Friday, June 28, 2013

Equal Before God

I pass that sign outside the Wesley Methodist Church on my way to work in the morning.  It’s printed on a rainbow-striped sign – and that particular set of gay-rights rainbow colors I have unconsciously learned to recognise.  It is one sort of religious declaration that irritates me. (There are others.  I think I’ll reference those next.  Equal opportunity criticism.)

It takes a truth and bends it with manipulative intent.  Insofar as it means we are all sinners Standing In The Need Of Prayer, and should thus be cautious in judgement it’s a central truth of the NT: whether slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile, we are all equal before God.  I would even go so far as to grant there is no hierarchy of sins, though that is more subtle and there is more to be said on that.  Insofar as God does have a hierarchy of sins he abhors, it doesn’t seem that homosexuality is at the top, so the colored poster gets a pass on that as well.

But everyone knows (not really – discussion below) that’s not what the sign means.  Those are the bait part of the bait-and-switch.  The sign declares that God regards heterosexuality and homosexuality equally. God is just fine with people being LGB or T. The argument for that premise seems to be that disapproving is hating, and God wouldn’t do anything wrong like that, so he must approve.  The argument draws strength from the evidence that some people who oppose whatever is currently being defined as gay rights do so for ugly reasons.  This not only includes some Christians, but those are often the noisiest of the ugly complainers. (If anyone thinks they are the most vicious, they don’t know what they are talking about.  And yes, I’m including Fred Phelps when I write that.  There’s far worse out there.  But it’s individual, not organised groups.)

Denominations usually sell the idea as being part of welcoming everybody.  To a lot of folks, not being welcoming would be a terrible thing, and putting ourselves above others, and gosh darn it, it’s not polite. Decent people want to keep things simple, and not go looking for extra controversy at church, so they go along with this explanation of it all being about friendliness.  Or something.  But this is something of a hostage situation, and I say that as one who has been in it.  Being welcoming in the ordinary meaning of the term turns out not to be enough. Talking cheerfully to a parishioner’s visiting lesbian daughter for fifteen minutes, identifying friends known in common, and asking after her well-being would generally qualify as welcoming, wouldn’t it? Don’t be silly. Welcoming has taken on a different meaning.  It means going out of your way to make public congregational statements of affirmation. When words get moved from their original meanings, beware.

I had heard the accusation that LGBT opponents were largely motivated by physical disgust.  I was somewhat dismissive of that at first, knowing that it is nothing of my motivation, and doesn’t seem to be the motivation of people I know.  But having been alerted to the possibility, I do find that the physical disgust angle does come up in unnecessary places, including Christian conversation.  I don’t think it’s anything like a majority of the opponents, but it is clearly the main factor for some.  There is a further manipulation I don’t like: some Christian groups rely on that and highlight it, even though it is tangential to any scriptural or theological argument.  They are playing to the crowd, perhaps. The scriptural opinion on playing to the crowd rather than what is right on its own account because of God’s approval is pretty consistently negative.

Church Signs

I may be guilty of another version of that same sin, however.  I hate 90%+ of the messages on church signs. I’m not sure my reasons are good.  I look down on the stale attempts at humor and the sloganeering wisdom.  My rationalization is that it makes us look bad, it amounts to announcements that dweebs who think they are clever go here. Yesterday I saw one side of a sign about getting a “faith lift,” and on my return past the same church, that “CH  CH:  What’s missing?  UR” one.  Those were both cute the first time I saw them.  Years ago.  I suppose there is a new crop of middle-schoolers every year who haven’t seen them.  There I go again, being very superior about my own wittiness and how such things are beneath one as clever as I.  So that is disgust of a sort, isn’t it? That word may be a bit strong, but it’s the same principle.

Sooo…I am the shallow judge here.  That congregation likely has saints whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. Uncool sandals that are decades out-of-fashion, too.

I’m not letting them off the hook entirely, however.  There is something in sign-cuteness that is associated, both theoretically and empirically, with Gospel Lite.  There is an affirmation of churchiness culture, of being-on-the-best-team culture that is not the same as Christian commitment. Our associate pastor mentioned a few weeks ago an incident at a previous church in which a parishioner had objected to pastors with beards. Yet in other sectors, facial hair seems to be required on male pastors. In all cases it’s defense of a culture rather than defense of the gospel.

Still, further criticism of them should come from others, not I.

Cowslip's Warren

The lessons of Cowslip's Warren, encountered by Hazel and the other evacuees from Sandleford on their way to Watership Down, remains one of episodes of that adventure I return to most often.
"I always think these traditional stories retain a lot of charm," said another of the rabbits, "especially when they're told in the real, old-fashioned spirit."

"Yes," said Strawberry, "Conviction, that's what it needs. You really have to believe in El-ahrairah and Prince Rainbow, don't you? Then all the rest follows."
I think of that when I see secular audiences so excited about gospel music. I wonder if they are getting the message or just looking at specimens. I strongly suspect the latter.  Not just the judges, but the audience as well. Do they hear praise, or just that old, authentic style?

I worry that for the singers as well.  It's so easy to lose one's way.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Comcast Is Down

I have a post coming about the "Equal Before God" banners. But it's not urgent, and my internet is down. Stay tuned.

Update:  Back up again.  The problem was at the pole.  Interesting how used to have internet connection has become.  Like microwaves and ATM's, it's hard to remember a time when they didn't exist.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

94 And No Shade

This was today, in Lancaster, MA.  Long hot day watching Kyle play lacrosse.

It used to be a mostly prep, mostly Mid-Atlantic sport, but that is changing. My stepfamily played - they still do, into the next generation and even a third.  Not many players have grandfathers who played.

But the Wymans were never so athletic as the Rowleys.  They would take national honors in things,we would win the Underwater Swim at Camp Mi-te-na, or the standing broad jump in 8th grade. We were good at waterskiing, anyway.

All five boys played some sports, and I have stood on a lot of sidelines.  One more year to go.  I think.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Past Is A Different Country

Via hbd*chick is this essay by the anthropologist Peter North How The Pacification of Europe Came To An End. What I wish for you to notice is not North's opinions or conclusion - though those are fun to interact with, but the evidence that people in the past did not think like us.  In every few centuries the game changes.  We read quotes and small sections of authors from the past and cram those ideas into our current categories.  It is not so.

Neither the Enlightenment nor its critics, neither the Catholics nor the Protestants, neither the secularisers nor the traditionalists strongly match up with categories of American belief today.  There are enormous exceptions and defections.  Prior to that, the beliefs of the Medieval thinkers only partially overlapped those who came before.

Some changes are brand new, others are a recapture or recasting of an older idea. It was a point of particular importance for CS Lewis that modern readers have this drummed into their heads.  Our lefts and rights, our blues and reds, our "spiritual" people and skeptics are not having the same arguments people had even fifty years ago, let alone 500. We pretend we understand, but we are largely making this up.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Missing The Code

When Aaron Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots, there was some noise about other teams passing on him because of "character issues," and getting busted for pot was the only thing ever specifically mentioned. I remember thinking at the time Really? Pot? I mean, I can see being mildly concerned about a person who can't fly right for a little while when it will make him a lot more money soon, and I get it that someone who is too obvious about it may also have judgement issues, but seriously? College boy? You have a problem with a little pot use? As opposed to what, binge drinking? Steroids?

I get it now. Pot use is code for "criminal friends" or "gang ties." Because you can't say that out loud in the papers unless you can prove it. So I never saw this coming, not the remotest clue.  Everyone is surprised that we're talking about murder and shooting guys, but apparently a lot of folks close to the team aren't surprised about the criminal friends.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uncanoonuc Sunset 6-20

Inspired Cover

Both the idea and the execution. From Jonathan via Ben.

ABBA - Just Keeping My Hand In

Odd, even by ABBA standards. It's supposed to be some American West, or perhaps Country and Western thing: cowboys and dance-hall girls. But it's more like Darby O'Gill without the Little People, Bette Midler, Alice in Wonderland Hits Puberty, and Arte Johnson, surrounded by competing emcees - one from vaudeville, one from C& W who plays accordion on the side.


Or a joke that begins "Two Irishmen and their girlfriends walk into a bar in Waco, trying to pass themselves off as Texans..."
I never appreciated this band in their prime as I should have.

Wondering Out Loud

I wonder if surveillance controversies are experienced differently by Christians. I have always walked around knowing that someone is watching and listening to everything I do.  Christians of traditional belief have also always expected that some unfriendly and even dangerous forces are always listening in.

That doesn't come anywhere near the logical questions of what governments, advertisers, and mechanical devices should be allowed to observe, store, and share.  But it might affect the issue emotionally, in terms of feeling violated and intruded upon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Language Change

We sometimes do not see how much things have changed in our language.  Because we can easily understand things written in English in the early 19th C, we think the changes small.  But this is largely because our own brains smooth over small differences without our noticing.  When they reach a certain level of difficulty and we hesitate, only then do we notice.

What was written was not a reflection of speech.  Not until Mark Twain did that happen.  There are differences, even large differences, even now.  But we put words on the page in imitation of speech far more than even our recent ancestors did.  It didn't all suddenly turn around with Clemens, and formal conventions persist. Light or humorous writers imitate vernacular and politicians flirt with it for effect, but no one talks like a legal brief, an academic paper, or even the most modern (that is to say, instantly out-of-date) liturgies.

Still, there was some similarity of expression, and looking closely at earlier writing can show with some clarity how English has changed in the last one hundred and fifty years.  Reflecting on this can give us some insight into understanding why Shakespeare (1600) now eludes us, and Chaucer (1400) can be read only with notes.

The painter George Healy, writing in the 1860's about going to Paris in the 30's.*
I knew no one in France, I was utterly ignorant of the language, I did not know what I should do when once there, but I was not yet one-and-twenty, and I had a great stock of courage, of inexperience - which is sometimes a great help - and a strong desire to be my very best.
We would say I didn't know anyone in France, or, if avoiding the contraction, did not know. Similarly, though utterly ignorant is understandable to us, and we use both words still in subtly different contexts, very few would write that, unless purposely affecting a more ornate style. We replace should with would, and when once there would likely now have an I got added to it, and might drop the onceI was not yet would be I wasn't even, or I was not even, or perhaps hadn't turned would be substituted. One-and-twenty would be used only for effect now, to suggest a folk song or poem. We might use a half dozen other words before we got to stock of courage, but from there our phrasing would be much the same, except that we would say do my very best instead of be. Also, the quote is only one sentence, with many commas.  Even I would likely break it up, and I would lean more to the older style than most others these days.

*The quote is from David McCullough's The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, which I am liking very much.

David Brooks and Edward Snowden

David Brooks had a NYT Essay on Edward Snowden, The Solitary Leaker.  I don't follow the news at all and have no opinion on Snowden and his leaks.  I haven't paid enough attention to offer anything new about whether his actions are good, bad, or murky.

I liked the essay fairly well as I was reading it.  Believers in Western Civ like the idea of "mediating institutions" of society, and the perspective they give one when contemplating moral acts.  It ties in with some of hbd*chick's ideas about the reduction in clannishness and embrace of larger institutions having some salutary effects on society. But I had a few quibbles with the essay, and to offer some minor counterpoint I started looking at Brooks's ideas in the context of broader sweeps of history.

I was going to point out that his tying of Snowden's ideas to some libertarian strains which set themselves off from larger society neglected to notice why that might be.  Libertarian paranoia, if such it is, is not entirely self-created.  Some folks might indeed be congenitally inclined to be suspicious and separate.  Yet that percentage is presumably constant, so ebbs and flows in the total have some other forces behind them. Specifically, I was going to wonder what the current (meaning the last fifty years, the last twenty years, the last five years) American powers and elites have done to increase the suspiciousness of those they rule. Brooks doesn't seem to think this has any part in it.  Just irritating, fragmenting, atomising citizens who won't get with the program.

As soon as I looked at that, the whole sweater sort of unraveled. When was this unfragmented time in American history when there was some institutional consensus and lone actors did not rise into prominence in such fashion?  Would Brooks mind mentioning to the black citizens of the nation when that time was?  Because I think it may have escaped them as it went past. Christian fundamentalists were largely a separate culture until Jimmy Carter's campaign, with their own entertainments, colleges, and music.  They didn't involve themselves in politics and national issues much.  Hispanics might also be curious as to when it was, exactly, that they weren't separate.  That's a pretty solid percentage of the population already, but more groups will suggest themselves to you if you think about it.

Without realising it, Brooks is engaging in some false nostalgia, toward a time when the white elites, which had just grudgingly accepted Catholics and Jews, sold us an idea that we are all in this together, and David contrasts that with our own time. We have not become increasingly fragmented in recent years unless we can put that in a perspective of "compared to what?  when?"  The last time we had an imagined consensus was the 1950's, which led, we may remember, to the 60's, which accused the previous decade of some faintly totalitarian, nazi-echoing attitudes and moved to overthrow it.  Read in that context, Brooks's words have something of the same echoes - it's just that there is a different elite consensus now. In the 40's-50's, it was Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs and a whole passel of people calling themselves folksingers - that was sorta true, but even so not a traditional mediating institution - that decided their moral decisions were independent of the American mainstream.  Not quite equivalent, but the parallels aren't ridiculous. 

Yes, that 40's-50's supposed rigidity and intolerance, and the supposed liberating features of the 60's-70's were much exaggerated, and serve only as the broadest of outlines. But they do have some value and some truth. Snowden may be wrong, but he's not un-American if we consider Norman Thomas, Charles Sumner, John Brown, or Madelyn Murray O'Hair to be legitimate examples of the feared but accepted edge of American discourse.

Worth remembering, if we are going to kick a certain brand of libertarians now. Who? Whom?*

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker has a talkback to Brooks that is not unrelated to this, David Brooks and the Mind of Eric Snowden.

*Kto kogo?  "Who does what to whom?" is the central question of all politics, according to Lenin.  And he should know, eh?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ruinin' Father's Day

Yeah, we sang this around the campfire in the bedroom toasting chipmunks all the time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Al Gore's New Climate Movie

All the science, plus more entertainment.

Hungarian Shadow Dancers

Thanks to Crina's friend Zatik Janosdr for alerting me to this.

Making Europeans Kinder and Gentler

From Peter Frost's Evo and Proud blog comes this history of murder, retribution, vendetta, and mercy in Europe. (via hbd*chick)
This situation began to change in the 12th century. One reason was that the State had become stronger. But there also had been an ideological change. The State no longer saw itself as an honest broker for violent disputes that did not challenge its existence. Jurists were now arguing that the king must punish the wicked to ensure that the good may live in peace. The Church itself was coming around to this view through what may be called a medieval synthesis of Christian morality:

A quick and fascinating summary.


There have always been athletes who believed their job is to hit baseballs or run fast, not be interviewed about it, or be an inspiration, or get along with teammates, management, media, or fans. ”What you do on the field, that’s what matters.  All that other stuff is nobody else’s business but mine.”  I think it was Charles Barkley who created some controversy over a decade ago by declaring “I’m not a role model.  Your parents should be your role model. Your minister, your teacher, somebody in your community.” It’s something of a convenient value, brought out when needed, buried when it flows the other way.  That’s entirely reasonable, because it is both true and not true.  The rules and skill set of sports are rather arbitrary, so the whole point is the mythology we create around the games. On the other hand, once the rules are in place and we are keeping score, the athlete’s job is to maximise the number of yards gained or shots blocked within that arbitrary framework.  Paradoxically the silent hero, the Charlie Gehringer or Steve Carlton, is a legitimate variant.

It comes up within each sport as well, whether someone leads by example or by getting in teammates’ faces; whether someone is disruptive to team chemistry; whether a player is creating a distraction with too much visibility versus not being available to the fans and media. Emotion matters, even myth matters, to the actual players.  They have all been exposed to guys who are complete jerks, but have to be put up with because of their talent; they have all known guys who bring something extra to a team in motivation or inspiration.

The sports shows this morning just couldn’t get off the topic of the New England Patriots signing a third-string quarterback.  A television programmer two years ago noted that while people complained about the wall-to-wall coverage, no one changed the channel.  “I could put on a show called Two Guys Argue About Tim Tebow and run it every night.” The emotion and the type of argument, at least from the callers, is fascinating.  People will stay on hold for an hour to be able to say. “Tim Tebow is not an NFL quarterback.  Period.  No further discussion. Everyone should just shut up about Tim Tebow.” Meanwhile, the next guy, who has also been on hold an hour just wants to say. “He’s a winner.  He’s got determination. This kid has a drive to succeed.” 

This is the whole athlete-as-myth, athlete-as-player divide played out in extreme. Or not quite an extreme.  Tebow is apparently good enough on overall skill set alone to at least not be laughable.  He passes worse than a quarteback should and runs better than a quarterback needs to.  Reading defenses, he is apparently off to a reasonable start.  There is argument about the aggregate of that.  As for his embodying an athletic myth, that is also not entirely clean.  He is a recognisable type of Chip Hilton hero, and among people who actually have the talent to play his game, rather an extreme of that type.  But that extremity includes his faith, which complicates things.  If he were just one of the players, it would be no issue.  But he’s the quarterback, so he has to be a leader, and people want their leaders to come from a short list of hero-types.  If he is seen as polarising, then that detracts from his intangibles, as they say.

An additional complication: if a lot of his value is in those harder-to-define winner/leadership/inspirational qualities, then that mostly works only when you are the starting quarterback.  A team doesn’t get much of that benefit, certainly not at first, from their second- or third-string quarterback.

He is not intrusive about his faith, but millions of other people – for or against - are intrusive about his faith.  He doesn’t seek to be a distraction, but millions of other people get distracted by him.  People want to make statements about their beliefs by talking about his.  These also often take similar form to the guys waiting on hold for the sports call-in.  Declarations, not analysis.

So.  My declarations, then.

Part of Belichick’s motivation may be to show in yet another way that he is a better coach than Ryan, or anyone else.  Supposedly, no one can figure out how to make use of this talented player.  Bill wants to show he can.

If he can’t, Tebow’s career is over.

Tebow has practice value when the Patriots are playing a read-option quarterback.

I don’t know what Tebow’s special-play, trick-play, change-of-pace value is.  Presumably Belichick thinks he does. If Tom Brady gets hurt, you want Mallet to replace him. But then all that special, change-of-pace stuff from Tebow becomes more important for the Patriots. The concept of a Relief QB doesn’t make much sense with Brady.  But it might with Mallet.  High-risk, high-payoff stategies look better as the score gap widens.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Disappointed in Kelly Ayotte

When I saw the headline that Kelly Ayotte was in support of this immigration idiocy because "the current system is broken" I knew We Are Doomed.

How hard is this?  That our current system doesn't work is not an argument that just any other solution is a good one.  There might be good arguments in favor of the bill - I haven't heard them, but there could be - but saying "The Fountain Youth isn't in Florida, so it must be in Thailand" is just ludicrous.

Bacon, Bourbon, Pepper, Salt, Chocolate

...all in one pie?  That is manly.

Oh yeah, whiskey too. It looks like a lot of work, but quite the accomplishment.

(Via Maggie's, of course)

Future Travel II

James suggested sending a probe on ahead.  There's a thought.  What technology the probe is going to have will have variety, so that can be a fun problem solve.  Can it photograph?  Can it detect surveillance?  Poisonous gases?  Population?  Radiation? Each variation would lead to a different place to send it, different conditions.

Probe or personal, the idea of scouting out Washington DC or NYC first seems problematic.  While you could certainly get more information you need more quickly at a place like that, there would be greater risks as well.  Not the place you would want to be walking around without identification or a good explanation for your appearance.  High-value military targets, so radiation risk, ubiquitous surveillance.  And if things had gone deeply wrong with American in 20 years or 100, DC might be the last place you'd want to see.

I am thinking that a place I would know my way around, but could still observe quite a distance while remaining hidden or less-noticeable myself would be good. If you could look down on a familiar city at night and see the lights were out, or no one on the highways, well, then you'd know that it's time to start covering some distance if you're a probe, or start looking for fresh water and a place the few remaining souls might show up.  Communication towers maybe.  Or more positively, if everything looks ducky down below, one could start acquiring info more boldly.  Blue Hill might work for me, or Hooksett Pinnacle.

The point to go to the future would be either to get something cured/fixed, or to have some info to bring back to the present.  Though if it were nice you might decide to stay, even though you'd be a stupid useless person yourself.


Someone referenced “cheating,” and I wondered how that is possible.  Apparently some folks think opening up other tabs to research what you discover is not quite fair.

I thought this was idiosyncratic, but checking the web and comments sections, this is the more-common opinion.  You can browse around a bit and read signs, but not google them.  The point of the game is the guess, based on your previous knowledge and what you can deduce.

I can’t say I agree.  I see the attraction of that style, as it is much quicker, and has that seat-of-the-pants, I-just-happened-to-know aspect that’s fun.  I’ll play a few rounds in that style to see if it seems better to me.  Yet my initial inclination is that the quick version is inferior.  It appears to reward skill for most of its playing, but at the last moment becomes a game of luck. Many cities of 50,000 in the US look pretty much the same.  Unless you are following a road out of town to see the terrain, it’s pretty much a guess on Bozeman vs. Nashua.  And if you’re in that deep, I don’t see the difference in using another tab.  Dead flat, little vegetation, snow covered, two-lane highway with signs in English.  It could be Arizona or Saskatchewan.  Probably something in Australia as well. So you make a good guess and are off by 2000 km.  In Europe, that would be a terrible guess, but it’s scored the same. Brazil is a big place, and villages far apart look darn similar, even if you were clever enough to recognise that the sign is in Portuguese, not Spanish. Korean downtowns look similar – unless, I suppose, you have traveled to many of them.  Ditto Slavic cities.  Or rural areas in the Balkans and a lot of Eastern Europe.  Do you read Cyrillic characters?  Or is that supposed to just tell you “guess something Slavic?”  When each site has something unique that you might know that separates it from similar items, whether vegetation, or architecture, or some geographical feature, that’s skill.  When a lot of sites look pretty much the same, that’s luck. 

The scoring, BTW, is not linear.  It falls off rapidly from about 6487 (1 meter off), so that being 300 km off is not 100x worse than being 3km off, but only about 10x worse. And 3000km off is not 10x worse than that, but 3x.  That alone suggests that precision, rather than inspired guessing, mattered to the designer.  Not that the designer’s word is necessarily final in such matters – but it should be accorded some respect. My low score for a site is 74 BTW: 16000km off.  Australia looking like North America in many ways will do that.

News articles kept suggesting that high-scoring is not the real point, but the adventure and guessing part is.

Then why keep score at all?  People say that about kids and sports, and it’s a perfectly valid way teach kids physical activity, appreciation for the game, etc.  What matters about golf is the exercise, and being with friends, and the beautiful surroundings, etc.  But then don’t keep score.  Once you keep score, score matters, to some people at least.  If it doesn’t matter to you, fine.  You can play basketball or golf without keeping score if you like.  But don’t say that those who do keep careful score aren’t doing it right somehow.

Second point.  When bapping around the terrain looking for clues, some signs are intentionally obscured and some are not.  As I have been using a separate google tab and can check back on some of these, I know what the trend is on those.  The smudged signs are more unusual items that a google would narrow down quickly.  “Wilson’s Auto” or “Park St” or “Memorial Field” are not obscured. “Grebb’s Pizza,” “Shearwater St,” and “Briggiano’s Field” are. You would only know those by luck, but you could get within 100 meters ridiculously fast.  Sometimes route numbers are visible, sometimes smudged. Therefore, we conclude that the designer expected googling, but took pains to make sure it wasn’t too easy. 

And it isn’t easier.  Sometimes even when you get a clue that gets you in the ballpark, something crosses you up.  You can find an equipment trailer from a marine construction company in British Columbia, but the construction could be far distant.  It was.  Northwest Territories. I knew immediately that one place was Appalachian, probably West Virginia.  A half mile up the road was a Kingdom Hall, and just beyond that a non-chain motel.  You’d think you could zero the place in from that alone.  But all my googling showed no motels within a mile of any rural Kingdom Halls in WV.  I was off by 40km when I gave up and guessed. (The motel is now closed, that’s why.)

I think it’s just playing at a different level of intensity, with luck more of a factor in one.

Hmm. 16,722 in 13 minutes.  As opposed to 32,000, usually taking an hour.  Well that’s fun.  But this one was weird.  CA- Oregon border, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, then Castille, Spain.  Those first four were pretty tight.  That doesn’t happen much.

19,430 in 19 minutes.  Got a couple of very lucky breaks (border of Maine and NB, for example).  Maybe this is better.

Or Speed Geoguesser.  15 minutes max.  Should be fun.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


NHPR is discussing Common Core Standards as I write this, with reference to what will bring us up to par with other "industrialised nations."  They are talking about whether the devotion to local control is an obstacle, questions of whether teachers can adapt to it quickly, highlighting the importance of math and the new rigor this will bring.

They are discussing every interesting question except the one that actually drives the numbers that they will look to to see if it is working: racial/ethnic differences. I would like to think that they will someday wish to look for the car keys where they were lost instead of where the light is better, and that they can't look at the reality because they don't want certain truths to be true, because they are kindly disposed, decent-minded people who don't want anyone to feel bad, or that they can't make it just like everyone else on the inspirational posters.

There is a darker interpretation that is at least possible, however.  They like talking about problems and being clever, not actually solving problems to help the unfortunate.  This preserves jobs for their tribe in a general way.  There are two serious precedents for this that we already know exist: the art world, in which "having a conversation" (perfect word) about what art means, or how people relate to art, or any of the other idiotic, vacuous excuses people have for being irritating with talent is taken as something real; and professorships in many college fields, but some in particular, which exist, if you grab them by the collar and force it out of them, mostly to exist, and feed off real learning in parasitic fashion.

So it's not impossible,  It's happened already.  I fear that the voices on NPR have the circular purpose of insuring that NPR-like conversations continue to occur as a paid item.


Business Insider had one of those fun maps showing how folks around the country pronounce things differently.  Nothing new, but it's in a fun form. The full survey, which is few years old, is here.

This is an oversimplified version.  For example, the red lightens in NH on the word for soda/pop/soft drink/coke choice because a few people still say "tonic."  A lot still did when I was a boy.  Actually "TAH-nic" would be closer.

Future Travel

Bumped.  I think Earl's list in the comments, and my responses, were more about future settings.  This clarifies for me that what I really wanted to ask about stressed the idea of actual time travel to the future.

I’ve imagined traveling to the past many times.  Traveling to the future just doesn’t hold the same romance for me.  But traveling to the future – even to a possible future* – would certainly be a lot more useful.  Things that aren’t easily changed, like earthquakes, asteroid strikes, or four-foot ocean rises would be especially nice to know.

I have no experience wandering in imagination in that world.  Science fiction writers imagining futures near or far have shown pretty limited accuracy.  (So far, that is.  There’s lots still TBD.) But there is a problem-solving, puzzle aspect to this as well.  If you got to move forward say, twenty years, what spot would you like to land on? I have a couple of thoughts, but others who have imagined this more may know that some scripts go boring very quickly.  For traveling in the past, we know that Medieval and Renaissance, WWII, and one’s personal past are some of the good ones.  Victorian England has been making a run recently.  I’d like to know where the well-worn paths of the future are.  Anyone up on these imaginings?  And if not, have a hand at the fresh puzzle yourself:  where does your time machine land?  (Or if you prefer, what do you bring with you?)

*In Jorge Luis Borges fashion, this should suggest to us that time travel to the past might not be to the past, but a possible past.  We don’t think that way, and always assume that there was only one real past, which we remember or can rediscover with varying degrees of accuracy.  But any given state of affairs might have many possible causes.  Reversing the flow of events, there might be just as many possible pasts as there are possible futures.  I dunno.  Never been there.  Seems unlikely, but fun to imagine.