a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Weekend quiz section

Posted by Thomas Nephew on July 14th, 2007

Three quizzes provide you, my readers, with a window into my very soul — and one gives you a chance to change it!

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Take the quiz at

The first comes via the site for a book by Daniel Kurtzman, “How to Win a Fight with a Conservative.” I think shying away from some of the ruder bumpersticker choices affected the result (my choice was “Evolution is just a theory… kind of like gravity,” though I was tempted by “I’m already against the next war.”)

I also rate as a “passionate foot soldier“: “You readily engage in political debate but are apt to bail out before things get too testy.”Hey, no I don’t! Well, maybe I do.

Trouble was, one of those questions was about putting up an even bigger Hillary sign after a hypothetical neighbor puts up a Giuliani sign, and I’m just not there yet.

My top result for Which
Founding Father Are You?
is James Madison

For “Which Founding Father Are You?” I guessed “Benjamin Franklin”, but that choice came in third behind Jefferson and the number one choice, James Madison.

Tellingly, there was no “would you ever own a slave?” question. To be sure, Franklin owned two during his lifetime — but became convinced that slavery was wrong later in his life, and by 1787 had become the president of a Pennsylvania abolitionist society. Jefferson sometimes talked a great game about slavery, but ultimately slaves were (1) the basis for his presidency* and (2) the capital that financed Monticello and his intellectual life; most were never freed, and were sold by his estate to settle debts incurred building the mansion, buying books, stocking the wine cellar, and so forth. Madison also owned scores of slaves, and never freed any of them. (George Washington did — albeit posthumously and with the stipulation that manumission come after his wife’s death. Then again, most had been hers** to begin with.)

Paging ‘Mrs. Coulter” (“Republic of Heaven“) — it turns out one of my favorite books, Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass,” is coming out as a movie this December. My little girl is thrilled — she’s become a big fan.*** As with “Lord of the Rings,” we’re now reading the trilogy together at night, and are now halfway through “The Subtle Knife.”

One of the key things about the alternate universe of “The Golden Compass” is that people there have something like external souls; called “daemons,” they are constant companions or familiars in animal form that change during your youth depending on your state of mind, but settle into a permanent form reflecting your personality once you’re an adult.

At the movie web site, you can take a kind of Myers-Briggs test — e.g., “You generally go with the flow”: strongly disagree, etc. — to learn the form of your daemon. We seem to be a cat family: my little girl got a snow leopard and my wife got an ocelot.

In a kind of reflection of how daemons are initially changeable, you can click on the image to the left to influence the final form of my daemon. I got “tiger” two out of three times now, but the first time I got… a mouse. Given the rest of my family, that would just prove I like to live dangerously, so there.

* According to Akhil Reed Amar (“The American Constitution: A Biography”), Jefferson would have lost to John Adams in 1800 without the electoral votes supplied by southern slave populations under the notorious “3/5” rule.
** I use simple possessives such as “hers” instead of “hers under prevailing notions of property rights at that time” for convenience.
*** She also wonders why anyone would pick Mrs. Coulter as a name. We haven’t got that far yet.

UPDATE, 7/18: Interesting — after reader input, my daemon has cycled from “tiger” to “mouse” and now “lion”, but I remain “modest, responsible, shy, sociable, and solitary.” Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

2 Responses to “Weekend quiz section”

  1. Mrs. Coulter Says:

    I have mixed feelings about the film. I understand that they are greatly playing down the role of religion in the story. While they can almost certainly get away with it in “The Golden Compass,” I don’t know how they are going to get through “The Amber Spyglass” without the whole thing falling apart. I did the daemon quiz a couple months ago, and was also assigned a snow leopard. I’m just glad I wasn’t a dog, because although I love dogs, dog daemons are portrayed rather negatively in HDM.
    As to why Mrs. Coulter, here’s what I wrote when I originally started blogging:
    Why Mrs. Coulter? I’ve read Pullman, and she’s not exactly a nice character.
    I’ve always thought that naming yourself after a heroic main character represents a form of hubris. I mean, I try to be a good person, but I’m not sure how heroic I am. If we want to continue the theme, we must then delve into secondary characters, who are, perhaps, a bit more flawed. Mrs. Coulter is nothing if not flawed. However, in the end, despite all the evil things she has done in the world, she makes a critical choice, based on her love for her daughter. It is not her destiny–just her free will. We all have choices to make in our lives. They may be bounded by various structural and social constraints, but in the end it is up to each of us to make our choices. If Mrs. Coulter can make that kind of choice, so can the rest of us.

    I hope that will help your daughter understand the choice of name. I was also motivated by the fact that I have a real life daughter named Lyra. Who, now that she talks, spins the most amazing tales. She is definitely on her way to living up to her namesake.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Mrs. Coulter! I remember your post about your pseudonym (I looked at your early posts at one point or another). At the time, I explained you had a good reason, and was going to show it to Maddie when we got to that part of the trilogy. But I’d assumed that Lyra was a pseudonym, too, or forgotten that it wasn’t. What a nice name! Maddie will be enchanted.
    Is it clear they’re going to try to do the whole trilogy? It would be very weird to drop the anti-religious part; though I’ve argued that it’s maybe more anti-organized-religion, anti-Church-per-se, that’s arguably belied by the death of Himself in “Amber Spyglass”. (Though note the dog that doesn’t bark; as far as I can remember, Jesus is never mentioned, nor is his place within the Authority explained.)
    I recommend in this regard a review of Pullman’s works by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who essentially argued Pullman’s God was a straw man. See my “Missions from God” post which mentions this review, and particularly a second post reviewing a public dialogue between the two men, “A good conversation.”

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