Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Society

Idiot mothers and my rotten building

leave a comment »

Yet another proof that I live in a rotten-to-the-core-building ([1]): and that “Karens” are a matter of women, not specifically White women, feeling entitled and being presumptuous, self-centered, and/or uncomprehending of the rights and interests of others. The latter especially with mothers, who seem to think that the rest of the worlds has a duty to bend itself to fit their convenience.

As I wrote in [1]:

For instance, the door to the cellar is often blocked by prams. Last week, it was three-seater (!) that would have made it impossible to access the cellar without simultaneously blocking the stairs completely, so that no-one could get in. Even maneuvering it sufficiently to get to the cellar door, even at the price of blocking the stairs, might have required me to go out the front door first (and/or to push the pram out the front door). Certainly, there would have been no chance of getting out of the cellar again, had someone wanting to enter the building put it back while I was down there—and the chances with even a smaller pram might not be brilliant either.

There were some repetitions of this, during which I found that I, indeed, was forced to put the entire pram on the pavement outside the building to get into the cellar. On one occasion, it was positioned in such a manner that it was barely possible to get the door open. I decided to write a note to put in the pram the next time that it appeared—but it never did. After a handful* of weeks without incidents, I believed that the idiot responsible had come to her senses.

*The text quoted is from 1st of July, roughly six weeks ago, and the problem might have extended another week-or-so after that.

But no:

As I left the building for errands earlier today, I found a barely readable hand-written note on the door. Believe it or not, but this idiot was now actually complaining that her pram had been damaged by people trying to open the front door … Her opinion seems to be that if someone opens the front door and feels resistance, then it is time to stop pushing and try to wriggle in through whatever opening is available.

In contrast, any reasonably sane and intelligent individual would come to the conclusion that if her pram blocks the entry to the house, she has to put it somewhere else—preferably, her own apartment. (This even before factoring in the additional and more complete blocking of the cellar door.)

My position is clear: If she does something this stupid and inconsiderate, again and again, anyone entering the house has the right to use any amount of violence necessary to get in and still be blameless. The blame resides solely with her, and she should be happy that no-one has yet to simply thrown her pram away or reported her to building management*.

*Notwithstanding that this might be pointless in light of my prior experiences with their incompetence.

For a few similar incidents, also see an older text on women and awareness of surroundings, which includes e.g. a woman blocking the door to (another) apartment building from the outside with her bike, and then having a hissy fit when I presumed to push the door open to get out through the sole exit of said building.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 10, 2020 at 11:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Capitalization of racial colors

leave a comment »

I capitalize quite a few words, and tendentially more as time goes by, including Democrat/Republican,* Liberal**, Conservative**, Feminist***, and various nationalities**** (e.g. Swede and German). Sometimes, I follow standard use; sometimes, I do not; sometimes, there is no true standard. (The reader is encouraged to check this text for various uses of capital letters, even outside first-letter-of-a-sentence.)

*The U.S. party belongings, to differ them from the more general words denoting attitudes towards forms of government and whatnot.

**The ideologies, as opposed to everyday meanings.

***Originally, probably, by analogy with something else.

****As per standard conventions in English.

This includes “White” and “Black”, when I intend the racial groupings—not the actual color. (Contrast e.g. “White man” and “white boat”. As can be seen from the footnotes above, disambiguation is often the cause.)

I have some concerns about the appropriateness of these terms based on e.g. the difference between claimed and actual skin color, and questions like how to handle e.g. black or dark-skinned people who are not of African descent—should e.g. some Indian or Australian groups be considered Black, despite not being African? Ditto the paradox that many Asians are whiter than “White” Europeans.

Only very recently, have I become aware that even capitalization can be an issue, if often for idiotic reasons. Much of the linked-to page boils down to a conflict over whether those who use capital-B
“Black” should also use capital-W “White”. (A question that by any reasonable standard should have the answers “yes”, for reasons of consistency, just like we have “Monday and Tuesday”, not “monday and Tuesday”.)

For instance, it quotes the “Washington Post” as saying “Stories involving race show that White also represents a distinct cultural identity in the United States”, to support its recent decision to capitalize both words, while “Associated Press” and “Columbia Journalism Review”, apparently, has a capital-B-only policy.

Several (mostly incoherent) tweets are quoted, including one claiming “[…] or it* could imply White Power, White Pride, etc, which makes me very uncomfortable.”

*From context, the capital-W.

Both the concerns around identity, be it cultural or racial, and “White Power” should be entirely irrelevant to the question of capitalization:

The former refers to something highly arbitrary and ever-changing, which makes it entirely unsuitable as a criterion. It could, for instance, lead to situations where Pat Buchanan was born white, because there were no “White” cultural identity at the time, and by now having turned White, because such an identity would now exist. We might then, in the atrocious style of Wikipedia, find claims like “A White man, Pat Buchanan was born to white parents. Originally a white baby, he began turning White in 1982.”. For instance, we might find that capital-B is eventually unacceptable because the “Black” identity fractures too much over time. (Indeed, even now, it can be disputed both whether e.g. Obama, a Black Bronx-kid, an elderly Alabama Black, and a first-generation immigrant from the Ivory Coast, have that much of a common culture, identity, or whatnot, and whether any related identity would be “natural” or imposed by propaganda.) For instance, it leaves open how to handle those who carry the outward signs, but do not share this identity.* Moreover, this would leave a great deal to arbitrary judgment and a danger of abuse through Leftist tolkningsföreträde.

*By this standard would Rachel Dolezal be White or white, or would she even be white and Black. Is an “Oreo” black or Black, or even black and White. Etc.

The latter would involve both a dropping of context* and open doors wide open for misinterpretation, even of a deliberate kind: “Hey, he used a capital-W. Now we know that he is a White supremacist—no further proof needed!”.

*Consider e.g. the drop of modifiers from “discrimination” (say, “sexual discrimination”), which has led to a severe distortion of meaning, or the ridiculous abuse of “chauvinist” to mean e.g. “misogynist”, instead of “nationalist”, based on the analogy expression “male chauvinist” and the later dropping of “male”.

Two simple rules:

If you do use capital-B, then capital-W is mandatory. (And vice versa.)

Whether you do, is up to you, but I recommend it for reasons of disambiguation and disambiguation only—to differ colors from groups and entities named based on colors.*

*This not restricted to racial groupings. For instance, if we have a tournament between teams identified by color, it would usually make more sense to e.g. speak of “the White goalkeeper”, “a Blue forward”, “the Green team”, etc. (And, yes, the White goalkeeper might very well be a Black man, but that should be beside the point in this context.)

As a corollary: Never assume anything more than disambiguation from this type of capitalization.

Note on quotation marks:
I have deliberately left out quotation marks on a good many places where they normally belong. This, in part, to avoid cluttering; in part, because of a problem of interpretation and expression: Everyone writes “Black” with a capital “B”, and saying e.g “Spell ‘Black’ with a capital ‘B’!” would be tautological and uninteresting. If it is not spelled with a capital “B”, it is not “Black”, but “black”. (Or “Slack”, “Alack”, whatnot, depending on how the capital “B” is avoided.) The latter complication has also led to use of “capital-W” and “capital-B” above.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 9, 2020 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

A few thoughts on charity and helpfulness

leave a comment »

Since writing a few earlier texts ([1], [2]) negative towards charity, I have repeatedly seen, with some early puzzlement, the claim that charity would be a major evolutionary benefit—even when directed towards strangers.

To outline my resulting thoughts on this topic:

  1. It is important to make a distinction between cooperation, reciprocal* help, and one-sided help. The first often** allows humans to accomplish more than they can individually or in a more timely manner. The second leaves the “helpee” better off without harming the helper.*** The third is good for the helpee but bad for the helper, risks that the undeserving are helped, risks abuse, and risks a dysgenic effect through allowing the lazy, unfit, stupid, whatnot, to afford children.

    *Where the reciprocation need not be immediate or even short term, and might also, in an extended sense, be indirect e.g. through A helping B, who helps C, who helps A. In a further extension, parents helping children might be included: the parents received help from their own parents and the children will someday help their own children, in a chain of “paying it forward”. Note that there can be some overlap with cooperation.

    **Team-work in schools often provide counter-examples. Among the problems, note that the more intellectual the task, the more the result tends to be determined by the best individual brain, who might even be held back by the team.

    ***At least to some approximation and when accumulating help given and received over a life-time and all actors: that the exact “value” of the overall help in each direction, for two given individuals, will be equal is unlikely.

    For an example of cooperation, consider an Amish barn-raising as portrayed in fiction*: the entire village comes to perform the work that a single man,** or even a single family, would be extremely hard pressed to manage on his own. There is a bit of hard work, then a bit of a feast, and then everybody goes home happy.

    *Reality might or might not be different.

    **In my recollection, these scenes have been heavily dominated by bearded men, but feel free to include women and children.

    For an example of reciprocal help, take the same barn-raising and the understanding that those who helped today will themselves be helped in the future, when they have a barn to raise.

    For an example of one-sided help, with a dose of abuse and the undeserving being helped, take a barn-raising for someone who sees his fellow villagers as dupes, whom he has no intention of helping in return.

    (The barn-raising can be varied further, e.g. that a family with fewer working men might, non-abusively, be net-recipients of help and a family with more working men net-givers of help, or that an old widow might be unable to repay in kind, having either to find other means of repayment or be a non-abusive charity case.)

  2. What is good (general sense) for society, what is good (general or evolutionary* sense) for the individual human, and what is good (evolutionary sense) for the individual gene are not necessarily the same. For instance, help given from a parent to a child is often good in both senses and for society, both individuals, and the genes that they both share. However, help given to a complete stranger is likely to be bad for the genes, good for the individual stranger, and the result for the individual helper and society will depend on the circumstances (including the degree of future reciprocal help).

    *In the below, I will not be exact with this differentiation and mostly work with the implicit assumption that an evolutionary advantage is an objective good. This for two reasons, viz. to keep the discussion simple and because this type of discussion often is used in an evolutionary context and my motivation is partially from an evolutionary claim (cf. the first paragraph). However, this is not the only perspective on the issue.

    This might be a clue to charity-towards-strangers as an evolutionary benefit: it might, within some limits, be beneficial to society, and a more successful society might bring sufficient benefit to the individual that a lesser fitness within the group is overcome. (Cf. my, usually anti-Leftist, analogy that a smaller slice of a larger cake might be better than a larger slice of a smaller cake.) However, this with both a “might” and caveats like “assuming that sufficiently many others are sufficiently charitable” and “assuming that society has had enough time to benefit” (which might rule out a net benefit for a “first generation” helper).

  3. In sufficiently small and tight groups, charitable actions are likely to be to one’s own benefit, through factors like a higher chance of helping a relative and the higher chance of repeated interactions, in turn, with a greater chance at later reciprocation, the greater risk that today’s helpee might be the only possible helper when today’s helper needs help, and the greater ability to judge whether someone is worthy of help. (Compare e.g. a decrepit old man who has hunted for the tribe for decades with a spoiled girl who absorbs help without ever reciprocating and prefers to spend her days watching her reflection in the nearest pond.)

    In larger and looser groups the opposite applies. Indeed, someone needing help on the subway in New York might not be someone the helper will ever see again, whose worthiness is impossible to judge, etc.

  4. A charitable attitude that does make sense in a certain evolutionary setting does not necessarily make sense in another. For instance, humans living in small and tight groups might have benefited even from entirely selfless and uncalculated charity (cf. above), and might have been rewarded by evolution for being unselfishly charitable. Move such humans into a larger and looser group, and the impulse might now be unfit, because more calculation and deliberation is needed to get a sufficient payback, to not reward the undeserving, etc. Move one of these selflessly charitable humans to a big city, and the result might be horrible.
  5. A charitable attitude that uses someone else’s money, work, resources whatnot, can be a very bad thing. Contrast, on the one hand, a wish to help the needy and the resolution to donate money and spend a few hours a week in a soup-kitchen with, on the other, the same wish and the resolution to press for higher taxes to fund a government program, often in the abused name of “solidarity” (cf. excursion).

    From such attitudes*, the horribly inefficient and abused well-fare state has arisen, where the undeserving are helped as much as or more than the deserving (who are less likely to need help), where laziness and dumbness are rewarded by the state, while hard work and intelligence are punished, where the list of those who are to be helped is extended further and further,** where there is less and less personal responsibility, etc.

    *Combined with the self-serving votes of many who look for help for themselves, obviously.

    **Where, indeed, many only need help because their income is eroded by the money that they pay to the government …

  6. Overall, I would at a minimum recommend calculated help over selfless help, once we move outside family and close relatives: I help you today, so that you can help me tomorrow; resp. I help you today, because you helped me yesterday.

    Reservation: I am a little on the fence when it comes to close (non-relative) friends, but would tend towards calculation, as there is a considerable risk that one “friend” or another will otherwise turn into a free-loader. This with the further reservation that someone who has proven himself in the past might be helped in a blanket manner.

Excursion on money:
Much of reciprocal help could be handled wonderfully and even more fairly through use of money and paid services—well in line with my earlier texts. (At least, had it not been for those pesky taxes, today, and the low availability of money or money-equivalents, in the past.) For instance, the barn-raising families with more men could have been paid more than those with few men for their help, while someone who carelessly burns his barn down and needs a new one has to pay twice (once for raising the original barn, once for the new). In addition, those paid in money today do not need to wait for ten years to be repaid with a reciprocal barn-raising.

Excursion on solidarity and “The Farmer Paavo”:
The abuse of the word “solidarity” by e.g. the Swedish Left (“solidaritet”) is outrageous: “we” must show solidarity—by taxing others and giving to ourselves or our voters.*

*Depending on whether the statement is made by a Leftist working-class voter or a Leftist politician.

This is to be contrasted with the very well-know Swedish–Finnish* poem Bonden Paavo (“The Farmer Paavo”):

*The author, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, was of Finnish nationality and the setting is Finnish, but he was a member of the native Swedish minority and wrote in Swedish.

The poem has a repeating pattern of something going wrong with Paavo’s: farming activities (floods through melting snow in the spring, hail in the summer, cold in the autumn), his wife despairing and exclaiming that God* has abandoned them, and Paavo resolutely pushing through with hard work, ditch digging, and bark bread, while selling of cattle to pay for new seeds. At the end, the two first steps are reversed in character: the intended harvest survives the three misfortunes and his wife rejoices over the newfound happy days and bread without bark; however, in the last step, Paavo insists on bark bread, as his neighbors field is frozen. (With the implication that a portion of Paavo’s harvest will be going to the neighbor.)

*Runeberg was a priest and Paavo’s contrasting confidence in God is another theme of the poem,

That is solidarity.

(Whether it is selfless or calculating, resp. one-sided or reciprocal, help will depend on unstated circumstances. There is no mention of the neighbor helping Paavo in the past, but that might very well be because he has suffered the same set of misfortunes in the prior years.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 30, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Hunger and COVID

with one comment

Apparently, the UN estimates “10,000 child deaths” from* hunger related to COVID, with “[m]ore than 550,000 additional children” suffering from wasting—each month. Presumably, the adults in the affected areas are not magically protected from hunger either …

*The text uses the word “linked”, which does not necessarily imply a causal connection. Contextually, however, a causality from COVID (counter-measures) to hunger is almost certainly intended and present.

To get some sense of how large these monthly numbers are: The current Wikipedia page on COVID-19 seems* to see overall numbers of infections and deaths at roughly 14 million resp. 600 thousand as of July 18. At current rates, it would take these child deaths 60 months to catch up with the current COVID deaths, and roughly 25 to catch up with the overall cases (infection vs. wasting—and the effects of wasting are likely to be worse in the long term). In other words, we are talking of something highly significant in its own right—not just a mole hill next to a COVID mountain. (And this is just one of the side-effects.)

*I estimate off two graphs. Looking for more exact or current numbers is fairly pointless as there are great complications with over- and underestimation, inconsistent reporting in different countries, etc. In addition, these numbers will continue to grow.

Of course, these effects are largely caused not by the disease, per se, but by the counter-measures against it, showing again how important it is to actually consider opportunity costs and side-effects, and to look at more than one criterion*, whatnot, before implementing far-going policies. Looking e.g. at my adopted Germany, I would consider it a near** certainty that the counter-measures has done more harm than good, which I speculated as far back as mid-march. It also shows that the effects of COVID can be both highly indirect and only manifest fully in a faraway future: How many of those wasting children will not die this year but still have ten years cut off the end of their lives? What about non-lethal health effects, like a stunted growth or mental development due to malnutrition? (Similarly, how many Germans will die a few months or years prematurely in the future, due to the direct and indirect effects of that isolation that took place in 2020? For that matter, what about the additional strain on the already strained European economies when the campaign to “save the starving children in Africa” comes? )

*Which will depend on the situation and the list can potentially be quite long. Two obvious extensions in the case of COVID are changes in non-COVID deaths in addition to just COVID deaths and effect on economic growth, unemployment, bankruptcies, whatnot in addition to just effects on deaths (whether overall or just COVID-deaths).

**As we can only speculate about what would have happened without counter-measures, there is some small remaining uncertainty.

Excursion on interpretation by idiots:
Unfortunately, I suspect that many will jump to the opposite conclusion of what is warranted (and/or that e.g. some politicians will try to spin it in the opposite direction): Oh, my those poor children, COVID is so horrifying—we need more counter-measures!

Excursion on UN and credibility:
While I have no particular reason to doubt these numbers, apart from the obvious problems with correct estimates, I do mention that the UN and its various organizations have little credibility as sources of data, in my eyes. There is too much politics and ideology, and too little science, involved.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 28, 2020 at 8:49 am

Sweden and COVID

leave a comment »

A recent article on UNZ is very interesting both with an eye on the situation in my native Sweden and with regard to issues like journalism and public policy.

Broadly speaking, the article amounts to Sweden (which has imposed far less restrictions than most other countries) having done much better economically done others and having paid at most a small or tolerable price in terms of health effects, yet also being torn down by international media.

A few meta-issues:

  1. Looking through the article and the comments, it is clear that a great uncertainty exists on what the true situation is.* The truth might well be out there, but how do we outsiders get at the truth? One way is to look into varying sources and to give dissenting voices a hearing, but that takes a lot of time and doing so on all important issues would be more than full-time job. Here there is a niche where journalists could truly provide “value added”: have a strong critical thinker go through various sources, debates, and whatnot, and have him summarize the overall sets of opinions and arguments, determine the currently dominating opinion, and give his own take on plausibility and whatnot as an extra protection. What journalists actually do is pretty much the opposite … Too often, they grab a single source, often a government agency, another media outlet, or a professor of the social “sciences”, and blindly trumpet that one viewpoint to the world. Indeed, in many cases, they deliberate try to squash dissenting opinions to prevent the readers from forming their own opinions, lest they come to a different conclusion or perception than the journalists want to push.**

    *And I am not necessarily saying that the data and interpretation in that article are the superior ones. My impressions go in the same direction, but my leg-work is not even remotely up-to-date.

    **See e.g. a recent text on NYT.

    This problem (and this wasted opportunity) is by no means restricted to epidemics. Consider e.g. the current heavily distorted U.S. reporting on alleged racism, including an often highly incomplete picture of the George-Floyd case.

  2. Chances are that both governments and journalists suffer from a can’t-retreat-now effect: even admitting the possibility that Sweden had made a better choice could lead to a horrifying loss of reputation and credibility. For instance, what politician wants to be known as the “guy who tanked the economy for no reason” or “the guy who cost me my job for no reason”. (Vice versa, I strongly suspect that an early fear in the other direction increased the panic-making: no politician wants to be known as “the guy who let millions die because he did not follow the example of everyone else”.)
  3. Sweden’s policy would have been a good thing, even had it backfired: In order to handle situations like this one, we need information and we need to be able to compare strategies. When more-or-less everyone uses a tight lock-down strategy, how are we supposed to get this information and how are we to compare strategies? (Even aside from complications like inconsistent data gathering, testing, attribution of death, whatnot, between countries.) As is, we do not actually know that more than non-trivial counter-measures were needed, because there is no true benchmark to tell us whether an no-restrictions policy would have led to the equivalent of four-flu-seasons-in-one or the Spanish Flu.* Looking e.g. at Germany (alone), there might not be enough data to allow anything but a second major shut-down, should a second wave of even specifically COVID occur—the room to draw important lessons has simply been too small.**

    *I still suspect the former. Also remember e.g. the SARS and swine-flu scares that eventually had a trivial impact, far less than COVID, even without massive lock-downs.

    **And I suspect that the one lesson (or “lesson”?) will be an immediate introduction of face masks, as opposed to the delayed one that took place this time.

    Imagine instead that there had been an international agreement that different countries* should apply different levels of restrictions. Take something as trivial as varying where masks are mandatory, how large gatherings are allowed, or whether old people should be isolated. When the next epidemic comes, we would have a better idea of what counter-measures bring what benefit or damage* to health and what damage to e.g. the economy. Indeed, as even this wave has hit the world at a stagger, controlled experiments with the first countries hit could have given some help to countries hit later.

    *Or, in e.g. Germany or the U.S., different states of the federation.

    **To this, remember that e.g. involuntary isolation can have negative health effects of its own, as can unemployment caused by the counter-measures, etc. It is not a given, in advance, that even the net health effect will be positive. In my own case, it has almost certainly been negative through weight-gain and damage caused by an idiot neighbor (cf. e.g. portions of an older text, which also address the general issue in a little more detail).

    Sweden’s heretic road gives us at least some chance of comparison.

Excursion on “we can’t risk it”:
Looking at the last item, some might argue that we simply cannot take the risk and that it would be a callous risking of human lives. With this I would disagree on several counts, including that the same argument would apply in a great many other cases and result in a crippled society, that we could equally argue that the opposite would be a callous risking of the economic well-fare of the people, that neglecting to gather this information is a callous risking of future lives, and that policies can always be changed, should the situation turn out* to be unacceptable.

*One of my complaints with how the situation has been handled is that the gun was jumped—extremely far-going restrictions were applied before it was clear that the situation would actually turn out badly without restrictions. (Something that we still do not know …)

Excursion on my take on the core issues:
This few-restrictions policy is in line with my own recommendations (if in doubt because adults should themselves decide what small or moderate risks they do take) and the economic advantage is a near given. That the health effects are small* is in line with my expectation, but confirmation is good. The treatment by media is not unexpected, but I would have hoped for better.

*Compared to e.g. the overall death toll from all causes or total loss of life-years, not necessarily “raw” COVID death cases from comparable countries with a more restrictive policy. (Note that COVID still only provides a fraction of all deaths and that many of the dead were so old and sick that they lost only a small portion of their lives—unlike e.g. that middle-aged chain-smoker who died in lung cancer or that child who died in a car accident.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 26, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Not perfect; ergo, useless

leave a comment »

Quite a few odd human behaviors, especially on the political Left, could be explained by assuming a “not perfect; ergo, useless” principle, be it as a logical fallacy or as an intellectually dishonest line of pseudo-argumentation. (To the latter, I note that this principle seems to be applied hypocritically to the ideas of opponents but not to own ideas.)

A typical use is to find some flaw or disadvantage and use it to discredit the whole. (If a small flaw, usually combined with rhetorical exaggeration.) This without weighing the overall pros-and-cons, without acknowledging similar flaws in other ideas, products, whatnot, and without considering whether the flaw is repairable*. Consider e.g. an infomercial that I watched at a tender age: A hyper-energetic salesman ran around comparing “his” fitness product to the competition’s:** “The X is great—but, unlike my product, you can’t stow it under the bed!”, “The Y is great—but twice as expensive!”, “The Z is great—but not portable!”, etc., without comparing stowability, price, portability, and whatnot, over all products. It was simply not a fair comparison or an attempt to find the best choice, just a series of excuses to “prove” that any given competing product was inferior to the one sold by him.

*As a good counter-example, complicated mathematical proofs often turn out to contain defects. While these are sometimes fatal, they are often repairable and often the proof can still stand by limiting the conclusion to a subset of the original scope. Wiles’s proof of Fermat’s wild claim is a good example.

**This was likely more than 30 years ago, so I cannot vouch for the exact comparisons (let alone formulations), but the idea should be clear.

Or consider the example that was the impulse to write this text: In Hans Fallada’s Kleiner Mann — was nun?, the protagonist (Pinneberg) tries to get a payment from an insurance company, is met with an unexpected request for must-be-provided-before-payout documents, and inquires at some type of supervisory agency whether these were justified. He obtains and sends all the documents in a batch to the insurance company (in parallel). Now, some of these document were obtainable sooner (e.g. a birth certificate); others later. Pinneberg’s actions are then limited by the availability of the last of the documents that the insurance company requested. When the insurance company replies to the supervisory agency, it, among other things, tries to pawn off the delay on Pinneberg: he had the birth certificate at date X and sent it at date Y; ergo, the delay from date X to date Y was his own fault.*

*The book is not sufficiently detailed for me to judge whether these documents were reasonable and exactly how the blame is to be divided. However, this particular reasoning remains faulty, as Pinneberg could not have expected more than very marginally faster treatment through sending in a partial set of documents at an earlier time, and as the extra costs might have been unconscionable. (Pinneberg was a low earner with wife and child in the depression era, and want of money, unexpected expenses, risk of unemployment, etc., were constant issues.)

A more common example is IQ, which (among many other invalid attacks) is often met by e.g. variations of “there are poor high-IQ individuals; ergo, IQ is useless”, “the correlation between scholastic achievement and IQ is not perfect; ergo, IQ is useless”, “IQ is only X% heritable; ergo, we should ignore heritability of IQ”, …*

*Note the difference between these and perfectly legitimate and correct ones, e.g. “there are poor high-IQ individuals; ergo, IQ is not the sole determinant of wealth and income”. These, however, appear to be rarer in politics.

The last points to another common example: nature vs. nurture: too many* seem to think that because “nature” only explains some portion of individual** variation, it can or should be ignored entirely. Note e.g. calls for very high female quotas even in absurd areas, as with a 50% quota within a Conservative party, or various forms of distortive U.S. college recruiting to “help minorities”, unless these minorities happen to be Jewish or Asian. (Or male, for that matter.)

*Even among those who do not blindly deny any non-trivial influence of nature at all, whose position is solidly refuted by the biological sciences. It is rarely clear to me which school any given debater belongs to, which makes the division and the giving of examples tricky.

**This also relates to another fallacy: assuming that a small difference (in e.g. characteristics or outcomes) between typical individual members of different groups implies small group differences. This is sometimes the case, but not always, and especially not on the tails of a distribution.

The possibly paramount example, however, is postmodernism and its take on knowledge and science (logic, whatnot):* because science cannot give us perfect knowledge, science is a waste of time (or, even, quackery). Worse, even attitudes like “because we cannot have perfect knowledge, all hypotheses are equal”, “[…], we can decide what the truth is”, “[…], we can each have our own truth”, are common in, at least, the political and pseudo-academical use. However, even absent perfect knowledge, science can achieve much, say, finding what hypotheses are likely resp. unlikely, what models are good and bad at approximating the results from the unknown “true” model, or increasingly better approximations of various truths. Certainly, I would not be writing this text on a computer had it not been for science and the practical work done based on science.

*At least, as applied practically and/or by those less insightful. I cannot rule out that some brighter theorists have a much more nuanced view.

Excursion on fatal flaws:
Of course, there are cases when a flaw is fatal enough that the whole or most of the whole must be given up. A good example is, again, nature–nurture: if someone wants to base policy on a “nurture only” assumption, any non-trivial “nature” component could invalidate the policy.* A good family of examples is “yes, X would be great, but we cannot afford it”.

*And vice versa, but I cannot recall anyone basing policy on “nature only” in today’s world, while a “nurture only” or a “too little nature to bother with” assumption is ubiquitous. Cf. above.

Excursion on nature vs. nurture and removed variability:
A common error is to assume that the relative influence of “nature” and “nurture” is fix, which is not the case: both depend strongly on how much variability is present. Notably, if we remove variability from “nurture”, which appears to be the big policy goal for many on the Left, then the variability of “nature” will be relatively more important—and when we look at group outcomes, where the individual variation through chance evens out, then “nature” will increasingly be the dominant determinant. In other words, if “nature” (strictly hypothetically) could have been mostly ignored in the Sweden of 1920, a century of Leftist hyper-egalitarianism would almost certainly have made it quite important today. Similarly, note how attempts at removing “cultural bias” from IQ tests have not eliminated the many group differences in test results, of which it allegedly was the cause. Indeed, the group differences have sometimes even grown larger, because the influence of “culture”/“nurture” has been diminished in favor of “nature”.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 24, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Google and censorship

leave a comment »

In a text from the 21st, I wrote:

What if my writings are blacklisted by Google? (If they are not already, then it might well just be because I am too small a fish.)

Those who might think that this is paranoia should note an announcement by Ron Unz from the 22nd*, which describes exactly such problems. (And not for the first time …)

*German time, we are shortly past 1 AM on the 23rd. In other time zones, the 22nd might still be “today”. (And the 21st “yesterday”.)

We are rapidly approaching a point where China starts to look like the lesser evil.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 23, 2020 at 12:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Pseudonyms in writing and my own choices

with one comment

Earlier today, I visited “educationrealist” (Ed) and found a post on issues on my own mind: Will the Rising Tide of Nuttiness Come My Way?.

This especially with regard to the sub-topic of anonymous or pseudonymous writing and potential backlashes in light of today’s utterly insane climate.

Firstly, is there a risk that my attempted literary career will be ruined because my political writings will automatically cause too large groups to consider my literary works “evil”, regardless of actual contents and literary merit?* That I will not just risk rejection by publishers or low sales because my writing does not measure up or is not sufficiently commercial,** but that I face the additional burden of having the “wrong” political opinions or having at least attempted to apply reason and objectivity where emotion and subjectivity is mandated? Of claiming that free speech must apply to everyone in order to be free speech? Of calling “bullshit” on Feminists and the PC crowd when they do use bullshit arguments?***

*Note the controversies around even Peter Handke, last year’s winner of the Nobel Literature Prize and one of the most highly regarded “serious” German-language authors for decades, whose personal opinions where not kosher enough to many complainers, who saw it as a scandal that someone like he could even be nominated. (While Bob Dylan was accepted with open arms …)

**The simple truth is that few aspiring authors meet with any major success.

***Which is very often the case. See a great number of older texts.

If I had not already decided to use a pseudonym, this alone would be reason for me to do so. But: Even that is not likely to help, as keeping an identity secret for the duration is hard or impossible. (If with the upside that no-one is likely to search me out unless I have already become successful. Then again, an intolerant publisher or editor might disapprove a lot earlier.)

Secondly, what might come of my political writings, per se? I have so far published under my own name (and will likely continue to do so) and have yet to experience any known trouble, but with the ever worsening climate, who knows what will happen in the future? As Ed writes:

I am quite afraid of being outed as Ed and then fired and cancelled and probably stripped of a pension. Hell, maybe not even outed as Ed—the wrong person could learn I voted for Trump, and it’s game over.

My situation is not as potentially dire (and I would not go as far as saying “afraid”), as my pension is guaranteed* by the government, as I live in Germany, where things have yet to progress as far, and as I am self-employed (be it as an author or as an IT consultant). However, my writings might be an obstacle should I ever seek regular employment again. Other risks, like someone attempting to hack my accounts are certainly conceivable (and apply to e.g. Ed, too). What if my writings are blacklisted by Google? (If they are not already, then it might well just be because I am too small a fish.) What if someone outs me with a photo, locally, and I am refused service here and there?**

*Other concerns, like a too small payout due to under-financing of the overall system, are present. It is, after all, a Leftist scheme :-)

**Not (yet?) a concern in Germany, but something like that could easily happen e.g. on a current U.S. college campus.

Moreover, while things are not as bad in Germany, they are growing worse and worse, including hysteria over (real or alleged) “extreme Right” groups* and constant complaints about “Rechtsruck”**. The border between what is classified as “extreme Right” and “Right” is being increasingly blurred, and even a moderate “Right” or Conservative position stands the risk of being condemned with a blanket “Right; ergo, evil”. The criteria for condemnation/inclusion seem to grow laxer, and I suspect that it is only a matter of time before the Left will begin to apply “extreme Right” to e.g. anyone who uses public*** violence, where a violent attitude becomes an ipso facto proof of being “extreme Right” (which would, incidentally, give the Left a good excuse to disassociate it self from e.g the Antifa or the “autonomous” Left, should the need arise). It is possible that I am overly pessimistic on this point, but it is hard not to be pessimistic in light of the U.S. situation and the disastrous developments over there, and this type of Orwellian control of terminology and tolkningsföreträde has been an ever recurring theme on the Left during my adult life.

*Defined almost exclusively based on anti-immigration or nationalist positions, and with no regard for positions on other issues.

**Roughly, “shift to the Right”—a fairly generic complaint directed at any trend towards a position not on the Left, even despite the disturbingly strong (old) Leftist take on society that dominates much of German discourse and government efforts. German politics needs to be shifted away from the Left.

***For want of a better word: Here I intend e.g. political violence, riots, soccer hooliganism, etc., but exclude e.g. robberies and physical altercations of a private nature.

Then we have the question of time and importance: The comments discuss Slate Star Codex/Scott Alexander*, including the claim by one Mark Roulo that:

*Who stopped his, apparently, massive blogging and deleted his blog due to threats that his full identity would be leaked by the New York Times. (Also note other recent concerns about the NYT.) “Scott Alexander” appears to be a part of his true name, which reduces the search space very considerably and, with other freely provided information, cannot have made him that hard to identify. (Even alternate routes like hacking or inquiries to his ISP aside.) His blog appears to have been right up my alley, but, unfortunately, I only found out about it when it was too late, and I must go by reputation.

But his popularity grew slowly and at the beginning the NYT would not have cared about him. Today they do, but there wasn’t a clear line that he crossed to become interesting.

So he didn’t self-censor and then a publisher with a large audience became interested in him. Ooops. But in some sense only ooops in hindsight. Who would have guessed five years ago that the NYT would want to write a piece on his blog AND insist on publishing his name as part of the piece?

Well, my own visitor numbers are small these days (and have never been truly notable), but who knows what could happen in the future, e.g. if some post goes viral or I do have success as an author. Indeed, note the recent controversy over J. K. Rowling for statements that are trivial PC-violations compared to some of mine—imagine if the NYT found out that Rowling had written texts like mine? The scandal … Similarly, who knew that the negative trends would continue* in such a horrendous manner when I (or Scott Alexander) began to publish thoughts on the Internet, and who knew in 1980 what claims made then, and then perfectly acceptable, would be met with cries of “racism”, “sexism”, and whatnot today?

*With hindsight, it might not be that surprising, but when I began my own activities, I was expecting the opposite, as I saw a counter-movement gathering momentum, that more and more people protested against Feminist nonsense in Sweden, that alternative views were gaining at least some traction in broader circles and might gain a sufficient presence in media that the propaganda web would collapse. (That “a lie repeated often enough is taken to be true” only holds when the actual truth is sufficiently suppressed.)

If I had begun my writings today, I might well have chosen a more anonymous road. As Ed says (in the context of the attitude “that there’s no real excuse for the cowardice of a pseudonym”).

The idea that I should* post under my own name is….insulting in its grotesque stupidity. Who the hell do you people think you are, I say as respectfully as possible, to Philippe to Jonah Goldberg to Tim Carney to Charles Murray to all the other people who think the eggnuts trolling them on twitter are the same as eight years of blogging and tweeting under the same identity.

*In my case, substitute “should be obligated”.

Of course, to this I note recurring demands in Germany that e.g. bloggers should be not just morally obligated to reveal their true identities, but actually be so by law, e.g. to make it easier to pursue “hate speech” from the “far Right”.

Excursion on my original motivations for a pseudonym:
Almost paradoxically, in light of the above, my original motivation was that I wanted to keep my privacy, even should I meet with an unexpected amount of success. (Whereas the above deals with fears that publishing under my own name would make success impossible.) While I want for my books to be read and for some money to flow in, I do not want to be someone of public interest, see a blog flooded with visitors (who visit just because I am famous), have people from my past read my books and draw incorrect* conclusions about me, etc.

*A book is almost invariably colored by who the author is, but it is quite hard for the reader to see the difference between where the author writes of himself, where he merely uses own experiences and characteristics as input, where he writes with next to no self-connection, and where he might even deliberately reverse himself.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

How much is a housewife worth according to The Telegraph and by common sense?

with 2 comments

In a recent text, I pointed to an article in The Telegraph on housewives as containing “nonsensical calculations”, which gave the fantasy amount of “£159,137” as a housewife’s salary.*

*For comparisons in other currencies and at later times, note that the corresponding amount in e.g. Euro and USD would currently be larger and that the article is from “2:54PM BST 15 Oct 2014”, implying that we already, at my time of writing, have to factor in almost six years of inflation. (I will not attempt to calculate e.g. a “current Euro” amount, because it would soon become outdated.)

The best I can say about that article is that it does not include CEO as one of the comparisons, which some other similar texts have. However, to be more specific:

A “Here’s how we calculated a housewife’s appropriate salary” is followed by an almost nonsensical list. Let us look at the items involved, which are summed in blanket manner, regardless of whether they are full-time salaries in their own right or based on e.g. hourly calculations, and regardless of whether there is some overlap between them::

Private Chef

It’s fair to say that housewives earn the title of head personal chef, often cooking the majority of meals for a family. According to National Careers Service, Private Chefs can expect to earn £30,000 a year.

At least two questions spring to mind: (a) Does the housewife spend as much time cooking and whatnot* as a private chef? (b) Does she have the same skills** and qualifications? Chances are overwhelming that the answer is “no” to both questions, and she would then not deserve those £30,000 a year for being a private chef. Either she should have a fraction of that amount to correspond to time spent and actual performance, or she should get (on the outside!) that amount and then nothing more for the many following titles added.

*I am not familiar with the details of this profession, but I would assume that it entails a lot more than just physically cooking, say, a different (compared to a housewife) level of meal planing, supervision of other staff, purchasing decisions, and similar.

**While the amateur rarely reaches a professional standard in general, the days where the typical (house-)wife might have been an accomplished amateur cook are long gone: pasta and meatballs with a salad is not what I would expect from a private chef—and certainly not TV dinners and take-out.

House cleaner

Housewives do an average of 18 hours of cleaning a week. At an average rate of £6.86 an hour, that adds up to £6,4320 a year. (No weeks off if you’re a housewife, remember).

I very much doubt that the time spent is as large as 18 hours a week for what constitutes house cleaning, as opposed to other work subsumed elsewhere. Indeed, I doubt that my mother spent as much as 18 hours overall on housewife tasks, with reservations for the baby stages,* and we still had a clean house with clean and well-fed children. She certainly did not spend anywhere near that time on house cleaning alone. (My mother, admittedly, was not a housewife, but, as she was a single mother of two, her workload is unlikely to have been lower in terms of necessary** tasks.) As to myself, the comparison is unfair, as I have a one-person household and might err on the side of too little cleaning, but 4.5 (18 / 4 family members) hours would easily suffice to keep my apartment in top shape. My actual cleaning is probably below 1 hour a week, on average. My mother might have complained, but I have yet to die from it.

*Especially, as this was in the 1970s, when many household helpers were unavailable to most or of (often considerably) lower efficiency than at my time of writing (2020; the discussed article, again, is from 2014). For instance, it was a long while before we ever had a dishwasher.

**Performing unnecessary tasks, like vacuuming once a day, can drive the effort up considerably, but that should not entitle a housewife to more money. As a comparison, a hired house cleaner might be brought in once a week, because the minor benefit of doing so once a day does not outweigh the cost explosion.

From another perspective, take Sundays off and we have 18 hours for six days or 3 hours a day—who, in a modern home, with modern appliances, cleans for 3 hours a day?!? Mr. Monk might, but he is hardly a good role model for a housewife. The owners of an old English mansion might, but they are likely to have hired people in the first place and are certainly not representative in terms of e.g. floor space.

The claim that a housewife has no weeks off is obviously nonsensical: most will spend time away with relatives or in hotels at some point of they year. If in doubt, should we assume that the husband goes on vacation to Italy and leaves the wife at home?!?

A more realistic calculation for house cleaning might be 48 weeks a 6 days a 1 hour a £6.86 or roughly £1976. Even that, I suspect, is being generous for the specific, sole, tasks of house cleaning—this, especially, for the very many housewives, who, in a slight misnomer, live and work in an apartment.

Live-in nanny

Child care can take up the bulk of a stay-at-home mother’s time. As live-in nannies earn £400 per week (£20,800 a year), shouldn’t housewives get the same?

Possibly, but that should then also be the bulk of the payment or even the entire payment, depending on how much work a live-in nanny performs relative a housewife.

Driver

Don’t forget work as a personal chauffeur in the typical housewife details! That’s an extra £24,860 per year.

The same specious reasoning as for the private chef.

Laundry and ironing

A professional laundering and ironing service would cost £3,661 per year for a typical household’s washing.

If so, it includes factors like VAT, profit margins, and costs that a housewife does not have, e.g. rent for premises, business related insurance, various on-top-off salary quasi-taxes to the government, etc. Certainly, in a housewife–officehusband scenario, electricity, water, equipment, whatnot, are paid by the husband. The actual work done is likely at or close to minimum wage. Giving her another £1976 (cf. house cleaning) seems on the generous side: ironing and stubborn spots might take some time, but most of the rest is taking clothes from a hamper, putting the clothes in a washing machine, waiting a while in front of the TV, putting the clothes in the drier, waiting a while in front of the TV, etc.

Private nurse

Children get sick an awful lot. A housewife with two kids can expect to care for each at least ten times a year (three days for each illness). Plus 4.4 days for the husband, at a private nurse’s rate of £200 per day. Add £5,480 to the housewife’s salary.

Children do get sick a lot, but an average of ten times a year at three days each?!?* I very much doubt it, and it does not match my own recollections of me and my sister in the remotest, even as small children. As to the husband, I have lived alone for basically my whole adult life, now 45, and have never needed someone to take care of me when I was sick.** Looking at the cost, a typical housewife has nowhere near the qualifications of a private nurse and would typically do far less or far less taxing nursing. Going back to my own days of sickness,*** even as a small child, my parents might have had an additional effort of less than an hour a day, likely considerably less: check on me in bed, bring me something to eat, arrange for cough-medicine, … But let me be generous and call it 2 children a 20 days a 1 hour a £6.86 or a sum of £274. This, obviously, for sufficiently small children—over the kids-live-at-home era, let alone a lifetime, a more realistic “housewife average” might be less than half of this.

*Note that, by implication, we are not even talking about overall time sick, e.g. having the sniffles, but actually being sufficiently sick as to require a considerable extra effort on behalf of a housewife or a nurse. At a minimum, we have a “sick enough to be spend the day in bed” scenario.

**Which is not to say that I would have refused assistance had I had a housewife, but I have not yet needed it, and certainly not for as much as 4.4 days a year. (Reservation: In all fairness, the presence of children might increase the risk of the husband catching something.)

***Excepting the croup problems that I had over some periods: I was too young to have a clear recollection of the overall time and effort, it covered just a small portion of my overall years “at home”, and it was something exceptional in nature. The risk that any given child will have something exceptional at some point is fairly large, but most probably do not or only do so for short times. (And those few who have truly major problems, well beyond croup, might best be broken out and covered by a separate case-based allowance, while the salary for the typical housewife is based on a median value.)

Of course, once in a while, the housewife will be sick too, and she should make plans to pay money back to whoever takes care of her. (Similar arguments might apply elsewhere, e.g. when the husband drives her somewhere.)

Therapist

Housewives are expected to ease the burdens and stresses of their family. All the listening, encouraging and consoling is effectively the work of a therapist – who earn an average £24,645 per year.

Again, we have the “private chef” fallacy. (And how often is the husband the one doing the listening, encouraging, and consoling of the wife? And where the children are concerned, is she not already paid for this by being the “live-in nanny”?)

Personal assistant

In between cleaning the house and looking after kids, there’s a lot of organisational work that goes into running the home. Plan a holiday, book dinner with the in-laws, deal with the tax returns – it’s all in five minutes’ work for a housewife. And while those duties may be overlooked, an effective personal assistant can expect to charge £22,500 per year.

And again, the “private chef” fallacy. Further, will the housewife actually do all those things? Dealing with the taxes, at least, is a stereotypical “husband task”. Further yet, planing a holiday is something that many women would consider fun (not work); and booking dinner* implies that she is not cooking herself, so … Was she not supposed to be the private chef?

*I assume, in the sense of booking a table at a restaurant.

Tutor

Those precocious yet adorable children aren’t going to get to the top of the class by following the school syllabus. A housewife cajoles them into homework, devotes herself to hours of reading and arranges some educational field trips to the science museum. High quality tutors are worth £20,770 a year – add it to the total.

And again, the “private chef” fallacy. Moreover, chances are that this would already, wholly or partially, fall under other headings, e.g. “live-in nanny”. Besides, the positive effects of tutoring are disputable to begin with, as own brains and motivation tend to matter much more; my mother did none of these things and I was still among the top few in class.*

*During the times of my life where motherly intervention might have been beneficial, we had no grades and it made little sense to speak of “top of the class”. In years 7–9, when we had grades, I was old enough to handle things myself, and, to my recollection, was typically third not just in my class but in the entire four parallel classes. (The division of brains was very uneven between the classes.)

What then would be a fair yearly salary? The question is near impossible to answer, due to the great variety of effort needed in different families* and the quality of effort from different housewives. but it is bound to be fraction of the claimed total. Indeed, the working husband, who pulls in 40 hours + overtime in the office, commutes for an hour a day, and then still has to mow the lawn and clear the drains, is likely to have an actual salary a fraction of that amount. Even just picking one of the full-time salaries that were accumulated by this idiot journalist, e.g. the private chef’s £30,000, might well be too generous. A somewhat fair estimate might be 10** to 40 hours a week at the aforementioned £6.86***. This amounts to £68.6 to £274 a week or £3567 to £14268 a year—from which we must now deduct taxes and the non-monetary recompense through free food/lodging/whatnot (paid by the husband).

*Including the same family at different stages. Compare e.g. this year’s family of four, when the children are six months and two years, respectively, with the same family ten and twenty years later.

**For a low effort family, this need not be unrealistic, and I would be more concerned about the 40 hours being too much. Looking not at overall time worked but on the extra amount of house work over a non-housewife, 10 would be ample in many or most cases. Note e.g. that office workers do not just teleport from the office to the couch, where they vegetate for the rest of the day—they have a commute, they go grocery shopping, they do the dishes, they have sick children too, etc. Does the typical housewife actually put in 10 to 40 hours of “housewifing” over what the non-housewife does?

***We can, obviously, dispute whether this is a fair hourly rate, but it was introduced by The Telegraph and most of the tasks are at or close to the minimum wage level. However, even if we were to, extremely generously, double this rate, it would not change the big picture much. It would, however, give yet another argument why finding a fair yearly salary is tricky.

As to the latter, using the pseudo-logic of the discussed article: a high-quality hotel might go for £60 a night or £21900 a year. Call it another £30 for quality restaurants, whatnot, and we have another £10950. A rental car is another handful of thousand (or more) a year. Etc. Call it a cautious overall of £40000 a year and, oops, it looks like our housewife should make a considerable payment instead of receiving money …

As an aside, if a housewife should receive a salary, who should pay it? Not the husband certainly—that would amount to him paying her for her pulling her own weight. (Just like he pulls his own weight by bringing in the pay check that pays for everything else.) If he is “employer”, then food, lodging, access to cars, gifts, spending money, …, must already be considered enough.* The government? The result would be more housewives and fewer tax payers to cover the large amounts of money needed. (Good-bye economy.) The children? Might be fair, but they will not usually have enough money for a good many years to come.

*And the amounts involved can be considerable, even the joke calculation with hotels, etc., above aside: Rack up “her” share of the rent or mortgage, utility costs, food costs, car costs, vacation costs, …, factor in that diamond bracelet for the anniversary, etc. Chances are that her remuneration already is considerable—even without a salary. Throw in a divorce and the husband might have been better off actually using hired help …

Excursion on low intensity tasks:
When trying to estimate time worked, it is important to count fairly, as with the washing above—that the washing machine was running for an hour does not mean that some person spent an hour washing. (While, a few generations back, washing actually was a labor intensive manual task.) Similarly, someone who claims to spend one or two hours a day cooking is unlikely to tell the truth by any fair estimate: even an actual “home cooked” meal (as opposed to TV dinners or even pasta-and-meatballs-from-the-store) is usually* not that labor intensive today and most of the actual cooking time is spent waiting while the stove or oven does its work. Count the time worked, not the time from the first preparation until “dinner is served”!

*Exceptions can include e.g. particularly elaborate or multi-course dinners for a larger group, or something requiring a continuous stirring, but not a typical daily meal.

Those who hover in front of the stove when they can read at the kitchen table with an egg timer have themselves to blame. Those who do hover passively while they share gossip over the phone, are not actually working, for most of the hovering.

A typical meal might need some little time for preparations, e.g. thawing* or hacking this-and-that, usually even less to mix things together, a little time to check in or add a pinch of salt or oregano ever so briefly every now and then. Setting the table is a fast task (outside particularly “fancy” days) and can be done in parallel. The pots, pans, tellers, …, go into the washing machine. Those “one or two hours” might actually be twenty or thirty minutes—or two minutes for the TV dinner. (And note that if washing up and setting the table is counted as cooking, they cannot be counted elsewhere at the same time. And note that they do not count for the housewife, at all, if someone else does them.)

*I.e. taking something from the freezer and putting it in a warm kitchen or, if speed is needed, in the microwave. The actual work will typically count in seconds—not minutes.

Excursion on similarly flawed math:
I have occasionally seen similarly flawed math even outside a “women deserve” or other “political” context. Then, however, it has usually been intended as a joke—not, as above, as something apparently intended to be taken at face value. For instance, as I child, I encountered a bewildering calculation that “proved” that we hardly went to school at all. While I do not remember the exact details, it did include e.g. counting eight hours of sleep from every day of the year (before subtracting weekends and holidays) and the weekend from every week (before subtracting holidays). Due to the resulting double counts, the number of hours in school per year appeared minimal. A correct calculation would first establish the school days per year and then multiple this with the number of hours in school per school day.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 20, 2020 at 8:51 pm

Another bites the dust

with one comment

Almost exactly one year ago (15th vs. 17th of July 2020 resp. 2019), I discovered that my favorite store in all of Düsseldorf had been closed ([1]).

If I had made a list of private “must visit” stores in Düsseldorf before last year’s trip, it would have contained exactly two entries: Stern Verlag (books) and the local Conrad (electronics).

I am in Düsseldorf again, for the same reason (to avoid construction noise), and wanted to visit said Conrad. As you probably have guessed, it too has closed.

Looking up Conrad on German Wikipedia, it appears that there is a total of 20 German stores left (with an additional 9 internationally). Since 2017, no less than 6 (or almost one-in-four) have closed. The Düsseldorf store is the latest, on the 15th of February 2020. I doubt that the COVID restrictions will be helpful for the remaining stores.

On the positive side, there actually are other Conrads left, while Stern Verlag was a single store and likely the second best bookstore in Germany (after Dussmann in Berlin).

Excursion on my current “must visit”:
In my current situation, my list would only have one entry: the largest of the Mayersche, which by default has become Stern Verlag’s successor as best book store. The local Saturn as the largest electronics store is a close call, but fails on the presence of a decent size Saturn and a ditto Media Markt* in Wuppertal (where I live)—there is a major size difference here too, but the Wuppertal Saturn has at least reached a “critical mass”, much unlike the Wuppertal bookstores. (Conrad was smaller, but better priced and with a different product profile.)

*Another electronics chain, perversely under the same ownership as Saturn.

Excursion on cosmic jokes:
Add in that I actually picked* a hotel that is in the next parallel street to the former location, a literal stone’s throw away, and I cannot help suspecting another cosmic joke. Someone up there is having yet another big laugh at my expense …

*Not, admittedly, by design, but I did have a “Hey, its next to Conrad!” moment when I noticed.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 15, 2020 at 10:29 pm