But I’m a Genius!

On my mother’s side.  Unfortunately it’s not one of those characteristics that breeds true.

More seriously I wonder how many people were raised with the myth of genius, whether that’s normal, whether it’s something that only happens to those of us in artistic families where the members gave up on it.

I was raised with the genius myth and in retrospect, my parents cannot possibly have meant what I thought they meant – or perhaps they could.  Perhaps they were raised with the myth too – but I thought what they were telling me was if you were a genius you wouldn’t need to learn, you’d never do anything mediocre, you’d just start working in your chosen field and it would be perfect and marketable, and success would be instant.

From what I understood – and I swear that’s what my mom told me, probably because she watched a movie that gave her that idea – Mozart was a genius because the first time he saw a piano, at five, he could play it perfectly.  It took me till I was an adult to find out how wrong that myth was, and how much Mozart’s precociousness reflected a crazy family.  (Even if he was – also – a genius.)

In retrospect I do wonder if, given all the creative talent in the family, of which I am a very minor spark, the fact that I am the only one with a career in the “arts” (even if an odd art) comes from my having left home, gone to another country and changed language and culture to such an extent that I had to reexamine most of the wisdom received so early that some of it is pre-verbal.  And I wonder how many other people have it.

I run up against the “talent” myth now and then and I wonder how far deep in the genius myth other people are.

It took a while for the myth to die.  When I first sent a story out, I didn’t bother seeing if the magazine published stuff like what I wanted to sell them because, well, if it was good enough they would publish it regardless.  And when I got back what can only be classified as an enthusiastic rejection, where the publisher – from ENGLAND – sent me a copy of their (pro) magazine so I could see what they published and submit targeted stories, I was UPSET because they didn’t accept my story…  Clearly this meant I wasn’t a genius, and so the story – and any attempts at submitting – went in a drawer while I tried to write a novel, to see if I was a genius in that.

For those of you who have tried to sell writing, or who even have spouses, friends, neighbors, acquaintances who’ve tried and who are readying the pitchforks and torches to come to my house, please, please, please remember I’m sick.  Also, I’ve been punished enough.  By my estimation my belief in the “genius” myth cost me about ten years on the way to publication.

Because, you see, even after I stopped believing that a genius could just produce a masterpiece without trying, I still believed the… ah… penumbraas and emanations of the genius myth.  I believed you had to have a certain amount of inborn talent to start (kind of like the ‘you must be this tall to ride’ bar at the amusement park); I believed language was the most important part of writing (guys, I was born to a family of poets); I believed you couldn’t learn; I believed other people could tell on site that I didn’t have enough native talent.

What this meant was that I’d try for a year, get discouraged, get a job for a year or two, then try again – rinse, repeat…  Until I HAD to stay home as a combination of being very ill for a year after giving birth and, frankly, not having spent six years in infertility treatments to give my kid to hired hands to raise.

Since I was home, I might as well write and… the process itself and joining my first writers’ group and hearing others’ stories, I eventually figured out while “talent” exists it is not a necessity, beyond a certain minimum.

Talent exists?  Yep, it does.  And you don’t want it.

Talent in writing, genius level talent, is producing a readable, cogent, fully functional novel the first time you try WITHOUT having consciously studied techniques or thought about how to do it at all.  (Novel because a short you might be able to fake.  And without studying, because some people just learn differently.  My husband is like that.  He can learn passively, by STUDYING books without needing to practice for years.  For the record I can’t, but these are just different types of minds.)

But I want it Sarah!  I DO.

Okay, maybe you do, but you shouldn’t.  Why not?  Because if you do it by genius you won’t know how to do it again.

I grant you the geniuses I’ve known might have done fine with Indie – the woman whose first novel got published, and who couldn’t then write anything approaching a publishable second; the woman whose first novel was brilliant but when it failed to get published outright, got stuck in an endless cycle of rewrites that each time made the thing worse; the friend whose career was stuck at a certain level and who had no idea how to improve it, because she doesn’t write her easy, breazy brilliant prose CONSCIOUSLY.

In indie all of them – probably – could have made a living.  But one day, sooner or later, they’d get sick, or tired, or out of it.  And they don’t know how to whistle by ear or paint by numbers.

The years you spend creeping to competency leave behind the ability to perform when you’re less than optimal.

And now, because I’m sick and think this is less than coherent, I’m just going to do a series of bullet points, contrasting the myth and the reality:

The myth: You must have a certain level of talent to even try to write.
The truth: or speak.  Or walk.  You must be homo sapiens of normal intelligence.  That’s the talent needed.

The myth: everyone who makes it, can write effortlessly

The truth: after years and years and years of practice, sometimes.  Provided they’re not sick, tired, worried about other stuff.

The myth: if your stuff is good everyone knows it immediately

The truth: do you even like exactly the same books/movies as your best friends?  I don’t.  Oh, sure, there’s overlap, but a lot of the things these people think are brilliant get thrown against the wall on page two.

The myth: if your stuff is bad everyone knows it immediately

The truth: one of my books because a – very discerning – friend’s favorite (one of top four or five books ever in his estimation) the first time he read it.  This same book earned a review saying the characters are too stupid to live.  One man’s meat is another’s poison.

The myth: if your stuff is good you’ll be an instant success

The truth: Poppycock.  Even in indie, it takes time, effort and a certain amount of luck.  Sure, you might win the lottery and become Amanda Hocking (or in traditional J. K. Rowling) but chances are you’ll have to write a few books (Amanda wrote ten?) and work assiduously before you see results.  That’s one of those ‘human condition’ things.

The myth: good writing can’t be learned or taught

The truth: don’t make me show you my juvenilia which, even beyond the fact it’s in Portuguese and possibly only Mr. Oyster (the commenter) could read it, sucked so badly it might start a black hole.  Not only did I learn, you can trace the progress and what I was learning at the time.

The myth: there are people so untalented they’ll never be published

The truth: Care to place a small bet?  Also, the ones who can’t or won’t are not failures of talent, they’re failures of learning, possibly because they believe the genius myths.

The truth is this, and let’s pretend I just came down from the mountain and have secured the ultimate advice for your career:

If you are willing to work hard; if you treat it like any other craft and study the masters and the instruction books; if you put in your time and write enough to practice it – you can succeed at writing.

And if you don’t have any natural talent, no one will EVER know.

288 responses to “But I’m a Genius!

  1. ppaulshoward

    Thanks Sarah.

  2. Do I live in a different world or something? I’ve never gotten any of those notions about genius OR talent. Here’s all they ever meant to me:

    1) Talent means that you have a resonance with the subject, and therefore can learn said subject faster and more easily.

    2) Genius means that you are capable of reaching heights greater than the masses, sometimes to the point that you reach a level that they cannot even understand, much less attempt to reach.

    Genius almost always implies talent, though not 100% so – some few souls are must study something for years before it clicks in their heads and then shoot off like rockets.

    • I wanna live in YOUR world

      • Maybe it came from having parents who didn’t have any thoughts on the subject at all. My family doesn’t have any musicians or poets, though there are a couple of fairly decent painters, but they never tried to do it “professionally”, it was just a hobby.

      • I do live in Wayne’s world.

        Here’s what I see: most people can learn to do most things competently if they work hard enough at it.

        Occasionally, you see, in humans of normal and normal+ general intelligence:

        1. Someone for whom ‘hard enough’ is ‘less hard than average’ because it comes naturally to them; sometimes, they pick large pieces of the skill up subconsciously. Let them put the same number of hours in as a person with normal ability, and they’ll be way out in front. That’s talent.

        Somebody like this can start studying-in-fact long before they’ve had any recognized formal training. They often have a head start.

        Having talent doesn’t mean you’ll never end up struggling. You can still:
        a) undertake something at the very limits of your skill, or
        b) undertake something that depends on diverse faculties. That one element comes more easily than average doesn’t mean every element will.

        2. Stuff that comes with average ease to you. You have to work at it.

        3. Stuff that’s difficult for you. It depends on some faculty you don’t make use of easily, and you really have to work it.

        4. Apparent anti-talent. Someone who never reaches the mark no matter how much time (not effort) they put in on it. I’ve seen this, but I’m not sure why it happens in every case.

        In the instances I’ve observed, the person is severely lacking in one of the skills that has to make up the total effort. They apparently never go back, to learn the part they’re having trouble with (which would probably be a tough slog). So every time they show up with a new effort, it fails in the same way. — I think, in other words, that they have a defective strategy for learning.

        I’ve experienced 1, 2, and 3. Dunno about 4: I’m not sure I can tell “I approached learning this in an ineffective manner” from “I don’t like this activity, so I’m not going to do it.” Anti-talent only gets really conspicuous with someone who never learns and never quits.

        I think most people are, potentially, a lot smarter than they think they are. Many have been beaten down in school, and told that they were bad at learning …

        And all of them learned to speak. Learning to speak is more complex than much they later believe they can’t learn.

        • I was going to say something along these lines, but then I saw you’d already posted it for me. :-D

        • Somebody like this can start studying-in-fact long before they’ve had any recognized formal training. They often have a head start.

          I have this with many physical things. My father was so competent at things that he did (Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, roofing, etc), that I was determined to be like him (I never have yet, but that’s because I never spent the requisite amount of time), so I watched and learned as much as I could from that, and above all, I learned HOW to practice.

          How to practice doesn’t really sound like something you have to learn, does it? You do something over and over and you get better, right? Well, if you learn how to practice, you get better faster. Proper practice involves observation. Not only of the result of your actions, but of the motions of your body and how those actions feel while you’re doing them. You create your own biofeedback loop, and learn how to modify what you’re doing by the way it feels and looks as you do it. It’s really like having a built-in coach, though sometimes you don’t know what to look for.

          An example of what I’m talking about: about 20 years ago, I went to work for a plastics plant, and was put on a line taking blow-molded parts out of the card they were in and packing them into boxes. Doesn’t sound like much, but several people took an entire week to learn to keep up with the machines. I learned it in 6 hours – I started out watching someone, then I started working on it, but I didn’t try to keep up at first; I focused on being a robot and getting the motions right. After a few hours, I was comfortable with the motions, and was able to speed up until I could keep up with the machines without concentrating too hard. As soon as my 12 hour shift was up, I went home, had my wife rub Icy Hot into my upper arm and shoulder, and went to sleep for 9 hours straight.

          • That’s cool. I probably couldn’t manage that, at least not anywhere near as efficiently. I can do fairly fine work, but I’ve got slow reflexes — significantly slower than average — so there’s a good chance I’d have a hard time keeping up.

            I’m not usually conscious of how any particular sense of how motions should feel. But that seems worth paying attention to.

            • Me too – I did an aptitude test once when I was looking for a job. I was great at everything except moving objects to the right openings (failed that in kindergarten too lol). We had two women there who had great reflexes. If the place had a plant, they would have gotten a job. it didn’t … I didn’t either. I had to move away to get a job in the Big City.

            • Learning how the motions feel is just part of the learning process. You might not think it, but you probably have done things in the past, and knew you had made a mistake even before you saw the results. If you have done that, it’s because you felt the motion was wrong. Since I happen to be not-quite-hyper-aware of my own body anyway (and THAT can be a curse, let me tell you!), I just actively pay attention to how the motions feel when I’m learning something, and that makes it easier to tell when it’s wrong.

        • I think that depending on your definition of “most things” and “most people” I might have to regretfully disagree with your first assertion. A person who has an active life of the mind is sometimes at a huge loss to really understand what it’s like to live in the head of someone who does not.

          For some very cogent thoughts on this, I might recommend the essays of Fred Reed and/or the books of Joe Bageant, particularly “Rainbow Pie.”

          • Oh, Fred-on-Everything Reed! I have read some of his stuff. I haven’t read Joe Bageant.

            If you’re implying that some portion of ability is genetic — I agree. I think talent probably starts with genetics. (It doesn’t end there: it’s often more fun to do the stuff you’re visibly good at, so you get more practice too.)

            But environment often has a lot to do with the end results.

            When I was in school, sometimes the teachers would get me to tutor some of the academically slower kids. I did it successfully.

            There is one thing those kids couldn’t do for themselves. They couldn’t say, “I’m not learning successfully this way. I need to work out another approach,” and do just that, on their own. I could often do that for me, because I thought systematically about learning, and it seems that I could do it for them.

            Those kids were stuck learning at the pace the not-necessarily-congenial system permitted, or slower (when the system didn’t suit them).

            But the limits of what the system was likely to teach them successfully weren’t the limits of what they could learn. When we did an end-run around the system, I could figure out how to teach them things they’d been failing at.

            Kids like that who have no end-run-around-the-system tutors, and who come from a culture with no effective tradition of literacy — whose cultures, worse, sometimes denigrate their learning the basics well — are likely to show up as dense and ignorant on tests, regardless of what their genetic potential was.

            I think it’s rather like genes for height in a land of pervasive famine.

            Or: yeah, I do believe in genetic limits, but I don’t necessarily believe we’re always operating nearly as close to genetic potential as some others may.

            • Ideas for end-runs around things would, honestly, be an excellent “Study Tools” kind of book. And useful for bright people, too. (Kid. Asperger’s. Bright. Usually imaginative. But when she stalls out against a brick wall, she will often just sit at the foot of it and sulk.)

              Please tell me you’ve already written something? :)

              • Free-range Oyster

                I second this. I would buy that book in a heartbeat – it gets right to the heart of what I am trying to find information on. I mean that literally, not just as a way of expressing approval. I will hand you tens of dollars for such a book right this minute. Current pedagogy is broken, but I find little information on how to replace it. Do you think you could teach other people how to see different approaches and do end-runs as you call them to a method that will work for that student? I want to learn that!

                • I’ll pass this idea up to a friend of mine, Dr. Foster Cline. He’s a psychiatrist that works with developmentally dysfunctional children, and with other problems, especially attachment problems. I think a loose collection of essays on suggested programs or methods (with lots of links) would be better than a book, since they could be updated as more research becomes available.

              • Eeeek! I’m not any kind of an expert, and I was doing it almost 40 years ago. When I was in fifth grade, my pedagogical theory boiled down to: “It’s hard to remember something if you can’t understand it. So let’s see if I can get them to understand it.” Given one kid and at least half an hour, I had a decent shot at figuring out where a disconnect was and explaining the missing piece.

                When I was a kid I always tried to pay attention to the other kid as an individual who didn’t get some particular thing. And I’d look for that thing, and then try different ways to explain it, until something worked.

                In hindsight …

                People remember things in different ways. My best memory mode is verbal, which also means it’s procedural, which means I can often learn things simply by having the procedure for doing them stuck in my head. That’s not as good as seeing what’s going on too, but it will do for simple stuff.

                In grammar school when I was growing up, most of the math was ‘verbal.’ Procedural. So it was generally easy for me.

                (They tried to explain what was going on with the New Math, when I was really young. That was a botch, because all it did was present the material in the exact same mode — a bunch of written digits — at much greater length, with endless writing. All it accomplished was penmanship practice. It made the procedures I had to remember longer and harder, and it did next to nothing for most of the non-verbal kids.)

                There are some people who aren’t going to understand an idea if they can’t see (literally, or in the mind’s eye) how it works. If they don’t see it work, it’s so much arbitrary symbolic gobbledygook.

                It doesn’t do any good to tell someone who perceives something as pure gobbledygook to ask questions of the teacher. If you perceive pure gobbledygook, you can’t formulate a specific question. And if you think you’re going to look stupid for asking a lot of questions, you won’t ask anyway.

                They quit drawing piles of apples in kids’ math books in first or second grade. Those you could see. By fifth grade, you’re getting stuff like 5/64 * 9/15, written much that way.

                If I’ve explained the problem right, you’re going to realize that there are kids to whom that’s almost meaningless. It’s apparently arbitrary operations with numbers. Doesn’t make any visual sense as presented, and, therefore, cannot be remembered.

                So what I did was untangle gobbledygook, by going through various operations, step by step, with drawings (good) or physical objects (often even better). First you show them what’s happening, step by step, and make sure they’re following you, at each step. Then you get *them* to repeat the steps.

                The more senses you get involved, the better. Saying it is one thing. Saying it and writing it on the blackboard is better. Saying it, writing it, and illustrating it is better still. Adding *their* muscle memory as they write, draw, or manipulate, is still better. “Here’s what we’re doing, with physical objects instead of figures.”

                It’s not that I could get up in front of a class and make things clearer than the teacher did. It’s that, if you work one-on-one, with sufficient persistence, you have a better chance of figuring out what a particular kid didn’t catch.

                Not everybody is alike. Kids will fail to understand different portions of different subjects, for different reasons. But if you understand the subject yourself, you should, with enough time, usually be able to figure out what part they don’t.

                If there’s a big secret to this, something that may be neglected in the ordinary classroom setting, it’s “Don’t expect someone who doesn’t understand to be able to tell you what they don’t understand and why.”

                There are kids who have organic problems, and who indeed can’t learn certain things. And I have no experience with kids who couldn’t pay attention, or kids who couldn’t communicate. I’m not an expert by any means, and I’m sure other people could improve on my ideas.

                • Free-range Oyster

                  Sorry to spook you. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot! I’m just ravenous at the moment for just that sort of information, as evidenced by my pouncing on RES yesterday for similar material.

                  You may not be an expert, but your comment gave me a good bit to chew on. I think that’s a good place to start.Thank you for sharing your experience!

                • I knew that the more visual aids, etc that you used that the better a person or child learned. I forgot that 1/64 is actually an abstract if you don’t connect it to a physical object. Good job. Gave me a lot to think about too.

                  • I’m technically what’s known as a kinetic learner. I HAVE to write things down or draw them or make models of them to REMEMBER. I have to do stuff with my hands.

                    It’s annoying.

                • “Don’t expect someone who doesn’t understand to be able to tell you what they don’t understand and why.”

                  I remember as a kid thinking, if I knew what it was I did not understand and why I did not understand it then I would understand.

            • That would be a book that I would read – and it would help people who have been on chemo for extended periods of time.

        • I do live in Wayne’s world.

          So my first reaction: ‘We’re not worthy.’

          Our county had what was about as good a gifted programs as could be rationally dreamed of where tax payers were involved. One of the hardest fights we had with the school board was to convince them not to gut the program. We kept being told, ‘These kids are bright, they’ll get it anyway.’

          There were times where all I could think what these kids actually would get. To keep me from going ballistic I would ponder on this passage from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

          \’…”Edwin and Morcar, the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, declared for him; and even Stigand, the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury, found it advisable –”

          “Found what? said the Duck.

          “Found it,” the Mouse replied rather crossly: “of course you know what ‘it’ means.”

          “I know what ‘it’ means well enough, when I find a thing,” said the Duck: “it’s generally a frog or a worm. The question is, what did the archbishop find?”

          Thinking about Alice often keeps me sane.

          • Oh, the times we’ve heard this “The slow kids need help. The gifted will do well anyway” — this, is known as Eating The Seed Corn. In schooling and publishing, it’s all the same.

            • How many people know what that means now? except a few farmers… most people get their food from the grocery store and have no idea what it is like to have only a bit left to either eat or plant… do we save ourselves now? or think of the future?

              • Makes me think of John Ringo explaining in The Last Centurion, the difference between crops grown for seed, and crops grown for food. When I was in high school I worked one summer for the local cannery, combining peas, I can distinctly remember the glazed, confused looks I got when I tried to explain the difference between seed peas and cannery peas. It is amazing how many people don’t even realize that peas and corn ARE seeds.

                • Oh yea bearcat – or seed potatoes… We used to save potatoes for seed.

                  • Where I grew up, people grew 90% of their own food, beside cereals and meat (and about 25 % of those) themselves.

                    • Yes – we grew all of our vegetables and then bought apples (40 boxes a year) from a guy who would bring them down from Washington state. This food would last us until early spring … and then we would sometimes have to buy food.

                  • This is one of the first years I haven’t planted potatoes from my last years potatoes in a long time.

                    I didn’t plant anything this year, I actually hate gardening, but I like fried taters, and corn, and homemade salsa, so I usually grow corn, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and various peppers. The potatoes and onions I usually start from ‘seed’ from the previous year.

          • I’d have been extremely happy if the only thing wrong with my schooling was the absence of gifted programs.

            I did have some very good teachers. However, the way the system overall worked is difficult to describe politely. Some day, if for some reason I find the world insufficiently supplied with profanity and vituperation, I will attempt said description.

            I’m glad the people who told me, “These are the best days of your life” were very, very wrong.

          • So my first reaction: ‘We’re not worthy.’

            Mine was, ‘Party time! Excellent!’

            (OK, I will now stand down and prepare to be shot.)

        • I do live in Wayne’s world.

          So my first reaction: ‘We’re not worthy.’

          *sigh* I may never forgive Saturday Night Live…

          • This explains why I’m not following. I never saw much of Saturday Night Live.

            • The quote comes from the first movie based on the recurrent skit from SNL. It occurs when the two principle characters meet Alice Cooper .

          • The world you described, your Wayne’s world, is a very good one. One which recognizes that whatever talent or innate skill you have it is it needs to be actually developed and worked on. One which recognized that old musty Protestant work ethic as a good thing. One that does not believe that the only ways you got rich was by luck or inheritance, and always at a cost to others. What you described is Human Wave. And the question then arises: what can we do to be worthy to live in such a world?

            • You know, really, I’m glad Sarah wrote this post, because it resolves a very big problem I always had with people who I have read in the past saying that there is no such thing as “talent”. Now that I know what they meant, I get it, even though I think they’re misguided.

              • Of course there IS talent — it just is irrelevant (or close to) to the final outcome. It’s just one of the factors.

                • *chuckle* Talent helps but when you look at the bestseller lists there is no reason to think it necessary.

                  • RES,
                    The thing is I’m not even sure it helps.

                    Look, I’ll be blunt. I clearly had enough talent that the first fiction I wrote IN ENGLISH got me what has to be the BEST rejection in the history of magazines. (Second only to “we are not worthy” which I don’t think anyone ever got except ironically.) BUT I had clue zero how to write. Things had just lined up. (Which takes talent.) I didn’t start getting published consistently (which takes craft and learning) until I stumbled on Dwight Swain’s Techniques Of The Selling Writer by sheer chance, in a library sale bin. The book is almost painfully “beginner” and I didn’t realize how much of that I needed that I never bothered to learn. Like… scene structure.

                    • Oh, it helps, at least in some areas. My father’s talent for rotating objects in his mind made him more than twice as productive as the next fastest draftsman, the year he was working as one.

                      I was doing systems analysis and design way, way early in my career. I understood.

                      Sometimes, if you get it, you really get it. That’s what I usually call talent: easy and conscious command of an art.

                      I’ve got a few written pieces whose quality I can’t summon on command. I call this effect inspiration, rather than the exercise of talent. I suppose they might be related — but in practice, it doesn’t matter whether you think they originated in my subconscious, or were breathed into my mind by Kalliope. It doesn’t feel as if it’s in my control.

                      I don’t regard that as a substitute for skill. I had to have my usual skill to start; then inspiration kicks the work up another level.

                    • Aw, now we know that there is talent and then there is talent. The ability to be liked by editors and readers is a form of talent quite useful in the book-selling business, no matter how irrelevant it is in the book-writing business.

                      A mistake all too many aspiring authors make is mistake a talent for writing books as having anything to do with selling books.

                      Your problem as described simply reflects your limited talent for writing; if you’d had more talent you’d have intuited how to do all those things you admit were forced to learn.

                      The difference between talent and skill is that skill can be acquired and developed.

                    • Okay. Perhaps.

                      As I said, I think writing is composed of many talents. You only really need one to take off. The one I had was language, which is perhaps the least useful.

              • Talent – a genetic inheritance. But without the 99 percent work and persistence, talent is naught.

                • Well, yeah, but I mean that other people obviously had a completely different understanding of the term, and I didn’t know what it was.

    • There is an oft-repeated comment about Richard Feynman which goes something like this:

      “There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians’. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark.”

      While I occasionally display flashes of homo intelligens I am not a magician, and since I’m not, I have a bit of a sour-grapes approach to the whole thing. This is not uncommon, in my limited experience, with bubble-sitters who are between “pretty bright” and “scary effing smart.” Somebody posted a question the other day someplace which asked “If you could give up ten IQ points in exchange for having your ideal body type, would you do it?” My answer was, “Yep. I’d probably come out ahead on both fronts.”

      (I really don’t mean to make this a lot of whining about poor me, my life is actually pretty shiny in most regards. But this is a topic I’ve thought a lot about.)

      • I know what you mean. I probably have more native intelligence than either my brother or sister, but they have had wildly better careers than I have, my brother having taken early retirement from IBM and then being hired by one of his former customers, and my sister working her way up to be a VP at her bank.

        • I’d give up ten IQ points to have a better body in a second. For the record, I probably lost at least that to blood ox under 65 for DAYS and subsequent brain damage, fifteen years ago. Weirdly, it was only after that I could get published. You figure it. Coincidence? Or just knocking off enough of the annoying complications?

        • I have kind of the flip side to this. My brother has more raw talent than I do, but he lacks the intestinal fortitude to do anything with it. I consider myself talented – and hell, a genius too; why not throw that in for ego? :-D – but I’ve seen his work when he applies himself and am awestruck, knowing that if he put forward the effort, he’d make me look silly. However, what he has in talent he lacks in work ethic.

          Hard work will compensate for lack of talent when both are pressed, but it takes at least a little of both to make it.

          • Hard work compensates for a lot of things.

            “It’s hard to stop a man who knows he’s right and just keeps coming.” I can’t remember who said that, but it’s true. Hard work and determination, with a modicum of skill or talent, will get you a lot farther than great talent or even genius without the intestinal fortitude.

            • It sounds like Louis L’Amour. Yes, I read L’Amour when I was younger and no, I’m not apologizing.

              • Free-range Oyster

                I loved L’Amour. Mostly the Sackett novels – outside of those it seems he wrote about a half dozen novels hundreds of times. The Sackett books were fantastic, without fail. I still have the collection my grandmother gave me as a boy – they had an enormous impact on my personality and development. I recommend them to anyone. That is definitely a line from one of those books, I just can’t conjure the name at the moment.

                • Don’t get me wrong–I was painfully aware of the sloppy editing, caused by L’Amour’s determination never to proofread. (It was extremely annoying when characters would disappear from a story and never be seen again). But even in the weakest stories, there was a great deal of historical information. At his best, he could produce books like Mojave Crossing or The Lonely Men.

                  • The audio book productions of the Sackett books are great, especially the first two Barnabas books with their wealth of English accents of the period.

                  • From what I have observed so far I don’t think anyone has to apologize for reading L’Amour here. That is, except for possibly his Hopalong Cassidys.

                    I, too, have a soft spot for his Sackett stories, but then I got there by way of Tom Selleck (as Orrin) and Sam Elliott (as Tell). And, yeah, as usual the books are better.

                    When The Daughter and I toured President Eisenhower’s home near Gettysburg I noticed the on his small book case in his private office that he had at least one L’Amour.

                    • There was a reason L’amour refused to have the Hopalong Cassidy books published in his name. Unfortunately after he died, in the interest of profits they did it anyways.

                      Actually his Hopalong Cassidy books should be required reading for publishers; maybe it would help them understand why requiring an author to completely change his writing style, and write to your script doesn’t usually work that well.

                  • Yes, I’m sure your right it probably is Louis L’amour.

                    Have you read The Haunted Mesa? In his memiors L’amour wrote that he had wrote stories in many genres, but never in SF, though he had always wanted to. I always wondered why he didn’t consider The Haunted Mesa either SF or fantasy(considering the fact that the majority of the book occurs in a parrallel universe).

                    Oyster, he wrote more than the half a dozen, he wrote quite a few ‘one-offs’ like Last of the Breed (my favorite book of his) but he did use the same half-dozen basic plotlines many times over. This was not as noticeable at the time of publishing however, because he was wise enough to rotate between them, so you never got the same story line in back to back books, if you were reading them as they came out. Nowadays of course, since they are all on the shelf concurrently you may pick up four in a row with the same basic plot line.

                    • Free-range Oyster

                      Last of the Breed is one of my favorites, actually. The Walking Drum was another one-off, but I consider it one of his weakest. Rather hamfisted, which was out of character for him in my experience. I’ll have to look up the Haunted Mesa – never heard of it, but it sounds like it might be interesting.

                    • I agree with you on The Walking Drum. It wasn’t a really bad book, but it wasn’t a real good one either; and it didn’t really read like a L’amour.

            • I thought it might have been D. Crockett, but it isn’t:

              “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-comin’” was the motto of Texas Ranger Bill McDonald (1852-1918). It later became a motto for the Texas Rangers themselves.
              [ http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/no_man_in_the_wrong_can_stand_up_against_a_fellow_thats_in_the_right_and_ke/ ]

      • I lost about 20 points from taking chemo for my disease. I had to make a choice (lose the IQ or live). I lived. The chemo was horrible and it was the most miserable that I have been in my life (not-barring some terrible experiences as a youth.) Would I do it again? Yes. Do I miss dancing in the black void? Yes. Was I scary-smart – well, I could understand the scary smart ones. I didn’t get the training though because my parents once again felt that as a girl I should be a homemaker. My parents were not into choices for girls.

        • BTW I was pretty successful before my illness (in electronics and poetry). My fiction became better after the chemo. (Took a few years before I could write though). I think because emotions became easier to understand after the chemo. i was a thinker. I can’t think like I used to…

          I miss the thinking -

          • I wouldn’t give another ten points – no way… I would still be smarter than the normals… but I remember how much I grieved when I realized that I had lost so much.

            • I remember how bright I was at 13 and, looking back at 17, mourning the loss. Just on the edge of understanding what it would be like…

  3. Ah – you come from a family of poets! That explains it. (Well, it doesn’t, since you don’t write poetry in Portuguese – or maybe you do.)
    But I come from a family with no writers in it that I can see, so I have to do the hard-work thing. Because I still want what I see, and keep writing bits of poetry, and a play, and a couple novels, and some short stories, and one of these days when The Man will let me, I will put them all out into the world.
    Since anything you write and publish will probably be hated by some people – you write thrillers and they only like romances, or vice versa – and you can do the whole thing under a pseudonym if you really want to hide – there’s no reason not to please yourself and then publish the results. And hey, it may even provide kibble for the chinchilla!
    Hope you feel better – and you STILL manage to write inspiring, intriguing, and well-written posts, even when under the weather (there’s an interesting cliche for you).

    • LOL. I DON’T write poetry in Portuguese or otherwise — but actually the family also runs to graphic arts and novels and… The poetry… It is said every Portuguese has an unpublished book of poems in his drawer somewhere. from my observation, this is true.

  4. I come from a family of musicians who also believed in the genius myth. It caused a lot of problems because I remember my father telling me that I didn’t have talent, but maybe my talent extended to appreciating musical talent. I am still offended about that one.

    I have been writing poetry since I was ten years old (more or less). I didn’t change my style until I had some training in writing from my English professor. She was really good at it. Then I worked with another poet for awhile to polish the language and style. After that my poetry was getting published in a lot of places … Nowadays I work on fiction. I do believe I have a talent with words. It took me a long time to click with fiction. Essay writing and memoir writing was easy. Fiction was hard.

    My personal belief is that even if you have the talent, you still need to learn the craft so that you can continue so that you are not a “one shot.” This goes for musicality as well. But I came to this belief after a very long time of writing and learning. Still some people don’t like how I write.

  5. There are few things more discouraging than believing you are not living up to your potential. By pretty much all the standard definitions I *am* a genius, but absolutely nobody has a worse opinion of me than I do. Because even though I know it’s a load of hooey I still think that being a “genius” means I should be accomplishing Great Things and since I’m not, either there’s something terribly wrong with me or the whole thing is a mistake of some kind. I’ve written books – whole books including a novel – which people liked and pay money to read, but since they haven’t outsold Fifty Shades of Grey my subconscious is convinced that they’re garbage and I can’t even sit at a keyboard and try to write most of the time.

    I’ll be damned if I know what to do about it, but I certainly agree with your thesis.

    • Give yourself permission to be human.

      Look, by some definitions (okay, I had to hunt long and hard) I am a genius. But my brother was far smarter than I, so I was always “also ran.” This was good because while he was expected to change the world, I was only expected to live… which accounts for my being — again by SOME definitions, not including monetary — more successful than he is. At least if you go with what we set out to do.

      My younger kid is everyone’s definition of a genius — but the problem is few things engage him enough for him to try really hard. Which is why triple niners tend to die alone in a room filled with newspapers and rubbish.

      I know where you are, and what you’re caught in. I too resent not selling as well as fifty shades — a book I have zero interest in reading — but look… you have to tell yourself that’s something else again. Work at what you like and keep trying, pay your bills and look after those who are important to you. By any measure that’s success. Let fools prattle about how much more you could have done.

      The older I get the more I agree with Pratchett: The secret to success and happiness is to be yourself as hard as you can.

      • Thumbs up for Pratchett. Also, I am pretty upset with “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I have been told by one reviewer (she gave the book back) that the book is not worth the paper it is printed on. The only thing well written was the sex and she considered it yucky. She also gave examples. i considered it yucky from the examples. ;-)

        • I did read it since it is at least tangentially relevant to one of the fields I write in and I thought that it was not nearly as good as its sales indicate but not nearly so bad as its critics want to believe. When I finished the first book, which is as far as I got, I *did* kind of want to know what happened next. At no point did I think the Eight Deadly Words. And while the writing was juvenile, in my opinion, I am highly educated and very intelligent. My bar is obviously quite high. For the target audience perhaps it’s not Shakespeare but it’s not Dick and Jane, either.

          • I thought that it was not nearly as good as its sales indicate but not nearly so bad as its critics want to believe.

            When did we get the idea that what was the passing fancy of the moment had to be ‘good’? Consider all the one hit wonder bands. Some of those bands were very good, but many simply caught the zeitgeist of the moment.

            Fifty Shades says more about where the country is right now, than what is good. It may be that is ‘badly written’ in the right way at the right time. (And we are kind of caught in a strange sad voyeuristic adolescent state of mind.)

            The Spouse would be inclined to say that it is kind of like cheep nylon florescent green teddies. God knows who they sell to, but they must sell, or why would they keep making so many of them?

            • Which reminds: I never read Judith Krantz’s Princess Daisy or any of the hot Harold Robbins novels. I didn’t read all sorts of novels that were best sellers and are now largely out of print and mostly forgotten. But you can still buy Robert Heinlein.

              • Oh, yes. The saddest thing used to be when we stayed at a beach house or something seeing all the summer blockbusters no one remembered. And THIS was before the push model landed in fiction.

        • Well – I didn’t read about the sparkling vampires because I read one page and decided it was too juvenile for me. I haven’t looked at “Fifty shades of Grey”… I have too many other books I want to read. So what I am getting at is juvenile writing is a good critic -

          • I did read one of them, simply because I used to live in Forks. They are good clean YA books in my opinion. You could recommend them to your mother with no qualms ;) On the other hand they didn’t excite me enough to read any more. I was actually impressed with the author, her writing is clear and concise, and I found not a single mistake about an area I lived in, she did a good job on research. Having lived their I recognized streets and even houses and little hole-in-the-wall stores mentioned. Just not my cup of tea.

      • Sounds like your brother and mine are related. There are few things more frustrating than watching a person of talent not engage with it. You feel like screaming, “I could have done great things with your skills!”

        Then I realize that’s not necessarily true. Would I really put forward the effort I needed to if I hadn’t had it burned into me that I needed to put out more effort than him?

      • My latest short-term frippery was with high-IQ societies (which have an interesting and damn depressing history.) When I told my mother a few weeks ago that I’d joined one, she asked me what the criterion for membership was, and I told her. She then asked me, “Why aren’t you discovering new particles and things?” I think she hadn’t realized, until that moment, quite how smart I am (and good Gods, doesn’t that sound like an ego-riffic thing to say.) Bless her heart, I don’t THINK she meant to insult me, but I am hard pressed to think of a more hurtful thing she could possibly have said to me. If I didn’t ask myself the same thing on a more or less regular basis, it probably wouldn’t have been so bad.

        While I certainly got all the books I wanted, my parents didn’t do anything to encourage me intellectually and I grew up in a small, fairly poor town. When I see the resources available to children who IMNSHO are no more gifted than I am in this day and age it is sometimes very difficult to restrain my temper. Overencouraging may be bad, but there is certainly a sweet spot somewhere closer to that end than to the other end.

        On the other hand, as you point out, triple niners tend to end up badly more often than you’d think. A month or two ago they had a fellow on “Hoarders” who allegedly had an IQ somewhere around 200. (As you probably know that’s really pretty meaningless other than to indicate “scary effing smart.”) He and his wife weren’t “living in raw sewage” kind of hoarders, but it certainly had gotten way, way out of control. So I should not feel so bad. :)

        • Well, my parents did nothing to encourage me either. I mean, I understand why — there wasn’t much available. And my mom is ABSOLUTELY convinced books are bad for you, so I had to be creative about procuring those.

          As a result I’ve encouraged the boys in any whims they wanted to pursue — though not at ruinous cost — but you know, “I want to do art,” Oh, okay, let’s get you some books. Or “I’m interested in history of ancient Greece” okay, let’s see if there’s some used vhs tapes… Are they better off for it? I don’t know. They’re interesting kids, though.

          • Do you know _why_ she feels that books are bad for you? I’m mystefied!

            • No. She says they make you spend your life in made-up worlds and you don’t pay attention to reality. I suspect something in her upbringing. “Studying” and non-fiction are fine, it’s reading fiction that’s “bad.” I got so good at flinging books under sofas and tables, and sitting there with my hands folded when I heard her steps that she thought I did nothing but stare at walls most of my teen years.

              • But poetry is ok?

                What does she think of your fiction career then?

                I just don’t grok the attitude I guess.

                • No, in mom’s case poetry is not okay. It runs in my DAD’s family. Well, short epigrams and funny rhymes are fine.

                  As for not groking… you and me bro. She NOW admits I have a career. It’s progress. Until two years ago, she told everyone I was a housewife, shouting over me, if needed.

                  • I wonder if it is that generation or even we must be related, but my mother was the same way. She was always trying to pull me into the real world. Since I was her housekeeper (you couldn’t tell it now cause I hate it so much), I spent my entire teen years cleaning, canning, and raising her kids – plus teaching them to read. I would read in between just to get a rest. My mother did NOT have the same problem with music, drawing, or the other arts.

                    However, my mother did read a lot of romances. I could never figure out she reconciled the two.

                    • yep. Same thing except for the romances. Mom is a political junkie, so tons of articles and non-fiction and history books, but NO fiction. Of course, she watched soaps…

                    • Well – we didn’t have a TV. My parents decided when I was young to NOT get one. So no soaps. So the romances were probably a substitute. ;-)

                    • We didn’t have a TV till I was eight, when a family friend gave my parents a black and white one, which then lasted till I was 22. But by the time I was fifteen or sixteen, she watched soaps. Still does. Of course, she’s now almost eighty, so… that’s mostly what she does.

                    • Ah, my mother, who grew up dirt poor in the Depression, was a huge fiction and movie junkie, who lived at the library, and fed me all the fairy tales and other fiction she’d grown up on that had kept her going through those bad times. Also all those wonderful old movies. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. ^_^

                    • My mom was also dirt poor. I think part of the issue was that her father, a spendthrift gentleman who spent the family fortune feasting novelists and other bohemians, largely ignored the family and left them to starve/live on his wife’s meager income. (I mean my mom gleaned coal for cooking from beside the train tracks, barefoot in winter, because her dad was spending his money on great parties and drunken routs. Look, he had HIS demons too.) I can understand why that would make her bitter towards fiction. But she never got over it. Much of the last phone call was devoted to telling me dad reads way too much…

                    • It is, in many ways, easier to blame literature (or demon rum) for the flaws of those we love. MUCH easier.

                    • Laurie- I like your mother. She reminds me of my grandfather. He was the man of the house and at six he had a job to help bring in the bacon. His mother would send him to the Saturday matinees (I think for a penny). I miss that man.

                    • Yes, Mom said, for almost nothing, you could spend all Saturday at the movies and see features and cartoons and newsreels.

                    • All in air-conditioned comfort, too! These days we are too prone to take A/C for granted.

                      Of course, in times when there was a polio outbreak (or fear thereof) the theatres stayed empty as did swimming pools.

                    • When my mother’s parents divorced, she went to live with her grandfather. There was a lot of problems there. Personally I liked my great-grandfather. We got on great. But, my mother and I didn’t… so that probably tells me what happened between the two of them. My mother was a diva, but she was poor. Not a good combination. She also had some real problems with her father. He started another family. It took years before she acknowledged that she had a half-brother.

              • Sounds like my mother-in-law. *sigh*

    • I hear you loud and clear, Marc. I’ve taken about 40 IQ tests in the past 55 years. My scores have ranged from an “adjusted” 137 to 194. I took the last one about 10 years ago, where I scored a perfect test. All that means is that my head is a warehouse of information that’s only good for IQ tests. If I took one when I have a day where everything hurts and the pain meds are only minimally effective, I’d probably score around 50.

      I also scored high on the military ASVAB tests, which got me into a career field I truly loved. One of the great things about it was that I was constantly around people like me (interested in multiple things, unable to ‘mark ground’), only different. Since the job we did required us to LEARN many different things in order to do it well, we always had something to talk about with each other. Most of us were able to converse reasonably about what was going on in politics, science, and a dozen other subjects, which meant even our ‘down’ time was productive. I’ve been involved with a few groups where there were many very brilliant people, but they were so narrowly focused that beyond the job, drinking, and sex, they couldn’t hold a conversation with a doorknob.

      The one thing I’ve learned since I graduated from high school is that I can LEARN anything, given a halfway competent teacher and enough time and effort on my part. That’s how I learned to make Torchon lace bobbins without ever having touched a piece of woodworking equipment beforehand. The only ‘training’ I had was to watch a master at the craft make about a dozen in front of me.

      Writing is the same thing. Some people are storytellers, others aren’t. If I were born 25,000 years ago, I’d probably end up the tribe’s shaman/storyteller/teacher, but not before a halfway distinguished time as a hunter. Writing is learning to record the stories in your mind. I could probably be a lot better at that, but I haven’t found just the right ‘teacher’ — probably the right book. I know there are areas where I need additional training, I know what they are, and I’m working on them. I just don’t seem to have the right material available to explain how to do what I need to do. I’ll probably end up “re-inventing the wheel”, but I’ve done that before, too.

      • Conversations with doorknobs are overrated. They mostly complain about how lonely they are, how cold so-and-so’s hands are, and “OMG, I don’t even want to THINK about what that guy was doing before he touched me!”

        Hmm… anthropomorphizing doorknobs. Yeah, I DID take some sinus meds a while ago, why do you ask?

      • Almost anybody who takes a bunch of IQ type tests for various reasons will eventually get a figure he can brag about. It’s the percentile that matters. My IQs on the Mensa tests are 20 points apart, but they are exactly the same percentile.

      • I have a difficult time understanding people who voluntarily maintain a narrow focus. I always wanted to know the whole history of Middle Earth, and the names of all the stars, and of every living thing.

  6. Sarah – What is your illness? Are you okay? Have you seen a doctor? Are you taking medications? My illness started out with vomiting and diarrhea for two weeks. I almost died. Good thoughts going your way.

    • Dan has the vomiting and stomach flu symptoms. I made him go to the doctor. He also has chills and fever-sweats. This appears to be going around.
      I have all the symptoms: chills, fever sweats, dizziness, true issues thinking from one word to the next, and extreme tiredness. No real stomach symptoms, though, other than a vague “ickiness.” I am however very congested, which might be part of the illness or a reaction to the smoke in the air from the wild fires.
      Called doctor was told to treat symptoms, if not over them in a week call back. (A week seems to be average for this.) Dan got same from emergicare doctor I made him go to yesterday.
      I think I have the harder issues because other than chills and sweats (alternating) my main issue is TIREDNESS which could be imagined. So I keep trying to convince myself I’m fine, only I clearly am not. GAH.

      • Yes, if you’re that tired, your body is clearly telling you something. I’ve had something similar before, and it sucked. Here’s hoping you get better soon.

      • I don’t think the tiredness is imagined. We just think we imagine it. I have dealt with fatigue during certain chemo treatments (cytoxan). I couldn’t put two words together for days. Again good thoughts. Hope you get better soon.

        • I told Dan “I’m fine. It’s just that my body acquired two tons of mass during the night. Everything weighs two tons, including my thoughts. Standing up HURTS. Other than that, the chills and fever sweats, I’m great.” He said “that’s how I feel except add in stomach flu.” So…

          • It sounds like you need to rest. Watch TV again, or one of those YouTube playlists that consists solely of old Agatha Christie mystery shows. Or pick something else that is just interesting enough to keep you on the couch dozing. (Sports I don’t follow are great for this, or nature shows.)

            Also, you might try my usual home remedy: chai tea with a lot of spices, a lot of milk, possibly some chocolate powder if needed, and turmeric because all the grannies from India say you should drink it in hot milky chai when you’re sick. St. Hildegard of Bingen says you should also put licorice or fennel in everything (or at least 80% of everything), so obviously the chai brands with anise are better. :) I’d say put whiskey in it, but you’ve probably already got cold medicine going, so none of that. :)

            • No cold medicine. If I were going to cloud my head, I’d drink alcohol. It’s more pleasant.

              My family’s recipe is “drink a bottle of Port Wine and go to bed. When you wake up, you’ll either be cured or dead” — right now either seems like a better option than where I am

              • Heh… alcohol really isn’t a bad home remedy. It does help you sleep a bit, and alcohol plus sugar is very good against coughing jags when you really need it. Sigh. Ibuprofen/acetaminophen having bad reactions with alcohol, and taking the alcohol out of Robitussin to prevent Reyes’, has caused a lot of problems for some of us!

                And there’s always stuff like Sprite, cola syrup, chicken soup, rice…. sick people food.

                Take care. Both of you being sick isn’t a good thing.

              • Our pediatrician for our first-born prescribed the old whiskey/honey/lemon cure. He also said there was strong medical evidence that it worked, and doctors knew why. He said the pharmaceutical companies would love to bottle and sell it, but there was a segment of our society that would lynch us all if they did. Recipe is two tablespoons whiskey, one tablespoon honey, and one tablespoon lemon juice. Heat the whiskey in a pan until it’s warm, stir in the honey and dissolve it, then stir in the lemon juice. Cool it down just enough that you can drink it without burning your mouth, and then drink it all. Follow that by wrapping up in a blanket that can be easily washed. You’ll know if it’s working or not by how much you sweat. If you’re sweating like crazy, it’s working. If you’re not, you’ve got more than a cold/flu/virus.

                According to him (he’s dead now, so he’s beyond the reach of the lawyers), the whiskey causes your blood vessels to expand. The honey provides sugar and other natural ingredients that help fight off the lethargy and restore energy. The lemon juice provides Vitamin C and a few other anti-oxidants that the body needs. The interaction of the whiskey, honey, and lemon in the body causes the sweats, which help break up the cell wastes that are clogged by the illness, and helps to flush your system. It’s worked on three of our children. There are viruses it doesn’t work against, though.

                • Laura Runkle

                  Bourbon whiskey. It’s our family “nasties” remedy. Which means that a whiskey sour is *not* something our kids associate with good times.

                  • I recently read of a remedy involving lemon juice and pure maple syrup. I am sure some medicinal rum would help. I much prefer maple syrup to honey.

              • Yes, but I really like Port and it is not cheep. I also prefer to consume it slowly, with a bit of cheese and a few crackers. A whole bottle? I would have to be dying.

                • So, for our drinking spree… If you guys ever make it near CO (it’s hard to fly with the stuff) I shall bring Port.

                  • It is harder to fly with The Spouse. The Spouse just plain does not travel well.

                  • Mmm … Port I can still drink without going straight to hangover. But I fear I don’t travel well either. Mebbe I could ship Beloved Spouse? I can easily tolerate a little solitude and CACS’s happiness is of great value to me (so long as it minimally infringes on my … oddities.)

        • Actually one year on cytoxan (I.V.) = couldn’t talk for almost two years

      • Oh, wow, that hadn’t occurred to me in your case. They are advising anyone with breathing problems to stay indoors because of the terrible fires. Do you have your airconditioners on, to filter the air?

    • I should add you guys are doing me a kindness by keeping me company, because it keeps me from trying REAL work, which I’m afraid would destroy a story in progress, given how I’m functioning — not.

      • Just let us know when you need a nap, so we’ll (I’ll) shut up! 8^)

      • Back when I was the programmer/everything else, I learned to leave coding the blazes alone when I had a migraine. Migraines always did a fair job of scrambling my short-term memory. I didn’t get anything useful done when I tried to work through one, and, worse, “the stack” was corrupted and when I got over the headache I spent about three days with incorrect references to what I was supposed to be doing, and why, stuck in my skull.

  7. Martin L. Shoemaker

    My parents, bless them, knew a family with a verified genius child. They saw how indulging him made him an obnoxious, nearly psychopathic brat. So they always made a point to tell me the difference between good grades and good character. I can’t say I’m a genius, though I’m bright enough; but I always knew that hard work and good behavior were worth more,

  8. Genius is being able to look upon a huge block of flawed marble and see David in it — but to chip away everything that does not look like him requires skill, patience and perseverance.

  9. Was it Edison who said: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”?

    Look, Einstein was a genius, able to look at the universe and gain insights nobody had previously written of — which is not the same as nobody ever having. He happened to have the skills and abilities (tradecraft, if you will) to take those insights and communicate them to the greater world in language they were forced to accept.

    Genius without craft is a motor without a drive-train – it may spin almighty fast but it ain’t going nowhere.

  10. I met one proto-genius in Junior High. He was a miserable piece of work in the sense that he was very unhappy and made no secret of the fact. His parents had persuaded the schools to let him skip two grades, so here’s an 12 year old boy tucked in with 13-15 year olds. He had not started growing yet. His parents wrapped him in wool (almost literally) to ensure that little genius had nothing to stop his intellectual development, but his emotional development was a whole ‘nother story, including a rabid contempt of females. He vanished from the planet during High School and I never did find out what became of him. Apparently he has not won the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer, or a McArthur genius grant yet.

    I’ll happily settle for being fairly smart (book and street) and doggedly persistent over being a genius. And I’m happy to be a distraction if you will distract me from a dying hot-water heater. I have the bail-out and sop-up materials at the ready in case it fails before the plumbers arrive. (Note to self: never, ever, ever have light-colored carpet near a hot-water heater ever again.)

    • GAH on heater. I tell Dan we must have angered water spirits because EVERY ONE of our houses has flooded at least once. Usually not clean water, which makes it worse.

      On genius — yeah, I determined younger boy would be a human being REGARDLESS of IQ. So far so good. The fact he has a real passion for SOMETHING helps.

      I didn’t let either of the kids be advanced. The older boy says I should have let him. Maybe I should. (Shrug.)

      • That’s a big topic right there – the modern school system seems designed to turn super-bright kids into miserable slacker drop-outs. I could easily have gone that way (I was on that path, but I read “Bimbos of the Death Sun and got scared to death that I’d turn out like some of the more dysfunctional characters, and got a real job while I was still young enough to do so).

        Yes, advancing to higher grades is a disaster – bright kids are mostly behind socially to begin with and that just makes it so much worse.

        If we could have more “academics at your own pace” kinds of things, sigh.

        • Said more eloquently than I.

          If you want to mess somebody’s social development up, one dandy way to do it is to put a much younger child in a room full of older ones and have them make the rest look stupid on a regular basis. Been there, got a nice matched set of baggage. (Being physically threatened for wrecking the curve may have been beneficial to my social development somehow, but I’m not sure how.)

          • The solution is not to expose the child to a higher level of immaturity but rather to a model of maturity. The fact that this solution is rarely attempted indicates a dysfunction in society. (Grading on a curve is pernicious for just this reason – it measures comparative mastery of material, which is one word too many.)

            Nice turn of phrase re: matched baggage. Leave us all not start comparing who has the 3-piece overnight set and who carries the 12-piece world traveler complete with steamer trunk.

      • Maybe you should, but that’s not the odds play, so far as I’m concerned. (See below post.)

      • In our case, I think advancing the kid past Kindergarten was A right thing — and we really only did it because the mother of the kid’s preschool was on the town’s school board. Mrs. G. said she knew what our kid was doing, she knew what the kindergarten curriculum was that year (I think a reasonable paraphrase would be, “A hot mess”), and that it would bore the kid stiff.

        As we only knew, then, that the kid was an attention-loving extrovert, the specter of “bored, smart kid = class clown?” loomed vividly. And if we were going to move her… Better to do it before she formed friendships, y’know?

        (In all truth, I think that in the circumstances we have here, skipping kindergarten and getting her the IEP for Asperger’s immediately would’ve been the best thing.)

        But I do so wish that we’d had a time machine to get flashes of future. *sigh*

        • You and me, kid. You and me.

        • (We are lucky to have reasonably good public schools in town. (The private schools are no better, or even worse, from what we’ve heard…) I wouldn’t want to be stuck with the dilemma of schooling in, say, Texas. I am not cut out to home-school this kid. There’s a reason we got her into preschool, and “Saving Mom’s Sanity” was it.)

          • Well, I could and SHOULD have homeschooled, but we didn’t fully get how bad it was until younger kid hit his nose on it. The kid’s school is an exception. We know friends in “better districts” and it still sucks.

            • We’re fortunate (AKA paid attention when buying a house) inbeing in a good school district. But Texas’s reputation . . . I watched the science curiculum like a hawk. The first kid hit sixth grade before I realized he could barely read. And than that his little brother had the same problem. Some misfit between their learning styles and the program. Plus being smart enough to fake getting by. Their friends and neighbors didn’t have any problem. :: sigh :: It’s always something.

              • Pam you were lucky. During the time The Daughter was in school the district lines were constantly being redrawn. (This included a consolidation of three systems forced by the state, and then a constant juggle until the Feds got their hands out of the pot…)

          • Doubt I could have home educated The Daughter much earlier than the middle school level. Problem was, in facing middle school the question became which would drive her parents more insane: fighting the school and The Daughter or just fighting The Daughter? And, well, The Daughter was pleading for a change.

            • Happily, this kid likes school! She was sad at the end of the semester. We’ve got another year at the Middle School (where one co-principle knows her grandmother, and likes the kid, and near as I can tell the other co-principle thinks well of her also; where the “Dean of Discipline” thinks she’s a good kid and read the riot act to the boy who was her friend, got a crush, didn’t take “not interested; let’s be friends” for an answer, got entitled and grabby, and got to scaring her; and where the main Special Ed people both like her and are invested in helping her learn coping strategies).

              Then it’s high school, and all my “but I just got settled in!” is going to be wailing and fussing and I’ll be trying to balance the amount of support she needs from me with her needing to do things on her own… At least one of last year’s co-principles went to the high school, so hopefully there will be a certain amount of Good Reputation established. (Mind, they just need to walk down the back road between the schools if they wanna talk to anyone at the middle school…)

              If the kid gets into a “don’t wanna go to school” state then I’ll know something isn’t just wrong, but neon flashing WRONG in flaming letters.

      • Laura Runkle

        My aunt was nearly ruined by going to college at 15. In all senses of the word. Fortunately, she met my uncle. He was a great guy. So our family doesn’t do advancement, really. However, the stuff like MTMP (the Minnesota Talented Math Program, where kids are kept with peers, and fed math at one of the U of M locations once or twice a week as fast as they can gobble it down) is well worth keeping.

    • Absent a level of intelligence which basically means the child shouldn’t be in a general-public school at all, I strongly oppose advancing children significantly ahead of their chronological counterparts. While I don’t buy the “kids need public schooling to develop socially” argument completely, I do agree that putting a kid who is much younger than their fellow students into such an environment is overwhelmingly likely to do their social development a lot of harm. (I never skipped any grades but I was the youngest person in my class by a large margin – had I been born *one day* later I would have been in the next year’s class.)

      • I was usually the youngest in my class (until my parents started the homeschool bit), which meant I was also physically slower and not as well developed physically. When my classmates met me when I was older, they were shocked. I was always the shortest. I am now the tallest.

      • Neither of my kids SHOULD have been in public school. Look, I don’t know if you have kids, but right now NO KIDS should be in public school, with very rare exceptions. (My younger kid’s second high school was excellent and had a dual college track and indulged his engineering bug, but other than that, no…) The schools — and I didn’t know this when I put them in, obviously — have become massive babysitting services for the dull, the uninterested and the criminal. If I had it all to do over again, the biggest difference is that I would homeschool.
        I’m not sure about the socialization bs at all. Look, my kids ALWAYS got better along with adults. I didn’t let Robert be advanced because the schools these days have an UNREAL number of tab A in slot B assignments, and he just wasn’t ORGANIZATIONALLY mature enough to do it (it takes a nervous system development thing.) BUT socially being with “their peers” was a disaster and no more successful than locking me in all day with twelve year olds at my age.

        Is there a lag in emotional maturation for the gifted? I’m not sure. The kids were always more emotionally mature than their classmates. NOT that 14 through 16 wasn’t hell to live with them. Of course it was. Hormones. Also, in my kids’ case, they were both tall and physically developed for their age, so they might have fit in better two years ahead.

        It was the organizational thing… And it is the prevalence of that type of work that makes me say no kid should be put in public school if you can avoid it, unless the school is exceptional. This could be a whole post, but I think it was third grade when they stopped reminding the kids to turn in assignments, thereby penalizing lack of nervous system development (I have it on good authority that’s all that is. Most of the schooling seems to be about regurgitation and conforming.

        • “NO KIDS should be in public school” – I would laugh, if this weren’t so true.

          You know, I always considered myself socially backwards as a high schooler (though I made very close friends who I’m still in touch with to this day – the advantage of going to a huge school is you might find other oddballs like you), but yeah, I always got on fine with adults, and so did my friends.

          I’ve also read about schoolkids from prior eras, like the early 20th century, and my mother swears things were very different in the 50s when she was in school – much more mature. I look at pictures of her and my father when they were in their early twenties, and they do look immensely more mature than people today, or myself at that age. But I think more was required of them, expectations were higher in those pre-Baby Boomer times. I see those 50s instructional videos and they look so corny, but maturity is corny (isn’t that a requirement of maturity, to put aside being cool?)

          • Older kid once left most of a worksheet blank after writing “This is boring. Zero plus any number is that other number” on the side, because the worksheet was 1+0, etc IN ORDER till 100. We were called to the school and told he was learning disabled. Uh?

            • You mean the teacher didn’t understand that basic rule? (put in sarcastic font). I would be bored silly too…

            • When I was in Junior High I had a teacher who threatened to flunk me because I wouldn’t do the homework in her class, said homework being comprised of similar busywork. I told her it was stupid and I wasn’t going to do it and if she wanted to flunk me, she could explain to the principal and my parents why I failed.

              She didn’t respond but after that I got “C’s” on all the homework assignments I didn’t turn in and a C in the class. I’m not sure if that counts as a Gentleman’s C or not. Believe it or not that was the only time that happened in my public school career: usually I could be bothered to turn in SOMETHING. Her assignments were just too mind-numbing to even try.

              • Now you WOULD have failed. The asigments and turning them in ON TIME is absolutely necessary, because they’re often 2/3 of the grade. And talk about mind-numbing.

                • I was so fortunate with my Geometry teacher. Shortly into the school year she told me that she could not give me an A if I did not do the homework, but so long as I did not disrupt the class she would definitely give me a B.

            • The proper answer would have been to write: For any number n, n+0=n, thus demonstrating the proper mathematical understanding of the process.

              Of course, for the grades where such worksheets are likely to be required, such an answer is bound to bring a whole world of different troubles. Starting with a probability approaching 1 that the teacher won’t understand it.

              • He was in first grade.

                • I have told you about the young man who invented calculus for himself before he even got to school? He was a year behind The Daughter in the high AG program. When he reached middle school the whole family moved to Chicago so he could participate in a special program.

        • I have a daughter who is moderate-to-severely autistic. (She communicates better than many autistic individuals, but has some pretty severe developmental problems.) She has always gone to public school, her schools have always provided wonderful environments for her. In visiting her schools I have never seen the phenomena you discuss although I have certainly read it from many sources and have no doubt that many schools are exactly as you describe. If she were neurotypical I would happily send her to the local public school, although I would not have sent her to the public high school in the place we recently moved from.

          To amplify, in this area the typical arrangement is that several smaller elementary schools send their students to a large centralized high school. The high school that served the suburb we lived in, said suburb being moderately prosperous, served a great diversity of areas, many of which were impoverished if not actively blighted. While it certainly isn’t at the level of the drop of wine/drop of sewage dichotomy, there comes a point where if a significant number of students in a school come from certain kinds of environments, the school is going to suffer for it. It’s sad, it’s awful, Something Should Be Done. But it is what it is, and I am not going to let my child suffer to protect some delusion of social responsibility and egalitarianism. The high school which serves our current area likewise draws from many different areas, but not such a broad range of socio-economics.

          • I will only say that having a non-disabled and a disabled child (neurological perception issue — similar to those experienced by autistic children, so that in some areas it’s classed as being in the autistic spread [but it’s not really, and most kids grow out of it, which — deep breath of thankfulness — he seems to be doing) the schools will do a lot more for the disabled. Not enough for my kid’s first high school, not for gifted-and-disabled [or as they call it, twice exceptional] but still a lot. I think it’s an ADA issue? To some extent they might be better served than other kids.

            • I believe the ADA is certainly a contributing factor: it means they can be sued.

              About fifteen-twenty years agone it was discovered that in the Massachusetts public schools the ummmm … “better” neighborhood schools had startlingly high proportions of “Learning-Disabled” students. Apparently Mumsy & Popsy figured that getting Jr an untimed exam or assistance filling in the bubble sheet was worth the cost and (presumed) social stigma of purchasing a diagnosis. Sadly, it stole resources from the poorer schools in the system.

          • A large part of the problem may be that schools no longer actively “track” students. Formerly (and in the old one-room schools as well) kids were “tracked” into groups according to their “demonstrated rate of progress” (that rate at which they demonstrated they could, with effort, keep up with their group.) This is a necessary element of education, which (properly) comprises training the mind, not memorizing data.

            As an example, from personal testimony, I was about four standard deviations on the IQ tests. As a result I absorbed and analysed data quickly and synthesized it readily. I rarely had to exert myself in school — except for the tedium of actually doing boring stuff like term papers and homework assignments. I was in college before I reached a level at which I could no longer skate through. My older brother was probably two or three standard deviations; he was smart enough to succeed if he applied himself. As a result he reached college having learned how to study, organize material, outline, etc. I may have been smarter, I may have known “more”, but he was better educated.

            America abandoned “tracking” in the Sixties (IIRC) when it was discovered that the system was being abused, misapplied. Students were not being tracked according to the rate at which they could progress in a particular subject. Instead the tracking closely adhered to class and race distinctions. Further, many parents perceived their child’s track as a form of status symbol and pushed to have their child in a “faster” track whether or not they were capable of learning at that speed. Thus tracking became discredited and the myth that “all children can learn at the same rate” became born (well! Obviously they all grow at the same rate physically, why would it be any different mentally?)

            Typically, having determined a system was being abused, we abandoned it rather than address the abuses and take steps to correct and prevent them.

            • Free-range Oyster

              Can you recommend a place to get more information on this, both the effective use and the abuses? I have some… ideas on education that I am mulling over, and this sounds like really useful information. I had never heard of this system (before my time), but it seems like a rather obvious one in retrospect. I’m trying to learn about effective teaching methods and educational pacing, but so much of what’s out there is PC bullcrap or pseudo-scientific hogwash!

              • I wish I could, but IIRC it was covered in a Psych, Sociology or possibly cultural Anthro class back in the early Eighties, back before Political Correctness made any discussion of the topic verbotten. A quick Google on “academic tracking” turns up a plethora of information (27 Megahits) including a Wiki article that, on first glance, seems an adequate starting point with a decent bibliography. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracking_%28education%29 ]

                The article reminds me that (again, IIRC) the worst abuses occurred in the English schools system. Likely because, to a much greater extent than in the US, accent and grammar correlate with “smart.”

                • Free-range Oyster

                  Thank you, RES. I was hesitant to go the Google route simply because there is, as I complained before, a lot of crap out there and I haven’t got the experience or knowledge in the field to filter all of it. Thus my plea to someone with more knowledge. :) The wiki article looks like a good starting point. Thanks again!

                  • Yeah, one of the problems with Google is that you sometimes need a guide to separate wheat from chaff. Keep in mind that Wiki is prone to some slanting as well … If I were more current on such things I would suggest some contemporary challengers to modern pedagogical orthodoxy, but the only one I know of is John Taylor Gatto, and he may have gone around the bend and off the rails since I met him.

                    Look at some of his earlier works, such as “Dumbing Us Down” and proceed from there. His particular bugaboo is the origins of our system in the Prussian model designed to produce good factory workers. Drop me an email at RSamson105@hotmail.com and I will send you a couple Word documents I transcribed from handouts he distributed; one on “What constitutes and educated mind” and the other on “Pathologies of our current system.” Offer stands for any interested parties, with the caution I spam filter aggressively and might miss you … try using John Taylor Gatto as the subject line.

                    • Free-range Oyster

                      Sent, with my thanks.

                    • You’re welcome, I’m sure.

                      (Drat – now I will spend the next week trying to remember which Thirties movie actress/character I just quoted. I seem to recall it with a Brooklyn nasality.)

              • You might also look into some of the studies and precepts common in (and of) the Home-Schooling movement. Public Education in America is based on (usually state-dictated) “scope and sequence” which dictates what will be covered, in what order and how much time can be spent on any given unit.

                Among Home-Schoolers the maxim is: We do it until we understand it, then move on. In practice what this means is you never proceed until the student has a firm grasp of the principle being learned, nor linger once it has been. That ensures firm grounding in basics and avoids the hollow education too often attendant on “We’ve already spent too much time on this, we’re moving on.”

    • Hot water heaters can be bad news, preferably put them on concrete if at all possible, because they are pretty much garuanteed to rust stain everything when they go.

      Pretty much off topic, but it reminds me of a friend of mine a few years back. He got a job in a different state than he lived in and had to move. Taking what was available immediately, that he could afford, he rented an older singlewide trailer that was pretty rough (his wife started crying when she saw it, and she’s pretty easy-going not at all high-class). They were woken up one night by a big crash; it was the hot water heater falling through the floor. Apparantly a previous hot water heater had leaked for a long enough time before being replaced to rot the floor out, and of course it was one in the morning when it decide to collapse.

      • 25$ for hot water heater drain pan and a bit of hose leading to floor drain is well worth it. Of course you can only easily put one in place when replacing the water heater anyways.

        A cheap leak detector also helps since you won’t have wet floor outside the utility space anymore. Basically a battery, 2 contacts that get shorted by water in the pan, and an ear peircing alarm you can hear through a couple closed doors. Better ones also go off itermitently when the battery gets. Low.

  11. My first response is “Wile E. Coyote — sooooper genius.” A lot of really stupid stuff sails under the flag of genius.

    I attribute my not inconsiderable achievements academically and cognitively to stubbornness. I just keep working the problem a few minutes after the other kids give up. Many eyes make shallow problems, and that also counts when one pair of eyes looks at something longer and from more angles. Is this the same as RES’s Edison quote? Sorta, I just unpacked it differently.

    Einstein took a thread nobody had considered and tugged on it a new way, what came loose was Special Relativity. Nevertheless, he was a genius because in addition to this marvel, he was winning prizes for the photoelectric effect.

    If you rely upon “genius” for your writing, it’s like my old Physics teacher’s daddy who never learned algebra. He reasoned,”2x + 3 = 2, I can figure that out in my head. No need to fuss with that silliness.” And he was right as long as the equations remained simple. Once problems get big enough, they can’t be solved without algebra. Some writing poses problems the “genius” can work out in his head, but eventually “genius” isn’t enough. And I think this is what Sarah wrote, but I unpacked this differently, too.

    • I call this the “Aristotle Effect.” Aristotle was so freaking smart, or at least so good at making logical arguments, that it hardly occurred to anybody to DOUBT him for several centuries. It takes another Aristotle, or at least a Galileo, to refute an Aristotle. (For a more contemporary reference, you could call it the Marx Effect.)

      More generally, smart people don’t go wrong as often as neurotypicals, but when they do, they go wrong big, and it takes a long time for anybody else to even realize that something’s wrong.

      • Well, now, that’s hardly true. St. Albert the Great was writing some of the FIRST European commentaries on Aristotle (after the Greco-Roman ones), and he started out writing commentaries on one side and “this is my book with the REAL info about the same thing I just commented on Aristotle’s book about” on the other.

        I don’t know about the others, but his book about animals and his book about geography was practically nothing but “Aristotle said this, and Galen said this, and Augustine said this, and Avicenna said this too, but I’ve been to X place and seen Y animal, and I say politely that it’s bushwah….”

        You just don’t know which experiences to love more: the bit on keeping antlions as a pet, the bit on rappelling down cliffs to look at eagles, the bit on German villages telling everybody they ate that giant fossil “dragon” in the cliffs, or the bit where he says the best way to learn all about falcons and dogs is to talk to falconers and dog guys up at the castle.

        • Oh, and the way he managed to read more broadly than anybody else in his time and place was that a) the Dominicans sent him on lots of journeys, and b) every night he and whatever Dominican was with him would stop at a monastery for hospitality, and he would hit the library first thing to find out what books they had that he hadn’t read yet. His hosts were constantly having to pull him out of the library so they could shut down for the night.

          When you consider that his student St. Thomas Aquinas went on a few of these journeys with him, you have to say they must have been a sort of geeky Road movie all in themselves.

  12. Great post! (so sorry you’re still sick – you’ve had a bad run this spring.) There’s been some real bad crud going around – and bad air (you’re in wildfire territory, aren’t you – that’s awful in the lungs.)

    I guess I got the “genius means you do it perfect the first time” out of me early because I also draw. I do have some natural talent, which meant my pictures were a step above the average kindergartner, which was my first comparison to kids my age, but I also could see the real artists out there and know that, while I was good for a five year old, I had a long way to go. And, as I kept the stuff I’d done, I could see improvements the more I drew. That’s a huge advantage art has over writing, you can see it at a glance. I’ve always just assumed writing, or anything else, was the same way. Talent gives you a head start, but there’s a lot of work ahead. (Or, as I saw Phil Foglio put it, if you want to learn to draw, get a stack of paper four feet high, and draw on every page, every day. At the end of the stack, you will be able to draw.)

    And I completely understand about “doing it right the first time without understanding why” – how that’s a bad thing. For as long as I can remember, I could do cartwheels. I never learned it, I could just throw myself at the ground and it just happened. This was great fun and impressed all the kids, until I took some real gymnastics classes and found I was completely stuck at the beginner level and couldn’t progress, because I had no idea how I did anything. On the other hand, with almost everything I’ve done well, the first time I tried, I was often worse than average (I think it takes me longer to get everything connected in my head), but I’d get better very quickly and often surpass people – probably BECAUSE I’d gotten everything connected right in my head. I’m extremely good at math, but the first time I’d try a new method in class, I’d do terribly – I never really learned it until I had to use it for the next step up, and then I found I knew it better than most people.

    So yes, mostly, anything worth doing involves working and really learning and understanding. But that’s also the hope. I’m hard-headed enough to think that, if I’m not good enough yet at writing, I can learn to be, that I will get better and better the more work I do. Whether that’s going to be enough , *shrug* well, I decided when I started working seriously on writing that I have to enjoy it – if it’s not fun, I can make a better, less stressful living doing ordinary work. If I can make money doing what I love, that’s the big goal. If I can’t, I can still be happy just writing, putting stuff out and reaching a small audience for free. Of course, I decided that when traditional publishing was the only way to go. Indie e-pubbing has changed everything. While I think it would take more than the thousand fans along with the long tail to make a living, I think it’s a reasonable multiple of a thousand. Or, heck, even if I only get a few hundred bucks, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

  13. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum ;-) In academic subjects, everything flowed for me. I did have to study, but it made sense and I could figure it out. (Okay, statistical mechanics remains opaque). Anything involving physical coordination, however, I’m definitely in the “needs help” camp. So badly, in fact, I was placed in an experimental “remedial PE” class in grade school–which was actually fun since I was competing against fellow clumsies and if I tried, I could win! That never happened with the normals.

    What I figured out was my coordination was just slow. Not damaged, not stupid, just slow. It takes me longer to learn physical things than normal people, but if I am patient with myself, I can become quite skilled. With effort, I became a competent rider, for example. I use that experience to remind myself what it can be like for people having difficulty with the subjects I find easy. Keeps me humble.

    My own talents usually pushed me in other directions. I remember an amusing conversation with the high school guidance counselor. He could not comprehend why I didn’t want to go into some field involving language, since my scores were off the charts on those subjects. I just shrugged and mumbled something about well it clearly wasn’t much of a challenge, was it? I like a challenge …

    • Oh, a writing career is a challenge, anyway you look at it.

      The coordination… I was born severely premature. That and what my son calls “dense neurons” (I’m fairly sure he misspelled neurosis there!) means my physical coordination development was EXTREMELY slow. This is a reason I’m still afraid of driving (though frankly most of the reason is that I’m afraid of OTHER PEOPLE driving — although my coordination is normal now, I remember its being so sub normal I was a danger while WALKING. So…

    • Being significantly above normal in ability to learn can be a serious disadvantage. I used to read my school books the first week of school, then never refer to them again until it was time to turn them in at the end of the school year. I muddled by with “B” and “C” grades. I was haphazard in doing my homework, except in math, where I wouldn’t succeed without it. When I got to college, I had to work hard because I did have such poor study habits. Once I realized that you had to work to get the better grades, I quit getting anything below a “B”. I’ve also been lucky in having better than average teachers in college, which is weird, since I went to school in so many different places: Panama, Germany, England, and Vietnam overseas, and Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, and South Carolina in the US.

      • Future me, STOP STALKING ME. It’s spooky.

        • He he he he he 8^)

          *If you lived a life anywhere close to what I did, you have my deepest sympathies… Not that my life was hard, although parts of it were. It’s just that so much of what I did earlier came back to haunt me -physically- later. Quite a bit of it was fun, a little of it was scary, and a lot of it was tedious. All stuff to call upon when you’re writing, and at a rough spot.

      • Study habits… what are those?

        I had much the same problem as you in school, it was easy, and boring. I never did any homework (never as in zero times) if I couldn’t do the work in class, or between class periods I wasn’t doing it; period. Probably unfortunately I was good at it, and most of it was extremely easy for me. In fact in high school I tended to show up for most of my classes only once or twice a week, because I could do all the work I needed to, to attain a B average (3.0 was honor roll, and this provided a signifigant reduction in my car insurance rates) in that class period. The exceptions to this were; bodybuilding which not only did I like, but it was challenging and difficult and I HAD to work every day at it. Metal Shop which I liked and actually spent quite a bit of time in when I was skipping other classes, and one semester of Advanced Biology which was an entire semester of lab work and was extremely interesting. We learned gene mapping, gene splicing, and all sorts of interesting stuff, without ever having to sit at a desk.

        • Yeah. This is how we’re failing our boys. Many boys — and me — prefer to learn by doing stuff, not passively absorbing. Younger kid loved engineering classes for same reason.

        • When I went to college, I was expecting to hit difficult classes that required tons of work just to keep my nose above water, and I got… more high school. I was told that Probability and Statistics, as well as Thermodynamics, were difficult, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking them yet. Finally, in my Junior year, I signed up for German. Three weeks in I was really struggling, and a couple weeks after that I was lost. THIS was the kind of class I was expecting from the get-go, but I had skated through 2 1/2 years, and wasn’t expecting it.

          Unfortunately, my lack of homework habits had contributed to poor grades in other classes ( I also discovered a social life, something I had never had before), so German turned out to be the last straw – my GPA put me on Academic Probation, which meant that I was not allowed to carry more than the minimal classes to be considered full time, and they automatically dropped me from the highest-level class I was taking at the time they got around to enforcing the rule (they didn’t keep me from signing up for classes, they dropped me from them after the fact). This meant that I was dropped from Quantum Mechanics, and since I couldn’t keep my favorite class, I gave up and left school after that semester.

          • I didn’t even get any fun classes for college until Senior year actually. And then I was told that I was doing Masters-level work. Since I was 39 at the time, I thought it was high school (I never actually went to high school).

        • Has anyone considered that one of the reasons there is no longer shop class? No I do not mean the shut down of Home Ec and Shop because of ‘sexism.’ Two words: Liability insurance.

          On a similar line: A friend and I often talk about the chemicals that used to be stocked in our high school chem labs, and I gather Ringo tells some great stories about his father working in a chem lab.

          • Robert wanted to replicate an experiment he’d read about in Science news — creating “life-like” with materials are than what we’re made of — in sixth grade for science fair. His chemistry teacher told him “sure.” BUT THEN she got ill and went away the rest of the quarter. The replacement refused to let him work with high-grade hydrogen peroxide, needed for this. “He could make bombs out of that.” Nothing was less likely, but the experiment was scotched. (Yeah, I drank a lot of scotch over that) and they never returned the high test Hydrogen peroxide we’d BOUGHT and had shipped to the school (because they’d only ship to a school) NOR reimbursed us.

            • If I would have been your son, when I heard “He can make bombs with that” my first thought would have been, really, cool! And if I would have not been able to use it for its intended use, that is probably exactly what it would have been used for.

              Yes I made pipe bombs and napalm in high school, but they were never used for anything destructive. In case anyone is wondering, to this day I know of no more efficient way to remove dents from irrigation pipe than to light an M80 and toss it down the pipe to the dent, and cover the end of the pipe if possible before it goes off.

            • A friend made nitroglycerine at home when he was in middle school. He carried it around at school in a bottle all day. On the way home, another friend challenged him on it so he dropped it on a boulder and cracked the boulder.

              He also lost a Star Trek model in a hydrogen explosion, caught the living room drapes on fire and nearly killed himself breathing chlorine gas. All three were separate incidents. He’s also now the richest of our circle of friends.

  14. My childhood was one long skinned knee episode ;-) Oh, I agree a writing *career* is a challenge, but Mr. Guidance Counselor was advocating majoring in English (snore… )(please don’t hit me English majors!) Physics was much more fun, plus you got to play with lasers and stuff.

    • I had fun with English (wicked grin) especially when I found Jungian literary analysis. My profs wanted me to use feminist (snore)… Oh yea, Jungian caused no end of troubles.

      Besides I already had my electronics career. I was ready for something different. Plus I got to repair lasers and computers and and and

    • I was working on pre-veterinary till I hit pre-calculus. (Worst. Book. Ever. Spouse, who is good with math, found it to be… obscure and obfuscating.)

      Then I switched to English, ’cause I was getting the better grades there.

      In truth, English did help, in the “well, I know I can sit down and churn out a high-B/low-A (or better) paper about works I hate” sense, so writing what I want is always going to be easier than that, emotionally.

      (What has shattered my productivity this week is the kid being sick with The Cough That’s Going Around And Lasts About Three Weeks Bring Her Back If She Runs A Fever. Maybe I’ll dig out the headphones later and see if I can muster up another sentence or two. Anything better than zero is a win. The more above zero, the more win, but setting the bar low enough that I can fall over it is better than standing there and leaning my head against it like a sad Hyperbole-and-a-Half person.)

      • I’ve slept and I’m pushing the diet coke with splenda. I’m not a big soft drink drinker, but this DOES help the hydration. It think cleaning hte house filters might help, as might not walking to my office… :/

        • Yes, change those filters! I just did and it helped a lot. I even bought an indoor air purifier (on the advice of my plumbers, though that was more because I just finished gutting the house to replace all the pipes) and it helped a lot.

        • I find DC with Lime more to my liking; the Lime cuts the chemical taste (and is readily makeable at Mexican restaurants or any place with a bar.) Of course, Lime is one of nature’s wonder foodz, worth consuming at any opportunity. It is especially nice with white rum.

          Changing the filters could not hurt, especially if it has been a while since that was last done.

          • LOL. I am putting lime in it. And yes, the filters normally get changed every month. I’ve NEVER seen them caked like this. Our hot water on demand is also not working. We think it’s ALSO caked with ash. Sigh. I also can’t use my office, because — this I already knew — their air conditioning sucks. This is why the entire office smells like a fireplace.

            • It might be, once they get around to declaring these fires a Federal Disaster (oddly, they don’t consider the policies which lead up to such fires a disaster, just the fires) there might (just possibly – what I don’t know about FEMA policies is almost everything and what I do know comes from the Press and is thus probably mostly wrong) be assistance available for you and the family.

      • I don’t really remember pre-calc, but know I didn’t have problems in it (doesn’t mean I learned anything). I do remember calculus, because I hated the teacher (she was certifiable, and should have been in a padded room, worse, she had kids) and my whole thoughts on it were, “why would I use this garbage, I can get the right answer to all the problems a lot easier by using algebra and my head?” I managed to get a B in it without learning a blessed (or cursed) thing, which probably would have caused me problems if I would have ever went on to any higher math. Of course I didn’t plan on working at anything that would require higher math skills. Then I went to work surveying and did that for ten years, but it mainly just requires basic math with a smattering of algebra and geometry. And in a pinch (I worked with several guys that dealt with it this way) just the formulas and equations needed can be learned, without having to learn the underlying principles.

  15. One of the “penumbras” of the genius myth is the completely wrong idea that intelligence consists of knowing things, as opposed to being able to figure things out comparatively easily. That’s why you get comments like Bill Maher saying that Dan Quayle was stupid because he didn’t “know” that global warming was real. (Presumably, Maher is smart because he knows not only that global warming is real, but also that the germ theory of disease isn’t real).[/gratuitous, nasty political swipe] :)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      If Maher or Quayle can get me trustworthy measurements of the Earth’s interior* at high resolution over a long period of time, I would be very interested. See, my field is very interested in temperature measurements.

      *The geometry suggests that to say anything about the over all average temperature of the Earth, we must know a lot about the interior.

  16. Also, the technological advances in computers, accomplished largely by geeks, have created certain misconceptions. One of these is that nowadays, we need to ignore people who are experts in the physical world–and I should specify that I’m not referring to athletes here, but rather to people who are commonly referred to as “good with the hands”–and instead focus on people living the “life of the mind.”

    This is utter crap. First off, computers are only one of the advances in technology. Commercial space, to give one example, requires plenty of science AND practical hands-on engineering.

    Second, not all “lives of the mind” are equal. The journalists love the idea, because it tells them that all those jocks who picked on them were wrong and are going out of style. However, while there’s still a very large economic niche for [a very small group of] jocks, there is less and less a niche for journalists. The geeks who made it big are as alien from the David Brooks style of egghead as they are from the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, the Geek Revolution is not so much a triumph of geeks over jocks as it is a triumph of geeks–aka technical experts–over eggheads–aka humanities students. More and more, people care less about airy metaphysical B.S. and more about what can be proved in the physical world.

    • a) you’re correct.
      b) read your entire comment replacing Geek with Greek — for a view of how confused I was. Okay. Mattress pad is washed and I’m going to bed for an hour or so, before I start seeing Greeks as the source of all computer tech.

    • I like my computer and MP3 player. I need working plumbing. It is a lot harder to find great plumbers than to find a workable computer (sorry, little laptop. No offense.). The continuation of Western Civilization probably depends a lot more on the tech-geeks, chemists, biologists, and skilled trades than it does on the intellectuals and eggheads. Especially the self-described intellectuals.

      OK, come on plumber. Call me. The leak is not fixing itself and I do not have a portable welding rig readily available.

      • But, on the plus side, you can philosophize about whether sanitation is really all that important anyway.

        • Oh geez – a case of dysentery or cholera and the philosopher would change his mind super quick.

          • Actually, the egghead response these days isn’t so much to question the metaphysical importance of sanitation. Nowadays, you’d have people saying that we need more dysentery and cholera, to wipe out the excess human population.

            • Yea I heard that one too when I was in college. However, I asked them who was going to get this special privilege. The eggheads should go first if they think it up.

              • I lived in Panama for a few years so I have seen the effects of those two diseases on the general population. It is not necessarily good for a country and sometimes keeps them in a third world state.

                • And that’s an example of geeks vs. eggheads right there. Eggheads endlessly debate* the effects of new technology. Geeks just develop the tech, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it.

                  *Well, they don’t really debate any more; now they mostly say the same things as every other egghead, and call out the thugs if you say anything different.

                • I lived in Panama for awhile, too. My boss was an ordained minister, and helped run a missionary church in the interior. You don’t know “poor” until you see how some of those people live. Or you can go to certain areas of Panama City and look out over the squatter’s camps that are built on poles driven into the tidal flats. The better houses had tin roofs. ALL of the houses have cardboard sides.

                  I had that tour before I went to Vietnam, so I wasn’t so shocked the second time. The “poor” in this country don’t know how well off they truly are. I know my parents were poor, and didn’t have indoor plumbing until I got married, but honestly! We had heat, running water, and refrigeration. We also didn’t have to share the outhouse with thirty other people in the village, IF there was one available.

                  • Free-range Oyster

                    Having spent quite some time in and near the favelas of Brazil, people in the US complaining about how downtrodden and poor and underprivileged they are throws me into a full on rage sometimes. Racism, poverty, xenophobia, disease, corruption, those things exist still in this country, yes; but they are nothing, NOTHING in comparison to places I have seen. *mutters* Self-centered, asinine, know-nothing… *growlsnarl*

                  • Yes – I look at the American poor and know they are NOT poor… not compared to real poor – I saw it in South Africa too in the 80s. Panama in the 90s…

          • cholera was rampant in Portugal every summer till I was like… fourteen.

            • There were occasional cases of cholera, disentary, and typhoid in Louisiana when I was a kid, but they were few and scattered. The worry everyone had back then was Polio. When they offered the vaccine at our school as part of the final testing, my parents were first in line to volunteer — me. Between those early shots (a series of three, plus an annual booster), and what I got in the military, I should be immune to polio for the next 7, 422 years.

      • Ah. New hot water heater will come later this week, BUT they have to cut holes in the roof, replace the doors to the utility closet, re-route the heater vent as well, and have a city inspector come out because it will require a permit because of the latest code requirements (which have nothing to do with this particular type of water heater). [Insert your preferred bureaucratic rant here].

        • And I think I have the source of my respiratory distress, or at least part of it. I SWEAR I changed the filter a month ago — it was caked with half an inch of compacted ash. EW.

          • EW, yes, but yay, in that you are probably going to feel much better soon. ^_^

            A friend of mine was sick for months, couldn’t keep food down, and her doctor was mystified. Turned out, there’s been an air conditioning leak in her apartment, down into the one closet packed with winter stuff she rarely opened, and everything had mildewed.

        • Ah, the advantages of designing and building your own home. Having previously dealt with what you just described, when I built the house I live in I place the hot water heater on concrete, in the mud room, (not in a closet, I had to remove the wall of a closet once, because the heater wouldn’t fit out the doors, and then the new heaters are a different shape and wouldn’t even fit in the closet with said wall removed, so the whole closet had to be torn out) close to the double doors. All architects should be required to work as repairmen for several years before designing buildings.

          This should also be a requirement for the engineers that design cars, they should have to work as a mechanic and try and fix the stuff they design.

          • My father, an extraordinarily competent man who loved cars and worked in the transportation industry, was fond of saying, “if one engineer had to change his own oil, cars as we know them would be unrecognizeable.”

            I used to work with a former senior design engineer at GM, and he explained the real problem to me: it’s design by committee. He had a very funny story about it, but I’ll sum it up by saying it illustrated perfectly the notion that the effective IQ of a committee is the IQ of the dumbest member divided by the number of people on the committee.

            • A committee is a being with three or more stomachs and no brain — Robert A. Heinlein. (Of course, I taped this to the door of the directive committee [look, it was revolutionary times] of my high school and couldn’t figured out HOW they knew I’d done it. :-P )

            • Design by committee may have been a problem, but others from GM have also said that, due to the pricing model, the company makes the majority of its profit in its dealer repair facilities, and designs are intentionally made difficult to access by the layman in order to drive customers to the Dealer for repairs rather than doing the work themselves.

          • Heh. For a time Pratt and Whitney refused to allow aircraft mechanics to on plant tours to meet with aircraft engine designers. It seems someone really did finally “knock the block off the so-and-so who put that fitting there” on the PT-6 turbine engine!

            • Name? I want to light a candle to the brave soul, and I’m not even Catholic (nor an aircraft mechanic; the situation is that bad)

          • I spent a long time looking for houses in this area. Not only should architects be required to work as repairman, they should try living in some of their houses. One house I looked at was in the most lovely setting, on a hill in the bow of a large creek. The property was worth more than the listing, and once you toured the house the reason was obvious.

            The house was designed and built during the 1970 oil crisis. The lower story had a ceiling so low you could touch it. The den was, well, really like a cave, low, dark and long. The door to laundry was at left at the very end of the hall. The hall was so narrow that you would have to put a loaded laundry basket down and jump over it to open the laundry room door. To add to the fun the laundry room door, the door to the bath across the hall and the garage door all opened into the same space.

            There were innumerable other design flaws. The only solution was to pull down the existing house and build a new one. Something, which at the time, we were not willing to do.

            • Sounds like a great house for a short family that wants low heating and cooling bills. And obviously you open the door before you carry the laundry. (My mom ties back the door into the garage/laundry with a bungee, which is even better.)

              • Maybe dwarves, like Prattchett’s kind, the ones who can truly appreciate the dismal darkness.

                I didn’t tell you about the almost a kitchen/dining room, or the bathrooms (shiver), and, well, all the rest of the house.

            • *ponder* Back when I was a teen in Austin, Texas, the story goes that the developer — and architect — of the neighborhood lived in the house I was in. This would be why it had a secret room behind a bookshelf in one of the dormers.

              And, come to think of it… The houses there have a lot of quirks, but most of them are pretty reasonable on space-use. (Good-sized bathrooms on the family floor, except for the one that was shoved off into a corner in the kitchen, which was teeny but not a bad use of space, considering. The laundry room was comparatively huge. The guest bathroom wasn’t huge-huge, but it had another sink or two separated by a door from the toilet/shower/sink room, in a kind of T shape, so you could have less of a backup.)

              Mind, the quirks are quirky. The wallpaper in two of those bathrooms was giant, splotchy floral prints, there was carpet in the upstairs bathroom, the whole bottom floor was shag olive green carpet… *shudder*

              But it was, indeed, a house with a fair amount of “you can live here” and “in the living areas, there are not bottlenecks for foot-traffic.”

              Pity that the foundations were bad; last I saw it, the back half of the house (think an upside-down L shape, with a porch filling out the L, and a carport underneath) was starting to detach from the front, so the porch was un-usable and there were horrible cracks in the walls…

              • Anybody who puts carpet in a bathroom doesn’t deserve one of those certificates that Sarah has.

                • So, you agree that the person who designed my house, with the same carpet everywhere except the Utility Room and Kitchen (including both bathrooms) is a twit?

                • YES. I HATE carpet in bathroom. Hate it.

                • Carpeted bathrooms are another one of those things for which we can be thankful that the 1970s are no longer with us. Somewhere in the late 60s it became and remained fashionable through the 70s.

                  When I got married I had an argument with The M-I-L about carpeting my bath. I told her it would lead to mold and mildew. A couple years later she contacted me and told me to get rid of carpet in the bath, it causes mold and mildew. I said, ‘Oh’, and did not remind her that I had never carpeted the baths.

  17. On my previous used book store job, I used a tool that would place some saying or aphorism or bit of wisdom at the top of the screen. A couple of them were about genius without culture being unreliable, genius in an art without all the chops being unreliable. M. Night Shyamalan is the most unfortunate recent example of a young Hollywood director being permitted to do million-dollar movies without first studying the masters or living much of a life in the real world. It took most of us about three movies to get very tired of him; he’s all urban legends and tricks that caught us by surprise because they were so infantile. He’s a genius and nothing but a genius.

  18. I’m not sure which version of the myths I caught – or it could just be that I’m lazy so I don’t work unless either I want to or I have to. School and college were mostly an exercise in doing the minimum needed to get by with what I considered acceptable results (usually in the equivalent of the B+ or higher range).

    I am a “genius”. I have the turbo-charged connectivity that lets me pull apparently unrelated data from a bunch of disparate areas and form a conclusion (and a track record in the 80% range when it comes to predicting results from these – although my timing is kind of spotty, ranging from ten years to less than 24 hours), and its cousin conspiracy-theory-itis (continually stomped down with reminders that very few people are smart enough to perpetuate even a minor conspiracy for long, and the people in power aren’t the smart people). I also have apparently a fairly potent degree of talent in writing, and the writer-specific genius in the form of stories just happening to me and character infesting my head.

    My family leans heavy to general genius and musician-genius. I have musical talent. I don’t have the musician-genius. I could practice forever and never be as good a musician as my father or sis #1 (I’ve got three sisters). I might get to sis #3’s level or my brother’s level with a lot of work, but I’d never have the ability to feel it the way all of them do. That’s the genius working. And of course, with musicians, you don’t get the idea that work isn’t needed. A huge chunk of the work is very similar to the kind of work athletes do – musicians need to be able to have their body automagically doing the right things at the right times in order to perform as well as they know they can. So they practice – aka training.

    It’s probably a good thing that I enjoy writing to an extent I mostly don’t see it as work – I’m lazy enough I wouldn’t work at it otherwise.

  19. My school district file had two notations on it:

    “Identified Gifted and Talented”
    “Teachers do not want this little bastard in their classrooms”

    (Hint: Apparently, when the Algebra teacher asks “Can you solve this problem?”, the correct answer is not “No — and i don;t think you can, either.” Especially when it turns out you’re right.)

    This should explain why, in any discussion of Public Schools and the people who run them, I *always* side against the teachers, school boards, etc. “You burn ‘em, Ike — you burn ‘em all.”

  20. Have to say I feel rather intimidated, being apparently the only certified eejit in the combox. All I can claim for myself is a fair grasp of the obvious, coupled with the kind of social ineptitude that removes all temptation to fit in with the cool kids by lying about it. Since I’m not going to fit in with the cool kids under any circumstances, I might as well stick to my last.

    • Tom Simon – nah. Trust me, a fair grasp of the obvious is not necessarily obvious to those of us “blessed” (or possibly cursed – in my case the jury’s still out on that one) with genius. I at least recognize I need folks with a more practical perspective to keep me grounded, or I’ll go places no human should.

      Don’t be intimidated: just be yourself as hard as you can. I suspect everyone here is a certified eejit somewhere.

      It was Anne McCaffrey who nailed it in Dragonsinger. I don’t remember the actual words, but it was something to the effect that for every great gift something else is lost. The something might be the ability to interact with 90% of humanity – which in my darker moments I wonder if it’s worth what I gain.

      • I’m a certifiable eejit in ANYTHING relating to spacial reasoning.

        On the other hand, somewhere in my parents’ house is a certificate saying I’m sane. Or was, at seventeen. (Pauses and lets them contemplate why she’d need that certificate.)

        • I lead with verbal intelligence, but I’m much better at spatial reasoning than my mother, who’s all verbal. My father was a prodigy of the spatial and visual, and he was a fantastic engineer because of it. So’s my brother.

          Intelligence isn’t one. It’s many. They only pick up a couple of aspects on IQ tests.

          • My younger kid and Dan are great at spatial. Actually I lead with verbal… I do okay in math (used to be fairly high, but out of practice now) and I suck rotten eggs at visual and spatial — though I can draw. Don’t ask.

            • Spatial is my GREAT downfall. I had to learn to read maps because I would lead my driver exactly opposite from where I wanted to go. Otherwise I used to have enough intelligence to hide it. Maybe tell the driver we were going the scenic way.

              I think it is because I was practically blind (I was so near-sighted that my glasses were heavy) so I didn’t have peripheral vision until I had my laser surgery. It changed my eyes and my view of the world in one fell swoop.

              • I think in my case it was astigmatism. Hard to reason correctly when you can’t judge distances.

                • I have astigmatism too. When I shoot I add an inch to the left and I am on target. Plus I am left eye dominant and right hand dominant. Makes for some interesting mistakes.

                  • The trick is not to be flawless, but to understand and compensate for your imperfections.

                    • N.B., this principle is well understood by women’s clothiers and designers of fine lingerie.

                    • I understand it was well understood by medieval craftsmen, too. I was reading a book on medieval woodworking recently, and it claimed that a lot of the fancy designs and flourishes in old works were actually used to cover up imperfections like poor joins, accidental gouges, knotholes and such.

                    • I tell new knitters that any mistake they make now, if they continue to knit long enough, they will someday learn to do for a purpose.

                    • There is a correspondence in writing. Mistakes CAN be made on purpose and be useful. (Say, intentional misdirection, as opposed to unintentional.) Sigh. And now I wish we’d stayed thereabouts, since no one has ever managed to teach me to knit yet.

                    • As to deliberate misdirection, um, I haven’t finished Dipped, Stripped and Dead, but I do know I am in the home stretch. I think you have some idea of the use thereof.

                    • Yes, but one of my beginner mistakes back in 1990 or so was, by description, making people think my hero was a villain…

                    • Re: writing hero so people think he was a villain: Rebecca by Daphen Du MAuier.

                      Finished D,S & D. Thank you.

                    • I hope you liked it.

                      Sigh, the “sequel” to that was a horrible feminist screed.

                    • I hope you liked it.

                      Sigh, the “sequel” to that was a horrible feminist screed.

                      I mean to Rebecca, not my book! (Fever, really!)

                  • My art, if I don’t correct (and that’s weirder) gets tilted about five degrees left.

      • It’s worth it. ;-) I used to be able to see patterns in other people’s decisions. Since I have been on some type of chemo for nine years plus now, I have to really think to get to that place.

    • A fair grasp of the obvious is a fine, fine thing to have. And I consider that intelligent. I most emphatically wish there was a lot more of it around.

      Important parts of our society are run by people who have high IQs and no apparent grasp of the obvious. They can be bamboozled into setting up stupid, highly theoretical, utterly unworkable systems, because they fail to grasp the obvious.

      They also pay no attention whatsoever to the plebes who try to tell them about the obvious, because They Know Best.

      Then they are amazed when said unworkable systems blow up and wreck other people’s lives. (Not their lives, alas. They *are* smart enough to insulate themselves from the results of their own crass theoretical mucking-around.)

      Or: an astonishing number of the ‘best and the brightest’ turn out to be useful idiots.

      • Yes. The college professor as leader syndrome. It leads to things like “but I WANT you to plant wheat in the permafrost” and baffled shock when that doesn’t result in an abundant harvest.

        Honestly, I think sufficient education MIGHT be an anti-survival trait.

        • YES – We have had a few professor presidents, which turned out badly for Europe at one point.

        • Having a head full of unexamined theory and undemonstrated “facts” is not, repeat, not being educated. Being educated consists of having a trained and disciplined mind.

          “Sufficient edumacation” is certification without substance.

        • I’m beginning to think letting a professor out of academia to run anything is like the days when the Turkish Sultan’s heirs were kept locked up in that tiny room and when the Sultan died, they let the next heir out – absolute disasters all of them.

        • Those who can’t do, teach.

      • Presented without further comment:

        Trapped in the Net
        Welfare state increases marginal tax rates on working poor, study shows
        BY: Bill McMorris – June 18, 2012 5:00 am

        A prominent economist has found that expanding the social safety net, a key factor to President Barack Obama’s economic agenda, has nearly doubled job losses.
        [ http://freebeacon.com/trapped-in-the-net/ ]

        • RES, one of the groups I follow on Facebook is the Federalist Papers. One of their comments discussed the same thing – based on a comment by Ben Franklin. Expanding the social safety net is an idea that’s been around for a long, long time, and it hasn’t worked yet.

  21. RES – The problem with socialism, as Dame Thatcher said, is that “eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The only way left to increase the take is to have more people working. As long as you’re paying them not to work, you’re “eating the seed corn”, as we discussed elsewhere.