Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Jason Collins: "I'm A Basketball Player"
Younger players were shocked, seeing Collins as "just some guy who liked to hang around NBA guys and wear uniforms," as one anonymous fourth-year player thought. But older players were less surprised, remembering a time ten years ago when the debate over whether Collins was an actual NBA player or not was more common.
"I had some friends who were on the Nets in the early 2000's who were 75-80% sure he was a basketball player then," nodded a now-retired member of the Atlanta Hawks. "I didn't notice anything myself when he was here, but those were guys who were in a position to know. They used to tell me that despite appearances, Jason would do stuff from time-to-time that only someone who was a basketball player would do." Video footage from the era is inconclusive.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Teaching The Opposite Lesson
A woman came to speak about values at Grand Rounds about ten years ago. Her general point was that the poor have different values because they have to, and we upper-middle-class people are being unfair and insensitive to them when we expect them to conform to our norms. One example she gave was the frequency of physical fighting to solve problems among the poor. "Nicer" neighborhoods weren't really nicer, they just had people who could manipulate systems better and didn't have to resort to shoving and smacking. That bothered me a fair bit, but I can at least find some truth buried in it.
I lived in both kinds of neighborhood as a child, so I believe I have some grounds for an opinion. If her point had simply been that norms vary, and people might conform temporarily to the values of their environment because they hadn't really thought about it much, and we shouldn't be quick to judge permanent character on that basis, I think I would generally agree. But that wasn't where she was going.
Her other example was from her own life. When she was a single mother with little money, she would bring her children to the shoe store, have them try on sneakers, and walk out wearing them. She was completely unapologetic about this. She insisted it was not only a necessity, it was a positive good, because it showed how people were more important than possessions.
I wasn't there, but was sorry I missed it, because the idea deserved pushback. She actually taught that possessions, such as nice new sneakers, were really important - more important than character. It wasn't food or medicine, it was style.
First, I should give what credit I can. She was willing to risk embarrassment, and even legal trouble for her children's sake, and that does have a sort of generosity to it. Actually, it doesn't, for three or four reasons, but I'm trying to see as far down that road as I can. I get it that when people are poor they might break rules in desperation, and those of us who don't have those temptations should be grateful to be spared the trial, and humble about our own probable actions. When I was six, my mother tried to rehearse me to say I was five so I could ride the Mount Washington for free. Same thing. The difference, I suspect, is that my mother did not, after years of reflection, get paid to give talks to professional audiences applauding herself for that.
One person reportedly pressed the speaker on the approval of theft - pretty mildly, from what I was told, but it was at least something. The woman giving the lecture was put out by that, but rather than argue was airily dismissive of the criticism with the line "Well, I think the whole system should be changed." Yes, I imagine you do. I think we can predict on what lines you would change the system, too. Invisible owners of shoe stores are unlikely to come out well in the new order.
She was still in business as of three years ago, as I heard a department member mention having heard the talk at another facility. Why I should be unable to shake this eludes me. But she taught the opposite of her stated value.
Ohio has the World's Largest Basket at Longaberger headquarters.
You don't see New England represented much, though we don't seem entirely averse to roadside architecture in general, such as this one in Raynham, MA.
We did have one here in Manchester, the Moxie Bottle House. I still remember it, though it was in terrible disrepair by the 1970's.
Likely for cultural reasons, though I can't put my finger on it, quite, the other major areas represented on the list are the Canadian provinces across the border from those American states, New South Wales in Australia, and New Zealand.
Tacky Tourist Photos.
Strange and Unusual Buildings.
and the Wikipedia article on Novelty Architecture.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Classical Gas/Somewhere Over The Rainbow
The Paperless Future
Worth Listening To, But...
I have some tendency to this myself, I suppose, being more worth listening to than arguing with. I hope not to the extreme I am thinking of in another, though.
Our preferred narrative is that it is those who can listen, be civil, and fight fair are the smarter ones. They are the ones who are really knowledgeable, we tell ourselves. But is that actually so? In theory we say it should be, but is there actually a correlation? Of the five psychiatrists I have learned the most from, three were very able to listen and charming in their replies, one was intermittently good at it, but had a fairly narrow range of people he respected, and the last was frankly horrible to deal with. He was forever condescending and snide and cutting others off when he believed he understood their point (though he hadn't always). Yet he was worth listening to for all that.
Of those I read or hear, those I meet in a dozen live venues where brilliance might be shown, or those I knew in Prometheus, I can find examples of both types in all groups.
I would be interested what your personal experiences are with this.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Diversity Is Our Strength
Outside The Box
Sunday, April 21, 2013
I don't mind that they have that opinion. I mind that it is their only opinion, as if every other possible examination of the subject must be subordinated to making sure their audience Gets This Right.
Check that. There is still a running stream of offhand mentions of our gun laws, and how part of the background for all this is that you can get ahold of any weaponry you want here. The connecting thought, that guns were not the issue, is missing. It's just all this violence-y thing, y'know? It all ties together.
What, pressure cookers, nails, and sugar are illegal in Chechnya or something?
...if they had been merely senior vice presidents and their husbands were doing well, they often would pack it in career-wise. So, the school would have ultracompetent volunteer moms with Dartmouth MBAs and investment banking experience running refreshment stands at school events. Nothing ever went wrong at that school.
What difference does it make to you what happens to the planet if your children aren’t on it?A simple question, really. Enviros tend to have few children. Is vague "preservation of humanity" really a motivator? Or just a substitute?
Of course, as he is an atheist - an intellectual state he thinks obvious for scientists - I might ask the next question down: why bother at all, children or not?
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Living At Hogwarts
I think there are enormous problems being overlooked or dismissed in the essay, but it's fun anyway. I don't know that we actually would like to live in that environment, but it's enjoyable to imagine, anyway.
The Old Urbanist links to a couple of dozen sites focused on improving city life or human environment in general. If you poke around, you will notice a strong trend not only to places where one can walk, but a lot of pro-bicycle evangelism as well. The usual line is that American society reflexively privileges automobiles and whatever is good for those, not giving enough thought to the non-polluting, less-parking, no-fossil-fuel, good-for-your-health bicycles.
Well, why privilege bicycles? It's a recent, sort of odd technology in the human experience, with not much record as being the main transport for large segments of populations. The number of people who can use them for trips of any length is small, and they are only useful in certain weather, when you aren't carrying much. If you don't think that CO2 or peak oil are quite the problem they are made out to be, and you notice that cyclists tend to be a leggy crew, without a lot of disability, multiple children, or unwieldy packages, you might start to question what all the hype is about.
And then there's rain, and winter, when all those super-useful-and-necessary bike lines are now just wasted space. I do see some advantages. Not so many as advertised. It's a nice hobby.
Well, I started the 2022 text dialogue with Mary on her 50th birthday, which ended up being the first entry for the blog*, so starting stories buried in blog history on my 60th birthday makes some sense. I've got some stories I would like to put online even in their very incomplete form. So no one will notice unless they are looking for it, and likely to be sympathetic. Emily? Sarah? Sort of doubtful. Who knows? As Bombadil said, "free to all finders, birds, beasts, Elves of Men, and all kindly creatures." Take what you find here and use it for your own good.
And for this one I will have to learn superscripting for Blogger, which may not be fun. Eh. Small problem
There will be an emergency(1), and you will have to rescue(2) several (3) people in the mountains (4) in winter. (5) Because of their trauma they will not be fully rational, and they will not all be grateful(6). You should be good to them, for they are sheep in need of a shepherd.(7)
You will have to get them out of a traumatic situation to safety, 50-70 miles away. The hardest part of that will be on foot; there will be some miles on skis, and if all goes well, some on snow machine. In between, you will be in a shelter for a few days. There will be cold, then snow and brief blizzard, then cold again.
It will be five or so years out. You will be told enough.
(1) Christians are supposed to be excited about such opportunities. I am not.
(2) FML. God being funny again.
(3) This varies by what is being counted. I will start with the assumption of seven.
(4) So up and down mountains. I will have to lose weight and start training more. Will fifty pounds be enough?
(5) Training for cold? FML.
(6) Okay, this is even worse but I begin to see why this is important.
(7) So am I. Who is going to...never mind.
*She was a math person, so 51st birthday might be just as amusing. Yet would I remember it myself? 7 squared; 17x3;13x4 deck of cards; cool prime number...it was an interesting number in that region, but what was it?
Runs Scored, Runs Against
They don't have to maintain this pace of letting in such a ridiculously low number of runs per game - about 3. In fact, they can't. No one ever has, anyway. They will have injuries, people will hit bad streaks where they lose their touch. But even over this few games, about 10% of the season, we can see that this is not an illusion. Allowing fewer runs than 90% of the other teams is plausible.
Runs Scored, however, are average.Looking at the individual statistics, it's hard to see how they are managing even that. The stalwarts have OPS in the .700's, maybe .800's? Does anyone think this is the new normal for Nava or Victorino? I am likely just used to seeing better numbers at the top, so it seems worse than it is. The numbers at the bottom are truly frightening. Too many people batting below .200, even below .100. (Can we send Jackie back to Pawtucket now?)
There is hope in that, however. When you have players hitting that poorly it is usually easier to find improvements. If you need another .125 in batting average to insert into the lineup, it's going to be hard - and expensive - to get a guy who hits .375 to replace your guy hitting .250. But replacing you guy who's hitting .125 with a .250 hitter? That's doable.
I'm not changing my prediction of 81 games. But I'm encouraged.
BTW, about that "timely hitting" that knuckleheads are always talking about. Well sure, if your team can bat .600 with power with men on base, you'll probably do pretty well. Oh. Gee. I never thought of it that way.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
But we have had a death in our circle this week which will affect us more, and really, most people in New England have something in their immediate lives which looms larger. Public events are like the weather, or the sports teams: something that everyone shares with 5% of their consciousness. Therefore, the people who make their living by dwelling in that 5% common store are all deeply involved.
I wonder why the sports teams care all that much, and wonder if they are just exploiting the tragedy for PR. Yet I don't think so. They live in that world. They equate it with real life. They are not out in Sudbury or Scituate, they are right there in BOSTON, going past all the places mentioned quite frequently. The news people likewise - their offices are in the city. The city, the city, the city is the center. Norwood and Natick are peripheral. They cannot take their eyes off this, even if neighbors have death or destruction. To the politicians the picture is clear - what happens to them, or among them, is much more important than what happens in Boxford or Bolton.
So that's what they all talk about, as if that is obviously the most important thing happening. I admit, a few dead and almost 200 injured is a big deal. But the shared mentality is of the news, the politicians, and the teams combining to make it look more universal than it actually is. OMG, the kid was from Dorchester! Why, I go past Dorchester a lot! A BU grad student! Oh no! I knew some BU grad students once!
The President weighs in, and he should. He is also a public person, and when tragedy reaches a certain threshold, it is his job to effectively say "This is very sad. We will help pursue justice." This president does a reasonable job at that. But the threshold is deeply related to the local team/local news tribal bulletin board. A hundred thousand other families have had tragedies this week that have gone unmentioned. They just don't rate.
I don't much care about it all, except as a phenomenon I can observe in the abstract.
Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, and now Boston
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I heard this story in the early 80's, but came to wonder if it were apocryphal. Reading Winters' biographical material over the last few days, there are strong hints it might be true after all.
Dr. Frank Fields, a psychologist at my hospital had done part of his training at a sanitarium in NoCal in the mid 1960's. His story was that Jonathan Winters had been a patient there and was still legendary at the place. Winters was once brought in after being arrested for cavorting in a fountain drunk and naked. (A biography suggests that he was climbing the mast of an historic ship in San Francisco while drunk and naked. Pretty close.) In one of the group sessions shortly after, a psychologist asked "Well Jonathan, have we learned anything from this experience?"
"Yes," said Winters with a confidential grin. "I learned we should never land on this planet one at a time."
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
But it is how they get through doing what they do. They face danger, we generally don't and don't need to understand. Policemen and the military do much the same. Many of the specific rituals may have come in arbitrarily, but no matter. These people go into emotional territory that we largely miss, and they seem to know best how this is to be managed.
Friday, April 12, 2013
I couldn't stand to listen to a whole verse. Beyond stereotype.
Ray Stevens has made a pile of money over the years, BTW.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I do not choose to be a common person.
It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.
I seek opportunity—not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk,
to dream and to build,
to fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade my freedom for beneficence
nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any master
nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid;
to think and act for myself;
to enjoy the benefit of my creations;
and to face the world boldly
"This, with God's help, I have done."It was not merely the font and the presentation, but the sentiment and phrasing that told me it was circa 1950. (That it had been printed up by the Gordon Burns Insurance Agency, just about across the street and a Goffstown fixture for decades, also hinted at that.) It was the type of declaration that was common in my childhood, showing up in Readers Digest or high school classrooms. It would not have been considered liberal or conservative, but simply American. The author, Dean Alfange, was in fact appointed to moderately high political office by both Democratic and Republican politicians, and was a liberal by the standards of our day and his own. I doubt that any Democrat, and few Republicans, would say this aloud today, though a few might endorse it silently. Even libertarians might wonder if this "excellent sentiment" might be too controversial to be worth the candle.
I came across it once before in Colorado Springs in the early 90's at the Flying W Ranch, a family-style restaurant where grace was said before the meal. It was right on the menu there. I hadn't realised the two were the same until I looked it up tonight, but had remembered that they were similar.
The ground shifts beneath us, and we do not notice. Alfange was a childhood immigrant, and no one of the era would have found it surprising that an immigrant expressed this American attitude more forcefully than those who were born here.
I did not get the reference, but figured it out quickly. (Via Grim's Hall)