Meme-tic

Of all the ways people have come up with to avoid thinking, I like memes the most.  They are so ridiculously easy to fall into.  You see the words, you see the picture and you go “ah ah, that’s so true.” Even when on a minute’s reflection it makes no sense whatsoever.

I think in a way it follows the same pattern that proverbs followed in more ancient cultures.  My dad was a great believer in proverbs and some of the ones he would pull out at all times or no time were old enough I later studied them in Latin.

While proverbs were ways not to have to think or short cuts around thinking, they weren’t, by themselves, pernicious.  When you think “A dollar saved is a dollar earned” it might give you the strength to avoid buying whatever cute thing just caught your eye, by reminding you how hard it was to earn that dollar.  BUT its effect is not bad.  It makes you in fact more likely to succeed in life.  The same with “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.”  It might not do any of those things (False advertising for the win) but in the times when it was coined it kept you from going out drinking with the boys till all hours, which at least avoided your getting sickly broke and acting foolish.  So it was almost the same thing.

Proverbs are in a way, the encoding of societal wisdom into short cuts to lead people into ways that have worked before.

Memes are similar, but you have to remove societal wisdom and put in “the commanding forces of culture and mass media”.

Look, I’ve posted here before how hard it is to acculturate, and even sometimes when you want to fit in to a new culture, it feels like dying.  Humans, by preference, don’t think everything anew.  They bring with them mechanisms of habit and tradition and, well, culture.  Things are supposed to match what you were taught.

And that’s just the problem.  For four generations now, most people were taught Marxist/progressive shibboleths as though they were the revealed truth of the universe. Even teachers who don’t realize that’s what they’re teaching tend to drip through concepts like class struggle and the idea history comes with an arrow pointing at a progressive future, and even the idea of the Government as a benevolent entity that solves all things and fixes all things, from society to science.  Of course most of all the educational-industrial complex sells the idea that it’s wonderful, indispensable, and you should definitely give it way more of your money.

The problem is that when people go out into the world, they keep being forced into situations where this isn’t true, and where their nose is rubbed into the fact that what they were taught is nonsense.  Some (most perhaps) avoid thinking about it or acculturating by becoming bitter and cynical and deciding the world is irredeemable because it doesn’t match their head-picture.  And some fight back with memes.

Memes are perfect for this, because, like proverbs, they have the feeling of revealed truth and therefore stop the discomfort of having to face, you know, real reality which doesn’t match received culture.

Yesterday someone posted a typical one of those.  It was something like “People considering homeschooling should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair.”

A minute’s reflection (and five minutes of pointing and laughing) reveals the falacy in that.  I don’t know about you but the main reason I have never cut my hair is that I can’t see all around my head, and I’m not good at thinking in three dimmensions and reversed, so a mirror won’t do it.  What the heck this has to do with homeschooling YOUR KIDS is beyond me.  You could say “people considering learning by themselves should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair” — it still doesn’t make any sense, but I could see where you could say “you have blind spots, which you won’t investigate because you’re uncomfortable” (like the guy posting this, say.)  It would sort of make sense, even if not really (since most of us have taught ourselves a considerable amount of the specialized knowledge one needs for one’s job, because no school teaches it.  Hint, no, creative writing classes don’t teach you to be a writer.)  Or you could say “If you are considering homeschooling, ask yourself if you would cut your kid’s hair.”

Of course the reason he didn’t do that is obvious.  This particular “stop thinking” meme was about defending credentialism and people who’ve been “trained” to do this or that being superior to simple parents.  But the truth is that every parent has cut his or her kids hair once or twice and many do it all the time.  Take for instance when we were really young and broke and couldn’t afford anything but supercuts.  Some of those trained professionals aren’t as good as an untrained parent.

The same is true for homeschooling, where kids who are homeschooled, unless they are unschooled, where the results are mixed, are consistently better at… well… school things than our school taught kids.  (Yes, I know the canard this is due to parent involvement.  This canard is to try to get parents to volunteer more at schools.  Let me tell you, no, it’s not true.  Yeah, parental involvement like we did it, where we taught the kids at home after school works like homeschooling because DUH we’re teaching the kids, the school isn’t.)  This is because our schools have decided to emphasize “fitting in” “obeying” “playing the game” and “not sticking out” over learning.  In fact, many elementary school teachers will candidly tell you (particularly if your kid is gifted) that their main job is to “level” the kids so they’re all more or less at the same point before they enter middle school.  This explains why they worked so hard at getting both my kids to unlearn reading in first and second grade (didn’t work with the older, almost worked with the younger.)

The meme gets around that, and it is very popular because — even though it takes no time at all to demolish — it stops the pressure to acculturate and makes the person seeing it feel better and like their “truth” trumps reality.

Other memes that are as grating include the one about Jesus being a socialist, because you know, “though shalt take all your money and give to the government who will take some of it and give to the poor, but mostly use it to grow a massive and repressive bureaucracy” said no gospel, ever.

Then there’s the meme about how all whites here are illegal immigrants, a piece of nonsense that doesn’t take in account Neolithic-level civilizations don’t have borders as we understand them, and that if anything the fate of the Amerindian tribes would make us clamp border controls so tight not a mouse would get through.  This meme works on the “ahah, you’re also a poopyhead” system that every idiot learned in elementary.

This also explains why the right isn’t as good at memes.  We’ve not under terrible pressure to acculturate, because reality by and large accords with things like cause and effect, responsibility for your actions, longer time preference, and the broken nature of man.  So we really don’t need pseudo-clever memes that get around thinking and stop us feeling bad.

And it tells you that when you see memes, or an “everybody knows” that was coined after the nineteenth century, you should pause and examine it.  Because it’s been produced by a culture afraid of itself, it’s not likely to be a “useful workaround” but a palliative against acculturating to the real world.

In the end, we must all live in the real world.  (I just work elsewhere.)  Avoiding adapting to it is not a survival strategy.

 

361 responses to “Meme-tic

  1. My favorite recent noxious meme was this New Yorker cartoon:


    If I bought a ticket on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and could see the plane had reversed course and was heading toward Washington, DC, you can be damned sure I would be concerned about the pilots’ having “lost touch with the passengers” as well as with their senses.

    Listing the absurd falsities contained in this meme would be not only too tedious and too easy but too mean.

    • This is not to check the box I neglected to check in the prior posted comment. This is to check an entirely different box.

    • Thought of that one too. I mean, I can see how you might not want to turn the metaphorical airline of state over to a one-term senator who openly admitted the most complicated thing he ever ran was his own campaign…but for some reason, the people sharing that cartoon never seem to have a problem with that!

      My favorite response was, “If the most competent politician was half as good as his job as the least competent commercial airline pilot is at his, you might have a point.”

      • My favorite response was, “If the most competent politician was half as good as his job as the least competent commercial airline pilot is at his, you might have a point.”

        Talk to military pilots who have had any time in commercial planes.

        About half of them refuse to fly commercial unless they are the ones flying, and even then only if they’ve got actual veto power over the plane taking off if it’s not in acceptable condition.

        This was especially eye-opening on the reserve side, where most of the pilots are pilots for their day job, too!

        • Perhaps, and yet I think I would still bet on the commercial pilot over the politician.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Commercial airline pilot skill is supplemented by vehicle engineering and organizational rules. Sometimes neither of the latter are ideal.

            The political cognates are a) the design of our form of government, which is pretty good but does have several known failure modes b) the operating environment imposed by the people, which exacerbates rather than mitigates ‘skill’ deficiencies.

        • And then add the mechanics in — my brother-in-law used to be an aircraft mechanic. He quit because they were making him sign off on work that he hadn’t even had a chance to look at, let alone work on.

    • I was once on a Delta flight that was going to their main hub at the time, and there was some kind of pilot’s convention there that week so the flight was PACKED with pilots. Not only could we have survived the Attack of the Salmon Mousse handily, the *actual* pilot at the controls wanted to show off for his buddies so the landing was so elegant and smooth I really couldn’t tell when the wheels made contact. (Yeah, they don’t have to bounce the thing like they are trying to land on a carrier the way they USED to…)

      So yeah, given that in reality all us passengers picked one of us as the pilot from the beginning, it makes perfect sense to vote for a different one if the first choice was bad. We are all pilots on this thing.

    • If terrorists are flying the plane, it’s time to rush the cockpit.

    • If Obama, Bush…heck, pick your Prez… had to pass a twice a year FAA physical, a twice a year simulator checkride and once a year a no-notice line of flying check in the airplane doing the job….well, I might go with this meme. But since no President in my adult life could pass that high bar, it’s a stupid meme.

      • Now that you mention it, Bush actually flew a fighter jet as President…

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Did he fly it or ride in it?

          Unless he had recent experience in flying fighters, I could see the Secret Service joining with the Military in saying “That’s A Bad Idea”.

          No offense intended to George W, but I’d want to know how recent his fight training was before “signing off” on him actually flying an expensive fighter aircraft.

          • Patrick Chester

            IIRC, it was an S-3 Viking ASW carrier plane. 4 seats. He might have been allowed to hold the craft steady for a bit, but I suspect the aviator did most of the flying including the landing.

            • He was a former Reserve pilot, and the President. I have a hard time imagining that he didn’t successfully argue for the opportunity to have full control for a while in the air.

              Take-off and landing defintely would have been the regular pilot’s job, though, as Bush wasn’t trained for carrier ops even when he was in the Reserve.

              • And he was a reserve F-106 pilot, an interceptor that was notoriously hard to fly and punishing of mistakes.

                • The problem was, of course, that in the MSM he had found an interceptor even harder to fly and more punishing of mistakes.

            • I am not going to look this up to confirm, but my recollection is that he flew at least a leg of the trip to the carrier which resulted in the Mission Accomplished* photo-op.

              *Leave us please not get into rant about MSM dishonesty in reportage. That ground has been well-ploughed and we all know the media’s mendacity.

          • If I remember the grape vine right, he was in a seat that had controls, and officially he did not fly it.

            Officially.

            Because that would be dangerous, and probably illegal, since his quals weren’t up to date.

            So it officially did not happen—and they got quite pissed that folks thought the flight suit was some kind of a “costume,” rather than what you have to wear.

            No idea what got reported.

            • I always thought the president in Independence Day was based on someone like him.

              • 1: Independence Day, 1996 — premature

                2: Hollywood only bases presidents on Republicans when they are corrupt, incompetent, venal or of sufficient vintage (e.g., Lincoln) that they can swipe his mantle

                3: George H W Bush was an experienced (albeit the youngest in the service) combat veteran, and they sneered at him for having “ditched” his plane:The Chichijima incident (also known as the Ogasawa incident) occurred in late 1944, when Japanese soldiers killed and consumed five American airmen on Chichi Jima, in the Bonin Islands.

                Summary
                George H. W. Bush, then a 20-year-old pilot, was among nine airmen who escaped from their planes after being shot down during bombing raids on Chichi Jima, a tiny island 700 miles (1,100 km) south of Tokyo, in September 1944. Bush was the only one to evade capture by the Japanese. After the war it was discovered that the captured airmen had been beaten and tortured before being executed. The airmen were beheaded on the orders of Lt Gen. Yoshio Tachibana (立花芳夫, Tachibana Yoshio). American authorities claimed that Japanese officers then ate parts of the bodies of four of the men.

                Tachibana, alongside 11 other Japanese personnel, was tried in August 1946 in relation to the execution of U.S. Navy airmen, and the cannibalism of at least one of them, during August 1944. Because military and international law did not specifically deal with cannibalism, they were tried for murder and “prevention of honorable burial”.
                This case was investigated in 1947 in a war crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii, and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty. Tachibana was sentenced to death, and hanged. In his book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, James Bradley details several instances of cannibalism of World War II Allied prisoners by their Japanese captors. The author claims that this included not only ritual cannibalization of the livers of freshly killed prisoners, but also the cannibalization-for-sustenance of living prisoners over the course of several days, amputating limbs only as needed to keep the meat fresh.
                Per WikipediaPerhaps there was more to that incident of Bush ’41 (PTL we don’t have to refer to Clinton ’42) tossing his cookies on the Japanese PM than met the eye.

                4: The filmmakers probably modeled the character on John Glenn

    • We did. We were hiring for a CEO of the united States. Our options were a corrupt lawyer who spoke out of every side of her mouth and whose resume was basically having been married to a former CEO and a blowhard who had had at least some experience in the business world. Granted a very corrupt world so it was a roll of dice at best but he at least had the ability on paper.

      Oh. And the men who started the country were upper echelon but at least showed initiative and had other businesses vs the ‘business’ of politics.

      • There’s a reason why SMOD polled in the double digits when pitted against those two (and a three-way dead heat among independents).

        Ah, well, I’ve already gotten the only thing I expected: some interesting reactions from leftists.

    • The twitter re-captioning of this one have been hysterical.

    • But, it sums up the New Yorker attitude perfectly.

    • I’ve always thought The New Yorker was pretentious, but studied the cartoons because they good examples of the theater of the mind. It’s sad that those, too, have sunk into the Woo-Woo Swamp.

      • The New Yorker was a fine magazine …. under Harold Ross. Since his death in 1951, it has taken itself more and more seriously, until it has reached a kind of intellectual paralysis.

        Pity.

    • Also worth noting in response to this cartoon is the German pilot a few years ago who decided to committ suicide by flying into a mountain with a plane full of passengers. Anyone who ended up on that pilot’s plane wiuld be fully justified in trying to take control from the pilot.

    • Patrick Chester

      “They really want an aristocracy running this country.” -My reaction to that.

      • Presuming themselves to be the aristos, yeah.


        Which would not be of quite such great concern were the above an inaccurate presentation of how they view the nation.

        • Besides, the New Yorker‘s editors and readership are clearly …


          … racist.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            One of the most embarrassing Obama covers of all time, and it has some mighty stiff competition on that front.

    • Yes, I was thinking about that same one. The idea that America’s political and media class possesses specialized expertise analogous to that necessary to obtain an Air Transport Pilot rating demonstrates a remarkable level of cluelessness.

      Also, there have been serious accidents caused by the unwillingness of someone in the flight crew to challenge the Captain. “Why didn’t I mention to him that we were running out of fuel? But he has such a terrible temper!”

    • Consider the underlying New Yorker premise here: If this is our airplane-of-state, the pilots up there were elected by the passengers in the first place. The New Yorker is making fun of mustache dude because he has the temerity to propose electing someone else now.

      Doesn’t he realize that elections as Lord Hereditary Pilot are for life? And if any uppity passenger does somehow take advamtage of unfortunate circumstances to gin up a consensus among the passengers (mutiny!) demanding new pilots, they obviously must be required to pick the new pilots from among the first class passengers only – never from coach.

      And they wonder why they lost.

      • > elected

        The voters get to choose from a small pool of candidates who are chosen by the two main parties, which are “non-governmental organizations” not covered by the Constitution. They can, and do, nominate whoever they want; you can only vote from their pool of nominees.

        Out of 330-odd million people, the parties choose eight, and then we get to exercise the democratic process from their choices.

        “I don’t care who does the voting as long as I do the nominating.” – Boss Tweed

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      And of course this ignores that in America, the people are (in theory) the pilots.

    • I posted that on Facebook with the comment along the lines “When it comes to living my life, the ‘experts’ and bureaucrats that make up Acelistan are the ones sitting in the back.”

      Of course, the original was in Low Blueshirt.

  2. This canard is to try to get parents to volunteer more at schools.

    Parents who do volunteer more at schools tend to find themselves picking up broken bottles (and other, less savory debris) from the playground, supervising the ever-diminishing “free play” (with scant authority to do more than yell, “Hey! You lot! Cut that out!”) and otherwise employed in irrelevant non-academic busy work that frees teachers to spend breaks in the Teachers’ Lounge or elsewhere (e.g., in cheap hotels with the more “gifted” of their students, providing private tutoring in advanced kinesthetics.)

    Which does not count the time spent flogging useless tchotchkes, over-priced gift wrap, and “band candy” to fund activities that ought be fully funded by the school board (in lieu of additional Diversity Officers) and which magnify the divisions between “poor” and “wealthy” school districts.

    • That’s what I found out when I volunteered.

      • The trick my mother found was to volunteer to chaperon things like zoo trips. You get a trip to the zoo out of the deal, plus those sorts of things were popular enough with parents that the groups being supervised were pretty small, usually just your own kid and two or three others. It was kind of like having a family outing on school time.

        • My mom use to do that– in our school there were few enough parents willing to do it that she usually got in, and you could tell the bad teachers from the good by how they reacted to her. The bad teachers hate her guts, but fear her– the good ones would actually call her up to mention there were volunteer spots open, because she puts the fear of her in the most psychotic of students.

          Back before she had kids, she was a teacher herself– disarmed a teen who came at her with a knife (brothers all came back from Vietnam, and her dad was in what amounted to a western themed SCA group, so she knew knife fights) at one point, and dragged a guy twice her size down to the principle’s office with the same grip you use on a horse to get him to open his mouth for a bit. (She explained to us to never do that ourselves, because if the angle isn’t right, or they think well enough, a human can bite your thumb off. But she had a measure of the guy, and he was big enough he’d never had to think about tactics.)

    • ^^^^
      THIS

      I tried very hard to volunteer when daughter was in grade school, wanted to show the teacher I was eager to support and be the kind of parent that they needed, after hearing a lifetime of complaint from friends and family who were teachers. “If only parents participated in their child’s education more…” I got relegated to the copy room, and avoided by the teacher, who loved to tell me that my daughter was uncooperative and needed to conform herself to the rest of the class, who were ruled by the “special needs” kids who really needed to be put with a specialized teacher. When they treated her with zero tolerance procedures is when I realized I really needed to look into homeschooling. Moving her to a private school wasnt much better. I was told I was responsible for making sure she got her homework home, but wasnt allowed to come in five minutes before class ended to make sure she DID get her material home. “Just go wait in the pick up line…” Finally when that private school teacher asked me during a Parent/Teacher conference “is there anything going on at home that would prevent her from doing her homework?” is when I lost it. I was really sick fo the snobbish, stuck-up, nosy hypocrisy. I pulled her out because we could no longer afford said private school and I wasnt going to put her in the hell that the public school was becoming.

      • And this is me, Mary Thornell, who posted this – I forgot I was signed into an old account…*on my way to fix…*

      • I’m reading these horror stories and realizing we’ve never run into this. Ever. None of the forcing to conform. None of sacrificing academics in the name of PC. The two closest was when I was told I couldn’t cut the science project wires in-two even though they were a wire short, because they had to be turned in. The other was a teacher who insisted that they must teach estimation before calculation because it was on the test. I’m trying to remember if I asked her if she wanted us to calculate her electric bill or just estimate it, but may have only thought about that really hard.

        • I’ll admit that I’ve become a believer in estimation as a good supplement to calculation. If you estimate that the lady’s electric bill ought to come up around $100, then calculate that it comes to $125, you nod and charge; if you calculate that it comes to $12,050, you say, “Wait a second, WHAT???” and go back and do the calculation again.

          I can’t help thinking that a lot of the students I’ve had (such as the student who calculated that his professor lived 10,000 miles from campus) would have benefited from some better estimation skills.

          • I agree with you there. It’s so easy to drop a decimal point when working with longer calculations (I do it all the time when converting currency on a silly little virtual pet site I’m on) and knowing at least the general area of what an answer should be makes it so much easier to go back and check your work to find out where things went wrong.

            • What the schools miss is that estimation is based on experience, including running calculations. I’ve filled in before checking bills before they go out. It’s just a print-out of all bills that fall outside of usage norms based on history, including seasonal usage. You scan them for those that aren’t right. Such as a residential bill over $600. Second thing you do, after determining the account type, is look at the type of account. A single-wide in the winter can easily run up that kind of bill because A: Most locally now have resistance heat, and B: They tend to set the thermostat high, maybe to compensate for cold spots, and C: They tend to supplement it with electric space heaters. Another is irrigation, where you go “Oh, they’ve got so-and-so planted.” I have also done quick estimates based on electric demand usage.

              All of this is based on experience. We know roughly what bills should be, and why. If it was someone’s first day on the job, we wouldn’t dream of having them check pre-bills.

              What the schools are doing are estimating things before teaching children how to calculate it. And that’s why I either asked, or thought about asking, a teacher if she wanted us to calculate or estimate her electric bill.

          • Homeschooling Dad and former engineer/data analyst, speaking up:

            Estimation regarding operations on three-(or larger) digit numbers is useful in accomplishing several less-than-obvious results useful to 2nd and 3rd graders.

            It teaches the idea of “significant figures”. The left most digits are more accurate, less likely to be affected by measurement error or changes to circumstances, dominate the end result of the calculation, and generally MATTER. Divide 217 by 42 — well, divide 200 by 40 and get around about 5. The 17 and the 2 refine the result, they don’t determine it.

            This leads to distinctions between accuracy and precision. Original body temperatures, measured in Europe, were ACCURATELY reported to be 37 degrees. Celcius. More than 36, less than 38. That’s the best the instruments could do. In America the math applied to the result converted great big Celcius degrees into smaller Fahrenheit degrees and arrived at the number ninety eight and six hundredths. 98.6. Three digits. It’s a lie. “Spurious precision”. (Remember that term. It’ll come up over and over. SPUR — ee– ooze pree SISS yunn) Your math can’t truthfully produce a better (more accurate) result than your measurements. If you KNOW that your input numbers are already fuzzy then your output numbers are necessarily going to be comparable fuzzy. If your hair grows two inches per month how fast is it “moving” in miles per hour? (point-four billionths mph. Any additional digits are insignificant.) If your tree ring thicknesses vary by tenths of an inch, how many degrees Celcius different was the Medieval Warm Period from the 1990’s? (zero — no significant difference.) A student with enough paper and a sharp pencil (or a physicist with a super-computer and a bad model) can generate a lot more digits, but these are not in any way meaningful.

            A student with a calculator can generate 8 or 10 digit answers even more quickly, but these are not any more meaningful. And maybe not even as accurate, given the opportunity to “hit the wrong button”.

            A student with a SLIDE RULE can preserve three digit numbers thru a long series of calculations — not estimations. By the way, the numbers on this kind of ruler are called “Logarithms”. We’ll get there in 4th grade.

            ANYHOW, there are sound reasons for teaching estimation. As far as I can tell, few of these reasonable opportunities are explored in public school classrooms.

    • I spent time in college tutoring the ed majors (in my non-major classes like English and History, they weren’t in Calc 3 or programming courses) for free and being embarrassed that this was the standard they were being held to. When their capstone project for a semester was making a wall poster for class accountability, and mine involved parallel processors. And those same folk are going to do a better job teaching grade school subjects to my daughters than I will? Seems… likely.

      • As a corporate accountant with well over twenty-five years professional experience, I can recall on the fingers of one foot* how many times I have needed to build a diorama to present a budget analysis.

        Nor in my years of retail experience preceding my passage of the CPA exam did I ever have recourse to such skills as poster art, papier-mâché modeling or donning the colorful native costumes of indigenous peoples. (Have I just described the job-training program for SJW protesters????)

        *Although I admit there have been a few corporate managers who might have benefited from a finger-puppet explanation of depreciation methodology.

        • I have to make posters every month to prove we’re tracking things. Anything else? Yeah, no.

        • Our big thing, in the day, was drawing maps to learn geography and sketching various things in biology in order to visualize them. The kids, OTOH, have cranked out project after project. Only the ones related to computer skills seem like a valid use of time.

        • I know bank auditors charged with approving mathematical models who could use the finger-puppet explanation of undergraduate mathematics and statistics.*

          * Okay, I don’t know them but know of them. I am explicitly directed to never speak to auditors or their emails…something about tact issues 🙂

        • My job requires going to training every few months. Normally I don’t mind it, except when they decide that part of training professionals should be a word search or a crossword puzzle. I already know how to spell “neutron” and that knowledge isn’t going to help me when there’s radioactive water everywhere and the workers are asking me what they should do.

      • We had to do posters for a couple of classes, but they were “write a paper then construct the poster as you would if you were presenting in the vast room of papers at a major convention in the industry.”

        But that was A) for individual classes, B) to a specific industry standard, and C) not a multi-course capstone, but a (at most) a single final, usually just a single paper along the way.

      • I had a friend who got an Ed degree despite basically being a Troublemaker of the first order. For instance, she pointed out the irony of having a class on teaching diversity when the first tenet introduced was that separating out diversity doesn’t work well. Or pointing out other ironies in classes teaching elementary math (not *how* to teach it, *the math itself*.) I’m amazed she stuck with it, but she was a determined type who did not tend to hang out with her fellow majors after hours (except for the ones who caught her jokes.)

    • “(with scant authority to do more than yell, “Hey! You lot! Cut that out!”)”

      My brother had a job as a school bus driver last year. Two boys on his bus got into a serious fight– like blood on the floor serious– and he pulled the bus over and separated the two kids. He was forced to resign because he had physically touched the kids to separate them. No chance to appeal, nothing. Apparently what he was supposed to do in that situation is call the police and wait for them to show up while the kids continued to beat the tar out of one another.

      All this sort of thing does is teach the kids that they, not the adults, are in charge.

      • Does anybody know when (& where) the phrase “You’re not the boss of me!” originated?


        I confess having never watched “Malcolm” and can’t judge whether this use of the phrase is ironic.

        Stupid, stupid, stupid and a recipe for disaster. As bad as helicoptering but in the opposite direction.

        • I first heard it in the mid-70s. I wondered if it was a quote from somewhere, since “boss of me” is stilted and odd compared to “my boss.”

          • Consider the line “You’re not gonna be the boss of me”

            • “The boss of me” is an example of early childhood language acquisition skills in progress. It is grammatically correct, from a certain point of view, but it isn’t what an older native speaker would say.

              I’m pretty sure it’s just something kids said, back when older kids and young adults were busy yelling, “You’re not my boss!”

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Malcolm in the Middle is sort of a sitcom about a very dysfunctional family. IIRC, it has long term character development.

      • All this sort of thing does is teach the kids that they, not the adults, are in charge.

        Aren’t these the same people who consider Lord of the Flies an accurate depiction of childhood reality?

      • “Apparently what he was supposed to do in that situation is call the police and wait for them to show up while the kids continued to beat the tar out of one another.”

        That’s a liability issue for the school district, more than anything. Administrators are so paralyzed by fear of lawsuits that they put all kinds of insane rules into place that remove initiative from all district employees–except, remarkably enough, themselves.

      • Back in the day, the penalty was for the bus driver to put the offenders off his bus and telling their parents where to find them. Usually they’d hitch a ride on the other buses, much to our amusement and their shame. Can’t do that now, though.

      • The reason my mother was forced out of her job as a teacher? Because she disarmed the principal’s kid, who was coming at her with a knife. (He was “just kidding around.”) That, and her special-ed kids were actually improving academically enough, thanks to her, to be getting better grades–in the same classes/assignments–as the not-special-ed kids…

        • Special-ed kids, because they are no longer being forced to conform to a standardized, pedagogically appropriate, politically approved curriculum will often out-perform when given developmentally suitable instruction by a competent or gifted teacher. Jesse Stuart, in The Thread That Runs So True, his memoir* about teaching in Kentucky & Ohio schools during the 1920s and ’30s, describes such an experience while teaching Remedial English in an Ohio HS.

          Standardized programs, bureaucratically designed for a statistically average child often fail to produce projected performance. Part of this, it ought be acknowledged, may well be because they are intended for “Instructors” who will faithfully present the course material rather than for “Teachers”, who will educate the little varmints.

          *N.B. “Ruel Foster, a professor at West Virginia University, noted in 1968 that the book had good sales in its first year[1949]. At the time, he wrote, sales for the book had gone up in each successive year, an astonishing feat for any book. The book has remained continuously in print for more than 50 years.”
          Wikipedia

        • Charming things like that are why my kids aren’t in school… assault with a deadly is not a joke, I don’t give a **** who you are, and I won’t have that sort in authority over my children.

          For her actually getting results– sounds like my “special ed teacher”– I was sent in as illiterate. He cured it by…letting me read outside of the books I’d been approved for. And telling me why things were being asked of me. And rephrasing things like you would for someone who just didn’t know, instead of in the Barney “kids aren’t exactly human” style.

        • Right about now I am thinking how blessed I am with the principal and teachers I have…

    • Keep in mind that, from the beginning (Fichte & Humboldt in Germany, Mann et al here) the idea was that parents were the problem schools are designed to solve. Fichte proposed taking all German children away from their families once weened and having them raised by the state for next dozen plus years; while this has proven impractical, the goal remains the same: replace parental/family/cultural influence with state influence.

      When the schools say they want parental participation, they mean literally making the parents into agents of the school and state: enforce homework, drive kids around from one school function to the next, enroll kids into as many extra curricular activities as possible. Just try to ‘participate’ in any other way!

      Thus, the goal is achieved: family time is converted into school time, and parents recognize the rights of the schools to direct their and their child’s lives, not the other way around. The goal of complete separation of the child from his natural family and cultural home is achieved in every way except physical separation.

      • Germany is where Christian families are not allowed to homeschool their children. Parents have gone to jail for trying. They aren’t even allowed to emigrate to another country where they could homeschool.

    • My mom volunteered so much at my school, half my teachers knew her before they knew me. A couple even called me by her name in class.

      She started the PTO (not PTA, for reasons), the yearbook, the student store, the once a year fundraiser (we didn’t sell tchotchkes) and after prom at my high school and ran the great books club at my elementary school.

      I had a key to the nurses office so I could sleep when we were there past 10pm working on all her stuff. I can’t say it did much for me academically but I had some very interesting things to put on a resume and some skills that have come in handy more than 20 years later.

      So, there are some great volunteer moms for the school… now, ask how the kids felt.

  3. As far as the “dollar saved is a dollar earned” proverb, the version of it that I’ve always found helpful is the Garfield comic where Garfield notes, “It’s amazing the things people would rather have than money.” It seems to me to get to the heart of the matter, and so when I’m thinking of buying some five-dollar trinket, I ask myself, “If someone offered my this thing or five dollars, which would I pick?” Sometimes I want the trinket, sometimes the money, but either way, it seems a good way to consider what I really value in the situation.

    • The one that gets me is “money isn’t everything.” Considering that the whole point of money is that it’s something you can exchange for what you want, money is pretty much everything. You can always tell an economic ignoramus when they start railing against money.

  4. Oh wow, have things changed that much since 19*mumbletymumble*? I recall, as a beginning first grader, lingering a bit (it was a short walk[1] home so time was not critical) as the teacher pointed where the simple rules broke down, like how “put” is pronounced as it is rather than like “putt.” This wasn’t aimed at anyone as such, but was a sort of simple game and any kid around might benefit from it. The idea of “unlearning” to “level” seems utterly insane. Yeah, yeah, that’s because it is. So.. what the photon happened?

    • [1] Yes, walk. I’m ancient, alright?

      • Wait, you WALKED home? In first-grade? How are you not dead? Everyone knows that allowing a kid to walk home prior to age 16 or so is tantamount to just shoving them in front of a moving bus yourself! For that matter, allowing them to walk at all rather than ride in a stroller doesn’t seem to be recommend prior to middle school.

        • Worse, I also walked TO school. Sometimes in the rain, even. Had one of those yellow rain outfits that only appear in cartoons and stories now, it seems.

          • meh. My kids walked to and from elementary school. Mind you we lived in nice places, both times, but…
            Okay, okay, Pixel the guard-cat waited for them and escorted them there and back. BUT…. six pounds of orange fur and claws aside, they walked to school unsupervised.

            • I only stopped as we moved to the country and distance became a real issue. Thus I got to experience the “joys” of a bus.

              • Meh. Walked to school 5 – 6 blocks through 6th Grade. Junior High we’d moved (same school yard) and I would ride my bike the two miles there and home again afterward.

                Being in West Virginia it will surprise few that the two miles to school was all downhill — after the first push I only had to peddle for the fun of it. The trip home again tended toward 4 – 5 miles because … tacking against the incline, yeah, that’s it, that’s the ticket. The wandering through the park was just to find gentler slopes …

              • Had to bus to elementary school because lived in the country, 5 miles to town,@ 7 to school. Once we moved to The Cities, I walked to school all through middle and high school, only about 1-1/2 miles or 1/2 hour ambling. Problem was the path to school was through a swamp and along some railroad tracks through some very rustic terrain so I often got diverted by watching things like muskrats mating, foxes frolicking, sticklebacks, uh, stickling, and thus was chronically late to ‘homeroom’. This never was an issue for me because it was only a headcount and listen to morning announcements of current events (which were always posted on the announcements board outside the principal’s office anyway), and while three tardies generated an hour of detention in the library after school, I usually spent an hour (or (sometimes *way*, If I wasn’t subsequently headed for the computer lab or the darkroom) more) in the library after school so about once a week I just had to ask the librarian to ensure she recorded my ‘penance’.

              • Bussed in elementary, even the later grades. When in 1st through 6th grades we were last picked up, and first dropped off so the buss ride was minutes . . . then, although we lived less than a mile from the nearest school, the district decided we needed to be at a school almost 8 miles away, then Middle school I rode (didn’t have a bike), and Freshman year in Highschool. That last year, they changed the route, so I started riding my bike to school. My sisters rode the bus, but for me, I could lay in bed until they left the house and when I heard the bus stop, then I’d get up, shower, eat, etc, get on my bike, and get to the School before my Sister who was a year younger, did. My Middle school year, the bus went from our house, to that close elementary then picked up a ton of kids waiting at the Elementary to run down to the Middle and High. Freshman they went to a longer route, and we were in the first 1/4 of the route iirc, and all 3 sisters got on then the two youngest got off at the elementary(they stopped busing us by then), and one other bus’s High and Middle students got on then and the bus went on with the rest of it’s route, but then went back and dropped some more elementary kids and picking up another bus’s older kids again, before heading down to the High and Middle. The bus had a bad radio with an 8 track that would only play The Cars (the eponymous album), anything else it ate (Candy O, Two Kiss tapes that I recall), so if you rode to High School from an early stop, you knew where you were by what song was playing and how many times you had heard it. I got Let The Good Times Roll 3 times a ride. Wasn’t just us they moved around for no reason, The driver of that bus lived across the street from the high and in town elementary (We had 3 elementaries) back then, but instead of letting her bus be one of those left at the elementary, hers was further across town.
                My junior year, I broke my leg (going to get a bike frame so I could ride it to school) and missed a month of class, then 2weeks I got a ride in an older student’s car until the cast was off, (and he was put on probation and suspended, but that’s another longer story) then rode that accursed bus for a few weeks until I no longer needed crutches. Then I was back to riding my bike, through the snow, uphill, (only on the way home . . we lived on a bluff)

            • Hmmm. I took a school bus to school and back, but walked into town on Saturdays for haircuts, to play baseball with friends, etc. It was about a mile one way; I’d start out alone (at maybe 7-8 years old); at each farm I passed, one of the farm dogs would come out, sniff, and tag along. I’d usually get into town with 5-6 dogs accompanying me. I’d go to the barbers and they’d go do doggy things. When I was done with my haircut I’d come out to find 5-6 dogs sitting waiting for me. We’d all walk home, each dog peeling off as we got to its farm, and I’d arrive back at the house alone.

              • I remember this as a very popular book of my youth:
                https://d1w7fb2mkkr3kw.cloudfront.net/assets/images/book/large/9780/3933/9780393339413.jpg

                “A classic evocation of childhood . . . a masterly mixture of up-country drawl and Huckleberry Finn.”―The New Yorker

                A hugely popular bestseller when it first appeared in 1957, Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing. is Robert Paul Smith’s nostalgic and often wry look back on his 1920s childhood. Smith agitates against what he perceives as the over-scheduled and over-supervised lives of suburban children as he celebrates privacy, boredom, and time to oneself away from adults. Arcane games and pastimes including mumbly-peg, horse-chestnut collecting, and Indian scalp burns pervade the book, alongside tales of young love―”I loved the smell of kerosene. Rose smelled of kerosene. I loved Rose.”―and hard-won observations by Smith the elder. Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing. still conveys the essence of adventure that forms the basis of a fondly recalled childhood. Ten black-and-white illustrations

                I suppose these days, in which “Free Range Children” is an extremist philosophy, it would be deemed a journal of abusive parenting.

                Sterling North’s elegiac Rascal similarly tells the tale of a boy growing up largely unaided and notably well. It appears to be an American genre, tracing roots back as far as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (although it should be noted the latter book recognizes the risks of such negligent upbringing as Huck decides he’d rather be damned to hell than accept the rules society’s laid out for a certain situation.) Pulitzer Prize winner Booth Tarkington also explored this genre with his Penrod books (which I regret having never taken the occasion to read.)

                Perhaps not simply American; I s’pose Harry Potter, Stalky & Co., Tom Brown’s School Days might constitute an English version, although I think all such English books are more properly in the “Boarding School” genre, which would include the American Lawrenceville Stories of the Prodigious Hickey, Gutterpup, Hungry Smeed, and the Tennessee Shad. There are, of course, a wide variety of schoolgirl books in the English section, as all fans of Chrestomanci must acknowledge.

                • Irksome! That was supposed to display the book’s cover:

                  Judge Posner is still a moron, WP delenda est. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh …

                • I spent a lot of my grade-school years Out doing Nothing. We had a regular pack of 8-12 neighborhood kids who roamed a three mile area, getting into things, dodging nettles, sledding, building snow forts, eating mulberries off the trees, watching clouds, riding bikes, and doing much Nothing. (1970s-early80s)

                • I hate speaking up against the “free range parenting” movement, but it’s trying to rest on something that isn’t there anymore– sometimes not even in the parents that are trying to free-range.

                  The idea that #AnyRandomAdult would be very likely to hold the same norms as yourself, and could be reasonably expected to enforce them in an acceptable way.

                  That method depended on the area and probably even the social groups of the kids– the place my dad grew up, they’d directly scold the kid, my mom’s area the grapevine would tell their parents (doomdoomDOOM!)– but you could be reasonably sure that the kids wouldn’t be out doing socially unacceptable things. These days, you’re safer to bet that kids that aren’t supervised are doing something unacceptable, and probably illegal.

                  I can’t even get too mad at the folks who automatically assume that any accusation against their kids is false, because there’s a lot of folks who do make stupid accusations. (Well, I can’t get too mad the first time. It does tend to rather quickly reach the “my poor sweet little innocent angel, the school bully who has put a dozen people in the hospital” range.)

                  • +10000000

                    The whole realization that diversity, especially cultural diversity, limits social trust is given its best example in the end of the free range childhoods a lot of us had.

                    My mother knew all but maybe 1 or 2 families in our neighborhood could be trusted to have broadly the same expectations of children and if we were in danger or being stupid it would get to her and quickly.

                    We can no longer assume that about our neighborhoods. This is the real world issue behind opposition ranging from immigration to public housing vouchers in non-public housing.

                    • While I am in sympathy with the movement my support is necessarily limited by the awareness of there being all too many of the “cool” moms and dads.

                      We need not delve into exactly what qualities define them as “cool” beyond the observation those do not encompass maturity and good judgement.

                  • Our neighborhood is still like that. If one of my kids does something really dumb where the neighbors see I expect a call. (Hey, it’s a quarter-mile at minimum between houses.)
                    I don’t think of myself as a free range parent. I mean, we’ve got fences and they darned well better close the gates! (Kids letting the cattle from the BLM onto private property would definitely get me called.) But the kids do get to roam pretty much.
                    I want a bigger dog that’s not got hunting instincts for the kids. I’m more worried about the mountain lions than people out here.

                    • Get a livestock guardian dog. They are great. I’ve had several Great Pyrenees and a Maremma (both breeds bark a lot at night, but if you got one for the kids, you could keep it in the house at night, which prevents most of the barking). Right now I have a Maremma X Ahkbash who is excellent. She doesn’t bark at night (I have her for protecting livestock, so she doesn’t come in the house and I’m very thankful that she’s quiet at night unless something is up) and I don’t lose critters to the coyotes. I haven’t even lost a chicken to hawks lately, though two years ago I did lose some to owls at night. If you get a puppy and raise it with the kids, it will stick to them and you won’t have to worry about the cougars (we have those here, too, and now wolves are moving into the area).

                      The only down-side is that they need supervision if you have visitors. My Cameo has started getting aggressive with adult male visitors; I am somewhat thankful for this, since my daughter and I live alone, but I do have to keep an eye on her when someone is here.

                  • I suppose we were raised ‘free-range,’ but 1. we lived in rural to very rural areas with a lot of open space to play in (square miles of nothing but woods and water and fields), and 2. what neighbors we did have were either relatives (my grandparents when we were in Alaska, my mother’s cousin and his family after we moved back to Oregon) or friends.

                    • I got lucky and had roughly the same experience, although some fences we weren’t allowed to cross I now think had more to do with the humans on the other side than the animals….

                      That said, the stuff that kids just on the little block we left thought was acceptable is just horrifying, and the parental/grandparental responses… *sigh* Well, the Hawaiian aunties across the road were sane.

            • My brothers and I walked a mile and a quarter from our house to the bus stop until I was ten years old (and then rode several more miles on the bus). The only other house on the road belonged to our Dad’s parents, though. And the only road hazard we were likely to encounter was the herd of bison that had been imported to Alaska back in the 1920’s. We got out of going to school a couple of times because of those bison.

        • One of the reasons I like my neighborhood is that we’re not the only parents that walk our kids to school. I’d let them walk themselves if I could trust the crazy drivers to actually be looking out for kids.

          As a side note, the muscle fiber you build while you’re growing stays with you the rest of your life, even if it’s not in condition. (Explains my calves.) So having regular exercise, such as walking or biking to school, is like a gift of health to your kids.

          (Positive geography: There’s a park at the back gate of the school that lets out onto a different street, so many of the smarter parents who have to drive do a slightly delayed pickup from that side. That way, the kids get some play time in after school and the parents avoid the traffic. Negative geography: A large portion of the area serviced by the school is across a creek that doesn’t have a good direct bridge, so a “mile away” would be two or three miles by foot or bike, making driving mandatory.)

        • K-3rd, my school was in town. The bus started in town, went out of town to pick everybody else up, then returned. We could get on the bus on the way out, on the way in, or walk. Came in handy one day, when I forgot my homework. We’d walked to school, so I ran home, grabbed what I needed and caught the bus on the way back in. Very small town, and counting the kids from the tribal village and the kids of the Park Service employees along with the town kids, wasn’t much more than 30 kids. Almost 1 room school house.

        • Not happening anywhere in the several-state area under the Federal court in St. Louis. We have Federally-imposed “desegregation”, which basically involves putting children on buses two to four hours per day to ensure they don’t go to school anywhere near where they live.

          They end up more segregated at the end than when they started, but nobody ever believed that story anyway…

          • The real point of bussing has nothing to do with desegregation and everything to do with the state demonstrating to parents who really controls the children.

          • LA county (and possibly all of California – I don’t recall for certain) had that kind of bussing back in the late ’70s, iirc due to a court order. Everyone hated it.

            Fortunately, it never directly affected me.

            • Every few years there would be a school district unification vote in Whittier CA. Always got voted down. Town of about 60k had five separate grade school districts and one highschool district. Kept the schools local. At least in my day. Bureaucrats promoted the advantages of centralized administration. Parents voted no.

              • Dunno about Whittier but most of my end of SGV is still separate districts

                • Too bad for all the LA city schools families

                  • well, technically, they are separate cities anyway

                  • There are a bunch of small school districts scattered around LA County. But everyone else gets LA Unified. I think it might be the biggest school district in the country. And apparently it’s one of the most disfunctional.

                    • Well, really, they just need to be in an incorporated city within the county, and not living in the city of Los Angeles or the unincorporated county areas… so, basically, the east side of the county….

              • I wondered if they’d managed to avoid district unification, the issue kept coming up while we lived there. (I grew up in Whittier, elementary school from ’56 to ’64. Didn’t attend public school, though.)

                • I’m 4-5 years behind you. As a kid, I would read the voter packets and think unification sounded great. Mom and Dad had other, wiser ideas.

                  • Unification is great … for the administrators, who all get larger departments, bigger titles and plumper retirement packages.

                    Probably better for the “teachers” as well — the ones who can’t actually, y’know, teach but who can sorta manage a classroom if they don’t have many parents pestering them with IEPs and such.

                • An off track Whittier anecdote.

                  My younger neighbor Mike wanted to be a cop. Went through the academy. Did reasonably well and decided to try the Whittier PD. Whittier was in the middle of a demographic shift. Way more Hispanics than when we moved in. Mike, as a blue eyed blonde, didn’t think he had much of a chance but decided to at least try.

                  He was interviewed by three people from WPD. One was a typical HR puke. The other was a lieutenant who asked technical police questions. The third was an old grizzled sergeant. He didn’t chime in until the other two were done. The sarges first question was “I hear you play ball.”
                  “Yes sir.”
                  “Did you go pro?”
                  “Yes. I was drafted by the Royals.”
                  “How far did you get?”
                  “Double A.”
                  “What position?”
                  “Shortstop sir.”
                  “You know, there is a really competitive police baseball league in Southern Cal. Are you still interested in playing ball?”
                  “Oh yes sir! I love baseball. I just wasn’t quite good enough to make the bigs.”

                  Long story short. He was hired as a deserving minority. There are never enough good shortstops.

  5. “[W]e really don’t need pseudo-clever memes that get around thinking and stop us feeling bad.”

    Most memes are simply an internet equivalent of bumper-stickers and are about as road rage inducing for people who actually try to think an idea through to its conclusion. Having lived for a couple decades in a college neighborhood I am largely inured to such preening … except, of course, for the rare example that perfectly captures my own thought.

  6. Even without the usual net.meme things can get strange when thought through. Monday we (myself & $HOUSEMATE) went out for breakfast and the place had a mission statement sign about “outrageous service.” Really? They desire their service to be an outrage? Not what they meant, of course, but if one read it for what it said (alright, pedantically) well, it seemed counter to intent.

    • There was a giant billboard in the next town, with the name of a hospital and the words “WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THESE COME OFF.” And a picture of a pair of boxing gloves.

      Um. I hope they knew what they were trying to say, because it sure confused *me*…

      • Ha! I’ve seen that too, except the boxing gloves were tight against the body of the attorney. Dark suit, dark gloves… couldn’t tell what he was doing. 🙂

        • I was wondering if they were trying to imply some sort of duel with the condition, as in tossing down a glove to make a challenge, then just used the first “glove” clip art they found.

          Usually when I see some incomprehensible billboard it’s part of some “media tie-in” that’s supposed to remind me of a television commercial. Since we have no television, probably 25% of the local billboards make me wonder what they’re trying to sell.

      • I hope the surgeons aren’t trying to operate with boxing gloves. Now that would be messy.

      • Especially confusing when it’s easier to hit harder with a good pair of boxing gloves and tape job than otherwise, right? That idiom never made much sense… but I guess that’s Sarah’s point about many memes. 🙂

        • I always took it to mean gauntlets, as in a challenge to a duel.

          • I always thought it was related to the expression “handling with kid gloves” in that the speaker is no longer going to be gentle.

            I did read one thing, though, that suggested that boxing gloves are the correct image. It suggested that the padding in boxing gloves prevent TOO much damage from being done, and when the gloves come off you’re down to bare knuckle brawling.

          • I have been told that in Hockey the actual fight doesn’t begin until somebody takes off his gloves. Being on ice, people tend to slide away when slugged, eliminating most of a blow’s force. In order to actually fight one person needs must remove (min: 1) glove to grab the other player’s jersey to hold him in place for delivery of a beatdown.

            The expression may be one in which multiple streams converge.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Chuckle Chuckle

              Off Topic, but one of the characters of the Wearing The Cape series talked about (as a side comment) fights between Atlas types (think Superman).

              Hitting another Atlas (especially when both are flying) often means the other Atlas would feel the full impact of the blow because “they’ll be knocked away”.

              So the first Atlas has to grab hold of the other Atlas and then hit the other Atlas. 😀

              • Or use the ground as a handy anvil…. kind of like this:

                Notice that Loki was knocked away into the wall on the first hit.

                • Okay, I am not well-versed on Asgardian physiology, so that may in fact matter. But for many Supers (e.g., General Zod) slamming them into the ground is sorta the equivalent of throwing them on a heavily padded mat. Might knock the wind out momentarily but not really going to do much real harm.

                  “Oh no! He just broke a 30-ton cement truck over my head! What’ll I do if he throws me against that mound of dirt?”

                  Yes, all of this falls into the old George Reeves conundrum of “the bad guy emptied his .38 and the bullets bounced off my chest, but I don’t dare let the thrown empty revolver hit me in the face.”

                  • There was a line in Supergirl about this. It went something like:

                    “You just emptied your gun into me, why are you now trying punching?”

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Asgardians are harder to harm than standard humans but IIRC not on the level as Kryptonians.

                    Of course, a standard human hand a Kryptonian this little green rock that will harm the Kryptonian and these is no “little rock” that can harm an Asgardian. 😉

                  • And if you are being thrown parallel to the ground into a mound of dirt, yeah, you’d move it out of the way and keep going. Being thrown through the mound of dirt towards the center of the earth….. there’s a lot more energy transfer because you can’t move the planet.

              • I long had problems with that, as well. Say Superman and Lex Luthor (in his battle suit, built with designs stolen from Tony Stark) are engaged in mid-air fisticuffs. Supes belts Luthor in the jaw with a terrific uppercut and finds himself spinning helplessly from the Newtonian reaction.

                Of course, I long wondered about Superman using a steel I-Beam to smack an opponent such as Doomsday. DUDE! You’ve been hitting him with your fist to no apparent effect! That steel beam is like a licorice whip compared to your Kryptonian hardness, so why are you going easy on this monster?

                Hulk doing that I could understand. Hulk am poet, not genius. Hulk not have good grasp on simple physics, Hulk just want pretty splash pages.

                RES has found it good idea to park brain in lot while reading comic books or watching modern movies. Sometimes RES must ark it in a far lot so RES not tempted to run out and use it for reality checks. Reality checks RES enough as is.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Now Res, Lex may have gotten the idea for his Battle Suit from seeing Stark’s Ironman Suit but he was able to create one without stealing info from Stark Industries. 😉

                  Note, I had mixed feelings about the change from “Criminal Mad Scientist Lex Luthor” to “Evil Businessman Lex Luthor”.

                  While I liked the Criminal Mad Scientist Luthor, there was always the problem that Lex Luthor could have become rich by selling/manufacturing his inventions. 😀

                  • I’m actually sympathetic to the Lex Luthor in a lot of ways (been watching Smallville).

                    Having seen just what supers can do, he’s desperate to find a way for humanity to survive in the face of what are, effectively, invulnerable alien demigods that occasionally turn out to be extremely hostile. That desperation leads him into some *very* dark places.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      While I haven’t been following the modern Comic Book version of Lex Luthor, they had mixed the “Evil Businessman meme” with the “racist meme”.

                      I dislike the “Evil Businessman meme” and you’re correct, there is good reasons to be nervous about beings with that level of power even when they claim to be “good guys”.

                      Note, when they first introduced the “Evil Businessman” Lex Luthor, his hatred of Superman was two fold.

                      1) Metropolis was “his” city and Superman was being seen as “More Important Than Him”.

                      2) Lex found that he couldn’t “buy” Superman.

                    • As I recall, the Evil Businessman Lex was introduced in John Byrne’s reinvention of Superman, so … 1985-86. Anybody else recall what was happening in the greater political universe in that era? It was a logical re-positioning of a character to fit him into the zeitgeist and provide motivations credible to the audience.

                      Evil Industrialist, during the Depression, would have had less appeal unless you were creating a Marxist “Red Son” version … and even the it would have had limited market appeal.

                  • Well, once you’ve said “Criminal Mad Scientist” you’ve pretty much explained it all, haven’t you? Besides, not even Lex was crazy enough to sell those ambulatory weapons systems to Third World Dictators.

                    I agree he probably didn’t steal from Stark … I expect his reaction to the Ironman suit being more along the lines of John DeLorean thinking, “Let me show you how to build A Car.”

                • The I-beam thing is twofold:
                  1. It lets Superman land a hit without getting into arm’s reach of one of the few beings that can kill him via physical punishment

                  2. Leverage. Doomsday (and others like him) may have super tough skin, but they only have so much mass. Think of the hit less as a way to do damage, but a way to play golf with someone you really want out of the populated area and who can’t fly. The question of why nobody has ever just golfed or TK levitated Doomsday offplanet and onto a trajectory headed to Jupiter (it might not kill him, but good luck getting out of that gravity well without full super flight capabilities) is left unanswered.

            • Pretty much and, at least in my regular AHL attending days, the gloves coming off in the fight meant worse penalties and often ejection.

  7. People get very annoyed when you point out fallacies in memes, even if they are for your side. Though most of the anger tends to come from debunking scientifically illiterate memes. The political memes can engender some good debating as well as some massive arguments, but the scientifically illiterate ones? Anybody against those are evil minions of Satan.

    • The “I fucking love science” message you mean

      • “I fucking love science” really means:

        1. “I love cool tech toys I couldn’t even remotely understand the working of”

        or (inclusive)

        2. “I love high p-value claims that should be limited to ‘college undergraduates in psychology’ but which I can use to dump on people I already know I’m superior to”

        • Yep. One thing I love seeing Ace go off on. Especially the half truths serving politics

        • Often it also means “I’m skeptical about everything religious, and anthropogenic climate change cannot be questioned because Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson say so.”

          • Global warming, this I know,
            For Bill Nye has told me so.

          • Pretty much. Though if anyone brings up NDT, you can point out that he’s such an egotistical twit that he felt the need to publicly find fault with the space physics in The Force Awakens.

            • First time I ever heard of the guy, I was flipping around the radio and hit his show– he made multiple stupid errors in a very short time. The kind of thing that any sort of research should have corrected for him.

              But it wouldn’t have promoted whatever the heck he was arguing for.

              That is a sign of a bad scientist. He might get good results sometimes, but it isn’t because of his scientific ability, it’s like my three year old yelling out numbers to harass his sisters and getting the math right sometimes.

              I’d hope that his primary field, he doesn’t do the same thing, and it just induced Lucas syndrome…. (I don’t need no stinkin’ editors!)

              • From what I know of Mr. Tyson, he’s primarily a showman rather than a scientist. He does have a PhD, and he did publish some reasonable work as part of getting that degree, but I don’t believe he does a lot of original research right now; his job is to be a priest to the “I *%$@! love science” crowd and a cross between an amusement and an exasperation to the people who actually do love science.

                • He first entered the public eye when he was administrator of the Hayden planetarium. He was one of Discovery channel’s go-to guys for their astronomy documentaries because he’s good-looking, articulate, and black (remind you of anyone you know?). He was a desk jockey who has become a showman.

                  • And Carl Sagan apparently responded to one of his letters when he was a kid.

                    *shrug*

                    Don’t ask me why that matters.

                    • It does rather suggest that he’s following a role model– and not even an especially bad one.
                      Flawed, both of them, but honestly the bigger problem is in their followers….

          • Science was once a useful tool. Now it’s well on its way to becoming a religion, faithfully guarded by its own alt-wahhabi.

            The scientific method doesn’t seem to be part of “science” any more, and falsified data and papers are so common that the perpetrators have buried their heads in the sand and wittered about “replication crisis.”

            No, it’s not chaos effects hosing their experiments. Its a combination of design fail and outright fraud supported by their peers via “peer-reviewed journals.”

            “If we’re all saying the same thing, it must be the truth.”

      • They just get the word order wrong, is all. Reverse the middle two words and the truth spills out all over the place.

    • The one meme that has pissed me off enough that I debunk it every time I see is the Easter = Ishtar one.

      • Oh, gad, the false factoid ones….

        I actually follow a guy who gets a lot of the “less interesting than they are phrased” type memes, because about half of them when you’re done debunking them you have something that’s even more interesting than what you started with; think about the mindset involved in taking a law against using reflective objects to look up a girl’s skirt and translating it into “it’s illegal for women to wear patent leather shoes in XYZ.” Or taking a general bestiality prohibition and spinning it as “illegal to have sex with chickens on Tuesday afternoon.”

        • Are the people creating these rationales related to the Islamic scholars that explain things like why temporary marriages (think half hour or so tops) aren’t prostitution?

          • I think they’re more related to the guys who explain why Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy actually assaulting women is Not A Big Deal, but Trump talking about how he’s rich enough to get away with it is horrible.

    • The political memes can engender some good debating as well as some massive arguments, but the scientifically illiterate ones?

      Oh, my gosh– my mom almost got kicked out of a group because a doctor didn’t understand how vaccines work, and responded poorly to her not bowing out when he waved the “I’m a doctor” flag. It didn’t over-rule a BS in animal husbandry, 30+ years of experience and two sites explaining exactly how it worked.

      He thought that it didn’t matter at all when you did the second stage of a two stage vaccination…and it’s for a 21 day minimum vaccine delay….

      Folks here know how annoyed I get about magical thinking in relation to vaccines. Guess I come by it honest. 😀

  8. I have cut my own hair (bangs only) numerous times.

    • I have seen my mother cut her own hair. To this day I’m not sure how she got the back perfect, but she did.

      • The key — and this is why it doesn’t work for Liberals — is that you must be level-headed.

        • Actually, it’s about knowing the angle to cut at (with long hair) with the hair parted and pulled around the front so the back looks nice. It’s not particularly hard. You can get a book at the library–or at least you used to be able to–that says how to. It’s also easier to just not cut your hair.

          • Gleeeb.

            Would my intent in the prior remark have been more clear had I said: “The key — and this is why it doesn’t work for Liberals — is that you must first extract your head from between your buns”?.

            • Well, I was trying to tell Kevin one way his mother may’ve done it, and point out that people do all the time.

              *Pictures a liberal wearing Leia style buns trying to extract their head.* Eh, pretty good image there. (Of course, I have a friend (not liberal) whose only natural lack for cosplaying Leia is having red hair, and that’s after five kids. It’s a very forgivable flaw when she does, trust me.)

              • She didn’t wear her hair long, though. She’d stand in front of the medicine cabinet, scissors in hand, and have at it. She did this on a regular basis. And behind her was the shower curtain, so there wasn’t another mirror for her to look into. I watched her do it for years, and still don’t understand how she cut the hair on the back of her head.

                I’m told for a time she also cut hair for extra money. That was before I was born.

  9. I’ve seen a ton of memes from the right, but they do tend to focus more on just blatantly making fun of people, not making a point.

    • That is the point. Most of those memes are pointing out the basic silliness of those others.

    • A meme with a good grain of truth is fine. The memes designed solely to mock are the infuriating ones

    • That is because the only thing the left truly cannot stand is being mocked.

    • “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.”

      I dunno, that one is, if anything, optimistic. Local PD response time is 20-30 minutes, and they often don’t bother to come at all.

      • Depends on where you live. In most urban areas, a response time of more than several minutes is newsworthy. Outside of that, though, is another matter entirely.

        • Seventeen to forty minutes here

          • Up to an hour plus, depending on the weather, yet we have very little crime.

            Yeah, our Sheriff is very loudly and publicly in favor of everybody owning guns, why do you ask? (He also put body cameras on all his deputies as soon as he could. There’s a reason the guy keeps not even getting challenged for re-election.)

            • in my case, suburban los angeles county. Their fastest response was on a shots fired call, and i still had to point out that there was brass in the street.

        • The average response time in San Jose, CA was about 45 minutes back in the early ’80s when we lived near there. Didn’t seem locally newsworthy.

          • It seems that there’s a definition issue, too– different police departments measure it differently. (Several articles mentioned it, but didn’t give a link to examples.)

            I can think of a couple of different ways to measure “police response time” that don’t even require screwing around to game the results– the “from when someone dialed the phone to when a cop arrived” measure, the “from when a call was received to when a cop was dispatched” and “from when they figured out what a call needed to when someone reported on scene.”

            That first one is what matters to the person that’s being threatened; the second one is the best apples to apples measure of how effective the emergency response system is (though not of how cops are spread out) and the third one is a decent measure for “how well is the local 911 working.”

            New Orleans seems to at least in theory go from the time of the call to the time of arrival on scene:
            http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_b7b64d13-45ad-5dd1-a3fd-de6d2513f367.html
            News story about a 911 operator who thought “there is a guy with a gun right here” that ends abruptly with a guy yelling about putting a gun in her mouth wasn’t something a cop needed to be told when sent to investigate someone in a car being threatened…..

  10. The over price “band candy” you get a lot here in Chicago if you are walking any where downtown, you don’t know if it’s legit student from public or private school or Fagin is lurking around the corner.

  11. Memes are similar, but you have to remove societal wisdom and put in “the commanding forces of culture and mass media”.

    It can be “something someone thought was clever,” too.

    Frequently not much daylight, there.

  12. Yesterday someone posted a typical one of those. It was something like “People considering homeschooling should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair.”

    ….I do cut my own hair.

    So does my husband.

    We also cut the kids’ hair.

    It’s not that hard, if you don’t need feathering in the back. (I prefer ponytails or buns, and have pretty much since forever– short hair ends up getting in your eyes.)

    • I do as well but a buzz cut isn’t the best counter argument.

      • Depends how much they are spending for a buzz cut… my folks converted my husband that way!

        • Annually? The cost of Wahl clipper oil used to maintain the clippers with a capital investment every few years in clippers (2 or 3 as an adult so every decade or so).

          • *big grin* Military base. Some of the guys are dropping $15 a week on a buzz cut. It would have to be at least monthly for the Baron, and his dad goes on about the same schedule…. even if we got $90 pair, that’s only three months worth.

            Well, and two bad haircuts as we learn….

        • If you have beard or mustache trimmers, you can do a decent short cut with just a little applied intelligence. I’ve been cutting my boys’ hair that way for years.

    • Feather Blade

      If you pull your hair in a high ponytail, and cut the ends even, you’ll get decent layering anyway when you let it down.

  13. Professor Badness

    “People considering homeschooling should ask themselves if they would cut their own hair.”

    *Pauses* I cut my own hair as well. I just have my wife check it when I’m done.
    And we homeschool. When the kids skipped a grade in the first year, we decided to expand the curriculum beyond that required by public schools.
    But we’re doing it together. Hair cutting and homeschooling is taking the viewpoint of more than one person in our household.
    Or was this just a meme signalling that they are too rich to bother being competent.

  14. …too rich to bother being competent.

    Now there’s a phrase I might need to stea… adopt.

  15. “Then there’s the meme about how all whites here are illegal immigrants, a piece of nonsense that doesn’t take in account Neolithic-level civilizations don’t have borders as we understand them…”

    It also doesn’t take into account “immigration” as…well…anyone else understands it either. Not only does my birth here make me a Native American, but I’m also Native American by the fact that no generation before the seventh of every branch of my family tree was born outside the borders of these United States. That’s two hundred years that my ancestors have been here. When do I get to consider myself Native?

    Oh, I know exactly why. The point is that not only do these memes usually fall apart under the mildest scrutiny, but they get worse the longer you think about them. The more you deconstruct these things, the more you can see just how far their flawed concepts have crept.

    • Plus I’m pretty sure the vast majority here came thru legal immigration. You know, the kind where you got inspected at Ellis Island rather than sneaking in or just staying after a visa expires.

      As for borders, borders are only as valid as they are enforced and accepted. Regardless of whether animal, Neolithic or national.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        OH NO!

        We’re All Illegal Immigrants because we didn’t ask the Indians for permission! :Sarcasm:

        Of course, since we are in control of North America instead of the American Indians is a Good Reason to prevent the Illegals from continuing to enter.

        After all, the American Indians didn’t stop us from entering and look what happened to them. 👿 👿 👿 👿

        • That is where rule of conquest comes in. Borders not respected do not last

        • That’s the bit that gets me. You show a meme comparing the arrival of Europeans and Native Americans, and parallel it to illegal immigrants and current Americans, and… do you want us to conclude “it worked out well for them, so we should do the same” or “it worked out poorly for them, KATIE BAR THE DOOR!”?

        • We’re All Illegal Immigrants because we didn’t ask the Indians for permission

          I sometimes ask why the Indians didn’t enforce the laws they had. After all, for it to be ILLEGAL immigration there would have to be some applicable law, right?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            There was this one (sadly now extinct) tribe with laws on the books. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the manpower to exterminate the other tribes, much less the peoples of Europe.

            Vae Victis my friends.

        • We’re All Illegal Immigrants because we didn’t ask the Indians for permission! :Sarcasm:,

          The answer to someone who says that is “What do you mean, paleface?” Should be fun to watch.

        • “We’re All Illegal Immigrants because we didn’t ask the Indians for permission! :Sarcasm:”

          Of course, the situation is a *lot* more complicated than that. For one thing, we often *would* ask for permission. I think it was on this very blog (on another post) that someone pointed out that the Trail of Tears was just as much a result of a small group of Cherokees with questionable authority pushing for a treaty, and a Congress that approved of the treaty, but only just barely, because they suspected shenanigans, and a federal government delaying the enforcement of that treaty to avoid bad weather conditions (but managed to miss the timing, by sending them on their way when an unexpected winter storm hit), that illustrates that (1) both sides had their problems, and (2) sometimes both sides acted in good faith…

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Liberals are stuck in the meme of “Good American Indians, Evil Europeans”.

            Don’t expect them to see “complications”. 😦

          • Could you link to that information? This is the first I have heard that version of events. Not doubting you (history is more complex then I was taught! Oh wait, I already knew that…) but I would love to see some more documentation on it.

            • Unfortunately, I am recounting second-hand what I read as a comment earlier; I can’t provide documentation for this.

              But I really appreciate your desire for “trust and verify”. Too often, we hear things that turn out not to be true….

              • That’s okay, I wasn’t looking for primary information, just something I could start at. I’ll have to go poking around. The last interesting information I found was that Andrew Jackson, the man who “didn’t like Native Americans” has a adopted son who was Native American. Ideas of why abound, but it proves people and history isn’t simple.

  16. I think this is one reason the alt types are driving the left batty.

    They play the meme game, play it well, and play it no prisoners style (I suspect our hostess will say that’s because the alts are just inverted leftists which is probably a big part of it).

    One thing that is key in memes is they are often mocking, as the “too stupid to cut your own hair so you can’t be a teacher” one does. That also means the left is very, very vulnerable to them because if there is one thing that is truly their kryptonite it is having the mocking turned on them.

    • Exactly. The absolute worst thing in their world is to be laughed at. That’s why mocking them and not taking them seriously is so effective.

      • One advantage of memes over bumper stickers is the opportunity to rebut.

        I doubt anybody here saw one of those “If you can read this, thank a teacher,” “Visualize World Peace” or “You can’t hug a child with nuclear arms” memes on some idiot’s bumper without having to suppress the desire to scream “Give me full ramming speed, Mr. Scott!”

        Now we have the ability to capture their memes, kill them, gut them and wear their skins to troll the twits back.

        Seeing “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” makes me want to ask why they aren’t speaking Japanese. Now I can. And shove it their face.

        • “You can’t hug a child with nuclear arms”

          I suspect the parents of those descended from folks on ships bound for Japan in August 1945, which turned around… and the explanation came in a little speech from Truman… might have a different take on that.

        • Oddly it always made me want to host a B2 bake sale.

    • The Alt types drive the Left batty because so many of the prominent Alt types are applying the lessons that Andrew Breitbart taught, and most of the rest are copying them without understanding the roots of their tactics. I only met Brietbart a couple of times, but I heard him speak several times, saw him in action dealing with hostile lefty crowds a time or two, and read much of what he wrote.

      To many on the Right (once they learned that there had been a guy named Saul Alinsky) “Alinsky” and “Alinskyite” were just words for “tactics that I don’t like.” Andrew Breitbart taught that Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” were just tactics, and they would work just as well for the Right as they did for the Left.

      -Make the enemy live up to their own rule book.
      -Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
      -As much as possible stay inside your side’s expertise and go outside of the other side’s expertise.
      -Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
      and all the rest of them. The Alt folks have internalized it. They KNOW that a good tactic is one that your side enjoys.

      Occasionally I wonder what Andrew Breitbart would think of how his site has developed since he passed, but whatever he might think of some of the things there I feel certain that he’d roar with laughter at Milo’s antics, and maybe offer a suggestion or two on how to fine tune his tactics.

      After all, he was the man who hijacked Anthony Weiner’s press conference. 🙂

      • Heh.. Watching that video again reminded me that Congressman Weiner claimed to have been hacked. Maybe the Russian Hackers have been after the Democrats longer than we thought.

      • The Weiner jacking was classic and yes there is a direct line between the success of the alts (although I’d put him more in what is being called Alt-Light) and Andrew. We lost him too soon not only for his tactics but his genuine happy warrior demeanor which would have made 2016 even better.

      • To many on the Right (once they learned that there had been a guy named Saul Alinsky) “Alinsky” and “Alinskyite” were just words for “tactics that I don’t like.” Andrew Breitbart taught that Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” were just tactics, and they would work just as well for the Right as they did for the Left.

        I think you may be missing a shade of meaning– there’s a difference between “I don’t like” and “that is wrong.” Tactics don’t become alright just because they let me win.
        The question isn’t of utility, but of something beyond ‘winning.’

        • I think a good rule of thumb is to only use those tactics when they are used against you. The classic “tit-for-tat” strategy in the iterated prisoner’s dilemma of game theory.

          • “Sauce for the gander”– and even then you’ve got to be very careful not to cross a line, and to remember the abyss stares back.

        • Not all of Alinsky’s tactics are wrong. From the examples given:

          Make the enemy live up to their own rule book. – Given most of us work to make ourselves live up to our own rule book (in fact, that’s the point of you complaint) how can it be wrong to get your opponent to do the same.

          Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. – Ridicule is often rude but I wouldn’t go as far as wrong.

          As much as possible stay inside your side’s expertise and go outside of the other side’s expertise. – Or more traditionally apply your strengths to their weaknesses…nothing wrong there.

          Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. – This is the most problematic but only in the back half. Pick and freezing a target are valid tactics. It is the personalizing and polarizing that risk being wrong more than anything else here.

          • That’s how the “goose and gander sauce” guys can manage it–problem being it still leaves you in their battle field, and is more likely to beat than convert people.

            Thus, has to be carefully done.

            • Although many (especially of the SJW persuasion, but increasingly on the Right, as well) cannot recognize the distinction, that is where friendly mockery works very well.

              • *Sad*
                Too many have been bitten by what they assumed was normal, human, friendly poke-to-the-ribs, only to find out that there was a knife in that hand.

          • For x I ridiculed Mary 3 names for trying to paint me as a racist for using “Chicom” — in those circumstances, defending myself wouldn’t work, and besides, she was being crazy levels of stupid.

        • I don’t believe I missed a shade of meaning in this case. Most of the Rules for Radicals are not evil in and of themselves. The way they are used and the goals they are used for make the difference for most of the rules.

          The only one that seems evil in and of itself is the final rule, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Thar rule is the lynchpin of the politics of personal destruction.

          • There are ways that perfectly fine things which could be interpreted as in keeping with one or another of the “rules for radicals” are acceptable, but Alinskyite is a package deal– the guy was pretty dang obvious about the point being to win by, well, the politics of personal destruction. His followers have kept in that mode.

            Not sure if it was directly promoted in the original format, but it was definitely there from the start- both equivocation and the moat-and-bailey are part and parcel of the Alinskyite tactical deployment.

            *************

            Amusingly enough, my rejection of the Alinsky tactics is related to why I do not care that some of them can have non-corrosive uses. Same way I can object to those four feral examples of societal failure to correct the natural human condition that kidnapped, tortured and live-streamed it, without having anything to do with anybody else who objects to it, be they good or bad. Neither of the two racist sides* gets a claim on me because they happen to recognize the bleedin’ obvious fact that that isn’t good.

            Another way to phrase it is that there’s a difference between the Nazis breathing air (a thing that wasn’t related to what made them objectionable) and the Nazis practiced eugenic involuntary euthanasia (of the congenitally disabled, disabled war vets and of ethnic groups, which is rather the entire reason that they’re a gold standard for evil).
            Alinskyite tactics requires ignoring this.

            * both the Stormfronters and the ctrl-Left are saying that the four tribal-minded unspeakables did it because they are black; now that is a commonality to be ashamed of.

  17. Pingback: Illustrating a point | Head Noises

  18. said no gospel, ever

    What about when the Good Samaritan took the beaten man to the inn and forced the people there (at swordpoint) to pay for his care, after skimming a healthy portion off the top for himself?

  19. One could make a case that sending your children to many if not most of the public schools in this country is a form of child abuse. It certainly isn’t in the best interest of your children.

    • Feather Blade

      My mother certainly thought so, which is why she sent us to private school, and was still paying off the credit card ten years later. (There were Circumstances)

  20. My mother cut my hair until I was out of high school. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    • My mom cut mine about the same time, too.

    • I still ask my mother to trim mine (because I daren’t go near my own hair–or anyone else’s–with scissors or Bad Things will happen). If I want anything fancier than simple layering/trimming off split ends I do go to a hairdresser…but haven’t for years, on account of them treating my odd hair the same as, say, someone with very straight and easy-to-manage hair. Which results in terrible haircuts for me. My mother, on the other hand, with her lifelong familiarity with my very strange hair, has no trouble making it look decent and it comes out looking fantastic. With only the occasional odd piece here and there, because my hair really is odd.

      Pretty sure there’s a metaphor relating to teaching and public schools there…

      • The surprise there is that you still have hair. 😎

        • Likely ’cause there’s too much of it to get rid of. 😉

          Though there was this one time I let a hairdresser in Romania have a go at it, and very nearly ended up without any…

      • Not to be bearer of Bad Thoughts, but you might want to have your mother train one of your children to perform this, else I anticipate you becoming a very strange seeming old lady.

      • There are two hairdressers that I will trust with my hair. The first told me I was parting my hair on the wrong side because “it wants to go this way.” (That one had some very hilarious protective coloration, being male, over 60, and flamboyantly flaming—and apparently straight, given the referenced wife of long standing and grandkids. I suspect that when he started out, straight guys cutting hair was deemed too weird, so he picked up some mannerisms…) The second is a friend I have who will come to my house, and who just seems to know what will look good on me. I actually haven’t bothered to tell her what to do beyond “make it short”.

  21. This isn’t actually a meme, but it’s too good to not share about a bit!


    HT: Power Line

  22. On that question of accreditation… back in the mid-80s, I worked for a large American company for a while. They hired me as a lead software developer, put me through their internal training, and bumped me up to beginning management. So I’m running projects, and got roped into what I called cattleherd interviewing day. Basically, we got ten minute interviews (five an hour) with a group of hopefuls, for the entire day. 8 or so hours of back-to-back interviewing, you get slaphappy. Grab their resume, talk to them a little, shake their hand, fill out the interview sheet, NEXT!

    But there were two funny parts to the whole thing. First, when the HR people were explaining the “rules” for hiring, and mentioned that we were only looking for people who had a degree in computer science. I looked back at the guy who said this, and asked him, “Did you know that I do not have a degree in computer science?” That kind of shook him up. Made me laugh, though.

    Then, near the end of the day, I got a young man who walked in, handed me his resume, and said, “You won’t hire me.” I looked at his resume… high school grad, but no college. However, he had been an independent consultant for 10 years! And his list of clients was impressive. I asked him why he was applying for work with us, we couldn’t match his income. He said, “I’m getting married, and my wife wants me to get regular work. She doesn’t think being a consultant is steady work.”

    I asked him to sit still, and went and grabbed my boss and the head of HR, and told them that I had a candidate that broke all the rules, but we really wanted to hire him. Then I explained. We did hire him, and he was great! So, yes, the credentials make it easy to fit the expected process, but guess what. The really good people may not have the credentials, but they still do what you need, and more.

    • Feather Blade

      Ah, HR.

      A bunch of people who don’t know what the job entails, using credentialing rubrics to automatically disqualify people with experience but no credentials, and then presenting the remainder to the department to choose among.

      …rather like the function of the US political parties, come to thing of it.

      • I used to look at programmer want ads and laugh at the ones that wanted five years of experience with a package that had only been on the market for a few months…

        Then there were the ones that wanted ten or more years with some obscure mainframe OS and applications set for a job supporting WordPerfect end users. Sometimes I wondered if various HR departments just had a handful of “experience required in…” templates and they’d just tack the current job to the end.

        • Feather Blade

          Sometimes I wondered if various HR departments just had a handful of “experience required in…” templates and they’d just tack the current job to the end.

          Yes, actually, they do. The good HR departments will make the department that wants the employee fill them out.

          The worst applications are the ones with little check boxes that say “Do you have [qualification]?” [y/n]

          Answer “N” and your application is immediately kicked to the electronic round-file, even if you are a quick learner and the particular qualification is minor one. It’s enormously frustrating to be forced to lie on an application merely to be seen by a human being.

          • I saw that happening when HR departments started “going computer” in the 1990s. The interesting thing was, they seemed to be more interested in selecting applicants out than looking for ones they wanted…

            Then, when you actually got to a HR human (for loose definitions of “human”, you had to sell yourself to them and then they’d try to sell you to the department they were hiring for. It was astonishingly like going through a hiring agency… or perhaps an agent.

            “We can’t find anyone to fill this critical position!”

            “Perhaps you shouldn’t select out so many candidates by having so many ridiculous requirements…”

            Some years ago I applied for a job by mailing in a resume. I got a call from them, they set up an appointment, I drove to their office a few days later. Two hours later someone had me fill out one of those tear-off generic office supply employment applications. Another hour went by, and I talked to a flunky who told me they weren’t hiring, despite them having me come in for an interview.

            He was outraged when I asked him who I should address my bill to. If they were going to waste my time, they would have to pay my quite reasonable hourly rate.

            This was apparently a new and unwelcome concept for them… (yes, I did send them a bill, which they ignored. But it was more a matter of principle instead of expecting to be paid)

        • They do which is why in the late 90s you had jobs requiring 5+, 7+, and 10+ years of Java experience which even the creators of the language couldn’t meet.

          One of the Rails designers applied for a job and was turned down for insufficient Rails experience when he was one of the 2-3 most experienced people on the planet with it by definition.

          • And that was the time when H1B was becoming a thing. What it was designed to do was “prove” that the company had advertised for the position and “couldn’t find qualified candidates” so they had no choice but to import people from overseas for cheap. No one ever checked if the import met the “qualifications”.

            • Or if the requirement was physically possible sans time travel.

            • Insufficient explanation. We have the same problem here in Canada, but the H1B visa and its silly regulations do not have any close equivalent here.

              I have heard it suggested that some of these job postings are entirely bogus – that is, the department in question has determined that it will fill the position internally, but corporate policy requires that they advertise the vacancy. Well, and so they do; and not getting any applicants who are six-legged short-necked giraffes, they are then at liberty to give the job to Joe, as they intended all along.

              • It’s also a protection against anti-discrimination lawsuits.

                Can’t sue for not getting a job you weren’t qualified for.

                • It is not an entirely safe harbor. A company can still be sued (in fact, approached properly, the government will do it on your behalf) if it can be shown that their policies had a disparate impact against a suspect historically disadvantaged class.

        • I seem to recall when David Heinmeier Hansson was rejected for a position to work on Ruby on Rails, because he only had four years of experience, and the position required five years of experience with Ruby on Rails.

          There was absolutely no way DHH could have had more than four years of experience: he was the one who created Ruby on Rails.

    • The degree requirement sometimes causes me problems. I do IT. I have an English degree.

      A few weeks ago, I saw a request for IT job applicants from my local school district. The information provided for the job posting made it absolutely clear that they weren’t going to pay much attention to resumes. Your job history was irrelevant if you didn’t have a degree in IT.

  23. The real world includes things like sound psychology, the market and history. Left alone and unrevised, it has lessons to teach. It is not, however, your friend. You can learn the lessons or not. The real world does not care. People who manage to the extent that works for them, to live outside the real world, often never learn the lessons it has to teach. We shouldn’t be surprised. People who never have to pay a real world price for being wrong have no incentive to learn the lessons.

  24. Meme-tic (noun) A bloated arthropod which sucks the life out of the body politic leaving a life-threatening infection in its wake.

    • That’s a meme-tick. A meme-tic is a condition closely related to Tourette’s Syndrome, where the sufferer cannot help repeating the same slogans over and over.

  25. The thing about memes, as opposed to the idea that the term is actually supposed to represent, is that they’re the same as stereotypes–Useful tools, shortcuts to categorization that we all need and use.

    Whether or not we like the fact, a stereotype is a useful tool, and it is a part of human cognition. If you are a dog, and consistently experience getting beaten by bearded male humans wearing boots, after about the tenth time it happens to you, a little switch flips in your head and goes “Oh, OK, universe… You are trying to teach me a lesson… Bearded male humans in boots are bad people, and need to be dealt with accordingly…”. This is true for humans, but at higher levels of cognition, and with a bit more depth than a dog’s mind will process these things.

    A stereotype is a useful shortcut for dealing with the universe; you see something often enough, and you start to get a clue that the surface impression you’re picking up is an environmental cue you need to pay attention to. Say, for example, that you’ve had numerous unpleasant run-ins with young black males dressed in accordance with the styles of hip-hop. After enough of those, you start to say “Every black male I see dressed like that is a likely threat/someone I don’t want to deal with…”. Bang, you have just been programmed by your environment.

    Some of these things are also picked up from secondary sources; just like dogs, we cue our behavior off of others we trust. The dog senses that its humans don’t like someone, then the dog doesn’t like someone, either. We do this with regards to input from family, friends, and other trusted sources.

    Memes, as expressed in terms of the cutely captioned pictures and so forth, are analogous. They may not be accurate, and we probably don’t want to automatically trust them, but when your mom and dad stereotype that controlling boyfriend of yours as “Trouble…”, you might want to pay attention: Those stereotypes based on his behaviors didn’t come out of a vacuum, and the prejudices, stereotypes, and memetic expressions that we’re discussing here didn’t either. Should you automatically trust them? No, but when you get extra-cautious about that group of young black men approaching your broken down car in a bad neighborhood, that’s stereotyping working in the background. They may be the youth choir from the local Baptist church, come to help you push your car out of the ditch, but they may also be the local street gang come to rob you.

    Memes and stereotypes are tools, shortcuts to speedy categorization of things and people in your immediate environment. Like any tool, they can be misused and abused–But, it does not necessarily follow that you should throw out the tool box, either.

    Of course, they’ll just as easily turn in your hand; I got my ass bitten once, by this little furry lap dog that I discounted as a threat, while paying attention to the pit bull-looking gigant that was also loose in the yard. Said canine colossus turned out to be a real sweetheart, rolling over for belly rubs and scritches. Her partner, the little rat-dog? Vicious little brute, and completely untrustworthy.

    Stereotype failure. It’s a thing.

  26. Scott Adams points to the manner in which memes reinforce the present mind set by linking to an article about efforts to develop affordable housing (one-BR, less than $20K total cost) which has had to overcome outmoded habits of mind about construction methods, building codes and bank financing (e.g., most banks have the same cost to finance a $100K mortgage as a $20K one.)

    This House Costs Just $20,000—But It’s Nicer Than Yours
    Rural Studio’s $20K House has such innovative design that it’s changing the entire housing system—from mortgages to zoning laws.

    For over a decade, architecture students at Rural Studio, Auburn University’s design-build program in a tiny town in West Alabama, have worked on a nearly impossible problem. How do you design a home that someone living below the poverty line can afford, but that anyone would want—while also providing a living wage for the local construction team that builds it?

    In January, after years of building prototypes, the team finished their first pilot project in the real world. Partnering with a commercial developer outside Atlanta, in a tiny community called Serenbe, they built two one-bedroom houses, with materials that cost just $14,000 each.

    The goal: To figure out how to bring the ultra-low-cost homes, called the 20K Home, to the broader market. “We’re in a kind of experimental stage of the program, where we’re really trying to find out the best practice of getting this house out into the public’s hands,” says Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio. “Really this first field test was to find out all the things that we didn’t know, and to find out all of the kind of wrong assumptions that we had made, and really find out how we had screwed up, honestly.”

    Years of architecture students, and their advisors, have spent more than a hundred thousand hours tweaking each detail of the house to optimize both the function and the price. But the bigger challenge is fitting a house that’s completely different than normal into the existing system of zoning, and codes, how contractors do their jobs, and even mortgages.

    “The houses are designed to appear to be sort of normative, but they’re really high-performance little machines in every way,” says Smith. “They’re built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements. … We’re using material much more efficiently. But the problem is your local code official doesn’t understand that. They look at the documents, and the house is immediately denied a permit simply because the code officials didn’t understand it.”
    — — —

    Read the whole thing – it isn’t long.

    The key may be in that headline: “It’s nicer than yours.” What would be the effect on existing home values from such a revolutionary change that allows nicer homes for one-tenth the cost?

    • That idea has been around forever. Freeman Dyson was advocating prefab housing before WWII. After the war there were some other efforts, which mostly resulted in mobile homes.

      The problem is you have developers, builders, and finance companies, who are all interested in selling the most expensive house possible. And in most places, the local zoning authorities will hold out for the highest average cost to upscale their tax base.

      If you bought a $20K house you’d probably fall through most financing systems, which means you’d have to cough up the whole sum out of your pocket. And then you’d have to deal with the insurance companies to find coverage, and you’d fall off their tables too. And then you’d probably wind up paying property taxes based on an average of neighboring houses, or some number the assessor picked out of thin air.

      Lots of people want inexpensive housing, but control over what and where and how much is firmly in the hands of the people who profit most from more expensive housing. Anywhere I’ve ever lived, the city council or county commission was pretty much a cross-section of the local developers, builders, realtors, and insurance agents.

      • Heinlein had an article with two updates on the future in Expanded Universe. He advocated pre-fab houses in the original 50s version and in the 1980 update wondered when the powers that be (zoning boards, unions, etc) would allow what had been done to make the car universal to be done with housing.

        As far as no financing, given post Great Recession 20% down on a house was a rediscovered norm until last year then the out of pocket initial cost of the $100K financed house and the $20K cash house are the same. The banking problem is the most solvable of the financial ones. Lack of a mortgage payment may offset some of the others.

        • Also Kirk seems to think these are tiny houses. They’re not. They’re “normal one bedroom houses.”

          • Or “normal houses with only one bedroom.”

            It might be local to my area, but I’m pretty sure no one-bedroom houses have been built here since the late 1940s. The very concept has been lost; if someone were to get a permit to build one, it would have to be listed as something like a “detached apartment.”

            • The smallest I’ve ever seen has been two bedrooms, one bath—and that one is currently being lived in by a great-grandmother who has no need for the second bedroom. (Generational house though; her parents lived in it, and when she no longer needs it, the most likely purchaser will be a niece in the area.)

            • We lived in a neighborhood with them, when we were first married. our house wasn’t, but…
              What I was trying to say is that “tiny houses” are under 450 sq feet. I don’t think these are. it’s a different concept.

              • The Project House is WWII construction, two bedroom, 550 square feet. The neighborhood is a mix of those and somewhat smaller one-bedroom houses. I’ve ripped out and relocated some interior walls to turn it from two bedrooms to one, giving the extra space to the living room/computer room. For a family it would be uncomfortable; for two seniors, just what we want.

                I’ve been in houses where just the living room was bigger than my entire house… my ideal home would be a 10,000sf steel building with some plumbing in a corner, (“space, the final frontier…”) but operational costs and taxes will be lower this way.

        • Heinlein made the classic mistake of trying to apply the results in one industry where the entire paradigm is different to the conditions in another, and going “Why can’t X be as efficient and affordable as Y…?”.

          It doesn’t work that way.

          You can mass-produce a lot of goods and maintain economies of scale; housing, unfortunately, is not one of them. Why is that? Weeeeellll…

          For one thing, a house is a much more complicated and far less reproducible object to make than a car. Sure, you’d think you could mass-produce them in factories like so many widgets, but… Would people buy them?

          At some commodity level, sure; you would be able to sell cookie-cutter homes that are painfully generic. Anywhere else along the continuum? LOL… Such ideas become ludicrous. And, here’s why:

          Every home is fundamentally different, especially when you start looking at fitting them to site-specific conditions. Sure, a lot of people would be happy slapping a generic one-size-fits-all home down on a generic lot, but… What do you do when the homeowner wants to take advantage of the magnificent mountain views he’s got on the land he’s spent a few million acquiring? Can you force a modular factory built home into a format that takes advantage of the site-specific sight lines, and terrain? More importantly, will he pay for that?

          Just about every “build homes in factories” idea has eventually run down; one of the general contractors we work for actually started out doing panelized homes, and was even exporting entire home kits to Japan back in the days everyone was saying that Japan would eat our economic lunch. He’s not in that business any more, and it’s not because some other, better technology came along, either–It’s because people will pay for a custom home, and they wouldn’t pay for the modular factory-built stuff he used to build. There may be other reasons, as well, but you have to go where the market takes you, and if the market won’t buy your very rational and exquisitely thought-out product, you’re not going to be in business for very long. That’s just a fact of life, and why we don’t build houses the way we build cars… You can’t, and still expect people to buy them.

          Here’s a data point, too: My sister lives in and owns a manufactured home. You go to sell that damn thing, the way she has, and what you find is that you’re going to have problems doing so, and making your money back. Manufactured (read: Mobile) homes depreciate, they don’t appreciate. At all. And, God help you if you ever had work done to one, and didn’t have it properly approved–The bank won’t loan on it, and even legitimate repairs like replacing doors when they wear out may trip you up, if you didn’t have the right inspections done by the state. A stick-built home, on the other hand? No worries getting loans on those, at all. It’s crazy, and semi-unfair, but those are the facts of life. And, they stem not from logic, but from human behavior–We haven’t accepted factory-built homes as being equal to the bespoke stick-built ones. Kinda crazy, but there it is…

          • I can take you to entire subdivisions full of cookie cutter houses. Sure, they used like three different cookie cutters, but yes, they made them

            • And I’ll point out to you that those “cookie cutter” homes are predominantly site-built stick-framed items, not produced in a factory anywhere. Components are, but the entire structure? Nope.

              For whatever reason, modular and manufactured homes are only a fraction of the total house stock, and the percentages have been shrinking. Why? No idea, but I’ll speculate that a lot of it has more to do with human psychology than it does with any field of engineering. There are a lot of people out there who have major prejudices against things that aren’t built traditionally, and as irrational as that is, the issue still remains: You can’t sell what they don’t want to buy.

              • When it comes to housing stock, they won’t buy what they fear they can’t sell.

                Of all human irrationalities, housing incorporates most of them.

                • Tell me about it… I sometimes suspect, in the darker moments of customer relations during construction, that a degree in abnormal psychology would be of more use than one in an engineering specialty.

                  There is nothing more fun than dueling clients, where the husband wants one thing, the wife a second, and reality requires yet a third…

              • No idea, but I’ll speculate that a lot of it has more to do with human psychology than it does with any field of engineering.

                Yes, butnot the direction you seem to think– cities require that they be in trailer parks, right next to RVs.

                There isn’t a really big population that can afford to buy a house, but wants to rent the land it’s on, and have Random Guys In An RV as a neighbor.

          • You can panelize a custom house, these days. You can even order the panels done online. They advertise for folk who want to build their own houses (but not take forever or go beyond their competence level) and for people who want to put up additions quickly (a good idea in variable weather conditions.)

            • It’s how a lot of the high quality log cabins are made, too– houses work nicely with computer design, although it doesn’t stop Stupid Designer Tricks. (My gosh, the guy who cost a good 40 square feet of usable space so there could be a fancy entry way with a window you couldn’t look out, or open for a cross-breeze, and that sucked all the heat in the house right up to the top floor—!!!)

            • You can do a lot of things, these days. Question is, how many people do this particular thing, and will you be able to sell it?

              I’m not making a particular point for anything, or arguing that this is a bad idea; all I’m doing is pointing out the observation that there isn’t a huge market out there for this sort of innovation. Good thing, bad thing, indifferent–Question is, what sells? And, manufactured non-traditional construction isn’t selling, and I suspect that it will continue to be that way until something so obviously superior comes along that nobody wants to buy the old-school stuff. And, even then? Who the hell knows if it will sell to the general public except by brute force?

              All y’all might want to go look up something called a “Lustron house”, and contemplate how all that happened to work out. The base idea was outstanding, but the difficulties surrounding that whole project were more cultural than anything else. It would be interesting to see whether a revival of the whole concept might pan out in today’s market, but you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not going to invest any of my own money in the attempt.

              I visited one of the Lustron houses in Illinois; interesting structure and concept. However, the owner’s wife was less than thrilled with the whole idea, mostly because she couldn’t stand either the sound of rain on the roof, or her husband’s insistence on maintaining authenticity throughout the house…

              • You can do a lot of things, these days. Question is, how many people do this particular thing, and will you be able to sell it?

                Build the chunks, ship to site and put it up fast is actually more common in the Seattle area than from-the-ground building.

                About the only time I’ve seen traditional construction crews is when they’re “remodeling.” Which, more often than not, meant stripping most of it away and bringing in the walls on a truck and putting them up….

                The mental image of “build the whole house in a factory and move it” tends to get nixed on practical requirements like “find a truck big enough” and “lift the thing,” but glorified legos is definitely A Thing.

          • Feather Blade

            Sears used to sell a house kit, that you could mail order.

            You think they had multiple designs for it?

            • Oh, most assuredly, they did. I’ve got a book buried in my storage that goes all over that stuff. I’ve been in a couple of Sears houses, as well, and got the chance to do some insurance work on what was left of one that had been extensively remodeled over the years.

              It wasn’t really a pre-built structure; the houses were more like Sears-branded framing and finish packages with fairly extensive plans and guidance included. Later versions of the kits had pre-cut lumber included, so it made a lot of the construction process very simple. You still had to know a good deal about construction or have tradesmen involved to build the things. The Sears homes were available between 1908 and 1942.

    • The problem with these small houses is not necessarily that the system surrounding house construction is inflexible and unable to adapt to these things, the problem is that the market for them simply does not exist in a meaningful sense. Sure, there are people who might buy these things, but when you couple the costs and upkeep, those people generally wind up renting a small apartment over one of these tiny homes. Then, too, there is climate to consider–In the rural Southeast, one of these structures might make sense, but the translation of that to, say, Northern Minnesota or North Dakota? The costs for things like central heat and so forth start running into economies of scale. If you were to say, build a cluster of these buildings vs. a small apartment building under one roof, the amount of energy and the costs per unit in terms of heating become problematic.

      I’ve looked at this whole “tiny house” thing, with the idea of taking our construction company down that avenue. However, when you start looking at the actual markets and the costs…? I have to say I don’t think it’s ever going to be more than a small niche, on the order of yurts or geodesic domes. It’s not just a paradigm problem; it’s a problem of established bases and what makes sense. Sure, if you’re living in a benign climate zone, you can get away with an awful lot; transpose that same structure and design to a less benign one, and you’ve basically built a shelter that’s only good for maybe three seasons, and two of those are marginal.

      Like I was saying about memes and stereotypes; these shortcuts exist for a reason. Before sweeping them away, it is wise to remember Chesterton’s Fence: Know what their purpose and origin is, before willy-nilly engaging the wrecking crew and removing them.

      I think a lot of these “small is beautiful” movements like the one espousing the “tiny house” fail because they start from a set of false assumptions and premises through a lot of wishful thinking to a stage where the whole dream-castle founders on the hard rocks and shoals of reality. In this case, the reality is that people don’t want to live in a structure that has only a few hundred feet of living space, and share that with a wife, kids, and whatever possessions one has accumulated over the years. As one of my acquaintances put it, in reference to the year or so he lived in a tiny house with his wife, an infant, and a toddler, he’d like to know if anyone has done the studies about the mental health effects of such a tiny space on the occupants. He and his wife went into that whole thing with a lot of illusions about their relationship, its health, and whether or not they wanted more kids. The spring after their first winter in that place, it was apparently a race between the real estate agent finding them a larger house, or their divorce attorney getting the paperwork going. Several years later, they are still married, but they’re living in a conventional house, and it’s apparently a lot less likely that they’ll go mad in the winter and kill each other.

      For a bachelor, or other single person who just doesn’t care about things? Probably not a big deal; for a temporary thing, like seasonal employees working contract employment at a place like a ski resort? Again, doable; but the better solution, and more energy-efficient one, would probably be small apartments under one structural roof.

      • I have to ask whether you read the linked article, the intro I put up or just skimmed the portion posted? Because your response to the article (admittedly flawed – for example, they give nothing about the square footage of their project, nor operating costs) seems to ignore the primary point I was addressing: the degree to which established memes for doing things blind us to new ways.

        To what degree are most building codes up to date about new technologies? When I attended college circa 1972 the biggest electrical concern was student’s operating hot plates in their rooms! Obviously there’s been significant readjustment of expectation (one reason student housing has undergone such a massive redevelopment these last few decades) but in less demanding markets how confident are you that housing codes have undergone full top-to-bottom reconsideration rather than just been papered over with new regulatory regimes?

        I acknowledge no expertise in this area, but my observations of human behavioural tendencies, bureaucratic inertia and the ways funds are managed by bureaucracies does not incline me to believe that there are processes for such full overhauls of regulations every decade or two. There are probably a few places which pay lip service, but the kinds of minds which can properly look at such things with fresh eyes tend not to take staff positions.

        The question here is not about the “small is beautiful” movement, it is about the technologies involved in such enhanced efficiency of material and space usage can be scaled up, and should they be?

        Taken a step further, I would suggest that many of the older standards are seriously impractical because in many cases the expectations of the quality of materials once expected can no longer be met. I’ve known too many people in the construction industry rail about what grades of wood are being offered and how their curing and treatment are being mishandled to accept that a 2X4 circa 1950 is comparable to what the lumber yard delivers today.

        Looking at the broader issue: are we seeing what is or are we seeing what we expect to see?

        • Read the whole thing, and am in fact looking at the websites behind that article as I type this.

          I would submit that as a person who isn’t in the construction industry yourself, you might be a little disconnected from the realities we deal with in it. As are, I fear I have to point out, an awful lot of these well-meaning academic types are in the engineering and architecture worlds. You would be positively shocked at the crap that comes forth from these guys, and how disconnected they are from the reality of construction. We’re working on a 1.2 million dollar custom home right now, one designed and engineered by a very well-known and reputable big city architectural firm. The general contractor virtually had to redesign the damn thing entirely because it was unaffordable to build, and a lot of the the engineering was totally superfluous. There is stuff on this house that just has us going “WTF? How the hell are we gonna ever be able to get in there to insulate that?”. Sure, it looks gorgeous, but… Wow. There were cheaper and more efficient ways to get that look than what they drew in in the prints.

          And, these “tiny house” programs are that same syndrome, but on a macro scale. Very few of these people have ever a.) built anything commercially at a profit, and/or b.) actually spent a couple of years living in something like that. A lot of this stuff is predicated on what are actually false premises and a bunch of wishful thinking, along the lines of “Oh, I can live cheek-by-jowl with Susy over six months in the winter, and we won’t go crazy from cabin fever and wind up wanting to murder one another after a few months…”.

          A bunch of tiny houses aren’t being built and taking over the market for starter homes just because the powers-that-be don’t want them, it’s because there are some fundamental issues with peoples desires and expectations. Not to mention, a lot of the engineering itself ain’t exactly sound. I mean, which do you suppose is easier and cheaper to heat? A cluster of tiny homes, housing nine people, or a nine-unit apartment building covering the same floor space?

          Sometimes this stuff isn’t due to a lack of imagination, it is due to the alternatives not really working worth spit.

          • The Seattle response to “pod living” gets a lot of slams, but it’s got similar practical opposition– generally the neighbors get up in arms because the place that was designed around having two cars parked there now has twelve, and that’s if they don’t have company over.

            Sort of like the “zero garbage” it’s-not-a-fraternity/sorority thing my cousin was in for college. They had zero waste so there were no garbage cans, and only one small recycling bin.

            you guessed it, they snuck around to other houses and put garbage in their cans. -.-
            On the upside, this did disillusion said cousin a little bit.

          • I am, in fact, not unaware of the degree to which “new thinking” is disconnected from reality — and in fields far beyond construction. Nor is this a new issue, witness Howard Roarke’s (aka, Frank Lloyd Wright’s) storied issues with contractors “rationalizing” problems with his designs. I am also aware of how much contractors complained about the idiotic and impossible crap that idiot Wright (Roarke) expected them to try to do.

            Moreover, it probably won’t surprise you to know that as a corporate accountant specializing in Fixed Asset reconciliations I have seen stacked years of installed base which makes no sense, as well as revised tax codes that essentially propose to drain the bilge by blowing a hole in the hull’s bottom.

            I simply remain unconvinced that this isn’t an either/or issue. It is as foolish to deny that stereotypes have benefits as it is to deny their costs — it seems the goal might be to rationally review what is known and remove barriers that can be proven unproductive. Sometimes people are so blinded by what they know that they cannot see what they don’t know.

            But maybe that’s just crazy talk.

            • I agree with you more than you realize; I’m just a little more cynical about the ability of a bunch of academics and college kids who have limited to no real-world experience to redesign the entire system from the top down.

              There are a lot of smart people in the construction industry, even in the relatively simple residential side of things. A lot of the problem you’re perceiving, however, is actually in the opposite direction: The agencies of administration and code have been captured by the academics and “experts”, most of whom haven’t actually done much in the way of actual construction, let alone managed to make a profit at it–And, they are not at all amenable to “bottom-up” innovation or advice from actual practitioners and tradesmen. There was an article I read in Fine Homebuilding not too long ago detailing the grief that stemmed from some casually arrived-at standards for attaching decks to houses that were fundamentally flawed. Getting that stuff revised and rationalized took an unGodly amount of time and effort, and likely would not have happened had not one guy who specializes in building decks asked some questions about “Hey, where does this BS come from…?”.

              The more complex systems become, the more ossified they get. I’m not a huge believer in the status quo, but the thing is, a lot of things have been done the way they are because that’s what actually works and what people want. You can build all the sensible tiny homes you like, but if people won’t actually buy them or live in them… Then what? On paper, they may have more than adequate floor space, but if the proposed occupants can’t stand the idea of being able to hear every single “plop” in the living space while someone else is using the toilet…? Yeah. You’re building stuff that ain’t going to sell, period.

        • This part does start waving huge red flags:
          “And what we learned that we really need is what we’ve come to refer to as not a construction set, really an instruction set. That not just tells what to build, but specifically how to build it and even more important, why it should be built that way.”

          While I’ve been bit by building standards– remember Sarah’s infamous “a six month old can’t GET there, much less put their head through, why do we need rails designed around keeping them from doing so?” story– they do set it up so that you can tell when someone’s f-d up, without dying in the process.

          They’d probably have to go the Mobile home route and build it elsewhere, then just assemble on site.
          Zoning might be an issue, but banks will generally classify anything on a permanent foundation as a “house”.

          • In my area, if any part of the building *ever* has wheels on it, it’s a “mobile home” forever.

            • Lots of cities do that– it’s why I say the code issues sound like mobile homes.

              We lived next door to a house WAY nicer than ours… but the city defined that gorgious, well built place as a mobile home, and required it be in with literal trailers…

          • Their best strategy is likely to set it up as a start-up, particularly as a job-training program. Train willing enrollees in the techniques, license the processes and find seed money for demonstration projects — likely in areas where there’s a market for high efficiency, low-impact resort homes, such as outer banks, mountains and the like.

            That would facilitate waivers from codes, provide construction experience for debugging the “wild & crazy” ideas of architecture students* and offer finished product to prove its market attractiveness (such as may be.)

            *A licensing requirment that architects to have 2 – 5 years practical construction experience might not be popular with architecture students, but I but contractors would deem it bare minimum.

            • *A licensing requirment that architects to have 2 – 5 years practical construction experience might not be popular with architecture students, but I but contractors would deem it bare minimum.

              Nah, it wouldn’t catch the usual problem (which hits contractors, too) of not understanding the area they’re building in.

              My high school flooded the first winter they had it, because they didn’t realize that high in the Washington mountains was NOT the same as on the coast or in California, and hadn’t accounted for snow or accumulation in the design.

              • ROFLMAO… Did you go to school where I did, I wonder?

                We moved up to the mountains in North Central Washington state, and the very first thing I noticed about my new high school was the open-architecture campus, which looked for all the world like it was transported directly from Southern California. Lots of glass, single-glazed, no hallways, single doors to all the classrooms, and on and on and on…

                I remember looking at that, and going “WTF…? I just moved here, but this does not look like a good idea… At all…”.

                That winter we got down to -30 Fahrenheit, and stayed there for about a three-week period. Cold as a well-digger’s corpse.

                They buried that open campus architecture in the new buildings, which were basically wrapped around that old campus in the last refurb, back in the late 1980s, but now they’re going to build a whole new school, and tear that old kludge down. Never should have been built in the first place, to be honest…

                • Sounds like the same sort of Dumb Move, but I’m pretty sure you’re a few years older than I am. (I was born in ’83.)

                  It also wasn’t that cold– honestly, if it HAD been, they’d have avoided the flooding. The snow melted from the heat rolling out of the designed-for-40*-winter windows, re-froze over night, made dams, and the next day the snow on top froze again….

                  The science room’s entire ceiling collapsed. At night, thank God, so nobody was hurt, but there was water EVERYWHERE.

                  • The initials of your school weren’t CHS, by any chance, were they? When I went to mine, it was LHS, but before the amalgamation of the districts. I was actually the last graduating class from the old high school…

                    • Nope, mine has 4 letters, and our districts joined in the… 50s or so.

                    • There must have been something in the zeitgeist of the times, then, for two different districts to make the same damn mistake at around the same time. I wonder if it was the same set of architects?

                    • From what I’ve heard when I tell the story, it’s a pretty common mistake– I think you even pointed it out up top, designing something for, oh, the environment of Florida and then plopping it down in Montana is not going to work out well. Just usually not so dramatic.

                      For Washington state education, I think all the contracts have to go through the State’s hiring rules, which means that only the designers who are approved will be on the list, which selects for the ones that are on the coast (why jump through hoops to serve the vast, vast state government design needs of… Okanogan County? Federal building stuff, yeah, but not state.) which in turn selects for “stuff made for the world’s only temperate rainforest.”

                      Which really sucks, if you’re from the “place with record setting ski trails,” or “the area of the state that’s full of wheat fields.”

                      For those not from Washington state, a few years ago we had a mini-scandal because the state flatly stated that they were only going to hire contractors who were either female or a qualified minority; no white males were to be hired unless there was basically a waiver. That was a little far even for us, if only because they flatly, publicly stated it….

                • The really funny thing is, I’d just moved to our school the year it had issues, too, so it’s an even bigger parallel.

                  I didn’t twig on what the problem ended up being, but I did notice that it was horrible for any kind of wind. (Not actually as big of a problem here as it was where we moved from– they start shutting down highways at speeds that were “normal windstorm” back home, but you still don’t want to be an 85 pound kid trying to open one of a bank of glass doors to the bus loading area if there’s any kind of wind.)

              • “high in the Washington mountains was NOT the same as on the coast or in California, and hadn’t accounted for snow or accumulation in the design.”

                Architect Sarah Susanka has a series of really fun books called The Not So Big House, where the idea is that people are missing the “home” elements in the “house” design, and so think they need more space when what they need is actually more functional space. I understand exactly what she means—I had a friend whose living room was entirely unused because, as built, it was like a horrible dark cave. A whole room, entirely unused, because it was unpleasant to be in.

                Anyway. Ms. Susanka is from Minnesota, and it occasionally shows through in her design notes. Wanting to have large windows with southern exposure to maximize warmth, for example. I grew up in Sacramento, and my school’s notable design elements were large windows on the *north* side, with tiny windows near the ceiling on the south side, and covered hallways on that side as well. You could open the windows for cross-breezes, but the sun only hit a part of that wall—very important, in those days before we had air conditioning. (Year-round school sounds like a good idea, but in practice, you had BETTER have good climate control or those kids will be miserable.)

                Architecture is like gardening; it works best when local factors are taken into account. Think of it like this: Once upon a time, there were three little architects who went out to seek their fortune in the wide, wide world. The first little architect went to the Southwest and built houses made of straw bales and adobe, that kept the interiors cool and the haboobs out. The second little architect went to California and practiced stick construction, which bent but did not break in the many small earthquakes they had there. And the third little architect went to the Northeast, building brick houses that stood against the snows and kept their occupants warm.

                And the only wolf they had to worry about was out-of-area building codes.

            • … but I but bet contractors would …

              Butthead.

    • That’s one of the things that drives me nuts about Official Standards — Standards That Put You In Jail If You Violate Them. They have the best of intentions, because they don’t want you building a house that’s going to collapse on you in the slightest wind (or the inevitable major earthquake that’s 50 years overdue) they say things like “The house must be built with studs 1 foot apart, and be built on concrete” rather than “The house must support the weight of the house; for pine, for example, the studs need to be 1 foot apart, although if you use oak, you can get away with 1 and a half feet, and steel…we, the City Council, don’t have any experience with steel, so you’re on your own figuring out the best way to make sure your house doesn’t collapse in the next earthquake.”

      It limits your ability to use new materials, which can be particularly problematic if there comes a time when steel is less expensive than wood…

      • Part of this, as TRX implies above, is the degree of vested interests erecting barriers to entry in order to protect their habitual way of operating.

        • The installed base always gets a vote; sometimes that “innovative new technology” isn’t quite as wonderful as the manufacturer’s prospectus has it, and the installation it requires isn’t at all cost-effective. Or, given the people working in the industry, that likely to be followed to the letter.

          There is a lot of stuff in construction that could be rationalized; that’s inarguable, but the problems that come from rapid change and “innovation” can sometimes be a lot more than they are worth. Ask anyone who is having to deal with all the issues stemming from the “innovative new wall sheathing and siding systems” they were using over on the coast here in Washington State a few years back; many of those structures are now having big problems with moisture control because the installation was problematic, not communicated well to the builders, and didn’t quite work for the conditions encountered in that climate. Hell, if the big one ever hits over there, the lack of mandate for hot-dip galvanization on many of the foundation attachments coupled with the new metallic pressure-treated woods in the sill plates will likely lead to a bunch of homes just sliding off their foundations when it hits. Innovation ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and while it is manifestly needed, a lot of the traditional practices have their roots in things that do work, and which shouldn’t be abandoned willy-nilly.

    • Sounds like mobile homes– same way that “tiny homes” are basically trailer living but fancy enough to be acceptable.

      • These aren’t tiny homes. Or prefab. So no mobile homes.

        • They’re only not prefab for idiological reasons, though, and the article did mention they are too small on square footage for most zoning.

          The pictures look like old ranch houses, before they’ve been added on to.

          • The foundations are what I’m looking at to classify them–Anything on piers in that size class makes them non-traditional construction, and close kin to the stuff the tiny home folks are advocating. At least, as my reading has it.

            The website that’s linked in that article is quite interesting; there are some good ideas in there, but I’m not really sure that this kind of construction is ever going to rise above building purpose-built cardboard boxes for the homeless. Yeah, it’s a lot better than what these folks have now, but the real question is, will a house like this do anything to build value and equity on your property? Can you resell it, and make your money back?

            • The website for the project itself didn’t have any blueprints, but when I looked around and found their blog it was kind of funny– the floorplan was almost identical to my first American apartment.

              Bet they can’t cash in on the economy savings of an apartment build, either.

  27. I’ve never run into the “Cut your own hair” meme, which is a pity. I would have had endless fun with it. For one thing, I cut my own hair. For another, I hadn’t gotten to the end of the description of it here before I was thinking “Doesn’t that kind of depend on whether the barber is leaving your head covered with cuts, unrelated tufts, and open sores?

  28. Pingback: Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Jargon, Proverbs, and Memes

  29. Linked in my post at Chicago Boyz: Jargon, Memes, and Proverbs

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/54592.html