Monday, January 21, 2019

Doesn't Add Up - Arithmetic Only

There is a rumor Nathan Phillips, who claimed to be a Marine and a Vietnam vet, could not be both.  I looked him up and he was 64 at the time of the recent incident, so the very oldest he could be is just turned 65 this week, and thus born January of 1954.  There is one report of him celebrating his birthday Feb 22.  I remembered that the USMC left Vietnam just before I graduated high school in 1971, but memory is fickle, so I looked it up and yes, they left in May 1971. The oldest Nathan Phillips could be was 17 years and 4 months.  17-3 or less is more likely. You could join the USMC at 17 with parental consent, but then you would have Basic Training to go through.  That is currently thirteen weeks. I don't know what it was then.

If it was seven weeks, then he would have to have gone to Basic on his birthday, and gone to VN immediately in mid-April, then brought back a month later.  This seems...unlikely.  Does anyone think the Marines would be sending new units over that they would be bringing back in five weeks? Sometimes just plain arithmetic can tell you things.

He might have lied about his age. That could change the picture. But even with that, initial deployment would be in 1970, and is an unlikely scenario. I believe Force Recon still had a presence in Vietnam after 1971, but I don't think he's made that claim.  One would not be in Force Recon and then later describe oneself as an infantryman.

In some places he claims to have been a Vietnam vet, in others he says he was an infantryman in the Vietnam era.  I suspect the latter is more likely true, as the "era" runs to 1975 for the nation, though not the USMC. Is that a common exaggeration, to falsely claim to have been deployed to a war zone, or more mildly, to say "Vietnam-era veteran" and not make the correction when people conclude you were in VN?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Bad Call

Or rather, non-call.  Fans always say That was the worst call I have ever seen, but i think that missed pass-interference call in the Saints-Rams game was the worst I have ever seen. It's amazing enough, in a championship game with theoretically the best referees, that even non football fans might want to take a look. I don't care one way or the other about the Saints, but I like Drew Brees and he got robbed.

Always Purple

We think of some places as entirely blue because they are largely blue, and conservatives never win there. Massachusetts and NYC come to mind*. We regard other places as bright red - Utah and Wyoming, for example.  But each have those who disagree within, and enough that they get heard. We think of the New York Times, but the NY Post makes a living as well.  Someone reads its content.  The Boston Globe is the bigger name, but the Boston Herald gets read.  Howie Carr is popular on the radio around Boston. I'm not on the ground in Utah, but have to figure there are some liberals writing there.

*The sometimes elect Republicans to govern themselves, you'll notice. They just want to make sure they only send liberals to govern the rest of us.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

High-Carb Diet

When I played in a band in college, my roommate was talking with an earnest young man while I was doing my solo part of the set. He explained to me later that the gentleman was suggesting what we really needed to complete our band was a harmonica player.  "Hey, that's really interesting.  You don't happen to play the harmonica, do you?"

Yeah, it was more than a lucky guess.

Well, at least the BBC mentioned genes in this story of Okinawan longevity.

Let us consider the high-carb diet theory unproven. And not really all that intriguing, no. These studies all have an air of "gee, I don't really understand how all this gene stuff works and I don't have the training to get funded for a study like that.  So it must be something else that's the cause, something other than genetics."


(Inspired by a comment of Texan99 over at Grim's. My definitions of feminism are strongly influenced by the many things it meant when it first became a topic for me in the early 70s.  Internal clues tell me that she is my generation, probably two years younger, so her definitions may intersect with mine, and even more with my wife's.)

From CS Lewis, in Mere Christianity:
People ask: "Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?": or "May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?" Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it. I will try to make this clear by the history of another, and very much less important, word.

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone "a gentleman" you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not "a gentleman" you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said - so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully - "Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?" They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man "a gentleman" in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is "a gentleman" becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker's attitude to that object. (A 'nice' meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.

Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as they might say 'deepening', the sense of the word Christian, it too will speedily become a useless word. In the first place, Christians themselves will never be able to apply it to anyone. It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to he a very useful word. As for the unbelievers, they will no doubt cheerfully use the word in the refined sense. It will become in their mouths simply a term of praise. In calling anyone a Christian they will mean that they think him a good man. But that way of using the word will be no enrichment of the language, for we already have the word good. Meanwhile, the word Christian will have been spoiled for any really useful purpose it might have served.

The word feminist has always had a variety of meanings.  When writers, historians, and social scientists try to make distinctions such as First Wave, Second Wave, and so forth, they are trying to tease apart the many meanings and impose some structure on them so that we may meaningfully discuss concepts.  They (sometimes) know such distinctions are arbitrary and inexact, yet accept this in order that we may use the terms at all. Yet by describing the differences as a chronology - or even a development - I think they miss widely. It has been a loaded, and therefore imprecise word from the start. Many of the arguments about feminists and feminism have come down to these different understandings. "Oh, if that's all you mean by feminism, then I don't disagree. I was thinking of the type of woman..."

And ah, there we have it. Both men and women use the word to reference a picture of a woman they hold in their head, in addition to whatever strictly denotative meaning they hold.  A type of woman.  This may be positive, negative, or mixed, but we are never entirely free of that more emotional and social meaning. (Remember here my prejudice that liberal reasoning is largely social, conservatives less so.  Both conservatives and liberals reason emotionally.) This is not merely a meaning imposed on others. Way back in the early 70s, a woman who described herself as a feminist, or not a feminist, or kind of a feminist, was not only talking about a set of abstract ideas, she was saying that she was smart/ambitious/modern/strong or calm/agreeable/traditional/ or any of a hundred combinations.  A lot of time was spent explaining, which could sometimes make things worse.

It was a discussion about what women should be like and how they should be treated, and as a derivative, what men should be like and how they should be treated. Of course everyone took it personally, and still does. There were dozens of drivers that could swing a person one way or the other. The idea that women have been treated unfairly and this should stop was foundational for man.  The observation that the most visible activists rather obviously had personal issues and some hated men affected others strongly. (Activists for anything are more likely to have "issues" and to hate someone.  That is true of me when I act as an activist, so I can hardly blame others.) "Well, I think women should have equal pay for equal work but I don't hate men or anything" was close to a cliche. And not a bad one, really, as cliches go. It was a way of quieting the discussion so that people could move on to more productive conversation.

The strident antifeminists, especially the male ones, often clearly had personal issues leaking out of their comments as well. That is still true, and it makes even women who don't necessarily define themselves as strongly feminist crazy. So, still angry that your wife divorced you, eh, Chuck?

Women wanted to be like their mother.  Or they very much did not want to be like their mother. Or they wanted to please/displease their father or that prince of a brother who kept getting all the glory. They wanted to make sure it was advertised that they wanted to get married, and further, that they wanted to have children.  Or not have children.  Or have them later, after their careers were established. Some liked the specialness of how women were treated in some situations, some hated it, most had mixed feelings. Men advertised how they weren't one of those terrible MCP's while simultaneously advertising that they were just fine with being good providers, and protective and brave and all that. Traditionalist parents found they were pleased with their daughter's achievements and incensed at her obstacles; some women were shocked to find that their whole outlook changed after having children, and later even more shocked to see how schools treated their sons, when they had been taught to expect that it was their daughters who were at risk.

How one felt about abortion, and laws about abortion, sliced through ideas of identity with a double-edged sword, and that was in turn influenced by unspoken but obvious attitudes as to whether having children was even valuable. In contrast to the idea that having children is the most important thing one can do.

We try.  Most of us try to have some clear meaning for the word. Except for me.  I have little idea what the word means and haven't used it for decades.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Trump and Evangelicals

An interesting article at The American Conservative, Why Ex-Churchgoers Flocked To Trump. I am not well able to verify this from my own experience, as most conservatives/Republicans/Trump supporters I know are church-connected.  I do know some at work, and I think there is some tendency for the Trump supporters to be people who used to go to church, but my sample size is too small to tell us much.  At least, it does not contradict this data. The idea that people got discouraged about church and decided that didn't work for rescuing their lives or the country, and thus gravitated to Trump is intriguing.

I will add in the bit that since colonial times Appalachia has carried on the Scots, and then Scots-Irish tradition of outdoor religious festivals lasting a few days or even a week. Camp meetings and revivals were not a new thing, they were an American adaptation of an older thing. This did create some de-emphasis on church and more on intermittent intensity. Scotland wasn't the only place, of course.  Saints days and festivals are known in many places.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Post 6000 - Competing With Masculinity

The American Psychological Association is critical of traditional masculinity, defined as "marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression." The APA isn't being particularly stoic in this, but they are being competitive, seeking dominance, and doing so in an aggressive manner.

They don't really dislike those qualities.  They like them just fine when they have the whip hand.

Family Treasure II

My Aunt Jennie was editor of The Horn Book, which is still being published but I think was more prestigious back in the 1950s because it was the only magazine of its type, reporting on children's literature. She was a children's author herself, and her first book, The Golden Name Day, was one of the Newbery Medal nominees when it came out. As editor of the Horn Book she was automatically on the decision committee, but took herself off because of the rather obvious conflict of interest. It was runner up to Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. The illustrations to Jennie's books were by Garth Williams, so they have a similarity of appearance to the "Little House on the Prairie" series.

Her first issue as editor was Jan-Feb 1951, and included her reviews of new books. Included in the batch was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was published in October of 1950. I conclude that she was the first American to review the book, as she was likely also the first to review The Voyage of the Dawn Treader near.y two years later. We have that first issue, which she sent to her cousin Selma, my beloved Aunt Sal. I discovered it while going through all the family artifacts to display to the children and grandchildren before we weed through it all.  It will now go to Houston to live with one of my sons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Family Treasure

On lined 5x7 paper, folded into a small triangle and addressed to "Alfy N. 45 Rubberneck St Manchester." Written in pencil in a child's neat cursive hand, age ten or so.

           Manchester, NH
                   Oct 4, 1900

Dear Alfy,
                 Come down
to morrow and we
will have a fight a
good one to. I will be
ready. I don't care
for mamma they can't
stop us. If they worry we
will only laugh.

Baby It's Cold Outside

For no reason I can think of, it occurred to me that the guy in that song brings no game at all.  I always thought he was kind of a jerk, not really listening to what she was saying but just repeating that it's cold/snowy and she's beautiful. Low level, dude. Offer to make breakfast and get her home right after the plows come. Restate how serious you are about this relationship. Step it up, man.

When I came back from my walk (It was really cold outside, maybe that's why it came to me), I looked up the lyrics, and confirmed. He did not talk her into anything.  That whole conversation is going on in her head. He's just a Ken doll in this fantasy. He doesn't deserve for her to stay, but she seems determined to.

Monday, January 14, 2019


I have just about all the oppressor categories nailed. White, male, Christian, straight, cis, big fan of Western Civ.  Old, I forgot old, which doesn't get mentioned as often but I think is secretly one of the big ones, as the oppressed seem very worried about keeping up with fashion, and old guys are notoriously bad at that.

I was never in the military, but two of my sons are/were, so I don't think I get a clean escape there.  I work for a state government, but it's NH, so I'll bet there's some deduction on that one. Recently I learned that mowing my lawn and keeping up my house are problematic, and I have finally learned to do that after all these years.  I suppose I could plead that I don't do it very well, but I doubt the judges will be kind. There's way too much Anglo-Saxon in me, and even the exceptions are Scots-Irish, plus an Irishman and a Welshman. I think I do confuse the issue with 25% Scandinavian DNA.  It's really, really, white, but on the other hand, the oppressed seem to think that Scandinavia is the Promised Land.

I used to play the guitar, but that doesn't help as much as it once did. Being a CS Lewis fan has long been a black mark in some circles, and now even Tolkien is coming under suspicion.  It won't be long.  GK Chesterton would cause the Twitter judges to throw up their hands in horror, if they knew who he was. All the fun retro activities that were tolerated were moved to neutral, and now wrongthink.

I'm not a capitalist by career, but my retirement money is in stocks and bonds, so I'm poisoned. I haven't divested from anything so long as it made money.  I suppose there are some things I wouldn't buy.

I'm also grouchy and critical and don't suffer fools gladly (though who does, really, as Eddie Izzard notes). So when you hear about oppressors, I think the name David Wyman should be the picture that comes to mind.  I have to admit, I thought being an oppressor would be more remunerative. I must not be all that smart.

Colin Kaepernick

The usual divide is
1. Colin Kaepernick was a good quarterback who was blacklisted because owners are old white guys who disagreed with his politics vs
2. Colin Kaepernick sucks and was just trying to please his idiot girlfriend and get back in the news.

It's more complicated.  My summary statement would be that he was treated prejudicially, and someone should have picked him up.  Yet not very prejudicially, and a lot of other guys have been more deserving and not gotten a fair shake. And even had he been picked up, he might not have played much, and certainly would not have lit up the sky.

First, how valuable would he be to a team in a pure football sense? Now, not very much, as he has been away from the game and that matters.  But even in the first months of availability, he was a bottom-quintile starting quarterback at best, more likely a high-level backup. Next, he is a running QB, which many teams want nothing to do with, especially after seeing what happened to the more talented Robert Griffin III.  Third, he has a definite style and personality of a starting QB, so A)You can't just slip him in as a backup if your starter gets hurt or is so terrible that you have to try the next man up; and B) He has not been noted as a really supportive and easy guy for other QB's, holding the clipboard, offering suggestions in the film room. If he becomes your starter, you have to change your offense on the fly, unless he is backing up one of the very few other running quarterbacks with similar skills.  He could be slipped in for Cam Newton.  He could step in if Russell Wilson got hurt.  Yet even there, those teams would probably be finished for the season if those guys went down. Only in a situation where they just needed a guy to finish a game and maybe give them a chance of winning half of the next few games before the star came back, is Kaepernick useful. Andy Reid doesn't want a guy that can't run what they've designed for Mahomes. Mike Tomlinson wants a guy who can at least temporarily be a Roethlisberger stand-in, even if he might become something else.  Bill Belichick had Jimmy Garoppolo and then Brian Hojer - guys who are great in the quarterback room and play a similar style to Brady.

The other side of that argument is that there are teams who played worse quarterbacks at some point in 2017 and 2018.  Even if no one said it out loud, there were coaches and GMs who thought, going into a next game or a few games, y'know, Colin Kaepernick would have been a better choice than this guy. That's just true, and I think that's what Kaepernick and his supporters are focusing on. Yet on the other, other hand, at the beginning of a season, or mapping out a grand strategy for the next few years, teams don't think like that.  They want a backup who is just a backup because they are committed to their starter, or a backup who is going to take over and be more than a marginal starter. In reality, many of those teams are just bad and they aren't going anywhere even with a hot new quarterback - but they convince themselves otherwise, or have to pretend.  They want to roll the dice on Sam Darnold, not try and build a great team that a Colin Kaepernick might, just maybe, if the cards fall right for us, take us to the playoffs.

Summary:  Not a lot of teams are going to want him.  There are 32 teams, and 24 of those don't need him. Of the other 8, half the teams should want him but they don't. The other half are understandable, given the business issues that follow.

Next, how much do his politics affect owners and GMs? Answer: somewhat, but not a lot. Football coaches hate distractions - witness how ticked everyone has gotten over the years about touchdown celebrations, non-regulation shoes, and players publicly complaining. Do they hate distractions they disagree with more?  That ranges from "hell, yeah," to "no, not at all."  Belichick benched Julian-friggin'-Edelman for making fun of an opposing coach. Even though the Krafts are big liberals,  the only way Kaepernick goes to the Patriots is if they think they can get him for a huge bargain.  Like league minimum. 

That said, it is likely that a few owners and/or GM's just thought I'm not touching that SOB for any money.  Screw him. 

Yet I would say those who take it that personally are few.  You don't become a billionaire by insisting that the people you work with share your politics.  What they are more worried about is how they think the fans will take it. The players are mostly black, and largely at least somewhat sympathetic to Kaepernick - though there is wide variation there. In the NBA nearly all the players are black, and you will not find a coach who has public politics that would offend them, even though a lot of the ticket-buyers and followers are middle-aged white guys. In the NBA, the players hold the power, and their politics are what matter. This is less strong in the NFL, but that element is still in play.  There is no owner in the NFL who gives a rat's ass if any of his players votes for communists or terrorists, so long as they don't talk about it, or it never gets in the news.

The league as a whole would prefer that someone sign Kaepernick, to make the problem go away.  There is not an NFL-wide plot to keep him out. A lot of fans are black or liberal, and even more of the players are black or liberal. However, the team that signed him would draw the ire of some of its own fans, plus others around the league, and few teams would want to do that.  There are loudly obnoxious and bigoted fans who would make it painful for an owner, and some others who were already on the margin and just start gradually drifting away from team support.

I don't think he's treated worse because he's black, but it may be worse because he picked a "black issue." He's poking sensitive areas of the flag and the police.  Sitting would have been more disrespectful than kneeling, but I don't know that it would have made much practical difference. I have read some very unsympathetic people shrugging at the end saying "Well, he's standing up for his people," which they weirdly respect.  Most critics see him as being divisive of Americans for the sake of identity politics.


We see patterns that are not there, and when you have an incentive to find a pattern (even if it is only being pleased with yourself for being so observant), you will find one.  Though some patterns are real. Whenever we elect someone, they start doing dumb stuff.

Of course, that seems to happen when we elect their opponent, too.  There must be a subtler pattern underneath all this that I am missing.

Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

I was thinking of finally going to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this year, now that I am semi-retired and have more time. Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets was one of the founders, and it is the center of the universe for sports people seeking competitive advantage, sports journalists who rely heavily on complicated stats, and math nerds who follow sports.  Bill Simmons christened it "Dorkapalooza." It is referenced often in the type of podcast I listen to, and is right up my alley.

Tickets are almost $900 for a two-day conference.  That is not right up my alley. Sigh.