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Collected editorials

Isn’t it about time you explained yourself?

January colds

For two years running I have had a bad cold in January. I do not think much of this arrangement. All things considered, I have decided to skip having one next year. In the mean time it will do as an excuse for all of things that I haven’t gotten done. Judging by what I have gotten done you would think that I have had the same cold for years.

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog has a Bad Day

It all started when she got the mail the other day. Take this as advice that you should never read your mail; doing so can be bad for your heart. The first thing that she did was read the local newspaper, The Highmore Herald. This model of journalistic integrity lets the reader know who won the ball games, the social visits in the nether regions of Hyde County, who was born, who was married, and who died. However it is quite shy about publishing the juicier events that everyone is interested in. It is a pity; those of us at a remove from the gossip circuit hear rather less than half of the good stuff. I fancy, though, that the Editor is more concerned with not giving offense than with titillating the readership. Bland, but safe is her motto.

So it is that Our Lady did not expect excitement as she scanned the newspaper. She was wrong; there on a back page, nestled among other ads, was an advertisement by the mayor offering her house lot for sale. She did not take this as a cue that she was being run out of town, although the thought did cross her mind. Instead she called the paper who passed the buck to the mayor. She called the mayor who passed the buck to the bank. She called the bank who said oops. Apparently the lot for sale was the vacant lot next door to her; the bank was only off by four in the address. One hopes that apologies and corrections will appear in the next issue of the Herald.

Having read the newspaper she turned to the certified letter. She supposed, quite incorrectly, that it had something to do with insurance. Wrong. Apparently her ex-husband was being sued in small claims court for unpaid medical bills. The collection people had added her to the list of people being sued even though her divorce had taken place some time ago and they didn’t have her name right (she took back her maiden name.) She called them and explained their error to them in firm tones. They apologized profusely and said that they would take care of it.

We discussed the matter; I suggested to her that she should not place any reliance on their assurances. The nasty bit of paper within the envelope was a copy of court document that said that unless she replied with a denial there would be a default judgment against her. She did exactly that and, we suppose, the matter has come to an end.

For my blue friends

Here is something I came across in usenet. In these hours of dark despair you may find them a consolation.


Windham told the king [Charles II], that Sir Thomas, his father, in the year 1636, a few days before his death, called to him his five sons. “My children,” said he, we have hitherto seen serene and quiet times under our three last sovereigns: But I must now warn you to prepare for clouds and storms. Factions arise on every side, and threaten the tranquillity of your native country. But whatever happen, do you faithfully honour and obey your prince, and adhere to the crown. I charge you never to forsake the crown, though it should hang upon a bush.”

Supersized Flyers

The British aerospace company Airbus has announced that it will manufacture a new generation of jumbo aircraft to cater to a new generation of obese passengers.

Supersized Readers

Last month the most popular page on my web site was the recipe for whole roast camel. This month it is a page entitled Big Tits. I’m not exactly sure what this says about my readers but I opine their eyes are bigger than their mouths.

The filbert was a nut

Each year I hold a “flakiest letter of the year contest”. Some years are impoverished, with no letter warranting the crown. Some years have many candidates; 2005 is shaping up as one of those years. So far January has produced two letters from objectivists objecting to my book review of the fictitious The Confessions of Ayn Rand (Niloka Novak and Adam East), a strident denunciation of my bibliography of the equally fictitious Calamity Jane Austin by “barb”, Eugenia demanding that someone apologize for something the early morning show did, and a person purporting to be ten years old telling my company not to put any “rude language” on my web site. They’re all out there and they insist on writing to me.

Hunters and Gatherers

Back in the good old days before our ancestors invented civilization, agriculture, and the internet they were hunter-gatherers. At least that is the received wisdom. It works for me – after all, who am I to argue with received wisdom.

There seems to have been an ancient division of labor between the genders – the men did the hunting and the women did the gathering. How did this work out? One of the accepted stories, common knowledge in many circles, is that gathering accounted for most of the collective food calories with hunting coming in a distant second. Since men need more calories than women the arrangment would have been one of men consuming what women gathered, rather like the lions that eat what lionesses hunt. One is reminded of the communist motto, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” or, more precisely, given the scenario, “From each according to her ability, to each according to his need.”

This edifying account of affairs is a veritable cockle warmer for those who disdain the phallocentric, misogynist, grand narratives of western civilization, that rat hole of the mind constructed by dead white males. The Victorians told us that the natural order of things was that males brought home the bacon that the little woman cooked. This depiction of affairs is an affront to all left thinking progressives, and it is only natural that the true state of affairs was precisely the opposite of the Victorian homilies.

Alas, the myth that women brought in the majority of the calories appears to be just that, a myth. It is a myth of great durability, appearing in numerous books and essays, and one that is asserted as assured fact. It is, however, a fact resting on a shaky foundation. It turns out that it is based on exactly one study of questionable generality done by Lee in 1979. A reprise of the matter is given in:

Kaplan et al. (2000). A theory of human life history evolution: diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology 9: 156-185
Kaplan et al. debunked the myth; their article reviewed a number of studies of actual calories hunted and gathered by members of various tribes. They found that on average, an adult hunter produces twice as many calories per day as an adult gatherer. This is not surprising – meat is a concentrated source of nutrition. One might ask: If hunting is more efficient, why did our ancestors bother with gathering? The answer to that question seems simple enough; hunting is a very unreliable way of gathering calories. Animals can run away; plants do not have that option.

This page was last updated February 1, 2005.
It was reformatted and moved October 16, 2006

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Collected editorials