Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Test scores. Black-white, Ashkenazi.

Fryer and Levitt, 2002.
Cochran, Harpending, and Hardy 2005.
Further writings I linked to earlier this year.

Put up as reference because of discussion on another site.

Agreeable Feminism

Currently in the sidebar, from Quillette: Are Contemporary Feminists Too Agreeable?
But, as a result of the success of the movement over the last half century, the social costs of identifying as a feminist have decreased. A large proportion of young Western women now describe themselves as feminists, with some surveys suggesting the figure may be as high as two thirds. Nowadays practically every politically engaged Left-leaning woman, along with a significant number of men, describes themselves as feminists, to the point that the feminist community and the progressive community have become essentially the same group. One of the effects of this is that the personality profile of feminists has changed.
I think there is some problem of defining terms in the article, so that there were sections where I thought "I would agree if you mean x, but disagree if you mean y" but on the whole I found it interesting.  The author is trying to separate feminism out from a hierarchical "more oppressed than thou" leftism which often does women as a class no favors.

You might read it twice.  I found it to be different as I was reviewing it to write about it here.

Monday, December 30, 2019


“Celtic is a magic bag, into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come . . . Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason.”

 JRR Tolkien, "English and Welsh". Lecture at the University of Oxford on October 21, 1955. 

Tolkien was not a fan of things Celtic, and was annoyed when readers saw Celtic influence in his work. "Needless to say they [the names] are not Celtic! Neither are the tales. I do know Celtic things (many in their original languages Irish and Welsh), and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their fundamental unreason. They have bright colour, but are like a broken stained glass window reassembled without design. They are in fact ‗mad‘ as your reader says— but I don‘t believe I am." Letter to his publisher Stanley Unwin, 1937.

Scientific American

The magazine used to be intimidating when I was young.  You saw it in libraries, and you might have to fight your way through one of its articles to research a paper, but the only people who had a subscription were folks like my Uncle Loring (Yale '48, Physics and Violin), who worked in one of those science-y places on Rte 128 and had his own weather station and then home computer in the 60s and 70s. He was some sort of expert on the three-bodies problems, I heard.

Someplace along the line Scientific American became more like Discover.  I hadn't looked at it for a long time, so I checked it out today.

It's a lot like Discover.  A little better. Obsessed with climate, it seems.

Have Things Calmed a Little?

I don't think people have calmed from what I read in the news, but my news is curated, as is everyone's, and some of my sites are going to be focused on the worst examples of people being outraged at Trump. (A few of my sites mention politics very little or not at all.) I won't likely notice any change there.

But I was at work last week, back among my liberals.  I am always wary that I will encounter a situation where I will have to make an effort to not be irritated, and choose whether I should say something in pushback or let it ride.  I was also at a work Christmas party with a similar crowd. It's a small sample size, but I think the tone was different.  There was Trump criticism, usually sly, but it was humorous. Punchlines without full jokes attached. "Well, I'll bet they're wondering the same thing in the White House this week!" The references to fake news were not political, but an appropriation of the current popular term as a general equivalent to something that turned out not to be true.  One was a weather prediction that didn't pan out, for example. People laughed.

Angrier, tight-lipped, or fearful comments were absent, where they had been numerous before.  There was still disdain for Trump, and according to the usual stereotype that he is boorish, stupid, corrupt, criminal - but it was lighter.  Well, it's a small sample size, but I would like to think that however much they don't like him they are dimly seeing that the worst predictions have not come true. If he is reelected, I think these folks will be disappointed but less enraged, less certain we are about to have a land war in Asia or that they are going to lose their jobs for saying the wrong things.

That would hardly be a bad thing, even if they would never vote for him and might still send money to any of his opponents. Making fun of the president is an American tradition which combines elements of health and sickness.

It might just be because it's Christmas.  It might be because he has been impeached and they think maybe they will be seeing his destruction soon.  Or at least, that he got some sort of "stain" or comeuppance and they are satisfied. The pathological ones are not sated, but inflamed by the taste of blood, but perhaps those are only the ones who are skilled at getting themselves into the news. It might be because few can sustain outrage for very long, though they might remain at a simmer only to become reactivated this summer and autumn.

I would be interested if any of you are seeing something similar. Or not.


I read the blurbs around most of the links at Instapundit.  I don't read the ads, I skip some of Sarah Hoyt.  I click through on a small percentage of the stories, maybe 10%.  Less than at Maggies.  But when I scroll over the links and see that it goes anywhere else on PJMedia I don't bother.  I find that the rest of that team overinterprets the data, finding outrage where a decent explanation might be possible.  They sometimes leave out key details that change the story. It's not good reporting, even if the commentary is sometimes good.

They seem to want to be outraged.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Diversity is not a strength.  Our ability to function in spite of diversity, because we have a more important unity, is our strength.

The Legendary Spider Osgood

I don't think short-order cooks often get called "legendary."

I got a history of NH diners book for Christmas, and there is a short chapter on Spider. It's fun to watch someone hopping around to get the work done, and doing it accurately, whistling as he goes.

He had been a boxer when he was younger, and you can see it in his movements.

Relatedly, there is Vinnie's Pizzaria in Concord, NH. Vinnie was also a boxer when younger, and fairly successful.  The walls are covered with photos of old boxers with Vinnie, autographed by them, plus pictures and newspaper articles about Vinnie's own matches.  The place is also cluttered with politicians up here for the presidential primary every four years, all of them trying to show they are a man of the people.  I don't recall the female candidates giving it a try, but they probably should have. There are more women running this time around, but I haven't been by the place in two years, even though it's right down the street from work. I should make the effort, though we don't digest pizza like we used to - she because of wheat, I because of cheese.

Great looking place, though.

Boris Recites the Illiad

I once enacted a short selection of Aeschylus in Greek, but with nowhere near the flair.  And I had no idea what I was saying, just reciting the phonetics with false expression appropriate to the scene as a whole.
NUN TAUTA PANTA TLAS', APENQHTW: FRENI LEGOIM' AN ANDRA TONDE TWN STAQMWN KUNA, (I think I knelt down after this line.  I forget why.)
  The Prime Minister clearly understands what he is saying here.

Even if you a very great Trump fan, you have to acknowledge that Boris has got him beat on this angle. 

More of PM Johnson.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Seeing The Christmas Story Differently

Reposted from April 2018

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

We make much of the outcast, rejected nature of Jesus at his birth in our Western understanding.  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. He notes that neither of these are in Scripture, they are interpreted from Scripture plus traditions. 

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 animal's 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 by 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.

Also, people didn't travel alone in those days, because it wasn't safe.  Mary and Joseph likely went as part of a group, especially as she was pregnant. I know this makes 90% of the art we have about Christmas inaccurate, but we'll just have to bear up under that.  The Magi would have traveled in a huge caravan, but even for short trips like the census, everyone would go together. Given that, how likely is it that Mary and Joseph suddenly have n o one to do anything kind for them when she goes into labor.  When Joseph is a kinsman of the House of David. In a hospitality culture. We need to see what we already know.

So, false idea of the architecture of houses - we think of a stable as a barn with separate entrance not usually used by people for sleeping; use of "inn" as a translation term, following the tradition of our  people - farther west, later, and nonJewish; ignoring what we know about hospitality culture and typical behavior when traveling; ignoring the internal cue of the behavior of the shepherds.  We get the story wrong, because so much of our hymnody and storytelling is tied up in a particular narrative.

It is very much part of the "Jesus as refugee" story that has become so popular lately.  If people are referring to the flight into Egypt for that instead - some are - they have an argument that is slightly better, but not much.  That is another story for another day.  For now, my point is only that our Bethlehem story suggests poverty and rejection, because we know the rest of the story, when Jesus is actually rejected in the end.  But it's not actually there in the beginning.  Mary had a baby while traveling, in fulfillment of the prophecy of where the Messiah was to be born.  Angels told the poor shepherds about it first, and they showed up to worship, partly to give confirmation to Mary and Joseph, who were in for a hard time.  Simeon and Anna perform a similar service of encouragement.

Friday, December 27, 2019

California Rocket Fuel - All-time most visited.

From October 2008:  Just so that people know, this is not a popular med combination. It tends to be tried when other strategies have failed.  And neither Remeron not Effexor are all that popular singly, never mind together.  Still, there is something to be said for a shotgun effect that hits a lot of different receptors. Folks swear by it.


California rocket fuel a combo of Remeron and Effexor which can give a triple boost to the serotonin system, a double boost to the norephinephrine system, and a single boost to the dopamine system.

This combo has an all-or-nothing reputation in the biz, when it has any reputation at all. Many psychiatrist have never heard of it by this slangy term. The "nothing" being all side effects and little mood improvement. But it's a combination some folks have had great relief from if the Effexor wasn't doing it for them. It is also very cool to say - the sort of medicine that makes you think "Gee, I wish I was depressed so I could try that."

Andy Warhol's Pop Art Christmas Cards

His Catholicism was news to me.  People are not who we expect them to be, are they?

For some reason he puts me in mind of children's author/illustrator Tomie dePaola and his many Christmas books. Tomie is from NH, and my wife has heard him speak several times.


It is an inaccurate word, and an insulting one. There may be a person or two out there who has some sort of “phobia” about people who have changed from their biological sex to one of the other genders – they may feel they are going to have seven years bad luck if they see one, or believe that such people are out to get them – but I have yet to meet any. Like the word “homophobic” before it, it is meant to suggest that there is something psychologically wrong with the person who disagrees with you. Those disagreeing must be secretly afraid that they are homosexual, or have some other sexual wrongness, unspecified.

That’s pretty insulting.  It is an effort to avoid logical discussion and poison the well against another person’s opinion.  These "phobias" not something measurable that can be tested. It is a word with no precision, merely suggestive, as it is used against anyone who the speaker feels doesn’t have quite the right beliefs about people who have transitioned, or wish to.  It is rather like saying that people who were “against the war” are liberals. It is a generalization that doesn’t hold.  Some conservatives and many libertarians were and are against wars in the Middle East.  Some liberals, especially elected officials, were for it.

Or also, it is like calling all Muslims “jihadists,” or people who wish to reduce illegal immigration “racists.”  Even if some of each are, it is a smear attempt to attach that to others.
It is ironic that a movement that is becoming increasingly strident that pronoun choices can be insulting would choose to be insulting in a similar manner themselves.  Or perhaps not ironic.  They believe in the power of language to shape a discussion, and attempt to preempt a discussion by setting the initial terms in their favor.

Words do gradually change in meaning. Phobic and –phobe have recently taken on the meaning of “dislikes” in addition to “fears.” This has been calculated, because the emotional tone of the derivation remains in play. Not all dictionaries even note such a meaning, but others do. However, even those that do first regard it as metaphorical, a poetic exaggeration, as in “I’m phobic about buying anything that’s advertised with hearts on it,” meant as a wry joke against oneself.  The popular usage of “-phobe” as “one who dislikes,” is very new, and needn’t be regarded as a shared bit of language, just because others would like it to be.  If the term persists, then in fifty years or so one might fairly say that the origin is no longer part of the meaning. Happens all the time in language.  But it hasn’t happened yet, and we still depend on words to convey denotative as well as connotative meaning.

It is okay to challenge these terms on the basis of inaccuracy and insult and ask others to refrain from using them.  Not that we need to do this at every turn, lying in wait for any unwary soul who trespasses against us.  In many cases, people run in circles where that is simply the word used, and they don’t think about it much. We all like language shortcuts and few of us are precise.  Jumping all over a person for using the word “transphobic” might alienate a person who largely agrees with you, once they think about it. To those who would insist “But that’s what they are. They deny the identity of trans people.  That is hateful,” I think it is fair to point out that a) it is a generalization, and b) it is insulting. When asked* what word should be used instead I would suggest that people not use a single word, but a phrase or even a sentence, describing exactly what they mean. If that seems cumbersome, because people aren’t used to it, well, adjusting to new pronouns is cumbersome as well.

*I am being kind here.  It won’t be “asked.”

Top Two Most Visited - Goethe's Three Questions

My top two are not posts that I bear that much responsibility for.  They both have over 10,000 hits, but both are clearly driven by people looking up these particular topics. Still, this one is a very good question to ask oneself when Trump tweets, or CNN runs a story, or Scott Adams does a podcast. These questions have very much stood the test of time.

From 2006.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe directed that Three Questions be asked about any work of art. They must be answered in order.

1. What was the artist trying to do?

2. How well did he do it?

3. Was it worth the doing?

The point is, until one answers the first two questions, one should not be attempting to answer the third. It is a check on over-hasty judgement, and provides a structure to see things with new eyes.

Critics, tonight's exercise is to apply Goethe's Three Questions to George Bush's foreign policy.

Update 2019:  Or any president, politician, blogger, preacher, journalist, or essayist. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Lenny and the Squigtones


Some things recede beneath the waves, never to be found again.  Years ago I heard a short story on The Moth called "1919."  Narrated by a Japanese woman, it was the story of a young woman among many young women coming from Japan to America as "picture brides" in cheap steerage 1919, to be wives for male Japanese immigrants in Hawaii and California.  The program had been set up by Japanese societies for moral improvement in America, as the men were gambling away their money and visiting prostitutes. In most places, they were not allowed to marry white women.

The radio show announced at the time that the story was part of a book in progress.  The author, who had a female relative who had been a picture bride (I don't think her mother - more likely a grandmother or great-aunt), wrote engagingly about the insecurity the girls had felt, how the poorer girls from the provinces were looked down upon by the girls from Tokyo, and those poorer bonded together; and how one of their number who had been married but quickly widowed was constantly asked to explain how they were supposed to behave when it came time for sex, because none of them had the slightest idea. Eyes open, eyes closed?  Knees up, knees down?

I have checked in from time to time for the book, as I think my wife would like it, and I was able to at least trace reference to the radio hour story, stretching back into dimmer and dimmer archives. Now, at last, it has vanished with no trace.  I imagine I could, with great effort, find some reference to it, and someone, somewhere still has the 15 year old recording, but that is not actually what I wanted.  I want the book, and the book has never existed.

C S Lewis on "Creating the New Ignorance."

I am always pleased by a knowledgeable contemporary reference to Lewis, with some discussion.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Letters

Well, we're up to three where we only sent the envelope with no letter.  As I was doing them in batches of ten, I fear there are more to come.

Update:  Up to six.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

72 Dolphins Voted Best Team

They may have been voted best team, but they weren't. Their reasoning is poor in defending the honor.  "Nobody gave it to us, we worked hard, we earned it."  It's very nice that you worked hard. However lots of teams have worked hard, and that doesn't make them best. No one has ever said the '72 Dolphins didn't work hard or were terrible.  That's a straw man.

Having been undefeated is a very good thing, but it's not the only thing. Did you beat other good teams, or was your competition weak?  Did you beat other teams decisively, or just get by some of them? Was your magical season bookended by other good seasons with essentially the same coaches and players, illustrating that it was not a fluke, or were you just a very good team that also had some luck?

Just for openers, teams are much better now than they were then. 

Wyman Christmas Letter 2019

“John-Adrian’s voice is remarkably clear on that Facetime call.”
It was remarkably clear because it was not John-Adrian on Facetime from Alaska, it was John Adrian, Jocie, and daughters Aurora and Quinn actually in the next room, arrived at Jonathan and Heidi’s completely by surprise.  Doubling down on long-distance surprise, Chris was also there from Norway, and Ben arrived from Texas the next day. Surprise #4 is that Jocie had not told any of us about her pregnancy, and new daughter Bella – fifth consecutive granddaughter for us – will be born in early January. The four girls were together constantly over the next nine days, especially the two eight-year olds, Sarah and Aurora. An entire week’s activities were hastily planned, including Thanksgiving and half of Christmas. The intense concentration of Wymans provided enough memorable quotes to create a Christmas letter all by itself: Three-year old Quinn sidling up to Jonathan’s Doritos and earnestly saying “Sharing is Caring;”  Aurora suddenly asking Ben about the afterlife; or John-Adrian assuring us that if it was up to him we would all just get more salmon every Christmas.  Chris has a similar view, though his choice is the thin-sliced dried whitefish that Norwegians regard as a snack.  Between the two of them, Christmas stockings tend to be fish-intensive for us.
John-Adrian and Jocie are discussing moving from Nome to Anchorage, which would make it easier for all of us to get to them, and mean more room for them now that they will have three girls.  Chris likes working for BMW instead of Mercedes in Tromso, and has a serious girlfriend, Maria. Ben’s job is less about filmmaking and increasingly about managing people and communications at First Methodist Houston.  He mischievously shepherds the pastors through an “Ask Me Anything” podcast every week, which we listen to with amusement.
The End of an Era – 100 Costumes
Tracy gave away almost fifty years of accumulated costumes. Most were biblical or medieval, but there was considerable variety, including an extremely eccentric collection of hats.  I thought this was going to be more painful for her than it turned out.  Going to a good home turned out to be the key.
“Next Year We Might Not Be Here.”
We are looking to downsize – fewer rooms, less driveway snow, smaller lawn. We will remain local. We both have part-time work in our career fields and scheduled volunteering we don’t want to give up, not to mention granddaughters nearby.
The reality is that we find something “wrong” with every house we look at.  We have finished fixing everything in our house of 35 years in order to make it easily salable.  New heating, new roof, new septic, patching the holes made by lacrosse balls in bedroom walls – the works. The place finally looks like we always wanted, including the lawn, which had previously suffered mostly neglect. I now know the difference between crabgrass and Less Desirable Grasses. Maybe we’ll just stay.
“One Good Thing That Came Out of the Army”
Kyle is finishing up his six years in the Reserve, and is strongly considering switching to the Air National Guard.  He has no temptation to re-up with the army.  Just as everything is winding down, however, he has started dating a girl from his platoon, who we like a great deal. He continues at the Post Office in Concord, and thus has very little time and little sleep in December.
North Carolina was great except…
Well, a tree fell on the car, that wasn’t good -  at 40mph on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Ben and David…eventually decided the car was drivable and as there was no cell phone reception, just drove on to the pre-wedding party at Swananoa. Back to normal life seamlessly. We got to roast the groom, that was a plus. Later we calculated that 0.06sec difference would likely have resulted in us going over the edge to a grim fate. We were unhurt at the time and got nervous later, which is the best way to have emergencies, I think.  David got more irritated at not being able to get a waffle for breakfast the next morning.  He expected that in the South it should certainly be possible to do this, but in West Asheville, everything was avocado toast and twenty variations on Eggs Benedict. Shameful. I will grant Asheville this: there are nice walks, climbs, and views in the area.  But not enough waffles.