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    Mostly Peaceful Protests

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th July 2020 (All posts by )

    For the record, Nazi Germany was mostly peaceful, as was the Soviet Union. Even when our Civil War was raging, and 600,000 of us died, most of the country was peaceful. Even those who were in service and/or near the fronts had long periods where there were no cannons firing at the moment. Lots of nervous waiting. Combat deployment itself can be mostly peaceful – though admittedly in the sense of “no active shooting” rather than any sense of restfulness. Much of medieval warfare was sieges, or moving from one place to another, or setting up camp. Mostly peaceful. Yet the small amounts of “not peaceful” mattered greatly then, and matter greatly now.

    The excuse of “mostly peaceful protests” is rather empty. If decent people should have refused to show up at Charlottesville because they knew there was a fair chance someone would turn violent, and to attend would give them cover and legitimacy, then how do we justify showing up in Seattle? Maybe we can.  But then we have to extend that in both directions.  We feel very, very different about protests we agree with, don’t we? It just feels different, and we just know it’s right.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Online Abuse

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Grim linked to an article over at Reason about the pathologies of online virtue signalers, specifically that they exhibit “Dark Triad” traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and manipulativeness.  I don’t think much in terms of dark triad professionally.  It sometimes contributes to psychiatric emergencies because the patient has alienated support systems, or overreacted to difficulties that might have been managed, but those are generally add-ons.  Those traits don’t constitute emergencies.  We might note them in passing and how they complicate treatment, but we quickly agree “This is not our problem to fix.” I have noted that social media enables people with personality disorders to have much more power than they do in contact with human beings in real time and space.

    I poked around to see if there is literature on connections between Dark Triad and Personality Disorders to see if that could add something to the understanding of these people who claim victimhood but are themselves more likely the abusers online.  There’s a fair bit of soft evidence of this, but it doesn’t seem well-studied.  As I mentioned in the comment section over at Grim’s, this is third-rail stuff for researchers in the social sciences, as they are studying the very people who are most likely to destroy your career if you say the wrong thing about them.

    I always have to make an adjustment when reading the word “trolls,” because I think the meaning has become more general than my own take.  I still think of them as trolling,  as in fishing by dragging bait in the water and seeing what goes after it.  For trolls in that sense, it is irrelevant whether they actually believe the ideas they are dragging behind them, they just want to use whatever bait gets people most upset.  Because the noun form has become the more often used, I think the other meaning of troll, of a difficult humanoid who may or may not live under a bridge but is dangerous trouble, has supplanted the original meaning.  I think it is now applied to anyone being abusive online. To my eyes many of them are sincere, just difficult or infuriating.  Trolls were usually anonymous. Now they want more twitter followers.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    Responsibility and The System

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd July 2020 (All posts by )

    In the full embodiment of the idea of collective and historical responsibility, you bear some responsibility for slavery and oppression even if you and your ancestors had no direct connection to the purchase and ownership of any slave, because you are part of the system and have benefited from that system.

    By that reasoning, if you peacefully protest against racial injustice, but other protestors on the other side of the crowd – or even on the other side of the country – engage in looting and violence, aren’t you guilty as well, as part of the system? That second idea would sound strange and impossible to people, but I am not seeing a distinction.

    Our church has taken up a study on racial justice, using a new book which I shall not name, but will mention that I loathe. There are plenty of difficulties right off the bat with trying to integrate Critical Race Theory, or any of the philosophical frameworks of the last two centuries which focus on group identities and  viewing human activities as systems with Christianity.

    If systems were that important, we might expect that Jesus would have mentioned them more. The Roman Empire was an interlocking system that had good things and bad about it.  Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor James, John, Peter, or Luke pay it much mind as a system per se. There is no advocacy that Christians should spend a moment of their time trying to change the system. We might ask ourselves why this is so. Just out of curiosity.

    That systems were changed as a result of Christian belief is not at all the same thing as regarding attempts to “change the system” as Christian goals.  To bring things closer to the present day, William Wilberforce did not attempt to “change the system.” His goal was to eliminate slavery in the British Commonwealth, which he saw as a great evil. That “the system” would change as a result was not something he wasted any ink or a single speech on. The downstream effects of our actions are always unknown, and often include unforeseen problems.  We are to estimate those as best we can and take them into consideration, certainly.

    There is something about focus on the system to removes our focus from our own actions.  This happens on the credit as well as the debt side of the ledger as well.  When we take credit and think ourselves special and virtuous because of things our ancestors, countrymen, or coreligionists have done that is equally missing the point.  I have a couple of ancestors who fought for the Union to free slaves.  I don’t believe I am owed any thanks for that.

    If you are participating in an act, even in only a supportive or indirect role, I think that act does attach to you. At the end of Durrenmatt’s The Visit it is clear that the entire town has participated in the killing and the actions of a single individual do not stand out. Writing in Switzerland after WWII, it is clear that his intent was to tell Germans they all bore responsibility.  I would agree.  But were all Germans equally guilty?  Does a telephone operator or a bartender carry the same weight of guilt as a guard who executed Jews and pried gold fillings from their teeth?  Did a Jew or Gypsy who beat his wife become innocent on the day Hitler came to power?

    People who focus on changing, disrupting, or overthrowing one system lose the ability to see the faults of their own system. The system is a snare for the Christian. Well, I suppose for anyone.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 40 Comments »

    Denunciation

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 30th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I had seen sections of Taibbi’s excellent takedown of White Fragility, but only read the whole essay today. Robin DiAngelo’s only solution offered to white people is that they become less white.  I think she, and others, are pointing to a different consensus as to what must be done. You must denounce other white people, individually and collectively, in order to be saved. Notice that this doesn’t cost you a cent. Redemption without sacrifice.

    ***

    Reading my previous posts that touch on the subject, I once made the point that “fragility” is not the potential sin I would associate with white people, but it’s opposite.  What seems to be happening is the formulation “See?  You are defending yourself, therefore you must feel defensive.  People feel defensive when they are actually weak, not strong.  Therefore you prove my accusation that you are fragile.  UH! UH! See?  There you are, doing it again!”

    Rather convenient.

    However, I think there is a place where this is subtly true.  They are attempting to motivate some white people to join in by using this tactic.  For those people, it might be true.  For the others, I don’t see how they can have it both ways.

    For myself, I long ago decided that black spokespeople have little or nothing to do with the black people I actually encounter in my life.  The people I encounter are human beings, and some are darker, some are lighter.  I am now told this is an impossible formulation that denies the reality of oppression.  However, I am told this by precisely those people who have an interest in maintaining division, because their jobs, their self-esteem, or their excuses why they ain’t rich depend upon it. The black people I actually know are worried about their golf handicap, whether they have enough money to retire, whether their children are going to get a good education, whether they are going to keep this new job, whether their church will weather this CoVid storm, whether the young Christians they are teaching will actually learn the life lessons they need, whether their daughter’s teacher will be willing to be strict with her…very much the same things my white and Asian acquaintances have.  They’re just darker people saying these things.

    The world has gone mad, and I’m just trying not to get dragged in its trail.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 13 Comments »

    Khazar Hypothesis

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I’ll get you the long version tomorrow, but it occurred to me driving home from work today that I could make it all very simple.

    If the Khazar Hypothesis is true, we should see Central Asian genetic material in Ashkenazi Jews on the order of 25-50%; and among their Aaronic priestly class, we should see the Cohen Modal Haplotype at no higher than the base rate of 5-15% for the broad region of the Mediterranean, Arabian, and Caucasus regions.

    If the Rhineland Hypothesis is true, we should see very little Central Asian genetic material in Ashkenazi Jews and there should be at least some elevation in the frequency of the Cohen Modal Haplotype, maybe even a lot.

    What we actually see, now that we can measure it, is that the amount of Central Asian genetic material among Ashkenazis approaches zero, and the Aaronic priestly class is 50-70% Cohen Modal Haplotype.

    The Khazar Hypothesis is therefore not true, and it’s not close.

    The Rhineland Hypothesis might still fall to some other explanation, but Khazar ain’t it.

    I have now written up the entire argument, for those who are interested. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    National Holiday

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 19th June 2020 (All posts by )

    There is a movement afoot to make Juneteenth a National Holiday. People likely think this is free, and is just a nice way to show African-Americans that we care about them.  Who could be against that?  You wouldn’t want to be against that, would you?  That would be unkind, impolite, and racist.

    Articulate what Martin Luther King Day is for.  The first meanings of that verb are “utterance,” “putting into clear words,” and that’s what I mean.  If you want Juneteenth, you should first have to put into words what MLK/Civil Rights Day is for, not just think about them vaguely and have a feeling. Only then can you go on to describe how Juneteenth is different and brings something new to the table.

    I’ll just wait here while you scratch some things on the page and imagine delivering those words before an audience.  They have contests for that, don’t they, asking schoolchildren to write speeches about what MLK Day is about?  What do they say, do you think? 

    When you have finished that, scratch down some percentages of what a new federal holiday will cost businesses and governments which would then have to pay people to stay home, or at minimum pay them a higher wage. Describe to me where that money will come from. As a starting point, people work 5 days/week for 52 weeks, minus ten days vacation minus fifteen holidays minus sick days – about two weeks. Call it 225 days a year. Back of the envelope is fine.

    Now remember that this will feel good to do but have only psychological effects on people who really dig this stuff.  There will be no improvement in policing, or schools, or job prospects, or city infrastructure, or, well anything. Hispanics might rightfully wonder why they got left out.  At least “Civil Rights” applies to everyone, at least in theory.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Pollution, Food, and C19

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I read a wise essay in Mother Earth News in the 1970s, which pointed out that the number of people who can live in an area without seriously polluting it is dependent on technology. With that audience, the tendency was to think much more in terms of absolute numbers. The earth has too many people! We can’t support them all! Pollution is out of control! The author noted that a solitary person living in the wild, defecating on the ground without even a trench, pollutes a sizable area. Without any food preservation or storage techniques he might need a wide area as well. Yet with technology we can build Manhattan, treating our sewage and carting it off. Transportation allows food to travel, so some can specialize in making lots of it and sending it off.

    Something similar came up in the C19 discussions that I think got missed. We should be glad that it got missed, because it would only be front-and-center in our thinking if things had gone wrong. Some rural places did have the possibility that their local health systems would be overwhelmed. As there weren’t that many of them, however, they could spread the medical response to nearby hospitals and clinics. In number of cases per thousand people, Dougherty County GA (pop 90K) got hit hard – 140 deaths, as did a couple of neighboring counties. The two counties next to it with about 8,000 people each have a death rate of over twice Dougherty’s 1500/mil. Per capita, Georgia’s rural counties are doing substantially worse than Atlanta. Over 2,000 deaths per million in that SW area. I think that’s worse than NYC.

    Rural counties do fine until they don’t, which I think informed a lot of the thinking early on. Once they stop doing fine, it was impossible to get help there when test kits and everything else was so lacking. An outbreak of 20 people in a rural county can quickly become less manageable than an outbreak of 200 in Boston if there’s no hospital nearby. Considering how to handle these counties will definitely have to be part of a response plan going forward. 25 deaths in a county of 8,000 may not make the news, but when you consider 3-4 times as many may have been seriously ill, that’s a lot for one group to handle.

    Franklin, NH has about 8,000 people but a disproportionate number of deaths because of one nursing home, with many positives among both staff and residents, who had and have contact with the rest of the community. (There may be more to the story if I were on the ground there. I only know what I read in the papers.) The city has a regional hospital which was nearly overwhelmed, but there are three other hospitals thirty minutes away, two of which were not treating many cases at the time. I didn’t even hear about it an hour away, but the news for that region was full of anxiety and apprehension for a few weeks. Nationally, a few local systems were briefly overwhelmed. How you view that largely depends on whether the word “few,” “briefly,” or “overwhelmed” jumped out at you. Such are the things which create confirmation bias, where we reinforce some ideas without much thinking about them.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Types of Liberty

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I just published a flock of posts at my own site and have sought advice what to publish here. Interestingly, one of my earliest posts was suggested. I had reviewed it in December 2019, doing the countdown of my posts at Assistant Village Idiot that had received the most traffic. This was #6 all-time, but had little commentary. I think some of the themes are a propos.

    We are now into territory of posts that have 5,000 hits or more, which is darn good for me.  This is from February 2006, one of my first two hundred posts.  I think a few of you will like the topic. I don’t know who has been reading it over the years, as there haven’t been commenters.

    ************

    A post from last week over at the excellent Albion’s Seedlings reminded me of a topic I had intended to post on weeks ago: the varieties of meaning of the word “liberty” in the American Colonies from the time of founding to independence.

    We think we mean the same thing when we use a word, but this is not often so, especially with large abstracts like kindness, or community. While the concepts of liberty converged somewhat leading up to the Revolution, they sprang from at least four different concepts, associated with the four distinct areas of settlement.

    These founding folkways, and much else besides, led to quite distinct, and often diametrically opposed, ideas about liberty. David Hackett Fischer calls the New England idea “ordered liberty” (freedom to determine the course of one’s own society), at worst exemplified in the stifling, moralistic conformism that we still associate with the word “Puritan”, at best in the strong town-based democracies (and suspicion of anything but local power) still evident in parts of northern New England.

    The Virginia idea was that of “hegemonic liberty” (freedom to rule and not be ruled), at worst exemplified in the hierarchical “Slaveocracy” that valued freedom for those at the top but not for poor white trash or black slaves, at best in the aristocratic excellence of men such as George Washington.

    The Quaker idea was that of “reciprocal liberty” (freedom for me and for thou), at worst exemplified in the pacifistic pursuit of commerce without regard for nation or principle, at best in a quite modern-sounding respect for all human beings to pursue their own fulfillment.

    The frontier idea was that of “natural liberty” (a freedom without restraints of law or custom), at worst exemplified in the violent and often-emotionalistic chaos of life beyond the reach of civilized norms, at best in eternal vigilance with regard to the sovereignty of the individual.

    Frontier in the above means the Appalachian areas settled by the Scots-Irish and English Borderers throughout the middle of the 18th C. Quaker refers not only to the settling of Pennsylvania in the late 17th C, but the other mid-Atlantic states as well. The overall concept is taken from Fischer’s marvellous Albion’s Seed, which traces the founding of the American regions back to distinctive regions of Great Britain.

    New England — ordered liberty — freedom to determine the course of one’s own society. I touched on this two weeks ago. It is close to the idea of Christian Community and consensus living. A modern equivalent would be an environmentalist community which would agree to bind itself to certain principles of organic farming. The individual would not have liberty to do as he pleases in pesticides and fertilizer, but would adhere to group norms, so that all other members could have food free of taint. The European aspirations come closest to this model.

    Virginia — hegemonic liberty — freedom to rule and not be ruled. The right of the few to achieve enormous freedom — by birth, merit, or assignment — is preserved, even at the expense of the many. Americans rebel against such an equality being granted by birth into nobility — but many conservatives are fine with it occurring by merit. Whether justified or no, this is the stereotype of conservatives that liberals rail against.

    Mid-Atlantic — reciprocal liberty — freedom for me and for thee. This is some midpoint between the two above. “I will consent to give up some freedoms, but no one shall force me to give up others.”

    Appalachia — natural liberty — freedom without restraints of law or custom. This would be closer to a libertarian (or hyper-libertarian) framing. The freedom of the individual trumps even local control. Think Alaska.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Rhinoceros

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd June 2020 (All posts by )

    One difficulty is that everyone thinks that it is everyone else who are the rhinoceroses. I might think it’s you.

    And of course, you might think it’s me.

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Video | 15 Comments »

    The Disappearance Of Iwntge Henken

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 29th May 2020 (All posts by )

    Iwntge* Henken was a three-and-a-half year old boy who crossed the Atlantic in 1920. He departed Antwerp on the Northern Pacific on October 18, landing in Hoboken on October 28. He was never heard from again.

    He had been scheduled to board the Pocahontas a few weeks before, along with his mother Adrianna, but this was cancelled for unknown reasons. They were traveling as the dependents of John Henken, an American soldier who had been born in Holland but moved to New York as a child. It is likely he served in the Netherlands during and after WWI because of his fluency in Dutch. He was fluent enough to have courted Adrianna successfully, it seems, and he brought her back to the states a year after the war was over. Adrianna was pregnant with a child who would be born in America and come to be named Johanna. One might take a moment to reflect on how miserable it must be to be pregnant on a troop ship crossing the North Atlantic in autumn. Adrianna was remarkably determined to come to America, however, come hell or high water. This is where the complications set in.

    Adrianna Anthonisse may have had some sort of ceremony performed, but she could not have actually been married to John Henken, because she was still married to Willem Heijboer in Holland, who would have been the father of the three-and-a-half year old child. It is not known how long John Henken cared for the two, soon three dependents, but it can’t have been long, as the children show up on an orphanage roll soon after with the notation that their father had abandoned them. It may be that he abandoned them the moment his feet touched American soil again, for all we can tell, and it may even be that Adrianna knew this and agreed to it beforehand, so determined was she to come to America. It may be more accurate to say it is John Henken who was never heard from again, as all our attempts to trace him after come up empty.** Johanna was my wife’s mother. She had been told as a child that her father had died, but suspected as an adult that he had in fact abandoned the family instead. There was no longer anyone to tell her, as Adrianna died in 1929.

    Iwntge was never “heard from” again in the sense that he vanished from all records after embarking from Holland/Belgium.We do know what happened to him, however. He went back to being a girl named Helena, who after a very difficult childhood married a man who loved her dearly and she him all their days, in Florida. She would stay in touch with her half-sister Johanna in Massachusetts throughout and see her every few years. “Iwntge Henken” was a disguise to throw anyone off who was looking for Helena Anthonisse, or Helena Heijboer. Willem Heijboer was indeed looking for her and eventually located her and established contact by correspondence when she was an adult. Very sad for him, really, to have his wife leave with his daughter with no word or explanation. He may not have even known Henken’s name, complicating his search for Helena.

    * The name is likely a mis-writing by the American military official of some other Dutch name, done by sound rather than from been seen written. The last two letters are much more likely to be -je than -ge, for example. I am only guessing after that, but Antje is a girl’s name, and “Wintje” is a Dutch surname, so perhaps one of those is it.

    **We now know from the DNA tracing that he was the brother of Jacob Henken, and one of Jacob’s descendants does remember there was a brother that was occasionally referred to, but never met.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    God Knows Where I Am

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th May 2020 (All posts by )

    I have been asleep at the switch on the story of Linda Bishop, who was a patient at my hospital in the 2000’s, refusing treatment and eventually being discharged, after which she moved into an abandoned farmhouse and eventually starved to death. It was written up well in the New Yorker in 2011 and I recalled reading that. Since that time it was made into an award-winning documentary in 2016, “God Knows Where I Am,” which I had not known about. I’m not sure how I missed that. Asleep at the switch, apparently. I knew nothing about the case at the time, but her entire treatment team were all people known to me. I worked that unit at other times. I think they are all gone from the hospital by now. The discussions they had are ones I have had repeatedly through the years as well. A person is psychotic, but displays no measurable dangerousness. In the protected environment of the hospital they are able to eat, stay clean, and clothe themselves. They go to a cooking group, make food, and answer a nutritionist’s questions intelligently. Whatever we suspect, we are hard pressed to offer much evidence they won’t be able to care for themselves. We might apply for a guardianship, but the standard for proving that a person is unable to make decisions on their own behalf is high. It is not enough to demonstrate they make bad decisions. Half the state of NH makes bad decisions but we don’t lock them up and get them a guardian. The bar is high because we want it to be high.

    Her story is poignant, and provoking, but all the commentary in all such stories seems to say the same ridiculous things over and over. She fell through the cracks of the mental health system. No she didn’t. The story/film calls into question a system where a person who doesn’t believe they are sick can make decisions for themselves. No it doesn’t, not really, neither the legal nor the mental health system. The hospital refused to notify the family because of HIPAA laws. What’s this word “refused” in there? Do we say that the sheriff “refused” to tear down a building because of zoning laws? As in my post three years ago about the word “systemic,” we use that word system as an evasion. Systemic racism means we can’t actually define what we’re talking about, but we want bad things to stop happening so we start kicking the machine in random places. Someone will pay, dammit! Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 30 Comments »

    Poetry

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 12th May 2020 (All posts by )

    Y’all need a break from C19 and Flynn at the moment. I know I do. Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot, as usual.

    We think of poetry as a decorative art, important for beauty and the expression of elusive ideas in a strong or vivid manner. This is true of some early poetry, but many cultures used poetry more functionally. The point was to tell a story, an important story to preserve history. What strike us as decorative items now, such as rhyme or meter, were put there as aids to memory. The poet could not write things down, and did not want to falter or get lost over many passages. Structure locks these in. We still see this even in our literate culture. Children learn the states of the union as a song “There’s AL-abama, AL-aska…Rhode Island, Tennessee!” I have heard at least three songs teaching the books of the Bible: “I’ll tell you the truth about the book of Ruth…There’s Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Job – I want to go to heaven in a righteous robe…” (and that was just from overhearing my sons). It is not unusual for adults in Bible study to laughingly mention that much of their memorized Scripture is from music. (Note: Handel’s Messiah is excellent for this.)

    Telling a story in poetry happens less often these last two centuries. Rudyard Kipling would do it, Tennyson. When story is attempted now, however, the intent is often comic. We don’t allow songs to go on at story length very much these days. But we do see the memory advantage of this, don’t we? “Bumpty, bumpty, bumpty bright, BUMPity, bumpty, bump tonight!” And if you get lost, having to slur a few syllables, you can get right back on the horse next line. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Real Quarantine

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 6th May 2020 (All posts by )

    This article by Lyman Stone at The Dispatch is certainly interesting, and I think has strong persuasive elements.  One has to get to paragraph 32 (I think.  It begins “But while I think decadence is a possible explanation…”) to get to what I think is the strongest point, but the whole thing seems solid. 

    We have chosen the wrong extreme measures, he thinks.  Because we are a wealthy nation, which can afford medical research and expects first-rate medical care, we have tried to dodge the proven solution to epidemics in hopes that something else, which doesn’t involve making people leave their homes, will work instead.

    There is good discussion of masks and other related topics, all done in an efficient few paragraphs each. There is history going back to Leviticus and leprosy, and not just for decoration. There’s a lot of bang for your buck in this article.

    Read that article first.  My own thoughts are next and are less valuable.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 40 Comments »

    Arms and White Samite

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 28th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Frequent commenter at my site, Grimbeorn of Grim’s Hall, has had his novel come out, Arms and White Samite. We have both the Kindle and paperback versions in our cart, debating which we shall order. He is an interesting cat, for those who like variety: Army Ranger in both Iraq Wars who used his GI benefits to get a degree in philosophy. Long-bearded motorcyclist and Catholic convert. Georgia Democrat who eventually had to resign as they left him (echoing Reagan), between the last hurrahs of Zell Miller, then Jim Webb. Arthurian stories seem to be his first love.

    Posted in Book Notes | 2 Comments »

    New Services

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Delivered groceries were just coming in. Our local chains quickly became overwhelmed, and began only taking orders to be scheduled a week out.  As many people, of any vulnerability category whatsoever, are going to prefer to order things online more and more, there will be more of these services and they will employ more people.  I am not saying that your local supermarket is going to be obsolete, but hybrid forms are going to be more common.

    This will also be true of restaurants.  There will be more specialising in takeout, and even fabulous room-based chefs are going to star figuring out how to make meals that can move across town. We are not quite ready for the virtual reality of pairing meals with rented environments of “London 1898,”  “Paris 1927,” and “NYC 1960,” but it’s not that far off, either.

    No, of course it won’t be the same as actually being there, but as we can’t go there even in its modern form at the moment, and even when it comes back it will be very expensive, there will be a market.  Here’s the fun part:  there will be a market for Faux London, Faux Paris, Faux New York. In the same way that pizza and Italian food are not all that authentic, nor is Chinese food in America* very much what they eat in …Hunan, the VR market will cater to what people think is authentic. Chef Louis isn’t stupid.  Anyone can quick-google what the rich actually did eat in London in 1898, but he will prepare what you think was authentic and will spend money on. Enterprising young souls will also figure out what the children will eat that you can advertise to them as Florence 1568 or Jerusalem AD 63, so you can make it a repeatable history lesson.

    Our church is already planning to keep the online services going even after we can get together.  This is not only because many of us will not want to go to the high risk of weekly contact in an enclosed area with 300 other people, some of them quite close, but because even after all that risk is reduced to as low as it’s going to get*, some folks will decide that staying home and clicking on the church’s Sunday menu is what they actually want. Compare, watching the NFL on TV versus going to the stadium.  People increasingly view going to the stadium as an occasional adventure, while preferring to stay at home. Whoa.  Maybe churches that provide replay, commentary, and analysis are going to start finding a niche!

    What else is going to become delivery vs in-person going forward?

    * I have read that the American version of Chinese food is now available in Chinese cities

    **I think that means, even after a vaccine, two annual diseases that kill lots of people.  Doesn’t that clearly imply a third and a fourth?  We will live different from here on in.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 29 Comments »

    Mutations

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 24th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Note that Greg Cochran over at West Hunter remains pessimistic about life becoming safer. Mutations are of course already occurring in C19, just from the numbers.  Most of those will be deleterious to the virus itself, or neutral.  But sheer volume produces mutations that are also diseases, some lesser, some greater.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 29 Comments »

    Previous Links on Genetics and Related

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 27th March 2020 (All posts by )

    We have not talked much about genetics recently.  These are people who know a great deal, but may not fully share your values.

    The brilliant Steve Hsu over at Information Processing talks about an article in The Economist concerning embryo selection. November 2019.

     Here is that article from The Economist Modern Genetics will improve health and usher in designer children. November 2019

    Legal studies paper by Gail Herriot on school discipline policies. June 2019 

    Only some genetics in this last one. Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex, who Steve Sailer called the greatest public intellectual to emerge in the 2010s, talks about what intellectual progress he made during the decade. He started way ahead of me and I think has lapped me a couple of times since. A stunning variety of topics. January 2020.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Scrooge McDuck In Reverse

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 22nd March 2020 (All posts by )

    Perhaps this is the time to teach, or at least keep as an example, how an economy works, to those who believe that rich people got there by taking money that could have gone to a poor person in a fairer system. We are in a situation where money is being lost, and it isn’t going to anyone. Some people are not much affected, if whatever their income is based on is not interrupted. I am considered “essential personnel” and have work. I’m not sure I actually am essential, but they have to draw the line somewhere, and danger increases if the hospital as a whole does not do what it does. There may be a very few businesses that do better – online entertainments, delivery services. I can’t think of much else.

    There will be some pent-up demand that comes upon businesses as restrictions are eased, as folks want to buy cars or go out to restaurants. But some of the non-buying today occurs because people now do not have jobs that are paying them, and they don’t have money to spend. The restaurants and car dealerships are not going to make that up later. The money is just gone. You can frame that as being lost or as being never created, but either way it’s just not there. It is relatively easy to destroy value.

    I hope the lesson can be turned to show that it is difficult to create value.

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    Enactment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st March 2020 (All posts by )

    We say in our cynical moments “All politics is theater.” This is true, but there is a positive side to that, if we define our terms well. Many things are theater, in a loose sense. For example, I was part of an online discussion years ago after George Bush had gotten off a plane looking crisply pressed after what should have been a multi-wrinkle flight. One commenter noted a brand of $3000 suits that were capable of doing just this, advising us that in high-level international business people were aware of this and noticed the cost of your suit, your shoes, shirt, tie, and all the rest. He claimed that merely having the right clothes on was enough to make a sale. I was one of the ones who objected to this, saying this would be a terrible method of making such decisions. Not at all, he countered. Shelling out that much money and paying close attention to detail signals that you will play by the rules. Not necessarily the laws of any jurisdiction, but the unwritten rules of high-level commerce. I complained that this placed talented newcomers at a disadvantage, but again, the man I was arguing with disagreed. He and his associates had all learned early to divert not only money but observational skills and advice from others into appearance. “You don’t put yourself in hock like that unless you plan to stick around. You aren’t going to break other rules and throw your insider status away. It provides very accurate signaling.” He told a few anecdotes about this and concluded “Business is theater.”

    We might call it theater, but I think a closer word would be enactment. Enactment requires a greater level of commitment than just putting on a show. If we want to test the sincerity of someone’s commitment to a set of values, we often require enactment. Basic training in the military includes a lot of enactment of military values, including drill, following orders and cooperation, simulation of real situations. Church worship and festivals are not supposed to just be spectator activities, but the participant is supposed to enact the Lord’s Table. It is part of why the fellowship of the saints and attendance at worship are not incidental parts of worship. (Believe me, God is aware how difficult and annoying the people at your church are. That may be the point, that we enact here in this life what will be a reality in the next.)

    Much of education is enactment. Job training (both official and unofficial) includes much enactment. Courtship is enactment. The ceremonial aspects of town meeting – or scout meetings, Rotary, country club membership, sorority rush, or just about anything you can join will involve enactment. When you go to court, the bailiff says “All Rise,” and the Judge must be addressed in specific ways. Those who are accused who arrive well-dressed and well-groomed are signaling that they understand the rules and are willing to play by them henceforth. They are enacting good citizenship. Are some of them lying and attempting to manipulate? Of course. Yet what are we to say of those who will not even nod to the values of society as expressed in court rules, who wear their beer t-shirts to DUI hearings? I have heard them when I have accompanied patients to court. “I don’t care how big he thinks he is. I’m not going to change who I am for anyone!” Well, you said it then, didn’t you Sam?

    Raising children is about little else. We don’t want them to just hear our lessons about politeness, we want them to greet others with respect and say please and thank you. We have fewer gestures of politeness now and do not require them. Boys used to bow and girls curtsey, we would hold doors for others. The custom of holding chairs for women at dinner has nearly vanished. Fifty years ago at summer studies the boys were required to seat the girls at dinner, which was a combination of discomfort and humor even then, especially the first evening. If any girl was left standing, we all had to get up and start again. That rarely happened after the second day. I am sure the practice vanished soon after, but multiple values were being taught. Respect for women was the most obvious – and women were already pointing out that this was double-edged – but there was also respect for tradition, respect for formality, calmness and intentionality in eating, engaging in acts in unison as a community. Enactment requires more skin in the game than mere words. Sometimes the additional cost is small, sometimes the enactment comes close to the price of real demonstration. Nor is it entirely a positive. Groups can require that you enact their pathologies as well, right from the start, to show that you won’t turn the whole lot of them in, or betray the profession.

    Politicians eat ethnic food and shake hands as a way of enacting that they are Jes’ Folks, that they care what happens to you. They dress well partly to show they have respect for you (or dress down in calculated ways to show the same). We don’t want to just hear them say things, we want to see them do them. The events they attend, the gestures they make, the people they invite, all of these are small enactments.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Two On Kipling

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 21st March 2020 (All posts by )

    I made brief comments of my own, but these two links are mostly about What C S Lewis thought of Kipling, and what George Orwell thought of Kipling. Both more than a little surprising.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Scrooge McDuck

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 19th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Brought over from Assistant Village Idiot. I am bringing over about one out of five this week, more than my usual one out of ten.

    *******

    A young friend among my wife’s FB friends posted a  meme about blank supermarket shelves, comparing the empty shelves of socialism, which conservatives decry, and “late-stage-capitalism” empty shelves during the TP-and-disposable-wipes crisis of 2020.  He did not say that this proved equivalency, merely noting that he had seen the two posted near each other in some way online.  He is a polite young man, a middle-school teacher whose wife is homeschooling, and I think he doesn’t want to offend.  I have seen other posts that suggest he is very sympathetic to socialism.

    His first two commenters, both also young, were thorough opposites.  The first noted that under capitalism, the shelves would be restocked tomorrow. I thought that an efficient argument, and am grateful that there are young people who can manage such things on short notice.  The other made the comparison that “if you don’t like people hoarding toilet paper, then imagine how much damage it does when an extremely small fraction of the world’s population hoards so much of its wealth.” I am no longer on FB and don’t like to drag my wife into such discussions, so I wrote nothing.  I did begin to think about what, exactly, I might theoretically say, reasoning that I might have to answer this in some context sometime.  The first young man got in very quickly, while I was looking at the page:  “Hoarding.  lol”

    I thought that similarly efficient.  That is the key problem. I should research who that young man is and put his name forward as someone we should elect to something. Except politics would be a waste for him. Perhaps I should sneak over and just let him know I’m impressed. He may need encouragement.  There is a sizable group who thinks that the wealthy are in some sense hoarding, a good communist accusation that is thoroughly inaccurate. The mental picture is of Scrooge McDuck.

    (embedded gif of Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins) Read the rest of this entry »

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    The Problem With Lewis

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Self-Isolation is only a touch different for me. I go to work at the hospital eight days a month, but now have sharply curtailed which units I will go to (I was covering on the phone, keyboard, doorknob, and desk surface of everyone in a department of 30) and do not circulate throughout the building at all. While at home, I pretty much sit at the computer, the reading desk, or stand at some appliance anyway, then go out for a five-mile walk every day. However, there is a slight restriction, and being an irritable sort the boredom annoys me. Thus I have gone looking for AVI posts which I might repost over here. You’ll just have to bear up under the strain. A few more to come.

    *******

    I found that They Asked For A Paper is in the public domain.  It contains a few essays of CS Lewis I had never read, so I was glad to find it.  In particular, I had wanted to read “The Literary Impact of the Authorised Version,” having seen a rare early copy under glass at the Lanier Theological Library outside Houston. I had never heard of it, and it is a subject I am interested in even with a lesser author.

    Yet I quickly find I dare not come up with an opinion in the least contradiction to him. He has read everything, and is clearly operating a level I cannot even imagine.

    “With the first Protestant translators we get some signs of a changed approach. I would wish to take every precaution against exaggerating it. The history of the English Bible from Tyndale to the Authorised Version should never for long be separated from that European, and by no means exclusively Protestant, movement of which it made part. No one can write that history without skipping to and fro across national and religious boundaries at every moment. He will have to go from the Soncino Hebrew Bible (1488) to Reuchlin’s Hebrew Grammar (1506), then to Alcala for Cardinal Ximenes’ great Polyglot (1514) and north for Erasmus’ New Testament in the same year, and then to Luther for the German New Testament in 1522, and pick up Hebrew again with Munster’s Grammar in 1525, and see Luther worked over by Zwinglius and others for the Zurich Bible of 1529, and glance at the two French versions of ’34 and ’35, and by no means neglect the new Latin translations of Pagninus (’28) and Munster (’34-’35). That is the sort of background against which Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, and Rheims must be set. For when we come to compare the versions we shall find that only a very small percentage of variants are made for stylistic or even doctrinal reasons. When men depart from their predecessors it is usually because they claim to be better Hebraists or better Grecians. The international advance of philology carries them on, and those who are divided by the bitterest theological hatreds gladly learn from one another. Tyndale accepts corrections from More: Rheims learns from Geneva: phrases travel through Rheims on their way from Geneva to Authorised. Willy-nilly all Christendom collaborates. The English Bible is the English branch of a European tree.

    Yet in spite of this there is something new about Tyndale; for good or ill a great simplification of approach.”(Italics mine)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Paranoia Anecdotes

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 12th March 2020 (All posts by )

    I thought I would just include anecdotes about paranoia and comment on them as a way of getting information across.

    Update!  One of the other social workers told me today that she thinks C19 is all just a coverup for all the damage from 5G.

    Paranoid people also project.  What they think their persecutors or opponents are capable of doing is often a mirror of what they themselves would do.  The recent political example is theFBI and other agencies being so sure that Trump is dangerous enough to democracy that he would disregard the rules and protections for others that they dangerously disregarded the rules and protections for others themselves.

    My uncle tells me that my grandfather, when he heard that Joe McCarthy claimed there were 300 communists in the State Department said “Is that all?  I would have thought it was more than that.” I believe that was a common sentiment in NH at the time. McCarthy played his cards poorly, partly because of his personality, and partly because there was a supportive culture that didn’t mind if accusers of communists didn’t bother with the niceties of actually nailing the information down.  However, it turns out in retrospect that the right-wing crazies didn’t know the half of it. Communist penetration of federal agencies was worse than even they thought. Alger Hiss was in fact guilty. The Rosenbergs were guilty. Venona confirmed a great deal of speculation. I don’t know how things would have been different if a savvier player than McCarthy broke the news, but it can hardly have been worse. He played for drama. Maybe that would work today. It didn’t work then. (Compare also to the paragraph above.)  Paranoid leftists were able to accuse anticommunists of paranoia for years. In DC politics I think that some paranoia is always justified.  People are conspiring all the time. Exactly who, and for what reason, is the issue, and determines how reasonable one’s paranoia is.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Recommended

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 8th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Sorry to be sucking up all the oxygen in the room at present, but my Paranoia post struck a nerve and I will be adding at least one more after this. Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot, so comment in either place, depending on which comments you feel more at home with.

    Deevs asked for recommendations of books about paranoia.  I thought this worked better as a separate post. I used to psychblog from 2005-2009, but I haven’t put in so much since then. As there as been interest in the first post on paranoia and some questions asked, I will have another go later – with anecdotes.

    The classic in the field is Surviving Schizophrenia, by E. Fuller Torrey. Checking up to see if it had come out in a fifth edition, I found that it is now in its seventh edition. Xavier Amador has written the very readable I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, and is an engaging speaker as well.  He has a series of talks on Youtube, of which this is the best introduction.  He was studying to become a psychologist when his brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The battle over medications and having to confront that “lack of insight” is a frequent symptom was very painful for him.  He eventually became his brother’s guardian, agreed to forced long-acting injectable medication to keep his brother alive, and was relieved that his brother was consistently treated and nonpsychotic for decades. However, even at the end, he would ask his brother if he needed the medication.  “Nah.  I just take it to keep you happy,” said his brother, with mild affection. You can see what a bind that creates. People have rights, and the idea of the government giving permission for guardianship, allowing someone to force treatment on you that you don’t think you need has obvious problems. You can find complaints about this all the time on civil libertarian websites and in comment sections of both liberal and conservative sites. Horror stories are recounted, at which I nod my head and think “I’ll bet I know the other side of that story.”  Sometimes there are real horror stories, of people being railroaded who are not particularly ill. But in most places, psychotic folks are getting too little treatment, rather than merely annoying people getting forced treatment they don’t need.  I can imagine how some trends in mental health could create a situation, decades down the road, where inconvenient beliefs are medicated against the person’s will.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Paranoia

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 7th March 2020 (All posts by )

    For most of you, people with paranoid disorders are encountered more frequently online than in regular life. Not for me, of course, but my situation is unusual. I would like to explain them to you a bit. Parts of their thinking that seem strange are quite reasonable once you understand what they are starting from. They may end up in a crazy set of ideas, but the reasoning to get there often makes an internal sense. This is part of why you can’t argue them out of these ideas.  It’s not that their reasoning is broken, it’s that something else is broken. Chesterton’s first chapter of Orthodoxy goes into the idea quite well from the perspective of a nonprofessional writing over a century ago. And fun.

    First, they retain most of the knowledge and abilities they had before, not necessarily impaired in any way.  If she knew horses well, she still knows about horses; if she played the cello well, she can still play well.  She may have developed suspicions about people in the horse barn or the orchestra.  These may grow until she can no longer manage to stay involved with either. She may or may not be attracted to new theories that explain things to her and decide that horses or music are far more important in the cosmic scheme of things than others have noticed.

    There is a sense that some things are important that others have overlooked.  In the same way that theme music plays in a movie, telling us that the villain has arrived, (cue Darth Vader music) the person with paranoia has a sense (quieter, though no less sure) that something ominous is occurring when they hear the news or even just go to the supermarket.  The number 7 is occurring too frequently, there are people who have Russian names, or look Russian, the cashier exchanges a look with the bagger that tells the person she knows something. They wonder for a time what it all must mean, but settle quickly on an explanation.  The brain will not allow events to stand unexplained.  They must be fit in somehow. The insignificant data that is regarded as significant continues to accumulate.  This is supplemented by real data , sought or unsought. The ATM has twice not been available when you needed it most.  A guy who you met just last week and told about these growing plots has a car accident.  There must be a Russian (or more frequently, a Jew) behind this.  Those forces are signalling to you to back off.  They know you are onto them and will punish you.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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