Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book from the 1890s "Might Is Right" seems related to radicalization in the recent Gilroy CA incident

Richard Winton et al write in the Los Angeles Times that the gunman in Gilroy Garlic Festival, CA had followed literature on both the far left and far right and seemed to be fascinated with authoritarianism. 
But it is particularly interesting and disturbing that he seemed to follow the philosophy of a book from 1896, “Might Is Right: The Survival of the Fittest”, still available on Amazon, with pseudonymous author Ragnar Redbeard, with republication listed on Amazon as from Underworld Amusements.

The Wikipedia article confirms that the book says what the title would lead you to expect it to say, starting with social darwinsm.  It could be related at a personal level to what psychologists call “upward affiliation” and avoidance of relationships with people who fall short of fulfilling fantastic expectations.

It’s odd that an old book, of a vintage for high school classes, and possibly of academic interest, would figure in to radicalization of someone.  It was common when I was in high school for authoritarian and controversial ideologies to be presented, even eugenics, as long as they were presented negatively.
This shows that there is real asymmetry in the acceptability of some systems of thought between the Left and Right. 

It also shows that you may not need the Internet for radicalization. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Richard Preston's "Crisis in the Red Zone" is reportedly a terrifying sequel to "The Hot Zone"

The Wall Street Journal’s William F. Bynum reviews a new book by Robert Preston, “Crisis In the Red Zone: A Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History, and of the Outbreaks to Come”, review link (paywall), from Random House, 400 pages.
I remember buying an old copy of “The Hot Zone” at a book fair in my employer’s (USLICO in Arlington VA) cafeteria in the mid 1990s.  That book started out with an encounter with Marburg (a cousin of Ebola) in the bat caves of India, where the man started vomiting on a flight home and never recovered.
He had an outbreak where several people came back to the US in late 2014;  one died in Texas, and there were a couple of cases of people violating the quarantine rules. Sierra Leone and Liberia were the epicenters then (it’s ironic that USLICO used to own a Liberian ship registry) but now it seems to be the Republic of the Congo.

I had read some of the book at lunch at USLICO and was starting to work on my own first DADT book at the time, and they called me “Ebola Bill”.  But it isn’t funny now.
Preston has even speculated (according to the article) that there is fear that Ebola could mutate into an airborne form, much more likely than some of the right-wing speculations for HIV in the mid 1980s.
Stanford student Jack Andraka went to Sierra Leone for a few weeks on a Truman Scholarship project in the summer of 2018 and he says he was not offered the experimental Ebola vaccine (not mentioned in the review). I was under the impression that he may return this summer.  He even broke his foot there but recovered quickly, apparently.  But it is risky to study and volunteer in developing countries.

Several news outlets report that a Congo student in medical isolation after recovering from Ebola found a way to take his entrance exams. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DC kids in poor neighborhoods write poems about the unwillingness of richer people to enter their communities

A young black man in SE Washington DC wrote a poem a week before he and his father were shot and killed in their apartment.

A news story in the Washington Post Metro on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 runs a poem by Akhil Washington-Scruggs. 

The poet is critical of the fact that wealthier people protect themselves by simply not taking the risk of coming into his neighborhood, a fact which he says communicates hate.

In 2016, I backed out of driving deliveries for Food and Friends because I see driving in some neighborhoods as no-go.  If something happens, like a carjacking, it’s over.
Uber drivers don’t have that luxury.

Monday, July 22, 2019

National Geographic article about Chimu culture looks at child sacrifice that is nothing more

Kristin Romey and photographer Robert Clark, in the February 2019 issue of National Geographic, present the narrative (paywall) of the Chimu people in coastal Peru, who about five centuries ago created one of the largest human sacrifices on record, apparently (according to anthropologists) of their most gifted children. I saw this article today on a table at a car dealership, although I would have received it by mail months ago. 
The sacrifices apparently came after a climate change – a lesson – and were made to appease the gods.  The people would eventually be conquered by the Incas.

Of course, we may hear of other such narratives among groups like the Maya, whose civilization was even more sophisticated than we had thought.

But the event 500 years ago is particularly disturbing.  This was a deliberate sacrifice of children for the stability of the state. This was not even honorable in the sense of young men who lost their lives in a necessary battle. This was sacrifice – abnegation or erasure for its own sake, to prove that sometimes it happens – pure fascism.

Some people might see the Vietnam war, with its draft supported by student deferments for the privileged until 1969 as comparable. But in this ancient history case, the kids were already privileged, and their destruction seems to have been painful, graphic and brutal, even more so than suicide bombers today.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Buzzfeednews covers the Andy Ngo beating in Portland OR in detail, and shadows his career

Joseph Bernstein has a booklet length article on Buzzfeednews of his shadowing of the career of journalist Andy Ngo, who was attacked with serious head injuries while filming an Antifa demonstration in Portland OR.

David Rubin’s interview with Ngo is interesting, where at 22:00 Ngo explains how some Antifa people rationalize petty political violence because they see speech by the “privileged” as a kind of implicit violence, because the right (according to them) is a lot more responsible for terror and violence against marginalized groups than even the far Left, and there is some validity to that.
Bernstein gives he history of Ngo’s career, building it up and suggests that Ngo benefits from the notoriety of covering psychologically unhinged people.  Indeed, the expectation of coverage may encourage more violent protests.  He also covers Ngo’s family’s experience with communism in Vietnam after the US left in 1975.

Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Portland OR picture, CCSA 3.0. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

NYTimes: How the Notre-Dame was almost a total loss

The New York Times has an exclusive booklet article, which is well illustrated with animated gifs and interactive diagrams in the online version. It is “Notre-Dame came far closer to collapsing than people knew; this is how it was saved”.

There are multiple authors: Elian Peltier, James Glanz, Mika Grondahl, Weiyi Cai, Adam Nossiter, and Liz Alderman.

A new employee noticed the alarm, and another person went to the wrong place, losing precious time.

It sill isn’t clear what started the fire, but the Catherdral had obviously not been properly maintained, given the resources of the church.  And now the funds required are a political flashpoint given all the Yellow Vest protests.

Many firefighters, including women, took unknown risks climbing into the inferno to prevent total collapse.
By Joëlle Lévy - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Lempi of Finn Hollow": children's viewpoint of immigrant life for Finns in late 19th century

The children’s book “Lempi of Finn Hollow” is a large-format children’s paperback sold ($5) on the groups of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, north of Painesville (on Richnmond Highway and SR 385, just about three miles, on Lake Erie).

The book is authored by Elaine Lillback and is based on the life of Lempi Johanna Sironen Juuti Tokka (1889-1987) and is a sequel to “Finn Hollow of Fairport, Ohio”.  The publisher is Painesville, Publisning Co in Painesvlle (about 25 miles east of downtown Cleveland on US 20). There is no ISBN apparent or UPC code. 

The book describes a difficult ship crossing of immigrants from Finland, becoming less hospitable because of Czarist Russian influence.  Lempi is born two or so years after the crossing on High Street, a few blocks from the Lake.

The immigrants are opportunistic in terms of work all over the northeast, including the iron mines in Minnesota, to heavy steel and tool industries in the northeast.  But many of them settle in northeast Ohio and work for a shipping company.

The families go through the labor of manually moving their homes when the docking company demands their land, and the experience is seen through children’s eyes.  Families get together and raise money to start cooperative retail businesses.
Religious upbringing is very communal.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Vox: "The War to Free Science" and the high cost of paywalls for academic journals, and the role of the "Books in Print" company

Brian Resnick and Jullia Belluz have a Vox booklet (illustrations by Xavier Zarracina) “The War to Free Science”.  The subtitle is quite telling “How librarians, pirates and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls.”

The article notes that there are 27,500 scientists affiliated with the University of California.  (Young nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson is affiliated with the University of Nevada in Reno.)

In February 2019 the University of California System ended its $11 million subscription to Reed Elsevier, the largest owner of academic journals.

The company is also known for “Books in Print”, which I got to know pretty well when I got my ISBN log book for my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book in 1997.  It was mailed to me on a piece of computer paper for about $200 as I recall.  I should have it somewhere. The imprint at the time was called “High Productivity Publishing”.

I even considered doing a little contract work for them in the spring of 2002 after my “career ending” layoff at the end of 2001 (when I was still in Minneapolis).

Vox goes on to describe the push for some kind of open access, and other funding mechanisms for the necessary peer reviews for academic journals.

Jack Andraka had talked about the problem around 2015 or so after he won his Science Fair prize for his work on diagnosing future risk for pancreatic cancer inexpensively.

He says that access to research journals was a big deal when he started the work.  Fortunately, when he found a sponsor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, he had access.  But to get access to the articles to even write the original proposal was a problem.

Basic research continues in fields like theoretical physics, where the mathematics of some objects (like Lie groups) gets us closer to an understanding of why we even exist and whether we could become immortal. It all gets peer reviewed.  This is real publishing.
This is a problem Electronic Frontier Foundation could do more work on.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Old book on "Sissy Boy Syndrome" might have clues (however objectionable) for real developmental disorders

I found a book review in the New York Times of a 1986 book by Dr. Richard Green, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality”, published by the Yale University Press in February 1987, article by Jane E. Brody.

Why would I bring up such an old chestnut?  This was a sacrosanct idea as far back as the early 60s, pre-Stonewall, when the male-only military draft influenced things (leading to Vietnam); there was an idea that men had a Spartan obligation to prove themselves worthy physically, father children and protect women and children for the future of the tribe;  those who failed to do so were viewed as moochers or even cowards, willing to allow the male risk-taking to be shifted to others. Indeed, some of the demand to respect gender fluidity from the woke left today is motivated by a desire to break up this kind of oppressive thinking from the past. (In the 1980s, when this book was published, the dangers of behavior in a community amplifying HIV within itself would have been relevant.)

Before going further, we’ll note a CNN short documentary that discredits the study.

Actually, I’m trying to figure out my own past.

Apparently as a youth I did have some sort of Developmental Coordination Disorder, or dyspraxia, which seems to have genetic causes distantly related to autism and Asperger’s, but is often very mild and sometimes is outgrown in puberty.  Sometimes boys with this presentation will have unique talents (like music) that seem to come at the cost of other capacities, almost as if there were a premature brain pruning process.

On the other hand, at NIH in 1962, I was officially diagnosed as having “schizoid personality disorder”, probably with some schizotypal thoughts or feelings or fantasies.  This is in Group A of the DSM personality disorders, distantly related to schizophrenia in some families, so it may have a genetic basis, but not the same as autism. 

A schizoid understands the emotions of others, but does not personally want to join in and share tribal or brotherly warmth with others, and remains aloof to making emotional commitments required for a life-long marriage that can raise children and endure unpredictable risks and challenges to intimacy. As Asperger person supposedly doesn’t understand them. But with dyspraxia, the behavior pattern may tend to fit closer to schizoid, so it is very hard to figure out what genetic or epigenetic or familial neurological processes are actually happening.

On my mother’s side of the family, several males seem to fit the schizoid pattern.  Most have done fairly well in life because they can adapt by doing well at their own jobs, which are often solitary (like writing software) rather than working with others (like salesmanship or leading others in a political movement).

In fact, both schizoids and people with mild Asperger’s often do very well in a modern technological individualistic society (they can literally outflank others) but would not survive in a more primitive, communal one.

I never encountered a lot of dyspraxia until I was in Basic Combat Training in the Army, in 1968 at Fort Jackson, where it seems in retrospect that most of the other men in Special Training Company displayed the same syndrome. They had been drafted to prove they were not moochers. Imagine how that would play out with the politics today. I got better at housekeeping, cleaning and reassembling a rifle, etc. but after leaving the Army I went back to my old habits gradually and lost the improved coordination I had learned.  That alone is an interesting finding.

It seems intuitive that some of this would lead back to homosexuality in men. But no one really talks about this. The 1980s article seems a bit flawed. It says that only about one third of gay men were typically “masculine” as boys.  I find, in my own interactions, that if you exclude those who want to be viewed as gender fluid (and they are still a distinct minority within LGBTQ), probably 75% of the men were normally “masculine” growing up, but maybe a quarter were not.  Among gay men, a substantial fraction are physically fit enough to be able to play professional sports or compete in Olympics.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

"Teenagers Pray": a Sunday school guide from 1955, hardcover, still on my nightstand after downsizing out of a house

Haven’t done a book review here in a while, and I found this 1955 prayer book that survived my downsizing (in 1977) the other day under my nightstand.

It’s “Teenagers Pray”, from Concordia House, written and edited by William Kramer.

This book was published during the first Eisenhower administration. The current building of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC opened on Christmas Day 1955 under Dr. Pruden, and this book predates that.

Running 79 pages, it comprises pre-written prayers, for days of the week, and for interesting personal situations, such as before a date, and after a date.  Those were the days, when the expectation was marriage and procreation.

There is a prayer for Ascension.  That today makes me think of Jesus as an “alien” who remains young forever by time dilation while speeding to other planets near light speed.
Relativity matters to faith.  Most of our ancestors lived on what they perceived as an infinite flat earth with no boundaries, because a sphere has none.  In four dimensional space, the Universe may likewise have no boundaries as we normally understand it.  Maybe Clive Barker really had the Universe figured out with his 1991 book “Imajica”, which still needs to be filmed.

I can remember one time being told in Sunday school, maybe around 1956, that public prayer matters. And other faiths, ranging from Catholicism to Islam, make public prayer a real expectation.
The Amazon insert is for a different but similar (more recent) book.