Subcultures and Week 1 of Skateboarding

Despite my husband’s insistence that I would wipe out and kill myself, I am successfully still alive after one week of skateboarding. I have also reassured him that I am not going to turn into one of “those people”: snowboarders. (Mostly because I am afraid of going downhill fast, and also because I don’t have the time and money to go skiing.)

I find it mildly hilarious that there is a cultural difference between skiers–proper, refined, pinkies in the air denizens of Deer Valley–and snowboarders–potheads, troublemakers, and young people with attitudes. Waterskiing also comes in two ski and one ski varieties, but as far as I know, there is no cultural difference between waterskiers who slalom and those who don’t.

In fact, snowboarding used to be banned at most US (and European) ski resorts:

Even though snowboarding was accepted by the mainstream winter sports industry in the 1990s, and is now recognized as a Winter Olympic sport (debuting in 1998), ski areas adopted the sport at a much slower pace than the winter sports public. For many years, animosity existed between skiers and snowboarders, which led to an ongoing skier-vs-snowboarder feud.[9] Early snowboards were banned from the slopes by park officials. In 1985, only seven percent of U.S. ski areas allowed snowboarding,[10] with a similar proportion in Europe. Because of this, snowboarders sought ways to protest such treatment from resorts owners and to a lesser degree, other skiers. Indeed, the snowboarding way of life came about to rebel against skiing. As a result, snowboarders chose to “shock” skiers by snowboarding at ski-only resorts as a protest.

Today, only Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen maintain the ban; the other resorts have recognized that snowboarders buy lift tickets, too.

Sam Baldrin has a good article on the conflict: Snowboarding vs. Skiing: The dying feud:

However, in those early days, skiing was still very much an elitist sport. Seen as expensive, and catering largely to the more wealthy citizens, resorts weren’t about to let this new, dangerous craze into their exclusive runs. …

But the boarding boom of the 1980s brought with it a very different type of personality to the slopes; droves of teenage skate punks with an accompanying ‘bad ass’ attitude that the average skier didn’t appreciate. This new form of snow sport brought the lawlessness of street skating to the arena of strict slope etiquette. …

And so the war began; on one side, the traditionally upper class, rich kid skiers, who wanted the slopes free of these rude, dangerous, disrespectful hoodlums with their baggy trousers and “trash and thrash” attitude. On the other, a rapidly growing army of young, enthusiastic new snowboarders, scornful of skiing’s conservative yuppie style, pumped full of teenage angst and reveling in the sport’s rebellious image.

How did two activities that are essentially the same–strapping a board or two to your feet and going downhill–develop radically different subcultures? Some sports obviously attract different sorts of people–basketball players are taller than jockeys, for example, but I doubt there’s anything about fine wine or baggy pants that makes one good at one or the other, and both groups have enough money to afford lift tickets at Vail.

In this case–as skiers and snowboarders have grown less antagonistic over the years–I think it’s mostly founder effects. Learning to ski or board is tricky, but people who could already skateboard had an advantage over those who didn’t. And while plenty of serious skiers saw the potential of snowboarding, once it was outlawed, only outlaws rode snowboards.

And who rides skateboards is itself at least partly founder effects that don’t have too much to do with skill, like who lives in cities with lots of smooth concrete.

Of course, young or old, yuppie or punk, one demographic variable unites the majority serious sports enthusiasts: they’re male. Yes, there are a few sports that women dominate, like rhythmic gymnastics, but the vast majority of athletic subcultures, professional, amateur, or merely fan, are dominated by men–and this is not a founder effect.

Some typical men’s hobbies, include riding motorcycles, working on car engines, woodworking, building computers, playing Call of Duty, and sports. Some typical women’s hobbies include include reading books/book clubs, arts and crafts, baking, playing the Sims, and shopping.

Men tend to get involved in hobbies that demand either high levels of skill–technical or athletic–and tend to enjoy tinkering for its own sake. They love optimizing their rigs, maximizing performance, or just hauling the motorcycle into the living room to do whatever repairs need done. Women, by contrast, tend to prefer their hobbies less DIY (except for art and baking) and more ready-off-the-shelf.

New hobbies are often male dominated because new things tend not to be very refined or have well-established supply chains: you can’t find them ready-on-the-shelf. The early internet, for example, wasn’t available on phones. To get on the early internet you had to figure out for yourself how to get on Usenet, and few enough people joined each year (mostly in September, when they arrived at colleges that had internet access), that the internet maintained a specific culture. Then in 1993, AOL went live and an unending stream of normal people flooded onto the internet, swamping the original culture and changing it forever, in what is known as “Eternal September.”

Ham radio–which I regard as the precursor to the internet–also required technical knowledge and assembling giant antennae; early rocketry (before WWII) was a highly technical hobby, with many parts and fuels built and mixed by hand.

In the cultural realm, watching anime was much trickier in the early 90s, before you could just stream it on YouTube or Netflix. (I got into anime because my best friend was Japanese, and we watched it together.) In those days you had to look in the Yellowpages to see if any video or comic shops near you carried it. Fan communities devoted to distributing, translating, dubbing, and subtitling anime developed on the internet–active communities, not just passive consumers.

The entry of large numbers of women into a community tends to mark a fundamental change in the nature of the community, not just because they are women, but also because whatever activity or skill it involves has become easy to get into. You no longer need to build anything or have specialized technical knowledge or spend hours working on a project to get in the culture; just buy something off the shelf and you’re there. Normies of both genders show up. The place changes.

Change isn’t always bad. Most of us seem to like that we can access Google Maps on our phones when we’re lost, or that our favorite shows are easy to find on Netflix or Hulu. I appreciate the skateboarding videos on Youtube that have taught me proper board stances, since there’s no one in my neighborhood I can ask.

But this is still change, and for the people who liked their communities the way they were when they were DIY, something they enjoyed may be lost.

(But don’t worry about me; I won’t be invading your skateparks.)

Anyway, skateboarding, week one:

Since my husband’s assertion that I had bought a “murderboard” and was going to “kill myself,” I have been keeping a list of things that have hurt me worse than skateboarding injuries:

Biting my tongue at breakfast
Stepping on a small plastic Pokemon that nearly punctured my foot
Bumping into the table (I still have the bruise)
Whacking my ankle with the scooter while picking it up
The pain in my elbow from using Twitter

I think a lot of people (including my husband) jump on a skateboard once, the skateboard flies out from under them, they crash to the ground, and they decide that skateboarding must be for people with better balance and pain tolerance than they.

But this is like jumping on a bike without training wheels, immediately falling over, and concluding that bike riding must be really hard.

So if you want to skateboard and you don’t want to fall on your butt, try watching this video first:

A real skateboard is a bit expensive (mine was about $120 dollars), which is a fair impediment to figuring out whether you enjoy skateboarding enough to want to put in the effort to learn it. A good compromise might be starting with a Razor Scooter, which are pretty fun to ride but more stable, due to the handlebar, or borrowing a skateboard from a neighbor.

After my first couple days of awkward step, skate, step, skate, step, skate, leap off the board, repeat, I got used to keeping my weight on my board foot and swishing the ground with my free foot. In the process I had two falls, but neither of these actually resulted in injuries or even pain. I decided to wear a helmet anyway, just in case.

Little known fact: humans are footed, just as they are handed. If you’re having trouble getting comfortable on your board, it might be because you’re using the wrong foot. When I use my non-dominant foot to practice different stances, I feel terribly clumsy and awkward.

So far everyone who has said anything at all has been very friendly and supportive (obviously I don’t look like a miscreant teenager, but a mom supervising her kids at the playground), and most people seem to be impressed that I can just stay on the board while gliding across a flat surface.

I was originally going to name my board “murderboard”, but my lack of injuries (other than a small bug that got squashed,) has made me reconsider.

I will probably never learn any fancy tricks (because I am not very good at athletic things) but I’ve had a really fun first week and am happy to have a hobby that I can actually discuss with strangers (unlike my blog).

We’ll be discussing legal systems on Friday.

Go Outside

So I bought a skateboard.

I’m not going to turn into a “skater” (I am about as athletic as a rock). I just want something to ride around the neighborhood on and entertain myself while my kids are on the playground.

I started riding this thing because the kids and their friends were all picking out vehicles to ride to the park and even though there was a shortage, no one wanted the pretty pink princess skateboard. I can’t really blame them, but to prove that it is actually rideable, I rode it.

After a couple days of riding around on this thing (which is not a good skateboard and I don’t know why we own it,) I realized that 1. skateboarding is fun and 2. I need a skateboard that doesn’t come to a halt when I put both feet on it.

The new board is (unsurprisingly) way better than the pretty pink princess board. (If you’re getting a skateboard, it seems that you should shell out for a real board.) So I have been outside a bunch this week, rolling around the neighborhood and occasionally wiping out.

And I feel absolutely amazingly good. Not because I’ve avoided the internet (though I admit that I can’t use Twitter and skate at the same time) but because that’s just how fresh air, sunshine, and exercise are. They’re good for you.

My outside adventures actually started a few months ago when I decided to hold a garage sale. This simultaneously forced me outside all day and resulted in a cleaner, less cluttered house (and money in my pocket). Since then I’ve been trying to get out more–to get us to the park or playground if not every day, at least several times a week.

Going outside more has certain additive effects–the kids’ friends who live in the neighborhood know we are likely to be out and so are, in turn, more likely to come out. And if their friends are out, my kids are more likely to get out. Having a plethora of outside toys like bikes and scooters so that everyone has something to ride helps a lot, by the way. (I find most kids in our neighborhood are oddly lacking in this area–you know, if you can afford two cars, you can afford a scooter from Goodwill.)

Sometimes getting out is hard. Sometimes you have to force yourself. Sometimes you have to force the kids, too. And sometimes the outside is a disaster. Sometimes you get stung by a bee, or hit by a stray frisbee, or someone falls in the lake. But keep trying. Start small. “Outside” doesn’t need to be kayaking down the fjords or hiking in the Grand Canyon. It can just be your backyard. Just turn off your phone and get out there.

You don’t even need to have kids to go outside. (They are a convenient excuse for why I’m doing chin ups on the monkeybars, though.) Ride a bike. Plant a garden. Walk.

If a clumsy oaf like me can skateboard to the park, you can get some exercise, too.

Go get some sun. It’s fall and the leaves are beautiful, skittering across the road. Exercise warms you up and the wind cools you back down. And when you step back inside, you’ll feel like you’ve brought the sun with you.

Have a great weekend.

A Screed for the Short

Disclaimer: Comments along the lines of “What are you talking about? Short people are totally treated just like tall people and and people date them all the time” will be ignored because they are stupid.

No silliness about beauty being on the inside, or how you, personally, think everyone is beautiful, or you know a short guy who beat the odds and got laid, or worst of all, that a famous rich millionaire is short and popular so therefore normal people can do it, too. Normal people don’t have millions of dollars.

There is a truth, universally acknowledged by short men: women don’t want to date them.

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Short men are discriminated against in the dating market, they were bullied more by their peers in school, discriminated against at job interviews, treated generally like shit, and when they complain, get told that discrimination against short people isn’t real.

I don’t talk much about discrimination, but discrimination against unattractive people (and being a short man is an obvious kind of unattractiveness) is obviously real. No one wants to date an ugly person, even if that ugly person is a wonderful person inside. That’s just the cold, ugly truth that every ugly person lives.

I recently read a rather sad story about a young man’s untimely death:

I’m not exactly sure when he died. My father called me with the news on Saturday, November 4, 2017, but Yush was in Italy, which is six hours ahead. I later learned that a blood clot shot up from his leg and blocked his lungs; a pulmonary embolism.

The blood clot was an unfortunate complication of leg-lengthening surgery Yush had pursued because he is short.

The author, Yush’s sister, never seems to understand what was actually motivating him.  She focuses on his attempted suicide back in college, a decade beforehand, and on their estrangement due to differing opinions on feminism:

Both Yush and I were motivated by a vision of how we wanted to change the world around us. However, where he applied his vision to the physical world, I applied my observations to social constructs, questioning and challenging the power structures around me. I asked Prasad [her feminist therapist] how Yush went from being my best friend to someone I couldn’t even speak to, especially since I believed that, at heart, we wanted the same things: to be free of societal expectations, and to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of appearance, race, or gender. “The reality is, what patriarchy is meant to do is divide,” Prasad told me. “Men can still be lured by it and think, Oh if I take on these characteristics, I get what I want,” she said.

One of society’s eternal problems is people using a lot of mumbo-jumbo to sound smart.

Your brother doesn’t like feminism because feminism is about helping women, and he’s not a woman. He is a short, brown guy whom most women don’t want to date. He wants a philosophy that helps him.

That’s not “the patriarchy.” That’s your brother being a human being.

Yush’s view of manhood, coupled with unmanaged depression is one that, I think, inflicted pain, created resentment, and exacerbated his insecurities. In 2015, a few months before our estrangement, Yush told me he was pushed out of the company he helped build with men he had thought of as brothers; the betrayal deepened a belief that he was not taken seriously, or treated with the same level of respect as other male entrepreneurs, despite his profound technical knowledge and general brilliance.

Jesus fucking christ, lady. Your brother gets pushed out of the company he founded, and your reaction is to blame it on his view of “manhood” rather than, you know his co-founders being assholes?

Can you pause for one minute and contemplate the possibility that your brother’s pain was REAL? That some things in life were actually tough for him, and no amount of medication in the world would paper that over? Even women don’t like getting pushed out of things they created or betrayed by their friends.

The author keeps going on about how her brother just needed more treatment for his depression (she doesn’t give us any reason to believe he was depressed at this point, but she thinks he was) instead of realizing that he had actual, real world problems he was trying to solve.

Oh, the chorus cries, but only a crazy person would get surgery to alter their appearance so people will treat them better!

Apparently the chorus has never heard of liposuction, face lifts, breast augmentation, gastric bypass, or any of the myriad surgeries that people get every day to improve their looks. There’s a very high likelihood that the author also accepts sex change operations as perfectly reasonable. More mundanely, people alter their appearances via makeup, nice clothes, haircuts, wigs, and endlessly on–humans care about how they look and try hard to affect how other people treat them by enhancing their appearances.

We are supposed to sympathize with the protagonist in Gattaca, not conclude that he was crazy because he was willing to undergo painful surgery to pursue his dream–even though his dream was much less likely to actually come to fruition (very few people get to be astronauts) than Yush.

You can say that most of these operations are less painful than leg lengthening, but the article makes it clear that Yush sought out an operation that was supposed to be less painful than the standard version–and sex reassignment surgery is pretty darn painful.

Finally the author does talk to a psychologist who counsels short men (she apparently cannot be bothered to actually talk to a short man):

Men she’s counseled, she said, often “feel like they’re at a disadvantage. They feel like they’re not taken as seriously in terms of work environment. They feel like romantic partners don’t see them as being as attractive as they could be if they were taller,” she said.

She can’t even bring herself to just come right out and say that men like her brother are discriminated against! She couches this in a quote, and a weasely one, at that! Short men don’t just feel like they are at a disadvantage, they are actually at a disadvantage! Your feminism teaches you to see power structures and identify oppression, but you can’t even bring yourself to just directly state in plain English that people discriminated against your brother?

While the decisions he made were his own, I believe that Yush felt that society’s narrow confines of what it means to be a man—especially a brown man in America—offered him little choice.

The problem here is how society treats short men, not manhood in the abstract.

Finally–finally!–nearly 6,000 words in, she admits that her brother was right:

Yush’s observations about power, masculinity, and his standing in the world were not incorrect. Research has shown that tall people are richer and more successful, and Western culture has a long history of trying to emasculate Asian-American men (East Asian men in particular)…

Of course, she still can’t bring herself to admit that a great deal of the discrimination against short, Asian men is done by women, on the dating market.

While Yush and I saw some of the same problems in society, our responses were opposite: I have found a community of people who reject stereotypical gender identities, roles, and behaviors, whereas I think Yush internalized these messages, deepening insecurities that burrowed even further due to unmanaged depression.

Oh, honey. That works. Because. You’re a woman.

Try. Just try. To focus. For a moment. On what your brother wanted. And the options available to him.

Let’s imagine for a moment that instead of the siblings being different genders, they were different races. (Half-siblings.) One sibling is white. The other is half black.

The half-black one is being discriminated against socially, romantically, and economically because of his race, and so decides to bleach his skin. He has a tragic allergic reaction to the skin bleaching cream and dies.

Would the white sibling go online and wonder why their half-black brother didn’t embrace a political philosophy that promotes the needs of white people? Would they proclaim that with just more medication and therapy, their brother would have been okay with people discriminating against him? Would they quote some wish-washy psychiatrist about how black people feel like they’re discriminated against?

Or would they scream at the world that discriminated against him? .

Maybe Yosh did need fixing. Maybe he was stupidly fixated on something that wasn’t actually a problem. Maybe he had a hot wife or girlfriend, tons of friends, and a great job. But I don’t see any reason to declare one cosmetic surgery “crazier” than all the others. I don’t look down on people for wanting to look nicer or have nicer lives.

Fundamentally, most people just want to be happy. They want to be loved.

Before someone objects that being short isn’t the same as being black, blah blah blah, here’s a quote from a different story about a short man, The Awfulness–and Awesomeness–of Being Short:

In the years that have passed since then, I’ve come to two major conclusions about being a short man in Western society:

1. It’s awful.

2. No-one wants to hear you complain about it.

I tend to keep quiet on the subject. I’ve heard many people say to me, “Oh, come on! People don’t treat you any differently because you’re short!” (Every person who has ever said this to me has been at least 5ft 11in.)

But I know the reality of what is means to be a short man in our society. There is as much discrimination about size as there is about gender, race, religion, etc. …

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, it is estimated that an inch of height is worth an extra $789 (£699) a year in salary. This means that a man who is 6ft tall, might earn $7,890 more a year than I would for the same job. Over the course of a 40-year career, that could amount to a difference of $315,600.

When I read that I didn’t even feel surprised. In my heart, I always knew it was true. …

Have you ever walked into a room and felt yourself evaluated and dismissed in a matter of seconds?

Short men know that feeling very well. This is where disparaging terms like “Little Napoleon” come in, and the desire to succeed is dismissed as evidence of “short man syndrome”. If a 6ft 2in guy stands up for himself, it’s described as having self-confidence, but someone my height fighting to be heard is deemed insecure and needy.

In a marketing job I had, I would be talked over in meetings. I’d make a suggestion, which would get ignored, and then a few minutes later, someone else would make the same suggestion. People responded “Oh yes, that’s a good idea” to the second person. …

What about when it comes to dating?

The reality is, as a short man you can expect eight out of 10 women to immediately dismiss you as a potential sexual partner at first sight. The chances are, the remaining two out of 10 will only give you a couple of minutes to make your case before making excuses.

Whenever I say to my female friends that women don’t like dating short men, they almost always say the same thing: “That’s not true. I bet there are lots of women who love short men.”

“Have you ever dated one?” I ask.

“Well, no…” they reply.

“Would you?”

An uncomfortable silence follows.

According to Freakonomics, the bestselling book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, short men are statistically less likely to receive responses from their online dating profiles than any other demographic group. The fact that I’m averaging one a year on my online dating profile means I’m actually breaking the odds through the sheer force of my amazing personality.

And I’m just going out on a limb: it’s probably worse for short Asian and Indian guys.

Now, I’m focusing on Yosh’s death because I’m pissed about it, but it’s just an example of how often people refuse to acknowledge discrimination against short people–and unattractive ones in general.

Yet SJWs never talk about “tall privilege” or “pretty people privilege”.

It’s just kind of sad.

People who cannot find a place for themselves in society have nothing to lose if society burns

Detroit Abandoned Buildings
Detroit

I have I’m trying to write, but words aren’t flowing. Still, it’s a general fact: you preserve what’s yours; you love what’s yours.

When you don’t feel part of society, it stops mattering to you whether society burns. You know the principle: not my circus = not my monkeys.

Which means that you can’t half-ass community. Long term, you can’t have an underclass. You can’t have outcasts. You have to have community, and you can’t force it through some idiotic top-down “team building” exercise, because dammit, that will just make people hate each other even more. Community has to be a real thing that real people actually enjoy being part of, or they will, at best, let it fall apart; at worst they burn it down with you in it.

The Detroit riot of 1967 left 43 dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed; Detroit has yet to recover.

Xenophobia” is apparently the fancy new word people are using for old-fashioned racism in South Africa:

Prior to 1994, immigrants from elsewhere faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa. After majority rule in 1994, contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased.[1] Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008, a series of attacks left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens. The attacks were motivated by xenophobia.[2] In 2015, another nationwide spike in xenophobic attacks against immigrants in general prompted a number of foreign governments to begin repatriating their citizens.[3] A Pew Research poll conducted in 2018 showed that 62% of South Africans viewed immigrants as a burden on society by taking jobs and social benefits and that 61% of South Africans thought that immigrants were more responsible for crime than other groups.[4] Between 2010 and 2017 the immigrant community in South Africa increased from 2 million people to 4 million people.[4]

Why the hell did anyone think that majority rule by black people in South Africa would result in less racism? Is there something magical about voting that stops people from being racist? No, you idiots. (Not you, my gentle reader. I know you never thought such nonsense; you know that the media has reported on plenty of racist Americans voting in elections.)

According to a 2004 study published by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP):

“The ANC government – in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion … embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders … Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion.[7]  “

What, being aggressively pro-your-own-group leads to being aggressively anti-other-groups? Who could have figured that one out?

Reminder that Johannesburg used to be a first world city.

Meanwhile, Nigerian TV has some interesting segments. “Shrine” seems to be a euphemism for “human sacrifice cult”:

Maybe some of those South Africans are on to something?

— Oh jeebus, I just read about lobotomies. Changing course, guys:

 Freeman’s name gained popularity despite the widespread criticism of his methods following a lobotomy on President John F. Kennedy’s sister Rosemary Kennedy, which left her with severe mental and physical disability.[2] … Walter Freeman charged just $25 for each procedure that he performed.[8] After four decades Freeman had personally performed as many as 4,000[11][12][13] lobotomy surgeries in 23 states, of which 2,500 used his ice-pick procedure,[14] despite the fact that he had no formal surgical training.[2] … Up to 40% of Freeman’s patients were gay individuals subjected to a lobotomy in an attempt to change their homosexual orientation, leaving most of these perfectly healthy individuals severely disabled for the rest of their life.[15]… His patients often had to be retaught how to eat and use the bathroom. Relapses were common, some never recovered, and about 15%[16] died from the procedure. In 1951, one patient at Iowa’s Cherokee Mental Health Institute died when Freeman suddenly stopped for a photo during the procedure, and the surgical instrument accidentally penetrated too far into the patient’s brain.[17] Freeman wore neither gloves nor a mask during these procedures.[17] He lobotomized 19 minors including a 4-year-old child.[18]

“We went through the top of the head, I think Rosemary was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch.” The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. “We put an instrument inside”, he said. As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman asked Rosemary some questions. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing “God Bless America” or count backward. “We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded.” When Rosemary began to become incoherent, they stopped.[23]It quickly became apparent that the procedure had not been successful. Kennedy’s mental capacity diminished to that of a two-year-old child. She could not walk or speak intelligibly and was incontinent.[24]”

This guy won a nobel prize in medicine.

I don’t trust doctors very much.

A few other random thoughts:

I have no opinion on the Hong Kong protests because I am not from HK or China and don’t speak Chinese and so don’t know enough to have an opinion. I do think, however, that there is a frequent–and understandable–impulse crave excitement that modern life cannot otherwise supply. We want to be heroes; we want to be like the people in games and movies.

Even in Minecraft, a game that starts with you digging dirt blocks with your bare hands, ends with you fighting a dragon. People want that dragon; they want to be heroes, and who cares if it involves burning down someone else’s house? Characters in movies never stop to consider whether their rampages are flipping innocent people’s cars or preventing normal people from getting to their jobs; these mundane considerations pale to nothing when there is an ENEMY to be conquered… but often enough that enemy is just an invention of our own boredom.

Antifa, too, want to play-act being important by killing the enemy. It’s the same impulse that leads normal people to play video games; normal people are just good at distinguishing between games and real life.

Does Special Ed do any good, and other items of interest

A study on the genetic correlates of empathizing and systematizing with different psychiatric conditions found, unsurprisingly, that autism correlates a bit more with systematizing than empathizing, but interestingly also found the genetic correlates of both empathizing and systematizing correlate with schizophrenia:

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I’m not really sure how this works, but I’ve never bought into the “autism and schizophrenia are opposites” theory. Too many people seem perfectly capable of getting diagnosed with both conditions at once. Indeed, the stereotypic schizophrenic delusion is filled with science fiction tropes (telepathic communication, UN black helicopters, subdermal tracking devices, perpetual motion machines, etc.) that are far more familiar systematizers than empathizers.  

The authors note that the anorexia correlation holds even after you control for sex.

 

One suggestion for dealing with deepfakes and authentication: blockchain:

So let’s say we create an image. How can we set things up so that we can prove when we did it? Well, in modern times it’s actually very easy. We take the image, and compute a cryptographic hash from it (effectively by applying a mathematical operation that derives a number from the bits in the image). Then we take this hash and put it on a blockchain.

The blockchain acts as a permanent ledger. Once we’ve put data on it, it can never be changed, and we can always go back and see what the data was, and when it was added to the blockchain.

Does special ed do any good? Looks like no:

The purpose of the current study was to compare the adulthood outcomes of children who received special education services with those who did not, using one-to-one match propensity score methodology. Our analyses revealed that Hispanic students showed evidence of benefitting from special education, in terms of reporting better physical health and less family conflict, compared to non-Hispanics. Despite this, the majority of results suggest that individuals who were born between 1980 and 1994 and received special education services did not differ on adulthood outcomes across educational attainment, social adjustment, economic self-sufficiency, and physical health, compared to individuals with the same likelihood of receiving services who did not receive services. In other words, children who received special education services did not fare better than children who were equally likely to have received services, but did not receive them.

Note that they compared kids who were equally qualified for special ed but just either did or didn’t receive services, and found no meaningful difference between them (excepting Hispanics.)

The finding that it does something for Hispanics might be a version of the middle-aged-Hispanic-woman-syndrome (that is, if you divide your data into enough categories, by random chance one of them may look significant but really isn’t) but I think it more likely that it’s because this special ed amounts to extra English practice at a critical time in the child’s life, allowing ESL kids to learn faster and adapt to the otherwise English-speaking classroom faster, putting them ahead of peers who learned English more slowly and so fell behind in school.

That special ed does very little useful (though it might be more pleasant for some of the folks involved) than certain alternatives is rather disheartening, especially given the expense. According to the NEA: 

The current average per student cost is $7,552 and the average cost per special education student is an additional $9,369 per student, or $16,921

According to DisabilityScoop, 6.7 million kids are in special ed, for a cost of about 62.8 billion dollars. 

Of course, the study is on kids who went to school in the 80s and 90s, and special ed might have improved since then, but I see no reason to assume it has. That is a LOT of money for no improvement, money that could have gone toward better playgrounds, more art supplies, less crowded classrooms, or just stayed with the taxpayers.

It should come as no surprise that I think the best place for most kids who qualify for special education is at home (since I am homeschooling my own children), where they can get their entire education individually tailored to their exact strengths and weaknesses.

Too many smart (or average!) kids who don’t fit within the school environment–boys who are wiggly or immature, girls who are spacey and distracted–get labeled as “disabled” and then pushed pushed pushed to perform the necessary school-related behaviors, rather than simply put into a different environment where these behaviors become irrelevant and they can focus on learning.

School itself is a fairly recent institution, based largely on the German model. It was not created by scientists who figured out some optimal way to get students to learn and prepare them for life; it’s just a particular system that we happen to have, and some kids are not suited for it.

Unfortunately, most educational interventions, in the long run, don’t do very much. The standard stuff, like teaching a kid to read and write, does a ton. Almost everyone benefits from clear, direct instruction in “what those squiggly lines on the page mean.” And everyone benefits from getting enough sleep, eating plenty of healthy food, etc. Everyone benefits from a loving, peaceful home life (even if it doesn’t show up much on IQ tests.) Everyone benefits from adequate iodine levels and not catching malaria.

Getting beyond these basics, though, is much trickier.

Vacation

We here at EvX are going on vacation. Posting schedule will be reduced to 2x per week for a bit.

I hope you are having a lovely summer. In the meanwhile, here’s a very interesting article about one man’s discovery, via genetics, that not only was his abusive shitbag “father” not his real father, but neither was his grandfather:

In the first phase, I was numb: no shock, anger, disappointment—just bewilderment. It was so hard to grasp. Unimaginable. It was hard to think clearly. And yet, a tiny bit of relief. Maybe truth would yield clarity and understanding of my father’s actions. This secondary sensation was the beginning of a wholly unexpected change in my internal being.

The second phase—feeling unmoored—was by far the hardest. Who am I? From where do I come? And who is this unknown man living in my body, coursing through my veins? I would subconsciously shake my hands trying to get him out of me. And worst, with my mother and the father who raised me both deceased, would I ever find the truth, get to the answers I was seeking? When you think you understand your origins, there is no obsessive need to explore and connect; you are satisfied knowing there is an origin and your ancestors and family members can be searched and contacted whenever needed. But when that assumption is taken away, you truly are an alien.

You and me both, friend.

Take care, read Legal Systems Very Different from Ours, and as always, we are accepting guest posts.

When all the joy goes out of holidays

Woke capital has an epic thread documenting all of the corporations that are trying to get in on the Pride Month festivities.

At some point holidays stop feeling like voluntary fun and start feeling mandatory. What happens to the employees at these companies who aren’t enthusiastically into Pride marches and are trying to tactfully wiggle out of participating without losing their jobs?

The idea that Procter and Gamble or Goldman Sachs actually cares about its employees’ sexual orientations is absurd, and “inclusion” is the last thing Goldman wants (if Goldman wanted inclusion it would hire a lot fewer bankers and a lot more normal people.)

I don’t worry about my kids reading Twitter, but one does wonder why on earth a network aimed at the prepubescent has anything to say on the matter.

Nothing weird about a network aimed at small children having gay fans.

This, though, is a good point:

So it all comes down to money, eh?

(To be fair, I already don’t like most holidays, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentines, so Pride is just one more to add to my list.)

Equally True, Equally False

Note: I am not entirely satisfied with the phrasing in this post and would be happy to hear alternate articulations.

I have noticed that many unproductive conversations involve two people arguing about a phenomenon at two different levels of analysis.

Trivial example: You tell your children to “hold still” for a photo. One of them, inevitably, responds that “it is impossible to hold still because they are above absolute zero.”

“I’m holding still,” and “I am not holding still (because I am above absolute zero),” are equally true statements in different contexts. In the context of a photograph, you are only supposed to be as still as you can be. This is understood from context; no one feels it necessary to explain that you don’t need to stop the rotation of the Earth (which carries us along at a fast clip,) the beating of your heart, or the vibration of your atoms every time a picture is desired.

In the context of grains of pollen suspended in “still” liquid, the unstoppable motion of individual atoms does need to be noted and explained, as Einstein did in 1905.

The claim that Brownian Motion prevents you from holding still for a photograph is wrong, but the claim that it prevents grains of pollen from holding still in liquid is correct. Likewise, the claim that you are holding still for a photo is correct–and the claim that the pollen is still because you are holding the water still is wrong.

The weather is hard to predict, but I can predict with great certainty that July in the northern hemisphere will be hot, and next January will be cold–and vice versa for the southern hemisphere. These are different levels.

I recently read a well-written essay that I can’t find now but would like to link to if someone has it on the difficulties of discussing pretty much anything with certain types of people.

The discussion went like this:

Ordinary person: The sky is blue.

Academic: Excuse me? Do you have a source for that claim?

Ordinary person: What? The sky is blue. Everyone knows that.

Academic: For starters, there’s no such thing as “the sky.” The solid blue dome that ancient people thought surrounded the Earth is just an illusion created by the scattering of light. If you went up there, you’d discover that there is no “sky” to bump into. You’d just keep going straight into space.

Ordinary person: You know perfectly well that the term “sky” just refers to that expanse of blue we see over us.

Academic: Do you even know about Rayleigh scattering? The “blue” color is just an illusion due to the scattering of light. At night, when there’s not enough light for Rayleigh scattering, the sky is black. Man, you need to get out more.

These two people are both correct, but they are arguing at different levels. In normal, everyday conversation, the sky is, indeed, blue. People understand you perfectly well if you say so, and people also don’t call the sky blue while stargazing or watching a beautiful sunset.

People who are studying the way air molecules scatter light, by contrast, need to talk about the color of the sky in more technical detail in order to do their jobs.

Thankfully, no one actually gets into fights over the color of the sky because most people (even small children) understand the social context of communication. The point of speech is not to Say True Things, but to be understood by another person. If the other person understands me, then my words have done their job. If the other person does not understand me, then I need to rephrase. If I insist on speaking about something at a different level from what the other person is talking about, then I am being an ass who contributes nothing of worth to the conversation. (Note that we consider a consistent pattern of such conversational dysfunction, without inability to correct it, a symptom of mental disability.)

This normally understood conversational feature breaks down under three circumstances:

1 Confusion. Sometimes when we learn something new, like “color is an illusion,” it takes us a while to reconcile the new and old pieces of information in our minds.

Science, and thus our ability to learn technical information about the world, is a very recent invention on the scale of human history. A hundred years ago, people didn’t know why the sky is blue; two hundred years ago, they didn’t know what stars are made of. They didn’t have technical answers; they only had he lower-level explanations.

So it is understandable that people, especially students, sometimes take a while to integrate new information into a coherent view of the world, and in the meanwhile respond at incorrect levels in conversation. (Nerds do this a lot.)

2 Cognitive dissonance. This is similar to confusion, but happens because people have some reason–usually political bias–for wanting a particular answer. People may be genuinely confused about colors, but no one experiences cognitive dissonance about it. People experience cognitive dissonance about questions like, “Are men and women the same?” or “Do gun restrictions save lives?”

It is much easier to invoke confused logic to support your points when you want a particular outcome for political reasons.

3 Deception. This is confusion on purpose.

There is an old story that when Denis Diderot was in Russia, visiting the court of Catherine the Great, he managed to annoy her majesty via his arguments in favor of atheism. Catherine called upon the great mathematician Leonard Euler to defend God. Euler proclaimed, “(a+b^n)/n = x, therefore God exists,” and the great but mathematically uninclined philosopher left in confusion.

The story is probably not true, but it illustrates the principle: sufficiently complicated arguments can confuse non-experts even when they are totally irrelevant. (Related: SSC post on Eulering.) Switching levels on someone is a fast and easy way to confuse them, especially if you have studied the subject more than they have.

People do this when they want a particular outcome, usually political. For example, people who want to promote trans rights will recount an array of technical, medical intersex conditions in order to claim that the biological categories of “male” and “female” don’t exist. Of course, the biological categories of “male” and “female” do exist, as do people with rare genetic disorders; the one does not disprove the other, and neither tells you what to do about anything trans-related.

I feel like there needs to be some efficient (and recognized) way of saying, “Yes, this is true, but on a different level from the one I am addressing. At the level I am addressing, this is false.”

Some interesting things

Here’s a post a friend linked me to detailing the writer’s experience of discovering that the true background of two famous photos of the Vietnam War was very different from the background they had been taught:

As I read the article about the photos, I felt a sense of disbelief. I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading was correct. Surely, if this information about both photos were true, I’d have heard about it before this. After all, thirty years had passed.

I spent the next few hours searching the subject online and found quite a bit more information, but no serious or credible refutation of the stories I’d just learned. …

Then the strangest feeling came over me. I don’t even have a word for it, although I usually can come up with words for emotions.

This was a new feeling. The best description I can come up with is that it was a regret so intense it morphed seamlessly into guilt, as though I were responsible for something terrible, though I didn’t know exactly what. Regret and guilt, and also a rage that I’d been so stupid, that I’d let myself be duped or misled or kept ignorant about something so important, and that I’d remained ignorant all these years.

I sat in front of my computer and put my face down on the keyboard. I stayed in that position for a few minutes, energyless and drained. When I lifted my head I was surprised to find a few tears on my cheeks.

This is the emotion more blasely referred to as “red pilling;” the moment you realize that many of the things you had been taught to believe are, in fact, a lie.

It’s a very interesting article and I encourage you to read it.

Denisovan Jawbone in Tibet?

But now, an international team of scientists has announced the identification of another Denisovan fossil, from a site 1,500 miles away. It’s the right half of a jawbone, found some 10,700 feet above sea level in a cave in China’s Xiahe County, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. The Xiahe mandible, as it is now known, is not only the first Denisovan fossil to be found outside Denisova Cave, but also the very first Denisovan fossil to be found at all. It just took four decades for anyone to realize that.

So there may be a lot of old bits of bone or pieces of skulls lying unidentified in various old collections, especially in Asia, that we’ll be able to identify and piece together into various homo species as we fill in more of the information about our human family tree

To be honest, I am a little annoyed about how every article about the Denisovans expresses a form of supposed confusion at how a group whose only fossils (until now) were found in a cave in Siberia could have DNA in Tibetans and Melanesians. Obviously we just haven’t figured out the full ancestral ranges of these groups, and they used to overlap. If Tibetans have high-altitude adaptations that look like they came from Denisovans, then obviously Denisovans lived in Tibet, and old Tibetan bones are a great place to look for Denisovans.

Indeed, the Xiahe mandible, which is 160,000 years old, is by far the earliest hominin fossil from the Tibetan plateau. Researchers used to think that Homo sapiens was unique in adapting to the Himalayas, but the Denisovans were successfully living on the roof of the world at least 120,000 years earlier. They must also have adapted to extremely thin air—after all, the mandible was found in a cave that’s some 8,000 feet higher above sea level than Denisova itself. “Their presence that high up is truly astonishing,” Douka says.

Fascinating article about the genetics of circadian rhythms and their relationship to health matters:

Perhaps the most ubiquitous and persistent environmental factor present throughout the evolution of modern species is the revolution of the earth about its own axis, creating a 24 h solar day. The consequent recurrent pattern of light and darkness endows a sense of time to organisms that live on this planet. The importance of this sense of time is accentuated by an internal clock that functions on a 24 h scale, inherent in the genetic framework of living organisms ranging from cyanobacteria (Johnson et al., 1996) to human mammals (Herzog and Tosini, 2001). An internal, molecular program drives circadian oscillations within the organism that manifest at the molecular, biochemical, physiological and behavioral levels (Mazzoccoli et al., 2012). Importantly, these oscillations allow anticipatory responses to changes in the environment and promote survival.

The term “circadian” comes from the Latin “circa,” meaning “around” and “diem,” meaning “day.” Circadian events recur during the subjective day or the lighted portion of the 24 h period and the subjective night or the dark part of the 24 h period allowing physiological synchrony with the light/dark environment (Reddy and O’Neill, 2010). The circadian clock has been demonstrated in almost all living organisms (Johnson et al., 1996Herzog and Tosini, 2001Mazzoccoli et al., 2012). The two defining characteristics of the circadian timing system are perseverance of oscillation under constant environmental conditions, which define these rhythms as self-sustained and endogenously generated, and the ability to adapt to environmental change, particularly to changes in the environmental light/dark cycle (Tischkau and Gillette, 2005).

The fascinating thing about sleep is that it exists; you would think that, given how vulnerable we are during sleep, animals that sleep would have long ago been eaten by animals that don’t, and the entire kingdom would have evolved to be constantly awake. And yet it hasn’t, suggesting that whatever sleep does, it is vitally important.

Modern Shamans: Financial Managers, Political Pundits, and others who help tame life’s uncertainties:

Like all magical specialists, [shamans] rely on spells and occult gizmos, but what makes shamans special is that they use trance. …

But these advantages are offset by the ordeals involved. In many societies, a wannabe initiate lacks credibility until he (and it’s usually a he) undergoes a near-death experience or a long bout of asceticism.

One aboriginal Australian shaman told ethnographers that, as a novice, he was killed by an older shaman who then replaced his organs with a new, magical set. …

Manifesting as mediums, channelers, witch doctors and the prophets of religious movements, shamans have appeared in most human societies, including nearly all documented hunter-gatherers. They characterized the religious lives of ancestral humans and are often said to be the “first profession.” …

… Like people everywhere, contemporary Westerners look to experts to achieve the impossible – to heal incurable illnesses, to forecast unknowable futures – and the experts, in turn, compete among themselves, performing to convince people of their special abilities.

So who are these modern shamans?

According to the cognitive scientist Samuel Johnson, financial money managers are likely candidates. Money managers fail to outperform the market – in fact, they even fail to systematically outperform each other – yet customers continue to pay them to divine future stock prices. …

Very interesting insight. It might explain why we stuck with doctors for so many centuries even when they were totally useless (or even negatively useful,) and why we trusted psychiatry throughout most of the 20th century, despite it being obvious bullshit.

There are a lot of unknowns out there, and we feel more comfortable trusting someone than just leaving it unknown–which introduces a lot of room for people to take advantage of us.

Finally, on a similar note, Is Dogma Eugenic? 

As he explains, belief in the supernatural can be attributed to the above heuristics. If belief in the supernatural became a problem, we would have to evolve to loose those heuristics.

Heuristics can be good. But, insofar as heuristics have us create harmful dogmas that can perpetuate themselves socially, we will have to replace them with pure logic, or at least lessen their impact. 

So, insofar as humans have the capacity to believe harmful dogmas, we will lose heuristics and become more logical. Heuristics can be “gamed;” logic cannot. In this manner, humans evolve to act less on instinct. The logical part of our brain becomes more pronounced.

You might have to RTWT to really get the argument, but it’s fun.