The Precious Child


As a civilization, the West has probably the lowest sustained childbearing rate of any civilization  in history.  Even Rome in the Empire had a low fertility rate only among the uppermost crust of society.  (And for much the same reason our fertility is so low — well, except for contraceptives. —  Rewards, advancement and the ability to ensure a comfortable life accompanied a low number of children, instead, as throughout most of history, the opposite.)

I’m discounting in this case China, where the rate of child bearing was imposed from above and Japan which suffers from “the defeated country’s disease” which tends to lead to adopting the culture of the victor at least as much as possible, and limiting the number of children.

I am speaking of a lot of individual decisions leading to a very low birthrate.  I will add only that part of it might be the fact we were propagandized with a fake “population crisis” for about the same time we’ve had the ability to artificially limit our number of offspring.  (And perhaps if nothing else, this latest debacle will teach us everything about how crisis are manufactured.  Well, either that or we’re not to last long.)

I do not know how long our society can subsist with this low a rate of childbearing, particularly as a large percentage of those born is born to people who have neither the skills nor the mindset to raise them as productive citizens, since they are themselves wards of the state.

While I disagree with a close friend on this bespeaking genetic disaster — mostly because I don’t believe genetics relates that directly to intelligence and behavior.  While there is undeniably a linkage between genetics and genius, or genetics and imbecility, I think there’s a lot of room in the muddled middle, and also that geniuses and morons are not those who drive civilization. The middle is. And the middle is mostly shaped and bent by culture. In this case we’re getting more of what we pay for — I agree it’s not optimal for maintaining civilization and that it does speak doom without a change in culture.

But more importantly, our lack of children is twisting the way we do raise the ones we have and — itself — bending the culture in some ways which will, by themselves, kill it.

Look, some of the fact we don’t consider our children disposable creates good changes.

Take my paternal grandfather. He had a series of issues (which he passed on larger or smaller degrees) which I now know from watching my younger son, means he almost certainly had sensory issues.  In elementary school, this leads to slowness in writing, an atrocious handwriting, and absent exercises to ameliorate it, issues reading. It makes sense too because grandad was the youngest of a bunch of brothers, so likely born when his parents were in their mid to late thirties. It is my guess that if they had kept going the next child would have been full blow autistic.

Well, my great grandparents who had sons in university looked at their youngest son and said “I guess he’s not smart enough. Let’s apprentice him to a carpenter.”

Now, from talking to grandad I can tell you he was probably as smart as younger son. And as he grew he overcame most of his issues (as did I, only girls overcome them earlier. And also failing at school was not an option, as my parents only had two children.) as most children with those issues do.  And he wasn’t unhappy as a carpenter.

However, faced with the same issues in younger son, who almost managed to fail sixth grade (though there was bullying and other issues involved) I looked at it and said, “Oh, H*ll no” or something like, and we pushed and prodded until I found a specialist who diagnosed his issues and who could create an apparatus to allow him to hear normally.  As for the writing and reading, I trained him until he could do it with no problems.

All of which are good things because, though we’d have been fine had he chosen to be a carpenter or a mechanic, I wanted him to be able to do what he wanted to.  A little awkwardness remains, particularly in group situations, which I know — and he knows — he has to work through, as it’s hard to follow a group conversation when all the sounds come at you at once.  (He has discarded the hearing filter, though they do make them for adults, but he would prefer not to wear it now….)

However there is another side to this.

I was reading a book on the regency (Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson)  and she was largely sensible and not particularly West-hating (though somewhat, but you have to look for it, which is good in the liberal arts.)

It was only when we reached the talk about how children were brought up that made me want to beat her on the head repeatedly, hoping some fossilized sense would fall into her brain.

Though the book was written in the eighties (or early nineties), it already showed signs of “all too precious child” and “let’s protect them into ninnies.”

Now, I’m not going to defend things like the practice of chimney sweeps of using tiny kids to clean chimneys until the kids ran away or died.  I’ll just say not only was it a cruel age, but that the absence of technology to do certain chores means that societies often resort to unpalatable means to accomplish them.  I have in the past said there is a correlation between lack of industrialization and slavery, and I stand by it. In the same way a society that has no other means of cleaning the only source of heat they have — and one which can cause great fires if not cleaned — does lead to a lot of what a more comfortable society will call atrocities.

As for small children working in the mills, I will only say that those same children were employed in farms in worse ways.

I’ll also say that we know from diaries of people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries  and before that very small children were capable of working in ways we can’t imagine even our pre-teens being.

For instance six year olds were often entrusted with pasturing the family’s flocks or looking after livestock.

Even in intellectual attainment children far surpassed our children.  And this with worse nutrition and health care.

And this is where the book made me want to beat the author, who thought it was cruel and horrible that upperclass children were taught intellectual attainments “beyond their years” by being taught Greek, Latin and made to memorize a lot of things so they had the equivalent of a college education by the time of ten or twelve.

Look, while I did not get taught Greek and Latin, I grew up in a traditional society where I was made to memorize very long poems and learn pretty much everything they thought an adult should know by 10 (This because most people didn’t go past fourth grade.)  And I can tell you not only didn’t it destroy me, but there is now reason to believe that memorizing things in childhood trains your memory, the same as running around trains your muscles.  While the poetry memorized in childhood might be pointless, it trains you to learn the records and craft of your occupation later on.

And this, I think, is the worst part of our almost-childless society.

You see, if you learn enough history, you eventually learn about some set of royals that had only one, late conceived child.  That child, both as a child and as an adult is largely useless. Often it all comes to a bad end because of him.

And that’s the issue.  We’ve got so few children that each of them is “the all too precious child.” I.e. the only one on whom all hopes and dreams of the adults around him/her rest.

This leads us to mollycoddle the poor child and at the same time drive him/her insane by expecting only great things.  Look no further, either for the watering down of our education the A for existing, or the helicopter parents.  Or for that matter for the proliferation of useless degrees, so that the all too precious child can earn one, no matter how unsuited he or she is to academic learning.

Also look no further for the origin of the stories we hear about twenty somethings who constantly need “mental health days” and can’t be criticized.

We’re raising a generation of “end of royal line” kids.  And while some escape (my own, I think) it takes great effort both on the part of the parents, and the part of the kid, who needs to be a stubborn cuss (thank heavens) to break away from such a pattern.

Worse yet, the fact that each of us has one of two children on whom the hopes of all generations still living (and we have very long lives these days) rest, has made us a civilization of wusses.

I’ve said before that the reason that Europe hasn’t gone jackboots (an arguably good thing, perhaps) yet is that they are too old.  But it’s not just that. It’s that they don’t want to risk the dwindling number of children and grandchildren each family has.

When you have seven children, you can contemplate losing one or two to war, or some sort of difficult service with equanimity.  You’ll still hurt, of course — as who doesn’t — but it is not a killing blow to the parent who has lost his only chance at progeny outliving him.

To risk losing your only child, or one of your two children is something quite different.

Every time I see a tiny kid in a mask (which not only isn’t needed as healthy people under 20 don’t die of Winnie the Flu, but also will have the deleterious effect of cutting airflow) I’m reminded of to what extent our current panic was instigated by the media highlighting the very few deaths of under-20s of this illness — all of which are either of very ill under-20s OR even outright lies, as in children who died of abuse but who tested positive being said to die of Chinese lung rot — and how that drove people to kill the economy, and keeps them terrified.

They are holding us hostage over the fear of losing our children and young people. A very powerful fear because we have so few of them.

It is the same fear that has halted — more or less — manned space exploration, as no one is willing to risk human life, even in a very needed endeavor.  Safety First might be a great motto for kindergarten. It is not a great motto for a space program.

In the same way, young humans are born with the need to risk themselves, to try new things, to make an effort at going beyond the safe confines. It is part of who we are and what drives us as a species.

I think it is that drive being continually thwarted that creates a lot of the oikophobia amid our young.  If the most dangerous thing they can do is “activism” and glorifying cultures they know nothing about, as well as a lot of sexual and psychological nonsense, well, that’s what they’ll do.

It is easy to say “Have three children. Have four” and that is indeed the cure for what hails us as a society. I bet if we did that, it would in fact cure a lot of our porblems, including, maybe, some we’re not aware of having.

But pulling up out of the nose dive is more than “just pull back on the controls and the plane will right itself.”

In fact, because we have so few children and protect them so much, it takes longer to attain maturity, which means they marry later, which in turn, in the inescapable logic of biology, means they’ll have fewer children.

Sure, our reproductive technology gets better every year, and maybe we’ll get lucky.

But the solution is not going to be instant or easy.

Teach your children well.  And teach them we need more children.  Not only is the earth not overpopulated, but we’ll never get to space this way.

Sure. If this goes on some other culture will populate the Earth and take over, but it might be one that will never reach for space, or minimize human misery as much as we have.

Be not afraid. And try to teach your children as if they weren’t the only and all too precious child.

And if anyone tries to tell you that they can’t learn that much before ten or that teaching them is cruel, beat the person with an umbrella.
What the children of the past could learn is not a measure of cruelty. It’s a measure of how much we’ve infantilized our own offspring.

Evolution doesn’t work that fast.  What the nineteenth century was capable of, we are also.

We just need to stop babying ourselves, and our babies.




519 thoughts on “The Precious Child

  1. The United States has a high percentage of children surviving into (sorta) adulthood, which ought probably be factored into birth rate calculations. Societies in which every child is expected to survive childhood have an obviously lower incentive to having multiples of babies.

    Which is only around the edges of the argument and misses the main point almost entirely.

  2. Okay, but modern umbrellas are unsuitable for beating with. Almost all of them are made in China, they are light in weight, flimsy, and full of fiddly bits that break off easily. You’d just wind up with a broken umbrella and a most unsatisfactory beating.
    “I warn you, Marielle, do not be overconfident. If I were married to Londo Mollari, I’d be concerned.”

    “G’Kar. If you were married to Londo Mollari, we’d all be concerned.”

      1. I got one of their factory seconds several years back.

        It’s an excellent umbrella, and has not been any the worse for wear for having the end shut in the card door several times. (I stitched a hanger for it, so that I could basically wear it on my belt, like a sword. I have not yet mastered the art of getting myself, and my sword in the car without shutting one of us in the door.)

    1. I prefer a good hickory cane as most suitable to deliver a thrashing. OTOH, the aluminum Hurry-cane is best used as a cane. (It’s a good one though, at least after I applied teflon tape to keep it from trying to refold itself.)

      1. I have a nice winter walking stick… with a sharp pointed foot, suitable for stabbing into, um, ice. (I suppose you could use a headless nail in any sturdy stick, but this was purpose-built.) And it was a found stick, so the price was right. 🙂

        1. The Bugbear and I have been on the lookout for a good stout walking stick for him. The problem is that many/most of them are flimsy, and made for men several inches shorter than he. And we on occasion find something suitable, we also find they are quite expensive.

          That might also be because we were wondering antiques shops in the French Quarter though.

          1. Just cut a sapling or a straight branch, and buy or concoct a foot for it. Willow is light but stiffens up nicely. Elm has more heft, should one desire to smack heads. When I was a kid I always had a willow walking stick, made from any likely-looking tree or discard. If you want more character, mature honeysuckle (peeled, polished, and oiled) makes a nice gnarled stick.

            found on eBay, $15 shipped. Same style as on mine, but these look tougher. They come in various sizes to fit any stick. Run a nail all the way through and bend it over to prevent the tip from coming off.

            1. Back in the day I somehow acquired a bait of picking a nice stick, peeling the bark, sanding it silky-smooth and rubbing it well with linseed oil. Made a mighty fine looking walking stick.

    2. Why, in the names of all the old gods of Éire, would you beat someone with umbrella. Use a hurley. Or better yet, a shillelagh. Or better yet, your fists!

          1. Here in Oregon – it’s the out of state people who use umbrellas.


            1. (Considers.) We have an umbrella in each of the Subies, I think. Maybe. Not sure about the truck. I can’t recall the last time any of them have been used. In the high country, any rain sufficient to warrant an umbrella is accompanied by wind sufficient to destroy said umbrella. ‘Sides, these are folders, and barring a concealed firearm therein (*Not* being done here!) a folding umbrella’s effectiveness as a weapon is limited.

              If it’s raining with serious intent and I’m going to be out in it, I’ll grab a jacket more-or-less suitable for rain. The only Goretex one is a bit small for layers, so it’s limited in utility.

          2. I’ve done the math. When it is raining hard enough to justify opening an umbrella it is raining hard enough that between the time spent opening the umbrella going out my door and closing the umbrella getting into the car I am still getting soaked.

            Similarly, it eventually dawned on me that I had never been fast enough to run between raindrops and all I was accomplishing by trying was getting out of breath — assuming I didn’t slip in a puddle and face plant.

            So now I plod sullenly through the rain, secure in the knowledge I have survived baing rained on previously and can trust I will do so once more.

            1. I used to do some motorcycle touring. After playing with various rain suits, I just brought along a large ziplock plastic bag. If it started to rain I’d put my watch, wallet, and hanky in the bag and get drowned. When it stopped raining, I got blow-dried. The guys with the rain suits got just as wet, except they had to judge when to stop and put the suit on, then take it off later, and deal with the soaked rainsuit in their luggage.

              1. I wear an Olympia riding suit that is “waterproof” but when unzipped cool enough for Texas temps.
                my rain gear was mostly used for cold weather
                It hasn’t gotten much use up here. Too cold. I also have a Bilt Cycle Gear adventure two piece that the cold weather liner is about glued into the jacket. Both jacket and pants were needed this morning. 29 when I left for work.
                But my mesh gear was often all I had, and rain was dealt with by tossing the phone and wallet into a fairing pocket, and hot weather dried me fast, as did 75-80(+)mph😁

          1. Lead is so…so common. Tungsten is almost twice as dense. For maximum effect, use osmium, the densest normal substance.

            I guess somebody has finally settled the long-running controversy of whether osmium or iridium has the highest density.

            1. Since the “filled with lead” involved melting and pouring the lead into the drilled hole in the walking stick, osmium and especially tungsten would be…contraindicated. Lead just carbonizes the wood a bit and “heat etches” along grain boundaries, filling in cavities so that it’s actually pretty securely held in place if done right.

        1. AND NOT my fists. I’m 57. They might break.

          The other day I had a scene show up in my head and go on an epic rant…at the guys beating him up. they were doing it wrong.

          (Yes, I tried to write it down; no, it didn’t come out so well)

  3. Jerry Pournelle in one (or more) of the “Survival with Style” essays collected in the first part of A Step Farther Out noted that affluence in a society was inversely correlated with fertility. There are sound economic reasons for that to be the case. In a “poor” society (generally one with an economy based around labor intensive non-mechanized farming and handicrafts) children are producers in the family economy from a very young age. They work the fields. They tend the chickens (or whatever). They spin. They sew. They generally contribute to the family economy. In richer (more industrialized and technological) societies, children are a net drain on the family economy until much later in life. A cost rather than a benefit economically speaking.

    And the more technological societies, requiring more years of education, while at the same time requiring more mobility (go where the jobs are, or where the training is) so that the “extended family household” falls by the wayside, means that it takes longer for people to be ready to start raising a family of their own.

    Now, people don’t generally (or maybe they do–but they don’t have to) add up a balance sheet on any planned children but the incentive is there and well “Don’t have children if you can’t afford them” is oft given advice. Some people are willing to “deprive” themselves in other areas because they want and treasure children. Others…less so (I remember the term “DINK”). And there are some people who find, even in an industrial/technological economy, economic advantages to having more children.

    But the result of changing economies often is reflected in a change in fertility–delayed childbirth, fewer children on average per woman, and so on.

    Obviously, this isn’t the only factor. No one factor can explain, or even describe, something like child rearing and family life, but it’s one that appears to be strong enough that the correlation of birthrate to affluence between societies is very strong.

    1. And the more technological societies, requiring more years of education, while at the same time requiring more mobility (go where the jobs are, or where the training is) so that the “extended family household” falls by the wayside, means that it takes longer for people to be ready to start raising a family of their own.

      A thought that came to mind– our household has gotten a lot of advantage out of our mobility, which in an utterly bass-ackwards way came from our…uh…steam punk traditional?… lifestyle.

      I manage the household, he works for pay; we have a “lot” of kids, “too fast,” we homeschool and even that we do “wrong” because I don’t use a curriculum, we don’t have a co-op, we’ve had three different homeschool groups minimum depending on how you count… all of which means that we are looking for a lower demand type of house (yes yard, yes internet, don’t care about school district or TV subscription options and Odd Farm Smells are a plus, while ‘walkable to shopping’ is a minus because humans)

      We could move without more than regret because neither of us had deep family ties in the areas. Which, yes, means a LOT more work…but me being home also means that I’ve got time, and technology covers a lot of the stuff. (laundry!)

      Maybe society is adapting? This is roughly a hundred years after cars and the mobility they grant (and all the related technology aids) got going.

  4. This is definitely off-topic (I haven’t even read today’s essay yet, my bad!), but in the depths of last night, even before the hour of the wolf (YO!), Our Gracious Hostess made mention of Obama the Lightworker during her Instapundit overnight shift, and said “a friend gave him as The Traitor President in her sf novel” … and sadly, did not identify said novel. So how about it, Mrs. Hoyt? Want to give your friend a quick and easy sale? I’m game! Much appreciated in advance!

    1. Kate Paulk, but I don’t think she ever finished that novel? Unless it’s the one I’m supposed to be editing, and then we went into lockdown and I lost my mind….
      BUT I should do it this week.

  5. A couple of factors which act to inhibit families with more than 1 child:

    –government policies which have driven up the cost of education and housing…for example, dysfunctional and sometimes dangerous public schools that require families to either move to a (usually more expensive) neighborhood with better schools, or pay for private education on top of the taxes they are paying to support the public schools.

    –the expectation that anyone who wants a serious professional career needs a post-college education. Those 2,4, or 6 in grad school or law school or whatever are an absolute killer at the intersection of the fertility window and the career window.

    Not the only factors, but I bet the account for a big piece of the phenomenon.

    1. This may sound frivolous compared to those major issues, but… car seats. Anybody who wants more than two children who have to be strapped into car seats pretty much has to buy a huge car to tote them around in. And the age at which they’re supposed to be in booster seats keeps going up.

      Restaurants. (Remember restaurants?) Tables and chairs designed for a family of no more than four. Bring all three (or more) kids and be prepared for sighs and complaints while the staff drags the furniture around to accommodate your unreasonably large family. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the only two restaurants we visit that are set up for larger family groups are the Tex-Mex places.

      Schools. Public schools operate on the assumption that each child comes with one adult who is fully dedicated to schlepping that kid around, monitoring homework, and making a costume like Tinker Bell’s for the school pageant. Used to drive me crazy when the school demanded all parents of first-graders demanded we gather in one room to be lectured about the school rules, and expected all parents of kindergarteners to show up across the school at the exact same time to collect their children.

      1. oh, yeah. the school thing.
        As for car seats and boosters, Robert was out of them at two. Why? Well, because he was three feet tall and fifty pounds (and then not fat, though he became fat later.) Booster seats broke under him. The one time a policeman asked, we explained.
        As happened, I drove a huge old car.
        We normally go to diners, where the dramatics for a large family are not that bad.

      2. Well, the schools ARE run by Education majors…a group with the IQ of journalists. Easily outwitted by dogs and cats, to say nothing of a parrot.

      3. Car seats for 24-year-olds? They can still be claimed as children for tax deductions, can’t they?

        We are all supposed to be perpetual babies so the government can ‘take care’ of us.

        1. When Flat State first passed its front-seat car-seat law, several “ladies of a certain age” and a couple of men marched to their local DPS (or whatever) offices and announced in no uncertain terms that they were NOT sitting in car seats. The law was based only on height, not age of the driver, or the use of pedal extensions and hand controls . . .

          Oops. That got changed right quick pronto.

          1. Washington state, same thing, although they specifically included height as an additional requirement– so 13 OR under X height.

            A lady sued for discrimination against disabled people, IIRC, and I seem to remember they changed it so that it didn’t include the driver, or a similar kludge.

            Washington STate is horrible for booster laws, all the state websites have advice, not the law. I kept a print out of the state law in my van and had to use it on a jerk who wanted to harass me about leaving the kids in the car in the dead of winter at a minimart.

            1. I would LOVE a copy of the actual law for Washington State. I have had the same problem with finding “advice.”

              1. For leaving kids in the car, the only two applicable laws are if the motor is running, and if you’re going into a bar to drink. (with suitable hedging to keep it from being violated in spirit but not specifics)

                RCW 9.91.060
                RCW 46.61.685

      4. The taquerias (both the same outfit) cater to a lunch crowd, though I’ve seen larger groups in the smaller one. The Chinese place regularly gets groups and has one bank of tables set for large groups, and the three corner booths seem to handle 5-6 people all right.

      1. Coming from the “be home by dark” generation…. I’m horrified by that. And I applaud Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids and Let’s Grow websites) and her kid who rode the NYC subways by himself at age 9 — and LIVED. Never mind that kids that age used to cross the U.S. by train (or mule, or sometimes on foot), alone, to get to a foster family on some far frontier. My mom went from ND to CA by herself when she was 15, and it was nothing remarkable even in the 1940s.

        How children lost the right to roam in four generations:

        1. In the 1800s people sent 8-year-olds from the Midwest to Europe by train and ship. At late as the 1960s you’ve give the kid a ticket and a note and drop them at the airport, and the airline would see that they got to their destination.

          Now, you could probably be arrested for that.

          1. Over age nine you can book an unaccompanied minor for a flight with a layover, it basically means they have an assigned flight attendant, guardian hands over to attendant, attendant baby sits, guardian picks up at other end. Roughly doubles the price of the ticket.

            1. In 6 years at the airport, fueling SWA, I saw 3 long flight unaccompanied minors, where issues caused overnight stays, but those were weather or mechanical delays. Usually, it was a cs rep as acting guardian, but I did see one um they held the connection 2 hours for the one kid. The passengers applauded the kid when she got on, and sang Happy Birthday, as she was going home for it, and it was now her birthday as it was after midnight by the time she got on.

        2. By the time kids were 8 and 12 we moved from a small mountain town to downtown colorado springs. There was a reason for it, mainly that the older one was getting restless and I was NOT going to play chauffeur or have him dependent on “going to the mall” when I could drive him.
          At the time Colorado Springs was MOSTLY safe (though the “homeless” problem was growing) and had a ton of establishments, parks, and things to do within a mile and a half radius.
          What this meant is that I issued them walkie talkies (3 mile range) because we didn’t yet have cell phones for them — we were as usual a combination of cheap and broke — and let them loose.
          They would on their own go visit friends, or go to coffee shops, where they developed their own favorites from the menus, or went to one (or all three) of the used bookstores in walking range to browse for their favorites (they both went through a Brian Jacques phase, but younger son was and remains addicted to pulpy SF) or visited the art supplies store, or the comic shop (I think younger son lived there for like three years.)
          I think this helped mold them into who they are. By the time they were pre-teens they could take on the world on their own terms, as far as they understood it.
          Nowadays? Well, downtown colorado springs was getting dangerous when we moved away. Mostly due to the bizarre reluctance of mayors to enforce vagrancy laws. Apparently they can lock down law abiding citizens, but not those importuning them. We should remember that going forward. And I was very impressed to see kids roam our suburb at sundown in summer.
          Heaven only knows what will happen after the Winnie the FLu insanity.
          BUT it’s time for all this shit to stop. Let kids be kids and parents be parents.
          Let America be America.

          1. Son was latchkey at age 11. Middle school locally. Dad & I grew up in the “Be home for dinner”. But we both roamed with the gang from the neighborhood; NOT the way it meant now. Just the kids who lived on the same block. Our son didn’t have any kids who lived on the same block. Even tho we can see the *grade school from the front yard. Houses turn over really slow. When I was between jobs, even when he was 8, he had a lot more freedom, because someone was home for him to check in with. OTOH there was no where to go as his friends parents weren’t home. Go figure. They didn’t want parties with no adult at the house, & while occasionally his friends could come here (because I was home) no one wanted to impose. Me? Impose already. Area has pockets of unhoused, but our area they don’t hang around, even now.

            * One of the reason we bought this house was the closeness of the grade school. Figured kid could go play on the playground, when school was out, like we did. Nope. No fun if you are the only kid there. Families occasionally take kids but other than school time, after school programs, or people using it as the local dog park, nope. We found other ways. But dang.

          2. My daughter simply begged, begged and begged some more to be a latchkey kid when she was ten or so. She thought the child care center was for babies, and the youth center simply bored her silly. She wanted to have a house key, and ride home on the bus every day after school. (And she had turned ten, and gotten her DOD dependent ID card, which was huge for military kids – their very own ID card! The AF security police NCO who ran that section very sensibly punched a grommet into the corner of the new laminated card, and gave out chain necklaces to hang the new ID card around the neck of the kid. And she had taken a short course offered by the youth center aimed at latch-key kids; basic first aid, safety measures, not to let strangers into the house, etc.) So – she rode the school bus from the base school to our apartment in the urbanization, and let herself in, and called me on the house telephone to let me know she was home safely. (I was on duty – usually on air, doing the afternoon show.) She would do her homework and otherwise amuse herself until I got home after my shift.
            She managed very well the day that the kitchen sink faucet burst – she knew where the main water shut-off was. She turned off the water, cleaned up the mess, called me at work, I had our unit secretary call my Spanish landlord (who didn’t speak English), who came over and fixed it, all before I got home.
            Later on, when she was twelve and thirteen, she was responsible for getting her own breakfast, dressing for school, and getting herself there. Never had a crisis, and she always remembered to lock the house after herself.

      2. Would have been hell to pay when I was a latchkey kid. We moved in ’60 (in a recession) as I went into third grade and Mom took part time jobs, eventually ending up working a few days a week. I spent a lot of time in the village library, a couple blocks from home (and close to the elementary and middle schools).

        Good selection of SF, both juvenile and adult.

        1. Given that by ten older son was trying to parent us, I resented MIGHTILY that we had to get someone to stay with them when we went away.
          It ended,predictably, with Robert watching the babysitter and being exasperated. And it was stupid.

          1. That would have been infuriating for me. I might not have been able to cook by 8 years of age but microwaving ravioli or fish sticks was doable. I often was the babysitter. Then again we were pretty well behaved kids and tended to just sit and read or watch TV, and play in our room.

          2. When I was 8 or 9 I’d occasionally come home from school on a Friday afternoon to find a note “Gone to visit grandparents, back on Sunday”… and I’d have a fine weekend to myself to cook TV dinners and read and build stuff with my logs and bricks.

            I vaguely recall hearing that Abe Lincoln and sister were left alone to raise themselves for a year or so… as pre-teens. Gone trapping, back come spring, that sort of thing.

            Yep, we used to be a WHOLE lot more self-sufficient, a lot younger.

      3. Which stops babysitting at age 12 … which I did, not just of my sisters, but neighbors, and by reference, of neighbors friends & family.

          1. “Street-Walking” on the other hand, is a bitterly defended human right for them.

    2. The public school problem is exacerbated by the break-up of the K – 12 program and extensive busing.. Consider a family with kids in grades 5, 8 and 10. That’s three different schools with which to contend (primary, middle and high) each keeping a different schedule and often in highly disparate locations. Managing the parental role in education (especially with all of the busy work demanded) ensures that parents have no energy left over for supervising their children’s education.

      1. You seem to be under some illusion that’s an accident…
        Not everybody should go to college. Some folks, you send ’em to college and you just wind up with an educated idiot.

        1. I harbor many illusions but few of them concern our school systems.

          Although I do sometimes find it useful to play the fool in order that others draw conclusions they might reject if I expressed them.

  6. Personally, I would love to have more kids. But, it takes two, ya know. And given my age and…social situation…it’s extremely unlikely to happen.

    1. Don’t get me started on THAT subject. I think there are too many young women who are looking for Mr. Perfect Right Next Door.

    2. Yep. And many’s the lass on the other side of the coin, somewhere out there.

      I’m not saying it is *likely,* mind. I keep the option open, as nigh all single men do. I’m just not hunting all that hard, y’know.

      And the ladies on the other side of that big ‘ol gender divide? Probably the same. And all sort of irked at how vast swathes of fellow females are making it worse for all of us, same as I get ticked at the whole “male feminist” claptrap, the metrosexual nonsense, and so on.

      Add it all up, and its easy to see how we’ve got this way.

      Men and women are better together, when you find the right fit. A good marriage makes both parties grow, become stronger, and more resilient, better people in the end. Perhaps someday.

      But honestly? Finding the right sort of woman to put up with our crap is tall enough order when you consider it. *chuckle*

      1. Strange line of thought removed with end point summarized…..

        You know how the vampires in the novels will go out hunting for people who are looking for love?

        The predator-humans, the abuser ones making it so nasty, are basically like that.

        Hard to do a live-catch (cultivate a relationship? Not sure on metaphor) when you’re being hunted by a brutal predator.

        1. Now consider that when you pin down one of the predators and really try to understand what makes them tick; what they live for, what interests them, you find nothing. There is nothing there.

          The only problem is that mirrors in the real world still give a reflection when they ought not.

          1. Thus the popularity of the “lizard people” meme.

            On a related topic, that was one of the throwaway bits in Turtledove’s “Case of the Toxic Spell Dump” that I found fascinating. In that world, human souls could be measured and in some ways manipulated. And there was a Hereafter that could be detected with scientific instruments, though it was too strange to be understood.

            Some babies were born “apsychic”, without souls. There was no Hereafter for them; when they died, they were simply gone. But science had advanced to the point where bits of a soul could be snipped off, and volunteers donated bits that were assembled into Frankensteined patchworks and inserted into apsychic children… even though the damage to their own souls might make them unable to ascend to the Hereafter themselves. The process was still too new; short of killing some of the children and donors to find out, all they could do was wait and see. For most people I guess it was one of those rabbit-trails that was just slowing down the main story, and Turtledove left it hanging.

            “Apsychic” is a useful term for when people would look at you strangely for saying “lizard people.”

            1. Growl

              The term for a child born without a soul is “stillbirth.”

              Really, many people’s views on souls would grow more philosophically coherent if they watched more Looney Tunes. Someone shoots the cartoon character, the body falls over dead and the soul starts floating off with its halo and harp — until someone stuffs it back in the body, bringing the body back to life.

              I have literally read philosopher professors who think a soul is more optional than an appendix, rather than the animating principle of the human body. (The rational soul.)

              1. Yeah, was one of the things in that book that triggered a pained-smile-I-will-be-polite in the style of that Henry Cavill interview.

                MIGHT be workable, as a main theme, but it came across as one of those things the author put in as a gotcha/picking a fight with fans because he knew he could win, since he’s writing the world.

          2. Only run into that once or twice– more often, the predators don’t even recognize the damage they’re doing.

            After all, they were damaged that way, and they’re alright, so it must be fine. If you hurt, then there’s something wrong with you, not what was done.


            Folks who just recognized the fruits of hookup culture and mocking any “hangups” about the walk of shame, grats– you recognize toxic users in this incarnation. 😦

      2. I admit I am quite nervous about my children’s prospects at spouses. This is where I don’t mind arranged meetings of potential mates, when I think of it, between like-valued families (say, amongst us Odds.) Introduce them and let them figure out if they’re compatible as mates. Maybe they at least can make friends that way.

        1. I recommend the Beautiful but Advil Space Princess Matching Agency, very happy with the service.

          This is why I am very concerned about the SJW takeover of cons and fandom. The “shared interest” methods that used to help Odds find each other are being destroyed. It makes people hesitant to take a chance or be vulnerable.

          And this damned Covid nonsense is destroying even more opportunities, not just because venues are being destroyed, but also trust and the possibility of financial security and abundance with which to raise children. For GENERATIONS.

            1. And here I thought you were making a sly reference to “Jewish-American Princess.”

              Oddly enough, twenty minutes of web searching has failed to come of with a Yiddish word for that. “Shiksa” just doesn’t carry the overtones of privilege that JAP does…

              1. Our beloved leader DOES say she has some conversos in her family, so it is possible, I suppose.

            2. Oh, for the Love of Life Orchestra. I was sure that “Beautful but Advil” was a clever twist on your part. And as for accidents, “stupid TABLET” … well, it just kept getting better! You just might be cleverer by accident than the average person with full intention. Think about it.

      3. The nonsense people o each side of that divide are fed about the other does not tend to make alliance easier, either. We are not “basically alike” nor even especially similar. Pretending otherwise — and attacking partners for not adhering to the stereotype does not lead to mutual happiness.

    3. It happened for me, but way too late to do anything about children. On the good front, my niece is expecting her first child (she’s in her mid-20s).

  7. I think there’s another factor (and it plays into a piece on the size of interstellar empires I’m writing as a gap-filler submission). Capital investment.

    150 years ago, a child of 13 years could be put into the workforce. He might not be much net thrust on the family finances, but he was not a net drag. A 7th grade education was adequate. 75 years ago, a 13-year-old was no longer considered capable of anything but menial labor. A high school education was required to take an adult place in the world of work.

    Today, a high school diploma is merely a way station to college or trade school. A young person doesn’t become self-sufficient until he is 22 or so.

    Yes, I know that the schools are not as efficient as they used to be. But the point remains the same – to be a fully productive member of the workforce requires a lot more education than the world of 1870.

    The capital investment required to raise a child to that level is much higher than it was 150 years ago…and that means that the number of children must be cut in proportion.

    Now, what can be done?

    First, push for greater efficiency in the schools. A longer school year, perhaps. Earlier separation into slow and fast tracks…including tracks for the gifted kids. Full & complete vouchers. And high school classes, in particular, should be taken out of the clutches of the Education majors and turned over to people with degrees in the subject they are teaching. Let’s see if we can claw back some of that time and get kids into the workforce faster.

    I could also see issuing vouchers for post-high-school education or training.

    Second, shift the tax deduction for a child from a fixed sum to a proportion of income. Make it worthwhile to have a larger family.

    Shut down the wholesale importation of unskilled labor from Central America. If you’re in your mid-50s, as I am, the country has gotten a lot more crowded. Mostly because we’ve imported 75 MILLION people from Central America. The illegals, at least, can and should be shown to the border, and a long-term immigration holiday declared. It’s a lot easier to sell the idea of overpopulation when what used to be farmland is being turned into developments.

    Then work on that Great Malthusian Myth. Point out that a couple needs to produce 2.2 children just to break even…which means that 3 kids is OK, it’s right hard to have 0.2 babies.

    As for the risks of space exploration…it’s the politicians who need to have the cowardice caned out of them. Not the astronauts.

    1. How about letting high schools have a vocational track for kids who are manifestly not going to benefit from college, in which they could get some start at learning a trade? Back in the days of the dinosaurs when I went to school, that was not yet completely unheard of. By the 90’s, when mine went to several high schools (no, not simultaneously, there was a lot of searching and juggling going on) every school they attended operated on the theory that every child should be prepared to go to college. Given the variation in intellectual abilities, in practice this resulted in no child being prepared for college and no child learning anything useful either.

      1. My high school, in the late 1970s, had a Vo-Tech center right next door. It’s a good idea.

        Especially because I’m becoming more convinced that many people will benefit more from a college education AFTER they have some years under their belts.

        1. I think my old school system still has a votec center (well, a co-op of 4area systems) in Esky. We used the community college until just after I graduated, and once a new high school was built they killed separate wood and metal shop at the high school. You had to vo-tec it (half day for 2 credits) instead of a period. Small Engines was at our town, so I was able to get a third credit in the morning (half year of algebra, required math credit, and half year of computers . . . Apple IIe setups), then bussed to Esky for machine shop.

      2. Various people have lately been asserting that we *can’t* bring substantial amounts of manufacturing back to the US because we don’t have enough STEM graduates. But actually, skilled but non-college workers are just as important. ( I’m not fond of the phrase ‘mid-skill jobs’, which implies that, say, a CNC machinist who went to trade school is less-skilled than a person with a mediocre sociology degree from some college)

        I understand that historically in Germany, if you wanted to go to engineering school, you had to do a trade apprenticeship first…not sure if that’s still the rule. The jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann, who grew up in Germany, described his apprenticeship in an auto shop, and while it was pretty harsh, he felt he got a lot out of it, and the non-German students (who were allowed into the school without apprenticeship background) would be unlikely to become engineers as good as those who had the trade experience first.

        1. “Various people have lately been asserting that we *can’t* bring substantial amounts of manufacturing back to the US because we don’t have enough STEM graduates.”

          Lies, Lies! I can’t count the number of job interviews I’ve failed because I was a citizen, instead of a green-card holder. They don’t *want* American engineers. They probably don’t want American tradesmen either.

          1. Depends on the trade.
            The building trades go through longish periods where anybody who can correctly read a tape measure can get hired. It does have its boom/bust cycles though.

            1. A couple years ago, people who *couldn’t* read a tape measure were turning down jobs in construction because they thought they should be paid $25 and hour, at least according to the conversation at the taqueria–the contractor was pissed!

              I suspect things will get slightly more traditional as the county reopens. It will take a while for construction to ramp up, though things never quite ended here.

                1. Yeah, and it was frustrating as hell for everybody; that year I contacted a landscape guy to do footings for my solar system. Contacted in June, got a quote in October, and gloriously, got it done in November. The contractor was trying to get a septic system and plumbing done for *his* house, and was striking out finding a contractor who had time.

                  OTOH, the landscape guy had one person who was quite young on his crew, and the plumbing guy he was trying to hook up with had been training crews to accommodate his expanding business. I used the plumber the year before, and the just-past apprentice and sole employee from that year was leading a team of 3 the following year. ‘Tis possible the complaining contractor was a jerk and prospective employees figured that out…

                  I’ve seen a couple of tradesmen at the taqueria, but nothing like Before Lockdown, when you’d see two to tour guys taking a lunchbreak from a nearby job. N.B. One of the PJMedia columnists daylights as a painting contractor in Oregon, and while it’s not banned (Despicable Kate Brown’s motto: “I may be awful, but look at the competition!”), *inside* painting jobs dried up and outside ones were slowing down. Hard to spend money when you don’t have any.

                  1. A problem I have occasionally seen is owner-workers with no sense of “a normal employee is not going to work like they own it to build my business, especially when I treat them all like by-the-hour labor in all other aspects.”

                    There are some folks who expect loyalty from employees, without being willing to offer it.

                  1. “No, if I was joking I’d say, Two cannibals are eating a clown. One of them turns to the other and asks, ‘Does this taste funny to you?'”

                  2. Nope. His partner though, could, and he did the biz side more, but both needed to work on occasion.
                    I had already quit, but my Uncle worked for them for years, and found it out when he got help from the bosses on a rush job.
                    “Tell you what, I’ll measure and cut, you just prime the trim.”

          2. Interesting. At my company, we’re not even allowed to ask about citizenship or immigration status during interviews. The HR professional who wrangles the interview process checks on that. Note, however, that said HR pro has near-zero input into who we hire. They can screen candidates they bring to our attention, but cannot interfere with candidates we find ourselves.

            American engineer, non-American engineer… Makes no difference to us. What we care about is competent engineer, where said competence is in areas close-enough to what we’re looking for.

            1. There are a lot of jobs that are written so that only an H1B can fill them. The HR people know this and it is planned. They have to have Americans interviewed but the Americans will NEVER get the job, they will hire an H1B.

              1. Agreed. H1B has been abused for decades to make hiring foreigners preferential in many white collar professions as well as construction & landscaping. Qualcomm is one company that converted their local workforce to entirely H1Bs from India with the standard practice of, “Train your replacement and sign an NDA to keep quiet about it, so you get a 2-months’ severance package, or get out now and don’t let your cellphone electrocute on the way out. Not the way the law was written, but since when does the actual law matter to the scions of entrepreneurs?

              2. Interesting. Speaking as a relatively-senior engineer who helps write the job descriptions for my extended team, I can say with confidence that this doesn’t happen in any of the job descriptions I help write. I neither have nor want the broader visibility that would be required to have knowledge across more of the organization.

                My particular subfield is one where there are currently about 3x more openings nationwide than there are candidates to fill them. And the multiplier is likely a good deal steeper if you limit consideration to competent candidates… So employers can’t get away with much of anything, as it’s way too easy to hop jobs. Even for the folks with H1Bs. After all, an H1B visa allows changing jobs as long as the new employer can sponsor the visa holder. The folks on L1s (I think that’s the name; work authorization for exactly and only the company that brought them here, can’t move positions without going home) are the only ones who are really stuck. And even they get treated well, because of the difficulty of filling open positions. I rather expect that things would look different if the ratio of openings to candidates were inverted.

              3. If you don’t need a H1B, you can quit without deportation. Gives you too much power.

            2. That’s because it says on the I9 form that it is ILLEGAL to ask someone whether or not they can legally work in this country before you offer them a job. You have to go through the entire hiring process before you’re allowed to check.

              1. Where?

                I’m looking at it, the closest I can find is that you can’t refuse to hire someone who is legal solely because of what flavor of authorization they have.

                ANTI-DISCRIMINATION NOTICE: It is illegal to discriminate against work-authorized individuals. Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) an
                employee may present to establish employment authorization and identity. The refusal to hire or continue to employ an individual because the
                documentation presented has a future expiration date may also constitute illegal discrimination

                1. “Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) an
                  employee may present to establish employment authorization and identity.”

                  Means that as long as they can present anything with a US address the employer must accept it. If the employer refuses he can be tied up in court, so most don’t bother.

                  Same thing happened with the “liar loans”: No one could be asked for income documentation if they were a “protected class”… or claimed to be.

                  1. Will you please bother to click through and look at the document before interpreting it and flying off the handle? Heaven knows there are enough legitimate targets for anger, you don’t have to invent them.

                    It’s three pages, and the third one is nothing but documents to establish you’re a legal worker.

                    The documents for not specifically brought in for legal work that establish identity and legal right to work are US Passport, permanent resident card or alien registration, foreign passport with a “temporary I-551 stamp”, employment authorization document, passport from Micronesia or the Marshall Islands with a special form.
                    The ones that don’t also establish identity are: SSN card unless (says not valid for employment or needs X authorization), US birth certificate or report of birth; Tribal membership proof; US citizen card, Resident citizen card; DHS employment authorization card.

                    The classic mail with an address isn’t even on the list for identity.

                    1. Fox, as usual, you’re confusing the written law with the reality of a legal system where anyone can sue a business without any consequences, where there are organizations funded by donations to help them do it, and where “The process is the punishment” isn’t a slogan, it’s a law of nature.

                      For example, I don’t pay an organization like LawShield what amounts to a retainer every year because I enjoy spending money; I pay it because even if I am 100% justified and found innocent of criminal charges for shooting a burglar in the bedroom, the perp, his friends and relations, etc., can civilly sue me and I will still have to show up in court to assert that defense and get it tossed. And they can do it repeatedly as long as their lawyers can invent new grounds.

                    2. Nelson, as usual, you made a statement about what it ACTUALLY SAYS and when corrected as to the factual reality of what it says, go into a lecture mode in a third direction.

                    3. My last company never asked for legal right to work documentation on hire. All the others did. The ONLY thing I had at the time was my Birth Certificate and state Driver’s License. All them required you to list all names used, which linked Birth Certificate & Driver’s License.

                      My first passport was gotten in ’98, which the company paid for because they wanted the US R&D Engineers & the French R&D Engineers to interact. There was a bit of a “wall” between the two groups. When asked why? Someone complained about their English … my comment was their English was a whole lot better than my French (anything was better than my non-existent second language skills) … which stopped that complaint among my fellow engineer’s. The trips didn’t happen. We got bought out before any started. Never once used the passport. Didn’t get a new one until 2012 and that one was the border card version, which we’ve used twice …

                    4. There’s at least one program– pre e-verify– where the information they get for taxes is enough to verify for citizens, unless Something Goes Wrong. (Either an identity theft flag or the system has a hissy fit.)

            1. And by now, we’ve imported enough of them that they’ll only hire each other.

          3. H1B has been compared to legalized slavery: The fellow hired on one has very little recourse if fired, so the company can act like they own his ass.


        2. I’ve had similar thoughts about the military, whether someone should have to serve a tour as an enlisted troop before starting the process of becoming an officer. (And I’m speaking of an ROTC graduate with no prior-service time).

          1. Talk to Tom Kratman about that. He has some observations to make about how long people can be NCOs before their thinking has a hard time adjusting to what an officer needs to handle.


            1. Yeah, I knew several former NCOs that had problems transitioning to commissioned status. And some of the best officers I ever served with were prior enlisted. (Some of the worst were non-prior service Academy grads. Speaking of credentials not equaling credibility)

              The good ones I served with seemed to have made the move as E-4s or 5s at the latest. A lot of them did one tour then out to college and ROTC /OTS

            2. That’s why the LDO programs require 8-14 years of service. That, and so they can get a good amount of service out of the candidate. Seaman to Admiral looks for first or early second term Sailors. Warrant programs are usually in the 10-16 years of service range.

              4-6 years would probably be the sweet spot. No more than 8. Gets you some leadership experience, some knowledge of how to use and work the system, and the ways it fails. But you’re still flexible in mind, and not beholden to the senior enlisted network. And still young enough to be able to work with senior and junior enlisted alike.

        3. Prior to the Second World War, an engineering education in the United States involved significant shop time.

        4. Manufacturing is never coming back to the US unless the Fed changes the tax laws. Reining in OSHA and the EPA wouldn’t hurt either.

          It doesn’t matter how patriotic you are when you have to explain to your stockholders and the SEC why you are foolishly wasting money making widgets for $1.72 in the USA when you can buy them overseas for $0.89.

          The whole system is set up to promote imports over American-made. [the Voices are saying something…] A smart company would set up a wholly-owned manufacturing plant in some favored country, take the subsidies for buying imports, and pocket the money as extra profit. Hmm, they might be on to something.

          1. Have you seen the number of regulations and “rules” that have been axed through during the shutdown? I wonder if Trump humored the shutdown because it allowed him to do that.

              1. Unfortunately no. But in the depths of depression, I ran upon a website that listed them all, and it’s….. amazing.
                If I can run into them again, I’ll post.
                Basically, Trump says he’s bring manufacturing back here, period.

                  1. Thus regarding the shutdown —

                    President Trump said: “That is a lousy idea! I have no direct control over the governors. I have to appear to be supportive. Hey there will be shortages. We can deal with that.”

                    Democrats said, regarding shortages: “There won’t be shortages. Oh, no. We have to bring back manufacturing of medicine, and critical parts!”

                    President Trump said: “Great. Glad you agree with me.”

                    Democrats said: “No. Yes. Wait! What? Reeeeee” … “It’s all Trump’s fault!”

                    Picture of house speaker tearing up state of union address just as President Trump mentions the pandemic … and her explanation on how Trump is xenophobic, that the cold isn’t that bad.

      3. my high school had a vo tech track well into the 90s at least, dunno about now.

        1. They’re bringing them back out here. Welding trades first, and now others. Food service and pre-nursing, and ag have always been around, and are getting stronger. (One of the high schools used to have a full building trades program that ended with the students building a house that had to pass ALL applicable codes – structure, electrical, plumbing, the works.)

          1. Oregon Institute of Technology now has a nursing program (in partnership with the OR Health and Science Univ), and the community college built a pre-nursing program that leads to either nursing or various med-tech professions.

            My family practice doctor is an instructor at the clinic level, and gets a crop of almost-nurses each spring. I’ve been satisfied with the results. (I’ve been the demo patient for one or two procedures. [Wry grin.])

        2. I graduated 8th grade in 1994, and part of the “getting ready for high school” tour thingie was visiting the vo-tech facility. By the time I went to register for high school a few months later, the option had disappeared.

          In a town of about 35000 one county over from a major research university out in the middle of cornfields in central Illinois. With no other major employment prospects.

          Okay, sure, horticulture probably not useful. But welding? Always useful.

          I do kind of wonder how much unions and paid formal apprenticeship programs had to do with the disappearance of votech training in high schools.

          1. Hmm, 1994. I’d venture a guess that votech disappeared for a handful of different reasons at that time.

            a) Computers were *the* big thing. While the IBM PC was no longer the epitomy of the personal computer, there was a lot of “we can do things better with a computer” in that area, and MSM was pushing “Computing” as something that every high-school kid needed to have.

            b) Vo-tech stuff was expensive, both in terms of equipment and in space. The metal shop I took a semester in (I knew the dirty jokes, so the usual suspects figured that while I was Odd and college-track, I was OK.) had maybe 20 guys in it. Change it to a computer lab, and 30+ people. Never mind that you were replacing $20,000 worth of machine tools (maybe) with $100,000 worth of quickly-obsoleting computers.

            c) Liability. There weren’t any accidents in my class, but we got the safety lecture, and there was ample opportunity for a student to turn himself into hamburger.

            d) This is a SWAG, but it’s possible that a lot of the shop teachers were hitting retirement age, and the teacher’s unions/administration/education mafia made it really hard for suitable candidates from industry to get hired as a teacher.

            Don’t forget that while the metal/woodworking/auto shop classes were disappearing, so were the home ec cooking and sewing classes.

            1. Interestingly, we did still have an industrial shop class. I remember a guy cutting a couple of his fingers off sophomore (?) year when the blade on the saw bent and he reached out to fix it before turning the machine off. The idea of which still gives me nightmares twenty years later, because that is totally something I would do.

              I did take an entire year of home ec my eight grade year. I don’t think that’s offered in schools anymore, either.

              My high school also, at the time, offered a one-semester class in “Adult living”, which was budgeting, balancing a checkbook, apartment hunting, and all that stuff that kids today whine about schools not teaching. But even back then, the class was seen as “for losers” and people who would be dropping out or not going to college. It always sounded interesting to me, but then I’ve always been interested in practical knowledge. I ended up doubling up on language classes instead of taking it, though.

              1. We had a teacher hijack the “everybody who isn’t doing driver’s ed this quarter” babysitting room (Oh, sorry, “study period”) and created an Adulting class, which she sold with a bunch of Stupid College Kid stories for a few months before suggesting it– you know, the ones like “oh my gosh, my son told me about how he had to show this guy how to run the clothes washer” and “did I tell you what my oldest son just had happen the other day? He asked his roommate why he spent so much on microwave dinners, and found out the guy can’t even boil an egg! He taught the kid to make an omelet, you’d think it was gold– can you believe it, never taught to make an omelet?”

                Taught all the “things you MUST do when you don’t have mommy to do it for you” stuff, how to balance a checkbook (which sounds much less scary than ‘double entry bookkeeping’) then how to make a white sauce– then turn it into most other sauces and gravies, like cheese sauce for mac’n’cheese.
                Also slightly fancier stuff, “in case you need a business dinner,” so how to set and use the silverware for a multi-course meal, and basic silverware identification, which required extremely basic manners like “if in doubt, shut up.”

                1. I always felt it was unfair to expect high schoolers to be able to balance a checkbook, when Congress demonstrably can’t do the same…

                  1. Just because it’s balanced doesn’t mean the spending is responsible. Just means it shows how far overdrawn you are on the checking account.

                    1. I got my first checking account when I entered college in 1970. The account was semi-free (local bank, big banks with branches were not legal then and there), but checks cost 10 cents each. That was sufficiently large to keep me from writing checks often, so I’d usually use them at registration, then once a week for pocket money. So, it wasn’t tough to keep the thing balanced.

                    2. Not actually related, but I like to brag– I got my first checking account when the number of days I’d lived was smaller than the starting number on the checks. 😉

                      My grandfather was with Bank of America from back when it was Bank of Italy.

            2. Definitely liability.

              And possibly preventing active murder.

              *raises hand with scar on the thumb*

              You can’t remove the guys who won’t listen, and the solution when they stab someone is to lecture the person who was stabbed.

              Actually came up just at the start of the national house arrest– my niece managed to cut her thumb, about where I have my scar, and mom (who was visiting us) was very snarly about how they took her to the ER and got five stitches, she never would have done that, just wrap it at home. I got to see what nonplussed looked like when I said yeah, I know….

              Mom was, apparently, under the impression that I’d been doing something besides practicing chisel work on MY scrap-wood when one of the half-feral idiots walked up and decided he wanted to try it, too.

              I don’t like the lack of shop classes, but it’s not possible when you can’t require basic responsibility.

              (I kind of hope he grew up– not a mean person, which was refreshing, just an ignorant idiot, kind of like a human version of a half-grown puppy with an incompetent trainer.)

            3. I’d guess d) was a huge factor. A degree in “education” might qualify you to get a job teaching anything from tennis to quantum mechanics, but you can’t deal with a TIG welder or turret lathe with bullshit and a teacher’s manual.

              There are still some shop-ish classes, but they’re all book-work or training to operate some particular CAM or CNC software. They’re usually labeled something like “Welding Technology” or “Elements of Metal Cutting.”

              1. The local community college still has a basic welding class (as of last winter quarter), though they’ve added Welding Tech and such gubbage as non-lab courses. I’ve wanted to take the class, but it was both kind of expensive and only offered 7-9PM. I loathe driving long distances at night. (40 miles to home counts as such) Retirement income and various eye procedures has improved the situation, but it’s still 40 miles through deer-infested woods at night.

                1. Shop class without a shop would be almost as much use as driver’s ed without a car. Either way, the poor graduates would be convinced that they understood the subject, instead of merely knowing the proper answers.

                  You DON’T understand construction if you’ve never worked on building a house.

                  1. Yep, though extensive remodels get one started. (“You replaced how many walls on that part of the house? Yikes!”) Knowing how to triage projects (actually a spectrum, ranging from “I can do this myself” through “I can do parts of the project helping the GC” to “I’m not going to touch this at all, beyond writing a check”) is an important skill to learn. And learning generally requires misjudging the category for a project.

                    Ran across that when we considered buying land and having a house built. The two main vendors either required or strongly advised the owner do certain things for the project, and at our age, it was far more than we wanted to consider. And paying to get it done would have gone straight for the contractor time-shortage issues. We’re doing more stuff on our existing property. We have the room, time and skills for *reasonable* projects, and money for materials.

                    1. I liked something Larry Correia wrote about building his Evil Mountain Lair: he wasn’t just building a house on an empty lot; he had to spend two years building the empty lot first.

                      Excavation, grading, drainage, access road, plumbing, electrical supply…

            4. D – when Texas went to requiring all teachers pass an advanced algebra test, my Junior High lost its best welding teacher. When All Teachers had to have a Bachelor’s degree, they lost 50% of the remaining shop teachers. Now that it has to be an ed degree, plus continuing education in education? A few districts are developing work-arounds, but it’s not easy, from what I hear.

      4. The high school that my daughters attended, not so long ago, had an arrangement with the county Vocational school. Kids would spend part of their day there, then be bused to the high school for some “regular” classroom time. Perhaps it’s because many of the parents work at the Ford plant in town, or some of the other type of factory/machining work that’s around, that it’s recognized not every kid is going to go to college. Of course, the school district also like to talk about all the college scholarships that other kids get. It makes them look good.

      5. My middle school had a wood and metal shop. I LOVED shop class – and I was a college-track kid, even in seventh grade. The bandsaw always scared me (they still do). But I’m that weird guy who always wants to know how stuff is made. The I, Pencil book is brilliant.
        The difference between Cream of Tartar + Baking Soda and Baking Powder is the current “what is that stuff?!?!” question. I haven’t gone down the internet rabbit hole looking, yet.

        1. Thing is… it doesn’t even matter if you get a job in the trades or not.

          Knowing how to run and maybe repair machinery is a survival skill.

          Same with budgeting, cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

          And the excuse for teaching those in high school was that it was scientific, and what if those poor kids didn’t have anyone at home who could teach then, learning in school would make up all the deficiencies of their home learning!

          … so parents stopped teaching their kids at all, and the schools stopped teaching the survival skills… and here we are.

          Where people don’t know how to take care of themselves.

          I remember reading somewhere that the original definition of “idiot” was someone who could take care of himself, but wasn’t capable of contributing to the greater part of civilization.

          By that definition, we now have a civilization of sub-idiots.

          1. I make it a point to tell my son that he will be taught how to run a household, shop, budget, cook, and clean, and do very basic sewing, because those are bare minimum life skills. He is doing a number of those, sometimes grumbling, but eh, teen.

    2. First, allow companies to test applicants without prosecuting them if the diversity does not do as well. I have been told that at least some of the demand for college degrees in hiring is to make sure that the applicant can at least read and write as the companies are not allowed to test for that and a high school diploma no longer guarantees that. Then start to fix education.
      While you are at it, stop requiring physical requirements to pass as many women as men and assign all female fire crews to any area that has an Equal Opportunity Office in it.

      1. Hell, a college degree no longer guarantees that they can read, write and do simple math. A monkey could graduate, if it ‘identified as’ the appropriate minority.

        At least you could train the monkey.
        “Mister Churchill, if you were my husband I’d poison your tea!”
        “Madam, if I were your husband I would drink it!”

    3. Several things (I’m a retired secondary teacher).
      – No, they don’t ‘know more’ – they actually know less. They are filled with opinions (without the ability to follow, let alone construct, a logical argument using evidence). They can parrot the latest fashionable frivolities – sports teams/music/films/TV shows. They know little of actual literature (not graphic novels and chick-lit). They are lost in any math problem involving post-4th grade skills. If there are fractions/decimals, only a small subset can solve problems (perhaps 30-40% in college-bound classes/honors classes). Their knowledge of social studies, science, and most other classes is pitiful. The content is too often hijacked by teachers with social agendas. I’ve been lectured about the “science of global change” by kids who are in danger of flunking my SCIENCE class. Stick to what you actually know, rather than blather about what you don’t understand.
      – While tracking by skill level has been shown to be effective, current thinking is that it is a horrible idea – well, except for the ‘gifted and talented’ kids. Funnily enough, this allows the high income/well-connected families to escape the horrors of having their little darling in those classes filled with average and below average kids. But, that’s NOT tracking! Which would be bad! It’s different. Somehow.
      – GET RID OF AT LEAST 1/2 THE ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF. Start with the Diversity Specialists, then move on to the Curriculum Specialists and Professional Development staff. Get rid of most of HR – outsource the function. That alone will both save money, and make schools run more smoothly. Gets rid of a lot of overpaid women, who no longer want to work in the classroom.
      – Reduce Guidance to these functions:
      – Referral to County Social Services if the kid is showing obvious signs of abuse (bruises, malnutrition, stunted growth).
      – Referral for testing by professionals for learning/emotional issues. Too many guidance counselors try to do this semi-professionally.
      – For high school, help every kid plan a REALISTIC post-high school life – work (help them get a job), college (talk plainly to both kids and parents about the cost/benefit ratio of the pricey colleges, and alternatives to them), or further apprenticeship/job training.
      – No more touchy-feely crap about their feelings, bullying (not their problem – if it’s going on, and they become aware of it, refer to the principals – it’s the job of the principal to stop it), clapping/cheering GLBT#$%&*)(*&^%$#$%^& identification. Again, not their problem – refer to principal if being bullied, otherwise, butt out.
      – All of the above should reduce the need for Guidance Counselors, as well as free up that class time taken up by them for these frills.

      1. Too many times I’ve made passing mention of something only to be told that for whatever reason that was not covered or someone didn’t this or that class in high school… and it’s something I learned in somewhere in grades 1-6.

    4. I admit I didn’t read all your post. But my mind snapped to alert when I read this:
      “7th grade education was adequate. 75 years ago, a 13-year-old was no longer considered capable of anything but menial labor. A high school education was required to take an adult place in the world of work.”
      I’m 83, and I can tell you for sure that even though we didn’t have electron microscopes my 7th grade science was extemely good. My 7th grade English teacher was so good I learned everything I needed to make good A’s through high school and 2 college years. I didn’t do those all at once either. Take a look at McGuffey Readers and realize they were a good long time before my school years and you will realize that before 1900 a 7th grade education included more than many have now after two years of college. Plus Latin to boot.
      Sorry for the rant, now I’ll go read the rest of your post.

      1. I have copies of the last pre-Dewey/Columbia Teachers College NYS Regents curriculum. 7th Grammar school students had a broader knowledge base than most college graduates today. it’s appalling.

        We spend 17 years in school now and still don’t cover what they used to in 6-9.

        1. Nobody is allowed to fail, or even be ‘below average’ because they might feel bad.

          1. When I was in elementary school they flunked kids who made too many Fs on their report cards. By the time I was in junior high they were sending them to the next grade anyway, since “it is important to keep the age groups together.” Even the dumbest kids were quick to realize there was now no penalty for doing no work whatsoever, and thus dedicated their time to cutting in class and shooting spitwads. (any effective disciplinary measures had also been discarded)

            1. By the time my mother was teaching in AL 4th grade, they could flunk a kid, but only once, because “we won’t have room for them when the next grade down piles into them”. And the effect was about as you describe.

          1. I suspect Sputnik did more to damage (USA) education than the USSR could have possibly hoped to accomplish – through the panic reaction to “fix” something that was not broken. There was more to it than that, sure, but that was a contributing factor. Pre-1958 textbooks can be great as they assume mere ignorance rather than stupidity.

              1. The Fed *panicked* when Sputnik went up. They’d been all ready to roll out the propaganda for Explorer 1, but the launch kept getting delayed for minor technical problems. Nobody was in any hurry, we were years ahead of anyone else.

                And then the Soviets put their beeping basketball up into orbit. Where the hell did *that* come from?! The military and intelligence agencies were caught with their pants down again.

                Eisenhower declared the “space race”, canceled all the military space projects, created NASA as the USA’s single space agency to centralize all work under one jackboot, and promoted engineering and math at the colleges (what we’d call a “STEM program” today).

                The Eisenhower, and later Kennedy, administrations laid the blame for failing to be first in space on lack of American scientific and engineering ability, rather than politics and dawdling by the government. People didn’t know any better, started developing an inferiority complex, and with plenty of Federal urging, determined to Fix This Right Now.

                it turned out like just about anything else the government has tried to fix… Someone said that the US educational system could be no worse if it had been designed by our enemies; I expect this is literally true.

                1. Thank you.

                  …Honestly though, that was stupid of Eisenhower. The correct response is ‘well, we can do BETTER.’ And in the long run, hasn’t that been true?

                  There’s plenty of science out there for us to discover, and honestly in the decades since, it’s not Russia people think of when it comes to space.

                  1. Their Germans were ahead of our Germans, but then their were rather more threaten and we were being rather more cautious. And in typical fashion of distrust/disbelief in gov’t decree the satellite that was ‘secondary’ was ordered scrapped – but the thing wound up in the trunk of a scientist’s/engineer’s car until “Oh crap, can we try launching that one?” happened.

                  2. I do not often rise in defense of Ike, but as we’re seeing with Trump, when Congress stampedes there is little a president can do. Eisenhower may have been culpable, he may have merely done his best to make lemonade. I’m not sure which historian I would trust on the topic.

                    1. Fair enough I guess, but at the same time, it’s … demoralizing to give up when you’re the leader. The difference between him and Trump is Trump isn’t, as far as I can tell, showing a defeatist air. He’s doing “We will survive, we will rebuild, we are resilient folk, and I trust in the American spirit.”

                2. I recently revisited The Right Stuff via audiobook and noticed one of Wolfe’s major themes is that at the time of Sputnik and Gargarin’s trip we were already flying rocket-planes into the upper atmosphere and were on the verge of orbital flight … ad the consolidation of all those programs into the chimp-in-a-can project dumbfounded the people who actually understood what the US was engaged in.

                  Although I would hve to review the timeline as I think JF-New Frontier-K had a hand in it as well.

                3. My mother was in the Spunik generation. When she went to a woman’s college as a chemistry major, it threw a wrench in the old custom of the seniors in chemistry having the freshmen for tea, on account of there were five times as many chemistry majors in her class than in theirs.

                  It was a big push for science education.

            1. For years I have been saying the worst thing about the Apollo program is that it succeeded.

              Thereafter, people were convinced that massive government programs are the best way to get [whatever] done. Look at all the massive government programs that have grown up like gigantic weeds since then.

              The government even acted to prevent any ‘competition’ from private enterprise. No, NASA was the one and only way to Do Space for 40 years. Science and technology were subordinated to politics, and blame for the inevitable failures and disasters was placed on the engineers instead of the bureaucrats.
              Susan Ivanova: “You’re saying just because I’m holding this right now, I’m Green Leader? But I’m human!”

              Former Green Leader: “Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change…caught up in committee. Not come through yet.”

              Susan: “Bureaucracy. Ya gotta love it.”

              1. Look at all the massive government programs that have grown up like gigantic weeds since then.

                Misread as “like organic weeds.”

                Carry on.

      2. Yes. There has been a long deterioration of standards…Heinlein wrote in “Expanded Universe” about how his high school did not offer subjects available in his father’s high school. It’s one reason why I think it’s possible to significantly compress the education curriculum.

        The problem is that Colleges of Education have become one of the more notorious places to separate well-funded but not-bright students from their money.

        1. You mean from their parents’ money, or from OUR money. How many of those drones are actually paying their own tuition?
          Mollari: “Perhaps it was something i said?”
          G’Kar: “Perhaps it is everything you say.”

          1. Number 2 son was an education major until about a week ago. He wanted to go back and teach history in his old all-boys school and he needed the license. He left because, “every class is about why I suck and why would I want to work in a field where everyone hates me.”

            This is a great tragedy.

            No loans. Free ride down to the pencils. 😜. I never believed in paying for university. I paid for their grammar and prep school, but they had to find the money for four years of prolonged adolescence.

            1. “Why aren’t you a teacher or professor?”
              “BS comes out one end. Don’t need it out both ends. Or getting it from ‘administrators’.”

        2. You do realize the economic impact if we condensed the contemporary twelve years of basic education into nine? That would eliminate the jobs of twenty-five percent of teachers — probably more as later years entail multiple teachers specializing in various subjects. Not only would it be necessary to eliminate teaching positions but think of the loss of administrative jobs!

          We’re talking economic catastrophe. Just think of the reduction of monetary and activist support for politicians subsequent to such reduced head counts among the teachers’ unions! You must want to collapse our political system.

          With fewer teachers and more concentrated instruction there would also be less need for students spending time on worksheets and such useful projects as constructing dioramas. There would be far more time available for them to explore their imaginations and to reason things out for themselves or (shudder) under guidance of their parents.

          No, such arguments as I am seeing people make here have a certain superficial gloss but surely you see the dire consequences posed.

      3. Modern Education includes so much more than was taught seventy-five years ago. Now students must be taught about oppression, about injustice, about privilege and intersectionality. Ancestral sins must be dragged up and ritually declaimed.

        In the face of such demands it is necessary t downgrade trivial subjects, such as mathematics and science which pose dangers of wrongly persuading students that there are rigid “Right” and “Wrong” answers to questions or that facts may be empirical.

        Because these new courses consist of adopting proper attitudes, and those attitudes are as malleable as fashion, it would be wrong unproductive to assign grades, even such grades as Pass/Fail judgments.

    5. > Today, a high school diploma is merely a way station to college or trade school.

      The high school diploma is of such little value that the local university didn’t even bother to ask if I had one. They wanted to know what school I went to, and why hadn’t I had my counselor take care of the paperwork instead of imposing on them. I was 26 and wearing a nice beard; they expected I was still in high school? Due to the birthdate cutoffs I turned 18 before I was supposed to graduate; I didn’t bother to go back after my 18th birthday despite their threats to send the truant officers out to collect me. The high school people weren’t too bright either…

      My brief attendance at college led to the dean of students blowing foam on the desk as he went into a screaming meltdown, and I got a police escort off campus. They hand-delivered my grades to my house the next day, though.

        1. Yeah, if you’re going to quote from Farcebook, you should make an independent copy and store it someplace secure. Anything less left-wing than Lenin gets deleted.

          1. Noticed. It is a picture of my son driving the electric cart, built his senor year, at the Portland Raceway Memorial weekend. Don’t really have a place to transfer pictures to, secure or not, to share. I can add it to FB Sarah’s Diner.

            The Electric Cart races are neat. Two classifications: Adult & High School/Club. Most the HS/C carts are club cars, are maintained by the clubs throughout the seasons. Willamette HS has 3 private vehicles. All other vehicles, including the one my son drove, 2007, are built, from scratch, in the Willamette Shop. Senors can start their vehicles in October, will be ready for the first race. Junior’s won’t start until January at minimum, and generally isn’t ready until the third race or so, but always ready for the Memorial Weekend daily races. All student vehicles are scraped and the materials are reused the next year.

            It is also classified as a sport. Students can letter two different ways: Both are 5, 1st through 3rd placements, where placement is determined by the number of laps completed in X hours (3 I think, but it’s been 13 years). First way: regardless of which vehicle they drive, it takes strategy for a driver to out lap other vehicles, and yet keep the vehicle going for the entire race. Second way: the vehicle your team has built from scratch for the current season regardless of who drives it. Son lettered first method his Junior year. Both methods his senor year. Which is impressive, since the vehicle his team built was not slim & trim, explicitly designed more heavy duty and bulky interior so anyone of the team could drive it. One of the team members wasn’t sleek & trim so never got to drive. If that person could go, then the team had that person drive. They picked up other rides. The others were desired drivers because the minimum weight limit (180) meant weights had to be added to the vehicles when they drove. Kid weighted 155 …

    6. I’m convinced that one of the best ways to increase the efficiency of education would be to do away with elementary schools, and bring one-room schoolhouses back. It should be easy to dedicate one house per neighborhood for this purpose, and then to have a single teacher there to teach the children at their own pace.

      I would also throw out that we need a Separation of School and State — the Government has had decades to prove that they are the best way to provide an education to children, but all they have done is demonstrate that they are the worst — and it gets even worse year by year.

      1. More than once I’ve wondered how much damage my well-meaning grandfather did by working so hard to replace a one-room school in his area.

      2. Just kill the whole Wilsonian take on the Prussian model of k-12. The parents who care will arrange for those classes (maybe online) like in Farmer’s Boy, the children of the parents who don’t care won’t be any worse off, child molestation rates will plummet.


    7. > it’s right hard to have 0.2 babies

      I think you’re supposed to form a collective and have study meetings…

  8. Worst of both worlds – I was one of four, but told for as long as I can remember that, “I shouldn’t have had so many children, it was horrible for the environment, but I wanted a big family! But you probably shouldn’t have children.”

    Yes, that was my mother saying that.

    We have a LOT of cultural damage from Ehrlich et. al.

      1. If I’ve put the clues together correctly…

        Wonderful might be correct, for values of wonderful that are a wee bit sarcastic.

        1. Just a bit.

          I was raised told that the world was going to end ’cause of too many people, there was going to be an Ice Age because of pollution, pesticides were going to wipe out all the birds, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Oh, and that no small bit of it was All My Fault. For being born. Yep.

          And given Hometown said, “Oh, your parents are Good People who always tell the truth!” Well.

          I am sincere in my belief that Ehrlich has done more damage than a thousand mass shooters.

          1. I think Paul Ehrlich, Rachel Carson and certain others need to be memorialized. Perhaps on a wall by the city dump/transfer station, or on one of the canyons exposed by the damn busting crowd. Setting the portraits just at the silt level would be my preference…

              1. God can mourn for them, as they are also His children. We, however, should be dancing like Miriam watching Pharoah’s soldiers drown, every time they have a setback.


      2. Hmm. Well, most of those who knew her thought she was a Very Nice Person.

        One of many comments from her to me: “If I had a goat with your confirmation, I’d cull it.”

        Smile. Go on being seen as the Nicest Woman Around….

        You decide.

        On what may be a completely unrelated note, this is why I watch people for the Smirk. No matter how upstanding a citizen everyone says they are, no matter how personable or nice they appear to be – if I see the Smirk, I’m out of there.

        When Obama was candidate for president, I saw the Smirk.

        My ensuing words were not fit for family ears. I saw his election coming, because that type of person just knows how to get their way.

        I’d have crawled over broken glass to elect Trump rather than his “chosen successor”.

        1. > the Smirk

          Anonymous Conservative has noted that on his blog many times, with pictures. (Schiff, Comey, Warren, and others)

          I never quite made the connection on my own, but as soon as it was pointed out, yep, that’s it.

          1. I’ve also seen what I call the ‘Joe Cool Strut’ which is done by those who consider themselves above everyone else. Very few, if any, actually manage to accomplish anything. After, all, why should they lower themselves to Doing Things?

          2. No discussion of this topic would be complete without …

            Peter Strozk, the embodiment of the modern FBI just as G. Gordon Liddy embodied the old one.

            1. Oops – Strzok. As if I care how that [EXPLETIVE]’s name is spelled.

              I do apologise to all viewing that gif and wondering what script-blocker will eliminate it.

              1. Kim DuToit’s Red Curtain of Blood comes to mind when I see that gif. NeonRevolt published some panels from the old Punisher* comic, and…

                (*) Not only NSFW, even Gab has a “sensitive” shield over them. OTOH, the punishees well and truly deserved it. Same for Mr S.

        2. Yeah, I saw his look down the nose thing, the smirk, the speaks a lot says nothing…. the first presidential speech I heard cemented that he would never have Americans first and foremost in his mind. A friend was surprised at my assessment and I explained why. I hated being proven wrong.

          And now he’s meddling again.

          1. Barry does exactly the same head thing that Mussolini did. That head tilt thing you see him doing all the time.

            And now, finally, we see he might just come to a bad end like ol’ Benito did.

            I have my popcorn all set. >:D

            1. That was the teleprompter stare. It was always funny how the great communicator stuttered and stumbled when he wasn’t reading what someone else wrote. Empty suit thy name is Barry.

          2. And now he’s meddling again.

            Meddling? That isn’t meddling, that is the first phase of the desperate counter-attack of a man who knows his jig is up. To quote Barry’s former pastor, “Them chickens is coming home to roost.”

            Peter Kirsanow, of the United States Commission on Civil Rights provides a tidy summation:

            Protecting Obama
            A review of weekend news coverage and commentary shows that mainstream media have gone into full “Protect Obama” mode.

            Evidence released last week — including, but not limited to, House Intelligence Committee transcripts showing that multiple top-level Obama administration officials were lying to the public for three years about Russian collusion — indicates that former president Barack Obama wasn’t merely aware of what was going on; he was hip-deep in what increasingly appears to be one of the greatest political scandals in American history.

            For other than the most sycophantic and credulous media personalities, Obama’s involvement isn’t much of a surprise. The August 5, 2016 email from Peter Strzok to Lisa Page stating, “the White House is running this,” followed by the September 2016 Page text to Strzok stating, “POTUS wants to know everything we’re doing” suggested the obvious: An operation targeting a presidential campaign and then an incoming presidential administration isn’t a mere freelance effort cooked up by a few rogue FBI personnel in their spare time. An operation of that magnitude and import must be blessed from the very top.


            Obama knows this. So do the media. They also know most of Obama’s “achievements” haven’t even survived Trump’s first term. The media-enabled fiction of a scandal-free administration is nearly all that remains of the Obama legacy. So it must be maintained. After all, he’s progressives’ Lightworker. He validates their pieties, conceits, and presumptions.

            That’s why we’re about to experience media prevarication, deflection, omission, and misrepresentation on a scale never before witnessed in political news coverage — even eclipsing that of the last three years. Obama must be protected, facts be damned. And if they spin furiously enough, they might even be rewarded with a Pulitzer.

            1. BTW – may I just mention that as a long-serving African-American Black conservative o that commission Mr. Kirsanow has shown more guts and integrity than Obama imagines having.

              For example:
              Kirsanow was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President George W. Bush in December 2001, but Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry told the White House that it would take federal marshals to seat Kirsanow, fighting his appointment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 2002 the United States Department of Justice prevailed in its lawsuit to seat Kirsanow as a member of the Commission. He was reappointed by President Bush to serve a second six-year term on the commission, and then reappointed once more by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

              1. Oh, you mad incurable optimist! The media don’t wonder; it is because we’re all deplorable and racist/sexist/something-phobic/dooty-heads.

                It cannot possibly have been anything on their part, not after they’ve given us the very finest narrative.

                1. “it is because we’re all deplorable and racist/sexist/something-phobic/dooty-poopy-heads.”

                  FIFY, you missed a word …

          3. During his first Presidential campaign when so many were going on about what great speeches he gave, I made a point of tuning in to one of them. It was infuriating. Lots of pretty words, with ZERO detail of how any of it would be made to happen. Not a glossing over, or a light approach to detail… just void. “…signifying nothing.”

  9. Here’s a thought, are chronic health issues noticed more in kids because of fewer of them or does a greater prevalence contribute to depressed fertility?

    We’re counting more allergies and eczema and autism. Those sorts of issues are what I am thinking about.

    1. There’s pretty good evidence that kids being allowed to run around and get dirty decreases their risk of allergies and trains their immune systems better. We’re not designed to live in the sterile environment some helicopter parents try to enforce. The kids need less hand sanitizer & more outdoor play.

      1. Which could have interesting effects on our becoming a truly space-faring species. How will growing up in an artificial habitat affect children’s immune systems? How much of the natural environment do we need to replicate in order for children to grow up healthy? Right now concerns have tended to focus on how much gravity children need for proper development, but might it turn out that the right microbiome is also essential to prevent allergies and autoimmune issues? (More stuff to think about as I write in the Grissom timeline).

        1. That’s really interesting. Probiotics sell really well, but don’t seem to work that well. How would you create an optimum microbiome seed for space habitat living? Could you clean the habitat or would you cultivate dirt?

          1. Probiotics (taken midway between antibiotic doses) have helped keep my digestive system working better (as compared to when I took antibiotics without them) when I have had to take antibiotics.
            Taking them any other time doesn’t seem to do much.

            1. Gut flora adapts to what you eat. Change your diet and your gut flora will also change. Also, it’s highly individual, probably based on whatever chanced to be first past the post when you were newborn and empty of competing bacteria.

              The problem with probiotics is that, except for when you’re emptied again (via illness or antibiotics) and need something, anything, to get your digestion in order again… they can severely conflict with what’s actually adapted to YOUR diet. Probiotics in dog food can, over time, cause intractable diarrhea…. because they’re not actually a good match to what the animal is eating, plus can result in overgrowths of organisms that aren’t actually ideal… and remember most of digestion is done by gut flora.

        2. I’m convinced that obesity will turn out to be partly a gut biome issue. And treatable through adjustment of the gut biome.

          1. I’m convinced it’s a backside issue, as in never bothering to pry it off the couch.

            Combined with an ‘eating too much’ issue…

            Hence, the three-step diet plan:

            1. That’s a beautiful theory. EXCEPT Americans eat LESS FOOD than any country I lived in for an extended period. And move more (Yes, I know, but trust me.)
              And yet we’re heavier.
              So, no.

              1. The next question would relate to not just how much food, but what food. And what “movement.”

                Still, case in point. My weight, after nearly a year of trending downward, has been trending back up the last couple of months and only just started heading back down again the last few days. (Still got a ways to catch up with the “personal best” of early this year. Some of that weight is showing up around my waist (up about a half inch from where it was previously). Chest and upper thigh measurements have remained pretty consistent, no trend to speak of. So I can’t lie to myself and claim the weight’s going up because I’m putting on muscle.

                I’m not sure why my body is behaving this way. I’ve remained pretty much on my diet and have been keeping physically active yet neither scale nor tape measure lies.

                1. …I stalled out for a weird moment on the bit about the upper thigh measurement and then remembered it’s Different for Guys.

                    1. Pretty much. Sure, burn more than you take in. The problem is that the rate of burning isn’t constant even day to day let alone week to week. Times like now, when everyone is stressed and anxious? Body knows we’re going into starvation mode. Which is pretty common in human history, alternating periods of feast and famine. This is why intermittent fasting works.

                    2. I’ve been logging my blood pressure for years.

                      After careful analysis, I’ve determined it does as it damned well pleases.

                2. It’s not just what, but timing, and yes biome as well. Well spaced meals allow blood sugar to drop, which allows insulin to drop, which allows fat to pulled from storage and ‘burned’. Snacking thwarts that. Drinking calories doesn’t help. And I’ve at least read of case where everything that had been working right for dropping weight or maintaining was failing.. due to an undiagnosed and therefore untreated fungal infection.

            2. Nope, known too many people who were told that for years, and then lost weight when they stumbled on a nutritional solution.

              Which does nothing to undo the damage of years, sometimes decades, of malnutrition and the body being trained into believing it is in starvation conditions, so it sacrifices longevity to be able to keep going on too little.

              Really fun when you find out that what you needed was some B vitamins, not having people tell you that you’re fat because you eat too much and don’t do any work…while you do more work than they do, and the only meal you eat is dinner. (Possible that’s part of why I’m short. Coffee for breakfast and three carrots for lunch isn’t especially great for growth. Might just be short, though.)

              Funny thing, first time I started really losing weight was after boot camp, when I was so stressed that I started eating a lot of chocolate, and having bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. Lost the weight I’d gained in bootcamp, and kept losing. Like most physically fit folks, my run time and pushups suffered in bootcamp, though I never dropped below what it would take a man of my age to pass. I did get a few more setups out of it, though.

              Many years of not being able to eat like that later, with my weight slowly creeping back up, I try a B complex supplement… and dropped weight.
              Still evens out at too heavy, but I can slowly lose weight… if I use a food tracker to make sure I eat enough. (and no, the carb cutting thing did not work for me. I gained weight and felt like crap, while not having energy– which, as it turns out, is a known possibility for those that diet doesn’t work for)

              Most of the fat people I know have mothers that dieted rather extremely while pregnant with them; most of the fat people I know don’t eat that much food; most of them eat healthy, too, unless they’ve hit the “F it” wall. And most of the time, when someone talks about them, they sincerely believe it’s just that they’re fat, lazy and eat too much, and nothing will jar it out of their heads. (which is REALLY fun when it’s a doctor)

              1. Yep. I can only lose weight on B complex.
                And yep on not eating that much food.
                Dear LORD I GAINED weight while working on a house, post surgery AND only eating one meal a day IF I GOT TO IT.
                And I had doctors ask me if it was possible I was eating in my sleep.

                1. What are you, some sort of biological perpetual-motion machine, generating energy and mass out of nothing? 😛

                    1. My mom– not talking about humans, talking about animals– compared it to driving around on flat tires

                      It’ll work, if there’s no better option, but you’re doing a LOT of damage, and you can’t go back to normal just by filling up the tire.


                      A supply chain might work as a better metaphor, honestly– fat is the storage, after all. Like farming.
                      A farmer might sell a lot of his seed corn if he’s reasonably sure to be able to replace it without serious harm. If he expects that it’s likely that there will be no seed corn available? He’s not going to sell any, and if there’s any seedcorn up for sale he’s going to buy that. Even if he has to empty out important shelters to make room for it.
                      If your body “expects” to randomly face really terrible shortages, it’s going to store a lot more extra. Which is why “yoyo diets” are a thing, and the life-change diets sometimes work… or work for a year or so, then your body claws back to what it was doing before, more resistant than ever. 😦

                  1. If you eat less food than is required for your basal metablism + current activity, your body is supposed to tap into its fat reserve to make up the difference.

                    Some people, this doesn’t work right, and the fat either isn’t properly metabolized or it’s too slow to make any difference, unless they’re actually starving. Which throws a monkey wrench into a bunch of other functions, including the ones that go “OMFG hoard everything because the food supply has been interrupted!” So they can sometimes eat less and actually *gain* weight, at least for a while.

                    The models many “nutrition experts” use look like a dribble glass; mass leaks out, you just adjust the intake until the level stays where you want. Which actually *does* work for some people, but is risibly broken for others.

                    “Just eat less and lose weight” *sounds* reasonable, but it doesn’t always work that way.

                2. What infuriates me is that “women need a lot of B” was known…when my mom’s mom was my age.

                  It was in shot form at that time, quarterly IIRC.

                  Got dumped at some point in the late 60s as being an old fashioned/ nonsense/ all in her head thing.

                  Nope, turns out that humans need more as they age, and women are prone to having absorption issues…..

                  1. Huh. I’d upped my B considerably last year, was finally seeing some good results… and then everything went to the Hot Place in Handbasket. Was finally getting back to that again, when lockdown.

                    Going to keep it up, hopefully it’ll work again once the stress eases.

              2. I suppose I should count myself lucky that my weight gain seems to be of the relatively uncomplicated sort: I started substituting soda for sleep too much again. Fascinatingly, the hormones associated with the New Wiggle included Coca-Cola in the “intermittently repulsive” category for a chunk of the first trimester, which was… sort of helpful, in terms of habit improvement. I think.

                This is a good reminder to maybe check again to see if extra B-complex is energizing, though. I didn’t notice any effect last time I tried it, but it’s been a few years….

                1. It also matters what you’re short on, too; being mildly anemic can give some of the same symptoms as being low on Bs, and not just because you need some of them to MAKE blood.

                1. Well, I’ve been taking Nature Made Fish Oil for knee pain, and CoQ10 for migraine control, so just did a purchase of B complex (through Sarah’s affiliate link) from the same company.

                  1. Hehhe, good choice of companies. 😀

                    For those wondering, lots of Nature Made in my supplement shelf because they hit a sweet spot of consistency, quality and price– you can try something without it breaking the bank, but in as much as possible they also aren’t actively unpleasant. (Contrast the Nature Made B-complex–bigish but swallowable– with the Costco Super B complex, which is bigger than the top section of my pinky finger.)

                2. My go-to is Nature Made “Stress” B-Complex.

                  It definitely makes my stomach uneasy if it’s taken on an empty stomach.

                  Ran into it during a diabetes scare, some folks use it to counter the tingling-extremities thing. And no, I have no idea if that’s related or not– I just got kinda incandescent to realize that I could have been skinny in high school but for the freaking incompetent stupidity of “you just eat too much!” fanatics.

                  (I was absolutely NOT diabetic, or even pre-diabetic, or at risk for diabetes, much to said doctor’s disappointment.)

                  1. Several times now, I have been considerably annoyed by doctors (referral consults) who have felt it necessary to lecture me about my diabetes and how to control it. They see I’m a fat guy, then I’m diabetic. They either didn’t read or ignored the chart, and after the second or third time I tell them I’m not diabetic, I get the “patient is in denial” pitying look.

                    If nothing else, it helps separate the competent doctors from the posers. I have a meter and a free supply ot test strips; this morning I scored a 90, about normal. Sometimes mid-80s. 100 is rare. Of all the problems I have, diabetes isn’t one of them. But they’re anxious to treat it anyway…

                    1. It’s interesting to have the blood work turn out “Wow! All your numbers are FANTASTIC. By the way, you’re fat.” (Gee, like I didn’t know that last one?) Those pulse oximeters? The one I have beeps in complaint when I’m relaxed and the pulse rate drops under 50 bpm – And I’ve seen 47 without medication.

                    2. I run into the same problem. Either they don’t believe in RH, or I’m nuts. Got the numbers to prove that, although my system can go high, it doesn’t stay there very long. Go ahead, ask your physician how fast your blood sugar is suppose to drop? Best you will get is “Below 140 two hours after you eat.” Which is the answer for diabetics taking insulin. Now ask what it means to drop from 200 to 90 within 45 minutes. I call it “Doctor Deer in Headlights, syndrome.” I’ve had it go from 95 to 80 after I ate. Short of using a continuous glucose monitoring, I have no way of knowing exactly what is going on. I’ve done it by testing every 10 minutes through high & low. Do not recommend that approach. At least not long term.

                    3. I ran into the same problem. I bought a pulse oximeter that was supported by the Sleepyhead CPAP software so i could watch pulse OX plotted against apnea events. Unfortunately the oximeter has a hardwired low-heartbeat alarm which will start going off once I’m solidly asleep…

                      I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some “official” standard saying a heartbeat under 50 requires immediate alarms and/or intervention and that annoying software function is merely regulatory compliance.

          2. There have been studies that showed the gut biome changing when people moved to different area of the country, with a subsequent weight change up or down. IIRC, Wisconsin had the biome associated with the most weight gain.

          3. I believe so too. Particularly because coming to the US as a student for a year seems to set students on a path of obesity. This is the only thing that explains it, unless speaking English makes you fat….

          4. I’m with you. I suspect fast food as the source of the issue, based on not very much except my personal experience.

            It would not amaze me if some day we discover that some food additive (like inert cellulose they put in burgers just as a random example) promotes gut bacteria that make you fat. Or its a microbe you catch from french fries, or etc.

            I’ve lost 15lbs while sitting around on lockdown. Activity reduced, lost weight anyway. What changed? No eating in restaurants.


              1. I did say it was based on not very much… ~:D

                In my own humble life, I never had weight issues until I moved to the USA and had enough money to eat out. Kapow, put on 20lbs and it never came off.

                Now here I am at home eating zero restaurant food, and its coming back off again.

                Correlation does not equal causation, but I’m not going to start eating out.

            1. Based upon my experience with Type II Diabetes a great deal of weight gain is related to carbohydrate intake — not just the amount but also the preparation and the accompanying elements. It has to do with your ability to process blood glucose (a result of having eaten carbs) and whether your body is able to burn those calories or convert them to fat (weight gain.) Anything deep-fried is likely to flood your “carburetor” and compromise your system’s ability to use those calories. Anything with a high glycemic index is also prone to convert rapidly into blood sugar and thence into stored energy (fat.) Anything deep-fried and having a high glycemic index is a problem weighting to hit you.

              Your body is a highly evolved organic engine, using insulin from your pancreas to convert consumed mass into energy — either immediate or stored for later. People with Diabetes Type I do not produce adequate insulin, those with Type II are insulin resistant — their systems produce it but are only able to use a diminished amount of what is produced. Anything that slows the system’s “uptake” of blood glucose — such as protein or exercise — has the effect of limiting the absorption of the carbohydrates, allowing more efficient processing.

              Cinnamon capsules have been found an effective dietary addition helping the body manage carb processing. If nothing else, they are much more pleasant to belch back up than is fish oil.

          1. One of the more humbling of my realizations about Type II Diabetes was the degree to which I am little more than a transport mechanism for gut bacteria.

      2. Also less exposure to antibiotics at early age? Knew a girl from Columbia who had lupus. Told me they studied it extensively there because of high level of expression and saw a correlation between lupus and early exposure to large doses of antibiotics. Suggests to me the immune system susceptible to being compromised by antibiotics if administered too early.

      3. Before we migrated to Australia I made a point of having my eldest son play in a little mud puddle I made for him. He has issues only with dust allergies, hayfever, and not being able to eat soft cooked yolk ( and by extension mousses made with such soft cooked yolks.) Given how allergy prone his parents were, I think this a win.

    2. Autism can be a rather slippery concept. There are enough incentives corrupting the numbers that we don’t know what the true prevalence of any given “level” of the spectrum.

      But I wouldn’t assume that it just “appeared recently” as some claim. Some fairy tale tropes are rather….. suspicious….. when you know about it.

      1. I know that some of the autism increase is counting where the people writing the updated definition deliberately changed “and” to “or” on the symptom list to make more families able to access support services. A lot of people who are autistic also have allergies too however, which suggests they are related. And allergies have risen, not just trendy helicopter mom sensitivity. So I think while some of the increase is counting, not all is.

        And even if parents want more kids, if the existing ones take more care it could, heck , make Mom and Dad just be tired enough they are less likely to succeed in conceiving more children. Or that could be crazy talk.

      2. On the other hand, given some of the apparent fragilities in health, an abnormally low survival rate under historical conditions might be expected.

        Plus, retardation apparently has some correlation with age of both parents. And maybe also autism. First children at a late age might possibly not have been evenly distributed across social class historically. Furthermore, perhaps not at current rates.

        1. Number 1 son is on the spectrum, but the definition seems to be getting so that normal male behavior is now autism or adhd. I’m not sure how much of the issue is Marxism and how much therapeutics.

          What attracted me to this site in the first place was the notion of Odd. It works so much better than any of that other stuff and who’d be normal anyway? Chad and Becky moved from hall monitor to Karen.

            1. Which is an absolute farce. Although if you’re running an IQ over 130, there are a whole lot of people out there that are just too bland to spend a lot of time with.

              1. I don’t know for sure what IQ over 130 is like, but getting trapped in thought loops where your mind is already four steps ahead before the other person finishes a sentence tends to create odd behavior as judged by other people, I believe. It may well look like autism. The inability to make the brain stop can make it hard to sleep, speak, and interact with the world. I also think high IQ can make you stupid, too. One word. MENSA.

                Also, the hearing thing seems to be common at the upper end. Don’t know why, but I’ve heard more than one mention that.

                  1. Hrm. Sarah has mentioned her grandfather and younger son having hearing issues. It may fall under the SPD (sensory processing disorder) umbrella, wherein the subject has increased sensitivity, i.e. a lawnmower outside sounds like it’s six inches from your ear.

                    For me it was that, and some electronic devices I could hear turn on from about fifty yards away. Through exterior walls. Painful. Distracting. The latter could make schooling difficult especially when very young. I was first supposed to be a slow learner, then autistic, then ADD, and so on until ma raised enough cane to put me with a specialist, who gave me that damnable IQ test. Then I got stuck in the “gifted” classes, which had a couple of quite legitmite geniuses, a handful of bright kids, and me (who wanted to get out of there as soon as possible). I still believe to this day that IQ tests are crap and we don’t know how to test/measure intelligence in a practical and quantitative manner, though like pornography I’d say most folks know it when they see it.

                    There is some suspicion in the medical and educational circles that high IQ/ASD and SPD are somehow linked. Data not being the pural of anecdote, I can’t speak to that. But from the few cases I know personally plus Sarah’s reporting, I suspect it very likely for whatever segment includes the “Odd” family of genes and expressed behaviors.

                    1. It is PRECISELY that. There’s ear-filters that can cause one to hear normally, and he wore his while he was young enough that this was overwhelming. BUT now he’s about 85% normal, and doesn’t want to wear it. (It looks like a weird steampunk contraption. He used to wear his hair long to hide it.)
                      For the record grandad had it, and I think I have some measure of it. Definitely the visual issues. BUT girls are less affected.

            2. They’re BORRRRRED. So bored they just zone out and create an interior world where something interesting is going on. If they can. Otherwise they become fidgety “problem children.”

              You know those Charlie Brown cartoons where adult voices are just “blah-blah-blah?” Their whole *world* is like that.

              Well, come to think of it, you probably *do* know…

      3. Had grandparents on both sides who would’ve been put “on the spectrum.” (Most of the technicians in our geek group, too– at least at the time, a diagnosis for that would’ve made it hard to enlist, which was another reason Elf and I chose homeschooling.

        Formal manners helps a lot, then you can have the four or so brothers that are normal, and the one or two brothers that are “a bit strange.”

        Girls can hide it better, seems to usually be interpreted as “shy” unless it’s really bad.


        I’d bet five bucks you could pin to inside of six months when various programs approved funding as disabled for kids with Spectrum disorders, just by looking at the change in diagnosis rate and pinning it right before the thing went up.

      4. I strongly suspect all these “autism spectrum” numbers are politically fudged. School district gets more money if they have X more “autistic” kids type thing.

        And I say that as a person who tested +++ on the Asperger’s tests. I have a strong dose, it isn’t even a question. The testing lady knew as soon as I walked in, I expect. Its like wearing a sign.

        But lately, any kid who looks a little funny by magic fits on that “spectrum” somewhere.

        1. Parents have been told the child has to be diagnoses as autistic so they can get him treatment.

    3. Autism seems to have both genetic and epigenetic factors. It runs in families (as I can attest, looking at my own family tree — I’m almost certain my uncle was on the spectrum, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandmother on that side of the family was too), but even identical twins can have widely differing levels of function. Being female seems to buffer against the worst effects, but it’s uncertain how — does it involve the X chromosome, does it involve hormone levels in the developing brain, does it involve differences in how boys and girls are socialized in early childhood? Age of parents also seems to play a factor, but again the mechanism is uncertain.

      There’s evidence that suggests that part of the rise in ASD’s is better diagnosis, but there’s also evidence that the rise of the tech industry has led to people who previously would never have found a mate getting to meet the love of their life busy coding in the next cubicle, so their genes for neurological peculiarities are reinforced in ways that weren’t seen when those oddities tended to lead to lifelong celibacy.

      1. You also have parents who demand that their child be diagnosed as “autistic” when the child really has a form of mental retardation (even in one case, Downs Syndrome [!]). Because “retarded” sounds so much worse than “medium-functioning autistic,” apparently. *facepaw*

        1. A couple of the schools I went to, I wound up being stuck in the “special” classes with the slow kids; this was before mainstreaming and dumbing classwork down to the slowest kid. Those were the kids who weren’t so badly off they had to be institutionalized, so they were sent to school, which then set them off in their own space where they were out of sight, out of mind.

          I got to know some of them. And most of them weren’t actually stupid; they just didn’t see the connections between things that were obvious to the normies. And a lot of them *wanted* to learn stuff. They just couldn’t learn much the way the schools tried to teach it to them. And, honestly, the system failed the teachers too; the kind of mass indoctrination they were trained to do wouldn’t work when children were too far from the norm the courses were intended for.

          “Mainstreaming” was a cruel joke on them; year after year of being resented and left out. Most of them just gave up and were waiting until they could escape the system.

          1. sometimes it’s also narcissistic parents with a golden child and scapegoat kid. Had a friend whose mother kept insisting to his teachers was… not bright. Turned out he was pretty intelligent and being put in the ‘needs help’ classes bored him to death. An observant teacher got him tested and fought to get him into the advanced classes. His brother, who was normal range intelligence was being pushed into the advanced classes and struggling. Friend was grateful to the teacher but some of the damage had already been done to his sense of self (he isn’t as driven as he used to be, he says.)

            1. Oh man, this, yes. Narc parents go for maximum Drama, and what happens to kids in the school system in the process is horrific. Not to mention it can be really hard to distinguish autism from a kid with complex PTSD.

              Long story very short, I was in grade school before there was funding for autism handed out; the school thought I was “barely average with pushy parents”. (And no one figured out I have problems with too much noise, bright lights, etc.) I’m fortunate I don’t remember much of the Drama that went down with dueling psychologists, etc., but apparently it turned out I test well into the Odd range.

              The resulting seething resentment on both sides hit every. Last. One of my siblings, who were all declared “learning disabled” in some form or other. Ugh.

          2. Cookie-cutter teaching is a Bad Thing.
            Lesson from animal (husbandry…). Oxen and horses can learn the SAME number of commands. But you must teach oxen differently (even more patience, even more repetition, and CONSISTENCY!) from how you teach horses. However rigid equines might seem to humans, they are far more.. tolerant of flexibility… than bovines. And… sometimes the dog just watching can ‘pick up’ the lessons though you aren’t trying to teach the dog.

          3. A couple of the schools I went to, I wound up being stuck in the “special” classes with the slow kids

            I was in “remedial math” through junior high (eighth grade in the school district I was in at the time). In High school I still struggled with it. I groked the concepts well enough but grinding through to results was…a challenge. And going farther back, I failed 2nd grade (Math and English to be specific) first time through. Part of that was “competitive urination” let us say between my mother and the teacher ( ) but part of it was also that I had an undiagnosed perceptual problem. To this day it’s still not “officially” diagnosed, but…let me explain.

            When I was in the Air Force and assigned in England, I had a task that involved setting two radio receivers to the exact same setting, one providing a backup for the other. One day I did that only instead of what I was supposed to get, I got static in the other. I called up to my supervisor to report a radio failure. He came down and, no, there was nothing wrong with the radio but I had transposed two digits in the setting. Once he pointed it out, I could see it. Right there.

            Three times this happened. By the third time, I was looking for it and still not seeing it until it was pointed out.

            Suddenly the problems I’d had with math suddenly became clear. Hard to do the arithmetical and algebraic manipulations correctly when numbers switch order on you, or flip (6 for 9, 2 for 5) or a “-” will appear as a “+”. Before realizing the problem, I’d tried to explain to someone the kinds of mistakes I was won’t to make and it was dismissed as just “carelessness.”

            Well, mostly I’ve come to work around them (Degree in physics graduating Summa Cum Laude–yeah, I’ve overcome the problem pretty well) but don’t ask me to explain how. It’s something my back brain has apparently figured out once alerted to the specific problem.

            1. Yep. The reason I didn’t stay in math was that things would inexplicably go wrong. I was in my thirties when I figured out I flipped digits. I’m also letter dyslexic, but since I started reading very early and stayed on it, that fixed itself well…. I can — as you guys know — spell like a lunatic when brain goes suddenly weird (usually correlating to sleepiness. Or today heavy allergies. (for some reason this also meant I had to set the car GPS to get home from home depot. Which is less than a mile away, but the entire landscape looked unfamiliar suddenly.)
              anyway, if I’d figured it out earlier, I’d have balked mom and I’d be a mechanical engineer. For all the good it would have done me.

              1. if I’d figured it out earlier, I’d have balked mom and I’d be a mechanical engineer.

                Can anyone think of a mechanical engineer in fiction? I don’t mean Oz’s Tik-Tok Man, I mean a genuine mechanical man* who is also an engineer? Data, as an android, does not properly count as an example (and was not an engineer.) Asimov had his robot detective(s?) but they weren’t engineers. It seems to me there could be quite a market for mechanical engineers in space colonization.

                *or woman – the sex of mechanical beings is not properly pertinent except in a particular sub-genre of scant literary interest.

      2. You know what we used to have that we don’t any more?


        Specifically, rules and rulebooks for manners.

        So that everyone could know what was socially acceptable and what was not, whether they could figure it out by observation or not.

        But now that we don’t have manner or rulebooks, because “that’s so fake, maaaan. Just act natural, maaaaaan”, it’s becoming increasing obvious who can’t figure it out be observation.

        And the people who can, no longer have the good manners to help those who can’t.

        1. I’m glad I read all those teen manners books from the 1950s-60s when I was a kid. I know things have changed, but they give me a very good foundation for working with older adults (70s-90s). And on occasion, armor when dealing with younger people. There are times—alas—when perfect, icy, archaic manners do have a place.

          1. Droopy.

            “Going down, sir.”
            “Third floor, sir.”
            “Mind the step, sir.” [AFTER he’s tripped over it]
            “Have a nice day, sir.” [In a creepy cold tone]

          2. The very idea of much of it annoyed me. What was needed was not simply the insistence on such (which I had encountered) but the clear reasoning of WHY – which was always left out, in my experience. Which made it all seem like nothing more than so much Witch Doctor Nonsense.

            Much like “the clothes make the man” which, as it SAID, and HEARD, is untrue. “The clothes make the IMAGE of the man in the MINDs of those who see only clothes rather than genuine accomplishments – which is all too many” isn’t as short, but is far more accurate.

            And I suspect it would be good to have learned MUCH earlier that (businessmen’s) golf is NOT about chasing a little ball around the great outdoors – it’s a means of having business conversations without all those records and things.

            1. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
              — Mark Twain

              1. I recall a bit from the Smothers Brothers about that…

                (paraphrasing most of it.)

                “I’ve read that clothes make the man and such. Which seems true. The more clothes, the more influence.”
                “Yes, there aren’t nudists really running things, in charge of the country, are there?”
                “So, the less they have on, the less influence?”
                “Yes, that’s the case.”
                “Less-on, less influence. So who is in charge?”
                “The more-ons.”

        2. By the “new manners,” are encouraged to abuse those who Violate the Unspoken Rules.

          Because they obviously don’t care enough, or they would try harder.

          1. *shudders* You have no idea how glad I am that I am not in elementary/secondary school these days.

            1. Terrified for my kids, I tell you. Son survived because we worked to give him a thicker skin, because sweet sensitive soul he was/ is, he would’ve been bullied. The few times he was, it was scary, including by a girl who chased himaround throwing sticks at him ‘as a game’ and when he threw a small stick back at her she immediately bolted for a teacher crying. Lucky for my son the teacher had seen her throwing sticks first.

            2. It’s probably good (for me, and likely at least one other) that Ender’s Game was not something I could have read in grade 4… as I suspect there would have been a death or close to it as a Point Was Made in grade 5 or 6.

        3. The problem is that any set of manners is fake. You have to give a reason for why someone should follow this and not something else, or nothing. Doubly so if you are dealing with someone who too bright or dumb to just “get it”. Or I suppose you could take the traditional answer to that problem and beat it into them. Because that certainly isn’t going to teach the bright ones that it is all arbitrary BS backed by force.

          But in a world where math teaching can’t even be bothered to explain why a particular structure is designed the way it is you aren’t going to get that.

          1. Not fake.


            Not counterfeit, but made by humans.

            Because the natural solution to interpersonal issues is to destroy the source, and in the long run that only works when used with extreme moderation.

              1. Examination, while observing the warning of Chesterton’s Fence. Explain, at least a theory, as best you can– but the person getting the explanation must also not reject, say, driving on the right side of the road because there is “no good reason” to not drive on the left. Being on the same page as the group can be a good reason, and not just because it makes it easier to identify who has gone dangerously off the rails before there are piles of bodies.

                Even witchdoctor nonsense can and does have great utility; Sir Pratchett didn’t pull headology out of thin air.

                1. I kinda love traffic as an example and sometimes metaphor to address where a convention can be fundamentally arbitrary — it’s even demonstrable, we’ve got countries that picked the opposite side of the road to drive on! — but still really important.

                  ….You can even opt for additional complexity by getting into both emergencies (better to swerve onto the wrong side of the road, at least if it’s clear and won’t make things even worse, than run somebody over) and defined routine exceptions (passing on a two-lane road, under appropriate conditions).

                  1. One of the major advantages of being a second (well, probably 4th at a minimum, on that side) generation geek is that my mom was really good at running into examples like that.

                    Like Ox’s break-down of ‘the clothes make the man.’ Well, no, they don’t, literally– but they are a way of communicating an identity.

                    Kind of like how ‘the map is not the territory’. Well, no ****, Sherlock. But it does have an important point in as much as it is an important reminder that even the most accurate of maps will have missing information, and most maps are not the most accurate map.

                    Chesterton made a lot of hay from such observations:

                    1. > Like Ox’s break-down of ‘the clothes make the man.’ Well, no, they don’t, literally– but they are a way of communicating an identity.

                      Like opinions on book covers, or “unambiguous graphic warning symbols”, it can also fail badly.

                      Or like we were talking about a few days ago, a handful of people would look at Michelle Obama’s clothes and go, “OMG a new Hoozi-Whatsis, those go for three thousand dollars!” and the rest of us were thinking “It’s a sad thing when a First Lady has to rummage in the dumpster behind a flea market.”

                2. A kid needs the explanation. “I say so” and “It’s always been done that way” are only invitations to experiment with NOT doing it that way. Even a thin explanation is beneficial. Chesterton’s Fence is a great thing – if mentioned, after some particular (and variable!) maturity.

                  1. A kid needs the explanation. “I say so” and “It’s always been done that way” are only invitations to experiment with NOT doing it that way.

                    Heh, that goes right back to the original topic… as a kid, I sure as hell knew better than to “experiment” with stuff that was not explained, because that is how you end up dead.

                    The explanation of “because it works when you do it that way” was always implied, and it only took a few attempted suicides before I figured out that standing there and arguing was a bad idea.

                    1. I am now trying to decide if you had far MORE or far LESS interesting childhood. Then, most of the Really Dangerous Things… Pa *showed* me how to do safely.

                    2. *shrug* Ranch kid. The traffic I might run into had four legs, that’s all. The dangers could usually think– at least sort of– but they weren’t humans who could reasonably be assumed to not WANT to hurt me.

                      There is no way to make farming and ranching mostly safe; I believe it was Cedar who just had a really good article on recognizing dangers, especially where kids are involved.

                    3. Always hilarious to watch two different ways of looking at the world collide.

                      I had the same outlook as the Ox: I probably wouldn’t do it the other way, but I would definitely think the child’s version of “you don’t have a reason and you’re full of )#*@#%”.

            1. That is an important distinction, but only if you have been taught to understand it.

              If someone hasn’t been taught that (and as far as I can tell most people aren’t, I may be wrong), and is the kind of person who doesn’t just automatically believe whatever they are told, the result is to see that there is no particular reason it should be this way instead of that way, and rebel against what looks like obvious BS.

              If you see what appear to be randomly placed fences, and everyone else can’t even seem to comprehend the question “why is this fence here?”, let alone explain what it is guarding, it will get torn down.

              1. As has been said – “Unless you understand WHY the fence was put there it is a very BAD idea to tear it down. That is what happened to manners. Far to many people did NOT understand WHY they were there and just did away with them and MOST STILL don’t see what happened. Everything became coarser, ruder, more and more people think only of themselves, everything became OK. Look how people treat people who are serving them in stores or people around them, they have NO consideration for those around them.

                1. The lesson of Chesterton’s fence is oft misunderstood.

                  Well, first it is mostly ignored, but among those who do not ignore it, it is misunderstood.

                  The Fence is not a Prime Directive, “In the day you eat of this ye shall surely die”. It is a blind spot. A location where you lack information, and thus have to place a barrier far enough away from the danger that you won’t trip and fall into a pit.

                  The correct response to a Fence is not to curse and tear down this oppressive fence. It is also not to fetishize the fence and worship it and the be all and end all of wisdom. The correct response is to learn everything you can about it: Maybe there is true danger. Maybe someone incorrectly thought there was danger a hundred years ago. Maybe there was danger at one point but not any longer.

                  If all fences were always true and unchanging we could not safely eat pork. It is a dangerous food in primitive conditions, but if properly handled it is safe.

                  1. ???

                    What on earth does that have to do with ‘before taking a fence down you should first understand the reasons why it was put up’? Even with the modification of ‘they are all idiots is not a reason’….

                    It’s not like it’s even as hard as ‘don’t argue for what you can’t argue against’.

                    1. It was a claim of “most” exhibiting a behavior I’ve never even seen in someone pointing to Chesterton’s Fence.

                      You usually have some sort of a…connection, in those.

            2. Actually an example from math:

              Matrix rules could have been constructed any which way, but they have specific rules on how they are used. When I went looking for information to try to understand them I couldn’t find anyone who would explain why it was constructed this way and with these rules. Is there something inherent about the math that makes this the simplest format? Could it have been structured two or three different ways that were equally simple and this was just the one agreed upon?

              I did eventually find the answer from Khan Academy: it is arbitrary, it could have been any of several ways and this is what was agreed upon so people can communicate. But most of the places explaining the concept never even acknowledged that there could be a question.

              1. Math is kind of a fun one because there are, as I recall it, entire areas of math created by chucking out or reversing one of the arbitrary bits, even sometimes the more intuitive ones. Although not, granted, usually the notation.

                1. Get deep enough into programming –and if you like digging around in the back end that will be very shallow indeed — and you learn that everything is arbitrary.

                  Some never understand that, much as there are those who simply never understand pointers. Some get it well enough to do their work and that is it. But it is far easier if you recognize that you are dealing with a deep philosophical problem.

                2. Srinivasa Ramanujan.

                  Who, not having the latest texts of his day, derived much from older texts and had Different Toolkit from most mathematicians. This meant that some “impossible” problems were things he solved almost trivially… and some things considered generally trivial, were impossible for him – until he met others and both sides had a look at the other’s toolkits.

              2. Most places explaining anything aren’t going to have all the secondary-question information.

                That’s part of why Odds (or even totally normal but just more interested than the teacher) kids drive teachers to drink. It’s not possible to have all the information in one spot, and interesting but not relevant to use information like how it got that way is just not in big demand.

                1. In which case I’m going to pull out the Odd Card and proclaim the rest of the world as WRONG. Because they treat basic questions as unthinkable.

                  (toungue only partially in cheek)

                  1. Not unthinkable; irrelevant to the goal of Doing The Thing.

                    ….and now I’ve got an elaborate metaphor-vision that I am NOT going to try to transcribe that involves those clear overhead projectors, and how one draws on them vs how one writes, with both solutions beign wrong depending on context . (which assumes that the reader is familiar enough with them to know that you can write on projector papers two ways– like on paper but backwards, so it projects in a readable manner, or take the thing off and write on the back, as you would normally)

                    1. It is a matter of perspective…. most people see the questions as irrelevant. Odds can’t understand the topic without this information, so it couldn’t be more relevant.

                    2. Ah, but we can understand the topic– of how to do the thing in X situation. We just want to know why, usually so we can use it otherwise.

                      I suspect part of it is because of the whole having issues reading people thing, so there is recognition of how much goes un-said and how bad it can bite you.

                      (It’s also why we sometimes pull off “amazing” things, like Ox mentions with the trivia, or any of a zillion “well of course I fixed it” stories here.)

                    3. Guess how I know I’m deeper on the Odd scale than you? (not sure if that is a brag or a self-insult)

                      For me if I stumble on one of these questions I can’t replicate whatever the task is. At most I might be able to do a robotic replication with zero trust in the results (nor should they be trusted: I have probably screwed it up by missing some “understood” detail), getting a little more pissed with it each time I do it.

                    4. *shrug* I’ve got biological, chronological and whatever-you’d-call-family-training on both sides advantage.

                      Robotic replication without trust from your results is the goal of learning an equation.
                      Just as you don’t need to understand how electricity works– which way it flows– what your local system is powered by– which network of power systems you are in– or even what breaker-circuit the light you’re trying to turn on is part of, in order to use a light switch. It’s a tool. When things go wrong, knowing some of those things can help you identify how to fix it, but they aren’t needed to do the job.

                      It’s like the difference between being able to follow the recipe, and being able to cook with the recipe as a vague guide. (or just scratch cook on the “look in the fridge” scale)

                2. And that’s why I loved Asimov’s science books, and how they spoiled me for memorize-and-regurgitate rote. Asimov would start from the beginning, or as far back as we knew to the beginning, and weave all the threads together to describe how we got from *there* to *here*.

                  If Asimov were to write a recipe for how to make a mud pie, he’d have three hundred pages on the nature of dirt, how the various elements were discovered and interacted, and how dirt was fomed. Then he’d move on to “and then there’s water, which also has some fascinating properties…”

                  That’s knowledge you can *use*; a consistent framework you can add things to. As opposed to “dump together and stir”, which teaches you exactly nothing.

                  1. Oh, I love it, too– if it’s something I’m interested in.

                    Something like, say, the keyboard-scramble of made up gender studies? I’m not interested.

                    Endless “National Conversation” lectures?

                    Really, not interested.

                    Most of the “reasons I shouldn’t like him/it/that” or “why him/it/that sucks” type things, also don’t like. If there’s a… .hm… strong useful reason for it, sure, interesting; learning how much X basically because the talker is afraid I might like it and that’s bad?
                    Not so much.

                    1. Endless “National Conversation” lectures?

                      This, and the latter examples constitute a sub-group of the broad category of Conversation, a group headed: Why I Am Better Than You And You Should Follow My Example.

                      It is especially notable for it’s premise having been assumed without discussion and thus not open to debate. Participants (aka The Party of the Second Part) are limited to responses along the lines of “I see” “I understand” and “I will try to be better” with an occasional “Of course, you’re right” thrown in.

                      While infrequently tolerable in a spouse (who has, arguably, earned the privilege and can be expected to reciprocate in turn) it is not generally agreeable from friends and, from strangers, tends to stimulate thoughts of boiling tar and pondering what sort of feathers might be readily available.

            3. I prefer to view manners as protocols.* They represent a culturally determined set of behaviours intended to normalize interactions. Like grammatical rules they often seem arbitrary but that is because it generally is not necessary to understand the etymology of a rule in order to apply it.

              They exist for the general convenience and it is simplest to accept that, learn the rules of the particular game and how to apply them.

              * “In networking, an agreed-upon way of sending messages back and forth so that neither correspondent will get too confused.” — Perl Dictionary

          2. A wise man (okay, it was Robert Heinlein, put in the mouth of Lazarus Long) once said: “Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.”

            1. Exactly.

              But most people are never taught this. They are taught that this is this way because that is how it is the end and wtf does Timmy have to ask so many awkward questions.

              And then they are shocked, SHOCKED! I say! when Timmy decides that politeness is actually a civilization-wide plot for everyone to lie to each other.

              1. Once upon a time, Timmy would’ve know what “grace” was, so when he was told that manners are “social graces,” he would’ve had the sense to consider it might be exactly what it says on the tin.

                Of course, little Timmy would’ve also had the concept of caritas, or brotherly love.

                From the evidence, little Timmy was usually being a brat who didn’t want to do a thing, so professed a failure to understand– while objecting when it was returned to him. (And little Timmy is quite old, Dorothy Sawyers has a hilarious scene were one of the destroy-the-fence guys really gets peeved when his gander is sauced, and the Duchess flutters while directly quoting him, earlier.)

                1. Once upon a time, Timmy would’ve know what “grace” was, so when he was told that manners are “social graces,” he would’ve had the sense to consider it might be exactly what it says on the tin.

                  If Timmy was in fact taught that then the problem never arises. Otherwise the problem hasn’t changed; merely a different collection of sounds and letters that the adults aren’t answering questions about.

                  Of course, little Timmy would’ve also had the concept of caritas, or brotherly love.

                  I’ll have to take a rain check on that one.

                  From the evidence, little Timmy was usually being a brat who didn’t want to do a thing, so professed a failure to understand– while objecting when it was returned to him. (And little Timmy is quite old, Dorothy Sawyers has a hilarious scene were one of the destroy-the-fence guys really gets peeved when his gander is sauced, and the Duchess flutters while directly quoting him, earlier.)

                  Of course there is always the brat problem, doesn’t mean the question is faulty. And in many cases these are both happening at the same time. When I ran into the issue it was part of “teen angst” (or a thousand other names for the same thing), and I already had it sufficiently ingrained that I wasn’t intentionally rude. But it was an honest problem that I could not figure out a logical reason to not call politeness lying.

                  Sometimes “they just want attention” is code for “they are a brat”, sometimes they really do need attention.

                  1. If Timmy was in fact taught that then the problem never arises.

                    *shakes head* No, because one of the most obvious ways to get short-term gain is to cheat the system.

                    Take, and don’t pay– assume the benefit, even demand it, without any intent to return or even notice that there is an implied return.

                    That’s what Rules for Radicals was, laid out as a tactic.

                    1. Ok, I mis-worded that.

                      “Timmy knowing what grace is” doesn’t solve the problem, because it is the same as “Timmy knowing what manners are”. Saying that him knowing graces means he would understand manners is missing that “graces” will also have all sorts of strange rules that don’t have an obvious meaning. You may as well be appealing to the dormitive principle of opium.

                      There are at least four different options for this scenario:

                      1. Timmy can understand the X (where X is either “manners” or “graces”), and there is no problem.

                      2. Timmy can understand the X, and try to game the system.

                      3. Timmy can not understand the X, and have serious problems.

                      4. Timmy can partially understand X, but have issues with the logic that aren’t being answered properly.

                      1 and 2 are obvious and simple, except for people giving 2 an unjust pass. Don’t even think of trying to tell me that 3 doesn’t exist, because that is what every single Autist has to wrestle with as they mature (with people accusing them of 2 the entire time).

                      As for 4, I can detail my version as an example, just to show that it exists:

                      I was always the extremely polite and shy kid who’s behavior prompted people to come up and compliment my parents. While I never learned the more esoteric stuff (like the rules and reason for setting silverware in a certain position), I was thoroughly taught politeness, and understood it.

                      Fast forward to teenage years and both in private and around known people (barely restrained from doing it with complete strangers) I could not take a compliment. After all for any compliment I knew all the reasons that the person was mistaken, and you shouldn’t take credit for what you didn’t do. The fact that my parents kept trying to explain to me that it was, if not outright rude, at least not polite COULD NOT be reconciled with the fact that it is also rude and worse to take improper credit. And that to allow someone to give me credit where none was due and not correct them was barely a step below lying.

                      It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the logical pressure of this lead eventually to the conclusion that all the little niceties and “How are you? I’m fine!” exchanges (plus things like Santa Claus) were nothing but a massive culture of liars. Did I stop being generally polite? No, but the problem remained unsolved for a very long time.

                      No system gaming was required in this. All you need is someone who is seeing things from a different angle, has their own internal problems, and then runs into a contradiction that they don’t know how to solve.

                      If someone had then come along at that time and accused me of trying to game the system they would not merely be wrong. They would be adding another burden of guilt on someone who was already having difficulties with guilt over nothing.

                    2. “Timmy knowing what grace is” doesn’t solve the problem, because it is the same as “Timmy knowing what manners are”. Saying that him knowing graces means he would understand manners is missing that “graces” will also have all sorts of strange rules that don’t have an obvious meaning. You may as well be appealing to the dormitive principle of opium.

                      That makes your assertion make more sense.

                      Not graces, short for social gracesgrace, the theological concept.

                      Think of it like the Bible story of the guy who owed the king big money, and was forgiven it, then got in trouble when he was a rude, nasty booger to the guy who owed him far less.

      3. I think it’s whatever makes girls more “feely”– might be hormones messing with expression? Guys tend to be more “doing” so it’s less prone to interpretation?

      4. It could also be that the awkward nerds are making big money in tech and have been for 30+ years, leading the Normie girls to be more willing to put up with nerd awkwardness.

        When Chad the buff surfer/football hero is making $15 at Ron Jon’s and Poindexter the skinny computer dweeb is making $100/hour at Google, Barbie the fabulous bikini model is busy doing math in her head for the first time in her life. Buff dude and poverty or skinny nerd and luxury?

        Even Barbie can do that math.

        1. Frank Hayes wrote a filk about that, based on this song, called “Saucy Programmer”. I can’t seem to find Frank’s song, though.

        2. Ponder how horribly dated Revenge of the Nerds seems today. Not because technology has changed so much, but that if you show it to kids today the looks of bewilderment what was portrayed was ever the case.

        1. I was a) born very premature, which has its own issues.
          b) WHILE we were not clean in American terms, mom is addicted to wiping everything with bleach. So compared to the kids around me I was incredibly clean.
          ….. which probably means the threshold is much much lower for “clean” tolerance than we imagine….

    4. I think that we are seeing more allergies. I think that the children used to die. We called it crib death and moved on.

      1. We still have those infant deaths, apparently in fairly high stats still, but it’s less… I don’t know how to put it. Acknowledged by most people? Husband said that it was like joining a secret club that nobody wanted to be a part of, when a lot of his coworkers commiserated with him in the loss of our boys. And I think we don’t deal with death as much these days as a group – people don’t know how to deal with the mourning – or on the flip side, over share.

        Even when I have to discuss those losses as part of medical history, I find I am the one giving comfort to the nurse or doc.

  10. ” Japan which suffers from “the defeated country’s disease” which tends to lead to adopting the culture of the victor at least as much as possible, and limiting the number of children.”

    This is more interesting to me. Do you suppose the entire western world could be suffering from “defeated nation disease?” Our overculture is abusive, this could be a result of the abuse.

    1. “Do you suppose the entire western world could be suffering from “defeated nation disease?”

      The late Dr David Yeagley was a Comanche Indian (“Bad Eagle”) and a professor. In one class, a young white girl (‘Rachel’) gushed that it must be *wonderful* to be a Native American and have a culture: “You have something to be proud of. My culture is nothing.””

      Yeagley was reminded of those French women who, after the defeat of 1940, were quick to consort with the German conquerors. He found Rachel’s attitude less excusable:

      “Who had conquered Rachel’s people? What had led her to disrespect them? Why did she behave like a woman of a defeated tribe?”

      1. I don’t know about her culture. Mine split the atom and walked on the Moon. 🙂

      2. On the one hand I want to shake Rachel and tell her she has been fed a bucket of lies about her culture.

        On the other hand I want to shake her and tell her that she shouldn’t worry or care about it; what her ancestors did or didn’t do has no bearing on anything.

        On the gripping hand I know that that is unfortunately not quite true.

        1. If guilt is to any great extent heritable, there is a path to justifying chattel slavery.

          If chattel slavery is necessarily wrong, then people must be judged for their own choices.

          If the guilt trip has any validity at all, we should only be regretting that we didn’t kill the Blackfeet. And the Canadians. And the Anthropologists.

          Same essential principle as “If I live, I will kill you. If I die, I forgive you.” There are a lot of choices available that don’t involve accepting those dictated to you by your enemies.

          1. I don’t mean morally. I mean in the sense that regardless of any “ought” one might hope for, people tend to feel kinship for the culture they came from or adopted. That whole “thing bigger than myself” idea. I get it, and am a member of a couple voluntary subcultures as well as re-joining an idealized form of the American culture.

            But no matter how much one may understand it, to the person who grew up aculturally it still feels…. dirty….

          2. Or put another way: If you have no connection to any culture you cannot be attacked from a cultural angle.

            But humans without cultural connections appear to go rather loopy. And the statement sounds an awful lot like “if you have no family you can’t have family problems”.

          3. But they do believe in slavery. The downside of chattel slavery, to them, is that it comes with some responsibilities on the part of the master to feed, clothe, and shelter the slaves, or give them time and if necessary tools to provide for themselves.

            1. One of the stories I’m attempting to write is turning into a stealth-meditation on different forms of slavery; main characters are standard POW-slaves and very nasty form of conscript-slave. At one point they run into more standard “selling people at the market” slave, and the conscript horrifies the POWs by not instantly freeing the purchase-slave, because he’s aware of the various nasty ways you can exploit that.

              Thing is, I didn’t figure out that’s what I’d done until he was sitting there, trying to explain there are things worse than dying as a slave– like dying free, in the ditch, while those who stole your life go on to do it to others.

      1. That would be the sort of ethnography that might get you killed. And the roots of it probably reach beyond the second world war- I’ve seen hints in the first and I believe it links to one of the darker themes of the modern human condition. Much of the data I’d like to have is probably destroyed, but there’s plenty still about in living heads and documented here and there.

        I’ve always been more drawn to the physical end of the discipline. Finding a true cultural anthropologist that hasn’t been poisoned by the very thing being studied, well… Might have to look very hard. Cultural anthropology, along with psychology was, I believe, one of the first to become captivated with Marxist ideas. It was heavily salted into the classes I took dealing with that side of things. This may have had an affect on what I chose to study. Partly, at least.

        Back in the eighties and early nineties, the men and women that preceded us cautioned against “becoming so open minded your brain falls out.” Not going native, more like a translator that forgets how to move in their own culture. What a cultural anthropologist is *supposed* to do is study a people, a culture. Learn the ins and outs, learn from the ground up if you can and not sit in the pre-teen girls tent and listen to them gossip all day- Looking at you, Meade- but learn what they value and what they condemn. Once done (usually when the money is about to run out), they write up their findings for the consumption of their home culture.

        Not everything is going to pass over. Like translating, you have to lie a little. Ideas from, say, pre-Christian Cherokee or Northern China (Mongols) aren’t always going to have Western analogues. A good cultural anthropologist, like a good scientist, needs to make the complex understandable in common speech.

        Looking at Marxism in the US, though…

        It *is* a vastly different culture. It crosses political lines. Also rapidly changing- note well which statues are coming down, in the end it’ll be all of them. I also don’t think it started just with Marx, the slimy bastard stole from everyone without shame, I highly doubt he had an original idea in his rotten head the oncet. As a university student, he and his mates were all afire for Hegelianism, atheism, the works.

        Interesting how atheism tends to show up in leftist thought of all stripes that I can think of, up to and including inside the Church itself, but that’s another rabbit hole. Beware, it’s deep.

        If I was to put a date on when it came to these shores, I’d lay odds on during or just post Enlightenment years. Locke, Hobbes, and so on. The roots of the Declaration are here, too. But also from here we go to the French Revolution, and *my* how do we go… Also the Russian Revolution, I think, but I haven’t studied it in any depth. From the French Revolution, to Marx.

        FDR wasn’t the first. Marx was being published in the New York Daily Tribune in the 1850s and 1860s. The Tribune was read by around 200,000 people at the time, though Greeley felt compelled to note that he held opinions that Greeley was “far from agreeing” to, but was a good source for folks wanting to know about the European political situation. Who would be wanting to know the political situation in Europe? Why the elite, of course.

        So to study Marxism in the US, I’d trace its route through the American elite, keeping mind of what Marx was stealing from and the ideas that came before that made it so attractive to them. So, the Enlightenment, the Revolutions of 1848/9, Marx, Engels (Engles produced Capital II and III after Marx’s death), the upper crust in the US in the mid 19th century, the history of the schools of the elite in the US and Europe (sepcifically, England. Why England? That’s where Marx was, at the time), for the roots.

        Then through the ACW (skipping a lot, probably, haven’t researched), Marxist-Leninism in Stalin’s Russia, the Socialist Party of America opposed the war (WWI) and weren’t very well liked at the time. The Communist Party of America swiped members from the socialists, then we have the Great Depression and finally FDR.

        From FDR to the Red Scare, and now we get in to the part where there are actual people to interview still living. Here’s where your cultural anthropologist dives in to autobiographies, newspaper articles, and all the people he can get to sit down and talk with. Follow the path. Me, I’d stick to the elite and see where they went. It was their ideas that got the ball rolling, and where do we find the Marxists pulling the strings these days? Yep.

        Now, the part where I said this sort of ethnography could get you killed… Well, it’s happened before. This would be more like interviewing a cult. One with some very violent members- not all, but some. The thing that worries me is the “no cameras!” bit in the mobs out west and in the metro north. Media folks like Andy Ngo getting attacked, and even lefties roughed up and ran out. Those are bad signs.

        Sticking to published literature only gets you so far. First sources are king in ethnographies. As messy as the history of Marxism in the US has been in the last thirty years or so that I’ve been paying attention, I’m going to go ahead and bet it was as bad before, we just don’t have the first sources to dissect (not literal) other print and, somewhat, audio/video for most of this previous century.

        But I’m not a cultural anthropologist, I was trained a lot more on the physical side of things, so take my words with a pinch of salt. For much of the trek, a trained historian with a gimlet eye for detail would be better, and solid assist for the more recent bits as well. Even a gifted amateur with time and determination would do. *grin*

        1. I don’t think it much of a coincidence that its modern advocates are the heirs of the Party of Slavery. Many of the fundamental concepts about human dignity and worth seem to correlate rather tidily.

          They just use a different phraseology for their ideas these days.

  11. I walked about four blocks to the post office this morning, and back. Three different people wearing masks took detours into the road to avoid passing me on the sidewalk.

    I don’t look like an orc, or a serial killer. At least, I don’t think so.
    Margaret: “Where’s your costume, dear?”
    Wednesday: “I’m a homicidal maniac. We look just like everybody else.”

  12. Okay, now I can deal with today’s essay.
    Fear of divorce. This is a BIG factor, I think, bigger than it’s comfortable to admit. Two anecdotes from one beast’s life:
    1. One of my nieces has made every bad choice in the book: confrontation, drugs, running away, pregnancy, petty theft, the full catastrophe. Now in her late twenties, she’s beginning to settle down and is finally capable of keeping a job. Mirabile dictu, she’s found an honest working man and is carrying his child … but although he pleads with her to marry him, she won’t. All her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles (with the exception of the uncle married to me) have been through divorces, and she doesn’t want to risk it herself.
    2. My Lovely Daughter (TM) has been living for nearly five years with an eminently respectable, goal-oriented young man while he finished college, completed a master’s degree, got a high-paying job in his field, and found a terrific rental in their price range in their dream city … and he refuses to marry her until he can buy a home. Neither his parents nor hers have divorced, but he won’t even formalize an engagement until he owns real estate; until then, according to his wealthy family, marriage is too much of a financial risk. My poor cub grits her teeth, remains patient, and pays her half of the rent and bills while he enjoys her youth without commitment and she continues an open-ended audition for the role of Wife.

    Two couples whose histories couldn’t be more different, but each with one member for whom marriage is just too much of a risk. I got nothing.

    1. For a lot of men, in a lot of states, marriage is very risky (as is random sex, even). Philip Greenspun ( often points out that a woman in Massachusetts can make a very good living for over 20 years by having one child each by three different dentists. That’s not the only state where the divorce/child support laws place a huge burden on fathers if the relationship doesn’t survive.

      1. This. I’m constantly depressed by the number of men and college age guys who declare that they’ll never marry because all women want is a wallet and a baby-daddy. Or just the wallet. Or they’ve been burned and don’t dare risk losing their re-built income and retirement.

        1. There indeed is a lot of suspicion and hostility between the sexes—my sense is, much more than there was even 5-10 years ago. One factor in this, though not by any means the other one, is surely the reign of the Relationship & Sex Police that Obama installed in all American campuses. Now brought to an end by the Trump administration, but the scars linger on.

        2. It’s a mess. Makes it doubly hard for those of us deaf to signals when the formalities that used to exist that *helped* are gone, too, of both sexes.

            1. Indeed, and it’s awful. Although – “The Meg”? I think that was a good one for both sexes!

              Also, I rewatched “Die Hard” recently. Man, i don’t think you could get that made today…

              1. James Bond. It’s a male fantasy. The early ones. It SHOULD be as legitimate as… oh, any female fantasy.
                But it’s not. Because we’re living in an undeclared matriarchy.

                1. I think there was some neo-Nazi fellow who was trying for a jab at Jews by saying that you know who is in charge when you aren’t allowed to criticize them. It’s a tainted source, but erase the anti-Semitic assumption (hell, Dims say anti-Semitic shit all the time, it’s being Republican that makes the legacy media condemn you for _whatever_ you say) and it’s pretty clear that yeah, we _are_ in a cultural matriarchy.

                  But those Karens don’t know the first thing about herding the cats that are ‘uppity’ males.


                  1. Gynocracy, daggonit. They are explicitly anti-motherhood. They actually want a patriarchy, but they want to be Brats in the relationship. All of the freedom, none of the responsibility, and with someone else, usually a powerful male, to blame or look to for protection. Look at how often they’re willing to excuse men who indulge them in their tantrums, and condemn those (men or women) who hold them responsible.

                    Only “fun” discipline, and never any real responsibility.

                  2. Never noticed any lack of folks criticizing me, often for doing quite feminine things, and come to think of it most of them ARE related to being a mother or two-become-one wife.

                    What on earth would be the word for a rule by the genetic dead ends, those who are neither mother nor father?

                2. Yeah, and it’s ugly. When a single woman complaining about a video game promotional tweet can get it taken down, or the threat of being able to mobilize manufactured outrage against an individual ends businesses… ugh. And the rules in the matriarchy change at whim. Body positivity! but only for morbidly obese unattractive women, not if you are a sexy curvy busty woman, or you happen to be a short flat-chested woman, if you’re those you’re a sex slave of the patriarchy or only fulfil an unspoken pedo fantasy, not a ‘real woman’. Men have to all look like the Hemsworth men, but be simps for bitchy feminists; no body positivity or acceptance for you! Believe all women, unless they’re your political opponents or are against your political lords, and no, men are ‘never’ victims of any mind of assault ever.

                  I hate it.

                3. I always found Bond bun to watch. Though I’d never have dated him. 😉

                  …Heh. Videogame example? Devil May Cry 4. “Dante is the fling. Nero is the guy you bring home to the parents and get serious with; he’s going to stick around.”

                  1. My husband and I went through the whole string of Bond movies one time. I think my favorite was actually Timothy Dalton.

                    1. Have you watched Chuck? because he gives a delightful performance in season 4 of that series.

                      It suffers from having been constantly at risk of cancellation, meaning season-long story arcs would jump from ending at episode fifteen to running until episode twenty-three, but has lots of fun with guest appearances of such genre legends as Dalton, Linda Hamilton, Scott Bakula and more.

                    1. Now as you mention it, I think James has generally been played by an actor with good buns. It would probably be entertaining to make a mash-up of Bond Buns over time, all to the tune of that theme.

                      Sigmund, you done slipped!

              2. Die hard mocks the presumed competency of police leadership and of the FBI, as well as depicting the Media as self-glorifying boobs. Throughout the film it is the “blue collar” guys who are shown as truly competent (down to and including the power company guy tasked to cut the juice to Nakatomi Plaza.)

                No-ope, that movie ain’t getting made.

                1. There are good reasons why that movie was immensely popular…

                  Hollywood did their best to fix that, though. Note how each sequel was exponentially less popular than the one before…

                2. “Guess we have to send out for some more FBI guys….”

                  Though one thing that really ought to give people pause for thought is that the bad guy’s whole plan hinged on the FBI going according to their playbook. Whoof.

              1. Works for me — let all actors work for scale, with all pay above that going to the Screen Actors Guild to be redistributed evenly through the acting community. As there are no small parts there ought be no pay discrepancies.

                Demonstrate through your deeds the truth of your words!

  13. “Teach your children well. And teach them we need more children. Not only is the earth not overpopulated, but we’ll never get to space this way.”

    I disagree on this one: India is where it is today because it slammed itself against its Malthusian limits whenever they changed. We don’t want to end up in a world where human life is cheaper than the price of food. I don’t advocate any of the leftist solutions to this problem, nor is our low fertility likely a sign of a healthy culture, nevertheless overpopulation is a problem when it manifests. When human life gets cheap, labor becomes worthless. Society becomes unmechanical, because automation is no longer needed, just de-facto slave labor. Society deranges in many ways.

    Much of the problems facing our current Ameican working class (also our engineers): They’ve been put into direct competition with desperate people trapped in an overpopulated pressure cooker willing to do anything to not starve.

  14. As a child, the only other only child I knew had lost her brother in a private plane crash. (Yay for Mormonville?) I saw how much my parents needed me to be perfect, compared to my friends whose parents had four or a dozen kids. (I also noted a whole host of other problems, including intellectual snobbery, in my upbringing.)

    We have six. A home school friend welcomed #8 yesterday. Perfect Mother’s Day present, she says. Mormoneville is still a pocket where children are welcome.

    1. Many children are, in effect, only children, as they are their MOTHER’S only child. May have 10 or more half-siblings.
      But, to that mother (generally not married at any point) that child is her ONLY claim to immortality. Same effect as being an actual only.

      1. The other side of the baby-momma coin is the way a woman isn’t supposed to have two children at home at the same time.

        Have one, get them to school, THEN get pregnant again. So you don’t “neglect” them.

        …I didn’t point out that three of the kids her toddler was playing with, out of the pack of eight, were mine.

        My kids have playmates. Hers are only children….

  15. Oldest son was born at 32 weeks when I was 29. Daughter was born at 36 weeks when I was 31. And by the time she was weaned, I was 34…and unwilling to risk the health and well-being of any more babies, since I had not carried either one to “term” (set at 37 weeks by those who study the development of humans in the womb), and was getting old enough that other issues would also start causing problems.

    I am doing my best to not handicap my children by making their lives too easy.

  16. I”m the oldest of four, and when I was growing up, I just sort of assumed that I’d have kids. Except I ended up spending my most fertile years pining for a senpai who was never going to notice me because he was Simply Out Of My League. By the time I finally did marry, I was moving into the upper age range for childbearing, especially for having one’s first child — and my husband was already old enough to have health issues that had their own effect. So it was less a choice to not have children than the opportunity slip-sliding away into change of life — and given certain health issues in our family, it may have been for the best. For one thing, it probably wouldn’t have been whether but just how severely autistic any children of mine would be.

    1. I”m the oldest of four, and when I was growing up, I just sort of assumed that I’d have kids.

      Heh, same.

      Of course, I’m still single, because apparently the “How to attract a suitable spouse” module wasn’t installed when I got out of the factory.

      I’m only bitter about it occasionally.

    2. I’m the second-oldest of four, but likely the only one who is likely to reproduce. My older brother can’t, of course (car accident the year after we graduated high school), my sister the hippy has significant health issues and also the sort of feminist attitude that precludes a man wanting to reproduce with her (although her ex-husband just had a baby with his new wife), and my younger brother is, at the age of 37, still living with my mother, with no plans to ever move out.

      I’ll be 40 in September, but I have a family history of late births, so we’re going to start trying just about as soon as I get back to the States. Two’s probably about all we can hope for, but I do also have a family history of twins, so there’s that.

      1. Pre-emptive reality check: having kids now is insanely safer than it use to be!

        Do not let the doctors scare you half to death with vague talk of “risks”. If there’s a specific risk, even the idiots suddenly learn how to speak in terms of specific risk factors, rather than vague allusions to demographics that may or may not be adjacent to one you seem to be similar to.

        I had one that scared me half to death with vague talk about risks in becoming pregnant less than a year after the prior kid was born.
        Found the original. It was a higher rate of complications having kids born less than a year apart. (Irish Twins.)

        I believe I’ve given the Tuna Rant before, too. ^.^

        Good luck!

    3. I know people who pine for the ‘unattainable-and married- love of their life’, wasting their youthful years, because doing so is ultimately safer. They get to have the tragedy of their grand, unfulfilled love, and… then nothing but loneliness. Not saying that this was the case for you, but this is the case for some men and women out there. Idealistic fantasy instead of potentially flawed reality.

  17. I hate the idea that “the human brain isn’t fully developed until (IIRC) the twenties”.

    In the past, mid-to-late teens were given adult tasks and expected to do those tasks.

    Heck, a late teen was seen as old enough to live independently including starting a family.

    If “you” consider a late teen to be a child, don’t be surprised if he/she acts like a Big Baby. 😡

    1. A few days ago I did a segment in my Experiment in Storytelling in which one of the characters is dealing with a long-distance situation involving a friend of the younger sister of a co-worker, and thinking that if this friend and her siblings have to go into the child welfare system, she’s going to need an advocate, but back on Earth officialdom isn’t likely to listen to a teenager, and even she herself is apt to be brushed off, because while she’s married and has two kids, she’s still much younger than the typical Houston mom. And then thinks about how “we grow up early up here on the High Frontier.”

      As I write the actual novels in that setting, I’m going to have to make sure to show how kids start accepting responsibility quite early, with grade school kids helping teach basic skills to preschoolers, older kids helping teach younger kids to read and write, and youngsters doing basic tasks like wrangling household ‘bots or managing rodent habitats in the farms and the labs. Otherwise it’s just not going to be believable for the average present-day reader.

    2. The “not fully developed” part is probably true.

      The conclusion drawn from it is the sort of unthinking blinkered nonsense that makes you realize that the wildest stereotypes of the ivory tower philosopher were in fact understatements.

      You want to know how to be an adult before the early flexibility goes away. Does that mean you will have perfect wisdom? No. (Hint: the adults don’t either) But it means that you will have the foundation that you will need later.

      1. Yep. My take on it echoes my fathers, and his. Youngsters *want* responsibility. Pile it on ’till they scream. Responsibility is the flip side of freedom- you don’t get one without the other.

  18. I would also note the associated practice of outsourcing child-rearing – when another round of pregnancy is just that one more interruption in the mandatory out-of-the-house career before farming the bundles of joy out to daycare or nannies, and said career is the absolute priority, having those one or two if only to shut up the grandparents is a practical choice.

    The issue at need is societally reprioritizing childbearing and childrearing.

    1. We’d have to start by telling feminists not to undervalue women’s contributions. As much as they whine about men devaluing women’s work, it is they who think that women do not count as successful unless successful in a male sphere.

      It’s why I say we live in a gynocracy, not a matriarchy. Motherhood is explicitly devalued and disrespected. Even as they pay false tribute to it on one particular day of the year.

      And no, the solution is not for companies to be forced to accommodate women who are trying to be both mother and executive.

    2. outsourcing child-rearing

      Isn’t that the very downfall (eventually) of slave-owning societies? The child-rearing is left to the slaves.. and guess what values the children learn… Now, you can change the noun ‘slaves’ to some other noun, and get the same (relative) problem. There is one exception to this… well two… “parents” and “family.” Though really, NOT exception. Just that the values are the ones that most likely ought to be there. Most likely – no guarantees.

  19. Because of course this gross digression from today’s topic demands this introduction …

    May 11, 1969 And Now for something Completely Different

    Graham Chapman was trained and educated to be a physician, but that career trajectory was never meant to be. John Cleese was writing for TV personality David Frost and actor/comedian Marty Feldman at the time, when he recruited Chapman as a writing partner and “sounding board”. BBC offered the pair a show of their own in 1969, when Cleese reached out to former How To Irritate People writing partner Michael Palin, to join the team. Palin invited his own writing partner Terry Jones and colleague Eric Idle over from rival ITV, who in turn wanted American-born Terry Gilliam for his animations.

    The British comedy troupe that formed this day in 1969 was amused at the idea of a haughty Lord Montgomery, patterned after Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL, etc. “Python” seemed just slippery enough to make the whole thing work.

    The Pythons considered several names for their new program, including “Owl Stretching Time”, “The Toad Elevating Moment”, “Vaseline Review” and “A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket”. “Flying Circus” had come up as well. The name stuck when BBC revealed that they had already printed flyers, and weren’t about to go back to the printer.


    The Flying Circus broke new ground with techniques like the “cold open”. With no titles, credits, or opening theme, Michael Palin would crawl across the tundra a la Robinson Crusoe, looking into the camera and saying “It’s“… And off they went. The cold open sometimes lasted until the middle of the show. Occasionally, the Pythons fooled viewers by rolling closing credits halfway through, usually continuing the gag by fading to the BBC logo while Cleese parodied the tones of a BBC announcer. On one occasion the closing credits ran directly after the opening titles.


    The Pythons shared a dislike for “capping” bits with punchlines, and experimented with ending sketches by cutting abruptly to another scene, or breaking the rules altogether by addressing the camera directly. Two examples were the knight in armor, played by Terry Gilliam, who would wander onto the set and whack people over the head with a rubber chicken. Or Chapman’s “Colonel” character, who would walk into sketches and order them stopped because things were becoming “far too silly.”

    [End Excerpt]

    Also on this date:

    1812 Waltz introduced into English ballrooms. Some observers consider it disgusting and immoral.
    1968 Richard Harris releases “MacArthur Park”
    1974 Steely Dan releases “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number”

    1. Monty Python copied The Goon Show, and they copied those WWII London theater guys. BBC4 has done some very good shows about the string of copies.

  20. Quote: I have in the past said there is a correlation between lack of industrialization and slavery, and I stand by it.

    In King David’s Spaceship the heros are punished for introducing rigid horse collars on the bases that before that, the only way to harness a horse was a rope around it’s neck, when it pulls hard, it strangles itself, so it can only do about 5x the work of a human, but it eats 5x as much, so it’s about a break-even. ith rigid collars, the work becomes about 10x a human, while still only eating 5x as much (and not all that stuff that a human would consider food), starting the decline of slavery.

    As the Nazi’s discovered during WWII, depending on slaves to produce equipment that requires consistency and precision leads to significant problems for the users of the equipment. And that equipment would not be considered even remotely ‘high tech’ today. imagine the subtle traps that an enslaved programmer could introduce into equipment, or the marginal solder joints that someone assembling electronics could introduce (and look back in history at some of the much more extreme forms of sabotage that the German Slaves in WWII ere able to get away with)

    1. And a lot of subtle programming traps just would NOT be detected by the overlords doing QA, unless those overlords were equally capable programmers. Here’s an example from a real mistake I made. Look at this fragment of “pseudo-code”:

      if (condition)
      …. Do step A
      …. Do step B

      The …. is meant to represent indentation, but WordPress would mangle consecutive spaces. The question is, if the condition is false, will the program do step B? The *correct* answer is neither “yes” nor “no”. The *correct* answer is, “Well, that depends. What programming language is this?” In Python and F#, code blocks are determined by indentation, so after the “if (condition)” clause, steps A and B are a single code block that will be executed, in its entirety, if the condition is true, and NOT executed (in its entirety) if the condition is false. So in Python and F#, the answer would be “no”. But in Java and C# (and many other languages), code blocks are not determined by indentation, but by squiggly braces (that is, the { and } characters). In those languages, in the absence of a squiggly-brace block, an “if (condition)” statement only controls the execution of the *first* statement that follows it. So without the squiggly braces, the code above becomes:

      if (condition), do step A
      Do step B unconditionally

      So in Java and C#, the answer to my question is “yes”: if the condition is false, step B will still execute. Imagine the possibilities for subtle sabotage. For example, a slave writing the code for an airplane’s guns could write it as follows:

      if (guns are pointed at another aircraft)
      …. if (aircraft being pointed at is ENEMY aircraft)
      …….. Announce “guns, guns, guns” over radio frequency
      …….. Fire guns

      Result: LOTS of aircraft lost to friendly fire as a plane’s banking turn happens to sweep the guns across its wingman. And the overseer, unless they too had plenty of experience as a programmer, would almost certainly fail to catch this “mistake”.

      1. Some time ago, on the subject of slavery somebody rhetorically asked “Can you imagine Scotty (Star Trek) as a slave”.

        However, thinking about I could see how Smart Slave Owners could manage somebody with the knowledge that Scotty had.

        Privileges. As in very valuable slaves like a Scotty would have special privileges that other slaves wouldn’t have. Obviously, if caught in a serious offense against his masters, he would be killed. But for lesser offenses, loss of privileges would be the punishment. Of course, if he did especially well at his job, then his privileges would be increased. Adding to this, his children would get better education and a higher starting point in their lives.

        In regards to your example, Smart Slave Owners wouldn’t put a “new slave” into that job but would ensure that only trustworthy slaves got jobs like that. Of course, the “Overseers” would likely be even more trustworthy slaves.

        In short, I’m not against slavery because it’s “less effective” than “free workers”. I’m against slavery because it is immoral to hold humans as property.

        Sorry, that soapbox snuck up to me. 😉

        1. I have a Lot of programming experience. I can just see me being asked “Yes or No, is this valid code?”

          me: silence
          prosecutor: “simple answer, yes or no?”
          me: “Both”

          Spirals down hill from there. Because even tho my inclination is to explain my answer without being asked. The proper answer is to answer what is asked, only what is asked. If they want to know more, they will ask the proper questions. But they don’t … they really, really, don’t.

          I might have LOL’ed a bit reading the example.

        2. And, as a bonus, the friendly fire would NOT be announced over the radio frequency. Which would probably make it even harder for the hypothetical Nazi-equivalents to figure out the cause of the friendly fire.

      2. > but WordPress would mangle consecutive spaces.

        That’s not actually a WordPress problem. Most web browsers will collapse “whitespace” (two to many-many) spaces in the HTML source file to a single space on the screen. To get two or more spaces you have to insert “non-breaking space” characters instead of spaces. NBSPs aren’t treated like whitespace, for whatever bizarre reason… and then you have the “proportional font” issue to deal with on some systems; some proportional fonts will run multiple spaces together so a double space comes out more like a 1.1 space.

    2. There was a tale related on Twitter (Thus Truth Coefficient: UNKNOWN) not long ago about an air crew reminiscing about a particular run… Paraphrased:
      “The one we caught a shell..”
      “That would be ALL of them” “ the fuel tank – and it didn’t go off.”
      “News for you. There were FOURTEEN* found in the tank. ALL were inert with one strange exception. It was also inert but had a note, ‘Slave labor. This is all we can do for you now.'”

      * Pick a number, really.

  21. You mentioned reasons for the birthrate problems in China and Japan. I’ve read that neighboring South Korea has similar problems.

  22. South Korea has some of the worst demographics on the planet. Brazil too, unless the published data are wrong, which they could be. Europe, especially Southern Europe, is a disaster. China is in a class by itself.

    US demographics are still relatively healthy. The Obama years were in this as so many other things, years the locusts ate, but we are still in much better shape than anywhere else in the developed world.

    This has been one of my long-term interests. For example, the productivity boom under Clinton was largely a function of the age composition since the proportion of people in the most productive cohorts was high. This sweet spot explains Japan in the 80’s and Much of China in the naughtiest. The coming demographic collapse in China will cause an economic collapse too.

    As with most “social science” things we don’t have repetition never mind controlled experiment, but the data are compelling.

  23. For instance six year olds were often entrusted with pasturing the family’s flocks or looking after livestock.

    Paternal grandmother (1908 – 1988) was tasked by age 5 with, her “older” brother (1906 – 1973) were tasked with insuring the turkeys were roosting in the trees, chickens in their coops, every evening. They were also tasked with gathering eggs, feeding both flocks, and letting chickens out, all before school. She also had pretty much the unsupervised run of the (by then) extended family homesteads, essentially Hayhurst Valley up onto Sheep Hill to the West, over Old Baldy to Eagle Creek road to the East, over Old Baldy to the lumber mill pond to the North; I have no idea what the boundary was on the south. Well out of the sight of the house, and while not alone, with very few other younger children, as most the siblings and cousins were in school. By the time she was 7 she was the one feeding herself, siblings, and father, as her mother was ill, until she left home to teach. She did have an older sister, but sister was enough older, that she was out of the house by then. Grandma talked about the cooking & cleaning of dishes, remember this is wood stove cooking. No running water. She also mentioned keeping the house cleaned, but didn’t mentioned doing laundry specifically; maybe it was implied.

    1. Oof. I’m probably not being responsible and capable enough, let alone asking it of the four-year-old….

      Will have to work on fixing that.

      1. We have some adorable video of the son, age 3 to 4:

        1) Bossing dad on how to properly unload dirt … said kid doing so with his child, heavy duty, plastic shovel & wheel barrow. Then wheeling it over with dad behind with the (much) larger setup. Repeat with bark dust, gravel, seeding of lawn.

        2) Bossing dad on how to properly rake leaves to put into the yard recycling. Again heavy duty child sized rake.

        3) Dutifully loading split loads into the back of the pickup from a pile created by dad & grandpa who were splitting the wood (son splitting wood started at age 11 … I still can’t). To build up the picture:

        * Kid’s head might have been as high as the tall as the back fender on the pickup. Tailgate is off pickup. Heavy duty old fashion crate on ground behind pickup.
        * Kid’s Process: Pickup piece, lug over to pickup, put wood on crate, climb on crate, put wood on tailgate, climb on tailgate, put wood in back of pickup, take wood over to stack it.

        Granted, everything son hlptd with went so much faster than without him, and we did a lot of work after he went to bed, in the dark. It was just so dang cute to have him help.

        That doesn’t count helping with Christmas cookies. Cooking in general. Or other household chores. We always figured we were spoiling him letting him help, or assigning him chores & letting him do them. Who knew?

        1. I’m afraid I have not let my daughter do nearly as much sweeping as she would be willing to do because I don’t know if I could ever get her toy broom clean again. There are obvious solutions to this that I have not implemented, although alas, none that I know of to the fact that I hate cleaning brooms….

          1. By the time older son was four, I bought a large blackboard for the kitchen. I used it for menu planning (because sometimes husband needed to know what we’d be eating)but I also used it to post tasks.
            I didn’t trust either of them to clean bathrooms, but I posted tasks like “Pick up toys and straighten your room – $2”
            Or “set the table – 25c.”
            With the understand younger son is three and a half years younger, he didn’t do that much to begin with, but soon they were competing for things like “Dust and vacuum whole house – $20”
            Certainly by time younger son was 8 or 9 they were doing most of the house cleaning.
            Wheels came off with high school since they were both in advanced programs. BUT up till then, that’s how they earned money, no allowance.
            Mostly younger son blew his money on candy and comics, but older son put it all in the bank, accumulating thousands of dollars.
            Because that’s what motivated him….

        2. Granted, everything son hlptd with went so much faster than without him,

          Lol. I was in my twenties before I realized the you could make a batch of cookies in less than 20 minutes, because every time I’d done it growing up, we were “helping” Mom.

          But that’s how kids learn, both to help and to do the task on their own.

          1. Once I was old enough to handle the oven (match light; no pilot), Mom said if I wanted cookies (I shared the sweet tooth with her; Elder Brother preferred MacD burgers, not sure about Eldest Brother), she’d be happy to buy the ingredients, but making them was up to me. Minor supervision at first, but as Latchkey Kid, I had the kitchen to myself if I wanted to do a batch.

            Not sure how many Toll House cookies I made in my youth, but it was a bunch.

            1. I’ve been getting the kids to bake. ^.^

              Yeah, it’s mostly mixes– but a lot of recipes are out there for, say, brownies when all you have is cake mix.

              The last couple of times, the only thing I had to do was come in to help put the jar of oil away in the cupboard. (They can get it down, but not up.)

              1. Weirdly mom, who didn’t allow me to cook so that I had no clue HOW to cook when I got married, let me bake. I think because baking was fussy and she didn’t enjoy it….

                1. I caught a bit of Rachel Ray a few years back. She’ll cook by guesstimate (IMHO, pretty much how the good cooks I know end up), but she dislikes baking because the recipes don’t have a lot of leeway (then, you might need to adjust for weather and other issues. High altitude is fun, even at 4300′.)

                  1. I don’t use recipes. In the rare occasions I do, my backbrain adjusts for high altitude. it’s weird. I don’t even notice I’m doing it.

                    1. $SPOUSE has had to do a few iterations to get baking recipes to work for altitude. OTOH, when you throw gluten-free in the mix, the rules change a bit.

                2. Gal I knew only online once had this conversation with Younger Relative:

                  “Am I cooking or baking?”
                  “How did can you tell?”
                  “You’re measuring everything – twice.”

  24. … the watering down of our education the A for existing

    Or consider the current demand that every child be given an “A” for the year’s schoolwork not completed due to the pandemic induced school closings. (About the Harvard Law students who want to be scored as passing their bar exams “because Corona” I have contempt in excess of my capacity for restraint.)

    No, they haven’t completed, they haven’t covered that material and to give them an “A” on it is to admit the material is pointless. Which it might well be, but that means we desperately need curriculum reform. They best they can get is an “incomplete” with opportunity to “test out of” the material.

    If your lawn care crew, your house painter, your brake mechanic pulled something of this sort you would not tolerate it, s why accept it from our school system? It is bad enough we have to pretend they’re educating kids when they’re merely (badly) indoctrinating them,

    As for our ancestors insisting kids learn Greek & Latin — that is when languages are easiest to learn. Brain plasticity not only has the language centers most active i that age group, the learning of Greek & Latin facilitates proper learning of English. They only seem hard because people have waited too long to study them.

    1. The local Caribou coffee kiosk has a trivia question every day. Even if I don’t have anything from the kiosk, I give it a look. If it’s a (recent.. ish) pop culture thing, or sports related I’m out. Sciences, I have a chance. And to the Caribou folks bewilderment more than once I’ve worked back from the question itself with the pittance of Latin I’ve managed to pick up here and there (I suspect my first real encounter was in Basic Chemistry… which had nice notes about how things wound up with the names and abbreviations/symbols they did). “Only you…”

      A few days ago the question was, “What is removed from seawater in a desalination plant?” And I figured it was really simple question. Evidently, slow as ox is, some humans don’t even get there. DeSALination? SALary. “(Not) Worth his SALt”. And that’s even bringing in SAL ammoniac!

        1. And meaning ‘heavy’ which also neatly explains ‘plumb bob’ and ‘plumb line’.
          But it’s a bit more to explain how someone might be “more than half a bubble off plumb.”

    2. > Or consider the current demand that every child be given an “A” for the year’s schoolwork not completed due to the pandemic induced school closings.

      They probably got that idea from public school. Some of them do only As and Bs now, as Ds or Fs are considered “stigmatizing.” So they have no real concept of “grading for performance”; they attended some minimum amount of time, they get a good grade. The school send them home, it wasn’t their fault; they *paid* for that grade. Entirely reasonable when you are aware that your Gender Studies or Social Economics classes are just bullshit make-work anyway…

      In the ’60s there was a push for getting rid of grades entirely and going with a simple pass/fail system, but I haven’t heard anything about that in a long time. Probably redundant after “keeping the age groups together.”

      1. The reason you haven’t heard about it is that it was adopted at every education level in lots of jurisdictions, especially college and graduate.

      2. I wonder what percentage of Harvard Law students attended public K-12 schools? Not likely to be publicly available information, I’m thinking.

        The “A or B” only system rather puts the lie to the argument of accepting every student in the top ten percent of his/her/their/xir/zir/its* class into the state’s premier university, doesn’t it? If more than ten percent of a class cohort makes straight As their academic grades should be discarded by university admissions if not accorded a demerit for lack of rigorous curriculum.**

        My nephew once turned in a high school report card of straight Ds, earning my praise — given the ease of getting (I don’t think it can properly be termed “earning”) a C or dropping into F territory his achievement demonstrated a nice understanding of academic standards and a capacity for analysis of teachers and just how much they each would tolerate. That nephew has somehow managed to graduate law school and not only go into practice but had, until the recent lockdown, opened a diner and was turning a profit within the first year and a half.

        *Simply typing such “inclusive” nonsense out automatically relegate applicants to second-tier schools

        **Some class cohorts will excel academically in spite (or <I<because) of academic rigorousness (ref: Jaime Escalante’s students) but the smart money these days bets the other way.

  25. When you have seven children, you can contemplate losing one or two to war, or some sort of difficult service with equanimity.

    This is where China’s One Child” policy is going to haunt them. The State may see itself as having millions of children, but every single person lost to war (or government malfeasance, e.g., King Flu) has TWO parents and FOUR grandparents who see that child as the sum of their contribution to the future.

    Seeing your genes tossed onto History’s scrapheap is not going to wear well. Suppressing all avenues for expressing grievance does not eliminate grievances; it merely insures that when they;ve built sufficient pressure to burst through the dams the flood will be far more terrible.

    I wonder how many in China believe the CCP-Flu killed just a few thousand.

  26. Is it possible that the easy sell of socialism today, is that young people perceive additional humans as having negative worth? Which in many cases given their upbringing is true – and socialism is built on the assumption that every individual is costly. Earlier in the industrial age, new individuals had great positive worth, and therefore capitalism was a more obvious choice.

    1. [P]eople perceive additional humans as having negative worth?

      While I share their belief that some people represent negative worth all evidence indicates my understanding of who those people might be is 180 degrees out of phase with theirs.

  27. beat the person with an umbrella.

    Be sure to use one of those British ones, the kind intended to last three to five generations.

    1. I have my grandfather’s, and his bowler hat. I don’t think he ever unrolled it. One used to carry it but never use it. The British were strange but then he was a modified urban idiot, Stoneyhurst College, Sandhurst, and the Guaaards.

    2. I thought the saying was a man needed THREE umbrellas…

      One to forget at home,
      One to forget at the office,
      And one to forget on the train.

  28. > As for small children working in the mills, I will only say that those same children were employed in farms in worse ways.

    Are you familiar with

    It started with some pictures of children used for mine labor, and then sort of snowballed…

  29. Des Moines shopping update:

    Went a bit earlier this time because I couldn’t sleep last night, good thing, there was traffic. Still not BAD, but enough that I was really glad they finished the heavy work earlier.

    The ladies at Walmart have had it. By and large. About a third wore masks, and about half of the guys, mostly the personal shopper ones. The young, earnest cart kids were all wearing the properly, saw a lot of noses.

    Shoppers were maybe 50/50 on masks, and one of the gals I kept running into was obviously wearing it to humor someone, while one of the guys looked like he ALWAYS wore it. (Very tall, use-to-be-big, farmer type.)

    Lowes was kind of busy, they’ve started hiring the summer kids and were moving a ton of stuff around. One very unhappy looking lady wearing a mask while walking around yelling into her phone, and an unmasked clone who at least didn’t look unhappy. (The randomly shouted phone conversations are returning to shopping! Nature is healing!)
    I had a heck of a time making eye contact with the kid that helped me load the lumber because I swear he looked like the new Spiderman if Peter Parker was a red head. Not really relevant, just tickled me.

    Considered hitting the mall, since they are open, but only two stores and some eating places are open; when bloodbath– I mean, Bath and Body Works opens up, I am so there. 😀

    Tractor Supply Company was PACKED, though very politely.

    The Asian food store I usually go to was still requiring masks. When I was walking back to the car, an elderly Asian man was headed in… with his mask VERY CAREFULLY set below his nose.

    I’m starting to think this is a stealth protest.

    1. “You can make us wear a mask, but you can’t make us wear it right”?

      I like it.

      1. And it even guts the claimed justification of “you might be infecting me,” backed up with gross-out videos.

        Not spitting out of your nose, after all.

        1. Yeah, I’ve seen that too. The hilarious thing is that the Karens genuinely think other people are “wearing masks wrong” because they don’t know better. The truth is, they’re doing it _because_ they know better.

          While I’m at work, I have to wear a mask, and the carbon dioxide is very wearing. (Even though I have it adjusted to promote airflow.) But the rest of the time, pfft.

        2. I’d LOVE to see the results of coughing and sneezing though/with various masks as revealed by some Schlieren photography. I suspect it would be Most Enlightening. And Narrative Destroying.

          1. Of course, when I’m in public I IMMEDIATELY feel like coughing. I do it on my elbow and facing down, which I think is way better than any mask.
            Weird experience today. EVERYONE my age and older was unmasked.
            OTOH everyone under 40 was masked and had masked their little kids. I did NOT bitchslap them, but it took effort. Fucking idiots. Kids need oxygen.

                1. One of my prescribed meds has a side effect of stimulating the nerve at the back of the throat which triggers coughing; once coughing starts it teds to irritate the throat and generate more coughing.

                  Damned irritating.

    2. OK, Klamath Falls shopping trip. Had to hit the county clerk’s office to drop off the vote-by-mailfraud ballots (actually trust the clerk, nice thing about flyover counties); saw one human at 8:40AM, we were both masked. (I figured the Karen Patrol would be there. Not so much.)

      Dropped off a couple items for the Mission’s kitchen. No masks.

      Bi-Mart; all employees required to wear masks. Saw a few nostrils. Being a much older clientele, most customers masked up. (I was, I think.)

      Restaurant supply: Started in without mask, saw “Masks required”. Went back and put on the frippin’ mask. Entered the store; you could tell the employees from the customers; I was the *only* customer with a mask. FWIW, only one big chunk-o-meat per customer. Got two 24 packs of hot dogs. No problem.

      Grocery stores (Fred Meyer (Kroger) and Sherm’s (Independent)). Employees required; anything from surgical to “this is a stickup!” bandana. 50% or so for customers. Usual shortages, plenty of dairy and eggs.

      Everybody is looking forward to Stage I of opening, Real Soon Now.

      1. Local (regional chain) store has sign saying they are limiting “fresh” (not pre-packed name-brand etc.) meat to a total of 4 packages per customer. The meat counter will quite happily wrap and then over-wrap your purchase to make your 12 or whatever items into 4, however, as they consider the limit to be sheer idiocy – why not SELL it instead of having to write it off?

        1. I’m pretty sure HyVee has the warning just to avoid stupid people tricks like going in 10 minutes after opening and emptying the entire display.

        2. The restaurant supply place mostly sells to small outfits; caterers, small food service operations, and the occasional prepper. (raises hand) A chunk-o-meat might weigh 10-15 pounds. More established and/or bigger places are getting their meats from dedicated suppliers, so the limit actually makes sense given the supply issues.

          No limits on things like hot dogs. Last week the Gospel Mission cleared out the affordable fowl-dog selection before I got there. The food bank is hurting, and I’ve had the impression that private donations to the Mission, including from church collections, are now a sometimes thing. That impression got cemented in my mind when we donated 50 pounds of rice and 50 of beans*, and somebody took both bags (one trip, I was impressed!) and ran to the kitchen.

          (*) Cue “Chicken Cordon Blues” (Can’t find it on Tube of You–Steve Goodman died way too early for that)

    3. Local upscale grocery store run yesterday morning: Not really busy, but they were running two registers plus the 12-or-less. Everyone was wearing masks, though some store staff were wearing those transparent face shields instead (the curved ones being made all over via 3d printing by volunteers). No shortages visible. Full meat counter (this is the place with a full length manned talk-to-the-guy meat counter across the entire back of the store). Full fresh veggie section. Full bakery section – both bagged stuff from afar and local fresh baked. Plenty of frozen veggies and frozen potato products. The only thing I was after that I failed to find was the hatch-pepper flavored corn tortillas, but they had all the other offerings. At checkout got asked “Paper or plastic” for the first time in many years – they have both on hand now.

      I wore this:

      Which I bought from Tractor supply, but they don’t list it anymore.

  30. This one is tough for me. My particular culture places great value on marrying and raising children and I agree that such things are vital and essential. Not having had the chance to marry and have children is painful for me personally but it isn’t God’s fault, or my church’s fault, or society’s fault … it just is. On the other hand, I think it is cruel to deliberately deprive children of the father they need and deserve so voluntary single parenthood was never in the cards for me either. I’m blessed to have nieces and nephews and maiden aunt is an honorable role.

  31. I’m not so sure that “Safety First” is so much the problem. I think the problem is that “Safety First” is being implemented as a Zero Tolerance policy against any kind of risk. As soon as any good idea is implemented as a Zero Tolerance policy, it stops being a good idea and starts getting in the way.

    1. I like how someone re-dubbed “Zero Tolerance” as “Zero Intelligence” – since “ZERO tolerance” means not having to actually THINK about it… “It’s a gun/knife/whatever, doesn’t matter that it’s a part of an action figure toy, ZERO TOLERANCE!” DONE. No thinking required!

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