April 17, 2021

Scarlet elf cups.

"Sarcoscypha coccinea, commonly known as the scarlet elf cup, scarlet elf cap, or the scarlet cup, is a species of fungus in the family Sarcoscyphaceae of the order Pezizales."



We found them today in Blue Mound State Park, where we walked my favorite trail, the Over Lode.


AND: Here's the photo Meade took of me: 


"Whenever the national media reports on a black person killed by cops, we must ask ourselves 'Would a white cop not have done that if the person were white?'"

"Because: we are taught that white (and even non-white) cops ice black people (usually men) out of racism. It’s possibly subconscious, but in the heat of the moment, they revert animalistically to their white supremacist assumption of black animality and pull that trigger.... Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by cops, and exactly 2.5 times more likely to be poor, and data shows that poverty makes you more likely to encounter the cops, as even intuition confirms. This is why somewhat more black people are killed by cops than what our proportion in the population would predict.... [M]ost people who take to the streets about cases like Daunte Wright are not thinking about the fact that black people are killed by cops 2.5 times more than their representation in the population would predict. They are protesting because all they see in the news is the black people killed, and have no way of imagining that whites are regularly killed in the same way and in much greater numbers.... Every time the media broadcasts the murder by cop of a black person, ask yourself if it’s really true that a cop wouldn’t have done it to a white person – and then go to, for example, the Washington Post database and see cops doing just that. And upon that, we will settle upon an honest national conversation about the cops as murdering people in race-neutral fashion. Or at least we should." 

Writes John McWhorter in "The Victorians Had to Accept Darwin/We Need to Accept that Cops Kill White People as Easily as They Kill Black People/Otherwise, our conversation on race is deeply and perniciously fake" (Substack). 


There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

Magnolia, scilla, fritillaria.




Flowers in Madison, this past week. The magnolia was in the arb, the frittilaria and the scilla on the Meadhouse property.

"On Friday, West Point officials said in a statement that the [second-chance] program had 'not met its intended purpose' of increasing the self-reporting of honor code violations and reducing cadets’ tolerance for them...."

"'The tenets of honorable living remain immutable, and the outcomes of our leader development system remain the same, to graduate Army officers that live honorably, lead honorably and demonstrate excellence,' General Williams said in a statement. 'West Point must be the gold standard for developing Army officers. We demand nothing less than impeccable character from our graduates.'... Tim Bakken, a professor of law at West Point, said the involvement of so many athletes in a cheating scandal was a recurring theme at the academy and he called for greater scrutiny of the issue and more transparency on the part of the institution’s leaders. 'We have to ask the question of whether there is something about the culture of athletics that is at odds with the academy’s mission with regard to honor,' he said... Echoing Professor Bakken, C. Richard Nelson, a 1960 West Point graduate... noted that the 1976 scandal, like last year’s and another in 1951, was concentrated among athletes at the academy, in that case the football team. Mr. Nelson said that in his day, there was 'no slack' given and that 'any violation meant separation' — the academy’s term for expulsion. He also said he could see how the second-chance program that was being discontinued, known as the Willful Admission Process, might have fallen short of its goals. 'You’re asking an awful lot of these young people to turn somebody else in,' he said."

From "West Point Scraps Second-Chance Program After Major Cheating Scandal/Some graduates criticized the program as too lenient after the U.S. Military Academy disclosed its biggest academic scandal in decades" (NYT). 

I'd like to see the NYT go more deeply into the question of athletics and cheating — something more than quoting 2 professors on the subject. The question that arose in my mind — and I have no idea of the race of the various accused cheaters — is whether an honor code is a manifestation of white supremacy. The NYT has been weaving Critical Race Theory throughout so many of its articles that we ought to take note of its failure to include that dimension.

FROM THE EMAIL: Robin writes: 

Bob Ross, resurrected to paint a Mountain Dew ad, is welcome even as it obstructs the "Repo Man" clip I wanted to find.

For once, I am not annoyed — I am the opposite of annoyed — by the ad YouTube served up in front of the video I wanted to watch: 


Well, that's just great. Good to know the beloved dead man is refreshed. 

There is a Bible verse about tending to the thirst of a dead man: "And he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'" 

Yet no one pictures Bob Ross in hell. It is more likely that you would picture him in a Heaven that resembles his paintings, and I'm sure that picture has abundant water features, with painterly tree reflections. Still, you weren't picturing Paradise with soda, were you? Maybe you were! There's that song about Paradise with cigarette trees and a soda water fountain.

Now to the serious business of this post, the "Repo Man" clip: 

"So he hauled a new generator into his S.U.V., strapped $800 worth of wood onto the vehicle’s roof and drove down into one of the city’s ravines in the middle of the night..."

"... to build... a wooden box — 7 feet 9 inches by 3 feet 9 inches — sealed with a vapor barrier and stuffed with enough insulation that, by his careful calculation, would keep it warm on nights when the thermometer dipped as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. He put in one window for light, and attached smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Later, he taped a note to the side that read, 'Anyone is welcome to stay here.' Since then, Mr. Seivwright (pronounced Seeve-right), 28, has built about 100 similar shelters with a crew of 40 volunteers and more than $200,000 in donations. He has hauled them to parks across Toronto where homeless encampments have slumped into place — jarring reminders of the pandemic’s perversely uneven effects. The city’s bureaucrats called them illegal and unsafe, and stapled trespass and eviction notices to many, informing their residents that the city had rented out hotel rooms for them. They served Mr. Seivwright with an injunction, ordering him to stop putting the structures on city-owned land." 

From "The Carpenter Who Built Tiny Homes for Toronto’s Homeless/Khaleel Seivwright built himself a wooden shanty while living on a West Coast commune. Then he started building similar lodgings for homeless people in Toronto to survive the winter" (NYT).

The box is not much larger than a coffin (which tends to be 7.17 feet by 2.5 feet), but people prefer them even when they know "the city had rented out hotel rooms for them." A city can't allow a shantytown — far below its standards of habitability — to grow up its in its parks. But Seivwright is nevertheless celebrated.

I can see how building these squalid boxes and depositing them around town works as protest art, speaking loudly to the people of Toronto about the poor and desperate people who live in their midst. The city is providing hotel rooms, but if these people are in hotel rooms, the housed citizens of Toronto won't need to agonize about them.

To be in the box is to be inside but outside, seen but unseen. To be in a hotel room is to be thoroughly inside and unseen. That's what the city prefers. I don't think the article explains why it is what the homeless prefer.

(To comment, you can email me here.)

FROM THE EMAIL: Owen writes: 

Sorry, this guy sounds whack. These boxes are not Habitats for Humans but a kind of litter. There’s a reason why cities have governments, poor and stupid and cruel as they may be; and it’s to help manage the risks to health and safety that come with our common lives. Your analysis takes some account of the “City” as if it were a bumbling bureaucracy —easy to mock, that. But what about the *citizens* of the city? The suffering nameless individuals who pay the taxes, try to mind their ways and be decent to each other, try to build lives and raise families, try to *use the (few, crowded, worn) amenities* of the city? Who now find the homeless occupying their parks, cadging and foraging and leaving a trail of trouble, encouraged now by characters like this to repurpose the precious open space into flop-houses and latrines? Do the citizens not get a voice in this little hippie happening?

I think citizens are getting fed up with this. Not just in Toronto, either.

"I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the color of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs."

"By viewing every element of education, every aspect of history, and every facet of society through the lens of skin color and race, we are desecrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and utterly violating the movement for which such civil rights leaders believed, fought, and died. I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school.... Furthermore, I call bullshit on Brearley's oft-stated assertion that the school welcomes and encourages the truly difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding race and the roots of racial discrepancies....  I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners.... I object to the gutting of the history, civics, and classical literature curriculums.... Lastly, I object, with as strong a sentiment as possible, that Brearley has begun to teach what to think, instead of how to think. I object that the school is now fostering an environment where our daughters, and our daughters’ teachers, are afraid to speak their minds in class for fear of 'consequences.' I object that Brearley is trying to usurp the role of parents in teaching morality, and bullying parents to adopt that false morality at home.... It is abundantly clear that the majority of parents believe that Brearley’s antiracism policies are misguided, divisive, counterproductive and cancerous.... But as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, given the insidious cancel culture that has of late permeated our society, most parents are too fearful to speak up. But speak up you must. There is strength in numbers and I assure you, the numbers are there."

From a letter by Andrew Gutmann, the full text of which is published by Bari Weiss in her Substack column, "You Have to Read This Letter/A New York father pulls his daughter out of Brearley with a message to the whole school. Is the dam starting to break?" 

Brearly is a girls' school in Manhattan. The annual tuition is $55,000. Gutmann's daughter has attended the school for 7 years, since kindergarten. He's calling on the other parents — the other parents who, presumably, have done what they could to shower privilege on their children — to rise up and object to the "anti-racism" that, he says, has permeated the school. 

"But speak up you must" — and yet, I'd predict that other parents will not speak up, but will silently agree with Gutmann, then steel themselves and endure the treatment they have been designated to receive. The one thing that makes me think parents might get it together and object is the "mandatory anti-racism training for parents" — if it really is "so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane."

There has to be a point where any decent parent will say, Oh, my God, this is the crap they are feeding young minds, including my beautiful child!

And yet each of them knows — they've heard it so sophomorically and simplistically — that they will be stepping directly into the official definition of racist. So Gutmann has a lot of nerve.


There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

FROM THE EMAIL Sydney writes: 

This section from the father's letter resonated with me:

"We have today in our country, from both political parties, and at all levels of government, the most unwise and unvirtuous leaders in our nation’s history. Schools like Brearley are supposed to be the training grounds for those leaders. Our nation will not survive a generation of leadership even more poorly educated than we have now, nor will we survive a generation of students taught to hate its own country and despise its history."

I am seeing this in my field, medicine. The medical students and residents no longer seem able (or perhaps they are just unwilling) to think critically. They seem to be operating on algorithms more and more rather than critical assessment of a patient's presentation. I don't see much critiquing of research papers anymore. The journal clubs have become social justice book clubs. The pages of our prestigious medical journals devote articles to systemic racism. Recently, an editor of JAMA was fired for questioning the premise of critical race theory. We will be in a bad way when medicine is driven by ideology.

And Heartless Aztec writes: 

As a retired inner city, refugee and immigrant teacher I'm here to tell you that all this racial bs has been going on for years in our schools — public and private — easily for a decade now. It's only now in the last year or so bubbling up for all to see. In faculty meetings we would fight back semi-openly deriding the propagandists from the downtown school board Admin building putting on the dog and pony show. We laughed under our breath at them though we were powerless to fight back in any meaningful way - especially as white teachers in a thoroughly Af-American setting.

More than once I was called into chambers in the principal's office and point blank asked if I was a "racist." Me! A person who was a past member of the NAACP, co-chair for the United Negro College fund school drive, Black History contextual studies degree, etc. I sent my daughter to Catholic schools. To have sent her to a public school in the city where I taught would have been parental malpractice.

April 16, 2021

6:14 a.m.



"It's a bobcat, attacking my wife!"

FROM THE EMAIL: Nathan writes: 

This seems worthy of a “men in shorts” tag, and you may even consider adding a “men in shorts wearing boots” tag. 

And this is another reason for men not to wear shorts. What is some man/beast confrontation suddenly befalls you? Something with teeth and claws? This man did all right, but if you knew something like that would happen, you'd put pants on.

AND: I'm getting a lot of email saying that's not a bobcat, but a regular house cat, but I can't believe this man would put up the video if it were because he grabs the beast and hurls it hard into the ground. If you'd done that to a house cat, you'd know not to expose yourself to the world. People would cry out about cruelty to animals. I presume he's getting criticized for throwing a bobcat, even though he was acting in self-defense. It's possible that it's not his doorbell camera, and it wasn't his decision to put this video out there, but it looks like it is.

"Madison residents sue over college financial aid program limited to certain students of color."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports: 

A law firm representing conservative interests, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, filed the action against the Higher Educational Aids Board in Jefferson County Circuit Court.... The board administers the Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant program, which provides students of color with up to $2,500 per year to offset the cost of college....  State law restricts program eligibility to African American, American Indian, Hispanic and some Southeast Asian students.

WILL argues the program criteria amounts to racial discrimination — which is prohibited by the state constitution — because students who are Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, North African, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or white don't qualify....

The program has been around since the 1980s.

WILL has taken a recent interest in reviewing laws and programs through a lens of racial equality.... Those include minority business grants or preferences, loan forgiveness programs and a racial quota for the city of Madison's Police Civilian Oversight Board....

You might think that these programs would all have been challenged when they were first adopted and that there should already be a judicial answer to the question — which is glaringly obvious — whether this is illegal race discrimination. I think the only new item on that list is the racial quota for the city of Madison's Police Civilian Oversight Board. 

I note that the law suit was filed in state court and the claim is based on state constitutional law. 

(To comment, you can email me here.)

"For the first time, scientists have mapped out the molecular and genetic processes by which temperature determines sex..."

"...in bearded dragons, a species of lizard native to Australia.... At cooler temperatures, chromosomes prevail, turning on one sequence of genes to make a female dragon; at warmer temperatures, a completely different series of genes can override partial male development and produce a female.... Why would a temperature-dependent pathway to one sex or another evolve? In reptiles... the ability to change sex in response to environmental cues has been retained across diverse species, from sea turtles to crocodiles, indicating both that it arose early in their evolution and that it confers an adaptive benefit.... For reptiles living in [arid] environments, being born closer to the end of the breeding season, when temperatures are beginning to drop, it could be more advantageous to be male. That’s because males can grow to a size where they can mate with females within that timeframe.... Females born late in the season could have to wait until the next breeding season, when temperatures are warmer, to successfully mate and produce offspring...."

From "In a Warming World, Heat Interferes With Sex Determination in These Australian Lizards/Scientists have discovered how hot temperatures override chromosomes in bearded dragons" (Smithsonian).

"With all the new money flooding the metaverse... the kinds of conflicts between neighbors we’re familiar with from the real world have followed."

"Take the monastery and the ranch house next door. Both were built by Ogar, an in-demand meta-architect in the metaverse. His real name is Alexandre Vlerick, and he lives in the real-life Lille, France.... Right after he finished the monastery for a German client, he got another request: an American client asking for a ranch house alongside it, on land where he could raise virtual chickens, horses, and a goat. Once the client moved in, he got a red barn, a tractor, and bales of hay. The owner of the monastery wasn’t pleased with the clashing aesthetics, and a familiar homeowners’-association-style conflict erupted. 'The first client was like, "Man, can’t you do it in another place? I’ll swap parcels with you so you have a bigger space far from my place,"' Ogar said. 'But he said no.'... Many early users came to the space because they were excited to hang out virtually with like-minded people who believe in blockchain technology; others were digital artists excited about new platforms.... But for newcomers paying upwards of $100,000 worth of crypto for a parcel, participation in the metaverse might be less about the liberatory potential of blockchain and more about speculating with crypto on digital assets. There is a clear tension between the idea that the metaverse is a utopian blank canvas, socially and visually, and the fact these spaces are based on money-backed property rights.... [T]here is already a kind of nostalgia setting in among longtime users of these platforms... 'The big money is moving in....'"

From "Does the Metaverse Need a Zoning Board? As new crypto investments flood online worlds, conflicts between virtual neighbors are on the rise" (NY Magazine). 

It's a replication of the problem of gentrification. First come the young creatives. They make the place cool and alive. Then come the people who just buy their way in. But what are they buying? They don't really live there... or do they spend time there in some way. Is it art or is it investment? 

In any case, Ogar has a nice job for himself. Speaking of jobs, there must be lawyers. There must be government. Or maybe not. It's a game, isn't it? I don't understand it, but I got to thinking about the board game Risk. 

There's never a point in Risk where government emerges. You just play to the death, every time. Sometimes you feel real emotio 

FROM THE EMAIL: Steve writes:

"Gucci sneakers usually retail for well over $500, but this week the luxury fashion giant has started selling a pair for $17.99... digital only."

"The Virtual 25 sneaker is a chunky slime green, bubble-gum pink and sky blue shoe that... can only be 'worn' via augmented and virtual reality," The Guardian reports.

An impressive idea for a product. People spend a lot of money on clothes to impress other people, and if they are doing their efforts to impress in virtual spaces, then why not buy these things? It's the next step. 

It's funny, though, to buy sneakers, shoes built around the concept of comfort and physical performance. These are precisely the factors that don't matter when you are in virtual space. Why not wear wild, weird shoes in virtual space, the kind that would be impractical and painful if you had them on your flesh-and-blood feet? 

I'll just guess that in virtual spaces, you want to look like you could run away. My second guess, though, is that the importance of sneakers — the fascination with luxury branded, high-priced sneakers — is firmly established within the set of people who do augmented and virtual reality, so that's the kind of fake shoes they want. 

I thought of the analogy to virtual sex: Do people want their nonexistent sexual partners to have qualities unrelated to sexual experience but that they'd want in a real-life partner? I mean seem to have — the equivalent of the comfort and practicality of virtual sneakers. I'm thinking of — for a woman — a virtual partner who seems to have an impressive job and a prestigious family. For a man — a virtual woman with a modestly successful artistic job and a family that lives far away. You know? Sexual sneakers! Or would you like someone more challenging, the virtual sex equivalent of highly impractical shoes?

I did not think I would end up there! I'm only writing about Gucci's virtual shoes — the article is from last month — because it popped up after a new article that caught my eye: "‘Short, fat, ugly’: Gucci family lashes out at cast appearance in new film/Ridley Scott biopic tells story of Patrizia Reggiani’s doomed marriage to Maurizio Gucci."

Ha ha. The ugly people are Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, and — in a baldness cap — Jared Leto. Uglier than the actors — the actual story of the Gucci family: "The film, which is now in production and directed by Sir Ridley Scott, tells the story of Patrizia Reggiani and her doomed marriage to Maurizio Gucci. Reggiani was convicted of his assassination in 1998 after hiring a hitman to kill him.... When a reporter asked Reggiani why she had not shot her ex-husband herself, she said: 'My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.'"

(To comment, email me here.)

April 15, 2021

Dreams dreamed, now the trick is to make it all happen — black nebula carrots and all.


FROM THE EMAIL: Sarah from VA writes:
Is it OK to try and do a cafe-type post via e-mail? Well, I'm going to try! 
I'm excited for your garden! I'm weirdly interested in the fact that you're planting wheat and barley. Are they going to be primarily ornamental grasses or are you actually planning on harvesting? Does Meade have grand plans for baking a loaf of bread Little-Red-Hen-style? 
I spent hours and hours this week putting in some raised beds in our yard. You'd think my kids had no toys or any kind of other entertainment, so great was the draw of the garden beds. A big pile of dirt, a shovel, a garden rake -- what else do you need? Of course I'm sure the interest will evaporate when it's time to start weeding.

Everything is ornamental, but the things that are edible, we plan to eat. Meade says, “It will be gruel on the bacon,” which meant “It will be icing on the cake.” 

Let me give you some snippets of comments added to posts from the last 2 days.

These are taken out of context, possibly to amuse you as is, but really to give me something to put a link on, so you can click back and read. 

1. "He strikes me as a recognisable type: the 19th century equivalent of a trust fund socialist." 

2. "For every 100 people who fly, 100 could die in an airplane crash." 

3. "That's like promising to put a mouse turd into a double batch of oatmeal cookies." 

4. "Of course for the media more riots would be beneficial, more clicks, more exciting footage of burning and looting." 

5. "In our country's current woke status, viewers at home who publicly tolerate homosexuality may be turned off by it in privacy." 

6. "Having lived my entire 62 years in New York, I have been waiting patiently for my turn to be insulted over my ethnicity, and now I finally have gotten my chance. Thank you!" 

7. "If you tell people they can't smoke and, on top of that, decrease the acceptable level of alcohol to a point that if they have more than a beer or two they risk a DUI, they stay home." 

8. "I think having comments resulted in your being more interested in starting a conversation and less likely to give an opinion, and it's that opinion I prefer to read." 

9. "I remember one piece that had Maria Callas appearing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand with the in-studio teen audience obliviously boogying to Callas’s aria." 

10. "My mother did pro bono work for the ACLU getting restrictive covenants removed in Tompkins County.... I don’t recall Hindus or Chinese ever coming up." 

11. "A fancy restaurant has a level of expected hospitality that is far above that of a cheap diner or a hotdog stand." 

12. "As with abortion, both sides can raise prodigious amounts of money off the threat of Court-packing." 

13. "But if Scranton Joe can point back to his relatively impoverished roots, Vance can make an even better claim."  

14. "Modern man is profoundly out of synch with created order, having seized control of his fertility, sexuality, gender, and genetic material."



I can never remember the name of this flower. 


It's Helleborus. It looks a lot like another flower I have trouble remembering, Ranunculus. Ridiculous! I end up referring to it as "Homunculus," which I know is wrong, but amuses me to say. In truth, a "homunculus" is...

"Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday people will 'likely' need a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated."

"He also said it’s possible people will need to get vaccinated against the virus annually," CNBC reports.

"Expect campaign rivals to pounce on the contradictions, while the eloquent Vance will try talk his way around it — banking on the fact that Ohio twice went for a populist billionaire."

From "J.D. Vance tells associates he plans to run for Senate in Ohio" (Axios).
Vance made his name as an author [of "Hillbilly Elegy"], but he's made his career as a venture capitalist, backed by many of the coastal billionaires he now plans to rhetorically run against.
FROM THE EMAIL: Mike writes:
Well, I suppose that Vance’s putatitve opponents can point out that Vance is now a venture capitalist. But if Scranton Joe can point back to his relatively impoverished roots, Vance can make an even better claim. Vance really has been there and done that when it comes to living in and coming from poverty and a druggy/criminal culture. What got him out of there and to his “exalted venture capitalist status” was a tour in the military as an enlisted man. He followed that with a rush through undergrad school and then on to an Ivy League Law School where some of his fellow students sneered, “What are you doing here?” You’ll recall that John Kasich, running in Ohio, made much of being the son of a letter carrier for the Post Office. Whoever is likely to run against or oppose Vance won’t have his “authentic” lower class background. And if they want to paint him as a wealthy plutocrat, that sort of attack won’t work. Unlike Joe Biden who probably can’t remember anything, the voters can believe that Vance remembers where he came from.

Thursday sunrise.





"Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices..."

NBC News reports.

The Democratic bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mondaire Jones of New York. The Supreme Court can be expanded by an act of Congress, but the legislation is highly unlikely to become law in the near future given Democrats' slim majorities, which include scores of lawmakers who are not on board with the idea. President Joe Biden has said he is 'not a fan' of packing the court....

Last week, Biden announced the formation of a commission of liberals and conservatives to study the structure of the Supreme Court, including the number of justices and the length of their service.

"To study the structure" ≈ to quietly kill the idea. So Markey and Nadler are stepping on their President's subtle manipulation. Another way of putting that is they could see what Biden was doing, so now is precisely the time to get out in front of him.

ADDED: I'm strongly opposed to enlarging the Court. I'm just saying I can see Markey and Nadler's motivation.

FROM THE EMAIL: Rob writes:

Based on the flood of Republican emails in my inbox today, I wouldn’t discount fundraising as a significant motivation for the Markey/Nadler Court-packing bill. (I assume a mirror image of that deluge has hit every D or progressive inbox today.) As with abortion, both sides can raise prodigious amounts of money off the threat of Court-packing. The fact that decisive action is always “just another election cycle away” is a feature, not a bug.

"Before hospitality was a business, it was more of a virtue — a barometer of civilization."

"And in light of the past year, and the extreme hospitality expected from workers during a global pandemic, it might be helpful to think of it that way again. Ancient ideas of hospitality were in place to protect pilgrims, travelers, immigrants and others who looked to strangers for food and shelter on the road. At the root of hospitality is the Latin word 'hostis,' wrote the philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle, which means guest, but also enemy.... Writing about the ethics and politics of hospitality, another philosopher, Jacques Derrida, claimed that 'unconditional hospitality is impossible.' It’s never been reasonable to expect infinite generosity, but that idea has still shaped the industry in countless ways.... The art critic John Berger often talked about hospitality as necessary to his understanding of art and culture, to the act of storytelling, to being human. Hospitality, to him, was a continuous and conscious choice — to listen, to be kind, to be open. If an exchange relied on someone’s exploitation? That wasn’t hospitality at all."

From "What Is Hospitality? The Current Answer Doesn’t Work/The host-guest relationship puts all the onus on the server, particularly during the pandemic, and points to the dysfunction at the heart of the business" (NYT).

FROM THE EMAIL: SGT Ted writes: 

"Azaria, who is White..."

Is he?

I'm trying to read the WaPo article, "Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades." 

I've already blogged about this apology, so I'm not rehashing that. I just want to focus on the unsupported assertion that Azaria "is White." 

If Azaria is White, maybe Apu is also White. 

The question whether people from India are white has been litigated in the United States. From Wikipedia's article "Racial classification of Indian Americans"

I'm so old-fashioned, I thought that, when Don Lemon said "I have a lot of support from the Big Guy," he was talking about God.

I'm in the middle of listening to the NYT podcast — which you can play and read a little about at "CNN Is in a Post-Trump Slump. What Does That Mean for Don Lemon?/The prime-time host on the future of cable news, the urgency of conversations about race and whether CNN is a boys’ club."


Kara Swisher is interviewing Lemon about his ranting on his CNN show, specifically the time he called President Trump "a racist." That must have been difficult, hmmm? 

Lemon pauses, then ventures: "I have a lot of support from... the Big Guy." Does Don Lemon get his strength from religious faith? That's what I thought. 

But Swisher gets him. She immediately says, "Jeff Zucker?" and he says "yeah" blah blah blah. 


There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

"Mr. Jacobs’s parody of the Great American Songbook prompted Irving Berlin and a group of song publishers representing the work of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and others to sue..."

"... Mad’s parent company, E.C. Publications, for copyright infringement. At issue was 'Sing Along With Mad,' a pullout section published in 1961 that consisted entirely of song parodies by Mr. Jacobs and Larry Siegel. Among them were 'Louella Schwartz Describes Her Malady' (a lampoon of Berlin’s 'A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody') and 'The First Time I Saw Maris' (a spoof of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 'The Last Time I Saw Paris'), about the commercialization of the Yankee slugger Roger Maris during the season he hit a record-breaking 61 home runs.... In his opinion, [2d Circuit] Judge Irving R. Kaufman (most famous for presiding over Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s espionage trial) wrote, 'The fact that defendants’ parodies were written in the same meter as plaintiffs’ compositions would seem inevitable if the original was to be recognized, but such a justification is not even necessary; we doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.'"

From "Frank Jacobs, Mad Magazine Writer With a Lyrical Touch, Dies at 91/He deftly mocked pop culture, politics and more for 57 years/He also wrote new lyrics for familiar songs, which led to a lawsuit from Irving Berlin and others" (NYT).

1961 — I think that's about when I discovered Mad. I was 10! It was the first thing I ever subscribed to. The writings of Frank Jacobs played such an important role in the development of my young mind.

(To comment, you need to email me — here.)

FROM THE EMAIL: Retail Lawyer:

April 14, 2021

6:23 a.m.


"Ann: Used to be a frequent reader. But, it has become a waste of time trying to understand what you are attempting to cryptically express in your blog posts these days."

"I wish to stay informed, not play clever head games. If you have something to say, just say it. I'm too busy to play your silly exercises. Otherwise, find a more productive use of your and my time. As judge and jury and former reader, I find you in Contempt. Case dismissed. Goodbye!"

Someone wrote that and emailed it to me. It's not a name I recognize, just an email address that's a stray collection of numbers and letters.  

I laughed out loud at "I wish to stay informed, not play clever head games." People read this blog to "stay informed"? That seems ill-informed. And as for that "judge and jury" and "Contempt/Case dismissed" business — that can't be a lawyer. Must just be someone cranked up about my being a (former) law professor and thinking I'm vulnerable to criticisms containing legalistic lingo. 

But you need a specific charge if you want to find me guilty, and what is it? Failure to keep you informed?  Not having something to say and just saying it? The crime of playing clever head games? The infliction of silly exercises? Cryptic expression?

Oh, there I go, asking questions when I don't allow comments. Oddly enough, the complaint you see above never mentions the abolition of comments. Is it possible the person thinks the blog "has become a waste of time" because there are no comments anymore — that the comments used to help him understand what I was cryptically expressing? Ha ha — I can't understand what the emailer is cryptically expressing. And now here I am imposing it on you!

FROM THE EMAIL: Mary writes: 

"FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner) is going away."

So I am told by Blogger, "because your blog uses the FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner)."

The notice continues: "Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement , that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021. After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. If you’d like to continue sending emails, you can download your subscriber contacts. Learn how."

Ugh! I don't know if I can "learn how" to do anything like that, but I clicked through to "Feedburner help" and it says:

It's the time of year to go to Governor Nelson State Park and see the Dutchman's breeches.




"Dutchman's breeches is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris." 

"Governor Nelson State Park is a 422-acre Wisconsin state park... on the north shore of Lake Mendota. It is named for former Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson [founder of Earth Day]... Away from the lake one can find restored prairie and savanna, effigy mounds, hiking trails and ski trails.... A portion of the site of the park originally hosted a boys' camp called Camp Indianola. Orson Welles was a camper at the camp in his youth."

Dave Grohl and Mick Jagger endeavor — as only 2 old and punkish men can — to sing us all out of the lockdown.


Lyrics by Mick. I'm printing them out even though they're written on the screen so you'll have no trouble discerning them through the earnest noise. I'm just guessing you won't listen through. Plus, if we can read them, we can analyze them:

We took it on the chin/The numbers were so grim/Bossed around by pricks/Stiffen upper lips...

Pricks/Stiffen...  That's literary art.

Pacing in the yard/You're trying to take the Mick...

To take the mick is to tease somebody, and his name is Mick, so he's taking the butt-of-the-joke position.

"This was not a two-week process, I needed to educate myself a lot. I realised I have had a date with destiny with this thing for 31 years."

"I really do apologise. I know you weren’t asking for that, but it’s important. I apologise for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologise."

Said Hank Azaria, quoted in "Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria offers apology to ‘every single Indian person’" (London Times). 

Here's the top-rated comment over there: 

As an Indian having watched Simpsons I didn't even know I was supposed to be OFFENDED and needed to be APOLOGISED to. This woke brigade has created issues out of nothing, mountain out of molehills. Hari Kondabolu does not represent us - never heard of him and now don't even want to know him. There are 1.5bn indians and this guy does not represent even 0.0001% of Indians as most are too busy working hard to get involved in wokery. Remember Indians don't play victim (according to the race report published last week) - they don't have the time as studying, jobs, hard work, looking after family, being a good citizen takes up all the time - not enough time to protest, shout, march and scream at the govt for imaginary issues or time to be offended.

Maybe you've never heard of Hari Kondabolu either, so here's the trailer for his documentary movie: 


FROM THE EMAIL: Hari writes:

As a Hari (and a Singh) apology accepted. Having lived my entire 62 years in New York, I have been waiting patiently for my turn to be insulted over my ethnicity, and now I finally have gotten my chance. Thank you!

ALSO: WK says:

When Hank Azaria said "Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologise," I pictured Navin Johnson in "The Jerk" handwriting an individual check to everyone who ended up cross-eyed from using the Optigrab he invented.....

"Underwood said he 'genuinely' wishes he hadn't dragged people into 'my own mess of figuring out who I was.'"

"In addition to saying sorry to those women, he would said thank you because, ultimately, they and the franchise helped him get to this place. When he was named the Bachelor, Underwood said he remembered 'praying to God' the morning he found out and 'thanking him for making me straight,' thinking this would lead to him finally getting the wife and them having kids. But Underwood said he had known the truth of his sexuality since a young age, knowing he 'just felt different' from the age of 6, when he couldn't process it. He knew he was 'more emotional' than the other boys in his class. It took until high school for him to realize he 'was more attracted to the boys and the men' than he was the opposite sex. Having grown up in the Catholic church, he remembered he 'learned in the Bible that gay is a sin' in Catholic grade school...."

"Former 'Bachelor' star Colton Underwood comes out as gay" (Good Morning America).

I don't watch "The Bachelor," and I know there's fakery — more or less — in TV reality shows, but I can't believe a show about a crowd of women competing for one man doesn't make absolutely sure the guy is straight. At the very least, the problem of his confusion about his sexual orientation ought to have become part of the show. 

I mean no disrespect to a gay man who goes through a struggle — particularly a religious struggle — to come to admit to himself that he is what he is, but he went on a show — a show about raging heterosexuality. Did he deceive the show people who vetted him? Do the show people not care about this problem or are they just inept? 

Did Robin Roberts ask him any of these tough questions? Or did Underwood choose Roberts as his mode of communication because she'd give him a comfortable forum? 

Buried deeply in the article: 

What'd he do?

Do I have to look this up separately? 

I google "Marco Rubio" and see 3 possible things... none of them even seems clickable!

The Lincoln Project is not known for making the best tweets. Today it may have made its worst one yet.

"Don’t have a good pic cuz it hurts too much and I need to sleep haha, and it’ll be red for a few wks , but gna be beautiful alien scars."


Via "Grimes shows off the 'beautiful alien scars' she's had tattooed across her back" (CNN). 

Grimes — a musician whose real name is Claire Elise Boucher — is in a relationship with Elon Musk. You may remember that they had a baby together and named it X Æ A-12 Musk. 

Grimes is obviously very beautiful, but I guess for a super high achiever that's mundane bullshit. Something more must be invented. Even covering your body with tattoos is boring now. What else can be done?! Once you open that door, alien scars seems rather dull too. 

And yet, it's playing, transgressively, with female subordination. It's the look of having been clawed all over her back by an alien. Is Elon sharing her with an alien? Or is Elon the alien?

(Commenting can only be done by emailing me — here.)

"The danger in presenting a defense case, especially in a prosecution that is so video-dependent, is that it allows the prosecutor..."

"... through leading questions on cross-examination, to walk witnesses through the video, explaining to the jury moment-by-moment exactly what the prosecution’s theory of the case is. If he does this skillfully, the prosecutor turns his 'questioning' into the equivalent of a summation.... In addition to stressing Chauvin’s patent awareness that Floyd was in pain, the prosecutor had the witness concede that the defendant had been told by his fellow officers that Floyd had lost consciousness, ought to be rolled over on his side (to facilitate breathing), and had no pulse. While defense attorney Eric Nelson had made much of the crowd presence and the possibility that it could pose a threat to the police, Schleicher had Brodd conceding that the crowd was small and posed no threat to the police.... The foundation of Chauvin’s defense is that he had reason to fear that Floyd would regain consciousness and begin resisting arrest again. Schleicher elicited from Brodd the explanation that there is a difference between a threat and a risk: Police may use force to counter a threat they perceive based on some affirmative act by a detainee; but they may not use force based on a mere risk that a detainee might pose a threat at some future point."

From "Chauvin Defense Expert Destroyed on the Stand" by Andrew McCarthy (at National Review). 

FROM THE EMAIL: Omaha1 writes:

"President Biden promised to usher in a golden age of bipartisan cooperation, but instead he is showing a reverse Midas touch..."

"... taking issues that once united Republicans and Democrats and making them partisan and divisive," writes Marc A. Thiessen (at WaPo).

Until Biden came along, every single covid-19 relief bill was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses.... For Biden, who promised to put his “whole soul” into uniting Republicans and Democrats, passing a bipartisan covid bill should have been a layup. I mean, Trump did it five times. But instead, the president has turned unity into division by using covid relief as a pretext to pass all sorts of liberal spending projects that have nothing to do with the pandemic....

There has long been strong support among Republican leaders for an infrastructure package of as much as $1 trillion. But instead of uniting Republicans and Democrats around a bipartisan deal, Biden is using infrastructure as a pretext to spend more tax dollars on things that have nothing to do with infrastructure. A Politico analysis of his $2.25 trillion proposal found that only $821 billion, or 37 percent, is focused on traditional infrastructure items such as transportation, electricity and Internet....

How does Biden justify the hyperpartisan start to his presidency? Just as Democrats redefined “infrastructure,” the president is now trying to redefine “bipartisanship.” Biden recently declared, “I would like . . . elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters.”

FROM THE EMAIL: Iain writes:

The President has spent his entire career as a windsock, showing us all the direction of the prevailing winds that would keep Joe Biden in public office and in the public eye. He's always been a partisan hack, but with his own electoral interests front and center. That he is now touting division as unity and partisanship as bipartisan is a sign of either his cognitive decline and weakened independence or of his reading that this is the way the wind is blowing. Or both. Wind direction, or the perception of it, can differ if there is an obstacle between you and the wind, or something that alters the wind in a small area to appear directionally different from the actual prevailing winds. Time will tell, I suppose, which way the winds are actually blowing.

And Bob Boyd writes:
"Biden...promised to put his 'whole soul' into uniting Republicans and Democrats"

That's like promising to put a mouse turd into a double batch of oatmeal cookies.

The editorial board of The Washington Post says: "Biden takes the easy way out of Afghanistan. The likely result is disaster."

From the column:
The bargain struck by the Trump administration with the Taliban required it to break all ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. According to U.N. and U.S. military officials, it has not done so. Nor has it been willing to negotiate seriously with the Afghan government about a peaceful settlement. It rejected a Biden administration proposal for a conference in Turkey to jump-start those talks, and it ridiculed U.S. proposals for a power-sharing arrangement with the government, as well as for new elections.

The group’s leaders project the conviction that they will easily rout the government militarily once the United States leaves, and restore a harsh “Islamic emirate” such as the one they fashioned in the 1990s. U.S. officials offer various rationalizations for abandoning the elected government of Ashraf Ghani to what will be, at best, a bloody fight for survival. Mr. Ghani also has resisted U.S. peace proposals, and his rule has been feckless. A strategy of leaving troops in the country in an effort to force the Taliban to compromise could extend the U.S. commitment for years without achieving a durable peace. Perhaps, too, some officials say hopefully, the Taliban will moderate its denial of women’s rights and other repressive policies to preserve international aid, without which Afghanistan’s economy would implode.

If that assessment proves wrong, Mr. Biden’s decision to remove U.S. forces by the symbolic date of Sept. 11, 2021, may simply result in the restoration of the 2001 status quo, including terrorist bases that could force a renewed U.S. intervention.
(To comment, email me here.)

Raging innumeracy of the Covid kind.

FROM THE EMAIL: Hari succinctly highlights the problem:

For every 100 people who fly, 100 could die in an airplane crash.
The word "could" carries all the weight.

If you love Thoreau and are irritated by interlocutors who assert "He was just a self-centered misanthrope"...

Here: Peter Bagge makes the pro-Thoreau argument in comic book style (Reason).

FROM THE EMAIL: Balfegor writes: 

Isn't the characterisation of Thoreau's critics in that comic a bit of a straw man? I had heard that he was a self-centred misanthrope, yes, but mostly I hear people mocking him for play-acting at self-sufficiency while his mother was still doing his laundry. He strikes me as a recognisable type: the 19th century equivalent of a trust fund socialist.

April 13, 2021






Snippets of comments — received via email — that can be found on recent posts.

Let me nudge you to some posts that have comments emailed in by readers. These lines — ripped out of context — are here to hold a link so you can see where to go. And I want you to know that I've been receiving some great contributions from readers. I like to think the new approach — sorry, I had to do it — is working really well. Thanks to all who've emailed in comments.

1. "If gender is purely subjective, how can being what us oldies would call 'feminine' be incongruent with a male gender identity?" 

2. "Too many of us, and I clearly include me in this, strongly suspect a massive foul play — a coup — took place on November 3."

3. "The ADL is a D operation and a long standing embarrassment to Jews.... a D organization wearing the clothes of a former Jewish group."

4. "I was shocked that NBC identified some as 'Antifa,' since they're only an idea." 

5. "To distort their expressions into happy school kid smiles dishonors the dead and the horror they faced. It’s bad art too." 

6. "Watch the guy trying to cuff Daunte." 

7. "They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple." 

8. "I'm impressed by the shoes." 

9. "I cannot imagine surviving childhood without daydreaming." 

10. "My husband told a pollster in 2020 he was going to vote for Joe Biden, and then laughed about it for 3 days." 

11. "As a former soldier and S2 (intelligence staff officer) I am disturbed about the use of the words 'soldiers mindset.'" (There are 9 comments at that link.)

Pink and blue.


"The speech of rationalists is heavy on the vernacular, often derived from programming language: 'updating your priors' (keeping an open mind), 'steel-manning' (arguing with the strongest version of whatever point your opponent is making)..."

"... double-cruxing' (trying to get to the root of a disagreement).... In her book, Galef argues for what she calls 'scout mindset,' which she contrasts with 'soldier mindset.' The idea is that evolution has wired our minds to be soldiers (focused on winning) instead of scouts (focused on ensuring our mental maps accurately reflect the territory of reality). To adopt a scout mindset is to resist falling prey to 'motivated reasoning,' in which we distort our thoughts to achieve a desired outcome."

From "The Tech Elite’s Favorite Pop Intellectual Julia Galef on bringing the rationalist movement to the mainstream" (NY Magazine).

The book is "The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't Hardcover." My link goes to Amazon, where there's this graphic (click to enlarge and clarify_:

I'd love to see  more "scouts," but I'm afraid this clear picture may make some rational people chose to be "soldiers"! I believe I've always been on the scout side, but if I'd understood this division early on, I would have asked the "Is it true?" question about whether it's better in life to be a "scout," and I might have said no, taken a side, and fought. I have no idea if Galef discusses that problem!

FROM THE EMAIL: Tim writes:
Engineers are trained to have a scout mindset. Never mind what we want to be true, what IS true. Seek out the correct answer and then revise your assumptions. Which is why 2/5ths are conservative, 2/5ths are independent, and only 1/5 is leftist. Because there is a right (sometimes best, but always accurate) and wrong answer. And once you figure out the right answer, you stop believing in the false answers. It is why we have not built any more Tacoma Narrows bridges. There was a right answer, and it was found. It is how the Brooklyn Bridge was built starting 150 years ago. I may not be the engineer that Washington Roebling was, but if I get hit with a clue bat often enough, I figure out the correct answer.

Yes, if the scout mentality naturally appeals to you, there are some careers that will fit most comfortably. 

AND: Geoff emails:

If everyone were a scout, tens of thousands of people in Silicon Valley would stop getting up every morning to work 10 hour days to implement the visions of "thought leaders" like Steve Jobs and would do their own thing instead. This is why Silicon Valley likes H1Bs from countries where obedience to the hierarchy is a social value. It takes a special kind of self-regard to think of how lost your army would be without your scouting while blinding yourself to the fact that without your army's soldiering you would be dead. This is, of course, just another manifestation of the elite's self-separation from the world they presume to rule.

ALSO: I received email from 4 different readers who converged on the point that Galef is mischaracterizing soldiers:

1. A reader named Tytus writes: "There is a, quite famous, fight methodology developed by the military called OODA loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act).It is an approach of constantly updating your priors based on incoming information, resulting in increased agility, and, in effect, gaining advantage over even greater opposing forces. Such an approach seems very much scout-mindset-like. Sooo, I'm not sure about starting with the premise 'soldier' vs 'scout' and running with it, when the military was able to create such gems as OODA loop. 

2. A reader named John writs: "I was in the armed forces for seven years (four years navy, three in the army national guard). The military, as an institution, gave me more freedom to think for myself (and required it- they are big on individual initiative) than I ever have had since. It's the opposite of the closed-minded archetype depicted by Julia Galef. Soldiers, in my experience, are far more adaptable and flexible than your average office worker. They have to be because war requires it. If you can't adapt, the enemy will kill you. After every engagement or task, army units hold an after-action review, where soldiers and leaders describe in front of everyone what happened and what could have been done better. Everyone is included. It's not about criticism or blame. It's about learning from mistakes. I've never had another job where they did anything like that. There's a stereotype that soldiers are rigid and mindlessly follow orders. It's very far from the truth. I don't know what other word the author could have used. It's unfortunate she used soldiers as a foil for her pop psychology message. It's the opposite of what she is saying, which is to look at reality instead of a preconceived notion."

3. A reader named Eric wrote: "As a former soldier and S2 (intelligence staff officer) I am disturbed about the use of the words 'soldiers mindset.' Military intelligence is always aware of the possibility that any or all information may be false. The opposing forces are always trying to deceive you. Your own channels have misinformation due to stress or wishful, fearful, thinking from the provider. Every bit of information is evaluated as to the probablity of being true. And the are numerous decision points at which decisions must be made based on that best information available, knowing that it may be wrong. Soldiers use the Scouter mindset. I had trouble understanding those who felt that 'Bush lied.' Any politician should have known that the data on WMD may be wrong. And had the decency and courage to say that they made a mistake in believing the data, not 'Bush lied.' The congressional authorization for that war listed the 23 reasons-23 paragraphs in Part 1 beginning with 'Whereas.......' Vote based on the likelihood that the sum total of those 23 reasons are likely True.  "

4. A reader named Clyde wrote: "It's obvious that Ms. Galef has never been a soldier. Soldiers must be able to read the map correctly, and the sorts of things that she lists under the 'soldier mindset' (rationalizing, denial, self-deception, wishful thinking) are that exact sort of mistakes that will get people killed on a battlefield. I think that perhaps 'Politician Mindset' might be more accurate, since politicians are far more likely to ask themselves 'Can I believe this?' or 'Must I believe this?' They're also more likely to engage in the aforementioned rationalizing, denial, self deception and wishful thinking."

MORE: The commenter God of the Sea People writes: 

"It seems to me that soldier v. scout is a false dichotomy, and values are what differentiate the two. Some things are demonstrably, objectively true. It makes sense to have a scout mindset about quantifiable things. Values and opinions are not quantifiable, and are not necessarily less valid because of that. I'm willing to change my mind about something when there is sufficient evidence to warrant it, but I don't think evidence is typically sufficient to change what someone values, aside from direct life experience. Especially so, if the evidence comes in the form of a bunch of studies or articles written by people with obviously different values, and who are themselves in the soldier-posture of trying to 'win' over their adversaries. I can see how thinking of yourself as having a rational, scout mindset is appealing to people. However, after witnessing the way people weaponize scientific pronouncements (with little understanding or curiosity) solely to browbeat their friends and family in social media wrangling, I would be skeptical of anyone who uses this kind of framing in an attempt to convince me of anything." 

And Daniel wrote:

I have been a fan of Julia Galef for years. I love her careful demeanor and her extensive discussion on Bayesian reasoning. Her main idea is that the normal rational mindset only works in "one direction" in a series of unique choices. Her approach, and one I endorse, is that we actually make choices through a series of events. The Bayes Theorem essentially states that with each iteration, we add to our knowledge of the choice set and can use that information to revise (and resubmit) how we understand the choices before us. This means that the next set of choices will be informed by what we have learned a posteriori. 

As the research on decision making has shown, most of us are what Kahneman and Twerski called "naive statisticians," meaning that we actually do not make the necessary calculations to compute the best choice. We choose on our gut. The Bayes process is a bit more complicated and requires some basic computation; yet, the results reveal a topography of probability that is not apparent from a simple presentation of the initial choice set. 

For example, in the Wikipedia article on Bayes theorem, there is the classic case of Drug Testing. The Bayes process shows that the probability a person who tested positive for cannabis is actually a user is not very high (the solution given there is only 19-21 percent). Regardless of how Ms. Galef chooses to label it, the Bayes/Scout approach is a better model for rational process since it combines inductive and deductive models. Washington Blogger: I would guess that most people would consider themselves more scout than soldier. But I think, through my own anecdotals experiences most people are scouts about what they assume they don't know and soldiers about what they do, and the sad thing is, most people assume they know a whole lot more than they do. In this I am soldier. I have come to the conclusion that people are soldiers in action because they think they were scouts about the topic. 

In reality, we have a favored notion of what the terrain looks like and act under the assumption that we came by that knowledge through careful scouting. However, I have another thought on this. What if we are all looking at different maps? I wonder this because of the seemingly obvious problem with the idea that math is racist. (BTW, rationalism is racist under the current race paradigm.) One person is looking at a map of the streets and bus routes saying how could math be anything close to racist while another is looking at a map of the terrain and saying how could you totally miss the inherent racism of math? Is either map wrong? 

And Stuart wrote: 

Being a scout all sounds well and good, so why aren’t we all scouts? I have composed a short hymn to explain: 

Onward, Christian soldiers, transformed into scouts, 

With the loss of Jesus now beset by doubts! 

Christ, the royal Master, all but overthrown; 

Into ev’ry battle, each will go alone! 

Like a mighty army in a cul-de-sac; 

Brothers, we are trapped here helpless to attack; 

We are quite divided; frequently at odds, 

Arguing the doctrines, of out private gods. [Refrain]




Photographed in the arb yesterday, not long after acquiring an iPhone 12 Pro.

"A group of top Democratic Party pollsters are set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging 'major errors' in their 2020 polling — errors that left party officials stunned..."

"... by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November.... 'Twenty-twenty was an "Oh, s---" moment for all of us,' said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. 'And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right.'...  [S]ky-high turnout for Trump among irregular voters only explains a small slice of the problem, the pollsters concluded. Even if the polls conducted last year were properly adjusted for future turnout, they still would have been biased toward Democrats. The memo floats at least three possible causes: late movement toward Trump and Republican candidates... the Covid pandemic causing people who stayed home to answer the phone at a greater rate... and the decline of social trust and faith in institutions."

Politico reports. 

FROM THE EMAIL: lawlizard writes:

They nailed it when they noted “decline of social trust and faith in institutions.” I took a phone poll in 2002. I was a conservative living in a liberal city. The pollster actively tried to get me to say what he wanted to hear. I assume pollsters continue to do the same. My husband told a pollster in 2020 he was going to vote for Joe Biden, and then laughed about it for 3 days. The purpose of a poll should be to find out what I do think, and inform the politician what he should do based on its popularity, not to tell me what I ought to think. Polling instead says we want to spend a lot of money on social programs, you are telling us you do not want to pay more in taxes for these programs, but you do like spending on “infrastructure.” If we call social programs “infrastructure,” can we spend the money the way we want? You want voter id and secure elections, if we tell you that this is “racist,” does it change your mind. Polling like many other institutions has been corrupted. It’s not about listening, it’s about manipulating. They have lost sight of their institutional role and so it can no longer be effective. If you are going to manipulate me, then I’m going to manipulate you first.

Me, I just don't answer the phone if Siri doesn't announce who's calling. You'll have to leave voice mail to get through by phone, and I don't think pollsters ever do that. So I am never polled. I didn't vote, but I stood in waiting, prepared to vote, if motivated — a raging "undecided" in a swing state.

AND: Ray So CA emails:

"New research shows that daydreaming can inspire happiness if you purposefully engage with meaningful topics, such as... imagined scenes of triumph in the face of all odds...."

"When given a framework that guided them to imagine something positive, like a fantasy of having superpowers or the memory of their first kiss, [study participants] were 50 percent more likely to feel positive after the session. Why couldn’t they do that on their own? Erin Westgate, a psychology professor at the University of Florida and the study’s lead author, said that positive daydreaming is a heavier cognitive lift. So, our brains move toward effortless mind wandering, even when the results are negative.... Dr. Robinson-Mosley likens meaningful daydreaming to the practice of shadowboxing: 'Before you even get in the ring to face an actual opponent, you will spend thousands of hours shadowboxing, a form of visualization that’s designed for you to simulate a boxing match in your mind before you ever glove up.' Using daydreaming as mental rehearsal can do more than just hone job performance. Research has shown that imagining scenarios as visual scenes can provide a boost in mood to people suffering from major depression. Dwelling on personally meaningful but imaginary scenes... can increase creativity and spur inspiration."

From "Don’t Take Your Head Out of the Clouds!/Far from a waste of time, daydreaming might be one of the best things you can do with your free time" (NYT). 

Do you daydream like that? Or do you go over negative things, like errors you've made, the wrong things you've said, and the opportunities you've squandered? There's no way that going through all the negatives fixes anything in the past, but maybe you fantasize that by giving them attention, you can avoid future mistakes. Me, I'm much more likely to think through everything I've ever done wrong than to  fantasize about success, and I never daydream about superpowered success. Is it foolish to waste your daydream time thinking through problems and imagining realistic solutions? 

IN THE EMAIL: Carl writes: 

I can not read the entire NYT article but from your excerpt I wonder if anyone would consider the benefit of daydreaming odd if you substituted the word ‘meditation’ for daydreaming. I can not imagine surviving childhood without daydreaming. I suppose we are called to put aside all childhood things but if one discards daydreaming they risk being left without imagination itself. There in lies depression or worse. Now that I have become old, my daydreams are mostly fond memories but I can still crank out an occasional exciting imagination.



We were impressed by this super-large pine tree in the arb.

It seems to be reaching out for a hug, don't you think?

FROM THE EMAIL: Wild Swan writes:
I'm impressed by the shoes. They complement the pine tree colors so perhaps they walked you over there. for their own reasons. The shoe is a lonely hunter/ that hunts on a busy sidewalk.
Thanks. And let me give you the Amazon link for these shoes: here.

"The BBC’s wall-to-wall coverage of Prince Philip’s death has become the most complained-about moment in British television history...."

"At least 110,994 people have contacted the BBC to express their displeasure at the decision to turn most of the corporation’s TV channels and radio stations over to rolling tributes to the Queen’s husband.... Not all the complaints were about the extent of the BBC’s coverage. Almost 400 people wrote in to complain that Prince Andrew had featured despite his association with the late financier Jeffrey Epstein and refusal to answer questions posed by the FBI. A further 233 people complained that BBC presenters were not wearing sufficiently respectful clothes, with viewers complaining that not all newsreaders were wearing black – an echo of the controversy over the burgundy tie worn by Peter Sissons when he announced the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. And in a sign that the BBC is destined to be criticised by all sides, 116 people wrote to the corporation over the weekend to complain that it was making it too easy to complain about its coverage."

The Guardian reports.

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"Notable & Quotable: Deplorable Polling."

I'm quoted in the Wall Street Journal this morning.

The quote comes from this post from yesterday (which, by the way, has a lot of comments from the email).

"Men are exposing their legs in public as a reaction to our public behaviour being so tightly policed in public for the last year. They want to feel the wind’s tactile caress on their skin."

Said Prof Andrew Groves, the director of the Westminster Menswear Archive at the University of Westminster, quoted in "Micro shorts for men: how short is too short?/With lockdown easing, will you be following Paul Mescal and Harry Styles and baring more leg than usual this summer?" (The Guardian). 

This isn't just another men-in-shorts article. This is the news that men are going back to the kind of short shorts runners wore in the 1970s. 

And it's a Gen Z thing. So says Shane C Kurup, a Men’s Health’s editor: “They are the most socially aware, health-conscious generation we’ve ever seen. There’s a strong emphasis among this generation of being comfortable in your own skin and not blindly conforming to a prescribed body type.” 

Great! I'm looking forward to a clown show of atrocious fashion. And I intend to enjoy the fun of the Z kids annoying the millennials. 

FROM THE EMAIL: Amadeus 48 writes:

Your short note on shorts impelled me to dig up the following quote from George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan Pier.” Orwell got so many things right he seems like a prophet:

“One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth [a new model town favoured by progressive intellectuals] when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got onto it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long gray hair bobbed in the Lloyd George style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured, ‘Socialists’, as one should say, ‘Red Indians’.”

So, the kiddies of Gen Z may find that their ideas have consequences.