Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for January 2020

Blogroll update

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A significant contributor to alternate and uncensored viewpoints on e.g. world events is UNZ, a platform for free expression of opinion, and I originally intended to include it on my blogroll. Unfortunately, the quality of contents is too varying, and there are a number of both contributors and commenters moving more in the area of “conspiracy theory” than “alternate viewpoint” (even in a generous estimate), including large amounts of the-Jews-are-to-blame-for-X, and others clearly on the Left (or both). This is, obviously, perfectly in order for this type of platform (free speech must be free for everyone—not just those with the “correct” opinions), but it holds me back from an outright blogroll entry. This in part because such an entry could be misinterpreted, especially by a casual visitor, as an endorsement of opinions that I do not endorse; in part because it could prove a waste of the readers’ time.

I would, however, strongly recommend one* particular contributor: James Thompson, whose writings on intelligence and related topics was my accidental original** entry point. For those looking for the true*** scientific opinion on e.g. IQ tests, variation in cognitive abilities, etc., he is a very good source.

*Which is not to say that he is the only quality contributor, let alone that none of the others would be worthy reads to get a different point of view (cf. excursion).

**To some approximation: I have visited this site before, as it has occasionally popped up among search results, but until one visit, a few months ago, I had always just read the text found and then moved on.

***As opposed to what e.g. politicians, journalists, and, regrettably, many social scientists like to claim.

I had originally planned a longer discussion going into a bit more detail on a few of his texts, but my recent cut-down-on-blogging policy has changed that intention (aided by the time gone by, which would force an extensive re-reading). Among the links that I kept, however, a few honorable mentions without detail:

The Ethics of Taboo Genetics, which includes a discussion of the problems with PC intrusions on scientific work and debate.

The 7 Tribes of Intellect, which gives his characterization of the rough abilities of various intelligence groups.

Group IQ Doesn’t Exist, with the apt sub-heading “Smart groups are (simply) groups of smart people.”, well matching my own experiences and skepticism towards group work.

Excursion on guilt by association and related problems:
One reason for my not “blogrolling” UNZ whole-sale overlaps with the problem of guilt by association. Of course, here we have a further problem with censorship, intolerance of opinion, etc.: those with sane-but-unpopular opinions are often forced to seek out forums where they necessarily mix with debaters who have insane-but-unpopular opinions. As a consequence, they become vulnerable to guilt by association. (Of course, this can take more subtle shapes, often in combination with circular reasoning, e.g. that researchers x, y, and z are condemned as racist. How do we know that they are racists? They have received money from the racist Pioneer Fund. How do we now that the Pioneer Fund is racist? It gives money to racist researchers like x, y, and z…)

Excursion on the importance of alternate view-points:
I strongly believe that exposure to alternate view-points (and an open mind towards them) is vital to both intellectual growth and the development of a sound world-view. This includes those that we believe to be wrong. This is a recurring theme both with blogroll entries and in my own writings, as with e.g. [1], [2], [3].


Written by michaeleriksson

January 22, 2020 at 5:19 am

Reading chick-lit

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During my recent trip to Bonn, I picked up a number of books in the larger-/better-than-in-Wuppertal bookstores. Among these, two examples of “chick-lit”: “A Discovery of Witches” (ADoW) by Deborah Harkness* and “Rebecca” (R) by Daphne du Maurier**.

*Mostly through ignorance of the contents, as I had assumed that this book would be more regular fantasy and less “Twilight” than it turned out to be.

**The classification as “chick-lit” might be a little unfair, e.g. with an eye on the high quality, but the book likely caters more to women than to men. (But having seen the Hitchcock movie at least thrice, I had a much better idea of what to expect than with ADoW.) This especially in my edition, which comes with a decidedly odd, strongly red cover, picturing red cloth and with the name “Rebecca” written in large, pseudo-calligraphy letters. Indeed, while I have no qualms about reading this work, even in public, I was a little embarrassed reading this specific edition in a restaurant—the cover (unfairly) screams “cheap romance”.

I read about half of ADoW while in Bonn, taking a number of notes, and about a hundred pages of R. I finished them in the next week or two back in Wuppertal, reading a chapter here-and-there without taking notes. Below follows first a discussion of the “Bonn portion” of ADoW based on the notes, then some minor further remarks on the two books and their similarities and differences. Throughout, I make reservations for memory deficits. To cut to the chase, ADoW is sufficiently crappy that I will not bother with the sequels (and do not recommend the first book to others), while R is considerably better and well worth a read (even for a man and even for someone who has already seen the movie).

Remark: I will refer to the respective main female protagonist as “heroine” throughout, in part because the heroine of R is (probably) never named other than by pronouns and the cumbersome and ambiguous “Mrs. de Winter”. (An interesting contrast to Rebecca, the “other” Mrs. de Winter, whose name appears again and again, including as the book’s title.) This allows for more generic expressions. For the sake of completeness, the named heroine of ADoW is Diana, and the respective romantic interests are Maxim in R and Matthew in ADoW.

Discussion of ADoW based on Bonn notes (some overlap and duplication might be present):

  1. The book is derivative, stereotypical, and childish, with no attempts at “higher values” of note. The plot is limited and filled with “feel good” descriptions, the adult woman’s equivalent of Enid Blyton’s food orgies.
  2. It borders on being “porn for women”, except in as far as there is little actual sex.

    This includes female fantasies about being special* and desired, a too-good-to-be-true** man, and other sugary feel-goodery.

    *Note how the heroine is simultaneously the most talented witch in centuries, an extremely rare abstainer from magic use (or so she thinks), has an odd adrenaline overload, and has a highly successful academic career—and she does yoga and rows, to boat, sorry, to boot. In this regard, both she and Matthew could be seen as “Mary Sues”, being good at everything, bad at nothing, etc.

    **Vampire super-powers, rich and landed, hyper-educated, successful, leader of a knightly order, very old and still young looking, preternaturally beautiful, personal friend of dozens of historical persons (including Shakespeare), etc. To some degree, the book could be seen as an exercise in dreaming up the perfect man, “a discovery of a man”. This is to a high degree compatible with my hypothesis that women are relatively more likely to dream of getting a man/partner with great capabilities, while men are more likely to dream of getting the capabilities themselves.

  3. Overlapping, there are a lot of modern vampire cliches, including the odd attraction for this one special woman by a vampire who has lived for ages.*

    *And how come that Angel and Buffy were considered romantic, while a (non-vampire) man a tenth of Angel’s age would otherwise be branded a pervert and a pedophile for showing interest in a girl of sixteen, and while Angel–Buffy, or even ADoW, scenarios are arguably closer to a “Lolita” setup. (Also see another footnote on “Lolita” below.)

  4. There is too much filler, too much (mostly irrelevant) detail, too little that happens. In particular, there is an extreme focus on sensory perceptions, especially taste. This to the point that I at one point* actually threw the book away in disgust, only picking it up again the next day, because I felt that there were some lessons on both writing and women to be drawn. (Notably, is is hard for a typical man to naturally/intuitively understand the type of woman used as the heroine, and/or those women who like to read such stories, as will likely be clear from some of the items in this list.)

    *I could not find the exact place again, on short notice, but it might have been somewhere around page 200 in my edition, with some scene relating to eating or drinking having the heroine quasi-orgasmic.

    ADoW might have been good if the large low value descriptive portions and other “filler” had been removed—and the book been half as thick. The story it self has some potential, but it is drowned in nonsense.

    I am, however, starting to suspect, based on literary preferences, that women tend to be more interested in experiences*, sensations, moods, whatnot than events, psychology, ethical dilemmas, … If so, it would explain a number of oddities in works by or for women. Similarly, it might be that men read/write for entertainment and value, while women read/write for mood and “feel good” escapism—emotions, not substance.

    *In Germany, I also note phrases like “Einkaufserlebnis” (“shopping experience”), which are entirely strange to me—if I go shopping, it is not to “experience” something, it is to find suitable products. Cut out the experience, and give me good prices and many choices, and I will be perfectly happy. If women see it the other way around, this phrase and this priority becomes less odd. (Note that women are more likely to spend money on shopping and are, therefore, of more interest to the advertising industry. I am, obviously, long aware that many women see shopping as entertainment or relaxation, along the pattern of Carrie Bradshaw.)

  5. There is an extreme naivete about evolution and genetics (both referenced repeatedly) and science in general. This includes interbreeding between different species* and “teleological” mutations causing “deliberate” adaptions**. Other issues include unrealistic effects of low metabolism*** and a perpetuation of the ignorant “races do not exist” myth****.

    *I am a little vague on exactly what I meant during note-taking, but it probably was the combination of the in-universe take that humans, vampires, witches, and/or demons belong to radically different species combined with the question whether they could interbreed. Barring some highly magical exception, this does not make sense, because interbreeding between creatures of this complexity is at odds with considering them as belonging to different species or, on the outside, “neighboring” species (e.g. horses and donkeys). Similarly, the great similarity in looks would be at odds with even e.g. parallel evolution. The whole thing is simply not thought through—or the author is astonishingly ignorant of the biological sciences. (This is not made better by the various creation paths involved, with witches descending from witches, vampires being turned from human to vampire by other vampires, and demons arising as mutations of humans, IIRC. Witches excepted, this fits the pattern of typical species very poorly and raises doubts as to whether speaking of species makes sense at all.)

    **As in changing circumstances causing genes to mutate to fit the circumstances, which is not at all what happens in real life, where mutations occur somewhat randomly and the circumstances affect a filtering of those mutations. Note Terry Pratchett’s “The Last Continent” for this incompatible-with-reality type of adaption taken to a humorous extreme.

    ***If e.g. a low metabolism is the explanation for the increased life span of vampires, how do we explain that they are far faster than humans? It just does not make sense, it is like eating one’s cake and ending up with more cake than one had originally … (To my vague recollection, there was some type of excuse offered of vampires saving their energy for the needed moment, but since the behavior displayed is very far from e.g. a crocodile laying in wait for its pray, this simply does not pan out—nor am I certain that this would be realistically possible even with a more crocodilian life-style, barring magical help.)

    ****The odder in light of viewing very similar creatures as members of different species.

    However, the idea of declining species is interesting, IF motivated by insight into the current dysgenic situation. Then again, I doubt that this is the case, and more likely it will turn out that the artificial ban on interspecies relationships is the cause of the problem.

  6. More generally, there is a lot that is poorly thought-through and lacks deliberation on potential consequences, including the claim that about 1-in-10 of the population would be supernatural while the existence of supernaturals is not public knowledge, and various covenant issues*. Similarly, Matthew is attributed with an enormous influence to keep others out of the library without reason/explanation, and in a manner that is hard to combine with later events and any causal mechanism. (His knightly order notwithstanding.)

    *My notes speak only of “covenant issues” and I do not recall the details. It will likely be understandable to those reading the book, however.

    (While I have not payed attention to this aspect in great detail, where male and female authors are concerned, it is noteworthy that J. K. Rowling is similar. The over-valuation of the “Golden Snitch” in Quidditch is an obvious example, but consider also e.g. how a group of students created the “Marauder’s Map” while none of the adult wizards, Voldemort included, has something similar, or how a “time turner” (?) is given to Hermione for such a trivial task as taking parallel classes, while they are not used for more important tasks, e.g. fighting Voldemort, nor by Voldemort against the heroes. (The later “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” goes some way to remedy this, but (a) is too little, too late, (b) who is to credit for what is unclear and it need not be Rowling’s idea.)

  7. An oddity is that there is little history content from the historian author. (But this might change in the second book, which, according to included blurb, appears to be dominated by the time-travel scenario begun at the end of ADoW. Also: Magic and time travel in the same book?!? A little too much for my taste.)
  8. The development of the romance is stereotypical with a very passive woman and a man who makes all decisions/takes all initiative.

    More generally, the heroine is surprisingly passive and dependent on others, especially Matthew. On the one hand she is (allegedly) academically successful, a powerful witch, strong willed, whatnot; on the other, she behaves like a child, manages little on her own, and has an almost daughter–father relationship with her “husband”.* If she is representative for “intelligent” women, no wonder that they trail men as high-achievers, unless they are given artificial assistance to overcome largely non-existent problems (e.g. the infamous “glass roof”).

    *As an aside, one of the other books that I picked up was Nabokov’s “Lolita”, which I am currently reading. While a very different type of book, it does take the daughter–father version of wife–husband to an extreme. Still, the eponymous Lolita appears to have a stronger will and more to say in the relationship, while barely straddling the border between childhood and womanhood, than the thirty-something heroine of ADoW. I might also consider Lolita and Rebecca something of kindred spirits.

  9. (I repeatedly found myself suspecting inconsistencies in who-is-who and continuity, but I did not go back to check and might have been wrong.)

As to my post-Bonn readings, I had the impression that the story fell apart after the heroine was kidnapped.

Looking at R and, especially, R vs. ADoW, R is of much higher quality, especially when it comes to prose, some parts reading almost like poetry.* It also has some psychology, a more engaging romance, a few plot twists** that actually work; is more believable (even supernatural aspects of ADoW aside); and left me wanting to read on in another manner. A particular strength is the suspense, which even in book form is already almost Hitchcockian (but a comparison here is unfair, as ADoW belongs to a different genre).

*Notwithstanding some odd spelling errors and at least one instance of what seemed like one or more lines missing. There is a fair chance that these errors were introduced by the publisher/printer/whatnot; and if not, they are the type of errors that everyone makes and that a good editor should catch, if they slip by the author during proof-reading.

**With reservations for these already being known to me from the movie, which forces some mental approximation. A difference compared to the movie is that Rebecca is outright murdered (largely an accident in movie), but this too I already knew from a Wikipedia reading.

However, there are quite a few commonalities, including that comparatively little happens, that there are (too) many descriptions, that both heroines are virtual children (with greater justification in R, due to situation and age), that both men are extremely good catches, that both heroines land in unusual environments (including “his” estate) with mysteries and perceptions of danger, etc. A particularly interesting aspect is the (perceived or feared) romantic competition from the past, which is a major theme of R and has repeated occurrences in ADoW—and in both cases the competition turns out to be far less of a romantic threat than the heroine feared (but sometimes quite dangerous in non-romantic areas).

Looking at R alone, I was repeatedly struck by a theme of (almost) self-defeat, where lack of confidence, wasted opportunities, whatnot, unnecessarily held the heroine back. This even post-wedding, when it came to taking on the role as wife and lady of the house. Through large parts of the book, I even suspected that Danvers could have been turned to her side, had she had the guts to step into the shoes of Rebecca (but the later parts of the book cast doubt on that idea).

Excursion on coincidence and awareness (and the “nectarine phenomenon”):
I have often noticed what I think of as the “nectarine phenomenon”*. It struck again with the Ashmolean, which plays an important part in ADoW. I originally thought that it was fictional, made up for the book, until I looked up Nell Gwynne, a name occurring in R (!), on Wikipedia. Almost the first thing that I read is “Ashmolean”. (Small world …) I have seen the name at least twice in other contexts in the few weeks since.

*The word “nectarine” (resp. the Swedish “nektarin”) once lost me critical points in a quiz. I was certain that I had never heard the word before, and thought it unfairly obscure to children of ten, but I stumbled upon it again and again in the months following, which lead me to doubt that I had been right. (Admittedly, after going through a period of thinking that the world, instead of the quiz, was unfair, because “if I had only encountered the word for the first time a week before the quiz instead of a week after the quiz, then …”, but the evidence eventually mounted too high.) Similar experiences have occurred fairly often since then, in that there comes a point of awareness of e.g. a word, sound, image, actor, self-insight, whatnot and that I notice when I encounter said word (etc.) afterwards, but not before. Indeed, my awareness of the nectarine phenomenon is it self an example of the nectarine phenomenon. (But note that some amount of coincidence usually does play in, e.g. in that “Ashmolean” likely has occurred unusually often in the last few weeks.)

Excursion on “Pride and Prejudice”:
While my memory of “Pride and Prejudice”, another of my rare readings of more for-women literature, has faded too much to make this a three-way comparison, there are definitely some similarities. Notably, one of my main complaints in my unfavorable review was the lack of tempo and how little actually happened.

Excursion on boys and reading:
To the degree that differences in reading preferences hold, it could go a long way to explain the lesser interest for reading among boys: shove “Pride and Prejudice” down their throats as mandatory reading and they are likely to be put off, as it is simultaneously boring and lacking in “food for thought”. Indeed, I have read super-hero comics, so often looked down upon by women, with more “higher values”. Hornblower is certainly far more likely to keep boys reading.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 18, 2020 at 4:00 am

Unwort des Jahres / Intellectually dishonest Leftist propaganda

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As the recurring reader knows, I am both very interested in language use and political questions. The latter notably as a frequent critic of Leftist propaganda and attempts to control debate or thought in an unethical, often even Orwellian, manner.

The attempts by a group of Leftist populists to push their own “Unwort des Jahres”* has annoyed me for years: It pretends to be a group of linguists** acting in a linguistic capacity, but in reality it works to further its own political and ideological ideas in an entirely non-linguistic manner. Not only are words chosen in a manner as to (backed by its faux credibility) paint political opponents in a negative light, there even seems to be a tendency to pick whatever area “The Cause” has received the most push-back during the past year and choose a word specifically to hit back in that area. This behavior is, obviously, grossly unscientific and intellectually dishonest.

*“Unword of the year”. Cf. e.g. other German expressions like “Untier” (“monster” or “beast” in a modern sense) to “Tier” (“animal” or “beast” in an older sense). Also see German Wikipedia and (with less content) English Wikipedia, as well as the official website of the group.

**And might well be—the point is that the members do not act as linguists or using linguistic (or other relevant) criteria, but political and ideological ones. Of course, if non-linguistic criteria, including those mentioned below, are to be used, linguists have no authority and are, in fact, inferior to those with a more relevant background.

Indeed, while the shallow-most* outward presentation is “linguists”, even the official criteria almost precludes a scientific approach and clearly demonstrate that it is not a matter of e.g. good or poor use of language. One of the official pages gives e.g. “gegen das Prinzip der Menschenwürde” (“contrary to the principle of human dignity”) as a criterion—but even these criteria are usually hard to reconcile with the actual choices. Looking at the motivations given, it is often clear that no attempts has been made to see the perspective of the users or to understand the use in context. I would even argue that the activities of the jury are contrary to its own alleged principles. Certainly, these principles are not applied in a politically neutral manner, but in a manner slanted very strongly, in U.S. terminology, pro-Democrat and anti-Republican.

*For instance, the video-text of ARD, a public German TV sender, speaks of “eine Jury aus Sprachwissenschaftlern” (“a jury of linguists”).

Consider e.g. this year’s choice: “Klimahysterie” (“climate hysteria”) While climate issues are very important, we do have a problem with excesses and misguided propaganda, that might well even justify the use of “hysteria”—and certainly, indisputably, there are many individuals who are hysterical on the issue. Note e.g. the ridiculous “Greta Thunberg” phenomenon or how the climate debate is increasingly dominated by emotional arguments and cheap rhetoric instead of reason and scientific arguments. Also note that exactly this type of behavior has strongly contributed to the current climate situation through prioritizing a reduction of nuclear power over a reduction of fossil fuels for decades. (Nuclear power once filling the same propaganda role as global warming does today—and with far less justification.)

Or consider the 2014 “Lügenpresse” (“liar press”): While it can be disputed to what degree the German press is actively lying,* there is no doubt that the average journalist is both incompetent and poorly informed. It is also well established that the average journalist is further to the Left than the non-journalist population; and there are plenty of examples of journalist and media at least deliberately filtering the facts in a manner that violates my suggestions for a new press ethics. Notably, the mentality that the facts need to be filtered, lest someone comes to the “wrong” conclusion (i.e. another conclusion than the journalist), seems to be extremely common. Also note that outright journalistic fraud is by no means unheard of (cf. e.g. [1], [2].)

*The expression, in my opinion, is to a large part based on misattribution of intention.

Particularly negative is that the frequency of use does not appear to play in. For instance, the 2012 “Opfer-Abo” (“victim subscription”) seems to refer to just several uses by a single person—the unjustly-accused-of-rape Jörg Kachelmann. While this phrase could be disputed as linguistically almost nonsensical, the underlying problem is a very real one: The fact is that, contrary to Feminist propaganda, false rape accusations are quite common. The narrow-minded jury, however, decries this use as being too accusatory of women—in a manner that exemplifies his claim that women can position themselves as victims even when they are the perpetrators. (See excursion for additional details.)

It is also notable that many true “unwords” have gone without attack, e.g. the atrocious “NGO”, an untranslated adoption of the already misleading and idiotic English abbreviation (and unabbreviated term), and the ever recurring “Rechtsruck”.

Something quite telling is that there is also a “word of the year” published by the (much better known and much more renowned) Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (roughly, “Society for German language”). When the unword was introduced in 1991 it was published by the same source—but two years later some row caused a splinter group to move away and publish the unword independently. Unfortunately, the lower credibility and disassociation rarely finds mention, leaving many with the impression that the unword is chosen by an entity of true noteworthiness, instead of reflecting the private political opinions of an ideologically motivated splinter group.

Excursion on “Opfer-Abo”: German Wikipedia describes the use with:*

*Here and below: Some minor typographic changes have been made. I leave “Opfer-Abo” untranslated. Some translation might be approximate due to differences in idiom and whatnot.

Im Herbst 2012 hatte Jörg Kachelmann in mehreren Interviews geäußert, dass Frauen ein “Opfer-Abo” hätten. Mit ihm könnten sie ihre Interessen gegenüber Männern zum Beispiel in Form von Falschbeschuldigungen durchsetzen. Die Wortschöpfung selbst stammt laut Aussage Jörg Kachelmanns von seiner Frau Miriam. In einem Interview der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel, bei dem er gemeinsam mit seiner Frau Miriam interviewt wurde, sagte Kachelmann: “Das ist das Opfer-Abo, das Frauen haben. Frauen sind immer Opfer, selbst wenn sie Täterinnen wurden. Menschen können aber auch genuin böse sein, auch wenn sie weiblich sind.”

Translation: In the Autumn 2012, Jörg Kachelmann declared in several interviews, that women had an “Opfer-Abo”. With it, they could enforce their interests against men, e.g. through false accusations. The word it self was, according to Kachelmann, created by his wife [sic!]. In an interview by the magazine Der Spiegel, which interviewed him together with his wife Miriam, Kachelmann said: “This is the Opfer-Abo that women have. Women are always victims, even when they turn into perpetrators. Humans, however, can be genuinely bad, even when they are female.”

This is by no means an unreasonable claim and well matches much of female behavior that I have seen myself and observations by others around e.g. rape accusations, divorces, and similar. Consider e.g. a great number of discussions on Minding the Campus. I note e.g. that I spent a considerable amount of time reading relationships forums some ten or fifteen years ago, and found a horrifying double standard, including instances where the exact same behavior from a man and a woman received opposite “advice”, often putting the blame on the man in all cases.* Much of Feminism amounts to finding a reason why someone or something other than the woman at hand, preferably a man or men in general, is to blame for everything negative that happens to her, with no thought of own responsibility.**

*E.g. that if a man hit a woman it was because he was an ass-hole and she should leave him immediately; while if a woman hit a man, it was because he (!) was an ass-hole, who drove her to violence, and he should forgive her and start behaving better.

**E.g. that if a woman does not get a promotion, it is not for lack of competence but discrimination; if a woman is insecure about her looks, it is not her weakness but brain-washing by “society”; etc.

Wikipedia further says:

Die Jury [member list omitted] begründete die Wahl damit, dass das Wort Frauen “pauschal und in inakzeptabler Weise” unter den Verdacht stelle, sexuelle Gewalt zu erfinden und damit selbst Täterinnen zu sein. Die Jury behauptet, dass nur fünf bis acht Prozent der von sexueller Gewalt betroffenen Frauen tatsächlich die Polizei einschalteten und dass es dabei in nur drei bis vier Prozent der Fälle zu einer Anzeige und einem Gerichtsverfahren komme. Der Begriff und die damit verbundene Aussage sei sachlich grob unangemessen. “Das Wort verstößt damit nicht zuletzt auch gegen die Menschenwürde der tatsächlichen Opfer.”

Translation: The jury [member list omitted] justified the choice by the claim that the word “in a blanket manner and unacceptably” would accuse women of inventing sexual violence and thereby become perpetrators. The jury claimed, that only five to eight percent of the female victims of sexual violence would notify the police and that only in three or four percent of the cases a charge and a judicial proceeding would follow. The term and the implied statement would be factually grossly inappropriate. “The word thereby also violates the human dignity of the actual victims.”

There is a lot wrong with the above, including that Kachelmann himself has been harder hit than the wast majority of rape victims and that it is quite clear that he, himself, has been falsely accused—years of anxiety, a ruined career, a (temporarily) ruined reputation. What is with his human dignity and whatnot as an actual victim? As for the numbers, I note that there is no* mention of the rate of false accusations, which is high, and that the low numbers given sound more like Feminist propaganda than true numbers. (Cf. e.g. an older text on rape statistics, including links, and the older text on Kachelmann linked to above.) Even had these numbers been true, however, they would be largely irrelevant, because they do not address the issue behind Kachelmann’s claim. (They could indeed be seen as support of his claim, because a low rate of true reports would increase the proportion of false reports, and give a strong argument that rape accusations should be scrutinized more closely than is often the case.) To claim that it would be unacceptable for the victim of a false accusation to complain about false accusation is it self unacceptable and in extremely poor taste. The claim that Kachelmann would raise a blanket (“pauschal”) suspicion is at best exaggerated and seems motivated by bad faith.

*There might have been in a larger context than what Wikipedia quotes, but it would be an odd thing to leave out. Moreover, the official Feminist “truth” is that a woman would never, ever lie about being raped, which reduces the probability that realistic numbers would have been given.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm

More delivery problems / DHL sucks

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Looking for some items with low availability in stores, I recently placed two new Internet orders. Predictably, delivery problems ensued. (Cf. e.g. [1].)

The first package was supposed to be delivered on Wednesday, but the only thing that came was a you-were-out notification. Interesting: I was not out and no-one had bothered to ring my door-bell. Apparently, the notification had (again) been written in a blanket manner, without any actual check for my presence. Moreover, it had been taped to the outside of my mailbox, implying that anyone could have taken it before I had the opportunity. I deliberately did not collect the package the day after, waiting for the second to save myself repeated trips in the event of another non-delivery.

The second was supposed to be delivered on Thursday (i.e. yesterday). As I suspected, the same thing happened. (Except that the notification was put in my mailbox and that I also received an email notification from the sender.)

According to this notification, the second package could be collected the next day (today) after 10 AM. I duly went after 10 AM—only to find that only my first package was present! According to the store* clerk, the deliverer had not shown yet and she had already been forced to send another four persons away, who had all relied on the correctness of their respective notifications.

*DHL has few or no own locales for customer contact, instead affiliating stores with another line of business to add a DHL service as a side-business.

Moreover, the store is about one kilometer away from my apartment (so much for delivery!) and has lousy opening hours, including just three (!) hours on Saturday*. Indeed, the opening hours are so poor that it borders on the irresponsible for the store to take up this side-business. This especially as the opening hours overlap strongly with regular office hours, including an extended lunch break, implying that those who cannot be at home when a delivery is (not) attempted are exactly those hard-pressed to visit the store. I do note that prior DHL deliveries** went to another store that was (a) closer, (b) had much better opening hours.

*Sunday, obviously, is not even on the table, this being Germany.

**The last one was likely more than two years ago and I am uncertain whether the old store is still in business. However, I suspect that the current store joined the dark si…, ahem, DHL in the interim, leading to a change in area allocation.

Collecting the first package was at least ten minutes out of my day and might have been twenty or more, if the store did not happen to lie on my way to the grocery store.* Collecting the second tomorrow would be these twenty or more minutes, assuming that I can even fit the limited opening hours in my schedule—and I have no guarantee that the package would actually be there. (I am strongly considering simply rescinding my order, especially as this gives the sender an incentive to push for changes.) All this because an inexcusable deliverer is too lazy to actually ring a door-bell and risk a two minute wait …

*More correctly, it lies on a detour that I often take for the sake of getting more exercise, as the grocery stores that I usually visit are unhealthily close to my apartment.

I can only repeat my observation that the combination of delivery issues, poorly implemented websites, and the increasing difficulty of using a credit card online, makes eCommerce inferior to visiting brick-and-mortar stores—and inferior to eCommerce as it was fifteen or twenty years ago.

Excursion on other stores:
The situation is made worse by there being at least one another DHL-affiliated store closer to my apartment than both the new and the old one (cf. above), with the local post office* not much farther away (closer than the new; might or might not be closer than the old). The store clerk from above claims that these do not do package hand-outs. If this is true, it is very weird; if it is not, the area allocations are outright idiotic.

*DHL is a daughter of the “German Post”.

Excursion on working conditions, etc.:
It is well-known that the individual deliverers are under undue time and whatnot pressure, putting the ultimate blame on DHL. However, this does not absolve the individual deliverer. If in doubt, pushing the problem onto the recipients merely ensures that the situation will not improve for anyone. This is, by DHL, the individual deliverer, and (sometimes) the sender, another example of evil through ignoring the rights of others.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 10, 2020 at 7:51 pm

More issues around perverse incentives, evil, and lack of concern for others

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Two issues in the overlap between some recent texts ([1], [2]):

Firstly, one particularly common source of negative effects on others through disregard is children. Now, children themselves cannot necessarily be blamed for their behaviors, as they, depending on age, often are victims of nature, naturally lack the intellectual capability to see a non-egoistical view-point or to see that some actions are disturbing to others, are so used to being around other children that they see screaming and noise as the normal state of affairs,* whatnot. The great problem is the many parents who should know better but either do not or do but willfully ignore the interest of everyone else when their children are concerned, e.g. by bringing a small child into a library and letting it scream its head off for several minutes before silencing it or removing it from the premises.**

*Yet another reason why it is idiotic to put children in large groups of other children with few adults, as e.g. in a typical school.

**An actual situation that I encountered last summer.

A critical point is the risk that this type of parenting has a negative effect on the behavior of the next generation: if the children are never told to behave themselves, show concern for others, respect the rights of others, …, and if the parents never set good examples, chances are that many will keep this type of egocentric behavior into adulthood, compounding the problems in [2] and likely leading to a new generation repeating the same type of negligent parenting.

My own and my sister’s upbringing was already comparatively lax, and the attempts to impose discipline usually came from the grand-parents. For instance, my maternal grand-mother repeatedly tried to set limits on the out-of-control behavior of my sister, but my mother let her get away with anything, even overruling my grand-mother (her right, obviously, but rarely a good decision and definitely a contributor to sister’s “hyper-millennialism”).* For instance, I was a few times told the Swedish equivalent of “children should be seen and not heard”**—always by the grand-mother, never by the mother.

*With time, my memories have grown vague, but one example was my sister deliberately breaking a cheese dome (?), my baby-sitting grand-mother saying that she would make sure that my sister would have to pay for it, and my mother later letting the matter slip.

**Taken to excesses, this attitude can be harmful, but I consider it a sounder attitude than today’s extreme laissez-faire, and there is no contradiction between a moderate use of it and an independent development of the child, e.g. by silencing screaming and trying to move as much play as possible to the playground. There certainly is no contradiction between being an independent adult and a considerate one.

Today, not even this appears to take place. A very common German attitude, e.g., is “Kinder machen Lärm” (“Children make much noise*”), which is then taken as an excuse to allow them to cause disturbances wherever they are, as well as admitting them to places where they should not be, for want of maturity, e.g. “adult” restaurants. (A saner conclusion would be to keep them away from situations where they would disturb others.) I have heard** at least one story of a child putting its hands in the food or drink of an unrelated guest in cafe or restaurant and the parent just wanting to laugh it off. I have myself had a strange child trying to climb (!) on me to get a better view in a zoo, without the parents intervening. Etc. The children, then, go through years of doing what they want, when they want, where they want, never learning to pause and consider anyone else, never learning about personal boundaries, etc.

*“Lärm” might normally be translated with “noise” (without “much”), but this is too weak as “noise” could also be the translation of e.g. “Geräusch”. An overlapping English expression is “children will be children”.

**And seen a fictional parallel on a TV show, possibly “Sex and the City”.

Secondly, a common reason for current societal issues is that humans are built for a different kind of society, and that the (in some sense) disturbance of the old environment leads both to imbalances and to unwanted behaviors being more beneficial (to the perpetrator—not society) and/or receiving less punishment.

Notably, we used to live in a society where too negative behaviors, sooner or later, had direct negative consequences for the perpetrator, e.g. in that a misbehaving child was given a slap* on the behind, that someone who repeatedly violated the rights of others might have been punched** in the nose, or that someone who committed fraud might have ended up with a knife in the back. (Also consider the saying “a dueling society is a polite society”.) Today, the population is almost helpless, having to rely on governmental assistance over own force, and this assistance not always being intended by the system, rarely forth-coming when it is intended, and error-prone and slow*** when it actually is attempted. This implies that the risk–reward balance for a great number of behaviors have changed in favor of the perpetrators of negative**** behaviors.

*While the slapper today is put in the same box as someone who gives a child two dozen strokes with the belt, because all violence against children is considered unacceptable.

**Today, the puncher would usually be in worse legal trouble, regardless of (non-violent) provocation. In theory, the state should intervene to protect against such behavior, but it usually does not.

***The lack of a direct connection and a short time between action and re-action makes an adjustment of attitude less likely, while a deterring effect might be absent altogether. (Compare the deterring effect of e.g. “if I try to rob old man Smith, his sons might beat me up within five minutes” and “if I try to rob old man Smith, I might be caught, might end up in court, and might go to jail in a few months time, but more likely I will just receive a slap on the wrist”.

****Similar, for the worse, can apply to positive behaviors, as with e.g. someone who supports the neighbor’s family in [1].

(Of course, this does not necessarily imply that a system of self-justice would be better—just that it has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. I would definitely argue, however, that the limits on self-justice are too heavy in e.g. Germany, in light of the abysmal job that the state does of protecting the citizens.)

Secondly, consider hard work and economic prudence: In the past, someone who was lazy, spent his money on entertainment instead of necessities, whatnot, risked a quick death due to starvation. Today? Governmental aid will come to the rescue, even of those undeserving*, changing the balance to favor the imprudent. Have too many children back then, and some would starve; today, and the government keeps them fed, implying that the “imprudent reproducers” can eat their cake and have it too. Etc. A particularly interesting case of perverse incentives is the German ALG II** (likely with many other similarly flawed schemes around the world), where existing wealth prevents people from receiving this income booster. This might seem reasonable on first glance: why should the government give handouts to those who can support themselves for months or years based on exiting wealth? However, now consider two individuals, both identical in income, career development, and whatnot, but differing in that the one saves 200 Euros a month and the other spends all his surplus money on entertainment. After ten years, both are fired and unable to find a new job. Eventually, the time for ALG II comes: the prudent saver is now denied ALG II, because he has roughly*** 24 thousand Euro; the prodigious spender will have an empty bank account and will receive ALG II. What incentives does this bring? (Especially, to those at risk of being in need of ALG II, who should be saving as much as they could to protect themselves while they still have an income.) Of course, those who have very poorly paying jobs might be tempted to avoid work at all, draw ALG II instead, and lose little or no money while gaining that much more spare time.

*The idea behind aid schemes was typically originally that those willing-but-unable to provide for themselves should be helped. This is not where we are today.

**A scheme intended to cover the difference between actual income and the existential minimum (or some similar standard). This is particularly relevant for those with no income after exceeding the time limit for unemployment benefits (“ALG”—hence the misleading “ALG II”); however, it also includes a wide range of cases where income is present but insufficient.

***The exact number will depend on factors like saving/consumption during unemployment, interest rates, prior emergencies, whatnot, but in doubt it is the principle and not the exact number that matters.

(Again, this does not necessarily imply that a system of self-X would be better—just that it has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. However, the balance has definitely been pushed far to far towards reliance on the state in many countries, including Germany.)

Written by michaeleriksson

January 4, 2020 at 11:32 pm

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That darn December / Follow-up: WordPress statistics II

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I have already mentioned a recurring downturn in traffic in December ([1], [2]).

This December followed both this trend and the downwards trend on this blog discussed in [3], making it the worst month in almost two-and-a-half years, and showing no less than three (!) days at 0 (!!) visitors. (Four, if we count the immediately adjacent January 1st.)

This despite a comparatively high post count (14), which could be seen as weakening my “new trumps good” hypothesis (cf. [3]), strengthening my “December sucks” hypothesis, or indicate that there is a certain lag between post count and popularity (consistent with other observations, outside the immediate popularity boost through the individual post).

Written by michaeleriksson

January 4, 2020 at 3:40 pm

“Star Wars” update

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Following my negative review of Episode VII and my skepticism-based-on-Wikipedia concerning Episode VIII, I just caught up with (the recently released) Episode IX on Wikipedia. If anything, my impression is even worse, and I will probably ignore any further efforts within this franchise entirely—as I have indeed ignored e.g. “Rogue One” and have watched nothing past Episode VII.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 4, 2020 at 3:19 pm

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