Chapter 11: Dating & Aristocratic Genes.
I wish there
were a few rich widows around here.
You could probably advertise. Having a little girl who can
be dressed up and spoiled immensely should be a selling point.
We do have adverts on the 'net, but
it doesn't work much. I'm probably targeting the wrong market.
I suspect that the net has yet to
reach most middle aged people in this part of the world. Respondents tend
to be older (not so good with young children) or teachers (not rich) or
both. One older lady was going on about taking off-peak holidays and
things like that. I had gently to point out that schoolchildren are
confined to school holidays, this is what makes the peaks. I think she
thought in terms of being a grandmother not a parent.
Someone once suggested I ought to go
to Florida and become a kept man.
Why not? You're cute
enough. Though the weather in Florida is horrible.
Well that's one good reason. Gun law is another. I must
say cute is not an adjective that would occur to me to describe myself.
Maybe I should advertise myself as cute.
Men age better than women
do. I won't look as good at your current age as you do.
<blush> I know I'm pretty lucky that way, and I talked in
another place about how Lyudmila aged past me like I was standing still.
But she was ever critical of my weight (85-90kg),
How? Why? Unless
you're four feet tall, I hardly think that's an unreasonable weight.
My husband outweighs you by about sixty pounds, and he doesn't even have to
shop in weirdly large-size stores. But then I'm in America, land of
the Big Behinds.
Yes, I've noticed. Why do they have to wear shorts too? I
don't suppose I'm fat by American standards.
Hey! I have a big
American bottom. The reason we wear shorts is it gets so freaking hot
here. Not hot the way it gets in Britain, where people start
collapsing of heat stroke when it hits 23°C, but hot as in 40°C, with 80%
humidity. Personally, I feel it makes sense to wear something that
covers one from head to toe, of very light-weight cotton, that's like a
light dress, but most of the rest of us feel cooler in shorts. I have
enough sun damage for one lifetime; i don't feel the need for any
I've nothing against big behinds of any nationality per se, but
there is no need to rub it in. I would have thought a light dress or
skirt, or even loose shorts would be cooler. I just recall on visits
to the States watching HUGE arses straining a pair of shorts almost to
destruction as they waddled up to a burger bar, and wondering "Why do they
do that?" Usually female, men at least tended to wear loose ones which
didn't look quite so ridiculous. I presumed they thought it looked
attractive, but I don't have a bum fetish.
That is what I have
found. Plus it looks so much better. IMO, no one over 25 should
wear shorts in public unless they are participating in a marathon or
triathlon or something.
and I feel unattractive because of that.
You shouldn't. It's not
that important to women, and as long as you are not necessarily looking for
Naomi Campbell, I don't think it will be a problem.
You mean I should give up on Naomi? Pity. :-)
I have always thought she
sounds like a spoiled brat, but she is gorgeous.
Actually I was more
interested in Nigella Lawson, cookery writer, broadcaster and daughter of
Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequor. She was once voted
the 3rd most beautiful woman in the UK, she recently lost her husband to
throat cancer very publicly (he, John Diamond, was a journalist, documented
the entire yucky story in his paper, and made a TV documentary of it to
boot.) and has two small children. Just my
Well, what are you waiting for? Though Nigella... what
would you call her for a pet name?
"Goddess" probably. One of
her books was called something like "How to be a domestic goddess."
Her father was Nigel, and rather self-important. He claims he didn't
name her after him, but nobody believes him. I guess the guy who more
or less single handedly engineered a crash of the London Stock Market has a
right to feel important.
And to answer the first question, I don't like
to get involved in competing with half a million other guys for the same
prize. Same reason why I don't do the lottery. I did draft a
letter of sympathy after her husband died, writing as one involved in cancer
partner support, but reading it back felt it was intrusive and ripped it
Maybe I'm wrong. There are thousands of guys in the UK who's
partners died of cancer leaving young children, and the majority of them
probably fancy her. So hundreds probably wrote to her. But by
that reckoning thousands would be writing to a.s.c.b. and they don't, we get
what, 3 or 4, from the whole English-speaking world, so my statistics must
be off somewhere. Maybe I'll rethink that. I think the class
barrier has something to do with it, its probably really because she's an
Well, I am, too, if you want to get technical about it.
Nana, my paternal grandfather's mother, was a baroness and never let anyone
forget it. (I tastefully never pointed out that perhaps it was exactly
that behavior that caused Russia to become so uncomfortable for her.)
seriously, I think as an American I just utterly cannot understand a class
barrier. I don't want to put you down; I know it is real to you and it
does make a difference, but I guess that's the difference in our
I'm not sure whether it was
really relevant or just a talking point. I don't think I really meant class
was a sticking point, more just a handle for a cluster of things.
aristocrats are different because the structures which supported their
separation from the proletariat have failed and they are forced to mix with
the rest of us. Yes, ha ha, and as far as I can see, they roundly deserved
it. One of Lyuda's college friends was the granddaughter of
some military leader who led the Russian army in some great battle. There
was a statue to him in the main square, but she never mentioned it, and when
asked just said "Oh, I thought you knew."
That phenomenon happens quite a
bit in University. In the 80's my then girlfriend and I befriended a
waitress in a pizza bar. She was very pretty and intelligent, and
turned out to be the daughter of the retired Persian PTT minister. She
was studying in the UK and had got stranded by the revolution in what had
just become Iran. She couldn't get money out and had to live on her
Another incident, a friend of mine had a far-eastern postgrad
student (Malaysia maybe). Something prompted him to check out a
dictionary, and he found that what he thought was her first name actually
translated as 'Princess'. She was embarrassed when confronted and
asked that it be kept quiet, but when she left she said "Do come and visit
me sometime. Address?, Oh just ask for me at the palace."
What a lovely thing to be
able to say.
It has an olde-worlde ring to it. It reminds me of getting
faxes sent to the St Petersburg telegraph office in Russia. My
address was simply "Jackson, St Petersburg". That made me feel
important. They had only just got the technology (in 1991!) and
there was so little traffic that was all they needed.
Yes, I remember that.
I sent CARE packages, etc. to a friend in Latvia for several years in the
late '80s and early '90s, and when the Berlin
Wall fell in '89 I was
desperate to get in INSTANT contact with him. I finally had to send
him a telegram. In it, I asked for a fax number. His reply,
among other things, was, "What?"
Speaking as a female, I'd rather be clasped to the bosom of a
male with a fair amount of meat on his bones. It's much more
Her point was that she would rather be clasped to my bosom
than to my belly. She liked looking at a guy with a flat stomach and was
disappointed that it wasn't on the menu any more. When one is lying spoon fashion, a beer
belly fits neatly in the small of
one's back. To be fair
she was even more disappointed with the degradation of her own offering, and
criticised herself more than me. She was forever struggling with
weight and insisted on periodic diets and fasts which I felt were
self-defeating. She bought a wardrobe full of charity-shop clothes a
size too small that she was "Going to wear when she lost weight." We
had a joke because once she was asked to answer a questionaire for the
local papers's 'personality of the week' column, and for "What would
you like your epitaph to be?" I suggested "Here lies Lyudmila, size
14, honest." That is what they printed, but I resisted the temptation
when actually ordering the headstone. It was all a bit tongue in
cheek, she gave her favourite occupation as "Ironing my husband's shirts."
Tee hee. I
actually like ironing. It's like cleaning silver; you get instant
results and it looks SO much better.
And you'd be amazed at the
number of men who won't eat this or that because they're dieting. I
always say I enjoy cooking for men because they'll eat anything and love it,
but that is more and more often untrue. My brother now picks the beef
out of my beef stew carbonnade, the poophead. And my father won't eat
dessert anymore. God, I grew up learning to cook very high-fat,
delicious food. I may have to revise my entire cooking
I have never believed in dieting as a cure for
anything. I think my body knows what it wants to eat better than
my mind does. I have to have a damn good reason for telling it it's
wrong. (Same as bringing up kids really)
I know I could fix it at a price in time and effort, but it is not
enough of a priority right now and I'm not sure it ever would be.
British (but not Russian) women are mostly put off by beards. I know
that's easy to change but it would probably be making the wrong sort of
statement to do so. This has been me since I was 18 and I'm kind of
attached to it.
Especially if it's hiding a weak
chin, enormous wart or port wine birthmark in the shape of a chicken. :)
I don't mind beards, personally, as long as food doesn't get stuck in
them. Also, if a male with a beard performs a certain sexual service
upon one and then doesn't wash his face in the morning, all and sundry who
pass one and him by know what he did to one last night.
(mortification) Pardon the not-so-elevated tone, but it is a concern for
I think we should draw a discreet line under that thread. We
usually liked to end lovemaking with a shower together, so it shouldn't have
been a problem.
Actually I did once date a local rich
widow, but she ended up marrying a much richer and older guy. She was fun
to be around, but more like a sister than a girlfriend.
Yeah. I would take out print ads in things like Town and
Country and Atlantic Review. Assuming you want a rich American
Ulp. I think I was
playing a game, not making business decisions. Ooh, sorry, I guess because I married in a
business decision I think everyone else has the same evil intentions.
I certainly wasn't taking it so seriously as to put real money behind
it. OK to pay the odd £10 membership fee to a website, that's beer money
being reused because I can't go out for a beer. This is a different
ballgame. You've opened a bag of worms here. Maybe this is what they mean
by a midlife crisis, but I think it has more to do with pushover from climb-out
to level flight.
Up till now that sort of thing
was out of the question. There were debts to pay off and a business to
restart, and expensive ads would classify as luxuries. OK, now I've
reached the point where I can have my life back, and such a decision would be
-possible-. I certainly hadn't thought the idea through in real terms, it
was a bit like dreaming of space travel. It probably isn't what I want
anyway, but it does beg the question "What do I
agencies allow users to post ads for free, and only pay for introductions to
other advertisers. I did a piece of 'creative writing' to sell us, not
pushy but it sparkled enough to show there was a brain behind it. What I
got was responses from journalists who made decent pen-pals for a while but
that's all. I suppose with hindsight that was predictable, and it was a
compliment to my writing, but that wasn't what I was trying to sell. I
guess that was market testing, and it showed that this was not the way to do
The trouble with
deciding what I really want is that it keeps changing. Most of the time I have
wanted a companion of some sort, but this week I seem to be quite misanthropic
and wonder why I should want anyone and what the hell is wrong with life as it
is. Sometimes I try to do a cost-benefit analysis. With my marriage
this was easy, you put Natasha in one scale pan and it tips that way whatever
you put in the other. The other costs and benefits of the marriage were
irrelevant, I could always argue that I wanted a child and any shortfall was the
price of getting one, and that covered a multitude of
Now its harder. I
want an intellectual companion, but as we see such a person need not be
physically local or emotionally unattached. I can get most of that (eg)
from writing to Catharine. I need to resolve the practical problems of
child-minding etc., but that can be a hired hand - I have Cindy to do that, at
least for now. What's left? A mother-figure for Natasha. A
sexual partner for me. Really that is all. Money - not really, I
never did care much about it - I'd rather have playtime. I have enough, OK
it's not a great deal and I have my cashflow crises now and again but there is
not much of my life I would sacrifice to get more money. I think the rich
widow scenario would probably do more to impose restrictions than offer
freedom. Cindy? - I'm equivocal - she's young (35), quite bright, sexy,
worldly, unattached, computer literate, not pretty, not healthy, not well
educated and not interested.
'Another Lyudmila' ie a
former-Soviet immigrant would be easy enough to get, I even got an
offer at the funeral.
Oh, heavens, how creepy. (Needing the gory details for no
good reason) Was this from an actual woman-looking-for-mate or someone who
knows a WLFM? Or worse, from someone who runs an agency?
OK, I'll have to admit to my little
contribution to sluthood.
Alla was a predator in person. She had been
in UK, in Portsmouth, for a year on a fiancee visa but her intended had got
cold feet. Lyudmila had met her through Lubov Youssopova (whom I
mentioned ages ago), I think Alla was couriering some money for her or v/v, I
don't know more than that. Anyway she had been to stay with us for a
couple of weeks that summer. I had to meet her at the
station. I asked Lyuda how to recognise her and Lyuda said "Oh, she's
about 40, fairly nondescript, but she'll be wearing a canary-yellow
jacket". Of course she wasn't on the train expected, and when after
about an hour and a half, a tall attractive titian haired lady with a stunning
figure walked up to me, it was a little while before I noticed the yellow
jacket. (The hair was dyed but the figure was natural).
Lyuda told me quite
a lot about her, like she reckoned Alla was gold-digging, and that she was
frustrated because she wasn't getting an effective sexual relationship with
her fiancee who was, to be fair, about 60. The fiancee phoned me a few
times for support. He seemed a reasonably nice guy, but totally naive in
chosing and making relationships.
So when the funeral came she was still
in UK and was of course on the guest list. I suggested she stay and help
sort out Lyuda's papers because I badly needed a bilingual assistant and she
was at a loose end, having only a couple of weeks left on her visa. So
she came (her fiancee even paid the train fare) and was a great help.
She was of course hoping that I would be able to keep her and extend her visa,
but the immigration authorities would not have permitted that anyway, and all
else being equal I was not in any position emotionally or financially to take
on another dependent (let alone dependent family - she had a 15yr old son in
Russia) at that time.
I was not surprised six months later to hear she was
now married to some guy in the Southwest UK, presumably someone she met while
living there. Good luck to both of them, I suspect they'll need
But if like Lyudmila it meant
supporting her for the rest of her life physically and emotionally, then it
probably isn't worth it.
They (the former-Soviet women) seem so desperate, too. I
would feel slightly icky about it -- as if I were taking advantage of her --
even though, in reality, she would be taking advantage of me.
Its a trade. It is mutual
supply and demand that is the binding force of relationships. If both
are taking advantage of each other then that makes a strong
It could mean someone young,
bright and attractive, and possibly more children, but that doesn't seem
terribly important now. And I would have to weigh the immediate sexual
attraction against the whole-life commitment, how long would I still want that,
what happens if/when we get out of synch. if that is all that holds it together?
Do I want to have teenage children when I am 70? Would she have health
problems? A fraught scenario, tempting now but my imagination runs scared
at the long term projection. It -would- be a way of keeping up Natasha's
Russian language skills.
Hmm. Sounds as though you need an attractive Russian au
pair, and let the chips fall where they may.
The chips tend to fall in the
wrong places and stick there. I had an 18yr old Russian student lodger
for a month. That was OK, but 18yr olds don't turn me on, and I doubt if
I turn them on either. I saw this as a female version of Artyom.
With an au-pair, even if I could find the space now Artyom is back, the
chances are I would just find myself living with someone who was a complete
irrelevance for an extended period. Statistically I would have to do
that several times before anything stuck, so it would take several years and
the clock is ticking.
I do enjoy being in control of
my life, I missed that while I was married. There is some satisfaction in
setting a course out of the mess we landed in, seeing it through and now
arriving at more or less the point I aimed at.Life is peaceful without
her, but perhaps too easy. I guess a holiday from demands doesn't
Yes. At this distance, I am proud of
the way you and Natasha seem to have come through this terrible experience
with everything more or less intact. I think that's a tribute to
your child-raising technique, and perhaps the level head on your
shoulders. I think you are entirely due some feelings of
satisfaction. You realize, of course, that this will all fall to sh*t
when Natasha is 15. (wide, evil grin)
Yes, I feel that even that degree
of normalcy would be vindication. I hope she is stunning and breaks lots
of hearts - payback time! Seven is a wonderful age and I am enjoying it
while it lasts. Old enough to talk to you, not old enough to talk
back. I wish she could stay seven for ever and ever.
Yes. I have often said that I would consider being a
mother if it could start at age six or seven. I consider that the age
where they become real people.
Thanks for listening.
Despite stories about inbred morons,
weak chins etc., it strikes me that most people I encounter from privileged
backgrounds have 'good genes', attractive, intelligent etc. (It obviously
shows in your generation.) My only question is why can't it work the other
way - I've got good genes, why can't I have a bit of privilege? Not that I
am not grateful for what I have, it -is- the most important part.
Do you think it's good genes, or do you think it's being able to
take advantage of things which enhance one's appearance and intelligence?
Like being sent to the best schools, being sent to the dermatologist when one
sprouts spots, being sent to the orthodontist when one's teeth start looking
These things all help I'm sure, but the best schools can't make
an idiot intelligent, and its hard to fake good skin, which is something I
particularly notice (possibly because, being short-sighted, girls' faces were
in focus when kissing.), and hence carrying years well.
(Gasp! You kept
your eyes open during kissing?!? You broke The
I wouldn't say "kept open", just "opened". I do get bored
easily and start looking around for something interesting to think about
after a while.
undoubtedly a weird teen boy. :) The ones I messed with seemed
quite happy to do nothing but have tongue in mouth. I thought it
was the girl's job to get bored.
Small things amuse small minds. Not so much of the teen
though, I didn't get many opportunities to practice as a teen.
Boys' school and all that.
I've always thought that
was the problem with Britain. No wonder you conquered the earth at
one time: your guys weren't tired from
A mouth isn't that big a place to explore, especially with the
limited reach of a tongue. :)
Limited reach? Some
people seem to be searching for my lunch, or at least my tonsils. I
must admit, though, that I think the role of the tongue when kissing is
rather over-rated. My sixth-grade biology teacher told us that the
human mouth was the most filthy place on the body, and that has never left me, sadly. My
sixth-grade biology teacher is a whole different story.
What sort of aliens were you kissing? I guess frog
princes would have pretty long tongues. My husband. He watches too much porn, and thinks
Did he turn into a prince?
Nope, he's still a
I thought that kissing was a sort of innoculation against the
viruses etc. that might later get transferred in more intimate exchanges
of bodily fluids. Oh, and
here I always thought it was payment for dinner and a
Your sixth-grade biology teacher was not perhaps suggesting
kissing another less than clean area at the other end of the alimentary
canal instead, as a polite form of a common insult?
No. I've heard it
since. He meant in contrast to a dog's or cat's mouth. I
believe we have more anaerobic bacteria in our mouths, even though we
don't lick the same things the dogs and cats do (or at least, not as often
as they do).
Mr. Pahl (Dr. Pahl, now) was a genius. He had been
almost finished with medical school when his wife got horribly sick and he
quit so he could earn money. He ended up teaching biology. He
was a trip! We had horrible pop quizzes, called bombs. His
exams were called blitzes.
That was the first year we dissected,
and he threw the dissection animals at us when he was handing them
out. They were sealed in plastic bags, but it was still pretty gross
and weird. I was beaned by a fetal pig when my lab partner choked
and missed it.
Have you ever seen those tremendously long, flexible
antennas that some people put on their pickup trucks? Mr. Pahl had
one of those. He called it his "nerd knocker." If you weren't
paying attention, you might hear a slight whistling noise and than CRACK
that thing bashed the top of your desk. I'm surprised he didn't put
someone's eye out with it. His aim was true, though.
I still have
nightmares about his anatomy pop tests. He had a skeleton hanging in
the front of the room, and he would call you up IN FRONT OF EVERYONE and
start whacking various bones with his nerd knocker. You had to spit
out the name of the bones as fast as he was knocking them. He did
the same thing with the muscles, AND we had to name insertion and exertion
points. I'm (or was) good at memorizing things, and I don't have
much stage fright, so this didn't bother me TOO much, but still, the
Seven years later, I came back to Austin (where
I was in college) with a horrible case of strep throat. My roommate
took me to the Student Health Center (otherwise known as the Quack Shack),
where they took one look at me and ambulanced me to Brackenridge, the big
hospital in the area. Imagine my surprise and confusion when,
through the clouds of delirium and
my 106° fever, Mr. Pahl's face swam
into view! He had, indeed, finished medical school and was in his
residency for trauma medicine. He said, "Catso!" (his nickname for
me) "You grew tits!" I was hospitalized there for four days, and he
visited me each day. What a sweet guy. And what a prince of a
teacher... after 26 years, I can still name most of the bones in the body
Yes, but idiot
children can be put into expensive schools for life if one is rich, and you
and I, who suffered through acne with only benzoyl peroxide available to us,
would not BELIEVE the stuff that dermatologists have for it these
days. Really, at the first bump on Natasha's face, take her to
one. There's no need for her to have
I do think these things tend to carry through impoverished
generations - my father was brought up in poverty in inner city slums and left
school at 14, and yet has had hardly any illness until now, and managed to get
a Master's degree, partly as a consequence of post-war retraining. He
still looked good enough at about 55 that my girlfriend thought him
fanciable. That's not to say he had an aristocratic ancestry, we have no
records beyond his parents, but it certainly suggests that nature had a bigger
hand than nurture in his case, and a lot of the traits -do- inherit as his
That's why I think that aristocratic ancestry does not prove anything
genetically. Your dad is obviously one of nature's
(Sorry... is there any more patronizing thing that I could have said than
In the evolutionary model it would make him a benign
There is a picture of my grandfather in 1922, when he was eighteen
or so, with braces on his teeth. I didn't even know orthodontia was
INVENTED then. But it obviously was, and his mom obviously wanted to take
advantage of it.
Personally, I think a lot of what seems to be nature's
blessings on the aristocracy is actually centuries of eating a variety of
food, e.g. fruit brought in at great expense in the dead of winter, meat when no
one else has it, etc. When the rest of the people are surviving on bread
and ale and the odd onion, of course the aristos are going to look
prettier. Tra la, off to get an MRI of my swanlike neck and
kids are taller and better proportioned than poor ones, but I don't think that
carries over. Naaah, that
would be Lamarckian evolution, and we don't believe in that these days.
On one hand, generations of good health care may improve the genes a
little, although I can't really see a mechanism for that, (more a matter of
don't think it improves the genes, but, for example, a rich mama who eats
better food during her baby's gestation is probably going to deliver a
healthier baby than a poor mama who eats bread and water.
Sure. I vaguely recall a survey of, I think, grandchildren of
women who were pregnant during the Leningrad seige which showed a
statistically significant disadvantage in things like birthweight and early
development. While I can't remember the details, it definitely was
suggested that deprivation during the -grandmother's- pregnancy can be a
factor in the child's development. So all is not quite so simple as we
Oh, wow. How very
interesting. (I'm not being in the least sarcastic.) I must find
that study somewhere. Thank heavens for Google.
but on the
other, being able to chose good-looking mates is going to have a much faster and
more significant effect on breeding-in 'good' traits.
Yes, as we now think that we know what all the "good-looking"
characteristics mean as far as childbearing.
Hmm, yes that obviously is not a direct correspondence. I guess
I am assuming that over generations the vaguaries of fashion will average out.
It's basic stuff, like healthy
skin and teeth suggest health. I know that a specific hip-to-waist
ratio is what attracts men from many different cultures. Can't
remember exactly what it is right now.
I've also read that blond
hair is attractive to many cultures, as many people have light hair when
they are young, and so blond hair looks young. Also eye-liner...
I've heard it explained that many young women have dark circles under their
eyes, and so eye-liner is an attempt to look young.
I thought it was from staying up late. When I get overtired
my eyes get such dark circles that one girlfriend said I looked like a
panda. I thought eye makeup was just to draw attention to the eyes
and so the object of their attention. Natasha has very dark eyes
that look like all pupil. They say that that is supposed to be sexy
because pupil enlargement expresses interest.
Yes, hence the use of
belladonna drops by ladies in the olden days.
nature article or radio program recently pointed out that most animals
don't have 'whites' to their eyes and (genetically) prefer to conceal the
direction of their gaze. How interesting. I've never heard that, but it makes
sense. Humans are rare in using this information to
communicate. The article suggested that concealed gaze might make
predators fear that they had been spotted before they actually had, but I
don't think that adds up. It works better the other way around,
conceal the gaze and you camouflage the eyes. Seeing eyes is a damn
good way of finding otherwise concealed animals. You put an eye, or
even just a lens somewhere in an image and your eye/brain will find it
ever so quickly. It is deep-down recognised as a significant
Do you know about puffy
sleeves? I have read that men prefer puffy sleeves because they look
like shoulders hunched in fear. Is that weird or what?
blond hair, I had about 1.5 cm of hair on my head in a boring, ugly taupe
color. I went to a salon yesterday, and had them bleach it
white! It looks really cool. The girl who took my money told me
I looked like a punk Mrs. Santa Claus. (Remember, I have very ruddy
skin and I'm plump. I also smile a lot, like a dolphin. It
doesn't mean anything, but it's the natural shape of my mouth. Ho ho
Yes, another confusing and inaccurate signal. A smile is the
best turn-on, I guess as an indication of interest, but it is very
undirectional, and often has as much to do with the natural relaxed mouth
shape as any intent, and I don't really see why it is so
Introspection suggests that physical attraction is a multi-level
process, some features which attract at 50 paces are irrelevant at 50mm.
I don't know what the childbearing implications of a nice smile are.
know 'received wisdom' is that men are supposed to be attracted to slim
blondes. Well sure, blonde hair catches the eye at a distance, but it
soon becomes irrelevant, and it tends to be associated with sensitive
Huh. Does the princess
in The Princess and the Pea turn men on? Not as far as I know. Here in the U.S., we
associate red hair with sensitive skin. How
interesting. Well, yes I won't deny
red-hair skin is even worse
I once had a slim blonde vivacious girlfriend who at first
seemed quite a catch, but she didn't turn me on one bit. I really
don't know why, her previous partner had been aroused if she so much as walked
across the room.
The investment bank I worked
for in Dallas was in a very tall building. There was a very nice
cafeteria on the fifth floor, with a jukebox in it. I was good friends
with a black woman who worked there. We looked quite a bit alike,
though our skins were different colors. We were the same height,
build, etc. We even had similar faces! The jukebox was right by
the elevators. We got in the habit of getting off the elevator,
selecting the Theme from Peter Gunn, and then we would walk in step together
all across the cafeteria to the salad bar, slightly vamping to the music.
What a lovely
Trelia (the black woman I was and am friends with)
still works there, and says guys STILL remember that. And that was
about thirteen years ago.
Hmm. Don't know why I included
that, except it had something to do with men being aroused when women just
walk across the room. Sorry. Just bragging on past
It was a shame really because she was quite keen on the
relationship. And what childbearing benefit do anorexia or fair hair
I find that there is some conflict between the features that catch
my eye and the ones that arouse me sexually. Despite jokes about men
undressing women with their eyes, I actually found it took quite a few years
of undressing girls to get any idea how to predict what sort of 'dressed'
looks would be exciting when undressed, and it still seems mostly a matter of
Yes. Bras, etc. seem to
make a big difference. There is a woman in the gym I use who has what I
call National Geographic-style breasts: they're flat, long, hang down to her
tummy, and point at the floor. She wears a magic bra that gives her the
pointy, looking-at-the-ceiling breasts of yer average fifteen year old.
She's got to be in her mid fifties. I have a pot belly which is totally
hidden when I wear a certain dress. It's not fair... with men, it's
largely WYSIWYG. I mean it's not fair to men. Women can disguise
ourselves so well, and men can't, really.
Breasts. Such a noticable indication of a woman's reproductive
state. Instant triage immature/nubile/too late.
I never thought of it that way,
but you're absolutely right. How we must have screwed up evolution, with
our bras that support... our Cooper's ligaments are supposed to give out
around 35 or so.
I suppose concealment is part of living in high population density,
I'm not sure how that works. It always intrigued me how, in the context
of concealment a breast exposed or hinted at is so alluring, yet the charm is
so quickly lost in a context of nudity.
As has been
observed in European royal families over recent centuries, if they inbreed and
maintain a small gene pool then there is negligible chance of it doing anything
but decline however well fed.
the other hand, you have the Hawaiian chiefs who believed that their sisters
were the only ones sacred enough to mate with, and ended up with
seven-foot-tall godly-looking offspring. I don't know how the Hawaiians
managed it, as they came from such a limited genetic stock to begin with, and
the Europeans commented on how fab and healthy they were at first
contact. I'm sure there were a lot of deformed babies sacrificed in the
Wow. That would imply an exceptionally low mutation rate (on a
volcano?!), or some very suspect sisters. Or really bugger-up the
theory. I suppose it depends how long they had been doing it for, and
Well, legend has it that the
people who were chosen for the long canoe journey were very large and very
healthy, the cream of the crop so to speak. And even though some of my
Hawaiian siblings like to make out that we've been there since the beginning
of time, archaeological finds indicate the first people there got there c.
800-1100 AD. So we haven't really been there all that long.
Also, some ali'i (chiefs) didn't have sisters, some had sisters who didn't
get pregnant, and some were gay. The Hawaiian ali'i also had an
elaborate wardship system, where likely-looking boys and girls got adopted
into the family, so that MIGHT have had something to do with it, i.e. she
may be called my sister, but she's actually from the other side of the
I think the suspect sisters is the most likely
I guess both are statistical samples of one, and are contradictory,
so there is no conclusion and never should have been anyway. Pity, it
was nice to think that was why the last Tzar was such a prat.
Oh, I'm *sure* that's why he was
a prat. Well, that and the way he was raised.
Look at the
ancient Egyptian pharoahs... they did the get your sister pregnant thing, and
a lot of archaeologists think that Akhnaton (I know I mis-spelled his name)
was an example of that. He was the one who tried to start a new
monotheistic religion? You know? Anyway, he wanted his
portraits done in a more realistic manner, and they show a very oddly shaped
man. There's a lot of speculation about what genetic problems he might
Or what the artist had been drinking. I didn't know
Harmful mutations greatly outnumber
benevolent ones and this has to be offset by the 'natural selection'
process. Restricting the range of choice reduces the efficiency of
this half of process. That would suggest that the best way of advancing
evolution is to have a well fed elite (protecting the chosen genes) having
love-children with the masses (who generate a pool of mutations to select and
add in). But then we once knew that didn't we? And it is inherent in
the system that most people have to carry bad mutations. They carry off
the excess entropy of the system.
I think I just concluded that the
genetically superior elite theoretically has to exist, that it is an integral
part of evolution, although I hadn't realised that was where I was
There is some depth to explore there that I haven't thought through.
ntropy requires that natural selection has to run just to stand still. What does
this imply for the long term effects of our attempts to produce an egalitarian
society? Could it actually lead to a general evolutionary decline?
All the intelligent people I
know are always bemoaning the fact that the teenage welfare mothers who live
on Fritos and Dr. Pepper are pumping out babies at a ferocious rate, and the
women with Ph.Ds are not having any
According to my theory excess breeding shouldn't affect
the standard of the 'protected core genes', they are just building the
mutation pool. It does not 'bring down' the genetic standard, if their
progeny are rubbish they don't get inbred. You're right, and we also have to
remember that we are dealing with a second of time as far as evolution is
concerned. What they do with each other doesn't matter to
the core (unless they start breeding with their sisters) because the genes
get scattered randomly and the mutations mostly die out. Only
inbreeding really extends the gene's timeline.
The declining birthrate
in the protected pool is more of a problem. It
gets replaced, but I'm getting tired and can't figure out what
with right now.
Someone figured from DNA analysis that we are all
descended from one man about 50,000 years ago. Not that there were no
others about then, but only one still has surviving progeny. The
corresponding woman was older, I think 200,000. I don't know if that
is relevant but it sounds like it might be. I think so, too.
(well, except for my sister, Dr.
Well there are exceptions. Our friends Steve and
Susannah have four children - he is an orthopedic surgeon and she is a
GP. Maybe something to do with his surname - Allcock.
Oh, yeah. Remember my
post about my old boyfriend whose last name was Hathcock. Ya gotta
wonder what the fellows down t' pub thought of those last names when
everyone was getting named. I mean, we had nice normal names like
Jackson, Small, Whitehead, Honeyman, etc., and Mr. Hathcock prances in the
door. Talk about people who might be perceived as prats.
Sounds like the old Monty Python spam sketch. "Haven't you
got anything without cock in it?" "Well Hathcock's not got as much
cock in it as Allcock." etc.
Radio 1's latest top DJ had been getting
complaints about her constant references to male genitalia. One
comedian did a sketch along the lines of: "One more remark about pricks on
air and you're fired" "OK I'll be good" (on air)"... Well thats the end of
the show and this has been Sarah Cox." "Right! That does it! You're
I think that the child of an inner-city mother (chosen for beauty, which
we now know means fertility and health) and an inner-city father (who is
turning his considerable, though hidden, intelligence towards a life of crime,
and thus can buy lots of presents for the mother) is NOT necessarily going to
be stupid. And if the little organism survives a pre-natal diet of
crisps and sodas, s/he may be extra sturdy.
And s/he may get the mother's brains and the father's beauty, and
have stunted growth due to smoking during pregnancy.
The logic is clearly against
socialism, but I'm not clear about the effects of the current versions of
"social capitalism" either.
I don't know enough about
it. You can probably tell me if it's working in the U.K. How about
in Scandinavia? I know they're all depressed and on the dole, but how
healthy are their kids?
Working? I don't think we've been doing it long enough to
tell. The only unexpected long term effect I can see here that relates
to our welfare state etc. is the growth of single parent families and the
exclusion of men from the parental role.
In Britain, in your ads and
sitcoms , are men always shown as amusingly stupid? That really
bothers me. I have an aversion to
sitcoms to the extent that I really don't know.
I mean, I know that
I am smarter than 99.32% of the men in the world (she said modestly),
You go to four significant
This still bugs me. I figured you to be somewhere in the
range 99.80 to 99.96. Where do you get the 3? Maybe it depends
how you define smart.
You must meet some pretty smart guys then. It does rather
depend on how you define smart though. I know smart when I see it,
but it isn't always good educational or career achievement. Maybe
what I am measuring is something else.
but what are we teaching
little boys when Mom is always the one with the right idea? I
think it feeds into the whole men-don't-grow-up thing.
This goes along with the black gangster role
I think Scandinavia is a pretty depressing place to have to live in
the first place, before you put the people in. It is very 'up against'
know. I need to look at a globe. I wonder how far north I am
compared to you, for example. I am going crazy right now, as it
doesn't get dark until around 10:00 p.m. and then starts lightening up at
4:00 a.m. I've lived pretty far south all of my life, and I need at
least ten hours of DARK to sleep properly. Oddly, I have no problems
in the winter, when the sun rises at 7:30 a.m. and sets at 4:00 p.m.
spent time in Leeds, though, and in Alaska, and short nights never bothered
me there and then. I think Leeds is further north than I am right now,
and I *know* Alaska is. Maybe it's chemo and unhappiness that are
making this worse for me now.
We are about 54°N, so yes we are north of you (being close to the
48th parallel) but not all that much. According to my nautical almanac
"Twilight all night" occurs above 56°N, and I know it happens for about two
weeks of summer in St. Petersburg/Leningrad (60°N), known as the White
Nights. Sailors define twilight, if memory serves, as the time between the
first stars appearing and the horizon disappearing, being the period during
which a sextant can be used to measure star positions.
I don't think they have a particularly good health record generally,
and neither do we by European standards. I don't know how that splits up
into age groups.
Where I notice kids being physically different is in
areas which place an emphasis on sports and physical education. White
South-African kids in Capetown all looked pretty fit, but you can hardly move
for sports arenas there. Most of the black kids didn't look so good
though. I've no idea what the general and long term health implications
And how interesting! Here,
black kids are ALWAYS better at sports than white kids are. (Though I'm
not supposed to say that.) But they are... I mean, look at cheerleading
competitions on ESPN. The traditionally black colleges' squads do
utterly amazing stuff. I don't know about other sports; cheerleading and
swimming and diving are really the only things I know a lot about. There
are not too many great black swimmers or divers, but I think that's because up
until the last ten or fifteen years or so, the majority of black kids have not
had access to pools. I know that as they participate in the sport more,
they're going to blow us slow pink people out of the water.
Well yes, but in SA the famous division between Black and White is
really between Rich and Poor. At least in laid-back places like
Capetown, rich black people are perfectly welcome to socialise with
whites. There is a BIG divide and it has only a little to do with
race. The blacks underperform because they are seriously impoverished,
unlike in America. Easy.
Huh? Most black
people in the U.S. are impoverished.
I think we're talking a different planet impoverishment
here. They don't have minimum wage and things like that. These
guys live in shanty towns made out of corrugated iron and scrap materials
and live on third-world income. We still do see that, especially in the depths of Mississippi
and Alabama. That would be normal out in the middle of
Africa in the poor states, but it seems kind of incongrous alongside
western-style shopping malls and yuppie nightspots. Yes, absolutely. Sounds a lot like
Manila.I guess it probably
This immense contrast in wealth leads to a
terrible security problem. Robbing the rich is a very lucrative
business for the impoverished. And more power to them! Well yes, as long as I'm not the rich
When I was working there once a
black factory worker I had working Saturday to help with machine
installation asked me for a Rand for his busfare home because it was too far
to walk and there were no other workers there to give him a ride. That
would have exchanged to about 15c US. Here a bus would
ten times that to go a mile. Their 'buses' are clapped out 12-seater
Toyota minivans, invariably overloaded, always breaking down, and run by
gangs who have frequent territorial shootouts, which sometimes result in
passengers getting terminated. Of course there is a proper transport
system for those who can afford it, ie whites.
There is also AIDS.
Near Durban, out in Zulu country, the works manager warned me (as a
visitor's routine health-and-safety briefing) that about 60% of the factory
workforce was HIV+.
Yes, due in part to a remarkably silly folk belief that you
can rid yourself of HIV by having sex with a virgin.
What? I know the government was keen to believe HIV didn't
cause AIDS because they couldn't afford -to- believe it, but that does
It's all through South Africa and
Swaziland, etc. The men truly believe that if they have sex with a
virgin, they will cleanse themselves of HIV. Hence the horrific
Have you seen the reports on Henan province in China?
65-70% of the total population there is HIV+, due to a corrupt
blood-selling plan the government tried to place there around ten years
No but I'm not surprised. Seeing the seams exposed in Russia
made me realise that all government is corrupt, and anyone who thinks
otherwise is deluding themselves.
They have a serious problem
because in the interests of equality they can no longer give an elite
education to a few (ie the whites), and bringing everyone to a mean level
means that no-one gets a proper education any more and so there are few
really skilled people coming up through the system, their economy is in
trouble and it can only get worse. It takes a long time to change
these things even when the will is there. Who teaches the teachers
when you don't have any?
When I was a kid we were told that black people weren't as
competitive at swimming as at other sports because they had a denser body
structure and tended to sink, whereas we are bouyant by about an inch or
so. I have also heard that that is not true. I never personally
experimented with multiracial trial-by-water. Do (racially) black
It's not true. It was one
of the canards promulgated to keep black kids out of white swimming
pools. As late as 1973, when I used to go to the city pool in the small
Florida town where we lived (they had a high dive board, which the beach did
not have), there were signs up saying that you couldn't swim there if you had
any oil on your hair, as it would clog up the filters. I later found out
that wasn't true, either, and was a subtle way of keeping black kids
I daresay someone somewhere has done
a PhD on it. I know that SF stories have been written about it, but it
hadn't occurred to me that it was a real danger, or even had a logical
I'd be interested in seeing something that compares infant
mortality rates for rich vs. poor people before the Industrial Revolution.
How would one establish that? Parish records? Did poor people have
births and deaths recorded, too?
Yes I'm sure they did. I don't
know off-hand how far back universal recording of births, marriages and deaths
goes here, but it is quite a long way. 'Ordinary' people can trace
family trees back for quite a few generations through parish records. I
think there have been historical studies on infant mortality that could be
Well, duh, yes, I am looking right at the genealogical research
that my paternal grandfather did, and if I flip to the Luttrell family stuff, I
can find Robert Luttrell, knighted 1361 in Kildare. He was born 1311, and
died 1370, so he was knighted fairly late in life and yet his birth information
was still available. God, what chemobrain makes me forget.
Interestingly enough, he and his wife, Margaret de Birmingham, started the
horrible tradition of naming their eldest son Jericho. I hope his friends
called him Jerry. BUT by 1562 the name has shifted to Jenico.
So aloha pumehana. I'm going to go check the mail and show off my
new white hair to the guys who are resurfacing the parking lot.
Was there really a deBirmingham
family? It is hard to think of Birmingham existing before the industrial
revolution, and in the hands of Norman barons to boot. I suppose there
must have been.
I guess so. Grandpa's genealogy book says there was. I
think it's a very funny name, because to me Birmingham (Alabama) is, like, the
armpit of America, and so to put a "de" in front of it makes me titter.
home after the MRI... now I gotta run out for my MUGA.
Well yes, Birmingham here is not that
bad, but it has a very down-to-earth reputation as England's workshop, and it is
hard to associate it with aristocracy. On the other hand when my van broke
down in Birmingham I had every confidence that it would get fixed properly even
though I had to just drop it at the nearest garage. If they can't fix cars
in Birmingham they can't be fixed. It was the centre of the munitions
industry in the war, and the auto industry afterwards
Going to my parents for the weekend.
Theoretically I could keep up with my mail there but probably won't, its too
you have a good time? Did you get to go do some adult stuff with Natasha
stashed neatly in the bosom of the family?
I think, though, that most
children are naturally brilliant. Hang on here.
In the U.S., we
don't do I.Q. testing before third grade. (Eight-year-old kids.) Why
not? Because when you do I.Q. testing and assessment inkindergartners
and first-graders, you wind up with too many false positives.
Everyone appears to be brilliant.
I am a natural
contrarian when it comes to things like eugenics. I say, what if
everyone is brilliant to start out with, and it is only the
successful kids who learn what the educational system expects of them who
appear to be brilliant twelve years later? What if there's something
intrinsically wrong with the way we educate?
I think there undoubtedly is, and even more with what we test
for. But it is the same for everyone so why should it cause
variations? What exactly do we want out of education anyway? If
we just want (ourselves or our kids) to be more competitive and have more
life chances then it is just an arms race and it would be much cheaper to
hobble the opposition (cf ABM treaty) than to
Yup. A lot of loud
African-American advocates say that that is what we are doing here, by
putting images of cool black hooligans in front of black kids as role
models.The problem of course is that
society is not closed (unless you consider the whole world) and
hobbling only particular parts of the opposition isn't very
Here we also have the interesting and sad
situation where kids are being educated to tests. People are always
railing about how poorly schools work, and the only way we can think of to
assess that is test scores, and funding goes to schools with the best test
scores, so kids are being taught specifically how to take the test.
And nothing else.
That is a subject of the election campaign currently in progress
here. Last term Labour campaigned on "Education, education and
education" as its three top priorities. A listener's letter to Radio
4 suggested that with hindsight it should have been "Examination,
examination and examination".
Yes. In Washington
State, though, exam results are tied to high school graduation. I
wouldn't think that was so bad, except the tests are based on a
college-bound curriculum, and let's face it, not everyone is going on to
college. So what happens to the girl who can't pass algebra and
wants to be a beautician and isn't taking college-bound classes? She
fails the test, can't get a high school diploma, and thus can't get
licensed as a beautician. She's doomed to a life of minimum-wage
jobs. 99.54449 of all jobs in the U.S. require a high school
You mean you have to pass ALL subjects to get ANY
That sounds silly, worse than our old discredited 11+ exam that
at age 11 divided kids between leaving school at 15 (or 14 in my Dad's
day) or continuing education to 18 and possibly on to university. In
Dad's days there was really no way back if you failed. He failed it
and was doomed to boring semi-skilled jobs until he was rescued by the
war. He got made an officer when they got desperate enough to drop
the requirement that officers had to be able to ride a horse! He
entered the army as a worker and demobbed as a professional. A
Now there is no division through high school,
then you take maybe 5 subjects at GCSE and get a separate certificate for
each one. Then you can leave, or if you get I think 3 C's or better
you can stay on and do maybe three subjects at A (advanced) level, again a
separate certificate each, and an
adequate achievement here, maybe 3
C's again, will get you into University. Failing to make the grade
generally drops you out of mainstream education, but you can continue with
Further Education colleges (to A level) evening classes or full time at
your own expense, and the Open University - distance learning in your own
time. They've changed the grading schemes occasionally but I mean
passes graded A-E, so C's are median level. The net result is
everyone gets some sort of certificate to say they can do something, so
there is no hard cut-off and there is no disproportionate penalty for
having one 'bad' subject.
Also they have addressed the college-bound
curriculum problem. A-levels particularly were like that, so they
introduced a parallel system, NVQ - National Vocational Qualification,
which has the same status as A level but is oriented toward a non-academic
curriculum, intended for students who want
higher education but do not
intend to continue to university. Of course there is some problem
there - parents want the kids to go to university come what may and so
often won't let them commit out at that stage. Artyom would probably
have done better in the NVQ thread, but his mother would have been
Is there any great benefit to a closed community as a
whole from educating it as a whole? Does it make anyone happier?
Does that make me an anarchist, a vandal or a hooligan?
In my experience
most kids are pretty bright, but certainly there are amazing variations in
development stages - eg being a late/early
walker/talker etc does not
seem to have any particular implications in later life. I'm not sure
how much of intellectual development also comes in surges like this, and so
gives misleading indications of potential, and how much it is a process that
has to have sustained stimulation to
Yes. At the
age of five, I invented communism. My uncle reminded me that I came
up with Judah Folkman's angio-genesis theory of cancer fighting when I was
ten, and my grandmother was dying of cancer.
Well done. The only thing I can remember
inventing for myself at that age, in the first flush of abstract
thinking, was logarithms to the base of two. On the other hand I was
oddly lucky that none of my close relatives died before I was
many, many girls who were brilliant in elementary school and then got
stupid once they got interested in boys. Yeah, blame the men! :)
Maybe educators need to be trained to recognize surges in development
like this, and kids need to be given a lot of extra attention and teaching
when this happens. Of course, that would mean much smaller class
sizes, much more funding for education, all these things that we know will
never happen because Raytheon doesn't make educational materials.
But isn't that just arms-racing
again? It would be nice to come up with a new low-cost way of
teaching that exploits the childs desire to learn, adventure learning,
design a stimulating environment that is mostly self explanatory, needs
minimal teacher support and allows kids to progress at their own speed in
their own direction. Now that would be real progress, but you can't
easily examine it so it doesn't appeal to governments, especially control
freaks like Blair. There is unfortunately a real danger
exploitation by minority groups the content of education isn't visible to
the parents - we've been there with teaching gay relationships as normal,
left wing extremism and various silly political correctnesses (leading to
a kid who, when asked what colour the sky was, answered "colour doesn't
'Edutainment' computer games often try to achieve this sort
of goal, but in my experience fail
I am pretty sure both are present, and that intelligence will
stop developing once a level has been reached which satisfies life's
demands. (Corrolary - religion causes stupidity!)
You get no argument with me
there. I'm also interested in the manifestation of mental illnesses,
in cultures all over the world, that have to do with
It is not only knowing what the education system wants, but also
being motivated to provide it.
Yes. I strongly
believe that most kids should get out of high school and then not go
straight to college, but should work, travel, etc. I know that I was
much more motivated and interested in what I was learning when I was in
grad school at the age of 30, rather than when I was an undergraduate at
the age of 18. Then I was just interested in learning how much I
could drink without falling over sideways.
I went through most of my admittedly somewhat privileged schooling
dragging along the bottom for lack of interest. It was only towards
the end that I actually happened to get my head pointing the way 'they'
wanted for a while. In my final year at high school (A-Level exams) I
got 12.5% in my (internal) chemistry exam at Christmas and 75% in the real
thing in June. In the interim I had got interested in the potential
profits of making mind-altering drugs at home. Of course I never did
make any, but it got me reading the text books, and of course if I actually
-want- to learn something, I absorb it like a sponge with afterburners, at
around five times the 'normal' rate. I went through University
sideways - I learned a lot and made enough of a gesture toward
including bits of the curriculum in what I learned to get a 2-2.
Mostly I was learning about computers and programming, but the curriculum
was physics & electronics. Computers were PLAY, not work.
Oddly I had no interest in transferring to a computer course, I still wanted
to find out how the universe worked, as well.
Maybe I should ask my Dad, he did his Masters in Child
Yes! Print out this
discussion and ask about it!
Well I did. Mum wanted to see how people use this medium,
how we do quoting, threading etc. and asked me to leave her the printout,
so sometime I'm going to have to explain all the other threads that are in
I didn't really think I was going to get far with this,
because Dad has been so hazy lately, and his concentration was completely
shot. However this new pacemaker has made a dramatic difference, he
seems years younger, and his mind works as well as ever.
I noticed that even when
my grandfather was acting very senile, you could ask him a medical
question and he would snap out of it and become The Famous Doctor
Halpern for a while. Then he would slide back into
He did that, he could answer a question about his work or his
experiences, but it was always the same answer, he couldn't discuss an
issue or consider new data. Now there is a sense of intelligence
behind the data. I'm glad we don't have to face senility for a
Memory retrieval seems to be a very different process from
analysis. I know when I am tired, or otherwise functionally
degraded, it is the analysis part that goes first. This feels in
some way related with the problem that almost brought me to a standstill
last year. It is something to do with the processing overhead of
switching tasks; if I start doing a task, and come to an obstruction,
needing some other data or equipment to proceed, then I immediately lose
concentration and feel tired. I would expect to just put this task
on hold and begin the one needed to facilitate it, but it isn't that
easy. This is particularly noticable if I have a lot of tasks
outstanding with a lot of interlocking requirements.
analogous to the way computer operating systems work, so perhaps
the people who designed job schedulers conciously or unconciously
mimicked the way the mind works, or maybe its convergent evolution, i.e.
there is only one good way to do it. What would happen to a
computer given a lot of tasks with interlocks would be that as soon as
one task blocked, it would return to the scheduler. This would
scan the list of outstanding tasks rating each one for run-ability and
priority. Obviously if this list is long and complicated it takes
longer to scan, so the administrative overhead goes up. Also if you have
a high rate of task suspensions due to interlocks or due to pre-emptive
tasks (like meeting Natasha from school) then the overhead goes up
again. It is notorious among systems programmers that this process
is very critical, you reach a certain threshold and performance really
crashes because queues build and the queue length itself degrades
throughput even more, accelerating queue growth. (On the highway,
as traffic flow increases through an obstruction, transit time initially
remains constant, then increases to a value proportional to the
flow rate as cars begin to
tailgate, then increases at a rate
proportional to the flow rate as queues build up.)
When I realised
this was happening to me I just had to take an axe to the list of things
I was trying to do, and let some things go hang to cut down the
suspension rate. I guess it worked. Then I had to explain this to
the tax inspectors as the reason why my tax returns were late, and as an
excuse why they should not fine me for this misdemeanour.
Somewhat to my surprise they accepted it and cancelled a £400
Throughout this time I had no problems recalling information
from years back, but I completely lost the ability to do memory stunts
like remembering phone numbers. I used to be able always to
remember one of Lyudmila's friends' number because I had noticed it
was 3x5cubed, 3x4cubed (375192). I still knew that, but I
wouldn't have spotted it then.
It was fun to have conversations with him, where previously it
had been hard work. He says he had been reckoning on maybe a couple
of years life left and was winding down, but now he does not see any
immediate limit and feels he could take on doing something new.
Yeah, and the taking on of
something new might keep him alive and intelligent for
My maternal grandmother (the only grandparent still alive when
I was born) was sharp as knives right up until she died at 92. She
attributed this mainly to the bridge club, she played twice a week
He has also just got his memoirs back from the bookbinders.
I had edited them and printed out few copies for him on a laser
printer. These he sent to a local book-restorer to be hand-bound
because the quantity was too small for a serious printer to be
interested. They have come out nicely.
The visit left me feeling
on a high. Everything is conspiring to boost my self
confidence. Business is going turbo. Correspondence with
Catharine begins to throw sparks, and I haven't been -there- for the
Yay for Tim! And yay
for the universe, cooperating for a
It does that if you kick it hard enough.
Now switching emotional navigation to 'absolute' - it has been
locked on 'inertial' for a record time, nearly two years. ]
The relevant bits of the conversation, from memory:
Would you agree that development of intelligence comes in spurts like
A: Yes, and it is very unpredictable when the spurts will
come. You really need the teacher to be aware of the individual
progress of each child and to give him tasks accordingly. Of course
that means much smaller classes than we have at present. Ha! I was right.
So the value of intelligence tests as a predictor of achievement is
A: Pretty useless really. What I think children really
need in various subjects is a set of graded exercises that they can chose
and take up at their own pace.
Q: Like the colour coded reading books
Natasha has at school - she can chose any book from the purple shelf.
What if she wants to
choose a book from a more advanced group? May she?
I don't know, it's never come up. She probably could, but
she'd just ask me to read it to her. If she can cope with the
books in her group then she moves up to the next group anyway, it is
progress related not age related.
A: Well, yes, but more detailed really, and covering subjects
other than reading. I was working on this toward the end of my
career, you remember those science books I collaborated on with 'Uncle
Arthur', that was the idea of those. They came back and asked me to
do more, but I didn't want to
because I had retired. It seems to
have been quite successful and they are still selling, I got another
royalties cheque the other day. (Well, maybe since he's feeling so spiffy, this is a good
project to get involved in.)
Q: What do you think of the
idea that you only develop intelligence as far as you need to, once life
stops throwing you problems you can't handle, you stop learning?
Well, I think that if you have to survive you develop the skills you
Q: What do you think about the idea of 'adventure
learning'? If you can create an environment that a child can safely
explore and learn as he goes, then you don't need much teacher
input. I realise that this is difficult to achieve, but it would
represent a terrific saving once created.
A: Sounds good. Maybe
you should write about it.
Q: How much value do you think there is in
educating the population as a whole? I mean, it is easy to see that
an individual benefit from being educated above his peers, but if you
educate all the peers as well that is nullified. Do you think we are
really just racing with each other to no avail?
A: If no-one was
educated we wouldn't have the skills to maintain our civilisation.
OK, I accept there is a basic level that is needed, and perhaps that we
need -some- people to be more highly educated, but do the majority really
benefit from the levels we apply today?
A: I think people get more out
of life if they are educated to appreciate it.
He also mentioned that
he felt that a formative factor in his own ability was being left to fend
for himself at 17 when his mother died (of BC actually). His father
had died in WW1 when he himself was still a baby, leaving his mother to
bring up five children on her own, and before there was any proper social
security system. However it was clear to me from what he said that
at that age he had already been exceptionally observant and
doubt. Your average nose-pickin' teen can't go on to achieve what he