The Best People


Let me begin this by saying there are millions of people way smarter than myself.  This is a necessary statement, as you will see because otherwise I’ll sound insane.

Though I’ll say there are only two people so much smarter than myself that I felt like a little kid trying to comprehend an adult.  One of them was Ginny Heinlein. There is a third one I can almost keep up with if I run fast enough. And I’ve caught him in an error once, in economic forecasting, which has zero to do with this field.

Other than that life in this family is a daily act of humility as the other members of it are way smarter than myself. When they get going on something, particularly blue sky physics, I can just sit and watch like someone with two broken legs looking on at acrobats.

That said, my feeling of inferiority is tempered by the fact I often correct the English of one, the history of another and that I’ve read more than husband, (it being part of my job.) so I can pull up examples of things he was unaware of.

And that paragraph above is why I don’t believe in “Smart people” and “The top men.”

Even admittedly brilliant, stunningly erudite people have areas they know or understand or think about more than others.  And in some of them they can be strangely and stunningly ignorant.

I won’t give the example of actors who run their mouths on politics and political systems, because that would be low hanging fruit.  I’m not sure — and I know some of them are bright people but that’s not the point — what acting talent is exactly (which since maternal grandparents met on the boards and enjoyed some acclaim is kind of odd, right?) but it doesn’t seem to be a strictly intellectual function. Maybe it is simply an enhancement of that mimic ability that allows humans to adapt to the tribe when yet very young and to manipulate their caretakers so they survive.

I won’t mention authors, either, because authors are … well. I have no idea how others work.  I know some say they do this rationally and purely from intellect, but you know what? We lie for a living. And we tend to claim as the origin story of someone’s favorite book whatever fits the rule of cool, even if the real origin story was to quote a meme with Yoda. “Young I was, needed money, I did.”

We are usually learned and competent in two areas that impress those who aren’t writers: the manipulation of words and knowledge of obscure facts.

In addition, I can sound incredibly smart — without trying to, just geeking out, because I read a lot of history and economics and my mind is a stainless steel lint trap. Meaning I retain the most obscure, bizarre and often irrelevant pieces of information seemingly for life.  If I live that long, after I forget my own name and can no longer recognize my kids or — more alarmingly — my cats, I’ll be able to tell you the very last words that Leonardo DaVinci ever wrote was Il Caldo e Freddo.  Which means “[My] soup grows cold.”  (Actually the soup is cold, but what he meant is that he’d be right back but had to eat his soup before it got cold. Which will be the title of the last Leonardo Da Vinci Mystery, if I can clear the time and muster the discipline to write everything else on the way to those.

But again, most areas of human endeavor are opaque to me and I’m a babe unborn. I am in the end a savage with modern day creations. I can’t tell you why what I’m doing works, why the words get typed into this blog and will be shown to you.  I can’t tell you why or how the computer works. I can’t even program the computers I use every day. My electrical gadget expertise stopped with assembling a tube radio from parts more than forty years ago, and I doubt I could do that now.  Or keep my first tape recorder going through amazing feats of repair even though it had been made in (I kid you not) North Korea. (Someday I’ll do a post on how all the crappy regimes allow imports and entertainment from all the crappy regimes, or how we learned to have fun when we had Russian and Romanian movies inflicted on us. Too long a digression for here. Let’s say “Russian technology” is an improvement on “North Korean machinery.”)

Sure, I could learn all of that, and I’ve promised myself quiet time to study some of it as a reward for finishing books, because as the good doctor says, I’m a bad boss and a worse employee and I should just fire myself and find someone else to be me. But that too is a digression worthy of another post.

The thing is, when we come to this “Smarter people” or if you prefer “Top men” (even when they’re women) I will never know as much about any of these things as people who are objectively — if such a thing is possible to measure — dumber than I, but who have devoted their lives to one of them.

Which brings me to this post, or the precipitating event that led me to write it: Yesterday on Facebook I talked to a polite and rational liberal.

Having determined that someone — not me — asked him how he reconciled his beliefs in the inherent dignity and value of the individual with wanting Universal Health Care.

This man agreed most systems of universal healthcare are a florid disaster and do way worse than the mangled, government-raped thing we have, but he insisted that “Someone smarter than me can design a system that works.”

He also held out hopes that we could have a system like Sweden.

As I said he’s rational and polite, so I’m not including him in the following — I think he just heard it so much from other leftists he thinks it must be true —  but I’m just going to say I’ve often wondered if the left’s obsession with the way a used-to-be extremely white country where everyone is relatively closely genetically related is rooted in their subconscious eugenic and racial beliefs.

But of course Sweden is not a model. Long before that thread was over someone who knew it better than I pointed out they now have a parallel private system, which people pay for (and is quite expensive) in addition to paying for the “universal” one out of their taxes. Because it’s so much better.  The same thing is true of Portugal, btw.  And you probably can’t find two more different cultures and modes of behavior than Sweden and Portugal.

And the problem is even with Sweden, or Great Britain, or any of that, there’s a ton of stuff we don’t know about these government-run systems.  Such as, for instance, how much they actually cost. Or what their real statistics are.  Americans (born and raised) tend to trust statistics from abroad as if they were their own, forgetting we’re the autistic kids in the nations playground, who actually say what we think, and believe facts matter.

I’ll point out in passing that it took me till two years ago to make sense of something mom told me from birth: when I was born extremely premature, the doctor who came over to examine me after delivery called the hospital to beg the use of an incubator.  He was reportedly told that since mom had chosen to have the baby at home with a midwife, there were no incubators available. This seems like one of those things you read about on how a “patriarchal” system suppressed midwives in favor of doctors.  And eh, maybe it was, though I doubt it. For one, given the transportation possibilities in the village at the time, trying to get to the hospital once labor started would mostly mean delivering on the road.  A couple of years ago, a lightbulb went on in my head: given my birth weight and general expectations of survival, they didn’t want me to die in the hospital. Because I’d skew their numbers.  And yes, Portugal had universal health care.

No matter what a governmental department — and I mean any nation — is supposed to do, over time their actions will be changed and decisions made so as to skew the numbers in their favor.  Since inter-government people aren’t evaluated on profit (i.e. on how efficiently they use resources versus results) but on how good they look on paper everything is will be done to look good on paper.

Which endeth the semi-digression (yes, my mind is like an eighteen wheeler, occasionally lurching from lane to lane.  Stop gripping the wheel of your reasoning so tightly and enjoy the ride) and brings us back to my point: you can have people way smarter than I design a universal health care system, or a long distance communication system, or an economic strategy.  But the thing is, see, they are still humans.

If their incentive is to look good on paper, even if they’re the best of people and devoted to their seeming objectives, they’re going to have to do some “looking good on paper” or the only thing that will happen is that someone else will take over who does look good on paper.

Beyond that, they will come in with all their prejudices, their acquired and never examined opinions (“it works in Sweden” or “population is exploding.”) and a ton of other things likely acquired with mother’s milk and never thought over (because most people don’t) and they will be influenced by them.

This is fine when what they’re doing is designing something with objective parameters that follows immutable laws. Even then unintended consequences can bite you in the ass.  Ask any engineer.

But when you’re dealing with humans, where each individual is the original chaotic system, and when you get them in a crowd they’re…. unfathomable incarnations of chaos, then the system tends to come apart fast or slow depending on how big it is and how much it’s supposed to cover.

Even the smartest person in the world, for instance, knows less about me than I do.  And speaking of chaotic systems, my body is unfathomable. It was supposed to have stopped ticking 57 years and some months ago, and nine times out of ten when it throws a wobbler and husband drags me to ER, (over my strenuous protests that “It’s just my body being my body. If you give it an hour it will be okay again”) the diagnosis and proposed treatment is “Heck if we know.”  Stupid docs assume I’m hypocondriac and get very upset when told I don’t remember any of this, it’s my husband who observed it. I’m amazed no one has accused him of Munchhausen by proxy. (And I’ll point out I was doing this long before we were married, just in case you’re silly.)

The tenth time the diagnosis is… weird? And the recommendations weirder.  I’m probably not the only patient ever discharged with the instructions to “eat more salt” but I must be rare because the nurse tried to change it to “less.”  If ever anyone gets discharged with instructions to “take up smoking and work to smoke a pack a day” it will be me! (Or at least that’s the joke in my family.)

Even the level of standardization our government (Yes, we should be thanking Obama. Ptui.) has introduced in health care has made it very difficult for off beat, strange body-systems.  Yes, part of it is the shortage of doctors, and the time allotted per patient, but part of it just they’re treating us by statistics as much as anything else because of those stupid codes, and insurance. (“Attacked by ducks, second encounter.”)

What is a Smart Person TM supposed to do with stuff like that? Even when I’m in perhaps a group of 0.3% of the population, when you’re talking about something the size of the US that’s a lot of people. And other people have weird stuff of their own.

As for the economy… Brother. We know what smart people do. (And dumb people too, like Denver raising its minimum wage to stratospheric levels on the ASSUMPTION this will raise people’s income, instead of sending the low skilled into unemployment. Lord have mercy. I expect a lot of robots in the area in the future.)

Smart or dumb, no one can muster the level of complexity inherent in even 100 humans, much less 300 million, assuming that’s our current population.

There is no one smart enough, free or prejudices and preconceptions enough to handle that. (It could be argued my DST series is all making this point, actually.)

Because even the smartest human who ever lived, supposing he’s interested in bureaucracy (which would be a strange perversion) is still human, and will have his preconceptions and ideas that aren’t exactly rational. Worse than that, he will ASSUME everyone is as smart as he is, and as well intentioned.  I’ve long observed the very smart CANNOT believe in stupidity beyond a certain level. And the very compassionate and sweet get easily duped by the evil.  More so than the rest of us who have — Thank Heavens — a broad streak of darkness, and therefore know how the evil operate, because we see the impulses in ourselves. (And we watch ourselves ALL the time.)

And then there’s the way bureaucracy works. In any department, any office, any group of humans, decisions are made not by what is more rational or “smarter” but by horse trading, back-rubbing and horse-trading.  At which, btw, anyone one standard of deviation or more above the mean (which is very mean indeed) tends to be beyond bizarrely awful. Because IQ differences aren’t quantitative, they’re qualitative.  And you lose the instinctive rapport with the rest of the species the more different you are from them. (And who’d be surprised, considering if the difference is physical pack-apes will shun, ostracize or kill the mutant.)

So, policy in the end is not set by the smartest guy, muttering away in his cubicle in the corner (and from the policy prescriptions I read from very smart people, this might be a good thing. They tend to shun the pack, and the species, as much those shun them.) Policy is made by the empire-builder within the department who manipulates everything so that he has job security. There might be some input from Auntie Marge who has worked for the department forever and brings in cookies and chocolate cake on Friday because no one wants it to stop.

And that might be the big divide in our country between right and left. Beyond everything else, beyond the screaming and throwing things, the left believes in “Top Men Women” who can design and carry out utopia.

Heaven knows why. I don’t. It is impossible for me to understand why their belief comes from, and I must assume it’s from “assumptions, half digested information and wishful thinking.” I’d also blame the unified media of the 20th century for hiding a lot of the cock ups that “top people” have made on the way to success.  I think WWII set us in this idea that government COULD run things, because people didn’t know (and many still don’t) of all the slips betwix the cup and the lip.  But who knows? The reason could be completely different.

The right, in the US, largely doesn’t believe in “Smart People.”  We know they exist. We just repose no trust in them.  The fact that the media has for decades been depicting as “Smart” people whose conclusions and ideas we were forced (from some life event usually) after examination to consider simplistic and borderline inane, doesn’t help us believe in “smart people.”

So in the end we’re stuck screaming across the divide “We would love perfect and free health care; yes, we think some people would greatly benefit from not having to worry about the daily bread, so they could create great things; yes, we’re all for improving the lot of the homeless and the addicted; yep, sure, some people are rolling in undeserved and misappropriated wealth.

It’s just that we think when we let anyone, smart or dumb try to fix that stuff, what we get is systems where bureaucrats prevent parents from saving their child’s  life; universal income that disincentivizes 90% of recipients from trying to work and reduces them to the level of pets or prisoners of their vices; turns major cities into open sewers that are not safe to walk in, lest you be attacked by a feral human; strips all incentive from the hardest working, most productive people in a society and leaves everyone in equal poverty.”

In other words, we yell across the divide “Yes, yes, we would all love paradise. But we don’t think it can happen, and certainly not in a planned model. The lurching chaotic system of everyone looking out for their own individual interests (which they know better than everyone else) has done better than VERY Smart People TM planning in their lofty towers.

Because humans are unpredictable, regressive, full of irrational impulses and subconscious never examined certainties.

And sure you can hate them for it, but don’t go pretending you are some lofty, all-knowing, pure intelligence. Because you’re not. And you too are filled with all of those. Denying them only makes them worse.

The only solution is to give people as little power as possible over masses of other people. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do, jumped-up apes that we are.

The problem is the divide is so fundamental and absolute, no matter how hard we shout, they can’t hear us. Examples will be useless. The fact that all attempts before have failed won’t deter them. They’re sure if they just find people smart enough we’ll have paradise.

Unfortunately mostly what they find is the rapacious, the power hungry and the good actors.



549 thoughts on “The Best People

  1. Thomas Sowell, a man certainly among the wisest of our public … I refuse to slander him with the label “intellectual” so … savants, has observed that the range of human knowledge is so vast that not even the smartest person can hope to hold one tenth of one percent of it. However much a person knows there is vastly more that person does not know; it is a drop in the ocean of human knowledge.

    Even the lowliest person might know something of which you are unaware … for example, that your shoe is untied or your shirt tail is tucked in askew. We are well past the era of anyone being able to say,

    My name is Benjamin Jowett,
    There’s no knowledge but I know it.
    I am Master of Balliiol College,
    What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

    1. What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

      Actually, it seems that that right there is the problem. The intelligentsia tend to dismiss what they don’t know as unimportant. Oh, sure, they haven’t a clue how to fix the toilet if it backs up and starts spewing sewage all over the place, but that’s mere trivia; it’s not the sort of knowledge that matters or that anyone intelligent would waste any time on. And if turns out that the intelligentsia’s plans mess up everyone’s sewer system because of their lack of clue on the subject, well surely no one can blame them for that or allow it to prevent them from rearranging the electrical system…

        1. Or for that matter most of the policies currently in fashion within the American education system, both K-12 and university.

          1. The primary characteristic of such politicians seems to be a willingness to a) provide more funds for education without b) demanding any form of accountability from them.

            Who among us wouldn’t like such politicians serving our desires?

            (Well, okay – plenty of us. But we’re an odd lot.)

            1. What they demand is compliance because that is so much easier to measure and thus, to a bureaucrat, more satisfying.

          1. The only success we’re having with low-flow toilets are the so-called “comfort seating”, or ADA level seating. Apparently the extra few inches of height improves the suckage siphon effect.

            Other than that, low-flow plumbing is a pain in the ass. It’s my well and I *deserve* that water!

          2. It is possible to adjust the height of the water in the tank (on most toilets) and thus the amount of water used.

            Low flush toilets and low water usage appliances have been creating havoc with some city sewer systems. You need water flow to carry solids downstream. Not enough water flow- backups occur. Especially at junctions where two or more sewer lines join up. This was what we call an “unintended consequence”, AKA as Heinlein’s definition of bad luck.

            My line to the septic tank has enough slope that everything gets there regardless.

            1. Funny (true) story:
              our house in El Paso sold WITHOUT requiring a septic pump.

              The folks who bought it demanded our secret, I explained that we flush a packet of yeast down the toilet every quarter (I made it sound fancier) but I think the real secret is “we have four daughters.”

              Showers. They wash stuff out.

                    1. My dear sainted mother had six, the first four (boys) in five years. Then they got the TV fixed.
                      When my wife was preggo, folks were surprised to learn I wanted a girl. I told them I had met my nieces and nephews. And that the girls were angels and the boys you hadda spank with an ax. DAMHIK.

            2. In reference to this – the safety-n-ecologic nannies getting involved in our household appliances … yeah, I had to have a new hot water heater installed a year or so ago. And I noticed a while ago – that the water just wasn’t hot enough. Not in the washing machine, not in the showers and sinks, not in the dishwasher.
              So a couple of weeks ago – I called the local provider who had installed it, complaining that the water coming out of the washing machine, sinks, shower, etc – just wasn’t hot enough to do any sort of effective job. I wanted to have the thermostat on the hot water heater turned up as far as it would flaming go, to ensure that hot water in the house was actually hot…
              The plumbing tech who arrived … was actually quite sweet about this request. He would not turn the thermostat on the hot water heater up beyond a certain point. This had to do with legal liability, et cetera, et cetera … but he would stand by while I did this myself!
              So – he turned off the electrical breaker, unfastened the covers over the two places on the hot water heater which governed the temperature, and held the flashlight, and supervised. I used his screwdriver and ran the temperature setting up to the highest limit, and afterwards, he noted on the paperwork that the client had done this … so, now – the water in the washing machine and the dishwasher on the hot setting actually comes out hot, and we have to add cold water to the hot setting in the showers … yes, all is good!

              1. Yep. that’s to protect toddlers. Whether they exist or not. Just like all of our insurance MUST cover abortion, whether you’re a male or a utero-less woman or not. And gender-transition, whether you think you might ever do that or not.
                I’m tired of their bullshit.

                1. Last time we were at SeaWorld (it was shortly after the California induced Orca Neglect and Depression program) I seriously pissed off some folks behind us by loudly informing my kids that if they ever touched the water heater’s thermostat they would be punished, because that was dangerous, and then I mused that Seaworld might be getting sued when their PSA nagging resulted in some poor kid getting burnt.

                  Seriously, little kids don’t do left vs right that well.

            1. I’ve got good pressure, but the flow is limited by the well (11 gallons per minute) and the pump (7 gpm). (I could have gotten a higher flow aquifer, but this one is easy to pump and is well suited for off-grid power.).

              I can deal with low-flow toilets, but the low-flow faucets and shower heads are damned annoying.

              1. I don’t know if it’s still true but the last time I installed a Shower Massage by Waterpik the instructions didn’t just cover installation, but what you should do to clean the insides to keep it working well.

                When you got to the section on reassembly they said this one particular part was the Flow Restrictor, and under no circumstances should you reassemble the shower head without it. Doing so would Void The Warranty, as well as violating federal, and likely state and local regulations.

                Nowhere did it say “…it won’t work.” Turned out that’s because it WOULD work, and work like showerheads I remembered from my youth.

                They also sell a replacement kit that will increase the flow rate. To quote from their online store:

                “This regulator replacement kit is designed as a retrofit for an existing “low flow” shower head. Where allowable by law (see below), this kit will turn your “low flow” shower into a “full flow” shower – while still complying with Federal regulations.

                According to Federal Law,the maximum allowable flow rate for shower heads is 2.5 Gallons Per Minute (GPM). The enclosed regulator meets these Federal mandates. California, Colorado, and New York City have stricter flow rate regulations for shower heads. This kit is not to be used in these locations. Check local laws to make sure this kit does not violate compliance.”

                *wink wink nudge nudge*

                1. It’s time to decrud the showerhead. We have the usual lime, but also a bit of sulfates. Getting better flow in the faucets might be more of a challenge, though.

                  A retired plumber I knew at church claimed that 3.5 gallon toilets were as good as you could get, with the 1.6 gallon an abomination. I think he passed away before the 1.28 gpf ones came out. I’ve had some awful 5 gallon toilets, dating from 1936.

        2. Oh HELL yes! I had a low-flush toilet get so plugged up I had to unbolt it from the flange and set it on blocks to unplug it. The damn things often require two or three flushes to deal with a couple of large, err…brown trout that the old water-hog commode could handle with one.

          Our ancestors knew what they were doing when they mounted the tank at head height to develop some proper pressure, too.

          1. On hell yes! My grandparents had one of those in their South Bronx apartment (since burned to the ground). My brothers and I had to be dragged out of the bathroom every visit, interrupting our experiments. They eventually put the marvellous pull-chain out of our reach.

      1. Williamson’s First Law: “Everything is simple when you don’t know a f***ing thing about it.”

        1. I ran into that when I replaced an outdoor light fixture for [redacted]. Later, [redacted] said it was easy, at which point $SPOUSE replied: “Yes, all you did was retrieve a dropped screw”.

          1. It is easy if you know what you’re doing, but likely to be shocking if not downright revolting if you don’t.

      2. Or they’ve been pwnd by someone who took advantage of their lack of clue:

        Today I happened to watch these two youtube videos back to back (cut URL, you know what to add):

        “Jo Nova – How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Electricity Grid in Three Easy Steps”
        “Australia’s China Problem”


        The first is about how Australia’s own Green Nude Heel has caused a formerly coal-based, cheap, efficient, and paid-for electrical grid to devolve into “renewables” complete with skyrocketing costs and rolling blackouts.

        The second notes that China has its hooks into the Australian economy, mainly in that China imports a very large percentage of the coal and minerals that Australia no longer uses, thanks to the above Green Nude Heel.

        I sense a connection here…

        1. What gets me is the situation in Oregon (and California). We have to take out the hydropower dams because reasons, and replace them with wind and solar because virtue signaling.

          California handles the erratic power levels by outsourcing generation to other states. We’re not running short of power in Oregon just yet; give it a few years.

          1. NO NO NO. The correct reasons are Climate Change(formerly known as Global Warming), Overpopulation, Racism, Hate Speech, The Patriarchy and Orange Man Bad. Just ask any lefty expert.

          2. South-Eastern section of Oregon had to take out hydropower dams, those on the McKenzie, & Willamette haven’t had to … yet. Primarily because they also serve as flood control (may not be initial intent because there are other flood control dams, but they do). Sure. Force EWEB, EPUD, SPUD, & Pacific Power, to remove their power dams and have Eugene/Springfield, even Salem, downtown flood … I can hear the screams now. As it is, some parks, bike paths, and roads, flood regardless.

        2. I expect most here monitor the Power Line blog, but this merits a mention i this regard:

          LOOSE ENDS (103)
          Speaking of Russian collusion, I wonder whether any of the usual people on the left will pick up on the evidence of the massive Russian propaganda campaign to hobble fracking for oil and natural gas in Britain and elsewhere? Here’s the heart of a new story by Matt Ridley in The Critic in the UK:

          The Russians also lobbied behind the scenes against shale gas, worried about losing their grip on the world’s gas supplies. Unlike most conspiracy theories about Russian meddling in Western politics, this one is out there in plain sight. The head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Russians, as part of a sophisticated disinformation operation, “engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organisations working against shale gas — to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas”.

          The Centre for European Studies found that the Russian government has invested $95 million in NGOs campaigning against shale gas. Russia Today television ran endless anti-fracking stories, including one that “frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles”. The US Director of National Intelligence stated that “RT runs anti-fracking programming … reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.” . .

          Emphasis added

              1. Saudis. Also them opening the flood gates and crashing oil prices when they realized that our Shale Oil wasn’t us trying to bluff them. They opened things wide enough they were in danger of damaging their reservoir structure. (Which would mean they couldn’t pump as much next time.) They were trying to put us and the Russians out of business before returning to the higher prices they need to fund their country.

                The Russians are more into the Natural gas market than the Oil market. Mostly because of the massive field of natural gas under the Siberian permafrost (which has its own extraction issues). I suspect they’re one of the reasons Natural Gas doesn’t get much press but have no real evidence.

                1. At the time there was a great deal of FUD being spread about the ability of new shale oil producers to stay in business. That was nonsense, if you think about it; the existing companies might have gone under, but the extracting machinery would still exist, ready for new owners. If anything, the nosedive in price drove innovation to operate more efficiently.

  2. “Yes, yes, we would all love paradise. But we don’t think it can happen, and certainly not in a planned model.”

    Thanks for the perfect summary!

    No, it won’t make any impression on the Smart People around me (and Austin is like a Smart People Sanctuary, worse luck). But at least it can shorten my part of the frustrating interactions to the above two sentences followed by an offer to look at pictures of their grandchildren. Or, given it’s Austin, their cats.

    1. One characteristic commonly afflicting smart people — and afflicting them more with every degree of education completed — is arrogance. Unlike in the real world, schools reward certain kinds of “smart” and convey the impression it is important.

      Dr. Raymond Stantz: Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve WORKED in the private sector. They expect *results*.

      1. That’s what I loved about escaping to the private sector. Not only did they expect results… they paid for them!

      2. In the private sector, theoretically, if something isn’t working out, they change or go out of business.
        In the public sector, the problem is always a lack of money, and they ask for more.
        If New Coke and Crystal Pepsi were government programs, they’d still be in production. The government would be giving it away to schools and poor people, and would be funding expensive recurring studies about the negative effects on same. Then they would propose and begin expensive programs to negate any negative effects of government supplied New Coke and Crystal Pepsi.

    2. The primary flew with planned paradise is that paradise is different for different people. In the afterlife, that isn’t necessarily a problem “In my Father’s House there are many mansions”. In the living world what you get is what the idiot in charge thinks of as paradise. And if it’s YOUR idea of hell on Earth…tough.

      1. And if it’s YOUR idea of hell on Earth…tough.

        That’s a funny way of spelling TO GULAG WITH YOU!!

  3. For smart people, I devised a rule of thumb about genius. Genius is a factor of time involved. The less time, the greater intellect.
    Also, you can factor in additional people: what one certifiable (?) genius can imagine in one minute, ten normal intellects can in ten minutes.
    Of course, this begs the question of what constitutes “normal”. I don’t believe I’ve ever met one who qualifies for the moniker.

    1. No. True genius is not quantitative — even as to time — it’s qualitative.
      If we ever get stargates, it will take a genius. If we figure out matter conversion, it will take a genius.
      It’s a factor of IQ + Creativity.
      But true genius is rare as heck, and probably 90% of them create things they can never communicate to other people.
      The truth is someone has probably already designed a stargate.
      It was scribbled in the margins of the newspapers that filled the room of a recluse who died and whose possessions were carted to the dump.
      Worse, even if we had a policy of scanning those, we’d get lost in the weeds of 99% of people in those circumstances whose design is for a bridge across the Atlantic made entirely out of soap.

      1. Yup. Heinlein often wrote of the Encyclopedic Synthesist – someone who knew a great deal, about a vast number of subjects, and had the ability to make the connections between disciplines. To look at a problem and realize that if you took bits and pieces from a half-dozen other fields, you had a solution.

        With due humility, I can do this…well enough to realize that Heinlein wasn’t joking about the need for an eidedic memory. Mine is merely good.

        1. I’ve met one person like that, and even they were specialized (a rancher who could get miners, Feds, Fish&Game, and farmers to talk and work toward a [temporary] common goal.)

          Geoffrey Parker might come close, within his chosen field of research. Maybe.

      2. I’ll extend and revise my remarks…

        Most people think inside the box. A few people think outside the box. But once in a while, you’ll find someone who asks, “What box? There’s nothing but a square drawn on the floor.”

        All great strokes of genius come from that third group.

        1. Thus the qualitative difference Sarah noted: most of us think in three dimensions, true genius often thinks in four or more.

          Of course, communicating such insights often requires an entirely different sort of genius. As the Drak Bibliophile observes, such people are typically incapable of addressing inhabitants of three-dimensional reality.

          It is like cilantro: those to whom it tastes of soap cannot understand the passion of them what likes the weed.

          1. Most people have trouble thinking in three dimensions without having the object right in front of them. Many people even have trouble with two dimensions and have a hard time reading maps. The ability to run realtime 3D simulations comes in handy for things like running machine tools, flying airplanes, and driving big trucks. I am a glacially slow reader compared to some around here, but probably have better spacial awareness than most. Good fighter pilots develop that to a higher degree and can track multiple threats even when not currently visible.

            1. Yup. I’ve noticed that I can look at a task like getting a table into a room and visualize how to do it. No trial-and-error with the actual table required.

            2. I was reading somewhere that men and women are different when it comes to spatial awareness. Men are better at it. It was thought that it might have something to do with male hormones. I noticed that I have to really think hard to deal with spatial problems. Plus I have some seriously funny stories of navigating– when I told my late-hubby to turn right, he would turn left. He told me once that I was totally turned around. I can find my way home though… eventually.

              1. [Ritual Denunciation of Sexist Myth]

                With that out of the way, they way I’ve heard it explained is that men (generally – local exceptions may apply) navigate by vectors: go three miles thataway, turn left and go another two miles … while women (generally – local exceptions may apply) navigate by landmarks: drive thataway until you see the red barn, turn left and go until you see the tulop field …

                Careful people will employ both metrics when giving directions, as well as inserting “If you see a Sunoco station you’ve gone too far” cautions.

                On navigating couples … Beloved Spouse cannot, especially under pressure, tell Right from Left, so we’ve worked out driving instructions that rely, instead, of substitutes: instead of Left I say “Third Base!” and instead of Right I say “First Base!” If Beloved Spouse asks “What?” I, of course, reply “He’s on Second.”

                1. I’m totally opposite. If you say go to the red barn… I will actually find a red barn in the opposite direction. *sigh. Thankfully my late-hubby liked getting lost and discovering new roads and places.

                  1. I don’t believe Dad was ever lost when going the back roads but he got Mom lost (in the passenger seat). 😆

                2. The reason I wondered if there was something in that “myth” is that I was looking for an explanation for my spatial disability and navigation unskills. I have never found a good explanation. Maybe it is one of my Odd skills . 😀

              2. I love WAZE.

                Give me a map & compass, on the ground, I’m fine. Put me on the road, at highway speeds, even with a map & compass, uh … lets just say some arguments were epic …. “A LITTLE notice would be nice!” might have been frequently heard, as we missed the exit, or took the exit in the wrong lane.

                My husband laughs. I get lost in Eugene. I was raised in Eugene. He had it (& Springfield) figured out within weeks.

                2015 we took our new Sonota on his golf trip to Arizona, spending the first week hitting golf coarse and hotels on either side of I-5, and the highway east into Arizona, on the way down. The one feature we really didn’t want to pay for but was on all the vehicles available, was navigation … OMG, LOVE IT. Now with Android Auto, or the Apple equivalent, as long as you have a screen, you can use Waze or Google maps and doesn’t require you manually update regularly … OTOH if you go out of country and you don’t have free roaming, it gets more challenging.

                Yes. There are somethings you DON’T ask of any navigation app, on your phone or in your car. Short cut routes across the Cascades or the Coast Range, in Oregon, in winter, are just some examples; or even summer … stick to the paved, named highways … Unless you really know what you are doing, are prepared with appropriate emergency supplies when the trip goes wrong.

                1. There are somethings you DON’T ask of any navigation app, on your phone or in your car.

                  Some places, too, I am told.

                  Such as in the vicinity of any major military base or Federal office complex.

                  No idea why that should be so, but Beloved Spouse & Daughtorial Unit once had their phone GPS inform them they were well out to sea even though the road signage clearly said “Norfolk.”

                  1. I pre-downloaded the maps for and into Banff, Alberta Canada, via border crossing north of Glacier National Park USA, between/into Waterton National Park Canada. They were a tad lacking on detail … had the needed highways, but other than that … wouldn’t have trusted it. Granted it wasn’t updating as had the phone on Airplane mode, but GPS was working to tell us where we were on the highways. I don’t think an actual connection would have helped. Heck the route over Highway to the Sun in Glacier was lacking in detail …

                    I TOLD him to make sure he got the map he wanted!!!! I mean, he had a point, we couldn’t get lost once we got to Banff. It was avoiding going through Calgary (we did manage that) from the Southeast once we crossed the border to get to Banff that was the problem. First time ever, we’d gone without a map. We picked one up!!!!

          2. Cilantro tastes like soap.

            I met one genius in my lifetime. He had no concept of anything (including food, clothing, and housing). When he talked, no one understood what he was saying. I could translate enough to realize that I was missing a lot of what he was saying. He was also an arrogant ass.

            I do say that my late-hubby was a genius with electronics and circuitry. But he had also lived in the present unlike the genius from first paragraph. But I used to find it funny when my late-hubby said I was smarter than he was. I was just better at observing people and their motivations. He was better at using my observations.

                    1. No. It’s just too bitter. In soup it’s okay. I’m tired of their saying it’s a superfood. bah. Can’t get salads in a restaurant without their sneaking it in.

                    2. How about broccoli?

                      I think kale’s popular because it doesn’t get slimy very easily, and it doesn’t crush down, and it’s all crinkly.

                      When it DOES go bad, it smells exactly like slimy broccoli.

                    3. This is a good basic recipe for massaged kale salad, although just searching for the term will bring up many different versions: https: //
                      (remove the spaces after the colon.)

                      The tougher the kale, the better the massaged salad turns out. The massaging does not take long. Baby kale just falls apart. I buy the large bags of pre-chopped kale at Walmart. It saves time and aggravation.

                    4. Reducing kale in bacon grease, similar to what my mom called “wilted lettuce” make it very palatable.

                    5. A local Deli prepares it in an Asian-style ginger/soy vinaigrette which Beloved Spouse and I find pleasing.

                      Of course, put enough Asian-style ginger/soy vinaigrette* an damned near anything and I will find it pleasing.

                      *Same applies to tomato-based BBQ sauce and a few other condiments that do not come immediately to mind.

                  1. Ah – you’ve priced fresh basil at the stores, then?

                    Warning: one basil plant is never enough, not at least if you make pesto.

      3. P.S.: The problem with a stargate is matching intrinsic velocities and potential energies. Assume a gate to Australia. You jump in in Colorado Springs, and come out about 4,000 ft above Sydney, going several hundred miles per hour because the earth is spinning in the opposite direction. Splat!

        1. Larry Niven had at least one article on the problems of long distance teleportation. 😀

        2. A better stargate would have both gates congruent, so your vector and velocity entering one gate would be the same exiting the other.

          1. Ah, but they can’t stay so. Think about it…you have a gate on the surface of the Earth, and another corresponding gate on the surface of Tau Ceti III. At any given moment, the gate on the Earth has a total motion composed of the rotation of the Earth and the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. And the Tau Ceti III gate has a motion that is a sum of the rotation of that planet, it’s motion around Tau Ceti, and the movement of Tau Ceti relative to Sol. We’re talking about tens of kilometers per second here.

            Better bring a spaceship with a lot of Delta V available.

            1. Tut, tut. What Newtonian thinking. Obviously both gates are absolutely still with the universe revolving around them.

              1. Yep. As long as the gates are stationary in relation to each other, the external frame is meaningless.

                1. And as long as you do the right frame of reference, they are both stationary, and so must be, relative to each other.

            2. Late to the party, as always, but I marvel a little: I wrote a story about precisely this 40 years ago, and Asimov’s published it: The Earth end of a hyperspace tube is firmly anchored and doesn’t move. The Tau Ceti end darts around inside a sphere several miles in diameter, driven by thermal noise and little jitters in the electronics–and a lever trillions of miles long. To travel to Earth, you need to be up in a jet and chase the end of the tube around the stratosphere until you catch it, which isn’t easy.

        3. IIRC, early in the Known Universe timeline, Niven had ocean buoys set up to absorb the vector differences, to permit international teleportation. Presumably post-Kzinti, the technology become more refined.


        4. Piffle — all it requires is a buffer to absorb excess energy on the one hand and impart it on the other. It is a simple matter of synchronization of energy states, achievable through sufficient quantities of handwavium-oxide.

        5. Ummm… The Earth is spinning in the same direction. The speed difference would be from distance to the equator. The equator is moving about 1,000 nautical Miles per hour. The poles are moving at zero. This has to be taken into account in long range gunnery duels going N-S ; fire straight at the target and you’ll miss.

          1. True, but if you’re teleporting from one side to the other the actual *direction* of your velocity at point of departure and point of arrival would be roughly opposite.

            1. Ah.. opposite sides of the world, not opposite sides of the equator. The Earth IS spinning in the same direction, but the velocity vector is different being on opposite sides. Got it…

        6. >> “The problem with a stargate is matching intrinsic velocities and potential energies….. Splat!”

          And THIS is why the Portal games don’t have fall damage. The longfall boots may be a ridiculous handwave, but I’ll live with it.

        7. Prove that velocity translates through the gate. Or, prove that it does not.

          Of course, you have to build the gate first, and get it working…

          Until you have done that, we can only make wild-ass guesses. With no way to know if any of them are at all reasonable.

          In the anime series GATE, they don’t have any velocity problems, so there! 😛
          Leo Bloom: “Well, if we assume you’re a dishonest person—“
          Max Bialystock: “Assume, assume!”

      4. I’d say rather that while intelligence is quantitative, genius is the qualitative ability to perform higher functions using that intelligence. Thus one is additive, the other factorial, but their scaling is usually roughly proportional.

        Awright, who channeled Gilbert & Sullivan??

        1. Intelligence is NOT quantitative. This is not actually up for discussion. The human brain has been studied enough. We know that high IQ people aren’t “better”, they’re different. They process things differently. In some ways it CAN translate as faster but it’s mostly… different.
          Which means when it goes bad it’s seriously sideways.

          1. Leaving aside the question of whether IQ tests and the numbers they generate are useful, two 80 IQ persons do not add up to one 160 IQ person. Two hundred 80 IQ persons do not add up to one 160 IQ person. Two thousand. Two million. They just don’t.

    2. The analogy I’ve heard is that ten H1 visa programmers worth 10-15 an hour each _cannot_ do the work of a 30-50 an hour (or salary equivalent) programmer. If anything they get in each others’ way.


          1. Yep. Read his book, “The Mythical Man-Month”. Should be required in every IT program in the country, because the issues he wrote about are STILL problems today.

            1. Right. I’m checking to see if a friend is familiar with it, because based on his complaints about a new system at work trying to use programmer time effectively, it’s pretty clear that his _boss_ has never read it.

              Might’ve figured out what to get him for Christmas.


          2. Yes, he did. The problem is that the added labor from the extra people is more than offset by the exponential increase in communications costs between the ream members.

            Brooks wrote from experience. He was the manager at IBM responsible for the development of OS/360. It was an ambitious project with goals that required a lot of work, and eventually came in years late and way over budget. The first several releases were pretty buggy, too. They did get it straightened out, though, and its descendants are powering mainframe systems today that handle a large part of business data processing you never see directly.

            1. Not to mention you have to bring newcomers up to speed. Communications is not so bad when it accumulated.

    3. Turns out that IQ can be evaluated with reasonable accuracy by testing physical reflexes — basically the faster the brain and nervous system can process data, the higher the apparent IQ. Others have noted the same with regard to learning (including practical skills) by repetition: the higher the IQ, the fewer repetitions required. [Jordan Peterson tells a story about a hapless client who was so far down the IQ ladder, that stuffing envelopes for several days was insufficient to teach the skill of stuffing envelopes.]

      So basically it’s a matter of higher CPU and bus speed producing more ability to chug data. There’s lots of variance depending on the firmware and instruction set, but that’s it in a nutshell.

      Now, if only someone would code an update so my brain would index all the crap it takes in, instead of just piling it any damn place, leaving some of it in flash memory and other bits on the tape backup… and what’s with the bad blocks??

      “Dear God: I wish to file a bug report.”

      1. Not the reflexes. No, seriously. Not the reflexes. The pediatrician told us that higher IQ kids are always slower to develop coordination and ability to move, and no, he doesn’t know why.
        And so it proved.
        Look, “famous high IQ sports figures” is a slim pamphlet.

        1. I’m told Obama was extremely intelligent. I can name a numbers of sports figures significantly more intelligent than Obama.

          Of course, the only sports figures whose names are coming to mind at all are Michael Jordon, Babe Ruth, and Wayne Gretsky.

          1. Obama was extremely intelligent. He was also “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” He was also a “light-skinned” black man “with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”

            Senators said so and senators would know!

          2. Sure. But it’s still a slim pamphlet. And for real geniuses it might have one line.
            Also Obama is an educated moron. remember for the left “very smart” means “agrees with me.”

            1. Also Obama is an educated moron.

              Hey, that’s my line:

              Not everybody should go to college. Some folks, you send ’em to college and you just wind up with an educated idiot.

              1. There used to be a lot of very smart sports guys, when universities expected kids to keep their grades high if they wanted to be on teams.

                There is currently an NFL guy who is also an innovative mathematician. Forget his name, but he put out articles in college…

                John Cameron Urschel. Played NFL from 2014 to 2017, and then took his cash and retired. Working on his MIT math Ph.D. right now. As an undergrad, he was teaching other people calculus. While he was in the NFL still, he also was a full time grad student at MIT because MIT does not do part time. (Kinda did not tell the coach. Probably another reason he retired early.)

                Chess is his hobby. His Erdos number is 4. He is black, if it matters in Winnipeg where he is from.

                So yeah, not your average first string lineman, but it still happens.

                1. Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the microchip and co-founder of Intel, was also quite athletic throughout his life. He was on the swim team at Grinnell University, and he had a wide variety of physically demanding hobbies throughout the course of his life.

        2. I’m kind of an outlier on coordination. I had good coordination early, but I also had practice, practice, practice, compared to most.

          But my reflexes? I was a complete loss in the reflexes department. They’ve gotten considerably better as i got older, but when I was still in school, I truly knew hardly anyone in any of my peer group who was slower.

          1. Now learning to do physical things? I learn very quickly, but then I also plateau quickly, and take forever to reach beyond that plateau. I can generally reach “better than average” in short time (usually a few weeks at most), but to get “very good”, I may take years.

          2. Bad coordination, good reflexes. But the reflexes because classmates were always hitting me and stuff. (Although the useful reflexes were due to having brothers. Gotta be on your toes.)So

            By high school,.It got to the point that I was just hitting people reflexively if they touched me wrong, and then magically people.stopped hitting and kicking me all.the time. Magic.

          3. I’m in the good reflexes and bad coordination arena. I’ve fallen up stairs, on cracks. The only time I wasn’t ready state of falling was on a boat.

        3. If you have the capacity, but nothing else is going on yes, reflex ought to do it.

          That set intersects with the ones who got brains with bonus apps like “sensory input processing issues” or “mixed brain dominance” or the one where the real world goes away and mom can be shouting 1 foot away and the brain literally doesn’t hear.

          1. The way to get me stop reading as a child was to wave your hand between my face and the page.

            And if that failed, stop waving the hand. Just leave it in place.

        4. My coordination is very good and very fast _if I don’t have time to think about what I’m doing_. ‘Dad reflexes’, I’ve heard it called, i.e. noticing something about to go wrong and intervening so quickly that people are shocked by it.

          If I want to do something consciously, however, I have to practice the movement a lot before I stop fumbling.


        5. Oh, ghod, may be something to that. Both younger brother and I tested out as gifted sometime in the first or second grade (after Sputnik, the greater LA school district ran a fine-toothed comb through students, looking for incipient geniuses) and while younger bro did track in HS, I was the most clumsy and inept kid ever at PE. (Which ineptitude made me hate PE with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns.) The happiest semester ever spent in junior high was the one after I broke my wrist, and spent that period taping jump-ropes and basically sitting on a bench.

  4. Someday I’ll do a post on how all the crappy regimes allow imports and entertainment from all the crappy regimes, or how we learned to have fun when we had Russian and Romanian movies inflicted on us…

    Oooh, that sounds like a fun post to read.. and a frustrating one to experience.

    1. I avoided the disaster, but in the early Aughts, Belarus was producing tractors for export. Somebody saw them, liked them, and imported a bunch of pretty good tractors to the US. Things went wonderfully, until they broke.

      Said importer neglected to import spare parts and set up a distribution network. Somehow expecting a machine that’s going to be used for rough service to keep going without parts is anti-genius thinking. (A-square of Flatland, perhaps?)

        1. I have a long story involving fanfic, and my reaction was ultimately the strong suspicion that we should kill all the Russians.

          Homicidal rage can be thought of as depression.

          Might have lost my mind a wee bit.

          I’ve been in a better place recently, and remembering that situation, I might not have been thinking clearly.

    2. I remember reading a magazine article back in the 1980s about a UK company that was importing Ural motorcycles from the Soviet Union. The Ural was a Soviet reverse-engineered copy of a 1930s-era German Army BMW (they captured lots of them in the 1940s). The article pointed out that the Russian bike’s electrical system was so bad that the UK company replaced it with a system from Lucas Electrics (whose systems are so bad that they earned the title “Prince of Darkness” due to the common failures of the lighting system). Consider how bad the Russki systems must have been to make Lucas an improvement!

      1. Some of those were sold in the USA. The quality-control issues were so bad, the main importer advised purchasers to view the machines as “kits.”

        Even then, there wasn’t much to be done for things like incorrectly-cut gears, soft cam lobes and followers, etc.

      2. A joke I was told when I owned a small british sports car:

        Why do the English drink warm beer?

        They all own Lucas refrigerators.

  5. “The Best People”.

    The way my mind works, I thought “The Good People”.

    IE: The Gentry, the Better People Who Deserve To Rule.

    Oh as for “Intelligence”, I’ve been told that I’m intelligent but I also know the stupid things I’ve done. 😈

    1. That reminds me of my personal nickname for MENSA: “People to stay far away from.” I’ve never met a proud MENSA member I’d willingly spend time with.

      1. I looked into joining MENSA. Went to an organizational meeting. Full of want-to-be geniuses, not the real deal.

      2. Exactly two requirements to join Mensa, score at or above 98th percentile on any of a host of approved IQ tests, and pay a yearly membership fee.
        Other than that, it’s little more than a social club, convenient if you travel a lot as most major cities have a fairly active local group with social activities that might interest you. And there’s less fear about creating the wrong impression from your vocabulary, and members do tend to get each others’ jokes more often.
        I let my membership lapse years ago as both my local and the national organization were leaning ever further social progressive leftist.
        Most who qualify join for a year just to say they did, then don’t renew. Those who remain members generally have few other social outlets, so their local group furnishes them with people they can relate to.

          1. You do have a point. However he had that supreme arrogance that rubs everyone the wrong way. No humility at all. Then he wondered why he couldn’t make friends. lol

            1. You do have a point

              But if I comb my hair/fur right, that one isn’t noticed.

              And yes, at times I have been a smartass… which while troublesome, is far LESS so than the other kind.

          2. Hmmm … there’s the Silly Ass, the Cantankerous Ass, the Intemperate Ass, the Pompous Ass (while some argue this is an alternate mode of Arrogant Ass I maintain it is possible to be pompous without crossing into the region of arrogance), the Obstinate Ass …

            In truth, there be more varieties of asses than I can enumerate, and not all are arrogant. Consider, for example, the Wise Ass.

    2. It is widely recognized that the Best People can be roasted; unlike the Tough People who must be stewed. The Worst People, of course, are suitable only for sausage.

        1. “The Worst People”. Oh for heavens sake how did I miss that horrible pun. Cry Havoc and let loose the cats of war (cats as opposed to dogs as carp and Garum cleanup is much more straight forward). Although one of my cats wrinkles his nose at Nuc Mam.

      1. We have a whole class of sumbitches who think they’re rulers. Eventually they’re going to have to go through the disillusionment of being reminded they’re employees, not rulers.

        We’re gonna need a whole lot of rope…

          1. I remember when Full Retail for Jet A was $1.99/gallon with Prist (1998 or so)
            Wonder what it runs today? ***wanders off to see if I find prices***
            Found it runs $5.50 a gallon no Prist (a mil-spec additive used in old Lears, some helos, and a few turboprops) here in the Great Lakes region (high- $8.15 Low- $3.34)

          2. But with a large enough chopper (Say a CH-53 or a CH-46) we can put a whole bunch of them on one copter and amortize the cost of the Jet-A/Jet-K across the sumbitches. Plus think of the fun of watching the later folks after watching the first few go.

    3. I am in the fortunate position of knowing at least 3 Good People who deserve to rule. And, in their (in one case extremely limited) spheres, they did. And we were all of us better for it. In the limited case above most of a small town turned out for the funeral. And in one case, the person in question had no doubts about his fitness to “rule”. Think Aragorn.

      But in NO case have I ever read of a system that would reliably choose these men. None. The closest humanity has come is a free society of moral peoples. And even then it’s a crapshoot.

      The problem comes when we start to decide… Okay. Exactly what does a “moral people” encompass?

      I’m as happy to (probably metaphorically) kick a commie in the nethers as the next Hoyden. But our lefty friends disagree with us about just that core definition. That some ALSO think they’ve got a lock on reliably selecting an elite corps of Good People with Soc-jus is..

      I dunno. All my answers so far involve eating lead paint, which is unhelpful.

  6. I actually HAVE had a doctor suggest I take up smoking. That he was suggesting it as something to occupy my “hand(s)” that wouldn’t stress my wrist as much a telegraphy…. likely had something to do with it. Also, the fellow had a sense of humor.

    1. A friend of mine’s doctor recommended that she take up smoking – three cigarettes a day. Apparently the nicotine would do something to assist with bronchial issues. Unfortunately she ended up smoking like a chimney, and that contributed to her eventual passing . . .

    2. A former co-worker once claimed that due to his problems with very low blood pressure, his doctor recommended that he *not* stop smoking. Apparently it helped keep his blood pressure up to a level where he wouldn’t pass out if he stood up too quickly.

    1. Well, Smart People can & should want the Power to Defend Themselves (and Their Own).

      And sometimes, it can be necessary for said Defense to hold Power over those who want to destroy you.

      But Power for the Sake Of Power is a stupid idea.

    2. Had an Isekai character (fanfic, sadly, so not something I can make money from) mention that a lot of Earth’s fiction depicts wizardly types as not caring about power, favoring independence over getting involved in politics.

      Then local he’s talking to points out that being able to be independent takes a whole lot of power itself, which is why weaker wizards end up serving stronger wizards, and the latter end up in charge anyway.


      1. My nonhumans have a more or less feudal/hereditary hierarchy, but it’s also mostly a meritocracy: the higher up you are, the harder you work, and the more laws apply to you. And those adjacent in rank tend to be more observant of rank, while the average peasant will freely argue with the planetary prince on a first-name basis.

        1. Definitely nonhuman. We’d quickly adjust it so that the mighty pay lip service to the laws but are freed from following most of them (aside from the few who need to be used as scapegoats when something goes wrong and someone has to be blamed).

      2. Depends on how you do it. It’s a lot easier to have an isolated place with its defenses of which the most important is the way it isn’t noticed than to assert yourself against a lot of other wizards.

        1. In which case, you either need to be strong enough to go out and get what you need yourself (because there aren’t going to be many specialists available), or you need to be content to not improve significantly.


          1. The vast majority of people throughout history made what they needed. And expecting improvement is also a modern thing.

      3. Just remember, there is nothing that cannot have the serial numbers filed off. Geez, the amount of thinly disguised adventure fanfic that is making it big on Kindle…. There is a Magi one called Towers of something, that is particularly blatant to someone familiar with the sources. And of course Naomi Novik and Cassandra Clare, not to mention the 50 Shades of Grey chick. Filing off serial numbers is not a guarantee of success, but it might work for you.

        1. I barely made it through the Wings of Fire book I was reading because I suddenly noticed it was “How to Train Your Dragon” movie fanfic, from the dragon’s POV, as a future dystopia.

          Once you see it, you can’t unsee it!

        2. OTOH, it is easier to file them off the earlier in the process you do it. Some of my stories I can remember the source, but even I couldn’t recognize it.

          On the third hand, filing off serial number is like any other writerly skill: it improves with practice.

          1. Indeed – I filed the identifiable numbers of Lone Star Sons and Lone Star Glory – but the fans and readers still noted the origin in the Lone Ranger mythos…

            1. I did most of my blatant rip-offs when I hadn’t mastered the art of finishing a story yet, and they’re all hand-written in my unreadable handwriting. Lucky me.

    3. Uh, no. I have enough issues dealing with my own problems; why would I want anyone else’s? I just want the power to tell those who want to rule me that they can go stuff themselves.

      1. I have no objection to having power, per se, but damned if I want to accept responsibility for every idiot’s failure to think a thing through before they got caught in the middle of a bad situation.

        Ruling the word is wayyyyyy over-rated. The hours suck, the customers are ungrateful and the rewards meagre.

  7. I’ve long observed the very smart CANNOT believe in stupidity beyond a certain level.

    Ox not claim be VERY smart. Maybe NOT *too* stupid. Maybe. Ox still surprised how stupid some stupid is. EVEN when ox once *predict* it… storytime..

    Herr Dinglefritz (name changed to protect the humor) walks up to $WORKPLACE entrance, after being dropped off by family member. Pauses. Waits for family member to drive off… turns and walks away.. ON CAMERA. $BOSS reviews recording. Herr Dinglefritz has a nearly unique jacket. It shows. Has a VERY unique walk/gait.. also shows.. next appearance, $BOSS has talk, with video, with Herr Dinglefritz… who denies it is him. Never mind appearance, gait, walk, timing, ALL indicate such. Dinglefritz is “let go.”

    Ox (and ox slow) predicts that Dinglefritz will repeat the performance, to keep up appearances with family.

    And, Herr Dinglesfritz does just that. Even ox shocked, and ox “predicted” it! That lasts a week or so.. eventually Dinglefrizt has to explain the lack of pay….

    As seen in an old .sig: “There IS a left side to the bell curve and people really DO live there.” Jarring to encounter some versions. Moo.

    1. I’ve encountered the truly stupid. I have never had any problem dealing with them. Simple to do – treat them like equals. They recognize they’re not as smart, and if you’re patient with them, explain things to them without being condescending, And hold normal conversations with them from time to time- “How’s the wife and kids?” “Did you catch the big game?”

      I also have no problem dealing with those much smarter than me. Don’t bother asking if they saw the big game – they didn’t.

      Using a term favored by He Who Must Not Be Named, my problems, personal and professional, have always been with midwits who think they’re smarter than me, and try to prove it. Who don’t learn the first time and keep trying….

      1. YES.

        Dear husband Elf did this with a hard core dumb as rocks tank…. made her one of the raid tanks, eventually, after walking her through many dungeons, many times, I healed, he DPSed and talked.

        She was DUMB, not mindless.

        She could learn, especially if you treated her respectfully.

        It just took longer.

        Once she learned it, seh HAD it. Actually beat “smart” tanks.

        1. Sort of like how a mundane ox can learn the same number of commands as a horse.. BUT the training requires much more patience, more repetition, and there is ONLY ONE WAY. While you can trade horses around for various team makeup, and swap near and off, that won’t do for the oxen. Near is near is near. Off is off is off. And the other ox learned with? THAT ONE. Only. Ever. However, once the ox ‘gets’ it – ox gets it.

        2. A lot of “dumb” people are not; they just have different strengths. Explain it a couple different ways, stop if you are being confusing, see which one works. And often memory is a stronger point for them than most people realize.

          Treating people with respect is going to work with almost everybody in the adult world. Unless he/she is an entitled Karen.

          1. Once upon a time I had a very part-time job tutoring (yes, really) and one fellow came in for math.. except his problem was NOT math. He was great at math. What his real problem was, was the instructor he had spoke in colloquial, and he had only learned formal English. “Why can’t he just he just SAY what he means?!”

            1. I learned that between my first computer class in winter ’75 and the *second time I had to take it in ’83. Okay, part of it was mainframe teletype (lord help me if I’d had to use cards) VS keyboard & screen that could be edited. But first time around, even flowcharts confused the heck out me, let alone simple code logic. I couldn’t do anything simple. Good thing I was going to have nothing to do with computers … But more important than the keying hardware, it was the difference in instructors. Same language (Basic). Same concepts on flowcharts. Same basic code.

              I’ve mentioned it a time or two before. My career was 33 years of programming & software system designing … should I go and find the professor from ’75, and TA’s, the shock would be epic. OTOH, the professors & instructors from ’83-’85 (2 year AA), and ’88-’89 (Bachelors) wouldn’t be surprised at all.

              I know I’m not a traditional coder or designer. I know because I drive traditional ones nuts. “Not how I would have done it. But it works and can be maintained.” Was heard more than once. As well as “you’re not suppose to be able to do that.” FWIW, I am (was, now retired) a darn good to excellent coder/designer … I am nowhere near brilliant at it. I’ve worked with brilliant coders … OTOH they couldn’t work with end users, at all. I can/could.

              * That conversation was epic. One of us (hubby or I) had to get out of Timber. I wasn’t working, so I got tagged to go back to school. Figured Accounting, because if I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, then I’d do something that had lots of work and was easy for me … basic math, just know what buckets the numbers went in (I worked on accounting software for 12 years, that is about how complicated it is). Councilor looked at my science/math academics and strongly recommended computers. I TOLD about my prior experience with a computer class. Was told, well you have to take these 4 classes regardless, take them over the summer, and we’ll talk about it. Three of the classes were the intro/basic accounting classes (accelerated one after another over 10 weeks), the other was the basic computing class (10 weeks). Sure the other 3 I flew through easy and not particularly challenging. The computer class was FUN.

          2. My best friend in elementary was considered dumb-to-medium. In fact, she just had trouble thinking in words to write them down. We’d study together, and she’d know “Metal is composed of ions” (Okay guys, yes, I know, but this was the dark ages.) However in the test, in writing, it came out Metal is an ion.
            Yeah. Not dumb. Just… performance anxiety in writing? Specialized form of dyslexia? Something.

      2. Should note: Elf’s treatment of Truly Really Dumb lady was before I realized I was in love with him.

        And waaaay before either of us realized he is lawful good.

  8. ‘Someone smarter than me can design a system that works.’

    Someone smarter than he would understand the limits of human intelligence.

    One thing really really smart people suck at is understanding how not-smart people think (or how people often simply do. not. think.)

    And they can be really bad at designing systems for people who don’t think. For such system design intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient element.

    1. One thing really really smart people suck at is understanding how not-smart people think (or how people often simply do. not. think.)

      And vice versa. Both sides of that mutual incomprehension are disturbing.

    2. Part of the problem, though only part, is that smart people will design a system that works for smart people, and on the assumption that smart people will run it.

      Any system run by humans must be designed to be run adequately by dolts, because everybody is a dolt sometimes. Even then, the system will tend to calcify over time.

        1. Also said by every Navy CPO, with multiple stories available to demonstrate. Don’t remove high voltage DC fuses with a needle nose pliers….

          Also should mention that in South Africa the electrical generating system is being run into the ground, and will completely fail at some point in the foreseeable future. Because like in Venezuela, the system is being run by people chosen for reasons other than competence. Venezuela’s breakdown was tremendously fast.

          1. Such systems select personnel for critical functions based on reliability, the confidence they won’t “betray” their masters sponsors.

            Competent people are not typically reliable; being competent tends to have two effects — it stimulates a certain degree of both independence and contempt toward the incompetent.

        2. A friend who used to work at NASA JSC on medical stuff for the space station used that, but substituted “astronaut” instead of “fool”.

            1. “Why do the eng. students have such a load? I suppose.. but..”
              “Have you seen what they get up to when they have time?”

              Actual conversation (almost):
              “What the…”
              “But, even….”
              “Oh. hey, what about…”
              “Physics. Do. Not. Ask.”

              Cue “307 Ale”…

              1. Just as an actual example of what engineering students get up to (and no NEITHER of these was me I just overheard the conversation and went the other direction). This was set off by someone playing Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” which was very recent at that time

                Eng 1: (Sawing at brick) Man this is hard work
                Eng 2: That’s because you’re using a hacksaw. Its for metal. You need a brick saw.
                Eng 1: I (expletive) know that but where am I going to get a (expletive) Brick saw?
                Eng 2: Half a minute my roomie has one.

                I left at that point…

                1. Er. That’s nothing. My 9th grade class rewired the highschool and put it on a timer so lights went off before class we didn’t want to have.
                  Yours truly might or might not have been a mastermind…

                  1. Oh clearly not a mastermind. Just shows you what happens when engineers get board and start gnawing on their cages :-). There were other examples but I was not personally present. I will note that the “brick” was a glazed concrete block in an interior wall of their dorm. Not sure what the damage charge for that would have been even in 1979/1980.

              2. Engineering is the art of getting stuff done by way of life or death decisions.

                Engineering students are baby engineers, without the experience that trains engineering intuition, which potentially stops dumbassery. If you don’t keep engineering students busy after they’ve learned enough to be dangerous, you run the risk of them being bored with access to your facilities.

                If you do keep them busy, some of them will be in the lab over the holidays with little supervision.

                Maybe the professors relax when the students are at a private workplace, with less energy to spare because of starting a family.

        3. Just when you think you’ve made something foolproof, some damn fool will come along and prove you wrong.

          1. I forget which corollary to Murphy’s Law it is, but the wording I learned (or close to it) was, “If you make something foolproof, nature will come along and make a better fool.”

      1. For instance, a lot of people who use a widget will only use it in the way they’ve been painstakingly taught. Any other way baffles and frightens them.
        Others will fiddle a bit and break the thing.
        A few will tear it down to it’s core components, puzzle out it’s workings, and figure out how to make it do more than what’s been taught.
        The fun is having the last group tell the first how to do the new things without breaking it. Or having the last group understand that you have to tell the first every single step, even if they think it should be intuitive.

      2. this is why I hate working for Big Major Corporation!
        EVERYTHING is lowest common denominator.
        “Think of the dumbest person you know . . . now design X for someone even stupider than that . . . and STILL someone will manage to screw up and you will be blamed”
        I was told I could not have a multitool ( I pulled out my SOG) “You can’t use that, it has a knife blade!” replied “I need the pliers, the blade sucks right now anyway”
        “We have to rules for a reason!”
        “They’re stupid reasons, and the weapon aspect of it is the stupidest.”
        He gave up then, I was still a Texas employee, not under him at the time
        People ignore stupid rules, then start ignoring most rules. Don’t enact stupid rules.

        1. People ignore stupid rules, then start ignoring most rules. Don’t enact stupid rules.

          At which point the folks stupid rules were made for start acting up, and then they start making it clear why you have rules, and then you have to make a new wheel for the rules. -.-

          1. I have to go through regular training for safety in a building I was only ever in once, on the “Welcome” tour (A part of 3 days of new employee training for stuff I didn’t need to know to do the job I had been doing for 12 years already) and is now across town from my working location. Meanwhile absolutely no one has a clue to what my job entails (“We really should do a Job Safety Analysis” was mumbled 3+ years ago) or that chemicals sometimes need X amount of time to make, whether it is 23,000 lbs or 10,000 lbs (once item A goes in the reactor, it is at best, 20 days before the end comes out, Size really only affects dropping it into packaging, and that is less than a shift, and a hair going in as it minutes or less per item) but I need to keep up on forge spinning safety and how the Stainless capper works. Yet a new hire lost part of her finger to that capper because of poor design, lack of training, and supervisor stupidity.
            um . . .did I go off on a bit of a rant there?
            yes I did
            Have some music inspired by Scrooge McDuck graphic novels: ‘Music Inspired By The Life And Times Of Scrooge.’

            1. At least you CAN fathom what passes for reasoning there. In my time (served, yes) at USPS, they inevitably had the safety lecture on heat stroke, etc. at the start (not end) of Winter, and the safety lecture about frostbite and hypothermia sometime in the Summer. Logic? They duck logic. Not to be confused with Duck Logic, who had a tune or two worth a listen.

                1. When I worked at USPS (nights), there was a solid two week stretch of -40 lows and subzero highs – cold enough the electric pallet jack that was NEVER to be brought into the main office, was brought inside to keep the lead-acid batteries warm. Luckily – for me – the union folks insisted us Casual Clerks (not union) park behind the service garage… which was the daytime executive parking, complete with outlets. And I had a block heater.

                  1. perks of being non-union!
                    our powered pallet jack just got a speed boost. Up to a decent walking speed from the glacial speeds it had even pushing the bump pad in the “Don’t do this to bypass the speed limiter” method. You know it’s bad slow when folks are willing to use a manual jack and move 2,000 lbs around by muscle instead. Even the smallest girl was not using it.

                    Also, at home this never showed up in my notifications. WP has been weird here at work too. It was allowing me the option to edit other’s comments Friday.

                    1. Yes, I have noticed about a third of posted comments do not arrive in my email, and a portion that do only display the comment being replied to — although the comment is “visible” in my Outlook preview pane, so that might merely be my mail reader.

                      WP’s user interface is explained by today’s (Monday, 09 December, 2019) Dilbert:

                      As that is not a jpg or png file actual appearance in WP may not occur. Stoopid WP.

                    2. THIS ^^^^. I’ve seen it in Thunderbird and Yahoo’s webmail (which Frontier uses). Also, the link straight through to the comment has what looks like a link, but is only iin blue underlines link display. No actual link.

                    3. Weirdly, I can sometimes see part of the text in the preview line, but then the actual message does… that.

    3. The other problem for really smart people is that they assume that, since they have demonstrated their intelligence and competence in one field, that competence transfers to other fields where they don’t have an E’ffin clue.

      I forget who said it, but “everyone is an idiot about something” applies.

      1. Actually, applies not just to intelligent people. CF: actors, who assume success as a Meat Puppet automatically makes their opinions on anything outside the entertainment industry knowledgeable, relevant or useful.

        1. Thus is exactly what I thought when I read this. I can’t count the number of brilliant men and women in other fields who can’t think their way out of a wet bag in my areas of expertise. Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are classic cases in point. Both men are brilliant scientists, but get them outside of the sciences, say into Philosophy, and they make basic errors that a first year undergrad in the field can recognize.

          1. Someone was commenting on Dawkins’ parts read in Nightwish’s Greatest Show On Earth, and said something like “A lot of people think Dawkins is an asshole because of his personality type.” I replied “Dawkins is an asshole because of his personality type, and should be smart enough to know when he is being an asshole.”

      2. Everyone is an idiot about something

        That brings to mind the recent tale of the Harvard Law* professor who fell for a floozie and basically shot his life to Hell because she could think with his dick better than he could.

        *Name of school may have been altered to protect my memory from embarrassing admissions of lapse

        1. I’m an idiot about many things. I try to figure out which those are, so I can either avoid them or learn from someone who is not.

          Sadly, I keep finding more things…

    4. “And they can be really bad at designing systems for people who don’t think.”

      Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
      — John Adams

      I see the problem…

  9. Americans (born and raised) tend to trust statistics from abroad as if they were their own

    Hell, I don’t even trust our own.

    And I will bet dollars to doughnut holes most here share that inclination.

    1. You mean like the current presidential (pick one) polls?

      I mean I know it does no good to yell at the TV “Yea? Really? They got the 2016 exit polls so correct? NOT!” but it makes me feel better.

      Yes. I do lie, like a rug, when polled …

  10. The aforementioned Dr. Sowell, in his book Intellectuals and Society spends considerable time on the intellectual passion for “elegant” solutions.

    Simpler people, dumber people, pragmatic people often prefer effective solutions, but those are often sloppy with a deplorable degree of kludging to make them work.

    The prolixity of such memes is evidence of something.

  11. when you’re dealing with humans

    As a rule of thumb, out of any ten humans four will do what the system guides them to, three invest far more energy in trying to game the system rather than follow it, two will proceed as if there were no system at all, and one will analyse the system and try to employ it effectively.

    That is probably a best case description.

      1. I confess I thought so, too — but I wanted to keep the example down to reasonable numbers. I reckoned all here were likely to see the potential foe expansion and elaboration and decided to try being pithy for a change.

        I’m just full of pith today.

  12. The Smartest Person in the World would study bureaucracy for only a handful of reasons:. He wants to control it and take over the world. (He’d better be more ruthless than Stalin or it will take over him.) Or he wants to prevent someone from doing the aforementioned. (Is he ruthless enough?) Or he is also the world’s most-addicted-to-schadenfreude person.

      1. The smart people are smart enough to not let themselves get promoted to where they have to go to meetings or sit on committees.
        He’s the guy with an out of the way office and is left alone to do his thing and gets things done.

        1. ^^^^^
          I retired from a job like that. People were always asking me why I hadn’t “moved up” to management. I would have been miserable had I done so and was quite content to be left alone to get stuff done.

        2. Aunt Marge is the other smart one. She holds more real power than the CEO, behind the scenes.

  13. And sure you can hate them for it, but don’t go pretending you are some lofty, all-knowing, pure intelligence. Because you’re not. And you too are filled with all of those. Denying them only makes them worse.

    Fooey! Speak for yourself. *runs off to prove them all wrong and build a railgun out of soap*

    One of the more… “oddly enlightening”?…. realizations was that despite my own opinions on the matter it was more arrogant to think I was average or below average INT. Because the alternative inexorably lead to the belief that most people were in fact literal retards.

    Which quickly lead to the additional realization that everyone around me had not been lying to me my whole life about that. Huh.

    And yet I still manage to make a fool of myself and other simple mistakes on a regular basis. Good for keeping the ego from getting too inflated I guess :D.

    Hmmm, maybe the soap would be useful as ablative lubrication inside the barrel…..

    1. “Smart” and “dumbass” are *separate* things, not opposite ends of the same thing.

      Some people have a goodly supply of both.

      A really good example is a friend’s roommate, an engineer at a major defense contractor (Ph.D. in math, too), working on a state-of-the-art weapons system, who bought into an “alternative healthcare” system where you rubbed bars of metal over your body to draw sickness out… and he’d spent a chunk of money becoming a practitioner of it, too. When he’d finished taking all the courses, he was going to quit his job at [REDACTED] and go on the road, spreading health and happiness…

    2. “Intelligence” and “Wisdom” are different stats, akin to Volts and Amperage.
      You can have high voltage and low amperage, and get a nice tingle.
      You can have low voltage and high amperage, and get limbs blown off.

  14. There’s a difference between levels of smartness. I predict that no brilliant person would ever put up with working in the federal bureaucracy. The blind faith in “smart people designing government systems” is responsible for many problems.

    For one, the faithful don’t really accept theories. They only accept the theories they like. Theories they don’t like include the free rider problem, the law of unintended consequences, the fact that humans will game any system ever invented, the fact that scarcity exists, etc.

    In 2011, Harvard students walked out of an introductory economics lecture given by Professor Mankiw. They listed their reasons in an editorial:

    Here is the professor’s view of the incident:

    At the time, it struck me as akin to protesting cold weather in winter. Or gravity. These are NOT very smart people. They are, however, very accomplished at influencing others. It was a foreshadowing of the current era, however, that Harvard students were willing to take a public stand against their education.

    1. There’s the “smart kids” who play along, kiss up to teacher, follow the rules, and get straight A’s because they’re good at parroting back.

      The genius is the kid with the low C average and the eternal note that they would do so good if they just applied themselves.

      1. “There’s the “smart kids” who play along, kiss up to teacher, follow the rules, and get straight A’s because they’re good at parroting back.”
        and if actually smart, these are straight up sociopaths.

        1. Unfortunately sociopathy is rational in that system.

          I mean…. makes a person rather sucky as a human being, but then lots of survival mechanisms do that.

      2. Heh. I remember all the fuss when it came out that George W Bush was a “C” student at Yale.

        As if any future employer was going to give a damn what his GPA was. A “C”average indicates a nice understanding of the unimportance of grades in contrast to the social connections available.

        It should be noted what coursework he found interesting enough to apply himself and get high grades — proving an ability to perform when motivated.

        As for earning “A”s, that is mostly a matter of giving the expected answers (aka, the ones on the TA’s answer sheet.) It reflects an ability t read an instructor’s in-class emphasis and respond accordingly. It is not a guarantor of sociopathy.

        For example, Bill Clinton famously skipped out on all classes at Georgetown, borrowed classmates’ notes for Finals and aced courses.

        Okay, I withdraw my objection.

        1. Bush the Younger and John Kerry attended Yale when C was actually the average grade instead of now where B+ seems to signal that you have failed horribly. George Bush may have done average in Yale but another accomplishment, flying a Century series fighter (F-102? or was it the 106?) shows there was something there. Flying the Centruy series hardware was not something a mere stick and rudder guy could do, those fighters fought back and if not handled with care borne of knowledge of their flight envelope you mad a big hole in the ground. Talk to various NATO nations on how many pilots they burned through with the Century series (Especially the 102 and 104).

          1. Some trivia: the F104 and U2 share the same fuselage. I knew a guy who flew the U2 over unfriendly skies and he said the plane was a bear to fly. Maximum speed was awfully close to stalling speed at altitude, and that was another thing to worry about. (SAMs were the biggest, some people get rather upset at overflights.)

            1. The U2’s fuselage was based off the XF-104 prototype and shortened (and then progressively lengthened over the life of the design until it ended up being longer than the F-104 ever was)

          2. The “gentleman’s C.” The grade you got if you were having fun being social, and not really studying. A perfectly acceptable grade on one’s resume, if one was not planning to be an academic.

            1. Also for classes that were “curved” they were usually curved to a C. B was for folks working hard. A almost unheard of as it was 95+ (i.e. 3 or 4 standard deviations from the mean).

              And thank you on the 102 vs 106 info. the F-102 was likely much more technically hard to fly (and more dangerous as its eject seat had a limited functional envelope)

              1. Both of those planes were also known for information overload in their pilots and were why the air force started looking at two seaters….

    2. > very accomplished at influencing others

      More like “each other.” Everyone else thinks they’re a bunch of twits.

    3. I wonder how many of those protesting students are aware:

      “The Ivy League schools are some of the most expensive schools in the nation, normally speaking. On the other hand, most Ivy League schools provide free tuition and other financial assistance for students from families with an income below a specific threshold, such as $60,000. All of the Ivy League schools have a “no-loans” policy; they provide grants instead of loans.”

      Yale is one of these; their income threshold, last I checked, was $65k.

      Yep, good general rule… protestors not very smart. Other than their organizers, who know a useful idiot when they see one.

      1. Protesters justify increased administrative budget and authority. It takes a lot of administrators to make sure historical wrongs get properly redressed.

    4. Working for the Federal Government has its ups and downs. Once in a while, you get the opportunity to work Outside the Bureaucratic Box.

      I’ve had the privilege of doing that twice. And it is an absolute joy, for it gives you the chance to do real cutting-edge work. (Let’s just say that I got involved in large unmanned aviation in 1995…when almost everything was on the drawing board and there was NO guarantee that it would work at all.)

      1. Any chance you can unbugger WP’s grasp on my comment? The one beginning:

        Because humans are unpredictable …

        Well, you can reliably predict they will behave in ways nobody anticipated, would have anticipated, could have anticipated.

        1. It concludes:

          For example, people in detention centers mistaking the bidet for a drinking fountain …

          OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipatable fashion.

        2. It continues:

          For example, people in detention centers mistaking the bidet for a drinking fountain …

          1. And concludes:

            OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipatable fashion.

            1. Nope!

              Exactly the time you want and need them to, and put up the sign as bait, they will OBEY it.

          2. And concludes:

            OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipated fashion.

          3. And concludes:

            OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipated fashion.

          4. It further states:

            OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” …

          5. WP does not want you to know how it concludes.

            WP is a big dooty head!

            Sarah, please make WP behave!

                1. Sigh. I am sure they will turn up en masse at some unexpected date. I cannot recreate the close now; it was something about “If you put people in front of a panel full of buttons, labeled ‘Do Not Push’ you can predict with confidence that those buttons will be pushed in ways you’d have never been able to predict.”

                  NOTHING in there that ought have caused WP to slap the cone of silence over the comment.

            1. It wasn’t a bidet. According to Occasional Cortex the mean ICE people locked this woman in a cell without water and she drank from the toilet.
              Actually she said women and that this was “happening.”
              The real story? This woman had never seen a faucet. Or a toilet.
              Picture that. She couldn’t figure out how to operate the faucet. She thought the toilet was a fountain.

              1. As you say, they see foreigners as USAians with funny accents and colorful costumes.
                Here in PNG, there are illustrated signs directing people to not squat on the toilet seats, but to sit their butt down on the seat.

                1. Those signs are in every US office building with a large H1B presence. I know. I’ve seen them.

          6. Hey, fir4st time *I* saw a bidet, I thought it was a drinking fountain – for about 30 seconds ’til the light came on.

  15. An authentic, certified genius, like me, understands that there are limits to his powers and knowledge. We know THAT we don’t know, and have a fair idea of WHAT we don’t know. So we’re inclined to be humble. As opposed to the fake “geniuses”, who are highly credentialed dolts who have no comprehension of just how complex things can be.

    And often, you can run your affairs at first-hand a lot better than I can run them using a thousand-mile-long screwdriver.

    1. Most pop-fiction geniuses are very “safe”.

      The more realistic ones generate quite the outsized reaction. They tend to poke too many sacred cows a little to hard.

        1. My favorite example of this is given in the forward to Ender’s Game. A woman who decided to publicly shame her son’s favorite book in the local news paper because Kids Don’t Think That Way.


          1. Card did come up with a great response:

            “If you think that gifted kids don’t talk this way, it’s because gifted kids know better than to talk this way in front of you!”

      1. One of the real problems in depicting genius is that non-geniuses don’t really know how to portray it. Just as few actors can play “intelligent” (Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch being notable exceptions in part because few actors can convincingly portray thinking), few writers can write “genius” in recognizable form. The tendency is to play up certain minor trait associated with intelligence — such as ornate vocabulary — and depicting genius in a character (such as Nero Wolfe) requires genius in the writer.

    2. Being a certified genius is a dubious distinction around here. The question is, do you trust those who certified you?
      Genius is unpredictable, strange and often unrecognizable. It is only known in retrospect by what it created. Kind of like good literature. Is xyz book good? Don’t know, I know only if I like it or not. If you want to know if it’s good literature come back in 400 years and see if it’s still being read for fun and not just because you’re forced to.

      1. Being a certified genius is a matter of conformity. Spouting nonsense in convoluted impenetrable sesquipedalian sentences is more likely to get such certification than speaking the same nonsense in simple profane terms — or even speaking profound sense in clear unambiguous language.

        Attend to the actual content of nearly ANY of Barack Obama’s speeches and it is clear he’s espousing the most banal of thoughts in rhetorically “elegant” ways, flattering the listeners into thinking he’s been deep when mostly what they’ve seen is their own reflections from his shallow pond.

        1. I’d not call Obama a genius. Moderately bright, at best. Well-spoken…a man who missed his calling of doing voice acting.

          1. I’m sorry; I ought have been clearer: Obama is a certified genius, which correlates with actual genius very poorly.

            1. Aye. Obama was a showman, NOT a shaman. He could talk ‘real purty” but there was no substance in his words. I recall watching one his speeches during his first Presidential campaign and sure, it sounded it nice, all those wonderful things. TONS of that. And not a milligram of how it would come to be.

              1. He was a meringue: all froth and nothing you could sink your teeth into. Perfect speaker for the short of attention span. All foam and no cappuccino, all head and no beer, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

        2. My reaction too. I can’t listen to his speeches because there is no substance… I had an English teacher give me a failing grade on a paper because I wrote it elegantly with no information at all. It was a learning experience for me. Speakers of “truth” should get a failing grade… maybe it will wake them up.

        3. Thing is, Obama was and is a pretty bright guy. However, he put most of his skill points into “electability” rather than “capability.”

          1. It’s impossible to know how bright he is. Emotional intelligence, sure. But he was indoctrinated from birth. I don’t think he ever examined the ideas handed down to him.

      2. Why, yes…mostly because it’s based on job performance. 🙂

        What, you thought I was relying on some piece of paper?

  16. Being a leader is something to which you can be sentenced and get time off for exceptionally good behavior so the next fellow has to be burdened.

    1. THIS. When all of my jobs were finally taken away when I was an E-5 and given back to the E-6’s and above… I felt a wonderful sense of freedom. I ran a shop of electronics tech in the crypto field. May I never do that again.

    2. Oh, yeah. I was lead tech for a couple of months, until I told them they could keep the 5% ‘incentive’ pay and let me go back to just fixing the widgets. It was not worth the headaches.

      I guess I’m not temperamentally suited to being in charge of people. They come up with problems you would never have imagined in a thousand years. I try to figure out how they got into that situation, and just get nothing.
      Dayna: “Don’t you ever get tired of being right all the time?”
      Avon: “No, I get tired of other people being wrong.”

    3. Some people are good at leading and really enjoy it, because they enjoy seeing people blossom. Others enjoy pushing toward a goal and getting obstacles out of their people’s way. But that is not everyone.

      1. There’s leading people and there’s driving people … and there’s them as cannot tell the difference.

  17. If ever anyone gets discharged with instructions to ‘take up smoking and work to smoke a pack a day’ it will be me!

    There have been studies offering evidence of significant benefits of nicotine, for example as slowing onset of certain forms of dementia. It also has benefits regarding blood pressure, IIRC. And a quick [searchengine] indicates many identified mental benefits of nicotine, from reducing stress and the risk of Parkinson’s Disease to

    New meta-analyses suggest that nicotine can affect the following areas of cognitive functioning:

    Fine Motor Skills
    Alerting attention – accuracy and response time
    Orienting attention – accuracy and response time
    Short-term memory – accuracy
    Long-term memory – accuracy
    Working memory – accuracy and response time

    The authors suggested that nicotine and nicotinic agents should be studies in cognitively impaired populations.

    Other benefits include weight control, reduction of inflammation and ulcerative colitis, relief of symptoms of ADHD, and lower incidence of endometriosis and endometriosis cancer.

    But it is more likely you would be advised to “smoke” e-cigs, possibly mentholated to assuage* asthma symptoms.

    *N.B. – I’ve no idea whether menthol does assuage asthma symptoms, it is merely proffered as an example.

    1. > studies

      A number of people have observed that the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen until after tobacco and coffee were well-entrenched in Western society…

      1. Back in the days before antibiotics and vaccines the risk of death from a mosquito* bite was greater than the risk of cancer from tobacco smoking, so a pipe or cigarette which kept mosquitoes away had beneficial aspect.

        There were so many things likely to kill you before cancer that smoking was a negligible risk factor.

        *Tsetse fly, black fly, any other stinging or biting insect

    2. Boils down to: Nicotine is a thyroid stimulator. Which over time can basically cause thyroid burnout (increased risk of goiter and nodules). And also means when you quit, you can get all manner of hypothyroid symptoms. (And a sixfold increase in risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease.)

      Menthol is an irritant. But asthma is frequently a symptom of low thyroid. Supplement or stimulate the thyroid, and the asthma improves.

  18. Even the level of standardization our government … has introduced in health care has made it very difficult for off beat, strange body-systems.

    Not just government, although government does make the situation worse be introducing new levels of legal liability. A family acquaintance needed a particular drug (I forget just why — call it Crohn’s) for which the normal growth medium was chicken eggs. Said family acquaintance being allergic to chicken eggs required a special alternative to the med. Her insurance’s pharmacopoeia did not offer that alternative as a routine option, but with much bureaucratic kerfuffle she was able to get it … except her pharmacist, adhering to the insurance company’s standard pharmacopoeia, would repeatedly substitute the standard drug for the alternate.

    N.B. – this is not a conversation you want to open unless you have an abundance of leisure. People tend to become very emotional when they’ve reached the conclusion their insurance company wants to kill them, and likely even more when they have cause to believe their government is joining the conspiracy.

    1. Not just government, although government does make the situation worse be introducing new levels of legal liability.

      Or provide specific paths of liability safety. If you ever want to see a Rube Goldberg system in common use, take a look at how air bags, and the mechanisms for deciding when to disable them, have evolved.

      Last year I had the passenger side pretensioner replaced in my car. Despite being part of the seat belt, this also disabled the air bag. Because “pretensioner” appears to be a euphemism for “explosive device designed to quickly tighten your seat belt because otherwise your air bag might kill you”. In following this rabbit hole I discovered that before air bags were mandated, the reason carmakers we’re moving slowly on implementing them is that their tests showed that airbags were dangerous for short people. Such as women. So carmakers tended to introduce them in cars men buy.

      When airbags became mandated, the tests they were told to do were for the average person, so that those problems disappeared. In testing only, of course. Not in real life.

      1. I remember hearing that the Big Push for Airbags started when the Safety Bureaucrats learned that people weren’t using seatbelts so the Airbags were Intended to protect people who didn’t use their seatbelts.

        Of course, Insurance Specialists warn that Airbags are extremely dangerous if people aren’t wearing seatbelts.

        Many of the automakers knew of the dangers but OF COURSE the Safety Bureaucrats KNEW BEST. 😈

        Another thing I heard was that the automakers were thinking of fighting the Safety Bureaucrats but knew that the News Media would support the Safety Bureaucrats and their Lawyers inform the automakers that they could not be sued for following government regulations. 😈

        Oh, I remember the talk about airbags being dangerous for children in front seats.

        There were Congressional Hearings (with the automakers assigned the Bad Guy role) but it died down quickly when the automakers could show that they knew about the problems but the Government Safety Bureaucrats ignored the concerns of the automakers.

        After all, Government and Government Bureaucrats can’t be the Bad Guys. [Very Big Sarcastic Grin]

        1. And now it is illegal in some states for children in a specified height or age range to ride in the front seat. As a passenger you are urged to sit in the back if you’re going to read a book, use a smart phone, or hold anything in front of you. You aren’t even supposed to have anything in your shirt pocket.

          1. Part of why we were glad to leave Washington.

            Cus my girls are already recognizing traffic situations…and suddenly it’s illegal for them to be there?

            Yeah, dumb bigialo, go bobom yoself.

          2. Not illegal, yet. But not safe for dogs to ride front passenger seat. Also, backseat motion detector … ahhhhhhh … can’t turn the dang thing off. Sure, being a SD, I can just take her in. But it is inconvenient, and on non-hot days, I can just leave her in the vehicle, but I can’t, because the darn back seat alarm goes off.

    2. “People tend to become very emotional when they’ve reached the conclusion their insurance company wants to kill them,”

      Which shows that they do not understand the nature of insurance.

      1. Your insurance company doesn’t work for you; it works for its’ stockholders / premium payers (usually your employer).
      2. Your insurance company makes money by collecting maximum premiums while paying the absolute minimum. Anything that encourages you to die quickly with minimum fuss is a Good Thing.

      1. There’s a particularly evil system called “capitation”, where an insurance company will tell a doctor, “we figure the number of people who are likely to patronize your practice are X. Therefore, we’ll write you a check for Y dollars to treat any of them who show up.”

        Therefore, they neatly pass “denial of service” from themselves to your physician. Because now, every minute he spends with you comes out of his personal money, not insurance money.

        Of course, many doctors are employees instead of free agents, or contract with third parties for office services (I used to do IT for one of those), the doctor himself might not be the one making those decisions; their shareholders or office managers will be making decisions to maximize profits, so waits for appointments for capitated patients will get longer, follow-up care won’t get followed-up on, etc.

    3. I know of a gal who, due to a particular combination of anesthetics, etc. wound up with a serious allergy to a specific meat. (Yes, beef.) She would order at restaurants and make that clear, with the line, “This is NOT ‘I don’t like it’. This IS ‘There WILL be an ambulance at your door.'” Except at Indian places, of course, where such precaution was not needed.

      1. Most definitely depends on the Indian restaurant. As a general rule, if the menu says tandoor there will be beef. That’s true of northern Indian cooking in general. Southern Indian has a much stronger Hindu bias.

        1. I have been to an Indian (or at least so claimed) restaurant and was taken aback by beef being on the menu. At the time, I put it down to being one of the perversions of Minneapolis.

          1. Of course, there’s also the influence of the American; you know, the one what added chop suey to Chinese menus.

  19. I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that Lazarus Long came to-I’m not capable of doing everything. I don’t even want to try to be able to do everything. Instead, I’ll take all the authority and resources that I can, find the people that can do the job, give them the authority and resources they need, and make sure to keep out of their way and keep other people out of their way.

    (Best movie example right now-“Ford vs. Ferrari.” At least six people to carry a single document to the CEO. Some of this is necessary, but how much of it is busywork and politics? You have a task to do-find the guy (Carroll Shelby) to do the job, give him the resources and authority, give him someone (Lee Iacocca) to run the interference needed to keep people from poking fingers in make political points, and let them go with a clear goal. And, don’t wimp out if they have problems that aren’t their fault.

    Random writing bit from somewhere further down the story line of The Last Solist series-

    “Empress Theodora had stated her principals of running the Dawn Empire in three pithy statements-
    “First-Don’t Make Me Come Over There.
    “Second-I Gave You The Job Because You Could Do It. Do The Job, Give Me Final Reports Only.
    “And Third-Bore Me And Die.

    “Tara Greenly realized that she was stepping very close to breaking all three rules and the Empress was about to get sarcastic.”

    1. > “Second-I Gave You The Job Because You Could Do It. Do The Job, Give Me Final Reports Only.

      Yeah, Abraham Lincoln tried that; it’s as big part of the “Lincoln on Leadership” handbook used in leadership classes. Which ignores the fact that it very nearly lost the war, and Lincoln had to abandon it after all of his “can do!” generals turned out to be do-nothing generals…

      1. Part of the job of being the boss is keeping an eye out on things. If you start seeing problems for an employee, you go to the employee and find out what is going on and going wrong. Maybe they need some guidance, maybe you didn’t get the square peg in the square hole, but if you start hearing problems, time to investigate.

      2. One of things that I learned via General Patton’s views on leadership was to command one level down, and know how things are going two levels down. If you’re the office manager, you give orders to your supervisors and you know how things are going for your senior people.

        And, in most circumstances, you go to the employee you command, not the reverse.

        1. This. Patton had spent a lifetime studying war, he understood the need to avoid the temptation to back-seat drive low-level tactical decisions. It’s also worth noting that he did a lot of Management By Walking Around…go to the front. Be SEEN to go to the front. Be seen to see what’s going on. Then fly back, so the troops do NOT see you headed away from the battlefront.

          1. I remember reading in one of the books about WWII one of the German generals seeing Winston Churchill actually looking out over the front, in artillery and sniper range. Which showed what kind of leaver Churchill was.

      3. Part of the problem was that Lincoln needed to find the right generals for that style to work with. Once he had Grant in the East and Sherman in the West, the style worked out pretty well. In fact, it worked out okay when it was Grant and Rosecrans in the West and Meade in the East. Just.. not so well when the commanders were Halleck, McClellan, Pope, or Hooker.

    2. Off topic, but fascinated by the quote. What series is that, and how can I find it? Searches for “The Last Solist”, “Empress Theodora”, and “Dawn Empire” are failing me…

      1. I’m writing the story now. 😀 The first novel in the series is almost ready to be published. This is somewhere far, far…FAR in the series future. To use a Dresden Files analogy, I’m writing Storm Front. This is at about Skin Game or Peace Talks writing area.

        (I collect random points of other stories that I may never use. At some point, I’ll have to actually consolidate a series bible…)

        1. Thanks for the info. Please share the title for the first book when you’ve got one!

  20. What is a Smart Person TM supposed to do with stuff like that?

    Oh, that’s Easy!

    Cultivate an understanding of and appreciation for the limits of knowledge. Just as the strongest human* cannot lift an elephant (not even a small one), so cannot the smartest person raise the burden of human ignorance (especially willful ignorance, which seems to be ever more prevalent.)

    Alternatively, you might resign the human race and become a wallaby (provided you can pass the extremely rigorous entrance exam) or other creature. I understand there are currently openings for minotaurs and dragons — but cats are not accepting applicants; admission there is only upon nomination of felines in good standing.

    *at least, not outside of a comic book, and even inside a comic book such capabilities seem to be limited to metahumans.

    1. Alternatively, you might resign the human race and become a wallaby

      Think small! Animalia is SOOOO Jurassic. Fungi is where it’s at. All comers taken!*

      *For decomposition. Cell-membrane integrity not guaranteeed. All vulgar final. Mind the gap.

  21. I’d also blame the unified media of the 20th century for hiding a lot of the cock ups that ‘top people’ have made on the way to success.

    Well, of course the marketing department doesn’t want the public to know how their sausage was made! They’re in the business of selling that sausage and the last thing they want is anybody peeking behind their curtain.

  22. Because humans are unpredictable …

    Well, you can reliably predict they will behave in ways nobody anticipated, would have anticipated, could have anticipated.

    For example, people in detention centers mistaking the bidet for a drinking fountain …

    OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipatable fashion.

  23. Second effort to make this comment, WP apparently not accepting the first attempt:

    Because humans are unpredictable …

    Well, you can reliably predict they will behave in ways nobody anticipated, would have anticipated, could have anticipated.

    For example, people in detention centers mistaking the bidet for a drinking fountain …

    OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipatable fashion.

  24. One obvious problem with ‘put the smart people in charge’ is the Second Lieutenant With An Idea issue: Without real-world experience, it’s hard to know which bright ideas work and which will get you killed.

    Another problem is testing for smart people. As soon as there’s a metric, the influential will insist that the metric be warped in order to make them look better, or faked to make their offspring look better. How, for example, are we to trust Ivy League credentials when donors can buy degrees for students who are too busy networking to actually study? (Likewise, I hear that there’s a not uncommon problem of unassimilated cultures – people on student visas, often enough – creating networks to cheat and get the people from their particular culture higher on the metrics than they actually earn.)

    And once someone has a degree, but no skill or experience, clearly a sinecure position must be found for them . . .


    1. As soon as there’s a metric, the influential will insist that the metric be warped …

      Back before we abandoned the Public School System the Daughtorial Unit was in a Gifted & Talented” program under constant attack. One member of the school board had a particular issue in that her child had … just … missed admission to the program.

      We solved that by having school board members come observe the program and see just how different the participants were — like comparing cart horses to race horses. (Frankly, Society needs the former far more than the latter.) Her child was bright but not G&T bright; the G&T program in our state had been established after some clever parent persuaded the legislature that G&T status was its own kind of disability, requiring special treatment to avoid damaging (even crippling) these kids.

      Even so, support was indifferent at best as they well-intentioned wanted to focus remediation on “kids who really need it” — e.g., those pulling the test scores down. It was also observed that the kids in the G&T program had a disproportionate incidence of “other” disabilities — ADHD, OCD, Asperger’s — leading to speculation that many kids who otherwise qualified for the enriched educational diet were being held in “regular” schools where they functioned to keep average test scores higher and (often) as teachers’ assistants, helping explain things to the slower students. (This probably did little to endear them to those “slower” students.)

      It was only the bright and disruptive kids whose parents were taken aside by principals and advised, “[Junior] s such a bright and explorative child, we really think your needs would be better met by this G&T program.” Parents of biddable kids were, of course, assured that “We have enhancement programs in place that will provide all the enrichment you could want!”

      1. Maybe there are bright and non-disruptive, biddable, children, but I have never encountered any. I’ve met bright and trying to be good children, but they don’t oft succeed, and they never fully succeed. Usually they can’t quite figure out why what they said or did was unwanted.

        1. > trying to be good

          “Sitting quietly in my chair and reading a book” surely did set a bunch of teachers’ teeth on edge…

          I guess that wasn’t the kind of “good” they were looking for.

          1. Reading a novel? They want to take it away. Reading ahead because I’ve already read today’s chapter? I’m not paying attention.

            I’m not going to pretend that I was anything other than a difficult child, but even the AP classes amounted to little more than someone walking through a room, blowing out candles.


              1. Rises hands. Worked in middle school and HS. Read ahead, paid enough attention to understand material. Brought book for when I was bored. Didn’t start reading until I was in 5th grade, not really, because obviously if I couldn’t read aloud I couldn’t read (I still can’t read aloud … I’m 63).

                College Level … not so much. Oh, I got through. I have 3 degrees (two bachelors and one associates) I made the adjustment … Our HS class clown, you know the Valedictorian? Flunked out of college his freshman year … joined the army. Last time I went to a class reunion he was finishing his 3rd or 4th PHd, just because.

                1. Early in my college career, I realized that if the professor was a fanatic about enforcing the attendance policy (usually “miss three classes without a valid excuse and you flunk), that professor would be too boring and or stupid and or ignorant to keep people in the class without it. No exceptions.

            1. Ah, I had a pretty good school.

              There was an amusing incident when two of my best teachers independently told my mom that they didn’t mind because I was clearly keeping up, but they weren’t sure how it would go over if I read like that in the other’s class….

            2. Robert got Johnny Maxwell trilogy (SIGNED!) omnibus confiscated by his first grade teacher,a nd we had to descend on her like the wrath of parents to get it back. What’s wrong with these people? At the same time she insisted he couldn’t read. As in was unable to. And should be put in special ed. GAH.

                1. Honestly? no clue. This was in one of the most leftist towns in the state that’s not Boulder, and it turns out that teacher picked on “mixed race” kids. Robert was the lucky winner that year. She wasn’t particularly rational.

                  1. And she can’t be fired, demoted, or disciplined. Hell, it’s hard to fire a teacher convicted of molesting the students! The good ones get grief for ‘making the others look bad’. The merely mediocre ones are not even worth noticing.

                    1. They kept telling us she’d worked for them for 20 years. We later found out that she’d had this problem for 20 years, but apparently that didn’t matter. Fortunately she DID retire.

                    2. Halfway through the semester. To be fair, I had help. ALSO I feel guilty about it. Apparently she’d had issues before, so locking her in the closet and telling her to stay there till the period was over was not a good thing, no matter how annoying she was. Also it wasn’t a closet, though we used it as such. It was a secret passage leading to an abandoned chapel full of baroque art.
                      Poor woman.

                  1. Thomas Sowell has studied the phenomenon of late-talking children and argues that in many instances it is a sign of high intelligence.

                    See: Late-Talking Children
                    The painful and baffling mystery as to why some obviously bright children do not begin talking until long after the ”normal” time is explored in this book through personal experiences and the findings of scientific research. The author’s own experiences as the father of such a child led to the formation of a goup of more than fifty sets of parents of similar children. The anguish and frustration of these prents as they try to cope with children who do not talk and institutions that do not understand them is a remarkable and moving human story. Fortunately, some of these children turn out to have not only normal intelligence but even outstanding abilities, especially in highly analytical fields such as mathematics and computers. These fascinating stories of late-talking children and the remarkable families from which they come are followed by explorations of scientific research that throw light on unusual development patterns.

                    Editorial Reviews
                    From Booklist
                    As father of a child who was late in talking but precocious in other skills, Sowell had long been interested in such children. It was not, however, until the famous policy analyst wrote about his son (now an adult) in his syndicated column that he became acquainted with many other late-talkers’ parents. With them, he created an information exchange; eventually, good social scientist that he is, he sent them a questionnaire to formally collect facts about late-talking, bright children for the purposes of ascertaining common characteristics and possibly honing diagnosis of what for many families is a disquieting set of circumstances, not least because public school authorities are overly prone to label such children autistic. Essentially, this book reports the questionnaire’s gleanings and makes some tentative conclusions. But in the stories of particular children, including little John Sowell, that precede the reporting, it is engrossing, inspiriting, and lovely to read. Ray Olson

                    From Kirkus Reviews
                    A father’s first-person account of his young son’s difficulties in learning to talk, his surprising disoveries about other late talkers, and some intriguing speculation about the causes of this problem. Although clearly a bright boy who understood when spoken to and who displayed unusual analytical abilities (as a toddler, he managed to outwit a child-proof lock), Sowell’s son John did not speak until he was almost four years old. When Sowell, a Hoover Institute senior fellow (Migrations and Culture, 1996, etc.), wrote about his son in his syndicated newspaper column, dozens of parents of late-talking children wrote to him. A support group of 55 families representing 57 children eventually formed. Sowell follows the story of his son John–now a successful computer scientist– with numerous anecdotal accounts from these families’ letters. Seeing a pattern in their stories, Sowell sent out questionnaires in 1994 and 1996, and the results of the longer 1996 survey are summarized here. He discovered that most of the late talkers were boys, with especially good memories and puzzle-solving skills, that most were slow in their social development and late in toilet training, and that many had close relatives who played musical instruments or were in analytical professions. Sowell, who is more anecdotal than scientific in his approach, is quick to acknowledge that his is a biased sample of late talkers, but he asserts that both professionals and parents should be aware of this pattern of mental abilities and family backgrounds. It may be, he speculates, that some bright children are late in talking precisely because the demands of their analytical abilities, localized in the left half of the brain, are being met at the expense of the speech function. Children like his son, he warns, are frequently misdiagnosed as retarded or autistic and thus risk being placed in special- education classes, from which release may be difficult. Hardly definitive, but should ease the minds of worried parents. — Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

                  2. Er. Younger son didn’t say much till three. It’s known as “engineer brain.”
                    I also never figured out WHEN he learned to read. I found out he could when he was in third grade because he was reading mysteries but shelving them out of order, because he never learned the alphabet. Which tells me that he probably learned to read before school.
                    However, I have no way of knowing.

                    1. Our son was the same way. Got it all out of his system between 4 and 5. Then became the quiet non-vocal one again. He talks. He definitely can’t be accused of being chatty.

                      Now my youngest sister, her youngest, our other sister’s 3rd and 4th children, all had the same problem … well okay, yes, intelligent smart kids and adults. But they all also suffered from older siblings syndrome … they didn’t have to talk as the older siblings translated for them. Youngest sister was the one the teacher told mom & dad she belonged in the remedial group or in “special school” (we’re all old enough that was a thing then) … the sister who got an Engineering scholarship to Stanford, was co-valedictorian of her class … She’s also the liberal in the family, but you know, no one is perfect …

      2. > some clever parent persuaded the legislature that G&T status was its own kind of disability

        Oh, BRAVO! That’s playing the system, right enough…

          1. “Diasabled” as in “failing to conform to current standards of normalcy?” I’d say so…

      3. Don’t get me started on the miseries endured by gifted kids condemned to the Government schools. It’s a twelve-year prison sentence, with half or more of your time wasted waiting for the rest of the class to catch up.

        The worst part is that there is work that can only be done by the highest-grade minds, given the best possible education. There’s a desperate shortage of those, and squandering them in Government-run prison schools is an obscene waste.

        1. This! So much this! I spent the last year or two in HS in the Honors and AE classes, and I was so grateful to move on into college … (and this was in the early 1970s, when the rot had not yet begun to set in) where bright students didn’t have to prove they were bright, over and over and over again! It was so liberating, college was. Like being freed from weights and blinders…

        2. They never caught up.

          Everything basically stopped at the third grade, and then we spent increasing amounts of every following year repeating variations on the third grade for the benefit of the ones who had failed it the third, fifth, or seventh time around…

          Sometimes each year’s schoolbooks would have the *same* make-work math problems as the year before, and the year before that.

      4. I was very blessed that my class had a lot of gifted kids from the rich & powerful of the county, and a lot of the wives of same were also teachers.
        So, we actually had a pretty good Honors & Gifted program in HS- Bio and Anatomy especially.

    2. …the Second Lieutenant With An Idea issue:…

      AKA “What IDIOT gave the L.T. a map AND a compass?”

      Which is why a solid NCO Corps is the bedrock of any successful military organization.

      (I say this as having been a Butter Bar myself, and survived the experience by being really lucky in the NCOs I had working “for” me).

    3. I was fairly amazed by the anti-cheating test booths in… forget if it was China, Korea, Japan… somewhere over there… designed to prevent all contact and sight of one’s test-taking neighbors. So it’s not like [wherever it was] doesn’t know their kids cheat. That OUR schools don’t know they cheat… that’s a problem.

      1. What makes you think our schools don’t know? They deliberately teach how to game tests, so by now I’d expect most administrations to tacitly encourage cheating.


  25. Our government seems intent on disincentivizing the population from actually working to make things better. Disenfranchizing the populace appears to be aimed at breaking the will of people actually doing good work so as to collect more power to the central government/planning authority.

  26. It has been several hours since this comment fell into the WP Void of Disappeared Remarks, so trying again, with sufficient addition to sidestep the “you’ve said that once already” “then why haven’t you freaking posted it, you miserable software abyss!” problem …

    Because humans are unpredictable …

    Well, you can reliably predict they will behave in ways nobody anticipated, would have anticipated, could have anticipated.

    For example, people in detention centers mistaking the bidet for a drinking fountain …

    OTOH, you can safely predict that a group of humans, presented with an array of buttons labeled “Do Not Touch” will not only touch the buttons but will do so in random and unanticipatable fashion.

  27. I’ve had people tell me that I’m the smartest person in [whatever]. I’m not. I have a very fast memory and read all sorts of things, with a brain that makes odd (or Odd) connections. Street smarts I’m pretty OK at, but I’m never the smartest person in [whatever]. But I am smart enough to know that you can’t perfect humans, nor can you build a perfect system so long as any humans are involved at any step of the process.

    Some days I wish Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of The Real World, rather than that other one.

        1. Calls to mind the old joke:
          Two campers come upon an angry bear. The first says, “I’m glad I wore my running shoes.” The second says, “you can’t outrun the bear.” The first says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”

          I know I am not particularly smart, but it is clear I am smarter than those around me.

          A fact which does surprisingly little to endear me to them.

  28. I’m of the view that Charisma matters more than Ideals to most people.
    So, a smart person may know better than the charismatic person on how to do something, but no one listens to the smart guy because he comes across as a know-it-all jerk and Debbie Downer. The charismatic guy seems to know what he’s doing, and is confident about it.
    So he gets followed to bad effect.

  29. Ticky box

    (And if you can not let the one with the other name out of moderation I would appreciate it.)

  30. I will never know as much about any of these things as people who are objectively — if such a thing is possible to measure — dumber than I, but who have devoted their lives to one of them.

    This right here is why I never thought of myself as smart growing up. (Still don’t, although I’ll admit to being a geek. I know I have processing power, I know I’m pretty good at holding on to random Useful Bits and finding a way to put them together that is novel, but that’s just what ALL the folks in my family do.)

    I actually GOT exposure to adults– so I knew, absolutely and objectively, that whatever I had that folks kept calling “smart” didn’t mean much for stuff I wanted to know about, Other People knew more about it than I did. I knew that I DID NOT AND DO NOT know more about a job than the guy doing it, until and unless I’d actually spent time doing it including seeing the results of my gdoings.

    1. I knew I was smarter. I had better processing power, I made better connections, and I kept my mouth shut. I was sick one year for three separate times for about two weeks each time. I was able to catch up with my schooling and homework in one day. But then, elementary school was pretty boring for me. I didn’t start to get interested in school until I had my first algebra class– and my first Shakespeare class.

  31. No matter what a governmental department — and I mean any nation — is supposed to do, over time their actions will be changed and decisions made so as to skew the numbers in their favor. Since inter-government people aren’t evaluated on profit (i.e. on how efficiently they use resources versus results) but on how good they look on paper everything is will be done to look good on paper.

    What lawful good people in that situation do?
    Stuff like put off huge, expensive upgrades that would seriously improve the productivity of some portion of their department until the end of the year, and then spend the “spend or lose” money on that.
    One example I’ve heard of is buying the guys who make spreadsheets a second screen–which sounds silly, until you consider that a second screen in a digital age is the same as having one of those yellow legal pad holders for typing. (And based off of my last Office Depot visit, only two or three times more expensive.)

    Or in the Navy, order the Deck department a second pair of boots.


    1. I have what amounts to a “do what thou wilt” directive from a client I do IT work for. I observed some of the clerks were continually switching windows moving from program to program and it was slowing them down, so I bought some more monitors and set them up so they had more screen area to arrange their workspace.

      Later a managerial type commented that she didn’t think the billing clerks needed two monitors, which resulted in the nearest of said clerks grabbing the monitors protectively and making hissing sounds…

      Well, honestly I didn’t expect the hiss either.

      In my experience most users are enthusiastic about *bigger* monitors, but they’re dismissive of the idea of multiple monitors until they use them for a few days, and then going back to one is “like trying to work while peering through a knothole.”

      When someone asked Terry Pratchett why he had six monitors (arranged in two rows of three), his reply was “Because I don’t have room for eight.”

      1. My father in law has a 34 inch curved screen– he loves it.

        Me? half the time I’ve got my laptop sitting my the computer so I can use it to do the “notepad” stuff– and I could totally see using a third one.

        I don’t know why, but splitting the display on a big monitor just doesn’tw ork for me.

      2. Yep, moving figures from one Excel doc to another, or from a scanned original is far more easier on two monitors.
        Whenever I’m traveling, and have to work on just my lappy, it’s like losing a limb.

      3. I’ve gotten to point where even though I have laptop and second monitor at home I always go into office for overtime work because two full size monitors and keyboard

  32. F.A. Hayek dealt with this very well. He was talking about economics, but the same principle is at work, because the problem is an information problem.

    Even if you had 100 copies of the Smartest Man In The World, the amount of information those 100 can have and process is miniscule. Infinitesimal. Compared to what 8 billion or so somewhat less intelligent folks can process. This will never, ever, ever change, any more than water is going to start flowing uphill.

    And, the principle is so freakin obvious I have to conclude that all the Smart People that haven’t figured it out, either aren’t all that smart, or have other motives.

    When we look around at what *really* works in the world, it is all “dumb”, but self-“correcting”, systems. Evolution. Thermodynamics. Economics. Etc.

    “Dumb”, self-correcting systems work, work well, work without intervention, and have tremendous resiliency and adaptability.

    “Smart”, externally-corrected systems tend to be more expensive, work poorly, are more brittle, require far more intervention and maintenance, and tend almost universally to eventually fail completely. These are what you get when you put The Smart People in charge.

    1. Time delay is also important.

      Also, you can’t make personal decisions for 300 million people without a huge bureaucracy. You will have bureaucrats with the personal affairs of so many people to manage that they can’t care about any one’s welfare or so many layers of bureaucracy that you effectively have no recourse if someone is arbitrarily screwing you over. Or and.

      Smart does not mean good.

      There’s a fundamental limit to the size of a group of people someone can really care about. ‘If the Czar only knew’ is inherently flawed. 10,000 or more individuals, the best you can get is indifference, or vague uninformed good feeling. Throw an extremely smart person at that being informed/caring/decision making task. If you are fortunate, they will find way for it to take little of their attention. If they must spend their attention? Bored, frustrated, perhaps angry.

      1. Smart does not mean good.

        intransitive verb
        1: to cause or be the cause or seat of a sharp stinging pain
        also : to feel or have such a pain

        2a: to feel or endure distress, remorse, or embarrassment

        b: to pay a heavy or stinging penalty

    2. > Infinitesimal. Compared to what 8 billion or so somewhat less intelligent folks can process.

      None of them are going to come up with calculus or quantum mechanics.

      1. RAH wrote that a culture progresses at the speed of its great men. He said that the form of govt. wasn’t even that important, so long as it afforded those men freedom to operate.

        1. Both the action of individual genius and the massively parallel processing of large numbers come into play in different areas. In the one hand, there are things that require individual genius, where no amount of others will suffice as s replacement. On the other, when it comes to complex systems like, say, the economy, no individual genius or even reasonably sized group of “top men” can possibly manage it as well as the millions of people who function in the economy each with the specialized knowledge of their particular activity regulated by prices in a free market (or at least a mostly free market).

          Neither can individual genius replace the interactions of those millions, nor can those millions replace individual genius. Both are required for a healthy, growing, advancing society.

          1. If I understand fully, RAH’s “great men” occur as “black swans” neither frequent nor predictable, nor summonable. Often not even recognized by the culture they are changing for the better.Case in point: Norman Borlaug. Not one in 100 knows who he is. World wide: not one in 10,000. I went to great schools and had an education parents pray fervently for their kids to have. (I was lucky as can be.) Yet I never once heard his name. Not ONCE.

            1. Yep. The “heroes” as Rufo termed them in Glory Road, are not predictable and don’t show up on demand and, as he said, pretty much any system can work so long as it has enough looseness for the heroes to do their thing.*

              But here’s the other thing, Rufo was, perhaps selling short all the non-heroes just doing what they can in their own lives whether it’s shuffling papers for the local corporation or as Heinlein had Lazarus Long portray so prosaically “pushing an idiot stick”.

              *This, of course, would eliminate many systems which, by their very nature, don’t allow that “looseness.”

            2. …and America has crafted an “educational system” that actively tries to stamp out any of those people when it finds them.

  33. Suppose you wanted to create a “smart” system to control a furnace to keep the room temperature at a chosen value. You could develop a controller that considered how good the insulation is, what the outside temperatures are, what the winds are, what the BTU content of the fuel is, and put these factors together to decide how to run the furnace. It wouldn’t work very well, even with today’s computing and sensor technology, there would always be something missing: like people going in and out, opening and closing a door.

    And you couldn’t have done it that way at all in 1883, which is when the thermostat was invented. The actual basic thermostat is a pretty dumb device: if it’s too cold, turn the furnace ON. If it’s too warm, turn the furnace OFF. A nice example of a self-correcting system.

    Feedback systems do have their limitations, though. It was found during WWII that servo systems for heavy guns tended to overcorrect, due to the inertia of the mass being swung around. Lots of mathematical and engineering cleverness was needed to solve this and similar problems. Similarly, feedback systems in economics and society can also overcorrect and oscillate.

    A system that is all ‘feedforward’, though, is unlikely to work except in the very simplest of cases.

    1. > And you couldn’t have done it that way at all in 1883,

      There was no great reason to, at least for larger buildings and factories. They had boiler operators, and controlling temperature was only one of their many tasks. And they’re still a thing, even if room radiators might have individual electronic controls now.

      Temp control was “free”, given the boilers needed full-time operators (often by law) anyway, so there wasn’t any great pressure to develop a sophisticated control system.

      It’s not just technology that limits the way things are done. Which is why I get annoyed by idiots like Don Norman’s tirade against outward-opening doors in “The Design of Everyday Things.” No, moron, the architect had no control over that; that’s something covered by the local building code.

  34. Dumb people: “We need smart people to show us the way!”

    Smart people: “Let’s just do that thing which failed miserably every other time it was tried, only this time with good intentions.”

    1. I’m surprised it’s not up earlier in the thread, and I’m sure everyone here has heard or read it – recently.

      No matter what or how many examples you use: “But that wasn’t real socialism. We’re going to do it right!”

    2. Allegedly smart people.

      I may simply be crazy, or inclined to over value analytical strength. I do not understand how, with the information we have available now, any even moderately intelligent person of mild curiosity could have failed to work out that we have some popular consensus models of how intelligence works that are most likely wrong.

      A lot fails a simple test of ‘but really, if that is the case, how would it actually work’.

        1. There are things so stupid that only smart educated people will believe them.

          There, fixed that for ya.
          Not everybody should go to college. Some folks, you send ’em to college and you just wind up with an educated idiot.

      1. As Sarah said elsewhere here, many (perhaps most) very smart people can’t really conceive of the depths of stupid that can be plumbed by humans. On top of that, you have many of these smart people run in very like-thinking groups.

        Given those two conditions, you get people who look around, think of something that will work for themselves and all of their friends (at least, as those people SEE their friends), and they think it will work for everyone. Their ignorance of the broader world does not invalidate their intelligence, but it does invalidate their supposed wisdom.

        1. Maybe it’s a misplaced humility thing?

          “I can do this– clearly, ANYBODY can do it, if they would just try.”

          …which does tend to get poisonous, when folks apply it to those who have been trying, for years, but just CAN’T, and decide that they’re not “really” trying.

          1. There were things in my old profession that I found “obvious” that others (also in that profession) didn’t find “obvious”.

            I never decided if it was “intelligence” or a “difference in our brains work”.

            Oh slightly off topic, something that has stuck in my mind is “yes it was simple but who told you simple was easy”. 😉

            1. “E=MC^2! Even a child could memorize it!”

              Turning that into hooking the local reactor into the power grid… “It’s complicated…”

  35. I had a close-up look at the German medical system too when I became ill with Wegener’s Granulomatosis in 2003. They have a public system (comes from the taxes) and a private system. I was in the private system when Tricare put me out of the Landstuhl hospital and into a German teaching hospital. The folks in the private system were being financed by several members of their family. I was there almost five weeks. Anyway– when someone wants to have a fully public system in the US siting the European and Scandinavian system, I know they don’t fully understand what goes on there.

    1. When I was in college in Germany, several of us carried little cards saying: “in case of emergency take me to [private hospital in next town].” The regional public hospital was, ah, infamous.

    2. They either expect little interaction other than routine stuff that is no different than what was done in fifties (I broke my arm and was in and out in a day vs major surgery getting pushed years) or they have expensive illnesses and don’t realize that the rationing method will just change.

      1. I am in a chronic illness community. That group that they would get better healthcare. What has actually happened is that these folks are now seeing rationing. They used to be able to contact medical research companies and get expensive treatment for much much less. Now it is harder to get that kind of help.

          1. yep. And when I told them what was going to happen, they wouldn’t listen. So I had to retire from the groups for a few months until the horror stories started. *sigh

              1. About that …

                The Wages of Socialized Medicine — Overworked General Practitioners
                By Wesley J. Smith
                I am in London on a brief sojourn and a story in the Daily Telegraph struck me as highly relevant to the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren push for socialized medicine, which they call “Medicare for All” (but which is really “Medicaid for All”). It turns out, new GPs in the U.K. plan to only work part time because the existing work load on the country’s GPs is untenable. Headline, “Full-Time GPs a Thing of the Past, Says New Chief Director.” Get these statistics:

                He [Prof. Martin Marshall]told The Daily Telegraph, “I think what this signals is that the job of a GP is now undoable on a full time basis. The idea that we can see 50, 60, 70 patients a day, five days a week, is crazy.

                No kidding! Assuming a rate of 60 patients in a ten-hour day, that’s 6 per hour, meaning each patient gets ten minutes of the doctor’s time! And that doesn’t allow for bathroom breaks or filling out paper work.


                A different story noted that last month, 5.8 million patients had to wait more than two weeks to see their GPs after booking an appointment. Awful.

                I understand that Medicaid for All would not construct a NHS in the U.S. But it would impose utter centralized control by the federal bureaucracy on our entire healthcare system and result in the distortions and inadequacies inherent in such sclerotic socialized schemes. The U.S. has a doctor shortage too. Pass Medicaid for All and our own difficulties are almost certain to get worse.

                1. We’re constantly getting emails and brochures through the mail, from our insurance, for essentially “medicine by phone”. Have a cold or flu? Don’t call your doctor, call us. Aches & pains … call us. Can’t sleep at night. Sleep all day? You guessed it … call us. Seriously, what it does is remind me I need to make a general appointment.

                  Tempted to call them. Maybe they can give me procedures to deal with the RH or migraines …

                  Bottom line. Methinks they are going with the “you don’t want us to go away. You really, really, don’t.” FWIW. Our insurance is through hubby’s Union, retiree version. Not bad. $480/month for the two of us. $2250 out of pocket each annually ($250 deductible). I don’t have vision or dental. Hubby does as he is on medicare too. Another 2 years before we can reasonably look at other options. Right now it would be almost $800/month and triple out of pocket, just for me; uh, wait, what? Why?

          2. What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass.

            ― Lord Melbourne

        1. Back during the Hillarycare debate one of the most interesting observations I heard (on NPR before they went mad) was that in almost all instances the “most cost effective treatment” entailed permitting (or assisting in) the patient’s death.

          Judging by the growth in assisted suicide advocacy there were many people who took that to heart.

          1. Assisted suicide advocacy, DNR/advanced medical directive encouragement, reduction in painkiller prescriptions even when clearly indicated…….

            All of it making life unbearable and death easy.

            1. tell them you are in constant pain and want it to stop, they write down ‘medication seeking’ and move on

              1. I’ve heard of a case where a doctor had to be threatened with a lawyer to get the prescription for insulin before the appointment. The insulin a patient would have died without. But it hit all the checkboxes for “medication seeking.”

                1. I’ve literally sat there ans watched a VA doc write down ‘medication seeking’ then deny that was what he just wrote… to which i told him 1: i can get a copy of the page he just filled out any time (so yeah, he then suddenly admits that was what he wrote) and 2: no, i don’t want medication, i want my legs to stop hurting.

                  1. You got a good one. Long-term friend of mine suffered from a TBI while in the USAF, and has been fighting to get her records corrected for years. At one point in her dealings with them, she had them pull a “temporary psychological commitment” that lasted for three weeks because she was “non-compliant with treatment” and “displaying Oppositional Defiance Syndrome”. She doesn’t trust the VA, and I don’t blame her.

                    1. > Oppositional Defiance Syndrome

                      [looks it up on the web]

                      So, “obey or we’ll slime you.” They already shot that wad when I was in public school.

                      Now I’m an adult, and cranky, and tolerably well-informed, and I welcome the chance to slime them right back. I’d be willing to adopt it as a new hobby.

                    2. No. “Obey or we’ll sign commitment papers.” And they did. She was single, alone, and effectively had no one with “standing” to say a thing.

                    3. “You expressed suicidal ideation. We’re witnesses. Of course we didn’t record this interview.” Think what Flynn’s going through with the FBI 302s.

                2. I experienced that behavior personally. My doctor openly admitted he was doing it to force me to schedule an appointment. We quickly established who worked for whom.

        2. I didn’t say they were correct. And think a little more troublesome in the diabetes and such. Insulin isn’t new, even if formulations are and there isnt realization that edicts from on high don’t help.

          It sux

  36. reminds me of when in Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the end the government tells Indy that they have Top Men working on the ark… and it is being rolled off into a matte painting warehouse…

    I’d rather it be sitting in that warehouse than have Top Men working on it.

    But we all know that the Assistant Undersecretary for Ancient Artifacts would have either given someone a grant to work in it by now and Chicago or something would have gotten wiped off the map, or the government would have decided to auction off everything in that warehouse in lots and not looked on the contents- everything in there is from WW2 or before, deemed declassified, sell it all.

      1. Hey, it works great for ants and termites!

        Which says much about how socialists see other people. They see themselves as the queen, of course.

  37. Sara: I have Four Laws to deal with this.
    1. Socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices.
    2. Admininstraive state cannot work because 10,000 bureaucrats cannot outdo 1,000,000 producers and consumers.
    3. Regulation cannot work because of “regulatory capture.”
    4. Government programs cannot work because you can never reform them.

  38. Pingback: IT SEEMS MY PROBLEM IS THAT I DON’T BELIEVE IN THESE:  The Best People…. – The usa report
  39. > I’ve long observed the very smart CANNOT believe in stupidity beyond a certain level.

    It’s not so much that we can’t – but that we don’t WANT to.

    And there is very little that can make someone with a great deal of intelligence believe other than they want to believe. Unless they are particularly full of self-loathing, self-doubt and/or self-awareness (depending on how you feel emotionally about being in a constant state of flux of how to respond to your own consciousness), the desires of the heart guide aggressively the engine of the mind.

    For those rare few who cannot avoid the belief in the stupidity of true human capability, there is a sort of resigned, overly attached sense of irony one develops to help deaden the pain. No answer is so stupid that it couldn’t be expected, and if it wasn’t, the fault is yours and not theirs.

    It is a particularly painful way to live – but it turns out that most of the people responsible for the systems that work in our lives, however intermittently, walk around with that look on their face every day.

    1. Eh, I don’t even think I’m extraordinarily smart, but I had to have my nose rubbed in how dumb people can be, forcefully and repeatedly, before I really believed it.

  40. “That said, my feeling of inferiority is tempered by the fact I often correct the English of one, the history of another and that I’ve read more than husband, (it being part of my job.) so I can pull up examples of things he was unaware of.”
    That’s as far as I got. Immediately, this sprang to mind: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

    1. First, kudos on not merely wishing I should die like most other trolls.
      Second, Dear Ms. Grammar Person, I won’t plead “Well, what you’re reading is my writing in my third language first learned at fourteen” because that won’t wash. I’m a professionally published author, both fiction and non fiction and I have taught English at the college level in the US. However these posts are written either late at night or early morning and NOT PROOFREAD.
      Why would someone do that, you ask clutching your pearls. Well, because the ideas need to be got out and THIS IS NOT MY JOB AND DOESN’T PAY ME. I do get donations, mostly amounting to a few nice dinners out with the family. That’s it.
      You want a perfectly grammatical, proofread blog post? PAY ME.
      Not willing to do that? Show me your unedited first drafts, cupcake.

    2. I’m sorry you’re so completely unable to function in the real world. After all, if you couldn’t get beyond that minor slip, it’s utterly impossible to imagine you don’t pass out from the vapors on an hourly basis, if not more often.

      1. To Tom, I function perfectly well in the real world and have done so for the past 74 years, not once suffering from the vapors. Thanks for your concern but there’s no need to be sorry.
        To accordingtohoyt, congratulations on your career, especially given that English is your third language and was first learned at fourteen. (I know you’ve affixed a disclaimer to that piece of information but it’s like a judge telling a jury to ignore a disputed piece of evidence — they can’t.)
        I don’t clutch pearls or any other type of jewellery; I don’t even wear a watch. Also, the “Ms.” honorific is misplaced. My gender is male. Was it the Graphite or the Gil in my nom de plume that caused confusion? Either way, it seems a strange assumption to make.
        If you truly believe “the ideas need to be got out” and you’re happy for them to be carried in a sloppily constructed form then carry on. It’s your blog. I happen to disagree with the importance of the message so won’t be taking up your offer to exchange cash for a proofread version.
        But rest easy, I won’t return.
        I came to your blog via Instapundit, which a day or so ago linked to a story in the Evening Standard, headlined “Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won’ “.
        I empathise with the old guy who has decided to throw in the towel; a tsunami of sloppiness and ignorance have swept through English, the main source traceable to the internet and blogs with high school and college-level teachers of the language also due their share of the blame.
        To Foxfier: I don’t know about being magically fallacious but in my youth, many decades ago now, I was once magically fellated. Does that count?

        1. To Tom, I function perfectly well in the real world and have done so for the past 74 years, not once suffering from the vapors. Thanks for your concern but there’s no need to be sorry.

          That’s fair. You’re sorry enough for the both of us.

          Even if I doubt everything you just said. No one gets that worked up about a less than stellarly constructed sentence like that without being either disingenuous and came here with an ax to grind or completely incapable of functioning in society in this day and age.

          Now, it’s possible that you’re just a disingenuous twit, but I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. The question is whether that’s the right course of action or not with you.

          I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.

        2. It’s hilarious that you think acting like a haughty, condescending fuckwit is going to impress or intimidate anybody.

          Keep sniffing and talking down to everybody. See if it gets you anything you want.

          Also, nobody believes you ever got a blow job, unless you were double-jointed in your youth and gave it to yourself.

          1. It’s hilarious that you think acting like a haughty, condescending fuckwit is going to impress or intimidate anybody.

            Ah-ha! Behold, I spot a den full of geeks, those who have been verbally and socially abused their live-long days– I shall now go and attempt to verbally abuse them!

            Clearly, this is a great tactic!

        3. But rest easy, I won’t return.

          Well, thanks be.

          We’ve got a nice load of folks with good will who still manage to be cantankerous, combative, debative, and generally poke things they generally would be better off not.

          We don’t need folks who whine because the free sandwich isn’t their favorite.

        4. To Foxfier: I don’t know about being magically fallacious but in my youth, many decades ago now, I was once magically fellated. Does that count?

          What, only action you ever got was Lucky giving you a blow job, maybe while stoned out of your mind?

          Oh, wait– I’m supposed to be, like, impressed or horrified by the mention of (gasp!) sexual activity, right? Run off like some kind of a puppy after a ball?


          Grow up, man-child. That wasn’t even particularly clever.

        5. First off, English is not one language, but an agglomeration of about a dozen, which means, you pimple on an abscess, that the grammar is entirely mutable. Clarity matters far more than arbitrary rules.

          Second, which style manual would you prefer Our Host use? APA, MLA, Associated Press (my preferred), the Chicago Manual of Syle *spit*, the New York Times Manual *gag*?

          All of these have differing opinions on grammar, punctuation, attribution, etc.

          Then too, she does not get paid for these posts. I have been for 20 of the last 30 years of my career a professional editor. How much do you personally, you canker on a hemorrhoid, propose to pay her to hire ME to edit these posts which she does for free?

          If in 74 years you’ve not learned that which truly matters (hint: it is not the occasional lapse in grammar by someone who is writing in their third language) I fear you are beyond hope, but are merely a pedantic rectal prolapse.

        6. > It’s your blog.

          Yes, it is.

          Now would you be so kind as to point us to your own blog, that we might become entertained and enlightened?

    3. That’s as far as I got. Immediately, this sprang to mind: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

      Because you’re magically fallacious?

      Her boys aren’t fainting violets.

      Her husband is her match.

      If she was wrong about it, they’d let her know.

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