Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Hans Niemann Cheating

It is increasingly likely that Hans Niemann has been cheating at chess and Magnus Carlsen was entirely justified in his actions. Online chess is different from over-the-board chess, and the online host is very careful to note that its investigation is only of the former.  However, that is quite damning, as Niemann only copped to cheating twice, and it is now clear he cheated online over a hundred times. I don't think he should be made to give back any prizes or honors unless cheating is definitively proved, but I think anyone is justified in no longer believing him.  He has cheated in closely-related chess, he lied about it, and his rise is statistically unusual enough to arouse suspicion.

The line that keeps getting used, at least online, is "Let the chess speak for itself" by those defending Niemann because the allegations of cheating are unproven. I get the impression that this is some sort of catch-phrase among players for these situations. But that is not a logical defense.  If he is cheating successfully and undetectably, then his chess will be superior, but what it "speaks" will be a lie. 

Barry Bonds was an exceptional baseball player and would likely have made the Hall of Fame without steroids.  No one is saying he wasn't any good. No one is saying that Niemann isn't any good either.  You have to already be at a certain level to make use of advantages. In the unfortunate paradoxes of fame, Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Pete Rose are likely remembered more because they are not voted into the HOF, as it comes up every year.  Hans Niemann may get a similar legacy, of being shunned and banned, but remembered longer because of it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Blow, Gabrielle, Blow

Once Ethel Merman did a song, she usually owned it for life.  But my friend Nancy McMahon did this better in 1974 at William and Mary.  Glenn Close was one of the angels for that production. I was stage manager, but the show was primarily memorable for an awkward romantic moment after the show. Social cowardice paid me back in embarrassment.

The Neural Basis of Sex Differences in Depression

 Steve and Corey interview researcher AJ Robison over at Manifold podcast. There is a transcript at the link as well, for those of you who prefer that. I got bogged down about halfway through with the details of the excitability of a circuit in a mouse brain, but it picks up near the end as well. I will add my own comments in the next day or two, but I wanted to get this out there for those who like this stuff.  Some very interesting remarks about depression in humans, research in general, and pitfalls of oversimplifying.

Hay Sickles

 A wonderful parody piece in National Review about cutting your foot off with a hay sickle. 

Arriving first to the hot-take punch, a Vox writer who has neither read the column nor watched Walsh’s video weighs in to explain with confidence that all opposition to cutting off your feet with a hay sickle is a “social construct” that “emerged” in about 2018. At Salon, Amanda Marcotte backs this theory but complains that, while this is probably true, she can’t help but notice that the discussion about cutting off your feet with a hay sickle is being conducted “mostly by white men.” At the Atlantic, Adam Serwer repudiates the Vox piece by proposing that the most racist people on the 1957 Little Rock School Board were against cutting off your feet with a hay sickle, and inviting his readers to “think hard” about what “that tells us” about the practice’s “contemporary critics — which include Republican Senator Tim Scott.”

Monday, October 03, 2022

Two Spirit

I see that on Quillette in the sidebar, there is an article about Two-Spirit controversies in Canada.

I wrote about the topic in 2014.  The focus seems to have changed a bit, but the lack of clarity of thinking seems to be the same. You might find my discussion to be useful background.

Sunday, October 02, 2022


Yeah, not so much intellectual content around her these days, is there? I should feel guilty and hop to it, but I'm not going to. Thinking about my children and grandchildren a lot these days, turning off the podcasts while driving or walking in order to pointlessly worry instead. Issues all around, but Son #2 is working for a UMC church in Houston where the comments and the tactics about whether to split and join the GMC  have been quite nasty. I am sympathetic to those who want to forbid gay marriage in the denomination, but at least in Texas, those are acting far worse.

I do believe that there are right answers to questions. Yet I believe even more strongly that how Christians treat each other in negotiating the conflicts matters far more. What if God tells us in the end "Many questions don't have good answers in a fallen world.  This was intentional on my part to give you opportunity to display kindness and grace." Son #5 has an important job interview coming up, and is trying not to let girlfriend problems distract him from this. It's good practice to learn to put even important things on the shelf for an hour or two (or even longer) in order to be hyperfocused on a goal.

Knight Of Pleasure

Comedian/Attorney Karen Morgan, from Georgia via Cumberland Maine, is hysterical. She has a series of more than a dozen of these judging books by their covers from two summers ago. 

Saturday, October 01, 2022


I listened to Tyler Cowan interview Dave Barry, and they spoke about humor in partisan divide. Barry is not the first I have heard mention it, but much current humor does not cause laughter, and not even a smile or chuckle, just the grim satisfaction of having said something mean about the other side that you know your people would approve of with a knowing look. Grim satisfaction  has replaced laughter. Oddly, it was traced back to SNL, and the idea that they had greatly improved humor by bringing in silliness to go with topicality (and really first-class silliness, I might add.  Killer Bees. Cheeseburger, cheeseburger...), but also sown the seeds for its destruction with their increasing political meanness.

Then I saw the FB pages of some relatives, who used to be funny people, and knew that it was true. I feel some guilt in the case of my younger brother, as it was I who originally taught him this.

I am trying to think of political humor from any side that is actually funny.  The closest I can get is people who go against type and play on that for humor.

They spoke highly of Robert Benchley for written humor, but allow that his short films are at least from a script.


I shudder to think what the search term nostalgia would bring up on this blog. 10% of the total, likely. As I get together monthly with two friends (math/science) I went to summer studies with and one friend (arts and social science) I used to sing with in highschool - and I went to 50th reunion last October - this usually means grades 9-12. College friends recently came up, but that's another story.

Other common eras for nostalgia would be when the first two boys were young, from 1979-1990, possibly extending to the end of their years at Concord Christian HS. Or the first years the Romanians were here.  I don't usually think of the '10s as nostalgia.  But my practical experience is wistfulness whenever I have to go back through my archives.  It doesn't take much to bring a tear to my eyes these days.

And so, I give you December 2015, which includes much about Christmas, that Christmas, and family history, surprising trivia about CS Lewis, Jonathan Haidt's research, and a video of komodo dragons threatening Japanese schoolgirls wearing meat hats. No, really. They are screaming, of course, which I think is what the producers of this TV show had in mind.  2015 Was the year I blogged second-least, with the two around it being first and third.  I apparently had little to say then. However, the family was as amazingly charming then as one could imagine.

Yeah, Pretty Much


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Christmas Into Solstice

Digging down further on David Coffin's work I found that he has been a major performer in the Christmas Revels in Boston for many years. I had that written on our Christmas list this year as something we might want to do, bringing the two nearby granddaughters - and maybe their parents if they're good.

But it is changed to the Midwinter Solstice this year. I don't mind a lot of the paganism in Christian holidays, because we are not disembodied abstract beings and our celebrations have to be grounded in the physical, so there is no real escape: if you shoo away the pagan elements you will have to smuggle in some other metaphors instead, and you won't recognise what you have done.  The Revels have had a fair bit of paganism in them for years. A bit irritating when it is showy in its witchery rather than accurately historical, but not the worst thing out there.

But the name change tells me that this was not enough for them, and those who requested to merely share the stage now want to control it. They have the whip hand now. Ah, Cambridge. Christian elements will linger for a long time, I am sure, because nostalgia will not be cheated, as I noted more than fifteen years ago - not for a few generations, anyway. Look at the costumes, for pity's sake.  These were worn at no solstice celebrations ever until our own age, yet those they cannot abandon.

I am not going to the Revels after all.

Pretty Song

I have been hearing it as the lead in for House of Strauss and wondering what it is.  I still don't know what it is, other than the name "Colo Colo." Maybe the lyrics are something that would irritate me, but it's still a pretty song.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Haul Away, Joe


This is a very Portsmouth event to have happen, and it's a very Portsmouth-looking crowd. Unsurprisingly, they have excellent seafood restaurants there, and even the hole-in-the-wall places are good. I think this is my son Ben's first choice of where to live if he ever moves back to NH. 

David Coffin has an impressive set of pipes, doesn't he?

Grim alerted me to his YouTube channel and he has a nice selection of traditional hymns sung solo with organ accompaniment

Whisky Galore

My dad would often reference this film, which he saw as "Tight Little Island" before it was officially released, as he was coming back from Hokkaido after being in the army of occupation there. (Trained as a paratrooper, he was the postmaster the three years he was there.) He laughed that it ruined his idea of a Scottish accent for years afterwards, and as he told many jokes and was in community theater, that could have been a problem.  However, people knew even less about the various British accents then than they do now, and I don't think anyone ever noticed.

It is based on a true story of a small island banding together to keep the whisky that had fallen into their laps during wartime rationing. The book was apparently more serious and literary, and the author was displeased.

British Taxes

I have not linked anything by Theodore Dalrymple for a long time, which is a shame, as he is a clear thinker who puts things well. Tinkering with Taxes Won't Save Britain. From City Journal.

The sad fact is that one is always starting economically from where one is rather than from where one ought to have been, or where one would have been had past policy been better.

An excellent and often overlooked point. Conservatives often go on at length about "If you had only listened to me the first time..."


Because so many of the podcasts, websites, and substacks I pay attention to are by academics or ex-academics, I get a lot of information about what is happening in colleges and the ways in which some views are excluded or shouted down. I could read new examples every day, and it does seem that the more prestigious institutions are among the worst. I have some commenters here who are or were in the academy as well.

It is all presented with the worry that free thought itself may be at stake, because colleges have been the places set aside for odd theories, contrary opinions, and multiple points of view.  If the academy falls, what will replace it for inquiry?

Yet I believe it largely fell decades ago, and what is going on now are the mopping-up exercises, rooting out the last opponents for removal. There was a set of narratives about how America and history and government worked, and a generation rose up determined to fight against them.  Yet by the 60s they were already not unanimous.  It is a standard marxist formulation to frame everything as for us or against us, and it is an effective manipulative tool.  Well surely you don't want to go back to the days when people believed that everything America or Western Civilisation was good, do you?  Well then, you have to go along with our teaching the opposite, unhindered.  I'm trying to remember when that was, exactly, that colleges taught that America was always right.

I find I no longer read much about the latest horrors at San Jose State or Bryn Mawr.  I get why Glenn Loury and John McWhorter care, or Razib Khan or Steve Hsu.  And for those who found their college experience valuable (I did mostly because it was quite cheap, and I met some good people there), I see why they are distressed that good things are going away. Yet I have largely just written college off.  If you are going into engineering or nursing they will throw some extra ridiculous distractions at you, but you are at least learning something useful. For many other topics, the schools are doing more damage than good, largely because of cost and indoctrination, and I don't think it gets better until the system is abandoned. The sciences should save themselves by going to the Polytechnical School model that has lost some favor.