Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kazimir Malevich

Update below

Everyone can see at a glance what this is, right? If you look more closely you can identify the individual units as well. Strange map, certainly.

Stranger still is that it is by a Russian painter - though one might as readily call him Polish or Ukrainian - around 1913.  If you remember your history, you will know it couldn't be before 1912. The only place I can find this painting is in the slideshow in the online magazine Lurve about Malevich, drawn from the Tate Gallery exhibition in London.  The Tate art-definition feature also uses him to exemplify SupremacismKazimir Malevich of Kiev invented and named the style, one of many ways of approaching painting he used over his career. I can find nothing in commentary about him that suggests he had any interest in the US, any especial fondness for geography, or any desire for political controversy in favor of democracy.  In fact, I cannot even find the name of the painting, who owns it, nor any reference to it, though it was likely exhibited at the Tate this year.

I find no other maps in his paintings, no reference to countries farther away than Austria, nor even much in his suprematism where the individual shapes are anything other than abstracts. There is a brief note that he did like aerial photography for a few years. There are some recognisable crosses. There is is "Boy With Knapsack," below, which is about as vaguely representational as one can get. That's the closest anyone comes. But I'm still not getting his sudden desire to paint the 48 states and District of Columbia a year or so after Arizona and New Mexico come into the union.

He does seem to like ambiguity, as in his "Red Cavalry" is decidedly not stirring patriotism, even though painted in the Soviet era (1928).
Socialist realism was declared the only allowed style of painting not long after, and Malevich was condemned, as they all were, really, shortly before his death in 1935.

One of my sons suggests that it is not by Malevich, but something later in supremacist style, and thus inspired by him, as on this website. Could be, but there is that Tate slideshow.

Update: I have concluded that the attribution of this painting to Malevich was an error on the part of the person writing the review of him at "Lurve." I assumed that because an art reviewer must know more than I about such things, I didn't need be alert for mistakes. I just followed along blithely, swallowing everything.  I don't think it was intentional on the part of the writer.  It's a good lesson for me about trusting rather blindly.


I am willing to believe that most college professors are merely liberal, and not flat-out dangerous crazies. I do wonder where the point comes that the responsible ones do not just try to be good examples, or make reasonable statements, but to outright condemn those who encourage violence, directly or indirectly.

I see two difficulties.  I suspect that absent a significant unity across departments at a single university, most faculty does not have much influence outside their own field, and it is entire fields which seem to have gone mad, so we cannot expect any serious condemnation from those.  Secondly, administrators seem to be a large part of the problem, and they are differently-answerable. Professional pride of trying to discern truth and teach independent thought and problem solving are not really part of their job description.  They may have these things in their value system, but they aren't required.  What is required for deans of this or that is to defend particular ideas or groups of students.

Oh. No. Wait. Social workers and other mental health professionals have crazy and dangerous ideas that they make public and I don't do a damned thing about that. Never mind.

Monday, January 29, 2018


This is a fun thing people are tweeting out, and both my older sons have done it, for 1979 and 1983, to humorous effect. One was from the Muppets, the other from Star Wars.I went looking for what might be interesting from 1953 to follow suit.

Nothing from 1953 resonated with me, and I scoffed "Of course it didn't! I didn't watch those movies and TV shows or listen to those songs then. I was an infant! Now, if they had brought something out from 1959 or later I might warm up to that." Yet my two children were quite familiar with gifs from their birth year. What is the difference?

Movies and TV shows are available to the general public almost immediately now, but even in the 1980's, the world had already changed from my own childhood. You could rent or buy a movie a year or so after it had closed in the theaters.  Disney held its material out longer than most, but eventually came into alignment with what everyone else was doing. TV channels came along that were devoted to reruns, so some more popular series and episodes could be found. However, one had to wait until it came around in the rotation. And for less-popular series, they just couldn't be found. College film studies courses had libraries of old movies, but you couldn't check them out unless you were in the class, and TV stations guarded their archives closely.

One fared better with music, if one had bought the record, but if you didn't pick it up in the first year or two it became difficult to find. There were giant record stores in big cities that kept thousands of albums in stock, but you had to make a pilgrimage to such shrines if you wanted anything but the best sellers in any category. More likely, there would small sections that just said "Blues," or "Classical" at your local record store. Radio stations that played popular music only occasionally broke it up with "Good Guy GOLD" from a few years before, but even classical and easy listeners were at the mercy of their local station.

Even books. If a book went out of print you just couldn't get it without a lot of effort. You hoped your own library had it, because there was no inter-library loan or cross-membership unless you paid for it as an out-of-towner. Failing that you went to "Used and Rare," or even specialty shops. They sometimes had catalogues, or more often, knew other booksellers who might have that sort of thing because they specialised in military history or theology. 

Popular culture came and went.  It was evanescent but ephemeral. If you were trying to remember a line or a phrase, you just had to wait, or you had to ask around. I joke that search engines and Wikipedia made me obsolete, because I was always one of the go-to people that you called when you were haunted by a missing bit of fact. Yet there is a lot of truth in that. Not only did we know tidbits from a hundred forgotten lanes and cowpaths, but we tended to have similar friends, and like the booksellers, knew who might know what year the Charlotte Hornets started. We've been put out to pasture on that now, but as we are the deepest appreciators of what a luxury is the information-availability of the modern internet I'll call that a small price. I know more (in quantity) about popular culture 1953-1973 than I did while living through it.  There are nuances, placements, effects and understandings one can't capture from Youtube, but hell, I might have those wrong anyway.

So this is a gif from the year I was born.  It has absolutely no meaning for me, because it has never been part of my culture, in any year.  However, when I put a bing on this, I'm pretty sure it's from "How To Marry A Millionaire."

You Keep Using That Word


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wyman's Oppositional Treatment

One of the lessons I learned in an acute involuntary psychiatric facility is that the patient's intent is usually the opposite of the best treatment. A psychiatrist I work with has even humorously incorporated it into her repertoire, granting it the title "Wyman's Oppositional Treatment."

If you want to leave the hospital, it is likely you need to stay.  If you want to stay, you should leave.*
If you don't want any medicine, you probably need it;  if you demand medication, you probably shouldn't have it.
If you want to sleep we make you get up;  if you want to stay up we make you go to sleep.
If you have to journal it's probably interfering with your recovery.  If you refuse to journal it would probably do you some good.
The principle applies in all areas.

This is of course merely cynical, but it is based on a long career of noticing things, and when one takes it apart, it makes sense. If a person is admitted to a hospital in a crisis, it is because there is some conflict with your environment that is seriously interfering with your functioning. The point where you are rubbing up against the rest of the world, insisting that you are right and they are wrong, is the first place to check. This is trebly so when you have passed through several filters of family, friends, therapists, emergency rooms, police, or judges to land on our doorstep.

I thought of this today during our panel-discussion sermon when an APRN talked about how to decide when a teenager's isolation and anxiety were just normal developmental events and when they were signs of something more serious.  My knee-jerk reaction is that most everyone will choose wrongly, steering the wrong kids toward therapy and and away from therapy. We often only see these things clearly in retrospect: "I didn't go to a counselor then, thinking I could handle it on my own, but looking back, I probably should have gone," versus "I went to a counselor for over a year and I learned some things, but I don't think it made much difference."

The best outcome is to guess right the first time.  The second-best outcome is to figure out on your own that your first guess was wrong, and to switch to your second guess.  For the record, second guesses are not necessarily opposites. They can be 12-Step groups, changing jobs, or moving to Montana. But don't ignore the direct opposite solution.  When I was a young man, I started to avoid visiting or talking to my mother because I thought she disapproved of my choices and thought me a bit of a failure. (This was somewhat true.  She did disapprove and was disappointed.)  Yet applying the oppositional strategy worked.  I invited her down to visit for almost a week, and she came away much more comfortable with the choices Tracy and I were making, even if not quite agreeing.

 *If you ever get put into a psychiatric hospital against your will, this is a good trick to know. Tell them you think you need a long admission to work on all your issues. This strikes fear into the hearts of psych nurses, who will rapidly become your fiercest advocates for discharge.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sexual Abuse of Children

I had noted that there must be near-elite gymnasts from the last decade whose heads must be swimming these past two weeks, realising what they would have been in for in terms of sexual predation had they been just slightly better and qualified to go Karolyi Ranch. Until just now, they might have regretted that they had fallen just short in ability. A reverse is now true, for them and their families, as they are relieved they were spared this. We do not see all ends, and bad news is good news sometimes.

A friend commented that someone on NPR had claimed that this isn't just gymnastics, it's about power, and these things occur wherever there this power dynamic obtains. I think that's only partly true. NPR can always be relied on for the Conventional Wisdom that fits together nicely with the other narratives, and are very good at automatic self-censorship so they don't badthink.

Certainly, children are less powerful, which makes it easier in some ways for predators. (I am defining the gymnasts as children for a narrow purpose here.  Some of them may have been of the age of consent and intelligent young women. Yet because of their body type and they way they have to keep themselves extremely slender, the attraction to them cannot be characterised as adult.) Parents and society erect barriers around children for their protection, but predators usually seek out circumstances of trust where said barriers are down.This is not evidence that the powerlessness drives the attraction to children. It may be the whole deal for some; it may be part of the erotic draw for many or most others, but motivations are difficult to know and dangerous to assume. The child molesters I have known*, or gotten secondhand reports of from their victims, speak more often of other things. They are attracted to the sweetness and innocence of their victims, some to destroy it, but most to share in it. Or they see the child as lonely and in need of comfort and identify with that child because they were lonely themselves.

I have known some who seem to be exploiters only. They desire and they take. This seems more common in those who prey on boys, but my sample size is small. I do have that impression from the conferences I used to go to many years ago, but my expectations may have been driving my learning. These predators sometimes target boys of very specific age and appearance; another group seems to prey on everyone. I will note as a tangent that in many societies worldwide powerful men will have sex with whoever the hell they please, as a demonstration of their power: multiple wives, other men's wives, other men, children, whatever. We would call these primitive tribes, but perhaps we are just trying to distance ourselves there.  I'm not sure we can justly associate this behavior with homosexuality or pedophilia. Yet it is because I have felt this as a skin-crawling reality, backed up by what I read in the record, that I don't think that it is necessarily true of the others.

The recent #metoo revelations have included many that have clear power dynamics driving the eroticism.  The ability to command, and command contrary to the will of, which is is even stronger, is the whole point. It puts me in mind of Screwtape, and the powerful demons literally consuming the less powerful and reveling in the fury of the consumed. It may be that this is always present to some extent in the exploitation of adult men and women.  Maybe I will address that another day.

Notice that I have described a wide range of abusers. That is why I think there is a wide range of causes.  I think sometimes it's genetic.  Yes, that's an evolutionary dead-end, but it's not far-fetched to think of it as a male preference for young females gone into overdrive. Traits that are within normal limits and even useful are exaggerated all the time, which is how we get anxiety disorders and depression. Years ago a speaker at a conference claimed that the predators on specific ages and appearances of boys were abused at identical ages themselves.  I don't know if you'd be allowed to say that these days. I have known a few over the years that fit that description, but that may just be confirmation bias on my part. I haven't heard of any evidence for prenatal influence, but I don't see anything against it. Combinations of factors - limited emotional development + loneliness + poor impulse control + sexualised childhood.

But I'm not buying power dynamics as a primary.  It's there, and sometimes could be the whole story, but I have seen too many that just don't fit. Also, I am always suspicious of things that fit other social narratives too neatly.  Those seldom hold up.

*I am writing entirely about males here. I have known females who abused younger females, but very few.  Not enough to break into categories and draw generalisations from. If any of you have worked at detention centers or treatment facilities that have all-female units you might know more.

Michigan State

We don't know if these specific accusations are true.  However, we have heard stories like this for decades - it's one of the central incidents of Tom Wolfe's A Man In Full. The conservative press has been very hard on colleges for closed-door, kangaroo court justice for accused males in sexual assault cases, attributing this to SJW-style justice that too-readily believes the female and denies men their rights.

Maybe so.  But colleges have another reason for handling these things themselves rather making everyone go to the police and the regular courts.  It also allows them to protect accused athletes, another source of prestige and revenue.

"No one gets injured, Everyone gets paid."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Have You Forgotten?

Big stories that somehow dropped out of the news cycle very quickly. Donna Brazile.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  John Podesta. What are the odds, eh?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Hobbitt in Hebrew

In 1970, ten Israeli prisoners in Egypt translated JRR Tolkien's first novel into Hebrew.  A quibble: the article says it was his first book.  I had thought his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was his first, but looking it up, I learned that A Middle English Vocabulary was earlier.

Looking Down Syndrome In The Face

According to an article by J D Flynn over at First Things, Down's Syndrome Ireland has condemned the use of photos of children with Down's in campaigning against abortion liberalisation. It reminds me of the pride Denmark and Iceland have had in reducing the incidence of Down Syndrome, and even Holland going down that road. Grim just had an article about a spurious pro-choice argument, and I commented there about prochoice people being willing to exploit the cuteness angle when it suits them.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Example #12873

When we don't acknowledge the enormous genetic influence on student outcomes at the group level, we end up blaming schools, and teachers, and administrators, and other well-meaning people who are trying very hard. It's considered cruel and racist to notice that racial differences in test scores occur in good schools and bad, rich districts and poor. No.  It is cruel and racist to blame decent educators who are doing all they can, yet are considered failures.

Ping Pong

Hard to believe now, but the special effects were much of the point in early physical comedy in the movies, as here.

Sunday, January 21, 2018


My first reaction to the hijab-and-uncovered-yoga-pants combo at the fitness room was that this was hypocritical and irritating.  My second thought was more flexible, I think.  People have to make all kinds of statements and compromises in their lives, pleasing themselves, pleasing various others.  If they looked at my choices they might see similar inconsistencies. It's all part of coming to America.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Paint By Number

Saw this in Glenn Reynolds's background and recognised it as the Emmet Kelly paint-by-number that hung in my childhood home.  I assumed my mother had painted it, but I don't know. When I went to look up images I could smell the paint and see the texture of those paints as they were stirred.

I think this goes with the Kingston Trio post. Same era of my life.

Update: Looking at this, I think it would be possible for a moderately dexterous person to blend a lot of the edges between colors, which would likely be an improved effect.  Do we know if anyone ever did this? 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Kingston Trio

I grew up on the Kingston Trio, because my mother loved them. When I came to buying my own records in 1965 - California Dreamin' - I already leaned to folk music.  They brought me down the road to liberalism, I've said kiddingly, though I didn't notice that at the time - I just liked harmony. Perhaps I shouldn't kid about it. It may have been more of an influence than I credited. The send-up of the Trio in "A Mighty Wind" captured them well at the end, hastily covering a blank time on the stage by going into a serious story about the Spanish Civil War.  Their introductions did sound like that.

I had almost a dozen of their 33 1/3 rpms by the time I finished, but "Here We Go Again," "Sold Out," and "College Concert" were my originals.  Like any geeky little kid, I can sing them in order and remember the liner notes. Predictably, I still just add harmony in to any song I hear. A rumbling hummed bass line if I don't know the song, some more adventurous things if I do. It just pleases my ears.

Too Involved

I am using a twelve-day guest membership at the Y. I keep it simple, walking on the treadmill at a severe incline. I have never watched sports on the wall TV while walking on the treadmill.  I find I have to hold the railings, because I lean in to the action on the screen.  If the running back cuts left, I mimic this. Even when I tell myself not to, it merely decreases the effect, not eliminates it.

I recall from video games that I would do something similar.  Playing Pac-Man would would make me tense and wear out not only my wrist, not only my arm, but my whole upper body.  There are those who can stand immobile and gently move controls, but I suspect most people move sympathetically with the action, at least a bit. I have no doubt that I am well worse than average on this scale. It feels hard-wired. I do something like this in action movies as well, and even some whivh are not action movies.  I am far too part of what happens on the screen, like the rabbits in Watership Down when listening to a storyteller. I duck, I wince, I laugh and respond much more loudly than others. If a screen is happening, I have to pay attention to it.  If songs with lyrics are playing I cannot keep it in the background, I cannot ignore it.  Ditto the radio in another room, if the words are discernible. Only in the presence of a more powerful distraction can I not attend.

I suspect it is more like what our ancestors did - our remoter, more primitive ancestors.

It is a possible explanation why I mistrust movies.  I view them as too powerful for our neurology.  Mine anyway.

How To Lie With Maps

My wife gave me the book by Monmonier for Christmas - she likes to try and find things not on my list if she can. It's a solid book, one that you pick up to get a Cartography 101 course. There were things I knew about maps just from frequent use that I didn't know the names for, and close definitions usually give you quick, improved understanding of what you learned informally. So I'm sailing through the first 40 pages happily, even though there aren't many of the fascinating anecdotes one hopes to get from a book with such a title. Mildly challenging, head-nodding "yep...yep..." sort of stuff.

On page 41 he shows me something I have never noticed, but instantly recognise as a way to lie with maps that can be powerful: the ranges in the legend. Such as this one, which I came across a day later. (Click to enlarge)

By Bill Rankin — Citynoise (talk • contribs) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

I almost missed this, following my little information trail after Grim mentioned the general topic. Just as I was about to click off I checked the population density legend and saw, by golly, exactly what Monmonier had written about. Those are curious adjoining ranges in there.
Less than 150
Over 7500

I don't say they are wrong or deceitful.  They may be the cartographer's best compromise to illustrate density.  For all I know, those ranges may be a common convention used worldwide. The downward track in the later ranges, 200%...167%...150% seems sensible, as do the Less than/Over cutoffs. Other numbers might have told the story as well, but these do the job. If "less than 250" had been chosen for the first color, then the second would be 300% higher, fitting the trend above. Perhaps Rankin though it important to add that extra level of distinction at the lowest level. One of Monmonier's repeated points is that all maps lie, because they have to suppress some information in order to highlight other information.

Yet I had unconsciously assumed the legend marked some regular interval.  Bad assumption, even with honorable, skilled cartographers. Cue Batman: "Imagine what this weapon could do if it fell into the wrong hands, Robin."

Additional notes: The only other map with NE at the top is the Appalachian Trail map, which covers an expanded version of this area. The 45-degree difference really does show the terrain and city connections differently. Another way to "lie" with a map, by telling a more important truth.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

That Was Quick

Most holidays turn into something else. Memorial Day becomes a day for all the dead. Hallowe'en is about costumes, plus candy for children and sex for adults. Not many people think about the Labor Movement on Labor Day. Presidents Day is about buying cars. And don't get me started about Christmas, which has become at least three other holidays. This despite the serious effort of many people to read the correct Bible passages and get people focused on the Incarnation every December, with a four-week warmup.

Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday isn't much about MLK now, any more than bunnies are about Easter. It's not even really about Civil Rights, though that's a bit closer.  There is at least a nod to remembering protestors.

What is it now, and what is it becoming?  I think it is a merger of Black People's Day and Liberals' Day. Conservatives quoting actual words of King are viewed as unworthily touching holy things. From what I hear at work, I have strong suspicions that it means different things to African-Americans of my generation versus the currently rising generation.  But that's a long guess on my part.  Others would know better.

The holiday isn't that old, either.

Dorogoy Dlinnoyu

James linked to this.

Fun for those of us about my age, who knew only the Mary Hopkins version.  I had thought until now that the song was from the 1970's written to be evocative of earlier, and clearly European experiences. I had thought France, because of the accordion.  (Was there an accordion?) Well, think is clearly too generous a word.  I had that impression, that is all. My wife thought Eastern European, but also thought it was more modern.

I note again that Eastern European children seem to embrace traditional songs and dances more than American children who seek to distance themselves. The judges are rather obviously drawn from the cool kids in the entertainment biz there. They are stirred, they love it.  I had thought that was Romania and the other smaller countries, whose nationalism was suppressed by the Soviets, or whose independence was more recent, such as Norway. Yet this is Russian. Were folksongs and dances suppressed in Russia?

Res ipsa loquitor

That is, "the thing speaks for itself."  Something that is so obvious that it needs no further explanation.

A tactic that is becoming common on Facebook is "I'll just leave this here." Someone will link to a story that they think says it all. No further evidence or argument offered. I'm not recalling a conservative on my feed doing this.  Thus far, it has been liberals. The ironic point is that I think all of them don't actually speak for themselves. I'm trying to remember if any of them actually speak for themselves.  Each one seems worthy of comment and further discussion, to my mind. It reminds me of people who sign off "peace," when they clearly mean "Fuck you. But I'm a morally superior person who actually wants to live in harmony with the world." It is only used when it is untrue. My current understanding of the phrase "I'll just leave this here" is this is so devastating to the people on the other side because there is no possible response to it. It is unanswerable and shows they are wrong/hypocrites/stupid/liars, etc.

Perhaps.  You may know of counterexamples.  We have reviewed many times the ways in which my sample is unrepresentative.

I am imagining one of my conservative friends at work coming up and chuckling and telling me the story of their uncle who posted on FB "My announcement for Veterans Day is that Obama is a piece of shit."  What would we think of such a thing? Even if we didn't like Obama, wouldn't we feel that the whole thing was sort of embarrassing, and that some better argument than mere name-calling should be made? We know there are such people, but would we draw attention to them?  Or during the 2016 campaign, if someone had regaled you with the humorous tale of his niece, who is quite opinionated, saying "This Fourth of July, it's important to remember that Hillary Clinton is a piece of shit." Wouldn't we think that said niece was not merely "opinionated," but rather low, unintelligent, and extremist?  Wouldn't it be odd to think that a relative would make this public, rather than just downplay it and not mention it outside the family, hoping it would go away?

This morning a psychiatrist friend came up and told me - chuckling - his niece had posted on FB: "My announcement for Martin Luther King Day is that Donald Trump is a piece of shit." To them it's res ipsa loquitor. To use that language is merely colorful, and showing the team colors ins dramatic fashion.

The words that mainstream liberals use are the same as extremist conservatives.

This is how you get more Trump.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


If I wanted to curse my enemy, I would send him vacuous affirming cliches, such as make it to motivational posters and FB shares.  You must first love yourself before you can love others. Learn to accept yourself for the woman you are, and tune out all the negativity. Follow Your Bliss. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - And It's All Small Stuff. He would then never know he had any spiritual danger.
(From the wonderful

Somewhat relatedly. Social workers and others in mental health like to post little bits of encouragement on their office wall.  Except, admonishments to be kind or to listen have one meaning if they are reminders to oneself, and quite another if they are little snippy sermons directed at everyone else.  I have written Don't Take It Personally across the top line of my notepad for years. It is there because that is one of my downfalls, and I need to tell myself frequently throughout the day.  It might mean something much less attractive if I were saying it to others.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Genes and IQ Again

That 50% number keeps coming up, this time in a Nature article "Genomic analysis of family data reveals additional genetic effects on intelligence and personality." Two things to note: this doesn't mean that the other 50% is environmental. To date, very little can be shown to be environmental with the strength that this study shows for genetics.  The remaining 50% is "other," and seems to be uncomfortably random. A Tom Stoppard world.

The second point to be alert to is that personality characteristics are being measured with more rigor and confidence, and these will increasingly enter the discussion of heritability

(HT: Steve Sailer)

Tne Narrative of Our Lives

Let me mention again how curious it is that we have a final-moments narrative not only about repentance, but about whether a person's life was happy on this earth. If a person has a generally wonderful life, with friends, family, productive activity, health, and all the fixin's yet dies alone in a last few minutes of pain and confusion, or even a bit neglected and lonely over the final year at a ripe age because loved ones are far or have already died we feel that it's all so terribly sad.  In the opposite case, a person who was abused and struggled, suffered through bad health and general privation but comes in the final year to have come to a place of joy and acceptance we tend to think of it as a good life, solely because of the happy ending.  I don't think the books and movies trained us to this (though they might have), but the books and movies reflect what is already installed in our psyches.

How the story ends works backwards on our understanding.  Even as I find this not quite sensible, and even a little horrifying, I find the feeling in myself.  To die alone is seen as a great tragedy, but is it?  I might rather be left alone with my God myself - the rest of you will do fine without having to be there. There are worse terrors than being alone.

Is this so in all cultures or only Abrahamic ones, where the triumphant end to the spiritual story primes us to treat earthly life the same way?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Least Favorite Verses

Christians seem to have a thing about favorite Bible verses.  We are more likely to learn something from our least-favorite verses. CS Lewis uses this idea as his Introduction in Reflections on the Psalms.

My own "favorite" captures some of that, but not in a heavy dose. Anything more strenuous I must be turning away from. Genesis 50, Joseph speaking after the death of their father to his brothers who sold him into slavery. Verse 20: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." I have come to see much that has happened to me in that light.  Unfortunately, it is only much later that I come to that realisation.  It would be far better if I could see that while it was happening.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Fake News

ESPN keeping the importance of LaVar Ball artificially inflated is an excellent example of how media can do that politically as well, making something a story that has no intrinsic importance, because it meets their needs.

A Gentle Reminder

There is an essay attributed to Pope Francis circulating recently. He didn't write it.  I have linked it via the Snopes discussion just to make sure you don't lose your head and think it's real.

There is a whole subscene over at the Official C S Lewis FB page dealing with quotes falsely attributed to  Lewis. Quotes about peace and war get attributed to Einstein frequently. Lincoln, Churchill, and Gandhi often get their names slapped onto ideas that people want to puff up a bit and push into wider acceptance.

I find the ones attributed to Christians curious. The first sentence of "A Gentle Reminder" is "This life will go by fast." It just doesn't have the right ring to come from any pope, even this one who does sometimes utter thoughtless banalities when speaking off the cuff. (The writers over at "First Things" assure me he is better on his more careful, thought-through statements.) One of the false Lewis quote begins "You are never too old to dream a new dream..." I knew instantly that Lewis never said anything like that. Some of the fake quotes are not too far off, as CSL did write something like them. Yet some are just immediately impossible. When the quote-police (I am among them) come out, others get irritated, sometimes claiming that he might have said it somewhere that we just don't know about. Technically, yes, but really, no. There are any number of us at the site who have everything or nearly everything of Lewis's, and taken together, we would know. Also, the quote being shoved forward often has words or phrases that are clearly modern, that could not have been written before 1990.

But more than that, one can tell by some quality of the depth and the tone. There might be serious comments that would set us back for a time, because the phrasing and sentiment were possible. Yet these are seldom the issue.  The superficialities, the poorly-understood theology, the cliches are far more frequent. When people protest that this sense that frequent readers of Lewis have is not something real, it is something we are making up, I have to conclude that they don't see the difference themselves because their own understanding of Lewis, and likely of theology or even of God is superficial. Or they want following Christ to not be much of a hardship, to be a matter of cheerfulness and no sacrifice.

They really think that a Pope would write a letter to his flock telling them to "allow dogs to get closer," and to "give yourselves the pleasures you deserve."

Saturday, January 06, 2018


When Dr. Johnson defined patriotism as the last refuge of the scoundrel,he was ignorant of the infinite possibilities contained in the word reform. (Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography, crediting Tom Reed of Maine with the original thought.) Let the reader note that Roosevelt considered himself a reformer.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Winter Princesses

Most likely, this one

is trying to get away from this one

It's a wonderful thing when your photographer uncle comes back to visit, isn't it?

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Tived's Hambo

No really, it's ABBA.  The Hambo is a sort of Swedish polka that is a popular folk dance.  Tived is in a forest in south central Sweden.

Inefficient Meetings

Inefficient meetings today. On a geriatric or forensic unit, people are not discharged quickly.  Yet we are required to have frequent meetings specifically discussing discharge anyway.  The "what's happening with discharge?" portion often doesn't change: "He can't even leave the building until he has his next Gibbs Hearing." "We won't be able to get her in anywhere as long as she's throwing urine and feces at anyone who comes into the room." We are supposed to pretend for the sake of the record and to keep the civil liberties lawyers at bay that something is actually going on, and that it is proceeding to a discharge in some orderly fashion.

It's actually not as crazy as it sounds.  If you didn't make us pretend and find something that we can say we are doing, these impossible discharges would take two years instead of one, at considerable expense to the state and unfairness to the patient. Still, for someone who is just covering for three days, as I am, it is easy to contrast the way the meeting proceeds on those units with how they go on the childrens' and acute care units. In those meetings, we talk about actual discharge stuff: Have they gotten a Bridge Program voucher to get into housing? No. Why not? They need a waiver because he's got a criminal record. How long will that take? I expected it this morning, but Chip is out, and he's the only one who can do it. So tomorrow? Probably.  In the meantime, I'm going to call landlords and get an actual Nashua apartment. Nashua is a black hole for apartments, though, right? His aunt is a realtor and he's got money up front. Praise Jesus (this said facetiously). I did.  For three minutes straight about an hour ago (said sincerely).

But on the long-term units everything eventually turns into discouraged, endless tales of how bad things were yesterday, and how irritating and disobedient the patients are. "We have this ongoing problem. Patient coffee is at 10:30.  Michael comes up 20 minutes early every day and asks the staff who are preparing the 10:30 coffee and snack to get him his own coffee then goes on his privileges. So there's this cascade effect that everyone wants their coffee early because they see Michael getting it..." Just stop. This is not a Michael problem, this is a staff problem.  Some staff give him coffee and the others don't want to and feel put in a bad position.  Michael will always do this.  (I can vouch for that because he was a year behind me in grammar school and was like this 55 years ago. Even before he tried to murder a guy at Dunkin Donuts he wanted the rules bent for him.) The supervisor will not insist that people either be flexible and live with it or stick to the rules and live with it. By numerous trails, week after week, the line staff wants the doctor, with the support of the OT, social worker, and whoever else is sitting there to insist that a) those other inflexible bitches give coffee other than at 10:30 or b) those enabling, spineless cowards be made to stick to the 10:30 coffee time.

This repeats for all 12 patients on the team.  He won't.  She never. Last night he was on the phone to his wife and I told him that he couldn't talk like that to her and then he said...(six minutes of blow-by-blow pointless conversation. I focus really hard at what I can offer as an outsider coming in, and used to think that what I could bring was clarity. I used to think it was working great, because literally everyone on the team would come up to me afterward and tell me how grateful they were that I had brought clarity to the discussion of patients 4, 7, and 9, that they had been trying for weeks to get across. Or (next up) the clarity I had brought to the discussion of patients 2, 5, and 11. Which they had been trying for weeks to get people to see. Rinse. Repeat.

But ultimately, it's one person who is dominating the complaint department, using this as her opportunity to complain about this unit's methods, or the hospital's methods, or the whole mental health system in this state, or the legislature, or attitudes in this whole friggin' country... at which point it either becomes a complaint about Trump/Republicans/Conservatives, or occasionally political correctness so that you can't say what is really going on...

It's easy for me to scoff, but this is just what people do when they have to manage bad situations because there really aren't any solutions.  I get to see it in stark relief, because these are situations that really don't have neat solutions that people on radio and TV can pretend exist. It's just going to suck, and we might make them a little better and squeeze them into some passably better situation that costs everyone a lot less.

To do this right would cost about five times as much, and we're already one of the big-ticket items in the state budget.  You get that, right?

The same inefficiencies occur in your meetings, but less obviously. It's just human nature when faced with the endlessly discouraging.  The service I provide here is that if your meetings are going inefficiently, it might be victims unable to contain their narratives of how hard this all is, disguised in politer language because they know that just won't fly.  But you might be able to sense that this is what is really happening underneath: a management problem disguised as a budget, recruiting, regulation, or vendor problem - because management doesn't really have a way to make this better, and it just sucks the fluoride out of the teeth of the people answering the phones or dealing with the public, or trying to train pigs to sing.

Zealous Faith

It may be that I like Mary Eberhardt’s analysis of what has gone wrong with the world, The Zealous Faith of Secularism because it accords so well with what I have expressed myself. A lot of the culture war is about sex.  It’s not anywhere near as much about race, wealth, education, and class as people like to pretend. The importance of those issues are heightened by sexual revolution issues. I was particularly intrigued by her thought that the identity politics of the day are driven by the fragmentation of society that has been largely caused by changes in sexual behavior.

There was the car, and there was birth control. I wish I could find again the research I read decades ago that attempted to estimate both the fact of premarital/extramarital sex, and the amount of it. The claim was that the increase in the number of people who had sex outside of marriage actually increased during WWII, not the 60's, and dipped only temporarily after it was over, rising again to similar rates in the 1950’s. The wartime numbers are not surprising, as this has been reported for centuries. Warfare activates procreation in both sexes.  Choose your own explanation – there are many possibilities on the list. Yet the number of partners was very low.  Often there was no increase at an individual level, because it was sex with a fiancĂ© or a steady who later became a spouse. The second sea-change began not in the late 60’s, but the early 70’s, when the either-or of sex in and out of marriage went up only slowly, but the number of partners for those who engaged in it began to increase sharply, and continued increasing for 20-30 years.

You will notice that these two changes coincide first with more cars – either as mobile hotel rooms or ways to get to places of privacy – and later, availability of birth control. Religious groups point to the temptation provided by the values expressed in TV, popular music and art, and movies.  I think the amount of unsupervised time is a bigger factor.  It was for everyone I knew, anyway.

The newsworthy conflicts between (some) Christians (and some Jews) and the seculars seem to revolve around sexual issues – baking cakes, assigning bathrooms – and these are also the most emotional and disruptive to the whole society.  As I have said before: the Christians and traditionalists are interested in sexual behavior – but they aren’t obsessed with it as their opponents are.

Back to Eberhardt.  I don’t share her disapproval of sharing birth control information with women in poor countries, but I have to admit that she’s diagnosed correctly that this is a sexual behavior issue that does tie strongly with the behavioral mores of secularists in the west. Nor is she the first to note that the people they want to get this information are all suspiciously dark. It’s almost as if…nah, that’s impossible. I also concur with the worshipful attitudes toward Margaret Sanger and Alfred Kinsey defy what these secularists say that their real values are, suggesting that their real values are indeed closely tied to being able to have sex with who they want and enduring no criticism from anyone about that.

I overheard some of the ladies working in the cafeteria this week, young to middle-aged. They were talking to one of the youngest whose boyfriend had proposed to her, but she had turned him down. She wasn’t sure he was likely to be a good husband, and she wasn’t sure she is ready to get married yet. They were agreeing strongly, each telling her own story: of getting married at 18 (“I mean, how the hell do you even know who you are at 18, right?”); of finally doing better with a third husband, the first two not being very good fathers and how much that hurt the children; of finding out later that the husband was sleeping around. All had children, and two had grow children who had children of their own, also with unmarried parents. You have guessed by now that the first young woman is pregnant, and the boyfriend was proposing because he thought it was the right thing to do. How quaint. So it’s wrong and irresponsible to get married if you aren’t old enough, or don’t feel ready, or don’t think the mate is a good one. But having children is okay. No one asked my opinion, I didn’t give it.

Eberhardt offered the possibility that the growth of identity politics may be tied to the erosion of other identities.  There is not a family to help define you, neither nuclear nor extended. If there is a church, it is now at the rate of twice a month or less rather than weekly, with friendships and co-working even more reduced. In this area, decreased church attendance is driven largely by children’s sports and other school activities.  You know, those intense bonding experiences that last two-three months and are gone. Those do, however, tie one into a visible allegiance with the prevailing suburban culture, which is what they will really need to “get ahead” later. No village, no youth organisations lasting years, no pride of profession, because they change. Nor should we define ourselves by common Americanism.  I hear that’s dangerous. With other identities eroded, race, orientation, and ethnicity taken on greater importance, not, as conservatives are fond of accusing, because being a victim is lazy and easier and more fun, but because they’ve got nothing else. It reminds me of the urban kids who join gangs as substitute families, because it’s the only show in town where someone will remember your name.

Let me mention at this juncture the work of Dale Kuehne, professor of political science and Covenant pastor, who has written extensively on the enormous changes in how we define ourselves. Sex and the iWorld, or you can catch him speaking here or here.

Old Girls' Network

It’s much rarer now to hear the phrase “Old Boys’ Network.”  My guess is a) it’s true in fewer places and b) relatedly, if it’s identified anywhere someone is going to move to eliminate it. I coined the phrase “Old Girls’ Network – though I have to imagine that a few others also had the idea occur to them – because of the hospital I worked in. New Hampshire State Hospital had its own school of nursing that was just coming to its end when I arrived in the late 1970’s. 50% of the nurses, and 75% of the higher-ranking nurses had come through that school. They favored each other, groomed the new ones for career track, and provided a set of cultural rules of how to behave and advance. If you observed their norms, they would protect you even when you made mistakes, even major mistakes.  Protected you against outsiders, anyway.  Major errors were remembered, and would likely bump you off any advancement track for years. “Keeping control” of a unit was considered the highest virtue, and bad things were done in the service of keeping control were not only overlooked, but defended.  This included verbal abuse of both patients and line staff.

It was a martyrdom culture. You showed up sick or injured and found someone else to get your children to day care.  If your needs changed, that didn’t matter.  Arrive on time, stay until the end, endure ridiculous schedules. The few, the proud. I am reminded of a line in “Sister Act”  of an older nun complaining about the loosening of standards, describing carrying water long distances “back when nuns were nuns!” The posters of the day would emphasize the saintly, sacrificial aspects of the profession, and joining it was not merely being handed a diploma.  There were “capping” ceremonies with candles, kneeling, and not only uniforms, but outfits specific to your school. They look ridiculous now.  However, it was difficult, dangerous work for not very much money, so you had to give people something in terms of honor and self-respect to compensate for that. Nurse Capping Ceremony - Johnson & Johnson Print 1949

We have a new historical display in the lobby.  It is dominated by NHH nursing paraphernalia.  I don’t think that is entirely because they infiltrated the committee and made sure of that (though this did happen).  I think it’s because they saved this stuff.  They had an abundance of textbooks, of old caps and uniforms to choose from.  Doctors don’t save that stuff. OT’s and psychologists don’t. The maintenance guys save a lot of pictures – sometimes with people in them, but usually trucks, roads, and buildings.

Social Work is a female-dominated profession, as is occupational therapy.  My wife is a librarian, a profession which is similarly so. Yet none had this aura reminiscent of a regiment or a religious order.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Trump Supporters, a Third Time.

I think Donna B's guess was pretty close.  I took a census among the commenters at those sites, and it's just a few people that actually are behaving like rude fools. More emphatic and ruder, but not more numerous.

It's a relief, actually.

Monday, January 01, 2018

A Behavior Of Bureaucracies

The more government attempts to regulate businesses, the more those will in turn attempt to influence its decisions. (Paraphrase of Bowdoin Political Science professor Jean M Yarborough.)

Seems obvious when you put it that way, doesn't it? The proposed regulations might be necessary, thoughtfully-crafted, and good, but their designers should be aware what they are encouraging at each successive step. The other possibility would be for businesses to just wait around until those nice government people told them what the new rules are. "I'm sure they have everyone's best interest at heart and will come up with a good plan." The regulators see themselves this way, certainly, though I hardly imagine they would like to see it put so bluntly. The conversation would turn quickly then to how irresponsible it would be to let businesses be unregulated, because they don't have the public interest at heart. Why, they might do anything if we didn't rein them in. Yes, true, they might.  So might you, which is why we are suspicious of your motives as well. The more you insist you are the disinterested arbiters - which is what you are supposed to be, but all humans fall short of that - the more we know that you are lying about at least one thing: yourself.