Sunday, April 14, 2024

Too Many Features

I am trying to reset the clock on the car. It is complicated, and you have to scroll through many other choices.  These choices include entering Grandma's Birthday, or your Anniversary, but when I finally get to the clock (Daylight Saving or Not, 12h or 24 hr clock) and change it and set it, it doesn't stay set.  It is likely something simple once you already know how to do it.  That's what directions in the manual are now for - not to tell you how to do something, but remind you when you already know. I used to see this at work when we were being trained on new software.  The directions are not the directions, they are reminders of the real directions, which don't actually exist in written form anywhere.  It's the equivalent of the old "You can't miss it" when people used to give directions.

I just want to set the clock.  Or with the phone, I just want to make a call or check the time and date. It's similar to going in and trying to just buy a cup of coffee.  I just want coffee, milk and a little sugar.  I can put up with half-and-half or cream, and a full sugar or no sugar if that's what you've got. Flexible. Just give me a cup of coffee.

Friday, April 12, 2024

James Jamerson

I heard Paul McCartney claim that before Jamerson, bass playing was pretty rote and unexciting. bum bum BOM BOM bim bim bum bum: repeat indefinitely. Mc Cartney got stuck playing bass because his guitar was so cheap and the others refused anyway, to hear him tell it.  In those days any guitarist could pick up the bass and be serviceable. But when he heard Jamerson, it opened up a whole new world to him.

There's good history about Jamerson for the first nine minutes but just after that you will start hearing the Motown music he played on and will likely recognise the lines immediately.  "Oh, that was that guy? Oh yeah, I know that. It's a great bass line."

Thr Problem of Pain - Unedited Appendix

In the All About Jack podcast there is an interview about disability which includes the original appendix by Robert Havard, CS Lewis's and JRR Tolkien's personal physician and a member of the Inklings. In all current editions the appendix to The Problem of Pain, written in 1940, reflects Lewis's editing of Havard's essay. The original has recently been unearthed and received more attention. Of particular note is that just prior to the book coming out Mrs. Moore's brother visited at The Kilns while deteriorating mentally.  Lewis sat up with him often as he became more psychotic, until he eventually had to be confined. Those who have read Perelandra may recall Weston's speech at the end, as the demonic spirit is gradually taking him over, "My God, Ransom, it's awful. You don't understand. Right down under layers and layers. Buried alive. You try to connect things and can't.They take your head off...and you can't even look back on what life was like in the rind,because you know it never did mean anything even from the beginning...Oh Ransom, Ransom! We shall be killed! Killed and pulled back under the rind..." The man had dabbled in the occult all his days, and Lewis thought this deeply connected to his growing insanity.  It had a profound effect on him (something similar is described near the end of That Hideous Strength), so when he edited Havard's appendix he cut out a great deal about mental pain. I have read Lewis's description of the man losing his mind before him, and it sounded quite biological rather than spiritual to me.  But then, it would, having witnessed such things for decades.

I wish Lewis had left it alone and let Dr. Havard's experience speak for itself. I don't find Robert's description entirely without fault either. I recognise cases similar to the ones he describes, but I am aware of many which do not look like it at all. The are the observations of a man who has seen more than most people have and thought hard about it.  But there is much more than could be said. I will not comment further. These are the thoughts of a very decent man trained in medical observation about a century ago, who was about to be a doctor in the British Navy during WWII. He would be about the height of what men might expect to see under all manner of suffering at the time. I think they are interesting in themselves, and in understanding what pain does to the human personality.

Pain is a common and definite event which can easily be recognised. Although the sufferer may attempt to conceal, distort, or even exploit his pain, its real extent can be estimated with fair accuracy. But the observation of character or behaviour is less easy, less complete, and less exact, especially in the transient, if intimate, relation of doctor and patient. So an attempt to estimate the effect of pain upon general behavior must. it seems, be subject to large inaccuracies. In spite of this difficulty certain impressions gradually take form in the course of medical practice which are confirmed as experience grows. In the next few pages, an attempt is made to describe certain conclusions selected from a multitudinous and unmanageable mass of detail. A short attack of severe physical pain is overwhelming while it lasts. The sufferer is not usually loud in his complaints. 

There is intense and obvious distress.  there are the physical sign of pain, pallor, sweating, nausea, even vomiting, and a characteristic facial expression which cannot be concealed and seldom be imitated. The sufferer is not usually loud in his complaints. He will beg for relief but does not waste his breath on elaborating his troubles. His whole energy is devoted to fighting the enemy within him. It is unusual for him to lose self control and to become wild and irrational. It is rare for the severest physical pain to become in this sense unbearable. When short, severe, physical pain passes it leaves no obvious alteration in behaviour.  It may have been met with courage and recognition or with rebellion and despair.

In either case, the patients seems to be little altered by it when it is passed.  Long continued pain has more noticeable effects. It is exhausting and is a greater trial of patience. Yet it is often accepted with little or no complaint and great strength and resignation are developed. Pride is humbled or, at times, results in a determination to conceal suffering. Women with rheumatoid arthritis show a cheerfulness which is so characteristic that it can be compared to the spes phthisica of the consumptive: But these examples of behavior due more to a slight intoxication of the patient by the infection than to an increased strength of character. They are a sign of weakness, of diminished will to activity. They are not necessarily examples of an indomitable will surmounting the weakness of a diseased body. 

Some victims of chronic pain deteriorate. They become querulous and exploit their privileged position’ as invalids to practise domestic tyranny. But the wonder is that the failures are so few and the heroes so many; there is a challenge in physical pain which most can recognise and answer. 

On the other hand, a long illness, even without pain attached to it, exhausts the mind as well as the body. It produces weakness and fatigue. There is no vigor left to fight with. The invalid gives up the struggle and drifts helplessly and plaintively into a self-pitying despair. He will be found quietly weeping, yet when questioned is unable to explain why. Even so, some, in a similar physical state, will preserve their serenity and selflessness to the end. The spirit shines more clearly through the weakness of the body. To see it is a rare but moving experience. 

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken”. Yet if the cause is accepted and faced, the conflict will strengthen and purify the character and in time the pain will usually pass. Sometimes, however, it persists and the effect is devastating; if the cause is not faced or not recognised, it produces the dreary state of the chronic neurotic who is bane to himself and to all with whom he comes in contact. Some, however, by pure heroism overcome even chronic mental pain. They often produce brilliant work and strengthen, harden, and sharpen their characters till they become like tempered steel. 

In actual insanity the picture is darker. The first sign of approaching insanity is often deterioration of character. In full developed insanity the character is completely hidden by the disease,which takes possession of the character so completely that the phrase "possessed of a devil" is graphically descriptive. In the whole realm of medicine there is nothing so terrible to contemplate as a man with chronic melancholia. To speak with him has all the effect of witnessing a high tragedy transferred from the stage to life. But most of the insane are not unhappy or, indeed, conscious of their condition. In either case, if they re- cover, they are surprisingly little changed. Often they remember nothing of their illness. It is impossible to form a a conception of what insanity means to the sufferers themselves. But to look after the instance is valuable discipline. It teaches gentleness and self-control. It induces a deep humility when it is recognised that reason itself is a gift which can be lost. The biological purpose of pain is to draw attention to something harmful so that it may be avoided. 

Frequently, as in physical or mental disease, human pain fails to achieve its biological purpose. It then becomes a grave disorder. But the adversity of pain provides an opportunity for the development of heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.  Any view of life in which heroism ranks higher than comfort must see that the disorder of pain when faced is less harmful when the result is good.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Turn Down Day

I saw this band's name on the WKBR Good Guys Top 30 list before I had heard anyone say it.  I thought it was pronounced Krickle. 


So many describe the eclipse as an awe-inspiring experience that I just have to contemplate why. There is a focus on the silence, the anticipation, the sense of being in a special moment of time.  Even some nonmystical friends seem to have been affected.

Here's my suggestion. The birds stopped singing because they are programmed to only sing in specific modes of light.  Therefore it was oddly silent. That's it. Everything else you are imagining is significant because of primitive man or our relationship to the heavens or whatever is just stuff you are adding in on your own. It's just birds noticing that the lights have been turned off, and they don't sing at night.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Giving and Receiving

For the real good of every gift it is essential, first, that the giver be in the gift - as God always is, for he is love - and next, that the receiver know and receive the giver in the gift. Every gift of God is but a harbinger of his greatest and only sufficing gift - that of himself. No gift unrecognized as coming from God is at its own best; therefore many things that God would gladly give us, things even that we need because we are, must wait until we ask for them, that we may know whence they come: when in all gifts we find him, then in him we shall find all things.

George MacDonald The Word of Jesus On Prayer #92. 

That the giver be in the gift and next that the receiver know and receive the giver in the gift. We know this even in earthly gifts. There has been a slow but pronounced deterioration in this over my lifetime. Indeed, it was already not very good when I was young. It was wonderful when my mother took her father's banjo-mandolin, with which he had courted my grandmother, and had it refurbished to give to me one Christmas, when I was actively in a band that played some country and bluegrass material. The instrument never lived up to its promise (it was a terrible idea for a hybrid), and I did not live up to the gift. 35 years later I found a better owner and gave it to him. 

I had thought that the ideal was that one gave a gift that showed you understood the recipient, and that the recipient in turn saw what the connection was that it was you who gave it, and that you gave it to him. The personal, communal, and interactive nature of giving and receiving was part of the process. It owes something to Christian teaching of the New People.  Whether it also descends from the Norse admiration for leaders who were great givers of gifts I don't know, but the value at least describes similarly.

Now we seem to be driven to gift cards more and more, as it is unclear what the person would particularly like or need.  We fight against it in this family, but it is a rearguard action.


I've Been at NPR for 25 Years.  Here's How We Lost America's Trust. (via Grim) The author grants them more objectivity than I would have - up until a decade ago or even later - but I might concede the point given his position and his obvious good will. I have thought that their fondness for the liberal POV was deeply tied to their style of reporting by anecdote rather than examining both sides. NPR Economic Reporting. Also, when some listeners identify as conservative, I wonder how many of those are only classical music fans or fans of the intellectual game shows, or of "Car Talk." It can't be zero. Those don't count against the political bias of the news shows in quite the same way.

Persistent rumors that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia over the election became the catnip that drove reporting. At NPR, we hitched our wagon to Trump’s most visible antagonist, Representative Adam Schiff. 

Schiff, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, became NPR’s guiding hand, its ever-present muse. By my count, NPR hosts interviewed Schiff 25 times about Trump and Russia. During many of those conversations, Schiff alluded to purported evidence of collusion. The Schiff talking points became the drumbeat of NPR news reports.

But when the Mueller report found no credible evidence of collusion, NPR’s coverage was notably sparse. Russiagate quietly faded from our programming.

Not the first time.

Old Sayings

They can make you feel bad in retrospect either way.  "Look before you leap," but also "He who hesitates is lost." Faint heart never won the fair" contrasts with "Give it up, dude.  She's just not that into you."

It all looks so wise in hindsight.  The chorus of Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler" - I have had people* assure me that this was an important lesson they learned in life, that they hadn't realised when they were younger. "You've got to know when to hold 'em...Know when to fold 'em..." Well sure, if you knew the answers in advance, the test is much easier, in cards or in anything else. What does that give you going forward? I suppose there is something to teaching the young folding your hand, walking away, and even running away can be respectable responses sometimes, because the young tend not to know that.  But they are going to learn that just from their biology slowing down, without any old sayings or songs.

It's just fun to sing, to be a little world-weary and pretend you have gained great wisdom. I do it all the time.

It's like listening to fans or even baseball managers bemoan "Well, with a few more timely hits we could really get something going here." Yep, that's right.  If your whole team could hit .400 with a little power in clutch situations, your won-lost record would probably improve. So how are you going to do that?

*Okay, people working the overnight shift, so maybe I should be applying a discount here.

Monday, April 08, 2024


I was Mendel in the show in the summer of 1972.  this song moved me more than any of the others, and that is still true.

So how does this fit with the Nostalgia Destruction Tour, eh?

Personality and Environment

 Personality Similarity in Twins Reared Apart and Together 

Heritability was a stronger predictor of personality traits than environment, but there was some role for environment on two of fourteen traits. From 1988.

Solely environmental models did not fit any of the scales. Although the other reduced models, including the simple additive model, did fit many of the scales, only the full model provided a satisfactory fit for all scales. Heritabilities estimated by the full model ranged from .39 to .58. Consistent with previous reports, but contrary to widely held beliefs, the overall contribution of a common family-environment component was small and negligible for all but 2 of the 14 personality measures. Evidence of significant nonadditive genetic effects, possibly emergenic (epistatic) in nature, was obtained for 3 of the measures.

As expected.  Genetic Additive, Genetic Nonadditive, Shared Family Environment, and Unshared Environment were compared.

On Pitch

 No one ever complained that the flutes were too sharp.  This generalises.

Spiritual Dryness

I am quite familiar with this.  The enthusiasms of the faith have long vanished, except for the joy of harmony in the music and being able to sing with the saints of God, plus an occasional intellectual insight that I might read or hear. Very occasionally, God will tweak me with a smiling reminder that he sees me and hears me, and delights in giving me different rescues than the ones I asked for.

As Screwtape says to his nephew, a junior demon, "Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys." I think of Frodo and Sam in Mordor whenever I read that passage, and those scenes had much to do with my conversion in 1975. 

Or in the same book "Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." This is an idea that is genuinely frightening to an old man who wonders if his "spiritual maturity" is actually only resignation and false contentment. Getting to the True Self may require a consuming fire. You have heard it said that nothing is inevitable but death and taxes, but there is at least one thing more that is not only inevitable but inexorable, and that is the love of God. Unfortunately (though we hope and prayer ultimately fortunately), the inexorable love of God may be harder to bear in this life than death and taxes together.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Dogs and Wolves

David W Anthony, author and primary researcher for The Horse, The Wheel, and Language had a remarkable paper in 2017 The Dogs of War: A Bronze Age initiation ritual in the Russian steppes, about some rather grim details of how boys became warriors. I keep hearing that he is coming up with a book on the same topic, but nothing has shown yet. I want it. Dogs/wolves and imitating them shows up hugely in Indo-European cultures, but also in some of the abutting cultures.

There is a new paper on dog domestication by looking at the genomes of ancient wolves Gray Wolf genomic history reveals a dual ancestry of dogs 

"What emerged from this exhaustive genetic investigation was a nuanced picture of canine ancestry. While early dogs from diverse regions—Siberia, the Americas, East Asia, and Europe—shared a common genetic heritage with an eastern Eurasian wolf species, those from the Middle East, Africa, and southern Europe exhibited additional genetic contributions from a separate population related to modern southwest Eurasian wolves."

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Received Pronunciation vs Original Pronunciation

There is a lot of nonsense written about how things were pronounced in Shakespeare's plays, mostly based on people having imprecise ideas of how the pieces fit together in time. If something is "old," then someone is going to announce that it was "in Shakespeare's day" even if it was in 1812 and only halfway back to his time. It is the same vagueness that causes people to imagine that Henry VIII, Robin Hood, and King Arthur were all about the same time, with the thought they might possibly have known each other.* Sometimes times even more recent or more remote than that get shoved in, so that just before WWI or Romans in togas might be considered contemporaneous with one of the characters mentioned above.

Yet we can know Elizabethan pronunciation in London with fair precision. We can tell from what words rhymed when the changes from Middle English to Early Modern English occurred (key item Great Vowel Shift), and what compromises printers made in response to the variations they heard around them.

So from about 13:00 to 17:00 in the above you can hear the prologue from "Romeo and Juliet," first in Received Pronunciation, the newscaster English in Southern England, then in Original Pronunciation, researched with precision by David Crystal, followed by his son Ben Crystal, who reads here.

So now you know. This would be very much the time period of the Authorised Version of the Bible, which we know as the King James Version. 

*Robin Hood would be much closer to Henry II, who would himself be a little more than halfway back from now to King Arthur, when there were no Henry's at all, not even in France or Germany.

The Minstrel Boy

There is a graphic violence warning for a reason. But it just might be the best version of an already powerful song. Culture and art build on themselves with uses in different contexts. This one echoes two previous centuries of use.


 Brought forward from December 2006.  Edited today.

I had an entry under my soon-to-be-indispensible Underground DSM-IV which noted that "when someone challenges your credentials, no credentials will be good enough." This originally came from listening to patients challenge their psychiatrist's advice by loudly and emphatically noting "But you haven't had any training in psychonutrition!"

I am expanding that to a general rule for life. If you are in an argument with a socialist and say "I used to be a socialist," the demand for your credentials means the discussion is over. Nothing you say will be accepted as a credential that you were, in fact a socialist.  If you are arguing about bridges and say "I have a degree in engineering," it will not be the right kind of engineering somehow, even if it is, and you've been designing bridges all your life and won the "Best Bridge Design" award 3 years in a row.

Today's was my claim that "I work with the poor." Well, a lot of people work with the poor, at least part of the time. Merchants work with the poor. Lots of government officials work with the poor. The police and ambulance folk work with the poor. It's not that odd, really. But when someone wants to make a point about the poor - as I did on two blogs today - facts can't be allowed to get in the way.

I don't claim expertise in most of the subtopics about poverty. But sometimes people make assertions that anyone who works in the biz knows to be untrue. Experts can go wrong in many ways - usually by getting some particular set of ideas in their head and fitting everything into that box. Credentials aren't everything, and they are not all just "years of schooling." But taken with proper humility, they should mean a little.


We had an earthquake up here, barely noticeable as usual.  We actually get many more than most parts of the country, but because of the stability of the plates in general, they are all small. With the eclipse coming up on Monday, people have taken to pointing out that through most of history and certainly prehistory, the two that close together would have been considered a warning of the end times. One wag suggested that for amusement, you could stay inside all day and leave random clothes on the front lawn.

Friday, April 05, 2024

How'd That Work Out?

Ethan Strauss says his political philosophy is how'd-that-work-outism. He was relating it specifically to legalising gambling, and the US not looking at what happened in Europe, with a longer tradition of legalised gambling that seemed to work pretty well when it was highly regulated and not so well once the guard rails were off. The US has gone straight to few restrictions, and there are many more problem gamblers among the young than previously. He thinks we should reduce the aggressive marketing for a few years and see how that works.

It sounds so practical and wise. But government never works that way. Whenever you pass something, you should know that you might have some version of it forever, regardless of whether it works or not.  So do what you think is best, don't think you are going to get to run some legislative experiment.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Women's Tribal Christmas

Reposted from December 2006

It is not original to note that while it is women who do most of the complaining about how much food there is just lying around, begging to be eaten at the numerous Christmas festivities, it is also women who organize 90% of it and bring 90% of the food. Ditto the small cute objects exchanged, followed by complaints about how cluttery the house is and how out of control it feels. If women ran the world, we would spend a great deal of our time exchanging small presents and feeding each other snacks.

It's easy for men to criticise and complain, I suppose, because we don't have the instinct/training.

I think this is another one of those tribal thingies. While training and social grace are clearly part of this, the universality of it suggests some biology in the mix. Interestingly, while it occurs everywhere among women, it is not universal among women. A large percentage of women think this is how life should be, another group goes along with less joy but recognising some obligation, and a further group actively dislikes and resists the custom - especially that small gifts part.

But if you work in a situation that is predominantly staffed by women, as both my wife and I do, half your house becomes filled with plates of cookies, small decorative items, and written greetings. The other half is filled with similar items that the women of the house are preparing to go out of the house, to communicate to some other friend or family member that you, too, do matter. You are one of the tribe. My wife compared it to potlach ceremonies of the Pacific Northwest.

It may be one of those instincts by which women make sure that everyone in the tribe has something to eat, and some declaration of group acceptance is signified by making sure that no one feels left out.

Outdoor Boys

This is a YouTube Channel with millions of subscribers that I watched several episodes of about a year ago when I binged on outdoor survival videos.  He makes millions from the channel. My son in Nome is on the one that is coming out Saturday, taking him crabbing for King Crabs. I will post it then. I've got the advance copy and am seven minutes in to the 40-minute video.  So far I've seen John-Adrian for two seconds delivering an auger. He is bundled up, but I recognised his voice just from the "O-ho" greeting. Did you know you can have a Romanian accent just saying "O-ho?"

JA comes in very briefly at around 7 minutes and at the end, but mostly from 15:40 to 20 min, the one with the red upper snowsuit, pulling up crab after crab. So the kid from the small Transylvanian peasant village under communism will now have over 8 million people worldwide watching him catch King Crab in Nome. A good metaphor for how the world has changed in his 39 years.

Regarding the channel in general, it's clear that part of the charm is that he doesn't hide his mistakes or the things that go wrong. They get up too early so there's not good light to shoot the ptarmigans.  He gets the pickup stuck in the snow and has to get tugged out. He puts a lot of focus on what gets eaten, just as JA's wife Jocie does with her TikTok account with a million followers.

Piles of Rocks

We are going to Ireland for ten days next month and choosing what to see as we travel from town to town. There are lots of piles of rocks, including prehistoric monuments, geological oddities, and ruined abbeys. We like all those types of piles of rocks, but may find we've had enough of them by the end.  

We will also see some CS Lewis sites, a couple of museums, and some castles and historical buildings that are not (yet) piles of rocks. I like looking at landscape in general, but as I will be driving on narrow roads on the wrong side I may not get to see as much as I hope. The planning of this was so labor intensive (we are staying in villages instead of cities) that I have to wonder if a tour would have been wiser. I tend to think I won't like going by someone else's priorities and schedule, but at the moment it's looking pretty good.

Female Blowhards?

It occurred to me this morning while talking to a neighbor that I know lots of blowhards. All of them men. So, does the tendency just express itself differently in females, do we just have different names for it in females, or is it truly only a masculine phenomenon?

I can think of some females who spout off about subjects on which they know little, but somehow we don't call them blowhards.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Links From 2006

From my discussions of the American Tribes (which I had variously named Arts & Humanities, Science and Technology, Government & Unions, and four or five others) I came to see them as very much tribes in the anthropological sense, and started to tie this in to Evolutionary Psychology.  

I had forgotten about this TAHIRA, a particular Diversity Trainer at work. She seemed motivated by envy that CEO's make more money than she does.

Free Speech was on its way out, beginning with a liberal site deleting my negative comment.  Now they just don't have comment sections at all. I introduce the Iron-o-Meter for the first time.

When a real emergency arises, multiculturalism takes a back seat.  Or at least it did then.  Does it still?

It's shameful how much of the world's resources Americans waste, isn't it?

Some Urban Legends that turn not to be true, including a couple I was sorry to see go, like Ring Around Rosie being about the Great Plague. Darn.  That was when was still a reliable source.

It's probably better to comment here on any of them as no one but me is going to ever know about them there.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Hold On


Setting the Record Again

Elizabeth Leachman, a high school sophomore, just broke the national 5K record again. She starts out trapped in the middle, takes the lead in 20 seconds, and is thirty meters ahead of all the collegiate runners at the Texas Relays within a minute.You remember Katelyn Tuohy, who I have raved about the last few years?  Leachman is ten seconds faster already. If you want to skip to the fun part, she starts lapping nationally ranked collegiate runners like they are standing still at about the 12:32 mark. Lots of them.

AI Improvements

One of the difficulties in AI to date has been hallucination.  That is, if something sounds plausible according to the huge number of texts that have been generated over the centuries, it might pass muster unnoticed when an AI is asked a question. Steve Hsu offered as an example "Is there a United Airlines flight landing in Boston around 6pm tomorrow and are there still tickets?" The answer could come back "Yes, there are a few such flights every weeknight, and there are still tickets," even if there are no flights, because it is the sort of thing that could very easily be true and thus end up as a prediction and answer. Or, asking an online AI manual for your new software how to fix something, you might be told there is a dropdown menu under Help and it is the fourth entry, even if in reality there are only three.

A few startups claim to have solved this by moving the AI off the Large Language Models and restricting the answers to a specific set of documents, which can be adjusted. If your company has new software named Simulacrum coming out, you can train your AI to use only the documents on your computer that contain any of a couple of dozen words, such as simulacrum, software, startup, manual, etc. Sounds plausible.  I wouldn't know myself.  But for help desks, currently staffed by overseas companies with low wages in countries where lots of people speak pretty good (or even excellent) English, such as India or the Philippines, the AIs are about to surpass them in effectiveness, precisely because they can be restricted to a narrower group of texts, and will not be bothered about whether the program knows what John  Dryden, or even Spencer Dryden said.

George Floyd Protests

I point to them as the worst thing that has happened to America in terms of public comity in the past few years, on multiple fronts.

They caused police departments to go more lightly on dangerous areas and avoid ambiguous situations, resulting in more deaths of black people.

It established the precedent that liberals, especially black people, did not need to adhere to Covid masking protocols if they felt they had something more important.  This in turn made masking performative for liberals, a way they could show publicly and announce frequently that they were doing it more correctly and cared more than others, regardless of what they were doing in less-observed situations or politically high-profile ones. This increased the sense among conservatives that they were betraying their beliefs - just a little at first, but more strongly as time went on - if they followed protocols or accepted any government advice whatsoever.  It became a badge of honor to reject the advice of experts (always in quotes) and sneer that such things could not possibly be true.

It disabled, at least temporarily, much of the meritocratic argument in education, especially higher education. Those may recover simply because gravity continues to work, but there are plenty of examples of countries where bad ideas held on for decades because opposing them was dangerous. For the moment, DEI is ascendant there. The reason we hear about this disproportionately is because these are people who can think and express themselves, so they find platforms. There was a time in the not-too-distant past where you could go to Maggie's or Instapundit and find fresh examples of foolishness in colleges every day. Sure, there are a lot of colleges in America, each with many departments, but every day is um, rather frequent.


I have gotten used to British pronunciations in general, with accents on different syllables a commonplace, but somehow "figger" for figure still sounds uneducated to me no matter how many times I have heard it.

Saturday, March 30, 2024


I have taken to listening to and learning Psalms 120-135, the Songs of Ascent while I am out on my walks. I loaded a batch into my archives in a single post, and I will keep adding to it.

It is much easier to learn Scripture set to music.

Emotional Intelligence

There are instruments that purport to measure this, but they have yet to show that they are more than a combination of intelligence tests plus personality tests. Conscientiousness is an advantage for some jobs or activities, agreeableness for others, risk-taking or resilience for still others. IQ helps at least a little in just about everything, but sometimes the added advantage of a few more points is negligible. Sometimes discretion matters little.  Sometimes it is everything.

There are just too many poorly-correlated traits that might be called emotionally intelligent. The star basketball player or salesman might need to be a leader - except when the school hires a top-flight coach or the company is rolling out a radical new product that requires expert knowledge, in which case the emotionally intelligent thing to do is be a follower, at least at first. Is it emotionally intelligent to listen to your people, or to not be distracted by individual complaints and get everyone moving in the same direction for at least their 40 hours per week over the next four months? Answer: Yes., depending.

IQ tests identify a g-factor, a common factor, because people who do well on one type of cognitive test tend to do well on the others. This is not especially true of personality/emotional tests. There are people who are terrible at many emotional tasks, but it is really hard to be very good at both decisiveness and consensus-building, humility and confidence, or to be both phlegmatic and sanguine, to use older terms.  Moreover, there are sociopaths who understand other people very well, to our peril. Do we call them "emotionally intelligent," with a high EQ? It is certainly possible to balance these characteristics in wisdom - in fact, that is what we are all hoping to accomplish.

It is just so transparently a consolation prize for people who overvalue intelligence to begin with. "Smart" people are admired. just like the beautiful, and they want to be admired too. Their resentment at having what they think are their important virtues devalued that they try to shove them under the rubric of some kind of intelligence. But they are eating their own tails with this. Generosity and kindness are infinitely more valuable in an eternal sense, and people like them pretty well here as well. Don't cheapen them by trying to squeeze them in to some sort of  (blank)-Quotient knockoff. Reliability, discretion, (real) tolerance, compassion...why on earth would we want to elevate something ephemeral like being "smart" by lending real value to prop up cheapness?

Seek wisdom, and the Four Cardinal Virtues and Three Theological Virtues are a great place to start. If you hve those you lack for nothing.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Passing the Wrong Test

 Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

We know that after some delay, this is what happens.  Yet it seems odd to us that Peter could come so close, understand so well, be warned that something like this might happen, but just a few hours later, fulfill exactly the prophecy that he feared most.

I think Peter's focus was on the wrong test.  When they came for Jesus and took him away, Peter was unable to prevent it - and was even told not to prevent it - but he still wanted to do something. He decides to be the witness to what has occurred. Someone has to see this.  Someone has to be a witness and tell the others. Look at what he does, hovering nearby, edging closer, trying to stay within visual distance.

He knew this was dangerous.  He knew that to be exposed as a follower was to be in physical danger himself.  He told himself he didn't care about that, he had to force his way, or trick his way, or talk his way into a position to be a witness. Even that was a huge risk. He took that risk.  He did show courage. All the others had fallen away, but he was still there, still loyal.  The only one who dared. In his mind, he was passing the test, skirting the edges of danger and perhaps even death, in order to be the witness, the task he had set himself. He did pass that test.

But it was the wrong test.  Jesus had not asked him to do this. Peter thought that Jesus needed a witness - and God did bring good out that, it seems, by using the account later in the Scriptures to let us know what had happened. Yet somehow Jesus knew there would be witnesses enough. Peter's despair is from the realisation that he has devoted himself honestly to a task, but had not simply obeyed, and this had led to him denying his Lord.

Something similar but more extreme may have happened with Judas. I have read a number of interpreters suggest that Judas thought he was doing Jesus a favor by forcing him out into the open.  Judas had decided was was needed, and made sure it happened. Except...

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Acrobat Costumes

The originals of the superheroes which have survived often had costumes that they had to change into before they could perform their great feats. The costumes were often curiously like circus acrobat costumes from the previous era.

Their earlier feats were much more acrobatic as well, flying, swinging, twisting, somersaulting to land in just the right spot by surprise, ready for action. Superman and Batman have gotten more jacked as time has gone on, but early on they looked less like weightlifters, more like swimmers or gymnasts.  What were the capes for, anyway? Flashy decoration, as in performance.  Those capes may owe something to the more secretive superheroes as well, moving quietly through the shadows in disguise. The Superman could still lift enormous amounts of weight - heck, so could supergirl - but that was considered more of a magical ability like the X-Ray vision than an extreme form of what your best local athletes could do. The latter was more Caped Crusader stuff.

That doesn't seem to be why those costumes have persisted. They are clearly intended to display idealised sexual characteristics now.  Some of that was clearly present in the circus costumes as well - everybody's got to make a living, you know - but there was a clear functional aspect as well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Sadness of NPR Christmas (in 2006)

Reposted from December 2006.  I have come back to this many times, as it is one of my most-visited posts. It is some of my best writing, looking back. I captured something that resonated with other people over the years. 

I have no idea what they do for Christmas at NPR now. I suspect the mask is increasingly off.


Year-round, NPR tends to the bittersweet, the witty rather than uproarious, the world-weary rather than the cynical, the poignant, the melancholy, the wistful. These are the attitudes of the Arts & Humanities crowd, roused to righteous anger only against those who try and rouse them to righteous anger, charmed by everything but tending to observation rather than full-bore participation. NPR has the best describers of the vignettes of daily life, of which Garrison Keillor is the archetype.

Christmas kills them. They can access faith only via nostalgia, and that well soon runs dry. Real traditions include Mom, and going to church, and immersing yourself in that whole crowd of idiot relatives. Far better to have your Christmas carols instrumental, where the mood can grip you without the trouble of the lyrics. The programs at NPR are dignified, properly appalled at the deterioration of the season into commercialism and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer;" into the violent games or garish decorations.

This works well enough for that percentage of their audience that still holds to the Christian faith. We fear no nostalgia, and deplore many of the same things about the season. Instrumental carols and lights that don't blink are fine with us. The secular audience must be okay with this approach as well. Perhaps with NPR guiding the tour they can trust that however close the bus gets to the edge of the road it will not go over into actual religious assertion. We'll get out and take pictures of the view.

I don't have the same sense in my bones for what the Jewish storytellers are experiencing, but it seems much the same. They grew up slightly alientated from the culture's holiday, but having something of their own to build nostalgia around. Now they seem alientated from that as well. And those who had little or no faith tradition - they're trying to find something worth saving in all this. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe - it's supposed to be for weddings, but they try to make a holiday out of the same sort of elements.

Emotional distance has its advantages, and these makeshift Christmases don't seem to be tragic. There is a sort of courage about them, and shafts of real joy, and the nobility of those who refuse at least to be hypocrites. But story after story in December, as these deeply artistic and sensitive people try to capture the season, carries the theme of searching, of something missing, of arranging the dried flowers as beautifully as possible because no new ones will bloom.

Those of us who are believers are tempted to throw up our hands and say "Oh for Pete's sake! Relent for just a few days a year and allow yourself to be immersed in the faith of your youth. You'll get more out of Christmas that way. It'll do you good. Why is Jesus the one thing you can't keep?" But I think it is our own inattention to the season, our own taking it for granted, that causes us to think this way. We are so aware of how many things pull us away from Christ at Christmas that we have forgotten how dangerous it is for those outside to look in. They sense, as we should know but have forgotten, that to step inside might mean never coming back. If emotional distance does not bring warmth, it at least brings memories of warmth, with no danger of burning.

Monday, March 25, 2024


Bumped:  The bobbleheads have been found.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced today that the shipment carrying the Jagr bobbleheads for tonight's game has been stolen en route to Pittsburgh.

To which Son #2 observed "I don't know what's funnier, the idea that someone deliberately stole 10,000 Jagr bobbleheads, or the idea that someone just robbed a truck at random, opened a box, and discovered that they now own 10,000 Jagr bobbleheads and are going to be hunted down by the Pittsburgh Penguins organisation."  I mean, where can you sell them now?

"No matter what, you will not get in my way. But if it's you or those Jaromir Jagr bobbleheads, I will not hesitate. Not for a second." (A movie reference I do not get, but Ben and bsking's husband Tim assure me is perfect.  And they should know.)

The Triumph of Easter

The Triumph of Easter by Dorothy Sayers.  Second story on the PDF.

Also a Youtube Video 

She wrote in 1938, and it is about God's transforming evil rather than abolishing it.

Ilia Malinin

Ann Althouse carried this today, and I almost passed it by.  This is not a sport I am much interested in. I recall women (I'm lookin' at you Cindy Garman) swooning over John Misha Petkavich at the '72 Winter Olympics because of the new athleticism he brought to the sport, but I was unimpressed. Is that the best you guys can do? In the subsequent fifty years I might recognise a name or two. Like ballet, even the most athletic moves still have a touch of a feminine quality. The women are performing more like male gymnasts every year, so I always thought they were rather meeting in the middle. Fine.

I am glad I clicked through.  Part of it is the music, sure, and the design and progression of the routine.  But you have to be able to live up to that once it is put in place, and this kid does it.  He has that reckless got-energy-to-burn-sweetheart energy that girls get breathless over and older men nod approvingly at with a smirk. Well played, lad. Well played.  I think this will work out for you.

Icelandic Elections

"Iceland has a web page for the upcoming presidential election. You can go in and enter your name in support of a candidate. In an attempt to do so, apparently 11 people accidentally registered as candidates and are now running for president. Looking forward to the TV debates."

Yrsa Sigurdardottir on X 

AVI: I have always cared deeply for the Icelandic people and promise to work for them with every fiber of my being.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Quotable Chesterton

I asked for, and received The Quotable Chesterton for some holiday - a birthday, a Christmas before this last - and it has been lying around while I read other, "more important" things.  I picked it up today, and this was the first entry:


Though the academic authorities are proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to describe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern* State has educated itself in a series of ephemeral fads.

Well, that was so good that I thought I'd have another.


When modern sociologists** talk about the necessity of accommodating oneself to the trend of the time, they forget that the trend of the time at its best consists entirely of people who will not accommodate themselves to anything.  At its worst it consists of many millions of frightened creatures all accommodating themselves to a trend that is not there.

*This was a century ago

**I suspect we would identify this group somewhat differently now than confining it to academic sociologists.  Yet it will do, it will do.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

This Man Must Be A Prophet

 From Elijah the Middleborne on X:

Me to my wife, as she is putting on my jacket "Where is your jacket?" 

Her " I don't have a jacket"

Me "You are right to say that you have no jacket, for you've had five jackets, and the jacket you have now is not your own."

The Liverbirds

 Never heard of 'em

The German girls at the Beat Club have the same facial expression as the girls on Top of the Pops: sullen, bored, almost angry. I'm not sure what that was supposed to convey.

Links From Late 2006

A remarkable new treatment for depression - from Russia.

Christopher Hitchens explains Why Women Aren't Funny. Terri had a funny response.

Using Geography To Kill Time at Boring Meetings.

I look prescient, suggesting it might be good if Donald Trump were president for one year in wartime, as the Romans used to do. 

I speculate on the neurology of Insight and Misattribution.  I was doing this stuff for a living then.  I only partly understand what I said now.

Wyman Family Christmas Letter 2006.  We really are fascinating people.


I was noticing a change in rudeness as far back at 2006. Does this mean that there has not actually been any recent change, that online behavior almost inevitably promotes a deterioration in discourse, or that the recent change I have been noticing is just the modern tendency to rudeness because of no accountability simply penetrating deeper into society, including people who used to be polite?

BTW, that post includes a comment from Copithorne, who had trouble staying on the topic, as usual.

In my post "Not Their Tribe," I suggested there was some alternative motive which partly explains why the A & H Tribe is not supporting OIF. They might be loyal only to their own tribe, and not America as a whole, perhaps. I don't leap from this to say that they are traitors, or cowards, or selfish. Each of those, while possible, would require high levels of evidence. An actual traitor might well hide behind the principle of freedom to criticize the government. A real coward might adopt religious pacifism as a cover. But this does not mean that all who criticize the government are traitors, nor that all religious pacifists are cowards.

Friday, March 22, 2024


When you subscribe on substack you usually get a few trial subscriptions to give away, most frequently for a month.  That is usually enough to go over to the archives and pull out the things that are most promising to see if you like them. I linked to one of the few posts of his that is not behind his paywall back in February, about asceticism. Anderson is an assistant professor at Baylor, D.Phil Oxford, founder of Mere Orthodoxy and podcaster on Mere Fidelity, who writes a heckuva lot about Catholic theology for an evangelical. The substack it The Path Before Us, and you get his book if you subscribe.

I've got three free monthlong subscriptions if any of you is interested.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

NYT Games


Alex on X "The NYT is a game company with a news section."

More Susan

We have "The Problem of Susan, once Queen of Narnia," again.  I mentioned in early February the YA novel Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur.  You will remember that Granite Dad had ordered it and promised to read it and get back to me.  He has not done so. 

The CS Lewis Society also authorised a play by Kat Coffin called "Lost and Found: The Lamentations of Susan Pevensie." Doug Gresham loved it. Both works seem to have avoided going for the quick everything-works-out-just-fine plot and treat the subject in more complicated fashion. It will be staged in 2025 and they are hoping to have it live-streamed. It seems that people deeply want to see her in heaven, even if Narnia is lost to her as Eden is to us. That would be um, impressive for a fictional character. The theology of it seems a bit sketchy, but apparently there is a significant groundswell of Jesus, we have to find a way to make this work

My wife became so upset by the pressure that a character in a James Clavell novel was under in the 1980s that she prayed for him after putting the book down for the night. I had a friend who prayed that Gandalf would be okay after Moria.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Lutherans on St Patrick's Day


We were Lutherans, but not Midwestern Lutherans, from 1976-1986. I come from centuries of Swedish Lutherans on one side, and some of the culture did transmit. The most famous of the Swedish-American children's books was The Golden Name Day, by my Aunt Jennie, whose grave we still visit. But while my grandmother and her sisters were close to Jennie, they recognised that she had come from the more traditional side, where Swedish was still spoken in the home, and Jennie's father Henning was the editor of the Swedish newspaper for New England (though mostly New Hampshire and mill town Massachusetts, like Lowell and Worcester. The many Swedes way up in Maine on the Canadian border weren't so much connected to our people.

We were Swedish on special occasions, and this was true of Gethsemane Lutheran Church as well by the time we were there. The distinctiveness goes away more quickly in cities, because of intermarriage with people that you met in school or in the mills and shops.  Out in the country your whole high school is likely to be drawn from one or two groups, as Lake Wobegon is. So Lutheran traditions become closely associated with ethnic traditions.  This seems to be just the way we all are.  The Greek Orthodox Church has a yearly Glendi festival that is mostly food and costumes, not much Eastern Christian theology; the anniversary celebration of the Londonderry Presbyterian Church in 1889 had a previous pastor speak who lamented that the mothers in that day no longer baked the good Scots black bread that he felt was so important to developing character.  I don't think John Calvin would have much approved. The St Benedict Center out in Richmond NH is very much in the Feeneyite tradition of traditional Catholicism that is more mill city neighborhood than it is Anselmian or Thomist. 

So the traditions hold up better in the country but become ever more ethnic than religious, and Minnesota Nice becomes a theology of its own. Keillor was already nostalgic for a Lutheranism (even though he was himself raised Brethren) that was vanishing in the 1980s, and now the nostalgia is for people who even remember the nostalgia. Lutherans aren't very Lutheran anymore, just as Congregationalists and Unitarians aren't very Puritan, and Episcopalians aren't very Anglican. A lot of Baptists don't think much about baptism these days, and Methodists don't practice much Wesleyan method. Alot of Evangelicals talk more about bad news than good news.