Reconstructed music of ancient Greece

Reader Gravelinspector sent this 15-minute video and the comments below; I found that listening to what the ancient Greeks may have heard as their music was fascinating. How did they get the melodies? Watch the video!  Now a lot of the music is improvised, but we do have a starting point.

From Gravelinspector:

This is probably going to mean more to you in terms of the technical terms like “rhythm” and “melody”, and what the actual sounds are, but in the wider cultural sense, I would be surprised if you didn’t sense an attraction to seeing a performance of a 2000+ (sometimes nearer 2500) year-old play in a theatre where it was performed 2000+ years ago. (We went to see Oedipus Tyrannos at the Herodion in Athens – not quite hitting the 2000 year mark.)
Anyway, a combination of archaeology (preserved wooden instruments), epigraphy (interpretation of inscriptions) and the language of Greek itself has been used to try to re-create the actual music and choral singing as would have been enjoyed by the audience when the playwright was also the director.
The explanation, by Armand D’Angour, is in the video, and the piece is “aulos of ancient scores of Athenaeus Paean (127 BC) and Euripides Orestes chorus (408 BC)”.

The myth of responsibility and the lottery of life

This four-minute video on free will and responsibility, narrated by polymath Raoul Martinez, was posted by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA). Martinez’s point is one I’ve made here many times, and will surely get pushback from: determinism rules human behavior, and our “choices” are all predetermined by our genes and environment. To me, that means that the concept of “moral responsibility” is meaningless, for that implies an ability to choose freely. Nevertheless, we should still retain the concept of responsibility, meaning “an identifiable person did this or that good or bad action”. And, of course, we can sanction or praise people who were responsible in this sense, for such blame and praise can not only reinforce good behavior but is salubrious for society.

I have a few issues with the short video, one being that Martinez discards the idea of “responsibility” when he should be discarding “moral responsibility”, but it’s clear he means the latter. In addition, he imputes people’s life outcomes to “luck,” when what he means are deterministic but unpredictable factors that are outcomes of the laws of physics. There really isn’t any such thing as luck—save a positive outcome that’s the result of true quantum indeterminacy.

Martinez is also somewhat of a compatibilist, as he says that we do have free will if we define it as “the capacity to act in accordance with beliefs and values, to use reason and learn from our mistakes”.  Well, all that is shorthand for the way our neurological computer behaves—deterministically. Whether someone behaves in accordance with their values, or flouts those values, is also determined. Where is the freedom in that? To quote Sam Harris’s comment, which pretty much shows the flaw in all forms of compatibilism:

[Compatibilism] ignores the very source of our belief in free will: the feeling of conscious agency. People feel that they are the authors of their thoughts and actions, and this is the only reason why there seems to be a problem of free will worth talking about.

There are those who say there are no implications of the determinism of human behavior that’s being increasingly borne out by scientific research. These denialists are wrong. Because surveys show that most people are dualists, and believe in genuine “could have done otherwise” free will, and predicate much of their morality, politics, and beliefs on this erroneous concept, then there are surely implications for determinism.


The video above is extracted from Martinez’s 7-minute talk, “Life is just a lottery”


h/t: Tom Clark

The complaint against Lindsay Shepherd at Wifrid Laurier University was by its LGBT Center

I’ve posted several times about Lindsay Shepherd, a grad student at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Canada.  Shepherd got in trouble with her advisor and the school because in the class she was, she played a short clip from The Agenda showing Jordan Peterson questioning the need to use special pronouns for students not identifying as male or female. Shepherd also showed a counter clip of Nicholas Matte arguing against Peterson, and in fact Shepherd disagrees with Peterson’s views and was simply trying to stimulate discussion in a communications class. For that she got into trouble, and was interrogated threateningly by two professors and a university official. Fortunately, Shepherd secretly (but legally) recorded her inquisition on her computer, and the bullying by the University people was so ridiculous that when the recording was released by the press, WLU looked really stupid and clueless. The President of WLU, as well as Shepherds advisor—one of the inquisitors—had to apologize.

Now Shepherd has become somewhat of a free speech hero, and has given interviews to all manner of sites and stations, including right-wing ones (she doesn’t refuse anyone). But her heroism is questioned by the Regressive Left because, by playing the Peterson clip, she apparently branded herself “transphobic”—even though she isn’t. While she says she disagrees with Peterson, Regressives apparently don’t believe her. But her background in progressive activism, discussed in the piece below, substantiates her views.

What remained a mystery was who, exactly, reported Shepherd to the University. WLU lawyers said there was no record of a formal complaint, which makes one wonder why she was interrogated and investigated. But now it turns out there was indeed a complaint. Here’s Shepherd revealing the Offended Person, which wasn’t a person at all:

Now MacLean’s, a Canadian news magazine, has published an informative account of the whole affair: “What really happened at Wilfrid Laurier University“.  As it turns out, Shepherd is indeed a liberal and activist, is mature beyond her age, and is continuing to be mistreated by members of WLU, both faculty and students.

But the most important new information is who complained about Shepherd: a student went to the Rainbow Centre, the campus LGBTQ organization, which itself filed the complaint:

As for Shepherd, she called her boyfriend to say she thought everything went well and that the students were really engaged. Neither knew one student from the class would soon contact the Rainbow Centre, the campus LGBTQ support community, to complain about the discussion. Toby Finlay, an administrator at the Rainbow Centre, wouldn’t share the specifics of the conversation due to confidentiality reasons, but adds: “It was through us that they made the complaint that led to the situation that blew up in the media.”

It turns out that more than one student got exercised about Shepherd’s showing the clip: many transgender students at WLU see the presentation as intolerable and threatening. In the following, Milas Hewson and Toby Finlay are transgender students and spokespeople for the Rainbow Centre:

It’s been a hard month for both at the Rainbow Centre, a service within the school’s diversity and equity office that supports education and advocacy for queer and trans students. “Students have come to us feeling complicated, upset and invalidated,” Hewson says. “With these young students struggling to figure out how they’re experiencing gender, to be told in a classroom that that’s not valid has a very deep impact because it’s an issue that strikes close to home for these people.”

And even if Shepherd tried to remain neutral in the classroom, Finlay challenges the idea of neutrality in this case, saying it’s wrong “that these are issues of debate and trans students’ identities or experiences are up for conversation—in the sense that their reality is up for conversation.”

Hewson talks about being confronted in school hallways “by people I barely know asking me to justify myself and my positions.” By speaking with media, Finlay and Hewson have become the public faces for the Laurier trans community. “That also in a huge way makes me feel fairly unsafe on campus because I don’t know who might recognize me and approach me out of nowhere and have something violent to say or do,” Hewson says. “I feel generally uncomfortable on campus.”

Neither Finlay nor Hewson is opposed to freedom of speech. However, Finlay says, “we think the ways freedom of speech discourse is being taken up is really functioning to cover over a lot of the transphobia that’s at the core of this issue. It’s being used to justify a lot of hate that’s directed towards trans people.”

Kira Williams experiences something transphobic every day. Some days that’s harassment. Other days it’s sexual assault. “The reality is Dr. Peterson’s speech is targeted at trans people,” says the Laurier PhD student. “And the reality is that when people like Peterson speak, it has consequences in the real world—consequences I have to live through every day.”

I’m sorry, but just hearing Jordan Peterson should not make you feel “invalidated”—any more than Zionist Jews hearing Palestinians and BDSers opposing their positions should make them fearful.  What is it with students that they cannot bear to hear anything that they don’t find personally or ideologically congenial—even if they hear the opposite and supportive viewpoint (one that Shepherd presented)? Note, too, that Finlay says that some things like transgender pronouns are not only NOT fit topics for discussion, but also make students feel “unsafe.” We also hear the usual free speech buttery in Finlay’s claim that “transphobic speech” is not free speech but hate speech. Finally, although we know that trans people experience a lot of nastiness and bigotry, I find it hard to believe that Kira Williams is either harassed or sexually assaulted every day, and I wonder if she’s stretching the meaning of those terms.

Like Shepherd, I’m fine with using whatever pronouns a students wants (if I can remember them), and strongly believe that trans people should be treated just like everyone else. But but the issue of how to deal with them vis-a-vis sports and the like is still one that merits discussion. Feminists, for instance, are deeply divided about how to regard trans women (some say that, not having experienced oppression from birth, they don’t have “real woman credibility”), and I’m content to let them fight that out. In the meantime, I’ll call them “she.” But the Rainbow Centre is demanding that WLU’s President recognize and apologize for transphobia on campus (if she does that, she’ll have to apologize for all forms of bigotry); and they’re asking for what I see as unreasonable concessions on top of that:

The Rainbow Centre continues to demand an apology from President MacLatchy for refusing to acknowledge the existence of transphobia on campus. They also want more safety measures installed at diversity and equity office buildings, such as a panic button and reinforced glass, and—among other asks—the school to hire a trans person of colour full-time as a counsellor within the diversity and equity office to offer mental health support for students.

Why a trans person of color? Are there more trans people of color than white trans people? Or are trans people of color extra oppressed and thus need their own counselor?

Shepherd has further been the victim of  both intimidation and distressing snark at WLU, to wit:

As faculty picked sides, Shepherd was readying herself to face her students for the first time since she went public—and she was hoping to open up the class with a talk about, well, everything that was going on.

The chair of the department of communications, Peter Urquhart, showed up at her tutorial that day to address the class. Shepherd remembers he opened by acknowledging the situation and while he couldn’t go into specifics because of confidentiality reasons, he told the students if they needed emotional or mental support, they should feel welcome to go to the campus wellness centre. He then asked if anyone had questions—they didn’t—and sat at the back of the room for the rest of the tutorial.

“The problem I had with it was he was shutting down the conversation right away,” Shepherd says. “He was making it so that we could not actually talk about what was going on.”

“When asked via email if he would like to comment on the record about his appearance in class that day, Urquhart declined. But then added: “Anyway, I assume she recorded them – why not ask her for the recording?” A second email, unprompted, came soon afterwards: “Sorry, you’re a pro— I should have assumed that you’ve already heard that particular recording.”

Well Urquhart is a jerk, not just for monitoring her class, but for his snark about recording. He clearly is upset that Shepherd made her original recording, since that’s what got WLU in trouble—and rightly so! And Urquhart is the chairman of Shepherd’s department.  (This is one thing that makes me think that she has no future at WLU.)

The rest of the article gives details about Shepherd’s early life, mentions her Middle Eastern boyfriend (she’s learning Farsi to be able to talk to his parents), and shows how she’s now in the center of a maelstrom: denigrated by Regressive Leftists and idolized by free-speech advocates, who, sadly, mostly comprise right-wingers.  There’s also an intimation that this principled young woman doesn’t have much of a future at WLU, which I think is true. Like Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State, I think she’ll find ever greener pastures at another place. But I do admire her and wish her well.

It’s early December and a professor in one of Shepherd’s courses asks her to put away her laptop. She tells Shepherd she doesn’t want to be recorded. Shepherd says she isn’t. This could be a glimpse of her future—one where she feels alienated.

Shepherd has talked about what happens when she enters the working world, if this suspicion could follow her. Which workplace wants to hire someone known to secretly record superiors?

At the same time, she’s become a bit of a celebrity. Some suggest she’ll inevitably open a Patreon account, where followers will give her donations to keep speaking up for free speech, but she’s dismissed any such suggestion. She’s already turned down offers for crowdfunding, saying this is about principle, not money.

What she knows now is she wants to continue her schooling. “I want to get a master’s degree. I like my brain being challenged,” she says.

She’s just not sure that degree will come from Laurier.

TA Lindsay Shepherd addresses the crowd during a free speech rally at Wilfred Laurier University on November 24, 2017. (Photograph by Cole Burston)


Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ faith schools

Government-funded faith schools with a religious curriculum are still pervasive in the UK, where there’s no First Amendment to separate church and state. Today’s Jesus and Mo, called “rare,” takes them on, and came with a note:

“Thanks to this week’s guest scriptwriter Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for his help.”

And that article links to a Humanist UK piece:

Welby said this in a House of Lords debate on education:

‘A major obstacle to our education system is a lack of clear internal and commonly held values. We live in a country where an overarching story which is the framework for explaining life has more or less disappeared. We have a world of unguided and competing narratives where the only common factor is the inviolability of personal choice. Which means that for schools that are not of a religious character, confidence in any personal sense of ultimate values has diminished. Utilitarianism rules. And skills move from being talents held for the common good which we are entrusted with as benefits for all, to being personal possessions for our own advantage.

‘The challenge is the weak, secular and functional narrative that successive governments have sought to insert in the place of our historic Christian-based understanding, whether explicitly or implicitly.’

Pardon my French, but the man is a dumbass. We all know that moral values, while they may be sustained by religion, almost always originate from secular sources. So much for the new “liberal” Anglican church. Welby needs to read some Plato!

On to Jesus and Mo:

In contrast, reader Graham sent this article from The Evening Standard (click on screenshot to read it):

Ofsted is the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, and here’s what they reported (my emphases):

An increasing number of conservative faith schools are deliberately flouting British values and seek to isolate young people from the mainstream, Ofsted warned today in a damning report.

Some religious schools in both the state and independent sectors are spreading discriminatory beliefs that clash with British values. In extreme cases illegal “schools” are being created to avoid teaching the fundamental values of democracy, mutual tolerance and respect.

Launching her first annual report as Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman said inspectors have found texts in faith schools that encourage domestic violence and the subjugation of women, and schools where there is a “flat refusal” to acknowledge lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

She said: “When I see books in schools entitled Women Who Deserve To Go To Hell, children being educated in dank, squalid conditions, children being taught solely religious texts at the expense of learning basic English and mathematics, I cannot let it be ignored.

Guess which religion(s) are involved. No faith is mentioned here, but another report in the paper says this:

The majority of the schools [Spielman] criticises are Muslim, though there are also a small number of Jewish schools which fail on integration.

So, you Brits, Scots, and Welsh, your tax money is going to fund homophobia and misogyny. What are you going to do about it?

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today have a potpourri of photos from four readers.

The first set comes from reader Jim Trice in Australia. Note that the first insect mimics two different models at different stages of its life cycle: ants when young and leaves when older.  The readers’ notes are indented.

I thought I’d send some recent shots for your tank.

The first 2 shots are of the first instar of the gum leaf katydid, Torbia viridissima, from the TETTIGONIIDAE family. At this stage of their life these are ant mimics, and are fairly convincing from a distance.  In close up though those long antennae and back legs give the game away.  As they develop they appear less ant like. The adults rely on camouflage, their wing covers being green, and bearing markings similar to veins on a leaf. I’ve heard reports that these are omnivorous. They eat leaves, but the adults will also eat other insects. Both of these shots were taken in my back yard.

The first of these was taken in strong natural light, the light passing through the insect’s body makes it appear redder than normal. This one has a body length of around 6mm.

The second shot, of a different specimen, was taken with some front on fill-flash. This shows the colour of the insect in more typical lighting. By way of providing a sense of scale each of those spent lavender florets it is sitting on are around 8mm in length.

JAC: Here’s an adult katydid taken from Brisbane Insects; it’s a leaf mimic. Imagine the developmental modifications required to change the morphology of a single individual!

Brisbane Insects has a page with shots of gum leaf katydids at all stages of development, from egg to adult.

The other shots are of a small Australian native bee feeding on Scabious sp. It is Homalictus urbanus, one of the halictid bees, sometimes known as sweat bees. This specimen is about 5mm in length, which is pretty typical for this species.  This is one of the most common, and most widespread, of the Australian native bees.  The females live communally, typically around 80 to 100 females sharing a burrow. But each bee cares for her own young. They like disturbed ground and farmland, and are currently thriving. I found this one while walking my youngest home from school. I was pleasantly surprised it was still there when I rushed back with my camera.

The next shot shows the bee diving in to a floret to feed. I like the way it grips the style with its mid-legs while doing this.

The shot shows the bee cleaning its face. It did this after emerging from every floret.

From reader Charlie Schliesser:

My wife and I trekked to the top of Mt Batur in Bali, Indonesia in late November, the morning that Mt Agung had a large eruption. We climbed up to see the sunrise and were treated not only to the incredible view, but also to a dozen or so macaques that live nearby and follow tourists around at the peak trying to steal a bite to eat (or a camera to trade back). My wife Sara snapped this awesome photo and I want to share it.

From reader Stephen Barnard, a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):

Finally, a lovely mini-landscape shot by Ken Phelps:

Ice over a shallow pond littered with leaves.


Wednesday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on a cold Wednesday in Chicago: December 13, 2017. And it is a good day, as the odious Roy Moore was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in the Senate race Alabama, though he still refuses to concede the election. Here are the latest figures:

And some election tweets found by Grania:

YAY!  And a defeat for The Donald, too. And. . . the readers were WRONG, WAY WRONG, in yesterday’s WEIT poll:

It’s National Cocoa Day, which I said was yesterday but I was wrong. In Brazil it’s Dia do Marinheiro, or “Sailors Day.”

On December 13, 1577, Sir Francis Drake left Plymouth, England, on his voyage around the world. He returned on September 26, 1580.  And on this day in 1642, Dutch sailor Abel Tasman reached New Zealand, the first European to do so (he was also the first to visit Tasmania, which of course is named after him). On this day in 1949, the Knesset voted to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. On December 13, 1972, the last humans to walk on the Moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, had their last EVA stroll from Apollo 17.  Finally, we Indiaphiles well remember what happened on this day in 2001: the Indian Parliament Building (the Sansad Bhavan) was attacked by terrorists, with twelve dead in total.

Notables born on this day include Heinrich Heine (1797), Alvin C. York (1887), Van Heflin (1908), Dick Van Dyke (1925, and still with us), and  the overrated Taylor Swift (1989). Those who fell asleep on this day include Rabbi Maimonides (1204), Samuel Johnson (1784), Samuel Gompers (1924), Wassily Kandisnsky (1944; one of my favorite painters), Irma Grese (1945, hanged, look her up), Grandma Moses (1961) and Alan Thicke (last year).

Here is “Cat”, a print by Kandinsky:


Finally, Malgorzata, Andrzej, and Hili are being visited by a movie star, who’s in today’s Hili dialogue. The star at issue is Gaia Weiss, who’s played in the movies Mary Queen of Scots, The Legend of Hercules, and Vikings. She is a relative of Andrzej and is visiting Dobrzyn until Saturdy with her mother, who is Andrzej’s niece. They’ve asked for Polish food and Malgorzata has been busy cooking kasha and pierogi.

Here’s Gaia in Vikings:

And on the set of Hercules, besting two men with her first spear throw:

And here’s Gaia with Hili:
Hili: Why has it been so long?
Gaia: You know, I’m working hard.
Hili: Me too.
In Polish:
Hili: Czemu cię tak długo nie było?
Gaia: No wiesz, ciężko pracuję.
Hili: Ja też.

A “Get Fuzzy” cartoon about cats was sent by reader Paul. Note the third fact!:

A tweet sent by Grania (watch the video):

Look at that face!

A clever chipmunk, and a great video:

From Matthew:

And funny Catholic hats:

Five Books: Robert McCrum’s list of the best novels in English

Over at Five Books, writer and journalist John Robert McCrum (also an associate editor of The Observer) has compiled a list of his Five Best Novels in English, and also makes some thoughtful remarks about other novels and the genre in general. (The interviewer is my friend Sophie Roell, whose questions to McCrum are in bold.) It’s interesting that three of the five are by women—and were written in an era when women novelists were very scarce.  I’ll show pictures of the books and give a few quotes that I like (indented) as well as my own remarks (flush left). I’ve read four of the five.

I’m not sure how old this piece is, but McCrum published a longer version of his list in book form, The 100 Best Novels in English, in 2015—surely a book I’ll read, as it’ll guide me to good novels I’ve missed.

Voilà: the books and comments:

You’ve got to have Jane Austen. She’s the first serious novelist. She is treating the novel in a way that we understand and creating an art form. I chose Emma. It would have been easier to choose Pride and Prejudicebecause it’s everyone’s favourite—it tops polls regularly. But if you want something a little bit more considered… It’s the most mature of the seven. I also happen to think the character of Emma is delightful and fascinating. She has all of the classic Austen heroine characteristics but, at the same time, she’s a bit more than that. She seems almost modern. You can imagine having a conversation with her on a train or a bus. You couldn’t necessarily imagine doing that with someone like Anne Elliot in Persuasion. It’s also a book that I first read when I was at school, so it’s a personal favourite.

This one I haven’t read, but I will:

So this is thirty years after the death of Jane Austen, it’s a generation on. It’s light years away. You couldn’t imagine anyone further from the world of Mr Woodhouse than Healthcliff. It’s about as far as it’s possible to get. But it’s very influential and Romantic. It fits into the Romantic movement in a way that Austen doesn’t.

By ‘Romantic’ what do you mean exactly?

It means a sensibility that celebrates being set free from convention. They’re very subtle, but every single character in Austen is—in one way or another—conventional. They pay tribute to the conventions of ordinary life. Whereas Cathy—and all of Emily Brontë’s characters—are more or less feral. That’s why we love them. It’s a different world, it’s a mad world. In some ways, Emily Brontë is more of a poet. But she has inspired many subsequent writers of fiction.

Yes, a superb novel!

Tell me about Middlemarch, A Study in Provincial Life which is from 1874. What makes this a great novel?

It’s partly the sheer ambition of it. Eliot was absolutely determined to paint a serious, detailed picture of provincial life. The other radical thing was to do it from the point of view of a disappointed woman. Dorothea is a very enthralling portrait.

What else is Eliot trying to do? Is it a social critique? Was she trying to warn people not to marry the wrong person?

It’s not that explicit. It’s more about the choices that you might make as a woman—or indeed as a man.

Is it about what it is to be a good person?

Yes. That’s another element of the book, that it has a very strong moral core. This is why someone like F. R. Leavis chose it in The Great Tradition. That’s a new development. Until Eliot’s time, the primary consideration was to be entertaining. Virginia Woolf famously said Middlemarch was “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.” I think that’s quite a good description actually. It’s also an amazing portrait of a moment, like a cathedral. It’s vast and seems to extend in every direction when you’re in it.

This is one of my favorite novels, thanks to my friend Gail (an English professor) who, long ago, sent me a copy of this book with the inscription, “If you don’t like this book, you can’t be my friend.” Fortunately, we remain friends.

Let’s go on to book number 4 on your list: Huckleberry Finn. Now, this is your only choice from the United States.

Yes, I think we have to have it. Hemingway said that all American fiction comes from Huckleberry Finn. That’s true, in the sense that Twain invented a way of looking at the American experience and putting it into fiction. I think almost every American writer has to acknowledge that. He is for Americans as important as Chaucer might be for us. He’s a pioneer and shapes the terms of trade of American fiction writing for a long time. He was able to turn the American vernacular into literature.

McCrum is right on the money here, and it’s a very great book. If you haven’t read it, you must.

Your final book, number five, is Ulysses—published in 1922.

Interestingly, that’s the same year as The Waste Land. You get these two modernist masterpieces in the same year—one at the beginning of the year, one at the end. One barely fifteen pages—one closer to a thousand pages. It’s like the North and the South Pole.

What is a modernist novel?

It’s a novel published after about 1910. It’s a novel that takes the traditional elements of place and time and mashes them up and reorders them. It attempts to capture the flow of human thought and human experience on the page in words and has no apparent interest in the conventions of the Victorian novel. It’s trying to represent the ordinary world in prose. Ulysses is a very brilliant, highly original attempt to put one man’s experience on one day to the pages of a book.

In your book, you point out that it has been said that ‘English-language fiction since 1922 has been a series of footnotes to James Joyce’s masterpiece.’

That’s certainly true about a lot of novels. I was reading this year’s Booker Prize shortlist and every one of those feels like a footnote. They’re just so trivial—each doing one thing that Joyce is probably doing a hundred times more brilliantly and in more different ways on any given page of Ulysses.

It’s quite hard to understand, though. When I tried to read it age 20, my then boyfriend’s mother said the only way to read it was with a guide which would explain what was going on. At which point I gave up. I liked your suggestion, though that Ulysses is not that hard to read if you listen to a good audiobook version…

Listening to it is a good way because you hear it differently. Also because Joyce’s ear for the music of language is so extraordinary. I recommend it very highly.

very great novel, but I had to start it three or four times before I finally finished it. It’s not an easy read, but it repays the labor. And now I want to listen to it on audiobook, as per McCrum’s suggestion.

I won’t list my own favorite novels, as I believe I’ve done that several times, but if you’d like, put yours below.

Trump family can’t vote properly

Grania found this tweet about the Trump family’s vote in last month’s New York City mayoral election. (They’re all officially New York residents.)

And if you go to the article in the New York Daily News, you’ll see that these claims are substantiated (click on screenshot below), though I have no idea how the press could get access to voting information that should be confidential. If this turns out to be “fake news”, I’ll let you know.

If it is true, it’s not clear if The Donald’s vote will count yet, since he got his own birthday wrong.

Poll: Who will win in Alabama?

It’s a referendum on progressivism versus hidebound conservatism in Alabama today, as Republican Roy Moore (yes, you know all about him) faces off against Democrat Doug Jones to fill Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat.  Moore is, if that’s possible, worse than Trump (for one thing, he’s always spouting off about God and Jesus), but, you know, this is America. And Moore has been endorsed by Trump, which in Alabama may count in his favor.

Predict the election! (And comment below if you want.) Please vote, and, as usual, I’m not representing this as anything other than opinions of WEIT readers.

Three beefs

I believe the correct term for the plural of beef is actually “beeves”, but if I put it above nobody would read this.  Anyway, Jerry Has Three Beeves (a good title for a children’s book).

1.)  Toothpaste prices.  One of the biggest ripoffs you can experience in American merchandising, besides bottled water and Starbuck’s Fancy Drinks, is toothpaste.  When I was taking a walk yesterday, I realized that I was almost out of toothpaste in my office (I brush there twice a day), and so stopped by the local CVS to buy a big tube.  I was shocked to see the prices: even “regular” toothpaste like Crest cost from $3.50 to $5.00 per tube, and if you want toothpaste with “extra whitening power” or for sensitive teeth, expect to pay six bucks or so. I couldn’t find anything cheaper on the shelves.

For years I bought Pepsodent (also with fluoride) for $1.00 per tube at my regular grocery store, but that closed a while back.  If Pepsodent can sell its toothpaste for that little (and it still does in stores that carry it), you can imagine that the other, pricier brands are ripoffs, garnering huge profits. There is, after all, no substantial difference between Crest, Aim (another inexpensive brand, a gel), and the high-priced brands.  Peeved and beeved, I passed on the Crest and walked on, encountering and entering a local Target store that recently opened in Hyde Park. And there, on the shelves, I found big tubes of Aim toothpaste for $1.02 per tube! Naturally, I loaded up. So, advice to readers: do not get ripped off on toothpaste. Aim is available at even lower prices in some places, and if you’re paying three or four times as much for Pepsodent or some other regular toothpaste, you’re wasting your dosh.  Now I know people are wedded to their regular brands, but there’s no need to spend three times more than you need to get the same thing. 

2.) Bad car drivers.  I am usually a good pedestrian and obey the lights, and I almost always use crosswalks.  Two days ago I was crossing the crosswalk a block from my office, and was obeying the light (i.e., I was walking when oncoming traffic had a red light). Suddenly a car turning left onto the street I was crossing was too impatient to let me cross. The driver just speeded up and turned left into the left lane (Brits: we drive on the right side) making his turn right in front of me and nearly hitting me. Here’s a diagram of the situation:

Naturally I said something to the driver, but he didn’t hear me (yes, it was a man). This kind of behavior, in which Type As can’t wait three seconds till I get across the street, is reprehensible—and illegal. Guys, don’t do that!

3.) Bad bicycle riders.  I’ve complained about this before, but will do so again. It’s against the law in Chicago to ride bicycles on the sidewalk, or to disobey stopsigns and stoplights. But cyclists almost ALWAYS ignore the law. The result is that people are constantly in danger of getting hit, and that includes the miscreant cyclists themselves. Having learned bicycle commuting as a postdoc in Davis, California, a place where you get a ticket if you don’t stop at a stop sign or light, fail to signal a turn with your arm, or ride at night without a light, I am a very considerate bike rider.

Yesterday while walking home, I was ambling along the sidewalk and for some reason veered toward the right. It turned out that there was a student on a ten-speed bike riding really fast behind me on the sidewalk, without alerting me to his presence. I veered right into his path, and was very nearly knocked down (I could feel the wind from his bike as it missed me by inches). He was riding so fast that I suspect I would have been badly hurt had he hit me.

I’ve complained several times to the University of Chicago Police about this, as this is about the third time I’ve nearly been hit by a miscreant cyclist, but of course our cops don’t enforce the laws. A cop can be standing right on the street corner, and yet just looks on placidly as bike after bike speeds through stop signs.

If I get hit or killed, please send the link to this post to the U of C Police, just so they’ll know I’ve talked to them.

If you’re a cyclist commenting below, you can defend breaking the law if you want, but I won’t agree with you.

And you can add your own beeves below.