I'll bet this isn't what he thought would happen to him

You have to wonder about this guy's karma.  That's just harsh.

That's What 'Too Much' Means

Theodore Dalrymple (via InstaPundit) wonders 'What will happen if I consume too much calcium?'

The answer reminds me of this little bit of British comedy, since Tex was whetting our appetites for that sort of thing.

Ah, Miss Manners

Catching up on Miss Manners after neglecting her since before Christmas:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you deal with a daughter-in-law who tries to take over in your kitchen?  The holidays are here, and I’m dreading her getting in my way. 
GENTLE READER: The most important thing is to refrain from mentioning the problem to relatives who scrupulously avoid getting in your way by settling themselves into comfortable chairs while you clean up.  For that matter, it would be better not to mention it to the offending daughter-in-law, either.  Rather, you should beg her assistance in such out-of-the-kitchen tasks as setting the table, collecting the Christmas wrappings for the trash, and the most important task of all, which Miss Manners’s own dear father described as “Go see what the children are doing and tell them to stop.”

Radical education

Alabama's state legislature pulled off an education-voucher coup this week, variously described as "historic" or "sleazy," depending on one's view of the salutary or oppressive effects of a state monopoly on education during the tender years.  As HotAir notes, if voters disapprove of the parliamentary gambit that caused a fairly radical voucher program to emerge from a conference committee that was considering House and Senate versions of a very different bill, and then to obtain abrupt approval by a conservative majority, they will punish the legislators in the next election.  If by that time concrete improvements have appeared in the educational prospects of students stuck in failing Alabama schools, voters may reward the gambit.

The school voucher controversy is of enduring interest to me.  I abhor shoddy schools and ignorant educators, and revere personal choice and free markets, so much that I tend to embrace nearly any reform measure that takes a crowbar to a state or unionized monopoly.  But as a counterpoint to my anarchic zeal, I try to follow the main arguments against vouchers.  Today I will pass over the usual objections to cherry-picking of the best students or the unfairness to attributing school failure in broken neighborhoods to administrators or educators, and instead note an interesting theme in one of my favorite playing grounds, the comments sections to published reports on school-choice events.  What I see is a visceral distrust and hatred of improperly supervised for-profit private schools, especially those operated on religious (or -- horrors -- even fundamentalist) principles.  Apparently one of the greatest dangers of school voucher programs is the delivery of innocent children into the hands of creationists.

Returning to Sokal's "Fashionable Nonsense," which I wrote about yesterday, I note his warnings about the sad state of science education.  He begins with C.P. Snow's much-quoted "Two Cultures" lecture:
A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists.  Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  The response was cold:  it was also negative.  Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of:  Have you read a work of Shakespeare's
I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question -- such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration,[*] which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? -- not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language.  So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.
Sokal goes on to diagnose the problem:
A lot of the blame for this state of affairs rests, I think, with the scientists.  The teaching of mathematics and science is often authoritarian; and this is antithetical not only to the principles of radical/democratic pedagogy but to the principles of science itself.  No wonder most Americans can't distinguish between science and pseudoscience:  their science teachers have never given them any rational grounds for doing so.  (Ask an average undergraduate:  Is matter composed of atoms?  Yes.  Why do you think so?  The reader can fill in the response.)  Is it then any surprise that 36% of Americans believe in telepathy, and that 47% believe in the creation account of Genesis?
It is not my purpose to express disrespect for the creation account of Genesis, whether viewed metaphorically or as a supernatural alternative to the ordinary mechanistic explanations of the origin of species.  I merely think it bears examining how we teach our children to rely on the most current scientific thinking.  How do we know that matter is composed of atoms?  I was relieved to find that my first guess -- "something to do with how chemical reactions obey formulas that suggest the interaction of subunits of common molecules in a handful of simple predictable weight ratios" -- was pretty close.  John Dalton made this important deduction in the early 19th century.  Why do we believe in the evolution of man from earlier living forms?  Do most children learn a useful answer to this question, or are they simply shouted at from the progressive and fundamentalist camps, respectively?  I'd be willing to bet money that few primary school teachers, and fewer school board members, could address the question in terms that would hold water for ten minutes.

If I had the responsibility to educate any children, I would want them to learn theories that hold up well to logical examination and experimentation.  But surely there will be time later in their lives to modify any shaky theories they absorb in childhood.  I'd be more concerned to know that they have been trained early in the habit of thinking through why and how they know something to be true.

*As Sokal quotes:  "Recent megalopolitan hyperconcentration (Mexico City, Tokyo . . .) being itself the result of the increased speed of economic exchanges, it seems necessary to reconsider the importance of the notions of acceleration and deceleration (what physicists call positive and negative velocities) . . . (Virilio 1995, p. 24)."

The abuse of thought

I've just finished "Fashionable Nonsense:  Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science," by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont.  What a treat!  And if you're not inspired to order the book, you should be able to get a hoot out of the highlighted reviews, especially the review posted by "Laon" and the many comments attached to it.

Sokal submitted his absurd thesis, "Transgressing the Boundaries:  Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," to a journal called "Social Text" in 1996 and was surprised to find they were prepared to publish it.  Meticulously footnoted with nonsensical but unfaked quotations from postmodernists (heavy on the fawning citations to members of the Social Text editorial board), Sokal's masterpiece begins with this introduction:
[D]eep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the facade of "objectivity."  It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical "reality," no less than social "reality," is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific "knowledge," far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relationship of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.  These themes can be traced, despite some differences of emphasis, in Aronowitz's analysis of the culture fabric that produced quantum mechanics; in Ross' discussion of oppositional discourses in post-quantum science; in Irigaray's and Hayles' exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics and in Harding's comprehensive critique of the gender ideology underlying the natural sciences in general and physics in particular
Here my aim is to carry these deep analyses one step further, by taking account of recent developments in quantum gravity:  the emerging branch of physics in which Heisenberg's quantum mechanics and Einstein's general relativity are at once synthesized and superseded.  In quantum gravity, as we shall see, the space-time manifold ceases to exist as an objective physical reality; geometry becomes relational and contextual; and the foundational conceptual categories of prior science -- among them, existence itself -- become problematized and relativized.  This conceptual revolution, I will argue, has profound implications for the content of a future postmodern and liberatory science.
It's hard to see how the editorial board could get past "exegeses of gender encoding in fluid mechanics" with a straight face, but they ate it up with a spoon.  Sokal outed his own hoax in an article published simultaneously in another journal:
Like the genre it is meant to satirize -- myriad exemplars of which can be found in my reference list -- my article is a melange of truths, half-truths, quarter-truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs, and syntactically correct sentences that have no meaning whatsoever. . . .  I also employed some other strategies that are well-established (albeit sometimes inadvertently) in the genre:  appeals to authority in lieu of logic; speculative theories passed off as established science; strained and even absurd analogies; rhetoric that sounds good but whose meaning is ambiguous; and confusion between the technical and everyday senses of English words.
Now, Sokal is no conservative.  He describes himself as an "old Leftist," and decries the weakness of the left in abandoning the whole notion of truth.  He quotes approvingly from Stanislav Andrewski in his 1972 work "Social Sciences as Sorcery":
So long as authority inspires awe, confusion and absurdity enhance conservative tendencies in society.  Firstly, because clear and logical thinking leads to a cumulation of knowledge (of which the progress of the natural sciences provides the best example) and the advance of knowledge sooner or later undermines the traditional order.  Confused thinking, on the other hand, leads nowhere in particular and can be indulged indefinitely without producing any impact upon the world.
I found that I could not sustain any focused attention on lengthy explanations of the writings of such luminaries as psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who wrote:
You can perhaps see that the sphere, that old symbol for totality, is unsuitable.  A torus, a Klein bottle, a cross-cut surface, are able to receive such a cut.  And this diversity is very important as it explains many things about the structure of mental disease.  If one can symbolize the subject by this fundamental cut, in the same way one can show that a cut on a torus corresponds to the neurotic subject, and on a cross-cut surface to another sort of mental disease. . . .  It is not an analogy.  It is really in some part of the realities, this sort of torus.  This torus really exists and it is exactly the structure of the neurotic.  It is not an analogon; it is not even an abstraction, because an abstraction is some sort of diminution of reality, and I think it is reality itself.
Okey dokey.  Here's is Luce Irigaray's discourse on Einstein and sexism:
Is E = Mc2 a sexed equation?  Perhaps it is.  Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us.  What seems to me to indicate the possibly sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest. . . .
You see the difficulty in parodying this sort of thing:  it's hard to go any further over the top.

Sokal and Bricmont make a plea for some ground rules in applying abstruse scientific or mathematical principles to social science.  If they are to be used as metaphors or analogies, for instance, writers should remember that these rhetorical devices normally use the familiar to illustrate the unfamiliar, not vice versa.  The authors also encourage their readers to use common sense in evaluating the more extraordinary claims set forth by masters of other disciplines:
At this point [my critic] may object that I am rigging the power game in my own favor:  how is he, a professor of American Studies, to compete with me, a physicist, in a discussion of quantum mechanics?  (Or even of nuclear power -- a subject on which I have no expertise whatsoever.)  But it is equally true that I would be unlikely to win a debate with a professional historian on the causes of World War I.  Nevertheless, as an intelligent lay person with a modest knowledge of history, I am capable of evaluating the evidence and logic offered by competing historians, and of coming to some sort of reasoned (albeit tentative) judgment.  (Without that ability, how could any thoughtful person justify being politically active?)

Sequester this

For several weeks we've seen horrified reports of the imminent "meat cleaver" effect of an ill-advised sequester approach to spending cuts.  Many commenters agree that spending must be cut, but cannot understand how we could be backed into the corner of a style of cuts that everyone agrees is needlessly damaging.

But this is not some kind of horrendous unintended consequence of a well-intentioned Congressional budget-control action, frozen into place by partisan bitterness.  The sequester is functioning exactly as President Obama designed it to function in 2011.  He did not propose it as a method to rein in spending.  He proposed it as a measure so painful to both parties that it would inevitably be replaced by a compromise -- and a compromise, for him, means tax hikes.  For weeks now, the Republican-controlled House has been crafting alternatives that would achieve the same spending cuts, but without affecting critical government functions.  The White House, and the Democrat-controlled Senate, refuse even to put these alternative measures to a vote.  Why?  Because Republicans, having already agreed to $600 billion in new taxes two months ago, refuse to raise taxes again.  They insist instead on measures that will turn ham-fisted spending cuts into thoughtful ones, without "balancing" this independently helpful action with tax hikes.  Their approach makes sense to me.  Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the same amount of spending could be cut, but with less damage to the country.  By what logic is a bipartisan agreement to avoid that uncontroversial harm something that taxpayers should "pay for" with a tax hike?

But making the spending cuts less harmful is something the President steadfastly refuses to consider.  His position is not as irrational as it sounds.  For him, the whole point of the sequester is leverage to induce tax hikes.  A less painful sequester is almost as useless as no sequester at all.  Nor is the problem that the proposed alternative spending cuts don't match the President's budget priorities; the House offered to give the President discretion in what to cut.  He tossed that hot potato away instantly, threatening a veto.  As his advisors said publicly, why would the President want to be associated even more personally with particular spending cuts than he already is?  Why indeed, unless he genuinely cared about making the spending cuts less painful?  He doesn't care about making them less painful.  He'd make them more painful if he could figure out a way to do it.  He certainly has been hitting the speech circuit to exaggerate their effect to the limits of his rhetorical ability.

Some of the spending cuts will hurt, and that's a shame -- but not enough of a shame to let the President use them as a threat to extract a second round of tax hikes less than two months after the first one.  His behavior is a disgrace.  It's time for "balance" in the form of spending cuts.  Having already approved a large tax hike, House Republicans have made the difficult choice in favor of bad spending cuts that are better than either no spending cuts at all, which is the art of the possible as things now stand in Washington.


I keep running into posts this week about the sorry state of feminism, especially the "woe is me" or femivictimist man-hating post-modern variety.  At House of Eratosthenes, one such post was combined with a touching tribute to the author's mother, whom he lost 20 years ago.  I am inspired to post a tribute to my own mother, of whom I have no conscious memories, but who left behind an example of feminism that has always been at the center of my life.

Myra Ferguson was born in 1924.  A fine student, she pursued studies that were nearly unheard of for women of her generation.  She met my father, John E. Kilpatrick, when both were studying for advanced degrees in physical chemistry at the University of Kansas.  They went on to study together at Berkeley, where my father, four years the elder, completed his Ph. D.  My mother interrupted her own doctoral work to marry and have three children.  I suppose she thought she would have time to return to her studies later, though as things worked out she did not.

In the meantime, she published research on her own and with my father.  It is an amazing feature of the internet that some of her work is preserved there, like this paper on elastic constants and sound velocities from 1949, based on work for the Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she and my father still make a ghostly appearance on the list of former consultants and collaborators.  It is touching that, in some later published versions, my father is listed as co-author in the second position -- something that can't have been a common practice in 1949.  They were very devoted to each other.  I have copies of several other papers they published together, but none I can locate on the net.

Myra F. Kilpatrick was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of her third child, myself.  She must have known how unlikely it was that any of the rudimentary treatments of the time would cure her.  Nevertheless, she kept a journal of the doctors' efforts, and considered herself to be contributing to research.  After one treatment, she noted that the doctors had learned something about just how far a patient's white blood cell count could drop without resulting in death.  She died at home in the spring of 1959.

She faced headwinds during her entire short life, and was a feminist in my book, but she would have scorned to paint herself as a victim.


Bookworm Room has been on a roll with video clips.  This one reminded me of our discussion about the meaning of rights:

But I couldn't post that and not add the inspired take on every British schoolboy's terrifying memories of Latin class:

The muddled middle

How are RINOs like women?  It's hard to tell what they want:
This is the dichotomy established by many moderate Republicans:  shrill, rigid, movement conservatives on one side and open-minded RINOs on the other. 
. . . 
The RINO movement consists of . . . well, people who say they’re RINOs. They’re pro-library-voices and anti-tri-cornered hats and pro-middle-class. Beyond that it’s hard to tell. But the left seems to approve. 
At any rate, let me offer some overtures to the RINOs.  I’ll agree to doff my tri-cornered hat and stop firing musket blanks at my co-workers, several of whom have taken up my epistemic closure with the HR office.  But I’m going to keep demanding smaller government and less spending, and I may occasionally even use an exclamation point. 
We’re staring down tens of trillions in debt.  If the RINOs have a better solution, I’m all ears.

Against Liberty

The government really does know better than you, writes the New York Review of Books, and that overturns the whole philosophical basis for liberty.
[J. S.] Mill offered a number of independent justifications for his famous harm principle, but one of his most important claims is that individuals are in the best position to know what is good for them. In Mill’s view, the problem with outsiders, including government officials, is that they lack the necessary information. Mill insists that the individual “is the person most interested in his own well-being,” and the “ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by any one else.” ...

But is it right? That is largely an empirical question... Many believe that behavioral findings are cutting away at some of the foundations of Mill’s harm principle, because they show that people make a lot of mistakes, and that those mistakes can prove extremely damaging.

For example, many of us show “present bias”... Many of us procrastinate and fail to take steps that would impose small short-term costs but produce large long-term gains....

People also have a lot of trouble dealing with probability. In some of the most influential work in the last half-century of social science, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky showed that in assessing probabilities, human beings tend to use mental shortcuts, or “heuristics,” that generally work well, but that can also get us into trouble....
Unreliable cognitive heuristics turn up again! In fact, the article mentions several by name that we have recently discussed. The fallout of these demonstrates that we should not be free.
Even when there is only harm to self, [behavorist Sarah Conly] thinks that government may and indeed must act paternalistically so long as the benefits justify the costs.

Conly is quite aware that her view runs up against widespread intuitions and commitments. For many people, a benefit may consist precisely in their ability to choose freely even if the outcome is disappointing. She responds that autonomy is “not valuable enough to offset what we lose by leaving people to their own autonomous choices.” Conly is aware that people often prefer to choose freely and may be exceedingly frustrated if government overrides their choices. If a paternalistic intervention would cause frustration, it is imposing a cost, and that cost must count in the overall calculus. But Conly insists that people’s frustration is merely one consideration among many. If a paternalistic intervention can prevent long-term harm—for example, by eliminating risks of premature death—it might well be justified even if people are keenly frustrated by it....

At the same time, Conly insists that mandates and bans can be much more effective than mere nudges. If the benefits justify the costs, she is willing to eliminate freedom of choice, not to prevent people from obtaining their own goals but to ensure that they do so.
So there you go. That's where the best and brightest are headed.

It occurs to me that, if they're going to insist on a utilitarian calculus of this sort, those of us who favor liberty can alter the calculus by raising the costs of coercion. If autonomy is not valuable enough to offset the benefits of us being led around by the nose, perhaps we should prepare to enforce some extra costs on anyone who attempts to deny us our traditional freedoms.

Tons of fun

Something I learned from this WSJ article:  there's such a thing as a federal Destructive Device permit, and it costs $200 (or $3,000 if you want to be a Destructive Devices dealer).

Port Lavaca is a small town about an hour up the coast from here.  A 70-year-old resident runs the local bank and likes to drive a Chaffee tank around his parking lot.
Earlier this month, Mr. Bauer, the Texas banker, took his Chaffee out for a spin in his warehouse parking lot.  He had rigged the .50-caliber machine gun on the turret with a propane system that generates the noise and muzzle flash of gunfire, without the bullets.  He fired off several bursts. 
Minutes later, two Port Lavaca police cruisers pulled up.  The first officer rolled down the window and asked dryly:  "You know why we're here, right?" 
Mr. Bauer assured him that no actual rounds had been fired.  Still, the officer said, "we had multiple calls—people get scared." 
The second policeman, Jeremy Marshall, got out of his car and eyeballed Mr. Bauer's tank.  "Awesome," he said.

Police State (part 45)

 I noticed this item today:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — At least six fired police officers want their disciplinary cases reopened after the Los Angeles Police Department began reinvestigating the termination of a former officer who left a trail of violence to avenge his firing.
What, so there was something to Dorner's complaint after all?

A Speech at a Wedding

I don't know this fellow, but it sounds like he's gotten a few things right.

Best wishes, and best of luck, to the young couple.

O fortuna

Only two days left before the apocalypse:
And when the Republicans opened the seventh seal of the sequester, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black and the stars fell unto the Earth; and our nation's ability to forecast severe weather, such as drought events, hurricanes and tornados, was seriously undermined.  Lo, and the children were not vaccinated, and all the beasts starved in the zoos, and the planes were grounded. 
Or so President Obama and his Cabinet prophets have been preaching ahead of the automatic budget cuts due to begin Friday.  The bit about the weather is a real quote from the White House budget director. 
But if any of these cataclysms do come to pass, then they will be mostly Mr. Obama's own creation.  The truth is that the sequester already gives the White House the legal flexibility to avoid doom, if a 5% cut to programs that have increased more than 17% on average over the Obama Presidency counts as doom.
. . . 
Before furloughing park rangers, maybe start with the 10% of the 75,000 Department of the Interior employees who are conserving the wilderness of Washington, D.C.  Before slashing cancer research, stop funding the $130-million-a-year National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine that studies herbs and yoga.  Cut after-school funding only after consolidating the 105 federal programs meant to encourage kids to take math and science classes.


Eighty-six firearms companies have joined Olympic Arms in refusing to sell arms to federal, state, or local agencies in jurisdictions that are infringing their private citizens' right to bear arms.

American Exceptionalism

Or, as the researchers put it, Americans are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic ("WEIRD"), even in comparison with their western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic European cousins.  And yet, because of the fashionable assumption that cognition is hard-wired and somewhat independent of culture, most modern cognitive research unthinkingly relied on American undergraduates as its experimental subjects.
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations.  Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
In fact, it may not be at all easy to separate the inherent "hard wiring" of our thoughts from either their content or their context:
For some time now, the most widely accepted answer to the question of why humans, among all animals, have so successfully adapted to environments across the globe is that we have big brains with the ability to learn, improvise, and problem-solve. 
Henrich has challenged this “cognitive niche” hypothesis with the “cultural niche” hypothesis.  He notes that the amount of knowledge in any culture is far greater than the capacity of individuals to learn or figure it all out on their own.  He suggests that individuals tap that cultural storehouse of knowledge simply by mimicking (often unconsciously) the behavior and ways of thinking of those around them.  We shape a tool in a certain manner, adhere to a food taboo, or think about fairness in a particular way, not because we individually have figured out that behavior’s adaptive value, but because we instinctively trust our culture to show us the way.
Nor is it only a question of learning rules about concrete physical dangers or building techniques. There are distinct differences across cultures in characteristic solutions to the Prisoner's Dilemma, in the identification of color, in the ability to evaluate differences in size and shape, and in the tendency to defer to group pressure in reaching an abstract judgment. We know less about what is innate in the human mind than one might guess from the way we often talk.

Hagel for SECDEF

Allahpundit writes:
I told you the yays would be closer to 70 than to 60. Final tally: 71-27. You didn’t seriously think these losers would go to the mat to block a nominee just because he’s manifestly unqualified, did you?
Well, no. We crossed that bridge in 2008, when the American people decided that qualification was entirely dispensable in selecting the highest leadership.

You Can Take the Man Out of the South, But...

Right answer, wrong reasoning.
Q. Husband Nicknames: My husband and I have been married six months. All is well and we have no real complaints. But he does have this annoying little trait that I am wondering if I am just being nit-picky or if I actually have ground to stand on. I will accept whatever decision you put forth. My husband is Southern and calls every woman sweetheart or sweetie. This only happened a few times when dating to an occasional waitress, but now I see that he does it with longtime friends, other men's wives, and co-workers. It grates me that he does this and doesn't even give me a different pet name. I ask him to stop but he says that's how he's been his whole life. Is this a marriage compromise that I should just let go?

A: I live in Maryland, the land of Hon, and I enjoy those infrequent occasions when someone calls me that, though it's almost always from other women and in a retail setting. However, I don't care where your husband is from, calling every woman in his path sweetheart is both inappropriate and grating. Believe me, at his office the other women have discussed in the coffee room how uncomfortable his pet name makes them. Since you say he's from the South, but it sounds like he's not in the South, he needs to stop spritzing sweethearts everywhere. Even in the South, I can't imagine a young guy in the office expects to get away with calling his female colleagues sweetheart.
I don't know what part of the South he's from, but where I come from, we call every woman ma'am. I don't see any reason to stop living up to the traditions in which I was raised just because I leave home. Nobody asks the Yankees down here to slow down, or stop cursing every other word as is apparently the custom in the rest of the United States.

The problem isn't that the language he is using is Southern in an environment that is Northern, it is that it is familiar in an environment that is formal. The confusion is understandable. Offices for the last twenty years have tried hard to chuck the idea that they are formal environments. Regular business attire went from a suit, to a shirt with a tie, to "Casual Friday," to casual being the office norm. People stopped using their last names: not, "Good afternoon, I'm Joseph Smith from AT&T," but "Hello! I'm Joe from the phone company."

It is therefore easy to see how a young man could make the mistake of believing that he was in a laid back, informal environment among friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. The office was always a deadly place to drop your guard, but it is far worse now that the threats are masked by the casual air.

Someone should take this boy aside, for his own good, and explain all this to him. The modern office is full of landmines and hidden daggers. Formal manners are the only armor that offers any sort of defense.


Almost the whole state of Texas, and much of Oklahoma, is a big swirling bowl today, 25-30 mph sustained winds.


Apropos of our recent discussion here (or at Cassandra's place?) about what our schools select for:
[L]ike all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should.  Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time.   They may think that machine operators should have more power and money in the workplace, and salesmen and accountants should have less.  But if they think there's anything wrong with the balance of power in the system we all live under, it is that clever mandarins do not have enough power to bend that system to their will.  For the good of everyone else, of course.   Not that they spend much time with everyone else, but they have excellent imaginations.

Now that's fun

My memories of the excellent time I had last night are somewhat confused, but I think it was something like this:

Several wineglasses were broken after we repaired downstairs to the firepit for the roasted-oyster segment of the party.  We found a melted wineglass in the ashes this morning, and I am told that I instructed someone to throw it in, because "That's what it's there for."

A good time was had by all.  We followed it up this morning with breakfast on a heroic scale for many stragglers.

H/t Bookworm Room.