Thursday, May 31, 2018

Kimberly Rock Art in Australia

Kimberly Rock Art in Australia

Click to enlarge.

The Remember Song by Tom Rush

Double click to enlarge.

The Remember Song
AKA Looking for My Wallet and Car Keys
by Tom Rush

Looking for my wallet and my car keys,
Well they can’t have gone too far;
And just as soon as I find my glasses
I’m sure I’ll see just where they are.

Supposed to meet someone for lunch today,
But I can’t remember where
Or who it is that I am meeting:
It’s in my organiser ~ somewhere.

I might have left it on the counter;
Maybe outside in the car.
Last time I remember driving
Was to that Memory Enhancement Seminar.

What's that far-off distant ringing
and that strangely familiar tone?
Must be the person I am meeting
Calling me on my brand new cordless ‘phone.

I might have left it under the covers,
Or maybe outside on the lawn;
And I’ve got just one more ring to go
Before my answering machine kicks on.


“Hi, this is Tom and your call means a lot to me,
So leave a message at the tone
And I’ll do my best to try to remember
To call you back when I get home.”


“Tom, this is Gwendoline, and I am trying not to cry
But I’ve been waiting here for over an hour ~
I thought you loved me. This is goodbye!”

Hell, the voice sounds familiar,
And the name it rings a bell.
Let’s see now, where was I?
Oh well…

In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.
That we pursue something passionately does not always mean that we really want it or have a special aptitude for it. Often, the thing we pursue most passionately is but a substitute for the one thing we really want and cannot have. It is usually safe to predict that the fulfillment of an excessively cherished desire is not likely to still our nagging anxiety.

In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ahornblatt im Herbst 1940 by Max Baur

Ahornblatt im Herbst 1940 by Max Baur

Click to enlarge.

A dissatisfaction with ourselves

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.
A poignant dissatisfaction, whatever be its cause, is at bottom a dissatisfaction with ourselves. It is surprising how much hardship and humiliation a man will endure without bitterness when he has not the least doubt about his worth or when he is so integrated with others that he is not aware of a separate self.

We're the Wickersham Brothers

Double click to enlarge.

We're the Wickersham Brothers
by Dr. Seuss

Rot, rot, rot, rot.
It's a plot, plot, plot, plot.

We're the Wickersham brothers. We're onto your plot,
Pretending you're talking to Whos who are not.
It's a deep, dire, evil political plot,
Pretending you're talking to Whos who are not.

We're the Wickersham brothers. We're vigilant spotters.
Hot shot spotters of rotters and plotters.
And we're going to save our sons and our daughters from you.
You're a dastardly, ghastardly, shnastardly schnook,
Trying to brainwash our brains - with this gobbledygook.

We know what you’re up to, pal:
You're trying to shatter our morale.
You're trying to stir up discontent
And seize the reins of government.

You’re trying to throw sand in our eyes.
You're trying to kill free enterprise
And raise the cost of figs and dates
And wreck our compound interest rates.

And shut our schools, and steal our jewels,
And even change our football rules;
Take away our garden tools
And lock us up in vestibules!
But fortunately, we're no fools.

We’re the Wickersham brothers. We know your type!
And we're putting a stop to this trick-u-lous tripe
We’re the Wickersham brothers; we're squashing your plot.
There'll be no more talking to Whos who are not!

There'll be no more talking to Whos who are not!
There'll be no more talking to Whos who are not!
There'll be no more talking to Whos... who are not.
Clearly this is a caricature of reactionaries. The striking thing is that this so looks like social justice warriors, advocates at universities, the talking heads of media, the British police, and social media platforms - all those seeking to suppress free speech and free people.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.

From The Passionate State of Mind by Eric Hoffer.
There is in most passions a shrinking away from ourselves. The passionate pursuer has all the earmarks of a fugitive.

Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us. The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.
There are great tides of passion about obscure or ambiguous issues and a scarcity of dispassionate interest in the truth.

Tropical Sunset by Elizabeth Gilbert Jerome (1824 – 1910)

Tropical Sunset by Elizabeth Gilbert Jerome (1824 – 1910)

Click to enlarge.

Caustic but not necessarily wrong

From Does higher education change non-cognitive skills? by Tyler Cowen.

The original research which sparks his post finds that:
We examine the effect of university education on students’ non-cognitive skills (NCS) using high-quality Australian longitudinal data. To isolate the skill-building effects of tertiary education, we follow the education decisions and NCS—proxied by the Big Five personality traits—of 575 adolescents over eight years. Estimating a standard skill production function, we demonstrate a robust positive relationship between university education and extraversion, and agreeableness for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The effects are likely to operate through exposure to university life rather than through degree-specific curricula or university-specific teaching quality. As extraversion and agreeableness are associated with socially beneficial behaviours, we propose that university education may have important non-market returns.
I am dubious. Any prolonged intensive experience is likely to change you. That much I am inclined to accept.

Four years of college, or three in the case of Britain, might qualify if you come from a significantly variant background, i.e. lower class or impoverished.

Without having read the gated version, this has the feel for one of those studies in which the controls are so flawed that it will never replicate. But it raises interesting considerations.

My very first thought was that they are talking about three quite different phenomena. There is domain knowledge - the facts and figures which you learn through study. There has always been debate about just exactly how much of the future value of a college education is due to the domain knowledge acquired. Certainly some of the future value is due to the increased domain knowledge, but it might not even be the majority of the value.

Domain knowledge is different from personality which is what the Big Five measures. It is an article of some reliability that personality, past a certain age, is relatively stable and homeostatic. The five attributes are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. What the researchers appear to claim is that success in the academy for those from disadvantaged backgrounds is associated with agreeableness and openness. It is unclear whether they are claiming that it increases agreeableness and openness.

If they are only claiming that there is an association, then that could easily be simply a product of survivorship bias. If they are claiming that university increases agreeableness and openness among those from disadvantaged backgrounds, then that flies in the face of other research indicating the stability of personality attributes.

Domain knowledge and personality are different from social norms and behavior. I am perfectly prepared to believe that bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds are capable of learning the social norms and accepted behaviors of the educated elite. Use of our cognitive capabilities to read and understand our physical and social environment and adapt our actions and behaviors accordingly is one of the distinctive characteristics of the human animal. We are evolved (or at least most of us) to do that well.

Read from that perspective, the researchers take on a very colonial mien, becoming the modern day Professor Henry Higgins. "See, we can take these barbarians from the lower class and make them like us."

The tell is in this line from the abstract: "Extraversion and agreeableness are associated with socially beneficial behaviours." True to a limited extent. If you are an ideological adherent of social justice, can't-we-all-get-along mushy thinking is acceptable as a proxy for logic, reason and evidence. But it doesn't pass muster for science; hence the replication crisis.

If your goal is to get along with others, then the researchers are to some degree correct, that is facilitated by a personality high in agreeableness. Perhaps openness as well, though that is much more dependent on context.

But if you goal is for the individual to be successful, there is a negative correlation between success and agreeableness. Research on business executives indicates that the most successful are characterized by high levels of conscientiousness; moderate to low levels of agreeableness; and low levels of neuroticism. Openness and extroversion are, I am pretty certain I recall correctly, not correlated with success one way or the other.

Executives work in environments of uncertainty (so the negative correlation with neuroticism makes sense), high expectations (correlating with high conscientiousness), and constraints (correlating with a negative relationship to agreeableness). The latter perhaps requires elaboration.

In an environment of constrained resources, the most powerful weapon of any executive is the decisive "No!" No, we won't make that questionable investment. No, we won't increase our relatively fixed cost structure by granting across the board raises. No, you are not ready for that promotion. The best executives use no as a means of stripping away the infinity of possibilities to get at a few things that they might be able to do well.

Wielding no as the default basis for social interaction does not fit naturally with a personality that is high in agreeableness. "No" comes easiest to those who are less susceptible to pleading and who are not emotionally concerned about whether others are upset. Executives are low in agreeableness because it is a big part of their job - they have to disappoint people. Politicians on the other hand, while generally sociopathic, also tend to be high in agreeableness because "No" is not in their vocabulary. They hate disappointing people. They want people to like them and to never disappoint them.

The researchers in this instance are allowing their world view to inform, and impose, an unstated assumption about success. They are defining success as getting along with others. They assume that someone from a disadvantaged background should want to get along with others. Therefore, if higher education increases agreeableness and openness (which is what they have claimed but not proven) then that is a good thing.

But if I am from a disadvantaged background, it is quite possible that I am not willing to be the Eliza Doolittle to their Professor Higgins. Perhaps I have agency and define success not as social acceptance but as social power. Perhaps I wish to achieve standing and income. In which case I need to increase my conscientiousness, reduce my sensitive agreeableness, and dispense with neuroticism. I can cultivate openness and extroversion to whatever degree I wish, it doesn't make a difference.

What the academics seem to be saying, if you accept their findings which are likely to be unreplicated, is that they think it is feasible and a good thing to colonize the disadvantaged and prepare them for a life in which they are liked but unaccomplished. At least, that is a caustic read between the lines. Caustic but not necessarily wrong.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The whole of my service was voluntary, and rendered from no other motive than a conviction of duty

In 1833 Congress passed legislation granting a pension to all the then surviving veterans of the Revolutionary War. This is a gift to historians as the few remaining veterans made their way to the local courthouses in order to recount their rank, dates of service, roles and activities, etc.

This past year I came across the record of my sixth great uncle, James Philemon Holcombe. On graduating in the first class of newly founded Hampden-Sydney College (still going strong, "forming good men and good citizens") in southern Virginia in May of 1780, Philemon Holcombe and a number of his classmates, answering the call of Thomas Jefferson for more men to counter the anticipated invasion of the British from the south, set out to join the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. That campaign is well documented in The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan.

Courtesy of the pension system, here is the account by Philemon Holcombe of his military service, recalled at age seventy two. I am enchanted by these voices of the past, speaking to us today.

Pension Application of Philemon Holcombe: S4399
Transcribed and annotated by C. Leon Harris

State of Tennessee }
Fayette County To wit }

On this 14 day of April in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and thirty four, personally appeared in open Court, before the Justices of the court of pleas and Quarter sessions of said County and state (now sitting) Philemon Holcombe, a resident of said county and state, aged seventy two years on the 21st day of December next, who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of congress passed June 7th 1833.

That he entered the service of the United States in the County of Prince Edward, state of Virginia, on the first day of June in the year seventeen hundred and eighty (in his Eighteenth year of age). He joined as a private and volunteer, a company of cavalry commanded by Captain Richard Randorlph [sic: Richard Randolph], in which Company David Randorlph [sic] was
Lieutenant. Some time thereafter in the same year, time not recollected, this company marched to the town of Petersburg, Virginia, and was there attached to the Brigade of Virginia Militia commanded by Gen’l. Robert Lawson. He continued in the service until the first day of December one thousand seven hundred and eighty, when the militia and volunteers were discharged without having been engaged in any battle with the Enemy.

He further states that on the third Monday in February (Prince Edward County Court day Virginia) in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty one – That he with Thomas Watkins, Abraham Venable, and other patriots raised on that day a volunteer Troop of Cavalry. The Officers were chosen by the members of the Troop. Thomas Watkins was elected Captain, Philemon Holcombe Lieutenant and Samuel Venable Cornet. There was an arsenal at Prince Edward Court house where the troops was equipped, and marched the day following to the County of Mecklenburg, Virginia and near Taylor’s ferry on the Roanoke River in said County.

The said troop was attached to Gen’l. Robert Lawson’s Brigade of Virginia Militia and marched with said Brigade to the state of North Carolina and near the High Rock Ford, on Haw River, joined the American army, under the command of Gen’l. Nathaniel [sic: Nathanael] Green, and was then attached to a regiment of Cavalry commanded by Colo. William Washington, under whom we were engaged in marching from one point to another, on the British lines. At different time before and after the action of Guilford, this deponent had command of cavalry forces to reconnoitre and scour the country and was in several skirmishes with the Tories of North Carolina and in one of the expeditions, two days before the action of Guilford, when watching the British Army, commanded by Earl Cornwallis, they approached so near to Tarltons Regiment of Cavalry [sic: Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s Legion], which was concealed by the woods, that in retreating Samuel Venable, the Cornet, and some of the privates were made prisoners. And on the 15th day of March, one thousand, seven hundred and Eighty one was fought the memorable Battle of Guilford Court house, North Carolina.

The American army was drawn up in three lines. The front line was composed of the [North] Carolina Militia commanded by Generals [John] Butler and [Thomas] Eaton. The second line of Virginia and Maryland Militia, commanded by Generals Stephens [sic: Edward Stevens] and Lawson – the third Line of continental Troops, commanded by General [Isaac] Huger and Colonel [Otho Holland] Williams. Colo. Lee’s legion of Cavalry was stationed on the right, and Colo. Washington’s on the left flank of the army [see note below]. The engagement was brought on by Colo. Lee. Colo Washington’s command was in view of the conflicting armies and were spectators of the bloody scene for several hours.

The Carolina Militia had given way, and the second and third lines of the American army were hard pressed, and the British columns were passing to the rear of the American line, flushed with victory, marching rapidly and in some confusion. At this important crisis, the brave and gallant William Washington ordered a charge upon their columns, and cut his passage through them. This bold and daring stroke secured the safe retreat of the Virginia and Maryland and continental lines.

After this Colo. Washington moved against a large body of Tories, two hundred in numbers, who were formed near the Court house. They were well armed. On the approach of the Cavalry, they fired their guns, and took shelter in the Court house, and under it, for it was not underpinned. The British army moved from Guilford Court house, and were pursued by General Greene, as far as Ramsey’s Mills on Deep river [4 Apr].

This deponent was in all these scenes and discharged his duty as Lieutenant. He thinks there is not now living a single private of the Prince Edward Troop. The celebrated Peter Francisco, who was Sergeant at Arms to the Virginia House of Delegates, was the last of them, who died about three years ago [16 Jan 1831; see Francisco’s pension application W11021].

The officers died many years since. The deponent further states that so soon as the troops was disbanded, he received from General Robert Lawson, the appointment of Major, the first of April, one thousand seven hundred, and Eighty one, and was afterwards commissioned by the Governor and Council of Virginia. He was placed in the second regiment of Virginia Militia, commanded by Colo. St. George Tucker. This deponent was selected by General Lawson some time in April or May 1781 to take charge of a detachment of Virginia Militia, two hundred in number, that had been collected at Brunswick Court house Virginia.

He performed this service and marched them to the Point of Fork on James River [at the fork with Rivanna River], and there
joined the army commanded by Baron Steuben. At this place there was an engagement between the British and American forces [5-6 June 1781], across James River; on the night of the day of the engagement the Baron had fires built up, in view of the British Army, and immediately thereafter retreated; and by daylight the next morning was many miles distant.

He marched on to Charlotte Court house Virginia, and there remained until reinforced by Gen’l. Lawson’s Brigade, and other forces. From this point the Army marched to Richmond Virginia, and from thence to the Malvin Hills [sic: Malvern Hill], about fifteen miles below Richmond, and there joined the Army under General LaFayette. From this point the Army marched to Williamsburg, where General George Washington the Commander in Chief of the American forces, arrived with the main Army, about the 14th of September 1781. In a few days thereafter the American army was marched to Yorktown, where the siege of that place was continued by the French and American forces united until the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, which took place on the 19th day of October 1781.

This deponent continued in service for a short period after the day to the 1st of December 1781. He states that he served six months as a volunteer private in the Cavalry services, one month and a half as a Lieutenant of Cavalry, and eight months as a Major of Virginia Militia. And for this service, he asks of his country a pension. That he had no written discharge from the Army, and that there are no written documents by which he can prove the facts above stated except his service as a Major. This he hopes to establish by creditable witnesses who were soldiers that served their Country with him. His commission as Major, has long since been lost or mislaid.

He further states that he hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except the present, and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of the Agency of any state.

[signed] Phil Holcombe

And the said Court propounded the following questions to the said Philemon Holcombe.
Question 1st. Where and when were you born?
Answer. I was born on the 21st. day of December 1762, in Prince Edward County state of Virginia.

Question 2 . Have you any record of your age, and if so, where is it?
Answer. My age is recorded in a large family bible now in the possession of Doctor William H Robertson (my son in law) Amelia County, Virginia.

Question 3d. Where were you living when called into service; where have you lived since the Revolutionary War, and where do you now live?
Answer. I was living in Prince Edward County State of Virginia, and continued in said County until I was thirty eight years of age. I then removed to the county of Amelia, State of Virginia, and resided there until May 1829, when I removed to Fayette County State of Tennessee, where I resided ever since, and am now living.

Question 4th. How were you called into service: were you drafted, did you volunteer, or were you a substitute?
Answer. The whole of my service was voluntary, and rendered from no other motive than a conviction of duty.

Question 5th. State the names of some of the Regular Officers who were with the troops where you served – such continental and militia regiments as you can recollect, and the general circumstances of your service.
Answer. I have already named General Nathaniel Greene commander of the southern Army, General Huger, and Colo. Williams who commanded the continental Troops at the battle of Guilford, Colo. Henry Lee, and William Washington who commanded the two
regiments of Cavalry. I recollect also Colo. [Charles] Lynch who commanded a regiment of Volunteer Riflemen [often called the Botetourt Riflemen], Capt. Trigg, Captain Jones, Capt. Helms and Captain [Robert] Kirkwood from the state of Delaware, and Capt. Hoffman from the Virginia Line, who commanded a company of Regular Officers of the Militia, Generals Eaton & Butler, North Carolina, Stephens and Lawson Virginia & having been attached to Lawson’s Brigade, before and after the action of Guilford I knew most of the Officers, and those that I recollect I will name: My brother John Holcombe commanded the first regiment; St. George Tucker the 2 . Beverly Randolph the 3 . and Henry Skipwith the 4th.

I knew Majors Thomas Watkins, Samuel Duval, Wood Jones, John Overstreet, and Asa Purnell. There were the Baron Steuben, Marquis de LaFayette, and George Washington the Commander in Chief, under all of whom I served for some period during the year 1781. I entered the Army before stated, very young, a private. My conduct and course gained me the confidence and approbation of Gen’l. Robert Lawson, Colo. Beverly Randolph of Cumberland, who was twice Governor of Virginia, and St. George Tucker who was after the War one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals in Virginia. I was promoted by my own efforts, aided by the influence of those distinguished patriots.

I was intimate with all the field Officers of this Brigade, and I believe I am the only survivor. My services were rendered during the years 1780-81, mostly in Virginia, when the sufferings of the Army were very great. We were often in want of food, and had very poor pay; but the men of those days knew what hardships were, & encountered them with an ardor and zeal, worthy the glorious cause in which they had embarked.

Question 6 . Did you receive a discharge from the service when you acted as a private, and did you ever receive a Commission; and if so by whom was it signed, and what has become of it?
Answer. I do not recollect whether I received a written discharge, when disbanded at Petersburg from Capt. Randolph’s Cavalry. If I did it is long since lost or mislaid. I received no Commission as Lieutenant of Cavalry, for the Company was raised on the Spur of the occasion, for the express purpose of aiding the Southern Army, commanded by Gen’l. Greene, who had been manoeuvring, marching and counter marching for more than a month, to avoid a general engagement with Lord Cornwallis.

I received from Gen’l. Lawson the appointment of Major, and was commissioned by the Governor and Council of Virginia. I think my Commission was signed by Thomas Jefferson. Of this however I am not certain for Virginia was invaded in this year by Arnold and the civil authorities of the state were thrown into great confusion, and the civil Officers of the State government had to retreat before Tarlton’s Cavalry [4 June 1781].

My Commission is lost or mislaid.
Personally appeared in open court, Philemon Holcombe, who has subscribed the declaration above, who being duly sworn deposeth and saith, that his discharge as a private if he ever had one, is long since lost, as also his Commission as Major.

[signed] Phil Holcombe

The affidavit of James Warwick of the Town of Lynchburg county of Campbell, state of Virginia.
This affiant is Sixty nine years old the 19 day of February 1833. He was called into the service of his country in the year 1781, in the month of March in the character of a private, and in the month of April, in the County of Prince Edward, he was attached to the Brigade of Virginia Militia commanded by General Robert Lawson. He was placed in the 1 Regm’t commanded by Col. John Holcombe. The 2 Regiment was commanded by Col. St George Tucker. The 3 Regiment was commanded by Col. Beverly Randolph and the 4 Regiment by Col. Henry Skipwith. Thus situated in the month of April or May he became acquainted with Col Philemon Holcombe, now a resident of the State of Tennessee, Fayette county, who was then a Major of the 2 Regiment commanded by Col. St George Tucker.

This part of the Army was placed under the command of Baron Steuben and was marching and countermarching for three months from James River to Charlotte Court-House in the State of Virginia. During this time till the 13 of July, the time of my discharge I knew Philemon Holcombe as a Major who continued as this affiant believes to act in the capacity of Major till after the Siege of York, and till the Virginia Militia were disbanded.

This affiant regards it as a duty which he owes his country and Col. Philemon Holcombe now an applicant for a pension, to state that as an officer of The Revolution, no one stood higher, both with the Officers and Soldiers of the Army. This affiant may say with truth that while he was a rigid disciplinarian, he was the sincere friend of the Soldier, and no
officer was more popular, more respected and more beloved by the private Soldiers than Major Philemon Holcombe, and his standing as a patriot and a citizen of unimpeachable character has continued undiminished even down to this day.

Given under my hand this 9 day of November in the year of our Lord 1832

[signed] James Warwick

The affidavit of Daniel B. Perrow taken in the Town of Lynchburg Virginia on the 12 day of June 1834 to be used in the application of Major Philemon Holcombe of Tennessee (formerly of Virginia) to obtain a pension for revolutionary services.

The affiant being first duly sworn, deposeth and sayeth, that he was a soldier in the American revolution – that he served a tour of six weeks in the year 1781 in the months of June and July, in the Brigade of Virginia militia commanded by Gen’l. Robert Lawson. He was attached to the 1 regiment commanded by Colo. John Holcombe – and during his service he became
acquainted with Philemon Holcombe who was a Major in the [blank] regiment (the number not now remembered) commanded by Colo. St. George Tucker.

[signed] Daniel B Perrow

The affidavit of William Turner of the county of Amherst State of Virginia taken at the residence of said Turner in consequence of his indisposition on the 24 day of May one thousand eight hundred & thirty four.

This affiant being duely sworn, deposeth and saith: He is seventy four years of age on the 30th day of September next, he entered the Army of the Revolution in the year one thousand seven hundred & eighty, that he was a private and afterwards a sarjeant in a company of Virginia Militia, commanded by Young [or Younger] Landrum of the county of Amherst. This company
was attached to the Brigade of V. M. commanded by General Robert Lawson, sometime in the year 1781.

In the spring of that year, he became acquainted with Philemon Holcombe, who held the office of Maj in the 2 Regiment of Virginia Militia commanded by Col. Saint George Tucker. That the aforesaid Philemon Holcombe during this year frequently performed the duties of the Col. and as an officer no man in the army was more truly esteemed. I can say with truth from my
own experience, that he was the firm and sincere friend of the Soldier. This deponent continued in the Army until a few days before the seige of York and left the said Major Philemon Holcombe in it, who he believes continued in the service of his country a month or two after the Seige. This Affiant is himself a pensioner. & further he saith not.

[signed] Wm Turner [see also his pension application W6321]

Lynchburg [VA] July the 1 1834

Dear Sir

I acknowledge the receipt of your favor of June the 24 saying to me that my father’s papers are placed on file and that there will be no objection to issuing a certificate for his services in the revolutionary war, 6 months as a Major & 6 months as a dragoon. In relation to his services as a Lieutenant of Cavalry, the troop was raised at the request of General Lawson, who commanded a brigade of Va. Militia, on the Spur of the occasion, whether the officers had any papers or certificates from him, I do not recollect to have heard my father say, but I have often heard him say that it was raised at the special instance of General Lawson.

John L. Cruit and James Morton of P. Edward could probably give me some information on this subject, but as both of them are very old men, it is likely nothing satisfactory could be had. I feel it my duty to return you my thanks for the speedy manner in which you have issued this claim, and on the part of my father most cheerfully acquiesce in your decision. You will forward me his certificate to this place which will be conveyed to him by a friend who visits the west this summer.

Yours with respect
Thos. A Holcombe

Most accounts of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, including The Revolutionary War Memoirs of General Henry Lee, state that Lt. Col. Henry Lee’s Legion was on the left flank, and Lt. Col. William Washington’s Dragoons were on the right flank, both just behind the front line.

Another deposition in support of Philemon Holcombe was made by David G. Talbot. See his pension application S7690.

On 26 Sep 1854 in Fayette County Francis A. Watkins assigned power of attorney to obtain any additional pension due to her father, Philemon Holcombe, deceased.

In the file is the following query:

The Union League Club, San Francisco May 23-16
The Commissioner of Pensions

Dear Sir:

I wish to determine the military record of one Philemon Holcombe. Family tradition gives the following account of his services. Joined a military company raised by students Hampden Sidney College Va. 1776. Joined Army 1777. Served as a Lt of Horse under William Washington during Southern Campaign taking part in Battles of Camden, Cow Pens and Guildford. Returned to Va. raised a troop of Horse which he offered to Henry Lee but was refused on account of poor condition of command. Joined Gen. Lafayette in Va and was assigned to staff of that General with rank of Major. Witness final surrender at Yorktown and was gazetted a Lt. Col. & returned to his home.

In 1814 He was made “master of Horse” for the State of Va. with rank of Lt. Col. He died in 1833. Adjutant Generals office offers only the information

1. That he served at Battle of Guildford as a Lieut in troops of Dragoons commanded by William Watkins.
2 . That he was Lieut. Col. in an unnamed Va. Cavalry Regiment in Sept. 1814.

Any further information that your office may have will be gratefully received.

Verry Respectfully
John Lee Holcombe Capt. G.A.C. U.S.A.
Address will be Fort Khameakhamea [Kamehameha?]. Honolulu H.I.
Everything recounted above occurred before Philemon Holcombe had reached his twenty first birthday. I love that editorial in his deposition: "We were often in want of food, and had very poor pay; but the men of those days knew what hardships were, & encountered them with an ardor and zeal." Sotto voce, You young whipper snappers.

James Philemon Holcombe was one of five brothers, four of whom served in the Revolution. Two of the brothers were killed at the Battle of Germantown. A third son was wounded at Germantown. Philemon, being younger, came of age in time for the Southern Campaign.

A couple of further notes. In the text above, it is mentioned "Returned to Va. raised a troop of Horse which he offered to Henry Lee but was refused on account of poor condition of command." I have seen it put differently in another source: "raised a troop of horse in Prince Edward County, and led it south to join Henry Lee, who refused its services because of the motley appearance of the men." Motley patriots.

Another note, from an account by one of Phielmon's grandsons, himself a Major in the US Army
Whether he ran away to join the army is not known; it is a tradition in the family. A narrative of his military career is preserved in the Pension Office at Washington. In 1782, he married Lucy Maria Anderson, daughter of Thomas Anderson, of Mecklenburg County, Va. They are said to have met when Holcombe was passing through Mecklenburg County on the way to and from Guilford Court House, in which battle he was attached to the Cavalry command of Colonel William Washington, of General Lawson's Brigade.
Having three brothers lost or wounded at Germantown, I would imagine that there was a lot of family pressure not to immediately head out to join the army after having graduated.

What a cast of characters he encountered in that intense couple of years: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee), Lord Cornwallis, Banastre Tarleton, Robert Lawson, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, General Lafayette.

It is worth remembering all those men and all who have served.

If You're Reading This by Tim McGraw

Double click to enlarge.

If You're Reading This
by Tim McGraw

If you're reading this
My Mommas sittin there
Looks like I only got a one way ticket over here
Sure wish I
Could give you one more kiss
And war was just a game we played when we were kids

I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up boots
I'm up here with God and we're both watching over you

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home

If you're reading this
Half way around the world
I won’t be there
To see the birth of our little girl
I hope she looks like you
I hope she fights like me
Stand up for the innocent and weak

I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up boots
Tell dad I don't regret that I followed in his shoes

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home

If you're reading this
There’s going to come a day
When you'll move on
And find some one else
And that's OK
Just remember this
I'm in a better place
Where soldiers live in peace
And angels sing amazing grace

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed
That it would go
And if you're reading this
I'm already home

Charlotte by David Graeme Baker

Charlotte by David Graeme Baker

Click to enlarge.

How much value in a smart phone?

The article exaggerates the extent but it is a real phenomenon none-the-less. From 5-Hour Rule: If you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you’re being irresponsible by Michael Simmons.

We are at the beginning of a period of what renowned futurist Peter Diamandis calls rapid demonetization, in which technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper — or even free.
This chart from Diamandis’ book Abundance shows how we’ve demonetized $900,000 worth of products and services you might have purchased between 1969 and 1989.
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.
This demonetization will accelerate in the future. Automated vehicle fleets will eliminate one of our biggest purchases: a car. Virtual reality will make expensive experiences, such as going to a concert or playing golf, instantly available at much lower cost. While the difference between reality and virtual reality is almost incomparable at the moment, the rate of improvement of VR is exponential.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Cafe Rouge by Shawn Zents

Cafe Rouge by Shawn Zents

Click to enlarge.

Neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth.

From Works and Days by Hesiod. Adam Smith in ancient times.
She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.
It is a fundamental choice. Wealth can be taken through force and coercion (a zero-sum strategy which only divides a given amount of existing wealth) or wealth can be generated through competition and exchange, a non-zero-sum strategy in which everyone ends up better off.

Channelling energy into productive competition is the solution, but everyone has to agree that the winners and losers will be determined through unequally distributed advantages and/or unequally distributed chance (good luck of being in the right place at the right time.) The alternative is that winners and losers are determined by who is strongest.

Rule-constrained competition is always more productive and fairer for everyone in the long term. Seizure by force is always more destructive and more unfair for everyone in the long term. In the short term though, there will always be those unwilling to strive and compete and who are therefore more wed to the idea of coercion, confiscation and seizure. There will always be those seeking to mitigate the raw edge of competition by coercion, confiscation and seizure. They want to do short-term good but fail to appreciate just how finely balanced are the forces of productive competition and destructive coercion.

42% of active crime is prevented, forestalled or stopped by armed citizens. Or not.

This is interesting and a useful sounding board of data versus the usual pablum of emotive advocacy. From Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017 from the FBI.
The FBI has designated 50 shootings in 2016 and 2017 as active shooter incidents. Twenty incidents occurred in 2016, while 30 incidents occurred in 2017.

As with past FBI active shooter-related publications, this report does not encompass all gun-related situations. Rather, it focuses on a specific type of shooting situation. The FBI defines an active shooter as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter's use of one or more firearms. The active aspect of the definition inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses to the situation.

This report supplements two previous publications: A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013 and Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2015. The methodology articulated in the 2000-2013 study was applied to the 2016 and 2017 incidents to ensure consistency. Excluded from this report are gang- and drug-related shootings and gun-related incidents that appeared not to have put other people in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a bar). Analysts relied on official law enforcement investigative reports (when available), FBI holdings, and publicly available resources when gathering data for this report.

Though limited in scope, this report was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to federal, state, tribal, and campus law enforcement as well as other first responders, corporations, educators, and the general public as they seek to neutralize threats posed by active shooters and save lives during such incidents.
Every shooting tragedy is followed by a storm of talking points. On the left is the callous effort to shanghai the tragedy to advance a gun control agenda even though, almost uniformly, the proposed gun control measures would not have prevented the tragedy and on the right there is the knee-jerk defensiveness about the Second Amendment. No one seeks to understand root causes and real solutions. Everyone defaults to their tribal arguing points, shouting across one another.

One of our challenges in trying to understand what is going on is that we are in a blessedly peaceful time with violent crime reaching historical lows. As a consequence, the number of active shooter incidents is low and therefore there is little statistical rigor to be extracted because the population of incidents is so small.

In this report, there are only 50 incidents in two years in a country of some 320 million people which meet the criteria of an active shooter incident. Would that there were even fewer. But fifty is such a low number, you can no longer count on statistics to tell you very much in terms of their attributes. Even within the population of shooting incidents, it is small. Annually there are some 20,000 gun suicides, and, depending on definitions, 10-15,000 gun murders. The definitions most frequently used yield a number of around 12,000 per year. 221 of these 12,000 deaths were due to the 50 active shooter category.

So if we can't do a statistical analysis, we have to default to a much cruder approach of simply eye-balling for patterns of characteristics. It has low rigor but might be interesting. I spent about a minute on each shooter, searching the news accounts. In a small handful, there was almost no information available in a routine search. In others, there was a lot. In some, such as the Las Vegas shooting, there is a lot of coverage and almost no information. We still do not know why it happened. A quick review can gloss over or miss whether someone was drunk or sober, hispanic or white, mentally ill or simply angry, foreign born illegal, foreign born legal resident, foreign born naturalized, etc.

So take everything below with a grain of salt. It is a fast scan.

The FBI numbers yield a number of insights.
26% of the active shooter incidents end with the perpetrator committing suicide.

22% of shooters were killed by police.

Active shooter incidents mirror very roughly the racial distribution of general violence. 47% of active hooters are white, 37% are African American, 9% are Asian American, 7% are Hispanic.

While the distribution by age follows that of violent crime (highest in the twenties and steadily declining from there and rare over fifty), whites seem to have a bi-modal distribution with spikes among teens and then an overrepresentation among the fifties.

35% of active shooters are foreign-born, even if naturalized. 4 from Asia, 4 from the Middle East, 3 from Africa, 3 from Central America, 1 from India.

7% are Muslim, though only one of the three active shooters appears to have had an explicitly Islamic motivation.

7% had some sort of possibly related military service, i.e. trauma from service might have been an underlying causal factor.
What was especially striking to me was the ultimate disposition. 26% of the shooters killed themselves. 22% were killed by the police. 16% were killed or captured by citizens (armed or otherwise.) 36% surrendered to the police when confronted by them.

So of those who were forcibly stopped from their shooting spree, 42% were stopped by citizens and 58% were stopped by the police.

Tiny population of incidents, weak rigor. You can't make to much of this.

But it is interesting because there is a larger debate about policing and an armed populace that is going on. on the right, among the positions taken, is that citizens have a right to self-protection and that the Second Amendment ensures that right. The adage is, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." But how much merit is there to that argument.

In some places, certainly. In my city, the city government has long shrunk the policing budget and road maintenance in order to fund white elephant glamor projects and fund political corruption. If you live in a low crime part of the city, you rarely see the police and even if there is a violent crime occurring, it can take upwards of ten or twenty minutes for the police to show up. Consequently, even though my neighborhood is overwhelmingly registered as Democrats, there is also an astonishing number of weapons in homes.

So you can see circumstances where the right argument does manifest. But to what degree? Just how many crimes are stopped through gun ownership? It is a conceptually very difficult question to resolve. We have some parts of the country with dense gun ownership and low crime and we have some parts with low gun ownership and high gun control and very high crime. The causal mechanisms are obscure.

The FBI tracked numbers are also all over the place, in some studies indicating that armed citizens rarely prevent crimes and in others indicating that perhaps 50% of crimes are forestalled or prevent through gun ownership.

Basically, we don't know. The incentives to skew the studies is huge, the confirmation bias overwhelming. It is hard to get dispassionate data. The Active Shooter data does not resolve anything because the population size is too small to derive robust conclusions. But it does suggest that armed and proactive citizens are a surprisingly large component of crime resolution.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

From Jews of Amsterdam by Leonard Freed.

From Jews of Amsterdam by Leonard Freed.

Click to enlarge.

It was one day I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro. against Lenin and Trotsky, and Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole.

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
"Er——" said Cuthbert, blushing as every eye in the room seemed to fix itself on him, "I think he means Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon."

"Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon?" repeated Mrs. Smethurst, blankly. "I never heard of——"

"Yais! Yais! Most! Very!" shouted Vladimir Brusiloff, enthusiastically. "Arbmishel and Arreevadon. You know them, yes, what, no, perhaps?"

"I've played with Abe Mitchell often, and I was partnered with Harry Vardon in last year's Open."
The great Russian uttered a cry that shook the chandelier.

"You play in ze Open? Why," he demanded reproachfully of Mrs. Smethurst, "was I not been introducted to this young man who play in opens?"

"Well, really," faltered Mrs. Smethurst. "Well, the fact is, Mr. Brusiloff——" She broke off. She was unequal to the task of explaining, without hurting anyone's feelings, that she had always regarded Cuthbert as a piece of cheese and a blot on the landscape.

"Introduct me!" thundered the Celebrity.

"Why, certainly, certainly, of course. This is Mr.——."

She looked appealingly at Cuthbert.

"Banks," prompted Cuthbert.

"Banks!" cried Vladimir Brusiloff. "Not Cootaboot Banks?"

"Is your name Cootaboot?" asked Mrs. Smethurst, faintly.

"Well, it's Cuthbert."

"Yais! Yais! Cootaboot!" There was a rush and swirl, as the effervescent Muscovite burst his way through the throng and rushed to where Cuthbert sat. He stood for a moment eyeing him excitedly, then, stooping swiftly, kissed him on both cheeks before Cuthbert could get his guard up. "My dear young man, I saw you win ze French Open. Great! Great! Grand! Superb! Hot stuff, and you can say I said so! Will you permit one who is but eighteen at Nijni-Novgorod to salute you once more?"

And he kissed Cuthbert again. Then, brushing aside one or two intellectuals who were in the way, he dragged up a chair and sat down.

"You are a great man!" he said.

"Oh, no," said Cuthbert modestly.

"Yais! Great. Most! Very! The way you lay your approach-putts dead from anywhere!"

"Oh, I don't know."

Mr. Brusiloff drew his chair closer.

"Let me tell you one vairy funny story about putting. It was one day I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro. against Lenin and Trotsky, and Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole. But, just as he addresses the ball, someone in the crowd he tries to assassinate Lenin with a rewolwer—you know that is our great national sport, trying to assassinate Lenin with rewolwers—and the bang puts Trotsky off his stroke and he goes five yards past the hole, and then Lenin, who is rather shaken, you understand, he misses again himself, and we win the hole and match and I clean up three hundred and ninety-six thousand roubles, or fifteen shillings in your money. Some gameovitch! And now let me tell you one other vairy funny story——"

Desultory conversation had begun in murmurs over the rest of the room, as the Wood Hills intellectuals politely endeavoured to conceal the fact that they realized that they were about as much out of it at this re-union of twin souls as cats at a dog-show. From time to time they started as Vladimir Brusiloff's laugh boomed out. Perhaps it was a consolation to them to know that he was enjoying himself.

As for Adeline, how shall I describe her emotions? She was stunned. Before her very eyes the stone which the builders had rejected had become the main thing, the hundred-to-one shot had walked away with the race. A rush of tender admiration for Cuthbert Banks flooded her heart. She saw that she had been all wrong. Cuthbert, whom she had always treated with a patronizing superiority, was really a man to be looked up to and worshipped. A deep, dreamy sigh shook Adeline's fragile form.

Half an hour later Vladimir and Cuthbert Banks rose.

"Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst," said the Celebrity. "Zank you for a most charming visit. My friend Cootaboot and me we go now to shoot a few holes. You will lend me clobs, friend Cootaboot?"

"Any you want."

"The niblicksky is what I use most. Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst."

They were moving to the door, when Cuthbert felt a light touch on his arm. Adeline was looking up at him tenderly.

"May I come, too, and walk round with you?"

Cuthbert's bosom heaved.

"Oh," he said, with a tremor in his voice, "that you would walk round with me for life!"

Her eyes met his.

"Perhaps," she whispered, softly, "it could be arranged."

* * * * *

"And so," (concluded the Oldest Member), "you see that golf can be of the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle. Raymond Parsloe Devine, who was no player, had to move out of the neighbourhood immediately, and is now, I believe, writing scenarios out in California for the Flicker Film Company. Adeline is married to Cuthbert, and it was only his earnest pleading which prevented her from having their eldest son christened Abe Mitchell Ribbed-Faced Mashie Banks, for she is now as keen a devotee of the great game as her husband. Those who know them say that theirs is a union so devoted, so——"

* * * * *

The Sage broke off abruptly, for the young man had rushed to the door and out into the passage. Through the open door he could hear him crying passionately to the waiter to bring back his clubs.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Surrealist Landscape by Fred Fredden Goldberg (1889 – 1973)

Surrealist Landscape by Fred Fredden Goldberg (1889 – 1973)

Click to enlarge.

And then, from a distant corner, there sounded a deprecating, cough

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
It is too much to say that there was a dead silence. There could never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake. But certainly what you might call the general chit-chat was pretty well down and out. Nobody liked to be the first to speak. The members of the Wood Hills Literary Society looked at one another timidly. Cuthbert, for his part, gazed at Adeline; and Adeline gazed into space. It was plain that the girl was deeply stirred. Her eyes were opened wide, a faint flush crimsoned her cheeks, and her breath was coming quickly.

Adeline's mind was in a whirl. She felt as if she had been walking gaily along a pleasant path and had stopped suddenly on the very brink of a precipice. It would be idle to deny that Raymond Parsloe Devine had attracted her extraordinarily. She had taken him at his own valuation as an extremely hot potato, and her hero-worship had gradually been turning into love. And now her hero had been shown to have feet of clay. It was hard, I consider, on Raymond Parsloe Devine, but that is how it goes in this world. You get a following as a celebrity, and then you run up against another bigger celebrity and your admirers desert you. One could moralize on this at considerable length, but better not, perhaps. Enough to say that the glamour of Raymond Devine ceased abruptly in that moment for Adeline, and her most coherent thought at this juncture was the resolve, as soon as she got up to her room, to burn the three signed photographs he had sent her and to give the autographed presentation set of his books to the grocer's boy.

Mrs. Smethurst, meanwhile, having rallied somewhat, was endeavouring to set the feast of reason and flow of soul going again.

"And how do you like England, Mr. Brusiloff?" she asked.

The celebrity paused in the act of lowering another segment of cake.

"Dam good," he replied, cordially.

"I suppose you have travelled all over the country by this time?"

"You said it," agreed the Thinker.

"Have you met many of our great public men?"

"Yais—Yais—Quite a few of the nibs—Lloyid Gorge, I meet him. But——" Beneath the matting a discontented expression came into his face, and his voice took on a peevish note. "But I not meet your real great men—your Arbmishel, your Arreevadon—I not meet them. That's what gives me the pipovitch. Have you ever met Arbmishel and Arreevadon?"

A strained, anguished look came into Mrs. Smethurst's face and was reflected in the faces of the other members of the circle. The eminent Russian had sprung two entirely new ones on them, and they felt that their ignorance was about to be exposed. What would Vladimir Brusiloff think of the Wood Hills Literary Society? The reputation of the Wood Hills Literary Society was at stake, trembling in the balance, and coming up for the third time. In dumb agony Mrs. Smethurst rolled her eyes about the room searching for someone capable of coming to the rescue. She drew blank.

And then, from a distant corner, there sounded a deprecating, cough, and those nearest Cuthbert Banks saw that he had stopped twisting his right foot round his left ankle and his left foot round his right ankle and was sitting up with a light of almost human intelligence in his eyes.

There are some complex artifacts with nonobvious, or causally opaque, functions in the world that one needs to learn about.

From The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. Page 71.
Alongside these anatomical changes, our species’ long history with complex tools has also likely shaped our learning psychology. We are cognitively primed to categorize “artifacts” (e.g., tools and weapons) as separate from all other things in the world, like rocks and animals. Unlike plants, animals, and other nonliving things like water, we think about function when we think about artifacts. For example, when young children ask about artifacts they ask “What’s it for” or “What does it do?” instead of “What kind is it?” which is their initial query when seeing a novel plant or animal. This specialized thinking about artifacts, as opposed to thinking about other nonliving things, requires, first, that there be some complex artifacts with nonobvious, or causally opaque, functions in the world that one needs to learn about. Cumulative cultural evolution will readily generate such cognitively opaque artifacts, a point I’ll make in spades in chapter 7.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"I spit me of Sovietski!"

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
"Oh, Mr. Brusiloff," said Mrs. Smethurst, "I do so want you to meet Mr. Raymond Parsloe Devine, whose work I expect you know. He is one of our younger novelists."

The distinguished visitor peered in a wary and defensive manner through the shrubbery, but did not speak. Inwardly he was thinking how exactly like Mr. Devine was to the eighty-one other younger novelists to whom he had been introduced at various hamlets throughout the country. Raymond Parsloe Devine bowed courteously, while Cuthbert, wedged into his corner, glowered at him.

"The critics," said Mr. Devine, "have been kind enough to say that my poor efforts contain a good deal of the Russian spirit. I owe much to the great Russians. I have been greatly influenced by Sovietski."

Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir Brusiloff's mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining. He glared bleakly at Mr. Devine, and allowed three words to drop out of him.

"Sovietski no good!"

He paused for a moment, set the machinery working again, and delivered five more at the pithead.

"I spit me of Sovietski!"

There was a painful sensation. The lot of a popular idol is in many ways an enviable one, but it has the drawback of uncertainty. Here today and gone tomorrow. Until this moment Raymond Parsloe Devine's stock had stood at something considerably over par in Wood Hills intellectual circles, but now there was a rapid slump. Hitherto he had been greatly admired for being influenced by Sovietski, but it appeared now that this was not a good thing to be. It was evidently a rotten thing to be. The law could not touch you for being influenced by Sovietski, but there is an ethical as well as a legal code, and this it was obvious that Raymond Parsloe Devine had transgressed. Women drew away from him slightly, holding their skirts. Men looked at him censoriously. Adeline Smethurst started violently, and dropped a tea-cup. And Cuthbert Banks, doing his popular imitation of a sardine in his corner, felt for the first time that life held something of sunshine.

Raymond Parsloe Devine was plainly shaken, but he made an adroit attempt to recover his lost prestige.

"When I say I have been influenced by Sovietski, I mean, of course, that I was once under his spell. A young writer commits many follies. I have long since passed through that phase. The false glamour of Sovietski has ceased to dazzle me. I now belong whole-heartedly to the school of Nastikoff."

There was a reaction. People nodded at one another sympathetically. After all, we cannot expect old heads on young shoulders, and a lapse at the outset of one's career should not be held against one who has eventually seen the light.

"Nastikoff no good," said Vladimir Brusiloff, coldly. He paused, listening to the machinery.

"Nastikoff worse than Sovietski."

He paused again.

"I spit me of Nastikoff!" he said.

This time there was no doubt about it. The bottom had dropped out of the market, and Raymond Parsloe Devine Preferred were down in the cellar with no takers. It was clear to the entire assembled company that they had been all wrong about Raymond Parsloe Devine. They had allowed him to play on their innocence and sell them a pup. They had taken him at his own valuation, and had been cheated into admiring him as a man who amounted to something, and all the while he had belonged to the school of Nastikoff. You never can tell. Mrs. Smethurst's guests were well-bred, and there was consequently no violent demonstration, but you could see by their faces what they felt. Those nearest Raymond Parsloe jostled to get further away. Mrs. Smethurst eyed him stonily through a raised lorgnette. One or two low hisses were heard, and over at the other end of the room somebody opened the window in a marked manner.

Raymond Parsloe Devine hesitated for a moment, then, realizing his situation, turned and slunk to the door. There was an audible sigh of relief as it closed behind him.

Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.

"No novelists any good except me. Sovietski—yah! Nastikoff—bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P. G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."

And, having uttered this dictum, he removed a slab of cake from a near-by plate, steered it through the jungle, and began to champ.

Spring's Now by David Graeme Baker

Spring's Now by David Graeme Baker

Click to enlarge.

Children have an evolved fascination with fire

From The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. Page 68.
The impact of this culturally transmitted know-how about fire and cooking has had such an impact on our species’ genetic evolution that we are now, essentially, addicted to cooked food. Wrangham reviewed the literature on the ability of humans to survive by eating only raw foods. His review includes historical cases in which people had to survive without cooking, as well as studies of modern fads, such as the raw foods movement. The long and short of all this is that it’s very difficult to survive for months without cooking. Raw-foodists are thin and often feel hungry. Their body fat drops so low that women often stop menstruating or menstruate only irregularly. This occurs despite the supermarket availability of a vast range of raw foods, the use of powerful processing technologies like blenders, and the consumption of some preprocessed foods. The upshot is that human foraging populations could never survive without cooking; meanwhile, apes do just fine without cooking, though they do love cooked foods.

Our species’ increasing dependence on fire and cooking over our evolutionary history may have also shaped our cultural learning psychology in ways that facilitated the acquisition of know-how about fire making. This is a kind of content bias in our cultural learning. The UCLA anthropologist, Dan Fessler, argues that during middle childhood (ages six to nine), humans go through a phase in which we are strongly attracted to learning about fire, by both observing others and manipulating it ourselves. In small-scale societies, where children are free to engage this curiosity, adolescents have both mastered fire and lost any further attraction to it. Interestingly, Fessler also argues that modern societies are unusual because so many children never get to satisfy their curiosity, so their fascination with fire stretches into the teen years and early adulthood.

The influence of socially learned food-processing techniques on our genetic evolution probably occurred very gradually, perhaps beginning with the the earliest stone tools. Such tools had likely begun to emerge by at least 3 million years ago (see chapter 15) and were probably used for processing meat—pounding, chopping, slicing, and dicing.14 Drying meat or soaking plant foods may have emerged at any time, and probably repeatedly. By the emergence of the genus Homo, it’s plausible that cooking began to be used sporadically but with increasing frequency, especially where large fibrous tubers or meat were relatively abundant.

Our repertoire of food-processing methods altered the genetic selection pressures on our digestive system by gradually supplanting some of its functions with cultural substitutes. Techniques such as cooking actually increase the energy available from foods and make them easier to digest and detoxify. This effect allowed natural selection to save substantial amounts of energy by reducing our gut tissue, the second most expensive tissue in our bodies (next to brain tissue), and our susceptibility to various diseases associated with gut tissue. The energy savings from the externalization of digestive functions by cultural evolution became one component in a suite of adjustments that permitted our species to build and run bigger and bigger brains.
As an Assistant Scout Master, I can testify to the enduring fascination with fire, at least among young boys.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Staircase, House (Buhrich I), Edinburgh Rd, Castlecrag, May 1958 by Max Dupain

Staircase, House (Buhrich I), Edinburgh Rd, Castlecrag, May 1958 by Max Dupain.

Click to enlarge.

Doubtless with the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
When Cuthbert had entered the drawing-room on the following Wednesday and had taken his usual place in a distant corner where, while able to feast his gaze on Adeline, he had a sporting chance of being overlooked or mistaken for a piece of furniture, he perceived the great Russian thinker seated in the midst of a circle of admiring females. Raymond Parsloe Devine had not yet arrived.

His first glance at the novelist surprised Cuthbert. Doubtless with the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange backyard surrounded by small boys. The man looked forlorn and hopeless, and Cuthbert wondered whether he had had bad news from home.

This was not the case. The latest news which Vladimir Brusiloff had had from Russia had been particularly cheering. Three of his principal creditors had perished in the last massacre of the bourgeoisie, and a man whom he owed for five years for a samovar and a pair of overshoes had fled the country, and had not been heard of since. It was not bad news from home that was depressing Vladimir. What was wrong with him was the fact that this was the eighty-second suburban literary reception he had been compelled to attend since he had landed in the country on his lecturing tour, and he was sick to death of it. When his agent had first suggested the trip, he had signed on the dotted line without an instant's hesitation. Worked out in roubles, the fees offered had seemed just about right. But now, as he peered through the brushwood at the faces round him, and realized that eight out of ten of those present had manuscripts of some sort concealed on their persons, and were only waiting for an opportunity to whip them out and start reading, he wished that he had stayed at his quiet home in Nijni-Novgorod, where the worst thing that could happen to a fellow was a brace of bombs coming in through the window and mixing themselves up with his breakfast egg.

At this point in his meditations he was aware that his hostess was looming up before him with a pale young man in horn-rimmed spectacles at her side. There was in Mrs. Smethurst's demeanour something of the unction of the master-of-ceremonies at the big fight who introduces the earnest gentleman who wishes to challenge the winner.

Hunters do not produce enough calories to even feed themselves (let alone others) until around age 18

From The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. Page 63.
Human brain development is related to another unusual feature of our species, our extended childhoods and the emergence of that memorable period called adolescence. Compared to other primates, our gestational and infancy periods (birth to weaning) have shortened while our childhoods have extended and a uniquely human period of adolescence has emerged, prior to full maturity. Childhood is a period of intensive cultural learning, including playing and the practicing of adult roles and skills, during which time our brains reach nearly their adult size while our bodies remain small. Adolescence begins at sexual maturity, after which a growth spurt ensues. During this time, we engage in apprenticeships, as we hone the most complex of adult skills and areas of knowledge, as well as build relationships with peers and look for mates.

The emergence of adolescence and young adulthood has likely been crucial over our evolutionary history, since in hunting and gathering populations, hunters do not produce enough calories to even feed themselves (let alone others) until around age 18 and won’t reach their peak productivity until their late thirties. Interestingly, while hunters reach their peak strength and speed in their twenties, individual hunting success does not peak until around age 40, because success depends more on know-how and refined skills than on physical prowess. By contrast, chimpanzees—who also hunt and gather—can obtain enough calories to sustain themselves immediately after infancy ends, around age 5.5 Consistent with our long period of wiring-up, this pattern and contrast with chimpanzees reveals the degree to which we humans are dependent on learning for our survival as foragers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

For learning purposes, we are prestige biased, as well as being skill and success biased.

From The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich. Page 43.
We use these prestige cues to help us rapidly zero in on whom to learn from. In essence, prestige cues represent a kind of second-order cultural learning in which we figure out who to learn from by inferring from the behavior of others who they think are worthy of learning from—that is, we culturally learn from whom to learn.
Despite the seeming ubiquity of this phenomenon in the real world, there is actually relatively little direct experimental evidence that people use prestige cues. There is an immense amount of indirect evidence that shows how the prestige of a person or source, such as a newspaper or celebrity, increases the persuasiveness of what they say or the tendency of people to remember what they say. This effect occurs even when the prestige of a person comes from a domain, like golf, that is far removed from the issue they are commenting on (like automobile quality). This provides some evidence, though it does not get at the specific cues “that learners might actually use to guide them, aside from being told that someone is an “expert” or “the best.”

To address this in our laboratory, Maciej Chudek, Sue Birch, and I tested this prestige idea more directly. Sue is a developmental psychologist and Maciej was my graduate student (he did all the real work). We had preschoolers watch a video in which they saw two different potential models use the same object in one of two different ways. In the video, two bystanders entered, looked at both models, and then preferentially watched one of them. The visual attention of the bystanders provided a “prestige cue” that seemingly marked one of the two potential models. Then, participants saw each model select one of two different types of unfamiliar foods and one of two differently colored beverages. They also saw each model use a toy in one of two distinct ways. After the video, the kids were permitted to select one of the two novel foods and one of the two colorful beverages. They could also use the toy any way they wanted. Children were 13 times more likely to use the toy in the same manner as the prestige-cued model compared to the other model. They were also about 4 times more likely to select the food or beverage preferred by the prestige-cued model. Based on questions asked at the end of the experiment, the children had no conscious or expressible awareness of the prestige cues or their effects. These experiments show that young children rapidly and unconsciously tune into the visual attention of others and use it to direct their cultural learning. We are prestige biased, as well as being skill and success biased.

Unknown title by Ryo Takemasa

Cover illustration for Quarterly Magazine Musashino by Ryo Takemasa.

Click to enlarge.

Your psychology is so deep

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
One morning, as he tottered down the road for the short walk which was now almost the only exercise to which he was equal, Cuthbert met Adeline. A spasm of anguish flitted through all his nerve-centres as he saw that she was accompanied by Raymond Parsloe Devine.

"Good morning, Mr. Banks," said Adeline.

"Good morning," said Cuthbert hollowly.

"Such good news about Vladimir Brusiloff."

"Dead?" said Cuthbert, with a touch of hope.

"Dead? Of course not. Why should he be? No, Aunt Emily met his manager after his lecture at Queen's Hall yesterday, and he has promised that Mr. Brusiloff shall come to her next Wednesday reception."

"Oh, ah!" said Cuthbert, dully.

"I don't know how she managed it. I think she must have told him that Mr. Devine would be there to meet him."

"But you said he was coming," argued Cuthbert.

"I shall be very glad," said Raymond Devine, "of the opportunity of meeting Brusiloff."

"I'm sure," said Adeline, "he will be very glad of the opportunity of meeting you."

"Possibly," said Mr. Devine. "Possibly. Competent critics have said that my work closely resembles that of the great Russian Masters."

"Your psychology is so deep."

"Yes, yes."

"And your atmosphere."


Cuthbert in a perfect agony of spirit prepared to withdraw from this love-feast. The sun was shining brightly, but the world was black to him. Birds sang in the tree-tops, but he did not hear them. He might have been a moujik for all the pleasure he found in life.

"You will be there, Mr. Banks?" said Adeline, as he turned away.

"Oh, all right," said Cuthbert.

Narrow technicians versus broader generalists

From 7 Funny, Fawning Reviews of HBO's 'The Final Year' by Christian Toto. Apparently HBO has a documentary out chronicling the final year of the Obama administration, focusing on the foreign policy side of things. The article is a snarky take-down of some of the left wing reviews; reviews reflecting partisan lamentations rather than actual reviews of the documentary itself. I get the snarking but it doesn't add too much to the conversation.

It has been known for several years that some of the keynote initiatives were disasters from their birthing. The past year hasn't actually changed much in that regard other than to make more broadly apparent just how much a disaster that whole foreign policy team was.

But even shallow, snarky articles can have interesting information in them.
Reviews of the film fell snugly in that media bias category. The movie earned an 84 percent “fresh” rating at Critics almost uniformly cheered on “Year’s” obvious bias toward its final year movie postersubject matter. (Movie audiences were less kind, offering a 50 percent rating.)
That is interesting. I don't watch a lot of movies and am not especially au courant with all the ins and outs of the Hollywood apparatus.

But a 35 point difference between the "cultural elite" and regular audiences is a pretty wide chasm. Perhaps it is the case for all movies, in which case, it signifies nothing. But if the average gap between audiences and effete elite reviewers is usually much smaller, then there is some sort of signal in there.

It is customary for insider technicians in a field, whether it be baseball or foreign policy, to berate the ignorance and unknowingness of the population at large and how they just don't get it. But people "get it" a lot more often than the insider technicians would care to acknowledge. Insiders lose perspective. The at-large population may not have mastery of the details but they often have a better grounding in the larger context.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cabernet and Coffee by Shawn Zents

Cabernet and Coffee by Shawn Zents

Click to enlarge.

But the data take a clear side in that debate.

From The Racism Treadmill by Coleman Hughes.
The prevailing view among progressives today is that America hasn’t made much progress on racism. While no one would argue that abolishing slavery and dissolving Jim Crow weren’t good first steps, the progressive attitude toward such reforms is nicely summarized by Malcolm X’s famous quip, “You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.” Aside from outlawing formalized bigotry, many progressives believe that things haven’t improved all that much. Racist attitudes towards blacks, if only in the form of implicit bias, are thought to be widespread; black men are still liable to be arrested in a Starbucks for no good reason; plus we have a president who has found it difficult to denounce neo-Nazis. If racism still looms large in our social and political lives, then, as one left-wing commentator put it, “progress is debatable.”

But the data take a clear side in that debate. In his controversial bestseller Enlightenment Now, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker notes a steep decline in racism. At the turn of the 20th century, lynchings occurred at a rate of three per week. Now, racially-motivated killings of blacks occur at a rate of zero to one per year.1 What’s more, racist attitudes that were once commonplace have now become fringe. A Gallup poll found that only 4 percent of Americans approved of marriages between blacks and whites in 1958. By 2013, that number had climbed to 87 percent, prompting pollsters to call it “one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history.”

Why can’t progressives admit that we’ve made progress? Pinker’s answer for what he dubs “progressophobia” is two-fold. First, our intuitions about whether trends have increased or decreased are shaped by what we can easily recall—news items, shocking events, personal experience, etc. Second, we are more sensitive to negative stimuli than we are to positive ones. These two bugs of human psychology—called the availability bias and the negativity bias, respectively—make us prone to doomsaying, inclined to mistake freak news events for trends, and blind to the slow march of progress.
Excellent summary of some of the confounding research out there which contradicts the ideological mantras.

Some other interesting arguments:
But the premise built into the thinking of Coates and Kendi is false. I call it the disparity fallacy. The disparity fallacy holds that unequal outcomes between two groups must be caused primarily by discrimination, whether overt or systemic. What’s puzzling about believers in the disparity fallacy is not that they apply the belief too broadly, but that they apply it too narrowly. Any instance of whites outperforming blacks is adduced as evidence of discrimination. But when a disparity runs the other way—that is, blacks outperforming whites—discrimination is never invoked as a causal factor.

Here’s a clear example of the disparity fallacy: a recent study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau found that, “[a]mong those who grow up in families with comparable incomes, black men grow up to earn substantially less than the white men.” A New York Times article attributed this disparity to “the punishing reach of racism for black boys.” But the study also found that black women have higher college attendance rates than white men, and higher incomes than white women, conditional on parental income. The fact that black women outperformed their white counterparts on these measures, however, was not attributed to the punishing reach of racism against whites.


One crucial way in which groups differ is culture. Culture matters enormously. The importance of culture is, ironically, a value often expressed by progressives. When presented with arguments that point to genetic influences on human behavior, many on the Left respond by emphasizing the importance of culture over genetics, that is, nurture over nature (see Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate for more.) Moreover, cultures differ from one another. This is true by definition. It’s unclear what the “multi” in “multi-culturalism” could possibly mean if cultures were all the same. Put these two premises together, and you arrive at what should be an equally banal conclusion: if culture matters enormously, and cultures differ from one another, then differences between cultures matter enormously.

The supply of Russian novelists must eventually give out

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
Even as he spoke the words his leg was itching to kick himself for being such a chump, but the sudden expression of pleasure on Adeline's face soothed him; and he went home that night with the feeling that he had taken on something rather attractive. It was only in the cold, grey light of the morning that he realized what he had let himself in for.

I do not know if you have had any experience of suburban literary societies, but the one that flourished under the eye of Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst at Wood Hills was rather more so than the average. With my feeble powers of narrative, I cannot hope to make clear to you all that Cuthbert Banks endured in the next few weeks. And, even if I could, I doubt if I should do so. It is all very well to excite pity and terror, as Aristotle recommends, but there are limits. In the ancient Greek tragedies it was an ironclad rule that all the real rough stuff should take place off-stage, and I shall follow this admirable principle. It will suffice if I say merely that J. Cuthbert Banks had a thin time. After attending eleven debates and fourteen lectures on vers libre Poetry, the Seventeenth-Century Essayists, the Neo-Scandinavian Movement in Portuguese Literature, and other subjects of a similar nature, he grew so enfeebled that, on the rare occasions when he had time for a visit to the links, he had to take a full iron for his mashie shots.

It was not simply the oppressive nature of the debates and lectures that sapped his vitality. What really got right in amongst him was the torture of seeing Adeline's adoration of Raymond Parsloe Devine. The man seemed to have made the deepest possible impression upon her plastic emotions. When he spoke, she leaned forward with parted lips and looked at him. When he was not speaking—which was seldom—she leaned back and looked at him. And when he happened to take the next seat to her, she leaned sideways and looked at him. One glance at Mr. Devine would have been more than enough for Cuthbert; but Adeline found him a spectacle that never palled. She could not have gazed at him with a more rapturous intensity if she had been a small child and he a saucer of ice-cream. All this Cuthbert had to witness while still endeavouring to retain the possession of his faculties sufficiently to enable him to duck and back away if somebody suddenly asked him what he thought of the sombre realism of Vladimir Brusiloff. It is little wonder that he tossed in bed, picking at the coverlet, through sleepless nights, and had to have all his waistcoats taken in three inches to keep them from sagging.

This Vladimir Brusiloff to whom I have referred was the famous Russian novelist, and, owing to the fact of his being in the country on a lecturing tour at the moment, there had been something of a boom in his works. The Wood Hills Literary Society had been studying them for weeks, and never since his first entrance into intellectual circles had Cuthbert Banks come nearer to throwing in the towel. Vladimir specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery, where nothing happened till page three hundred and eighty, when the moujik decided to commit suicide. It was tough going for a man whose deepest reading hitherto had been Vardon on the Push-Shot, and there can be no greater proof of the magic of love than the fact that Cuthbert stuck it without a cry. But the strain was terrible and I am inclined to think that he must have cracked, had it not been for the daily reports in the papers of the internecine strife which was proceeding so briskly in Russia. Cuthbert was an optimist at heart, and it seemed to him that, at the rate at which the inhabitants of that interesting country were murdering one another, the supply of Russian novelists must eventually give out.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The mantle of the great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine

From The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922. In installments.
"It's true," he said, "I didn't finish in the first ten in the Open, and I was knocked out in the semi-final of the Amateur, but I won the French Open last year."


"The French Open Championship. Golf, you know."

"Golf! You waste all your time playing golf. I admire a man who is more spiritual, more intellectual."

A pang of jealousy rent Cuthbert's bosom.

"Like What's-his-name Devine?" he said, sullenly.

"Mr. Devine," replied Adeline, blushing faintly, "is going to be a great man. Already he has achieved much. The critics say that he is more Russian than any other young English writer."

"And is that good?"

"Of course it's good."

"I should have thought the wheeze would be to be more English than any other young English writer."

"Nonsense! Who wants an English writer to be English? You've got to be Russian or Spanish or something to be a real success. The mantle of the great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine."

"From what I've heard of Russians, I should hate to have that happen to me."

"There is no danger of that," said Adeline scornfully.

"Oh! Well, let me tell you that there is a lot more in me than you think."

"That might easily be so."

"You think I'm not spiritual and intellectual," said Cuthbert, deeply moved. "Very well. Tomorrow I join the Literary Society."