Another Useless Fucking Study

So now it appears that if you drink black coffee, you’re a psychopath.

I drink black coffee.

Happily, however, the same study states that additional clues to psychopathy are a fondness for radishes, celery and tonic water. Fortunately, I hate radishes and want to puke at even the thought of eating celery. I do like tonic water, but only when it’s the delivery mechanism for gin. Maybe I’m only half a psychopath, then? A quarter?

Just to be on the safe side, though, I think I’ll switch to drinking my gin with bitter lemon; that is, until another study comes out stating that a fondness for bitter lemon is an indicator that one is a homosexual pedophile, or that drinking bitter lemon causes one to grow an extra buttock.

Did I already mention that I don’t put much stock in medical / academic / scientific studies?

That’s All I Need

Apparently. some study has come out [sic] that all the 50+ set needs is to have more nookie, because that will help their brains.

It’s been a while (no details necessary), but I seem to recall that sex has the opposite effect on my brain, in that as I recall, I become really stupid during the act itself — the Goofy-like facial expressions alone are the giveaway — and pass out in some kind of coma shortly thereafter. I know that some people claim that sex makes them feel “more alive”, whatever that means, but they’re probably the same people who claim to have sex 7.9 times a week, the lying bastards.

I mean, seriously: does sex help your brain more than. say, reading a Thomas Sowell book on economics? That just doesn’t seem feasible. And yes, I know that economics puts people to sleep; but then again, so does sex. Afterwards, not during, although I seem to recall a few embarrassing occasions when I fell asleep during sex — but that was years ago, my memory is fading, and maybe I fell asleep while reading an economics book rather than while having sex. It’s an easy mistake to make when the two activities are so similar (it’s been an even longer time since I read an economics book.)

Unfortunately (and this is a recurring theme on this blog), this advice means that oh FFS, the senescent Baby Boomers, already one of the most sexually-obsessed generations in human history, are going to try to coax yet more erections from their exhausted phalli and pound on Gammy’s worn-out genitalia even more than they have already, just so they can remember what The Who sounded like at Woodstock.

And if that concept doesn’t give you the heebies, I don’t know what will.

Fortunately, this does not affect Your Humble Narrator because, well, none of your business, and also because my memory is just fine — even though I can’t remember movie titles, the actors’ names who starred in them, or anything other than the fact that a couple of scenes showed Julie Christie’s nipples. Or maybe it was Susan George’s pubic hair, or Vanessa Redgrave’s buttocks. Whatever. What I do remember, with blinding clarity, is the dismay I felt when Urkel Obama was elected POTUS, the joy I felt when God-Emperor Trump ended the Socialist Years, and the bitter tears that were shed by the foul socialists when Hillary Bitch Clinton came out of the 2016 presidential election looking like a complete tit. Oh, I remember the good stuff, you betcha. Don’t need sex for that, thank God.

I have always thought that memory is like a computer’s hard drive: there seems to be a limit on the amount of stuff one can hold in storage, as it were, and as one gets older, the damn thing gets fuller and fuller — not only with worthwhile stuff like the plot line of Hugo’s Les Misèrables, but sadly with the biggest load of crap, like Fonzie’s hairstyle in Happy Days. Now if having sex meant that you could somehow erase all the latter bullshit to make space for more of the worthwhile stuff, I’d park my RV outside Dennis Hof’s Chicken Ranch in Nevada and run all my credit cards up to the max in a matter of days. Assuming that Big Pharma could manufacture sufficient quantities of those pills that give one a woody, of course.

But no. My bet is that if more sex improved my memory, I’d just start remembering more bullshit, like the Girl Scout Incident of 1975 or the Great Parking Lot Affair of 1992. (Or was it 1993?) Or if more sex actually improved my brain function, it would doubtless enable me to understand still-more worthless bullshit, such as the difference between M1 and M2 — the economic things, not the British motorways.

I seem to have forgotten the original premise of this post. Sorry about that. Maybe all I need is some nookie. With some woman who will not puke at the thought of having sex with me. Oh good grief. Gimme the pills — and not those damn Viagra things, either.

Or maybe I’ll just have (another) drink. Gin works wonders with the memory — or maybe it was foreplay which does that.

I forget.


Training Vs. Education

Here’s something I wrote back in 2008, and unbelievably, it’s just as valid today than it was then, perhaps even more so. I’ve also added a few things to clean it up a little and make it better.

The “Power” Elite

July 9, 2008
8:00 AM CDT

The required reading for today’s class is, first, William Deresiewicz’s article about the transformation of our elite universities into high-priced trade schools:

Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers.

Next, you should read Mary Grabar’s bleak article about how the college curriculum itself is becoming less academic, and more like an Oprah Winfrey show:

Oprah is us. Course offerings on Oprah appear in college catalogs, while those on Milton disappear.

When you’re done with both, have swept up the broken glass and china, and repaired the bullet-holes in the walls, come back here and read the rest.

As long as there are people, there will be elites (and elitists) — and as long as there are those, there will be institutions which cater to them, and attempt to perpetuate them. Thus the phenomenon of “Oxbridge” (Cambridge and Oxford universities) in the UK, the “Ivy League” (Yale, Harvard, et al.) on this side of the Atlantic, and their “feeder” schools (Eton, Harrow, Groton and so on), all of which exist to provide an education to the scions of the elite families. The primary difference between the elites of yesteryear and those of today is that social standing was more important then, while wealth is more of a deciding factor today. (More on this in a moment.)

‘Twas ever thus, and to be frank, they served their purpose, up to a point: that point was where the mediocre assumed positions of power simply because of who they were and where they’d been to school, rather than on pure merit (G.W. Bush is the most famous example, in the modern era, although history is littered with them).

To be frank, the elite institutions are not a bad thing in and of themselves. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with catering to the elites, just as there’s nothing wrong with catering to the working classes. At least, it can be said, those institutions helped the elites prepare to govern and to manage in their later lives.

What interests me about the fall of the “Ivies” in the United States is that because they have become so dependent on wealth for their survival, it should come as no surprise that their focus has likewise become narrowed towards creating wealthy alumni. In other words, what was once a happy coincidence is now a grim necessity — so there can be little doubt that the focus of universities would shift towards careerism and wealth accumulation, and away from actual education. Small wonder that Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Business are the tails wagging the Harvard dog, because those alumni will be more financially desirable to Harvard than, say, a Harvard-trained tenured professor of English tucked away at some small Midwest school.

And the Ivy League schools, unlike the unglamorous places like the University of Michigan, do not have the luxury of successful sports teams to bring in alumnus support, so, in the absence of actual merit (that ugly word) they have to rely on the cachet (a far more romantic one) of their names.

Of course, once the Ivies descend from their lofty perches of academic excellence to become simple training facilities, they are exposed to stiff competition from non-Ivy League institutions. At one point, for example, more Fortune 500 CFOs were alumni of Chicago’s Northwestern University than any two Ivy League schools combined, while the Harvard MBA has, generally, been a real-world synonym for “expensive failure”, except as consultants, where they are a synonym for “expensive disaster”.

At some point — probably now — the Ivy League ought to lose their title of “universities” and become mere “colleges”. No longer are they institutes of higher learning, but simple trade schools. (It should be noted that it has only been a fairly recent development that Law, Medicine and Commerce became fields of study, rather than just the product of apprenticeships.)

Certainly, this process is being hastened by the demise of classical education at all colleges, if Mary Grabar is to be believed (and even a cursory glance at the curricula being offered in today’s Humanities departments should provide substantial proof thereof). In place of rigorous study and its attendant discipline, students instead are being taught to rely on their “feelings” and “opinions”, as though the untutored and callow sentiments of youthful inexperience are worth as much as thoughtful, studied analysis.

(A personal aside: I remember once using a translated quote from a Roman philosopher to further an oral argument in a freshman Philosophy class, only to receive a stinging rebuke from the professor, who quoted the entire passage back to me in the original Latin, and proved that I’d misread the intent of the argument completely. One wonders if any modern-day professor is equipped to do the same.)

Professor Grabar is refreshingly blunt about the problem:

I blame it on women, specifically those women who, instead of working their ways into the club through rules of evidence, common values, and objective scholarship, have pushed in their alternate “ways of knowing.” The feminization of education has led to the idolization of Oprah. In the matriarchal upheaval in the academy, the great works of the canon that draw from our Western tradition, like Milton’s majestic Paradise Lost, are replaced by crudely rendered emotive investigations into oppression, like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” or any of the “multicultural” offerings in the latest anthology.
In addition to eviscerating the canon to add women’s writing, of whatever dubious value (personal letters, diary entries, popular books), the academic feminists’ project was to attack the base of our way of thinking, which they correctly traced back to the notion of a monotheistic God who created a universe with an order based on reason, however indiscernible that at times might be to those he endowed with reason. The matriarchs’ attacks began on linearity, logic, argumentation — the very notion of the individual thinking self. Theorists promoting the “maternal presence in the classroom” accused even the thesis statement of the freshman five-paragraph essay of having embedded within it masculine goal-oriented thinking that in a rapacious manner eliminates weaker ideas.

And thus, the real danger of this nonsense is revealed. The recipients of degrees earned by the embrace of “alternate ways of knowing” are going on to positions of government and management.

So “weaker ideas” are given as much consideration and weight as ideas proven to be logical, effective and workable. It’s risible when this approach is taken by teachers, but it’s not so funny when this thoughtless nonsense becomes the basis of laws, government and commerce.

We should not be surprised, therefore, when a young, inexperienced Presidential candidate [Urkel Obama] uses as his platform a vacuous belief in soft, unattainable (and unprovable) concepts such as “hope” and “change”. We should likewise be unsurprised when this vacuity finds strong support from a bloc of youthful idealists who have been schooled only in similar terms, as well as the intellectually-lazy older group of voters who believe that Oprah Winfrey has actually contributed anything of value to the social and political worlds.

We should also show no surprise when the modern corporation favors unfocused “group decision-making” over individual responsibility and management, even when the end result is no result (an excellent example: the WTC “memorial” which, ten years after 9/11, was still pretty much a large hole in the ground).

It is even less surprising that this so-called “management style” has started to pervade the military: where a sniper has to get approval from “higher authority” to destroy a target already designated as one worthy of destruction.

At some point, of course, all this will collapse on itself. Emotion and feelings are no substitute for logic, reason and experience: and institutions which accept the former must, eventually fall prey to their competitors who use the latter.

What is most depressing is not that this is happening, as much as the fact that the process has been designed, aided and abetted by those who are supposed to keep us away from such mistakes. That would be academia, the so-called gatekeepers of learning and education.

But they’re no longer educators: they’re trainers. Even worse, they’re trainers who are training people in a way which will, eventually guarantee failure.

The only bit of good news is that the people who started this nonsense may be dying off (somewhat too slowly for my liking). But their disappearance will likely come too late.

Don’t Think So

The Free Markets get the Daily Telegraph (Dead Tree version) delivered each day, so I comb it for items of general (i.e. not just for Brits) interest.

Apparently some Labour dickhead politician [some overlap] said that the Grenfell Tower fire was a direct action of the Tory Government, which should be held responsible for the “murder” of the unfortunate people who were turned into kebabs. Lest we forget (and he apparently did so): council housing was a Labour invention and institution, and the local council responsible for  said tower block is controlled by the Labour Party.

I have no comment to make about that statement, because we all know that the Left is a bunch of evil bastards who never fail to lower all standards of decency in their pursuit for power and control over people’s lives.

Apparently, this lack of decency has come as a complete surprise to one of the Telegraph’s writers, who asks plaintively, “Has The Left Lost All Decency?” followed by 500 words of justification for said question when, as any fule kno, the Left never had any decency to start off with.

Of course, when the Labour/Communist leader Jeremy Corbyn [spit] has already said in public that he wishes the IRA had won their struggle against Great Britain and that he pretty much sympathizes with their modern-day counterparts, radical Muslim splodeys, one would imagine that the latest Labour pronouncements should come as no surprise. However, it appears that the Conservatives meed to have their heads beaten with the Clue Bat on an hourly basis as to the Left’s inherent indecency, much as is required for the gentry Republicans of the GOPe persuasion.

Feel free to add your own suggestions as to who should occupy the Hanging Tree first, Leftists or squishy conservatives.


Random Comment

Good grief, but that Waddington 6X is wonderful stuff. If I could, I’d set up an IV line thereof into my arm.

Yes, it’s Mr. FM’s backyard… the pool is just behind the hedge, and the staff cottages are on the other side of the garage all the way at the bottom end of the estate. The slave bell (or as it’s known here, the “summoning bell”) is right behind me.

Also: we’re talking steak & kidney pies and sausage rolls, as per Jack Spratt’s in Devizes:

Comfort foods. How I’ve missed them. Next up: fish & chips.

Fortunately, as the estate’s official Dog Walker is still recovering from his earlier whipping, Mrs. FM has appointed me Interim Dog Walker — and it’s a damn good thing that the walk is about 2 miles, otherwise I’d weigh 500lbs by the end of the month, easily.

Must go now; the boot-boy is about to get whipped, and I want to watch.


It’s Not A “Brand” — It’s A Fundamental Principle

Here’s yet another piece I wrote some time ago and is, if anything, more appropriate today than it was then.

Not A Brand

May 20, 2008
5:00 AM CDT

Here’s an article which managed to set my teeth on edge. Former-European and now-Californian RINO Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us how he thinks the Republican Party should look:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created shock and awe in the Republican Party when he warned years ago that the GOP was in danger of “dying at the box office” by failing to make the sale to a wide swath of voters.
And with the presidential election looming, the Republican governor of the nation’s most populous state – a decidedly blue state – has now found a chorus of agreement. The Republican “brand” – thanks to an unpopular president, a war, gas prices, foreclosures and deficit – has become such damaged goods that GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia groused last week that “if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

“The Republican idea is a great idea, but we can’t go and get stuck with just the right wing,” Schwarzenegger said. “Let’s let the party come all the way to the center. Let those people be heard as much as the right. Let it be the big tent we’ve talked about.
“Let’s invade and let’s cross over that (political) center,” he said. “The issues that they’re talking about? Let them be our issues, and let the party be known for that.”

Leaving aside the obvious cognitive dissonance caused by an Austrian talking of “invasion”, I take exception to a political philosophy being referred to as a “brand” — because at the root of it all, brands are the invention of Marketing: they are a way to differentiate similar products, like Folgers and Maxwell House, and are kept alive by marketing and advertising, not by conviction.

But since everyone is so all-fired intent on turning a political philosophy into a soft drink, let’s examine the “brand” concept a little more closely, because I understand this stuff about as well as anyone on the planet.

When I studied this stuff, back when I was managing the customer-shopping database at a Great Big Retailer, I learned something really interesting. Most of a brand’s sales came from loyal customers, and a very few loyal customers at that. In any single supermarket, the destiny of a brand (even giant brands like Folgers or Charmin) lay in the purses of about two hundred customers. Across two hundred stores, therefore, the fate of, say, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes lay in the hands of about five thousand housewives — out of a customer base of about four million shoppers. If something were to happen to that loyal base — if some mysterious disease were to kill all five thousand — the brand would die, within a matter of weeks.

This was as true about supermarkets as it was about packaged goods. In any single store, once again, about two thousand customers (out of a total of about twenty-five thousand customers) accounted for over 75% of sales — and about 90% of the store’s profits.

The entire enterprise, a chain of two hundred stores covering four Northeastern states, rested therefore in the hands of a few hundred thousand shoppers (out of a total customer base of 2.5 million regular customers in a regional population of well over twenty million).

Using the same logic for our company as for Frosted Flakes: had we lost that half-million or so loyal customers (our “base”), the chain would have had to shut its doors in about a month. We, or rather I knew where our bread was buttered: and I made sure that we pampered and cosseted those customers to within an inch of their lives — preferential discounts, premium rewards, and non-store services (our Platinum customers, for instance, got free long-distance phone time and free roadside assistance).

What we could not afford to do was anything which would disenchant those valuable customers. Study after study, backed by purchase data (those pesky “shopper” cards) showed us that our strongest features were the quality of our Meat department, the quality of our Produce department, and the quality of our Deli department. That “quality” feature allowed us to stock more upscale products, charge a little more, and make a decent profit. Our customer base was not as large as that of our competitors, but they spent more with us. They were slightly older: more established families with older kids, executives in their peak earning years, and wealthy retirees.

The along came a new CEO and a new management team, who decided that they wanted to “broaden” the customer base, and start going after “young families”. As a marketing idea, it made sense — sense, that is, to anyone who didn’t understand marketing, but his background was in finance, so ‘nuff said.

In vain did I argue that “young families” required not only lower prices on all our merchandise, but a change in merchandise — larger pack sizes, cheaper meat products, cheaper deli products and cheaper produce items. Even more frightening was the fact that “young families” were not loyal customers: they bought from whichever store was selling coffee most cheaply that week, bought only “sale” (i.e. not profitable) items and products, which meant that we’d have to buy their business each and every single week. And worst of all, by tampering with our brand’s quality image, our existing “base” — those finicky, quality-driven folks — would become disenchanted with us, and leave. We would become, in other words, just another supermarket.

Well, I was only a mid-level executive, and everyone thought the new CEO walked on water, so the policy was changed over my objections and I resigned in disgust.

The supermarket chain went out of business three years later.

So let’s see exactly what it is that Schwarzenegger is proposing. He wants the Republican Party to be all things to all people, even if the “right wing” becomes disenchanted, because the Republican Party is a big tent (how I loathe that expression). He wants us to become more “centrist”, more “Democrat” so we can appeal to those people who switch between parties at will, depending on which party has the most “gimmies” on offer. And in the meantime, the much-maligned Republican base — those rightwingers, those gun owners, those religious people, those… Constitutionalists, well, they’ll just have to live with the new, improved Republican brand.

In the short term, that might work somewhat. And given that politicians live from election to election — just as finance people live from quarter to quarter — you can’t blame them for thinking like that.

But we are not a nation of panderers, a nation of accountants, a nation of short-term thinkers.

We are a nation formed in the fire of a revolution, and united under a Constitution which says that our government, in all its forms, must exist with the smallest amount of power possible, limited from excess by each of its three branches, and subject to frequent recall by We The People.

We are not a nation of cafeteria customers, shopping from one party or another.

We are, mostly, a nation of conservatives: we wish to preserve our Constitution, and this nation with all its freedoms.

There are, however, some people in our nation who want to change all that. They want us to become more creatures of the state, more beholden to government, more… European.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that chief among these people is a man born in Europe, a man for whom the founding principles of this country are malleable and can be changed in order to buy the votes of other people.

Like I said, it’s a strategy which might bring short-term success. But it’s a strategy which will ensure long-term failure, of both the Republican Party and the nation.

It really is that simple.