Indie SciFi/Fantasy Recommendations

Here are some SF/F recommendations by independent authors:

Worm – Wildbow

Superheroes and supervillians and a worlds-ending danger. The opening chapters are pretty rough but get past them and he finds his stride.

Pact – Wildbow
Pale – Wildbow

Fantasy with the viewpoint character dropped into things and having to figure them out to survive. I haven’t read Pale, the sequel, yet but Wildbow says that it was fun to write, so that’s a good sign.

Collective Thinking – Tower Curator

Is the world what it is or what we make of it?

Bitter – mooderino/V Moody

Isolated girl sneaks into a virtual world and levels up her life.

How to Avoid Death on a Daily Basis – mooderino/V Moody

A group of young adults are pulled into a fantasy world. Main character is a jerk, but he’s a pragmatic, survivor jerk. My only complaint is that the tenth book, the series finale, isn’t finished. He started it, threw it away, restarted, threw it away, restarted, gave up. Still, it’s good through the nine completed books.

Mother of Learning – nobody103

Dropped into a time loop. Make the best of it. Recommended. Very highly recommended.

Super Powereds – Drew Hayes

Superhero also-rans, made good.

A Wand for Skitter – ShayneT

Fanfiction of Worm and Harry Potter. Very good, better than most original fiction. OK, I’ll admit that that’s damning with faint praise. Many Crowning Moments of Awesome, and a few humorous reactions to those moments.

Francis Porretto

Couple dozen shortish novels, most of them vaguely tied together by reference to common characters. This hasn’t been a problem; just blerp over unrecognized names. Consistently high quality. Even with the couple that I didn’t much care for (romance genre just isn’t my thing) I could see the craftsmanship.

Bill Quick

Good suspense/thriller books. I don’t much care for this genre but they’re well done. The older books are notable for predicting technology and social trends decades in advance. When I read Systems I kept going back to the copyright page to confirm that, yes, it was published in 1989. Just one example: After 9/11, Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor was pointed at as evidence that someone had thought of flying a plane into a building. Well, Bill beat Clancy by five years.

William Palafox

I’ve read only Sands of the Undead and started another (don’t recall why I stopped reading; busy with work, probably) and was impressed. Genre shifted a couple times, so what it’s about isn’t what you think it’s about.

PS Power

I have mixed feelings about this. He’s wildly imaginative and was spitting out a short novel every month for years … but the little mistakes drove me up a wall, especially in the earlier works. Also, his series tend to converge into one big universe and you need to read all earlier works to follow what’s going on. Still, they’re creative and mostly enjoyable.

Sarah Hoyt

She’s gone indie so I’m including her here. No introduction should be needed.


Spending Gap

You’ve heard of the gender wage gap. Unless you’ve just woken up from a thirty-year coma, you’ve had “seventy-nine cents on the dollar!” shoved in your face almost daily since about 1990.

It’s a lie, and everyone except children and imbeciles knows it’s a lie. (Side note: if you find someone who isn’t simply repeating the line for her own benefit but truly believes it, ask which one she is.) But set it aside.

There’s another economic gap, a real one, in the US and most of the Western world. No, I’m not talking about the racial earnings gap. That’s another lie. Nor am I talking about the savings gap, the retirement income gap, or the home ownership gap. Lies, all lies, once you control for factors other than sex, race, and such.

I’m talking about the spending gap.

Women in the US control about 75% of discretionary spending. The exact number is debatable because of fuzziness around the definitions. However, the exact number doesn’t matter. The basic fact is not in dispute. In fact, a number of women’s magazines and business journal tout it. “Women control most of the family’s spending. And that’s as it should be.” “Women drive the consumer economy. Your business plan must recognize this.”

(Another side note: Isn’t it strange how large swathes of law, business, and public policy must be distorted for the tiny fraction of the population which is intersex, nonbinary, or post-op transsexual, but when it comes to studies like these, everyone is either a man or a woman; if there’s any other category, the numbers are too small to affect the results. Strange!)

If we need non-stop ad campaigns and blaming and working groups and corporate promises to “do better” because of a (fictional) 21% pay gap, then surely we need to do something about a (real) 66% gap. Unequal outcomes are plain evidence of discrimination.

I call for a public awareness campaign to call attention to this situation. An inequity has already become an iniquity. We need to stop it before it gets worse. This campaign should be funded to thrice the level of the past forty years of “wage gap” campaigning, to reflect the relative injustice.

I call for a government watchdog commission to monitor floor space in retail outlets, advertising, and number of products in both physical stores and online shops.

If the spending gap is not rectified in a timely fashion, I call for regulation of commerce. It is unlikely that merchants will willingly reduce their profits in the name of equity, so they must be forced. Quotas may be needed if guidelines do not result in equality. If every corporation had men filling at least 50% of its board, executives, and C-suite, this would give a voice to those currently discriminated against. There is no acceptable reason not to mandate this.

Discrimination of any kind cannot be tolerated. The difference in consumer spending is proof of discrimination. Any steps necessary to eliminate it are not only justified but required.

The Daily Donnybrook, and other fine things

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Mike @Substack

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Of Toddlers and Termagants

Following has some analysis and some prescription but is mostly a rant. Ignore if you wish. I understand fully.

“My wife tried to tell me I was wrong and that this is what happened back then. It didn’t sound right to me so I checked it online and found that I was right all along. Of course, I’m not dumb enough to send her the link showing that I was right.”

I came across that (heavily reworded) statement a while ago. It annoyed me considerably. What kind of pampered babies have Western women become, that they cannot tolerate being told that they were wrong, or even that someone disagrees with them? What kind of harridans are men putting up with?

What kind of spoiled child has to get her own way in everything?

Worse: How badly beaten down or pussified are Western men to put up with having to tiptoe around wives and girlfriends, always careful never to give offense or to dent their precious egos or do something that they don’t like?

I’ve come across any number of similar statements, in person, in articles, and online in various fora and message boards. “I’d like to be able to let you stay until your apartment is ready but my wife wouldn’t like it.” “I wanted to go hunting last month but my wife didn’t want me to.” Or worse: “I’d kept my rifles in the closet for years and it was no big deal but when I mentioned that Dan was putting together a hunting trip she remembered that I had them and made me sell them.” (Unlike the above, those statements are not taken straight from something I saw recently.)

Here’s a hint: “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is a lie. It was always a lie. I don’t know where it started but it was not with an honest person who knew anything about family dynamics.

There are pragmatic reasons why a husband would avoid giving offense. Almost the entirety of the US (and almost the entirety of the Anglosphere) is subject to no fault divorce. Almost all of the US population is subject to the Duluth model for handling domestic complaints: if the police are called, they almost automatically arrest the man and leave the woman and the children in the house, no matter whose house it is, who called the police, who was committing the offense, or who has been injured. The entirety of the US (and I believe the entirety of the Anglosphere) gives de facto child custody to the mother, regardless of fitness as a parent. “Equitable” distribution of marital assets almost always favors the woman, especially if the woman can cry on command or can lie convincingly. There’s reputational damage, with family and friends often taking her side — “What did you do to make her upset?” — without hearing your side and employers sometimes firing him because of the “scandal” or because she’s called the front desk six times in the past week.

In short, husbands stand to lose half or even all of everything they have as soon as their wives are “not happy”.

Once a man is in a marriage for more than a few months and the assets have been commingled, it’s probably too late for him to cleanly get away from a temperamental wife. Once children are born, it’s definitely too late. Oh, he can leave a harridan or he can retain his autonomy with the expectation that she’ll kick him out, but only at the risk of losing everything.

I’m not going to complain about unfairness or double standards or even violation of Constitutional rights. Such an approach has any useful effect approximately never.

Instead, I’ll point out that the double standards are bad for society. It should not have escaped anyone’s notice that marriage rates are at an all-time low. (Acknowledging that some dispute this by playing with definitions and time scales.) The birth rate among American citizens, specifically among citizen women, is below replacement level. Significantly below, which translates to self-genocide if nothing changes. If not for immigration (both legal and invasion) the population within US borders would be decreasing.

The poor economy could explain some of the declining birth rate but not the declining marriage rate. If marriage were as good a deal as is claimed for men, the benefits would be worth putting up with temper tantrums and maybe even the likelihood of a surprise divorce.

That’s not what we’re seeing, though. Men are avoiding marriage because they see what happens to the men who take the leap. It’s a bad risk economically, even if he isn’t bankrupted by divorce and child support. Simply being married almost inevitably means that expenses are going to go way up: bigger house or apartment, new furniture, she needs a new car and not a beater, expensive gifts for her endless list of friends who are getting married or are having a baby, et cetera ad paupertātem.

“Two can live as cheaply as one” may have been true in my grandparents’ day. It was no longer true by the late 1960s, when lifestyle expectations were rocketing.

A single man in the United States can live on about $27,000 per year, before taxes. He’ll need more in an expensive area but less if he’s away from the cities, and if he’s single there’s less keeping him in an expensive locale. A married man in the US needs — “needs” — to make almost twice as much if his wife works or more than twice as much if she doesn’t. That’s a lot more hours that he needs to spend on the job, or a more dirty-difficult-dangerous job, or less money to spend on things that he wants, or less money to save for his own retirement.

If Western women were pleasant to be around, if wives made their husbands’ lives better, the expense would be worth it. Men have been making that trade since forever.

But that’s not what we’re seeing. That’s where this essay started.

Instead, we have a large fraction, probably a majority, of husbands needing to tread carefully at home. A home which is not really comfortable because the wife always wants to change something, whether rearranging the furniture or completely remodeling the kitchen. A home which he doesn’t see as much as he’d like because he needs to pick up extra shifts in order to bring in enough money. There may be children, whom he doesn’t see as much as he’d like, children who are being conditioned by society to see him as the source of all of the world’s problems. Children who may be taken from him any time his wife decides that he’s not happy.

And that’s what we’re seeing. Men see all this and decide that marriage isn’t worth it.

If anything, it’s surprising that as many as six out of a thousand are getting married every year in the US and somewhat fewer getting into all-but-the-name long-term relationships. I mark it down to the triumph of hope over reason. I expect the trend to continue downward unless there’s a major change to the legal and social structure, changing the cost-benefit balance. I don’t see a change to women’s attitudes to marriage and husbands, absent a major shock to the economy which makes women need men in order to survive, rather than sorta kinda want one around as long as it’s convenient for her.

Today’s situation in the US and much of the West is actually worse than if there were almost no marriages and almost no children. Women are having children and then raising them with no father figure or with a father who’s present very seldom, by his choice or hers. Or, worst of all, with a series of replaceable male presences who do very little fathering but either are sources of cash for the mothers or are drones.

This is a recipe for raising feral children. And this is what we see. When we look at the demographics of career criminals, young, unmarried mothers, the persistently unemployed, and other socially deleterious groups, the absence of a strong father figure stands out.

The Great Society and the follow-on programs have done a splendid job of destroying American society. I’ll assume that LBJ and the rest were well-intentioned fools, but I have to wonder. It’s hard to imagine a deliberate attack which could have done the job any better.

That’s the rant and the analysis, each of which have gone well afield of the starting point. Here’s the prescription.

Western society needs to get its act together and straighten out the imbalance, if they want to reverse the birth crash. Society needs men to be an active part of the family, as single-mother households are proving to be a disaster so far as raising a successful, productive next generation goes. Society needs men to work more than the minimum to support themselves, in order to have the economic excess needed to support women as they age and don’t want to work.

In order to get men to burden themselves for that, society needs to make it worthwhile for the men. What form that could take, I have no idea. We aren’t going to be returning to the 1930s family and legal structure. Without some form of authority within the family and respect for being a family man, I don’t see a way to get enough men to accept the burden and the risk for the meager benefits currently on offer.

That’s for the movers and shakers and string pullers to deal with. On an individual basis, make it clear when you start dating that you’re not going to tiptoe around things that she doesn’t want to hear. You can be gentle with unwanted truths but never censor yourself because you don’t want her to break down crying or break into a rage. Don’t let her tell you how you have to change in order to make her happy. Don’t tolerate her throwing away your possessions or demanding you get rid of them because she doesn’t like them.

If she starts crying or starts screaming or starts giving you the silent treatment, I suggest walking away. At most, give her a single warning that you won’t put up with it. If she tries to hit you or throw something at you or starts smashing your possessions, walk away immediately. Calling the police or punching her in the face are optional.

You can do better than a bully or a baby. Your life will be better without a bully or a baby.


Forgive and Memory-hole

Largest multicountry COVID study links vaccines to potential adverse effects

A new study on COVID-19 vaccines that looked at nearly 100 million vaccinated individuals affirmed the vaccines’ previously observed links to increased risks for certain adverse effects including myocarditis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

We just need to forgive each other and give ourselves permission to forgive ourselves, too. Mistakes were made on all sides and we all just wanted what’s best for everyone. Those who can’t forgive others for decisions which were made on the basis of the best science available at the time are clinging to their bitterness and need to be watched lest their hatred erupt into terroristic violence.

Gen-Z Manliness

We have a 23-year-old man staying with us while he goes to college. He’s not paying rent and I don’t think is mother is giving us anything because she’s a friend of my wife’s. (If she is, I’ve never seen a cent of it, which doesn’t mean much, now that I think about it.)

I’ve been shaking my head at the manliness, or lack thereof, of this young man. And now I’m comparing him to my mid-teens daughter.

(Pasted as an image because I can’t figure out how to get a table working in the current WP editor.)

This paints a pretty bad picture. For that matter, my daughter would probably not be happy to realize that she’s more manly than he.



I just thought of another way for the Democrats/Liberals/Communists/Scum to keep Trump out of the White House.

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States starts off with

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice

Because “elected” is nicely ambiguous, they could claim that Trump was elected in 2020, never mind that the electoral college chose the gropy pedo. “After an investigation into claims of vote fraud in 2020, we have come to the surprising conclusion that Donald Trump won in 2020.”

Making this argument would require a lot of gall, but we already know that the Democrats/Liberals/Communists/Scum have enough gall to make a thousand barrels of ink.


Maybe It’s Them

Let’s say that you’re putting something together and it’s just not coming out right. You probably should recheck the instructions and double-check the parts list to make sure you didn’t screw up somewhere.

Let’s say that you’ve been in five romantic relationships and every one of them turned bad because your partner was a spendthrift and became emotionally abusive when the money dried up. You probably should assume that you’re doing something wrong in picking people to date.

In general, when you have a problem, it’s best to look at what you might have done wrong. It puts the onus on you to fix it, whether to correct your own mistake or to track down whatever else went wrong. This is especially true when the same problem keeps coming up. It’s one thing to be fired once for “not being a team player” but if every job or contract ends the same way, it’s time to figure out what you’re doing wrong.

Taking the blame on yourself keeps you from feeling helpless, at the mercy of others’ actions. It guides you clear of any tendency to dodge responsibility for the consequences of your decisions and to blame others for all problems.


Sometimes it really is them. You might go over the instruction sheet and find that Step 5 simply cannot be performed until Step 7 is done.

Many people are terrible at giving directions. If you got screwed up from three people in a row, your ability to listen and follow isn’t necessarily the problem.

The dating pool these days is terrible, for both men and women. If your last three girlfriends were dishonest and narcissistic and brought nothing to the relationship other than their punany, if your last three boyfriends were weak and lazy and incapable of doing anything useful, the problem might not be your ability to pick mates. You’re trying to pan for gold in a septic tank.

Still, you can’t blame all of the problems on others. Getting back to where we started from, you need to take responsibility for your outcomes, even when other people are unreliable or actively antagonistic. And there’s little point even in getting angry at others for being incompetent or dishonest or lazy. Would you get angry at a yappy dog for being loud and annoying?

When you realize that most people can’t give good directions, write down what they say and have them watch as you go through them the first couple times. When you realize that the dating pool is crap, either opt out for a while and work on yourself and your career, go slower and more cautiously in letting someone into your life, or take partners for recreational use only and forego long-term for now. (That last choice is more for men than for women, obviously, because of fertility windows and sexual marketplace value curves.)

In sum: When things go wrong, first assume that you’re the problem and that you’re responsible for fixing it and preventing its recurrence. Keep your eyes open for the possibility of other people being the cause, but continue to take responsibility for fixing the problem, with the other people now being viewed as part of the problem.


Attributing to Malice

Things go wrong. Sometimes things go catastrophically wrong, with hundreds to tens of thousands of lives lost and millions to billions in property damage.

When reviewing events afterward, a pattern frequently appears: people made mistakes which made things worse. The most obvious mistakes happen at the time, in the tumult of emergency calls and rushing to action. Often the more severe mistakes happened well beforehand, in setting up policies, in designing equipment or systems to handle both ordinary events and emergency overflow, in setting schedules to check equipment and to replace components, or in setting up funding to cover all that.

In reviewing the events, and the mistakes, we constantly need to remind ourselves of the maxim, Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. That’s generally good advice. Yes, there are malicious people around who will screw someone over for fun and profit but there are a lot more poorly-trained newbies, people who wouldn’t have the job if they weren’t related to the owner, and idiot neighbors.

Sometimes the Incompetence theory is strained. When half a dozen independent decisions or evaluations all go wrong, and go wrong in the same direction, an honest observer would suspect Malice. My go-to example is the review of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the plan for putting up satellites to kill ICBMs. The “independent, nonpartisan” scientists published a report which claimed that the number of satellites needed was more than 10,000 times the number which was later calculated. At every step of the way, they made an estimate for the amount of laser power needed to disrupt a missile, the kill rate needed to make an attack not worth kicking off, and so on. Almost every estimate, every assumption, and every calculation was wrong, and they were all wrong in the same direction, that of showing that the space portion of the SDI was infeasible both technically and economically.

Jerry Pournelle, who had worked with many of the scientists making that erroneous estimate, defended them by saying that surely they didn’t deliberately tank their work, surely it was a matter of making mistakes and letting them be if they matched the scientists’ prior beliefs but rechecking if they went the other way.

I don’t buy it. First, just slopping something together and only half-checking it isn’t the way a scientific review is supposed to go, especially one performed by luminaries in the field. Second, the report was allegedly peer-reviewed, meaning that either the reviewers made exactly the same errors or they didn’t bother to check the work, only the conclusion. Put these together and it’s much more plausible that all of the estimates and assumptions were deliberately high-balled, and that the fact checkers went along with it because they, too, opposed the SDI on ideological grounds.

Many other examples abound. Some are obvious lies, with blatant malicious acts being written off as simple mistakes or happenstance events. The American elections in 2020 give a lot of examples, with voting machine failures predominantly in Republican-heavy districts. Preloaded test data “accidentally” left on the tabulating machines before the counting began, and always giving Democrats several thousand votes. And so on. (This doesn’t address poll watchers being thrown out and then bags of ballots being pulled out of boxes rather than official transport cases, as caught on video. I’m talking only about events which are claimed to be simple, honest mistakes.)

Other examples are less clear. A highway bridge in New York collapsed about 40 years ago. Somehow it had fallen through the cracks, pun intended, in the inspection schedules and one day it just fell down.

An engineering office lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of data, and thousands of dollars of hardware, because the building’s power line got cut by a construction crew a couple hundred yards away, no one had set up backup power for those servers, and no one had made data backups in a couple years. The person whose job it was had left and no one had thought to assign the job to someone else.

A municipal water system had to issue a boil water advisory because maintenance had been deferred and deferred again and then something failed and one branch couldn’t hold pressure and potentially allowed untreated water to contaminate the purified drinking water.

These three examples all involve engineering. That’s because I’m an engineer, these types of things catch my eye, and I understand how they’re supposed to work and how they failed. (All three also affected me, which helped them to stick in my memory.) As with the above, other examples abound, such as business reports being put together with the wrong client’s data, reviewed by several colleagues and at least one manager, and then sent to the correct client, thereby leaking proprietary information. (I saw that one happen, too.)

These are always presented as an unfortunate series of bad luck or at worst mistakes, regrettable but certainly not malicious. It strains belief, though: how is it possible that decades of engineering best practices and written policies and a list of every vehicular bridge in the state could have let one bridge (at least one bridge!) be dropped from the lists to be inspected? It boggles the imagination that no one at DoT noticed that there are 1000 bridges in the state but the crews inspected only 999 each year for ten years in a row. It has to be deliberate, doesn’t it? It couldn’t be that everyone missed it?

I propose that this is exactly what happened: Everyone honestly, though incompetently, missed that the bridge was not being inspected. Everyone honestly, though incompetently, let valuable, non-backed-up data reside only on servers which were known to fail completely if the power flickered.

Many systems today are too complex for anyone but a genius to fully understand. Engineered systems, business systems, economic systems, organizational systems. Most systems start simple but as needs change or problems are found they gradually increased in complexity, from something comprehensible by an bright but not outstanding man to a Gordian knot of relationships and dependencies and “don’t change this section; we don’t know why but if you touch it the whole thing breaks”. Others were complex from the start, set up by a genius and then put into the hands of the only-slightly-above-average to operate.

Regardless of how they became complex, while these complex systems work well enough, so long as nothing goes wrong, something will always go wrong sooner or later. Someone will do things out of order, someone will use a tool or a web page in a way that the designer didn’t expect, power will fail, data will be garbled in transmission, some boss will demand a trivial change with unforeseen ramifications. Something will go wrong.

The problem is that our expectation is for everything to go right. Any deviation from perfection is seen as a problem.

When mistakes are made or things just go wrong, the result is a failed product popping out of the assembly line, a loss of efficiency, or a bridge falling down. Hardly ever does something going wrong result in things going better than expected. (This does happen but it’s rare enough that tales of fortuitous discoveries are endlessly repeated until they seem commonplace.)

Why don’t mistakes make things go better? Because the system has been optimized over the years to be as good as people can make it. Doing things differently is probably going to be worse. You can think of it like assembling a flatpack: swapping parts or doing steps out of order sometimes doesn’t matter and sometimes will screw up the product. Only very rarely will a change make the product better. For the most part the parts list and the instructions were arranged in pretty much the best possible order. The same goes for getting timecards processed and people paid or for keeping a power plant running for years.

This isn’t a contradiction with what I said before, about people not being smart enough to set up a complex system. Trial and error over lots of years and lots of sites will usually settle on a system which is about as good as we can get, even if no one fully understands it.

We can make allowances for things going wrong, and in particular for people not doing everything right. Sometimes the system will include checks to make sure the less-capable or less-conscientious or even the less-honest are doing their jobs right, and fail-safes for when they don’t. Sometimes checks are not included. Checks and fail-safes make a complex system more complex.

If a system is too complex for people to fully understand, they can’t anticipate all the ways in which it can fail. Worse, some systems can be so complex that even known failure modes can’t be properly addressed, often because fixing this thing over here breaks that thing over there.

One of the forms of “breaking that thing over there” is making part of a system too expensive, whether in terms of requiring more highly refined source materials, needing more computing resources to thoroughly check all data inputs before processing them, or having humans follow more detailed checklists with more supervisor approval.

More complex systems with more thorough checks are more expensive to run, too. Every check has a cost as the system runs, as people have to follow more steps or fill out more paperwork or as additional components have to be powered. Every fail-safe has a cost to create and sometimes a cost as the system runs.

It often happens that the executives or the bean-counters insist on reducing scheduled inspections and maintenance because “once every other year is really enough” or cut back safety margins because “it was overdesigned from the beginning”. Then, when the electrical substation catches fire because it was running at 200% for five years, the spokesman will tell reporters that the power company had been following appropriate guidelines regarding use, maintenance, and replacement of the equipment, not mentioning that the company is the entity which set the guidelines and that they’d been revised annually.

OK, so we see the problem: Most systems, of any type, are either too complex for most people to understand now or they will become so in the future. Attempting to make them more tolerant of errors makes them even more complex. Making the problem worse, the systems are often unintentionally sabotaged in order to save money.

What to do about it? That’s a fine question. The obvious solution is to put very smart people in charge of creating and maintaining the most important and most complex systems, leaving the less bright to operate them or to set up the less important systems. The problems with this are that there might not be enough very smart people to go around, given other demands such as scientific research, and that few executives and managers are willing to turn over control (and funding and implicit power) of something they don’t understand. I’m sure that that is not universal but it’s almost so in my experience. There are the related problems that most corporations and probably no bureaucracies are willing to pay a top performer what he’s worth and that few managers and no HR departments are able to distinguish between a genius and a fraud.

Another approach is to scale back large, complex systems to the point that they can be understood by the people available to work on them. That’s not going to happen, not willingly. The lure of ever-bigger government and economy of scale are too strong. The urge to make just one more little tweak to a repeatedly tweaked system rather than redesigning it to properly address new requirements is just as strong.

The only realistic approach is to be more structured about learning from mistakes and problems and creating systems based on best practices. Yes, I recognize the irony of setting up a complex system for creating complex systems. Some engineering disciplines do this to some extent, spreading around lessons learned from problems and setting up best practices which professionals are expected to follow. Commercial aviation is well known for doing so and it’s almost managing to overcome the increase in incompetence at airports. The medical profession also does this, though I’m not sure how much is actually just lip service.

I’m not confident that this approach will be followed, not in general. What I expect is that things will fail or fall apart more and more often in the future. The few bright spots of improvement will be outnumbered by the failures.

Sorry to end on a down note, but that’s the way I see it going. And, hey, at least now you have a better understanding of why you have no electricity in the middle of Winter.

There are two additional points that I want to make which didn’t fit into the narrative above.

First, be aware of bias in noticing and reporting. When things go wrong in a big way, it’s noticed and it’s reported on and the cause (or scapegoat) is searched for. When things go wrong but the checks or failsafes work, it counts as the system working and no one talks about it much except perhaps grumbling about the production line being halted for three hours because someone shipped the wrong thickness of steel sheets.

Second, sometimes things go wrong not because of incompetence or intent by the operators but because someone had a hidden motivation. This can result in a system set up to fail. A number of government projects in the US seem to be this way, especially IT projects. The conflicted mess of written requirements could not possibly be implemented correctly by the best team under the best of circumstances. Constant interference and changes by politicians on high-visibility projects makes it worse. As I started out in this article, I’ll take it that in most cases this truly is because of incompetence rather than because a Moriarty in the bureaucracy is setting it up to fail for some purpose of his own.

EDIT: Francis Porretto has expanded on these thoughts with a valuable contribution of his own. Hie thee hence.


Sign of the Times

Took my daughter to the doctor for a checkup and saw this page on the wall of the exam room.

Note that Dominic’s Law came along in 2022.

Note also that you should tell the doc if you have a family history of heart problems but there’s nothing about telling the doctor if you’ve undergone an experimental medical treatment which may affect your heart. Or if any of your family members have done the same. Odd, that.

In totally unrelated news, I make sure to refer to the “vaccinations” for the Chinese Bioweapon as clot shots. This annoys many people and in particular annoys medical professionals, even when the clot shots did in fact cause clots which did in fact cause health problems. I suspect it’s because these medical professionals don’t like having us see the man behind the curtain.


The Daily Donnybrook, Substack Link, and Bellybutton Lint

Welcome to Ye Olde Colde Furye Blogge’s shiny new open-comments thread, where y’all can have at it as you wish, on any topic you like. Do note that the official CF comments policy remains in effect here, as enumerated in the left sidebar. All new posts will appear below this one. There will be blood…

Mike’s latest Substack post: “In praise of…wait, WHAT again, now?.”

No bellybutton lint. I lied about that part. Sorry-not-sorry.

Friends Without Benefits

You’ll sometimes hear it said that men and women can’t be friends because the man always wants to have sex with her and is just waiting for his chance.

There’s some truth to that. I’ve seen it plenty of times, where a young man will hang out with a woman and help her move and do other things for her, solely because he’s hoping to get her naked. Even when she has a boyfriend, or several boyfriends, he hopes to pounce when they break up or to get worked into the rotation.

Not always, of course. If they were childhood friends, they might stay friends for life without thoughts of sex getting in the way. There might be other exceptions but they’re rare.

OK, so men aren’t friends with women without an ulterior motive.

What about from the other direction? Can women be friends with men without an ulterior motive?

Evidence says … no.

Women with male orbiters always need something. (More broadly, women always need something.) “Are you free Saturday? I’m getting some Ikea and it cost too much for them to carry it up and assemble it.” “Can you help me unclog my bathtub? The landlord can’t get to it until Monday.” Not uncommonly the help is monetary. “Can I borrow two hundred dollars? I can’t pay my rent this month.”

Besides that, modern women thrive on the attention they get from the men around them. Sure, they don’t need it to live, but their lives are a pale, miserable shadow of what they could be.

Something like young men’s lives, if they aren’t having sex with a willing, not-too-unattractive woman.

(Obligatory caveat about “not all women”. Caveat about not everyone being heterosexual … though I have noticed that some lesbians, including one in an apparently happy marriage with a woman, keep male orbiters around. For the attention? As handymen? Both?)

Men, if you’re friends with a woman because you’re hoping to score someday, back up and take a hard, jaundiced look at your “friendship”. She’s already getting what she wants and the odds are low that you’ll ever get what you want. You need to ask just what benefit you’re getting if you’re not friends with benefits.


We Don’t Talk About This

Coleman Hughes has a YouTube channel which presents his hour-plus interviews on a variety of social topics. One episode was a discussion with Charles Murray on intelligence and the social consequences of different average IQs of the different races.

Hughes repeatedly said that it would poison the social climate if we came out and acknowledged that blacks are less intelligent than whites.

It should be noted that while Coleman Hughes comes off as intelligent, better informed than most on the issues he discusses (admittedly a low bar), and willing to listen to contrary opinions, in every interview he brings up his experience as a black man in America and his concerns for blacks as a group. He seldom brings up what’s best for the US and Americans as a whole; I don’t recall him doing so at all but may simply have missed it.

So, he claims that it would “poison the social climate” to admit that blacks (and hispanics) are on average less intelligent than Whites and East Asians. He doesn’t deny that it’s true. He simply thinks that it should not be talked about.

The delta has many real-world consequences, from income levels to incarceration rates. These have been discussed in many places, including many of Murray’s books. He thoroughly documents his research and his method for coming up with the statistics on which he bases his conclusions. You can reasonably question the validity of the social sciences and their use of statistics, but to the extent that you accept them, Murray’s work is solid.

Rather than rehash the work and the numbers, let’s simply state that the typical black man in America is less intelligent than average. He has less education on his record, is less likely to have gotten education or training which leads to a well-paying job, has a lower income than average, is more likely to be involved in violent crime, and is more likely to have spent time in jail or prison. Murray claims that most of the discrepancy in outcomes derives from his lower intelligence.

Coleman Hughes doesn’t want the lower average intelligence to be discussed because it would poison the social climate.

But that’s exactly what we’re getting when we refuse to talk about it. There are big differences between the races in the social outcomes listed above. If it’s not because of intelligence (or we can’t admit that it’s because of intelligence) then there has to be some other cause.

In the absence of any other (acceptable) explanation, our society has settled on systemic racism as the cause.

No matter what hiring quotas and black-only scholarships and all the other special set-asides, blacks don’t do as well educationally or economically. That’s why, no matter how far society bends over to compensate for the dread Systemic Racism, it’s never enough. (One of the reasons. The other is that it’s a very profitable grift and the leeches will never voluntarily let go.)

Rather than hush up the regrettable difference in population intelligence, we need to acknowledge it, face it head-on, and work out ways for society to give the best opportunity for everyone to work with what they have. Ending the idiocy of pushing all teens into college and instead providing vocational training for those not suited for college is an obvious step. This will have a disparate effect on blacks (and hispanics) but who cares? We can set someone up to succeed as an auto mechanic rather than fail as a college graduate with a useless degree and a pile of college loans.

It won’t happen, of course. Facing the truth might hurt feelings (and cut off the gravy train). Instead, we’ll keep on as we are, building resentment on both sides because we won’t address the elephant in the room.

Reality is the thing which won’t go away, even when you refuse to talk about it.


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