Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Same Sex Marriage or whatever it is.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

I have been kind of neutral on the whole gay marriage issue. I think it began as an artifact of the AIDS epidemic and an attempt to curb the promiscuity of male gay life. It has been taken over by activists who are determined to validate their life style and to force conventional society to accept it as equivalent to heterosexual family life, which it is not. It is surprising the success they have had with the young who seem to accept the argument that it is a civil rights” issue, which is, of course, nonsense. Mark Steyn usually has something worthwhile to say on most subjects and this time is no exception.

Gays will now be as drearily suburban as the rest of us. A couple of years back, I saw a picture in the paper of two chubby old queens tying the knot at City Hall in Vancouver, and the thought occurred that Western liberalism had finally succeeded in boring all the fun out of homosexuality.

He does have a sense of humor amid reflections on a dying culture.

In the upper echelons of society, our elites practice what they don’t preach. Scrupulously nonjudgmental about everything except traditional Christian morality, they nevertheless lead lives in which, as Charles Murray documents in his book Coming Apart, marriage is still expected to be a lifelong commitment. It is easy to see moneyed gay newlyweds moving into such enclaves, and making a go of it. As the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said just before his enthronement the other day, “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” “Stunning”: What a fabulous endorsement! But, amongst the type of gay couple that gets to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he’s probably right.

The problem, as pointed out years ago by Vice President Dan Quayle, is that the elites set the pattern for those whose lives cannot succeed without the structures of traditional society. They set the pattern, unfortunately, by what they say, not what they do.

If the Right’s case has been disfigured by delusion, the Left’s has been marked by a pitiful parochialism. At the Supreme Court this week, Ted Olson, the former solicitor general, was one of many to invoke comparisons with Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case that struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage. But such laws were never more than a localized American perversion of marriage. In almost all other common-law jurisdictions, from the British West Indies to Australia, there was no such prohibition. Indeed, under the Raj, it’s estimated that one in three British men in the Indian subcontinent took a local wife. “Miscegenation” is a 19th-century American neologism. When the Supreme Court struck down laws on interracial marriage, it was not embarking on a wild unprecedented experiment but merely restoring the United States to the community of civilized nations within its own legal tradition. Ted Olson is a smart guy, but he sounded like Mary-Kate and Ashley’s third twin in his happy-face banalities last week.

These facts are never mentioned in the debate, swiftly being lost by those trying to preserve traditions. I have no credibility here, as I have been divorced twice. The issue for me is not the religious status of marriage but the dissolution of traditional morality as a utilitarian mechanism of civilization. My older son, who considers me hopelessly out of date, was married in the Catholic Church and will mostly likely lead a life of conservative virtues while he attacks those who try to defend them. I know he resents the fact that his mother and I are divorced and I don’t blame him. Had I recognized the terrible damage done to children by divorce, I might have reconsidered. However, I have children born of another marriage and would not wish them away for anything. The dilemma is insoluble but I could afford to take care of everyone, even though it has left me somewhat strapped in my old age.

The reality that no one wants to confront is as follows:

Meanwhile, social mobility declines: Doctors who once married their nurses now marry their fellow doctors; lawyers who once married their secretaries now contract with fellow super-lawyers, like dynastic unions in medieval Europe. Underneath the self-insulating elite, millions of Americans are downwardly mobile: The family farmers and mill workers, the pioneers who hacked their way into the wilderness and built a township, could afford marriage and children; indeed, it was an economic benefit. For their descendants doing minimum-wage service jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology, functioning families are a tougher act, and children an economic burden. The gays looked at contemporary marriage and called the traditionalists’ bluff.

There is the rub. We did not appreciate how important traditional values were for a civil society, Black activists blame slavery for the collapse of the black family. In fact, the black family was in good shape until the Great Society devastated the role of the black father. It was often non-traditional, as illustrated in Clarence Thomas’s book My Grandfather’s Son, in which he describes how his old fashioned grand father raised him and his brother in spite of the hopelessly disorganized life of his mother.

The “learned behavior” types who think man is a “blank slate” at birth and all behavior is cultural are already striking back in the NY Times. In their view, differences in mating behavior between males and females is all learned from cultural “norms.” As one recent paper by a female professor states:

the gender differences in acceptance of casual-sex proposals evaporated nearly to zero.

Therefore women = men in all respects. The old theory that women are more likely to be monogamous because they invest more in children than men do, is old fashioned patriarchal nonsense. The argument heads right to the blank slate debate.

“a leading voice among hard-line Darwinians” You see, if you disagree with the Times, you are “hard line.”

“But the fact that some gender differences can be manipulated, if not eliminated, by controlling for cultural norms suggests that the explanatory power of evolution can’t sustain itself when applied to mating behavior.”

Therefore gay marriage has to be good because women = men.

Some years ago, I was on a trip with my middle daughter who has a degree in Anthropology from UCLA. I had been reading Stephen Pinker’s book, “The Blank Slate”. He makes a pretty good argument, from identical twin studies among other evidence, that behavior is genetic. She refused to read it and told me I needed to read the apostle of behavioral theory, Stephen Jay Gould, whose book, “The Mismeasure of Man is the bible of behaviorists. I told her that I owned the book and had already read it. She still refused to read Pinker’s book, one of about ten he has written on behavior and language. Gould, of course, is a favorite of the left. Among other points, he dismisses IQ testing of any kind. That is handy for the Humanities types who hate the STEM majors.

I was raised, along with my sister, by a black nursemaid who instilled in us the traditions of family life. Her own family in Georgia owned property and she had been raised to value traditional virtues. She was strict and once when I called her the hated “n word” she chased me under the dining room table with a broom. She had chosen a life of celibacy to raise other people’s children. We were not her first family but we were her last. She was 40 when she came to live with us when my sister was born in 1941. She lived a long life and even saw my youngest daughter, born in 1990. She was in a Catholic nursing home at the time but we brought Annie for her approval.

What is coming I fear but I am relieved that I shall not have to deal with it. I am too old and my health is not good. I do worry about my children but three of them voted for Obama and can take what comes as best they are able. They have the advantages I have been able to provide. They are educated and, while my behavior has not been exemplary in some ways, they have seen the world and they know I love them. When I started out, I had none of the advantages they have had. My father did not respect education, although he did send me to Catholic school. I began college on a scholarship but it was not the college of my choice. I did succeed in gaining admittance to medical school but would have preferred other sources of training. All in all though, I can’t really complain.

The future will be what it will be. I hope for the best but fear the worst. In the coming hurricane, gay marriage will seem, and be, a minor distraction.

Rye Bread

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I am in Tucson spending a few days fixing a few things in the house here. A post of Chicago Boyz got me interested in the idea of making bread again. I had a bread machine for years and even made some French bread according to a Julia Child’s recipe years ago. I had a bread stone but it has been lost in my moves the last several years.

The progress of my effort will be recorded here. I used partly the recipe given in that post and partly another that I found on the internet. We’ll see how it turns out.


Here is the first illustration from the post with the ingredients.


Here is the second, which specifies 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

In the mean time, I have repaired the drip irrigation system, cleaned up some areas of the yard and helped my daughter move out of a house near the campus that she shared with another girl who has gotten rather difficult the past several months.

The first day was spent making the “sponge” which is rye flour, and water and yeast.


The sponge this morning had risen to about twice its size yesterday. I altered the recipe to add sugar and white flour to the sponge, as recommended by the second article. For that reason it is larger than the view in the second post of the rye bread series.


Here it is a little larger and is rising this morning.

SEcond rise with spoon

Here is has risen to the max and has been squished down again. I shaped it as a square as the second article suggested. A spoon is added for scale.

Loaves prerise

Now, after the second rise, it has been divided into two loaves, as per the first article. The recipe from Chicago Boyz suggests baking at 300 to 350. The second article recommends 15 minutes at 450, then the rest of the time at 300. This is what I will try to see if we can get a good crust.

The oven is preheating and taking forever.

risen loaves

The two loaves have about doubled in size while we are waiting for the oven. I finally gave up on the oven reaching 450 so the loaves have gone in at the max temp, probably about 400. I’ll turn the thermostat down to 350 at 3:15, Tucson time. The loaves went in at 3:00 PM.

While doing all this, aside from some garage cleaning, I’ve been reading Genius, The life of Richard Feynmann. It has gnawed at me that I never had the chance to see him at CalTech. I actually applied before he was there and was accepted but did not have the money for tuition. I was a National Merit Scholarship finalist but my father refused to cooperate and did not send in some material on financial need so, I got a letter congratulating me that I did not need money.

Anyway, back to the baking. More to come as they bake.

Now, it is 3:58 and the loaves are out of the oven.

Finished baking

Here are the baked loaves. Still too hot to cut.

Baked closeup

Here is a closeup of the loaf with the cuts showing how they have expanded.

Tonight we will have brats and sauerkraut with beer and this bread. A final report will follow after eating.

I had the first slice of the bread while waiting for my daughter to arrive and it is great ! The crust is very crusty and the inside is delicious.

My daughter and I just finished a dinner of sausages, sauerkraut and beans with the fresh bread. We ate most of one loaf and washed it down with Guinness beer. The next loaf is for tomorrow. I already have some pastrami.

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I ran across this and, since Gordon Lightfoot is one of my favorites, I thought I would post it. It includes underwater video of the ship after it sunk.

A progress report

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Winston and I are moving into our house in Lake Arrowhead. Today, I had the Direct TV guy here for about four hours and we now have TV. Courtesy of a neighbor who has not figured out how to set up security on a wireless router, we also have internet. What else could I want ? Well, the contractors who were working on a wetness problem in the family room that involved mold spores, seem to have disconnected the ducts from the furnace so I cannot heat the house. I called one highly recommended furnace repair man and he said “No.” He was going “down the hill today.” So much for that. I stopped at the local hardware store to pick up some duct tape and a mask. The mask was because I had a coughing fit that lasted a half hour after I handled the ducts earlier today.

Well, the best intentions and all that. It is now 7 PM and I haven’t fixed the ducts. I have had my dinner and a glass of wine. That, after all, is the order of precedence. Now, we have to get Winston his dinner of ground beef. Then a cigar and a walk.
More later.

Further progress as of 8/18/10.

Most of the boxes are unpacked. Winston’s fence is not yet completed as Lowes did not have enough “kennel wire.” I need 370 feet. The heat works but the past few days have been unbearably hot so that issue is moot at the moment. I figured out the trash day and that the trash company does not provide cans so that was another trip down the hill to Lowes to get trash cans and a fan.

Next week, the contractor will be restoring the downstairs family room, which was torn up due to a mold issue. My office will also be fixed up next week.

The weather is beautiful although I hear they had a heavy rainstorm over at Big Bear yesterday. It is 26 miles east and about 2,000 feet higher.

The spontaneous Obama

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This is a photo of Obama speaking to a small group of about 15 people. It is described as his “middle class task force” but I doubt anyone is middle class, I see Larry Summers and Christina Romer. The others are undoubtedly bureaucrats of one sort or another. He must see these people from time to time as they all seem to be senior in his administration. Why does he need the podium and a teleprompter to speak to them ?

Does this man ever speak in a casual and intimate fashion to people ? Why is a teleprompter needed to talk to a committee of 15 people ?


And then there is this.

Nah. Couldn’t be.


A pretty good statement of what I think

Monday, December 7th, 2009

My personal philosophy is pretty simple and I am not one to spend time ruminating about it. Today, I discovered a piece that sounds like something I would have written if I were to try to put down my philosophy. It also states pretty much my own opinion about politics in this country rght now. I just wish I were as optimistic as the writer.

Way back in the depths of time, Greek philosophers ended up with two basic and incompatible ways of looking at the universe. One way was materialism, which says that there is a material universe which behaves in a consistent way, and if you study it you can learn the way it works.

That’s the world view of engineers and scientists — and businessmen, for that matter. It’s the world view of people who understand and use mathematics, and statistics. It is a place where cause leads to effect. It’s the place that game theory studies. It isn’t necessarily inherently atheistic; a lot of religious people live in the materialist world.

But there are people who don’t. A different epistemological view is teleology, which says that the universe is an ideal place. More or less, it
exists so that we humans can live in it. And human thought is a fundamental force in the universe. Teleology says that if a mental model is esthetically pleasing then it must be true. Teleology implies that if you truly believe in something, it’ll happen.

This is pretty much it for me.

Another piece that I have previously referred to is appropriate to quote again here. This was a comparison of Gorbachev and Obama.

they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

Gorbachev seemed to assume, right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then beyond it, that his Communist Party would recover from any temporary setbacks, and that the long-term effects of his glasnost and perestroika could only be to make it bigger and stronger.

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

I think these two excerpts say much the same thing. Consequences derive from wishes. If we want something, it will happen. I even remember a movie with that theme. I will add a final quote that is also pertinent.

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

I think that says it.

Job losses

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Take a look at this animation of the job situation the past decade.

The geography of jobs. Pretty impressive.

America in 1964.

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I have begun to read the two volume series The Age of Reagan by Steven Hayward. The first volume is subtitled, “The Fall of the Old Liberal Order.” This is obviously a play on the title of the first book of Schlesinger’s three volume series on FDR, which I have also read. That book is called “The Crisis of the Old Order,” and is chiefly interesting as a view of things from the left as many of its insights have been superseded by Amity Schlaes’ book, The Forgotten Man. I recommend reading all three books.

Anyway, the first chapter is about 1964 as the “Apogee of Liberalism.” John Kennedy has been assassinated and LBJ is now president. What is the country like ? Since I remember this period well, I will intersperse my own observations with the author’s. First, the federal budget in 1964 was $100 billion. That’s right. The US budget was the same as California’s budget deficit in 2009 ! The GDP was $576 billion and the growth of the economy that year was 7%. Inflation was 1.2 % and the chief concern of the public was International Relations at 51%. This was still the time of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis had been only two years before. Seventy per-cent of Americans were confident that the government would “do the right thing” and this was Walter Cronkite’s America.

Personally, I watched the Huntley-Brinkley Report, sponsored by Texaco. I was a third year medical student, married still without children although my first would arrive in March, 1965. We were living in a two bedroom house in Eagle Rock, on Oak Grove Drive, for which we paid $100 per month rent. It was in a small compound of homes on a hill side and from the living room window, I could see the San Fernando Valley in the distance. We were driving an old VW bus I had bought from another student. My wife taught school in east LA and dropped me off each morning on her way to school. We managed on $200 a month from our parents plus a small amount I could earn doing routine histories and physicals in a local hospital plus a few insurance physicals.

Per capita income was $2,592 and the average manufacturing job paid $ 2.53 per hour. The Dow-Jones Industrial Average was 800. The IBM 360 mainframe computer came out and used microchip circuits. I had programmed an IBM 650 in 1959 when I worked for Douglas Aircraft Company in El Segundo. It had vacuum tubes and the memory was a spinning drum covered with magnetic tape material. It had 2000 addressable memory units, each with ten digits. First class postage was 5 cents and Zip Codes were introduced. The Ford Mustang was introduced and helped Ford recover from the Edsel fiasco. In 1968, flush with my surgery resident’s salary, I bought a Mustang convertible for $3050. The car payment was $95 per month for three years. I had put $50 down.

Jack Kemp led the Buffalo Bills to the AFL championship. The Supreme Court had banned prayer in public schools in 1962 but 88% of the public disagreed and 63% said they prayed regularly. Out-of-wedlock births were at 5% although, among blacks, they were up to 25%. Less than 10% of households were headed by single mothers. The divorce rate was 25%. The Hays Office was still censoring movies but LSD was legal and would be so for another two years. In 1966, the medical school Dean called me in to talk. I was student body president and he wanted to talk about a developing drug problem among medical students. He told me that 24 students in the sophomore class (of 68) were using drugs, mostly LSD. Several had been found crawling around on all fours in the student dorm barking like dogs. One student told him that he would take LSD and sit at the beach to hear the waves talk to him. The Dean told him that these hallucinations could be vivid. The student replied that, oh no, the waves were really talking to him. A half dozen of that class would either never graduate or not take an internship, lost to medicine. I didn’t know what to do about it either.

That was, as the Age of Reagan, points out, the end of a golden era of post war prosperity and cultural ease that affected all but black members of the population. The Vietnam War would end a lot of that but the social policies of Lyndon Johnson would also exacerbate social pathology that still plagues us as a nation. Probably the worst effect of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was inflation, aggravated by Jimmy Carter, it would change the way we all live. I bought my first house in 1969, just before the birth of my younger son and third child. I paid $35,000 with $3500 down and a second trust deed for another $3500. My house payments were $204 per month. Fifteen year later, that small house (1500 square feet) would be listed at $595,000. My house in MIssion Viejo, bought for $67,000 in 1972, would see a similar inflation. My medical school tuition in 1962 was $600 per semester or $1200 per year. Now USC medical school tuition is $40,000.

Crime, drugs and the failure of public education were further developments that I will discuss as I go through the book.

UPDATE: Fred explains what happened in a lot fewer words than I could. More from John Derbyshire. I’m not quite as pessimistic as those guys but I am close.

Iran in flames

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

UPDATE #2: Even Gary Sick calls it a coup.

UPDATE: An Iranian blogger agrees with me. Michael Ledeen credits Obama with the force of the protests.

Until quite recently, the Iranians did not believe they could do such a thing on their own. They believed they needed outside support, above all American support, in order to succeed. They thought that Bushitlercheney would provide that support, and they were bitterly disappointed. But nobody believes that Obama will help them, and they must know that they are on their own.

Any hope they might have had in the Obama White House was quickly dismissed in the administration’s two statements on the matter. The first came from the president himself, anticipating a Mousavi victory (it is too soon to speculate on the source of this happy thought), and of course, in his narcissistic way, taking personal credit for it.

Yes, Obama can do great things. Some interesting comments:

I’m following the “tweets” from Iran. Fascinating. As of a few hours ago the tenor seems to be changing as the regime seems to be taking an even harder stand. One tweeter writes that students are now being rounded up by the hundreds; another writes that the police are increasingly beating people up; and another writes that police are speaking in Arabic and suggests that these police have been imported from Lebanon.

Hezbollah ?

More now about foreign forces being used to suppress the rioting:

Reports are circulating that Venezuela has sent anti-riot troops to Tehran to help Ahmadinejad, joining Hezbollah members from Palestine and Lebanon who are employed by the Islamic government as anti-riot police — the reason such forces are being brought in is that some of the Iranian police are unwilling to hit people as ordered and some are even joining the protesters.

Sounds more and more like Tiananmen Square.

The Iranian election, “won” in record time by Ahmadinejad, has set off huge riots in Tehran. Michael Totten has the best coverage of what is going on in English. It is not yet clear how much danger the regime is in but there is little doubt that the election was a fraud. The regime has been unpopular for years and half the population of Iran is under age 25. They are sophisticated and the Farsi language is the most popular language of blogs. The regime has taken steps to shut down the internet and Twitter to try to control communication among the resistance.

I have read a couple of books about Iran and recommend them. One is Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden (who also wrote Blackhawk Down), which is a history of the revolution and the American embassy hostage crisis. He managed to interview, not only most of the former hostages, but many of the Iranian hostage takers as well. An interesting moment in the book is his visit to the former embassy which is now a museum. As he left, the guards at the entrance asked him if he was American. When he answered that he was, they both said “Go George Bush !” and gave him the thumbs up.

The other book I have read, and one not well known, is James Calvell’s novel Whirlwind, which takes place over a few days when the Shah was overthrown. It provides a picture of the bazaar culture of the Iranian cities and the suddenness of the change that occurred. While his novels of Japan and Hong Kong are better known, this one appears to be as accurate as history.

Another book I plan to read is Amir Taheri’s, Persian Night, a history of Iran since the revolution.

Written in sorrow rather than anger, The Persian Night clearly and calmly describes Iran’s descent into unreality. It is a masterwork of information and argument. Formerly editor of Iran’s most influential paper, Amir Taheri is now perforce an exile but he remains in touch with all sorts of insiders. In addition to his native Farsi, he is fluent in Arabic and the main European languages. Frequent quotations from Persian poetry, old or contemporary, reveal his love of his native country and its culture, but he is equally likely to make good use of Plato and Cicero, Hobbes and Goethe, or even Frantz Fanon to illustrate a point. More than ironic, it seems outright improbable that one and the same Iran could be home to ignorant bigots like Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors–in particular the vicious and narrow-minded president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad–and a sophisticated humanist like Taheri.

That is from a review.

Another good source is “Know Thine Enemy, written under a pseudonym by a CIA agent who, upon retirement from the Agency, decided to smuggle himself into Iran for a more personal look at the culture he had come to love. He is better know these days by his real name, Reuel Marc Gehrect, and he writes for several publications, including The Weekly Standard. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about the current upheaval in Iran.

This story will be developing for a while. The New York Times has a typically fatuous story on the election.

Among downcast Iranian journalists and academics, the chatter focused on why the interlocking leadership of clerics, military officers and politicians, without whose acquiescence little of importance happens, decided to stick with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Did they panic at the unexpected passion for change that arose in the closing weeks of the Moussavi campaign? Did Mr. Moussavi go too far in his promises of women’s rights, civil freedom and a more conciliatory approach to the West? Or was the surge an illusion after all, the product of wishful thinking?

Many of the early stories focused on the suspicious speed with which the result was determined. Among other factors is the voting by illiterates. Unlike other countries with large illiterate voter populations, there are no symbols or photos of the candidates to guide them. Instead, the voter has his ballot marked by a “helper” from the Revolutionary Guards. Since 20% of the electorate is illiterate, that forms a nice base for the IRG candidate, Ahmadinejad.

Andrew Sullivan, for once on the right side, has updates.

Don’t lose your Volkswagen key

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I have a teenage daughter who loses things. A couple of months ago, she lost my car keys while driving it to visit with friends. I had to go to the Toyota dealer and wait an hour while they made a new key for my car. My daughter also has mishaps with her car and it was scheduled to be dropped off at a body shop for significant body work today. However, my daughter flew to Tucson last weekend, where we have another house and where she recently finished her first year of college. She took the only key to her car with her. Now, her car sits in the driveway useless. I used to have an extra key for her car and kept it in my car for emergencies. She found it about six months ago and it hasn’t been seen since.

I called the VW dealer and asked if a key could be made from the VIN number since we (I) bought the car there. No, I was told. I would have to have the car towed to the dealer for a key to be made. I called Volkswagen of America and was told the same thing. It seems that a key has to be “matched” to the car and that can only be done at the dealer. Supposedly, this is for greater security but I cannot for the life of me understand why this is. A car is a car. I own it. I can prove that. Why, in an emergency, cannot a key be made for the car ? I don’t care if it is a temporary key.

What I need is the name of a good car thief. I suspect it would take him (or her) about 20 seconds to get the car started and ready to drive. There are other reasons why I will not buy another Volkswagen (I have bought four for kids) but this one caps the story.