Millennials: Living with Parents

The Pew Research Center has just released a report titled, “More Millennials Living With Family Despite Improved Job Market.” It describes a small shift in the share of 18 to 34-year-old Americans who live with their parents or other relatives. By comparing 2007 to 2015, Pew sets a baseline before the recession and then observes the effect of several years of recovery.

They find that as the recession ended and the economy recovered, millennials did not move out on their own.  The number of millennials living with parents has increased by 3 million, owing to the swelling number of people in that age group. But the number and share of millennials living independently has been flat since 2007.During the recession, it was assumed that maybe young people couldn’t find profitable work. After several years of growth, they still haven’t moved into their own places.

The Pew Research Center does nice work, and this is a trustworthy report. (I say that as one of the few people who reads the methodology section before I read the introduction. ) Pew hasn’t attempted to explain the trend — only to prove it.

There is an assumption that young people should set up their own households as soon as they can, and that they should want to do that. If the rate of independent living among the young falters, then some people suppose either the economy is preventing them from doing what they want, or there is something wrong with them. Internet commenters tend toward the “something wrong with them” explanation:

“My experience is that Millennials living with Mom and Dad are doing so not out of deep devotion to the family unit and a desire to contribute to their home, but out of economic necessity…or sheer laziness. (It’s easier to have Mom do you cooking, cleaning and laundry.) It is ludicrous to compare today’s dependent children to productive young adults who remained at home in previous generations so they could help with the chores, contribute economically and maybe even take on duties that elderly parents preferred to delegate to them.”

 

Cue Eddie Cochrane, whose 1958 hit Summertime Blues was probably playing on that old fogie’s radio when he was young:

 

 

A-well my mom and pop a-told me
Son you gotta make some money
A-if you wanna use the car
To go a-ridin’ next Sunday
A-well I didn’t go to work
Told the boss I was sick
“Now you can’t use the car
Cause you didn’t work a lick”

Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

 

“Productive young adults who remained at home in previous generations,” indeed!

 

The Bloomberg View has posted a nice sidebar to the Pew report that offers, if not an explanation, at least a bit of perspective. Bloomberg says, Millennials Didn’t Invent Living With the ‘Rents. Instead,  multi-generational households has been the American norm except for the post-WWII generation.

It’s true that in the mid-20th century, the nuclear family was typical. While a small fraction of the population lived in multigenerational households, most adults maintained their distance from aging parents. The housing of postwar suburbs embodied this ideal, and mid-century experts on family life preached the virtues of a sharp, clean break between generations.
In the process, the idea of adult children living with their parents — or vice versa — came to be seen as something pathological. This consensus proved so powerful that historians of the family bought into it. Many scholars published research in the 1960s and 1970s purporting to show that Americans had always lived in nuclear families, with generations keeping each other at other at arm’s length. But recent research has revealed a far more complicated picture — one that should be reassuring to millennials and their parents alike.

 

Here’s an example from my own family. The following image is a clip from the 1940 US Census for households in Wells County, Indiana. My grandfather Gerald was 29 years old. He and his 25-year-old wife, Fay, were living with his parents. Five-year-old Jack is my father.

Clip from the 1940 US Census
Clip from the 1940 US Census

 

The 1940 Census was a lot different than nowadays. The screen grab shows names in the first column (beginning with Lyman Zehner), and then relationship to the head of household. According to the coding system, my dad and uncle were 4s and my grandmother was only a 5 because she was a daughter-in-law. The next columns show gender, race, age and marital status. The final two column are about education: how much schooling has the person completed?  Lyman and Daisy both had 7 years; Gerald and Fay only 4 years. On a portion not shown, the Census asks about employment, specifically if the person is doing “emergency” work — meaning working for the federal WPA or CCC  or any of the other Roosevelt-era jobs programs. Lyman and Gerald are both listed as self-employed farmers.

My dad’s parents got off to a tough start. They were married during the Depression, and then came the war. The whole window of time when people supposedly set up their own household was obscured for them by crisis and emergency. (My mother’s parents were older and they already owned land when the crisis began. They did well though the Depression, and would have done well during the war if three of their sons hadn’t gone to be in it.)

Dad’s parents eventually took over the Zehner farm from Lyman, but they never “launched” in the contemporary sense. They sent my dad to college, but when Gerald died my dad had to come back to the farm. Fay died before I was born, a very old woman of 42, and the only thing I know about her is that my mother said she had a habit of wringing her hands.

People commonly suppose that the decisions they make and the values they hold are the normal. But that often is not the case. Bloomberg has shown that, either by desire or necessity, most Americans have historically shared households across generations. Only the post-war generation — stoked by extraordinary American affluence and exuberance — assumed that separate living was within everyone’s grasp and was everyone’s desire. Back to Bloomberg:

[I]f this turns into a trend, a bit less hysteria and a deeper appreciation of the history of multigenerational households might be helpful. Today’s millennials may be embracing family arrangements that were once the norm, not the exception. The helicopter parents, the adult children who prove reluctant to leave home — perhaps we’ve been here already.

 

The Census data, by the way, is all on line and searchable. The scan of my family’s page is here. If you are interested you can search by location (state, country, city, street).

 

We’re Exceptional!

Here’s a thing we don’t need to worry about.

Multiple news sources reported last week that the College Board (the people who design standardized tests for advanced college credit and admissions) has changed their guidelines for the AP history exam. This means high school teachers across the country will change the content of their lessons to better prepare their students to take the test.

The changes (as described in the liberal media) paint a rosier and nobler picture of American history, and are said to result from pressure from conservative groups. The liberal writers fret about the new, or renewed, stronger emphasis on “American Exceptionalism.”

 

 

I have three thoughts. First, every country in the world boosts itself, and there is no reason America shouldn’t too.

Beautiful Kyrgyzstan!
Beautiful Kyrgyzstan!

I spent a day driving up and down the Naryn Valley (a particularly bleak part of the barren, frigid, Soviet backwater of Kyrgyzstan) with a young man named Bakit. After the usual conversations had been exhausted, he began singing songs about the towns we passed through. These were same-ish and formulaic paeans to brave people, fertile soil, and beautiful snow-capped mountains. They smacked of a Soviet mandate to whip up patriotism, and Bakit acknowledged that he learned the songs at Pioneer meetings (the youth wing of Soviet propaganda organization Komsomol). I eventually said I thought the songs were stupid and asking him to sing something else.

Green be her fame!
Green be her fame!

Liberia lies at another extreme of nations. Kyrgyzstan owes its misery to an oppressive and inept government that ruled from a distance and was driven by ideology, Liberia owes its misery to an oppressive and inept government that ruled locally and was driven by avarice. Liberia’s national anthem, which I stood up for and sang with gusto many times during my Peace Corps years, describes “The home of glorious liberty, by God’s command: Though new her name, Green be her fame, and mighty be her Power!”

I’ve heard overt national pride from Dutch, Swiss, Lebanese, Venezuelans, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Greek, English and Welsh people. I’ve never gotten the “better than you” vibe from Australian, Indian, Irish and French people though admittedly, my experience with French people occurred in the Sahara Desert. Wait, strike that: I met a feh dinkim arrogant Aussie, too, though most of ‘em are wonderful people. And let us never forget: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in der Welt (Germany, Germany above all, Above everything in the world). That is just chilling.

Anyway, people in every country in the world believe there is something special – something “exceptional” – about their country. (The Kyrgyz all know with an unshakable certainty that their Issyk Kol is the premier vacation spot on the planet. Greeks really do think Greeks invented everything.) America would be truly exceptional if it didn’t think it was.

 

The second point about the changes to the AP history exam is that historians embrace the changes. Here’s a story that looks very different depending on where you get your news.

Inside Higher Education describes the changes as a fix to changes made a year earlier which “offered “little or no discussion of the Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history and many other critical topics that have always been part of the APUSH course.” I’d say the principles of the Declaration of Independence ought to be mentioned in a college-prep American history course, wouldn’t you?

The liberal new source ThinkProgress viewed the changes as bad without much consideration of what the changes were, just because conservatives had a hand in it. The very liberal Salon set the stage back in February, describing the dispute this way: “[Y]ou have a small but dedicated bloc of reactionary populists who are fighting desperately to protect the truth from the advances of a radical, elitist cabal. And in both cases, you see those supporters of the new standards, who tend to be more educated and self-consciously cosmopolitan, react to the anti-reformers’ cries with a mix of bemusement and contempt.”

I think Salon is off target, but I don’t know how much of the article is written is Screwtapese. Anyway, I think the changes were just some serious educators fine-tuning their standards with the best of wills. Here’s what a panel of historians and history teachers said in a letter published a month ago in the Washington Post.

We wish to express our opposition to these [2014] modifications. The College Board’s 2014 Advanced Placement Examination shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a robust, vivid, and content-rich account of our unfolding national drama, warts and all, a history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.

I think “robust, vivid and content-rich” is the right way to go.

 

My third point is a little more difficult to follow. Begin by considering Todd Snider’s This Land is Our Land:

 

Freeway through a reservation
Make way for a brand new nation
Big ideas, we got brand new plans
Heaven knows we need this land

We’re gonna build big, high and wide
City streets through countrysides
Chemicals, and pesticides
This land is our land

Hey, redman don’t waste our time
We’re young and strong, we got hills to climb
There’s a lot of room but we need it all
For slave trade and shopping malls

Gonna build big factories
With paper plates and plastic trees
Styrofoam and antifreeze
This land is our land

This land is our land
This land is our land
This land is our land
This land is our land

Well, we came out of a ragin’ sea
To claim someplace where we’d be free
We got hopeful hearts, workin’ hands and
Heaven knows we need this land

‘Cause the world needs land fills
Diet pills and papermills
We need country clubs and oil spills
This land is our land

This land is our land
This land is our land
This land is our land
This land is our land

Freeway through a reservation
Make way for a brand new nation
Big ideas, we got brand new plans
Heaven knows we need this land for Super Bowls

Subway rides, remote controls
And pesticides
Gang related homicides
This land is our land
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/todd-snider/this-land-is-our-land-lyrics/#7KZC1LmCyZg1xclJ.99

 

Snider seems to present a snide picture of a country and people bent on cruel and stupid objectives. And in the performance video he says the country was built on “bad karma.” But still, he admits in the first half of each stanza that the country was built on good intentions:

 

Well, we came out of a ragin’ sea
To claim someplace where we’d be free
We got hopeful hearts, workin’ hands and
Heaven knows we need this land

 

And then in the second part of each stanza Snider gives us the disappointing results: paper mills and oil spills. But the fact that so much energy and hopefulness culminated in sour results doesn’t mean the energy and hope were wrong.

Immanuel Kant said, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”

To me, one of the great and reassuring ideas about the contemporary American life is that each morning close to 150-million people get up and go to their jobs. And for eight or so hours, they do those jobs with conviction and zeal. It is unfortunate that many of those jobs are stupid: advertising, fashion design, “paper plates and plastic trees.” But it not the fault of the people doing the work.

If we were to stop what we’re doing, announce an Old Testament jubilee, and then construct a plan for a better system, I’m certain we’d dump the Styrofoam. If it were up to me, we’d drop the Super Bowls. But we’d keep the hopeful hearts and workin’ hands. So let’s not be ashamed of them. And let’s keep them in the history books.

Magic Number 168

The data I work with belongs to Purdue University and I’m not at liberty to disclose details. But I can generally share that this year’s incoming freshman class — like every college freshman class at every college — hasn’t got a very good idea of what lies ahead.

 

This is evident from their answers to the question, “How many hours a week to you plan to study?” Some students’ answers are vague and evasive: “As much as necessary” or “Depends on what classes I take.” But quite a number of students respond in a way that shows they not only don’t know how much they’ll need to study — they also don’t know how much time there is to begin with.

Most colleges recommend students study two hours for each hour of class time. That means studying 30 hours for 15 hours of class (5 three-credit courses). You can see these recommendation pitched to students at Purdue, as well as many other colleges.

Is that even possible? Are there 30 + 15 = 45 hours in a week? It turns out, if you do the math, that there is that much and more. There are 24 * 7 = 168 hours in a week. In fact, every week has 168 hours in it. I checked.

A student who devotes 45 hours to class and study will still have 123 hours remaining. If the student decides to get 7 hours of sleep each night, they’ll use 49 hours a week. That leaves 74 hours. Getting around campus takes time, so they should allocate 15 hours or so just for moving around.  But that leaves 59 hours. If they devote 3 hours a day to meals and hygiene (21 hours/week), there still are 38 hours unaccounted for. And that’s 38 hours of free time after every serious necessity it allowed for.

Some students will attend church every day, others once a week, and other never. Some will watch a lot of television or play a lot of online games. Many will join clubs and students organizations. Some will need to relax and do nothing for a while each day. But whatever their personal choices, 38 hours a week is a generous allowance.

What about work, you ask? A large and growing share of college students work while taking classes. But few of them work more than 20 hours a week. So there’s time for that, too. And our research at Purdue confirms that part time work correlates with better grades.

There are students with children or aged parents or other family responsibilities who work full-time. They truly struggle. For them, I think it is fair to say there just isn’t enough time. Bu for the majority of ordinary full-time student, those 168 hours are a weekly windfall.

New York Magazine this morning has an article about college students’ stress. It reports how students at elite institutions feel pressure to hide the pressure they’re feeling! At Stanford they call it “Duck Syndrome” after the smooth appearance of a duck floating on water, that never reveals the frantic peddling going on beneath the surface.

I don’t mean to make light of real stress and pressure. But happily, each person starts out with 168 hours a week to accomplish their goals.

 

An Old Solution to a Modern Problem

Two articles this week in news magazines explain problems in our American, global-market economy and society. Neither suggests a solution to those problems. So I’ll do that here.

 

 

The first article was in Slate and was titled, This is the Perfect Tomato. It describes the efforts of researchers to develop a variety of tomato that is both shelf-stable and tasty. In general, tomatoes that taste good are too soft to be handled from the grower to the grocery, while tomatoes firm enough for shipping are tasteless. But a scientist named Harry Klee managed to develop a tomato with all the desirable qualities.

He was aiming for a compromise—a tomato that grew well and tasted good. What he got shocked him. Like its commercial parent, Klee’s new tomato boasted excellent shelf life, disease resistance, and productivity. But by some miracle, it tasted so good that its flavor scores were statistically identical to its heirloom parent. Klee dubbed his miracle fruit the Garden Gem.

 

But the next chapter of the story is that no major grocery chain will buy the delicious Garden Gem tomato because it is smaller than other varieties. Here’s a second write-up about the Garden Gem, from Genetic Literacy  Project.  It says, “Big Tomato doesn’t care about flavor. Tomato farmers don’t care. Tomato packers don’t care. And supermarkets don’t care. When it comes to flavor, the tomato industry is broken.”

Smaller means having to handle more fruits to make a given quantity, and that adds to cost. And the grocery chains are not willing to bear more costs. They know Americans who get their food from grocery stores will eat what they are given. So they simply insist on providing only those varieties that ensure their profit. There is no real market where supply meets demand. People willing to pay extra for better quality can not do so. There is only profit maximization by the company. It is very much the same situation as was described by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle in 1906.

What they wanted from a hog was all the profit that could be got out of him; and that was what they wanted from the working man, and also that was what they wanted from the public. What the hog thought of it, and what he suffered, were not considered; and no more was it with labor, and no more with the purchaser of meat.

 

The second issue comes from Huffington Post, which usually just clips reports from other publications but occasionally does its own reporting. The article is titled, The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. And it argues that the global garment industry is so utterly dominated by unregulated sweatshop labor than no amount of conscientious comparison shopping can make a difference for the workers. It doesn’t matter which company is rated as a fair trade source or what the CEO says. The industry is segmented and too flexible to be regulated. Target can have as benevolent a policy as you’d wish, and Target can ask the clothing labels is sells to abide by those policies. But the clothing will still be made by contractors in distant places where the rules don’t apply:

In Delhi’s garment cluster, “children start learning the job at the age of 8,” writes the University of London’s Alessandra Mezzadri. “They master it by the age of 12.” She calls the area a “composite sweatshop”: For every tailor working in a factory, there are several employed in homes, workshops or backyards. Around 80 percent of the workers are informal — mostly migrants, some of them trafficked, hired and fired as orders are commissioned and completed, divvied out by brokers, paid a few cents for each piece of clothing they deliver. The children get paid half as much as the adults. During her fieldwork, she found kids sitting on apartment floors, sewing and cutting, often under the supervision of their parents.

 

At this point I hear people say that most people just want cheap goods and don’t really care who suffered to make it. But that may not be true: at least not for younger adults shown in this recent social experiment filmed in Germany:

 

Just as the Slate article suggest there’s no hope for a tasty tomato, the HuffPost article says consumers have no power to prefer ethically made clothing.

I promised a solution at the top of this article, and that solution is a shift to products made by local guilds. Guilds dominated manufacturing during the Middle Ages, and were replaced by industrialized mass manufacturing. Big industry was a step forward in the 18th century. It ended the problem of the scarcity.  But today in the US few are troubled by not enough clothing to wear or not enough food to eat. Our problems are too few well-paying jobs, inferioir quality products and the depletion of fossil fuels.

 

The case for guilds is made here in The Distributist Review.

The overall result of monopolistic capitalism has been less competition, less variety, lower quality, the loss of local jobs and less power for the people to do anything about it. When big business leaders lead an economy to the brink of economic disaster, the government deems them “too big to fail” and bails them out at the expense of the general public. Monopolistic capitalism has resulted in the shift of economic power and influence away from the average citizen and big businesses use that power to gain advantages not available to citizens or smaller businesses. How exactly has this protected the consumer? . . . The guilds envisioned by distributists consist of small local businesses. Distributist guilds would provide more competition, more variety, better quality, and more true economic power for the people.

 

I asked my family how many merchants and vendors we have a real human relationship with. And we came up with a handful. We buy eggs from a neighbor. We get hardware from Charlie Riggle at Roachdale Hardware. We buy an occasional cup of coffee from Jack at the Parthenon in Crawfordsville. Moody Meats in Ladoga. My wife listed several other regular contacts she has for soap, yarn, honey – people she sees once or twice a year at festivals. All of these people know what we like, and see us as return customers. And, we see them as people who need to make a buck doing what they do. Do they charge more that the chain stores? The egg neighbor doesn’t, but most of the others do. But we don’t mind because we are close enough to these merchants that we see how they work. We’ve had conversations about ingredients and processes – we know what we are buying.

You might be saying, “But none of those small local sellers are guilds!” And that’s right. They have some of the characteristics of a guild — probably the most important ones. Forming real guilds would retain those advantages and add more.

Now you are saying, “Sure, I’ll just trot down down to my local smithy and have him hammer me out a new car on his anvil.”  And it is true that machinery would have to stay capital intensive. Perishable goods (food, clothing, and furniture) would be better candidates for local guilds.

Guilds need not be Luddite. A local tailor would use the best available sewing machines. A local community-supported vegetable producer would plan the best cultivars. They just wouldn’t be motivated by greed.

 

The right to be wrong

President Obama was visiting Oklahoma this week and several ‘Muricans took the opportunity to wave the Confederate flag outside his hotel and along his caravan route.

[Source: Politico]

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post published an essay a few years ago about the lingering effects of the Civil War. It was called, The Civil War taught us to fight for the right to be wrong. The essay is online and you can read it at the link. But the essence is here in this excerpt:

[T]he Civil War legitimized something essential, and dark, that remains with us. Ultimately, the South was fighting for the right to be wrong, for the right to retain (and expand) something ugly and indefensible. It lost the war, and slavery was abolished. But the right to be wrong, the right to resist the progress of freedom, the right to say “no, thank you” to modernity, to leave the fences in disrepair and retreat into a world of private conviction, remains as much a part of the American character as the blood spilled to preserve the Union. Nothing great has been accomplished in America since the Civil War — not footsteps on the moon, or women’s suffrage, or the right (if not the reality) of equal, unsegregated education — without people also passionately fighting for that dark right, too.

 

That “world of private conviction” he mentions exists wherever anyone says (or thinks), “Nobody can tell me what to do!” And when that thought is combined with, “I don’t know what to do,” the results is an insistence on the right to be wrong.

I was well raised, and was given a lot of good advice and reasonable rules to live by growing up. The only case of exercising the right to be wrong that I can recall is when my mother told me not to wear my dad’s old high school athletic jacket to a basketball game. The jacket was very tattered, having been worn around the farm from 1952, when my dad earned it, to 1977, when I wanted to wear it.  And I had a perfectly nice jacket of my own to wear.

My mother said no and I said, “OK.” So I took the coat back upstairs and put on my own, nicer coat and threw dad’s letter jacket out the window into the yard. Then I paraded my nice, presentable self before my mother as I left for the game. On the way to my car I picked up the old coat, put it on instead of the one I’d left the house wearing, and arrived at the game looking ratty. Victory!

But unlike my harmless escapade, people are hurt everyday because they, or someone else, exercises their right to be wrong. Some of them are ripped apart by alligators.

I think it is right and good that the stupid Confederate flag is being pushed away. But what I’d really like is an ethic of rectitude, where people wish for guidance, and other people know how to give it.

Thomas Carlyle (1846):

You do not allow a palpable madman to leap over precipices; you
violate his liberty, you that are wise; and keep him, were it in
strait-waistcoats, away from the precipices! Every stupid, every
cowardly and foolish man is but a less palpable madman: his true
liberty were that a wiser man, that any and every wiser man,
could, by brass collars, or in whatever milder or sharper way,
lay hold of him when he was going wrong, and order and compel him to go a little righter.

 

In the Dark

The power went off yesterday.

I’m not sure when, because my wife and I were outside. She was weeding onions. I was cutting a persimmon tree into firewood. It must have been sometime between 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, though the clocks indicated 00:00. It came back on sometime late in the evening – also at precisely 00:00 according to the clocks.

My wife and I have spent more time without electricity and other conveniences than most Americans our age, thanks to the years living in African and Asian backwaters.  What other couple do you know who had been married more than a year before they spoke to each other on the phone?

Jenny "outside."
Jenny “outside.”

The same is true for our daughters, now in their early-20s and teens. They grew up in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan with a loose connection with electricity, running water or internet access. When electric light is unreliable one acquires a certain complaisance that makes being suddenly plunged into blackness as natural as taking a breath. Americans can learn it; my kids grew up with it.

Sarah having a bath.
Sarah having a bath.

The lights would go out while we were reading a book aloud. One of the girls would pop up and light a candle and we’d resume the story with hardly more than a dramatic pause.

And speaking of dramatic, my oldest daughter heard the “escape from Efrafa” and “General Woundwort attacks” passages of Watership Down by candlelight accompanied by the music of smashing window glass because we were besieged for several nights by a pack of stone-throwing Kyrgyz who wanted us to go away. My oldest daughter is just about the most dauntless person I know.

In Zwedru, Liberia we relied chiefly on candles and kerosene. We enjoyed “current” when it chanced to come on but we didn’t rely on it. There was an electric refrigerator for chilling drinking water and making custard. But we never put more than a days’ worth of perishables in it.  In Naryn, Kyrgyzstan the supply of “tok” or “tsvet” was pretty good. Vladimir Lenin established in the 20s the goal of “Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Even in the farthest reaches of the then-expired Soviet empire in the late 90s and early 2000s, Naryn still had ample hydroelectric power. It went off when a cow rubbed against a pole or when the apparatchiks at the power company wanted to vex the customers.  But it was on more than not. In January 1999 we spent three solid days in darkness due to an ice storm. Ironically we were in Bethesda, Maryland at the time and would have had power if we’d stayed in Central Asia.

Anyway, the power outage yesterday didn’t stop us from having a nice dinner of grilled pork kebabs. It did stop me from washing the sawdust out of my hair until much later. But I admit that, while taking the inconvenience in stride like the old hand I am, I had thought of, “What if this is it?”

At various times in America’s past, people have seriously pondered (with equal seriousness) whether today would be the day that the commies, Apaches or Martians would attack. Lately, it is more fashionable to imagine muslim attackers. (And when I say fashionable, I don’t mean to suggest it is at all realistic.) When I was a young adult the threat was nuclear war, and expressions of concern ranged from artsy t-shirts (I had one) to backyard bomb shelters to a golden age of apocalypse (or as the feral kids in Beyond Thunderdome have it, “pock-eclipse”) movies.

Today the fashionable disaster scenario involves zombies — a  shambling backwards kind of disaster rather than a dazzlingly advanced technical one. After a little digging on the internet I discovered at least one media critic (Nicolas Barber on BBC Culture) who agrees with my zombie-as-metaphor theory:

[V]ampires and werewolves symbolise the thrill and the romance of having superhuman strength and no conscience. But there’s nothing glamorous about being a zombie. Unlike vampires and werewolves, they’re not frightening because of how powerful they are. They’re frightening because of how dismal it would be to become one yourself. Another difference is that werewolves and vampires are content to share the planet with the rest of us. They might tuck into the odd innocent bystander, but Dracula and the Wolfman don’t threaten our way of life. [Zombies] are either the cause or a symptom of a complete societal breakdown.
It can’t be a coincidence, then, that zombies are in vogue during a period when banks are failing, when climate change is playing havoc with weather patterns, and when both terrorist bombers and global corporations seem to be beyond the reach of any country’s jurisdiction.

 

I suspect, though, that “a complete societal breakdown” would be much more “dismal” that interesting.  There would be less of everything, including less gun violence and less wandering from interesting place to interesting place meeting Kevin Costner and Mila Kunis.

But, on the other hand, a lot of things that feature prominently in today’s American lifestyle and habits could go to the wayside and still leave a pretty decent human existence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxi again!

The Greek people have voted No! to the European ultimatum. This means they won’t accept the EU’s punitive terms for a bail-out. Whether it means Greece leaves the European shared currency remains to be seen. Lots more trouble remains for Greece. But they can face the difficulties better now that they have chosen their own fate.

[Source: Reuters]

One aspect of the story that I haven’t read in any of the press coverage is that “Oxi!” has a historic resonance with the Greeks. My wife spent part of her childhood in Athens and tells me that each year on October 28th the Greeks celebrate Oxi Day, a remembrance of their defiance of German and Italian forces threatening  Greece in 1940.

Myy wife remembers Oxi Day from the perspective of a little kid in the late 60s. The Wikipedia page linked above tells only a little.  From Wikipedia we learn that in late 1940, by which time Poland, Belgium, Holland and France had fallen to the Nazi Germans, the Greeks received an ultimatum from Italy and Germany: Greece must permit them to march across their land and to occupy certain strategic places (sea ports, airports, etc.) If they refused, the Germans would not simply march through a subjected Greece, but would attack and defeat it as an enemy.

The Greeks said, “Oxi!” 

You can read some good additional detail at this site run by an American organization to remember the event. And there is more at the aceofgreece website.

If you didn’t click, you  missed Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill praising Greek courage for standing against the German threat. What’s more, Hitler says the Greeks fought with the most courage of any enemy the Germans faced in the war, and he says that the delay caused by Greek resistance meant a late start and consequent failure of Germany’s attack on Russia. Stalin is quoted saying Greek resistance decided WWII.

So history repeats itself. An underdog Greece, motivated by its desire for self-government, stands up to a ruthless Germany and says, “Oxi!” 

 

Depending on where you get your news, you may be saying, “But didn’t the Greeks run up a big credit card bill? Aren’t they now refusing to pay their just debts?” Good question, and the answer is, again, Oxi!

Paul Krugman and other economic experts have written extensively about how the single shared currency, the Euro, has doomed Greece (and probably will doom other countries.) If you want an economic explanation, you can’t do better than any of the posts on Krugman’s blog. Here’s Krugman’s Monday morning editorial in the New York Times.

If you prefer a non-technical explanation, then think of the single European currency as a thermostat. You usually don’t think about them, but your house has several temperature controls. There is a thermostat to control the temperature in the rooms. There is another thermostat in your water heater. The oven in the kitchen has a thermostat, too.

Now imagine that your house has only one temperature control and it is connected to everything. This is analogous to Europe having only one currency. Europe’s leaders can adjust the money supply and the exchange rate to benefit the economy. But since there are many countries in Europe and only one currency, they can only set the currency to benefit one country. And that country has been Germany since the EU began.

If you set your single thermostat at 72 degrees, the rooms will be pretty comfortable. But the bath water will feel chilly. And you can forget about baking anything. You can raise the single thermostat to 400 degrees and cook your Thanksgiving turkey, but you’ll die. A single thermostat controlling everything in a house just isn’t feasible. And this absurd scenario is exactly analogous to how Europe’s shared currency works  doesn’t work.

One other aspect. You may have heard that the Greeks spent lavishly after joining the EU, trying to live up to the European standards. Have you heard that much of that spending was mandatory? Joining the EU meant embracing EU standards for things like automotive emissions. And guess which country makes and sells the cars that satisfy the EU standards. Did you guess Germany? Good for you. So even to the extent that the Greek people (as opposed to the Greek government) was extravagant, they were forced to spend by the fist of Germany.

 

[Source: hellenicinsider]

 

 

 

A Lesson About Fruits & Words

When my wife and I were Peace Corps volunteers in West Africa there was a tree growing near our house that produced a fruit with thin skin, a sweet, pulpy orange flesh and a large seed in the center. The Liberian people called it “plum.” Their indigenous languages don’t adjoin two consonants, and they would often say “prem” instead of “plum” because P-R elides easier than P-L. And because they don’t like consonants at the ends of words, they would say “preh” instead of “prem” instead of “plum.”

You may recognize the fruit in the picture as a mango.

My experience was different. I had never seen the tropical fruit before going to West Africa. But I had seen plums and I knew that plums are purple and shiny on the outside and firm and juicy and sweet on the inside. So I learned that the Liberians mis-named the fruit. It wasn’t the only thing they gave peculiar names to. They also called papaya “paw-paw”, limes “lemong” and aluminum corrugated roofing panels “zinc,” which they pronounced “zee’.”

But I had more to learn than the Liberians’ idiosyncrasies.  I thought I knew about mangoes from growing up in Indiana. The mangoes we grow in our gardens are hard and green outside, hollow inside with many small seeds. Imagine my surprise when my wife explained that the green fruit is a “bell pepper” rather than a mango. It turns out that Hoosiers and other mid-westerners are just as wrong as the Liberians.

 

Lesson: People are apt to call things by different words. And when they do, other people won’t know what they are talking about.

The word “marriage” has been used of late by various people to mean various things. But what? Marriage is a civil contract between people.  Civil contracts are flexible and negotiable, and they draw their legitimacy from the government.

Marriage is also a holy sacrament. As such, it is specifically and only what God Almighty declares it to be.

These are two very different ideas, yet the public debate went on for years without clarification. There is no way people with these different ideas about the words could ever understand each other. And they never did. But I don’t think the debate was split two ways. I think it was split four ways, with the following types involved:

  1. Reasonable, secular people who support same-sex marriage as a matter of equal rights, just as they support fair housing and non-discriminatory hiring policies.
  2. Reasonable, religious people who defend traditional marriage as a holy sacrament. Their own personal feeling about gays and relationships doesn’t enter into the discussion, but only the clear and unaltered Will of God. (This is the group I personally fit into.)
  3. Hateful iconoclasts who support same-sex marriage as a way of undermining American culture and tradition.
  4. Hateful bigots who defend traditional marriage as a way of denying civil rights to people who offend their personal prejudices.

I would not venture to guess how many of each there are. But I’m certain that all four groups exist. Numbers don’t really matter in America anymore, because our government responds to vocal and proximate minorities rather than to the majority.

As an example of #1, I offer Jonathan Chait. He recently made a post on New York Magazine under the heading, Same-Sex Marriage Won Because Its Opponents Never Had an Argument. Chait’s column is based on his critique of political or social arguments made by proponents of tradition:

If you scan across the range of anti-same-sex-marriage arguments more typically on offer, the quality of thought drops off precipitously. In Time, Rand Paul writes another of his trademark college-libertarian-style op-eds that manages to avoid taking any formal stance on banning same-sex marriage while insisting that Big Government is really to blame for the existence of a debate that places him in an uncomfortable position. The Federalist’s Stella Morabito lists 15 reasons why same-sex marriage will lead to horrible consequences, most of which consist of right-wing fever dreams.

 

Chait is a liberal social writer and is concerned with equal justice under law. He’s heterosexual and married to a woman he admires greatly. As far as he is concerned, if the law affords a privilege to some, it ought to afford that same privilege to others.  I don’t think he’s very thorough in his critique. The mentioned 15 reasons given by Morabito substantive and imminent concerns as well as right-wing fever dreams. But I recognize the validity of his position as a political commentator in a secular society. Chait never mentions the holy sacrament because that’s not his purview.

Examples of the second group are surprisingly hard to come by, which explains why they lost the argument. But I’ll offer this excerpt from the Catholic Catechism is an example of the thinking of the defense of traditional marriage as a holy sacrament.

Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

 

There is nothing there about civil law. The argument rests on unchanged scripture and God’s unchanged Will. It is easy to understand why this would fail to persuade Chait while being absolutely compelling to believers. God either doesn’t exist at all and is therefore unimportant, or He does exist and is the most important thing there is.

Now, one of the arguments against traditional marriage is that it is sexist and oppressive to woman. The passage I quote above, on the other hand, says explicitly that woman is man’s equal and that she represents the position of God in the partnership. Marriage is needed because of man’s loneliness, not woman’s weakness. Clearly the holy sacrament is not what opponents are opposed to.

In using the word holy sacrament, I make a distinction between Christian denominations. Because the meaning of marriage varies a lot from one church to the next. According to the Wikipedia page on Christian marriage, “Protestants consider it to be sacred, holy, and even central to the community of faith, while Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider it a Sacrament. “

Note that almost anything can be sacred if it is offered up to a holy purpose. An ugly church building can be just as sacred as a beautiful one. Plenty of oldsters would say the American flag is sacred. What makes a thing sacred is that it has been offered up. A sacrament, on the other hand, is inflexible. And only a couple of Christian denominations say marriage is a sacrament. For the rest, as you’ll see if you read the link above, the church has become just an extension of the state in awarding a state license. I remember my cousin’s ceremony, which took place inside a church but was the farthest thing from a holy sacrament. It amounted to little more than:

  • Preacher (to groom): You wanna hit that?
  • Groom: I do!
  • Preacher (to bride):  Do you plan to get some, too?
  • Bride: I do!
  • Preacher: Sssssshhwwiinnggggg!

The ceremony lasted about nine minutes, and was followed in short order by infidelity, acrimony and divorce. Shame on my cousin, same on the preacher who conducted the farce, and shame on the denomination that allowed such an abuse of a thing it claims to hold sacred.

My third set of actors are those I’ve described as motivated by the desire to undermine or destroy tradition. I give you Sara Burrows, writing in The Federalist, and her recent column arguing why monogamy should be “next”:

Brad and I are not legally married, nor do we ever plan to be, but there aren’t a lot of practical differences between us and a married couple. We’ve owned a home together, have a child together, and have every intention—although no promises—of staying together ‘til death do us part. We are hoping polyamory can help make that happen.

Note that she sees “not a lot of practical differences” between her and a married couple. To make the comparison easier, she lists her accomplishments: own a home, have a child, stay together. She argues that society needs to embrace “polyamory” because she thinks sleeping around would make it easier for her to stay with Brad.

Burrows’ argument for polyamory is either sensibly pragmatic or a heinous blasphemy, depending on whether one applies her argument to a civil contract or to holy matrimony. If the former, then there’s little grounds for objection on moral grounds. Civil contracts can say anything the signers agree to. But if one thinks of the sacrament of holy marriage, Burrows is appalling. She is either very ignorant or very wicked.

I am not going to make the effort to search for links, but there is no doubt in my mind that, competing with Burrows’ case for polyamory as the “next” thing, there are others making the case for bestiality, for pederasty, and for who knows what else.

Finally, there is group #4, who is exemplified by the hardware store operator-slash-Baptist preacher who put is a “No Gays” sign on his store front in Tennessee

Jeff Amyx, who owns Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies in Grainger County, Tennessee, about an hour outside of Knoxville, added the “No Gays Allowed” sign on Monday, because gay and lesbian couples are against his religion. Amyx, who is also a baptist minister, said he realized Monday morning that LGBT people are not afraid to stand for what they believe in. He said it showed him that Christian people should be brave enough to stand for what they believe in.

 

Notice here that the basis of Amyx’s stance is “what he believes in.” People believe all sorts of things, and those who are wrong can be just as fervent in their belief as those who are right. Amyx believes in “his religion,” which is nominally Baptist but more explicitly “his.” I have no idea what Amyx’s religion says. I do know the Bible. It says marriage is between a man and a woman; it says nothing about selling a hammer to a lesbian.

Want another example just for fun? Here’s a man in Arkansas who write to his local NBA television station to complain that they’d adopted a logo with gay colors. The station replied that the peacock has been NBC’s logo since 1956.

 

 

To conclude, the issue has resolved in confusion because the word “marry” means different things to different people and too little effort was made to to achieve a common understanding. The discourse was won by the first group I described, though they’ll have to deal soon with their allies in group #3. The issue was lost by group #2 because they let people from #4 do most of the talking.

 

 

 

I Can, Canoe?

Responding to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, President Obama declared that the purpose of government (he used the euphemism “public service”) is taking care of each other. His exact words included: “That’s when America soars, when we look out for one another, when we take care of each other. That’s why we do what we do. That’s the whole point of public service.”

I don’t disagree. But America also soars when government empowers people and then leaves them alone. My point here is pretty trivial. But I am thrilled by one particular government-insured freedom that I enjoy, and I want to talk about it. (Full disclosure: if it weren’t raining, I be out doing it instead of sitting here writing about it.)

Most rights we enjoy as Americans come with constraint. You can own and drive a car, but you have to pass a test and pay a fee first. You can march down the street shouting controversial slogans, but you have to get a permit first.  You can buy liquor, tobacco and other things that are bad for you, but only if you are a certain age.The Clash song, “Know Your Rights” provides a pretty accurate commentary about the balance between our rights and the hoops we have to jump through to exercise them.

 

And it is in contrast to these hemmed-in and whittled-down rights that my point comes in. Because our freedom to float down an American river in a canoe is vast and nearly unlimited. There is a long train of federal and state practices, policies, laws and customs surrounding inland navigation, and the effect of it all is an extraordinary freedom that is nearly unheard of in this “Land of the Free.”

 

Me and daughter Jenny on the Wabash River
Me and daughter Jenny on the Wabash River

 

Briefly, the highest laws in the land insist that people can use American rivers, full stop. Unlike most other human activities that come with the limits, prerequisites and fees mentioned by The Clash, inland navigation is truly free. You need a license to put a boat on a lake, but you need nobody’s permission to launch on a river. To understand this, we need to consider some of the specifics. The best brief source of information on this topic is this pamphlet from the National Organization for Rivers.

Rivers were tremendously important to the exploration and settling of America in the 17th and 18th centuries. To block a river was to hamper commerce and thwart the public interest. So the US has always insisted that rivers and streams be open to traffic. It is not that people can boat when and where government allows — but that people can boat on any river and government has nothing to say about it.

A court case dating back to 1874 found that, while (federal or state) government may create lists of waterways that it deems officially navigable, people are still allowed to go where they wish. If a boat floats, then the water it’s floating on is navigable whether the government says so or not.

Indiana has such a roster of officially navigable waterways. And there’s no harm in the list. But there’s no great significance either. Stretches of river that are not on Indiana’s list are navigable, too. If there is water, people may float. The people, in this one small area, are sovereign.

Does the rule saying boaters are free on the water also insist that they stay on the water and respect the private property alone the banks? Nope, the law doesn’t limit boaters to the water. It says they can use the banks, too, up to the high-water mark.

 

Campsite on the banks of the Wabash
Campsite on the banks of the Wabash

 

[R]ivers are subject to the federal navigational servitude, including the federal navigational easement for “the benefit of the public, regardless of who owns the riverbed.” This easement is similar to a utility easement or a rural road easement passing through private land. It includes public rights to portage around obstacles, rapids, or waterfalls, to engage in “sport fishing and duck hunting,” to walk on the gravel bars and beaches, and to walk above the high water line as needed when walking along the banks of these rivers. Landowner fences, cables, or “No Trespassing” signs across these rivers violate federal law, exposing the landowner to criminal prosecution as well as liability for wrongful death or injury.

 

All of this comes into law by way of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. So you might expect it to protect barges carrying trade goods, but not fishermen and canoers. But, again, the law breathtakingly embraces all uses. The courts agree that the enjoyment of nature is a kind of commerce that should be protected. Nor is it protected only when money is changing hands. A man can put his own canoe in the water and float all day without paying anyone a dime. He’s free.

Each time I go for a float down Indiana’s Wabash River or Sugar Creek, I am grateful for this freedom. I am grateful for the majestic eagles above me, the startling Asian carp that leap out of the water right next to my head, and for the glimpses of deer, turtles, muskrats and other wildlife. I’m happy with the chance to exercise the skill I have to both propel and steer the canoe with a single balanced J-stroke. And I’m pleased with the chance to forget the clock for a few hours, which I do when I remember that around the bend that lies just ahead is another bend, and another and another and another. I know my ability to enjoy canoeing is based on accidents of good luck. I live in a place where water is plentiful, I can afford the gear, and I’m physically fit. But I’m nonetheless appreciative of government that stops landowners from stretching cables from bank to bank to stop me.

Now, as I said above, recreation is trivial. It is not as important as someone’s life, health, education, or safety. I would not judge government a success because it allowed me my canoe while it deprived others of more urgent needs.

I think the lesson here is that freedom and enjoyment are very high and worthy goals. The extraordinary freedom and enjoyment that I and others get from canoeing belies the arguments of those who say that getting government off our backs is necessary and or sufficient. Because often strong government makes freedom possible.

 

I’ll leave you with the wisdom of John Hartford:

Well I sure do love the Tennessee River, the Ohio and the Illinois
And I love the old Mississippi River, It’s a good old place for a boy
Just to step on board a steamboat, ride all the way to the sea
Where else but a muddy old river, would a person want to be?
Would a person want to be?

 

 

 

One post about sports

I don’t pay much attention to sports. At other times in my life I’ve been pretty fervent. But not lately. This one post about sports may be the only one I ever do.

I’ve accumulated what seems to me a sufficient batch of sports related memories and “I was there” moments. I was watching when the Heidi game happened. I saw the helmet catch.  I saw the Immaculate Reception.

 

Steelers’ Franco Harris after making the Immaculate Reception

 

I saw Indiana Pacer’s Reggie Miller’s playoff heroics against the Knicks. Probably the most amazing thing about Miller’s accomplishment is that it goes down in memory as “eight points in nine seconds.” But it wasn’t. It was nine seconds of game clock, maybe. But the announcer on the spot describes it as “eight points in the final 32 seconds.” And if you run your own stopwatch you’ll see that no less than two minutes and 24 seconds of actual earth time passes from his first 3-pointer to the last free throw.

I’m not saying I was in attendance at these events. I saw them on TV. Probably the greatest thing I every saw in person was  Rickey Henderson of the As breaking the all-time career record for stolen bases at Camden Yards in Baltimore in the summer of 1991. Experts will say Henderson passed Lou Brock’s record in Oakland in May of 1991. But he set another new all-time record every time he stole another, including the game I saw. Also, in person, I saw Willie Mays get a base hit, and Tom Seaver notch a career win.  I saw Indy 500 wins by Al Unser and Bobby Rahal. I attended the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. And I saw Indiana Pacers stretch forward Troy Murphy hit something like seven 3-point shots in a row, and get booed for it.

My favorite sports memory is from Bush Stadium where the minor league Indianapolis Indians played. It was a Sunday afternoon game sometime in the early ‘80s.I don’t remember anything about the score or the opponent. What I remember is noticing, somewhere off in the crowd, an unusual shout rising up over the usual chatter. Studying the crowd, I eventually pinpointed the sound coming from the vicinity of a particular Cracker Jack vendor. He worked his way around to the third base side where I was sitting, and I saw more clearly that the vender (who was black) was surrounded by a pack of 6 or 7 white kids who were making all the noise. I thought they were harassing him.

Picture from a Yankees game — not the game I attended. [Source: flickr.com]

But then I realized the kids were acting as a back-up choir for the vendor’s sales banter. The kids had worked up responses to each of his calls, including, “Aaow eat ‘em Uup!” each time he said, “Cracker Jack!” The vender thought it was hilarious. And profitable. The kids let off a rousing cheer each time someone bought a box. It was heartwarming. To this day, when my wife asks if I’d like beef curry or ragout or grilled pork chops for dinner, instead of saying, “Yes, that sounds great,” I say, “Aaow eat ‘em Uup!”

Why am I “off sports?” Partly it is frustration with the design of the games. Few things in life are perfect and it isn’t reasonable to expect sports to be perfect. But all three of America’s great sports are entirely a function of specific details that cannot be regulated accurately and consistently. What am I talking about?

Every baseball game is shaped primarily by the home plate umpire’s balls-and-strikes calls. And are those calls accurate and consistent? No. Every basketball game is shaped primarily by the referee’s decisions to call fouls and other violations. Are those calls accurate and consistent? No. Every football game is shaped primarily by the placement of the ball after tackles and by referee’s decisions to call offensive holding sometimes. Are those calls accurate and consistent? No.

Let me be clear about this point. Imagine how unsatisfactory and ridiculous geometry would be if the number of degrees in a circle was not precisely 360 in all cases, but was decided on the fly depending on the teacher, and the student, and the situation. Imagine how unsatisfactory and ridiculous the Indy 500 car race would be if the number of laps was not fixed precisely at 200 but was left to the judgement of the man with the checkered flag in his hand. As long as American sports depend on impossible-to-call rules, I maintain they are that ridiculous, too.

And then there’s this:

[Source: xkcd.com]

Randall Munroe’s webcomic, xkcd, is brilliant. Sports talk, whether on ESPN or around the office water cooler, is mostly nonsense with little relationship to what has happened.

Exhibit A: There has been a decades-long debate as to whether basketball players get “hot.” This debate occurs at all levels, from the bleery remembrances of fans who were drinking beer and checking out women all game long to sober-minded geeks studying databases of tens of thousands of shots.

 

How about a little love for Orphan Black’s Scott?

 

Thomas Gilovitch and colleagues at Cornell University did the first serious analysis of the “hot hand” question in 1985, and concluded, “[T]he frequency of streaks in players’ records did not exceed the frequency predicted by a binomial model that assumes a constant hit rate.”

According to Bleacher Report, “[H]otness and coldness are determined randomly and balance out over the course of the season, especially when shot distance is taken into account.”

But there are also many reports that conclude hot streaks are real. The best, I think, is from  Andrew Bocskocsky, et al, of Harvard. Here’s what they have to say:

For thirty years, the empirical consensus that the “Hot Hand” in basketball is a fallacy of the human mind has been confirmed time and again. In the same way that evolutionary biologists might regard creationists as completely misguided, economists, psychologists and statisticians have viewed the persistent belief in the Hot Hand as entirely fallacious. Amos Tversky, co-author of the canonical paper on the subject, typifies this view when he says, “I’ve been in a thousand arguments over this topic, won them all, but convinced no one” (Bar-Eli, Avugos and Raab, 2006).
In this paper, thanks to SportVU’s optical tracking data, we are able to show that the key shot selection independence assumption is not a good one. Players who have either simply made more of their last few shots, or done better than expected on those shots, tend to take more difficult shots. Additionally, hot players are much more likely to take the team’s next shot and thus are not choosing shots independently.
We then extend our analysis to ask if the Hot Hand exists once we control for this dependent shot selection using a regression framework that controls for past expectation and finds a small, positive, and significant Hot Hand effect. This conception of the Hot Hand as exceeding expectations is different from the popular conception of absolute outperformance.

 

Shorter version: There seems to be proof of a small “hot hand” effect for basketball players. You can find this effect if you use statistics to control for the player’s choice of shots and for changes in the opponents’ defense. But even after you’ve done all this, the “hot hand” effect is very small.

I’m happy to acknowledge that players sometimes make several shots in a row. Even pretty ordinary players (the aforementioned Troy Murphy) sometimes do that. And that either proves or doesn’t prove that an individual player got “hot”, or that the “hot hand” exists at all, depending on what a “hot hand” is.

But there’s another point to make, and it is very much more black and white that the nuanced statistical analyses. And that is that the fans and sports analysts are never justified in the rhetoric they use. A player might score more points in a game than usual. He may make several shots in a row. But he never, ever “single-handedly wills his team to victory.” He never, ever “carries the whole team on his back.” He never is “red-hot, on fire, unconscious or automatic.” He never shoots “lights out” and he never “rains threes.”

Much as I hate to acknowledge the existence of soccer or to mention it in the same post as real sports, I’ll leave you with this: