Consensual

By which I don’t mean this is a blog devoted to Kate Paulk’s book.  Sorry, guys.  When it’s cued to come out, I shall let her excerpt, okay?  Good, now moving on.

One of the things that my blog yesterday touched on was the concept of “Consensus reality.”  You guys seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, which is good, because…  Well, mostly it is a concept I’ve discussed with my kids, but not with anyone else much.  However, I don’t know if you understand the breadth and depth of consensus reality, or what it means, how it is established, its fatal flaws and how insane things can get when the consensus reality is significantly different from the kind of reality that can bite you in the er… nethers.

Creating or changing the consensus reality has been a project of revolutionaries and/or invaders and/or reformers since… the world has been a world.  Probably.  You can find it in changed inscriptions on the stone monuments of ancient empires.  You can find it in defaced monuments, for that matter, in which someone’s face was carefully chiseled out of a statue, which was left standing.  You can find it in historical descriptions of battles, invasions and other such “first sources.”

When studying history, it is a bright idea to remember the supposed credo of journalists “if your mother tells you she loves you, verify it.”  In this case, if your great grand mother tells you she gave birth to your grandmother, verify it.

How can you verify it, if every source is biased?  Well, you read as much information as you can, in as wide a pattern as you can.  After a while the way in which things contradict each other, and some of the absolutely known, rock-bottom facts about the era (like “half of Europe died in wars,” for example.  Or “At the end of this era the country was markedly poorer,”) will give you a fairly accurate view of reality.

Note what I say about multiple sources.  When studying history, multiple sources are the cure to consensus reality.

Now let’s say you have an ideology – because the ideology has changed what it actually believed in through the time, except for a few certainties – we’ll call it Hopeful Stupidity which believed that it needed to change what people thought reality was in order to get a foothold in a country that they could FINALLY transform into paradise on Earth.

BTW the idea that HS in its beginning format, [and including the idea that people like onto angels (by which – bizarrely – they meant intellectuals, philosophers and theorists!) could impose a better way of living from the top down and drag us from the grubby present into a perfect, peaceful and prosperous future] was a propaganda coup of the old USSR is not in dispute.  The beginning of it as a project in the US started before that (the ideas are to an extent to be expected of the then-normal beliefs about technology and the future) because no idea is stupid enough not to have occurred multiple times.  But the level to which it has become a consensus reality – in fact, the project to make it a consensus reality, was part of the agitprop of the old Sov Union.  Keep that in mind, because it is relevant.

Again, the idea of creating a consensus reality of – in fact – lying to the mass of people about their past and their future was not a new development in politics or government.  What was new was its intersection with technology.

To the extent that such things can be simplified (And they have to be, because I’m writing a blog, not a 100 page treatise) the twentieth century depended on technologies that worked best in mass form and were directed/controlled from the center.  (And our political theories have a tendency to follow our tech.  It’s stupid, but there it is.  See Glorianna in the middle of her clockwork empire.)

But what that meant is that those technologies were – by nature – designed to create a “consensus reality” such as the world had never seen.  (And the world has seen some great attempts at this before.  For instance, I BET some of you believe that Marie Antoinette said “Let them eat cake.”)

In most countries, creating a consensus reality took the form of top down authoritarianism, though.  The Sov Union, itself, resembled more than anything 1984 with lower tech.  And such work has holes.  Mostly it has the problem that people are really good at developing double-think.  That is where they will say something with the lips and confess another faith in their heart.  By the time the project really got going in the US, there were already indications that this was so.  And it disturbed those involved in the project.  (Was it a coordinated and rational project?  To believe Heinlein’s bio, as well as the documents in the USSR archives, yes, at its center.  It was in fact a conspiracy.  However, at its outlying edges it wasn’t really enforced.  People did things to advance it, more or less without thinking.  The “coolness” factor was a great part of it.  The early-planted idea that the future lay that way.  And the fact that it was bought into by probably the most massive generational bump to hit the US.  There are other factors, like the feelings of veterans of WWII, and the advent of television and… again… I don’t have 100 pages.)

In the States, the form it took was that “the good people” – people with a certain view of how the future should go.  Yes, yes, mostly (once more) philosophers and intellectuals, though a few were ruthlessly practical and power hungry men.  It happens.  And this particular project afforded a lot of power – took positions of power.  In a way it was a very easy project, because Americans are a very weird breed.  We like to do things, and we like to mind our own business.  That means NO ONE is minding the philosophical shop most of the time, and as far as liberal arts in college go, well, we want our young people to be able to show them Europeans a thing or two and read the same works and all but Good G-d, we don’t expect them to take all that mumbo jumbo seriously, right?  So, just go on to school, Johnny, and spew back what your teachers tell you, but we’ll forget all that when you come home and take over dad’s business.

And for a while it worked like that.  AND because NO ONE was minding the ideological store, it was very easy for little Johnny who had a more… HS bend than the others to finish his degree with flying colors, and to take a job where he could come to the top and control who got hired to teach the kids.  And what they were allowed to teach.  Or to take a job where he could control what books got published.  Or to take a job where he could pick what TV programs got aired.  After a while, with people possessed of Hopeful Stupidity in mid-positions, or in enough low positions, it was enough for little Johnny to be dim but really good at regurgitating back the Hopeful Stupidity credo.  And, to paraphrase Heinlein, if he was too lazy to work, too stupid to create anything new, and too cowardly to run his own con, little Johnny fell in place like a cog in a machine.

In the fullness of time, the people at the top died and little Johnny took over.

I think – if there are future generations who are literate enough for this – our descendants will laugh themselves sick at the idea that just as these people slotted into key positions, the Sov Union was falling apart, and the idea of top down economic and cultural control was withering.

Part of the issue, of course, is that in the US this wasn’t so much a conspiracy as we think of it, with cloak and dagger, but a slow and steady application of the idea of what is “cool” and the “future” to the culture, by all means available, and a slow but steady promotion of like minds, at all levels of entertainment, news, academia.  That type of thing takes a LONG time.

(And before you accuse me of paranoia, go and take a poll of academia, of publishing (fiction and non-fiction), of journalism.  If there were no ideological filter in hiring and promotion for those, in a deeply divided country like ours, the politics would break 50/50, right?  Or thereabouts?  But they don’t.  If the country mirrored those professions, we’d all be Red Pioneers.)

The other part of the issue is that this type of system promotes DUMB.  By which I mean, rock bottom stupid.  No, I don’t mean that individuals are stupid in the sense of not being able to memorize and spew back what they heard.  Some of them are brilliant that way.  But when it comes to innovation and intelligence, they are DUMB.  It is part of the Hopeful Stupidity credo that we’ve already reached a stable point in tech, and that’s why the government can now direct resources and thoughts and beliefs towards a better society.  If you let people going around creating random crap, that would upset the whole apple cart.  You can’t have that.  That creates “instability” and breaks apart the “national consensus.”

What this means is that the USSR promoted the same type of people.  Intellectuals, with a hunger for power.  Too lazy to work, too dumb to create, too cowardly to run their own con.  The first generation had to be hungry and sneaky.  The second needed to be less so, and were at least somewhat aware of not being the sharpest tool in the shed…  Which meant they hired the same type as themselves, but dumber.  Dumb enough not to challenge them.  Which is part of the reason that the Sov Union collapsed when it did.  Past the third generation, you’re in the same point that took the royal families of Europe centuries to achieve through mere inbreeding, where a king could put the crown on the right end of his bride two times out of four or so, and could be taught not to drool in public.

However, collapsing when it did, it also acted as a clarion call to the people who’d been involved in the project of Hopeful Stupidity in the US.  Up till then, at least in my profession, they let the occasional dissenter through.  And though you’d not get the bestest goodies, you could make a comfortable living, if you just kept quiet about how STUPID Hopeful Stupidity was.

Then the people, by then comfortably in control almost everywhere, realized that – uh – people COULD doublethink.  (Be kind to them.  Most have trouble single thinking.)  And that meant they needed to keep a sharp eye for heretics.  Certain profiles stood out.  Say you were OBVIOUSLY not stupid, but didn’t rock the boat.  “Um… better safe than sorry.  Keep so and so in menial no-decision positions.”)

In an ironic twist the Heigelian philosophy I was taught was right in this.  A system always seems strongest before it crashes.  By the nineties Hopeful Stupidity, by then flying the banner of “everyone has the right to never be offended” was publishing manuals on what language you were allowed to use, what words you were allowed to think, what word use was the moral equivalent of eating babies on screen.  And they were kicking out anyone from the industries they controlled, who might have a spark of original thought.  (Some escaped by having got established before that.)  This, btw, among other things, explains the state of the movie industry.

But here’s the thing – while it worked, it established Consensus Reality.  By which I mean, people got the same view of the world EVERYWHERE.  From school to your shootem movie, you heard the same things, over and over and over again.  In retrospect, this should have been a warning, but it wasn’t.  Of course it wasn’t.  Humans are social animals.  If our monkey band all thinks they can levitate the Denver Mint, if our education tells us that belief controls the world, if there are philosophical treatises on how belief is everything, if in movies and novels people can levitate the Denver Mint and end the war…  Well!  It must be true.  Otherwise someone would say something different, right?  (And btw, post-modernism is a way of closing that thought-escape-hatch.  It’s incoherent, of course, but it can work for a time.  If you really want it to.)  And when it doesn’t work, there are always reasons.

I was telling my son that the first time I thought FDRs policies had been RESPONSIBLE for the Great Depression, I thought I was going nuts.  All the “experts” knew he’d saved the nation.  It said so in my history book.  Casual reference was made to that in movies.  Fergodsakes, I was just a chick who read economics.  How could I question this?  (For the record now even Krugman admits it.  Only he thinks it can work, provided we get a WWII.)

But the Hopeful Stupidity NEVER understands innovation.  They don’t get that other people will do things other than climb to the top of the ladder by regurgitating the credo.  And they particularly failed to get that 20th century tech was a transitional state.  (Forgive them.  Part of it is that they just want power – not knowledge or wisdom.  Also, they don’t usually study tech.  There’s all that math, see?)  

And so… first the VCR, then cable.  In science fiction they could never QUITE get rid of Jim Baen (Wherever you are, Jim, I’m glad I got to “meet” you, if only over the phone.)  And then… and then there was the internet.  And all hell broke lose.  

The internet was supposed to be for scientific exchange or SOMETHING.  It was supposed to be for important people to tell each other important things.  They would tolerate porn, of course, but…  Political blogs?  Who were those people in their infernal pajamas?

And then it got worse.  What do you mean people can write and publish books without our approval?  But we worked years to be gatekeepers.  We licked all the right… er… boots.

Worse, just when the books that would show these people the past was different from what the gatekeeper’s said were FINALLY aging out of readibility… they could be brought back?  In a way that doesn’t age except when language ages?  (I would say the “lead” regulations that got half of my kids’ school library destroyed slotted into that, only I don’t think they’re smart enough to have thought of it.)

In case you wonder this is where SOPA came from.  It’s also where the shrieks of the industry come from.  And why they seem caught in molasses and unable to adapt.

We’re uncoordinated, insane, often very very angry (who, me?) and we just “put it all up” and “throw it all out.”  BUT that, it turns out, is the big hammer that shatters the delicately built, painstakingly constructed crystal of consensus reality.  The ONLY thing that could work.

Things are going to get much worse before they get better.  No establishment EVER goes down easy.  But in the end, hammer will always shatter glass.  (And isn’t it ironical that the originators of Hopeful Stupidity thought the hammer was theirs?)  Particularly when it’s a million pen hammers, wielded with gusto.

Carry on my friends.  Aim for the shiny bits.

183 responses to “Consensual

  1. Oh my. Thought provoking, I going back to read it again before I respond further.

  2. What this means is that the USSR promoted the same type of people. Intellectuals, with a hunger for power. Too lazy to work, too dumb to create, too cowardly to run their own con. The first generation had to be hungry and sneaky. The second needed to be less so, and were at least somewhat aware of not being the sharpest tool in the shed… Which meant they hired the same type as themselves, but dumber. Dumb enough not to challenge them. Which is part of the reason that the Sov Union collapsed when it did. Past the third generation, you’re in the same point that took the royal families of Europe centuries to achieve through mere inbreeding, where a king could put the crown on the right end of his bride two times out of four or so, and could be taught not to drool in public.

    I’ve been acutely interested in the third-generation phenomena as it relates to both family fortunes and monarchies (both historic and envisioned) for a long time now and have done quite a bit of research on the topic. It cuts across all cultures regardless of what the people consider “wealth”.

    I grew up reading the “There Will Be War” books and something Niven and Pournelle (remember when those two used to work together a lot…ah, those were the days) said has stuck with me since I was a teenager. Something to the effect of “Is empire the most effective form of government? No comment.”

    When I set out to write this horror/space opera mash-up I’m working on, one of my secondary goals was to establish a realistic and workable absolute monarchy in which the subsequent generations born into affluence would not succumb to “teh stoopid”. I had to consult a couple of child psychologists, but I think I’ve got it nailed.

    • The third generation phenomenon can also be seen in hereditary money (corporations etc) and some religions. I find it very interesting since my family do come from Denmark and Norwegian kinglines (and had a few drooling idiots there). Plus my family also joined the Mormons and did some more inbreeding, which didn’t help the family at all although I find it interesting that in my siblings I think that four of the nine are above intelligence. I told my brothers to help the family genetics and marry outside their race. ;-)

      • I’ve studied inbreeding and linebreeding a lot in animals, what it does is double up on genes which show up as traits, both good and bad. If it is a dominant gene you only need one to show it, but if you only have one only half of your children will inherit it from you, if you have both dominants, all your children will inherit one. Recessives take two and are much easier to breed for, because if both parents show that means both parents have 2 recessive genes and will pass on 2 to their children, unfortunately they are much harder to weed out of the gene pool for the same reason, if you only have one it doesn’t show, but if the other parent has one also 25% of the offspring will show the recessive trait, and another 50% will be carriers. All this works somewhat well when breeding animals, since we can choose which animal to breed to which for the characteristics we want, and cull those that show negative traits, therefore inbreeding and linebreeding are good, we can double up on the traits we want and cull out the undesireables. Unless you are a proponent of Eugenics this doesn’t work however on humans, which is why inbreeding is bad, because you can’t cull out the undesireables. Outcrossing doesn’t actually promote desireable traits, as much as it lessens the likelyhood of undesireables being doubled up on. There are of course drooling idiots that are absolutely not a result of inbreeding, there is a lesser percentage of them however. On the flip side there is also the Egyptians who practiced both inbreeding and judicious culling in their royalty and it worked very well for them for quite a period of time.

        • I am hoping that the undesirables don’t pop up as much. For instance I have an auto-immune disease, plus we have hemophiliac in the family line. Thankfully the blood disease has missed our line for good or ill, but the auto-immune disease gene hasn’t. We’ll see for good or ill how outcrossing helps.

          • Kate Paulk

            This is why I’m not spawning (unless there’s a really unlikely accident). My mother’s side has depression so strongly that as far as I know only one of the five of us has escaped it (alas, not me). Auto-immune runs strong, and has hit me and one of my sibs. Diabetes is also an issue on my mother’s side. Then there’s skin cancer on my father’s side, and gastric issues (I’ve hit the latter, although thankfully not – so far – the former). And that’s just me. The Husband has at least as much genetic lottery fail on his side.

            • Kate – I agree -
              I don’t have any children either. Partly because I was the oldest and raised many of my siblings and partly because I wasn’t excited in passing on the family tempers.

              • I don’t know. Mine are turning out interesting…

              • Kate Paulk

                Are you sure we’re not the same person? I’m the oldest too, and the younger two absolutely hate being reminded that I changed their diapers. I did enough looking after to last me a lifetime.

                As for the temper… berserker channeled into depression crash. No more words needed.

                • No I am not a clone now ;-) However, I do come from a berserker line. Mine doesn’t crash into depression, but it takes a long time for the rage to dissipate (three or more days). Thank God, I have a kind understanding husband who comes from a totally different line.

                  The younger four hate it when I talk about diaper changing too. lol
                  My parents had four girls, four boys, and a girl.

                  • When I go berserk, I have been known to take down men bigger than me. (I was in the Navy). It is rare and only happens when I am in a fine temper. Thankfully my hormones have calmed down some since I grew older (50 now).

                    • An umbrella and a berserker temper will get me going.

                    • So far I’ve not had occasion to discover if I have berserker tendencies. I know that when I get mad, REALLY mad, I get calm and cool and collected and focused and will flatly target weak spots and mop up. I don’t know that that counts as berserker, but if *you* start a fight, I will most certainly run with it until *I* finish it. Then again, one of my grammas many generations back was a certain Queen Boudicca, and there is indeed red hair in my family, though it appears recessive, so…

                    • @Stephanie – I also have the cold temper which is why I say TEMPERS when I refer to my temper.

                  • Kate Paulk

                    You are lucky with that! My hubby is a berserker too. Fortunately we’ve got different trigger points.

                    Mine had me, three more girls, and a boy. Yours were much busier!

                    • I am very grateful for not marrying another berserker. I see how it caused problems with some of my siblings. My Dad wanted a football team.

  3. (For the record now even Krugman admits it. Only he thinks it can work, provided we get a WWII.)

    Or a convenient alien invasion…he said so himself and probably congratulated himself for being witty.

    • Well, we’ve had that convenient alien invasion and are busy developing antibodies for those alien thoughts and ideas. Thank-you, SH, for this week’s injection of antibodies into the intellectual bloodstream.

  4. Carry on – too –
    Thanks for the shatter to the consensus reality that has built us into glass houses. I really hate it.

  5. That is why I began writing HF, starting in 2006 with “To Truckee’s Trail.” It’s about a pioneer wagon train party, taking an unexplored route over the Sierra Nevada in 1844. I began to have the bone-deep conviction that hard times were coming, and we (that is,people who were deeply interested in history) had to begin reclaiming it from those teaching the hopeless, malignant version of American history. We need hope, we need reassurance that other people have come through hard times, and survived with grace and dignity. We had to know that our American ancestors (actual and metaphorical) were decent, striving people, with ambition and humanity – and that the United States was a breathtakingly ambitious experiment: a government by and for the people. How radical was that, eh?
    To not know our history, or to know only a warped version of it – it’s to live without hope and reassurance in a hard time. To not know history is to live in a sort of cultural sensory-deprivation tank. Not knowing it is to run the danger of believing anything you see and hear from people who perhaps have an interest in manipulating your perceptions.

    So – I started writing HF. As we used to say in AFRTS, the mission is to inform and entertain. The best way to get people interested was to make a ripping good yarn about it. Fortunately for me, history cooperates by being far more dramatic, complicated and interesting than anything I could possibly have made up. And I discovered, by way of researching for the books that I wrote after ‘Truckee’ … that practically everything you see in movies and TV shows about the American frontier, and read in your current history texts … is a pale gray and warped shadow of what real people living through it in real time experienced.

    • Have you perhaps come across Covered Wagon Women, Diaries & Letters From The Western Trails? It is eleven volumes (twelve if you get the book of maps) covering 1840-1903. Fascinating. Some of the most beautiful and touching descriptions were from the hands of the least literate.

      • I didn’t come across the Covered Wagon Women series when I was writing Truckee, although some of the individual material, diaries, etc was in other books that I had. I may yet get a few of the volumes now, since I have a good few more stories in mind where they might come in handy.
        When you think about the first wagon parties – especially the ones in the early 1840s who had only the vauguest notion of where the trail led – I am just boggled at how they had the nerve. They packed up their families and everything they owned, six months of supplies … and just headed west, across two thousand miles of wilderness.

        • It took guts. It required dreams. Possibly a bit of desperation. And a willingness to work. Sometimes it was heartbreaking. Still there was a chance that you could build a better world for yourself and your children. The things which we are presently forgetting to celebrate about our forefathers.

        • Same thing it’s gonna take to establish extraterrestrial colonies. They’ll have only the vaguest notion where they’re going, they’ll need nerve, they’ll need courage and perseverance, and they’ll pack up their families and everything they own, whatever supplies are needed to get there…and just head out there.

      • One of my gggrandfathers was Capt. Jefferson Hunt who led a lot of wagon trains from SLC to California. I know that the history they give today is a pale imitation of what actually happened. Good for you Celia.

        • Thanks, Cyn – I know (and have known for decades!) that what gets into the textbooks – properly anointed and blessed by the usual authorities – is a dry and juiceless portion of what really happened. What really happened was complicated, nuanced, human and above all – interesting. Textbooks conspire to squeeze all the interest out of it, current pop-culture prefers to paint with a very broad brush, and the certified ‘experts’ most always have their own agenda.

        • After my Daddy’s mother died, my grandfather remarried a very lovely and classy lady. As a little girl she had been in one of the last wagon trains to cross the Dakotas. It was interesting to realize just how much the world had changed in her lifetime.

          • When I consider that my grandfather’s adult life encompassed the Wright Brothers landing at Kitty Hawk and the Apollo landing on Luna, it is not hard to understand why SF writers expected we’d have flourishing colonies by now. Unlike FTL travel a Luna colony doesn’t require any technological breakthroughs, merely resolving some engineering issues.

            • I’d like to know why we DON’T. And when I want answers, I mean my arms are crossed and my foot is tapping…

              • Had we spent on lunar colonization what we spent on Lyndon Johnson’s programs we could have transported all our poor (and we’d have had far fewer of them.) We could have made G. Harry Stine governor and we’d be swimming in cheaper technology even more than we do.

                • I agree with your premise, but I am wondering why we want to ship all our poor to the moon?

                  • You’re right – no way they should get preferential treatment. Make a Master’s in Engineering (for example) a prerequisite to qualify and the collateral benefits would eliminate poverty (and probably politicians, as well.)

                  • It can work. Georgia started as a debtor’s colony. Gives people a chance to build a new and better life.

                  • Not all of them, bearcat, but poor people are a renewable resource, like biomass for fuel. It makes sense to use what you have to hand, hmm?

              • Exactly – I expected lunar and other colonies by the time I was an adult. When it didn’t happen, I was pretty mad about it. I mean, we should be seeing something besides an elderly space platform for the amount of money and work.

              • It’s fairly simple. The Space Race was all about politics. By the time we had proven we could land on the Moon, we were so far ahead of Russia in that area that it was no longer a race. Plus, the cost of the Space Program was not effectively sold to the public as an investment in new technologies that made everyone’s lives better, so the political will to continue and set up Space Stations and Colonies on the Moon went away.

                Likewise, private industry couldn’t be convinced that the investment would pay off in a short enough term, and since the capital investment horizon has shortened significantly since about 1950, they didn’t want to risk that much money on something that they were probably also afraid the Government would interfere with before they made their money back.

                • you hit the nail on the head in the second paragraph, at least one of the spacefaring governments if not all of them are going to claim jurisdiction over any private endeavors. No way are they going to let somebody private fly off and stake out a claim without them being able to tell the private individuals what to do. (and of course collect taxes to pay for telling them what to do)

                • Yes, it was all about politics, and it still is.

                  And yes, private industry didn’t see an immediate bottom like. It STILL isn’t that interested, and they are only marketing to the gov’t, so in no wise is it truly a commercial space market.

                  In point of fact, though, what most people don’t know is that, contrary from trying to slap all kinds of limitations on commercial contractors, NASA has been GIVING AWAY technology for years. “Here, we developed this. Take it and make it useful. You wanna use our launch seat foam to make new launch vehicles, cool. Oh? You wanna make mattresses with it instead? Well, that works too, I guess.”

                  • People actually think that NASA tries to LIMIT access to technology? Holy cow! The technology transfer program is great! I’d like to get involved, myself, but I don’t have the contacts or resources to do anything with it.

                    • If the government had done a better job at publicizing how NASA developed space technology has resulted in gains in private sector — creating new industries, jobs and better lives — we might still have a real live space program.

                      h*** I suspect that the tax dollars generated by such industries would more than finance it.

                    • Bu, bu, but … there’s Tang!

                  • Not really, Stephanie. Oh, yeah, the only possible immediate returns are from things like Station resupply, so their public face tends to look that way, but the fact is, the “commercial space” guys really aren’t commercial at all. They’re dreamers who suddenly found themselves in possession of a metric buttload of money and could start trying to make their dreams real.

                    It’s an illustration of why it is the [cursed] [participle] Marxist analysis is 180 degrees wrong. Capitalism is designed to defraud rich people by fooling them into thinking they can get richer by doing something to benefit the public. Most investors lose their money — but in the meantime they end up building the factories and “means of production” we all live on.

                    No sane, conscientious, responsible bureaucrat (even if they existed) would risk a penny of the public’s hard-earned money on anything as stupid and unlikely to provide a benefit as space travel. There are poor people and sick people who need it right now, and it’s criminal to waste the funds on pie-in-the-sky BS. It takes a stupid rich person to piss it away on dreams.

                    Donald F. Barr: Empires grow on bureaucrats battling for budget; Nations decay by ‘putting first things first!’ Another Iron Law.

              • Sarah, I just got done researching that in detail for a book Travis and I wrote, and the research pretty much confirmed what I’d concluded based on my tenure in the space program. It’s politics. See, every new administration has to cancel everything that came before and start something “new” just so it can have THAT admin’s stamp on it. I realized that when I transferred from Shuttle to Station ops and the same positions had different names, acronyms were changed, etc. and I asked why. I was told it was “to be different.” And if any of the experienced people from Shuttle (the Station people had no ops experience, just developing the “system”) told them, “That’s not the way we did it on Shuttle, because…” they’d get cut off with a sharp, “THIS ISN’T SHUTTLE!”

                *sigh* And then NASA gets blamed for waste and cost over-runs. There are SO MANY reasons I could tell you, Sarah. And all of them ultimately come to roost on Capitol Hill.

              • The pioneers in this country did not depend on the government to get them there. They had to provide their own transport and supplies. The government may have offered land to settlers, but they had to ‘prove’ it. This means that they had to put up a home, start to develop it and stay with it for a period of time before they were awarded possession of their section.

                Moon colonies either need something like the ‘private’ trade companies that Europe set up, or a government plan.

    • “reclaiming it from those teaching the hopeless, malignant version of American history. ”

      That line right there got me to thinking about what influences (particularly fiction) strongly influenced the “patriotic” side of me, the things that helped me internalize that this is a good country and worth fighting for. Some of the things that came to mind:

      - some old Disney flicks shown on “The Wonderful World of Disney” featuring “the sons of liberty”. (I’ve found reference to one movie but I distinctly remember seeing more than one.
      - the Daniel Boone TV show.
      - The “America Rock” segments of “Schoolhouse Rock.”
      - The “Yankee Doodle” TV show from the 70′s.
      - “Combat!” TV show from the 60′s. (I think there were some other “war shows” from the same period but don’t recall any specific titles.)
      - “Have Gun Will Travel” (which I have recently, to my delight, rediscovered.)
      - John Wayne movies, lots and lots of John Wayne movies.

      As you can see, these cover quite a lot of time. Some were “early formers” some were “reinforcers.” and most of these I watched because they were what my parents had on, but they had their influence. Some of them were kind of silly in retrospect (and some weren’t) but the idea that the United States is a good country and worth fighting for ran through them.

      • There are all sorts of TV and book fiction out there, WriterinBlack, which onceuponatime did reinforce our values … not by being preachy or goody-good, or even glossing over the unfortunate parts. They engaged kids, and passed on values, while still being entertaining.
        Along about 1994 (I was stationed in Korea at the time, and remembered checking it out from the base library at Yongsan AIG)
        “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong”

        I do not know why I checked it out – only that the suggested reading list included an amazing number of books that I had grown up reading. And I had never even considered the content of them as being morally edifying tales. Usually, I ran like hell from the stuff with an obvious “This Content Is Good For You!” content. But I finished the book, totally convinced of the need for young readers to be given books to read that would exercise their moral muscles.
        One of the points made, was that many of those great personal decisions made by a moral person – are not agonized over, considered and re-considered and arrived at with great difficulty. They are arrived at as an almost instantaneous reaction. The writer took as his example a number of personal accounts of ‘Righteous Gentiles’ – who rescued Jews under the Nazi Occupation. Many of them had been suddenly presented with an opportunity to take action – to rescue a Jew. And they went ahead and did it, almost on the spot. No second-guessing, agonizing over the decision and the risks that it would mean. They just went ahead and did it.
        Moral and ethical muscles – we need ‘em. They don’t need to be obvious, though. Not written in two-foot tall letters across the house-end.

      • I loved the Daniel Boone TV show.

  6. Yes! Creative destruction, Maslow window 2015, working at a third place, X Prize, space mining, all new. All in motion, there is so much going on now that is changing the old spin. Unfortunately the old creaky business structures are going to fall and that is very scary for many, the next two to three years are going to be chaotic.

  7. ppaulshoward

    I remember seeing this phrase “I reject your reality and will impose my reality”. I thought of that when reading this post.

  8. Consensus Reality is a fundamental precept of Sociology … a science which developed along about the same time that the Hopeful Stupidists got well entrenched into the European body politic.

    This actually reflects a battle as old as the Romans: there are some people qualified to lead and the rest of you (rarely the rest of “us”, oddly enough) need to get back in line. To quote one famous Aristo: I’ll do the thin’ing ’round here!

  9. Ball peen hammer raised! Oh, boy, did you resonate with me on this one. I’ve been saying things like this for years!

    Random responses:

    I can’t believe the people out there who seem to think that if you change the narrative, you will change reality – to which I say, “Yeah, tell that to Enron.”

    Big yes on FDR’s policies creating the Great Depression – that man’s policies kept this country in poverty and misery for 20 years, long after WWII was over (it wasn’t WWII spending that got us out, either), and even longer after he was dead (and he had to die to get rid of him – and he was so “loved” that the country got a constitutional amendment through to make sure someone like him would never happen again). Even as a kid, I always wondered, If the New Deal was so wonderful, like my teachers said, how come we didn’t still have it? And they never told us when it was repealed, either.

    On the WWII, big govt spending get economies out of trouble – removing huge amounts of resources (and money is a resource, people don’t seem to understand that) from the people and giving them to the government is not going to help anything. When government throws a lot of money at the private sector, that’s money that was removed from the private sector to begin with. Never good.

    I know Marie Antoinette never said that. ;-) Yes, all the history we learned in grade school was WRONG. And a lot of what’s taught in college these days, too. I used to know a history grad student/professor – his education was the result of generations of mental incest, from people who’d never stepped outside the ivory tower for decades. Wouldn’t know an original source to save his life, just read and regurgitated the sorry crap writings of his professors before him. (I’m beginning to think one of the reasons so many professors are so off is that they’re the kind of dysfunctional neurotic people who will put up with being grad students. (BTW, this does not apply to engineering professors and many business professors, most of whom have had real world experience. You can tell the ones that do from those that don’t.))

    BTW, my favorite Marie Antoinette book, btw, is http://www.amazon.com/The-Queens-Necklace-Antoinette-Mystified/dp/1842126148/ref=la_B0034NID36_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336665575&sr=1-1
    Apparently it’s even sold in the Versailles gift shop. Mostly excerpts from diaries of people who were there, with the author providing bridge material. Great read.

    On coolness – what is the age at which still trying to be cool moves into just being pathetic? I’m sure there are some intermediary stages in there beforehand, but there needs to be a final age at which people really need to give it up, unless their profession requires it (and even then, it’s still kinda sad).

    • Ball peen hammer raised!

      Just don’t add the grass cutters, please.

    • Being cool passes into being pathetic about five minutes after the thought first arises … but it can take decades for the process to mature, especially when you are in a culture actively enforcing the fallacy. C.S. Lewis warned us about this in the Narnia books, … do I really have to reproduce his quote about why Susan left the fold?

      • Dorothy Grant

        No, you don’t, because I’ll link to his speech on being cool instead.
        http://www.lewissociety.org/innerring.php

        • Thank you for posting that, I hadn’t read it before. If I were ever going to wear those kinds of things, mine would say WW CSL Do?

          (I always thought Susan was going through a dumb teen phase, and hoped she’d grow out of it; I couldn’t believe anyone could turn their backs on Narnia forever, not when you’d held Aslan’s head in your hands. I allow for stupidity in teens and even twenty-somethings, because I have no choice (and I remember how dumb I was back then.))

  10. Ah yes, the things we all know. Like we all know that before the days of Christopher Colombus just about everyone believed the world was flat and sailors thought they could sail into a land of sea monsters and then off the edge of the earth. Not true, except in Disc World.

    One of the elements of this blog post that struck me was the idea of the control over the interpretation of the past. There has been some interesting work in the field of history recently, studying how George Washington has been ‘re-invented’ over the years. It has been going on from the founding. The Democratic Republicans attacked him as the doddering old fool who was wrapped abound the finger of monarchists and Anglophiles. Parson’s Weem’s early hagiography with its story of the cherry tree is well known. From the great saint and military leader to the dastardly slave holder who was a rake, none of these constructions were accurate descriptions of the real Washington, but they each served someone’s purpose.

    The cult of the best and the brightest? I grew up in that culture. I can tell you that they did not think they were tools, particularly of the Soviet. I am not sure how people who read books like Animal Farm could fall to see what was going on. I guess that they concluded that, as they had superior intelligence and excellent training with the right principles, enlightened ideas, and correct goals, they would never become the pigs. They choose to believe that they could, too, be as gods.

    How to sell this to the rest of the people? I knew about bread and circuses. When I learned about how the German National Socialists used the radio and media to manipulate the public another part of the idea solidified. When I got into an argument with a family member about school scope and sequence, I was told that I should leave it to the trained experts — there was another part. It takes time. It takes a while to plant and cultivate the ideas into a society, then to move the ‘trained’ useful idiots into places to extend the influence, but it has been done. Because the process was all done with a proper narrative most people found it hard to make the connection to the brutal imposition in the Soviet Union.

    In Prattchett’s Witches Abroad Lilith knew the power of the story:

    Genua was a fairytale city. People smiled and were joyful the livelong day. Especially if they wanted to see another livelong day.

    Lilith made certain of that. Of course, people had probably thought they were happy in the days before she’d seen to it that the Duc replaced the old Baron, but it was a random, untidy happiness, which was why it was so easy for her to move in.

    But it wasn’t a way of life. There was no pattern to it.

    One day they’d thank her.<BLOCKQUOTE

    • Lilith is one of the most chilling, evil villains out there, isn’t she? It wasn’t until years later that I realized she was . . . The Godmother.

  11. Was it just coincidence that Hopeful Stupidity and High School resolve to the same acronym?

    Inquiring minds want to inquire.

    • when I think back on all the cr*p I learned in high school… it’s a wonder I can think at all.

      • Don’t know much about history
        Don’t know much biology
        Don’t know much about a science book
        Don’t know much about the French I took

        your comment rends: The Daughtorial Unit strongly objects to Evolution being taught in High School. Not because she doesn’t believe in evolution, but because what High School biology teachers teach is not evolution.

    • And to ‘homeschool’ – which is how this family of readers avoided high school – and I hope HS, too. Read. Everything. Of course it produces hard-to-direct brats (love them, I do), but that’s the price of letting them think.

      • There was a saying going around that expressed the attitude we had when we were home educating The Daughter, I do not remember the exact phrase, but it was, more or less — to kindle a fire, not fill a bucket.

      • I was homeschooled and missed a lot of the sciences because neither of my parents were good in those areas. But, I got to read. Of course I have told about the times when the parents would take away my books. Sometimes I have wondered how they could home-school and hate books at the same time.

        • Heinlein once (well, probably more than once) said that if you can read and do math you can learn anything you really want to learn. Those are the two gifts I am focusing most on giving my daughter.

  12. BTW, one of the signifiers of HS is the reliance upon categorical imperatives:
    All good people recognize that diversity is strength.
    No good person could think that women can’t fight as well as men (aided by H’wood SFX which allow a 93-lb woman to punch a 215-lb male through a wall.

    • Experts know best. Trust your government. Credentials are important.

      • Robin Munn

        Also, “Question Authority.” (Subtext: “Except for ours.”)

        • Argh. That quote, because of the subtext (which no one who says it would EVER admit), makes me want to stab my eyes out with a fork.

          • For general sanctimony, ‘Question authority,’ is right up there with “Speaking truth to power.”

            • Speaking of sanctimony, is there still a literary civil war over the whole one-space/two-spaces after a period thing? What about putting the period outside quotes at the end of a sentence? I was told that rule may be evolving faster that our president.

              • And of course someone would mention ‘evolving.’ When do we get to higher consciousness? (please not…)

                I learned lessons as a child, but not the ones they intended.

                At an Anime Con I was staffing I had to explain to a young man who was waiting in line holding a sign on a stick as part of his cosplay costume that he could not take it into the dance with him as it constituted a weapon. He questioned my judgement and authority. I told him that, as a child of the sixties, I knew from peace demonstrations. I suggested that if he would hand me his sign I could demonstrate. His friends held his place in line while he put his sign into his car.

                • I swear my use of “evolving” was swollen with irony.

                • I wonder if he found it ironic that you learned about improvised weapons by going to peace demonstrations?

                  • Doubt that he initially did, he did realize I was scary. Quite a few people near by did. ;-) I never actually used a sign as a weapon, never needed to.

                    • Mostly, I used umbrellas. Okay, okay, mom had a special umbrella made. halfway between normal and golf umbrella size. The handle was a weighted ball. The shaft was reinforced. If you grasped it by the wrong end, it was, in fact, a war mace… and often used as one. It had a strap and I wore it on my back (strap across the chest.) I got really fast at getting it off my back and in hands. It was very effective in street fighting. It disappeared during our move from North Carolina. Pity. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll need it again.

                    • I never fought. If I ever had to I probably would have used my purse as a flail. Daddy kept saying I had to be carrying bricks. (Books do add weight.)

                      Closest I came was when I waded into a group of toughs who were terrorizing a sweet young man in a college bar/restaurant at closing. What happened next really did not make any more sense than I had displayed by doing that. One of the toughs told his friends, ‘She’s a Yankee. They don’t fight fair, they use broken bottles.’ And they left.

                    • I’ve found that doing things–that, looking back, were more fueled by truly righteous outrage than common sense– have disproportionately good results. HUGELY disproportionate.

                    • I had to fight. I grew up in deeply disturbed times.

                    • Substitute teaching. Middle school. Kid volunteers to come to the whiteboard and work a problem. White kid. Black kid at desk makes a smartmouth remark about the kid at the board. Next thing I know they’re facing off with fists raised and half the class is on their feet moving toward sides. NEXT thing I know, I’m in between the kids, pushing them apart, and telling them to shut up and for the smartmouth to siddown and the volunteer to go back to working the problem. When the problem was finished, I had the boy sit back down and I got everyone’s attention and quietly but firmly said, “People, I’ve trained astronauts. I’ve argued with astronauts. I’ve gone toe to toe with astronauts. If you think I can’t handle you, guess again.”

                      They didn’t like me much but they were respectful by the end of that class.

                    • A fundamental error of contemporary pedagogy. You ain’t there to be liked. Being respected is a job requirement.

                      Same principle applies to parenthood: your kid needs you to be a parent. (Apparent? I couldn’t be more obvious!) You cannot be a friend and a parent.

                    • I’m rather surprised to find them turning the corner on adulthood and becoming our friends, and enjoying time with us. It wasn’t my aim, I never expected it. I DO confess it is a sweet bonus, but our duty was to be parents. They had other friends.

                    • People can only be friends if they are (roughly) peers. You can be friends with your adult child but something is seriously wrong if you are friends before they reach maturity.

                    • My father was a good parent, and he never stepped out of that role while it was needed.

                      One of the things I thank God for is that he lived long enough for me to come back and interact with him adult-to-adult. He was, it turns out, also a good person, and a valuable friend for reasons that had nothing to do with things like financial support. We weren’t able to maintain the relationship for long — we lived far apart, and he died ‘way too early — but it’s a memory I treasure.

                • “At an Anime Con I was staffing I had to explain to a young man who was waiting in line holding a sign on a stick as part of his cosplay costume that he could not take it into the dance with him as it constituted a weapon. ”

                  Pity he wasn’t smart enough to then demonstrate that *anything* within line-of-sight which could be picked up *also* “constituted a weapon”.

                  (I have to put up with this sanctimonious bulls*** at the local SF con.)

                  • Pity he wasn’t smart enough to then demonstrate that *anything* within line-of-sight which could be picked up *also* “constituted a weapon”.

                    Well, a naked human, if they have some training, can exert deadly force. I don’t think our goal was to make the world completely safe from harm (which is a path that leads to another of our family bugaboo — it cannot be done) but to remove what the law might refer to as attractive nusicances.

            • “By what authority do you so instruct me?” … which is admittedly a more pompous equivalent of “Blow it out your barracks bag.”

          • No it makes me want to stab the SPEAKER’S eyes out with a fork… :P

      • An expert is someone who has mastered (and thus invested in) the conventional wisdom. Thus, almost by definition, a person incapable of original thought.

    • pohjalainen

      Heh. I just got called a misogynist on the ‘John Carter’ imdb board because I complained about movies which ‘upgrade’ heroines like Dejah Thoris into warriors who can beat up any number of highly skilled professional soldiers with a sword – and that I’ve been getting a bit tired of this trend and would like to see also heroines who are shown as worthy even if they don’t fight, physically, especially with such characters as DT who is presented as quite brave, and smart, but not a warrior, originally. Some other posters told him (seems to be a him, from some other things he has posted) that I’m a woman, after which he called me self-hating. He also said he thinks I’m a wimp after I said I would more probably hide behind any man I happened to be with if there was a fight rather than wade in and start punching guys.

      (Okay, I did leave out the facts that I suffer from inner ear problems and bad knees, which, as a combination, I think, might have worked as a credible excuse to avoid fighting even for him… but just being a woman obviously isn’t.)

      He seems to consider himself a feminist.

      And he says he’s been practicing martial arts for over 20 years. I do hope he doesn’t teach, since if he does he may be giving false ideas to his female students. Guy insists that any woman can become somebody who can beat men in hand-to-hand combat.

      Oh dear.

      • Kate Paulk

        I’m sure given no other disabilities a woman can learn to beat less-skilled men around her size in hand-to-hand combat. Outside that limit little things like the different distribution of muscle, different center of balance, and of course straight out mass come into play, funnily enough.

        No-one would back an 80lb guy against a 150lb one unless the bigger one was clearly not up to anything where the smaller one was, but an 80lb woman?

        Clearly boobs possess super-powers mine have refused to reveal to me.

      • Guy insists that any woman can become somebody who can beat men in hand-to-hand combat. Oh dear.

        Oh, I dunno – a skilled woman martial artist against an untrained … is Michael Moore a man? Equivalent skill levels? Mass matters.

        As for sword play … I’ve fenced. One of the best fencers I knew was female. But what you see for swordplay in film is absurd. It bears the same resemblance to actual sword play as 1930s Westerns’ gun play bears to actual gun fights.

        • Mass Matters!!! I used to do karate in my twenties. I found that for a woman to beat a man, she needs to be good in ambush tactics.

          • I did beat several men, but I AM a berserker. And my “come down” makes me ill. It feels like I’m getting the flu.

            • Ah yes – berserker strength does give a woman an edge. (I am from the berserker line too). I am also 5’8″ and in my prime was 175 pounds even though I looked like I was much smaller. I liked using elbows and other surprise tactics. I have taken down a minimum of three men of various sizes in my time. I can’t do it now as a 50 year old woman, but in my twenties to my forties, I would have that extra burst of speed…

        • A female friend of mine who joined the Marines in the 1960′s put it to me this way: just because the average woman can’t defeat the average man, there are still women who can beat a lot of men. More important, a unit is made up many different strengths and the best soldier in the unit isn’t necessarily the strongest one.

          Or, to paraphrase a US Civil War soldier on the fellow soldier who turned out to be a woman, Yeah, she was a woman, but she was a good sniper.

          I also know a fellow who trains for historical re-enactment tournaments (he also trains the SFWA Musketeers around Austin).. One of his top students is a little bitty woman (though force-multiplied with some heavy weapon I’ve forgotten). He says it’s great fun watching a new guy when he’s drawn her in an elimination tournament, he thinks he’s got an easy win. Of course, all the old timers are circling and grinning, because they know the new guy’s going to be flattened very fast.

          • It’s always better to be realistic (not defeatist, but realistic) about one’s own capabilities. I have brothers, so I learned a lot of reality about my fighting skills and native capabilities, both positive and negative. OTOH, sometimes people have unrealistic ideas about guns (either that they’re magically invincible, or that you can always outrun bullets because your heart is pure) and about other martial arts. That’s not healthy; though there are probably situations where stupid bravery gets things done (albeit not survivably for the stupidly brave).

            Not every woman has to rely on surprise and speed and fierceness (and preferably, exiting quickly), but pretty much that’s true. And yeah, berzerk helps personal survival, but it makes one feel horrible afterward, both physically and mentally. (Well, usually.)

            And therefore, high tech ranged weaponry should be a woman’s friend. I’m not sure why our culture doesn’t demand that every woman be a riflewoman, or even why I don’t follow up on the logic myself; but it would be logical. (Well, okay, bad hand-eye coordination. But other than that.)

            • Amen.

              That’s why I pack a pistol, and why I’m still pissed at Bubba Clinton for banning them from military bases; I either have to do special trips to visit base or go unarmed for an entire day.

              I don’t know how bad your hand/eye is, but mine is pretty horrible– still doesn’t take much to be able to hit a pattern that would all be in the chest of a threat at 30 paces with my 38 special.

              Just have to avoid magic thinking, practice threat-avoidance, some situational awareness and a bit of paranoia– I’ve perfected the “sorry, man, but who packs cash these days?” in response to people approaching in the parking lot– and don’t look like a target. Being irresponsible without a weapon puts you at risk; being irresponsible with a weapon runs the risk of arming the goblins.

            • For a variety of reasons, largely to do with nervous systems and fast-twitch, slow-twitch muscle fiber ratios, women generally make superior ranged-weapon users. Women are also, generally speaking, physically superior for piloting fighter jets because they are less prone to g-force effects.

              Men are better evolved for blade-fighting, wrasslin’ humpin’ cargo overland and holding a fire-spittin’ death & destruction dealer on target, however. Therefore they make superior ground forces.

              Biology is a b-tch, but she’s a logical and consistent b-tch.

      • The reason I haven’t seen the movie, I hate watching movies made from books I like, because they always ruin the story. I know of only a few that they didn’t, one that the author also wrote the screenplay and is for all practical purposes word for word with the book, and The Power of One which was a great movie, I didn’t even know there was a book until I seen it in a second hand store years later, boy was I disappointed when I bought it, the movie was much better. Oh, and any Tom Clancy adaption ;)

      • I’ve been saying this at SF cons for YEARS. “You want to impress me? Take the sword away from your heroine, give her two toddlers to keep safe and alive. NOW save the village.”

        • I like that – ;-) To be able to save two toddlers and the village??? it would be quite a story.

        • ppaulshoward

          Ah Sarah, why take away her sword? If she has to protect those toddlers, no way is she going save the village even if she has the sword. [Evil Grin]

        • *gasp* Being a mother hero? A job only a woman could do?!

          What anti-feminist hate-speech!

          /heavy, HEAVY sarcasm!

        • Mark Alger

          That actually sounds like a good premise for a Gabrielle Godslayer episode. She not only has to save the village, but her antagonist is a vengeful lesser god. I could actually make that a set piece in Deicide in Irian Jaya.

          M

        • Holy shite! You hit very close to home with that one. In the work I’m currently doing, she’s got to kids to take care of, but they aren’t hers and don’t speak her language, but she’s got to care for them and protect them nonetheless.

        • Sounds a lot like Barrayar (with “two toddlers” replaced by “one pre-natal son in a ‘uterine replicator’ in the hands of the enemy”).

          • The reason I said “Toddlers” is because that’s the age at which they’re autonomous units but COMPLETELY clueless. I.e. they do the most absurd things. Like taking off running across several downtown streets, stark naked, at two am… (Stark naked? Yes. One of them, name withheld to protect the guilty could strip completely in ten seconds, and BOTH of them could run like… cheetahs. Interesting times.)

            • Ah yes, Toddler Tales. Amazing suicidal creatures, toddlers. When the Daughtorial Unit was a wee babe I looked forward to her reaching the stage where she would be voice-operable. Little did I realize toddlers come with random-access command code … and that’s when I understood why parents repeat themselves when issuing directions.

        • The problem that all the “kick-ass” women stories make is that they turn women into either Bruce Lee or John Wayne with breasts. Women CAN quite simply be far more dangerous than men, but normally not the same way. They will fight dirty (kicking groins, stomping insteps, etc), use improvised weapons, fight dirty (pretending to cooperate and then clobbering someone when their back is turned), manipulate their attackers with words, fight dirty (use manipulation to turn their captors/attackers against each other), go scorched earth and use excessive force, and fight dirty (pretend to be incapacitated until the enemy’s back is turned).

          Did I mention they fight dirty? I really think the most dangerous thing about the way women are portrayed as Action Heroes is to steer their thinking away from fighting dirty when necessary.

          • You realize of course that there’s nothing stopping men from doing all those things too?

            • Well, only the fact that it’s looked down on for a man to fight like that. It happens, but not so much. For men, dirty fighting is generally considered something a coward does.

              My own personal opinion is that if you’re in trouble, whatever gets you out alive is fair.

              • Yes. I found when writing DST that Athena could fight in a way that, if a man did it, would give off the feel of “psychopath.” We have internalized the “don’t hit girls” rules, even when reading fiction.

                • I have long thought women the far more vicious of the two sub-species of H.S.S. … which is why contact sports are almost entirely for males, who can be taught to control their strength and abide by rules of sportsmanship. In most species male against male combat is relatively harmless rutting displays or dominance contests.

                  I don’t know what sick b*st*rd invented Field Hockey as a females’ sport, but it amply demonstrates the terrors of female contact sport.

                  N.B. — no, repeat: NO, male can win a fight against a woman. I don’t care if she has fifty pounds and six inches of reach on him, even if he wins he loses. Which is one reason female domestic violence against men is a largely ignored societal crime.

              • If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’

              • Wayne, ow. You do fight dirty. I think it will take a little time to get the image of John Wayne with breasts out of my head. For this image I do not thank you.

          • Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera is pretty dang good about women fighting realistically– well, realistic in the world they’re in, anyways, with nods to the various weaknesses of strengths and strengths of weaknesses.

          • This.

            OK, I can easily accept a Red Sonja or the like — there are such things as statistical outliers, after all. And when it comes to push-button fighting, starship battles and the like, no problem. When it gets to a “Corps of Free Amazons” or the like, engaging in stand-up sword battles against male opponents — nah. It’s not that there are no women who could do that; certainly there are. But if you’re collecting an army together, the chance that you can find enough women who are two sigma out regarding upper body strength and similar qualities is nil — or, equivalently, the effort required to find and recruit them would return 10X if you used it to find and induct men.

            It doesn’t mean I can’t read and enjoy a story featuring women warriors, it’s just that I have to add a extra couple of sheaves to the snatch-block that suspends my disbelief. Somebody above cited Barrayar. Note that Cordelia fights like a girl in that one — and others.

  13. Kate Paulk

    And of course, the careful failure to ever admit that once you grant those in power the right to ban something you detest, you also grant them the ability to ban something you need to survive.

    The blade of power has more than one edge.

  14. I discovered Heinlein in about the seventh grade. By the time I graduated from high school, I’d read every book of his in the local library, the school library, or that I could buy. That shaped my current thinking quite a bit. I was fortunate to meet the gentleman in 1964. That is one of my all-time treasured moments. At 65, and disabled, I don’t like what I see shaping up in US government. It’s going to be pitchforks and rope time very soon.

    • I never met him. (Of course in sixty four I was two…) It took my husband being very forceful to get me to send an announcement of the birth of Robert Anson de Almeida Hoyt (oldest son) to Mrs. Heinlein. I’m glad I did.

      • OT: When is your birthday?

        If you were two in 1964, you were born the year I got my driver’s license. I was wondering if the coincidence extended further…

        • November eighteenth nineteen sixty two.

          • What an interestin’ day of the year:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/November_18

            Events:
            401 – The Visigoths, led by king Alaric I, cross the Alps and invade northern Italy.
            1210 – Pope Innocent III excommunicates Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV
            1307 – William Tell shoots an apple off his son’s head.
            1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.
            1686 – Charles Francois Felix operates on King Louis XIV of France’s anal fistula after practicing the surgery on several peasants.
            1803 – The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, is fought, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere.
            1863 – King Christian IX of Denmark decides to sign the November constitution that declares Schleswig to be part of Denmark. This is seen by the German Confederation as a violation of the London Protocol and leads to the German–Danish war of 1864.
            1865 – Mark Twain’s short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is published in the New York Saturday Press.
            1883 – American and Canadian railroads institute five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.
            1926 – George Bernard Shaw refuses to accept the money for his Nobel Prize, saying, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize”.
            1928 – Release of the animated short Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is also considered by the Disney corporation to be Mickey’s birthday.
            1930 – Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, a Buddhist association later renamed Soka Gakkai, is founded by Japanese educators Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda.
            1961 – United States President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.
            1963 – The first push-button telephone goes into service.
            1978 – In Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple cult to a mass murder-suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan is murdered by members of the Peoples Temple hours earlier.
            1988 – War on Drugs: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.
            1993 – In the United States, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is ratified by the House of Representatives.

            Births:
            1836 – Sir W. S. Gilbert, British dramatist
            1901 – George Gallup, American statistician and pollster
            1908 – Imogene Coca, American actress and comedian
            1909 – Johnny Mercer, American lyricist
            1923 – Alan Shepard, American astronaut
            1946 – Alan Dean Foster, American writer
            1953 – Alan Moore, British comic book writer and novelist
            1962 – Kirk Hammett, American guitarist (Metallica)
            1962 – Jamie Moyer, American baseball player (recently became the oldest pitcher to ear a win in a major league baseball game)
            1970 – Megyn Kelly, American television news anchor

            Deaths
            1886 – Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States
            1922 – Marcel Proust, French novelist
            1962 – Niels Bohr, Danish physicist
            1978 – Jim Jones, American cult figure
            1994 – Cab Calloway, American bandleader

            • This date in history!:

              The King of France got his butt reamed by a doctor.

              And you were born on the exact same day as Kirk Hammett (maybe you can finagle me some free tickets?)

            • Good HEAVENS Megyn Kelly, Chester A. Arthur AND Jim Jones? Why couldn’t mom have carried me full term? (Due sometime in February.) Grumble.

              • Uh huh. My birthday is the 16th Amendment (the income tax) and the Day the Music Died. If you’d gone to term you might have shared it. I’d really rather swap you for Jim Jones.

                • Wow. And I thought I had a bad birthday, sharing it with Hillary Clinton and the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

            • (I”m personally fond of November 5th, m’self. >_> )

          • And I passed the driving test and got my handwritten temporary on Friday, 20th July 1962… Warning: the bit about the warranty expiring at age 50 is not a joke.

  15. I now want a t-shirt that says, “Aim for the shiny bits”.

    • You know, I’ve been meaning to attach a zazzle shop to this blog. Partly because I have art (yeah, I know) and a no end of pithy sayings from the er… lady protagonist of Darkship Thieves.

  16. All of which goes to one of my hobbyhorses, so I beg your indulgence and will try to keep the length minimal.

    The root of the word “authority” is the not-quite-synonym for “writer”: “author”. “Authority” is based on knowledge — a person with authority wrote the book on the subject, literally or figuratively. If one is in need of guidance, one seeks out the person who is knowledgeable, the one with authority.

    It becomes more evident with every passing day that the people who claim for themselves the authority to order us around are, in fact, clueless and severely feck-deficient.They don’t have any authority, because they don’t know what the f* they are doing (and are, in most cases, proud of that to the point of regarding it as a status symbol; ah har thet dun.) They couldn’t write the book. They’ve read a book, and can recite it back to you chapter and verse, but “lectority” isn’t even a word, much less a useful concept.

    The mandate to “question authority” is, in fact, important — but the most important part is to question whether “authority” exists in the first place. First clue: those claiming it most loudly are the least likely to possess any.

    • I have noticed certain people who think that, if they read a brief (and they have a reasonably high IQ), this is all it takes to make them an expert on any subject.

      There’s a reason why doctors and lawyers are the top targets for financial cons (besides the fact that they have money) – they think because they’re reasonably smart and know about a particular subject, that this means they know about everything.

      A pilot buddy of mine says there’s a private plane out there jokingly referred to as the fork-tailed doctor killer, for much the same reason – it’s a flashy tricky plane, not for the beginning pilot. But too many doctors won’t group themselves with the beginners.

      • Beechcraft 35-series Bonanza — the “V-tailed doctor-killer”.

      • “A fool and his money are soon flying more airplane than he can handle.” First the V-35 Bonanza, then the Piper Malibu. Nice planes BUT a lot higher performance than other things in their class when they were introduced. As associate of mine referred to the Malibu as a straight-tailed lawyer killer.

        What are the most dangerous things in aviation? 1) A doctor in a Bonanza, 2) an airline pilot in a Cessna 152, and 3) two senior check airmen in anything! Yes, I flew for a living for a while, how can you tell? :)

    • Actually, the “auctor” is the person who founded, proposed, or established a thing. Thus one common title for God is “Author of all things.”

      Auctor does have less exalted meanings: seller, supporter, authority, historian, and author. :)

  17. Fork-tailed doctor-killer: The original (v-tail) Beechcraft Bonanza. A small airplane with a big (for its time) motor, built in the days of all-mechanical controls and no computer modeling by the manufacturer, and sold when it was assumed that anyone who cared to do so could and should learn to fly.The airplane was (and indeed remains; there are lots of them still around) powerful and strongly-built enough to get through conditions that would cause lesser aircraft to fail — but that tempted its owners to attempt conditions it couldn’t handle. It actually has an enviable safety record compared to most of its competitors, but because it was also expensive and marketed as a luxury vehicle it tended to tempt people with high self-esteem, and such folk tend to be, shall we say a bit impatient at times… the single most reliable predictor of light-aviation fatality is the attitude that it’s vitally important to get to the destination. Doctors, lawyers, small businessmen, and the like have an unfortunate tendency to have that attitude, coupled (as you say) with the assumption of transferability of competence to completely unrelated fields. They aren’t the only ones, of course — the death of young Mr. Kennedy a few year ago derived, ultimately, from that attitude. Mother Nature doesn’t care who your family are, or how important your business may be.

    Along the same line, I once knew a stock trader who did very well for himself by monitoring the publications aimed at doctors and lawyers. When an investment strategy began being pimped in those magazines &ct. he knew it was time to start selling short.

    • Your stock trader story got a snort out of me. Though that could probably work for any widely read financial mag. I’m not a stock expert, and I try to stick to long term mutual funds.

    • I’ve been told the same thing about stuff getting high coverage on the radio. ^.^

  18. Ah, having to dig up multiple period primary sources — those were the days (and we *didn’t* have Teh Innertoobz — we had to f*** with Inter-Library Loan; kids today are such weaklings… and GET OFF MY LAWN, DAMN IT!).

  19. Doubleplus unstupid, Sarah. ;)