Thursday, 1 February 2018

Not Thèrése Neumann’s favorite sign!

Today, on the last day of a great holiday in Tasmania – an island unrivalled for its comfortable climate and beautiful scenery – my brother has seen this sign on the banks of the Tamar River:
My brother says this would be Thèrése Neumann’s favorite sign because she (believed along with her parish priests that she) ate nothing but the Holy Eucharist for the last four decades of her life. Whilst I find the story endlessly titillating, it annoys my family to an extreme extent.

However, it is a ridiculous joke to say this sign would be Thèrése Neumann’s favorite! For one thing, she was not aiming that others not eat, although her inedia was an extremely special grace accoridng to her advocates. Much more importantly, the sing does not forbid eating per se, but just the Tamar’s shellfish because of potential contaminants!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

100 years ago

Having been in the market for old Wisdens a lot lately – though only to improve issues where my extant copy is poor – it has long occurred to me that today marks the centenary of a critical death in the cricket world:
Colin Blythe, who died 100 years ago in World War I, was one of the greatest of spin bowlers and a great matchwinner and turnstile asset for Kent
Just as repetitive (or perhaps more accurately well-remembered and recited by myself) as the false rhyme “Mold bowled” (he actually threw) was in Wisdens from 1890 to 1902 is the phrase “Blythe bowled superbly” in Wisdens from 1901 to 1915. Colin Blythe’s left-arm spin bowling took over 2,500 wickets between 1899 and 1914, making him the twelfth-highest first-class wicket-taker, and his 70 ten wicket match returns is the fifth most of any bowler. Blythe’s vicious spin made him deadly on sticky or crumbled wickets, but with his deceptive flight and variations of pace he was in the 1900s frequently very effective on firm turf, especially with Arthur Fielder’s pace providing a sharp contrast at the other end. His resourcefulness was such that he enjoyed bowling to hard-hitting batsmen.

Blythe was over his decade opposed to Jack Hobbs probably that batsman’s greatest foe over his whole career. Hobbs averaged only 32.63 in innings opposed to Blythe, nineteen runs less than for his whole first-class career. In seventeen of thirty-six innings, Blythe got Hobbs out, and he made Hobbs watchful on the best of pitches.

On 1 June, 1907, Blythe achieved the best ever County Championship bowling analysis, when in less than three hours actual play he took seventeen wickets for forty-eight runs against Northamptonshire. However, the merits of this performance are easily called into question since the pitch was extremely slow and took extremely rapid spin quite unlike anything seen on today’s covered pitches. Moreover, Northamptonshire that year:
  1. averaged just 13.62 runs per wicket over twenty-one matches
    • to be exact the figures were 4,836 runs scored for 355 wickets lost
  2. never totalled over 264 in one innings
  3. never had any batsman play an individual innings higher than 81
  4. were dismissed on a sticky wicket by George Dennett for twelve runs all out ten days later
Nonetheless, I will give the full score of the game to just demonstrate what happened. Not a ball was bowled on the scheduled second day of May 31, and half the play was lost due to rain and wet ground on scheduled opening day May 30:


F.E. Woolley b Driffield................26
H.T.W. Hardinge c Cox b East............73
James Seymour b Wells...................37
Mr. K.L. Hutchings b Driffield..........52
Mr. A.P. Day c Kingston b East..........23
*Mr. E.W. Dillon b East................. 4
E. Humphreys c Pool b Driffield......... 0
†F.H. Huish not out.....................19
W.J. Fairservice b East................. 9
C. Blythe c Vials b Driffield........... 6
A. Fielder b East....................... 1
Byes 2, leg-byes 1, no-balls 1.......... 4

Bowling: G.J. Thompson 15—1—76—0; East 33.2—6—77—5; Wells 6—1—34—1; Driffield 22—9—50—4; Cox 5—1—13—0


†W.A. Buswell st Huish b Blythe......... 0 — c Woolley b Blythe............ 7
M. Cox st Huish b Blythe................ 0 — st Huish b Blythe.............12
Mr. C.J.T. Pool c Fielder b Blythe...... 0 — st Huish b Blythe............. 5
Mr. W.H. Kingston lbw, b Blythe......... 2 — lbw, b Blythe................. 0
G.J. Thompson b Blythe.................. 0 — c Hardinge b Blythe........... 1
W. East c Huish b Blythe................ 0 — c Huish b Fairservice......... 0
Mr. E.M. Crosse c Fairservice b Blythe.. 0 — c Hardinge b Blythe........... 2
Mr. A.R. Thompson c Seymour b Blythe....10 — c Humphreys b Blythe.......... 7
*Mr. G.A.T. Vials not out...............33 — b Fairservice................. 1
W. Wells c Humphreys b Blythe........... 0 — b Humphreys................... 0
Mr. L.T. Driffield b Blythe.............12 — not out....................... 1
Byes 1, leg-byes 2...................... 3 — Byes.......................... 3

Bowling: First Innings — Blythe 16—7—30—10; Fairservice 12—5—17—0; Fielder 3—0—10—0 Second Innings — Blythe 15.1—7—18—7; Fairservice 9—3—15—2; Humphreys 6—3—3—1
That same year, Blythe took fifteen for 99 against South Africa on a wet pitch at Headingley – given the difference in batting strength likely a greater feat than his Northampton record from fifty days previously. It was 1908 and 1909, however, that saw Blythe at his absolute peak – he took 412 wickets in those two seasons, and carried a substantial burden on hard pitches with Fielder frequently unsound. In the 1910s, Blythe was not so good as before on dry pitches – the fast ball became more difficult with age – but so deadly was he on the many rain-damaged pitches that he headed the averages every year from 1912 to 1914.

In these early 1910s, Blythe was also almost certainly a critical factor in making Kent one of the few counties able to return profits year after year. For contrast, but for wartime cost reductions and the postwar boom Northamptonshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire – and very likely other counties like Derbyshire and Somerset – would have folded before the 1910s ended.

Whilst other factors like:
  1. Kent’s proximity to:
    1. London industrial patronage that allowed Kent – unlike most counties in southwest England – to maintain a significant professional staff
    2. a large body of cricket supporters in a very densely populated countryside
    3. a large body of wealthy businessmen and professionals who under the existing low-tax regime could afford time to develop the skills for top-class cricket and play it
  2. less rainy, hotter and sunnier summer weather than the wealthy northern counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire
certainly contributed, the presence of so resourceful and attacking a spin bowler was most probably a major spectator asset, and a larger asset than could be perceived from popularity with Kent supporters. The clearest conclusion from studying first-class cricket crowd figures is that attacking spin bowlingnot attacking batting – constitutes the essential requirement for first-class cricket to pay its way without subsidies from limited-overs forms of the game, or from wealthy patrons.

Class war of the world’s many

One comment today about last Sunday’s Texas school shooting by former Presidential running mate Paul Ryan said:
“What they need is meaningful gun control. Your prayers to the made up invisible being in the sky aren’t helping stop these repeated massacres.”
There may be scientifically a need for better laws or policies to deal with mass shootings, and prayers without action do do nothing. However, if one looks at the quote above, it becomes impossible to think they really care about shootings and only about having their own way – even if they earnestly and logically believe this selfish demand will reduce shootings, something evidenced in Europe and East Asia.

Nevertheless, this claim does not excuse the selfishness – underlying if not always or even normally explicit – in most atheist criticism of Christianity. By contrast, during the interwar period, belief that the secular working and academic classes were utterly and totally self-interested was throughout Europe a basic criticism of workers by the religious landowning and political classes. Today, in contrast, there is little belief in the United States that the growing, increasingly secular Millennial Generation is anything other than idealistic, nor that it is fighting a class war. Class war of the many is inherently opposed to hierarchical religion like traditional Christianity. A cosmology of equality before the law requires not that the worker have the tiniest political influence – indeed it regards workers’ lack of political power as divinely ordained because rulers are given power by God. Rather, it focuses on the moral obligations of rulers to ensure moral laws are in force, and more crucially, that the rulers themselves follow these laws. It is – I make no bones about this – fair to say that with urbanisation it became increasingly difficult for monarchs to be believed to be remotely satisfying these requirements. Even in medieval Europe the continent’s naturally intense class war was revealed via numerous peasant revolts. At that time, illiterate peasants could not understand philosophy – nor did the ruling classes allow them to – but no doubt envy was very widespread.

Nonetheless, one should not confuse cause for equality with selflessness. In fact, the two stand hostile to one another, because the masses demanding equality do not do so because they want sacrifices from the super-rich, but because they want to eliminate their own sacrifices. This drive is inherent in all class war, and no doubt has been a very important part of non-human animal social evolution within the Enriched World, where in many taxa there has been a strong trend from cooperative family group living to pair or solitary living with increased density of animal protein.

How to actually make the super-rich less selfish is another issue – as is whether the super-rich are inherently so selfish as the Left and Centre wish them to appear.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Forty years of my life

Photos collected by my mother of myself over my first forty years. Most are from my childhood when I was much slimmer and more red-headed
Today, as promised by my mother, there was a special fortieth birthday party for me – complete with a rebound original 1890 Wisden as a special present. Normally I could not be given so expensive a present as this $500 Wisden, but my mother agreed to for this occasion since she says forty years is the midpoint of my life.
The 1890 Wisden bought for my birthday. A pity that the image is blurred!
The 1890 Wisden is not only the oldest original Wisden I have ever received, but makes continuous my collection of peacetime Wisdens from 1881 to 1992. The 1889 season covered by it is notable for the debut of “the rhyme that lies”, a reference to Arthur Mold and the phrase “Mold bowled”, repetitive in the thirteen Wisdens from 1890 to 1902. Mold debuted to devastating effect in 1889 on a series of fiery or crumbled pitches, but he was considered by most neutral observers to be extremely lucky to bowl twelve seasons before being no-balled for throwing. Mold took over fifteen hundred first-class wickets and his speed and off-break made him unplayable when pitches crumbled or were sticky. It’s probable that the exceptional strength of English bowling in the middle 1890s – a strength rivalled only in the middle 1950s since – and his weakness with the bat helped Mold to get away with an unfair delivery for so long.
The original 1904 Wisden I bought myself. It contains the full book inside – I couldn’t show the pictures as the fingers are not mine!
Aside from the 1890 Wisden, I also received an original 1904 Wisden of exceptional quality and price. I did have a Willows 1904 Wisden, but receiving so good an original at such a price (it was discounted because of numerous blank pages at the rear which I find ridiculous).

The birthday was highlighted by a remarkable abundance of good food, as my brother came from Monash for both lunch and dinner. The lunch was a familiar supermarket roast chicken with stuffing, but I ate it up enough that I did not realise there was a little more chicken in the bag. There was a remarkable amount of cake – one older mandarin and almond cake, one lime cake and one pear and chocolate moose cake which was bought for the birthday of myself and my brother. All three cakes were delicious, the mandarin and almond cake made to test a new cake tin especially so.

We walked to the city after this, and I was bought a pair of very good sunglasses, after being laughed at for the sunglasses I had suggested earlier. Although I squint very badly in glary sunshine, I possess no experience buying sunglasses, but the pair I was given is certainly very good and fits me better than the pairs I was criticised for trying. I was by then quite tired, and after we went to Chemist Warehouse, we travelled home by tram.

The last part of the birthday was another highlight. We went to a small French restaurant in Rathdowne Street that – despite walking or cycling down the street countless times since moving to our present address nineteen years ago – I had never so much as seen! We were the only people in the restaurant, and although the food was very expensive the duck and orange sauce I had were utterly delicious! I have seldom eaten such tender and sweet food in my forty years!

During our time in the restaurant it was commented that I became nervous when others spoke consistently about topics not of interest to me – something highly perceptive because I know instinctively that it is very hard for me to listen to conversations on such topics! This was true even with subjects like the death of non-Mandarin Chinese dialects, or modern cricket, where I would have some hope of speaking with some knowledge. The restauranteur had had an unusual history, having lived in Singapore and England before moving to Melbourne.

The last stage of the trip before my brother left to go home was a gelati at a place in Lygon Street opposite the main shopping centre where I have done most grocery shopping for many years. I forget the name but enjoyed the mango and strawberry gelati very much.

All in all, this was a great fortieth birthday and I appreciate why we cannot have this every year. I also appreciate the problems I have had with my behaviour, which still do not go away despite my mother saying I am always improving.

Friday, 27 October 2017

John Farndon’s “fifty greatest ideas”

  1. The Internet
  2. Writing
  3. Contraception
  4. Music
  5. Use of Fire
  6. Abolition of Slavery
  7. Evolution by Natural Selection
  8. The Scientific Method
  9. Sewerage
  10. Computer Programming
  11. Hope
  12. Logic
  13. The Wheel
  14. Democracy
  15. The Zero
  16. The Telephone
  17. Vaccination
  18. Bread
  19. Feminism
  20. Printing
  21. Quantum Theory
  22. Electricity Grids
  23. The Self
  24. Arable Farming
  25. Calculus
  26. Government
  27. Marxism
  28. Refrigeration
  29. Simplified Chinese Characters
  30. Universities
  31. Laws of Motion
  32. Mass Production
  33. Romance
  34. Wine
  35. Coffee and Tea
  36. Pottery
  37. The Steam Engine
  38. Banking
  39. Copper and Iron
  40. The Sail
  41. The Welfare State
  42. Capitalism
  43. Qi
  44. Epic Poetry
  45. Honour
  46. Monotheism
  47. The Aerofoil
  48. The Stirrup
  49. Weaving and Spinning
  50. Marriage
This list, to me, is very much flawed. Even Farndon himself in writing The World’s Greatest Idea admits the flaws behind even sacrosanct ideas such as democracy, although he does not go nearly so far as Hans Hoppe or anti-democratic critics since the fourth-century Simon the Theologian have, or even mention them. It would logically be very valuable to distinguish good form harmful ideas in such a list.

There is also many things underrated or unmentioned in the list. #47 (the aerofoil, which permitted the airplane) should have been much, much higher given the direct and indirect impacts of aviation. The speed at which people can travel would be utterly impossible without aviation unless high speed rail could be developed or – as the PIGs often suggest – pay-as-you-go roads could be made to allow the speeds modern cars are capable of to be safely driven. #17 (Vaccination) and #27 (Refrigeration) should also have been much higher. Both affected the distribution of human settlement to an extreme extent and helped permit major social changes by allowing longer periods of individual development. #9 (Sewerage) falls into this category too.

#23 (The Self) and #20 (Printing) were inventions that allowed the growth of modern philosophy and of the European global empires, and thus I would certainly agree with them as potentially higher.

Fertilisers – which have meant that Australia has not only superabundant minerals but unlike the Gulf States also the ability to use hyperabundant flat land that is extremely deficient in essential thiophile elements evaporated by fire over tens of millions of years – are another omission. Modern fertilisers allowing land previously far beyond the “productive soil margin” to be cultivated have not only saved many lands from regular famine, but have also:
  • allowed the democratisation of numerous nations where large landowners were previously too powerful obstacles due to their fear of taxation, including:
    • post-Stalinist Eastern Europe (except Czechoslovakia)
    • all of Southern Europe
    • almost all of Latin America
    • Japan, Taiwan and South Korea
  • been a primary cause of the rapid decline of Christianity in these nations as the highly secular urban working and academic classes were not longer faced with economically viable political opponents
  • much more destructively had severe impacts on the ancient, slowly-speciating biological hotspot of Southwest Western Australia, where dirt-cheap land has been and continues to be opened for unsustainable farming with severe global climate impacts
  • had lesser but also severe impacts on sub-Saharan Africa, where it has increased comparative advantage in agriculture and retarded alternative economic developments that are undoubtedly more environmentally critical than in the Enriched World, Asia or Latin America
Fertilisers ought certainly in my opinion to have been in the top five. Even when Farndon talks about arable farming he does not recognise how a transformation from cultivating naturally hypereutrophic soils to geologically less unrepresentative oligotrophic ones is certainly so crucial as the invention of arable farming itself.

Film is another invention that should have been on there, as could its related invention Television. The influence of film on humanity since its invention cannot be denied. Apart from film and television as entertainment in themselves:
  • film has allowed the exposure of parts of the world that cannot be visited due to climate or politics
  • film has allowed the exposure to the public of scandals and secrets that in previous generations were never known. Whilst this may have made people more suspicious of authority and weakened communities, it has certainly made deadly corruption less likely
  • many sports (e.g. basketball and volleyball) would be very specialised interests without the aid of television owing to the specialised body types required
Organic pesticides – even if banned due to their persistence in the environment – were a major improvement on using un-selective and toxic toads to eat pests, or un-selectively poisonous and naturally extremely scarce lead and arsenic compounds to kill them. These pesticides were critical to the “Green Revolution” discussed in the previous paragraph and briefly hinted at in #24 of the book; however, the radical change they were to agricultural practices cannot be overlooked.

Electrolysis – which via its ability to isolate metals with powerful bonds to oxygen transformed Australia from a non-arable wasteland of uniquely low fertility into the planet’s richest nation – should have been in the top ten but was not mentioned at all. Electrolysis and the resultant ability to exploit metals more reactive than iron had an incomparably greater effect on the world than iron metallurgy. Without the ability to use metals more reactive than iron the Earth’s resources would have been exhausted at almost the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

I could probably think of a lot more omissions than these if I looked harder; however, I am not in the mood with so much to think about at present.