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        "Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS  "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest  "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Going, Going. Gone

    Posted by on 31st January 2020 (All posts by )

    The credibility of the mainstream press establishment is shimmering into nothingness, like the last bit of winter snow after a week of warm spring days; just as our respect and trust for such federal bureaucracies and establishments like the FBI are similarly evaporating. While acknowledging and accepting that such establishments are operated by mere mortals, with all the weaknesses and moral failings that ordinary human beings are heir to, and grudgingly accepting the understanding that the establishment news media trends strongly to the left in political sympathies … look, we can accept all that and a certain degree of human bias, but what’s getting hard to swallow of late is the sheer, mind-numbing, flaming incompetence of them all. Which might be a blessing, for terrifying competence on the part of our current Ruling Class and their minions would make protesting or opposing them that much more difficult. Instead, as Kirk so memorably put it last week,

    “What we have is, instead, an aristocracy of dunces, men and women who tell the rest of us how smart they are, and then screw up the entirety of civilization based on fantasies they’ve come up with. The rest of us need to start recognizing that the emperor not only isn’t wearing any clothes, he’s drunk off his ass and waving his wing-wang in our faces. The people who’ve flim-flammed their way into power are all dangerously inept and terminally deluded. If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 doubt me, open you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r eyes and look around you500vip彩票安卓下载官网rself: Is there anything, anything at all that these soi-disant “elites” have gotten right in the last century? Anything at all?”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media | 47 Comments »

    Book Review: The Good Jobs Strategy, by Zeynep Ton

    Posted by David Foster on 19th January 2020 (All posts by )

    Retail businesses are associated with low pay and high employee turnover–especially in the case of those retailers who offer low prices–and the same is largely true of customer-service call centers. It has been generally assumed that low wages in these operations are a necessary concomitant of low prices for consumers, and that only businesses serving a premium-price customer base can afford to pay high wages.

    Comes now , arguing that the low-wage strategy is not the only one available to retailers and other customer-service businesses that need to offer low prices, and that indeed often–usually–it is not the best strategy. She draws connections between the pay and hiring strategy of a business and the operational basis on which it is managed. To wit:

    Low pay and high turnover implies minimal employee training, because you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 can’t afford extensive training for employees who are going to leave in a matter of months. Minimal training implies less operational flexibility, because employees will not be cross-trained for other functions. An environment of high turnover and not-well-trained employees implies that employee functions must be strictly proceduralized, often to the point of excessive rigidity. And the lack of flexibility driven by minimal training and experience makes it harder to build in appropriate staffing “slack” to handle peak demand situations. The lack of slack and flexibility leads to endless emergency rescheduling of personnel, reducing morale and further increasing turnover. (She provides some vivid examples of what this endless and short-notice rescheduling can mean to the personal lives of employees.)

    On the opposite site, higher pay can contribute to lower turnover, making more-extensive training economically viable. Better-trained employees can more easily perform multiple functions, so that absences or staffing imbalances have a less-harmful effect. Better-trained and more highly-motivated employees don’t need micromanagement, either by human managers or by systems and procedures.

    Ho, hum, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 say, what’s new?…people, especially consultants and professors, have been writing for years about why employees should be treated well and how it pays off to do so. How is this book different from a million of others?

    is, in my view, something quite different from the typical “just treat ’em right” sort of soft, warm, and cuddly advice often found in books and LinkedIn posts. The author ties the feasibility of the high-pay / high-expectations strategy to effective operational management, with the right systems, procedures, and incentives to enable such operational excellence.

    An interesting example the author mentions is that of 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 Depot. She credits much of the chain’s early success to its high-quality associates–“knowledgeable and helpful and willing to do whatever it took to help you500vip彩票安卓下载官网, even if that meant explaining to you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 that you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 didn’t actually need what you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 came to buy.” The associates tended to be former plumbers, electricians, etc–and they were employed full-time. HD grew very rapidly–“customers were driving two hours to go to its stores and, once they experienced the service and great prices, they kept coming back”

    But, with the growth came problems. There was a lack of discipline in the stores, in how the stores communicated with headquarters, how the company selected its products, and how it communicated with suppliers. “In 2000, bills and invoices were still processed by hand, and headquarters communicated to 1134 stores via fax because there was no companywide email.” In 2008, two senior IT executives (newly hired from Walmart) concluded that 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 Depot’s IT systems were about where Walmart’s had been in 1991. In summary, HD had become “a classic example of a service company that did not fully appreciate the role of operations in making customers and investors happy…Operations are all those factory-like activities that a business has to carry out in order to provide whatever it is that it sells. ..In a retail store, for example, operations involves things like having the right product in the right place, having a fast checkout, and having a clean store.” Zeynep Ton says that internal measurement systems often don’t focus on such matters–at one retailer she worked with, “Twenty percent of the (store manager’s) score had to do with the store’s customer interactions.” In this chain, “mystery shoppers” would score the store on things like how the employees greeted customers and made eye contact. But, she notes, “kindness or friendliness won’t make up for operational incompetence. ..It is hard for you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r dry cleaner to make you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 happy if you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 can’t wear you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r favorite suit to an important interview because they didn’t get it cleaned on time.”

    When Robert Nardelli became HD’s CEO in 2000, the systems and procedures problems were rapidly addressed. Gross margins and net profit margins increased substantially.

    BUT, “the culture of cost-cutting was soon felt at the local level, where store employees, who were once at the center of 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 Depot’s success and at the top of 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 Depot’s inverted pyramid, became a cost to be minimized.” The company started hiring part-timers, in the name of both staffing flexibility and cost…the knowledge level of the typical employee encountered by a customer fell noticeably. By 2005, HD was ranked lower in customer satisfaction than was K-mart. Same-store sales growth fell and even became negative. Nardelli left the company in 2007.

    Zeynep Ton summarizes: Operational designs don’t execute themselves. They depend on having the right people, and having those people motivated to do the right things.

    The book discusses the actual complexity that exists in many seemingly-simple businesses, and the fact that individual employee decisions do make a difference. “If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 are a supermarket employee shelving a case of toothpaste and all but two of the tubes fit on the shelf, should you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 take the two extras back to storage or would it be better to squeeze them onto the the shelf, even if it doesn’t look so good? If a tomato looks just a little soft, should you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 take it to the back room now or wait until it looks worse? Maybe it will be just fine for a customer who wants to make tomato sauce…it is hard, if not impossible, to make such work so simple and simple and standardized that anyone can do it without exercising judgment. Things happen in real time at retail stores, and employees have to learn to react.”

    (It is incredibly refreshing to see a B-school professor thinking and writing at this level of detail and specificity)

    One interesting company discussed in the book is QuikTrip, a large chain of convenience stores combined with gas stations. The company is very selective in its hiring….the author compares getting hired there with the difficulty of getting into an Ivy League college. In the Atlanta area, 90% of applicants don’t even quality for an interview, and of those who do, only one out of five is selected. Turnover rate among QuikTrip employees is only 13%, far lower than the industry as a whole. The chain emphasizes speed and flexibility…”QuikTrip’s fast checkout is a site to behold. One thing that makes it so fast is that any employee can use any register at any time without making the customer wait. If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 regularly shop at a supermarket, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 know it’s no fun waiting for the cashier do a changeover. The other thing that makes QuikTrip so fast is that employees have been trained to ring up three customer per minute.” She says that the employees can even calculate change in their heads!

    Other examples discussed include Costco, Trader Joe’s, In-N-Out Burger, and the Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Management, Tech | 31 Comments »

    Life Without Smartphones

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2020 (All posts by )

    A college instructor, concerned about how poorly his students were doing in the philosophy class he was teaching, : for extra credit, students could give up their phones for nine days and write about living without them. Twelve students, about a third of the class, took him up on the offer.

    Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world.

    See some of the student comments at the link. Note that ten of the 12 students said their phones had been compromising their ability to have real-world relationships. And in response to a student’s comment about safety concerns when phone-less, the instructor said:

    What’s revealing is that this student and others perceived the world to be a very dangerous place. Cell phones were seen as necessary to combat that danger. The city in which these students lived has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and almost no violent crime of any kind, yet they experienced a pervasive, undefined fear.

    For perspective, though, we should consider: How would students in say, the 1950s through the 1980s have responded if they had been temporarily denied access to dorm or apartment phones and also to pay phones? Because since smartphones became common, pay phones have largely disappeared, and I’d imagine that dorm and apartment phones are pretty rare as well.

    I’d hazard a guess that 1950s-1980s students who were denied access to conventional telephony would have felt somewhat disconnected, but not nearly so much as present-day students without their smartphones.

    When the telegraph was first invented, a journalist marveled that “This extraordinary discovery leaves…no elsewhere…it is all here.”

    As I’ve noted before, it seems that if the wired communications reduced the sense of elsewhere, it seems that wireless communications reduces the sense of the here and now.

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Internet, Tech | 5 Comments »

    Community Size and True Diversity

    Posted by David Foster on 29th December 2019 (All posts by )

    Interesting remarks from Tim Harford, summarizing a study of friendships among college students:

    They found that students in a large, diverse campus sought out and befriended other students very much like themselves. In smaller universities with fewer friendship options, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng people had more varied groups of friends because the alternative was to have no friends at all.

    ()

    This reminded me of something Chesterton said:

    The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing that is really narrow is the clique….The men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment like that which exists in hell.

    I think that Chesterton’s words represent an important truth, but by no means the whole truth. It is true that much is lost in modern society to the extent that people only associate with others like them. But it is also true that much is lost in traditional societies to the extent that people are denied the opportunity to seek out others of similar interests. And also, in traditional societies, the “fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences” of which Chesterton writes are often to a large extent mediated by standardized and ritualistic behavior.

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis | 13 Comments »

    Media and Young Children

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2019 (All posts by )

    looked at the effects of:

    –simply reading a story to a child

    –telling the story with the kind of animation that might be presented on a tablet or a TV screen

    –telling the story with the aid of a traditional picture book

    For the 4-year-old kids who were studied, the MRI data was said to suggest better patterns of mental development for the third type of storytelling than for either of the other two. Note that it was a very small study: only 27 kids, probably too few to draw any kind of definitive conclusions…but interesting.

    From the WSJ article:

    The sound of the storytelling voice on its own seemed to be “too cold” to get the children’s brain networks to fully engage. Like the second bowl that Goldilocks samples, animation of the sort that children might see on a TV screen or tablet was “too hot.” There is just too much going on, too quickly, for the children to be able to participate in what they were seeing. Small children’s brains have no difficulty registering bright, fast-moving images, as experience teaches and MRI scanning confirms, but the giddy shock and awe of animation doesn’t give them time to exercise their deeper cognitive faculties.

    There is a bit of pleasurable challenge in making sense of what he’s seeing and hearing. There is time to reflect on the story and to see its reverberations in his own life—a transaction that may be as simple as the flash of making a connection between a real donkey he once saw with the “honky tonky, winky wonky donkey” of Craig Smith’s picture book. The collaborative engagement that a child brings to the experience is so vital and productive that reading aloud “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” as a 2014 paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics put it, strengthening the neural connections that will enable him to process more difficult and complex stories as he gets older.

    This ties in with some comments I made on my post Metaphors, Interfaces, Memes, and Thinking, which expands on some of Neal Stephenson’s ideas:

    I’d observe that as a general matter, the sensorial interface is less open to challenge than the textual interface. It doesn’t argue–doesn’t present you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 with a chain of facts and logic that let you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 sit back and say, “Hey, wait a minute–I’m not so sure about that.” It just sucks you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 into its own point of view.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media | 5 Comments »

    Silly Games

    Posted by on 16th December 2019 (All posts by )

    I swear, every time I think we have reached peak stupid, reality says “Hold my beer and watch this!” The over cadets at the Army-Navy game appearing on live camera making a variant of the “OK” gesture now has elements of the national media, as well as authorities at the two service academies plain old coming unglued. And this is because this gesture is somehow supposed to be associated with so-called ‘white power’/ racial superiority. Great has been the twitter-tornado launched by the particularly clueless activists who happened to notice the upside-down OK gesture; I can only imagine the numbers of boggarts, ghouls and haunts which are currently living under their own beds and in their closets. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Humor, Predictions | 18 Comments »

    Paranoia

    Posted by on 4th December 2019 (All posts by )

    One of our patients who has been paranoid for many years at a low level even when well, and severely so when his medications go out of whack picked up a copy of 1984 at the library, having heard that reasonably-educated people should read it and be familiar with it. He is an intelligent but rather isolated person. We asked him what he thought after.

    “It was a sad story.  The guy had a girlfriend, but he lost her.”

    The entire paranoid point of the story seems to have been mere unimportant background to him, which I suppose makes some sense.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 5 Comments »

    Ayiti Pa Nimewo Yo

    Posted by on 26th October 2019 (All posts by )

    I. Departure

    Our transportation to Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture was a decrepit Honda Civic with no working inside door handles, no exhaust system, and a barely functional starter. The guesthouse driver poured a liter of water into the radiator immediately before starting the engine so that it would not overheat, even though the drive was only 3 kilometers. Our luggage proved too big for the trunk, so most of the team’s belongings were wedged in beneath the open trunk lid, which was not secured by so much as a single bungee cord. Threading through the remnants of at least a dozen barricades on Avenue Gerard Téodart half an hour before sunrise, we high-centered on some rubble and dragged a sizable rock for several hundred meters before the driver backed the car up to dislodge it. After we made the turn onto Boulevard Toussaint Louverture, there were no more barricades, thanks to the proximity of a MINUSTAH logistics base and a Police Nationale d’Ha"iti station. There were pedestrians, of course—Port-au-Prince is very much a city that never sleeps—but not many, and few vehicles thanks to severely interrupted fuel deliveries, which had nearly stranded us altogether. One of the team members riding in the back seat later told me that the gas gauge was on “E.”

    What is happening when a Third World country loses a key component of its energy supply, and what might be the lessons to learn for those apprehensive over a significant breakdown of logistics in the US?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Systems Analysis, Transportation | 24 Comments »

    All He Cares About Is Love

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th October 2019 (All posts by )

    Posted in Human Behavior, Video | 4 Comments »

    Trump and the Ukrainian Translator

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd October 2019 (All posts by )

    suggests that the real issue identified by the Trump-Ukraine transcript is the pain that was imposed on the translator who had to translate Trump’s words…which at least appear to be pretty much stream-of-consciousness…into Ukrainian! Plentiful vodka, she says, was surely required to recover from the experience.

    It strikes me that a profession is kind of like a language, as is a social milieu. Many of those who find President Trump offensive, I suspect, find it jarring and inappropriate that he doesn’t speak in the forms that they would normally expect from one in his position, and they find that translating his speech to their accustomed verbal frames of reference to be as difficult and disorienting as the Ukrainian translator likely found Trump’s communication in English to be.

    Not only is Trump’s style of speech off-putting to many, so is his mode of thought. Most national journalists, academics, and “public intellectuals” are deductive thinkers, who need to put everything into a framework that they have adopted. Trump, on the other hand, is largely an inductive, intuitive, and pattern-recognizing thinker. Years ago, I found The Art of the Deal to be a somewhat frustrating read, despite my strong professional interest in the topic. I am a more deductive thinker and communicator than Trump…but I have enough of the inductive/intuitive/pattern-recognizing mode to be able to understand and appreciate what Trump is doing. Most of the journalists, academics, and “public intellectuals” do not.

    Some types of people also find it disconcerting when people attain their positions in any manner other than the conventionally-approved course. Here’s , writing in the WSJ a few days ago about his time at Morgan Stanley:

    ““What year were you500vip彩票安卓下载官网?” a colleague asked me years ago. “Huh? Year?” I replied. “What year at HBS?” H-B-what? “What year did you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 graduate from Harvard Business School?” Oh, I get it now. “I didn’t go to HBS,” I told him. “Actually, I don’t have an M.B.A.” After a long pause and scrunched-up face, he asked, “Well, then how the hell did you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 get a job here?” As I walked away, I murmured under my breath, “Maybe I earned it.””

    This also…the negative feeling about somebody who didn’t get there in the way one is supposed to get there…also plays a role in hostile attitudes toward Trump.

     

    Posted in Academia, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media, Miscellaneous, Trump, USA | 17 Comments »

    The Drivers of Political Cruelty and Arrogance

    Posted by David Foster on 27th September 2019 (All posts by )

    had a post on the question: Should Government Produce Happiness? One commenter said:

    We might say Nazi Germany tried to produce happiness by promoting national pride, and racial pride. They created myths of superiority and suddenly if you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 had blond hair and blue eyes, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 instantly gained status and could walk down the street with other special people and scheme collective revenge against the people who are wrongfully trying to hold you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 back. This suggest populist leaders at least are good at identifying scapegoats and unifying people against common enemies. You can project all you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r shortcomings on you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r external enemies and righteously hate them for it. Certainly it must feels like happiness when you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 believe you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r specialness (personal and collective) will soon be honored, and you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’ll work very hard to make it happen.

    I’m not sure that “populist” is really a proper description of a political movement which stood for absolute top-down rule…but there’s no question that the Nazi ideas of racial superiority led to a feeling of ‘specialness’ on the part of many if not most followers. Also, many people who did not have a strong affinity for Nazi ideology…or any affinity at all…still felt a strong pull toward the movement, for reasons of a need for group belonging. As an example, I saw a documentary in which a strongly anti-Nazi German said that despite his clear recognition that Naziism was evil, he had still felt a sense of loss and by not being part of the circle of warmth that he perceived in the Nazi rallies.

    But, as I noted in the comments to Stuart’s post, it is serious mistake to identify these motivations with only “right wing” movements such as Naziism. In-group identification and arrogance, the use of scapegoats, and the evil pleasures of political cruelty…all these things are major features of today’s “progressive’ movement. I have documented many examples of this in prior posts, for example here. While some have claimed that the violence, intolerance, and harassment so common on the Left is a reaction to Trump, there was clearly a lot of this going on long before Trump became a political factor. It was going on, especially, in American’s universities, and it should have been clear that this toxic behavior would spread beyond the campus into the wider American society.

    :

    If I could communicate just one thing, across the increasing divide of language and thought to the left it would be this: that warm and fuzzy feeling you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 get when you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re running someone down is not righteousness. It’s just the feeling apes get when they run off another ape.

    If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re part of a band and all of you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 were piling on an outsider — or an insider who was just declared an outsider and run off — you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’ll also feel very connected to you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r band, and a feeling of being loved and belonging. It’s not real. It’s the result of a “reward” rush of endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that flood you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r body after stress and a perceived “victory.” Oxytocin, particularly, promotes a feeling of bonding with those around you500vip彩票安卓下载官网.

    Just remember, as you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re high fiving each other and believing that something that feels so good has to be good and morally “just” you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 could be the victim tomorrow. Because the feelings don’t last, and that rush of “righteousness and victory” is addictive. Those who are you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r comrades today will be looking for someone to kick in the face tomorrow. And it really could be you500vip彩票安卓下载官网.

    I’ve previously quoted some related thoughts from the American writer John Dos Passos. In his you500vip彩票安卓下载官网nger years, he was a man of the Left, and, like many leftists and some others he was very involved with the . But he was more than a little disturbed by some of those that shared his viewpoint. Describing one protest he attended, he wrote:

    From sometime during this spring of 1926 of from the winter before a recollection keeps rising to the surface. The protest meeting is over and I’m standing on a set of steps looking into the faces of the people coming out of the hall. I’m frightened by the tense righteousness of the faces. Eyes like a row of rifles aimed by a firing squad. Chins thrust forward into the icy night. It’s almost in marching step that they stride out into the street. It’s the women I remember most, their eyes searching out evil through narrowed lids. There’s something threatening about this unanimity of protest. They are so sure they are right.

    I agree with their protest: I too was horrified by this outrage. I’m not one either to stand by and see injustice done. But do I agree enough? A chill goes down my spine..Whenever I remember the little scene I tend to turn it over in my mind. Why did my hackles rise at the sight of the faces of these good people coming out of the hall?

    Was it a glimpse of the forming of a new class conformity that like all class conformities was bent on riding the rest of us?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Society, Tech, Trump, USA | 26 Comments »

    Summer Rerun–Are We Living at the Intersection of These Two Stories?

    Posted by David Foster on 12th September 2019 (All posts by )

    The first story is Robert Heinlein’s The Year of the Jackpot. A consulting statistician with the unlikely name of Potiphar Breen observes that many strange social trends are on a strong upswing. One such trend: you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng women removing all their clothes in public. Potiphar sees one such disrobing in process, shoos away the police, covers the girl with his raincoat, then takes her 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 and asks her why she did it. She doesn’t know.

    Potiphar informs her that nine other girls have done the same thing, in Los Angeles alone, on that very day…and goes on to tell her that this is a small part of the overall pattern of increasing craziness that he is observing. A man has sued an entire state legislature for alienation of his wife’s affections–and the judge is letting the suit be tried. In another state, a bill has been introduced to repeal the laws of atomic energy–not the relevant statutes, but the natural laws concerning nuclear physics. Potiphar shows the girl (her name is Meade) the graphs on which he has plotted the outbreak of bizarre things over time, and notes that many different indicators, all with different cycles, are all converging in this very year. Still, Meade wants to look at her disrobing episode on an individual basis: “I want to know why I did what I did!”

    “I think we’re lemmings, Meade,” Potiphar says. “Ask a lemming why he does it. If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 could get him to slow up his rush to death, even money says he would rationalize his answer as well as any college graduate. But he does it because he has to–and so do we.” When Meade tries to defend free will–“I know I have it–I can feel it”, Potiphar continues with another analogy: “I imagine every little neutron in an atom bomb feels the same way. He can go spung! or he can sit still, just as he pleases. But statistical mechanics works out anyhow. And the bomb goes off.”

    As Meade and Potiphar become romantically involved, Potiphar’s indices of bizarre behavior and events continue to climb. Transvestism by draft-dodgers has resulted in a mass arrest in Chicago and a gigantic mass trial–but the (male) prosecutor shows up in a pinafore. At the All Souls Community Church of Springfield, the pastor has reinstituted ceremonial nudity. Two weeks later, a hundred and nine other churches have announced the same policy. California is suffering a major water crisis, but people continue watering their lawns as usual. Hardly anyone is interested in the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions; all the excitement is about the revived Know-Nothing party.

    Foreign affairs, too, are disintegrating into chaos…topped off by a nuclear exchange. Meade and Potiphar manage to survive, and Potiphar’s cycle charts seem to indicate that things will soon get better…(read the story to see how it comes out.)

    The fictional events of Heinlein’s Year of the Jackpot (set in 1952–it was written in 1947) don’t seem any more bizarre than the kind of headline stories that we are seeing every day in real-life:

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, France, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 7 Comments »

    Creativity, Curiosity, and Political Philosophy

    Posted by David Foster on 10th September 2019 (All posts by )

    was struck by a news story noting that while Bernie Sanders spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union, he never made any attempt to visit the dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Vermont.

    “Some comments about that story attribute Mr. Sanders’s negligence to ideology, as if he, being a fan of the Soviet Union, made a silent protest by ignoring the famous anti-Soviet figure in his midst. But I think the deeper reason for his neglect was a quality of the socialist or communist or revolutionary sensibility that is too little remarked. I mean its ingrained, indeed its programmatic, lack of curiosity about other people.

    The philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, in a thoughtful anatomy of the French Revolution, is one of the few people to underscore this feature of the totalitarian habit of mind. “This absence of curiosity,” Mr. Scruton notes, “is a permanent characteristic of the revolutionary consciousness.””

    Read the whole thing.

    has related thoughts dealing with uncertainty and the future.

    “From the point of view of information theory, the future is an alien signal. But unlike the characters in the movie, the Chinese, Russian, European, and American elites are unwilling to start at a point of maximum entropy. Rather, they want to control the future and load the dice by constraining it with their legacy theories. That is because the Woke, EU, Chinese Communist Party, and the Kremlin are convinced they already know the future and the only difficulty is in getting the recalcitrant deplorables to go along.”

    Fernandez makes the important point that “Real discovery consists not in what is forgotten or predicted, but in coming upon the never imagined.”

    There is no place for the watchmaker among the gears of the watch.

    Posted in Big Government, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism | 8 Comments »

    Summer Rerun– Video Review: A French Village

    Posted by David Foster on 5th September 2019 (All posts by )

    This series, set in the (fictional) French town of Villeneuve during the years of the German occupation and afterwards, is simply outstanding – one of the best television series I have ever seen. The program ran from 2009-2017 on French TV, and all the seasons are now available in the US, with subtitles.

    Daniel Larcher is a physician who also serves as deputy mayor, a largely honorary position. When the regular mayor disappears after the German invasion, Daniel finds himself mayor for real. His wife Hortense, a selfish and emotionally-shallow woman, is the opposite of helpful to Daniel in his efforts to protect the people of Villaneuve from the worst effects of the occupation while still carrying on his medical practice. Daniel’s immediate superior in his role as mayor is Deputy Prefect Servier, a bureaucrat mainly concerned about his career and about ensuring that everything is done according to proper legal form.

    The program is ‘about’ the intersection of ultimate things…the darkest evil, the most stellar heroism….with the ‘dailyness’ of ordinary life, and about the human dilemmas that exist at this intersection. Should Daniel have taken the job of mayor in the first place?…When is it allowable to collaborate with evil, to at least some degree, in the hope of minimizing the damage? Which people will go along, which will resist, which will take advantage? When is violent resistance…for example, the killing by the emerging Resistance of a more or less random German officer…justified, when it will lead to violent retaliation such as the taking and execution of hostages?

    Arthur Koestler has written about ‘the tragic and the trivial planes’ of life. As explained by his friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary:

    “K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.”

    In this series, the Tragic and the Trivial planes co-exist…day-to-day life intermingles with world-historical events. And the smallness of the stage…the confinement of the action to a single small village….works well dramatically, for the same reason that (as I have argued previously) stories set on shipboard can be very effective.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    The Ideological Turing Test

    Posted by David Foster on 26th August 2019 (All posts by )

    The is a means of assessing whether an automated system is truly intelligent by testing its ability to simulate an actual human being in conversation…the test to be conducted via terminals, over a communications link. Here’s an excerpt from Alan Turing’s own example of a hypothetical conversation:

    Interrogator: In the first line of you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r sonnet which reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” would not “a spring day” do as well or better?

    Witness: It wouldn’t scan.

    Interrogator: How about “a winter’s day,” That would scan all right.

    Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.

    Interrogator: Would you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 say Mr. Pickwick reminded you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 of Christmas?

    Witness: In a way.

    Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter’s day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.

    Witness: I don’t think you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re serious. By a winter’s day one means a typical winter’s day, rather than a special one like Christmas.

    At a considerably lower literary level, quite a few automated telephony systems today make an attempt to convince their targets that they are dealing with an actual human being, at least for a few seconds.

    The ideological Turing test…the term was invented by , following some comments by Paul Krugman…refers to an individual’s ability to accurately state opposing political and ideological views. Caplan quotes John Stuart Mill: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”

    My observation is that neither side in America’s current political divisions is over-endowed with people capable of passing the ITT. Paul Krugman asserted, unsurprisingly, that liberals do it better:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Elections, Human Behavior, Marketing, Politics, Tech | 30 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Metaphors, Interfaces, Memes, and Thinking

    Posted by David Foster on 20th August 2019 (All posts by )

    This rerun of an earlier post (slightly reworked) was inspired by a comment by MCS at this post:

    We are now living in the first post-literate society where the masses will be directed by rumor. Memes will take the place of reasoned discussion.

    Neal Stephenson wrote , a strange little book which would probably be classified under the subject heading “computers.” While the book does deal with human interfaces to computer systems, its deeper subject is the impact of media and metaphors on thought processes and on work.

    Stephenson contrasts the explicit word-based interface with the graphical or sensorial interface. The first (which I’ll call the textual interface) can be found in a basic UNIX system or in an old-style PC DOS system or timesharing terminal. The second (the sensorial interface) can be found in Windows and Mac systems and in their respective application programs.

    As a very different example of a sensorial interface, Stephenson uses something he saw at Disney World–a hypothetical stone-by-stone reconstruction of a ruin in the jungles of India. It is supposed to have been built by a local rajah in the sixteenth century, but since fallen into disrepair.

    The place looks more like what I have just described than any actual building you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 might find in India. All the stones in the broken walls are weathered as if monsoon rains had been trickling down them for centuries, the paint on the gorgeous murals is flaked and faded just so, and Bengal tigers loll among stumps of broken columns. Where modern repairs have been made to the ancient structure, they’ve been done, not as Disney’s engineers would do them, but as thrifty Indian janitors would–with hunks of bamboo and rust-spotted hunks of rebar.

    In one place, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 walk along a stone wall and view some panels of art that tell a story.

    …a broad jagged crack runs across a panel or two, but the story is still readable: first, primordial chaos leads to a flourishing of many animal species. Next, we see the Tree of Life surrounded by diverse animals…an obvious allusion (or, in showbiz lingo, a tie-in) to the gigantic Tree of Life that dominates the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom…But it’s rendered in historically correct style and could probably fool anyone who didn’t have a PhD in Indian art history.

    The next panel shows a mustachioed H. sapiens chopping down the Tree of Life with a scimitar, and the animals fleeing every which way. The one after that shows the misguided human getting walloped by a tidal wave, part of a latter-day Deluge presumably brought on by his stupidity.

    The final panel, then, portrays the Sapling of Life beginning to grow back, but now man has ditched the edged weapon and joined the other animals in standing around to adore and praise it.

    Clearly, this exhibit communicates a specific worldview, and it strongly implies that this worldview is consistent with traditional Indian religion and culture. Most viewers will assume the connection without doing further research as to its correctness or lack thereof.

    I’d observe that as a general matter, the sensorial interface is less open to challenge than the textual interface. It doesn’t argue–doesn’t present you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 with a chain of facts and logic that let you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 sit back and say, “Hey, wait a minute–I’m not so sure about that.” It just sucks you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 into its own point of view.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Film, Human Behavior, Internet, Obama, Tech | 9 Comments »

    Murder, Suicide, and Society

    Posted by David Foster on 12th August 2019 (All posts by )

    A collection of worthwhile…if not very cheerful…links from .

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 13 Comments »

    Under Pressure

    Posted by on 6th August 2019 (All posts by )

    On summer nights, in the suburb where I lived in the late 1980ies, I often heard gunfire at night – a regular popping kind of noise, like pebbles dropping into a metal bucket. The every-day noise of the city died away, as well as sounds of traffic on the highway between Zaragoza and Logrono. Very distant, of course – the firing range at Bardenas Reales was at least thirty miles north as the crow flies, but the sounds of artillery, air gunnery, and military war games carried quite well, under certain conditions. I was often reminded then, of accounts from both world wars – recollections of residents in France and England; miles from the front, but who could hear the war, at a distance. The popping sound of distant firing also reminded me of other accounts, like – of submarine warfare in WWI, and how pressure worked on the hulls of early submarines, quite often fatally to their crews.

    The noise – hissing, popping, creaks and groaning, as the pressure builds, and builds. I cannot help thinking that the shootings in an El Paso Walmart, at a bar in Dayton, and at the Gilroy garlic festival are symptomatic of pressure building to a nearly unbearable level. Those you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng men, the shooters in each case (as well as earlier shooters like Dylan Roof and Adam Lanza) are the weakest rivets popping loose. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Media, The Press, USA | 36 Comments »

    More Than Crazy Years

    Posted by on 1st August 2019 (All posts by )

    Yes, the great science fiction visionary, Robert A. Heinlein (PBUH) an Annapolis grad and serving naval officer who was discharged for reasons of health early on in what might have been a promising naval career at the right time and in the right generation to have made a significant command mark in WWII, generated the concept of the crazy years. But I wonder if he had the slightest clue of the far-frozen limits of bug-house, chewing-at-the-restraints, raving-at-the-moon crazy that current political figures, media personalities, self-styled internet stars, and academic t*ats would achieve … and just in the last week or so. Really, under the old rules of civility, the ones that I grew to adulthood honoring, decent citizens would have just looked away, murmuring polite demurrals and excuses under their breath, while deleting the offending party from their address book and never inviting them to their neighborhood potlucks any more … but now the crazy has got to such an extent that one can hardly keep up.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, The Press, Urban Issues | 24 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2019 (All posts by )

    Haven’t posted one of these for while, so here are a few links I found interesting…

    Tom Wolfe on .

    as an enemy of shade.

    on the human tendency to assume that the conditions of the past still apply. (Even the purely imagined and stereotypical conditions of the past, in some cases, I’d add)

    Interesting ‘blog’ by . (Actually a Twitter feed…people who are on Twitter would IMO do well to mirror all content onto a traditional blog unless they are willing to have their work at the mercy of Jack Dorsey and his minions)

    Despite all the concern and hype about Russian hacking, . See also this case of a former GE engineer and a businessman , with the “financial and other support” of the Chinese government. Additionally, see my post So, really want to talk about foreign intervention?

    Posted in Big Government, Blogging, China, Deep Thoughts, Feminism, History, Human Behavior, Science, Space, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Fear of Freedom?

    Posted by David Foster on 16th July 2019 (All posts by )

    links to an article by …

    On any given day, a handful of millennials will come into my office and express their most pressing concerns: “I’m worried I’ll never make enough money to retire.” “I feel like a failure.” “I don’t know if I’m setting up my adult life the right way.”

    But the complaint they bring up the most? “I have too many choices and I can’t decide what to do. What if I make the wrong choice?”

    Now, I think that ‘generational’ explanations of social phenomena should be taken with multiple carloads of salt: individual differences are IMO much more significant than generational differences. And the people this therapist has been working with are not just millennials, but San Francisco area millennials. Still, this pushback against having too many choices is unpleasantly reminiscent of the you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng German who was quoted as saying, shortly before the outbreak of World War II: “We Germans are so happy. We are free of freedom.”

    To the extent that this phenomenon is real and is general, I would suspect several factors of being implicated. Specifically:

    ***The focus on “self-esteem building”, which seems to have the effect of producing people whose self-esteem is brittle and cannot withstand failure or contradiction.

    ***The trend toward child-raising in organized group settings…usually for-profit organized group settings…which may tend to create more orientation toward group conformity and less individuality than the more traditional “artisanal” at-500vip彩票安卓下载官网 child raising.

    ***Increasing years of schooling, which can delay growing up. Peter Drucker observed that when you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re in school, it’s all about you500vip彩票安卓下载官网, unlike the working world where it’s all about doing things that are of value to others. (FWIW, Drucker also said he observed striking levels of immaturity in many medical students because of this factor.)

    Anecdotal evidence only, but I have observed that people with many years of education–specifically, people with graduate degrees–are often reluctant to try new approaches to things. Whether it’s an MBA or a Masters in Computer Science, they often want to stick close to the paradigms they were given in the classroom. It would be interesting for someone to systematically study the relationship between education and mental rigidity.

    ***Finally, there is general social change and disorganization. Stuart writes: “Back in the day, when society was organized and where people understood their duties and obligations, these decisions were far less difficult and far less onerous”…the decisions were less onerous, but of course many people felt constrained–and often were constrained–in ways they did not want to be.

    Someone writing in an aviation magazine observed that “if you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 do anything with you500vip彩票安卓下载官网r airplane that is not consistent with the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, then you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 are a test pilot.” In a society, the equivalent of the POH is the aggregate of laws, customs, and implicit expectations that guide behavior. There is no doubt that any society’s POH needs constant updating, and sometime major changes–but when major changes do occur, they will be disorienting to many people, and it seems that a nontrivial number of them will react by wishing for more constraints.

    Some people thrive as test pilots–either of aircraft or in a societal setting–but many do not, including many people who would be perfectly adequate or even excellent pilots in a more-defined setting.

    One of the major problems we have in America today is that so many of the people who have taken it upon themselves to totally rewrite the societal POH are people who are lacking in practical experience, historical knowledge, and ‘skin in the game.’ To continue the aviation analogy, it is as if a POH was rewritten by people who had no background in aeronautical engineering, no experience or minimal experience in flying aircraft, and (in many cases) absolutely no intent of either flying or flying in those aircraft being operated in conformity with their documents.

    What proportion of the people in a society can lose belief in the value of individual freedom before they destroy that freedom for everyone, including those who do value it, and how close are we to that point?

     

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, USA | 28 Comments »

    Perception and…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Culture? Language? Genetics?

    , writing in the WSJ, discusses an interesting experiment on problem solving in very you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng children which was run by two researchers at UC San Diego, following on to research in which Gopnik was herself involved. Children of various ages were shown a machine that lights up when you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 put a block of a certain color or shape on it. “Even toddlers can easily figure out that a green block makes the machine go while a blue block doesn’t.”

    The researchers wondered: what if the test was of the relationship between objects..say, two square blocks of the same color made the machine light up, but not two blocks of different colors?

    For American children, 18-month-old children had no trouble figuring out that the relationship between the objects was the key thing. But older American children, 3-year-olds, did worse at the relationship test than did their you500vip彩票安卓下载官网nger counterparts. For Chinese children, however, the fall-off in relationship-assessing performance between 18 months and 3 years old did not happen.

    Here’s a of the paper’s main points, and here’s .

    Why the fall-off for American kids? (A temporary fall-off, it seems…the researchers say that the American kids recover their relationship-assessing skills between the ages of 4-6 years.) One hypothesis is language….possibly the “noun spurt” that is said to characterize early-English learning has something to do with it. Or perhaps there are broader cultural factors: “In particular, there are well-documented differ- ences in holistic and analytic processing (and relatedly, collectivist and individualist cognitive styles) across cultures, which may simi- larly result in an emphasis on relationships between entities or on characteristics of individual entities. More broadly, environmental variation across these learning contexts (e.g., socioeconomic status, number of siblings, and pedagogical and child- rearing practices) may differentially affect general cognitive skills that are known to influence relational reasoning, like executive function.” (quoted from the paper)

    Or, perhaps, could there be a genetic explanation?…Would children of Chinese ancestry, raised in the US in English-speaking 500vip彩票安卓下载官网s, show more often the Chinese pattern or the American pattern in these experiments? While a genetic explanation seems unlikely to me, I would think it should at least be considered.

    Most likely, to me, seems the language explanation. , which has also been dubbed ‘linguistic relativity’, holds that the language we speak has a major impact on how we perceive the world…it fell into some disrepute after WWII because of its appropriation by the Nazis to make claims of cultural superiority and also because of some apparent errors in Whorf’s reporting, concerning for example the Inuit words for ‘snow’…it does make sense, however, that language has a significant impact on what thoughts can be most easily expressed and hence on what thoughts are most likely to be conceived.

    Posted in Academia, China, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, USA | 10 Comments »

    Heat and the Movies

    Posted by David Foster on 5th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Hot weather encourages feelings of gratitude for the existence of air conditioning, the primary inventor of which (at least as far as a practical system goes) was . His original motivation was not the improvement of human comfort, but rather solving air quality problems affecting the operations of a printing company. But A/C was quickly applied to the dehumidification and cooling of human was well as industrial environments.

    Initially, systems were large and expensive and hence better-fitted to businesses and other environments serving a lot of people than to individual 500vip彩票安卓下载官网s. One of the first industries that adopted air conditioning was the motion-picture theater industry, starting with an installation at Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theater in 1922.

    It makes sense to believe, and seems to be generally accepted, that the introduction of A/C had much to do with the great success of the movie industry…if the theater was one of the few places in town where you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 could be cool, then it would be nice to have enough new movies constantly coming out to justify going the the theater as often as possible.

    The same phenomenon applied with department stores…starting with a Hudson’s in Detroit in 1926…though I would think A/C was not quite as impactful in that case as in the case of the movies.

    BUT, with the introduction and constant improvement of 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 air conditioners, the process would have likely gone into reverse: if you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 can be cool at 500vip彩票安卓下载官网, there is less incentive to “go to the movies” unless there is something showing that you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 really want to see. Similarly with retail..although until the introduction of the consumer Internet, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 still needed to go to a store for most things.

    It is pretty common that a technology that helps a particular industry at one point will, later and with further development of that industry, harm that industry. Another example is the newspaper industry: one of the great enablers of the growth of the newspaper industry was the telegraph (along with the high-speed printing press and the Linotype machine.) But as digital communications (of which the telegraph was an early example) developed into data networks and ultimately the Internet, the ability to conveniently extend the information flow into the 500vip彩票安卓下载官网 was devastatingly harmful to that industry.

    Returning to the air conditioner, another impact of this technology has been geographical: making areas that were previously not-so-desirable for reasons of climate much more generally inhabitable…as in the cases of the US south and southwest.

    A/C is a significant consumer of energy in the form of electricity, and as it is more widely adopted in places such India, it will have a major impact on electricity consumption in those countries.

    Thoughts? Other industry examples?

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, History, Human Behavior, Internet, Tech | 35 Comments »

    Mice in a Maze

    Posted by on 18th June 2019 (All posts by )

    Arnade, Chris. Penguin Publishing Group, 2019.

    Chris Arnade certainly seems to have been called, and may well have been chosen, to help mitigate one of the great divisions of our time. Dignity complements, among others, Charles Murray’s with interviews and photos from what Murray would call “Fishtown,” or rather its extreme margin, whose inhabitants are simultaneously transient and rooted, strategizing to survive in ways often incomprehensible to the more cognitively gifted and emotionally stable. Learning to extend compassion and respect rather than mere pity (in its more negative variant), glib political “solutions,” and outright contempt is a challenge far too few Americans are willing to undertake. Matthew 22:14 seems unnervingly relevant in this context, and while the church as it is depicted among the people Dignity portrays is an overwhelmingly positive influence, more “front row” believers might take a moment to consider just how much better than the vast majority of us Arnade, a secular liberal, has done at reaching out to desperate communities. My advice to them is to buy and read this book, pray over it, maybe lend it out to others for discussion, and—without reinventing the wheel—do the Tocquevillian thing and organize/volunteer, with an eye to Luke 15. Because if the parables in that chapter aren’t about “back row” people, they don’t mean a damned thing.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Libertarianism, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Trump, USA | 31 Comments »

    Book Review: The Caine Mutiny

    Posted by David Foster on 18th May 2019 (All posts by )

    by Herman Wouk

    —-

    (reposted in honor of Herman Wouk, who died yesterday at the age of 103)

    Just about everyone has seen the movie based on this book, featuring Humphrey Bogart’s famous performance as Captain Queeg. The movie is indeed excellent–the book is even better, and contains a lot that is absent from the film. And while the film ends basically after the court-martial scene, the book continues to follow the USS Caine and key characters for the duration of the war. In this review, I won’t worry about spoilers re plot elements that were included in the movie, but will try to minimize them as far as other aspects of the book are concerned. After summarizing the story, I’ll comment on some of the issue raised by the book. (A 2005 article, referencing The Caine Mutiny, refers to Wouk as “the first neoconservative.”)

    Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg, a rigid and insecure man, is appointed during WWII to the command of Caine, a decrepit old destroyer-minesweeper…the ship and its slovenly-appearing crew are described as being part of the “hoodlum navy.” This is Queeg’s first command, and he is desperately concerned to make it a success, deeply afraid of making a mistake which will lead to his failure. Ironically, it is specifically this fear of failure and perceived need for perfection which is responsible for many, perhaps most, of his troubles. When Caine runs aground the first time Queeg takes her out, he fails to submit the required grounding report for fear of higher authority’s reaction. When the ship cuts her own towline while assigned to target-towing duty, Queeg cannot make up him mind whether or not to attempt recovery of the drifting target–and radios in for instructions. Incidents like these do not inspire confidence in Queeg on the part of his superiors.

    The officers and crew of Caine also lose confidence in the captain as his obsessive-compulsive behavior becomes increasingly problematic. As a result of several incidents during combat, there are also concerns about Queeg’s personal courage. While no one aboard Caine likes Queeg once they get to know him, the captain’s most vocal critic is an officer named Thomas Keefer, an intellectual who is an aspiring novelist. Keefer has a cynical attitude toward the Navy, which he refers to as “a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots,” and advises Willie Keith, a you500vip彩票安卓下载官网ng officer who is his subordinate, that “If you500vip彩票安卓下载官网’re not an idiot, but find you500vip彩票安卓下载官网rself in the Navy, you500vip彩票安卓下载官网 can only operate well by pretending to be one.”

    The ship’s executive officer is Steve Maryk. In civilian life a commercial fisherman, Maryk now hopes to make the Navy his career. Maryk is a fine seaman and a good leader, but not a highly-educated man–he is somewhat in awe of Tom Keefer’s intellectual attainments.

    In repeated conversations, Keefer tells Maryk that the captain must be mentally ill, using psychological jargon and concepts that Maryk does not pretend to understand. Maryk is concerned enough about Queeg’s behavior that he begins keeping a “medical log” on Queeg, with the idea of presenting this to higher authority if necessary and possible. The time seems right when Caine shares an anchorage with the battleship carrying Admiral Halsey: Maryk takes his log, takes Keefer in tow, and heads over to the New Jersey to see if they can speak with the Admiral. But Keefer, at the last moment, chickens out, asserting that Halsey, with his experience aboard large well-managed ships, would never be able to understand the state of things aboard a hoodlum-navy ship like Caine, and that raising the issue with him would only get the two of them in trouble. Feeling unable to make the case without support, Maryk gives up on talking to Halsey and the two officers return to Caine.

    But soon thereafter, the old ship encounters a typhooon. Fleet course is 180 degrees, due south–away from the wind–and Queeg refuses to adopt the safer course of heading into the wind even though communication with other ships, as well as radar contact, has been lost.

    An unbelievably big gray wave loomed on the port side, high over the bridge. It came smashing down. Water spouted into the wheelhouse from the open wing, flooding to Willie’s knees. The water felt surprisingly warm and sticky, like blood. “Sir, we’re shipping water on the goddamn bridge!” said Maryk shrilly. “We’ve got to come around into the wind!”

    “Heading 245, sir.” Stilwell’s voice was sobbing. “She ain’t answering to the engines at all, sir!”

    The Caine rolled almost completely over on its port side. Everybody in the wheelhouse except Stilwell went sliding across the streaming deck and piled up against the windows. The sea was under their noses, dashing up against the glass. “Mr Maryk, the light on this gyro just went out!” screamed Stilwell, clinging desperately to the wheel. The wind howled and shrieked in Willie’s ears. He lay on his face on the deck, tumbling around in salt water, flailing for a grip at something solid.

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Nautical Book Project, Reruns, Transportation | 9 Comments »

     

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