Chapter 15: Intelligence.

We went to the Puyallup County Fair yesterday.  (One pronounces Puyallup "pyoo-WALL-up.")  Lots of fun.  We saw all the piglets and the horses and cows, etc.  I got to pet a llama, and I checked out the goats and bee-keeping exhibits. 
It sounds like the location of the Australian game on ShockWave's Shockmachine, called Lenny's Walkabout.  This is set in the outback town of Pullyapantsup.  Another of Natasha's favourites, it was a free download we got when getting all the Chicken Run stuff.
Well, that's kind of like Puyallup.  They have the farm fair, but they also have a lot of domestic abuse and drug use.  Woo-hoo!
Cindy has llamas at the bottom of her garden, a farmer keeps them in an adjoining field.  Natasha was fascinated.
So am I.  I love their faces.
I adore both goats (and goat cheese) and bees and my fond dream, if I ever live out in the country, is to keep one or both.  I was reminded of how exceedingly undelicious a billy goat smells.  (Is that Artyom's problem?  Is he part billy goat?)  But then, I guess the nanny goats find the smell attractive.
I haven't seen any nanny goats showing any interest.  Maybe because he doesn't have a job right now.
See, tell him that if he were cleaner girls wouldn't care if he had a job or not, as long as he smelled good and kissed well.  That means brushing his teeth, so he'd better do that while he's at it.
I also ate way too much cotton candy (candy floss), an ear of roasted sweet corn with jerk seasoning on it, a corny dog (hot dog wrapped in corn bread dough and fried, served on a stick with mustard) and several samples of honey, which they are trying to market as a pick-me-up in a little straw.  They had it with all sorts of non-honey-like flavors, too, like mint.  Yuck.  What's wrong with plain honey flavor? 
I adore heather honey, which has a decidedly non-honey-like flavour.  We can only get it sporadically here, and from specialist deli's.  It seems to be available most of the time in Scotland though, so we occasionally get some on visits to my parents.
Yes, it's good.  We grew up on orange blossom honey, which is also much better than standard clover honey (which is the standard in the U.S.)  In Hawaii we got kiawe (mesquite) honey, and that's terrific.  It has a little bit of a smoky taste to it.  What do y'all like honey on?  I like it on peanut butter sandwiches and toast.  I also make a good honeyand mustard chicken thing.
On toast or sandwiches mostly.
Mmmm, hot buttered toast with honey getting very loose and melting into the little holes.  All we have in the house right now is black pumpernickel.  It doesn't suit my toast fantasy.
And I brought home a piece of fudge which had BETTER NOT have disappeared last night, as I was sleeping.  I will be upset.
I have married me a man who hates to go on even the tamest carousel, and so I was forced to watch in envy as people rode slingshots and roller coasters and etc.  I, on the other hand, love the scariest rides.  It's an opportunity to shriek at the top of your lungs.  If I ever marry again, believe me, this is something I'm going to check out before I get engaged.
I told you about the theme park trip last month. 
Nuh-uh.  It must have been one of yer other Internet wimmin.
Hmm.  I wonder why not, it went in several letters, but a lot happened around that time.  During the summer holidays my parents came and looked after Natasha for a week, and took her to London to see my sister and to see the show Cats.  She would really love me, then.  I can sing everything from "Cats."  A youth misspent. Then later she went there for a week.  This arrangement allowed me to clear some of the larger jobs off my backlog, ones which meant staying on site for several days.  It was great that they could do this because they having both been ill, I had thought that such excursions were a thing of the past.  In between Cindy filled in as usual, but she needed a day off for some reason.  I forget now, it might have been to do with John's illness.  I needed to visit two factories in the midlands.  I did a deal with Natasha, we'd go van-camping, she'd put up with one day hanging around factories, and I'd take her to Alton Towers, a big theme park in the midlands, the next day.  It sounds like good fun. So we drove down that night, slept over near the first factory, and in the morning she sat in the reception office with the receptionist while I dealt with the job.  This was a small family factory, so it was no problem.  Then we drove over to the other factory, stopped for a Burger King lunch on the way, and she played in the van while I did that job.  Then we drove over to Alton Towers and found a restaurant for dinner, and spent the night nearby.  So we were through the gates as soon as they opened and spent the day there.  We were lucky with the weather, it had rained heavily the previous day, but we got mostly sunshine and temperatures in the mid twenties.
Natasha was keen to go on the scariest rides permitted for her height, although she shunned certain types.  
What's the height requirement there?  48"?
There is a different rating for each ride.  The highest is 1.4m, most of the 'adult' (I mean non-kiddy, not porn) rides are rated 1.2m.  She is about 1.27m. 
We went on the Corkscrew roller coaster, which had a few unpredicable g-changes that could be quite disconcerting.
Yaaaaaaaay!  Did you throw your hands in the air?  Yaaaaaaay!
She came off looking white, and not sure if she enjoyed it, but recovered her colour in about two minutes and decided she had.  She loved the Log Flume, rode it several times until we were quite wet, and on one occasion spent most of the ride shouting that she hadn't screamed. 
Now, see, I'm not fond of log flumes unless it's very hot outside.  What, it was 23 or 24? C then?  No way, Josť.  Too chilly for me -- or at least too chill to wander around soaked to the skin.  I'm such a dainty little flower.  (snort)
It wasn't cold enough that you'd notice being wet.  Natasha insisted on going barefoot.
Oh, God.  Do you have hookworm there?  I've grown up in the subtropics most of my life, and while I can go barefoot in Hawaii all the time, I wouldn't dream of doing it in the Mainland U.S.  Hookworm.  Eeeeeeew.
Unlike the two teenage girls in front of us, over who's screams she was shouting to be heard.
Well, yes, I am famous for my steamwhistle scream which I do on rollercoasters.  That's one of the joys of being or having been a teenage girl; that's one of the skills you develop.  My oncologist has forbidden me to ride any such things for the time being, and I am just so mad I can't see straight.  So I'm sucking down as much pamidronate as they will give me and taking calcium supplements, to build my treacherous bones up.  There is no ride at  a fairground or theme park which I will not go on.  The sole exception is Ferris wheels.  I don't like those very much.  It's the backwards and down motion which disconcerts me.  As long as I'm going forwards, I don't care what's going on.
I recall being fascinated by the effects of watching filmed roller-coasterrides in 'immersion' widescreen cinema.  We have an IMax in Bradford, and I also saw something smaller but similar in a fairground show in Canada where they had a hemispherical inflated tent and were projecting the film on the inside.  You still get a lot of the sensations without the acceleration.  I learnt with these things that what matters is keeping your eyes locked on the 'target' point, the point of zero angular velocity, like you do when
driving or biking.  What roller-coasters do is to apply sudden accelerations in unexpected directions to move the target around rapidly and try to break your lock and disorientate you.  If you can anticipate where the target is going to go next, then you don't get disorientated and it's just fun because you feel in control. 
Yes.  There used to be a ride at Disney World called "Eastern: the Wings of Man."  It was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, they of glorious memory.  At one point, your little car moved on a track into a hemispherical dome with a scene of great speed projected on it, and a fan blew wind in your face.  One year I looked down, and saw the track below just creeeeeeeeping along.  I never saw it as "fast" again.
Does that make me a control freak? Well, it makes you sound like someone who can only go on outdoorr rollercoasters.
Its a bit different if the target goes out of sight, like behind you or underneath ( e.g. on the high-point of a rollercoaster).  Then you can't track it, and when it comes back in sight it may be hard to reacquire.
Natasha didn't want to go on a simple centrifugal ride, cars hang on wires from a tower that spins around.  Possibly because it goes quite high and you have to look down.  Or possibly because it was boring.
Oh, those look boring but they are a lot of fun.  They feel like you're flying. 
There was one weird ride.  There was about 20 minutes of preparation while they tell you ghost stories, then they lead you into a hall like a church and sit you down on pews, facing across the hall from either side, not along it as in church.  With suitable lighting effects the pews start to rock like a swing.  The trick is that the room outside also rotates to make the oscillations look bigger until you seem to be completely inverted.  The pews then come to rest at what is actually bottom dead centre, but your eyes are telling you is top dead centre.  Of course it only works if you watch the walls. People who spent the time watching the pews on the other side, like Natasha, couldn't see the point of it, it was just a swing.
Sounds like fun.
There's a rollercoaster on top of the Stratosphere hotel in Las Vegas which I am keen to ride.  It's a regular rollercoaster, except it's about thirty stories up in the air.  Whee!  Neither my father (who lives there) nor my husband will go on it with me, and my doctor won't allow me to.  But!  I am going to, at some point, if I have to arrange for full-skeleton titanium replacements, dammit.
Like I said before, I think the doctor is being a bit overprotective.  I can't see that a roller coaster puts any more stress on your hips and thighs than walking on them does.  Has he any evidence of patients actually sustaining fractures in this way?
He's not really worried about my hips and thighs, but about my spine in the case of the rollercoaster.
Today I am going to eat only water, nuts, and a boiled egg, in an effort to recover from all that sugar yesterday.
Gotta go.  It's time to get involved with laundry.  I like to do that before the house gets too hot, because climbing up the stairs in the (hot) afternoon with a (hot) load of fresh-out-of-the-dryer clothing is no fun whatsoever.


Hey, does Natasha have access to a CD player or cassette player?  I thought of something else that would be a good Christmas present from America.
She has a cassette player, and the CD in her computer will of course play audio too.

I made some molasses/spice cookies yesterday to take over to a friend's house.  They were so good I have to make some more, so we can have a whole batch for ourselves.  It was a nice change from chocolate (my thing) and oatmeal-raisin (David's thing).
Sounds like you could get together over a chocolate flapjack.
Bleah.  I hate pancakes.  And a chocolate pancake is an abomination.  That's because maple syrup goes on pancakes, and maple and chocolate DO NOT go together.  So there.
Ah, divided by a common language.  An English flapjack is not a 'blin', it is a sort of thick rectangular biscuit made from rough oatmeal bonded together with sugar syrup. Chewy, very like cereal bars.  The chocloate variant is dipped  for about half its length in chocolate, leaving an undipped area you can hold without getting your fingers messy.  The dip is traditionally done at an artistic jaunty angle.Mmmm.  Sounds yummy.  As long as it doesn't have raisins in it, I'd like it. 
On the subject of pancakes, Natasha likes blini, but will not eat Yorkshire pudding.  My Yorkshire pudding batter is exactly the same recipe as Lyudmila's blini.  I proved this the other day, I roasted some beef and made half a pint of Yorkshire pudding batter.  I used about half of this to make puddings in the oven.  Natasha refused them, but then said she wanted a pancake.  Well, why not, so I poured some of the remaining batter into a frying pan, and she ate two of them. Russians eat them with melted butter, English with lemon juice and sugar, Natasha with Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread, just to upset you.
Do you serve syrup on  blinis, or what?  That's weird.
We serve them with anything you feel like.  Jam, honey, fruit juice, melted butter, Nutella, anything that spreads.  In Russia it's always melted butter.  We sometimes serve them stuffed, eg with ratatouille, but Natasha doesn't like that.
I love Yorkshire pudding.  I also like blinis.  As far as I know, blinis are made with buckwheat, not flour.  What we call pancakes are made with wheat (white) flour, sour milk, a little baking powder, and sugar.
I've seen 'n' different recipes and ways of making them.  I think there are regional variations too.  When Lyudmila made them she used wheat flour, old-ish milk and an egg, which is the same as I do for Yorkshire puds, or for Shrove Tuesday pancakes.  There is a certain amount of "whatever is available" here.  I imagine buckwheat would be more common.  There was also a variant which used yeast, and was used for coating pieces of apple etc., and shallow fried, something midway between blini and piroshki (fried pasties).  She use to cook whole buckwheat grains in water to make "buckwheat kasha".  We sometimes ate it with chilli.
Yum.  I make whole buckwheat grains with butterfly pasta and gravy and know that as kasha varnishkes, a Jewish dish.

We're currently arguing on whether to acquire a couple of cats.  I say no, David says yes.  This is getting hairy and unamusing.
catWe have a cat, who adopted us around the time we got married.  She's cute but sometimes annoying.  She knocks all the papers off my desk while seeking attention, and destroys the furniture.  She is sitting on the desk meowing at me now.  I have sworn that I will not replace any suite, chairs or anything while the cat lives, because I could not face having expensive new stuff scratched to destruction.  She also has an annoying habit of leaving food in her bowl and  demanding more.  If you give her more she won't eat it because by then the first lot is rotting.  She used to make her own yoghurt - if I gave her milk she would ignore it until it went solid, then eat it.
She was hanging around before Lyudmila came, but I would not let her in.  Of course Lyudmila fed her and brought her in, so then we were stuck with her. I was brought up with cats, so I don't really mind, but of course it always ended up being my job to feed her etc.  Especially etc.
Awwww.  Is she litter-box trained?  See, I am fairly obsessed with keeping a clean house.  I HATE HATE HATE going into a house and smelling cats.  As a result, my cats are always only inside cats, I clean out the litter box several times a day and wash it with boiling water once a week, and etc.  Inside cats don't get fleas or ear mites.
 
She is pretty much an indoor cat, and uses a litter box if she can stand it. It does not often get cleaned out but it lives in the cellar, well away from noses.  She prefers to go outside for that anyway, but if it gets too bad then she finds another spot in the cellar.  If I have been doing woodwork down there and not swept up, sometimes I come and find all the sawdust swept into a neat little pile.  BEWARE, it's not just sawdust.  She never had fleas or anything.
Wow.  Lucky you.  Maybe fleas aren't as bad in England because of the weather -- I remember that the Hallidays' cats and my godmother's cats never had them.
I had a bad experience with cat fleas back in the early1980's.  I took in a sofa for a couple who were moving to rented accommodation with the husband's change of job.  Trouble was the wife was blind, and the guide dog used to sleep on this sofa.  She swore it never had fleas (how would she know?) but my animal-free house was heavily infested after a couple of weeks.  Forensic tests led back to the sofa as follows.  My assistant (I had an office and staff in those days) kept finding the odd flea on her cat, and couldn't get rid of them.  Then she found they were in the office, and it occurred to her maybe she was carrying them home.  So I checked and found them at home.  A lot.  Decontamination procedures started.  I asked for the council fumigators to come, but that took a couple of weeks to schedule, and by then I had almost solved the problem.  White pants tucked into white socks made a good biohazard suit and killing field.  Just walking around was a good way of trapping the last few, using my warm body as bait.  Double-sweep vacuuming cleared large areas - you sweep a band across the room, then step back a couple of feet and do it again.  They can jump about a foot or so, and take minutes to recharge after jumping, so any that jump the vac into the clean zone are dead in the water for the second sweep.  The same logic explains why beds have legs at least a foot long.  But no matter what, I couldn't clear them off the sofa.  By the time the council came that was the only place they were.
Your cat is cute.  We don't have that many cats that have that kind of markings here.  We call those calico cats. 
I think she is known as a tortoiseshell here.  I said we should call her Michelle (my-'shell) but Natasha insists on Sukie.  She never really had a name, just 'Cat', or sometimes Katya, but never that when Lyuda's mother was here, she's Ekaterina (abbr. Katya) too, and it wouldn't be polite.  Katya was because she has learnt to respond to the Russian Kss-Kss sound instead of the English Tsch-Tsch.
Ahh.  Well, it looks as though I have won this round of David Wants A Cat (or Two) by pure luck.  We got back from Oregon (where we had gone for David's brother-in-law's birthday) on Monday.  We went and looked at these two Maine Coon cats yesterday.  They were utterly gorgeous but very shy, and David's feelings were hurt.  They also had fleas, and the woman who bred them was giving off a very weird vibe.  On the way home, David reluctantly said, "You know, I don't think those cats were a good idea.  By the time they came out from under the beds, their coats would be matted and we'd have to have them shaved. "  Reluctant agreement.  He thinks he's been the adult.  I am pleased and will allow him to do so.

Grrrr.  I ordered some custom-made ear plugs from a hearing-aid place.  They should be in tomorrow.  I can't wait.  Awake again at 03:15. 

I have a long day ahead of me.  I have three batches of cookies to make and a lot of laundry to do.  We are leaving at 6:00 tomorrow morning for the bi-annual meeting of David's old Mensa friends in Lake Tahoe.  Woo-hoo, she said drearily.  I wouldn't mind it so much except we are driving.  It will be at least two days on the road, and two days back.  Oh, well.  If I can survive this, I can survive anything.  Let's see, my math tells me that I only have 120 hours in which I must be pleasant.  Hey, I've had Jackson-Pratt pumps in my leg for longer than that.  Of COURSE I can do it.
 
We had airline tickets, but September 11 changed that.  David cashed them in.  I screamed and pleaded and swore (and even tried logic -- I figure the safest time to fly would have been the past couple of weeks and now) and David was obstinate.  He did NOT want to fly.  Then the airlines started selling tickets at unheard-of prices to get the flying public back in the air.  I casually left the newspaper lying around, open to the page that said Alaska Air had ROUNDTRIP tickets from Seattle to Reno for $49.  Well!  Financial good sense overcame fear of a fiery death, and David started calling around yesterday.  Alas, it seems that everyone else developed the same courage; the cheap flights are sold out, and the fares have gone up, and we are back to driving. 
I must go now.  I'll keep you posted as I have time, but if you don't hear from me until next week, don't worry.
:
Phew, I just got home.  How lovely. Welcome back. I am glad that David seems to have overcome his dislike of flying - he says that "next time" we will fly.  Ha.  He doesn't know that I'm not going next time.  It's a waste of my time.
I just got in from a work trip, I've been driving seven hours today (as well as working).  I've had a nice few weeks without any major trips, a nice change after hectic August. Today reminded me how much I don't like driving. Why the hell suffer discomfort, stress, aches and pains and bad food as well as risking life and limb when I could be sitting comfortably in front of my computer?
Yes!  Though I must say, we were extremely lucky in our choices of restaurants on the way.  We didn't have a bad meal, and we had quite a few great ones.
Even if the occasional crazy wants to fly a few planes into the ground, I'm sure flying is still much safer than driving, mile for mile.  It's airlines that are falling out of the sky, not airplanes.  It wouldn't occur to me not to fly just because of one oddball off-the-wall event, however catastrophic. Yes.  I was scared to death at some points en route - both because of David's driving and other people's driving.   Eeeek.  Leave it to the professionals. It doesn't take a lot to persuade me not to drive.  Anyway, they'll probably bomb the channel tunnel next, that always struck me as a tempting target. From what we hear, most of the trains have a few Afghan refugees hidden in underfloor toolboxes and the like.  This appears to be currently the only 'official' way of applying for political asylum here!   I'm sure it is not beyond the wit of the terrorists to stuff one with explosives and indoctrinate him to go off half way through the tunnel.  Oh, and to drop a list of instructions in Arabic near the entrance signed by, I dunno, Gaddafi or someone ( or even better, implicating Mossad!)
There was a thing in Newsweek today that made me laugh, and here I quote:
"In 1995 Abdul Hakim Murad was arrested for planning to kill the pope and blow up 11 American airliners.  Eager to learn more, the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group beat Murad, forced water into bhis mouth, crushed lighted cigarettes into his private parts, made him sit on ice cubes, threatened to rape him, and told him that he'd never see the light of day in Manila."  {the last is a threat I wish would be applied to me.}  "(Murad did not spill, however, until the Filipinos threatened to turn him over to Israel's Mossad for further interrogation.)"
I'm not sure exactly *why* I'm laughing at that, but it did strike me as funny.

Afghan scientists have devised a technique to encode anthrax spores into e-mail attachments.
These can be reconstituted by exploiting a loophole in Microsoft Outlook Express.
Users are recommended to fit additional exhaust filters to their computers.
<g>
D'ye think we can start a panic?
Buy shares in computer filter companies now!
PS, just heard about the Irish mail virus.  It says "Please delete everything on your hard disk.  Mail a copy of this letter to everyone in your address book".
Bwahahahahaha.  So that's what that pipe coming out the back of my computer is.
Life is entirely too pleasant here.  I have nothing to complain about yet.  Had a lovely dinner last night, watched a good movie, and woke up late today.  Surely something horrible is about to happen.


This made me giggle when I heard it on a satirical program on BBC Radio 4.
"A man was charged with possession of heroin, which police had found hidden between his buttocks.
He had previously been convicted of offences involving crack cocaine."
Some sort of fixation  I suppose :)
Ooooh!  Blush, blush.  Funny.

Sigh.  David brought home a cat yesterday.  His name is Jack.  He's gray.  He's quite large, but still refuses to come out of the crate.  I wonder which of us will tire of this first.

Observation
We develop the muscles that suit the environment we live in.  If a muscle is not big enough to perform its daily tasks it becomes strained more frequently and a growth process cuts in to enlarge it.  If its capacity remains unused, then it atrophies until occasional overloads bring it back into balance.

Hypothesis
The growth of intellect is similar, if our mind is inadequate to its daily tasks we become embarrassed more frequently and develop our head muscle to combat this.  Again, what you don't use you lose.

Implication
It is normal for intellect to develop to a level just adequate to remain functional in everyday situations and no more.  I think this is borne out by statistics.  It may have some long term evolutionary implications.
Yes.  I think this is correct.
Then why do some of us go on developing it way beyond this simple requirement - weight-training our minds.
Does this mean we spent a formative part of our lives in more or less permanent embarrasment?  Or was that just a normal part of adolescence? Maybe there is some protein deficiency or overexpression that prevents the process from shutting down.
Maybe this goes to metaphysical things like The Unquenchable Human Spirit, etc.  I think it's evolutionary.  Those of our ancestors who were curious and wanted to "develop" their minds (by seeing what happened if you ate an oyster, if you could take back fire to your cave from a lightning-struck tree, etc) were the ones who survived and passed their genes on.
Their descendents were similarly antsy about their minds and what they can do.
I think they are called kids, tearaways or delinquents.  I was trying to get at who and why.  It is clear we aren't all like that, so what are the factors that make a curious, inquisitive individual?
I think the raw matter of intelligence.  Though I think a lot of intelligence is environmental, some of it is innate, and even kids who don't receive appropriate stimulation grow up to be curious about things. 
Yes, and some don't. I guess it takes both genetic and environmental factors.  I'm think some kids are born thick and some have thickness thrust upon them.  I do feel that intelligence can be destroyed by negative stimulus, such as peer pressure that disparages learning or interest in anything.
What I mean here is that while most people shut down intellectual growth at the 'proper' time, others seem to go on indefinitely, even though they seem perfectly capable of coping with their lives, and not noticeably stressed. Why should they do this?  Either there is some unidentified cause, maybe genetic, maybe environmental, or else perhaps the tendency becomes fixed at some stage in development.  In the latter case, if 'intellectual adequacy' has not been achieved by a certain stage in development then the growth process will continue indefinitely.  I don't really see why that should be so, but it seems to happen like that.
Perhaps we need to study what intellectual adequacy is and make sure it doesn't happen to anyone.
That sounds like a vote for bullying.  I do have a sneaking suspicion that there is a connection.
Is there an addiction to learning similar to addiction to exercise?  At 50 I still get occasional insatiable rushes to learn something new.  Why does satisfying them make me happy?
Because it's hard-wired into you?  Because you are an intelligent person and satisfying that intelligence gives you a high similar to a runner's endorphin rush?  Because as a child you were rewarded when you learned something new, and thus when you do, you feel pleased with yourself?
I think I'd go for the opiate chemistry rather than the Pavlovian response - hence the suggestion it might be addictive like exercise clearly is. Learning is a personal thing, and most of the important items go undetected and unrewarded by others.  Learning school lessons was really pretty trivial compared to learning to survive and compete in the playground or learning to
avoid punishments.  The rewards are in the use, over time.
But why should that work to encourage me to go on learning things I really don't need, like geology or sailing or  aerodynamics, while not affecting millions for whom it could significantly improve their lives.  Is it genes, or potty training, or something much later in life?
You've stumped me.  I think that many people who we don't give credit for being intellectual remain curious and engaged.  Think of an old lady who is obsessed with quilting.
Yes I have one next door, maybe I already told you.  She is 60-something, smokes like a 1962 Ford, comes from a background of discouraging education of women in anything other than domestic science and deportment, and of being seen as the runt of the litter.  After her husband died, and with the number of overbearing older relatives dwindling, she was free to take her own decisions for the first time in her life and did a degree in psychology.
(By the way, how would you feel about a mathematics professor in Scotland who is, to my eye, round but not grotesque, quite pretty, and does really, really cool quilts?  I mean, how would you feel about being put into contact with her?)
Um, do you mean romantically or intellectually?  I don't object to being put in touch with anyone.  Well, within reason, I'd pass on scientologists or other religious proselytisers.  Is this the "old lady who is obsessed with quilting" just mentioned?  I find that there are plenty of unattached intelligent older women around, and a few make interesting correspondents, but as far as looking for a mother for eight year old Natasha is concerned, they are non-starters.  One started out telling me how she liked taking off-peak holidays.  It took a few letters to get through to her that that
doesn't mix with school-age children.
So as far as romantic involvement is concerned, my basic rules are, younger than me, non-smoking, bright enough to appreciate me, and in reasonable physical and mental health.  After that it is just a matter of falling in love.
There are a few unattached females among the school parents, and not all totally thick or unattractive, (although none I would classify as either cute or intellectual) but as far as I know every single one smokes!
Somewhere in here is the difference between creative stress and depressive stress.  Yes I, and anyone, gets a kick from achieving something.  The good thing about my job is that I do a job and see the result straight away.  A photographer has to wait for the film to be developed, a teacher has to wait for the child to grow up, but fixing machines gets instant kicks.  People (psychologists) have said that stress in achieving something is healthy and good for you, constructive stress.  If the achievement is difficult and stressful then the kick is all the greater.  But if the stress does not result in achievement, it is destructive and leads to depression.
Why do we feel that we are in some way superior to the others.  From one point of view we are no more superior than muscle builders.  Perhaps this is because society finds value in these freaks, and does not understand how to create them to order. 
Hey, speak for yourself!
But seriously, I feel superior to someone whose muscles are freakishly overdeveloped because I know that I could probably come up with better ideas on how to use those muscles than he or she could.
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Yes, and I have some sneaking feelings that way, myself.  I thought you were getting close to the self-congratulatory note that many Mensa members seem to project.
Count the [indents]. You wrote that, you are agreeing with yourself.  Looks like I didn't comment on it but didn't snip it either.  It just got lost in the length of the mail.  I don't see any real point in muscle development, but I'm thinking that perhaps mental development is similarly overrated.
The Mensa phenomenon is strange, don't they notice that people are laughing at them? 
They whine about it, not realizing that they bring it on themselves. A bit like American foreign policy - do what you feel like and just assume everyone loves you: until they get mad enough to let you know otherwise.
But these are not the people society generally rewards - society mostly rewards dominant characters - bullies and spivs. Intellectuals are often quite retiring.
Is this development fixed at some early time on life, perhaps adolescence?
Oh, yes.  I think it all goes back to the way you were raised.  I have friends, for example, who graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.  In that school, the "cool" kids were the ones who scored highest on tests, etc.  They were rewarded for that, and as a result, those people are not at all retiring.  They are proud of themselves and what they can do.  They also exhibit some unattractive character traits, like bullying, boasting, and other things that I don't like to associate with intelligent people.
Are the latter traits endemic among people brought up in the Bronx or are they specific to Science School graduates?
(snicker) Well, there is a stereotypical truth there, but what I was trying to say is that the jock bullying and boasting that I saw in my schools seemed to be transferred to be intellectual bullying and boasting at BSS.
...
I think that stress, in the context of psychology, is the same thing as embarrasment, but viewed over a longer term.
I'm not clear on this.
To clarify. I am propounding the theory that intellectual development is prompted by embarrassment, and that the system forms a homeostatic control loop - a negative feedback system - at least for part of our lives.  If you are faced with a situation that you don't have the mental equipment to handle, that is embarrassment.  Maybe you are in a social group where you are aware that certain behaviours are expected, but you don't know what the rules are.  Maybe you have committed yourself to performing a task but don't know how to go about it.  Now in homeostatic circumstances (where
intelligence grows to meet demand), these incidents will happen occasionally, in the same way that muscle strains will happen occasionally if you are just fit enough for your lifestyle. 
Hmm, well, yes, this could be true, but I'm not sure how it works regarding an historical development of intelligent.  I mean, out on the african savannah in the dreamtime of the human race, did our fore-apes become embarrassed when a lion stole their carrion?
Only if they had nothing else to eat.  It would be trivially embarrassing to die of having your meals stolen.  It would be seriously embarrassing to have your dependents die of it.
BBC is doing an edutainment computer animated series called 'Walking with Beasts', a sequel to the popular 'Walking with Dinosaurs' and covering among other things early primates.  (It is a bit poor IMHO but the kids like it).
They mentioned that the Australopithecine learned to eat meat which provided the nutrients to allow a major growth in brain size.  Maybe that explains our vegetarian friends.
Have you read any Jared Diamond? 
I don't think so.  Not a name I recognise.
I highly recommend a book of his called "Guns, Germs and Steel."  It talks about human intelligence in some surprising ways.
I suggest that stress is the pressure to increase intelligence produced by these events - if the homeostasis occurs then it is maintained at a low level by the control loop, if that fails then stress may increase without bound.  Causes of the control systems failing to track may be rapid changes in demand, or physical limits to (in this case) growth. (From "control systems 101".)
What I could not decide was whether this is only a feedback loop up to a point where development ceases (like a baby who's eyes were bandaged from birth grew up blind because necessary neurological connections failed to develop), or whether there is some other reason for control failure.  I suppose the most likely scenario is that development on some level ceases at adolescence, and from then on you are on your own with whatever you got.  So if adolescence was traumatic you may end up over endowed with learning ability, if it was undemanding you may end up unable to learn new tricks.
I'm not sure that quite fits, but the idea that a traumatic adolescence or childhood is a cause of intelligence rather than a consequence of it sounds worth exploring.
Reference is often made to "the stresses of modern life", it is perceived that life has become much more stressful recently, despite having also become more comfortable and easier. 
I think that the stresses of modern life are also caused by our mores not having kept up with our technological ability. 
Does automation create stress?
Yes.  Now, if the electricity is not on or the machine doesn't work, we have to a) fix the machine and b) do the job the machine is designed to do when it *does* work.
Labour-saving devices relieve us of monotonous tasks.  This is supposed to free our time for 'leisure', but in fact we are likely not to actually use the freed time for leisure but to compete.  We cannot compete with machines at labour-intensive tasks, we can only compete with each other in the areas on more intellectually demanding areas on which machines cannot encroach. 
Or we try to keep up with the Joneses.
Hmm, but mostly the machine does work.  Even if the machines worked perfectly the competition stress would still be there.  To keep up with the Joneses we have to earn as much money as the Joneses.  We can't do that by just working longer hours at heavy labour any more.  The bottom fell out of the manual labour market because machines do it cheaper.  The only way to get ahead is to push one's skills to the limit.  That means spending more of your time attempting tasks beyond your ability, or solving scheduling/starting-point type problems, and getting destructive stress.
I believe that trying to fill our time competitively is the source of "modern stress" - we worry because we have time to worry. 
ABSOLUTELY.  When one is in a struggle to survive the elements (e.g. farmsteading on the prairie in 1885) one doesn't have time to agonize about one's childhood sexual abuse, or whether or not one's mate understands one.
If it is true that intellectual development is mainly fixed at adolescence, then the stress will be increased in two ways.  Firstly, the 'modern' society makes more intellectual demands on adults, but not on adolescents.  Secondly, those now suffering as adults went through their development at a time of lower demand.
But because human society and its capabilities are continually growing and changing, this has been happening ever since we stepped out of the caves.  All generations harken back to the good old days, when life was simpler.
Oh, true, but I think there is evidence that the rate of change has is increasing, and the size of the problem is proportional to the rate of change.
I don't think change occurs at a constant rate, and I think we have seen eras of comparable swift change in technology in other eras, e.g. in Europe after the pandemics of bubonic plague in the thirteenth century and in both Europe and the U.S. during the Industrial Revolution.  Don't forget, there were people then who conceivably could have been born in exceedingly primitive conditions in, say, 1805, who could have lived to see electric lighting, telegraphs, telephones, etc.  I think that is a far more significant change than say, someone born in my cohort has
faced in their lifetime.
You may be right.  It is received wisdom that we are in an era of unprecedented change, but it may well be that the transmitters of wisdom do not look far for precedent.  I think it is indisputable though that we are on an upswing, that in our lifetimes the rate has increased, and that I think is a source of stress.
A corollory of that is that intellectuals should not be susceptible to this stress, but should be seen by others as unaware of their 'real' world..
My personal experience is that stress comes when I have a lot of competing tasks and no obvious priority. 
Yes.  Or when there's no clear starting point.
 I am happiest when I know what I have to do next, for example when I can work my way systematically and uninterrupted through a single large project.  I think that scheduling is the most demanding task. I agree.
Modern stress is the outcome on society of automation.  What in the sixties we imagined would bring the 'workless society' actually brought the 'financial services industry', an entirely parasitic form of work which creates no wealth at all, really just a form of institutionalised gambling. This is our recreation and it automatically expands to take up whatever slack is created.  It is true that the Devil makes work for idle hands.  It was an error to believe that the masses would embrace idleness.
(As computers were supposed to bring the paperless office but actually brought desk-top publishing.)
That isn't just a fantasy: as we have automated we have come to expect to spend more of our lives in 'idleness', in the form of retirement. 
Well, and don't forget advances in public health.  A hundred years ago it was rare to live into retirement.  One worked and dropped dead in the traces.  As old age becomes more and more productive, retirement will become shorter and shorter.  People will still be working and adding to their pension funds in their mid seventies.
One would have expected the response to increased longevity to be to increase retirement age in line with the demography.  Our failure to do this (so far) and even (at least in the 80's) a trend toward early retirement is a large reduction in work in 'real terms', and is a true measure of our idleness.  In the trade press there are regular discussions about ageism in the workplace.  Oddly, all the opinions voiced are anti-ageism, and yet it is very difficult for anyone over 40 to move jobs in technology.  I am still waiting for its proponents to come out of the woodwork and explain themselves. 
They don't have to. They are the ones doing the firing.
Yes but the media claim to have an ageism debate going.  You can't have a debate with only one side present.
We clearly do not properly utilise the skills and work potential of the (what is now) middle-aged group.  At 50 I can even get an age discount on the long-distance buses!  It is not so much a discount, as that they charge a premium to passengers aged between 26 and 49.  Under 26 you can get a student discount.
Yup.  David (my husband) is 52, and, though he held on for a good long time, finally got his layoff notice for the end of January.  He is blithe about his ability to find a new job (which is why Natasha's Christmas present was sent air mail), but I'm not so sanguine.
Oh dear.  The mobile phone industry seems to have punctured its bubble.  I hope he is right. 
So do I, so do I.  I feel terrible.  I'm not sure that I can handle being married to him if we're poor.  I know that this is terrible, but I don't have anyone else I can tell my terrible thoughts to.'
"Well, its what we're here for." (That was the Help Desk 'sign-off' when I worked at Shell, if someone actually said thanks)
Well, he's being flown to Massachusetts next week for an interview, so SOMEONE wants him.
You mean HE goes for an interview and THEY pay his expenses.  Wow, I haven't had one of those since I left University.  But then I haven't had an employer since about 1981 anyway so what do I know?
Yes.  They are paying his expenses.  Oh, heavens, I'm praying.  I'm actually very nervous at the thought of living on the East Coast.  It seems so far away from Hawaii.  Silly, yeah?
The way the industry has gone just beggars belief, I thought that sort of commercial naivety died out in the 19th century.  When they started announcing the prices paid for the 3G licenses my jaw nearly hit the floor.  How anyone thought they could recover that I have no idea. It seems that a flawed business model took root somewhere and propagated through the industry.  Like a chain letter.  "Give me 8 billion pounds, then develop a product and send it to the top ten million names on your address
list asking them for two thousand pounds each.  In no time the money will be rolling in!"  Suckers!
To achieve this we spend our working lives investing our earnings with a view to receiving a pension. 
Yes, and yet medical science has not yet come up with the problem-free old age.  What is the point of having lots of lovely cash when you are in your eighties, if you are too physically ill to have fun with it?
On the other hand, its no fun being physically ill and not having any cash to alleviate it.  This longevity comes at a cost, which has to be paid for somehow.  It is increasingly becoming the case that we spend our productive years buying health insurance for our old age.  The ever-stretched NHS budget is mostly spent on the elderly, and doesn't cover most of the massive cost of caring for the elderly.  Maybe we should advocate smoking to help people die while still at a relatively undemanding age.  I am sure that this argument lies behind our Government's rather equivocal stance on banning
smoking or punishing those who profit from what is essentially mass murder. They know damn well that it is the only thing that keeps the pensions industry from total collapse.
Yes, especially as the baby boomers (those born 1949-1965) approach retirement age.
In the process, the amount of our labour involved in manipulating these investments has grown out of all proportion, especially in the UK.  It creates the illusion that the country no longer needs industry or agriculture, but can entirely live by "taking in its own wash", a sort of economic cannibalism.  This fallacy was actually espoused by some people in high places in the Thatcher years.  It is a fallacy of the perpetual motion type, for the entire engine is still driven by wealth creation, take that away and the edifice must collapse through falling interest rates, vanishing trading margins and negative balance of payments.
Yes, and  if something catastrophic ever happened to the financial services industry, we would have millions of, essentially, drones out of work.  They would not know how to do anything productive.
Maybe Douglas Adams' vision of the Golgafrincham 'B' Ark would come true. We would pack them all into a spaceship and send them to colonise other planets.  He applied it to hairdressers and telephone sanitizers, but the idea is the same.  (The victims were told that the 'A' and 'C' arks containing the rest of the population would follow shortly, but somehow they never materialised.)

Aside no 1: In a radio documentary about a small and rather pointless colony on the east coast of Greenland, one resident commented that their economy consisted of "cutting each other's hair".

Aside no 2: On the subject of  foreign comedy getting into the US, have you ever seen the 'Pingu' animations for kids.  I just heard on the news that they are to be launched into the US, a multinational media company just bought the rights.  This is a modelling-clay stop-motion animation about a young penguin and his friends, who speak in a guttural gibberish that has no recognisable words, but expresses emotions well.  It really is brilliant, and truly international.  Their CEO described it as "probably the best stop-motion animation around."
Not yet, but I'm looking for it.  I have seen some of the merchandise, but the show hasn't appeared. 
(Ministers have said dafter things.  Recently it was briefly proposed to move the school holiday so that it would not coincide with the peak demand for travel!) 
:-o
Oh, my.
However, I support some changes in school schedules.  For example, the American habit of having a long summer off of school started up when we were largely an agrarian society.  Children were needed at home to help on the family farm in the summer.  Now there are very few children in that situation, and we have learned that those long school vacations are disastrous for year-to-year retention of learned material.  Yet try to switch to a year-around school schedcule, and parents, children and teachers alike scream.
Oh, is that why we have a long summer holiday.  Well well.  However I think that rationale is suspect and exam-orientated.  It presumes that retention after leaving school is unimportant.  "I'm about to have a life, I'd better start revising!"  Have they studied the effect of the holiday on long-term retention?  Oh, yes, and it's abysmal.  I find that I remember things permanently best if I am allowed to almost forget them and am then reminded. 
I have a general purpose PIN number (not for my bank account but for trivial things like my screen-saver password, instrument service access codes etc) which is a part number for a motorcycle exhaust pipe that I had to remember for a few hours when I was 16.  I can now never forget it.
That is the case for me now, but not when I was in school.
I recall first noticing the effect in my first year at university.  Trying to remember a girl's name.  It was Sarah.  And the year before, with a part number for a friend's motorcycle exhaust.  I had nowhere to write it down as I caught the bus into town to get the part.  It was 23059.  Having that number stuck in my head, it now gets used for all sorts of low-security PINs and passwords, for example the 4-digit default engineer control access password on my industrial controllers is 2305.
Sorry it took me so long to respond to this.  I have been very busy lately.  I have begun volunteering at the Pedicatric Interim Care Center, a center for drug-addicted babies who are going through withdrawal.  No, I'm not the madonna rocking the shrieking, stiffening baby; I'm the ink-stained wretch in the office writing a grant to keep the roof over the madonna's head.
We also have recently acquired a cat, and he requires some time and care. 
And winter is a drawing-in, so the days are much shorter and there is a rush to get everything done before it gets dark. 
Glad to hear you are doing something useful with your life and no longer just the Lady of the Manor. :)  Also very glad to hear you feel well enough to do that.
Yes, and since then, I've been in Austin at my sister's doctoral dissertation (as you know), been on several long car trips with my husband, visiting long-lost relatives of his, been completing my Christmas preparations (I am one of those women who goes about it very early, with grim determination and lots of lists), and been waiting for our Internet access to come back.  We have AT&T broadband service, and their ISP (Excite@Home) went belly-up.  AT&T came back up very quickly, I thought, but David has refused to follow the directions about reconfiguring his computer and our router, and so I've been doing most of my e-mail at the public library.
So much for broadband.  How are the mighty fallen!
I have been at least as slow in replying.  I wrote about 2/3 of this on the day, timed out, then somehow the mental energy just wasn't there, work seemed to be using it all up.  This strange lethargy persisted the whole time that Lyudmila's mother was staying.  She went home last weekend and it has begun to lift.  I don't really think it was entirely her fault, work has also been rather demanding, but three weekends out of four have been spent ferrying her around the country, to and from London Airport, to and from my parents in Scotland, so the 'free time' has been pretty non-existent. 
Yes, and Lyudmila's mother being there could have been depressing, bringing up memories of Lyudmila and her illness, etc.
Not so much that, more the hassle of logistics and expense.  Lyudmila's illness and death never really had much emotional impact.  I mean yes at the time I felt like screaming but that was lack of sleep and stress rather than any sort of grief.  There was just too much to do to sit around moping.
Last weekend we drove to London, stayed overnight at my sister's because we just couldn't make the connection from Manchester unless we all flew to London and back at prohibitive cost.  We spent the afternoon going around Kew Gardens, the national botanical 'museum' which is not far from Heathrow. Quite interesting but rather boring for Natasha, who I think when looking at a wood just saw a wood and was not impressed by all the different or unusual species of tree.  I think she was more interested in the cafe.
I would have been, too, at that age, unless the huge stinky corpse flower, whose name I can't remember, was blooming at the time.  I think y'all have got one at Kew.

Speaking of stinky corpses, a mystery writer here, Patricia Cornwall, has invested $4 million of her own money in research and has determined that Jack the Ripper was a well-known English Impressionist painter, Walter Sickert.  Hast thou heard sooth, and what thinks thou?
If that is Patricia Cornwell, I know the Dr Kay Scarpetta books pretty well, but I hadn't heard this story, although I seem to recall having heard a reference to it somewhere.  Why not?  Sounds like fun.  I think it was generally thought he was an intelligent and educated man, so it is likely he was well known in some other sphere.  Give $4M to a man and he would spend it on women.  Give it to a woman and she has to do something interesting with it. ;-)