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The following whiteboard, lovingly (?) assembled by our second brat, makes me reconsider the wisdom of teaching him karate ... and rhyming ... and writing.

The collection keeps growing. He offered this one in light of coronavirus and the cold section of a grocery store. I should have apologized to the staff for laughing out quite that loud.

When Frank, the geezer, becomes a sneezer,
I'll surely put him in the freezer
Posted Wed Feb 5 19:31:42 2020 Tags:

Humblebrag alert. I'm being distracted from the next room over, by Eric starting to dabble in playing that super famous American piece of music by Gershwin. It has been an aspiration for a few years, and now he's just about able to do it justice. The anticipation over the next few months as it comes together will be hard to bear.

Posted Fri Jan 31 10:40:38 2020 Tags:

If you are within travel range of Columbus, Ohio, and have some $ left to score a few tickets, go see this show. It is the most beautiful performance - of anything, not just live dancing & symphonic music - in the most amazing building - that I have ever seen. If you can, go now.

Will add some smuggled photos shortly.

Posted Sun Dec 22 07:53:27 2019

I came across the following video yesterday. It's of the immediate aftermath of an attempted robbery attempt in Chicago. It has me bothered.

Obvious things out of the way: Yes, the dude who disarmed the thug is brave and commendable. But, but but but ...

But why did maintain a tactically indefensible proximity to the bad guy the whole time, even after he passed off the firearm too? He's within easy range of a second weapon or even open-hand attack. IMO, he's lucky to be alive.

But why did a presumably-loaded pistol get handed around like a hot potato? Adults should know how to handle firearms, including holding, making them safe, or turning them around on the bad guy. If you are an adult (or hoping to become one), visit your nearby range and learn how! Adults should not be so foolish as to hand a firearm to a complete stranger - that can make things very much worse!

But why did everyone else in the train just sit there? Yes, most of them were of the same race as the thug, so who knows, some sort of kinship loyalty could have been part of it. But everyone must have seen the stakes - a pistol raises them to the max. Everyone must have seen the opportunity to resolve them - the disarmed thug. Everyone must have seen the problem - the thug not completely subdued yet. Even just one or two people could have reduced the remaining risk to near zero. Yet they just sat.

But why did the thug even dare do a daylight armed robbery on a subway train? He must have counted on victims being there - and no one to defend themselves or each other. (A solo guy, even if armed, walking up and down the subway aisle is very vulnerable to even just a handful of opponents. Too close to everyone, too easy to lose sight of everyone, too easy to trip.) So ... he must have had reason to expect just the sort of sheep world reaction that was seen in this video.

And that last BUT is the most depressing thing to me about the whole thing. The bulk of the people on these trains must been trained to be sheep - or actively bad. How does a city become that way? How can anyone trust people in such an environment? You can be sure I'm NEVER setting foot on a Chicago subway.

Posted Sat Oct 19 20:59:41 2019

I experienced a fun little gotcha moment today that I might as well share.

A conversation partner defined racism this way: "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior". Plausible? OK, sure.

That same person separately, minutes apart, opined that it is "literally not possible to be racist against [some white guy]." OK, sure, other loonies have said this too.

But ... what can one deduce if one accepts both those points?

If racism is "a belief that one's own race is superior", and if racism is literally not possible toward someone of the white race, then this must be because no one could believe that their own race is superior to the white race.

Therefore, logically, the speaker must hold that no race can be believed superior to whites' ... as if whites were supreme.


Posted Sat Oct 12 20:25:01 2019

Time to dabble in politics again, after all it's Saturday.

On today's menu, we have two propositions: "ALL immigration is good", and "not ALL immigration is good". I will excuse you for thinking that no adult would seriously hold the first view - but here is a former elected representative:

YES, all immigration is good. It’s humane; it’s our ancestors
carving a life for themselves, and us; it is proven to boost
the economy; we benefit culturally, artistically, politically,
and socially by immigrants just being here.

So I swear, it's not a straw man, because this way it's easier to counter. So let's start with a light fisking:

  • "it's humane" Maybe ... humane to whom? Sure, it is good to comfort the afflicted, but if that comforting brings suffering to someone else, then it is not humane on a net utilitarian basis. "This can't happen"? -- read on.

  • "it's our ancestors carving a life for themselves" Two ways in which this is wrong. First, even if this were true & relevant, it would only mean it was good for the ancestors' descendants, not the people already in the place where this life was carved out. Second, this phrasing is typical of those who are referring to white colonization of North America as an example of "we're all immigrants". If this is what he was getting at, this is wrong, because there was no preexisting nation being immigrated into when colonists arrived. There were tribes and a whole lot of wilderness. The Europeans conquered / colonized / settled / killed, what have you, but not immigrated.

  • "it is proven to boost the economy" Beyond just a "citation needed", one can proceed a little farther. Just recently, Expert Studies assess The average recent immigrant in Canada imposes a fiscal burden of $5,300 annually to government. Earlier, more Expert Studies concluded Syrian mass refugees' full-time employment rate has doubled in the past year to 27 per cent, and this after a few years. So there's plenty of reason to disbelieve the claim about these cohorts of immigrants, and therefore about the "ALL immigration" claim generally. Last, we are repeatedly told that low-skill jobs are going away (partly due to stupid rises in minimum wages, partly automation). So importing low-skill people directly competes against whatever scraps of starter-work are available for our own next-generation youth, and dooms them to eventual unemployment anyway.

  • "we benefit culturally, artistically [, socially]" If only ALL immigration brought us good culture! We could have a thousand "international village" pavilions with all the gaiety of a thousand cultures' food and music and quaint costumes! Is that a straw man? I'm not even sure, it comes up so often. Here's the thing though - not all cultures are good. Not all cultures are compatible with our western ways of life. There exist cultures that think some types of people are slaves or cattle and treat them this way. There exist cultures where violence and crime are routine. There exist cultures where justice is based on race & religion, not civic law. There exist backward cultures. We do not benefit from immigration from such cultures.

  • "we benefit politically" Another case of "citation needed", but beyond that, let's consider what happens when many immigrants arrive. A great many - after all, "ALL immigration" is good, so a person who believes that must necessarily believe that it must be good in unrestricted numbers. In our democratic system, demographics is destiny: if those immigrants rise to noticeable numbers, and old stock withers due to pathetic fertility rates, the newcomers can literally vote as a block and take over. (Voting as a block is quite common in some demographic communities.)

The nice thing about arguing against "ALL immigration is good" is that it's so easy. If ALL immigration were good, the Camp of the Saints would be utopian rather than dystopian fiction (?).

For comparison, here is a rough outline of the types of requirements that I, King Frank, would support:

  • contribute to the nation, not to speak toward conquering it eventually, not to commit crimes - so the reference goal is a zero crime rate, not the native crime rate

  • cultural compatibility, so as not to dilute our western culture & values, including certain types of equality, language, general respect of reason and education (even though they are creations of "old white men")

  • self-sufficiency, meaning a likelihood of being able to find productive work rather than living off the dole, possessing a minimum level of intelligence and/or funding and/or work-ethic

  • reasonable density, meaning not letting many people arrive fast & settle close enough that ghettos develop where assimilation is impossible or not even attempted

Coincidentally, this is roughly similar to one and only one Canadian federal party's immigration platform. The exact parameters of this sort of thing are obviously a matter of detail. I try not to be an absolutist on these things. But I don't mind saying a harsh NO here and there, because sometimes harshness is required to protect what we have - what I want to leave to my children and those I love.

Posted Sat Sep 7 07:27:14 2019

I come today to complain about complaints about people who complain about the AMBER alert system. Let's unwrap.

The AMBER alert system is a police-controlled cell phone emergency broadcast that can vigorously signal the police's need for the public's help in finding freshly abducted children.

Complainers about the AMBER alert system are folks who don't like receiving these broadcasts, in the form of repeated loud horns from their phones, often in the middle of the night.

Complainers about complainers about the AMBER alert system are folks who thinks the above complainers are selfish, and that if it helps the children, the alerts are fine. Plus the above complainers who go so far as to ring 911 are being very bad.

And then there's me, the complainer about complainer about complainers about the AMBER alert system. Oh sure, my one or two readers know that I'm also in the complainer #1 category. IMHO, at the very least, the phone software should suppress these alerts by default, if the phone infers that the owner is sleeping. Heuristics like this are easy: time of day, no motion, little ambient light, little ambient sound, etc.

But let's focus on the meta-complainer group. These are all well-intentioned people, and their anger is reasonable at people who abuse the 911 system. But there's another thing, there is usually a righteousness, there is a pride, in the fact that they woke up during the night. They literally did nothing else, but wake up, worry briefly, and go back to sleep (if they could). It doesn't make any sense, but suffering for the cause made them feel good. They they post about the bad selfish complainers.

I think the underlying psychological error may be yet another example of the most harmful fallacy ever: affirming the consequent. This case goes like this:

  • Those who help solve a problem must often suffer (doing something difficult or dangerous).
  • I suffered (waking up).
  • Therefore: I helped solve a problem (so I'm a good person).

They miss recognizing that suffering can come from other causes like ... a poorly designed cell phone system that doesn't let you suppress irrelevant alerts (and otherwise keep the phone fully functional). The thought that they suffered for nothing is not acceptable.

But all the outrage at the complainers about the AMBER alert system makes it more difficult to state the technical problems about the way it works. After all, if those who complain are bad selfish people, then they shouldn't be listened to. (Hey, that too is an instance of the most harmful fallacy!)

Posted Thu Jul 11 13:43:23 2019

Yo, Larry. Get on with your trip, everything's packed. Good luck, buddy!

There are some things you should remember. Don't say aloud all your thoughts, and for god's sake don't act all of them out either! With people, be friendly, but not gross. Keep your tested friends really close, and I mean really close, they are that valuable. New friends --- well, don't trust just anyone. Dude, what's wrong with you? Don't keep getting into fights. But if you find yourself in one, fight like hell! Make everyone afraid of ever fighting you again.

Listen to people - but keep your mouth shut. They'll give you advice for hours, but it's better to keep your opinions to yourself than to yap. When it comes to money, feel free to spend some, but dude, no ostentatious crap, okay?

Don a nice suit. People will think well of you, especially the French. Don't borrow money - and why lend it? A friend you lend to might not pay you back, and then you lose both the money and the friend! That sucks! And if you keep taking on credit, you will forget how to save, and then what?

Most importantly - be true to your character. If you're honest to yourself, you will be honest with everyone else. Isn't that just grand?

Good luck, safe travels! Remember my advice, Larry-O!

Posted Thu May 23 17:55:55 2019

Actual phone call just received from a local high school:

"Good evening, [...] Please remember that tomorrow [...] we would like you to wear your unique socks to show your support for mental health. All day, you can wear non-uniform socks with the regular uniform to support mental health awareness week. Have a great night, [...]"

I believe I have just become aware of a mental health issue.

Posted Wed May 8 18:17:53 2019 Tags:

Today I come to sing the praises of boy #1. He did today the most courageous thing I've ever seen him do. It has to do with his music.

As my one or two readers may know, both our boys have been playing the piano since something like kindergarten. They're starting to get the hang of it! Eric in particular channels the memory/focus advantages that come with other disadvantages effectively into piano performance.

For the last, what, five years, his dream has been to play with an orchestra. The BSO in our own little town is fine, and offers a concerto opportunity to local youth artists, once every two years. These opportunities are of course scarce and highly competitive. He was disappointed at the previous two chances in 2016 and 2018 to have not been selected. But he hasn't given up. Rare amongst the senior students (who are in high school, and too busy to memorize a concerto movement or two), he keeps learning them. He's working on two at the moment.

It is 2019. Those of you who are good at math will notice that the next BSO opportunity, according to the established formula is in 2020. However, the competition part was opened at our local festival in this year's syllabus. Of course, Eric and a small number of other younger competitors entered. My eyebrows were raised at the broken year pattern, but surely things were as they seem...

Today was BSO concerto competition day.

Literally one minute before the competition, the adjudicator/conductor stood up and explained that there was a mistake. The BSO is not doing youth concerto program this fall, and that this class should never have been scheduled. There will be no winners. But he came, and offered to give adjudication / suggestions to the three kids who showed up.

We were stunned. Eric - I have tears just thinking what must have been in his mind. He's been working on this piece for over a year, auditioned it several times in several venues, polished and polished and polished. He sometimes says that the main reason he's still taking piano is for this very competition, for this particular orchestra opportunity. And then, the rug is pulled from beneath his feet, literally one minute to go. What a mindf--- (please excuse my french).

It was gone.

He just sat there.

I snuck over, told him some encouraging words.

He just sat there.

Then, when it was his turn, the brat walked up to the front with his accompanist (thanks, Maggie!), announced his piece, and performed. It was not perfect, but it was about the best he's ever played it. Then, later on, he had a conversation with the adjudicator about what could be made better.

Like a boss.

I have never been prouder.

Posted Sat May 4 17:18:18 2019 Tags:

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