Another person I need to learn about

Somehow a copy of The Week: The Best of the U.S. and International Media from June 17, 2022, wound up in our bathroom. In it, there was an obituary of Sophie Freud, granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, and long-time professor of social work at Simmons University in Boston, who died on June 2, 2022, in Lincoln, Mass.

Apparently, Sophie called psychoanalysis a “narcissistic indulgence.” She compared Sigmund Freud to Adolph Hitler, saying both were “false prophets of the twentieth century.” Apparently, she also slammed so-called transference and counter-transference between male psychotherapists and female patients — with good reason, I think, as it seems a little too close to sexual misconduct.

She sounds like someone I want to know more about. With luck, a good biography will come out in the not too distant future.

Update, 4/30: The Lincoln Squirrel, the independent newspaper in Lincoln, Mass., provided a link to an excellent profile of Sophie Freud published back in 2007. And there was an obit in the NY Times. In 2007, Sophie Freud published her feminist memoir, Living in the Shadow of the Freud Family.

Another book I need to read

I’ve long been skeptical of the philosophical concept of the “social contract.” It always sounded anachronistic to me. The social contract is supposed to go back to prehistory, but the whole notion of a “contract” is actually a modern Western notion.

But I never thought about who gets to participate in the social contract. Back in 1997, Charles W. Mills published “The Racial Contract” in which he takes on philosophers like Rousseau, Hobbes, and Kant. Apparently, in that book he argues that the people who get to participate in the social contract are white people. And if white people are the only people who get to participate in the social contract, then people of other skins colors… well, maybe they aren’t really people, but sub-people.

Cornell just issued a 25th anniversary edition. I really should buy a copy and read it….

Urban gulls…human shouting…

In the Mass Audubon class I’m taking, tonight’s lecture was on birds. We learned about a scientific paper titled, “Urban gulls show similar thermographic and behavioral response to human shouting and conspecific alarm cries” (Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 20 Sept. 2022). Equipment used in this research included a plush Cornish pasty and a child’s baby carriage with an infrared camera hidden inside it. No, I am not making this up. Apparently some ornithologists manage to have a sense of humor while doing serious science.

Thank a librarian

Today is National Library Workers Day. I managed to thank three librarians. I got the official name of the day wrong (I kept calling it “National Library Staff Appreciation Day”; I have no idea where I got that from). But I got the sentiment right.

If it seems kind of corny to thank a librarian or a library worker — it’s not. Library workers were on the front lines during the COVID lockdown, arranging for pickup of library books, getting coughed on by thoughtless library patrons who came to pick up books, putting together online resources to keep library patrons sane, and more. Then in the last two years, librarians have been on the front lines of the culture wars; the American Library Association recently reported that “for a second year in a row the number of books targeted for censorship nearly doubled from the previous year.”

One of the purposes of National Library Workers Day, by the way, is to “advocate for better compensation for all library workers.” Librarians are often woefully under-compensated; I think this is partly because library work is often viewed as “women’s work,” which to many people means it’s worth less. But librarians are actually critically important because they help promote the free and unfettered flow of information upon which a healthy democracy is founded.

Finally, Thursday is National Take Action for Libraries Day. That’s the day when you are encouraged to write to your elected representatives and tell them how important it is to support libraries. The theme this year is “Tell Congress: Stand Against Censorship.”

From the Old Web

Websites tend to disappear pretty quickly. But every once in a while, you run into a web page from the last century. I ran into such a web page today: “Journey to the Isles of Hiva, 1993,” with text and photos by Dennis Kawaharada of Kapi’olani Community College, Hawai’i. Considering the changes that have come to the Marquesas Islands, this web page is now something of a historical document.

And I appreciate the fact that the University of Hawai’i has kept this web page up, even though Dr. Kawaharada is now retired.

No conservative nerds

I can’t figure out if this is anti-intellectualism or something stranger. But a website calling itself the “Washington Free Beacon,” which is funded by conservative billionaire Paul Singer, recently ran a hatchet-job piece about Lucas Kunce, a Democrat in Missouri who plans to run for U.S. Senator in 2024. Of course a conservative website is going to oppose any Democratic candidate in this polarized world. But one of the reasons they gave for opposing Kunce was not his political policies, but the fact that he plays Magic: The Gathering:

“…In a free and just society, playing Magic: The Gathering with a journalist would disqualify someone from seeking public office. To paraphrase one of America’s most formidable intellectual prognosticators: ‘We don’t want nerds elected in Missouri….'”

(They link that phrase “formidable intellectual prognosticator” to a low-quality Youtube video of Donald Trump saying, “We don’t want perverts.”)

I’m not going to provide a link to the Washington Free Beacon hatchet-job, because as an ad hominem attack, it doesn’t deserve any incoming links. (I also won’t link to leftist websites that indulge in ad hominem attacks.) But you can read more about the Lucas Kunze story at File 770, a nerd website that I read regularly.

Anyway. I guess the Washington Free Beacon is saying that no one can be a political conservative who plays Magic (35 million people do so) — nor by extension can any other nerds, including people who read science fiction, watch Star Trek, are good at math, think science is cool, etc. This is political polarization run amok.


The Washington Post investigated which websites got scraped to build up the database for Google’s chatbot. The Post has an online tool where you can check to see if your website was one of the ones that got scraped. And this online tool shows that was one of the websites that got scraped.

Screenshot showing the Washington Post online tool.

True, there were 233,931 websites that contributed more content than this one did. Nevertheless, I’m sure that Google will compensate me for the use of my copyright-protected material. So what if they used my material without my permission. Soon, a rep from Google will reach out to me, explaining why their scraping of my website is unlike those sleazy fly-by-night operations that steal copyright-protected material from the web to profit themselves without offering the least bit of compensation to the author. Not only will they pay me for the use of my material — they will also issue a written apology, and additional compensation because they forgot to ask permission before stealing, I mean using, my written work.

I heart Big Tech. They’re just so honest and ethical.

Happy Patriots’ Day

Massachusetts had a state holiday two days ago, on Monday. No, this state holiday is not the Boston Marathon. No, this holiday is not the holiday which recognizes an obscure Revolutionary War event that just happens to fall on the same date as St. Patrick’s Day. No, this state holiday has nothing to do with — and predates by many years — the federal holiday called “Patriot Day” which commemorates the attacks on 9/11/2001.

Patriots’ Day commemorates the beginning of the Revolutionary War, a.k.a. the War of American Indepence. It is the date on which the first colonist blood of the war was shed — in the town of Lincoln, just after midnight, when one of His Majesty’s troops cut a Lincoln militiaman with his sword. It is the date on which the first colonists in regular military formation received fire from His Majesty’s troops — in the town of Lexington, when the Redcoats fired at an interracial company of militiamen, killing eight and wounding several more. And it is the date of “the shot heard ’round the world” when His Majesty’s troops were first forcibly turned back by the combined forces of several towns at the North Bridge in Concord. (Having grown up and lived most of my life in Concord, of course I think what happened in Concord was most important. My cousins who grew up in Lexington beg to differ.)

And today is the actual anniversary of these events. (Not the state holiday, which always falls on a Monday.) These momentous events happened 248 years ago today. I’ve always felt this is the date which commemorates the beginning of our democracy here in the United States. The militiamen and Minute Men who fought on April 19 were duly authorized by their towns, and by the Provincial Congress. They were under the authority of democratically elected, non-military officials. And they followed a course of action that had been determined by democratic process.

As a pacifist, I’d prefer it if our democracy had had a non-violent beginning. And there’s no doubt the democratic tradition in Massachusetts went back more than a century and a half before this date in 1775. But April 19, 1775, turned out to be the date that people looked back on and said, That’s when it began. So this is my favorite day for waving the American flag and being a patriot. This is also the day each year when I recommit myself to continuing to pursue the still-unfinished democratic project of our country.

And by the way — it’s now just two years to the big blowout party on April 19, 2025. It’s not too soon to start planning your participation in the 250th birthday of our American democracy.