Sunday, January 20, 2019

Interpreting Human Facial Expressions

I may have written about this before.

Humans are very good at reading other people.  At least scientists say we are, and we're eager to believe it.

For years I was sure that when I grinned, it was rather like Hugh Grant's smile: bashful and attractive, expressing good feelings.

Then I went to therapy.  Early on my therapist blew away my illusions: my smile came across as unpleasantly supercilious.  I came to realize that underlying my smile was nervous tension about how the social interaction.  At least some of the therapy group were unable identify the insecurity beneath the expression.

Bottom line: I don't know how common it is to have such a disjunction between what a person is feeling and what people perceive.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Watergate Reporting and Now

Josh Marshall at TPM has, I believe, noted that reporting on Watergate had its problems.  There were news reports which were correct, there were news reports which were wrong, reports which were incredible at the time and subsequently borne out, and all sorts of variations in between.  Mostly the administration denied the reports, launching ad hominem attacks on both the reporters and the sources.  Some of the denials turned out to be well-founded, but most of the denials and the deniers lost credibility as time went back.

History can teach many lessons; one of which is events move at their own pace and sometimes patience is required to know the outcome.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

LBJ's Biggest Mistake: Vietnam or Fortas?

Was in a discussion this morning on Supreme Court confirmations, which caused me to remember one of LBJ's biggest mistakes. Briefly, without checking my facts, Earl Warren decided to retire in 1968 as Chief Justice. 

LBJ decided on a cute doubleplay--promote his attorney and longtime friend, Abe Fortas, from Associate Justice to Chief, and put Texan Homer Thornberry in to replace Fortas.  In my memory, LBJ could likely have gotten a different person confirmed as chief but Fortas was a bridge too far.  Not only was he a liberal justice, but he had always been an adviser to LBJ, something he continued as a Justice.  (Still not publicly known, he had a yearly retainer from Louis Wolfson, a wheeler-dealer of dubious reputation who had been convicted in 1967.) 

In 1968 LBJ had lost most of the clout he used to have, and people (senators) were tired of him.  So Fortas was not confirmed, meaning no vacancy for Thornberry to fill.  The next year Fortas was forced to resign over the Wolfson retainer, meaning Nixon could nominate and get confirmed the Minnesota Twins: Burger (as Chief) and Blackmun.

The bottom line: had LBJ paid more attention to ethics, he never would have appointed Fortas and continued using him as an adviser. And with better judgment he would have replaced Warren with a moderately liberal justice. Although Blackmun evolved into a liberal justice likely comparable to anyone LBJ would have nominated, a more liberal Chief Justice would have changed the composition of the Supreme Court for decades. 

As I think about it, our defeat in Vietnam seems to have been less consequential than we thought it would be in the 60's and 70's, while the changes in SCOTUS seem to be more consequential.  Hence my title.

More on FSA and Shutdown

Politico has a piece more focused on farm loans than farm payments.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

FSA Goes Back to Work?

Only in part.  Here's the Politico piece on Perdue's telling 2,500 employees to return on Jan 17, 18, and 22.

And here's the USDA press release.

And here's the list of offices which will open.  (My impression is that a smaller share of offices in the Northeast are being reopened than in the rest of the country.  They may have given preference to locations with heavy MFP activity?)

I wonder how they determined the employees to call back?  All CED's of offices they're reopening?  Might not be the best employees to have. 

I wonder what happens after Monday?

Will be interesting to see how this works out.

And here's a NASCOE explainer from yesterday.  (Thumbs up to NASCOE for the post.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

It's All Downhill from Here

This month I got my first hearing aid.  Today I was told I need my first  dental crown.

My health has been generally good up to now--no hospital stays, no broken bones, etc.  But it's all downhill from here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Small Dairy? Test Farm

The Times today had an article on a supposed small farm; actually a billionaire's test farm (i.e. playtoy given my cynical mood today) trying out various systems intended for small farms.

It's call Rivendale (it doesn't tweet much).

The article is frustrating--apparently  one person is mostly responsible for the 175 milking Jerseys, using an automated feeding system and $200,000 robotic milking systems.  The cows determine when they are milked (4 times a day) and produce 15 percent more.  But it's not clear whether it's their breeding or the milking system which is responsible for the gain.

What I'd like to know, among other things:

  • what's the expected life of these robotic systems? 3 year, 5 year, 8  years, 10 years? 
  • how much maintenance and downtime do they require?  my guess is 4 systems means that 3 systems can handle the 175 with the fourth providing for some backup and fudge factor.
  • what happens when Murphy's law strikes and the systems go down?  With the systems I grew up with, as long as you had electricity you could milk cows.  Without electricity, it was hand milking.
  • can the farmhand handle the technology or does it require a tech?
  • how does the feeding system handle the "non-processed feed" they claim to be using?
  • what's the overall picture--are the cows on pasture or is it a CAFO?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

John Boyd on BBC

Since I mentioned Boyd's appearance in a Post article, I should give equal time to the BBC, where a sound bite from Boyd was included in their piece on the impact of the partial shutdown of the government.

In fairness to Boyd, I suspect he has a reputation for giving good quotes to the media--he's articulate.  In the last century I was  bit dubious of him, thinking he was more a paper farmer than a real one.  But apparently he's (re?)married with kids now and still going with soybeans, getting older along with all the rest of us.

Friday, January 11, 2019

John Boyd and the Shutdown of FSA

When the Post wanted a farmer to talk about the hardships caused by the shutdown of FSA one of the ones they found was John Boyd.  See yesterday's article.

Forgive me for finding it ironic that Boyd still depends in part on the agency which he sued.  Just another proof that life is complicated, as are people.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fences and Landowning in the Post

Marc Fisher had an article in the Post about walls, which touched on fences, which included a quote from an expert which I found to be wrong!!  I commented there, which I'll copy here:

"From the nation’s earliest days, when only white male landowners could vote, many built fences on their land to show their neighbors they were eligible voters, Dreicer [the expert] said."
This is irrelevant to the theme of the article.  Irrelevant because a fence to mark boundaries of ownership isn't like a wall.  Think of our northern boundary: it's marked, but neither fenced nor walled.  We have the symbol of ownership (US sovereignty ends and Canadian begins) without needing a physical barrier.

But I call BS--I'm sure Dreicer never built a fence. A fence requires work, both to build it the first time (particularly stone wall fences but even split rail fences) and work to maintain.  You don't build a fence to declare ownership; you build a fence to keep animals in or out.  That's why we used to have fence viewers.  See  BTW there are interesting regional and historical differences whether a landowner was required to fence his/her animals in, or to fence to keep free-ranging animals out.
Land ownership in the 13 colonies was marked by the metes and bounds system