My favourite Coronavirus tweet so far

Robert Colvile:

On of the few positives of this godawful epidemic – at least they might cancel The Hundred.

Read my opinions about this deranged contrivance here.

I guess the idea is that it’s existing cricket fans who put off all those new cricket fans just bursting to attend cricket games, if only those other fans would disappear. So, devise a cricket competition so stupid that all existing cricket fans are disgusted and don’t show up. Will all the kool kids then turn up in their droves? Or, will nobody care? I believe: the latter.


Emily Yoffe:

After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I are getting to know each other with a depth that is best avoided.

The comments vary, from the laughter of recognition to the usual Twitter denunciation of strangers on the basis of wildly insufficient evidence. Was she just joking? Very possibly. Lots of fine marriages seem to work all the better for them not spending all day together.

I’m okay. My new tabletop freezer just arrived this morning. Soon, I will start getting to know it in depth.

Farce repeating itself as farce

This is rather good:

Seriously, I remember back at Essex University in the early 1970s how the Lenin-with-hair tendency thought that the answer to every problem in the world then was to occupy something, fill it with rubbish and then bugger off and plan their next stupid occupation. They were tossers then, and they, their children and their grandchildren are tossers now. Farce repeating itself as farce.

It’s no surprise that I think it good, because I wrote it and posted it on Samizdata, in October 2011, in connection with the Occupy Movement. This was long enough ago for me to have completely forgotten having posted it. But I thought it good at the time, or I’d not have posted it. Everyone thinks what they post is good, or they should. I mean, if you don’t think that what you have just posted is good, why the hell did you post it?

I came across this when trying to find out how many mentions I have made on Samizdata about my time at Essex University, and in particular if I had ever told the story of how the student politicians wanted to give us Drama Society geeks a small grant, so that they could then take a large amount of credit for everything we had been doing. It seems that this story is yet to be told. I hope to tell it soon, but promise nothing. Short summary: we refused the grant.

Visiting the places that will hold up the map

6k says that this is very good:

I want to hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations I’ve traveled to, but first I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.

Apart from how travelled is spelt, I agree.

But now I’m not sure I do. I thought this was a real circumstance. It turns out that the bloke who said this is a comedian. He merely says things like this, for a living. He’s not actually going to go to these two places. He didn’t mean it. He was only joking. That, I think, makes it less funny.

Steven Pinker: “Don’t confuse pessimism with profundity …”

See the world through Pinker-tinted spectacles than you may be inclined to:

Keep some perspective. Not every problem is a Crisis, Plague, Epidemic, or Existential Threat, and not every change is the End of This, the Death of That, or the Dawn of a Post-Something Era. Don’t confuse pessimism with profundity: problems are inevitable, but problems are solvable, and diagnosing every setback as a symptom of a sick society is a cheap grab for gravitas.

My sentiments exactly.

That’s to be read on page 452 of my paperback edition of Enlightenment Now, Pinker’s most recent book.


Those were a couple of the day before yesterday’s headlines. Let’s hope it soon becomes yesterday’s news. Problems are, as Pinker says, solvable, and let’s hope this one too is soon sorted.

Pinker is particularly aware of the way that the news is in the habit of putting a pessimistic spin on everything. If it bleeds it leads, and so on. Good news, meanwhile, creeps up on the world more gradually.

They’re about to dig up the road

Another quota photo, because: another busy day. I may have time later to do something for here, but don’t want to have to be bothering about this.


Again, photoed quite recently. Well, this year. And very near to where I live. I recall having to put down two big bags of shopping, and to dig out my camera from underneath shopped items, to immortalise this scene. When you see the photo, photo it, now. Leave it until later and, first, you won’t come back later, and second, it you do, it will probably be gone. In this case, dug up. That’s the photo-rule to have been following here.

The other relevant photo-rule is: If someone sees you doing this and thinks you’re a weirdo, this does not matter. You either care about your photos looking good, or about yourself looking good at all times. Pick one.

What it is is marks on a road, prior to some digging, digging which was still not, when last I looked, completed. My guess is that the symbols refer to pipes, but what do I know?

In its small way, this photo reminds me of something a war correspondent once said about D-Day, which he was at and was reporting on. He said something like: “I didn’t know what the plan was, but I had the strong sense that events were unfolding in accordance with that plan.” I don’t know what the plan was for all the digging that subsequently happened, but there clearly was a plan, and the digging was surely done in accordance with it.

Also (ISIBAISIA), I like photoing things that look like Modern Art but which are not Modern Art. I think this is partly because if reality itself mimics Modern Art on a regular basis, that means that deliberately creating Modern Art is unnecessary, and Modern Artists are not nearly as important contributors to the ongoing march of civilisation as they like to think that they are. Without them, there would still be plenty of Modern-Art-like stuff around for people who like that sort of thing to be looking at.

There you go. Not bad for a mere quota post. And it only took about ten minutes.

A cricinfo commentator muses wisely about the nature of language

Snatched from the cricinfo online text commentary on this cricket match yesterday:

Hugh: “@ Dez, Spelled is perfectly acceptable, as well as spelt. Like lit and lighted. In any event the thing about language is, if you’re understood then it’s served it’s purpose. Thing with grammar pedants, they’re typically not the brightest.”

Wisely, aside from that last bit of abuse, which I only sort of agree with. Language keeps on changing. Just enjoy it, every so often having a LOL about it.

Over a lifetime, one’s attitude to language changes.

First, teachers (not always of the brightest sort) tell you what language definitely, definitively, objectively, carved into the fabric of the universe, is. Apostrophes so, “literally” literally means literally (which I still think it should (which it literally now does not for many people)), its is different from it’s because blah blah blah, blah blah blah is not correct stop it once, blah blah blah.

Second, you watch people literally driving a tank through all those and similar carved-into-the-universe rules (literally driving an actual fucking tank (and swearing (which is also objectively wrong))), and putting things like “)))” in their blog postings, and generally being wrong.

Three, you relax and realise that it was ever thus. Language always changes. Metaphors mutate into … words, often spelt wrongly. Lines get towed, and well, boo hoo, so what. Like the man said: “If you’re understood then it’s served it’s purpose.” And although that second “it’s” there, according to the pedants who taught me about it’s/its, should have been its, I actually think that spelling it it’s make at least as much sense.

And, I know I know, you can’t carve something into fabric; that would destroy it. But, you got the message.

Steve Stewart-Williams on how looking at other animals helps us understand why the Nurture Only view can’t be right to explain human sexual differences

The Nurture Only view being, in this case, the claim that all the differences in behaviour and attitude – with regard to such things as casual sex, attaching importance to physical sexual allure, and so on – between human males and human females are all caused by societal pressure.

Says SS-W (on page 90 of The Ape That Understood The Universe):

Arguably, though, the most persuasive argument against the Nurture Only view is that sex differences in sexual inclinations and choosiness can be found in many individuals who have no gender norms, no socialization, and little in the way of culture: that rather sizeable group, so often overlooked by psychologists, known as other animals. The differences aren’t found in all other species, but they are found in many, including most birds, mammals, and reptiles. And when we find the differences in other animals, evolution is the only reasonable explanation. Why should humans be different? It’s logically possible, of course, that the differences are products of evolution in squirrels, turkeys, and frogs, but of learning and culture in Homo sapiens. But it hardly seems likely. In other species, the differences appear when the ceiling number of offspring for males is higher than that for females. Humans meet this condition, and our species presumably evolved from earlier species that displayed the normal sex differences. As such, what the Nurture Only theory asks us to believe is that, in our lineage and ours alone, natural selection eliminated the normal sex differences, despite the fact that the selection pressure that initially created them was still operative. Why would it do that? It’s particularly perplexing given that, when we look around the world, we still find the sex differences that selection supposedly eliminated. Thus, the Nurture Only theory asks us to believe not only that selection eliminated the differences for reasons unknown, but that learning and culture then coincidentally reproduced exactly the same differences in every culture on record. This is not a compelling thesis. Cultural forces clearly influence people’s willingness to engage in casual sex, and to some extent their desire to do so as well. But the idea that culture creates these sex differences out of nothing not only clashes with the available evidence, it clashes with everything we know about how evolution works.

This comes in the middle of the chapter entitled “The SeXX/XY Animal”. Right at the beginning of this chapter, just below the subheading “An Academic Culture War”, appears this academic wisecrack:

“Everyone knows that men and women are different … except social scientists.”

Which doesn’t mean that everyone who knows that men and women are different also knows exactly what those differences consist of. And don’t consist of.

The “Other creatures” category at this blog usually means other creatures besides cats and kittens. But for this posting “Other creatures” means other creatures besides the particular creatures that are humans.

“It is now well known that …”

I continue to read The Square and the Tower, and very good it is too, just like it says inside the front cover and on the back cover.

In the chapter about the Russian Revolution, appropriately entitled “The Plague”, we read (by which I mean that I read (on pages 214-5)) this:

It is now well known that fewer people were killed in the October Revolution than were killed in the shooting of Sergei Eisenstein’s tenth-anniversary film about it.

Well, this may now be “well-known”, but I did not know it.

Not that this makes the event insignificant. After it, the “plague” spread with astonishing speed.

Only amongst the vast peasantry and the Cossacks did the Bolsheviks lack leaders – which helps explain therapid descent of Russia into an urban-rural civil war in the course of 1918. Essentially, the Bolshevik virus travelled by train and telegraph; and literate soldiers; sailors and workers were the most susceptible to it.

That literacy was at the heart of the Bolshevik story is something that I did know.