Breaking and Buying

I think the first time I came across a sign that said “you break it, you bought it” was when I went with grandma to the potters.  She used to buy me little miniature jars and pots and pans, which had been made for so long in the region that an amphora was still part of the set.  This was my normal reward for behaving, but it wasn’t enough incentive.  I liked walking around looking at everything and I was maybe five, and things would get swept from shelves by arms that weren’t entirely under my control.  But that sign “You break it, you bought it” stopped me cold, with hand holding on to grandma’s skirt while she transacted her business.  Because I knew how tight things were — we had broken plates riveted together, that’s how tight — I knew how much money I didn’t have in my piggy bank and I didn’t want to spend the rest of eternity paying for dishware I hadn’t even got to use once.

We talk here from time to time — grin — about the fact that there is a faction of the Western world determined to break Western civilization.  They are malicious, determined, and will use anything they can to chip away at the laws and accords that make civilization work.

I contend here they don’t understand what they’re doing anymore than my 5 year old self understood that interest in a beautiful red glaze could lead to a huge bill.

They think they do, I give you that.  And they’ve been exquisitely and expensively educated so they should know what they’re doing.  But they don’t.

The problem is that the Marxists fed off a strain of the old romantics about how life was much better before civilization.  Oh, not at first.  Marx was an unabashed industrial-revolution booster, and agricultural labor needed to be run on industrial framework.  (It was, in places like the Soviet Union.  Turns out as with all the rest of Marx’s tripe, it worked very well… inside his head.)

But as industrial laborers failed to effect the revolution, the hope of the communists turned to the “natural man” — those from societies where the industrial revolution had never happened — because being poorer and in general living in more stratified societies they were more susceptible to the lies of socialism.

At that point Marxism melded with the old romantics.  I know the old romantics well, because my dad has a non-malicious strain of this.  He’s given to romanticizing the old days, to talking about how beautiful things were, and the stuff they did that is no longer done.  I too have a strain of this, I realized when I went back to find the village built over with skyscrapers and filled with strange people.  The little swampy lake where dad used to make me flutes from the reeds, and we used to sit and watch the fireflies in summer is completely paved over and has a subdivision in it.  I find myself telling the boys in dreamy tones of my childhood.

But hey, I keep in mind that in my day the day they emptied the septic tank and let the liquid flow down the irrigation channels to the fields was a great day for the village kids to sail boats on the effluvia.  And I remember too that this method of fertilization gave us chronic issues like intestinal parasites.  So there are trade offs, in that even the poor people in the village have sanitation, and even the poor kids have toys and don’t have to rely on smelly trickles of … well, some water for amusement.  That swampy lake with its quiet and its fireflies was paid for with a lot of early deaths and a lot of poverty.  Or conversely losing that gave most people a better life.  And I’ve seen pictures of my dad growing up, and he was poorer than we were as kids.  So nostalgia is qualified.

The thing is, very rich people don’t qualify it.  The noblemen who became the first romantics, and built (!) ruins on their estates didn’t need to qualify it, because they had no memories of real privation in the bad old days.  They just thought of the good things lost to give other people a better life, and they pined for the lost.

Our own Marxist romantics are by and large like that.  They come from a background where they never experienced even struggle.  And as such they keep thinking that life must be better in those societies where–  Take your pick.  What follows is a grab bag of their beliefs, not very well integrated and not all of them held by the same individual — people were more natural, work wasn’t so onerous, capitalism didn’t give one false needs, there were fewer machines, people were more egalitarian, villages raised babies, women had more power, people weren’t as aggressive…

There are more to that list, and most of them border on delusional.  I challenge anyone to find a more primitive society that was more tolerant of the different, or where women have more power (I don’t mean power over this or that, I mean, more power as a whole) or where people don’t hanker for things they don’t have, or where people are not as aggressive.

If you cherry pick, are very careful and don’t look into the matter with any depth, but accept Mead-ed versions of those societies you might find a couple for each characteristic.  Only when you look closer, you find they’re not really more tolerant of gays, and that idyllic life where you CAN assume life as the other sex is actually rigidly determined and you MUST be the other sex.  And where women who take itinerant husbands actually end up NEEDING to take itinerant husbands to survive.  And…  And the Amerind tribes, the original noble savages, had to take the European horse because those who supposedly lived in harmony with nature had in fact eaten any animal of large size in the continent into extinction.  Which makes perfect sense for civilizations that never progressed to agriculture.  (Some of them.  The other thing you find is that it varied by tribe.)  Which is what rendered them so ridiculously vulnerable to European diseases which were the real conquerors of the Americas. (In this, it would probably have helped if the Aztecs hadn’t been so anxious to practice ritual cannibalism on the Spaniards.  As we’re now finding out the Aztecs were plugged into trade networks extending through South America.  The contagion spread ahead of the invasion.)

But in college they learn that before agriculture, and before organized society everyone was free and egalitarian, and everything was common and sex was free love.  This is possible — barely — as a belief based on the graves we’ve found, because we found so few.  Frankly the indications are more of family-groups rather like primate bands, which by definition have one leader, that usually being the oldest/strongest male.  It is part of our genetics, after all, and part of why we long for the “man on the white horse” to come and free us.  And anyone who thinks family groups are more free than a city state was very fortunate in his choice of extended family, or never experienced an isolated extended family or what a family tyrant can do.  And in most traditional families you have a tyrant leader, because humans aren’t that supremely gifted at leadership.  Oh, you get a good one once in a while, but they’re not the normal ones.  This is why the legends of “good kings” are so powerful.

So these children, (even those in their seventies) trying to tear down the norms of western civilization aren’t even aware that there is nothing to default to except painful barbarism.

Sure, yes, the norms that existed even when I was a kid were often iron bands that left people scarred.  I can make the case as well as anyone else for no-fault divorce.  I’ve seen my share of miserable marriages.  I can make the case for relaxing rules about children born out of wedlock, because the city slicker and the farmer’s daughter are a stock in jokes for a reason, and if you watched it unroll you know that the farmer’s daughter is the only one who pays the price, forever.  In the old days she was damaged goods and would never be married, ever, and be she ever so pious or well behaved the rest of her life, she’d always be talked about as “That woman” and her kid treated as somehow inferior.  I can argue for the injustice of those who are born to money and never have to struggle being considered somehow superior to those who do struggle.

I’m not sure the changes we made are worth the fall out though.  No one warned us of the nature of marriages where you can never trust your partner not to fleece you, ever; of casual sex where women are by nature exploited, because they have no compensation and no societal enforcement should they be left holding the bag (the point being that traveling salesmen got away with it, but village boys had to marry the girl, or all their friends would ostracize them) and their sole value becomes play thing for male sexual appetites (This is called empowerment, I believe.) As for money — you will never get rid of money differences or status, so long as humans are humans.  If we enforced a rigid distribution of money, people would find other things to serve as real money.  Meanwhile, the redistribution we do practice maim our economy and turn half of our people into helpless pensioners.

In just about everything we look at, we find this.  Take education: sure the blackboard jungles were awful.  I learned at the threat of ruler (never actually got it except when memorizing the multiplication tables.  Do you know how difficult that is to someone who switches digits randomly?  I ended up getting really good at fast sums, to verify my memory.) and sure my friend who was dyslexic often got hit for things that were NOT her fault.  But now no one has to memorize anything and learning is supposed to be “fun.”

As much as I’ve supplemented my kids’ schooling, sometimes I find appalling holes they’re not even aware of, in their education.  And I was the first in my family not to learn Latin — presumably since the Romans invaded the peninsula — because it was horrible to make children memorize all that stuff, when the language was dead.

Except Latin not only unlocks other languages, it gives you insight into how the people at the root of Western civilization thought.  It allows you to see them with clear eyes, both the good and the bad (come on, people who invented a word for killing one in ten are not … good people.  In fact they’re almost amazingly bad.  There is also a word, though it now escapes me for killing everyone in the city after you conquer it: man, woman and suckling babe.)  So as an adult of middle years, I’m trying to remedy the deficiency.

But some deficiencies might not be so easy to remedy.  Our kids are not taught to memorize much of anything.  They are instead taught to “discover it” or “intuit it.”

Leave aside the fact we’re demanding these kids recap the geniuses who built civilization.  This is crazy enough.  We’re also not training them to memorize.

My education consisted of a lot of memorizing, some of it for joy de vivre.  For instance, before various school things, we memorized endless poems and speeches.  We’d never use them again, but we had to memorize them.

As a result (though yes, genetics play a part) I had reasonably good memory (maybe it will come back, who knows) which made a lot of things in life easier.

My husband, educated by more enlightened means has memory of ten seconds.  If he can’t reason his way to it, he sure as heck can’t memorize it.  Our kids are worse and had to learn memorization in college.

Because it turns out, and studies show, memorization is a skill like any other.  It has to be learned.  Those horrible blackboard jungles with their endless memorization were therefore preparing kids to acquire skills better than the school where learning is “on demand” does.

And so it goes.  The problem with the insatiable workers laboring to tear down western civilization, is that they in fact had no idea what’s at the bottom, or what humans default to without that civilization.  They have, in fact, been kept exquisitely ignorant of the truth of human nature and the natural man.

We’re seeing some of this as the women freed to go and earn income so they can pay ever higher taxes for the enlightened to redistribute and spend on “social good” give their children to strangers to raise.  I know many people don’t have any choice in that situation.  I’m not berating.  But consider that those strangers — to prevent abuse, natch — are not allowed to discipline the kids.  Consider that to prevent foisting their beliefs on others’ children, those people aren’t even allowed to extend moral guidance.  ANY moral guidance.  Consider the type of personality that flourishes in those daycares, and you’ll meet the SJWs.  But there is worse, since most of these children aren’t being raised by people who care AND can do anything about it.  A lot of them are simply feral.

So the fifth column moving restlessly through civilization breaking the crockery and acting like five year olds don’t know what they’re doing.

All they do is repeat what they were taught and piously believe the nonsense that their heads were filled with.  They have no experience of any other civilization, and only idealized notions of the past.  They have no future.

Sure, they flourish like the green bay tree right now, but their very culture prevents their future existence.  This is going to leave very few of us (and here I’m counting our descendants) to rebuild when the civilizational cr*p hits the historical fan.

They’re breaking it, and buying whole and in full what will result.

But if we don’t like it, we’re the ones who will pay.  We’ll pay in blood, sweat and tears to rebuild.

Teach your children well.  If you can teach other people’s children well.  Snatch brands from the fire.  Because the time is coming when every able hand and mind will be insufficient.

Burning it all down makes a beautiful flame, but then we all die of cold.

Be aware of the future you’re buying for the human race.  Go and build.


289 responses to “Breaking and Buying

  1. Invalid premises lead to unanticipated results. The results of every attempt at large-scale Marxism strongly suggest a reconsideration of the fundamental premises.

    And a swift fundamental kick for any advocating its adoption.

    • Would that be like all the ‘Unexpectedly’ Instapundit has highlighted the last 8 years… and the after the media fanfare where some government agency revises the figures downward?
      I mean honestly, exactly what percentages of jobs are ‘shovel ready’. Even the road construction sites I have passed seem to be more into flagpersons, truck drivers and equipment operators. Is this some more of the romanticism of a return to the days when everyone shoveled the hole for the privy?

      • There was an article the other day (I might have gotten the link through Instapundit) that mentioned the amount of time that it took to build the Intercontinental Railroad. This period of time was then contrasted with the amount of time that has been spent on the “high speed rail” line that’s supposed to connect northern and southern California, and for which work *still* has not even started.

        And the article also pointed out that when work finally starts on the rail line, it’ll be a short segment of rail that literally goes from nowhere to nowhere. The important parts of the rail line – i.e. the ones connecting to the major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco – won’t actually have their rail segments built until *much* later.

        • The high-speed train project that was sold (2009) to (the most gullible) voters to cost, what, $8B initially? By 2011, they were estimating between $10B and $13.9B to complete just the Merced-Fresno/Fresno-Bakerfield sections.

          Last time I looked into it, the total cost for Phase 1 was pushing about $96B. This would be SF-San Jose-Fresno-Bakersfield-Anaheim, and if they can get the money, might begin operating around 2029.

          Now, that there is prime opportunity for graft. Which was more than likely the initial goal.

          • Them thar’s union jobs, me boyo. You ain’t awantin’ union men to go hungry, are ye? Nor, Eye am sure, would ye be wantin’ them to work without medical care, insurance, sick leave and pensions?

            Or be ye a filthy scab or tight-fisted exploiter of the working classes?

          • The article also noted that the company that’s been contracted to build the very first segment (the nowhere to nowhere stretch that I mentioned above) has also very pointedly noted that with very few exceptions (I think it was 3 in 111, though I’m probably wrong), the rail lines that it builds do NOT end up paying their own operating costs.

          • Similar to Seattle’s light rail, in which Phase III money is urgently requested from the voters so they can pay Phase I’s cost overruns…

      • This administration has provided numerous “shovel-ready” jobs, from that of Jay Carney Barker to Josh Earnest (Charles Dickens must be a’spinning in his grave over never using such a name for a character!) up to Baghdad Bob President Obama himself.

        And we all know what they’ve been shoveling, don’t we?

      • Work was less onerous–digging with a stick? Planting seeds with a stick? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

        • It was meaningful and gave the satisfaction of hard labor accomplished, instead of the never-ending dehumanizing drudgery of staring at a screen all day, or traveling the world in private jets, memorizing five lines, and emoting (ish) in front of a camera before going to eat a custom catered 562.4 calorie vegan fair trade organic locovore meal and meeting with a personal trainer for an exhausting zumba session.

          Or so claim the people who have no clue about a world without electricity, antibiotics, or John Deere tractors and high-yield hybrid crops.

      • This is the month to note that shovel-ready jobs tend to be a grave concern.

      • Who are these silly people. Jobs should be spoon ready for maximum jobs for maximum people

      • My favorite stat on Progressive construction projects is the new west span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, which took over 20 years and enough money to pave a 4-lane Interstate coast-to-coast (3000 miles), if done by Texans. And it may have flawed welds that crack in the next quake. Which is why it was built in the first place…

  2. Let’s see if this gif publishes in WP:

    • Is that a gif? It isn’t moving.

      • A single frame gif. They used to be quite popular, before jpgs. (And technically have less information loss as well.)

        • William O. B'Livion

          No, they have more information loss, they just take the loss in a different part of the process.

          Just like electric cars are “zero emission vehicles” even when they get charged from a coal power plant.

          And yes, I know the difference between a jpeg and a gif. Consider that I was trained as a Graphic Artist in the 90s, AND studied a bit of programming. In fact I think I still might have the encyclopedia of Graphic File Formats on the shelf some where–with examples in C. Of course that was pre PNG and SVG.

      • Well, it ends in .gif … perhaps you need to jiggle your monitor?

  3. Why does anyone believe Marx?

    • Because they were indoctrinated when too young to question it.

    • Because he appeals to the vanity of the would-be philosopher-kings.

    • Because fairness!

      And shut up!

    • Because those inclined to anthropolatry will have their prophets and saints, and Marx is one of them.

    • Marxism appeals to the rich, who view themselves as the ruling nomenklatura, and the poor, who think they’ll get something for nothing.

      People who work for a living are noticeably less enthusiastic, though the stupid or indoctrinated still think Marxism would be a fine idea. Except they usually call it “progressivism” or “unionism” or “democracy.”

      Their use of the latter word, however, is limited to “get all my buddies and vote outselves a chunk of your stuff, because democracy!”

    • Something for nothing is always popular and a useful tool for oligarchs. No different than blaming the Jews for the interwar state of Germany

    • Because it is easy – on teh surface. It was “a scientific history” that also predicted the future, appealed to the rich and the very poor, provides a lot of jargon for superficial insights, and no one really reads it either in translation or in the original. Aside from “The Communist Manifesto” which was the only short, coherent thing he wrote, in my opinion. (I’ve read a quarter of Kapital and most of the German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach, auf Deutsch. Don’t waste your brain cells.)

    • Because of some re-branding (they took it upscale with “Socialism”), and a lot of bait & switch. They market the thing the Scandinavians do as “Socialism” (which it really isn’t), and count on the fact that people forget the thing the Cubans, Zimbabweans, Soviets, East Germans, (and so on) is the more accurate representation of “Socialism”.

      • Not to mention that the less diversity in terms of skin color OR culture you have, the better socialism works…. see Scandinavia and their difficulties with immigrants.

        • Oy vey! Sorry, cultural appropriation.


        • Scandinavian ‘socialism’ is more akin to a nice condo with lots of on site services, and a high monthly facilities charge.
          Socialism proper is more akin to a US Section 8 public housing project.

          • In the one case, the people still own their own stuff.
            In the other, the People (i.e., the state) own everything, thus nobody owns anything, and thus, nobody takes care of anything.

    • William O. B'Livion

      You have a choice between Homework and Candy.

      What do YOU pick.

      Well, of course, you’re a Moorlock. The Eloi OTOH…

  4. Your discussion of the shift from the graceless law to the lawless anarchy (I cannot call it grace, for without a belief in sin there is no grace), reminded me of this:

    “Only one rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So, of course, we killed him.”
    –Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead

  5. Discrimination FTW!

    Trampolining off a side issue here, but it’s kind of important to understand how we’ve all been somewhat conscripted into Marxism. I’m hearing a Narrative of Oppression here. And I’m tired of them.

    Life is hard. We use what clues are available to make the best decisions we can. This is called discrimination, and there’s not one single solitary thing wrong with it.

    Bastards were treated as inferior? Was this out of pure patriarchal meanness, or was there maybe a reason? What if they were inferior? What if it were a solid Bayesian wager that a bastard would more likely betray you than a person with a normative family structure?

    Oh my it surely sucks to be judged on an immutable characteristic. Me for example. I closely resemble my mother’s husband, it’s not that. But (beats breast, sobs) I lack empathy for the “oppressed”.

    This makes me a Bad Person here and now. I’ve learned to suck it up. They can too. The judgers are just trying to get by the best they can. For them I have empathy.

  6. scott2harrison

    No fault divorce, maybe. Single party no fault divorce, HELL NO!!!!

  7. scott2harrison

    When it all comes apart, what should be done with the socialists who pull their own weight, but still push for socialist policies?

    • Not a problem. There are no socialists who pull their own weight.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Yeah, there are.

        Few, but they exist. They are the true believers and really are willing to live as they advocate.

        There’s really nothing you CAN do with them other than to keep point out that their system always ends with piles of dead.

        • There is a modification to their system that makes it function– voluntary association.

          The only large groups of folks fanatical enough to pull it off long-term that I’ve heard of are religious orders, but the “only those who are voluntarily living in accordance with the philosophy” removes the short-circuit (freeloaders) which causes the piles of dead (generally not the same freeloaders).

          I suppose you could argue that there is another place where socialism works, the family, but that is both mostly involuntary (nobody chooses to join it, although many choose to continue it *looks at her kids*) and quite imbalanced. (Nobody is contributing in perfect equality, and there are a lot of breakdowns where, oh, parents don’t take care of their kids, or adult children abandon their parents.)
          It works, though, on sacrificial love.

          • And religious orders notoriously need periodic reform. (Dominicans will point out that the first appearance of double-entry bookkeeping in the records comes form a Franciscan.)

  8. Hubris. Because they are (or think they are) smart and have a degree from the “right” school, they think they know more than the rubes who went to the state university or the community college or maybe just high school. They don’t know that they don’t know anything about the world because they’ve never lived in it and because they will not listen to anyone they view as their inferior (which is everyone who is not just like them). I fear we are headed to a very bad place and that there is no way to keep from going there.

  9. My Mother was trained as a teacher, and she taught me that memorization is the foundation of *all* learning. Maybe it was because it was way back when, in a place that looked at Podunk and said “too citified.” But it makes more and more sense the older I get.

    I’m glad she made me memorize multiplication tables. And spelling words. And so on. It’s how I finally passed math regularly (barely, but regularly). It’s how I learned the job skills that keep me employed, through good economies and “Oh my *bleep,* there is NO MONEY to pay anyone!”

    Having no memory means that the bad mistakes keep happening, over and over. And they truly believe it will be different *this time.* That despite all evidence to the contrary, you really *can* keep soaking the rich, without it getting passed on to soaking the poor and everybody else. That you can subsidize and reward bad behavior, and never get more of it because of that. And that you can make something real and true just by wishing hard enough that it is so, and silencing anyone that says different.

    Luckily, there’s still a bunch of us that were raised the old way, the rational way. Or that figured it out on our own, largely through life bashing them over the head with the facts. *grin* Good work ethic and practical knowledge have always been useful. And always will.

    • I am eternally grateful to the magnificent Mr. Terranova, of Sunland Elementary, who as a sixth-grade teacher, expected — no, demanded — that we memorize poetry and certain prose items. It was our opening to the school day – to chant the poem which he required. One of them was “The Cremation of Sam McGee” – which was a pretty lengthy work. All of the preamble to the Constitution, and the opening of the Declaration of Independence.

      I think we are headed for a good long stint of sullen, non-compliance tempered with small acts of rebellion; so-called Irish democracy. Which will send the Ruling Class Uniparty into spasms of frustration. Which will lead to even further non-compliance, when they double down on us residents of Flyoverlandia.

      • Thanks.

        For some reason it never dawned on me that memorization ITSELF had to be learned. I am struggling with my 3rd grader and multiplication tables (homeschool) – she is smart enough to do it but says “I hate math”.

        I think we will double down on memorization (even the older one) and bring poetry into it. Maybe I will start with the Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast. 🙂 Look it up – I memorized it for 9th grade English – I think I gave the teacher a heart attack.

        Anyway, thanks for teaching me something today.


        • Addition and multiplication tables are a time and labor saving device. You could reconstruct an addition table by counting on your fingers, but that’s slower and more tedious than memorizing it. You could reconstruct a multiplication table by addition, (or by looking up the result every time you want to multiply two numbers) but that’s even slower and more tedious.

          • I once got curious about the New vs. Old Math that Tom Lehrer sang about and made an attempt to reason out what the song was saying. The result is a peculiar ‘Subtraction Table’ that I could see being useful, but haven’t taken the time or effort to memorize:

            There have been times when I wished that way back when that I’d been required to memorize the addition & multiplication tables not 0-10 but 0-12 or even 0-20. Though I’ve not desired it hard enough to go and memorize them now. I do not that those not much older than I am seem to have a much easier time of doing arithmetic “in their head” than I seem to – and it scares me how poorly some younger than I are at it, and I’m “cheating” at every chance I get. That is, make the problem simpler and apply a correction to simplified solution. (28 + 38 = 30 – 2 + 40 – 2 = 70 – 4 = 66 sort of thing.)

            • I’m teaching my eldest her tables, because I never learned them and it seemed like a good idea…..

              It’s working. Not so much for her, but me. 😉

          • My granddaughters were evidently taught to do arithmetic on their fingers IN SCHOOL. I was appalled — what a handicap to put on children! I hope they’ve learned to do without that crutch by now.

            • The “math on your fingers” thing can have a decent reason– the problem is, generally, that the people teaching math are horrible at teaching math. They’re just following the recipe and where it says “add two eggs,” they add two eggs, be it robin or ostrich. With predictable results.

              • I learned math on my fingers from Frederick Pohl; counting in binary I can reach up to 1023 unless the arthritis interferes.

                • I use it with my six year old to help her visualize what “two times” means, and of course the multiply-by-nine trick.

                  For those who don’t know that one: going from left to right, hold down the finger that marks the one you’re multiplying 9 by. So if it’s five, you hold down your left thumb.
                  The digits before that are the first part of the number, the digits after are the second. (Pinkie-ring-middle-pointer, four; right hand, five. 45.)
                  You can then check it by knowing that multiples of 9 add up to nine, exactly, if you keep adding until they make a single digit. (Example, 11 times 9 = 99, =18, =9.)

                  All of which are memorization, give different “hooks” for your brain to attach information to, and create a JUSTIFIED confidence in the daughter who is just a biiiiiit over devastated by mistakes.

              • Actually, some of us needed the crutch. My mother taught math, and how our number system was based on sets of ten like an odometer or an abacus on paper, just you had a different symbol to represent different groups of numbers 0 through 9. But while I knew what was going on, I had a hard time focusing. I’d easily lose track. So I counted on my fingers, using them as place holders, and was ashamed.

                I worked a long time to end that habit. A long time. I’m still slow at mental math. Maybe that’s why I run mental calculations when I’m bored. It’s practice.

                Fortunately, the kids never had to do the counting on fingers crutch. But the way the school taught math threw out the whole abacus on paper aspect of our number system. The first time I heard “That’s not how she (the teacher) does it” was the first time I said “Do it this way, and write it down how the teacher wants.”

                • Place holders is a bit different than counting on your fingers. 😀 I say that not exactly because I do it, too, but because I use the “placeholder” thing, too– it works as a sort of digital mental building, but I need something physical to hold the digits while I deal with other ones.

                  The current fad to not have kids get comfortable with notation (the very, very basic stuff– carry 1, borrow 1, dealing with the small numbers first, etc) drives me up the wall; thank goodness I’m the one in charge of the math, or we’d have tears already and it’s only first grade. (Well, technically. I have her working in a second grade book, but she’d be the older half of the first graders, and there’s been a couple of times I explained that their method was just wrong and she didn’t have to learn it.)

        • In me youth I had speech coaching due to a pronounced tendency to say “w” when the requisite letter was “r’ — something which was, as you might infer from the initial letter of my screen cognomen, a mutter of personal humiliation.

          As part of this diction dictation I was required to memorize, then to stand and deliver, a poem weekly. In consequence I’ve rarely experienced any trepidation regarding public speaking and can usually remember the beginning of my sentences by the time I reach their ends (a trait which came in handy while learning deutschsprachig.)

          • Now that would have been of benefit to me – all I ever got was the physical drills in the therapy session. Same here – extremely humiliating on day one, when you stand up and introduce yourself to the “new” class (which was, almost inevitably, 29/30 the “old” class). “My name is Wichawd Skinnew.”

            Not sure if that was one factor driving the introversion or not, but it surely didn’t help…

            (Oh, I absolutely refused to be called “Dick” – then and now. For other reasons…)

        • Idea – take her shopping, and ask her to calculate if she has X amount of money, how many bottles of pop, or boxes of cereal, or whatever she cah buy. Or ask if she can make a cake with $10 in her pocket (buying a day-old does not count.)

          I keep a running total of the bill in my head when I’m shopping (round prices up most of the time) and it has kept me out of trouble thus far.

          • Uncle taught 3 and 4 grades at different times and related that some test question showed images of coins and some student had problems with those questions. This was a while ago now (a couple decades?) but he said it was astonishing how if he took real coins and set them down and asked the same question, the reality mattered:

            “How much money is shown in this picture?”

            “How much money is on the desk?”
            “Eighty-seven cents.”

            • Er, grade 3 and grade 4.

            • Ah. Some of those kids wouldn’t have got to automatically generalizing from the real coins to the pictures of coins. Hell, there’s plenty of adults who haven’t got that far.

            • My parents taught me how to count money before I went to school. One of these equals five of those equals ten of the other… no problem.

              When we were presented with it in the first grade, an astonishing number of children were flummoxed that a dime was worth more than a nickle. A nickle was bigger, therefore it had to be worth more. We spent *weeks* on that, and then had to do it all over again in the second grade…

              • Shel Silverstein had a poem about coinage. It was called “Smart”, iirc…


              • Have you heard of the boy whom some neighborhood kids make sport of, offering him a nickel and a dime and laughing when he took the nickel?

                One day, the shopkeeper of the store where he spent the nickel took him aside to explain. He blinked and pointed out that the first day he took the dime would be the last that they tried it. He got a steady supply of nickels this way.

        • Poetry — and the Bible, if you’re inclined that way — also put a very good “language rhythm” in the back of your head. (At least the King James Bible. Others aren’t as euphonious.) It has served me very well in a career as a writer, and it helps with impromptu speaking, because you have those… “how to enhance emotion in this passage” downloaded into your subconscious at an early age. Teach them to Kipple (Kipling, of course!) It will last a life time.

          • Oh, yes – Kipling is wonderful for memorizing, very much like Robert W. Service, who must be even more out of fashion than Kipling, if that can be possible.

            At this late date, I can’t say how I went about memorizing when I was in school. I think that I read every line aloud, then every two lines, over and over and over again. In high school, part of the German language course involved writing a perfectly spelled and punctuated essay … I would write one out, have my fellow classmates who were also in that class correct it at the nerd’s table in the lunchroom … and then I would memorize it by writing out every line four or five times. Both reading it aloud, over and over by line and doing the same by writing it seemed to fix the materiel in my memory.

            I had read somewhere (can’t recollect where) that the optimal time to do heavy amounts of memorization is in late childhood-early teen-age; our brains are most receptive at that time for absorbing massive quantities of materiel.

            This always reminded me of an account by the memoirist Patrick Leigh-Fermor. During his time as an OSS operative in Occupied Crete during WWII, he spent a lot of time hiding out in mountain caves, and on one such occasion, he wrote about hearing one of the local Greek partisans (an illiterate shepherd, IIRC) reciting from memory one of those long poetical epics over an evening campfire, for the amusement and encouragement of his fellow partisans. Leigh-Fermor fell asleep and slept for some hours. But when he woke up, the shepherd-bard was still in full spate. On the same epic poem as the beginning of the evening.

          • I had to memorize songs before I could read. I think it helped, some- reading was complete nonsense to me until something just clicked and those weird symbols on the page started making sense (according to my folks that is).

        • Beware: I was so hardheaded, I made those 12×12 table where you found the product by selecting the number in the row and column. I did anything I could not to memorize them Just Because. Only tackled the tables after I realized that was hurting me, but by then the damage was done.

      • The only thing we had to memorize were multiplication tables, states and capitals, continents, and that sort of thing. No poems. But on our own we did memorize song lyrics because we thought it was fun, and parts in school and church plays. So it is while I can’t recite the Declaration of Independence or the preamble of the US Constitution, I can sing Abdul Abulbul Amire – much to the horror of my family.

        Will note that one of ours in high school studied Julius Caesar and the class didn’t realize they had practically memorized it until they went to see a performance and, in low voices, repeated the lines with the actors. So maybe it’s a matter of what catches our interest.

        • This is a problem. My mother would assign her chemistry students lists of ions to memorize and they had no clue how to.

    • Learning the Addition and Multiplication tables up to 20 x 20 can be done in first and second grades, and that, plus learning systematic phonetics {Hop On POP helps}, equips anyone above IQ 85 to do a great many useful things including read newspapers and simple instructions. It also teaches you to learn how to memorize; different techniques work better with different people. I was blessed with eidectic memory when I was young {as with most, I lost it during my teens}, so I had to relearn how to memorize; probably the hardest thing I did in college. Classmates who had had a hard time memorizing when we were young now were much better at it than me.

      We also were required to stand in front of the class and recite, generally a memorized poem. It was one of the best parts of my country school two grades to a room education.

      Modern cheap calculators have taken the place of learning the addition and times tables, and no one learns to recite poetry in irony of the class now. This has a profound effect not only on bright kids, but the average and dull normal even more so.

      • I took my son to a Living History site once. The school had a teacher who taught a lesson in the late 19th century style, including the proper manner of reciting and addressing the teacher. He liked it.

      • … equips anyone above IQ 85 to do a great many useful things

        I think that is essentially a working definition of the 85 IQ, which I seem to recall is one standard deviation downward.

        You realize how many teaching positions that sort of thing makes superfluous, don’t you? If that sort of thinking came back we’d have to lay off all the High School staff in every county in America, and then who’d we watch play football on Friday nights?

        • Yeah, but think of how it would streamline the teaching process, reduce homework, and allow more time for, you know, actual learning of practical skills! A good memory, trained early, means you can breeze through history faster, knowing that knowledge will be right where you left it. You can skip down to “measure twice, dissolve once” in chemistry once the requisite formulae and base knowledge is laid down. Why, even grammar would benefit- I know, shocking.

          Why with all that extra time… You could actually *teach* instead of indoctrinate. Think what the country would be like, if children were inculcated with a thirst for learning for its own sake, and the tools of logic and reason to separate fact from fiction…

          Ah, heck, we can’t be having that, now can we? Down with memory, things will get better tomorrow! *goes off to remove tongue from cheek*

    • As I age, I wish I’d learned the skill of memorization more thoroughly – it’s having many relevant facts at your mental fingertips, possible only if you memorize them efficiently when first encountered, that makes so many kinds of work go more quickly and efficiently.

    • I recently re-read Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi”, where the author as a young cub riverboat pilot was expected to learn every single inch of the Mississippi, from New Orleans to St. Louis, bank to bottom, day and night, coming AND going, in flood and in low water. On a river that changed on an almost daily basis.
      At first, he was incredulous that such a feat of memory could be done by lowly humans. And then he found out that it was standard for all pilots… and then he did it himself.

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    “and part of why we long for the “man on the white horse” to come and free us”

    Beware of pale horses, and pale riders.

  11. Perhaps one of the most abused terms ever conceived, taken in vain by reporters constantly. “The village was decimated by disease.” And when I respond, wow that’s bad, ten percent got sick eh? I get the strangest looks back.
    As for that term for the final solution, what we call scorched earth, can’t recall it off hand, but the Romans certainly employed it to good effect on Carthage didn’t they.
    As for the left selling their snake oil of victimhood, why is it that they are always so surprised when their preachings result in riots and destruction? And most curious, why they continue with the same actions yet always expect a different result.

    • I believe the Latin term Sarah’s looking for is “annihilate,” literally, “to make into nothing.”

    • ‘Raze’ is a pretty good synonym for scorched earth.

      The misuse of ‘decimate’ both frustrates and amuses me. I was involved in a lore thread on the World of Warcraft official site a while back, and the topic at hand was how the dragon Deathwing wiped out the Blue Dragonflight when he “decimated” them (which is apparently the word used in the original novel). If you actually know what the word means (unlike the author, apparently…), then it’s a lot of casualties, but hardly something that can’t be recovered from (especially over the course of a couple of millennia). But most people don’t know what it means anymore.

      • If you check the definition of decimate you will find that the corrupted modern expression of ignorance is now an acceptable alternative. I am confident that with the passing of more time the original will bear the designation “archaic.”

        Which will make idiot usage correct, retroactively.

        • I found myself recently correcting myself on that one, “It was decim…. devastated.”

          • Maybe we just need to advance the slider … “It was decimated factorially” = “It was decimated!”

        • Note also that when a legion unit was sentenced to be decimated, they were required to do it to themselves – that is, at the draw of lots, the nine short-straw “winners” were required to beat to death the one short-straw squad mate with sticks.

          And the legion tour of service was 20 years, so they knew that short straw fellow quite well – that funny fellow who you could trust to watch your back, whether on the battlefield or on leave, that you’ve been living with and fighting alongside for the last decade is the one you and the rest have to personally beat until they are dead, all for your unit having broken in the face of the enemy, or whatever you did to earn it.

          Modern military historians I’ve read note that decimation was not used very often during the course of the Republic and the Empire, but even so it survives two millennium later in the modern debased usage.

      • Nautically, a Razee is a ship that has been cut down, razed, either intentionally or after a fire. With less freeboard and windage a razee was often better than the original. My last big boat project was a yacht converted to a commercial fishing vessel by taking 18″ off the freeboard, cabin and all. She was named “RAZEE” and was quite successful.

        (The misuse of “decimate” gripes my ass as well, along with
        “proactive” , a fake word if there ever was one.)

    • “As for the left selling their snake oil of victimhood, why is it that they are always so surprised when their preachings result in riots and destruction?”

      I cannot recall the name of the Pole who said, “The fundamental appeal of Communism is easy to explain: You suffer. Your suffering is due to powerful others. Those others must be destroyed!” I think I quoted it correctly–my reference is not available to me at the moment.

      • Leszek Kolakowski, and I mangled it but only slightly. So much for memorization. Thank you internet!

      • The benefits of Marxism are overt while the costs are (mosty) covert. The costs of Free Markets are overt and benefits seem to arrive miraculously despite those costs.

    • Well, decimated usually was fatal. I think we can agree that having a tenth of the population die would be bad.

      • TRIGGER WARNING: Dark Humour Ahead!

        I dunno. I can think of about 25% that could be culled without materially harming our national character … and I do not doubt our Progressive Friends could come up with about the same or greater percentage without any overlap of our lists.

  12. BobtheRegisterredFool

    come on, people who invented a word for killing one in ten are not … good people. In fact they’re almost amazingly bad.

    For all I speak of admirable Roman qualities that should be emulated, they were evil, and should not be emulated in all things. Nor mindlessly imitated.

    (I’d quibble over whether their contemporary peers were necessarily much less evil, but that’s off topic.)

    Rome and Greece were roots of western society. We need to understand them, their good and their evil, their strengths and their weaknesses, their successes and their failures, in order to better understand ourselves as a western society.

    Roman words for killing are perhaps like the fabled Eskimo words for snow.

    • They were a people perhaps constantly at war in one venue or another, and had a language and culture shaped by such, I think

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Endemic warfare is pretty normal for most societies.

        The Romans differed in intensity and persistence.

        They stopped fighting when they had killed, enslaved, or subjugated the enemy, not when they got bored. They lost so many people fighting that they had to assimilate aliens, because natural replacement wasn’t enough.

        Furthermore, between the Kingdom and the Republic, they had a good long run of political stability that let them maintain that focus for a relatively long time.

        Our society is unusual in that our inheritance of Roman values, and other factors, have let us destroy the neighbors that might otherwise bring us endemic conflict. We are unusual in being able to enjoy extended relative peace.

    • On the practice of decimation (killing of one in ten):

      It was strictly a military punishment applied to the capital offense of mutiny or desertion, and was considered more reasonable than the previous punishment of killing the entire troop.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Yeah, decimation was pretty reasonable. If for no other reason than that soldiers are expensive.

        I do not approve of every Roman sexual more, do not approve of exposing infants, and do not approve of slavery.

      • I had understood it was also applied for cowardice in the face of the enemy

  13. Re: Education: The current argument against “rote memorization” is that “kids can just look that up” and there’s no point to memorizing when you have Google at your fingertips. I’ve always found this unconvincing on the grounds that you can’t “just look up” what you’re too ignorant to know that you don’t know; you’re not going to look up facts about the War of 1812 if you don’t know that there was a War of 1812 in the first place. Plus, I know from experience that kids don’t tend to look things up; I was in a classroom where 30 kids were supposedly having a discussion about De Bruijin graphs, none of them knew what the term meant, and it didn’t occur to any of the 15 or so of them with laptops to type “De Bruijin graph” into their search bars and see what Google could tell them.

    Recently, though, I’ve run across another argument against “they can just look it up” which is that “looking it up” often requires a fair amount of knowledge to start with, and the more you know, the more you learn from looking things up. The example he used was the definition of “planet” (” an astronomical object orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals” according to wikipedia). This definition is useful if you pretty much know the basics of astronomy and want to know why, say, Pluto isn’t considered a planet any more. However, it would be completely useless if you genuinely had no clue what the word “planet” meant and were trying to figure it out. So by giving our kids a fact-free educational experience failing by the standards of the 19th century, it’s even worse for preparing them to take advantage of what they’ll have in the 21st.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Read the other parts also. I found what this had to say about the history of the English degree relevant to my thinking on current education.

    • there’s no point to memorizing when you have Google at your fingertips

      What kind of idiot trusts Google or any other mutable source document? Wiki is as reliable as human memory, which is to say: not at all.

      Accuracy in detail is the safest way to disguise inaccuracy in the whole.

      • Wiki is less reliable than human memory, because there are additional outside elements overtly adjusting the data therein.

    • > you can’t “just look up” what you’re too
      > ignorant to know that you don’t know;

      “Information is not knowledge.”

    • And then you get complications, like there being two different Wars of 1812. And how well is that web/net search going to go if things go all Carrington for a while? Sure, optical fiber… but repeaters, etc. need electrical power and control signals and… ouch.

    • “looking it up” often requires a fair amount of knowledge to start with

      Nice example:
      Each De Bruijn graph is Eulerian and Hamiltonian. The Euler cycles and Hamiltonian cycles of these graphs (equivalent to each other via the line graph construction) are De Bruijn sequences.


      • To ask a good question, you must already know part of the answer.

        Otherwise you’re down to “Why?” and “Because, that’s why.”

        • That was always infuriating. “Because.” “Because why?” “Just because.” “So you don’t know, huh?” and it tended to degenerate from there.

          • I tend to infuriate my kids by telling them that “why” is not enough of a question; if they can’t ask a better question, they won’t get a better answer, and if they can but didn’t, it’s rude.

            It saves a LOT of time and frustration in the long run– I don’t have to guess which “why” they mean, and they’re learning to organize their thoughts…and we both recognize when the “why” is a stalling technique. 😀

      • Short version, these graphs are used for assembling DNA sequencing (the sequencer can’t handle a fully chromosome, so the DNA has to be broken up into much smaller bits). The cycles described are (potentially) correct ways to put the bits back together into the correct sequence.

        Anyone interested can ask me more about the difference between the Eulerian formulation and the Hamiltonian formulation, but I suspect you don’t care that much.

    • You learn to memorize so you can remember where the data is. Yes, you can look it up, but you gotta know what bucket of knowledge to search in and what is reasonable.

      • Also, it prevents you from having to relearn stuff all the damn time, or waste effort trying to reconstruct how it’s done. It’s instructive to watch kids doing arithmetic who have vs have not learned the times tables. It’s also instructive to watch writers who don’t have an automatic command of grammar, having never learned it by rote. (It’s amazing how much some of ’em struggle with every sentence.)

    • So many times, I have tried to google even things I know about and finding the right combination of terms that get the answer needed has been a trial. The more complicated the subject, the more specific you’re likely to have to be. The more pop culture over lay there might be the more specific and knoweldgable you have to be to even start googling.

      • And if some clown named something the same or just close… and then the “Dadgummit, I want to find out more about $THING, NOT buy $OTHER_THING!”

    • There’s a whole lot of topics where you need to have a good base of knowledge before you can honestly have a discussion or form an opinion.

    • The net is only useful when you know what you don’t know – not when you don’t know what you don’t know.

      Just this Wednesday, my son was helping a friend with her college chemistry class assignment. Won’t go over the entire thing, but it was comparison of theoretical yield of a reaction to their yield in the experiments. She, for the life of her, could not get the theoretic yield.

      We eventually figured it out – what she was missing was the solvent in which her reactants were dissolved. She had the mass and volume of the solutions – but that doesn’t give you the moles. It was an experiment with metal-based pigments, so the obvious choice of water was not on the table. We figured out what we did not know, and what she did not know that she did not know – what the pigments were normally dissolved in. Looked that up, then the formula of the solvent (actually, the site also gave the molar mass, so we didn’t have to calculate that, thank goodness – all of this was while we were getting to the grocery store and doing the weekly shopping).

      BTW, I normally do what others here do, keep a running total and round up (plus take sales tax at 10%, not 8.1%). Wednesday was one of the days I actually had to jot down the sum every so often – keeping two calculation threads going at the same time is too much for me.

    • While the younger set does have the ability to look it up, it’s kind of been my experience in comment threads and the like that they don’t bother. If I come across a reference to something I don’t know it takes me all of a couple seconds to google it. Instead I see a lot of commenters just ask the author “What does that mean?” Sometimes for stuff that makes them sound like they just got off the saucer from Mars.

      I guess the old saying “Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” has fallen out of common parlance.

      • Instead I see a lot of commenters just ask the author “What does that mean?”

        That can be tactical– there are a lot of things that have metaphorical landmines hidden in them, and you can’t tell if someone is setting one up or really means what they say unless you ask; alternatively, folks can set up a landmine of their own by asking how someone means it.

        This is especially true in things where terms have a Massively Loaded meaning (climate change, race issues, life, human, faith, love, choice– pretty much anything “political”) or that touch on one of them.

        • True, but I’m talking about something as simple as the definition of a word that can easily be typed into your search engine of choice.

          I’ve also often encountered “Did you mean to make that reference?” I’ll admit I once accidentally stumbled into a Pratchett reference unawares, but if the character’s wearing a mask and white hat and his buddy refers to him as “Kemosabe”, then yes, I intentionally made a reference to the Lone Ranger. How does that happen by accident? Am I one of an infinite number of monkeys at a typewriter or something?

      • Oh yes. I once complimented some photos on a group LJ blog for their chiaroscuro. One person googled it and found it a fascinating subject; one asked me what it meant.

        • *grimace* So you’ve never been hit on the “have them do a search for a word that’s an incredibly nasty disease so they get lots of close-up graphics” thing, eh? (I’ve had it happen– thankfully, I recognized most of them. Or at least a cow disease that’s similar.)

          • When someone compliments you on the chiaroscuro in your photograph, it’s probably not a disease.

            • You do remember “Rickrolling,” right?

            • The entire purpose of the “joke” is to use a word folks don’t recognize, so they will look it up, and something unexpected (and mildly unpleasant or annoying) will happen to them.

              Of course it’s utterly annoying if you’ve got a vocabulary that includes terms that hit on exactly what you mean instead of getting the idea sort of across in day-to-day vocabulary, but people learn. If they have no shame about asking, then they’re not going to risk the nasty– if it’s an ambiguous term, they also get the exact meaning.

    • The “they can look it up” thing is a bastard child of what I was taught as a technician– that you don’t trust your memory. That way lies piles of dead bodies, and Leavenworth if you’re not among them.

      You’ve got to know enough about what you’re doing to know how and where to find the information, and check it.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I have a pretty good trick memory, and a lot of the time I don’t do anything very important. Today the paranoia about checking my sources, which I prefer, led me to find a potentially ten minute alternative to my original suggestion which could’ve eaten days.

      • The nuclear Navy operates to procedures, not memory. Of course, that didn’t stop the…individuals writing the tests from putting procedures on them – with the key awarding points for minutiae like “Verify LOOP ISOL warning light out”. In fact, it was the expectation that everyone would know the rod withdrawal sequence for startup that started the chain of events that killed my career in the Navy.

        • That sounds like a story.

          • The training division decided to improve the level of knowledge in the department by asking questions of the day. Each day we would get a different question to answer while we were on watch. The idea was to collect the answers and help those who got them wrong and to prompt people to look up things that might show up on a test. It started out OK, asking things like basic systems and immediate casualty actions, but quickly started to go downhill. I think the question about rod withdrawal was the fifth or sixth and by then we were all pretty fed up with it. So I answered the question and included a little note that said something along the lines of “it is painfully obvious that you have no interest in improving the level of knowledge in this department. From now on answers will be looked up, copied down, and promptly forgotten.”

            A couple of days later I get a call to report to my division office. When I get there my entire chain of command, Leading Petty Officer, Chief, Division Officer, and Division Master Chief escort me to the department office where the Assistant Reactor Officer starts chewing me out. At one point he makes a comment about me being a smartass and I look him straight in the eye and say “Sir, I’ve always been a smartass, I’ve never denied it.” I don’t remember much after that because the part of my brain that actually understands social signaling was pointing out that the ARO really wanted to strangle me.

            • It started out OK, asking things like basic systems and immediate casualty actions, but quickly started to go downhill.

              And here all with even passing familiarity with the Navy stop in shock, SHOCK that a decent idea quickly got turned into a pissing contest of punishment.

              Next you’ll expect us to believe that the concept of “sweep up the area around your office, polish the brass if needed” can be turned into four hour time wasters like cleanign quarters…..

    • FeatherBlade

      “The current argument against “rote memorization” is that “kids can just look that up” and there’s no point to memorizing when you have Google at your fingertips.”

      Answer: “Really? And what do they do when the power goes out/ the Wi-Fi is down/ they’re in an area with no reception?”

      It’s like these people think that electronics are as reliable as the earth…

      • This is why I still prefer to have shelf-able versions of books and other media, and distrust “the cloud”. As much of a pain as it is to move and store, I’d rather have a library that took a firetruck and a pack of robot dogs to remove instead of just hitting a few keys and wiping some remote server.

        • Aw, c’mon; what’s your problem with that story about the trip down the Mississippi taken by Huck and N-word Jim?

      • Similarly: Electronic combination locks are a wonderful idea for group-access building, ’cause you can just cancel an individual’s code when they leave the group … until the lock’s battery dies!
        Was discussing this with a younger sound tech yesterday, he hadn’t thought about the need for a mechanical or battery backup to keep from being locked out.

  14. Oh, and one more thought about education: it shouldn’t be completely fun. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it should be miserable, but there should be at least a few things that are kinda boring. I have a friend who was educated in the “it should all be fun” style, and he can’t hold down a job, because he’s under the impression that every second of life ought to be entertaining.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I’d go further than that, and say that there are specific types of education and training, like perhaps engineering school, where rigorously covering the fundamentals will be challenging, tedious and unpleasant enough to help weed out people that probably shouldn’t be in the program.

    • 55 years ago, a guy named Brooks wrote:
      “Designing grand software concepts is fun; finding the last annoying bugs is just work.”

      I’d like to brand that somewhere on the bodies of the new young developers, both native and imported, because they don’t want to fix the bugs.

      • We not-as-young developers don’t want to spend time fixing bugs, but its bloody essential that it happens. It is part of why they pay us, and most of our users don’t deserve to put up with the annoyances and problems bugs can cause.

        • Once you have a few projects under your belt, you tend to spend some extra preparatory time trying to minimize the number of bugs you will eventually create.

          • testing as well good design and timely specs are part of good project management.

            • But you can’t test-in quality. You can only eliminate part of the quality failures, at best — real life customer usage will very likely find at least some of the rest.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            And test the “f*ck out the product” so you don’t get the midnight phone call. 😉

            • I was a demon for testing, comments, and documentation.

              If you’re the only one who can maintain a program, you’re *married* to it, and you’ll be stuck in place as the “irreplaceable person” while everyone else moves up or gets new, interesting projects.

              • Or that product you put so much of yourself into will be discontinued, because it’s unmaintainable. Companies don’t like to consider employees to be irreplaceable, for the most part.

                • Of course, you might be replaced by nobody, too.

                  I still have systems running at several companies (according to the grapevine), while others have been given up.

                  And there is the bit that when you don’t tend to put bugs into your own work, you end up tracking down the truly weird stuff that happens to it out in the wild. Like a NIC card sending part of the BIOS to the server… The extremely slow transactions that were due to the “consultants” insistence on using the Novell drivers… The user that installed something which replaced critical DLLs with older versions…

                  Sigh. Some days I miss the hunt – then get sufficient caffeine into the bloodstream to wake up.

              • Someone advised: Document your work so the next idiot who looks at your program will know what in guess where you were trying to do. Because the next idiot might be you, in six months.

                • I’ve said exactly that, many times. I imagine most programmers arrive at it on their own…

                • Unfortunately, the ideal time to document it is a month after you wrote it, because it all looks self-evident after you’ve ground through every line of code twenty times in the last week.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        A few years ago (1980’s), we got a new programmer where I was working.

        He quit within a week when he learned that he’d have to do maintenance programming. 😦

        • It doesn’t take much maintenance before you develop a seething hatred for the cowboy programmers you wind up sweeping up after, and their managers who couldn’t be arsed to ride herd on them.

          “We don’t need no error checking
          We don’t need no bounds control
          No flowcharts to harsh our mellow
          Hey, team leader, leave us alone!”

          • Isn’t having a team lead who isn’t a programmer a bad idea?

          • Chris Nelson

            Speaking of cowboy programmers, I once rewrote a commercial reporting program that contained variables named after TV Westerns. Imagine incrementing “Little Joe”…

            They also didn’t know SQL very well, so I was able to improve performance by actually using SQL as intended. Lots of cursing at cursors…

      • Javascript is an evil language created by ignoring 25 years of software engineering experience. Python, while slick and taking advantage of the computer’s ability to guess what you mean, is a maintenance nightmare. People initially trained in these languages lack the ability to write maintainable code.

        • Java is something I’ve come to despise. A ridiculous amount of software relies on it. And then Java gets patched to plug some security loophole, and that means that the rest of the software suddenly stops working because that “security loophole” in Java was viewed as a feature, and not a bug, back when all of that other software was written.

          • Or someone came up with a new method for something….. so they create a new class with a new name, and turn off the class with the old name…..

          • I used a ‘cross-platform synthesizer patch librarian’ that hadn’t been messed with in years (because it worked) that suddenly broke a couple years back due to one of those security patches.

        • Python is a tricky one for CS 101 professors to know what to do with. On the one hand, it’s pretty easy to learn, and if you’re teaching a bunch of biologists who just want to learn a bit of scripting to process their data, it’s perfect. On the other hand, so much happens under the hood that it makes it much more difficult to go from there to more “serious” languages, and you tend to get into the bad habits you mentioned.

        • C++ and the Windows API. Learned C in the DOS era, but the Windows API? I never got the hang of it. Then I made the mistake of trying to learn C++ and the Windows API at the same time. Now, what I learned of C++ I’ve forgotten.

          These days, when I need a small program I turn to Visual Basic Express. The forms get around the Windows API part I never grasped, and the program is free. Sure, it’s sort of BASIC, but it gets the job done.

      • Amen. Fixing bugs isn’t sexy, but it pays the bills and keeps the customers from demanding important bits. So sayeth the tester who periodically has to remind her programmers that she’s doing this so the customers don’t find the problems.

        • And there’s my favorite:
          “We couldn’t wait to start coding so we convinced the customer not to write detailed requirements. Now that we’re being confronted with obvious holes, like not validating that an e-mail address entered is actually an e-mail address, we’ll refuse to do it because it isn’t specified in the requirements.”

          To which my response was “OK, you can reject the defect for that reason, and I’ll document that our testing found it and you wouldn’t fix it. Then when the customer finds it, and they will, I’ll just forward them this e-mail and the defect printout, and let you explain to them that you won’t fix what even a moron would have known was a requirement, specified or not.”

          Yes, I actually had that conversation, word for word, with the developers (most of whom are imports from Bangalore) on my current project about 4 months ago.

          “Stress: the body’s reaction when the mind overrides its’ instinctive need to choke the living sh*t out of some @$$hole who desperately needs it.”

          • Oh, believe me, that one is not limited to Bangalore imports. I’ve had a similar one: rejecting a defect because the design sketch didn’t include anything for padding between the elements, so the elements running together and being unreadable wasn’t a defect, it was a feature request.

            • Two WTFs that web designersrepeatedly make:

              A) a drop-down box for months, that shows only Jan..October and a scroll bar to get to Nov-Dec. What country are they from that has only ten months in a year? Or more than twelve?

              B) credit card entry fields that let you enter dashes, then returns an error. Or chastises the user for *not* entering the dashes.

              Making a dropbox fit its contents and validating input data are so basic I always wonder what horrors lurk behind all the Flash, Java, and Javascript that’s (usually) annoying me…

              • When I was trying to leave the Colorado Medicaid program end of last year they had a box saying ‘if this doesn’t apply, leave blank’. It was also a required field. Eventually typed “leave blank”, and it worked.

            • There’s a reason I said mostly. Although it’s been my experience that if you can’t establish standards for everyone, you won’t have them for anyone.

            • I sometimes am able to get loud (or a touch sarcastic) about such defects on a “usability” justification & get them fixed.

              • With his special snowflake, I had to give him his defects in excruciating detail. With screenshots. And helpful one-syllable explanations.

                Suffice to say he didn’t last.

        • yes well, at least you’re not in one of the segments that just throws everything into ‘open beta’ and ‘pre-alpha’ so they don’t have to locate and possibly pay testers…

    • Every second of life is entertaining, to the lively mind. Some just require more inventiveness to be found entertaining.

      I find it helps me to appreciate weather, for example, to keep in mind that “bad” weather is a reason to be appreciative of not having to live my life exposed to the elements. Cheerfulness is an option you elect, and not one others can provide you.

      • Professor Badness

        Akin to something my father always said:

        “Truly intelligent people don’t get bored.”

        Mileage may vary.

        • This is true, because an intelligent person, even if they are sitting in a bare room for hours with nothing to do, is using their brain. I write stories in my head, or figure out how to build something, or how to do something, if I have to sit. If I had to sit for a long time (like in a prison cell) I would still find something to do in my head, like see how much of the Bible I have memorized, or something.

          • I write stories in my head, too … at least until somebody starts pounding on the door and demanding somebody else get a turn.

          • Must not be intelligent, then. I have been known to estimate the width, height, and length of a church sanctuary by noting the paneling, brick, or other regular structure, and when that got old, mentally calculate day of the week for different dates. And just realized I’ve forgotten how to calculate Easter – will have to refresh that. Have also gone over multiplication tables, attempted to mentally solve square roots, gone over Wye and Delta calculations, and so forth.

            Then I was put in the sound room.

            • Sorry: left this out. If things were long enough, there came a point where the mental work grew boring. Such as an extremely long funeral that, into the third hour, I was tired of counting the bricks.

              • When I was doing bits and extras, which can involve multiple 12 hour days full of absolutely nothing where you must nonetheless be ready to go at a moment’s notice, I learned to be content with the most inane distractions. Counting bricks, dust motes, hairs on the adjacent person’s head, my fingers, passing cars, …

        • But it did just occur to me that the one time I do get bored is listening to a boring person when I can’t just pretend that I’m listening, i.e. I’m going to have to know what they said when they are done.

          • Anger tends to replace boredom for me in that circumstance.

            • Sadly, I am told that my quiet contemplation of alternate means of inflicting slow painful death on such people tends to leak out my eyes.

              I can’t understand why, as I tend to think such thoughts about almost everybody.

        • THIS was my goal when educating the boys. To give them enough background that they could and would enjoy a life of the mind.

      • rain, in proper amounts, speeds, and seasons is necessary.

      • The morning of August 9th 1945, Kokura Japan had an overcast. Best weather they could have had just then, but at the time nobody there knew that. Had it been sunny and clear, history would be just that bit different.

    • There is the idea that there is the less-than-wonderful that must be endured and dealt with for at the end is the payoff. A childhood of always getting dessert, and getting it first, and perhaps nothing else, produces… nothing but a larger child.

      • That’s one of the problems with no-fault divorce: when calling it quits is too easy, people lose the experience of growing through difficulties endured. Sure, there are times it’s the right thing — but so very often when that’s not necessarily so.

        • Yep. There were, hypothetically, good (good) reasons to get married – there should be good (bad) reasons to get divorced.

          And I’m somewhat conservative on the good reasons to get married – having one relations whose marriage dates are very easy to remember – December 31st. (And who never seems to learn, even after three experiments, that “community property” really means “community debt.” Sigh…)

        • I dunno. I watched my parents, who hated each other, stick it out “for the children.” I don’t feel particularly advantaged over that.

          When I got married I told my to-be wife that if it looked like our marriage was starting to look like my parents’, I would be gone so fast there would be a thunderclap.

          Must be working, we’ve been married 33 years so far… not bad for a starter wife.

  15. Consider that to prevent foisting their beliefs on others’ children, those people aren’t even allowed to extend moral guidance.

    Consider that the people who accept this also accept Lord of the Flies as realistic, and never combine the two beliefs to reach a conclusion.

  16. I used to think of memorization as tedious and pointless, just as were push-ups. Then I realized that push-ups were a simple exercise for developing upper body muscles, which were for most of human history a very useful thing to have.

    Then I realized I had, for quite some time, been making crossword puzzles more interesting by only writing in the vertical words (or, on odd days, the horizontals) forcing myself to hold the others in memory. And that in many tasks it was quite useful to remember, once I had reached the solution, what problem I was trying too solve.

    Sometimes the point of an exercise isn’t simply to “sand the floor.”

  17. As for money — you will never get rid of money differences or status, so long as humans are humans.

    The fallacy of those wishing to do away with money is their failure to recognize that money is an abstraction, typically for status, and that humans will always and forever compete for status.

    In simple fact, one of the ways in which we compete for status these days is declaiming about the evils of money and social stratification.

    • You end up with the potlatch, wherein everyone is so busy trying to prove how great they are by “giving away” (in ostentatious displays of waste) their wealth that the society goes bankrupt.

    • People who say “people over profits” are people you can safely ignore when it comes to economics.

      • Sadly, they’re either meaning “MY advantage over YOUR profits,” or they’re very easy to game for those who are.

        The folks who say something like, “the purpose of profit is to serve people” and focus on not doing harm to make a profit, those you can probably listen to. They’re what the “people over profits” folks who know about economics sound like at the moment. (Have to look at the actions, of course.)

  18. Professor Badness

    Bravo, madame. Bravo.
    This all reminds me of working on the Jungle Cruise, at Disneyland, (Bear with me.)
    So, most of the plants were real, and had been growing since the park opened. We had trees and stands of bamboo as large as any jungle. Impressive, really.
    But, they had been planted in shallow, concrete beds. Though the plants could grow to great heights, their root systems were not extensive.
    I was working one day when the Santa Anna winds were kicking up. They are a hot wind that blow in Southern California occasionally, and they don’t normally make it all the way to Anaheim.
    Think of a Chinook, but a lot hotter.
    You can guess what happened. We were closed off and on all day as bamboo and trees tilted wildly and occasionally crashed into the river.
    Though they looked large and strong, they had no real foundation.
    This new culture of political correctness and romanticizing an insane past that never existed. It has no roots, either in history or reality.
    Just because a culture is growing, does not mean it will last. The lack of roots will eventually destroy it, especially once the hard winds come.
    I’m not looking forward to the destruction.

    • Off on a tangent. A few years ago we were riding the Jungle Cruise (in Florida) and there was a delay (two boats ahead had several people who needed extra help getting off). The Cruise Director (or whatever her title was) told us she was going to point out a few of her favorite plants. “I like this one, and this one, and that one over there,” etc. 😀

    • I recall an article, a few decades ago, when malls were new and indoor forests were a trend. The article described the corps of volunteers needed to go into those malls and shake the trees.

      It seems that in the absence of breezes the fibres in the tree trunks wouldn’t develop sufficient strength to support their own weight.

      I presume the metaphor is apparent to those wise, clever and witty enough to venture here.

  19. sabrinachase

    Ah, those wacky Romans … (and I love the playset amphora. Where can I get one?)

    But speaking of Romans and the coming dark ages, some wise egg back then saw it coming and wrote the Trivium and the Quadrivium to preserve the valuable knowledge of the Republic. I’m thinking we need a Pentivium as well, now. To preserve *our* hard-won knowledge the better to rebuild and faster. Maybe collated like a wiki, but with the ability to generate an ebook or printed form for preservation, and to select the topics you want to save.

    Possible topics include the scientific method, economics, evaluating data/evidence, what insurance is and how it works, reducing the exposure of your personal information, starting a business and how to identify business opportunities, the harsh truths of immunization and epidemic control. It would also be nice to modernize the Trivium and Quadrivium with rhetoric and logic vs. dialectic, and include real math.

    • This sounds like a noble endeavor – where do we sign up for it? I have often wondered if I was trying to set aside books for “after” – what books to get? A modern college chemistry textbook is great – but it assumes many things that might need to be taught – like glass blowing to make the test tubes that you need to actually do chemistry. Anyone else try to put together a list? How about doing black smithing?


      • Many good courses teaching the Trivium and Quadrivium are available through home school suppliers. For many of the other matters, might I recommend a good set of Boy Scout Handbooks, Cub through Eagle, printed before 1970? (Later editions may be valid, but I can only vouchsafe the earlier vintages.)

      • Blacksmithing in general encompasses the art of heating metal until it becomes malleable, then shaping it into useful objects. And from that simple concept comes a host of specific applications from farrier to knifemaker to silversmith.
        Years ago as a treat I took the basic blacksmithing course taught at the National Ornamental Metal museum in Memphis. Had a wonderful time.


        It is not an easy presentation, but what do you expect from an Olde School Catholic teaching sister? This is the one I try to use (for me, not my students.)

      • Not the ideal thing for this, but “Caveman Chemistry” might be at least a start.

      • scott2harrison

        Book number 1 in the collection “The Handbook of Physics and Chemistry” by the Chemical Rubber Company aka the “Rubber Bible”. This has table upon table of physical chemical and mathematical information. It is called the Rubber Bible because it probably has more information about God’s creation than any other single book.
        It is not a How-To book. It is the book with the information you need after you know the how-to.

        • “Machinery’s Handbook”, especially an older edition. In addition to the one I bought in college I scored another from the 1940s in a used bookstore and was totally ecstatic.

    • amphora — remind me next time I go to Portugal. I’ll try to find one. Though my quest for traditional pottery (I scored a baking bowl and a serving plate and a sausage roaster) disclosed ONLY one potter still making the old stuff, and most of it says “Souvenir from Portugal” which tells you what market they serve. I’ll hopefully (fingers crossed) be able to go back next summer and get more.

    • Traditionally, you get the monks to copy your stuff.

      Golly, if only someone had a series of stories about a religion based around the USA…..

  20. For those who would like to read more Sarah’s point, go to CS Lewis’ The Abolition of Man

    Example quotes:

    “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

    “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded against a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”

    • Another one relevant to Sarah’s post today:

      “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.”

  21. Christopher M. Chupik

    If I were a millionaire, I might build ruins on my estate. I might go further, and build an entire lost city, ruled by an evil queen.

    I have a slight tendency to go overboard.

  22. Does someone remember the name of the author or book he wrote about surviving in a South American prison by using his mind/memory and his impact on his jailers? I meant to read it when published but never did and now can’t find it. As I recall, it dealt a lot with what he had memorized/learned which helped him not only survive but flourish.

  23. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    It’s time to ask who we are and who we want to be.
    And remember the copybook headings we no longer memorize.

  24. And the Amerind tribes, the original noble savages, had to take the European horse because those who supposedly lived in harmony with nature had in fact eaten any animal of large size in the continent into extinction.

    To be fair, they ate through what was left after the still-unexplained mass extinction event that apparently limited itself to the western hemisphere – that one did in the giant sloth, the native horses, the sabertooth “tiger,” the mammoth, and all the rest of the really cool large mammals that were here when the very first humans arrived.

    No doubt the new smelly odd looking two-legged predator had a significant impact, but humans could not have done in everything that died off – look how they only were able to peck at the edges of the great plains bison herds.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Could the Bison herds have recovered after a mass die off of humans?

      • Which herd and how far can they move? The bison seen in what is now KY were a new batch because bison expanded their range after the epidemics of the 1500s swept North America. The remnants that were hunted out of the South Plains in the late 1870s-1880s? Hard to say because their numbers had plunged from drought as well as overhunting. (See Isenberg’s _The Destruction of the Bison_ which is a lot less preachy than the title suggests.)

        The megafauna were hosed in part, and I personally suspect large part, by very rapid climate shifts that eliminated habitat. How fast? It is thought that parts of Minnesota went from near-tundra to forest in a century, and that the sandhills of Nebraska went from pine forest to grassland in a similar span. Human hunting was the icing on the cake, and it seems that in a few relict habitats, the megafuna may have lasted as late as 7,000 years ago in North America. Maybe. (Look for “overkill hypothesis” and rebuttals for a lot more information.)

        • In “African Game Trails”, Teddy Roosevelt describes how split hoofed game in Southern Africa was 90-95% wiped out in the 1890s by an epidemic of rinderpest, a native African disease. Yet when he went through in 1909 or so, all the hunters, native and non-native, said that as far as they could tell the game was back to its’ regular levels (and no, they didn’t stop hunting them). Mother Nature is pretty good at licking her own wounds provided the habitat is still there.

      • They could have – but as far as I’m aware there’s no evidence of a large-scale human die off following the megafaunal extinction.

      • Another thought – even if the natives of 11 kya had made a serious dent in the bison population, the megafaunal extinction and the climate change with corresponding habitat shifts could have both opened up new habitat for them, and reduced their competitors.

        • That’s pretty much what did happen. The bison shrank (usual mammal response to stress) but became far more numerous. Bison are a “weedy species” and will expand into any available habitat as soon as environmental pressure is lifted.

    • Last I heard they’d figured out that the Great Plains were at least partly artificially maintained– some tribes burned them down, at least in some cases as part of the drive-a-bunch-off-the-cliff hunting method.

      And cows have a much higher reproduction rate than most other big animals, even horses. And they’re pretty tough. Bison are somewhat similar.

      • I wish he’d provide the sources for some of his data– the way they dealt with animals sounds right, from reading about the “conflict” between ranchers/farmers and roving Indians, but shortly after mentioning that some of the hides shipped were buffalo, he seems to be using a tally as if all the hides were buffalo.* Also repeatedly asserts, though doesn’t support, that deliberate elimination of the buffalo to destroy the Indians was a goal. (This smells like the old “they deliberately spread disease with contaminated blankets” story, from before that theory of disease existed.)

        * yes, there are footnotes; they are all page notes to the same book, this isn’t one of them, and I know that cattle where a big deal– post civil war, they were able to absorb the influx of freed slaves easily. One guy every few ranches doesn’t sound like much, until you start counting heads and realize that’s in the full digit percents for an instant population increase.

        • On the notes (finally read the linked article.) Those were indeed bison hides, but the period of super-export was relatively short, and in two phases – northern herd, then southern herd. The big market for bison leather was for industrial belts (machinery) and in England. Bison leather was used by the Indian Army because it violated neither caste nor religion (neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Sikh soldiers had problems with bison leather). Cattle hides were from Chicago and later from Kansas City and Cincinnati, because that’s where the packing houses were. Isenberg is a good source, Dan Flores is excellent as well, because Flores did a detailed study of carrying capacity and extrapolated quite well.

          • I checked– cattle hides went TO Chicago, too, and right about that time. It just had its peak a bit later than the bison, from filling the gap. (Herds in the thousands weren’t unusual, for those who aren’t familiar with the old stuff.)

            Mostly only replying ‘cus I think folks here will find this nifty:

            Go down to the quote from the book “Dodge City, The Cowboy Capital” and see if it reminds you as strongly of Heinlein as it does me.

    • No doubt the new smelly odd looking two-legged predator had a significant impact, but humans could not have done in everything that died off – look how they only were able to peck at the edges of the great plains bison herds.

      More on the “surviving species were there because of some Indian help” angle vs the extinction things.

      The only publicly accessible stuff I can find is folks arguing if the Indians were setting really big fires to burn huge areas, small fires to clean out brush for hunting, or the fires were just magically a whole lot more common near where they also find evidence of habitation, pretty much everywhere.

      You’d think this stuff would be really relevant with respect to the theory that 90% of the human population had died off– a die-off like that would make the number of fires drop, too. Or it wouldn’t, which would be evidence against a massive population drop.

      • Tom McHugh _The Time of the Buffalo_, Isenberg, Shepperd Krech III _The Ecological Indian_, Julie Courtwright, _Prairie Fire_; and most especially Omer Stewart _Forgotten Fires_. The Great Plains (tallgrass prairie) are a fire-managed landscape and probably have been for at least a thousand years. The steppe/shortgrass plains not so much because of the semi-arid climate.

        Full disclosure: this was part of my dissertation so I have a pretty thick collection of books about Native Americans, fire, bison, and cows vs. bison in terms of environmental impact.

        • I was pretty sure the “Indians used fire managment” theory didn’t play well with the recent -and-massive population drop one….

          • Actually they work well, because you can still have hard-core fire management without large numbers, and vice versa. And one of the major population drops/political disruptions happened 150 years before Columbus, let alone DeSoto and Co., so the argument still works. (Collapse of Cahokia/Mississippian/eastern Plains Woodland complex).

  25. Try Venezuela shaming these Sunny Day Socialists. They won’t, look, listen to, or even acknowledge what’s going on there right now. It’s bad enough that only about three articles a week percolate up to anywhere anybody can see them. The way these folks completely shun the country that followed their ideology to the letter tells you all you need to know about what they believe. It only matters to them as long as makes them sound cool on a college campus, or tick off their hard working parents and peers.

  26. Stan Witherspoon

    Lots of very good stuff. My upbringing was “You broke it, you bought it, now you figure how to fix it”.
    My random 2 cents.:
    1) As a dyslexic I had to learn my multiplication tables audibly. “Six sevens are fourth two, six eights are fourth eight….”. My daughter hated memorizing her multiplication tables. My wife and I had to enforce it as the schools wouldn’t. She loves math now.
    2) One interesting theory for the Holocene Extinction theory was that it was caused by a large bolide airbursting over North America

    3) Another few suggestions for the SHTF book list :
    “The Way Things Work”, Volumes 1 and 2. The 70’s versions, not the coffee table book
    “The Foxfire books” – Mouintain Crafts and other affairs of plain living”

  27. I learned something new today. Had to look up amphora.

    One thing about math that loses a lot of kids along the way. It is a constant series of lessons that what you previously learned as true isn’t exactly true. First I remember is- you can’t subtract a larger number from a smaller number. The, later, you learn about negative numbers and you can! And when you learn square roots, you learn that any number squared is always, always positive. Then, later “i” suddenly appears, and i²=-1. And other things become possible as you advance in math knowledge that weren’t possible with lesser math knowledge. I got lost at Laplace Transforms and Fourier Series. That was the point where math became magic for me.

    • That basically recapitulates the history of mathematics. One of the things mathematicians do is figure out ways around the limitations of mathematics. They create tools that physicists and engineers can use to advance our understanding of the universe.

  28. Speaking of the old days.. I really wish our ‘educated elites’ weren’t so ignorant, especially towards history.

    I was thinking about government and how ours is a series of checks and balances that are intended to self-police to an extent. Much like the police are really a protection to criminals from mob justice; disbarment and impeachment of government officers is too. I wish our ‘educated’ betters going into government would realize tar/feathers and gun powder plots weren’t just neolithic age TEA parties and that destroying the sense that government is honest and fair also destroys the people’s willingness to work within our modern civil constraints to influence it.

    Makes me very pessimistic about the future.

    • *raises finger* ACCUSED criminals.

      I know we’ve got a really, really high rate of scapegoats in here, since a lot of us stick out like crazy and thus are easy to accuse.

    • scott2harrison

      A theory that I got from Rand is that the police are really there to prevent feuds and vendettas by providing a neutral, disinterested party that everyone trusts to be neutral and disinterested to investigate and prosecute crimes.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        C. S. Lewis talks about that idea as well but he focuses on the “State” as being the “neutral party”.

  29. The thing is, very rich people don’t qualify it.  The noblemen who became the first romantics, and built (!) ruins on their estates didn’t need to qualify it, because they had no memories of real privation in the bad old days.  They just thought of the good things lost to give other people a better life, and they pined for the lost.

    If the theories I’ve heard are right, this is why Putin hates us.

    He had it pretty good in the USSR, we cost him that, he wants it back. And maybe some shots in while he can.

    • Deep down, Putin is more Tsar Alex III than Joe Stalin. Most Tsars weren’t exactly too loving of the West as a matter of course.

  30. The fake ruins on the estates were sometimes envy of the neighbors who had a ruined castle, but often in England were a case of the neighbors having real ruins, because their ancestors got the plundered monastery and convent land as a payoff. Yup, kinda creepy.

    You might want to try kids on the Arte Memoria, which is how you exploit the human ability to remember places and images, as a way to remember facts and organize your mental notes for speeches.

  31. And anyone who thinks family groups are more free than a city state was very fortunate in his choice of extended family, or never experienced an isolated extended family or what a family tyrant can do. 

    Possibly they never figured out why they were never around X, Y and Z relative– it’s taken me into my 30s to figure it out, and that’s with paying attention, and my folks thinking somewhat like how I do. Oh, and one or two of them being pretty bloody obvious. The others seem totally awesome, in the limited exposure I had. (thank goodness for Facebook)

    We’ve got drama, but nothing like what it COULD be.

    • Not quite the same, but some years back cousin Matt was getting married (or trying) (yet again…) and the wedding date happened to fall on my (and $SISTAUR’s) birthday anniversay[1]. The folks decided it was the ideal time to visit their kids for their birthday(s) rather than deal with another of cousin’s fiascos.

      [1] Five years apart[2]. Once we compared birth certificates. Assuming the clocks were correct (…) the error from “5 years” is a whopping 45 minutes.

      [2] I once looked up various newspaper headlines and front pages for both dates. Nothing that stood out other than Vietnam…. and… Vietnam. Rather depressing, really.

  32. if you watched it unroll you know that the farmer’s daughter is the only one who pays the price, forever. In the old days she was damaged goods and would never be married, ever, and be she ever so pious or well behaved the rest of her life, she’d always be talked about as “That woman” and her kid treated as somehow inferior.

    Hmmm. . . depends. . . read a study on 19th century American farmland that found that the story told was that such women would drift away to the city and become prostitutes, but in reality, if the man could not be coerced into marrying, the woman would be sent away to distant relatives and pass herself off as a widow.

    • She’s still paying the price, especially as hard as it was it was to raise kids with both parents those days– the “going away” tradition just gives everyone a polite fiction they can use, instead of failure to disapprove of very bad judgement.

      • But that price is not the product of social censure, but of economics. It can’t be cured by removed the stigma — and removing the stigma can actually make it worse, by increasing the number of such women, and so the demands on everyone else.

    • Or, as in a couple of cases in my family, Mom and daughter would go off to ‘visit with distant relatives’, and Surprise! Mom discovered herself to have a Late Pregnancy. Months later, Mom and daughter would return from travels with daughter’s new ‘sibling’ in tow.

      • Yeah, that happened a lot too.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          There was one short story where a woman left town to help a female relative who was going to have a child.

          She returned months later with a baby boy and said that the relative had died giving birth.

          We learn much later that the boy was her son.

        • Didn’t Andrew Sullivan tie himself in knots trying to prove somebody had stolen the strawberries from the ship’s mess that Trig Palin was actually Bristol’s child rather than Sarah Palin’s?