Posts tagged with family

The purpose of a family is the enhancement of the individual pursuits of happiness … in the overall … preservation of the family as a whole.

—from Family Wealth
Is this a logical sentence, or not?

The purpose of a family is the enhancement of the individual pursuits of happiness … in the overall … preservation of the family as a whole.

—from Family Wealth

Is this a logical sentence, or not?


One of the important discoveries of the late 1700s and 1800s was that family life in Northwest Europe during this period varied substantially from family life in other parts of the world, such as Russia, The Middle East, China and India.

Compared to family life in many other parts of the world—with extensive family solidarity, little individualism, overwhelming control of parents over adolescent children, a young age at marriage, universal marriage, marriages arranged by parents, and large and extended households—family life in Northwest Europe could be characterized as having relatively little family solidarity, great individualism, little control of parents over adolescent children, an older age at marriage, many people never marrying, marriages arranged by the couple through courtship, and small and nuclear (or stem) households.

—arvind thornton

Hat tip to @mileskimball.


"You can keep blaming your parents for your life in your 20’s, but by the time you’re 30 it’s your own fault."

—having a difficult time getting an original source on this quote

This is like unknotting an autoregressive term in a time series. Even if the past only has a hold on the present back to 5 years ago, your upbringing still influences you when you’re 70.

an autoregressive AR(1) time series


  • who you were at 15 influences who you were at 20 ρ¹,
  • which in turn influences who you were at 25 ρ²,
  • and so on until 9 half-decades later there’s a ρ¹¹ echo of your 15-year-old self

whose apprehension at the way she looked (or rather didn’t look) rumbles faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly, faintly through time—the decisions then affected the next decisions which altered the next decisions … on and on to the present.


If the initial spike was −1<ρ<1, then the rumble of the thunder diminishes geometrically over time. So a ρ=½ only shivers .00049 eleven knots into the future, and even a ρ=.9 recedes to a .314 by the time it’s so deep past. 


Maybe I can spot a corollary to the new parents’ dilemma as well. If the present choices are always framed by the habits formed in the past, then ε perturbations in the baby’s care echo forward, and forward, and forward…and can they really be undone?

There is a century-old tree at the end of my street. Right before you get to the graveyard with its wrought-iron gates. That tree saw my grandmother play in the street when she was a little girl. It saw her ride the train to the college, carry groceries in a paper sack. The tree—I don’t know its name—it saw my da walk across town—from school to that house on Broad, when they used to live there. It can see my great-grandfather’s grave right now—it’s tall enough. He built this house in 1921. They say he was a drunk. The floor slants a little and the window frames aren’t square. He built the other houses on our block, too. Before he built them, it was just this house and greenhouses. The greenhouses were filled with roses. The whole neighbourhood used to smell like roses. At some point they used to call this Rose City, even though there’s a meatpacking factory only two kilometres away.


They also say he could multiply long numbers in his head, without any paper. Now this house is holding a different kind of “family”. I can’t even say it’s a modern one. More like a gathering of moneyless relations. Ambitious failures; I sometimes wonder what the house thinks of us. It’s certainly used to the self-help books: Latin; Linux; teach yourself guitar. The trains in this town used to carry passengers. They took my grandmother to the teacher’s college. My da must have walked past this graveyard a thousand times. No, more—maybe even ten thousand. I walk in the graveyard every day. The tree sees me. My favourite is when it’s snowy. Some of the graves announce strange names. A woman named Ruby. She would be 136 now. A man named Reason. Apparently the brothers who lie beneath the massive Romanesque columns at the highest point in the graveyard invented a transport that was used massively during the War. You can see most of the town standing among those columns. Past the roads there’s a small forest, beyond that farms.

I’m thinking about my path γ(t) versus the tree’s λ(t). Neither of us can be everywhere at once. We’ve stood at or around the same spot often enough. But every time I’ve gone “adventuring”, I haven’t seen what’s happening in λ(t). Is the small-town life “worse” than the jet-setter lifestyle? It depends what functional you convolve against γ(t). I don’t like repetitiveness, but maybe what the tree has seen isn’t so repetitive. Two World Wars. The rise of feminism. A time before plastic, a time before tarmac, a time when white supremacists would parade through the streets. My grandmother recognised someone’s shoes and shouted his surname; her mother covered her mouth. The tree saw her in most stages of life.

On we go, hurtling through spacetime. The speed of γ equals the speed of λ. From a galactic perspective the tree and I are whirling in almost the same place — regardless of whether I whisk from here on the earth to there on the earth by plane. I’m bound to the ground, ultimately. The tree just recognises that. People used to wear hats here. Everybody wore hats. Now it’s practically a ghost town except for pensioners and welfare recipients. The tree’s children can’t have blown too far.

Spinning in the same spot on 360° × [−90°, +90°] = ∂(S²×[0,1]). γ torques and twists about the sphere but its length is exactly the same. Does the tree wish λ had summited a mountain at some point? Perhaps, but it would be blown down up there, and the ground is tough and nutritionless anyway. It’s suited to this life.

It bears the snow. It puts up with the heat.

I go inside after a couple hours out of doors, of course. But the tree spends all night, every night facing the elements. Maybe it likes being strong. Digging. Growing big. Drinking in sunlight like an athlete at a water fountain.

I’m more like a tumbleweed, rootless, quick to change course. Hanging out for a bit and then rolling—without announcing a goodbye. Untethered. Free, yet constrained by the same holonomy constraining the tree. One path, and one path only. The same width as all the others.

γ isn’t so much more interesting than λ. My γ is filled with magazines, airports, computer screens. Parties where people say more or less the same things, always indicating the hope that their gradient’s pointing in the right direction.

People need the freedom to make, and learn from, their own mistakes.