You Pay the Price

I think it was in Darkship Revenge that Athena just started saying “Nothing is ever simple nor easy.”

I confess this is because at that time, just after moving, and knee deep in boxes all over the house, that’s what my life felt like.

But it’s something we forget very often.  There should be a note along with “Everything worth doing is worth doing well” that says “everything worth doing will be hard and have setbacks.

Don’t believe me?

How many of you are married?  And how many weeks have you gone through where you just weren’t feeling it, and then suddenly, inexplicably, the marriage was back to being the best thing ever?  And as you go on the good times outweigh the bad or even the blah?  I bet most of us go through that.  And it’s not something we tell the kids.  Who wants to admit that sometimes, because you’re sick, or tired, or — in our case, mostly — you’re both working obsessively at the things that demand your attention, you just CAN’T feel anything? But the end result is that young people expect marriage to be ardent joy and great happiness all the time.

How many of you have kids?  How many times in the middle of it did it seem all lost?  But you forged through, and you ended up with your children being adults you’re happy to know.

How about your career?  How many times was it all lost.  I swear there was a time I tried to give up writing once a year.  And there have been low points even after publication.  Heck, even after I was making professional money. I almost quit the year before I won the Prometheus.  Then things started doing better, and there is a chance they will do very well indeed.  Okay, probably when I’m eighty, but there is a chance.

As for large endeavors, managed by large societies, that’s even harder and has more ups and downs.

I keep hearing people say stuff like “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”

Well, mostly because they’re problems of a different order and depending on if you define “poverty” as an absolute or a relative quality, we already have.  But that too wasn’t as easy as it seems.

Sure, going to the moon was relatively a rapid thing from the moment we (well, okay, the Wright brothers) first flew at Kitty Hawk, but there were still times of turning back and times no one thought we’d do it.

As for the discoveries from Europe…. Brother.  Portugal first discovered the mid Atlantic islands, and then seemed to forget about this far-from-shore navigation for a while.

Probably people saying it was too hard and why were they doing it?  And wouldn’t it be better to solve the problem of poverty and make sure there was a sardine in every pot?

Solving poverty too, for that matter.  For every step forward there were two backward, but we continued, and now our poor are richer than the kings of old, and Midas in his glory was never so well fed.

Human enterprise, human progress has its ups and downs, and there’s the inevitable luddites who think we’d all be much better for staying put, or redistributing today’s poverty, or, of course, throwing our hands up and giving up on humanity.  (Like the precious snow flake recently preaching against having ANY children, because they hurt muh environment and possibly muh feelings too.  Because they hate themselves so much they must hate the whole human race, too.)

It reminded me of going recently (with my publisher, and a few other writers) to the Redstone rocket test stand.

As we were leaving Toni (Weisskopf, Baen publisher) said “If we’d come just a couple of years ago, this would have been depressing, the historical tour of an abandoned endeavor.  But now… well, now we’re sending things to space, and talking about going to space again, and there’s hope.

If we stay the course, if we keep going, there is a chance we’ll get somewhere in space, perhaps even to other star systems.  Which right now seems impossible, but these things always seem impossible until you start working on them (and sometimes several points along the way.)

The thing is, it seems to me, or at least in my experience, that nothing worth doing is ever easy.  Or simple.  And if you’re really fortunate and get great success handed to you on a platter nine times out of ten you turn your back on it, despising it, or else break at the first real difficulty.

I’ve seen more potentially good writers be destroyed by having their first novel accepted than by having to struggle through ten novels to sell one at last.

Heinlein said humans are made to overcome adversity, and if we have things too easy:as humans, as societies, or as individuals, we go to pieces.

Fortunately, I’m not at risk for that.  Nothing is ever easy or simple.  And yet I forge on, and often end up getting what I wanted all along.

This is why it’s vital to have challenges, like the conquest of space, or interstellar flight.  Because humanity as a whole needs things that aren’t easy or simple.

We need to continue achieving.  Else, might as well let the snowflakes convince us to stop breeding, and end up extinct or with the sort of population that won’t support agriculture let alone a technological society.

Nothing is ever easy or simple, and yet, as humanity battles on,you could say we’re working to specs.

 

207 responses to “You Pay the Price

  1. This was very timely, particularly vis-a-vis my marriage. (Seriously. Literally last night was the spontaneous break that made me realize that the doom was all in my head… as we finally did the joint wash-dishes-and-prepare-dinner ritual we haven’t managed in weeks. That’s the marriage, not the joint overtime stress.)

    Anyway, you put it well into words, thank you.

  2. We taught our girls that worthwhile things are hard. We also taught them that it was okay to be lousy at first. It was a step on the way to competence. As for marriage, they knew it was hard work. We never hid that from them. They married men that knew it, too. Not your stereotypical millennials.

  3. A few days something came over me and I went and looked up the U.S. “poverty line” for 1970 and it was something like $1,958 or $1,964 for an individual. And then I looked it up for 2016 or 2017 and it was $15,060 or thereabout. And then I got even more curious and check on inflation 1970 to 2016. The 1970 poverty level, adjust for inflation, is about 12,060. So today the individual poverty line is $3,000 (2016) higher than in 1970. Or, the fellow getting by on that amount in 1970 would have/need an addition $250 (very rough… didn’t recompute this all just now) or so.

    So the line has moved. Some is perhaps that then-luxuries are now considered “necessities” even if technically they are not such. And perhaps some is that medical and transport (fuel) inflation is more than normal-reported inflation.

    • Indeed, there are things considered necessities here and now that never were before or elsewhere.
      Surely you’ve heard the stories of off-grid families having issues with CPS because they haven’t got electricity? They have heat (wood), light (oil lamps) and running water (gravity fed) but that’s simply not good enough.

      • I had not heard, but I am not surprised. While I might not choose to live sans electricity and (net) connection, I know it can be done without genuine discomfort. Some inconvenience, perhaps, but that is all. I have lived in places where the sole heat was from wood and waking up cold at 4 AM meant Dealing With It so it would be at least tolerably “not cold” at 6 AM.

        Roof, walls, water, heat, light… and food is not really an issue even sans refrigeration – and there are gas fridges, too.

        • Orvan living sans electricity is not only possible but some consider it luxurious. In my home town of Clinton, CT there is Cedar Island which has no electric service. Its covered with about 20 vacation homes (look in google maps here: https://www.google.com/maps/@41.2654553,-72.5277637,295m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en ). As most of them are beach-front on Long Island Sound (and Clinton Harbor) they are quite desirable. The modern world has brought some Solar panels, and yes there are propane gas refrigerators (!?!). I don’t think anyone lives there year round (only access is by boat). And living there in a big storm is a BAD idea as I think no part of the island that is not a manmade is above 5 ft MSL.

          • William O. B'Livion

            > …yes there are propane gas refrigerators (!?!).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absorption_refrigerator

            In theory you could run a diesel engine off vegetable oil, use the hot water from the radiator to be the heat source for your ammonia cycle fridge/freezer, and use the excess heat to get hot water for bathing. If you are REALLY careful you might even get it hot enough to kill bacteria.

            • Some years ago I acquired the catalog for Lehman’s Hardware Store — which included listings for gas powered refrigerators. The company was started in 1955 to serve the Amish community in Ohio, since massively expanded in reach shipping around the world. I just checked, and they now even have online presence! – https://www.lehmans.com/

        • A cousin is off grid, but not off the net. CPS tends to be the worst sort of nanny. As they really hate being wrong about a kid’s safety, they go goon. Being wrong because the kids were safe and fine and taking them, is less damaging to the career than thinking the one kid is fine and it ends up dead.

    • scott2harrison

      Perhaps, although with the games that have been played over the last decade or two with the reported inflation rate, I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • If there were no gaming of the inflation rate, the change(s) might be all the more curious.

        • I’m pretty sure the inflation rate is simply made up to support whatever the aganda of the month is.

          My informal “things we spend money on” inflation rate is more than double the official figures.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Is there documentation of this, or is it one of those “everyone knows” things.

        Because people complain about the cost of gas “always going up”, yet it’s been mostly stable to slightly decreasing for the last five years here in Colorado.

        • OK, you have to work to find the documentation — for some reason, the way the consumer price index is computed is not readily referenced. But I did dig through this a few years back. The “basket of goods” in CPI is continuously changed. And, step by step, since sometime in the 80’s, there’s been an attempt to “correct” CPI to account for the fact that technological goods are getting better. In other words, the computer you buy today for $1500 is much better than the computer you bought five years ago for $1500. One school of thought on that is “that’s got nothing to do with inflation”. I mean, if you were making the same income today as five years ago, a computer then was the same fraction of your income as a computer now — and since, for example, a word processing program keeps needing more computer power just to do the same job, it isn’t as though you can monetize that computer power. This is my own view.

          The other school of thought is that technology improvements are essentially increasing your buying power, and so that is a deflationary effect that offsets inflationary trends in food and housing (energy hasn’t been inflating so much). This is the school of thought in government statistics, and this is why CPI doesn’t seem to match people’s experience in the price of things they buy. Sorry I can’t give you a simple report on that; the data is out there but obscure

          • (actually, the primary factors that are driving real inflation right now are housing, education, and health care. Award yourself a gold star if you can identify the common factor driving those price increases)

          • The tech issue is major, because it makes Apples to Windows comparisons impossible. Is your streaming service an improvement over your Bluray player over your DVD over your Betamax over rabbit ears antennas?

            in 1975 a 25″ TV set was a big piece of furniture and cost $1,000 while now you can get a 50″ flat screen for $500 – 600 and hang it on the wall.

          • If you’ll notice, the same relative level of technology maintains a constant price unadjusted for inflation. The price of a top-of-the-line computer in 1987 is the same as a top-of-the-line computer in 2017. Expressed as a fraction of income, it’s less. But what we can do with lower level tech has increased, so a computer than costs a quarter of a top-of-the-line computer in 1987 may be the same relative technological level as a similarly priced computer today, but what you can do with a computer of that price today is more than you could in 1987.

            Adjust that for inflation and … wow. The price of tech has really plummeted.

            Here’s one for you: the price of mechanical KWh meters remained the same from the 1930s until they were replaced by electronics. Now, a mechanical KWh meter is mature tech. How they work remained the same from the 1930s through the end of their existence. The only difference is in manufacture, both in how they were made and what they were made from.

            Now we use electronic meters that read themselves, which is more expensive tech. To pull a figure out of the air, let’s say from $150 – $250. But how does this compare to 1937? A mechanical KWh meter went for around $30 for decades. $30 in 1937 should be roughly the equivalent of $520 today. That $150 meter now would have gone for about $8.65

          • I mean, if you were making the same income today as five years ago, a computer then was the same fraction of your income as a computer now — and since, for example, a word processing program keeps needing more computer power just to do the same job, it isn’t as though you can monetize that computer power. This is my own view.

            I think I disagree with this point. Yes, Word 2013 wants more processing power than Word 2007 did, and so on: but it also can do more. If its new features aren’t something you need, then that’s not a benefit for you and your purchasing power is relatively equal with respect to that program… but there are more programs out there. For example, there’s VirtualBox, which lets you run a virtual Linux computer while you run Windows as your main operating system. (Or, in my case, a virtual Windows computer while I run Linux as my main OS). Ten years ago, this would have required me to own two computers to run Windows at any acceptable level of speed, but now I can do that with just one computer. So even though that computer cost me about the same amount as the computer I purchased in 2007 cost me, I’m getting twice as much benefit out of it — so my personal wealth has gone up, because I get more value for the same amount of money. Not everyone uses VirtualBox, or needs the new features of Word 2013, and so on — but I believe that almost all computer users have something that the increased computing power makes easier (or possible) for them, even if it’s only “my video games look WAY cooler”.

            So I lean towards the “technological improvements essentially increase your buying power” school of thought. Eleven years ago, you couldn’t buy an iPhone: they did not exist until ten years ago. An argument could be made that the creation of the iPhone wasn’t a net benefit overall, but since nobody held a gun to anyone’s head to force them to buy the iPhone, the market response is a convincing counter-argument. How do you measure the increase in buying power that happened between 2006 and 2007, when it become possible to buy a single device that combined cell phone and PDA (previously two separate devices)? It’s very hard to put numbers on that kind of thing.

            • Yes, Word 2013 wants more processing power than Word 2007 did, and so on: but it also can do more.
              No, not really. It’s just a LOT more graphical interface, and it consumes a LOT more power to generate Style Sheets. They don’t really make the end product much more useful (unless you use Word to write for the web), and they make the file larger. Mostly it’s just code bloat, with a little more flash. (Oh, and features were *removed* that I really miss.)

              (I still have Office 2003 on my laptop, and use 2013 – for now – at work. So, I go back and forth a LOT. Excel has some improvements, but not a lot.)

              My 2¢.

    • The Federal Poverty Level is that amount of income determined necessary to meet basic needs. How those “basic needs” are calculated is a matter of conjecture. I daresay the cost of housing is lower in Texas than in Massachusetts, for example, or for those living in Winchester Virginia rather than Arlington.

      Then there’s the whole issue of measuring income rather than wealth …

    • Some is perhaps that then-luxuries are now considered “necessities” even if technically they are not such.

      Changing technology can effect it as well. Example: You can no longer obtain a rotary phone and land lines are becoming a thing of the past, In fact, in 1970 a phone was just a phone — and it was tethered to a land line.

  4. FYI folks. In reference to working on going to other star systems, the videos of the presentations at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop 2017 (in Huntsville, AL at the beginning of October) are just beginning to be posted. More will be added as the editing is finished, till they’re all online:

    https://tviw.us/2017-presentation-video-archive/

  5. In the museum in Huntsville, some years back (RCFM was still going) it was all rather interesting, yet a couple things stood out. For me, seeing the Apollo command module heat shield was impressive. A friend with me was amused/bewildered at the “clunky” controls in the CM we could get into – until it was pointed out that space/pressure suit gloves weren’t thin things.

    But what stood out the most was in a way perhaps the mundanity of the launch console for some of the early rockets for the first satellites. It wasn’t fancy, polished, perfectly set up. It wasn’t made “for the cameras” or to “impress the world.” It was clearly made to just get the job done. Mounting holes without switches or gauges, a look like it had been pieced together (in a hurry) in someone’s garage and bits added and removed. It was a very, “Ordinary people did this.” thing. And the message that goes along with that is: Ordinary people CAN do this.

    • The fun of Rocket Ship Gallileo is partly that. That these are just people doing mostly ordinary things, but putting them together in a way that achieves something kinda extraordinary.

    • ” It was clearly made to just get the job done. Mounting holes without switches or gauges, a look like it had been pieced together (in a hurry) in someone’s garage and bits added and removed. It was a very, “Ordinary people did this.” thing. And the message that goes along with that is: Ordinary people CAN do this.”

      “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.”
      ― George S. Patton Jr.

  6. Everything has a price and we get to pay it. No one else.

  7. “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”

    Simple. The first was a technical and materials problem (ok, had to get the financing as well), the second calls for addressing the numerous factors, including people with their various motivations, inclinations, habits, gifts and challenges.

    I guess that for a large number of people science and higher mathematics are right near akin to magic for understand-ability. Therefore they have no trouble thinking that ‘fixing’ people would be as easy, if not easier, than going to the moon, even in the face of proof that it isn’t.

    • I always figured the reason we put a man on the moon was because we had people who wanted to get there and were willing to do whatever was necessary to get it done, even if others thought it was impossible.

      On the other hand we can’t end poverty because we have individuals who don’t want to get out of it and will refuse any efforts made to help them escape it, even if there are others who can show them that it’s possible.

      • There will also be people who will find themselves in poverty because of any number of reasons outside their control, including, but not limited to, the invention of something that renders their livelihood obsolete, health problems or natural disasters. These people may well escape it, but at least for a time they will experience poverty.

      • Even more than that, poverty is a definition defined problem. Poverty is *defined* as the lowest quintile of the income spread. As long as there is any spread in income levels there will be poverty… even if the lowest income has every need met.

      • A pretty wise Jewish Rabbi noted a couple of millennia ago that the poor will always be with us.

      • Even worse, we have people, not in poverty themselves, who find it useful.

    • The reason we can put a man on the moon but not cure poverty is that far too many individuals think those two achievements are in any way similar. If, instead, we demanded to know why is it we can cure a ham but not cure cancer an appalling number of those questioned would think about it.

    • It’s a common rant I have that people who talk about ‘wasting money on space’ seem to imagine that we’d load up a shuttle full of $100 bills and dump the payload of cash into orbit, without realizing that all the money ‘wasted’ on space is spent right here on the ground with technical jobs for the people designing the space ships, factory jobs for the people machining the components (or maintaining the machines that do the assembly), transportation jobs for the people moving the ships and components to Florida, and that it pays off in dividends of not just jobs but medical and technological advances. Food preservation, gps and cell phone tech, the internet, weather monitoring and alerting are just a few of the things that have been improved because we went to space. But really, if you want to end poverty, investing the money in the space program is a much better ROI than handing it out to every ‘poor’ person standing on a street corner.

      • Even if it really was “only a jobs program for rocket scientists” it would STILL be the better thing to as at least that would be a jobs program where some return effort is expected for the money. That it is more than that is… well, it ain’t bad!

      • … seem to imagine that we’d load up a shuttle full of $100 bills and dump the payload of cash into orbit.

        No, instead we’ve had “Quantitative Easing.”

      • The difficulty that your facts can’t penetrate is that the rant assumes that government is the venue for spending that money. It assumes a single source of/decision point for all activities, and a finite pot of money that never produces anything. When those are the assumptions, the valid arguments you make fall on deaf ears.

        (FWIW, I’m not a fan of the “secondary effects” argument. You could get nice secondary effects from poverty spending, too, if you did something creative – vice simply giving money away. We didn’t go to space in order to provide hand calculators and GPS and cell phones to the masses. We spent the money on an achievement for that achievement’s sake, and shouldn’t argue otherwise. Sometimes that is a necessary thing. And, for that purpose, at that time, it needed to be gov’t doing it*. Now it needs to be individuals doing it. “Why go to Mars?” To do something extraordinary, that’s why!)

        (* I would have preferred Rocket Ship Galileo to the Mercury missions, but by then it wasn’t going to happen that way.)

        • I think honesty requires that we admit we did not spend the money on an achievement for that achievement’s sake. We did it to strike a propaganda blow against the Soviets.

          And for that achievement’s sake.

          • I think it’s fair to say Werner Von Braun did it for the technical achievement; JFK did it per RES above, to win something (finally) in space over the Soviets; Walter Mondale did it because he lost the fight to kill it; Johnson did it because it was a leftover from JFK that he could use to funnel money to Texas; the folks at NASA did it because they wanted to go to space; the folks at the CIA did it because they knew the USSR was closing in on making another space propaganda coup if they didn’t get NASA to retask Apollo 8; the folks at all the contractors did to to make money – in other words, the US went to the moon for a lot of reasons, but at the bottom line: The US went to the moon.

          • I will concede that, RES. But that last “and” is really important.

    • Once Goddard sent up his first liquid fuel rockets, putting a man on the moon was only a matter of time and refinement.
      The basic principles had been discovered, they just needed to up the power without the thing blowing up, or spinning out of control.
      With those kind of problems, you can work things out if you have a lot of money- you basically hire a whole lot of people to blow stuff up until you get something that functions.

    • In short; rocket science is basic physics and well understood. The problem is science and engineering. Reworking people is psychiatry, which – at its present stage of development – is an Art, and a poorly understood one at that.

      • You can’t change people. You might change a culture which might change peoples’ behavior but that’s it. Social engineering doesn’t work.

        • The surrounding culture does effect people’s behavior.

          I live in the Piedmont of NC – in the heart of tobacco country, between Durham and Winston-Salem. Although we knew by the 1960 that smoking might not be so good for you, in 1970 and 80s almost everyone of every social strata still smoked. Now very few do. Why? It became socially unacceptable.

  8. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “Nothing is ever simple nor easy.”

    A few years back I read a fantasy novel where one of the characters was given a “simple” spell with the idea that if he could do this spell a wizard would train him in other magic.

    Well, at the end of the story he has managed to get it to work (it helps to solve the Big Problem in the story).

    He grumbles to another wizard (not the one who gave him the spell) about this “simple” spell.

    The wizard asks him “who told you simple was easy?” 😀

    • Possibly Lawrence Watt-Evens’ “With A Single Spell.”

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        IIRC it was Paula Volsky’s “The Curse of the Witch-Queen”.

        • I doubt there is an idea in SF/F that has only been used once, by only one author.

          Although Ian Wallace (pen name of John Wallace Pritchard) is the only one I’ve read who had a character (Croyd) travel through Space-Time purely by mental cognition.

          • I believe that the advanced humans could do that in Ben Bova’s Orion novels.

            • I do believe you are right. I’ve only read the first one, but recall that aspect. I don’t think they used Croyd’s method of predicting statistical probabilities, but that’s a quibble.

              • You’re right (I haven’t read the Ian Wallace novel you refer to), in the Orion novels, they used a type of psychic power to open some sort of pre-existing pathway through spacetime.

          • “When ‘Omer smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre,
            He’d ‘eard men sing by land an’ sea;
            An’ what he thought ‘e might require,
            ‘E went an’ took — the same as me!

            The market-girls an’ fishermen,
            The shepherds an’ the sailors, too,
            They ‘eard old songs turn up again,
            But kep’ it quiet — same as you!

            They knew ‘e stole; ‘e knew they knowed.
            They didn’t tell, nor make a fuss,
            But winked at ‘Omer down the road,
            An’ ‘e winked back — the same as us!”

      • In “With a Single Spell”, the protagonist has already learned his single spell, and that’s all, but then he uses it in a way that he was told not to, and finds that that can be useful, too (using fire spell on existing fire, rather than merely to light a new fire, causes big explosion). Later, he goes on to learn more magic, but it started with just the one.

        • Terry Sanders

          Yeah. He killed his master finding that out. And the spell he knew wasn’t valuable enough to make it worth another wizard’s while to take him on as an apprentice. So he had to go on the road. Which led to other problems.

          Odd little novel. The economic aspects of fairy-tale-dom made for some amusement.

    • Heh. Simple and easy I knew from waaaay on back. The example I use, deadlifting an engine block, comes from real life. There were no tools. No handy ramp, chain hoist, lever, or heck, even a stout stick. Just “pick it up. Put it on the flatbed.” Simple? Sure. Easy? *mad cackle*

      • It may sound simple for a man to make a woman happy, but it sure ain’t easy.

        • Never have put mouch stock in that phrase, to be honest. Bring a woman happiness, and it’s up to her to pick it up? Sure. Share your own happiness with her? Absolutely. Give her joy, something thoughtful and crafted based on what you know of her desires and longings? Yep. Still on her to accept it and respond as she pleases, at the time. But *make* her happy? The phrasing just sounds off.

          Best case, you accept the good with the bad. With grace, when you can. Pick wisely and pursue a woman of strong character and good morals (with a compatible sense of humor, definitely). Same applies for women.

          Sometimes the best you can ask for, and give of yourself, is to know how to respond to those mistakes and bad days. No one likes admitting they were wrong, or treated the other person with less respect than they ought. But of these things are great relationships built. Strong, able to weather hardship and turmoil.

          If you set out to *make* a body happy, it just sounds like setting yourself up for failure.

          Or, just perhaps, I’m reading too much into that little phrase. Maybe. Just this once. *chuckle*

    • Yep. I was thinking about Mrs Hoyt’s proposition. It seems to me that it is properly phrased “simple OR easy.” Pick one

      • At my High School there was a girl who was simple and reportedly easy, so the two are not mutually exclusive.

      • Oh, you can have both simple and easy. As for simple, easy, and right… perhaps not impossible, but mighty rare at the least.

        • William Newman

          Simple, easy, and right?

          Non-mathematical “physics for poets” and similar pop science is often considered something of a sad joke because it’s too crippled to solve most problems, but still it contains enough simple, easy, and right stuff to give useful guidance in some situations, and to be impressive compared to reading older natural philosophy. Newton’s Laws, first and second law of thermodynamics, marginal utility theory of value, the essentially-absolute rule that life forms are offspring of similar life forms (rather than spontaneous generation or whatever)…

          Also there are various near-absolutely-true rules that are so widely true that they are useful guidance to how the world works, so it’s not necessarily wrong to call them “right”. E.g., there being only a hundred or so chemical elements and that they can be refined or combined but not transmuted. Or, in a similar spirit of almost-absolutely-right, how biological energy originates in photosynthesis and then cascades through various chains composed of organisms eating each other organisms.

          Like any broadly applicable rules, these rules can give rise to fiddly corner cases that arguably make things complicated. (E.g., you can easily get what looks like experimental demonstration of spontaneous generation of life from sterile matter if you don’t realize that while boiling mostly sterilizes things, an elite few organisms make spores that can’t be killed except by more extreme conditions, like a pressure cooker a.k.a. autoclave; and viruses and genetic accidents and whatnot occasionally stretch the “offspring” and “similar” definitions pretty aggressively.) And people sometimes manage to spectacularly misunderstand even these simple elegant rules, like the famous example of the NYT ridiculing Goddard because the NYT was too sophisticated to understand Newton’s Laws. And marginal utility and entropy are strangely elusive for a fair fraction of people even though they are simple. And entropy in particular (like relativity and quantum uncertainty) has a special attraction to people who want to use dishonest paraphrases to give a scientific veneer to dishonest talking points to support their agenda. (E.g. Rifkin’s _Entropy_ for greens, endorsed in blurbs without any obviously msleading ellipses by Sen. Mark Hatfield and _New Scientist_ in the flyleaf of my copy. Or various sources endorsed by less prominent bozos for creationism.) Still and all, though, these things are very simple — especially compared to the hodgepodge of half-truths and special cases that existed before the correct rule was figured out — and very correct.

  9. Our Esteemed Hostess wrote: And it’s not something we tell the kids. Who wants to admit that sometimes, because you’re sick, or tired, or — in our case, mostly — you’re both working obsessively at the things that demand your attention, you just CAN’T feel anything?

    The Mother-In-Law had her ideas on the ideal aspiration for a girl set by the late 1940s. To her the best thing a girl could possibly aspire to was to be a wife, a mother and a homemaker. You should raise a girl with this in mind.

    The Daughter was not much more than a day old and the Mother-In-Law was visiting our little family in the hospital. The Daughter, warm, fed and contented slept with a smile on her face. As we watched her I had the following conversation with The M-I-L.

    M-I-L: Oh look, she must be dreaming of her Prince Charming.

    Me: Maybe she is dreaming of piloting a space ship on a manned mission to Mars.

    M-I-L: Why would you want her to dream of that? That would be dangerous.

    Me: So are dreams of Prince Charming.

    Neither of us ever told The Daughter that things would be easy; she wouldn’t have believed us if we had. And we certainly never told her that someone would come along, sweep her off her feet, and that they would ‘live happily ever after.’ Kids, I have found, are surprisingly observant of what goes on in their homes. They know when things are not quite right or worse. We didn’t want The Daughter to think ours was the only home where people sometimes struggled through things.

    • Yeah, we certainly don’t hide the difficulty of struggling through life from the kids. I think it does them a great disservice to pretend that everything just ‘magically’ appears and happens. Granted, I think Rhys and I don’t argue as much as other couples seem to, but I think that’s because we’ve had a number of Big Life Hardships already hurdled (Eight, nearly 9 years of long distance relationship, moving into a completely different country and getting dropped into the deep end of adapting; burying children strike me as the biggest things) and … the rest is small stuff. Annoying, irritating, aggravating, stress inducing, sure; but you do your darndest to keep on top of and mitigate the little things so they don’t become the Big Problems that seem to swallow everything else, until there is nothing else.

      Some folks seem to think we have it ‘pretty together’ and it seems ‘easy’ but its… not. The analogy of swan gliding on the surface and nobody seeing the thrashing webbed feet fit rather well.

    • Embrace the power of “and” dream of a good husband who wants to go to the stars with you.

      • There is a monumental difference between dreaming a good husband who can be a life companion and dreaming of a Prince Charming who comes to your rescue and then, and only then, living happily ever after.

  10. Well, as Somebody once said, TANSTAAFL.

  11. America is referred to as “A shining city on a hill” because getting to that is a long, hard, uphill slog … and backsliding is so very very easy.

    But we’ve been to the top of that hill, and while it is a struggle to remain there any length of time rather than slide back into the swamp it is a struggle worth the making.

  12. I don’t see getting to other stars as impossible. Eventually we’ll start building space habitats. As our population grows, those habitats will start to expand out into the solar system in search of resources. Eventually they’ll be deep in the Oort cloud, and from there’s it’s a relatively short hop over into the next star’s Oort cloud. Lather, rinse, repeat and humanity spreads through the galaxy using today’s technology.

    • Some of the estimates for the size of the Oort Cloud make me suspect that there may be NO gap between our Oort Cloud and the Centauri system’s Oort Cloud (or whatever they call their equivalent). Which means there may be objects in our sun’s orbit that were previously in the Centauri system’s orbit and viceversa

      • The solar model of the nucleus might be wrong, but the atomic model of the solar system might be right. Comet-valent bonds between systems. We’re looking at all this way down in the M shell.

    • And we might discover that FTL travel is possible, after all.

      My late Father (MS in Physics, PhD in History of Science) thought that Physics had reached what he called the ‘epicycles stage’

      At one time (and I’m oversimplifying) the central assumption of planetary motion was that the planets moved in perfect circles. And so, to account for observable moment that didn’t match this, a system of smaller circular motions, as the planets move on their circular orbits, was posited (this was called epicycles). It was hellishly complicated. Then some smart Johnny said “Yes, of course the planets move in perfect circles. Nobody can deny that. BUT, if we assume that their orbits are elliptical, look how much simpler the math gets! We’ll KNOW we are cheating, of course, but if we use elliptical orbits to predict planetary motion, life will be SOOOOOO much simpler.”

      And, over time, the whole epicycles mess was consigned to the ash heap, and we moved on.

      Father thought that Physics was at or close to a point where somebody was soon going to say “Yes, absolutely, we KNOW that ‘A’ is true. But if we assume, just for the sake of calculation, that ‘B’ is true instead, look how much simpler things get!”

      Maybe “B” will still say FTL is impossible, but maybe it won’t.

      • Well, there’s already a theory for FTL travel. The problem is that it’s a tad energy expensive. Not as much as the original version, it only requires the mass-energy of a few hundred kilograms, instead of the mass of Jupiter, but that’s still a lot. Hopefully, someone will find a way to trim that down even further.

      • If M-Theory proves correct and we learn to twist space as kids twist a dry-cleaners’ plastic bag to form a bubble, have we actually traveled “faster” than light or are we merely cutting a corner of reality?

        • as kids twist a dry-cleaners’ plastic bag to form a bubble

          Danger: This Space-Time Is Not A Toy. Do Not Allows Children To PLay With This Space Time.

          • Danger, Will Robinson!

          • Given just what Humanity has done stupid on this little blue marble, can you imagine the warning listing on the outside of this universe? Especially if you assume alien races out there, coming up with their own stupidity? Oy vey. No wonder the universe is expanding – it has to, just to accommodate the growing list of “Don’t use this hair dryer in the bathtub” warnings!

            • the growing list of “Don’t use this hair dryer in the bathtub” warnings!

              Yes, given the number of people inclined to argue, “It says not to use the hair dryer in the bathtub; it doesn’t say anything about not using it in the shower!”

              • Res, I used to think those warning labels were totally absurd…. until I read the story of the MLB pitcher who literally put himself out of the All-Star game by needing an ironed shirt for the pre-game dinner and ironing it while he was wearing it. He actually admitted it in a press-conference.

                • Two things come to mind…

                  1. The warning with some chainsaw to not stop the blade using hands or genitals(!).

                  and the joke(?)

                  2. Ever have a bad day and feel stupid, lousy about yourself? Go to the store and buy a tube of Preparation-H. At home, open the box and remove the paper. Read the paper. It will say something about it not being for oral use. Ponder that. That means… someone wrote a letter… someone had to write a letter. Feel better? You should.

                  Now, if the chainsaw folks got a letter…

                • The warning is still absurd. All that story shows is that the baseball player was even more absurd.

            • I recall at least one story where speed limit of c and c being “low” locally was a form of (attempted?) quarantine of Earth.

        • scott2harrison

          Given that special relativity proves that INFORMATION cannot travel faster than the speed of light (at least in the local area), I don’t think that it matters.

      • William Newman

        re. the possibility of FTL…

        There is an bit of dialogue in _Snow Crash_ in which a character worries about the dangers of radioactivity release if a (very) powerful radioisotope thermal generator were damaged. (IIRC it’s YT worrying about the generator in a Rat Thing.) The answer is something like “if you are ever in the presence of an event sufficiently violent to break the encapsulation, exposure to leaked radioactive materials will be the least of your worries.”

        In current physics, FTL has something like this going on. The possibility of FTL does fit into the mathematical framework of relativity in a sorta obviously suggestive way (modulo some weirdness like things with nonzero mass being able to go slower than the speed of light, or faster than the speed of light, but being infinitely resistant to transitioning from one regime to the other). However, it is also fundamentally coupled to the basic properties of the flow of time. Very basic properties, very fundamentally connected. In particular, FTL travel immediately gives you backwards time travel and thus subverts all of the usual causality that we’ve come to expect. So, if you are ever in the presence of a technology sufficiently advanced to travel faster than the speed of light, the ability to go to the stars in minutes or weeks instead of years may be the least of your plot points, because mind-blowing though star travel may be, it is probably less mind-blowing than the ramifications of people going back in time and messing with significant things such as each others’ ancestors.

        (PS: The original fictional remark about RTGs is some combination of profoundly true and profoundly silly — more usefully true than lots of SF, but not all that reliably true. You can see the tendency being confirmed to a useful extent in real world events since then, notably in the event which broke the Fukushima reactor system happening to be be the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, poweful enough to kill over 10k people in an advanced earthquake-savvy country through normal earthquakey effects independent of breaking the power plant. But it is not reliably fundamentally true, especially for a supercompact superpowerful radioisotope thermal generator as opposed to a more controllable less compact fission pile. Just let the device get stuck somewhere that interferes with its ability to vent that unthrottleable heat flow — falling into a hole or other structure that caves in, for example — and no matter what its containment is made of, you are likely[*] to end up with a mess of superradioactive slurry slopping free, because chemical bonds fundamentally just aren’t all that strong compared to the energies involved in the decay of superconcentrated short-half-life radioisotopes.)

        [*] How likely? Depends on how powerful the RTG is and all the fiddly messy details of how fast the heat is conducted away by the dirt or whatever it ends up surrounded by.

        • And the Fukushima example has a bit of counter example as there is a similar reactor that was also at risk… but one stubborn cuss of an engineer insisted the wall to withstand the “500 year” water levels be built. And it was. And it worked. And… what’s the name of that one? That’s how well it worked.

    • According to JMS, he had several NASA types tell him that they could build Babylon 5 with today’s technology by substituting fission reactors of equivalent output for the fusion reactors in his design. Starships like the ones in the series, nowhere close, but the station itself was doable.

  13. Never give up. The pay off to the hard work may just be out of your reach when you toss in the towel. If not, at least you still are striving.

  14. In 1982 Kansas asked “Is it worth the time? Is it worth the price?”

  15. I’ve told mine (in no particular order):
    – Sometimes the PITA slogging is necessary, so you’d better get it done.
    – Failure happens. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and if you learn the proper lessons, it can actually help you down the road.
    – Exploit the things you’re good at. They can keep you afloat when you’re learning other things.

    Or as Miss Frizzle said, “Get dirty! Make mistakes!”

    Bonus points if you know Miss Frizzle’s first name…

    • Miss?

      Seriously, I didn’t know she had a first name. Other than perhaps “Our best customer” at the shoe store.

    • > – Failure happens. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and if you learn the proper lessons, it can actually help you down the road.

      As opposed to “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” Which, when unpacked, means “If there is any chance of failure, don’t bother.”

      • And that is why I have long considered Yoda a moron. You summed it up better than slow ox ever has.

        • Terry Sanders

          Actually, no. It’s another case of taking a quote out of context, compounded by its being in a movie.

          Listen to it. I’d sure you’ve heard that tone of voice before. “I’ll try,” said like that, means “I’ll go through the motions, and prove to my own satisfaction that it won’t work.” And Yoda quite properly slaps him down.

          This is confirmed by the end of the scene.

          “I don’t believe it!”

          “And that is why you fail!”

          It’s a common enough usage that it stuck. And then people started taking it literally *and* universally. Including people like Michael Stackpole, who should have known better.

          • Perhaps it is/was that, but I recall cringing the instant I heard it in the theater (cultural self-defense, not fandom). And then having it said when the context makes clear that the special situation does not apply. It joins the annoying “Are we having fun yet?” line about things that aren’t, that way.

            • Terry Sanders

              The repeat-it-out-of-context thing? I agree entirely. Between the mindless repeaters and the quasi-mystics, I’ve pretty munch had my fill of it, too.

              It didn’t bother me at the time, though. Maybe because of my religious background. Telling a Baptist “You gotta have faith” doesn’t make him stare at you, awed by your insight… 🙂

              • I suppose it does depend on your mindset. I didn’t unpack it quite the same as Ox did; rather, I considered it a null statement altogether, because in my mind, you CANNOT “Do” UNLESS you “Try”. So while I understood what Yoda was TRYING (heh) to say, in my mind, he wasn’t saying it.

                • That was also (a large part of?) my initial reaction. Edison and the filaments… yes he “did” but that only after a an awful lot of “try” to the point there is the story of the fellow (reporter?) asking about the hundreds of failures… and getting the reply that there weren’t any failures, just increasing knowledge of what didn’t work.

                • I interpreted it as faux-Zen and discounted appropriately.

        • And here I thought spending years not realizing that Senator/Chancellor Palpatine was actually the Sith Lord they were fighting made him a moron.

          • That was the other clue. Assuming you accept the three high-budget fan-fics as canon.

            • You’ve got to remember that it’s very hard to convincingly write or model someone significantly more competent and intelligent than you are yourself. And going by the evidence, most entertainment-industry geniuses . . . aren’t.

              • I wouldn’t know, having never met anybody significantly more competent and intelligent than myself.

                It is usually implied by a) vocabulary, especially through polysyllabic words b) having secondary characters admire the genius, e.g., “By Jove, Holmes!” c) excessively complex sentences d) handwavium, plotholes and distraction, e) recitation of esoteric facts, f) doing math in the head and g) all of the above.

            • Ya, one bad thing the prequel movies did was turn Yoda into a stodgy, institutionalized bureaucrat, crushing any possible innovation or change just because his species will outlive any reformers.
              It has been remarked that the biggest obstacle to change in the Victorian Royal Navy was the old leftovers from Nelson’s day. I can imagine that Yoda would have had a similar effect on the Jedi order.

          • If the Shadow can cloud men’s minds, and Superman and Wonder Woman use glasses as an invincible disguise, of course Palpatine could keep his identity secret.

      • I’ve never unpacked it like that. To me it’s always sounded like you either succeed or fail, “I tried” is just failing while whining about it.

    • Valerie. Miss Valerie Frizzle.

  16. On the poverty question, the persistence of “poverty” is almost (not quite) solely an artifact of moving the goalposts. Absolute poverty (that is, few or no basic necessities) is very hard to find in the US (it does exist, and affects a number of people that is absolutely large — so is America — but relatively very, very small), so the standard moved to relative poverty.
    Big surprise to no one except the “experts”: there is always someone in the lower quintile of income and/or wealth.

    https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_great_enrichment
    “In the last 200 years, according to economist Deirdre McCloskey, per capita income in the capitalist countries has grown from $1-3 per person per day to over $100 per person per day, in real dollars. There has been nothing like it, ever.”

    See also the link posted by Sarah in her PJ post on America the Comfortable. The graph says it all.
    https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/american-comfort/

    One major reason for persisting poverty, by whatever definition, is the rise of government agencies and NGOs whose existence depends on there being poor people, which has generated a systemic bias in our welfare system that makes it hard to move up the income scale. So, despite the people and groups making heroic efforts to alleviate suffering from poverty (for instance, among the maleducated but intelligent, the involuntarily homeless, and the victims of disasters), they are being undercut by other actors.

    Another reason, which is not PC to say, is that some people remain poor because they have poor habits of behavior.

    They haven’t learned to pay the price of success, or don’t want to.

    • Aye, just yesterday someone asked about “growing up poor” and it’s a thing that I look back on and figure that yes, there wasn’t much money.. but we were certainly not destitute. Poverty? Perhaps, depending upon definition. There was roof and walls, there was transportation, there was running water (mostly), and while some meals were dubious, I have no memories of meals simply not happening. Could things have been better? Certainly – but they also could have been much worse, and weren’t.

      • House, central heat and A/C, books, some travel, going to museums, clothes in fall for school and new dresses at Christmas and Easter. Didn’t miss any meals, but looking back there was a lot of home-grown produce, cheap chicken-pot-pies, fancy beans-on-toast, and tuna-cheese-peas-n-rice casserole. And getting swatted for wasting food once or twice.

        • The first place that I can recall living in that had central heat… was the third place I can recall, and it was a “mobile home.” And whatever one might say about mobile homes, it was a step UP from the place before.

          • In my childhood, outhouses were common. It wasn’t unusual for homes to have no internal plumbing. I remember shanty towns and honest to goodness tar paper shacks, the tar paper held on with common nails driven through soft drink caps.

            By the 1980s, single wide mobile homes replaced the shanties and were much better homes. When I started work, there was a shanty town that was just being replaced by singlewides. Now, those singlewides are replaced by doublewides and honest-to-goodness stick built homes. And all have heating and cooling and internal plumbing.

            Poor isn’t what it once was. That’s a good thing, but one that most people tend to forget.

            • A few years ago, a blogger noted that the Soviet-style “public housing” building he’d just driven by was festooned with satellite TV antennas.

              America. Where even the poor can get their entertainment from orbital communications satellites…

            • Lessee if this works:

              http://www.gocomics.com/bc/2017/10/25
              Likely not, but click through for important lesson in outhouse design.

              • Worked well enough with a click.

                • Yeah, but unless something is jpg extension I have no confidence it will appear en blog, which is the optimum result. I dislike making folk click elsewhere.

                  Sigh – even with jpg I have only 95% confidence. WP Delenda Est.

              • Actually, the local outhouses weren’t over holes in the ground. They were periodically moved and the, er, results burned off. Locally, folks referred to the hole in the ground models as government privys or latrines. The former name came from a push by the US government as a more sanitary option. Except, while yellow jackets preferred the type just set on the top of the ground, black widows seemed to prefer the the government privys. When a local man was bitten on the rump by a black widow, that pretty much cooled the enthusiasm for government privys.

                OTOH, the church we attended had a large outhouse mounted at the top of a steep slope.

        • The difference is usually more “what” than “how much.”

          Cigarettes, liquor, fast food, and jewelry are more important to some people than reliable transportation, healthcare, or savings.

          My wife and I know several couples who make a multiple of what we do, yet live one paycheck from bankruptcy. They’ve *always* lived that way; to them, it’s a perfectly normal situation.

          • Aye, working at a convenience store is enlightening in a sad way. Before that, I hadn’t seen the Meth Twitch Dance. And I had not directly encountered those complaining the place didn’t take EBT when the chain (the one I was at not “corporate” within the chain…) in $BIGCITY did. But they could travel to/from $BIGCITY and somehow after finding EBT wasn’t an option, there was ALWAYS cash for beer, tobacco, lotto.

            The old guy[s] who scrounged coins for the cheapest pack of cigarettes had more of my sympathy – at least he was honest about how things were.

          • Fast food, in my household, is a treat. Or “Uncle Aff wanted (insert fast food here), with the bonus of Rory doesn’t have to worry about cooking for a night or two.”

    • I suppose that people also think of the third world poverty when they say that “shouldn’t we fix that first”.

      But that is even harder to fix. All the money spend on African countries, for example, has possibly only extended the problem by keeping corrupt governments in power and destroying local small business owners – one example I have seen used is in the clothing business, when it’s possible to get clothes collected in the rich countries and shipped there for almost nothing (because while that shipping costs the charitable organizations pay for it) the local dressmakers lose most of their customers.

      You should not leave people to starve, but it really does look like a rather large percentage of the charity towards those countries, driven by western white guilt, is perhaps just making their plight worse, or at least extending its existence.

    • Nothing like requiring folks to spend 1K meeting regulatory requirements to get a job WASHING HAIR.

  17. (Like the precious snow flake recently preaching against having ANY children, because they hurt muh environment and possibly muh feelings too. Because they hate themselves so much they must hate the whole human race, too.)

    If snowflakes don’t want to have children, why, I’m entirely in favor of it.

    • No, no. She doesn’t want ANYONE to have children.

      • Fortunately, what she wants doesn’t (yet at least) have any effect on my family.

      • I realize that. Just hoping snowflakes practice what they preach.

        • I have mentioned before The Daughter argues that those who are so dead set on reducing the population should set the example, lead the way and go first.

          • Patrick Chester

            Scary thing: If they truly believe it then they can’t go first. They have to make sure everyone else is dead so they can die.

            (What scares me is I can see these psychopaths being genuine enough to gleefully murder the rest of humanity and then just as gleefully commit suicide when they’re finished.)

    • Sadly that’s not how they reproduce.

      • Yeah, it’s like a version of zombies – they infect otherwise-healthy people.

        • Hrm. Not entirely convinced of that. They’re not otherwise healthy. They have completely *un*developed immune systems to the socialistic plague. No concepts of how to negotiate a social contract (see: the great big WAAAH! to the sky in Boston on Nov. 4th). Atrophied critical thinking skills (they’re not completely absent.* They just cannot see the immense flipping blind spot that they *need* to apply that to). No understanding, indeed, no desire to understand the other side- what such people think, and why, rationally (rather than screaming racist/sexist/somethingaphobe!).

          Some are irredeemable, but not all. I just fear what it would take to convince large portions of such folk to reconsider their stance, and what it would mean for the *rest* of us. I may not like big city leftist politics. But neither do I want glowing craters appearing anywhere in the land that I call home.

          • Some are irredeemable, but not all. I just fear what it would take to convince large portions of such folk to reconsider their stance, and what it would mean for the *rest* of us. I may not like big city leftist politics. But neither do I want glowing craters appearing anywhere in the land that I call home.

            In response to that, I link this article:

            https://t.co/e9M6irDSR9

            • *nod* Fits with what I’ve been thinking, and hearing in bits and pieces here and there. Like a cult. Hard to leave. But once the cracks appearn, hard to stay, too.

              I tend to default to mercy. When I can. They are still our fellow countrymen. Still human, warts and all. They, we, have to keep the right to make mistakes. To be fallible, to fail. Over and over again, at times. And then to pick ourselves back up and make another run at it, or try a different way.

              As long as it harms none but the sole person who’s trying, we must defend that. Despite it all, the right to be stupid should very much be a thing- so long as the consequences are visited on the actor alone.

              And really, if I’m being honest, it’s a selfish desire too. Because I screw up all the time. Daily. Or more often than that. I do not wish to be “perfected” according to someone else’s vision. Nor do I wish to fundamentally change other people (at all, really, save that they leave me and mine alone. Scratch that. So they leave everybloodybody *else* alone).

  18. richardmcenroe

    “I’ve seen more potentially good writers be destroyed by having their first novel accepted than by having to struggle through ten novels to sell one at last.”

    Please quit giving me more excuses.

  19. “Everything worth doing is worth doing well”

    Obligatory video comment:

  20. “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”
    Because Jesus never said “You aren’t going to the moon”? (Matthew 26:11)

  21. “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”

    Frankly, it’s because there is no political power to be had in failing to get to the moon. However there IS political power, LOTS of it, to be had by manipulating the problem of poverty. Unfortunately, fixing the problem would dry up that source of power, so there is little impetus to do so.

  22. “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”

    Because the majority of Americans do NOT want to live in a society that is strong enough, and focused enough, to prevent people from making bad life choices and stupid mistakes. Nor strong enough to say “You may not live here because of the risk of fire/flood/tornado/earthquake/hurricane, you may not eat this and this because we think it may cause cancer and cancer treatment will cost more than you can afford to pay so have kale instead.”

    • Hell, the majority of SANE PEOPLE don’t want to live in such a society. And the INSANE ones who want to mostly think they will be the ones giving orders.

      Idiots.

  23. “How can we put a man on the moon and not be able to end poverty?”

    Gods, but I loath that particular talking point.

    Why?

    Because a lot of the imbeciles who ask that question are fixated on a socio-political structure that, historically, CAUSES poverty. In vast amounts.

    Because those same people hate, Hate, HATE the major force in society that creates the wealth that makes ending poverty at all possible; the Industrial Revolution.

    Because the people who virtue-signal by asking that question continually MOVE THE GODDAM GOAL POSTS.

    Because a majority of the people who pretend to be concerned about poverty are a lot more fixated on destroying the wealthy than in uplifting the poor.

    Because the same bunch instituted conditions that utterly destroyed the system of public education that was the main weapon in attacking poverty.

    I could go on, but I’ve got steam coming out of my ears.

    • Ending poverty would be very simple, if only we had the will.

      Make poverty a capital crime.

      I doubt anything short of that would be able to make much of a dent.

      • Hell, everywhere the Industrial Recolution has a foothold has a serious start. It’s the shame of the 20th Century that we in the West allowed the chattering classes to talk us out of spreading the revolution to the third world in Africa and Asia.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        In theory. In practice, in absence of socialism, just about everyone is at least a small net positive to value. Any effective system of quickly executing people who have quality x will have a certain amount of false positive rate. Add to that the number of poor/living in poverty who are net assets, and after they have been killed, overall wealth will decrease, putting a certain amount of previously not poor into a state of poverty. I’m not certain that the end of that road converges on zero, but also I’m not clear why it must not.

        So, in practice, cheaper food, cheaper energy, cheaper cost of starting and running business, cheaper costs of employing someone (or some small amount of money changing hands for even fairly low value work) reduce poverty.

        • Translation:

          We can start killing people, which we generally agree is a Bad Idea in most cases.

          OR…

          We can do as much as we can to get government(s) to stop jamming on the brakes and let people go DO and the chaotic result unpredictable in specific will have a general predictable result of net improvement.

          The first is simple. Neither is easy. And only the second actually works.

          • The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution has occasioned a number of laudatory articles (from the insane) and others more reality based. A couple of them demonstrate that Lenin took the simple option.
            http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/247342/sickening-cost-of-lenins-revolution
            “When Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later known as Lenin, was 21, famine hit Russia’s Volga region, near the Ulyanovs’ hometown of Simbirsk. Vladimir’s sister raised money for the relief effort and visited the sick. But Vladimir, nearly alone among Russian radicals, scorned the effort to save lives. The future Lenin hoped that a truly enormous death toll would weaken the czarist regime—so the more starvation, the better. “He conducted systematic and outspoken propaganda against the relief committees,” his comrade Trotsky said much later. Four-hundred thousand people died of starvation, typhus, and cholera.”

            https://www.thenation.com/article/lenin-trotzky-and-gorky/

            “I went to Russia believing myself a communist, but contact with those who have no doubts has intensified a thousandfold my own doubts…of every creed so firmly held that for its sake men are willing to inflict widespread misery.”
            By Bertrand Russell

          • “Increasing Misery” is a Marxist tenant of faith, and anything done to fix poverty is just delaying the Revolution.

          • Arguably, Ox, the gov’t is usually very good at the first one (if perhaps a bit enthusiastic)…….

  24. “Portugal first discovered the mid Atlantic islands”

    I read a fascinating book titled “1421 The Year China Discovered America.” The author posits (among other things) that Portugal got maps originally drawn by Chinese sailors, and knew where to look. Recommended. And if you need to, think of it as an alternate reality.

    • This is very possible, and was believed when I was in college. Henry the Navigator got people from all over to his school and things traveled. Caravan route, overland but they traveled.

    • There are folks bringing up Chinese style anchors (big stone donuts) off the West Coast of North America all the time, and some have very very old date analyses, including carbon dating results. But carbon dating gets iffy underwater, and lots of fishing boats lost lots of anchors over many centuries, so there’s no agreement that they’re pre-1492.

      And the cultural artifact finds are also disputed, plus there’s no memorial plaque yet (like the one Sir Francis Drake left when he was here in between plundering and pillaging Spanish settlements – a claim much disputed until that plaque was found).

      My bet is people were back and forth and there and back again for a long, long time – the reason the Spanish treasure fleets from the Phillipines ended up making landfall on the Northern California coast is simply that’s where the currents go. No reason someone else (like those great sailors, the Polynesians) couldn’t have ended up here due to some nasty storm, said “Hi” to the natives while they were getting water and food, and then left, all a lot longer ago than 1421.

      • And since the Chinese government did its best to stop that sort of thing, at least officially, after 1450 or so, any official govt records would either be 1) buried so deep that no one could find them and/or 2) destroyed so higher-ups wouldn’t learn that one of the regional administrators was so careless as to allow a deep-sea voyage to occur.

  25. The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other. G. K. Chesterton