What about obesity? We put a lot of social effort into fighting obesity: labeling foods, banning soda machines from school, banning large sodas from New York, programs in schools to promote healthy eating, doctors chewing people out when they gain weight, the profusion of gyms and Weight Watchers programs, and let’s not forget a level of stigma against obese people so strong that I am constantly having to deal with their weight-related suicide attempts. As a result, everyone … keeps gaining weight at exactly the same rate they have been for the past couple decades. Wouldn’t it be nice if increasing obesity was driven at least in part by changes in the intestinal microbiota that we could reverse through careful antibiotic use? Or by trans-fats?
What about poor school performance? From the social angle, we try No Child Left Behind, Common Core Curriculum, stronger teachers’ unions, weaker teachers’ unions, more pay for teachers, less pay for teachers, more prayer in school, banning prayer in school, condemning racism, condemning racism even more, et cetera. But the poorest fifth or so of kids show spectacular cognitive gains from multivitamin supplementation, and doctors continue to tell everyone schools should start later so children can get enough sleep and continue to be totally ignored despite strong evidence in favor.
Scott Alexander, “Society Is Fixed, Biology Is Mutable”, Slate Star Codex, 2014-09-10.
January 21, 2016
December 17, 2015
Carl Trueman comments on what he calls the transageist community:
The case of Stefonknee Wolscht, the Canadian man who has decided that he is not simply a woman trapped in a man’s body but actually a six year old girl trapped in the same, has attracted some web attention. At first, I thought the story was a hoax but, no, it would appear that the lunatics have taken over the asylum and it is indeed true. Even if a sick joke, however, it would still offer insights into the inner logic of the politics of identity as currently played by the Left. Thus, for example, the U.K.’s Pink News reports that parts of the trans community are upset. Not, of course, at the harm done to Wolscht’s wife and children, those symbols of bourgeois oppression who are thus just so much collateral damage in the Glorious Revolution of the Self(ish). No. They are upset because his claim to be a different age “discredits their cause.”
A moment’s reflection would indicate that this condition, whereby a person is really a small child incarcerated within a much older adult body, is increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Recent events on the campuses of some of America’s top (sic) universities (sic) clearly show that the transageist community is rapidly growing in size, influence and belligerence. Still, as with all vanguard movements, some opposition is to be expected. The concerned reaction of sections of the transgender community is therefore understandable.
No doubt opponents will say that such a view will create chaos. Law courts must recognize an age of consent and an age of criminal responsibility; Schools need an objective standard of age to structure their curricula; And it is in everyone’s best interest that one-year-olds are not allowed to drive on the highways or drink Scotch or play in their cribs with loaded AK-47s. Well, yes, of course — but, please, do not shoot the messenger. I have not created the politics of repudiation which drives so much of the Left today. I am merely pointing out that its logic is inexorable. Those who accept its premises and yet seek to curb its power according to their own tastes are merely so many desperate postmodern Canutes, shouting impotently at the relentless waves of ecstatic nihilism that are even now crashing against the shore.
H/T to David Warren for the link.
December 4, 2015
I always laugh when I hear the phrase, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” It’s 2015. Everybody’s watching.
Jim Treacher, “Mac & Cheese Dude Is Sorry For Being An [Incredibly Unpleasant Person]”, The Daily Caller, 2015-10-13.
November 24, 2015
Megan McArdle says you can safely avoid novel and baroque food variations for the most stereotypical American meal of all time:
Every year you’re supposed to come up with something amazing and new to do with the most scripted meal in the American culinary canon. Turkey crusted with Marash pepper and stuffed with truffled cornichons. Deconstructed mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole that substitutes kale for the green beans and a smug expression for the cream-of-mushroom soup. Pumpkin-chocolate trifle with a chipotle-molasses drizzle.
I’m sorry, I can’t. I just can’t.
You know what we’re having for Thanksgiving at our house this year? With minor variations, we’re having the same thing we’ve had every year since my birth in 1973. There will be a turkey, roasted whole, because my oven cannot accommodate a spatchcocked 16-pound bird splayed over a sheet pan full of stuffing. It will be brined in a cooler, stuffed full of stuffing despite all the dire culinary injunctions against it, and cooked in the same undoubtedly subpar way we have always done it. My sister will make her homemade cloverleaf rolls, and stuffing with sausage, ginger and apple. There will be cranberry sauce, little creamed onions, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash, with bok choy for those who want greens. For dessert, there will be pie: apple, pumpkin, and perhaps, if we are feeling especially daring, cranberry-raisin.
Novelty is overrated at holidays. If you want to try planked salmon and braised leeks for the first time this year, then bon appetit. But the idea that we must have novelty, that a good cook is constantly seeking out new and better things, is a curse. The best parts of our lives do not require constant innovation; they are the best because they are the familiar things we love just as they are. When I hug my Dad, I don’t think, “Yeah, this is pretty OK, but how much better would it be if he were wearing a fez and speaking Bantu?”
How badly distorted is your mental map of the world thanks to the use of the Mercator projection? You can test yourself right here in your web browser with The Mercator Puzzle. Click on the image below, then drag each distorted country outline to its correct location on the underlying map:
H/T to Laura Hudson for the link.
November 22, 2015
No, I can’t explain it, either. Here’s his justification:
Okay, okay, I admit it, I just wanted to make Jay Cutler as the Don’t Care Bear, and built an entire article around that pun.
November 15, 2015
Lester Haines on how and when the distinctive “Strine” accent originated:
Australians’ distinctive accent – known affectionately as “Strine” – was formed in the country’s early history by drunken settlers’ “alcoholic slur”.
This shock claim, we hasten to add, comes from Down Under publication The Age, which explains:
The Australian alphabet cocktail was spiked by alcohol. Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns.
For the past two centuries, from generation to generation, drunken Aussie-speak continues to be taught by sober parents to their children.
The paper reckons that not only do Aussies speak at “just two thirds capacity – with one third of our articulator muscles always sedentary as if lying on the couch”, but they also ditch entire letters and play slow and loose with vowels.
Missing consonants can include missing “t”s (Impordant), “l”s (Austraya) and “s”s (yesh), while many of our vowels are lazily transformed into other vowels, especially “a”s to “e”s (stending) and “i”s (New South Wyles) and “i”s to “oi”s (noight).
The upshot of this total disregard for clear English is that our Antipodean cousins are poor communicators and lack rhetorical skills, something which could cost the Australian economy “billions of dollars”, as The Age audaciously quantifies it.
Pulkit Chandna reviews the “Brewie”:
In the future, at-home beer brewing will be a set-it-and-forget-it cinch, and not the convoluted mess we have always known it to be. That’s the feeling one gets from looking at Brewie, the latest in a series of countertop appliances designed to automate the process of beer crafting.
The Hungarian startup behind it claims Brewie is better and more automated than the competition — including the PicoBrew Zymatic home brewery we reviewed back in June. That lofty claim has helped the company secure hundreds of pre-orders, worth more than $600,000, across two crowdfunding rounds on Indiegogo. It concluded the first leg in February with a funding tally of $223,878, only to return to the site late last month in search of yet more pre-orders. (Indiegogo, as part of its “InDemand program” allows project creators to accept contributions or orders even after their crowdfunding campaign has ended.)
The Brewie is said to distill the whole brewing process down to a series of simple steps requiring negligible human input, such that even the most hopeless of aspiring brewmasters can get started with it in no time at all. You can control the unit either through its 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen or via the companion app over Wi-Fi.
November 4, 2015
I guess I’ve been living in a cave for far too long, as I had never imagined the existence of the “The Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend” in anything other than a fictional setting:
Journalist Anne Breslaw has written a funny piece for New York magazine, “Beware the Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend.” Briefly summarized, her thesis is that an artsy and eccentric guy might be charming but is ultimately a bad choice for a boyfriend. Breslaw describes this roaming, poetry-reading person as “the self-mythologizing ‘free-spirited’ dude who’s determined to make your life magical, whether you want it or not.” It’s the guy who gets angry that you’re working late because he wants to eat burritos on the roof in the moonlight.
She goes on. The Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend (MPDB):
“relishes breaking rules, and relishes even more his complete lack of concern that he’ll get caught. He gushes about tripping on mushrooms at Burning Man and he’s happy to supply you with some, as long as you promise to do them in nature. And he is determined to show women — no matter how much more successful, wealthy, beautiful, happy, and confident they are than him — that they aren’t living life to the fullest.”
An interesting subtext emerges from Breslaw’s piece, however: less pixie, more rage. Her barbs suggest a thinly veiled anger. Clearly contemptuous of the MPDB, Breslaw also comes across as a little jealous of him. The things that annoy her about this 21st-century beatnik – his enthusiasm for natural food, literature, great music, Burning Man, and sitting on a rooftop in New York – all sound like very cool activities. One senses that Breslaw envies the pixie’s freedom. She wants to be a part of his dream. And yet, she also clearly wants the MPDB to be more masculine; in defiance of feminist dogma, she yearns for a little less manic pixie dust and a lot more ambition (and testosterone).
Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriends have always existed, but prior to feminism and the digital revolution they were known simply as bohemians. Pixies had nothing to do with it. A pixie is diminutive and unthreatening, a figure out of fairy tales. While there have always been fey and lightweight male artists, there was once also room for raw masculinity amongst writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers.
November 3, 2015
Sam Smith remembers learning how to drive with a manual transmission:
At first, I thought my dad was just teaching me to drive a stick. At 16 and a few months, I had already earned a license, already had my first accident. (Missed a stoplight in the family Volvo while changing CDs. I cannot remember being dumber.) Two weeks of lessons later, I suspected something was up.
We drove in 20-minute spurts. Before dinner on weeknights, after lunch on Sundays, whenever. Always the same route: leave driveway, around the subdivision, back. Practice, learning how to shift, long past the point where I thought I was good enough.
The truth soon came out: My father, a patient man, wasn’t going to let me drive a manual—which meant borrowing his car—until I met what seemed like an arbitrary standard of smoothness. He wasn’t mean, just firm about it: You will do this right. And I won’t feel it when you drop into second.
The neighborhood was perfect for it. A rolling, quiet patchwork of curves. Enough uphill starts to keep you thinking. Or at least keep 16-year-old me thinking, because the first time you shift a manual gearbox, you’re a bag of elbows. This gear? That one? Then you screw it up again.
November 2, 2015
Published on 28 Oct 2015
Grow your own World War 1 moustache and send a picture to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #TGWmovember. We will collect the best for an upcoming OUT OF THE TRENCHES.
November is the month of the year to celebrate moustaches and beards in all forms and fashions. To celebrate the start of #movember we made a new top list ranking the beards of World War 1.
October 30, 2015
Joey deVilla posted this earlier in October, and I now have to wonder about Illinois, too:
- It appears that the states of Louisiana and Arkansas are going as the primary hand-held weapons of World Wars 3 and 4: “gun” and “rock”.
- I had to look up “Doc McStuffins”, which sounded a lot like a male porn star name. It’s the name of a Disney show for kids, and its titular character, a seven year-old girl who’s a “doctor” for broken toys and doll.
- As a friend of mine commented earlier today: “I learned something new about Texas.”
- And finally, Illinois: “Slutty pumpkin?” Where’d that come from?
October 24, 2015
Swap out “the Twin Cities/Minnesotans” for “Toronto/Canadians” and this article could run in any of Toronto’s alternative newspapers:
The Twin Cities has never been the sort of place where hordes of starry-eyed young people move for fame and fortune. But as it climbs the ranks of every “top 10” list for quality of life, it’s becoming a harder pitch to ignore.
What those lists don’t mention is the frequent insecurity these transplants know well, whispered with confessional despair in wood-panel dive bars after months of missed connections: “Is it just me? Or are Minnesotans total assholes?”
The second-guessing is a common trait. Small-town settlers wonder if they’re just misreading urban chic for frigidity. Transplants alighting from megalopolises like Buenos Aires and Berlin chalk it up to small-city small-mindedness. Folks from the South are quick to blame the isolating cold of northern winters, but that doesn’t explain how those hailing from other Midwest cities have a hard time cracking the icy Nordic shells of native Minnesotans too.
Those born and bred here don’t always see it, but to newcomers we’re not very friendly, at least in a deep friendship way.
It took Jade Ross of Colman, South Dakota, no more than one college party to catch on that “Minnesota Nice” is a trademark best used sarcastically. At 18, when she reported for school at St. Cloud State, everybody talked up the Minnesota Nice phenomena ad nauseum, she says. “I’d never heard of that before, and I didn’t understand why you needed to talk about it,” Ross says. “In South Dakota, we were just nice, and we didn’t need to brag about it.”
At parties she’d describe home as a small farming town of 500. She got responses like, “So do you have … Internet? Do you ride a buffalo to go to school?”
I don’t follow libertarian family policy (never mind conservative family policy, liberal family policy, or even Shining Path Maoist family policy) too closely, though I know some very smart people who’re involved in it. Anyway, the conversation turned to the claim made by many libertarians, as well as folks like Al Gore (wolfsbane to libertarians), that modern society has changed so much that it is only right and rational that family structure change, too.
Here’s my problem with this sort of thinking, which I don’t think is unreasonable on its face. Some institutions endure because they are, well, enduring.
The whole point of certain institutions is that they are insurance policies against the unknown future (picture G. Gordon Liddy talking about gold, only replace it with “the family”). The phrase “you can always count on family” may not be literally true, but it is more true than “you can always count on your old college roommate.” When times are great, the demands of family (or religion, or good manners, or thriftiness, or a thousand other institutions, customs, and habits of the heart that we can throw under the bulwark of “tradition”) might often seem like too much unnecessary baggage to carry around. But when things hit the fan, family is there in a way that other people aren’t. Not because those other people are bad, but because your family is your family.
But it’s important to keep in mind that the family — or the Bill of Rights, or good manners, whatever — isn’t a catastrophic insurance policy. The value of these institutions is best understood during a time of crisis, but the influence of these institutions is constant, even in times of calm luxury. The fact that these institutions exist forecloses certain options and avenues for reformers who yearn for a blanker social slate.
The family, like marriage, is an institution that predates our Constitution and the very concept of democracy, never mind modernity. That is not to say that it hasn’t evolved and changed or that conservatives should never, ever contemplate further changes and greater evolution. It is simply to say that we should do so carefully, reservedly, humbly, in full knowledge that tomorrow may look as little like today as yesterday did.
Jonah Goldberg, “The Goldberg File” email newsletter, 2011-04-25.
October 21, 2015
I’ve been following the Minnesota Vikings Donut Club for a few years on Twitter, but as far as I know, this is the first coverage of the secretive organization in the mainstream media:
“We just like to see commitment from guys. We need to see proof that you want to be a part of this club and want to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
That quote isn’t just another cliché being spewed by an NFL player about next week’s game. It’s a passionate explanation from veteran linebacker Chad Greenway about a different kind of club that meets early on Saturday mornings and follows a rule book that’s nearly as detailed as the league’s: The Minnesota Vikings’ Donut Club.
By even acknowledging its existence, Greenway has already broken the first rule of Donut Club. “I’m now getting yelled at for talking about it,” he says. “It’s like Fight Club. You’re going to get me in trouble.”
Donut Club has its roots in the 2008 season, when starting quarterback Gus Frerotte brought a few dozen donuts into the training room one Saturday morning. They were devoured in a matter of minutes, and it became a regular thing. “I just kept bringing donuts in because it’s a great thing to see when a guy sees fresh, big-ass donuts and they want to eat them,” says Frerotte, who retired after that ’08 season, his 15th in the NFL. If he returned to the Vikings’ training room now, he wouldn’t recognize the cult-like institution that grew from his humble act of generosity.
“The athletic trainer never pays for the donuts,” Sugarman says. When Frerotte first brought in donuts, it was a nod of appreciation for the trainers and equipment staff, so players rotate paying for three dozen donuts on a weekly basis in the regular season. YoYo owner Chris Moquist, a lifelong Vikings fan, remembers when the Vikings first started ordering from his shop: “A guy came in to pick up an order and we went, ‘Wow, that guy’s neck is way too big to be a normal person. That’s Chad Greenway. That’s awesome!’ ”