Are You As Much Of A Truthseeker As You Like to Think You Are?

I’ve noticed I get really worked up when challenged on issues like, say, global warming, vaccinations, and health care reform. I always assumed it was because I had good reason, but maybe (in the immortal words of Marcellus Wallace) “that’s just pride, f***ing with [me].”

From an interview with Robin Hanson of Overcoming Bias, a thinker I really admire one of my favorite bloggers (even if I find him just a tad smug self-satisfied at times):

“When our pride isn’t on the line or we’re working together on a project and we need to achieve something – maybe our job is at stake – we’re much more likely to be reasonable. But when we talk about politics or religion or whatever we talk about on these radio shows, that’s when we’re much more likely to not be reasonable and to find it more enjoyable to speak than to listen.”

Damn! Zing!

I liked this, too:

“It’s a common point in almost every person’s life when they see people around them who have beliefs they don’t quite understand and they decide for themselves that, “Well, I must just be more honest than those other people. I must be trying harder.” That’s the easiest way to explain your disagreement with other people. We do disagree, and it does bother us; we know, at some level, that something’s not right about that, and we’re eager to find explanations. The easiest explanation that usually comes to mind is just our own superior sincerity or honesty. It’s just quick and easy. We’re not very honest about considering that explanation.”

I definitely agree that people who disagree with me need to be more honest with themselves about how wrong they are.

Read the rest.

Did you know you can subscribe to Margin Notes by email? No more than one email per day (and then only if there is anything new to report). What’s not to like?

The Week’s Tweets (2010-02-07)

  • Coen rejects the individualistic model of environmentalism and argues that we will solve our problems at the policy level or not at all. #
  • The Pea-Green Boat makes me ready my torpedo tubes. #
  • Disappointed that I missed Dr. Phil. What is happening to me? #
  • Coen slept all night on a stationary surface! ("Slept all night" = woke up at 2 and 5, but that's normal.) #
  • No daycare. #
  • Shot fired at kitten abuser's house, "but not by police." #
  • RT @SherryDevlin: Police standoff in progress at home of abused kitten: #
  • Name the poet: "Those wild screaming beaches…" #
  • Trying to do less so I can get more done. #
  • Inspiring to see even Toyota doing its part to help out the U.S. car industry! #
  • I thought The Hurt Locker was supposed to be good. #
  • The great Scott McLemee on Haiti and the role of the Caribbean: #
  • Important difference between "the unemployment rate" and "people who don't have a job." #
  • Can they really call it a "retweet" when they change "love" to "luv," "to" to "2," and so forth? #
  • I love how the internet is at the point where you don't even have to wonder if you'll be able to find a photo of a biker holding a kitten. #
  • Now I have something in common with Danny Torrance. #
  • Loving USAA. (Good thing I was smart enough to marry into an officer's family.) #
  • So, daycare. #
  • Quote from an interview transcript I am reading: "Can you put some words back in my mouth again?" #
  • How can I make an alarm go off every 30 minutes (or customizable) while my computer's on? Browser based is okay. Simpler the better. #
  • Oops, never mind, Firefox add-on "Simple Timer" crashes my browser. #
  • Experimenting with Firefox add-on "Simple Timer" to remind me to stretch every half hour. #

At Last, A Role Model

Lillian Ross’s remembrance of J.D. Salinger in the February 8th New Yorker makes me think I might have liked the man quite a bit, if I’d known him. (Now is when you will be tempted to notify me of some horrible sexual or other predilection of his. Aside from the fact that this wouldn’t disqualify him for me quite the way you think it might, I would ask that you do so only if you have nothing of your own you’d rather keep secret-glass houses, stones, etc.)

Anyway, while in the midst of ruminating on my family’s near-term future and how best to raise my son, I liked reading Ross quoting Salinger quoting Emerson (” a touchstone” for Salinger, who “often quoted him in letters”):

“A man must have aunts and cousins, must buy carrots and turnips, must have barn and woodshed, must go to the market and to the blacksmith’s shop, must saunter and sleep and be inferior and silly.”

Sounds like a philosophy I could live with.


“After he bought a Maytag washer and dryer, he was tickled that the salesman quoted Ruskin to him-something about where quality counts, price doesn’t. He was sure that the line wasn’t part of the man’s spiel. “God, how I still love private readers,” he wrote. “It’s what we all used to be.”

Margin Notes is a Blog. This is a Blog Post.

In a recent edition of the Missoulian, the syndicated columnist Connie Schultz had this to say:

“Most men, it seems, still determine their worth as human beings by the number of zeros in their take-home pay. Some women buy into this; others don’t. Hence the latest flurry of stories and blogs about high-earning women insisting their husbands must make more than they do or lamenting that they can’t find men who make less and don’t care.”

Point taken but are there really “blogs” about “high-earning women insisting their husbands must make more than they do or lamenting that they can’t find men who make less and don’t care”? That is, there are entire websites consisting of reverse-chronological-order posts devoted to this subject?

Or are there posts along these lines on such web sites?

As the title says, Margin Notes is a blog, and this portion of the blog that you are reading right now is a blog post. Calling this article or entry or whatever other term you want to use a “blog” is like calling Connie Schultz’s column a “newspaper.”

But it’s happening more and more. Aside from being an imprecise term, I think there is also some faint derision in this usage, or at least a sort of encapsulated refusal to understand what a blog really is.

It’s like the mainstream, non-online media has finally accepted that they are going to sometimes have to talk about these things called “blogs,” and while they’ve finally gotten to the point where they can say the word without gagging on it, they’re sure not going to waste any time trying to understand any fine points about the medium.

After all, they’re counting on people realizing in another year or two how much of a waste of time blogs are, switching off the internet, and going back to reading stuff that really matters, like newspapers and magazines, and maybe even watching the five o’clock news.

Maybe they’re right. In the meantime, however, join me in making a stand for precision in language.

Repeat after me: The website thingy is a blog. The things on it are blog posts.

(Also, the past tense of “lead” is “led,” not “lead.”)

Pity the Poor Paranoid

For he does not know how much he does not know. Hofstadter:

“L.B. Namier once said that “the crowning attainment of historical study” is to achieve “an intuitive sense of how things do not happen.” It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him.

We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only in the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”

Hey, I found the essay on-line, supposedly the version that was originally published in Harper’s in 1964. (I suppose it’s possible that there might be differences between that version and the version published in the reissued book I’m reading, so my apologies for any discrepancies.)

But How Do You Really Feel?

There’s a lot to absorb from this Missoulian article about a bad local man who either stomped on or threw his recently adopted kitten before attempting to flush it down the toilet (he had also shaved its head at some point), but this quote from Animal Control Officer Judy Vernier is what jumped out at me:

“They asked us years ago if we wanted to carry guns, and I turned it down. It’d just be too tempting.”

The alleged perpetrator could be charged with “felony aggravated animal cruelty,” which I assume could result in jail time. I hope it does, if only to provide the appropriate venue for a conversation between him and some kitten-loving biker[1] that starts like this:

“So, what are you in for?”

1. If you follow only one hyperlink today, make it this one!

I Did Not Know That

Apparently, “it is an ascertained fact that Jesuits are prowling about all parts of the United States in every possible disguise, expressly to ascertain the advantageous situations and modes to disseminate Popery…. [T]he western country swarms with them under the names of puppet show men, dancing masters, music teachers, peddlers of images and ornaments, barrel organ players, and similar practitioners.”

Even barrel organ players? IS NOTHING SACRED?

(Quoted from The Paranoid Style in American Politics, which quotes it from an 1835 tract by S.F.B. Morse, who probably should have stuck to dots and dashes.)

Reality Check

Nate Silver reminds us of the political knowledge gaps in this country. (Sources are linked in the original post.)

“We’ve repeatedly highlighted Kaiser’s health care polling, which revealed that only about half of the public knows about many of the key provisions that are in the Democrats’ bill, such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, a Pew poll this week found that only 26 percent of Americans know that it takes 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster — and only 32 percent know that Senate GOPers voted unanimously against the Democrats’ health care plan. And a Rasmussen poll of likely voters found that only 21 percent of them believe that the Democrats have cut taxes for “95% of working families”, a fact which is probably true.

I don’t particularly blame the public for this. The number of politics “fans” probably numbers somewhere on the order of 10 or 20 million out of a country of 250 million adults. Most people have lives and have better things to do than to follow politics all the time. They pay quite a bit of attention during Presidential elections and, I would argue, make reasonably sophisticated decisions. But outside of that, most people aren’t watching MSNBC or Fox News every evening or logging onto the Washington Post or FiveThirtyEight. They’re developing impressions based on limited information, often gleaned from partisan news sources and politicians who have an incentive to tell them anything but the truth.”

One possible reaction to this is self-righteous anger about the willful ignorance of the electorate, blah, blah, blah. Another one is to find hope in the fact that many of these people don’t actually disagree with what’s on the table and so they can be reached.

Week In Review: This One Time At Bird Camp

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This week, bottles of breast milk were warmed and served to a mostly appreciative customer. Episodes of Oprah and Curb Your Enthusiasm were watched. So was the State of the Union address. A pot luck dinner reunited Missoula-area alumni of last summer’s Bird Camp.

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A potentially momentous discussion began.

More will be revealed.

The Week’s Tweets (2010-01-31)

  • Man, Oprah is being a lot harder on Jay Leno than on Sarah Palin. #
  • 12 tips to help you read more. Most helpful: if you're not enjoying a book, stop reading it! #
  • Can anyone recommend some reading that might quickly give some sense of what it's like to know/care for someone in a coma? #
  • What "family values" really look like: paid paternity leave in the UK. #
  • OK, ACORN pimp guy may not have been "wiretapping" after all. #
  • Definitely can't imagine buying an iPad. #iPad #
  • Flattered that Obama took the time to email me right after the State of the Union address. He must have been tired! #
  • Why Dems are so often frustrated in their policy goals, from Nate Silver: "Power is as power resists." #
  • Loving my @FlipVideoBrand camera but hating their support. 2 open tickets, 2 weeks with no response. #
  • Guy who busted ACORN arrested for felony wiretapping of a Democratic senator. #
  • Wait, I thought Lost was supposed to be good. #
  • If Coen's attention span doesn't get longer soon, I may have to finish Horton Hears A Who on my own sometime. #
  • Stop using "lead" as the past tense of "lead"; not only is it wrong, it's confusing. "Led," people. "Led." #
  • Great from @johncr8on: “You can count on Americans to do the right thing… after they’ve exhausted all other options.” #
  • If a corporation can be a person, a dolphin definitely can. #
  • What do you mean, television can't turn my baby into a genius? My latest Went West column: #