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    Anti-Gravity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I encountered this intriguing monument while driving around searching for road rally destinations a decade or so ago.

    Have I told you about road rallies? They figure prominently in AVI history. Teams of four per car solve puzzles leading to destinations, at which there is a bit of information that allows you to answer a question before moving on to the next puzzle. Most answers right in the shortest amount of time wins the game. I think I shall have to cover all that in some detail in another post. Some of you might find this to be right up your alley.

    Back to New Boston. One’s first thought is that this is some complete crank, squirreled away in a rural NH town, which the town fathers might not want to memorialize. Imagine this guy at town meeting every March. Or offering to guest lecture at the science classes at the high school. But in fact, Babson was a brilliant and respectable character. He was the founder of Babson College in Massachusetts, and two other colleges as well. The curriculum sounds like a precursor to Northeastern’s cooperative education program.

    Believing experience to be the best teacher, Roger Babson favored a curriculum that was a combination of both class work and business training: businessmen made up the majority of the faculty instead of academics, and the institute’s curriculum focused more on practical experience and less on lectures.

    Students worked on group projects and class presentations, observed manufacturing processes during field trips to area factories and businesses, met with managers and executives, and viewed industrial films on Saturday mornings

    Babson had gone to MIT, wrote books, founded businesses, and believed that economic cycles followed highly predictable rules because they were subject to laws as physical as Newton’s laws. This is now regarded as a rather crankish theory, but Babson did predict the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

    His pseudoscientific notion, that the laws of physics account for every rise and ebb in the economy, had no more validity than [astrology or alchemy]. But just as astrology gave birth to astronomy and alchemy to chemistry, so, too, did Babson’s efforts to explain the economic cycle… lead to the economic breakthrough that revolutionized the business of economic forecasting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    History Becomes Lost, But Is Found Again By The Beatles

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 13th July 2018 (All posts by )

    This was one of my first blog posts, over a dozen years ago. I am being humorous here, but quite serious as well. I think the change did actually influence our culture and politics. I don’t discount the many standard historical and cultural explanations – we each have our favorites. This is mine.

    Black & White Photography Creates The Illusion Of Black & White Morality

    The years 1880-1960 are the gray, colorless years, lost to history. Events happened, but they were all dark, still, and boring. You’d think two major wars would liven things up in the public imagination, but interesting things apparently happened to boring, colorless people. We know the world was forgettable and not quite real. Soldiers in 1916 marched jerkily and too quickly, and for whole decades people waved a lot but could not speak. If they were lucky, they got captions. We’ve got movies of this, we know how life was then. In 1900 it was even worse, as whole families of sepia shadow-people sat endlessly in parlors in their best clothes. Even beautiful women had an unhealthy grayness to their skin, and a complete lack of fashion sense running entirely to blacks and grays. Winston Churchill might have had some color to him if it hadn’t been for all the stress of the war, but even he succumbed to bloodless pallor.

    Yes, I believe Boomers really think this way. We’re dumb like that.

    Mancunians and Floridians riding the half-taxis through Madame Tussaud’s in London encounter history as they know it: A series of romantic kings had wars with cool costumes. Next, everyone was poor and disease-ridden (but colorful) until the Great Fire of London. Then all of present-day London was built, including the Underground, and loud machines started doing work. In the 1800’s England conquered the world while wearing more cool costumes. But as Queen Victoria aged she turned gray and wore black, and the whole world followed suit. Our own history jibes with this, we just add a frontier and a colorful revolution[2]. Americans actually had the first colorless war in 1860, but we don’t expect anyone but us to remember that. Colorful peasants all over Europe were transformed into black-and-white slum dwellers in American cities in the late 19th C; honest and hardworking but poor, finally able to open fruitstands and restaurants, a privilege denied them in Europe, apparently. Eventually the fruit turned gray, but they became prosperous anyhow.

    Fortunately, in the 1960’s people regained their color. The lights came on and they became interesting and went to parties and had fun, which their parents and grandparents had been unable to do. Oh they had tried, of course, but they had boring fun. We know this. We have the pictures, and pictures don’t lie. Even the old people came around and agreed with this eventually, because when they looked at the photos they saw clearly how much more alive they were in 1970 than they had been in 1950. We Boomers still congratulate ourselves about this. Scholars now believe the Beatles should get credit for this, as they started out in black-and-white but learned to appear in color (colour, actually) and thus became rich and famous. Other popular musicians followed suit, and professional athletes followed. The Green Bay Packers were the first team to actually wear colors, rather than just say they had colors. Folks, we’ve got the pictures, don’t contradict me on this. The Colts played the Giants in black-and-white, and were black-and-white, in an era of moral (snigger) simplicity.

    The Reduced Shakespeare Company – late boomers all – in the Condensed History of America admitted that they skipped history from 1880 until the war because it was boring. Two world wars got only passing notice. They invested their time in a 1950’s sendup done in stark lighting and black-and-white costuming. Lucille Ball was there, but her hair wasn’t red. How could it have been? The world didn’t have that color then. McCarthyism was mentioned, of course, because we love to congratulate ourselves on our moral superiority. How quaint to think of communists as evil and Americans as good.

    However much the significance is overlooked, my observation is not original. Bill Waterson references the change in Calvin and Hobbes, capturing exactly the myth of how we perceive earlier generations. When National Geographic photographed Lake Wobegon only black and white film was used. Garrison Keillor himself provides the corrective in his story “Hog Slaughter,” a work of quiet power and one of his finest. “We believe it was a simpler time because we were children then, and our needs were looked after by others.”

    A whole generation of Boomers on both sides of the Atlantic based its picture of history, and thus its social and political beliefs on an unrelated development: the improvement of color printing and color photography. We remember Nixon in black-and-white, Kennedy just barely in color. (John, Paul, George, and Ringo were probably influenced by this.) But Milhous never shed this image even after becoming president. He seemed hand-tinted rather than living color, even in 1980. The movie Pleasantville should have given it away, especially to a generation whose shared cultural icon was watching black-and-white Kansas change to colorful Oz. But that heavy-handed symbolism went well with our mental furniture, and we simply fit it in unnoticed. I mean, that’s how those benighted people in the 50’s were, right? Not like us.

    Not to be too deconstructionist about it, but the similar words in the phrases “black and white morality” and “black and white photography” signify a deeper conceptual relationship. Oh man, that’s heavy. It’s like on the cover of Sgt. Pepper…

    A social worker I once worked with was fond of saying “Things aren’t black and white.” She often went on to add “It’s not like Ozzie and Harriet where everything is solved in half an hour.” I didn’t note the juxtaposition at the time, but now estimate I’ve been hearing similar things for decades, just under my radar.

    Moral relativity was not taught to us intellectually by Kafka, but accidentally by Kodak. Because the moral simplicity of our own childhood is recorded in black and white, we assume all the others in the photos were equally simple. Isn’t it great to live in more advanced times?

    —-
    [2] Several presidents nearly shared this fate by being put on money. James Madison was sort of greenish, but I believe Dolly had peachy skin and auburn hair.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Unanimity

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 8th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I read years ago that medieval rabbis (or perhaps earlier), when debating a point, would throw out anything when they had universal agreement and start over.  They thought unanimity was too likely to be evidence of everyone jumping to a conclusion and following a fashion. I have never been able to locate a source for this,* and it may not be true, but I have found it to be excellent, though not foolproof advice. Unanimous decisions are often rushed, not thought out, not waiting to see if different angles emerge. We recently had a church decision to call a new pastor that was overwhelming, but not unanimous. Unanimous would have worried me. It fairly screams “unrealistic expectations.”  There was a motion to report the vote as unanimous to the candidate.  I had heard of such a thing when I was a Lutheran 40 years ago, and the explanation was that it was an expression of unity going forward. I believe it was moving some designated money from one purpose to another and the vote was 63-3 or something. Those who had voted against were now agreeing not to be passively, even unintentionally undermining the decision. The change was made and was reflected as a unanimous vote in the minutes, which struck me as weird, and not quite honest.

    Unanimous decisions in department meetings or on psychiatric teams have gone bad for this reason, in my experience. They usually happen because there are one or more powerful figures that the others too easily agree with, or at least don’t want to put in the energy to oppose. It is one of those Chestertonian paradoxes, that unanimity is often a sign of contention rather than unity, because of silent disagreement. Consider also the rigged elections of tyrants. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Wayfinding

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 4th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I wrote the series, years ago, mostly in 2011, and refer to it from time-to-time.  I still think about it a lot and find the subject fascinating. One of the early entries is a good introduction:

    The Tourist asked: Old-timer, can you tell me how to get to St. Johnsbury from here?

    Eben Jenkins thought a bit, raised one hand and started to gesture up the Mountain Road. Thinking better of it, he stroked his chin and then pointed back down the River Road and almost spoke. He caught himself, looked the other way – up the River Road, and his eyes took on a faraway look. “Young fellah, you can’t get theah from heah.”

    Some overview, before putting you on to some of the research.

    Wayfinding is a subtopic under spatial memory. Though wayfinding can involve different scales of routes to follow, these are not vastly different scales. They are human sized, and involve moving a human-sized body, or objects only slightly smaller or larger. This is what human beings have navigated in for millennia. We now scale up to spatial relationships a million X larger or million X smaller, but these are recently learned. Like the Fahrenheit Scale that works best in the nice, human-living numbers 0-100, wayfinding is the understanding of movement from room-to-room, of walks in The Shire. Longer journeys of even ten miles begin to require a greater level of abstraction. This is landmark navigation, we have a hundred brain mechanisms we are unaware of helping us out, it is what we are built for, and it is far superior on the human scale. Even switching between scales at this level is not that hard. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Human Behavior | 17 Comments »

    True Civility

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd July 2018 (All posts by )

    This is either efficient or lazy.  I will plead to either. I have posted before at length on the subject of The True Patriot, and have referred several times to the section in Mere Christianity where C S Lewis talks about the True Christian. Rereading both this afternoon, I don’t think I can do better, other than to note that the current True Civility claims, which I encountered looking for other things at The Ringer and 538, fall into the same category. Straw men.  False dichotomies. Most importantly, redefinitions of everyday words in order to show that all real virtues are, ultimately, just liberalism. Who woulda thaought, eh?

    Also, critiquing the Knibbs editorial, there is the point that language doesn’t work that way.  It is not valid to say “this is the root of the word centuries ago, this is its real meaning, its better meaning, its more educated meaning now.” Even if there’s an interesting book out there by another liberal who claims that civility is supposed to equal the larger category of civic virtue (because just look at the root word!), which means protesting against evil authorities for the good of The People, it still doesn’t work. Word derivations are interesting more than illuminating. See how the word silly, related to German salig, has changed over the centuries, for example. BTW, I wish Protestant preachers would learn that as well.  What the word meant in the KJV is not what it is really, really supposed to mean now. Nor what Noah Webster thought, either. Words change, and are an agreement in a speech community, not cast in stone.

    You can figure out what my current essay about True Civility would be from reading the first two links. You can even write it yourself, just for the fun of it.

    They can see the faults of conservatives clearly.  They cannot see even the simplest things about themselves.

    Update: Someone interesting weighed in on civility, in just this way. Even now, listen for the questions she is not being asked.

    Ann Althouse seems to agree with me.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Millennials

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    There is a 2015 article by Jeff Selingo just linked by David Foster below. Selingo is worried because college graduates don’t know how to shoe a horse tolerate an ambiguous situation anymore.  Maybe so, but Selingo is drawing largely from personal anecdotes plus a Stanford psychologist who hasn’t figured out the difference between correlation and causation (which means neither can Selingo), so I’m suspicious.  Also, Steven Johnson’s 2005 book Everything Bad Is Good For You says the opposite, that the computer teaches kids to try all sorts of things to get where they want to go, epitomised by the videogames that just drop you off in an environment with no clue what your objective is or what the rules are.

    Most likely, many Millennials are able to tolerate ambiguous situations, many are not, and many are in between. Is the trait more common now than it was? I don’t know of evidence either way, but everyone has an opinion about Millennials.

    I have a bias that generations are not that different from each other.  They each have their cabbages and kings. When we say “I have been teaching/coaching/hiring/supervising young people for forty years, and I think that Kids Today aren’t as ______ as they used to be,” there is a lot left out of that estimation.  Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    Introduction

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 2nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    I have been invited to post at Chicago Boyz, and have accepted. I have had my own blog, Assistant Village Idiot, for over a decade, with over 5,000 posts there. I will crosspost here a selection of my current posts there. Come over and hit the search box if you want to know what I think about something. I have been interested in too many topics in my life, forever finding new enthusiasms. I changed majors at William and Mary from math to medieval literature to theater, and had a minor in anthropology after the one in psychology blew up. I have started and bailed quickly at grad school in three fields. Lack of focus and discipline, clearly. My adult life has shown the same pattern. I posted heavily over the decade on Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton; colonial history; words and historical linguistics; statistics, bias, and reasoning; Judaism; Bible and theology from a POV that holds the conventional wisdom of the last two centuries as suspect. (Which you had already guessed after seeing Lewis and Chesterton listed.) I am an evangelical who dislikes a lot of evangelical culture.

    My overriding topic has been cultural commentary from as objective and non-immediate perspective as I can manage. Current events are a swamp of emotions, and nearly everyone gets them wrong at first. I see Americans as belonging to various tribes: Arts & Humanities, Science and Technology, Military, Government and Union, plus regional, ethnic, and religious groups. 90% of us used to belong to the God & Country tribe, but this is no longer so. Most of us are allied with more than one. I was very much raised in the Arts & Humanities tribe, which used to be politically mixed, but is now almost entirely liberal. I harshly dissected that tribe for years. I still read in the arts and humanities, but have largely rejected the tribe’s attitude, which means most of my extended family considers me a bit dangerous.

    I follow sports – commentary, history, and statistics – yet seldom watch a game or post on these. I am similarly fascinated by maps and geography, psychology and neurology, parenting and development, and HBD, and don’t post on those either. Why? Dunno, but I think it is because I don’t have anything new to add about, say, the Negro Leagues or new psychotropics that you can’t find elsewhere. I have a few older series I will link to here.

    Personal Information: Semi-retired psychiatric social worker at the state hospital of NH, mostly in acute care. 40 years there. I am husband of one, a retired children’s librarian, and father of five sons, age 22-39. The first two came in the usual way, were excellent students, and went to Asbury College. We were fanatic parents – no TV, hours of reading aloud, constant discussion with friends about best practices. One is married with two daughters and lives nearby, the second is the creative director at First Methodist in Houston. The second two came from Romania as teenagers, one now living in Nome with two daughters, currently visiting wife’s family in the Philippines; the other moved to Tromso, Norway after getting out of the USMC. The youngest is a nephew we took in at 13 when his parents…well, never mind. They eventually repaired relationships with him. He lives nearby, works for USPS, and is in the Army Reserve. From my overall experience, I now counsel young couples to have more children and pay less attention to them. They are going to be what they are going to be without you moving the dial much, and they are enormous fun when they are adults.

    I will put up a few too many posts over the next week, then back off.

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    Posted in Blogging, Culture, Current Events, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »