Saturday, December 16, 2017

Warm greetings from the Northland

Originally published in the
Reader Weekly
December 2, 2004

To hug or not to hug: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The clings and squeezes of joyous greeters,
Or to hold arms against a sea of babbles
And by opposing end them?  To lie, to shriek.

Customs of greeting and congratulations vary across the world from a cursory acknowledgment of the presence of others to an effusive extravaganza of hugging and kissing.  And, of course, the customs vary within the U.S. among families and other social groups, and even among individuals in a family or a group.

I reflected about hugging as our family gathered for Thanksgiving and I saw the photo of President Bush kissing Condoleezza Rice on the cheek to congratulate her on her nomination as Secretary of State.  I thought it was a bit condescending but I will say no more; I’m not Karl Rove.

Hand-shaking on first meeting others has been a custom in Europe and America for a long time.  Some insist on a firm handshake with a direct look in the eye, others give a limp hand and look elsewhere.  In the recent BBC “David Copperfield”, Uriah Heep not only gave a limp handshake and looked “humble”, but people wiped their hands after shaking his.

Once Americans are familiar with one another, they generally don’t shake hands daily with the same people.  On the other hand, the French shake hands on first meeting colleagues each day.  I remember being at a French company in one group approaching another group in the hallway.  People started shaking hands with the members of the other group.  One man who had already seen me that day started to shake my hand but quickly withdrew it, saying “Déja vu (already seen).”

If Americans see an acquaintance outside of work, many shake hands on meeting.  For example, people who work together and don’t shake hands each day may do so when they meet at church.

Other than business situations, hand shaking by women has changed almost exclusively to hugs, hugs even for introductions to women or men.  About the time I was married, hugging seemed to done only among relatives – women hugged women, women hugged men, and men shook hands with men.

I know I shook hands with my dad and stepfather, my grandfather, my brother, and my father-in-law; and I hugged my wife, mother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law.  Of course, I hugged my wife, and after forty-four years each hug seems more precious.

On the other hand, I dreaded seeing my mother because of her extremely emotional hugs.  We moved to Europe when I was thirty and stayed six years; I came back to the U.S. only once in that time.  Whenever I visited my mother after our return she would run out of the house wailing and hug me as if I been lost and gone forever. I finally had to ask her to calm down, and she did so reluctantly, making snide comments each time we met again.

I started seeing more hugs when women’s sports became more popular.  The enthusiasm of the sports victory seemed to carry over to other victories or moments of pride.  Women giving certificates or awards to other women didn’t shake hands anymore, they gave hugs.  Then hugging became the standard greeting between women, sometimes even of the remotest acquaintance.

Now some women hug on the slightest pretext – do something moderately well and you are hugged, make a big or small mistake and you are hugged, have an unhappy event in your life and you are hugged, have a happy event in your life and you are hugged.  Generally these women hug other women on these occasions but rarely other men.  I may think this because I seem to be mostly in groups that are predominantly women.  Hm!  Women in their sixties and older don’t seem to hug as much as women in their fifties or younger.

At some time or other, many women all but stopped shaking hands with men, they hugged them.  Two or more couples get together, the men shake hands with one another and the women hug everyone.  Now this is where the fun begins.  Just how do you hug someone of the opposite sex?

Some people bend at the waist, put one arm over the shoulder of the other, and briefly touch cheeks.  It seems more like a formality than any friendly interest in the other person.  Other people stand tall, put both arms around the other and squeeze chest to chest.  I often wonder if some women are oblivious to what they are doing or if they are sending a message that I’m not getting.

No, I’m not a grouch about people’s enthusiasm for others.  I’m not going to be cold to others who want to hug me as a greeting; I will continue to be reluctant to initiate it.  On the other hand, I will initiate hugs in certain circumstances.  When someone has done a good job and I am standing close, I will stand beside him or her and give a one-hand hug to his or her far shoulder.  If someone has a setback or is exhausted from some task, I will put his or her head on my shoulder and put both arms around his or her back.  I will give back rubs whenever needed and when my hands can still knead.

Excuse me, my wife just came home and I want to give her a good hug.

©2004, 2007 Melvyn D. Magree

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Russian collusion and Donald Trump

If you have a few hours free, read the Washington Post’s long article on Donald Trump and the Russians.

If you still have time read all the comments.  This is a bit more time consuming because the Washington Post allows instant commenting.  It’s great to have instant posting rather than waiting hours for arbiters to approve comments, but some people criticize others over and over again, often with insult rather than insight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Edmund Burke asks that people stop calling him a "conservative".

“I’ve heard there is a grave in England that is smoking. It is the grave of Edmund Burke, "The First Conservative", spinning in his grave. I am reading Jesse Norman's book on Burke, and what Burke believed is not what any current Republican believes (or if they believe like Burke, they are keeping very, very quiet).

“Among other things, he believed in a separation of powers so that they could be a check on one another. By contrast, Donald Trump believes that Congress and the Supreme Court should be subservient to his wishes.”

Comment to Jennifer Rubin’s “Be wary of what you wish for in Alabama”.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Right on about voting

Sadly, so-called "conservatives" show up to vote for "flawed" candidates, but so-called "liberals" stay home if they perceive a "liberal" candidate as "flawed".

Supporting two commenters from Arizona who support Tuscon's police chief, Chris Magnus, in his even-handed law enforcement.

Counter to “Republicans” and facts

Comment to Paul Krugman’s “Facts Have a Well-Known Liberal Bias”, New York Times, 201-12-08

I think a counter-attack to these distorters of facts should be repeating over and over again their misinterpretation and misrepresentation of so many ideas.

To them, a free market means corporations are free to do what they please.  But a true free market is:

Many buyers and sellers.
Both buyers and sellers are free to enter or leave the market.
Both buyers and sellers have all the information they need.
There are no externalities (all costs are paid for in the transactions

They cherry-pick “sacred” texts to suit themselves.

Adam Smith in “On the Wealth of Nations” observed the England had laws the prevent the workers from organizing to raise wages but none to prevent the masters from organizing to keep wages down.

Adam Smith warned that those who live by profit are not to be trusted.

“Originalist” judges have changed the Constitution to mean that corporations are people.

Martin Luther King, Jr., prejudice, and Frank Bruni

My response to Frank Bruni’s “An Abominations. A Monster. That’s Me”.

Martin Luther King, Jr. must be spinning in his grave:

"When we are judged not by the color of our skin but the content of our character."

Ordered to bake?

Comment to Ross Douthat's "Baker vs. Empire", New York Times, 2017-12-09

"...designed for specification" is a phrase that I have never seen in any arguments pro-baker or pro-buyers.  My own question was if he had been asked to put two male figures on the top of the cake.  If he was to be forced to do so, could he then be forced to put a nude male-female couple on a cake?

The same kind of arguments could be applied to photographers.  If they are forced to take photos of a gay wedding, could they be forced to take photos of a nudist wedding?

My understanding of the case is that the baker was not refusing to sell them a cake but refusing to make a cake to their specifications.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Third Party candidates, another false equivalency

A Los Angeles Times article on the death of John Anderson blames his candidacy for Jimmy Carter’s loss in the 1980 Presidential Election.

These articles rarely, if ever, blame the losing major party candidates for the loss.  A more thorough analysis would include the turnout.  How many Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Hilary Clinton lukewarm supporters stayed away?  I think poor turnout has far more to do with a major party candidate’s loss than anything else.

Patents, schools, and false equivalency

I posted the following two comments to "Lost Einsteins, the Innovations We Are Missing", David Leonhardt, New York Times, 2017-12-03.

One could also make a correlation between innovation and the type of industries in the area.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area once drew a lot of people to work in the computer industry.  I was one of them.  Then the medical device industry drew a lot of people.

Rochester MN has been drawing medical talent for generations.  It also once had a large IBM facility.

I wonder what all the patents in NW Minnesota were for.  Snowmobiles, fishing gear?

And then there is politics.  Do the local governments make their places nice places to live, and so many people move there?

Follow-up comment

Well, I looked up several facts about Roseau County, MN, way up north on the Canadian border.  It was where Polaris snowmobiles were invented.  For more see

The Census 2016 estimate of Roseau’s population is 15,629 with 18% of school age 2813 students.  So, it would be quite “easy” for Polaris to have three patents.

The research triangle of North Carolina is another high patent area.  The triangle is University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and Duke University, all well-known research universities.

I think a more interesting correlation would be how much people were open to new ideas.  I think the willingness to do something different would have a better correlation than number of children.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Woman Who Cost Clinton the Election

See “The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election”, Jill Filipovic, New York Times, 2017-12-01.

Jill Filipovic wrote an interesting column about the bad treatment that Hilary Clinton got from several male interviewers.  I don’t watch TV and so I don’t know the details, but I believe she is right about their bias towards Clinton and their misplaced bias in favor of Trump.

However, in many ways Clinton was her own worst enemy.  Many felt she had a sense of entitlement to the presidency.  I can think of several women who would have made better candidates: Elizabeth Warren (who supposedly decided against it), Amy Klobuchar, Kathleen Sebelius, and many others others who are already prominent in politics.

I would have gladly voted for any of them over Clinton.  However, given that her opponent was Donald Trump, I reluctantly voted for her.

Unfortunately, too many others who thought that she was not the best possible candidate stayed away and gave the election to the worst possible candidate.

Remember, the only way you throw your vote away is to stay away.