Saturday, February 29, 2020

Latino Socialists

Powerline had an interpretation of the Nevada caucus results that was interesting. Among the Hispanic Democrats (not Hispanics as a whole) there was disproportionate approval for the true socialist, Bernie. This has been noted before in other contests. That may be related to what individuals think will benefit them in terms of the American economy, but I have to wonder if much of this does not come from hailing from places where even the free market isn't free. An entirely objective analysis would reveal that leftist market-gaming is even more corrupt in Latin America, but it is fair to notice that they have often been exposed to a fairly bad crop of rightists. Once one ends up on a side in political conflicts worldwide, whether by birth or accident or intent, one tends to harden in the position, remember the ills of those crack their eggs on the wrong ends and overlooking the corruption of one's own side.

They carry that forward when they come here, and likely pass it down for at least half a generation. I don't know if Republican Hispanics are a harder-right mirror image, for similar reasons.  They've seen a particular bad batch of leftists in their home countries. Eastern Europeans in America tend to be stauncher rightists.

We think our politicians are bad, but that is merely because we are a more powerful country and they can cause more damage. A mild liberal with power in America can bring in more world socialism than a fanatic in Albania.

Disease and Cold Drive History

 Update:  For example, drought.

The effect of disease on historical events has usually only been mentioned in extreme cases, when it is obvious that at least some influence must have occurred.  The effect of smallpox on the Aztecs, or the Black Death on the economics of Europe receive some mention, but even in those cases summary histories can leave them out. Amazing, but true. There has been some increase over the last twenty years of historians addressing the issue of disease directly, and the last five years has seen an explosive growth in that approach because of what we can learn from archaeology rather than written records.  What has then happened is that the text historians have doubled back and acknowledged "yes, this was there all along, but because we could not clearly understand symptoms nor measure extent we could not make definitive statements." So they mostly said nothing.

Or, as I suspect, they preferred other explanations, as we all have, due to the training in how to look at history we have all grown up with. I may be partly guilty myself.  I have heard doctors offer up possible medical explanations they have run across in their reading, only to be greeted with blank looks and polite smiles.  No, silly.  It's kings and battles and trade routes and technological advances. Diseases are just there all the time and have only a marginal effect. I have been only slightly more sympathetic until the last decade,

I recall reading in the 1970's an article on the colonisation of New England which claimed the Puritans were remarkably fortunate in when they arrived, as the Indian population was only about a third of what it had been in 1607.  The idea was that they had wiped each other out in a series of battles. Otherwise, the Englishmen would not have had a chance. We now know that those natives were first depleted by the diseases they had picked up in trade contact with Europeans in what are now Maine and Nova Scotia.  The battles came as a result of that, as tribes tried to move into territory devastated by disease. They died of European diseases, then wiped each other out before 1620. That remaining third was further depleted by additional diseases after year-round settlers came.  In temperate climates the losses were fewer.  In New England, it may have been "only" 80% of the natives who died from disease.  In Mesoamerica, with denser settlement, it may have been 95%. In the absence of any understanding of germ theory, this was doubly devastating psychologically.  Your leaders, your shamans, your customs had all failed. There was nothing to cling to.  You concluded that the invaders were favored by the gods. Who wouldn't?

India and China, both of which have both temperate and tropical zones, have centuries of the same pattern repeating.  An invader arrives from the Northwest.  They are from temperate zones, tall, strong, and healthy.  They easily defeat the inhabitants and take over lands ever southward. Then they catch tropical diseases, they die, and they retreat back northward.  Sometimes they go all the way back to lands they came from.  Other times they go back only halfway, and settle.  They gradually acquire a little immunity to the tropical diseases, but the two groups essentially settle into a north-south division of very different groups.  The Dravidian languages are not at all closely related to the Indo-Aryan languages. Take whatever political explanation you like about weaponry, organisation, and culture. The climate line, and thus the disease line, explains a thousand years of history more exactly. See also Mongols, China. (The Mongols later also destabilised the entire Eurasian continent, by disease as much as horsemanship.)

The new invaders also bring new diseases, which can devastate the tropical population. Yet in the end, holding the territory becomes impossible for those from temperate climates. Only those who have a culture of raiding rather than settled conquest can survive on the edge of those lands: Saxons, Picts, Huns, Mongols, Sueves, Yamnaya, Apaches, Comanches, Bedouins, Vikings, Berbers.* Europeans could extract wealth from the coasts of Africa, but even now have trouble living in the interior. Malaria and other diseases take their toll. If a section of jungle is cleared for cultivation, the mosquitoes take over, and the death rates soar.  In a stable period, the humans and the microparasites establish a balance over time, neither conquering, neither eliminated.

The temperate zones have their own diseases as well, often those which can adapt by going dormant for months in dry or cold seasons. The macroparasites, the other humans, upend the balance, with unpredictable results.

The inhabitants of cities have a similar "advantage" over the outside invaders. They may be sickly and less strong, but diseases have already wiped out many of their siblings in childhood. They have the immunity of those who have been exposed to many more diseases. The invaders arrive again and again, tall and strong, but cannot hold the cities they take. The Goths and Vandals wrought havoc, conquered and settled in the Roman Empire, and ruled sections of it for a short time. Then they were inexplicably defeated by the armies of the empire a few decades later. Their star burned bright and flamed out. Historians have offered many possible explanations about military mistakes, trade routes, feckless emperors. All of those things have some truth. Disease is not 100% determinative. But the new thinking is that if you have to pick one factor to oversimplify with, go with disease, and second, natural disaster.

Justinian, emperor of the eastern empire, was determined to retake and restore the west in the 6th C. He succeeded. He put the Goths and Vandals on the run. Unfortunately, the weather was already turning colder than the warm centuries that marked the height of Roman power when at least two major volcanic eruptions elsewhere turned the entire world cold in the late 530's. Those produced the coldest years in the last 2000. Harvest were bad, and then nonexistent. Onto this was added the Bubonic plague - what was long speculated has recently been confirmed by DNA - which wiped out at least half, and perhaps as much as 75% of the population of the western Mediterranean. The cities collapsed, the various armies of Goths and eastern empire raided the countryside for whatever food they could find. Rome's population fell from 350,000 to 50,000 in a century or less.

When disease and starvation take your population out, they take the old and the young.  In 546 AD in the western ex-empire, there were no young children, no old people in the villages. This was less true as one headed north, but still essentially true all the way up to Scotland and Scandinavia.  There had been people, and cities, and trade, now there was not even food. Cultures with a tradition of raiding survived.  Those with traditions of armies and governments did not.  In the Eastern Empire this was nearly true as well, as that half almost fell a few times in those centuries.

Dense populations create more diseases, and sometimes a new variant can be devastating.

I don't think it would be efficient to try and link you to various episodes of a couple of the podcasts I am listening to nor the authors they recommend, but the original text is William MacNeill's Plagues and Peoples from 1976.  It was updated in 1998 in an effort to explain AIDS to the general reader. His explanations were sniffed at in the 70's, drew grudging respect by the 90's, and are now considered to be the foundation of the art of seeing history through the prism of disease.

Historians who credit climate for dramatic upheavals seldom mention that it is cold that is the problem, not warming.

*The idea that the Huns or Mongols could have conquered Europe except for good luck for my ancestors because the Asian warriors had to double back because of battles of succession back East is almost certainly false.  They conquered all before them, but they were steppe peoples who depended heavily on grasslands for their horses.  The steppe ends in Hungary, and they could only raid beyond that. They were not turned back by Pope or battle.  They raided as far as was profitable and went home. There is also evidence in both cases that their ranks were slowly depleting to new diseases.  They may have brought worse than they got, but their supply lines were longer.

William and Mary Tribe Basketball

21 wins.  Already one of their best seasons ever. I am following game-by-game at this point, which I usually don't.

We Are Moving

To most of you, this will make no difference, as we are not even leaving town.  Our offer has been accepted and we are moving to the other end of Goffstown, to smaller quarters, all on one level.  Not much smaller, actually.  I have reasoned that if we wait until we have no choice, we end up in a place where we will have no positive associations, and does not have years of overlearning where things are as our memories fade. This is one hedge against my unsympathetic children moving me to an ice floe with only some seal blubber because I can no longer function in situ.  We will hopefully have years of practice and positive experiences instead. My mother and my wife's mother had their last years in familiar places they liked. Tracy's father and my stepfather did not, and it cost them something emotionally, I think.

Similarly, all on one level doesn't matter much at this point.  In fact it will reduce the flights of stairs my wife gets to count on her Fitbit. But ten years from now it might matter, and in the interim there might be temporary periods when it matters because of a surgery. It may matter for me as well, as I am a clumsy person.  I have almost pitched forward headlong on the basement stairs a few times every year since we moved in in 1987. (I now confess this, having hidden it from my wife for decades.) This can't go on forever, and now it doesn't have to.  I can now fall down a few steps onto pavement instead, with hands empty instead of holding trash/laundry/tools.

The charm of the place is minimal outside, but it checks most of our other boxes.


A scare like COVID-19 has an immediate positive effect, in that I update my emergency preparedness.  I have good intentions about such things and go out and get the necessary items, but then they are depleted by occasional use, or are no longer optimal, such as water in plastic storage. Serious preppers are prepared to weather an EMP, with seeds for the next year and gold to trade, but our most likely emergency is a power outage of a few days.  Quarantining for two weeks requires more food that that, so I stocked up a bit, though I'm not sure I've got 14 days worth. Oatmeal.  I should get oatmeal.

It doesn't hurt to go get the things you will use eventually.  We did eventually burn all our Y2K firewood by about 2011.

Interestingly, my podcasts and reading both include heavy doses of discussion of plagues at this point.  I'll be posting a bit on those.  Short version: if you travel in time, stay away from 536 AD and thereabouts. (I assume all good time machines have a dial that shows you what year you are in, like Mr. Peabody used to have.  Though these days it would be a digital display.)

Buy Corona Beer

The poor bastards are taking a hit.  Not their fault.  I'll be buying some today, even though I don't usually favor mild lagers.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Funky Town

So when you have new video and sound technology that allows you to do cool things artistically, what is likely to happen almost immediately?

Overuse of the techniques, structured around women dancing to repetitive songs with banal lyrics. And it sells.  Every time, I think.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

South Sudan

In contrast to the ongoing tribal warfare in Africa, the Dinka and Nuer get along in America. We sometimes try to force the African warfare into a Muslim-Christian narrative, but that is only partly true.  The tribal warfare, especially between the two major tribes, dominates the landscape. Serbs, Croats, Kosovars all get along in America  That is not 100% true of all conflicts, as there are still animosities that get carried across the many waters of the world to here.  But the tendency is strong.  (Canada too, I should mention.  I try to remember not to leave them out just because they are a smaller population when they are one of the voices of sanity.)

The mere moving to another land may be the great part of the ceasing of hostilities. However, I think the American experience is also part of this.

Glass Half-Full

Students For Fair Admissions claims that 45% of African-Americans and Hispanics are at elite institutions because of racial preferences. This means that 55% are there on the basis of merit.  If that sounds obvious. remember than one of the difficulties minority students face is self-doubt whether they are as capable as the other students.  It's one of the reasons that over-acceptance and over-promotion is a gift that comes at a cost.

Princeton and Dartmouth, for example, do not take African-American students from a random selection of applicants.  They take them from the first-tier, then the second.  There are plenty there.  They don't have to go to third-tier candidates. Because the prestige of a degree from an Ivy-League or other elite school far exceeds the added accomplishment to obtain it, the school is thus bestowing as a gift a significant head start to its students.  Stanford grads perform better on average in the classroom and do better on their GRE's than Davidson or UVA, but not that much better. The textbooks are the same.

Glenn Reynolds suggests that abolishing the Ivy League would do a great deal toward improving equality and egalitarian spirit.

Time Warp

We get patients at my hospital sometimes who have serious dislocations in time, trying to gain custody of children who have already grown up, or insisting that they still own the house they grew up in by some bizarre collection of impossible occurrences. But I use "time-warp" more humorously at the hospital, of a young man who just wants he and his friends to be left alone to smoke weed and write poetry, explaining to us how valuable this is and the government should support him somehow. We're all just so separated in this world, and you know what will fix that? Love. That's what I write about, love, so that people can be together more. Yeah, he wants to go back to the 60s, which he missed by decades but absorbed via popular culture.

There's no cure for it, I don't think. There are other variations.  I am not the first to notice that Bernie Sanders seems to think that 1970s Denmark is still up and vital over in Europe, even though the Danes dropped most of that years ago.  He is also quite certain that abortion and population control are a key to climate change, which people started believing in the 1970s, and peaked around 2000. Folks still believe that fewer people would be a boon for the environment, but that's when other folks started noticing demographic collapse, and that Italian, Chinese, and Japanese children no longer have aunts, uncles and cousins, because they stopped having siblings years ago. Lots of other developed countries are not far behind.

(Tangent: Imagine being at a school or living in a town where none of the children have siblings or cousins - not anywhere, never mind not nearby. Classrooms of unconnected kids.)

Hmm.  I see that City Journal is writing this up in more detail.

Well there's no hope for Bernie being cured of this.  I'm sure people have mentioned that Scandinavia is no longer as Scandinavian as he imagines, but somehow it hasn't penetrated.  I do wonder what's up for the Bernie Bros. I'm guessing not fully cured, but some do get far enough out to laugh at themselves anyway.

Monday, February 24, 2020


The choir sang this yesterday.  I had not previously heard it. It is based on the Orthodox structure of repeating things three times, the same yet different, to represent the Trinity.

I Just Liked The Phrase

In James's post Slogans describing changes in attitudes, including the Church, is the line "The voice of Fashion is the voice of God."  Yes, that is exactly what I am worried about.  Well put.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Andrew Yang and Automation

Rome fell in 476 AD, according to the high school and World History 101 shorthand we are used to. You can prefer a date in the 370's instead, or 410, or the Vandals taking Carthage in 439 AD, which broke the tax spine of the Western Empire for good.  Going in the other direction, you can choose the collapse of the reconquest by Justinian in the late 6th C, or even later.  If one wants to be really technical, Constantinople, the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire for a thousand years after Rome itself fell to Ostrogoths, did not fall until 1453. Few would pick that date, but you could, and make an argument with at least some facts to buttress it.

But let's focus on 476 and let that hover in the background as we look at the collapse.  In 440AD all looked bleak for the empire, though those in the central cities did not perceive it.  Britain and Northern Gaul had fallen out of the empire. Northern Africa was a trading partner, not part of the empire. The influence over Persia, Syria, and the easternmost sections of empire was waning. Yet by 450, trading was bustling again.  Some researchers would claim that this was actually the height of trade throughout the Mediterranean, unmatched for more than a thousand years. There was recovery! Despite all the dark portents, Rome reached its height.  Arguably.  Some would pick 150, 350, or other dates. Still, a case could be made.

If you were living at the time, those naysayers who pointed to the loss of tax revenue from across the Mediterranean, or the growing power of the Goths, who had an internal kingdom in Gaul, or the slow loss of border provinces and increase in cross-border raiding would be laughed off.  However plausible their arguments might sound that the empire was in decline, the objective evidence was that things were fine.

Just ten years later. 440AD to 450AD. They didn't know it, but the collapse was indeed near, because long-term secular trends were overwhelming short-term local ones.

I think of this when I read Andrew Yang's worries about the coming jobs catastrophe. He believes that automation is going to destroy more jobs than it creates.  Note that he is not a typical doomsayer.  He does understand that jobs will be created as well as destroyed.  He thinks the latter will be greater.* Truck drivers and cashiers are on the near horizon of disappearing jobs. There are millions of those.  The jobs created in a new economy will have to be very impressive to keep up with that over the next three decades.

He was honest with Democrats that job retraining mostly doesn't work.  Republicans didn't notice this courage, Democrats generally just whistled past the graveyard.

The traditional argument against this is powerful.  I have seen Texan99 make it several times. Despite the impression we always have on this side of the divide that more jobs will be lost, the consistent experience of humankind is that there are actually more jobs when we get there.  There are fewer jobs for buggy-whip makers and manure-shovelers, but lots and lots of automotive jobs. That might be the way to bet.  However, I am reminded of Nicholas Nassim Taleb's description of the Lebanese who believed that after a thousand years of Christians and Muslims living together, the 20th C difficulties would end the same way.  So they moved to Cyprus decades ago to wait out the temporary antagonism, staying in hotels there.

They are still in hotels in Cyprus.

I don't take on faith that there are other jobs that will show up as Amazon automates delivery, both in the warehouse and on the highways.  I'd like to think there are other jobs for the low-skilled working at $ in convenience stores.  Such jobs have appeared before. Yet I don't see any guarantee of that. The past is the best predictor of the future, but it is not an infallible predictor of the future.

Things look great at the moment, and in the short term I think that can hold.  Will it hold two more decades?  Four?  What will we do with decent people who would absolutely show up on time and work hard, but there are now ten of them for every four jobs?

*Relatedly, when he touts Universal Basic Income, he does not pretend that there is no risk and no loss of productivity, as most hemp-headed advocates do.  He believes that it is a 70-30, or perhaps only 60-40 tradeoff to give more freedom to the poor. If you dig deeper, he believes that some percentage (I conclude from his comments about 50%) of the poor are generally hardworking Americans, who don't have a lot of skills or whose industries collapsed or had bad luck, who would do fine with a minimal safety net. Those, he thinks will muddle through with just a little help.  He hints that there may be a lot of minorities in this group, who would be better served by supplement rather than rescue, and would generally not take advantage.


I just watched the highlights of the boxing match.  It was mostly a wrestling match.  Ridiculous.

Saturday, February 22, 2020


If you get into an argument with a teenager, he can technically then claim that the point is "arguable."  After all, you are arguing it, right? Case closed.

If the point is arguable, then both sides have some legitimacy, and in particular, it means his side of the discussion must have some legitimacy, even if it has precisely zero logical supports.  This means that one view is pretty much as good as another, so his view is just as good as yours.  Therefore, he chooses his, and thinks you have no logical grounds to contradict him, because it's "just your opinion."

Let me note in passing that my five sons seldom or never argued in this fashion.  Not to my face, anyway.  They might have done so as they walked away muttering. Son #4 when purchasing a truck he could in no way afford, did once say "You always talk about what could go wrong!" Which is true.

I thought of this when I read an account today of how the 1619 Project has "sparked discussion." It has not sparked discussion.  It has sparked condemnation from people who actually know something about the topic, which is not the same thing.  It would be as if Sports Illustrated put its official weight behind the Hall of Fame candidacy of Moonlight Graham, on the slender basis that he figured prominently in a really good baseball movie and upon review, did actually play in the major leagues a century ago. (BTW, he played for Manchester, NH in the New England League as well.) When every sane baseball fan in America (and the Caribbean) wrote lengthy essays in protest, SI might attempt the dodge that they had "sparked debate" and that this somehow added to Graham's legitimacy as a candidate, but that would be simply ridiculous.

This happens in the arts, that people try and "start a discussion" about what we consider to be art, or what society is all about, or whether sharks have tails, giving the individual a forum to blather endlessly - which was the original goal. It doesn't make it right.

Voting in India

I just happened upon this and there may be something I missed, but I think I see an opportunity for genuine multiculturalism here, not just the "I know more about Peruvian food than you do" type. 

Use the system of voting they use in India.


A priest, a minister, and a rabbit walk into a bar.  The rabbit looks around and says "I think I might be a typo."

Friday, February 21, 2020

3D Chess

Just when even the mainstream media outlets are starting to cautiously report that some of the Democratic candidates have insane ideas or are obnoxious and corrupt, Donald Trump gets all upset about the South Koreans winning a major Oscar and rhapsodising about how good movies were in the days of "Gone With The Wind" and "Sunset Boulevard." Will someone explain to me that this is actually a good thing about him, and an example of how he is outwitting them by playing 3D chess?

Can we admit that at least some of his tweets are ill-advised, and harm his electoral chances?

Williamsburg Snow

I see that the 'Burg got two inches of snow yesterday. They get very excited and take pictures of all the old buildings when that happens. I wonder if they are better at driving in it than they were  1971-75.  I doubt it.  Start with a disadvantage that no one has snow tires or experience with snow and add in that the towns don't have a budget for salt.

Direct Line

If one believes that our social problems are caused entirely (or nearly) by a lack of generosity, or empathy, or tolerance, or justice - or at least if one believes that the solutions to those problems depend entirely on generosity, etc, then the line to self-righteousness is direct. Notice that this is true even if that assessment is entirely correct. Even if lack of tolerance and empathy are indeed the main problem, when one attempts to engage others in solutions, self-righteousness will get smuggled in. There just isn't any other ground to stand on when one says "our side believes that more generosity is the solution." Squirm as you might, that can only mean "Our side is more generous," which can only mean "we are better people."

It might be quiet rather than brash.  No matter.  Others can sense it even if you cannot.

It may include some laudable desire to keep that arrogance confined to the ideas one holds rather than one's own character. I have known those whose humility exceeds mine in a dozen areas of their personal lives, who approach the quest for justice as a personal challenge, who resolve first to clean up their own act before whispering a word to others. Some are lovely, sincere people. Not many, because such humility is confined to specific sectors of their lives. I have a significant advantage here - or perhaps it is a curse.  Because I engage folks in a wider range of topics, and sometimes even seek the difficult ones (if I think you are smart enough and strong enough), I elicit amazingly revealing comments from people all the time. They might say the same of me, by the way. I am familiar with the enormous arrogance of humble people. Their personal Screwtape has channeled all the poison into a single pond on their property. Projection is simply thinking that the speck in your eye is a log in another's. Jesus used the image of tithing mint, dill, and cumin. He didn't say the Pharisees weren't very, very, good at that.  They were far better than we are at those specks.

Christians have a particular danger in this, in that they try to cop to a lesser charge. Preachers do it a lot.  I would not be too hard on them for that, because it's mostly just because they get the opportunity to, having to give personal examples every week.  We would be worse. "Yes, I too know the dangers of materialism (or privilege, or selfishness).  I fight this battle all the time, just as you do.  Let me tell you a few anecdotes of when I was not generous..." These are declarations of righteousness, not humility. I don't have this problem to the extent that our whole society, including you out there listening, does. I have small sins, you have medium sins, those people outside this sanctuary have big sins. 

There are other escape routes. Some will say "Well, we are more moral.  It might sound arrogant to you that we say that, but it's true. We might have our individual flaws, and I might be a complete hypocrite myself, but the ideas are more moral.  You, AVI, are simple evading that." Some Christians might even add "Of course those ideas are more moral.  They are what Jesus said.  Deal with it." I think those are answerable.  In fact I think they are easily answerable, though not quickly answerable. That they persist in the face of the many times they have been answered is revealing of human nature.

Others might wave off the moral questions entirely.  "These are all merely questions of power.  Those who have power invent moralities to keep themselves in power. You have power, we want to take it from you.  And because you have kept it from us unjustly for so long, we are entirely comfortable punishing you for it. How does it feel, eh?" This sentiment is not merely lurking at the edge of our political discourse, sniping in from the shadows, it has moved to the debate stage, though in disguise. I give it credit that it is logically coherent.  I think it is also answerable, but also not quickly, and not today.

This is aimed in a different direction, at those who would wish to be humble and tolerant themselves, especially those who are believing Christians or believing Jews. There is an elephant in the room.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Cracker Supper

A bit of pointless nostalgia, 1960-66.

We ate cheap starches a lot.  My mother was a single mom working full time, and she had neither time nor money for complicated dishes.  Welsh Rarebit was four saltines with a Velveeta-type sauce.  We sprinkled a little paprika on it to be fancy.  Cream dried beef was big as well, as were pancakes with Vermont Maid syrup.  Grilled cheese and Campbell’s Cream of Tomato was often the high point of the week.  The invention of little frozen pizzas was one of the highlights of our childhood.  

My mother could cook quite well, as she demonstrated when she later remarried and had resources. But when that happened, our favorite meal of the week disappeared: Cracker Supper.  The point was to make a saltine or Ritz-based stack with as many layers as possible. PB, Fluff, jelly, quarter-squares of American cheese, Miracle Whip, baloney*. I don't think girl-children would have found this so fascinating. We made these in advance of watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color every Sunday night, chomping down from our thin tray tables.  Toward the end of the run we got a dog who hovered expectantly, teaching us to have better reflexes. No one in our neighborhood had color TV, but we had rich cousins who did. Very occasionally we would be down there and get to see that magic.

In memory we had more possible ingredients, an unlimited amount, but I can’t think of what those could be.  We did not buy ham for sandwiches. We did have tuna, but we went through that quickly. Cracker supper was for spreadable things anyway. Ah, ketchup!  Yes, we must have had ketchup as well.  Goes great with PB and Fluff. No mustard – we weren’t that adventurous. Maybe there was an occasional leftover that could be shoved on a cracker somehow. It was a relief for my mother that we had a meal we could make ourselves.  I think she napped through these. It might have seemed irresponsible parenting to an outsider, but I doubt it was nutritionally inferior to every other night of the week,

*Later we moved up to bologna.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Personal Use

NFL Lineman with 157 lbs of pot. I have sympathy for guys with chronic pain using marijuana.  The data doesn't support the idea that it helps them with their pain, but they think it does, and that in itself is part of pain management. People believe a lot of inaccurate things, and we have to look at the level of damage.

People outside the mental health field don't get it about the higher risk for psychotic disorders and worse outcomes for anxiety and affective disorders with marijuana use, but I understand that not everyone follows the science on these things closely.  Most people who use, use occasionally, and have little difficulty.  We all know some, whether we know it or not. The  minority who use and rapidly become heavy users are invisible to the rest of us.  Their lives fall apart, but we don't see those, much as we do not apprehend high-functioning alcoholics, though they are all around us.

But 157 lbs, when you are drawing an NFL salary?  No excuse for that.

Bernie Bros

A fascinating bit of poll information. Scroll down to "Sanders approval of those age 45+, 13%; less than 45, 54%.  That is a huge contrast.  I have some curiosity whether there is a hard break at age 38 or so or this is a gradual drop-off from 25-45. 

Males 41%, Females 24%. 
Small city/suburban men 46%, small city/suburban women 23%

As "bros" are male and generally younger than 45, it would seem that "Bernie Bros" is an accurate and not accidental description of his supporters.  The Bernie supporters I know are females in their 30's, but I work in a largely female environment, so that's not surprising.

I don't have an explanation for the male/female split. Perhaps some Democrat can enlighten me.  But the over/under 45 difference I think I have some understanding of.  I know some of those few over 45's for Bernie. Even those who support Bernie, if they are over 45, are mostly tactical, reasoning that he's not going to get but 25% of what he attempts.  As in union negotiations, both sides start out at unrealistic levels and work their way in. The Boomer liberals may be determined, but they aren't that idealistic anymore. Start with Sanders socialism, settle for Klobuchar socialism is fine with them. I don't think they necessarily even want his level of socialism, which even the Scandinavians no longer have, anymore. AB5 in California has put them off their feed pretty thoroughly. They run businesses or know people who do, and completely get it that some idealogues might miss the important details and screw up an entire industry.

But most of those won't stay home.  Stopping Trump is still Goal #1. Bernie, Amy, Pete, Mike...they are checking that box whatever.

It's hard not to look at that "under 45, 54% for Sanders" poll and not be discouraged.  I think it must be the idea of Bernie, not the actuality, that motivates them. He keeps making references to us being more like Scandinavian countries, not realising that they were mostly only hard socialist from 1970-90, and are now very big into limiting immigration and insisting on assimilation, and school choice and tax breaks for job creators. Their crazy uncles are all conservatives, I guess, so they don't see that Bernie is "Old man shakes his fist at clouds."

I will mention again that Sanders was very anti-immigration until 2016, when he changed because he had a shot at the nomination.  He previously recognised that new immigrants drove down the wages of blacks and Hispanics already here, and he wanted to support group B over group A.  And I agree.  He was right then, but abandoned the idea for his own candidacy.  So don't give me the line that he has been the honorable, noble warrior for the same ideas all these years regardless of the political climate. As a millionaire who has gamed the system for years he isn't any worse than the others (again, I include Republicans in this), but he isn't any better, either.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Pub Talk - Bermondsey

This is the real version of Monty Python's "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch.

The Good Old Days

I am a frequent sneerer at people who talk about how much better things were made in the old days. Liberals and conservatives both do this, just about different objects and institutions.  They are both usually wrong.  We view the past with a nostalgic haze, and would not like the world of even fifty years ago all that much.  Except, that is, for being more handsome and in better shape, of course.  But that is what is better about us in the old days, not what was better about the days themselves.

However. On the list of things that were objectively better, like the gasoline for small engines before ethanol screwed that up, I would like to mention wooden matches.  Because they are "green" now, they don't light as well. I'm annoyed at this every time.

The Rich Young Ruler

Luke 18:18-25

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

For this ruler, selling his goods not only takes away his stuff, it likely takes away his position in society and his status as well.

Notice that Jesus does not say "I want you to use your power and influence to help the poor," or to improve justice for the Jewish people, or to act in any official capacity whatsoever. He makes an entirely personal claim on the man.

Good to remember in an election year.


I very much get the sense of injustice that Democrats feel watching Bloomberg force his way into the race with his money and power. It is reasonable to object to unfairness. But there are also objections because the other candidates will have to adjust so quickly for the next debate. I don't have much sympathy for that.  We are interviewing them for a job where they might have to adjust to an act of war or a natural disaster in less than an hour, in the face of distracting criticism from public media sources.

It speaks to the artificiality and narcissism of politicians (and I am not in the least exempting Republicans from this criticism) that causes them to view events through the prism of what is good for their political chances, not what is good for the nation and world.  When one of them tells you "this is the most important election of your lifetime," what it likely means is that it is the most important election of their lifetime. National and world events are just pieces on the playing board of DC power to them. Most standard media sources see the world this way as well.  I think the conservative sources are less guilty of this, but that may be because they are newer and less bought in to this world-view than the legacy media.  They might be catching up quickly, as power and influence come to them as well. Apparently those are quite delicious.


Reclining one's airline seat too far is a problem?  I don't think I have ever had a seat that could recline more than a few inches.

There is a code of etiquette that frequent fliers know about how much one can politely recline?  I don't fly much, but I have flown for decades and I never heard of this. When the seat belt light is on I don't recline.  When it goes off I may or may not recline, but when I do, it is always the full amount. Where does the rule come from that this is incorrect? Does the person behind me have a real right of protest?  On what basis?  Is this an unstated convention? When someone in front of me reclines I simply accept the inconvenience.  It's uncomfortable for everyone and we're all just doing the best we can.

You Can't Forgive Your Parents

I wrote in to the podcast at First Methodist Houston called "Ask Me Anything." My son started it about two years ago, and I have liked most of the episodes.  People propose questions and the staff answer them, even if they are difficult or controversial. Mine is #72 Why Do I Find It Harder Forgiving Other Christians Than People Outside the Church? It was prompted by a long battle, nearly ten years now of my unforgiveness toward many of the people at my previous church, which failed despite great effort by some of us. The advice started adequately, but not brilliantly.  I was not bothered, recognising that even though it was my question, I was not the entire audience.

Near the end there were two brilliant comments however, which bore immediate fruit as I applied the advice. One pastor advised that groups of people cannot be forgiven - they have to be approached one at a time. I saw immediately that I had been wandering in this exact difficulty, like a person trying to clean up after a hoarder, sighing and complaining without starting in on a particular pile. I had been fretting about the bad reasons that "people" gave for leaving the church on its way down, mentally answering them, then chastising myself for being petty about things that happened so long ago.

When one is in debt, the recommended strategy is to pick the smallest one and pay it off first. I applied that principle here, choosing the people who seemed least blameable, least at fault and focusing on understanding their actions and forgiving them.

I cleared out about a third of the group in an hour. Since that day I have not been the least angry at any of those when they come to mind.

The second third was a little harder, and I have had to revisit forgiveness on a few of them, though not often. I have been working on the last group with considerable success. I have had to reapply the principle of dividing them from each other, as some of them were friends who left at the similar times for related reasons.  I have had to divide husband from wife in those instances as well.  I hadn't found that necessary with the easy group. I don't find it easy now, as I had been thinking of the couples as a unit in most cases, treating their reasons and actions as mutually agreed upon.  Yet this was not so, as I readily apprehended once I started prying them apart. I am only guessing in most cases which of them was the driving force, but new understandings came to me quickly. Things that were dark became obvious.  I no longer even remember what those insights were, because I am no longer interested in the issues.  They have receded.

It became easier to look on their decisions with sorrow rather than with anger.

The scriptures teach that when a man and a woman marry, they become one.  For their children, this is both intensely true and ridiculously untrue. We refer back to our childhoods in both ways, saying sometimes "My family was the sort that..." and in the next breath contrast that "My mother always...but my father never..." Of course they are individuals who interact with the children differently, yet they of course cooperated on many levels to bring you your childhood, for good or for ill.

I don't think you can forgive your parents as a unit at all. You can only forgive them one at a time, and probably not at the same time. I don't think you can dance back and forth between understanding exactly what your mother did against you and your father did, even though those things are deeply related and will distract you toward the other constantly. One at a time. Start with the easier one. If you had missing parents or extra parents it gets more complicated, butt the principle is the same.  Start with one.

The Nature of Forgiveness

We often try to substitute overlooking things and pretending they don't matter for forgiveness.  I have said in the past that we are not really forgiving when we do this, and such overlooking prevents forgiveness. The danger is that these accumulate. We do not fully get beyond them, though we tell ourselves we have. I am no longer sure of my rule.  Perhaps overlooking or excusing someone else's harm against us does work just as well. I do know from my own attempts that excusing or overlooking behavior often requires a dishonesty I can't stomach.  We might wish to be people of grand character who are cognizant of the lot of mankind and gently tolerant of its foibles, but that usually isn't me.  I notice that this is not always how Jesus responds either.  Sometimes he brings comfort, sometimes judgement.  In the end we believe they will amount to the same thing, but in this world they are still distinct.

Most especially with the bigger items for forgiveness, we find we cannot simply shrug and say "Well, she was in a bad position and she did the best she could."  We might arrive at that conclusion after much wrestling, but we have to first acknowledge that wrong was done to us, and it does matter. Forgiveness does not mean pretending that it was all just fine.

It does mean acting in forgiveness, and the first part of this is no longer extracting revenge by saying bad things about them when you've got the chance.  The stories can be gripping and entertaining, or sometimes can be played as humorous and entertaining, and I do love to entertain. But that will simply have to go. The time may come when you can refer to the mistakes, inadequacies, and even evils again. Yet not now.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Standardised Testing - Saved Links

Update:  City Journal just put a related article up today.  The Right Measurement

A brief history of the PSAT/NMSQT.  Very brief, leaving much out. Still, there is likely something new for many of you here. June 2011.

Gender Bias in College Admissions Tests. Some interesting background about balancing the tests.  The assumption in the article is that the college grades received by the student are what is real about knowledge achieved, and the tests are something artificial useful only for predicting grades.  Yet grades are also artificial, useful only for predicting first) grades in higher-level courses and second) eventual job performance. What if the tests predict either of those things more accurately? This is a common blind spot of school people, that they think of school performance as an end product. In no society should any preparation for adult behavior be considered an end in itself. It also seems to be an assumption that if males outscore females then something is wrong, but the reverse does not seem to be true. August 2007

The Most Revealing Screen.  City Journal, October 2019.

Those who find the topic interesting can go to Steve Hsu's site Information Processing or Greg Cochrane's West Hunter. Steve Sailer's isteve site is more speculative and geared to a popular audience but also good on the topic. On all three you will have to search the archives, because they haven't been talking about this lately. From his comments on the other sites, I would guess that James Thompson's site is also good, though I haven't read anything there.

Conventions in Print, and Power

Khairani Barokka cautions us against the use of italics for foreign words, including foods. It's all about power, you see. My first thought was that the intersectional continual overuse of quotation marks to draw attention to the problematic nature of "exotic," "othered," "norm," or "happy endings," and the like is an equal or greater problem.  Also, the love of slashes to combine categories such as poet/author/creator, or D/deaf/disabled writer, or fantasy/fabulist novelist also seems overdone.  I don't object to any of these.  They each have a place. I use italics in a more modern fashion, to give an emphasis as if the text were being spoken, and my high school English teachers would have objected to this usage, perhaps correctly. Voice and print have their own conventions, or used to.  I overuse parentheses, dashes, and asterisks because I am constantly interrupting myself to make another point, the same as I do in speech.  I may be getting worse at this verbal interruption of my own stories, as others are commenting on it more frequently. Or maybe, it's just my oldest son commenting on it more often.

I also use capitalisation for humorous effect to show that something is Not As Important As It Thinks, a form of mockery I learned from A A Milne.

There is a point of overuse for all of these where they become annoying. One can get away with them in light or humorous writing more easily.  In serious discussions they rapidly become mini-sermons, repeated in every paragraph to hammer home how expertly the author notices every example of insult and oppression, while you, you insensitive clod, pass by without notice, like the "priest" in the "parable" of the "good" Samaritan.

We are oppressed and you are oppressing becomes the single message.

I will come back to that.

One would think I therefore have objection to all intersectional/queer/"othered" art/literature/poetry, yet that is not so. First, I don't object to all these categories of oppression being lumped together to view themselves as a group that pits itself against a dominant mainstream culture.  To be rejected as a deaf black filmmaker feels much the same as being rejected as an Indonesian touring performer with chronic pain.  Rejection is rejection, and rejection for reasons that should be irrelevant arouses the same outrage in all of us. There may not be many deaf black filmmakers in the world, but if you are one, I'll bet it's a tough sell to people who might have money to back you, even if you are phenomenally good. (I can imagine immediately a silent film in an urban setting, using only what is seen, with those speaking on camera unheard, understood only by their gesture or by those who read lips. The people with speech are silenced. Could be interesting. There might be a hundred such films out there that are terrible, but I can at least imagine one that would be interesting. "You can see a lot just by looking," Yogi Berra said, which is both humorous and profound. What will make it interesting would be that it is not just a story about "Look at those speaking people who are now silenced.  Hahaha.  See how it feels?"  What would make it interesting is another story being told, with the silence of the noisy being an aspect of telling the story, not the story itself. It's better art.)

Art should be layered.  Intersectionality seems to be the cheap imitation of that.

Similarly, a person with chronic pain does perceive the world differently, and a woman from Indonesia does bring an outsider's perspective that  could easily be illuminating.

I have a brother with mild cerebral palsy.  He has long done jobs where he succeeds simply because he is good at what he does.  One of his cooler jobs was designing the shows at top-level planetariums. The Disability Experience isn't part of that. I have two sons from a Romanian orphanage.  Neither has a job that depends on describing the Immigrant Experience to others. Nor does my fifth son, essentially abandoned by his parents, have a job that bears any relation to that experience.  He works at the Post Office. However, if one were hampered enough that getting regular jobs was much harder than average - and I can see that being deaf and black, or being any kind of different-looking person with chronic pain is a multiplying of difficulties that makes the typical job hunt tricky - I can see why the arts might attract. It is a precarious living, but you can make many kinds of adjustments without having to ask anyone's permission.

Yet the arts community attracts people who just want to "start a conversation" or talk about themselves, and they are going to push you into those slots yourself.  If you made a film that wasn't obviously about deafness and blackness, just a good documentary about a town in decline or a story about a girl who gets lost on a train, some wouldn't like it. That's going to make things more difficult for an actual artist, I think. Just one more place where you don't get the credibility you deserve. As those people sometimes control the gates to grants and publications, they have to be taken into account, even if they themselves are a problem.

It's rather like black journalists who are asked mainly about racial issues.  What if they know a fair bit about transportation policy but only know cliches about race? I know, I know, news shows mostly want a repetition of cliches anyway. But you take my point.  Having an obstacle or a trauma is fine if it's a layer in the artistic process.  But it doesn't work as art, or even talking about the experience of the artist.

It's been done used to be the kiss of death in art. It still should be.