Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger

My hero when I was 13-30.  Sang out about opposing dictators, but couldn't denounce Stalin until he was dead almost 50 years - and even that was tepid.
"Should I apologize for all this? I think so." He went on to put his thinking in context: How could Hitler have been stopped? Litvinov, the Soviet delegate to the League of Nations in '36, proposed a worldwide quarantine but got no takers. For more on those times check out pacifist Dave Dellinger's book, From Yale to Jail  At any rate, today I'll apologize for a number of things, such as thinking that Stalin was merely a "hard driver" and not a "supremely cruel misleader." I guess anyone who calls himself a Christian should be prepared to apologize for the Inquisition, the burning of heretics by Protestants, the slaughter of Jews and Muslims by Crusaders. White people in the U.S.A. ought to apologize for stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving blacks. Europeans could apologize for worldwide conquests, Mongolians for Genghis Khan. And supporters of Roosevelt could apologize for his support of Somoza, of Southern White Democrats, of Franco Spain, for putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Who should my granddaughter Moraya apologize to? She's part African, part European, part Chinese, part Japanese, part Native American. Let's look ahead.
We've all seen such apologies before.  "Yes headmaster, I was stealing from Johnson, and bullying the younger boys, but you'll remember that Edwards cheated on examinations last year, and Cartwright set the accidental fire at the boathouse. So let's just move on, shall we?"

I listed him as one of my 10 Worst Americans ever. I've written a fair bit over the years about him. Perhaps the best example (though Baez might be better) of an A&H Tribe urban sophisticate masquerading as a voice of the downtrodden. An evil hypocrite.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Farleigh Dickinson Poll

This year's FDU poll of how much people know about current events depending on their news source is out again.  Haven't read this one. I'm not linking. A few years ago, when Rush Limbaugh listeners scored comparatively well on it, it didn't get much play.  (Except I heard Rush mentioned it a lot, which one would expect.)  I don't think they broke it down that far this year, but in my circle, I only see/hear it mentioned by people who want everyone to know how badly Fox News listeners did, and how well NPR listeners did.

How about if I just type "social/cultural/style signalling" this time, without elaboration?

Important background to keep in mind:  the lead researcher, as opposed to the news interpreters, has some valuable things to say which usually get ignored. I think he misses a trick or two, but he seems a decent and fair chap. Next, I think there is something generally accurate about the results.  I don't think it's just a few tweaks and a little bias from showing that Fox and MSNBC viewers are really better informed on such matters than NPR listeners. I think the difference is real.

Yet just for openers - might NPR be a sloppy and inaccurate news source which attracts brighter people for unimportant cultural reasons, who would have done better on the test anyway?  Or the reverse - did Fox viewers start out behind the others, or did that network bring them down? This will be point #3 below.

#1: Why are current events considered an important measure? (Note how prominently this week's news always figures in NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.") Wouldn't longer trends matter more? Isn't there a significant cultural bias toward inside-the-beltway obsessives from the get-go? Knowing what legislation got traded for what is an historical footnote at best. I'm not sold on the basic premise.
1A: FDU ran into even more trouble when they tried to measure whether liberals or conservatives were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, and eventually buried that dog.  They equated belief that Obama has obscured parts of his history - which is undeniably true - with belief that he wasn't born in the US - which never had much evidence or support.  They also called climate skepticism a conspiracy theory, which even then was a reach and is now unsupportable.

#2: Any time you have 9 questions on your test, and the average number people get right is between 1.0 and 1.5, those are bad questions.  No matter how much it looks to you that people should know this, you've done something wrong.  Yes, many of us are stupid, and most of us only know approximately enough information to make a good decision, but the species would not have survived if we were that stupid. A similar Pew poll a few years ago asked things like "Who is your governor?" I call that better than knowing whether Hosni Mubarak was winning or losing at present.

#3. What is causing the difference?  What is cart and what is horse? We see a similar problem in rating school districts.  One town rates itself best because its seniors had the highest SAT's.  Yet what if they had the highest test scores starting right from Kindergarten, and even lost a few points along the way?  Wouldn't a school that started with below-average 5-year-olds but graduated average 18-year-olds have a better claim? What if MSNBC viewers are less bright by a long shot than all the others, but only finish 3rd-to-last because they do a good job with the news?

#4. The lead researcher's conclusion is that ideologically driven news reporting is less helpful, and he puts both Fox and MSNBC into that category. The weakness with this is that NPR and The Daily Show are also ideological.  There seems to be this idea that because a source sometimes criticises both sides, it is therefore fair.  Well, it's certainly fairer than Pravda, I suppose.  But The Nation sometimes criticises liberals quite sternly, and the National Review does the same to conservatives, yet both remain ideological sources.

#5. Even within a current-events context, how do we judge which stories are most important? Which countries?  Are military and economic always top-shelf, religious news hardly ever? I haven't liked the questions all that much in past years.  Not terrible, just not very impressive.

Friday, January 24, 2014


I get the Quora Weekly Digest questions - I don't know how that happened - and have been irritated that I would have to mess put my FB or Google+ or whatever ID on there to answer.  Blogger I wouldn't mind.  I ache to answer some of those.  But I hold back.

This week the lead question is "Why Do Some Men Put Down The Toilet Seat Before Urinating?"

And so, I comfortably conclude that I really don't want those conversations that much after all.

McArdle On Whether Obamacare Is 'Beyond Rescue'

Megan McArdle reports on a formal debate about Obamacare. (via Maggie's)

Let me acknowledge that I have not followed it much in the last year.  I had concluded previously that the program was likely to provide benefit for some people, but at a cost that was disproportionate to its virtues. When the rollout failed even worse than that I paid some attention, worrying that even my cynical estimate might prove over-optimistic. McArdle clearly knows more policy and probable outcomes than I do, and I wouldn't be able to bring a credible challenge to most of her points.  However, that is likely true of her opponents as well. Neither could I hold the field against their knowledge for more than a minute or so. I also grant that much of the popular criticism of the program ignores the free health care that people sign their kids up for while complaining that they have to pay in for themselves. It's okay to count that as a net loss, but you have to acknowledge both sides of the balance pan before coming to that anti-Obamacare conclusion. (In NH it's called Healthy Kids, and some subsidy is given right up to some pretty high levels of income.)

Some things I do know, however, and they worry me.  (Though I was oddly comforted by her impression that not everything would collapse.) First, that a credible argument could even be raised this early is damning.  Most critics forecast - including McArdle - that any collapse would be a few years out. Second, the comments at the link are not impressive, but there is a difference.  The anti-Obamacare commenters seem to have less vocabulary, poorer phrasing, and move to general criticisms of the president pretty quickly; but the pro-Obamacare comments include way too many that are not on point, but merely touch emotionally on related items: that having health care is a good thing, so people opposed to this program are morally lacking; that other countries like their programs pretty well.  This legislation-by-feeling is dangerous stuff.

But the worst is the third.

"The administration and its supporters have been counting on the coverage expansion to put Obamacare beyond repeal. So what if the coverage expansion is anemic, the plans bare-bones, the website sort of a disaster? It’s a foundation upon which we can build -- and now that so many people have coverage, the thinking goes, Republicans will never dare to touch it. The inevitable problems can be fixed down the road." 

This was the accusation of fundamental dishonesty that was brought from the start. It seems to be emerging as true. I continue to suspect that there is a political divide, that on the left people say "we do care about dishonesty and deceit in our politicians, but we expect it, and it's not the most important issue to us; if things turn out as we like we think everyone should move on" - while on the right people are much more bothered by such character flaws.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Burns And Allen

The Answer

The question has been: is Brady the reason for Belichick's success, Belichick for Brady's, or do the two share it equally?

I love Tom Brady, and you can't win consistently in the NFL without a seriously good QB, but the Patriots' success is more Bill's than Tom's. Today's game is Exhibit A. The top players for the Patiriots one year ago would have been, in approximate order, Brady, Gronkowski, Wilfork, Welker, Talib,Vollmer, Mankins, Hernandez, Mayo.

Those were pretty much missing today, and Brady had what would be a C- game for him (which is admittedly, a B- game for almost anyone else), and yet the Patriots still had some chance until late in the fourth quarter.  Manning, an exceptionally good QB, aided by great recievers and a wonderful D-line, played at a B- to A+ level the whole game, and yet any of three (four?) badly-thrown long passes by Brady would have kept the Patriots in it. Belichick is indeed a jerk at times, and I doubt I'd like him as a pal. Still, I think he is the central cog.

Because of film, information, training, and PED's, today's game is far superior to the Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, George Halas eras.  Joe Namath, Ron Jaworski, and Roger Staubach have all acknowledged that today's quarterbacks complete passes in games that they could not complete in practice.  It just is.  Sammy Baugh or Johnny U would have done even better in this era of more advantages, but the cold facts are that they didn't do as well as QB's today. Montana was great, but Rice was an enormous uncredited asset. (uncredited in the quarterback discussion, that is.) Today you saw the two best QB's to date in NFL history. NE fans hate Manning, but I don't.  I love his game.

BTW, people up here get torqued off at the fans around the country who keep focusing on Spygate as the big CHEATERS issue, even though it was the coverup more than the crime that caused the $500,000 fine.  I'm not so bothered.  Like a defense attorney who tries on a ridiculous argument defending a clearly guilty client - well, he has to say something. He can't just capitulate and say "your honor, my client deserves 25 years to life for this."  People who hate New England have to give some kind of reason, even a dumb one. If you say "that was years ago, and small potatoes" they aren't going to just reverse field and say "Oh, you're right, I like them now."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Piano Guys

I missed this earlier.

I note that girl-creativity is different.  They would not do this.  This is, start to finish, very much a guy approach.

I will think about exactly what I mean by that.

Fraidy Cats

The News Junkie over at Maggie's links to a Matt Walsh argument with some unidentified college professor. I don't know much about Walsh, but I'm clear that the professor is a fool, enough that I would suspect he is a fraud or a sock puppet. However, he does use a common argument of the social left, so he may be authentic.  He declares "The truth that either escapes you or frightens you too much to acknowledge is..."

My uncle uses this line of attack in our correspondence as well, when discussing the Tea Party, or conservatives in general.  He describes them as afraid of change, feeling threatened, and attributes their inability to get on board to this fear.  It comes up often in commentary coming out of the NYT or other thoughtful observers of the American scene. It is one of those ideas that just circulates on the left unquestioned.  It even inspires some pity in them - those poor saps aren't necessarily so bad, they're just like children, or demented old people, who must be led around gently by the adults in the family.

What nice people, with deep understanding of those they disagree with, eh?

The phrase "bitterly clinging to their guns and religion" might occur to you about now. Or the book What's The Matter With Kansas?  Or a hundred other bits of patronising* nonsense.

The other place I encounter this attitude is at work, whenever there is pushback or complaint about an administrator's new idea.  Change is hard. People are afraid of change. It's a process and sometimes we have to go back and explain it to those poor benighted souls under us again and again. The concept that this change might not be a good one, or that people are objecting to it for very solid reasons, seems not to occur to them, This truth escapes or frightens them, perhaps, that they might not be right.

First off, let's acknowledge that there is a fair bit of truth in the general idea.  Even people who are novelty-seekers don't change their address, their hours, their friends, or their diet every week.  Everyone finds change difficult.  It is also true that sometimes people have no better reason than not liking change for digging in and being an obstacle. 

Yet who is the most fearful here?  When the accusation is delivered from the left, it seems to mean three, and only three things.  The most common seems to be the public change in sexual values.  Premarital sex and gay sex seem to be the main themes here.  Married people having affairs is still rather frowned on, and women talking about sex right out loud seems to be something we adjusted to about 50 years ago. The change to more consistently punishing predatory sex also doesn't seem to be anything that Tea Partiers have objected to - have I missed something? 

There is a lot of handwaving about troglodytic conservatives being afraid of "social changes," but I can't see what else is there.  We are afraid that black and hispanic people might be allowed to...to what?  Vote?  Own property? Are we supposedly fighting the 60's all over again, so that all the Boomer liberals will get to tell off their moms and dads one more time? So - premarital and gay sex, and by extension, gay marriage.  I'm not seeing the fear here.  I'm seeing disagreement.  It is not "fear" that causes people to object to "The Vagina Monologues" being performed by the high-school theater group.  (Western MA.  But you could have guessed that if I had asked.) It is profound disagreement.  If you counter that we "fear" that such things will be unremarkable in fifty years, I waive the point.  You are correct.  I greatly fear that a play which calls the lesbian seduction of a 13 y/o a "good rape" becomes the norm.  (That was the original script.  It has been moved to 15, then 17 in later versions. Yeah, go for it.  Lie in wait to call anyone who objects homophobic.)

The second purported fear seems to be of what the publicly-expressed values will be, such as what is taught in the schools. They've got half an argument here.  I'm figuring that they don't have the votes to install their own values, so they are going to rationalise that those are really just neutral - because they are shared by all their friends - and make them the standard. They'll try to be polite and respectful about teaching that I'm backward and ignorant in the public venues and schools.  They won't always succeed at that - see "bitter clingers" - but they'll try. The odd thing is, I agree with some good percentage of the changes they want to endorse. But people like to be persuaded, you know?

Acknowledged:  half a point.I am afraid of that.  Not the changes so much as the cheating.

The third meaning seems related.  Conservatives fear that "we're gonna be in charge now."  Well yeah.  In every society, Party A fears that Party B will get power.  That's why there are parties.  Party B also fears Party A coming into power.  What's your point?  Woven into this is the idea that the right is afraid of the inevitable increase in redistributional policies - and can I point out that this idea of historical inevitability of socialism is one of the key teaching of Marx, though one always sounds like an ignorant extremist, worthy of no answer but eye-rolling, whenever marxism is the charge?

I prefer the word irritated to afraid, but I'll acknowledge another half-point there.  There is a short term inevitability that we are going to keep increasing redistribution, until it stops working.  I don't fear the lead-up at all, it is merely expensive and as I said, irritating.  I do fear what it will look like when it stops working.


Let us move on to looking at fear in general. My reading of the news is that it is liberals who fear things.  They fear climate change, even though there doesn't seem to be much, and much of it might be beneficial.  They fear GM foods, even though those have #deaths=0 and organic foods have #deaths=millions.  Even recently, a lot. They fear even reporting human biological diversity and racial differences.  They fear home schooling. They fear concealed carry and those icky people that even want to own guns. They fear free markets - okay, I grant, I fear what is (wink,wink) called the free market these days when it has enormous amounts of rent-seeking from the government.  George Weigel notes the strong correlation between optimism and having children.  Who's having children?  Evangelicals.  Mormons. Orthodox Jews.  So who's afraid, here?

Are there numbers out there that show that conservatives fear new technology and have fewer cellphones? Twitter accounts? Are they not getting on new planes or are driving to the same old airports when a better one is closer? Are they still using dial-up at their car dealerships? 

The accusation that it is conservatives who fear the future is projection.  There is enough truth in it to sustain believability in people who need only scraps to feel that they are the brave, new, vanguard of modernism when they are actually the timid ones. Yes, fearless. Speaking Truth To Power has come to mean "telling your friends what they wan to hear."

*It is a perfect irony that the word patronise can be pronounced either of two ways, with about equal frequency, and is used in print far more than orally.  Whenever someone uses the word "patronise," you can switch to the other pronunciation and say "I'm sure you mean patronise."

Barmen Declaration: Repost

Eighty years ago, a few were courageous.


It's important to have choreography that supports the music in style, theme, and tone.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Football Trivia

Over the last 50 years, very few Heisman Trophy winning QB's have won an NFL playoff game.  Interestingly, all have played for the New England Patriots, though none won their playoffs for that team.

Take some guesses, then look it up.

Evil Genes

I am generally liking Barbara Oakley's Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend. As with her Cold-Blooded Kindness, which I previously reviewed, she seems to want to write more than one book at a time.  She covers a lot of territory; she tries to tie it all in together; you won't find a lot of this information in accessibly-explained form all that easily.  She examines some of the notorious evil people of history in the context of whether they had formal personality disorders; she looks at the brain research for the behaviors of personality disorders (subclinical and full-blown) we meet every day; she tries on the different theories of how these might be adaptive, and how the genetic and environmental causes interact to save some and ruin others.

Still, it does tend to cause her to switch gears precipitously, the connections dangling a bit.

Also, her strength is her weakness, as is the case with most of us.  Her training and research for such a work is nontraditional.  One reviewer credits her with an Indiana Jones background.  I wouldn't go that far, but compared to most academics, the description is defensible.  As a consequence, she does not meekly accept revealed wisdom and credits wide-ranging sources for possible explanations.  The downside is that she accepts some sources - biographers for example - at face value while dismissing others, without a good explanation why. If she were attempting to prove some political or cultural point, relying on the analysis and bias of a biographer or historian would be more expected. That's what they do.  Attempting to provide scientific evidence from such sources is more chancy. Softer data.

I will take a risk at mind-reading her thought processes.  She seems to think about a bit of data once, say, whether Margaret Thatcher was driven by need for dominance or by practical considerations, whether Christians can fairly say they regard life as sacred if they support the death penalty, or whether the borderpath formulation of Swift and Nandhra is valid - and think about it no more, considering it settled.  A common fault of the quick-witted, to over-rely on that trait.

Still, she'll give you a good deal more fresh thought than you'll get from three or four other sources picked at random, so we can't complain too loudly.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Metaphor For Memory

I have noted before that our recording technology seems to strongly influence our own experience of memory. One of my earliest posts considers the emergence of color photography versus black-and-white on our perception of our ancestors and even ourselves.  In the era I grew up in, memory was conceived as a video archive, and it was strongly believed that memories could be unlocked by pushing the proper buttons.  This showed up not only in Psychology 101 textbooks, which regarded brain stimulation as proof of this phenomenon, but such popular psychology as courtroom dramas and murder mysteries, or even religious tracts by Jack Chick, in which you were shown videos of your life at your judgement in heaven.

We now believe memory works differently.  It is disassembled for storage and reassembled for each recollection, more like a computer than a video database. This means that it can and does change over time, subtly shifting.  Because of the photography and video of the last generation, we have evidence of this, as we find solid evidence that we have misremembered things we were absolutely sure we had gotten right.

I wonder if the video metaphor has impaired our ability to treat those with Borderline Personality Disorder.  They are notorious for recasting memories to a narrative they can endure far faster than other people. In fact, it can take place within hours.  In a context of memory conceived as video archive, treating professionals, and certainly line staff, may have refused to believe that the BPD's memory actually changed.  We have probably been far too willing to conclude She is lying...She is denying...He is just being evasive.

It is a natural mistake.  If I watch Krystl lose her temper and treat others insultingly over a five-minute delay in being let of the unit on Tuesday, I am unlikely to be sympathetic to her contention on Wednesday that everyone ignored her or talked down to her, triggering her assaultiveness the day before.  I know what happened, and cannot help but assume that she does too, she's just denying it.Yet it increasingly appears that such changes in memory - which would take us a decade to accomplish when contemplating first husbands or step-sisters - are actually that fast with those who have personality disorders.

Record Cold Weather

This is the spot where climate change skeptics have been having a field day, laughing at the record cold temperature in such warms spots as Atlanta and Houston. Obviously, the planet is not warming.

Perhaps it is just my contrarian nature, cautioning everyone not to draw conclusions from a small sample size, nor believe the simple explanations, but I think the past few weeks have actually been the type of evidence that climate-change believers should be bringing forward.  Only the bravest of them are, because thy know how bad it looks in the news.

The switch from warning about Global Warming to Climate Change was certainly a dodge for many of the scientificly-untrained nancies who always need to A) have a crisis and B) deplore how other ignorant Americans are living.  Yet there was some sense to it in theory, and we should not ignore that simply because it is buried under piles of manure. The recent record cold in many areas is certainly not proof that the alarmists have been right all along, but it is evidence that extreme weather is increasing.  A dozen similar items would need to be brought forward before I would get behind even moderately expensive or intrusive solutions, but it is potentially a mark in their favor.  It still could be a mark in the skeptics' favor, but I do not reject the argument simply because it doesn't make intuitive sense at first.  Weather is complicated.

On a happy note for those of us who are tree-lovers, the intense cold seems to have set the emerald ash borer back significantly.  That's good. For those in the area, those purple triangular hanging doohickeys you have been seeing in the forests are there to measure ash borer progress.

Gladwell's Faith

My love-hate attitude toward Malcolm Gladwell is multilayered.

Okay, that statement is probably true about my attitude toward everyone, including myself, but it is so strong as to be worthy of mention with Gladwell.

He points out the obvious, and at first it annoys me that he gets credit for it, until I remember that 'most everyone else doesn't get the obvious, which moves me back into the Gladwell camp.

Then he points out the counterintuitive - his other strength - even when the evidence is spotty, which makes him a media darling and annoys me further.  Until, again, I realise that there are few voices even risking some unpopular stances, even if he gets them 1/3 wrong. Which brings me back to pat-Gladwell-on-the-back mode again.

Had you told me that he was writing on a faith topic, I would have been extremely wary, and, as in waiting at least four years before seeing any of The Hobbit, have given it a pass until others had walked over the territory.  I am happy to be the first evaluator in some circumstances, but in the case of Gladwell, the wisdom of crowds is preferable.

But a FB friend linked to the article in Relevant,* and I was well into it before I realised it was MG.  It's good.  It doesn't stress what I consider an important point, but it's good.

The important point is: it is not a strategy that works in the world, and should not be adopted in hopes of victory. Le Chambon did not go on to prosper more than its neighbors.  There is no evidence that we won the war because of Le Chambon.  The world did not beat a path to the Derkson's door, asking "what must I do to be saved?" Mennonites did not experience 200% growth worldwide because of this single family's obedience.  This seems obvious to my readers, but consider how often we read stories that tell us the opposite. I followed God's Word and my business grew, my church was able to pay of its mortgage, and all my aunts were cured of cancer.The Lord blesses us when we trust in his Holy Name. I can't tell you how much I hate that attitude. The testimony of the Huguenots is that they persevered even though the persecution continued.

Take this course if you believe Christ leads you to it, but do it because it is right, not because it will succeed.  The fundamentalist side of the heresy is the Health and Wealth, name-it-and-claim-it "gospel." The social justice side of the same heresy is that "God will preserve us from war if we will but beat our swords into ploughshares."  Both are emphatically not true.Gladwell gets to the heart of this in interviewing those French citizens.
They saw just about the worst kind of persecution that anyone can see. And what did they discover? That the strength granted to them by their faith in God gave them the power to stand up to the soldiers and guns and laws of the state. In one of the many books written about Le Chambon, there is an extraordinary line from André Trocmé’s wife, Magda. When the first refugee appeared at her door, in the bleakest part of the war during the long winter of 1941, Magda Trocmé said it never occurred to her to say no: “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that.”

Nobody thought of that. It never occurred to her or anyone else in Le Chambon that they were at any disadvantage in a battle with the Nazi Army.
* I have linked to this magazine before.  The more I see the better I like it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The End of an Era

I learned Thursday night that my stepfather had passed away Wednesday, shortly before his 96th birthday. My mother died in 2000, and he has not been socially active other than with his children since 2002. Thus, the many activities listed predate this century.  I learned Friday that First Night Wolfeboro, which my mother started around 1992, ceased operations this year.

Their books are nearly closed now.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Generic Novel

Tim Sample is the designated heir of the Marshall Dodge, Bert 'n I Downeast Maine humor.  The accent is exaggerated, but not a lot.  You can find people who speak pretty neah just like this.

His reference to "generic beer" comes from an earlier part of the routine. He describes how ubiquitous such products have become in the poorer Maine communities, and tells about going down to the general store, with a big jar of eggs in brine on the counter, and picking up generic products.

In particular, the generic novel: "It's got a black-and-white cover with a bah code.  No illustrations.  It's about this fellah.  Doesn't say who..."

How Droll

A commenter on a long-past thread showed up disagreeing with my interpretation of a researcher's work.  I won't identify the post, nor the general topic.

He began one paragraph "How droll..."

What can we guess about this person?  I am giving no hints.

Political Drinking Alignment

Ben sent this along from Deadspin. He thought the Jagermeister observation was about right.

 As a person whose entire cultural sympathies should lie with the liberals (they are only an overlap match with Democrats) but whose intellectual sympathies lie with the conservatives (an even weaker match with Republicans), my gut confirms some of this.  Every time I see Smoking Loon part of my brain goes that is a cool name, I should like this, while the other part goes that is a jerk name, don't touch it.  I consider Grey Goose, and especially Grey Goose flavored, to be hopelessly affected.  I would move away from a stranger who ordered the latter. Courvoisier I think of as something that was cool once, but is now drunk only by posers.

I drink some Jim Beam, because I want bourbon and I don't want to spend a lot.  But I wince as I buy it. I never buy Wild Turkey, but keep thinking I might if I'm feeling particularly retro some day.

I drink stuff in the middle, it seems, with Jameson's being high.  I would have liked the infographic better if the red-blue split had been more gradual.

 I don't even know what Don Julio is, though I assume it's cheap wine.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

VW Vanagon

Favorite car I ever owned, the shoe-box-on-wheels Vanagon. Apparently the bronze color I had was not common, as it is hard to find images of that.

Note the high clearance.

Christmas Trivia Game

We played a Christmas trivia game I had never encountered at the department holiday party. My team finished second, so you know I'm going to have to complain about it. I thought it was a trifle obscure to ask what the temperature was when Snoopy took off in the Royal Guardsmen's song "Snoopy's Christmas" (Forty below, we guessed twenty below), But someone could conceivably have remembered the lyrics. Only use of a glockenspiel in a pop song that I can recall.

Asking which Disney movie came out on Christmas, 1963 was sneaky-fair, because "The Sword In The Stone" does have a real Christmas tie-in, though it sounded unfair at first. (We guessed 101 Dalmatians - 1961,  and had mentioned The Incredible Journey - November 1963 - in our discussion). I thought What did the moon give to objects below? was inspired, because the form of the question made the relatively straightforward answer harder to arrive at. Fair question.

But I'm just not buying Gardner Fox, the DC cartoonist, is a legitimate Christmas question just because he died on Christmas Eve, 1986. Ridiculous. And Charles Darwin landing on Christmas Day - which isn't true - was rendered answerable only by inclusion of the ship's name, HMS Beagle.

It's worth noting, not because I fear my reader's lives will be worsened by the purchase of a substandard trivia game unless I warn them that there is a fraudulent item out there, but because it bears on SAT's, IQ tests, and other general knowledge expectations. Understanding what is a fair question is actually a significant advantage in such things. What we call "trivia" games, when they are good, are actually only the extremer versions of fair questions. It is not fair to ask any questions about Gardner Fox unless one is at a comics convention. Asking for the ID number on a piece to a pellet stove, or the street address of a particular government agency is a specialised knowledge.  A person with extremely high general knowledge and ability might not know these, though a person with more average abilities might by accident.

If there are Boomers in the mix, then the Royal Guardsmen are fair game.  And we Boomers do think we are the fulcrum of the universe and our culture is equivalent to general culture, certainly. But I think it's a pretty marginal Christmas Trivia question. It is fair to ask about John Lennon's "Happy Christmas," execrable though it is, because it entered the general culture and has been played ever since. But anything related to McCartney's blessedly forgettable "Wonderful Christmas Time" would not be a fair question, because only fanatics remembered it after 1/1/80.

The Jolliest Fat Man