Saturday, January 20, 2018

Don’t expect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best.

I have taken the liberty of reformatting Smith's letter into the list he lays out.
“Advice Concerning Low Spirits”
A letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth, Feb. 16, 1820:

Dear Lady Georgiana,– Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done — so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.

2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.

3rd. Amusing books.

4th. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea.

5th. Be as busy as you can.

6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.

7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely — they are always worse for dignified concealment.

9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.

10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.

11th. Don’t expect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best.

12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.

13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.

14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.

16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.

17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th. Keep good blazing fires.

19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana,
Very truly yours,
Sydney Smith

Just seeing you happy

From The New Yorker.

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Travel Poster: See America

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Evolution's cruel tricks

From Sex differences in perceived controllability of mate value: An evolutionary perspective. by Ben Hamida, et al. It is from 1998 and it is essentially saying that which is encapsulated in much common lore. But its precision and clarity brings home the monkey's paw of dimorphic evolution where every privilege and advantage is also burdened with unanticipated griefs. From the abstract.
Men and women value different characteristics in potential partners. It was hypothesized that women feel they have less control over traits relevant to their desirability than men feel they have over traits related to male desirability. In Study 1, undergraduates (N = 150) completed questionnaires measuring (a) the importance they attributed to 64 characteristics when choosing a mate and (b) their perceived control over these traits. Men selected partners on the basis of traits that are relatively uncontrollable (e.g., youth, attractiveness), whereas women selected partners on the basis of traits that are more controllable (e.g., status, industriousness; d = 1.75). In Study 2, these findings were replicated in an older, representative community sample (N = 301; d = 1.03). Greater uncontrollability of traits relevant to female mate value may place women at elevated risk for negative affect, depression, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.
Women choose partners based on a preference for things which are malleable and can be achieved by men based on the incentive women create: income, status, work ethic, etc. On the other hand, men choose partners based on factors that are of limited malleability: youth and attractiveness.

Alternatively, what women want is male achievement and what men want is female attractiveness. Leading to virtually the entirety of literature, most exemplified, perhaps, by Jane Austen.

From Dataclysm, the cruel mismatch of attractiveness by age, in graphic form.

A woman's age versus the age of men who look best to her.

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A man's age versus the age of women who look best to him.

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The Taj by H.G. Keene

The Taj
by H.G. Keene

White, like a spectre seen when night is old
Yet stained with hues of many a tear and smart,
Cornelian, blood-stone, matched in callous art:
Aflame, like passion, like dominion cold,
Bed of imperial consorts whom none part
For ever (domed with glory, heart to heart)
Still whispering to the ages, 'Love is bold
And seeks the height, though rooted in the mould':
Touched, when the dawn floats in an opal mist
By fainter blush than opening roses own;
Calm in the evening's lucent amethyst;
Pearl-crowned, when midnight airs aside have blown
The clouds that rising moonlight faintly kissed;
-- An aspiration fixed, a sigh made stone.

Witch of the Westmoreland by Stan Rogers

Witch of the Westmoreland by Stan Rogers.

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Witch Of The Westmoreland
by Stan Rogers

Pale was the wounded knight, that bore the rowan shield
Loud and cruel were the raven's cries that feasted on the field
Saying "Beck water cold and clear will never clean your wound
There's none but the witch of the Westmoreland can make thee hale and soond"

So turn, turn your stallion's head 'til his red mane flies in the wind
And the rider of the moon goes by and the bright star falls behind
And clear was the paley moon when his shadow passed him by
Below the hills were the brightest stars when he heard the owlet cry

Saying "Why do you ride this way, and wherefore came you here?"
"I seek the Witch of the Westmorland that dwells by the winding mere"
And it's weary by the Ullswater and the misty brake fern way
Til throught the cleft in the Kirkstane Pass the winding water lay

He said "Lie down, by brindled hound and rest ye, my good grey hawk
And thee, my steed may graze thy fill for I must dismount and walk,
But come when you hear my horn and answer swift the call
For I fear ere the sun will rise this morn ye will serve me best of all"

And it's down to the water's brim he's born the rowan shield
And the goldenrod he has cast in to see what the lake might yield
And wet she rose from the lake, and fast and fleet went she
One half the form of a maiden fair with a jet black mare's body

And loud, long and shrill he blew til his steed was by his side
High overhead the grey hawk flew and swiftly did he ride
Saying "Course well, my brindled hound, and fetch me the jet black mare
Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk, and bring me the maiden fair"

She said "Pray, sheathe thy silvery sword. Lay down thy rown shield
For I see by the briny blood that flows you've been wounded in the field"
And she stood in a gown of the velvet blue, bound round withh a silver chain
And she's kissed his pale lips once and twice and three times round again

And she's bound his wounds with the goldenrod, full fast in her arms he lay
And he has risen hale and sound with the sun high in the day
She said "Ride with your brindled hound at heel, and your good grey hawk in hand
There's none can harm the knight who's lain with the Witch of the Westmorland. "

Friday, January 19, 2018

C-Suite crocs

From Punch.

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Self-identified tolerant people exhibited discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance against those with whom they disagree.

From Are the ethnically tolerant free of discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance? by Boris Bizumic, et al. Abstract.
We hypothesized that the ethnically tolerant (i.e., people who are anti-ethnocentric and score very low on a measure of ethnocentrism) would perceive people with extremely incompatible values and beliefs as out-groups and would engage in discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance against them. Experiments among Australian citizens in Studies 1 (N = 224) and 2 (N = 283) showed that the ethnically tolerant perceived supporters of a message in favour of mandatory detention of asylum seekers as out-groups and consequently exhibited discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance against them. Study 3 with 265 U.S. citizens showed that, controlling for liberalism, ethnic tolerance led to prejudice against out-groups. This was replicated with 522 UK citizens in Study 4, which also showed that social identity, and not moral conviction, mediated the link between ethnic tolerance and prejudice. The findings suggest that the ethnically tolerant can be discriminatory, prejudiced and politically intolerant against fellow humans.
While the population samples are much larger than most these studies, they ought to be larger still before placing great reliance on the findings. However, the findings are consistent with the results from other, similar research.

The inclination towards prejudicial or discriminatory behavior and intolerance of others is common across all human groups regardless of self-identified virtue.

Our common humanity depends on finding points of commonality with those with whom we disagree. There is an infinity of ways to divide ourselves up based on singular identity; we have to instead work at building commonality. It is surprisingly easier than one might think, but one has to be disposed to do so.

Psychological traits are highly heritable

This is from 2004 but the evidence has become even stronger since then. From Genetic Influence on Human Psychological Traits: A Survey by Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. Subject to gross mischaracterization by advocates across the policy spectrum, but useful to know. Abstract.
There is now a large body of evidence that supports the conclusion that individual differences in most, if not all, reliably measured psychological traits, normal and abnormal, are substantively influenced by genetic factors. This fact has important implications for research and theory building in psychology, as evidence of genetic influence unleashes a cascade of questions regarding the sources of variance in such traits. A brief list of those questions is provided, and representative findings regarding genetic and environmental influences are presented for the domains of personality, intelligence, psychological interests, psychiatric illnesses, and social attitudes. These findings are consistent with those reported for the traits of other species and for many human physical traits, suggesting that they may represent a general biological phenomenon.
In chart form:
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Ephrata by Charles Sheer

Ephrata by Charles Sheeler (1883-1965).

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