Friday, December 19, 2014

Wyman Family Christmas Letter 2014

It seems to be a family tradition to pack the Christmas letter so tightly that a line gets left off the end. This has left our many OCD friends and family wondering whether they had missed one line or another whole page.  We'll try to get it right this year, though funeral arrangements scramble our brains a bit at the moment.

The End of An Era
Tracy’s dad and David’s stepdad both died this year.  The outline of their lives was similar: born around 1920 within a hundred miles of NYC, married in the early 1940’s, went to college - and to war in the Pacific. Returned home to work hard, raise families, volunteer in their communities, and gradually prosper. They had good intelligence and senses of humor, good health until the last few years, and lived to their 90’s to see many grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Both watched their wives through long final illnesses and missed them after – yet both considered themselves fortunate men. A common outline, but uncommon men.

"Call Us Nana and Pops"
In addition to our actual granddaughters, we are acquiring extras among their friends at church who do not have their own grandparents nearby. We rather expected a predictable, sharply-defined family for our lifetime, but things didn't turn out that way.  A friend at church described the Wymans as a cross between the Waltons and the Simpsons.  That's about right, actually. 

"...except WALKER! I would trust him to have my back and make the right choice in a domestic dispute."
Yes, Drill Sergeant Murphy was trying to shame the other recruits in the MP Battalion at Ft. Leonard Wood. Perhaps.  Still it must have been nice to hear, and nicer to report home.  By the time you read this, Kyle will be officially in the Army Reserve. Going to school for criminal justice starting in January.

Crying In the CEO's Office
John-Adrian's hospital in Nome switched to Electronic Health Record, and the lead-up was ugly. Norton Sound Health brought in a person specifically to manage the transition, who proceeded to spend a great deal of time crying in the CEO's office.  So about a week before they went live they sent The Expert home, called John-Adrian in to the office, put him in charge of the transition, and gave him a raise.  Things are different on the frontier. Being John-Adrian, he has complete confidence.  He has been there more than four years now. 

When Does All This Craziness Stop And Real Life Begin?
Tracy and I used to say that humorously to each other when we were first married. And then when the children were born, somewhat less humorously.  Then also when school schedules and church meetings dominated so much of our lives for years, not so humorously at all.  We're still saying it. Wryly. 

Ja, I'm going to Julbord at work, wearing a full suit.
Another one of those "is this really my son?" moments.  Ah, they grow older.  They prosper. They understand social situations.  They dress better. Chris continues in Tromsø, visiting other parts of Europe when he gets the chance.

Here I Am! In Africa!
Jonathan used this line to make fun of one of Ben's pictures of himself in a scenic venue on his mission trip to Rwanda. Just jealous, I think. More 3rd-World orphanages, more Ben drawing attention to the need.  J-A and David went to Houston just before Christmas to see Ben's new house in Spring and watch him direct filming at The Woodlands UMC, where he works. It's one of the busiest times in a big church, but we did get time with Ben and met his friends. Plus, JA got to see the sun again and feel the warmth.  We finished by flying to Missouri to watch Kyle graduate at Ft. Leonard Wood, and bring the lad home to NH.

Negro League Baseball Museum

I visited the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City. My fear was that the only patrons would be buses of schoolchildren from black neighborhoods, and old white guys.

It was worse than that. I was the only one there. When I told the young woman selling tickets that coming to the museum was a goal of more than a decade, a man behind her in the gift shop looked over and came around to the front. We chatted a bit - he was a dapper black man slightly older than I who said... he was off to a meeting and couldn't stay but did exchange a few words with me in front of the ticket booth. He was clearly knowledgeable and I felt encouraged that there might be more kindred spirits about.

As he left he said he was Bob Kendrick, president of the board - and he was the last person I saw. Along about the Rube Foster exhibit I teared up over it all. One can't make people like things, and desert is not a measure of personality, and it is sad that this is always going to be an enterprise held afloat by outside help for symbolic reasons, rather than for its considerable intrinsic merit.

When I wandered among the statues- a mock field with a palyer standing at each position - an eerily live creature among bronzes of dead heroes, I wanted so badly to be able to discuss with someone why they had made the choices they had*. So few care, and it will all be preserved entirely as a politically correct Good Idea, something that people feel the should like, even though they don't.

It's worth it on it's own merit. One could teach the history of race relations 1860-1960 with this as the framework. And it's got both stories and statistics, as baseball always does.

Hilton Smith, a personal favorite of mine.

*John Henry "Pops" Lloyd at 2B, a position he did not play.  He was a SS whose arm weakened late in his career, and he moved to 1B. I imagine he was moved off short because neither of two third basemen, Ray Dandridge and Judy Johnson, could be left out. Similarly, Cool Papa Bell was in left because Oscar Charleston was in center. Martin DiHigo was the batter, likely because he played everywhere, removing any number of arguments at other positions. But there is controversy because some authorities consider him generally overrated, not in the top 15 overall. Glad I got to say all that.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Heading to Houston, then Fort Leonard Wood.  I will at least have the yearly Christmas letter to publish when I get home.  For the moment, my father-in-law is failing and there is not much spare energy around.  But I do think of you all, and talk to you in my head.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Your line may trace back to hominids.  Our family is clearly descended from meerkats.(The video was lost or removed.  If it happens again I will assume the owner objects.)

NH Book of the Dead

This little volume about NH cemeteries has some interesting facts neither Tracy nor I knew.  But a primary motive seems to be an excuse to talk about ghosts, witches, and unexplained phenomena around graveyards. The evidence is rather slender, and delivered in that breathless but faux-objective tone "Some local residents say that there are unexplained lights when one approaches Mary's grave, and others claim to have seen a small child reaching out to visitors..." If spirits did lurk around the places of disappointing or unfair death - the Otherworld seems undecided whether one should haunt the death site or the burial site - then hospitals and nursing homes would be full of them. One would think the night staff of an older city hospital would be unable to move without bumping into four or five wraiths per room.

It is standard in current writing to complain at how slight the evidence was for some poor soul to be accused of being a witch or other consort of the dark, unseen forces. Ironically, the amount of evidence needed now to make the suggestion that they linger on as spectres is even less. A rumor, a whisper, a doubt, is enough.  We remain a gullible people, eager to believe.

The author has done similar works about other states. I don't imagine I will be seeking any of those out.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

IFL Science

A few of my FB friends post articles from I Fucking Love Science from time-to-time.  They are among my brighter friends…

Oh. Yes. I don’t mind putting that title in the body of this post so much – it’s irritating but not enormously, as the word has become milder than my 60-year-old ears tell me, and I get that – but I didn’t want it in the title because of how it might show up in your sidebars if I am on your blogroll. I have standards.  Low, but I’ve got some.

…where was I?  Brighter friends.  I wrote that without irony. I have liked most of the articles, and enjoyed much of what I have seen, including what I have clicked through to once there as well.  Three articles in a short time-frame alerted my suspicions, however, and I went over to scope out the whole site.

You can go better places to get your brief science news.  That’s the main take-away.

Most of the articles are interesting and seem based on reputable sources.  So far so good.  I note 5 problems.

  1. There are errors, which look like they stem from science-y writers who either don’t fully get key points of the information they are passing on, or don’t do their homework. One I picked up myself, and I am not a scientist; two others I learned from the comments had made fairly substantial errors which I confirmed by going back to read closely (one I had to research further to assure myself that it wasn’t the commenter who had erred.)
  2. Worse, the errors were not corrected even when reported in the comments.
  3. This is not top-shelf stuff, generally. Not cutting edge, nor reviewed with a cold eye as to whether any of this is absolutely solid. It holds to higher standards than say, Omni, but it tends that way. More like Discover, but with only half the political correctness.
  4. There are a few articles which are not strictly science, but “news about the science tribe” PR pieces.  Neil Degrasse Tyson speaking to children about being a scientist, for example.  Not terrible, and no one is forcing the reader to click through, but I think it’s a giveaway as to what is up.  There’s a hint of snob appeal without asking too much of the reader.  There’s an in-the-club nudge-nudge aspect to it I don’t like.
  5. I found one headline that was a misreperesentation of the article – and the article made overclaims as well – on a science in politics topic. I worried I would find more (I thought I realled a previous one, actually), but it was only that one.

All that said, it’s not terrible.  Just a little too concerned about being hip rather than good.

Chess Paranoia

I have read about chess tournaments since the days of Bobby Fisher, though I am a poor player myself.  Reading about the lead-up to this year's World Championship, I was struck again by how frequently flat paranoia seems to enter the picture.  Is it because many of the players come from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, from environments where paranoia might not be that unreasonable?  (Note also there are many top Jewish players, and used to be more.)

Does paranoia confer some advantage, whether in the skill, the intensity, or the psychology?

Or perhaps most likely, is there a cast of mind which is extreme in over-interpreting simple things, which leads to both paranoia in everyday life and protective caution in chess?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Incarcerating Women - Or Not

This Washington Post Op-Ed suggests that we should not incarcerate women for anything. Ignore for a moment the logical errors in the essay. (Look, if I can resist taking the bait, so can you.) Fish, barrel, not worth your time. But buried in the crap is the fair point that what we are doing isn't working very well.  Women commit different types of crimes than men, and it might well be that something else would work better.  A new solution wouldn't have to work very well at all to be better.  Rather like the joke about the guy who tells his friend while on safari "I don't have to outrun the lion.  I just have to outrun you."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Futile Efforts

HBDchick links to this article by Charles Murray. Our Futile Efforts To Boost Children's IQ. I also would like to take more credit for my children turning out well.

No Such Thing As A Disillusioned Puritan

Cart Or Horse?

I had opportunity today to witness again an example of one of my original (I think) observations. When conservatives or libertarians go paranoid, they tend to hole up and get defensive, arming themselves and daring whatever authorities they have run afoul of to come after them. They don't seem to go out after the people they are angry at.  It's the liberals who go paranoid who tend to go out after people.  Eco-warriors, antiglobalists, people vandalising (or even bombing) offices and headquarters, protestors that turn violent - these tend to come off the left.

Side note:  this tends to get obscured because when there is any ambiguity the press reports it as they see it, which is slanted.  Jared Loughner was liberal in his politics and never saw Sarah Palin's website (which did not have Gabrielle Giffords in the crosshairs anyway).  But Giffords was left, and therefore Loughner must be right.  Timothy McVeigh was clearly more attuned to extremist right-wing rhetoric, but his writings record a lot of liberal ideas about universal healthcare and anti-wealth culture as well. See also Columbine and other school shootings.  The targets are often against the right, but somehow those aspects get downplayed. See also Lee Harvey Oswald.

Back to the main topic: today's paranoid was more liberal - insofar as any structured belief system could be imposed on the confusion - and more aggressive in intent.  I never thought about how that develops.  Do people who are defensive in their paranoia gradually work their way over to the right, regardless of where they started politically? Or do conservative ideas call forth a defensive rather than offensive paranoia?

There are folks out there studying whether our politics are built into our genes.  I have only followed this at a distance, reading some of the summaries without digging down too far.  I have disliked the attempts to define liberal and conservative, as they seem to be shifting sands.  I keep reading the descriptions and thinking "I dunno.  Not untrue, perhaps, but not the way the conservatives I know would describe themselves.  This sounds more like what liberals who are trying really, really hard to be objective think describes conservatives."  It is somewhat different to ask people whether they themselves think they are liberal, moderate, conservative, or something else, then measure their shoe sizes or favorite flavors and see what jumps out of the data.

Update:  I forgot to include this study on brain-scans the first time.

But I think I have another divide, a negative measure.  If you look at what makes for a career-destroying write-off, among liberals it is holding, or at least expressing, an incorrect idea. If you have the right ideals, if your "heart is in the right place," then any number of personal failings are unimportant. Among conservatives the personal failings are the bigger career-destroyer.

So I wonder, which is the cart and which is the horse?  If one believes deeply that the ideals are the thing, and lying is only a little regrettable (just human nature) if it's in a good cause, do you just end up on the left, discarding some ideas to come into line with one's fellows?  Or, if one believes that being honest is near the top of the list, and any number of screwups and bad plans (just human nature) can be tolerated, does one slowly drift rightward?

I tack this next part on because it is related to the topic that we don't necessarily change our views for logical reasons. In fact, if you read most online comments sections from general sources, such as major news outlets and popular sites, nothing will strike you more powerfully than the impression that most people are not merely wrong, but likely unable to ever fix that.  Even the ones who agree with your positions are an embarrassment.  And they cannot be the dumbest people in the country, because they can at least operate a computer, type, spell, and string together sentences. The very worst can't meet that standard.  Also, the periodic surveys which reveal that college students cannot identify who won the Civil War, or pass other general-knowledge quizzes provide further evidence that a whole lot of people - most of the country, in fact - is not capable of much beyond some very elementary reasoning.  So in any discussion where the arguments get complicated, we have to conclude that most people are on the side they are on for somewhat bad reasons - even if they are right.

In 1994, gay marriage was not even on the radar, not only among conservatives and religious people, not only among mainstream Democrats, but even among most of the farther left in those days, the issue seldom came up, and nearly everyone rejected it. Even in Europe.  Now, it might be a correct idea - a discussion for another day - but there is no way that it isn't a new idea. And taking the paragraph before this one into consideration, there is no way that the country has changed its mind because they were logically persuaded of its rightness. We were advertised and socially pressured into it.  (One could as easily maintain that those who did not change kept their previous ideas for similarly illogical reasons.  That's not quite the same thing, but it's close enough to hold for the present argument.) We are now at a point that those who oppose the idea of gay marriage are described as unthinkably mean and bigoted, and it's just obvious to any thinking person - even though nearly everyone fit that description twenty years ago.

So I wonder about a third divide, one I have mentioned before, of adopting ideas because they are popular rather than because they are true. That comes down to how we define "popular," or what group we want to be popular with, perhaps.  And do we choose that group unconsciously for personality reasons, and then adopt their coloration?

Monday, November 10, 2014


New commenter Jeannette has a blog of her own, Bread On The Water. She seems to be a craftswoman who like Tolkien and Lewis.