Thursday, April 19, 2018


Well, we've had a lot of seriousness here.  Let's have a song!

Hierarchy of Thinking

I don't know if they still teach Maslow's Hierarchy of Need, a theory that seems commonsensical but doesn't quite explain the behavior of many people. Fine as an approximation, perhaps. I wonder if something similar isn't happening about reason and logic.  Perhaps the foundational needs have to be in place first.  You believe what gets you food and shelter, then can move on to believing what you need to be accepted socially, and only after that is in place can one apply true/false tests rigorously, accepting ideas that go against the group. Personalities vary, and some have a better ability to stand alone than others.

This is at least a possible explanation of why people who are able to reason - which we know because we have observed it in other venues - come up with only lame cliches on some issues. It is not just that they disagree with me, and I thus conclude their reasoning is poor. (there may be some of that.) The obvious counter would be that perhaps it is they who are reasoning nicely and I who have gone off the rails. Yet I know people who disagree with me whose arguments are moderately to extremely strong.  I am not thinking of those presently. I am referring to those with significant credentials - math degrees from  Ivy League schools and subsequent careers requiring precise thinking; forensic psychiatrists with rather stunning abilities to weigh one factor against another. I know some amazingly intelligent people. Yet some of them spout whatever the New Yorker or the alphabet network consensus is peddling this week.

Nor does it seem to be that they just default to the tribal line on many issues because they haven't the time to examine everything, but apply shrewdness and wisdom to the subjects they invest more time in.  These are, if anything, more party line than their - ahem - less educated brethren.  This is New Hampshire, and one can easily find Democrats who think that liberals are badly wrong about one or two issues, yet choose them on balance. The worrisome ones who have got me thinking - those who I suspect of having to have their social status and situation nailed down before they can move forward and think - are doctrinaire. And they are legion.

I have commented before that I believe liberalism is spread socially rather than logically,* that social signalling and social enforcement takes up a lot of a liberal's energy. It may be that their social insecurity is greater, so that they can never let down their guard. They sense (correctly?) that they could be cast into the outer darkness at any time. They are intelligent enough to talk themselves into whatever is necessary.

I have little doubt that it is only by the grace of God, via CS Lewis, that I am not fully among that number. My families of origin have many who are still consumed by it, and I was entirely of that mindset throughout school.  It still whines at the door. (Okay, that's a bizarre mixed metaphor. Mindsets are not mammals.)  But Screwtape, That Hideous Strength, and especially "The Inner Ring" were powerful warnings at a formative time. I find the mirror version, and the mirrors of mirrors, quite easily upon reflection. The approved culture has a special sweetness, but so does the counterculture, and the counters upon counters. Fortunately I haven't the discipline and focus to think about it long, and content myself with having a whack at whatever dragon seems nearest at the time.

Liberals are far better at reading social cues, and reading between the lines. But this strength becomes a weakness when it is relied on to the exclusion of more important virtues. I am asserting all this strongly, because I have had a dozen examples in my mind as I wrote this.  Still, I might be missing an entire chapter here.  Could you do me the favor of trying this theory on in your imagination about your more intelligent liberal friends, even if historical and long since gone?

*Nor is conservatism always spread logically.  Its weak side is that it often relies on emotion and sentimentality.  The accusation that it relies on the emotion of fear is misplaced.  That's projection.

Not Eating Their Own

Conservative outlets are highlighting all the blue on blue arguments and SJW's who are condemning older leftists. The thought seems to be that this bodes well for their political opponents of all stripes.

Let me go on record saying Ich glaube das nicht. They have levels of disapproval, and even hatred.  Historically, it hasn't played that way.  Maybe this time it will, but I wouldn't count on it. I often sense that a lot of the screaming at other liberals is mostly for show, or angling for power within the ruling tribe.

Update: James's comment prompts a continuation.  Yes, red on red is very common, and I think much more so. There is a difference in that the people of the right are more likely to follow through, either staying home or voting third party. Call it principled, purist, stubborn, uncooperative, or whatever you please.  That may be why the conservative outlets I mentioned above find blue on blue so significant.  They may be projecting. Hell, if I were that angry I'd never vote for that SOB again. So they assume liberals think the same way.

Mini Mental Status

I turn 65 tomorrow, so Medicare started for me the first day of this month.  My PCP suggested we use my Welcome to Medicare appointment as this year's physical. The surprise was when the nurse taking my vitals and setting me up asked me the date and where I was; then told me she was going to say three words and repeat them back to me, and then ask me to repeat them again a few minutes later; then to draw a clock and put the hands at 11:15.  There were a few other things that were all too familiar.  She's giving me a Mini Mental Status Exam. Huh.  Well of course.  Medicare. I was amused, but oddly, I felt a bit of pressure and anxiety about it. It's going to be a red flag if I don't get this cold. 

So perhaps the day will come when I don't score well, but from long-term memory remember that this is a bad sign.  Will I accept that information then, or make immediate excuses?

One advantage of not taking care of your body very well is you are less likely to have your mind go first. Not 100% true, as there are bad habits that hasten or perhaps activate Alzheimer's. Still, it's way more true than not.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Liberations of Age

I take walks for exercise, and have become fond of listening to podcasts. I downloaded the free samples from the Great Courses and have my eye on a few of the longer courses. I listen to basketball and football analysis, and sometimes general sports shows.  This is always humorous, as I don't have TV and never watch games. Nor can I bear to listen to games for extended periods of time on the radio. I see clips and highlights, and read the box scores and analysis afterward. I can speak knowledgeably nonetheless, mostly because others are knuckleheads and many things are obvious.

You're waiting for the liberations part, I know. I'm telling a Grandpa Simpson story.  Happening more these days. 

However, I have never been able to keep up with actual knowledgeable people, such as my second son, because of the lack of uh, seeing any games. It's a bit of a limitation. Because of podcasts and long walks in semi-retirement, however, I now get lots more analysis and am even better. Because thinking statistically is second nature, I now know more than an even greater percentage of fans. And I still couldn't tell most players apart in a lineup. Skill is fun, and I am enjoying going into the playoffs with some reasonable idea what to look for. Er, listen for. Ummm, imagine when I am reading box scores and looking at 10 second highlights while the game is in progress. You get the idea.

Where was I?

It adds to the pleasure. For those who like this sort of thing, I recommend Zach Lowe and Doug Gottlieb for basketball; Bill Barnwell and John Middlekauff (sorta) for football; The Ringer is best and worst for general sports, choose carefully. I downloaded a podcast by Adrian Wojnarowski, a knowledgeable person and an inside scoop sort of reporter.  Should be fun. Oh, and he's interviewing coach Dwayne Casey of the Raptors, a smart guy. I shall add to my store of knowledge. 

He starts off asking Casey about living in Canada, which doesn't have school shootings because of gun control, and what does he tell his kids...what does he think about what's happening in the US...

Whatever basketball knowledge they may have is not worth it to me.  I can turn it off. I listen for my pleasure, and I just don't have to. Ahh. I have always been free to turn it off, and have done so most of my life.  Yet it's easier every year. It's not just that Woj is wrong, not having done the simple arithmetic of noticing that Canada has about 10% the population of the US, nor that he is arrogant, believing that such an important topic means that now more than ever sports people need to share their wisdom with us. He's being an ass, and however much he might teach me about basketball - even if he were the bestest of the best - I don't have to listen.

Easier every year.

Bruno Sammartino

...has died. I don't recall ever seeing him wrestle on TV. On Saturday afternoons there was mostly Roller Derby, WWII movies, and Big Time wrestling. I caught a little of each, but was never a fan as some of my schoolmates were. My knowledge of him came mostly from posters like this:

I was impressed by Bobo Brazil, risking brain damage like that for the sake of show biz, but I didn't really understand then about what people had to put up with in order to put food on the table. I can't say I liked him - just impressed. The jobs they told us about at school all had happy people waving at children in them, and even in books where the family was poor and the lives of the parents were described as hard, there wasn't a lot of detail about what "hard" meant.  There was plenty of that around most of us, I suppose. It was a very American idea at the time that you were going to go on to adulthood and things would be better for you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shall and Will

Lose yourself in the discussion for a bit. First person, second person; British/American; prescriptive vs common usage.

Just don't ask lawyers and bureaucrats.  They really like the idea of "shall" as a command and imperative when they are writing up contracts. Only they think so.


Small sample size - though I was in LAX, Anchorage, and Sea-Tac for hours each - but I saw much more politically and socially aggressive clothing in Seattle than elsewhere.  Hats, T-shirts, and sweatshirts usually fall into benign categories: pro teams/colleges/geographic, or bars/ads, or brands.  Seattle was more in-your-face, with bumper-sticker style one-sentence politicising. Environmentalist, feminist, racial and native, and immigration.  I don't think many were for anything, they were against things, most especially people. Not what I would choose for travel, where one might quickly offend a seatmate or someone in line with you, but I suppose the joy of being a billboard for a captive audience in the larger airport compensates.


Looking at the genealogy of Jesus - Matthew's for example - one has to wonder if God has some preference for boldness and intelligence, even over moral qualities.  This shows up very clearly in the women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba*, but once you notice the pattern you can see it in the men as well. It's not just that sinners are in Jesus's ancestry, though many sermons have been preached on that topic.  The specific sins are rewarded. It's disquieting.

*Side note.  It was extremely unusual for women to be mentioned in genealogies at all in Jewish and other Mediterranean cultures. Matthew is making a very strong point about their importance here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

No Coins, Please*

I recall someone coming on afternoon TV - Merv Griffin or something - before 1970, advocating that we get rid of the penny. Everything could be rounded up or rounded down. People's objections were mostly irrational, believing that the pennies they had thrown into jugs, or obtained by children for returning soda bottles, or found on the street, would somehow no longer be honored, and society would collapse. For no reason that is not easily answered in fifteen seconds, we continue to have pennies. 

Whoever Merv was interviewing then was right. Since that time, inflation has made dimes worth just about what pennies were then.  So pennies, nickels, and dimes should be gone.  No one uses dollar or half-dollar coins, generally, so we have already demonstrated we could do without them.  Yes, the Brits have a coin worth a pound, and somehow they have adapted and we theoretically could as well, but somehow we haven't.

That leaves the quarter.  We have logically eliminated the need to use the other coins. So,  is it worth still having coinage if there is only one type of coin? Maybe. But with machines reading dollar bills and parking meters accepting your credit card, I'm going to go out on a limb and say we no longer need coins.

*Kiddie Lit reference. Every children's book by this author recommended.


I apologise up front for linking to Twitchy, which is actually a great example of the "telling the selected truth and commenting deftly" phenomenon they are reporting to here. But I assume the actual Loretta Lynch tweet is accurate. She sure ain't standin' by her man here. So ignore the site's commentary on Lynch throwing Comey under the bus.

Who's lying? is the cry from the conservative sites. As we never know which incident is going to be the tipping point in the demise of the Republic I don't want to fault them for an essentially accurate question, but really, it's oversimplified and calculated to rile up the base.  They know better. At least, those conservatives who have read C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, The Screwtape Letters, and "The Inner Ring" know better. Comey and Lynch are survivors of the highest levels of bureaucracy, with skills honed over many years.  No one says things, because one can be quoted, pinned, destroyed.  Yet things are understood. So Comey met with Lynch many times, but never-did-he-ever disclose his suspicions, she says. Sure. She had no idea what he was thinking.  A complete surprise. You have to go to the second level to ferret out about lying as a precise term. She says he never said, he says he did say; the most likely explanation is that they both understood, allowing that both understood imperfectly, exactly what was up. It's not only dangerous, it's also sort of gauche to be direct.  It shows you don't understand the real rules, you aren't to be trusted, you might blow things up.

It's part of why Trump strikes stark fear into them.  He lies in a completely different manner, not by talking in code or demonstrating an elaborate Tea Ceremony, but by just blowing things out his ass, some of which turns out to be true and some not. (The usual answer is partly true, may or may not be technically true, but in complete disregard of Washington codespeak, which is unforgivable.  His comment about the riots in Sweden last year is a great example of this.)

So the who's lying? approach has no answer.  Both, almost definitely, but which one more?  Which one technically, which one in spirit? That is not necessarily ever going to be clear. The people who speak their language slowly lose the ability to translate it into the everyday categories the rest of us use.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Babylon Bee

Because I keep forgetting to go over, but then enjoy many articles when someone else links to it, I have put The Babylon Bee in my sidebar.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Among the words that have come to mean something else, there is karma. Originally a respectable, though wrong, religious concept from Hinduism, it has become in America a synonym for "revenge by people other than me, or by unknown forces." It is not an expression of some balance of the universe which plays out at a subtle level according to what you have contributed, but a mean-spirited declaration that "someone deserved to get punished and I am gleeful." Hiding behind an Eastern religion, which are known to be favored by really cool, gentle, and nonjudgmental people makes it all the sweeter. I wish no ill to others, because I am not an evil evangelical.  The universe itself has punished this person I dislike.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


After due consideration, I deleted my FB account.  Appropriately, as good salespeople who are always trying to take you in one more time, when you hit the final delete button, they bring you to the login page.

Just in case you changed your mind, y'know?

Monday, April 09, 2018


African-American Vernacular English, also known as Black English, is a dialect of American English, which is itself a dialect of English. There is a formal written English which none of us speaks; all of us speak a dialect. There is a standard American English that tends to be closer to the formal written version, but is still not entirely the same. Even after becoming fluent in the formal written style, speakers tend to persist in speaking according to their original dialect.

The line is not always clear between what is an accent and what is a dialect. Some would claim that there are several Southern dialects, others that they are merely accents. Scottish English*, Pennsylvania Dutch English**, and Indian English***, and Newfoundland English are generally regarded as fully dialects, not merely accents, as they are different in structure. There are more.

AAVE is believed to have originally sprung from various British dialects - compare pirate talk "Whar ye' be goin?" - and subsequently influenced by Southern American speech, which was also a product of specific British dialects, usually western and Irish. The "be" verbs in AAVE are quite complicated and nuanced, actually.  While all non-majority dialects in all languages are looked down upon and regarded as "just wrong," we look down on AAVE more than the others.  This may be changing, as AAVE is influencing not only slang but the standard American spoken dialect through entertainment media. It is not only used ironically or for effect among the young.  It is just blending in. The difference between influencing the majority culture and having your culture appropriated is largely one of perspective.

There is little or no African in Black English. That myth keeps resurfacing, but there isn't any linguistic support for it.  It has also become more standardised since the middle of the last century. Slaves certainly did not have much contact with other African-Americans, slave or free, in other parts of the country. Their speech was related by history, but not always fully mutually intelligible. The great migrations north in the 1910's and 1930's and 40's created a more agreed-upon version in the cities, and radio, recordings, movies, and television spread this throughout the country.

We have looked down on it because of its associations, not because it is objectively worse or less standard than listening to a Newfie. It was spoken by people who were poor and had less education, so we came to regard it as more substandard than we might if it were simply a regional dialect. 

Every schoolchild should learn to write formally.  While formal writing can sometimes admit of spoken dialect for effect, as with Mark Twain, this is kept to a minimum.  In speech, it is advantageous to be able to use a bland middle-American speech at need. Even prestigious accents are not welcome in all situations. People who read a great deal find that their spoken and formal written expression bleed into each other more than those who do not. I would be at an extreme of that, as my writing relies a great deal on my spoken expression, while in speaking I use written forms more than most people do.  I am no longer sure whether this is ironic and for humorous effect or just the way I talk.  People who are familiar with both my communication styles say it is easy to hear my voice in my writing.

*Not to be confused with Scots Gaelic
**Not to be confused with Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German,
***As in India, not Native Americans.

Why Commandments Are Good

From an article at First Things by Reuven Ziegler, discussing the observations of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Why Does Religion Need Commandments?

The fact that it is more likely that actions will influence emotions than the reverse explains why Halakhah devotes its primary attention to actions. If religion does not provide man with an objective framework of action containing specific divine norms, it will—at best—be vague and transient. At worst, it will lead to the most horrible excesses. (Italics mine.)
Neurology is discovering what religious persons seem to have already known.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Different Picture of Prehistory

A fascinating article by David Graeber, Anthropologist and anarchy activist, attempting to upend our usual assumptions about prehistory. Cute title: How to Change the Course of Human History(at least, the part that already happened.) Graeber show how flimsy the evidence is for our picture of egalitarian small band to mildly hierarchical tribe to deeply hierarchical agricultural cities actually is - that hierarchy and inequality existed before agriculture, and egalitarianism sometimes existed after.  Also, that the change to agriculture was not linear.

He is using this data as a platform for advocating that it is possible to change our social structures now and make them more egalitarian without having to revert to hunter-gatherer beginnings.  Yet even if that is not so, his dismantling of the current prevailing belief among most educated people is interesting.

Given the other upendings we are reading about over a West Hunter, I suspect that anthropology is in for some serious remaking over the next generation.  We may, of course, simply adopt new myths.


I edited it a bit. I tried to expand the circle.

Question: Two links don't go to the sites, but to their RSS feeds, no matter how I rename them on the gadget edit.  Anyone know how to fix that?

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Prophetic Voice

I followed links to the pastorblog of a "twenty-year ministry veteran" who wrote that we need to shut up and listen to superheroes like the kids who are speaking in March For Our Lives. Its tag line was "Stuff That Needs To Be Said," and his current post is about how he is not so much angry at Donald Trump - though he spends a lot of time detailing how awful Trump is for a person who doesn't care so much - but at his supporters, who are ignoring all these terrible things about him. More than two years after the first primary, and seventeen months after the election, I'm thinking it's not quite current to be saying this.  I imagine he has been saying it pretty regularly for the last few years, but you jackasses still don't get it. Everything was easily answerable, of course, though with the long list of complaints he had, and it taking 30-90 seconds to refute each one, I'm thinking that could add up.  But entertaining reasonable reply is unlikely to be his goal.

The older post was a good example of the clown nose on, clown nose off method of arguing. The newer post was an excellent example of the arguing by social shaming rather than making a rational point. I checked all his posts for 2018, when he mentions Jesus, it is almost always to insist that evangelicals completely misunderstand him, because they do the list of liberal causes he mentions. Mostly gun control. He does also mention feeding people, which is fine.  Though he might be uncomfortable how much more of that is done by evangelicals. The other exceptions to mentioning Jesus are his Easter message that he doesn't believe in our physical resurrection - he doesn't say what he believes about Jesus's, but I think it's negative - but he does believe in the repairing of marriages, and people getting along, and all that.

I commented. It awaits moderation.  It was still not published today.  I'm not going back. No point.

I recall from my Jesus Freak days guys who believed they had the Gift of Prophecy.  It was always guys, I think.  Or if speaking about another, they might say he or she had the Prophetic Gift. If you listened to them long enough, you eventually learned that they just liked telling other people where to get off. I think that is largely true when our denominational publications talk about how important The Prophetic Voice has been in Christianity.  Which is true, but the modern application always seems to be that same thing: some one, or some group who just wants to tell other people where to get off.  I think the translations of "Stuff That Needs To Be Said" is really "People I'd Like To Tell Where To Get Off."

Guessing Leads To Prejudice

When the media does not report the obvious details about a criminal, leaving them vague and unsaid, the idea is probably to prevent people from generalising that all Chechnyans are murderers and thus reduce prejudice. I wonder if that is only true some of the time, and may backfiring.  According to the Spectator, people are already reading the news differently, filling in the blanks and breaking the code on their own. The grim joke about reading Pravda was that you could sense the news in WWII: the Red Army was winning glorious battles closer and closer to Moscow every day.

In American politician crime stories, the party of the councilwoman or state senator is often omitted when they are a Democrat, but mentioned when a Republican (or mentioned in paragraph twelve instead of two). That is amply documented, though I have never seen any numbers on what the conservative pres does.  Do they do the same mention/not mention, paragraph difference, or print the story/don't print it? I don't know. The uneven mentioning has over time likely contributed to false estimates in the general public.  They know it is Donald Trump's supporters who are violent, not the protestors. They just know it, and believe they are deciding for themselves and sizing up the landscape objectively.

Yet something else happens as well.  After getting burned enough times, conservatives now read so suspiciously that in the absence of information they likely draw the opposite conclusion.  They assume they are being steered and bamboozled. I think this latter type of prejudice is stronger, and harder to get over. Though their opponents are still fewer than those they can still fool, the general media may have sown the wind and begun to reap the whirlwind. Over at Maggie's today, Sam L mentioned two sources which used to have reputations for evenhandedness, though for one this was long ago. He no longer trusts either, and has learned this at a hard school. I doubt he is rare.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Not Out Of Africa

For those interested in prehistory and the origins of Anatomically Modern Humans, there is recent evidence that we did not come Out of Africa, or not in the same way as usually imagined.  It is possible that we left before we became AMH, then mixed with Neanderthals and kept a few of their best genes while we were in the Mediterranean, North Africa. Only then did we spread to all parts, including back to sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a second population the East Asians mixed with, the Denisovans, and there is a DNA suggestion that there are at least two other remote hominid populations we interbred with as well, one in Asia and one in Africa. Greg Cochran is discussing at West Hunter all the archaeology and DNA of this in the context of reviewing the new David Reich book, which Cochran likes parts of and disapproves of others.


I deactivated, not deleted from FB.  The questions they asked as I left were manipulative enough that I almost switched to full delete.

I wasted too much time there, providing entertainment but not receiving much.  I will miss the C S Lewis group, though that could be a pain sometimes as well. I was already worried about privacy and use of my information, and the recent revelations didn't help.  But it was Zuckerberg's misdirected apology, so terribly sorry he had let Trump do the bad things he had helped Obama do in 2012, that convinced me to pull the trigger.  I grant there were some differences in that, but not enough to change the overall actions.

So I knew I couldn't trust them to do the right thing when the chips were down. Final straw. I lived without it for 60 years, I imagine I will muddle along somehow now, eh?

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

YouTube Recommendations

Bethany over at Graph Paper Diaries discerned that the youTube algorithm seems to lead one to more and more radical things, in an effort to hold our eyes to the page. The long-term effect of this is likely bad for all of us, seamlessly leading us to more extreme and less-supportable opinions.  The effect is not that we will necessarily believe these things, but that we will think our own views moderate and reasonable merely because we don't believe what those extremists do. I learned from Screwtape that I am capable of virtue-signalling to my private self.

Browsing today after the Peter and Gordon post, I apprehended that this applies to musical suggestions in the sidebar as well. If you listen to any song, the sidebar will include other covers of the song and other songs by the artist; songs you have listened to before, or very similar; songs by similar artists with lots of viewings; songs with huge numbers of viewings that are vaguely kindasorta related to things you have once watched*; AND - songs from obscurer twigs on the branch you are on.  Because I occasionally look for Romanian things, I get Ukrainian or Bulgarian folk dances or versions of Kosovo's Got Talent! Play Peter and Gordon and you get Chad and Jeremy, or Herman's Hermits, or the Tremeloes. Or they can entice you down the rabbit hole to The Searchers...and on to...Scott McKenzie...and on to The Middle of the Road singing "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep," which I never heard of.


This also can't be good for us. I have no evidence but feel this deeply every moment I watch "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep."

*These algorithms already have gotten too clever for my comfort.  I used to get sidebar offers for 8 zillion viewers for "20 Best Bikini Fails," but don't anymore, because meh.  But when they slip "1960's" into that "Bikini Fails" I am temporarily frozen, wondering if Hayley Mills might conceivably be in that somewhere. The Bayesian approach of successive approximations suggest they will know us altogether too well shortly.


Newly 7 y/o Sarah had crumpets and jam for the first time while visiting yesterday.  Her older sister was quite sure she wouldn't like them (being a new food) and demurred.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Brain Drain: Doctors

In my era, it was considered the pinnacle of academic success to go to med school.  Law school was slightly behind, but essentially equivalent.  People who went to graduate school in hard sciences, as many of my friends did, went because they loved their field, were intrigued by it. They hoped - especially the engineering and computer types - that they might become prosperous thereby, but it was the fascination, or perhaps the joy of being good at something, that drove them. It was similar among my friends who went for advanced degrees in humanities or social sciences. The MBA was an exception.  That was for people who had loved history or economics or German as undergrads, but were now buckling down to make serious career money.

That was true of the generation before mine as well.  There is an interesting event in Asimov's autobiography In Memory Yet Green of him addressing a group of medical students. He had a PhD in chemistry, but one of the questions was clearly meant to sort out whether he was a "real doctor" (snigger). That's the way people viewed it then. I don't think that would be true now.  I don't know, and I don't know when the change occurred. Yet the testimony of literature and everyday conversation supports the idea that the best and brightest became medical doctors throughout the 20th C. If you hated blood you could excuse your way out, and women were at first pressured away from med school, then pressured into it, inflection point somewhere in the 60's.

Yet - consider that doctors killed more than they saved until about 1940, penicillin being the big boost. The germ theory became established, gradually but long before that, so basic sanitation and quarantine were understood. Anesthesia and aspirin had come along, X-rays could tell you whether and how a bone needed to be set, yet by 1935 the smartest people - or at any rate those who had the reputation in every town of being the smartest - were still killing more people than they saved. Babe Ruth made more than the president in 1930 and joked "I had a better year." He had a better year, in the sense of providing useful service, than most doctors that year, too.  As did most of the rest of the major leagues.

Part of this may have come from the medical profession's insistence on making its smart practitioners stupid by training them during sleeplessness (while working in hospitals, where the sickest patients are, and killing them), then insisting that they have at least some hours of stupidity by being on call throughout their careers. Yet all of our parents and grandparents conspired in this, to grant the highest status and often wealth to those who didn't actually do much good.

We should be grateful that as many people as did decided that they really loved computer programming or geology, deciding that med school could go hang. Yet I wonder if we didn't waste a good deal of American brainpower by culturally rewarding medicine over other fields. (I believe many others have already made the same observation about law school.  I don't feel qualified to answer that.)

I have always thought Allen Ginsberg's most famous quote to be incomprehensible and foolish.  But if you slip in the word "medicine" for "madness," with an eye to the many night shifts that residents do, it begins to approach sense.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by medicine, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night.”

I love this site.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Seeing The Christmas Story Differently

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
I left the book in the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage and had only read about a hundred pages. However, only the first chapter had fascinated, so the loss may not be great. After the discussion of the Bethlehem story, it seemed mostly about how the emphases can be different in the ME, not anything new to me. I am likely being unfair, and I may have another go at the book. The new look at the Christmas story was worth the price on its own.

We make much of the outcast, rejected nature of Jesus at his birth.  No room at the inn. Shuffled off into the barn, with only a feed trough for a bed. The Eastern tradition emphasises the aloneness of Mary, and nearly always claims Jesus was born in a cave.  Bailey thinks these are both wrong.

As a general principle, he notes that the Christmas story was written in other versions that were not accepted as scripture, and we can learn something about them - and thus about the authentic scriptures - by noting what they get wrong. The other versions often get local knowledge wrong: local geography, local customs, local architecture. When we find such things in the text we know this person has never been to Jerusalem or seen the countryside around it.  He has a false picture. This also makes it likely that the writer was not a Jew. Most Christians outside Jerusalem were not Jews. Nearly all Christians were from outside Israel from an early date.

Therefore strong Jewish or local elements in a text argue for a very early date of the original.  Later texts would not understand the information, and thus omit it, try to reconcile it with other beliefs, or just flat change it.

In Israel and farther east, there was and is a type of typical housing that was not quite the same as that just a bit farther west and throughout the Mediterranean.  Bailey notes that one can still see this style in poorer districts today.  Yet it wasn't poor housing then, it was usual housing, and with additions, even a minor sign of prosperity. There was a rectangular building with a flat roof. At one end there would be an entrance, and immediately inside, a small lower area and a few steps up to the common living area, a single room.  The lower area was used at night to bring the animals inside. There would be 2-3 small areas, either shallow holes dug in the floor or raised mangers, for the animals food. The animals could see the family, the family could see the animals all night. Sometimes there might be a curtain. It's a little warmer there. Sleeping there was no big deal. If the family got a bit more prosperous, they would build a second room on the roof. This would then be where the family slept - as in the parable of the man knocking - and used for special events, as in the Last Supper.

The word used for "inn" in the Bethlehem story is not the same word as "inn" in the Good Samaritan story, or other NT references to a paid establishment. It is the same word as the upper room. The guest room. Nice hospitable Middle-Eastern people took Joseph and Mary in, because it was and is a hospitality culture and Joseph's lineage would have made him even more welcome. Even an average husband would have made sure of a place, not just hopped on a donkey with his pregnant wife at the last minute and hoped for the best. The guest room was full. When Mary went into labor, everyone would have known she needed whatever privacy could be managed, so they curtained off the animal's area and put her there. Nothing shameful about it. The idea of shabby treatment came in early, as early as the 3rd C, but it was brought in those in Greece and Asia Minor.  It's not really in the scriptures.

He points to the behavior of the shepherds as confirming this. In a hospitality culture, anyone coming in from outside would see what you had and had not done. People would impoverish themselves rather than be seen as inhospitable. If the arrangements had been substandard, it would be doubly embarrassing for lowlifes like shepherds to be reporting it. The shepherds would have given all of their meager goods to show hospitality, and be glad of the chance. The shepherds don't seem to find it remarkable at all. House, baby, manger, warmth. Worship and go home. The hosts must have wondered what was up with that - shepherds knocking on the door, knowing there was a newborn, talking about angels, baby is special somehow.

Fine Arts

During Iditarod Week there were special events all over town. I went up to the Fine Arts exhibit. There were unidentifiable snow sculptures outside.  One may have been a Sacred Heart, which red dye poured into the snow.  I only guessed that because the event was at Old Saint Joseph's church.

"Art" anywhere in Nome - and indeed most of what I saw in Alaskan airports and all brochures - means Native crafts, or sometimes Native artists interpreting their heritage in modern ways. I was hoping that Fine Arts would include something more, but it didn't.  It is a town of less than 4,000, also drawing on the smaller communities of the region, so it is unfair of me to expect more.  Though I do think Pittsfield, NH, a community of 4,000 not noted for its cultural endeavors, could have put up a better show.

There was one thing different - there was a gun raffle at the entrance.

PBS Indoctrination

I  scribbled notes during my trip to Nome to remind me of things to write about.  Unfortunately, by the time I am getting to that, the memory is incomplete and what I was referring to is not always clear. Ah well.  We press on.

There was an animation on PBSKids.  The kids wanted a dog park. I am already suspicious. If your town doesn't already have a dog park, how likely is a child to think of that? I can understand them liking the idea once some adult has brought it up, because it sounds guaranteed to make doggies happy! Who could be against that?  Yet this desire for a dog park sounds more like an adult idea than a child's. The only dog park I have ever been to was in a suburb of Houston, and I didn't see many children there. Since the video, though, there might be kids all over America starting to angle for dog parks now.

So, reluctantly granting that poi ------!

It just this moment occurs to me that we have a parallel with the recent gun control protests here. Astroturfed.  Adult-managed. Put the kids out front.  Hmmm.  As I write about the dog park, I'm going to be checking the parallel.

They went to they teacher, who sent them to...
The head of Park and Rec to ask that someone build them a dog park...
Parks and Rec said it was a great idea, but they would need the go-ahead from the mayor, presumably because money, but I don't think money was mentioned...
So they went to the mayor, who went to the council, who agreed it was a great idea...
The town built the dog park and there was a little song that went with it, including the lyric. "People in the government helped make a wonderland."
Went looking. Found it. Feel worse now.
I don't think the people at PBS even see that their view of government and how things work is only one view among others. It certainly doesn't occur to them that there might be anything damaging about it. It's just the way things are. The government runs everything, here is how you get the government to do what you want.

Sorry to be depressing.  But something that might cheer you up is picturing the March For Our Lives kids as really operating more at this level than the semi-adult/wise young rulers pose they have adopted.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Festival

I am going to postdate this a long way off, for sunrise on Easter 2018. I ran across it looking for something else during Advent, and am afraid I will forget it.

I posted before about Festival Worship, which I believe is the ancient model of worship that will be used by the next few generations far more than we have for the last few centuries.

The Last Gift of Mary Magdalene

When Mary of Magdala went to the tomb on Easter morning, hoping with the other women to give the body of Jesus a proper burial (Friday afternoon's preparations had been hurried and the bare minimum), her situation was different than all of Jesus's other followers. The men could go back to their previous jobs and families. At least I can go back to accounting/fishing/building again. They would be humiliated, of course, but that would pass. They grieved for their friend, but lots of people grieve. Some of the men had wished to go back to their previous lives, and wanted assurance from Jesus that what they had given up to follow him was worth it.

Jesus had at least attempted to provide for his mother at the end. "Mother, behold your son; son, behold your mother" he had said to John. As far as we can tell, the other women had come from some sort of families, and after suitable punishment by their patriarchs, would be accepted back. Mary the mother of Jesus would have the greatest grief, of course, but no worse than a thousand other mothers in Jerusalem who had lost sons.

Mary had nothing to go back to. There were always job openings for Beggar, of course, but the other beggars would have been schooled for a lifetime in eliciting pity by appearance and tones of voice. She might not be able to make even a subsistence living. She might give herself as a slave, if anyone would have her - the woman of the house in any rich family might have something to say about the master taking on one of the girls from the Pampered Palestinian Escort Service, no matter how temporarily reformed. Ms. Magdalene had seemingly stayed somewhere the last two nights. Perhaps she had stayed with one of the other women, or one of the disciples - if she could find one out of hiding. But it could have been that she had nowhere, nothing, starting in about two hours.

We might hope that the followers of Jesus would remember at least something of what he taught, and that someone would take a poor woman in and provide for her. But if not, her own family was unlikely to take her back. She had shamed them already and was dead to them. Whatever friends she had formerly had among her customers wouldn't want to be that close to her new holiness, unless they were utterly depraved and would enjoy even more trying to take advantage of her need. You thought you were something for awhile there, didn't you - better than the rest of us, huh? Now look at you.

And yet out of love and duty, which are not as incompatible as we make them appear in our era, she wants to give what last little she has in the pointless gesture of doing things up properly for someone who wasn't even a relative. Just because it was the right thing to do. Just to show gratitude one more time, even if only only she noticed.

It was a gift of generosity unmatched by any of Jesus's other followers, a pouring out of her own self, probably pointlessly, in imitation of his own pointless sacrifice. Just because it had to be done. We lose too quickly in the immediate discussion of the resurrection how great must have been Mary Magdalene's despair at finding the tomb empty. Even this last ability to give a little gift had been taken from her, and she must have thought as well "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

No wonder that Jesus's words to her are "Touch me not." What other impulse could she have had but to wrap her arms around his ankles, touch his face, burrow into his chest, weeping? How did even the Son of God move quickly enough to prevent her?

There are no tears that will not someday be dried, no lonely depths that will not somehow be filled. We hunger; food exists. We thirst; water exists. What else then could hope be for, but for completion?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hoover and WWII

I am no WWII expert, by any stretch.  I have a friend who is, who teaches history at a college, designed an intricate WWII table game and has played the others in tournament for decades, and just spent two days at the New Orleans museum.  I note this last bit because I could not spend two focused days at any museum, not even one devoted to what a wonderful guy I have always been. I can see doing a morning and a following afternoon, but not two opening-to-closing days.  I can see getting a membership and coming back often. But you have to really love something to pound it in like that. Perhaps I only say that because I usually go to small, obscure museums that can't put the bang into the displays that a larger, national one can.  But I spent an afternoon at the WWI museum in Kansas City and thought my brain was full and could take no more.

I am not in his league.  Among amateur historians in America, WWII is by far the most popular branch of study, with the War Between The States a distant second. WWI and the Revolution don't come close.  This applies to alt-history and gaming as well as serious study. There are a lot of eyes on this information, and a lot of discussion. Nonetheless, I do know a bit, and as a discussion of Roosevelt started up in the comments under The Other David Wyman, I thought I would give it some air and weigh in myself, not comprehensively, but provocatively. I don't in the least advocate this is what we should have done, but interesting to consider in light of any "Did Roosevelt get it mostly right?" discussion.  I think Pat Buchanan does argue for something like this, but I haven't read it.


Hoover originally did not believe we would need to go to war, and that Churchill and others were unnecessarily provocative so that Western Europe would get dragged in. His vision was that Hitler and Stalin should slug it out without us. It would have perhaps been possible to make reassurances so that he did keep his focus in the East. I don't dismiss this as impossible. There was a lot more Lebensraum in Russia than there was in the Netherlands. After they had destroyed each other, an untouched Western Europe could have imposed its will on both. If that seems irresponsible and cruel of us WRT the Jews, it pays to remember that things could hardly have turned out worse than they eventually did, and the Final Solution might not have been enacted if there were no West threatening Germany. One can even imagine a scenario in which America and NW Europe focused on rescue of Jews, which Hitler was only too happy to be rid of, in any direction. I call that less than 50% likely, but not impossible.

Several things make this whole train of speculation unlikely to have happened, or to have worked. First, if Japan had still attacked under this scenario, the war of some sort with Germany would have been impossible to avoid. However, that attack is not a given, certainly not in a situation where even England and France are not formally at war with the Axis. Pearl Harbor was calculated to discourage us from even thinking of entering the war, because we clearly were thinking of it.

Secondly, it might indeed be irresponsible to abandon the Jews that fully. Though again, how much worse do we think things would have been. Absent the natural "but we have to do something" feelings, would doing nothing have totaled more than six million Jews plus whatever the Soviets added? In this imagined alternative, we don't have to rescue or protect them all in order to get a better outcome.  I do notice it would also involve abandoning the Poles and the Czechs right from the start. Worse outcome for them? We set the precedent when we intervened in WWI that we were not entirely indifferent to Europe's, especially England's, wars. (Tangentially, if the Spanish Flu did in fact originate in Kansas, spread to Europe by American troops with devastating effect, one wonders how much good we accomplished.)

Thirdly, there is still the problem of oceans, and especially the North Atlantic. Both Germany and Russia needed freedom to move ships that runs right through seas that the UK, Scandinavia, and France had a lot of say in. Staying out of war may have been impossible for them, and thus less possible for us, trying to supply them.

Fourth, we have no assurance how "letting them slug it out" would actually play out.  That we can imagine something as very likely does not mean it is likely. Germany and Japan slugging it out with Russia and China does not suggest stability to me.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lama Sabachthani

It is a hard thing to be forsaken by a bad father, hard enough that it breaks some lives. Outside observers might say "good riddance," but for the abandoned one there is still pain.

How much more to be abandoned by a good father. I thought not only of the Son's separation from the Father, but the Father's from the Son.  This is the father that ran to meet the prodigal son.  This is the father who kept reaching out to Israel to bring her back.  This is the father Jesus turned to when his earthly family rejected him and wanted to put him away.  This is the father he went to when he was tired, hungry to the point of starving, frustrated with a nation and even close disciples who did not get it.

I think of myself promising my children that if you are ever pulled away from me somehow I will not rest until I find you. You can count on that in any darkness, that I am thinking about you every moment and will not stop looking for you.  I don't even like thinking of the possible plotlines where a parent has to act on that (though some have had the horror of living through such things).  I

He had never been turned away before. Perhaps there was some not fully conscious thought in Gethsemane that "this will be hard, impossibly hard, not only physically but spiritually, but I can make it because you are with me." And then suddenly at the very end the realisation I will go into the darkness alone. The one who has always been there will not be there.

Koch Brothers

I have faulted Wikipedia for crediting liberal outlets more generously than conservative and especially libertarian outlets, but I had to look up something about the Koch brothers today and found Wikipedia's article remarkably even-handed, even complimentary and myth-undermining.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Other David Wyman

While I was in Nome, the other David Wyman died. A great man.  I first heard about him in the 1980's, when I was first interested in the Shoah, the Holocaust. He was teaching at UMass Amherst, but had a little place in Canterbury, north of Concord, NH, where he did much of his research and writing. I may have even first heard about him from a co-worker who was a neighbor of his.  I bought and read Paper Walls and found it sobering.  Other scholars were a bit annoyed with him for publishing so little, as they heard the breadth of his knowledge at conferences. Only late in his career did he put all his information out publicly.

He founded and ran the Institute For Holocaust Studies, though I don't think he was as deeply involved these last five years. His primary message was that America could have done a great deal more to rescue the Jews in the 30's and 40's - his documentation dismantled the standard excuses that we had done about as much as was possible.  His second complaint was that American scholars deceitfully covered for the reputations of the WWII leaders who ignored the plight of the Jews, especially FDR, about whom nothing ill could be said.

My own thought is that Roosevelt was and is defended because much of liberalism itself is tied up in his actions. I also think that is less true now than it was when I was young. I don't think young academics make such a tight connection with his actions and the general defense of left anymore. I am not knowledgeable about such things, however, and could easily bear correction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Iditarod, Miss Alaska, and Sleeping Queens

I did not get up at 3am to see the Iditarod winner come in, but my granddaughter Aurora and I saw 4th-6th place come in the next day, and a few later ones the day after. We had to have repeated discussions that she could not pet the doggies, even though they were almost in arm's reach. The girl does not listen well.  She's one of those you have to get to look you straight in the face and ask her "What did I just say?"

I came up on the same plane as Miss Alaska, Angelina Klapperich, who was at many of the events. She seems a nice enough young woman and must be quite a pianist, if she competed at Miss America with Bumble Boogie.

Aurora was entranced at first meeting, asking if she could have her tiara. She kept circling back around at every event to talk with her, so that Ms. Klapperich eventually recognised her at a distance and would wave.

I saw Hobo Jim at the Board of Trade bar that night, and he mentioned Woody Guthrie, as folksingers of our era are likely to do. I chatted with him between sets and said he reminded me more of Rambling Jack Elliot, which I knew would gratify him, as that is another code name to mention. This song is his best known, at least in Nome, where everyone sang along.

The other interesting bit was teaching Aurora to play Sleeping Queens, which her cousins play. She caught on quickly and wanted to play nonstop. We recommend the game.

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

We sang this Sunday.  I sometimes try to picture myself in the scene when reading scripture or singing worship lyrics.

When I came to the words "Behold the man upon a cross/ My sin upon his shoulders/" I imagined contritely and gratefully loading my sins there. I didn't know the song.  I didn't know the next lines would destroy me.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers
No, I would not have been worshipful and repectful had I been there, would I? I would most likely have been like the others. I imagined hearing my own voice in the crowd. I knew it was true, and I was ashamed.

There was a book of historical fiction, or perhaps a murder mystery that my wife told me about years ago. An artist had painted the crowd at the crucifixion, and by some trick or miracle, everyone who saw the painting saw their own face there. (If you know it, please identify it for us.) The people resented the artist, and she thinks she remembers, killed him.  The detective called in to solve the mystery sees his own face in the painting as well.


A presenter years ago at a conference for treating sex offenders introduced his talk with a simple declaration that impressed me deeply.  The rest of his presentation included similarly obvious but frequently neglected advice.  I have had cause to apply it to other topics ever since. I paraphrase: Our first objective, perhaps our only objective, is the ongoing protection of society. Obtaining justice such that the victims, and society at large, feel satisfied is nice, but it is secondary to us. Treating and rehabilitating the patient is even less important, though that is our job in the system. Safety comes first, and should be guiding our decisions during every phase of treatment.

If you think this is obvious, and that you would of course have this perspective if you were treating sex offenders, and how could those idiots think anything else is the point, I declare to you that you are almost certainly kidding yourself.  The general public thinks largely in terms of punishment, even revenge, making half-serious jokes about castration, prison rape, and wanting the offender to have long sentences in unpleasant conditions. Even at best, there is an emphasis on victims feeling that they have been heard or received justice, or more remotely, society’s overall impression that justice has been served. But feelings are unreliable.  Sometimes the actions of the justice system and eventual result for the perpetrator have a great deal to do with how well the victim is able to get on with their life, sometimes they have little effect. The effect on society will have much less to do with justice and more to do with notoriety and impression. It’s nice if the victim feels satisfied.  But it has nothing to do with decisions about the offender.

As for treatment and rehabilitation, it is not only that clinicians get tunnel-vision about their part, as most of us do about our own specialties and areas of interest. Successful treatment is a win-win-win. Society is safer, independent living is cheaper, and a damaged person gets a life. What’s not to like? Dude, you should be thanking us for fixing this, not coming in here and telling us our job isn’t very important.

As the speaker went on, I knew he had them for shock value, with his “obvious” statements. They were living in a world where everyone wanted to punish their patients, some of whom were better described as poor saps than perpetrators; yet clinicians fight their own feelings of punishment versus rescue. The success rate isn’t high, and each relaxing of the reins is frightening. Yet they dream of a better world, of fixing things.

During the Q&A, someone asked about allowing offenders in programs access to pornography, which at the time meant magazines. It was controversial, because of the Encouragement to Offend versus Safety Valve debate. The speaker shrugged. It might have a minor bad effect, on some people, so I’d probably discourage it if it were my program. But I’d let one of my guys have a whole stack of magazines before I let him have even a single can of beer. Again silence, shock, as everyone saw that this was not only true, but obviously true, though we (at that time) mentioned the effect of substance abuse on reoffending only in passing, a checkbox on a list of factors. The shaft went home, he had illuminated the target. Substance abuse is the solvent that destroys all your work.  He added in brain damage, another factor that can trump all treatment. Or any indication that the molester is trying to set up some legitimate access to children.  Look there, not elsewhere. All that discussion about whether the patient feels empathy…nearly irrelevant; discussion of the patient’s own abuse…nearly irrelevant; patient attitudes toward women, authority, sexuality, openness, honesty…same. Number of times they will see their parole officer in a week, what will happen if they miss an appointment, does the patient have a job…secondary. The only important questions are What will increase safety?  How much? What will decrease safety? How much?  It doesn’t matter what you think about pornography.  It doesn’t matter if the victim has forgiven him. “But, but…” It doesn’t matter.

All of this the long way around to talk about gun laws.
“I don’t think people should be allowed to own guns whose only purpose is to kill large numbers of people.”  Irrelevant. Show me the safety with Law A and without Law A.

“That rifle has enough range that it can pierce metal from a mile away!” Irrelevant. I’m looking at # of people killed overall.

“It fires a zillion rounds a minute…a seven-year-old can order a flame-thrower online…it’s legal to have a chainsaw bayonet…” Irrelevant.

“There are more gun deaths in America than…” Irrelevant.  Nasty bombings and driving into crowds in London. Tell me the overall deaths, apples-to-apples, and how your proposed legislation will affect that.

“It’s easier to get a gun than a book on the South Side of Chicago.” Irrelevant. (Also crazily untrue, but I admit, that is also irrelevant.)

“People need a license and have to pass a test to drive a car, but anyone can just buy a gun.” Irrelevant.  Show me the damage from that, not what you can imagine the damage might be, or what you think is fair. (And are you advocating a sex-having license as well?)

“The NRA buys politicians and has too much influence.” Irrelevant.

“No one needs to own that many guns.” Irrelevant.  You don’t get to say what other people need. BTW, you said that about pickup trucks. Let me go through your house and start on what you don't need.

“People are anxious and afraid because they have insecurities about their (whisper, whisper)…” Irrelevant.

“Gun manufacturers are making money from this, that’s why they don’t care about children.” Irrelevant.

“If you bring a gun into your home the most likely person to be killed is a family member.” Irrelevant. Who is the most likely person to be protected?  Compared to a random guy in Montana, sure. Most car accidents occur within fifteen miles of home.  Do you think we should move?

“Children shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school.” No, it’s how safe they are that’s relevant, not how safe they feel.  How they feel has a lot to do with what the adults around them are doing.

What happens in other countries is partly relevant, but those numbers don’t say what opponents think they do. If you aren’t going to stick around for the discussion, then they are irrelevant too.

The constitutional arguments are interesting.  I believe the gun controllers get them wrong, but those at least are relevant. The mental health arguments are also interesting and relevant.  I think people talk a lot of nonsense about what is possible – nonsense on every side of the discussion here – but knowing rates of violence, accuracy of prediction, and what will actually reduce risk and how much it will cost is certainly relevant.

But much of what you will read and hear is irrelevant. People make these enormous logical leaps of
1.       1. NRA stops giving money to politicians
2.       2. We pass common sense legislation, Set 42 (magic beans)
3.       3. Fewer school shootings (giant slain)
1.       1. We make it really inconvenient to buy guns
2.       2. Bad people give up in frustration and gnash their teeth
3.       3. Fewer people get hurt.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


This can be a fun activity of an afternoon for a couple, or even a whole family, especially if the weather is nice and springy. Be sure to take pictures of yourself.

Sleep and Denial

At my wife's urging, I just read Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker. It has already convinced me to change my habits.  The short version is that we have all long known that inadequate sleep is bad for our health, makes us worse drivers and students, and that the ubiquity of electrical illumination may not be an unmixed blessing. The reality is worse. Those things are true, and more dramatically than we like to think; secondly, there are other things like higher blood pressure, lower testosterone and sperm count, worse glucose processing, worse memory, increased depression, mania, and anxiety, irritability, bad judgement and loss of temper; thirdly, many of the benefits of sleep occur in hours 6-8 and have to be set up by the previous 6 hours; fourthly, you can't recover much of what you lost from a bad night's sleep by getting more the next night or even over the next week.  Each bit of damage is real, however slight, and unrecoverable.

So get eight hours every night. Getting used to being one of those awake-achievers who gets by on 5-6 a night (which you brag about), is a set-up for Alzheimer's.

Some background on how bad my own decisions have been, which is why I may seem harsh now:  I have had a sleep movement disorder, twitching and even kicking, for decades.  This makes the deepest sleep more elusive. I avoided a sleep specialist referral for years even though my snoring is horrendous, because I have hypopnea, not apnea.  That is, my night breathing was poor, but never stopped in those non-breathing intervals that send spouses into panic. So I figured No Biggie. Though I knew I was by nature a night owl with a later clock, I kept jobs which required early arrivals. I even worked the graveyard shift for four years, because my wife and I were determined to reduce the number of hours our children spent in (gasp) day care overrode other considerations. Now that I think how one's children turn out is much, much more genetic than environmental, this looks like an amazingly bad choice.  22hrs/week versus 16 hrs/week in day care?  That's a big deal?

My first sign of aging - okay, I started balding at 20, so my second sign of aging - was bags under my eyes. By longstanding folk wisdom, we get bags under our eyes because of lack of sleep, but I laughed that off as accidental. Well no, it actually is a sign of inadequate sleep, and it shows up as early as childhood. I attributed my inability to drop off to sleep at a decent hour (the few times I tried), always lying abed 60-90 minutes, as anxiety. That goes back as far as high school, and has to do with night owl/morning lark differences. Whenever I had days off with no morning obligations I would sleep 11 hours, days running, my body trying to catch up.

I did catch a 45 minute nap at lunch on work days because I was so impossibly sleepy, and as we are designed for biphasic sleep and should have kept that siesta pattern, I did stumble on one healthy thing. Here's the thing: I was not one of those awakeness-warriors determined to press on, I get 6.5-7.5 hours per 24 (including the nap). It's just that it wasn't very good sleep until about 10 years ago, and that's still not enough. I am a night owl with a half-hour commute for 8am. It just doesn't work. I ignored this, thinking it was bad, but not very bad.

The one that shook me awake, so to speak, was the glucose processing. 50% worse the next day on six hours sleep versus 8.  I have greatly reduced my starches (sweets were never a thing) over the last 6-7 years, and have fair but not terrible eating habits, but did not start losing weight until my semi-retirement 15 months ago, at which point I started sleeping more. So I'm gonna ride that sleep solution hard and get even more sleep.  It's those last 90 minutes that lay down the glucose and blood-pressure healing mechanisms (medical details in the book).

Sleep cures nothing but treats everything, it seems.

Discussion: Teenagers move into the night-owl category, then drift back as adults into the 40% morning lark, 30% night owl, 30% midrange continuum. A century ago high school started at 9am. We moved to earlier starts in the 20's and 30's, and it's not good. Some districts are developing options for later starts.  The 20% of kids who remain early risers dominate at school, but the 80% get cheated. It's not laziness or lack of discipline (necessarily). Their bodies won't fall asleep earlier, and the "getting wiser as you get older" is more biology than decision.

There are a few employment categories which are worst about sleep, but medicine and the military are the worst.  I get the reasoning.  They are trying to raise the floor, of making adequate decisions automatic even under the worst of conditions, because sometimes the conditions are terrible. With the military, the camaraderie of working through hardship is also important. Yet this is in contrast to, say, athletes, who strive to find the ceiling, the best conjunction of diet, sleep, and training for optimal performance.  That might be more important information in today's warfare and medical care.

Plus, why would want your army, or your basketball team, to have less testosterone?

Oppression and Birthrate

The concept of population replacement in Europe and America came up in adult Sunday School today.  I posted over a decade ago on the subsequent birthrates of WWII Oppressor and Victim countries. As having children is an expression, and thus a measurement, of optimism about the future I think it is still interesting.  Much more might be said. Because extremely low birthrates have been usual in both Italy and Japan for two generations, most children have no aunts or uncles, no cousins.  For Americans who grew up with Italian-American families in their schools, this seems frankly unbelievable now.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Nevertheless, She Persisted

There is an older set of jokes about conjugations: I am principled, you are stubborn, he is mulish; or Horses sweat, men perspire, women are all aglow. Perspective matters.

Persistence is generally regarded as a positive trait. Yet it doesn't take much increase for it to become pathological.  I imagine Hillary Clinton sees herself as persistent, or ambitious. I see her as obsessed. Is there a comp among other politicians, Democrat or Republican, male or female, where being Senator, a cabinet position, and being the party's nominee somehow wasn't enough? Even those very ambitious, persistent people seem to have dropped it and feel they've had a good innings.

In my brief recent exposure to children's television, it is clear that all children are not being told they can be whatever they want or anything they choose - only the girls are being told that.  Even Barbie tells them that. The boys aren't mentioned. That's worrisome enough, but the women put before them are more often than not being specifically admired for accomplishing something that females don't usually do, for being the first female something-or-other. That's very nice for encouraging girls not to limit themselves, but it sure looks like a recipe for emotional disaster and sense of failure if those girls choose something that they happen to like, that women also liked a hundred years ago.

The exception is entertainer.  Each profession values its own, so encouraging girls to follow their dream and become a singer or a dancer is still okay to the writers.