Thursday, December 30, 2021

Bears in Jackson

You know Jackson, NH, even though you may not realise it.  It has a red covered bridge that is often photographed and makes it to calendars. It is called the Honeymoon Bridge or the Wedding Bridge. My son was actually married down the street from it. In 2001 when I was picking up my adopted sons in Beius, Romania, there was a picture of it in the clinic lobby.  A bit disorienting.

It is in the White Mountains, very near worst-weather-in-the world Mount Washington. But people live there, and wildlife lives there as well, and they have more interaction than in most other places. In particular, they always have many bears in the neighboring protected forests, who like coming in to inhabited touristy places that have food just lying around for the taking. The townspeople of Jackson recognise the various bears, and are pretty astute in recognising which ones seem to be getting worrisome and need to be moved to another location. (They make it back the next summer about a third of the time, I hear.)

But I don't think I was quite prepared to hear that when one particular bear kept coming back to the playground at the elementary school too often, the solution was to go out and bang pots to make him go away if he was there at recess. I get it that bears are usually not aggressive, but I don't think usually is a sufficient comfort in the case of elementary school children. Nor do I think the teachers can be entirely objective about the issue in the moment, as by recess time many of them might be willing to go out and poke the bear with a stick themselves in order to get the children outside to blow off some steam.

My daughter-in-law suddenly thinks a children's picture book about this might be doable.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Compared To...?

Always ask, even if silently, "Compared to whom/what?"

Shorter version of Scott Lincicome: If we had let the free market regulate our covid response it would have been messy, unfair, initially haphazard and likely dangerous. But what the government did was worse.

Perhaps the biggest of these boondoggles still haunts us today: the continued regulatory blockade of—and executive branch errors regarding—at-home (“rapid”) COVID-19 tests. We discussed the testing situation at length back in September—noting then (1) the dearth of FDA-approved antigen tests (which are cheaper and faster than, and can be just as accurate as, lab-based “PCR” tests); (2) the numerous public health experts and economists begging the Biden administration to deregulate (lawfully) the process; and (3) the ominous-yet-obvious signs of avoidable future shortages. To be clear, I certainly wasn’t alone in making these arguments. Since then, the FDA has approved a few more rapid tests (still far fewer than European regulators, it must be noted), but—with the Omicron variant and holiday travel spiking U.S. demand—the testing situation here hasn’t improved and may have actually deteriorated.

You can bring some disagreements if you like, or build on what he wrote.  That's what discussion is about.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Chinese National in America

This was from an interview about a scientific topic with a person who grew up in China but did his graduate work and first jobs (except one) in the US. So yes, this is a ridiculously limited sample size. However, he seems to have thought about international differences and seems quite candid about most topics; even he mentioned that this is a learned behavior from being in the US, talks with Chinese nationals here and in Europe/Rest of the World, family, and even extended family who are now studying or working in America. That last group is not one I had ever considered in any immigrants or visitors in the last forty years, though it was a common pattern in those who arrived 100-200 years ago, to not only have family nearby, but a brother in Chicago or an uncle in Rhode Island. Coming from a surveillance society, those conversations must be interesting, as they grow used to candor and having to navigate that. Wait, you told my father (back home) that I said that? That may be a problem for him.  

So. Some interesting things I heard. 

He found some people were suspicious of him not only when he arrived in America, but continuing through the decade here. But people were even more suspicious of him when he went to a different region of China for his undergraduate studies, and more suspicious of him still when he worked in Thailand. Americans who pay attention to these things will not be shocked to hear this, that while everyone is suspicious of people "from away," Americans are generally less so.  In fact, anyone who is not married to the narrative of how prejudiced Americans are with foreigners will be unsurprised.

He intends to return to China in the foreseeable future for the remainder of his career. Those who have studied and worked abroad have a special cachet and desirability, and he is trying to calculate - and here his family network around the world is important - when will be the optimal time to maximise that, to offset whatever cut in salary and reduced freedom of research action he will have to take. He wants to go home for good. But the research opportunities and money are still better here.

China would still prefer to order graduates where they should work and how much they will be paid, but they simply can't anymore, as the private companies and the universities are in bidding and persuasion wars for the talented young people. The government would also prefer to tell companies what research they should be doing, but to attract talent, those often have to let researchers work on the projects they like and follow their own noses on what is important.  The interviewee thinks that Americans are still much better at this independent thinking, having a long tradition of it, but that the Chinese are catching on.

He thinks that in new fields, such as genomics, China is pouring in resources to not only catch up but to lead, and sometimes they succeed at being the world leaders.  In more established scientific fields like physics and chemistry, he sees them as catching up but still far behind. 

I noticed that he answered smoothly and comfortably on sensitive topics, but never said anything that either praised or criticised the government of China.  I imagine it is second nature in any public setting at this point. I tried to read the tea leaves and could not.

He chuckles that the Americans, especially since the supply-chain issues arose, complain about all the manufacturing that is done in China, while in China they complain that they do all the manufacturing, but somehow the Americans provide the value-added features to those parts, which allows them to be sold at much better prices.

Hmm...there were other points which now escape me.  I will update if I recall them.

Playground Rhyme

I always find these fascinating, perhaps because they are seldom remembered now, but also because I paid little attention then (that was girl stuff - you might get cooties from even paying too much attention to it), but such is my memory that even a few years later I remembered these things better than some girls who played them. Not on this song in particular, but even in highschool I would note at lunch table when they were reminiscing, some girls knew them cold, and others just looked blankly. And in college, going to school 700 miles away, scraps would emerge in discussion and I would be surprised that these girls from Virginia (or New York or North Carolina) had the lyrics wrong! It was a further education in folk music, and I eventually learned that even a few towns over there could be subtle changes.

The phrase "turn to the east, Sally, turn to the west; turn to the very one that you love best" came to me today out of nowhere and I had to work to reconstruct it.  My wife, who grew up a hundred miles away knew a similar, perhaps identical version and I enjoyed working it out with her.  It is "Little Sally Walker," which is Waters in some versions and maybe was in New Hampshire as well. My memory is not that exact. Girls stood in a circle with one in the center.  She would stand, then crouch, then stand up again and begin spinning, stopping in front of another player at the end, who would becoming the next Sally.

Little Sally Walker

Sitting in a Saucer

Rise, Sally, rise

Wipe away your tears

Turn to the East, Sally

Turn to the West

Turn to the very one that you love best.


It occurs to me that I could have exploited this by entering the game and seeing who chose me (Whoa!  Let's take a closer look at Joanne!) or not-so-subtly declaring who I liked best. But that was a level of social courage I did not possess, and by the time I did, girls didn't play games on the playground anymore.

There are not only other versions, but racier ones, including one by an Australian rapper a decade ago. It most likely comes from early 19th C England and then jumped to America. Except things didn't jump the ocean from GB as much 1776 -1920, so it may have been older than that, with separate versions developing. Reading the origin stories is an exercise in people just obviously making stuff up based on chance sound associations. When the just-so story only explains your version from Camden, and doesn't fit the one from Trenton or Philly, it ain't likely. Still fun to read, though. 

It is supposedly very African-American, but its popularity in New Hampshire in 1960 suggests that is not a full explanation. My female readers hail from all over the East, so I would be interested in your versions.

Authoritarian Populists

Update:  James continues the discussion at his site. Fearing Guns

Or, to use the older forms, Authoritarian Right-Wing, or Authoritarian Conservatives.  I am curious what they mean with the "authoritarian" part. The big-ticket item, first off the conveyor belt, is that they want to limit or eliminate abortion. That applies less-universally to populists, I believe, but I think is still a general rule, so there's that. That is of course enough to brand them as Stalinists or Nazis, though the abortion policies of both Stalin and Hitler were more complicated than that. But what else? Hasn't the brouhaha over the last decade, especially the last two years, been about them not obeying the government enough? Or is the thought that they won't obey these Washington-elite governments we keep electing, but if they ever get in even marginal control* of government themselves they will not only quickly turn obedient, but insist everyone else do it too?

Teaching evolution used to be a hot-button topic, but even at its peak the insistence was that some sort of Creationism was at least co-taught as something frequently believed. I think they would have settled for "Just don't say anything bad about it, even slyly," frankly.  Doesn't sound that authoritarian to me.  Similarly in modern curriculum controversies, the objection to CRT-derived lessons is that it claims to be the only prism with which to view America. Teaching children to consider race as a possible or partial explanation for events would perhaps annoy some, but not to this level. 

The claim used to be that Republicans would let Big Business run rampant and do anything they want to the poor helpless schmoes, which was an equivalent to authoritarianism. Well, how'd that work out? Facebook? Twitter? Microsoft? Darn those conservatives.

What else?  Is it just feeling powerless when your tribe is not holding the whip hand?  And assuming that they will use the whip hand the same way you do if they get the chance?

I wonder about a more emotive, less-acknowledged cause. They are more likely to carry guns, and that therefore suggests that they must be authoritarian, or at least they could all do so more effectively is they ever got in power. They just feel authoritarian.

*When Bush had a 50-50 Senate, slight control of the House, and some conservative Supreme Court votes plus some justices who occasionally voted with them, the elite media wrote automatically about "controlling" all three branches of government, with that whole fevered appeal to the few stalwart remaining liberals holding back the deluge. Even when Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, it still felt to them as is the Republicans were dangerously close to assuming authoritarian power. I note also the general political slant of those who work for the federal government, which may matter more than any of the three branches anyway.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Sing, All the Earth

Yeah our family used to stop by stone cathedrals and do this all the time when the boys were young.



Actually, we sort of did a few times. We didn't carry video cameras though.  Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Death Numbers

It seems as if every weekend I feel encouraged that we are finally on the downward slope of deaths from covid, with only a few hundred per day nationwide, but every Tuesday the reporting numbers catch up and we are at 1500/day again. We all hold out hope that the Omicron* variant is the magic, killing very few but providing widespread immunity because its contagion seems to be sneaking past both vaccine and natural immunity at higher rates than the previous variants. The early information is encouraging on this, but old-timers didn't come up with the saying about counting your chickens for nothing. Things don't happen just because we want them to and they fit our narrative. 

The prediction that the rates of infection would head north in the cold, because Northerners would now be indoors while Southerners can go outdoors has sorta held up. Because states have different rules for what is a covid death, the death rate per million is not an unassailable number, but the counts aren't that far off.  It's not as if one state is reducing or adding to its count by a factor of two, or even 50%. We are talking about 10-20% reductions or increases at the extremes. What you see printed is a rough estimate. Also, the statistics-keeping portion of the CDC seems to be more reliable than its labs or its attitude. Agencies don't act as a unit, as I know from having worked for one. The left hand seldom knows what the right hand is doing. 

But Northern New England and the Pacific Northwest, which have had the lowest rates, along with Alaska and Hawaii, have been seeing terrible numbers for a month, perhaps now abating...we'll see. Pennsylvania continues to do poorly, and North Central has been uneven but generally worse. I think Florida made an enormous mistake opening too early by a few weeks, but the strategy of targeting the oldest and other vulnerable populations for getting the vaccine and enforcing distancing and limited contact seems to have been good, as they have done well through the fall, despite having an elderly population. I don't get why Arizona is passing everyone in death rate. The Mississippi River and Gulf Coast states have had terrible numbers which are only somewhat better.

To remember when reading the news, because people are trying to sell you bridges out there: when you see reports that the vaccinated are dying at higher rates it is important to correct for age (which those reports never do) - the older and more vulnerable have considerably higher rates of vaccination, so those vaccinated people doing all that dying, to convince you the vaccine is worthless, are older with more compromising factors.  When you compare 30-year-olds to 30-year olds and 70 year-olds to 70-year-olds the effect not only disappears, it hugely reverses. Secondly, when sites try and tell you that even people "following the rules" are getting the virus, so that means the rules aren't any good, they are misrepresenting what has been claimed from the beginning.  Distancing, vaccination, and even masking (somewhat) reduce your risk.  No one ever promised you otherwise, and to claim they did is to be, um, dishonest Glenn. One of the reasons we wanted to strangle covid in its cradle was to reduce the risk of new variants. Now that we have new variants, the claim is that "We were never told about this."  Yes you were.  I said it here.

But, as I noted, we may have hope if Omicron is less deadly and spreads widely enough to force the others out - in time. But chickens...hatching.

*I never knew until this week about those names for letters in the Greek alphabet. Big O and Little O - O-mega and O-micron. Right in front of me, unseen.

Not Really Children's Books

I first read the Chronicles of Narnia in college in the early 70s. I had an appreciation even early on that Lewis "tackles difficult theological questions" with skill, as I would have put it then, and indeed for decades after.  I had only vague thoughts of anything more specific.  But reading them again two years ago and thinking about them with special regard to theme this year in preparation* for my adult Sunday school class on forgiveness, I see some specificity that I earlier missed.

In The Silver Chair, Lewis refutes Freudianism specifically (the Green Lady), with side trips to supporting a high view of scripture ("remember The Signs," in Deuteronomic fashion) and even weaknesses in Spinoza and Hume. In The Magician's Nephew, Nietzsche on the lips of Uncle Andrew and Queen Jadis is refuted ("a high and lonely destiny" and higher versus lower moralities - I can't tell you how much this quote frightens me), the universality of Natural Law shows up in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (plus Plato in guest appearance), and syncretism is exposed in The Last Battle, along with, well every heresy in the history of Western Civ, frankly. Lewis was apolitical in the immediate sense throughout his life - he took no newspapers and did not want to be bothered. But legitimacy of rule is a theme in every one of the Chronicles. (It is prominent in Tolkien, an anarchic monarchist as well.) There's more, if you want to look at the other volumes.  It's fun.

Lewis's first work of fiction was The Pilgrim's Regress, from which I learned a great deal of modern philosophical thought in condensed form. It has flaws and clumsiness, but it is perhaps the strongest echo of the Narnian Chronicles in his other work.  And every work of Lewis is present in every other, it seems.  The threads between each are numerous. He rewrote P's Regress, but for for children two decades later, in fairy story form. He is providing answers and armor for children against dangerous thinking long before they will encounter it directly, while they are only seeing the indirect effects in their schools, their media, and even (gulp) in their churches.

The over-obviousness of the Aslan/Christ resurrection symbolism in LWW bothers some adult readers, and I thought it was too much myself on first reading.  But I was studying theater and literature at the time, with Christ-figures hidden behind every bush, as far out as Christopher Robin and King Lear, and was looking with jaded adult eyes already, so likely that's not fair. Yet as one follows this series that recedes, and one can see Aslan as God the Father or as the Holy Spirit in other volumes. The Trinity is underplayed and interwoven. Further, even in his own day Lewis noted that readers did not pick up the obvious Christian symbolism in his adult Sci-Fi Ransom trilogy, and that has certainly not improved in ours.  An anecdote from one of the professors who teaches a CS Lewis course. At a Christian college even, a young woman told him she could tell that the scene at the Stone Table was important and it reminded her of something, but she couldn't put her finger on it. "But can't you think of someone else who dies but then comes back?" he asked. The light dawned.  "Oh, right! Gandalf!" (I would give 30% credit for that answer on a test.) So overobvious to me, but mixed with the Norse, Greek and Roman, Celtic, and even Arabian mytholgical references, and geared to children, I long ago decided to withdraw my objection. The biblical themes are first among many, not exclusive.

These are not children's books.  They are adult books written in a form children can access.  Sometimes Fairy Stories... etc. They are an introductory course in unlabeled philosophy.

*My preparation seems to consist of reading stuff and thinking about it a lot, but not so much deciding on presentation.  Probably not the best approach.  Not a real teacher's approach.

Noel, Noel, Noel!

 


Condescenion

Listening to CS Lewis podcasts and reading their material, I note that the seem to be very nice people, and have wonderful things to say about each other with specific examples. It does descend into time-wasting fanboy material at times of how lovely it was when Walter Hooper invited them over for tea, but that is a complaint for another day. There does seem to be an unfailing graciousness for each other. 

Yet everyone they talk to or about is a literary-minded person: a writer, an academic, a researcher. Lewis himself wrote very little about such people in his books, though he spent his career with them.  He writes about his gardener, or RAF pilots he spoke to, or the church sexton, or people he met on the train. His graciousness extended beyond his set, and reportedly those of his literary set who were not his intellectual equal also. He loved discussion, disputation, argument with equals, but his every description of it is how convivial that all was. 

It is from Lewis I learned about the virtue of condescending, in the older sense, of the greater coming down to greet the lesser. When Plato writes he uses homely examples that even common people can get some grasp of. Jesus is the highest example, of God able to condescend and become man. It is a mark of greatness. We notice those who are rude and insensitive to others they meet who they decide are unimportant and consider it revealing. 

What to make, then of Tolkien being publicly more testy, even though he also carries a reputation for graciousness? When an interviewer asked him what makes Lewis tick, he replied "We are not machines. Human beings do not tick." Which is absolutely true, and perhaps a good corrective to anyone asking such a question to think more clearly.  Yet it is not very gracious. There are several similar stories about him.

I have met others who display easy graciousness to those who might be thought of as lesser - doctors of high reputation who would happily chat with those such as I, or learned clergy who easily explain difficult material to high schoolers.

I find I am context-dependent. I am quite contentious anyplace I feel I have to elbow myself in to be heard, and am impatient with those who will not engage properly in discussion.  This includes most of the blogosphere, especially other sites. You would not find me thus in person, even with people making irritating pronouncements that have no good basis. Yet there are live situations which reveal me as disputational as well, especially public gatherings where I consider the stakes to be higher, and particular bits of knowledge or points of view are getting short shrift and someone in authority is being too confident in their assertions. Because I know that others do not have the courage or ability to challenge these things on the fly, I consider it my job to do so. I was a thorn in department meetings.  At trainings done by people from within the hospital I was helpful and supportive. I would run into them after and they would smile and say "Thank you for what you brought up at training.  We have such a hard time getting that across to people." Those who came in from outside were often bearers of authority, bringers of new policies and obligations imposed from above, often completely wrongheaded, and always at least ill-considered in some aspects. Bureaucracy. Government. People who were not on the scene making policy.  My department supervisors were appalled and embarrassed when I would do this. A few explicitly said that "guests" should not be treated that way.  Yet they weren't guests, they were representatives of little tyrants, and being "polite" to them looked indistinguishable from looking afraid. 

I suppose the flip side is that one could view me as showing off. No one ever said that, but it may have been thought.

So gracious in some places and not in others. I was great friends with housekeeping and cafeteria staff because they were easy to know and did not bring other agenda. Administration, not so much.  Agenda, top-to-toe.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

SPAM Change

My spam has changed from ED ads to earwax solutions.  I am wondering if I should feel insulted to be considered too old for the former now?

Merry Christmas

It is odd that "Merry Christmas" became offensive to some just as its becoming entirely watered-down and innocuous was complete. Until about 1980 it was just the standard well-wishing, and few even among the nominal Christians had any conscious thought that it meant, "I want you to have a joyous religious holiday celebrating an important event in spiritual history." It was generic, in that if a person replied, whether in humor or irritation "I'm Jewish," the reflexive reply would be "Oh? Well Happy Hanukah then," with the intent of "Same thing, didn't mean to be insulting." That the specifically Christian history was regarded as generic may be the bulk of why people were offended - their little pushback against a majority culture that had assumed too much about itself.

Odd that "Merry Christmas," rather than becoming even less Christian - like "good-bye," or "God bless you" now carries a touch of aggressiveness about it. Whether one says that or "Happy Holidays*" is now a cultural statement. Come to think of it, both could be any of a few distinct cultural statements:

"This is what management told us to say, it's policy."

"This seems the safest thing to say these days."

"I want to make sure no one feels left out."

"I am emphasising that we should not say Merry Christmas" 

and likely a few others

Versus

"This is the traditional greeting, and I like tradition."

"There's still a lot of us Christians and we'll say it anyway."

"I really want you to have a spiritually uplifting season."

"I like announcing in little ways that I follow Jesus."

"I haven't really thought about it.  It's just what I've always said."

There are often shades of a few meanings in any one person's usage.

Those of ill will assume the worst about others. Those of good will assume a better meaning either way. "Peace," in an early Christian context means "agreement, accord," related to pact more than "absence of war." Ereine in Greek refers to the presence of something, not an absence. 

So Peace on Earth to those of good will. (Does that imply "The rest of you can take a hike?" It's hard to tell these days.)

* "Season's Greetings" occurs largely in print, not speech.

Love Languages

Quote passed along to me: "In Massachusetts we don't say 'I love you,' we say 'I'm stopping at Dunkins. Ya want anything?' and I think that's really beautiful."

Almost as true in NH, less so in Maine. Not so much in VT.  I don't know much about how it is in RI, but I'll bet it's strong there. It's humorous, but there actually is some clear insight into culture in that one.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Mr Tanner

 I have posted this years ago, I believe.  I always tear up at this one.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Sondheim

I had liked Sondheim a good deal when American Musical Theater was still in my blood. I particularly liked the story that as he was writing lyrics for "West Side Story" and Bernstein wasn't finding his efforts quite right that he decided to do the cheesiest, most over-the-top lyrics for "Tonight," just to show Bernstein what dangerous road he was head down...and Leonard wept, saying "this is exactly what I was looking for."  So Sondheim knew what he needed to do for the rest of WSS. When I first heard this I had done the show myself only a few years before (I played Action, who disappeared in the movie, but is a big deal in the play) and was a touch offended, as I liked the lyrics to that and other numbers from the show quite a bit.  I still chuckle over I like the island Manhattan...Smoke on your pipe and put THAT IN! from the cynical Puerto Rican character played by Rita Moreno in the song "America." Yet I gradually came to see the point. It's a bit much.

But when I did tech for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and my best friends and a girl I had a crush on were in that production (Glenn Close was not, that time) I was still thrilled at the wordplay.  I grant that it is from an older era, the Cole Porter/Noel Coward style where the internal rhyme and surprisingly topical references kept escalating in a "hold my beer" fashion, so that the naive Porter put Mussolini in "You're the Top" until his friends insisted he had to take that out. But still, it's fun.

Not until I went to a summer theater production  of "Into the Woods" 10-15 years ago did I feel I had eaten too much candy. My brother was doing lights, when I mentioned after the show that I thought the lyrics were a bit much he nodded and said that Sondheim was "showing" off by making a sexual gesture, if you catch my drift.  I thought that was apt.  Yet even in that show, there was much that was good.  He did some later shows, which I know nothing about, so I don't know if he continued down that road he sneered at Bernstein for fifty years earlier. 

That one negative was powerful enough that was anti-Sondheim until quite recently.  Yet that is unfair. He was immensely clever, far better than I could pretend to be for even a single verse, and if he got a bit full of himself at times, well, so did Porter and Coward.

So this is where he lost control, perhaps, and if you are going to hate him, you might start here.  Certainly, the repeated Into the woods! Into the woods! Into the woods! is hard to sit through. But I think on balance even here you will find it remarkable.



Friday, December 17, 2021

Gaudete

This was the first song I heard from Steeleye Span.  A keyboardist we tried to fit with in college, Bobby McConnahay, worked at a record store and told me to come by to listen to something.  He knew his mark.  I listened and was entranced. I loved the implied sound in the "Below the Salt" recording, of the monks processing in, singing the central verses, and then out again.


 

Ch: Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Ergo nostra cantio psallat iam in lustro
Benedicat domino salus regi nostro
The chorus is Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is born of the Virgin, Mary.
Notice the similarity of "Gaudete," rejoice, and our word "gaudy." 
Same root, and worth considering if you want to really rejoice.
It is 16th C or earlier, from a collection of Scandinavian carols  
Piae Cantiones
.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary: rejoice!
 
The time of grace has come, This that we have desired;
Verses of joy, Let us devoutly return.
 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary: rejoice!
 
God has become man, Nature marveling;
The world has been renewed, By the reigning Christ.
 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary: rejoice!
 
The closed gate of Ezechiel is passed through;
Whence the light is born, Salvation is found.
 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is born of the Virgin Mary: rejoice!
 
Therefore let our gathering, Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord: Greeting to our King.
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/gaudette-rejoice.html
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
The time of Grace has come, which we have waited for
Let us devotedly render Him joyful songs
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
God has become Man, and Nature is astounded
The world has been renewed by the reigning Christ
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
The closed gate of Hezechiel has been crossed
From there the Light has risen, Salvation has come in
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
Therefore, our congregation, praise Him in brightness!
Bless the Lord! Greeting to our King!
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/gaudete-rejoyce.
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
The time of Grace has come, which we have waited for
Let us devotedly render Him joyful songs
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
God has become Man, and Nature is astounded
The world has been renewed by the reigning Christ
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
The closed gate of Hezechiel has been crossed
From there the Light has risen, Salvation has come in
 
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
Rejoyce, rejoyce! Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary
 
Therefore, our congregation, praise Him in brightness!
Bless the Lord! Greeting to our King!
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/gaudete-rejoyce.html

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Election Fraud

Via Althouse, the AP has done an encompassing investigation and found that the provably fraudulent votes were not numerous enough to change the election results in any state.  The AP has a leftish bias - we will return to that presently - but I suspect they are approximately correct. I think even if this was slanted that people recognise there is a limit to what you can overlook and pretend is fine.  Yet there are two issues here and always have been, and I believe conflating the two causes us to see the issue wrongly.

If there are mistakes, whether by incompetence or design, then those are a problem for elections in and of themselves. We should want to get things as clean as possible, and perhaps just as important, not have any appearance of chicanery or incompetence. People need to believe it's worth voting. So whatever the final total, there were clear appearances of error, and identified places where error or cheating could have occurred. Were these exaggerated by people who were certain that there must be widespread fraud who believed every rumor?  Sure. But there were things that even I shook my head at, thinking "this has to at least look better for the sake of our mutual sanity."

Whether Trump was robbed is a separate issue from whether things were done correctly.  He certainly conflated them, as did many of his supporters.  And opponents. Look at the AP article, which also focuses on the "does Trump look bad" aspect rather than dividing the two issues. That may be sexier, but it's not good reporting. (I don't want to make this messier than it has to be, but the issue above could itself legitimately be split into two, reality and appearance, but I don't think that is necessary here.)

Voter ID is an excellent example here.  Apparently Voter ID laws don't favor one party over the other in the total, even though conservatives are certain those would help them and liberals are convinced their voters will be cast out. So it may be mostly symbolic to insist on ID, but it is a symbolism I strongly approve of, whether it helps my side or not. It gives some reassurance that everyone is trying to do their best here.

For the vote totals there is the issue everyone seems to be most focused on,which is counting up the votes and seeing if Trump had the election stolen from him, was blowing smoke, or some of both.  The final count is all they see. I have problems with that. There are Type I and Type II errors - that is, denying someone their legitimate vote and giving someone an illegitimate vote are equally bad. Whenever we are filtering voters, we want to reduce both types of error. There are also no guarantees that votes that smell bad all went one way. Especially when it's just incompetence, who knows who will benefit? Also, what people believe - even very smart people who get paid lots of money to assist campaign strategy believe about which side a policy favors - may not be accurate. You could make good cases that both Republicans and Democrats have been adopting tactics they thought would work that have blown up in their faces, so why not voting as well? We take educated guesses that suspicious activity in highly Democratic districts likely favor Democrats, yet even at that, do they favor them 55-45 or 90-10? If 10,000 suspect votes are at issue, it doesn't mean "those 10,000 votes could have swayed the election" if the margin of victory was 8,000.  In fact it means it almost certainly didn't. Just because it might technically be enough votes doesn't mean there is any reality in which that actually happens. Incompetence is messy and cheating doesn't work as well as the cheaters hope.

I hoped that at least one state was shown to have been stolen (as Kerry stole Wisconsin) just to get everyone's attention to take election cleanness more seriously.  I think we got some improvement this time, but I'm not sure how much.

Moral: Everyone should live in NH or VT.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Wyman Christmas Letter 2021


Sprightly Trundler

Ben married Jen Crouse in April in a what was nearly an elopement it was so sparsely attended because of Covid: couple, pastor, witness. They later had a reception in New Hampshire. Early in their courtship she had referred to an opossum quickly crossing the lawn as a “sprightly trundler.”  That phrase convinced David, “We have got to get her into this family. Never was woman born who fits Ben so well. Sprightly Trundler!”  She is a children’s librarian – that checked a lot of boxes for us – and drinks tea like Tracy. They are redoing many portions of his house that has endured his gentle but oblivious ownership by for years.  Her eye is better than his. Meaning, she notices things that need to be done.

You Are Now Free To Go About the Country.  But Not Norway.

It was nice to dash out to Houston and then Anchorage in May to see the new daughter-in-law Jen and John-Adrian and Jocie’s newest daughter, Bella, and for all of them to come to NH in August for the reception and camping. But Chris and Maria are still under heavy restriction in Tromso, thus out of reach.  We have zoomed the whole family with regularity, so actually see them more this year than in previous years. Not the same, though, as you all know. He is still working with fancy cars and she is working fulltime and grad school. They are hopeful about being able to travel come spring. Both the older two Alaska girls like to run, and Aurora especially to run and run and run more. I see cross-country in her future. Quinn turned six and is at that highly quotable stage. So, adding her in, plus Jen, we have more fascinating conversationalists.  Just what this family needed. We spent 30 minutes on our last zoom offering up ridiculous names for the new cats in Texas. Kyle was in Massachusetts and re-enlisted in the Army Reserve for a year’s deployment to El Paso, though that looks unlikely now.  He has been taking training and certifications in the EMT/Medic/Firefighter categories, which he finds suits him well, even though the specific niche isn’t clear. He keeps his head in emergencies.

Reunions

We are reunioned out. In October we went to William & Mary’s, which not only had two sets of classes because of Covid, but also the postponed convocation of the class of 2020 and the dedication of a new building. Thousands of people we don’t know and don’t care about

cluttering up the landscape. We had not been for decades.  We did buy Colonial Williamsburg souvenirs and stayed with old friends on Cape Charles. Our advice: the formal events are not that fascinating. Much better is relying on the informal networks of classmates inviting each other, getting to see people we had genuinely missed seeing. Then in October we had a memorial service for Swede Nelson, a long-time choir member, which brought in musicians and singers we knew from the 80s and 90s.  Then in October we had David’s 50th High School reunion and even a small reunion of Math and Chemistry guys from Manville dorm at St Paul’s 1970.

Tell Me a Story

Now that we are in just-about full retirement, we have moved on to the august-sounding Final Arrangements. We bought a plot and have ordered a bench in a section of Pine Grove that used to be entirely Greek. We have long since recorded preferences for memorial services. Caskets are up next, it seems. I have toyed with the idea of having “Tell Me A Story” engraved on the bench, because it does fit both of us. We haven’t done it, though.

At this rate we will be finished Christmas 2024, her junior year of High School

I am reading Lord of the Rings aloud to Emily, as I did to her father multiple times when he was growing up. Accessibility is more difficult when one is not in the same house. We finished Book One and “Flight to the Ford” this summer and I asked Emily if she remembered when we had started. “Week Six at Pilgrim Pines.” (Precise child.) That was a year ago. I calculated that at this rate I will be finishing up Christmas of 2024, her junior year of high school. A friend looked at me seriously and said, “And then you’ll have to start on Sarah.” I did the math. That project would not finish until Sarah was off to college. So, I have to up my rate of reading to both, and start in on The Hobbit with Sarah straight away. I have forgotten many of the voices I used to use, and am less good at them.

Not To Be Used As A Scooter

As we started composing this, we were both in the second half of recoveries of planned surgeries, but now both have covid. So, it’s all recovery, all day now. Tracy had a little wheeled platform with emphatic directions “Not to be used as a scooter!” But how could you not? It looks like a great scooter. The brakes ain’t much, though. Her foot is better, my sight is better. We should be okay.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Influence of the Rich

This is frequently misunderstood, for decades on the left, but now on the right as well, and even the libertarians, who should know better, dammit. Start from this interesting though not radical article in City Journal. The rich do have outsized influence within the narrow domain of their own industries in which they are rent-seeking and trying to get government protection.  Hence the shift over my lifetime of large businesses, including banks, from supporting Republicans to overwhelmingly being Democrat contributors at this point. The tipping point was actually decades ago in the Tip O'Neill era, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

But because they seldom focus their energies outside of their own narrow interests, they don't affect the larger culture anywhere near as much as is widely believed. A few decide to devote their fortunes to more general causes. They do have common interest in tax and inheritance legislation and general policy and can rally around this.  But mostly not. Numbers showing how much "wealth" the 1% have regularly overlook the transitory nature of the Fortune 500, the lack of liquidity this group has, and the actual beneficiaries of they contributions.  The Koch brothers were reviled for their libertarian (which means occasionally liberal but always counted as troglodyte conservative) causes, but at the height of their cash sendout, they were #6 overall, even when counted together. They were outliers among the liberal contributors, which is why they were hated. When any group has dominance, they very quickly want absolute control. (Sidebar: This is how you get HUAC and McCarthyism, which represented views which were majority but not fully dominant.  They then tried to make themselves fully in control, which was of course ridiculous.  The 1950's were not an age of conformity, but of ferment. The Adlai supporters loved painting themselves as an oppressed minority, but they were just slightly out-of-power. See the elections of 1958, which established decades of Democratic dominance in the house and Senate. It has been a common pattern to claim victimhood just as you are on the verge of assuming power and to wrap yourself in that flag forever. The name Clinton might occur to you.)

Power remains distributed in America, and in all market societies.  Only by moving toward rent-seeking, crony capitalism, corruption, and socialism do we get to concentrated power.  And of course, we have plenty of that in America as well. The free market is not the cause of that, but the only reliable protection against it.  Oh, and the internal morality of the powerful, which in Western societies has at least some value, or outgroups would never have any rights whatsoever and much of the Third World would still be colonies instead of independent. Even in the West you can't count on that, but it's something.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Trying To Overlook For the Sake Of...?

I have to credit Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks with showing me how Talmud works, that the comments boxing the scripture are part of a discussion, so there is no contradiction when they contradict each other. I wrote about "What is wealth?" a dozen years ago, based heavily on Rabbi Sacks teaching on the matter. I am grateful to him and credit him with being wiser than I.

There is is set of podcasts of his teaching that I tried out, as I am running my current batch into the ground. I am torn. In the course of one talk, he

1. Fell for the usual over-interpretation of Solomon Asch's conformity experiment, not recognising its limitations.

2. Recited the conventional wisdom about nationalism as the chief cause of international evil.

3. Repeated the CW on Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment without qualifiers, as if it illustrated a great truth. (It doesn't.)

4. Misunderstood Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled" in the usual way, as a paean to nonconformity. Frost intended a near-opposite, that we could not see the future and it didn't much matter which we chose, but we would all believe in retrospect our choice had been significant.

5. Attributed the outsized influence of Jews to their nonconformity rather than ability. I don't mind this one as much, as there is something to it.  Just not enough to make it quite true.

All this in a 9 minute podcast.  It's hard to listen to things like this stacked on top of each other like that.  Sacks is reciting what is the standard line believed by liberal intellectuals, particularly Jews, from 1970-2020. While that's understandable and not especially terrible or evil in a man who was a Jewish intellectual 1970-2020, it is distressing when his main message is nonconformity.  He actually displays entire conformity.

Yet all this was embedded in a lesson about Noah, who the Torah declares to be a righteous man, ultimately not being as worthy as Abraham, whose faults are catalogued in Scripture. Noah was personally righteous but did not stand up for anyone but himself.  He and his family were saved, but he deteriorates throughout the story and is ultimately an embarrassment.  Abraham, on the other hand, intervenes to resolve conflict with Lot's servants and his own without regard to his own advantage; he then defends Lot even when he doesn't need to; and finally intervenes even with God Himself for Sodom's fate for the sake of the righteous, and grows in stature throughout the story. Sacks uses this to show that this is the importance of the Jews in every age, to not conform and to stand up for justice.

It's an interesting interpretation and I am still chewing on it.  But I don't know how much I can take, even in 9-minute bits.

Ukraine

Gary Kasparov over at The Dispatch is pretty vehement about disagreeing with Fox News in general and Tucker Carlson in particular, about Ukraine. For the record, he likes neither what Trump nor Biden nor Obama has done about Putin, and I believe I recall he didn't like what Bush 43 did either. He doesn't have much confidence in Americans getting this right.

The best thing that could be said about Tucker Carlson’s love letter to Vladimir Putin on his show Tuesday is that it didn’t sound any better in the original Russian. It sounded much more like a work of translation than anything original, because we’ve been hearing it all from Russian state TV for years.
I don't pretend to be good at understanding international relations, nor when a firm approach versus a cooperative approach is better in dealing with countries which seem aggressive. I do have a few things worth noting. There is a strain of conservatism that sees Putin as a strong leader whose primary interest is in what is best for Russia, which we should generally respect as a self-interested party we "can do business with," as Margaret Thatcher once said of Gorbachev. If he is ruthless, that is regrettable, but frankly, we've seen worse, and we don't have to get into a standoff over these things. I have no special insight into Vlad, but I think that is never the way to look at dictators. They may start out as concerned primarily for the nation they love, but that goes south, quickly or slowly.  Ceausescu was likely not just blowing smoke when he stated he wanted Romania to be great in the late 60's, and Saddam Hussein was probably sincere in his original desires for Iraq's place in the world. Even those such as Castro, who wanted "the people" to be able to protect themselves from the rapacious capitalists, can be seen as something other than a person with a desire for power. With someone like Hitler it is harder to tell, as he was already paranoid when he started. But certainly his speeches played to that sentiment of Greater Germany, and that is what attracted people.

But unchecked power makes people desirous of control over ever-greater territory, whether the physical terriotry of other people's countries, or the internal territory of the daily lives of citizens, and this leads - inevitably? - to paranoia. Also, people doing everything you say, or even things they think you might have hinted at, or they suspect you will be happily surprised at rather necessarily builds arrogance and entitlement. So I don't buy the idea that Putin is just trying to do what is best for Russia, because his actions against his own people speak against that. He is not merely fending off the implied aggression of NATO, whatever else is motivating him. Russia as a whole tends to be paranoid, in its international affairs, and Putin fits that picture.

I don't know what to do about any of it.  There as been a suggestion that we at least be prepared to use nukes.  Sure, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Gower Wassail

 


One of their earliest recordings. Very heavy on bass, Stratocaster, and vocal harmonies in those days. That was what first attracted me in the 1970's.

Immediate Gratification

If you look on my sidebar at the moment, you will see there is a Quillette article about patterns in superspreader events, which looks promising to me.  But if you click through, it will be "not found."  It likely won't take that long to fix whatever few letters they entered wrongly on the link and we get to read it, but I am frustrated.

Update:  It is still not up.  I suspect it was an older article, which would of course be less interesting now that we have much more information.

How spoiled I have become. I was just writing to my new daughter-in-law about how hard it was to find articles and books at all, when I sought certain titles in the 1970's.  You had to find a library that carried that journal or magazine.  You had to know which used booksellers might have connections and knowledge in particular areas, and if you didn't live in a big city, you had to make a special trip to Boston to chat with a guy-who-knew-a-guy about your topic. Or really embed in the network of used booksellers in your region so that you could travel out to Henniker or Portsmouth and see what they had.

I don't think I could comfortably go back to the world of my youth, never mind Victorian or Medieval times. Better to just read about those and pretend.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Daughter Long-Shot

There was an outside chance of a final child coming to us, a 16 y/o girl who is a distant relative.  Her sisters (separate household) were a similar long possibility a half-dozen years ago. This one would have been more complicated, because we would have to ask for special permission for her to live in this 55+ community. But things have reportedly calmed down in California, and she is not coming.  Her oldest sister, who is 30 and has been caring for her (father invisible, mother died three years ago) thinks that the fear of being sent to New Hampshire was part of her shutting up and straightening out. We had made the offer as a kindness, but whatever works, I guess.  I can see why going to live in an old people's community in a frozen place with relatives who come well recommended but you don't know might not look like much of a deal for a SoCal girl.

I said "final child." That was an assumption.  We thought our third and fourth were final children, but God had other plans. I admit I would try hard not to take that call if God were paging us again.

Long Covid

My taste is back, my congestion seems about normal, maybe a little sub-par, I am uncertain whether I feel chillier or more tired than normal, but it's not bad. My blood pressure has not gone back to normal.  I am concerned about this. It's not good.  Even I have overly-focused on death statistics, tending to ignore those things that might take five years off our lives over time, which is a real consideration but easily forgotten and buried. Especially by those who want to forget and bury it.

My wife's congestion is almost normal.  Her sense of smell is coming back. She is more worried about her foot surgery recovery at this point.

A word about the recent New Hampshire bad numbers, of which I am a part. Yes, there has been some moving north/moving into new populations of the Delta virus, and places that have done well up until now (NH, Maine, Western MA) are seeing high case rates, hospitalisation rates, and death rates. I have disliked the triumphant crowing in some corners over this from places which feel they have been unfairly accused since summer. The simple facts remain that it will take a long, long time for our death rates to reach theirs - we are still in the bottom few states overall - and our increased rate is still much less than the high previous rates in other places. And frankly, it's really ugly to go there. 

Will we end up being one of the worst states that made the worst decisions?  Possibly.  I don't think you'd put any serious money on that after looking at the numbers.

Monday, December 06, 2021

This Is Water

"A lot of these suicides are dead long before they pull the trigger." That was an arresting line.

He displays some biases that irritate me, yet he at least has some awareness of this.  Many people who don't share those annoying biases have no awareness that they simply have other annoying biases.



Wasted Time

I remember there was a year or two that I liked diagramming sentences at least a bit.  There id a puzzle-solving aspect to it, and it appealed to my sense of putting things in order.  I had one junior high English teacher who was particularly fond of the practice. Like penmanship, not talking in line, and coloring Argentina in neatly, we were not told exactly why this thing was important. It was just known to be very important, part of your becoming an adult. I am not sure most of the teachers could have articulated the reason behind these lessons beyond the standard cliches, as that sort of thinking was not their strong suit. But if pressed, I think educators would say that it helped teach parts of speech - itself an overrated bit of knowledge - and gave some understanding of the underlying structure of sentences, which would be important for...for writing better sentences. I doubt it worked that way.  The children good at diagramming were usually also good at writing sentences anyway, so measuring the advantage would be difficult.

It is an excellent example of how educators used to think, and I believe still do. They can't measure the value of it and certainly aren't going to try, but they just know it's good for you. It's part of the knowledge that is handed down over years because this is a profession, and everyone here just knows it. We all feel that about the jobs we do until someone comes in and objectively demonstrates we are wrong and have to change our ways. They resist objective measurement.

I suppose it is possible to diagram any sentence if you lick the tip of your pencil and buckle down and keep working at it like a puzzle.  But consider the sentence "What the hell is that even about?" What are you going to do with hell in that sentence?  What are you going to do with even? One tries to remake the sentence in terms of the core pieces and the modifier and you get That is (even) about what (the hell)? No, it won't do.  There is nothing in the exercise that is going to teach you to write a better sentence or appreciate the structure of English, unless you are going on to the level of studying linguistics and observing language change. If diagramming and parts of speech is the best way to teach that, it can be safely learned then. 

Just one more reminder that the good old days of education weren't. (Diagram that. You have to put in implied words, even though the sentence is understandable without them.)

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Get Back

Let me refrain from going too long. I was born in 1953 and was pop-music precocious, following it closely from 1963 on. The Beatles were always fun but secondary for me.  I had a 45 of them singing "My Bonnie" with Tony Sheridan that I won at WMUR about that time.  It would be worth about $3000 now, had I kept it.  And I can't even blame me Mum for that.

I liked some songs.  I had friends who were Beatles fanatics. I don't think anything by them was in my church-basement coffeehouse sets, nor in my folk-rock college band's repertoire*. But I didn't hate them. Watching the clips on YouTube it dawns on me that what was so marvelously attractive about them was their humorous and affectionate interaction with each other. I enjoyed the movies "Hard Day's Night," "Help," "Yellow Submarine," and "Magical Mystery Tour."

And it was this, as much as the musical collaboration which was significant but not unprecedented, that was what was so enjoyed, and was thus so much missed when it went away. There was no other band's interactions we were even remotely aware of. To hear rumors that they no longer liked each other (except Ringo who was the perennial lesser talent who was nonetheless loved by all the others and loved them back), and they were going in different directions musically was devastating to their fans, who spun a hundred theories about why and how and what could fix it. They all had someone to blame. Usually Yoko, who is an intellectual and creative cipher, but really irrelevant to the story. No one did this about the Stones, or the Spoonful, or the Byrds, or the Kinks.  Cream, maybe a little.

And so, the perpetual longing for their return was almost like the longing that your parents wouldn't be divorced anymore and would get back together, and it would be Christmas again. If the focus on them seems outsized to those viewing outside who see them for their good but not great musical talent, it was this camaraderie that should explain it to you. And watching hem now, I like them better than their music, watching them fight through to produce that last concert and album. I like them.  I root for them.  I didn't then.

*This gets interesting. I played "Blackbird" in G-tuning solo; jumped in singing harmony on "Here Comes the Sun" on my friend Lew McGehee's  hard work; did a parody of "Rocky Racoon" in high school; and was twice part of one of those closing songs at a concert where all the bands come together for a final number on "Hey Jude." This from someone who supposedly didn't do any Beatles songs. They were so dominant that they took in even those of us who ignored them.

Zombie Theory

 Kubler-Ross Is Back! It has no supporting evidence for dealing with grief.  It's just this weird European idea that sounded plausible a few decades ago. There are no "stages" of grief that people go through.  They experience these feelings in no particular order over time, and return to them as circumstances suggest them. No cycle. No progression. Just a list of things people often feel when contemplating the loss of those they love.  None of it is false in an absolute sense. It just seems comforting to folks to think there might be this pattern which they can count on to bring them to the other side.  It ain't so. Grief is grief. It can be devastating and immediate, it can be very slow and complicated.

But it was one of those ideas, like Freudian psychology was to people who wanted to talk about sex but still sound intellectual, that caught the imagination, and now is apparently being pressed into service to explain any idea that people have trouble accepting right off.  As far as I know, there is no pattern to ideas we don't want to accept but ultimately have to.  I have had several over the course of my intellectual and emotional life, and don't see a clear progression even for this one individual.

The article isn't bad, really.  Some good thoughts about hard truths.  But Kubler me no Roths, thank you.

Counting Rhyme

Did you have this one, to choose who would be "it?" (or "out.")

My mother and your mother were hanging up clothes

My mother punched your mother right in the nose

What color was the blood?

(Green.)

G-R-E-E-N and. you. are. out!

Friday, December 03, 2021

Tanner Greer

Let me introduce you to Tanner Greer, who blogs at Scholar's Stage. I just listened to him on Razib Khan's "Unsupervised Learning" podcast about the American New Right and was very impressed, about both his recent historical grasp of the American Right 1950-2010, but what has happened since then as well. 

Razib has the most amazing guests.

Bob Costas On China

I have not been fond of Costas, but he is right here. (From Jonah Goldberg and The Dispatch)

In an interview on The Lead With Jake Tapper yesterday,  veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas gives a measured, but forceful, condemnation of the coddling of China by some international institutions and prominent athletes. Tapper asked about the Peng Shuai situation and why the Women’s Tennis Association and International Olympic Committee have taken such different approaches to it. “The IOC is in bed with China,” Costas said. “It’s very troubling, their affinity for authoritarian regimes. … Meanwhile, you’ve got not just the IOC, you’ve got the NBA, and you’ve got Nike, and various individual sports stars in the United States who have significant investments in China, where the sports market is huge. And some of those people are very outspoken—as they have a right to be, and maybe in general you and I would agree with their viewpoints—very outspoken and sometimes offer sweeping condemnations of their own admittedly imperfect country, the United States. But when it comes to China—perhaps the world’s leading human rights abuser given its size and its wherewithal—they’re mum. Very, very few have anything to say.” 

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter of Turkey, whose family comes into danger because of what he says about Erdogan, and dares not return there himself, just became an American citizen, changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom.  He is the one who who has been calling out LeBron James, who shrugs him off. That is the sports mentality that is dangerous.  If you are the better player, you think yourself above answering any criticism from lesser players. Even when you are a complete sellout who bends over for the PRC at every turn.  But you're The Man, you know, because you can score.


Thursday, December 02, 2021

Obituary

"A good guy to have on our side." That's a nice thing to make it into your obit.

Fred McGoldrick 1942-2021 (From the Washington Post and Legacy)

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Out This Year

Moving Up: The Beginner's Guide to Personal Finance. This is a person I know manages many things well, including his own considerable assets. In teaching business to undergraduates (he started in history, ended up doing both), he found there was a great deal of preliminary information they seemed not to have grasped. He considers this an act of rescue and kindness for those willing to hear.

For Wargamers: The War: The Pacific 1941-1945. Six years in development, the second in the franchise by this designer after his The War: Europe 1939-1945.

It's a different name, but the same author. Retired college professor who has long been a wargamer.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Coventry Carol

 


This one is tough to teach to children sitting in the back seat of the car, even with many repetitions over many years, and even if they have some ability. 

Trust me on this.  You may eventually consider it worth the effort, but...

We are now trying to at least expose the daughters of the eldest to this sort of thing, just so that they get some vague sense that not all Christmas songs are happy and cute.  In their later years, they will need to know that "Jingle Bells" is not especially sustaining when your spouse is undergoing tests for a possible worrisome diagnosis.  I hate winter/Santa songs masquerading as carols. To be fair, my wife finds them great fun, and requests them with sly grins when we choose in rotation. She bats her eyelashes just to spite me.

More Quillette

I remember her book 20 years ago and it was very influential for me!  Sally Satel on political destruction of good medicine.

Transgender Athletes

We have been here before. Quillette has what looked like a promising article, especially as it attached the street cred of Martina Navratilova to the essay.  Yet the very title of IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination Blah, Blah, BLAH! DAMMIT! tells you the conclusion it will reach. It's sort of like "The PRC discussion of whether the Tienanmen Square Protests were legitimate," if indeed any such topic could even make it to print. Please stop wasting my time. We know where the conclusion will land. Or also "The Instapundit Independent Forum on Whether Vaccine Mandates are Soviet Tyranny, Fascist Excess, or merely Unamerican Leftist Overreach." Yawn.

I would love to regard this competition document as a legitimate discussion of competing rights, which one side of this discussion keeps trying to do.  Yet the other side of this does not.  There are some rare but legitimate exceptions to the usual binaries about who can be called what, sexually. That has nothing to do with the bulk of the discussion, which is carried on by people who would like to be fair and reasonable versus people who have clear High-Functioning Autism or some form of OCD or Borderline Personality Disorder and a need to externalise all conflict to what horrible oppressors YOU are rather than face those demons about their sexual identity in their own souls. That is the Borderline dynamic, to externalise and get you to argue about things and fight, so that they can get some distance and root for a side rather than suffer the reality of their (very painful) disorder.  I feel terrible for them that they have these disorders and think I would be even more of a societal disaster than they are if I had to face it myself.  I am smart and would make you pay emotionally, just because I can, and I wouldn't want to face truth. But that's what's happening.  There is no legitimate intellectual discussion here.

Turner's Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome people keep being included to pad the numbers, but those kids believe they are (respectively) female and male from earliest ages.  They have no doubt. They are being used against their will in the discussion, and lots of them are pissed about it.  The political dodge is to try and steer them to the idea that "No, no, no! You aren't angry at us for using you! You are angry at those other terrible people who don't accept you as 100% right! You're on our side, really.  Now shut up and sit in the back row."

But there it is.  One side of this issue wants to discuss it, and the other wants to punish people until they get their way. It is rather like the last seventy years of Palestinian- Israeli discussion. One side believes there are two sides to the issue.  The other wants to just kill them.

Monday, November 29, 2021

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

 


Bethlehem

As Christmas approaches, I come again up against the tradition in Western Christianity that Jesus was born to poor parents, and rejected by the world around him. After reading Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes four years ago I came to view the Christmas story quite differently. These things are not in the text, and their popularity can be traced quite solidly to other Christian texts of the early centuries that were eventually rejected as Scripture.  Yet they persist.

I have found since that time that people have a deep attachment to the idea that Jesus was poor and rejected.  It has always been the Western fashion, accelerating over the last few centuries (I think not coincidentally with the rise of some economic theories), and especially over the last few decades, in which it is increasingly asserted that Jesus was a refugee - a category that is modern and related to nation-states and the idea of "asylum," rather than merely "going into exile to get away from danger." Yet it is not only those who have a suspicious political agenda who show their attachment.  It just seems to be part of the furniture in our culture that there was no room in the inn (there was no inn) and Jesus was poor, rejected, and abandoned.  

I don't particularly object to it.  I did just post Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band singing something with that sentiment.  We have read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud every December for four decades. I certainly don't find any evidence that Joseph was prosperous. He was a "workman" in a region where there were a lot of building projects, so he likely had regular employment. No more than that. People take umbrage because they believe the episode is a necessary piece of the Theology of the Cross, or an understanding of who Jesus was and who he came to save. If it's not in the text, it can't be necessary.  I think the Theology of the Cross can stand just fine on its own without any extra-textual support.

But more importantly, everything else about his arrival points to God giving reminders of his welcome into this world.  First Mary, then Joseph, then John the Baptist in the womb, then Angels, then Shepherds, then Simeon, then Anna, then the Magi. The world is secretly welcoming this supposedly unremarkable child at every turn. The rejection all comes later, not until well into his ministry. It is certainly prophesied before that.  But there isn't evidence of it yet.

Kaplan on Central Asia

Robert D Kaplan has long been brilliant on geopolitics.  I have read some of his books and should probably read more.  Here he reflects on what the US abandonment of Afghanistan means for the region, and ultimately for the world powers.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Space Exploration

Subtitle: We don't have a reason, we just wanna.

I was listening to entirely secular but very agreeable people discuss Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, NASA and the advantages of manned versus unmanned space exploration and had the overwhelming feeling that nothing has changed since I first started thinking seriously about this after reading CS Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet in the 1980s. There are important philosophical issues that should be undergirding any such discussion which are simply absent. It is not as if I am finding they are disagreeing with my premises so much as they are simply oblivious to any of it.

They discuss one possible motivation for much-more expensive manned travel and eventual settlement that humankind might somehow "need" this, because of environmental or geopolitical problems.  We might need to have a place to settle ourselves because we have rendered this world...what? Too dirty even though 8B of us are surviving here so that we have to find a way to get a few hundred of us off the earth to "rescue" the species? Whew. We got a few of us onto Mars or Europa just in time, eh? Mankind is saved! Or because the first moon landing was all about America showing its primacy, maybe a Mars trip could be a joint affair with America, Russia, Europe, China and India!  This would be about cooperation instead of competition and geopolitical warfare this time. And that would clearly be so much better for the 8B of us because...why, exactly? 

One of the participants actually did say "It's an interesting question whether we think spreading across the galaxy really is mankind's destiny."  What is this destiny you speak of?  Mankind has a destiny?  Who says?  Who gave us this destiny? If you think this isn't our destiny, on what basis do you think we have any destiny at all? These are frankly, the smartest and most tech-savvy and connected people in the world, and these questions don't even seem to occur to them. The discussion quickly reverts to the technical difficulties.  But even more worrisome, they seem to have some dim awareness that people might not consider this valuable, and always, always move immediately to "It's like the settling of the New World, or of Australia.  There were risks and not everyone made it, but it generally worked out." The question switches again from "is this morally justified" to "Will this eventually pay itself back?" or "But isn't this just a great adventure?" With the question of "why?" being quickly shuttled off to "You must just be objecting to the risk or the cost, and we just covered that."

The questions do not even occur to them.  For decades many of us have stroked our chins and said "All these teleological assumptions and moral justifications will have to be addressed sometime," but the reality is No they won't. It's not that these people aren't going to come to answers to these questions we find suspect.  It's that they aren't going to answer them at all.  They are going to Mars because they wanna. Any challenge gets diverted into irrelevant questions.

One interesting bit of this is to reflect this back to the exploration of the New World.  Those people and the settlers who came after are accused of many bad motives, such as seeking money or slaves.  There is some truth in that, probably.  There are also the justifications of Europeans trying to spread Christianity or Civilisation, which is now regarded as an especial colonialism and evil.  But I think we are overlooking what we see in front of us now in a similar situation. Some wanted adventure or to get rich, but most of the sailors and settlers just wanted a job. Shucking clams might have taken them instead if circumstances had been slightly different. Glory? Maybe a few. But mostly, people had no real reason at all. They just wanted to. Just like now.

Folks like us read CS Lewis and still debate what mankind's proper action should be,of the few hundred out of 8B of us.  I don't think it matters.  We can say until we are blue in the face that it is necessary to answer these values questions. I guess not.  All of these discussions are just spilling over with unquestioned values and...so? Does it change anything? They are going to do it anyway,and there will be some vague default answer for the underlying justification.  But mainly it's going to be "But we wanna."

Prediction

Here I am, ignoring the lesson I just wrote about in Worst of Sinners and giving you the prediction that a thousand other people could give, because I think it Should Be Heard More, while ignoring what might be the quieter, more specific lesson that I have actually been commissioned to.  But here it goes, and I will think about whether there is something I can bring that is not readily found elsewhere.

There is a new Covid variant.  Some people will be predicting that this is very, very terrible and we need to revert to strict cautions.  Others will insist that this is no danger whatsoever, but "they" want you to panic and control your life, so ignore them and go breathe on everyone. This will be the default belief of a subset of us/them/our noble lads/those evil bastards on the caution issue, and have no relation to any actual scientific data.  To the accusation "Well, they always say it's dangerous and scream we're all going to die" I would point out that there have been several previous variants - check the Greek alphabet - where there was no such prediction. So that accusation is false. OTOH, the desire to have one's worldview reinforced is very powerful, so horrible as it is, there may actually people who are secretly rooting for this variant killing people, just to show those others what poopyheads they are.

The most common type of virus mutation is more contagion, less virulence. So that's the way to bet, (All of you actually know something about this as I write, but I don't.  A neighbor tried to inform me but I waved her off.  I want my prediction to be clean.) And if so, then the calculations change going forward. It is never a good thing to get a disease.  Even mothers who take their children to "chicken pox parties" know it is a calculated risk, even if it is worth it. But more natural immunity versus very low death risk is different than Delta, maybe even something of a Delta reversal. But I will know more in a few minutes.  For now, your takeaway is to ignore all the screaming on both sides from people who made up their minds months ago about today's information.  You will be happier for it.  That is one of the bits of advice I actually am here for. 

Let's all take a Lamaze Cleansing Breath here, as a lovely social worker I used to share a team with used to say.

Support for Redistribution

Thanks to Richard Cocks over at The Orthosphere (JMSmith's site) for this paper out of the University of Edinburgh (lin and Bates 2021) about attitudes regarding economic redistribution, fairness, compassion, and envy.  Just for openers. 

Richard links to it as part of a larger discussion about associations of Leftism and Self-Interest.  He discusses AVI fave Jonathan Haidt along the way, though not much of it will be new to folks who have followed my discussions of him here over the years.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Maybe the Last Covid Update

I seem to be out of the woods.  My taste is still not right - things taste more sour than usual, but that is at least not life-threatening. I went to the market tonight on the tenth day. I do still have achiness and cold, and as happens when one is suspicious, I wonder whether every stiffness is some more dire symptom.  But I put in a short hike on the rail trail even though it is below freezing.

My wife is no better but no worse over the last two days. Tired. Hard to focus.  Hopefully on her tenth day on Wednesday she will be free enough to rejoin the rest of us Thursday AM.

Pictures of Matchstick Men

 I think of Lenny and Squiggy, unfortunately



Drawing Conclusions

In Bronze Age Weirdness I spoke about the ease with which we assign interpretations to the archaeological record. In the absence of written records, anyone digging up the Christian churches of Europe in the future would note that the entrance is usually in the west while the altar is in the east. It would be easy to conclude, and some early non-Christians did, that this has something to do with the sun and worship of the sun. There is likely something to this, but echoing the Jewish custom of facing toward the Temple in Jerusalem, and then just Jerusalem in general, is more clear from the record. Yet the unimportance is more important to notice. The orientation is there and common enough that it would seem automatic to conclude this must have been important to them. Yet there isn't much mention of east-ness or west-ness having much significance in Christianity in general in any era. It isn't in the creeds. No one seems to have split off from anyone else over the deal. It's almost entirely just leftover custom. Even though the Church grew up in many places where the orienting of buildings and customs to the sun was of enormous importance, so that we would expect that this would bleed over into our faith at every turn, it mostly doesn't.  A few places at the edges and that's it.

Many burials in groups in the Indo-European tree have both men and women lying on their sides, facing east. I read repeatedly that this means it was very important to them and likely had large religious significance. Well, maybe. Yet even if it had large original significance, there is no way of concluding definitely from that that a thousand years later they cared about any of the same things. In most cultures of the world, doing things "the correct way," such as getting married, getting buried, or celebrating Arbor Day is a collection of unrelated and misunderstood things. Brides in out culture did not originally wear white to signify virginity, but wealth. Daddy could afford to buy a fancy dress that couldn't be used again for anything else. (They often did, though, for christenings.) Who remembers that now? And why should they? It's recent, and maybe will change soon. First-time brides wear white, because that is the correct way to do things. Trying to dig too deeply into what this "means" for our whole society is ridiculous.

Worth remembering whenever they dig something up. Even very important rituals can have confusing, mixed meanings in our day, why not theirs?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

That Rule About Headline Questions

 Do you remember that rule?

The cover also puts me in mind of this post years ago.

Bronze Age Weirdness, Again

The interviewer was asking what new insight DNA had brought us about a particular find, in which a man's thighbone had been made into a flute. The archaeologist nodded "We could tell from the other burials that this man was the grandfather of the group, and further examination suggests that they had kept his disarticulated bones and carried them about. There seems to be another bit of him twenty miles away. They made the flute out of them nearly sixty years later."

"Fascinating! That really tells us quite a bit about the sort of society this was then, doesn't it!"

There was an uncomfortable pause before the archaeologist burst out into laughter. "It tells us that these people were nothing like us and we haven't the faintest idea what they were thinking."

"But we can imagine a way in which a people were attempting to show respect for an ancestor and carried his bones around...perhaps he had a special love for music and played the flute himself..."

"No, no, you're going at it all backward.  Once we have the data then we can start to make a story out of anything.  It's automatic for human beings to try and explain the world by making up some little story. You can make one, he can make one.  I can come up with a few immediately, because things like this happen all the time to us.  But it's all bosh. No one alive today out of the eight billion of us thinks of making grandfather into a flute. It's only in retrospect that we can create these tales. And if there's once thing we've learned in archaeology over the last two hundred years, it's that all those stories are going to be mostly wrong."