Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Father's Legacy

Most of my readers go over to James's site at least occasionally, I believe, but sometimes I want to make sure something doesn't get overlooked. A Father's Legacy to His Daughters, from the early 1800s is linked there. It's quite a remarkable text, really.

Monday, January 29, 2024

The Usual Ironic Reversal

Whenever someone tells you "Such-and-such has become a punchline," they are telling you more about themselves than about the other person.  They wish the other person was a punchline, and are trying to make it happen.

It is low and manipulative and I hope I never do it. I used to when I was young and sarcasm was a second language for me. I do wince and wonder if I still do.

On The Other Hand

Okay, this one I'll give them, about even top-flight professionals falsely believing in the primitive, pristine, barely technologically survivable except for living in an incredibly rich environment tribes, in the Amazon all these millennia. The Lost Empire of Upano was undreamed of when I studied anthropology in the 70s.  Still lost, I guess. The evidence for Other Things happening in the deepest, most upper Amazon is becoming overwhelming, but even 20 years ago was resisted. Probably mostly by "male archaeologists" who still fancied that they were really cavemen at heart, but still, those guys had all the power, right? 

Using Lidar technology, the team uncovered a sprawling urban landscape, challenging the conventional image of the Amazon as a pristine wilderness. More than 6,000 rectangular earthen platforms, homes, and ceremonial sites hinted at a sophisticated society that predates any other known Amazonian complex by over a millennium.

6000 is a big number. 

And BTW, "The Lost Cities of Upano" sounds like a great show-stopper of a place to say you are going to visit. 

This Is News?

 Decoding Early Human Diets.

Two key burial sites, Wilamaya Patjxa and Soro Mik’aya Patjxa, about a mile apart in the Andes mountains, have become pivotal in reshaping our understanding of early human diets. Contrary to the assumption of an 80% meat-centric diet, the analysis reveals a strikingly different ratio — 80% plant matter and 20% meat.

Who had the assumption of an 80% meat-centric diet? No, really. As long as I can remember, I was taught that various societies, even quite early ones, had a variety of diets based on what resources were there to exploit. Some had mostly meat, some mostly gathered, lots of them changed over time as conditions changed, moving to agriculture then back to hunting or herding, with unclear lines between what constituted either, or for that matter, what was planned crop raising and what was gathering managed resources that one migrated to throughout the year.

And then there's fish, unlikely to show up much in the Andes. My recollection is that a lot of "early tribes" went to fishing grounds at set times of the year but gathered plants at others. 

The article blames "male archaeologists" for perpetuating the meat-myth, but I have to wonder if what they are really annoyed at are movies and children's coloring books and guys they hear in the market believing the wrong things about "cavemen," and they want to crush these myths to earth yet again.  I could be wrong about that, certainly.  Maybe there are lots of male archaeologists who are teaching tender young undergraduate minds that early cavemen were really macho and would barely touch a vegetable because those were for sissies. 

Or maybe it's time to blame the reporters again, not the scientists.

The Most Important Election

Whenever a politician tells you that this is the most important election in your lifetime, what it really means is that it is the most important election in their career. 

I mean really.  Norman Ranfos in 6th grade assured me that Goldwater was going to make us go to school six days a week but I thought we had fixed that. Will it never end?

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Bill Hayes Dies

 I missed this until Althouse picked it up. "Days of Our Lives" was Nana's second-favorite soap, after "General Hospital"

I liked the "risky chore" lyric. Not a writer who is staying up late trying to find the mot juste

My baby book says I sang this full-throated in the bathtub when I was 3 in 1956. No, this time I did not know the whole song.  I got the first verse right, and the rest of this was a surprise to me.

Snow Rule

I mentioned that it is the rising or falling of the predictions that matters, even more than the current numbers. We've gone from 3-6" to 4-8" and now 6-10" and we are still hours out. Those are not high numbers, but I don't dare look at the expected weight of it. 

Testing the theory again.

Hunt the East

There is a bumper sticker around here, "Ski The East," based on the long-common saying, and now an outdoor clothing company, I hear. There is a reverse snobbery to it, as even local skiers speak with wonder about how much space, and length, and just plain snow you can get by going out to Steamboat Springs or Aspen. The Eastern mountains are considered icy, unpredictable, and cramped by comparison. But such things lead to chips on the shoulders, and people here will talk about Okemo or Cannon or Sunday River as being "real skiing," while those in the Rockies are a sort of Disney Skiing Experience. Yeah, the weather and conditions are unpredictable here, which makes it harder.  That's the point, dude.  

Today I saw a sticker reading "Hunt the East," which I had never seen before. I'm not sure what the locals put forward as a superiority, but I'm betting that at least some of it is similar: cramped, icy, variable. I doubt that our moose are wilier or grouse better camouflaged. It reminds me that places have their own charm beloved by those who have to put up them, and these are not purely based on familiarity and defensiveness of attitude. In this case a divide between hunting the North and the South might be as dramatic as the longitudinal comparisons.

For those who have hunted variously, what else is different about hunting the East?

Saturday, January 27, 2024


She's like having an extra autistic child in the house.  Tracy mentioned getting an Iowa license plate for her list, and she-who-shall-not-be-named-aloud started telling us facts about Iowa.  Did we ask?

In her defense, I will post this again, as I am sure it informs her behavior somehow

Bardcore Paint It Black


The Proverbs 31 Wife

She considers her containers, and uses them efficiently.  Her structural visualization as an engineer's daughter allows her to discern what leftovers will fit into what tupperware. This will bring joy to her husband, who will rejoice that additional refrigerator or freezer space (and electricity) will not be necessary. She will point out his flaws with grace and wry humor, and affirm him even when her compliments are complete frauds and they both know it. She will be elected Queen of the May on a stuffed ballot box because of her husband, who will insist that all the mail-in ballots are legit.

He will say he is young and in love even when he is old, and praise her name at the checkout in the supermarket and the dry cleaner to the women there, that her reputation be great in the land, lo even unto Pinardville, Bedford, Manchester - and Hillsborough County as a whole. Her sons will rise up and call one of their parents blessed, though they will disagree about which one.

Magical Animal


National Christian Forensics and Communications Association

 NCFCA judging has taken up my last two days.  The first session was a little rough in the mechanics, as I didn't think they gave me quite enough information to start.  But very helpful people and by the afternoon session I was fine.  I ran into people I knew there - and all people that I liked! How often does that happen?

True to form, by the second session I had a tweak I thought would make things better. I always know better.  You should trust me on this. Before I go forward, this is the list for Impromptu.  A student is given two choices, thinks about the word or phrase for two minutes, then speaks on it for up to five minutes. Rather than make you guess, I will announce first that I thought these phrases would be much less well known to this generation of highschoolers than the previous one, and certainly the one before that.  Old guys like me picked these idioms. A younger person may have heard them and could likely work them out, but they would be more likely to be new.  Worse, that would be uneven, which would be a disadvantage for someone who got a more dated phrase.  Here are Thursday's paired phrases (I comment on the one the student chose):

Drop in the bucket vs Hands down (boy did not quite know the meaning of the phrase)

Go for it (boy knew the meaning) vs The best is yet to come

Glutton for punishment vs Take the cake (Girl told a charming story about taking a cake, but did not know the metaphor)

All bark and no bite vs Look at the bright side (girl studying to be vet tech, knew the phrase well)

Don't count your chickens before they hatch vs On the Edge (girl clearly intuited the meaning but didn't fully get it)

A hop, skip, and a jump vs. Sinking in a sea of self  (girl got the general concept.  The phrase is new to me)

Close shave vs. Put on your thinking cap (boy understood that it meant thinking about something rather than just acting)

Look at the unchosen ones. You might see why they were unchosen. I think I have heard myself use the phrase "glutton for punishment" in the last decade, but no one else.  The others I doubt I have heard in decades, though they were common enough for a long time.  And shave, chickens hatching, bucket? I only sort of get why they were chosen.  They must have heard the key words and known them, but the full phrases are very much dated.

It's got to be a disadvantage for a student that has never seen the phrase versus one who has. When I was in highschool, you could count on everyone having run across those above.  We might have still hung on for Now you're cooking with gas, or hitting the sauce, or cornball, eager beaver, head honcho - all recognisably unfair for today's students, but Tell it to Sweeney, handed you the mitten, let's blouse, or the bee's knees, though known to our grandparents and still appearing in older writing, would have been a tough impromptu phrase to draw even in 1970.

I'm not saying that today's competitive impromptu phrases should be drawn from Taylor Swift lyrics, but I think they need to be brought forward.

In contrast, in the other round I judged the students could choose between single words, and this worked much more equitably. Understatement, discretion, survive - all fair to anyone. I just have to mention here the older girl that chose curiosity. After her two minutes prep - no reference materials, just thinking and notes - she got up and told us that curiosity was ambiguous.  She told us about Pandora, including her origin, and her box and the consequences in that myth; moved to The Magician's Nephew, setting and summarising the scene in Charn, including the argument and the entire poem on the bell verbatim, and the consequences of that; then doubled back and told us about Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who discovered that Down's Syndrome was the result of a genetic abnormality and identifying it, clearly a good result of curiosty.  All in five minutes. I probably shouldn't give her name, but I will remember it and be looking for that one in the news going forward.  Blew me away, as we might have said a few years ago.

Friday, January 26, 2024


 People find Taize very meditative.  Much of their music is even simpler, if that is your preference.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Moral as Judging Wrongness

 The evolved functions of morality: From the Haidts to the Depths, From Aporia, an academic sociobiological magazine.

However, if one is trying to explain morality, a key phenomenon to be explained as illustrated by the definition and examples above is the observed empirical undeniable fact that humans judge some actions—occasionally inactions—to be wrong and have a concomitant desire for punishment. A moral judgment is a judgment of wrongness.

A bit lengthy, and it did not go where I expected.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Jubilate Deo

Protestants and Purgatory

Most Protestant sects hate the doctrine, believing that it violates the premise of "grace, not works, lest any man should boast." They are technically correct, and may prove right in the end. Yet I think that they do not understand the highest understandings of the doctrine and are criticising the abuse, not the use. From Psalm 85:10 - 

Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other


Love and Truth meet in the street,
    Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!
This gave rise to an 11th C (Jewish) Midrash that Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Peace are the four pillars around the throne of God - or also, that they are the Four Daughters of God, who argue before Him over each soul's* value, and if any of the four were not present (I am wondering what other business they might called away for, singly, not as a group, but have no answer) the trial could not take place.  Thank goodness they have eternity to work things out! - and our evaluations of each other here below should include the consultation of each as well. This is not that different from the simplified version in current discussion, Justice Vs Mercy. Mercy is repeatedly given the nod in the NT as the superior virtue, but I have argued before that Mercy has no meaning except in going through the concept of justice.  Just giving bullies what they want, letting evil men do as they please because "Hey, hey hey!  We're all about mercy here is not just foolish in a worldly sense.  We are, after all, often called to exactly that sort of foolishness. It is evil, and even as Paul says "Why not be defrauded?" Jesus tells the parable of the woman knocking on the judge's door in the middle of the night to get her due. There is in fact a lot of rather alarming Justice in the words of Jesus, even more than Paul, who got the reputation for making the gospel of the kindly Jesus into something harsh.  An outsider would read the texts and come to the opposite conclusion, frankly. Paul lets people off pretty easily sometimes.

So the idea of instantaneous grace is big among Protestants, weighing heavily on such verses as "Today you will be with me in paradise." Yet the idea of some necessity of improvement before we approach the throne of God, some removing of the sandals, some refining in the furnace of Judgement, some fear and trembling seems to be in order, and you find more than a little of it in the New Covenant.

CS Lewis suggests that we might even be asked to participate in this purgation, and we might be desperately willing to do so. The opposite extreme, of putting our feet up on the table and saying "Hey, Yahweh, baby!  Thanks for the grace, huh?  What's for dinner?" Seem a touch more offensive, I would think. To the Fundies who tell you that Lewis wasn't a Christian because he believed in Purgatory and insist "No, we didn't mean that! You are taking this to a ridiculous extreme!" I would say "You're right.  It is a ridiculous extreme.  How does it feel? Man up, dude."

Let me make it easier for modern sensibilities on both sides. If we focus on this Purga-whatever being about learning, of coming to understanding what righteousness and the presence of God are all about, that's going to make more sense to the education-centered cultures we are so immersed in.

I swear there was  short story, or a one-act play, or even maybe an essay I read years ago about a man who underwent a lot of unfairness and persecution, who could have cleared his name at any time by telling what he knew and turning other in but chose not to - for reasons he could not articulate early on but came to understand in the end - because the others had to come to understand their need to turn themselves in, had to painfully come to the resolve to do the right thing, and their guilt at watching him suffer for their sake was part of (I would say perhaps the only?) their self-conviction. Maybe I just made that up and wished I had the skill to write it, but it doesn't quite feel like that.

Let me give back to those popular Protestants the allowance that popular Catholics have not much focused on those higher understanding of Purgatory themselves. The stereotype of works and some almost pointless suffering for 10,000 years in order to be just marginally ready to get into Heaven was not that far from their conception. What the conception is now I don't know, and I don't think most Catholics know either, as I don't see that they mention it much these last hundred years.

*You can see that the Christian idea of Heaven and Hell have slightly penetrated Jewish theology at this point, though I would caution anyone not to assume that this wa linear and that they would have picked up something like our concept "just a few years later" or anything like that.  There were varieties of opinion, mutual condemnations, reformations and counterreformations, just like the rest of humanity has, and we are all-too-familiar with in the Christian church..

The Three Daughters

Once upon a time, there was a man who had several sons, who he brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  He did reasonably well, yet he always had the nagging thought that the particular skills and and lessons that he had to teach would have been better bestowed upon daughters. And so, though he was late in life, he asked God to grant him a few female children. His prayer was answered, and he named the girls Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy.

She's Leaving Home

Our sixteen-year old granddaughter has started collecting vinyl. We gave her Sgt Pepper's for Christmas.  This one is still my favorite, still evocative.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Ellis Island

 No One's Name Was Changed at Ellis Island (via Maggie's and Marginal Revolution).

I agree with this, both the data and the reasoning.  But strange things happen. As I recorded in The Disappearance of Iwntge Henken, Tracy's aunt came from Holland disguised as a boy, bearing a ticket with that inaccurate first name. So the study holds up as technically true.  No officials in an American port changed his/her name. But it was false to begin with.

From the River to the Sea

From the WSJ Which River Which Sea - College students have little idea and change their minds when the see the reality on a map.

"Landkarten, mehr Landkarten," said Dr Faust.

Flynn Effect

 More recent generations are showing bigger brains. Via Remieux Recueil, and ACX, two very reliable sources - but that's not proof, just confidence building.

Chesterton the Poet

Chesterton died in 1936 at the age of 62. CS Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, TS Eliot, and JRR Tolkien all wrote about the event and the man. Only Sayers knew him out of that group, as she was a founding member with him of The Detection Club in the late 20s. I have read that each of them mentioned his desire to be remembered primarily as a poet, though I can't find a reference for any of them. All of them loved The Ballad of the White Horse in particular. (Also a favorite of Grim's BTW)

Yet GKC was not remembered primarily for his poetry. He is remembered as an apologist, a mystery writer, an essayist, and biographer. Lewis wished at first to be a poet, and one could at least half-heartedly make the same claim about Tolkien, who keeps trying to be a poet of many sorts in LOTR. I have to wonder if the sincere attempt at being a poet is one of the best trainings for being any other type of writer, even if the poetry doesn't quite work.

With that in mind I give you the choice of Dale Ahlquist, founder and president of the American Chesterton Society, for his favorite Chesterton poem. It brings tears to my eyes.

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

Chesterton, the Apostle of Common Sense

As in the time of Nehemiah (Chap 4), when the rebuilders of the wall carried both a trowel and a sword, Chesterton tells us that we are in such an age today. We need the sword - which he identifies doubly with both Reason and The Word - to defend the builders in their task. Yet one cannot build anything with a sword. It takes the humble trowel to do that.

The point of loving your enemies is not to defeat them but to convert them.  You want them to betray their side and come to yours. Chesterton, beloved by both George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells, exemplifies this as well as anyone in the 20th C.

When GKC was asked what he thought of Wells giving up writing science fiction in order to write history and socialist tracts, he thought that "I fear he has traded his birthright for a pot of message."

On the way to his wedding, Chesterton bought a glass of milk in honor of his mother now that he was being transferred to the care of another woman, and a gun because now he had a bride to protect, even though he had no desire to protect himself.

Grim, I thought that if your motorcycle travels ever took you to any of these places, coming up noisily with braided beard might be a destabilising but ultimately useful moment at any of the Chesterton Academies. Especially if you were brought in as a sub by someone who was in on the game and marched to the front of the class. It looks like there are over 50 now.

Club Schadenfreude

There is a commenter over at the Orthosphere who delights in telling Christians how deluded and stupid they are. Others engage with him, and I did in previous days but no longer do. He is one of those most irritating of opponents in that he verges on rationality, and does occasionally present a very good argument, leading you to think that he might be persuaded, if only I could find the right entry point or the right words to smack this SOB with. Someone who is a better man than I might succeed at this, but I have abandoned that cause long ago.

Yet about a week ago a new thought occurred to me, and I have turned it about in my mind.   He is a throwback. His approach was common in the New Atheist movement, or the Humanist groups of the early 2000's. Scott Alexander of ACX has written about how this group which he invested too much of his intellectual effort in just became intellectually lazy, emotionally vicious wokesters. The smart ones are gone, and the smart ones will even tell you quite clearly why they are gone. If you listen to Stuart Ritchie, Tom Chivers, Razib Khan, and even (subtly) Tyler Cowan, all of whom are in my sidebar, you will hear that they also came out of such groups but grew disillusioned. Someone else can write that up if they like, and I don't doubt that someone has. Yet clubschadenfreude has been a keeper of that flame, and there is a sort of honor in that, especially in a group that includes trad Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Western Canon, Augustinians, and the like.  He is a dinosaur now, even though he is a late dinosaur whose arrival is remembered with annoyance by the brontosauri.

We appreciate the sentiment, if not the thinking and arrogance.

Two Related Quotes by Lewis

Reposted from June 2006.  But this reposting comes close to the real purpose of going back over such material - to spur thinking now.  This post put me in mind of a Chesterton quote, and then another. Then a third, and eventually four, though I may break one off for separate treatment. Those will come up as quick as I can, which unfortunately is not that quick at the moment. Stay tuned.

I went into blogging in hopes of early predictions of permanent knowledge, as many of these early posts will show.  I think I was just hoping to show off and be able to smugly point out later "See, I was on this all the time." But the beauty of the medium, for the True Bloggers (Hahaha!  I love that! So much nuance is captured in that ironic title), has been the interaction in the moment of many people who attend to very permanent things. Rather like an Inklings meeting, where the entire weight of the Western Canon sits at one table and makes astoundingly brilliant observations, interspersed with bad puns, prayers for great sadnesses in each other's lives, and petty squabbles they have with their schools, publishers, and their intellectual opponents (and sometimes each other.)

This is a small group. Yet because of that I know even many of the lurkers by name and biography, and occasionlly I remember to treasure you all.


From The Screwtape Letters, Chapter XXII, in which the demon Screwtape becomes overexcited while berating his nephew and pupil, Wormwood:

Meanwhile you, disgusting little-

(Here the MS. breaks off and is resumed in a different hand)

In the heat of composition, I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest through my secretary...

And from The Great Divorce, Lewis's supposition of the edge of Heaven, where there is a bus from Hell every day, but most riders choose not to remain. (Chapter 9)
But, beyond all these, I saw other grotesque phantoms in which hardly a trace of the human form remained; monsters who had faced the journey to the bus stop - perhaps for them it was thousands of miles - and come up to the country of the Shadow of Life and limped far over the torturing grass, only to spit and gibber out in one ecstacy of hatred their envy and (what is harder to understand) their contempt, of joy. The voyage seemed to them a small price to pay if once, only once, within sight of that eternal dawn, they could tell the prigs, the toffs, the sanctimonious humbugs, the snobs, the "haves" what they thought of them.

I am reminded of BDS.

Autism Conclusions (at least for now)

I have just about had it.  My own fault, I know. Someday soon I will have to collect them all into one place for ease of location.

They can have a very low tolerance for intrusion, and a very low tolerance for emotionality, even for positive feelings at high intensity, like being in love. It is tough for those who have to live with it. Remember Harold, who finds it hard to tell his wife he loves her, not because he is not tender and ultimately supportive, but because he tends to avoid thinking about all high-emotion subjects. We all want peace in the family, but sometimes issues must be discussed and can't be avoided.  Sometimes emotionality or intrusion is appropriate.

I will stress again that they are generally not seeking to exploit others, it is simply not noticing, and so missing an aspect of caring, whatever their feelings for others are.  They often have less automatic empathy, or it is impaired in some way.  Autists, especially women who notice their difference from other women, tend to like about themselves that they don't engage in the same amount of "drama" or "manipulation." They therefore get on well with other autistic women, who also eschew drama. But isn't this pretty similar to a low tolerance for emotionality, that emotions (especially negative but not excluding intense ) just bother them?  I have known some who quickly become less rational, more impulsive in the face of emotion. And some are pretty self-righteous about it, as if they are the ones that have got it right and the others being somewhat destructive because they find them irritating.

Aspies/autists, is it that the internal signal of just jangling in the face of emotions - not dissimilar to sensory issues, really - is so strong that it knocks out the external signals, like other people disapproving subtly?  I have long noticed (okay, noticed in retrospect that some had done it decades ago) that when they focus on the task of reading other people's emotions they do quite well, so was not shocked when I saw this from Claire Jack, who wrote Women with Autism. 

Compare this to the mimicking of auditory hallucinations of dichotic listening. We had a machine that would be brought 'round at the hospital that would headset you into "hearing voices" in the same way that a psychotic person does.  Many people found it highly upsetting. Any distracting reduces functioning, and unsurprisingly, more complex tasks are affected more. Tasks which require attending to both emotional/social and intellectual content at the same time are particularly affected. The subject will often pick one and hope that they get enough of the other to get by. If autism has the internal signal of being just plain bothered, as we are familiar with with loud noises or distracting lights or other sensory upsets (clothing), then it could throw them into something similar, attending only to the intellectual, especially if that is a strong suit, and just hoping for the best on the other.  Or the emotional/social might be so powerful that they have to flip the other way, unable to perform the intellectual tasks that they would ordinarily find easy. ("You said I was being rude. I must shut you up/walk away/punish you.") Therefore, they learn to intensely focus and tune out the rest of the world. They do it first to reduce anxiety, yet as we have seen , it can become a become a powerful tool. Everyone else is distracted by the heightened noise or emotionality or ambiguous signals, but you have both predisposition and long practice in zeroing in on the important point. Aspies can ignore hunger, thirst, lack of sleep, the anger of those around them, etc in the service of focus on a problem.

"Just plain bothered" might also describe having to attend to social cues they do not well understand. This may underlie the demand avoidance, the intense dislike of being told to do something.

In those situations I have seen them flip to anger and be overwhelmed by emotion themselves, sometimes instantly.  As they are usually not excitable it can be jarring. It is not meanness or cruelty, but a certain "I have to make this bad thing stop" seems to take over. The strategy of complete removal, of ignoring others and giving them the silent treatment rather than staying in and arguing is not only common, but it is deeply rationalised as being a superior, even polite strategy, because then they aren't "bothering" the other person with upsetting emotions. They define "politely ignoring" things so broadly as to have little meaning. They can cut you dead and think they are being the polite one.  It works great with schoolgirls and maiden aunts. 

Yeah, that was me being a bit mean, wasn't it? It's not common, but I've seen it. Ignoring others can be redefined as being the one that is seeking peace, even as such insult heightens tensions. High intrusion people like myself are going to encounter this more often.  For example, my personal note of responding to the overliteral interpretation of "But you said...but you said..." by engaging in it myself, overanalysing the word-choices of others, reading in a lot of meaning, is more than a little ironic. Dueling Aspie Extremes. This gets very strong in the face of the Silent Treatment and ignoring, because there is inadequate data to work from, causing others to scramble to find some ground to stand on.  The person administering the Silent Treatment thinks this is just backwards: "No, you were supposed to just go away whether you understood or not.  If you feel you didn't get enough explanation, too bad for you. I just don't want to talk, so your needs don't matter."

There is a failure of imagination described in the literature that I am quite uncertain about.  I get the part that some don't engage the social hypotheticals of 

However, girls with autism have described this to be almost the opposite: They may live in an atypically rich world of imagination with multiple imaginary friends.

Most of my clients get lost in role-playing games and books and the fictional characters in their books and movies can be more real to them than their peers. They can relate to fictional characters and understand their motives and backstories even as real people are hidden and difficult.

The difficulties with general overview, self-observation, overliteralness, reciprocity, theory of mind - these seem related, along the lines of stepping out of internal experience and converting to external. Aspies often learn social skills by direct imitation of others who seem to be getting it right. That would be an odd counterbalance to a group of people who find it easier to stand alone, insisting that something is teal (because it is teal, dammit) when everyone else is saying it's green, that they are even more dependent than others on social imitation.  Perhaps it is along the lines of choosing who they will imitate, and then clinging fiercely to that. That would fit with the highly counterintutive idea that they find themselves in cults, and unable to stand outside and look at that objectively, as well as the observation that they have more trouble with group rather than one-to-one conversations.  There is just too much going on. 

What have I learned? I had never heard of Pathological Demand Avoidance, but it is one of those things I recognised on sight when I saw it, and thought of half-a-dozen individuals immediately. Significantly, I don't think this applies to all Aspies, and I think care should be taken not to assume you are going to see it. It may be that we've all got it to a certain extent - that is, more than everyone who just doesn't like being told what to do - but that there are protective factors like agreeableness, or the desire for peace in the household is so strong that it overrules PDA, or a sort of double-reverse-gainer effect where some learn to see demands coming so well at an intuitive level that they head it off at the pass, take steps to mitigate it early, or learn to get out of Dodge before it comes.  I don't know. I just know there are people I don't see it in at all.

Pathological Demand Avoidance or

Pathological Demand Avoidance (better) 

I have seen YouTube videoas go by about them, but don't know if they are any good.

Links from June 2006

These are the ones that didn't make the cut to be fully brought forward, but might be found interesting still

 Pascal's Wager

"I'll only ride a Harley!"

Categorising Sex Offenders

Remember when people still said the religious left didn't exist?  (You can still find a few who insist that, BTW.) 

The Guy and Guy Gazette

(That first Guy would be pronounced in the English fashion, with a long "i," while the second Guy is said in the French fashion, with a long "e.")

A longtime friend, who is a longtime lurker here, wrote a letter to the editor of the local Bedford Bulletin in anticipation of the NH presidential primary on Tuesday. He is exercised about Mr. Trump. He has been exercised about Mr. Biden at times as well, but these engineering types like to keep focus.  One topic, one point to be made. Only after he had sent it around to his social circle did he notice that they had changed his headline and edited his comments just enough to change his tone noticeably. 

Well, now he is exercised about the Bedford Bulletin as well. Sponge-headed Scienceman, who has had books and professional articles published, assured him that this was quite usual, but Gerry remains annoyed. He has hit upon the scheme of publishing his own newspaper, over which he will have control of headlines and content.  He cites his paper route in the 1950s as sufficient background to pull this off. Sponge suggested the title.

Well, that will still take a bit of time, won't it?  It will be tough to get that up and running by Jan 23. So I am offering what I hope with be an acceptable substitute: he can publish his letter here, with complete editorial control over both headline and content. 

There's not a moment to lose, Gerry. Write it up, headline it, and I will give you a precious guest posting slot here.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

The Influence of Doonesbury

One of the most popular posts from the early years, I came back to it repeatedly.

Do we still remember how culturally central it was to liberalism and how it was weaponised? I ask that honestly, because I don't have a strong sense one way or the other.  That it is not that well known and certainly not as deeply cared about by people under 40 I take for granted, because most types of humor do not age well.  But for those over 40, does it still loom as large in memory as it did then?

The original from June 2006 is here, and I link to it because there were 11 comments, some of them interesting.


In the 70’s and 80’s, Doonesbury was in every liberal habitat. Women’s Studies professors and social workers always seemed to have a few strips taped to their office doors, and the characters became part of everyday conversation. Trudeau inherited the mantle of righteousness from the folksingers, and became the chief exponent of the idea that conservatives were essentially stupid and had evil motives. He demanded, and got, a larger block in the comic section and marketed a long succession of reprints of earlier strips in paperback. Doonesbury expressed what people were thinking and to a lesser extent, shaped it. Liberals may complain that they are unfairly characterized and oversimplified, but the ongoing popularity of this comic betrays them. They bought the books, they put the cartoons on their doors, they made Mike part of their culture.

Well, it was a cartoon, after all, and Trudeau’s main defense against criticism has always been “Hey. It’s a political cartoon. It’s not supposed to be fair. The characters are two-dimensional because they are, in fact, rendered in 2D. That’s the point.” In theory, a fair argument. Why expect nuance from a stereotypical stoner named “Zonker?”

The problem with the theory is that over time, the strip was nuanced, and some characters were three-dimensional. Trudeau was not a mere hatchet man, but had a gift for irony and self-mockery as well. Political correctness was gently skewered even as it first arrived on the scene. “It’s a baby woman!” squeals Joanie Caucus’s kindergarten class at the birth of a girl. Minority representation was sent up in a college football huddle: “I’m the only Pole.” “I’m the only freak!” The earlier characters in particular had inconsistencies of exactly the same sort that everyday people do.

Trudeau was also willing to smack Democratic politicians around a bit. Carter was lampooned for running a presidency of symbolism over substance, and Clinton was portrayed as a waffle. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Conservatives had none of the endearing inconsistencies. Phred the Viet Cong, was more sympathetic than the American soldier BD. Roland Headley reported an entire series “In search of Reagan’s brain,” and Trudeau’s hatred for the Bush family was embarrassing to read, even when I was a liberal. * Bomb-throwing Newt Gingrich to Dan Quayle as feather, conservatives are always stupid, malevolent, or both. The people of the left might have their foibles, but the people of the right were unrelenting evil.

Except, of course, when presented with the more sophisticated world of Trudeau, which would cause them to become perplexed and dimly apprehend the possibility of liberal ideas. Just like on TV. When the artist was really ticked, he would footnote the comic, e.g. to show how Limbaugh was too inaccurate. Conveniently, cartoonists don’t have to answer criticism.

An early secondary theme, that the young were wiser than the middle-aged, became increasingly difficult for Gary Trudeau to maintain as he aged. His elevated version of the TV-sitcom smartass kid played very well to Boomers, who have always longed to imbue their personal conflicts with larger cultural meaning.

So the “it’s because it’s a cartoon” excuse is a little weak – partly because of Trudeau’s own cleverness and early talent. It was never his intention for this to be “just” a political cartoon. He wanted to persuade and to influence. Over the years, the strip has become increasingly bitter and didactic. As I seldom read a newspaper anymore, I don’t see it much, but my eye still goes automatically to Doonesbury. It is occasionally amusing, but mostly just ignorant these days, drawing inspiration from the same lost world of its glory days. Uncle Duke was as brilliant a character as has ever appeared in the funny papers. Amazing how much Trudeau got wrong in retrospect.

Conservatives wonder how the liberal interpretation of history is maintained in the face of the facts. The massacres by the VC and the Khmer Rouge; the fall of communism and the translation of the Venona Cables; the growth in the economy in close parallel to conservative predicitions; the behavior of nations seeming closer to the older interpretations of men and evil than to the newer, more hopeful foreign policies.

The myths are sustained by condescending humor, and Ivy-League liberals do it best.

*Gary Trudeau’s unreasoning viciousness toward the Bushes may be an attempt to distance himself from some portion of his own Yalie/preppy background. In a delicious irony in the midst of his attacks of Bush 41’s manhood, Trudeau appeared in a clothing catalogue modeling a manly flight jacket. Yo, Gary. George actually was a fighter pilot.

Yesterday Once More

 Just when I though the NDT had cured me, someone plays one of those songs again. 

I didn't go looking for it, but it seems a chocolate company is using the song as a background while doing scenes from "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Some Guy.

"Destruction is the Bitter Part of Valor"

That was one of the comments at Althouse about the death of Christopher Roma, who died between Mt. Bond and Mt Guyot late at night. I suspected Mt Washington, as many of the commenters did, but that wasn't it.

I commented there:

I was sure the location must be mistaken, because he would have already hiked over 10 miles in the snow, most of those in the dark.  I haven't hiked this in 30, no (ouch) 45 years*, but Bond to Guyot is basically a ridge, so he knew he would be exposed, and well above tree line.  He must have been close to the shelter spur trail (he may have missed it in the dark and blizzard), but still a long way from both of the huts, which would have closed months ago anyway.

But he's from the next town over and knew this particular trail well, and there are a precious few who have physically accomplished the type of winter hiking he was doing. If anyone could have pulled this off, he would be one of them.

But that's the point, isn't it? That this sort of competing against nature and competing against your own body never ends.  There is always one slightly more crazy thing to do at the end of each insane risk. "Take care of nature" he said, as if it were some sort of living creature to be bargained with. If I am only nice to this wolfie and respect him, I'm sure he'll be good to me. We talk ourselves into crazy rationalisations when we just like doing something.
"Nature doesn't care if you're having fun" Larry Niven, was another comment.

*I have done zero of the 4K's in winter.  I decided that 40 years ago. Too many things can go wrong too quickly, no matter how good you are.

Further Autism Questions - Penultimate Post

A humorous reminder when pounding on the poor autism sufferers for their lack of ability to generalise, or see the big picture, or objectively look at their own behavior and thinking (and resist being made to) is my friend Christine's observation about the Unexamined Life not being worth living, that the Examined Life ain't so great either, is quite true as well. I can give you six reasons why the former is superior, especially in the realm of spiritual development. I also acknowledge that a lot of us take it unnecessarily far, and in even in the realm of sin and piety, it might be better to just shut up and follow the rules as written. It seems to work great for some folks.

Is cult membership more likely among Aspies? One would think they have a protective factor of being the sort of stand-up-for-what-you-think that leads people to alienate a whole room by insisting that something is teal (and we should enter teal on the form) when everyone else says it is green. Yet there does seem to be a surprising amount.  I find the concentration of kids who think they are trans to be related to this.  When they feel something very powerfully, they are willing to overlook a lot of disagreement at first in order to preserve the prominence of their feeling against the popular culture. But when you hang with large groups of people who have a similar approach, they reach some consensus and that becomes your aquarium.  If you say that the consensus is imposed top-down in cults, I would counter that the cult could not have grown up at all if there hadn't been some consensus, however inchoate, that the status quo is not a full or good explanation. The cult leader capitalises on something that is already there, s/he does not create the new idea.

I don't know what to make of the unpopularity of the extreme male-brain, theory of mind, hypersystemizing, less empathic hypotheses about autism. The complaints seem to be growing. Perhaps I just like those explanations and don't want to give them up. But the arguments against them fall into the category of "the research is old," (but is it wrong?), or those with autism are good at empathising with each other, and neurotypicals don't empathise well with us, so maybe it is just divergent but equal ways of seeing the world. I am not convinced. Even in subcultures that are quite tolerant of Aspie behavior in general, such as many technical fields, there is not an effloresence of empathy and understanding. Plus, I don't think anyone is making that claim about more severe levels of autism.  Relatedly, often right on the heels of that objection is "But it doesn't feel like that from the inside. You guys are focusing on external behaviors, but in our internal experience, we don't feel like we're wrong." That one troubles me. At some point, what you do has to become the definition, even if understanding the internal experience is the way to get there. Self-reference cannot be the final reality. I deeply suspect an unannounced agenda on this one, but am not at all sure what it is.

Poor coordination was noticed early by Asperger, and fine-motor coordination may be particularly vulnerable. I have absolutely seen it in myself, severe enough to be one of my major defining characteristics -bad handwriting, have to work twice as hard to be half as good, first on the clarinet, then on guitar work, and severe difficult making the hands do different things, which is a serious handicap with most instruments. I very quickly abandoned piano, and  I really saw it in my son taking piano lessons. When he took a battery of tests as a child because he seemed to be not fully attentive, the psychologist mentioned, almost offhandedly, that he was always going to have difficulty doing different things with the two sides of his body.  I don't know what tests he drew that conclusion from.

On that score of paying attention in class, he preferred, as many of us do, to read or daydream.  It is very much an ability to focus intensely and it annoys schoolteachers (and family members) when you tune them out, but man is it useful for doing research and some types of thinking. I am increasingly of the opinion that this is one of those things, like mood disorders or anxiety disorders, where a mild to moderate amount of something can be a tremendous advantage, just not in all situations. In our family we have variously seen this as ADD or OCD characteristics, and those might still win out as the best explanations.

Freezing up in the face of sensory overload and being literally unable to cross the street.  

Being unable to go to sleep if someone is breathing in the room. I am bothered by vacuum and other white noise.


The cutesy decoration on the coffee table at church today said "Snowflakes are Angel Kisses."

Ruined my whole morning.


Jesus says "Follow Me."

We reply "I'll follow you on Facebook."

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Red Green

 An old friend recommend the show, which he still loves.

Isolation II

Following natural supports and networks. I read one single woman who had worked in a male-dominated field and had primarily male friends at work because there were just more of them, even though she tended to like the women better. But the women were not her age, so after retirement they were still at work and not as available as she would like.  She did make an effort to keep up with them especially for evening or weekend activities, but sometimes the landscape was a little bare. She hit upon the strategy of inviting her male work friends as a couple with their wives, and over time, actually be closer to those wives than to the men. I confess she was so gushing about this that I had to wonder if she was exaggerating how well it worked, but I have known men for whom this worked accidentally, getting together with women previously worked with, but with their husbands, who sometimes had a common interest or compatible personality.

That principle can be extended to starting with people who know other people, or groups that get together to do something. Men in particular tend to prefer interactions that include doing things, rather than just talking.  I am okay with "just talking" myself, especially in comparison to groups that have rather artificial activities, like lots of Men's Ministry stuff, but I know that I am a bit unusual in this. 

Most strategies beat no strategy. Like so many things in life, recognising that "Hey, this is a problem.  I need to adjust myself and do something about it" is already powerful. What I just wrote is not accidental, either. Adjusting yourself tends to be more helpful than feeling resentful at others who aren't adjusting. It doesn't have to bea large adjustment most of the time. While you are trying to figure out larger things, just jump on the smaller ones.  Sit in a different place at church. Change the time when you take your walk or go for a run. Pick up some one-shot deals volunteering, like meal train, making the coffee, driving someone to an appointment. Most of the time it creates no change, sure. So what?  You did some good, and got to see behind the curtain one more place.  Nobody's asking you to save the world.

Harvard Health newsletter: The article centers on marriage and men's health, which is only a portion of what we are discussing here. Lots of good stuff, though. While conflicted and bad marriages seem to be a bit worse for health, non-pathological ones (they do not say "good") are a whole lot better. Shockeroo, I know, but you can get plenty of people who just don't think this is so, and say so. This looks related to my recent "rising tide" post. Or they think that their particular situation is so special and different that it is outside the odds. Is it more likely women who say this (women are very likely more defensive about the issue) or is that just my small sample size?

Loneliness, depression and social isolation also contribute to excess mortality associated with divorce, bereavement, or never having married.  A Harvard study reported that socially isolated men have an 82% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with men who have strong personal relationships. And the New England Research Institute reported that 66% of men rely on their wives for their primary social supports; only 21% rely on other people, and 10% have no such supports.