Thursday, May 30, 2024

Titanic Museum

The Titanic Museum in Belfast is a remarkable and well-done modern display on a topic I care very little about.

The audio-visuals are exciting, poignant, accurate, detailed...whatever else they are supposed to be.  they get the information across in interesting and efficient manner. Who the men were who moved to Belfast to build the ships, and the neighborhoods they lived in? Immersion in the sounds and sights, photographs of the streets and the work areas, human-interest stories with direct quotes, descriptions of the hardships and dangers. Who were the women who were hired to work on the ships, what were they paid, how many signed up over and over to work other ocean journeys? All the stories of the designers, the politicians, the investors, the officers, it's all there, and you could do hours of it.  Yet it is laid out in a clear fashion so that you don't get lost in corners, bogged down in reading every little story next to a photo on the wall. You can take in only the main points at some stations and study in detail at others.

Unless, of course, you are married to a woman who finds every single one of these stories interesting, or at least feels obligated to read them all because it seems rather like a school assignment to complete the task in full, and that's just Who You Are. If you are that husband, you will daydream a fair bit off behind her, having absorbed the main points quickly at every stop. I assent to the idea that every person is important, and perhaps their story deserves to be told.  Yet not every person is interesting, and a long succession of stories only related by the fact that they ended in the same death or similar rescue isn't quite enough.

One of the last exhibits is the changes in safety rules on ships as a result of the disaster, such as requiring ships to have someone listening at all times (there was a ship nearby which could have helped with rescue, but had shut down communications for the night), and requiring binoculars on the observation platforms. It's the sort of thoroughness the whole museum shows.

The parking is good, the gift shop on the tolerable side of both the hokey and the rip-off scales, the two cafes are good, you can navigate around the place pretty easily, the guides are very knowledgeable and helpful. Great museum, really.  I wish all historical museums were this good.

Monday, May 27, 2024


I don't think it is shocking that mesolithic peoples built a kilometer-long wall to help them catch reindeer, which we didn't know about because it is now under the ocean, but the simple fact is that I had never heard of it before and now I have.  The Blinkerwall: A Stone-Age Megastructure in the Baltic Sea.  

The hypothesis that the Blinkerwall served as a reindeer trap is supported by its design and location. By herding reindeer towards the lake, the structure likely slowed their movement, making them easier targets for hunting—a strategic advantage that early humans would have capitalized on for survival.


 "I was stung by a bee, so I am drinking whiskey as an antidote.  It was twenty years ago, but you can't be too careful."

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Driving in Ireland

Halfway through the trip I learned that an estimated 40% of Irish drivers don't have a full license. They have a provisional license that can be renewed indefinitely.  Testing and retesting is required - though not a driving test - but if people fail, they just walk out and resume driving anyway.

We took some video of our own, but I knew someone would have something better on YouTube. I can't tell what kind of vehicle this guy is driving but in general this captures the experience - except it doesn't convey the feeling of the guy behind you tailgating, there's no fog or rain, and the oncoming traffic was pretty light, with no trucks or buses.  See below.


80kph is 50mph, and it is baffling how they can assign such high limits to some roads. The designation are Motorway, National, Regional, and Local roads.  The local roads come in two categories, with either four or five digits after them. Four is essentially a driveway, sometimes with grass growing down the middle and depressed tire lanes. These are nonetheless two-way roads. L roads with five digits are bad driveways.

This article About Irish Roads expands on the experience. 

It is not so much that the roads are narrow, though they often are, but that there is little or no hard shoulder and the verges, hedges and walls encroach onto the road far more than they do elsewhere.

The excellent video at the link captures my wife's experience, with hedges and even stone walls right up against the side of the car. I had less swearing, but made unusual sounds instead. "What's that sound you keep making?" She asked.  I said something about a sharp horrified intake of breath. Then in a few moments corrected saying it was sometimes a sharp horrified expulsion of breath, depending. After a few minutes I allowed that there were a variety of yeeps, gaks, and rrgggs as well - all sounds that I learned young from my father, who was a master of appropriate effects. It was nostalgic in my own ears. Tracy was not charmed by it, being too distracted by sticks and stones encroaching on windshield space.

On the other hand, the people are very nice and quite polite on the roads even if they are a bit impatient about speed. It makes for an interesting question of libertarian sentiments - is it better that the drivers know the driving rules and demonstrate competence, or better that they be nice people?  I think it's about even up.

Our rental had a feature that beeped when you strayed over the line on the right or over the edge on the left, but this was only partly useful.  On one occasion I could not for the life of me tell which side the car was yelling at me about.

For added fun, the numbers of the R roads are assigned regionally, so R345, R346, and R376 are all close together. County Mayo, I think. Maybe Galway. Given that the towns are all Bally-, Lis-, Kil-, Dun-, -more, or -bridge it's hard to tell where you are going without the GPS. That was mostly pretty good, though it occasionally took us to where it looked like there had been an entrance a few years ago, but had only a closed gate now. Many intersections are roundabouts, especially on the faster roads.  You get pretty used to sorting out which lane to get in, or at least what direction to lean in, depending on whether you were going to first, second, or third exit off the circle.

It is a great relief to hit a Motorway, with multiple lanes and wider.  If you have the problem, as I did when young and still do somewhat, of wanting to cut across the back roads because it looks so much shorter on the map, Ireland will cure you of that.

Fun to talk about later.  Not fun at the time.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Ireland and a Palestinian State

Small sample size.  I was in Ireland last week and on pub TVs and newspapers lying around I saw a few things. Everyone I saw or read - a few talking heads, a few papers - was in favor of the recognition of a Palestinian state. But it was the reason that they gave that I found interesting.  Not one of them addressed whether it was a good idea.  They all were quite pleased that it showed that Ireland was independent of the UK, and in fact, some thought it grand that they were sticking it in the eye of the Brits.

Heckuva basis for a foreign policy.


White is a colour. It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen. Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc. (GK Chesterton "A Piece of Chalk," from Tremendous Trifles. 1909)
This is something I learned early from CS Lewis - and there are those who will tell you that everything in Lewis has its origin in Chesterton - that virtue is a positive thing, not an absence. It was a gripping and inspiring idea, coming from a college mentality where chastity, or a virtuous woman was defined almost entirely in terms of whether or not she was technically a virgin or not. And it was an age where virginity was often entirely technical, especially for women. Women resented this bitterly, even as they were the strictest enforcers, because that's what human beings are like.

Yet certainly, it's not just sex, even though that was the morality most on the mind of a man in his 20's. GKC points to Mercy, above, and we could say much the same about Justice, or Temperance. We occasionally get that far with the cardinal virtues.  It is even more true of the Theological Virtues.  Faith is not a matter of screwing yourself up to not doubt, not in any corner of your mind, but something that involves marching forward and doing, not even much bothering whether any residual doubt lingers. Hope is not just putting on a good front and not saying anything weak, it is a positive desire for the Beatific Vision. And Charity/Love we readily see, is not just avoiding being stingy or mean, but a positive desire for the good of another.


 "Well, I'm back." (Sam Gamgee, final line of The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien.)

I had many thoughts along the way while looking at various Piles of Rocks in Ireland. I took the strategy of dictating them into my phone and emailing them back.  It will take some sorting out, and not all of it is about Ireland per se. But for now, there is laundry, and grocery shopping, picking up the stopped mail and doing other errands, mowing the lawn and dong other things about the house. 

In the meantime, there is this from Aporia, Is Human Worth Normally Distributed? by Joel Carini. It tackles full on a topic we have discussed here, the supposed inferiority or superiority according to IQ. It has value as a usefulness trait measurement, but it is technically neutral as a moral category. We have gone farther, arguing that because so many people treat it as a moral category, a decent man has some obligation to undermine that and speak against it. That Carini does, and in one place even argues that it is a moral negative.

He makes distinctions similar to what we have seen, though in his own way, and I think readers will find it moderately informative. Not much of an adventurous new dish, but good wholesome food, mostly.

The moral worth of human actions, I argue, is inversely proportional to our natural endowments, being a function of the difference between accomplishments/behavior and natural capacity. And human dignity, I argue, is directly incompatible with gradations of “worth” and independent of accidental differences. Dignity can be rejected, but it cannot be made scalar.

Bisy. Backson. (Christopher Robin, writing to Pooh, in "Rabbit Has a Busy Day, and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings" in The House at Pooh Corner AA Milne, 1928)

Friday, May 24, 2024

Brennan on the Moor

I really should close with Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, shouldn't I?  By the time you see this we should be in the air on the way back to Logan Airport. At our layover in Reykjavik,  really.

No links today, I don't think.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tradtional Irish

We may get to Dolan's today, but Craggaunowen Folk Park is our main focus. Ireland has many FP's but this one has multiple eras, including prehistory, so we chose it. I recommend you hit that link, BTW

2007 Archive Links:

Gamil Gharbi His previous identity was obscured by the Canadian authorities after his violent attack.

Selling Out  I don't know how much of my Arts & Humanities Tribe discussions I will be bringing out from the archives. It dominated this blog for a few years, and I like to think that I had a little to do with taking the now-accepted view that much of liberalism was tribal, not intellectual, and making it well-known. But there are so many, that it runs the risk of dominating this year of the blog as well, and it is not so current now.

Mike Huckabee Outshone By a 7y/o Girl. Don't be patronising.

Journalists Are Fair

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Doolin, Ireland

Doolin is where you catch the ferry for both the Aran Islands or the Cliffs of Moher from below.  We are going for the latter, hoping to see puffins.

This trad music has dancing as well.  We attended a wedding where the bride, her sister, and entire female side of the wedding party were competitive Irish step dancers. At a moment I should have seen coming, they slipped out for a moment during the reception, then re-invaded like a force of nature.

For the 2007 archive links, I was still thinking much about parenting, and myths about American culture.

The Skin of Our Teeth.  Son#4 graduates from Goffstown High. Just barely.

Money Grubbing Americans

No More Teenagers.  Hah, we got a 12 year old less than two years later. Only then did it fully dawn on me that maybe being the Dad (now called Pops) was what I was always called to do.  I was 55. 

Pampered.  Not strictly about parenting but definitely in the discussion of bringing your daughters up to have some independence. 

No One Is Smart When They Don't Think - a favorite parenting line of mine, followed by

No One Is Smart When They Don't Think Part II, when it came back to bite me just a few days later.  The passport story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Emerging Church

 Remember that?  It was all the rage in 2007 and I wrote about it extensively. It was important to be "missional."  To have a "generous orthodoxy."

Here's the whole collection. 

The Wikipedia article is almost entirely drawn from sources pre-2010.

I wonder where all those folks have ended up?

This song sort of fits for that topic and Ireland both, doesn't it?


Monday, May 20, 2024

The Quiet Man

We actually watched a movie "The Quiet Man," because we will be staying in Cong, where some of it was filmed.  1952, John Ford, John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Best Cinematography. It plays on movie stereotypes about romance and the obstacles to it, plus Irish drinking jokes, and music, and priests, scenery, dowries, all delivered in an over-obvious package. I thought it was fun.  My wife adored it. Schmaltzy, she declared, mixing her ethnic metaphors quite appropriately, I think.  It was an early RomCom. There is an extended fight scene at the end, a horse race, a spirited redhead - what's not to like?

The part about the dowry is puzzling to us, and they even reference that "This isn't America" when John Wayne is dismissive of it. I imagine it is somewhat puzzling even in Ireland now. It is a very American value that the potential of a person is much more a consideration than whatever tiny fortune they bring now. (At least in the books and movies.) To us it would seem like a good deal that he wanted her just for herself, not any monetary interest, and a woman might marry a man with no property or fortune with a similar eye to the future. So say we in a rich country, where fortunes can be made. Less of that in rural Ireland, where a lot of the meager land wealth is just reshuffling the deck. A little money coming in was nothing to be taken lightly, and there were years when survival was enough of an issue that a lot of future potential might be traded for cash on the table.

But I think there was a deeper, social anthropological reason for dowries as well. It signified a woman's family status that she was bringing, which was no small thing, neither financially nor reputationally. That her family had to consent to the giving of it  was part of that equation. We're all in this together now.  For better or worse means you, and us as well.  

It likely signified a woman's potential power within the home as well. A small dowry might leave a girl little better than a servant in a Great Man's house, especially after her beauty had waned. But a more equal pairing meant she could be Mistress of a smaller one. Women had few avenues to power of any sort, and most of that would be centered on the home, where indeed, a woman might rule once you crossed the threshold, as the movie illustrates. This also showed up in the other parts of the dowry that didn't come with Mary Kate because her brother refused permission: her furniture, her spinet, her pewter, as well as her carefully earned and hoarded coins. She felt humiliated not to have them, feeling she was not really a wife. Those of us who can obtain new things easily fail to see the point here.  Though I suppose this does live on in my grandmother's china, my mother's silver. In our house it is some Dutch and Swedish things that have come down, and my wife still sleeps in the four-poster she had as a girl. Yet we may be the last or second-to-last generation for such things. China and silver are already a burden rather than a joy.

It was likely not lost on girls that the women who had come with more dowry were treated better overall.

Additional: I wrote about "Whisky Galore" two years ago as well, with a clip.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

More From the 2007 Archives

We haven't decided where we will worship this Sunday, maybe Drumcliff, maybe Sligo.  We might enforce Sabbath time on ourselves, or we might look at prehistoric things. Slowly.  On to Westport for nightfall.

From yesterday's music, it occurs to me that the Irish do that haunted women's voice thing in music better than just about anyone. It is odd that it is male singers who have made this famous to us, for it is a woman's song. I think I posted this once before, but it is wrenching.

 The Gaelic influence on English is always uncertain, with wild overclaims and underclaims both. In American English it's rather a joke to ascribe unknown phrases to the Irish gamblers, or horsemen, or itinerant workers.  There's a Sach Ur Born Every Minute.

Changes in First Names in English 1200-2000.  You will be surprised at the continuity, I suspect. 

Praise for American Productivity.  Inspired by European restaurants and shops 20-25 years ago, so I suppose it is appropriate to bring it out for this trip. 

Parenting is 90% Just Saying Your Lines.

In a ridiculous echo of "magic words" Christianity, it became the fashion among some New Atheists to have "magic words" blasphemy.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Troubles and The Famine


From my vantage point just before leaving, it seems the Irish can talk about little else. I hope that's just the history and cultural podcasts I've been listening to and the historical sites listed in the tour books. If you looked up places to go see in New England you would probably think that we only talk about the Puritans, the Tea Party and Paul Revere, Robert Frost, whaling and cod, witch trials. Tea and cod are just supermarket items 99% of the time, and these are not the witches you are looking for.  So today is Derry/Londonderry, the Walls and the Murals, and we'll see. 

Apparently Americans get told that they've never heard the Northern Irish side of the story, so they have to be told it again.  I dunno, my ancestors founded Londonderry NH and the longtime pastor of the Presbyterian church there now mostly worships with us and is a pal of mine. 

As for The Famine, it's sort of like their Holocaust, so one can hardly expect them to leave it out of their history. Though it is coming on to two centuries now.

Then Letterkenney, Donegal Castle, and Yeat's Lodge in Drumcliff.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Geological Rocks

Only one link today, because it leads to other links and lots of comments.  One of my most-visited posts ever, and reposted a few times, Sexism in Narnia.

We will be at Giant's Causeway today, and Dunluce Castle (the supposed inspiration for Cair Paravel in Prince Caspian) and hoping for clear skies northward for the Aurora Borealis. 

Ain't gonna happen.  It's Ireland.  It will rain most days we are there.

This will be nice crossover worship music from where we left off to the mid-20th C (Pentecostal preacher from extreme SW Virginia), covered by Johnny Cash, 

And more recently by Molly Skaggs at Bethel Church, with an updated verse

Very much that "people's music" style I just wrote about.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

More From The Archives

We expect to be around Belfast today - North Down Museum, Titanic Museum, and CS Lewis sites. Then on to Carrickfergus Castle, part of the Causeway Coastal Route, and then up near Giant's Causeway.

In the meantime, I did an adult Sunday School class in 2007 on the history of the lyrics of Christian hymnody. We tend to think that traditional worship music was what our grandparents sang.  That stuff is mostly pretty new, when you start to look into it.  We have changed greatly over the years, not only in musical styles, but lyrical.

And I still think that "Be Thou My Vision" should be sung freely and quickly.  Maybe I can get someone here to do it for me.

Ancient Hymnody

Not-So Ancient Hymnody

Hymns Get Ridiculously Complicated, 16th-18th C

19th C Hymnody - Jesus as Cosmic Pal For those who deplore what they see as modern "Jesus is My Boyfriend" worship music, it is a direct descendant of this style. And theology.

The People's Music - Spirituals, Camp Meeting, and later Bluegrass 

Crummy Hymn  More recent, but not CCM

The class went more weeks, but I didn't post about those.

Related: I also wrote later about festival worship a few times.

Festival Generation

Festival Worship  

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

From the AVI Archives While I m Away

We are now looking at piles of rocks in Ireland. Today is Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Hill of Tara, and maybe the Monasterboice High Crosses. When we first went to Ireland in 2002 I worked very hard to make sure we could find someplace where we could hear traditional Irish music.  I found a hotel with a top floor apartment we could rent, perfect for a couple with three teenage sons.  And on the ground floor, a pub, with traditional music many nights of the week!  I was enchanted, and brought the sons over to look at the pictures.

We had not even finished unpacking and it was clear that the problem was not going to be finding Irish music, but getting away from it. Even the bad boys of Ireland can't seem to get away from it.  The sentimental tunes often have some anger in them, and the angry ones some sentiment.  Here are the Pogues, who Tommy Makem* said were the worst thing to ever happen to Irish music, getting together with the Dubliners.

“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

GK Chesterton "The Ballad of the White Horse."

*My sister-in-law was friends with the Makem girls growing up in Dover, NH.  They all went to Saint Thomas Aquinas Highschool.

From January 2007 

I am going to flood you with enough content while I am gone that you will be begging God to bring me home sooner so you can get some rest.

Teach Your Children Well  Take your children to the movie first, teach the history lesson second, and take them on the expensive trip after.

Homage to Troy Brown, who did go to the Patriots Hall of Fame and is now a coach. 

The Nine Nations of North America changed how I viewed the whole continent in the 1980s. Others have taken the concept forward since then, including Colin Woodard's Eleven Nations of the US. Those may be better now, but it is Garreau's original that was revolutionary for me in terms of seeing our cultural regions.

The World According to PJ. As in O'Rourke. Who protests?  I think this is as true as ever it was in 1991.

The track record of the European Intelligentsia in the 20th C. It's not pretty.  And I even give them some credit for things.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Piles of Rocks

We leave today for Dublin via Reykjavik. We have our proposed piles of rocks we are going to see mapped out. I suppose Belfast isn't so much piles of rocks, as we will be seeing the Titanic Museum and the CS Lewis sites. Pubs, gift shops, and gardens aren't all that rocky. Some of the half-dozen castles are standing and in use, though I still think "pile of rocks" applies. But everything else...

I will post from the 2007 archives and throw in some Irish music.  They are already loaded up, just waiting for the calendar to publish them.

The podcast from Razib  on that massive Indo European genetic origins study just dropped, so maybe I'll understand it better now. I gave you what little I had last month. Apropos of the archive links, I note that half of the psych, and 75% of the prehistory I linked to and commented on back in 2005-2007 is now so out of date as to not bear reposting or even relinking. It's why I learned the constellations in the 1980s, even though I live in a hilly, forested region with no good look at the sky in most places: at least that knowledge would be the same in 50 years.

Monday, May 13, 2024

The Productive Elite

 From Rob Henderson's Newsletter:

A small percentage of workers in an organization or field is responsible for the bulk of the output. The top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of least productive workers contribute only 15%. The most productive contributor is, on average, about 100 times more prolific than the least. (source). Relatedly, in their intellectual biography of Lee Kuan Yew (the founder of modern Singapore), the authors write:

The most able in society would have to be drawn into the top rungs, given the most important jobs through a strictly meritocratic system. This group at the top – [Lee] guessed that they made up between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the population in any society – was the yeast which would raise the lot of the entire society. These people would have to be thrown up by a meritocratic system – or sought out by the society’s leaders – and nurtured from a young age. To them would fall the responsibility of the top jobs, both in government and the private sector. Lee dismissed suggestions that such a system was elitist. Rather, he contended, it was based simply on a pragmatic recognition that not all men were of equal abilities and talents. He once said, only half in jest, that to bring Singapore down, an aggressor need only eliminate the top 150 or so men on whom the country relied most for it to keep ticking.

AVI writing: I'm not sure what they are measuring about productivity.  Are the top 10% of police officers doing 50% of the work?  10% of the nurses? I am guessing that the closer one gets to concrete tasks, the more this levels out - though I absolutely saw this phenomenon in action in my own hospital of 20 supposedly-equal doctors, 40 supposedly-equal social workers, etc. A few of us got a lot more done, others were placeholders.  Yet I really don't think that four of us did half of all the work.

The more we move into the territory of abstract work, or perhaps managerial work, the more I think this leveraging of talent becomes reality.

Best Moments

 There are a dozen overlapping "Best Moments" of Bill Belichick. I picked this one at random.

He wasn't done yet, either.

Not allowed.  Okay, let's try this one.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Medieval Life

One of the great myths that keeps resurfacing about medieval (and even up to 19th C) life is that they had less attachment to their children.There is no evidence from the record, even back to Iron Age times, that this was so. Children are buried in embrace of other relatives, or siblings holding hands. Even after horrible violence and devastation there is care and delicacy in how children are arranged in burial. When there is written record, letters and histories tell us that mothers (and sometimes fathers) are completely undone by the death of a child, go into depression, are never the same for the rest of their lives, etc.

Cemeteries, letters, diaries - the actual data - can tell us a lot.

The belief likely comes from a bit of reasoning that says "Well, they just had to be less attached than we are now, because death of children was so much more common. They just had to be.  I mean, how could they keep going on if they cared about their children as much as we do?" People get through horrible things now, including the deaths of children, and go on to have lives that have some joy despite the scar tissue. Do you think they didn't really love those children? So also did the medievals love theirs. 

Yes, they tolerated a level of violence toward beast and man that we find unnerving.  Yet much of that was the upper classes, engaged in warfare, or controlling servants, or those for whom the violence of animals and strangers was no joke. Among the common folk there was more violent death than we have now, but not so hugely as we imagine.

From the cemeteries we can also tell a great deal about nutrition in childhood, which was intermittent. Infants born in the fall had less sunlight, less vegetables, less calories in general - or if they were nursing, their mothers had fewer of those things. The higher the latitude, the more this was true. The survival rate was worse, and the prevalence of rickets and other developmental diseases of deprivation was greater. There is a myth that teeth were healthy until sugar became fashionable, but cereal diets can produce rot and abscesses as well, especially among those who take no care of their teeth. The genetics of our teeth were mostly selected in the many tens and hundreds of thousands of years of foraging, hunting, and gathering, not the last few millennia of crops and pastoralism.

I think the myths come up because we want to make stories about them, as if we understood them.  Reading and listening to the professionals, even they keep drifting off into speculations, talking about how rewarding it is to imagine what their lives must have been like. Well, I like it too, but I don't know that it's the only thing. There also seems to be a sort of one-upmanship of showing how many different scenarios they can imagine might be true before reminding us (you silly people who only read the popular articles), that there is so much we don't know.

We know that this was a high-status individual who was burned on a funeral pyre.  But we don't know what that ritual meant to the community around him. Was everyone in the village expected to bring a bit of wood to cast on the flames, or was this the work of specialists within the community?  We don't know, as they left no written record. Was the family supposed to be in charge of performing the ceremony or was this under the direction of a priestly class? We can't tell for certain, but there are tantalising clues...How soon after death was the ceremony? Ah, we don't know. Very few of us now have much contact with the dead but these were a peo0le for whom death was an ever-present reality...there are things we don't know about death now that were commonplace then...You have to consider why that particular pottery vessel was placed the way it was* and how it compares to other burials across the continent to understand the whole a burial, the dead are on a journey to somewhere in any society**... They all had objects around death that were important to them, just as we have today with churches and stone markers*** and archaeology asks us the questions we need to ask ourselves****

I enjoy a limited amount of this sort of speculation very much myself. Any excuse to stare off onto the horizon, be it field, forest, or ocean, and think Grand Thoughts is right up my alley. Or to look at the interior of a recreated dwelling and think what it must have been like to have six in this room in the winter, in times of a successful hunt/harvest/fishing expedition or an unsuccessful one - yes, that is a fine thing, and encouragement of fellow-feeling with anyone else in humanity likely has some follow-on effects in any society.  But I just came through 45 minutes of a podcast where that was the whole show.  It's like Robert Klein, fifty years ago now.

(Start at the 29:02 mark.  The automaticity of Blogger allowing various time entrances no longer operates.  I imagine there is a simple way to get around that, but I don't know it.)

*What pottery vessel? When? You haven't mentioned a single specific or even regional type yet. 

**Mention a couple of real possibilities.

***What objects? Flowers?  Knives? Dead servants? When does this discussion come down from 30,000 feet?

****That's like ten questions, built around no data. Not only archaeology, but weed can do this for you.  F-you.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Greta Shows Her True Colors

Greta Thunberg showing up in a keffiyeh to hound an Israeli pop singer over Gaza is actually the most accurate story about climate change activism ever.

Oops I Did It Again

Thompson is very clever, hearing things and thinking things the rest of us miss. 

It was he who took the challenge to list 1000 years of popular music seriously, beginning with "Sumer is Icumen In" before ending with this one.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Who Killed Google Search?

Linked by Razib Khan, The Man Who Killed Google Search by Ed Zitron at his substack "Where's Your Ed At?

On February 2, 2019, just one day later, Thakur and Gomes shared their anxieties with Nick Fox, a Vice President of Search and Google Assistant, entering a multiple-day-long debate about Google’s sudden lust for growth. The thread is a dark window into the world of growth-focused tech, where Thakur listed the multiple points of disconnection between the ads and search teams, discussing how the search team wasn’t able to finely optimize engagement on Google without “hacking engagement,” a term that means effectively tricking users into spending more time on a site, and that doing so would lead them to “abandon work on efficient journeys.” In one email, Fox adds that there was a “pretty big disconnect between what finance and ads want” and what search was doing.

I am not the least authority on this subject, so any of you with actual knowledge, feel free to share it here.

Pre-Agricultural Diets

Whatever we hear about paleolithic diets, the days have started when we start finding out the actual answers to what people ate. What Was The Pre-Agricultural Diet? It's one site, in Morocco, but it is at least real data.

 Contrary to prevailing assumptions, the study suggests that the Iberomaurusians embraced a predominantly plant-based diet, incorporating diverse edible flora such as sweet acorns, pine nuts, and legumes into their culinary repertoire. This revelation challenges the notion that hunter-gatherer diets were primarily centered around animal proteins.

The animal proteins referred to were wild sheep. At least in this group, weaning of infants occurred earlier than expected as well. The paleo-diet lovers stress that they don't eat ultra-processed foods and in general avoid processing. Sheep, stored nuts, and many legumes require at least some processing.  And the phrase "ultra-processed" has so many meanings that it has no meaning.

Why Am I Treated So Bad?

I had never heard this one before.  It's one of the joys of YouTube suggestions that make up for the irritation of it.

What is New England?

I was listening to a sports podcast, youngish men, discussing team names and mascots.  One always listens to references to one's own area, to see how it is viewed by the rest of the country.  When I went to college in Virginia I learned that no one really knows where New Hampshire is.  My son came up with what I think is the best description while he was going to school in KY. "You know those two little states way up in the northeast that are like a square fit together? Well New Hampshire is the one that's right-side up."

Anyway, transcript from The Ringer.

I was wondering, you guys are from the West Coast, could you tell me what New England is? 


It's a region, a number of states in that region. I'm guessing. It's kind of like four or five of these. Massachusetts, Connecticut. 

Yeah, it's like kind of four of the five of the 13 original colonies vibes. Is New York in New England, technically? 


I feel like it's. So it's like Massachusetts. 



Connecticut, like is Delaware in there? 

I don't know what Delaware's up to, but no, I don't think so. 

Is Rhode Island? I'm in Delaware. Rhode Island. 

No one wants Rhode Island, is the dirty truth. 

I feel like Rhode Island's very pretty. People like Providence and. Yeah, people like going to... Rhode Island is like... Connecticut is to New York, like to New York, what I think Rhode Island is to Massachusetts, which is it's like an extension of the state, but it's also not. 

And Connecticut people might feel mad at what I just said, but Connecticut's weird, cause it's kind of split in half. It's like a suburb of New York, but also part of like Massachusetts but it's also not like either of those things.

Why do you guys think that like some team names are based on a city like Buffalo, then you have New England, which is an area, or like the Golden State Warriors, whatever the golden state is, just California. And then you have like- What's with that? 

And then you have like the Tennessee Titans, which is just a whole state. Like how do they decide what the first name is? 

That's a great question. 

I don't know, cause New England's like a wild thing. I think they were just kind of going for it. 

Well, cause is it like Tennessee's like, look, we're only gonna have one team in a state, so we're just gonna give it the whole state name. But if there's gonna be multiple teams in a state, we gotta go city? Is that how they think about it? 

...I feel like the sports team said to say it like they're just looking at a map and they're like, hey, we'll just take all this. And like, they're just carving stuff up. 

Yeah, because look, I'm looking now the the other states that are included in New England are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont. I think we got all of them. But anyways, it's like there's never going to be a pro NFL team in Maine. So maybe they just were trying to be really, you know, a power broker in that entire area. 


Do people from Maine root for the Patriots? That's a question. 

Yes, for sure!

Also, Fox, Foxboro is not close to Boston, right? How many miles is Foxboro from Boston? 


Their boss, Bill Simmons, is from Massachusetts, they may want to read up on this a bit.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Vitamin D

According to The Studies Show, there is no solid evidence that Vitamin D supplements do anything good for you, the only exception being if you have a condition which causes you to have an actual deficiency. So no magic after all, not even a little bit.  They were very approving of the large RCT (N=26,000) still being reported and published after a null hypothesis finding.  It is the one separate vitamin I have been taking, and I likely will continue to the end of the bottle, because why not? 

I admit I'm a bit disappointed.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Winters and Williams Improv

Comedy seldom wears well - it is of the moment. Improvisation even more so.  Try describing a great bit of improvisation that you saw years ago, and how it falls flat now.  Some things hang on a bit better.

Winters would not be able to do a black voice today, I don't think, even with his follow-on line that all the American characters he does are part of him.

As they should be.

I'm not allowed to use that clip.  Let's try another. I linked to the first one, above.

First Child: NBA Playoffs

Rudy Gobert, a seriously important part of the Minnesota Timberwolves who is paid millions of dollars to keep other large human beings from scoring in basketball, might miss Game 2 of the playoffs against the defending champion Denver Nuggets because his first child is about to be born.  I weighed in on this culture change a year ago. For most of human history, husbands have had everything to do with the beginning of the baby process and absolutely nothing to do with the ending.  They are symbolic, not necessary.

Update: Well, they won anyway, and won big, so I guess Rudy gets the best of both worlds.

Not Sure What To Make of This

Familial Transmission of Personality Traits and Life Satisfaction Is Much Higher Than Shown in Typical Single-Method Studies

 In a sample of parent-offspring and sibling-sibling pairs, as well as second degree relatives, who rated their own personality traits and life satisfaction and were each rated by an independent informant [N(participants) = 2,518 + informants], we found that parent-offspring and sibling correlations were at least a third higher than typically shown (r ≈ .20). These data put personality traits and life satisfaction’s narrow-sense (additive) heritability at around 40%, up from about 25% typical in self-report studies.

Could this be because people perceive small personality differences with relatives as more significant, having defined themselves as "the extraverted sister" or "not as obsessive as my Dad" for long enough that they see themselves as less like them overall?  Dunno.  Fun to think about.

Saturday, May 04, 2024


Canada boasts one of the world’s highest assisted-death rates, supposedly enabling the terminally ill to die with dignity. But this suicide program increasingly resembles a dystopian replacement for care services, exchanging social welfare for euthanasia. Jacobin on X

Please note when reading the report that Jacobin is a secular socialist. 

Indeed, last year, Jeremy Appel argued that MAiD was “beginning to look like a dystopian end run around the cost of providing social welfare.” Initially supportive, he changed his mind on MAiD as he considered that the decisions people make are not strictly speaking individual but are instead collectively shaped and sometimes “the product of social circumstances, which are outside of their control.” When we don’t care for one another, what do we end up with?

The slippery slope has always been the danger, and somehow the advocates have consistently ignored this. They have played on the anecdote, the particular type of instance where a decent person who has medically impossible difficulties has decided in clear mind and with noble, Western-Intellectual-Historically-Defensible motives, that death shall be the answer, and for once, even arch-liberals decide that they are going to be left-libertarians for a day (as with drugs and abortion) and pearl clutch that anyone should deny a person this boon.

The problem is that this is only one type of anecdote that applies.  Yes, it tugs at the heartstrings - so do the others, of loved ones who do not have to be consulted when wife and mother in one of her triennial bouts of depression related to her migraines decides that she has had enough and lets the government off her while no one is looking.

Oh yes, that absolutely happens now in Canada, as it has happened in the Netherlands for over two decades and is now a commonplace, an elephant in the room that goes unmentioned among the polite people. I worked with people who were medical and social-service professionals, and yet even among that group the thinking had seldom gone beyond the imagining of one or two scenarios, often based on a single relative or neighbor they had known about. The was sometimes, additionally, some patients they had treated in their careers, but even then the details were sketchy.  I tended to be vaguely in favor of euthanasia then, but realised when reading some National Review articles that I had not actually thought very hard about it, so I may be projecting. (The NR articles were heavy on what this said about our culture and where the acceptance of euthanasia suggested our culture was going, which to me seemed to bypass the questions of "Is this moral?  Is it right?  Is it defensible in some situations?")

It often only amounts to a person trying to get across the idea that they really, really hate to see someone suffer. Well, so do we all. But that leads to questions rather than answers them, doesn't it?

I worry about the follow-on effects for individuals.  As it becomes more acceptable to "let" people choose death when they are (unspoken) increasingly expensive and inconvenient, it becomes more likely for people who feel expensive and inconvenient - and they may well be so - to feel they have some obligation to let everyone else off the hook. "Oh, don't bother about me, I'll be fine.  Don't trouble yourself Sammy. I'd hate to be a burden," is the phrase common now. I very much understand that.  I have a horror of being a burden myself and can see putting up with a lot of privation for that purpose. But...

We know stories about good deaths and stories about bad deaths.  We seldom organise them into clear thinking unless forced to, and Advance Directives can sometimes do this. As with many of lifes's difficulties and tragedies, we don't think about such things objectively beforehand, and are unable to think about them objectively when emergencies come upon us with all their emotions.

At the Edge of Heaven

The Great Divorce is a dream, a supposition, and not intended to be a description of what Heaven and Hell are really like. Lewis makes this clear in the text, and continued to in years after. He (and fans even until the present era) get annoyed at having to keep pointing this out.  Yet it is Lewis's own skill as an imaginer and a writer that creates the confusion.  The images are vivid, the theology solid, and even people like me, who should know better, can get caught up in seeing Heaven and Hell in that way, and even imagining the fates of our friends in such terms.

One additional way of looking at the text that has been suggested is to see it as what is happening at a spiritual level even now, in this world.  We are all called to invite everyone in as best we can, yet it may be that we are especially called to invite particular ones - and not who we might have predicted.

And thus I wondered whether I might ever be sent to the edge of heaven to try and persuade some person I had known on earth to clear the final hurdle and enter in. Those arriving seem surprised at who is there to greet them. I can think of those who might balk at seeing me as the only one to greet them, and have immediate resentment, as some of the ghosts in TGD do. Those doing the inviting seem to have had advanced knowledge of who they are to look for. Their explanations are rather effortless, at any rate. 

How to be reassuring in the moment? The answer to that may give a clue as to how to be reassuring now. On the other hand, most of them seem more stern, even when gentle. I tend to be much more comfortable with that than most people, and I can't say it has been all that effective.

Though it may qualify as a dire circumstance, and being effective one out of five times might actually be a good hit rate from a heavenly standard, even though it is miserable from an earthly one...

I might hope that, anyway.

All this suggests the uncomfortable opposite problem?  What if it is I who am a ghost at the edges, with one more complaint I could not drop, one more lizard I have nurtured,  one more idea that was too precious to release? It is a Baptist/Evangelical standard to talk blithely about the Assurance of Salvation, and Knowing Where You Would Go If You Died Tonight. But the first three colonial founding groups in America would all be very suspicious of that theology.  The puritans in particular would consider it spiritual arrogance to be certain one is among the elect on the basis of an emotional response on a single evening! They would consider such "confidence" more of a disproof. 

Who would come to me in welcome who I could not bear to look at, though they were expressly chosen by the angel in charge of my particular neighborhood? What would they say, and what would be my objection - and am I making that objection over and over again now?

War Crimes

James has commentary on the War and Economic Crimes commission in Liberia, where he grew up. It includes a link to his comments in 2010 about a similar commission. Both are recommended.

I note that the original commission had the word "truth" in its title - a bad sign, to my mind. Left or right, anyone in America using that seems to inevitably be telling only one side of the story, and apparently this in true in other countries, where the consequences can be even more violent and dire. Yes there are oppressors, who may even deserve the lion's share of the accountability.  But rebel groups have sins of their own, and glossing over those is ultimately a recipe for disaster. As James's examples unfortunately illustrate. 

I have a fear that we are moving increasingly in that direction in this country, and the West in general.

I used to say in the psych biz that there was no one more difficult to deal with than a borderline (BPD)* with a legitimate grievance. 

*Contrary to the Wikipedia entry, I do not see that Edvard Munch had BPD. This seems based on the remnants of psychoanalytic theory still present in the 1980s.

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Post 9800 - Fidelity in the Face of All Evil

Then Eustace came to his senses and saw the Calormenes scampering back to their friends. But not all of them. Two lay dead, pierced by Jewel’s horn, one by Tirian’s sword. The Fox lay dead at his own feet, and he wondered if it was he who had killed it. The Bull also was down, shot through the eye by an arrow from Jill and gashed in his side by the Boar’s tusk. But our side had its losses too. Three dogs were killed and a fourth was hobbling behind the line on three legs and whimpering. The Bear lay on the ground, moving feebly. Then it mumbled in its throaty voice, bewildered to the last, “I—I don’t—understand,” laid its big head down on the grass as quietly as a child going to sleep, and never moved again. The Last Battle CS Lewis
It's hard not to love that bear, supposedly not very smart and dying with his questions unanswered. Yet in the end, his was a very great wisdom.
Spoiler alert: "Among the happy creatures who now came crowding round Tirian and his friends were all those whom they had thought dead. There was Roonwit the Centaur and Jewel the Unicorn and the good Boar and the good Bear, and Farsight the Eagle, and the dear Dogs and the Horses, and Poggin the Dwarf. “Further in and higher up!” cried Roonwit and thundered away in a gallop to the West"
May we all do as well.

Christmas Goose

Have any of you made roast goose?  I am considering it for this Thanksgiving or more likely, Christmas, and want to know what problems people have encountered.

Including the problem of "Y'know, I don't think I like goose all that much."

Update: The recipes are about as straightforward as you can imagine.  "Put some citrus in the cavity and take it out later.  Cook it in a bath of shallow water, skimming the fat as you go.  Don't overcook.  Let it sit for a while."

The White Man Has No Friends

Recently from Aporia Magazine, an article by Canadian* anthropologist Peter Frost: The White Man Has No Friends. It is an anthropological look at how whites are viewed by native peoples worldwide, including our preference for individualism rather than group-mediated behavior. He is certainly not the first to notice this. I recall Theodore Dalrymple describing his time as a young doctor in Africa, and the relative luxury he got to live in despite a modest salary - because he could keep his money and use it on himself, while the African doctors, though paid the same, were expected to share it with numerous relatives and fellow-villagers. They resented him for it. Frost describes the use of group violence against individuals even when the individual has committed no harm, simply because they are part of an enemy group.  Such things are not unknown in the west, but much less pronounced. Perhaps significantly, it is more common among the young. That groupthink may be the human default which we teach out of our children. 

OTOH, some HBD people teach that it is a result of centuries of Christian prohibition against cousin marriage subtly changing our ability to cooperate with non-relatives and promoting an individualist outlook. Yes, the Church taught this everywhere, but for some reason was only obeyed in Northern Europe. There is some evidence of higher status of women and greater individualism among those tribes already, for example the ability of warriors to choose which leaders they would align with, rather than be solely bound by kinship ties. (Kinship ties remained strong, but only in comparison to modern sensibilities, not in comparison to other groups of the time.) The Northern European groups may simply have been already more used to the idea not marrying close cousins, at least, and had a jump-start on individuality already. Work in progress on the research there.

Frost credits these different attitudes with the spread of influence, even dominion, over the rest of the world.

In the late Middle Ages, the peoples of northern and western Europe gradually consolidated into nation-states and began a relentless expansion outward, first within Europe and then beyond… until they dominated the entire world. This domination was most obvious in their creation of colonial empires, but it was also apparent in other areas: the economy, science, technology, and so on.

So what was the secret of their success? It seem to suggest something to do with trust, individualism, and Christianity. Many readers here will also shout out: “Intelligence!” Perhaps. But a number of human groups have reached high levels of cognitive ability, maybe even higher, while failing to achieve the same dominance. Think of the Parsis, the Ashkenazim and the Chinese.

Yes the Hajnal Line, the Western European Marriage Pattern, comes into this. It also fits in with Grim's recent discussion of Roman versus Greek concepts of virtue. Frost summarises all this and places it in a context of a full cultural difference. He sees its apotheosis in The Enlightenment, which always annoys the heck out of me, especially when he is the very one tracing these values back as far as the 600s, but that made-up era will always be popular with the secular fans of Western Civilisation, I'm afraid.  He also quotes Gregory Clark on the full boat of cultural changes "Thrift, prudence, negotiation, and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent, and leisure loving.” I agree, but note we still have plenty of the latter behaviors, just less regularly than other peoples.

*Not the British anthropologist who studies the Incas.