours. Just because he is bulletproof and everyone knows it. I recently learned that the criticism of Rush Limbaugh lessened, even though he was just as hated and did not moderate his content. Critics knew they couldn't really hurt him, so they went after others.

They only go after you if they think they can hurt you. It is similar to street behavior, or any place where young males compete. It is noted how extra dangerous it is for child molesters in prison, and the explanation is that they are especially hated, with fanciful theories about why that would be.  It's much simpler than that.  It's because child molesters are less violent and less good fighters, and the prisoners know the guards won't defend them.  They aren't hated more.  They are perceived as more vulnerable, and so can be hated and punished with impunity.

This is also true for the sociopathic sorts who are perceived as the most vile racists because they say the worst things. They aren't especially racist, as they will party with black people and team up with sociopathic black people to go after other targets. They say those things because they think they can hurt you and/or they can get away with it.  They say vile things to women or other ethnic groups. If they think those won't work they will go after personal characteristics. Whatever will hurt you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


Scripture Parable #5 — Luke 7:41-43

The Moneylender (The parable is only 3 verses; the 10 verses before and after put it in context.) 

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

Parable #6 — Luke 8:16-18 — The Lamp on a Stand 

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.

The Real Home Run Record

I am not following baseball this year, but when I seek other sports news, the Aaron Judge story is prominent. It seems there is a lot of attention being paid for someone who is not approaching the actual single-season MLB record. However, whenever a player has hit a lot of home runs, I quietly look at how he is doing against what I consider the real record(s). The attention paid to Judge suggests to me that a lot of folks feel the same way, but don't say it out loud.  Not even sports writers. So while the words being used are about the "American League" record and "right-handed" record, there is extra attention being paid because...this is the unasterisked record. The without-apology-or-explanation record.

Babe Ruth hit 60 HR in the old-style 154-game season. Roger Maris beat that with 61, but that was in the slightly longer 162-game season, and there has been controversy and acrimony about that since the 1960s. Judge sits at 60 HR in 147 games, so if he hits one more in the next seven games he passes Ruth - without asterisk. If he hits one beyond that he passes Maris. So that would be one controversy and one asterisk retired. 

The other asterisks are around PED's and Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds. Aaron is extremely unlikely to catch Bonds at 73. So that argument remains. But for some who remain in the camp of refusing to acknowledge records for enhanced players, Judge will certainly become the real record-holder in our their eyes. 

I can accept the argument that the game changes and one cannot really compare eras. Ted Williams, the last man to hit .400 said that no one was going to hit .400 again* "because of that damn slider," and allowed that he probably wouldn't have either had the pitch been common in his day. Ed Walsh won 40 games for the White Sox in 1908, which is technically considered the modern era, but no one pays the least attention to that. I am fine with that approach of simply not paying much attention to records at all because all the data carries a certain amount of poison.

*Wade Boggs hit .401 over 162 games, but it straddled two seasons and such things are traditionally regarded only as curiosities and not actual records.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Two podcasts back-to-back, Tyler Cowan interviewing Joseph Henrich, which included a discussion of polygamy worldwide.   (It came up in the Q&A as well, from a woman who writes about "sex and politics" and was fishing for an endorsement of polyandry from Henrich.) 85% of the world's cultures practice at least some polygamy.  Note that most of those cultures are small, so that this doesn't mean that 85% of the world's population practices polygamy.  Nor does everyone in those cultures practice it, as by definition it means some men are excluded. Next podcast was suddenly about Tinder and the statistic that 6% of the men dominate the dating, over half essentially using it as an efficient shopping tool for women who will sleep with them. I thought: Those are the same subject.   

So I wonder...Is Tinder a reassertion of the prehistorically and even historically much more common norm of polygamy?  Is it just a return to normal, but we don't like it?  By the way, I hate those guys on some visceral creepiness level. I hope I would have the strength of character to feel the same if I were one. Monogamy greatly increased wider societal cooperation and reduced violence, which allowed a wider network of shared ideas. Too many unmated males wandering around a society creates a situation in which their only mating strategies are high risk and violent. Low trust, low display of success because it provokes envy. But wider sharing of ideas creates a virtuous cycle allowing a group to outcompete other groups. Voila! Western Civ.  (The influence of feudalism and forbidding cousin marriage are related phenomenon.) 

Yet how much changes when mating is now less likely to produce genetically coded partial replicas - we call them "children" - because of birth control and abortion? The risks and rewards are now different for polyamory. And does it matter that marriage is no longer an automatic? The term polygamy has a different meaning now, and how much of what we see about polygamous societies in Papua, New Guinea applies to downtown Baltimore?

We now have enough data that the sociology and even anthropology of Tinder are researchable. Do we want to know?

Gypsy Rose Lee

Very clever.  I don't know the context. This was not what I would have predicted, and I see why people were so charmed by her.

Mega Test and Memory

I took this test when it came out, which set me on my short affiliation with a few IQ societies. That is a story I am no longer much interested in telling.

What does fascinate me is looking at it again decades later. I remembered many of the Vocab questions and know that I have run across many of the words over time, reinforcing them.  I would have to check my work with a dictionary, and then double back and try other resources if I found myself wrong, but I think I could get them all at this point. Yet I did not get them all in 1985.  I did about equally well on 1-24 and 25-48 then. I don't even know which ones I got right then, though I am mostly certain on some.

For the Spatial and Numerical questions, I did not recognise a single one, except #36, which is notorious in the societies and I got wrong, and maybe #44?, which had a Eureka moment I remembered. I had an idea what I might do with most of them, but nothing came to memory, even when I started down a solving path just for fun.  There were a couple of exceptions, where I intuited a guess on method that probably came from memory somehow rather than fresh thinking. 

I'm big on innate versus learned on so many things at this point.  Yet i do believe in reinforcement and even more especially, reward systems. Did I remember the vocabulary ones and even likely improve because I have continued to live in the world of words, while losing all the spatial and numerical memory because I so seldom visit those cities now?  Or did I remember them so divergently because of brain structures in place long before I took the test? Or are the types of memory needed for these tasks fundamentally different fright out of the gate? Or am I just lazier about types of thinking I have not used in 50 years?

101 Syndrome

I rambled on this one.  It's not tight, but the thinking may be worth it.

Have I mentioned 101 Syndrome before? I can't find it here.  It refers to those who have gained an introductory knowledge in many things, and therefore believe - though they would humbly insist otherwise - that they are broadly educated. Introductory courses are often vocabulary - what the parts of a cell are, what "culture" means, lists of schools of painting. In math it is a vocabulary of both words and symbols. They allow the student to participate in discussions at further levels. They also allow one to keep reading in the subject in the press outside of school and throughout their lives.  They are in theory very good things. 

Yet it goes wrong so easily.  I have kidded grimly that after liberal-arts education and seminary, pastors can read what the popular press has to say about psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology - and combining simple religious ideas like we should care for the less-fortunate or we should try and live at peace with others, start speaking like they actually know something worth having about economic policy or foreign affairs, because they understand these things from multiple perspectives now. This has been going on a long time. It may be getting worse.

Yet the psychology they know is shallow at best and flat wrong at worst; so too with their economics and other topics.  It's just bad but they don't know it.  They don't know it because the popular press articles and trendy books they read are drawn from the people who already agree with them. David Swanson's book Redisciplining the White Church was a book my church was encouraged to read and discuss a couple of years ago. (Swanson is in our small denomination and known to many of the pastors.) I couldn't get past the introduction.  His first example was the discredited psychology that implicit bias affects anything. Well, it doesn't affect anything we've found yet. Next he made a linguistic/cultural/historical error about a Native woman who claimed to be traumatised because of the word "kingdom," because it reminded her of colonialism. Then he accused a visiting friend of prejudice for asking if the neighborhood was dangerous. (Remind me not to be a friend of Swanson's.) Just about that time that Chicago neighborhood did explode in dangerousness. Oh gee. I abandoned the book, but engineerlite convinced me to press on.  Swanson opined on economics, sociology, history - inaccurate every time. I couldn't make it any further.

It's not just pastors, they just occurred to me because I'm in churches a lot.  It is also psychologists or social workers, I can attest from experience.  They know the vocabulary of other fields, and this allows them to think they understand what they are reading or hearing on NPR. Or at Townhall or whatever conservative site you want to mention. 101 Syndrome causes us to think that the heavily curated information from sources we have chosen ourselves over the years has allowed us to "keep up" with all these fields.  Because it is usually combined with actually knowing something about one field, where we know the public misunderstands the reality - especially on the other side - we adopt what is given us with little questioning.  Because we know the vocabulary, have reinforced our ignorance for fifty years, and can still point to idiots on the other side.  

It is worse when what people know even in their own fields is wrong, as it often is and increasingly so as certain types of dissidence are slowly excluded. Genetics is transforming many fields who insist the disproven is still true. Technical advances in archaeology knock what you learned to the ground - and not just in Anthro 101.

A Place To Land

To get people to change their minds, they have to have a place to land. Just as our compulsively story-making brains will not easily tolerate not having a narrative about the events  of our experience, we are not easily capable of saying "I am leaving this point of view but I don't know what I will believe instead." There are some things close to it that happen, where we strongly suspect our position is untenable and are casting about for alternatives, or we find there is a community (identifiable or implied) that is undecided or in flux. 

Yet that is also a community of sorts, even if it is only people far away or long dead who we identify with. It sometimes takes a bit of emotional flexibility to examine what the group is we are identifying with, as it can be uncomfortable. Young people who set out to study all the world's religions in an effort to choose one imagine themselves as entirely free agents, entirely unmoved by anything except what they discover along the way, but this is never the case. In fact it is dangerous to believe that, because it means you are already congratulating yourself on a lie, and are setting up to be arrogant when you come to some sort of answer, whatever it is. You have made many assumptions and you identify with an ill-defined group of seekers and "open-minded" people.

Sometimes our conclusion will be "It is impossible to know the (full) answer" or "I don't think the answer is that important after all." These look like non-answers at first, but they are actually well-worn staircases leading to large groups in rooms upstairs, who believe that because they are not in any of the rooms on the first floor, they are not actually in any room at all. They enjoy the camaraderie of those rooms.

This accounts for the disorientation after great tragic events, like wars or revolutions, when people find that what the previously believed must be false, yet don't have a place to land. They do not remain unattached forever.  They do not always choose wisely, either.  When people leave The God That Failed they can go many places.

I have said that leaving liberalism is not an intellectual journey, it is a personal journey because of what one must confront about oneself. But leaving either conservatism or liberalism, or leaving a religion or a branch of one, or a school of thought or other identifier is a social journey.  Even if we are introverts and quite satisfied with our own company we have a group we believe we belong to and want to hold up the side for. CS Lewis is great companion for me, in that if I believe I am on the same side of a question as he is, then there must be a host of other serious Christians who are approximately with this as well, even if I cannot see any at the moment. We will not walk into the void hoping to find a group of like-minded humans unless we are forced to. We at least have an expectation that a particular path leads to a village.

When in doubt we are likely to default to a group - a denomination, an ethnic group, a region.  Or, as i used to write years ago, to a Tribe, such as the Arts & Humanities Tribe. We seldom recognise these defaults, and usually have elaborate rationalisations why our position on an issue is held for good intellectual reasons.  I wonder if that is ever true.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Cyrano de Bergerac

I was wondering today about Cyrano. He remained faithful to Roxanne all his life though he could not have her, and his sunset scene still causes me to tear up even describing it. 

Would we consider this creepy in real life?  Would they have considered it so then? When an artist takes something in hand and signals that this is supposed to be beautiful and tragic we have a suspension of our warning systems for creepy. We trust them to keep it within bounds, and allow ourselves to be swept away. Men who in real life would look at their friend and say "Dude. It's over.  Get on with your life." will nod approvingly at the surpassing nobility of the life.  Women who think men are essentially predatory and would call the police over an old flame who called back one time too many will weep and wish men could be like that these days.  We trust the artist, and this allows us to tear down the emotional fences. Rostand will keep Cyrano contained, of this we are sure.

Because without this he's like Quasimodo, or Grima Wormtongue. No chick is signing on for that. (To be fair, Quasimodo was ugly in appearance only. Decent chap in his own way.) I suppose Cyrano semi-qualifies as unattractive because of the nose, but it seems to be the point that this is his only failing. He seems athletic and nimble, intelligent, clever, with birth of minor nobility - all the ingredients for a romance novel, really, except for the nose.

No, I take it back.  We are supposed to understand that Quasimodo, or many a horror monster, is the real beautiful soul but our warped values fail to perceive this because of their appearance. Standard literary interpretation, you can teach it to 10th-graders and they get it. Frankenstein cuts the wood for the family he watches and envies. King Kong was only goaded into violence., forget that.  He's Romanian nobility, rotten to the core. 

When George Jones recorded "He Stopped Loving Her Today" he said "Nobody'll buy that morbid son of a bitch," but it went not only #1 that year but is on everyone's Top Ten country songs of all time. The poor bastard keeps old photos and letters until he dies, and then she comes to his funeral. So that's the balance. In real life we would regard that guy as seriously obsessed and in need of professional help. In a song it's beautiful. If you find an old flame is still carrying a torch for you, you block them on Facebook at this point.

Well, it's time that makes it creepy, and worse every year we think - though I suppose twenty years is as crazy as sixty.  Yet it is also attractiveness, and social status, and all the things that go into the large unwieldy package that young people have to try and condense into a Tinder profile now. Creepy versus non-creepy follows a lot of the old rules.  I thought it was Maureen Dowd who said "Bill Clinton reminds you of your first boyfriend.  George Bush reminds you of your first husband," but I can't find it credited anywhere.  Maybe it was linked from a Jezebel comment on some other female writer's essay and I just attributed it to Dowd. But the statement captures a lot of liberal sentiment at the time.

Speaking of Clinton, and attractiveness, and creepiness (and John Edwards and Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd) when Nina Burleigh said she would be happy to give Bill Clinton [oral sex] for keeping abortion legal it was widely derided at the time. Yet it was even worse than we thought then.  Donald Trump had an ill-timed attempt to run for president in 1999 - and he was pro-choice at the time. Can anyone imagine a world in which a female White House correspondent for Time magazine...

So who's creepy in this world? Maybe I'm just resentful because I'm too close to the Quasimodo camp myself.

500 Miles

I had thought that the song had dropped out of the national memory because I never encountered it anymore, neither when people were being nostalgic nor in music/folk retrospectives. Yet when I went to look for it I saw it had been done in "Inside Llewyn Davis." I have not seen the movie, despite my sons assuring me I would like it, and I have to admit its inclusion is spot on. Everyone sang it in the 60s.  Not just the long list of PP&M, the Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, the Brothers Four, Roseanne Cash, etc, but every coffee-house singer of the time.  The chords are simple, the story poignant and understandable, and everyone who picked up a guitar learned it.


I am in a Sunday School class on the Kingdom of God.  We watched a video of Scot McKnight on the topic, and I marveled at how precisely he captured what seems to have slipped in our understanding and identified where we need to start and how we need to proceed from here. It was not this video, but this is an Asbury one like it.

Yet I was "unmoved" somehow, as I said in the class, and am not sure how that is.  I like precision and summary, after all.

I despaired of it all and thought I would just tell stories, as Jesus did.  Maybe that will work better - for me, anyway.

Jesus’ Parables in Chronological Order ~ 

Scripture Parable #1 — Matthew 9:16 — New Cloth Patch on an Old Coat 

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk [new] cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.” 

Parable #2 — Matthew 9:17 — New Wine in Old Wineskins 

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

 Parable #3 — Matthew 5:14-15 — Lamp on a Stand 

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” 

Parable #4 — Luke 6:46-49 — Wise and Foolish Builders 

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Not Well Thought Out

Border crashers have been sent to Martha's Vineyard, in order to teach those rich Democrats a lesson. Hahaha. The year-round population is 17K and the household income is $50K. The summer population is is 200K and the median income is astronomical, which is why Obama went there to raise money.  Just not in winter.

It is after Labor Day. These immigrants, however you feel about the appropriateness of the symbolic gesture, have now been dropped on a poor community with only a couple of social workers with no resources. I don't like using poor and helpless people as pawns anyway - though I take the point if they were doing this on July 4th - but this is terrible for everyone.

This was very simple research - ten minutes of googling - that should have been done by the people sending them. Further evidence that conservatives do not actually want to govern, they want to complain. Well don't we all.