Off topic: Meacham on Barbara Bush

I’ve just read this and had to post:

On Saturday, presidential historian and author Jon Meacham gave a loving and at times comical tribute to Barbara Bush during her funeral in Houston.

Speaking in front of dignitaries, family and friends of the Bush family at the simple service held at the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Meacham recalled the time he sought out sympathy from the former First Lady.

According to Meacham, a woman had walked up to him gushing about his book. Then, she returned with a book for him to sign. It was John Grisham‘s latest novel.

Hoping to be consoled, he then recalled the story to Barbara Bush.

“I was feeling rather sorry for myself. And I told this story and Mrs. Bush looked across the table, looked me in the eye and I was thinking, here comes some motherly sympathy,” Meacham recalled. “That’s called telegraphing. Here it comes. And she said, well, how do you think poor John Grisham would feel? He’s a very handsome man.”

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham Gives Candid and Moving Eulogy at Barbara Bush Funeral by Tamar Auber 4/21/2018

RIP

Very raccoony

Two nights ago, just past 11 pm, the dogs took off for parts unknown.

That was my fault.

Ed had taken off their fence collars because it was time for everyone to go to bed–go to bed, not light out for the territories, I thought we all agreed on thatbut then the dogs were agitating to be let out, so I let them out.

Why did I let two young, hyperactive field Labs outside after 11 pm without their fence collars?

Because autopilot. The dogs want out, I let them out.1 Presto chango. There’s no intervening thought process involved.

After I let the dogs out, I forgot about them (autopilot) until Ed came into the bedroom and said, “Are the dogs in their crates?”

Umm, no.

One thing led to another, and the rest of the night turned into a lost-dog-finding lollapalooza that culminated in my registering 3,300 steps on my new FitBit before dawn. Thirty-three hundred steps, two hours sleep. Good times.

Moving on to the raccoon part . . . around 2 am I was awakened by what sounded like multiple dogs screaming — screaming, shrieking, squealing — it was an unbelievable racket; at least two blocks away but still loud enough to wake me.

It had to be Luke and Lucy, who sounded freaked out of their minds, but what kind of animal were they fighting?

A coyote?

Two coyotes?

More importantly, were they winning? 

Both dogs eventually made their way home, but not without igniting a second drama when Luke showed up without Lucy. Lucy is Luke’s half-sister. She’s younger and smaller than Luke, probably small enough and young enough to lose a fight with a coyote–definitely too small to prevail against two coyotes–and she is devoted to Luke. And she wasn’t with him.

She finally turned up an hour later, sporting a minor injury to one paw but otherwise no worse for wear, although she refused to leave the house the entire next day. Which is not like Lucy or any other member of her tribe. Field Labs live for outside.

So yesterday I was filling Katharine in on the night’s events, and the subject of raccoons came up, probably because it had crossed my mind that Luke and Lucy might have been shrieking at a raccoon. Turns out the raccoons in Katharine’s neighborhood are incredibly scrappy. They fight all the time. They used to fight just in warm weather, but now they fight year round. It’s like West Side Story around there, only for raccoons.

Plus they’re loud. They’re so loud Katharine had actually made a tape of a recent altercation. So naturally I Googled loud raccoon fight, and behold.

This popped up, too:

loud_raccoon_fight_-_Google_Search 3
Given the fact that raccoons spend so much time screaming and yelling and carrying on that they’ve become famous for it on the Internet, I’m thinking it had to be a raccoon Luke and Lucy were fighting, not a coyote. Raccoon, or raccoons, plural.

Anyway, this afternoon, while working with one of my students, I came across a Daily Language Review exercise that included the word “raccoon.”

Googling to make sure “raccoon” has two c’s, I found this:

RACOONS PASS FAMOUS INTELLIGENCE TEST—BY UPENDING IT:2

In the new study, the researchers presented captive raccoons with a cylinder containing a floating marshmallow that was too low to grab. Next, they showed the raccoons how dropping stones in the water would raise the marshmallow.

Two of the eight raccoons successfully repeated the behavior, dropping the stones to get the marshmallow. A third took matters into her own hands: She climbed onto the cylinder and rocked it until it tipped over, giving her access to the sweet treat.

“That was something we hadn’t predicted,” and indeed, had designed against, says study leader Lauren Stanton, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wyoming.

“It reaffirms how innovative and how creative they are in problem-solving.”

Adds Suzanne MacDonald, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, “I thought it was very raccoon-y that one of them figured out how to just tip the whole apparatus over”—much like they do with trash cans.

Very racoon-y.”

That is a fabulous descriptor!

I’m trying to think of something I can apply it to other than a raccoon.

1. Comma splice intentional.

2. News flash: Some sites spell raccoon with two c’s, some with one. I don’t know why.

And see:
Also very raccoony

Off-topic: review of “The H-Factor of Personality”

As promised, below is a slightly edited Goodreads review I wrote of The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone  by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton.

The book was especially meaningful to me because prior to reading it I had spent 10 years wrangling with my school district–wrangling as a parent and, as a resident, engaging in political efforts to improve it. The review’s references to hiring decisions all have to do with district hiring.

Reading The H Factor, I realized that a core belief I held about human nature was completely wrong.

Background

The H Factor adds a 6th personality dimension, “Honesty and humility,” to the traditional  “Big 5“:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

Review

The first 6 chapters of The H Factor are a revelation. Fantastically helpful.

The most useful points for me:

  • Honesty and humility (the “H” factor) track together in numerous languages and cultures: the figure of “Honest Abe” is a reality everywhere. By the same token, dishonesty and arrogance also track together, which means that when you’re dealing with arrogant people you’re on reasonably safe ground assuming they are dishonest as well. I didn’t know that.

  • It’s quite difficult to gauge another person’s level of honesty and humility, even after you’ve known him or her for some time, and this is especially true in the work place. This finding, in particular, explains some of the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.

  • High-H people – those high in honesty and humility – prefer each other’s company, and the same goes for Low-H people. Dishonest, arrogant people like to befriend, marry, and work with other dishonest, arrogant people. (This also explains the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.)

  • People high (or low) in “Openness to Experience” prefer each other’s company.

  • The other 4 personality factors seem to mix together randomly and happily, as do the high’s and low’s of each dimension taken individually. E.g.: high-Emotionality can marry low-Emotionality, and high-Agreeable can marry low-Agreeable, but High-H can’t marry Low-H, nor is High-O happy with Low-O.

The chapter that explains what ‘low-H‘ looks like in combination with the other five personality factors is especially illuminating. As it turns out, a person can be dishonest, arrogant, and agreeable. A warm personality and warm words do not imply honesty and modesty.

That’s one mistake I won’t be making again.

If you spend much time dealing with people beyond your family and friends, Chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book.

One caveat, and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5: the two chapters on politics and religion are weak, and conservatives in particular should steer clear of the former. Everyone else should, too.

The authors report that, in the U.S., liberals and conservatives have the same level of honesty and humility, but then devote many pages to “Right Wing Authoritarianism” and “Social Dominance Orientation,” neither of which is compatible with honesty and humility. Nor, to my knowledge, has either construct been validated by factor analysis of the everyday language people use to describe personality.

Meanwhile, the main factoid Ashton and Lee offer re: religion is that religious people are slightly higher in Agreeableness and Honesty/humility than everyone else, a difference they suggest can be chalked up to “softhearted” people hoping everyone gets to see each other again in heaven. Yes, that would certainly account for millennia of religious belief. (And what about Buddhists?)

The problem is that Lee and Ashton are experts in personality, with little exposure to political philosophy, theology, history, or even social psychology (so it appears). Their musings on politics and religion read like filler.

And see:
Broward County and the H factor 

Off-topic: Broward County and the “H factor”

Broward County has been on my mind.

It’s been on my mind for the same reasons it’s been on everyone else’s mind, but it’s also taken me back to a book I read a few years ago, which believe it or not is at least tangentially related to the subject of this blog:

The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton

The “H factor”–“H” stands for honesty and humility–is a core personality dimension uncovered by a form of corpus linguistics:

Trait theory takes a lexical approach to personality, which assumes that traits can be described using single adjectives or descriptive phrases. If enough people regularly exhibit a form of behavior and no term exists in a given language to describe it, then according to the lexical hypothesis, a term will be created so that the trait may be considered and discussed with others.

Until the late 1990s, when Lee and Ashton plucked the H factor from the Korean language, lexical research had uncovered just five such dimensions. They argue that “H” should take its place alongside the Big Five:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

And, now:

  • Honesty-Humility (H): sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous (You can take the quiz here.)

Fun side note: Lee and Ashton weren’t actually looking for a 6th personality factor when they found it. They were looking to see whether Korean personality adjectives sorted into the same five categories Western adjectives do.

The answer was yes: Koreans describe personality the same way we do.

Having established the apparent universality of the Big 5, they decided to see what happened when they sorted the list into 6, 7, and 8 factors:

[N]ow we wondered how the Korean adjectives would sort themselves out if we asked the computer to sort them into more than five groups. So we checked out the results for six and seven and eight factors. . . . To some extent we were just procrastinating, taking a break from the chore of writing the manuscript. But we were curious to see what would happen.

(Now there is one fruitful bout of procrastination.)

The rest is history:

When we looked at the results for eight factors or seven factors, some of the categories were very small, consisting of only a few adjectives. But the results for six factors were much more interesting. . . . . [T]here was a sixth factor that was fairly large and easy to interpret: on one side, it had adjectives (translated from Korean) such as truthful, frank, honest, unassuming, and sincere; on the other side, it had adjectives such as sly, calculating, hypocritical, pompous, conceited, flattering, and pretentious….

At first we were surprised to see that there was a large sixth factor. The previous studies of the English personality lexicon had found only five; no sixth factor could be recovered…. [W]e started checking the results of some recent lexical studies conducted in various European languages. Now, most of these studies had focused on whether or not the Big Five would be recovered. In a few studies, however, the authors did mention briefly the results they found when they examined six factors. In each case, they found a factor that was defined by terms such as sincere and modest versus deceitful, greedy, and boastful–much like the factor that we observed in our Korean study.

So: basically the H factor is the a****** factor.

The corrupt a******* factor.

Which brings me to Broward County and its police department.

When reports emerged that one Broward County deputy had failed to enter the building, and, subsequently, that other Broward officers had also failed to enter the building, I wondered.

Who runs into the building where children are being murdered?

Because we know people do run into the building.

What kind of person runs inside?

What kind of person doesn’t?

Like everyone else, I’d seen multiple references to “Broward cowards”….but what makes a cowardly police officer? What makes 3 or 4 cowardly police officers inside the same sheriff’s office?

Having read The H Factor, I think the answer is corruption.

Who runs inside the building?

People with integrity.

When corrupt officials are in charge, no one is safe.

I’ll post my Goodreads review of The H Factor later on.