Sleeping prone is harder than you'd think. As followers of Radio Derb are aware, I was out of action for a couple of weeks there in mid-July.
What happened was, I broke the First Rule of Being Over Seventy.
First Rule of Being Over Seventy: Don't fall!
Fortunately I didn't break anything else. I was tidying up the home gym when my feet got tangled with each other somehow. I lost balance, keeled over, and landed with my full weight (180 lbs.) on a stray dumbell. The point of impact was quite precisely the fleshiest part of the human frame — well, of mine — and that accounts for no bones having been broken.
The dusky melancholy sprites who afflict us with minor troubles, thus frustrated in their attack on my skeleton, took their revenge on my soft tissues. Over the next week I developed the Mother of All Bruises: a vast black terrain of shattered capillaries and homeless blood.
I could not sit; my right hip joint went on strike; standing for long was painful; likewise lying down in any normal position. My only relief was to lie prone, face in a pillow, chancing suffocation. It is actually possible to sleep in that position, although it took me three or four unhappy nights to master the art. Sleeping prone is harder than you'd think.
Now, at month end, everything's much better. The Mother of All Bruises faded from black to purple and split into lesser units. Watching this day by day has brought to mind plate tectonics: one of those YouTube clips of Pangea, the ancient super-continent, breaking up into Africa, Asia, the Americas, and so on.
As my dear mother used to say: Worse things happen at sea. I am sure there are people reading this who have far greater misfortunes to contend with. My honest sympathies. I wouldn't have given as much of an account as this, but people have been asking.
Staircase wit. That first week, with Pangea at its most alarming, I went to see a doctor. He didn't have much to offer: "It'll heal, take a few weeks … cold compresses … easy on the painkillers …" I did, however, come away from the consultation with an item of staircase wit.
As usual, before seeing the actual doctor I was taken into one of the examination rooms to be weighed and have my pulse and temperature checked by a PA, in this case a pretty young Indian lady. "What brings you in here today?" she chirped after closing the door.
Me: "I can show you faster than tell you." I unbuckled my belt and opened the zipper on my shorts preparatory to dropping them.
She: "No, no … Wait! … Please … No! Wait! …" This was said in a high register. Apparently she thought I was going to flash her.
Shorts dropped, Mother of All Bruises in plain sight, her voice went down an octave. "Oh, my goodness!"
That was my cue to respond: "Aw, that's what women always say when I drop my pants." Of course I didn't think of it at the time, and the consultation proceeded in a normal fashion, our voices appropriately pitched.
On reflection, it's probably just as well I didn't think of it. I'd likely have ended up on the sharp end of some "harassment" lawsuit.
Guilt exhibitionism. It's silly, I know, to make fun of people's names; but every time Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the news, his name fires off a chain of neurons in my brain that ends with the childhood ditty "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod."
If you follow the plotline there — come on, it's only four stanzas — you learn that Blynken is actually one of the eyes of the tot who is being lullabied to sleep. Wynken is the other eye and Nod is the kiddie's head.
What's the relevance of that to U.S. foreign policy? None that I can see. I have idly wondered, though, with Blinken at Secretary of State and sleepy Joe Biden nodding off in the White House, which administration figure could stand in for Wynken.
I favor the sinister apparatchik Merrick Garland, our current U.S. Attorney General. Comrade Garland doesn't actually wink when addressing us, but neither does he do a very good job of concealing the subtext of his remarks: You know what I'm trying to do here. I don't need to spell it out, do I?
Where was I going with that? Oh yes: Secretary of State Blinken. July 13th he announced that he will issue a formal invitation to the U.N. Human Rights Council to have their Special Rapporteurs on racism investigate the state of affairs here in the U.S.A. and issue a report.
We Americans are guilty! Secretary Blinken wants everyone to know. Guilty, guilty, all guilty! Let the U.N. human rights experts come and inspect us, then issue a report telling the whole world how shamefully racist and xenophobic we are, and always have been!
Hoo-kay. Here are the current member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, France, Gabon, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
Just a few questions here.
One: Why the hell are we still in the U.N.? What's in it for us, for Americans? Almost exactly a hundred years ago as I write, newly-elected President Warren Harding was killing off the last prospect of America joining the League of Nations, cherished project of the previous president, who, after a stroke in October 1919, was even more ga-ga than Joe Biden is today. Can't we elect a new Harding to extricate us from this sleazy Third World racket?
Two: So the President-for-Life of Gabon, wherever the hell that is, has a dimwitted nephew who needs to be found paid employment somewhere he won't get up to regime-threatening mischief. Hey, let's make him a U.N. Special Rapporteur on racism!
Three: What's with "Rapporteur," anyway? Why not just "Reporter"? I guess "Rapporteur" just looks more hifalutin, official, and diplomatic. Oops, sorry: I meant diplomatique.
I have a dream, brothers and sisters, I have a dream. My dream is that the ornery spirit of Old America is not yet dead. My dream is that when the U.N. Special Rapporteur on racism shows up in some small American town, the townspeople find out who he is and pelt him with rotten fruit. Then they tar and feather him and run him out of town on a rail. I have a dream.
So's your old man. Every nation has historical skeletons in its closet. How should a healthy nationalism deal with the airing of these past misdeeds?
If the nation is under totalitarian control, there is no problem at all. The regime just prohibits any public mention of the misdeeds, any reference to them in educational or historical materials. Within a single generation, all knowledge of the misdeeds has disappeared down the memory hole. In communist China today there is no public recollection of the Land Reform massacres or the Mao Famine. Nobody under thirty knows anything about the reform movement of 1989 that ended with tanks rolling in to Tiananmen Square.
If a foreigner raises such issues, the front men for totalitarianism just lie; or else they counter with something the foreigner's nation did, supposedly of equal moral turpitude. Loyal Chinese citizens are expected not to make a fuss about the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), but to be seething with indignation at the burning of the Summer Palace a hundred years previously.
Even absent totalitarian control, East Asians seem not to bother much with collective guilt. I know plenty of overseas Chinese who are perfectly aware of the horrors of communism; but I have never heard any of them express remorse over, for example, the Dzungar genocide.
Likewise with the Japanese. Their nation perpetrated some gross atrocities within living memory, but Japanese people seem not to suffer anguished guilt about it. Their government has issued formal apologies when there has been some diplomatic or commercial advantage to be gained by doing so, but you have to wonder if there was any sincerity behind the words. (If there was, wouldn't the apologist, in the proper Japanese tradition, have closed the proceedings by committing public seppuku?)
And then, the Mongolians. Today's Mongolia is not at all totalitarian. On the scoring system used by Freedom House, Mongolia (84) is in fact freer than the U.S.A. (83).
You can make a case that, with due allowance for available population numbers and low levels of killing technology, the worst mass murderer of all time was 13th-century Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan. How do the free Mongolians of today feel about him?
A must-see sight if you visit Mongolia is the colossal equestrian statue of the conqueror:
In 2008, a gigantic statue of Genghis Khan riding on horseback was erected on the bank of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog, 54 km east of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, where according to legend, he found a golden whip. The statue is 40 meters [130 ft] tall and wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel. It stands on top of the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, a visitor center that itself is 10 meters tall, with 36 columns representing the 36 khans from Genghis to Ligdan Khan. The statue is symbolically pointed east towards his birthplace. [Enormous Statue of Genghis Khan in Mongolia by Kaushik Patowary; Amusing Planet, September 10th 2013.]
I must say, totalitarianism aside, when watching a snivelling worm like Antony Blinken writhe and rend his garments over our nation's faults and misdeeds, I find myself preferring the more robust East Asian attitude. Yeah, we did that. They would probably have done it to us if they could, though. In any case, we're not doing it any more, so what's the point of banging on about it?
Back in the day, when some schoolyard nuisance accused yourself or your family members of some fault or defect and you couldn't be bothered with a detailed rebuttal, you could shut down the topic by saying: "So's your old man."
Behind the smooth diplomacies of those Japanese apologies, or the shrugs of Chinese friends when I mention the wanton killing of missionary wives and children in the Boxer Rebellion, I'm pretty sure I detect some component of "So's your old man."
I'm not a totalitarian and I don't want anything memory-holed. I would, though, stand up and cheer if, the next time one of those U.N. pests or ChiCom flunkies accused the U.S.A. of historical misdeeds, some appropriate official representative of this republic would respond publicly and loud with: "So's your old man."
A statue is forever … hardly ever. There has been much defacing and toppling of statues since last year's race hysteria broke out. Most of the statues affected have been ones I myself would prefer to have been left alone.
When my wife and I did the Great Birthday Civil War Battlefields Tour in 2015, we were especially struck by the beauty and grandeur of Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Now those fine old statues are gone, the pedestals spray-painted with cuss words. Beauty has been traded in for ugliness, grandeur for spite. It's hard not to be angry.
It's salutary to be reminded, though, that pulling down statues is an activity as old as civilization. Some scholar with nothing better to do might trawl through the historical record to assemble statistics on the life expectancy of statues. My guess for the mean would be more than twenty years, but less than fifty.
There was a reminder of it all in this month's Literary Review. Lefty historian Alex von Tunzelmann has written a book titled Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History, and fellow historian Michael Burleigh has reviewed it.
I hold no brief for either writer and won't be buying the book, but Burleigh's review helps put today's iconoclasm into perspective. It's illustrated with an item of statue-desecration no conservative could mind: the decapitated head of a Stalin statue dumped on a street in Budapest during the 1956 uprising.
Burleigh also reminds us of the antiquity of statue-smashing. The first of von Tunzelmann's twelve statues, he tells us, was one of George III in New York, made of gilded lead and erected in 1770 but pulled down just six years later by American revolutionaries, "the 'melted Majesty' turned into musket balls to fire at British soldiers."
And much further back than that:
It was our delight to dash those proud faces to the ground, to smite them with the sword and savage them with the axe as if blood and agony could follow from every blow. Our transports of joy — so long deferred — were unrestrained; all sought a form of vengeance in beholding those bodies mutilated, limbs hacked in pieces, and finally that baleful, fearsome visage cast into fire, to be melted down, so that from such menacing terror something for man's use and enjoyment should rise out of the flames.
That was Pliny the Younger, venting his hatred of the Emperor Domitian by beating up on the Emperor's statues shortly after Domitian was assassinated in A.D. 96. I can go a bit further back still, to the fall of Sejanus in A.D. 31. The satirist poet Juvenal gloated that:
Some men are hurled headlong by over-great power
and the envy to which it exposes them;
they are wrecked by the long and illustrious roll of their honours:
down come their statues, obedient to the rope;
the axe hews in pieces their chariot wheels and the legs of the unoffending nags.
And now the flames are hissing, and amid the roar of furnace and of bellows
the head of the mighty Sejanus, the darling of the mob, is burning and crackling,
and from that face, which was but lately second in the entire world,
are being fashioned pipkins, basins, frying-pans and slop-pails!
It looks as though human beings have been pulling statues down ever since they started putting them up. I get the point; but I still think it's a shame about Monument Avenue.
And here's a guess about that huge statue of Genghis Khan I mentioned in the last segment: It won't be pulled down any time soon.
A guide to free housing. I don't know how it is in the rest of the country, but the housing market here in Long Island is booming. Why? No idea, and I find the boom hard to square with the fact that half the people I know seem to be selling up and moving to Florida.
It's even harder to square with the fact that you apparently can, under our peculiar legal system, get youself a very nice house for no money at all. Here's a story.
I have a neighbor; call him Sam. Sam has a daughter, who is married. Until recently daughter and husband owned a house nearby, a very nice suburban family house.
They were spending more and more of their time in Florida, though. Eventually they decided to move there permanently. They put the Long Island house on the market. It was snapped up at once, for more than the asking price.
So daughter and husband were living in rented property in Florida, looking for a house there, waiting for the closing on the Long Island house, which stood empty. Closing is early August. Sam was keeping an eye on the house, driving by once or twice a week.
On one of these drive-bys he saw someone moving inside the house. He pulled over, got out of his car, and rang the doorbell. A young man opened the door and invited him in. The young man had a young lady, also resident. They had, Sam was told, rented the house through a firm in Louisiana. They had paid a sum of money — a suspiciously small one — for three months' rental, and showed Sam the check stub.
"But this house belongs to my daughter," Sam protested. "She's already negotiated a sale. Closing is early August. Then it will belong to the buyer."
Sam called the police. The young couple told the cop the same tale they'd told Sam. The cop told Sam there was nothing he could do, Sam should find a lawyer. "The sooner the better. If they're in here thirty days, they get squatters' rights, and eviction is well-nigh impossible."
Sam got a lawyer, but he wasn't much more help than the police had been. "Eviction? Eh, it's a long and expensive process. Probably they just want money. Negotiate a deal with them."
Sam went back to the house. Now the couple had moved their furniture in: sofa, armchairs, dining-room table, the lot. He told them he'd started eviction proceedings. They shrugged.
Here things get delicate. I don't want to accuse anyone of anything irregular. Sam is a really nice guy, hard-working and a good family man. He is, though, a first-generation immigrant from a part of the world not best known for punctilious attention to legal niceties. He has many friends from that same part of the world. They converse among themselves in their own language — a non-European language whose sounds can be uttered in a way that non-speakers find, very unfairly of course, to be menacing.
Sam called on the house with some of his friends. Matters were settled to everyone's satisfaction. The "tenants" have departed, furniture and all. Sam will be sleeping there every night until the closing.
Where has the law been in all this? Nowhere much. Law-enforcement has been pretty openly on the side of the squatters. The cop who had showed up that first time called on the house again a few days later, after the "tenants" had departed. Where had they gone? he asked Sam, in a tone of deep suspicion. All Sam knew was that they had moved upstate somewhere. That didn't satisfy the cop. He did a thorough search of the house and back yard, in which latter location he seemed to think the "tenants" might be buried. (Sam assures me they're not.)
Since all this happened I've been noticing stories in the local press about unscrupulous people getting their housing for free.
A Long Island man who hasn't paid his mortgage in more than 20 years got another free pass from the courts this week after hiring a new lawyer.
Guramrit Hanspal, 52, hasn't coughed up a dime to live in his East Meadow home since making a single mortgage payment in 1998, but ducked eviction for decades by filing lawsuits and bankruptcies, records show. [Long Island man who hasn't paid his mortgage in 20 years dodges eviction again by Kieran Ungemach; New York Post, July 3rd 2021]
Julie Rinke first rented Genya Markon's 1,260-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home September 2019. She was supposed to vacate June 18. But when Markon returned last month from Israel, where she spends her winters, Rinke refused to leave, citing pandemic-fueled hardship.
Markon's attorney says Rinke is acting in a "dishonest and manipulative way to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic." … Markon, who is suing Rinke in Suffolk Supreme Court in a bid to get her out, is now locked in a battle to reclaim her home, valued at $675,000 … [Squatter 'living like a pig' in Holocaust survivor's Hamptons home by Jennifer Gould and Kerry J. Byrne; New York Post, July 10th 2021]
Lotsa luck with that lawsuit, lady. Don't get your hopes up, though. The law isn't on the side of middle-class suburban homeowners; it's on the side of grifters and crooks. It isn't on the side of normal citizens at all: It's on the side of shoplifters and arsonists, muggers and bullies, illegal aliens and tech-billionaire content-controllers.
Above all it's on the side of the lawyers and judges and activists, who grow fat while our ancient rights and liberties shrivel and die. The U.S.A. less free than Mongolia? Stick around; pretty soon we'll be less free than China.
Don't bother calling the cops, either, Ma'am … but I guess you already found that out.
Twenty years of diarizing. This month's diary marks a sort-of anniversary. If you go to the index of all the diaries at my personal website, the very first one shown is for July/August 2001. So diarywise, it looks as though I have just crossed the 20-year mark.
That's somewhat misleading. The July/August 2001 "diary" was an account of our family visit to China that summer. Blogging was still quite new; I hadn't settled into regular diarizing.
I did so some months later, in March 2002. Some diary-type bloggings from the previous three months were grandfathered in as diaries when I set up the index page. So the proper, formal 20-year anniversary of these diaries will be in March next year.
Well, the hell with all that. Look: I've been diarizing for 20 years!
Acknowledgment. The words that follow are all my own. I wouldn't have written them, though, if I hadn't been alerted to the IMO results by a friend who is better connected to the math world than I now am. Thanks, pal!
The 62nd International Math Olympiad for high-school students worldwide was held July 14th-24th in St. Petersburg, Russia, although "in remote format." I guess that means that the social and ceremonial aspects were all done online. There were 107 competing nations, each sending a team with no more than six members.
However, the 6-problem, 4½-hour competitive exam that is the real fun of the thing was held "in national IMO Exam Centres" pre-approved by the IMO in participating countries.
[Added when archiving: I mis-wrote there. My friend corrects me: "The IMO is a 9-hour test, with 4½ hours for the first three problems and 4½ hours for the last three."
He adds: "I'll bet it's inconceivable to many people that a 4½-hour test would have just 3 problems, but most people would not be able to solve the hardest problems if you gave them a lifetime to work on them." Which I think is true.]
Each of those six problems is marked from zero to seven points, so a score of 42 points means you scored full marks on every problem. A score of 24 or more gets you a gold medal; 19 or more gets a silver, 12 or more a bronze. This year's U.S.A. team got four golds and two silvers — well done, guys! (Yes, they are all male. Of a total 619 competitors from all 107 nations, 64 were female.)
The results by nation hold no surprises for the HBD-savvy. The top five, with their rankings: China (1), Russia (2), South Korea (3), U.S.A. (4), Canada (5). Bottom five: Egypt, Kenya, Oman, Pakistan (all tied at 103), Botswana (107).
Given the seven-point leeway available to the officials marking the exam, and the many, many complaints in these diaries about the woke-ification of math, you can't help but wonder whether there is some "holistic" (i.e. totally subjective) tilting of the marks to make the results more compliant with egalitarian ideology. If there is, I can't detect it; and I'm pleased to see that the IMO guidelines for markers explicitly warn against it:
Marking IMO is not like marking school work. There are no marks for effort, no marks for solving the wrong problem and no marks for social justice.
"No marks for social justice"! I'll be interested to see for how many more years that prohibition survives against the rising waters of ideological orthodoxy.
In there among the HBD-predictables there are of course some outliers. Ghana, for example, ranked a dismal 94th in the national standings; but young Roni Edwin of the Ghanaian team aced the first of the six problems, winning himnself an Honorable Mention. At last year's IMO he aced two of the problems and made respectable attempts on two more, winning himself a bronze medal. I don't know that Roni Edwin is, as my friend wrote, "the smartest kid in Africa," but he's pretty damn smart. If you want to test yourself against his smarts, try the brainteaser below.
Better-than-you'd-have-guessed result in the national rankings: Mongolia, ranked 11. And no; to judge by the team members' names, they weren't poached from China. Genghis Khan would've been proud … although probably not as proud as he would have been if his team had made their way to St. Petersburg somehow, put the IMO officials to the sword, and dragged their wives and daughters back to slavery in Mongolia.
What's that you say? "A better-than-expected IMO result doesn't make up for two centuries of pillage, rapine, massacres, and civilizational destruction the length and breadth of Eurasia?" So's your old man.
Brainteaser: Here is Problem Number One from the 2021 IMO exam. This is the problem that Roni Edwin aced.
Let n ≥ 100 be an integer. Ivan writes the numbers n, n + 1, …, 2n each on different cards. He then shuffles these n+1 cards, and divides them into two piles. Prove that at least one of the piles contains two cards such that the sum of their numbers is a perfect square.